The End of the Road

Think back to a moment where you’ve come to the end of the road with something important in your life—a relationship with a lover; moving out of your childhood home; graduation from school; etc. Write a scene wrapped around that moment, describing how you felt (good and bad) and how you closed the door on that chapter in your life.

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

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271 thoughts on “The End of the Road

  1. abnormally_anna

    The house was empty and smelled abandoned. This was the first time my home didn’t smell like home.

    I remember the hot, muggy scent of summer wafting in on lazy breezes through open windows and glass doors, tempting us to adventure outdoors.

    I remember waking up in my bedroom, the crisp, clean smell of snow in the air, the world outside transformed into a winter wonderland.

    I remember practically smelling the Christmas cheer, the tall evergreen tree sparkling with lights and ornaments glinting in its branches.

    I remember smelling the rain, minty and familiar while after stomping in puddles.

    I remember huddling around the fireplace, the small flame warm and inviting, and the hint of smoke in the air as it burned.

    I remember the smells of dozens of birthdays, the cakes not so secretly baking, and the candles, every year the scent stronger.

    I remember running into the kitchen, with the thick, sweet scent of cookies wafting through the air, and the slight smokey smell when they burned.

    As I closed the door to my childhood home for the last time, the dust swirling around my feet, I closed my eyes and breathed out the scent of my home for the last time.

  2. twarren29

    It was a giant, exhaling release of tenseness in her entire body upon waking the day she finally had the opportunity to leave Tomahawk; the small city of 3200 people. The place where everyone knew your name and one interesting fact about you, the ultimate neverending ice breaker.

    She was helplessly pulled from her first grade classroom at the age of 6 one day, and she wept the full three hour ride to the small town, leaving her friends and her desires behind. It was her father’s idea to move that 11 years ago. He had finally become sober, and was now a recovering alcoholic.

    Her new life had started off rough for her, and now it was finally ending. She could escape the place that made her feel suffocated and consistently on edge. Ten years of being bullied, and one of being flatout tortured; she would never forget the boy’s face.

    She could almost hear the sound of a door closing behing her today. She had graduated high school the day before, after she packed everything she owned into her vehicle her father officially signed over to her. Her parents would follow along to help her move into her new apartment, in the town she would now be going to college. A place the boy told her she would never get accepted to.

    The feeling of pride and freedom when she opened the door to her new place was exhilerating. Only 3 months until school would start and she would take those 3 months to evolve into the new version of herself. The version that would never allow another human being to control every move she’d make. The version that, ulitimately, rocks.

  3. Wetherdorn

    This morning I locked my house up or the last time before I handed the keys to the estate agent. The only things left in the house were a pile of damp boxes that went into the recycling bin, a roll of brown tape, a garden fork that would not fit into any of the boxes I sent into storage, and a bag full of plastic bags that I thought might be useful. I saved a few and the rest went in the bin. There was also two trees outside on my doorstep, one tiny Bay leaf tree, and the other of unknown sapling that decided to grow between the cracks of my garden paving. I seem to cling onto things. I’ve lived int he house just over 11 years and spent the last 3 and a half years trying to get rid of it. It might have nice carpets, but the bad memories are underneath those carpets, washed into the house when the pipe under the bath leaked 7 years ago. It feels like an albatross, this house, hanging around me for too long. Now I have nowhere else to go between the hours my work finishes, and the time when I can meet my husband, who rents somewhere 20 miles away. there’s a gap of space and time between now, here, and the next place. I know where it is, but I don’t know when it will be.

  4. binghammelissa

    She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t think. She felt like the whole of the world was collapsing in on her. Her two girls in the back of the car and nothing else. She had left all of it behind at the house. What was she going to do? What did she want to do? He had hurt her so badly tears unbidden came flowing down her cheeks. She kept her face forward, not want to scare her girls. They didn’t understand what was going and frankly, she wasn’t sure she did either.
    She pulled the little white car over. She listened to the crunch of the tires against the gravel as she came to a halt. She stepped out of the car and told her girls just to stay put. She felt the rocks under her shoes. She moved towards the front of the car and sat on the hood. It was Fall, she looked at the leaves. She thought about the change of the seasons. She thought about where her family had been a year ago. The engine rumbled under her. The fall wind bit at her. She stood her ground against it and breathed in and out, just concentrating on that simple movement. What was she going to do?
    The wind dried the tears on her face with a sharp biting cold. She wiped them a way and concentrated on the physical pain rather that the emotional. She had a choice to make. She had to decide if his temper was really him or not. The thought of taking her girls and leaving crossed her mind. He had never hit her but he had hurt her. He had been unreasonable. She felt her own anger and hurt rise. He didn’t have any right to put her through this. She had fought with everything she was for him and his deployment. She had handled him coming home with the nightmares. The first time he had jumped up and yelled orders in his sleep she had nearly had to peel herself off the ceiling. Why then, what had she done to deserve this beratement of verbal abuse he had been doing? It was like he had no control.
    That had given her pause; he wasn’t in control. Her grandfather had been a war vet. Suddenly every war story of his she had ever heard went through her head. He wasn’t in control. He needed help. If he needed help she would be the only one who could convince him to get it. She had to go back. She had to be stronger than she ever thought she could be. She had to help him the rest of the way over whatever had gone on over there. She came to the startling revelation, he was just as much a victim of the war as any other wounded solider.

  5. Hippora

    I clasped my hands together tightly as I sat outside the principal’s office. My throat felt dry, but every other part of me was sweating. The receptionist had welcomed me earlier and had tried to carry on a conversation about the area. I smiled and attempted small talk, but failed pretty miserably. The room fell silent.

    Another woman was there beside me, sitting on the uncomfortable office chair in a similar fashion. We were both waiting. We were both hopeful. Neither of us looked at one another. I tried to breathe in as quietly as possible; stifling a heavy sigh that I wished could bring some relief to the situation at hand. There was no smartphone to distract me—I could only sit there, fidgeting and feeling pretty helpless. The principal’s door opened as another candidate peered through the door. Instead of trying to read her expression, I looked away. Could she have gotten the job?

    “I’m ready for the next interview.” I can hear a man in the other room say to the receptionist. The receptionist smiled politely at me.

    “It’s your turn.” I got up, oddly choosing then to give the other woman in the room a quick glance—perhaps it was more like a plea for help, or maybe a moment of solidarity. I could swear she nodded in understanding.

    The receptionist ushered me into a fairly large room with more than just the principal. It was a clan. I tried to quiet my heartbeat as I quickly reminded myself to give a firm handshake to each person in the room. Thank goodness I remembered to wipe my unfortunately sweaty hands on my pant legs before I walked into the room.

    In truth, I couldn’t begin to tell you what questions came next. I can tell you the feeling of intimidation was strong–the nerves were high. But above all else, I couldn’t shake the feeling of emptiness. I felt small. I wanted this job so badly. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of so many kids. I wanted to feel fulfilled. Now that I think back on it, that was a lot to put on one job.

    Good things happen to those who are persistent; it’s true. But there is also value in knowing yourself. It was this day that a very slow realization came to me: I was not meant to be a teacher. I loved helping others. I loved learning. I loved the thought of having a positive influence on future generations. I didn’t get the job, and I didn’t get any other teaching job that year, despite many other interviews. It wasn’t until a year later that I realized—my heart was not in it. I tried so hard not to believe it.

    It’s ok, though, I promise. Still today, I am so unsure of so many things. But I do at least know one truth: that I am not meant to be a teacher. A mentor, a tutor, a supporter…perhaps. But not a teacher. I’m here, right now, doing what I love—writing, snuggling with my pups, and being close to the most amazing man I know. That’s more than enough—it’s everything.

  6. Clevergrrl

    I watched the tail lights fade in the distance, tears blurring the red into a broken shimmer. Dashing my hand across my eyes, I turned to go back into the house. The walls were still ringing with the sounds of the argument. It had been a bad one, one of the worst ever.
    Mom was picking up the pieces of the broken dinner plate from the floor, her movements stilted, her knuckles white on the edge of the trash can. I grabbed my napkin off the table and used it to pick up some of the bits of chicken and vegetables that had been flung along with the plate, to wipe at the stain on the dining room wall.
    “You ok, honey? What did he say to you?” Mom asked. Her eyes were rimed in red, a small muscle was jumping at the corner of her mouth.
    “He said he was sorry, and that he would see me soon.” But I hadn’t really believed him. This time looked like forever. I took a deep breath. “Dad’s not coming back this time, is he?”
    “No, honey, I don’t think that he will.” Mom said, her voice slow and hollow.
    I tried to be upset, but right now I just felt relief. Maybe this would mean the end of the shouting and the anger. It’s hard to live with that every day. Maybe Mom felt the same way – she must be tired of the shouting, too.
    We finished cleaning up the broken pieces, and picked up our own barely-touched dinner plates to take to the kitchen. Neither of us really wanted dinner anymore.
    “Let’s go for a walk. Clear our heads.” Mom liked walking, and she went for a walk almost every evening. Sometimes I went with her. Dad never did.
    “OK.“ I grabbed sweaters from the hooks in the hall and handed Mom her favorite blue one.
    We stepped out on the porch, into the chill of a late fall evening. Mom just stood there for a minute, eyes closed, her face upturned into the cool breeze. I tried it, too, and the wind felt good. Clean and fresh. Mom took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh. That felt good, too. She hooked her arm through mine, said “Let’s go!” with a bit of enthusiasm. As she looked at me, I suddenly realized that we were the same height. When did that happen, that we were now eye-to-eye?
    The lights of our next-door neighbor’s Christmas decorations were glinting in the dark. We hadn’t even put ours up. Mom must have though the same thing, as she picked up her pace and said, “We need to get the Christmas decorations out this weekend.”
    I agreed. Maybe a bit of cheer would do us some good.

  7. Lex Noël

    For so many years I’ve dreaded this moment, convinced it would kill me. But here I am, standing, breathing–living.

    Letting go of love should kill you. It really should. The person you’ve committed time, thoughts, energy, surprises, kisses, dreams, and a myriad of things with is no longer a part of your life. The person who knows what makes you laugh, cry, irritated, annoyed, scared and a million tiny things is no longer the first person you call with exciting news, or the last person you talk to before you go to sleep. It should kill you, but it doesn’t.

    I hate when people assume that when you end a relationship you’re not entitled to sadness. As if being the relationship-ender forfeits any rights to grieve the loss of that person’s place in your life. Never mind that they continued to push you down their priority list. Never mind that their eyes wandered (continuously) to women other than yourself while you’re standing right beside them. Never mind that you would get dressed in your very best, looking forward to your date, to be looked at as if you’re no more captviating than the corner they walk by every day on their way to work. Never mind that they would choose nearly any social event over spending time with you again, and again, and again. The reasons for leaving can be absolutely justified, and yet, the sadness is there, and it’s overwhelming.

    Ending love is such a funny thing. You know you made the right decision, yet you cry yourself to sleep. You feel empowered by taking control of your life, but can’t face the playlist of songs reminding you of all the time you spent together. You’re excited about the prospect of new things and people, yet feel homesick for the familiarity and comfort of the past with that person. Ending love is a little bit like being twenty-two. As the Empress of Pop, Taylor Swift, puts it, “We’re happy, free, confused and lonely at the same time. It’s miserable and magical.”

    1. Critique

      Thought provoking Lex and straight from the heart. Thanks for sharing. The sentence: ‘you know you made the right decision, yet you cry yourself to sleep’, strangely that’s how it is.

    2. Kinterralynn

      You are spot on with this! Ending a relationship, whether its by your choice or the other party, it puts you into a state of mourning for all that has been lost, for all the dreams that will never happen. You’ve captured the essence of this in your writing. Great job!

      P.S. Coming from someone who has been there…. you’re right, you made the right decision, but you are entitled to the mourning process, don’t let anyone tell you different.

  8. ReathaThomasOakley

    The Summer of the Italian Sailors

    “Did you hear me?” Janie had, even though she hadn’t answered, just continued walking toward the window, her gait slow and measured, the hip replacement not the miracle promised.

    “I said–”

    “I heard you, Sheila, I’m crippled, not deaf.” Janie carefully positioned the walker with one hand and grasped the blinds’ cord with the other. “Too dark in here, too d%mn dark, I like the light, fresh air when it’s not so d%mn cold, hate the cold.”

    “You got it crooked, let it down and pull again.” Sheila gripped the recliner arms. “I’m coming, just leave it, just move out of the way.”

    “No, no, no,” Janie said through clinched teeth, “you just sit there, don’t bother with the here and now, keep your brain, and your butt, back in some fantasy land. I’ll take care of this.” She jerked the cord and nearly lost her balance as the blinds clattered down to the window sill. “See? See what your foolishness made me do?” She grabbed the walker handles, struggled to keep from crying, Sheila mustn’t ever see her cry.

    This was such a mistake, Janie thought for the thousandth time. Why did their children think two old friends living together would be a great idea. Six months and one major surgery and Sheila’s current obsession later and she was ready to kill Sheila, or herself.

    “Sorry,” she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and turned away from the window. “Not much sleep last night.” She moved to her chair and carefully sat. “No, I don’t think about them, or rather I didn’t until you started talking about them. God, Sheila, that was over fifty years ago, before marriages, before five children, before one divorce,” she tried to laugh. “It was one day, one hot summer day.”

    “But, Janie,” Sheila’s voice was excited, young, pleased Janie was finally talking about them, “haven’t you ever wondered what our lives would have been like if we’d given them our addresses? If we’d exchanged letters? They were so beautiful, weren’t they?”

    Janie settled back in her chair, her favorite from the tidy apartment her children convinced her to leave. Sheila’s home was spacious, with two accessible bathrooms, but it was dark, and cold.

    The day they’d met the Italian sailors had been hot and bright, so bright that the Matanzas, flowing around the fort, had sparkled like a river of diamonds. So intent was she on giving Sheila a mini history lesson that she hadn’t noticed the group of dark eyed young men in white uniforms until they were suddenly surrounding them, laughing, and calling, “Signorina, signorina, foto, foto.”

    So, she and Sheila had posed and laughed and then, until their bus went back to Mayport Naval Base, spent the rest of the afternoon with the two L’Accademia Navale cadets who spoke the best English. No, she’d never forgotten that day, but for some reason couldn’t admit it to Sheila.

    “Sheila, if you think about that, without the fairytale ending, those boys got old, just like we did, in fact they were older, could be dead by now.” Janie heard Sheila start to speak, but couldn’t stop. “You really think if we’d gone down that road it would have been better than the ones we took? Nope, that road ended before it even began.”

    Janie closed her eyes, tried to find something, anything, to focus on, but all she could see was a beautiful young man in a snowy white uniform, hair and eyes black as midnight, teeth that sparkled like diamonds, and a road not taken.

    1. Critique

      Reatha I enjoyed the story – wonderful writing. Two old friends, one pretending indifference, the other a dreamer and being honest about the road they didn’t take.

      The grass isn’t always greener on the other side/down the other road…. just means the side/road you’re on needs more care and attention?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is unusual for you and such a pleasure to read.and be drawn into the characters. So there is nothing wrong with a dream romance at any age. It keeps you young and somewhat springy.
        There has been many a movie about the road, one of which is Separate Tables. I say dream on ladies for most of us are dreaming with you, whether you realize or not. I loved the style, the smoothness, the subject and the dream of forbidden pleasures.

      2. Critique

        Sometimes the way we choose doesn’t turn out the way we hoped and the magic dries up and dies. These women remembered a magical time on a hot day and the opportunity for adventure with two handsome sailors. What if….

    2. Lex Noël

      What a moving piece. It’s amazing how differently people deal with dreams, lost dreams, relationships, lost relationships, etc. There is something magical, albeit sometimes sorrowful, about the elderly looking back at the adventures and romances of their life. Well done.

  9. frankd1100

    Thirty-seven of us jumped from the clanging, aluminum belly of the DC 10 into the frigid, early morning air at six thousand feet. Assigned to be the dot below the exclamation point, I wore a red jump suit. The team spelling the word “DARE” was in blue. I would rather have been part of the blue team but I had failed again to make the cut.

    Exhilarated at having pushed through a moment of panic before falling through the hatch, my resentment toward Dave, the jump master, began to fade. He had scolded me like a child in front of the team an hour before the jump. “Nick, repack that chute! Untangle the steering lines or you’ll hit the ground like two hundred pounds of hamburger.”

    He bullied me constantly usually by criticizing my equipment prep. The lines looked fine to me, so when he looked away I closed up the pack

    About fifty spectators on the ground watched us free-fall. A few local news reporters gathered away from the others hoping for a story. My wife was down there, somewhere, probably in the office banging the owner of the jump school. I’d caught them two days before, coming out of the packing room flushed and arranging their clothes.

    Our marriage was over. Tomorrow, Monday morning, I planned to pay off my car, transfer money to my offshore account and cancel the two million dollar life insurance policy of which she was the sole beneficiary.

    At 1500 feet Dave’s voice in my ear piece began the countdown and at zero I pulled the rip chord but continued to drop like a bag of cement plunging through the formation of jumpers who were breaking hard as their chutes snapped open. Dave had been right. Looking up I watched the steering lines twist and tangle with the silk of my chute preventing it’s opening.

    “Nick, shake it out, shake the lines free!” Dave’s voice ringing with urgency came through the ear bud as my situation became clear.

    Fear, panic and terror hit like a combination of jabs and hooks. Out of the blue, Dave appeared beside me in a daring free fall. He pulled me to his chest, hooked onto my pack and opened his chute to brake us, but I knew we were too low. At 100 feet the sound of a woman screaming, “David,” rose from the crowd.

    I reached back grabbing onto a handful of his jump suit and jerked us around so I was looking up at the sky. My only hope of surviving, I reckoned, was to land on top of him when we hit the ground.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      You’ve written this so well and the pace was perfect even with the back story included in the jump. Gad what a position to be in
      Seems like someone else might have fiddled with his parachute. Like a wife looking forward to two big ones

      If he survives the fall, she might run him.ovrr with a Hummer then back up and run over him a second time

    2. Rene Paul

      Nice story and well written, it held my interest the whole way. My favorite part: Fear, panic and terror hit like a combination of jabs and hooks. Out of the blue, Dave appeared beside me in a daring free fall. He pulled me to his chest, hooked onto my pack and opened his chute to brake us, but I knew we were too low. A lot said in these two sentences. I could feel the panic!

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Wow. Dave is trying to save Nick while Nick is planning the landing? Perhaps this is why Nick’s wife is with another man. Well written, kept my interest all the way through.

  10. Tysheena Jackson

    “Unhinged” by Tysheena M. Jackson

    Ten years ago, I was this broken thing of a child who tried her hardest to keep it all together. I walked the halls of my life pretending that I had it all together, that I wasn’t slowly giving way to the sudden trauma my family and I had just endured. Let me tell you something, I didn’t think she’d die. I swear I didn’t. It never came to mind. I didn’t even know death was an option for my family–let alone, her. That night was such a shock–Mama getting the phone call that her health had taken a turn for the worse, and that tomorrow would be our last moments with her–I feel numb every time I think about it. I don’t think about it because I can’t stand the numbness. I can’t stand the pain, even ten years later, twenty-two, an adult.

    I don’t like pain–maybe that’s why, for the longest time, I wouldn’t let anyone get too close.
    Hell–two days after they took her off the ventilator, I went back to school and pretended God hadn’t just shattered my world… betrayed me! “Are you sure you want to go?” Mama said behind sniffles. “You don’t have to, you know…”

    “Yes,” I said. For some reason I couldn’t afford myself to be weak when my family needed me to be strong. “I’ll go.” I had to.

    Two girls, one that crossed my path some years after, tapped me on the shoulder during history class and asked what happened. I gave them the short, the words still unfamiliar to my lips. And I remember it like it were yesterday, the scene never escaping me:

    “I wish my sister died.”

    “Me, too!”

    Laughter followed.

    No, you don’t. I wanted to tell them. You don’t know what you’re saying. Because if you wanted your sister to die you’d also want the side effects that come with her death. They’re free! The side effects, I mean. You don’t even have to ask for them. Surely these girls didn’t want to wake up from a nightmare every night, silently sobbing because they couldn’t possibly bother their parents or siblings, for they had hurts of their own. And they couldn’t have wanted the physical pain that came with death. You know, the pain that just sits in your chest there, like a thousand pound dumbbell, and with every inhale another pound is added. They didn’t want that. Who, in their right mind, would WANT that!?

    “Wow. You’re twenty-two!? I thought you were older than that–like early thirties. NOT that you look THIRTY but it’s just… you’re so mature for your age.”

    Death ages you. Losing your baby sister, ages you. Knowing how to grieve is important. I wish I didn’t feel like I needed to be strong. I was twelve. A child. I had every right to grieve normally. I thought that if I smiled on the outside and appeared like my family had it all together it would make a difference. And it did… but not the way it should have. I needed someone, anyone, to tell me that it was okay to not be okay. I needed someone, anyone, to hold me until my being couldn’t anymore. I just need someone, anyone, because twelve year old me–she’s still here.

    Author Note: Thank you, WD writers, for allowing me the courage to get that out. Thank you. Xx

    1. Kerry Charlton

      And thank you Tysheena for plunging forth and letting it out. It’s a sharp kick in the head to lose a love one. I lost three grandparent at the age of nine in the space of 12 months.when i lived in another lifetime. and to this day I still can feel the confusion as I was just a kid.pp. But time waits for no one and has no control over destiny.

      You’ve made a plunger and opened up after ,10 years. This is a good start to discovery.

    2. writer_sk

      Tysheena,
      Thank you for sharing.

      I am so sorry for the loss of your sister. Your reflections on the girls at school were so true. They didn’t know what they were saying.

      I hope your healing process continues,it sounded so painful to hold it in.

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        Writer, thank you for taking the time out of your day to not only read but respond to my admission. I’m learning how to heal. It’s taken years but gosh, does it feel good to breathe again! Xx

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Tysheena, perhaps the adult you can help the child you. A twelve year old is too young to have to cope alone and be strong. This is a moving piece.

  11. pven

    She loved me. Her parents loved Toffile.

    He was practical. A man in good standing within the community. A man with land, who would provide for their daughter. All the right things to win a parent’s love. Nothing to ignite the fire within her heart. Nothing to strike a spark behind her eyes.

    We spoke of running away. Of going to Boston, to Providence. Places far away from Toffile’s reach. I knew the mountains like no other. I knew the trails that my ancestors had blazed between peak and dome. I had friends who could provide shelter and misdirection in Jackson and Redstone.

    I made her these promises beneath her parents’ oak tree one late autumn’s eve. A storm was coming, I told her. If we tarried but one day, the passes would be blocked. But if we left in time, that night, the passes would close behind us.

    “We could make it to Portland before anyone found a hint of us in Conway.”

    She shook her head and whispered “Toffile suspects.”

    “Which is why we must leave now. Tonight.”

    “We cannot!” she cried, and spoke of spirits, of voices in her head that enflamed her fears. “It is too late, too late for us. The only path they see for you is a shallow grave, undiscovered, unmourned.”

    This was too much. I grabbed her arms and accused her of leading me on, of dangling empty promises of love to torment me. She swore this was not so, that she loved me more than she could ever love any other, but that she saw no path on which we could be together.

    “We cannot let others beat the path meant for our feet,” I told her. I grabbed her face and kissed her fiercely before she could pull away. “If you will not set foot on the road we have mapped out, then I shall tread it alone.”

    Her eyes widened. She screamed: “No!”

    And then darkness.

      1. pven

        Ah. This one I can answer, Rene. His lights were darkened.

        “They were a man’s his father killed for me.
        I mean a man he killed instead of me.”
        From Robert Frost’s Witch of Coos.

        The narrator is the person who eventually becomes the tormented skeleton trapped in “her” house, still trying to find its path.

    1. Critique

      Love thwarted by so much fear… so sad. If it was Toffile she saw coming at the MC it doesn’t bode well for harmony in the future for the arranged marriage.

  12. Critique

    In the spring we’d buy flowers and visit Dad’s grave. It was a short ten minute walk with Mom in her wheelchair from where she resided in Long Term Care to St. Antony’s Cemetery just down the road.

    This past December on a bitterly cold day we buried Dad. The graveside service was brief due to freezing temperatures.

    We hoped for positive change and better times for Mom’s future. Mom looked forward to her world blossoming following cataract surgery scheduled early in the year. She’d saved all the sympathy cards and letters from Dad’s passing in a pretty floral bag and looked forward to being able to read them at leisure, perhaps dabble in some art, and enjoy her surroundings and visits with loved ones with fresh new eyes.

    Mom enjoyed shopping at the nearby mall and we scheduled those trips too.

    But best laid plans often go awry. And ours did.

    In spite of a devastating stroke several years earlier, Mom remained amazingly strong. Always putting others first, giving an encouraging word, never complaining. After Dad died we noticed changes. Tears were never far away and she tired quickly. The loss of Dad’s physical presence was too much for her even though Alzheimer’s had taken him away long ago. Her heart was broken.

    Her body and immune system grew weaker. Then a series of strokes.

    In the acute care hospital the doctors told us there was nothing to be done.

    “Is our Mother dying?” We asked.

    “Yes she is.” The doctors responded gently.

    Mom’s world was sequestered to “keeping her comfortable”. We siblings took shifts staying with her 24/7 loving on her in every way we could. Our love and fervent prayers couldn’t stop the inexorable outcome. We were present when she took her last breath.

    Short months ago we were there when Dad sighed his last breath. Now Mom was gone too.

    Unexpected. Not entirely surprising. Still heartbreaking.

    We draw comfort knowing they are both freed from the restraints of earthy life and are soaring together forever, in a different realm, a place we can only imagine.

    A monument gracefully engraved with their names and artistic birch trees stands guard over their graveside now. It’s a peaceful quiet place and there it’s easy to acknowledge and reflect on the mysteries of life and in-escapable death.

    Our lives are emptier now that they are gone but we cherish each other more and hold our memories of Mom and Dad close in our hearts.

    “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” Proverbs 16:9

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is a beautiful tribute not only to your mother and father but also to you and your sisters and brothers. Their work on earth now completed they can play with the angels and check on their baby chicks as they care too. They have probably read your tribute by now. God Bless.

      1. Critique

        Thank you Kerry. It’s been a tough year of loss for us of loved ones and friends. Brings our own mortality up close and personal. Gotta live each day fully, love one another, and appreciate our blessings. Specifically, there are 59 families grieving senseless loss right now.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Critique, I was so moved by your story and by this response. My husband and I talk about living each day as fully as possible. Thank you.

  13. Kinterralynn

    It was a promise and a rose.

    His company Christmas party was the reason he could not make it to his son’s Christmas program. I sat on the front row, smiling, taking pictures and trying to ignore the fact that other husbands and fathers were there to watch their little ones up on the stage belt out a warbling rendition of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Our boy panicked his eyes wide with stage fright as he stared out at the crowd from his place on stage. He caught my eye and bolted from the stage, his fake reindeer antlers floppy with the movement as he ran and flung himself in my arms, his heart beating rapidly. I comforted him, tried not to laugh and promised him everything was going to be okay.

    His daddy called at two in the morning, obviously inebriated, wanting a ride home. I went and picked him up, my co-dependency personality over-ruling my common sense, and he gave me a rose he had picked up from the gas station. It was red, wrapped in cellophane, the petals bruised. I wanted to tell him I was done, but I caved and said thank you. While he slept off his holiday party, I sat in the front room tucked into the recliner, going over all the reasons I should leave and battling the part of me that was afraid to be on my own. Somewhere in the wee hours of the morning, puzzle pieces connected as I stared at the battered rose lying on the table next to me.

    I was done. I had trusted him, ignored the whispers I heard, gotten angry at people that tried to tell me the truth and too stupid to realize that every red rose was a distraction to keep me from knowing what he had been doing.
    In the end, I put away the dreams of happily ever after, I cried a river of tears and made sacrifices I never dreamed I would have to make. I had to walk away if I was going to keep that promise to my son.

    It was going to be okay.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Hello Kinterralynn. Hmm I seem to be using this word a lot this week but..authenticity…such a pretty word yes? This prompt seems to have brought out a certain “slice of life” bug in everyone. It might seem easy to do but writing realistic thoughts and inner dialogue about real life situations is infinitely harder than people realize. Often times it comes out as over-dramatic, or feels affected or that the author tried too hard to be “real” if that makes sense to you..

      Your story though suffers none of these pitfalls. It does not come off feeling like a polished novel, nor should it. It feels like a reminiscence of real events with which one still feels emotion about but has moved on to some extent.

      And if this is a fiction piece, I at least think you might be a parent because that hidden parental laughter when your son or daughter is upset but in almost a silly way is something usually only parents are aware of. It sounds awful to those without children! That is just an example of how it feels authentic. Thank you for sharing and I hope to read more from you!

      1. Kinterralynn

        Thank you so much for your kind words! You are very good at reading between the lines. This is indeed an event from my past. Yes, I confess, i am a mom. I ended a very bad situation, never expecting to be divorced and raising my son on my own. Of course, if we all knew the road we were about to travel, we might not make the same decisions. While this was a very rough period in my life, it helped me grow and l learned a lot of very useful information about myself!

    2. GrahamLewis

      I tried to reply earlier but it got lost in etherspace. I like the connection between the assurance at the play and the later determination to make the child’s life better and safer. And I like the line “puzzle pieces connected as I stared at the battered rose lying on the table next to me.” Except maybe the editor in me would suggest, “puzzle pieces connected as I stared at the battered rose on the table beside me.” But that’s a side issue — the concept and image are perfect.

      I see that this is based on a real experience. You are to be commended at gathering the courage to take a difficult step. I hope you got and are getting support.

      Thanks for posting this. GL

      1. Kinterralynn

        The hardest part of my marriage was admitting that I could not fix what was broken. This was seventeen years ago and I successfully raised my son on my own. He completed his years of college and has been happily married himself for over a year. My ex-husband chose to stay out of our lives until our son was sixteen and a year later, he passed away. My son was crushed, and I shamefully admit that it was like a heavy weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
        It was not an easy road that I walked, that is a given when you are raising your child in a single parent home. However, I feel that my son is stronger, wiser and on a path quite different than had his father stayed in his life. I made a good decision.

        P.S. You’re correct. The word “beside” works much better than “next”!

    3. writer_sk

      Strong writing and the imagery of the bruised rose spoke volumes.

      Awful that it was true.

      The skipping of the recital was a good way to draw us in to the conflict.

      1. Kinterralynn

        I’m glad you caught the significance of the bruised rose! It was subtle, but you understood.
        Yes, it is terrible that this is a true story, I wished it hadn’t happened to me, but it did help me realize my inner strength. For that, i am thankful for the experience.

  14. Rene Paul

    Every summer, my wife and I travel to Las Vegas. It’s an annual trip we’ve taken every year for the entire twenty-two years of our marriage.

    We’re quintessential creatures of habit, we always stop for breakfast in Victorville at the Green River Inn, and again for a quick rest at the Bun Boy in Baker. These locations afford the optimal distances and time gaps for stretching and enjoying a quick bite to eat. After filling the car with gas, we’re back on the highway.

    Eleven miles outside Baker, there’s an exit sign for ZZYZX Road. And just like everyone that passes this turnoff, we too wondered what’s at its end. This time, we glanced at each other with curious eyes, they said, “Why not, let’s go,” and we did.

    Curiosity killed the cat.

    The blacktop ended two miles east of the I-15, henceforth, the road was a mix of crushed rock, sand, and gravel. Sagebrush, epic vistas and a wide variety of wildflowers greeted us along the way until we neared an area protected by a barbed-wire fence. I stop the car short of a locked swing gate secured with a heavy-duty padlock. Serious protection. The pathway beyond is rough coated with a thin layer of tar.

    “Where does it go?” My wife asks.

    “Nowhere, as far as I can see.”

    “There must be something over that ridge, otherwise, why the security measures?”

    I shrug my shoulders and pulled out my cell phone. I typed Google Map’s satellite view but get no bars, no cell service, and no luck.

    “How do we get in?” She asked.

    “We don’t unless we can fly.”

    Since neither of us owned a set of wings, we turned the car around and continue our trek to Las Vegas, but, ZZYZX Road never leaves my mind. ‘Unless we can fly.’

    The next summer we’re back on the I-15 driving to Las Vegas. This time we’re in my work truck prepared to fly. We eat breakfast at the Green River Inn, stop to stretch at the Bun Boy, and exit the I-15 at ZZYZX road and covered the four-plus miles to its end at the barbed wire fence.

    I unload a 20-foot aluminum ladder with a folding extension and lean half of the rungs on our side and fold the other half over the fence facing the other side. Time to fly. We climb up and over and storm towards… whatever.

    Once past the ridge, we come across a large pond and a series of brick and mortar structures, a series of low-slung motel style rooms, a church… yes, a church and several office buildings occupy the grounds. They’re abandoned and dilapidated.

    A defunct swimming pool, devoid of water, now filled with rusting pool and patio furniture and a queer assortment of windblown debris, lies in the middle of an apparent courtyard.

    My wife points to an area behind a small building, a sun-faded sign identifies it as the Registration Office. “Somebody’s here,” she said.

    There’s a late model hearse parked behind it. “Let’s go before they see us.”

    I reply, “No way.”

    Curiosity killed the cat.

    I enter the dilapidated office; my wife stays a safe distance behind me. The room has a musky smell, a heavy dusting of dirt covers the counter and reception chairs and table. A flyer stand, still filled with old travel maps and things-to-do in Las Vegas pamphlets, leans against a side wall.

    No humans in sight.

    My wife picks up a brochure, “Check this out,” she said, “it’s a travel guide for Death Valley and believe it or not… according to this, the tours leave from right here, via train?”

    “Where are we?” I ask.

    “The flyer’s map shows we’re at the Soda Springs Health Spa.”

    A backdoor, behind the counter, creaks open. An old woman, with a face, body, and clothing that corresponds with the décor, enters the room. She speaks with a soft vibrato voice, “You’ve picked our top excursion, next departure is in 5-minutes. Prepare yourself.”

    “No thanks,” I said, as I backed up and reached for the door handle.

    “Relax,” she said, “your time has come. Take a seat, refresh yourself, have a drink of cool water, and take one with you, it’s a long and hot crossing.”

    My wife took my hand, her expression matched her grip, “Let’s go!”

    As we turned to leave, everything changed. The office renovated itself, it was clean and bright, no dust, no odors, not even a smudge on the windows. The pool sparkled as did the lawn chairs; a golden doorknob awaited my hand.

    Outside, a train materialized, people of diverse backgrounds and ages filled the seats. A conductor blew his whistle and waved a lantern, he yelled, “all—aboard.”

    The old lady had transformed into a beautiful young woman, “go on,” she said, ‘they’re all waiting on the two of you.”

    “Why are they waiting for us?” I asked.

    “To complete their life’s journey,” she answered.

    My wife looped her arm in mine, pulling me tighter, “to where?” She asked.

    The woman smiled, “to Death’s Valley.”

    1. gamingtheblues

      This was a nice slow burn and at first I was unable to discern if this was fiction or not (until the ladder!) The descriptions are good, and provide a nice sense of the scenes you present. I could see the spa grounds quite easily.

      Something about the ending felt a little off, not sure if I was expecting something more dramatic, or if I simply want the office scene to be stretched out more, fleshed out as much as the beginning descriptions are. In either case, this is still an interesting take on the prompt. I could feel the mounting tension as I read.

      1. Rene Paul

        Thanks, gamingtheblues, I think one of my weaknesses is scene description, I worked hard on this story to create a better one. Glad you liked it. As far as the ending goes, I was attempting a Twilight Zone twist.

    2. pven

      I’ve often wanted to do the same thing. But then I thought: let me just follow the road on the map. And then I thought: let me look up what that is on the Internet. And that sufficed.

      Now, I’m glad I kept to the main road.

      I noticed some tense structure issues. You start in present tense, switch between present and past tense for a bit at the Springs, and finish with past tense as the train’s coming in.

      1. Rene Paul

        Wow! What a catch. I had to read it twice to find the tense changes. “No thanks,” I said, as I backed up and reached for the door handle. And, As we turned to leave, everything changed. Subtle.
        Thanks for pointing those out. Edit, Edit, and then Edit!

        1. writer_sk

          Rene- I liked that the characters came back to properly investigate. I read through fast, wanting to know what was there, nice suspense-building.

          I enjoyed the refrain “unless we can fly.”

          The ending was painted so vividly.

          1. Rene Paul

            Thanks, writer_sk, I appreciate your comments. Funny you say you read through fast wanting to know what was there, everyone I know that’s ever driven to Vegas wonders what’s there. Most of what I described was there at one time, including the church the motel and the pond. I left out the spa with fake thermal waters–no one would believe it. If you have time, google it. It’s interesting and so is the guy that built it. He called it ZZYZX road so he could advertise the spa he built as the last word in health!

    3. frankd1100

      Very much Rod Serlingesque. The second to last line is perfect. “My wife looped her arm in mine, pulling me tighter, to where?” she asked with innocent expectation. To Death Valley… That’ll burst your balloon.

      Well done.

      1. Rene Paul

        Even when I was a kid watching Twilight Zone, Rod was and still is, my favorite story teller. I try my best to have an unexpected ending in all my short story prompts. I like your added line, with innocent expectation. Wish I would have thought of that; I’m trying! Thanks for commenting and reading my story.

  15. kjrdms

    I remember it like it was just yesterday. I woke up this morning at 6 AM. It was a school day, so I knew I had to get up early. However, this day I woke up exceptionally early. I knew what I had to do. Nerves were shooting so fast throughout my system that I couldn’t feel them. I was being numbly electrocuted. “The nursing home called me late last night,” my grandma told me, I immediately drove up there, and stayed with her until her last breath.”

    My Great-Grandmother— MY grandmother…. she was just…. gone. Gone.

    Just last night I was there visiting with her for the very last time. I strangely knew that it was her time. I was the last one to tell her that it was okay to go. It was okay to leave me. Walking into the nursing home that day was the weakest I have ever seen her. She was so frail and purple. She was hardly drinking (she had already stopped eating solid food and had been drinking Ensure’s).

    Walking into her room that windy Sunday afternoon, I had something to say to her, but I waited until I was alone. “Grandma,” I said tears forming in my eyes, “I love you so much, and I just wanted to tell you that it’s okay for you to go. I have graduated from High School, and I am in college now. I have a boyfriend that loves me, and it is okay for you to go. I want you to know that I love you with all my heart and I always will.” Those were the last words I said to her.

    That morning I had all of my suite mates out in our living area with me. They were all supportive for me, and telling me that everything was going to be okay. I continued on with my day at college, and I felt nothing. I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t angry. I was just nothing. I went up to the nursing home for one last time with my grandma and mother. We took her belongings, and that’s when I noticed it. Her wheelchair. I could never forget her wheelchair. Just standing alone in the middle of the hallway waiting for her to sit in it again. Still, I felt nothing,

    I stayed that way until we went to her wake. I completely lost it, and I cried for the first time since her passing. What helped me mourn was just knowing that she was always by my side no matter what. Playing my arrangement of “Amazing Grace” for her sealed our relationship within that moment. She was happy, she was proud of me, and she was just in awe about how beautiful I had turned out to be.

  16. lmshearn

    The news I received at 4:30 AM was the beginning of the end of the road. My Grandson was dead, so was my heart and my soul floated away in search of his.

    19 and gone how this could be was not within my ability to comprehend. It still isn’t. There were so many people suffering. His Mother, my daughter. His siblings and Father. We were all feeling around in the dark.
    Two years have now passed in grief, depression, anger but never remorse. Loneliness crept in more and more. True I, by my own hands, cut many ties. I just wanted to go home. Home I thought would be where I would find my Grandson. I somehow learned that home was a place. It was real, it existed, it held memories and for reasons I know not gives me hope.

    So, New York you had shattered everything from me and took many lives from my vision and turned them into pushback memories. For me, there will never be peace there. Yes at the end of the road looking at another bend.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Was this intended as a stream of consciousness piece or a piece more aiming towards reflection. My comments would be different based on the author’s intent. Please respond if you read this! Thanks

  17. Whoever

    “Let guilty men remember, their black deeds do lean on crutches made of slender reeds.”
    I turned and left, eyeing up the scene and its observers as I went. The door closed behind me, a beat and then – applause. Suddenly eleven others appear from behind black curtains. My colleagues for he past five months on this extraordinary journey. Together we took to the stage for one last bow, or three, then out into the wings again. Laughing, buzzing, exhausted, we made our way up the stairs to the dressing rooms. The general atmosphere was one of happiness and partially relief. Inside I felt differently; I was sad to be leaving the company of these people, this building and the routine I had employed. Waking up late, doing whatever, going to the theatre, performing, staying in the bar after until late, home, sleep, repeat. And the money. I was scared. Afraid to be out of the best job I’ve had to date. In the bar after, everyone was enjoying themselves; having a laugh and a drink to celebrate the completion of a successful run. I didn’t feel like celebrating I felt like doing it all over again. People were asking questions about my next job, which I’d be attending the first rehearsal of the next day. If anything that fact made things worse; no time to relax or adjust back to the norm. But I didn’t say that for as an actor you’re always lucky to be in work.
    We all finished our drinks, and some, and I hopped in a cab with a two. On the way we continued to chat and to laugh but my stomach felt empty as one after the other they got out of the car. And the Uber driver took me home. I thanked him for his service and stumbled down the path, keys in lock, turned the handle and closed the door behind me.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Hello Whoever 😉

      Webster’s White Devil…hmm I wonder what theater troop put that on. Not a bad line in any event! Moving on. While you need some work in splitting up your story; 1. to make it easier to parse as a reader and 2. to create beats and natural pauses for pacing purposes, I actually enjoyed your piece.

      There was a simple authenticity and your sentences did not run on and on, too filled with information. They are concise, and feel natural for this type of recitation. I think you captured the emotions and thoughts well, without beating us over the head with it. Subtly is much harder to achieve than tons of purple prose.

      I hope you continue to submit stories next week. I would enjoy reading more of your work.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      As the survivor of many, many, many community theater productions on both sides of the footlights, I think you captured the emotions really well.

  18. Red_Armadillo

    There was an ambiance to the room quite unlike anything before it. An empty shell, with white walls, cleaned carpet, and the furniture lying in requiem of years past. Color was never a concern for the thoughts that wound their way throughout the room each night, when the light of the street lamps would shine in ominously with tainted bronze. Sleepless nights of fretting what lied in wait in the closet, what lurked beneath the frame of the single bed huddled placidly in the corner. Wet tears dripping slowly down the cheeks, both in times of sorrow and of joy. The pillows stained with those tears, when dawn would come to dry them.

    The planets hanging, drifting slowly in the still air, air that held secrets only it knew. The words of praise, curses, and thoughts no ears could ever be allowed to hear. The dresser of clothes, clothes reserved to time, where once it was about play, and then about looks. The desk, a small desk, dotted with pencils and crayons, overflowing with paper, a library of childhood dreams come to life in a plethora of lines and shades.

    In memory, the room came alive. It bustled and chanted with the life of the one who dwelt in it. And now it was nothing more than a room, a docile room, void of the life it once held. That life had moved on into a new world, a world it used to hide from, here, in this place, when all other places were naught.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Hello Red,

      First allow me to say that do not take it personal if near the top of the prompt page, fewer people respond to a story,.By the end of the week it starts getting very tiring responding to all of the prompts. It is easy to have emotional burn out, for to put a real comment on a story that actually means something, you have to invest in the story and your comment emotionally.

      As for your your story, you have a very poetic style of writing. Your sentence structure and turn of word show that it is a very self aware style. You create intriguing imagery and the words themselves flow in almost a song of their own.

      Be very careful though, and I know this from experience as I often write in this way. It is very easy to try too hard when you have a poetic style of writing that is also self aware. Not that I am saying you tried too hard on this piece, but as just something to think about in future pieces. I have done it many times myself as I said.

      I enjoyed the song you created here though and look forward to reading what you have for us next!

      1. Red_Armadillo

        Hi gaming!

        Thanks so much for the reply. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting one considering how late it was for my comment. So, to actually see one was quite exciting!

        I’ve certainly run into my fair share of troubles with my writing style. I’m challenging myself with these prompts to get back into writing again, and this was the first one I started on. I kind of went with what I naturally do, but I’m hoping to expand my writing style and hone it better for future writings 🙂

        Thanks so much for your feedback!

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        gaming gave you some excellent information and feedback. Do keep writing. This is a great place to experiment and to learn, with lots of supportive folks.

  19. rle

    It was perhaps the most terrifying sense of hopelessness I’d ever felt. It was pure bone shattering, dream crushing doom. For thirteen and a half months I’d prayed relentlessly for a miracle, trying to remain optimistic under the worst of circumstances. As I sat beside her and watched her restless slumber, I finally recognized the reality of our plight. The cancer was winning, consuming first her body, her spirit, and then her mind. My wife was dying.

    As I sat watching the seconds slowly tick by, it felt as though I was living someone else’s life, looking through the window into someone else’s hell, still not willing to accept the fact it was mine. Each of her subdued whimpers rocked me to my core. Every flutter of her eyelids gave me hope that I I might have just one more short lucid conversation with her.

    When the ambulance pulled in the driveway, I felt my knees get weak. I did the best I could to stifle the tears. They were here to take her to a hospice facility. I knew without a doubt this would be the last time she would be at her home. They don’t send people to hospice to cure their ills.

    As I followed the squad into the late summer sunset, I wondered how long it would be. How long would I have to watch my love suffer this way? Hours, days, weeks? After settling her in, my in-laws convinced me to go home and get a few hours sleep while they sat with her. I knew it was best after having been up with her for nearly forty-eight hours, but it nearly killed me leaving her there.

    At 3:45 AM her sister called and informed me her breathing had become labored and that the nurse said I should come. I don’t remember the twenty-five minute drive to town. The next thing I recollect was walking in the room. I remember how her skin looked, gray and lifeless. She appeared so small. I sat by her side as she noisily inhaled, then silently exhaled. Over twenty years of fond memories flooded my thoughts as I silently wept. I never fathomed my last memory with her would be here, like this. Then came the questions, the worst one of all, how do I tell our young daughters?

    As her breathing grew weaker and more intermittent, I began thinking each breath she took would be her last, but she continued hanging on. Finally, I leaned down and told her, “if you want to leave this place, you can.”

    And her three final breaths ushered in the end of an era.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        The strength that you gathered to push yourself through this comes from only one place and that’s where she traveled too. The sadness that you feel is part of a master plan. And then you say to yourself “what master plan, why is it they have to take the very best of the best? What kind of plan is that. ”
        You become flooded with sorrow one moment and then next, anger boils through the shield you have wrapped your sorrow in so no one can see it

        But you wife sees it and silently tries to tell you.she is safe and out of pain and out of sorrow because she is not with you. In the quiet of the night you hear this and you will know, she wants you to remember but also break away from the constant chains that bind your mind and soul.
        Listen carefully and you will hear. We. From one who has been there. God Bless you
        rle.

  20. dustymayjane

    I sat on a frosty bench in front of the Five and Dime. The immediate chill through my backside gave me shivers. The morning sun at its low winter orbit, barely warmed my face that cold December morning and I closed my eyes against it. My coffee steamed and I held it close to my lips. The warmth of it felt good through the thick foam cup. I’d arrived early. I enjoyed my solitude, as it was a rare commodity in my household full of children and responsibility. My coffee was nearly empty and cold when I saw him. He’d parked his car across the street, in front of the Post Office. As good a place as any I’d guessed. He’d pick up his mail before returning to his car and leaving.

    He was average in looks, intelligence and anything that didn’t matter. He was self-assured, gentle, kind and everything my husband was not, in things that did matter. I would recognize that walk, that build, that clever smile from a mile away. He was surprised when I told him that.

    “You do?” He asked with a questioning twinkle in his pale blue eyes. “Well, I shouldn’t be surprised.” He added. “I’ve noticed you for a long time, truth be told.”

    That made me smile, yet at the same time, uncomfortable. I didn’t know what he’d seen of me. I hoped it wasn’t when I went to Wal Mart in my sweats with hair undone and face free of makeup. I hoped he hadn’t seen me with my unruly children, begging for everything within their grasp. God forbid, he’d seen me with my husband, during one of our less than pleasant moments.

    Oh God! I could be such a mess

    He crossed at the light and made his way down the street to where I sat waiting. His expression, even though obscured by the bright sunlight and shadow, told me enough and I was suddenly on alert. He was walking fast and glancing around nervously. I stood when he reached the Five and Dime and instead of reaching for him, I tucked my hands into my wool coat pockets.

    He glanced at me and I was hopeful for a moment. He started to reach for me but retreated when he looked quickly away, back towards his car.

    “Miranda.” He said. Emotion showed in his eyes and I knew that things were about to change.

    I didn’t say anything. I tried ‘Richard’ but no sound came out. I followed his tensed, frigid back towards the park where we often sat and talked. I was afraid that the loveliest person in my life was saying goodbye.

    “Richard. Wait.” I stopped following and stood frozen, inside and out. He kept walking as if he hadn’t heard me. Maybe he hadn’t. “Richard! ” I shouted weakly. I was choking on my tears.

    He stopped and turned. He stretched out his arm and I took his hand. “It’s alright Miranda.”

    I stepped into his embrace and he kissed my cheek. His cold nose touched my ear.

    His warm breath traveled down my neck. I shivered. He held me tighter.

    “I can’t say goodbye Richard. I can’t.”

    I looked over his shoulder as he held me through the tears. I saw the path that led to the lake. Another that led to the right would take me to my neighborhood.

    I was at the end of a path. One that I should never have taken.

    1. gamingtheblues

      The past two weeks are some of the first times I have read any of your work I think, and it is quickly becoming a delight. Is this real or fiction? If fiction it was very well written and conceptualized and crying with authenticity. If autobiographical, I understand the feeling of not being happy with where you are and wanting to look elsewhere for the things you need. What an incredibly sad and rather disappointing ending.

      This story touched me on a personal level because i do not believe in staying unhappy for misguided traditions or even misplaced loyalty. Hence why I am happily divorced perhaps! I only wish I could speak to the MC and tell her to follow her heart and that she should not settle for anything she does not want!

      Very well done.

    2. frankd1100

      The older I get the more time I spend reliving the many paths I’ve walked, run or crawled along. Some recollections are pleasant some cringe worthy and a few I haven’t figured out.

      I used to wonder why we complicate our lives so. At some point I concluded that life is the complication and we play out the string choosing one path or another. Each path is difficult, some torturous. Luck, conscience and circumstance influence the choices we make. When I was a young, idealistic man a mentor attempting to guide my expectations toward realism explained that , “Sometimes you get the nut and sometimes you get the shell.”

      Now in my late sixties I hear his voice in my head and I think, how boring life would have been if lived by those words. Too often we end up with the shell, of course, but life’s adventure is in the pursuit of that nut. No regrets.

      I like your story but I hope you find peace with the path in question. It’s part of your life. One part and it has value in spite of the pain.

  21. ReathaThomasOakley

    The End of the Road
    An Annie Story

    May 21, 1955
    Mod#ss. . . because
    –1950s ad campaign

    “My goodness, Annie Louise Porter! What on earth are you doing, knocking on my door this early on a Saturday morning?”

    “Oh, Miss Jimmie Mae, I’m sorry, I just. . . ” I stopped and scrunched up my eyes real tight, so I wouldn’t cry. “Please. . . ” I couldn’t hold it no more.

    “Annie, what’s happened? Is it your mama, or Brother?”

    “Noooo,” I sorta wailed, and didn’t even try to stop her when she put her arms around me and led me into the front room. “It ain’t nothin’ like that, it’s a whole lot worse”

    “Well, you sit right down in my big chair and I’ll get you a Kleenex.”

    I hadn’t never been to Miss Jimmie Mae’s so early before. I hadn’t never seen her hair just in one long braid, hanging down her back, over the peac@ck on her chenille house coat. Even being so upset, I wondered if she bought it same place where Mama got her chenille bedspread, up on highway 17, on the way to Aunt Gladys’ house.

    “Now, then,” Miss Jimmie Mae handed me a wad of tissue and sat on the ottoman, “blow your nose and tell me what’s got you so discomposed.”

    “Remember I told you all the fourth grade girls had to go to the auditorium and got a talkin’ to by a nurse while the boys got to go outside and play games?”

    “Yes, I do believe I recall that.”

    “And, we got this book all about out insides and how girls get to be women.” I couldn’t figure out why she started smiling. This wasn’t funny.

    “Yes, Annie?”

    “Well,” I was about to cry again, “well, I think I’m a woman now.” Then I was crying so hard my whole heart hurt and I almost couldn’t breathe.

    “Annie, Annie, Annie,” she reached over and hugged me some more. “Why didn’t you tell your mama?”

    “She had to go to work really early, some special dress needed some sewin’ before it could be dry cleaned and Brother’s still asleep and Daddy’s in the garage, but I can’t tell him ’cause he’s a man.” I wiped my nose. “I looked in the window at Aunt Violet’s, but she’s making waffles for Pu’kin, and besides she’d just want me to pray, like she does for any ol’ crisis. So I came here. I didn’t know what else to do.”

    “Annie, did your mama show you where she keeps all her monthly things?”

    “Noooo. . . ”

    “Hush now, no more crying. So, um, what did you do when you saw. . . ”

    “I just put a whole bunch of toilet paper. . . ”

    “Yes, I see.” Miss Jimmie Mae stood up. “I’m afraid it’s been a while since I’ve have what you need, so let me make a phone call.”

    “You ain’t gonna call Mama at work, are you? She ain’t allowed–”

    “No, I’m going to call Miss Kay.”

    “But, her store ain’t open yet.”

    “I’ll just explain the situation, and by the time I get dressed and walk over, she’ll have what you need.” She smiled down at me. “Us women got to stick together”

    “Oh, Miss Jimmie Mae, that’s what I’m cryin’ about. I don’t want to be a woman, I’m only ten.” She sat back down. “Mama’s done told me all the stuff I can’t do when I’m a woman. It’s like I’m on this road just thinkin’ it’s gonna go on forever and ever, but it stops, right in the middle of nowhere.” I started cryin’ again.

    “Annie, we’ll talk about this some more later on, but while I’m gone I want you to think about this. Sometimes when it looks like the end of one road, if you look around you can see the start of another one. I know ten is a little early for all this, but me and your mama and your aunts are going to help you.

    “Now, you blow your nose again and let me get dressed.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Reatha, it has been such a pleasure reading Annie’s exploits. This installment just makes her even more real. The more I read of her, the more I wonder about the antagonist, her real story, the one hidden behind these 500 word prompts. You don’t have to reveal here since I know she’s in a book, but I do wonder something fierce.
      Also, if I may make a quick edit. The name “Pu’kin” has shown up several times. Is this a foreshortening of Pumpkin? If so, might I suggest adding an ‘n’ so it reads “Pun’kin?” My great-grandma called me Pumpkin, but it always came out as Punkin’ in her Arkansas drawl.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        JR, I so appreciate your close reading. You ask an interesting question. Because I never thought of a book when I started using the same MC in several stories, I didn’t consider things like antagonist or story arc or even conclusion, I just wrote little pieces that I enjoyed. For the past few months I’ve been going back to each short piece and expanding while developing structure, settings, character descriptions, etc. I’ve also had to pay attention to details like names. I found I’d used different names for some of the same people. All this, and the business part, dealing with the publisher, finding a lawyer, etc., is making me nuts. I was just looking for an agent. Anyway, the nasty boy, Wilfred, has to be the antagonist, even if it’s just in Annie’s mind. I do have the epilogue, and the organizing principle. My goal is to participate in NaNoWriMo, and get Annie finished. Ah, long answer, sorry. Again, I appreciate input from the writers here. These comments are extremely important and valued.

    2. gamingtheblues

      Once again you write with confidence and poise. This was beautifully written and I as with all polished writing I saw the scene instead of the words. I love the dialect, though I actually do agree with JR’s sentiment on P’ukin… I keep reading it as puking. 😉

      On a personal note, I am actually quite offended by the profanity filter that has been applied to these forums. I do not think words are something to be afraid of nor censored. I do not filter my words around my children, and I do not think “dirty” words are actually dirty, but figures of expression. While they are not allowed to use them until they are adults, I think it is important they know how to use them when the time is appropriate. 😉

      It also makes submitting a chore, and if they are going to apply the filter, they should add code to the page to tell you what words were offending so that we are sure. Or remove the bloody thing entirely!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        gaming, thanks for your comments. You, JR, and my husband all asked about Pu’kin. It is short for Pumpkin. What if I did, Pun’kin, or if the first time I use it have Annie explain?

        As to the filter, a warning or something would have been nice. Who knew p#ac@ck would trip me up, but I should have remembered Alfred Hitchc@ck did a few months ago.

        Thanks, again.

    3. frankd1100

      I’ve tried to write dialect, as in the voice of a Boston “Townie.” It probably leaks into my speech after these many years but I cannot capture the authentic sound in writing. You’re good at it. At the same time I see Annie clearly and I too wish I could comfort her and let her know all will be well.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        frank, thank you so very much. I’m going to do a little presentation on dialogue, and dialect, for our local writers group in January. I think I’ve mentioned there are several excellent articles right on this site, I do try to read everything I can, on Voice that have lots of great information. You might check on those. As a child I listened, a lot, and I’ve been involved in community theater, and think both things helped.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Cosi, Annie appreciates that. Last week you asked about The Girl. I fear she is languishing as I try to pull Annie together. I have rewritten parts of the later chapters, toning down some of the sillier supernatural elements. Thanks for remembering her, and Sarah. They are not totally abandoned.

    4. snuzcook

      I love the topic you chose here, Reatha, and Annie the perfect character for us to witness in this experience. Don’t we all wish we could be someone’s Miss Jimmie Mae?

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks snuz. I hope I have offered that kind of support when young women needed it. Hmmm, just thought of a son’s HS girlfriend. That’s a story.

    5. Critique

      Such an enjoyable read Reatha. Love the characters and dialogue. I had several Miss Jimmie Mae’s when I was a child and they hold a special place in my heart.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, and I’m happy you had your own Miss Jimmie Maes. This one is a combination of two wonderful women, one who a few years ago was still living next door to my old house.

  22. ReathaThomasOakley

    After nine or ten attempts, and lots of ###and*** for possibly offending words, I’m going to try a different approach. Funny, because I don’t think I write anything that should be filtered.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Reatha, you are one heck of a writer packing all of Annie’s emotions in a short story. We all feel like she’s family and want to protect her from realism and danger as she’s only ten. If you don’t mind my saying, she is one adorable child, one that anyone I know would welcome with open arms.

  23. Kerry Charlton

    THE DOOR THAT WILL NOT CLOSE

    I have found out if I write about my daughter Leslie it eases the pain some but it refuses to close the door. I know now in my lifetime, it will never close and so be it. This story is about the last four days of her life.

    Back and forth from home in San Antonio to Dallas Parkland Memorial, I walked into her intensive care room. A happy face I tried but it didn’t work. I had just left two days earlier but when Lori, my oldest had said on the phone,

    “Leslie says she’s going to Jesus today.”

    I had left at four in the morning for Dallas. We contacted Hospice and they agreed to come to the hospital and work there, because :Leslie was too ill to move. A temporary comfort that crumbled before my eyes. The hospital immediately rejected the idea as being against their rules. So I asked for the hospital director knowing I would never see him.

    But thirty minutes later a woman about thirty waked in and introduced herself. She had arrived from India to her new job as director. The hospital was immense and she ran it.

    “I understand your dilemma,” she said, “but I will tell you we will offer any type of service you need for I have met your daughter and her courage and will power is remarkable.”

    Day two, Leslie was given a private room, any medication she needed and the hospital put my other four daughters in the lounge at night to sleep and they rolled a reclines into Leslie’s room for me to stay at night.

    On the third day, she declined dramatically as the Melanoma started it’s final work, cancer in the lungs, brain, kidneys and back. Seven years she had battled the death sentence reducing the Melanoma enough to return to her job at a bank in Mineral Well, 90 miles west of Dallas. But it roared back with deadly power three months previous, despite a 24 hour continuous chemo therapy session.

    One of her best friends had called from Mary Kay, a cosmetic company she worked for as a second job and asked if four of the girls could visit with her .Leslie could barely talk when we told her but her eyes shone with excitement,

    “Tell them to come,” she said, “I’d love it.”

    At seven that night, they gathered in the hallway, all five looked dreadful with tears in their eyes. A booming voice came from Leslie’s room,

    “Come on in girls, let’s party.”

    Giggles and laughter rolled into the hallways and we blocked anyone from entering. I couldn’t believe what she managed to do that night, but that was Leslie. On the last day, she worsened and became unresponsive, are least we thought so. A young man came in to check her and as he entered the room, he said in a loud voice,

    “How are you doing today Leslie?”

    We shook our head to him to let him know and then, she answered him,

    “I’m doing fine today, how are you doing?”

    Not another word from her as evening arrived The director of the hospital arrived around eight and checked on her. Which I thought was so unusual for a director. She gathered around my daughters and I,

    “I doubt there is any brain activity. She’s breathing on automatic, it’s not unusual.”

    Hours went by, I lay down on the recliner and finally fell asleep. Linda, my second daughter shook me awake,

    “Dad, Leslie’s quit breathing.”

    I can just imagine the comet of light she is spreading throughout the heavens as she did on earth. So do you understand why the door will never close?

    ,

    1. gamingtheblues

      Oh Kerry. You know…we have read each other’s stories off and on for what…five years? More? The depths that you write in always touch us and I really do hope that you gain some comfort through the sharing. Your life experiences always shine through your writing and this week you reduced me to tears.

      I can only begin to imagine how you felt writing this. I will reiterate the other sentiments and thank you for allowing us another opportunity to connect with you, the humble and amazing person that I have come to know through your writing. Remember, you can know someone through their writing more so than you can from the words they directly speak to you. It is something about the inner voice always forcing it’s way through.

      Of course this was well written, but I think that is besides the point this week.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I am so glad you understand why. Just for an example, Leslie had passed about four months and I received a letter from a bank holding company. When I opened it was a personal letter from the chairman. In it of course his condolences but also a note describing his feelings he had when he drove to the branch in Mineral Wells. How amazed he was at Leslie’s personality and how much the bank missed her.
        Her footprints through life won’t disappear anytime soon.

    2. frankd1100

      Beautifully heart wrenching, Kerry.
      To live on after losing your Leslie is only possible, it seems to me, because her spirit has a place in your heart and will walk with you every step, every day, until you meet again.

      As for the door, I get it.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Frank for your wise comments. This forum has been a God send for me so I can release myself from the chains. Without the comradeship I have no idea where I would be now.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I wonder myself where my emotions come from, certainly not my family. They cloak themselves from others. I wrap my cloak around them. And also this forum. Thank you for taking the time and for your care that you witness to.

    3. Tysheena Jackson

      I get it, Kerry. The door will never close because her light will always peek through it. Thank you for sharing this vulnerably heartbreaking time of your life with us. You’re one of the strong ones, I hope you know that. Blessings! Xx

    4. Critique

      Thank you Kerry for sharing this very personal special story about Leslie with us. She sounds like she was a wonderful individual – like her father! She is smiling at you through that open door!

      Memories are precious – something to hold on to. You will meet her again one day.

    5. writer_sk

      Oh my goodness. So sad, Kerry.

      I have no response to accurately capture the pain that goes with losing your daughter.

      I am very sorry for your family.

      I like how she welcomed in the girls with a loud voice and the support of the sisters and hospital director was nice to hear.

      *hugs*

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you for the ”hugs’, it always helps to ease things. It doesn’t seem possible nine years have gone by. I wake up each morning and this is what I think about. I never felt so helpless in my life. But I force myself to remember I am not in charge and must follow the footsteps of one who is. Someday……

  24. Pete

    Well, here we are, at the end of the road.

    This doesn’t make since. This is it.

    This is why you shouldn’t work without your partner.

    Barb, I swear. This is where Mr. Reinbough was holed up. I was here last week.

    When you got stuffed in a trunk?

    I told you what happened.

    And I’d love to hear it again.

    Four guys, all with guns. What was I supposed to do?

    Oh there were four now?

    Yes, four. And I escaped, so..

    You escaped? Or you were thrown in a dumpster and crawled out smelling like week old salmon, red onion, a hint of balsamic dressing?

    That’s pretty descriptive.

    Two years in culinary school.

    Really?

    Yep.

    I swear this is it.

    So, to be clear. Reinbough had the road dug up, buried, seeded with grass, no, a forest, set up a rusted rail guard and littered the roadside with old diapers and decade old beer bottles—

    How do you know ‘decade old?’

    The labels. Killian’s hasn’t used that white backdrop label in at least ten years.

    You really know your alcohol

    I was a bartender.

    Really?

    Yep.

    I swear I saw a road right here last week.

    And I should quit drinking?

    I never said that.

    Want a sip?

    Not now Barb, listen.

    Pileated woodpecker. Any more brain busters?

    No, not that, someone’s coming.

    Kiss me.

    Huh?

    Kiss me now.

    *TWO MINUTES LATER*

    You need to shave.

    Oh my God.

    Yeah, I get that a lot.

    No, I mean, that was Mr. Reinbough.

    Oh, was he looking for his road?

    Can you be serious for one second?

    Somewhere…over the Rein…

    Barb, cut it out.

    Wow, someone is cranky after just getting lucky. And why are we still sitting here?

    Huh?

    We need to tail him. Now move.

    But this is it. I’m telling you.

    Nolan, follow him or you’re going back in the trunk.

    Fine. But it was four guys…

    Sure it was…

    1. JRSimmang

      Pete, was the car a rental?
      For an experimental piece, this has some beguiling aspects. Hemingway had written a dialogue-only piece entitled “Hills Like White Elephants.” Check it out when you get the chance.
      You’ve done a decent job of telling a story through dialogue, revealing backstory, building relationship, but that “Two minutes later” is driving me crazy. If I might suggest using fillers and onomatopoeia to illustrate the time, or reveal how much time had passed in the next line of dialogue. Also, Nolan gets lucky in two minutes? Speed. Racer.
      Thanks for sharing. I always enjoy your stuff.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well, hell’s bells, what happened to the “60 minute man’? Perte, I was up and down, sideways and then upside down as well. I certainly enjoyed the ride.

      2. Pete

        Hey JR, thanks! I’ve done these characters before, and all I can say for that TWO MINUTES is that it’s pure laziness, I have no excuse. What’s bugging me too is that “since” Oh well.

  25. ClutteredThoughts

    The van bounced up the mountain road, nothing visible in the darkness. I’d never felt so empty in my life.

    Depression? Maybe. Stress, definitely, worry and heartache. High school had never been rough until now.

    This wasn’t rock bottom, but I couldn’t imagine being any lower. Six other kids in the van, all asleep, the lucky ducks. I jokingly called them my kids, and I was something of a mother hen, but all I wanted right then was to be cared for like I was a scared child. Maybe because I was one, despite my age.

    An old jazz song rewrote itself as the van rocketed through the desert mountain. The driver paid my discomfort no mind, not that I was showing it. I hadn’t been showing anything lately.

    “Summertime…

    “And the living ain’t easy

    “Nothing’s going, and the odds are stacked high

    “Your grandma’s sick, and nobody is looking

    “You’re stuck in a corner, tryin’ not to cry.”

    I didn’t want to listen to that. If I’d hit the bottom of the well, that sick parody was rubbing my face in the stones.

    What could distract me? I looked in the van, barely able to make out the shape of my sleeping friends. The only thing visible was the harshly glowing radio. Outside wasn’t much better; we were headed
    away from the city, so I couldn’t see the lights out my window, and everything else was dark as –

    Oh.

    I looked up. I’d never seen such a sky before, with absolutely nothing to block my view; it was utterly clear.

    I can’t describe how beautiful the stars looked right then. To a child with no hope, a child who was losing her ability to see beauty… their light was faint, but the chords they struck within me were pulling me up, washing me clean of the doubt and despair I’d fallen into.

    I felt calm. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt so calm, been able to just put aside my worries for a moment and… not cry, but let go. It was like being sung a lullaby, but I only knew one, and the stars were saying something else to me…

    “Look, the stars are bright…” a song was beginning, something new and hopeful and simple.

    “As bright as my eyes,

    “When I see a smile upon your face…” I was smiling. It surprised me. I hadn’t genuinely smiled in a long time – laughed, but not smiled, not without forcing it.

    “Happiness, tonight

    “Do you realize

    “That here you are loved, you have a place.”

    We still had two hours before we got home. I never looked away from the stars, and even though the song changed the feeling was still the same.

    I wrote it down, of course. I’d finally reached the end of that awful road. I felt good, content even, for the first time in months, and I was going to continue to soar on that song until I was fully free again.

    1. ClutteredThoughts

      Stupid glitchy internet didn’t save my changes to that last paragraph! It’s supposed to read:

      I wrote it down, of course. End of the road, out of the van, and I finally felt I was at *home.* I even felt content, and I knew I was going to soar on that song until I was fully free again.

      On another topic, I must say it’s nice to be back. If you’re wondering, this is a true story; I’ve reached the end of many a road in my (short) life, but reaching this one was like crashing the car and crawling the last mile with a useless leg and a broken skull. I still listen to that song sometimes…

    2. JRSimmang

      Thanks so much for sharing, CT. One thing I’ve learned is that the road actually never ends; the twists and turns just get in our way sometimes.
      This is a beautiful moment, mirrored sublimely by the starry sky. And, actually, I like the original last paragraph, though I’d fix only the subjunctive clause. “Soar on that song…” didn’t match the previous tone in my opinion.
      It’s great to see how much you grow week after week.

  26. spywriter

    It was one of those occasions where you wished you had a time machine.
    It was 1984 if memory serves, and I was at a New Years Eve party It was at this girl’s house i worked with. Her name was Patricia. She had jet black long hair that cascaded around her shoulders, a lovely Italian face with big green eyes, ample breasts and an hourglass figure, that took your breathe away and made your heart beat like Ringo Star doing a solo. To make her even more of a dream she loved the Beatles even more than I did. Well the evening was fun , with the girl giving her then boyfriend an hug every now and then from behind. He shrugged his shoulders in a sort of “Yeah I like you too.” way. He at the end of the evening left early to go to a club with a fellow worker. I had called home and asked my brother for a ride home. He came over to pick me up along with my sister with my beagle Nicky on a leash, and our cousin Irene for some god unknown reason. Maybe it’s what threw my timing off but when I called to Patty informing her that i was leaving and she came to say “Happy New Year goodbye.” having switched from her incredible green evening gown in which she looked stunning, to something more casual. I had already had put on my winter coat. “You already have your coat on?” she asked with a certain look in her eyes that said she wished I didn’t. I was such a moron I merely said “Yeah”. She gave me a kiss goodbye and I went home. To this day I feel like a Warp Factor Nine dumb ass not taking my coat off. If ever I had the perfect opportunity to talk to her. I could have bared my soul and poured my heart out and who knows how it could have gone. “Nothing you can do that can’t be done. All you need is love.” Now I just look at her picture now and then and remind myself of that Ringo Star song “Photograph.” “All I have is a photograph and it’s telling me you’re not coming back anymore.” End of a story that could have been sweeter.

    1. JRSimmang

      Hey, Spy. Welcome, formally! You’ve been in and out, and thanks for sharing this week.
      Your first line is a great opening line. It sets the mood, and it allows us to start to get a feel for the MC. I think people can easily relate to the story here, age old as it is, unrequited love and all, and there are some standout moments (subtle and valid Beatles and Ringo Starr references, description of Patty, character set-up of Patty’s then-boyfriend).
      There are some points where I think this piece could be stronger. To help us all out, separate your writing up with paragraphs. The block chunks get monotonous.
      Breath and breathe are common mistakes, and I would have liked to have read more of the interaction, the awkwardness between Patty and the MC before he left the party. You could clean up the beginning by combining sentences, eg. “I was at this girl’s house, Patty’s. We worked together, and I had a hard enough time keeping my eyes off her jet black hair…”
      I do think you’ve a great voice we can read easily. Thanks!

  27. ShamelessHack

    The End of the Road

    Rushing
    Where
    Loud
    Panic
    Noise, not part of the
    Where is it coming from
    One down, no two, no ten, no
    Help me help
    Push the fence we have to
    Is he
    Johnnie where’s Joh
    That girl oh God she’s
    Stop when will the noise
    Where is it coming from
    No oh
    Run I’m
    Noise stop stop stop
    Stay away from the Strip just
    Hide here no! Oh God he
    Run
    When will it stop when
    My leg
    My heart
    Where is
    There! From there: the Mandalay Bay
    No it’s
    No!
    Noise please stop
    Please st

    ****

    October 1, 2017:
    For all too many in Las Vegas, that day was the End of Their Roads. Please afford them a brief, reflective moment out of your lucky, lucky day.

    Shameless Hack

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      Powerful Hack.
      It was all over the news these past few days, I couldn’t get it out of my head.
      To think that someone with no past criminal record, nor a terrible deed to his name, did something like this.
      I also can’t help but to think that he was just a fall guy. How could he have a room of more than 20+ firearms and thousands of ammunition to be used by just himself? Plus a gunshot to his head to make it seem like he “shot” himself. It kinda seems far fetched to me. But hey, who am I to say? I’m just a guy watching what was on the news.

      My thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims in Vegas.

    2. writer_sk

      It’s so very tragic.

      Your story sounds just like the tapes from eye witnesses I’ve heard on the news.

      For me I’ve had almost a sense of wanting to stop regular life to reflect or grieve. There is a helpless feeling to seeing and hearing violence.

      Such an immense sin. My thoughts are with anyone who was there.

    3. JRSimmang

      Hack, thank you for putting this up here. It takes a certain amount of bravery to put ourselves in their shoes, though we will never (hopefully) know what it feels like to fall victim to senseless, abhorrent crime. As usual, your sense of timing and pacing is spot on. Spread this one around.

  28. rlk67

    I clenched my teeth so hard, while mom alternated from screaming to calming words and back again. She had been warned by experts greater than she that this was the best thing for everyone. I ignored experts, as a rule, since they didn’t really exist. Not in my world.

    Mom tried to comfort both of us. I clenched my teeth even harder. She knew my comfort was of my own making, yet in denial, she chose to destroy a perfectly fine status-quo on the advice of a tortuous nudnick. Deep down, she didn’t want this either. Why was she shattering her own peace with the ruinous consequences of her misguided actions?

    She sat closer. I glued my mouth shut…she wasn’t getting anything from me. It was a battle of wills…this was plain wrong, and she knew it!

    When we sensed the end was near, it was a debate who cried louder. She took me in her arms, knowing we were both entering a different universe. In between sniffs, she caressed my head gently, and as my eyes closed, my sobs melted into whispers.

    When I woke the next morning, the pacifier was gone.

    1. gamingtheblues

      That was a pretty good piece of comedy! As a rule I am not a comedic reader, but I enjoyed how the last line pulled the rest of the story together! I too was unsure what the heck the MC was talking about until I understood!

  29. Russ

    It was the last day.
    I got up from my desk (I had been just sitting there) and gave one last look to be certain everything was packed in a suitcase. In the movies it’s always a cardboard box, but I suppose that this was a prepared departure.

    Everything was packed; I didn’t see anything else. I took a breath. I rolled my suitcase out of my empty office, and prepared to say my last goodbyes.

    Surprisingly a tear came to my eye as I walked down the hallway. And surprisingly, I didn’t see very many people at their desks. There were a few on the phone and some with their backs turned toward me working on this or that. I kept moving. I was in a rush to depart.

    At the front desk I was only expecting to see the receptionist, but it turns out almost 20 people were there. They had balloons and a cake. And there was a sign that said, “We know you will stay clean. We love you!” (We’ll that’s a joke, I thought to myself about that last part).

    Well I paused in the hallway looking at the site, and it brought back some bad memories. I just walked straight past them all, ignoring their hug and handshake offers and rolled my suitcase right out the door.

    Good riddance.

        1. writer_sk

          Russ, Well done.

          I wonder if you could make it a little longer at some point. For instance, I would love to know what he endured there since it’s alluded to at the end that your MC is “clean”.

    1. JRSimmang

      Thankfully, this didn’t happen to you! Sounds horrid!
      I’m with Sarah on this; I don’t think I had enough time to savor the disgust of the MC. You did a great job establishing character and giving us setting, and I think there’s room for more.
      Be careful of beginning too many sentences with “I”. It gets hard to read, especially if they are short sentences, and the use of parentheses is largely unnecessary in first-person.

  30. GrahamLewis

    THE FARM

    Dad died in November, but mom stayed till March, not quite willing to give up the dream. By spring came she was finished with country solitude, so she let us pack move her to a city apartment. The neighbors, good people, promised to keep an eye on the place till we sold it.

    The little farmhouse, which we all called “The Farm,” had been their retirement dream, a rundown place on a dozen acres on an Iowa backroad. They painted and papered, fixed up the old out buildings. Dad spent hours planting trees, thus testifying to the adage that only contented people plant trees, because they are gifts to the next generation. He certainly never saw them get big, but he never expected to.

    They tried raising chickens and ducks, but foxes and tedium took care of that. They settled into the role of country grandparents, hosting family holidays and keeping grandkids over for rambunctious weekends. Their two dogs had the run of the place, dogs who trotted beside our cars as we drove that long gravel driveway. I remember warm, tidy rooms that seemed bigger than they were, scattered family photos and knickknacks, the smells of open fields and Thanksgiving, fresh field corn, hawks circling on lazy summer days, the bray of a distant donkey, the cackle of a hidden pheasant. Hills peppered with cedars, golden brown fields crackling in the autumn breeze. White snow dotted with cedars. A postcard life.

    I stood atop the hill behind their house one autumn, looking over a landscape of hills and woods and cornfields, watching the sunset, thinking that, someday, this would be gone and I wanted so much to remember it. I do.

    A few weeks after she moved out mom asked me to check on the house. As I drove up the familiar but weedy driveway, I felt nothing but nothingness. The screen door banged behind me and my footsteps echoed across the kitchen linoleum. The empty rooms seemed so small, and the only smells were of dust and neglect. Ghosts of memory crowded around.

    I never knew a house could have a soul. But this one’s soul was obvious by its absence. “The Farm” was gone and I wanted to be gone, too. I turned onto the highway, and never looked back.

    1. gamingtheblues

      As a house truly does have a soul, so to does a piece of writing, for as writers we put a piece of ourselves into everything we write, whether we would or not. I felt the soul of these piece and it gave me goosebumps and a lingering feeling of sadness that was heartbreaking.

      There were so many good lines it is hard to pick out ones to mention but my favorite is easily the line “…testifying to the adage that only contented people plant tress…ect.” One of the best lines I have read about future generations bar none. There were a couple edit mistakes in the very beginning, but they were quickly forgotten.

      I can read good writing, comment and critique it, but not all good writing makes me “Feel” on a personal emotional level. This story did. Well done.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Thank you Gaming. I loved that house and I’m glad I could convey some of that. As for the editing mistakes as a retired editor that makes me cringe (and that’s not why I retired). It is so much easier to edit someone else. When I edit myself I tend to see what I meant to type every time.

    2. writer_sk

      Graham: you did a fine job of staying with the prompt as far as telling the story from start to finish without spending too much time on any given section. No questions were left unanswered and the reader was free to feel what the MC felt.

      The paragraph in which you list off attributes of life at the house was exquisite.

      I thought the end was so authentic. You’ve crafted a moving and poetic piece

    3. JRSimmang

      Graham, I’ll have to echo the sentiments of Gaming and Sarah. You’ve delivered a prose piece that reads like poetry.
      There are some nitpicky spots, like Gaming said, at the beginning and in the 5th paragraph (“…familiar but weedy…” felt clunky), but they’re quickly overlooked.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Reatha, Many thanks.

        I don’t think I ever experienced the soul of a house before. But then, it was such a houseful of love and family. The only thing was, I was a bit jealous because I didn’t get to grow up on a farm, but my kids and my dog did, More or less. We even went up and cut down Christmas trees for a few years. The time Dad didn’t want to go with us was the time that let me know his health was beginning to fade.

    4. frankd1100

      Wonderfully descriptive. Draws on feelings I have for places I’ve lived. But I seem always to plant roots that dive deep and remain for a long time. A home I worked hard on to bring back to life calls to me still, years after I left it to another.

      Thanks.

      1. GrahamLewis

        I have rarely planted roots deep and in fact, in my very favorite place I’ve ever lived, I said so in my farewell column in my local newspaper. How I wish I’d listened to myself then

  31. JRSimmang

    FRAGILE BEINGS

    If the sun never set, I’d be okay. I’d be okay if the sun just stayed right there, perched on the horizon, waiting for the first stars, waiting for the moon, waiting for the clouds to sigh gently in its ear that it’s time to go. But, I’d be okay if it sat there a little longer.

    “We’s gonna have t’ go soon o’ lata’, Collins.”

    “We’re going to sit here, Bruce, right now, and we’re going to enjoy that sunset,” I told him. He was always pushing, never really understanding how to take it slowly. His hands were wrung together, the hands that she knew too well. The last hands she would know.

    “I s’pose, but we’s gonna haf t’leave soon.”

    I turned to him. “You know why I brought you out here?”

    “Sho ’nuff.”

    “Why?”

    “I done sumpin’ bad, Collins.”

    “You’re right.” His voice was a match striking, and I calculated the minutes until the sun dropped below the sage bushes and cacti.

    “An’, you mad.”

    I sniffed. “Mad? Nah. I’m not mad. I’m just… disappointed.”

    “Same thang.”

    “No, Bruce. No it’s not.” I rested my head in my hands. “You see, I brought you out here because this is where the dirt meets the grass, where the pavement meets the wild.”

    “I don’ follow.”

    “I know. I know you don’t.” I emphasized the ‘t’ at the end of the conjunction. “You see, this spot?” I motioned to the ground in front of the car. “This spot is where the road we were on stops. This is the end. This is what we call a dead end.”

    “I know that.”

    “Good.”

    “Wha’ do that haf t’ do with anythin?”

    I scratched my eyebrow, got off the hood, and opened up the driver’s side door. I moved the pistol to the glove box, dusted some dirt from the seat, and sat down. Bruce tried the door, but I kept it locked.

    “Lemme in, Collins.”

    I put the key in the ignition and started the car.

    “Collins?”

    Bruce walked over to my side and rapped on the window.

    “Collins? Collins, you open this door you sonofab!tch!”

    I put the car in reverse, looked up at Collins’s face, sighed deeply, then slammed my foot on the accelerator. I spun the car around, and gunned it 200 miles back to anywhere.

    The rearview mirror perfectly captured Bruce’s silhouette against the sunset. His fist, his shadow, the rolls and soft hills. The reds and yellows and pinks and purples.

    “Thanks,” her voice catches my ear. “It looks like a Rafe Terry.”

    “It does,” I reply. And, I remember how she tugged my hand until I looked down at her. She was so fragile, then, and Terry was as close as we could get to the Midwest.

    “I want to be killed,” she whispered looking at Laughing Clouds.

    “I know,” I whispered back, squeezing her hand.”

    “And, I don’t want to know when it’s going to happen.”

    “I know,” I repeated.

    It would take Bruce 8 days to find civilization. But, the coyotes were hungry, and they only come out when they smell death.

    Bruce wore it like a smile.

    -JR Simmang

    1. gamingtheblues

      Oh JR… This was written beautifully. While Rafe Terry is not really my style, I enjoyed the imagery nonetheless. More so, I enjoyed this dark, brooding piece. In fact I see this story as a painting itself. Something with dark shadwows, bright highlights and painted in blacks, blues, purples, greens and whites. Bruce staring at the car.

      What a thought evoking and emotionally disturbing scene you have created. If you have ever considered writing a novel, I would suggest that you start with this as one of your middle chapters.

    2. GrahamLewis

      I think it is hard, and usually counterproductive, to use dialect in stories. In this one, I found it distracting from an otherwise interesting story.

      1. JRSimmang

        That’s an interesting perspective, Graham. Dialect, I believe, has a certain punctuated use. Mark Twain, Margaret Atwood, and David Mitchell use dialect to explain setting and to immerse the reader completely into the experience. Dialect, I have to disagree, is almost as important as character description. It is part of the character, inasmuch as it is part of a person.
        Thank you for the feedback, and I’ll work on making the dialect more readable in the future.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, I thought the opening perfectly captured place and time, adding Rafe Terry added color. Bruce is also well done, but I don’t understand Collins. Is she both narrator and passenger? Has Collins been both victim and avenger? And, I’m not certain about the last line.

      This is beautifully written, and I could just not be reading closely enough.

  32. snuzcook

    It looks like Simon’s jacket. Just for a moment, just out of the corner of my eye, seen from the back. Then I see the dog and know it isn’t him. Wrong dog, wrong slacks, wrong shoulders. Wrong everything. I watch as the wrong man walks down the lane and out of sight. Good riddance.

    After all—after everything—Simon himself had turned out to be the wrong man.

    Kipee scratches at the door and I shoo her away. She has given up coming to me politely and asking to go out. Now she whines with that anxious, annoying tone. Her eyes accuse me of my neglect. I know what she wants but I can’t–I won’t–put the leash on her and venture out. I open the door and she darts through.

    Her nails have left shiny streaks and gouges in the paint at the bottom of the door. What am I supposed to do about that? I never wanted a dog anyway. I never wanted someone else around the house to worry over and clean up after and look at me with shaming eyes.

    I go to the window and watch her at the edge of the garden, where the prickly hawthorn fends off the lane. Maybe today she will just leave. There is no fence to keep her here. She looks over her shoulder at the house and I draw back so she won’t see me. She hears or smells something up the lane and trots away to investigate. The soft part of me wants to fling open the window and call her back, but the practical stony voice refuses. Good riddance.

    I walk into the kitchen. Kipee has shoved her empty food dish in front of the cupboard and I almost step on it. Darned dog! I pick up the dish and give it a quick wash and dry. My spine is turning to stone as I open the pantry, and I have to force my hand to put the dish on the shelf next to the other one instead of returning it to Kipee’s corner. Like winter sweaters tucked away for summer, the two dishes are stowed and irrelevant to my present need–Kipee’s dish, and beside it the dish I got for Simon’s dog Tyler so they wouldn’t have to fight over treats. My eyes are filling and I close the pantry door quickly. Good riddance, I tell myself again and try to believe it. Good riddance.

    1. gamingtheblues

      This prompt snuck up on me Snuz. I had to re-read the first paragraph to get a good feel for it, but after that I was taken in. The clipped, no nonsense writing style matches the tone and mood of both the piece and the main character. I am a huge fan of writing matching the story and to hell with “proper” grammar and structure when the story calls for it to be let out the door and set free.

      I loved this story and the images it conjures. I feel like I really “know” the main character and his/her frame of mind and heart. And that my friend, is the most important thing to convey to your reader. This was great.

    2. cosi van tutte

      Hi, snuz!

      Long time no “see”!

      This story intrigues me. It leaves me wondering if Simon left her or if she pushed him away too with a “Good Riddance”. Reading that last paragraph makes me feel like it could be a little bit of both.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      This is great, and heartbreaking. You’ve given clues to the backstory without hitting the reader over the head. The two dog bowls are especially telling. For both their sakes, I hope Kipee comes back.

      I’m also pleased you’re here this week.

    4. frankd1100

      Snuz I remember you.

      I don’t believe you wrote this. I believe you opened the hole in your heart and it spilled out onto the page. Some of the splatter bounced and hit me in the heart and I don’t know if that’s good or bad because it draws on a longing that’s hard to push back inside.

      You have a powerful style and I hope you use it with abandon.

  33. Pete

    I take find my seat just as the ceremony gets underway. Silencing my phone and kissing my wife on the cheek. She’s beaming, pointing to our son who stands with his peers. Several squares of light shine in the seats as fellow parents work to capture the moment.

    A few coughs as the music fades and the lights dim. I try to recall the name of the woman taking the podium. I whisper my query to my wife and get hushed for my troubles. I wipe the lint from my pants and settle in for graduation.

    It hits hard, seeing him up there, thinking how only a blink ago he was a baby, resting in my arms and looking up with wide, wondering eyes. Now, seeing him up there, his cap crooked on his head, his shaggy hair hanging over his ears, I feel pulled apart with pride and sadness.

    I find my wife’s hand. She shoots me a look that melts into understanding. I’m not the world’s most sensitive man but something’s come over me as the Mrs. Farrar—ha!—goes on eloquently about the paths we take and the futures we hold. It’s standard fare but that doesn’t make it true. Because we don’t hold the future. The future is like a fist full of sand. It’s a red leaf on a maple tree. One gust of wind and…

    My wife reclaims her hand. Time for roll call. She clicks off several hundred pictures, and I think back to when I was a kid and you got one roll of film—24 shots—to capture the collective chaos of five kids at Christmas. The pictures were as blurry as the memories themselves. Yet, cherished all the same.

    The woman to my left is crying. I pat my pockets for a tissue but her husband has come prepared. She honks her nose and apologizes. I close my eyes and nod. We’re all a bit emotional today.

    Cue the music. This year’s number is about the dawn of a new day. My inner critique is sounding alarms about the poor pitch and tone of the girl singing. But I give her a break because she’s nervous. And it takes some gall to face no less than the two hundred cameras aimed at her. Kennedy had less exposure than these kids.

    My left food is falling asleep. I shift and grimace and catch my wife rolling her eyes. I’m not a young man anymore, something I forget once a week playing basketball with the other geezers. Crying Lady honks again. The bald guy in front of me wipes his head.

    I focus on my son. Such a leader. He stands erect and tall, half smiling and half serious. I wave and get a wrist slap from the serious side for my troubles.

    It starts. The handing out diplomas.

    Abrams…Achman…Anderson…

    As they near the B’s it hits me by surprise. I blink a few times, sneak a wipe at my eyes but it’s too much. He’s up there, on his own, ready for his dawn and new days and future. I’m nothing more than beach sand, trying to cling to his toes as he walks away.

    Oh God, Crying Lady hands me a tissue as they call his name.

    “Our next future kindergartner….”

    1. Kat

      Wow, I loved the end. You had great voice too. Good job!

      “I’m nothing more than beach sand, trying to cling to his toes as he walks away.” A beautiful line.

    2. gamingtheblues

      Hmm…how to respond here. You see, I try to be gentle with beginner writers and those who are still learning. But…I tend to harder when I feel some real potential. The first paragraph felt awkward in sentence structure and the second paragraph was a little cliche.

      But…BUT. Starting with the line “Mrs. Farrar…..” your writing falls into a rhythm that is both thought provoking and filled with authenticity. Your thoughts are poignant and very well written. I really liked the interactions between the audience members and that Main character’s thoughts on all around him. Your analogies hold up and avoid sounding cliche themselves because they are so damn true and as a parent they resonated in a big way.

      There are a few added words/missing words here and there that I wouldn’t normally mention that could be cleaned up with a proof read and some editing before hand, but I mention them because you have some really good writing chops there, a talent for that slice of life style of writing.

      I would personally remove the last line because for me it took away from the emotional power of the piece (though that might be because I have had three kids go through kindergarten) For me it turned a powerful piece on our own mortality vs wishes for our children into something a little tongue in cheek. But that is really just a personal preference.

      This was quite good and I think you have some real talent there. Continue writing and submitting. I look forward to reading your next entry!

      1. Pete

        Thanks for the critique Gaming, I was definitely going for comedy here, trying to build it up and then drop in the kindergarten gem at the end. I feel I missed the mark on that point…

    3. writer_sk

      Pete- your story was simple, refreshing and poignant.

      I felt it had plenty of funny moments and was pleased to learn it was only kindergarten.

      Also enjoyed the beach sand line, great job.

      My little boy is in 1st grade, it is such a sweet age & his world is so fun.

      1. Pete

        Thanks guys, I take these prompts for what they’re worth, something fun to do without too much labor. While I try to edit, I’m awful at it so I apologize. Some are decent, some are bad, but it keeps the ideas flowing.

    4. frankd1100

      Well done Pete. My son and daughter are in their late twenties now. I’m retired but substitute teach one or two days a week. I can’t sub the kindergarten or first grade any longer. It reminds me of those last years that my kids were carefree with every day full of expectation and joy. That’s when we placed them on the treadmill and every year cranked it up, faster and faster. Funny thing is I don’t think they regretted any of it.

  34. writer_sk

    ONE YEAR LATER

    Freddie had taken up bike riding while in Puerto Rico. With the money his father left him he could afford not to work for awhile and he had taken more than a year without working. He continued his carpentry and had sold a desk and chair to someone. He’d taken to preparing his father’s recipes at midday for his mother, aunts and brothers. He had basically healed by going through the motions. He had been angry at his father and angry at God and he had slowly but surely turned it around. In the evenings he sat in the garden in his parents’ backyard and let his thoughts and emotions flow. He also allowed himself to think about Cate. If he closed his eyes he could see her hair, her face and her body. He tried not to think of the last night when he’d actually rejected her and spent the night in his own bed instead of hers.

    It was in the garden again the following night that his mother found him and presented him with the newspaper folded to display the offending item. It was the engagement announcement of his former girlfriend to her previous boyfriend. Freddie couldn’t believe Cate was to marry Nate in a couple of months. That night he called her, close to midnight and she answered the phone.

    “It’ll never be like it was with us,” Freddie said, “I’ll never find someone else like you.”

    Cate was already at a different place, though. She couldn’t let herself feel what she’d felt at one time for Freddie. Those feelings were pushed so far down that they were buried beneath the plans for the honeymoon, the invitations, the cake-tastings and the seating chart. She had Nate now, a fiancé, someone who wanted her.

    Late that night, as she lay wide awake, the tiniest shred of truth bled into her consciousness, the fact was she gave Nate a second chance and he changed, what if she gave Freddie a second chance and he changed? She smiled and let the thought lull her to sleep.

    Freddie’s mother smiled at him from the sitting room. It had been crucial that he spend this healing time with his family. It helped him to be near them and it fulfilled some need inside him to do what his father might have wanted. His mother took the news that he was moving back to New York well. His mother, brothers and sisters stood all lined up like a receiving line after a wedding ceremony, each taking their turn to kiss him and wish him well.

    “No te rompan el corazón, hijo” his mother said, which means “don’t get your heart broken, son” in Spanish.

    Freddie closed his eyes when the plane reached altitude and never opened them again until they touched down at La Guardia airport in New York. Back in what was now Felix’s apartment in Greenwich Village Freddie paced the floor holding the phone to his forehead.

    Felix walked in and sat down on the couch with a bag of chips like a spectator at a sporting event.

    “What you should do is just call her and say ‘I’M BA-ACK,” said Felix imitating the movie Poltergeist in which Caroline says “they’re back” referring to the poltergeists.

    “F*ck off unless you’re gonna help me, a$$hole.” Said Freddie

    “Whoa, chill, man.” Said Felix
    “I know, I know.”

    “Look, dude,” said Felix, crunching on his snack, “maybe you just call her, don’t think, don’t rehearse, just call her and see how she seems.”

    “Yea, yea, you’re right, here goes.”

      1. gamingtheblues

        Hello SK. I have haunted these forums for many years now, off and on. As this is an excerpt from a book vs. a submission for the prompt I would handle my comments and compliments differently. While it is my wont to offer praise and advice on the prompts, I wouldn’t presume to do so an a book unless you wanted to hear my thoughts 😉

        If you were just sharing then that’s fine and I enjoyed the piece!

        1. writer_sk

          Hi Gaming! Thank you so much for reading it!

          Not at all, I’d love to hear any creative input or critique/criticism. I wrote it in 2007 and revised and added to it in 2013. Now I am going over it again very slowly adding and revising. It’s not the traditional way to write a book but I like doing it this way because I have zero time to devote.

          Just thrilled you’ve read this little part. Only two people have read and asked to read the whole thing. Thank you. I’m open to whatever because I can and have edited it.

          1. gamingtheblues

            I would be more than happy to read the entirety if you would like. I won’t go all full edit mode right now if you want to share the whole thing in private, but I will mention right now that in the first paragraph you start too many consecutive sentences with pro-nouns. Ie.. he had, he said, he closed, he did ect…

            Just as you should not start too many sentences with “I” in a cover letter, it distracts from the story. It is typically an easy fix where you just slightly change the wording of the sentence. For instance, instead of saying “He allowed himself to think about Cate” You could start it with “Allowing himself to think about Cate, Freddie…blah blah”

            Or even Harken back to the name itself now and again. Just replace a He with Freddie to reinvest the reader with whom you are speaking. In technical terms, after the mention of “God” You should have re-mentioned Freddie’s name so that all subsequent “hes” wouldn’t now be associated with God instead of Freddie, as pro-nouns typically attach to the most recent proper noun.

            As for the whole piece, there used to be a private email system within writersdigest…but I can not seem to find it anymore? Have to find a way to send me the file if you want me to check out the book in its entirety. Either way, keep writing!

          2. writer_sk

            Hi Gaming:

            yea, I would send you the whole thing. I’d be thrilled to have a critique.

            Only if you want:. sarahkohm@gmail.com (I’ve already accidentally put my email on this site a couple times so if you email me when you feel like It I will send the novella)

            In fact anyone on here wants me to read anything more I’d love to, shoot me an email. I am changing shifts at work will have less time, but still.

      2. writer_sk

        Another excerpt if you guys are interested:

        How Cate seemed was insane. Freddie had never dealt with someone planning a wedding less than a month away. She was not focused and started crying after taking a call from her mother on the other line regarding centerpieces for the tables at the wedding reception. It was a short phone call, to say the least.
        Nate worked at his job in Connecticut during the work week and Freddie knew Cate worked at Barney’s during the week. Against Felix’s advice Freddie planned to surprise Cate at one of their old lunch spots. He packed a picnic basket with olives, mozzarella, some slices of Italian bread, some diet cokes and chocolates. He changed three times finally settling on sunglasses, a brown bomber leather jacket, an orange and white three ring t-shirt, dark rinse jeans and bowling style shoes. After waiting ten minutes he realized Cate wasn’t coming. It was sunny out and unless it was freezing she had always come out to the picnic table for lunch. He called her.
        “Cate, how are you?”
        “Who is this?”
        “It’s me, Freddie,” he said, “I’m at the store, where are you?”
        “What my store?” she asked and Freddie wanted to say “our store” but pulled it together.
        “Yea,” he said, already beginning to feel like he had made a huge error in judgment, “I thought I could catch you for a quick lunch, do you still take your lunch at one?
        “Well, yea, look, Freddie, just come to the stockroom door. That’s where I am.”
        As he lugged the picnic basket to the stockroom he caught sight of Cate from a distance and noticed immediately she’d lost all of her delicious curves. She’d already been slim but this was alarming. It looked like she’d gone down another few sizes and the slacks she wore redefined “skinny jeans.” She was smoking a cigarette, holding the stockroom door open to the outdoors, drinking a smoothie and talking on the phone. When she turned in Freddie’s direction and he came into her sightline she felt her stomach drop. He’d sculpted his hair into a faux hawk and let his side-burns grow in while in Puerto Rico. His already Latin-complexioned skin was sun-kissed and his body lean and sculpted from the bike-riding and gardening. He took off his coat and set the basket down.
        “What’s all this?” asked Cate grabbing hold of the stockroom doorknob and sitting down on the ledge.
        “Lunch,” said Freddie as he began unpacking it, handing Cate a napkin and paper plate.
        Being around Freddie might prove to be harder than Cate had originally thought. Hearing his crazy voicemails was one thing but seeing him in person, so alive and well looking brought up a lot of feelings.
        “May, I?” asked Freddie and handed her some of the cheese and bread.
        “So how are you?” he asked taking some food for himself
        “I’m okay,” she said, digging into the olives.
        He noticed she wasn’t looking him in the eye.
        “Well, I wanted to apologize in person, Cate.”
        “Yea, me too,” she said.
        “You know, this is the first real meal I’ve had in days.” She said taking another plate of cheese and bread pieces.
        “You have to eat, cutie,” he said, falling back into the habit of calling each other pet names that’d gone on for years at the store. They fell silent and he stared into the picnic basket for a second then at her. He wanted to pull her hair back from her face and kiss her.
        She dabbed her mouth with the napkin. “Um, so I’m actually quitting here. Yea, Nate and I are buying a house in Connecticut, after the, you know, wedding.”
        He smiled, his eyes starting to fill with tears and looked down. They ate in silence for awhile then said goodbye. He reached for her and she pressed her body against his for a second, playing with fire. They parted ways.

    1. JRSimmang

      I can see the acknowledgment of the prompt with this excerpt, Sarah.
      I’ll echo Gaming’s thoughts here, and I’ll make a few suggestions, since this is part of a book. You don’t need qualifiers when you translate from one language to another. Personally, I think it’s stronger if you keep the Spanish, but hint at the meaning in a new line of dialogue (eg. “‘No te rompan el corazon, hijo,’ his mother said./’I won’t let my heart get broken,’ he always responded.”), and limit the amount of explanation you have for movie references. If people get “Poltergeist,” great. If not, they’ll wonder about the reference.
      I think we’d like to see that book published, Sarah. Cate and Freddie have made a couple appearances here already (I think), and I’d like the story to come full circle.

      1. writer_sk

        JR, wow, thank you. It’s very hard to put parts of it up because it contains my blood, sweat and tears.

        Thank you. Your words mean so much, I appreciate your reading & commenting.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      Sarah, lovely excerpt. I kinda knew from the beginning that it wasn’t related to the prompt, only towards the end that I confirmed that I was right.
      Enjoyed it. I agree with JR about limiting the explanations, it would make a more easier flow in the story. Otherwise, it was nicely written all in all.

      1. writer_sk

        Thank you Reatha and Raf. After I said it didn’t relate to the prompt I tried to use a section that did, so either way…!

        I will post a little more starting with after the phone call.

        Thanks for your words.

  35. A. J. Kidding

    Now every breath felt painful. As the smoke cleared, the smell that was surrounding me was becoming evermore vivid. The intoxicating flavor of gunpowder and half burned brass casings… the iron-and-salt tasting vapor from all the blood. It was done. Those bastards, all sixty-seven of them, paid in full.

    “Rest easy daughter, it is done.”

    I collapsed, and before the side of my head felt the warm-blooded floor, I saw her first steps, the bicycle she loved, the day she graduated her Quantum Biology class, then her daughter in my hands…I was happy. I am happy. I am coming home baby, I will be with you soon.

      1. A. J. Kidding

        From the Archives of… FictionEvilCorp
        name: Marren J. Whateverson
        Bio: Graduated Danger-Rate Tactics and Strategies, specialized in ancient and modern Guerilla Warfare. Served ten years on and off-world in the infamous “Resolvers Group”, has ended political conflicts in more than fifty economically unstable countries. Transferred in Invis-OPS after final assignment, no record of actions for more than twenty five years. After the birth of Professors Sarah M. Whateverson’s daughter, Marren appeared to be employed in a school in the 10th union district, teaching Philosophy.

        Best I got until the coffee kicks in… It is going to be an interesting day at work today.

      1. A. J. Kidding

        They not only killed his daughter, but also threatened his granddaughter. If the MC didn’t surrender her works, they would kill them for it. He knew that even if he did, they would still erase all who are connected to the brilliant scientist that discovered…

        Hm…

        Oh I got it:
        “My daughter received her first Nobel prize at the age of twenty one, when she discovered the quantum correlation between energy and matter… one of her theoretical works included using photons in a quantum frequency that could affect all biological organisms… To put it bluntly, she could use a special flashlight to heal wounds or a modified common laser pointer to kill someone hundreds of miles away. ”

        I guess… 🙂

      1. A. J. Kidding

        It’s basically a revenge scene I came up on the spot. Good notice on the “quantum biology” I wanted to give it a bit of a futuristic flavor, and a hanging mystery; perhaps the MC’s daughter was forced to develop some type of a biological weapon, and was killed for it?

        I leave this completely open for elaboration.

  36. cosi van tutte

    Elsie Vansing walked down the aisle with a bouquet of white roses and mixed carnations. Her gaze was fixed ahead on her groom, Hildreth Mayhew, but that her thoughts were not on him.

    She thought about the man she had left behind – Ambrose Smith, a vampire with a bad attitude.

    A mailperson had left him on my doorstep. He was weak from hunger and sun exposure. As a vampire hunter, I should have staked him.

    I did not.

    I spared his life. I gave him my blood. I kept him in my house.

    And he tried to bite my neck.

    I loved him and he tried to bite my neck.

    Maybe he would have killed me.

    Maybe he would have changed me. Who knows?

    He ran away and found someone else.

    And I have moved on.

    We have both moved on.

    Hildreth grinned at her as she stopped in front of him.

    She looked up at him and smiled.

    Ambrose is right. That door is closed between us. There is no doorknob. There is no key.
    There is no going back.

    She grasped Hildreth’s hand.

    I can only go forward.

    He mouthed the words “I love you”.

    I will go forward with the man I love.

    “I love you too.” she whispered.

    1. gamingtheblues

      This was an interesting story with just as many questions as answers. Is this part of a larger world that you have already created? It had sort of that feel to it,

      1. cosi van tutte

        Hi, gaming!

        I’m glad you liked it! Elsie, Ambrose, and Hildreth are all characters that I’ve used in previous prompt stories on this site. Lately, like over the past year and x amount of months, I’ve been expanding their story into a full length tale with new situations and characters and just having a total blast. 😆

    2. JRSimmang

      Ambrose makes a reappearance! I know in the past, you’ve made the story about Ambrose, but I the MC here might make a great companion piece to his story. Is Vansing a modernization of Van Helsing?

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thank you, JR!

        Vansing isn’t necessarily a modernization, just kind of a….mmm…inspired borrowing? I was trying to come up with a last name for my vampire hunter and, of course, I thought Van Helsing. I kind of played around with that name in my head until I came up with Vansing. 😆

    3. writer_sk

      Cosi!

      This is so cool. I fell into the world of vampires, picturing a wedding in a dark forest.

      It’s hard to leave the “bad boy” behind!

      I like the peeks at Elsie’s past.

      This was great.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Cosi, what a great continuation. I’m so pleased you’re working on expanding the stories. Love this line: there is no doorknob, there is no key. But, is it the end of the road?

      1. cosi van tutte

        Thank you, Reatha!

        I read over all of the Ambrose and Elsie prompt stories last year and felt that there was a lot of untold story in between those segments. I was going to expand their story off-line, but I had already started one blog. So, I was like “Huh. What if I make a blog just focused on Ambrose and Elsie?”

        That idea was too tempting to ignore. 😀

        I’ve had so much fun expanding the story. My cast has grown beyond the original two (Ambrose and Elsie) to include werewolves, dragons, fey, a scarred vampire, and a vampire butler amongst many others.

  37. RafTriesToWrite

    June 4, 2017

    That was the beginning of the end. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The sun was beaming its hot rays into our window, the wind was silent for once, our Pomeranian laid her tongue out on that heated Sunday as she lay on the marbled floor of our living room.

    My mind was never silent, nor calm that day. It kept rethinking the same two options in my head more than ten times every second. Should I or shouldn’t I go?

    I kept a straight face on my couch that day, contemplating on that same thought over and over and over again. I couldn’t handle the pressure, I couldn’t handle the guilt and I can’t keep my body from fidgeting. I was all over the place. My thoughts are eating me up inside.

    Should I go? But if I go, I’ll have to endure it all alone with my little sister. I used to do this with two friends, but now they don’t even show up. They had valid excuses, whereas for me, my excuse was that my two friends aren’t there anymore.

    I’m shy and an introvert. I’m also fat but this place that I go to keeps me from being that.

    Should I not go? But if I don’t, I’d feel guilty for not going. I might make my coach upset or something and I’d hate to do that to someone, even if I barely know them.

    Swimming was the second most enjoyable part of my weekends, sure it was tiring, but I always had fun together with my two friends. Plus I get to check out hot dudes from time to time.

    Swimming was like our doorway towards friendship, but since they stopped going, I felt alone, left out, lonely and a little bit betrayed. They were the reason why I still continued going after my first course. Now I don’t even know why I should go.

    That’s why I’ve been contemplating whether to still go or not. I didn’t care how much calories I was burning, even if it was a lot, I just wanted my two friends to be there with me to make the experience seem bearable.

    I couldn’t continue going by myself, even if I’m with my little sister. It’s not as fun as before. I miss swimming. I do. But I miss swimming with my two friends even more.

    Up to this day, I still think of going swimming by myself on the weekends, even if my coach isn’t there anymore. But I couldn’t make myself go even if I wanted to. I wouldn’t know what to do or say once I get there because I’m alone, I’d feel out of place, I’d feel stupid for going by myself so in the end I never go.

    1. writer_sk

      Raf, Oh no!!

      If this main character is you I wish you would go back to swimming!

      Would love insight as to why her two friends no longer went.

      I felt the pain the main character had in the back and forth. The anxiety and loss really came through in this story.

      One missed opportunity might be to think about a brief description of how the water felt, how freeing swimming is.

      Great work, I always look forward to your stories they have a quality I can’t pinpoint… They come pouring out and ring very authentic.

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Yep, the MC is me, and yes, I’m a guy. And no, I think I’m not ready yet to go back to swimming. I am awkward, shy, quiet and an introvert.

        My one friend, who is a girl, needed to go out of the country for work, while my other friend who is a guy needed to review on the weekends (He has work on weekdays) because he will be taking a licensure exam this coming third or fourth week of October. I hope he passes.
        I still have the same feeling every weekend, but it always ends the same. I don’t know if it will ever change.

        Thank you for reading.

        1. writer_sk

          Raf, Oh I knew you were a guy.

          Thanks for the insight into who you are, it’s very honest of you and now I know more about whose stories I am commenting.

          It’s great you’re continuing to write each week.

          And I hope u get to go swim when your friends get back.

    2. gamingtheblues

      I really enjoyed the emotional turmoil in this piece and it was well written, especially as insight into a thought process. It was all good, but you had one truly brilliant line that really stands out. “They had valid excuses, whereas for me, my excuse was that my two friends aren’t there anymore.” Poignant, authentic and a little heart breaking. Excellent.

      One thing, and I am not one to lecture too much about it as I break grammar rules all the time for my own purposes, but there were a couple tense switches that were a little jarring in the beginning of the piece. Not sure if they were purposeful or not. But its a small thing and the rest was great!

    3. JRSimmang

      Raf, this sounds like a page torn from a teenager’s diary, which I think may have been the point. As such, it had a ring of validity to it, and I think it could remain as a standalone piece if it is indeed a journal entry. It sounds just like the conversations that rattle the lockers at my middle school.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      Raf, this is such a moving piece, told honestly. Forgive me for going all Mom here, but I also encourage you to go back to the pool. Taking your little sister would make you seem like a kind big brother and that is a very attractive quality. Several times in my life, first day in a new school, or at a new job, or new situation, if I felt shy and uncertain, I’d just pretend it was all a play and my character was confident and self assured. (Hint, hint)

    5. Critique

      After reading this I wished you could go to the pool, have fun again – and if for nothing else to perhaps allow some kind of closure so you aren’t haunted every weekend. I felt the pain. Thanks for sharing Raf.

  38. writingdoc

    Last night, I went online and googled my university boyfriend.

    I met Malcolm 30 years ago while in residence in first year. I was studying sciences, and he was in arts. Malcolm was creative, funny, sensitive, and kind, and I could not believe my good fortune that he could see something special in my bookish self.

    Malcolm was wonderful: his eyes sparkled with his amazing smile. We had beers in the Bullring Pub and would stay after closing, when it turned into the “All Nighter”, to dance until dawn. We would meet between lectures at the coffee shop where the artsy kids hung out. I watched him act in several University theatre productions, and listened faithfully to his campus radio show. He played “Sweet City Woman” for me. Whenever I hear that song, I smile.

    Malcolm came to Muskoka to visit during the summer when I worked at a resort. We lay under the starry skies on the shores of Lake Joseph, happy together. One Christmas, I knit him an Icelandic sweater. Took me forever, I poured my heart into that project. In fact, I was still grafting the sleeves on the train on the way to his family’s home. After we were ‘over’ I declared that I would never knit a sweater for a guy again—and never did. Too much of an emotional investment. I stick to socks, now.

    Our relationship ran its course; the differences that once attracted us became more divisive. We both could see it, but I was a heartbroken mess by the end. Malcolm invited me for coffee one last time, months later. I put on my brave face as if to say “see, I’m doing fine”, but the reality was that I was still struggling with the sadness of losing him. He took my hand, saying, “ I miss you”, and I was determined not to fall apart. It was all I could do to respond, “Its nice to be missed” when inside all I could think was “ What are we doing? I still love….”. But no. We said goodbye.

    30 years passed in a whirlwind of new love and loss. Medical school, residency, marriage, a daughter, divorce, and single parenting. School, hockey practice, sleepovers, and work— until you find yourself in a quiet house, daughter away at university, wondering what the hell happened. Life. Life, with its choices. There is a place in the heart where the memories of a special love rest. Memories of only the good, good things. The lingering nostalgia of a simpler, wonderful time shared with a sweet, gentle soul.

    I went online and googled Malcolm. At the top of the results page was his obituary. Malcolm had died suddenly 8 months ago. Gone. I read the notice, hoping against hope that it wasn’t him. But there, at the top of the page, was his photograph, smiling that same smile I knew all those years ago. Same sparkle in his eyes, hair greyed a bit but I could still see the young man I had loved, previously gone from my life, and now, simply gone. I closed my laptop, thinking about Malcolm and the years gone by. And I wept.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Part of me really hopes that this was only fiction. The other part of me really wonders. My goodness, you have captured something sad, strange and beautiful in your story. I said out loud… “No” When I read about his obituary. My kids looked at me like I was crazy. I wanted to weep with you. Even now my heart hurts re-reading the last few paragraphs.

      This was absolutely wonderful. Well written, emotional and the bitterness that is nostalgia. I would not read it more than a few times for fear of depression, but I am glad that I read it at least the once so I could share in the love and the story. Time for me to get some coffee I think! =)

      1. writingdoc

        Blues– Thank you for taking the time to comment. This is my first post on this site, so when I pressed “send” I felt a little trepidation…
        I wish it was fiction…but writing this was the best way I could think of, as a sort of memorial to a special person. It almost wrote itself.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      Genuinely heart breaking.
      I heard it’s tough losing someone you love.
      I wouldn’t know that though. I’m not there…. Yet.

      Someday I’ll truly understand, but for now, this seems like a good replica of that feeling for that moment when my time comes. Thanks for sharing doc, oh and welcome to the weekly prompts! I hope we see more of you here.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      First, welcome to this site. It’s a great place for inspiration and encouragement and to read some fantastic stories. I’ve also gotten to know some fantastic writers. Plus, I’m also amazed I’ve written so much in the last nearly three years.

      Now for your lovely, and heartbreaking, story. Not only is it very well written, but it touched me personally. I made the connection with the college boyfriend. There was no happily ever after.

      See you next week.

    4. Critique

      If we were honest there are probably a good number of us that might be tempted – and do – look up those first lost loves just to see…
      Writing about these strong emotional times in our lives can be a form of therapy. I felt saddened to hear Malcolm had passed away. Thanks for sharing this. I thought it was well written and flowed seamlessly.

  39. gamingtheblues

    September is a strange time of year for Lower New England. The summer is still gasping out a few days so hot and humid that you curse the fool thought you had of taking out the air conditioner because “the summer is finally over,” Yet the day after has afternoons and nights so cold and filled with the first touches of true autumn that you bring out a sweater and maybe even a light scarf.

    I was in love. That sick to your stomach, aching pain of unrequited adoration, emotional attraction and impotent desire that draws tears and anger, permanent consequences.

    She was one of my best friends, where we would turn to each other for both comfort and amusement, advice and commiseration. Just days before she had come over to swim in my pool. Even now, 15 years later her blue bikini burns hot in my mind as she models it for me. She is spinning and laughing, the water flying off her dark crimpled hair in a spray that glistens in the sun. I loved her so much it hurt, and I lay awake that night whispering her name.

    She had her first real boyfriend. He was in a band, smoked weed, taught her to do the same. My always thoughtful, responsible and steady friend turned into a shiftless stoner.. And…he was her first time. The hate I had for him was bitter and vile, a twisting snake in my heart that I can taste even now. I would have spit on him had I dared my friendship.

    Then came the night at her apartment. I was not much of a drinker and there was too much Goldschläger. The bottle was in the shape of a tear, ironically enough. My hate ended up flashin out wildly, uncontrollably. He…had a stutter and I said things that could not be taken back. The rest, well, might be best left to the imagination.

    I was standing in the shade of the massive 200 year old oak tree in my yard the next day. The sun was beaming down in that somehow amazing September way, where it should have been hot but it wasn’t, and the breezes were so strong my hair was in constant motion. It was truly beautiful out, a perfect New England day. My phone rang then. And with the sun in my eyes, I heard seven words in my ear as my knees struck the broken up tar of the driveway.

    “I never want to see you again.”

    They eventually got married.

    And I still feel the old hate, and the old love. Burning and worming together deep in my belly.

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      Is the apocalypse coming? Mr. Klems posted a new prompt on a Monday. MONDAY!

      Anyway,
      The first paragraph set the scene so beautifully.
      Man, the ending. I can feel it in my heart. Powerful stuff blues! You gave me the blues. I’m having trouble concentrating on my work now.

      1. gamingtheblues

        Thank you for your comments! Heh, I can feel it too =) Though it was not my intention to give you the blues as it were, I am glad it resonated to some extent.

    2. cosi van tutte

      “And with the sun in my eyes, I heard seven words in my ear as my knees struck the broken up tar of the driveway. “I never want to see you again.” Wow! Great writing! I love how you built up the description in that whole paragraph leading up to those seven gut-kicking words. 🙂

    3. A. J. Kidding

      That was emotionally rattling. Beautifully written, Blues!

      I can’t help but wonder (even if it wasn’t required of the prompt) did the guy in love at some point decided to share his feeling to her besides the anger and frustration with her choice? Because if not, this looks like a common case of “friendzoning” 🙂 And if he did, then she was definitely nor right for her.

      You got me thinking, Blues… 🙂

      1. gamingtheblues

        This was autobiographical 😉 Yes, there was a “scene” of hand holding and a admitting of feelings… and a kiss that almost was but never materialized, but that would have put me over the word limit by far. Thank you for reading! I am glad you enjoyed it.

    4. JRSimmang

      This is such a delicate slice of life. You’ve laid it beautifully, full of descriptive language, and the moment is something with which I think we can all identify. There are a few places that need a second look (“…curse the fool[ish] thought,” “…hate ended up flashin[g] out…”), but overall it’s tight and convincing.

      1. gamingtheblues

        Thank you! Yeah, I know some of the word usage was a little….spotty, to say the least but it was actually purposeful that I left them in. This story was pure emotional outpouring and I decided that how I “felt” was more important than the prose.

        Ie…I really do feel foolish and curse myself when I remove the AC and then have to put the bloody thing back in! And the hate really did flash out… I didn’t have the word count for it, but I actually also threw a shoe at someone else during the party.

        Regardless to the anyone else, it would have felt fake and disingenuous to myself to re-write this particular piece for prose’s sake.

    5. GrahamLewis

      Nice piece, Gaming. Good painting of the scene, and it felt so real. Too real. It hurt because it brought up similar feelings about similar times and people.

      I have one minor point — I hate the line, “They eventually got married.” Just too bland and boring, it distracts from the rest. To me. I think the piece would be stronger without it. But if you feel it’s necessary then you should make it a more vibrant sentence somehow. IMHO.

    6. ReathaThomasOakley

      Thank you for sharing this piece of your life with us, and for doing it so well. Even after fifteen years the emotions still feel fresh, and extremely raw.

      1. gamingtheblues

        No worries! Thank you for reading. I am an extremely emotionally aware person, so I can tap into those old emotions whenever I like. But, I am a virgo, so its actually a very conscious choice to feel them, if you get me. Not emotions that dwell with me. Thanks again!

    7. writer_sk

      Gaming: I liked the description of New England weather and the comparisons you used. We’ve experienced that whole AC scenario several times, good call including that.

      The anger came through towards the end. “The one that got away” causes such a unique kind of pain which I felt you captured.

      The fact that he got her into pot bothered me and your portrayal of that situation rang true.

      The very last line of your piece is a strong closer.

    8. Critique

      I liked the raw outpouring of emotion in this. It felt real. Those first loves can be brutal – we never forget the strong emotions our memories invoke. Thanks for sharing a slice of your life gaming.

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