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When a Stranger Taps You on the Shoulder

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

You’re leaving your favorite restaurant after eating breakfast when a stranger taps you on the shoulder. But this tap leads to a conversation—and adventure—that leaves you with one item that you never thought you’d ever own.  Start your story with “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” And end your story with, “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a (fill in the blank).”

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

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518 Responses to When a Stranger Taps You on the Shoulder

  1. Blurcott says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    I immediately flinched away from the contact; I couldn’t let this stranger discover my secret. I turned my head to look at who had approached me. New York isn’t known for its friendliness.

    “Yes?” I questioned the stranger. I could tell from her look that she fit right in with the bohemian style of SoHo. She wore a long flowing skirt and two, maybe three different scarves. Her willowy features and long blond hair completed the picture.

    “I’m sorry,” she said in a wispy voice, “but are you Rachel Crealey?”

    Shit. They found me, I turned to run but she stopped me with a whispered, “I’m not one of them. I’m like you. Running.”

    I turned, astonished that this girl, no she was a woman, could know what I most feared. How could she? This was my burden to carry. The last one of my kind. Or so I thought.

    “Is there someplace we can go to talk?” She asked me.

    “Sure.” I led the way to a local coffee shop that usually had some kind of open mic night around this time. I hoped that the bad music and the worse poetry would shield us from people overhearing our conversation.
    We found a booth and just like I hoped it was open mic night. The jarring music and strange undulating vocals were perfect for a private conversation. I sat down apprehensively. Could this be a trick? How can she know about me? Crazy thoughts began to run through my mind. I was just convincing myself that it was some kind of trap when she removed her scarves.

    I gasped. She was like me. “How?” I barely got out. “I thought I was the last one. The only one.”

    “You’re not, there are others like us. Everywhere. We blend in with the crowds. I know that you have been told that you are the remainder. We all were before we found each other. But our numbers are growing, not shrinking. We’re getting stronger, and smarter.”

    “But the Grey Men,” I interrupted, “they have to know where you are. They can see you.”

    “Did you see me?” she asked quietly.

    “Well… No. but I”

    “But what? You looked right at me and didn’t know you didn’t recognize your own kind.”
    Now that I thought about it, that was strange. I had memories of others, of seeing them and knowing who they were, what they were. But it had been so long that I had almost forgotten.

    “Here,” she said, handing me a scarf she had removed. She put her other back on and suddenly she was the stranger again. “As long as you wear that no one will be able to tell. Not humans, not the Grey Men, not even other Jiensang. I have to go. But I will find you again soon. I promise”

    And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a magical scarf.

  2. FeathersCrossed says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A softly urgent voice accompanied the hand that rested on my shoulder.
    An older woman with shoulder length salt and pepper hair and pale green eyes was the one who addressed me.
    She looked to be in her early eighties with a long burgundy pea coat and a strand of pearls around her neck; despite her age, she stood straight and still retained all the elegance of a woman half her age.
    “Yes?” I turned to her, a smile touching my mouth.
    A look of doubt played over the old woman’s face for less than a moment, “I was wondering if you’d be willing to drive me?” She spoke hesitantly, fidgeting with the clutch in her hands.
    “Oh,” I exclaimed, the surprise evident in my voice, “I- well yes, of course.” I fumbled for words.
    A look of relief crossed over her features, her hand going to the pearls, “Thank you, I appreciate it so much.”
    “Of course!” I reply cheerfully, happy to help anyone so close to the holidays.
    As we walked to my car, our heels clicking lightly on the pavement, we chatted about superficial things like the weather and how pretty the trees looked dressed up and I wondered who this woman really was and how I was lucky to have been engaged in this adventure.
    As we approached my Buick, the woman became silent, far-off look came over her face.
    “So, where am I driving to?” I asked.
    She thought a moment, “Houston Avenue, please.”

    “I moved here during my third year of college, I have a PhD in English,” The woman said softly, looking out the window at the rows of small houses, “I’m a book editor.”
    “I’m starting my second semester of college,” I whispered, the hairs rising on the back of my neck, “I’m studying English.”
    A knowing smile crossed her face; “I would like to go to 3rd street.”

    I looked up at the brick apartment building in awe; I had always wanted to live here.
    “My boyfriend and I moved in here just before I graduated. We were so in love.”
    I looked as her voice cracked, a smile and a tear gracing her face.
    We went all over the city, to the place her husband proposed to her, their first home, the house their daughters grew up in and finally, the large colonial home she lived in now.
    “Thank you.” My friend said as she opened the door.
    “Wait!” A thought dawned on me, “I never caught your name.”
    The woman paused, giving me a wistful look, “Wendy Carter.”
    I was awestruck, “Mine is Wendy Holm.”
    She smiled and shut the door, walking up the front landing.
    I sat in silence before brushing the snow off my burgundy pea coat, and reaching to touch the pearls that had been in my family for generations.
    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a beautiful future.

  3. jwbirnstihl says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”
    Sandra flinched away from the heavy hand that dug into her shoulder. She had never liked being touched, especially from behind.
    Her eyes narrowed as she leapt from the bench and spun around to face her unknown assailant. “Who the hell are you?” Nervously, she looked down at her pocketbook. “I don’t have any money.”
    “I don’t want your money,” the man answered in a raspy voice.
    “Then what do you want?” She scanned the area, but no one else was in the vicinity of the bus station. My phone’s in my purse, she realized. Damn.
    “I have a message for you.”
    “From?” The suspicion in Sandra’s voice was evident. She considered her options. I can knock this guy out before he knows what’s happening. I can run. I can try to talk him out of whatever he plans on doing to me. The bus will be here in a couple minutes… I can stall him for a couple minutes. Just keep him talking.
    “From God,” the man replied matter-of-factly.
    “Is that so?” Sandra asked, maneuvering so the bench was between them. She studied the man. He was old, but not that old, with a long white beard that made her think of Dumbledore. But he had none of the wizard’s fatherly demeanor; he seemed more like one of the dementors.
    “He says I’ve earned my retirement. Been working around the clock since Cain killed Abel.”
    Sandra looked around for hidden cameras. “Joke’s over, mister. I know I’m on that show….”
    The man’s eyes flashed with fire. “I am not one to joke,” he boomed. He shifted his weight impatiently. “Now, as I was saying….”
    “Who are you?” she asked again.
    “I’m the artist formerly known as Death,” he crowed.
    “What do you want from me?” she asked, glancing at the clock. 37 seconds, she thought. Assuming the bus is on time.
    “You’re taking over for me.”
    Sandra said nothing.
    “Unless of course you don’t want to. In which case, I have to take your life.”
    Sandra remained silent. 20 seconds.
    “If you say nothing, I’ll assume you’re refusing. But before you make a decision, let me give you some advice. God doesn’t like when people don’t follow his will. He’s very egocentric like that. And being Death isn’t so bad. The salary is good, and you get a lot of power. You get to travel….”
    The bus turned the corner. Thank God, Sandra thought.
    “You’re insane,” she said. “Let me give you some advice. Go to a mental hospital and get some help. And don’t ever talk to me again.”
    The bus pulled up and opened its door.
    An old man with a white beard got on.
    “No one else out there?” The man shook his head.
    “How would you like to be Death?” he asked halfheartedly.
    And that’s how Death ended up being the proud owner of his own fate, and his very own city bus.

  4. stephaniesdgva says:

    If a stranger taped me on my shoulder i would turn around quickly and do a slide kick to the ground.Not only would his back be hurt but knowing not to tap me on my shoulder again. He could of just said hello ms. that is all he has to say. But it was self-defense he could of had a pocket knife or maybe even a gun.

  5. Miss Sinister says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”
    Anna turned around and faced this rather young creature with deer like eyes that looked, amusingly enough, excited to see her. It had been a while since Anna was looked upon with that kind of excitement and she couldn’t help herself from asking:
    “Well…if it’s important, we can’t possibly allow it to die in your pretty little head, now can we?”
    Her voice had retorted to that wonderful, yet maleficent purr it once possessed and professed with such elevated grace.
    “I think I know you. I mean, I hope I really do know you” the little deer stumbled and said.
    “Oh…that’s it? Many people know who I am”.
    “Here you are, Miss Smalls! Your take-away cappuccino is ready!” the perky barista in front of Anna said.
    “See. She knows very well who I am. Thank you Diane!” And she took her hot cappuccino, paid and moved towards the exit, with the little deer following her closely.
    “But…but…I know you.” she squeaked.
    “Ok.” Anna turned around, straightened her back, put her head high and put on her smile. “How do you think you know me, little deer? I am quite sure I have never visited a kindergarten, I have no children, I have no friends with children, I do not see children, since they tend to be short. So how exactly have we two met since you so obviously are still a child? 17 I presume?” Anna said.
    “I don’t know why you don’t remember me. I have always thought about you. I used to steal newspapers and magazines just to cut the articles about you out. We never forgot about you.” the little deer said.
    Anna listened. Her heart stopped, sank deep into her chest and she began to breath heavily. The little deer had an accent. One that unfortunately she couldn’t not recognize. Heart-attack lurking, Anna took a step back, looked at the little deer and saw her worst nightmare starring her straight in the eye.
    “How? How did you find me? And why?” Anna icily said, ready to run out of the restaurant as soon as she got her answer.
    “I didn’t find you. I mean, I wasn’t looking for you. No, wait. I mean, I was, but I didn’t know where to look for you. I hitch hiked from back home. And this nice old lady gave me a ride here. I was cold this morning so she gave her coat.
    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a yesterday winning lottery ticket.”

  6. stoland1999 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”
    I let my gaze linger on the woman walking away from me before turning to see who spoke. A disheveled old man stood clutching a cardboard box. I stifled a sigh and plastered a smile on my face. Retrieving my wallet, I pulled out a twenty.
    “This place has great eggs.”
    “I don’t want that,” he didn’t even glance at the cash.
    “What is it then?” I glanced at my watch and clutched my briefcase tighter.
    “I want you to look at these,” he opened a flap of the box to reveal a stack of photos.
    “Look buddy…”
    “It’ll just take a few minutes, please.”
    Responding to the desperation in his voice, I hesitated. What the hell, it would be my one good deed for the day. I nodded and followed him across the street to a bench. He handed me the box.
    “Start at the top.”
    The top picture was of a gravestone. It was from a distance, so I was unable to read the name. The next pictures showed a stark room at what I guessed was a nursing home. Pictures showed the old man doing normal things like eating and walking in the park, always alone. The angles and lighting conveyed his lonely and sad existence.
    Lifting the next one, I found pictures of a family. They were taken from a distance, but you could see the mom, dad and kids laughing and smiling. The subject shifted to just that of the woman. As I looked at more pictures, she became younger. It showed her growing up from a cute little girl with pigtails. I paused.
    “Is this your family?” my tone was respectful.
    “Yes.”
    The pictures changed to the adorable baby the woman had been. As I lifted the next one, my hand stilled and began to shake. The subject was a very pregnant woman with long dark hair and a sad, but beautiful smile. It was my wife.
    “What is this?”
    “Please, just keep going,” he urged. In a daze, I continued. I watched in pictures as my wife grew round with child, but I was never in the photos.
    “I’m not in them because I’m taking the pictures, right?”
    “No, you aren’t in them because you aren’t in her life, their lives.”
    The pictures changed to my current home. They showed us arguing. Her crying. Me storming out. I felt wetness on my cheeks at seeing her stricken face.
    “What are these?”
    “Memories from my life. Your life. The one you will have if you stay on this path.” He looked pointedly in the direction that the woman from this morning had taken. My secretary and future mistress. I hadn’t crossed the line yet.
    “It’s your choice. Destroy your family and live out a lonely existence or…”
    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a box filled with pictures of memories that would never have to happen.

    • harmonee72 says:

      holy crow – that is amazing!! i still have chills and goose-bumps since reading your story – and now can’t come up with a thing to write in my own because nothing will come close to yours!! what an awesome job!

      • stoland1999 says:

        Thank you! I felt I hit the mark on this one, but that doesn’t always happen. I’ve read lots on here that have left me feeling the same way. I try to write mine before reading anyone else’s and that sometimes helps.
        I’m sure that yours will be every bit as wonderful and look forward to reading it! Writing on here and seeing everyone else’s ideas is such a unique experience.

    • dandylion says:

      Such a fabulous storyline! The last stranger you’d ever expect to meet, truly. Beautifully written with a beautiful message as well. Inspiring!

    • Maggie says:

      Wow, this was great! Thanks! I love it. Excellent.
      Maggie

  7. Andrea says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    I look up from my croissant to see a man in a black suit and dark black sunglasses, two fingers to the bud in his ear.

    “The president has requested your presense. If you could please follow me?”

    I just gape at him, open mouthed and blinking widly. He probably thinks I’m on drugs. Which, if he does indeed work for the actual president, could be bad. I start to stand up, I mean what else could I do? But I pause–he didn’t say the president of the united states. For all I know, I’m walking out of my perfectly safe diner to meet the president of the local lunatics gang. Still, something about this guy seems legitimate… so I follow. I glance back over my shoulder as we exit to see a second well-dressed man paying the lady at the counter and pointing back at my unfinished plate. Guess this is going to take awhile.

    Outside there is a limo waiting for me. I’ve given up on the idea of asking questions. Everything I’ve learned from the movies have tuahgt me that they won’t answer me until we get wherever it is we are going. I know it’s a little presumptious to base an actual real life event on movies, but watching movies are all I do in my free time anyways, might as well pretend I learned something from them.

    We pull up to a Hilton Hotel and arrive at our desintation, room 1600. Top floor penthouse. Perhaps it’s really the preseident of the United States after all?

    It is.

    I almost pass out when I see him sitting on the bed, looking at me with sad eyes. Though meeting the real president was clearly the safest option my mind had come up with, somehow I didn’t believe it was true. Why would the president want to see me? Oh gosh, how do I even greet him? Should I salute?

    “Mr…President…”

    “Are you any good with animals?”

    “What?” I look behind me for my secret service friends but they are gone. I am alone with the president… who apparently wants to know my view on pets.

    “Yeah. I mean… I don’t have any pets now but I grew up with a dog and a cat. Why?”

    “It’s better that you don’t have pets… yes perhaps that is best.”

    I just stare at him and let him mumble under his breath for a few minutes. Then, finally–

    “All right. I think you will do fine. Young man, I want to ask you a very important favor. Not just for your country, but for me. Man to man. I need something from you.”

    “What can you possibly need from me?” I’m being a little rude, but I’m starting to get freaked out, as if I’m about to be drafted into a secret underground war against ninjas or aliens or something else the government needs to cover up.

    “I need you to take ownership of Oscar.”

    “…who’s Oscar?” Was that some kind of code word?

    “My cat.”

    Before I could question the obsurdity of this whole situation, I see that he is crying.

    “Mr. President?”

    “I’ve had Oscar since I was a young man, not much younger than you. But now… I’m too busy to take care of him. Being president is a busy job. And… I’ve been advised that it doesn’t look good for me to have Oscar around… and so I’ve been searching for his new owner. No one important like my friends in Washington, but someone who can take care of him.”

    “Why me?” What made him think I could or wanted to take care of his cat?

    “Oscar took an instant liking to you the moment he saw you this morning.”

    “I don’t remember…”

    “You probably didn’t notice him, he can be sneaky like that.”

    “I don’t know if….”

    “Please.”

    He looked so sad… so pathetic… I found myself agreeing.

    The secret service met me at my apartment that evening with a cat carrier, toys, scratching post, food, and litter. But no cat.

    “The president is down in the lobby saying goodbye to Oscar. But young man, I need to explain something very important to you before you meet the cat.”

    “…yes?”

    “Oscar is not a cat.”

    Oh crap, it was a code word. Was I holding onto a fugitive? A bomb? A prisoner?

    “Oscar is the president’s imaginary pet cat.”

    “What? But all of this stuff…”

    “Just listen for a second while I explain. The president believes with all of his heart and mind that Oscar is a real cat, but only invisible. He realizes that most people don’t believe in this “rare breed” of cat, but he’s very serious about taking care of it. And son, I know this is a weird request, but I’d like to ask you to *continue* taking care of Oscar.”

    “You mean, buy food for a fake cat, play with it and everything? Are you kidding me?”

    “Son, I’ve seen this grown man play with and feed this cat for over a year now with sincere devotion and love. When he goes out of town, he gets people to check in and play with the cat. He watches on video to make sure they actually interact with him. When he brings Oscar on trips, he pays for and goes through the process of checking an actual empty cat carrier. He is beginning to understand that this behavior is affecting his political career, and it was with much difficulty and many tears that we got him to agree to give Oscar away for adoption. But the belief that someone will actually take care of Oscar is his only comfort. I just couldn’t live with myself if I knew this wouldn’t be happening. Please. As a civic duty, could you please take care of the president’s cat?”

    At that point, the president arrived, Oscar in his arms. He handed him off to me carefully, and I cradled the air as if I was holding the most fragile cat in the world. There were tears in the president’s eyes, but he was smiling as well.

    “Oscar’s purring. He must like you. I think he will be good company.”

    I find myself stroking the space between my arms.

    “I think so too.”

    And that’s how I became the proud owner of the president’s imaginary cat.

  8. Amy says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    The stranger’s light touch left me shaken and cold. My breakfast threatened to come back up, which would be a shame, since I’d spent ten bucks on a Danish and a cup-o Joe.

    His finger still rested on my shoulder, as if that might detain me. I looked into his eyes, and felt the world spin away from me.
    *****
    The first thing I noticed was the smell…it differed from the hot tar, exhaust, and greasy food smell of the city. The air was fresher, yet tainted with sewage and the scent of livestock. No longer did I hear the cacophony of car horns and hawkers’ shouts…they’d been replaced by the lowing of cattle, the clip-clop of horses’ hoofs.

    “Where am I?” I whispered. “Who are you?”

    “This is all my fault. Madam, my apologies. I never meant to transport you here. You are in grave danger.”

    Unbelievable. I still didn’t know where I was or who I was with. But I could feel the danger all around me, like an electric charge.

    I noticed my surroundings for the first time. I stood in the middle of a medievalvillage, its residents gathering around me, reaching out to touch me, my face, my hair, my clothes. I didn’t fit in.

    “T’would almost have been better had your clothes not followed you,” my companion whispered, echoing my thoughts.

    The crowd around us murmured, their words becoming clearer, rhythmic, until they were almost a chant.

    “She’s a painted whore. A witch. Witch. Witch. Witch.”

    “Throw her in the river. If she swims, we’ll know she’s a witch for sure!” This shouted by a young man clothed in a clergyman’s robes, his hair long and tangled, eyes wild with zeal.

    My companion took off his cloak and placed it around my shoulders in a futile attempt to conceal me. Too little too late.

    As they moved closer, I could smell the fetid, collected breath of my accusers. I felt faint.

    “Excuse me, ladies and gentleman. This, ahem, lady is my betrothed. Please let us pass.” Tucking my hand into the crook of his elbow, my new (and only) friend attempted to push through the throng with no success.

    Grubby hands grabbed at us, clutched us, pulled us apart. This man was my lifeline, I realized. My way out.
    My ticket home.

    Kicking and screaming, I tried to escape and return to his side, my only ally.

    “Who are you?” I shouted. “What’s going to happen to us?”

    “Trystan Hawthorne, at your service,” he shouted back, unaware of the irony of his words.

    Without warning, the crowd surged backward, releasing us.

    In front of us stood a guillotine.

    Time stood still. Had these barbarians never heard of innocent until proven guilty?

    A hooded figure dressed in black seized my arm, pulled me forward. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the sharp, shiny blade, the bloodstained platform. I heard a scream and realized it came from me. I reached for Trystan, who now stood by my side.

    The world shifted under my feet…
    ****
    “And that is how I came to be the proud owner of this guillotine,” I explained to my date, Tristan.

  9. DMelde says:

    This story is just plain silly. Reader be warned….
    ###############

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    The speaker was a white-haired woman wearing an old, ripped, woolen sweater, with the kind of damage a cat might make while clawing. As if to prove this point, in her arms she was holding a purring cat. The man she was addressing was Bob, a world famous author, who happened to be allergic to cats, as most world famous authors are. In fact, there was one world famous author who was so allergic to cats that he couldn’t even look at a cat without his eyes starting to water, with a sneeze or two following close behind. Several of his short stories were about cats being buried alive, or about them being cut in two by swinging pendulums. Even the first draft of one of his poems was about an evil cat, although it was later changed to a raven instead…quothe the feline, meow-more…suffice it to say, this author did not like cats.

    Bob had just finished eating breakfast, two eggs, fried, over easy, at one of his favorite restaurants, the Coop, when the woman had tapped him on his shoulder. Bob was a devout Eggnostic, and eating at the Coop was a form of communion for him. Bob believed that just as the shell of the egg protected its contents; the unborn chicken, so too did the body of man protect its contents; the unborn soul.

    “Great Mother Hen,” Bob swore under his breath, and then he said out loud, “is that a cat?”

    “Ah, not just any cat,” the woman replied.

    The woman’s eyes were large and Bob could hear in her voice the cackle of a woman who spends too much time alone with only cats for companions. Bob started slowly backing away.

    “Wait!” the woman cried out. “This cat is for you!”

    “Thank you for the offer ma’am, but I can’t accept your gift.” Bob smiled his most ingratiating smile. “You see, I’m allergic to cats.”

    “No longer!” the cackle increased in pitch. “This cat is no ordinary cat! This cat was not born live from her mother. This cat was born live from an egg!”

    Bob stopped cold.

    “The legend of the Majari.” Bob whispered reverently.

    Stepping forward, Bob held out his hand and he stroked the cat. His eyes didn’t water, his skin didn’t itch. The legend of the Majari, the long lost cat of world famous authors, was true.

    “But how did this happen?” Bob’s voice was barely above a whisper.

    “A miracle of the egg.” The old woman simply said. “The Majari lives, and what’s more, she’s started to lay her own eggs.”

    She produced a basket with a litter of eggs.

    “Keep them warm.” She said as she handed the basket and cat to Bob.

    In a hushed tone, Bob accepted the priceless gift.

    And that’s how Bob ended up being the proud owner of a basket of cat eggs, and the lost cat of world famous authors.

    • DMelde says:

      bleh. i’m not sure i like this all that much.

      • DMelde says:

        seven more comments and we go over 500 for the week.

        • DMelde says:

          oops, make that six….

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Well, DMelde, you waited late for the prompt but what you typed here has ripples running under the story; a most amusing tale and very imaginative. I also own a cat-egg kitty, named of all things, ‘Miss Kitty.’ twenty two pounds of love and attention.

            I love the idea of the Majari cat of famous authors, because now that I own an egg cat, I’m going to be famous, if Ilive long enough. I loved you frolic through the prompt.

  10. eilenej1 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” said the stranger as she tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to take a look at the woman who startled me so badly that I almost dropped the box of cereal I was evaluating for purchase.
    “How can I help you?” I asked her, dreading that she would waste my precious time. I needed to finish getting groceries so that I could rush home to fix dinner, eat, and rush the boys to music lessons. After music lessons there was a huge pile of laundry to be sorted. I hate doing laundry!
    “I am a market analyst for some very unique and interesting products and wonder if I could share some information with you,” she told me. I wanted to simply tell her thanks, but no thanks. But her demeanor was intriguing. She had my interest, even though I didn’t want her to have it.
    “I’m not really interested,” I lied. She knew I was lying and plowed on with some high level product descriptions. She described some very futuristic appliances and machines that could help save people time and allow more time for relaxation.
    I was even more intrigued when she described the laundry system. Laundry is so exhausting and just the other night I had teased my kids that they needed to invent a laundry machine that would do the whole job, from gathering to hanging / folding. A visiting friend jokingly stated that that is what kids are for.
    How could technology advanced so far without the knowledge of the general public? How could there be a machine that could do laundry from the very start of the job – gathering – all the way to the end of the job – hanging and folding? I needed this machine like nothing I’ve ever needed before.
    “Ma’am, I would love to hear more about the laundry system, but I really must rush out of here,” I responded. She must have taken that as a sign that I was losing interest and she became more frantic in her efforts to hook me.
    “Ah, the laundry system is one of my favorites,” she indicated. “The system is in final development and will be released for user testing next week. I would love to put your contact information down as a potential tester.”
    “Wow, that really would be great,” I exclaimed as I gave her my contact information. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell the family. I felt I had made a very good decision and was about to save us a ton of time and money on laundry.
    And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of an Automated Full Cycle Laundry System.

  11. ambermwrite90 says:

    “I hate to bother you,”said a humble voice from behind me. “But I have something important to ask you.”

    I had just stood up and was about to head to the exit of my favorite coffee shop—I can’t get enough of an amazing roast they import from Malacca. However, I had my fill of caffeine for the afternoon and needed a change of scenery, so I was off to the library. I spun around, wobbling a bit from the weight of my canvas shoulder bag full to the brim with books and study material.

    “Sure,” I responded with a high brow to the elderly man, who had just gently tapped me on the shoulder. I was surprised to see someone so sun bronzed in the dead middle of the winter.

    I wasn’t necessarily pressed to make it to my next destination, but something about this unexpected inquiry gave me a wave of hastiness.

    “I’ve been in town for two weeks now, and every time I have come in for coffee here, you are buried in books. I was just wondering what it is you’re reading about,” said the man.

    Even though I felt as if I was wasting precious study time by entertaining this stranger’s random curiosity, I figured he was probably just a lonely retired man here visiting some family, so I shrugged off the heavy bag of knowledge off my shoulder in order to give him a proper answer.

    “I’m a graduate student in biology—it’s mostly research concerning the world’s rainforests. That’s my concentration. I’m working towards a career as a rainforest biologist,” I briefly explained, feeling a twinge of disbelief in my own words.

    It was certainly true that I was on an educational path concerning rainforest biology, but it was also true that I feared I never would ever make it pass the textbooks and into the actual rainforest. It’s a competitive job field, and unless you have the travel money to get hands-on experience in the field you don’t have much “edge” when the schooling is all over. I mostly battled the thoughts of my “plans” merely being unpractical dreams by filling every moment of my time with studying the field.

    “I thought so,” responded the inquiring man, his expression becoming smug as he nodded with a pursed, yet affirmative smile.

    There seemed to be an awkward pause in our exchange, so I started to pull my bag back over my shoulder.

    “Well, it was nice talking to you. I’d best be go…”

    “Oh, wait dear, I want to introduce myself,” said the man as he snapped out of his glazed delight. “My name is Robert Edenstein.”He extended his hand towards me.

    I’m sure I blinked a million times within the 30 seconds that followed Dr. Edenstien revealing his identity. The fact that he needed to reveal it all made me want to dump the entire contents of my book bag on top of my own head. I should have recognized that wirey hair, though a bit more grey than the dozen times I had seen it pictured in my textbooks during my time at school.

    Dr. Edenstien had led many research excursions over the past three decades which have resulted in catastrophic amounts of data. This said data had been a main source for my textbooks and not to mention personal inspiration. He was a biologist rock star, and now I was standing face-to-face with him stammering like an idiot!

    I realized I hadn’t even taken his hand at his introduction which seemed to have been some moments ago now. I quickly shook his hand and noted that it felt just as weathered as his face looked, likely from all the years he had spent in the rainforest elements.

    “I-I’m Allison Tran! Pleasure to meet you, Dr. Edenstien,” I finally managed to get out, but a bit more exuberantly than I meant to.

    Dr. Edenstein told me that he was visiting because he was drawing up plans for another research project and was working with the university’s researchers. He then invited me to have coffee with him the next afternoon.

    I was surprised to see that Dr. Howard, the chair of the biology department at my school was there when I arrived for our meeting the next day. I almost spilled my piping cup of Malaccan roast all over our table when Dr. Edenstein told me he had been keeping an eye on me the past few weeks because of Dr. Howard’s recommendation of me as a student researcher for his team on this upcoming project. He explained that he was seeking out young, evidently devoted biologists that would surely carry on his work after he was gone, and that if I was interested in joining him, my travel and living expenses would be covered during the nine-month expedition to the Amazon rainforest!

    “Of course, the lodging would most likely be something of a straw hut, but the experience may make up for the inconvenience,” finished up Dr. Edenstein with his offer.

    And that’s how I became the proud owner of a plane ticket to Brazil!

  12. “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Did I hear that or just think it? I wake up. I’m in a diner.
    Strange. I never eat breakfast. I’m never even awake this early. How did I get here? What’s next?
    There is a subtle pang as my shaking hand tries to control my fork. Both the sight and the smell of my food repulses me. The sunlight is vicious, even through my sunglasses.
    And then I notice a man. He’s reading his newspaper in a nonchalant way but he’s acting too cool. I can tell he’s up to something.
    He can’t be looking at me. I’m just paranoid. It’s just the state I’m in. Be cool. Drop a twenty on the table and leave. Don’t look back. Don’t look at him.
    As I pull the door handle towards me, I begin to wonder if I drove here. I’m scanning the parking lot for my car when he grabs my shoulder; “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” I don’t turn around.
    “I don’t want any trouble.” And then I feel the concealed handgun he’s got pressed up against my back.
    “Walk.”
    He puts me in the back of a black van and puts a bag over my head. I know better than to speak.
    Once again, I’m awoken by a bright light. Can’t be sure how far we’ve gone. The only thing around is a big round concrete building. My captor leads me inside and cuff me to a metal chair
    “We’ve been looking for you for a long time, Mr. Cowen.”
    “Oh yeah? Who’s we? FBI? DEA?”
    “Not even close.” And then he fires a round into my shoulder. “Where’s the next shipment going to?”
    “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I’m lying. He shoots again, same spot. I don’t flinch. I don’t have to. I’m no longer entirely human.
    He doesn’t ask again. Just stares. I see him bracing for the blowback of another shot. I swing the chair that I’m cuffed to at my interrogator. It ruptures his skull and pulls hard on my wounded shoulder. My eyes go black, involuntarily this time, and frighten my remaining captors. More gunfire. I don’t flinch. The two that I don’t recognize run but the man from the restaurant stays. I swing my metal chair at him. The strain on my arm is beginning to alarm me.
    He doesn’t flinch. He blacks his eyes; on purpose. He, too, has Satan’s gift. Someone once told me that when a demon is nearing death, he can smell hellfire. He holds out a small red leather box. I take it from him, hesitantly. He turns and walks away.
    I open it. Inside is a phone, connected to a number with a Philadelphia area code. On the line is my mother.
    I got in one little fight and my mom got scared and said,”You’re moving with your auntie and your uncle in Bel-Air”.

  13. ofwait says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A tall man tapped me on the shoulder as I walked out of Jimmy’s Roadhouse after my morning “meal”. I turned to see a man in his 80’s holding out a piece of paper and a set of car keys.
    “What?” I am baffled and I simply stare at this man.
    “I see you here every day, and you watch the cars go by. Some catch your eye don’t they?” He has a knowing smirk on his face as he continues holding the keys out.
    “Well, yeah!” I reply “You can really tell something about a person by the car that they drive.” I turn to point at an older sedan “Take a look at that one, whoever drives that can barely afford to, or doesn’t care.” He nods his head in agreement as we take in the rusty fenders, missing bumper and broken taillights. “But look at that beauty!” I say pointing out an immaculate vintage GTO. “Whoever own her is proud to, and it shows!”
    He smiles knowingly, “That’s why I want you to have her.” He says with a sad smile. “I think that you will take good care of her.”
    “What! No! I can’t!”
    “Yes you can. I think that you will take care of her, and if you don’t know how yet, you will care enough to learn. I want her taken care of.” He thrusts the keys and paper, that turns out to be a title, into my hands. He quickly walks away, not looking back or responding to my calls.
    I turn back to the car, and take in the shiny black paint and bright chrome highlights. I walk slowly over to the car and unlock it with the keys he gave me. The interior is clean and well cared for, and I open the glove box to put the title in, and find the registration as well as an old faded picture. It is the old man who had just given me the car, and pretty blonde woman. I turn the picture over and see a caption “John and Deanna 1968”.
    I start the car and to my pleasure hear the rumble of the engine vibrate through my body, “time to give her a spin.” I smile as I pull out of the parking lot and onto the road and drive home.

    And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a 1968 GTO.

  14. Abby Gracino says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” said an unnaturally skinny young woman. I’d seen her around at Greasy Pauly’s Steak Omelets before, but she was always accompanied by her massively-built husband, who went out of his way to order the greasiest, cheesiest omelet on the menu. The woman always ordered a glass of water, and nothing more. I often worried about her.

    I looked back up at her eyes, which were sinking into her face the way marshmallows melt over a bonfire. “And what’s that?”

    “Where are the napkins?” Her voice sounded fragile and meek, like it might break at any moment. “Something…spilled.” Of course she would ask me. I was the only waitress in this entire joint who was the least bit motivated. Basically, I wanted tips. I was saving up my money to go to Cape Cod for spring break, and I wasn’t about to throw away the only opportunity I’d ever have to escape from my mother for a week.

    I smiled at her, and led her over to a cubby behind the…whatever it was…and grabbed a stack of napkins for her. “Have fun cleaning up that mess,” I said charismatically, pointing at her with both fingers and winking. I was such a great waitress.

    I watched the woman walk away as I sat back down to finish my breakfast. There’s this age-old rumor that if you work at a restaurant, eating there is forbidden. It is completely false. I love the greasy omelets at Pauly’s more than I love my own life.

    I stood up to throw out my paper plate (budget problems) as I saw the woman get into her pickup truck and put it into ignition or something. I had no idea how cars worked, as I didn’t have a penny to my name. Well, I did have my Cape Cod savings, but, it’s Cape Cod. I just couldn’t turn down Cape Cod. Besides, I didn’t need a car. I had a shiny red bicycle that I rode everywhere, just as a nineteen year-old college girl should.

    Suddenly, the woman drove her car right into the side of the restaurant. Everyone on the inside ran for their lives. My jaw dropped. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I ended up running outside to see if the woman was okay, but when I looked inside of her car, she was no longer there. I listlessly looked around the neighborhood for her, giving up after about forty-five seconds.

    I assessed the damage of the building, thinking about how Pauly III, our current manager, would never get around to fixing it, with all of the budget issues, and Pauly’s incessant failure to meet deadlines. I picked up a reddish brick that had detached from the exterior of the building. I shrugged, stuffing it into my purse. Souvenirs can be so much fun.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a Greasy Pauly’s brick.

    • jmcody says:

      I’m trying to figure out why your last sentence made me bust out laughing. I think its because you faked me out — I thought the story was going to be about the anorexic customer (excellent description there, by the way), but it was really about the outrageously flippant attitude of this really bad employee. Her monologue was priceless — a masterpiece of indolence. It was also probably realistic for a nineteen year old with a bad attitude. I especially loved her attempt to describe how a car works. Pauly should fire her, except according to her, she’s the best he’s got.

  15. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.
    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Nora’s.
    “Sure” I said curious.
    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.
    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.
    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”
    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”
    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”
    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.
    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.
    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”
    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her
    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”
    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.
    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.
    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.
    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Nora, My love.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Nora in the book had the same font as the Nora that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.
    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  16. Narissa.B says:

    The Unexpected Gift.

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.

    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Nora.

    “Sure” I said curious.

    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?

    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.

    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.

    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”

    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”

    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.

    “What’s that?”

    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”

    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.

    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.

    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”

    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”

    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her

    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”

    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.

    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.

    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.

    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Nora, My love.”

    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Nora in the book had the same font as the Nora that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.

    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  17. Critique says:

    “Miss?” I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I hate to bother you.”

    “Thanks again for the birthday breakfast Glenda.” I called as Glenda dashed through the downpour from the doorway of the Blue Dolphin Restaurant. She reached her police cruiser, turned, and blew me a kiss.

    “I have something important to ask you.” I turned and found a man staring at me. “Have you got a minute?”

    “Sorry, I don’t.” I launched an umbrella over my red curls. I’d be late opening my photography studio if I didn’t catch the next bus.

    “If you’re Miranda Wells, you need to see this.” He took something from his pocket and held it out to me.

    It was a photo of a group of adults standing on the deck of a schooner. At the front a tiny girl with a mass of red ringlets and wearing a bulky lift jacket stared back at me.

    The umbrella escaped my grip and careened in a gust of wind under the front tire of a moving van. A popping crunch announced its demise.

    “Where did you get this?” I forgot to breathe. “And my name is Jenny Simpson.”

    “Could we go somewhere and talk?” He steered me to a coffee shop across the street. “I’m Brett Callihan by the way.”

    “Your birth name is Miranda Wells.” Brett declared and ordered two coffees. “Your father, Clive Wells, has been living in Florida for the past 15 years.”

    I goggled at him in disbelief. “My Dad’s alive? Everyone drowned except me when the boat capsized.”

    “The Coast Guard boat that responded to the Mayday call fished you out of the water. You were the only one wearing a life jacket.”

    My life flipped sideways like my wrecked umbrella.

    “Why has it taken him so long to find me?”

    “Your Dad thought everyone perished.” Brett stirred sugar into his coffee. “He was watching an old Unsolved Mysteries show on TV and heard that a little red headed girl had been rescued from a boating accident that same summer. He put two and two together, hired me and gave me this picture that was found in his water proof camera case washed up on shore.”

    ******************************

    A week later my Dad met me at the Miami International Airport. Our meeting was a long emotional one. We had fifteen years of catching up to do.

    ******************************

    In reality, Glenda is my step-mom. When she was a young single police woman she adopted me. She insists on me calling her by her first name. I owe everything to her.

    After a weekend with my Dad I flew home. Glenda and I talked late into the night. My Dad wants to fly up soon to meet her.

    Taking a camera out of my carry-on I held it up. “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a Canon AE-1. It was my mother’s.”

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      A heart-warmer, Critique. You left enough open for the reader to ponder what might happen when Miranda’s father meets Glenda. Maybe, a fairy tale that rings true. A very imaginative story. Are you by any way, a native of Miami?

      • Critique says:

        Thanks Kerry. The prompt corralled me in a bit having to use the closing sentence – but it’s all good.
        I lived in Miami when I was a little girl. Someday I’d like to go back and visit the neighborhood – it’s probably all rebuilt now ;)

    • jmcody says:

      Hey Critique — that was excellent. You did a fantastic job with all the sensory input — the wind and rain, the crunch of the umbrella, the red curls, the police cruiser, the photo. It all seemed very real and drew me right in. The only thing that snapped me out of it for a moment was the thought that the father would not know that his daughter survived the accident, that there wouldn’t be a police report or social worker inquiry. But you’d probably need another couple hundred words to work all that out. All in all, this was some very impressive writing.

      • Critique says:

        Thanks jmcody for the comments. They are appreciated :)
        I cut a bunch out to keep to the word count and realized after posting that I left some pretty big holes in the story.

  18. garam says:

    I hate to bother you, but I have something to ask. A teenage boy stood next to me. Wavy chestnut hair swung into piercing green eyes. When the silver wind caresses the willow what do you hear? Automatically I replied “echoes of the past and whispers of the future.” This was a poem I recited with my hippie, but lovable aunt every day before her passing.

    The courier carefully handed me a leather bound journal and nodded. I looked down at the journal and looked up. He had vanished like vapor. Was I losing my mind? Yet I had this journal staring at me confirming my mind was intact.

    I found a park to sit in and took a closer look at my hand delivered treasure. My sanctuaries were the parks of the city. I seemed allergic to concrete and hungered for the solace that only nature’s embrace can provide.

    A woman was engraved on the journal. Strands of hair flowed around her shoulders and a pendant of a small willow hung on a chain from her graceful neck. Those eyes seemed so familiar. I just couldn’t place them. Piercing eyes gazed into ethereal planes possessed knowledge as if they knew the secrets to this world and beyond.

    In utter frustration, I opened the journal expecting to see answers to all my questions. My life was order personified. Debits and credits neatly printed in each column resulted in nice simple reliable answers. I opened the journal and my hopes were mercilessly dashed. Empty page after empty page mocked me. Why would someone give me an empty book? Why would my young courier vanish?

    My work day was about to start and the solace of the park had come to an end. I shook my head and put the journal in my tote and headed to the office. At the office, I placed my tote in my desk drawer and immersed myself in the order that only a balanced ledger can provide.

    I went home that night and placed the journal on my desk. I dropped an intricately inscribed silver letter opener on it as I opened my mail for the night. Sweet memories of my aunt came and went as I opened my mail. It was one of her most cherished possessions and she entrusted it to me.

    I shut the desk light off and was about to walk away. A sapphire light appeared from the silver spear as it rested on the journal. I opened the journal and under the luminance a language appeared unlike anything I had ever seen. And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a mystery that would take me to the lands of my ancestors and an adventure I’d pass down to generations to come.

    • Abby Gracino says:

      Your character sounds very sophisticated. You obviously know a thing or two about sounding inspirational and extremely deep. Seriously, though. That was so deep that it hurt.

      I must comment on the last line: “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a mystery that would take me to the lands of my ancestors and an adventure I’d pass down to generations to come.” You’ve literally just set up the groundwork for the most awesome novel in the history of forever. Like, you could do anything you wanted.

      I can see it now: the protagonist uncovers a series of clues, each one so versatile that it could mean anything. And then, they discover that they share half of their DNA with Bigfoot, which actually ends up being a metaphor for this inspirational woman who’s done so much good in her life that she never dwells on the mistakes of the past, and lives each day like it’s her last, which influences your character to go out there and do something right.

      Then you’ll sell the film rights, and some guy with a mustache and a beret and a clipboard in his hands will make your book into a really cheesy visual-representation of the story you were trying to tell. But let’s face it; there are a lot of books that don’t translate well to the screen unless you have an unlimited amount of money, so I really don’t know how that’ll turn out for you in the end. Sorry.

      Anyway, great story.

      • jmcody says:

        Geez, Abby, you just made me laugh for the second time today.

      • garam says:

        Thank you so much for your comments. It’s been awhile since I”ve written anything and was trying to stretch my imagination. I”m going to store this prompt off and try a few more out. I’m a bit rusty so hopefully I’ll remember some of my creative writing tasks. Wish me luck :)

    • jmcody says:

      It does sound like the beginning of a series. I would definitely like to know more about this book.

    • Critique says:

      You’ve laid the groundwork that could become an interesting series. I’d love to hear more ??

    • Eclipcia says:

      This is extremely awesome! I love how it is written and the utter creativity of it all.

  19. garam says:

    I hate to bother you, but I have something to ask. A teenage boy stood next to me. Wavy chestnut hair swung into piercing green eyes. When the silver wind caresses the willow what do you hear? Automatically I replied “echoes of the past and whispers of the future.” This was a poem I recited with my hippie, but lovable aunt every day before her passing.
    The courier carefully handed me a leather bound journal and nodded. I looked down at the journal and looked up. He had vanished like vapor. Was I losing my mind? Yet I had this journal staring at me confirming my mind was intact.
    I found a park to sit in and took a closer look at my hand delivered treasure. My sanctuaries were the parks of the city. I seemed allergic to concrete and hungered for the solace that only nature’s embrace can provide.
    A woman was engraved on the journal. Strands of hair flowed around her shoulders and a pendant of a small willow hung on a chain from her graceful neck. Those eyes seemed so familiar. I just couldn’t place them. Piercing eyes gazed into ethereal planes possessed knowledge as if they knew the secrets to this world and beyond.
    In utter frustration, I opened the journal expecting to see answers to all my questions. My life was order personified. Debits and credits neatly printed in each column resulted in nice simple reliable answers. I opened the journal and my hopes were mercilessly dashed. Empty page after empty page mocked me. Why would someone give me an empty book? Why would my young courier vanish?
    My work day was about to start and the solace of the park had come to an end. I shook my head and put the journal in my tote and headed to the office. At the office, I placed my tote in my desk drawer and immersed myself in the order that only a balanced ledger can provide.
    I went home that night and placed the journal on my desk. I dropped an intricately inscribed silver letter opener on it as I opened my mail for the night. Sweet memories of my aunt came and went as I opened my mail. It was one of her most cherished possessions and she entrusted it to me.
    I shut the desk light off and was about to walk away. A sapphire light appeared from the silver spear as it rested on the journal. I opened the journal and under the luminance a language appeared unlike anything I had ever seen. And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a mystery that would take me to the lands of my ancestors and an adventure I’d pass down to generations to come.

  20. jopgespn says:

    I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”
    “Okay, shoot.”
    “It’s been a long time since I’ve had a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone, unfortunately for me, the vender just ran out, and you grabbed the last one. May I have a taste?”
    “Uh…you want to try my ice cream? But I’ve licked around the whole thing already.”
    “That’s not an issue. I just really want a taste before I have to go.”
    “Where are you going? Couldn’t you find another place that sells mint-chocolate chip?”
    “You see, where I am going, there is no ice cream.”
    “Where would that be?”
    “I shouldn’t say.”
    “Oh, well, here. Just take it then. You can have the whole thing.”
    “I wouldn’t want to put you out like that.”
    “It’s not a big deal, and no offense, but I doubt I’ll want to eat it afterwards. It’s a germphobe thing.”
    “I understand”, the man takes his hand off my shoulder as I hand him the partially eaten cone and he reaches into his back pocket, “Let me pay you.”
    “Oh, no, that’s okay. I’ve eaten on it already so consider it a gift.”
    “Well, I appreciate that but where I’m going I won’t be needing any money.”
    I hand him the cone. I don’t know the guy from Adam and he’s asking me to taste my ice cream and tells me he’s going to a place where there is no ice cream or necessity for money. To be honest, I’m starting to get a little creeped out, “Really, it’s okay.” His wallet rests open in his hand, I can see a photo I.D. that doesn’t even look like him, perhaps age has done him in, but it’s no less creepy. His eyes are weathered and gray, his forehead creased without effort, and there is no facial hair aside from black eyebrows that adorn his ashen skin tone.
    “The kindness of strangers,” he says as he licks the cone which makes me shutter.
    On T.V. there is a breaking news report of an escaped prisoner, and his tie to a missing man. Both pictures, the prisoner and the missing person, match the guy that I met, and the photo on the picture I.D. The kindness of strangers echoes in my mind. I’m speechless. And that is how I am the proud owner of a guilty conscious and out one mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.

  21. rachekma says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” His husky voice had an aire of familiarity to it as his large hand descended onto my shoulder, stopping me in my tracks. It was like something from a childhood dream. I recognized it but I couldn’t place it. It was only because of this that I turned around to look at him instead of screaming. He held my gaze with the softest, bluest eyes I had ever seen, with the exception being when I looked in the mirror.

    “Are you from Cleveland, Ohio?” He asked not blinking as my jaw fell open ever so slightly. I became increasingly aware that my breath smelled of the goat cheese and spinach omelet I had just finished consuming at my favorite brunch spot in the Gold Coast.

    “I’m from nowhere,” I responded finally finding my voice. His hand felt hot on my shoulder as the familiarity of this man began making my stomach turn.

    “I tell people that a lot too.” He smiled and so I smiled. “It’s hard feeling as though you belong anywhere if you don’t know where you are from.” He finally removed his hand from my shoulder and I was able to regain the rest of my composure. Taking a step back, not completely out of his reach, but enough so that I could take in the rest of him I took one deep breath after another.

    “I’m sorry but who are you?” My blunt words only causing the smile on his face to grow. “I mean do I know you?”

    “You don’t know me and no we haven’t met before, technically. We do share one very important fact in common. Our mother.”

    For the first time since he touched me panic began rising up inside of me. I didn’t have a mother. Or a father. I didn’t have siblings. I now took several steps backwards, feeling the contents of my breakfast knotting up in my stomach, ready to come back up.

    “Who are you? What do you want?”

    “My name is Patrick and I think we want the same thing. Please don’t be scared. I was walking to your apartment across the street when I saw you come out of the restaurant. I couldn’t wait another moment to meet the only family member I have.”

    “Family?” Surely this man was crazy. I wanted to run, to scream, as I should have when he initially placed his hand on me. The matching blue eyes stopped me though. They made my blood run cold with their ‘iciness and familiarity. They were hardened from a lifetime of looking after ones self but still there was a liquid center that spoke of a kindness alive within.

    “Penny, I’m your brother,” he said forcing the realization on me.

    I didn’t expect this to happen but for the first time in my life I became the proud owner of a family.

    • jhowe says:

      Pretty touching rachekma. I like it. Nice structure, nice flow, great message. Well done.

    • madeindetroit says:

      Very touching emotional story. Great description and details.
      Loved the line about the breath: my breath smelled of the goat cheese and spinach omelet.

      Great job!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was well written, though there is more to the story, than what is on the page. Why is penny so afraid of him, why does she have no family. While sweet on the outside, I detect deep tensions. And conflict. Interesting piece.

    • Critique says:

      A stirring story. I wonder what happened to the MC to cause such fear? I liked the part where you mention ‘hardened from a lifetime… still ..kindness alive within”.

  22. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.

    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Nora’s
    .
    “Sure” I said curious.

    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?”

    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.

    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.

    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”

    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”

    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.

    “What’s that?”

    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”

    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.

    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.

    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”

    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her

    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”

    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.

    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.

    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.

    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Nora, My love.”

    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Nora in the book had the same font as the Nora that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.

    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  23. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.

    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Nora’s.

    “Sure” I said curious.

    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?

    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.

    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.

    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”

    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”

    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.

    “What’s that?”

    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”

    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.

    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.

    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”

    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”

    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her

    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”

    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.

    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.

    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.

    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Nora, My love.”

    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Nora in the book had the same font as the Nora that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.

    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  24. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.
    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.
    “Sure” I said curious.
    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.
    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.
    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”
    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”
    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”
    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.
    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.
    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”
    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her
    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”
    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.
    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.
    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.
    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.
    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

    :

  25. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.
    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.

    “Sure” I said curious.
    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.
    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.
    “Sorry I didn't expect to get so emotional about it.”
    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”
    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”
    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.
    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.
    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”
    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her
    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”
    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.
    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.
    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.
    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.
    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  26. JR MacBeth says:

    Less was more these days, and it felt good. While my retirement in Mexico was modest, there wasn’t a day that went by where I didn’t feel like a king. Years of grinding through miserable days at the cube farm could do that to you.

    “Gracias Rosa. Muy excellente!”

    My Spanish was improving too. Everyday I came to see Rosa and to start my day with a plate of her eggs, and to practice a few words of the lingua locale. Later, I might even wander back to enjoy a bottle of wine with some of my new expat friends. Life was good!

    But, and there was always that “but” in life it seemed, it sure would have been nice if Angie hadn’t died. Cancer. Thirty years together, and in less than two months, she was gone.

    “Excuse me sir.”

    A young girl, no more than ten or eleven years old had just tapped my shoulder, speaking perfect English.

    “Can you help me?”

    “Where are your parents?”

    “That doesn’t matter.”

    “Well dear, who is taking care of you?”

    “I hope you will.”

    “Listen sweetie, I can take you to the ‘policia’. Actually, he’s a very nice man–”

    “Please don’t. Just come with me. You’ll see why.”

    I stared at her for a moment, and then thought maybe Rosa would be better at this. But Rosa was arguing with Alberto back in the kitchen again.

    “You said you need help. What kind of help?” I had no sooner said it, and it occurred to me it was a scam. “You need some money, is that it?”

    “No, but you do.”

    Goosebumps hit me as I stared into her eyes. How could she know? It was true, my meagre retirement was running out, but I still dressed the part. What no one knew was that I had my endgame all figured out. Dead guys do just fine without money.

    “Come on, follow me.”

    She pulled my hand and before I knew it we were walking on the beach. She started skipping, kicking at the water. Why did she seem so familiar?

    “Can you tell me your name now? You said you would tell me when we got to the beach.”

    “I’m Amy.”

    The goosebumps hit again. I turned her to me. Could it be?

    “Who are you?”

    “You already know.”

    “But…it’s not possible!”

    “Daddy, Mom sent me to tell you not to do it. She says that if you do, we can never be together again.”

    It had been years, and something I seldom thought about anymore. My daughter Alice had drowned, and before long, Angie was pregnant again. We had talked about naming the baby Amy. We would still be the “A” family she said. But “Amy” was stillborn.

    I stared at the girl. A lifetime of staunch atheism wasn’t enough to banish the illusion. Somehow, it was real.

    “How will I live? I’m flat broke, and–”

    But she was gone.

    That was six years ago. I’m still broke, but now I have something I never expected…

    Hope.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      So wistfull and beautiful, this story is. Theme is perfect for this week and your realistic prompt about life and all the alleys through it is as good as it gets. The prompt struck me the same way only I took a different avenue toward it. I like your’s better and wish I had thought about it , but you did and I’m so thankful I had the chance to read it. Thank you.

    • jhowe says:

      That was really good JR. It was a heart string puller with a lot of character.

    • jmcody says:

      JR Macbeth, you are speaking my language. This is a beautiful tale, beautifully told, with beautiful message. That’s whole lotta beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Very nice themes of hope and faith. I think n it says much that so many prompts inspire people to write about these. I found this a mild but entertaining response.

    • Eclipcia says:

      Ahh, this was heartwarming and nicely written.

  27. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.

    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Nora’s.

    “Sure” I said curious.

    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.

    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.

    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”

    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”

    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.

    “What’s that?”

    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”

    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.

    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.

    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”

    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”

    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her

    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”

    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.

    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.

    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.

    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Nora, My love.”

    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Nora in the book had the same font as the Nora that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.

    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  28. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.
    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.
    “Sure” I said curious.
    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.
    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.
    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”
    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”
    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”
    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.
    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.
    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”
    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her
    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”
    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.
    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.
    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.
    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.
    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.
    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.
    “Sure” I said curious.
    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.
    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.
    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”
    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”
    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”
    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.
    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.
    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”
    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her
    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”
    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.
    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.
    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.
    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.
    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  29. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.

    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.

    “Sure” I said curious.

    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?

    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.

    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.

    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”

    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”

    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.

    “What’s that?”

    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”

    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.

    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.

    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”

    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her

    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”

    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.

    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.

    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.

    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”

    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.

    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  30. Hash_tag5 says:

    It was a bright sunny day. I looked out the window of the café I was in, happy and content. People hurrying towards the bus stop, children walking to school in a pack, two men cursing at each other as they bumped onto one another. Nothing is more calm and relaxing than normalcy. It was a normal day. Or so I thought.
    I got up from my seat, pulled out a crisp note of twenty from my purse and sauntered towards the door when I felt someone tap my shoulder. Turning, I came face-to-face with a man with the most stormy and mysterious eyes I’ve seen so far. He was panting and his eyes wandering, searching for something and then settling on me. We stared at each other for a moment when I realised he was too close. He was in my personal space. I hated it. He probably understood from my expression that I was getting annoyed so he took a step back but did not blink once and kept staring at me. Needless to say, it was very unnerving. That’s when I took in his appearance. Dressed in a black shirt and blue jeans, the man was tall. Towering, in fact. His eyes. His piercing blue eyes was tearing into my soul and I was feeling vulnerable.

    People were staring at us. I mean, it wasn’t alright to stand in the middle of a café and to have a staring contest with a stranger. In flash he was in my personal space again and pushed a box into my hand. My first reaction was to flinch and get away from him but he grabbed my wrist. His eyes were almost begging me to take the box. And I did. I don’t know why but I did. The box had strange markings on it and looked pretty dusty. I looked up, confused and scared, but he wasn’t there. I dashed out the door to try and catch a glimpse of him but I couldn’t find him. It was like he wasn’t even there. But the tiny box in my hand said otherwise.

    It has been almost 5 years since that incident. The box still sits on the table by my bed. I never opened it. I don’t have it in me to do so. I don’t know who the man was. I did not speak to him that day but still his eyes said a million things which still haunts me every day. The last time I saw his face, was in a newspaper article. Murdered. Dr. Hans King, Professor of Ancient History from a well-known university in UK. Murdered. People speculated it had something to do with his research. His findings. The fact that he vanished right when he apparently discovered something unbelievable. Everyone had a theory. No one knew the truth. Neither do I. Do I want to? Yes. What am I willing to give up for it? I don’t know. I guess I’ll know when the time comes.

    And that is how I ended being the proud owner of the mysterious box, which I keep close to my heart because of the blind faith I have in it and the stranger who gave it to me. And maybe someday it will prove to be important and I need to protect it.

  31. Observer Tim says:

    This one has been percolating in my head since I first read the prompt. Which tells you how empty it can get in there sometimes.
    _____

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    The girl stopped skipping and looked up at me like I’d just intruded on her world. Her dog barked at me a couple of times.

    “Could you help me down? I seem to be stuck up here.”

    Stuck was definitely the word. I’d been crucified, hung up on a post and left to rot in the sun while vicious birds picked at my flesh. It was to be slow and cruel torture for me, but this girl, this little child, could save me. And she did!

    It took her a bit of effort, but she scared the birds away and got me down. I was so happy I could dance! Even so, I had to stop after a few moments and tend to my wounds. Lucky thing I heal quickly.

    I asked the girl what she was doing on this remote stretch of road and she said she was going to meet an old man in the big city. What could I do? I offered my assistance, she accepted, and the two of us were off. It was the great adventure of a lifetime.

    I’m sure you know the rest of the tale: how we rescued the armoured knight from the crazy old woman, and how that wonderful girl had turned the heart of a vicious highway brigand. How a freak blizzard saved us from narcotic flowers. How we found the old man, and he told us to defeat the old woman (who’d been a thorn in his side for many a year). In the course of the adventure I was burned, harassed by monsters, and even had my arms and legs torn off. Luckily, as I said, I heal quickly. It was truly a harrowing adventure.

    In the end we were able to stop the wicked witch; she was threatening me with a flaming broom when the girl tossed a bucked of liquid on her. It turned out to be corrosive, and the old lady was killed. Not the nicest of ends, but your viewpoint really changes when you’re staring into the flames.

    When we got back, the old man gave rewards to everyone. The knight was reminded of the value of compassion, and the highwayman got a medal for his great bravery. The old man even tried to take the girl home, but things went a little wrong there.

    And me? That’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a brain.
    _____

    (with apologies to Ray Bolger)

  32. terry_0804 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A stout middle-age guy with tangles of curly blonde hair, dressed in sunflower boxing shorts and a dark shirt with a smiling skeleton on it, grinned at me. “Are you Mr. Chris Hobbs? I think you are unless I am very wrong. I read your profile dozens of times.” He chuckled at my stunned face.

    “And you are?” the smiling skeleton on his shirt was so self-evident that I almost stuttered in response.

    “Yes, I am Mark Peterson from WHC. I am sorry I called the house number you registered on our website and your wife said you are here.”

    “Yes, I don’t have breakfast with Mary on Sundays. She doesn’t get up until noon.”

    “Oops, then sorry for disturbing your wife’s sleep, but I had to find you and say congratulation, Mr.Hobbs.” the middle-age dude stretched a hairy hand and shook mine enthusiastically. “Your plan is so well accepted that fans are hailing you to do it this Halloween. I mean, if you think you are capable.” He changed his friendly grin into a crook smile.

    “Of course, I am. That’s my plan, isn’t it?” I doubted my answer sounded confident enough but I made it as resonant I could. The mention of Thompson, the abandoned hunted villa on the very border of cemetery, was always the most catching folktale on a bonfire night. Lonely and staggering, the villa was believed to be a living creature, evil and murderous, opening its front gate to lure and swallow any innocent creature nearby.

    “Great! Mr. Hobbs. And when you make it, you’ll be awarded the skull of this year. Good luck.” the man tapped me again, this time much harder, before he turned to the gate.

    WHC, World Halloween Competition, was a worldwide scary live show held on every Halloween.
    Hundreds of thousands of dudes like me fed up of boring life registered on its website several months ahead the festival and briefed their plans to the organizer. The chance of being selected from the last one hundred of nominees to present the whole world your hair-raising Halloween experience was no bigger than winning a lottery. That explained why I was so stunned when a guy wearing a smiling skeleton shirt, the icon of WHC, came to me and said my plan was accepted a week ahead of Halloween.

    Seven days later, I took up my digital camera and stayed a whole night at the Thompson. WHC shared what I’d seen and heard on its website. Thousands of my fans logged on to it and cheered how I ended up being the proud owner of a miniature crystal skull of this year.

  33. terry_0804 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A stout middle-age guy with tangles of curly blonde hair, dressed in sunflower boxing shorts and a dark shirt with a smiling skeleton on it, grinned at me. “Are you Mr. Chris Hobbs? I think you are unless I am very wrong. I read your profile dozens of times.” He chuckled at my stunned face.

    “And you are?” the smiling skeleton on his shirt was so self-evident that I almost stuttered in response.

    “Yes, I am Mark Peterson from WHC. I am sorry I called the house number you registered on our website and your wife said you are here.”

    “Yes, I don’t have breakfast with Mary on Sundays. She doesn’t get up until noon.”

    “Oops, then sorry for disturbing your wife’s sleep, but I had to find you and say congratulation, Mr.Hobbs.” the middle-age dude stretched a hairy hand and shook mine enthusiastically. “Your plan is so well accepted that fans are hailing you to do it this Halloween. I mean, if you think you are capable.” He changed his friendly grin into a crook smile.

    “Of course, I am. That’s my plan, isn’t it?” I doubted my answer sounded confident enough but I made it as resonant I could. The mention of Thompson, the abandoned hunted villa on the very border of cemetery, was always the most catching folktale on a bonfire night. Lonely and staggering, the villa was believed to be a living creature, evil and murderous, opening its front gate to lure and swallow any innocent creature nearby.

    “Great! Mr. Hobbs. And when you make it, you’ll be awarded the skull of this year. Good luck.” the man tapped me again, this time much harder, and turned to the gate.

    WHC, World Halloween Competition, was a worldwide scary live show held on every Halloween.
    Hundreds of thousands of dudes like me fed up of boring life registered on its website several months ahead the festival and briefed their plans to the organizer. The chance of being selected from the last one hundred of nominees to present the whole world your hair-raising Halloween experience was no bigger than winning a lottery. That explained why I was so stunned when a guy wearing a smiling skeleton shirt, the icon of WHC, came to me and said my plan was accepted a week ahead of Halloween.

    Seven days later, I took up my digital camera and stayed a whole night at the Thompson. WHC shared what I’d seen and heard on its website. Thousands of my fans logged on to it and cheered how I ended up being the proud owner of a miniature crystal skull of this year.

  34. terry_0804 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A stout middle-age guy with tangles of curly blonde hair, dressed in sunflower boxing shorts and a dark shirt with a smiling skeleton on it, grinned at me. “Are you Mr. Chris Hobbs? I think you are unless I am very wrong. I read your profile dozens of times.” He chuckled at my stunned face.

    “And you are?” the smiling skeleton on his shirt was so self-evident that I almost stuttered in response.

    “Yes, I am Mark Peterson from WHC. I am sorry I called the house number you registered on our website and your wife said you are here.”

    “Yes, I don’t have breakfast with Mary on Sundays. She doesn’t get up until noon.”

    “Oops, then sorry for disturbing your wife’s sleep, but I had to find you and say congratulation, Mr.Hobbs.” the middle-age dude stretched a hairy hand and shook mine enthusiastically. “Your plan is so well accepted that fans are hailing you to do it this Halloween. I mean, if you think you are capable.” He changed his friendly grin into a crook smile.

    “Of course, I am. That’s my plan, isn’t?” I doubted my answer sounded confident enough but I made it as resonant I could. The mention of Thompson, the abandoned hunted villa on the very border of cemetery, was always the most catching folktale on a bonfire night. Lonely and staggering, the villa itself was believed to be a living creature, evil and murderous, opening its broken gate to lure and swallow any innocent things nearby.

    “That’s great. If you make it, Mr.Hobbs. You’ll be awarded the skull of this year. Good luck.” the man tapped me again and turned to the gate.

    WHC, World Halloween Competition, was a worldwide scary live show held on every Halloween.
    Hundreds of thousands of guys like me fed up of boring life registered on its website several months ahead the festival and briefed their plans to the organizer. The chance of being selected from the last one hundred of nominees to present the whole world your hair-raising Halloween experience was no bigger than winning a local lottery. That explained why I was so stunned when a guy wearing a smiling skeleton shirt, the icon of WHC, came to me and said my plan was accepted a week ahead of Halloween.

    Seven days later, I took up my digital camera and stayed a whole night at the Thompson. WHC shared what I’d seen and heard on its website. Thousands of my fans logged on to it and cheered how I ended up being the proud owner of a miniature crystal skull of this year.

  35. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.

    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.

    “Sure” I said curious.

    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?

    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.

    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.

    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”

    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”

    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.

    “What’s that?”

    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”

    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.

    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.

    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”

    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”

    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her

    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”

    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.

    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.

    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.

    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”

    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.

    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  36. Narissa.B says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said a woman with short grey hair.
    I recognized her as a regular at my favorite restaurant Norah’s.
    “Sure” I said curious.
    “Every time I see you here you’re always reading Jane Eyre. Why do you read it over and over again?
    This was not the question I was expecting but it was an easy one. I held the book tight against me and smiled at the grey-haired women.
    “I read this book over and over because Jane Eyre is a constant reminder of the women I want to be. Every time I read it I am always inspired to do better. Jane Eyre was woman who did the right thing even if it cost her. I read it because I hope just like in Jane Eyre that no matter how many times life knocks you down that in the end good always win.” I said wiping a tear from my eye.
    “Sorry I didn’t expect to get so emotional about it.”
    “Don’t be, I know exactly how you feel.”
    It was then I noticed the book in her hand.
    “What’s that?”
    “This” she said holding it out to me “Is now yours.”
    I took the book in my hands and turn it to the side to read the title.
    “Jane Eyre” I gasped but not just because it was my favorite book.
    “This is a first edition. I can’t possibly take this.”
    “Yes you can because this book will go to someone who won’t appreciate as half as much as you do.”
    “Why are you giving this away?” I ask her
    “I am an old woman and my time here is about over. I have had that book for over fifty years now. I too have read it over and over constantly being inspired by it. I treasure Jane Eyre dearly and I want it to go to someone who will love just as much as I did. That person is you.”
    I finally took notice of her frail figure and instantly knew what she was gracefully trying to say. I reached out and hugged her.
    “Thank you” I whispered in her ear.
    She kissed me on the cheek and said “Your welcome and may you always remember to be a free human being with an independent will.” She then walks back into the restaurant.
    As I started walk away I open up the book to the first page. On it was some writing in black it ink. I looked closer at it and it said “To Norah, My love.”
    I stopped dead in my tracks and look back at the restaurant. The Norah in the book had the same font as the Norah that was written on the restaurant. All I can do was smile.
    “And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of a first edition of Jane Eyre.

  37. rle says:

    I promised myself not to post this second one but I just couldn’t help myself, sorry.

    ———————————————————————————————————————-

    “Hey mister, hey mister.”

    I didn’t really even hear the words at first, just the sound. Irritating it was, like the mosquito that insists on hoovering just a fraction of an inch from your ear but never seems to want to land there so you can just kill the damn thing.

    “Hey mister, hey mister.”

    I reluctantly looked over. I absolutely did not have time for this. I was about to close the single biggest business deal of my young career right this minute, right here on my smart phone, right here in this Godforsaken airport and now I had some snot nosed five year old repeating over and over, “hey, mister, hey mister.”

    “What,” I finally snapped, louder than I’d intended, “don’t you have parents and if you do, where are they?”

    Her expression froze like she’d just watched me transform from a clean cut man in a suit into a three headed monster. I knew what was about to happen next. I had to do something, and fast. I reached out and put my hand gently on her shoulder, “Don’t cry honey. Please, please, please, don’t cry,” I pleaded.

    Her face softened and I knew I had defused a bomb but my victory was only temporary because the next words out of her mouth were, “Hey mister, I have to go poop.”

    “Of course you do,” I groaned. My, how quickly a really good day can go south. “Where are your mommy and daddy?” I added.

    “I don’t know,” she whimperd, again looking like the flood gates might burst open at any second. She doubled over and clenched her mid-section with both hands, “Mister, I really gotta go!”

    “Now what?” I muttered to myself scanning the terminal either for security, or frantic parents. Neither savior appeared.

    Now I was faced with a real, dire delima. Did I just let this little girl stand here and dirty herself, or, did I take her to the bathroom and run the risk of someone accusing me of abduction or something worse?

    I quickly tapped a quick message on my phone: BOARDING PLANE, WILL TXT BACK SOON. I shoved the phone in my pocket and took the little girls hand. I mouthed a short silent prayer then headed to the restrooms with my little companion in tow.

    Once we’d reached our destination, she slipped through the door like a theif in the night and I stood guard, outside the womens restroom, looking like the biggest pervert in the history of the world. Just then, I caught a glimpse of a security guard and a young couple coming briskly in my direction. I waved my arms and bounced up and down on the balls of my feet, “over here!” I shouted.

    As they approached, I pointd toward the door and said, “in there.”

    The mother burst through the door like a battering ram. The father and the guard stopped at my side. “What’s the story here?” the guard asked.

    I shrugged my shoulders and looked at him sheepishly, “the little girl just had to go.”

    I closed my deal later that afternoon and it set into motion a series of events that would one day lead me to be CEO of the company.

    Now, everytime I have the chance, I tell people about that day in the airport. It’s the day I became the proud owner of three very endearing qualities; compassion, patience, and understanding. All three, lessons that I try to weave into my everyday life.

    • Narissa.B says:

      Can some please tell me how I can post my story. I have been trying with no luck.

      • When you’re new to posting to the site, your posts go into a folder and need to be approved before they get posted–and I’m the one that has to approve them to confirm the posts aren’t spam (we get a TON of spam). Once I approve the first couple, you won’t have problems anymore and the posts will show up automatically and immediately. Often, if the first posts by a new user are on Friday afternoon or over the weekend or on a day I’m not in the office, I won’t be able to go through the folder until I return.

        Anyway, you are now approved and can post away! Welcome to the Writer’s Digest community.
        Brian
        Online Editor

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Very cute and sweet story here. I found it very realistic, though where the heck were her parents?!? I liked it.

  38. lovewrite says:

    Hello all! This is my first post….I’d like to hear your feedback
    *********

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A nervous gentleman wearing a PBR trucker hat asked.

    “Sure, how can I help?” Today’s been a good day. The sun greeted me on my way to the gym. Jenna had breakfast and one of her sweet notes waiting for me on the kitchen counter, dropped the kids off at school and luckily I avoided traffic on my way here.

    He leaned in as he scanned the restaurant. “Can you deposit this into your account? I need this money or my family will be murdered. I will give you ten percent of this check if you help me, please?” He pleaded handing me a folded yellow check from his denim jacket. I unfolded the small paper, backing away at the sight of the astronomical figure. “Is this some kind of joke? I can’t cash that.” I tried giving it back, but he refused.

    “Please, do you understand? I have two small children and a wife, if I don’t deposit this check, and take the money to the train station in an hour, they will all be killed.” He sobbed desperately.

    “The police can help you, I’ll take you to the precinct.”

    “No they can’t, I was given precise instruction. No police or my family will die. Please help us.” He begged, gripping my arm for support.

    “I’m sorry I can’t.” I walked out of the restaurant, leaving the check on the table. “

    He stormed out of the restaurant screaming in rage, “You just killed family, you just killed my family!” He picked up a trashcan slamming it into the passenger side door of my truck. Trash and debris took flight.

    “Hey, hey, what the hell are you doing?” I charged after him. He jumped inside the cab of a pick-up like a lunatic. His phone rang, he quickly answered. “Please I need more time, please, please no!” He screamed. He dropped the phone. Life drained from his eyes.

    “Here, you can have it all. I have no reason to live.” He threw the check on the ground, pulled a Glock from his waist and pulled the trigger.” It all happened so fast. Everything went according to plan. I dialed her number. “Baby, it’s done. I’m on my way.” I tucked the yellow paper in my back pocket, climbed in the rental, never looking back.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a check worth twenty million dollars.”

  39. snuzcook says:

    HAVE YOU EVER BEEN?

    I was minding my own business. That’s what I do. I had just come from the Egg Nest a few doors down from the park, where I always go for coffee. This was my second stop every morning, this bench at the edge of the park. Later when I’d get tired of sitting or if the weather turned cold, I would cross the street to the corner grocery, pick up something for the ice box, and head back to my studio apartment over the barber shop to watch TV.

    Like I say, I had just settled in, minding my own business, watching the old lady on the next bench over tear up bread and feed it to pigeons. I must have been looking the other way, or maybe I was resting my eyes, when a little man appeared on the bench next to me. He said something, but that’s my bad ear, so I turned to look at him. “What?”

    “I said, I hate to bother you.” He had a funny, whiny voice a little like Peter Lorre. Looked a little like him, too. “I have something important to ask you.”

    “Yeah? What?” He reminded me of a whiny mosquito and I just wanted him to go away.

    “Excuse me for asking,” he said, “But have you ever been to. . . Casasblanca?”

    Casablanca. A name I hadn’t heard in, what, fifty, sixty years? Suddenly the air was filled with a mixture of spice and sweat, ocean breezes and sunbaked stone. Casablanca. Coffee and tobacco, dung and perfume. Casablanca. I could almost hear the sounds of the crowded alleys, the vendors at the market, the music from the nightclub in the European section.

    That had been a different time, a different world. It had been a different life. I felt a tingle of regret and something else—fear? My life now was complete and predictable: the world that held just my apartment, the Egg Nest, the park and the TV. I didn’t need anything else to complicate my life like it had been in those days. I didn’t need anyone to complicate my life like she had done.

    “Casablanca? No. Never been.” I turned away from the annoying little man, hoping he would just go away.

    “Well, I just thought…”

    “What!” I scowled at him out of the corner of my eye.

    “I just thought maybe you could use…these.”

    With that he slid off the bench and hurried off, leaving behind him two postcards. A funny, annoying little man. I picked them up. That’s how I came to be the proud owner of two $10 off coupons to the newest restaurant in the neighborhood: CASABLANCA.

    Wind blowing from the east ruffled the wisps of hair covering my bald spot and tugged at the coupons. I had a feeling my life was about to change.

  40. indigostorm says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” she looked up at me slightly startled. I was only taking a quiet walk in the park behind my old high school. But the sound of music, the distinctly familiar sound of the Piano had roused me from my spot. It dragged my feet up two storeys to the old music room. Careful not to make a sound, I pushed the door open slowly and sure enough, there she was.Eyebrows furrowed, eyes closed and focused. The room was silent except for the sound of Beethoven that made my heart race wildly.

    But the moment the words left my lips, she turned around. Glancing up at me, she pushed back her bangs self consciously. The action was so endearing it almost made me chuckle.

    “I’m a visiting faculty for music 101″ I lied. I know its after school hours but I couldn’t help overhear your playing” I said gently. She surveyed me and the moment our gazes met her cheeks tinged pink. This was a rare moment. And the last thing I wanted was to scare her away. “Its my rendition of Moonlight Sonata” she explained slowly trying to avoid my eyes.

    “I’ve been working on it for a while, its not nearly perfect..” she trailed off.

    “Its beautiful. Will you teach me?” I didn’t know if it was my tone or my secret wish to prolong the moment but she nodded. Wordlessly I slipped into the seat next to her.The next hour passed by in a blur and by the end of it, I had mastered the piece. It helped that I already knew the notes, of course I did. She was so sweet and young, laughing at the things I said, features animating.

    When it was time for me to leave, she looked slightly crestfallen and this somehow made me feel gleeful like a teenage boy. But I was a grown man, I had to remind myself that. Besides, It was getting late. I promised to visit soon. Her smile was radiant.

    Heart fluttering, I ran down the stairs towards the janitor’s closet. The sound of Piano grew more and more faint. Thank god the school had no alarm systems. I could slip in and slip out at will.
    Just as I got in shutting the closet door behind me, I heard knocking on the door. It took me a long, dizzying moment to stabilize, to calm myself and register my surroundings.

    My wife opened the door and peeked in. “Dinner?” she asked. I nodded
    .
    After supper I played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, a flawless rendition on her new Piano making her gape in shock. “But-but how?” she demanded eyes wide. She had lost the bet.

    She challenged me that I couldn’t play it. I agreed, but then I had my devices. “I should thank you” I said grinning at her expression.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of her old Piano.

  41. indigostorm says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” she looked up at me slightly startled. I was only taking a quiet walk in the park behind my old high school. But the sound of music, the distinctly familiar sound of the Piano had roused me from my spot. It dragged my feet up two storeys to the old music room. Careful not to make a sound, I pushed the door open slowly and sure enough, there she was.Eyebrows furrowed, eyes closed and focused. The room was silent except for the sound of Beethoven that made my heart race wildly.

    But the moment the words left my lips, she turned around. Glancing up at me, she pushed back her bangs self consciously. The action was so endearing it almost made me chuckle.

    “I’m a visiting faculty for music 101″ I lied. I know its after school hours but I couldn’t help overhear your playing” I said gently. She surveyed me and the moment our gazes met her cheeks tinged pink. This was a rare moment. And the last thing I wanted was to scare her away. “Its my rendition of Moonlight Sonata” she explained slowly trying to avoid my eyes.

    “I’ve been working on it for a while, its not nearly perfect..” she trailed off.

    “Its beautiful. Will you teach me?” I didn’t know if it was my tone or my secret wish to prolong the moment but she nodded. Wordlessly I slipped into the seat next to her.The next hour passed by in a blur and by the end of it, I had mastered the piece. It helped that I already knew the notes, of course I did. She was so sweet and young, laughing at the things I said, features animating.

    When it was time for me to leave, she looked slightly crestfallen and this somehow made me feel gleeful like a teenage boy. But I was a grown man, I had to remind myself that. Besides, It was getting late. I promised to visit soon. Her smile was radiant.

    Heart fluttering, I ran down the stairs towards the janitor’s closet. The sound of Piano grew more and more faint. Thank god the school had no alarm systems. I could slip in and slip out at will.
    Just as I got in shutting the closet door behind me, I heard knocking on the door. It took me a long, dizzying moment to stabilize, to calm myself and register my surroundings.

    My wife opened the door and peeked in. “Dinner?” she asked. I nodded
    .
    After supper I played Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, a flawless rendition on her new Piano making her gape in shock. “But-but how?” she demanded eyes wide. She had lost the bet.

    She challenged me that I couldn’t play it. I agreed.. but then I had my devices. “I should thank you” I said grinning at her expression.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of her old Piano.

  42. Arazimith says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    David looked up from reading the paper to see a man dressed in turn of century clothing. After giving him a once over glance, he said, “Who’re you suppose to be?”

    “Do not be concerned with my clothes. I must if you are David Roberts?” asked the man.

    “Yes. Who are you?” asked David glacing around from some indication of what was happening.

    I have been asked to give to you this parcel,” said the odd little man in a powered wig as he handed a small package to David.

    Folding the paper under his arm, David took the package. It was wrapped in crinkly brown butcher paper and tied up with rough fuzzy twine. After turning it over in his hand to examine it, David looked up to ask the man what it was only to find that he had completely disappeared. He began to seriously consider throwing the package into the nearest dumpster if not for the feeling in his gut telling him that he should open it. After he got into car, he slowly undid the twine and gingerly unwrapped the butcher paper. What he found did not blow up in his face. The package contained four really old book by the look of them. He opened the top book to the title page and read “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica”. David had no idea what these books were so he visited his brother-in-law’s rare book shop.

    “I would say you got yourself a copy of the Principia. I doubt it’s an original though. It’s just an old copy,” said Davis’s brother-in-law Nelson.

    “That still doesn’t tell me what it is,” said David.

    “The Principia is Isaac Newton’s laws of motion. You know, the guy with falling-apple-gravity-thingy,” replied Nelson.

    “So is it worth anything?” asked David.

    “Let me check,” answered Nelson as he typed at his computer. After a few moment, he got a curious look and started shuffle through all four books.

    “Okay. This is a bit strange. From what I’m reading here the Principia is only made up of three books. I’m seeing no record of there being a fourth. Do you mind if I hold on to these a day or two and see if I can figure out what’s going on?” asked Nelson.

    David felt the same feeling in his gut that he should take the books and leave. He said, “No. Don’t go to the trouble. I’ll just take them home with me.”

    Nelson almost grimaced before he said, “It’s not like I plan on doing anything with them. Just thought you might be curious to know what you got there.”

    David just smiled and left.

    When he got home, David sat down and started leafing through one of the books. At first, the latin text was just a bunch of letter strewn on a page, but as he continue words began pooping out at him. After several minutes, David found that he could recognize words. After an hour, he could actually understand what he was reading. He was not seeing latin, but english. Pages he had already read appeared in english. He set the book down and made himself a stiff drink. Looking at the stack of books on his end table, David was both excited and frightened by the prospect.

    And that’s how David ended up being the proud owner of the untold secrets to the universe.

    • Ha! That’s probably the only way we’ll every unify the theories of classical and quantum mechanics. Nicely done.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I like the mystic of your story line, leaving the reader to delve into the reason the Mc was left the books. The idea of Latin, transposing into english so he could understand what lay before his, was a clever touch. There is more to this story. Consider building it from your entry.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I thought this was well written, with the proper gravitas, which helped set the tone. This came to my mind like an old movie. Nicely done. I especially enjoyed the concept and where the story could go from there.

  43. agnesjack says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” a voice behind me said with a tap on my shoulder. I was on my way out the door of Sammy’s Café after my usual breakfast of black coffee, eggs over easy, well-done rye toast and crispy hash browns. I liked Sammy’s because the cook knew how to do eggs over easy without undercooking the whites. I’d been widowed for ten years and retired from the police force for three. Sammy’s was part of my daily routine.

    Once outside I turned to confront the tapper. He was a small, well-dressed man in a dark gray suit with a matching bowtie. He had a full head of white hair. At six foot three, I towered over him.

    “Forgive me,” he said. “When I saw you inside you seemed so familiar and I just now realized why.”

    “Do I know you?” I said.

    “No,” he said. “But I knew your mother many years ago. You’re Nina Morris’s son, aren’t’ you?”

    “Yes. How did you know?” I said, a little shocked because my mother had died when I was nine years old.

    “Well,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather show you. Do you have a little time?”

    “I’ve got all the time in the world, buddy,” I said.

    We got into his car and in a few minutes were on the parkway going north. He told me his name was Gerald Connor. He lived in California but had come back east to settle his mother’s estate. Pretty soon we were pulling into the driveway of the house where he had grown up. I couldn’t believe it. It was the neighborhood where my mother had grown up, too.

    “This might seem silly,” Gerald said, as he ushered me into the living room, “but I found something your mother gave me when I was four years old. Please sit down. I’ll be right back.”

    I sat on the couch. There were boxes everywhere. I remembered how much work it had been cleaning out my dad’s house, and didn’t envy him the task.

    He came back in with an old cookie tin and sat down. He took the lid off and pulled out an extremely long gum wrapper chain. A vague memory put a knot in the gut. I had to swallow a couple of times.

    “I was recovering from a bad case of whooping cough,” he said. “Your mother was in nursing school and she would come over every evening and read to me. She’d bring peppermint gum for us to chew because she said it would soothe my throat. This chain is the result of five months of gum chewing. We made it together. Shortly after, she married your father and moved away, but she sent me a Christmas card every year, which your dad continued to do for a while after she passed. That’s how I recognized you, from the Christmas cards.”

    ***

    And that’s how this ex-policeman ended up being the proud owner of a one hundred and forty-seven foot peppermint gum wrapper chain. It’s my most prized possession. You got a problem with that?

    • don potter says:

      I have no problem with that. In fact, it brought back fond memories of my childhood. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    • This was hilarious, agnesjack.

      I have no problem at all with it. *snicker*

    • jmcody says:

      Nope, no problems here either. Did you notice that the story after yours has a candy wrapper artist in it?

      This was fascinating to me — how you built this story around such a prosaic item, and gave it such meaning. This was a well crafted and satisfying story.

      • agnesjack says:

        Rats, jm! No, I hadn’t read the story below because I never read the stories before I post. I drew a complete blank when I first read the prompt. I wanted to come up with something unusual that didn’t actually have any monetary value — something whimsical. Once I thought of a candy wrapper chain in the hands of a widowed ex-cop, the story just kind of wrote itself.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      A nice, sweet story agnesjack. No problems here either.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        No problem at all, Nancy. Brought me back also. We peeled the paper away from the foil on the gum wrapper, compacted it into an ever increasing size until the ball became baseball size and then took the ball and and other tin cans, flatted and delivered them to the collection center in Philadelphia during WWII. It wasn’t much but we knew they would be turned into tanks, ships and fighter planes to fight the enemy.

        As a kid, it gave us a good feeling to be able to help with the war effort. I love your writing style Nancy. It’ tells so much about you.

        • agnesjack says:

          Thank you, Kerry. Childhood memories always seem so much more vivid to me than adult memories. My mother had been a 1st grade teacher before she married my father. She would create all these fun arts and crafts projects for us. I can take a bobby pin and facial tissue and make a flower, too. My mom died when I was 14, so those are cherished memories.

          I love the stories of how everyone worked together during the war — a common purpose.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks, Marc.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This goes beyond sweet nostalgia and has some real heart to it. I find chewing gum art to be strangely poignant. A lovely story.

      • agnesjack says:

        Thanks, GTB for the lovely compliment. I didn’t want this to be a sappy story. I wanted it to just be about life. Sometimes the simplest items do have poignancy.

  44. LiveOakLea says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” a woman’s low voice and a tap on my shoulder brought my thoughts back to where I was standing at United’s Gate 95.
    I turned away from the window overlooking the tarmac. The plane that would take me from Indianapolis to a new life, a single life, in New York was rolling up to the jet bridge.
    The woman was short, and I had a fleeting sense of surprise that she’d been able to reach my shoulder, until I saw that she was carrying a cane that she was now tapping against my mid-section. Her eyes weren’t on me, though. She was scanning the faces of the other people around us.
    Normally I would have mumbled some polite excuse and eased away from an agitated, cane wielding stranger. But I wasn’t feeling normal. Everything that I had depended on until last week, my husband, my employer, my grasp on sanity, had deserted me, and I didn’t know what normal should be anymore.
    I looked down at the top of her head, noticing the circular stitching of her cheap orange wig, until she peered up at me. I grabbed the end of her cane to stop it from poking me one more time.
    “It’s me, Auntie June,” the girl-woman whispered between her pursed bright orange lipstick coated lips. “Callie!”
    I glared down at Callie, my eleven year old niece, daring her to give me a good reason why she had disguised herself, somehow made her way through the airport and, like a spy in an old movie, was approaching me for some mysterious ends.
    I heard the announcement for general boarding.
    Callie pushed her cane into my hand. “Oh, dearie, you must go now. Have a wonderful flight, dearie.”
    She pulled my coat sleeve and I bent down. She gave me a quick kiss on each cheek, then whispered in my ear, “Look inside the cane.”
    She turned and started walking away, swiveling back to wave at me in what must be have been her best impression of a kindly old woman’s wave.
    When the pilot turned off the seat belt sign, I quickly made my way to the bathroom, limping awkwardly to look like I really needed the cane.
    Behind the locked door, it only took me a second to see that the handle of the cane unscrewed. I turned the cane upside down and shook it. Out fell a small packet wrapped in a torn piece of paper towel and bound with a rubberband.
    I eased the rubberband away. The paper towel fell open and in my hand was something that brought tears of happiness to my eyes, a small perfect replica of the planet Earth, made of salvaged gum wrappers.
    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of an original Callie artwork, which now, thirty years later, is on loan to the Getty Museum for all to share.

    • this was really neat. It was so authentic and believable, I went to Google to find this artist. :)

    • jmcody says:

      That is one talented, wise and compassionate 11-year old. Today the cane would not get through the scanner, and the kid would not get through security.

      I couldn’t find any references to an artist named Callie who does candy wrapper art, although I am familiar with the type of art. Is this based on a real artist? If not, too bad!

      I enjoyed your story.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I found the character of Callie to be the most effective element of your story. I would love to hear more about her unique adventures, as I am sure there are many. Very interesting take on the prompt. What a unique way to distribute your art.

  45. Kemter says:

    As I rotate the smoothly carved figurine between my thumb and pointer finger, the patter of rain against my kitchen window plays like tinkling dull piano strings.

    My eyes close to block out the gray emptiness of the desolate table under my elbows. Though I smell the coffee between my hands and feel the damp morning chill, I find myself taken back in time by the gripping swell of a memory.

    “I hate to bother you,” a gentle falsetto accompanied a slight tugging on my coat, “but I have something important to ask.”

    I cringe at the echoing malice of my past as I remember brushing the child away with a gruff, “Go ask your parents kid.”

    Yet the cringe morphs into a smile as I see that sandy blond hair, streaked with mud and overgrown to hang into deep blue eyes, suddenly cropping up before me on the pier. He must have been seven then, but there were centuries in those eyes. It was obvious he hadn’t washed in at least a day from the dusting of dried dirt across his cheek, and his clothes hung crookedly like limp shirts on hangers over his bony shoulders.

    Again I turn away from the stupidity of my past, “Where are your parents. You shouldn’t be playing on the pier.”

    “I don’t know them,” he said stubbornly, “I’m looking for my hedgehog. Have you seen it?”

    The rain picks up against the window, ambient light in the kitchen struggling to diffuse through thickening clouds. Peter, his name was. I asked but he had no recollection of any name outside of Peter, not even a last name.

    I had planned to take my ship out on the harbor; spend another day in solitude on the water, escaping the annoying frivolities of men. I clutched the handle of a box-cooler bearing water, a tuna sandwich, and a bag of Chex Mix in my hand to prolong separation from that world without hunger. I hadn’t wanted to see anything but calm waters for a decent ten mile radius, and this child asked me to help find a hedgehog.

    Peter didn’t say a word to explain himself. Where most children babbled off a stream of undistinguishable justifications at the first hint of disapproval, Peter simply waited.

    I sit watching the dark clouds out my window as I remember asking their guidance in the same fashion back then. What compelled me? Why did I choose to forsake my day of privacy for a fruitless hedgehog hunt with a stray kid? Perhaps I craved more than the fictitious companionship of the sea, perhaps I was curious as to what a hedgehog was, or perhaps it was the peculiar timeworn light in the boy’s eyes.

    So out of place, he swayed like the current and the waves, always new and yet still ancient.

    I walked beside Peter as he inquired of any person he saw on the pier: had they seen his hedgehog? I resisted at first, having to bear the brunt of disproval from strangers who thought the child was mine. However, the same brush of isolation began wrapping around me like the mists I took comfort from when alone on the water.

    Where I had always believed my escape from the world of men meant leaving it behind, this boy walked ghostly through the middle. Peter was not bound by the scars that had taught me to be cautious, he was blunt as water crashing into the shore and receded just as quickly.

    A tear breaks free of my eye, burning as it forges a path down my cheek in the morning gloom. I remember our quest for the hedgehog, how for once in my life I felt as free as the seagulls in the wind.

    “We need a whistle,” Peter’s voice echoes in my mind as he sat on a briny, worn bench eating half of my tuna sandwich, “like a dog whistle but for hedgehogs.”

    Oh I did gasp, more the child than the one beside me, and we ran for the hardware shop to hunt for the elusive hedgehog whistle. Of course the shop owner had never heard of a hedgehog whistle. Although, moved by the same power of quiet acceptance from Peter, he agreed to carve one for us by the end of the day.
    We had hours to waste, hopping over the rocks of the harbor to my homely sail boat.

    “I’ve always liked the ocean,” Peter said staring out with painful longing, “it’s alive you know, people think it’s just water and salt but there’s so much more to it.”

    “Let’s go out on the water then,” I recollect each word, “and see what those people are missing.”

    Bobbing gently to the roll of waves, I watched the excitement on the boy’s face as he tried to keep his balance. For the first time I felt a reason to want companionship, I watched him play and was reminded of my first trip out to sea with my father.

    Peter’s smile and tickling of laughter haunt me as I picture him pretending to be a pirate on my sun bleached, sailing vessel. Looking back I would have done anything to pause that moment, to find a way to keep Peter by my side forever. I would have adopted him.

    But I did not think. I did not pay attention to the signs of the sea and the sky, and an afternoon storm ripped murderously through the harbor.

    In flashes I see the fight for control of the boat, feel the needles of rain pelting into my face, and find the deck bucking under my feet like a wild horse once again.

    “Peter, are you okay!” my cry raises in my throat once more.

    No answer ever came, for the sea took its prodigy and left its squalor to dry.

    I dump my now cold coffee down the sink, shrugging on a navy rain coat as I walk to the edge of the docks near my home. When I find a point over the harbor with nothing but the sound of water meeting water as rain falls, I take the carved figurine out of my pocket.

    Putting the whistle to my salt dried lips, I send a wailing shrill across the water. Hoping Peter can hear it and know I will never stop looking for his hedgehog.

    • rle says:

      Just a single word for you my friend, FANTASTIC!!!!

    • jmcody says:

      This is a gorgeous, tempestuous piece of writing that is also wholly original. It makes me think of a Winslow Homer painting, only maybe wilder and sadder. Your observations about the sea being both ancient and ever-changing are as profound as the sea itself. I am also a lover of sailing and the ocean, and I think you captured so well what I love about it — how that mist-shrouded isolation has a way of separating you from the mundaneness of life. Again, I say, gorgeous.

    • Bravo. You’ve written a saleable piece right here. Start shopping this one around.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I couldn’t agree more with Doug. Although the subject matter differs, as I was drawn into your work of art, my mind went to ‘A Portrait Of Jenny’ an old movie about a struggling artist, approached by a young mysterious girl, the wild sea of the Maine coast, storms, loss and regret. Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotton.

        The movie has the same haunting effect as your story. Submit, submit. Those who are not as fortunate as we are on this forum, need to read your story. Marvelous writing.

        • Kemter says:

          Wow, thank you Doug and Kerry. I can’t explain how highly I hold that you think this piece is saleable. But where do I submit things to? I’ve never done anything like that before.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Type your story, double space 12 pica. On the upper left, above story, type name, address,email and phone. Upper right, type word count. Send a cover letter, snail mail with a SASE [self addressed, stamped envelope. ] On the cover letter, address to
            Ms. Regina Williams, editor
            The Storyteller Magazine
            2441 Washington Road
            Maynard, Arkansas 72444

            The letter should include one or two paragraphs summing your story and then tell her a little about yourself. Send the letter, story and SASE by snail. Write the letter as carefully as your story. Don’t forget the stamp. Goodluck, Kerry

          • Kemter says:

            Thank you Kerry, I will definitely give it a try!

    • Artemis4421 says:

      This gave me chills. I love the way it’s conveyed as a memory. This is a very powerful piece of writing, one of the best I’ve seen for a long while. Again, simply amazing, great job!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Haunting, melodic, beautiful, tragic. Essence of the sea. This story is seeped in resonance, touching to the heart of all those who have contemplated the human story on the grey shores of stormy water.

    • Critique says:

      A beautifully written story. A man’s heart cracks open to the joy of loving a lonely little boy and then tragedy strikes. The sea loses it’s allure.

  46. jmcody says:

    “Scusa mi, Signorina,” said the old man, “Ho bisogno di chiederti qualcosa.”

    Lucy stepped out of the café onto the ancient stone steps, her morning cappuccino in hand.

    “You want to ask me something?” Lucy understood Italian better than she spoke it.

    “Ah, Americana! For you I will speak English.”

    The old man stared into her face as if looking at a ghost. Or maybe it was just that Lucy felt like a ghost.

    “No, I make a mistake. I think-a you somebody else.” The old man suddenly seemed tired and confused as he leaned on his cane. “You look like-a her. But she would be old now, like-a me.”

    Lucy’s resolve melted. Her only goal for the day had been to enjoy a good book on the Positano beach that beckoned at the bottom of the narrow stone staircase.

    “Are you alright? Can I help you up these steps?”

    “Grazie, grazie. How could I say no to una donna cosi bella.” Such a beautiful woman. Lucy smiled to herself. These Italian men just never quit.

    It was because of a man that Lucy had come to Positano. A man she had left behind.

    Charles was a good man, loyal and steady, and after five years of dating, they were comfortable together, like an old married couple. But whenever the subject of the future came up, Charles would default to his “wait and see” attitude. Lucy had waited and seen enough. With Charles, the future was a vast pool of lukewarm indifference. So she had left him, and come here to the land of her ancestors to look for the thing that was lacking: Il Passione.

    “Her name was Cecilia,” said the old man, as they climbed under vine-choked stone arches “The love of my life-a.” He pronounced it “lohv.”

    “What happened to her?”

    “She go to America!” he smiled. “We were just sixteen. Positano just a poor fishing village, not a fancy place like-a now. We were gonna be married, but her papa, he had un altra programma… another plan.”

    Lucy mentally noted the coincidence but said nothing as the old man continued: “We wrote allathetime-a, until one day she tell me she gonna marry a tailor, Alfredo, in…”

    “Brooklyn?” Lucy froze on the landing, next to a cobalt blue door framed by clusters of hanging lemons. “Was her name Cecelia Fiore?”

    They stared at each other, disbelieving.

    “I am her granddaughter.”

    “Ah, bravissima!” The old man threw his hands in the air and then kissed her on both cheeks like a long lost relative. “Cecelia, she bring-a you here to me! Come, come, I show-a you something…”

    Suddenly the old man was like a mountain goat, scrambling up the steep stairs. “I gonna give-a you something nice-a, from-a you grandmother.”

    They entered a small stucco cottage with cool white walls and a red-tiled roof. Inside, the morning sun streamed through large open windows in its fervent Italian way. The old man handed Lucy a small iron key.

    “You grandmother, she send-a me this. She say itsa mine now, she can’t keep it no more.”

    Lucy was puzzled. “What’s it for?”

    The old man shrugged. “She call it ‘un pezzo del mio cuore.’”

    “A piece of my heart,” said Lucy.

    And then she remembered the box –wooden, inlaid with Amalfi ceramic tiles in the vibrant cobalt and lemon shades of Positano. For as long as she could remember, it had been locked, with no key to be found. The mystery had lain undisturbed since Nonna Cecelia died, and now that Lucy’s mother Carla was gone too, the box had come to Lucy. Nonna had called it “a piece of my heart.”

    ***

    Lucy sat on the bed amidst the scattered photographs and letters signed “Con tutto il mio amore, Emilio.” Nonna Cecelia, happily married to Nonno Alfredo for over fifty years, had never mentioned Emilio. But her first love had lived on, secreted away next to the grander contentment of her marriage, in one heart that was large enough to hold two great loves.

    Il passione.

    And that was how Lucy came to be the proud owner of a piece of her grandmother’s heart.

    • don potter says:

      As a fan of Italy, I pictured the town – the sounds, the smells, the people – and lived the story as I read it. Nicely told tale.

      • jmcody says:

        To me, Positano is the best place in Italy. It is a stunningly beautiful seaside community built into the side of a rugged, steep mountain. I was there once for a couple of days, and I only hope I’ll see it again sometime.

    • snuzcook says:

      What a lovely story, JM. Got a little misty around the edges near the end and down right choked up at the last line. Bravissimo. A story to tuck away in my keepsakes drawer.

    • I have been waiting for yours, jmcody, and this came roaring in like a silent freight train. I pictured the town vividly like Don– I’ve always wanted to go to Europe. Well done.

      • rle says:

        Nice work JMC!! Although I had a pretty good idea where this was going early on, I felt the story well conceived and masterfully written. You should be proud.

        • jmcody says:

          Thanks, rle. Yes, I agree that it wasn’t exactly a shocker of an ending, but I had fun writing it. As usual, there was a lot more going on in my head than I could get into 500 (okay, 700) words. I am going to have to get the nerve up to write an actual short story to fully develop some of these ideas that these prompts inspire. They start to take on lives of their own.

      • jmcody says:

        Thank you! I hope you get there, Bilbo.

    • Cin5456 says:

      A sweet tale. It reminds me of my ex-mother-in-law who was pure Italian through and through.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Such a touching romantic tale. I loved the descriptions of the old man as he talked to Lucy. The whole concept of your story is a beautiful frame work and you plastered the story with crystal clear desciptions to add to the frame. I’ve never been to Italy but I don’t really need to go because the movies and travel shows tell me how the people are. For one thing, I’ve never met an Italian I didn’t like.

        Thanks for the journey Nancy.

        • jmcody says:

          Thanks Kerry, glad you enjoyed. And I’m glad you like Italians, since I am one. (Well, half anyway. The other half is Irish. How’s that for a crazy sandwich? ;) )

          I love what John Steinbeck said about Positano:

          “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

          • agnesjack says:

            Forgive me for butting in here, jm, but most of my brothers-in-law, who are of Irish descent, married girls of Italian heritage. You are in good company.

          • jmcody says:

            That’s true — its a very common combination around here. Wasn’t sure about the rest of the country.

      • jmcody says:

        Thanks Cin!

    • A great tale. I really love how you incorporated the Italian language in such away that it didn’t alienate non-speakers. I think that would be tough to do.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I’ve never been to Italy, but I was there in this story. I daydream about drinking coffee somewhere in an old European village, watching people, and enjoying a good book. This was great.

    • agnesjack says:

      Wow, jm. You had me from the opening lines in Italian. You’ve created a very vivid place. Your stone steps made me think of a photograph I bought at an art show of Montalcino, Tuscany. It’s an old stone staircase next to a building covered with ivy in full fall color. It has that wonderful old world beauty to it, which your story has too. I particularly liked the line that the grandmother had a heart that was “large enough to hold two great loves.”

      • jmcody says:

        Thank you agnesjack! I’m so happy to hear you’ve been there, and that this maybe brought it back for you a little. The thing about Positano is that it is ALL stairs. You don’t walk anywhere – you climb.

        Glad you touched on some of the emotional context of the story. I was starting to think it got lost in the scenery.

        • jmcody says:

          Ack… thinking it through now. I think it needed one more sentence tying the story back to her rejection of her tepid relationship with her wishy washy boyfriend. But I was already over the limit.

        • agnesjack says:

          Actually, I’ve been to Europe, but not to Italy. I bought the photo at an art show in Sarasota, Fl, at a very bad time in my life. There was something hopeful about the stairs and the vibrantly-colored ivy. The photographer told me that he went back a few weeks later and all the color was gone. He had caught it at just the right time. I guess that’s what I connected to with Lucy’s story — receiving a gift of beauty and love at a difficult time.

          • jmcody says:

            Ah, I see. Thank you for sharing this, and for your lovely interpretation of my story. I’m so glad my story held meaning for you.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I had tears in my eyes at the ending, and went into the comments, before I realized that this was written by the indomitable JM. Nor was I surprised. Few others can write such scene and emotion, marrying the two into a fine point that pierces into that which makes us both smile and weep.

      • jmcody says:

        Hey GTB! Where have you been??? I hope that your relative scarcity this week ( and — gasp! — no prompt response!) means that excellent things are happening in your life. I hope you got that writing job…

        Your comments always make me smile. I sometimes think you are too kind and generous. One of these days I think I’m going to want some of that gentle but constructive GTB feedback. But for now I’ll just enjoy the compliments and keep walking on air! :)

    • Critique says:

      This was a wonderful sweet story. Good on Lucy for ditching wishy washy Charles and moving back to Italy. You did a great job with the old man’s accent – I could hear him speaking :)

    • JR MacBeth says:

      jmcody, I know there’s already more comments on this story than any other, but just had to say I loved it too. I’ve been to Italy, and for me it was not just a place, but another world. The Italian people are very much why that is the case, and it’s obvious you are one who knows this too. Perhaps this helps because you paint such a vivid picture of both people and place that feels so right. I particularly liked the image of the old man, “suddenly like a mountain goat…”. Awesome piece!

    • jmcody says:

      Grazie, Critique and JR MacBeth.

    • derrdevil says:

      Ah, you romantic you! Loved it. I particularly loved the old guy’s corny and thick accent. Never been to Italy, but between his rich ‘Italian’ English and your beautiful prose I was in love too. What you call it? Il passione… Thanks to you, Positano’s now on my bucket list. My favourite of the prompt.

      • jmcody says:

        Ha ha, yes I may have laid it on a little thick with the accent. I was channeling my Italian grandfather who actually spoke like that — no exaggeration! Glad you liked it.

    • Reaper says:

      I am with you on not knowing if anyone is still reading these, but I had to send a compliment here. You got me smiling with the dialect and then tugged on my heart strings. I liked this a lot.

  47. Cin5456 says:

    “Um, miss, I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask. I need help with something that I can’t do alone.” If the question had been asked by any other person I can’t be certain I would have helped. The teenager gripping my sleeve was slovenly, and as unwashed as a pig in mud. The oily cowlick at the crown of his head made me think of Alfalfa of “The Little Rascals.” I had seen this kid panhandling in the downtown area for several weeks.

    “Help with what?” I asked.

    “I keep hearing something that,” he paused. “I think it might be a baby crying, but I’m not sure, and I can’t find it.” He ducked his head and twisted his hands together. Then he straightened his shoulders and put his hands behind his back before looking at me again. “I need to know if you can hear it too, and maybe you could help me find where it’s coming from.”

    “Where are you hearing this sound?” I wasn’t sure if I should trust him yet.

    “Over on the side of the building, back in the corner of the parking lot next door.”

    I thought for a few seconds, and decided that if there was an abandoned baby at stake, I should take the risk. “Okay. Show me where.” As we walked around the corner I turned on my phone’s GPS tracker, just to be safe. When we reached the back fence of the lot I noticed a pile of trash on top of broken wooden pallets that were wedged between the building and a hole in the fence.

    “Did you hear it coming from there?”

    He kept walking. “No, that’s where I live. I heard it over there by the corner of the building.”

    I followed, and as we approached the corner I heard a faint mewling, much like a baby who is too tired to cry anymore. The hairs on my arms prickled.

    “Do you hear it?” the kid asked.

    “Yeah, I hear it.” I cocked my head and listened. The direction of the sound seemed down low, but up high, too, and it echoed. I heard scratching as well, like rats’ tiny feet inside a wall. I told the kid to get on the other side of the corner and point to where he heard the sound. We each took several steps in each direction and pointed, several times, at where the sound seemed to be. Between the two of us, we determined it was coming from a drain pipe near the corner of the building. I got out my cell phone and called animal rescue.

    And that was how I came to be the proud owner of a tiny black kitten, and a homeless boy’s foster parent.

    • snuzcook says:

      Sweet story, Cin5456. Looks like we were both ‘tapped’ by a similar muse.
      The factor of taking a risk for the sake of a child was for me the important element in your story and it invited the reader to consider ‘what would I do.’ A story worth reading.

      • Cin5456 says:

        I notice yours right after I posted. We did go in similar directions. Children and animals are my soft spot. I like your’s too. I thought the ferret was a nice touch.

    • Downright heartwarming, Cin. Very nicely written. :-)

    • jmcody says:

      I agree that this is a story worth reading. I felt a certain amount of dread as the MC walked past the abandoned lot. I thought the teenager was going to do something terrible. I’m glad it turned out to be a different kind of story.

  48. snuzcook says:

    COVENANT

    “I hate to bother you,” a small voice piped. I was sitting on my porch glued to a good mystery on my Kindle. A girl about seven years old was standing on the lawn below, her face peering at me through the rail. “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    I recognized the child. I had seen her at the corner some mornings waiting for the school bus with a gaggle of other children. I had noticed her because she was always a bit apart from the others, not engaged in their games or their conversations. I had the impression of a child who was lonely, but I knew nothing about her except that she lived somewhere down the block.

    “What is it, child?” I laid my Kindle down, put both hands in my lap and gave her my full, grandmotherly attention. “Come on up here where I can see you.”

    Emboldened by my response, she cautiously came up the steps, looking around as if afraid someone might see her and call her away. She stopped shyly, well outside my reach, her arms wrapped around something zipped inside her thin jacket. That something moved, and she struggled to reposition it.

    “What have you got there?” I asked, gently.

    “It’s…” The thing in her jacket struggled again, and a small white head emerged just below her chin. Two bright black eyes regarded me for a moment, then disappeared again into the jacket. The child giggled as the animal tried to find its way out.

    “Is that a ferret?”

    She nodded, her shyness forgotten and her sadness lifted in the moment. “His name is Cisco.” She managed to unzip her jacket. Cisco climbed up her shirt and nuzzled her chin. He was a very small ferret. He fit perfectly on the girl’s shoulder where he nosed around her ear and peeked out from under her hair.

    “I found him. He was cold and dirty and hungry, and I took him home and took care of him until he was better. “ She came closer so I could see him. “But Emmy found him. That’s Dad’s girlfriend.” She hugged Cisco and frowned as she remembered. “She said he’s a rat and she hit him with a broom. Dad said he was going to take him out in the woods and let him go.” Her eyes swam. “I can’t let him take him to the woods. Dogs might get him, or coyotes, or hawks. Or snakes.” I could see the childish horror in her eyes.

    The worse thing she could imagine would be that her gentle companion’s life might be so cruelly wasted. She was unable to recognize the larger cruelty that crushes the love and compassion of a child and makes her fearful.

    That’s how I became the proud owner of the heart of a child named Elizabeth, placed in my hands for safekeeping in the shape of a tiny white ferret named Cisco.

  49. Mike Melike says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    “No problem,” Abel replied. “Please sit,” He pointed to the chair opposite him, noting that the girl was uncomfortable. She took the seat.

    “So what is the important thing? I barely even know you.”

    “On the contrary, I know you pretty well.” Suddenly she pulled out a gun and pointed it at Abel’s forehead. She pulled out another, aiming at the cafe owner, Nobin.

    There were only three people: Abel, the girl, and Nobin. It was late in the morning; only Abel lingered in his favorite cafe, pondering the words his boss said the same day.

    “I know who you are.” The girl’s voice was cold and deadly. “Thieves can’t run far from us, and thieves can’t be forgiven.”

    “I don’t know what you are talking about,” Abel spoke nervously.

    “Don’t lie to me!” She suddenly shouted, “Give me the USB, or I’ll shoot your brain out.”

    “Which USB? I don’t have any USB!”

    Actually he had one, in his suit pocket. Earlier in the morning, his new boss approached him, fear on his face. “Take this,” he said, “and give it back to me when I ask you.”

    “What’s that? Is there anything dangerous?”

    “Not for you, but for me, yes. You are the only person I can trust now. Bring this USB with you any moment, but don’t see what’s inside. Don’t tell anybody!”

    Abel agreed to take the USB. He has been thinking about it ever since.

    And suddenly he stopped thinking. A loud bang, and he found Nobin lying on the ground, motionless.

    “What have you done?” Abel was shocked.

    “I don’t remember asking you to speak,” She walked to the body, dug inside the man’s pocket, and pulled out a USB. Then she shot Abel, taking his.

    The boss looked at his employee in disbelief. Or rather, her employee. Memories flashed through her mind. As a member of a cult, she was forbidden to fall in love with an outsider. Yet she did, with Abel. She decide to lead separate lives: Abel’s boss by day, and cult member by night. Sometimes she appeared as Nobin, the cheerful cafe owner. All was done through the help of the USB, which contained the most advanced disguise program. With the USB, she could both be near Abel and be a cult member. She made a bogus copy of the USB in case she need to hide it. That morning, when she knew someone was on her track, she gave Abel the genuine one, hoping to deceive her enemy.

    She failed. This girl, the executioner of the cult, discovered and punished her. But even she cannot escape fate. She was prosecuted for the murder of two people. One day, before the trial, she was assassinated, and the USB fell into another hand.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a magical USB.” the assassinator said on his deathbed, after 20 years of disguise and felony.

  50. Mike Melike says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    “No problem,” Abel replied. “Please sit,” He pointed to the chair opposite him, noting that the girl was uncomfortable. She took the seat.

    “So what is the important thing? I barely even know you.”

    “On the contrary, I know you pretty well.” Suddenly she pulled out a gun and pointed it at Abel’s forehead. She pulled out another, aiming at the cafe owner, Nobin.

    There were only three people: Abel, the girl, and Nobi. It was late in the evening; only Abel lingered in his cafe, pondering the words his boss said the same day.

    “I know who you are.” The girl’s voice was cold and deadly. “Thieves can’t run far from us, and thieves can’t be forgiven.”

    “I don’t know what you are talking about,” Abel spoke nervously.

    “Don’t lie to me!” She suddenly shouted, “Give me the USB, or I’ll shoot your brain out.”

    “Which USB? I don’t have any USB!”

    Actually he had one, in his suit pocket. Earlier in the morning, his new boss approached him, fear on his face. “Take this,” he said, “and give it back to me when I ask you.”

    “What’s that? Is there anything dangerous?”

    “Not for you, but for me, yes. You are the only person I can trust now. Bring this USB with you any moment, but don’t see what’s inside. Don’t tell anybody!”

    Abel agreed to take the USB. He has been thinking about it ever since.

    And suddenly he stopped thinking. A loud bang, and he found Nobin lying on the ground, motionless.

    “What have you done?” Abel was shocked.

    “I don’t remember asking you to speak,” She walked to the body, dug inside the man’s pocket, and pulled out a USB. Then she shot Abel, taking his.

    The boss looked at his employee in disbelief. Or rather, her employee. Memories flashed through her mind. As a member of a cult, she was forbidden to fall in love with an outsider. Yet she did, with Abel. She decide to lead separate lives: Abel’s boss by day, and cult member by night. Sometimes she appeared as Nobin, the cheerful cafe owner. All was done through the help of the USB, which contained the most advanced disguise program. With the USB, she could both be near Abel and be a cult member. She made a bogus copy of the USB in case she need to hide it. That morning, when she knew someone was on her track, she gave Abel the genuine one, hoping to deceive her enemy.

    She failed. This girl, the executioner of the cult, discovered and punished her. But even she cannot escape fate. She was prosecuted for the murder of two people. One day, before the trial, she was assassinated, and the USB fell into another hand.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a magical USB.” the assassinator said on his deathbed, after 20 years of disguise and felony.

  51. Mittens1326 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    And just like that, I’m talking to Beautiful Writer Guy.

    I see him here every Tuesday and Thursday at the little off-campus cafe where I eat breakfast before Philosophy. He’s always alone. And he never eats. He writes in this old, soft-looking leather journal and drinks coffee and closes his eyes a lot.

    Now he’s standing in front of me, staring intently. His eyes are clear, bright. When I’m looking at him I almost forget about the scar on my left cheek, the one that makes every guy who approaches me recoil in disgust. Almost, but not quite.

    “I don’t want to freak you out,” he begins, resting his palms on the table, “but can I pray for you?”

    That’s not what I was expecting. I hesitate briefly, fearing the worst – that it’s a joke or a trick; that I’m the naive girl everyone will hear about on the news tomorrow – but his eyes are so earnest.

    And I’m curious.

    “Why?”

    I’m Catholic – we don’t pray for people. We mumble memorized lines when we’re supposed to, like a locker combination. Say this, kneel here. Dip your fingers into this water and maybe God will open Heaven for you. Forehead, chest, left shoulder, right shoulder.

    “I have these… visions.” He gauges my reaction as he sits across from me. “Sometimes when I’m praying, God puts a picture in my mind, like a really vivid movie, and I get this overwhelming sense that I’m supposed to share it.”

    “So you had a vision about me?” He nods. I narrow my eyes. If this guy’s bullshitting me, he’s a good actor. “Fine. Tell me.”

    He shifts closer.

    “First you’re in this cave. It’s dark and warm and… safe.” I drop my eyes, feeling exposed. “Then there’s a flash of something sharp, like metal. It pierces you.” My fingers instinctively rush to the raised flesh that carves a jagged path through my skin. But instead of flinching, I’m leaning into his words. “Then you’re out of the cave but the light is too bright. And you want to hide. It’s like you’ve never opened your eyes.” He’s whispering now, and his words are so gentle it’s excruciating. “You’ve always felt ashamed… but God sees you. You’re not defective. He set you apart before you were born.”

    I’m trembling now. “How do you know that?”

    “What?”

    “How I got my scar?”

    “I don’t.” And he doesn’t ask. He bows his head and prays for me. I barely process his words, but my whole body floods with warmth. Then he stands abruptly. “One second.”

    I stare after him, my fingertips tracing the scar I got before I was born. It was a Cesarean birth and the doctor cut too deep.

    When he returns, he places the journal in my hands. Only it’s not a journal.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a well-worn, leather-bound Bible.

    • DeeBishop says:

      Love this! Thanks for sharing.

    • jmcody says:

      Wow, this one really grabbed my attention. The push-pull between religion and spirituality is a very interesting subject. You presented this dichotomy very well here, in an engaging and thought-provoking read.

      Don’t know if you are actually Catholic, but if you ever dig a little deeper into Catholicism you will find that it is so much more profound than what the typical ashes and palms Catholic ever sees. In my opinion it is actually one of the more mystical religions. Just read a little about St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieaux or the Italian mystic Padre Pio and you will see what I mean. These are people who had deep mystical experiences that have little to do with the stultifying ritual that you so accurately describe. But be warned, they are all a little scary. They all place great value on suffering, which is offputting to most sane people.

      Just my two cents, as this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

    • LiveOakLea says:

      I enjoyed your storytelling and your story. Thank you!

    • JR MacBeth says:

      Beautiful story Mittens.

    • derrdevil says:

      In awe! Wow! Just as jmcody said, the juxtaposition between your characters was brilliantly placed. It drove the story on with a deeper sense of meaning, and at the end the reader almost feels as enlightened as the mc. Brilliantly told. Loved this.

  52. ATLAS

    On most crisp mornings, I had always been content to relax with a steaming cup and block out the troubles swirling around, hold onto better hopes. The world outside the coffee shop window had simply lost its luster. The complete collapse of every rule had left me grasping for answers that I thought were better left ignored. Only the thin pane seemed to guide me into passersby’s lives, images of what I didn’t care to scratch the surface of.

    “Can I sit here?”

    I looked up to see a young face, the eyes wearily peering at the seat. His brown hair sagged down into his forehead, and a t-shirt fit loosely around his chest.

    “Sure.” I slid my cup back, and he sat.

    “The name’s Daniel,” and we awkwardly shook hands. I hadn’t been anticipating a conversation, but folded up my newspaper.

    “Well, I’m Richard.” I met his eyes and they seemed somehow lively. “You come here often?”

    “As much as I can. Haven’t seen you here before, though.”

    I took a solitary sip and looked out at the busy streets.

    “Well, I’m here every day. Have been for three years now.”

    He didn’t say anything after that, and I thought that he’d gotten bored, but then he resurfaced into the conversation, clutching something.

    “Three years, huh? Quite a long time.”

    I sighed. “No, it’s not long enough at all.”

    He tilted his head like a processing robot. “I’m sorry, am I bothering you?”

    “No, not at all. God knows I could use the company.” It was just his curiosity, that was all.

    I slid my fingers along my chin and thought about a certain face, and suddenly my coffee was poisoned. And if a thousand questions had been asked, I’d answer none of them. Only after shards had pierced his every treasure would he understand the enigmas they posed.

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    “Shoot.” I gripped my spoon and made another brown hurricane.

    “Can you just listen to me for a few minutes?”

    He opened his hands to reveal an emblem, and any sort of rebuttal on my part remained to be formed.

    “How did you get that? How?” His face refused to give me what I wanted.

    “I said, just listen to me. You need to forget what happened. All that—“

    “You know what, kindly shut up, you little twerp, because you have no clue how, or why, or anything at all.” I glanced around the room. “And I don’t care for tiny gravediggers that have to bring up what we grown men know is gone.”

    Our pupils connected again, and I felt a stab of regret for insulting him. Leaning back, there seemed a kind of unaffected compassion breathed towards me. After a long pause, I clasped my fingers together and glanced at the emblem.

    “What did you want to say?”

    He slid the small cross along the table.

    “Don’t give up on beauty, whatever you do. A wise man once told me that the fragility of mankind was its last great treasure, and every time I’ve forgotten it, tragedy brings it up again. Tears and joy are all necessary. Embrace it while you can.”

    “But—“ His words sank like daggers, and I knew he was right. “But, I can’t. The tide’s too strong for me to swim against. Spread these words around. I’m sure many will benefit.”

    “No. You must benefit. Do not fear.”

    His voice had grown brave, like the culmination of a thousand steady prayers. Deep down where it hurt the most, a lone flower bloomed. As I let go of the mug, the window next to us exploded inward, rushing past our still faces. Tables, books, photos grew into mountains, mountains into planets, and I stood on a cliff watching the sun descend for the last time. We had stepped into another world, one governed by faith and not sight. And then, as her innocent blue eyes framed in an ocean where ships sailed through every gale, I heard the fragments of glass sing through the branches, forever and ever.

    “I’ll carry your world,” it whispered, “and all your hurt.”

    • Oh great, I forgot the last sentence from the prompt. Hopefully it didn’t throw any of you off track. Let’s just pretend this was tacked onto the end: “And that’s how I became the proud owner of a new heart,” or something like that. It sounds weird, yeah, but I’ve always considered spiritual gifts better than physical ones.

    • snuzcook says:

      The premise that an individual locked down in grief might be pulled back by a compassionate hand is the ultimate uplifting story. Nicely done, Bilbo.

    • jmcody says:

      I had to read this one a couple of times, slowly. It is like poetry. There were several lines that I really connected with, but especially the part about not giving up on beauty, and about tears and joy both being necessary. It took me most of my life to realize that last part. I am stunned at your insight. You are on fire this week, Bilbo.

  53. lovewrite says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A nervous gentleman wearing a PBR trucker hat asked.

    “Sure, how can I help?” Today’s been a good day. The sun greeted me on my way to the gym. Jenna had breakfast and one of her sweet notes waiting for me on the kitchen counter, dropped the kids off at school and luckily I avoided traffic on my way here.

    He leaned in as he scanned the restaurant. “Can you deposit this into your account? I need this money or my family will be murdered. I will give you ten percent of this check if you help me, please?” He pleaded handing me a folded yellow check from his denim jacket. I unfolded the small paper, backing away at the sight of the astronomical figure. “Is this some kind of joke? I can’t cash that.” I tried giving it back, but he refused.

    “Please, do you understand? I have two small children and a wife, if I don’t deposit this check, and take the money to the train station in an hour, they will all be killed.” He sobbed desperately.

    “The police can help you, I’ll take you to the precinct.”

    “No they can’t, I was given precise instruction. No police or my family will die. Please help us.” He begged, gripping my arm for support.

    “I’m sorry I can’t.” I walked out of the restaurant, leaving the check on the table. “

    He stormed out of the restaurant screaming in rage, “You just killed family, you just killed my family!” He picked up a trashcan slamming it into the passenger side door of my truck. Trash and debris took flight.

    “Hey, hey, what the hell are you doing?” I charged after him. He jumped inside the cab of a pick-up like a lunatic. His phone rang, he quickly answered. “Please I need more time, please, please no!” He screamed. He dropped the phone. Life drained from his eyes.

    “Here, you can have it all. I have no reason to live.” He threw the check on the ground, pulled a Glock from his waist and pulled the trigger.” It all happened so fast. Everything went according to plan. I dialed her number. “Baby, it’s done. I’m on my way.” I tucked the yellow paper in my back pocket, climbed in the rental, never looking back.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a check worth twenty million dollars.”

  54. Marc Ellis says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    My head was screaming over the bells and buzzes of casino slot machines. I found sanctuary from my Tilt-a-Whirl world in a hotel lounge booth. I feared that my teeth were floating in my double scotch. I had ordered it neat.

    I didn’t think the voice was directed at me until I felt a tap on my shoulder. A man-sized iguana peered down at me. He stood on his hind legs wearing a casino security uniform.

    “Did you flick me with your tongue?” I asked.

    “No sir. I need you to be serious and pay attention.”

    “It was a rough night,” I responded. “I’m just finishing breakfast.” I raised my glass to the iguana.

    “Sir, we had several complaints from our personnel last night. You apparently had direct confrontation with a member of our culinary staff.” His swivel eyes went wild. “Hotel management kindly asks that you check out and leave the hotel.”

    “Are you kidding me? What did I do? I was attacked by a witch doctor. He was going to shrink my head.”

    “Sir, you were chasing our chef around the kitchen in your underwear screaming ‘God save the Queen’.”

    “I was trying to escape and save the others, but it was too late. Their heads were everywhere.” I was shocked to hear the words come out of my mouth and tried to conceal my reaction.

    I motioned to the bartender. “Could I get a cup of coffee?” “The coffee here is so strong,” I told the iguana. I pulled a bundle of sugar cubes wrapped in foil from my jacket pocket.

    “Where did you get those?”

    “I got them from the valet in the parking garage.”

    “And you kept them? You know where you’re at–don’t you?”

    “So what? He was friendly. I popped one in my mouth and went to look for my car. That’s when I saw the witch doctor. He was driving my car with the shrunken heads. I chased him down, ripped him from the seat and tried to get away. I panicked and drove back up to my room.”

    Now reason was fully assessing my memory. I was in trouble.

    The iguana grabbed my package of sugar cubes with his long, twig-like lizard fingers when the bartender put my coffee on the table. “It’s on the house” he said. I nodded in appreciation.

    “Sir, that was the chef transporting supplies. You need to leave the hotel…immediately” said the iguana.

    I walked back through the casino to take the elevator up to my room. Several of the other guests looked up from their games to share a knowing grin. The iguana was breathing on my neck. What happened last night?

    When I opened my door, the iguana said, “The kitchen doesn’t want any of this back. Just take it and go.”

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a grocery buggy full to the brim with coconuts.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Oh great scott, this was good. Dementia at it’s extreme level. Although I do have an old friend of the female persuasion who took a vacation to South America and came back with photos she forced me to look at. Forty pictures of giant iguanas.

      But to tell the truth, I’ve had dreams like this and feared to write about them. The visualization of Iguanas fades quickly into unbelievable pictures of Ava Gardner flashing through my brain.

    • snuzcook says:

      Wonderful! A great object lesson on not taking sugar cubes from strangers.
      Fully enjoyed this story, Marc. Well written and a great response to the prompt!

    • jmcody says:

      Your dialogue was so funny. “Did you flick me with your tongue?” “No sir, I need you to be serious and pay attention.” How can you be serious when talking to an iguana?

      Your MC must not have been listening when his parents told him not to take sweets from strangers.

      This was an offbeat, fun story, even if it was basically a hallucination.

    • agnesjack says:

      I can absolutely see the “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” theme here, marc, but yours was so much more funny. Great delusional/hallucinatory descriptions and the ending was just so wonderfully oddball. I enjoyed this very much.

  55. john godfrey says:

    Write and Wrong

    Drayton wiped his face with his napkin and nodded at the chef, Louie, who had once again outdone himself. Louie grinned and nodded back. Breakfast at the Boat House had become a tradition for Drayton, especially since his novels started taking off again. It was a routine that never had any hiccups, except for that particular Saturday morning.

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” a tiny voice said from behind him.

    He turned to face the voice, which belonged to a tiny girl in a baggy sweater and tight black jeans. She was cute, with deep blue eyes and light brown hair, but not his type. He never wanted to get involved with anyone else after the pain of the first love.

    “Aren’t you Nicholas Drayton?” she asked in her sing-song voice. “The author?”

    He smiled, he had never been recognized before in public. It had always been a dream of his as an author, but never one he thought he could fulfill.

    “Yeah, how are you doing?”

    She giggled with delight, doing a little dance as she did. Drayton thought she was going to explode if she wasn’t careful.

    “I’m a huge fan of your novels. I’ve read them all, including your earlier ones. A Wedding for Delilah was the first book I ever read…it’s still a classic, Mr. Drayton, even if critics tend to forget about it.” she said.

    “Thank you. I always thought that was one of my better books myself, but the critics tore it up. And please, just Nick.” he said with a smile.

    She beamed, and held out a tiny, doll-like hand.

    “I’m Caitlin. Honestly, Nick, I’m your biggest fan.”

    He shook it, and asked if she wanted to join him at the counter. Of course, she giggled with excitement, and hopped up on the stool.

    When she was settled in, she asked what every fan asked him: if he would read their stories.

    “I’ve only been writing for a little while, but I think it’s improved.” Caitlin said, digging around in her bag, only to pull out a thin manuscript. She handed it to him, and he took it graciously. Most authors didn’t like to read fan’s work, but Drayton did. He liked giving young talent pointers, even if their writing was terrible. After all, they were the next generation of writers.

    He put on his glasses, and began to read:

    “The lock was easy to pick, and I walked in.
    I walked to his room, and watched him sleep.
    Oh Bobby Williams, you are so cute when you sleep. I said to myself. But it is too bad that you tried to attack my sister, Bobby. She got hurt really bad.
    Bobby was still asleep when I attacked him. He never knew it was me.”
    Drayton seemed to recall a Robert Williams being brutally murdered a year ago, and they never caught the killer. He was thinking this when the world went dark.
    ***
    When he awoke, Drayton was tied up and gagged, duct taped to a chair. He saw Caitlin on the other side of the room, and she was talking into a phone.

    “I spiked his water when he was reading. He just kept drinking the water without knowing anything. Yeah, he’s here, he’ll be here for a while. ”

    She laughed her little laugh again.

    “And that’s how I become the proud owner of a famous author.”

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Oh boy! If he’s lucky, Drayton may be in for voyeurism or slicing and dicing if he’s not. It reads like the first chapter of a Saturday movie serial. What happens next? Dscriptive writing here is at a high level. I got ba real kick out of this. From the top this morning, I’ve read about spiritualism, giant, talking iguanas and voyeurism. There is something definitely in the soup we’re eating, as was mentioned earlier.

    • snuzcook says:

      Good tale of fan-gone-wrong. Nice twist that the narrator is the object obtained. Very chilling!

    • don potter says:

      Beware of fans bearing manuscripts. There are many elements in your post that could make this a short story or more.

    • jmcody says:

      I have to wonder who Caitlin was talking to on the phone. This kind of suggests she is not just a random nut job, but in a league with other nut jobs. Interesting story.

  56. jimmieg says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” The lilt of his accent was hypnotic. He seemed trustworthy and roguish, strange in a very familiar way.

    I was like scared, and kinda shaking, and all “what the fuck?!”, but I didn’t say any of that. Instead I just said “sure?”.

    The man asked his question in a whisper. I could sense his hurry. He put his hands on my shoulders, looked me straight in the eyes and asked, “How can you hold a king, four presidents, and a leaping fish in the palm your hand? You will have thirty seconds to answer”, he added. My hair stood on end, thirty seconds. There was danger on his words. He turned to look at something only he could see. “Your time starts now”, he said.
    “Well” I said absent-mindedly. My hands dove into my pant pockets and began fiddling with change. In the palm of your hand.

    My mind fragmented in a thousand directions but at the center were the hands of clock ticking. Not being right sat in the pit of my stomaching blowing cold wind into my lungs.

    The world fell away from view and thats when the answer came to me. Not in a thought, but a memory.

    I remembered crystal blue waters and humid air that warmed my nostrils, faces on the side of a mountain, and the smell of thousands of fish.

    When the world came back in view my arm was stretched before me. In my open palm lay three quarters. One from Hawaii, with King Kamehameha on the back. The faces of four presidents lay on the back the other. The third coin depicted a salmon leaping from the Washington Sound.

    The man smiled. “Only three seconds. Thats the best time ever” Three seconds. Impossible. I went to those places, and a thousand others too.

    He simply smiled again and led me out of the cafe. Just in front was a black taxi cab, the kind that litter London. “Deposit your quarters in the meter. Be quick about. They’ll be here in any second” he warned.

    I dropped the quarters in the meter and the world fell away again. Three men, dressed in black suits were yelling “halt” and racing toward us. We jumped in the cab and threw the meter up and the next thing we were in London.

    “Well”, said the man with the funny accent, “this is my stop. Been sometime since I’v been home. Want to have a go with the Taxi?” Again my response was “sure”, but with conviction this time.

    “Right then. When you want want to go home just come back here, before August 14, 1946. Thats when I die”.

    “Will do” I said, “hey, whats your name?” His smile made the hair on his lip dance a bit, “Herbert” he said, “but my friends call me H.G.”.

    And that is how I became the proud owner of a time machine.

  57. DaenerysT says:

    Feeling satisfied, Huff slapped a 20 dollar bill on the counter and walked out of the restaurant. The cool autumn breeze hit him square in the jaw as he sauntered out. The sun was doing its habitual descent casting an orange and pink hue across the landscape.

    Needing a taste of tobacco, he leaned against the wall and cupped his hands around the cigar’s butt to ward off the breeze as he lit it.

    He managed three deep puffs when he felt a light tap on his shoulder followed by a raspy voice.

    “I hate to be a bother, but I have something important to ask,” said the nasally voice.

    Huff barely spared him a glance as he blew out a smoke. He leaned his head back to peer at the stars.

    Not particular on being bothered, especially when he was having a smoke, he said gruffly,”Have your say and be done with it, old man.”

    “Light me a bud, will you?”

    Not one to be ever inspired to give out even a penny,either , Huff grunted. He only had two cigars left. There weren’t plenty where that came from.

    ” I don’t see how that bears any importance, besides shortening my wares.”

    “To a young man like you, I suppose not. But to an old man who has longed the taste of a good smoke, it’s of the utmost importance.”

    “Down that block there’s a drugstore that sells cigarettes. Make use of it,” Huff turn to look nonchalantly at the sky.

    Before Huff knew what was happening, grabbed the lapels of his coat and retrieved the box with the cigars.

    “Now you-!” Huff started angrily.

    But the old man was already lighting the cigar.

    Huff regarded him pensively. He had two heavy slashes for eyebrows cushioning deep, wrinkly eyes that peered at the cigars with both triumph and longing.

    Puzzled and annoyed, Huff straightened his coat.

    “You’re quick for an old man. I’ll give you that much.” Huff took another puff from his own cigar. “But you try that again and it’ll cost you your hand.”

    If the old man heard him he gave no inclination as he was too busy enjoying the stolen cigar. He slid it under his nose and closed his eyes then inhaled it deep in his lungs and exhaled it through his mouth and nose.

    “Ah, nothing like the sweet taste of tobacco. Fine, fine indeed!” The old man said with a thrill.

    Huff shook his head and chuckled. “Where are you from?”

    The old man looked over at him. His eyes almost dilated as he took on a heavy regard.

    “Son, I come from a place with a forgotten beginning and no end.”

    “Where’s that?” Huff insisted.

    “A place no man should ever go.” The old man closed his eyes as he continued smoking. “No man,” he whispered.

    The way he said it sent shivers rippling down Huff’s spine that made him not probe the strange old man further.

    An amicable silence fell as they both finished their cigars. The only sound was their breathing as they inhaled and exhaled.

    Before dawn, as Huff turned to look at the old man, he realized he was no longer standing next to him.

    Puzzled once more, Huff walked to where he had stood and noticed a small box on the ground. Looking left and right, he scooped the box up and there lay a stack of cigars with a lighter with the initials ‘Reaper’ carved in it in faint quaint letters.

    The hairs in the back of his neck stood on edge as he looked around once more.

    And that’s how Huff ended up being the not so proud owner of a marked gift.

  58. lovewrite says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A nervous gentleman wearing a PBR trucker hat asked.

    “Sure, how can I help?” Today’s been a good day. The sun greeted me on my way to the gym. Jenna had breakfast and one of her sweet notes waiting for me on the kitchen counter, dropped the kids off at school and luckily I avoided traffic on my way here.

    He leaned in as he scanned the restaurant. “Can you deposit this into your account? I need this money or my family will be murdered. I will give you ten percent of this check if you help me, please?” He pleaded handing me a folded yellow check from his denim jacket.

    I unfolded the small paper, backing away at the sight of the astronomical figure. “Is this some kind of joke? I can’t cash that.” I tried giving it back, but he refused.

    “Please, do you understand? I have two small children and a wife, if I don’t deposit this check, and take the money to the train station in an hour, they will all be killed.” He sobbed.

    “The police can help you, I’ll take you to the precinct.”

    “No they can’t, I was given precise instruction. No police or my family will die. Please help us.” He begged, gripping my arm for support.

    “I’m sorry I can’t.” I walked out of the restaurant, leaving the check on the table. “

    He stormed out of the restaurant screaming in rage, “You just killed family, you just killed my family!” He picked up a trashcan slamming it into the passenger side door of my truck. Trash and debris took flight.

    “Hey, hey, what the hell are you doing?” I charged after him. He jumped inside the cab of a pick-up like a lunatic. His phone rang, he quickly answered. “Please I need more time, please, please no!” He screamed. He dropped the phone. Life drained from his eyes.

    “Here, you can have it all. I have no reason to live.” He threw the check on the ground, pulled a Glock from his waist and pulled the trigger.” It all happened so fast. Everything went according to plan.

    I dialed her number. “Baby, it’s done. I’m on my way.” I tucked the yellow paper in my back pocket, climbed in the rental, never looking back.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a check worth twenty million dollars.”

  59. lovewrite says:

    Hello all! This is my first post..I’m a Writers Digest newbie. I look forward to feedback:)
    ***********

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” A nervous gentleman wearing a PBR trucker hat asked.

    “Sure, how can I help?” Today’s been a good day. The sun greeted me on my way to the gym. Jenna had breakfast and one of her sweet notes waiting for me on the kitchen counter, dropped the kids off at school and luckily I avoided traffic on my way here.

    He leaned in as he scanned the restaurant. “Can you deposit this into your account? I need this money or my family will be murdered. I will give you ten percent of this check if you help me, please?” He pleaded handing me a folded yellow check from his denim jacket.

    I unfolded the small paper, backing away at the sight of the astronomical figure. “Is this some kind of joke? I can’t cash that.” I tried giving it back, but he refused.

    “Please, do you understand? I have two small children and a wife, if I don’t deposit this check, and take the money to the train station in an hour, they will all be killed.” He sobbed.

    “The police can help you, I’ll take you to the precinct.”

    “No they can’t, I was given precise instruction. No police or my family will die. Please help us.” He begged, gripping my arm for support.

    “I’m sorry I can’t.” I walked out of the restaurant, leaving the check on the table. “

    He stormed out of the restaurant screaming in rage, “You just killed family, you just killed my family!” He picked up a trashcan slamming it into the passenger side door of my truck. Trash and debris took flight.

    “Hey, hey, what the hell are you doing?” I charged after him. He jumped inside the cab of a pick-up like a lunatic. His phone rang, he quickly answered. “Please I need more time, please, please no!” He screamed. He dropped the phone. Life drained from his eyes.

    “Here, you can have it all. I have no reason to live.” He threw the check on the ground, pulled a Glock from his waist and pulled the trigger.” It all happened so fast. Everything went according to plan.

    I dialed her number. “Baby, it’s done. I’m on my way.” I tucked the yellow paper in my back pocket, climbed in the rental, never looking back.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a check worth twenty million dollars.”

  60. thejim says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Said the tall stranger

    “Why of course, ask away.” Curiosity has always led me down a fascinating path and has helped me in some of my greatest adventures.

    “Would you mind stepping into the carriage, no ears trying to listen in.” he said leaning in closer.

    I could tell that he had already been sipping the old ladies brandy, with a hint of perfume and the rucked shirt gave way to the fact he had spent the night with a lady, not without question it could even have been the house of ill-repute two blocks down. With a sideways nod I smile precariously and followed him into the carriage.

    We bumped down the cobblestone path to a large building in the warehouse section on the east side of town.

    The vacant building smelled of fish, not just fish, but the stench of dead rotting fish. The dust loomed in the air, held suspended by the sun’s rays that were slipping its way through the cracks in the walls. I thought it was funny inside this decaying building the dirt floor produced a single wild flower seedling peeking out, stretching for life.

    “I would like to know if you will help me catch a killer that is loose on the city”

    “Why on earth would I want to do that, we have the police for that sort of thing”

    “This is no ordinary killer, more of an idea of a killer”

    My curiosity meter began to rise “Please, go on.”

    “Well for the past century or so there has been a curse. It has plagued man for hundreds, if not thousands of years. It is pure in the raw form, filled with most hideous guile. It comes within the form of an idea, a thought, a notion, and beguilement to your soul. It is seldom the same; it comes and goes as it pleases with a word, a thought, or maybe an object, a person never the same presentation, but always the same ending … death.”

    “Well, I see, may I suggest a soothsayer or a tarot card reader, perhaps?” I stood to my feet ready to leave this man, then I looked into his eyes; he believed this to be true. I saw the terror deep in his soul, fear of what he has personally experienced.

    “Please don’t go.” He then thrust a key into my hand. It was a large oversize key. It was fashioned from iron, handmade the only door it could possibly be crafted for is the entrance to the armory next door, thus the reason we are here. As soon as I told him I would look into the preposterous story he bolted away.

    I made my way over to the armory to see what was behind this large door.

    “Well what was it then. Man?” Captain Douhmonut asked.

    “Well, my good sir, that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a…

    _________________________________________________________
    Ahhh… Dang word count cut me off at 500.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Where did you come with a name like ‘Captain Douhmonut’? It should have been, ‘Captain Jelly Donut.’ Now you can really tell me, since I never saw the movie. What was behing the green door?

  61. kbaktygul says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something to ask,” said to me, by tapping on my shoulder, a complete stranger last night when I was about to leave a restaurant. I was literally taken aback since his look didn’t give me a slightest clue to recognize him.
    “Well,” I answered, “go ahead.”
    “Look, my name is Bob, I’ve seen you here a couple of times so I guess you are a regular to come to this restaurant.”
    “Right, “I said cautiously, “Why?”
    “You know, I believe there is a chance for you to succeed in some business.”
    “Wow, you want to offer me a job, don’t you? And what kind of job?”
    “You see, you could be a fresh face for some magazines.”
    “Well, thank you for appreciation but I, you know, maybe my face kind of matches to some cover girl face standards, but I really don’t feel that way.”
    “O.K., he said, “this is a really good offer, you just can’t miss a chance.”
    “Then, mister opportunity, tell me why I should accept your offer.”
    “Good, first of all your appearance is rightly fit for the tastes of the readership of the magazines so the success is 100% guaranteed, plus, you are going to have extra bucks. So, you see, you are not going to lose anything.”
    “Well, let me think a bit, you are giving me a magical button to push.”
    “My dear, no time to think, just push the button. I’m leaving you this clue, open it and you’ll know what to do next.”
    That’s how I ended up with being the proud owner of a magic button to be unwrapped at home.

  62. UnusDeo says:

    That’s Very Unfortunate

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    I looked over to the man, confused and curious.

    “Go right ahead, sir.” My natural kindness.

    “Well, I need you to distract the waitress for me,” he responded.

    The man didn’t look like much for woman-chasing. Maybe he was nervous. He avoided looking her way for the entirety of the time I was in the dinner and he kept his sunglasses on while keeping his collar up. Though, when I thought about it more, she had been peering over his way a few times, her blonde hair fluttering quickly with each turn. Maybe they already knew each other and he was in disguise. My deductive reasoning left me to ask one question.

    “Oh, are you planning to propose to her?” I asked, budding at such a gesture.

    “Well, actually, I think she’s a hitman.”

    “Oh . . . wait, what?” That definitely isn’t a proposal.

    “I think she’s here to kill me. You see, I have this artifact that comes fro-”

    “Stop, stop, stop! I don’t want to hear that! You want me to distract her because you think she’s a hitman? You want me to risk my life distracting a hitman?”

    “I’m sure she wouldn’t kill you. They have a code of honor or something.”

    And so, I find myself walking up to this woman. If not for anything, the irony in his last statement alone.

    “Hello, ma’am,” I said to her as I approached. “My friend over there was just talking about you.”

    “He was?” Her face seemed to light up. “What did he say?”

    “Well, he likes the whole waitress look on you. Made him to shy to speak. In his line of work, he doesn’t get to meet a lot of women like you.”

    “What’s his line of work?”

    “He’s an archaeologist. He’s traveled over parts of the world, trying to retain a valuable object, giving up a large part of his social life to protect it. He’s so guarded that he has trouble trusting anyone.”

    “Wow, you sure know a lot about him.”

    “Well, that’s my line of work.” Yep. “Being my target, I’ve studied him for a while now. I’m actually relieved to see that you’re not my competitor or anything.”

    It’s really ironic, y’know? Trusting somebody to do something for the first time in years and they turn out to be the guy that shoots you in the back. Literally. Watched him fall too. It was enough to make me chuckle. The waitress, not so much. But hey, love at first sight, death at first shot. But she’ll live. I won’t be killing her anyways. Apparently, I have a code of honor or something.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a very valuable artifact.

  63. karinwei says:

    “I hate to bother you but I have something important to ask.”

    I was leaving Skillet Diner, still enjoying the taste of smokey bacon fat on my lips. I turned to see the young man; dirty wool cap, layers of flannel shirts, a melancholy dog chin flat to the pavement laying by his side. I considered not answering, staying on my trajectory. What could be important? I paused and looked at him, eyebrows raised, an invitation to ask away.

    “That girl, behind the counter,” I turned to look at the tattooed barista tamping down the coffee grounds behind the Italian espresso machine. “She’s my sister and I haven’t seen her in about 5 years.” He lowered his eyes. “My fault. I’m a shit. Ran away from home, you know.”

    “Ok? What do you want to ask me?” I was a little impatient, like most of us are in the city. I wasn’t in the mood to engage with a kid like this; unwashed, probably homeless. His dog wore a red bandana, like a hobo.

    “Could you give her this letter? I just want her to know I’m ok, you know.” He pulled a rumpled envelope from his shirt pocket and held it out to me. I could smell the reek of cigarettes. The paper was smudged with dirt, or ash; clearly he had been carrying it around for awhile.

    “Why don’t you give it to her yourself?” I looked him in the eyes. He looked down at the ground again and shook his head, fast, as though going into the restaurant was impossible for him.

    “Not ready, not ready, you know. I just want her to know I’m ok, you know?” He rocked back and forth on his feet. The dog lifted one eyebrow then the other, then looked at me as if he’d been though this routine before.

    “Ok. Why not.” I took the envelope. It was sealed but felt empty. “You gonna stick around?”

    “Not really. Well maybe. You know, probably not.” And he grinned at me with teeth stained brown.

    I shrugged and walked back into the diner, over to the espresso machine, hissing with steam and the sound of milk frothing. “Excuse me, miss. I’ve got a special delivery for you.” The girl looked at me, looked at the envelope, and broke into a grin, as white and dazzling as the velvet foam on the top of her lattes.

    “Ah, been wondering when this would show up again.” She wiped her hands on her apron and took the envelope then tossed it into the compost bin. My forehead wrinkled. “I’ll be right back!” She was so cheerful, so unsurprised. I felt a little prickle down my neck and turned to see if the kid was still outside, but his space was now empty.

    When she returned she held a small paper bag, the kind we used to take our lunches in to school. She offered it to me but I looked at her again in a way that said, “Tell me what the hell is going on.” Her shoulders lowered and she set the bag on the counter.

    “You just met Jerry. He told you I was his sister, right? And that he just wanted me to know he was ok?”

    “Yeah, that’s right. What’s the deal?”

    She smiled that creamy smile again. “He likes to play this game. Brings me things he finds around the city. Convinces someone to come in here to give me this long lost brother note. Then I get to surprise them with a gift” I couldn’t help but smile too. “It makes his day. Go on. Open it. He’s watching from somewhere out there.”

    I unrolled the bag and looked inside. Then a smile cracked over my own face followed by the eruption of a laugh, more like a giggle. I looked up through the tall windows and scanned the street, but the kid was nowhere. Or rather he was somewhere but I couldn’t see him. I pulled out the figurine and held it in the air, made it do a happy dance, made the other customers smile as they looked at me then looked outside to see who it was dancing for. The figure’s hair was wild and orange. It’s squat body wore a dark green caveman outfit.

    The girl went back to making coffee. I put the little man in my front pocket, it’s grin facing forward for all the world to see. And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of my first troll doll.

    • jhowe says:

      I found this story to be very cool. Good job karinwei. You’ve got a very nice writing style.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I agree about the intimate writing style you use. Building an entire story with so much detail is something I have strived for. Somehow, It’s difficult for me to slow my story in order to create this atmosphere. I admire your style.

    • amsecre says:

      Really like this one karinwei! I enjoy the descriptions, it really pulled me in!

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was a rather special little story actually. Most competent writers can take a horror scene, a tense action thriller or a sad sickness or death scene and give it some resonance. It is infinitely more difficult to take a quirky slice of life piece and fill it with the heart of “living,” with the small joys that actually make people’s real daily existence special and important. This was excellent. Well done.

    • UnusDeo says:

      A feelgood story for me. I like it.

    • madeindetroit says:

      Excellent job. What a cool story..
      You have a very vivid imagination.

    • jmcody says:

      I think this is my favorite so far this week. Your style is so vivid and realistic, yet charming and full of life. I love this story, and I want to write like this!

    • derrdevil says:

      This was a really cool story. So easy to read. I really felt for the homeless kid and bought into the idea that he was the long lost brother. And a most wonderful ending. Nicely done!!

    • LiveOakLea says:

      Thank you for your story. I enjoyed it.

  64. Observer Tim says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” The voice sounded like something from an old speech synthesizer, right down to the cheesy Norwegian accent.

    I turned and stared at the black metallic man. He was huge, like nine feet tall, and smelled of motor oil and unburnt gasoline. Honestly he reminded me of junk I’d seen lying around on my grandparents’ farm when I was little.

    “You are K. Gunderson, correct?”

    And he knew my name. “That’s me. Kay Gunderson, unemployed genius.” My creditors had finally located my office, which was now padlocked.

    “Doctor Annihilus needs you.”

    “Doctor who?”

    A huge hand enveloped my torso and the world dissolve in a haze of smoke, noise and motor oil. By the time I got my bearings Tacoma was a city of ants fading into the distance while ocean rolled beneath me.

    Tin man’s vocabulary seemed to have dried up, so the hour-long flight was kind of uneventful. We eventually swooped in and landed on a jungle-covered island with a chateau that screamed James Bond. He didn’t put me down until I’d been carried into a large living area.

    “Karl!” The man addressing me had once been thin, but in the advancing years had transitioned to ‘cadaverous’. He was wearing a Chinese robe like the bad guy from an old movie, and cackled as he hobbled toward me. “You haven’t changed a bit!” When he got near I was almost overwhelmed by the smell of formaldehyde.

    “I’m not Karl, my name is Kay. Karl was my great-grandfather; he died back in the fifties.” People say I kind of look like him: short, skinny, glasses from the bottom of a mason jar. From the pictures I’ve seen I can’t disagree. I’m female, but let’s just say parts of that photo need developing.

    “Yes, yes. Are you ready to return to the masterwork, Karl?”

    “What masterwork?” Apparently the old fart had gone senile; not unexpected, given he looked about 150.

    “I am sure technology has advanced: you must update and upgrade my robot army.”

    “Must I? Look grandpa, I’m…” Unemployed. Bankrupt. Destitute. “…ready to start! Where’s my workshop?”

    It took several months. The robots were WWII-era, so there were plenty of easy fixes. Steel was replaced with carbon fiber, mechanical controls with electronics, and vacuum tubes with chips liberated from discarded smartphones. The new model robot was lighter, faster, stronger, and better armed. Since I was the designer I even made them look kind of like a cartoonized version of me, right down to big round eyes that resembled my glasses.

    The big reveal didn’t go as planned. Doctor A nearly popped a gasket, screaming about how the robots were too small and unthreatening, and I was an idiot and this was a total waste. I felt tiny and worthless: a total failure.

    But then I remembered who they were programmed to obey.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of an army of killer robots.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Oh wow Tim. You’re in high gear on the creativity of this tale. Loved the “James Bond” look, the tropical island. Your story sounds like my rant when I buy a new car, New models lighter, faster, stronger and better armed.’” Bull-honkey. Give me the ’55 Lincoln Continental. Twenty feet of car,

      Your MC’s not bankrupt anymore. This story line would make a fabulous movie cartoon. You’ll be rich and famous. You certainly deserve it.

      • Observer Tim says:

        I bet you prefer the older-style machine guns behind the headlights rather than the newfangled laser beams, too. Of course the oil slick launcher and caltrops are just classics …

        My personal preference would be for larger fins, just because they look cool.

        :) :) :)

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          ’59 Cadillac Fleetwood. Tall fins with double bullet lights on either side and 4.5 miles of chrome. Paradise, also over 75 grand if you can still find one.

    • jhowe says:

      Great story OT. I enjoyed every word. I especially liked the sentence, “Must I? Look grandpa, I’m…” Unemployed. Bankrupt. Destitute. “…ready to start! Where’s my workshop?” The line made the MC even more likeable in my eyes. You also did a nice job illustrating the antiquated state of the killer robots with the description of the abductor.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This was clever and funny, seeped in a nostalgia for the kind of villains who will un-ironically monologue while the hero wiggles out of the ties that bind, so to speak. I have a feeling that is Kay decides to use her new found robot army for nefarious purposes she will not be quite so foolish. As an aside…this should now be the new plot for a new “Incredibles” movie. If Disney agrees with me, I ask only a 1% commission as facilitator.

    • Eclipcia says:

      This one was a different take on the prompt. Really interesting!

    • don potter says:

      You got me with the first line: “The voice sounded like something from an old speech synthesizer, right down to the cheesy Norwegian accent.” And the remainder of the post was a most enjoyable read.

    • jmcody says:

      I liked your skinny, bespectacled female protagonist — nice change of pace! OT, what I like about you is that you always come up with something completely original that is campy and weird and funny. I look forward to your posts.

    • agnesjack says:

      A lot of humor and imagination here. Loved the line, “Must I? Look grandpa, I’m…” Unemployed. Bankrupt. Destitute. “…ready to start! Where’s my workshop?”. Oops, I just noticed that jhowe pointed out that line as well. It just made me laugh out loud. You always come up with unique ideas.

  65. derrdevil says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    Jon, startled, raised his groggy head from his slouch and shuffled on the bar stool. He looked over his shoulder to see the old man who had approached him. He smelled old. Yellow teeth and a slur that oozed a foul odour which reeked of cheap whiskey.

    Jon hadn’t noticed the man take the stool next to him. He wondered for a moment how long he had been half asleep then instinctively shifted his hand to his wallet. Still there. A new bar, lots of new faces. The dingy bar looked seedy enough, he assumed, but luckily for Jon it was only an assumption. The place only had the appeal of something sinister. The worst it could probably do was offer a warm beer, he thought. He clasped his hands around his own pint. It had lost all it’s chill by now, but he couldn’t bare the idea of another. He knew his head would curse him later.

    “What do you want?” Jon said with a sharpness in his tone hoping the man would take the hint that he didn’t want any company.

    “Unsociable chap? Odd, when you’re playing the social game here. How ’bout ol’ Bill buy you another?”

    The barman cleared the counter and wiped it down with a dirty wet towel which could hardly soak up anymore liquid. All he seemed to do was spread the mixture of water and ale all over the place. The bar was definitely seedy, but it was a sort of homely kind of seedy. From the sawdust strewn about the floors and the large oil seeded wood counter, the little tavern smelled of old world. The torn leather stools had enough padding that would comfortably sink the fattest arses into, and the thick air was strong with the scent of yesteryear’s smoke. The whole place seemed to clasp onto a foregone age with a vice grip.

    “Maybe another time. Tonight I only wish for my own company.”

    “Ah, what is it boy? Your girl’s got you down? Nothing a drink couldn’t sort –”

    “I said not tonight, old man.” His voice unexpectedly raised a pitch, the anger betraying him.

    “So it is a girl!”

    “Listen, are you thick between the ears?” Jon turned towards the man gritting his teeth with a stern face.

    “No, you listen here. No need to be rude. You don’t want my company, fine then. Be it that! All I offered was a drink. I could have offered advice but have it your way.”

    Jon was taken aback, slightly amused at that last line. “Advice? What could you possibly have to say about…”

    Jon trailed his words realising the folly of them when he peered into the old man’s faded blue eyes. There was an age in them. A look that had told held a story. A story of many stories caressed within the wrinkles of time. The old whiskey drinker had a wisdom behind those eyes.

    “What could I possibly have to say?” The old man countered raising his hands. “I know not a thing? I am just a drunk.”

    “Come on, Bill, was it? Out with it. I’ll buy that drink. Whiskey?” Jon motioned to the barman and he reluctantly poured Bill his regular brand, and the old man gladly accepted. The barman shook his head with a smirk.

    “Ahh! See, things are not all that bleak, my friend.”

    “So?” Jon looked on quizzically.

    “So what?”

    “What were you going to say?”

    “I don’t have anything to say,” the old man shrugged his shoulders. He turned to the barman who was battling to stifle a laugh, “Do you?”

    Jon was bewildered. “Am I missing something?”

    “I have nothing to say, my friend. You still have hope for your girl, which is why you were willing to listen to an old drunk. And that is enough. And I, ah, this old drunk has a free drink.” He raised his glass to Jon and the barman with a broad yellow grin. “Cheers.”

    The barman shook his head laughing in disbelief as he slid Bill a twenty, “Crafty old bastard!” He looked towards Jon, “You’re the fifth one this evening.”

    And that’s how Jon ended up being the proud owner of a lighter wallet.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I am truly enjoying these one-offs that are snapshots on daily life for this prompt. This was well written and drew me in. I wanted to know the story of stories!! That crafty old bastard duped me too, which I suppose is a wisdom of its own.

      • derrdevil says:

        Ah thanks for the kind words. I enjoyed this prompt too. Many gems on this page. And it seems I’ve been forgiven for adapting the prompt slightly :)

    • jmcody says:

      Derrdevil! This was great! I think this is my favorite of yours so far. Very crafty, like old Bill himself.

      This time I noticed an inflection in your writing that I hadn’t before — maybe Irish? Was this done purposely, to match the old-world atmosphere of the bar, or is that really you? Either way, it was brilliant. Great writing!

      • derrdevil says:

        Haha I guess it’s a lucky accident. I had to read it again to make sure. There is a definite Irish gleam shining through. I’m South African. And of Indian decent. And so very not Irish. But when I think of old drunks, my mind goes back to the old guys at the country club here. They sound like that. Very old world. I’m really cuffed you liked it. Thanks for the great comment :)

        • jmcody says:

          So are you writing from South Africa? This really is a global community. A lot from the US (which is a very diverse group in itself), plus I’ve seen some from Canada and Great Britain. I wonder who else is here? Interesting to notice the differences in “voice” that we have.

          • derrdevil says:

            Yep. Writing from SA :) it is wonderful. So many voices, so much diversity. You get to see viewpoints from so many different perspectives. It’s awesome.

  66. moscoboy says:

    A Four-Letter Word

    I was walking out of Grady’s restaurant felling full from the country breakfast I had eaten. Winter was waning, but the first week of April in Boulder was white from an overnight dusting. A well-dressed teenager dressed in a gray Colombia fleece jacket tapped me on the shoulder.

    “Could I interest you in a vintage Randall knife? Money is tight for me and you look like a man who would appreciate the ultimate in precision knives.”

    I turned up my collar against the sudden wind, “Listen kid, I do appreciate Randall knives, but I don’t buy from strangers off the streets.” The kid was my height and had soft brown eyes. “I sure as heck won’t buy a stolen item, if that’s what you’re hawking.”

    He pulled off his blue ski gloves and waved his long fingered hands. “No sir. You look like a man of means and I gambled that you would give me a fair price for a fine work of
    art.

    “I believe you, can we go some place warm? I’ll want to see the merchandise.”

    The sandy haired young man smiled, and his dimples reminded me of my weakness for women with dimples.

    “How about my bimmer?”

    “That’s a nice new 3 series, I guess you do need funds.” The car was warm and the smell of leather was intoxicating.

    The kid got in the driver’s seat and said, “You need to work out and loose your spare tire.”

    I laughed realizing that my frequent trips to Grady’s were weighing on my midriff. “My shirt is tight at the bellybutton, now let me see the knife.” The knife was a model 18 “Survival” knife with a 7 inch blade and a saw tooth top edge, brass hilt, stainless steel knurled handle fitted with a waterproof O ring and a hollow handle. The cold steel felt inviting to the touch and I placed it in my left hand and wondered who had carried the knife and if the blade had seen any real action. I took the knife by the blade and handed the kid his knife handle first. “I don’t think I can afford what ever you’re going to ask.”

    “Consider it a parting gift from mom with love.”

    He took the knife in his left hand and jammed the blade to the hilt under my left ribcage. As I fought for air and attempted to reach for the blade the kid said, “I’m not surprised you didn’t recognize me dad, after all we never met, but you were good about sending checks to mom.”

    I looked out to the iced covered pavement for help, but there was no one around.

    “Not to worry dad, you’ve got so much fat I doubt it penetrated any vital organs.” He patted me on my shoulder and it sent pain to my brain that blotted out my vision. “It’s just my way of wishing you a happy birthday. Mom died of cancer last month.”

  67. Rebecca05 says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    It was Saturday morning and after slaving for nearly 60 hours for my back-from-the-dead boss, the only thing I wanted to talk to was the antacids I was going to have to take because that sausage wasn’t laying right.

    I held up a hand, eager to leave the diner and the grease smell that clung to your clothes behind. “Look, lady. It’s been a long week, so if you’re asking me if I’m saved, the answer’s yes.”

    The woman smiled. She was tall with thick owl-like glasses and dark hair cut into a stylish bob. Dressed in a white long-sleeved blouse tucked into a black ankle-length skirt, I thought she resembled a schoolmarm you might see in an old TV western.

    “I’m not an evangelist,” the woman said, clutching some papers in her hand. “But I do have something to offer.”

    I glanced at my watch. I had errands to run, though shopping for my mother’s birthday wasn’t exactly a grand old time. I debated what to do about the strange woman while some country singer on the radio bragged about his big truck. Finally, I slumped back into the chair I had just vacated moments ago and gestured towards the empty one across from me. The woman took a seat.

    She pulled out a key from the pocket of her skirt and slid it across the tabletop and said, “Take it. It’s yours.”

    “I’m sorry?” I asked, totally confused. “But what’s mine?”

    “You’ve always wanted to own your own business, haven’t you?”

    “I have?”

    She picked up the key, took my hand, and pressed the key into it. “Everyone wants their own business and you certainly look like a capable woman.”

    Me? Capable? I could barely balance a checkbook and I think the electric company was turning off my power tomorrow.

    She took my other hand and shoved some papers and an ink pen into it. “Just sign on the highlighted areas and it’ll be all yours.”

    I did as she said for reasons I didn’t know. She was very persuasive. And a little frightening.

    She snapped the cap back on the ink pen and scooted her chair from the table. “Congratulations!” she said and rose to her feet. “You’re now the proud owner of…a little place off the highway.”

    She hurried from the diner and I just sat there at the table and crammed several of those little jellies into my purse. Deciding it was best that I at least look at this new business I now owned, I unrumpled the papers in my hand.

    “Damn,” I muttered. “Well, maybe I’ll get to meet some interesting people,” I said to myself before shoving the papers into my purse as well. After all, a new beginning couldn’t be all that bad.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a motel once owned by someone named Bates.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      There must be something in the soup today! Everyone is throwing out twist endings left and right. Let us all hope that the motel’s previous owners have fully moved out.

  68. rle says:

    We all have a guilty pleasure. My ex-husbands came in the form of his ginger haired, barely twenty office assistant. Mine was a little farm country diner called Maggie’s Cafe.

    I discovered Maggie’s purely by accident. One day shortly after the divorce was final, I decided to take a long drive to clear my head and plot out my next move in life. Since I hadn’t been single in quite a long time, I decided it fitting to do something else I hadn’t done in a number of years. So, I filled the car with gas and headed aimlessly out of the city on a secondary route I’d never been on.

    After an hour of driving, I began to feel a pang of hunger and just then, Maggie’s appeared on the horizon and beckoned me into her little gravel parking lot.

    As I approached the door, the warm May sunshine pressed down firmly on my back. As it combined with the sweet aroma of the alyssum that bloomed cheerfully in the little window boxes, it seemed to warm my every sense. I smiled. I hadn’t done that in a long time either.

    I entered and quickly took a seat at the first empty booth. The smell of bacon, cinnamon rolls, and coffee wafted through the air toward me from every direction. I felt as though I might be able to eat everything in the place. I immediately took note of the half dozen or so other patrons that sat there that morning. They all looked to be in their mid-sixties or better. This made me feel good. Although at thirty nine I wasn’t a young chickadee anymore, in here, I felt young and vibrant and attractive again, despite the few sprigs of gray and crows feet that had seemingly cropped up from nowhere.

    I ordered a plate full of pancakes and black coffee. As I dove in, I found them to be the most delectable pancakes that had ever passed over my tongue. As I sat there and quietly indulged, I realized I was liking this place more and more with each passing second. No one stared at the stranger in the room and no one judged. Everyone just sat and either enjoyed their meal or engaged in quiet conversation. This felt warm and cozy, exactly what I was needing at this difficult juncture in my life.

    Over the next several months, I visited Maggie’s on an increasingly regular basis. Unfortunately, it was way out of my way. It wasn’t on the way to or from anywhere. It didn’t matter. The feeling I had when I was there would have been worth circumnavigating the globe for. During my visits, I’d gradually gotten to know some of the fine folks that frequented there. We’d sometimes talk for hours. They would tell me about the rigors of farm life, which admittedly I knew very little about. In turn, I would share tales of city life, which I’m sure they cared very little about but always pretended to. This was important to me.

    One morning after a fantastic omelet, I was preparing to walk out the door when I felt a light tap on my shoulder. I turned to meet the gaze of Maggie Hayes, the diner’s proprietor. Maggie and I had shared very little dialog. She had always been too busy cooking and busing tables and such to partake in much chit-chat.

    “Excuse me,” she began somberly, ” realize I don’t know you very well but I have something I’d like to give you.”

    “You do?” I questioned, a little confused.

    Her expression had morphed into a broad grin. She took my left hand in her right and dropped a worn set of keys in my palm.

    “I don’t understand,” I said, more perplexed than before.

    By now she was giggling like a school girl with a big secret. “You see that old fool Merle Jones over there in the corner?” she asked, gesturing to the wispy haired old man who sat in the corner booth. “You probably already know he owns most of the land between here and the county line. Now I’ve known Merle Jones for over fifty years and here’s something you probably don’t know, Merle Jones is a man of his word. When Merle Jones says he’s gonna do something, he does it.

    This was starting to border on bizarre.

    “Well,” she started almost at a full cackle, “two days ago, Merle bet me 300 acres of his best farm ground that I wouldn’t give you this place.” She was at a screeching howl now. “What old Merle doesn’t know, is that old Maggie has never lost a bet.”

    That’s how I became the proud owner of Maggie’s Cafe.

    • jhowe says:

      Very nice rle. This is a well written piece with lots of character.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      This prompt take fit very well into my place of soul right now. Warm, comfortable and laid back, a well worn booth in a diner of friendly, accepting people. A lovely analogy for our prompt forum actually. You hit the weird lonely contentment of a newly single 30-40 something with your MC perfectly. Serve me up some more of those pancakes please.

    • jmcody says:

      Maggie’s cafe is a place of healing and nourishment and new beginnings. May we all find such a place.

      It just hit me that GTB got it exactly right. This is that place for many of us.

      I love this story

      • rle says:

        Again, thank you all for the kind words. Your support continues to invigorate and inspire me. I realized after reading GTB’s comment, that this forum is a lot like Maggie’s Cafe. It’s a place where everyone can go and feel truly comfortable. I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve been doing this. I’ve already stretched myself far beyond where I thought I was capable of going. After a twenty year absence from writing, I wasn’t entirely sure I could even conjure up a coherent thought. I guess writing is a lot like riding a bike. I’m so glad I found a friendly place I can revisit my old love.

    • don potter says:

      There was a bit of the Twilight Zone in your post. Something kept drawing the MC back to this place, and now he’s part of it. Nicely done.

  69. yaxomoxay says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”
    The lady tapped me with vehemence, I couldn’t help but look at her. She held a chicken, a live chicken.
    “Have you ever seen a dinosaur as lovely as this one?” she said.
    I had in front of me a clear case of insanity. I pretended I did not hear.
    “Sir, I am serious, I know you heard me.“
    I tried walking past her, but she kept following me.
    “Ma’am,” I stopped at the crosswalk. “That is a chicken, not a dinosaur. Now, please leave me alone.”
    The day at work had been ugly enough, and the last thing I desired was to walk in the city accompanied by a nutcase.
    As I turned around the lady pulled me by the jacket.
    “The T-Rex! Careful!” she yelled.
    Afraid, I turned around.
    A T-Rex ran in front of me. A T-Rex marked with a grey and blue “Volvo” logo. It was gigantic and followed by a much smaller dinosaur, unmistakably from Korea.
    It did not make any sense, I shook my head trying to wake up.
    “I told you,” the lady said. “This city is treacherous. Many distracted beasts.”
    Surrounded by a foreign flora, I kept looking around. The branded dinosaurs, most huge Americans and some compact Japanese or from other countries, moved more or less orderly on the paths in front of them.
    “What the heck is going on?”
    “Nothing,” the lady said. “Absolutely nothing.”
    “Why are these… dinosaurs here?”
    “They have always been here.”
    I was in a paradoxical situation. I was still IN the city, I could recognize it. I could even recognize the buildings, now reconstructed as vegetation.
    I sat on the ground, my legs were too weak to sustain me much longer. The lady then began telling a strange story about dinosaurs that were never extinct. Humans one day simply appeared to help the fauna. They became greedy and lost sight of the big animals and the nice stuff.
    “Take this, treat it well,” she said handing me an egg. “It’s from my Betsy here,” she said cuddling the chicken.
    Not knowing what to do I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply.
    Suddenly, the city came back to normal. To my normal.
    The lady then left, rhythmically swinging her arms as if to soothe the chicken.
    As I sat in front of Nino’s, my favorite Italian restaurant, I looked at her precious gift.
    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of dinosaur’s egg.

    • jhowe says:

      That was certainly interesting. I enjoyed the ride though I’m not sure exactly what’s going on. The chicken played a key role I think and I got the impression many of the dinosaurs were cars. You really have me thinking on this one. Good job.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Hmm I would say an author commentary would be appreciated here. There are some interesting undercurrents, tied up with consumerism, perhaps environmentalism, maybe even some existential ideas on how we as people fail to see that which is in front of us? Or this could be a fun fantasy story with none of those! Unique take on the prompt!

      • yaxomoxay says:

        Thank you for your comment. I would say it’s a take on existentialism, on believing that something can be something else (as children do).
        In addition it is possible that it is slightly inspired on the latinism “Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus”

    • jmcody says:

      I admire the freedom of your mind. Can’t say I understand it, but it’s awesome anyway.

  70. don potter says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” a stranger said as he tapped my shoulder when I was leaving my favorite restaurant after breakfast.

    “So what’s this important question you have?”

    He reached in his pocket, pulled out a Smartphone, and scanned the screen.

    “Your name is John Smith, but people call you Jack.”

    I nodded.

    “You reside at 10 Sycamore Lane here in Homerville?”

    “Where is this going?”

    “I’m a private investigator and need to check my facts before revealing my mission.”

    “Look, mister, I don’t know what you’re up to, but I have no intentions of speaking with you until I know what’s what.”

    “If you’ll just confirm the information, we can get on with things.”

    “No, I’m getting on to work. This conversation is over.” I jumped into the cab of my pickup and high-tailed it out of there, leaving the stranger in a cloud of red dust from the parched parking lot at Rosie’s Restaurant.

    Half hour later I happened to look out of the window of my trailer, which served as the office for my construction business. There was the stranger sitting in his car and talking on the phone. I rushed outside, but he drove away before I could confront him.

    After work I stopped off to have a few beers at a local bar. Sitting in the corner was the stranger. I went over to him.

    “I’ve had enough of you and your spying.”

    “Just a few questions, please,”

    “You itchin’ for a fight?” I asked and cocked my arm back, fist clenched and ready for action.

    ‘“Hey, Jack, what’s all the commotion?” The bartender asked. When I turned to him the stranger scampered off.

    By the time I got home, my wife had received a visit from the stranger. The incident musta left her feeling uncomfortable, but she didn’t show it.

    “That’s all,” I said. “I’m calling the sheriff. But first, I’m gonna load up my shotgun.”

    There was a knock at the front door. It was him. I went to the bed room closet. My wife opened the door and let him in.

    “Okay. Now tell me everything,” I said, hoisting the shotgun to my shoulder.

    “You’ve won,” he said in a high-pitched nervous voice.

    “Won what?”

    “A genuine, certified miniature horse.”

    “I didn’t enter no contest for a little horse.”

    “But I did,” my wife said, “and I put your name on the entry form.”

    “My job was to check you out to see if you’re the kind of person that would give this prize possession the loving care it needs,” the stranger said.

    “Well, I guess I must be or you wouldn’t be giving me the horse now, would you.”

    “Oh, no. You wouldn’t make the grade. But when I came out here and talked with your wife, I could see she was the right person for this fine animal.”

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of the world’s smallest horse. I named her Honeybunch.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      Really great Don. I chuckled to myself reading the last part. Honeybunch is a great name for a minature horse or a wife of ‘long standing’. Most guys don’t realize what would happen to their well being or standing in their community, if their wife wasn’t at their side. As far as women are concerned, they’d rather talk to a married man than single for they’re at least partly trained.

      Not saying that laid in brick but it is my humble opinion. Back to the story, the funniect line is, “I didn’t enter no contest for a little horse. Makes the whole story come together.

    • jhowe says:

      How in the world did you ever think of the prize being a miniature horse? Loved the story.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      I love the name Honeybunch! Your MC is definitely the type that needs his loving wife by his side to temper his rather aggressive demeanor! This was funny and well written.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      Haha the ending was sweet. Love the clean flow of the story. Had me on the edge of my seat as I wondered what kind of trouble the MC was going to get into. There was a point where I was urging the MC to stop being a jerk and talk to the agent ;) But, the end was satisfying.

    • jmcody says:

      The wife had lots of experience with cantankerous critters. This was so quirky and random on the surface, which I loved. It also had a touching underlying story about this quirky but sweet couple, which I loved even more. Very, very nice .

    • agnesjack says:

      Unique idea, don. You write such wonderfully realistic dialogue. Have you ever written a play?

    • Reaper says:

      Funny and heartwarming at the same time. I had a perfectly clear image of your MC in mind. I laughed at the detective telling the MC he wouldn’t make the cut, even though he had a shotgun in his face. That was priceless.

  71. amsecre says:

    Abby was still scarfing down the last bite of bagel as she rushed out the door of the bakery.

    “Excuse me ma’am, I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” The man said as Abby breezed by him.

    “Sorry,” Abby called over her shoulder and she passed him, “I’m running late!”

    “Do you feel like you’re always running late? Does it seem like your life is out of your control?” the man continued, unruffled by her attempt to brush him off. He reached out and caught her shoulder.

    Surprised, Abby turned into his grasp. “Listen sir, I’m not sure who you think you are…” she started. But something in his gaze stopped her tirade. Living in the city, she had become used to the constant beggars and swindlers who covered the sidewalks. Most were harmless, but she had learned to tell the ones to avoid, who usually had rheumy eyes and unkempt hair. This man’s eyes were clear as glass, and his clothes were clean.

    The man smiled at her. “Would you mind coming with me? I really think you need to see this.”

    Abby planted her feet. “Not until you tell me who you are.”

    “I’m just a messenger. Surely you can spare a few moments. You might learn something about yourself. Please, come.”

    Reluctantly, she followed as he turned and began walking. She was already late, another few minutes wouldn’t make much difference anyhow. They rounded a corner, and the man stepped up to the door of a small shop on the corner, unlocked the door, and gestured for Abby to follow him inside.

    They entered a tiny bookshop. The shelves were stuffed with volumes, crammed every way they could fit. The lighting was dim, and the place smelled of glue and time. Abby squinted into the murky light. Her guide went around to the back of a desk standing in a corner, and rummaged underneath for a minute. When he stood up, he held a small blue book in his hand.

    “For you, Abby.” He said, as he handed her the book. Stunned, Abby tried to recall when she had told this man her name. Opening the book, she began to read. ‘August 10th, 1984 – born Abigail Jean Bonset. August 10th, 1984 – mother dies. September 21st, 1986 – self-awareness. July 3, 1987 – saves brother’s life by donating kidney.’ Abby looked up from the book.

    “What the hell is this?” she asked, voice shaking.

    “What does it look like? It should seem very familiar to you.” The man replied. His gaze remained steady, calm. “It’s your life story, Abby. You will find in there all the significant moments from your past, present…and future. It’s yours for the taking, if you want it.”

    Abby stared at this strange man. “Who are you?” she asked again.

    He smiled. “Like I said, I’m just a messenger. What you do with this information is up to you.”

    Abby looked down at the book again, slowly turning the pages. “This is everything? But…how do you know how it ends?” When she looked up, the man had vanished. Startled, she looked around the small shop, behind the desk, she even peered behind a few shelves. The man was gone. Tucking the book under her arm, she left the shop, and slowly began walking home.

    And that’s how Abby became the owner of the story of her life.

    • jmcody says:

      I sometimes read posts and think about them for a while before responding. This was one of those posts. I loved your idea of the object being a magical book, but I wasn’t sure if I would actually want such a book! Abby might find the book a burden, or she might find some way to profit from it. Either way, the followup to this would be an interesting story.

      Thanks, amsecre, I enjoyed it.

    • Reaper says:

      This is beautiful. The place smelled of glue and time, combined with the opening of do you always feel like you’re running late, put my mind on a very different track. So much that I would normally agree that I’m not sure I would want the book, but read this as a metaphor. You had a very inspirational message of becoming the owner of the story of one’s life. While I can see the surface story here the depth that the last line brings makes me ignore any of the other considerations. I look at it and see someone paying attention to the messengers that we all have and often overlook and taking control of their destiny. I hope that was your intention so I’m not just a sentimental fool.

  72. Eclipcia says:

    First time doing a prompt, but here goes! Ending a bit rushed since I was going over the assigned word count, sorry.

    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    Shaken from his deep ponderous thoughts with his hands jammed firmly in the pockets of his Armani suit, Mace Cromwell turned to level icy grey eyes on dark contumelious ones. He was a tall, lean young man with a hard face. The look of a man past his wiser years. The face did not ring familiar to Cromwell.

    He arched an eyebrow. The stranger needed no more prodding than that.

    “Tell me, what do you call a man who lives lavishly while his estranged family barely makes ends meet?” His voice rough and poignant like pepper on wound.

    Confusion fogged his brain at the queer question, his attention warily piqued.

    In the single light afforded by the street lamp in the parking lot of Le Cordon Blue, Cromwell looked closely at the young man as he inched closer. A messy mop of dark hair lay mussed on top of his head, with a firm jaw, a straight nose, and deep assessing gaze. He wore a casual blue hood with casual black jeans that had jagged rips spotted here and there. His shoes were worn and seemed like it had seen better days. He did not appear to be from around those outskirts of town.

    “Excuse me?”

    The young pushed himself to a halt in front of him.

    “I don’t believe you will be. But where are my manners?” He slapped his forehead in mock confusion and mirth. “Allow me to clarify in two short words- Linda Hayes.”

    In the crisp dark of the hour, it didn’t take him long to decipher the young man’s meaning.

    The parking lot seemed especially deserted and inconspicuous as his heart stopped at the afore mentioned name.

    A name that haunted him for years now. A name he had already made his peace with.

    “Who are you exactly?” He asked sharply.

    “You’ll know soon enough. For now, we’re going on a little…let’s say …adventure?”

    “You need think again if you believe I’m going anywhere with you.” Cromwell spat.

    Cromwell heard it before seeing it; the clear click sound of the gun being cocked at him.

    “Ain’t giving you much of a choice now, am I?”

    The ‘adventure’ was a tour to the cemetery, a place Cromwell was not wont to go. With the gun still aimed at him, the young man urged him on until they came in front a particular cemetery that elicited shivers down his spine. Linda Hayes.

    He sunk low in front of her grave; his heart heavy and laden with misery.

    “Look what greed has brought you! You ruined us! You killed my bloody mother, you bastard.” Angry tears were coursing down his face and he dabbed at him furiously.

    In the young man’s bout of emotion, Cromwell reacted by swiftly getting a hold of the young man’s hand. They tussled on the ground fighting for control of the ground until the resounding sound of the gun going off still all movement.

    With his heart lodged in his throat, Cromwell pushed the limp body of the man aside and stood. He quickly wiped the gun’s handle with a handkerchief and with a last look at the body and the Linda Hayes’s grave; he made a run for it leaving behind a sordid truth.

    And that’s how Cromwell ended up being the proud owner of a devastating secret.

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Welcome to our prompt corner! I really enjoyed this story. It was well written and there was a linger of dread that permeated from even the beginning that I could not place until the gun was pulled. While there were a few very small editing issues, (a word tense, accidentally used wrong word in one spot) but I only noticed them peripherally. They did nothing to take away from the brooding tone of this piece. Nice first prompt =)

    • jhowe says:

      Your debut story was well received, I really enjoyed it. Your writing is crisp and well flowing. Nice job. Since you asked for specifics on editing issues, I’ll list what I found even though they were very minor.

      ‘His shoes were worn and seemed like it had seen better days.’ Should be ‘they’ had seen’?

      ‘The young pushed himself to a halt in front of him.’ Missing the word ‘man’?

      ‘until they came in front a particular cemetery that elicited’ I think grave stone or something is needed to signify the mention of the name Linda Hayes.?

      ‘he dabbed at him furiously.’ Should it be dabbed at them?

      sound of the gun going off still all movement.’ Should it be stilled all movement?

      Like I said, the issues are minor and did nothing to distract from the story. I look forward to more posts from you.

      • Eclipcia says:

        Thanks jhowe. Indeed! I am will aware of the omitted words and the typos, in my haste and excitement. I presumed the previous person meant that there was a particular word I used with the wrong terminology. But much the same, thanks for the read and the critique! Much appreciated!

      • jmcody says:

        Congrats on your first story, and welcome to this wonderful community of writers. There are plenty of beginning writers here, myself included. I know how intimidating it is to do that first post!

        Your story was very tense and dramatic, with some nice details. I do agree with Derrdevil, though, that sometimes fewer, simpler words are more effective. I’m always wrestling with own tendency toward wordiness, so I know how tempting it can be! Nice work Eclipcia. Looking forward to reading more of your writing.

        • Eclipcia says:

          Thanks jmcody! I am extremely prone to using complex words as I just love words and the complexity they embody. I’ll try to dim them a bit then. Again thanks for reading!

    • derrdevil says:

      I loved this. Really well told story. At first thought, I got bored with the high words and initially skipped the story, then I read a bit of the comments and assumed I’d be doing myself a grave injustice. I’m glad I didn’t skip it. Your story seemed to flow beautifully after the introductions. It was a crazy romp that hooked me. And it left me hanging with a chill. Brilliant for a first write. I’m jealous.

    • don potter says:

      You have the makings of a good storyteller. Keep on writing.

    • agnesjack says:

      Welcome, eclipcia. I don’t have much to add to the previous comments, but to say that the story kept my interest until the very nice last line.

    • Reaper says:

      Welcome Eclipcia. This is an amazing first prompt. The bad guy walking away was a good ending here. I despised your MC in a way that I loved. I also noticed the errors, but they were minor and seemed obvious typos or editing errors. I have been neglecting these this week so reading without many comments but I saw the mention of your words and felt a need to weigh in here and to welcome you. So this will be an essay.

      The short version first. I personally applaud your use of big words. It was shocking to have to look up a word in your opening but I did so without hesitation. One of my strong beliefs is that as writers we have certain responsibilities, and one of them is to expand the minds of our readers, we take on in part the role of teacher. So I say keep up the two dollar words, though if you want to hook and keep a larger audience you might consider placing them further in the meat of your story.

      Longer version. I am comparing you mentally to four writers that are semi recent. The first two that pop to mind are Stephen King and Anne Rice. Now I adore King and can’t read Rice. They are both talented writers who have made sacrifices to sell more books. The differences being that one dumbed their work down, the other wrote to the lowest common denominator. I could deal with the dumbing down, but to see someone so talented eliminating that strength from their work in almost every book just horrifies me. So while I see the validity of cutting out those words it comes down to why do you write? Third author is Jim Butcher. He knows big words, and he uses them, but in his first handful of books he did not, and now he waits a few chapters to start throwing them in, so he is living up to his responsibility to teach in a good yarn but at a slow pace. The last being one of the giants, George RR Martin who uses big words with impunity. He sells books, and he is popular but he is a slow burn with an appeal to a particular audience. Those four authors run the spectrum on both popularity and size of their words. So why do you write? If you are writing to have mass market appeal and sell books to everyone some day tone down your words. If you are writing for the art and the experience don’t change a thing. If you want to combine the two worlds then I made my suggestion for that earlier. Sorry to take up so much space here, as you might be able to tell this is a soap box issue for me.

      • Eclipcia says:

        I thank you for your insight, Reaper. I do so love writing using big complex words, but at the same time, I also want to appeal to varied audiences or enough to make a difference in my bank account. Since I naturally use challenging words on a daily basis, I find it hard to curb them but will try if it poses such an issue to certain audiences. George RR Martin is my role model and I love his writing technique. Therefore, I aspire to be like him. His verbiage renders chills when I read his books. Actually, unfamiliar words in general illicit that very feeling. I have a strange thing I do where I go on a word hunt. That tells you right off about my fetish. But on another note, my word usage varies on different aspects such as era of story, mood I want to create, flow, and such. My favorite genre happens to be historical which oft times, becomes apparent when I write. Again, thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      • jmcody says:

        You get an A+ on your essay, Reaper, Once again you’ve written a thought provoker. I thought about this for a whole day before responding. I doubt anyone is even reading this anymore, but here goes:

        I mostly agree with you. I agree that word choice should be driven by the writer’s goals. Presumably, the goal of most writing is to connect with the reader on some level — intellectually, emotionally or both. I also see your point that the goal can be to teach, or simply to please one’s self. I agree that more challenging words should not be lost to us just because some people are unwilling to hear them, and I have real issues with the general dumbing down of society.

        The only distinction I would make is that when the goal is to connect with the reader, sometimes simpler words do that more effectively, and this does not necessarily equate to “dumbing down” if words are chosen carefully for their effect. It is up to the writer to know their target audience, what effect he/she wishes to have and what words best accomplish this. Like you said, it’s an art.

        You know a lot more about writing than I do. My comments are more from a reader’s POV, for whatever they’re worth.

        • Reaper says:

          I’m still reading, though not as much as I should be. You have given me food for thought. I admit the term dumbing down may be harsh for using smaller words. They are not exactly the same thing, though often they go hand in hand. I do agree that part of what is wanted is to create appeal and it takes someone special to keep both. I don’t know if I know that much more, most of my stuff is personal theory, and your writing is amazing. You always make me think in your stories and your comments. Thank you for that.

  73. jhowe says:

    The energetic pitch man from the late night infomercial practically reached out and tapped Mike Overloop on the shoulder. “It slices, it dices, it makes mounds of fries in seconds!” the pitchman said.

    “So the hell what,” said Mike, cramming another spoonful of Wheat Chex into his mouth.

    “The Veg-O-Matic by Ronco is a must for every kitchen. It makes a great gift.”

    “Hmm,” said Mike. “I do have to get a present for Tim’s wife.”

    “Don’t be fooled by imitations. Buy the original Veg-O Matic by Ronco today and pay only $19.95. But wait! Order in the next 20 minutes and get a peel –and –eat shrimp cocktail display set free. Just pay separate shipping and processing.”

    Sold.

    The following week the tires of Mike’s Toyota Corolla crunched on the gravel of an abandoned roller rink lot where everyone had been instructed to park. The air was warm on this April afternoon as Mike walked the two blocks to his friend Tim’s house on Centre Avenue.

    Mike, as he had planned, was running fashionably late. Nobody who was anybody arrived at a party on time any more. It was how the losers operated. He carried a wrapped present for Tim’s wife Karen in one hand and a four dollar bottle of pinot noir in the other as he traversed the sidewalk. He looked forward to the look on Karen’s face when she opened the present and saw the Veg-O-Matic.

    Just as Mike reached the house, Tim pulled in to the driveway. Tim and Karen got out of the car and Mike attempted unsuccessfully to hide the present behind his back. Tim’s scornful eyes bored two half inch holes into the center of Mike’s forehead. With nothing suitable to say, Mike said, “Surprise?”

    A symphony of muffled groans was heard from inside the house. Karen’s sister opened the front door and everyone half-heartedly called out surprise while staring daggers at Mike. Later, in the house, Karen’s sister informed Mike that there were to be no gifts and that alcoholic beverages were not to be served.

    Later, at his apartment Mike ate chopped salad he had prepared with the Veg-O-Matic. He sipped the wine while reviewing the invitation for the party. Sure enough, it was a surprise party. Dang. Also, there were requests to bring no gifts and to bring no alcoholic beverages. Mike recalled now that Karen struggled with sobriety and that was perhaps the reason for the no booze appeal.

    It was at times like this that Mike did his best contemplating. He picked up a pen and note pad and made a list:

    1. The Veg-O-Matic sucks.

    2. These chopped veggies have a viscous quality… extremely unappealing.

    3. The peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail display set sucks.

    4. The whole thing set me back $63.48 with double shipping and processing, sales tax and some fee I didn’t anticipate.

    5. The peel-and-eat shrimp cocktail display set is basically a clear plastic bowl and some little forks.

    6. When it came right down to it, I am basically a douchebag.

    7. This wine is superb.

    8. With a little clean-up and some creative re-packaging, the Veg-O-Matic could easily be re-gifted.

    And that was how Mike Overloop obtained his Mother’s next Christmas gift.

    • Kerry Charlton says:

      jhowe, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your story and the comedic romp with the Veg-O-Matic.
      Loved the name ‘Mike Overloop.’ It suits him to a ‘T’. Last sentence is a fabulous finish to your story. Veg-O-matic people should read this. Have you thought about sending it to them? In an unmarked envelope of course.

      Now you can write about the salad spinner! And with courage, the ‘Squatty Potty.’

    • gamingtheblues says:

      Superbly written Jhowe. The list at the end especially put a nice cap on the story that yes, your MC really is douche bag, and yes, you really are a wonderful writer. I was very entertained and could “feel” the daggers everyone threw at him.

    • Cardinal Richelieu says:

      I like it. It was kind of funny how he thought he was going to be a big shot then ended up feeling like an idiot :)

    • derrdevil says:

      I liked the Mc. He seemed real, authentic. Someone I’d like to know. A unique character for a unique prompt. Loved it, jhowe. Thanks!!

    • Eclipcia says:

      This was truly awesome. Loved the ending!

    • don potter says:

      You have the Veg-O-Matic pich down except you omitted one line, “Save thousands of dollars this summer on Cole slaw alone.” I also liked the reference to the $4 bottle of wine. Fun read.

    • jmcody says:

      That was a fun read. Poor oblivious Mike. I loved his summation of the situation and how he ultimately made it work for him in his own oblivious way.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I liked the story. I can sympathize with someone not paying attention to the details. I’m glad he got to enjoy the wine. I’m pretty sure I’ve received regifted QVC purchases in the past. They make good White Elephant packages.

    • agnesjack says:

      jhowe, you have such a wonderful sense of humor. Laughed out loud at the four dollar bottle of pinot noir, and liked the virtual tap on the shoulder, too. As someone else said, this poor schmuck was kind of likeable.

    • JR MacBeth says:

      Funny jhowe, wish I could do humor better. Not sure how you did it, but I even chuckled at “Toyota Corolla”!

  74. Cardinal Richelieu says:

    Hunger gnawed at Urban like a dog violently chewing on an old bone with abrasive, grinding teeth. He hadn’t eaten in days. He had once lived a good life with his father, a widower, being one of Cardinal Richelieu’s favorite guards, but his father had been killed fighting against the Huguenots, those Protestant rebels that the Red Eminence hated so famously.

    Urban, like any loyal Frenchman was a devout Roman Catholic, although being of Latin descent, and shared Cardinal Richelieu’s sentiment that the Huguenots were traitors in need of being punished. In fact, he wished he could join the Most Eminent Lord Cardinal on his campaign, but he was too young at fourteen. And now he would die, an orphan about whom no one cared.

    Although he was certain that his own death would come that day, Urban had ventured out of the tiny apartment he had shared with his father so that he could gaze upon the wonderful Cathedral of Notre Dame. He was a poor child who had never been given the honor of actually entering the Church, but every day he walked past the great church, crossing himself piously several times as he did.

    Reaching his destination, Urban stopped to admire the cathedral he had long been fascinated by. He crossed himself as usual and began to wonder why God didn’t send manna down from heaven anymore to feed starving Christians like himself. He looked at the church and wondered why God hadn’t fed him using ravens like he had done with Elijah.

    Urban looked at the great church before him and concluded with sadness that God had better things to do than to help simple orphans like him. He was a good Catholic though, and when he finally succumbed to starvation, he would hopefully see Saint Peter guarding the Gates of Heaven. Even if he was sent to Purgatory, such a fate would still be better than slowly languishing away with no hope.

    Just as he was about to walk away from the Cathedral of Notre Dame for the last time and return to his apartment to die, Urban felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see a man shrouded in a heavy cloak staring at him. The man spoke in an authoritative but kind voice saying, “May I trouble you for just a moment? One of the wheels on my carriage has come off, and my driver insisted that he keep the horses from panicking. Would you be so kind as to help me?”

    Urban looked at the cloaked man and wondered why he should help some random aristocrat when he himself was going to die within the next few hours, but he reminded himself that even a Samaritan was praised for helping a man in need. Urban said with a friendly smile, “Sure, I’ll help you.”

    The cloaked nobleman or whoever he was led Urban to a large, grand carriage that stood idly in front of a large hotel a short ways from the Cathedral of Notre Dame. As the man had said, one of the carriage’s wheels had fallen off.

    Assessing the situation, Urban said to the nobleman, “I’ll lift the axle up a bit so you can just slide the wheel right back on. It should fit perfectly.”

    Urban mustered all his strength and lifted the barren axle of the carriage. He was very weak from starvation, but for some reason he was able to lift the axle to a point that allowed the nobleman to slide the wheel back on. The feeling was quite odd to Urban. Perhaps God had given him strength to perform one last act of Christian charity.

    Examining his carriage, the cloaked nobleman said, “Thank you, my good man. You have helped me most eminently!” He took a gold ring that had been given a huge ruby off his finger and handed it to Urban. He said with a smile, “Take this, my lad. You deserve it.”

    Not allowing Urban a chance to refuse him, the nobleman climbed back into his carriage and ordered his driver to be off. Urban looked down at the ring he had been given then looked back at the carriage that was picking up speed. He suddenly dropped the ring in shock.

    As wind began to blow over the carriage, the nobleman’s hood fell away, and Urban could clearly see that the man wore a red skullcap. The man was not a nobleman but a cardinal! He had just helped Cardinal Richelieu! God had not deserted him after all!

    • jhowe says:

      Well done. This story was very entertaining and written beautifully. You expertly kept the narrative and the dialog in tune with the time period while moving the story along nicely. I enjoyed it. Is Cardinal Richelieu a regular character in your stories?

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        This is my third try, responding to your story. Let’s hope this one takes. Descriptive beauty in your writing leads the reader alongside the Mc. Story line is smooth and the reader feels sorrow for the MC. Middle 1800′s probably when starving people actually walked the streets and died on the pavement. Nice wrap benefiting not only the MC but also the cardinal in his good deed. Agree with jhowe, a wonderful read.

        • Cardinal Richelieu says:

          I really appreciate your compliment. I didn’t know if people would like it because it has heavily Catholic doctrine. (not a Catholic myself, but I write about them a ton.) Thanks again, and I’ll check out your story along with Jhowe’s if I haven’t already :)

      • Cardinal Richelieu says:

        Thank you very much for your feedback. I don’t always write things about Cardinal Richelieu, but all but two of the characters in my first novel were either cardinals or popes. I am, however, planning a few novels with Cardinal Richelieu as a very prominent character. Glad you liked it! I don’t normally do writing prompts. I usually focus on novels, so it was nice to see that I can write decent short stories. Thanks again!

    • don potter says:

      Everytime I see the name Cardinal Richelieu I think of the Three Musketeers, the novel and the movie with Gene Kelly and Lana Turner with Vincent Price as Richelieu. Your story appears to have taken place later in time, but I went back in time after reading your post.

  75. LONDON, 1814

    “Ha! I had two jacks and the queen of clubs!” Scotty slapped his cards onto the oak table and stroked his big beard. Art and I groaned.

    “You always win!” I ducked as a rum bottle soared over my head and into the wall.

    He grinned through the thin smoke. “If my cards were armies, Napoleon would be sunk into the Channel by now.”

    “Eh, Napoleon is on the way out, ever since he invaded Russia and half his army became icicles.”

    “Yeah, maybe all that salmon can keep him company,” I softly crooned.

    “The net had a hole in it!” He gathered the weathered cards and shuffled.

    “Yeah, and the Duke of Wellington is waiting just outside to get our autographs.” I called out for three more drinks, having to shout over a rowdy group shooting craps behind us.

    “Maybe some rum will tip the balances in my favor.”

    I looked at the cards in my hand and sipped glumly. “I guess not.”

    I heard the pub doors slam open behind me, and glanced back to see a short weasel-looking man with clothes tattered beyond comprehension glance quickly around. Seeing our trio around the small table, his face lit up in a strange way, and he scurried over like a mouse in a wheel.

    “Beggar alert. And he’s headed this way.”

    He reached the table, his pale hands gripping the edge.

    “Um, excuse me, sir,” he said urgently. I realized he was talking to me.

    “No need to call me sir,” I said with a look of amusement to my friends. “What is it?”

    “Well,” he said, stumbling, “it’s my cart, you see, it overturned just a block away, and…”

    He trailed, looking over to my friends and the cards scattered all over.

    “I mean, I didn’t want to intrude, but you seemed strong, so—“

    “No, that’s fine, I’ll help you.”

    I held up my hand as I slid out of the chair. “Scotty, Art, stay here. It’ll just take a minute.”

    As soon as we were out of the noise and dim lighting, the sunset over the North Sea nearly blinded me as we turned down into the port district.

    “I don’t see any cart.” No doubt Scotty had already glanced at my hand.

    “Oh, it’s just around the corner here. We were transporting vegetables to the market.”

    There was something about this rodent that seemed out of place, with his unusual pale skin and upturned nose. But there was a market just a few blocks away, which smelt of stale fish.

    “Ah, here it is,” he said with satisfaction as we rounded the bend. Instead of a rickety cart with a loose axle, I found myself staring down the barrel of two pistols, themselves handled by British soldiers.

    I yelled back as loud as I could back to the tavern with the scant amount of time I had left.

    “Scotty, press gan—“ The rag came around my mouth, and suddenly one of them was right in my face, spewing a wad of spit into my eye.

    “Take him down to the ship,” he said gruffly. “Tell Captain we’ve got another strong one.”

    As each grabbed one of my arms, I swiftly kicked back, feeling my heel slam into a soft area. He collapsed back into a bag of flour, while the second floundered to contain me. Finally I broke loose and headed down the alley. As I turned, a spark of powder ricocheted off a pole.

    “Get him! No doubt he’ll alert the others!” Boots on brick squealed. Desperately, I overturned a barrel of rotten apples, swerving to make a harder target. The weasel stumbled over a gala and he hit his face pretty hard from the sound of it.

    I exited the alley so fast I didn’t even see the carriage hurtling towards me until the horses reared up and the whole cabin fell on its side. On my back, the soldiers loomed over me, the one I’d hit possessing a more demonic gaze.

    “Don’t touch him!” a breezy old voice came from inside the curtains. One of them flipped aside to reveal a well-dressed gent holding an emerald cane and a tattered hat.

    “I said, don’t touch him!” he stepped out and hastily readjusted his collar.

    “Why not? The HMS Empire just needs—“

    “But what I need is for you to leave this man alone!” His voice grew angry.

    They reluctantly stepped back into the alley with twisted looks on their eyes, a look that made me almost afraid to even wake up in the morning.

    “Now that they’re gone,” he said, looking towards their coats flashing round the bend, “I have something to give you.” He reached inside his bulbous left pocket.

    “Wait, what’s your name? I must thank you. Usually the upper class don’t take no attention to us low-lifes.”

    “Names are not important. Here you go, lad. Take care.” He turned around and was talking to the driver.

    I looked at what he had given me, and then back up, but somehow the carriage was already right-side up and moving away from me. I would never see him again, of course. I warily shuffled back to the pub to lose again, reconsidering the events of the day. And that, my friends, is how I became the proud owner of a two-inch scar on my neck and a can of… what’s this stuff? Pepper spray?

    GH

    • Cardinal Richelieu says:

      Your’s was a very unique story and an interesting one! I like that your character thought the rich man was helping him when really he was kind of insulting him! Nice job!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        There’s a twist of Chales Dickens, woven through your story that zeros in on the time period. We’ve come a long way since filling the crew of sailing vessels with kidnapped victoms. And if they didn’t mind the captain, they were flogged or keel-hauled. I enjoyed the tone of your story and plotline.

    • jmcody says:

      I honestly don’t know how you come up with this stuff, Bilbo. That was some high adventure with a convincing period flair. Fantastic!

  76. peetaweet says:

    “Sorry to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”

    I was walking out of Della’s Diner when a cute stranger rushed in and stopped me in my tracks, her eyes wide and pleading.

    “I’m having some trouble with my van.” She continued, not yet knowing she’d picked an invalid for her troubles.

    “Uh.” Utterly genius. Most guys would’ve been happy to start there day with a pretty girl in need. But not me, I stood there, ensnared by her smile. To this day I still don’t know what came out of my mouth, something between a gasp and a sneeze. I was sure, however, that I’d picked the wrong day to get the onions with my home fries.

    Luckily she was too preoccupied with the minivan outside.

    “I don’t think we’re out of gas. I just stopped for a team breakfast but the van just stalled out. “

    Outside, the morning sun shined bright in our faces. She wore V-neck and shorts and I was so focused on not looking at her butt that I didn’t even notice the six little girls bouncing and waving inside the van.

    “We have a soccer game at ten.”

    She popped the hood and I hoped for a miracle. Ten minutes later I realized I was inspecting the windshield wiper fluid. I grimaced, sweating from the heat and the nervousness.

    “Okay try it now,” I said, proud of myself for stringing words together.

    Click Click Click

    I glanced at my watch. 9:35. Six little hopeful faces looked on.

    “I have an idea.”

    We pulled into the park at 9:57, the whole squealing soccer team packed into my grandfather’s old 1965 Ford Galaxy.

    “I can’t thank you enough for this. I’m Krista, by the way.”

    “Charles.”

    “Thanks Charles. Girls say thank you.”

    “Thanks Charlie!”

    “I guess I can’t tell them not to accept rides from strangers,” she said, guiding the heads out of the car. I laughed nervously.

    “Do uh, do you want to join us? We’re down a coach too.”

    The hip high platoon scattered towards the swing set, the coach turned to them and then back to me, her soft eyes dulling my vocabulary..

    “Uh, yeah, sure.“

    “Great.” She turned back to her team. “Guys, Charlie’s going to help coach.”

    Yelps of approval. I wedged the Galaxy into a space near the grass, laughing, because I knew less about soccer than I did about cars. Krista tossed me a whistle and I was officially part of my first sports team, The Pine Valley Home for Girls, also known as The Panthers.

    My heart dropped. These kids were orphans?

    On the field, we lined up without drills or warm ups, which meant no time for the assistant coach to learn how to play soccer. Our tallest girl, Tara, played goalie. Only her dream was to find a four leaf clover. We lost 11-0. But the day was bright and promising and I found my eyes drifting more towards the head coach’s legs rather than the game itself.

    We went 0-8 that year. But after each game we stopped for ice cream, where I got to know our six little kickers and their coach. After the seventh game I finally got the courage to ask the head coach out for a “game planning session”

    She agreed. And that’s how I became the proud owner of the sportsman ship trophy sitting on our mantel, right next to our wedding picture.

  77. lionetravail says:

    “Five Hundred Exactly” (an apology for longer responses on previous prompts :))

    There was this tentative tap on my shoulder just as I turned right outside the bagel shop, on my way to my car.

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” I turned around, and saw that the tapper was an older man leaning on a sandalwood cane. I’d seen him here before for years, spoken to him at the bagel shop on many mornings past- at least, normal rushed-breakfast-burrito kind of talk, anyway.

    “Yeah?” I said, thinking to myself that he was probably after money. I chastened myself think more charitably.

    “I’ve got a situation I thought you might be able to help with,” he said in a quavering voice.

    “Mmm hmm?”

    “It’s, well, it’s delicate,” he said.

    “Yeah, look, I got things to do, so…”

    “I need someone to help me,” he said. “Me and my wife, both.”

    It was something in his voice that caught me, something which spoke to feelings of loss and pain. No, not pain: heartache. I nodded, silently.

    “I’m dying,” he said, voice cracking.

    I waited uncomfortably, definitely chastened now, but wondering, still, where he was going with this.

    “My wife and I’ve always wanted a kid, someone to carry the name, a piece of me forward, but I haven’t been able to, yanno, perform for a long time. It’s the cancer, you see?”

    I nodded, but I really wasn’t getting the point. I probably failed to keep my impatience out of my face.

    “Anyway, she’s only 34. Deserves better than she’s got, really.” He saw my surprised expression, and smiled humanely. “Married me for my money, she did, but she loves me now,” he said with a wry chuckle.

    “Um okay,” I said. “I still gotta get going…”

    “I want you to sleep with her and give her a child,” he said.

    I felt my jaw drop. “You what?” I said, shocked.

    “Please,” he whispered.

    It sounded like the last gasp of a broken person, and unexpectedly ripped my emotional gut open. I thought about the absurdity of the request, and then thought twice. I was single. I’d known this guy for years. He was in pain, clearly, and with a straightforward and heart-wrenching request. And I’d never had much hang-up about sex anyway; it could be just a fun way to share time, without all the emotional crap that sometimes got bundled into it.

    “She’s okay with this? It would be consensual?”

    He nodded and held out his right hand. From it dangled a key on a chain. “Apartment building 32-04 Knightsbridge Boulevard, 6 F,” he said, like a man grasping a life preserver.

    I took it. It was a weird situation, sure, but he’d hit all the right buttons with me. I said yes.

    It happened. He died. She had a baby.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a scorching case of herpes. Never, freaking ever, again! Because the moral of the story, apparently, is that no good seed goes unpunished.

  78. rainiemills says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder. My initial glance showed no one in sight. “Down here” said the tiny little man. How did he reach my shoulder? He can’t be more than three feet tall.

    “What can I help you with?” This is awkward, should I stoop to his level or just keep gazing down on him?

    “I was wondering if you could give me a ride home, it’s not far from here?”

    Evaluating the situation, he looked harmless, I could easily take him in a fight, so why not help a guy out. “Okay, I’m Tommy.”

    “They call me Rene TinBuckle, thanks for your hospitality. You’re the tenth person I’ve asked for a ride, and the only one that even acknowledged that I exist.”

    “Things aren’t at all what they used to be Mr. TinBuckle, people got no respect or kindness anymore.” My rusted old Chevy truck stuck out like a sore thumb next to the fancy sports cars lining the street. “This is it, hop on in.”

    “Where we headed?” The engine coughed and sputtered in a fight to roar to life. “Don’t worry, she’ll get us there.”

    “There is a place just outside of town called the Tree Meadows, that’s where I live.” His voice barely audible over the rumble of the engine.

    Skirting the edge of town the cityscape turned into lush pastures with rolling hills as far as one could see. I wonder why I’ve never seen this before? Surely I have travelled this way before. My thoughts interrupted by his excitement. “There it is!” He pointed animatedly toward something, the only thing I could see was a field with a single tree sitting in the middle. “There, that tree. That’s where I need to go.”

    “You want me to take you to a tree?” My confusion evident as I roll to a stop and stare at him.

    “Not just any tree Tommy boy. That’s my home.” A sparkle flashed as a tear left his eye. “It’s been many a year since I’ve been home, nobody has been able to get me there, but you Tommy, your special. Come with me, I will give you a gift for getting me home.”

    What the hell, why not, I’ve gone this far haven’t I. The air smelled cleaner than I have ever experienced, my body instantly rejuvenated with every breath. The trail of silver light following Mr. TinBuckle glowed brighter as he approached the tree, where he disappeared into thin air, leaving behind only a single piece of parchment lying on the ground. The title clearly stated property deed, and to my amazement, my name as owner. “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of the town of Tree Meadows.”

    • snuzcook says:

      Lovely story, Rainie. You had me wondering all the way through. I want to know more about the town of Tree Meadows, though. Is it a magical place outside of normal reality where he can live forever, or is it real estate that will ensure a comfy retirement? Inquiring minds…

    • Dennis says:

      I really enjoyed the descriptive language and the positive message it left me with. I too would like to know more about this magical place.

    • rainiemills says:

      Wasn’t really a fan of this one… so any critiques and/or suggestions are appreciated.

      • lionetravail says:

        It’s a fun story, underscoring the power of even a little kindness. Maybe what you were concerned about lies with owning the town of Tree Meadows, which is otherwise unseen/unknown/undescribed in the short piece. Maybe you’d be more comfortable if the “parchment lying on the ground said: ‘Admission to the Town of Tree Meadows: One lifetime only- FREE!” It’d make the piece of parchment as invaluable as the deed was, but much more personally special?

        Otherwise, liked it a lot :)

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          It is am imaginative story with a certain amount of symbolism The property deed means more than it states. Like the story of the Samaritan. Perhaps you should leave the story as it is and let the reader decide.

    • Reaper says:

      I liked the character you wrote. I should say I liked and didn’t like him, but I loved the work you did on him. He felt full and fleshed out and flawed but likable in a short amount of time. The name for the wee man was spectacular, and I agree there is a certain amount of symbolism here that is nice.

      Now you said you weren’t a fan, and that seems to be an ongoing thing, I mentioned it in another comment. However I agree that leaving it is good. If I were to recommend any changes it would only be to the end. As steeped in symbolism and the wee folk as this seems to be I might suggest making mention of the deed be good for a year and a day instead of a lifetime ownership, and if you extended this have the writing change to ownership when he eats something in the town of Tree Meadows. But those are small details beyond the ending of the prompt and not necessary changes, just things that feel like they fit with what you were going for.

    • agnesjack says:

      I liked this, rainiemills. It made me think of Brigadoon, which appears every hundred years for just one day. I agree with the comments about the ending, however. The idea of anyone permanently owning Tree Meadows dispells the magic.

  79. Kerry Charlton says:

    THE GIFT

    “I hate to bother you but I have something important to ask.”

    A cold blew across Father John Murphy’s face as he turned to look at the stranger. He wore ragged clothes of ancient time. He feet stood bare despite the cold Chicago morning. Even so, Father Murphy stood in awe of the man.

    “My parish is around the corner, my son. Would you like to step out of the weather?”

    “You’re very kind Father. Would you mind if I held onto you? I’m weary from my travels.”

    “Certainly.”

    Father John felt the stranger’s hand rest gently on his arm as they slowly walked toward the church.

    “Have you traveled far, my son?”

    The stranger’s eyes filled with amusement and sorrow at the same time.

    “For many years I’ve searched for a man such as you Father.”

    “I don’t understand. If our paths had ever crossed, I would have remembered you.”

    They reached the steps to the parish and the stranger stumbled, falling to the harsh pavement. Father John fell to his knees, picked the frail man up in his strong arms and walked up the stairs to the door. ‘I’ve never felt a calm such as this,’ John thought. As he reached his humble bed, he laid the stranger on his fresh sheets and covered the frail man with his comforter for warmth.

    “You’re very kind, John. I’m sorry to be such a burden.”

    “Please rest and I’ll fix some soup that will warm your soul.”

    The stranger’s eyes twinkled in mild amusement as he closed his eyes in sleep. When the priest returned with the supper, the mysterious stranger had disappeared. In his place, sat a time-worn box of juniper wood. John sat on the edge of his bed, immersed in his thoughts.

    Weary with age and responsibility tending to the poor and down-trodden members of the church, John gingerly placed the box on his small night stand and laid his body to rest.

    A late afternoon sun streamed through John’s window and warmed his face. As he rose from the bed, his eyes fell on the plain box the stranger had left. He hesitated to open it, for he felt puzzled.

    ‘Why would a total stranger leave a present for me and where did he disappear to?’

    John’s hand traveled the edges of the box, looking for a seam. He found none and set it beside him on his bed. As he studied it, the box opened from the side revealing a small object wrapped in an ancient mantle. He carefully removed the crumbling cover to reveal a fabric of mappot covering the object. John’s hand gently traced the edges of it and he suddenly removed his touch.

    ‘I mustn’t go further, my eyes are not worthy to view it.’

    Slowly replacing the wrapped treasure, he saw the box close again revealing no lines.

    ‘And how was I chosen to be in the presense of the most cherished of all things deemed worthy? Surronded by mystery, legends and wonderment through nineteen centuries, why me?’

    John descended to the floor to pray and when his eyes were able to gaze at the box again, it had been replaced by one perfect white rose.

    • jhowe says:

      Kerry, that was beautifully written. You pulled it off with what appears to be little effort, but I know you really put your heart into it this time.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you, jhowe. I did have to ramp up for this one. Strange thing though, I had an entirely different ending in mind as I started but suddenly changed it. When my wife read it, she said I was expecting an angel had come for the priest to escort him to God’s presence, which was exactly what I had planned to do.

        That what 47 years of marriage, does to you.

    • rainiemills says:

      Riveting! You pulled me right in.

    • snuzcook says:

      Touching and uplifting, Kerry. You drew me into the MCs sense of awe and wonder.

    • Dennis says:

      Very moving. I felt like I was witness to a very special secret.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Dennis. The secret of what is in the box is relative only to your wonder. It’s not really important to the theme. But I’m curious as to what you might think it is.

    • lionetravail says:

      Engrossing and touching and lovely. I’d like there to be more :)

    • Wow, this was excellent. I was really drawn into the scenery.

    • peetaweet says:

      Wow, loved the description and the story, great stuff!

    • derrdevil says:

      This is a gem, Kerry. Completely captivated from the get go. You write beautifully.

    • don potter says:

      Heartwarming story and beautifully told.

    • jmcody says:

      I loved the humility. You don’t see that everyday. A lovely and poignant story.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I enjoyed the mystery of your story…the stranger, the gift, and the transformation.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Mark. My intention with the mystery was to allow the reader to have a more personal experiece as he read it. I’m glad it workecd out okay.

    • Reaper says:

      Amazing Kerry. Everything that has been mentioned is so accurate, but a couple of things I wanted to comment on.

      Your language on this is so precise and beautiful. It feels like an older dialect and paints pictures. A long marriage explains much of it but you words do as well. I was predicting death for the priest because of the imagery. Never felt a calm such as this, fresh linen and covering, and especially laid his body to rest were signs of passing to me.

      The language leads into the symbolism, you had me googling overtime on this one. Juniper, white roses, the image of the priest picking the stranger up when he stumbled, even the MCs name. The story was beautiful to begin with and even more with those images explained.

      I originally assumed the box contained the grail, or a piece of the ark, but then I decided what was in it was hope. Pandora’s box, given into the care of someone that would not give in to temptation. As the name of the story is one of the translations of Pandora I think I am sticking to that.

      I’m trying to keep these shorter this week, but this was just gorgeous and I had to share my thoughts on what the gift was because I know you left it open but I felt like you took me by the hand and walked me to this interpretation.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        I learn more from your critiques than you’ll ever know and I appreciate your efforts in your analysis in such detail. Now only does it inspire me but is a marvelous teaching tool you give. You might deem that strange but with your mind as it is, you see things in my writings that I don’t realize.

        As for your thoughts on what the gift represents, it is this thought and others who have either the same or different views, that helps me in composing these prompts. For you to take time out of your day, is a thoughtful and kind response. Thank you.

        • Reaper says:

          I am touched by this and glad to be of any assistance that I can. I know that the feedback here has helped me more than I think anyone can understand.

    • This was downright beautiful to read, Kerry. I always asm amazed at how much detail you put in to your pieces. This one is one of your best yet.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Doug. I feel very comfortable on the forum and I don’t mind revealing myself even though sometimes, I feel as if I fell flat on my face with some prompts.

    • agnesjack says:

      Kerry, this was absolutely lovely. I had a different reaction, though. I didn’t think the priest was about to die. I immediately felt that the stranger with the bare feet was Jesus, and the gift was something like hope or love, which was/is Jesus’ greatest gift to us. The priest had done such good work with the needy, and he was so weary, perhaps he needed the reminder that his works were, indeed, cherished by God. I don’t know. That’s what I felt reading your wonderful story.

      p.s. It also brought to mind the poem by Mother Teresa, “Do It Anyway.”

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Thank you Nancy. You interpetation of the gift was very close to what reaper commented on, two or three comments above yours. I’m glad the story moved you for I haven’t been quite myself since I wrote it on Wednesday. I keep reading it and wonder where it came from.

        • Critique says:

          A lovely story! I too think the stranger was Jesus in the sense that: “whatever you do for one of the least of these – you did for Me” (Matthew 25:45). Because of Father John’s humble serving heart he was loved more than he felt he deserved and he was given a special gift. To me the white rose represents Father John’s purity of heart and motives.

          • Kerry Charlton says:

            Thank you Critique. I loved your interpretation of the rose. Most concentrated on the box. But the symbolism of the rose is very important to the story. Thank you for reading it and responding.

  80. pinkbamboo says:

    a bit scatter brained this week. probably not the best I can come up with. On a separate note, I made a continuation story from last week’s prompt.

    *********

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” I looked up to see a man standing there. A stranger it seems but he’s no stranger to me.

    “Yes sir, how can I help you?” I smiled.

    “Where is the nearest train station?” he folded up his brochure.

    “Oh, it’s just around the corner. Let me take you there” I pushed open the diner’s door and lead him to the train station.

    “Where have you been?” I asked softly as we walked past the train station and into an alley.

    He sighed. “Around. You know I have to lay low for a bit to shake them off”

    I stopped walking and turned to face him “When are we leaving town?”

    He took off his jacket and stuffed it into his backpack. I picked up the other helmet and put it on as he puts his on.

    “Soon baby, tonight one more round and we’ll be out of here” he climbed on his Harley as I get on behind him.

    “How do you know where the necklace is?” I asked.

    “Last week when I was out in the backyard, I saw the old lady hid it in this secret drawer under their bed”

    I giggled. “You looked so sexy in that postman uniform”

    Don laughed. “You’re so weird, baby”

    We went back to my apartment and stayed in front of the television. When we had nothing to watch, we went in the bedroom. In the evening, we ordered dinner and cleaned up the aparment before heading out.

    That night we were aiming for the house around the corner. As usual, Don and I entered the premise and broke in through the back door. The couple screamed but Don shot them before they could react. The first time I saw Don shot someone, I cringed but this was our ninth round and I got used to it. I walked over and gave them a kick to make sure they’re out cold.

    “Okay baby, standard procedure” he put away his gun.

    I nodded and ran to the corner to turn off the lights. Don went into the other room to get the necklace. I was on lookout, crouching behind the couch. That’s when I heard a sound, someone humming. Louder and louder.

    “Don!” I called out softly as I clutched my gun and ran into the other room.

    ********

    Man, this body is heavy. I dragged the husband nearer to the door. I hummed as I worked, having done this a couple of times before. Don would be mad if he heard me humming, he said it distracts him. I glanced at Don and he looked at me with a stern expression.

    “Fine” I mumbled and finished positioning the second body.

    “Come on Don, give me the necklace. Remember how you almost dropped the ring that one time” I reached into his pocket and retrieved it.

    He didn’t protest as I proceed to dig around for his keys. I started humming again but Don didn’t get mad.

    “Sweet dreams Don” I smiled and kissed his forehead carefully so that my lips don’t touch the blood pooling on the floor.

    Don was still looking at me but I giggled and stood up. Softly humming, I moved slowly towards the back door, crawled out and that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a Harley.

    • this was very interesting, pinkbamboo. It took me a second read to figure out what happened. in the second scene. Your MC definitely seems to be quite unhinged. Well done.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        Yes she does seemed a little unhinged. I was trying to find a trait of hers which is just borderline normal and creepy. Humming is normal but in her circumstances, humming becomes a normal thing for her in the creepy scenario

    • snuzcook says:

      The switch in the second part was confusing at first, but after a couple of read-throughs I could see how it all came together. Pretty creepy. Brilliant concept.

    • Dennis says:

      A little confusing and disjointed but in the end I got it. Interesting twist.

    • lionetravail says:

      Great fun and complex. Applause for continuing the story!

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        What made this story so realistic was the casual manner of murder, double cross and another casual murder. The whole idea of total lack of moral judgment, in itself, was horrifying to the reader. You wrote so well and casual, it became more then powerful.
        Murder, murder, murder, double cross, murder. No thought, casual. easy and horrifying. In sinc.

        • Ahsuniv says:

          This story gave me the chills to think that someone was that casual about murder. But, the story was so realistic that it made me believe that murderers are like that …so, good job with it.

        • pinkbamboo says:

          I put myself in the position of how casual the mc could be. She’s just a cold heartless a little crazy murderer who never had doubts to operate alone. It would appear that she and Don are partners but in reality, she just decided to get rid of him.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        Oh it wasn’t this story that I continued .. It was my previous prompt story that I continued

    • Reaper says:

      I admit I am still a little lost. I think I am trying too hard to see connections to the last story. I am in love with this story. It is another push for you, both in the creepiness factor and in overall style. The fact that I read this last night and had to come back and read again when I was less tired and am still trying to piece it together makes this wonderful to me. This is chilling and powerful. So I’m going to ask if I understand it correctly.

      Your MC in the first and second part seem to be a different person. If not she’s messed up and possessed or just crazy. So is this the same woman through it or not? The first MC seems to be the heir mentioned in your last piece, but I am interpreting that because of the “baby”. The they that Don is avoiding I’m reading as Ashley and possibly her husband? But I am also reading the second MC as Ashley from your last story. The almost dropped the ring that time makes me believe she had the kid, learned magic and offed Rick then pulled his same trick on Don, and a few others. Because I see him trying to throw the ring away as “almost dropping it”. So I’m seeing that she went super dark side and then killed off her husband.

      Am I even close? You made me think a lot with this one, thank you for this ride.

      • pinkbamboo says:

        Oh no reaper.. I’m not that deep and twisted. Got you so confused. I meant I wrote a continuation on a separate thing, this piece above is a completely new detached thing. Ashley and the wizard rick is another story.

        It is amazing how you piece last week’s prompt to this week. ;D looks like I put an effect on you with last week baby thing

        P/s: this does not qualify as the mangled corpse story

        • pinkbamboo says:

          This story I use baby because I didn’t give her a name

        • Reaper says:

          Well you may not be that twisted, but after this story I don’t think you can claim not to be that deep. There is a depth to this story that is amazing. Now that I know this is not the continuation I see the mental break in your MC and this is an even scarier tale. I like the transformation in a few words from a girl that flinched at murder to one that kills her lover for money. Don was not careful enough with his baby I think. There has been mention of the casual approach to betrayal and murder. Your casual treatment of her insanity is what makes this just terrifying to me.

          • pinkbamboo says:

            Actually it’s not that hard. Just put yourself in the mind of someone who might betray her lover. Get insane for a bit just to finish the story.

            I wasn’t paying attention to this prompt much cause I got invested in the Ashley/Rick saga on the side so to get such review was surprising! Thanks Reaper!

    • don potter says:

      There’s a bit of Natural Born Killers here. Disturbingly effective dialogue.

    • jmcody says:

      I kind of think this qualifies as a mangled corpse piece. Plus, I’d like to see Reaper write romance, so I think this should do it! :)

      This was very different from anything I’ve seen from you yet. You are really stretching yourself, and with great results.

      I think the confusion about this piece might stem from the narrator saying that she heard humming, and then it turns out to be the narrator that is doing the humming. I assumed this was some sort of psychotic break that caused her to turn on Don.

      It was a nice touch that “Baby” took the Harley in the end. What an image!

      • pinkbamboo says:

        I was imagining my mangled corpse pieces to be more .. descriptive? That would be pushing myself much more cause I really don’t like those elements in my pieces lol.

        The humming was included last minute but I gave it a little tinge of insanity into her and I saw the whole scene played out extra creepily.

        Harley or at first I thought of Don’s watch or something of Don’s possession but the Harley seemed to make more sense since it was significantly used in the beginning. Also, it’s a bigger prize possession for Baby to have.

      • Reaper says:

        You hush! You just want to see me write romance. I like pinkbamboo’s view better!

        • Kerry Charlton says:

          Come on reaper. Write a romance that makes my tears come. You have all the power you need. Please do it. If you do, I’ll write a chilly murder for you.

          • pinkbamboo says:

            Aww come on Reaper, make me cry as well ;)

            Likewise, take your time and find the right prompt. Now I get a chilly murder and a romance story, cool!

            Okay .. let’s see *hold on mangled corpses* .. next prompt maybe?

  81. Reaper says:

    At Least It Was Free

    “I hate to bother you but I have something important to ask…”

    How often had I said it? To strangers, mostly in suits who mostly passed without noticing? Why didn’t he? Who knew my pitch would change my life?

    Denny’s was my favorite because the breakfast waitresses tended to be nearsighted old maids or cute coeds working their way through community college. For minimum wage pay they didn’t pester a bum having coffee and toast, even after two hours and no tip.

    I saw the perfect mark in a white suit as I exited the restaurant. So I started panhandling early. Before I could ask for a dollar I felt a tap on my shoulder. As the albino fatted calf waddled away I turned around.

    “Son, I have a thrilling opportunity for you.”

    Thankfully the only thing I had less of than pride, were clean pants. Jumping backwards, my first thought was, ‘Holy shit, the men in black are real.’ Wetting myself, my second thought was, ‘I am looking at the devil.’ The man in the pressed black suit and mirrored shades had grey beginning at his temples.

    I was a landed fish at first. Then I grew as calm as a man who’s damp pants smell of recycled beer and caffeine can grow. We could have been Harvard alums passing the time on the street outside the diner. I smiled and never questioning why that thought entered my mind.

    “…the hell you want?”

    “My friend, this is about what you want.”

    “…the hell I want?”

    “Your dreams can all be yours.”

    “What… do I need to do for you?”

    “Would you agree that the church has too much?”

    I blinked as he grew bleary in front of me. No more gin before breakfast I decided. “I guess?”

    “The parish, down the street; in the collection box is an unusual piece of silver. It comes from a set of thirty. Go get it.”

    “Bring it to you?”

    “Keep it. I have no need of it. It simply profits me to see the church relieved of it.”

    “Get it yourself.”

    “I am unable to, but you can. Retrieve it, keep it, it will buy your every wish.”

    After a little more convincing I walked to the church. Noticing a nun I thought, ‘A woman that voluptuous should be my wife, not God’s.’ Nobody noticed as I limped to the collection box. Inside was an ancient piece of silver, my prize. I was still daydreaming about the hot nun as my fingers enveloped the coin. That was when the nun, your future mother, finally noticed me.

    I look down at my son, realizing he has drifted off without his normal, “Tell it again daddy.” I finish the story he knows as my mind drifts to all the bad things after that, which led to my happy life. All the things he didn’t know.

    “And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a dream granting piece of silver.”

    • Some great visuals, Reaper. The dialog worked quite well too. I wish I had a magic silver coin…. :(

      • Reaper says:

        I don’t think I want that one, or any of the others like it. Thank you Doug, I am trying to focus a bit more on the visuals because I often feel like I’m in the peanut pool while the rest of you are swimming in the deep end when it comes to those. I don’t know how so many people make me see such vivid images in so few words.

    • Dennis says:

      A little confusing, disjointed but in the end I got. Nice take.

    • snuzcook says:

      The internal monologue and dialogue of the MC was nicely, irreverently done (very familiar with the aroma of recycled beer and coffee stained fabric). You got my imagination whirling with the silver coin in the church box. Left me wondering about ‘all the bad things after that’ and the ‘happy life.’
      Great response to the prompt!

    • Dennis says:

      Really enjoyed the snappy dialogue and going after a nun. Nice touch. I also like that touch of him telling the story to his son, one that he has shared before

      • Reaper says:

        Thanks Dennis. I often skip the dialogue and didn’t want to do that this time. Thank you for mentioning some of the details that I worried might be too subtle.

    • lionetravail says:

      Very fun, Reaper. Love the ‘pants which smelled of recycled beer and caffeine’… Just one great turn of phrase in a fine story about getting ahead by the coin you get to pay your ‘employer’ with.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        My take on the coin was it happened to be one of thirty pieces of silver that Judas was paid. And if so, your MC may be in for more adventure, only on the dark side. Damp pants with the smell of recycled beer is uncanny descriptive.

        Unusual take on the prompt….. there is so much for the reader to fill in the story with.

        • Reaper says:

          You are sharp Kerry. That was the inspiration for one of thirty.

          The dark side is definitely in there. I have seen a lot of people mention not being happy with what they wrote this week and I was having the same issue and noticed it was because of the book ends. I can write a story with a set beginning, or an idea of plot, and I can do one with a fixed ending but it’s more difficult for me. Having both made me feel handcuffed until I decided to treat it the intro to a longer story of darkness and corruption that came with the MC earning all of his dreams.

      • Reaper says:

        Thank you lionetravail! That line was originally more graphic, but got cut in the edit down. I was a glad because asparagus was part of it and I couldn’t figure out how a bum had eaten that recently. I like your last line there. Didn’t think about it that way.

        • lionetravail says:

          Yes, totally! Like Kerry, I realized it must have been one of the ’30 pieces of silver to pay the devil’, so my ref to his ‘employer’ was, of course, to the rather satanic influence of the ‘man in black’ on your MC. The only thing I might think on the reread now, is that you telegraph a little when your MC thinks “wow, that guy looks like the devil”- the piece of silver is a great clue, and your reveal probably is made that much stronger if you leave out the earlier impression, or morph it to some aspect which signifies evil-looking without identifying the supernatural. :)

          • Reaper says:

            I admit I thought about changing that. In the end I left the reveal because I was going for the idea that the MC realized what he was dealing with but didn’t believe and went through with it anyway. It is still a valid point for me to think on though.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      Really enjoyed the read Reaper. The narrative was unique. The fact that it is a dream granting piece of silver and not a wish granting silver makes it foreboding. The MC will have to be careful as to what he dreams about when he has the coin ;)

      • Reaper says:

        Hm. Interesting point. In this case I meant dreams as deep seated wishes. Anyone can make a wish without meaning it, dreams are deeper. You may not even know you have them but I was thinking of those wishes you would sell your soul for. Seeing it as actually meaning literal dreams makes the coin much more insidious.

    • thejim says:

      Wondering if both sides were represented at Denny’s – Those in white suites and those in black.- Liked it Reaper

    • jmcody says:

      Well that sure was a twisty-turny and… pungent little tale. In your last prompt I admired your high wire act as you teetered between darkness and light. In this one you plunged headlong into darkness. Your MC reminded me of a character from The Stand, a hapless bumbler who does the devil’s bidding. It didn’t end well for him, I don’t think it will end well for your MC either. With bedtime stories like that, the child will no doubt grow up to be an interesting character, especially if he inherits that wretched piece of silver. Chilling and nicely crafted, Reaper.

      • jmcody says:

        I am too affected by your scariness, Reaper, which makes me forget to mention things like your high-voltage dialogue and internal monologue, and your unique way of seeing and describing things. Very impressive.

        • Reaper says:

          Oh jmcody. You say nice things about that stuff all the time, so I just assume you are not repeating yourself. I appreciate your comments because they make me see my stories in another way. I did not think I was diving headlong into darkness but I look back and realize I did, especially as I never had the MC realize who was manipulating him. The comparison to Sai King will always make me smile so I just assumed you meant all of those other things. Technical comments are of course always appreciated but your focus on style and interpretation of tone, voice, theme, and mood keep me evolving as a writer.

    • don potter says:

      Nice tail; loved the ending.

    • agnesjack says:

      I liked the unexpected twists and turns in your story Reaper. I especially liked that you gave the opening dialogue to the MC. Your descriptions, especially the wet pants, were very vivid. The ending took me by surprise, but then I thought that since he was telling the story to his son, who often would say, “Tell it again daddy,” that this may be a story that he has totally made up to entertain his son. I could imagine the dad elaborating and adding funny/gross details each time he tells his son this story. I may be completely off base, but that’s what I got from it.

  82. Artemis4421 says:

    (I went quite a bit over word limit, and it’s nowhere near my best writing, but I had fun, and that’s all that matters, right? Well at least that’s what I hope!)

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask…” a hesitant voice says from behind me. I turn in the booth, putting down my glass of pulp-free orange juice. There’s a young man standing there, maybe about 18, with hair falling over one of his eyes, the hair black streaked with a starling red and his eyes blue and comforting, like my favorite blanket when I was a young girl.

    “Yes?” I respond, gesturing to the empty seat across from me. He sits down and we face each other in momentary silence before he begins.

    “Well my name is David. I’m from the band that opened for The Killers last Tuesday in Chicago.” I smile, reliving the memory. I hadn’t known the opening band very well, but The Killers were great, even without the audio enhancements occasionally used on the latest album. The opening band was called Lamp Lava or something weird, I don’t really remember. Thankfully, their sound was better than the name. I had known from their opening chord that it was going to be a great concert.

    “Oh hey, you play bass, don’t you?” I ask, remembering in a bit more detail. David smiles and nods, “Yeah, I’m surprised you remember.” I just shrug and put on my ‘listening face’. “Okay so what was it that you wanted to ask?”

    “Okay well I don’t know if you remember our drummer, but he remembers you quite well…” David tells me with a small laugh. I feel myself blush a bit, “Yeah I kind of remember him. As much as I can with him being behind his drumset the whole time,” I laugh in response.

    David gives me a nod again, his hair moving from his eye a bit, and I notice that the eye he was hiding is a bit greener than the other, and has flecks of brown. I find myself thinking about the trip I took with my family when I was about 7. We had gone to Utah, and everything was so beautiful. The blue eye was like the lakes and the sky, and green one like all the wonderful plants. “Uh…” I hear David start hesitantly.

    “Oh, I’m sorry, I just really like your eyes. They remind me of everything that I miss about having a sense of direction in my life…” I trail off, not sure if what I said pieces together into a proper sentence. Apparently it does, because David blushes a bit. “Thanks, but I almost forgot the real reason I came to find you- which wasn’t that hard by the way. So our drummers name is Mikah and he was too scared and nervous to find you himself, so he sent me to give you this.”

    I watch closely as David pulls a small slip of paper out of his pocket. Classic. I find myself smiling as he pushes Mikah’s number across the table to me. “This is so weird,” I mumble, and he laughs. “But thank you, I will definitely talk to him if he really wants me to.”

    David responds with, “Believe me, he does- but not in a creepy way. He just kept saying ‘Hey you remember the girl in the third row, three right of the middle? Medium height, kept smiling like it was the best time of her life, and was singing each song by the last chorus? She was gorgeous, I wish I could hang out with her sometime.’ Well I decided: why don’t I get him to shut up?”

    I find myself laughing, even though I’m still not believing what’s going on. It’s probably a prank my friends are playing on me, which they tend to do a lot. “But seriously,” David starts, “call him sometime. We’re here for about a month, recording and stuff since Chicago was the last tour date. I’d love to hang out again too if you want.” He suggests. Are two band members hitting on me? I suppose I won’t complain about that.

    Suddenly, David gets up, motions to someone across the room, and heads for the door. The person across the room was Mikah, I realize, recognizing him faster than I thought I would. He gives me a shy smile and follows David out the door. Not so much as a goodbye from either. They probably think that they’ll see me again soon. And I think that they’re probably right.

    I smile excitedly, grabbing the number from the table, putting a tip under my glass and heading out the door into the spring day waiting for me with open arms. So many possibilities in just one small town. I seem to be very fortunate, and I hope I never take that for granted.

    I take a shortcut through the park, constantly putting my hand in my pocket to ensure that Mikah’s number was still safe and secure. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had high hopes for the band that I didn’t remember the actual name of. If they’re here recording, then they’re obviously something on someone’s radar. Perhaps a lot of someones. I had met one and talked in person, and not only that but his friend had a crush on me? What made me become so lucky, I will never know, but I will definitely make it something that I will hold onto forever.

    And that’s how I came to be the proud owner of not only a band members phone number, but his affection, and the knowledge that somewhere along the line, all my good deeds might have finally paid off.

    • jmcody says:

      I loved some of the small details you wove into the story, especially the mismatched set of eyes, which is very charming to me for some reason. The physical description of the bass player was also very vivid. I could just picture him with his stripey hair flopping in his eyes.

      I think this would appeal to the young and starstruck, but being neither of those things, I would have liked to have seen your heroine be a little less easily impressed. She should have put that number in her pocket and walked away with a good story to tell her friends, but not much else. I will give you points for realism though — I could see how this would be a major event in a young girl’s life. I’m sure I’m not your target audience, but I say that guy should man up and call her himself if he is so interested!

      Fun story, Artemis!

    • Reaper says:

      I thought about making a joke about how long this was but decided not to. There is a flow to this that I like, and the details that jmcody mentioned are very good. Two things that struck me are a guy who remembers what row and seat a girl are in on first glance when his mind is supposed to be on his job then stalks her to a bar but has his buddy approach, definitely wants her to talk to him “in a creepy way”. Second, I just kept thinking, and that friends is how a groupie is born. I do sense what could become a messy love triangle in the young woman’s future.

    • I liked this piece, Artemis. It came across as very heartfelt and real.

      I’ve had been several band-crushes over the years that I would love to have been played out in such a fantasy. :)

    • Dennis says:

      I enjoyed the read. All of the awkward moments in young people’s lives but I like the MC’s enjoying the moment feeling and positive attitude in spite of the uncertainty of what may develop.

  83. SCRAMBLED
    ==========

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to sk,” said the waitress, setting down my plate of crambled eggs.

    “Sure, what is it…” I glanced at her modest bosom and read the name tag. “…Ginny?” Not suffering a blistering hangover for a change left me in gracious disposition. I looked at my cooling breakfast then to her pretty face. Far too young, old-timer. She could be your daughter. Hell, maybe she is.

    “You’re a cop, right?”

    I smiled at her. “What gave it away, the coat or the haircut?”

    “The lump under the left breast of your jacket. My dad wore a dockers clutch too.” She fidgeted with a lock of her hair and tucked it back in place.

    “Oh yeah, what precinct?”

    “He was with the Eighth. Killed last year.”

    “You’re Davis’ kid? I haven’t seen you in years. My, you’re all grown up. I’m sorry about your pop. He was a good man… the best.” Her eyes moistened so I turned my attention to my breakfast and picked up a fork-full of eggs. They jiggled and lost their appeal.

    Ginny nodded and sat down. Me and Davis had been partners for sixteen years, few of them good. He was a great cop, but far from a perfect man. Everyone figured him in too deep with O’Halloran. IAB had their bloodhounds out. It was only a matter of time before things came to a head. The robbery…

    “I found a key,” she said. “To a safe deposit box. In it was another key and a note.”

    “What did the note say?”

    “Nothing. Just your name, Amos Barnaby.”

    “I guess finding me here was no accident was it?”

    That smile again. “Not really.” She reached across the table and grabbed my hand, making her next words more urgent. “I need your help, Mister Barnaby.”

    “You can call me Amos.” I smiled back at her, recognizing her father’s features. I never met her mother. Some cops share everything, others ruthlessly kept their families as far away as they could from the Job. After three divorces, I can attest to that being good policy.

    I always sat by the window. I liked to watch the city wake up as I drug my coffee out as far as possible before hitting my beat. The sudden bang and crash of the imploding window forever changed my seating preference.

    Bullets sprayed through the recently opened window frame. Tiny explosions of food and stoneware erupted everywhere. Acting on instinct, I grabbed Ginny’s arm and hauled her under the table. The gunfire rained havoc inside the diner. Wood splintered and glass shattered, people screamed and fell.

    With a squeal of tires and a roaring engine, the assault stopped. My ears rang, muffling the sounds and insanity of the diner. I touched my ear and my hand came away bright red.

    Dizzy and disoriented, I turned to find Ginny flat on her back, her butterscotch uniform dotted with blood. I grabbed both sides of her head to hold it still, her eyes wide and darting left to right.

    “Ginny. Shhh. Stay still. It’s okay.”

    She coughed up a dark sluice of bad news. It definitely wasn’t okay. Ginny gurgled like she wanted to speak. I bent forward to listen.

    “The key,” she said. “Take it.” she dragged her limp hand to her neck and I saw what she was talking about. I nodded and that calmed her.

    I held her tight as her heart slowed. Ginny died before the paramedics arrived. IAB questioned me for hours. They didn’t know about the key.

    The super of Ginny’s building let me into her apartment. I knew I had about thirty minutes before CSU arrived. I looked at my feet to the lone remaining occupant.

    “Meow.”

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of a cat named Steve.

    • Artemis4421 says:

      I love the action, then the sudden turn at the end, great job!

    • jmcody says:

      This left me with lots of questions, but in a very good way. Why was Amos’ name in the safe deposit box? It seems Amos knew lots more than he was saying, and I’d be willing to read to the next chapter to find out more.

      The only thing that didn’t sit quite right with me was that Ginny as the waitress. Taking a job as a waitress just so she could talk to this guy seems a little overboard. I would have found it more believable if she was stalking him from another booth, watching him over her coffee.

      Your writing is superb — the flow, the characterization, the plot, the dialogue, the small details that bring it to life. You make it seem effortless, and I am very impressed.

      • Hmmm… I agree. I’m wondering what to do about that. I suppose can either:

        1. rework it so that Ginny is not a waitress but a patron. I might lose my little nametag image tho. ;-)

        or

        2. add a little dialog/thought that acknowledges the coincidence/stalking to legitimize the mystery. Name it and claim it, so they say.

        • lionetravail says:

          I agree, a lot of great writing, Doug. Cool story, and a great voice for Amos, which I could hear in my head easily. Keep the nametag- it’s a wonderful, concrete, personal image, but maybe ole Ginny’s with a church/gambling/museum/birdwatching group on a tour. They’re eating in the same restaurant, and she noticed him.

    • From the title alone I knew this was going to be good. Excellent!

    • Reaper says:

      That mundane ending was awesome. It shocked me out of the adrenaline flow you had going. Poor Ginny. I also liked the way you shifted from too young modest bosom that he did but shouldn’t want, to jiggly eggs that he didn’t but should want. That little detail sucked me in completely. I’m curios about why the diner was attacked. In my mind I connect that to the girl as a waitress, assuming she was in a costume. Otherwise I would agree with jmcody that it seems a bit out of place. Overall this feels like a modern take on a pulp story which makes me want more.

    • Dennis says:

      Very well written. I liked the switch from the dialogue to the action and unexpected ending as I was expecting a reveal about the key.

      • Kerry Charlton says:

        Doug, the section about Ginny dying on a restaurant floor with Amos cradling her face and telling her it was alright. Then the gurgling and death of Ginny was so hard to take as a reader, it was beautifully written and so descriptive. There’s so much you can do while expanding this. I wish you would and post it as a continuation on this week’s prompt.

        Attention to detail is excellent as usual. It really didn’t bother me about Ginny taking a job so she could approach Amos. Very clever way to do this.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      I really loved the descriptive in your story. Left a clear image in my mind that lasted long after I read it. My mind keeps coming back to your story to wonder what the key could be. So, great job!

    • derrdevil says:

      Wow! Impressive writing. I loved the flow and enjoyed the wild ride. I expected something equally impressive at the end but was surprised, and laughed. Completely unexpected, but really nice twist

    • don potter says:

      Over the years, we have been introduced to our cats in many different ways. This was by far stranger than anything than happened to us.

    • jimmieg says:

      I dig this story. If you do rewrite Ginny so that she isn’t a waitress you can have her in some other name tag wearing profession, that way you don’t lose the ‘modest chest’ bit. I hope you do continue the story. I want there to be more to the key than finding the kitty. Good stuff.

    • “No!”

      I broke from my nightmare drenched in sweat, yet cold and shaking. Every time I closed my eyes, I saw her. First she smiled, then it’d vanish as her face lost its vitality. The blood bloomed on her like spring flowers after a cold winter. Seven shots, yet Ginny died a hundred deaths a night for me.

      It’s okay, Amos. You have my key.

      The shower ran warm and washed away the night, but little else. The key. The key to what? All I found at Ginny’s apartment was her cat. She had no belongings, making due like a ghost on the run.

      No, not a ghost.

      The kettle boiled and I made a sludge of instant coffee. I sipped and winced. Maybe today would be the day I’d head back to the diner. I looked around the room and took stock. Sure, I managed to avoid fatherhood and eked out an existence not possible if I paid child-support atop of alimony. It’d been five years since I said goodbye to the last Mrs. Barnaby. Most of my belongings remained in boxes save a couch, a TV and some folding tables, marking the life of a committed bachelor.

      Back at it, Amos. Find the link.

      Manilla folders stuffed with photos and notes littered the floor. Steve spent the morning sunning himself in the window but now padded across the paper carpet looking for either attention or a meal, likely the latter. I picked him up and scrubbed behind his ears.

      “What’s up, Steve-o? Looking for some grub?”

      The cat winked at me and flattened one ear as he turned his head to the kitchen. I put him down, stood up and followed him. There’s no training a cat, only its owners.

      I miss him.

      I felt a touch along the back of my hand, raising the hair on my nape. The room felt too warm. My cell rang and I looked at the number before answering. Captain Russo could be a hard-ass.

      “Hey, Cap,” I said.

      “You ever coming back to work, Barnaby? It’s been two-weeks.”

      “Just need a little more time.”

      “The Department doesn’t approve of personal projects. IAB is watching, Amos”

      “I know. Three days. I promise.”

      “Okay. That’s it though. I can’t continue to run interference when we’re short-handed.”

      Russo hung up. A man of few words and even fewer social graces, he understood. That suited me fine.

      Clues. Follow the clues.

      I picked up Davis’ personnel jacket, I had no business possessing, and thumbed through the investigation notes. John’s gambling problem wasn’t a big secret, but when O’Halloran asked for favors against his marker, things went to Hell in a hand-basket. After declining, he came clean and told me to watch my back. I next compared those notes with the ‘Bodega’ file, flipping the pictures face down. The scene already burned deep into my memory– every color, every smell and every sound.

      We’d responded to the 211 without waiting for backup. It was shift-change and the convenience store was on our route back to the station house. My heart throbbed in my throat as we entered, armed and ready, with me on point and Davis on flank. The suspect, not more than a teenage punk, wagged a pistol in front of the clerk, a man I knew as Fouad Toulaney. John saw the second gunman a half-second too late. He was dead before he hit the tile. I got off one round, felling my partner’s killer, before I took one in the gut courtesy of Punk Number One and blacked out.

      When I woke up from surgery, Rossa confirmed that there were three dead: John, Fouad and a street kid called Willie Hortez. Punk Number One got away and the shop’s security tape offered no clues to his identity. There was nothing at the scene to tie it back to O’Halloran either.

      I was still in the hospital when my partner and friend, John Davis, was set into the ground.

      My cheeks burned hot with frustration so I closed the files and stacked them on the couch.

      “Leave ‘em alone, Steve,” I said giving him a rub. I grabbed my jacket and left.

      The diner lay only a few blocks from my building but I took the green-way to avoid the street noise and clear my head. Rossa was right. It was high-time I got moving again. Why couldn’t I get it together? John. O’Halloran. Ginny. The key. Nothing made sense.

      I found a booth toward the back where I could see the door. The replaced window leered at me. Marlene took my order.

      “What’ll it be, hon?”

      “The usual, Mar.”

      “Scrambled and a cup of leaded. Coming right up.”

      She delivered the coffee and flitted off. I took a satisfying slug, appreciating the improvement over instant.

      “Hi, Amos.”

      I looked across the table and she was there.

      “Hi, Ginny.”

    • agnesjack says:

      Now that was an unexpected ending, Doug. But but but what was in the safety deposit box??? I agree that Ginny as a sudden waitress wasn’t quite right, but the flow of the piece was exciting and full of intrigue. It grabbed, and kept, my attention.

  84. Ahsuniv says:

    ‘I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.’

    Tanya blinked at the tall, middle-aged man. He looked ill, with dark circles under his eyes.

    ‘Uh-huh…’ she said, putting up her best “talking-to-strangers” tone.

    ‘Are you Tanya Rogers?’ he said.

    ‘So what if I am?’ she asked.

    ‘Could you come with me? I have something important to show you. I tried telling your parents, but they weren’t ready to listen,’ he said in a desperate voice.

    ‘I am coming nowhere with you, mister. You will tell me right here,’ she said, with a huff.

    ‘Okay…,’ he said.

    ‘You’d better make it fast,’ she said, as she felt the last of iHop’s sugary goodness making it’s way from her mouth to her belly.

    ‘I’m guessing that you heard about how your mother had a baby boy before you were born?’

    ‘The baby that died, you mean? Yes,’ she said, narrowing her eyes.

    ‘Well, what your parents and you don’t know is that the baby is still alive,’ he said.

    Tanya snorted. She had been an only child all her life. She got away with tantrums and looked like a million bucks in spite of her parents’ meagre lives. And, this man was trying to tell her that it was all a lie.

    ‘And why should I believe you?’ she said, weighing the possibility of what he said.

    She loved her life and that she could have all the time in the world with herself. Yet, she always wanted a sibling.

    Her parents tried to give her a younger sibling once, but Tanya made sure that it didn’t happen. She felt that younger siblings were a pain in the neck. It was an older brother or sister that she wanted, so she could show them off at school. But, obviously there was nothing anyone could do about it. No amount of tantrums would help.

    ‘It was my wife who stole the baby that day. She was a nurse in the hospital and she replaced the baby with a neighbouring patient’s dead baby.’

    Tanya felt a chill as she heard him.

    ‘Now, my wife is dead and I am dying as well…’

    Tanya took a step back, terrified.

    ‘Why, what is wrong with you?’

    ‘I’ve got cancer. Please, you have to help me.’

    ‘All right, I believe you.’

    ‘Come with me and I’ll show you,’ he urged.

    After some hesitation, Tanya agreed and went along with him.

    She pondered over it as she followed the man. Her brother was supposed to be exactly a year older to her.

    ‘He must be thirteen’, she thought, her heart racing, as the man stopped at a rickety old building.

    ‘Come on,’ he said jumping and catching hold of the building’s emergency staircase.

    ‘Whoa, I am not coming in there. You will have to bring him down here.’

    ‘He cannot come down here. You have to understand. I don’t have the keys to go in from the main entrance. Please, come,’ he said, holding out his hand for her as he dangled from the metal staircase above him.

    Tanya gave her hand reluctantly and he whisked her up onto the stairs above as if she were a doll.

    The man hoisted himself up and led the way through an open bedroom window. The bedroom was completely empty and smelled musty.

    He went and opened the bedroom’s closet and Tanya gasped into her palms.

    In the closet sat a hunched boy in a wheel chair. He looked up with a pale face that was eerily similar to Tanya’s face. He had the same wide nose and wispy brown hair.

    ‘I have no where to keep him, I have no money. I only have a month’s time to make sure that Peter is safe.’

    ***

    Her parents were standing in the doorway with a wary look on their faces. Peter was sitting in his wheelchair behind Tanya.

    ‘And that is how I ended up being the proud owner of an older brother,’ she said with a triumphant smile and her parents’ jaws fell open.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      I am not really happy with my story and I had my head in a split by the end of it. But, I want to try my best to take up whatever prompt is thrown at me. I hope you guys find it okay…

      • Ed says:

        I liked the suspense building in the story. It took a very sinister turn when we found out the young lady was only twelve. I was dreading what was going to happen when the room turned out empty. The closet door opening was a pretty good climax to the suspense. I was relieved when nothing bad happened to her

    • Reaper says:

      I liked the characterization in this. I disliked the MC until your reveal about her age, then I suddenly got it. It feels a little rushed towards the end, like there was more you wanted to explore but the word limit hindered it. Up until then you were drawing me in. I know this is difficult with the character you are writing but as is said on a response down below, maybe it’s the point of view? This feels like a story that wants to be told in first person.

      • Ahsuniv says:

        Hm, I agree with you Reaper. Perhaps a first person look out would have been more apt to the story. But, somehow first person view never appeals to me, hence I shy away from writing in it. I plan on giving it a try soon.

    • There’s a lot going on here, Ahsuniv. It does feel a little rushed after the reveal of the age of your MC, instantly changing our perceptions of her.
      I think you have great material here to grow this story out.

    • Dennis says:

      I too was glad to find out the MC was only 12 (although going on 30) and hope the events that unfolded will help change that. Definitely had good suspense and left me wanting to know more about the brother’s story.

      • Ahsuniv says:

        Haha I did intentionally try to make a 12 year old MC, who’s going on 30 with arrogance. But, she doesn’t know that her life is never going to be the same after the whole incident, what with the addition of a new family member. But, obviously the change will make her a better person when she really does turn 30.

    • don potter says:

      The age of the MC was the payoff for me.

  85. Frozen Alone says:

    French toast and a whip cream topped mug of hot chocolate made for the start of a perfect morning. The snow outside was beginning to melt away at last. Perhaps I could have a little bit of fun today.

    Two fingers tapped me on the shoulder causing me to turn. The man, a slim man with cerulean eyes, smiled at me. “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask you. It should only take a moment,” he insisted.

    “What is it? I have some affairs to attend to,” I replied. That was a lie but this guy was giving me the creeps.

    “Is your name Ketara?” My heart stopped, as did everything around us. People froze mid step and in the middle of their conversations. The man grinned. “I thought so.” Before I could stop him, he grabbed my wrist and his eyes flashed. Blackness descended quickly sending me crashing into the man.

    The cosmos greeted me as I woke. The Milky Way was twirling around before me. The Andromeda Galaxy seemed to drift closer to me. It was a beautiful sight.

    “Eons I spent searching for you, eons,” a voice said behind me. The stars surrounding me twirled as I did. I had forgotten what it was like to be made of stars, to have stars, planets, asteroids, and cosmic gases for clothes. “You left me alone Ketara.”

    “Still as devilishly beautiful as ever I see,” I replied moving toward him. “You are ill, Ja?” Ja smiled back and nodded weakly. “What has happened? Where is your brother?”

    “He is the one that did this to me. We fought for an eon over this expanse.” The pit of darkness growing from his heart sucked in the stars that were his eyes. “Alas, my last moments of existence and I can’t even see my own wife.”

    “Who was that you sent for me Ja?” The billion stars that made up my hand brushed against the comets that made his hair. “Kitem?”

    “I knew our son was the only one that could find you. He is gone now. He went to your mother’s dimension to take your throne there.” Ja’s face looked up at mine, the pits of darkness that once housed his eyes stared into mine. “And you must take mine.”

    “Ja, I am not fit to rule. You know this,” I whispered.

    “You lived with your precious humans for eons, my love. Make Earth your throne, I do not care, but rule in my place, please.” A blue planet slid down the expanse of his face like a tear. “Please my love.”

    The silence that followed was crushing. I wiped away the planet and cupped his face. “Of course my dear one, I will rule for you.”

    “Thank you.” With what energy he had left, he placed the entirety of his existence into my chest. As his form faded away and merged with my own, a new galaxy formed in the distance.

    Once the last of his stars was gone, I became the owner and keeper of everything in existence.

    (I have honestly no clue where the idea for this one came from.)

  86. Zart_is says:

    I left Joe’s after filling my gut with my usual breakfast. I felt a tap on my shoulder. “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.” Squinting in the morning sun I responded with my typical “Huh?” I always regret that I never seem to be able to come up with something intelligent to say however I can usually make up for it with my winning smile. It was early, and my meal, disagreeing with my stomach, took that opportunity to reward me with a huge belch. Groaning, I turned away but the stranger begged me to wait. So, I did. Finally pasting on a smile, I responded, “How can I help you?”
    We sized each other up. I am pretty normal, 5’ 11” brown hair and eyes, dressed in weekend jeans and a hoody. She looked nice, maybe in her early 30s, reddish hair, blue eyes. She was wearing one of those suits business women think they need to wear to be taken seriously. She had a tiny useless looking purse strapped over her shoulder and was carrying a small cage. I politely waited for her to speak.
    “I need someone to help me save my bosses ferret!” She exclaimed. “It’s loose in his office and I have to get it out of there before his wife shows up.”
    “Um why?” was my brilliant response.
    “Well, my boss has been hiding this ferret in his office for a few weeks because his wife told him he had to get rid of it or she was going to kill it. I guess he thought she was serious so he’s been keeping it at work. On the weekends, he lets it run free, but today his wife is heading over to paint his office. I’ve got 20 minutes to find the ferret and get it out before she shows up and I need some help. Please.”
    Now, I didn’t know this woman but she was, like I said, nice looking. It was Saturday; I didn’t have any plans so I agreed to help her. We entered the office and there sitting in the middle of the desk was the critter. I sputtered at the ease with which this task was going to be accomplished. As I leaned over to pick it up, it hopped onto and over my shoulder. It ran down my back and sprinted over to a book case and clamored up to the highest shelf. As the woman was reaching to grab the little fellow it instead grabbed her by the hair and held on as she swung around screaming at me to get it off! I disengage its little paws and crammed it into the cage. We bolted out the door and out of sight just as her bosses wife entered.
    When I tried to hand her the cage she held up her hands and refused. It’s cute, so I ended up being the proud owner of a ferret, I named him Grabber.

  87. Foxwriter says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” a voice says to me from behind as I make my way from the small breakfast diner I eat at every Monday.
    “Yes?” I try not to sound too caught off guard while I look at the stranger behind me. She has matted brown hair, and her clothes are torn in several spots.
    “I… I really need you to look after this for me,” she says, handing me a small jar full of water.
    I try hard to contain my laughter knowing that this woman is not trying to be comical. Rather, there must be something wrong with her. She begins to turn away.
    “Thanks,” I manage to say as she transitions from a walk into a full-on sprint. She never looks back as she disappears behind the corner of the diner.
    My immediate reaction is to throw the jar away when she is out of sight. I find a small trash can, and throw it in there, brushing my hands off in the process. I make my way home and think nothing of the small jar of water.

    When I arrive at the front door of my house, I gasp. The woman is back at my front door holding the container. I reach for my phone ready to call the police. She gives me a sheepish grin before shattering the glass jar onto my front steps. A great cloud of black smoke surrounds the strange woman and I. As I gasp for breath, I find I am slowly suffocating. Within moments, I black out.

    When I wake, I am not on my front steps. Nor am I in a hospital. I am out in the woods with no hint of civilization in sight. Panic seizes me as I look around into the trees. Where am I?

    “What? You don’t remember this place?” the woman is here next to me. Her dress is now perfectly in-tact, and her hair is braided neatly in a tight bun.
    “No, I don’t. Where am I?” I try to sound collected, but my voice is trembling.
    “Well, this was where we were supposed to meet… Before you went off to college,” she looks as though she is trying to hold back tears.
    “I’m sorry,” I say. I can tell my apology means little to her as the tears stream down her radiant face. Then I remember her. “Ellen?”
    She turns to me with a knowing smile. Ellen reaches out her hand to help me up off of the ground. The sounds from the woods surprise me. There is something surreal about it, and then I begin to realize why. Music is playing.
    “Do you hear that?” I ask her.
    “Yes, of course. It’s the music that was playing during my first kiss. You know, the kiss you gave me.”
    The music is a piece for solo violin. Ellen always loved the instrument, and she insisted on teaching me one day. However, I always kept my priorities above her. I had a promising chance at a university far away from her, and I took it. This place in the woods was where we were going to say our goodbyes. Something in my stomach makes me feel ill. I was too overzealous about school to remember that one trivial promise to Ellen.
    “Eric,” she says my name in her soft voice. “In the real world, the one beyond these woods, I’m dying.”
    She begins to dance slowly to the music. Before I can think of what I am doing, I grab her close to me, and we dance to the slow violin music together. Her grip on me is tight, but she is colder than I remember.
    “What do you mean?” I ask her.
    “I needed some closure. We all do, don’t we? I needed a chance to say goodbye.”
    “Not like this, Ellen. I’m so sorry! I should have been there. I should have chose you over school.”
    “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re happy. I was happy in the world. I met another man, and we started a family. But a car accident brought me to this place. I’m just a tourist in the world now.”
    “So where do you go from here?”
    She begins to laugh, “Who knows? Thanks for coming this time, Eric” she lets go of my hand, kisses my cheek, and walks into the woods. The music fades with her as she disappears into shadow. I feel an instinct to follow her, but something holds me back.

    And that was how I became the proud owner of the jar of water. Not just any kind of water–the kind contained in that ceaseless flow of time measureless to man. The one we all want to stop. Time stops for no one really. I wake to find myself on the steps of my home, the water evaporating in shards of glass.

    • Reaper says:

      This was sweet and sad at the same time. Impossible to hate the MC because the ghost doesn’t. I like the symbolism in this, I assume it was intentional. I’m not sure if you meant to do this or not, and I’m not sure how it makes me feel completely. The story is sweet and feels like velvet. Then that last paragraph felt like a hammer blow to the chest.

    • This was so full of rich detail and imagery that my heart broke with the jar of water. Well executed ghost story, Foxwriter.

    • Dennis says:

      I was really moved by this. I think unfinished business, lost moments are things that haunt all of us. Great job.

  88. Autumn Douglas says:

    I feel somewhat dissatisfied with this story, but I’ve been staring at it for a while… so maybe you guys can give me feedback about how to make this better. Sorry it’s super weird. xD

    Changeling

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask…”

    The small voice behind Alanna catches her by surprise, and she slowly turns to face a little boy half her size with big brown eyes. She tilts her head at him, slightly amused, “Where’s your mommy and daddy?”

    “Well. That’s what I was going to ask,” his bottom lip quivers.

    Alanna furrows her brow at the boy, “What’s your name?”

    “I… I don’t know…” Tears start to fall down his dirt-smudged cheeks now, leaving pale white streaks in their wake.

    They are standing outside of the restaurant that Alanna just got done eating at with a couple of friends, but they’ve already left. Now she’s alone with this boy who doesn’t even know his own name. She sighs and looks around for any sign of this child’s parents, but aside from the occasional passing car, there seems to be no one around.

    “Do you remember what your mommy and daddy look like?”

    He sniffles and nods his head up and down, “But I don’t know where they are. They aren’t here.”

    “Do you remember where you last saw them?” Alanna’s just grasping for straws at this point, and she realizes that she may end up having to call the police.

    He nods again and points in a vague direction straight ahead.

    Alanna takes his hand, “Alright, show me.”

    The boy takes her straight down the street and right into an alley between two buildings. Their footsteps echo against the walls and somewhere water is dripping ceaselessly against metal. The only light is the moon peeking through the two buildings and reflecting against the puddles of water on the uneven earth.

    They stop.

    “Your parents were in this alley?” He doesn’t respond, but his grip on Alanna’s hand becomes increasingly tighter. Tighter until she can’t tolerate it any longer, “Hey! What are you doing?” Suddenly something cracks and she yelps in pain.

    Her knees buckle underneath her and she falls to the ground; she’s face to face with the boy again, but this time his eyes are not brown. His pupils are so dilated that his eyes appear to be black holes, and his mouth forms into a circle of sharp teeth. He then lurches forward, latching himself to her neck just above the collarbone.

    Her screams pierce the air like ice sickles for just a few seconds until the life fades from her eyes and the blood from her veins. The boy pulls away to lick any stray blood from his lips as Alanna falls face first into a puddle, lifeless.

    He sighs and then drops to the ground in pain as bones break and muscles contort and bulge every which way. He grunts and yells in agony. After five minutes of this, he is just a heap on the ground.

    He slowly lifts himself up, but instead of a little boy, he is now the blonde beauty he just sucked dry. He, or she rather, examines her dainty hands and giggles, trying out her new voice. As she begins to walk back out of the alley, she says, “And that is how I ended up becoming the proud owner of this body.”

    • lionetravail says:

      It is super weird…ly awesome! Why should you change much? It’s great!

      Seriously, you may just find yourself limited by word count, here, or you might feel comfortable using a past tense instead of present… I think you need the third person POV, because your MC’s switch- maybe that’s what you’re unhappy with?

      • Autumn Douglas says:

        It was mostly because I normally write in 1st person, but I was forced to do 3rd because of the character shift. So, it made me feel like I was writing it wrong haha. And I had to cut some of it down because of the word limit.

        But thanks for your comment! Makes me feel better about it. :)

    • Ahsuniv says:

      That was a creepy read. But, a good one, with creepiness in all the right proportions. I do agree with lionetravail that a different POV might have worked better.

      Anyways, was the boy your version of a vampire or something else? If it was a vampire, I like your take on it. If not, it was a nice new supernatural being that you created :)

      • Autumn Douglas says:

        It’s actually a spin off of changelings. Changelings are sort of like vampires, but they suck the life out of people, not just blood. They don’t normally take the shape of their victims, but they can shape shift, so I kind of stretched it a little.

        Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you liked the creepiness :p I’m pretty self-conscious when I write creepy things.

    • Reaper says:

      So this is good. I see three things that could cause a feeling of less happy, outside of the point of view. The last one is a little nitpicky so take it all with a grain or ten of salt.

      Some, and not much but some, of the wording on this is a little awkward. The ideas are good but it takes a couple of reads to get the idea at those points. The specific points I mean are the paragraph about standing outside of the restaurant where her friends already left. Rearranging those thoughts would help the flow I think. Then when the kid points there are some extra words that kind of pulled me out of the story.

      The second is something you already mentioned. I feel like you are not used to writing creepy, but you do it well so you shouldn’t worry about that.

      The last is the drinking of blood and changing of shape. I’m all for mixing up mythology but I was fixating on a vampire and got confused with the shape change. Even with a change to mythos I’m a bit of a traditionalist and think of changelings as fae babies that are swapped at an early age with human ones. With that being said the changeling idea is cool but I might suggest mixing it up with a ghoul. Go a bit more gory and have the child start eating flesh as ghouls are supposed to do and then take on the form of their meal. Like I said this one is a me thing, so salt not criticism.

      I liked the story, you pulled me in. I didn’t expect a creepy child so it was a nice shock.

      • Autumn says:

        Yeah I know what your saying. Some of the phrasing is awkward. Mostly because I really don’t know how to write 3rd person very well. It didn’t sound as weird in 1st person xD Then when I realized I had to change characters, I had to go back through and change it all to 3rd person.

        But, I’m actually very accustomed to writing creepy. It’s one of my favorite things to do haha. I’m just too self-conscious that people will read it and think I’m insane for writing about it.

        Yeah I based my changeling on the ones that were in Supernatural. Not sure if you’ve seen it, but they took the form of children and fed on adults. That was kind of my inspiration. I see what you’re saying about ghouls though. I didn’t think of that… That would have been good too.

        Thanks for your comment :) It really does help.

        • Reaper says:

          Oh, I misunderstood. I can understand those concerns on the creepy, I think you do it very well without seeming like you are insane. We all need to let the demons out at some point.

          I love Supernatural, and since changeling legends are sparse what they become is something easy to play with without contradicting standard legend. Now that I have that image in my head it makes more sense what you were going for.

    • Autumn, this is a crazy cool concept for a story.
      Since you asked for specific feedback, I agree with liontravail that changing to Third Person / Past Tense might be just the ticket.

      • Autumn says:

        Thank you Doug :) I’m just glad people accept my creepiness here. Because I tend to write some pretty dark stuff often.

        Yeah, I used to write in past tense, and I don’t know what happened. I always write in present now. For my next one, I’m going to try to use past tense and see what it does for the story.

    • Dennis says:

      I liked the creepiness also, wasn’t expecting it. (although children are always a mysterious element.) I like the imagery of sucking the woman’s life out, not just her blood. (like creepy more than gore). Also, keep practicing 3rd person. It will come in handy at times. Great job.

    • lovewrite says:

      That was creepy in a good way…great job!

  89. Amyithist says:

    “Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask.”
    I turned, surprised to see a man dressed in a long trench coat standing behind me. I immediately found him odd; why would he be wearing such a heavy jacket in the middle of the summer? He was so close; I could smell his Aqua Velva aftershave. Stepping back, I forced a smile and nodded. “If you hurry; I’m running a little late.”
    The man smiled slightly and took a step forward, quickly closing the gap between us. A tingle of fear laced itself through my senses. “I want you to help me with something,” he said, his eyes darting around the sidewalk. He opened the lapel of his coat and pulled an odd looking device out. It was silver and black in color and cylindrical in shape. His eyes seemed to light up with anticipation as he handed it to me.
    I stared down at the item, trying to discern what it was that I was looking at. I glanced back up to the man, only to find he was suddenly gone! I spun around, searching for any sign that he was still close by. What the hell just happened, I thought, returning my frightened gape to the device. I turned it over in my trembling hands, looking for any clue as to what it could be.
    I didn’t know what to do with it. Just as I decided to go home, something incredibly strange happened. One moment I was standing on the sidewalk in downtown Sumner, and the next I was in a cold, white room. There were no walls or doors or windows. I found myself shivering and wondered if this is where the man with the oversized coat had come from.
    Suddenly, a spot in the wall in front of me slid up and a strange looking creature slid into the room. My blood ran cold. I’d never seen anything more frightening. “W-where am I,” I stammered.
    The creature cocked its head at me, its eyes staring straight through me. I felt a surge of intrusion pulse over my entire body, penetrating my soul. I realized I had been suspended in the air and my body felt as if it had been set on fire. When it finally released me from its gaze, I fell to the ground, gasping.
    The device clanged to the floor. The creature squirmed back to the opposing wall, seemingly frightened that whatever this thing was had fallen loose.
    I scrambled up to my feet, pulling the device back into my grasp. “What is this thing,” I murmured.
    The creature turned its face up toward the ceiling. “It’s a time machine,” a voice sounded.
    “What?” I twisted, searching for the source of the voice. “Who said that?”
    “I did,” the creature rotated its face back toward me. “I’m the guardian of all time…or at least I was.”
    My body began to tremble with such force I thought I was going to collapse. “And who’s the guardian now?”
    Before the creature answered, I was suddenly back in my room, sweat dripping from my brow. My chest heaved with labored breath. “What was that,” I whispered, running my hands through my hair.
    I sat up, realizing that I was still dressed in the same clothes I’d been wearing on the sidewalk. My body tingled as I stood up. I inched over toward the dresser where a sheet was draped over something…
    My hands shook as I approached. I fingered the edge of the sheet, pulling it away from… I gasped as the device gleamed back at me. It hadn’t been a dream!
    As I pulled the time machine up, a piece of paper fluttered to the floor. I bent and scooped it up. I opened the folded note and read it:

    Dear Earthling,
    A great responsibility has been bestowed upon you. You are now the guardian of all time. That device will take you anywhere time has been. You are now the shadow of all existence. But beware: For with this responsibility come grave dangers and impossible obstacles.
    Good Luck, Earthling.

    The time machine suddenly felt incredibly heavy in my hands. I lifted it, scanning it for instruction. How does this thing work? I pressed my hand over the trigger, muttering a date. “November 2, 1989.”
    The room suddenly disappeared. In its stead was a dark, rainy road. I found myself standing at the shoulder, my tennis shoes sinking in the soppy mud.
    The street was quiet. Trees towered above me, their bare tips sticking into the dark sky like gnarled daggers. An icy wind whipped through the mouth of the canyon. Oddly enough, I wasn’t cold or even wet. I was like a phantom, a non-tangible extension of my surroundings.
    Suddenly, a sound screamed through the quiet and I felt my skin prickle. I turned just as a car squealed around the corner. I recognized it immediately. It was my father’s 1987 Thunderbird. How did this machine know exactly where to take me?
    The screeching tires snapped me back to the scene playing out before me. Dad’s car swerved around the corner. He was going too fast! I ran out to the middle of the street, reaching toward him, screaming. Before the front end collided with the tree, ultimately killing my father, I found myself back in my room, collapsed on the floor, wailing like a baby.
    As I stood, still sobbing, I noticed another piece of paper on the dresser. I picked it up. It read:

    PS- If you tamper with the past, dire consequences will befall you and the universe as a whole. Be warned, Earthling; this is not a toy.

    I frowned and picked the device back up again. I didn’t care what the creature said! I was going to change some things in my life! I fingered the trigger once more; pressing down as I commanded: “November 2, 1989.”

    • Autumn Douglas says:

      I love this haha your descriptive language is awesome :)

    • Reaper says:

      I got lost in the descriptions. The beginning was so beautifully surreal then faded nicely into something solid. A perfect ending point where I am conflicted as to whether I want her to succeed and hope that free will and choice work out, or palm my head and scream “You idiot!”

    • The payoff and choice at the ending is perfectly played, Amethyst.

      I got a little lost in the narrative, but I think that’s a formatting issue more than anything.. I really wish we could edit our comments

    • Dennis says:

      Ah those darn time machines. Great responsibility. Would like to know more what the MC’s duties are in the new role. And let this be a lesson, never trust a man wearing a trench coat on a sunny day.

    • derrdevil says:

      Wow! This was epic. I loved your execution. I loved how you showed us what your mc is made up of by the bold/brave/stupid choice, yet steadfast in what he/she is doing as right. Or what he/she perceives to be right. A perfect start to something grander, like a great fall through his/her decisions. All this character make up and I still don’t know if it was male or female haha. Brilliant! Most brilliant prompt idea.

    • Marc Ellis says:

      I liked the story. It’s like Men in Black and Dr. Who all mixed together.

  90. col_ingus says:

    “I hate to bother you, but I have something important to ask,” said Conroy to me, just two years ago.

    I had just emerged from my favorite Manhattan café on a brisk sunny September morning, and there he was, directly in my path. I nearly ran into him! I had no choice but give him my attention.

    “Wha …” I stammered. “Pardon me?”

    He was a short bald gentleman in a very fine tweed suit. He looked devilishly intelligent and had dark brown eyes and a goatee.

    He grinned at me, knowingly.

    “If I can show you something remarkable, would you accept a gift from me?”

    I had encountered street performers many times during my walks, and as an old man, I had seen just about every swindle there was. But, neither was I a complete killjoy.

    So, I said, “Sure, why not?”

    “I thought you would agree,” he said.

    I looked him over and replied, “But listen here, I am not going to walk down any dark alleys with the likes of you.”

    He replied, “Douglas, my friend, you do not have to go anywhere beyond this point.”

    “How did you know my name?” I asked.

    “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Just look to the sky.”

    He pointed into the bright, crisp blue morning sky above, between the buildings.

    “Watch with me,” he said, “and you will see something truly remarkable. Historical! Something that will utterly convince you that you must accept my gift!”

    I followed his finger, and to my amazement, I saw an airplane flying fast and low near the buildings. Before my eyes, I witnessed the aircraft crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center.

    The great fireball was bright and immense, and I groped for a proper expression for the situation. The thunderclap reached my ears and drowned out my utterance.

    The serene landscape turned into one of destruction and chaos.

    “Did you do this?” I yelled, horrified. Screams and sirens wailed around us.

    “No sir!” I only wish to tell you of my nature, and to provide you with a gift.

    Conroy knew many things, such that I had terminal cancer and that I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania. He claimed to have known me on other time streams. He and I shared many, he said. He told me that he was tired of living again and again, and that it was time he passed the torch, as it were, to someone else.

    He claimed that, in many existences, I was his dearest friend and that we shared lives, wives, kingdoms, and sometimes one another for countless repetitions. Each time was new to me, a forethought to him.

    “I cannot stand watching you die each and every life we share,” he said. “That is why, often, I simply stay away and choose not to meet you.”

    That is when he gave me his gift.

    “Take it,” he said.

    I took it, still not comprehending. He really did look familiar to me.

    “Now,” he continued, “I must go. Leave this place immediately!”

    Then, he proceeded to run toward the second tower, all while hundreds of others were streaming away. As far as I know, he rode the elevator right to the top.

    And that’s how I ended up being the proud owner of his gold-plated Bic pocket lighter, one which he told me I would discover at a young age when I lived my life again.

    “Have it when you die,” he said, “and you’ll live another, and find it again, and so forth. You deserve it more than I. Live great lives, my friend. I won’t remember you then.”

    • Amyithist says:

      This was so sad. What made you write about the World Trade Center incident? It left me feeling eerie; as though this could have really happened! Such a great idea to take something that has occurred and entwine it in your story. Well done! Thank you for writing this. :)

    • Autumn Douglas says:

      This was super interesting. I like it :) I just wonder what he is, that makes him reincarnate like that, if he’s some kind of supernatural being…?

    • jhowe says:

      That was well done. I liked it a lot. One thing confused me when in the beginning the MC said that Conroy had told him something two years ago.

      The gift of eternal life is probably not as great as it sounds, at least after the first few lives.

    • Ahsuniv says:

      This was such an interesting read. The story had me hooked till the end. Good job! :)

    • Reaper says:

      Your backdrop shocked me. This is a very interesting read. I like the hope but didn’t read joy into this. The MC felt sorrowful and happy at the same time. I am a little confused how an old man with terminal cancer is alive after two years, but I think I’m confused by that because he says just two years ago. Maybe I’m overthinking it though.

    • A very touchy choice of settings, but carefully played. I enjoyed this piece, col_ingus. I think I’d characterize my feeling on this somewhere between ‘hope’ and ‘sadness’.

    • Dennis says:

      Very interesting take. Interesting idea about reincarnation with the one carrying the lighter being able to remember the past lives. I feel the MC is headed down the same road of being tired of seeing ones he loves die and not remember him.

    • Eclipcia says:

      Really respond to this story. It is intriguing, mysterious, and crafted exceptionally well.

  91. Dennis says:

    Ok everyone, let the writing begin!

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