Considering Absurdism

Albert Camus and Sysiphus | images via Wikimedia Commons

The 7th of November is the anniversary of Albert Camus’ birth in 1913. A writer and philosopher, Camus was known for his belief in absurdism—the notion that humans perpetually and futilely strive to find meaning and sense in an existence that is meaningless and nonsensical.

In his essay The Myth of Sysiphus, Camus compares the absurd human condition to the Greek myth in which Sisyphus defies the gods and puts Death in chains in order to prevent all humans from dying. When Death is freed, the gods punish Sisyphus by making him push a rock up a mountain for eternity; whenever he reaches the top, the rock rolls back down. According to Camus, Sysiphus is an absurd hero because he lives his life to the fullest by helping humanity cheat death, but is ultimately condemned to do a meaningless task forever.

But the essay’s conclusion is not so dismal as you might expect: Camus argues that once Sysiphus acknowledges the futility of pushing the rock up the mountain and accepts it as his fate, he can reach a state of acceptance and contentment—achieving happiness, in a sense. Camus concludes: “The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

The Prompt: Writing as yourself or through a character, discuss whether life has meaning and reason—or whether it’s as meaningless and nonsensical (i.e., absurd) as Albert Camus believed. Given your position, consider what people can do to find happiness in life.

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


The “Show” Don’t “Tell” Collection

6 resources to help you improve your writing

“Show, don’t tell,” might be the single most common piece of advice authors of fiction both give and receive. But what does this actually mean, and how can you apply the concept to your writing? The differences are usually not so easily spelled out. This kit is designed to break down the aspects of “showing” vs. “telling” so that you can create a convincing and believable world for your readers to explore. This collection contains three ebooks and 3 downloadable writing resources that will put your story on the path to success. Get it here.

You might also like:

177 thoughts on “Considering Absurdism

  1. Riley Robish

    Life. What is life? As a child I think I would know. Well I know it’s dark yet happy, full of disappointment and regret also with joyful expectations. Happiness can never be achieved, well not full happiness. It’s like mindfulness no one can ever be always mindful and always present. Life is absurd but I believe it does have a meaning. It’s meaning is to teach us, to make us curious and give us curiosity. Life is amazing and lucky thing. Not everything gets to life. I don’t know how it happened or why but I know it has a meaning. Humans especially, we are meant to create and experience. Animals are meant to give us ideas and start us out. Love is something that comes with life another thing that can never be achieved. Peace and love and happiness can never be achieved. We thrive off war and we crave it. It’s our biggest addiction. We need conflict, life is made to die and made to have conflict. Life is depression. Life is happiness but not very often. We live to die and to have disappointment. They say we have a choice, a choice to be happy but that’s a lie. We can be happy but something will always interfere. That’s what life is creation, curiosity, depression and lies. Right mommy?

  2. Kelsey Elf

    “Hey, uh, Dad? Can you just hear me out on this? I really need to talk to you.” Naomi ran her fingers through her hair, pushing it back off her face. She took a deep breath and started talking quickly, before she could lose her nerve or be interrupted.

    “Since I was a little girl, you taught me that we are here on earth simply as descendants of the earliest single-celled organisms; that humans are just… a staccato note in earth’s timeline. We are here to live our lives as we see fit and, sure, we should be kind to one another…but it’s not like someone is keeping track and deciding whether we go to the “good place” or the “bad place.” Naomi gave a wry grin that she knew her father would appreciate. She wanted to soften him up before she got to the hard part.

    “And I’m so grateful to you for that. You taught me to be inquisitive about our world; to be compassionate towards others because it will enrich both their lives and mine; to stand in awe of the teeming life on our planet that is incredible because it is constantly evolving.” Naomi took a quick breath and then barreled on.

    “But here’s the thing… I’ve started believing in God. And I started believing in God because I started believing in Heaven. And I started believing in Heaven because…” Naomi’s voice faltered. “Well, you know why.”

    Naomi looked up toward her dad and was met with silence.

    “Anyway, I just wanted to tell you.” Naomi said. “I’m happy again now.”

    Naomi got up and ran her fingertips across the arm of her dad’s favorite chair. It was empty, as it had been for the last several months. “I love you, Dad.” She whispered. “And now I can have you in my life again.” Naomi let out a contended sigh and left the room…happy.

      1. Kelsey Elf

        Thank you so much, madeindetroit! I was worried that because I posted it so late no one would read it. Thank you for the read and the positive feedback 🙂

  3. Beebles

    Sorry not commenting. Just had time to get this in, Not edited so make of it what you will.
    —-

    Louise Merival slowly eased herself into the secluded dark oak cubicle at the rear of the small café on the Rue des Ursins. Her actions were sloth-like and yet her mind raced like a humming bird, feeding at one heart-breaking truth after another.

    She eased the silver pistol from her sac a main and placed it on the table next to the carafe and glass of Pernod . She covered it with the bag and with apparent nonchalance dashed some water into the Pernod. She watched the clouds form.

    The surface of the liquor trembled, as if riding a deep ocean quake, as she brought the glass to her lips and downed it in one. She croaked a sigh and let her head rest on the top of the bench, watching the cigarette smoke eddy around the ornate plasterwork above her head, like so many lost conversations. The liquor swirled through her body and her eyes misted.

    She reached for the pistol.

    Time to die.

    ‘Don’t mind if I join you?’

    Startled, Louise bolted upright and stared as a small rhinoceros in waistcoat and fedora, shoe-horned himself into the opposite side of the booth. A cigar hung lazily from his grinning mouth.

    ‘I hope, Mademoiselle, that I am not intruding; only I noticed you arrive from the direction of the Hotel Dieu Hospital. I trust everything is alright?’

    If Louise’s late Uncle had possessed a horn instead of a nose, the pachyderm opposite would have been his spit.

    ‘My fiancée,’ she offered, ‘he … passed this morning.’

    The Rhino grunted and drew on his cigar.

    ‘Mon Dieu, my condolences.’ The sentiment came from between the razor teeth of a large grey wolf in a black trench coat who shuffled in beside her. ‘Eugene,’ he said kicking the Rhino under the table, ‘Won’t you introduce us?’

    Eugene waved a tired hoof. ‘This is my comrade Jean-Paul … and you are…?’

    ‘Louise … Merival. Excuse me …’

    The Wolf had lifted the handbag inquisitively to reveal the gun. He and the Rhino exchanged glances.
    ‘So you intended to break the peace of our sanctuary with your suicide, Mademoiselle? And to what end?’

    Tears ran down her cheeks, limitless tributaries of despair and frustration. ‘My love is dead. What value is there in life?’

    ‘What value is there in death?’ asked the wolf.

    ‘At least in death I shall be free of the pain,’ Louise sobbed.

    ‘But without pain, we cannot appreciate the joy.’

    ‘Then I shall be with my Guilliame, in the bosom of God!’ The Wolf’s dogged persistence annoyed her. How could he know her loss?

    ‘God?’ laughed Eugene, ‘What has God to do with man’s salvation?’ He leaned forward, every carpenter’s joint in the table creaking in protest, ‘God is taking the p1ss, little girl.’

    ‘But at least you admit he exists.’

    The Rhino nodded. ‘Of course, but he is up there laughing at us. Did you know that he has one hundred attempts to create the perfect world?’

    ‘Rubbish.’

    ‘Believe me. And this is number ninety nine.’ The Rhino laughed and the booth rocked.

    ‘My friend is correct, if his humour a little off piste. We are on ur own in this life and it is up to us to make our own happiness, to find or own meaning. You, my girl, can let the tide of events take you, throw your shattered craft from bank to bank, or …’

    The wolf leaned closer, canine eyes staring deep into hers. ‘… or, mademoiselle, you can be for yourself. Be master of your actions and your destiny.’ He pushed the gun toward her across the table.
    ‘Whether you chose death, or the absurdity of life, it must be up to you if you are to be truly happy. As my friend Albert would say, we must entertain death, and the absurdity of life, just not on their terms.’
    Eugene looked at the gun, then at the girl.

    ‘Well?’ they both said.
    ———–
    The bell on the café door tinkled a merry tune like falling shards of sunlight.

    ‘Well?’ remarked the Wolf to the Rhino, studying the girls small frame disappear out of sight, ‘what do you think?’

    The Rhino shifted in his seat.

    ‘I still think that God is taking the p1ss.’

  4. BBwrites

    My death was on a Friday night. People spend their whole lives wondering what happens when you die. Well, iif you’re good, you get put in clean clothes, and wake up on a cloud or your idea of paradise.
    But, if like me, you’re not so good, you wake up in a mile long queue, in the bloody, stained clothes you kicked it in. And you queue, you queue for what feels like eternity, and then you end up in his office. A large, uncomfortably warm room, where he sits behind a shiny black desk. The walls look as if they are dripping red, and it smells like what I can only imagine the inside of a coffin smells.
    He’s not the pointy headed, red fellow you imagine. Quite the opposite really. He’s everything you want. And he’s the Devil.
    You are to sit opposite Him while he torments you for as long as he pleases. Running through a list of why you are such a terrible person. Why you don’t deserve a chance to redeem yourself, your sins. It is like a job interview that is a train wreck from start to finish, with someone pointing out all of your flaws. And it isn’t because you’re ugly, or stupid, or boring, or anything else you think are your flaws. Your flaws are all of the reasons that have you believe you are stupid, or ugly, or boring.
    Vanity, lust, sloth, gluttony, wrath, greed, envy.
    He prances around his stinking office, relishing every minute of your suffering. Showing snippets of your life where you have proved you evoke these sins. A slide show of footage, of you stealing when you should know better. Getting angry and throwing unnecessary tantrums, engulfing yourself in rage over minute issues. Fornicating underage and continuous infidelity. Hours of staring mindlessly into the mirror, applying a new face and fixing your hair in an attempt to feel better and to look a fraction of how you think you should look. He surrounds you with a life time of food remains; animal carcasses, putrid leftovers, rotting take away cartons, rife with flies and maggots. Flashbacks of all the wasted time spent in bed, on the sofa, zombified infront of the screen of the television. He reminds you of everytime you have felt a pang of envy; as a child when you wanted that toy your friend had, or as an adult when your colleague received what you deemed an undeserving promotion.
    At the end of it all, He turns and smiles baring his razor sharp teeth. He asks whether it was worth it. Whether I was truely happy. Through tears I shake my head, begging for another chance. I promise it will be different, I repent.
    He tells me this. Life is meaningless. A monotonous cycle that ends all too quickly. It is something to fill the time line up until you die. But to live meaningfully in a meaningless universe. That, is the art.

    1. BBwrites

      I found this prompt a hard one this week. I feel as if I spent the whole week drafting, struggling to write something I felt happy with posting because this topic is one I find difficult, I do not know how I genuinely feel about living with meaning. Reading this back I realise it jumps a bit – I ended up writing way over 500 words and had to delete a lot to reach the 500, and I feel now some parts don’t flow as well as intended. The absurdity!

  5. Dracojames2017

    Writing as myself, I have relegated myself to the point of knowing my destiny is to be the caretaker for my 75 year old mother. Is it a curse to be the only child with no other sibling to help pitch in and help? Never one to feel that I was meant to care for the elderly, mind you, I have nothing against her, it is just that don’t have a clue as to where to go next? Oh sure there is the internet, but what do you do if you do not have current access, as in the electricity going out, or in a major crisis? Then where do I go for help?

  6. mydecember76

    Thank you for your help Reatha! Happy Belated Veteran’s Day to all the vets here!
    ———————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    The whole thing was absurd. Afraid of heights and poised on the building’s ledge, George silently debated why his life seemed to have no meaning and yet also somehow be important. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Moving up the ranks of the police department held no value for him. He had what it took, maybe more brains than brawn, but it was easy…and monotonous… a carousel of the same people, riding the same trouble, day in day out. He had given up his belief in Themis very early in his career. The goddess of divine justice was, in fact, blind as a bat. There was no value in a job charged with protecting good people from the bad, when those good people were responsible for releasing the bad people back into society, or helping the bad to continue using the same air.

    He thought of a recent case in which dad was arrested for using his own fists to break his kid’s arm and collar bone because the kid spilled dad’s soda. Dad spent three years in prison and was then released into the waiting, loving arms of mom. George’s stomach turned as he remembered how much he wanted to kill both parents. Now, those people he was sworn to protect had turned against him, shot at him, calling him vile names with enough acidic venom to liquefy his sidearm. Oh, the irony!!

    Then, as he thought of his family, he knew he loved them, his kids anyway, but also knew that time would care for everything. They would go on living their lives after he was gone. He had no delusions otherwise. He laughed and shook his head. He could not look down. He also could not create meaning for his life where it did not exist. On the other hand, he knew now that he could not make the leap to suicide. Both were evading the real problem. It occurred to him that neither life nor death had more meaning. He remembered reading a book about the philosopher Albert Camus and as he put it, “If nothing had any meaning, you would be right. But there is something that still has a meaning.” He pondered as a pigeon flew near his face and perched itself over George’s head. “Obviously I need to find that ‘something’ and latch on to it. Hmmm…I do enjoy music…Eh, I’ll kill myself tomorrow.”

    Hearing the crunching and grinding of several decades of dirt and pigeon filth beneath his feet, George slowly slid back to the open window of his office and, as he began to climb back in, he chanced a look down, losing his footing. George plummeted nineteen floors, hit a tree at floor number eight and landed face down on a hot dog cart. Poor George was a vegetarian.

  7. mydecember76

    Hello Friends! I have tried several times to post my response to this week’s prompt, but it isn’t showing up. However, my replies to the posts of others are there. Not sure what to do or if there is someone I can contact. Any ideas or information would be greatly appreciated!

    –mydecember76

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      There is a filter in place that stops a posting for words, or parts of words, deemed inappropriate. Check your copy and try to trick the filter with things like these examples of words that stops me: Alfred Hitchc#ck, or peac#ck. Good luck.

        1. mydecember76

          Thank you so much Reatha! I thought that might be it and so I changed the word. When I try to post now the system alerts me that this is a duplicate submission. Argh! I am still hoping that the moderator, Ms. Zaffaris, may read this and be able to help!

          1. mydecember76

            I tricked the system not just by changing the one word, but also adding the first two sentences with the line separating those from the story. To make doubly sure, I also separated the story into more paragraphs. It might read funny, but at least I got it posted! I hope it’s enjoyable enough for everyone who reads it to make it worth all the angst!

  8. pven

    I watch the small plastic fish repeatedly bump into the corner of its bowl as if can’t understand why freedom isn’t one flip of the tail fin away.

    “Like it?” my client asks as she strides into her office. “It’s an AquaBot fish. My kids gave it to me for my birthday.”

    Kids? I’ve been working with her for almost a year, and this is the first I’ve heard she has kids. Nothing to indicate their existence in her office: there’s only a desk, two chairs, and now a robotic fish.

    “It looks more like a shark than a guppy,” I say.

    “Hah!” She sits in her chair and folds her hands on the desk, sharply manicured fingers prominently displayed. “We want you to expand on the ‘Five Behaviours of a Successful Team’ program.”

    “You do?”

    “Absolutely. Our latest engagement survey has indicated that our departments are too siloed. We want to break down those silos.”

    “Via an eLearning program. Wouldn’t an in-person course better address the subject matter?”

    “We’re simply too busy for that,” she scoffs. “I want five modules, no greater than 7 minutes each, exploring the matter.”

    “Our current Five Behaviours module,” I say, pulling up a report on my iPad. “To date, has been viewed… five times. Completed three.” I focus on my client’s nose: sharp and short. It helps me avoid the glare emanating from her piercing grey eyes. “I’m worried about the ROI of these courses. To invest a significant amount of hours developing training content that few will see, let alone apply…”

    She waves a hand. “Obviously, we need to make the courses mandatory.”
    I sigh, softly. Obviously.

    She stands abruptly. “I know what I want, but I want to see what you come up with. Give me a Program Outline in two days. I’ve got another meeting.”

    She holds out her hand. I take it, fingernails glancing off my wrist like letter openers. The robot fish bumps around its bowl.

    Back in my home office, I check for any new feedback to my submission for last week’s writing prompt. Still no additional comments since Sunday evening. I had expected that, but the act of checking once, sometimes twice a day has become nearly ritualistic after a post. I move on to this week’s prompt.

    “Writing as yourself or through a character, discuss whether life has meaning or reason…”

    I push a stack of paper to the side to rest my elbows on my desk. My daughter’s picture topples and I take a moment to place it somewhere less precarious; this time it’s on top of a Philip Pullman book that we’re reading together.

    “Consider what people do to find happiness in life…”

    I’m drawn to this site. My mind works out these little tales when I’m supposed to be creating training content, and it puzzles out training ideas as I draft my tales.

    ‘It’s a stepping stone,’ I tell myself, as I create my response to this week’s prompt. ‘One day, I’ll actually finish writing my book. But until then…’

    I click “Submit,” and refresh the page.

    1. mydecember76

      Pven, I also like the Aquabot fish metaphor. What got me the most is that you are ‘working out these little tales’ instead of the training content in order to find your happiness. You also did a great job in describing the client. I wouldn’t be happy working for her either! Yikes!

    2. J.Fujimaru

      You took an ordinary day and filled it with symbolism, emotion and intrigue so I’m sure you can write just about anything and it will be a thoughtful page-turner. Good luck with crafting your novel!

      I’m going to comment on last week’s submission to make at least one part of your (very realistic) story untrue.

  9. Kerry Charlton

    Time line Reatha, Annie would be about eight years old during this story if I have this right. I don’t know if you feel like I do but in my opinion the character called Marie, you are close to entering your own story and writing from within. Or if you created a fictional character, not either MC, but someone common to the story you have, you might actually disappear as a writer and live and write inside the MC you create to be the story teller. Am I making any sense at all? If i have the courage to try it. I would love to do this with a running story I’ve always wanted to write about my great grandfather but i’m not sure I know how to do it.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Marie is based on a cousin, in a household I always thought I knew, but a few years ago I learned some things that flipped all that. I think a continuing story about your great grandfather, is he the one with the big grave marker you’ve written about before, would be great. You’ve also done series. Maybe just pull together all the facts, family stories, etc., and use each one for a prompt response. I’m amazed at how much I’ve done at just about 500 words a shot. You can go back later and add to it, as I’m doing with Annie.

  10. Jennifer Park

    Barbara looked out the window at the landscape. The blanket of rolling hills stretched as far as the eye can see. The sky was clear. The sun hung high in the sky, brightly illuminating the view, but out of the way.

    She could feel the coldness emanating from the glass. She held out a wrinkled hand to feel it for herself. It was almost painful, but she kept her hand still. Soon, the numbness settled in, and she could feel little.

    It was coming to an end.

    It would have long ended by the time that the glare of the all-ending blast upon her home even reached this planet.

    Barbara found herself welling up with an unfamiliar feeling. Sorrow perhaps. Guilt perhaps.

    Most likely, hunger. She had never been hungry before. She refused to eat the skin-crawlingly disgusting native cuisine delivered to her, although, from the point of view of her captors, these were pricy, gourmet offerings, befitting her status.

    Soon to be ex-status.

    There was a spine-grating ping. The natives preferred their doorbells shrill and long.

    Barbara did not bother inviting them in. They were the ones with the access code.

    Her tormentor entered. A young male of the species, his probosces unusually short. Fantastic English, as he had been a tribute to earth, a prince held hostage to keep two of the Kryzlam kingdoms behaving well. Officially, he was still just a colonel, but he was certainly going to ascend to both the thrones.

    “Ambassador,” he greeted.

    Barbara did not bother responding.

    “You are now officially the sole remaining member of the Galactic Council.”

    Barbara half nodded. Earth was no more.

    “Funny, I always thought this moment would be more satisfying.”

    Barbara could hear his weapon charging up. Actually, he had brought an entourage, with about dozen Ekketei altogether.

    “How does it feel? All that you have worked your whole life building, destroyed.”

    Earth’s galactic empire. Torn to smithereens by his dull but persistent species. All traces of its glory, erased forever.

    Barbara smirked to herself. Then, she turned to face the prince, and smirked again.

    That clearly made him uncomfortable. Posttraumatic stress, probably.

    “You do not seem to understand, Nolan-nolan.”

    The diminutive made him bristle.

    “I do not work for Earth. I work for the empire.”

    The prince sniffled. This was their equivalent to a frown.

    “I fought for the empire. The empire… that is now yours. What you have, I’ve helped build that.”

    The prince sniffled again.

    “The peace we’ve brought about. You’ve destroyed it, and now you will restore it with even greater resolve. That… That is my life’s work.”

    “…”

    Barbara turned back to face the window. She gave the new empire three, four hundred years. Then another empire would rise. Barbara stared out at the maroon-hued rolling hills. So much like home, and yet so different.

    She decided to spare them the trouble, and bit down on the poison pill in her tongue.

    The blood tasted old. Stale.

    1. Jennifer Park

      @mydecember76, I just meant that this was the third prompted writing in the Kryzlak Saga. 🙂 Here are the first two:

      http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/interplanetary-relations-scifi-writing-prompt/comment-page-1#comment-3890188
      http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/the-shadow/comment-page-1#comment-3896597

      @Kerry Charlton, I’m not sure that I want her to escape… She’s like, you know, Darth Vader…

      Still, I followed your advice and posted it under “Transparency”

      http://www.writersdigest.com/prompts/transparency-writing-prompt/comment-page-1#comment-3905188

  11. Rene Paul

    My life on the hill is solitary for most of time. But, then there’s the occasional moment when a lost soul-journer seeks knowledge. Usually, that day comes when they can’t account for their existence. And they conclude their friends are too shallow to help in a meaningful way, so they seek and speak with me.

    For Jimmy Paven, age twenty-six, this time has come.

    He came in a dream, his, not mine. I was sitting on my rock in a state of suspended animation. His presences awakened me.

    “Why have you sought me, my son?”

    “Ah, to discover the meaning of life. I should have known.”

    “Yes, I can. Look at my beard,” I said, “and tell me how it obtained its length?

    “That’s right. I am older than dirt, and my beard is an analogy, it represents the long life I’ve lived. It comes with the territory, something I’ve earned, it’s called Wisdom.

    Jimmy wasn’t much of a listener; he asked one question after another. I surmised he was leaving the age of answers and entering the age of questions. A typical young man, an adult, realizing he was so much older when he was younger, and he’s so much younger now. I know it’s a cheesy saying, but I haven’t used it for decades, not since a young songwriter came with similar questions.

    Anyway, I asked Jimmy, “What’s important to you?”

    “Those are things,” I said, “they will never make you happy.”

    Then I asked him, “Who loves you?”

    He answered my question with another question!

    I said, “You’re the one missing the point, Jimmy. Until you understand what’s important, you’ll never truly live the life you could or should live; you’ll only exist.”

    “Who told you that? No. No. It’s not about things, it’s about relationships, starting with God, then your family and friends.”

    I’ve heard the military is next in succession, but I say, it’s how you spend every minute of your time. We mustn’t forget time. It’s a commodity you can’t replace, but you can control whether it’s to be extended or not. Have faith and believe.”

    He asked another incredulous question, thinking he was smart.

    “What’s that?” I said.”

    Again, all he’s got is frivolous doubting questions.

    “I understand your concerns. However, that’s the whole point,” I said, “life isn’t always a joyous affair if it were you’d be bored to death. Live life in the moment, experience the love and the pain, the sweat and tears, the ups and downs, the over, under, sideways and down, backwards, forward, square and round. In other words, BREATHE the fresh air!”

    There I go again; I gave that one to another songwriter, I can’t help myself.

    Finally, the questions, the ones I can’t answer in 500 words, have stopped. Jimmy’s getting it. So, I give him the final answer…

    “There’s nothing you can make that can’t be made. There’s no one you can save that can’t be saved. And, nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in TIME. IT’S EASY. All you need is love, all you need is love, all you need is love, love, love is all you need!”

    Ok, a songwriter gave that one to me, and I share it with you… in love.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      So that’s where all those lyrics come from!

      I like how you chose to only write the dialogue of the MC. It shows how universal Jimmy’s questions are that we can fill in the blank by just reading the MC’s response.

      My favorit part is “He came to me in a dream, his, not mine.” Mysterious!

  12. J.Fujimaru

    I think of all the crooks that live long enough to co•pu•late. They weren’t all bad. I’m sure some of my ancestors were good or normal with mostly good intentions. I’m sure some of the “acts” were out of love or they were at least planned. Still, I imagine the racists, the rapists, the murders, the man-slaughterers, and the many questionable people to whom I probably owe my existence. Survival is dirty business. To say that my life has meaning, well… That’s justifying millions of horrible acts because they culminated in my existence. That’s assuming that my the sequence of DNA is somehow better than all the other sequences that got pushed aside for mine to reach the finish line. That’s saying that a greater, higher power put in the time and effort to plan out my destiny. It’s egotistical. Instead, I choose to think of myself as a happy accident: an “accident” because on the greater scale I was not necessarily meant to happen, and “happy” because I choose to be grateful for my existence. It’s the only simple answer I’ll allow myself.

    I don’t want to commit philosophical suicide. I don’t want to rely on simple explanations to clarify life’s chaos. They highlight the glaring themes but tend to ignore all the smaller, beautiful, disparate parts.

    I was never able to boil things down to a one answer. By the time I was fifteen I had moved twenty times across three different continents. A teacher asked me why I moved so much. “Military? Witness protection? …Circus?” There was no simple answer. “Well, in 1993 my parents got divorced so we moved to another country, then in 1994 we had visa problems so we moved again to another country, then in 1995 my mother was a live-in nanny and maid so we moved around, and in 1998 she became a student, then a grad student, and now she’s a scientist!” was not the answer I was going to give him. I was fifteen. I had no perspective on my life.

    “Moving is my mother’s hobby,” I said.

    I hate that answer. It ignores everything about her, about me. It leaves out all the choices we made, all the difficulties we faced. Now that I have inherited my mother’s “hobby,” my life spans across four continents and the number of times I have moved has increased exponentially. I choose not to give a simple reason as to why I move. In particular, I choose not to assign meaning to my existence. It’s too much for my puny brain to figure out.

    Now I live in Africa, in the thirteenth poorest country (number one through twelve are war-torn so I’m grateful it’s peaceful here). But there’s not much to do. There are no movie theaters, no shops, no cafes, no streets for strolling, and few safe restaurants. The water is pestiferous. The red ochre dirt is aggressive; it gets everywhere. The storms are violent, trying to drag the city back into the ocean. On every corner is a festering mound of waste for the pigs to rummage. It’s beautiful. No sarcasm. Honestly. But sometimes those of us who are spoiled by the riches of more prosperous countries need a break. We go to hotels to sit by the terrace pool and sip on imported wine, but even then it’s hard to ignore that across the glass railing, in the foaming piles of trash that line the beach, are boys collecting little crabs and clams. It’s their food.

    I wonder why I get to sit on this side of the glass. It’s not anything I’ve done. They work harder and against worse odds. I don’t deserve this life; they don’t deserve theirs. I can’t say that this is how my life is meant to be because that would be saying it’s the same for them. I can’t give a simple answer to this question because there are many. Some of the answers go back centuries: the colonies, slave trade, racism, or migration. Some of them are more recent: Ebola, mineral rights, development, or corruption. The day that I resign myself to the simple answer, “It’s just the way things are,” is the day that I loose my humanity. I want to be aware. I need to question everything.

    Ancestor stories are wonderful, especially survival stories. They are a simplified snippet of life. Given enough time, memory will forget enough of the details, so that we can examine the “meaning.” A roommate once told me of her grandfather, a Japanese soldier stationed in the South Pacific. It was his first time to eat a banana. “What is this wondrous creamy fruit!” he probably cried in awe. When his platoon was finally called to duty he couldn’t sail out with them because he was hospitalized for eating too many bananas. The ship carrying all his friends sunk, but he lived on until the end war, returned, had children, had a life.

    What is the meaning of this story? Would you like the simplified answer? Bananas.

    Life is bananas.

    1. Rene Paul

      Interesting story, fiction? If not, interesting life, full of meaning to all the people you and perhaps your MC have touched. Love the simple answer: BANANAS! I didn’t notice the typo, I usually do. It was subtle. Good job, well done.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          I am on my knees from reading your story. You are a rocket ship about to be launched into fame, intrigue and fortune. The fuse is burning bright now and you will launch whether you want it to or not. You are too powerful and intelligent to hide much longer. Be sure you remember this and when you do fly, I will be there to tell.you two things. First, I love babanas Second from down below, I will looking up.snd saying. ” I told you so.”

          1. J.Fujimaru

            Oh my, Kerry. I was not at all expecting a response like this. I’m extremely flattered. Extremely.

            It’s true, I have some odd experiences to draw from, but I’m worried about rocket launching. My fuse might not be sustainable, I’m not good at flying rockets, and I’m afraid of space. But if it ever does come to “I told you so” I will send you a crate of West African bananas and other fruit.

    2. pven

      “I wonder why I get to sit on my side of the glass.”
      That thought pops into my head now and then, a marveling of the crazy happenstance that brought me to this place and time, and are now perpetuating for the benefit of my children and their generation.

      And this:
      “I can’t say that this is how my life is meant to be because that would be saying it’s the same for them.”
      This is my new definition of empathy.

      1. J.Fujimaru

        Thank you pven for your thoughtful comments. It sure is a crazy happenstance that we are where we are. I also wonder how far into the future my prosperity will last. Not sure I should even worry about the grandchildren of my grandchildren. Going in the other direction, I’m sure that if my ancestors ever saw me some of them would spit on me because I am a mutt.

  13. ShamelessHack

    To chase, or not to chase.
    That is the question.
    Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows, rolling boulders,
    Faulty rocket fuses, premature explosions,
    And being endlessly snookered off 1,000 foot cliffs—
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
    And by opposing end them.

    To die, to sleep—no more.
    And by a sleep to say we end the
    Thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,
    And the thousand UN-natural shocks from
    Low-hanging power lines zapping me,
    Out of control 18-wheelers running over me,
    Clogged cannons firing backwards into me,
    And assorted carnivores disguised as birds mauling me.
    ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

    For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
    The bottomless cliff edges,
    The hidden quicksand traps,
    And various cactus plants shooting their thorns at me,
    But that the thought of catching the bird,
    That unreachable and undiscovered victory,
    Puzzles the will,
    And makes me rather bear those bullets and arrows,
    And falling Acme safes,
    Than let the damn Roadrunner get away.

    Thus conscience doth makes compulsives of us all,
    And enterprises contrived by the cursed Warner Brothers,
    In this regard, their context, content, and intent,
    Infest my fevered brain,
    While ahead…
    Ahead…

    At the front of the fast moving dust trail on the interstate in the distance:
    My raison d’etre, my reason for being…the meaning of life.

    I mount my scooter once again, lean over the handlebars ready and anxious, and reach back with a match to light the fuse on the Acme rocket strapped to my back.

    10…9…8…7…

    To chase, or not to chase.

    6…5…4…

    That is the question.

    3…2…1

    Beep beep!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        This is so good it makes me hurt to laugh. Not being a spring chicken, I have to guard against uncontrolled laughter. This is a once in a lifetime read on the roadrunner. WB WOULD BE PROUD, you ought to send it to the corporate and see what comment comes back. He’s offer a job to you at six Mill a year, then I can be your gofer. Fistt coice on the female population naturally.

    1. pven

      Tapping a deep vein of absurdist entertainment, are we?
      Based upon the Coyote and Bugs Bunny episodes(in which Wile E. showcases an alacrity at one-sided conversation), I can totally envision the Coyote making a speech like this.

  14. kmh

    “Everything happens according to God’s will, remember that. You should be happy knowing his place will be in Heaven, God rest his soul.” She recited the words almost more for her own sake than for that of her visiting friend. Her mind wandered to her own husband who she’d divorced long ago, then to her grown children who’d all moved away. Everything according to His will, she repeated, this time silently and to herself. The strange smile creeping over her friend’s face pulled her out from her unpleasant reverie. She wondered how long her friend had been staring at her with that strange look — a look like she wanted to tell a secret. “He was just at the doctor last week. He’d run all these tests. When they came back, the doctor told us he was remarkably healthy for a man his age. ‘Healthy as a horse!’ he’d said!” Pent up laughter suddenly burst forth along with some spittle. “It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?” She laughed again to her host’s horror, the sound momentarily filling the apartment’s empty hallways and bedrooms.

  15. writer_sk

    I wanted to do a fictional piece but this prompt really seemed to call for a true story so I did my best but it is not my favorite type of writing. I couldn’t get anywhere with a fiction. (Also, now you’ll all know I’m a proud “cat lady.”)

    The back deck was cold and the nice cushions weren’t in place to sit on the lawn furniture because they were in the shed. I’d gone out in my sweatshirt with my pajamas underneath. My son and husband had already left for school and work and it was my day off. With me I brought a cup of hot coffee and a sense of urgency. I had to get outside. I loved being out in nature. It was part of my daily routine to go outside; even for ten minutes.

    Though there was no sun to warm my face and no cushion on my chair I still sat on the steps and watched the movement of the tree. The construction site abutting my yard came to life crunching metal and jackhammering concrete. Still I sat.

    Life, by definition, is absurd. If I am to state where I’ve found happiness and also define what I find absurd as opposed to practical I would need to rely on small moments.

    I learned that a calm and powerful feeling comes from saying, “In spite of…”

    When asked “Aren’t you unhappy with…work/winter/the world?”

    My response was that in spite of my unconventional work schedule I enjoy having time to make dinner on weekdays, see my son off to school and spend long hours with my family on weekends.

    In spite of the snow, cold and nuisance of winter it’s fun to build snowmen. I enjoy getting exercise and fresh air from shoveling snow and being outdoors and experience utter joy ice skating with my seven-year-old, Theo.

    In spite of violence and natural disasters around the world, I believe in God and the goodness of people.

    Back in the warm house, I find myself counting my blessings. I go room to room tidying up and pausing at the family photos to straighten them; the smiles of people I love warming my heart.

    Having always been an animal lover, I revel in feeding my son’s hamster and then my cat, Kiera. Her meows, purrs and soft fur are of immeasurable value to me. A small moment is meant to be cherished and when happy moments are all strung together they can create a lifetime of bright spots between moments of grief, strife or absurdity.

    1. RafTriesToWrite

      In spite of having poor wifi connection at my other office, I found a way to go into this site and read your entry.
      I’m low key a cat person, even though we only have dogs in our home.
      Lovely entry here sk. Glad to see this side of you.

    2. madeindetroit

      This is a wonderfully written piece with so many little nuggets of wisdom and truths. Thank you for being so brutally open and honest. Very inspiring! It always comes back to the simple moments in life and this piece definitely confirms it.

      Great job.

  16. RafTriesToWrite

    I think the absurd thing about this prompt is that, it makes me feel like this is homework rather than the regular prompt that we used to get to be “lost” in another world.

    Anyway, I think life is both meaningless and meaningful at the same time.

    I say meaningless because everything is one big circle of activities and/or events. We get up, we eat, we go to work, get paid, pay bills, get stressed, freak out and sleep. Rinse and repeat. It’s very repetitive and it’s because of this that I think life loses its meaning.

    People live and people die. People fall in love, people fall out of love. Wars come, wars go. People fight, people forget. Disasters come and then they go.

    It’s the nature of life. It’s just one big cycle, that goes on and on and on and on with no end. Like a bad song on repeat. There’s no permanency, the only thing permanent in this world is change.

    The meaningful part of life is that, it’s also in the nature of us people to find happiness, to find contentment, to find peace, a purpose in life.

    “Living” doesn’t necessarily mean doing the same things every single day of your life. Living is when you experience the beauty of life, embracing the changes in your life. Both the ups and the downs.

    Because,
    What’s the sense of writing fast without the uneasiness of having writer’s block?
    What’s the sense of publishing your work without the thrill of it being criticized?
    What’s the point of chasing love, without having the risk of losing it?
    What’s the thrill of riding a roller coaster without the loop-de-loops?
    What’s the sense of spending time with your kids, without the fact that they may be gone one day?
    How can you have a rainbow without the rain?
    How would we know what good music was without knowing what’s bad?
    How else will anyone learn if they don’t make mistakes?
    How would you know it was real love if your heart never broke in the first place?
    How would you know what to dress up for Halloween without the scary stories we were told when we’re kids?

    The thing is that, it has to be balanced. How else can you appreciate the good without the bad in your life, right?

    Well, at least, that’s what I think anyways.

    1. writer_sk

      Raf, well said.

      This prompt is taking me a long time. It has a lot of information and directions in it. My suggestion is the new prompt author add a few prompts that are just a couple lines beginning a story in the next few weeks. I find her writing interesting but it’s been hard for me.

      1. Jess Zafarris Post author

        Thank you for the feedback—this is very helpful! I’ll work up some simpler, more straightforward prompts in the coming weeks to ensure better accessibility and creative freedom.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      Raf, I see what you mean about homework. If only we had assigned reading on absurdist literature and essays before this prompt so that we would have had enough material to draw from. Would that be enough? Add in some supplementary reading on Kierkegaard, Satre and competing views. I’d say a few months or maybe a four year degree plus a phd in philosophy or theology would have had us prepared. One week is simply not enough time, but I think you did an excellent job in just a few days. Looking forward to other Philospher Birthdays. There are so many! 😛

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Raf, your piece is well considered and well written. However, when I first read the prompt I thought I was back in a college philosophy class, so I did what I often do, I used the “bones” of the myth (elements of past prompts) as the basis of my story, as some others did. i don’t feel I’m cheating to use the prompts as springboards to propel me into a story. On weeks when I thought too much I never got anything written.

  17. Kerry Charlton

    A PATHWAY OF LIFE

    As for myself, if life is going to have meaning for yours truly, I vow to climb down from the shelf of old age that society has decided to place me whether I am old or act in that manner. I am pulling my wife down also as my life long love. When I play the fiddle of youth, the advantage is mine. For I have stepped in “it’ for many years and even slipped and fell head-long into “it” at least three times in a lifetime of ups, downs and side movements.
    That does not mean I am infallible in decision making, but running the tapes of experience and answering a slight slower, the pitfalls do not happen as much. When they do, I admit to it, take the blame and brush it aside as a nuisance and continue the walk of memory. I think of life as a sparrow does, usually minute by minute, hour by hour and . day by day. I have learned to abhor the ”what if” moniker that plagues mankind.
    There are rules to be followed in order to accomplish treading this pathway that I suggest. Probably the most important of the list is realizing there is only One who can be considered Perfect. The rest of us fall into slots of ‘almost‘, ‘no way‘, ‘partially’ and ‘are you kidding?’ There are boulders blocking the path I describe, pride, selfishness, anger, prejudice, and worst of all, mendacity.
    I find as I become older, the boulders are heavier to shove out of the way and another has appeared at least for myself, ‘indifference.’ It is the largest and heaviest of all and grows slightly as your steps tread smaller with time. Do I worry on this pathway? Of course, but it is a characteristic and not a block. Can you accomplish anything while worrying?
    I am at a stop there because I am not sure. This trait is deep within me to the extent it blocks me at times. But I have a key that helps me personally and that is the numbers game. By that I mean the chances and odds numbers. There is a sign that reminds me when I drive, how many people die on Texas highways each year . The number mounts each month to hit three thousand, three hundred a year.
    Divide into our population and it runs one chance in ten thousand. So drive baby, drive. Don’t drink and odds change one in twenty thousand, so drive twice baby, drive. The numbers game actually works, at least for myself. .
    True happiness exists only for the rare and a lot of scholars have many ideas on it. A song from Kismet is my answer,

    THE SANDS OF TIME

    Princes come
    Princes go,
    An hour of pomp and show they know.
    Princes come and over the sands,
    And over the sands of time they go.

    Wise men come,
    Ever promising the riddle of life to know,
    Wise men come, Ah
    But over the sands,
    The silent sands of time they go.

    Lovers come.
    Lovers Go,
    And all that there is to know,
    Lovers know;
    Only lovers know.

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Isn’t that lyrics to Kismet’s song?
        I googled it just to be sure.

        By the way, “the numbers game” really stuck with me Kerry. Being an accountant, numbers usually surround me, and let me tell you, they can tell great stories. Down from crumbling businesses, up to booming start-up companies.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Thanks Raf for the read and your comments. The last line of my essay introduces it
          “A song from Kismet is my answer.” In the movie version, Howard Keele sings the song at the end of the movie. The Broadway soundtrack is sung at the beginning and also at the end of the musical and is a far better version than the movie. I have both records, and listen to both.
          I think Kismet may be the only musical to have four major hits from one musical.
          Bubbles, Bangles and Beads,
          Stranger in paradise,
          And this is my beloved,
          The sands of time.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Raf, the poem is a song from Kismet. My last line of my story introduces it. If you have never seen the movie, you need to. It’s a treasure

    1. J.Fujimaru

      I love all the poetic metaphors. I particularly like that you added “side movements” to the usual ups and downs of life. So much happens in those side movements.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks J, most of my life I have lived sideways, not that I am that cautious but I have the gut intelligence of how to survive in this world. I have built my own army of women with five daughters, eleven grand daughters, who in uninson could roll a tank. So most don’t mess with me for fear. You do know that’s BS don’t you?

  18. Russ

    I once knew a woman named Audrey. She was beautiful. We would laugh and talk to each other online. It was great.

    So I met a new woman today, one that likes me; although, I don’t like her at all.
    Don’t get me wrong, she is attractive, but that is the only feature I like about her.
    Audrey now lives in Oregon. Far, far away from where I live, in Wyoming.

    Well the woman who likes me is good looking; but again, she is just attractive; that plus nothing.
    I mean, she is cute. But, I don’t feel any… connection.
    Should I marry her?
    Should I marry her? Now that is a question to answer, a hard question to answer.
    I guess I should… date her for a while. Yea… I should do that. Maybe I will come to feel about her the same way I feel about Audrey; but I doubt it.

    Three years later:

    I am married. I don’t love her. She probably doesn’t love me. Audrey is not married. I am thinking about leaving this woman and fleeing to pursue Audrey.

    Three more years later (a hypothetical, wanted, best case scenario result):

    I am with Whitney. We are happily together. We are married. We have one daughter. She is the most beautiful thing.

    Lesson: Perhaps… perhaps… go after what you love.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      I love this Russ because it is from your heart and perhaps your soul. The hardest thing to know is love, true love. And mankind is not equipped to think sanely while in love. It is nature’s way. You’re as close as any to describing it, better than I

      1. writer_sk

        I’m glad you clarified that, Russ! I was like “who is Whitney?!”

        Nice, honest work. I actually said out loud “no” when the question was posed whether the MC should marry the attractive woman.

  19. JRSimmang

    THE ONIONS WERE PERFECT

    With the kitchen mise en place, Rutger began to chop the onions. He detested chopping onions, not because they made him cry, but because he despised how they changed once they hit the frying pan. Spicy to sweet, infuriating to endearing, and, the longer they cooked the sweeter and richer the flavors became.

    He wouldn’t be caramelizing tonight. He would stop after they became translucent. Two onions should be enough. Were he the onions, he would want to be caramelized, pushed past the point of softening, but not to burning, and dripping with the smoky honey of the onion. Honion. A new word he would write on the chalkboard hanging on the wall next to the kitchen door.

    The roast was finishing in its juices, the Brussels sprouts have been browned in bacon fat, and the green beans are crisp-tender. His stomach was suddenly irritable, and he knew he had to appease it quickly.

    “Soon,” he began to the kitchen, “we’ll all be full, full of the richness and wonder of roast and veggies!” He poked at the choux pastry, content with the butter layers and smoothness of the dough. He caressed the dough with the back of his hand, leaving behind an imperceptible trail of care on the surface. “Lovely,” he said aloud. “Simply lovely.”

    A timer rang, and he rushed over to the roast, put on his mitts, shuffled it from the oven and inhaled deeply. He salivated gratuitously.

    The table was long and polished so that the candlelight was amplified, unobscuring the normally-
    shadowed crevices of the ceiling. He brought out the sprouts first, put in the spoon, and slowly stirred it around, savoring the steam that curled around his wrist.

    He followed behind with the green beans, poking them once more with a serving fork, gently mounding them in the center of the service dish, and garnishing them with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

    Once satisfied with the green beans, he brought out the plate of onion curls, perfect in their aroma, perfect in their sweetness, and perfect in the juices. He fought the urge to pick at the one on the edge of the platter, slide it into his mouth, and chew languorously. He knew, however, that if he did that, then he would sit on the floor and eat the whole platter by himself. “What a beautiful dinner,” he said to the room as he gingerly set the onions on their charger in the center left of the table.

    “I’ll be right back with the roast. Had to let it sit.”

    He returned to the kitchen, put the pastry in the oven, hefted the roast, and paused at the door to the dining hall.

    Each chair, poised to receive a guest, was turned to face the feast. That is the purpose, after all, of having such a lavish hall. Plates, platters, stemware, and utensils each screaming for company. His chair was at the head. After all, he was host.

    But, he was also a guest. The roast’s place was in the center of the table, and he navigated past the vegetables, leaving room for the profiteroles once done. He sat down, poured himself a glass of wine, and asked, “Can someone please pass the roast?”

    His words echoed in the clearly defined corners of the dining hall, and he stood, sliced the roast, placed it on his plate and returned to his seat.

    “Can someone please pass the sprouts?” To which, the rain against the windows pattered.

    “Can I please have some green beans?” The spoonful was enough for him.

    “And, I’ll take as many onions as I can. Please, take what you want first, then I’ll take the rest.” He chuckled to himself, and enjoyed his dinner with the company of vacancy.

    “This,” he ended, “is the value of friendship. I do hope you all enjoy this dinner.”

    The onions were perfect in their juices.

    -JR Simmang

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I agree with Pete. My impression, he has broken off a love affair with the woman he dessired to spend his life with and he turned to food for solace My Lord, you should write cookbooks for a living, I’d buy hot off the press.

    1. writer_sk

      Beautiful.

      The descriptions were exquisite and I loved how the MC spoke in such a positive way about his surroundings. The metaphors in the first paragraph really worked well.

      I am craving onions now. Either kind!

    2. JRSimmang

      Thank you all so much for your kind words. In essence, we write to define life, and reading all your stories over the years has made me want to write better. Pete, Kerry, Sarah, Hack, JF, Reatha, I look forward to our correspondence week after week.

      Unashamedly, I’ve stolen bits from you all. That’s what we do, right? Steal the good stuff and make it our own. I’m a better writer having read your imaginings, and I hope I have helped you all in turn.

  20. Big Tastey

    Caitlin lay on the cold tile floor, but she didn’t feel the cold because she was a zombie. In her previous life she had been a nine-year-old girl who went to school and had friends. At home, she had watched other children around the country turn into zombies, and that made her wonder what it would feel like to be a zombie. Now she knew. She didn’t feel anything.

    She looked around at the other zombie children lying on the floor. Some were afraid. Some were crying. Others had their eyes shut tight with their hands against their ears, as if they could drown out the sound of the gunfire coming from the zombie killer outside. The zombie killers were always someone different. They were always someone new. Cindy didn’t know what her killer looked like; she could only hear the rat-a-tat-tat of the killer’s gun. Then she heard his footsteps outside of the door.

    Mrs. Collins sat on the floor with her back against the door. Her finger went to her lips as she pleaded with everyone to stay quiet. The door knob turned and Mrs. Collins pushed harder against the door, tears streaming down her face. A loud bang came from outside as the door opened violently into the room. Zombies cried but didn’t move. Then Caitlin saw the zombie killer’s face. He was a little older than her brother. He aimed at her. She looked into his dead eyes.

    Meagan watched television at home with her parents. She saw zombies running. She saw zombies lying dead on the ground. She saw a dead girl’s picture and the killer’s picture. She wondered what it would be like to turn into a zombie.

    Brooke called. There was a new movie in town and all thoughts about zombies were gone. Meagan bought popcorn at the theater. She shared it with Brooke. They were happy. Their parents loved them. They felt safe.

  21. rlk67

    “Boss! Dee plane! Dee Plane!”
    “THE plane, Tattoo. THE plane. You must practice your ‘th’ sounds.
    “Thorry, bosth. TH-TH-eee plane!”
    “Ahh, the next round of dreamers have arrived to our island.”
    “But bosth, who are they? What do they want?”
    “Yes…well, first, we have Mr. Tropp. His fantasy is to hit the winning home run in a world series.”
    “But bosth, how are you–”
    “Small stuff, Tattoo. Next, we have Mr. Grotto. He has heard about me, Tattoo. He knows I have never lost a chess game to anyone.”
    “And, bosth?”
    “And he wishes to play me.”
    “But bosth, he paid a hundred thousand doll–”
    “I know, Tattoo, Not worth the privilege. But he had an online coupon, so I gave him a break.”
    “But bosth, what if he wins?”
    “NEVER! If he defeats me, he’ll need to face…THE WRATH OF KAHN!”
    “No, bosth, nooo!”
    “And finally, our last guest…he is one Mr. Shniggle. Used every last penny for his fantasy.”
    “Gasp! But bosth, what does he want?”
    “Tattoo, he wants to live out the rest of his life on his own private island drinking tequilas on the beach. Sigh. He might regret, it, Tattoo.”
    “Ohhh….”
    “My wonderful guests…Welcome to Fantasy Island!”

    *********
    “Oh, my dear guests, the time was so short. But it is time to go.”
    “Roarke, that was amazing. But how did you get me to hit that home run out of–”
    “Small stuff, Mr. Tropp. Hope you enjoyed your thirteen seconds of fame.”
    “Oh, I did! It was a dream come true! And the roar of the fans! It was just…just…”
    “Just?”
    “Just that suddenly everyone left, and got in line to be paid. It just seemed so…so…fake.”
    “Oh, so sad. But you know these…uh, special moments don’t last long. Especially when it’s not you. You see, my dear Mr–”
    “ROARKE! YOU CHEATER! Your rook was NOT on the black space between my last pawn and that piece that only moves diagonally!”
    “Mr. Grotto…I don’t think it is proper to accuse me..you don’t want to arouse the WRATH OF–.”
    “IT’S NOT FAIR! I forgot you can move a queen backward! You should have told me…sob.”
    “Now, now, my friend. You were a tough competitor! It took me over fifteen moves to beat you!”
    “R-r-really? I’m that good?”
    “Ahhh…I see Mr. Shniggle. But why aren’t you still on your private island?”
    “You tell me, Roarke. I couldn’t take it anymore. I thought it was paradise. Better than I dreamt! And yet…”
    “And yet?”
    “After just four days, I-I-I wanted to k-k-kill myself! Why? Why?”
    “I’ll tell you why. It took you four days to realize that you meant nothing to nobody. If you isolate yourself, you have no one to give to. And living is giving. Do you see that? Life has meaning when you have others to give to. To smile. To make smile. To love. This is the meaning of life.”
    “B-b-but at home, I did do things for others, and they never thank me!”
    “Thanking is not your business, my friend. Your job is to give. Yes, it’s hard to give without appreciation, but you know you make others lives just a little better…and that is worth everything in the world! Now go home, and be amongst people.”
    “Bosth, you’re the greatest.”
    “Yes, I am, Tattoo. Farewell, everybody!”
    “Boss, THE PLANE! THE PLANE!”
    “Ahhh, Tattoo, I see you have been practicing your–”
    WHOOOOOOOSH!

    “I spot him, Spock. It’s Kahn! Prepare to beam us down!”
    “Sigh, yes, captain.”
    “Problem, Mr. Spock?”
    “It just gets so old after a while. Humans are so strange.”

    “Ahhh…Tattoo…our next guests are arriving. Heh heh. HEH HEH HEH. HA HA HA HAAAAAA!”

  22. jhowe

    Staring through my empty glass, I thought once again of what Sheila had said; that God’s world was preordained and it mattered little what we did because He already had the plan in motion. I asked her, as we dressed, if God had intended for us to boink on the living room floor and that perhaps He’d want us to do it again. That earned me a playful slap on the arm, prompting me to wonder about that as well. God must have too much time on His hands.

    After she left, I’d poured a generous amount of Johnny Walker Black, which was now in need of repeating. I didn’t think the Lord would mind, or perhaps I had no choice, according to Sheila. So I got up and set my glass on the counter. I tried to detect if my arm moved toward the bottle on its own and I concluded it was all me. I decided a test was in order. I dug way back it the cabinet and pulled out a bottle of raspberry vodka, which I detested. Surely God wouldn’t have planned that. So I poured and I drank, gasping with the harshness. I tried it again with Captain Morgan, then with Wild Turkey and Bombay gin. By the time I got to the cooking sherry, I knew God couldn’t possibly have planned such a mixture of vices.

    The porcelain rim was cold on my cheek. I remember thinking my housekeeping was lacking and hoped the bacterium wasn’t crawling down my throat. I flushed and rinsed my mouth at the tap. My eyes, angry and red stared back in the mirror. They seemed to mock me for my beliefs and I wondered if Sheila deserved the benefit of doubt. I concluded she was right and headed back to the liquor cabinet. No sense fighting it.

    1. Pete

      This whole piece was gold to me. I loved the writing style here and I really wanted to feel sorry for your mc but I was laughing too much. Besides, it sounds like he has it all figured out, right?

  23. Beebles

    That was my favourite part too.
    You must have been gutted to turn down the contract Reatha, such a hard decision to make. And a frustrating one for the rest of us who want to see it all come together! You know your writing is quality.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thank you, Beebles. Totally gutted, but there were too many unanswered questions. I’m doing NaNo to get Annie finished, filling out some chapters and writing others, plus working on a bigger story to weave it all together. I’ve said this before, but this site, and community of great, supportive writers, has kept me going. Thanks, again. I still have hopes for The Girl. Maybe in January?

  24. chandra_wd_writer

    Such a contemplative prompt. I wrote this up in a hurry. Hope it isn’t absurd 🙂
    —–
    “Don’t you think life is inherently meaningless? It’s just absurd. That’s what I think it is. Absurd! But I go on chasing my own tail in circles and try to make meaning out of everything in life. Isn’t it absurd? Eff this man!”

    “Are you reading stuff these days? What’s this sudden epiphany about life? You have to take it easy, my friend. Entering into the forties is not the end of life. I went through this five years ago,” said Shiva as he put the left indicator to change lanes on the freeway to take the next exit.

    “But it’s absurd. We are born, we live for a while, and one day we are gone. What’s the point of all this?” said Surya.

    “Brace yourself, my friend…” shouted Shiva as a truck steered in front of their car from the left lane and almost brushed their car. It’s not uncommon scene on Indian roads, and Shiva was an expert driver.

    Luckily Shiva steered the BMW in time into the left lane, and they avoided the crash. His heart stopped beating for a few seconds.

    Surya in the passenger seat was not affected by this. He still looked a bit stoned and was staring into the mountains through the opened window. Probably contemplating about the meaninglessness of life.

    “Surya, did you even see what just happened? That idiot truck driver almost killed us! What are you staring at?”

    They forgot to take the exit.

    “That’s what I mean, man. Absurd! We would have been killed, and life would have had a good laugh at us. Two more to go and get fooled by the absurdity of life. Like what have I been doing all my life anyhow? Like trying to reach somewhere without a map? Like what’s the end of all this nonsense?”

    “What is this sudden interest, man? Like you read some new-age stuff? Of course, life is meaningful. What’s absurd about all this? Life has a purpose, even if it’s hidden from us. Maybe we will know it when we cross to the other side of life. Who will take so much trouble to create life and make it meaningless? Do you think the creator is that dumb?”

    The traffic eased out a bit by this time, and Shiva forgot about that idiot truck driver and the missed exit. They were just driving out without going anywhere. So a missed exit wasn’t a big deal. Surya was still contemplating hard and was still staring into the mountains in the distance.

    “Shiva, I think it’s time for me leave everything and go to the Himalayas and become a monk. Like if life is absurd, I need to realize myself that it’s absurd or the other way round. I have no family. Even my parents don’t care about me as much. I have my brother to take care of them. Who really cares about me more than myself? But I am tired of chasing my own tail. I need answers, man. I need them now. There is something in me that longs for the real answers.”

    “Surya, you need to understand there is no escape. Life has inherent meaning. Like, look at what you have made out of yourself. You run a company that employs thousands of people. You have everything that money can probably buy. You have a purpose of your own and life has a lot of meaning. Maybe you don’t know it now. But it will be revealed to you. If not in this life, in the next one, if not then, in the one after. You will realize the meaning and purpose of your life. I have read enough scriptures and books to assure you this.”

    “Now you talk about life after this life. Who cares, man? I am not able to understand this one life right now,” said Surya and closed the window as he was tired of staring into the mountains.

    “I have realized the meaning and purpose of my life, Surya. To question life’s purpose is where the problem starts. There is meaning in everything in life. You just have to stop chasing it. Just be with life. Let me tell you this…”

    The same truck driver came from behind and rammed into the BMW. And those were the last words spoken by Shiva, and Surya breathed his last staring into those mountains. What if they never missed that exit? What if they never went on this purposeless drive?

    1. jhowe

      Such a contemplative piece. The conversation flowed well and kept revealing more and more until that fateful moment. You created a great villain… that truck.

    2. JRSimmang

      I would like to know what the conversation between Surya and Shiva was before this point. The life of the aesthete is within grasp for all of us, but it is not so easily attained. Do we only understand life through dying?

  25. splandorf

    “Are you cool?” the obviously cool person I had never met asked from the other end of the phone.

    “Uhhh, I don’t know. That’s not really up to me, is it?” I asked sealing my uncoolness.

    This phone call started off as a missionary effort by friends of the family to help me connect in the town we were moving to. Now it was a lesson to the poor, cool kid on the other end about why nerds stay nerdy.

    “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly Meaningless! Everything is Meaningless!”

    Being a church-raised nerd who was taught that nearly everything was infinitely significant, this verse from the book of Ecclesiastes threw me off for a long time. It didn’t seem to line up with live right, go to heaven and get rewarded for everything. Then on a field trip, I watched one of my orchestra friends have a mental breakdown in our hotel room when he realized he had lost track of the day, eaten meat on the Sabbath (or something like that) and was now apparently destined for hell. There was no consoling him until he called his parents who explained that there was some simple ritual to make things right again. Phweew. That was close.

    And really, really weird. I would even say meaningless. I didn’t even know you had to do that stuff to stay out of hell and it seemed easy enough to right the wrong I was still unconvinced I should worry about it quite that much. I mean, our orchestra performance is tomorrow and If you can’t pull it together I’ll be second chair viola and I’m not ready for that!

    I know the meaning of life is something a little larger than I have the mind for on my own. I also know the things I don’t understand, like my friend’s meltdown and being cool on purpose, are comparatively meaningless to me, lagging far behind more meaningful things like dinner with my family, staring into the world of my aquariums or the euphoria of passing out in my own bed after a twelve hour night shift. The teacher in Ecclesiastes also says, “A man can do no better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him who can eat or find enjoyment?” Seems good to me.

  26. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    Embrace

    Charlotte absentmindedly ran her hand through the dandelions, watching Caleb’s silhouette soar in front of the sun. He was so happy. Why couldn’t she just be the same? Why didn’t she just get up and go fly with him? She could let the wind pull at her hair; let it make her eyes water; let it empty her mind. Caleb slowed down and landed next to her. She looked up at him, but couldn’t bring herself to force a smile.

    “What’s wrong?” he breathed, sitting next to her as his wings folded behind him.

    “Why did Thomas die? It could have been anyone, so why was it him?” tears ran down her cheeks, but her voice didn’t move. It remained steady, even as this all poured from her mind to her mouth.

    “Lottie,” Caleb put his arm around her and wiped a tear with his soft thumb. But he didn’t say anything else. He was thinking.

    “My grandpa is almost ninety. Thomas was only two.”

    “Don’t say that Lottie. People die, and that’s just it.”

    “There’s no order? No reason? No meaning?” she asked, turning to look in his gray blue eyes. They met her green ones and she couldn’t help but smile a little.

    “Obviously not. Things happen and we have to deal with it. I’m not telling you it’s easy, or that you’ll ever get over it, or understand. But you should accept that it happened, and it couldn’t have happened any other way.” Caleb turned from her to look at the clouds, and she rested her head against his chest, letting the tears run down the skin and into the dandelions.

    “Will you fly with me now?” Caleb asked. She could tell his wings were moving slightly behind him.

    “No,” Lottie said, lifting her head again and picking a dandelion.

    “Why not?”

    “My wings are ugly. Not like yours. Yours look like this dandelion, they’re so beautiful in the sun.”

    “Yours are beautiful,” Caleb stood, “let me see them.” He walked behind her and studied the feathers lying against her bare back.

    They were yellow, orange, red, blue, white. Not like Caleb’s, which were simply yellow, like those of a canary.

    “Don’t,” she smiled, spinning her body away from him playfully.

    “They look like fire,” he said, “they’re fitting.” He smiled, stepping closer to her.

    “Fitting how?” she asked.

    “You’ve got a fire in you Lottie. That’s why I’m not too worried about you; you don’t need anyone.”

    “Fire is destructive, chaotic,” she fell back into the dandelions.

    “What’s wrong with that?” Caleb’s smile grew, and he knelt to kiss her. She laughed as he did. He reached his hand out.

    “I don’t need anyone,” she laughed, pushing the hand away and standing on her own. Her bright wings spread, and so did his. They flew.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      At first it took me a bit to figure out if they were talking birds or if “fly” was a metaphor but then it was made clear what they were. It’s a beautiful and touching scene you have written here.

  27. JRSimmang

    WHEN GOOD PEOPLE DO NOTHING

    “You’ve told him?”

    “Yes.”

    “And?”

    “It’s the same thing every time.”

    “Does he realize it?”

    “Oh yes.”

    “Then… why does he keep doing it?”

    “It’s better than having his liver eaten daily.”

    “Oh, rumor got out then…”

    “Yep.”

    “Well, he did steal Hephaestus’s fire.”

    “He did do that.”

    “But, that is a pretty brutal punishment.”

    “Moreso than this? I suppose it just starts to tickle after a while.”

    “I suppose.”

    “… Would you do it?”

    “What? This?”

    “Yep.”

    “No.”

    “Does he know he can just walk away?”

    “I’ve told him.”

    “Me too.”

    “So, let me get this straight, he succeeds, stops Death, then has to push this thing up a hill for eternity, is told he can just walk away at any time, and he just keeps doing it?”

    “As far as I can tell.”

    “What about us?”

    “Doomed to watch him every day?”

    “Doomed to watch him every day.”

    “… I’d rather be stuck with Promethius.”

    -JR Simmang

    1. J.Fujimaru

      I love how sparse this dialogue is. It feels more realistic but it still tells a lot.

      I guess if we drink and work than we’re both Sysiphus and Prometheus

      1. J.Fujimaru

        Oh my. That’s weird you just mentioned Samuel Beckett because “en attendant Godot” popped into my head when I read this dialogue. I wasn’t able to explain why so I decided not to mention it.

  28. Pete

    Sometimes I can get my dad to talk about Mom. When he’s drunk or on the way, that rosy time of night when his cheeks flush and his tongue loosens. He’ll set his guitar on his knee, lean back, his thick curly hair a mess of tangles. His eyes travel as he begins with her voice when she sang. Then maybe he’ll talk about her ears. Once he said that the meaning of life hid in her eyes.

    About what you’d expect from a musician.

    He writes songs in the morning, when he’s quiet and shy. He plays them at night, when he’s brave and nostalgic. I always try to read what he’s written, not the parts he’ll keep and sing but what he’s jotted down and then crossed out. Because the meaning of life may very well have hidden in my mother’s eyes, but my father’s truth hides under the lines he’s scribbled, in the words he’s thrown away.

    I’ve spent almost a year with that meaning of life line in my head. If it’s true, then what happens now? Are we meaningless? Are we crossed out and balled up? Have our lives been edited, stripped of meaning? It’s exhausting. Dad is exhausting. Life and its many meanings is exhausting…

    I’ve stared into my mother’s eyes. In pictures, in mirrors, in songs. I try to see what my dad saw. Mom was pretty, sure, but when I look at all those old, fading, pictures I only see the way Dad looked at her. In every picture of the two of them, Dad’s oblivious to the camera or other people or the world in the distance, whatever fell outside her gaze. A flash on the side of his face as he looks at her, like she’s meaning of life.

    Romantic? Yes. Annoying in real time? Affirmative.

    He gets frustrated when I don’t remember. It feels like he’s quizzing me when I nod and say I do just so that he’ll let it go. The truth is that with each passing year my mother becomes more and more of a bedtime story. I was seven when she died. It’s been almost ten years. I don’t remember her voice, her feel, her eyes. I don’t know the meaning of life.

    She isn’t coming back. And for me that means getting through high school as both parent and kid. Taking care of him on the days (weeks) that he won’t leave his room, when he’s content to live in the darkness, his blackout curtains yanked tight. When he won’t eat, even when I fix Lasagna, doing my best to get it just like Mom’s recipe says. It means propping Dad up during holidays, hangovers, when they check on us, because the only thing worse than Dad being depressed is Dad being gone.

    So he plays guitar. He writes songs and avoids my eyes and I wait for the next time he’s in the mood to talk. About her. About me. About us. I just hope it’s not meaningless.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Down to earth powerful.and gritty at the same time
        The story part about the memory of his mother slipping away is so sad, it is Portrait.of Jenny so to speak.

  29. GrahamLewis

    SINCE YOU ASKED

    So you’d like to know if life has meaning. It’s a question one hears a lot when one’s been around as long as I have. When you’ve seen civilizations rise and fall, lived through Pax Romana and two world wars, one ought to have some sort of perspective, hey?

    Well, speaking as one who has had the good luck, or misfortune if you’d like, of a long, long existence, I have an opinion, based on experience and almost endless observation. But I must first clarify something.

    I am not immortal. It would be romantic to say that, as one of the undead, I am compelled to live forever, longing for the final release of death. Nope. I can end it all within 24 hours, simply by refusing or forgetting to pull my daily restorative from the amphora, or vial, or bottle, whatever it’s called these days. Then I’d fade into nothingness, and join everyone else I’ve known, and cross that River Styx. Maybe one day I will. But not yet. Maybe my choice to go on and on and on suggests an answer. It must say something.

    But that wasn’t the question, was it? Forgive me, I do wander sometimes, with so much to remember and sort out. My first point is that not even the undead can know why we exist, because that can be known only, if at all, when it’s over. No one I know, and I have known so many, has come back to tell me that answer. And as I say, I am not yet anxious to go that far.

    Maybe my old friend Camus came closest when he said the meaning is in the struggle. But Albert had such a hard life, growing up so poor, being so sickly, dying so young — 47 must seem young even to you with your measly promise of 80 0r so years at best.

    What? The real answer? Sorry, I was remembering Albert and Jean-Paul and Maurice, how much fun they had talking and smoking cigarettes in those Paris cafes. They so enjoyed their misery.

    My point? Oh yes. I say struggle is not the meaning of life, it’s one path out of many. Not everyone has the so-called privilege of struggle, one must be born into it. Some live total lives of peace and comfort. Some learn acceptance. Some give up. But one thing they all learned, even if they hadn’t understood, is this:

    Don’t ask about the meaning of life. There is no question, only an answer. That answer is found only in fully living, regardless of the path you’re on. Until you get that, you have not lived. No matter how long you have existed.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      Graham, I love the angle you took. Is this the same character that needs the restorative from last week’s prompt? It’s great to see him back!

      Your ancient and wise MC probably knows better but I don’t think Camus enjoyed misery like most of the other philosophers of his time. He was all for simple pleasures and believed that people should enjoy a normal life instead of struggling to search for higher meaning. Even the village where he died is an embodiment of that simple beauty. I believe he was quite happy.

      1. GrahamLewis

        Yes, JF, it is Restorative-Guy (no name yet though he is beginning to whisper one in my ear). And thanks for the kind words.

        In defense of MC/RG, I think he was using the word “enjoy” in its broader sense of “experiencing the condition of”, and also in the double sense that Camus found meaning in living life through surviving his struggles of growing up poor and being tubercular. He likes the image of these guys talking about misery while watching the Seine flow by through a fog of cigarette smoke.

  30. creaturescry

    “Does life have meaning?” Tex thought to himself as he laced up his combat boots,” I think it does.”

    Lewis glared at him and sat up on his cot, “no there’s not! Everything leads to more and more pointlessness.”

    Tex shook his head and smiled to himself. Of course Lewis would be overly dramatic and claim something like that. He tied his boots tightly, then wriggled his toes to make sure there was enough room. Meanwhile Lewis was throwing a pity party on the cot across the barracks. Kicking his feet in the air and flailing his arms. His fingers running through his blazing red hair, acting as if he had lice nibbling his scalp. He got up from his own cot and went over to help him dress. Outside there was the sound of a full blown war blasting through the corrugated metal walls. It was like having a noisy neighbor, except this one wants to kill you. It was strenuous situations like these that made men question their lives or go into a full on panic attack.

    “Then why are you here Lewis?” Tex asked him, securing one of his legs so he could put his socks on.

    “The birds and the bees, or some crap like that,” Lewis spat, crossing his arms, “I was brought into this world without my consent.”

    “You’re here because your parents loved each other so much and…”

    “My parents divorced Tex, how insensitive of you!”

    “Well they loved each other at some point so here you are!”

    “That has no meaning, what was the meaning?”

    “You could look at it two ways,” he shoved a boot onto his foot, “spiritual or biological.”

    “Don’t you dare preach.”

    Tex tied the boots tightly then released his feet. How was he suppose to say it in a way that didn’t sound like a sermon? He looked over at the shivering Lewis, his toes up to his eyes were quivering. He always talked bigger to keep his pride protected. Taking inspiration from some of the tougher men he tended to hang out with. Now in the face of death, as any human did, he was showing his true character. He took him by the shoulder and stared into the frightened baby blue eyes.

    “Let me put it this way then,” Tex said, making sure he soaked up every word, “you’re either god blessed with a purpose, or you’ll find where you’re mind falls into place in the world and that’s you’re meaning. But overall it’s really just to survive and carry on family lineage.”

    “I still don’t think I’m ready to fight,” Lewis whispered, “I don’t want to die.”

    “Not everyone does, but someone’s gotta fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.”

    “They’re all selfish worthless pieces of…”

    “There must be a storm before a rainbow, we fight so they may have meaning in their lives,” Tex spoke in a wistful voice, “you’re not heartless enough to not wish that a child can live happily.”

    “But why must we kill and be killed.”

    “Because we don’t try to understand each other enough, it’s a sad fact of life we’ll probably never overcome.”

    “You preached!”

    Of course he’d find something to complain about, that was just the nature of Lewis. But even with all his downfalls he was still a good man deep down, really deep down. Tex picked up his gear and strapped his helmet on. Lewis followed his lead and did the same, looking a lot more pumped than earlier to get out onto the battlefield. Tex was old enough to have seen many different men go out to fight. A few died, a few ran away, and fewer still managed to limp of the field in one piece. He prayed for his and Lewis’s safety, then walked towards the exit.

    “Ready?” Tex asked, kicking the door open.

    Lewis dashed out, shouting as he ran, “see you in hell old man!”

    “Show your senior officer a little respect kiddo,” she shouted back, running after him.

    1. J.Fujimaru

      What a place/moment to be having this conversation! But I guess this is the kind of situation where people question life. There are so many young people out there sacrificing their lives for us. It’s hard to imagine what they must go through mentally and spiritually. Thanks for the thoughtful piece.

  31. ReathaThomasOakley

    A Marie Story
    September 2, 1954

    Marie watched the greasy water swirl around her wrists as she searched for the last of the knives. Shoulda boiled more water, she could hear Granny’s voice in her brain, too much thinking, too much listening, not enough paying attention to your work. She couldn’t turn on the hot water, in case her mama or aunt wanted a bath. Same thing, every night: After supper in the kitchen Marie’d do the dishes, the women would go into the dining room, Junior and Gary would disappear, every night.

    Marie looked out the window, it was still light, she couldn’t see her brothers, but she knew Junior was planning something, something bad. She’d known since last week when Granny’d jumped all over him for not cleaning under the chicken coops.

    “You’re no good,” she’d said in that fake sad way she had. “Been tellin’ your mama she’d better get you over to Marianna, to that school for bad boys. They’ll get you straightened out.” She’d turned back to the house. “Just like your daddy, you are.”

    Marie’d watched her walk away, never looking back at Junior with his firsts clenched, and his face getting as red as his hair. Granny thought she was so smart, didn’t ever see what was right in front of her face. Since that day, every night after supper, Junior’d be gone, with Gary.

    Marie pulled the plug, watched the water and crud disappear, then got the Old Dutch from under the sink and started scrubbing, risked Granny’s wrath by using some of the hot water to rinse the sink and rag.

    In the dining room they never even noticed Marie walking by, so intent they were on the Record spread out all over the table. She wanted to ask why they never used the front room, the one with a couch and arm chairs kept perfect for company or laying out bodies, rather than spending hours on the hard, fancy chairs, but, she didn’t, didn’t have nothing to do with her.

    At the top of the stairs, the narrow ones no body could see from below, Marie stopped and considered the rest of the evening. She had a new book from the library she could start; no body ever asked about the books, didn’t even know she had a card. Then, when Mama and Aunt Ida are asleep, I’ll leave, Marie thought, remembering the boy from the gas station, they’ll never hear me. She was pretty sure Granny could, but didn’t care. As she pulled herself up the final steep steps Marie smiled, and whispered to herself, “None of you will ever say, but I get that sink cleaner than anybody.”

    1. Moirai-TQ

      Thank you for another Marie story. I really liked this one. Granny is one tough cookie and won’t understand why the younger generations will not miss her when she goes.

    2. J.Fujimaru

      I like the part about keeping the couch and arm chairs “perfect for company or laying out bodies.” It’s like a sudden jolt, reminding me that things were different then. Now we’re all about sprawling out on our couches and getting as much use and personal pleasure out of them.

      Have you read Alice Munro? Maybe it’s the time period, the female characters and the family focus but your Marie stories reminds me a little of her work.

    3. jhowe

      Dang Reatha, you did that well. I’ll admit my life has been in a bit of turmoil lately and this is the first Marie story I’ve read. Did you throw that ‘laying out bodies’ comment in for future occurrences or have you hinted to a dark side in previous stories?

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, j, I hope your turmoil is now over. In larger homes when I was growing up, the embalmed body was brought back to the house for at least the night before the funeral. Folks with smaller homes would use relatives’ homes. In Marie’s house one room was reserved for special occasions such as preacher visits or bodies. No children allowed.

    4. JRSimmang

      Reatha, it’s been such a pleasure reading these Marie stories, not because they’re so well done, but because of their stark contrast to Annie’s stories. I am thinking of how much the two girls might need each other, if ever they were to meet.
      The tension you’ve written in to these has been so invigorating, and I can’t wait to see how Junior finds his place in the story.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks, JR. They could meet, but I think I’d need to rewrite some Marie dialogue. Right now I’m adding hints of the real world in Annie, but then Pippa ignored the bad stuff as she passed.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Time line Reatha, Annie would be about eight years old during this story if I have this right. I don’t know if you feel like I do but in my opinion the character called Marie, you are close to entering your own story and writing from within. Or if you created a fictional character, not either MC, but someone common to the story you have, you might actually disappear as a writer and live and write inside the MC you create to be the story teller. Am I making any sense at all? If i have the courage to try it. I would love to do this with a running story I’ve always wanted to write about my great grandfather but i’m not sure I know how to do it.

    5. Big Tastey

      Thank you Reatha. I think you captured the dynamics of a close knit family from the 1950s in a delightful way. Granny’s dialect was good. Sometimes writers over emphasize regional dialect but I thought you did it well. I too like a clean sink, even though I know it’s only going to get dirty again. A simple, charming absurdity of life that you illustrated well.

    6. madeindetroit

      The way you weave in those little incredible details to create the setting and characterization is amazing. So much said in so few words is so powerful!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Thanks for asking, some folks here know this, and are probably bored by now, but, in June I was offered a contract for a book from stories, much expanded, from previous posts, about a little girl, Annie, in 54-55. I was thrilled, but after lots of agnonizing consideration decided it was not the right publisher, so didn’t sign. Now I’m trying to get the book finished so I can start looking for an agent. Marie will probably be my focus for a while. My first post here, nearly three years ago, lead to a bunch of stories about another girl, The Girl, that I hope to get back to one day. For me, after being away from fiction for a long time, this has been a fantastic place with a bunch of very supportive, talented writers.

COMMENT