Table for Two

The First Thanksgiving, 1621 | Jean Leon Gerome Ferris [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Romanticized though it may be by works like the one above, the first Thanksgiving represents a spirit of sharing, peace, joy and multicultural cooperation. Warm wishes from the WD family to you and yours for a peaceful holiday and a bounteous celebration.

The Prompt: Craft a story or scene about two people—or other nonhuman characters, if you prefer—from very different backgrounds sharing a meal together. What do they learn about each other that they weren’t expecting?

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

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212 thoughts on “Table for Two

  1. Jennifer Park

    18. The Temptation

    [Follows “17. The Revelation”, posted under “Character Content.” Continuing the pattern of important conversations in her life taking place over a pizza dinner. You can see a listing of the Darth Barbara saga chapters—all of which are posted under WD prompts—by clicking on my name above.]

    “So, the diplomatic corps wants you, Barbara,” her handler said. He took a bite of his pizza, and chewed on it sadly. “That means… you cannot be…” As a diplomat, she would be too public a figure to be an Estate spy.

    “I know, but I’ll still be loyal.”

    “You know what? I know you will be, but let me say, I strongly advise against it.”

    Surprised, Barbara put down the slice she was about to bite into. The handler had personally made the pizza, and it was mediocre. Sourcing good wheat remained a problem for the Earthlings away from Earth.

    “Think about it… You know what the Estate has… become. It will teeter on as a secret fraternity, but it has lost its… ummm…”


    “Sense of mission. Yes. I have no choice. I have no talent other than being a spoiled brat and a closeted Bohemian. You have… You have a lot more going for you. I can see it. You will go far. Being in the Estate has brought you this far, so, great, but it’s time for you to strike out on your own. For your own. Know what I mean?”


    “Sorry this pizza did not come out so good. I was trying a new brand and…” He shook his head apologetically. “And it’s the Estate that should be loyal to _you_. You are the real deal. You are what the Estate should be, and we know it. The Union… our Empire… it’s not doing so well, as you know. What happened on Ga-2 is just the beginning… of the end. The Estate cannot stop it. You can.”

    Tim had said something similar to Barbara. Barbara suppressed the urge to tear up by picking up the slice, and taking a hearty bite. There was a hint of bitterness, but it was not from the pizza.

    A sizable portion of Galactic leadership had already thought that the whole god-act was starting to wear thin. It was clear that many species saw right through it and simply played along. Even among the backwards species, many of the leaders, who were in close contact with Earthlings, were in on the charade.

    Still, it would have been catastrophic for Earthlings to suddenly be revealed as mere mortals during a public ceremony, so Barbara’s improv performance had, essentially, bought them some time to orchestrate a soft-landing of the myth, abandoning it with advanced species, but keeping it for the backwoods, for instance. Or some other combination of similar approaches.

    “Maybe. Maybe you can stop it.”


    “Officially, I am here to make you decline the job offer.” As a subambassador to a consulate on Hahihu, a planet in a far-flung octant. “By tempting you with fabulous pizza.” He smiled embarrassedly, waving what remained of his slice. He dropped it on his plate, and picked up a new slice.

    Barbara smiled back, and watched him polish it off.

    “Empire forever… Empire forever, Subambassador Barbarella.”

  2. facelessone

    The Prompt: Craft a story or scene about two people—or other nonhuman characters, if you prefer—from very different backgrounds sharing a meal together. What do they learn about each other that they weren’t expecting?

    “HOLA! COMO ESTAS MI AMIGO!? “ Said the Cactus to the Tortilla.
    Tortilla, “I speak English Asshole.”
    Cactus – “So do I! What!? You think you’re better than me?!”
    Tortilla – “ I am better than you. I am loved by millions while you are left to die in the desert.”
    Cactus – “Hey I like the desert! It’s peaceful.”
    Tortilla – “And by peaceful you mean boring.”
    Cactus – “Speaking of boring, your mom was boring in bed last night. Still covered her in sour cream though….if you catch my drift.”
    Tortilla – “That’s it!” Tortilla leaps at Cactus but is immediately wounded by the Cactus pricks.
    Tortilla – “Ouch! You prick!”
    Waitress comes to table, “So may I start you two with some beverages.”
    Cactus – “Some water please, I’ve been in a desert for the past few years. I’m fucking thirsty.”
    Tortilla – “Watch your language around a lady.” Tortilla winks at Waitress.
    Waitress – “I’m sorry….but I am taken by a flour tortilla. I am not into corn tortillas like you.”
    Tortilla – “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” While on his tortilla knees shouting towards the sky in despair.
    Cactus twirls his prickly moustache and laughs like if he was a super villain, “Muahahahaha! Muahahahahaha. Muahahahaha!”
    Cactus hands the waitress $5 when the tortilla isn’t looking because he is too busy sobbing. He whispers to the waitress, “Thanks for that.”
    The END

  3. MooasaurusRex

    “Um…”She started, then stopped. That had been the thirteenth ‘um…’ that night. The date was not exactly going smoothly.
    “Let’s try something new,” I suggested, “since obviously we have the combined small talking capabilities of two antisocial rocks. I’ll ask you a question and then you’ll ask me one. The catch is that we both have to answer each question.”
    “Alright.” She said. “What’s your favorite color? Mine’s blue.”
    “Mine’s blue too. What’s your favorite book? Mine’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
    “Mine’s 1984. What’s your least favorite color? Mine’s puke green.”
    “I’m noticing a common theme in your questions. Mine is amber.”
    “What’s your favorite food? I love crackers.”
    “Ok. Mine is french toast. What’s your biggest accomplishment? Mine was working up the courage to call 911 after I had decided I wanted to live a few minutes after ingesting the pills.”
    “Oh. I’m so sorry.”
    “Don’t be. You didn’t cause it or influence it in anyway, and besides, that’s in the past.”
    “Alright. I don’t have one.”
    “What do you mean you don’t have one? You must’ve accomplished something.”
    “Sure. But nothing I’m proud of.”
    “Oh come on. You graduated high school right? Why not that?”
    “I went to high school in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan there is a strong push against girls receiving education. There was a girl in my town who decided to go to high school. On her walk to her first day of school, a group of boys and I stopped her. I threw the first blow at her. I’ll never forget her eyes, or the way they closed as she creamed out in pain. They were a bright amber. A few teachers came out to cheer us on. When I got home my parents congratulated me. I can’t be proud of an education that encouraged me to such brutality.”
    “Oh my god. That’s awful.”
    “I will never forgive myself for what I have done.”
    “Have you really accomplished nothing?”
    “Nothing to be proud of. My career in the military forced me to witness the deaths of countess men, some because of me. I had a love for a time. She would wear a blue burqa, and I always felt such joy when I saw her. I never told her or her family how I felt, however, and I stood idly by when her family arranged her marriage to another man. She later committed suicide to escape his abuse.”
    “I’m so sorry.”
    “Don’t be. You didn’t cause it or influence it in anyway.” I reflected her words back to her.
    “Guess we’re both kinda messed up, huh?”
    “You would be safe in saying that.”

  4. Jennifer Park

    36. The Punishment

    [Follows “35. The Servant”, under “Custom Etymology”]

    The everyday Duumtipaatiiti folks responded to Barbara’s massacre of the Cabinet with something approaching logical approval. They, like many species, believed that government was theft, after all, so the fact that the government had been stealing—albeit from their oppressive imperial overlords—just confirmed their prejudices, making Barbara a folk hero of sorts.

    The Council of Thirty, of course, was a different matter. They did not disagree with her choice of actions, per se, but it was something that should have been left to the investigative services, or the military, or the Death Star. They had to impose some semblance of discipline on this intrepid diplomat.

    “And you understand, Ambassador,” said the Emissary, whose low rank was meant to convey the seriousness of her offense, “that there are now four small rebellions to deal with. We could have rooted them all out quietly.” Some of the Duumtipaatiiti’s allies had decided to go for broke, foolishly. “But, no, you had to…” He waved his arms in a manner suggestive of mass murder.

    Barbara deliberately took a large bite of her pizza, so she would have more time to formulate her response.

    “Ironically, the new Duumtipaatiiti Cabinet is completely compliant, and wishes to keep you here…”

    Barbara almost choked on her pizza. Gagged. Sputtered.

    The Emissary waited for her to finish resuscitating herself, and then continued, “So, it falls on me to determine whether it is more punishing for you to be sent away, or to be kept here.”

    Barbara wanted to plead for mercy. Anywhere but this forsaken planet! Please! She had had it with these duplicitous, overthinking, thick-skinned lobsters.

    The Emissary took a bite of his pizza, finally. “Mmm! This is good pizza!”

    “Lobster,” Barbara explained.

    The Emissary spewed it out. “What?!”

    “Lobster and anchovy. My favorite. Had it shipped from Earth.”

    The Emissary blinked. “So…”

    “No, not local ‘lobster’. That would be… undiplomatic.” Barbara smiled her best sweet smile.

    The Emissary blinked some more. He looked at his pizza, and looked like he was about to throw up.

    Barbara took another bite.

    “I take that to mean that you understand the gravity of the situation.”

    “I do.”

    “So, returning to my mission…” He decided to take a bite anyway. “Good pizza.”

    “Good wheat, really, I think.”

    “It’s true. Awesome crust on this.”

    “The Kryzlamei wheat is the best.”

    “Indeed. Indeed. And, what shall we do with you?”

    “I think… I should be… suspended… perhaps… for a couple of years?”


    “You know… not be out in the field.” Barbara wobbled her head in a manner suggestive of homesickness.

    “Ah. I see… Well… in that case… Tstrini, it is.”

    “Tstrini?” It was Barbara’s turn to blink. That was a military-strategically important planet on the far side of the galaxy. Somewhat unruly. Ripe for rebellion.


    It would be a promotion.

    The Emissary winked, and took a sip of water. “They do not have fresh wheat there.”

    “Oh, darn… I guess I’ll have to accept my punishment willingly.”


  5. FBradley708


    “I don’t see how quit eating this stuff. It’s so good!”
    “You’re disgusting, Bill, you really are. I mean, look at your face! You have steams of intestines hanging from the side of your beak, and blood and feces dripping down the side of your neck onto your feathers. Do you plan on bathing today, or are you going to let it dry up on you and let it sit there? You used to be somewhat decent at mealtime, but here lately…CAR!”
    Bessie screamed as the two of them spread their wings and took flight, making laps around the small section of highway until the car passed. It was a cool, crisp evening and another possum had tried mindlessly crossing the road without looking and fortunately for Bill, dinner was served.
    “As I was saying, you really should quit being such a vulture. You’re sloppy, and it’s grossing me out.”
    “Look, said Bill, I can’t say I like your new lifestyle. I mean, what kind of vulture eats corn and hay? I’m sure Mr. Henry doesn’t like what you’ve been doing to his scarecrow lately, and if you’re not careful, he may end up doing something about it, and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you. I love you. Anyway, I didn’t marry you for your eating habits. Something is changing in you, and I can’t say I like it, but I have your back, babe. I don’t care what you eat, just don’t criticize me for how I pick apart my dinner. After all, I am an animal!”
    He winked and smiled at Bessie, just before poking his beak through the possum’s eye hole.
    “I guess you’re right, Bill. I have been rough on you lately. I don’t know what’s been going on with me. Seeing so much road kill day after day has done something, and I’m taking it out on you. I’m sorry, honey. Forgive me?”
    “There’s nothing to forgive. I just need you to back off me when I’m eating. You’re not exactly a lady, you know.”
    “You better watch it, mister!” She smiled.
    She took a deep sigh and watched as Bill finished up his dinner, looking at him in a way that only he knew.
    “I know that look. What’s going through that head of yours? You want some of this now? Have a change of heart, did you?”
    Bessie picked up the remains of Bill’s breakfast and wrapped it around herself in a revealing, sensual way, giving him “the look.” He grabbed her wing and pulled her to the nearby woods. Dessert was on the menu.

  6. JosephFazzone

    What’s this?

    Gruyere Cheese.

    Gray Air?

    Gruyere, it’s French.

    It’s cheese.

    Yes, Gruyere cheese.

    It’s not even gray.

    Doesn’t have to be.


    Because it’s Gruyere cheese, not gray air.

    Does Gruyere mean gray air?


    How do you know?

    Je parle parfaitement français.

    What does that mean?

    It means, I know Gruyere cheese doesn’t mean gray air.

    Fair enough. What do you do with it?

    Green apples pair well with it.

    Apples? You people are weird.


    Speaking extra languages, eating fancy cheeses.

    Is there something wrong with that?



    I’m jealous.


    Because I have to live vicariously through you. Your hand is up my…

    Look, that’s not the point.

    That’s up there too.


    It doesn’t have to be it…well, well, well, this bit is all floundering.

    It is, perhaps after lunch.

    Yeah, we can’t talk, and you eat all at the same time.

    If only I could.

    If only you were the dentist, your mom wishes you could be.

    That’s low, even for you.

    After lunch.

    After lunch.

    The man put the dummy into its case. Material would have to be gone through afterwards. He looked at the cheese before he took a bite. “It does sound like gray air,” he defends his joke.

    “Floundering,” the dummy calls from the case.

    The man grumbles, and scratches off the joke from the list.

  7. smnthageorge

    “You still don’t eat ketchup with your fries?”

    Jill looks up and frowns. “No…why would I?”

    I tap my foot and do another quick glance at the diner door. it’s like I’m expecting someone to walk in. Expecting her to walk in.

    Jill clears her throat in a way that makes me sick. She looks disgusting. Her hair is brittle, her face is bruised and tattered and her dark brown eyes seem black under the fluorescent lights. It’s weird a few years ago I was in the same spot.

    The waitress walks over and smiles at me. “You sure, I can’t offer you anything, sir?” One leering sideways glance at Jill, the waitress says, “I see your…friend is already half done with her food.”

    Jill looks up and I can see her fists clench slightly. “He’ll take the BLT, fries with extra ketchup.”

    The waitress’ eyes widen before hurrying to the kitchen area to drop the order. She dismisses another waitress who tries to catch her attention, knowing that we’re watching her.

    I divert back to Jill who meets my gaze.

    “Are we scared?” She is hard and cold when she says it.

    “I don’t think that…”

    Jill cuts me off, “Jack. Are we scared?”

    The waitress brings my plate and sets it down in front of me. I flash her my best smile which she responds with a deep blush. Jill interrupts, “Extra ketchup?”

    The waitress’ smile drops as fast as she came to deliver the food and she returns to the kitchen.

    Jane watches me eat and studies my face and motions. They match her’s identically.

    “Mom is dead, isn’t she. That’s why you wanted to meet.” Jill says with no emotion in her voice.

    I pause briefly between bites before adding one more dip of ketchup. I look up and meet her stare. “Yeah…she’s dead.”

    I fall silent and minutes go by before we speak again, the waitress drops the check and clear our plates. This time she doesn’t try small talk or flirting.

    Jill finally breaks the silence, “Are we scared?” She asks again and rubs up and down on her arms like she cold even though it’s 85 outside.

    I nod slowly and she agrees.

    We know. We’re scared. Our mom is our backbone, the one that kept us both on the right path. Me for just shy of three years, with Jill we’re all lucky if it’s 3 hours.

    “I just came to tell you,” I said folding my hands nervously, it’s like Jill knows without saying, what I’m fighting right now.

    I watch her rummage through her purse and her fingers stop on something. Jill gives me a toothy smile that doesn’t match her eyes, “So brother, what’s next?”

  8. pven

    “You’re new.” The bridesmaid with red-and-purple dyed hair stood out among the sea of blondes manning the reception check-in table. I smiled and tapped my name on the guest list.

    Thus began our peculiar dance for the evening: she the slender young woman flowing between her bridesmaid duties and me. I, the long-lost uncle who had once dandled her upon his knee.

    I mentioned how perfect she looked in her peach bridesmaid dress, she mentioned how she couldn’t wait to get back to her jeans and Huasipungo shirt.
    She asked about her Aunt, now long gone. I asked if she had a boyfriend. She snorted and rolled her eyes.

    I asked about her other uncles, and she pointed them out to me: pale men who made it a point to own whatever patch of earth they stepped upon. They were as unfamiliar to me as the day my half-sister had married into their family.

    My niece asked me why I stopped visiting.

    I shrugged my shoulders and stared into my beer. “It’s complicated.”

    “Make me understand,” she said. Her tone allowed no option.

    “I… say things that more often than not offend people,” I responded. I tapped my head with two fingers to punctuate the next words. “Not. Always. Thinking before I speak. So I said something that pissed off you Mother, and I was no longer welcome.”

    “Wow,” she said. “That sounds like Mom.”

    We sat in silence for a moment.

    “I’m sorry,” she said.

    “Oh, no. Your Mother has a hot head — shoot! don’t tell her I said that — but I can’t blame her. Here’s the lesson: if there’s someone toxic in your life, if someone frustrates you more than makes you happy, then cut that person loose. Life’s too short to be pissed off at the people surrounding you.”


    The wedding DJ announced the bouquet toss.

    “What did you say that pissed off Mom?”

    “Oh, I yelled at her dog for peeing on my chair.”

    “What?” she shouted.

    I attempted to hush my niece. “She loved that dog.”

    “Haven? You’re wanted on the dance floor.”

    My niece turned on her mother, hand outstretched to point at me. “You sent him away because he yelled at your dog?!” she shouted.

    “Go,” her mother snapped.

    Haven stomped off, muttering phrases of incredulity. Her mother remained at my table, standing.


    “Good to see you, Sierra. And Haven.”

    “You just had to set her off, didn’t you?”

    “I… how was I to know you and she were fighting?”

    Sierra affixed me with a blank stare.

    “Yeah, OK. Teenager. Got it.”

    Sierra sighed. “I like you, Ruben. I really do.”

    “Good to know.”

    “But you’re going to have to leave.”

    I made a point of staring at my half-sister.

    “We’ve never been close,” I replied. “When Mama married your Father, you never really tried to get to know who we were. And your Dad didn’t seem to think it was that big a deal, and Mama said we were all adults with our own lives, so she guessed it was OK. But now?” I waved my hand at the wedding table. “You stand up there and talk about how important it is for family to be together, and then expel me? Again?”

    “You’re making a scene.”

    “Anda a cagar. You’re a pinche hypocrite.”

    “Listen,” she hissed. “You see my husband? His brothers? How they’re all staring at us? I’ve got to go back to them and tell them that this…” she waved her hands in a big circle around the two of us. “… is all nothing. Or else they’ll take matters into their own hands.
    “You’ve got a long history of rubbing my in-laws the wrong way. My dog peeing on your chair? That little scene probably saved your life.”

    “You’re threatening me,” I said.

    “Look,” she sighed. “The family never liked your relationship with Haven. Some Latino doting on their little girl. Spoiling her. When she responded, wanting to play only with you, an outsider, during the family get-togethers they figured you’d make her an outsider too. They don’t allow that.
    “Now they see you and her catching up like nothing’s changed… They already don’t like the decisions she’s making. She… rebels too much. If they think you’re behind it… I don’t know what they’ll do.”

    “You make it sound like you’re married to the Mafia.”

    Sierra said nothing.

    “You… Are you?”

    “Good night, Ruben,” she almost whispered as she turned her back on me. “Good-bye.”

    1. J.Fujimaru

      The characters are wonderfully complicated and real. Love stories about messed up families (not sure what that says about me). The one you painted is intriguing!

  9. J.Fujimaru

    Hercules smashed into the Earth to create the twin pillars, Calpe Mons and Abila Mons. The Atlantic first met the Mediterranean and the Strait of Gibraltar was born. From that moment forward, Europe was eternally separated from Africa. Beyond was the unknown. Even the Greeks did not cross the pillars of Hercules. It was, instead, the Phoenicians, the superior navigators of antiquity, who first dared to sail into the uncharted. They carried the ancient world’s treasures in their sphinx-eyed ships. Their blood pulsed with the promise of Senegalese gold. Their eyes must have twinkled with the death drive, or what else would have led them into stormy waters?

    Issam was living in the unknown. It all started with Grandfather’s curiosity that pushed him and all his little sisters and cousins out the door. Seven heads of dark curly hair fluttered in the wind as Grandfather expertly navigated the coast in his azure Mercedes, a real fixer-upper, hand-painted, with the windows rolled down. They always made a stop for the tides, not far from the caves of Hercules. Grandfather would hold onto little Issam’s belt as they watched the caves below through holes in the rocky coast. Issam was small enough to fall through but he was brave. The caves gulped impressive swashes of Mediterranean blue. Grandfather would tell them stories of Poseidon and the Phoenicians. He’d point to the mountains across the sea. “That my little dears, is Spain. It used to be part of the Moorish Empire.” It was a sliver of an ancient dream across the shimmering waters.

    Issam was far from the Mediterranean, far from his childhood dreams. Everyday after closing he’d make a visit to the rooftop. Today they closed early. He watched the concrete city swirling below him in the last light of evening, lively but nothing like the elegant white cities of Morocco. He missed the hustle of the medinas, the prayer calls, the sea.

    He heard a shriek.

    Across from him a young woman leaned over the street to scream out the last bit of air in her lungs. She had Phoenician eyes: brave and dangerous. They plunged thirty floors deep to the traffic below.

    Issam approached the ledge. He called out to her but a sudden wind took his voice before it could reach the other rooftop where she stood. They were separated by an alley and a long drop. “Hey!” He tried again but she kept yelling.

    She crossed her arms and sank into them to lean against the ledge. An inaudible sigh must have escaped her lips. She was safely behind the railing but her adventurous eyes were still fixed on the street below. Now Issam was sure she was not thinking of jumping. She was blowing off some steam. Work stress, perhaps. This was city life.

    He stood for a moment to watch.

    The dirt of the city was tangled in her hair. Dry locks of it hung over the ledge to sway, wild and unpredictable. Sometimes it was close enough for him to touch it. Issam was reminded of the tall blond grass outside Grandfather’s home. It fascinated him. The grass then and now her hair. The grass because it looked lifeless but it grew and grew out of the dusty earth. Her hair because it was unkempt. The women in his country kept their hair clean, many of them covered it. He wanted to smooth out her knots, gently.

    “Hey! Everything alright?” His voice finally reached her.

    “Sorry, I got a little carried away,” she said, noticing him for the first time. She brushed her cheeks and pushed back her hair, uselessly. “I’m not usually like this.”

    “We all have bad days. I have many. Especially with this.” He ran his hands through his thick black hair. “Believe it or not, people think I’m a foreigner.” His accent was strong. He made no effort to hide it.

    She bent over whimpering. Issam went over his last few words. He wondered what he had done wrong, but the whimper turned into a laugh, and soon the woman gasped for air.

    “Don’t mind me,” she said. “Too much work, not enough sleep or food. But thanks, I needed that.”

    “What did you need?”

    “A little bit of you, I guess. Well, I better go. I’ve got a long night of work ahead of me.”

    “Happy Thanksgiving.”

    “Oh, I forgot. Happy Thanksgiving.” She reached for the stairwell door. It was metal and cumbersome but she pulled at it until it finally flung open.

    Issam watched as the grassy haired girl began to disappear. He pulled at his apron strings and bit his lip. What could he say to make her stay? The door was almost closed. The concrete city hissed.

    He shivered.

    “Wait!” It was her voice again. “I forgot to ask you your name.” Her head reemerged from behind the door.

    He smiled. “I’m Issam. And you’re?”


    “Clio, the Greek muse of history?”

    “That’s right, I am. Although I’m not Greek. You do know your classics.”

    “My grandfather gave me a classical education.”

    “A teacher?”

    “In a way.” The wind picked up and the city was muted again. He wondered how much he should tell her. “He was a tour guide.”

    “He must have been a charming man.”

    He was, and a family man, too. He gave his grandchildren plenty of scratchy kisses on the cheek. But he would tell her all about it later. He felt there would be a later.

    “Well, Clio. You said you haven’t eaten, right? What are you doing for Thanksgiving dinner?”

    “I usually just work.” She came out from behind the door and stood with her hands deep in her pockets to brace herself against the chill. She was silent but she shifted her weight from foot to foot. “I don’t have anyone to spend it with.”

    “How about I make you dinner? In exchange you give me your phone number. ” He could open up the kitchen and whip up something in no time. If he was careful no one would notice.

    “Should I trust you? Should I eat the food that some strange guy on a roof offers me?”

    “Then we share two things – where we’re from and where we’re going – so we won’t be strangers.”

    “Fair game. You first.”

    The wind began to retreat. It was quiet. They could whisper their two truths across the rooftops.

    The second time that golden haired girl – the muse of history -disappeared behind the door Issam didn’t feel the shiver of the concrete city. The rooftops felt closer and private like the ones in the medinas of his country. Beneath every grey roof was a life waiting to be touched by another life. The city was warm and bustling. The prayer call was in his memory. The sea was in the breeze. In ten minutes Issam would see her again at the corner store on the street. He’d sneak her in to the restaurant and they’d share their first meal together.

    Clio would ask him, “Don’t you think it’s weird that history has a muse?”

    He’d reply, “Not at all, Clio. For the ancients history was the telling of stories.” And from there, they would tell many stories.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I feel like I just finished reading a story from the dead sea schroles . (;Damn, I wish I could spell. A trait I inherited from my fast thinking Father) . Your language and the way you manage to create art, fascinate me

      1. J.Fujimaru

        Thank you, Kerry. I like your spelling of schroles. It’s both dramatic and soft. I was never good at spelling until I became an ESL teacher and my horrific spelling was no longer excusable (it was embarrassing when my students could spell words that I couldn’t). I’m still not great. If it weren’t for spell check…

  10. ReathaThomasOakley

    Marie stood at the kitchen window, wondered what her brothers were doing. Every day, after school, Gary’d hurry back behind the chicken coops soon as he changed clothes. This morning he’d said he was sick, had to stay home. With Mama and Aunt Ida at work and Granny visiting her sister in Starke she’d almost stayed home with him, but remembered she’d promised Eddie at the filling station she’d go see him at lunch time.

    Eddie was all pimply and stupid, quit school at 16, just like Junior, but he wasn’t going to join the Army like Junior was going to soon as he was seventeen, Mama’d promised she’d sign for him to go. Granny just said, “Good riddance.”

    Eddie was for now, wouldn’t be long she’d find herself a man, somebody like Frank, in his uniform and hat, like somebody on TV. He’d started parking his car by school every day at 3 when Junior High let out.

    Gary wasn’t in the house, must be with Junior. She went to the refrigerator, found the boloney, it didn’t smell too bad, got out the mustard, and made two sandwiches.

    “Hey, Junior, Gary,” Marie said when she got to the coops, “y’all there? I made you some sandwiches.” She could see Junior’s legs, but that was it.

    “No, stop, stay right there!” Junior ran around the corner holding the shovel he used to dig Granny’s garden. “What you doin’ here? Get on back in the house.” She’d been slipping away from Junior all her life, he didn’t catch her this time, either.

    “What the. . .?” She stopped dead still. In front of her was a pile of dirt, some buckets, a stack of croker sacks, the hose, and Gary’s head sticking out of a hole in the ground.

    “It’s a surprise, Marie,” Gary laughed. “Ain’t you surprised?”

    “Junior,” she whirled to face her brother, “what you doin’, what you got Gary doin’?”

    “I can’t take it no more,” Junior dropped the shovel. “I got five months ‘til I can leave, can’t get no job, folks know I’m goin’, ain’t got no money to run with, if I don’t have Mama’s say so, I can’t join up. I’m stuck here.” He ran his filthy fingers through his red hair. “And, her, Granny, deviling me ever day, ever single day. I can’t take it no more.”

    Marie walked over to the hole, the wax paper wrapped sandwiches forgotten. “Gary, get outta there. Get on to the house, me and Junior gotta talk.”

    “But, we ain’t filled up the hole yet, we gotta fill it up for Granny’s surprise.” He climbed out. “Ain’t that right, Junior, we gotta get it all filled up with water? Then, Marie, we gonna put the croker sacks right over the hole, sprinkle dirt on ‘em, so they get hid. That boloney you got there?”

    “Take it on in the house.” She handed him a sandwich.

    “Then, then, when Granny gets home, I’m gonna run out here, yell real loud, so she can hear me, she’s kinda deaf, and then she’s gonna come see where I am.” He laughed. “Ain’t that gonna be a big surprise when she falls in the hole, ain’t it, Marie?”

    “Yeah, a big surprise.” She handed Junior the other sandwich. “Here, you been workin’ so hard, you gotta be hungry.” She turned away. “Hey, Gary, wait up for me.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What a story, Reatha. Looks like neither brother has a dime worth of sense. If granny falls in that hole , she’s gonna climb out and whip those boys till they can’t stand. Tome period you’re writing in ? Could it be the 40’s during the war or later?
      It’s hard to believe people lived this way but they did
      Florida had sections that put Georgia to shame as how countrified they were, especially along the Georgia border and towns like Valdosta.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Hi, Kerry. Thank you for your kind words once again. Should have dated this, 1954, Marie is thirteen. First Marie story in October I had her older, pushed her back a bit. This month is nuts, doing poem a day, plus trying to get Annie wrapped up via National Novel Writing Month, probably won’t have 50,000 words, have almost 40,000 and polishing. If prompts work I might sneak in an updated, or new, Annie chapter. Thanks again.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      It was great to find out more about Junior. I see what you mean about the narration being in the voice of the MC even though it’s third person. I like your style.

  11. tryingtowrite

    We pray before we eat. Always.

    In private, in public, it doesn’t matter where we are. I’m young, so I go along with the program, but I’m also just old enough to understand that we’re different.

    We’re sitting at the counter. Alice is working. She’s my favorite. She slides a plate in front of me first. “The usual, sir,” she says, bowing like she’s serving a king. Four pieces of French toast piled high and heavily dusted with powdered sugar and dripping with maple syrup. And a side of bacon – three pieces, not two! She slides a bowl and a small plate in front of Mom. She’d ordered oatmeal with sides of berries, almonds, brown sugar and heavy cream. For a split second I’m almost jealous. It’s berry season. At least that’s what Mom says. Which is why the berries are bright red and blue and purple, and perfectly plump.

    Mom puts her napkin in her lap and bows her head, so I bow mine. She leans over and whispers in my ear, “Make sure to ask for forgiveness.”

    We pray silently to ourselves. Always. There’s no hand holding, no harmonizing of Amens, because praying is personal – at least that’s what Mom says – and each of us should have our own private relationship with God.

    “But I didn’t do anything wrong, Mom.” My voice whirs like an oscillating fan set on high.

    “Stop whining. You sound like a girl,” she says, her eyes still closed, her head bowed.

    A few seconds pass and she pats me on the leg. “Jordie,” she whispers, “big boys play baseball or football or basketball. Dolls are for girls, honey.”

    “Even Ken dolls,” I say. She pats me on the leg again but doesn’t answer.

    I watch as she mouths Amen and raises her head. “Even Ken dolls.”

    “Mom, am I different?” I say.

    “Yes, Jordie, you are.”

    “Are you, Mom?”

    “I’m trying my best not to be,” she says.


    “Yes, Jordie?”

    “I think you’re trying your best for both of us.”

    Her eyes mist. “Go ahead, Jordie,” she says.

    I reach into my backpack, and as I’m bending his body so he can sit comfortably on the counter, Alice walks up.

    “Why Ken! Running a little today, I see. Glad you could join us. So what’ll it be?”

    “The usual,” I say.



    “So what was Ken’s usual?”

    “Two eggs scrambled.”

    “Hey, just like me!”

    “Yup, just like you, Aaron.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      tryingtowrite, I’m very confused by the last part of this, and I was so impressed and intrigued right up until Ken appears. Please, and I do hope you read this, explain a bit. The writing and dialog are excellent.

      1. tryingtowrite

        Hi Reatha — Thanks for powering through my story and also for leaving feedback. I messed up on this one, but at least the prompt got my creative juices flowing again. I’ve been writing policy and procedures for the past year, so that may be why I steered clear of providing too many details.

        Please see Big Tastey’s feedback and my reply.

    2. Big Tastey

      Hello tryingtowrite. Thank you for commenting on my story.
      I loved the setting of a diner. It’s familiar to everyone and it doesn’t require a great deal of set-up before you can get to the story. I thought the repetition of praying/always was effective without it feeling repetitive, if that makes sense.
      Ken confused me when he appeared from the backpack and I would change it to …and as I’m bending Ken’s body so he can sit comfortably…
      I think the ending is a little more confusing with Dad suddenly showing up. If it was Dad (Jordie) talking to his son, Aaron, about a time when Jordie was a boy then it makes sense. If that’s the case then a separation between “The usual,” I say. and “Dad…” using something like ####### to differentiate a change in scenes would be helpful to the reader.
      All in all, I thought it was an excellent story about a boy and his mom, told by a father to his son. Did I get it right, or am I way off?

      1. tryingtowrite

        You are correct! Phew! Thank you so much for the advice. I sure messed up on this one. I’m definitely rusty in the creative writing department; however, I did enjoy writing this story. I love the transparency, Jordie’s vulnerability, telling his son Aaron that it’s ok to be who you are and also necessary, at times, to stand up to a parent, societal norms, and even a religion. Sometimes we fear our truth; we fear we will be judged harshly by others. Aaron proves otherwise. All he cared about was what Ken’s “usual” was and was delighted to find out it was the same as his.

        My dad and I spent many Saturdays at our local diners. My mom worked weekends. I don’t think we ever talked about anything as deep as this, but I sure cherish the time we spent together.

  12. Big Tastey

    Preed pushed against the comet to send it hurtling into the Earth. The comet was already past Mars and on a collision course with the Earth when Korso arrived. Korso pushed the comet away from the Earth. Preed once again pushed the comet towards Earth. Korso pushed it away. They were evenly matched in strength and neither could gain the upper hand. Preed stopped pushing and he strode to the top of the comet where he beckoned for Korso to join him.

    “Why do you fight against me, Korso? Humanity is corrupt and they deserve to die.”

    “Some, but not all, are corrupt. I think the good outweighs the evil.”

    “If I can convince you that they deserve to die, will you stand aside?”

    “I will, but you will be hard pressed to do so.”

    “Then I will pick ten humans from history and we will ask them for help. If they refuse, then you will know that humanity is not worth saving. Do you agree?”

    “I agree on one condition. You may pick nine of the humans, but I can choose the last one.”

    “I agree.” Preed said.

    Preed opened a time vortex and they traveled to medieval England. Disguised as beggars, they approached a castle where they asked for food. The watchman, disgusted by their appearance, turned them away. As they left, they saw the king’s dogs in the yard eating their full.

    “See, Korso, even their dogs are better treated than their fellow men.” Preed said.

    Preed opened another time vortex and they stepped through it into a desert kingdom. Still disguised as beggars, they approached the Sultan’s palace where they asked for shelter and food, but they were turned away again. Preed took Korso to visit the richest men on Earth and all turned them away.

    “Will you concede, Korso?”

    “Not until I have made my choice.”

    Korso opened a time vortex and took Preed back to medieval England, to a poor beggar he had seen sitting under a bridge.

    “We are weary travellers, kind sir. Will you share your food with us?” Korso asked of the poor beggar.

    The beggar smiled and took from his pocket a single potato. This he broke into thirds and he gave each of them a piece.

    “Let us give thanks.” The beggar said.

    Preed looked at his piece of potato but said nothing. Leaning over, Korso whispered in Preed’s ear –

    “What weighs more? Many who have everything but give nothing? Or one who has nothing but gives all?”

    Preed, having been moved by the poor man’s generosity, stood up and he revealed himself as a titan. He showered the poor man with a king’s ransom in gold.

    “Share this gold as you have with your food.” Preed said.

    Preed opened a time vortex and they appeared once again on the top of the comet.

    “You win.” Preed said.

    The people of Earth looked up and marveled as the comet journeyed peacefully by on its trip around the sun.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      I though the last place they would visit would be a homeless shelter in the 21st century. I like your ending a lot more. This is a great modern fairy tale. Lots to learn from that beggar.

  13. BBwrites

    She waits for him at their bar the way she has always waited for him. In her head it had been “their” bar since they went on their first date when she was 17, young, carefree. Now she was in her late twenties, he in his early thirties. And unknowing his thoughts still caused her to stir at night.
    When he walks through the door she still feels the same butterflies she felt when they first lay eyes on each other. Try as she might, but she can’t hide her Cheshire cat smile as he approaches her and kisses her on the cheek. He sits, and smiles his half smile she repeatedly falls so hard for. He asks how she’s been and she lies and tells him she’s been fine.
    He knows she’s lying – it’s been ten years, he can read her like his favourite book – but he doesn’t press.
    She wishes he would.
    They speak quickly and quietly, their surroundings melting away from them. It had been like this since the beginning. It was as if a magnet pulled them to one another, stealing all focus around them. Nobody else existed apart from one another, their thoughts, their words.
    Although they were magnetised, drawn to each other like a moth to a flame, they held their differences. She wore her heart on her sleeve, her feelings widely exposed and vulnerable to be hurt. He, was guarded, and would often be her reason of hurt. He did this unknowingly, for he only thought of himself.
    But when he’s alone, he thinks of her. And it terrifies him that he feels something he’s never felt, something he’s never even seen. He didn’t think it could happen to him, he didn’t believe in love. While she lies awake thinking of him, wishing she could pry open his head to get a glimpse of what’s inside, he dreams of her and having the courage to tell her how he truly feels without his own pride getting in the way.
    He decides tonight is the night – he’s going to tell her how he feels, how in his dreams it’s her, how he can no longer pretend that he doesn’t feel it.
    And then he sees it. How could he not have noticed? Staring at him this whole time from her left hand. She catches him staring, and she smiles weakly. She tells him this is what she needed to talk to him about. She’s had enough, and she can’t do this any longer. He’s a constant reminder of what could have been. They’d been through too much, and she needed to get on with her life. She’s found someone that knows he wants her.
    He opens his mouth to reply, desperate to tell her that she was everything he ever wanted, it was always going to be her, of this he was certain.
    But no words come out. She shrugs; she didn’t expect him to have anything to say. Deep down she always thought she would end up with him. But no longer could she wait. When she pictured her future it was him, but she refused to miss any more of her life. He softly holds her hand, she holds back tight, each completely unaware of what the other was really thinking and feeling. She gathers all her strength, kisses him softly on the lips one last time, and says a final goodbye to their bar.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I think this is as romantic and tragic a story as I have read in a long time. And your style of writing is in perfect tune to how you wanted to do this. How sad a lack of communication coupled with self pride can destroy any relationship. Beware people, there is a valued theme here we can.leatn from.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      I can tell that this is written by someone who really understands and has thought deeply about relationships. I enjoyed this although the topic is painful because I can relate to the MCs feelings. Thank you.

  14. ClutteredThoughts

    (A/N: This is a small glimpse into a much larger story. I’ll almost definitely be working with these characters again, I’ve put a lot of work into them.)

    Jasce sat down hesitantly, still not quite believing that the other girl had asked to sit with her. Sure, the painter was known for being friendly, but Jasce was… well. New. And Jasce. Two strikes against herself for just existing.

    Splotch was eating the same food as her, French toast and sausage, although Splotch had somehow laid her hands on a bar of chocolate. She noticed Jasce staring and broke off a piece for her without hesitation. “Hope you don’t mind how sweet it is.”

    “Thanks,” muttered Jasce, taking a small bite. It was far too sugary. She let it be on the side of her plate, opting to fidget with her breakfast instead. Without realizing it, she kept her eyes away from Splotch, who was watching her with her ever-present smile.

    “Jasce, you don’t need to be scared to ask questions,” Splotch finally said with a small laugh that cut clearly through the babble of the cafeteria. “You can ask me just about anything.”

    Oh, thank god. Jasce had so many questions, but most people would only tell her so much before clamming up. She finally caught the gaze of the older girl, flushing slightly. “Um. Anything? Really?”

    “Go ahead.”

    “What’s your home like?” Jasce had already forgotten about her food. “I mean, how does it work? Do you have fate and all that?”

    Splotch leaned her elbows on the table, brushing a strand of green hair out of her face. “You mean my old world? That’s not home for me anymore; here is. But it… I don’t really know, actually. I was only five when I arrived here.”

    “Five? What even happened?”

    “From what I remember…” Splotch sighed, resting her chin in her hands. “My world ran on color. Everything was based on color, every law and code and even written language. I don’t know why. It just… it just was. My parents were pretty well-known, so when they learned they’d had a colorblind daughter, well, they were scandalized.”

    It took a long moment for it to sink in for Jasce, that the inhumanly colorful girl in front of her hadn’t always been this way. “You…”

    “Yep. Skin wasn’t always bright pink, hair wasn’t always green. I don’t know what I actually looked like then, because everything looked gray.”

    “That shouldn’t have happened.” Jasce couldn’t think of anything else to say, wasn’t even sure if that was the right thing to say.

    “But it did, just like what happened with you. We both ended up here, after every awful thing that happened to us. But that’s the beauty of here, you know? You get to start over; I mean, just look at me now, a colorblind girl turned painter. And maybe someday you’ll call it home too.”

    The look on Jasce’s face – guarded, almost hateful –should have informed Splotch that that would never happen. But perhaps she saw a bit of hope in Jasce’s expression as well, because she gave Jasce’s shoulder a gentle squeeze before leaving, tracing small orange sketches in the air as she went.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Interesting conversation between two people who obviously do not and will not try to lock together and learn from each other
      Not unusual for this world. The world I find pulling away from my reality as how life should be managed. As you can tell, you have my mind buzzing for a change and somewhat wandering on the track this evening.

      1. ClutteredThoughts

        Thanks Kerry! And yeah, this fantasy land I made up is surprisingly and sadly similar to our world in some ways, not that I intended it to be. Art reflects life and all that?
        Glad I could set your mind abuzz.

      1. ClutteredThoughts

        Took a reread to realize what you meant, since I thought you somehow meant a character who isn’t even mentioned here, but yes! That… disability? Disadvantage? Whatever, but it’ll definitely be coming up the more I write about Jasce. Thanks Reatha! I’m so glad I’m finally using them on this site and not just on my own, it’s great to hear what people think about them.

  15. snuzcook

    Adam gazed off into the river of humanity that was the mall, flowing by the food court on Thanksgiving afternoon. The din was deafening, and he had managed to shut it out until it was nothing more than white noise lulling him into introspection.

    “Do you mind if I sit here?” A plump woman with sandy hair bent toward him from the other side of the table. She was balancing a shopping bag, a big clunky purse and a food tray.

    “No, go right ahead.”

    She tucked her bags under the attached seat and plopped down, her action bouncing Adam in his seat. “Sorry.” She dug into what looked like a taco salad with gusto.

    Adam turned his attention to his own unfinished paperboard bowl of stir fried noodles and veggies. The woman let her fork rest a moment and looked around the crowded food court.

    “It’s a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?”

    Adam looked up, then followed her sweeping gaze. “Yes, every year it gets worse.”

    “I hate it that Black Friday starts a day early. Don’t these people have families? Don’t they have somewhere else to be?”

    “Well, they’re mostly kids and single adults. Someone else is at home slaving over a hot stove. Probably happy to get them out from underfoot.”

    “I suppose. How about you, is your wife at home cooking the turkey?”

    It was an impertinent question, and Adam frowned.

    “I’m sorry,” the woman said. “How nosey of me. I just noticed your wedding ring, so I assumed…”

    “I don’t mind. No, Jenny’s gone.” The woman made a polite sympathetic sound. Adam blinked. “How about you?”

    “I’m not really here.” She smiled. “All my family lives an hour or more away. My night vision is bad, and I’m terrified to drive the freeways in the rain and in the dark.” The woman leaned toward him conspiratorially. “A few years ago I started telling everyone that I was invited to a neighborhood potluck for Thanksgiving. They felt better about not inviting me, and I could avoid the drama.”

    “Sounds like a reasonable solution. I take it there’s not really a potluck?”

    “Heavens no. I made it up.”

    “Aren’t you worried someone will figure it out?”

    “Not likely. I think they were relieved.” The woman rearranged the remaining salad with her fork. “We’re not exactly close, anyway. Do you have kids?”

    “Jenny and I weren’t able to have kids. Jenny has a daughter,” Adam blinked. “HAD a daughter from another marriage, but we’re not exactly close, either.”

    “How long has your wife been gone?” Adam frowned. Again with the personal questions.

    “Seven months.”

    “Oh, I’m so sorry for your loss. And this is your first holiday season alone. That must be hard.”

    Adam nodded. He carefully folded the empty noodle bowl in on itself and stood up.

    “Well, I hope you enjoy your holiday whatever way you choose to spend it.”

    “You, too. It was nice talking to you.” She smiled. “It’s always fun to share a little lie with a stranger.”

    Adam smiled and turned to toss his trash into the waste bin when he caught sight of something blue off to his right. He peered through the mass of bodies until he spotted it again. A blue scarf. HER blue scarf. HER hair above it. The shoulders of HER jacket walking away down the mall.

    Jenny. His gamble had paid off. Jenny never could resist shopping for sales. She had gotten careless. Seven months he’d been looking for her and finally he’d found her. He hurried to keep sight of her. She wasn’t going to get away from him this time.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Such a sad and realistic tale you spin here Snuz. Two forgotten.people left to wander alone through life. Your conversation language put me at the table along with your characters one story out of a million, it brings the sadness to the holiday season .i wish you had time to do a wrapup and see if he might rejoin the human race again and join up with his true love. Obviously the torch still burnth.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      I think you truly captured the sadness that comes with every family oriented holiday. Same as Kerry, I’m interested in finding out what happens from here.

  16. Beebles

    Another first draft I’m afraid, but ya see what I’m trying to do… Oh and thanks to Kerry for leading me to the research.
    Harvey laughed like he had just stepped in a pile of cr@p.

    His chicken was cut into pieces. No knives. Not a single sharp blade on the table. At least William had the decency to give him a fork.

    He leant forward as far as he could in the wheelchair, but his contorted arms and crooked fingers could only send the fork clattering to the balcony floor. He spat a sigh of pain and frustration and fell back against the leather.


    He looked out over a steamy twinkling Havana, car horns punctuating the susurrus of the traffic which ebbed and flowed like the distant surge of waves on the rocks, bitter water stretching remorselessly into the dark night. He heard footsteps on the parquet. His personal attendant arrived at the sliding doors to the penthouse living room.

    ‘Oh Mr Firestone,’ he exclaimed seeing the silver utensil, ‘I’ll get it for you.’

    ‘Leave it William. Just use the spoon if you would, goddam limbs are tired.’

    And the pain. The never ending pain.

    William pulled up a chair, took a piece of the chicken, some rice, and gently spooned it into his master’s mouth.

    ‘Like I’m some kinda child,’ the tycoon’s son said on swallowing. He could see the hurt in William’s eyes as the grey haired bruiser of a man waited, spoon raised, his muscled torso straining the buttons on the white orderly style jacket he always wore. Like Harvey was some kinda goddam patient.

    ‘Well put it in my mouth for Christ’s sake!’ Harvey lashed out, but as the startled retainer leaned forward. Harvey used his bent arm to push the spoon away, exasperated, ashamed.

    ‘I’m sorry, William… I didn’t mean to …’

    ‘Perhaps some painkillers, Mr Firestone.’ As he rose to find the medicine bag Harvey could see the concern in the man’s eyes. He hadn’t meant to lash out, to hurt him.

    ‘No, William. Here, sit down. You eat it, I’m not hungry.’

    They both sat in the dim electric glow, the platter untouched between them.

    ‘Do you feel sorry for me, William?’

    The older man didn’t move.

    ‘Hell, well don’t. I’m one of the richest men on the planet, law degree, everything I could wish for.’ He stared unconvinced into the black horizon.

    ‘You tried to take your own life. I worry for you. You gave no sign. Even I didn’t know and I have looked after you since you were a boy.’

    ‘Yeah?’ Harvey leaned forward and William automatically brought the glass with the straw within reach. Booze helped. ‘Well here’s something else you didn’t know. If I’d succeeded I’d left you a good stash in my will.’ He nodded looking into William’s wide eyes. ‘Yeah, didn’t know that did ya? Well maybe you won’t feel so worried when I try again?’

    ‘Sir!’ William was on his feet. ‘Your life is as dear to me as my son’s. I take care of you as I would him.’

    Harvey looked up sideways at the man, a different man who had not been standing there before. ‘Well I’ll be. A son. All these years and I never knew you had a son. Hell I never even knew you were married.’

    ‘Divorced. He’s like you. His mother cares for him. I send them money.’

    Harvey looked up again. ‘Christ. Poor kid.’

    ‘Everyday I look at you, Sir, and think what he might achieve. You may be rich, but you still went to college, you are still going to start the law firm. My son could do those things.’

    Yeah, but a ton of cash helped. Harvey sagged in his chair. He could forgive the almighty for his own condition, with all the other gifts the Lord had given him. But to hear of William’s son, the son of a poor man, was a test of faith. Always there was a test of faith.

    ‘It’s been a long day William, you must be tired. Why don’t you go and get yourself a bath next door.’
    William stood there, and a sudden breeze brought his thoughts over the narrow aluminium rail of the balcony, touching Harvey Firestone.

    ‘H3ll, don’t fret. Wheel me inside and put me on the sofa. I’ll watch some TV until you’re done.’
    Once inside William lifted his employer as though he weighed no more than a child and left him with the remote.
    He hadn’t noticed the knocking on the door at first, his head submerged below the film in the bath. They waited until he was dressed, then the officers took him to the empty penthouse, the breeze ruffling the gossamer curtains at the open balcony doors.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Beebles, you put this together well,l Perhaps a sentence or two of how the affliction came about might be helpful. Other than that it appears to be exactly what you wanted , a lead in with a twist.

      1. Beebles

        Yes, and it shouldn’t be as bad in his arms as I made out – he must be able to crawl! Anyway you led me here as I wanted to find out about HF III, so thanks. I might buff this up for the website when i have time.

    2. GrahamLewis

      I must be dense. I don’t get it. William left the guy inside, on the couch, and took his bath. Is there an insinuation that Wm went back and threw him over the balcony? I get that the balcony railing was drawing Wm’s attention, but I think there needs to be some sort of link with the end. Sorry for being obtuse.

      1. Beebles

        No not obtuse, or dense, that’s great. Yeah I skimped on the ending, well on a lot of it, while i did want to work in a moment of ambiguity on the balcony, it does needs resolving in the last para. Reading the police statement on Harvey’s death it just struck me how it was instantly deemed suicide … Thanks Graham,

        1. GrahamLewis

          I should add that your story touched me in another way. I spent three years working and living with two quadraplegics, and I recall lifting one of them, how light he was. And our apartment, though not spacious or luxurious, but it did have a balcony. No one jumped or fell, though we had a cat who liked to walk on the railing and terrify one of the quads, who was sure the cat would fall. I would add, though, that in a longer version of your story, you could or should develop the Firestone character more fully — sure the guys in the wheelchairs had a sense of loss, but they also had learned to live with it and accepted their lives. As much as one can. Even had a sense of humor, even about their condition.

    3. Bushkill

      I like the way you ended with the gossamer curtains blowing in the breeze. I think you could work that in somewhere in the first or second sentence when talking about the balcony. Kind of bring the whole thing full circle.

      That’s a semantic detail, but little things like that make me pay attention more and reread to see what else the author has hidden.

      Good story, too.

  17. ShamelessHack

    “You and I are from very different backgrounds.”
    “Jeez, will ya just pass the sweet potatoes.”
    “Look, now that I’m married to your daughter, I want to learn about you. You know, about your life, what events in your experiences molded your personality…”
    “You being in at my dinner table is molding my personality, and not for the better. Now will ya stop jawboning and pass the stuffing.”
    “It amazes me that my wife is your daughter.”
    “Yeah, she comes directly from my loins, you can count on it. Now will ya fork over the plate of turkey, meathead.”
    “Stop calling me meathead, Arch.”
    “Not in a thousand years.”
    “That’s it! Gloria! We’re leaving!”
    “A Thanksgiving gift.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Once more you land with a slam bank response. What ‘s next for you. My favorite chapter of All In The Family is the show with Archie and Sammy Davis Jr. Priceless it was.

  18. Bushkill

    11-22-17 opposites

    A week prior to Thanksgiving, her first, and we sat talking, comparing our two worlds. We had gone to college, earned our degrees, and entered into our professions. We enjoyed the outdoors and cooking and good food.

    We had many commonalities and intersections that seemed to indicate a shared experience.

    Or so I thought until she shattered my world-view with the history of her family, notably, around her birth.

    I sat and listened, riveted as she spoke.

    “I wasn’t supposed to be born. My mother was ordered to have an abortion.”

    I looked at her in transfixed bewilderment. “What?”

    “Yes, that’s the law. I was second, and my parents already had a son. What would they do with a second child? A girl?”

    I sat dumbfounded. That seemed like some pretty authoritarian family planning program.

    “They came for us. The government agents. They would take us to the hospital and force the abortion and then sterilize my mom.”

    I shook my head, trying to clear it.

    “She ran.” I see her smile at that and I smile in return. She is younger than I am by nearly two decades, but still….

    “She tells me that it was like a big adventure. She slept on couches and in spare rooms of her friends all across the city. Always one step ahead of the State officers.”

    I choked out a question. “What did your father do? Where was he?”

    She smiled softly, eyes slightly downcast as if reliving a moment she had thought about often, but never witnessed. “He took care of my brother. And they came for him, too, the State. They took him to the hospital and forced a sterilization procedure on him as well.”

    More apoplexy from me and a strained. “What?”

    “They are very incessant. It was the State’s policy for many years. They have relaxed it a little recently.”

    ‘I should hope so’, I thought to myself, answering my mental comment with an echoing ‘barbaric.’

    We talked a little longer, searching for that common ground again, finding it in a halting and confused understanding of the complexities of governance.

    It’s now a time when Americans sit around tables laden with food and surrounded by the extensions of family and I think of her, hoping she is seeing and enjoying what this holiday means for us on this side of the Pacific.

    Note: Wenjie is a Chinese national, here on a grant to teach Mandarin in my World Languages department. She is a firecracker of a young woman with an impeccable understanding of English and a clarity of speech that is inspiring. This is the real story of her family and her birth. She is still troubled by her brother’s death at the hands of leukemia, but lives every day like a flower in search of sunlight.

      1. GrahamLewis

        My wife was a physician in China and regarded as a symbol of luck because once when she was on the ob/gyn rotation she delivered a pair of twins — that was the only way a person could legally have two children at that time.

        1. Bushkill

          It is a world so different from ours. I cherish th stories I get from this teacher because they ar so far outside of my paradigm and world view. They stretch my understanding.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Bushkill, get some information from her and write about it. I also am.familiarr with the law of the land but now I think there will be changes coming.A lot of changes. There will have to be on the country will implode in distrust.

    1. madeindetroit

      What riveting story about a culture and way of life I cannot comprehend. What a touching story on a day we give thanks for the things we have and to the country we live in…Thank you for sharing the courageous and beautiful story of this young woman.

      1. Bushkill

        Thanks for your kind words. Her story and our conversation just sort of happened, and before I knew it I as waist deep in a cultural discussion. Fascinating, enlightening, depressing, encouraging, all kinds of things can be said of the triumph of the human spirit.

    2. snuzcook

      Thanks for sharing this, Bushkill. For me, it was a reminder that everyone has a story, and sometimes we just have to take the time to ask to learn what it is.

      1. Bushkill

        Our conversation following th story was interesting. How do you feed a population of a billion people? How can you use an unfettered birth policy when you can’t? The gap between the poor and rich in our country is extreme, but far more so in a place like China, I would think.

        If you are a one in a million person here, there are a thousand people just like you in China.

  19. JRSimmang


    Single spotlight at 30% on bare table behind scrim in up-center stage. Stage is otherwise empty except for a giant mirror hanging up-center stage. Two men sit at the table, facing opposite each other and both parallel to the audience, GALTZ is sitting stage left; AGERIAN is seated stage right. The younger man, GALTZ, is leaning on his elbows. The older man, AGERIAN, is leaning back in his chair. Liszt’s “Standchen, Leise Flehen Meine Lieder” is playing softly overhead.

    AGERIAN: When did you find yourself?

    GALTZ: I don’t know if I have yet. All I know is I’m ready for a change.

    AGERIAN: What kind of change?

    GALTZ: One that I’ll remember.

    The table turns over to reveal a pool table. Liszt fades out and sounds of a pool hall abruptly start. The two men stand up and begin playing pool. ZORCHA enters from stage left. Follow spot on her as she, while AGERIAN is talking, takes GATZ’s pool cue, and sinks the 8-ball.

    AGERIAN: Then she walks in just like that. She hikes up her skirt, takes the pool cue from me and sinks the 8- ball.

    GALTZ: She helped you win the game?

    AGERIAN: No, it was my first turn after the break.

    GATZ: She helped you lose the game.

    AGERIAN: On purpose.

    GATZ: Don’t they always?

    AGERIAN: Most of the time, yes. But, this one was different.

    GATZ: Aren’t they always?

    AGERIAN: Most of the time, yes. But, Zorcha kept it simple.

    GATZ: How much did you wind up losing that night?

    AGERIAN: My whole heart, and about 80 bucks.

    Dim lights behind back scrim, fade out pool hall sounds, light up center stage scrim with midnight motif that scrolls to daylight and back again. The two men emerge from stage left of scrim and stand in front of midnight motif, walking along with the scrolling motif behind them.

    GATZ: Was it worth it?

    AGERIAN: I figure I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t.

    GATZ: I don’t get it then.

    AGERIAN: Don’t get what?

    GATZ: Love, I suppose.

    AGERIAN: What’s not to get?

    GATZ: Sacrifice.

    AGERIAN: Okay, what else?

    GATZ: Compromise.

    AGERIAN: And?

    GATZ: Selflessness.

    AGERIAN: Through it all, you wind up a better person.

    GATZ: That’s what the magazines say, but is it really more than a tabloid headline?

    AGERIAN: Of course it is. It’s permanent. It is an inevitability. Tabloid headlines are just for attention.

    GATZ: So is love.

    AGERIAN: Only if it’s written as a tabloid.

    Lights out. Lights up again at the table, which is now door.

    GATZ: I’ve never liked pool.

    AGERIAN: You never will have to like it.

    GATZ: I’ve never liked ringing doorbells.

    AGERIAN: You never will have to like it.

    GATZ: I’ve never thought about love.

    AGERIAN: You’ll never stop.

    GATZ: I’ll never understand it.

    AGERIAN: No. You never will.

    GATZ knocks on door. Zorcha answers.

    GATZ: What do I do now?

    AGERIAN: Take her hand.

    GATZ: Can it be that simple?

    AGERIAN: It has to be.

    Lights out. Jean Sibelius’s “Finnish Folk Songs (6)” plays out.

    -JR Simmang

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I loved the directional language used here and the inner action between the two. So do you think the answer to love might be holding hands with your lover? You might be partially correct there because any move forward from there is fraught with undecision, misunderstanding, and that’s just the start of love, not the end. Don’t think I am pessimistic but rather practical.

    1. JRSimmang

      Thank you, all. I’m working this into a full-length play about the absolution of age and the resolution of past indictments were we able to travel backward.

      Snuz, I’m glad you think so.

      Kerry, I cannot say for certain when love begins, only that it cannot be stopped when it does.

      JF, trying.

      Reatha, so true. Imagine the wonder, though!

  20. Jennifer Park

    2. The Luncheon

    Subambassador Min was surprised to see how quickly the child adjusted to civilized life in Brussels. The child called herself “Barbarella”, after an old American space-travel folktale, but was amenable to being called Barbara. The Subambassador had decided to take her in, believing that Barbara’s almost magical control over lesser beasts would be an asset in a career in interstellar diplomacy. What she had not anticipated was how much sway Barbara immediately commanded over humans, and how quickly she charmed the Subambassador’s family, staff, and coworkers, as well as the Archambassador himself, who at first meeting did not hesitate to invite her to the next gala luncheon at his palace.

    Barbara did not require any introduction. Many of the Earth diplomats already knew her or knew of her, but, more than that, her poise and innocent beauty quickly seized everyone’s attention. Somehow or other, the seating assignments had been changed such that she was placed near the head of the table, next to the Archambassador’s second spouse, Abaeze.

    “So, Barbara, how are you finding Brussels?” asked Abaeze’s booming voice, and the table fell silent.

    “It’s quite lovely, I think.”

    “You do not find it too stuffy? Formal?” A string of forced chuckles ran down the table.

    “The old buildings are really beautiful, and I love how beautifully people dress here.”

    “That much is true. We do not spare any expense on looks.” Another string of forced chuckles assented.

    “What I find… especially heartening, is that people work so hard here. There is—what is the word—decidedness?”

    “I think you mean ‘dedication’.”

    “Yes!” Barbara smiled charmingly. “Everyone believes in so much… Ummm… People truly believe in galactic peace, and work hard to bring it about. Is there anything any more beautiful?”

    Those among the diplomatic staff who were hypocrites and sycophants subtly bristled. Gold-digging spouses smiled fakely. The truly dedicated nodded meaningfully.

    “‘Sincere.’ That’s the word I was looking for,” she added.

    “I see!”

    “People work hard where I grew up, too, but they were never sincere. Serious, maybe, but not sincere.”

    “You are quite a remarkable young person to know the difference between seriousness and sincerity,” interjected the Archambassador, with a meaningful glance at his husband, who nodded back in agreement. “You grew up in Korea, yes?”

    “Yes. Another beautiful place, but not as sincere as Brussels.”

    “It must have been a hard place to grow up as an orphan.” The Archambassafor took a sip of his wine.

    Barbara blinked. “I am not an orphan.”

    The Archambassador spewed into the glass. The wine splattered all over his face. “What?”

    “I am not an orphan. My parents still live in Korea.”

    The Archambassador’s blaring eyes confronted Subambassador Min, far down the table. All eyes were already on her. “What is this? What have you done?”

    The Subambassador’s mouth was stunned open. She had assumed that Barbara was an orphan because… because… and had brought her…

    No one noticed the faint, sly smile on Barbara’s lips.

  21. Kaboosh

    Today was one of the few times the two ate together. They were usually on our own little adventures, but Poppy insisted on celebrating the Earth tradition of Thanksgiving “as a family.”

    “Come on Ike. Why do you hate the holiday so much, anyway?” Poppy asked.

    “It was the start to a genocide. No one in their right mind would think greatly of such a holiday,” he snapped back.

    “You’re one to talk about genocide!”

    “What? A man destroys a few planets and suddenly he’s a villain?”

    “You call yourself a man? You’re fifteen and you worry about your acne more than you worry about the Inter-dimensional Police,” she yelled. Ike had just realized they were both standing. They were getting into these fights more often. They were never of any importance, it was just an unhealthy way for both of them to vent. He couldn’t remember the last time they had a meal together. Probably back on Earth, six years ago. Ike slowly sat back down.

    “Listen, things have got to start changing between us. We have to work together. You know what the doctor said. Something big is gonna happen near our sixteenth ‘birthday’ and if we’re not ready for it, we’re screwed,” Ike said softly.

    “That’s fair, but that means we have to start being honest with each other. I barely know anything about you, yet we’ve known each other since our creation,” Poppy stated before sitting down. “From now on, we work as a team. Now, let’s eat.

    AUTHOR’S NOTE: Not really sure where I’m going with this. I’m going to turn it into a series where I give you little bits and pieces of backstory overtime instead of a long introduction filled with exposition. Tell me if you like it.

  22. writer_sk

    I’m posting something from “Cate and Freddie” because I don’t have my work computer anymore. Hopefully I can get to the library soon. I miss weekly writing!!!

    Their second date was a rainy night. They met out in front of Abboccato with soaking umbrellas and attire. Arm and arm they ventured beneath the restaurant’s canopy which was buckling under the weight of the water it held. Through the door and into the warmth of the restaurant they were like an old married couple, he holding her purse while she took of her raincoat then shuttling the unpleasant wet things away while she followed the hostess to the table.
    Over candlelight they ate linguini at a small table next to the window. Rain drenched the streets pouring into the gutters.
    “Tara from merchandising is being promoted to manager of the Men’s department,” said Freddie
    “Really, I like her.” said Cate, dabbing her mouth with the cloth napkin. Silence then fell and they both didn’t mind.
    “Tell me about your family and where you grew up.” said Cate
    “Well, sweetheart, you know a lot already,” he grinned, “but my favorite part was essentially, living at the beach. The sand there is so white and the ocean’s clear blue.” He said.
    They encapsulated their dinner with a few bites from a shared peach Crostata with vanilla bean ice cream then hurried to get a cab and get home out of the driving rain.

  23. Pete

    Mesh wheeled the can out to the dumpster. He hoisted the bag of slop and slung it over into the dumpster. It landed with a thud and he started back inside.

    “Hey Mesh.”

    He looked up. “Oh, hey Brooke. Are you uh, okay?”

    She blew a cloud of smoke into the chilly night sky. “Yeah, I’m’ just…yeah.”

    Mesh wiped his hands. He nodded and started for the door.

    “Slow night, huh?”

    He nearly ran into the cart. “Yeah, I’m not sure why we’re open.”

    “Well, I’d rather be here than home. My mom’s boyfriend is over for dinner, so, yeah…”

    Mesh nodded. Her phone dinged in her hand. She held a cigarette in the other, poised and leaking smoke. She looked at the cart, at him. “Sorry, I should be helping, huh?”

    Mesh shrugged. He was good at shrugging, it was his way of saying, “I don’t mind.” He never minded working with Brooke, even if his father didn’t like it. He thought she was a distraction. His father was right.

    She looked up from the phone. “Does your family do Thanksgiving? I mean, do you celebrate it, or…?”
    “We do, but, my father is with my sister. They are visiting my grandmother.”

    She nodded. Mesh fiddled with his apron. Brooke shook her head, pulled a drag of her smoke. “And we’re stuck here.”

    Mesh thought things could be worse. He also thought Crayola should conduct a study on her eyes. He thought when she smiled—her real smile—he could tell exactly what she’d looked as a child blowing out a birthday cake. Mesh often wondered—when she breezed past him—if her hair, which he could smell over the smoke, the exhaust vent, and the slop leaking from the dumpster, had been washed with chemicals that gave his heart an allergic reaction. How else could he explain what it was doing now, running off without him, leaving his breaths short and his chest flushed with panic?

    She tilted her head, the little girl smile giving way to something more sinister. “What are you thinking, Mesh?”

    “Huh? Oh, I…” Mesh looked at the door. He should get back. There were still two tables inside, Brooke’s customers. He’d only wanted to take out the trash. Not true, really, he’d wanted to see Brooke, for her to see him. They only saw each other at the store. Near sinks and dumpsters. Never at school. At school he was invisible.

    “I’m not thinking anything,” he said, eyes darting, finding anyplace to land other than the brutal confidence of her gaze.

    “Well,” she said, stubbing out the cigarette. “I think that you think too much, Mesh.”

    Maybe she was right. He blurted out what was on his mind. “Are you hungry?”

    The last of the four customers paid and made one last joke about Thanksgiving in India. When they were gone, Brooke sat on the counter, something Mesh’s father was strict about, her feet kicking while she texted.

    Mesh went to work, prepping the boneless butter chicken—what he knew to be her favorite dish—topped with his father’s tomato creams sauce. On the side he made basmati rice, and mixed some greens with onions, cucumber and herbs.

    He wiped his brow with his forearm. He ducked out of his apron. When he glanced over, he found Brooke watching him, her ocean blues wide and rapt, the phone abandoned and dark. Mesh laughed for no reason. “Shouldn’t be much longer.”

    The dining room was dimly lit, with the low dinner music thrumming in the background. Mesh knew his father expected him to follow the schedule. Every night was a ritual. He looked at the clock. At this very moment Brooke should be vacuuming. He should’ve been washing pots. With this in mind he flipped on the overhead lights.

    “Hey,” Brooke squinted. Mesh turned them off.

    The took the back table. The meal between them, the music low. Brooke swept her back her hair and licked her lips. “This is nice.”

    Mesh shrugged. Brooke talked about her friends and their school and even how Paul, her boyfriend had made a pass at her. Mesh could only listen and shrug and pick at the dinner. He eyed the front door, locked off from the world and its rules. He pushed away thoughts of tomorrow, when his father would return and watch him. Or Monday, at school, when Brooke would walk past him again. Instead, he focused on the way she closed her eyes with each bite, and how when she opened them, she saw him and smiled like a little girl whose wish had come true.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        There is a wonderful romance in the air and if not that.night, surely another night would awaken Brooke’s heart and let Mesh inside . This is beautifully written Pete and there is a want to wrap your arms around.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Love, love, love the line about the chemical washed hair. You put words to a feeling I’ve had trouble explaining. Sometimes it’s something invisible like that that gets us.

  24. Moirai-TQ

    Mama, still in her pajamas, comes down the stairs and walks over to the sliding glass door that leads to the backyard. I love my mama. She is always smiling and telling me she loves me.

    “OK puppies, time to go outside and go pee pee! Come on!”

    Whiskey and I wave our tails and run out the door. We make our morning rounds and do our thing against the old rusty milk can, the tree trunks, and the picnic table leg. Mama has closed the sliding glass door, so we fly through the dog door to get our breakfast!

    Whiskey, “Breakfast, breakfast, breakfast! We’re getting our breakfast!” Whisky goes over to the rug by the kitchen sink and plants her butt firmly onto the rug. Her tail wagging like there is no tomorrow.

    Toby, “Food, food, food! Woo hoo!” I see that mama has put our bowls up onto the counter top. She’s opening Whiskey’s container. She’s pouring her food into her weird pink dish. What are those shapes inside her dish? The food makes crunchy sounds as it hits the different sections of the bowl. She shakes the bowl and sets it back onto the counter. Mama opens the big white box that holds my food container. It is always cold when I eat it. She’s putting my food into my bowl! Food!!!!

    Mama is always talking to us while she gets our food ready. Today it was her normal talking about what good puppies we are. We’re both 11 years old and we’re not puppies. But mama loves us, so it’s ok.

    I sit down right by my food bowl because it’s not easy for me to see it anymore. I just know where she puts it.

    She’s got our bowls in her hands and turns to set them down. I’m sitting nice and pretty like I should, but Whiskey tries to get her food before we’re told we can eat. She and mama play this game every day. Mama stands up, moves her head to look at each of us as we sit so patiently for our food! Food! Food!

    She’s looking at me! I move my left ear from pointed kinda behind me to the front. I’m not sure why mama is so obsessed with where my ears point before I eat, but she loves me, so I put them where she wants them. I guess this is our game we play every day.

    Mama’s face starts to smile! “OK!” she says. We can eat!

    Whiskey chomps her food so loudly and licks her funny bowl until it is empty. I just don’t know how she stays so skinny!

    “Come on Toby, hurry up and eat so I can lick your bowl clean! Your food tastes so good! Are you gonna leave me some rice today? What about some meat? Any veggies? Please, please, please? Huh, huh, huh???? Please??”

    Whiskey stands there and stares at me and my food bowl every time we eat. She has learned to wait until I leave my food bowl before she sticks her face into my bowl.

    I calmly stand there and eat the food that mama makes me. The only time it is ever warm is when it first comes out of the big pot. She tells me I have to wait until it cools. Sometimes she puts some into my bowl and then puts my bowl into the smaller side of that big white box. It is still warm when she gives it to me. Mmmmmmmm nom nom nom. Today, I’ll leave a grain of rice for Whiskey. She does keep me company, so I can give her that.

    I take two steps away from my bowl and Whiskey has her face in there, licking and smelling my bowl.

    “Oh! You left me some rice. Oh thank you! Mmmmmm Toby food tastes so good!”

    1. writer_sk

      This was so great, Moira. You got everything across wonderfully and the puppies’ (as mama call them) world was seen through their eyes.

      The enthusiasm they felt for the food was so telling and accurate

      1. Moirai-TQ

        Thank you.

        At first I wasn’t going to do this one because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Then, driving into work, I thought about the puppies. Yes, they are puppies because Whiskey is a girl and Toby is a boy, so I cannot call them boys and girls.

        This is something that we go through every single morning. They are a very sane spot in my world. I’m sorry that I need to leave them to go to work.

          1. Moirai-TQ

            Those two pups are so easy to love. Toby is a chubby Jack Russell mix with cataracts who sleeps glued to my side in the bed. Whiskey is a Rat Terrior who loves belly rubs.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh Moirai,you hit my button reading this. Reminds me of Donner when I was a boy. He was a mix and I was 12. I had located an ad in the paper for puppies and my father drove 20 miles to the house. I’ve had a lot of puppies and show dogs through the years and the conversations you wrote between the two reminded me so much of Donner. Thank you. I just loved this.

  25. jhowe

    Jose Luella Cruz drew stares as he walked into Garrison’s Bistro wearing cargo shorts and a camouflage vest. The maître d’ insisted neck ties and jackets were required but quickly showed him to the table when Cruz proffered a crumpled hundred in his gnarled fist.

    The woman in a black c#cktail dress tilted her chin and suppressed as smile as he sat and ordered a shot of Jack with a PBR chaser. She sipped her Pinot Noir as they waited for the drinks. Neither spoke until Cruz had downed the shot.

    “Liquid courage?” she said over the rim of her glass.

    “I’ve never been the courageous type.”

    She smiled and nodded slowly, enjoying the obvious humility. She surmised every man in the place would harbor secret aspirations if pressed to convey them.

    He looked into her eyes and blinked. “I’m afraid I’ve made a mistake.” He tilted his head. “Stephanie told me her eyes are blue.”

    “If I were Stephanie, I’d ask you if you had something against brown eyes.”

    “I actually prefer your eyes as they are,” he said, holding her gaze. He extended his hand. “Jose Luella Cruz.”

    She took it and smiled. “Cherri LeBlanc.” They made small talk about food and clothing, Jose not the least offended by her questions about his attire. Soon, a commotion became apparent in the front of the restaurant.

    “I think Stephanie has arrived,” Cherri said.

    “I seems so,” Cruz said.

    “Shall I leave?” she said.

    “Only if you want to.” Neither moved and Cruz realized he still held her hand.

    He reached into a compartment in his shorts and tossed her a set of keys. “You can’t miss it, black jeep Wrangler, a bit muddy I’m afraid. Pick me up out back in five minutes. Let’s go get some barbeque, I’m starved.”

    Jose Luella Cruz tossed a hundred on the table and rose to confront the irate blond woman wearing a black dress who strode toward him.

      1. Jess Zafarris Post author

        That is … completely ridiculous. I’ll see if anything can be done about the filters for that sort of thing. (Note: It may be more reasonable to wait to fix this until we relaunch the website with our new design in early January, but I’ll ask the devs about it and see if it’s something I can fix myself in the meantime.)

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Jess, I’ve been stopped on peac@ck, Alfred Hitchc@ck, c@cktail, p@rn (just the word), and one other I can’t remember. Letting us know about the filter in advance would have been helpful. I don’t think anyone here, and certainly not I, would deliberately use offensive language. However, some pieces almost demand “adult” words that could be masked if need be.

          Thank you for responding to messages you’ve gotten. I think most of us are pretty serious about our writing and see this as a fantastic place to hone our craft.

    1. writer_sk

      Jhowe- I liked your descriptions of the setting and your first paragraph.

      It would be interesting to see whether Jose and his date have really just met and also what else will happen.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Well finely! I think your couple are role playing.and have been friends or lover’s for a long time. I never picked anyone up in a restaurant.And once in a bar and that was enough for me!!

  26. GrahamLewis


    I’d been dating Changying for about three months when Thanksgiving rolled around. Born and raised in mainland China, she’d been in this country for about two years, on a professional visa, working in a medical lab. She shared a small apartment with her mother, Jinghua, visiting on a temporary visa. Changying spoke English well and had adapted to many American customs, while Jinghua, tiny, formal, and quiet, kept to Chinese language and ways.

    At that time my extended family gathered every Thanksgiving at my parents’ small farmhouse, some 30 miles into the countryside. I asked if I could bring Changying and Jinghua, and of course they were warmly invited. Changying had been there before, but Jinghua never had. Changying and her mother wanted to bring their share of food, and, after I vetoed duck feet and similar Chinese delicacies as too strange for American palates, we settled on homemade eggrolls.

    On the drive up Changying and I discussed Thanksgiving traditions, and she translated for her mother. Another topic that came up was dogs. My parents had two of them, medium-sized dogs who wandered freely inside and outside the house. Changying said that in China most people regard dogs as solely outside animals, and that her mother would likely feel uncomfortable around them. But she explained it as carefully as she could to her mother, and said Jinghua would be civil about the dogs, but we should be careful to keep them from bothering her.

    Once there Changying joined my mother and sister in the kitchen, chatting as she learned long-held family recipes and how to stuff and bake a turkey. Her mother stood at the edge, smiling politely, and nodding whenever Changying translated things for her. I sat in the small living room with my siblings and and nephews, half-watching football as the younger cousins rambunctiously ran in and out.

    Dinner was served on a huge table that dominated the dining room, various steaming bowls of potatoes, gravy, stuffing, casseroles, and plates of eggrolls and biscuits, all ringed around golden brown turkey. Changying and I sat on either side of her mother, keeping a special eye on the dogs, who stayed expectantly near the table waiting for scraps to fall. They were good dogs, but it was within the realm of possibility that one or both of them might do a bit of begging. We were used to it, but I was afraid Jinghua, tiny and apparently meek, would be bothered by them, even intimidated.

    I noticed that one dog kept edging up to Jinghua, and I kept nudging the dog away. Until I saw that Jinghua was slipping food under the table and letting the dog take it from her hand. And I realized Changying and I had underestimated both Jinghua’s willingness to adapt to foreign ways, and the power of the natural bond between people and dogs.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Perfect response to the prompt and very carefully written. The tension was there and built up nicely toward the end. One thing I have learned in this world is ‘never under estimate a Chinese person.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Wonderfully told story! There are little moments like these that remind us that humanity transcends culture and that we’re not always as different as we think. Thanks for reminding me that there are some things that are universal. Lovely.

  27. E.C

    A violinist and a pianist stood on stage together, the sound as beautiful as it was reached the deaf ears of our hero. She sat rigidly in the French restaurant. Bruises peeked out from under her dress, lining her legs and speckling her shoulders. Her short auburn hair had been washed though the smell of iron still clung to the strands of hair closest to her face. It annoyed her that she had to be here, that she had to dress up, and that she was waiting for her villain to show up.

    “I swear to the Gods if he doesn’t show up this time.” The seat in front of her was pulled back as a tall man in a grey suit smiled and sat down. “Speak of the devil she rubbed her tired eyes and leaned back in her thin uncomfy chair. He eyed her.

    “New dress?” He asked casually as he waved at a waiter, probably to order wine.
    “Yeah well, last time you stained it with marinara sauce.” She scowled.
    “Oh right, that’s why we aren’t allowed to meet up at the Italian place anymore.” He chuckled.
    She crossed her arms and huffed. There were only two ways for the night to end, and that’s how it had always been. Either they were going to throwdown and get thrown out of the third restaurant this year, or Mighty Melissa was going to wake up in Dr. Forcible’s bed tomorrow afternoon. Or maybe, vice versa.

    Dr. Forcible licked his upper-lip in anticipation, “What’s for dinner?” He held up a menu like it was a barrier, shielding his eyes from Melissa. “Mel?” He looked up from his menu fort to see her slipping off one of the straps on her dress.

    “What’s the matter Tom?” She tilted her head innocuously.
    “You’re evil.” He smiled wide enough for his dimples to show.
    “Let’s take this elsewhere.” She stood and grabbed her purse while Tom Forcible loosened his tie and unbuttoned his blazer.

    That night was interesting. Just from the fight that ensued, they brought down three sky scrapers, my parents’ restaurant and their lives. Suddenly Mighty Melissa didn’t seem like much of a hero anymore. So I made a decision; take them both down.

    1. writer_sk

      I had a hard time with this as far as understanding whether they’re enemies or not. I didn’t quite get the ritual of the fight or last few line of the story. With some more explanation it has a lot of potential and intrigue.

  28. RafTriesToWrite

    The “kinda back story” is in the prompt Symbolic Animals.

    “Dad why do we do this again?” I spoke after we sent our waiter away.

    “Thanksgiving?” He asked, quite confused.
    “You know what mean dad” I let out a quiet chuckle, but dullness came quite too soon.

    “Cara, sweetie. If you don’t want to do this, we can just enjoy thanksgiving at home like normal people” Dad spoke in the same tone whenever he’s mad at me for not wiping the dishes dry. To think that, after all these years I still hated that one chore.

    “Daaaad” I groaned like a little kid, trying to light up the mood a little bit. We’ve been doing this every year ever since I can remember. We never stopped even after what happened with mom. Even if…

    Dad laughed. First time I’ve heard him laugh in the past few days. I let out a smile, I’m glad to see him laughing more and more.

    “It’s kind of like a tradition that your mom and I made, back when we were still dating. But before I continue, is this what you want to use my ticket for? Because I can always tell you the story anytime. Unless you want to waste it today, that’s fine by me” Hmmm. Now that he mentioned it, do I want him to spill the tea now? I mean, I can always ask him tomorrow, right?

    “No. Dad, tell me something else” He’s right. This has always been our tradition as a family – Telling one truth that no one has ever heard before by the other. I know it seems silly because families are supposed to always tell the truth to one another, but it’s all dad has to hold in memory of my mom. Something before I was born. I don’t want to take that away from him.

    Our thanksgiving is just another day to give us a chance to say one truth and one truth only that we’ve never told to someone in our family. That’s what makes our thanksgiving special.

    “I met someone” Ooooooooh! Jackpot! I knew there was something going on around dad these past few days. Now it all makes sense!

    “Oh, do I know her?” I asked a little bit startled. I’m more than happy to see my dad back in the dating game again. I’m happy for him, really. I hope she’s nice. I know she will never replace mom, but I do hope she can fill the void in my dad’s heart.

    “Not yet, but I asked her to come for dinner” Well that explains the extra plate on our table. Silly me. I guess I’ll just tell him later about me borrowing his car to practice driving, unsupervised.

    I’m surprised he hasn’t noticed the change in his gas meter yet.

  29. Russ

    Henry, very drunk, sat across from a muggle in a pub. The muggle was sitting at a table alone and was eating a sandwich.

    “How is the sandwich?” Henry asked.

    The muggle looked up from his meal, laughed a bit, and said, “Good! Thanks!”

    Henry thought for a moment, and decided on telling the muggle something. “You know, you muggles have it rough?”

    “What?” the muggle laughed.

    “Muggle. It’s what you are,” Henry replied. He then pulled out his wand and smacked it flat on the table.

    “What is that?” the muggle asked. “A stick?”

    “No, it’s not.” Henry picked up the wand, flicked it, and on top of the table appeared a cooked turkey on a white plate. The muggle gazed at it with his mouth open.

    “Do that again,” he said in awe.

    So Henry tapped the salt shaker with the tip of the wand; it turned into an apple.

    The muggle, of course, was amazed, and the two discussed magic, dragons, other mythical beasts, spells, and even Hogwartz. “Ah, but they kicked me out when I was 14,” said Henry. “I got into a fight and it went a bit too far, but the minister, Fudge, still let’s me work a bit of magic.”

    “Won’t you get in trouble for telling me all this?” the muggle asked.

    Henry shrugged. “Eh, I don’t care. It wouldn’t get me into too much trouble.”

    “Where are you living anyways?”

    “Down in ——-”

    “Wow, and nobody knows you can do magic?”

    “Nobody but magic folk, and my family,” explained Henry. The two spoke a bit longer, and then Henry said, “well, I best be going. And by the way, don’t tell nobody about this.”

    “Yes, sir.” The muggle said.

    “It was fine meeting you,” said Henry. He held out his hand and the muggle shook it. “Watch this…” he said. He looked around playfully for a brief moment, closed his eyes, and then disappeared with a loud pop.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I enjoyed your take a whole lot even if i missed the references. Dis- advantage of being a geizer in this time and world. Loved the conversation lines.

  30. 1andonlykellyd

    “Come on over,” Paulie said, “Share this beautiful meal with me.” He urged, noticeably using his tongue to dislodge a small piece of meat from his teeth.
    “No, HA! I’m okay, HA! HA! Replied Vinnie, careful to keep his distance from Paulie. He had heard stories about those who had made the mistake of trusting Paulie in the past and would repeat their foolish mistake. “I-I’m okay over here Paulie, Thanks. YEP!”
    “You’re an odd one Vinnie, you know it? When Paulie says do something, you do it. I’ve torn people apart for less!”
    “I know HA! Yep! Ha!” Vinnie replied, his mouth watering at the sight of the bounty before him but still backing up a step just to be on the safe side.
    Paulie took another large bite. “Mmmmmm! Are you sure you won’t join me? It’s so delicious, tender and juicy too!” Licking his maw to prove his point.
    Vinnie felt his stomach rumble as he watched Paulie indulge and took a cautious step forward.
    “That’s it, that’s it,” Paulie coaxed softly, “nothing to worry about. Just come join my feast.”
    Vinnie took another step, and then another. He was close enough now that he could smell the sweet savory meat. “Ha! Ha! Yep! Yap!” He exclaimed, giving in to his hunger. He lunged toward the downed Zebra before him. Before he could sink a single tooth into the carrion, he was tackled from the left. Trying to scramble to his feet, yet unable, he realized that it had all been a trap.
    Janice the lioness held Vinnie the Hyena down with one massive paw and ripped out the flesh of his neck.
    “Stupid Hyena.” Paulie grunted and returned to his meal.

  31. Kerry Charlton


    Brian Beauchamp has just finished his first week of classes at the University Of Miami when he and a buddy wandered in the student center. A freshman mixer party was open with a live band and as the two entered , Brian‘s eyes riveted on a girl with long black hair, flashing brown eyes and who moved like Ginger Rogers on the dance floor.

    “See you later Bob, I saw her first.”

    He worked his way through the dancers and tapped the dark haired beauty’s partner on his shoulder. He kept dancing however and Brian stepped in between the two and whisked her across the dance floor.

    “That wasn‘t very polite,” she said with a half smile. “But if you want to dance, I’m ready, my names Barbara.”

    “Hi Barbara, I’m Brian. You certainly are a smooth dancer.“

    The band was playing some nondescript music as Brian steered both of them toward the bandstand.

    “Tango, Barbara?”

    “Love to but how are you going to manage that?”

    “Keep in rhythm girl, I’ll be right back.”

    Brian climbed the small bandstand, waved a five spot and the band leader understood. The next song was a tango played fairly well and the two spread across the floor in a good example that showed why Baptists thought dancing was a sin Cheek to cheek, back and forth ,their feet flew in perfect rhythm until the music stopped. Brian had lowered Barbara as close to the floor as he dared to, then brought her close and held her for a moment.

    “You dance like a wild man but I loved every step.”

    “So did I. Have you seen Coconut Grove at night? I’d love to show it to you.”

    “I have curfew at midnight, can we be back in time?”

    “Of course, come on.”

    The two piled in Brian’s ’49 ford and made their way to Lejuene Road and then Old Cutler Road down to the grove and the old Dinner Key Auditorium. Sail boats shimmered in the bright moonlight at the yacht basin as Brian stopped at the edge of the

    boat slip. He leaned over and kissed her gently on the cheek,

    “My last name is Beauchamp, Barbara, there’s some French in me somewhere. And I live here in Coral Gables. Now tell me about yourself.

    “Well it’s Barbra missing the ‘A’ in the middle, and then Smith. I’m from New York and my Father’s in the tire business..

    “Does he own a garage?”

    “Well, not exactly, what does your father do?”

    i . “He‘s a contractor, building houses. Who cares? The moonlight is beautiful shimmering on your hair.”

    He leaned over to kiss her but she pushed him away gently.

    “I do want to kiss you but you’d think I was fast and……… Brian‘s lips got in the way.

    “Brian, wait a moment, my Father insists I date only Jewish boys. You don’t look like you fit the mode, do you?”

    “Sorry, I’m Lutheran, How long are you going to listen to your Dad?”

    “You don’t understand., Smith is my middle name, the last name is Firestone

    “Whoa, like Firestone Tires?”. I thought you lived n New York. What about Palm Beach?

    “Oh damn, I’m sorry we got into this. You might as well, know the rest, Dad is Harvey Firestone III, he owns the company. We stay in Palm Beach during part of the winter. Why is life so complicated.? And why now?”

    “Barbara, the city is full of people of the Jewish faith and I don’t give a hoot if you are, now kiss me like you mean it, no one is ever going to know.”

    And no one ever did. We dated for a whole semester before she told her father and then all hell broke losse.

    Footnote: My taste was good however, Barbra was in Who’s Who in American Colleges, graduated Summa Cum Laude, Editor of The Miami Hurricane Newspaper and on the board of student directors. I almost forgot, her looks would stop a freight train in hot pursuit.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hi John, about the tango, I do know how. Went to cotillion when I was 14 and we learned it there. I added a little more in my story. Glad you liked it to the smithereens. Been a long time since someone used that word. Thank you.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you snuz for your wonderful comments on my story. I guess you can tell how much fun I had in writing this. John Howe thinks I am writing about me and not fiction. He has no idea how close he is to the truth.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Great dance scene! I felt like I was there in that room with the characters even though I’ve never been to a freshman mixer party with a live band. Seems like it would have been a fun time to be young. Now everyone just looks at their phone screens even at live events.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        J., You may not believe this but the year was 1954.and girls that I went with were wearing Cadillac bumper bra.s and if you danced to closely., You were in danger of your chest craving in. Skirts were carefully below the knee for modesty but the wonder was in.your imagination as you danced with them Jitter bug was king and the reason.i used the tango was for romance. Most people never thought about it and considered it bad whist a girl through.a room of people dancing. I should write a book and call it Geezer Memories

  32. snuzcook


    Marvin: “Isn’t this nice, having a leisurely meal in honor of the old lady.”

    Louis: “You know, I’ve often thought that she didn’t really appreciate our refined palates.”

    Marvin: “I quite agree. No imagination.”

    Louis: “She wouldn’t eat anything fresh. Her idea of cooking was to empty a can into a bowl and nuke it. You just had to look at the size of her cankles to realize she was headed for trouble.”

    Marvin: “You’re right.”

    Louis: “And she thought WE were picky when we didn’t want to eat what she was serving. We tried to tell her, fresh greens and protein. Didn’t we try to tell her?”

    Marvin: “You know what they say, your family never really appreciates you.”

    Louis: “And she really did treat us like family, didn’t she?”

    Marvin: “She was a lovely woman.”

    Louis: “So gentle.”

    Marvin: “Always made a body feel welcome.”

    Louis: “Always a comfortable seat by the fire and pleasant conversation.”

    Marvin: “Her house was like a refuge from the storm. And she was the only one who knew how to get the kinks out of my back.”

    Louis: “Yes, for an old lady she had wonderful, strong hands. I’m really going to miss her.”

    Marvin: “It’s a rare honor that we can come together like this and enjoy such a feast.”

    Louis: “If only there were some fresh greens.”

    Marvin: “You can’t have everything. Pass me that eyeball, will you?”

    Louis: “You know, I never realized her eyes were hazel. I always thought of them as green.”

    Louis: “How do you think we’re going to get out of here, anyway?”

    Marvin: “Oh, someone will come along and open the door. Her daughter usually comes by on Sundays. She’s allergic to cats, so she won’t mind if we run out the door when she comes.”

    Louis: “Lovely woman. I’m really going to miss her.”

  33. creaturescry

    For as long as King Ezra could remember, dragons were the archenemy of good. That was until giants tumbled into the region and stirred up a whole other mess. They were virtually impossible to defeat alone, so he called to the alpha dragon for a treaty. He ran over it in his head several times, that was definitely why he was now in a dark cave sitting at a massive table across from a dragon. He stabbed his thick cut of unicorn meat and shoved it into his mouth savagely. One thing he had learned about dragons so far was that they were terrible cooks. Another thing was that they were rather clean eaters as they wrapped their long forked tongues around the meat and carefully lifting it up to their mouths. The alpha dragon himself, a red scaled lizard with a goldfish like face, lifted his tenth whole unicorn up to his mouth in this manner. His golden plated underbelly rippling as it descended down to his stomach, followed by a satisfied grunt.

    “So tyrant king are you enjoying the meal yet?” the alpha dragon asked, grooming his tusks that sat on either side of his head.

    “Is this what you call food?” he spat, slamming his fist on the table, “and why haven’t we discussed the treaty yet?”

    The great lizard narrowed his round black eyes, “well aren’t you fussy?”

    “Look here fish face, my kingdom is on the verge of destruction from the giants!” he hissed, stabbing whatever was on his plate with a knife, his eyes wide with rage, “I don’t have time to spare!”

    “Might be better for your kingdom to rot considering how you take care of it,” the dragon huffed, then took a swig out of a goblet the size of a human.

    “What did you say?!”

    “Can’t you calm down for a moment child! All you do is ask silly questions and yell at me, and while I’m trying to feed you nonetheless!” he boomed, expanding his wings, touching the edge of the cave with the tips of his wings, “you really are a tyrant, but not the kind you show your people. Ooohh nooo, you’re the tyrant that bears more resemblance to a brattly little child rather than a warlord.”

    Ezra glared at the dragon, but kept his tongue still. Then something caught his eyes down at his feet and a sinister smile crossed his face. It was a little creature, one he knew too well. He stooped down and picked it up with his hands cupped. A little creature with slimy skin, three eyes, and an assortment of spikes running down its back. He stroked the spines on the little creatures back gently, careful not to touch the tips.

    “If you can’t get something by persuasion, then death is always a viable option,” the Creature sighed sweetly, “for I am Oliver the Gort, and I will serve my King till the end.”

    1. Beebles

      Khhh, Gorts eh? Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em. Loved the description of your dragon eating and you really touched a nerve with the thought of all those dead unicorns. Never a good thing.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This was definitely unusual from the get go. Sad about losing the Unicorns, fun creatures that they are. Sorry I’m not up on Gorts. Can you clue me?

    2. snuzcook

      Not sure who I’m really rooting for, King Ezra or the Dragons. I suspect Oliver the Gort has his own agenda. Thanks for the continuing Gort stories, creaturescry!


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