When a Stranger Taps You on the Shoulder

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 thoughts on “When a Stranger Taps You on the Shoulder

  1. Blurcott

    “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

    “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

    “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

    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

    “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

    “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.

    1. harmonee72

      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!

      1. stoland1999

        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.

    2. dandylion

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

  7. Andrea

    “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

    “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

    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.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            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

    “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

    “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. AlexHarryStone

    “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

    “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

    “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.

    1. jmcody

      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

    “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

    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

    “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.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      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?

      1. Critique

        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 ;)

    2. jmcody

      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.

      1. Critique

        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

    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.

    1. Abby Gracino

      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.

      1. garam

        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 :)

  19. garam

    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

    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

    “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.

    1. madeindetroit

      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!

    2. gamingtheblues

      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.

    3. Critique

      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

    “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

    “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

    “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

    “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

    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.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      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.

    2. jmcody

      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.

    3. gamingtheblues

      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.

  27. Narissa.B

    “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

    “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

    “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

    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.

    1. gamingtheblues

      Aside from some very minor editing issues (missing/awkward word use) this was a rather engaging story. I would be interested in reading a follow up.

      1. Hash_tag5

        I wrote this in approx. 15 minutes. I thought about not writing it but then the prompt was too good to pass. :) Next time hopefully there wont be any mistakes.

  31. Observer Tim

    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)

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I got with. “Can you help me down?” Is it okay to call this story cute? I really liked your interpertation of Oz. Less scary than the movie.

  32. terry_0804

    “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

    “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

    “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

    “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

    “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

    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.

      1. Brian A. Klems Post author

        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

  38. lovewrite

    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

    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.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        “Louie, I think this is going to be beginning of a great relationship.” Bought everything back snuzcook. Thanks for the jolt back to 1940. I watch it at least twice a year. Good stuff here.

  40. indigostorm

    “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

    “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.

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