• 101
    Best Websites
    for Writers

    Subscribe to our FREE email newsletter and get the 101 Best Websites for Writers download.

Tough Decision

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

Pick one moment in your life where you had to make a tough decision—picking a college, quitting a job, going on a diet, putting a parent in a retirement home, etc. Now write about a fictional character who was faced with the same situation and choose to make the opposite decision. How did things turn out differently?

Get two weeks worth of writing prompts that will inspire you to write great stories.Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

Want more creative writing prompts? Download:

The Writing Prompt Boot Camp (Free Download)

You might also like:

  • Print Circulation Form

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

620 Responses to Tough Decision

  1. LadyMask says:

    Sherie and her husband Bruce were on their way through what would be the toughest decision they ever had to make in their short lives together. Sherie had just had a child, she was told by physicians would not make it through the night. She had called Bruce in the most shaky and tearful voice telling him of the news. He went to the hospital to sit and talk with her and comfort her. About 4am the doctors came in and told them that their child had passed. Even with this horrifying news they were most adamant that they should make funeral arrangements immediately. No time to grieve in the least, no time to think of what had just slapped them both in the face and ripped their hearts out. She and Bruce had talked on into the afternoon. She had even asked if she might think it over in the privacy of their own home but, they said she could not leave the hospital until arrangements were made. So, they decided on a quiet funeral for the child and told no one of this taking place. If they were to grieve for the lost child, they would do it alone. They called the local funeral home setting the date and time. After the arrangements had been confirmed by the hospital and Sherie had one last time been visited by her doctor. They were finally allowed to go home. Three days later they went to the baby’s funeral. Five years later Sherie still mourns the lost little angel.
    -What turned out differently is the little one that passed had three older sisters and we had to cremate the baby instead of normal burial. Also it’s only been three years but, it doesn’t feel as if I can ever get past the hurt.

  2. Rhetoric922 says:

    Here is my first attempt at this.

    Mr. Johnson walked down the hallway having just clocked in for work. He walked passed the cafeteria area towards his office when he noticed one of his students was already waiting for him.

    “Why do you look so tired?” she asked softly.

    “We’re about to talk about that.”

    Mr. Johnson opened the door slowly and both he and the student walked in. He sat in desk chair and she sat on a couch that he in there for students to sit in.

    “So let me explain. I didn’t get even a few minutes of sleep last night because of what you told me.”

    The young girl didn’t do anything but look at Mr. Johnson, not even tapping her foot or shifting her hands.

    “You admitted something to me, and then you asked me not to tell anyone which by law I am required to do.”

    Tears started to fill her eyes at this point.

    “PLEASE TELL ME YOU DIDN’T!”

    Mr. Johnson didn’t say anything for a few minutes letting the student get her tears out. Then he continued.

    “No, I haven’t told anyone what you told me.” This didn’t have the desired effect of stopping the tears. “Having said that, I also wasn’t able to sleep last night because I kept asking myself what I should do because what you confessed has serious implications for the both of us. I was unable to sleep because I am VERY worried about you.”

    “Wh-Wh-Why are you worried?” she said through her hands.

    “Because I look at you and all of the pain you’ve gone through,” Mr. Johnson said, his tone carrying more weight to it. “I look in your eyes sometimes and I see someone whose given up hope. That worries me because I also see the person you can become. I see a young woman who has a bright future ahead of her, but whose also stuck in the present because she let’s present circumstances destroy her hopes and dreams.”

    The tears started to slow down and she slowly lifted her eyes out of her wet hands.

    “I don’t know how I can keep on going on living like this. No matter what I do or say to people, nothing ever changes. A lady has already come to my house and checked on me and my sister and NOTHING CHANGES!.”

    “There is good out there for you, but you’ll only get that good if you keep working hard. You’ve come a long way this year and you are almost done here. You’ll be able to go to college and or get the career you want, but that will only happen if you keep your focus on your goals. If you need someone to talk, you know I am always here.”

    The bell range for the first class to start before either could continue the conversation. The young woman slowly gathered her things and stood up. As she did, Mr. Johnson saw something he hadn’t seen from her in a while; a smile.

  3. JAKE
    =====

    Jake hobbled in to the kitchen and half sat on his haunchs. The old dog’s hips didn’t quite have the elasticity for a proper sit. He more or less squatted and leaned against my leg.

    It was my turn to deal and we were in the homestretch. Shuffle. Split. Deal. It was my crib so I tossed the pair of sevens, hoping for a cut. She tapped the top of the deck with her index finger. I drew a card and placed it face up on the full stack. A three. Shit. I’ll have to peg my way to the finish. I looked across the table to the smirk I both loved and loathed.

    She went first. “Nine.” She looked at the dog and frowned. “What’d the vet say?”

    “Fifteen for two.” I countered and moved my peg. “Same as last time. He won’t know for sure without the biopsy.”

    A six. “Twenty one for two.” She pegged. “How much for that?”

    My turn. “Twenty-seven for four.” I reached down and scrubbed behind Jake’s ear. He smiled his dumb dog grin and leaned in even more. “More than we got. Kids go back to school next week.”

    “So, what do we do?” She looked in her hand. “Go.”

    “Thirty-one for two.” I pegged again. “Well, more pain meds. Bad for his liver, but he’s twelve.” I shrugged. Jake slid to the floor under the table between us.

    Back to her. “Four,” she said as she laid another card. “Jake, stop licking my feet.” He did.

    “Part of me thinks we should put him down. I asked the vet if Jake was suffering. I didn’t really get a straight answer.” I slammed my last card down for effect. “Ten.”

    “I’m glad you didn’t. I don’t think I’m ready.” She finished the hand, pegging the shit out of me. “Fifteen for two, three is five and one for last is six.”

    Her first count. “Fifteen-two, fifteen-four, fifteen-six and a double run of three is fourteen. Game.” She did a little victory dance in her chair. “Time to celebrate, Jake.” Nothing. Her voice shook. “Jake?”

    I bent and peered under the table. “Jake?”

  4. Gina says:

    She felt completely and utterly naked. That’s all there was to it. Scratch that, she felt violated – more like naked with a rectal thermometer the size of a pogo stick stuck up her derrière.
    Tabby’s stint as an RN hadn’t necessarily been laden with sunshine and roses, but it paid the bills. She had the option of moving virtually anywhere in the good ole’ US of A and landing a job without so much as a flash of her license to practice and Voila! Welcome to the team! And don’t forget the discounted lunches down in the cafeteria. Baked chicken and vegetable medley got old after awhile, but it beat doing the cooking yourself any day of the week in Tabby’s book.
    She repeated this mantra of “Why I Should Love My Job, Let Me Count the Ways” every morning as she rode the elevator six floors up and stepped out to swipe her ID badge before taking her place in the trenches. Nursing, a true war of attrition, she thought to herself. And then, one day, she had emerged from the relative safety of her trench behind the Nurses Station – and had finally suffered a true hit.
    Unassuming, sweet Texas drawl, visiting-from-out-of-town grandma in Room 607 had turned out to be one mean little lady. Tabby had never been too keen on the whole human-punching bag role that nurses often played, but this day had been different. This day, she had let it get to her. As the wretched woman, old – but not too old to know better, lay into her, yelling and threatening to rip out her IV if Tabby didn’t take it out, Tabby snapped. It was all a bit of a blur, but Tabby was pretty sure it started with her slamming her fat plastic three-ringed patient binder down on one of those flimsy over-the-bed tables; and it had ended somewhere in the vicinity of her yelling, “You’re crazy!” before stomping red-faced out the door. Not one of her most stellar moments by far.
    Her lapse in composure had led to an official complaint to the Board of Nurses by said “mean little lady”, a full investigation of Tabby’s work history, and psychological evaluations. Co-workers and bosses past and present had been questioned. It had been a humiliating process. In the end, Tabby was deemed fit to continue working as a Registered Nurse. No revoking of license, no corrective action, no anger management classes…not so much as an official reprimand.
    The entire process had caused an irrevocable change in Tabby, leaving her feeling fragile and vulnerable. Afraid to go back to work, afraid of being victimized yet again on the whim of some Coo-Coo for Cocoa Puffs patient – she quit her job.
    A change of scenery would be nice, she thought. Somewhere warm, where the sky was big and the pace was slow. A place where fears – her fears at any rate – could be laid to rest. Tabby looked down at the creased slip of paper in her lap. She’d always had a habit of shoving patient information sheets in her scrub pockets as a quick reference during her rounds. She’d find them laying around in her junk piles at home and shred them into tiny bits before chucking them in the trash – patient privacy and all that. Not long after quitting her job, she’d run across this sheet and kept it. Flattening it out, she read: Doreen Edwards, 629 Tarpon Avenue, Port Isabel, Texas, and plugged it into her GPS. Yes, that was one of the perks of being a nurse; you could find a job just about anywhere…

    • Gina says:

      My apologies, this is my first time posting more than a sentence on this site. I did a cut and paste and assumed that all the paragraph spacing and font changes would transfer. A classic case of the “what happens when you assume” rule. Anyhow, I hope it’s not too difficult to read this way.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Quite all right, Gina. We all learn; you’ll know more of WordPress’s quirks next time. This story is compelling enough that I strongly encourage there to be more next times – lots more.

      This sounds so very, very real to me. One of my sisters is a nurse, and she has repeatedly described similar scenarios. So far she’s resisted the temptation to lose it, but her tongue is a dangerous weapon. Oddly enough I find these tales of difficult people more interesting than her discussions of the life and death situations.

      I hope reality didn’t put you through that wringer, but I sense it really did. It’s amazing how many people become sharks when they smell blood. That’s what the “professional review” process is like. I’ve seen it happen to a good friend in another profession, and he ended up on stress-related disability afterward.

    • Reaper says:

      Welcome to posting more than a sentence Gina. Generally with word just add an extra return between paragraphs because the formatting does go wonky. That’s a technical term. Good story, I definitely wanted some more so good job on that. I’ve had a number of friends that were nurses and it seems to be one of the hardest jobs out there. Not enough respect from doctors and the patients can’t yell at the doctor so they yell at the nurse. This read very true to what I know of the profession so you translated it well. Keep them coming.

      • Gina says:

        Thanks to both of you for the tips and for taking the time to read my “stuff.” I really wanted to write more, but I’d already gone well over the 500 words and was afraid I might deter potential readers if it got too lengthy. Truth be told, I wasn’t sure who I wanted Tabby to be yet – quirky investigator or revenge-seeking psychopath. Either way, she’s going to confront her accuser. It can be a real challenge to develop a character in less than 500 words, but I had a great time trying!

  5. DMelde says:

    This is a piece of fluff I found floating around in my brain–

    Baboons have pink butts and I think it must embarrass them because whenever I see baboons walking around they’ll suddenly stop and quickly sit down, as if they’re thinking to themselves, “Oh crap, my pink butt is showing again.” I often see them sitting high up in the trees, stranded up there in-between the branches like so much rotting fruit, while a hungry lion paces in the savannah down below. Those might be good enough reasons to never want to be a baboon, but I think if I had it to do it all over again, I’d endure the embarrassment of having a pink butt, and I’d also risk being eaten by a lion. If I could go back to the time before I was born, I think I would have been tempted to have been born a baboon.

    My writing certainly reflects it at times. This could easily have been written by a baboon, or most certainly by a buffoon. My writing might actually improve, now that I think about it.

    I’d have a harem too, just a small one with no more than five females. After all, you need something to do when you’re stranded high up in a tree while a lion paces below… I wouldn’t have to get up early in the morning and go to work. That would be so nice. There’d be no more school or exams. And I wouldn’t be staring at a clock every day wondering what’s taking so long. Instead, I’d eat fruit all day (some of it fermented), belch whenever I wanted to, and for desert I’d have velvet monkey, Yum!

    There’s just one problem though, I’d miss my family terribly. What would my parents say if I had been born a baboon? What would the doctors have thought? Would they have shipped me off to the circus? A baboon would do great in the circus by the way, except for the cruel taunts from the human children, “Pink butt…pink butt…pink butt.”

    I guess I’m better off being human. I can still eat fermented fruit, and sleep late into the morning hours and not go into work every now and then. Now…I just have to work on getting that harem…

    • agnesjack says:

      Thanks for the laugh, dmelde.

    • snuzcook says:

      We have harbored some of the same thoughts, DMelde, at least about baboons sitting down whenever someone looks at them! This was a lot of fun.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I don’t think it’s worth it, DMelde. Even with the five lady baboons. When you’re driving around in your banana car and you make a wrong turn, some body’s gonna yell…….”You stupid baboon butt idiot!” And besides, how many lady baboons have you shared your favors with? I wouldn’t go around telling anybody.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is so wonderfully surreal, DMelde! I really and truly wish I’d thought of it. Of course our species is not usually a choice we get, but if we could I think there’d be a lot fewer humans about.

      Trivial point about baboons – when your harem are interested in your “attention”, their butts go from pink to a deeper red. That way you know they’re in the mood.

      Also, many humans have pink butts too. The difference is that baboons have fur on the rest of their body to make it stand out more. You can achieve the same effect by going commando and cutting the back part of your jeans away.

      Now that image is stuck in my head. Sigh.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        You have totally ruined my morning, Tim. Go slink back in your “Canadian Sunset’. Don’t come out until the pink thing is over. Sigh.

  6. Ahsuniv says:

    Okay, I didn’t think that I would be able to make it this week. It’s been one busy week for me unfortunately. But I made something up anyways. I want to add that this is a highly fantasized version of what would have happened if I had accepted a certain job long ago.

    ____________________________________________________________________________________

    ‘Yes, I will take the offer,’ I said to my new boss sitting across the table, grinning at me. Her hair stuck out in clouds of black, wiry hair.

    ***

    I stared at the zippered package in my arms later that day. I looked from the package to my boss’s face. I was hired to be a designer, not a delivery girl, I wanted to shout.

    ‘Sure, I’ll be there on time. Don’t worry, boss,’ I said instead, smiling sweetly.

    I honked as the line of cars belonging to the wedding guests refused to budge.

    ‘Ugh,’ I said to myself as I got out of the car, ‘I should have a blaring siren on my car. Heck, no one’s getting married if I don’t get there!’ I thought. I grabbed the package and sprinted towards the groom’s room, shunning the car. The jam was not likely to clear any time soon. Besides I only needed to hand the package to the groom and head back to the car. It was a matter of minutes.

    As I ran, I saw some of the wedding guests waiting around the garden and suddenly felt self-conscious. It felt like I was wearing rags in comparison to them. My hair looked nothing different from my boss’s hair and I understood perfectly well how it turned out like that. I’ll do a tutorial on YouTube for the look later, I thought. I was sweaty from running around the market for buttons all noon. My dress was crumpled and stuck to my sticky body. To add to the list, my shoe’s heel broke as I ran down the hall.

    I sat on the staircase and tried to stick the heel back into the nail. I felt someone sit next to me. I looked around to see who it was and suddenly felt my cheeks turn hot. He was the most handsome hunk I had ever seen. His tousled hair fell carelessly over his blue eyes. He looked vaguely familiar.

    ‘Hello,’ he said in a deep voice, giving a thousand watt smile.

    ‘Are you an actor?’ I said and clapped my mouth in embarrassment.

    ‘No,’ he said laughing. ‘I wanted to commend you on your excellent choice of dressing. I am Daniel. And you are?’

    ‘Oh, um, thank you. I am Marcy,’ I said, blushing.

    ‘Are you by any chance a stylist?’ he asked brusquely.

    ‘Yes I am. How did you know?’ I asked, feeling a heat creep up my face.

    ‘Something about your dressing. Would you like to be my personal stylist? I’m not particularly happy with my current one,’ he said, tugging at his paisley printed shirt.

    ‘Of course. I would love to,’ I said as I felt my heart leap with joy. I wondered why he even needed a personal stylist. He handed me his visiting card and walked away, waving a goodbye.

    I waved back and looked down at the visiting card. The name, “Daniel Penner”, was written in white letters over a black background with a mobile number at the bottom. Nothing else.

    I gave the groom his package and came back outside to see a huge poster being put up near the neighboring hall. Daniel Penner was smiling toothily from it, holding a guitar. I looked closer and realized that he was a singer. He seemed to have a performance in the next hall later that evening. Something clicked in my mind at that moment and I remembered seeing him in a music video on tv. Beaming, I bounded to my car, humming the tune of his song.

    • snuzcook says:

      This is so much fun for the serendipity factor, Ahsuniv. If she hadn’t taken the job, if she hadn’t made that delivery, if she hadn’t broken her heel, etc. You’ve presented a very believable and likable MC, though is irritated at doing grunt work that would actually be a wonderful break from being stuck behind a computer all day like many of your readers; you have created a nice, happy-ever-after moment we can all salivate after.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a wonderful “just so” story, Ahsuniv. This prompt has generated a lot of deep and serious responses; yours is simply fun. You brought a smile to my face that I didn’t think would happen. Thanks for the pleasant surprise!

      My red pencil says that “your deportment” or “your style” would be a less jarring fit than “your dressing”. It’s a minor issue, but I love finding them because that means the story is very near perfect and only needs a tiny bit of polish.

  7. carlyumz says:

    I’m a little late with this! Not usually one for writing about something so personal, but your other posts inspired me to dig deep and go for it.

    This was goodbye, but for real this time. From the outside it didn’t seem any different from the countless other goodbyes we’d shared, but we both knew that this was it. A goodbye without the promise of a sheepish hello at the other end of it. Game over.

    Mark looked at me with such sorrow and then pressed me against him with trembling arms. I willed myself to remember how his skin felt against mine, his scent, even the sound of his breathing. I traced the arch of his back with my hand and wanted to mourn for every second that I let pass.

    I heard Mark clear his throat and thought he might offer me kind words, but instead he just held me tighter. There was nothing for us to say that we hadn’t gone over so many times before. We both knew we were making the right decision and doing the honourable thing, but being right didn’t make it any easier. Neither of us wanted to start a relationship built on someone else’s pain and neither of us wanted to cause any more heartbreak. An indiscretion between your best friend and your girlfriend was one thing, but a serious relationship was unforgiveable. No matter how we looked at it, and for weeks we had tried, the only solution was to go back to being just friends.

    We both knew there was no way that would ever happen. I’d given us an awkward month or so before we both decided to quietly fade away from each other’s lives.

    I pulled away from Mark and watched him shake with tears. He didn’t try to hide his sadness, not one bit. So far I’d tried to make it easier, whatever that meant, by keeping it together as best I could, but seeing him so devastated broke me.

    So I wept, not just for the man I wasn’t supposed to be in love with, but for the whole future I was closing a door on. I wept for the years we would spend crash-landing from the high of university when we would need each other more than ever. I wept for our first cluttered house with grinning pictures of us on the walls that would never exist and for the couple who would spend lazy weekends together achieving little but feeling entirely grown-up. I wept for the talk of wedding rings that I would never hear and for the future plans that would exist only in our minds and never on the canvas we had foolishly set out for ourselves. We were doomed from the start and still we jumped in.

    The only thing I could manage was, “I’m sorry,” over and over again.

    I apologised to Mark so many times that day and yet the thing I was the most sorry for was talking myself out of what could have been.

    • Jay says:

      I love it, Carly. Especially paragraph six. The whole story encompasses a depth of pain that is subdued by an awareness of necessity, which really brings this story to life. Always a pleasure reading your work. Thanks for sharing!

      • carlyumz says:

        As always I enjoy reading your extremely kind comments Jay. Thank you! I’ve been away so have a lot of stories to catch up on this week, but absolutely love the prompt so going to plough through them. Let’s hope your story isn’t way down at the bottom of the page :)

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Thank you for the story Carly. Regardless of the pain and regret, it’s the most powerful writing I mever read about a love lost forever. Talk about high romance, you almost got me crying.

          • carlyumz says:

            Ah you made my day with your comment Kerry, just wanted to thank you for taking the time to give me feedback :)

        • Jay says:

          One of my favorite prompts so far, it’s brought a lot of real emotion to this community. :)

    • Xevirus says:

      There is a lot, but I like best, I think, the last sentence. The idea that our apologies are often not directed at the ones who need or deserve them: it was she to whom she was apologizing, it was the boyfriend to whom she should have been apologizing.
      What differentiates this from a lot of the other entries (not all, mind) is the way that the decision is important because it involves so significantly the other people. Every choice obviously has ripples that influence everyone involved with everyone involved, but here any of the choices (stay with boyfriend/leave best friend, stay with best friend/leave boyfriend, leave boyfriend and best friend, run away joining an ancient convent in the woods of Appalachia) is loaded with potentially serious emotional stab wounds and potentially life-changing forks to at least one of the parties, and, realistically, to all three. And because the wrong has already happened at the time of this decision (which was set up to happen by a previous decision that, quite possibly went unnoticed), this particular point in time is also made powerful by its lack of clear right and wrong alternatives; they are all right in ways, they are all wrong in ways, but the reset button isn’t one of them, though the choice at the end of this would like to pretend it is.

    • jmcody says:

      Wow. I’m just glad this is the opposite of true! When I was going over possible stories in my mind, I scrapped a lot of them because I couldn’t figure how to show how the alternate reality differed from what really happened. You did that very well here by talking about the presumably imagined life that you would never have together. Heart-breaking and well written. Carly!

    • Observer Tim says:

      I found this story was one that grabbed my heart and twisted. I found myself easily dragged into the description and held there while the scene played out in all its desire and pain. You did an incredible job capturing the emotions of the main character (fictional you) and of Mark.

      I hope reality worked out less painfully, but I have a sense it was more different than opposite. Thanks for sharing this, carlyumz.

      • carlyumz says:

        Thanks Tim, and for the sake of not spamming the board – a hearty thanks to Xevirus and jmcody for your feedback too. Without getting too soppy, everyone’s comments over the past few weeks (even the spot-on constructive criticism – no, especially that) has meant so much.

        And yep, reality worked out less painfully than my story I’m pleased to report! There was pain involved for all three parties at first obviously, but I believe that making the tough decision to pursue my current relationship was the right one. I’m certainly a shedload happier than I would be if the above alternative was my reality.

  8. mheather says:

    Margaret knew that what she was in was no different than what she had grown up in and had sworn she would never repeat. She had watched her mother suffer through decades of abuse both physically and emotionally delivered from one of the most charismatic men she had ever encountered-her father. All her young life she had promised to never put up with that and yet here she was.
    Her she was, 21 with two children and living under a spyglass. Early Sunday morning she spent prepping his hiking supplies for the week. She hadn’t realized that by Wednesday she would feel a profound sense of tranquility. After 4 years of anxiety in the first person and a previous 17 years of observed and peripheral anxiousness, this was a strange situation. Not watching the clock to see when he would be home and ensuring that she could account for every moment of the day including each encounter with someone. She didn’t have to stay within earshot and a two ring answer of the telephone. He was completely isolated on his climb and couldn’t get to a phone to check up on where she was, who she had run into, how long she was gone, what she was wearing.
    As Wednesday evening faded and she sat rocking the younger one in the chair by the window with the blinds partially open her thoughts drifted freely. Is this what the other people in the other homes felt? This sense of not having to share, edit, hide a part of their lives from the scrutiny and judgement of the people who loved them?
    Her boy was asleep in his bed with the blankets askew. 2 years earlier she had prayed for guidance in making her decision on whether to stay or go and asked that the gender of her child be the sign. If a boy came into the world she would go. A boy would be able to withstand the pressures of life without a male influence and her brothers would be able to act as his mentors. She hadn’t heeded the sign then. Now as she rocked her curly haired daughter she wondered if this sense of peace would be what she could give them as her gift in life. She knew that the handling of all practical matters would be easy enough….she did all the daily stuff now. She could do it. She would do it.
    On Saturday evening he opened the door and called out. Why was the living room empty? He called out down the hall and his voice echoed. As he moved further in slowly there was a different scent. Ahhhh, the little woman couldn’t have known what time he’d be home – in fact, he hadn’t been due home until tomorrow and yet she had the furniture hauled out of the living room so that the freshly shampooed carpets would drive. She knew how to keep her man happy.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a touching story outlining not one but two major shifts in the main character’s life. I can see two alternate outcomes – one is that Margaret got out at the first crisis point (it’s a boy); the other is that she stayed. I hope whatever choice was made in real life worked out. I love the imagery and confusion of the controlling husband in the last paragraph.

      My red pencil says the first paragraph reads a bit awkwardly, like you were trimming it and missed a few of the details. Also, for the sake of my eyes I’d love it if you put an extra blank line between paragraphs. It enhances the readability.

      • mheather says:

        Thanks for your comments. This is my first time putting something out into the world.

        I’ll take your red pencil remarks to heart and rework and for the sake of your eyes I will make sure I add the extra.

  9. Amyithist says:

    What difference does it make if I live or die?
    The question seared through my mind for what seemed like the thousandth time and I held onto the makeshift noose encircling my neck. I was done with life. Thirteen years old and I was done. It seemed odd; perhaps a trifle melodramatic, but at that moment, as I leaned back into the ace bandage I’d wrapped around my throat, I didn’t care. I wanted the lights to go out.
    As my breath began to wane, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My eyes were becoming bloodshot from lack of oxygen; my face was becoming a hue of red I’d never seen before…part of me was terrified, while another part egged it on: “Do it! It’ll be worth it once it’s over…just do it!”
    Another part of my brain kicked in and I noticed my gaunt, malnourished frame. I hated being poor. I hated having a mother and stepfather who only thought about their children’s needs when their fixes had been met… It was another reason to just end it all.
    I leaned further into the bandage. The world became muffled. I don’t want to stop the process, but my will to survive starts to take over and I straighten my legs. Oxygen comes racing back into my brain and a moment of clarity hits me. What the hell am I doing? What would my little brother and sister do without me there to help them…what would become of them?
    I turned, pulling the bandage from the door hook. As I busied myself with the task of cleaning up my pathetic suicide attempt, a knock sounded at the door. It was my little sister. “You okay in there,” her voice came from behind the door. I looked in the mirror, my eyes swelling with tears.
    “Yeah,” I lied. “I’ll be right out.”

    • Jay says:

      I wish you’d spent more time examining the character’s brain meats, Amyithist! Wait, this obviously the opposite can’t be true since you’re still here. Or are you? Ghostyithist? :o *runs away*

      Great story and start, I just miss your exposition! :D

      • Amyithist says:

        This topic was really hard for me. This really did happen when I was 13. It was a tough decision to write the prompt all together. I just…couldn’t get into the the WHY’s on this one. Pandora’s box and all…

        • Critique says:

          I sensed the dark despair of the MC and then – such a relief for me when she realized she needed to live – couldn’t leave her little siblings to face the music on their own. This took great courage to write Amyithist.

    • margi33 says:

      Amythist, I enjoyed the brisk nature of this piece. It was fitting, as if it matched the thoughts of a 13 yr old — dramatic, yet fleeting. I’m sure it was hard to write this since it was your true experience. The teenage years are very hard to bear even in a “secure” family home. I thought about suicide quite a bit at that age (in a “what if” sort of way), and thankfully, I am very stable now, so maybe those thoughts are a right of passage of sorts. Thanks for writing the piece. I thought it was engaging and to the point.

    • Reaper says:

      Amyithist thank you for posting this. It took a lot of courage and I liked the stark nature of it. Not being able to share the whys is understandable and to me this is more powerful because of it. You shared something very personal and your choice to take out much of the personal changed the element. We all want to know why in almost everything. You touched on some of it here but really what you shared has a stronger comment because it is depersonalized. We hear about children that go through this and we ask why, then vilify the person or thing that caused it. Your story brought out the truth for me. It doesn’t matter why. We should be horrified that any child goes through this. No child should have to but so many do.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This was a very courageous thing to write, Amyithist. I hope the sharing helps bring closure to the things that put you in that place, if you haven’t already achieved it. As one who voraciously devours your writings, I am very glad you’re still here.

      [insert electronic hug of support]

      I know the creepy feeling of writing from this emotional place; when one of my in-person friends read my post for the week his comment was “a bit autobiographical, wasn’t it?” I know my advice is unneeded and unsolicited, but here it is: Keep going; always keep going.

    • seliz says:

      This is such a hard topic to write about and you did it well. I tend to avoid writing about depression and suicide because it can be such a painful topic. The character at 13 being able to step back and think of her family speaks of a strong character.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Amyithist, reading your story, pushed my consciousness where it’s never been before. A frightening narrative. How you found the courage to write this, leaves me on my knees. I for one, rush to your stories, your thoughts, your ideas. Thank you just for being you. Kerry

    • Marc Ellis says:

      Thanks for sharing such a deep, heartfelt story. Everyone has a purpose.

    • agnesjack says:

      When at the point of despair, where the desire to end the pain is all there is, the “whys” don’t matter.

      It took great courage to share this, Amyithist, and you have given us an important lesson. Sometimes just thinking about others can pull us out out of the black pit.

    • lionetravail says:

      Thank you for sharing this painful episode. It’s the kind of piece everyone should read, so that those who feel the same way can KNOW they’re not alone, and that there is hope.

      From a writing perspective, this was brisk, concise, and effective, from the very first line to the last.

    • jmcody says:

      I’m guessing this was a turning point for you, and that this was when you became the survivor that you so clearly are. Wear that label proudly because you earned it. You and I have discussed this before, so I know you know that the suffering you have overcome in your life has made you into the brilliant writer that you are.

      I echo what the others said that this piece is powerful and lean, and cuts right to the heart. You are a brave one!

  10. Marc Ellis says:

    For those that held true to the prompt this week, did anyone else wonder what the response says about oneself? If we write about an alternate life with disaster, sorrow, and regret, are we an optimist justifying the decisions we did make? Do we consider our past with hind-sight bias? If our alternate universe is filled with joy and success, do we hold unresolved hurts and resentments in this life? Can we be truly objective? Are our decisions truly our own or only an illusion?

    I quickly got bogged down in these thoughts when I considered decisions with grander scope (e.g. college, spouse, career). That’s why I went with much more simple event.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great thoughts, Marc. I think a lot of the reason people go for the emotional impact is that it does in fact mirror what’s important to us. My introspection couldn’t find any major choices that I made in a single swell foop, so instead my piece reflects my belief that small choices are what really change us.

      I saw at least one response where the choice was between happy and happier, and several where it was between bad and awful. I guess it’s all a question of where you’re coming from.

    • Jay says:

      I don’t have to wonder what mine says about me. I know exactly the consequences of my actions had I gone down the path I wrote about, which is why I chose the path i did when it happened.

      I’ve become pretty good at looking at things objectively, especially when it comes to writing. When adding the author’s bias into a story, you effectively hinder your character’s personality (unless of course your character shares the same bias). In my stories related to this prompt (minus the obvious one about The Matrix), the character wasn’t me. Not even a little bit. In fact, the character was the opposite of me, which is why he chose the paths he did. It would be hard to add bias to something when the choices made are by someone why is a completely different person.

      I definitely agree that for a few there is some serious regret or “if only” moments that were written in a way that shows the author longs for a path they didn’t walk but clearly should have.

      For those that stuck close to the contrast of reality, the stories really teach you a lot about those authors: their desires, their regrets, their poor choices, their good choices… I’m surprised Writer’s Digest picked this a topic. Even more surprising is the number of people willing to tell such intimate things about themselves.

    • agnesjack says:

      Marc, this is a wonderful inquiry. I think our choices are not necessarily good vs. bad. One choice leads down one road and another leads down a different one. I think the prompt gave the impression that the choices resulted in either a negative or positive outcome, but I think in life, there are many branches of possibilities and we just follow one branch or another. John Hartford wrote a great song about the connections that choices and circumstances have in our lives. It’s called “I Would Not Be Here.” Here’s a YouTube version of him singing the song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxh6bRreTjA

      What I really love about this forum and the participants, is the conversation. We are exploring and grasping for an understanding of human nature. That’s what writers do. I think our responses to this prompt are an extension of the desire to reveal what makes us human.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Marc, there is no answer to your thoughts. My personal opinion: Rise from the floor, each and every time, you’ve been driven to you knees. Remember, anything is possible regardless your present thoughts. Place yourself last. Look forward, leave your wrong turns behind after learning from them. Never plan finality. There is always the future road, in this life or beyond. Remember the sparrow and his needs.

    • Critique says:

      I’m glad I checked back to the previous prompt “Saving A Life’ and found your story. It was powerful!

  11. Marc Ellis says:

    “Last chance to change our mind and call a handyman,” said Todd.

    “You said you thought you could do it,” said Jodi.

    “That was before I had tools in hand and was about to rip a sink out of the counter. I’m starting to second guess our decision.”

    “We already bought the stuff. You can’t back out now.”

    “Sure I can. What we’ve spent is small compared to the repairs if we have to replace the whole counter…if I flood the kitchen…or if I break something, and we have to call a repairman anyway.”

    Jodi gave Todd a quick swat on his back jeans pocket and said, “Get at it,” and left the room.

    Todd turned to conquer the beast. Like a knight slaying a dragon, he dove straight into the belly severing sinews and tendons, the linkages between sink, plumbing, and countertop. He was sprayed by the demon’s venom when he realized he had only shut off the hot waterline and not the cold. In the giant lizard’s death throws it belched forth sticky grey goo that smelled like death onto Todd’s face as he disconnected the p-trap overhead and tipped it to look inside. After a myriad of grunts, groans, expletives, and bodily contortions, the sink was slain.

    Rising to look at his vanquished foe, Todd determined to remove the heart. That’s when he discovered a porcelain-enameled, cast-iron sink is very, very, heavy.

    He broke the caulk seal with a putty knife and carefully slid a pry bar under the lip trying not to scratch the countertop. Using the leverage of the bar, he was able to lift the sink enough to get his fingers underneath to try lifting it. When he felt he had a firm grip, he began to pull. The sink started to rise, and he repositioned to get centered on the weight. When he moved, he knocked out the pry bar and the fallen dragon’s jaws clamped involuntarily on his gloved fingers.

    “Oh shit! Oh shit that hurts! Jodi, help!”

    “What happened?”

    “The sink slipped. It’s smashing my fingers. Go get Jerry.”

    Jody slipped on her sneakers and went to see if Jerry, their next door neighbor, was home. Both she and Jerry returned in minutes. Without a word, Jerry scrambled over to lift the sink from the bottom to release its prey.

    Todd tried to run cold water over his fingers but remembered the water was off. He stepped over to the kitchen table and plunged his hands into a pitcher of ice-cold sweet tea.

    Jodi stood silently scowling at Todd with his fingers in the drink.

    “Good luck buddy,” said Jerry patting him on the shoulder as he walked to the door.

    “Thanks,” said Todd still wincing and taking deep breaths.

    “Thank you Jerry,” said Jodi not taking her eyes off Todd.

    Todd eventually met Jodi’s glare. “I guess we should call someone.”

    “I guess so,” she said tapping the floor with her right foot. “Think you can handle that–Mr. Fix-it?”

    • Observer Tim says:

      Which just goes to show that some bad decisions can be rectified. You had me laughing, Marc. Though I have to admit Jodi sounds a bit cruel here; she’s probably trying to teach Todd not to boast about his abilities.

      Normally I’d be at least a little put off by the profanity, but here it fits perfectly. There’s nothing like a home improvement project to increase your vocabulary.

    • agnesjack says:

      I thought this was great, because how many of us have said in our new house, “Oh, we can do that ourselves. We don’t need to bring someone in.” I liked this take on the prompt, Marc, because it was so authentic and human.

    • Critique says:

      I found this hilarious Marc! There are people in my life that I think need to read this :) Ouch – poor Todd.

    • margi33 says:

      Nice, Marc. I loved the simile of slaying the dragon :) and I thought the dialogue was realistic and snappy. It took me immediately to visions of my husband battling with boats/cars/plumbing/etc. I am always glad I don’t have to tackle those jobs. Just wondering, if this was the “opposite” story, what was the actual one?

      • Marc Ellis says:

        Thanks margi33. This was the opposite story. I actually did replace a sink–two matter of fact. However, I did call in the expert from the beginning. Even with expert assistance, there were still a few hiccups.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Thanks Marc for the hilarious tale. Being a contractor that rarely can fix anything in plumbling, gave me a real knee jerk. Especially funny with your description of the iron sink monster And fiinally plunging your fingers in the sweet tea was a real gas.

          “Not tonight, Jodi!”

    • jmcody says:

      I had the same reaction you did to the prompt. Writing about he large decisions was too overwhelming so I went with something small but (for me) resonant. I like this kind of slice-of-life approach. You had lots of fun details that made it very real. I cringed when the gray goop spewed out of the pipe, which is what I would be afraid would happen. The hand in the ice tea was a nice touch, as was your depiction of taskmaster Jodi! Would she consider having a chat with my husband? ;)

    • snuzcook says:

      A fairly familiar scenario–but I really have issues with Jodi. Really? Leave the fingers being smushed to run find Jerry–can’t put some kind of shim in there to guarantee there will be finger tips left when she gets back? And as I read it, I didn’t even picture her running, more a quick stroll–how ’bout a cellphone and speed dial? And it was Jodi, after all, who insisted on Todd doing the work even when he was having second thoughts. No wonder he was written here as an heroic figure.

      Marc, you portrayed the situation very well and in a highly entertaining manner. Well done!

      • Marc Ellis says:

        Thank you snuzcook. I didn’t start out trying to make Jodi so evil; however, she did end up that way. I think you saw the same thing I did in regard to her concern for Todd. If more words were allotted, I’d have her standing over Todd critiquing his work while he toiled away.

  12. RuthieShev says:

    The Wonderful Wizard of Weight Loss

    Years after the tornado, an overweight Dorothy is working in the kitchen singing “We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz”. She began to wonder if there is a weight loss wizard to help with her never-ending struggles to lose weight? She would again go through munchkins, fields of sleep-inducing poppies, flying monkeys and even wicked witches to get to him. She would follow that yellow brick road, no matter how demanding the travels.

    What if a Wizard of Weight Loss really does exist? Dorothy closes her eyes and imagines how he might look. She envisions a mixture of Richard Simmons and the Jolly Green Giant, exercising to the oldies songs she loves so much. With her eyes still closed, she pictures herself dancing along a road trying to get to this wizard.

    If she finds him, where would she begin? Should she ask him for a brain? A brain might show Dorothy how to follow a weight loss plan which would enable her to lose weight. With so many food choices, it takes a brain to guide a person to the right program. She soon realizes that lack of a brain isn’t her problem. Dorothy’s brain already tells her to eat sensibly and to engage in a good exercise program. No, her trouble isn’t the brain because she already knows what to do. Her trouble is in actually doing it!

    Maybe Dorothy should ask him for a heart to follow the weight loss plan that she has developed. Sometimes she gets depressed and tired of losing too slow. Her heart probably isn’t the problem, though, because Dorothy already desires to lose with all her heart.

    Should Dorothy ask for courage? Courage to stick to a diet even though others try to sabotage and detour her from her goals. Courage to continue to exercise when her body is tired. Like many lifetime dieters, Dorothy spends many a day doing without her favorite foods trying to lose weight. No, lack of courage is her problem at all.

    Maybe Dorothy had it right the first time. Maybe she should ask to go home. Home was the place where she had a healthy body and was normal weight. When as a child if she skinned her knee, she ran home to Aunt Em to make it all better.

    Dorothy now realizes that somehow she has to combine her brain, her heart and her courage and take them all home with her to her inner self. Dorothy alone can make it all better, knowing that she has the tools to use to fight this never-ending battle.

    One year later, we see slimmer, healthier Dorothy wearing hernew red walking shoes because she finally understands there really is “no place like home”!

    by Ruth Crowell Shevock

  13. Augie says:

    A sinking Feeling…….

    I received orders to report to a Sub Base in the Pacific Northwest. Tired of living in Navy housing where everyone knows your business, I was tired of explaining my wife’s nightly drunken rage. I decided to purchase a home. My relationship with my wife was as unstable as an expended nuclear fuel rod. Mainly because of my constant, “I’m going, I’ll be back, don’t know where, don’t know how long and I can’t tell you when I get home!” And a problem she will never admit having.

    I found a Rambler in Chico that my BAH as an E-7 would definitely cover and allow me to stash an extra 300 in the bank each month. Definitely a ‘fixer’, my wife hated it. The house is private on one acre and has a wonderful salmon creek that runs along the edge of the property. I doubled and sometimes tripled the mortgage payment and the property was almost paid for in a few years.

    These were difficult years and we realized that me constantly being away was the only spice that kept it together. By the time I was ready to transfer again, our relationship was through.

    I went through a grueling two-year divorce, and during that time I met a wonderful woman. We were perfect for each other! Similar to me, she had married the first person that gave her attention. We both had made bad decisions, but these experiences gave a clear image of what we don’t want. Being older, we are seasoned in life and know what relationships should be.

    The time came where the property became the issue. I had put thousands of hours of hard work in the home in upgrades. According to Mr. tax man, it had tripled in value. I didn’t want to give it up!

    My newfound love convinced me to let it go. We need a new foundation to start our life on.

    The lawyers decided to have her buy me out. It was a great loss to me.

    That same year, I got married, and started a new life. I know this applies to both genders, but to find some one normal and live a normal life is amazing and takes time getting used to! I have never been happier!

    Washington had a record rainfall and the creek flooded. Within a month the foundation to the house sank and wasn’t covered by insurance. A $200,000 repair! The house was only worth $180,000 prior to the flood.

    So yes, my fictional character received 45,000 dollars to walk away from the house.

    Thinking back, I am proud at how our new relationship bonded with this financial slam! It took us a few years to recover, but we did it together. I’m not used to having a teammate! We sold the house and bought a beautiful 20-acre place in the woods.

    For those of you that have read my writing, I took a bulldozer and leveled a 1000-yard trench through the trees! Gun range baby! (It’s legal to shoot on your property in Kingston!)

    • Observer Tim says:

      This story outlines a boatload of pain to get to a great ending. I can feel the joy in the comment “Gun range baby!” I’m glad it worked out (I assume the last three para’s are from the real life side).

      The acronyms (BAH, E-7) sort of lost me; then I remembered US military ranks follow that whole letter-number thing. I’m curious what BAH stands for – I assume it’s bureacratese for “take home pay”.

      • Augie says:

        Basic Allowance for Housing. The military pays it’s members extra if they decide to live off base. The BAH is determined by your rank, and by the location in which you wish to rent/buy. The Seattle area is one of the highest areas, (excluding Hawaii). SO if your smart, you can buy a cheap place and tuck the extra money away.
        AT that point in my life I was a Chief Petty Officer. Enlisted grade 7.

        Even though I have flushed more salt water down a toilet than my wife will ever sail across, I have to salute her because she is an officer and Im enlisted. She loves it!

        And she loves our gun range!

  14. seliz says:

    The other choice
    —————————————-

    The judge loomed over us, as I willed myself not to cry.

    I glanced to my right and met my boyfriend’s eyes. My grief was mirrored in his eyes, but he forced a smile and a nod. It was all he could do to encourage me—let me know we were doing the right thing.

    It didn’t feel right though—giving our son up for adoption. It felt like my heart was being ripped from my chest, leaving a grief so raw that it would never heal.

    “And you haven’t been coerced or bribed?” the judge pressed on.

    “No, we weren’t,” I said, my voice sounding small and unsure.

    It was the truth. We hadn’t been coerced. We picked a couple from an adoption agency and spent the past few months getting to know them. One day the wife even called me crying, telling me how guilty she felt for “taking my baby”. She told me I deserved better. I deserved a life where I could afford to take care of my baby.

    But that was why I needed to give him up.

    My baby deserved better than I had.

    “You know this is a legal proceeding? That after today you cannot change your mind?”

    I forced myself to meet the judges eyes as I nodded. Yes, I knew that this was the only time I could change my mind. This was my last chance.

    With a word, the proceeding could be finished. The adoptive couple would have to wait for another baby. Could I do that to them? It seemed so horrible to get their hopes up, but my heart still throbbed for my son. I could still feel him laying on my chest after he was born, looking up at me with doe eyes.

    My baby.

    I couldn’t do it.

    “And this is what you want?”

    My boyfriend nodded and turned to me, but it wasn’t him I saw.

    It was my tiny baby.

    My son.

    “No.”

    The silence that followed seemed to last forever. It was finally our lawyer behind us who broke it.

    “I’d like a moment with my client,” she said curtly. She knelt beside me, sadness in her eyes. “Are you keeping the baby? Should I tell the family?”

    My boyfriend watched me, a frown on his lips.

    We’d talked about this. Our decision had been about what was best for our son. We’d decided he deserved better than two young people who could barely feed themselves.

    I shifted my gaze from my boyfriend’s face and back to the lawyer’s.

    “Yes, I’m keeping the baby.”

    It didn’t matter that we wouldn’t have much.

    It didn’t matter that I’d have to drop out of school to get two jobs.

    All that mattered was that I would be reunited with my son—my heart—again.

    • rle says:

      There is nothing stronger than the bond of family. They’re the people who count on you the most and who you also count on. My brother and I grew up without much, but the undying love of our parents made up for everything. I enjoyed this very much Seliz.

    • lionetravail says:

      Great story, with a very real down-to-the-wire feel, with all the angst one could ask for. Nicely done.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Wow, grab the heart-strings and pull, seliz. When we hear or read stories of adoption, we often forget the viewpoint of the parents giving the child up.

      It’s always a balancing act when we try to decide what’s right for someone else, even when we have the responsibility to do so. Regardless of how it went IRL (in real life), I hope everyone eventually turned out all right.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A beautiful, emotional, warm story. seliz. Very crisp writing with a lot of power here. And as im said, a real heart- puller. One of your best here.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A beautiful, emotional, warm story. seliz. Very crisp writing with a lot of power here. And as Tim said, a real heart- puller. One of your best here.

    • Critique says:

      Succinctly written – full of so many emotions. Well done Seliz. A heart wrenching situation.

    • agnesjack says:

      An impossible decision. Really. And you portrayed this beautifully.

    • margi33 says:

      Nice job, Seliz. I echo everyone else’s comments in saying this is a very hard and personal journey. I hope everything turned out for the best, for you and for your child. Kudos in writing about it, and writing well.

    • jmcody says:

      Seliz, whenever I read something of yours, the word that always comes to mind is “polished.” You have a very tight, focused style that is easy to read and that draws you in.

      This could not have been easy to write, but I hope that writing it helped you in some way and that you are at peace with it.

    • carlyumz says:

      You made this seem effortless Seliz, when I’m sure this must have been difficult to write. I really enjoyed it and thought you were able to perfectly pull on the heart-strings with your choice of wording, rather than going overboard (as I may have) by trying to throw in lots of big dramatic passages.

    • Xevirus says:

      I felt it.

  15. Hasslefoot says:

    Larry’s decision

    Uncle John has da bes bait shop in da swamp. Yanks come frum all over ta hunt en fish. Yanks I say? Yup, yanks. Whut is a yank ta’ us? Well, its dem folk dat turn dare head sideways when weze talk. You know, da way a hound does whinits tri-n ta figure out whutdat sound is.

    Anywaze, yup I’m Cajun. What brings dez yanks? Well hell, dats easy! Gators en bass. Some of deze yanks like ta hunt our deer! Hell, weze don’ts eat dem miniature starving critters! But, hey, if da yank ez willin ta pay me five bucks, ill show em where dey at!

    As a young’in, my buddy Larry en I hung out at my uncle’s shop waitin fer yanks ta come outside. Weze wuld offer our services ta show dem da best fishing en gator spots.

    Well, dis one feller comes out width his buddies. Dressed in fancy huntin gear en expensive rifles slung over dare shoulders. Dey look at us like wez are gator dung! One of dem looks at me “ Beat it kid! “ He throws change on da ground, “Go buy some shos with dat!” Ohh yea, all dem fellers started laughing and walked away. I wuz pissed. I never knew whut self-esteem wuz, till jerks told me I shouldn’t have it.

    I follered dem. Sho enough, deys walk en Marges gator hole! I laugh as dem fools gits dare fancy clothes and rifles wet in da mudd! Den I felt bad and warned dem, “Yall bess git outta dare! Marge might bein dare! “

    I’ve seen scarrt before, but dis wuz different! Dem yanks flew outta dat hole jus in da nick of time as Marge raises er head. She’s a biggin! Youse can tell by how fars apart er eyes are.

    I don’t like dez fellas! But, dey are da dumbest yanks I ever cint, so I follered dem.

    Deys each pull outs a bottle en pourt it all over dem selves! Woooooo weeee! dat stuff stank! Dey throw da bottles on da ground and walked away. I’m thanking dey gonna attract gators smellin like dat!

    I grapt da bottles en ran. Later, I showt dem ta my uncle. “Whut is dis stuff?”

    He looks at da bottle. “Doe in heat, I recon dis is deer urine boy. Cost 25 dallars!”

    “Deer urine! How da heck did dey git a deer ta urinate in dat little bottle?”

    I gots an idear! I grab some cannin jar labels en went ta work fillin dem bottles.

    I tried to convince Larry to work with me but he refused.

    I set up a stand width a ‘GATOR IN HEAT’ sign. I sold each bottle fer 5 dollars to the five rude yanks. From den on, Uncle John wuld point to da rude ones and I wuld sell dem a bottle!

    Life decision? Well, whenever I meet a jerk, I remember selling ‘gator in heat’!

    I wish Larry could have this memory!

    • lionetravail says:

      Awesome :)

      Lots of fun to read, the colloquial rang true, and the cajun boy got his revenge-which-wasn’t-mean-spirited-revenge!

      I can hear Forest Gump saying: “Stupid is as stupid does, Sir.” Nice work!

    • Observer Tim says:

      This story had me chuckling, Hasslefoot. I can almost hear the dialect, and the revenge on the clueless city folk is perfect.

      • Hasslefoot says:

        Thank you liontravail and Observer Tim I am not a writer. Someone told me about this and and how much they enjoy the weekly prompts and the characters that write them. This is a wonderful community you all have here and despite talent, it is a nurturing and caring place to hang out. By the way, it took me years to loose that accent but the minute i’m around a Cajun, it all comes back!

        • jmcody says:

          I beg to differ. I think you are indeed a writer! I know the feeling though because I wandered into this site a few months ago after never having written fiction since high school, and then I just stayed. Now all I want to do is write! Maybe it’s not a coincidence that you found this site, but some deeply held need brought you here. That’s my theory anyway. I see a lot of talent in you and I enjoyed this story a lot. It was charming, colorful and well written even with the Cajun dialect, which was great. I’m glad you found us.

  16. “ILLI NON AGITABIT UT SPES NOSTRA”

    My father’s face was kind but his hands were heavy. Underneath the sweltering Jerusalem sun he toiled hard and made few mistakes. He taught me all I know about loyalty. Perhaps that same bounteous heart that so treasured me was what I came to despise.

    “Why do you just watch the troops as they go by, father?!”

    He just shook his head and told me I didn’t understand that he had a family. I was standing in the doorway as mother was kneading bread, their armor parading through the streets. The sun was sluggish and birds hid inside palms.

    “We should have liberty, freedom!”

    He held my arms behind me with his firm limbs, but rebellion was stronger than he knew. On my next trip to market, I had disappeared, hid behind wares until I located them. The zealots, whom I had only previously seen dangling from wood with gasping breaths. Over a warm, secluded campfire on the shores of the Salt Sea they initiated me.

    We delved into more elaborate raids. We traveled day and night, stealing horses. It was fast, hard fighting. I got to know blood, in all its shapes, forms, and scents. I convinced myself Judea would be freed. But there were still fathers receiving market news with frowns and shuffling home, never to take action. There were larger political moves we couldn’t hope to change.

    The ghosts caught up with me. I can picture my hands bound, three Roman soldiers containing me. Their faces possessed a nefarious smile as one of them slid out his sword. He slowly walked up, customers hurrying on by. I had looked away as my friends had their bowels emptied onto the ground. It was luck’s graceful kiss that a merchantman had spared me, and made me a slave.

    I had promised myself to be unbridled, and although my skin was hanging off in flaps by night, my spirit remembered the pact. Drink was scarce, and the rope callousing. When we reached Antioch the others always warily asked.

    “Why don’t you submit? As long as you’re a good fighter they don’t care.”

    “I’ve made promises,” I replied, gripping at the cell bars. My father would be disappointed at me, but I couldn’t change that. I could only hope to die nobly for my friends.

    I regretted I had talked to some of them. Tomorrow brought fights from a people unsatisfied in gore. The gate would be slid up, a sword thrust into my hands, and my entire training tested. They called zealots “Noxii”, the hurtful ones. The crowd jeered it until I slammed the handle into someone’s ribs. It made me feel slight sympathy, but I was a brute. That was how I was expected to act, even if my father was in the crowd. I didn’t like him at all, though I couldn’t bring myself to hate him.

    I grew in popularity, was used more often. I was sick of being a cruel piece of their machine, but remembered my friends’ faces at night. It was a broiling day at the forum in June when he approached me, secretly, slid underneath a rope. He dressed like a Jew, and my heart oddly leaped.

    “Who are you?”

    “My name is Paul,” and he gave me a piece of bread out of his coat.

    “Thanks be to God you are here! I’ve been waiting to escape!”

    “I have not come to give you physical, but spiritual freedom.”

    I looked over at the guards. “I’m not interested in that. Get away. Don’t want you to be killed.”

    “I’ve heard you were a zealot. Anger does not do you good forever.”

    I’d shoved him away. “Tell your friends to revolt and I’ll listen. Take your Messiah with you.”

    The next day I was faced with a champion from Numidia. All night I had wrestled, until with the unlocking of the gate I found out something radical. Even through all he’d done, I hated my father with a passion that locked down into my muscles. It carried me through the gate and into the roars. An emotionless world faced me. As he thrust again and again, and I tired, I promised to survive.

    “They do not shake our hope,” I haggardly whispered. The vow was stronger than ever before.

    “Spiritual freedom does not exist.” The burden I had put on brought me to my knees. Blood surfaced on my chin, the crowd stood, and then a resounding crunch. It all faded into red. I had chosen wrong.

    And many miles away an old man breathed his last, crumbling into a straw bed. His soul soared, lighter than a feather, except for one black spot.

    (This prompt was a challenge for me. If there’s one thing I lack, it’s experience. I don’t have broad life stories like the rest of you. I’m extremely sorry about the word limit. Next time will be within the limit, as a compensation. GH)

    • lionetravail says:

      This was a very interesting take on the prompt, Bilbo. It was powerful in many ways, not the least of which was your MC being true to himself, no matter the cost.

      A couple of minor comments next to the power of the story- their armor parading through the streets seems like it could be phrased more tightly, I think.

      Also, I understood from your first paragraph (which was gripping), that he came to despise his father’s bounteous heart. I presume it was because he’d refused to rebel, which was what the MC felt was the morally correct thing to do. And, it would make sense that the strength of that anger and resentment would intensify throughout his travails… but it seemed a little abrupt that he saw Paul one day, and the next day he was faced with a champion from Numidia, and he suddenly realized he hated his father with passion. I’d love to know how his resentment grew through his frustration, and have you show me how or why he came to that powerful emotion with which he died.

      Lastly, the one black spot on the old man’s soul, and the death at the same time for father at home, and son in the arena… it seems like the prompt length might have denied us the most fascinating parts of your story! I’d love to see this more deeply fleshed out- it’s deep, and powerful, and enigmatic.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I love this story, Bilbo. You did a great job setting the scene, and I especially liked how the setting was left unfleshed for just a bit at the beginning, leaving me to wonder whether it was an ancient (biblical) piece or a modern one. It forced me to think on multiple levels. All told my first impression was of the universe of “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

      The line about the armor would be stronger if it were rearranged slightly (e.g. “parading their armor through the streets”, and adding that the MC is watching) without breaking the mystique.

    • jmcody says:

      The story of a father-son conflict that arises more out of their similarities than their differences is an eternal one. The father taught the son about loyalty but the son turned that against his father because his deeply held political convictions. For me there was only one element missing — I would have liked to have seen at least a glimmer of conflicted feelings on the part of the MC. He must have had some love for his father despite their radically different political views.

      As always, your grasp of history and your ability to tell a story is breathtaking. I agree with Lionetravail that this one deserves more fleshing out. Funny, but I think this story is especially relevant in these times when people are so intensely politically divided that you actually do see relationships destroyed by politics. Fabulous, Bilbo.

  17. baileylundberg says:

    This is my second attempt at writing for this prompt, my last one was 3 times longer than it should’ve been…

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

    Nobody wants to know, not really.

    They’ve been asking this question since I was five years old. If I go to a four year school like my parents expect, I won’t be done with schooling until I’m twenty-two, and most won’t be done until they’re twenty-three; I’m a year younger than most people in my grade. How is five year old me supposed to know what twenty-two year old me is going to want to do?How can they expect a serious answer from a five year old? They don’t. They want to hear vet, cowboy, princess, dancer; overly hopeful answers that show ambition.

    Then when you’re ten, they want to hear stuff like doctor, teacher, marine biologist, singer; a little less hopeful than before, but still a far cry from the jobs most of us are actually going to get.

    Now, when I’m fifteen, people expect an actual answer. I still don’t know! My dad still wants to pack up and move to Florida when I graduate from high school.

    I want to say something with film (behind the camera – not in front of it), but every time I do people ask me what my fallback job is.

    I want to say author, but they ask the same thing.

    People don’t really want to know. Behind their supportive manners, hiding in their glassy eyes, is a quiet disbelief. Deep in their hearts they ‘know’ I won’t get where I want to get.

    So I might not even go to college. Being an author doesn’t rely on that, neither does being an independent filmmaker.

    I’ve got a year and a half before I’m supposed to start sending in my applications. My sister is pressuring me to do something that makes me stand out to colleges, but if I’m not going, then what’s the difference?

    This can’t be put off for much longer, but I can’t make my decision in this time. I feel like the walls are closing in on me.

    What’s the point of it all, anyway? I graduate high school to get into college. I graduate college to find a job. I work at that job for years, until arthritis and heartburn kick in, until I have to get a hip or two replaced. I retire and all the money I’ve saved up in my entire life goes to keeping my old self occupied. I spend all my prime years saving up enough money to support myself once I don’t have a job anymore, but then I won’t have any energy to do the things I missed out on when I was too concerned with my retirement fund.

    This is the daily grind. It wears down on you, it grinds you down until there’s not much left and you wither away while you watch the grind take hold of your children and grandchildren. Shitty, isn’t it?

    • jmcody says:

      I am writing this to you from the ledge of my 42nd floor office… Just kidding — that was last week’s prompt.

      Well, BaileyLundberg, you certainly have written a provocative piece, and one that should have people jumping from ledges all over the country. Again, kidding… Sort of. I’m not sure where the decision point was in this story, and how much of it is real versus a “what if,” but I would say that it all boils down to knowing what’s most important to you, and then being willing to sacrifice for it. Choosing to be a novelist as a career would most likely involve significant sacrifice. If your MC was willing to make those sacrifices I would say to go for it. As for it being “shitty,” it’s only shitty if you’re living someone else’s idea of what your life should be.

      This was well written and thought provoking.

      • jmcody says:

        Upon further reflection, I should have realized that you probably actually are a teenager, and instead of joking about jumping out the window I should have given you better advice, like Margi33 did. The truth is, this really did kind of bum me out, which means that your writing affected me. So good job!

    • agnesjack says:

      O.K. I’m throwing in the towel, now. Actually, this is a very interesting, though pessimistic, meditation on what is expected, hoped for and then, often obtained — a mundane life. I can only hope that, as required in the prompt, you escaped this scenario and are writing and making films.

      Welcome, baileylundberg. I look forward to hearing more from you in future prompts.

    • Observer Tim says:

      To be so cynical at such a young age … wait a minute, I was that cynical when I was that age, too. Never mind. You’ve summed up the angst of the mundane life very well; hopefully as your MC’s life goes on they’ll recognize the pockets of joy that make it all bearable.

      It strikes me that this is more of a rant than a story, but that’s okay. Having read both your posts just now (the first one finally made it through vetting) I have to compliment you on your technical skill as a writer. No errors of grammar or spelling jumped out at me, though I’m sure the red pencil could find something if it really looked closely.

      Excellent work, baileylundberg.

    • margi33 says:

      Ha! Love it. Brings me back to my thoughts as a 15 year old. Anyway, I’m sure we all sound like a bunch of old farts at this point (though this forum seems to span several decades). Trust me, you’ll still feel 15 when you’re 35.

      I think you have lots of things going for you: an obvious tenacity, desire, and the beginnings of skill. If a writer or filmmaker is what you want to be, then don’t let anyone deter you. Don’t take the common path if you don’t want to, but college is always a good choice no matter what you want to do, just get your masters in creative writing or something. Wish I would have let myself discover my love for writing when I was your age. Good luck and I’ll look forward to more of your posts.

      Oh and BTW, life gets better. Being a teenager is a miserable for most people — that’s totally normal.

  18. Critique says:

    I should be over the moon to see my fiance tonight.

    He lives five hours away and is picking me up in his new 1976 Pontiac Grand Prix when I finish my shift. Catching the sparkle of the diamond on my finger has my stomach in knots.

    What I long to do is get an A&W Mama burger with a cold root beer, go home to my apartment, put my feet up and watch a chick flick. Alone.

    Some romantic life I have I groused as I signed off my patients charts.

    Mentally I ticked off some of the positive things about Alan: he’s kind and honest, he makes a good living, his family loves me, and he makes me feel safe and cherished.

    But – there’s that troublesome word. In the past few weeks I’ve faced the unsettling fact – I find him too comfortable. No zing.

    I’ve loved and lost. I know how painful it still feels. With Grant it was fireworks all the time. Then he went elsewhere. I guess I was boring.

    On one hand, married to Alan I will have a very nice life. He’s quite a catch by anyone’s standards.

    On the other hand, is determining my will to love someone merely a surrogate for the fairy tale love I long for – if there is such a thing.

    The myriad of books I’ve devoured lately say you can grow to love someone. Love is an action word. Love on someone and the emotions will follow.

    All this thinking was exhausting.

    Would I be foolish to let Alan go?

    “You must be excited? I hear your fiance is up this weekend.” Cindy, my head nurse, punched out her time card. “Have fun Sue.”

    Small town hospital gossip spreads like the incoming tide on a sandy beach.

    “Yeah, thanks.” I faked a radiant smile and turned away in turmoil.

    Elsie, a nurse I enjoy working with, walked by pulling on her coat.

    “Hey Hon. I hear Alan’s up for the weekend?” She smiled arching her eyebrows. “Have you set a date yet?”

    “Not yet.” Should I share my fears?

    “Sue, when my Bill asked me to marry him I was five months pregnant with another man’s child. We got married in two weeks. I cried myself to sleep for a month.” She laughed and tied the belt on her coat. “Then one morning I had an epiphany. I could make this work or not. I grew up.” She reached out and gave me a bear hug.“That was twenty-five years ago. We’ve got three great kids and I am the luckiest woman alive to have Bill.”

    Elsie reached out a wiped a tear off my cheek.

    “Sweetie I’ve learned, if he’s got your back and you have his – that’s what it’s all about.”

    Years later I tell my Alan I can pinpoint the exact date and time when I grew up.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      I’m glad I was uo early this morning to read your story. It has to be real and from your heart or I’ll climb a tree like a monkey and pull off a coconut if it’s not. The wondering, the analysis you describe here can only be imagined from the male side. Guy’s aren’t really wired in this fashion or are they?

      As for love, there are so many dfifferent emotions involved. I watched my children fall in love, get married, raise famalies, live life in so many different ways and yet so similiar. I don’t see the romance that my wife and I felt when I first met her. I would have killed for her if necessary. There was no other world except ours. We went through hell for each other. All our friends vanished except one and he stood with us as a witness to our love.

      Some whom came back as friends took as long as ten years to do so. others never, so the hell with them. I would really like to know if love exists like this in our cheap, modern world or we throw backs to a long lost era.

      • Critique says:

        I like to believe love like this does exist but perhaps its obscured by the cheap glitz of Hollywood’s ideology? In “Fiddler On The Roof” Tevye’s and Golde’s song “Do you love me?” is a wonderful story of deep love.

        Thank you for you thoughtful comments Kerry. I always appreciate them :)

        • lionetravail says:

          Such a great reference to pull out, “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler, as a counterpoint to your story. It was wonderful, and thank goodness for your MC’s friend Elsie to say just the right thing at just the right time :)

          Something you brought to my mind with this- how often do we make or miss the opportunity to be “Elsie” for someone else? How often can we make a huge difference for another person, just by being empathetic, and sharing something helpful: a learned life-lesson, a kind word, a supportive pat on the back.

          Great story, and well told.

          • Critique says:

            Thank you lionetravail for your comments and thoughts. I agree with your 2nd paragraph.

    • snuzcook says:

      Critique, your story really tells the contrast well of what is gained and what is relinquished when we ‘grow up.’ I don’t think anyone can ever say for sure that magic won’t happen for a sensible match, or that happiness will come out of a passionately-charged one. We all have many different layers of needs. When we’re lucky, we are able to assign only realistic roles to the people we invite into our lives and enjoy being pleasantly surprised when they exceed those expectations.

    • agnesjack says:

      I loved this story, Critique, because it was so real and honest, although I hope, due to the dictates of the prompt, that this doesn’t mean that he got away.

      Looking for a thrilling knight in shining armor sometimes pushes away all the other possibilities. I related to your MC very strongly, because I was always drawn to the artistic, flighty type. After my first date with my future husband, I said to my best friend, “I’m going to like him whether I like him or not,” because he was the first real adult I’d gone out with. It didn’t take long before I realized that he was my absolute soulmate, and I felt very blessed that I gave it a chance. He was creative and responsible — my Renaissance man with a 9-to-5 job.

      • Critique says:

        Agnesjack, thank you for your comments and for sharing on a personal level. I’m glad you found your soulmate!

        My story is mostly fictional with a small element based on a real life experience. Alan is purely fictional. I am exceedingly blessed to have found my own soulmate :)

    • Xevirus says:

      “One day she said . . . about her husband: ‘that man crushes me with his magnanimity.’” (“La Gigale”, A.P. Chekhov). We often forget that fairy tales are stories of people going to do things, and when we wait for the flow of things to wash us to our happy ending, we often forget to swim and, not surprisingly, end up suffocating. I don’t know if this means that, in reality, you let the potential spouse go (and regret it), but if it does not, I’m happy for you. And, if it does, I hope you have learned from that regret and left it behind, because more joy awaits for you to find it. And if this is a complete fabrication, shoot me in the head for being such a dumb dumb.

      • Critique says:

        Thank you Xevirus for your comments. I’m a believer in swimming, not being swept away to my happily ever after – although I am a romantic at heart :) No one is going to get shot for being a dumb dumb here :) Imaginative license is exercised as much as we choose in our response to the prompts given us.

    • pinkbamboo says:

      aww this story touched my head. I love the mixed emotions that Sue has when she was thinking of her fiance. I especially like when Elsie mentioned ” could make this work or not”. It’s really a matter of perspective sometimes. Hope to find an Alan someday :)

    • pinkbamboo says:

      aww this story touched my heart. I love the mixed emotions that Sue has when she was thinking of her fiance. I especially like when Elsie mentioned ” could make this work or not”. It’s really a matter of perspective sometimes. Hope to find an Alan someday :)

    • margi33 says:

      Critique, I liked this story because it made me think. Think about my own choices in life and think about the alternatives. Guess that’s what life is all about, never being quite sure that we have made the right choices or if there is even such a thing. I am reminded of the saying, “better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.” And that’s true. Sometimes we just have to take a leap of faith whether it works out the right way or not. –Glad from your responses that yours seemed to work out (even though this was loosely based on your experiences). Well written and thought provoking, thanks.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a lovely story, Critique, and a good reminder of “how it used to be”. We’ve seen many public relationships exploding in the press because people got together for the wrong reasons; it’s nice to see someone still understands the right ones.

    • jmcody says:

      Very few marriages can maintain that sense of fairy tale romance forever, so it is a good thing that your MC went into her marriage with realistic expectations and a clear idea of what she was getting into. (But I stil hope she found some kind of passion…). It’s a tricky business, and you’ve portrayed that very well here. As the others said, this was a thinker, and very engaging.

      • Critique says:

        Thank you jmcody. It’s good stuff to ponder on before making a commitment like marriage. Methinks there’s a ton of emphasis on the grand wedding day and not enough on the working out of relationships.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I enjoyed your story. I wonder how many other ladies have similar thoughts and feelings about their men? I agree with Kerry, I don’t think guys are wired the same way. My thoughts weren’t even in the same ball park during my engagment period. I’ll admit that men do change with age. I see the world differently now than I did then for a lot of reasons.

  19. moscoboy says:

    This was the best prompt this year, it garnered the best stories and the most heartfelt comments to date.

  20. snuzcook says:

    SPIRITED AWAY (466 wds)

    A young woman sits on a hillock overlooking a narrow branch of a river. The spot is covered in tender spring grass dotted with wildflowers. Across the river, the steep bank is crisscrossed by the narrow tracks of cows who come down to the river in the late afternoon to get away from the flies and drink from the cool, deep water. No cows are pastured on her side of the river, just upstream from the small trailer village of the Corps of Engineers summer workforce.

    She is conscious of being a stranger here, a city girl working over the summer on tribal land. She often steals moments like this, alone, to connect to this place that is alien to her experience and yet so inexplicably familiar to her very bones and sinews.

    As she sits alone on the hill, she feels the presence of girls and women of a different era, laying out cattails and reed mats in the sun, scraping and softening hides stretched tight as they keep an eye on children chasing each other between the summer shelters and the river.

    Eyes closed, she feels their spectral footsteps like a distant drumbeat, like a thready pulse through her palms, and smiles at her own fancy. She turns her face to the sun, letting it bless her as it blesses the earth and the grass and the river below.

    A quiet splash draws her attention: A canoe, a young man with raven hair and a plaid shirt, a single wooden oar flashing into the water and out again. He looks up and he pauses, his oar tip riding easy in the water.

    “Hello!”

    “Hi!” she answers. His voice suggests to her this visitation is not purely her own imagination, but she is not sure.

    “Want to come for a ride?”

    She opens her mouth with the word ‘no’ already formed. She pauses. The unreality of the situation lingers. She’s a city girl. She does not go for rides with strange men. Those are the rules. Any sensible person knows that, and she is nothing if not sensible.

    But this is a magical place, and a magical moment. The air quivers with ethereal energy.

    There is a small dock, just a platform really, below her at the end of a rocky path, where he could pull up to the bank and she could meet him.

    She looks at him again. He is waiting, using his paddle to maintain his position in the slow current. She looks around. No one from the camp is in sight. This decision is entirely hers. She can feel her blood quickening in a two-step rhythm. The wind rustles the cottonwood across the river in time with her inner music. She stands and gives him her answer.

    • snuzcook says:

      Writing a rare (for me) third-person piece just as an exercise, but this is a true story.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        The answer has to be yes, snuzcook. I had my paradise as you seem to have had, on a magical barrier island on the Jersey Shore. The years were the years of war, second if you will. I roamed the beach each and every summer for the first ten years of my life.

        If there is any magic left in this world of mine, it is Avalon, the magical mystical isle of King Arthur and also a young boy who took his share of the waves crashing on the beaches and the wind blowing through the soft dunes.

        If there is any heaven for me, please Lord, let it be my Avalon.

    • Reaper says:

      I think Kerry said it best. All I can do is echo that this is the kind of story that makes me want to believe in magic and many other things.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is beautiful, snuzcook. It’s the kind of story that brings the immediacy of the moment into full perspective. It’s really a choice between two positives – holding the beauty of that precious moment or trading it for the beauty of new friendship. No matter what the result, it’s something to treasure.

      Thanks for the memory.

    • jmcody says:

      You know, I loved that you left this open-ended and didn’t tell us what to think and didn’t offer us any easy answers. I was scared for your MC but I also so much wanted this to be something magical. I would pay good money to read the rest of this story!

    • agnesjack says:

      This really was magical, and I’m surprised that you don’t write more third person. I loved the metaphoric image of him “maintaining his positon in the slow current” because we know that once he removes his paddle, the current will carry him, and hopefully her, to wherever. I liked this a lot.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      Hey, who stopped the video? This can be the end? What? The power went off at the best part of the movie!

      Thanks for sharing snuzcook. It was a magicaly, mystical read.

    • carlyumz says:

      I loved this snuzcook! I wouldn’t ever guess you didn’t write often in the third-person either. You were able to summon up a lush, intoxicating world within the first two paragraphs and had me intrigued about your MC straight away.

      I’m often frustrated by open endings that leave me wanting more, but with this I’m glad we’re able to explore what happened next in our own minds. Saying that, I’d definitely read more!

      Lots of wonderful lines to choose from, but ‘…a single wooden oar flashing into the water and out again’ was one of my favourites. I thought the choice of ‘flashing’ was inspired. Thanks for posting!

  21. baileylundberg says:

    This is my first attempt at responding to one of these prompts, so be kind of easy on me, ‘kay guys?

    “You do whatever it is that you think is best for you and your future. I don’t want you to feel pressured, sweetie.” My mother says, patting me on the knee and looking at me with her stupid fake smile. She looks anxious. My father tries a different tactic.

    “I love you, little bird,” Ugh, THAT nickname. He should know by now that the stupid nickname only bothers me beyond belief. “I’ll continue to love you no matter which way you decide. I don’t know how I’ll make it without you,” He pauses to purse his lips like he’s trying not to cry or something. He just looks stupid. “But I guess it’s all up to you, since your mother and I already made one decision.” He sniffles. His stupid nose isn’t even red. My mom turns to him and glares through her stupid fake smile.

    I want to scream at them. I want to tell them how stupid they are, I want to hit their stupid faces so hard their entire bodies go flying through the screen door across the room. I want to scream so loud my grandfather’s glass eye shatters. I want to shout how much I hate them.

    But I can’t do that. That stuff’s not true, and that’s not how the stupid world works. The world says that if my parents do this to me, I have to pick one of them and one of their stupid houses to live in for the rest of my adolescent life. The world tells me that there are a lot of bigger problems that other people have to deal with.

    I want to tell them both to get over themselves and think about me. Think about the ‘integrity of their marriage’ like Pastor Bill talks about in his sermons that my parents DRAG me to every Sunday. I want to shout how much I love them both.

    But I can’t do that.

    So I do the only thing I can think of.

    “This is stupid.”

    My parents exchange a look.

    “We know you don’t want this, my sweet, but your father and I have some irreconcilable differences.” My mother says with her stupid fake smile again. She’s trying to look sorry, but she just looks mad. Mad that I didn’t just choose her right away because in a year or two when I ‘become a woman’ she can teach me how my body likes to torture me.

    “Irreconcilable means that we can’t settle them.” My dad says, like I’m stupid or something. I’m ten, I’ve read enough books to know what that means.

    “I know what it means, dad. I’m not stupid, that’s you guys.” I cross my arms and pout. My father sighs, I can tell he’s getting impatient and can’t hold up his ‘about to cry face’ for too long.

    I can’t stall much longer, even my mother’s mask is beginning to slip. I slide my left hand into my pocket, the ticket tickles my fingers with its serrated edge, left from when it was ripped from the machine.

    “Can I just have until tomorrow?” I ask faking as much sadness as possible.

    “Alright.” My mom says. She finally moves her hand from its spot on my knee to massage her temples like most adults do when they get headaches. Good, she deserves one.

    I run into my room and lock the door. I grab my hard backed leather suitcase out of my closet and open it up. I am not your typical, impractical 10-year-old. I know that if I’m really running away I’ll need clothes, a toothbrush and other things like that, along with all the money I’ve ever saved and the 300 dollars cash I swiped from my mom’s wallet while she was talking to the lawyer.

    I start slowly packing, carefully folding each piece of clothing and arranging each item sensibly. I won’t leave until seven-thirty because my train leaves at eight-fifteen. Being my height of four foot ten makes it sort of hard to hail a taxi, so it’ll take a little longer than if one of my parents were with me. I look at the blue clock next to my bed. Seven-o-three. I finish packing at exactly seven-thirteen and perch on the side of my bed, my grey New York sweatshirt hooked in my right arm, and watch the minutes tick by slowly. I thought I might be nervous, excited, or both, but I feel nothing. A cool numbness soaks its way from my heart to all of my limbs.

    At seven-twenty-nine I get up from my bed and grab the handle of my small suitcase. It’s the right size so that if I need to, I can run without being slowed down. I peek my head out of my door and look around. My stupid parents are talking in the office. I can hear them alright and they sound mad. I walk to the front door and unlock it.

    I wait until the clock on the microwave flashes to seven-thirty and I open the door. The stupid alarm starts beeping, scaring me out of my numbness and telling my legs to RUN, my father yells out the front door, but my heart is beating too fast, too loud. It’s like it’s speaking to my body, it’s as if it’s screaming to GO FASTER, shouting to WORK HARDER, yelling to KEEP GOING. I run like that for what seems like no time at all, but I’m at the station quicker than I can remember any cab getting us there. My legs shake because they aren’t used to what they just did, and I clumsily make my way to one of the waiting areas. I wait patiently for my train until I start hearing my mother’s annoying voice, shouting my name. I get up from my bench and she spots me. She looks crazed, her hair is fluffed up and she isn’t even wearing shoes.

    I start running, not paying attention to where I’m going, and she yells for me to stop, which only makes my heart kick into overdrive again. Then I feel like I’m falling, which I think is from the adrenaline until my body hits hard metal. I struggle to breathe, and I look up at my mother’s blurry face. I feel dizzy, and my mother’s saying something. It’s just sound, muffled and unimportant. She’s reaching her hand out, I can see her mouth moving. She’s calling for me, I figure out when I start breathing regularly again. I hear a horn and feel the ground rumbling beneath me. A bright light shines at me, the blood from my scraped knees and elbows shines and I’m distracted for a moment. I look up at my mother, she looks scared. I’ve fallen between the platforms. Her head jerks up from me to look at something on the other side of the platform. I look up too and see my father’s arms are shoved out at me, but I think I broke my leg.

    In these last few moments before the train comes, I realize that this is all divorce is. Two platforms on each side of a train track, the kids in the middle, a speeding train on its way to sever the family ties for good. The children must choose which side to run to, before time runs out. I decide I can’t choose. I sit and watch my parents. Which one will choose me?

    I watch my mother stand and cover her mouth with the delicate hand that was draped over my knee just two hours ago. At that moment, she chose herself over me.

    As I accept that my mother has chosen herself over me, I feel a strong pair of arms wrap themselves around me. My father. We make it out of the rut just before the train goes by, and someone screams. I pay no attention to them as I hug my dad forcefully.

    Something is wrong, though. I can feel it coursing through me. I pull back from my father and look as terrified bystanders rush through us and watch as my mother runs away screaming.

    My father and I are dead. He sacrificed himself for me, and now I can spend the rest of my afterlife holding his hand and being his little bird, because now I really do have wings.

    I thought maybe the shock kept her from crying at first. Denial. But she shed three tears over the course of the month that I stayed to watch over her, and those three tears were when she was giving her statement to the police. The thing that really sealed the deal was when my mother skipped my funeral to lay in bed with her lover.

    He was the irreconcilable difference. He was what caused their divorce, what killed me and my father. I held my dad’s hand tighter that day.

    We slept under earth’s stars for one last night, my father held me tightly in his arms. As morning came, we walked into the sunrise hand in hand, leaving nothing of importance behind.

    Well, what do you think? CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM ONLY, PLEASE!!

    • Observer Tim says:

      Hi Baileylundberg;

      I doubt you’ll get any other kind of criticism here, we’re a pretty nice bunch.

      Your story ran very long, but it didn’t feel that way. Your words painted a very intense picture of a girl watching her family come apart at the seams. I hope this isn’t something you had to live through, but the nature of this prompt leaves me not knowing. Our lives are defined by so many choices.

      The only criticism I can see is that the voice of the girl sounds more like a teenager than a ten year old. Of course, it is believable coming from a ten year old who’s probably been watching her home disintegrate for a while now. Kids grow up fast under those circumstances.

      I especially liked the line “I want to shout so lout my grandfather’s glass eye shatters.”

    • jmcody says:

      Bailey, this is incredibly well done. I could feel the. MC’s pain viscerally. Her overt hostility did seem a bit too teenager-ish at first, but by the end it made perfect sense. What a heart-breaking tale of betrayal from the one person who should have loved this girl more than life itself. Your writing is edgy and compelling.

    • carlyumz says:

      Hi Baileylundberg, welcome! I’m a newbie here too but don’t worry, from my first few weeks I can assure you that you’ll only find encouraging comments here and lots of inspiration :)

      Firstly, I hope you didn’t have to go through the above ordeal (obviously not the dying part!). As a child of divorce myself, I thought you were able to convey the mixed emotions of a child watching their family fall apart wonderfully, with anger being at the forefront of that.

      My only feedback would be to echo the thoughts of my fellow commentors, I thought the voice of the MC did seem very surly and old beyond her years. I also found myself stumbling on the repetition of the word ‘stupid’, but then it makes sense that a 10 year old would use that word to describe her parents, her situation, her dad’s nose etc! Perhaps making it clear that your MC was 10 and not older earlier on in the passage could have helped, but otherwise I look forward to reading more from you :)

  22. pinkbamboo says:

    I’m trying to write from the heart this week.

    WARNING : Potentially sensitive topic.

    ******

    “How does my face look?” I studied my feature in the mirror as I turned to my father.

    I thought I looked kind of pretty but I saw the disapproving look on his face.

    “You need to slim down”

    “No, I’m talking about my face” I got a little defensive as I pointed to my face

    “Your face is fine but you need to work on your body. Not because of beauty reasons but for health reasons.”

    I knew he was right but I felt a little hurt.

    “Shouldn’t you love me no matter what size I am?” I sulked.

    “That’s not the way. Of course I love you but you should take care of yourself, I’m not going to just keep quiet and not say anything. It’s for your own good”

    So much for trying to fish a compliment from my own father.

    There were other girls bigger sizes than me, I thought. I knew he was telling me all these with good intentions, I just felt .. judged. At one point, he even thought of signing me up for slimming packages but I refused to go. I still felt fine, father was just overreacting.

    I remembered back in camp when I was hanging out with a bunch of girls from school, the guys were crowding around us because my friends were pretty and beautiful with good looks and toned bodies. I was ignored, shunned and I slowly left the group. I hated that but I made peace with that, guys that were just about the looks were shallow.

    I dreaded the feeling when I walked passed people and they laughed because automatically I would assumed it was about me. I was pretty sure they were talking and pointing behind my back going .. ‘look at that fat girl’. They were laughing because I was fat ..to them. Who cares what other people think? They don’t know me.

    I was very cautious about taking food from trays as if the whole world was watching and snickering behind my back going .. ‘look at that fat girl taking so much food’. Go look at other people’s plates, there were bound to be other bigger eaters than me. I was not as big sized as some others, I wanted to scream to everyone in the cafeteria. I did not put on weight, I insisted stubbornly.

    A few months later, I spent four hours in the mall looking for a dress to attend my friend’s wedding. I found none. All of them highlighted my problematic areas. I came home to look through my existing dress and confidently put on my red coat dress. Two years ago I bought this and now I couldn’t button it. I had no choice but to admit, maybe I was getting chubbier. I’m still not obese, I insisted to myself. I’m still me, I should love myself.

    When grandma came for a visit, I went to see her with the entire family in the hall and upon looking at me, her first sentence was “Why do you look fatter each time I see you?” . I knew she had no ill intention, she’s an old lady and she was just speaking out from her thoughts but I ran home to call up my friend to cry on the phone. It embarrassed me, it made me feel ugly and I just wanted to curl up and never wake up.

    Everyone always preach about loving yourself and be happy but the truth was .. I’m not happy anymore.

    Then I opened a bag of chips.

    **

    This prompt was based on a true story. Any resemblance to the characters alive are purely intentional.

    • lionetravail says:

      “Chips will never judge you, Pinkbamboo!”

      Wonderfully and brightly written… “Denial” ain’t just a river in Egypt, right?

      • pinkbamboo says:

        true that!

        sometimes it takes time to break out from denial and when you admit there’s a problem, you don’t need to announce it to the whole world. strong resolution within yourself might just surprise you.

    • snuzcook says:

      Pinkbamboo, I think you handled this topic with a great deal of honesty. Anyone who thinks that there is a pat answer to how a person should look or feel about their physical self is deluded, or how to gain control over a body that seems to have a mind of its own. It’s not even just people’s words like grandma’s unfiltered comment. It can also be the ‘kindness’ of a person’s expression when they don’t want to offend, the backhanded compliments to fill a vacuum of discomfort, the un-requested accommodations that end up making you feel conspicuous instead of comfortable.

      And, of course, the ever true irony that unhappiness craves chips!

      Not sure what the choice was here, if there was one choice. Regardless, you made a good choice of topic about which to write.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        the choice was the last sentence. you could either pick up or put down the chips.

        true story, this prompt was me a year ago but I turned around and put down the chips. I felt ‘attacked’ by my family’s comments even though I knew it was for my own good but you could either take those comments and do something about it or break down each time.

    • margi33 says:

      Pinkbamboo, I think it’s brave to share your feelings on this topic. It’s a great reminder that people need to remember that our insides are what matter and family needs to be supportive and caring in their comments. I could definitely feel the painful emotions of your MC. Thanks for sharing & nice job.

    • jmcody says:

      Oh, Pinkbamboo, as the mother of a young daughter, your post pains me and I wish you didn’t have to deal with this. Society places ridiculous demands on girls, and I am even starting to see this in my 8-year old who asked me the other day if her thighs are fat! (They are not!)

      From your picture you look like a beautiful girl, and from your writing I can see all kinds of wonderful things about you like your intelligence and insight, and your sense of fun and adventure. It is a shame if the number of the scale nullifies all those wonderful things about you, and I’m sure plenty more things that I don’t know about.

      People say the dumbest things, and you have to realize that most of the time the things they say have very little to do with you and everything to do with their own issues with themselves. Yes, health is important, but so is peace of mind and loving and respecting yourself. None of us are perfect, and especially the people who would say such things. Focus on what’s good about you and what makes you special, and give yourself a break — we are all works in progress.

      Sorry, you brought out the mama bear in me! You were very brave to post this.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        Hi mama bear :P

        Well, this prompt was written as a look back for me and made me ponder the what if’s as well. I decided to take action towards my own life – I mean beauty inside matters but I was also tired of feeling such low self esteem. So I started working out.

        Now, I no longer care about what others might or might not say behind my back. My red dress fit me loosely compared to two years ago and my grandma mentioned I lost the fat from my face. I feel awesome and I now walk with a bounce in my steps. I feel stronger, happier, healthier and just generally better.

        This prompt served a reminder of what I was and how everyone has the potential to bounce back, losing weight is not losing yourself but rather taking care of yourself.

        Your little girl has nothing to worry about – I do agree society has pressed on too much about skinny and tiny waist etc but there comes a time when girls have to accept not everyone is built the same. I would press for healthier life style instead of eating two sticks of carrot each meal. As long as you’re happy, whether it’s inner or outer, that matters the most. You can’t be skinny and miserable, it’s not worth it.

        Oops, rant over

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          It’s not a rant pinkbamboo, it’s your heart speaking to us. If anyone can appreciate how your journey through the tough years and by that I mean growing up, I do. My Father called me heavy, that was his polite term for FAT. My best friend in high school, nicknamed me tub.

          But the girls liked me because of what they referred to as my sense of humor. And then the weight fell away when I reached college. I still thought of myself as heavy and it shocked me when the girls seemed to be interested in something beside my mind.

          I’ve been up and down with the weight for so many years, I can’t count them. And then about ten years ago, the weight went away again, because by that time, I knew who I was and where I was going.

          I’m in better shape now then I was forty years ago. So what is the reason for my rant? I realize the value is in the person and not the body. I can tell you are a beautiful person from your writings and that’s what really counts in life. The inner soul of a person and you have a lovely one.

          Keep them coming pinkbamboo. they’re marvelous to read and I ought to know.

          • pinkbamboo says:

            Hi Kerry,

            Thank you for your insights. I like the sentence where you said the value is in the person. Now thinking back, I appreciate those constructive comments with well intentions because they were advising me with care.

            I’m in better shape now than before and I know I am in control of myself. I am happy you guys take time to share things with me on this prompt which took me 1/2 hour to write. Thank you :D

    • Reaper says:

      This was a beautiful story, and a very brave one. The real bravery comes in your responses to comments and the kindness you show all around. You seem to have the such a grasp on this because the image is what so many people strive for and you keep talking about health and happiness. You’re line, I’m not happy anymore says it all. Too many people realize they are unhappy being heavy and they lose weight but then they still aren’t happy so they turn to their old friend food, the one that will never abandon them. But that poison friend is never enough so they still aren’t happy. The problem is they are never healthy and never happy. That is the heart of your story for me. You did this for yourself and found your center. That is important. I say this as someone who was up until five years ago beyond morbidly obese. When I finally started losing and mostly keeping off it was something I did for me. I feel better physically and about myself so I believe I understand what you went through, and applaud you for posting something so personal and not hating the people that tried to get you there never realizing they could only encourage you and you had to find your own path.

      I also agree that the most important part of beauty is on the inside and you have a beautiful soul. However the truth is we also want to look good, be it for ourselves or for others. So I will say, this may just be the American obsession with the pretty younger Asian girls, but I agree from your pictures you are a beautiful woman. If those people really were laughing at you then you should put on your red dress and go stick your tongue out at them now.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        ah Reaper, you always get the sentence that I was trying to nail down .. that sentence “I’m not happy anymore” was the nail in the coffin for me. I believe when it comes to changing, first and foremost it has to be for yourself.

        I was never a big eater but then my food choices were not always the best. Eat to live not live to eat, that’s my motto when it comes to food. I actually forgot to include in some other taunts and teases which became fuel for me to push into a healthy lifestyle – being told I had a big butt etc. The shame got me started and the results kept me going.

        btw, what pictures?

    • Observer Tim says:

      I’m glad to hear things are working out the way you want, pinkbamboo. I’m one of the many that had a problem with my weight – first it was ridiculously low (not good for a guy), then I put on about 80 pounds and lost it again. Now I’m about halfway between A and B, which is really where I want to be. Of course, that’s the trick – not to be where society wants you, to be where you want you.

      Thanks for sharing this very personal matter with us, and for writing about it in such a clear and insightful way.

    • agnesjack says:

      As others have said, this was very brave and also well-written, because it clearly depicted the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that we judge each other on looks.

      I’m glad you were able to turn it around, but more importantly, I’m glad it was your choice.

    • Critique says:

      With the exception of a few tense glitches, I thought your writing about a personal struggle was well done considering you wrote it in half an hour! I agree with your comment that personal change needs to be for yourself – and not for anyone else :)

    • RuthieShev says:

      This was very good. I could feel your pain and wanted to tell you not to listen to them. You will find your way in your own time. Then I read the end and was very proud of you for finding your own way. Thanks so much for sharing.

    • carlyumz says:

      It’s obvious from the comments that this is a story that touched a lot of people pinkbamboo. I just wanted to quickly add my two pence as it were, and say thank you for posting! It was clear that this came from an honest place and I think you managed to convey the MC’s choices without sounding too preachy or too deluded.

      I grew up feeling judged by my weight and remember clearly the only one time my mother ever said I shouldn’t eat a second helping of dessert. I felt shocked and defensive, even though she hadn’t even hinted it was due to my size and was fair in saying so. Most of all, as your MC explained, I felt embarrassed.

      I can’t offer any constructive criticism, other than I thought you handled the delicate subject matter perfectly, but then that’s not criticism at all :)

      • pinkbamboo says:

        I know how it felt being told off by your own family member but take it on a positive note. If it been told harshly by an outsider, it could be hurtful but from a family member, they usually have our best interest in heart. Most of all, do it for yourself. I was unhappy when others told me to lose it but when I did it for myself, I felt right.

        I think it’s a struggle of weight for a lot of people and if my little piece has managed to convey or touched someone, I’m glad

  23. Xevirus says:

    (Let’s have a happier reality for a change)

    A dull anger. Why suggest I go somewhere else and then say that I shouldn’t? The thought would not have even occurred to me before you dangled the option. Same rate, but more days. And I won’t feel like such a redundancy. I still have time to decide, but you’ve made it clear that you’d prefer I stay.

    Lying in the closet of the packed house wherein you—and I, perhaps—will be spending the next month with friends, new friends and strangers. Smelling the musty carpet as my back sinks into the soft spot in the floor, I consider.

    So I stay. And in staying I notice the craft services girl. I’m not shaken to my foundation, but I notice. Tremors. A snarky word to the actors here; a legitimately intelligent comment there; a genuine concern for humanity. And my heart doesn’t stop, but it skips a few beats, and I don’t really notice, but I notice. And on that second weekend, surrounded by the crew as they drink to forget the low wages and ridiculous environment, trying to remain alone in an online computer game, I am approached and we talk. And I’m not thinking about it, but I notice. And, two days later, I dream.

    Earthquakes. My heart stops. And I don’t notice, but I know. And the next weekend I don’t know whether you will be there, but I’m excited at the possibility. And you are, and we talk. And we talk. And morning comes like a nurse trying to pull the Bandaid from my forearm, and I stall as much as I can to prevent the pain of the pull. But it happens; and I know the end is near. And I know what has begun cannot continue. And I wonder whether I should try to maintain contact, or whether I let it go and avoid the nurse’s next go at the bigger Bandaid I’m building.

    And I let it go. It’s too good to be true, I know. So I go. I take the other job. You’re disappointed, but you’ll get over it. Because I’m maintaining the professional relationship. They’ll hire me next time instead of the person they would have hired. I work with the new camera for the first time, learn a new skillset. I establish a rapport with the first, strengthen my rapport with the UPM. They want me back on the next job, and I’m willing.

    But when it’s over, in the interim, I’m the same as I was before. There’s a vacuum there and there’s nothing with enough matter to fill it. I never met the craft services girl. With less than a week on set, we interacted only a handful of times and that earthquake, that stopping of the heart, that . . . Love . . . that never happened. And when the jobs end, when the professional relationships end and someone else—or a machine—gets the work, I don’t think about what is not there. But I notice.

    • Xevirus says:

      Apologies for any pronoun confusion: the “you” in the penultimate paragraph is the same “you” as in the first which is different from the “you”s in the fourth (the preceding paragraph) which should have been “she”s for clarity’s sake. This was a quick write and post, and I failed to catch that. Among other things, I’m sure.

    • lionetravail says:

      It was very readable, but I was significantly confused. The pronouns thing didn’t help, but also I didn’t get why the MC was feeling pain of the pull in the morning, when nothing had really happened yet- it seemed like certain things happened off-stage, and I missed them.

      • Xevirus says:

        I apologize for the confusion. This was, as I mentioned, a very quick write and post, and in my haste I let things slide that perhaps I shouldn’t have and I allowed less clarity than I’d like. The pain of the morning was that it was the end of the night, and accordingly, the end of the party and the end of the conversation; it was the beginning of the goodbyes, and that is information I could have put in there. I also knew the whole Bandaid metaphor was inadequate, and gets mixed up, but it was what I had at the time of writing. Regardless, thanks for the compliment on the readability.

    • snuzcook says:

      Xevirus, I found the light heart in the story, as the invisible, transient member of the crew exists almost Walter Middy-ish-ly for each fleeting, one-sided relationship. Side-by-side the lighthearted element is a profound sense of sadness and loneliness that your MC is choosing to stay in the shadows, to keep all his hopes safely out of reach of reality.

      Granted that clarity (as you have already noted) could improve the impact of this piece, I like the concept.

      • Xevirus says:

        That is interesting; the “one-sided relationship” comment gives me pause, and makes me consider what was written.
        To me (and I recognize this is my interpretation rather than something I actually made clear) the dual realities was less a Middy-ish daydream and more literally an instance of the character actually stepping back to the moment of the decision and changing that decision.

        A limitation of this particular prompt is that it requires that readers surmise what the alternative would be. This is a limitation, but not a problem, as, in general, the feeling of the alternatives were implied by embedding them in the descriptions of the choices and juxtaposing those with the feeling of the outcomes. I tried to do that on the earlier entry (though I did more telling than showing with that one). However, for this I wanted not just an emotional alternative (whereby the reader might posit anything that strikes their fancy as what was avoided), but I wanted a specific alternative to be shown. Others did this already, but I didn’t want it to be presented in such a way that the narrator somehow knew what the alternative would be, especially because it is first/second person narration and that would not make sense.

        So, in my mind (and, again, I clearly did not communicate this well enough), the one choice is actually made, and though it results in some happiness, the anticipation of pain causes another choice which, effectively, undoes the first choice: by the character denying himself the possibility of a future with the craft services girl based on the anticipation of the pain ahead, the character isolates the events to a moment in time, separating them from his reality and thus making them little more than memories–those memories may prove important, but the action, the choice will be what follows the character, thus, eventually, making those memories indistinguishable from the regret for that action; in the context of this writing, that ‘effective undoing’ becomes a literal undoing, and the character is moved back to the moment of the earlier choice which began things, making the other choice without even knowing what making the other choice would mean.

        What I wanted to look at was (a) how often it is not only the big decisions, but the responses to the consequences of those big decisions that alter things-and how even a correct choice can be undone, for all intents and purposes, sometimes, by an incorrect response (I know others already explored this, but I, too, thought it interesting), (b) how even when we have certainties (e.g., experience, hindsight), the lingering uncertainties can undermine pleasures, and even cause a devaluation of those certainties. I did find it interesting that it was the anticipation of unpleasantness that caused the second decision, despite the knowledge of pleasantness.

        I don’t know that any of this is more understandable than the writing itself, nor that it is necessary.

        • snuzcook says:

          Xevirus, I appreciate you taking the time to tweeze the intent of your story and help me appreciate better what you were presenting. I can be a tad linear sometimes. ;0)

    • margi33 says:

      So this was interesting, Xevirus. I liked the stream of consciousness of the MC, although I can’t say I am entirely clear on what transpired. Is your MC a camera man on a reality series that missed an opportunity to form a relationship w/an interest on one of his jobs? I may be way off the mark with that, but that was how I read it. In any event, I enjoyed reading the piece.

      • Xevirus says:

        That is close enough to the “story” to be essentially right. Thanks for seeking the story in all of that; it makes me glad that you found it.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I’ll have to ring in confused, too. Highly entertained, but confused. Sometimes you don’t need to know all the details to enjoy.

      • Xevirus says:

        Glad that you both enjoyed it and were entertained. I will close my empty eyes now and contemplate nothingness. Seriously, though, thanks for reading it.

    • jmcody says:

      I read this a few times and sat on it for a few days before responding. I read your “explanation” above, and truthfully it did not change my perception of the piece.

      As I read this piece I made a decision to put aside my “need to know” and just enjoy the impressions and the flow of the language. I actually really liked the Band-Aid metaphor, and I took it to mean that the MC was dreading putting aside the pleasantness and possibilities of this situation and dealing with the reality of trying to maintain a professional relationship.

      Maybe its just that I’m seeing it through the lens of my own story that I wrote this week, but I saw some similar themes, about not wanting to pay the price (in messiness) for this tenuous new relationship.

      You write in kind of a poetic, almost impressionistic style which asks the reader’s mind to connect the dots and fill in the blanks. It works for me on some level, but I can see how many would want more details. It is a challenging style to read, but for me, anyway, rewards a different part of my brain than most of the other prompts do. I hope you will take that as the compliment that I meant it to be. :)

      • Xevirus says:

        Your entire response is a high compliment, indeed; thank you for read and considering and thank you for appreciating the positive that is there amidst it all. I’m glad it works for some, even if it’s not as clean as it could be.

        I did not make the connection to your own story, but in doing so, I can see that it is, in a way, the inverse: the beautiful open scenery replaced by enclosed ersatz worlds; the decision to do replaced by the decision to do not; the change of seeing the fullness in each day replaced by the change of seeing the emptiness. It is entirely possible that the long run outcomes of both will be as likewise little different from the alternatives in a practical sense, but, for me, this story is still unfolding as my reality, so I cannot look back and say that the decision had a great impact, or little one, though as long as it is a positive one as I expect, the shape of it is okay by me.

        Thanks again for the kind actions and words.

  24. Augie says:

    The soothing voice of Barry White sets the stage. Dim lights allow the glossy paint to hide imperfections. I walk by many and see my dream!

    Older model, two tone, great body. Soft-top seductively pulled down exposing plush interior. I must drive this one home!

    Circling many times, I can’t look desperate.

    I ask for a complimentary coffee and watch my dream from a distance. Every man stares at this beauty with wanting eyes.

    Damn. Definitely out of my league. I need a miracle to seal the deal! What would my insurance be?

    POOF …a tiny fox appears at my table, speaking in a miniature voice.
    “Hello, I’ll give you fax on that model. On his tiny laptop, he strokes away.

    “Huuuuuh…..Ummmm… . seeeeeee….OOOOOhh…. Not gooooddd….”

    The miniature fox looks me in the eye. ‘This is an older model. Came out 15 years before you were born. Perhaps you should look for a more age-appropriate one. Being seventeen, this will cost you dearly!“

    “What are the facts?” I shout.

    The fox speaks, “Ok, it is foreign, so it’s hard to tell what kind of damage is under that shiny paint. Definitely a high-octane guzzler that will cost you dearly.

    POOF…the fox disappears.

    “Damn, I need more answers!”

    POOF …with a blue headband, perky wig and red lip-gloss, miniature Flo appears armed with two scan guns.

    She draws her progressive guns scanning my dream.

    “Oh my!” Flo breaks out in song….

    “Listen to me dear, I’m going to make this clear,

    You’re not going to want to hear,

    This is not for you

    No mater what you do,

    Only going to break you.”

    SMASHHHH!! I squish singing Flo under my coffee mug. So annoying when she sings!

    POOF…. A miniature bald man stands on my table.

    A flash of joy overcomes me, Vern insures anyone!

    “Hello Vern, take a look at that one and tell me what you think”

    Vern turns, “ AHHHH! I say, no way! I’ve seen this exact one before and let me tell you about the last guy who had her. Every time he went to work his neighbor would load her with cheap fuel and take her for a spin! Next thing you know, the neighbor’s trailer is hitched and she’s gone.”

    “Vern out!” POOF

    “Damn!” I look across the room at the beauty again.

    My young mind is not convinced. The final miracle arrives.

    POOF …a tiny gecko appears on my table. “Hello mate.”

    I point to my dream, he responds, “Ohhh, dear, I see. The tiny gecko jumps on my shoulder and whispers in my ear for fifteen minutes.

    Fifteen minutes later….

    I walk up to the beauty, “Hello, my name is Scott. Her eyelashes flutter. “Hi, I’m Crystal, you wanna get out of here handsome?”

    “You damn right I do!” She sits in a state of confusion as I walk away.

    15 minutes can save you 14 years of bullshit.

    • rle says:

      Quite funny Augie. Flo has that very same effect on me!

    • lionetravail says:

      Very cute and fanciful :) Good misdirection with the ‘older model under all that paint’, and fun to read.

    • margi33 says:

      Ha! Creative and funny! Nice job.

    • snuzcook says:

      Augie, you had me chuckling and smirking all the way. I won’t enumerate all the ways this was clever–I’ll just applaud. =D>

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        God, Augie, I thought you were talking about a black and white ’55 Buick Roadmaster convertible I fell in love with ten years ago. Why in hell didn’t I buy it?
        The owner spent five years restoring every part of it. A gas guzzling five thousand, two hundred pound beauty. I’ll tell you why, he wanted thirty five grand, that’s why. Now, it’s probably worth fifty. Oh well, get over it Kerry. Loved the story. Think of the memories if you had said yes!

    • Observer Tim says:

      This was great, Augie! I’m a great fan of satire done well, and this was definitely done well. I don’t know Vern, but everyone else was spot-on! And the surprise reveal at the end (that it really was a foreign beauty) was perfect.

      I hope you didn’t have to endure 14 years of bullshit to find this story…

      • Augie says:

        Thanks Observer Tim!

        Vern Fonk provides high-risk insurance for the Pacific Northwest. His commercials are very low-budget and outrageous. It was hilarious to me that the MC was refused by him!

    • jmcody says:

      This really made me laugh. I especially loved your description of Flo and the Gecko. What a fun ride this was.

      So am I to surmise that in real life you did not seal the deal? Sorry about that!

      And one more thing — Happy Memorial Day to you and all servicemen and women, past and present. Thanks for all you do.

      • Hasslefoot says:

        I married her! What the young do! Hey, I have been on here for three weeks and realize that many folks are in Canada. Do you know that the very first American special forces were a joint effort with the US and Canada in WW11. If you want to see a true really good movie about this,watch Devils Brigade. They accomplished the impossible in the impassable. All my respects…. Thank You jmcody..

        • Augie says:

          Sorry Jmcody, I was on my wife’s log in! Woops,, cats out of the bag on that. Any way, I truly admire the joint effort.

          • jmcody says:

            Now I am really confused… so you did not walk away but you married her. But she is not Hasselfoot, right, or you wouldn’t be talking about 14 years of bullshit, I hope…

            Aw, my head hurts. Good night, Augie!

          • Augie says:

            We are both deployed and had many laughs this weekend writing this together. I didn’t know that she had made another post and was still logged in. Anyhow, I have been married twice and this story is about my first wife.

  25. Dennis says:

    Product of Our Choices

    Steve came home, like every other night, dragging his body through the door of his scant apartment, plopping himself into his musty recliner and pouring a glass of cheap whiskey. The rest of his senses were dulled by the drone of news programs he stared at without much care as to what he witnessed. Murders, robberies, corporate downsizing, none of it mattered and slid off his now Teflon heart.

    What made today different was that it marked the 15th anniversary of his engagement to Sandra, a day he could not seem to let go of no matter how much whiskey. Plans had been made to move on to Colorado from Los Angeles with some friends. She chose to leave before him, telling him to make sure he chose to move not just for her but also for himself. In the end he could not leave the comfort of his safety net of family and familiarity and so the wedding never was and he never spoke to her again.

    As he swallowed another mouthful of liquid bliss, Steve searched again, as he had done many nights over the years, for an answer to the meaning of his misery. How could he have known that one decision would lead to a series of failed relationships, one ending in a restraining order against him? How could he know that one decision would cause him to take a string of dead end jobs since the depression kept him from fulfilling his promise to go to grad school? And how could he know that one decision would keep him living two blocks from his parents, the place he grew up, still at the age of forty?

    He glanced at the engagement picture he kept by his chair. It was the happiest day of his life but now was a constant reminder of his failures. He laid it face down. Sorrow poured out in tears searching for something to end its existence.

    Steve threw the glass against the wall, watching it shatter. The shards of glass now symbols of his shattered life. Confused and tired, he didn’t know what to do. Some part of him, the part that didn’t care about life or death, only the ending of the pain, lured him out the front door and up the stairs to the rooftop.

    He walked to the edge and stared down at the street below. Cars and pedestrians passed by, oblivious to his presence above. One step and it would all end. How easy it would be. But was it the right choice? He only hoped an answer would present itself soon. He could not bear all of this much longer.

    (As the pieces of this came together, I realized I was writing a kind of prequel to last week’s prompt. I am going to write part 2 now to finish the storyline.)

    • lionetravail says:

      Hey Dennis- nice story. You set the tone well, though it’s hard to equate mouthful of liquid bliss with cheap whiskey!

      A couple of suggestions. Some of your phrases and modifier end up dangling to create some confusion. Example- Sorrow poured out in tears searching for something to end its existence. That’s a confusing turn of phrase, for me… is the sorrow searching for something to end its existence? How exactly did you mean this to be read?

      Also, you’ve presented the story as to how your MC feels, and written it from a third person perspective. But your narrator seems to be omniscient, knowing what’s going on in “Steve’s” head, what he’s thinking – “one step and it would all end. How easy it would be? etc”…. The narrator in third person generally can’t know that internal stuff. Like, you should show us the state of Steve’s mind, as you did when he threw the glass against the wall, but then you tell us that the shards of the glass are symbols of his shattered life. It would be better to show us both parts… “Steve threw the glass against the wall, watching it shatter. His eyes narrowed speculatively as he looked at the fragments, as if seeing in them a metaphor for his own shattered life.”

      Nicely done making me feel bad for Steve :)

      • Dennis says:

        Thank you for your great comments. That is the thing I forget to add that it is the MC thinking when there are no other characters. This isn’t my usual style of writing but wanted to try something new. The feedback helps.

    • margi33 says:

      I liked this Dennis. The first paragraph lent nice imagery to the opening and set the tone for the piece. As far as the third person, you are fine (as I understand it though I am no professional), to write the internal thoughts of your MC in third person limited. I think the problem in one of your paragraphs lay more in the redundancy of stringing together 3 sentences with the same beginning: “How could he know…” Instead, maybe, something like the following would work: He couldn’t have known that one decision would lead to a series of failures: failed relationships, restraining orders, dead end jobs, broken promises of grad school. The fact that he still lived two blocks from his parents, the place he grew up, at the age of forty, made him sick to his stomach. … Or something to this effect. Anyway, I did feel the emotions and desperation of the MC. We are, indeed, products of our choices, but perhaps the MC did not have a real choice in the fact that he was so uncomfortable in leaving his “comfort zone”. Maybe this was instilled in him as a small child. Maybe he was trapped in his own insecurity. These are the imponderables I guess. Nice job.

      • Dennis says:

        Thank you for your nice comments. I’m still new at this style of writing and like your suggestions. As I mentioned above, if I had made it clear it was the MC thinking that might have helped make it clearer. I like your point about it maybe not being a choice. It does leave me wondering.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a deep story, Dennis, and well told. I didn’t see the problems the others had with the writing style, though they did make very good suggestions. Inside my head I often use repeated structure when emotion starts kicking logic in the head; that’s what I figure is happening here. For me it all comes together, though not in a very nice place.

    • jmcody says:

      It’s true we are a product of our choices, but this piece has me wondering what our choices reveal about us. Why did Steve choose familiarity over the promise of a new life with the person with whom he had chosen to spend his life, and the person that he professed to love? It’s hard for me to imagine why he would make such a choice. I feel like there’s a lot more to this story than you can convey within the space limitations. Maybe you could address this in your next installment. What was there in Steve’s past or in his psychological makeup that made him so resistant to change. I am going to guess that there were fears driving his decisions. What were they?

      This was thought provoking and made me want to understand this sad situation better.

      • Dennis says:

        Thanks JM. Yes the choice does reveal a lot. This is a bigger story than I had room to write and chose to show the effects of the choice instead of the scene making that choice, which would have been powerful as well. Partly, I took my own personality and magnified it. Although I made the right choice, at the time it did make me think about myself more which I believe the MC couldn’t do. Thanks for the suggestion about revealing more in the next part.

  26. Xevirus says:

    Waiting. Her heart spiraled inside her chest, twining with her stomach and diaphragm into a tangle that obstructed her breath and buzzed and popped in her intestines. In her hand was the mobile; she’d forgotten, but looked down to check whether anyone had yet responded. Not a one. Not a good sign.

    It felt like when she had started. No one was blogging. No one was reading them because no one knew what they were yet. What they were to become as the media through which they were conveyed and formulated not only changed but changed them. Back when not even her mother could take the time to read more than a handful of her posts each month. Now her mother followed about ninety different folks across the spectra of social media, repinning and reposting and retweeting relatives or recipes or reminders that she was, indeed, destined for greatness. Here and there drippy drops of strange comments would come in, drawn mysteriously through the magic of search engines and hyperlinking, before the spreadsheets of data and ebooks explaining everything made clear that this magic was just another mundanity.

    She had wanted to quit, then. Had felt the silliness of the endeavor, the absurdity of trying to attract readers online. She had almost quit, but she waited it out, determined to succeed despite the inner soap box pundit ranting about the silliness. And soon the occasional drops were puddles and the ripples in those puddles made streams and she could hardly predict where the flow was going, but she navigated those streams and created new ones.

    And now she was waiting. Like she waited after the first summer after the first year of university. The whirlwind romance had unsettled her, knocked the breath from her lungs and brought her to her knees. The ending brought to her consciousness that this was no longer just school. She struggled to find inspiration to leave the house, and wasted evenings lost in the briars of Rameau and Radiohead. She considered leaving school, taking a job at her brother’s real estate company, abandoning the violin as the last lingering trinket of childhood that it was. She was late to the second year, but she returned after her few months with Chris’ company revealed that a normal life was not her future. Her future lie elsewhere, and though the cost would be great, the value of searching hard for that future, for beginning her career as an explorer would ultimately pay off.

    But had it? She was still waiting for word from the publisher interested in transcribing her experience as a musician abroad from digital to print so the vestigial paper book readers could hand over their (presumably) paper money and pay for her blog. And the small university which had previously been so excited about bringing her in as a strings professor and internal composer, they, too kept her waiting in a state of uncertainty both completely alien and completely true to her modern life.

    • Dennis says:

      Really great writing. Not choosing the normal life is always a hard one.

      • Xevirus says:

        Thanks for the comment. I feel it’s a bit disconnected, myself, in part because I wanted to include more than the word count allowed me (maybe for the best). The decision from the prompt, for example, is never really shown, though its repercussions are what make the rest possible.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This story captured the intensity of uncertainty very well, Xevirus. The anxiety is almost palpable, and leaving it unresolved at the end is the perfect finish.

    • agnesjack says:

      My sister used to say, “Is this my real life yet?” I think you’ve created that world of hopeful anticipation, frustrating uncertainty and eager expectation, very well.

      • Xevirus says:

        “If the last to know he’s an addict is the addict, then maybe the last to know when a man means what he says is the man himself.” (PKD – A Scanner Darkly, p79) And, perhaps, the last to know when their life has started is the one living it. But these decisions are our lives, and it is wonderful and terrifying. Thanks for not only reading, but considering.

  27. agnesjack says:

    In the beginning, everyone tried to nudge Mitch toward selling the house.

    “It’s an awful lot to take care of by yourself, Daddy,” his daughters Marsha and Jean said.

    “You won’t miss Ellie so much in a new place,” his brother Arnold said.

    “A nice condo on one floor would be easier for you to negotiate, Dad,” his son Ben said. “This old Colonial has nothing but stairs.”

    After Mitch retired, he and Ellie had briefly discussed moving, but neither really wanted to. It was their home. They had lived there for more than fifty years. It was where the children, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews always gathered for holidays and special occasions. That green Colonial was the hub and heart of the family.

    Ellie had died suddenly from cardiac arrest, leaving Mitch feeling disoriented and numb. He didn’t know what he should do. When he looked around the house he saw Ellie everywhere, so how could he stay? Then again, when he looked around the house he saw Ellie everywhere, so how could he leave?

    When the first holiday, Thanksgiving, crept toward them, Marsha decided to have everyone at her house. She was the oldest of all the cousins and she felt that it was time for her to take on the long tradition. Mitch appreciated what his daughter was trying to do. Losing her mother had hit Marsha particularly hard and he knew she was compensating by taking on her mother’s role.

    “Daddy,” she said, “it will be easier for you to not have to worry about all the preparations. You can stay at our house for the entire weekend, and Ray and I and the kids will pamper you. How does that sound?”

    Sound, Mitch thought, as he thanked his daughter. Without the sounds of Ellie, his house had become a cavernous tomb — the banging pots in the kitchen; the soft humming while gardening or folding laundry; the scraping of the hangers in the closet when Ellie would get up before him to make breakfast — all gone. Just dead air where there had been so much sound.

    Mitch enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend, but when he got home that Monday, he went directly to the dining room and sat at the end of the long, polished table. He closed his eyes and listened to the distant echoes of all those years of activity and laughter and sound.

    “Ellie,” he said, when he opened his eyes and saw her empty chair. “I think it’s time.”

    ***

    Mitch’s condo is only ten minutes from Marsha and her family, and about a half hour from Ben’s and Jean’s. The grandkids come and visit often, and he takes them to the pool and they hang out with his new golfing buddies, some of whom are also widowed.

    He knows now, that leaving the house did not mean leaving Ellie. Sometimes, he’ll think about that green Colonial on Clove Lake Place and get a sharp pang. When that happens, he’ll plop Ellie’s gardening hat on his head, wink at her in his heart, because he knows it probably looks silly, and take her out for a long, leisurely walk.

    • Xevirus says:

      “When he looked around the house he saw Ellie everywhere, so how could he stay? Then again, when he looked around the house he saw Ellie everywhere, so how could he leave?”

      Such a fun little turn of phrase that encapsulates the entire piece. The downside of the word limit is that the endings can often feel rushed, but this is a nice read.

      • agnesjack says:

        You are right, Xevirus, the ending is a little rushed because of the word count, but also because this was a hard prompt for me to write, so I wanted to post it quickly. The lines you point out do encapsulate what it is like in a house after losing your life’s partner.

    • jmcody says:

      There is so much to love about this. I was struck by the description of all the small sounds that were missing from the house — things you never notice until they’re gone, like the hangers sliding on the rack. The ending was satisfying in that Mitch was able make peace with letting go of the past, without feeling like he had left Ellie behind, because she was still present to him in so many ways. This is a beautiful and insightful piece of writing.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, jm. This prompt worried me because of the personal nature of it. That’s why I chose to make my MC an older man with children and grandchildren, rather than someone like me, who is younger and without children. Obviously, after my husband passed I decided to stay in my house for a while at least. For me, the missing sounds of him were (and are) the hardest part.

        • jmcody says:

          You know, my first thought was that this was about your experience of losing your husband, but then you described this older man’s life so convincingly that I started to think maybe it was actually about a father or a father-in-law. The parallels to your experience were clear, but the details of Mitch’s existence were vivid and authentic. Another great job, AJ!

          • agnesjack says:

            Thanks, jm! My father-in-law was the inspiration for Mitch, although he died first (at 90) and my mother-in-law had a very difficult time until her death two years later (at 91). They both died on Palm Sunday.

            This story is a kind of composite of my experience and theirs.

          • jmcody says:

            A lot of strange coincidences seem to be surfacing on this prompt, and especially with you. So here’s another one: my mother- and father-in-law also died on the same day, January 2, five years apart. When my MIL got diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in October she told everyone she was going to die on Jan. 2. Crazy, right? My husband’s family claims it’s an Irish thing, which I know your in-laws were too, and that these date coincidences happen all the time. Not sure what to make of that, but It makes a good story, and I love the old-world weirdness! ;)

          • agnesjack says:

            It just shows that the magical Irish are in touch with unseen forces. ;-)

    • Dennis says:

      A very nice story. It really gave me a sense of being there.

    • Reaper says:

      This is wonderful and made me feel all of the emotion. Often I would think that a story like this could have been left with the I think it’s time but in this case I am so glad you chose to go on. The image with the gardening hat, the man missing his wife enough to look silly and keep her with him. It just wrapped this wonderful present in a bow for me. Thank you for this.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, Reaper. I think you’ve made a good point. I think I could have left out the actual line about it being time. It’s implied.

        As I said to others, this was a difficult one for me to write, so I’m glad I was able to touch on things that others could relate to. I’m actually in the process of writing a series of fictional stories on the theme of widowhood. It’s a subject that only seems to be dealt with in memoirs and self-help books, so I thought I could expand the conversation through many different characters and experiences.

    • lionetravail says:

      I got so involved in this story, I have to admit I got worried when Mitch said “I think it’s time”… I think I’ve been reading too many dark ending stories for these prompts- I thought he was about to go join Ellie in the great beyond! OMG, I was soooooo glad he just sold the house and moved! Woof.

      Only one thing jarred a bit, for me, and it’s maybe nitpicky (so please accept my apology in advance)- saying Ellie died of a “cardiac arrest” sounds too technical and precise for Mitch the mourning widower. (If Mitch were the mourning widower with a job on CSI, or a doctor or something….) “Heart attack” seems a better fit for the character than Cardiac arrest.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A sweet story Nancy. My wife and I have been going through the same process, move or not to move. So I solved the whole problem and told her, the move would kill us, packing fifty years of accumulated stuff. More stuff in the little house in the back yard, 200 plants, half in pots. a three hundred pound water maid, one breast exposed, a thousand pound mermaid, both breasts exposed, a green house with more plants, etc, etc.

        So we decided to stay, and if the children act up, well ‘you know’.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, lionetravail. I hadn’t thought of that line being read that way. Didn’t mean to scare you.

        I know you are a doctor, so I can see your point. However, I can tell you from personal experience (unfortunately), that when your spouse dies suddenly from cardiac arrest, you become very aware of what that is and how it differs from a heart attack. That said, I think I could have made it less jarring for the reader. Perhaps something like “Ellie died suddenly. The doctors told Mitch it was cardiac arrest.” Your comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Observer Tim says:

      One of my great aunts had to go through this same process a few years ago. She and her little sister shared the house, and everyone told them it was too much. The decision was finally made when little sister died (I believe the little sister was just over 100 at the time).

      The problem with so many “living situations” for the aging is that they’re really places they go to die. I’m glad to see Mitch’s situation turn out otherwise. I hope reality was/is as sweet.

      • agnesjack says:

        Yes, Tim. Generations ago, families stayed together. The older generation would live with the younger generation. Now, everyone has their own space, making it harder when the time comes to make these hard decisions.

        I decided to stay in my house after my husband passed away, although that may change when I retire in a few years. My mother-in-law, however, at the age of 89, wasn’t able to remain in her house after my father-in-law passed, because it was too much for her. It was hard for everyone, because that house was my inspiration for the “hub and heart of the family.”

    • snuzcook says:

      Agnesjack, I love the gentleness and respectful tone of this story. There is room to allow Mitch to come round to accepting that the time has come to embrace the change that would have been so harsh if it were imposed upon him by others. His family is proactive, but not bullying. He retains his dignity and is able to incorporate Ellie in his new surroundings instead of being stuck with a sense of leaving her behind.
      I realize that as a ‘different choice’ story, the reality may have been different. But this is a wonderful tale of how it should always be.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thank you, snuzcook. In my first draft, the children were more dictatorial, and that felt all wrong. I wanted this story to be about surviving and finding peace.

        I stayed in my house after losing my husband, but my mother-in-law couldn’t. This is kind of a combination story of those two events.

    • Critique says:

      A sweet story about love, family, loss and moving on. I really liked how Mitch’s move to the condo brings surprising joys into his life. Ellie will always be with him in his heart.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      This was great. I think your story captures all of the emotions and difficulties associated with this decision. So many have faced it, yet we all have to address it in our own way. I agree with Xevirus that the “how could he stay?” and “how could he leave?” were very artistic.

  28. jmcody says:

    An póg hÉireann

    The album page was yellowed around the edges, but the photo was as vivid as Holly’s memory. The girl was laughing, her head thrown back and her chestnut hair flying as the young man twirled her so exuberantly that she was nearly airborne. The girl in the photo was so young that Holly barely recognized herself.

    It was a soft day in Dublin, 1986. The Chieftains were playing “Boil the Breakfast Early” and Holly was dancing with handsome, blue-eyed, black-haired Michael in a muddy field beneath a sodden Irish sky. The bodhrán drumbeat that echoed across Anglesea Stadium felt ancient and tribal; the galloping, whirling dance came as naturally as if it had been coded into her DNA.

    As Shannon snapped the photo that would become Holly’s touchstone, Holly remembered their long-ago promise that they would go to Ireland as soon as they could save the money. Now they were standing in the Dublin drizzle at the concert of a lifetime. “Self Aid” was an all-day Irish music festival with U2 as the headlining act, for the benefit of the quarter of the Irish population that was unemployed. It seemed like every other person Holly and Shannon met was on their way to America and the promise of a job.

    Michael was headed for Dallas. “I’m going to work for J. R. Ewing” he quipped, the mischief gleaming in his crinkled eyes.

    “You should come to New York,” Holly teased him.

    “Ah, for you I would,” he said “But me flight is booked and a job is waiting.”

    The raucous dancing continued as The Pogues, the Boomtown Rats and Elvis Costello took the stage. But when folksinger Christy Moore strummed the melancholy opening chords of “Ride On,” a palpable sadness descended on the crowd. It was a slow dance now as Michael slipped his arm around Holly’s waist and sang the words softly in her ear.

    Ride on
    See you
    I could never go with you
    No matter how I wanted to

    The crowd swayed and sang in unison as Michael explained the song’s power over the unruly mob. The lyrics were about the ongoing exodus of Ireland’s sons and daughters, and the sadness of those left behind. It was the same sadness Holly recognized in her own Irish immigrant family, the underlying wistfulness and longing that seemed to define them.

    The pull of her ancestral home, and the gravitational force of the strapping Irishman in whose arms she swayed overwhelmed Holly. She looked up and realized with a start that he was about to kiss her.

    She stepped back, out of his embrace. The spell was broken.

    “What’s wrong?” Michael looked confused.

    “It’s just that… well, I hardly know you…”

    “What d’ya mean you hardly know me? You’re wearin’ me jacket!”

    That was true. But she was damned if she was going to kiss this man with whom she was already wholly infatuated, if not half in love, and whom she was never going to see again. It would feel too much like a loss.

    “Michael, I…”

    “Is there someone at home?”

    “No…” There was no one. So far Holly had managed to keep most men at a safe distance, in precisely this way. And the rare, poorly chosen ones she had let in, she always came to regret.

    “Well fine then.”

    “Fine.”

    They looked away from each other uncomfortably as the crowd continued to sing. Holly looked out over the swaying sea of humanity and heard the centuries of Irish loss and pain captured in this one mournful song. She thought of the dancing and the singing, the joy and laughter that had been this day, all in the service of the suffering poor.

    And suddenly she understood – what it meant to be Irish, and what it meant to be human. That to insulate yourself from heartache and loss was to deny yourself the riotous joy of living. That when you’re standing in a muddy Dublin field on a soft day, and Christy Moore is singing and a handsome, charming Irishman wants to kiss, you better let him, because it might well be the single most romantic moment of your life.

    She turned to Michael and kissed him until the crowd disappeared, until the strains of “Ride On” faded into the twilight, until there was no one but Holly and Michael and the tempestuous Irish sky.

    It didn’t change anything. Michael went to Dallas, Holly to New York, and they never saw each other again.

    And yet, somehow, it changed everything.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Aye my lass, tis a beautiful Irish Tale. My great great grandfather, Francis Charlton thanks you. My great great grandmother, Jane Charlton, thanks you. My Mother’s great grandmother, Sara Beauchamp thanks you and I, Kerry Brian thank you. Tis a wonderful morning since I’ve read your story.

      The romance is so real, my screen thanks you and I’m sure the entire forum thanks you.
      May Irish eyes look upon you with favor, may your pathway rise up to meet you and may the wind always be at your back.

    • margi33 says:

      Nice, jmcody. Poetic and emotional as always. I could easily put myself into your scene and feel the trepidation of letting one’s emotions go — a difficult and risky thing to do, and something I am not very good at. I enjoyed the inter-weaving of Irish heritage into the piece and learned something along the way ;). Thank you for that well written, poignant piece.

      • jmcody says:

        Thanks, Margi. It’s all true, except dammit, I should have kissed that Irishman! ;) It actually took me decades to understand what Holly figured out here in a moment of hesitation. She’s a quicker study than me!

    • snuzcook says:

      A wonderful,soft day and a wonderful, soft story. Not all choices launch a person off in a new direction and change one’s life materially. Some choices are just about the richness of life remembered. I think of the movie, ‘With Honors,’ and the Joe Pesci character, Simon Wilder, whose most valued possession was a small collection of pebbles. His collection made sense when he explained that each one of the pebbles represented a memory that he cherished, and the key to his character was the nature of those memories.

      • jmcody says:

        Thanks Snuzcook. I like to think that the experience made her more open and trusting of life and of the resilience of her own heart, and that her decisions after that were less fear-based. Sometimes its the little things that alter the course of a life.

    • LiveOakLea says:

      jmcody, your story placed the MC’s personal decision to pursue life’s opportunities upon the surging wave of a culture’s history and disappointments and delivered it to us, the readers, leaving us awash with the sensation of hope. Thank you!

      • jmcody says:

        Thank you LiveOakLea. I actually wasn’t sure where I was going with this when I started writing it. This has always been a particularly vivid memory for me (and I actually do have the photo exactly as described), but I think this was the first time I ever read this meaning into it.

    • Xevirus says:

      Incredibly beautiful. A moment, a mood and a memory becoming definitive not for its chain-like sequence of alterations, but for its soft adjustment of perspective. That you include the moments of choice for so many others (including the character’s own family who decided to leave and made possible the return) expands the idea of the theme beyond the individual in a way that is felt rather than read.

    • Dennis says:

      A very enjoyable read as always. I like how a seemingly small choice can have such an impact on ones life.

    • Reaper says:

      Whenever I see Latin or Gaelic from you I know you are turning it up to eleven and you did not disappoint. Very subtle and beautiful, though I do admit and I am sure everyone knows by this point I have a soft spot for all things Irish. You brought out exactly why there is such a fascination with Irish culture these days, because even the simple is layered in complexity. Because there has always been big things going on around the people and yet those small choices matter so much and are not forgotten. You captured all of that.

      I may have quoted this before, but there is a line from “The Devil’s Own”, “Don’t look for happy ending’s Jack. It’s not an American story, it’s an Irish one.” Yet so much good can come from an unhappy, or at least not happy ending, so many lessons. You have written and Irish one.

      • rle says:

        JMC, what can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said? (sigh) When I grow up I want to write just like you!

      • jmcody says:

        Yes, they are a complicated people, no? I think joy and sorrow coexist in equal measure in the Irish psyche, and both are embraced as necessary to the human experience. I also think that it is uniquely American to try to deny the sorrow side of the equation. Maybe that’s what’s so fascinating to us.

        Love talking about the Irish with you, Reaper ’cause you get it!

        • Reaper says:

          Very complicated. But then what do you expect of a people that named their land Erin? I don’t know how well it is known that in Gaelic the original name of Ireland meant peace and they spent most of their history at war with one invader or another. It is bound to influence you to that joy and sorrow as combined in a way of thinking. I also agree it is an American thing, though it seems to me we try less to deny the sorrow side, but treat it as completely separate. We want to deny that there is beauty in sadness. We struggle for constant happiness because we want to pretend it isn’t important to be sad sometimes. We equate sorrow with tragedy when in truth it is a place that spawns creation. I think that’s why when we think of the typical American movie it always has a happy ending, even if that ending doesn’t belong there. Where as the rest of the world can love a sad or tragic ending. Anyway, you got the philosophy thing going. Long story short I think you’re very right about all of that and thank you again.

    • lionetravail says:

      Lovely, as many have said. For me, this piece is all about giving yourself permission to break your preconceptions. I think it’s healthy to do that, to leave behind the indoctrination (“it’s bad to kiss boys without a commitment”) and embrace life. But don’t try to con me it took decades to learn it in real life, jm… you may not have realized you knew it, but you did- otherwise you’d not have the family, the loved ones, you do.

      And, perhaps, the story’s also just a bit about how the incongruity of a soft Irish day with a tempestuous Irish sky was not incongruous in the slightest. Beautifully done, really.

      • jmcody says:

        I guess I say “decades” because giving up the illusion of control, embracing the messiness that is life, and trusting your own heart is an ongoing process even now. It’s about becoming more fearless, which meshes well with how I perceived the Irish spirit in that moment, and is something I will probably always be working on.

        FYI, a “soft day” is what the Irish call a drizzly, cloudy day, which is nearly every day in Ireland! :) I just like the sound of it.

    • Observer Tim says:

      A lovely bit of Ireland, jmcody. I especially love the last line; it really says it all.

    • agnesjack says:

      “That to insulate yourself from heartache and loss was to deny yourself the riotous joy of living.”

      Loved that thought, and so Irish. My late husband was Irish descent on both sides (grandfather from County Cork). This was such a nostalgic and beautiful story. I was right there with Holly. The atmosphere, the anticipated romance that feels a little scary, the wonderful music, which heightens emotions, and the melancholy reference to the exodus from that gorgeous land. Very nice story.

      Sláinte, to you, jm.

    • Critique says:

      A picture quickens to life buried memories of missed chances, lost relationships etc. Your skillful writing brought the poignant culture of the Irish alive for me – and I’m not Irish. Your last sentence was the crowning jewel! I loved this.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      That’s how it’s done.

    • jmcody says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments Agnesjack, Critique and Marc Ellis, and as always, for your supportiveness!

  29. snuzcook says:

    RUN

    His eyes are what I remember most. Over the top of the boxwood hedge, my father and I stared at each other, both surprised, both frozen in profound silent.

    My parents had come and bring me home, their run-away teen-aged daughter. My friend’s parents had called them; I had been staying, hiding out, in a small building in the back of their property for the past three days, and it was time for me to go home.

    That split second that our eyes—the same color eyes–locked over the boxwood hedge seemed to stretch over years. He was my Dad. He always loved me.

    His love had not been enough to keep me home. My mother, whom I had come to realize was not entirely sane, had waged a secret war against me all my vulnerable, helpless years. In absence of witnesses, she used physical intimidation, shaming, irrational accusations and banishment to keep me hidden away and silent. Any attention my father might pay to me would be answered when he went to work the next day by gifts confiscated, names called, extra chores assigned, and then the inevitable banishment to a corner or to my room because I didn’t deserve to be around other people.

    If she let her guard down and let him witness her treatment of me so that he objected, she would fly into a rage and lock herself in the bathroom or throw herself around the room in tears, accusing him of taking my side and not loving her at all. Her dramatics always worked; he did whatever he had to do to calm her down. I was a small price to pay for his wife’s happiness. She eventually convinced him that because I was a consummate liar, he was better off leaving everything to do with me entirely in her hands.

    My dad and I hardly spoke as I crossed into puberty. I hardly noticed the distancing, as my body took on a life of its own, with rages and defiance and finally an unfamiliar sense of empowerment. My mother was no longer taller than me, and the reach of her arms was no longer greater. One day when she slapped me, I slapped her back. The fury of the interchange that followed was nothing to the knowledge that I had broken my own heart irreparably. I knew that I had to leave.

    Here I was, three days later, eye to eye with my dad. I wanted so much to go to him, to be comforted by him. But the pain in his eyes was unbearable. A fresh, reckless voice told me, ‘Run, this is your chance at freedom!’ A more familiar voice, said, ‘Look how you’re hurting him. It will break his heart if you don’t go home.’

    The frozen moment ended. I broke and ran, closing my ears to the voice that called after me. I thrashed through blackberry brambles and Douglas fir to avoid the road, to avoid the chance of another confrontation. I might not be strong enough to choose freedom a second time. I ran, the broken, tangled chains of both love and hate clanking noisily behind me, urging me on.

    • don potter says:

      Your words painted such a vivid picture. “I ran, the broken, tangled chains of both love and hate clanking noisily behind me, urging me on,” is such a sad but needed escape from the tormrnted life your MC endured. Nicely done.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        A very strong, emotional story with the pain from a mother that doesn’t deserve the name. God forbid this should be a true story. You’ve written with so much strength in describing the day to day experience of a teen having to live like this. I would think the mother’s pain and delusion was also real but stiill, she is a monster to treat her own daughter in such a manner.

        The story gave me the willies from reading it, it’s that powerful.

        • snuzcook says:

          Thanks, Kerry.
          Over the years, I learned there are many truths and many sides to a person’s character. A person who has the capacity to be nurturing and kind and generous to strangers can be capable of extreme jealousy and cruelty to those who are closest to them if they are perceived as a threat.
          I choose to believe that these are behaviors triggered by that person’s own childhood demons, combined with undiagnosed and untreated emotional pathology. They surround themselves by people who will support their positive image, and anyone who elicits or draws attention to their darker side must instinctively be neutralized.

      • snuzcook says:

        Thanks, Don!

    • snuzcook says:

      In hindsight, I think perhaps as a response to this prompt I should have written in third person. This story may come across just a tad too personal and the characters a tad too black and white in 1st person. The run or not run choice is quite true–the rest? To quote Churchill, “History is written by the victors.”

      • margi33 says:

        I liked the eyes peeking over the boxwood hedge, a great visual to bring us into the scene and tie the story together. A very heartfelt and emotional journey. I enjoyed reading, snuzcook.

        • rle says:

          snuzcook, this was a wonderful story. For some reason I’m particularly drawn to these types of tales. Every time I read or write something similar to this, I thank my lucky stars that I was raised in a loving home. Like Don, I too really liked the last line. This was very good.

      • Jay says:

        Snuzcook, I feel as though this story paints a perfect picture in first person. In third person, it would detach some of the personal elements from it. Those things make this a very powerful piece.

        I also don’t feel as though the characters are black and white. Consider the father for a moment. He’s torn with pleasing is wife but has an obvious love for his daughter. What drives this man to make the choices that he makes? What emotional torment did he grow with that forces him to bend his morals for the sake of keeping a woman like that happy?

        As for the mother, she might be just a little flat, but I think that adds much to the characterization of her. Because it’s in first person, we see the mother for who she is, a dangerous and violent person who’s only love is to bring pain upon her daughter and act out to get attention from her husband.

        It’s a gritty realization that from a child/teenagers point of view, things seem black and white on the surface, but there a ton of allusions to subsurface grey areas that really fills it in.

        In so few words you really brought this story to life. Fantastic job, Snuz.

        • snuzcook says:

          Thank you, Jay, for validating the story as written. This prompt invites us to walk a line of vulnerability and let the world peek behind the curtain–and inevitably it feels a bit drafty.

        • lionetravail says:

          Yes, totally, what Jay said goes for me (and saves me the trouble of trying to be eloquent on my own). It was a wonderfully told story, and incredibly tactile, as well.

          I’m not so sure about the last line as some of the other commenters, actually. It was the only part of the story that struck me as more “literary”, rather than as the angst-laden first person experience of the rest of the story. It was a cool metaphor, but you’d gotten through the whole story with immediacy and power and emotion and not metaphor, and so the last line felt a little overdone to me. I would have preferred it to end simply, abruptly, and as full of heart as the earlier stuff.

          • snuzcook says:

            Great observation, lionetravail. I am prone to constructed endings (I like to hear the metaphorical Tupperware burp at the end of the story). I have trouble recognizing when it might not fit. I appreciate your comment.

    • jmcody says:

      Your choices were not really choices at all, except maybe in the Faustian sense. The showdown with your mother illustrated this perfectly: “The fury of the interchange that followed was nothing to the knowledge that I had broken my own heart irreparably.” To run from your Dad, the only source of anything resembling love in your family, would have compounded the damage, and the freedom that you would have gained would not have been freedom at all.

      You perfectly portrayed the voice of your injured teenaged self, who hasn’t yet come to understand her parents’ faults and failings, as your older, wiser narrator has. That’s why I liked both the first person and the last line. I thought both helped to round out the tale by adding that perspective.

    • Dennis says:

      A powerful tale that sometimes our parents aren’t always the best fit for us. And as you said, as teenagers with all of those emotions we may not be in a place to see the whole picture. Great writing.

    • Reaper says:

      I’m going to agree with loving the first person and that the characters are very deep. I did not read the mother as flat at all, because part of it is perception. It is easier to interpret depth and understandable reason in a first person narrative than it is in third person, which leads towards the omniscient point of view and invites a more judgmental view of the characters.

      I loved the ending. The change from stark to metaphor worked for me. I wouldn’t change anything, but if you were to change it I would eliminate the choice part of the prompt and leave it open ended. Let the frozen moment end and the choice hang in the air. The power in this is the lead up to that choice and you expressed that in an awe inspiring way.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I can’t add to this except to say that all the praise is truly deserved. Excellent story, snuzcook.

    • agnesjack says:

      Snuzcook, this is a very powerful story, and heartbreaking, because the opposite is that she didn’t run. Sadly, I can relate to this. My father took the path of least resistance with my step-mother, which created a false reality in the house that took years for my siblings and I to recover from. I hope you have come to a place of peace with this history. You are such a good writer, and I’m sure that helps.

    • Critique says:

      To be a child trapped between the abuse of a mentally ill mother and a weak father who abdicates his role as protector just to keep peace, must be horrendous. The last sentence wrapped it up perfectly for me. Your skillful writing made this feel horribly real!

  30. margi33 says:

    My husband and our friend, James, cursed and grunted. They stood, thigh-deep, in an icy creek revving the stuck snowmobile’s engine. One pushed the handles while the other strained to pull the grab handle on the ski. They would get this snowmobile out, I was sure, but then what?

    I surveyed our surroundings as they struggled. I didn’t like what I saw. We were hemmed in like bowling balls in a gutter, twenty miles from any road. Steep embankments flanked us on two sides and the creek meandering through the middle left us little room to maneuver. Pine tree branches, burdened with mid-winter loads of snow, threatened to consume us from above. And, the few rays of sun that poked through the forest were dwindling. Evening approached quickly.

    “Give it the onion!” James shouted as my husband mashed the gas and he pulled. The snowmobile freed and shot up like a porpoise surfacing. It landed crooked on the narrow path.

    Bent over huffing, my husband muttered, “well, it’s out, we better get moving though, not much light left.”

    “Yeah,” said James.

    “Moving?” I said.

    “Yeah, we’ll just keep following the creek. It will eventually lead us out.”

    I did not agree. We needed to find a spot and hunker down for the night, but I said nothing.

    We yanked the other two cold engines to life. My skin pricked with unease and my belly rolled with the first twinges of real fright. I didn’t see how we could ever get out of this creek bottom before dark, and the temperature seemed to be dropping several degrees per minute. Clear skies peeked from above — not a good sign, it would be extra cold tonight.

    Weaving in looping circles, we shot under prickling pine branches and over half-exposed logs. Back and forth we went, across the icy creek, soaking our legs at every crossing. An hour passed and the pitch black greeted us, like God had switched off the lights. Stars twinkled above but they were not beautiful, they sent fear deep into my heart. Shadows began to play tricks with our minds and our headlights were no better than a match in a cavern. We had to stop now.

    James and my husband scrambled to find dry wood to burn. I opened the gas tanks and dipped Ziplocs inside, trying to salvage drops of fuel to start a fire. Very little remained, much like my hope. Everything was corrupted by wetness. Even my neck gaiter was frozen into a solid, pricking block of ice despite my labored breath.

    We drenched the driest tree branches in fuel and lit them. They popped and sizzled in response and sent waves of warmth through us, but it was short-lived. The fuel burned off and the fire snuffed out to a dim waft of smoke. As the moon rose further into the sky, we ran out of fuel.

    James, hypothermic now and out of his mind, stripped himself of his under-layers and held a small lighter to them. I watched entranced though I knew it would be over for him soon. I turned away and rolled back into my tight ball, clinging to tiny tendrils of warmth.

    I always thought when it was my time I would fight, but I ceased to care anymore. At least from the feel of it, it would be a peaceful death. I blinked away my frozen tears and asked forgiveness from God and from my parents for not speaking my mind, for not hunkering down earlier when there would have been a fighting chance.

    And then, I slept.

    • snuzcook says:

      Well told, margi33. Your attention to detail made the scene come to life, and the idea of the MC having a bad feeling but not speaking up is a situation to which we can all relate. Thank Goodness, you did speak up, or in some other way this experience went a different direction and you are here to tell the story!

    • lionetravail says:

      I agree- this was very powerful, very well told, and very image heavy. I was totally there and shivering. Nicely done!

    • jmcody says:

      This was harrowing. I actually found myself gasping, not only because I knew that some part of this was real, but because of how you successfully placed me in the middle of this terrifying scene. You portrayed both the physical and emotional aspects of the story with equal skill and insight. This was a great piece of dramatic writing.

      • margi33 says:

        Thanks, jmcody. I am glad it came across as I hoped it would. And, yes, most of it was real. Though in real life it was a much longer story, but long story short we were rescued at 2am by search & rescue. At that point it was -15 degrees F. We ended up pulling over as I suggested to the 2 stubborn men ;), and eventually got a fire going (after much trial) — though we still only found 1 dry log, so our fire was not going to last forever. I certainly was able to get a real taste of death. As close as I want to get until I’m very old. Now that I have children, I like to think I am much more sensible. :)

    • Dennis says:

      You did a great job setting the scene. I wasn’t sure which way it was going to go for a lot of the story. #1 reason why I don’t like to live in snow country. Could only do it for two years. Nice writing.

    • Reaper says:

      I mostly just want to echo the comments on the imagery. It did make the temperature here drop for me. Simple and powerful and the turning of things that are normally comforting into terrifying was very well done.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a pretty intense story, margi. I’ve seen a lot of emotionally charged situations, but this one really puts everything in perspective.

      I’m glad real life worked out differently.

      • margi33 says:

        Thanks, Observer Tim. I guess, in hindsight, the battle to live does trump most things that can go right or wrong in our lives. Though everyone’s posts about pain, i.e. life’s struggle for happiness, at times feels worse (and lasts longer) than imminent death.

    • Critique says:

      I read your remarks and I’m glad the real life story ended well :)

      Tenting with friends several years ago we saw ominous black clouds approach across the lake – we turned on our radio to hear warnings of a tornado wind storm. My gut told me we should pack up and take cover. Instead I didn’t speak up and went along with the others – and other campers – who thought we should wait it out and see if it changed course. It didn’t. We huddled in our rocking van and watched powerful winds go through our campsite demolishing our brand new Costco tent – snapping the tent poles like toothpicks. Trees fell. The sound was terrifying. Fortunately everyone in the campsite survived. We were stranded in the campground for hours until the roads were cleared of felled trees. It’s interesting to wonder how things may have turned out differently – we could have driven right into the path of the unpredictable storm? Who knows.

      • Critique says:

        Sorry, I wrote too much about my experience :(
        I liked your descriptions about fear and the cold – they made me feel cold. Feel the growing fear. ‘Stars twinkled… they were not beautiful… they sent cold’.

        • margi33 says:

          No, it’s fun to trade & share stories. Guess that’s what this week’s prompt is all about in a way ;). Thanks for the comments, Critique. And yes, the life/death experiences always leave an indelible mark in the mind and are fun (in hindsight) to talk about.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      This was great. This reminds me somewhat of one of my favoriate books as a kid, Hatchet. Your vivid descriptions painted the story in my mind.

  31. LiveOakLea says:

    The night sweats started right on schedule, 2 a.m. I knew better than to try to get back to sleep and instead padded down the hall to the kitchen in my bare feet, disrobing from the flimsy negligee I’d spent a sizable percentage of my paycheck on earlier, yesterday. I held my fingers under the stream coming from the faucet until the water and my body temperature started to cool. If only the water could wash away the real reason I wasn’t able to sleep through to morning. My mind kept turning, churning around thoughts of my new boss, and how much I hated him. Sweat broke out on my skull again and I swiped away drips trickling onto my forehead.

    The scene from this morning – no, yesterday morning – and there was some comfort in recognizing the lengthening distance between now and that incident – swelled up and it was as if I lived it again. The look on his face as he told me they would need me to take on an assistant role under the marketing coordinator. The marketing coordinator! The woman who had three degrees and no idea how to compose a complete sentence. He continued, pleased at my discomfort, revealing that my current market analysis position was being eliminated. Of course, there would be a pay grade adjustment, but they were doing their best to retain me in this weakening economy.

    I’d been expecting my annual review and raise. And he knew it. He delivered his unwelcome message, and I went into a full blown hot flash with no relief to be found from which to avail myself, pinned in the tight fitting chair before his desk. My face set fire again at the recollection.

    And he didn’t choose a Friday to throw the speed bump with protruding tire busting nails in front of my career vehicle. Oh, no. Mr. Shitty Boss chose to do the dastardly deed on a Tuesday, certainly knowing that I’d used all my PTO on my trip to Hawaii with the girls from my book club last month and would be forced to come in the next day – today – in only five hours – and face the horrible scenario, moving my belongings from my office to the shared cubicle space in the center of the suite.

    I gulped down a glass of water, then another. Then headed to the bathroom, because my bladder control isn’t what it used to be.

    Tinkling, I had a brief vision of how I could, at the least, gain a reprieve from the desk moving embarrassment. I could see it clearly, in a flash, a solution to my predicament. And then the logistics of orchestrating it seemed to reveal itself to me … I could call in a bomb threat. It happens all the time. I heard on the news about one just last week on the north side.

    I climbed back into bed, set the alarm for 6:45, and fell blissfully and soundly asleep.

    • snuzcook says:

      Always fun to visualize sticking it to a boss who doesn’t appreciate you! I love the humor you insert (I choose to take it humorously) with the meno or pre-menopausal MC’s discomforts. The bomb threat might not change anything, but at least your MC can exert the impression of control or some small part of the situation.

      • LiveOakLea says:

        Thank you snuzcook. I’m glad you liked the humor. I think I took the easy route on this prompt after reading so many others’ heartfelt stories here, but I’m still a big chicken when it comes to putting myself ‘out there’. I have a feeling though that this board is a safe place to get started on that. :)

    • jmcody says:

      I think you’ve portrayed something that many baby boomers at the mercy of a shrinking economy at a time when they should have been coasting into a comfy retirement will relate to. The workforce is not kind to those who are beyond their twenties and thirties. I experienced this firsthand when I was faced with the daunting task of returning to work after spending some years at home with my kids. I did it, but it wasn’t easy.

      I remember being at the pinnacle of my career in my thirties and looking around and realizing that I was one of the older people in my department. I actually remember asking a friend “Where do they keep the forty, fifty and sixty year olds?”

      Bomb threat is an interesting idea, but you could also keep your eye out for an open elevator shaft… ;)

      • LiveOakLea says:

        Thanks jmcody. Aaaah, elevator shaft :) I’ll keep that idea in mind for our next ‘what if you made a different choice’ prompt. I’m almost 60 and certainly experiencing the uncomfortable notion of being too old for the workplace, but the incident in my story was more of a compilation of smaller discontents from bosses I’ve had over the years and maybe a dose of the ‘being too old’ fear percolating up to the surface from that. I haven’t been let go during a downsizing … yet. After giving it some more thought, my story was probably more about a different choice I would make *if* I was demoted at this stage in my career … because, knowing me, I would simply go to work and move my desk things :)

        • jmcody says:

          Ah, I think I read my own issues into your response! Maybe it was the hot flashed that made me focus on ageism in the workplace. But the truth is bad bosses are a career hazard at any stage of life. I’ve had several that made me wish for a handy elevator shaft. Luckily my current boss is probably the single most well-adjusted, nice and smart person I’ve ever worked for. Hope it lasts! :)

    • Reaper says:

      This one has a simple power that is just beautiful. Nicely done, and cutting in exactly the right way.

      • LiveOakLea says:

        Thank you Reaper. I’m so glad you liked my story. I took a writersdigest webinar a couple of weeks ago (excellent presentation) and one of the points that stuck with me from it was ‘writing lean’, so I’m attempting to do that more.

    • Dennis says:

      Nicely done. The things bosses do. Luckily I have worked with some great ones lately but I could totally relate to this.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Here is a person about to make a very bad decision; the world takes bomb threats very seriously. The tale is compelling and engaging; I found myself sympathizing with the MC quite a bit. I’ve had a few bad bosses in my time, though none as bad as this one…

      • LiveOakLea says:

        Thank you Observer Tim :) I hesitated about being perhaps glib in the MC’s choice to choose the bomb threat route … it’s extremely contrary to my real life means and methods. I think that’s one reason why I appreciate these prompts … they are very effective in getting me to go where I normally wouldn’t in my stories.

    • Critique says:

      As if a woman’s body in the throes of menopause isn’t stressful enough – to have to deal with a jackass boss who likes to make his employees squirm.

      It’s human to have visions of revenge – even if we would never follow through with them in real life – in such an unpleasant situation and one that is out of your control. However, that being said – it would be fun to see where your imagination could take you if you did pen a story about acting on the vengeful plan to stick it to your boss. That’s what makes writing fiction so much fun.

  32. Alscott says:

    The stoned drunk in the bathroom had a huge smile on his face.
    Looking into the mirror, the young man studied the cumulative effects of four Schlitz tall boys and half a dozen hits from the well used bong: he was not displeased. “Wyatt, things are going good for you man. You have good friends, you make decent money, you live in a cool loft on the lower east side. Things have been worse.” Liking the sound of the last statement, he repeated it, “Things have been a lot worse.”
    The smile fell off Wyatt’s face as the memories of the last year washed through his THC and alcohol numbed mind. Big dark brown curls framed his pale, angular features, cascading down to his wire hanger shoulders.
    “That woman is such a bitch,” he said, recalling the telephone conversation from earlier in the day with his baby mamma. “She has to let me see the kid…some day.” Wyatt looked directly into the reflected red slits, aiming at the pinpoint pupils. In a voice barely above a whisper, he said, “Loser…she called you a loser. Again.”
    The words hung in the air of the small bathroom like a strangers rank fart.
    Wyatt leaned over the sink and splashed water on his face. He grabbed the grubby towel hanging from the nail in the back of the door.
    “Fuck her…fuck all that shit. Just as well if I don’t see the kid. Makes my life a lot easier. If she won’t let me see her, then I won’t give her any money and the whole thing becomes not my problem. More money for me. And you know what else there buddy, the job don’t care if I flunked out of college, they just care if I do a good job,” the smiled returned, “and I do a really good job.”
    “Hey, Wyatt! You’re up man. I loaded another bowl for you and you’re behind a beer,” Maya called to him from the little party centered around a makeshift concrete block and scavenged lumber coffee table going on in the front of the loft.
    Wyatt did not answer.
    Maybe it was the weed or the alcohol or both, but the guy in the mirror morphed in to someone foreign to Wyatt. The more he looked at the inebriated, stoner, the less it felt like him. There were two people in the bathroom now…two people that were nothing alike.
    Shame…that’s what it was. Shame flowed out of Wyatt’s chest…shame mixed with fear.
    “Is this where we go man? Is this what you want for yourself? Do you want to be a loser, do you want everyone in your family to be mad at you? You had big dreams, you wanted to help people, to go places. You wanted to become a healer, a physician. Is that guy dead? Are you that guy looking at me now?”
    “Wyatt!” Maya bellowed,” You’re holding us up! Stop playing with it and come on out…I’ll hook you up later!”

    Years later, when he had lots of time, time alone in his small studio apartment and at his minimum wage job as a night watchman, he would recall that it was the laughter, the joyful happy noise of people in is house smoking his weed, drinking his beer and eating his food, that did him in.

    • LiveOakLea says:

      Alscott, great story and great story telling! I saw it all, the wire hanger shoulders, the eyes in the mirror, and felt the duality of self, the choices, the doubts the rationalizations. I loved your story!

    • snuzcook says:

      I love the image (no pun intended) of ‘There were two people in the bathroom now…two people that were nothing alike.’ You described the thought processes and what was going on the room on the other side of the door very realistically.
      The knowledge that this is a story of a decision made differently is comforting.

      • Alscott says:

        I tried to use words and images that matched the rawness…if that is a word…of the story. The is story challenging to read and to think about…but I think that is what makes it interesting.
        The story is a work of fiction, but…
        Wyatt came to know his daughter and they are very close. The daughter chose to live near Wyatt and has a very good life with a loving husband and two children of her own.Wyatt loves his granddaughters very much and spoils them rotten. They see each other every week. Wyatt went to medical school, became a surgeon and practices to this day.
        I hope this offers some closure.
        Thank you for your comments and insights.

    • jmcody says:

      Wyatt made not just one but a continual series of bad choices. It was ironic that his moment of clarity occurred while he was stoned and drunk and therefore incapable of heeding his own inner guidance. Your portrayal of his experience of himself as two different people as he observed himself in the bathroom mirror was fascinating and well-crafted.

    • Dennis says:

      A very raw story. I knew some friends in college like Wyatt and wonder where they are today. The hard part about this story is that it is true for a lot of people.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is, of course, the problem of allowing yourself to do what feels right without considering the broader consequences. This is a touching story of a primal moment in Wyatt’s life.

  33. rle says:

    Clay Thomas had fallen in love with Blaire Evans when they were both in third grade. The first time they’d ever spoken was when the class bully, Dane Peters had taken Clay’s lunch box and emptied it’s contents on the cafeteria floor. As the rest of the class laughed and pointed at Clay, it was Blaire who came to his assistance and helped gather it all back in after being strewn in several diffferent directions. Fighting hard to hold back tears, Clay looked at Blaire for the first time. Even at only eight years old, Clay was captivated by her warm smile and sapphire blue eyes. From that day forward, Blaire Evans became the object of Clay’s desire.

    As the weeks slowly churned into months, Clay and Blaire became friends. They shared everything that best friends do. This was good for Clay. He needed someone confident and charismatic to help bolster his own self confidence. Clay was often shy and awkward, but with Blaire at his side, he was outgoing and almost considered ‘cool’.

    As the months ground away into the years that carried them both into adolescence and beyond, changes began taking place that Clay didn’t entirely understand. Blaire had begun spending less time with Clay and more time with the ‘popular’ crowd. As they entered their junior year, Blaire had even started dating Dane Peters. Although, Clay let on like this was all fine by him, it really wasn’t; It wasn’t at all. He realized that in all those years since that day in third grade, Blaire had been his only true north. He’d never been in love before, but this had to be what it felt like. After all their years of friendship, Clay knew without a doubt, that he was insanely in love with Blaire Evans. He decided he had to let her know just how he felt.

    He rehearsed what he was going to say at least a million times and as he slowly walked down the street toward her house, he went over the lines yet again. He had no idea why he was so nervous. Over the years, he’d shared everything he was with Blaire, so why was this making him break out in a cold sweat?

    As he approached his destination, three shadowy figures appeared before him on the sidewalk. It was Dane Peters and two of his buddies from the football team. Clay didn’t know what was about to happen, but he knew it wasn’t going to be good.

    Everything after that moment was fuzzy. There was a struggle and blows were thrown. He faintly recalled being knocked to the ground and kicked repeatedly in the stomach and head. His life passed before him in a stream of light, then darkness fell.

    Many years later…

    Clay opened his eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling. He wasn’t the person he’d been before. The only thing that remained of Clay Thomas was the dry husk of who he’d been. For a brief moment, he had a coherent memory. He remembered how he’d gotten here. He felt a warm hand caress his temple. He looked up into her sapphire blue eyes and remembered why.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a truly sad story, rle. I’m glad to see it in this context, where it worked out for the better. I thought of several other comments, but every one of them cuts too deeply to share.

      You told a compelling story in a clear and heartfelt way. Bravo.

    • Reaper says:

      This is amazing and deep. All I can really say is I loved every word of it.

    • LiveOakLea says:

      rle, thank you for this touching story! The longing, the hesitancy … I remember those feelings. It felt very true and I was glad for the sweet ending. I have a feeling I’ll be rooting for this now older couple for quite a while :)

    • snuzcook says:

      rle, this story holds lots of places for me where a step otherwise taken might have created a different future. Your MC is exceptionally sympathetic, and the final scene is precious. I can’t help thinking this version of what might have been carried a heavy price.

    • margi33 says:

      A great, sad & sweet story, rle. I loved the nostalgic feel of it and it made me think back to my school days. Everyone can remember the confusion of those years that are run by rampant hormones, fitting in, and the quest for love (and understanding love). A nice portrayal. Good job.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Rle, I read the first few sentences, Trudy Fifield entered my mind. A beautiful brunette with soft blue eyes. We were both sophomores. I never dared to ask her out, because of her intense good looks. Everytime I saw her, I flip-flopped. Thank you for the memories, beautiful story.

    • jmcody says:

      What a price your MC paid for love! This was a tragic and touching tale of the bonds of friendship, the nature of true love, and the intersection between them. Poignant and well told, rle.

    • agnesjack says:

      I loved the full-circle of this story. Yet, I can’t help but think of the prompt, which would mean that the true ending was sadder. I had a knight in shining armor in grade school, who moved far away in the fifth grade, and yet, my life took many turns and I found true love again, so I hope that was the case for you.

    • Dennis says:

      Well written story and full of all the emtions I used to feel about girls. Especially the part about telling them how you feel. Sorry the real ending did not turn out the way the MC’s did.

    • Xevirus says:

      I can’t be the only one hoping the fellow had decided he couldn’t tell her the way that he felt and that they slowly parted ways. I like a good story, but I prefer a good life.

      • rle says:

        What I attempted this week was what jmcody did last week purely by accident, only I did it intentionally. I thought a lot about her post last week and at first, I felt like a real bonehead for not getting it, but then I started thinking about how our stories can often be interpreted in all together different ways, especially if certain elements are not overtly stated.

        In this tale, Clay suffered severe brain damage during his beating on the way to see Blaire and spent the remainder of his life in a nursing home. In the last pararaph, I tried to gently nudge you in that direction without actually coming right out and saying it. At the same time, it almost appeared that they had lived a happy life together.

        And yes agnesjack, I loved her to death in high school. We were great friends and confided in one another about everything. I never told her how I really felt though, but she knew. After school, we grew apart and each found our own way. During my first year of college I met the woman of my dreams who I now proudly call my wife. Together, we now operate our own business and are currently raising our three daughters. We will celebrate our twenty year anniversary this coming December. She’s always told me that everything hapens for a reason. I guess she’s right and every day I count my blessings.

        • agnesjack says:

          I’m happy for you, rle. Your anniversary isn’t December 10th, by any chance, because that would also have been my 20th wedding anniversary.

          • rle says:

            Actually it is agnesjack, December 10th 1994. I remember it was cold and snowy and we were both coming down with nasty colds. Spent our honeymoon in the Smokey mountains with a bottle of Nyquil and a box of Kleenex, Oh well, we made the best of it!

          • agnesjack says:

            That is just too much of a coincidence. We were married in NJ on Dec. 10th, 1994, also. It was cold and rainy, but we spent our honeymoon in New Orleans, which was perfect. We took a train, which made us feel like Nick and Nora of the old Thin Man movies. Hope you make up for the colds this year by doing something special.

        • Xevirus says:

          I must admit that I let the romantic side of me push aside the critical side of me, and though I knew as I was reading that something was not right, and though I thought based on your writing that things were bad, when I saw those sapphire blue eyes I let myself share the same dream as the main character and I believed she was there.

          Glad to know that she is.

    • Critique says:

      What a tragic story. I’m assuming Clay’s life ended as he knew it following the beating. Perhaps a nurse had sapphire eyes but he saw Blaire? Very well written.

  34. Artemis4421 says:

    [I'm not very pleased with this one...non-fiction writing that only has a little fiction has never been my strong point. I find fiction with added truth to be much easier. On the other hand, I've been blessed (or, depending on how you look at it, cursed) with not having to make any of these larger life decisions yet, probably due to the fact that I'm still very young. But anyways, this is based off of a History Day competition, which was a big game-changer for me. I hope you enjoy it even though I find it quite poorly written.]

    As the classroom lights came back on, the group of young sixth graders squinted and blinked a few times before erupting in excited whispers. The teacher stands up behind her desk and the students fall silent- well more or less; you know how eleven year olds get.

    “Like the video said, you can work in groups of up to four, or you can choose to compete by yourself. Just know that in sharing the work, you don’t have to do as much individually, but you do have to make sure that your partners are people that you can count on. Now, there are five more minutes left of class so I’ll let you go ahead and pick now, but choose wisely.” The teacher states before sitting back down to watch the possible hysteria begin.

    Kara nods to herself at the teacher’s statement. She had been one of only a few students to choose to do it last year, and she hadn’t had a very reliable partner. This year, she had two partners in mind that she knew would follow through. But as the teacher sits back down, she hears her name called from three different directions. She turns counterclockwise, trying to assess them all. Her eyes fall on not one person, but the only set of twins in the school, and they’re looking at her eagerly. Kara had been in class with Sarah and Sami before; they were smart, did their work, and they were people that Kara had always gotten along with, but had never had the opportunity to get close to. In that moment, she decides that they’re perfect for what she has in mind.

    Turning toward the source of the third voice- behind her- she declines the partnership offer as kindly as she can. It doesn’t appear to bother the other girl too much; she had always been the sort of person that does things better individually. Kara turns back to her partners and smiles.

    ***(three weeks later)***

    “If you have all kept up with citing your sources and doing all of the other work so far, then you have an option. You can either make a poster-board and turn it in now as a completed class project, or…you can continue working on it and take it to compete with other kids in the district of surrounding counties. There are judges, and they’ll judge your project, seeing if you can move on to the state competition, and so on. If you choose to do that and you would like more information, I’ll talk to you in a minute, but now I’d like you all to decide what you think you’re going to do. This doesn’t have to be your final decision, but please don’t keep going back and forth.” The teacher sits down in her chair after everyone has soaked in her words.

    Kara turns to her partners and shakes her head. “It’s up to you but I don’t think I’m interested this year.” Sarah and Sami simply nod their heads. After all, Kara had done it the year before; she knew what she was talking about.
    ___________________________________________________________________________________

    The three of them soon completed the class project, which got hung in the hallway. Not long after, they learned that a group that had competed moved on to state, then nationals. They were the first group in the county to do so and everyone talked very highly of them. The whole time, Kara kept thinking to herself, ‘That could’ve been us! Why didn’t I just decide to compete!’

    Of course nothing could be done. Whenever making life decisions now, Kara always looks back on this accident, reminding her to choose well, because the past is in the past.

    • swatchcat says:

      I don’t know what you’re talking about, this was good.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I really enjoyed this, Artemis. It’s a reminder that you don’t have to have a pile of experiences behind you in order to face an important decision. At the stage of life where this story occurs (sixth grade) the things that are important aren’t missing, just different. Thanks for opening my eyes just a little.

      Don’t knock your writing style, you did very well.

    • Reaper says:

      Other than a couple of tense changes I don’t see the not well written. Regret is regret, and every decision is big until something bigger knocks it out of there. When I was a teenager I thought my decision to get a job as soon as I was legally able was a big one, and I thought my decision to save that money to buy a leather biker jacket was the biggest decision I might ever make. Their have been bigger ones since, but they were still huge decisions because they shaped who I became.

      Take this for what it is, advice from someone the hippies said not to trust. But live your life, and think of your life like it matters now, and make those decisions like they are hugely important. Because it does, and they are. They shape you and avoid your biggest decision later on being whether or not to regret your youth.

    • snuzcook says:

      Artemis4421, your story is spot on for this prompt. I think a good way to define ‘wisdom’ is as the accumulated knowledge gained from recognizing which choices have been made well. The choice you describe in this story is a good example, and the lesson learned a valuable one. Well done.

    • Dennis says:

      Great job. It reminds me of the times I chose to do things alone thinking I coudn’t trust anyone to help. Not always the best choice. I like your lasty lines of remember tho choose wisely but not to dwell on the past.

    • jmcody says:

      So I am guessing you entered the history competition and got to the nationals, and you are writing about how you would have felt if you never even tried. :) The small decisions sometimes have the most lasting impact on a person’s character, especially in the lives of children. I think you did a good job telling about one of these small, character-forming moments.

      • Artemis4421 says:

        jmcody, spot on! The twins and I made it to Nationals, but never got past the first round, due to the fact that two of us froze up when harder questions were asked. Despite that let-down, it was a great experience, and I think about it a lot. Sometimes, you’ve just got to take that leap of faith, put in the effort, and you might get more than you bargained for…

    • Critique says:

      A wonderful story about a major decision you made at that time in your life. I think you’re being way too hard on yourself ;)

  35. don potter says:

    Dan Harvey, “Stretch” as most of us called him, was my next door neighbor and very best friend in the world. We did just about everything together for as long as I can remember.

    When we graduated from high school in ’66, we figured on hanging out for a few months before joining the Navy. We didn’t want to be drafted into the Army with this Vietnam thing going on.

    Over the summer Stretch and his girlfriend broke up. Then his mother was killed in a freak car accident. Poor guy was devastated. Next thing ya know, he ups and enlists in the Marines. He tried to talk me into joining too. It was a tough decision, because we were so close.

    “No way,” I said, “the Marines are always on the frontline.”

    It wasn’t long before Stretch was shipped off to ‘Nam’. I got a few short letters from him. He wrote ‘wish you were here’ in each one, which was his way of saying he was scared and alone.

    One day Stretch’s father came to our house. He was holding a telegram informing him his son was killed in action. I was sad; then I got good ‘n mad. I wanted to get the guys that killed Stretch. That afternoon I went to the Marine recruitment center and enlisted.

    When I arrived in Saigon after boot camp, I asked for and got an assignment in Stretch’s old unit. The Gunnery Sergeant greeted me with the kind of disdain reserved for someone new to the fray. “Don’t just stand there; give me your orders so I can figure out what to do with you.”

    Soon, I was trudging to the forward unit, where “Charlie” was. This is where I needed to be in order to avenge Stretch.

    “Over here, private,” a Sergeant said in a loud whisper from his foxhole position. “Get out on the flank and follow the platoon leader’s orders. You guys are going to move as a spread formation then draw in and surround a machine gun nest about a hundred yards straight ahead.”

    I scurried to my position. We advanced, slowly. Suddenly, a flurry of machine gun fire broke the night’s heavy silence. Everyone hit the ground. I could hear the cries of the wounded. Although I was not struck by bullets, it didn’t take long for me to realize I wet myself. If I hadn’t been so frightened, I would have been embarrassed.

    The platoon leader signaled to move on. Bullets flew again. The ones that hit me tore through my flesh and into my organs. I didn’t want to die here, but I was.

    “God, help me. Don’t let me die alone,” I pleaded as I fell to the ground.

    “I gotcha covered,” said a familiar voice.

    “Stretch is that you?”

    “You bet. Don’t be afraid, I’ll help you get through this; ‘cause Heaven knows we’re best friends forever.”

    PLEASE REMEMBER THOSE WHO DIED FOR OUR FREEDOM OVER THIS MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.

  36. Jay says:

    There were two option before me. I didn’t yet fully understand either option, but I knew I had to make a choice. Could I really forsake everything I’ve ever known about the world and trust this man or would it be better to stick to the things I’ve always known?

    I reached my hand forward and could see myself in the reflection of his dark sunglasses. My hand was centered directly between the two options, but I suddenly decided that I didn’t want this strange world he’d told me about. That just wasn’t me. I liked my simple life, and though I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge, I didn’t want to explore that knowledge by taking some unknown drug.

    Blue, I thought, blue is a safe color.

    I snatched the pill from the man’s hand and swallowed it… then darkness.

    * * *

    I woke with my face planted firmly on the keyboard of my computer. The keys had written my pattern of sleep upon the screen in a series of letters that appeared to be random nonsense, but it told a wicked story about the poor sleep I had. Apparently, I had a dream the night before but couldn’t remember it.

    After taking a sip of water from the cup on my desk, I went right back to doing what I did best. Writing code and selling illegal things to people.

    Mundane, mundane, mundane. I thought, I wish something interesting would happen.

  37. jhowe says:

    The sabers were rattling in Stormy Knight’s head as she sipped coffee in the White House Solarium on a sunny morning in June. President Ashtrom (Stormy) Knight’s mother had always told her that she could grow up to be president someday. God forbid it could actually happen. Stormy finished the coffee and stood up, wearily preparing herself for another day.

    About 650 miles away in a small town in West Michigan, I recalled that my mother had also told me I could grow up to be president someday. My decisions had led me in other directions and I don’t think my mother had any regrets that her son was not the commander in chief.

    Stormy’s mother though was not thrilled with the Secret Service detail that protected her from the threats that be. “They’re a pain in the ass Stormy,” she said.

    “I know mom,” Stormy said into a phone an agent had handed her. She couldn’t even carry her own damn cell phone.

    “I just want to go shopping with the girls,” her mother said. “We’re having lunch at Mario’s and we don’t want any gorilla suits tagging along.”

    Stormy looked at the ceiling, feeling the eyes on her as they waited to get back to the business at hand. “Can I get a few minutes?” she asked the room.

    Hesitantly, the room emptied, except for one agent. “You too Norm.” Her chief of security nodded and quietly closed the door behind him.

    “Mom, I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do about the Secret Service. They have a job to do.”

    “Who’s going to try to get to the president’s mother? Nobody gave a rip about me before.”

    “Mom, I don’t want to do this.”

    “What Stormy?”

    “I don’t want to be president. I have three years of this crap left and then I’ll be expected to run again.”

    “Then don’t run,” said her mother.

    “That’s not how it works. Nobody just decides not to run for a second term. It’s un-American.”

    “It’s my fault you know,” said her mother.

    “It’s not your fault. I made the decision, not you.”

    “But I always encouraged you. Hell, I’ve pointed you toward Pennsylvania Avenue since you were ten years old.”

    Stormy’s press secretary stuck his head in the door. “The Swedish ambassador is here Madam President.”

    “I have to go mom. I’ll have Norm reign in the heat just a little for your shopping day. They’ll be there but not too close.”

    Stormy pressed the end key and straightened her suit jacket. As the first woman president and a single mother the job did have a few perks. The Swedish ambassador was a real hunk.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is clever, jhowe. I love the way things turned out well for Stormy despite the tremendous hassles of being President. It’s nice to be able to choose between two good futures.

    • don potter says:

      A bit of honesty and a touch of irreverence made this a grest response to the prompt.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Your realism with your story is so on que, it makes the screen soar. I liked the inter action between Mother and daughter and understand the stress the Mother felt. How would you like to be married to a Madam President? It might be fun after all. Would the husband have to go through channels to ask the Madam President if she wanted to have a , ‘you know’ in the feathers? And what if she said no. Would it be spread around on Fox News?

        • swatchcat says:

          I’m sorry if I seem a little dense this evening. I know some are trying their hand at fiction for this prompt rather then the implied non-fiction assignment and yours is quite good but is this you choosing to become a writer rather then president and the entire story is just that, a story while your second paragraph is your personal break-in to attest to that career decision? It’s all good just the twist of that second paragraph tripped me up. Sorry

    • snuzcook says:

      This is a fun story, jhowe! Like swatchcat, I see a little double negative going on here: I’m going with the possibility that your narrator would have been president, if he had chosen to run. If that is the scenario, then perhaps this is a little backhanded dig on the woman who made it instead.
      Entertaining and creative take on the prompt, and I am choosing not to take it as a commentary on any future campaign aspirations I may have.

    • agnesjack says:

      jhowe, you took this in an unexpected direction that I found very entertaining, but also thought-provoking. The romantic idea of being president smashed head-on into the reality of being president. Nicely done.

    • jmcody says:

      Stormy’s Mom might be the ultimate overbearing, helicopter Mom. Serves her right about the Secret Service. I’m glad your mother made no such demands on you. Who would wish such a thing on their kid?

      This was a strangely fascinating “what if” scenario that you’ve created: Stormy Knight, Reluctant President.

      :)

    • Marc Ellis says:

      You made it seem like I was looking right into the White House and the intimate life of the President. A colorful depiction of the influence of mothers.

  38. moscoboy says:

    Saying Goodbye

    The hospital was cold for July; I should have worn a sweater. Dr. Punta came in and visited with my dad and me and then asked me out to the hall for a private word.

    “Your dad has six months to live. His heart is too damaged. He’s too old and too close to death to be put on a transplant list. I suggest you inform your family and make the most of the time you have together. The impending death heated my blood and made me want to cry.

    Back in to the room my dad could read my face. “I’m dying. How long do I have?”

    I chocked up and lied and said, “One year if you keep eating right and take your medications.”

    “Not bad,” said dad. “I suspected he say four to six months. Don’t tell your mom, let me do it in my own time otherwise she’ll have another nervous breakdown like the one she had when your brother got killed in Viet Nam.”

    “I’m eighty miles away, but I swear I’ll come see you every night after I get off work.”

    “You have a wife and two kids; they’ll need you a lot more than this old carcass. My spiritual life in order, I’m ready to go.”

    Daily one hundred sixty mile round trips to and from the hospital took its toll on my body. I felt like a walking zombie at work. Instead of taking a lunch, I would take my car to the local park and snooze for an hour.

    My dad’s condition changed for the better. He was taken out of ICU and placed in a single room with heart monitors hooked up to his chest. Maybe the old paratrooper who survived the Battle Of The Bulge would win a few hands from the reaper and out live his doctor’s prognosis.

    I had been making daily trips to the hospital to visit for three months and I was worn out.

    We watched Monday night football. I bet on the Packers and dad bet on the Cowboys. The cowpokes won by a field goal. I handed him his winnings, a Snickers bar. He put in his false teeth and began to eat the candy bar with relish and started talking about the depression and how he always craved a candy bar, but there was no money for luxuries. I fell asleep listening to my dad talk about the ‘hard times’.

    The night nurse woke me up at 3 a.m. “I’m sorry Mr. Towne, but your dad died of a heart attack. We tried waking you up, but you were in such a deep sleep the doctor asked me to give you a couple of hours rest before I woke you to give you the bad news.”

    I should have stayed awake. I still try to imagine what he said as I dozed off. I am haunted with the feeling that I was not strong enough to stand by my warrior dad.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Great story, moscoboy. I’m not sure which decision was reversed, but regardless it’s clear that the MC cared for both his father and his family a great deal. A thought-provoking dilemma. There is always a sense of tragedy in watching someone pass away.

      • moscoboy says:

        I believe he should’ve taken a break from his daily visits and maybe he would’ve been awake when his dad passed?

        • swatchcat says:

          Moscoboy, this story is very heartening. No one wants to loose a loved one and such decisions are so very hard. Faith tells me there are reasons for everything good and bad or inconvenient. Regret is a horrible thing but I can’t believe that whether this is a fictional or non-fictional story, that the spirit of the father would hold it against the child for falling asleep, especially after giving so much. This is a good story and full of feeling. Sidenote: there are some issues in the beginning with misplaced quotation marks making the read less fluent,

    • snuzcook says:

      For me, moscoboy, this story points to a common thought of family members when someone is near death: That they should be there for that final moment. I have read that in truth, terminally ill patients often ‘hold on’ because of the fact that a family member is present, and only let go when they are alone. So many people report that they left the room for just a moment, or had just left the hospital to go home when they got the call. It invites one to ponder whether, perhaps, that final good-bye moment is less important to the one leaving. And the left behind has already done all that was needed.

      • moscoboy says:

        Thanks for reading my semi-autobiographical story. I have read it both ways. A terminal patient wants to see their family for the last time and then depart and other stories mention that the good-bye moment is for the living and not for the dying. Either way I’m way over my head on this subject. I enjoyed your comments.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was heartbreaking, but if it is any solace, sometimes those who are on the threshold of death wait for their loved ones to leave before they let go. It happened with my father-in-law and my sister.

    • jmcody says:

      I also have witnessed several times where the dying person waits for the one moment when no one is around to make their exit. We held kind of a vigil around my dying mother-in-law’s bed, and she actually told us that we should all go home because we were keeping her there. She said she felt torn as long as we were around, no matter how much everyone told her it was okay to let go. I guess it’s something people need to do alone?

      I don’t know which part of your story was the opposite of what really happened. Maybe you took a break from the daily 160 mile round trips and felt guilty about it? I would say that you were there for your Dad as much as it was humanly possible to be. The Monday night football and the Snickers bar was priceless, and a wonderful memory for you to keep. I hope writing this helped you sort it all out and gain some kind of peace.

      • moscoboy says:

        Writing this helped me gain some peace, but I still wonder what I missed when I fell asleep. One of these days when we meet again I’ll find out. Thanks for you insightful comments.

    • Dennis says:

      Nice story and very heartfelt. That can’t be an easy decision of whether to be there as much as possible or have a few really good moments.

    • Critique says:

      I think the MC and his father were blessed to have such a loving bond. I can only think of one thing to add to the comments above – I agree with them.

  39. Adan Ramie says:

    This prompt was a great one for me today. The words just poured out, and I was left with a short story I’m proud of quite quickly. I was going to post my answer to the prompt here, but it was longer than expected (over 1000 words). I posted it instead to my blog, under the title “Sickness”. http://bit.ly/1op1tLV

    Thanks again for the great prompt!
    – Adan

  40. Jay says:

    “Do you think writers are as crazy and as dangerous as the characters in the stories they write?” I said, wondering if he would find it funny. Some once asked me the same question before he happened. It was a funny coincidence.

    I got impatient. “Do you find that funny?”

    Of course, I didn’t expect an answer. I’d tied him to a chair and taped his mouth shut with an entire roll of silver duct tape. The blood from his nose left dried striations on the tape’s surface, his sweat beaded on his face from terror. Well, that and it was hot as hell in the room. I felt like I could barely breathe the thick humid air. However, there was no better place to do what needed to be done than the shed in his own backyard.

    “Do you find it funny?” I asked again, but this time I expected an answer. I wanted him to tell me that he understood it was stupid for him to fuck with me. Too many people make decisions thinking that they won’t reap large consequences, but I was determined to teach this man a lesson.

    No answer.

    I raised my left hand over my right shoulder and then knuckled him in the face. He left out a soft tortured grunt, and a fresh trickle of blood painted the tape with the color of his betrayal. He chuffed with anger, the false audacity of a man who believed he’d done nothing wrong. That fool.

    When I sat on the chair in front of him, the metal let out a stressed moan, obviously exaggerating it’s agony over my weight. Granted, I was five-foot-seven and weighed one-fifty, which was mostly muscle, so the drama queen under my posterior had no right to complain. I immediately stood, grabbed the back of the chair, and threw it across the room. It clattered from a wall containing different types of chemicals and paints in aluminum cans, and it came to a rest on the floor.

    I looked at Evin, and I could feel the soft tissue at the sides of my head pulsate with each hammer of my darkened heart. He ducked his head, hunched his shoulders, and quaked.

    “You pussy. What did you expect? You did this. You made me do this.”

    He shook his head in disagreement, and I disagreed with his divergence from the truth. So, I knuckled him again. The pain in my hand was fierce and the bones in his face fractured a bit more, but it was worth it.

    “You know, if you’d not slept with her… if you’d not taken the last thing I loved away from me, you wouldn’t be here.” I said as I picked up a blade.

    His eyes widened.

    “Do you find it funny that I’m just as batshit crazy as my characters?” I said, and pushed blade into his neck. He coughed, wheezed, and gargled as he fought for air, and though it made me sick to my stomach, my heart fluttered with an unmatched satisfaction.

    —–

    Sorry, I went a little over the limit (510!) on this one. >.<

    • Observer Tim says:

      Remind me never to cross you, Jay. Your mind resides in some very dark places, even when presented in “reverse”. ;)

      • Jay says:

        Tim, I’ll admit, I have a very dark mind… but it’s not always as it appears. :D

        Seriously though, nothing to worry about! Did I really think to kill a man or is it that I tried to murder the memory? Was Evin even a man at all? Is it the representation of a batshit man fighting something in his own way? Who knows. The prompt didn’t specify how we should tell the story, whether metaphorical or literal. :)

        • Observer Tim says:

          That is true. What I find intriguing is the raw emotion behind both this story and your first one. My tendency is to study and analyze problems rather than attack them (physically or metaphorically). Deep emotion is fascinating to me, but more than a bit scary as well.

          But that’s just me.

    • Reaper says:

      Jay, I find myself wanting to make a themepark our of your mind and then take an extended vacation there. I have a feeling it would be like Dark Writer Disneyland.

      • Jay says:

        I’ve terrified myself on countless occasions, Reaper. Sometimes I have to put the “pen” down and go climbing for a few hours to really let the dark stuff settle after I’ve thoroughly shaken the snow-globe full of ash.

        “Descent into Darkness” one of my darkest stories yet, really got into the mind of a dark man whose delusions led him down a path that he believed everything he did to be right. I literally had to live in his mind for all 30,000 words, and when he made his decision at the end, it was so dark that my skin tightened and I had to get up and take a minute.

        … that might be why my literary, romance, and (unfortunately I’m one of those) erotic stories are so upbeat, haha. I really just need to take a break from that side of writing for a while, hide out in the land of “Disney” for a bit.

        • Reaper says:

          I don’t know if you saw this far back but I once mentioned that there are times that I finish writing something and don’t want to show it to anyone because based on it I don’t want to be friends with me anymore. So I get where you’re coming from. The art wants to be free and it should. It is hard though and sometimes we have to step away.

          I don’t think you should say unfortunately, erotic writing is a part of life. We should never be ashamed that we are not ashamed of sex. I mean we shouldn’t become fiends but there is not shame in writing about something that is so basic and part of us. I guess I just find it odd that it is more acceptable to write about dismembering people that it is to put on paper a biological act based in emotion and closeness. Damn it. The philosopher still won’t shut up. Though erotic Disney is something I think they break out Mortimer and send him to your house for. So don’t do that.

          • Jay says:

            I didn’t see that far back, but as I was telling Snuz, writers need to be able to go to the deep end to relaly liven up their characters. Even the flaws of the good guys can be dark and unsettling, because that just makes them human. The balance I guess is trying to ensure they remain likable even if a facet of them makes them a total bastard. ;)

            Yeah, I do find that odd. of all the grotesque things on paper and in movies, sex is still number one in offensive material. Create a game where you literally torture people? Okay, as long as you tone down the boobs. It’s astonishing.

    • jmcody says:

      Jay, I have to compliment you on your ability to terrify and to convey “batshit crazy” intensity. You write good villains. I guess somebody has to do it. ;)

      • Jay says:

        Heh, thanks jmcody. Now if I could only write good guys well enough… or maybe I should just hunker down and pen nothing but antiheroes? ;) It seemed to work well enough for the Dexter series, so it’s not entirely out of reach, I suppose.

    • Dennis says:

      Very intense and conveyed well the craziness of the MC. I think it actually takes a special talent to open to the dark side of life and express it.

      • Jay says:

        Thanks, Dennis. My father once told me I was a sick “individual” when I let him read a story I wrote back when I was barely a teenager (13 i think). It wasn’t my first endeavor into darkness, but it was my first really dark one. It was a story about a guy who was infatuated with a cheerleader at his school, and one night after a game he attacks her in the shower and proceeds to brutally torture her. It explored why he believed she wronged him by ignoring him all those times, his need to be noticed (resulting in the torture), and how she didn’t notice him because he wasn’t really there to be noticed. He only believed that he was putting himself out there, but he did nothing to make himself known to her.

        Come to think of it, my English teacher didn’t like the story for our free write assignment, either. Some nonsense about it being inappropriate. *shrug* I guess that’s debatable depending on whether you look between the lines or just stick to just the surface content.

  41. Kerry Charlton says:

    THE RIGHT CHOICE

    At the age of twenty one, married and in my last semester at the university, I turned from my Father’s advice. I left Miami after graduation and moved to Dallas with my expectant bride, leaving an easy path as a contractor in the golden age of South Florida real estate. What if I hadn’t?

    Fiction
    THE WRONG CHOICE.

    Brian Caldwell had won the first round. Defying his Father and marrying at the end of his junior year at the University Of Miami, only with the offer from his father-in-law to pay his tuition, did his father relent. Still, all the warning signs were there.

    An older brother, already in deep emotional stress from joining his father in business and a much older sister, stronger and more intelligent then either brother, carrying enomous resentment of her father, should have laid the ground work. Jan’s elopement at the age of nineteen and having to live in an attic apartment for three years while helping her husband complete three years of an engineering degree at Villanova University in Philadelhia, was difficult to bear.

    And then the diamond in Brian’s life, his Mother, having to watch her struggle against her husband’s domination for thirty five years, should have sealed Brian’s decision. Did he miss the clues or were they pushed aside for the lust for power?

    The battle was on. William Caldwell, fifty seven, a successful builder in Miami, had the power to charm a bird from a tree and manipulate any who chose to cross his path and still have time for golf. Was he afraid of anything? Perhaps not, no one won with him.

    William’s relationship with his wife and three children had been a disaster. Was he remorseful? Not enough to change him. What finally did? Seeing his younger son, Brian, slowly revolve into a mirror of himself. William didn’t like what he saw. How could his son become so ruthless, so intense to drive for the mighty dollar and ignore his religious beliefs.?

    And then William realized what he had created, a monster that couldn’t be stopped. He did the only thing he could think of. He prayed for the first time since he was a child. Did prayer help? No one would ever know. Why? Because Brian had the one thing his father missed out on, the one spark that made a difference, a conscience. Brian chose the right path.

    Epilogue:

    A lifetime in so few words. I thought it impossible to write this story in this manner but I see it before my eyes. What have I learned in the last year? How to write tight regardless of the pain involved. Thank you everyone for your help, guidence anf friendship. God bless all of you.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a very imaginative account, Kerry. I can clearly see both paths, and their effects on your main character (at least one of whom is you). It’s especially hard when the choice you have to focus on is the one where you don’t turn out the way you want to.

      It sounds like there may be some unresolved issues there (or maybe they were resolved outside the scope of the prompt). Either way you showed courage in allowing this part of your life to shine through.

      God has blessed you with the wisdom to make the right choices; may he continue to do so.

    • don potter says:

      Wow. Thanks for sharing this story with us.

    • Reaper says:

      Kerry, this is just heart breaking. The tight writing is definitely there. I think there are two ways to write about pain. The longer one helps you get past it, the shorter one helps you share it. The way you wrote this made me feel that pain, a stabbing echo of what you were feeling on a spiritual level. There are very few words I can offer here, and the ones I have are stolen from Spider Robinson.

      Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased. I don’t think anyone here would have you be anyone but who you are. The road you traveled to get there was obviously sometimes rocky, but that it made you who you are means from this angle at least, it was an amazing road.

    • margi33 says:

      Thanks Kerry for sharing. This was nicely written and full of emotion.

    • snuzcook says:

      Well done, Kerry! It reminds me of a lesson that may seem like a stretch here: Jacob Marley (Dickens). There is a point in life when we can see far enough back down the road to recognize the patterns of consequences that our choices have made, but it is often at a time when we feel most helpless to implement change.

    • agnesjack says:

      God bless you, Kerry, for sharing this with us. The road we take in life can be rocky and impossible, but it can also be paved with wonder and joy. I think, when we have trials that we overcome, we are fuller human beings. You are a beautifully full human being and I have been inspired and touched by your stories on this forum.

    • jmcody says:

      I second what AJ said. You wouldn’t be who you are today without your father’s influence.

      Sometimes we learn more from our parents’ example of what not to do than from anything they consciously tried to teach us. It sounds like you learned plenty, Kerry. I am a firm believer that our traumas and trials in life are more character-defining than any successes or rewards we may attain, and that blessings do come in the form of difficulties. But obviously I don’t need to tell you that!

      Thanks for so openly sharing your heart with this forum. It is stunning to witness.

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for sharing. It has taken me a long time to understand my relationship with my father. It was a more sublte thing with us both being introverts but was still painful. Nothing like writing about it to help let go.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thanks Dennis. I’m till working this out. My sister is ten years older and she still has problems, even more severe them mine. I tell her to get over it, “When you do,” she answers.

    • Critique says:

      This was tightly written, loaded with pain and it told a much bigger story. Thank you Kerry!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you, Critique. I could have written 5000 and still not finished, but your support and those of the forum is well appreciated. Next week, I’ll be back on track.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      Thanks for sharing this story. A prayer in faith always helps even if we don’t see it.

  42. tz2328 says:

    (Yesterday, after writing my first story, it looked as though the story failed to upload. I didn’t save a copy, and wasn’t looking forward to a rewrite, so I came up with this second scenario. Please indulge this second attempt at the prompt. I feel like this one stretches me more creatively)

    I’ve seen that penny before. Everything started to spin as I stared down at the lone penny in the otherwise empty room. I couldn’t take my eyes off that penny. I knew this was a deja vu moment. The universe was giving me another chance.

    Tucker was not my type, but I was lonely and he was a challenge. 47 and still single, or so I thought. He was actually 60 to my 41. 2 years later we’re engaged and searching for the perfect house to buy – together. Tucker, Julie (my doe-eyed child from a previous blunder), and I would nestle in Marina Del Ray. Tuck and I were hell bent on flipping real estate together, so our first home purchase had to be a fast money maker.

    Yes, I’d seen some disturbing aspects of Tuck’s persona, which I quickly fluffed off. ‘Everybody has faults,’ and ‘no one is perfect’, as my Pollyannic psyche would constantly remind me.

    And now, this penny staring at me; its copper tentacles reaching out, grasping my head, shaking loose the hypnotic trance from a seriously disturbed relationship. ‘WAKE UP. WAKE UP,’ the gleaming coin seemed to shriek. ‘Pay attention now, and get out while you still can.’

    I’ve been here before, I just know I have. My knees buckled and I clung to consciousness. The importance of this event were not lost on my nearly catatonic brain. Unseen forces would either applaud or shake their heads in disgust depending on my actions once I came around.

    Neither Tucker nor the real estate agent realized what happened to me in that room. We continued with the walk-through. I really liked this house. It needed a lot of work. A 3 bedroom ranch with an in-ground pool; 2 desirable traits for a quick resale.

    I know what he’s going to say, I thought as we were almost out the front door. He’s going to say exactly what he’s said on the last umpteen houses we’ve looked at in the last few months. ‘This isn’t the right one,’ he’ll mutter.

    Immediately Pollyanna jumped on my shoulder, wagging her prim and proper finger at me: “You don’t know what he’ll say this time, now do you? Don’t be judgmental. Give him a chance. This time it’s different. He’ll surprise you.”

    This time was different. I had the penny this time.

    “Well, what do you think?” Our growingly impatient broker was trying his best to make a sale.

    I looked at Tucker. No surprises there.

    “Could you excuse us for a few moments, please? Tucker and I need to talk.”

    I steared Tuck back to the room with the penny. “Well? What about this one, Tuck?”

    Always calm and cool, Tucker looked at me, and I knew, I KNEW, and I was so glad I chose this room to have it out with him.

    “This isn’t the right one, Cammie.”

    “OK, Tuck.”

    I turned and went for the front door. Tuck was right behind me, resting his protective arm over my shoulder; his confidence rested in my perfect obedience to his will.

    “I want to make an offer, Jim.” I could feel Tucker’s eyes boring a hole in to the side of my skull. His grip on my shoulder tightened menacingly.

    Jim said we could fill out the forms in the kitchen, and started back toward the house. Tucker was not pleased.

    “What are you doing, Cammie?”

    “This house might not be the right one for you, but it’s the right one for me.”

    With Pollyanna nowhere in sight, I didn’t give Tucker his usual due. I left him with one immediate goal in my mind: making sure the penny went with the house.

    • tz2328 says:

      I don’t see an editing feature. Sorry for the spelling and grammar errors. tk

    • Observer Tim says:

      Nicely done, tz. It’s definitely a counterpoint to your first prompt, and another engaging tale. The places where life branches are myriad and surprising.

      Don’t sweat the typos; the lack of ability to edit all but forces them to hide until the “post” key is hit.

    • margi33 says:

      I enjoyed this tz. I’m not sure I fully got the penny part, but the writing was engaging and interesting and I liked the emotions that lurked there – the sense of being dominated in a relationship – and perhaps making that mistake more than once. The line, “… his confidence rested in my perfect obedience to his will,” summed the relationship up very well.

      • tz2328 says:

        Thank you, Margi.
        In real life I was looking at a house with my fiancée. I saw a penny on the floor and almost passed out. It was deja vu. I had been there before. Unfortunately, I ignored the universe and stayed with “Tucker.” :)
        Thanks for your comments.

    • Reaper says:

      I like the different take on the prompt. Realizing it was a second chance made this very powerful. Nicely done.

    • snuzcook says:

      I love the use of the penny, tz2328! A nice way to preview and then seal the choice your MC has made. Nice take on the prompt!

    • Dennis says:

      A very nice story. I’m glad you posted this one as well.

    • jmcody says:

      Loved the use of the penny! The penny was the point at which all your underlying knowledge, insight and instinct about this toxic relationship suddenly converged, or crystallized. I admire your MCs courage at standing her ground even with that domineering, threatening hand squeezing her shoulder.

      Actually, I kind of believe the penny was indeed a message to you. Not sure from where or who, but maybe you know. This was a very interesting story that left an impression on me. I will have to read your other response now!

  43. Hasslefoot says:

    Welcome to my world………

    I run as fast as my legs can carry me. This wasn’t new to me, the game of survival. It was my life…

    I fear he can hear the pounding of my heart. Running next to me is the girl, head swinging back and forth searching in fear. “Where is he?” Razor grass rip’s through our flesh, leaving trails of blood.

    Damn, he can follow that!

    Much older than me, I calm the horrified girl. I know if she is caught, the humiliation she will suffer, will be far worse than mine. I put my finger over her lips, “shhhh”, “Climb in here and be quiet!”

    I ran through the swamp yelling, “over here you bastard!”

    The merciless beast takes the bait and charges. I have no weapon, it does.

    There are many predators in the swamp to be concerned about, I could feel their glowing eyes, sizing me up. A small grin comes over my face, hoping a gator would snatch the beast! Pull him under the water in a death spin!

    I wonder what chemical is running through the beast blood to create such rage.
    Soon I will be in my hiding place, soon he will give up chase and scream at the defeat.

    I hear the girl scream, then a gun shot! He found her!

    If it is a fatal shot, he will die! I will break all the rules of society! I will be judged by all that have no concept of this type of life. They will hate me, and I won’t care!

    I listen as her cries fade with distance; he is dragging her!

    I run, I have to know her fate. I approach the wooden shack called home.

    I see the woman treat the girl’s wound. The beast grab’s me from behind, “Gotcha fucker!”

    The girl screams, but I don’t. He injects “evil fluid’ into his body again, and then ‘roarrrs,’ flexing his muscles. I prepare my mind for what is next. I will not show emotion, or pain, that’s what the beast thrives on. Let the beating begin…

    But, fear sets in, and I plea, “ Daddy, I’m sorry! Pleeeeease stop!”

    Before I pass out, my mother pull’s my sister from the ground, “stop whining,” it’s only a scratch on your leg!

    The prompt: 45 years ago…..The ten year old boy enters his parents bed room in the middle of the night with gamp’s pistol.

    “I promise you, this will be more than a scratch and OHH, it’ s because I love you!”

    No more pain……

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a very dark life, Hasslefoot. As someone who grew up in the suburbs with an arguably normal family it is totally alien. You painted the emotional confusion of the situation very well, and the sense of disorientation just makes it more real.

    • margi33 says:

      Wow. Very powerful, Hasslefoot. I hope for your sake that this is more fiction than nonfiction, though I have a feeling it is not. The short, snappy sentences and clear confusion did lend itself well to the actions and emotions you were portraying, as did the setting and the use of the “beast” as the antagonist. Nice writing.

    • agnesjack says:

      Wow. Oh my. The pursuing beast awas so well played, and the last line was a killer (no pun intended at all). I am sorry if you experienced this type of abuse, but I am glad that you survived it.

    • Dennis says:

      Very intense and powerful. I felt this could be any number of situations, and was sad that it turned out to be a family situation. Well written.

    • jmcody says:

      I am confused about which parts were reality and which were the opposite of what happened, but all of it is terrible, and I’m sorry for whatever parts of this are true.

      This reminds me of something I’ve read where an abusive parent is portrayed as a literal monster, but I can’t think of what it is. I also thought of “This Boy’s Life.”

      Your writing was very absorbing and emotional, and it carried me right along to the kind of conclusion I was fearing.

  44. Violet Hayes says:

    FINDING YOURSELF

    Somebody once told me that summer is not about fun. It is not about taking your free time and squandering it while you can, or even doing something productive, like getting a job or filling out college applications. Summer was not about beach parties and vacations or stupid days spent watching hours of Supernatural so you can finally catch up to whatever season went on while school was in session.

    Summer was about finding yourself.

    I don’t remember where I heard that, whether I read it in a book or online. Maybe my granddaddy said it, God, I don’t know. My memory was never that good. I just knew the words, learned them by heart, because it sounded beautiful to me, the girl who seemed to only fit into whatever mold presented itself and was the easiest one to deal with.

    “Summer was about finding yourself.”

    I told myself this again as I looked down, watching my toes curl over the edge of the stone and the river rushing by beneath me. I was mesmerized by the speed, by the danger. I was terrified.

    Someone squeezed my hand, and I glanced to the side to see my sister, Zoë, grinning nervously at me. Behind her, their hands all linked together, were the rest of our friends—Brooke, Dani, Whitney. They were all smiling, too. How did they not feel this terror? I wanted to climb back over the railing and watch instead of participate.

    “Are you ready?” Zoë asked me. “’Cause I’m not.”

    “I don’t wanna,” I managed. I must’ve looked white as a sheet.

    “Don’t be such a freaking baby,” Dani shouted over Zoë’s head. “Just jump!”

    “On the count of ten,” Brooke added. “Or three, actually, so you can’t talk yourself out of it!”

    Three seconds. I had three seconds to make a choice—did I jerk my hand free or did I let myself get dragged down into the water, so far below? I mean, it wouldn’t kill me, but…

    “One!” Whitney yelled, starting the countdown.

    “W-Wait—” I tried, but Dani continued over me, “Two!”

    I felt panic clawing its way up into my head. One second left, did I want to jump? No, I didn’t. But…

    And I realized what was wrong. This wasn’t panic. This was anticipation. This was adrenaline. I mistook it for panic because that was what my mold would feel—

    “Three!” I screamed, and, defying my mold, I threw myself off first, pulling Zoë, then all the others, off after me. We were a cacophony of squeals and shrieks until we hit the water. When I surfaced, gasping for air, the screams had changed to raucous, breathless laughter, and Zoë’s hand, still firmly gripping mine somehow, pulled me into the celebratory group hug that had started while I was still underwater.

    “You did it!” she squealed happily in my ear.

    Because summer was about finding myself.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I really enjoyed this story, Violet. You really captured the thrill and fear of youth in a tight package. I hope your reality turned out just as enjoyable in the end…

    • margi33 says:

      This was clearly written and easy to read. I felt the MC’s emotions and experienced the setting without any trouble Though the conflict was not dire it pulled me along and made me eager to see what the ending would be. At the point where you said: “… I mean, it wouldn’t kill me, but…” I almost think you could have jerked our chains a little by saying, what if it killed me, or what if it were too shallow, or that rock jutted out a little close for my liking. Just my morbidity talking :) Nice job overall though.

    • Reaper says:

      First, I must say catching up on Supernatural is very, very important. Until the end of season five, then you can stop because well, they should have. Though if you insisted watching the Ben Edlund episodes is why I continued through season seven. Now, with that PSA out of the way. :)

      I loved this. The story was gripping and beautiful. As strange as this may seem coming from me I loved the it isn’t going to kill me line. Because I am reading these stories two ways, one for the story and two for the other story. That one line speaks to regret, to realization that you knew this decision was important not because it was life or death, but because it was defining. I hope if the girl in this story is who you want to be that you found another path to her, because life is too short for regrets. Thank you for sharing this moment.

    • agnesjack says:

      Wonderful. How many times do we choose not to “jump” because of fear.

    • Dennis says:

      Ah, all of those little defining moments that lead to bigger defining moments. I felt the realness of MC’s feelings could definitely identify, having felt those in my past. Nice job.

    • jmcody says:

      This was very insightful about the nature of fear. I totally understood what you said about mistaking anticipation (adrenaline) for fear, because I have labored under that confusion myself. Some people are junkies for that feeling; for me it is sometimes too much. But once you get the distinction, life gets a little easier.

      My favorite part was your description of your MC as “…the girl who seemed to only fit into whatever mold presented itself and was the easiest one to deal with” — a trap that many fall into.

      Nice job, with a lot of insight packed into a small space.

  45. Cceynowa says:

    A Holy Temple

    Southern Baptists are a funny group. I remember our community rodeo when I was 12; long before I knew the ins-and-outs of the faith, the announcer joked that all the Baptists should raise their beers in a salute to the hometown bull riders. Quincy, the lady that took us girls to church camp in the summer, was near me. I remember she laughed with her eldest daughter and both raised their cold beers in jesting fun. Come Sunday though, it was hell fire and brimstone to save their souls.

    Eight years later:

    “Mom, I know. I get it. But I’m 20 years old, plenty old enough to decide what to do with my body.”

    “Yes, but your dad doesn’t like it. I’m not for it. It is forever you know.”

    “Technically, no. Modern science is a grand thing.”

    “What about Tyler? His daddy isn’t going to like his son going out with a girl with a tattoo. And on your shoulder! How will that look in a wedding dress?”

    “I don’t plan to marry. And Tyler and I haven’t even gone on a date yet. We’ve barely spoken in two years.”

    “Hush that nonsense. I thought you were going out tonight? Your daddy was worried about you going to college. All these bad ideas. Why don’t you come home this weekend and we’ll talk about it more. No rash decisions. Talk to Pastor Roberts about it, dad has a deacon meeting with him after church this Sunday.”

    “Mom…”

    “Your body is a temple Rachel. Treat it right.”

    “Okay. I got to go. Talk to you later.”

    We hung up our three-hundred mile connection. Three-hundred miles, a short Texas drive, and I still wasn’t far from my hometown. I took a moment to pat myself on the back: I was away. No sitting on Sunny’s Convenient Store porch sippin’ beer for this gal with generations of high school graduates. I was on the fast track for a college education in Psychology. I could see the long couch in my future office, overlooking the Great Lakes. Life was full of possibilities. I had broken free from Hobbston, population 759.

    I called Deb, my friend and chief college conspirator, “I think I’m going to cancel tonight…. Yeah…. No, I’m still going to do it… yup, a dragonfly… No…. Think I’ll call Tyler instead…. Yeah. I’ll let you know how it goes. See you in class.”

    At 7:00 that night Tyler Roberts, the only other person from my graduating class to attend college, picked me up for dinner and a movie. Eight months later we were engaged. I married him the weekend Deb graduated with her Bachelors of Science.

    Two years later, I am feeding TJ sweet peas from a jar.

    I looked fabulous in my wedding dress, but I can’t remember the last time I felt beautiful.

    Word Count: 477

    • tz2328 says:

      I enjoyed reading your story.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Your story is straightforward and to the point, and paints a beautiful picture of the choice faced and its results. I know people who would call either branch of this story a success, which goes to show that the goal is to be who you’re meant to be.

      Great job, Cceynowa.

      • Cceynowa says:

        Thank you. This one was hard for me to write, since the real issue was my faith and my “small-town-values.” I blatantly defied my parents’ wishes, questioned some core religious teachings, and ended up marrying a man with almost as many tats as I have. (Tattoos are addicting, do not get one if you do not have one!) Still holding on to hope for Dad’s forgiveness for letting the preacher’s son get away though. :-)

    • margi33 says:

      You did a good job of portraying your small town life and your big decision in so few words. And you were able to make it obvious that given your upbringing, a tattoo was a big decision. The opening paragraph summarized your town very well: the contrast between religion & small town ethics vs. a bull-riding oriented, partying sort of setting. A fun read, nice job.

    • Reaper says:

      This story got me thinking some random and deep thoughts so I think it definitely did its job. I mentioned on another comment that sometimes it is the decisions that look easy from the outside that are the most profound, and I think you expressed that well here. That this was a source of a hard decision for you speaks very deeply of your commitment to both your love of your family and your dedication to being the person you want to be. So thank you for sharing this very personal moment.

      Dads are funny creatures. They are hard on us because they want what’s best for us, but they don’t often realize what is. From your story and your comment I’m going to bet that even if you married the preacher’s son your father still wouldn’t have thought he was good enough for you, just the best option of all the bad ones out there, but you make it pretty obvious that he loves you. Knowing that is really the best we can hope for.

    • snuzcook says:

      This is a well-told story, Cceynowa, and the title was great! It is a choice so many of us with traditional families face to one degree or another. In this story, I am presuming your MC got married and left college because she was pregnant, and TJ two years later is eating Gerber toddler food. She seems too strong to have made this choice for any other reason. And as others have commented, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, just one of those forks in the road that will lead to a very different future.

    • agnesjack says:

      I got something different form this. It appears that the MC did what her father wanted. Married Tyler and didn’t get the tattoo. The last line is intriguing because of the ambiguity. I looked fabulous, but didn’t feel beautiful. Very interesting story.

    • Dennis says:

      Great story. Breaking small town values must be a tough thing. I’m glad you were able to do what felt right for you.

    • jmcody says:

      I also got kind of a sadness from this story, and the feeling that it had not ended well for the MC, so I’m glad this is opposites day! The last line really drove it home for me.

      This was very well written and raises some interesting issues, as many of the others already said. Nice job.

    • Critique says:

      I liked the title and your first sentence hooked me into the story.

      I’m thinking Rachel didn’t graduate, didn’t get the tattoo, married the home town boy, looked fabulous in her wedding dress but, didn’t feel beautiful :(

    • Cceynowa says:

      Thank you all for the comments! I have thought about this story a lot since posting it last week. I wrote it pretty quickly, and posted before I over-analyzed it. :) Having said that, as other have in comments on replys to this week’s prompt, life should be about being true to oneself. I find personal irony in this since it is my father who taught me that “you are the only one you have to lay down at night with, so can you sleep with the decisions you made during the day?”

      I have lived by those words of advise, and feel the MC in “A Holy Temple” let the opinions of others decide her values, and she holds a hidden sadness behind a seemingly happy life. I too know people who would think either outcome was the best for a young woman (college graduation or a family). It just goes to show another parents’ proverbs, “you never know what goes on behind the screen door.”

  46. Observer Tim says:

    Another grave. This one says “Daniel T. Carey, 1963-2008.” There’s a little heart underneath; no need to ask what killed him. I survived that heart attack, mostly because I was with others at the time. I make a note: Number 274, cardiac. He’s the hundred and twenty-first of those.

    They say that big decisions change your life; my experience is that the big decisions come with so much force and baggage that no major change is possible. No, it’s the little decisions that’ll get you. Like a quarter-century ago, when I pulled the job notice for a lab assistant off the board rather than a nice stable administrative job. It was a moment’s impulse, but it led me here.

    I’m testing the Stepwalker device; it’s a funky little machine about the size of a cell phone that allows you to travel to parallel universes. For some reason it keeps dropping me out at or near the location of that world’s version of me. What’s a little scary is how many gravestones I’ve found. Heart attack, infection, blood sugar, neurodegeneration. All medical, except for the two that had been shot and the one I won’t talk about. Life is precious.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’d found about a half-dozen versions that were still alive. They all followed the same pattern – living alone or with friends, a job that had lots of stress but little or no intellectual stimulation, minding a thousand health issues. It was more than a little depressing.

    There’s still no sign of the kid that invented this thing. That’s right, a kid. He’s a twelve year old autistic savant named Billy, and he’s wandering too. Looking for a new father because his died. My official duty is to find traces of him. Checking on my own fate is a side project.

    Number 85, one of the live ones, got me started on the journal. He reminded me of my younger days, when I fancied I’d become a writer. About a year ago he’d taken up writing again after a twenty-five year absence. Mostly light stories; he said it helped him deal with the crushing weight of real life. Now that I’m doing it too I can say he’s right.

    I sit down cross-legged on my grave and wait for the sensors to determine whether Billy came through here. After a few seconds I’m reminded why cross-legged is a stupid idea and stretch my feet out. This is the boring part, but it allows me to take some time and work on my next story.

    I think it’s time for another story with Tim, Steve, and Jenny. I like those characters. It’s an old prompt from Writers’ Digest: “Three Wishes”, the first one they ever posted. And so here I sit, exploring infinite universes while exploring infinite universes. I decide to focus on Steve and the words start to flow.

    Steve stared longingly sheepishly at Yasmina, the Mediteranian [check sp] beauty sitting across the table …

    • Observer Tim says:

      Easter eggs:

      1. Billy comes from “The Letter in the Alley” (Oct 1, 2013).
      2. “Three Wishes” is there; it’s on the last page of the blog.
      3. Steve and the gang were created for “The Reaction” (Aug 13, 2013) and have showed up a number of times, most recently last week.

    • Cceynowa says:

      I enjoyed this twist on the prompt. I like how you took the concept of choices and show many (200+) can happen from one impulsive choice. Very nicely written. Thank you.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Thanks, Cceynowa. While doing my introspection for this prompt, I realized that every decision that made a real change in my life built gradually from the butterfly effect. By the time I realized I was making a decision it had already been made.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          This observation on decisions you have made here is one of the ideas I’ve carried through life for a long time. Major decisions are made in bits and pieces. I can look back through life and see the pattern. First issues the mind reacts to are usually accurate. Our minds fortify those first thoughs, allowing small decisions to build the case slowly like the butterfly revolves.

          Come down to San Antonio, Tim. We need to talk.

    • Jay says:

      Yeah, I like that shit. (insert overused internet meme here)

      Seriously, though. Well done, Tim!

    • don potter says:

      Beautifully written and nicely tied together.

    • margi33 says:

      A very interesting and deep response to the prompt, Tim. This must have been very difficult to write and make sense of. I applaud that. Of course, so much thought compacted into a small parcel can be a bit confusing, but I think this could be expanded into a fantastic novel. It’s an intriguing idea. Nice job.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Thanks, Margi. Actually it was fairly easy to write for me, because the phrases “I can’t believe you lived through that” and “you’re lucky that wasn’t more serious” have been my companions for most of my life. If you stare mortality in the face enough times, you start to notice the colour of his eyes. Seeing it through the eyes of my religion is the only way I can really make sense of it.

        As for the SF aspect, I firmly believe that a much more interesting world is hiding behind that choice we never made, peeking out and giggling like a small child at our foolishness for being so mundane.

    • Reaper says:

      Nicely written. I love the idea of exploring infinite universes while exploring infinite universes. The doublt meaning of that hit me as very profound, partially because you present it so effortlessly that it seems the only possible conclusion for your story.

    • snuzcook says:

      Another Dagwood sandwich of a story, O.Tim–well packed and satisfying. And I recognize some of the elements you have revealed in prior prompts and comments from your personal experiences with breaking hearts. There is an ultimately healing and hopeful quality to this story, and I suspect that Billy and the Stepwalker will be rattling around in my mental file cabinet for a long time.

    • agnesjack says:

      This is life, Tim, with all its variations and possibilities and choices. I loved the metaphysical place where you took this.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Thanks Nancy, that was sort of what I was trying to convey. This story is where I live every day. It’s a constant source of joy, terror, and wonder, and part of why I took the “Observer” nom de plume.

        Welcome to my world; feel free to look around and see the sights. No flash photography please. :)

    • Dennis says:

      Very interesting and different take. I think making decisions to keep moving forward and not get stale are the most important, and interesting.

    • Critique says:

      An interesting story that opens up more boxes in my mind :)

    • jmcody says:

      I don’t even know what to say except that I really, really loved this one. From the parallel universe to the autistic savant who invented the stepwalker, to the image of you sitting on your own grave and writing, this was both fascinating and poignant.

      Having faced down my own mortality at a relatively young age I can relate to the feeling of observing and imagining your own life without you in it. It is an eerie and kind of mind-bending experience, and you clearly have been there and back.

      I am going to have to go back and read some of the old prompts as soon as I catch up on this one.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Thanks, jmcody. The first incident where I was told I was lucky to be alive happened when I was 5 or 6, and there have been a lot more since then. I’d have to say it’s skewed my perception of reality. I’m happy people keep saying it because it means I’m still around to hear it.

        If you’re digging through old prompts, I actually wrote Dan’s story and posted it (under my name) to the Three Wishes prompt. OCD strikes again! ;)

    • RuthieShev says:

      I liked this. It gave me so much to think about and kept me entertained at the same time. Nicely done.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      This piece was creative. I like how each parallel personality seemed to mimic each other. I also like how you tied in characters from other pieces. I wonder if you continued the story, will the MC start getting involved with his parallel personalities? Will he try to change fate and find that all continue down the same path, or will he find the one mechanism to change their destiny that works for all of them to some degree? The stories this week bleed between reality and fiction to such a degree that it makes it difficult to comment.

      • Observer Tim says:

        Thanks, Marc. My underlying assumption is that, regardless of any decisions made, the MC (a fictional me) remains himself. That means lives will converge in many ways despite the differences.

        I debated writing a story where Dan meets a parallel self whose decision ends up costing lives. The argument would be brutal, since both of them know each other’s weak spots. It invariably led to opening up my own psyche far more than I feel comfortable doing, though.

  47. Reaper says:

    Tea With the White Rabbit

    Emily,

    By the time you read this I will be gone.

    The philosopher poet Axl Rose once said – It’s all about choices.

    The bard penned – To thine own self be true.

    My father told me – Don’t take charity.

    Two point five of them were right.

    This is not your fault. They say there are maybe two or three important decisions in every life. I had four.

    I can smell that green goop that keeps you young fading to oblivion so you went to bed an hour ago. The silence in the house is roaring through my skull, almost masking the cold feel of well oiled steel as my fingertips caress your birthday present to me. I sit and I think about decisions.

    The path we take is like a spiderweb, each strand leading to the next. My web led to a happy life. The first big decision came the year after high school. I had to decide if I would take my father’s advice and make my own way or do what was expected.

    I filled out the paperwork and got a full ride. Smart kid like me? Of course I did. So I went to university. That was a hard decision for me. I left my friends behind and dove into studying psychology. Nothing else mattered until I met the boys. Changing my focus to tech wasn’t a hard decision. Dropping out of college when the dot com boom made me a millionaire before I could legally drink wasn’t a hard decision either. They were just strands on the web.

    Then I met you. I remember when you told me that story about the guy who asked to kiss you, and dropped the hint. When you told me if I ever wanted to kiss a girl that I just should. When I did, that was a hard decision but it led me to everything I have.

    A beautiful wife, dog, mansion in Redmond, two point five kids. Yes I know, I am counting the miscarriage as a half child and that will make you sad. However you will have everything I leave when I step out on you. The third decision was the mistress, more beautiful than my wife but unable to drive me like you do. I told you it was just the one time, but you would have left if I was honest. I know I can’t make you but I would appreciate if you took care of her. She has suffered for loving me just as you have.

    I am happy, but I’m empty. There is a hollow place inside that is only alive when we go to concerts. Sometimes when we go to the theater, but never at the movies. I can’t fill it. I can’t live without what belongs in it. The papers are in the lower right desk drawer. I hope you can forgive me. This will probably wake you. Don’t tell the kids how it ended for me.

    Love always,
    Theodore Lion

    • Observer Tim says:

      Wow, Reaper, you never disappoint. I’ve been to that spot too, and I know the urge for personal closure (lovely euphemism) can be strong. This reads like a heartfelt final letter, though that would be scant consolation to the recipient.

      Now I’ll find out the “tough decision” was going to university. ;)

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Theodore Lion, Teddy Roosevelt. One term only, the second was his for the asking, but he said no. He had enough in life. The parallel to your story along with the white rabbit is marvelous. There is so much here, love, regret, unfinished, sadness of character, realization of personal weekness [aka mistress] and yet caring not only for wife but also his mistress.

        The beautiful part is reading a letter that has to be true. Quite remarkable, how much you have grown here. The reveal of emotion that you write in your stories, dwarfs this very forum.

        • Reaper says:

          Thank you Kerry. Your comments are as well and powerfully written as your stories. You know you open my eyes to things I never saw in my stories. You also open me to things I never saw in myself. I did not know the reference to Roosevelt as the lion, I had to go look it up, though I will go a bit more into the name a few comments down. That I paralleled such an amazing man with this story makes me proud. Thank you for your always kind words.

      • don potter says:

        A permanent solution to a temporary problem. Sometimes you can have so much you forget to be grateful.

        • Reaper says:

          Thank you Don. I agree, and I think that sometimes people forget to be grateful because they gained everything they have been told they should want and forgotten to seek those things their hearts actually crave.

      • Reaper says:

        The tough decision was not taking charity. I never went to college because my father did say not to take charity. Getting a scholarship wasn’t what he meant but in my mind it was the same thing. Well I should say I dropped out of community college after two semesters because I got pissed off and quit my job and couldn’t afford to keep going. It was the first adult decision I made and has echoed through the rest of my life. When I thought about that decision though… I believe that every decision we make forms who we are and I wouldn’t change even the bad ones. If I had followed a different path I would be a different person, and that person would probably be happy. However this person feels that life would be shallow and empty because my art would be missing.

    • margi33 says:

      Wow, Reaper, this was really heartfelt and creative. I loved that the letter was a suicide note – my morbid side applauded. I don’t know how much of this is based on your life (I would have never gotten the Teddy Roosevelt allusion if not for Kerry), but it is such a powerful pouring of emotions from the MC, that as a reader it pulled me along with ease. I loved that the gun given in the beginning as a present from his wife was the tool he used for his demise. Anyway, the opening was brilliance too. Nicely done!

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you Margi33. Suicide is a hot button topic for me, I know it is for everyone but after last week it just felt right. I was in Seattle at the right time for this to happen, I just wasn’t in college. Emily is the name of the first girl I ever really felt strongly for from afar, and the you should just kiss her thing is true, but it was another woman, many years later. At the time I didn’t like myself much, and didn’t understand why other people did. Sadly for me it was six months after said woman had gotten back together with her ex and moved to England that another female friend pointed out that the statement was probably a hint. Those are really the only two decisions that mirror my life. Oh, that and the statement from my father and that I was at a concert where Axl Rose made a big point about how life is all about choices.

    • snuzcook says:

      This quiet little letter says so much and invites the reader to grasp so much–would the empty place in a his core have been filled if he had not had things come so easily to him? Was the point five in the three statements of wisdom “Don’t take”? There are layers of metaphor here that I am sure I am not grasping, but what I do recognize is that it is a superbly conceived and constructed work of prose. It is a profound response to this week’s prompt, and touches the place that is still raw from last week’s offerings.
      A great example of your considerable talent, Reaper. Bravo.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you snuzcook. The point five to me was the father’s advice and my misinterpretation of it. One major thing for me was if I had made that other choice what would have happened to my writing? I would be lost without it as the person I am now. The echoes of that make me think that a life without my art would be empty and meaningless. Though I might have made more of myself by the standards of society, because my life is pretty messy right now, I don’t think I would be as happy. There are some things we need, and if we have them we can survive everything else. That’s the view I am taking. Thank you again, this one was pretty personal for me so your compliments are a wonderful balm to the spirit.

    • Xevirus says:

      I cannot but agree with the others. It’s as dense as it is breezy and a great read.

    • agnesjack says:

      The dictates of the prompt makes me enormously curious about this story, but I’ll let that go.

      You really know how to paint a picture with your words, Reaper. This prompt actually scared me a little because of how difficult it would be for everyone to accommodate the requirements. I think you’ve written something that has its own life. Perhaps you chose a metaphor rather than a real life experience, and I guess that’s where Theodore Lion comes in. The only solace in this story is that the opposite truth would be the choice to live on.

      • Reaper says:

        agnesjack, you made me smile. There is a lot I don’t share on the internet but here is a pretty safe place. I’ve never been that close. We all get depressed but it was ingrained in me at a very early age that suicide is the coward’s way out. More wisdom from my father who taught me a lot. The choice was college, and ultimately to live life on my own terms no matter how hard that got, or gets for me. The choice to live instead of just surviving.

        Thank you for that. I am glad I can paint a picture. I am also happy when a story takes on a life of its own. There is a metaphor of living a life absent of what you really love, and not knowing what it is you’re missing. I have put that in other responses but you are right that there is a metaphor here, but it came from me imagining what my life would be if I had made the conventional choices and been successful. If I had done what society told me to instead of what my heart tells me I was put here for. So I guess I already said it, the choice was live or survive and I chose to live even though that is often more painful.

        • agnesjack says:

          I’ve always felt that suicide was a selfish choice — it hoists your pain onto those who love you. Choosing to live rather than survive is a bold and brave choice. I say bravo to that.

    • jmcody says:

      To me, the spiderweb was a brilliant metaphor for the trap that success can turn into, and how we unwittingly construct these traps ourselves, thread by thread. Theodore Lion did not make any obviously bad choices, but his choices spun a web of material, external success that cut him off from him own center, and from the source of all life and creativity. It was interesting that he found that concert music could touch that empty part of him in a way that less visceral and raw forms of entertainment couldn’t. (Funny we both had concerts going on in our prompt responses this week..)

      I have to wonder about a wife that “drives” him, goes to bed with goop on her face, and gives him a gun for a present. I’m thinking she was one of his more unfortunate choices, although he seemed to need her in some way.

      I also have to wonder about the allusion to Teddy Roosevelt. Was that intentional? Knowing you, it was.

      There is so much here. I could go on, but I’ll just say I am very glad this is NOT the way your life turned out, Reaper! :)

      • Reaper says:

        Oh jmcody, you have an insight into my writing that always impresses me. The synchronicity of concerts is interesting. Thank you for catching the spiderweb metaphor. To me they are things of beauty, intricate, perfect, artistic, and ephemeral. But only if you are the spider weaving it. So the trap of his own making is very true.

        The idea of the wife was she was the reason he only had four tough choices, because he chose a woman that made his life easy, too easy. Because she made all the hard choices for him and he let her he never found the thing that was missing at his core, because without tough choices I believe we become shallow people that do not seek greatness. Instead he sought comfort. So she was another part of the trap he made for himself. Also a good catch on the more visceral arts, as what was missing, the only thing, was my writing I was pointing to arts that speak to me no matter what, and the ones that are fun but not as raw.

        Okay, so I promised further up to talk about this. The reference was not intentional but I’m glad it is there. Back when I was young and stupid and convinced I was so very scary I fell in love with this girl. Not either of the ones I mentioned in other responses. She was best friends with this girl dating a friend of mine and somehow they got onto a conversation of if I was scary and mean or not. The girl I was in love with insisted that I was not, that I was a giant teddy bear. The other insisted that I was, scary, mean, with a soft spot for people I cared about but a scary beast. Eventually they compromised on me being both and I was saddled with the nickname teddybeast for so long I actually grew to enjoy it. When I first thought of writing professionally that name came back to me and I thought of using the pen name Theodore Lion because of it. I’ve since given that up but decided since I wasn’t ready to throw out my real name that was a good one for the MC of this story.

    • LiveOakLea says:

      Reaper, I’m going to re-read your story for the enjoyment of it, but first I wanted to comment on my admiration of your ability here to paint, stroke by stroke, word by word, the whole of a man’s life with its beginning, middle and ending fully exposed, and the way you allow the paint to run off the page so that we see too all the other people who will be soon drawn into the consequences of his final choice. Thank you!

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you. Both for the statement of rereading for enjoyment and your beautiful words. To inspire such a comparison tells me I have done my job here.

    • RuthieShev says:

      I loved the idea of using a letter. Very creative.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I enjoyed this. The depth of Axl Rose, the philosopher, is profound. This piece clearly demonstrates the importance of decisions as well as the reasons we make these choices and the ends of which we aim to achieve.

  48. carolemt87 says:

    The Procedure

    In 1972, my swollen breasts told me I was pregnant. That night in the car, in the snowstorm, coming back from Ann Arbor. We screwed like grunting animals in the front seat of David’s Maverick. God, how I loved his ass. Beautiful, round like an juicy ripe apple.

    What am I supposed to do now? There’s no way I’m having this kid. Abortions are easy or so my girlfriends tell me. Just go in, pay your money and the “little problem” goes away. I’m all for that. I’m a waitress in a truck stop. I can barely take care of myself. Besides, I don’t want to have kids, not ever. Just not my cup of tea, you know.
    That night, David comes to my tiny apartment.

    “You remember the night in the snowstorm after we visited Lisa in the hospital? Well, I’m pregnant.”

    “Oh geez, oh crap. What do you want to do?”

    “I’m not ready for kids. I may never be. I’d like to get an abortion, but you’re gonna have to pay for some of it.”

    “How much does it cost?”

    “How should I know?! I’ve never had to deal with this before.”

    Sitting on the Naugahyde couch, David reached over to stroke my arm. I could feel the heat from his hand. Warmth spread through my thighs.

    “I’ll check with Sherri. She’s been through this once.”

    “You want me to take you?”

    “I don’t know if I want you there.”

    “That’s fair.”

    I wish I could be mad at him. I wish I could scream and yell and beat his face into the sidewalk. But he’s got my number big time. I wonder if he ever knew that.
    Two weeks later, Sherri takes me to my appointment at the “facility.” Pea green tiles walls, bright fluorescent lights, thick aroma of disinfectant. I wait in the lobby, thumb through dog-eared magazines next to a black girl.

    “Hey, this your first time? I’m Charisse,” the black girl says, “I’ve had this done before. You got any questions?”

    “Does it hurt? A lot?” I swallow hard.

    “No, not too much.”
    The nurse calls my name. I thank Charisse, her pink sneakers dangling off the side of the chair. The nurse hands me a cup with a lid.

    “Pee in it. Put the lid back on and bring it to me.”

    “Why?”

    “We need to make sure that you are pregnant before we start the procedure.”

    I do what she tells me. Pregnancy confirmed—damn it.
    Charisse and I share an exam table while we wait for the doctor.

    “How old are you?” I ask.

    “I was only fourteen the first time, but I’m seventeen now. How old are you?”

    “Nineteen last month.”

    “You sure you don’t want to keep this child? You’re plenty old enough to take care of a baby.”

    “No, I’m just not the mothering type.”

    “Suit yourself. I can tell you one thing for sure. This is the last time I’m doing this. From now on, I’m having all my babies, man or no man.”

    “The doctor’s ready for you now, Cathy.”

    I follow the nurse down the hall to the cold procedure room. Cold metal table, stirrups, steel instruments arranged neatly on a tray, glass jars and rubber tubes hanging near the bed.
    I get on the table, spread eagle, feet in the stirrups. The doctor says something to the nurse. She hands him a metal instrument and some forceps.

    “Now I’m going to place this in your cervix and then we’ll start the procedure. ”

    “Wait. I’m not sure this is what I want to do after all. I don’t want an abortion.”

    “Your choice, young lady. A lot of women change their minds. You’re certainly not the first.”

    I’m glad I changed my mind. Her name is Angela.

    Carol Carpenter (over the word limit–sorry)

    • Observer Tim says:

      Once again, this story goes in an intense direction when read backwards. I hope it’s not written in regret.

      From a technical standpoint, you did an excellent job telling the story and exploring the issues around it through dialogue. It all seems very real (and maybe it is to some point), and that can be hard to capture in print. Great work, Carol. Don’t sweat the word limit too much.

      • carolemt87 says:

        Thanks Tim, and yes, there are some truths within the text. I choose not to reveal them. I really enjoyed writing this and it came together quickly. I think I will expand it without the word constraints and see where it goes. I may also write the other side of the story. Should be a good challenge for me.

    • Xevirus says:

      This really didn’t feel over the word limit: though the ending seemed rushed, everything leading up to it flowed so well I was surprised that it was over when it was. The brief interaction between boyfriend and girlfriend interested me in their relationship, and the question of whether he ever knew that he had her number really did get me wondering what had happened between the two. Nice capturing of interest.

    • Critique says:

      Carol, I didn’t notice the word limit because I was hooked reading. It felt real. Well done.
      The ending could have been expanded a bit more – forget the word count ;)

  49. Frozen Alone says:

    It was a nagging feeling in the bottom of Rae’s gut as she cleaned her room lazily. She couldn’t place what the feeling was but it was unsettling.

    I wonder when Ry will be home.

    It was any other Sunday but it had been nagging Rae that she had helped her brother get in touch with his ex-girlfriend. She wanted to see him again and tell him that he would find someone better further on in life.

    Sick of the feeling and wanting to hear her brother’s voice, Rae dialed the number she knew by heart. The rings seemed to draw out forever before she heard the click of the line being picked up.

    “Hey Rae,” came the choked reply. She could hear the tears in his voice. “What’s up my little Turbo?”

    “I just wanted to talk to you. I’m not feeling too good. I thought hearing your voice would settle me down,” she admitted. “Are you okay Ryan?”

    “Huh? Oh yeah, I’m fine. Listen I’ll come over right now. I already have my stuff with me. Meet me out front, okay? I’ll take you for an Icee,” he said with a chuckle. “That sound all right?”

    “Sounds great.”

    “You know Rae, I have to thank you for something,” Ryan said as they perched together on the dock fishing hours with her first beer sitting next to her celebrating her twenty first birthday. Rae looked over at him curiously. “Back when you were ten and you called because you didn’t feel right, you saved my life?”

    “How’s that?” Rae countered as she sipped her beer.

    “I was chambering a bullet when you called,” Ryan confessed. Rae’s head snapped up and she turned to her brother with watering eyes. “I was going to end my life but then you called and reminded me that I had something to live for.”

    “Y-You were…?”

    “Yeah.” The sadness dripped from his voice like the tears on Rae’s face. “But you saved me so thank you.”

    Rae threw her arms around him startling him as she started sobbing into his shoulder. Ryan smiled softly and held her close neither of them caring that their fishing poles had fallen into the canal.

    “I can’t imagine living without you,” Rae whispered in his ear between sobs. “It would be worse than death.”

    “I’d never leave you Rae. You’d drive Bobby insane without me and that’s no fair. Both of us have to drive him crazy or neither of us,” he joked. “Now stop crying Rae. We have to rescue our fishing poles before the snapping turtle gets them.” Ryan motioned a few yards away where the snapping turtle was lumbering toward the poles. “Ladies first.”

    “Thanks,” she drawled before jumping in. Her brother’s smile was the last thing she saw before she turned and kicked off the embankment to rescue their poles.

  50. tz2328 says:

    I remember sitting in my chair, staring out the front window at nothing. The pros and cons list I worked furiously on hours ago was hidden by my favorite G-clef screen saver. Self love victored over religious fervor.

    I suppose the voice that picked fame and fortune over sacred duty knew what I could not fathom. How could I know that the girls from high school I walked home with on that lovely fall afternoon were part of a cult? If I had made the other choice, would I still be knocking on doors, handing out pamphlets, and preaching the world would soon come to an end?

    17 and naive. Maybe I could incorporate that into the new album I’m working on. Perhaps Janis faced a similar crossroad. Note to self: set lunch date with Janis.

    Ronetta looked nothing like my school chum from back in the day. She looked like one of my old sofa cushions when the vacuum cleaner salesman sucked all its air out. Oh, the thought of me having cankles and wobbling like a weeble gave me brain freeze.

    35 years have gone by. What if I had chosen her religion? Which of those years, if any, would have me fleeing the cult? After all these years, Ronetta would barely speak to me. I know they shun people who don’t believe as they do. What kind of a life would I have had inside and out of those religous prison walls? Would my kids hate me or love me? OMG, what if I’d raised them as door-knockers? There’s no way my guys would treat me like the dead if I left…or would they?

    Giving myself a good slap on the cheek, I quickly replace those what ifs with all that I have; all that I am. I loved the Fame school, trips to The Village, strolls in Central Park, getting high and making love…all chronicled in my first Top 40 song. My first stint on Broadway, performing before thousands. How could I not hear the applause night after night, and seeing standing ovation after standing ovation? And now another Grammy nomination. I really am blessed.

    Nothing could stop that 17 year old from attaining her dreams, and no amount of introspection would change the outcome of the last 3 decades. I love being free.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Such are the dreams of the everyday housewife … (I’m not making assumptions here, it’s a famous song from another era and refers to the mundane life of that era.)

      I love the way the story is presented in retrospect. It’s a reminder of the hopes and dreams of youth being fulfilled (or, given the reversed nature of this prompt, not). I hope that real life has brought you joy in its own way.

      • tz2328 says:

        Nice song reference!
        Two facts and one historical inaccuracy (let’s see who finds that goof first).
        In real life, at 17 I was forced (in my own mind) to choose between a religion (the cult) and attending The Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC.
        Fact #2: I love being free.
        Thanks for your comments. :)

        • Observer Tim says:

          I assume you mean Janis. Of course Janis Ian (“At Seventeen”) is not so famous, but she is still alive.

          P.S. “At Seventeen” is IMO one of the five most depressing songs ever written (along with MacArthur’s Park, Mad World, Cat’s Cradle, and Eleanor Rigby). No order is specified.

          • tz2328 says:

            No, it’s not Janis. I was almost asleep last night when I realized my goof. Let’s see if anyone else will spot it, or if anyone cares ;)

            The 70’s introspection songs are much better than the 60’s death songs, imo. More complicated arrangements, too. :)

            And now, thanks to you, I can’t get MacArthur’s Park out of my head!

          • tz2328 says:

            Tim,
            35 years ago there were no screensavers!

            Have a great weekend.

    • agnesjack says:

      This was a fascinating response to the prompt. Of course, my first thought was Janis Joplin (being of that generation), but since she died more than 35 years ago, it couldn’t be her. At first, it appeared your MC chose the cult (knocking on doors), but at the end it seemed that she chose her music career. Ronetta apparently is an old high school friend from the cult. Yet, your response to Tim, indicated that the real choice was music. I’m confused, although I liked this story very much.

  51. Augie says:

    Never spoke about Vietnam, until the day he handed me his tattered , ‘Freddie the Frog’ patch.

    “Son, don’t join the military for me.”

    I looked at the broken man, “I need to experience what changed you dad, and maybe find a way to change it.”

    Lowering his head, he mumbled, “it wasn’t the war son, it was a bad decision that haunts me. We came across an enemy prison camp. My gunner said, “these are ‘South Viet. prisoners’, not ours. Keep moving Frog Men!” Later, Marines liberated the camp, finding no prisoners left alive.”

    I’ve never seen my father cry…”we could of………

    Thirty Six months later, some place……..

    Thinking faster than a projectile traveling down its helical groves, I brief the five men..

    “Men, we are here to observe, and provide Intel, do not engage!

    Our airlift is scheduled to arrive in 48 hours. Keep your ghillie’s low, Is that clear?”

    “eyyyeeyy”

    Scorp looks through his thermal imager, “Damn, there’s a lot of bad guys down there!”
    I crawl to his spot, “let me see Scorp.”
    I raise my thermal imaging device, seeing the ‘ghostly red glows’ of life through the walls.
    “Looks like they have three prisoners in one room. It appears to be a man, woman, and child”
    Another image walks in, two bright flashes, bodies slowly collapse.
    Scorp shouts, “muzzle flash! Shots fired”
    I watch the child’s image crawl over the two fading ones, “Yea, I know”
    I reached into my pocket, grasping ‘Freddie’
    I stood, “MEN, I will be Court-Martialed for this decision. Probably locked up and kicked out. I don’t care!
    They have a child prisoner, I suspect…. just lost it’s parents. I’m going in!
    My orders are, you men go to the LZ and wait the 48. You wont be held responsible for my actions.”

    48 hours later……….

    The Chinook pilot spots a circle of SEALS laying on the ground overlapping each other., weapons pointed 360.
    “What the..”
    The injured SEALS barely stand one at a time, uncovering a frightened little girl. (SEALS grave)
    After loading the child, they managed to board the aircraft.
    The pilot shouts over the ‘woopping’ of the rotors, “ What the hell happened down there?”
    He looks at the girl. “You know I cant take her on board!”
    Enemy ground fire broke the moment….
    Once airborne, I drag my wounded leg to the cockpit.

    “Sir”

    The pilot shouts, “Dammit,what the hell am I supposed to do with her!
    I pull out ‘Freddie’ and explain, as our Chinook approaches USS ‘Connie’.
    Shhhhk.. USS Constellation…. permission to land….I have six wounded SEALS and one national.
    Shhhhhk. What? We cannot take a national on-board and you know that!
    The pilot looks at me and winks, “Connie, I’m afraid I have to preform an emergency landing, Losing hydraulic pressure to main seal, ….took on ground fire…OVER…”

    Some time later……

    Location…. Naval hospital, San Diego

    Admiral, ‘Ole Wrinkle Face’, paces back and forth behind six beds…..
    “You have broken protocol, you have…….you have…in addition you have………
    OWF stops at my bed, pulls out a ‘Freddie’ from his pocket and whispers, “good job”

    The Admiral turned and shook the hand of a man I barely recognize, “dad?”
    Clean shaven, standing proud in ‘Full Dress’ uniform, dad says to the Admiral, “Lets get a beer and talk about the good-ole-days Jack!”
    OWF looks back at me and responds, “Yeaaa, are you sure your ready to raise ANOTHER kid?”

    I heard my father laugh….for the first time… Mission accomplished.

    • Augie says:

      ‘Jenny’ Currently enlisted in the USAF..

    • Reaper says:

      I am curios what a Freddie is. I could probably look it up but don’t want homeland security knocking on my door if it is some super secret black ops thing.

      • Augie says:

        Freddie the frog is the patch that the special forces (Navy Frogman) wore in Vietnam. (now Navy SEAL’s) You can look it up, its actually cute! Today SEAL’s normally get a tattoo of Freddie on their ankle.

    • Observer Tim says:

      This is a wonderful story, Augie. You left me wondering whether the decision is personal or an example of how the father and son chose differently. It works on a number of levels. Great job!

      I’ve always had great admiration for those who put themselves in the line of fire to protect their country. It doesn’t matter whether or not you spend time under fire, the simple act of stepping up and being willing takes immense courage.

      • Augie says:

        Thank you Observer Tim.. I didn’t want to open the gates to my center. My father handed me his patch when I was 9. He passed away a very broken man soon after. My MC attempted to change things and see his father again, only happy. Although, not perfect with the prompt, I tried… Happy Memorial day to all…

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Augie, thank you for the story. When I was a kid I saw the movie made on the Frog Men. Being dropped on enemy shores by PT boats. Assignment, disable mines and boobie traps before our troops landed.

          Even as a kid, I thought at the time, these guys had to be the very best of the very best to volunteer . The SEALS have an unforgettable heritage.

    • snuzcook says:

      Tears, Augie. Well done.

    • agnesjack says:

      After reading the responses I see that this is about your dad. This was a very moving story, Augie, which made me think of the collection of short stories about a platoon in Vietnam, “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien. I am of the Vietnam generation. I knew a few who went and they did come back changed forever.

      Perhaps I’m reading something into your story that was not intentional, but I see the rescue of the child as a metaphor for the rescue of the nine-year old boy who lost his dad. This was honest and right from the gut.

      • Augie says:

        Thank you, I do not like this week’s prompt. It brings out everything I am supposed to keep in, in order to ‘command’ the many that rely on me. You hit a bulls eye at the range if the internet. Have a great Memorial day. My wife ‘adores’ Tim O’Brien ‘s writing and has ordered me ‘The things they carried” thanks to your response.

        • Augie says:

          I am a small voice, from the children of America, serving our nation. They will all get a free copy of ‘ Things they carried’ from me. Thanks again…
          agnesjack.

          • agnesjack says:

            I’m glad. It is an amazing book. Thank you for your service, especially today, Memorial Day, Augie.

  52. lionetravail says:

    “There But For The Grace”

    “You sank my battleship!” I called out.

    I got dirty looks from everyone except my friend Pat, aka Pasquale, who simply groaned and said: “Damn, I should have put him in the center of my aircraft carrier!”

    We’d been playing a version of “Class Bingo”, where classmates who ask a question during a lecture get marked off on a scorecard you kept. Battleship was just a much more boss game than Bingo.

    Our Professor du jour seemed unfazed by my infantile behavior. “Now, as I was saying…” he continued, and I tuned out once again.

    “How do you always know who’s going to ask questions?” Pat asked me quietly..

    “Are you kidding? It’s the same bozos, day after day and subject after subject, for the last two years,” I said.

    “But you always sink something, and I’m only on about 60% of the time,” he complained.

    I shrugged. The real question, I thought, was why the first two years of medical school felt like they’d lasted ten, and why many of my classmates just kept asking stupid questions and wasting what should have been important time.

    We left the hall afterwards, mostly ignored by our classmates. One attractive girl who always believed she’d be a cardiologist gave us a dirty look, and I found it hard to care.

    “I’m really tired of all this garbage, Pat,” I said.

    “Why?” he said bluntly. Pasquale had come into medical school convinced he’d be a trauma surgeon, and had the brains, drive, and temperament to do exactly that.

    “Because this is all that cutthroat pre-med bullshit I had to put up with in college,” I said. “Memorize this and spit it back on a test, memorize that and spit it back in a paper, blah blah blah. We’re not learning how to be doctors, we’re learning how to take exams for the rest of our natural lives.”

    “Jeez Dave, lighten up,” he said. “You just have to wait til third year- it’s only six weeks away til we finish! Third year we see patients and really do the doctor thing.”

    I nodded, but I wasn’t convinced.

    Eight weeks later I’d put my impending medical career officially ‘on hold’. I got a job lifeguarding for the summer, and when the fall came, I didn’t go back to medicine. I deferred my third year of school, less because I wasn’t sure I could do it, and more because I couldn’t see it being amazing enough to offset all the time, stress, tuition, and crap it had taken to get there.

    Instead, I regrouped. I’d always wanted to be an astronaut- I’d just assumed I’d get there as a “Mission Specialist” Physician. I realized I could still pursue that dream, so I took my undergraduate biochemistry degree and biotechnology training, plus a helpful referral from the Dean’s office, to a company called Genzyme and got a great job.

    They paid a nice salary and benefits, including earning my Master’s in Biochemical Engineering. Five years after that, I had a PhD and my own division, working with natural killer cells in the lab. Five years after that, I applied to NASA as a mission specialist at the height of my physical condition.

    Then, on January 16th, 2003, I had the single greatest thrill of my life, when I was crushed into my seat under acceleration and, with my crewmates, escaped the pull of Earth’s gravity in the space shuttle “Columbia”…

    • Observer Tim says:

      Nice story, lionetravail. I like the way the change just sort of happened over time rather than boiling down to a single instant. From my experience that’s more real.

      Does this mean in mundane life you’re a doctor? Or a lifeguard?

      With all sympathy to the relatives of those who were lost, I’m glad you weren’t a mission specialist on Columbia that day.

      • lionetravail says:

        Thank you! I’m very glad I was not on Columbia for that trip either, and my heart goes out to the families of those proud pioneers of the human race.

        I am, in fact, a doctor in my mundane life, and I used to lifeguard when i was in my teens and early college. I was faced with the thoughts in the story above during the long and tiresome second year of medical school, but felt I could wait to see if getting to see and work with patients would make it all worth it. This fanciful tale in response to the prompt is only fanciful from the moment that the MC says he wasn’t convinced.

        Frankly, it had been a lot of work getting to that point anyway, but yeah, daydreams of working and getting paid rather than paying money to have to take tests every few weeks were not uncommon. I’d always hoped that med school would be less of a treadmill grind and more of a ‘welcome to the profession- there’s so much to learn, but it’s all exciting and shiny!’ School was school, but the profession and the accomplishments since have been wonderfully fulfilling.

        I had to reach back a ways for this one, but one of my best friends used to joke about how I’d found med school boring, and he’ll know the truth of this story for sure.

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          I’m in total awe of your story,lionetrevail. The first sentence drew me in and I couoldn’t let go. Just to imagine those space flights and then the men and women who fought for the chance to go, makes me wonder what in hell have I been doing all my life. You brought that home to me.

          • lionetravail says:

            I’m glad this story grabbed you, Kerry, but never wonder about what you’ve been doing all your life! It’s probably what you should have been doing all along- living :)

            If there’s something I’ve learned and recognized throughout my life, there are moment in everyone’s life that soar and elevate as much as being an astronaut- they’re just not as often noted on TV or by a wide audience. I have respect for everyone who does what seems right for them, who lives a life striving to be good and bring some light to their corner of the world, and who is considerate for the feelings and rights of others. For you, especially, Kerry, as well as for my new friends through this site, I have no doubts you’ve accomplished more with your lives than simply a great career move :)

      • margi33 says:

        I enjoyed this, lionetravail. It is always interesting to think what what have been in life if one had taken the “unexpected” path. Glad you are happy with your current choice :)

    • snuzcook says:

      Lionetravail, you chose a decision point to which a lot of readers can relate. Is the grind really going to be worth it? Does it make sense to devote the irreplacable years of youth on the uninspiring tasks to accomplish something in the (seemingly) distant future? Good choice well executed.

    • lionetravail says:

      Thanks everyone!

    • agnesjack says:

      Excellent twist at the end, lionetravail. How many of us wonder what would have happened if we had chosen to follow our real dream. Yet, once followed, the reality is not as perfect as imagined.

    • jmcody says:

      Thanks for sharing this inside look into the grueling path to physicianhood (not a word, I know), and the doubts that crop up along the way. Did you really play “Class Bingo” during lectures? That is actually pretty funny. It makes me think of the surgeons from M*A*S*H, if you can remember that far back.

      It sounds like you made the right choice in staying the path. From your comments above, as well as some of your other comments on this board, you seem to be a caring and compassionate physician, who tries to do good through your work.

      I had lots of biochem and Chem-E friends (that’s what they called themselves) in college, and none of them became astronauts. But something tells me you would have done it if you set you mind to it! :)

      • lionetravail says:

        :)

        And yes, we really did play Bingo, only we played it as Battleship. Somewhere in the first month of classes, a genetics major (not everyone was, or should be, biological sciences on the path to physicianhood) asked a biochem professor who was explaining the Krebs cycle (look it up, but briefly, it’s how sugar is metabolized for energy by the cell) if a particular sugar he’d written the chemical formula for was optically active or not.

        I was a biochem major (the answer was clearly ‘yeah, duh!’), and I looked over at him and thought: “Really? We’re talking about how cells get energy, not whether a sugar has an obscure physico-chemical property, and why do you have to interrupt our education for this clearly unrelated and unimportant nonsense?”

        Then the professor stopped the lecture and asked him: “What do you think?” The kid stammered, and said something like “well, it looks like it has an achiral center, so I think it must be optically active”. And the prof says (drily): “Thank you. May the rest of us proceed now?” and I felt so vindicated.

        Later that year, the guy who ended up smack in the middle of whatever ship I wanted to sink was a guy who, during a lecture on the lungs, interrupted the prof to ask what the big white thing in the center of the chest cat scan was. The prof squinted, and said: “Um, that’s the heart.”

        I was such an impatient SOB in those days.

        Yes, ‘in those days’! Sheesh! I’ve mellowed, okay?

        ***grins****

        • jmcody says:

          Wow, you just made me access some ancient memories. I was a bio major for one year and I vaguely remember the Krebs cycle. I initially declared myself pre-med but quickly realized that wasn’t a good direction for me, as much as I loved learning about biology.

          As for the impatience, it happens to the very young and very smart. I am dealing with an adolescent version of that right now. I guess I will just have to wait it out for twenty or thirty years…

          And as for the guy with the question about the white thing on the cat scan, please don’t tell me he became a cardiologist. ;)

    • Dennis says:

      Great story. I was a biology major with the intent to go to medical school. I realized I didn’t have the drive it takes to get through med school and residency so chose a different path. Loved biology though. Cheers to you for sticking it out.

    • Critique says:

      Thanks for the entertaining story lionetravail. When life kicks up a fuss in our direction we might – however fleeting – think about the adage, ‘the grass is greener on the other side of the fence”. Sounds like you stayed the right course :)
      Very tragic about the Columbia Space Shuttle.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I think what I liked best about your story is that the MC was able to reach her goal even though it was via a different route than planned/expected. It’s good to not let go of dreams just because circumstances change, but there are time when circumstances show that our dreams are not necessarily what are best.

  53. peetaweet says:

    It was the silence that broke my heart, or at least allowed me to hear it working. Sure, I’d cried over a girl before, but this, this was different. The strange stillness of the house amplified my sobs, filling the house with the unfamiliar moans and creaks of solitude.

    Jennifer was gone. Really gone. Driving south with a car packed to the gills with clothing, shoes, a hairdryer, even her bike strapped to the trunk. And I’d even helped her pack.

    She was 19, I was 23. Our relationship had whirled along, from the sleepovers to the moving in to the waking up on Christmas together and running to the tree like kids. And now all that remained was the silence.

    This is the part where I tell you about how she was drop dead gorgeous, about how her olive skin and bright eyes captured the stares of passing guys. But she was the kind of girl who was just as stunning on the beach as on a ski lift. And I was lucky that I’d had that year with her to remember.

    The end was no surprise, talk of her heading off to school started a few months before. Her father wanted her back home, in Georgia, where she could go to school full time and stop playing house with that guy up in Virginia. Oh, how we’d been so mature about the whole thing! We’d decided that on the day she left, we wouldn’t be so naïve as to try to make it work. We’d just turn it off with the cable service.

    But on that last trip down the steps with her, something happened. An upheaval of emotions, I felt the maturity rushing back up the stairs, jumping onto the bed and pulling the covers over its head. By the time we got to the car my breaths were shaky, and her head remained down, fending off my pleading stares.

    We stood under the oak tree, in the yard where we’d thrown football and Frisbees. Where would I find another girl who could throw a tight spiral? Oh God, what have we done? I fought the urge to drop down and beg her to call her dad, to tell him she was staying. Finally, she’d looked up, pensive and quiet, fiddling with her keys.

    “Be careful,” I mumbled.

    She’d only nodded and then got in the car, pausing for a moment before turning the key. Then it was tail lights. Now I was on the floor crying.

    Perhaps I’d seen too many romantic comedies, but something sparked. I wiped my eyes and got to my feet. My feet took me to my car. I pulled out, vowing to get the girl and ignoring the honking truck. Barreling down the road, I saw her, passing me in the other direction. I mashed the brakes, whipping the car around to a collaboration of honks and yells. My heart pounded as she turned in to the driveway. I hopped the curve and cut through the gravel cloud as I skidded to a stop and ran to her car.

    “What are you doing?” I asked, heaving. Her eyes were wide and brown, shining with confidence.

    “I’m staying.”

    “You’re staying?”

    “I just said that.”

    “What about your dad?”

    “He’ll get over it.”

    We rushed up the steps, grappling. Swinging through the door, we held onto each other as we made our way into the bed, shedding our clothes and kicking my maturity to the floor with a thump. It was all familiar again, the laughter, the love…the noise.

    • Jay says:

      Great story, but I’m saddened by the flip side of this story, the origin. >.< I get the felling any story with a happy ending in this prompts wake is going to be depressing. haha

      Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it. :D

    • lionetravail says:

      I’m with Jay on this one- what a great ending to this story, ergo real life must have been a different experience, and you have my sympathy. Beautifully written, too, with all the self-recognized corniness of a romantic comedy :)

      When I first saw it, I felt uneasy about this prompt: it’s entirely possible to end up sharing a lot of ourselves on this board in our stories. I have been generally very happy with my life-choices to date, but I would caution everyone to think about what they intend to share before they do.

      I appreciate the chance to get to know people here, and to share a bit of myself, perhaps, but this prompt could really open some floodgates. Thanks Peeta, for this glimpse, elegantly portrayed, of ‘what might have been’ :)

      • Jay says:

        Spot on with the “revealing too much” thing. I have a lot of stories, but… no way are they making it onto this website. haha I figure that’s exactly why this prompt is so dead. Klem is seriously poking people’s personal bubbles. :p

    • Reaper says:

      Nicely written. I find myself wondering which decision it was that was different because there are a few points where a divergence could have happened. That is part of the wonder of this one though. And no I’m not going to ask.

      For the other comments here. I would agree a bit with the being careful but not fully. In another place I would say to be very careful but people here are pretty kind honestly. In truth we share a lot of ourselves in our stories, and even more in our comments. Caution is good but sharing can be wonderful. I don’t know if we can share more than we already do, and for most of us our art is what we feel a need to protect. As writers we are supposed to have crazy lives. I would give the other side of the coin advice. We should all be careful of our comments. Take a little extra care to take a little extra care this week. Remember that there are real people on the other side of the screen and our words can have power over them.

      Oh, and no such thing as a good pun either.

    • Observer Tim says:

      I’m seeing a lot of intensity and introspection on this prompt. I’m curious at what point the decision was reversed, but I have no intention of prying. As others have said, the happy ending of this prompt implies a sad ending in reality. I just hope if that is the case that it’s something you now look back on fondly.

      Or fondling, if things really did work out between he and she.

      Bad Tim! Bad Tim! :)

      • Observer Tim says:

        P.S. It was also a great read. Thanks!

        • peetaweet says:

          Thanks for the feedback guys. Honestly, this prompt kind of took it’s own way–it was so long ago that it almost seemed fictional anyway. The girl was real, and she left for school and we did try to make it work, but things worked out for the best. Ah to be young again, but sometimes you gotta learn lessons the hard way.

          • margi33 says:

            Good, glad it worked out for the best, peetaweet. I enjoyed reading the piece, it was nicely written.

    • don potter says:

      The decisions of youth are often wrong but always seem like a good idea when we made them. They become more fun or dramatic as we grow older and see them through the rosey glasses of time.

    • snuzcook says:

      peetaweet, this was sweet, and you have such wonderful lines:
      ‘We’d just turn it off with the cable service.’
      ‘…kicking my maturity to the floor with a thump.’
      Love the visual of the cars passing going opposite directions, like a scene in an 80’s comedy.

      I almost wish this prompt didn’t give the reader the insight that, if adhered do, the writer has used a personal experience that did not go as written.

    • agnesjack says:

      I, too, was uneasy about this prompt because of the personal nature of it. Your choice of using something long ago, gave you distance and it was a good story because of it. Sometimes the choices we make do not result in a good result one way and a bad result the other. Sometimes the choices just are what they are and we move on from there.

    • Critique says:

      An intense well written story about young love peetaweet.
      I agree with the comments about using common sense in too much personal disclosure on public forums.

  54. Kerry Charlton says:

    THE COPPER SCROLL
    Chapter 5 completion of first segment.

    A misty rain moistened time-worn paving bricks of an industrial district in East Trenton. An assortment of vehicles with engines running, waited command orders from Richard, three blocks west of target. He knew most of these men. Family oriented, retired military, they strained for the sound of command.

    ‘Some msy not return from from this,’ he thought as he surveyed their determined faces. ‘And yet as always, someone had to answer the call against tyranny.’

    Richard sat in the Ram vehicle, three SEALS by his side.

    “Move out,” he said.

    As the three armored four wheel drive turned the last corner, the warehouse appeared at the end of a two lane. ‘Are the Rangers in position? Is Rachael still alive?’ Dire thoughts raced through his mind. They an icy resolve settled on Richard as the Ram vehicle gathered speed and headed to the ramp loading dock door.

    At forty eight miles an hour the Ram pierced the door amongst a shower of broken aluminum and steel supports.

    ——————————————————
    ——————————————————

    Pain from Rachael’s shattered cheek had subsided from the blow she sustained but fear still dominated her mind. A phone rang and Charles, the kind man answered it.

    “We’re being attached,” he yelled.

    Two men surrounded Rachael, their weapons drawn, the rest took cover. Rachael heard the roar of engines approaching the building as both men prepared to kill her.From the roof truss spans, sharp sounds of breaking glass permeated the building. The two assassins crumpled, their skulls having exploded from high power sniper bullets.

    Deafening sounds split the air from the warehouse area, as three combat vehicles drove through twisted remains of the dock door. Through thr Ram hatch, three SEALS burst forth, their eyes scanning the retreating men as well as searching for Rachael.

    ‘My God,’ Rachael prayed, ‘Richard’s leading them.’

    Her peripheral vision noticed Charles, her protecter, standing silently in the shadows with his AK aimed as Richard ran through a hail of ammo toward her side. Charles hesitated and turned toward Rachael, smiling slightly, then lifted his automatic rifle toward the kidnappers and opened fire.

    Like a panther in mid stride, Richard returned the fire, nearly cutting Charles’ body in half, with a burst from his weapon.

    “Oh God, Oh God, Richard, he was under cover but how could you know?”

    Bullets cascaded off the warehouse walls, yet Richard dropped his rifle and rushed to the man he had shot.

    “It’s okay, it’s okay,” Charles said and his eyes closed as Richard held him.

    All shots ceased as the SEALS surrounded the two men left. One SEAL wasn’t moving and bodies sprawled across the warehouse floor with small puddles of blood still oozing from the fallen. Three Ranger snipers rappelled to the floor from the skylights and one who doubled as a medic, checked the SEAL first, shaking his head no.

    Sirens from a squad of police cars racing to the firefight, rang in Richard’s ears as he held Rachael in his arms and wept with tears of regret and joy at the same time.

    • Reaper says:

      Still loving this Kerry. They strained for the sound of command is a line of sheer brilliance.

      There are a couple of red pen words but a quick edit will fix that. Very little to say on this one, but a couple of things I noticed. Again, grain of salt because my eye may be a bit critical on this.

      I would change two men surrounded Rachael to either covered or flanked. Surrounding with two just seems off and flanked fits the military feel you have in the rest.

      The two assassins crumpled, their skulls having exploded from high power sniper bullets. – The flow on this is a bit off to me, I had to reread it a couple of time, would suggest keeping it to one form, skulls crumpling.

      Last thing struck me most. The way you have portrayed Richard the answer to how could he know seems to be because he’s a bad ass and has obvious combat experience. Unless you are going for something later on I would expand Charles’ actions a bit. To explain the confusion have him firing in the direction of both kidnappers and rescuers, carefully picking off kidnappers only. I can see Richard missing the small detail, but not noticing that Charles is firing at only the bad guys? It just read as out of character to me. But as I said you could be going somewhere with that and I could just be on crack. :)

      I can’t wait for section two. I am seriously hooked on this. It’s like Tom Clancy without all the exposition that made it impossible for me to read his books.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Reaper for all the wonderful thoughts. I’ll incorporate all of them and get started on the second part. Thanks for the read.

      • Dennis says:

        Thanks Kerry for another installment. I just read this after reading a bunch of responses to this week’s prompt so now I’m pumped for more action. I can’t wait for the search of the scrolls.

        On a side note, I had an urge to watch Show Boat (51 version) which had Ava Gardner, which then made me think of Rachael and your story. Great choice in women.

    • Observer Tim says:

      Wow, this was a strong ending to this segment. You caught and held me with the intensity of the action. Will you be continuing? I’m still wondering about that copper scroll.

      I saw a few typos and a few things that might need a tweak, but that would just be polishing the diamond.

    • don potter says:

      Keep on keepin’ on. This is a great series.

    • snuzcook says:

      Keep ‘em coming, Kerry! Actually felt necessary to me that Charles had to die–a nice touch of pathos, and we can’t have a rival for Rachel’s affections lurking as we transition to Segment Two!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you for your kind words, snuzcook. I will continue but i’m mulling in my mind to go back two thousand years and write about the destruction of the temple and the hiding of the treasures before I continue with Richard and Rachael’s saga. Or will it break the theme of the story to do so? I would appreciate your advice on this before I do the research. Thanks, Kerry

    • Critique says:

      I love the concise action packed drive in this story. And, sigh, of course the romance between Richard and Rachael. It’s fun to read and is never boring like so many authors that load their stories with copious detail.

  55. peetaweet says:

    Man, this was vivid and gritty, grabbing my attention the whole way down! Wow

  56. vaderize03 says:

    He squeezed the phone, his knuckles blanching white against its shiny plastic case. “Are you serious?” he asked.
    “Yes,” she replied. ” I am.”
    “I see.” His voice was calm, but his heart was racing. “And why should I believe you?”
    “Because it’s the truth.”
    “Like it was the truth when you swore you weren’t seeing anyone?”

    She paused, and he heard her ragged breathing on the other end of the line. She was seconds away from crying, but he didn’t care. If she really still loves me, he thought, she’ll answer my questions. “Well,” he said.
    “What do you want me to say?”
    “How ’bout ‘I’m sorry’.”
    “I am.”
    “For what? Lying to my face, or sleeping with your ex?” There, he’d said it, exposed the elephant in the room. He bit his lip, waiting for her response.
    “I don’t know,” she stammered. “Both, I guess.”
    “You don’t sound sorry.”
    “I was confused. I needed to find myself.”
    “By using Dan’s penis as a compass?” He laughed. “That’s rich.”
    “It wasn’t just that.”
    “What, then?”
    “It-” She seemed to choke on the words. “He was first. I had to be sure. I had to know.”
    “Know what? Whether he could still make you come?”

    “No!” He imagined her violently shaking her head. “I had to know if I was really over him. So that I’d really be able to move on with you.”
    “Are you serious?” he said. “We’ve been dating for ten months, and the whole time, you’ve been hung up on him?”
    “I didn’t say that.”
    “Sounds like it to me.”
    “He was my first love, Jerry. My first everything. That’s a big deal to me.”
    “So was he big?”
    “Don’t be crass.”
    “If you want me back, then I need to know.”
    There was a moment of silence. “Yes,” she finally said. “He was.”
    “Was he better.”
    Her voice was small. “Different.”
    “Different how?”
    “I don’t want to discuss this anymore.”
    “Good,” he said. “Me neither.”
    “I want you back.”
    “That’s nice.”
    “Can’t you give me another chance?”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “Why? We can start over, forget it ever happened.”
    “Doubt it.”

    She paused again. “Is there someone else.”
    Bingo, I thought. Aloud he said: “Yes.”
    The tears began. “When did you meet?”
    “Last week.”
    “What’s her name?”
    “Kim.”
    “Have you had sex?”
    “None of your business.”
    “Are you going to?”
    His chest grew tight with smug satisfaction. “Damn right.”
    “To hurt me?”
    “To see what I need.” He smiled. “You did.”
    “Jerry, wait,” she pleaded. “I know you’re angry, but this won’t help.”
    “Maybe not,” he told her. “But it will sure feel good. Have a nice life.”

    With a tap of