The Duality of Humankind

Image from the blog and book 2 Kinds of People by João Rocha, a Portuguese art director who illustrates many different kinds of incompatible people.

Today’s writing prompt comes to you courtesy of my former colleague Katie W., who is most definitely that kind of person.

The Prompt: “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who ______ and those who _______.”

Continue the story in 500 words or fewer in the comments below.

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249 thoughts on “The Duality of Humankind

  1. totough1

    The air in the pub was thick, thick with the heat of breath and stench of unwashed bodies. It was almost greasy, clinging to my nose, slicking my lungs – I could hardly stand it. If it weren’t for the sandstorm that raged outside, I would not have been in the infernal place. I would have been leagues away, wrapped in the warm embrace of a man who claimed to love me. Not here, never here. A bead of sweat slid from the nape of my neck down the middle of my back, making me shudder in disgust. This place was so humid – muggy despite the arid climate just outside the paper-thin doors that were fighting to stay on their hinges against the wind.
    There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who understand human nature, the capriciousness of people and where their loyalties lie, and those who are daft enough- “he burped and wiped an invisible drop of honey ale from his chin. “Those who are daft enough to think that because they are good, because they’re right, because they fight, and they fight, and they fight for their people, that the people they fight for will be loyal to them, will love them.”
    He laughed at that, a humorless laugh that was but a push of air. I stared at him. He was a drunk, but he was not foolish. Blowing through my nose at the sweat that collected at the tip of my nose, I lifted my own glass to my lips, taking a swig of the bitter liquid
    “Your brother was one of the daft”
    I stiffened. My nostrils flared as I suppressed my body’s urge to choke on the ale that I had inhaled at his words. Slowly, I put my cup down.
    “Daft to believe that you would not leave his side; to believe that you wouldn’t betray him – betray your people – for a title. Daft to believe that you would not help the usurper take what was his!”
    “You’re drunk, uncle, watch your tongue.” A bit too quietly. My voice forced its way from my throat a bit too quietly.
    “Kui, not uncle” He corrected, “You are of my blood, yes, but you are no kin to me. All kin to me have been sent to the soil because of you.”
    Something inside me turned to ash at that, at the memories that pushed their way into my mind. Kui stared at me, his sand colored eyes hard and sober. I clenched my hands into fists, trying and failing to conceal their trembling, then I looked to the door. They had gone still in the time that Kui and I had talked. The storm had passed.
    Kui’s mouth quirked at the corners as I stood, and the hardness of his eyes melted back into watery drunkenness. “Safe travels, highness.” He cooed as I turned on my heels and left him to his drink.

  2. Story Phoenix

    The Duality of Humankind (it has 575 words, oops)

    There are two kinds of people in this world,” Heylan slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who do, and those who don’t. You choose which one you want to be,” he had trouble keeping balance on his drunken feet talking to whoever was listening. “Well there,”
    “Me?” said a random voice in the back of the bar
    “who the heck else would I be talking to,”
    “Literally anyone else here” the man said as he walked in front of the crowd. He had a fine tailored suit on and looked as if he were coming back from work.
    “shut up and come with me smartypants” at this point everyone from bikers to simple city people were staring at the two men and looking at one another in confusion at whats going on
    “Yeah, come with me to the-,” Heylan fell unconscious on the wooden ground that had years of wear and has been scorched in certain places, due to extreme brawls. Everyone circled around the fallen man when he suddenly jerked up and started yelling, “Why are you all staring at me, weirdos” he awkwardly limped to the back door that lead to the parking lot.
    “Wait!” said the other man that Heylan was speaking to, “What were you going to tell me before?”
    “Do I,” Heylan took a last gulp of his whiskey as the two men walked outside and threw the bottle into a bush “know you?” Heylan’s words seemed to just fall out of his mouth as if it were a waterfall with no general direction to it, and that waterfall smelled like toxic gas.
    “Yes you were jus-” the man was cut off
    “cut the chit chat and let me tell you what I wanted to say,” Heylan’s order of thought made no sense to the man but he just listened in the chance that Heylan would just walk away without telling him anything. “so you see, I’m a secret agent in the government,” Heylan’s words were a waterfall once again but still, the man went with it “and I want you to join it”
    “Whoa whoa whoa, so you expect me to believe a random drunk guy I have only known for five minutes, is expecting me to join the government as a spy. Like that’s gonna happen.” said the man taking a step backward
    “Wow, great strategy.” the man said sarcastically
    “plan B, then?”
    “it won’t work.”
    “yes it will” Heylan said pulling something out of his pocket. Then the man heard a cracking sound, and he couldn’t move.

    The man woke up but didn’t know where he was, and it smelled of some amalgamation of pizza, beer, and year old gym equipment. The man almost passed out again but he saw someone coming through the door and he realized that Heylan stunned him and took him to his apartment. “Ow, what in the living heck did you stun me for?!”
    “I told you, plan B.” The two men sat and stared at each other for a very long while. The tension seemed to get to both of them. “What’s your alias?” Heylan wondered
    the man seemed confused
    “your name”
    Heylan took a big gulp out his new bottle “nice name, Mines Heylan”
    “with an a, or an e?”
    “Oh my god why does everyone get this messed up!”
    “Okay, jeez.”
    “an E” Heylan walked into the kitchen.

  3. HandHeldWriter

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who know and those who don’t know.” He held up his glass.

    “What,” I began, “in the world are you talking about?”

    “Those who know,” he repeated, holding up a hand, palm up, “and those who don’t know,” he held up the other hand. “Two kinds of people,” then he held up four fingers.

    “I see. Like I know you’re drunk and you don’t know your drunk, right?”

    As my companion laughed at this, his drink sloshed around in his hand spilling a little on the bar. “I believe you are highly mistaken,” slurring his words once again.

    “And I believe you’ve had too much to drink.” I took the glass from his hand. “No more Mojito for you.”

    “Actually,” the bartender cut in, “it’s a Nojito. You know … non-alcoholic.” He raised an eyebrow at me.

    “Impossible,” I said as I stood up.

    My vision blurred.

    I felt light-headed.

    I felt weak.

    Then, I blacked out.

    When I awoke, I was lying down on a sofa. I had a cool, damp rag on my forehead and a throbbing headache. “What happened?” I asked, not knowing if anyone else was in the room with me.

    “You passed out in the bar,” someone said, “I brought you to your room, and now you’re dealing with a hangover.” It was my traveling companion. He set a cup of black coffee and some aspirin on the table beside me. “Your agent said to keep an eye on you,” he chuckled. “She knew you would celebrate and drink too much, more than you would realize. She knows you better than you know yourself.”

    True, I thought. “Celebrating what?” I couldn’t remember.

    “Your book, The Duality of Humankind, hit the bestsellers list, remember? Wow, you did have too much to drink, didn’t you.”

    “So, I was the one drinking and you weren’t, right?” My head was still a bit fuzzy.

    “Exactly,” he said. “Everyone knew you had too much to drink. But you didn’t know.” We both laughed. “You were right after all.”

    “About what?” I sat up.

    “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who know and those who don’t know.” He held up two fingers this time.

  4. Sonyahetan

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who cross the street and those who don’t.” I looked at him but remained silent. He turned his head in the way a dog might when they hear a sound that is new to them, and then hear it again. I was angry. My anger deafening. My silence long enough for him to continue,
    “Do you get what I’m saying…I am telling you that it’s not your fault. Things like this just happen. We didn’t plan it, it was organic.”
    I broke eye contact and looked down into the pale pint that was the reflection of my former life. I saw my future.
    “Benny?” He said as he reached out to put his hand on my shoulder. I could have cried. I desperately wanted too. I wanted to reach out and hug him. I wanted to tell him I was okay and that he was okay and how everything was going to be okay, so I lied.
    “Yeah,” I said and cracked a fake smile. He nodded and looked at my pint.
    “Can I get you something a little stronger?”
    “Sure,” I started to say. He turned around toward the barback to order, “It will help you,” I finished.
    He spun back. Instead of facing his companion he was facing the business end of a .45
    He stumbled backward but it all happened so fast.
    I pulled the trigger.

  5. FNG3-2

    “There are two types of people in this world,” Jakob said, pausing to take another drag from his cigarette. “Those who accept, and those who reject.”

    “What are you going on about this time?” I asked, now accustomed to the unusual musings my friend loved to share. If this breakthrough was anything like the others, I would need another cup of coffee.

    After rolling his eyes, Jakob crushed the butt into the ashtray, swung himself back around to face me, and focused in on the message. “You know exactly what I mean. Everyone does. The problem is that most people fall into the second category, and the thought of change scares them too much to do anything about it. The truth is, life gives us all something.”

    “Lemons into lemonade is it?” I couldn’t help myself at that point.

    “Whatever man, just listen,” he said, making a gesture with his hands that signaled an
    incoming point. Jakob was no philosopher, but his next few words would come to mean so much more than they were intended to in only a few short minutes.

    “Circumstances. Everyone’s born into a set of circumstances Jay, whether those circumstances are good, or bad, or in the middle somewhere. Rich, poor, white, black, big family, single-parent home, whatever. Most people just go through life accepting the circumstances they’re given,” he continued, motioning toward the crowd passing outside the coffee shop. “There’s a small percentage of us who can’t live like that. We who reject shape our destinies by refusing to go with the flow, as they say.”

    I responded to this with a half-laugh and began thinking that a cult had gotten ahold of my closest friend. “We who reject?” I mocked. “Come on Jake. You’ve worked in the same store for the last ten years!” I felt a pinch of regret after that one, but he needed the dose of reality.

    While Jakob quietly cursed and proceeded his rant, a young man entered the shop, stood next to a customer already at the counter, and pulled out his phone.

    What about him caught my eye I can no longer recall. He was fidgeting a little, but it wasn’t abnormal for someone waiting for coffee to be in a rush to get somewhere, especially not at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning.

    “I guess I’m boring you now?” my friend asked, suddenly aware that my attention was directed elsewhere. He turned to get a glimpse of the distraction.

    In what seemed like fractions of a second, the young man had drawn a pistol from his jacket pocket and was pointing it at the cashier’s head. Jakob leapt from his seat without a word. Several flashes and corresponding pops deafened the world around me.

    The rest of that day I’ve done my best to forget. Jakob, my best friend, woke up that morning ready to approach life from a different perspective. He wanted to take control of his life. And I laughed at him for it.

  6. creaturescry

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” Lewis said, sneering over the top of their fox hole, “me and you.”

    Tex paused his assembly of the radio and frowned, “what makes you say that?”

    “Well I’ve been thinking,” he began, shoving his binoculars over his eyes,”maybe god isn’t that creative if you really look close at things.”

    Tex turned back to his radio, tinkering with the parts again, “I thought you weren’t religious.”

    “I’m not,” he shrugged, “but if there was a god, why are there so many variations on the same type of animal! There’s like over two hundred breeds of dogs! He could have been a little bit more original and made something else you know?”

    Tex sighed, he was getting way too old for this. First they were overwhelmed on the battlefield, then they retreated blindly, and now they were lost and possibly surrounded. Tex knew it was his fault as the commanding officer in the duo, but he still felt a little annoyed at Lewis’s unprofessional attitude towards the situation. All he had done so far was go trigger happy on some poor creature, pulverising it beyond recognition. Lewis claimed that it was a carrier pigeon despite the fact it had fur mixed in the pile. Tex had later concluded that it was probably a squirrel, and prayed for his and everyone’s safety.

    “Then there’s me and you,” Lewis announced, bringing Tex back to the present, “the prime example of his inability to make anything different.”

    “Lewis there’s more than just two types of people,” Tex argued, putting all his frustration into assembling the radio.

    “No there’s not! There’s the smart one and the dumb one, the hero and the sidekick, me and you.”

    “There’s many different people in this universe Lewis,” he snapped, nearly destroying the radio, “but right now in this fox hole there is most definitely two types of people: the commanding officer and the little guy. Now shut up and keep looking for the enemy!”

    “Yes sir,” Lewis said, snapping to attention, and then whispering to himself, “I wonder what made him turn into lemon piss?”

    1. creaturescry

      I had written this as one of my attempts at the prompt, and I chose the other one over this one. But I liked this one too much not to post it. Especially since it has two of my favorite characters I’ve written. Not too sure if the grammars correct this time, hopefully it isn’t too bad.

    2. Kerry Charlton

      Obviously their chatter is covering up the uneasyness and probably fear both feel because they may be trapped. I enjoyed the verbal sparring.between the two . There is no telling where your story goes, but for one I would like to know and also see what reaction both have if the enemy should charge or if they’re saved

  7. Jennifer Park

    92. The Crust

    [This comes after the escape, under “Transparency.” There is another post below: “3. The Toilet”.]

    Annoyingly, for every dinner, Princess Amu-Amu’s underlings—having misunderstood earth customs—dressed Barbara in these long, flowing, white gowns with one-decameter trains. Barbara tried many times to explain that these were completely inappropriate for eating, but they were insistent, and so Barbara gave in. At least, today, the Princess was joining her for dinner, so, arguably, it was appropriate.

    At least the Princess’s English was improving…

    At least…

    Barbara was still not used to the castle and its open view. She was in hiding, pretending to be dead until the Princess and her partisans figured out just what to do with her. Why hide where anyone passing by could see her? Still, as much as Barbara relished the possibility of a dramatic come-back, at best she would be a puppet of the new Kryzlam order, so death was not such a bad alternative.

    The dinner was served almost as soon as Princess Amu-Amu was seated.

    Barbara was surprised to see the Earthly selection. “Pizza?”

    “You do not like pizza, Ambassador?”

    Barbara hated still being referred to as Ambassador. It was technically the highest rank she had attained, but that was a ceremonial role assigned to the young and the reckless. “You are aware, Princess, that gluten is lethal to Kryzlamei,” Barbara said with a straight face as she picked up a slice.

    The Princess grinned as she picked up a slice for herself. “And one of your most brilliant strokes of propaganda, Ambassador.” She took a big bite off the crust, and, naturally, the slice lost its ability to stay stiff, and flopped down.

    That made Barbara smile condescendingly. She had her slice folded in half, and was eating from the tip. After she swallowed her second bite, she quipped, “I see you are one of those people who like to eat the crust first.”

    The Princess did not seem to understand what Barbara was saying at first. Then she frowned. The quiver around her mouth indicated that she was growing angry, until she blurted, “What is with you Earth people, always saying these people and those people, people who do this and people who do that? What… That is… so… uncouth!”

    Barbara was taken aback more than she would have thought. Her mind was flooded with a memory from very long ago, and she had to put down her slice. “You… You have a point, Princess… My father used to say… that there are two kinds of people in this galaxy: those who divide people into two kinds of people, and those who cannot.”

    The Princess frowned even further, this time indicating confusion.

    “And, you see, we Earthlings, we no longer can.” Barbara picked her slice back up, and took a bite from the crust. The slice was now too small to flop.

    The Princess was still too young and inexperienced to understand. Perhaps, by the time she came to power, and then was overthrown, she would.

    Wait. Wheat. That gave her an idea.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I like how the “relationship” between Barbara and the princess is developing. Using pizza eating methods is a clever way for Barbara to pull ahead in the battle of wits. Looking forward the the next installment.

  8. darkmic

    The Duality of Humankind

    It was a dark night really hopeless and if not for sudden snowstorm outside I would have never ended up here.
    It just opened last week. New classy and tasteless.
    I don‘t even drink.
    I ordered Gin and Water. Of course, I only drank the water out of the gin.

    The women danced half naked like puppets for every whim and desire as long the price was paid in full. How I despise everything they are and represent. And still can’t look away.
    But who said I am any better? My life flashes before my eyes and cant say I am proud of it. At the end of it. It going to be a big fat zero.

    Aren‘t we working 9/5 doing the same, working all our life doing what we hate to get paid.
    “Okay okay, maybe some don‘t, lucky you,” I grumbled under my breath pesky prompt readers.
    Maybe just maybe you are not as naked as them, but you still dance to the tune of Charmer of Hamelin or if not you still have to pay him off your back.

    I looked at the dirty and broken mirror. The table was full of empty pink jugs
    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who are rats and those who are kids.”
    The waitress came to pick up the glass in her skimpy outfit bent over, so I can see the cleavage.
    “As usual Mr.White?”
    “Yes, Gin and Water and the girl on stage”.

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      I don’t work from 9/5. But I do work from 8:30-5:30 doing what I hate to get paid. I have yet to find a job that I actually like. I’d be more than happy if I could find it sooner.
      Excellent writing here darkmic. Made me think of…. Things.

      1. darkmic

        Thanks for the comment 🙂
        Yeah i think i did put too many Things into it, but i was just exploring the Duality of “there are two kind of people” outside of that line i guess. And obviously left some things for interpretation and exploring.

  9. ReathaThomasOakley

    Two Kinds of Women
    (Based on actual events currently unfolding in an anonymous home some place in, ah, Wales, yes, Wales.)

    “Dear,” she smiled through tightly clinched jaw, praying her back teeth wouldn’t crack from the pressure, “you do realize how fortunate you are to be married to me, and not that other kind of woman.”

    “What’s that?” He asked as he pulled his team’s t-shirt over his head in preparation for the big game about to start. “What woman?” He settled back into his recliner.

    “The kind of woman who would scream and swear after being told by Disaster Recovery that the leaky refrigerator water hose means new Sheetrock, new flooring, new cabinets and counter tops in the kitchen, and new carpet and mold removal in the hall, starting with kitchen demo Monday.” She checked to see if the fingernails digging into her palms had drawn blood. “I’m the totally other, better, kind of woman, the kind who smiles when she hears she must put the microwave, coffee pot, and toaster in the living room and the litter box in the shower. That’s the kind I am, always smiling.” She flexed her neck, ignoring the crackle and pop of tight muscles.

    “Yes, Sweetheart, I’ve always loved your smile.” He reached for the remote. “Game’s gonna be good. Sure you don’t want to watch it with me?”

    “No, think I’ll just go to the bedroom, see what the cat’s doing.” She left the room, still smiling.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          If you are posting anything I doubt you’re cancelled. There is a filter in place that stops certain words. For example, I’ve been stopped for peac@@k and Alfred Hitchc@@k. Others have similar stories. Check your every word and try again. Good luck.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Update from Wales

        It’s never good news when Disaster Recovery calls on Sunday. Second insurance adjuster doesn’t want to pay to restore kitchen/hall to preflood conditions or for mold removal, plus contractors are busy until after new year. And, still the woman smiles, silly girl.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Hey, Raf, thanks, but he knows, very well. I was just trying to inject some humor into a very unfunny situation using the prompt, shoulda just had a glass of wine.

  10. pven

    “There are two types of people in this world. Those who seize the moment, and those who dream of their moment. Which one are you?”

    He walked to the center edge of the stage and dipped a little bit so the spotlight didn’t white out the audience in front of him. They sat expectantly in the dark, shadows hanging on his every word. He pointed to one of the members, an astute young man scribbling on a yellow legal pad.

    “You,” he said, then let his finger move back a few rows, right a few seats. “And you. You have the inspiration. It’s what led you here, to listen to me speak about how I got here.”

    Heads bobbed: that’s right. He rose, re-entering his solitary world bound on three sides by the light, and one by a dark polyester curtain.

    “The word “inspiration” once referenced the divine. It was guidance from an exalting influence, a communication via sacred revelation.
    “Look to the core within you. That essence that motivated you to come here. That voice within you that impelled you to sign up for this conference. That’s your divine breath. That’s your guide. Listen to it, not to me.
    “My successes will not be yours. My path is different than that which you choose to tread. My moments will not translate to you. Your moments will remain unrecognizable no matter how much you study mine.”

    He almost added: “…even as you dream of them…” but decided against it.

    “Each of us is infused with inspiration, a voice that speaks of our dreams and points out paths to achieving them. What more can I provide?”

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Well, I can imagine the old SNL skit with Chris Farley as the motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river. He was always buzzed.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Your MC is not the typical motivational speaker. Usually they have A seven step program we’re supposed to follow because it’s what has worked for him and a thousand others…. Or something along those lines. (Drunk or not) I like this motivational speaker. He’s refreshing. “My success will not be yours.” Very true!

      Also enjoyed the line about “re-entering his solitary world bound on three sides by light, and one by a dark polyester curtain.” Reminds me of how many enlightening talks are told on stage in a rather fake environment.

  11. JosephFazzone

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who walk the path and those who create the path.”

    “Okay”, I said. “Is it possible to do both?”

    His head swiveled unnaturally towards me as his bloodshot eyes bore into, what I presume was the wood paneling behind me. “There are three types of people in this world,” he said. “Those who…

    I interrupted him. “Suppose there was someone who walked no path.”

    His mouth, still open from his previous sentence, dropped a bit wider as his eyes glazed over. He took a long sip of his ale.

    I waited, and continued polishing the tough mineral stain on the coup glass that I was currently buffing. I dropped it into the steaming water to fog it up.

    Suddenly he lurched forward, and look directly at me. “You know, Jimmy…”

    “Jerry,” I corrected him. “I was wondering something, Mr. Bivers.”

    He muttered in what I presumed was the question, “What’s that?” I didn’t stop to check.

    “Are there also those who run the path?”

    “Yes!” he trumpeted, snorted, grabbed a tissue from his coat pocket and blew his nose. “There are four kinds of people in the world, those who walk the path, run the path, create the path, and…”

    His train of thought jumped off a bridge and exploded into a cloud of smoke.

    “Could someone create like half of the path?”

    “Yes indeed,” his tongue tripped over the words. He ran his head through his thinning mousey brown hair. “There are five people in the world…” Again, he stopped and looked around. “That uh…, that…”

    “What’s up, Jerry?” Connor said to me as he walked into the bar.

    “Jerr! What’s up man?” I pointed to Mr. Bivers. “Five types of people.”

    “Melissa got eight,” Connor said with a laugh.

    “Those who create the path, those who forge the path, those who walk, those who run, those who…”

    “Skip”, Connor offered.

    “Skip,” Mr. Bivers continued. “Those who…” He looked at his fingers, and counted again.

    “That’s six,” I counted.

    “Doesn’t count,” Connor objected. “I got that one.”

    “Are you changing the rules?” I turned to him. “He’s my guest.”

    Connor laughed. “Whatever bro.”

    I was about to argue, when he interrupted me.

    “You better wake him up.” He nodded towards Mr. Bivers whose head was slumped onto the bar top.

    I sighed deeply, put down my glass and walked over to him.

    “Mr. Bivers?” I asked politely. No response. I slapped the bar top lightly a few times. “Mr. Bivers,” I said more sternly. “I can’t have you sleeping on the bar top.”

    Still nothing. I looked at Connor.

    “Yo! Mr. Bivers!” Connor roared. “Wake up!”

    He looked incredibly pale. I inspected closer. His eyes were open, and his mouth agape. My heart froze. “I think he’s dead, man.”

    Connor blurted a very dubious sounding, “Pssh!” And went to check for himself.

    He slapped the bar top hard, and yelled, “Mr. Bivers. Yo! Mr. Bivers!”

    “Touch him,” I instructed.

    Connor shook his head. “I’m not touching him.”

    “What do we do?”

    “Call the Police!”

    “No, no, no…I think we overserved him.” Panic had set in. I’m going to jail.

    “We?” Connor objected, “What this we? He’s your guest.”

    “Don’t call him.” I went over to the back counter, grabbed a pint glass off the rack, filled it with water from the soda gun, and poured it onto Mr. Bivers.

    “We should try CPR, maybe?”

    “Oh man,” I cried. “I killed Mr. Bivers!”

    “Dude! Calm down! Calm down!” Connor wasn’t doing any better at taking his own advice.

    Suddenly Mr. Bivers pops up, his eyes are completely sober and he’s staring at both of us very shrewdly. “You know,” he begins casually taking a sip of his ale, “there are two kinds of people in the world. Those who panic, and those know better than to mess with an Ex-Navy diver who can hold their breath for three minutes.”

    “You are so cut off!” I screamed and laughed. “You scared the…”

    He interrupted me asking, “Did I pay my tab?”

  12. JRSimmang

    (Apologies for the length, but I want to work this one into a longer story. Criticism appreciated)

    Of the many constellations that splattered across the midnight sky, Stone was always drawn to Cephus. He adjusted his MonOculus and the stars bounded into view past the thick layer of grey that settled over the Earth.

    “There. Wonderful,” he whispered as he climbed the stairs to the abandoned hall. He ran a finger along the concrete banister, humming some tune he once heard, and thinking about the construction of this building. “Must be more than a hundred years old,” he said aloud.

    The windows on the door were shuttered, and the door was locked using a barbaric mechanism. He waved his hand in front of the deadbolt, then snorted. “I guess I’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.” He shifted his weight to his back foot and drove his other heel onto the deadbolt, sending splinters echoing off the hallway walls.

    “Hello?” He said. “Anyone here?”

    He held his breath and tilted his head toward the end of the hall. Once the silence settled in, he could hear faint murmurings.

    “Bingo.” He adjusted his MonOculus again and performed a search of the surrounding area for heat, keeping his constellation running as a background program.

    “The Beatitudes are more than just children’s stories and allegories. They’re all the rules Christ wants us to keep close to us.”

    Stone walked slowly around the corner and let his right hand rest on his pistol. The reverend’s voice was soft and gentle.

    “There’s one in particular I wanted to talk about today, if that’s okay with you all. Yes?”

    Stone’s ears popped, and his MonOculus skipped and phased an image of taffeta curtains. And sunlight. He tapped the uniport on the side of his head, clearing the image, then replaced his hand on the butt of his pistol.

    “First, we have to figure out what Christ meant by saying ‘Blessed.'”

    The reverend was standing at a podium, a single light dangling above his head. The auditorium was mostly empty, two others sitting in a couple of ratty seats. Stone’s MonOculus pinged an announcement, and he pulled up information. He was standing in the double doors of the

    Hillmont Theatre, established 1926, and was the birthplace of the career of preeminent opera soprano Julie R Thompson.

    “Ah, please, come sit,” his voice penetrated the dusty air and yanked Stone from his info-sesh. The other two people turned around.

    Stone pulled his gun from the holster and fired one round into each of them.

    The reverend said nothing, but sighed deeply and leaned into his podium.

    “I’m not here to sit, reverend.”

    Silence hung between them.

    “I see that,” said the reverend. “And, I’m a pastor, not a reverend. I was about to tell them about being blessed, about the sake of righteousness.”

    “Well,” said Stone. “Tell me.”

    The pastor chuckled. “Something tells me you would not listen.”

    “I’m not as bad as all that.”

    “Sent out to hunt Christians?”

    “Sent out to eradicate deviant thought.”

    “Sent out to purify.”

    “Sent out to purify. Exactly. It’s just a job.”

    The pastor rocked back on his heels. “How many pockets of us do you find nowadays?”

    “Only a few.”

    “Well,” he moved out from behind the podium. “Then, I’ll tell you about how that’s not too different than the continual and never-ending pursuit of justice and morality I too seek.”

    “Really? Look, Rev, it’s been nearly three-thousand years since the protagonist you claim as Christ had his head washed by that locust-eating fanatic. Move on.”

    “And, do what, exactly? Prostrate myself in front of the liquid-cooled Automaton?”

    “You’ll find the infinite answers to the universe once you do.”

    “Wired in, huh?”

    “Wired in and never put out.”

    The pastor sat next to his mug on the apron of the stage and put his elbows on his knees. “Have you ever held a dying man in your arms?”

    Stone’s MonOculus fritzed again, and an image of men huddled in dark blue outfits rushed in front of him. He inhaled sharply as he heard a scream, a gunshot, and the face of a woman telling him to run. He tapped his eyepiece again, but the images stayed. “What the?”

    “Have you ever had a dying man tell you his last words?”

    The images kept flooding in, a man, blood pouring from a chest wound, his eyes fixed on Stone’s, his mouth tracing the words Keep me alive.

    “Have you ever questioned why you seek to end righteousness, and not seek righteousness itself?” The pastor picked up his mug to swig. “How I wish you would be the other.”

    “What’s happening to this thing? To ME?” Stone stuttered.

    “Memories, my friend. Memories of being dismantled.”

    Stone collapsed to his knees, then fell to the ground. His head was swimming, his body writhing.

    “There is no signal here, and yet I see the end of the universe.”

    Stone howled to the rafters and the columns and the walls and dust. His MonOculus fizzled and popped until the pain was too hard to bear.

    He closed his eyes, and for the first time he had a real dream.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is uplifting to me personally. I.have a thing about hosts of angels that surround me and protect me from real harm. My grandfather, being a.Lutheran minister for 60 years, worked that into me as a boy.
      I feel their presence at times
      It is a peaceful.and pleasurable experience at the least
      So this is what the heart of your story.means to me, thank you JR

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, this is another great piece I’ve been thinking about. Your MC is well done, as is the setting in an abandoned public space. Since you asked, I do have a few suggestions, reading this as a stand alone. Could you add a few words explaining Stone’s feelings about Cepheus, perhaps as defender of his wife and daughter, illustrations have him with arms raised, for the stars, then perhaps bring him back at the end. I think Stone sees himself that way. Perhaps something about the soprano, since she’s mentioned. I wondered why the lock was barbaric.

      Your writing is outstanding, and you will see the tiny tweaks needed.

    3. J.Fujimaru

      JR, I enjoyed this very much. The premise is intriguing and there’s something beautifully haunting about the setting. I like how you started with the constellation. That little detail about how Stone kept it running as a background program was superb. I had a calming image of the night sky all throughout. Towards the end I discovered that it is thematically important as well.

      You said you are going to work this into a longer story. I’m not sure whether you’re planning to extend this, add more meat to what you have here, or both. As a writer I’m in no place to critique anyone’s work but as a reader perhaps I can tell you my thoughts. There were a few moments where I was a bit confused: the part where we first hear the pastor’s voice, the shooting scene, and the latter half of their conversation. If there was a little bit more set up here, or simply more length, I think I would have caught on faster. I know, not possible in 500 words! 😉 Sometimes I feel like my brain just needs to catch up to what I’m reading and if there’s a lot of important information close together I miss it. Again, this is probably something that will get sorted out when you lengthen this.

      Best of luck with this fabulous piece! I look forward to the rest!

  13. J.Fujimaru


    To describe him is a distraction. Imagine everything that makes a man handsome. Now take those away. Add a port wine stain, perhaps. Think of the protruding eyes of the grotesque in a grotto. But don’t conjure up an image. It does him no justice.

    “He was the most charming man you’d ever meet,” says the woman with a painted face she must have done up in the dark as she imagined herself forty years younger. Across from her sits her little Lydia, who is no longer little.

    The woman’s name is also Lydia. Spelled L-í-d-i-a. It’s been years since anyone has called her that. She goes by titles: Mother, Grandmother, Mrs. Reese, Dear and Ma’am. Today she is simply Grandmother.

    “Oh, he was sweet,” she continues, “and such a talented artist, but he longed for a simple life”–a tear forms in the corner of her lavender powdered eye–“not the glamorous one I was tangled up in.”

    Little Lydia is familiar with this story of the man who is not Grandfather. Grandmother met Ricardo Almeida years before: before she was a grandmother or even a mother, before she became Mrs. Lídia Reese, famous for extravagant dinners.

    Little Lydia knows of all the bumps and turns that Ricardo Almeida’s mustard coupé made as he took Grandmother up the mountain road to the white boulders, once believed to be moons, covered in moss.

    How many times has little Lydia heard Ricardo Almeida’s favorite poem that was recited into Grandmother’s ear the night they crossed the Pont Salazar, the night he first held her hand? The bridge was called Salazar back then.

    “Sofro, Lídia, do medo do destino… I suffer, Lydia, from the fear of fate…” Grandmother says in Portuguese, then in English, so little Lydia will understand.

    It’s of all things, not a poem of love, but one of fear–the fear of change–that Grandmother choses to romanticize.

    “How good it would be if the gods gave me a life unbroken, a barren plain, stretching out until the very end of days,” Grandmother recites the poem written by one of the identities of the great Fernando Pessoa. It’s funny that Lydia has memorized it. She does not care for it.

    But this is the first time little Lydia hears about how they parted.

    It was Grandmother that had let Ricardo go.

    “We were on the hill, near the Castelo, the whole of Lisbon below us. A horrible mist covered the tiled city and its hills. It was raining that day,” says Grandmother. “That’s how I remember Lisbon.”

    “Why are you telling me this?”

    “Because, Honey, I don’t want you to make the same mistake.”

    “I’m nothing like you.” Little Lydia turns her engagement ring, a habit she developed this past month.

    Grandmother covers her granddaughter’s hand. The fur in her coat tickles. Lydia pulls away.

    “Honey, there are two types of men in this world….” Grandmother continues, undaunted.

    Lydia does not want hear the rest. Grandmother is always dividing the world’s men into two camps. The categories are never the same, but Grandfather, Father, and now Lydia’s fiancé, fall into the latter category, whatever that is. Grandmother has created a thousand characters out of Grandfather. All of them are verging on despicable. Grandmother cannot pull herself away from little Lydia, like a sticky dough roll that hangs together pull after pull. Not even the molds can divide them into neat pieces. The categories are messy. People are messier.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      J., there is so much here that I’m still processing. Amazing piece, including how you used Pessoa, especially in the last paragraph. I had to refresh my memory and either didn’t know, or had forgotten, the African connection. I should have done more checking, is Lidia real? Fantastic piece.

      1. J.Fujimaru

        Thank you, Reatha! I didn’t think of the connection between Africa and Pessoa but I should have.

        Do you mean Pessoa’s Lídia? She is one of three muses that Ricardo Reis (one of Pessoa’s heteronyms) wrote to in his Odes. It is inspired by Horace’s Odes. Lydia appears there as well.

        Thank you, also, for your comment last week! I read it too late and didn’t know where to respond but I was flattered. To answer your question, I am not published. I feel I still have a lot to learn.

  14. cj741126

    This ended up being more like chapter one (of pure crap) and it sort of ends abruptly due to the 500 word constraint.

    . “There are two kinds of people in this world son,” Leroy slurred, pausing to take another artful swig of his warm beer. “Those who do the killin and those who do the diein.”
    Leroy wasn’t my father and in fact if he were, I would have put a bullet in him a long time ago. His hatred ran just as deep as mine though for the Colonel, but the saloon wasn’t the right place and it wasn’t the right time for the revenge we both pursued. The four men the Colonel had with him weren’t new to killin either and even though I’d seen Leroy shoot three men quicker than any dry man could down a shot of whiskey, this wasn’t the time or the place.
    “Don’t do anything dumb Leroy,” I said, pulling the brim of my hat further down to cover my dirty face. “To many locals and when we came in I saw the Sherriff sittin in the back corner at the card table.”
    “That aint the Sherriff,” Leroy said. “That be Marshall Tillers.”
    “How the hell you know that?” I asked.
    “He was after me before I left for the war,”
    “Dammit Leroy,” I said, looking over my left shoulder thru the crowd at the Marshall. “You didn’t tell me you were wanted.”
    “There wasn’t a need to and you didn’t ask.”
    I wasn’t going to ask him what he’d done to get a Marshall after him, I’d be willing to wager a month’s pay on one guess though.
    “You just sit and enjoy the scenery Long and I’ll do the killin,” Leroy said, propping himself up straight on the stool.
    “Wait,” I said. “Dammit Leroy, let’s do this the right way.”
    “Whatever you got planned Long, make it quick, my fingers getting itchy.”
    I looked thru the mirror on the wall above the whiskey bottles behind the bar at the Colonel’s table. All four of his men just like any good soldier would do had their pistols on their hips and they brought their scatter guns in as well. We were outnumbered and out gunned, this wasn’t the first time for that. I knew I could take two if not three including the Colonel before any of them could think about going for their guns, but I wanted the Colonel alive, at least for a little while.
    “Bartender,” I said.
    “What can I get ya,” He answered, from behind the bar dropping empty shot glasses into a washtub. “Whiskey? Prices are fare if you boys want a woman.”
    “Neither,” I said. You see those five men sittin at that table next to the piano?”
    “Yes I do. What about them?”
    “Well, my friend and I here are going to kill them but before we do, I want you to get all your girls upstairs and out of our way.”

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      I also wasn’t certain of the setting. I first thought the West, but then the military titles appeared. You won’t be cut off at 500 words, but I’ve found trying to keep close to that has improved my writing. Also, some folks continue with the next prompt, or do two-parters.

      1. cj741126

        I thought stating the conversation in a ‘Saloon’ would tell it was a West or Cowboy styled story, also ‘scatter guns’ to me explains it as well but maybe I’ve read one too many westerns. Sorry about that.

  15. lunatic joke

    “There are two kinds of people in this world, kiddo,” Jackson mutters, his hand swirling the amber colored liquid around and around and around. “There are those who look, and there are those who see.”

    For some reason, you feel as though there is a special emphasis on the word ‘see’. Not exactly sure why. Just a feeling. You ask for clarification. Jackson gives you a sideways glance, silvered eyes glinting hard steel beneath the brim of that old black fedora.

    “Gonna ask: what color shirt are ya wearing?”

    What an odd question. You begin to look down, but feel a sharp rap against your chin. You don’t look down.

    “None of that kid. No looking.” Jackson admonishes as he knocks the shot back. “Ya can’t remember, can ya?”

    You shake your head no. it’s weird. No matter how much you try, you can’t remember what exactly you wore.

    Jackson chuckles, your apparent confusion a source of amusement. You flip him a rude hand sign.
    ‘Ain’t your fault. Most go ‘bout life like that.” Your companion turns around on the stool, steel-toed boots clicking against the metal loudly. He leans back against the bar edge, completely at ease here. “Here, let me show ya. Turn around. Watch these louts.”

    You give him a wary look but do so, mimicking his position. It’s honestly kind of nice, the bar top chilled against your warm skin. It’s slightly sticky. You make a face at that. But you do as he suggested. You watch.

    For what, you don’t know.

    But as time passes, you notice something. These people, they just seem off. Mechanical like. Their movements are almost sharp, professional. Repetitive. The drone of conversation, once so lively and loud, begins to lull, until there almost seems to be a pattern. You shake your head, but the pattern sticks.

    For a moment, something like the code of a computer passes your eyes. You blink, and it fades, but sticks, like those annoying colors when you stare into a light too long.

    “They’re just makin’ it through life. Not understanding just what’s out there. Poor sods, so caught up they don’t realize they’re stuck.” Jackson shakes his head.

    Stuck? You ask by what.

    Something inside you clenches in fear. You don’t want to know.

    Jackson seems to know exactly what you are thinking. “I’m showin’ ya just what we’re caught up in kiddo.” He says softly. “We ain’t the ones here in control. There’s a reason you can’t remember beyond this bar. This moment.”

    And he’s right. No matter how hard you try, you can’t think past sitting at the bar with Jackson. You face him now, scared.

    You try to voice your questions, but nothing comes out. You can’t speak. Why can’t you speak!?

    You flail your arms. Jackson just watches you panic, something like sympathy in his eyes.

    “We ain’t real, kid. None of us are. We’re just what they call NPC’s. ‘Cept you of course. You’re our hero. Gonna save us all.” Jackson says. “Thought I’d warn ya, before you can’t control yourself. It helped the others. Might help you.”

    You can’t breathe. You can’t move. You try to stand, but it’s like you are glued to your seat. Almost mechanically, you reach out and clasp Jackson on the shoulder.

    You speak for the first time. But it is not your words. “Thanks for the advice, Jackson. I’ll get going now. Got to save the city, you know?” Your face contorts into a smile. But you aren’t happy.

    Jackson tips his hat at you as you get up. As you leave the bar, Jackson turns to the bar, a drink once again in his hands and someone else in the seat you occupied moments to go. As the bar door opens, the world fades to black, and you see words.

    And so your adventure begins…


    1. J.Fujimaru

      Very mysterious! That last sentence really pulls everything together.

      I can kind of see why you chose to use the second person. Personally, I would be careful with this POV. It can be a bit jarring because it’s uncommon and not all your readers will want to be the character you’ve created. It might be good to establish the second person POV in the first sentence or paragraph so the readers aren’t surprised. Perhaps mix in more dialogue and exposition (that doesn’t contain “you”) so that you don’t have a string of sentences starting with “you.” Most importantly, get your readers to empathize with the character as soon as you can.

      1. lunatic joke

        Thank you so much for the advice! I usually tend to stick with first or third person POVs when I write, so I thought I would try to challenge myself a little bit. I will definitely use this if I decide to write with this POV more in the future.

  16. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who are afraid and those who don’t know they should be.” At the end of his sentence Kipling turned to face me, his eyes glazed over and his lips curling to a smirk.

    “So what does that make us?” I asked him, refusing to smirk back.

    “We’re the middle ground. We know we should be afraid, but we aren’t,” he said taking his now empty glass into his hand and turning it delicately in the dim light cast by the lamp that hung above the bar.

    “That’s more than two kinds of people,” I pointed out, now putting on my own smirk. I looked at the distorted world through Kipling’s clouded glass. That was mine and Kipling’s world.

    “Sometimes things just aren’t so black and white,” Kipling said, setting the glass down. He smiled at the young female bartender in a way that a man his age shouldn’t as he set a few wrinkled bills onto the counter.

    “It was my turn to pay,” I mumbled as she walked away.

    “I wanted to pay this time. You can get it next time,” he said sternly. He was using his father voice, something I’d come to recognize over years of working with him. It always made me wonder whether he had any kids. The people he’d often have in his hotel rooms made me think otherwise, but the voice was very convincing.

    As the girl dropped change in front of Kipling he slid something written on a napkin toward her. She blushed, smiled, giggled, and walked away. We stood and began to exit the bar.

    “Better get back to the hotel. We’ve got a big day of work ahead of us,” Kipling said, sliding into the driver’s seat of his car. I got into the passenger’s seat and nodded my agreement.

    “Did you read about this next case? She’s only seven years old, but they say she spoke in a grown man’s voice.”

    “Jesus f*ck,” Kipling sighed. I could have sworn I heard his gravelly voice tremble slightly.

  17. Jennifer Park

    [Note: one of my pet peeves is that so many fantasy and sci-fi novels never mention people going to the bathroom, so I was very happy to see this week’s prompt. This is based on another pet peeve of a friend of mine.]

    3. The Toilet

    Archambassador Jinnah was already in full regalia, which meant that he could not use the cleansing room even if he had to. Still, he happened to be nearby, and could not help but be disturbed by the rather unholy noise. And the smell. When the door opened, he was even more shocked by what he saw.

    “Barbara? What in holy mercy are you doing?”

    The child was in her undergarments, drenched in water that smelled as putrid as the night air in Srfmga 3.

    “Your school interview is in thirty minutes!” And she was not dressed for it. Not by far.

    Barbara was wresting what appeared to be a plumbing mechanism. She did not bother to look up as she responded, “I’m almost done. The nozzles are misaligned, and…”

    “Barbara!” the Archambassador had never raised his voice that loud—or high—in a very long time. “Leave it to the attendants. Your interviewer will be here in thirty minutes!”

    Barbara did not relent. “When the…”

    “Barbara!!!” he yelled.

    She looked up, finally surprised to hear the anger in his voice. Dropping everything, she stood up to attention. “Your Excellency!”

    “What is the matter with you? What are you doing?”

    “I am… I am recalibrating the nozzles, Your Excellency!”

    “Recal… what? Why? I mean, why are you doing this?”

    “It was not cleaning me right, and I know how to fix it, so…”

    “Fix it? You mean, repairs?”

    “Yes, Your Excellency. I saw it being repaired last week, and he showed me…”

    “The repairer showed you? Showed you how to fix it?”

    “I mean… I watched…”

    The Archambassador was so flabbergasted that he could not help but smile. “Barbara…” He actually could understand her impulse to fix the toilet herself. He had done such things himself when he was her age. Many such things. One could say that, in some ways, he still did. He bent down so his eyes were level with hers. “Barbara, I understand what you are trying to do… but there is something you have to understand. There are two kinds of people in the galaxy: people who do things themselves, and people who have other people do things for them. You have to understand now, that you are, now, in the latter group. Do you understand what I am saying?”

    Barbara hung her head low for a moment, but when she looked back up, he could see that she had a new, strange, accusatory resolve. “My father used to say, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who divide people into two kinds of people, and those who do not.”

    The Archambassador felt a shiver run down his spine. He knew she had a point. Still, he had a responsibility to educate and elevate this child. “Some day, you will get to decide which you want to be. For now, your interview.”

    The child nodded, and shut the door, in order to get cleansed and dressed. An elite boarding school awaited her.

    1. pven

      Well, I like Barbara’s father. It’s how I felt about this prompt.

      You crafted a good scene. For some reason, the simple detail of wanting to calibrate the nozzles made this work. Liked it.

    2. JRSimmang

      Honestly, never thought too much about it, but now that you mention it bathroom scenes seems should be part of every sci-fi story. There’s a lot revealed here about Barbarella, erm Barbara, and the reason why she feels so strongly toward the end of her life that she should go to such an extreme.
      There are some nit-picky edits my red pen wants to get to (wresting to wrestling with, showing more during his change from anger to compassion [him getting to her eye level is beautiful, more of that], never been a fan the phrase “______ hung low,” remove the comma after “…shut the door…”).
      I’m curious where you’re going to go next. This entire saga is becoming crystal clear and very entertaining.

      1. Jennifer Park

        If your editing pen is out, I think that means you’re taking this seriously… I appreciate it! 🙂 I certainly can use a lot of editing help. If anyone else has nit-picky suggestions, that would be fantastic.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      It is interesting to see Barbara develop. The setting made me think of a sci-fi story, or book, I read long ago. A human is a guest on another planet and doesn’t understand how the toilet in his room works, he thinks it’s just a comfortable chair. That’s all I remember of the story.

      1. Jennifer Park

        So they do exist… It’s like someone telling me that all the dystopian novels are so serious. By the time I wrote what I thought was a humorous dystopian novel, there were a bunch coming out! Perhaps toilet-related sci-fi is the next wave…

    4. J.Fujimaru

      Barbara becomes more intriguing with each scene you write. I’m also a fan of Barbara’s father’s theory. I wonder how these two conflicting theories will play out in future installments.

    5. cj741126

      That was great! I could imagine a teleporting plunger or something odd like that, (sorry, my twisted sense of humor) but you painted a great broken toilet scene regardless and I mean that respectfully.

  18. Smileyface256

    “There are two kinds of people in this world, kid,” slurred the reptillian as he tipped back his glass. “The hunters, the hunted, and the spectators. Like me.” He unleashed a thunderous belch.

    Sophie tried not to gag at his beer breath. “That’s three, and you still haven’t told me Karlan Muii’s exact location.”

    The reptillain finished off the glass and licked his lips. “One more round.”

    Sophie suppressed a sigh and put another handful of coins on the table. This was getting expensive.

    “So, which one are you, eh?”

    Sophie furrowed her brow. “Huh?”

    “Are you a hunter? Or are you someone’s prey?”

    She rolled her eyes. “I told you, I’m a bounty hunter.”

    He flicked his tongue. “People say all kinds of things. Besides, you look a little young for such a dangerous job.”

    Sophie scowled. “I’m not a kid.”

    He threw back his head and laughed.

    Sophie was glad her face was covered so no one could see her cheeks turn red. She may be only fourteen, but if she didn’t need this guy for information he would already be dead just for ticking her off.

    The reptillian took a swig from his fresh glass of beer. “That’s the least convincing lie you’ve told me so far.”

    Sophie put on her most threatening death glare. “I don’t see how my age has anything to do with this. The deal was, one more beer and you’d tell me where Karlan Muii is.”

    He took another swig, unperturbed. “In response to my earlier question, I believe it’s possible to be both kinds of people.”

    Sophie grit her teeth. Maybe he’d actually cooperate once he finished his beer.

    “A hunter, who is also hunted. For example, a bounty hunter who calls herself ‘Lilian Skywalker’ could also be the fugitive ‘Sophia Kardos,’ wanted by the Federation for the murder of two of its…employees.” He finished off his drink and slammed the glass down.

    Sophie’s hand clenched around her knife. “Or maybe your little theory is wrong. After all, don’t all humans look the same to you?”

    The reptillian smiled, baring his pointed teeth, pupils narrowed to slits. “Not all humans, especially when one of them has wanted posters all over the galaxy. As to Karlan Muii’s location,” he gestured behind Sophie, “he’s right there.”

    Sophie grabbed the empty glass and hurled it behind her. It smashed on the face of a hulking alien that was at least two heads taller than her. Advantage: he was bigger and therefore slower in movement. Disadvantage: each of his arms was the width of Sophie’s entire body; he could crush her with one blow…and he blocked the exit.

    Sophie vaulted across the tables and dove through a window, tumbling into the street. Karlan Muii was already outside in hot pursuit. Sophie dropped a stun grenade and took to the roofs while the hulking assassin followed on the ground.

    Her survival instincts urged her to run and get out of sight, but if she lost sight of him now, it might be even longer before she could find him again and have her revenge. She’d meant to catch him by surprise, but hunting down the other two members of his team probably tipped him off. Along with that scumbag at the bar.

    A barrel hurtled through the air and smashed right in front of her. She barely dodged it, but it threw off her balance for the next jump.

    She caught the edge of the next building and sprung off the wall as Karlan Muii rounded the corner. The alley was a dead end. She was trapped.

    She drew and activated her electroblade as Karlan Muii advanced, a broad, machete-like blade in his hand and a manic gleam in his eye.

    Sophie hurled a knife, but it bounced off his thick hide.

    He smiled, baring rows of jagged teeth. “Kira’s adopted whelp; I’ve been looking forward to finishing you off.”

    Sophie’s anger flared. “Don’t speak her name, filth. You and your buddies murdered her when she was already wounded.”

    “And then you murdered them with poison and trickery, like a true coward.”

    “They didn’t make a fair fight, so why should I?!”

    Karlan Muii laughed. “This is the multiverse, child; nothing is ever fair.”

    He was baiting her. She knew that, and yet…she charged.

    The two blades clashed and locked together. Sophie’s eyes widened in horrified awe before she was shoved back and nearly lost her footing. Her electroblade could cut through almost anything; Karlan Muii’s sword barely had a scratch.

    She blocked and dodged, trying to get at the chinks in the assassin’s armor, but everything about him seemed impenetrable. He kept advancing, giving Sophie less and less room to maneuver, wearing her down with every blow. She had to find some kind of weakness before–

    Their blades locked again. Karlan Muii shoved Sophie against the wall, so close that she could smell his rank breath, and twisted her sword from her grip.

    “It’s been a pleasure, Sophia Kardos.”

    He thrust his sword into her side, driving the air from her lungs.

    Crushing pain lanced through her ribs, spots clouded the edge of her vision.

    Karlan Muii smiled. His pink, fleshy throat was exposed. Sophie still had a knife in her hand.

    For Kira, you scumbag son of a nerfherder.

    Mustering the last of her strength, she thrust it into the tender flesh.

    The assassin’s expression flashed from surprise to rage to the blankness of death as he fell away.

    Sophie wheezed as the world spun, her heart pounded in her ears…distantly she felt a thud as she hit the ground…footsteps entered her vision as everything faded into blackness.

    At least…at least Kira was avenged…

    1. pven

      But see? Karlan was right! You can exist in both camps.

      Good fight scene. Question about a small detail: how did Sophie still have a knife in her hand if she threw one and had the electroblade in the other?

      You’ve been telling Sophie’s story through a few prompts, right? Nice how you’re able to weave these prompts into a larger work.

      1. Smileyface256

        To answer your question, Sophie has several throwing knives, though reading back I could have mentioned when she drew another one. Thanks for your comment! Sophie is actually my main character of a larger work of fanfiction; most of what I’ve been writing in the prompts and bits and pieces of her life that happen before or after the main work. They’re not in chronological order, but fun to write all the same. 🙂

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Well, I picked myself off the floor after reading you. The tension was major drama and somehow the reader realizes it is a death battle between the two or is it? I suppose we will have to wait for an answer. I for one wish not to know
        Fight scene is incredibly realistic. Good job Smiley.

  19. Pete

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” Kurt slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who like ‘Wonderful Christmastime’” and those who would rather gargle with Pop Rocks and Drano.”

    “Liquid Drano? Or Max Gel,” I said, seeing if I could throw Kurt off his game. But hammered as he was, he was right. That McCartney song was blaring away.

    “It’s not so bad,” he said, his smile stretching. “Kind of tart at first, but it leaves the pearly whites shining.”

    I saw him eyeing the booths, searching for the culprit, anyone daring to sway to the song. I motioned for Julia, hoping she could distract my friend. Ten years of bartending, Julia could still play any game for any crowd. She tore away from two twentysomethings, both guys making no little effort to hide their low hanging stares.

    “I thought we got this out of the juke,” I said as she slid in front of us, her face in her hands.
    She gave me a shrug, the one that meant, “I just work here.”

    Kurt reached for her hand, and I swore I was over it. He’d always been the charmer, the one who got the girls. I was always the one who lent a shoulder for them to cry on afterwards.

    “Skip it. Please. I’m begging you.”

    “No way,” she giggled. “It’s what, anyway, like a three minute song?”

    Kurt buried his head in his hands. “Three minutes of hell. The chorus, it just never stops. It just. Keeps. On.”

    On cue, the chorus began. “Simply, having, a wonderful…”

    The middle booth, crammed tight with Northface vests and plaid scarves, chanted along off key and out of rhythm. It was a regular beer commercial over there.

    Kurt went to stand. Julia took his arm, her eyes dancing playfully. “Don’t you dare.”

    Kurt fell back to his stool. “You have the power to skip it. Use it.”

    “I like seeing you suffer.”

    He drained his beer and gave her his fakest smile. She flashed a glance to the end of the bar, where her fan club beckoned, then back to me. “Watch him, okay?”

    “I make no promises.”

    With a sigh she spun off, a ninja in black tights. I made a conscious effort to be a gentleman. Kurt pounded his head on the bar. Downstream, the dummies cranked up with the flirting—some form of it, anyway.

    It never bothered Kurt much, the ogling. Maybes he figured it went the job. Besides, Julia could handle those twits and few more. Last week, some goofballs in ballcaps were scoffing just a little too loud about all the recent harassment allegations. When Julia told them to knock it off they started calling her a feminist. So she set the jukebox to Fiona Apple for the rest of the night.

    And it was still better than this.

    Kurt lifted his giant head. “He was in arguably the greatest band of all times. How could he do this?”
    I was on my phone now, messing with him. “Well, it says here McCartney makes over $400,000 annually off this song alone.”

    “You’re such and a$$hole.”

    The song synthesized its way to a merciful end. Julia slid two Sam Adams our way for playing nice with the yuppies. Kurt was still going on about Sergeant Peppers while I was still reading from my phone about how in 1979, the B side to “Wonderful” was “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reggae.” Seriously Paul, what the hell?

    Sure, to some maybe it was sad, the two of us there, both forty and divorced, roommates sitting at the bar and crushing on a bartender. And I suppose it was, but sometimes, when the frost hit framed the bay window and the bar took on that certain warmth like the glow of a beer commercial, well, for a while things are just okay.

    Then someone played “Wonderful Christmastime” again.

    And this time Julia didn’t even try to stop Kurt.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Where in hell is this bar?. I want bring my own.juke box and play, ,Somewhere over the rainbow by Judy Garland and see how many.people fall like dead flies.

    1. pven

      Interesting how many of these stories involve someone downing some liquid courage to come up with one of these theories.

      I liked the characters and you gave a common environment enough details to allow us to envision the bar a bit. You carved a good scene out of a simple moment — I’m sure one in which you were suffering. But hey! At least it wasn’t “Last Christmas.”

  20. BBwrites

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my best friend Frankie says, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who have sauce on their fries and those who have it on the side.” She squirts the ketchup all over her fries.
    Frankie and I had been best friends since I could remember. I watch as she eats her fries by the handful, knocking back her Jack and Coke, her red hair a fiery mess atop of her pretty face.
    “Harry. Eat,” she says to me, one hand waving a giant cheeseburger, the other sliding the ketchup in front of me. I shakily squeeze some on the side of my fries. She nods. “See? On the side. That’s just one of the many differences between you and I, Harry.”
    She was the only one who still called me Harry. Everyone else had learnt once again to call me Harriett, but Frankie, being Frankie, had to do the opposite.
    I exhale deeply and look down at my plate of food. I almost gag at the sight of the red ketchup all over our plates.
    I twist my engagement ring nervously, that all too familiar taste of metal in my mouth as my stomach churns once more. “I need to use the restroom,” I say, excusing myself.
    As soon as I stagger into the cubicle, I wretch and vomit possibly everything I’ve eaten in the past 48 hours. I move to the sinks and splash my face with cold water, tears streaming down my face. I look at myself in the mirror and trace the bruises on my face, my arms. My busted, purple lip. I close my eyes and think of the evening.
    John had come home in a bad mood, as usual. He wasn’t always like this – we had 2 years together where he was the perfect partner. But something changed, something dark inside of him was released and the bottom of a bottle of whiskey and I became his outlet.
    I was in the kitchen, preparing dinner and within minutes of him getting through the front door and dropping his bag of tools on the floor he was already yelling at me. I had the radio on, attempting to ignore his incoherent shouting. This version of John had become a regular, but it was still a great surprise to me when I felt his hand around my neck. He wasn’t letting go. His voice bellowed in my ears as his grip tightened. I tried to scream, make any sort of noise, but I couldn’t. So I grabbed the pot of boiling water and I poured it into his stomach. He immediately let go, shouting at me that he was going to kill me. I reached for the knife on the side, but he landed a punch in my stomach, then my lip, throwing me to the ground. He towered over me, enraged I had somehow found the courage to fight back. My eyes locked onto his tool bag that he had left by the front door and before he caught on to what I was thinking, I scrambled to it first, grabbed the first thing I could find, and swung the hammer into his skull.
    Frankie came over as soon as I had called her. She made me shower as she put my bloody clothes and the hammer in a bag. She put me in her car and we drove. I cried, sobbing I was going to go jail. “Harry, you did what you had to do. There are two kinds of people in this world,” she lit a cigarette and rolled down the window, “people who do evil things, and people who see evil things done. Which one are you? We know which one John is, don’t we?”
    John said nothing from the trunk of the car.

  21. jwismann

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig, “those who talk about getting it done and those who do it. I’m a doer. I like to get stuff done.”

    I was quite aware that my companion was a “doer”, so I said nothing.

    “You know,” he polished off the drink, “I’m only here now because of her.”

    “You are only here,” I said, “because you are a doer.” And with that, he stumbled out of my cell and I went back to making orange juice wine in my toilet.

  22. Kerry Charlton


    As John Pennington stepped from the Sears Tower, night had fallen as well as the temperature. ‘January in Chicago is not fit for man nor beast,’ John thought, taking a line from a movie with W. C. Fields. ‘I’ll take a brisk walk to clear my thinking on the trial coming Tuesday‘,. He wished to forget the drama of the courtrooms, week after week..

    As he entered the wind, he shivered and turned the collar of his overcoat up against his neck. He passed a row of apartments and noticed a young woman huddled against the cold on a set of steps leading to a cellar apartment. She wore a thin sweater, fraught with holes and a skirt that floated on her body.

    “Miss, oh Miss, can I help you?”

    As she raised her face to answer, his heart sank from the circles around her eyes, the frozen tears on her cheeks. Her lifeless eyes stared into his soul,

    “Mister, leave me alone, I ain’t worth messing with.”

    John knelt to the girl, removed his overcoat and wrapped it around her gaunt frame.

    “No, no this coat is too fine for me, I don’t deserve kindness. What do you want of me? Am I supposed to show you a good time?”

    “Miss, my name is John. I want nothing but to help you. Will you tell me your name?”

    “ My name is worthless, or maybe no good or would you like homeless?’


    “It’s Melissa, now take your coat and leave me alone.”

    “ I can’t leave you like this, I’m sorry.”

    “Mister, there are only two kinds of people in this world, those that take and those that don’t give a damn. You don’t exist in my world, you’re not real to me.”

    “Oh, but I am Melissa, touch my hand.“

    She drew back from him in an instant and curled up in a fetal position.

    “I can’t handle any more pain, can’t you see I’m sick.?”

    With that, she lost consciousness and John picked her small body up in his arms and walked up the stairs and hailed a cab. They arrived at the emergency entrance to Mercy Hospital. He made arrangements and she was immediately sent to ICU as she had difficulty in breathing. He sat next to her the better of three days, until she improved enough to be given a private room.

    She awakened the next morning having no recall of the last four days.

    “You are one lucky lady,” the nurse said. “Do you know who brought you in

    “He said his name was John. Why?”

    “He said to give you this when you awoke.”. She handed Melissa a perfect white rose.

    “No one ever gave me flowers, ever“

    “Well Melissa, that is The John Pennington who gave them to you. Do you know who he is?”

    “Oh yes, I know, I know. He the third part of the human race.’

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Who is he really?”

    “Melissa, he is a famous attorney, not married and probably the richest and nicest man in Chicago. He left his phone number, said to call him if you want to, he won’t bother you otherwise. He has paid your hospital bills and left a personal check made out to you. We have no idea, how much.”

    A white rose every day for me?”

    “Yes, a symbol of spiritual love usually but in your case, the way he stayed next to for three days, maybe something else in addition.”


      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Smiley face. I would like to think there are people in the world that do these sort of rescues and do not tell about it. If we can rescue our pets, why should we not be able to help our own?

    1. J.Fujimaru

      A lovely and romantic story! I was, however, a little worried at first that John Pennington was going to court for his own trial and that Melissa was going to get involved in some more drama.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you J, I wanted to keep some mystery about John, so the ending would have more of a punch to it. The 500 keeps me from showing John’s reasons for doing what he did. Let’s just say, he wasn’t born into the upper crust.Rather the opposite extreme.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Kerry, I’m slow in reading and commenting, so just getting to this lovely, and gentle piece. Your scene is set so well, as is Melissa. I think a happy ever after is coming.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha, it’s always a pleasure hearing from you. A story like this is always so limited because of the 500. There is so much I wanted to write about

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Rene, be assured there are many people like John operating under the radar. Doing good deeds that are not exposed is an ultimate habit of class. It might surprise you if you knew of all the financial help that Frank Sinatra was involved in.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Raf, I’m happy you enjoyed this. About the affection, it will come when you least expect it or a helping hand sometimes arrives from one you probably couldn’t believe.

  23. ShamelessHack

    There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who _________ and those who ………..
    I can’t stand those who _________. They think their ^^^^^^^ doesn’t ********.
    I get along better with those who ………….
    That is, unless they ????????? all the time.
    Then I just tell them to ####### off.
    Society today is awfully divided between the ________ people, and those in the ……….. camp.
    In the old days no one cared if you had $$$$$$$$ or you voted for rrrrrrrr or dddddd.
    But today? Forget that ~~~~~~~. Everyone is IOIOIOIO.
    I used to get mad about this and kept trying to mix my _________ with a whole bunch of ……….. but it didn’t work.

    So now I just drink.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        My cat didn’t wake up because she was outside, but when I laughed, my ice maker at the bar started to work again. How marvelous, your story is. Hell, I don’t trust my icemaker.

  24. jhowe

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurs, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who pleasure themselves and those who lie about it.”

    “Hold on there,” I say in desperation. “If that makes it through the spam filter, there’s something wrong with it.”

    “We all know there’s something wrong with it.” He pours more Jack into his glass and offers me the bottle.

    I take it but don’t partake. I’m already peering down the rabbit hole as it was. “I know you’re probably right, but we shouldn’t be talking about it in front of the new moderator.”

    “You think she reads all these stories? C’mon.” He takes the bottle back and stares at it. “I mean, when you read a phrase, for example, she wore a black c#cktail dress, where are your eyes drawn? What are you thinking? You’re thinking about the g#ddamn # and not the story any longer.”

    “It is distracting,” I say. “That whole paragraph is distracting. And sometimes you substitute with # when you’re not even sure about it, just in case.”

    “Precisely. And don’t get me started on realistic dialog. When was the last time you heard a mafia hitman say shucks. They don’t talk that way.”

    “I see what you’re getting at. And if you write sh#t, readers know what you mean but they get distracted.”

    “It’s like watching a movie on TBS with most of the words bleeped out. Or hearing a song on the radio and they leave out the word that makes it great.”

    I nod. I’ve been down this road before. “You know,” I say. “A lot of the world’s best writers would have trouble getting a story to post on here if they didn’t know how to fool the filter.”

    “Even Stephen King or John Updike lets loose with an occasional F bomb,” he says. “Frankly, those are my favorite parts.”

    “Well, to each his own.” I figure a little moral high ground is called for.

    “Don’t go getting wishy washy on me, Jhowe.”

    “That’s easy for you to say. You don’t post on here.” I cringe at his raised eyebrows. “You’re lucky you get a chance to say your piece.” I take the bottle back and pull on it, forgetting I don’t really care for Jack Daniels straight up. I’m already regretting this conversation. At least everyone knows I have nothing to do with it…just trying to keep the peace.

    1. JRSimmang

      J, I didn’t know where you were headed with that first line, and I have to say that you made me laugh so fvcking hard. I’ve found that the # does little for me, so I try to vse symb0ls close to the letter its replac!ng. Good sh!t, my friend.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Not so funny when you’re the one who got stopped because of the c@cktail! j, this could be the story we’ve been waiting for. Great way to use this prompt.

    2. writer_sk


      So true though. I love the DMB song “Halloween” and he says the f word. One of only a couple songs he swears in.

      The TBS bleeps are so funny.

      Good piece, funny and thoughtful.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I’ve never had such a good time in my life are reading your story John and then having the icing and cake show with all great comments. Drive the shovel up their donkey.

  25. JRSimmang


    The orderlies called my sector “Greener Pastures.” I called it Block 56. I didn’t know what to expect when I accepted the job. 50 hours a week plus overtime seemed too good to be true for me, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use it to finish my thesis.

    Criminally insane? This is where they lived. My sector was their last stop before death.

    My desk was next to the first cell. Frank was there. He went by Two, though, on account of his being the second of a pair of twins. I didn’t think he was insane, but his arrest record showed otherwise.

    “P-p-people who ha-a-a-ave secrets, and th-th-those whoooo tell secrets,” Two shouted.

    “I guess that’s true,” I said back, not looking up from my computer screen. He was huddled in the corner, rocking.

    “N-n-no.” He replied, slowly unfolding his limbs and standing upright, or as upright as he could. He swayed on unsure legs, one shorter than the other, and his knuckles nearly touched the ground. Through the camera, I could see a hint of snarl.

    “Whaddaya mean, Two?”

    “S-s-s-secrets.” He ambled to the door of his cell. “S-s-secrets, she said.”

    I peered over to the hallway. “What are you thinking, Frank?”

    “M-m-my sister, Gerry.”

    “Frank, you don’t have a sister.” I snorted. Frank’s been with us longer than I’ve been working here, and the previous orderlies have all been cycled out so frequently, no one remembers when he came in. His psychiatrist evaluated him as pathological with BFD. Murdered his family. There was no record of twins in his transfer documents. But, when they’re here, it’s best to humor them. I typed a couple more lines into my paper.

    “N-n-name’s Wendy Starling.”

    My fingers froze over the keyboard. “Our Senator?”

    Silence. I saw his head nod in the camera.

    “You’re full of it.”

    “Wendy Starling, birth date March 4, 1968, mother Darla Starling nee Bethel, father Benny Starling, born in Indianapolis, Indiana.”

    I glanced up from the computer screen.

    “Car crash at the age of 15 which left a long scar along the back of her neck, parents died at the age of 20 while out on vacation in the Adirondacks.” He chuckled. “Sure.”

    I stood up.

    “Had a dog named Trixie, slit her neck at the age of 9. Set fire to her school at the age of 14, brushed off as an electrical fire.”

    I walked over to Frank’s cell.

    “Killed parents at the age of 20 in the Adirondacks while her brother was tied to a tree. Ran for Senate in 1998, won because her opponent backed out… and then disappeared.”

    I met his eyes. “Your stutter.”

    “My a lot of things, Gerry.”

    “What happened to it?”

    “You want a story?”

    My mouth dried out. “You’re telling the truth, aren’t you?”

    “There are two types of people, Gerry. Those who k-k-keep secrets.” He shuffled up close to the cell door, the water he had earlier still wet on his chin, “and those who tell.”

    -JR Simmang

    1. Rene Paul

      JR, this is awesome! You’ve got the makings of a thriller here. Please write the whole story. I’ll be the first to buy it. Loved it, love it, did I say, “LOVED IT?”

      1. JRSimmang

        Thanks, Rene. I had a little difficulty with this prompt, it being more tightly confining than the past few. But, I am buoyed by your response, and I may just have to consider making this into something more.

    2. writer_sk

      JR- totally agree with Rene.

      Just so well done. Your dialogue is that of a published author.

      Perfect setting the scene and weaving in the backstory and working in the prompt last. I loved the Detail of the stutter.

      Expertly told suspense thriller. I would like to hear more about the guard.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I wish I had read your story before thr rest so I could repeat the critique. Now I will tell you, if you don’t finish and publish this then you are the one that’s looney. This is just the best on the block or in the city. Go for it, JR.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        I wish I had read your story before thr rest so I could repeat the critique. Now I will tell you, if you don’t finish and publish this then you are the one that’s looney. This is just the best on the block or in the city. Go for it, JR.

  26. WriterJansen

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who think they can and those who give up.”
    I looked him in the eye, recognizing his unfocused gaze, about to snap at him. I won’t give up. I refuse to. André knows just how to irk me, and after silently counting to ten, I knew that was his oblique intent.
    Before I could formulate an alternative answer, André laughed lazily, upturning the dark-tinted bottle into his mouth. A trail of white froth slid lazily down his left cheek and chin, dripping onto his wrinkled check-patterned shirt that missed the top button.
    “You’re disgusting,” I spewed.
    He burped loudly in defiance. “At least I’m not the coward,” he slurred.
    “I’m not,” I objected.
    “Then why don’t you get it over with?”
    “It’s not that simple. I’m not ready.”
    “Like I said, those who can and those who are too afraid to. You,” he pointed at me with the empty beer bottle, “are the latter.”
    “Give up,” I corrected, rolling my eyes.
    “You said ‘those who can and those who give up’, not ‘who are too afraid’.”
    “Same difference. You give up because you’re afraid. You don’t even try.”
    “I’m not taking advice from a bum.” I pushed back my chair, ready to leave.
    “Bum or not. I’m still your father.” He indicated to the chair. “Sit back down.”
    I hesitated.
    “Sit back down!” Spittle flew from his mouth. “I’m going to tell you something.”
    Still hesitant, I did as he commanded. He seemed satisfied as I did.
    “I may be a bum and a drunk, but I wasn’t always like that. I threw it away. All of it.” He banged the bottle loudly on the crooked wooden table. “Before. Before you were born, I was an intelligent man. I was intelligent enough to do my doctorate in two years. I did it, to show them all, my brother and sister and my father that I was worth something. And that I was better than them. I married your mother, who was the most beautiful girl in town, so other men may be jealous of me. I climbed the corporate ladder, to be admired and respected.” More spittle flew. “And then we had you. But by then I had it all, and there was nothing left for me to strive towards. I thought I had done it. I thought that I was successful. But inside I knew something was missing. I knew what it was but it turned out I was afraid too, and I gave up. I took up the bottle instead.”
    I was impelled to ask, “What was it, dad?”
    “So, I couldn’t sit here and listen to you whine about it any longer. I sent your book to a literary agent in New York.” He cracked open the next bottle, and tapped the table. “Got a letter of acceptance right here.”
    “You what?” I stared agape.
    “Yup, you really need to make your computer password more difficult.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Great character development here, Jansen. I think the conversation feels real, and the relationship between these two is apparent (no pun intended).
      On a personal note, next time consider adding a space between paragraphs. It’s easier on the eyes.
      I do feel that the father is two different people. He’s down and out, pis$ed drunk, then he immediately rebounds and does something wonderful for his kid. I think a little more length to let us into the reveal a tad more carefully would make this story truly pop. Redemption is the name of the game, and redemption takes a long time.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Interesting take on a seemingly dysfunctional father son relationship. I agree with JR’s comments on dialogue and the father’s quick change, and the space between paragraphs suggestion.

  27. Big Tastey

    Charles Darwin IV, with his trusty beagle dog Spot by his side, arrived at Long Island to study its inhabitants.

    “Have a good look around, Spot. This is where we’ll find the answers to all of our questions.” Charles said.

    “Bark!” Spot agreed.

    “Okay Spot, do you remember why we are here?”


    “No? Then I’ll remind you. The International Society of People has declared there are only two types of people in the world, extroverts and introverts, but I believe there is a third type of people. I call them perverts. So we’re here in this fantastic city of New York to study its inhabitants in their natural environment. Put your beagle nose to good use Spot and let our research begin. Find me a pervert!”

    Spot sniffed the air and twirled around, sniffing this way and that. Then he sneezed and sat down on the sidewalk. He looked up at Charles with soft brown eyes.


    “Oh Spot, such a sad and forlorn thing to say. It’s alright if you can’t smell one. Maybe there aren’t any perverts nearby, or perhaps extroverts, introverts, and perverts all smell the same. If that’s the case, then we’ve learned something new. I see people entering and leaving the establishment across the street. Let’s go over there.”

    Charles and Spot entered the tavern across the street. They sat down at a small table in the middle of the room and they listened as people talked over drinks and food. The people were nicely dressed and they talked about family, upcoming events, and work. There was a man sitting alone at the bar. He seemed to be drinking a lot. Charles got up and went over to him.

    “Excuse me sir, my name is Charles and I’m performing research into people. May I ask, are you an extrovert or an introvert? Or perhaps you identify as something else?”

    “Thisch beer helps me talk. Show I think I’m an extrophert when I drink, and an introphert when I’m showber.” the man said.

    “Fascinating! So you identify as a Bi-vert?”

    “Um, okay.”

    “Thank you sir. Come Spot, let’s try another establishment.”

    They walked towards the water until they came to a dive bar. Inside, people were drinking for the sake of getting drunk. They were dressed in rough work clothes and their language was course. Charles and Spot listened as the people talked about family, upcoming events, and work.

    “Why, Spot, these people are the same as the others. They simply dress and talk a little differently than each other. It seems people are the same all over the world. Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe there are no perverts.”

    They walked until they were on the busier sidewalks surrounded by people. Everyone talked about family, fun, and work. Turning around in amazement, Charles stumbled into a portly woman, accidentally touching her bosom.

    “Please excuse me.” Charles said.

    She slapped him.

    “Pervert!” the woman said.

    “Eureka, Spot! We’ve finally found a pervert, and it’s me!”


    1. JRSimmang

      I think you were clever to have Darwin’s dog a beagle, plus the punchline was worth it. There are a few spots that could use some tightening (coarse, not course; “…beagle nose to good use, Spot, and…), but they didn’t detract from the overall spirit of the story. I must say, too, that it’s an interesting direction to take, and the question you pose is relevant to today.
      Entertaining and witty.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      I’ve always wanted a beagle named Darwin, so I enjoyed this story. Not quite my dream but close. 😉

      Darwin’s quirky personality really came out in his dialogue, and the interaction between Spot and Darwin was endearing. It reminded me of Tintin and Snowy. Great ending! Great job!

  28. RafTriesToWrite

    Drunken Secrets

    Back at it again in my local pub, Alex has been drinking all night, must be one of those “days” with the missus.

    “You know what Jess?” He asks, with that “un-sober” tone of his when he’s had way too much to drink.

    I simply look at him and his laid back posture in our usual seat, with that folded sleeves on his darkened red checkered polo shirt matched with that messy swoop on his hair. If I wasn’t his best friend, I would’ve dragged his butt back home to his wife way before he got drunk like how he is now.

    But you wanna know something? I kinda like drunk Alex.

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who leave the toilet seat up and those who put it back down”.

    “You’re a girl right Jess?” He continued.

    I chuckled. “I’m glad you noticed”

    “How would you feel if someone left the toilet seat up and then you come along and just do your business, but then you’d feel the cold touch of that hard marbled toilet, PLUS, if you’re unlucky enough, you may feel a few drops of warm pee just as when you sit down” That’s just messed up Alex.

    I swayed my head. Okay, that’s it, he’s too drunk.

    “They are monsters, and I hope they die. Now, let’s get you home.” I joked. I then stood up from our seat, but Alex still has a grip on his bottle. I sighed.

    I struggled to take the bottle away from him. “No. Jess. I’m not drunk.” There he goes again.

    “Well I didn’t say you were, smart-ass.” He didn’t mind my snarky remark, instead he started giggling. I managed to take the bottle away from him, and proceeded to carry him up, but failing miserably at it.

    “Come on Alex, get up.” I pulled his arm and put it around my neck and helped him up his seat then left money to cover the tab. Thankfully, he complied quicker than he usually would and helped me wobble our way to my car. The smell of beer mixed with his cologne lingered around my nose as he mumbled incoherent words.

    He’s already passed out when I sat on the driver’s seat. The drive to Alex’s house was quiet, I kept checking in on him to see if he’s still alright.

    When we got to his house, I parked at their driveway and stayed for a bit and took one quick whiff on Alex’s cologne until I rang the doorbell.

    “Thanks again for bringing him home.” Maya, Alex’s wife greeted me at the door.

    “No problem” I put on a fake smile.

    Maya’s brother, Bruce, was staying with them, he’s a big guy, so he carried Alex inside alone. I said my goodbyes and went my way as well.

    Maybe, not wearing lipstick was the wrong move.

    1. JRSimmang

      Raf, I appreciate a conversational tone in stories, makes me feel like I’m part of the inside joke. And, in this instance, I certainly feel a part of Jess’s joke.
      I think this little slice could use a little polishing, adding strength by first making the opening line into a couple sentences (no comma splices here, please 😉 ), and doing a little more showing (omitting “laid-back posture” in favor of how he appears laid-back, hinting at more of his aggravation/the reason he’s drunk, describing how Jess failed at escorting Alex out, etc.). There is interesting chemistry between these two, and I want to know why Jess is there with Alex, since it’s not a date.
      At any rate, I felt the characters are compelling and real. Thanks!

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        JR, I have been another victim – yet again – of the dreaded comma splices. Will try to watch out for it the next time.
        As for the little more showing part, I may have perhaps made the story too mysterious or rather put too less of the information required. I was trying to be a little more dramatic, but it appears to have been too much.
        Thank you for this informative and constructive criticism. Looking forward to more of these.

        1. darkmic

          hmm, still not sure why it was wrong not to wear lipstick, is it all back to his comment if Jess was a girl?
          feels like I am missing a piece, not in a bad way though, more like I want to read more and that is a good thing 🙂

          1. madeindetroit

            Im not seeing any errors. Just seeing nothing. I was able to post a month ago with no problem.
            I even created another account with no success. There were no questionable words in the story.

          2. Jess Zafarris Post author

            Got it, my apologies for the trouble. I’ll see if I can dig it out of the back end, but this may be a problem that we need to solve from a development perspective upon our impending redesign/relaunch in January 18.

  29. brookefischbeck

    I was fourteen when I learned the meaning of life.
    It was Christmas Eve, and I had my family over to eat and open gifts. My cousin, Sammy, was older than me and therefore, worshipped. I asked her the meaning of life and she replied with this:
    “There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who are left handed and those who are right handed.” My cousin smirked.
    “Really?” I quirked an eyebrow up. “That’s all there is to it? The meaning of life is the difference between lefties and righties?”
    “Yep, that it. I’m a rightie, your a leftie, and there’s no other hand to choose from, is there?”
    “I guess not.” I pondered her words, trying to come up with a way to contradict her. “What about ambidextrous people?”
    “That’s not real.”
    “Sure it is. My friend at school is. She can write with BOTH hands, which I think is pretty neat.”
    “She’s lying.”
    “Oh.” I looked at my untied shoelace. “Sorry, then.”
    “Don’t be sorry, Brooke, just be on guard.”
    “What? For what?”
    “For ambidextrous people. They’ll come and lie to you, and I don’t want that to happen.” Sammy proceeded to get up and go get some fruit punch, to talk with the adults.
    I sat quietly by myself after that to deduce the meaning of life on my own.
    “Well,” I whispered quietly, “I guess the meaning of life is….everyone but me is dumb. Especially people that think being ambidextrous is fake.”
    And so, the meaning of life is simple, and I had to remember that even in the darkest of times, and especially during group projects at school: I was the only smart person on this Earth.

    1. JRSimmang

      Ah, Brooke, you nailed the mentality of a fresh-out-of-summer freshman. It’s a curious oddity we all feel so bulletproof when we’re young, and then the world snaps us instead.
      Next time, and this is just personal preference, consider adding a space in between paragraphs. It makes the story easier to read. Technically, this piece is near-perfect. I think you may have a great start to a young adult reader here.

      1. brookefischbeck

        Thank you so much! It’s funny because I actually AM a going into high school, so it probably was a bit easier for me to capture what it’s like Thank you!

    2. jeffsmithhappy

      This is the best ever. It seems that you go to some place within yourself where words live. You should be able to go to any high school you want. Go to Palo alto High school. #govikings #gopaloalto #come here #recruitment #life #happy #lifegoals

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      As JR wrote, bulletproof, but also supremely self-confident. I was going to write arrogant, but when I saw your age I knew you’d soon figure it all out. This was a great piece, no matter your age, I hope you continue writing here.

    4. RafTriesToWrite

      I’m a lefty and I’ve never had that much trouble in school, but I wasn’t doing too well either, unlike the right handed people in my school.
      I’ve always noticed that right handed people are smarter than left handed people and left handed people are more inclined on the artistic side.
      Well, I don’t know if this is a fact, it’s just based on my experience.
      Anyway, the grammar could use some polishing, but I liked the story overall. I have yet to see a person who could write with both hands. Another thing to add to my bucket list I suppose.

  30. Kaboosh

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” the Mnorp sitting across from me slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who hunt and those who are hunted.”

    “You don’t have to remind me. I’ve known that since birth,” Poppy lied. She was on an alien planet of which she forgot the name of, and the “hunt or be hunted” garbage happened to actually apply here. According to Ike, the beings that inhabited the planet were called Mnorps. At birth, each one is examined and his or her entire life is decided right there and then. Stuff like whether or not one is allowed to get married or have kids. They also determine if someone is allowed to kill and if someone is allowed to be killed. These rules are then programmed into their brains by some childhood torture. Poppy was disgusted by it all; she couldn’t wait to get as far away as possible from the savage planet, but first she had a job to do.

    “Lemme guess,” Poppy said to the Mnorp in the bar. “You’re a hunter?”

    “You betcha,” The Mnorp replied. He gave Poppy a grin, but most of it was covered by a repulsively long snout attached to every Mnorp’s face. Poppy, being shape-shifted as a Mnorp herself, had a snout of her own. Ike thought Poppy got all the cool powers, but this one was not one of her favorites.

    “I could tell. You’re built like a hunter,” Poppy exclaimed with a wink. Seducing the creature almost made her throw up, but it’s all in a day’s work.

    “Oh, am I? Heh, it must be from fighting off aliens at the laboratory,” the Mnorp bragged.

    “Wow! You work at the labs? You must be so brave.” The laboratory was basically used to capture and research alien species. Ike had a friend trapped inside, and it was Poppy’s job to save him. This was her best chance. “Can you give me a tour of the place? I’d love to see-”

    Poppy was interrupted by the Mnorps laughter. “Ha! You? Inside of the laboratory? Listen, you’re sweet and all, but that stuff is highly classified.”

    “I understand. That’s a shame, but I do still want spend some extra time with you…” Poppy said in the most seductive tone she could manage. “Meet me outside.” Poppy got up and left the bar, hearing the Mnorp stumble after her. Once they were both outside, Poppy grabbed the Mnorp and dragged him into an alleyway before whipping out a dagger and pressing it against his throat. After a few seconds of silence, the Mnorp laughed.

    “You can’t kill me! You’re lucky a low-tier person such as yourself could even talk to me. Everyone in this entire planet knows that!”

    Poppy smiled for the first time. “Jokes on you. I’m not from this planet.” Poppy watched the Mnorp’s face turn to horror as she shifted back into her normal form. She quickly slashed the dagger across his throat and nabbed a key card from his pocket. She started towards the laboratory before taking one final glance behind her. The Mnorp’s body had sagged onto the the ground, violet blood seeping out of his wound.

    “All in a day’s work,” she sighed. “All in a day’s work.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Interplanetary intrigue? Shape-shifting spies? This has all the elements of a great sci-fi thriller. This is just a personal observation, but “Mnorp” was a difficult name for me. I think you revealed Poppy’s mission at the right time, and I certainly do like a good femme fatale. Thanks, Kaboosh!

  31. ClutteredThoughts

    “There are two kinds of people in this place,” Coda slurred, taking another drink of his… well, whatever it was. “Those who let the music move them, and those who try to alter it.” He waved his hands wildly, nearly splashing me in the process.

    I sighed. The conductor had his moments of wisdom, but this wasn’t one of them. I was regretting Yan Su’s absence now that I was alone with a drunken Coda.

    “D’you see, Bling? Lookit Jasce, she doesn’t let the music move her.” He gestured to where Jasce was sitting with Elise and trying to stay quiet. “She takes the music apart, tries t’learn everything about it so she can pick the good bits. S’kinda ironic,” he said as an afterthought.

    “Yeah, it is, given where she’s from.”

    “I would love to visit Destiny,” Coda grinned. “Place where th’universe’s music moves you. Always! I woulda loved it, I bet. But I’d wanna leave after ten minutes. Can’t write properly in a place where’s’all ‘meant to be’.” He waved his arms again, and I silently took the glass from him and drained it. I can’t handle alcohol well, but there wasn’t much left in there.

    “Okay, what about us?” I asked, suddenly unwilling to end the conversation. “You’re definitely more like Jasce.”

    “Not when I’m writing,” Coda hiccupped cheerfully. His hand searched for the glass and frowned when it returned empty. “Sh*t.”

    “You’ve had enough, Coda. Let’s just talk? What about me and our friends, what kind of people are we?” I sighed when he frowned.

    “Whatcha mean?” He’d already forgotten what we were talking about

    I was done with his drunkenness. I stared at him for a long moment, focusing my thoughts. I was better at Imagining with metal, but I could Imagine a normal Coda easily enough.

    “What the h*ll,” he complained when I leaned back. “We spent three hours getting sh*tfaced, and you go and sober me up? Why?”

    “You spent three hours getting drunk to high heaven, not me. D’you know how hard it is to talk to a drunk you?” I was a bit huffy, but I knew Coda would ignore it. “Besides, you were saying something interesting for once.”

    Coda scoffed and smacked my arm. “You bastard. I’m always being intelligent… All right, not always. But Fringe is the interesting one to talk about. Our resident enigma.”

    “Yeah, I was curious. What kind of person are they?” Of course my curiosity was mostly focused on them, like the rest of my thoughts. It was a wonder no one else knew how much I thought about them, given how easily thoughts affected life here.

    Coda was silent for a moment, openly staring at them. “Fringe… I think Fringe doesn’t hear the music.”

    I turned to look at them, and they stared back; their solid-black eyes stared me down, face unreadable. But that was just how Fringe was, I decided, an enigma outside the music of the universe.

    1. JRSimmang

      CT, I’m intrigued by this universe you’re creating. I did get a little turned around with the directionality of the conversation (who’s the MC, Jasce or Bling?), and I felt a little overwhelmed by the drunk diction in a couple points. However, overall, I think the concept is mesmerizing, and the characters are delectable.

      1. ClutteredThoughts

        Thank you so much JRS! To answer your question, the MC is supposed to be Bling (I kind of wish I’d written this in third person, like the actual story is going to be written, but since I’ve been struggling with Bling I thought a first person venture would be helpful.) As for the drunk diction, I’m going to have to plead ignorance here; I’m underage and have never been anywhere near a bar or highly drunk person in my life. But I’m really glad you like this!

        1. JRSimmang

          First person can get rather hairy for me, personally. Sometimes, I get my character into situations I wouldn’t dare tread, and it gets difficult to make the MC real. Keep trying out narratives, and I think this was a great intro to Bling and the rest of this musical cast.
          Also, (most) bars are overrated. But, like Reatha said, they are a great place to people watch and listen.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      It’s interesting that although I’ve only rarely frequented bars, some of the stories this week, yours included, sound strangely familiar. Perhaps bars are great places where all the mysteries of the universe are solved. I would be interested in a bit more about the characters here. Good take on the prompt.

      1. ClutteredThoughts

        Thanks Reatha! I’m happy this is resonating with people, however strange it seems, and I’ll definitely be expanding and explaining these characters a good deal more. There’s always that pesky word limit holding me back, though…

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          I tend to use the 500 word thing as a suggestion. You won’t get cut off. Some folks do a two-parter and I’ve continued stories into the next week. Keep writing.

  32. Rene Paul

    I’m sitting at the counter of the Hair of the Dog Restaurant and Bar, Choke N’ Puke is a more appropriate name, with my friend, Bob. We’re both long-haul truck drivers, and we’re discussing the pros and cons of celebrating one’s birthday.

    It’s an atypical confabulation for our type of sojourners, especially in such an out of the way hicksville.

    Bob was making the point that celebrations, and days off, are too far and few between and usually commemorate something or someone other than him.

    He has a point.

    He said, “With my birthday I can at least celebrate me. Take Christmas, it’s Jesus’s birthday, but I get gifts, and I give gifts, and he gets… well… nothing!”

    “That’s a cynical way to look at it,” I said, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?”

    “How so, Bubba?” He asked me. And yes, Bubba is my name.

    I said, “Why should it be about you, Christmas that is, or any other holiday? What have you done to deserve a day off for me?” You drive a truck, and I drive a truck, lots of people drive a truck. Nothing special there.”

    The barkeep came over and interrupted our pow wow, “You two knuckleheads going to order another round?”

    Bob said, “we’re drinking coffee?”

    The barkeep said, “I’m being facetious, Bubba.”

    “He’s Bubba,” Bob said, pointing to me, “I’m Bob.”

    The barkeep said, “knuckleheads is too kind.”

    Anyway, I took the last swig of cold coffee and last bite of watery string beans. Then I made another point about birthdays. “If we should celebrate anyone on your birthday, Bob, it should be your mother! After all, she went through all the pain of childbirth and the agony of raising you! All you did was cry, eat and sleep, whine, poop, throw fits, cry, fuss, spit up, mess up…did I say cry? For what, 30 years until you got married. Now you’re doing it again for another mother, your poor wife. So once again I ask what have you done for anyone lately that warrants a celebration for you?”

    “Wow, you’ve hurt my feelings, Bubba, I don’t whine anymore.”

    “You doing it now!” I said.

    “You’re jealous. That’s it, isn’t it, Bubba. You don’t have anybody or anything in your pathetic life worth parting with or for…except me. Am I right, or what?”

    “Look, Bob, the truth of the matter is that some people will celebrate anything for any reason, there are those that celebrate birthdays, for right or wrong reasons, and those that don’t. Period!”

    Bob took another bite of a dry burger that the cook plastered with ketchup and mayo and stuck inside a dryer bun and suddenly a weird expression encroached upon his face. He turned a lighter shade of pale, if that’s even possible, and proceeded to puke all over the counter. The Hair of the Dog, once again, earned its moniker and Bob made another fine mess.

    As for me, I’m back on the highway, thinking about how blessed I am because I believe Christmas is so much more than giving and receiving gifts, and glad I ate the meatloaf.

    1. JRSimmang

      I was entertained hearing the banter between these two, the knucklehead philosophers. Also, interesting choice of characters; truck drivers are often accessory, not main ensemble. I think overall, the story could be tighter if you remove the tags telling us what the characters are about to tell us. The reader can infer the MC was talking about birthdays without the narration telling us Bubba’s about to tell us about birthdays.
      You’ve a great sense of humor and it comes shining through in this piece, Rene.

  33. Pete

    “Now Willie, there are two types of boys in this world,” Santa slurred, pausing to take another swig of his drink. “Those who are naughty, and those who are nice. Now which have you been this year?”

    I guess I should back up some, to why I was up so late with Santa. Late enough that Johnny Carson was on TV. Well, my mom and her new friends had spent the evening getting jolly, singing and laughing and carrying on well past dinner, making phone calls then popping in the living room every few minutes to remind Angie and me that Santa was making a special stop at our house.

    This was a week before Christmas, and sleep was out of the question after that. So we lay on the floor, where I had my head propped up in my hand, listening to the tick and hiss of the kerosene heater. Angie kept saying how I was going to burn myself again and I kept asking her if she really thought he was coming.

    She didn’t answer, just kept on pretending she understood whatever old Johnny Carson was yapping about. But I saw the way she kept eyeing the door, just like been doing since Dad took off a few months ago for his sales job. Mom had said Dad’s new job was on the moon for all she knew, but when I told Angie about Dad in outer space, she’d said I was the only one buying anything.

    I was watching my spit sizzle on the heater when the steps hit the porch, followed by a knock on the door. I leaped up just as Mom came shooting out of the kitchen. “That’s him, Willie! He’s here!”

    I looked at Angie, who stood slowly, suspiciously, while Mom’s friends crowded the room so that I couldn’t see through the the bodies greeting Santa at the door.

    He walked into a haze of smoke and revelry. He ho’ed and hacked several times. Mom made a fuss over it, but Angie didn’t. She took one look at that sorry Santa and spun off for the stairs. Sure, he was weathered and haggard looking (sleigh travel will do that to you), but I just couldn’t believe that my sister would dash off after he’d gone to all the trouble to see us. What a poop.

    “Ho, ho—” Santa barreled into another coughing fit that knocked around his chest like the pipes in the walls. Someone made a joke about what he’d been smoking and he managed a “Merry Christmas.”

    We got Santa over to the couch and Mom fetched him a drink. He took a swallow and grimaced, but at least he’d stopped hacking. She shoved me forward. “Well, go on, Willie. Go tell Santa what you want for Christmas.”

    I was only about halfway into his lap when the smell hit me good in the face. Santa’s suit must have been hanging in the manger, or he must have flown over the sewage treatment center. Seemed once again Angie had outsmarted me.

    “Come on, come on, get up here,” he said, patting a knee. I did like I was told, but my eyes screamed from the lava hot flecks of spit that made it past his soggy beard that was like a mop in need of wringing. I blinked and wiped while everyone had a merry old time as Santa took a greedy slug of that drink—something that smelled like it belonged in the heater on the floor.

    That’s when he fed me that line about two types of boys.

    I assured him I’d been nice. Whatever sped things along. His fleshy jowls and wobbly eyes consumed my vision, but I knew Mom was somewhere behind me, I could her squealing and taking pictures, winding the roll. Another blast of the flash. Another picture I’d find in the attic years and years later.

    Finally, Santa popped the big question. And that should’ve been the easy part. I wanted a brand new Supercat Big Wheel with the quick-stop racing brake. But now, on his filthy lap, seeing the splotches and stains, I thought again about what would be the best gift this year. Not just for me, but for Angie too.

    “I want a space suit. And a rocket ship.”

    Santa stopped swigging, his droopy eyes fell to me, then he looked to Mom for help. “Oh?”

    “Yeah,” I said, and all those people got quiet. Only Johnny and his jokes filled the room. “I want to go to the moon.”

    1. GrahamLewis

      Nice, in a sad way. Well thought out, and works nicely, especially the conclusion. Reminds me of something, but I can’t place it. But I would read something by you again, for sure.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Pete, what a fantastic story, I think one of the best I’ve read for a while. You set the time perfectly with details like the sound of the film, and Johnny Carson. Your Santa was perfectly done. Again, one of the very best.

    3. Kat

      “I guess I should back up some, to why I was up so late with Santa” -this was so funny to me and I don’t know why.
      “from the lava hot flecks of spit that made it past his soggy beard that was like a mop in need of wringing”- This made me cringe! I loved the physical effect it had while reading it for the first time.

    4. JRSimmang

      Personally, I was a little creeped out by Santa, and creeped out by the whole scenario. It was very sweet that Willie requested to be with his dad, and who can blame him? He’s been forced to sit on drunk Santa’s lap!

        1. JRSimmang

          I don’t think you got carried away with Santa; perhaps he was just to reminiscent of a Santa I once knew. Willie certainly handled the situation better than I would have at that age. So, he certainly did show how the strength of children is usually misjudged.

  34. ReathaThomasOakley

    Marge and Arlee take on the prompt

    “For cat’s sake, Marge, it’s just toilet paper,” Arlee shook the newspaper open again, hoping Marge understood the message. When she didn’t reply he carefully lowered the financial section and peered over the top. He hadn’t heard her leave the family room, but his hearing wasn’t what it once was. Nothing’s much like it was, he sighed as he went back to lamenting the conditions of stocks he’d sold twenty years back.

    “Arlee!” He jerked awake, the paper fell from his face. “That’s three times I’ve called you. Now, you get that recliner, and you, up straight.” Arlee did as he was told, always the easiest response to that tone of voice.

    “What in the world?” he muttered as he saw the two TV trays. “Marge, what’s all that?” He pointed to the huge stock pots, one on each tray. He hadn’t seen those since the last time she’d made jelly, and he’d had the crabapple trees cut down seven, eight years ago. Balanced across each pot was what looked like the long wooden spoons she’d used with the pots. He blinked a few times, the rest of the contraption didn’t change.

    “Marge, dear,” he decided not to raise his voice, WebMD warned about agitating older folks. “Do you have rolls of toilet paper hanging down in those pots.” Marge, his dear wife for nearly fifty years, smiled. Yes, he thought, better I didn’t get her riled.

    “Well, Arlee, since you wouldn’t get up out of your chair to go with me to either bathroom, I decided to bring my demonstration to you.” She carefully moved the awkwardly laden trays closer to his chair.

    “On this pot you can see the proper, and correct, way to fill the paper holder, paper over the top.” She pulled a length, tore it off, handed it to Arlee, then moved to the other tray. “But, here, now watch, with the paper hanging over the back, I must reach way under to pull.” This time she pulled at least three feet off the roll. “Very wasteful, plus if you can’t easily find the end piece, you must use your hands to get the roll started.” She shuddered. “Very unhygienic.”

    “Marge, I–”

    “Plus,” she interrupted, “I believe there is a subtle message here.” She placed a hand on each roll. “The paper over the top represents a more friendly, easier to use, open method, over the back does not.” She sighed. “Arlee, that’s what our guests will see when they use our facilities. Do you understand?”

    Arlee didn’t trust himself yet to talk, but thought even though he’d been trying to help more around the house, he’d never, ever fill another toilet paper holder.

    “What I understand is using big pots to show me the error of my ways was a good choice.” Arlee ducked before the roll was out of Marge’s hand, they’d been married a really long time.

    1. Rene Paul

      Fun story, RTO. Enjoyed the banter between Arlee and Marge, and the cleaver illustration she used to demonstrate the proper way to hang toilet paper. Good work.

      My red pen: the second sentence is an incomplete one. When she didn’t reply (this needs to be connected to something. example, to Arlee’s idiom) he carefully lowered… and stock pot is one word. Hope this helps. Again loved the story.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, Rene Paul, for your close reading. I do believe what he was waiting for her to reply to is implied in that sentence.

        Stock pot is a generic name for one of the most common types of cooking pot used worldwide, from Wikipedia. Perhaps both ways are correct.

        Thanks, again.

    2. JRSimmang

      Okay, where did Marge and Arlee come from? I do so enjoy your knack for down-home personalities. These two remind me so much of my own gran and grandpa, who also disagreed on the proper roll method. I could see this as part of a sitcom. I did get tuned around with the first exchange of dialogue, and adding a “Marge shouted” after she shouts his name would clarify if for me.
      Wonderful as always, Reatha.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, JR. I first used Marge and Arlee for May 2 prompt, getting a phone call from a famous person. They were a very, very dear couple sadly no longer with us. If by chance the names are recognized I would hope my love and admiration are evident. They might make other appearances, as a typical couple of a certain age. Years ago I wrote an Erma Bombeckish column for a small newspaper, and readers seemed to enjoy the down-home references and personalities. Hmmm, maybe in my spare time…..

        I see what you meant about that part. Thanks.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Oh Reatha. You hit a button here. Fifty years I have been getting specific instructions about various things
        No, that wasn’t one of then. Get your mind fixed girl. Now we be a talking about der hand washing program. Been fifty years of how to wash my hands. Told my wife I was about halfway there and another 50 on instructions should do it. You,’d think that would slow her down. But no. Hot water, wash front and back, then get towel and dry both sides of hands. If you go within ten feet of a bathroom, repeat hand washing. Fifty years, I’m now washing hands twice a day. I’m not the one getting.sick.

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, I think lots of married folk can relate to situations like these. As I mentioned to JR, I once wrote a weekly column when my sons were small, maybe there is a market for musings from a more mature perspective. Perhaps I’ll keep on with Marge and Arlee for a bit, if the prompts inspire. Thanks, as always, for your comments.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      Another spotlight for Marge and Arlee. Love it Reatha!

      Never used a toilet paper roll over the back in my entire life and I hope I never get to.
      Arlee seemed to have his mind in order right as when Marge woke him up. If it was me, waking me up in the middle of a comfortable slumber will awaken the rudeness inside of me.

    4. J.Fujimaru

      This is great! I like how you used the photo as inspiration for this prompt. I can really picture Marge and Arlee’s relationship through this scene. The narration from Arlee’s POV is hilarious. I especially loved the line about WebMD’s warning about agitating older folks.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        J., I do believe the toilet paper debate is the greatest divider of couples, well, maybe second greatest. I kinda liked the WebMD thing, too. Thank you.

        1. J.Fujimaru

          I have not had that debate with my husband. Not yet… It might be because all of our toilet dispensers are broken (it’s not easy finding replacements in Africa) except for one which requires that we put it in paper down or the thing doesn’t roll at all.

    5. JosephFazzone

      Hilarious! I love the last line, it’s the kind of conversations I get into with my wife. Although, this aspect of toilet paper hasn’t been argued about yet, we have argued about other aspects of toilet paper usage and disposal. So funny!

  35. rlk67

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who have ‘presence’ and those who don’t.” He was right, of course. Abe wasn’t one of the first type…he was five of them.

    When he walked into a room, the lights seemed to brighten, the air suddenly smelled sweeter, and time stopped. The atmosphere morphed from humdrum to anticipation. Nobody was really ‘there’ until he was there, and only then was everybody truly ‘THERE’.

    My companion was born from the second universe. He wasn’t ‘there’ even if he was. “‘S’not my fault, no, no. I don’t have the genes. Not my fault. No, no.” Sitting on the carpet, Max put his head down on my end table next to his third empty bottle. I didn’t care…he wasn’t there.

    Yet he was. My best friend Max had so much depth, so much feeling. It’s just that no one noticed. When Max walked into a room, it was like being created out of nothing. Suddenly he was there, but you could’ve just hung your coat on him. If Max were to dance on the table, people would briefly wince like an annoying fly had droned by, then time and conversation would dutifully continue on its course. He was invisible…and I was jealous.

    Really, I was jealous of both men. There is something to be said for being ‘under the radar’, and there is something equally to be said for being Chief Attention Commander. While Abe could convince anyone to buy an old ‘Sound of Music’ phonograph record (‘these things make awesome frisbees…two for you?”), Max could float peacefully at work without worry of any type of scrutiny or performance observation. Abe could saunter into Lincoln Center and start leading the orchestra. Max could sit on stage without notice and be lost in serenity. And myself? I was plainly in the middle.

    “Abe ‘s cool. Yeah.” Max grumbled. I patted his shoulder.

    “You’re also cool, Max. So Abe has half the continent as a friend. You have me.”

    “Sorry. Not comforted. Why can’t I jus’ be like him?”

    “No, Max. Don’t say that. You’re something special. And if a lady doesn’t like you, then she’s not for you.”

    “No, course not. She’s for Abe. By default.” He smiled.

    “You’ll see, Max. One day. You’ll have it all. And Abe won’t know what hit him.”

    1. rlk67

      Part II
      Deja Vu

      “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who have serenity, and those who don’t. He was right, of course. Max wasn’t one of the first type…he was five of them.

      “Listen, Abe…I don’t think it’s worth…”

      “Oh, Sthop it. I don’t need your comforth. I need a job where the boss sthays out of my hair.”

      “Abe, really. You practically have your choice of anything…”

      “That Max…’s so lucky. So lucky. Nice quiet boy. Oh, man. Who needsth half the world to stare at you? I want to be invisible like him. Invisible…invis…zzzzzzzz…”

      “You’ll see, Abe. One day. You’ll have it all. And Max won’t know what hit him.”

      1. Rene Paul

        Ok, either I’m half slushed, without having had a drink, or it’s just over my head–I’m not worthy– because I didn’t get it until I did! It’s Deja Vu all over again. Clever story.

      2. JRSimmang

        Max and Abe are truly the duality. What an interesting pair!
        I’m curious as to who this devil/angel-on-the-shoulder is that’s talking with them both. It’s also compelling why you chose “presence” and “serenity” as opposing concepts. Are these two to ever meet each other?

        1. rlk67

          The devil/angel as you put it is the voice of validation. This voice can be used for peace as much as it can be used for war, which is also a duality.
          Presence is outwardness, while serenity is inwardness. Certainly not a contradiction, as an extrovert can find serenity just as well. But the serenity that comes with a person who finds his place in the hidden world possesses a different, not opposite, type of serenity.
          I wasn’t using them as opposites. Just when your place is in the loud world, it comes differently.
          The main point is like Reatha said…some folks are never satisfied, the grass is always greener.

          1. JRSimmang

            I see. I took this story way too literally. These two characters intrigued me as concrete, so the metaphorical reading escaped me. I suppose it was the last line in both that had me thinking that there’s an opposition. Since the inner voice is telling Max and Abe the same thing, that the other won’t know what hit them, I assumed there was a conflict a-brewin’.

    2. JosephFazzone

      I love the line “Nobody was really ‘there’ until he was there…” It explains Abe perfectly. I’ve known people like that. They are linchpins to the social idiom! I also love the description of Max. I’ve felt that was sometimes, but I also felt like the man in the middle too. Really enjoyed the perspective and the way you presented the characters!

  36. GrahamLewis


    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who need to drink and those who don’t know they need to.” He looked at me in what I took as a challenging manner. When I didn’t respond, he went on. “Those of us who drink seek our souls in the beauty of a sunset.” He raised his glass in a toast. “Here’s to us.” He took another swig and banged the glass onto the barrail. “But those who don’t drink try to make money by selling us pictures of the sunset.” He signaled for another drink. “I don’t know who has it right.” His next drink came and he took another long swig. “What say you, Mr., um Smith, is it?”
    “Yes, Smith, R.G. Smith.”
    “What sort of grown man goes around with initials for a name?”
    I smiled and sipped my water. “I do. For now anyway. But the initials don’t matter. What does matter is that I’m not drinking and I’m not selling any pictures. I do admire your reasoning and think you’re on the right track. But I think you stop short with your implication of a necessary dichotomy.”
    My companion looked at me with a sort of hazy astonishment, picked up my glass, held it up to the light, swirled it and studied it. “I think you must have something pretty strong in this so-called water,” he said, setting it back down. “You’re drunker than I am. What other sort of person would go around dragging words like ‘dichotomy’ into a perfectly civil conversation?” But he smiled as he said it.
    I smiled back. “I’m perfectly sober and have been for longer than you would believe. But I’ve also met a lot of people and watched many more.”
    He took another long swig. ““So what do you say? In plain English, please.”
    “I suggest you fall short when you focus on the method rather than the goal.” I raised my hand as he made to interrupt. “Let me finish. I agree that mankind can be divided into those who seek fulfillment in simple beauty, and those who seek to purchase fulfillment by marketing beauty. But both seek fulfillment. I suggest both will fall short until they realize that the fulfillment they seek they already have.”
    “I was with you for awhile, RG, but then one of us went off the rails. They already have what they’re looking for? Then why do they keep looking?”
    I smiled. “Why indeed? Truth is, those who find that answer stop looking.”
    My companion stared a moment, a look of puzzlement changing to comprehension. He picked up his drink. “Let’s toast to that.” I raised my water glass, we clinked, and drank to fulfillment.

    1. JRSimmang

      I agree with Reatha. Smith has the aire of an eccentric, perhaps one who has no need to worry about death. Is he the barkeep, or just a patron who has turned the ear of the drunk? There’s a great message here, with sound logic and realistic conversation. Thanks!

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      I also agree to not bring such words as “dichotomy” in a perfectly civil conversation. Made me chuckle though.
      Great ending, I agree with what RG said at the end, those who find the fulfillment they seek in what they have stop looking for it elsewhere.

    3. JosephFazzone

      I loved the line “You’re drunker than I am. What other sort of person would go around dragging words like ‘dichotomy’ into a perfectly civil conversation?” Deep conversation for a bar, but I would love to see the conversation play out a bit more. I love the mystery behind the motive of the conversation as well.

  37. creaturescry

    “There are two kinds of people in this world,” my companion slurred, pausing to take another artless swig. “Those who kill and those who don’t.”

    I nodded solemnly, my eyes cast down at the glass in front of me. A week ago I would’ve disagreed, I’d even try to defend humanity. But then that was before everything happened, before they died. I picked up the glass and looked at his warped figure through it, his battered and bruised face. The depressed circles developing under stormy grey eyes, clouded over with alcohol. I took a drink, cringing at the burning liquor, then slamming it down like a gavel on the scuffed table top. To anyone else in the backwoods bar we probably looked two guys who took a trip through hell and back again. Well that was true in a way, then again in a way it was worse.

    “What next?” he shouted, desperately tugging at his hair, “what more do they want from us?! They took Mike, Lil Pete, and even Ann! They took my baby sister!”

    “Its part of the job John,” I sighed, glancing out the window at the golden sea of wheat, flowing like a peaceful lake, “we signed up for this knowing there’d be…costs.”

    “But Ann…”

    “I know you lost her, I’ve lost people I loved too.”

    John slumped in his seat, his jaw working angrily, “where do you think they’re at now?”

    “Down by the river, at the abandoned school house, that’s where they always seem to be when they’re not…killing.”

    “Then let’s get ourselves a few more demon skins for the wall.”

    I smiled grimly as we left the old bar, a black duffel bag in hand. When you sign the contract with the angles to be a soul hunter, a grim reaper, there’s no telling where it might take you. You don’t know the world of suffering you’re throwing yourself into. So why do we do it? All for one more day on earth? One more day to live again? Sure, it starts out that way, but that’s not why we continue to push ourselves. Stopped by the old black truck with the ugly spray paint demon marked out on the side. John jumped in as I unzipped the duffel bag, pulling out two glowing scythe’s, metal masks, and long cloaks with an insignia on the back.

    We have no other purpose but to protect humanity from the demons, and to bring their souls to their rightful places. To dawn our uniforms and live another lifeless day in the grey area. Not in hell and not quite in heaven, just doing something to feel the least bit alive. As we drive down another road to another day of hard work this is what I tell myself. We are the killers, they are the killers. So where is that second kind of person, and why haven’t they come to save us yet?

    1. pven

      I like the questions you’re asking in this piece. The final line is quite thought-provoking. And I can’t help but notice the duality that you include in your characters: one with raw, turbulent emotions keeping him tied to the past, the other more contemplative, appreciative of what he has at the moment, even if he’s not sure that it’s much.

      A few questions do pop into my head. One of them: Have the two only been at this reaping thing for a week? Or perhaps just John, the one who’s trying to get a handle on the job?

      This is a good start, and an impressively speedy composition for the subject matter. For all your quickness in delivery, I would suggest slowing down and re-reading to catch the simple edits that need to be made before submitting. “Angels,” not “angles,” for instance.

      1. creaturescry

        Thank you pven. As for my grammar I’ll try to slow down next time and take a good look at what I write before I post. I’m new to this and typically don’t have many people to share my work with, so I tend to be oblivious to any mistakes I make.

    2. GrahamLewis

      I liked it too, especially the last line. I think you put in some good detail. But “scythes” should not have an apostrophe — it’s neither possessive nor a contraction. Like Pven says below, a bit of editing would help — I also suggest you could tighten it up a bit, make sure you really need and want all the adjectives and adverbs.

      1. creaturescry

        Thank you GrahamLewis. As I mentioned in a reply above I’m new to this so any mistakes I make I don’t notice. I honestly appreciate critiquing to help improve my writing. Hopefully next time I post it’ll be much better and clean of mistakes.

        1. GrahamLewis

          One other minor thing I noticed on re-read — lakes don’t “flow” so the wheat field/lake image (nice idea) isn’t quite right. Might work better as something to do with the effect of the wind making waves, like “stirring in the wind like waves on a restless lake” or something better.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Interesting characters you’ve created here, with an implied tragic backstory. Slamming the drink down like a gavel was a great image for judgement day.

    4. JRSimmang

      I’ll echo the sentiments of those before. I do believe a careful rereading will certainly help to clarify the meaning. I think the first line should belong to the narrator/MC; as written, it comes across as being John’s line, and out of his character- it’s too sardonic and not matching with his anger.
      Are these grim reapers people who are transformed into soul hunters after they die, or do they just appeal to the angels and ask for the job?
      I think the last line is great, but I don’t know if it matches the dilemma. There are plenty of people not killing, the people taken from John for instance. And, these two signed up to be soul hunters, so it would stand to reason that they aren’t needing to be saved.

      1. creaturescry

        Thank you JRSimmang. I’ve noticed the mistakes and I do agree the line should have belonged to the narrator and not John (or I should have altered it to fit Johns mood). As for the characters they became reapers for immortality and to have a second chance on earth. They went into the job expecting it to be easy and manageable, which it wasn’t.
        I personally think the last line does make sense ( I did not explain it that well in the story). They “kill” by taking souls, and witness death by the demons taking souls. Beyond that the two main characters really don’t really notice those who “don’t”, its just not a part of their job. They exist to kill infinitely since they are immortal, they can’t really do anything else but their job. The narrator feels as if he’s stuck in this job and needs rescuing from all the pain he’s suffering. Again this is my fault for not explaining this in the story, sometimes the stuff in my head doesn’t always make its way onto paper. This was also a really bad choice on my part to write something I couldn’t fit in that limit. Next time I’ll make sure I get right and sorry for the confusion.

        1. JRSimmang

          I was happy to have questions after reading your piece. I was immersed in the story of these two, and I do hope that showed. I hope you add on to this story, thicken it out, and keep up with these characters. I would bite at the chance to read more of them.

    5. JosephFazzone

      I really enjoyed the perspective you created here. I love the dilemma, as people usually attribute the grim reaper as some sort of villain, even though their job is aligned with natural law. This would make an amazing book!


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