Madder Libs

Since I threw a curve ball at you with last week’s writing prompt, I decided to make this one a bit more casual. Enjoy!


Writing Prompt: Madder Libs

First, think of…

  • a word you use too much.
  • the name of a city you’d like to visit.
  • an unusual color.
  • a hobby.
  • a physical quality a person might wish for.
  • an animal.
  • a famous author.
  • a verb ending in -ing
  • a number.
  • an adverb.

Then, use at least five of these in a story or scene that also includes the phrase “What is that?”

Post your response in the comments in 500 words or fewer.


By the way: I would be thrilled to meet you in person if you can make it to the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in NYC, coming up August 10-12. If you have yet to register, use the coupon code WDPROMPT18, good for $50 off registration.

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130 thoughts on “Madder Libs

  1. writer_sk

    overused word: perhaps

    City to visit: Athens, Greece

    Odd color: chartreuse

    Animal: Persian cat

    Hobby: filmmaking

    The train ride was slow and calm around the curves and picked up speed while going through the gray cityscape and urban graffitied concrete. The farmland of western Massachusetts had blended away and through the train’s window Amelia could see New York City seemingly expanding up and out before her eyes. She was to arrive at her younger brother, Theodore’s, apartment by about noon. He had graduated from NYU and stayed in the city to rent a place with his buddies while he looked for a job. Meanwhile he did freelance work and tended bar. Amelia remained at her parents farm, content to run things while she completed her second year of community college. Even then she was going to take time off and maybe never go back for a Bachelors’.

    The cab dropped her off in front of a massive skyscraper in the Chelsea section of Manhattan and Theo was waiting out front. He ran to her and picked her up. He gave her a big hug and took her bag. They took a thin elevator up and Amelia watched as the tangerine sunlight of midday flashed in each time the elevator ascended another floor. She felt both proud and envious of her brother for doing something so interesting with his life.

    Inside, the apartment was a beautiful mess with books, clothing, beer cans and coffee cups filling open counter space. It wasn’t trashed, just not organized and quite cramped—especially for three roommates. The most brilliant image was when Theo’s gorgeous Persian cat crossed from the sofa to the doorway and gracefully jumped to the windowsill, settling herself on a Chartreuse pillow which lay on the wide sill.

    “You’ll have my bed and I’ll take the couch,” her brother said, setting her bag on his dorm sized bed which was snug next to a little chest of drawers. She noticed there was a window overlooking an amazing rooftop view of the buildings, though.

    Theo, following her gaze, said, “every night I lay there and look out the window.”

    She smiled, “It’s unbelievable!”

    “Perhaps you’d like some coffee Amelia?” I can make it here then we can go out and see the sites, perhaps shop or eat in Greenwich village?”

    “Sure, sounds great.”

    Amelia told Theo of her plans to travel to Athens and stay in a youth hostile with some friends from her college film criticism course. While they were there they planned to get some footage to perhaps use in a future film, though the trip was mostly for fun.

    They played tourist around New York then lingered over a meal while discussing their parents and family.

    “I worry about mom and dad and the future of the farm.” said Amelia, sipping the last of her wine.

    “What is that?” Asked Theo

    “What?”

    “Your need to stay and help? They have people they can hire while we figure out our own lives. Mom or Grandpa wouldn’t want you to run the farm unless you wanted to.”

    “Perhaps.” Amelia said.

    And as she crawled into the New York City bed looking out at the wonderful world spread beneath her she felt she could go out into it with no regret.

  2. Kerry Charlton

    AVALON, I’M COMING HOME
    PART THREE

    As twilight fell across the island, Merlin became very serious in his discussion about Viviane,
    “When you meet The Lady Of The lake, I just can’t introduce you as Wart “
    “Well, you never asked my real name, it’s Bradford Williams Davenport.”
    “The Davenports of New York?”
    “Yes, those Davenports, why not stick with Wart. She’ll find out soon enough.”
    The last rays of light morphed into moonlight and we headed toward the north end of Avalon. In the distance, I saw a single figure walk the beach just as I had imagined. She grew closer and I made out a slender figure with long flowing blonde hair to below her waist. Her gown of pure white shimmered in the moonlight and shared her mystery. My mind jumped a notch as her physical aura was more outstanding then I had imagined She drew closer and our eyes met. I felt her spell surround me and s fought it to no avail. By her manner and mystery I understood all I had read about Viviane was true. I was captivated by her searching blue eyes, the shape of her lips and the wayshe moved in the moonlight.
    “My lady,” Merlin said, “This is Bradford Williams Davenport.”
    “I shall call you Sir Brad if you prefer” You may call me Viviane. I thought of you as muck younger than you appear.”
    “I am older now, thanks to Merlin and his wizardly.”
    “I congratulate. Merlin, you have outdone yourself. It is time for Sir Brad and I to visit.”
    “Certainly, do you have a place?”
    “Yes, a beach house behind the dunes I walked from.”
    “Then I’ll leave you for the time being. You both know how to reach me.”
    Merlin disappeared in a puff and I wondered, what might be in store for me. I didn’t wonder long. Viviane looked up to me and pulled my face toward hers. Her kiss was magical and I felt lightening throughout my body.
    “How far is your beach house?”
    “Just behind the dune I walked from.”
    “Then I will carry you.”
    “Do you do this with all your other girls?”
    “Not hardly, I’m winging it.”
    “Winging what?”
    “Oh I’m sorry call it improvising”
    When we reached the beach house, I started to carry to carry her across the threshold but she stopped me.
    “I know what thresholds are for. We have serious problems to solve. Please don’t mis- understand my kiss. I was being friendly.”
    ‘Rats! I thought, I made a fool out of myself. I hope she understands.’
    “Make yourself comfortable Brad. I’ll fix some supper. And you are certainly no fool.”
    ‘Well, so she reads minds also. Then she knows by now I look at her as the most beautiful of all women.
    After supper we sat together and she spoke of “The Land Of Was.”
    “You weren’t far odd Brad when you mentioned to Merlin, you felt you were on holy land. It is a spiritual land and takes a prominent place in the beginning of mankind.”
    “I’m beginning to understand the importance. But it couldn’t be what I think it is, The Land Of Eden or is it.”
    “Merlin made an excellent choice with you.”

  3. Critique

    Destination Whitehorse

    “I hope you know how to fix this?” Jan said crouching by the flat tire. She stood up brushing imaginary dirt off her white capris and looked up and down the deserted highway, then at the darkening sky.

    “I’ve seen it done.” Christy tried to sound confident as she dragged their suitcases out of the trunk and set them on the road. “We need the jack, the wrench thing, and the spare tire.”

    After several attempts they had the car up on the jack. Using their combined strength they managed to remove three lug nuts. The last two wouldn’t budge.

    “We stayed too long at Liard Hot Springs.” Jan examined her freshly broken nails then hugged herself against the rising wind.

    Christy twisted the wrench futilely on a lug then sat back on her heels. “It’s useless.” She lifted her t-shirt to wipe the sweat off her forehead.

    “If we’re much later we may have trouble getting a hotel room in Watson Lake.” Jan said.

    “That’s the least of our worries Jan. I expected someone to come along by now.” Christy said in frustration. “We need help.”

    “I could walk up the hill. There might be cellphone service there.” Jan said.

    “It’s worth a try.” Christy said.

    Jan reached the top of the hill and waved her cellphone over her head searching for service just as fat drops of rain began splattering the pavement.

    Christy had enough time to throw the suitcases back in the trunk and close it as Jan came running back.

    “We need to lower the jack.” Christy shouted just as the burdened clouds burst above them.

    Thoroughly drenched they huddled inside the car. Deafened by the deluge, the fierce wind, the booming thunder they watched as lightning lit the highway to noonday brightness.

    That’s when they saw the silver streaks.

    “What is that?” Christy said.

    Jan smothered a shriek when twin eyes glowed at them through the windshield.

    “It looks like a wolf.” Christy squinted through the swishing wipers. “There’s more than one.”

    “Could they get at us?” Jan whispered then covered her ears at another clap of thunder.

    A lightning flash exposed three wolves – their coats shimmering silver – crouched in the ditch beside by the car.

    “There’s someone coming.” Christy said looking in the rear view mirror.

    Jan squealed as huge headlights loomed illuminating the interior of the car.

    Someone rapped on the side window.

    “Hey everything alright in there?” A male voice asked.

    “It’s a nasty night to be stranded.” The truck driver said as Christy and Jan sat damp and grateful – suitcases stowed at their feet – in the cab of Hugh’s Trucking Inc.

    “Watson Lake’s about an hour away. We can take care of your car in the morning.” Hugh turned up the heater. ”Those wolves you saw, they’re shy. Probably more scared of you then you would be of them. Tomorrow’s supposed to be sunny. The drive to Whitehorse will blow your socks off. Yep, you’ll see God’s country.”

    1. Critique

      Forgot to share my list: Name of a city – Whitehorse, Yukon; an unusual color – silver; an animal – wolf; a verb ending in ing – crouching; a number – 3.
      It’s been a long while since I’ve posted a story here and I have missed you all!! I’m working on getting back into it.

    2. jhowe

      Really nice writing. Tight and clear with realistic dialog. The ending leaves me thinking, with the driver showing up when the wolves do… could be ominous.

  4. jmr_writes

    Here’s my list.
    1) cool
    2) Paris
    3) fuchsia
    4) powerwashing
    5) hairless legs
    6) lizard snakes
    7) Stephen King
    8) see #4
    9) 88
    10) painstakingly
    11) “What is that?”

    Shaina’s voice floats out of the bathroom to where I’m sprawled on the hotel bed.
    “I wanna laser off my leg hair.”
    “Cool.”
    “And maybe my arm hair.”
    “Why stop there? Find the right esthetitian out west, and you could go full lizard snake.”
    Shaina pokes her head out and quirks an eyebrow at me. “What is that?”
    I shudder. “You don’t want to know if you don’t already. They look like something Stephen King could write about to terrify people.”
    “I thought you liked snakes.”
    “Snakes, sure, but not lizard snakes. They’re like a mistake of nature.”
    “Alrighty then. Seriously though, I hate the idea of wasting so many hours of my life shaving and then complaining about being cold.”
    I shrug. “So stop shaving and move to Paris.”
    “One, if I don’t have the money for laser hair removal, how the hell am I supposed to afford flying to Paris? Two, I don’t speak French. And three, I liiike the way my legs look and feel without hair.”
    “There’s always powerwashing.”
    Shaina gives me a dirty look and caresses her calf in silence.
    “What? It’s better than having hot wax butterknifed on and painstakingly ripped out 88 times in a row.”
    “If we weren’t cousins, do you think we’d be friends?”

    Things I learned from this exercise…
    1) How to properly spell fuchsia
    *mnemonic: what a German person who doesn’t like Sia would say.
    2) I still like Mad Libs.
    3) Lizard snakes aren’t really a thing outside the Avatar: TLA universe. I meant legless lizards, which look like creepy ass-Neanderthal snakes.
    4) I’m not as mad as I thought I’d be about not including every word/phrase in the list. Does that mean I’m growing?

    1. jhowe

      An entertaining little conversation… until the cousin reference. That got kind of creepy, in a good way, to add a little tension to the ending. Fun read.

  5. Bushkill

    Fishing in the deep

    A peel of thunder tore from the sky. I cringed, ducking down in the cabin of my buddy’s fishing boat, pointing into the dark, “Dude, what is that…” Before I could finish, a blast of intense lightning lit the pooling clouds of sky and blasted the storm-tossed seascape with arclight brighter than noon in July.

    Shadows fled in fear.

    All around us, in the brilliance of a heartbeat’s worth of light, waves rose and fell in the wind of the storm’s embrace. Then the staccato of separate stabs of lightning turned the whole scene into a mosh pit under flashing disco lights.

    Fear impinged for a moment upon my grasp on mortality. I felt naked in the face of such anger—such tyranny—borne on sea and sky.

    And then we fell.

    It is not uncommon in large storms for waves to be dozens of feet high. I’ve seen some of them. I am seeing more of them tonight. Leaping off of a wave face and trying to race down the opposite side is treacherous. It’s mostly a dive from which you hope to come bobbing out of the other side and then race up the next wave before it overtakes you.

    Only there wasn’t a bottom. We kept falling.

    And then the thunder sounded again. This time from beneath us. I don’t know how my buddy kept his hands on the wheel and his cool. Perhaps three tours in Iraq had hardened his soul to the machinations of mere weather. Whatever. He knifed us through the air, the engines behind us screaming as the props tore at the air for purchase. Their ear-shattering howl reminding us of their failure.

    The sound below grew and then the entire ocean floor began to glow. It is as if the lightning from a moment before had fueled some giant engine and kicked it to life. Eerie structures—towers and walls and buildings of different sizes and shapes—started to rise from the mud we hurtled toward.

    It was beautiful. It was Ancient. It was in our flight path.

    When you start talking about your fishing trip as a flight path you’ve entered the surreal.

    And then the fall halted. A bubble of energy surrounded the growing city and we collided with it and it with us. It allowed us through, but our decent became more measured. Perhaps, controlled.

    As we settled onto the mud, the ocean hundreds of yards distant and outside of the bubble, rippled like jello. I looked at my buddy and he at me, but neither of us said anything.

    People started popping into view as if by magic. A silver-haired man, dashing in a cut of clothing I don’t recall ever seeing before, climbed onboard. He gauged us, I figured, gazing through azure eyes at each of us in turn. The entire area was now well lit with soft luminescence. And the cityscape beyond our gunwale grew more impressive. Our visitor stretched a hand forward, “Welcome to Atlantis.”

    1. Critique

      “the staccato of separate stabs of lightning”… I could almost hear the hiss of fire on water. “the ocean outside the bubble, rippled like jello”. Wonderful descriptions. Surreal is what I felt when I read this and the ending clarified the journey well.

  6. jhowe

    This story contains inappropriate content, mostly to do with gore and gross activities. I recommend not reading it if that sort of thing nauseates you. Sorry in advance.

    “Goddamn, Kenny, it’s tautology 101.” She ignored my yawn. I wasn’t about to tell her I didn’t know what that meant.

    “You have no clue, do you?” I shrugged and she went on. “You really should crack a book now and then.”

    In hindsight, I should have disposed of the body another way. The meat grinder was exciting but I guess some of her DNA was found in the shop sink’s grease trap. Since then I’ve looked up tautology and I guess I have been in a bit of a rut. The trial should provide some much needed excitement.

    ***
    They didn’t find the body; just enough residue to implicate me. Who knew they’d remove the grease trap? Everything else was sparkly clean.

    Her father daggered me with his eyes and I yawned. I swear his nostrils were an inch wide.

    When they wheeled in the meat grinder, the entire courtroom gasped in unison. I struggled to maintain my expression, hoping a smile didn’t slip out. I noticed other wringing handed fathers sitting, mothers too; anguished. Sure there’d been others. This was getting monotonous. Definitely, as she’d said, Tautology 101.

    ***
    When you run a body through a meat grinder, the texture isn’t as appealing as beef or turkey. It’s gristly and greasy, with bits of bone and hair to deal with. But the dogs love it. It keeps them fat and strong… in perfect fighting condition.

    It’s funny; the inmates aren’t as concerned with murder as they are with dog fighting. You’d think they would yawn and get on with their miserable incarcerated lives. The guards are always busy when they visit, with clubs and sadistic libidos. Tautology 101 it ain’t.

    1. B.D. Blanco

      Ewww!!! I want to know more. Who was she? Why did he kill her? Did she deserve it? What happens to him now? Why does he keep yawning; is he apathetic or afraid? Cursed these 500 word limits.

    2. Bushkill

      I appreciated the **** breaks you used. I think that added to the fragmented nature of the psyche involved. This was a unique take on the prompt and I thought you did it well.

  7. jwismann

    a word you use too much. Relatively
    the name of a city you’d like to visit. Paris
    an unusual color. Cerulean
    a hobby. Gardening
    a physical quality a person might wish for. Hair
    an animal. Pig
    a famous author. Christopher Moore
    a verb ending in –ing Vitiating
    a number. 15
    an adverb. Wondrous(ly)
    Then, use at least five of these in a story or scene that also includes the phrase “What is that?”

    I was headed for a relatively long vacation to Paris. I needed someone to care for my place so I asked a coworker, Helen, to help me out. She agreed. Helen and I had not known each other long and she was not much of a talker. She usually just snorted and chortled.

    Helen was a bit rude and unkempt for my taste. She was relatively disgusting, really. She would burp at inappropriate times and fart while we were all gathered at a work function. I never saw her eat lunch either; she always ate outside the lunch room.

    I had 15 items that she had to learn to care for the place when she came to visit. The sky was Cerulean and I was chatting about the wondrously elaborate trip to Paris I had planned as we walked to the field to see Betsy.

    “What is that?” Helen screamed as we neared Betsy’s pen.

    “Oh, that’s just Betsy, my pig,” I replied.

    Betsy is a relatively enormous animal and I dress her in a pair of custom made Daisy Dukes and a tube top. I have to replace the clothes every two weeks or so, but she really is a modest pig and prefers to be covered when people come to see her, even me. As we approach, Betsy scurries to the barn, her shyness precluding politeness.

    “Betsy, get out here and meet Helen. She will be taking care of you while I go to Paris,” I said in a relatively gentle tone.

    “Hey there, Betsy,” Helen said as she softly patted the pig on the head then began scratching. They seemed to connect I could not help but notice a relatively strong resemblance between them. They looked like sisters and their course hair was even similar, especially Helen’s back hair visible since she was wearing a tube top of her own. I wondered at how two animal species could look so much alike and even act relatively similar.

    When I showed her my garden, though, it struck me that Helen might be some unique mixture of human and pig when she dropped to all fours and began scavenging the garden ripping down peppers and tomatoes and devouring them in a few large bites. Maybe that is why she eats alone. Perhaps i should have alerted the authorities to investigate this miracle of modern speciation, but I really wanted to go to Paris.

    I imagined that Helen and Betsy would get along just fine, though my garden would likely be demolished. I placed an extra drinking spigot on the water line, showed Helen where the feed was, and left for Paris.

  8. RafTriesToWrite

    “What is that Karrie?” Karen asked pointing at the white cloth from a woman at the far side of the diner as she took a ghastly bite out of the mac and cheese. She seriously needs to trim down on her food intake, it’s unhealthy for her.

    “You’ve never seen someone do cross stitch before?” I asked, as we looked at the woman eating with a stuffed Tigger the tiger on the table.

    “Nah, looks relaxing though” Karen finished her meal quickly and just stared at the woman as she wiped her lips with a napkin.

    “It is, and stop staring, it’s rude” I told her, but she just shrugged my warning off.

    “So lady-K’s, more coffee?” Martha walked to us with a big jug of coffee on her hand and her ever so pinkish working clothes.

    “Oh! Yes please” I said as I handed her my mug and poured me a cup of coffee. “I’m also digging the new pink outfit”

    “Why, thank you. It’s magenta” She suddenly flaunts her beautiful dress. I thought for sure it was pink.

    “And you Karen?” Martha asked Karen who’s still staring at the woman. Why can’t she leave her alone?

    “She’s distracted by the woman at the back.” I pointed to who Karen was staring.

    “She looks like a famous person with her hazel eyes and fancy wardrobe style” Karen spoke, clearly inspecting the woman from head to toe, or at least, as much as she can see from where we are.

    “Don’t you girls know E.L. James?” Martha gave me my cup and I immediately took a sip. I feel like I’m going to have a nervous breakdown just by Karen staring at the poor woman.

    “Nah.” Karen said.

    I just swayed my head as an answer and tried miserably to finish my pancakes.

    “The author of 50 shades of grey?” Martha said.

    My eyes immediately widen. “Oh my God. That’s her?” I almost screamed.

    “What’s 50 shades of grey?” Karen asked looking at me.

    “A really good book. Definitely.” Martha answered with much enthusiasm.

    I don’t even know what she looks like let alone know her name, she certainly blends here very well, I never knew she was the author of that book. This is big! I need to get a picture with her.

    “Isn’t she from London or something? What’s she doing here in L.A.?” I’m being clingy to Martha.

    “I talked to her before you two came in, she says she’s on a holiday, loves to do cross stitch as you can clearly see, other than that, she seems friendly” Martha said.

    “Do you think I can get a picture with her?”

    “I don’t see why not.”

    “Great!” I stood up and started walking but immediately stopped. “Stay here” I said to Karen, and then I continued my journey.

    My heart raced with every step I take and my hand was trembling, almost failing to grip my phone.

    “Hi!” I said.

    “Oh hello!” E.L. James spoke with a thick British accent.

    “Aren’t you E.L. James?”

    “Yes I am.”

    “Nice to meet you, I’m Karrie. That’s my sister Karen” I reached my hand for her to shake and pointed at my sister who’s looking awkwardly at us.

    “Nice to meet you too, how can I help?”

    “Uhm, can I take a picture with you?”

    “Sure” She stopped eating for a moment and posed with me. After taking several pictures I said my goodbyes and went back to Karen.

    “So? How’d it go?” Karen asked as I sat down.

    “Good! I took pictures” I smiled wildly.

    “How many?” She raised a brow.

    “32.”

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      I forgot to put this up.
      • a word you use too much. nah
      • the name of a city you’d like to visit. Los Angeles
      • an unusual color. Magenta
      • a hobby. Cross Stitch
      • a physical quality a person might wish for. Hazel Eyes
      • an animal. Tiger
      • a famous author. E.L. James
      • a verb ending in –ing. Eating
      • a number. 32
      • an adverb. Quickly

  9. Kerry Charlton

    AVALON, I’M COMING HOME

    PART TWO

    We started our descent to the jungle floor and the closer we came, the more restless the dinosaurs acted and they moved away in mass to the jungle. The ground shook like a small earthquake from their weight. One held back however, a fierce Tyrannosaurus Rus. We landed in a large clearing. I was about to lose it when the monster stopped suddenly a few yards away from Merlin. He lowered his head gently toward the cheek of Merlin and touched him.
    My amazement in learning the dinosaur was tame, amused Merlin. He reached a hand out and slapped gently around the mouth. Twenty tons of death flipped over on his back and as he hit the ground, I felt the earth shake again and almost lost my balance. . Merlin crawled up the side of the Tyrannosaurus and tickled him. The roar, though friendly was ear-splitting. The other assortment of pre-historic animals came back as if they were attending a tea party. I wished for a camera but had nothing to record it.
    The rest of the morning was similar in scope to my amazement. The Land Of Was I am certain of, felt like a tribute to the Master of All Masters. It seemed as if I had walked on Holy Land. Perhsps this is what God intended in the first place and we as bumbling humans had almost destroyed it . Was I the chosen one to carry the mantle of God’s creation? I felt humbled and a little insecure I might not be up to carrying the torch as well. I believed in Merlin’s strength for over a thousand years and that he must be tired of the honor,
    As we left what I realized might be paradise, I traveled back across the wall, I felt exhilar ated once more and settled down on the beach and talked for hours. And the conversation turned in a different direction. Merlin had arranged a meeting that evening for me. Before he told me who it was he asked me a question,
    “Are you beginning to realize what stands before you?”
    “It frightens me to consider it Merlin. I don’t feel comfortable about my age.”
    “ You have the mind of a scholar and you’re worried about your age? We can fix that right now. I have Arthur’s sword and I shall knight you.”
    “What about ,,,,,,,,,, “
    “Oh, your age. I shall make you twenty five at your physical peak.”
    “Good Lord, I’ll lose eleven years.”
    “ A trifle considering you will be immortal” Ready?”

    The ceremony was over and I walked up and down the beach as if I were top drawer but then I realized that would get me nowhere with Merlin. I settled down and Merlin began my first lesson. In the middle he stopped,
    “You know Wart there is someone you need to meet. She will be a close companion to you and it won’t be so bad for you. Can you guess of whom I talk?”
    “Yes, but I don’t dare hope about it.”
    “Wart, she has many names through history.”
    “Oh I know them all but my favorite is Viviane.”

    TO BE CONTINUED

    .”

  10. B.D. Blanco

    The Tenth Man
    (Machu Picchu, 1912)
    “Well Bertie, it doesn’t disappoint, does it?” Hiram Bingham smiled, surveying the lost city he had discovered just the year prior.
    “It takes my breath away,” wheezed Herbert Wells. “Or rather, that climb has taken my breath away.”
    “Come on Bertie, look around you, old son. Do you realize we are breathing the same air as those long-gone Incas? No one has surveyed this for three centuries.”
    “Technically, Hiram, the Inca survived, their empire did not.”
    “Good Lord, Bertie. Where is your sense of romance?”
    “I have a sufficiency of romantic notions knocking about in my head. Just ask my readers. I merely point out that the Incas are not…”
    “Oh, very well,” Bingham snorted in mock anger, his insuppressible grin reemerging. They stood in the sun in amiable silence, taking it all in.

    The porters sat in the shade chewing coca leaves, all save the tenth man in line. Pacha paced to-and-fro before the others. As he passed each man, he was taunted with a single word, Hagguar, whispered in a native dialect. This so distressed him that he threw himself to the ground, writhing as if in torment.
    “I tell you, Bertie,” Bingham started, watching the display, “Most of these porters are descent enough, but I don’t trust that Pacha fellow. They say he’s wanted for killing his own brother over a woman, a woman! Can you believe that?” He turned back and noticed that Wells had missed the entire show.

    “What is that?” asked Wells shading his eyes and pointing to the far side of the partially excavated site. “Is that a panther?”
    Bingham shaded his eyes and scanned the distant grassy mounds. “Technically, that is a black leopard.”
    “Is it dangerous?” asked Wells nervously.
    “Oh, quite,” replied Bingham lighting a cigarette, “They are known man-eaters. We lost a laborer last year. Disappeared in the night. We found his carcass in a tree next morning. Locals fear the black jaguar; believe it’s some sort of dark spirit.”
    “You don’t say.” Wells took an involuntary step back.
    “See how she tracks us with her eyes? She’s hungry.”
    “You don’t say.” He took another involuntary step back.
    “Look here, Bertie. You must to stop backing up, or you’ll fall off this mountain, and your publisher will likely have me shot.” Bingham chortled. “I’m pulling your leg, old son. We’re perfectly safe, rest assured.”
    Wells hid his embarrassment behind his handkerchief.
    “We’d best get down into camp. Sun will be down soon.” Bingham turned and called out to the porters in Spanish, “Adelante chicos!”

    The trail passed between two large boulders before descending into the lost city. Each porter paused to make the sign of the cross, a supplication for protection from the spirits of this place. The jaguar regarded the procession impassively, smelling the air as each man passed through the gateway. As the tenth man passed between the boulders, the big cat sprang to her feet and locked eyes on Pacha.

  11. Hiba Gardezi

    “What is that?” I looked over to Charlie, horrified.
    “Its…it’s just what you want” he said, distractedly pulling me along through the glittery crowds of people dancing and drinking champagne.
    I’d asked for a nice quiet night out away from my family’s drama
    Not a show to watch the “Famous Mademoiselle Suzanne” waltz alone on the stage and captivate all with her waist length curls and hooded eyes.
    He stopped in a corner.
    “Look,” he said “I know you’re not happy about this. But it’s important—”
    “Important? H—”
    “Hello everyone,” the woman let out dreamily, “welcome to tonight’s show with Mademoiselle Suzanne.”
    She smiled cockily at a camera.
    Great. Now we were on live television.
    “When I said I wanted to go to a nice place, I didn’t mean this,” I scolded Charlie.
    “I know that but you’ll see, you’ll not regret it.”
    “We are here, tonight,” she whispered dramatically “to dance and discuss.”
    The room filled with drunken laughter.
    I glared at him.
    “What?” he said, smirking as he took off his sarcoline coat, “Patience, patience.”
    “Discuss what?” She asked animatedly.
    “Oh, my friends! To discuss how to dance in Parisss!
    Someone turned on a terrible song to an uncomfortably high volume and she quickly broke out of her languid state, dancing forcefully and jumping about the stage.
    Everyone in the room began dancing, too, and singing pathetically, reminding me of my seven year old cousin, Tom. Id once paid him my months’ salary to stop.
    “I don’t enjoy this.”
    “Are you serious?” Charlie laughed, “What’s better than watching drunken fools make fools of themselves!?”
    “Are you drunk?”
    “Yes”
    My heart began racing.
    “You promi—”
    “No!” He laughed. “Em, I’m sorry. I thought you’d just like to loosen up a bit. This is dumb but it’s fun and you’ve been so tied up forever with—”
    “With work and my family. That’s right, but this won’t help.”
    He stopped and looked on seriously for a while.
    “Ok, come on.”
    “And where is this?” I asked.
    “The park behind that bar,” he told me quietly.
    His face was dark and downcast.
    “Ok, Charlie, what’s up?”
    “Nothing.”
    “You’re in a bad mood.”
    “Well no. It’s just.”
    “What?”
    “Ok fine. See, you’re different.”
    I raised my eyebrows.
    “Yes, yes you are. I’m worried about you. Em, you used to be so silly and—”
    I shot him a stare.
    “I mean smart but like silly by choice, just for kicks,” he stammers.
    I laugh.
    “See? How long has it been since I heard that laugh. And you used to be so happy and excited. What’s gotten into you? Are you okay?
    I sighed, “Charlie.”
    “Look, I know there’s something—Don’t lie to me.”
    I sat on the grass, “Sit down.”
    He did.
    “I’m going to jail.”
    “Ok stop, alright? I need you to be serious right now—”
    He stared at me.
    “No.”
    “Yes.”
    “Emily, how?”
    “They caught me for that night, last year on your birthday in Las Vegas, remember”
    “When you stole a motorcycle?”
    “It belonged to the hotel’s owner’s son” My eyes stung.
    “But jail?”
    “They found the drugs in my jacket.” I wiped the tears off my cheek. “It fell down.”
    “Oh, Em don’t cry, it’s gonna be alright.”
    “How?”
    He wore a pained expression. “That’s why you haven’t been around lately?”
    “Yes. And that’s why my parents are making such a ruckus.”
    “I’m sorry. You remember it was my fault, right?”
    “No.” I blinked back tears, “it wasn’t.”
    He gave me a look.
    “Ok, both of us. It was Lewis’s and Sam’s fault.” I said, remembering our games and the fake names we used to use. We even got IDs made.
    He smiled, “Like it’s always been.”
    He paused, eyes fixed on a swing, “Ok, look I promise I’m going to fix this.”
    I felt confused, “You can’t.”
    He shook his head.
    “Let’s do what we came out for.”
    I managed a smile.
    He stood up and gave me a hand.
    “First things first. Wipe your face” He took a tissue out of his pocket.
    “Right! I can’t sing like this.”
    He smiled so wide I thought his face must hurt.
    Charlie helped me through that night the way I’d been helping myself through the others. But I loved him for it. He made me feel young and innocent again. After a round of dancing with Mademoiselle followed by at least five hours at the Karaoke Studio, we decided I needed some sleep.
    The next morning broke my heart.
    “Emily,” my mother said at the breakfast table, “good news. Some Lewis Carroll has taken the blame for you.”
    “What?” I rubbed the sleep from my eyes.
    “Yeah, I’m surprised, too. And he’s got some kind of evidence. But don’t you go back to our old ways. You’ve been saved once.”
    “Lewis,” I laughed bitterly.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Hiba, there’s a lot going on here and I’m not certain how it all ties together, but the various threads are interesting. The Suzanne scene was very visual, with some good images. When I read “Lewis Carroll”, I wondered if the beginning was a reference to Wonderland. An enjoyable read with lots to think about.

  12. JRSimmang

    AREN’T WE ALL

    We never stopped talking. Perhaps it was because we were afraid of what would happen if there was ever a moment of silence between us. Perhaps we just didn’t want to listen to the persistent clinking constantly undercutting our conversations.

    It was always there. Circuitous. Repetitive. Unavoidable.

    We spent the better part of the summer of ’09 digging through the attic, ’10 through the basement, ’11 through the bedrooms, and ’12 in the kitchen and bathrooms.

    The only thing we found was an old pocketwatch, that was no longer running and stuck at 11:10, a stack of old newspapers dated September 12th, 1951 with an article about an exploding rocket, and a stuffed wenge llama with the initials JEH stitched into a tag on the collar. I made the joke that we’d found Jimmy Hoffa’s grave, but his middle name was Riddle, which led to another joke about Voldemort, but I was the only one in the family who’d read the Harry Potter series, so I was the only one who laughed.

    After our search revealed nothing but a few knickknacks, it became background noise. Isn’t that the way it always works? If you can’t beat it, invite it to join you.

    At first, dad dove into his work. He said it was because we desperately needed the money, but we all knew that it was because when he was home, he subconsciously tapped his toe to the pinging, trying to find the rhythm within it. It was syncopated and stumpy one moment, eloquent and didactic the next.

    Mom played piano until the tapping threw her off the keys for good. So, she blew the dust off her old typewriter and wrote a book. She said it reminded her of the “Tell-tale Heart”, only she wasn’t going crazy, not her. Not at all.

    I learned Morse code, binary, and even Gallifreyan. None of those helped, but it did make for interesting conversation starters, and I did feel like I was getting closer to figuring out what the sound was. There were clips of words hidden in the plinks and plunks. Words like “cleaning” and “weeping.” Words without context.

    “I’m going to check the basement again,” I shouted. “Then, I’m going to head up to the attic.”

    “Already done that!” Yelled my mom, the clicking and clacking of her typewriter steady and diligent. “Please be careful,” she added. I walked past her on my way out to kiss her cheek. On the pages drifting from her typewriter, I noticed letters stacked on letters. She had given up writing words, and now she strung together letters as a chain.

    The basement was outfitted for an apartment, but it was silent apart from the sound. The sound.

    Where was its origin?

    The cement walls dulled it considerably, and I reached subconsciously for the watch in my pocket. It ticked once.

    11:10:01

    Then again.

    11:10:02, and it kept ticking for nine more seconds.

    I couldn’t tell if the watch ticked with the sound or if the sound synchronized with the watch, but they found each other in the basement.

    It was the only sound I could hear.

    My dad’s toe-tapping, my mother’s click-clacking, none of it was there. None of their voices. My breathing blended so fluidly with the ping that I almost didn’t notice the llama.

    Floating in front of me, the llama with its strange name tag, beckoned me to follow it.

    I trailed behind it as it bobbled out of the basement, onto the patio, and back into the house. It led me past my mother, frozen over the typewriter, around my father, frozen in his chair as if posing for a picture, up the stairs, and into my room.

    It led me to the closet, to the hole I had yet to patch up, but instead of an odd newspaper clipping, I saw a glowing pinpoint light.

    I reached for it, as would any curious being, and the back of my head opened up in a flash of pain, so I yanked my hand back to rub the spot.

    “You must be more careful,” said the llama.

    I, for one, am not accustomed to speaking floating llamas.

    I reached out again, more tentatively. The pain was still there, but the slowness of my hand dulled it. I worked my fingers around it, and discovered it was a small hole. So, I pulled, gently, attempting to widen it.

    Hours seemed to have passed, and the hole was larger than my fist.

    Then my thigh.

    Across the golden shimmer, I could barely make out shapes. The back of my head was throbbing, but I couldn’t sit there any longer.

    I pushed my face through.

    And, the ticking stopped.

    “He’s waking up!” shouted one of them.

    “More anesthesia!” shouted another.

    “We’re so close!” cried a third.

    The ticking, slowly, slowly, slowly, rewound. Quiet at first. Gentle at first. Lulling me to sleep, to comfort, to a sense of recognition.

    I wanted the ticking back.

    I wanted to keep the conversation going.

    I wanted to be back with my pocket in my watch.

    “Sh, sh,” whispered the one closest to me. In the reflection of his glasses, I could see a face and nothing else. Behind these eyes, there was a blue sheet and another person furiously working on something. “You’re dead,” he said. “But… aren’t we all?”

    My closet really was a mess, I thought, and I picked up my llama, chuckled at my Harry Potter joke, and waltzed downstairs for lunch.

    It was a nice day.

    -JR Simmang
    Hadn’t been in in a while. Hope you all are doing great!

    1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      JR, it’s been mesmerizing! How delicious it all sounds as if I could taste your words in my mouth. The Harry Potter reference, the llama, the frozen moment, everything was so well-written that I couldn’t stop reading and savoring every word. You made my day with this piece.

    2. jhowe

      Really nice, JR. My initials are JEH, nut I don’t think I’ve ever worn a llama. This was well done with lots of little tidbits to add depth and keep the tension ramped up.

    3. Bushkill

      That was good. Very good. You did such a great job of connecting the beating and tapping to the arrival of the watch in the room. Artistry, that. Thanks for sharing.

    4. ReathaThomasOakley

      So pleased you are back with this amazing piece with so much to think about. We listen to classic radio when we travel and this reminded me of a cautionary tale from the 50s about the aftermath of an atomic attack, but with your survivor. The ticking, whatever the source, is a powerful element pulling everything together. Liked the image of the mom’s “book” and the dad going to work.

  13. ShamelessHack

    “Are you comfortable on ze couch, ja? Gut! Now…you are to begin! Tell me please everyzing.”

    ‘Well Doc, it all started really with Writer’s Digest prompts and really it seemed really innocent at the beginning, and really nice, y’know? Really.
    When I started contributing to this prompt forum I was living in Passaic, and Passaic really isn’t the nicest city, but Passaic isn’t really the lousiest city either, but would I really want to visit Passaic if I wasn’t really from Passaic? Not really.
    A lot of the time Passaic is really grey. You know: really grey clouds, really grey water in the Passaic River, a really grey feeling in the people who live in Passaic, or even in the vicinity of grey old Passaic. Really.
    That’s when I developed a twitch in my left eye (my eyes are grey, by the way) and this twitch was really, really annoying, even though 12% of Passaic residents have eye twitches and 88% of those people have grey eyes. Really. That’s why they have grey looks on their twitching grey Passaic faces. Not to mention their kind of animals they love to keep as pets…
    Hamsters. In Passaic there are really a lot of twitching, grey hamsters. Really. 75% of the grey, Passaic people own a really inordinate number of hamsters. Grey ones. With twitching left eyes. Am I lying? Not really. Consider the hobby most of the Passaic hamsters have…
    Bingo. Really! Hundreds of grey, twitching Passaic hamsters descend on the local churches Wednesday nights for Bingo tournaments. I’m not making this up. One of the really bright spots in grey Passaic life is watching these twitching rodents squeaking “Bingo” on Wednesdays. Really. And you know who wrote a book about them?
    Ernest Hemingway. Really. Did you know he lived in Passaic? Did you know he had grey hair? Did you know about the thing going on with his left eye? Really you should study your famous authors. I’m sure you’ve read A Farewell to Passaic, or For Whom the Bingo Tolls, or maybe The Old Hamster and the Sea. No? Really, you should bone up on these classics before your hair turns grey, your left eye starts twitching and you get shipped out to Passaic.
    Finally all this talking is making me feel like a million bucks. I just can’t stop talking and talking and talking like for a million years it really seems, and even though my vision is starting to go grey, it seems like my left eye stopped twitching, which hasn’t happened in the last million years, not even in Passaic, not even talking about watching the hamsters at Bingo, not even talking about the million books Hemingway wrote about a word you use too much, or the name of a city you’d like to visit or an unusual color, or a hobby, or physical quality, or animal, author, verb ending in –ing, a number, or, or…”

    “Are you all right? You zeem to be drooling unt shaking. Is zis vat happens when you contribute to Writer’s Digest Creative Prompts?”
    “Yes.”
    “Vell. It zeems you forgot ze last item on your list. Ze adverb.”
    “Oh no, I didn’t! I really really really really really really didn’t!”
    “Ach, then you have nothing to vorry about, Mr. Hack. Take zome Xanax and call me tomorrow.”
    “Thank you Dr. Zafarris.”

    1. Denise G. Monello

      I really loved this. And for some reason, I can’t get Passaic out of my mind–really! Great job and I loved the accent of the doctor, really well written.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, Hack, you give the prompts such attention to detail and serious consideration. Your devotion is inspiring. Think I’ll read this again.

    3. jhowe

      Can I talk to Doctor Zafarris when you’re through? I have a few things that have been bothering me. I just need to know if she’s a psychiatrist or a psychologist so I know if she can prescribe drugs.

    4. JosephFazzone

      I love the background! I Google Mapped Passaic, took a stroll down Main St., it’s got a really cool small town thing going on, never sure I would ever know how to really end up there. As random a place as ever. What I really love about that is what it opens up for some crazy story to come out of there. The Passaic sounds like a place you’d find some fossils for some reason. The hamsters got their game a going, and I’m left with one question. If I really really wanted to balance out the eye twitching, where can I get work done on the right? I really really really really need to know.

    5. Bushkill

      Really? Hamsters and Bingo? Clearly, there are some shady hamsters in that grey town under those grey clouds with all that grey water, cuz you done slipped some tiny grey pills that done gone and made your mind a grey muddled mess. Lovely format for writing.

  14. morrowsarahe

    **Untitled (for now)**

    A smaller nose.

    It had been her wish for at least a year, to have a smaller nose. At 13, Alice already decidedly disliked her nose. It was shaped like a boulder, she thought. It was small enough at the bridge, but from there it expanded out and dominated her other more delicate features, presenting as wide and bumpy, like the rocks she climbs at recess.

    Alice studied her nose in the mirror, pinching the bridge gently as if to decrease its size by sheer will and determination. She looked up from her nose, into her own chartreuse eyes and made a face.

    Alice had already drawn ten alternate noses in her three-ring binder during sixth period algebra, designing each one to fit perfectly with her face. Sitting next to her, Charlotte Fine, her oldest and most trusted friend, unconvincingly listed all the girls in their elective writing class who had bigger, bulkier noses than Alice, but she didn’t buy it. “There couldn’t be a person with a worse primary feature,” she sighed, crumpling the sheet of paper into a tight ball.

    **to be continued**

  15. Kerry Charlton

    AVALON,I’M COMING HOME

    I look forward to coming to the Mystrey Isle Of Avalon, where King Arthur rests and The Lady
    Of The Lake still walks the dry sand in the moonlight along the beach. Somewhere my magic shoes rest
    awaiting the sounds of my feet hitting the sand. It matters not that so many years have passed for the
    magic slippers will wait whether I come with life or perhaps with death. I am not afraid to come either
    way for no evil force can defeat my soul nor any sword that might think their force could penetrate my
    body, a host of angels travels within sight of me to guard from the evil.

    I remember the day the shoes were given to me, I had watched an old man casting into the waves
    while standing in the water.He took notice and I stood beside him as he told the strangest story I ever
    heard,

    “My name is Merlin and I know your’s it’s Wart. You don’t mind do you, Wart that is?”

    “I don’t feel like a wart, but I know who you think I am.”

    “You’re a clever lad and quick of mind. You should do.”

    “Do? Do what?”

    “Be the keeper son.”

    “Of what?”

    “Why, the flying shoes, of course.”

    “I’m not dunb sir, shoes don’t fly.”

    He grabbed my hand, I rose to the top of the waves with him and we walked to the shore above them.

    Quickly, his feet were enclosed by a strange pair of shoes.

    “Hold on tight Wart.”

    We rose in the air quickly, soared to a thousand feet and sped toward the horizon.

    Petrified I was but didn’t show it. In the ditance, quickly came into sight stood a giant wall two hundred

    feet high, spread from horizon to horizon.

    “We’re about to enter The Land Of Was,” he said. “When we soar over it, keep you eyes pealed for

    any Argentavis flying around. They can swallow you with one snip of their beak.”

    We passed over the huge wall and I saw a rain forest crowded witn dinosurs of every description.

    “Merlin, we’re not going down there are we?”

    “Of course we are, the shoes will protect us.”

    To be continued.

    1. Denise G. Monello

      I was thoroughly absorbed in your story from the first paragraph–which was so well written. Can’t wait for the continuation of the “shoes.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Denise. I wrote that paragraph so the reader would know that Wart did not leave by his own choice, but something serious happened to cause his, should we say[ escape]. You will find out in part four, what it is.

      1. Bushkill

        I’m going with Joe on this one. It’s all about the shoes. and Shoes that fly are worth a pretty penny. Wart should just buck up and enthusiastically nod yes.

        Of course, if the shoes will protect him on the ground, why is Merlin concerned about the flying critter? Does the flying critter also have shoes? are the shoes made from the hide of said critter’s cousin Bernie?

        More! More! More!

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I realized I slipped up on the prehistoric bird but it was too late, I had already posted it. Oh well, no one’s perfect. Now about the shoes, they are only for the chosen and since I didn’t choose you, you can.t have they. There is no way I can work Bernie into this unless we feed him to the bird and correct ourself.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        THE FLYING SHOES GO WAY BACK WITH ME OF A CHILDREN;S STORY THAT i HAVE WANTED TO WRITE ABOUT FOR A LONG TIME.THANKS FOR COMING WITH US AND THE SHOES.

  16. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

    “Good morning, my name is Alice, do you have a minute?”

    “Er-r-r “

    “Glad to hear it. I’d like to offer you a wonderful collection of lizards from all over the world. The names of their origin countries are tattooed on their bellies. The colors range from emerald green to deep blue “

    “I’m sorry, lizards?”

    “Oh, yes, the most magnificent lizards you’ve ever had in your life.”

    “Well, I’ve never had lizards in my life, not that I ever “

    “What’s your name?”

    “Er-r-r Greg.”

    “Greg, you are unique. We only have one collection to sell to one single person and your phone number was the first I dialed. It was a random choice, you’d say, but I think it was destiny.”

    “Well, I’m not sure “

    “Greg!..Gregory, I’ve never seen you in person, but your voice suggests that you’re a handsome, strong man, always the winner. Any woman would be happy to be near you.”

    “Nah, mine wouldn’t agree with you.”

    “Seriously? You’re teasing me, Greg. With that powerful voice of yours, you’d sweep any woman of her feet. And imagine if you have a collection of lizards on top of that. How many of your friends have pet lizards?”

    “Well, none, actually.”

    “See? You’ll be the one and only. You’ll always have something to talk about, to show people. Some say, lizards are little dragons.”

    “Are they?”

    “Who knows, Greg, who knows. Maybe in your care they’ll grow wings.”

    “Dunno. What care do they need?”

    “They are very easy to look after, trust me. You’ll get the hang of it in no time. Well, Greg, are you ready to conquer the hearts of people around you? Are you ready to become famous and most loved?”

    “Well, just because I have lizards “

    “Just because you have lizards, Greg. Listen to me, they are ancient creatures full of ancient aura.”

    “What’s that?”

    “That’s something that will make you rich and successful.”

    “Like Chinese frogs?”

    “Chinese frogs are not even close. But lizards, they are glorious, those creatures. Your life will never be the same after you bring them home.”

    “I actually live with my girlfriend.”

    “She’ll be delighted. Make it a surprise for her. I’m telling you as a woman, she’ll go crazy. I’ve just sent you a message to your cell phone. All you need is to send ‘I consent’ as a reply and there you have it your order is placed.”

    “Sounds easy.”

    “All good things in life are simple and easy, Greg. Don’t make your life complicated, enjoy it, do what you want, have pet lizards. You’re free to enjoy this world however you decide to.”

    “Okay, I guess. ‘I consent’, right?”

    “Correct. I have your message, Greg. Thank you for your order. It’ll be delivered in three to five days with the invoice.”

    “Right, how much are the bastards, anyway?”

    “Freedom, Greg. Enjoy your life, let yourself be surprised. Thank you and have a great day today. Bye.”

    “Bye-bye…what was your name again?..Hello?”

  17. JosephFazzone

    Kunkle rose a disapproving grey bushy brow and barked, “Mad Lib Report!”

    “What is that?” Flopsy Daisy queried with a hop and a frisk of his whiskers, promptly gave a quick bow as he tipped his chartreuse chapeau.

    “The series of random choices we need in order to concoct our brave digress into a rapid rabid attempt to construct our little adventure.”

    “Alas the spitting on canvas approach, Kunkle, Right in our wheel house.” Flospy spoke with a hint of consternation, a smidge of consultation, and a dash of constipation, which is, of course, another story, but one, whose moral deals with the issues regarding the feeding wildlife human food, whilst they disregard the fibrous carrots which aid in their pellet-like…. ah, see??? I was monologuing. It doesn’t just happen to super villains, you know?

    “Sullen, Flopsy Dear,” Kunkle crackled and croaked. “You have made me sullen. Was that your aim?”

    “I’m no archer, Kunkle. If anything, I wish I were taller.” Flopsy voided his attempts at levity. Shrewdly, he challenged the icy blistering blue that would the drive painter’s mind mad trying to replicate. “A little taller, and I’m a rabbit with a hat. Just need something else.”

    “Yes, yes. Just about as interesting a conversation as the average rainfall of Centralia, PA in the month of September.” He hesitates and waits.

    “I’m going to guess 3.745 inches,” Flopsy answered instantly.

    “Is it?”

    Flopsy shrugged. “I’m a rabbit with a hat, and some vehicle that was manufactured around 1964.”

    “Mustang?”

    Flopsy lips syncs the lyrics, whiskers twitched, cotton tail bounced, and the fedora flopped. “I think it’s that animal with the horns. Cheetah’s chase them.”

    “No idea,” Kunkle said no longer interested in the direction the conversation was taking. “But I asked you for the report. Have we made it?”

    “Easily enough, my good Kunkle,” Flopsy sang in verse, Chartreuse chapeau chopping through the air for emphasis. “We have us an unusual color, an animal, verbs ending in -ing all over the place…hobbies and physical qualities a person might like, and a number!”

    “Lies!” Kunkle’s curled finger crooked its way into Flopsy’s personal space. “There was also a city you’d like to visit. You have exceeded the max, why is it always extra credit with you?”

    “Ha!” Flopsy countered. “I would never want to visit Centralia, PA. The entire city is condemned, the entire place is above a coal man that is still on fire. Fire, Kenkle. Does that sound like a good place to bring the family to?”

    “Well Ha HA!” Kenkle countered his counter. “What about all the adverbs? What about the -ing words? What, good sir Flopsy, about the word you use too much?”

    “This story is adverb free. And as far as the word I used too much, how do you avoid that, or -ing words for that matter.”

    “There’s no adverbs?” Kunkle asked.

    “Okay they’re probably here with the -ing words, and that word that I always use.” Flopsy sobbed pitifully.

    “Well then we should make some concessions.” Kunkle insisted.

    “We could just move on with our lives,” Flopsy suggested timidly.

    “Stop adding adverbs,” Kunkle pouted.

    “Sorry.”

    He sighed. “Very well, off into the sunset.”

    “After you.”

    1. Bushkill

      yeah, the worlds longest burning fire is in that coal vein. Just a smoldering mess.
      Solid read and sound approach to the prompt. I loved the way you described how writing some of these prompts feels.

  18. Denise G. Monello

    • a word you use too much. Eh
    • the name of a city you’d like to visit. Castellammare del Golfo
    • an unusual color. Turquoise
    • a hobby. Cooking
    • a physical quality a person might wish for. Small butt
    • an animal. Rhino
    • a famous author. Agatha Christie
    • a verb ending in -ing Eating
    • a number. Seven
    • an adverb. Sleepily

    Antonio & Giovanni
    The turquoise sea gently greeted the shoreline. It’s tender current gingerly tossed the weathered fishing boats. Steel cables softly clanged upon the tall masts of the sailboats as they lazily weaved back and forth by the delicate breath of the air. Huge fishing nets were piled haphazardly on the weathered concrete piers. The tiny fishing village, flanked by massive mountains, caress small colorful houses randomly nestled in its rocky surface. Their window boxes displaying rainbows of flowers saturating the breeze with a sweet aroma.

    Perched precariously on enormous boulders randomly living between the sand and the sea, sit Giovanni and Antonio. Resting with them is a bottle of wine and a rickety homemade grill, slowly cooking their catch of the day. As they take a swig and pass the bottle, Giovanni and Antonio scour locals of Castellammare del Golfo.

    “Eh, Gio, what’s a that?” Antonio asked as he squinted his eyes from the glowing afternoon sun.

    “She’s a lady, stupido,” Giovanni loudly replied.

    “I know she’s the lady–that a thing she’s got in the back. It looks like the rhino.”

    “Rhino? Eh, that’s a her butt. Gooda God, she’s got a big back-a-side. I wonder if she prays for the small a butt?”

    “Eh, at least she’s no ugly. Ugly faccias they ruin the lunch,” Antonio nonchalantly replied.

    “Who cares? Whens the fish she gonna be done? I’m a starvin’.”

    “Eh, ’bout seven minuti. A few more of the swig and then we be eating, no you worry, Gio.”

    “I no worry, I’m a hungry.”

    The men continued to slug their wine and impatiently wait for their afternoon snack.

    “She’s a done,” Antonio shouted. He grabbed the crispy charred aquatic delights and placed them on soiled rags. He held one out to Giovanni.

    “Eh, she looks a nice.” With his mouth full Giovanni questioned? “She’s a mystery–so many fish in the sea–the sea, she never runs out. She’s the mystery.”

    “Fishin’ she’s no like the mystery book like–what’s her name she writes? Chrissy? Agathia? She’s no mystery book. It’s a God. He keeps puttin’ a back what we take out so we can a always eat.”

    “Eh, maybe you a right. Anyway, wine, a fish and the fat lady, she makes for a nice a lunch,” Giovanni said as he and Antonio yawned sleepily. They reclined on their boulder, placed the empty bottle of wine between the rocks and picked lunch remnants from their teeth with the fish bones strewn in their soiled rags.

    1. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Hello, Denise. Thank you for plunging me into the Italian atmosphere and making me remember some words I learned quite a while ago)) Your take on the prompt has a nonchalant and easy ring to it. However, I’d like to throw a few flies in the ointment.
      In your very first paragraph (which is very beautifully written descriptionwise) you used 6 adverbs, 4 of which in the first three short sentences. I’d cut a few to make the narration smoother.

      The gentle turquoise sea greeted the shoreline. It’s tender current tossed the weathered fishing boats. Steel cables touched the tall masts of the sailboats with a soft clung as they weaved back and forth by the delicate breath of the air. Huge fishing nets were piled haphazardly on the weathered concrete piers. The tiny fishing village, flanked by massive mountains, caress small colorful houses nestled in its rocky surface. Their window boxes displaying rainbows of flowers saturating the breeze with a sweet aroma.

      It’s a long disputed issue of using adverbs in books, and I tend to think adverbs can be very useful, but some times you do have to limit them for the sake of the flow.
      You made your characters speak with an accent, which I like, as they get distinct voices, however at some point it was very hard to understand what they were saying.
      All it all, reading your story was a great pleasure.

      1. Denise G. Monello

        Lucretia, your “flies” are always welcomed. Never knew adverbs were an issue in books–thanks for informing me. It’s helpful advice because I tend to write whatever thoughts come to mind when I observe something or someone–sort of like “I tell it like I see it.” Thanks again.

    2. Hiba Gardezi

      I love this Italian atmosphere and the characters are just so nicely written. I love how you focused on just a tiny moment in time with such detail.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It reads so easy and goes down like an Oreo cookie, double icing
        My wife and and I like anything Italion and the accent seems perfect
        Two characters I would like to read more about.

  19. ReathaThomasOakley

    a word you use too much.
    the name of a city you’d like to visit. (Clearwater)
    an unusual color.
    a hobby.
    a physical quality a person might wish for.
    an animal. (Puppy)
    a famous author.
    a verb ending in -ing (creaking)
    a number. (Eight)
    an adverb. (Finally)
    (Readers, indulge me, please. This is long and personal, but I need input. A few weeks ago I had great visits with both a literary agent and a publisher, both of whom were interested in my Annie book and want to see it. I shared with the agent that after comments from some readers, not on this site, there is confusion as to genre. I never saw it as a children’s or even middle school book, but adult. The agent suggested that I “frame” the stories from an adult perspective. I thought of Call the Midwife, the PBS series, not the book, and started planning. The prompt two weeks ago got me started, but lots of real life stuff happened and I didn’t get this finished then. I’ve thrown in some of the prompt, to keep this legal. What’s here will most likely be prologue, with Chapter One being a version of stories from January 19, 26, and February 9, 2016, already rewritten. An epilogue might finish the frame. Thanks for any comments, or assistance, I do hope to one day see Annie in print.)

    Porlogue
    Ann tried to ignore her creaking knees as she climbed the attic stairs.
    “Should have asked the boys to bring it down when they do the rest,” she muttered to herself. Then laughed. “But, one of them would have looked inside and I’d never heard the end of it.” She pulled herself up the last step into the space she hadn’t visited for years, not since just after the funeral when she’d brought his record albums up, albums she’d let her sons go through.

    They had made certain all the lights were working, that the floors were swept, that she had a place to sit with a stack of boxes and plastic garbage bags. Good boys, she thought, then laughed again. Forty-five and nearly fifty, boys, indeed.

    She hadn’t told them her goal so there were still things to move from the top, but nothing too heavy, crocheted Afghans she’d wash and donate, empty photo albums, who used those anymore, and a few sweaters from when they’d traveled to Yellowstone that year.

    Finally the top was clear and she was ready. First she ran her fingers over the scratches and divots in the once pristine wood, her cedar chest, her hope chest, high school graduation present from her parents. Each mark a memory of military travel, of the puppy who liked to chew, of moves from rental home to rental home and the final move, to their forever home where the treasured piece was relegated to the attic.

    Now Ann was leaving this place for an apartment closer to her oldest son and his family over in Clearwater, an area she’d always wanted to visit more, and fifty years needed to be edited, her daughter-in-law’s word. The bedroom set was chosen, as was the dinette set, no need for the big table and eight chairs, sofa and two comfortable chairs, a few tables, lamps, her mother’s sewing table for her computer, books, odds and ends, flotsam and jettison of a lifetime.

    The cedar scent was still strong, a powerful memory of when she chose it. Later she’d go through the tray with the bride and groom from her parents and then her own wedding cake, baby teeth, and invitations, now she was looking for just one thing. As she dug down past the knitted baby clothes from her mother-in-law and her wedding dress with the unfinished zipper her fingers found the hard edge of the box, and she smiled because she knew what she’d find inside the cigar box, the Gulf Life Insurance memo books carefully filled with observation notes from that year she was a detective. Over sixty years before, but Ann remembered as if it was yesterday the weekend it all began.

    1. jhowe

      Reatha, I like the epilogue of Annie as an adult. You end it (the epilogue) nicely with Ann remembering her past perfectly and poised to jump into it. I’m really thrilled you have the interest in this project. There’s a charm to Annie that the publisher and agent see, so your foot is solidly in the door jamb. I wish you great success with this. I see the book as adult drama, but I’m not sure what your gut is telling you as to genre.

      1. Denise G. Monello

        I love whatever you write–including this prompt. From my extremely uneducated eye, and what I’m getting from this piece of work alone–I see it as an adult book and genre would be women’s fiction. But, again, I’m lucky I know what genre my work is. Believing for your success!!

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Thanks, I always saw Annie as for adults, but since she tells her story as a fourth grader, some saw it as a children’s book. However, an eleven year old granddaughter totally gets it.

      2. ReathaThomasOakley

        J, thanks. I appreciate your comments and you know Annie pretty well. I always saw the book as appealing to those who might be interested in a simpler world, ready to change. Adult it is! Thanks for the positive words.

        1. Critique

          The stories that I’ve read about your Annie I thought were for an adult. I enjoyed reading them (I enjoy all of your stories Reatha) and your gifted writing drew me right in to the story line and the wonderful characters. I wish you great success in getting your story published.

    2. Lucretia_BezBawni_Amstell

      Reatha, I join Jhowe in wishing you luck with your book. It´s always a great sense of achievement when one is published, quite similar to having a baby born. You asked for some feedback, so please bear with me, I have a habit of being meticulous even with good pieces. And your prologue is very good, I think. Its best virtue, I’d say, is the way you managed to tell so much background in such a short text. I feel like I know Ann quite a bit.
      Here is my tuppence to your pool of gold:
      1. There’s a typo: Porlogue=> Prologue
      2. In the sentence below you’d better remove ‘that’ altogether or add one before each clause (‘that all the lights were working’):
      They had made certain all the lights were working, that the floors were swept, that she had a place to sit with a stack of boxes and plastic garbage bags.=>
      They had made certain all the lights were working, the floors were swept and she had a place to sit with a stack of boxes and plastic garbage bags
      3. I’m not sure I understand the meaning of the phrase ‘and fifty years needed to be edited, her daughter-in-law’s word’. But it could be just me.
      4. In the sentence below where you say ‘no need for….’ I suppose you list the old things they are not going to take with them, right? The way you structured it, it reads as if you referred to the dinette set.
      The bedroom set was chosen, as was the dinette set, no need for the big table and eight chairs, sofa and two comfortable chairs, a few tables, lamps, her mother’s sewing table for her computer, books, odds and ends, flotsam and jettison of a lifetime.
      5. And finally, to be absolutely grammatically correct, I’d replace ‘was’ with ‘were’ here: Ann remembered as if it was yesterday the weekend it all began.=>Ann remembered as if it were yesterday the weekend it all began.
      Hope it helped. And again all the luck you need with your publication!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks for your careful reading. I’ll look at your suggestions. This piece has a long history, a continuing story of Annie’s fourth grade year back in 1954-55. One publisher wanted it a year ago, but I knew it wasn’t ready then. I’m now experimenting with a frame and flashback body of the book. The encouragement from folks here kept me going with Annie and two other characters.

    3. JosephFazzone

      Annie is old?!?!?! Crazy! I loved this, it was so touching and heart warming. I’m not very good at critiquing something like this, I’m sorry. I will say that I think you wanted the sentence to read “odds and ends, flotsam and jetsam of a lifetime.” instead of jettison. I love the cedar, that her boys are much older which means, not only have we missed Annie’s childhood, teens, marriage, but we also have fifty years of her growing up with her children. That’s a lot of wonderful stories to tell. I can’t wait to see them in print. It’s not an if, it’s when! Hooray!!!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Joseph. I doubt I can do the fifty years between Annie starting fifth grade and this, but your comments make me believe framing the whole thing between a prologue, what’s here, and an epilogue with Ann leaving the attic with her little books, might work. Thanks for catching jettison. Auto correct is evil. Your comments keep me going.

    4. ShamelessHack

      Reatha, you have a unique voice as I’ve said before, and a good one. Really good. Don’t get too hung up in what genre you are told you have to cubbyhole your book in. Genres are for amateurs, and a good piece of work will find its own audience and its own level. You are destined to succeed, absolutely.

      Hack

    5. Hiba Gardezi

      Reatha, you’ve always been a great writer to me and I hope very much to hear that you are published soon! That said, I liked this piece but I still feel like, perhaps, there could be a debate about the genre. You know, Alice in Wonderland is a book with a child as the protagonist but it’s read widely by adults today (though there is a debate about whether it is meant for adults or children). Perhaps, that is because of the feeling of heavy metaphors and the delicious surrealism in the tale. But it’s also because of the fact that Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are as Virginia Woolf put it ” the only books in which we become children”. I can’t say whether your book is like that because I have been inactive for a long, long time but from what I remember you do write very well. I feel, however, if your stories can be interpreted through an analogy like this or another to be a book for adults, too and you really believe it is then you could try to make publishers see your side of the story. But at the end, it is your choice whether you believe it is better to add an adult perspective or not! Good luck 🙂

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Hiba. From yours, and others, comments, I think I got too involved with genre. I think I will work on a frame, at least a prologue and epilogue, and keep the body from Annie’s nine-ten year old point of view. Beebles, below, hit on something very important I’d neglected. Thanks, again.

        1. Hiba Gardezi

          I’m so glad we could help you! I think that’s what I love most about our little prompt writing community. We’re all a team of very similar people who can always help out– so no need to thank me!

    6. Beebles

      Hi Reatha,

      You know we all think you deserve it, so keep at it. As to genre, I always thought it was adult, if only because of the subtleties in the language and I have detected adult themes in some of your Annie pieces – lines that look to be a child’s innocent view without understanding the fully adult meaning -that could be just my sad mind. I don’t do criticism well – in its widest sense – as some of my posts on here bear witness, but, in the hope of providing something concrete to consider: it is a lovely piece, all the more so because we have encountered the girl before the woman, and it has your characteristic detail that I really like. My immediate reaction was dialogue – a real strength of your writing. Perhaps introducing a bit of dialogue – relating to conversations referred to or insinuated in this piece – would show what the reader can expect: your wit and understanding of nuance and character, maybe something we can take from Ann and recognise in Annie. As such it might be longer, building a bit of suspense as to what it is she is really after: I don’t know how Annie’s story unfolds, what the endgame is, whether her detecting lead to something more profound, but is there room for an allusion, the slightest hint of where it leads or why Ann looks back on it so fondly? As you know, the more you can do to hook the reader/agent/publisher in the first page or so, the better the experience.

      Well that’s all my drivel. Now, can I show you how to suck these eggs …..

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, so very much for pointing out something essential: I left out dialogue! And, there is little of Annie/Ann’s voice. I’ve mentally rewritten this with Ann going up the stairs, talking to her family below. Epilogue will be her descending, holding the cigar box, ready for the next phase of her life, still Annie.

        In the book Annie gets in very serious trouble for her detecting (snooping?) and is punished rather harshly just after her tenth birthday. It’s all resolved before school is out for the summer, but her idyllic childhood is almost over. She’s looking forward to fifth grade, but also learns Wilfred is moving. That’s how it ends.

        Thank you, and everyone, again, for all the encouraging words, here and in the past.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I read every comment posted here and two things I believe will help you as they have helped through the years
          Firstly, this is your book be true to yourself and not some editor wet behind the you know.
          Secondly, never, never and neve

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Well I cut myself off. What I meant is never give up. Think of all that happy people would miss if it were not published. It is an honor story, a true story and a damn fine story. Go get them girl.

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