Belated Blume Day

Judy Blume, one of the world’s most renowned children’s and YA fiction authors, celebrated her 80th birthday on February 12, 2018. In celebration of her memorable and iconic works, I’ve dedicated this week’s writing prompt to her.

The Prompt:

Take one of the following Judy Blume book titles, fill in the blank(s), and use it as the premise for a short story or scene. It does not necessarily need to relate to the original story in any way.

  • Are You There, _______? It’s Me, _______.
  • Super_______
  • Tales of a _______ _______ _______
  • Just As Long As You’re _______

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







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119 thoughts on “Belated Blume Day

  1. facelessone

    Tales of a _______ _______ _______

    Tales of a Super Fat Cat

    Stumpy the fat cat was no ordinary cat, no, this cat here Stumpy was fat, gigantic, a round blob of the some of the finest lard this side of the Mississippi covered in hair. Stumpy enjoyed various types of cuisines. Mediterranean, Indian, Japanese, American it did not matter to Stumpy, if it tasted delicious he was for sure going to be indulging in it. Stumpy was a professional at Amazon Fresh, he would lay on the couch watching reruns of Roseanne and would go on his iPhone to the Amazon app and order some food from Amazon Fresh. Once he got the food he would sit on the couch and watch a whole Netflix series eating whatever was on his plate, even the fork! His eyes were glued to the screen making him completely unaware of what he was eating.
    The only time he would see what he was eating was before his meal when he just needed to take a photo of his meal to share the photo with all of his online friends and followers. If they didn’t know what he was eating how would they possibly live. His existence was dependent on others noticing him and seeing his life, if there was no one paying attention to him he would cease to exist. His identity was so dependent on the external world. He continued to eat more and more to try to get bigger and bigger hoping that one day he would be so big that others would have to finally notice him.

  2. kimcatwil

    Whelp, apologies in advance, this came out pretty dark.

    Are you there, Mama? It’s me, Ella.

    I know you’re in there. I saw you run in and slam the door behind you. You were crying really hard. It’s okay. We all have bad days. But it’s been three days now. Jacob and I are hungry. I did my best to take care of him, I really did. But we’re out of bread and I don’t know how to make anything but sandwiches.

    I know this isn’t you, mama. I don’t want you to worry that you’re a bad mom. Remember that time I didn’t want to go to school because Allie was mean to me, so you let me stay home? We played games and ate ice cream and laughed all day until I forgot why I was even upset. Or that time you took me and Jacob to the beach and we spent all day finding cool little creatures in tide pools. Remember how much fun we had when you were better?

    I found your pills in the trash yesterday. I know you don’t like them. I know you say they make you feel funny and not like yourself. I understand. Medicine makes me feel funny sometimes too. But Jacob and I still need you. We’re just kids, and we’re scared. I dug them out, mama. I’m going to leave them next to your door, just in case you change your mind. I don’t like taking medicine when I’m sick either. But you know how you always tell me I’ll feel better soon? I think you will too, mama. Please try to get better. Please try for us.

  3. Jeffargo

    Just as long as you’re happy

    The waitress was worried. The customer hadn’t touched his nachos.
    “Why hasn’t he eaten them?” Questioned the concerned voice in her head. The cheese was soaking slowly into the chips, the oils of the sauces separating, peppers wilting; becoming flacid.

    “Are they too flacid?” She asked a little too abruptly.

    “No, they’re perfectly fine with me!” Shouted the customer.

    Nervous and surprised the waitress tucked her little note pad into her fanny pack thing.
    “Just as long as you’re happy” she said, a rushed response to an odd situation.

    1. Reaper

      I came into this wanting to say why is this so short. However, having worked food service for years when I was younger, this is perfectly real in an almost surreal way. The bit at the end has to be read with snark. Since I imagine a table with no tip and a waitress trying not to let it ruin her day.

  4. Critique

    Are You There?

    Vicki lingered until the school grounds were quiet and empty before starting the seven block walk home. Her sister Shirley usually accompanied her, but for two days now she had been sick and stayed home. Guessing the right time to cross residential streets was tricky, especially the busy highway. Vicki stood by the stop sign hugging her lunchbox to her chest wishing she was invisible to the cars and trucks swooshing past. Her heart pounded like it might jump right out of her chest.

    Vicki missed her friend Barbara where they lived in the Florida Keys, but Hurricane Donna had destroyed their house and they had to move to Miami to live with Grandma while her Dad found work. Vicki didn’t like the city. Hated the big brick school with no friends. But most of all hated that Shirley made it clear she didn’t like having to walk her baby sister to and from school.

    A car slowed, came to a stop but Vicki kept her head down, hesitated too long, and the car drove off with a squeal of tires. At last the coast was clear and she dashed across. Suddenly the deafening wail of a siren fractured the air. It might be a drill or maybe Cuba had launched a missile. Terror forced Vicki’s skinny legs to pump faster down the sidewalks.

    The radio stations were listened to closely. Everyone knew if they were outside when the siren went off they were to find immediate shelter in the nearest home or building. At school they practised getting under their desks. At home the safest place was under Grandma’s heavy dining room table.

    Rounding corner to Grandma’s house Vick tripped and fell. The lunchbox flew from her hand and burst open in the street scattering an apple core, wax paper with the remains of a sandwich, and a note from her teacher. Her hands, elbows and knees slid painfully on the hot cement.

    Vicki scrambled to her feet, grabbed the contents of the lunchbox and ran.

    At the back door she turned the knob. It was locked. She felt something warm and saw blood dribbling down her legs from the raw flesh of her knees. The palms of her hands were on fire from deep scrapes. The sirens stopped. She pressed the doorbell again and again – heard its peal inside the house. She swiped at the tears leaving bloody streaks on her cheeks.

    Vicki’s arms had begun to ache and a quick look at her elbows revealed blood oozing around the dirt and gravel embedded in the torn flesh. Fear seized her lungs as she ran around to the veranda and tried the screen door. It was locked too.

    “Are you there Mom? Grandma? It’s me, Vicki.” She cried and banged on the door with her fists. She sank onto the steps hugging her wounded knees to her chest. Had everyone been captured by the Cubans? The eerie quiet had become as terrifying as the screaming of the hurricane winds last fall as they huddled together in a crawl space while the house broke apart around them. Vicki put her head down and sobbed. She didn’t hear her Grandma’s car pull into the driveway. She looked up when Grandma, Shirley and her Mom came through the screen door on the veranda.

    “Vicki”. Her Mom shrieked when she saw the blood. Grandma and Shirley looked on in shock as Vicki was gathered up in her Mother’s arms. ”Oh honey we got stuck in traffic. We tried to get back before you came home.”

    Later, her wounds cleaned and bandaged, Vicki lay exhausted on the couch. Grandma tucked a blanket around her.

    Shirley crouched down beside Vicki and handed her an iced tea. “I’m glad you’re okay. We’ll stick together like glue from now on.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Critique, I know this is a true experience, I figure around 1960 or 61
      I left Miami in spring of 1959. My whole family lived there and still does
      Let.me see if I can.guess the school, Ada Merritt Junior high, close to the Orange Bowl

      Riviting story told in your unique style.

      1. Critique

        Thank you Kerry. Much of this story is true but is embellished as is a writer’s privilege 😉 I don’t remember the name of the school – I would have to do a lot of digging to find out – maybe I will someday. I was there for one year only before moving away.

    2. Reaper

      I find stories like this are the ones that get my heart pumping. there was a lot of adrenaline in the beginning of this one. I ran through all of the emotions right along with your character. So well written with such a sweet ending. Wonderful all the way through.

      1. Critique

        Thank you so much Reaper for your comments. That’s what I enjoy about this corner of the writing world – inspiring remarks like yours to keep the writing juices flowing!

  5. dustymayjane

    “Just as long as you’re happy Dear.”

    “Well this is truly a surprise and I am happy Lovey.”

    “I thought perhaps you would enjoy a blue one, but then I spied the green one and that color so reminded me of your eyes. What color do you call it? British Green?”

    “You remembered! It’s been years since we spoke of the old girl. She was quite the number, fit like a glove too!”

    “Oh Dear, your eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when you spoke of her. I couldn’t wait to find another like her. But lucky you…I did”

    “Lucky me indeed. Look at those lines. I get excited just touching it. It emanates such power.”

    “Your style hasn’t changed in forty years. I know you’ll look fabulous in it.”

    “I’ll be might proud to be seen in it. Can we give it a try?”

    “Well, I guess there is no time like the present. Give me a minute Dear and I’ll meet you outside.”

    “Alright Lovey. Don’t make me wait too long.”

    Lovey met Dear in the driveway and as was custom, he opened up the door of their old sedan for her.

    “Why are you wearing that old coat Dear? It’s plenty warm out. We’re are going to the beach, aren’t we?”

    Dear sat behind the wheel of their old car and looked at Lovey sideways.

    “These plastic seats are going to get hot in the sun and my new swim shorts don’t cover much do they?”

    Lovey snickered at the sight of Dear in his new green speedo. “I guess you’re right Dear.”

    1. Reaper

      This feels real. Other than the names, which feel like endearments obviously, as slice of life it is slow and serene. I kept reading waiting for an explosion. I think that’s a good sign with a story like this, especially when it never comes.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I think the whole story is a walk in supreme pain between two people that would like to choke each other to death. Is there a polite way to throttle someone? This is really a nightmare in spaces, perfectly written

    2. writer_sk

      Great job on the dialogue, Dusty. Yea I do get they were being sarcastic or incredulous with one another? I couldn’t tell. Even so, entertaining. It was funny to find out the green garment was the man’s bathing suit.

  6. Kerry Charlton

    TALES OF A SONGBIRD ON MY ARM

    The summer of 1962, became a magical time and comes back occasionally to fill
    my thoughts. My third year in the record business in Dallas. We had some success
    in gathering labels to distribute in Texas and Oklahoma. Out of the blue came a call
    from Warner Brothers to distribute for north and south Texas. The label had a slow
    start but we had the manpower to handle it.

    About a month later, I was asked to pick up a trio WB had just signed and they were to be in Dallas the next day, and would I take them to KLIF to work their new record. When they mentioned their names, nothing registered but I did agree. I always enjoyed visiting with Charlie and Harrigan, and their morning drive show but I wasn’t prepared for one of the trio.

    We met at Love Field at an ungodly hour of the next morning The August weather even at that time of day was a shock to those who weren’t used to it. I introduced myself and wondered where had she been my whole lifetime of 26 years. Tall and willowy, her long blonde hair covered her shoulders and part of her back. Her bangs outlined her face as if she knew the secrets of life. What’s more she looked about my age.

    The two musicians behind her, carried their guitars as if they were ready to perform. We went to an early breakfast and after , we had difficulty parking close to the station that operated in the center of the city. She mentioned the heat again and pulled off her jacket, placed it in one arm and slipped her other arm around mine,

    When we hit the sidewalk, I walked as slow as I could and she didn’t seem to care. The trio had been performing for a few months and the record I carried in an envelope might have been the key to fame. I had the demo in my office a day or two earlier and already memorized the tune and lyrics.
    When we entered KLIF, Charlie and Harrigan had just finished their morning drive and were sitting in the lobby waiting for us. When they saw what I had holding onto my arm, their eyes turned wide. The record was listened to and made an impression to both of them, They agreed to add it to their play list and we dropped any other mention of it.

    Thirty minutes later we drove to El Fenix because they insisted on trying Mexican food and it was a go-to restaurant. Back to the airport at two and dropped them off for a flight to Houston, The trio said they were mulling over the idea of a playdate at SMU later in the year, I found out later that Charlie and Harrigan said they would sponsor it, and the tall willowy blonde went out of my life, like a flash, their music will never leave,

    Their record hit # 10 on billboard, twelve weeks on the charts., Their first album released later, sat at # 1 on Billboard for weeks and made history as the best selling folk song album ever. By now you should know the song ,,,, ‘If I Had A hammer’ The album, simply titled,’ Peter, Paul and Mary.’

    . .

    1. Reaper

      Nicely done Kerry. I spent the entire story wondering who you were writing about. I always do when you do music stories like this. Another trip down memory lane where you make me feel like I was there.

    2. writer_sk

      Kerry- what a cool experience to have had.

      I like how people used to go over in person with the record. I could picture the scenes. Especially when you deliberately slow down while Mary had your arm.

      Well done, timeless and nostalgic.

  7. lduperval

    Hi,

    I must admit that I am a little wary of posting this story. I can’t remember the last time I wrote fiction. I did a nano rhyme oh some time ago, but it was just dumping words in order to reach the goal. I don’t think it was really a story,. This year I decided to try my hand at shorter stories, before I invest time in something substantial. So anyway, this is my first try.

    Oh! I don’t think I ever read Judy Blume…

    Disclaimer: the following contains mature themes which may not be suitable for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

    ———-

    Are you there mommy? It’s me, Eddie. Some people would say you probably don’t hear me in your casket. But I know you, I know you more than anyone ever did and anyone ever will. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you’ll let me go. Oh no, not you. Hanging on even beyond your last breath.

    Don’t look at me like that! You know I had to do it. You didn’t leave me a choice. I’m sure you expected it. You just never thought that I would go on with it, did you? A weakling like me? You thought there was no way I could ever live or breathe without you around. But I’ll show you. I’m finally free, I can finally spend time with Jenny.

    What’s that? How did I do it without you realizing it? How do you think, mom? Put your thinking cap on! You’re always telling me how you would have made a great detective because you notice how every little thing plays out. You notice any little change in your environment. Well who’s laughing now, huh? Who managed to get something past you without raising any suspicion? Can you say it, mom? Say it! Say “It was you, Eddie. But how did you do it?”

    That’s the real question, isn’t it mom? How did a dumb little schmuck like me manage to get through all your defenses? Well, let me tell you. You thought you knew me; you thought you could see everything I did. But in the end, it was child’s play. When I crushed your medicine, I always managed to set a little bit of the sleeping pills aside. I mean come on, it’s simple. Just chip a little piece off the pill, set it aside, crush the rest, and give it to you. I only needed to do it for a few weeks before I had a large enough dose to make you sleep through a 9.0 earthquake.

    The rest was a piece of cake. I replaced a few of your regular pills with the sleeping pills, crushed everything together, put it in your milkshake, and you never noticed a thing.

    The toughest part was when you started to move while I sat on the pillow over your face. For a moment, I thought I hadn’t put enough, but you were much too sleepy to really do anything. I put the pillow back under your head, and I went to sleep like a baby.

    When I called the ambulance to pick you up, nobody said much. I mean, you have been sick for a while. It was bound to happen.

    I don’t know why you hated when I went to see Jenny, but now you will never, ever get in my way again. I hope you rot in hell.

    Just a sec, my phone is ringing.

    “Hello? Speaking. Yes. Uh-huh. Yes. Okay, I’ll be right there.”

    Well mom, that was the police and I have to go. Something about a toxicology report.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        A real twister of a story, reminds. me somewhat about Psycho. Bone chilling of a hatred turned bad. Perhaps she did deserve it but only in the eyes of her son
        Midnight read and then shiver.

    1. Reaper

      Well done and welcome. I like the inside look into madness, the over the top way your MC has about them. You do have a tense slip where you say you have been sick, with the tense for the rest of that paragraph it should be you had been sick. This shifts tenses a good deal and it works for this story, but all of that should be past tense. Other than that I didn’t notice any errors and it was nicely creepy.

      1. writer_sk

        I read your piece on your blog, JR. I really enjoyed it and wanted to see Chichi get onto land. I liked the character of his father. I thought the visual of him dreaming of wheat was very well done. Lastly, the overall theme and storytelling were very powerful and compelling.

  8. creaturescry

    Tales of a Gargoyle, Griffon, and Goblin

    Tarmo flew over the vast fields, his golden hawk eyes scanning the field below. His taloned feet curled beneath him as his massive brown wings carried him through the wind. He was the noble griffon with his bird like head, cat like body, and a human like conscience. Behind him was Gertrude, the slightly less nobel Gargoyle. Her bat wings fluttering like a hummingbird to keep her massive stoney body afloat. Riding on her back with wide eyes was the ugly Goblin Gill. Together they made the troublesome trio, the three terrors. They were the kind of creatures that got a kick out of messing with humans and attacking their cities. Of course now that was out of the question since bigger things were on the horizon.

    “How Important is this Septor?” Tarmo remembered asking, “why would this be the end of all?”

    “If I could tell you I would,” the bird replied, taking another swig of his wine, “but I can tell you this…look to the red river.”

    “Red river?”

    “Whatever you encounter there may be able to undo what has been done.”

    Cryptic, he snorted to himself, why was everyone so mysterious nowadays? But there he was nonetheless, looking for a red river of some kind. Flying far away from the lands he knew and deep into the unknown. Intelligent creatures like himself were under constant threat of enslavement and extermination. The grass beneath them showed that since it was a yellow straw like consistency. It was drained of all its magic after the Elves and other creatures were taken from it. The same could be said for the waters, which now looked black rather than blue. Except this detail heightened his hopes as it did increase the chances of there being a red river.

    “Why do we have to look,” Gill spat in frustration, “why not some Knight in shining armor?”

    “Because we found septor dead,” Tarmo sighed as he craned his head around to look at him, “and I don’t think any of us want the world to end.”

    “I understand that, but are we sure that we can trust that bird?”

    “Do you want to find out what happens if we don’t.”

    “What’s that?” Gertrude asked, finally gathering the breath to speak up.

    Tarmo looked to where the gargoyle gestured and dove down closer to the ground. It was a small creek, a thin line of glistening water, that tucked away in a small forrest. What stood out about it though was the small form that lay down by its side. Tarmo touched down on the ground next to gently while the ground around him trembled with Gertrudes landing. It was a body, one of a deer with blueish fur, and a thin line of blood trickling out of its mouth and into the water.

    “The red river?” Gertrude asked, poking the body with one of her fingers.

    “I don’t know…” Tarmo began, peering closer.

    “Who are you three?” someone demanded.

    Tarmo turned around to see a young Dark woods elf and frowned. He looked too masculine in the face to be and elf though, like he was almost human. He was also wearing a tattered military uniform, and looked nothing at all like a slave. He stepped towards the young elf, tilting his head to one side. the elf stepped back and shielded himself slightly, his hand resting on a sword. On his arm, where his sleeve was missing, was a tattoo of a familiar face.

    “I think the real question here is why do you have a tattoo of Septor?” He asked, “and how do you know him?”

    1. Reaper

      Interesting. I feel like I need to read this a few more times to really get it. It is obviously the middle of something. Don’t know if it is pulled from a work, or just written that way, but the world is fascinating.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I couldn’t agree more on the fascination
        Maybe some pre history might guide the reader but don’t get me wrong, the enjoyment reading this was intense.

  9. ShamelessHack

    I hate to tell you pal, but my wiener is
    JUST AS LONG AS YOU’RE WIENER

    by Judy Blume

    Jane ran up to the house, adjusted her small fanny pack under her plaid skirt, and rang the bell.
    “Well, hello, Jane,” said Mrs. Johnson, opening the door wide. “You must be looking for Dick.”
    “Yes, Mrs. Johnson! Can Dick come out and play? I have something to show him!’
    Mrs. Johnson turned and yelled into the house, “Dick! Jane is here! She wants to show you something.”
    “Oh, boy!” Dick came running out of the kitchen, past his mother, and out onto the lawn.”
    “Watcha got, Jane? Watcha got? Watcha, watcha, watcha?”
    “Come on Dick, follow me!”
    “O—Kay!”
    Jane took off down the sidewalk, Dick right behind her.
    They ran the two blocks to Jane’s house, cut around to the back yard, and finally Jane came to a stop.
    “Well,” said Dick, almost breathless. “What is it?”
    “Here,” said Jane coyly. “Look what I got!” She reached down under her skirt and into her fanny pack.
    Dick looked on, eyes wide.
    Jane carefully lifted out a frisky little puppy. As the puppy licked her face she said, “This is Patches!”
    Dick pulled a face. “You copied me! You know I have dachshund puppy also!”
    “Yes, Dick,” said Jane with an air of condescension. “And my dachshund puppy is Just As Long As You’re Wiener.”
    “Probably longer.”

  10. JosephFazzone

    Tales of a fourth grade nothing’s nothing. – A tad long, my apologies.

    I awoke to the sound of my mother calling me.

    “Joey! Craig! Come in here.”

    Groggily, I climbed down from the top bunk of our very nifty, very cool fire engine bunk bed, complete with a toy chest where the hood would have been.

    I looked at Craig, tousled mousy brown hair, sleepy green eyes stared at me in a daze.

    “I don’t want to go to school today,” I complained.

    “Me too,” he agreed.

    “Come into the kitchen,” she called.

    We walked into the kitchen, an odd place for us since she rarely cooked for us anymore. When we arrived, I saw my sister was already there, as well as my mother. They were sitting on the floor which, if you knew my kitchen, that would not be the best place to sit.

    Confused we sat down. She waited until we were settled, and she very calmly and plainly said, “Last night, your father passed away.”

    The word ‘passed’ didn’t seem to register to my brain. “He’s dead?” My heart was pounding in my chest. Dead? Dead? How can he be dead?

    “Yes,” she said.

    “What happened?” My sister asked, her bright blue eyes were already welling up with tears.

    I don’t remember if my brother said anything. The words my mother spoke afterwards were of scant comfort. I understand it was a quick aneurism, on the toilet, early in the morning. She wasn’t very compassionate to begin with, and always boasted how she never even loved my father.

    They’d already been divorced for two years.

    My dog Tippy waddled in, a beautiful black and brown collie, wagging his tail, and panting happily. His arrival brought a chuckle out of all us, and we all gave him a pet. Trying to comprehend this feeling, this reality, caused my brain to clang, ringing an enormous brass bell. I wanted every bit of the hurt inside of me and scream it through my eyes. I ran to my room, onto the pillow as heaves of rasping wails crashed through my throat. The finality, I understood it, and hated it. I hated it.

    “Daddy, come back,” I cried.

    The funeral was beyond bizarre for me. My friends were a big help as they were rudely inappropriate, and I laughed my head off. Their sacrilege lifted my melancholy, for what it’s worth. Never being in a Catholic church I was curious about the enormous dead guy that hung from a lower-case t in the middle of the room, and the man in a bathrobe stood before a podium, ate some bread, made some gestures, drank a little wine, and didn’t offer to share any of it. We stood, we sat, we stood we sat, and then we were outside looking at a big hole. I don’t remember much in between, or after. The days blurred by, and then

    …I’m back at school. My head is resting on my chin as Ms. Emery and her short wavy fiery red hair came to stand in front of the class. “We want to welcome Joey back to the class. His father has passed away…”

    I blushed in embarrassment, and everything she said after those words disappeared as the band aid was ripped off to expose the wound. As with some healing, that is perhaps the best way. I remember a few kids putting their hands on my shoulder and saying they were sorry. I was now the kid with the dead dad. I was already the kid with divorced family and promise breaking neglecting father. Honestly, what was there to miss?

    Healing sometimes begins with a bit of bitterness.

    “Today we are going to read from one of my favorite authors. The book is called Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, by Judy Blume.”

    So happy to have all that focus completely off me, I began to fall adrift into the wonderfully absurd adventures of Peter Hatcher and that kooky brother Farley Drexel. Who names their kid Farley? I envied his problems and would have trade places with him in a heartbeat, but there was something about his misery that I connected with, and I began to realize that we all have our issues. Peter got through his, I get through mine, and besides, I have a dog. I didn’t lose a turtle to get one. So, there’s that.

    Judy Blume, and her wonderful world helped me through one of the saddest moments of my life and helped me identify other people’s lives and issues. I became an avid reader after that, and eventually wrote a story or two.

    Thank you, Judy Blume. You have touched many lives, and this is how you touched mine.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Joseph, your story is so from the heart, it touched me great;ly. You gripped the storty and told it through your eyes as a boy and that is so powerful a way to write. Thank you for this.

  11. JRSimmang

    Hey, Jess. I’m not seeing my story titled “Th’ Oppressor’s Wrong” up, though my comments seemed to have gone through. I was just wondering if it’s sitting idle in moderation land or if I should repost.

  12. Pete

    Are you there Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

    You’ll have to excuse my handwriting, I’m cramping up something terrible today. Not much has changed here. The crows are still at it again, staking claim to the feeder. And I got into with Miss Cooper again when I was stamping down the mole hills in her the yard. That woman has a way with ugly, I’ll say that. I did say it, because you weren’t there to stop me.

    You’ve got all sorts of mail. Your latest Readers’ Digest has a story about finding hope in hopeless situations. I wonder who writes that stuff, anyway.
    I need to get a notebook with wider lines. And I can never find my reading glasses and a pen at the same time. It’s a hopeless situation, dear.

    Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

    So Lewis and I walked into the Medi-First center up there on Franklin Street. Before you go worrying, it wasn’t me. We were fishing, and Lewis cut his hand trying to cut his line and had to get a few sutures. And get this, the Medi-First outfit is in the building that used to be Blockbuster Video—same place we took the grandkids to pick out a videocassette when we had them for a night. If I remember right, before that it was Giovani’s, that pizza joint that burned down in ’78 or ’79.

    It’s all been renovated, with frosted glass and sleek furniture. Anyhow, the kid sewing up Lewis was a baby. He had pimples, and Lewis winked at me and started asking where the new releases were shelved. The receptionist was fresh off training wheels too and so I started in about the westerns and soon we were going on about late fees and these kids were looking worried.

    I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

    Are you there, Margaret? It’s me Vern.

    I was thinking about that time your grandmother got sick. We drove down to visit, spent a week or so looking after her before your cousins came in from New York and we got some time to ourselves. You showed me around, all the places you went as a kid. We stopped for ice cream at that diner and I got the sherbert. You remember? You thought that was the silliest thing. We were strolling along the boardwalk and the water was tinted orange like it was dueling with the sky just for our attention. The breeze in your hair when you chose the sky and said it looked like sherbert. We had some good times, Marg.

    Well, yesterday Lewis and I were at Dairy Queen after that thing at the Medi-First center. I feel awful about that now, and I can hear you saying how I’m doing foolish things because I’m hanging around a fool like Lewis. And he is a fool, too. He’s got this big bandage on his thumb and it looks like a hitchhiking mishap. Anyway, we saw these teenagers and they were all taking pictures of ice cream with their little doodads. Lewis was going on about kids, but I was back at that sunset.

    Are you there Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

    Your church friends came by today, Marg, and I wasn’t too nice. I’d just come for a visit but you slept the whole time and I held your hand until I started feeling angry. I know it’s not your fault, dear, but you know my temper. So I was watching Wheel of Fortune when these ladies had the nerve to come in the house and sit in your empty spot on the sofa and say how they were worried about me. About me! When you’re the one in that bed. Stuck in your own head. They think I should start coming to service. Said I could pray for you.

    Dear God, give Margaret her brain back.

    There, I just prayed.

    Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

    John wants me to come visit. Alice thinks I should stay with her family. You may not talk, Marg, but there’s a whole lot they’re not saying. I can tell you that.

    Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

    Tough visit yesterday, Marg. You really gave me a scare. When I got home I drank the rest of the bourbon. That bottle I bought back when Allen passed. I tried to write but what’s the use? Now I’m not feeling so well. I don’t think I’ll make it to you today, just going to watch Wheel of Fortune.

    I’d like to buy a vowel.

    Are you there, Margaret? It’s me, Vern.

    The words are gone, Marg…

    1. Denise G. Monello

      Oh, my, Pete, your prompt touched my heart. What a beautiful and painful love story. It’s sad to think that for some people the words of your story are their reality.

    2. JRSimmang

      I’ll echo Denise’s sentiments. This was painful to read, more and more so as I read deeper into it. It’s beautiful the slow fall we take into this, and the implication that Vern won’t last much longer without Margaret… it’s so bittersweet. Bravo.

    3. Reaper

      I echo everyone so far. Made even sadder by the humor at the front. Especially loved the line about a hitchhiking accident. That was amazing. This is such a wonderful look at an impending case of broken heart disease, and a bittersweet love story. Just all around well done.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Is it a trip into Alzeimer’s? Sounds like it
        The trip can not be described to one that has not had a loved one take the journey.. I loved the repeat. “Are you still there, Margaret”

    4. writer_sk

      Pete, so sad and touching.

      The moments he describes walking with his wife were so poetic. I liked the use of the sherbert.

      It’s the little things you appreciate about someone once they can’t do them and you’ve captured them so poignantly here.

      This is a story to save and submit to a contest.

    5. Critique

      Well written, realistic story that is poignant and bittersweet for me. In many ways the story of my parents only reversed. The visual of the ‘hitchhiking mishap’ had me smiling. Thanks for sharing this.

  13. Reaper

    Okay, so this one has been in my head for months, I’m glad I could finally get it out. It’s dark in a bit of a different way for me. You have been warned?

    Just As Long As You’re True

    “Remember when you stood for something? You’re of that generation. I’ve looked up your records, you marched. Back when my grandparents were children.

    “What was it like? Carrying signs that said make love, not war. Sympathizing with damn, dirty commies. Wearing your hair long and unwashed. I see you still have a pony-nub, but there is more missing at the temples, running back to the middle of your scalp, and the remainder is meticulously washed. In your filthy, faded, denim, bearing the requisite button proclaiming, ‘Never trust anyone over thirty.’ When the only pollution you tolerated emanated from you and your companions. When did you lose your way, Senator? When did you sell out?

    “Did money corrupt you away from your ideals? Or, were they always false? Did you plan to throw them away when you got old enough, so when you put away childish things you started chasing dollars instead of justice? You talk a good game, but you don’t give a damn about the people you’re supposed to serve. We all know it. Well, I guess most of us don’t, because we keep putting you back in office. You have enough contributions from your owners to fool the uniformed. While those same people suffer.

    “I think about what you used to stand for and it makes me sick. Now you send young men to die in foreign lands, so close to the one you used to weep for. You vote to poison the food, land, and air, when you used to farm on a commune. How often have you filibustered bills to legalize the weed you used to claim would save the world? How often have you voted against bills for women, or people of color? After marching for the ERA and attending bra burnings? And then there was that me too moment where your name came up. Unproven, but concerning with everything else. The list goes on.

    “I see the look in your eyes. I know my heroes wouldn’t agree with me. Bernie, Dr. King, Kennedy, Gandhi, even Buddha. They would turn away in shame. Hate my actions. That’s why they’re heroes, and I’m not. I’m more like you. A sell out, willing to compromise to do what’s necessary.”

    The Gen-Z warrior, paced the room, vaping as she spoke. Her victim, the senator, watched every motion with wary, panicked eyes. Bound and gagged with duct tape, as he was, they were the only things he could move. Sweat shone on his meaty frame. He rocked in the chair, but as she anticipated that, the bolts held it fast. She slid behind him, slipping the needle into his carotid, depressing the plunger. He felt cold death slide into his body and screamed against the blockage holding his lips closed. She stalked from the room like merciless justice, which she knew would soon face herself.

    “I’m sure, if you could speak, you would mock me for using a woman’s weapon. In your next life, remember to stay true.”

      1. Reaper

        Thanks, Pete. Yeah. I kind of toned it down because I was afraid of making it a little to pro murder. Or seem like I was advocating that way. It should be longer but that’s how it goes.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Look you’re writing at A Level 1+
          What you write needs to be said. Enough is enough. Mentioning the older we get. The less we care. Maybe for others but not me,
          I’m taking on the medical system next week. Of course the system is broken badly. If I ran a business that way, we’d be broke.

          So let’s add doctors to politions, oh yeah,throw in crooked contractors. Keep them coming and coming. Tunnel vision helps in a crusade, do you agree?

          1. Reaper

            Thank you Kerry. Sometimes passion grows with age, sometimes it lessons. The problem I’ve noticed is that often when it grows the willingness to listen declines. You are a rare breed where you have passion and reason. That’s something more common amongst the artistic types I think. It’s why this place is so amazing and supportive.

            That’s a hectic fight. I wish you luck. Hopefully you can make a good change. At least on a small level. Changing those broken systems is important.

            Tunnel vision helps in crusades, but I think crusades are dangerous things. It’s important to keep fighting, to keep the goals in sight and never lose sight of everyone around us. I think that’s the Irish in me. Wanting it all, and wanting it now is a good thing, so is realizing the overall affects of your goals and decisions. I think that last bit is what politicians, high ranking medical professionals, and crooked business owners (including contractors) forget. Who they are hurting. Thanks again! I’ll keep them coming.

    1. JRSimmang

      I agree with Pete. Powerful juxtaposition of ideologies and execution (no pun intended) of desires. Both want to see a landscape changed, one through the planting of invasive species and the other through scorched earth, neither aware that both will result in a dead world.
      This does need expansion so we can learn to love the characters, both the Senator and the Gen-Z rebel.

    2. JosephFazzone

      This is why I want to smack those who talk about the ‘good old days!’ Oh yeah, dem’ good old days with all that crap we are still cleaning up, and all those great intentions.

      I enjoyed this, a dose of dismal realities to balance the bliss. Gen-Z is the admitted hypocrite in this story. A story with two jerks and no heroes, and you can totally see Gen-Z picking up where the evil Senator left off. The vicious cycle continues. Great job!

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Joseph. There were good things in the old days, and bad things. Nostalgia only works one way, so does misery, just depends on the person. The problem is, most people lose their passion as they get older, the world has a way of crushing it out of us, and people in power more than anyone else, I think. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks again.

  14. Denise G. Monello

    Super Writer

    She blogs, tweets and instagrams–she’s a social media titan with an enormous platform. She’s taken courses, attended seminars, read hundreds of books–sold hundreds of books. Her name is everywhere. Her pedigree is impeccable. She enthralls readers with a mellifluous utterance. She never needs a thesaurus. She immediately knows the difference between passive and active voice, telling versus showing, and where to put that comma. She has no scrap paper. There aren’t a hundred tabs open on her computer to inform her of strong verbs, gerunds or useless words. The writing rules are instinctive to her. Grammar is her middle name. Her love of everything literature trickles from her pores. She’ll captivate you with her literary lingo. She looks forward to her next book signing. Super Writer lives and breathes writing.

    I don’t partake in social media–too many opinions, too much conflicting information–too much wrong motivation, and not enough time. The only platforms I have are the ones that matched my prom dress–securely stuffed away in a closet. I haven’t attended seminars–not enough time. The only pedigree bestowed upon me was my dog. I did read hundreds of books back in the days BC (before children). Then I lost myself in a family.

    I know the difference between an active child and a passive child. I know what’s interesting to bring to show and tell. I’ve attended kitchen table symposiums from prominent mothers, grandmothers and aunts. My children, friends and family call my house phone for advice. My Brooklyn accent ripens with age. I live for my family and my faith. The love of my children and grandchildren fill my every breath.

    I love to write–I love to tell stories–which I believe is caused by “Only Child Syndrome.” Telling the story is instinctive. My visions are in life. My passion is the expression. My words are not automatic. I know what I want to say and the hundreds of post-its and open tabs on my computer enable me to express myself succinctly. Writing it correctly, editing and submitting are laborious. Computers are frustrating. I’m a fan of the pen and paper. I’m not a fan of the Oxford Comma. My goal, to be a published author.

    Does my lack of literary skills and social platform make me less of a Super Writer? Is my inability to be everywhere literary hamper my chances of being a Super Writer? What do I have to give up to be a Super Writer? Can I keep my family life the way it is if I’m a Super Writer? Do I want to be a Super Writer?

    1. JRSimmang

      What a great manifesto, Denise. You made me laugh with “The only platforms I have are the ones that matched my prom dress…”. I think there’s enough wisdom for all of us here. Never stop wearing your cape of words.
      I wonder, though, who is “the other,” the blogger/tweeter/Instagrammer? Is she an ideal, or an actual protagonist?

    2. writer_sk

      Denise wonderful job!

      I think the life experiences you describe here make you more of s “super writer” than the first woman who fits into that box too well.

      I especially liked the details of the home phone, Brooklyn accent and notepad with pen. Those things make you cooler than the other writer.

    3. JosephFazzone

      That is a great question. I remember seeing a triangle showing and on each side was written three words, Happiness, Sanity, and Cleanliness, and that you can only pick two. I think about that all the time when I get frustrated. It’s a real juggling act because most times I’m changing my answer. Sometimes it has to be clean even if I am going insane or it’s making me unhappy. It’s the same for my career as well. Either way, this was great. It really got the cogs turning, and I think I could talk about how my love of writing being brought by the fact that I was the middle child who was often pushed out of the picture. Loved this!

  15. RafTriesToWrite

    Apologies for the length, I took this chapter from a story I’m currently writing and tweaked a phrase just to fit in the prompt.

    ARE YOU THERE, _____? IT’S ME, _____.

    Months passed, I hadn’t heard from Peter yet. I have yet to hear his voice, how much has he changed, does he still remember me?

    Winter hasn’t been forgiving, but we’re back on our vacation house for the winter. I had flashbacks when we got here a few days ago, it felt like I had to start again. Start something new even with all the snow covering the house.

    I could only dream of his touch, his lips, his kisses, his hugs. It’s been days since we’ve been here, but I hadn’t seen him yet. I went to the place where we first met, but the world wouldn’t let me have my way. The library was closed for the holidays and it was too cold outside to wait for someone who doesn’t even know I’m here.

    It seemed that our paths still aren’t connected for some unknown reason. I went back home not forlorn, a little disappointed maybe, but it’s not that big of a deal. I think.

    I greeted my mom who was in the kitchen helping Rebecca with the food to eat for Christmas Eve. I grabbed the new book I was reading as I finished the last one during school where I had some spare time not thinking about Peter.

    I can read again thankfully, without thinking of Peter too much. I’ve had time to practice, I may not be an expert at it but I can do it ever so slowly.

    Just as I was about to turn the page, the phone rang.

    “I’ll get it” I spoke to no one in particular.

    I picked up the phone only to hear breathing, so I answered first with a breathy “Hello?”

    I let my defenses down for a moment just for the person on the other line to feel as if I were vulnerable in a way with my voice.

    “Alex? Are you there, Alex? It’s me, Peter.” I heard his voice. The one I’ve been dreaming about. Is this a dream? Is it really him?

    “Hi. How are you?” I whispered through his ear, or rather as much close as I can get with a telephone. I finally had the courage to ask the question I dare not ask, but I had to. It was just common courtesy.

    “I’m good, I’m good. And you?” He asks. A question I’ve been dying to answer since I heard his voice on the phone.

    “Better now.” I said, trying to refer to his question from that time when we were alone in my room with him taking care of me willingly, even though my parents were just downstairs.

    “Good. Good.” He replied quite hastily, I can almost hear him smile through the phone.

    “I miss you.” I let these words slip right out of my mouth. I couldn’t control my heart, it’s beating too fast.

    “I miss you too. So much.” I felt weak at the knees when he said those words that I had to sit down on the chair by the phone, I couldn’t contain my excitement and happiness. He’s finally talking to me! After how many months of radio silence, finally I get to hear his voice. I’m so happy.

    There was a long pause. I could only hear him breathe.

    “I have news.” He said. My heart suddenly stopped. Don’t tell me, he found someone else, did he?

    “News?” I asked trying not to sound too unhappy about this so called ‘news’ he wanted to share. Somehow, a phone call and news spelled like trouble for me. I was too scared to even ask what news it was.

    I heard someone picked up the phone that was in the dining area.

    “Peter!” “Peter!” Both my parents were on the phone now.

    “How are you?” Mom asked.

    “I’m good, I’m good. I have news” There he goes again with his news. My heart started to sink, trying to brace for the worst.

    “News?” This was dad asking now.

    “I hope it’s okay to have one extra plate for Christmas Eve” My heart was filled with delight and joy when I heard those words. I was giddier now than when I was a little kid going to the Christmas tree on Christmas day to open presents.

    I can’t wait to talk to him.

    “Of course honey, you’re always welcome here” “Yes definitely” My mom and dad said respectively with nothing but pure enthusiasm and delight from their voices.

    “Thank you, thank you” Peter spoke, his voice filled with gratitude and excitement.

    I can feel it.

    “Okay, we’ll let you two talk. See you Peter” “Bye.” Mom and Dad commented respectively.

    “Bye sweetheart.” Mom finally hanged up the phone from the dining room.

    “I figure they know about us?” Peter asked not sounding surprised at all.

    “Yeah. How’d you know?”

    “I can tell just by how your parents treat me. It’s like I’m a son to them now.”

    I chuckled. “Yeah.”

    “So, I guess I’ll see you in a few hours?”

    “Yeah, see you.”

    “Yeah.”

    “Yeah?” I asked, as if I’m never seeing him again.

    He chuckles. “Yeah.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Heartwarming, Raf. I sensed the awkwardness of absence between the two, and the interruption by the mom and dad is a great addition. I can’t help but feeling like there’s something Peter’s not telling us, but that could just be my paranoia.

    2. thatonewilson

      Great piece. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something about it feels a little… I think I’ll use the term “offbeat”. Different, but not wrong. Quite the opposite, actually, it made it more interesting to read, as opposed to just any other stories about young love. Definitely got me interested in reading the whole story.

    3. Reaper

      This is very sweet. Well done. There are some things to it that I can’t tell if it is the voice, or it needs an editing pas. Like sat down on the chair near the phone, and food to eat for Christmas Eve. If it’s voice that’s cool, if not you may want to give it an editing pass for things like that. Other than that there are places where you have missing commas, like, I can read, thankfully, without thinking too much of Peter. Last, hopefully, constructive thing. The two have a couple of habits, like repeating the same word that make them sound very similar. Is that intentional? If it is, perfect, if not you may want to vary their voices just a touch. I bring all of this up because you mention this is from a book you are writing. The story is amazing, the writing is strong, and other than the punctuation thing, none of these are necessary changes, just things that might be intentional voice choices, or might not. Keep this stuff up!

  16. Illerannia

    JUST AS LONG AS YOU’RE DELICIOUS

    Justine tried. She tried so hard. Highlights and last extensions and starving and binging and purging when she binged because of the starving, tanning beds and manicures and pedicures and yes, cheek implants.

    But it was all for nothing.

    Tyler would never look at her. Would never even give her the time of day. Cheerleading and organizing dances and wearing as short a skirt as she could possibly get out of the house with and not give her dad a heart attack. Low-cut tops and lacy bras. And those damn uncomfortable thongs that had to ride up on the hips so they peaked out the top of the shorty-short skirts.

    Nothing.

    Tyler didn’t have a girlfriend. He didn’t have a boyfriend either. So what the hell was his problem?

    She finally confronted him one day.

    “What the hell’s your problem?”

    She cornered her behind the bleachers after football practice. Her push-up bra was pushing her boobs out the top and the damn thong was, well, not where a thong was supposed to be. She was sick of it.

    “I’ve done everything! I’ve tried so hard to get your attention! I’ve stopped eating anything that’s not a vegetable. I’ve tanned every bit and shoved the other bits up. I’m dying for a freaking pizza and for what? Why haven’t you noticed me? Why haven’t you asked me to prom?”

    She was near tears, but she hadn’t drank anything today other than her morning green juice and she was close to total dehydration, so no tears actually came out.

    “You don’t understand, Justine. I don’t care about what you wear or how tan your skin is. Although I am happy you’re down to less than 2% body fat, so you did do something right.”

    “What? You like skinny girls, is that it?”

    “No. I like ones with a little meat on their bones. No fat, though. Fat is full of gristle.”

    Did he just say gristle? What did that mean?

    She was about to ask him just that when he grabbed beneath his chin and began to pull like he still had his football helmet on. It made a tearing and sucking noise and before she could scream, he’d started to pull off his face. But that was no blood. Just skin. Like he was wearing a mask.

    “There. That feels so much better.”

    Just like in remedial algebra, Justine was struck dumb. He held a big wad of plastic in his hand. That had been his face. And his new face… he had beady eyes, a hole where the nose should have been, leathery pale skin, and, most alarming of all, a giant mouth full of teeth.

    It wasn’t Tyler anymore. Had it ever been?

    “You see, Justine? I didn’t care what color your nails were or how pretty the gym looked for Homecoming. I just cared about how delicious you would taste.”

    Of course she screamed, but it was quickly stopped. As were her aspirations for prom.

    1. JRSimmang

      Twilight Zone meets Sam Raimi. I was thoroughly entertained, Illerannia. Also, welcome to WD!
      Be careful of your pronoun usage (“She cornered her…”), and keep the great pacing you showed here. Entertaining and totally delightful horror. Thanks!

    2. Reaper

      I’m one of those that saw this kind of ending coming, but that’s only because I’m sick and this is my kind of story. Your particular brand of twisted was still a surprise. I was expecting an alien, or a fly, a wolf maybe. You went more shark like. That caught me off guard. Nicely done. Nice pacing. I didn’t notice the pronouns that I saw mentioned, though that is good advice. The only thing I would suggest is a little rewording on the last sentence. It feels clunky compared to the poetry that leads up to it. Of course she screamed, but it was quickly stopped. As were her aspirations for prom. Could reword to something more flowing. She screamed, but it was quickly silenced. Her aspirations for prom fading with the light in her eyes. Not exactly that, but your last line is utilitarian when your story to that point isn’t. Great story.

  17. GrahamLewis

    JUST AS LONG AS YOU”RE HERE

    With nervous fingers I text that I’m downstairs. While waiting for the lock to click open, I distract myself by marveling at how things have changed. Once we knocked; then we rang a bell; then we pushed a button that sounded in the apartment; then we talked into an intercom. Now we text. What next? I’ll find out eventually, since all things come to those who wait. For those who have time. Which I do, in spades.

    When I get upstairs she’s standing at the open door, smiling. “This is a surprise. What brings you here?” She steps aside and gestures me into a spotless and perfectly arranged room, white upholstery, black varnished tables, white carpet and a black grand piano. As always I feel awkward, like an extra on the wrong movie set. I remove my shoes and cross to my usual chair. She sits beside me and we exchange pleasantries. Those words run out and silence settles around us. Finally she looks at me through pale blue eyes, framed by black hair and that perfect face I’d never grow tired of, smooth soft skin accented by one perfect little mole. This is going to be so hard.

    “What is it?”

    “I have something to say, Cassie, something I don’t want to say, but I have to.”

    She keeps smiling but now beneath a furrowed brow. “We promised no secrets..”

    I take deep breath. I set aside my prepared speech, those gentle lies covering the fact that I’m leaving her now because I will lose her later. Because I’d rather remember who she is now than watch her grow old and die. Selfish or noble, I don’t know, but it’s what I must do.

    “I’m afraid I do have a secret, one I cannot reveal.”

    I see unshed tears in her eyes, but she is calm, though the smile is gone. She rests her hand on my arm. “And it means you must go far away forever.” Before I can reply she puts her finger to my lips. “I’ve seen this act before. Keep your secret. I don’t want to know it.”

    I lean back and sigh. I want to convince her that this is no act, but I can’t break my oath, can’t mention immortality. All I can say is, “I love you Cassie, that’s the truth, and would have done so just as long as you’re here. But I can’t and I can’t say why.”

    We stand. A few tears slip down her face. I would like to kiss them away, but I don’t dare. “Just as long as I am here,” she murmurs. “That’s an odd phrasing. Some hint I suppose, but I’m not going to work it out. Just go on your mysterious way, play your noble game. But you should know one thing.”

    “What’s that?”

    She brushes aside the tears, at least for now. “I would have loved you forever.”

    She means it. But she doesn’t have forever. I do.

    1. thatonewilson

      This is one of my favorite prompt responses in a long time. I especially love the reality of her response, “knowing” it’s an act but not wanting to know the truth. A very refreshing take on what could have easily been a worn out breakup cliche.

    2. GrahamLewis

      Thanks for the kind replies. I know it’s sort of a downer for Valentine’s Day, but I guess that’s par for course if you are immortal. Makes me glad I’m not.

    3. JRSimmang

      “Which I do, in spades.” Wonderful line, Graham. This must be a continuation directly to last week’s prompt, and I think it does it justice. However, it feels disjointed, not your usual voice. Don’t misunderstand me, I think it’s a great segment, just not your usual tone.
      The dialogue is superb, meaningful, and there’s a new depth to RG not seen before, perhaps because we’ve not seen him in love. I reiterate, please let us know when the book is done.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Thanks JR. I never know which lines work, but I’m glad that did. I’m not sure what to make of your tone comment; perhaps because this is so difficult, RG doesn’t have his usual joie de vivre (or whatever that French phrase is).

    4. Critique

      To me, Cassie comes across as a woman of grace and refinement that has experienced rejection before. Perhaps she will never know why this rejection has happened – she accepts it. Reminds me of a Sting song: If you love somebody set them free.

  18. thatonewilson

    Just As Long As You’re Gone

    “Dear…… Miles…” The room filled with an audible sigh. “Dearrr Milesss.” Maya groaned quietly. She had no idea what else to write. She didn’t understand the point of the assignment. She didn’t really understand the point of ANYTHING she had done the last few weeks.

    The young girl leaned her chair back precariously, one foot on the underside of her desk for support, one on the floor for balance, and replayed some of those recent days in her head, mostly to distract from what was crouching in the back of her mind, waiting to leap out at any given opportunity. Her left hand twirled her pencil around while the other swiped a curled lock of ash brown hair from her face.

    “GOT IT!” As Maya lunged forward her chair hit the floor with a quick slam. Normally she would wince in anticipation of her mother’s call from down stairs, but now the teen was too focused on her letter, words coming almost faster than she could write. The time between thoughts and actions became nonexistent as every memory of the bronze-skinned boy that Maya could conjure went directly to the paper -papers, before long- in front of her.

    Morgan went to check on her daughter. She knew the grief counselor had said it could take the girl a long time to finish her writing, but it had been nearly an hour just since the chair-produced bang that Mrs. Lockhart had long ago grown accustomed to, yet was somehow never ready for. Opening the door to the “Slytherin Green” room, the woman found Maya reading through what she guessed was about six pages of her seemingly ever-smaller handwriting.

    “Hey sweetie.” Morgan spoke softly so as not to surprise her daughter. “How ya doin’?”

    Maya took a long, shaky breath as she swiveled her chair around to look at her mother. “I think I get it now.” She had hoped to sound excited, but her voice betrayed her, dripping with pain.

    Morgan stepped through the door, noticing the still drying lines on Maya’s face and the wet spots on her papers. “Have you been crying?” Maya wiped her eyes with a confused look. She hadn’t even noticed, but then again, before reading her letter she didn’t remember when she stopped writing about her memories and started writing about emotions. Failing to suppress a short sob, she let her papers fly to the floor as she nearly jumped into her mother’s embrace and began crying. Morgan released the breath she had been holding, letting a single tear escape as she comforted the teen.

    On a bookshelf across the room, Mrs. Lockhart saw the framed picture that had gone missing a few days earlier. One of her favorites, the picture of Maya kissing her older brother on the cheek at his graduation. Maya had always maintained that she hated the picture, and maybe she had before. But Morgan knew that wasn’t true now. She smiled despite the circumstances, knowing exactly why Maya had taken the picture. It was the last picture of the two of them before Miles had left for college a year ago.

    Now it would be one the last pictures the siblings had ever taken.

    1. jhowe

      This is a well written story about dealing with grief. Nicely done. It’s written form both character’s point of view which works to experience the feelings of mother and daughter. If you were to write it from the viewpoint of say, just Morgan, you could create Maya’s feelings with dialog or actions, but it works the way you did it as well. Great story.

    2. JRSimmang

      Welcome to the board, Wilson. I apologize if you’ve been here before; I’m awful with names.
      What stands out to me is the realism of the characters. Maya’s three-dimensional, her teenage quirks and impulses reading clearly, and I think Morgan’s reflections make her a relatable character. We all do process grief differently, especially under different circumstances of grief, and that translates well.
      I would have liked a clearer introduction to Mrs Lockhart. I didn’t notice she had followed Morgan into the bedroom, or maybe she didn’t and the picture is downstairs. I also felt that a sibling’s journey to college may not warrant a grief counselor, but, again, we all process grief differently.
      Fully, I enjoyed the piece. Thanks!

    3. Reaper

      I loved the dimensions of this, and your characters. the only jarring thing for me was the confused look, everything else is so well shown that the telling moment was very stark. It didn’t ruin anything, it just seemed out of place and was likely due to word limits, or the fact that sometimes you just have to when you’ve done so much showing. Beautifully done, and I don’t know how you do a coming of age story in this short a space. Well done.

    4. GrahamLewis

      I especially like the opening paragraph. Just enough detail to get me interested, and I can picture this energetic conflicted teen.

      One suggestion — it shouldn’t be necessary to use ALL CAPS to make a point and, at least for me, it’s distracting.

  19. jhowe

    SuperLax

    The streets of New Orleans were nearly lifeless. Abandoned floats sat idle and strings of beads littered the sidewalks. The superlaxative, injected into the city’s reservoirs, was taking its toll. Henchmen in HazMat suits patrolled the city, terrorizing anyone carrying bottles of factory bought water. The already inadequate municipal sewer system strained to keep up but soon, it would overflow and people would be driven from their homes and hotel rooms, weakened, dehydrated, a total mess.

    From the penthouse suite atop the Troubadour Hotel, David Chitass was getting his revenge. For years, decades in fact, he’d said, over and over again, “It’s Chitass… Shy-Tass… with the accent on Tass!” But it did no good. People did what people do and they always pronounced it in its literal form.

    The hotel door burst open and three henchmen pushed Jennifer Anniston and Courtney Cox into the suite. They both carried bottles of SmartWater. David quickly switched off the television but not before the women noted he’d been binge-watching Friends.

    “What’s the meaning of this?” Anniston said.

    “The City will pay for all past misdeeds,” Chitass said. Courtney Cox twirled a string of beads and David’s cheek twitched.

    “I guess we won’t be needing these,” she said seductively.

    “I’m not, uh, I mean, I’m not opposed to negotiations.”

    Cox tossed the beads on the coffee table and Anniston produced a string from her purse and set them on the table.

    “Tit-for-tat,” Cox said. “The tat meaning you resupply the city’s water and call off the henchmen.”

    “And I get…” he said

    “You know the tradition.” Cox unbuttoned her blouse part way. The henchmen stood nearby, shifting from foot to foot.

    Chitass rose and draped the beads over both women’s necks with trembling hands. “You have my word.”

    The women did their thing and David stood, slack-jawed, and then anger rose. “What’s all this?” he said. “What happened?”

    “Hey,” Anniston said. “We’re almost 50 now. Do you think we’d still look like we did on Friends?”

    “Well… yes.”

    “Have you heard of gravity?” Cox said. “It happens.” She buttoned her blouse. “We’ll be on our way now. A deal’s a deal.”

    Chitass waved off the henchmen as the women departed and sat on the couch, dejected. The men waited, not knowing what to do.

    “Inject the antidote,” he said. “And quit terrorizing people.”

    The henchmen sighed and smiled. “You got it, Shitass,” one of them said as they walked away.

    1. JRSimmang

      They always talked about it but never did. To quote “Friends,” “somewhere Joey’s brain is exploding.” Also would be his bowels were he there.
      I’ll admit, I’m a little lost on Chitass’s motive and why Anniston and Cox are chosen as the ambassadors for civility. Is this a commentary on the destructive powers of Mardi Gras?
      At any rate, the dialogue is humorous, and the action flows smoothly. Fun read.

    2. Reaper

      This feels like the end of a longer piece. The climax of a crime story where everything was very tense and brought to a humorous end. With that I can build everything before it because you did this so well. Very nicely done.

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