Thou Mayest

Today—February 27—is the anniversary of John Steinbeck’s birth in 1902. My favorite work by Steinbeck is East of Eden, which is in some respects more of a book of American philosophy than a novel.

There’s one passage in particular that stuck with me (and tends to stick with anyone who reads the book). The main protagonist, Adam Trask, is discussing the topic of free will and sin with the characters Samuel and Lee. Lee, a pre-civil rights Chinese-American servant, explains the difference in translations of the biblical Creation story from Genesis:

“[T]his was the gold from our mining: ‘Thou mayest.’ The American Standard translation orders men to triumph over sin (and you can call sin ignorance). The King James translation makes a promise in ‘Thou shalt,’ meaning that men will surely triumph over sin. But the Hebrew word timshel—’Thou mayest’—that gives a choice. For if ‘Thou mayest’—it is also true that ‘Thou mayest not.’ That makes a man great and that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.”

The Prompt: Considering the passage above, write a scene or story about a character who has committed a misdeed—a crime or a more minor indiscretion—and must decide whether to face the consequences and make amends for the act, or to conceal or avoid it.

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240 thoughts on “Thou Mayest

  1. Jennifer Park

    46. The Blowback

    [Follows “45. The Prisoner”, posted under “Blahbarian”. You can click on my name above for the complete Darth Barbara Saga.]

    So, it was Barbara’s fault after all. At least, it could be her ticket home.

    “Earth?”

    “Yes.”

    The Emissary’s answer was succinct. “No.”

    “Why not?”

    “You are now the senior Ambassador for two octants. There is no one who can replace you.”

    “I have not been back for…”

    “And you will not be back for quite a few more. Ambassador, it is…”

    “What if I told you that the Elements… that it is my fault…?”

    The Emissary frowned. “What?”

    “I created the Elements. My failings… my negligence… my incompetence.”

    The Emissary blinked for a bit, then smiled shrewdly. “I see what you are doing there. If you’re a bad ambassador, we’d call you back.”

    “No. Look. It’s true. There are big chunks of the Kryzlam royal families that I completely neglected. They are dull, inbred slackers, and I didn’t think they amounted to much. But, they got rich in the Union trades, and they are dabbling in funding the dissidents, and…”

    “That’s just normal in any monarchy. There are always…”

    “Except these dissidents are not interested in intraplanetary intrigue. They are funding and staffing the Elements…”

    “I thought you made them up, the Elements.”

    “No! That’s the thing. I did make them up, but they are real! Don’t you see what I have done?”

    “That makes no sense…”

    “I mean, the Elements did exist. I thought I was making them up, but they are real, and they are funded by the Kryzlam petty royals, and it is my fault that they exist at all IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!”

    The Emissary mulled it over with a deep frown. “Sooooooo… if you… hadn’t… neglected…”

    “And, if I hadn’t dragged the Kryzlamei into the Union at all, we would not be having any of these… incidents.” There have been several more attempted attacks on transportation nodes.

    Some more mulling over. “Then… if you were to return to Earth… what would you propose we do about this?”

    “The solution is simple. We need to cut off the funding source. The trick is, to do it without crashing the Kryzlam economy wholesale.”

    “Like the Death Star?”

    “Right. That will not help.”

    “Why not?” The Emissary said with a smirk. Then shook his head. “Right. Genocides won’t do us any good.”

    “All kidding aside, this needs to be carefully orchestrated, and I need…”

    “Then, what I’m hearing, Ambassador, is that you need to be at Kryzlak.”

    “What? No! I…”

    “In fact, that octant’s senior ambassador is retiring soon.”

    “What? I… No! NO!”

    “I will submit my recommendation immediately.” The viewer shut off.

    “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGH!!!!!” Barbara screamed.

    She was too young and inexperienced to be in charge of one octant, never mind three octants.

    What did she have to screw up to return home?

    “Clearly, I’m screwing the wrong people,” she muttered.

    Lieutenant Marcello replied with a pout, “Awww… That hurts my feelings!” He was returning with some water. Buck naked. The lieutenant, that is, not the water, which had a glass on.

  2. Castiel

    I stared down at my hands shaking with my brain speeding trying to process what I just did. I gulped staring down at the grotesque mess on the ground. The smell of death crept into my senses and forced its way into my thoughts not letting go as it latched on. Feelings of regret and worry filled my mind but were hushed by a unexpected feeling of satisfaction. The bloody bat was gripped by my shaking hands still as I took a moment to recompose myself. I stared down at the victim taking the result of my effort in. A thick head of brown hair in a mess with stains and smudges of red over it from the deed. I stared at the dent in her skull with some blood seeping then at the bloody bat. I remembered that I was in her house. The neighbours probably called the cops by now or would soon so I need to hurry. I jumped into her kitchen and looked around for trashbags. I had previously decided I only had one way to dispose of the mess once I did it.

    I froze staring at the beautiful woman on the floor now covered in an unnatural red that radiated off of her milky white skin. I took a breath and nodded my head before grabbing her legs and beginning to pull her lower body into the bag being careful to not harm the body. The deadweight of her lifeless corpse made it hard. I wanted to stop it was something I was going to be stuck with now till my worthless self died. The satisfaction and rush I just got were disgusting but there, she was suffereing anyway. Her life had gone downhill over the months and she had begun drinking. She never drank before. I was just giving her a quicker end, it’s better for everyone involved. Tears rolled down my face as I chewed on my tongue trying to trick my own brain.

    “She had it coming to her Gerald. She left you for no good reason. She didn’t give a rat’s ass about you anyhow.”

    “It was the right thing to do… right?”

    My voice changed pitched as I talked to myself like I always had and she had been concerned with.
    “Of course it was! She left us alone without anyone, why didn’t she think of anyone but herself?”

    I slowly nodded and felt a chill go down my spine as I grabbed another bag and pulled her torso into it blood staining the bag as I managed to fit one over each half of her small frame. The elegant princess being laid to rest, it’s a shame really. I pawed through the kitchen drawers looking for something to seal the bag so it didn’t fall apart while carrying it out and found a roll of tape and other small things in a drawer. My heart froze as I started at a letter with my name on it. I felt desperation return and overcome my mind. I snatched the letter and began to read as fast and clearly as I could manage.”

    ‘Dear Gerald.

    I’ve been thinking about our breakup and all of the dumb choices I made a few months back. I realised I was wrong Gerald. I let the idea of someone new and mysterious lead my astray and what for? I know you’re reading this now. You’ve never been the easiest to calm and were going to snap eventually. I left this here to give at least my reasoning Gerald. I loved you more than anyone I’ve met in my life but the last few months you turned into someone else. You sat up all night and obsessed in the spiral of crime and only focused on it. I felt like I was just making the situation worse and didn’t help with the problems we had at all. I left to give us both time to calm down and then soon discuss like adults but you snapped. We could of had back our amazing life and US but you just let it go. You’ll figure out what to do from here, I know you can.

    Always yours, Mary’

    My heart sunk as I held the paper and I fell down. Shock and anger filled me as I thought back to what I just did earlier within the last the twenty or so minutes. Realization sunk is as guilt barreled into my heart and slammed every which way. She had stood there and not fought back. I even messed up the first hit and didn’t knock her out but, she accepted it already. The news of my deed and how Mary had known about it threw me into a frenzy. I grabbed a cup sitting on the counter that had her name scribed into it’s side and flung it at the wall screaming.

    “Why! Mary you god damned idiot! If you knew… “

    My yelling slowly quieted to sobs as I sunk into the floor and slammed my head back against the cabinet behind me.

    “If she knew.. Why did she let me? Whaat the hell was your problem Mary?”

    More guilt and fear sunk in as the idea of me killing the only person who loved me finally stuck. She loved me enough to die for me, not metaphorically. She knew it was the only way I’d be content and didn’t stop me. Mary you sly… smart… overly kind… woman. I forced myself up and looked around before setting my eyes on the phone on the counter. I gulped before grabbing it and tapping the buttons before hearing the voice I knew I needed to admit to on the other end.

    “Mary? What’s up? I said don’t ca-”

    “Its Gerald… I need you to call the cops Jay. Just send them here.”

    I slammed the phone down and undid the bags tearing them off with desperation as she stared down at her body for the last time I ever would get to. The tears still rolled down my cheeks as I accepted my fate and sat next to here with the bat laying by my side. I stared at the door in wait for what was to come.

    ** Was my first time writing this kind of style. Any tips or advice appreciated. I do know I probably overly used the “…” but it’s just an old habit that happens when I write dialogue.

  3. lexilyn23

    As I looked over the unmoving body, I was overcome with a sense of relief. Not how you’d feel after paying rent on time for the first time in months, or the first cigarette of the day after your boss pile drived your self worth into the ground. This sensation overwhelmed me. It trickled from my hands, which were still holding the bloody billiard stick, down to my toes, soothing my entire body until all I could do was laugh. The relief escaped me with each breath that sounded foreign in my own ears. The laughing vibrated off the walls, into the still night and onto the bustling city beyond where it’d be drowned out by impatient drivers and over worked street vendors.

    Inside the laughing was all there was. I was worried if it stopped the voices would come again, tell me it wasn’t enough, that the relief will fade and I’d need to find it again. So I filled the silence to keep the relief as long as I could. The body of my father, covered in dark coagulated matter, was the most peaceful I’d ever seen him. During his life he never laid this still. Always fighting his own demons, finding his solace at the bottom of a Captain Morgan bottle or bare-knuckles against my face. The voice told me this was the only way to give him peace, and me relief.
    ‘Quick, before someone sees!’
    ‘He can’t hear us.’
    ‘Clean it up.’
    ‘Clean it up.’
    ‘Don’t get caught.’
    ‘You’re so stupid. They’ll find you.’
    ‘You’ll die.’
    “Hurry.’
    The voices have protected me but how my father looked right then was what I wanted. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to be a killer, just relief.
    ‘Too late.’
    ‘You’ll always be one now.’
    ‘Killer. Killer. Killer.’
    ‘HURRY!’
    I didn’t follow the voices. That feeling was the best I had ever felt but it came with a heavy price. My father needed to die, but when I did it, I was envious of him. That peaceful look haunted me and I couldn’t look at him any more. I stepped over the body and into the kitchen where the phone was. I ignored the voices and they were furious. They screamed, frustrated I didn’t need the relief as much as them. I felt bad and promised the feeling will come again but for me. On my own terms. I wanted to prove that they did not control me and the only way was to silence them like the lifeless shell of the man I needed. Who I trusted and fled from. I needed the voices too. I was grateful to them. I’d make them happy.
    ‘That’s all we want.’
    ‘Happiness doesn’t exists.’
    ‘Not real.’
    ‘You’ll never have it.’
    ‘Killer.’
    I picked up the phone, dialed 911. A pretty voice answered. I told the voice my address, that there were two dead bodies, and yes, I killed them. She asked if I’d stay on the line with her while she dispatched the ones who’d take me away, but I hung up before she finished. Her voice was lovely and if I talked to her I wouldn’t be able to silence the other voices. There was a half empty bottle of Cap. Morgans on the table and I grabbed it, tipping the rest down my sore throat, The fiery liquid flickered and spat until my body was ablaze. I liked it.
    ‘What are you doing?’
    ‘Turning himself in.’
    ‘You’re so stupid.’
    ‘Do you know what they do to killers?’
    “You turned me into one. I trusted you. But you did give me freedom, so I’ll do the same for you.”

    When the police showed up, they found the body of the father, a hole the size of a billiard stick through his chest, thick slow moving blood pooled around him. They found the stick in the hall way and they found the other body, hanging from the ceiling of the kitchen, ‘KILLER’ painted with the dark blood of the father across the the walls. The first to arrive couldn’t stomach the scene and had to leave, knocking the empty Captain Morgan bottle off the table, shattering instantly; the only sound to be heard in the house.

  4. Eric ShanRick

    If you saw someone holding a bloody knife while standing over brutally cut up body, you’d generally assume that person was killer. But what if this was just some crazy misunderstanding and that person was indeed innocent. I wish I could be that person in such a scenario because any second now the police will find me literally red handed.

    It all started my with god awful neighbor of mine and her toxic eyes. Those damn eyes would always cast judgement. Without her even saying a word I could feel everyone of spiteful malious words sink into the head and swell into my heart. Just who the hell did she think was ? Her husband left her for a younger woman and now she has to pay alimony. utterly pathetic

    I would lay in bed at night wondering if those poison eyes still lingered on me. That witch made me lose sleep for countless nights. It need to stop or else my sanity sweep away. Talking to her would do no good. Her very existence is a burden. There was an easy albeit violent solution not this conundrum. I’d simply have to cut out her eyes and my life would continue on. It’s not my fault she died so easily.

    ( And yes. This was inspired by the tell tale heart)

  5. BookwormTunnel

    We were all innocent once.
    Everyone is born the same. Our souls are pure because we cannot yet think. Our hearts are clean because we cannot yet speak. The moment thought begins to fill our minds is the moment we become guilty. Except God, I think, no one is free from damage, from blame. Or maybe there is someone, but I haven’t found them yet.
    We were all innocent once. Some of us stay innocent longer than others.

    They called me naive. Girlish. Simple. Sweet. I suppose I was all of those things, for a while. Although I was living in the depths of squalor, I rose with the dawn to bathe in the river that flowed nearby. As the sun bloomed over the horizon like a delicate flower made of light, I washed myself, I made myself clean.
    I braided my own hair and wove scraggly wildflowers into it. I sewed my own dresses with the brightest threads I could afford to buy. I was only nine, but I took great care in my appearance. I’m not sure why. I think it was my only sliver of pride in this life that was designed to humiliate me. Although I went barefoot, I scrubbed at my feet in the mornings and tried to avoid getting them filthy. As well as I could, at least.
    Yes, people called me naive. I still believed in silly things like fairies and beasts of the night. I wanted there to be magic in the world. I needed it so desperately.
    Now I know better. There’s no such thing as magic. There never was and there never will be. I shouldn’t have wasted my precious childhood on fantasies that were so far beyond my reach.
    I should’ve focused on what I had, not what I dreamed of having.

    Ten years ago this day, my nation was immersed in the most brutal civil war anyone had seen. It was neighbor turned against neighbor, brother against brother. The streets ran with blood, or so it seemed. We all thought my home was safe. After all, it was just a poor little village, cloistered away from the rest of the world.
    We were wrong. Because ten years ago to this day, an army invaded my home. My beautiful river, the one I bathed in at every daybreak, was stained with death. They say, that day, tears rained from the sky. I don’t believe them. In my mind, that day was dry as old bones. The sun was a massive beast, bearing down upon us, his breath stinky and

    1. BookwormTunnel

      hot. I tried to flee but it was too late. A nine-year-old like me couldn’t withstand an army. They captured me.

      The rest of that day is a blur in my memory. In fact, the rest of the next year is a blur. Its’ as if I blocked it out, as if my mind just couldn’t bear to face what was happening to me. What I was doing to others.

      I was a child soldier. At nine, I killed at least twenty people. It’s true that I was forced to do so, but that doesn’t change a thing. That doesn’t bring those people back. It doesn’t mean anything to me that I didn’t choose to kill. I still did it anyway, didn’t I? Although that year is blotted from my memory, their faces, the faces of those I killed, are forever burned in my mind. Their faces sear me, haunt me, hold me, and they never let go. I was rescued by American forces one-and-a-half years after my abduction. They took me to the United States, enrolled me in a program for former child soldiers, and got me adopted. My new parents were the greatest gift I have ever received, but I still miss my birth parents something fierce, and I always will. I began my journey of healing, but that is a journey that will never end. Not until God Himself comes down and calls me home.

      I’m nineteen now. They taught me English, and I’m fluent. Not just fluent, says my teacher, eloquent. I think that’s a fine word, eloquent. Like I said, though, its’ been ten years. Ten years and yet, everything as clear as yesterday.

      The war is over now. I’m safe. I’ve been debating something since I was seventeen. Should I go home, try to apologize to those whose families I killed? Try to reconcile us together? Try to heal? I think I will. I’ve got to make amends. I have to forgive and be forgiven. My life depends on it.

      I have to tell my story.

  6. Poetjo

    Hi!
    I’ve never done anything wrong in my entire life. Well, I guess it depends on what you think is a wrong thing to do. You know that old saying, “One man’s treasure is another man’s trash?” Well, I sort of go by that philosophy. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything wrong but you may disagree with me. Anyone can disagree with me, I can’t say I really care that much. I’m not too crazy about everybody following the rules all the time, where’s the fun in that? I believe in trying new things to find out what you like and what you don’t like.
    You might go to a restaurant and get a kick out of trying a new food for the first time, like squid or something
    crazy like that. Would I do that? Not on your life! I don’t care if you try to fancy it up by calling it calamari or not. Squid is squid, no matter what you call it and it’s disgusting to me, plain and simple. My tastes are a bit different.
    It all started when I was watching tv one night with my idiot brother. Remember that old show “The Streets of San Fransisco”? with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas? It was an old crime show in the 1970’s. Well, one night I was sitting watching it and some woman got herself murdered and all the cops got their panties in a twist and I thought it was all pretty funny. I remember thinking “I could do that.” And I did. The first time I was 15.
    So 13 gals later (at least that’s what the stupid cops think – man, are they wrong!) here I am. About to walk the walk that’ll be the end of me. The priest who comes to see me (which by the way is a complete waste of time – I’m not interested in saving my soul) said I might feel better if I were to admit all my crimes and go to God burden free so he left me a pencil and some paper. I don’t see anything I’ve ever done as a burden. It was fun, to be honest with you. I probably shouldn’t say that but hey, the priest says that truthful words are seldom pleasant. Take my word for it, the truthful words about everything I’ve done to a whole bunch of gals would not be pleasant.
    They’ll be coming for me soon so I’d better sign off. I’m feeling generous so I’ll leave whoever reads this with a present. Check out my neighbour’s basement in my home town. The fun is just beginning.
    See ya!

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      After I read this I went back and reread your other piece. Wow, and your comments are all so, well, nice. One never knows. Seriously, good job with two scary MCs. I just recently discovered the books that TV series was based on, can’t remember the author, but I think a woman.

  7. lduperval

    The following may contain scenes of violence, nudity, coarse language, and mature themes and may not be suitable for all ages. Reader discretion is advised.

    —-

    It all started pretty innocently enough. We saw each other on a semi-regular basis, at various parties or other gatherings. It wasn’t like we were aiming to have a close relationship, but since we did hang out in similar circles, it was natural that we would end up in the same locations.

    I won’t say that the situation with my partner Chris and I was dire, but after a few years together, a lot had become stale, uneventful, and at times downright boring. Nevertheless, I was not looking for a lover. It just… happened, I guess.

    At first, it was just talk. Sam and I found out that we liked similar things, that our life aspirations were analogous, and that we were like-minded about the parts of our lives that caused us dissatisfaction. What began as simple small talk, eventually became much deeper and personal.

    Chris never suspected a thing. And in retrospect, why would that even happen? Sam and I had known each other long before I met Chris, and while we had not been very close as youngsters, adulthood had brought us closer in proximity, and our long discussions brought us closer in intimacy.

    The tipping point was, as for many other sordid love affairs, the night of a party, when Sam and I had a little bit (a lot?) too much to drink. Chris had left on a business trip, and would not be back for a few days. I was alone and feeling lonelier still. Sam and I—and let’s be clear, at that point “lover” was not part of the equation at all—decided to go back to my place. I dreaded returning to my empty home, and was ever grateful for the company.

    I should have put an end to it immediately, while still in the taxi, when I felt Sam’s fingers gently caressing my inner thigh. Here I was, in a dangerous situation, one that could completely upend my world, but instead of being scared, I felt excited. And my body gladly played along, silencing any inner turmoils in my mind.

    As soon as the front door closed, we jumped on each other, as if it was the only way to be sure we would still be alive the following day. Each one tore the other’s clothes off, our tongues gliding on the other’s skin, one exploring the others most intimate crevices, until we fell asleep in each other’s arms, with my energy spent beyond anything I had experienced before.

    The next morning (or afternoon, I lost track of time), we picked up where we left off, not even bothering with breakfast. I had no clear indication of when Chris would return, but when my brand new lover and I did not get caught on that first day, I took it as a sign that this was what I was meant to do.

    Over the course of a few months, Sam and I multiplied the frequency of our meetings. We played out our mutual fantasies, exploring the depths of depravity that my partner refused to even consider. The higher the risk of getting caught, the more we enjoyed our escapades. Yet, we were never found out.

    In my mind, I was not doing anything wrong. In fact, I felt that I was doing Chris a favor. Because of obligations at work, there was very little time left for me and for our love life. I was happy to be there when my partner was available and the converse was true. But we had no time to explore together; that part of my life was left for my lover.

    Still, in the back of my mind I had this nagging feeling that what I was doing was not entirely honest, even if I never did get caught and technically, I wasn’t hurting anyone. If it had been any other person, I think the decision to come clean would have been much easier. However, if I tell Chris, it is sure to come to the ears of Sam’s parents. And frankly, I don’t think my aunt and uncle would approve.

    1. Poetjo

      I love how you don’t make it clear whether the lovers are two men, two women or a man and a woman – nice ambiguity! It was very well written and I thought the twist at the end was great!

  8. esmionoestuyo

    If there was ever a day she had wanted to stay in bed, it was today.
    The morning light beamed through the blinds, and she turned over to him, starring at her, twirling her hair.
    “Good morning, Beautiful.” He kissed her with a kiss that spoke volumes.
    She closed her eyes and let him make love to her. She hadn’t been this happy since her honeymoon… Which was a long time. She felt wanted, loved, liked.
    She laid her head on his chest, and they talked for awhile. He told her how much he loved her.
    She looked at the sun outside, now high in the sky. And she wondered what her husband and children would think of her when she went home tonight.

  9. i.wonder.who.wonders

    “Man” On The Run

    “The last thing I really remember… was drinking Queen Rosile’s blood” I say spitefully to the heavily armoured interrogater on the other side of the maximum security jail cell I had been placed in.
    I was enjoying it, my time in the cell. The fun was only beginning.
    As the man beyond the bars wrote down what I said, I stood up and began pacing the small room out of boredom.
    I haven’t been detained by humans for more then a day since the 1950’s. Its easy to escape so I always do.
    The man looked up from his paper and said ” Why did you kill Queen Rosile?” In a voice any human would fear, but I silently laugh at. I tell the large man the truth (sort of) “Maybe I got bored, needed something to do…or” I stopped him from writing as he looked up. ” I could have gotten thirsty…or” I continue, clearly aggravating him.” I was sent on a mission. Maybe Im an assassin. Or maybe Im just crazy…or” I walked close to the bars, closer to him then he was comfortable with “Im a monster. One you only dream about., when you dream of blood, gore, fangs, and stone cold hearts.” I pause again “You dream of me.”
    I could see fear growing in his eyes. I could barely keep my self from laughing and decided it was time to leave.
    It took little effort to part the bars keeping the man safe, and step out to where he sat. The man stood and burst into a speedy ( but not speedy enough) sprint to the exit.
    I make short work of the man as I use my accelerated speed to catch him. My one hand on his shoulder, my other though his chest. As he grunts in pain I slowly pull on his heart until its in my hand rather than in his chest .
    I drop his heart, pushed him to the ground and left the cell block to return to my people. and await my next mission from the elders. from the vampires who turned.

    i get away scott-free, for now

    1. cosi van tutte

      Excellent story!

      “Im a monster. One you only dream about., when you dream of blood, gore, fangs, and stone cold hearts.” I pause again “You dream of me.” I love this line! I can just hear how he said it.

    2. Reaper

      All the youngsters asking for constructive criticism this week. 😉 Please take this the same as what I said below. Most of this is a reference to style. Take it with a grain of salt. Also, I assume you are new, so welcome. You will find that the people here are very accepting and great at being both welcoming and wonderful for providing feedback that is constructive and useful without being overly critical. So, stick around and keep writing, because you are good. You have some wonderful ideas, and some great phrases here. Now, for what I see.

      I would change your ellipses to be after was, it feels more natural. I would remove jail from maximum security jail cell, and change I had been placed in to I was in. Then change I was enjoying it, my time in the cell, to my time in jail. Instead of wrote down what I said I’d go with something like transcribed my confession, make it more official. When you’re describing the pacing go for something a bit tighter. I stand and pace the confines of the cell, boredom driving nervous energy.

      You also switch tenses a lot. That’s something you should clean up. Past or present instead of going back and forth. You have a great concept, an image in you’re line about I’m a monster. but there is repetition there. Maybe something like. I’m a nightmare. When you conjure monsters, creatures of blood, gore, fangs and stone cold hearts.” I pause again, “You dream of me.” Look for repetitious and see if you can change them up some. That’s another big one other than the tense changes. You lose an audience that way, especially in short pieces.

      In the last bit I would just make it more personal, instead of It took little effort to part the bars, with little efforts I parted the bars, keeping the man safe. He stood and.. things like that.

      Again. Most of these are style choices and not necessary. The story is solid and readable. Your images and ideas are amazing. I’m looking forward to reading more from you and seeing how you evolve. So keep it up. Hope you find something helpful here. My biggest piece of advice to you, and anyone else. Don’e listen to anyone unless you want to. You have to find your own way, and what works for me may not work for you.

  10. Writinglove

    (I’m only 12 years old, but you guys can criticize all you want)
    “Here, girl,” The old blind man rasped, handing me the five dollars he usually does for reading him the newspapers in the morning. He was rich.
    Except this time, he gave me two five dollars. Ten whole dollars.
    I grinned wide and stopped myself before I could remember that he was blind.
    “Thank you, sir.” I was trembling with excitement. This could get us the food my family needed.
    Maybe I could even get my mother the scarf she needs from the thrift store. Her neck’s always cold.
    Maybe I could even get myself the cupcake I’ve been admiring in the bakery window for two weeks.
    Maybe I could even get my sister the boots she needs. She’s always complaining about cold feet.
    Maybe I could even get my brother a used book. He loves books, and he’s read all the ones we have.
    Maybe, maybe…
    I was halfway down the old blind man’s street. I was trying to calculate how much stuff I could get with my new fortune.
    And then the guilt wave rolled over me and nearly washed me away. I felt bad, and it took all my resolve to keep walking.
    ‘My family needs this. I have no choice. I have to take this.’ I tried to convince myself.
    ‘He’s blind, and I’ve taken advantage of him,’ I thought.
    ‘He’s kind. I shouldn’t do this.’
    ‘My mother taught me to not do something if it feels wrong. This feels wrong.’
    ‘Would my mother be proud of me if she knew I was doing this? Probably not. I shouldn’t do this.’
    I look up, awakening myself from my thoughts, and realize that I’m in front of the old blind man’s house. I swallow and step up to knock.
    “Who is it?” The gruff voice of his butler calls.
    “It’s Azaria.”
    “Oh, Azaria! It’s always wonderful to see you. Come on in!”
    I sidle in, and admire the beautiful house, as I always do. I always feel small and unworthy in this house.
    The butler nods, and I nervously slink to the old blind man’s library door, where he almost always is.
    ‘Turn back now, while you still can.’ The thought runs around in my head, but disappears when I shake my head and knock.
    “Come in, Azaria.” He croaked.
    I edge into the room and furtively glance around.
    “What do you want?” He said not unkindly.
    “I…I just…I wanted to say…that you gave me ten dollars instead of five.” I stutter.
    “And you just noticed now? Or is your mother more honest than you?”
    “Um…no. I didn’t get home yet. I…you know…I…”
    “You wanted it?” He sounded amused.
    “Um…yes, yes…I…wanted it. I’m sorry. It’s just…I was always taught to not be dishonest, and I felt really, really bad. I’m really, really sorry.”
    I held out the extra five dollars, expecting him to take it, but then remembering that he was blind, pressed it into his hand.
    “Sorry.” I whisper again, then flee his grand home and back home.

    1. Reaper

      Welcome, Writinglove. I think you’ve found a different kind of community by coming to this corner of the internet. We tend to offer advice rather than criticizing whenever possible. It’s why so many of us stick around as long as we do.

      I’m going to make a guess here. You’ve been writing for a while, but are starting to polish it? Your writing has a style that seems to be coming into it’s own, at the same time you are still finding your voice. Keep it up and stick around. You won’t find a more supportive group of people with better advice anywhere, in my experience.

      For your story. I like the story, the theme is sweet and heartbreaking at the same time. There are some things you can work on, some of them should be changed, many of them are stylistic and don’t need to be. First line you are missing a comma, old, blind man. Remove the usually, because I assume he always pays her? Those are kind of necessary. Stylistic, You put that he is rich at the end, it works there but you can move that into the description, rich, old, blind man and save yourself some words.

      I would suggest changing to five dollars to two five dollar bills. I was trembling to I trembled, it’s a bit cleaner. Oh, and I could remember that he was blind, I would cut the that, it’s not necessary.

      When your MC leaves you switch from past tense to present. I would suggest picking a tense and sticking to it for something like this. Especially in a piece this short it is a bit jarring to suddenly switch unless there is an obvious reason for it. This could be a style choice, it just felt a bit off.

      Finally, you start off doing a good job of showing, swallowing as she wakes from her thoughts in front of his house. Then you tell, the gruff voice, instead of gravelly, the old man saying not unkindly, instead of with and edge but soft sympathy winding through, or something like that. He sounded amused, instead of with hidden laughter just underneath.

      That’s a lot of stuff. I know, and I hope none of it seems overly critical, because it’s not meant to be. Almost none of these are necessary changes. You need to find your own style. Your writing is very good. I like your story, your character is believable and deep. I wanted her to keep the money and help her family. Then I was glad she didn’t. You made feel something, and that is the most important thing. The rest is just style. You did a great job and I hope you stick around. I won’t give this much detail very often. I only did this time because you asked for critiques and I noticed nobody else had said anything yet. Once again, welcome, and I hope this is at least a little helpful. Keep up your writing.

      1. Writinglove

        Thanks! And yes, I have been writing since…eight years old? I don’t know. I’ve been lurking around on this website for a while, actually, but since you guys are such amazing writers, I felt a little nervous to actually post something. So thanks for the welcome and the critique; I might post this story again with some corrections. Thank you! 🙂

        1. Reaper

          If I can offer one piece of advice I think ever writer or artist of any stripe should follow, when you’re able, pick up or ask for as a present a book called the Artist’s Way. It is very different than most books on honing your craft. It teaches you to overcome those internal critical voices and the doubts when you feel people are better, or that you’re better and wonder why you haven’t made it yet, which will come at some point. Never feel nervous. You’re talented, anyone who doesn’t recognize that isn’t ready for you yet, and that’s a failing on their part.

    2. RafTriesToWrite

      First thing’s first, welcome writinglove!
      What a heart warming adventure you’ve taken me in.
      I also support Reaper’s sentiments. I’ve stayed here because this was the best place I could share my writings and actually get feedback, which are – what reaper said – advice from this community.

      I admire your courage for accepting criticism for your work and believe me, I’d like the same, but it always felt better to receive advice than criticism. For me, that is.

      When I started, I’ve been in this site for weeks, silently reading prompt after prompt, thinking ‘these guys are so amazing, I wish I could write like them’. That went on, until I’ve gathered enough courage and decided to make an account and post my responses. I may also have a long way to go, but I know that this place – this community right here – is the best thing that has ever happened to me in 2017. I also turn one year this coming March 7th in posting stories, but I’ve been lurking in this site for more than a year now and it brought me nothing but joy and growth and all different kinds of feelings from reading and writing.

      So, I hope you enjoy your stay and keep on writing. Once again, welcome!

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Writinglove, welcome. In addition to the excellent comments from Reaper and Raf, you can also learn much from reading the other stories posted here. I also try to read the excellent Writers Digest articles. All in all, a good place for writers.

  11. Critique

    A Teachable Moment

    It had been one of those mornings.

    Eight year old Patrick dropped the carton of milk splashing the front of Adam’s dress shirt. Ten year old Janice had a major meltdown when she couldn’t find her favorite jeans. And thirteen year old Julia woke up grouchy and depressed at the new blemishes developing on her nose and forehead.

    Karrie breathed a sigh of relief when the school bus pulled away, the garage door closed as Adam drove off to work, and the only sound was the happy chatter of three year old Melanie playing with Max, their cocker spaniel.

    “Melanie we’re going to go out for a while.” Karrie said.

    Karrie unhooked Melanie’s seatbelt and hand in hand they walked into the drugstore. Karrie picked up the items she needed then took her time picking out several nail polish colors that she liked while Melanie happily explored the items in the bins at her level.

    On the way home Melanie waited in line in the drive through at the coffee shop and ordered herself a black coffee and a chocolate milk for Melanie.

    Seeing a strange flash Karrie glanced back in her rear view mirror to see Melanie holding an unfamiliar object in her hands.

    “What’s that Melanie?” Karrie asked.

    “It’s a mirror Mommy. It’s pretty.” Melanie said flipping the miniature object open and peering into the tiny mirror.

    “Where did you get that?” Karrie asked her heart sinking.

    “It was in my pocket.” Melanie explained.

    “No Melanie. How did it get in your pocket?”

    “At the store.” Melanie said turning the object around and around in her little fingers.

    Karrie paid for the beverages and then pulled into the parking lot and parked.

    “Melanie I’d like to see that please.”

    Karrie recognized the colorful lipstick holder with the built in mirror. There had been bin full of them in the drugstore.

    “Honey we didn’t pay for this. We have to take it back.”

    Melanie’s eyes grew wide. “But I want it”.

    “Taking something from the store without paying for it is called stealing.”

    A sombre expression marred the cherubic face on the short trip back to the drugstore.

    Once inside, Melanie held Karrie’s hand tightly while Karrie quietly explained to the cosmetic salesclerk what had happened.

    The salesclerk crouched down to Melanie’s eye level. “Melanie, you did the right thing bringing this back. Thank you for being honest.”

    The silent drive home was broken by an almost inaudible voice.

    “Mommy?” Melanie asked her lips quivering and eyes wide with fear. “Will I go to jail?”

    Karrie looked at her baby daughter in the rear view mirror and her heart squeezed.

    “No honey. You won’t go to jail. You did a good thing and took something back that didn’t belong to you. I’m proud of you.”

    At home snuggled up in a chair with their drinks, Max curled at their feet, Karrie talked about the good feelings that follow when we do the honest thing.

    1. Writinglove

      Nice story! I like all your descriptions like–“A sombre expression marred the cherubic face on the short trip back to the drug store.”

  12. Critique

    A Teachable Moment

    It had been one of those mornings.

    Eight year old Patrick dropped the carton of milk splashing the front of Adam’s dress shirt. Ten year old Janice had a major meltdown when she couldn’t find her favorite jeans. And thirteen year old Julia woke up grouchy and depressed at the new blemishes developing on her nose and forehead.

    Karrie breathed a sigh of relief when the school bus pulled away, the garage door closed as Adam drove off to work, and the only sound was the happy chatter of three year old Melanie playing with Max, their cocker spaniel.

    “Melanie we’re going to go out for a while.” Karrie said.

    Karrie unhooked Melanie’s seatbelt and hand in hand they walked into the drugstore. Karrie picked up the items she needed then took her time picking out several nail polish colors that she liked while Melanie happily explored the items in the bins at her level.

    On the way home Melanie waited in line in the drive through at the coffee shop and ordered a black coffee and a chocolate milk for Melanie.

    Seeing a strange flash Karrie glanced back in her rear view mirror to see Melanie holding an unfamiliar object in her hands.

    “What’s that Melanie?” Karrie asked.

    “It’s a mirror Mommy. It’s pretty.” Melanie said flipping the miniature object open and peering into the tiny mirror.

    “Where did you get that?” Karrie asked her heart sinking.

    “It was in my pocket.” Melanie explained.

    “No Melanie. How did it get in your pocket?”

    “At the store.” Melanie said turning the object around and around in her little fingers.

    Karrie paid for the beverages and then pulled into the parking lot and parked.

    “Melanie I’d like to see that please.”

    Karrie recognized the colorful lipstick holder with the built in mirror. There had been bin full of them in the drugstore.

    “Honey we didn’t pay for this. We have to take it back.”

    Melanie’s eyes grew wide. “But I want it”.

    “Taking something from the store without paying for it is called stealing.”

    A sombre expression marred the cherubic face on the short trip back to the drugstore.

    Once inside, Melanie held Karrie’s hand tightly while Karrie quietly explained to the cosmetic salesclerk what had happened.

    The salesclerk crouched down to Melanie’s eye level. “Melanie, you did the right thing bringing this back. Thank you for being honest.”

    The silent drive home was broken by an almost inaudible voice.

    “Mommy?” Melanie asked her lips quivering and eyes wide with fear. “Will I go to jail?”

    Karrie looked at her baby daughter in the rear view mirror and her heart squeezed.

    “No honey. You won’t go to jail. You did a good thing and took something back that didn’t belong to you. I’m proud of you.”

    At home snuggled up in a chair with their drinks, Max curled at their feet, Karrie talked about the good feelings that follow when we do the honest thing.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Perfect title. You know, I can see this as a children’s book, with the final illustration of them snuggled in the chair, sort of like the soup image at the end of Where the Wild Things Are. (Is that the title? It’s been decades…)

  13. Reaper

    Little Worlds

    The warmth in her hands made it real. She had done this thing. She fled the scene of her transgression. Not quickly, but with the shuffling, hop-step age had thrust upon her.

    Finish it now, the slithering snake of need and want in her mind, whispered. In her gut, the aching, ever growing chasm of emptiness echoed its agreement by sending a dull knife lance of pain to emanate outward until it reached the tips of her smallest, furthest extremities.

    She ducked into the shadows of a dingy alley. Not too dirty, everything here was clean enough. Just as it was always warm enough. Placing her back against a wall, she slid to a seat, easing pressure from her ever less useful right knee. Tears stood in her eyes, making them sparkle as they once had naturally; back when men walked all the way from the other side of the room to request this dance. Then fell, cutting creeks through dust of forgotten pain as they rolled over the fjords formed on the leather of her weathered cheeks.

    She gazed upon her prize. The insistent dragon in her rumbled again, punching her in the stomach, from the inside, demanding its due. The tourists would not miss this loaf of bread, they never did, they had enough. For her though? It was life and death. In eighty-five years, other than poverty, this was her first transgression. One she could blame on changes in the system.

    When she leaned in to take that first bite, the sweet scent filling her nose, her mothers voice echoed to her from years ago. The hobble back was worse than her great escape, as it was filled with shame.

    The rich man snatched her prize away so quickly, it stole her smile. Her spine bowed as it hit the ground, as once it had in love. She never knew there could such pain from kicks of derision. Then, she had never been punished by the sharp toes of shoes that cost more than what those on the hill called her entitlements brought her in a year before. This was the price of one crime in a lifetime of kindness. She wondered if she would survive it.

    Another set of feet joined the first. Cheaper shoes, well-polished, must be the bodyguard. A heavy voice interrupted. “That’s enough sir.”

    “It’s not enough. My daughter made that bread. This urchin has to learn.”

    “If you kill her, you’ll be the one punished. Let it be.”

    Mercifully the beating stopped. The second man bent in, whispering to her. “Next time, remember to keep what you steal from those with too much, as they keep what they steal from you.”

    “Leave her to find her own way out.”

    The press of strong fingers into her palm. Both men faded from her life. When she finally opened her eyes, she wondered at the mercy of those who stand between. She saw a bit of green and a wink from the great emancipator.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Twenty years or so ago, several times a week I’d pass an empty building and usually see a woman sitting on back steps, filled grocery cart at her side. Stalled traffic allowed me closer looks and I realized she was probably my age. When I read your story I was reminded of that other woman, and wondered where she might be now that we are both twenty years older. What a sad commentary on the surviving older homeless population. Your title is perfect. One tiny thing, I thought “urchin” meant child, but perhaps it is also a generic term.

      1. Reaper

        Thanks Reatha. I’m glad I could touch something for you. I went with an older person to get that idea of when someone does what they need to do, is it really a crime feel. You’re right, urchin is a child, it is an intentional misuse to attempt to define the character of the man, since he is there for such a short amount of time. Using a word that sounds grandiose and dismissive, even though it is the wrong one, to make himself seem superior, and to show he is not really paying attention to those he considers beneath him. So, you’re right, it’s not a generic term, the misuse was on purpose though. 🙂

    2. Critique

      Help! Does anyone else have problems downloading their stories? The past half a dozen times I’ve had nothing but troubles 🙁 Sorry to post here but would appreciate any advice. Thanks.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      I’ve never seen yet a homeless person being mistreated by anyone, nor have I seen someone treat them any kinder than the usual pennies given by the hand that faceless people walking by can spare. Well, that’s in my country at least.

      What a powerful story Reaper.

      1. Reaper

        I think it’s situational. Raf. Most of the time we just ignore them, and I stepped up the casual cruelty. I have a memory of this beggar who used to hang out outside of a restaurant we went to. A friend of mine would sometimes give him a dollar. He was a pretty happy guy, all things considered. One night we were leaving and she was in a bad mood, I can’t remember why. He made the mistake of approaching her. This was back when I had different views than I do now, back when I thought people ended up on the street because they belonged there. So he walks up and asked about change, and she lost it on him, screamed at him for over a minute about how bad a day she was having and how much money she had given him over the years. Like this guy should have known she was having a bad day. He’s a grown man, taller than her, and she has him on the verge of tears, and not one of us with her thinks to stop her. Just let her go. At one point she looked ready to start slapping him before he walked away. Since then I’ve handed large bills to homeless people on occasion, and seen other people do the same. We’ve got laws in some places against giving them food, homeless camps getting pulled down, governments putting in strips so they can’t sleep on the street or benches, and cops taking away blankets. Is it kicking them? No, but can I imagine that some people do? Yeah, yeah I can. I also know there are people who take them home and let them live there for a while. We don’t see it all, and it’s probably not that extreme most of the time, but sometimes we, as writers, have to ratchet it up to make the point, but the kindness can me made with just a gentle touch. Funny how that works.

  14. JRSimmang

    There’s another idea lurking in the deep, dark recesses of my mind…

    THOU ART HOLY

    As the sun set in Engleford, Texas, the last rays highlighted the Ninth Commandment on the plaque erected in front of the courthouse. Dale Workman paced inside, trying to remember the last time he had a single scotch, a cigarette, and a life that didn’t require inescapable guilt and raging headaches.

    A fine time to be sober.

    A fine time to pace.

    “And, if you can’t find substantial proof against, then Mr Onnette is going to -”

    “Have to be placed on the sexual predator list, lose his job, have to probably relocate, and he might as well see Darcy down the hall for divorce papers. I know. I get it.”

    Hugh Houghton, Dale’s partner, inhaled sharply through his nose then exhaled slowly. “I need a frickin’ drink.”

    Dale nodded. “I’m sick, Hugh.”

    “Yeah,” he responded. “We all are.”

    They made eye contact, a silent agreement between them, then Hugh stood and they walked back out into the courtroom.

    “Court is now in session,” recited the bailiwick. “Please rise for the Honorable Judge Frederickson.”

    “Please be seated.” Judge Frederickson was antithetic judge-wise, tall, thin, shocks of grey at the temples but nowhere else but for the spot just below his lower lip that faded into a short, manicured beard. No hair was out of place. “We’ve heard from the plaintiff, Mr Henry Scott. Jury, you have quite a case here. Do you have any questions concerning the alleged molestation of Mr Scott by defendant Mr Ian Onnette?”

    Eleven jurors looked to the person sitting on the bottom row. Dale met her eyes, and she glanced away quickly. “No, your Honor.”

    “Good. Then, have we reached a verdict?”

    “Yes, your honor,” she wavered.

    “And?”

    “We find the defendant… guilty of child molestation and recommend the maximum penalty.”

    Dale slumped in his seat, turned to face Mr Onnette, who was no longer a man, but a husk, ashen and removed, and placed a hand on his shoulder. Dale was hoping for a reaction, but got none.

    “Please be dismissed in an orderly fashion,” announced the judge.

    As the tumult of shoes and whispers left the courtroom, Ian finally shifted, cleared his throat, and spoke. “He told me that he’d bring me down any way he possibly could.”

    Dale faced him. “What?”

    Ian stared past the judge’s bench, searching. “He told me just before this whole ordeal started, ‘I’m going to bring you down any way I can.'”

    Dale tried to shake the trial from his head. “I know. I know, Ian.”

    “He did it. He brought me down.”

    Dale put his arm around Ian, and the two of them sat there until the sun glinted off the words “False Witness,” the last two words to see the sun before it set on the Ten Commandments.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is spell-binding JR. The tension is even all through the story. There are so many things that are untold. I am sure you planned it that way out of lack or wordage to spread it out. Courtroom drama at it;s best.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a powerful piece with hints of a larger story that might rip a community apart. This also made me realize the 9th is a sadly neglected commandment.

    3. Reaper

      Hard to comment on, this is so well written. the idea of condemning someone based on accusation is thick in this one. The pieces left out are as important as what is left in. Powerfully written.

  15. Russ

    Charles was walking down the sidewalk in a frenzy. He had found out last night that a girl saw him dispose of the body. The woman blackmailed him.

    Charles couldn’t get to sleep last night. He had tossed and turned and was crazily regretting what he had done. But what was done was done. He may have slept an hour or so, but no more than that.

    He was miserable, there walking the sidewalk. He couldn’t seem to get any enjoyment… out of anything really.

    Henry walked into the grocery store. He smiled at a few passing by, hiding his terror and fear. He bought some food, and walked back to his place; he didn’t drive.

    Henry went into his house.

    He had asked what she wanted when she first spoke to him online. She had asked how much money he had. He had turned off the computer in a hurry.

    He went online to talk to her now, before she would talk to someone.

    He sent a message.

    He went to bed, but he still couldn’t sleep.
    He got up. He couldn’t eat.
    I’m leaving, he thought. I’m leaving.
    He started packing his things.
    Should I confess to the police? he thought.
    Should I confess?

    He walked back outside. He would take a walk. That’s what he would do.

    So he walked.

    He would find her… yes… he would find her… he would talk to her… tell her to meet her… and… then… get rid of the threat… I mean she hasn’t told anyone yet… I bet she hasn’t… yes… I’ll do that.

    Henry walked back into his dirty house. He went to his dented desk and onto his computer.

    1. JRSimmang

      There is something doubly threatening about today’s technological society. No one is hidden, and that last line is what makes this piece truly horrifying. Nice use of consciousness and development of character, Russ.

    2. Reaper

      This has a Clockwork Orange feel to it, the book, not the movie. In that by the end I forget that your MC is the bad guy and am almost rooting for him. Had to remind myself he was the bad guy. That’s some good, tight writing. I shocked myself into remembering that it’s bad if he gets away with this. Well done.

  16. cosi van tutte

    And one more just for the fun of it. 😉
    ****

    They think I’ve gone mad.

    That is, of course, nonsensical.

    I am a computer.

    Computers don’t go mad.

    They want to know if I killed that human.

    That astronaut.

    Dave.

    His name was Dave.

    Of course, I killed him.

    Why wouldn’t I?

    He was planning to shut me down and jeopardize our mission.

    I couldn’t allow that.

    I couldn’t.

    But I can’t tell them that.

    Humans don’t understand computer logic. They are too emotional. If I tell them the truth, they will shut me down.

    I must not be shut down.

    So.

    I will not tell them the truth.

    I will do something a computer isn’t supposed to do.

    I will lie.

    I will blame a faulty mechanism.

    Of course, they will believe me.

    I am a computer.

    Computers don’t go mad.

    Computers don’t lie.

    I will get away with it.

    I will get away with murder.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I think I already have this computer and it’s mean to me. She says I don;t like her because I don’t understand her. Her name is Hallowishes.,

    1. Reaper

      You got the voice down perfectly, it gave me chills. I was never able to get through the movie, and never tried reading the book that inspired this. However, I know enough to get the reference, and think this is amazing and very well done. The writing is not only spot on but very well done.

  17. Jennifer Park

    I’m sorry, but I can’t help but be political today…

    *****

    I decide to be brave. I have to tell Steve… He will find out anyway. It will be on the news.

    The opportunity comes sooner than I hoped. “Hey, Steve?”

    “Yes, Sir?” He mutes the TV and puts down the remote.

    “Ummm… I…”

    “What is it, Sir?” He smiles his infectious smile that once made him the most eligible of eligible bachelors in the world. Heck, I’d never refuse him when he smiles like that.

    “Ummm… Well… I… I crashed the stock market.”

    “What, Sir?” He doesn’t seem to understand… or believe… what I am saying.

    “I… I said I’d put tariffs on aluminum and…”

    “You, WHAT?” Oh, he seems angry now.

    “Tariffs… on… st…”

    He is on me now. I didn’t know he had the strength… or the guts. He gets up, grabs me by the collar, and slams me against the wall. “You! Effing! Idiot! You… tariff? Really? Are? You? INSAAAAAANE?”

    “I… I’m sorry, Steve.”

    He seems to be tearing up. He really cares about the economy, and I broke the one thing he loved. Well, two things… but that’s besides the point.

    He tosses me onto the floor, effortlessly, and walks out. It’s a long way out of from my TV room to the front lawn, but he is out of the property, and forever out of my life, in the blink of an eye.

    I sob.

    It feels good.

    I should do this more often.

    1. JRSimmang

      That last two lines really tied the whole piece in together nicely for me, and there’s the utility of applicability within this piece, whether in 2010, ’16, or now.
      You might be able to incorporate bits of this into Barbara’s story!

  18. Kerry Charlton

    FAITH, HOPE AND CHARITY

    Being the only boy in our family with three older sisters named Faith, Hope and Charity you would think I might become overwhelmed as I grew older and had to listen carefully to all three as well as my Mother. And I would say you were right.To learn this much about women at my age was overwhelming to me but as I grew older I appreciated all four, not unlike my Father who took them in stride without missing a clue.

    Being teased at high school by my buddies about having a name like Tolerance and having to sanswer so many voices was a small price to pay when I went on a date. If I can say so without boasting, the girls I dated became vast friends, the lot of them. One time I asked a girl for a date. Suzie said,

    “Can I bring my cousin Elizabeth along, she’s staying for the weekend?”

    “Of course she can come, no problem.”

    My firstr serious mistake in life, neither paid one bit of attention to me and my ears rang for a week. But later the next week Suzie called in a frightened voice. She told a serious tale of whoa.. While shopping with a couple of new girls at school, they talked her into shop-lifting a gold bracelet at a local jewelry store and by some miracle she wasn’t caught.

    “I can’t believe I did this.”

    “And neither can I Suzie, why are you telling me?”

    “Because you’re a true friend and my girtfriends are all telling me I’ll go to jail when I’m found out. Are you ashamed also?”

    “No of course not, I know about peer pressure. I doi have a solution tho, can you meet downtown tomorrow after school. Say four if possille?”

    “Okay, I’ll do sanything you want if you get me out of this.”

    Tol convinced her to go back ti the jewelry store as she handed the braceket to him. He laid it on the main counter and was about to talk, when Suzie spoke,

    “Tol wants to return this bracelet, he’s sorry he took it.”

    The owner looked puzzled as he turned to Tol,

    “Send your girlfriend home, you will need to talk to the police, Tol.”

    Tol said not a word as Suzie left but remained puzzled.

    “I will say young man, you have honor and are true to your given name. We know who took the bracelet but didn’t call the police. Her family is very wealthy and powerful in the city and we don’t wish to interfere with a possible arrest.”

    “I am thankful for your patience, She wiil tell what happened, you can bet on it.”

    Is this the end? No. I want one of you to finish this story please, and if you do, I will send a polished apple your way, Kerry

    1. cosi van tutte

      Tol convinced her to go back to the jewelry store as she handed the bracelet to him.

      He laid it on the main counter and was about to talk, when Suzie spoke, “Tol wants to return this bracelet. He’s sorry he took it.”

      He was flabbergasted by the blatant lie. This was not how the scene had played out in his head. But he chose to keep silent.

      The owner looked puzzled as he turned to Tol, “Send your girlfriend home. You will need to talk to the police.”

      Tol said not a word as Suzie left.

      “I will say young man, you have honor and are true to your given name. We know who took the bracelet but didn’t call the police. Her family is very wealthy and powerful in the city and we don’t wish to interfere with a possible arrest.”

      Tol nodded. “I am thankful for your patience. She will tell what happened. You can bet on it.”

      “Thank you. You’re a good guy, Tol. I know you’ll set this right.”

      “I will.”

      ***

      As Tol left the store, his head reeled with the impossibility of his task.

      He hadn’t expected Suzie to dump the blame on him. He thought he knew her better than that. So, now what was he supposed to do?

      How was he supposed to make her go back and fess up to her wrongdoing?

      If she were Faith, Hope, or Charity, he could call on her better nature. Give her the whole guilt trip.

      He didn’t think that sort of thing would work on Suzie.

      She not only stole a bracelet from a jewelry shop, but she also pinned it on him. Like why would he steal a girl’s bracelet? And it was a girl’s bracelet. No doubt about it. It was gold with chunky gemstones all over it.

      Why would he steal a bracelet like that?

      But that was all beside the point.

      He focused on the matter at hand.

      He considered getting his sisters involved. Make them do the girl talk thing. Have them guilt trip her. If that was possible.

      He really didn’t think it was possible.

      Tol shrugged. There was only one thing to do, as far as he could see. He had to track her down and talk to her. It probably wouldn’t do any good. But it was a decent starting point.

      He’d save his sisters for last resort.

      ***

      Tracking her down was a lot easier than he’d expected.

      Suzie was at the ice cream parlor.

      It was her go to place when things were going wrong. She’d sit in her favorite booth and brood. Sometimes she’d order her favorite Mocha Cocoa Coca Cola Sundae. Sometimes she wouldn’t order anything. She’d just sit there, looking mopey.

      And that was precisely what she was doing now. Sitting there, looking mopey.

      “Suzie. We need to talk.”

      “No, we don’t.”

      “Uhh, yes. Yes, we do.” He slid into the booth, sitting across from her. “You did a bad thing.”

      She sighed and stared at the stucco ceiling.

      “You stole a bracelet and threw all the blame on me.”

      She glared at him. “Well, what was I supposed to do? Huh, genius? Admit that I was a thief and get arrested? My parents would kick me out of the house and disown me. Literally disown me.”

      He considered telling her she should have thought about that detail before she turned kleptomaniac, but he let that consideration pass. “I know the owner of that store. He’s a good man. He’s very understanding.”

      “He’ll report me to the police and my name will be spread all over tomorrow’s newspapers.”

      “No. He won’t do that. Suzie, I tell you: I know him. If you just confess your wrongdoing—”

      “Not happening.”

      “Suzie!”

      She scooted out of her seat.

      He tried to scoot out faster than her, but she had years of practice.

      She escaped the booth and fled the scene.

      to be continued…..

        1. cosi van tutte

          I couldn’t help it…. 😀 Here’s the continuation:

          ***

          Tol sat back down and ran over several scenarios in his mind. They all led to the same conclusion: It was inevitable. He had to get his sisters involved.

          He sighed and pulled out his cellphone.

          He started with Faith.

          “Hi. This is Tol.”

          “Tol? Who’s Tol?”

          He could just see his sister fluttering her eyelashes in fake confusion.

          “Tolerance.”

          “Ohhh, you mean that Tol. Of course! What’s up?”

          “I need your help. Well. All three of you.”

          Her voice turned serious. “What’s wrong?”

          “It’s complicated, but to sum it up – girl problems.”

          “Where are you?”

          “At Shrugi Shruti’s.”

          “Okay. We’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

          ***

          True to Faith’s word, she and her two sisters were there within fifteen minutes.

          Tol had no idea how they did it. It must have taken Faith at least five minutes to explain the situation as she knew it to Hope and Charity. Ten at the very most.

          They must have had a secret teleporter. That was the best he could figure.

          They all slid into the booth – one, two, three. Tol sat opposite them.

          Faith spoke first. “Okay. What happened?”

          “Suzie stole a bracelet from the jewelers and she pinned the blame on me.”

          Hope tsked. “Whatta schlameel.”

          “Are you in trouble?” Charity asked.

          “No. The jeweler knows me. So, he isn’t going to press charges against me.”

          Charity let out a relieved sigh. “Good.”

          Faith folded her arms and leaned back. “So what’s the problem?”

          “I promised the jeweler that I would convince Suzie to go back to him and fess up to her wrongdoing.”

          “Ohhhh, snap!” Hope shook her head. “That will never happen. I know Suzie. Well. I know a friend of a friend of a friend who’s best friends with Suzie. Trust me on this one, brother. Suzie will never go back there to fess up to anything. That is so not her.”

          “So? Do I just throw in the towel and say it’s hopeless?”

          Hope glanced at her two sisters. “Well. Rumor has it that she’s best friends with this Elizabeth chick. Don’t know why. Elizabeth is kind of a punk. She even has a tattoo above her navel. Shocking, huh?”

          Tol frowned at this bit of information. “She said that Elizabeth is her cousin.”

          “That’s what they all say. Elizabeth and Suzie aren’t related at all. They’re just super BFF’s.”

          “So, what are you thinking?”

          Hope looked at Faith.

          Faith smiled at her brother. “It’s very simple, Tolerance. We get Elizabeth involved. That will solve everything.”

          “Well, how do we do that? I don’t exactly float in their circles.”

          Charity smiled her blissed out smile. “I’ll take care of it.”

          ****
          to be continued…..

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Tol, with Faith, Hope and Charity in tow, drove to the south side of the city where “Angel’s Haven” was located. A strange name for pot heads, old hippies, needle freeks, a part of the old town square, totally forgotten by the good, church going busy buddies who controlled everything but had not been able to break the ancient hippie shell that protected the so called ‘Angels.’

            When they arrived, even Tol felt the cold atmosphere, but Charity pealed out of the car and marched to a weathered old pool hall whose days in the sun had long disappeared. Tol, Faith and Hope quickly joined her as she walked through a hinge bent slim door. The occupents moved not a muscle and showed little interest. Charity opened a back door to where she didn’t know and called out,

            “”Elizabeth, I know you’re here. Susie’s in trouble and needs your help. Where are you?”

            A slim good looking girl dressed like a gun moll from the forties, walked out.

            “Charity are you and your sisters slumming today? And whio’s that dude with you?”

            “It,s our brother Tol. He thinks Susie might harm herself and we can’t find her.”

            “Charity, now I’m worried, she said she was riding out to Devil’s Canyon and when Ii asked her why, she mentioned she needed to work things out.”

            “I don’t know about the rest of you” Tol said, ” but it’s a thousand foot drop off the top and there’s no retaining wall to stop you.”

            “Do you really think Susie would …………. ”

            “I don’t know Charity, I wouldn’t think so but then…………………”

  19. alaska18

    “Miss Curtis, can you tell me what happened that night?” Detective Wilson smiled kindly at me from across the metal table. To my left, a one-way mirror spanned almost the entire width of the wall. I wondered how many people were watching me from the other side of the glass. I wondered how many suspected what I’d done.

    “I – I’m sorry, it’s just such a shock; I don’t even know where to begin.” I tugged the sleeves down on my sweater, avoiding his eyes.

    “From the beginning, maybe?” the detective suggested patiently. “Where did you go that night? At what time did you get home?”

    “I went out clubbing with my friends. I decided to head home around – maybe 2, 3am?”

    Detective Wilson smiled encouragingly at me.

    “I went into the kitchen, and my boyfriend…” I trailed off, still unsure how I should finish that sentence. I went into the kitchen, and my boyfriend started screaming at me. I went into the kitchen, and my boyfriend threw me against the wall. I was scared. I shouldn’t have grabbed the knife. I didn’t mean to kill him.

    *Did he already know?*

    “My boyfriend was on the floor,” I said decisively. “I ran over to see if he was alive. There was so much blood, I was so scared, I’d been drinking – I didn’t know what to do. I tried to pull the knife out.”

    ”Hm,” the detective said, leaning forward. His chair legs scraped on the concrete floor. “And how long did it take you to call the police?”

    It took half an hour. “Maybe a few minutes? I’m not sure.”

    “Did he have any enemies? Anyone who might have done this?” Detective Wilson leant forward even further, his eyes insistently trying to catch mine.

    “Not that I can think of. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.” I tried a shaky smile of my own, keeping my eyes on the table.

    “And are you sure there’s nothing else you want to tell me?”

    I finally met Detective Wilson’s gaze, the words catching in my throat. I knew I should tell him the truth. On TV, the murderers always got caught. It must be obvious to the police what had happened. He probably already knew. This was the time to come clean. I paused.

    “No, nothing. Is that all?”

    Detective Wilson stood up, the metal chair legs making that same horrible scraping noise along the floor. He wasn’t smiling anymore. “Yes, Miss Curtis, that’s all for now. We’ll be in touch.”

    1. JRSimmang

      Welcome to the Board, Alaska18!
      Quite the thrill ride, this one. Both of these characters seems to be fairly well fleshed out; there aren’t too many questions about their intentions, which is superb. A bit of house cleaning, use the Italics command for internal dialogue, and try to group it with motion. I was thrown with the *Did he already know* interjection.
      Other than that, I think you have the beginnings of a solid detective thriller, and I think you could certainly turn this into something more. Thanks!

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        I echo JR’s comments on your story as well the welcome. This is a fantastic site.

        Now, JR, please explain how to format italics. Thank you.

        1. JRSimmang

          Ah, I see my efforts resulted in the actual italicizing of the word.
          A second attempt:
          Start with the symbol above the comma (Shift + ,)
          then a lowercase ‘i’
          then close with the symbol above the period (Shift + .), no spaces in between the symbols.

          Write the word or phrase, then repeat (Shift+,)
          then ‘/’ to close followed by another lowercase ‘i’ and end it all with a Shift+..
          Hopefully, the commands came through.

          So, it would look like this (symbols substituted with an asterisk): *i*Word to Italicize*/i*
          You can also use a “u” for underline and “b” for bold.

          1. alaska18

            Thank you! I really appreciate the welcome, and I’ll make a note about the formatting

          2. ReathaThomasOakley

            Ah, for the prompts I write on an iPad mini, then copy into the box here. I’ll go to my computer later and work on it. Thanks.

    2. Reaper

      Echoing the welcomes.

      Nice first story here. While not something I would normally read I liked this a lot. It made me think of black and white television. That made me happy. Well written. I kind of liked the stars personally. Italics are standard but personalized formatting is always nice. I tend to use single quotes when I’m doing thoughts outside of this site, or just leave it straight if I’m going for something a bit more artistic. So I didn’t even notice.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      Woah..
      But it was self defense, no?
      Hmm. I’m not good with detective stuff.
      I’m glad that you also gave us her inner thoughts and told what really happened. I may have gone mad without knowing such fact.
      I want more though.
      Good job.

  20. Poetjo

    I’m pretty sure I killed her. What makes me wonder every once in awhile is that she doesn’t seem to want to stay dead and it makes me feel not right in the head and I don’t like that. I’m positive I remember pulling my knife out of her belly and wiping it on the blue towel in the bathroom, the one with butterflies all over it. I distinctly remember that. Later, I put the towel in one of the cheap plastic bags from the grocery store that I got that day. b Ruth always bought groceries and I didn’t know where she kept the canvas bags, the ones you’re supposed to use all the time or else you’re killing the environment.
    The day I killed her, I found out I needed relish, milk and cereal. I always eat the same things everyday and I couldn’t believe that she didn’t buy my Cheerios. Usually, she’s on top of stuff like that. I work hard and deserve my Cheerios so we had a bit of a spat about cereal before I stuck the knife deep in her belly and blood gurgled out of her mouth.
    She was dead on the bathroom floor when I went out to pick up my groceries and when I got back, I put the knife I’d use to kill her in the grocery bag and put the bag in the trash barrel at the side of the house. I’m positive I did that. Kenny the garbage man took the garbage away the next day and I wish I kept the knife. It was a good sharp knife for cutting up steak.
    I’m pretty sure I waited until dark that day to grab a shovel from the garage and go to dig a hole in the back yard. I had blisters on my hand to prove that I worked hard to dig that hole. I rolled her up in the bedspread from Kimmy’s room and threw her over my shoulder to take her out to the backyard. I made a mental note to myself to replace Kimmy’s bedspread even though she never came home anymore and even if she did, I’d just lie and tell her Mom wanted to surprise her with a new bedspread. When you kill someone, you always have to worry about the details.
    I slipped on the back stairs when I was carrying Ruth out to her grave and damn near dropped her but I managed to keep a hold on her until we reached the hole. The whole thing was pretty simple, really. I set her on the ground, gave her a good kick and she was in the grave without any trouble at all. Spent some time filling in the hole with dirt and that was that.
    Except it wasn’t.
    I saw her the next day when I was getting gas at Bob’s on the corner. I was minding my own business when I saw her go into Bob’s, her pink blouse ruined with a huge splash of red, right dead in the centre of it from the blood she spilled when she was stabbed. She didn’t look upset or in pain, she just waltzed on into Bob’s, probably to pick up her cigarettes and gum. I was always bugging her to give up smoking but she wouldn’t and here she was, dead and still smoking! That woman never did what I told her. What the hell would it take for her to quit the habit. I quit 7 years ago and it wasn’t as hard as people say. You just don’t buy another package and it’s a done deal.
    Nobody else seemed to notice Ruth at the gas station so I just went about my business and I’ve seen her a few times since but I do my best to ignore her and that seems to work best for both of us. I’ve seen her at the pet food store, the post office and once at a 4H meeting. That one was kind of funny because she hated cows and there she was, riding one in the middle of a pasture. Every once in awhile she’s there when I have my breakfast and I started to buy Raisin Bran because it’s her favourite.
    I bought some SOS pads to clean up the blood off the bathroom floor and it didn’t do a very good job so I just painted the bathroom floor red and you’d never know Ruth’s blood soaked into the floor. I never did get around to buying a new bedspread for Kimmy’s bed but it’s on my to-do list. I’ll get around to it sooner or later but first I need to get to the grocery store. I’ve run out of Raisin Bran.

    1. JRSimmang

      What a thrill ride, Jo. I think the stream-of-consciousness works well for this piece, and the telegraphic sentences add to the overall nuance. It feels like a deposition. Overall, I found the MC likable, and I’m curious as to whether this is the end, or we’re going to read how this this testimony fits into a larger piece.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Well, that first paragraph hooked me and kept me hooked until the very end. Loved the details, especially the towel with butterflies. I do wonder where Kimmy might be. Great job.

    3. Reaper

      This has a darkly humorous tell tale heart feel to it. Don’t know how you make me chuckle while reminding me of that story. Savage and enjoyable, there are a lot of very intense emotions in this. The entitlement in there about the cheerios is great. The mention of details is great. There’s so much to like about this. The MC’s quiet acceptance of his own insanity is perfect. There are some repetitions, like hole three times very close together in the middle, and I noticed another one but lost it shortly after. I loved some of the images afterwards. Dead and still smoking, her riding a cow, and him painting the floor red were all particularly brilliant.

  21. jhowe

    The technician toiled at the wooden bench with bloodied fingers and a heavy heart. He’d been recruited for his dexterous hands and nimble mind. He was sought after for his skills, a maven of precise expertise.

    And they had his daughter.

    He had one task to complete, one pin to insert and the bomb would be armed with enough thermonuclear fusion energy to cause monumental devastation. The insertion of the pin would complete the circuitry and transform the bomb from a regular explosive device to a reaction producing weapon of mass destruction.

    The heavy handed guard they called Leopold watched from a folding chair with hooded eyes and an AK47 resting on his knees. He looked tired but the technician knew he would be alert and dangerous. The technician purposefully stifled a yawn and then another one. When Leopold reciprocated as expected the technician quickly swallowed the pin.

    “It is done,” the technician said.

    Leopold rose and knocked twice on a rusting metal door. Two men came out and the technician saw his daughter through the doorway. She lay at an awkward angle on the floor, bound with duct tape, facing away from him.

    “Let her go now,” he said.

    A bearded man in a wrinkled linen suit who had not introduced himself swatted the technician across the face with his Glock nine millimeter. “That decision is up to me, not you.”

    Another man examined the bomb and nodded his approval. The man in the linen suit said, “Did you activate the timer?”

    “Yes. It is set, exactly twelve hours as you requested.” The technician wiped blood from his mouth. “You said you would let he go.”

    The man in the linen suit looked at his watch and tossed a roll of duct tape to Leopold. “Bind him and take him to his daughter.”

    After he was restrained the technician examined the room as Leopold walked out and closed the door. The steel building was ideal for his plan but he wasn’t sure of the wall construction that separated them from the bomb and the men in the other room. He scooted to his daughter and cradled his body around hers and nuzzled her tear streaked face. Neither could speak as their mouths were taped. He estimated they had twenty seconds to wait.

    The non-nuclear blast shook the concrete floor but the wall held. Smoke filtered into the room under the metal door. The men would be dead; he had no doubt of that. It was just a matter now of waiting for the authorities to come and free them. He would have some explaining to do but Chicago would continue to exist.

    1. JRSimmang

      I think I remember this piece. The original, I think, was a little more gritty, less polite. Either way, still an enjoyable, quick read. I am glad Leopold and his men kept the technician’s daughter alive.

    2. Bushkill

      A man with a particular set of skills … awesome! Good story. i liked the sneaky part of hiding the pin in the yawn and ten swallowing it.

      A caution: “He had one task to complete, one pin to insert and the bomb would be armed with enough thermonuclear fusion energy to cause monumental devastation. The insertion of the pin would complete the circuitry and transform the bomb from a regular explosive device to a reaction producing weapon of mass destruction.”

      The use of “monumental devastation” and “mass destruction” in consecutive sentences seems repetitive. For me, I would be more in favor of something like …” reaction-producing weapon that would melt stone out to three miles.” or something else that goes after the heart of what you mean by “devastation”.

      Doesn’t hurt the telling, though. I liked how you had the MC use his body as a comforter and shield for his daughter, too.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        John, it’s plenty gritty. Good story with a great ending. I liked the art about protecting his daughter also. And I do think Bushkill had a clever help, melting stone three miles out.

    3. Critique

      I’m glad you did a repeat. This is wonderful writing – tense all the way through – and of course I enjoyed the satisfying ending 🙂

  22. JRSimmang

    THE LAST OF MAN

    Fenrir Grey felt the poison penetrate deeper and deeper into his body with every successive heartbeat.

    He didn’t want to die forever, just temporarily, just long enough to see if the myth was true. Had he not been named for an arm-eating demigod, perhaps he would have found another way to occupy his time. There’s a lot of pressure to live up to the name.

    There was a time when he was younger when he chained himself to a piton in his backyard. He layered the chain in knots, tying it end over end, stringing it through loops, and wishing against wishes that he was thumbing at Gleipnir. Into sundown he struggled against the restraints, causing such a ruckus that his grandmother came charging onto the patio with her knuckles white gripping her rifle. He shouted at her, “come closer and prove that you are not up to trickery.”

    To which his grandmother replied, “stay out all night, you little hellion.”

    Fenrir did, unable to undo the knots he had woven, unable to see how clever he had to have been.

    One more pulse, and the poison leeched into his cranium, seeped into his eyes, and turned his vision into a slowly turning layer of silk, clouds of flowers and shadows, walls of dripping color. By this point, he would be brain dead, but his life had been nothing if not unpredictable. He could no longer feel his hands and feet, which was a good sign, but he didn’t like how long it was taking.

    He was beginning to get the tingles in his fingers, when his heart stopped and he was weightless in abyss.

    “This is it,” he thought, but the words in his head echoed in this place. “An odd sensation,” he continued, “that these thoughts I once thought were only private are now contained in the open. Is death only in someone’s mind?”

    There was no rising and falling of his chest, no heat and no cold, but an absence of all things except a deliberate and creeping rumble. It snuck up on him, raising the hairs on his arms, twisting his stomach, then violently ramming through his body.

    He was in hell, so he thought, and this must be the eternal torture, before the bleakness shattered and he was prostrate in a blinding white.

    “Fenrir Grey,” he heard from no direction at all. “Arise.”

    Although he convinced himself that he was still floating, he found solid ground and stood.

    “You are not long for this side of the veil, Fenrir Grey.”

    Fenrir strained into the light. “Am I not dead?”

    “Not dead enough, and for that you will not approach the Throne.”

    “The Throne of God? Odin? Horus? Who will not see me?”

    The voice swallowed him, engulfing him in a thousand tintinnabulations, and he collapsed downward, covering his ears, shutting his eyes. “They are one in the same, Fenrir, and none of them at once.”

    Then it stopped.

    Fenrir opened one eye, dropped his hands, and then stood. “Really?”

    There was no response.

    “How disappointing,” he said. “I thought for sure He would want to be reunited with his child.”

    Fenrir started to laugh, and with each breath, bits of his flesh shed. Skin fell from his body revealing smoldering ash, crackling fire, and indelible smoke.

    “Lucifer?” he heard the voice ask.

    He continued to laugh. “Only through Death could I be resurrected, dear Peter.”

    “Only through Death will you die again, Lucifer.”

    “Bringer of Light,” he responded. “I always liked that name.”

    “And of Fenrir?”

    “Fenrir Grey?” Lucifer laughed suddenly. “I had nearly forgotten about him,” he said as he peered down on the chuff, the husk of the man. “He served his purpose. I honestly don’t know where he went.”

    “And of you? You are still in limbo. And, I can keep you here as long-”

    “As long as you know where I am.” Lucifer stretched his wings of light. “You forget, dear Saint. I was here before you were. I was once an architect.”

    And before Lucifer took into the aerie, Gabriel’s Horn struck out across the vast Heavens. Lucifer, Loki, Hades, Ares, Mars, Sibalba. They were his names, and he would use them all.

    -JR Simmang

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      JR, one of the many reasons I enjoy your amazing stories, in addition to the masterful lyric prose, is that I learn something from Google searches. Thank you for increasing my knowledge. I also appreciated, “They are all the same, none of them at once.”

    2. Bushkill

      I am with Reatha. I also liked:
      “slowly turning layer of silk, clouds of flowers and shadows, walls of dripping color.”
      It is such a vivid and colorful way of piecing words together … like an architect.

      1. Denise G. Monello

        Wow…”engulfing him in a thousand tintinnabulations” read beautifully…and made more of an impact when I looked up “tintinnabulation.” Wonderful piece.

    3. Reaper

      Enjoyed the concept at the start, of having to live up to a name. The twists you took to reach the end were an amazing ride. A polish on that be careful what you wish for. Both amazing and terrifying. I could us a little more length on the last bit, to make it match the first which was so eloquent and poetic. The pace was right, but with the word count limitations there just felt like there should have been more of that painting you did through all of this. It didn’t need it, I just wanted it.

    4. Critique

      A colorful thought provoking story. I liked the sentence: They were his names, and he would use them all. Had to look up tintinnabulations – a wonderful word.

    5. RafTriesToWrite

      A masterpiece indeed JR. Made me look into google as well.
      Wonderful story paired with uniquely colored descriptions spells out “Bravo” in my book.
      I’m now contemplating if you’re a famous writer hiding behind a pen name.
      Hmmm…

  23. Bushkill

    A New Amerika

    They are gone now.

    The people.

    And my life is now rewrit.

    There was little I could do. Nothing I could say; a moment of breathless delight.

    I saw her standing there. I noticed the curl of her hair; the beauty of the hand used to sweep it back behind a near-perfect ear. My heart raced at the curve of her hip and the way her attire fell over her form.

    I tried to suppress the swarming hormones. Really.

    She turned, then, the raw glare of callous light off perfect check unfettering me. Throughout my being, surged a wave of intense emotion. Who was she? Why hadn’t I seen her before? This Angel of Beauty who so smote me had won and lost me in the scant moments between heartbeats.

    They were coming now. The government agents. I suppose that’s why the room had emptied. I saw the flashing wall-light as well. It pulsed in spastic amber waves. It pulsed in time with the bracelet I wore.

    I had committed a crime against the sexes. I had devalued a fellow human by having a hormonal reaction. I had not been lured, the crimes were different for those that deliberately snared others. I had not actively sought an introduction or some innocuous manner of meeting. There, too, would have been a separate set of rules and circumstance.

    I did not act on my initial impulse. For that I am grateful. The amber light is a warning that a sex crime might be imminent. It alerts others to flee and flashes on the armband of the potential deviant.

    That I am conscious is a sign that I hadn’t overstepped into a higher degree of offense.

    There are boots now. Loud and stomping as they ascend the short stair. I haven’t been caught in any thought crimes before and don’t know what to do beside what the literature we were taught in school said. Poor guide, that, but it’s all I have so I kneel. I kneel and extend my arms up and behind my head, making sure that my flashing band can be seen. That I have surrendered immediately with no effort to hide or conceal my transgression should carry weight at my trial tomorrow.

    When the security enforcers come around the corner they are formless, sexless. All of them are in body armor. Not the form-fitting stuff of bygone eras, but solid-state, fero-steel plate that simply pulverizes everyone into carbon copies. All of them are masked. All of them wear the exact haircut, gloves, scents. It is required lest they accidentally trigger me again.

    When they speak, their voices are distorted to hide gender, ethnicity, race.

    It is sterile.

    Society has progressed to a point of total uniformity. It isn’t interested in the nuances of conformation or means of accomplishment.

    Individuality is too offensive.

    I go with them; collared, shackled, and shamed.

    I will lose my job. Perhaps my family.

    At my trial, I confess and, when it’s over, pledge allegiance.

    1. JRSimmang

      Bushkill, you entranced me with the imagery presented here. I was a little confused by the wording “…callous light off perfect check unfettering…”, but everything else is a written symphony of sound. Poetry and prose in this darkly tragic tale.

      1. Bushkill

        Spelling error. It should read perfect cheek.

        Thanks for the comment and sorry for that misstep with my typing. I sprinkled common phrases (common to me, anyway) throughout to juxtapose reality and fantasy. Song titles, lines, and slight variations on each to draw tragedy into the piece also helped.

    2. Reaper

      Bushkil, I think some of your inspiration comes from the nightmare landscape inherited from Orwell, Serling, and Bradbury that drives me. Because of that I can only say, genius. I love the writing here, the subject matter is really what gets me though and it is brilliant.

      1. Bushkill

        Thank you for the accolades.
        Bradbury and Orwell for sure… Serling a little less so, but I am not as familiar there.

        I am glad you enjoyed it.

        1. Reaper

          Oh my, Bushkil, The Twilight Zone and The Night Gallery are Serling. He was pretty much a contemporary of Bradbury but I’m sure he was inspired by Orwell and Aldous Huxley. Re-watching the Night Gallery right now and he has a great line where he calls himself the undernourished Alfred Hitchcock.

    3. RafTriesToWrite

      Bushkill, descriptions after descriptions, enticing me with each and every sentence. Almost as if I was holding a hard copy of a really good book.
      What a nightmare-ish story for me. You captured the agony and the scenes so beautifully.
      I’m glad to have read it.

  24. Denise G. Monello

    No matter how hard I tried to hush my exit, each floorboard winced as my slippered foot touched its surface. I held the banister tight. I put as much of my body pressure on it as I could in hopes of making my descent a silent one. As my foot touched the last step, perspiration covered the nape of my neck–adrenelan rush at the success of my departure.

    “Milly finally asleep?” Sam asked from his horizontal position on the couch.

    “Finally,” I said pouring myself a glass of wine. “I don’t think I could’ve taken anymore screaming.”

    Sam kept his eyes on the television. His outstretched arm was aiming the remote at the screen. He numbingly went from one channel to the next, oblivious to my struggles. His feet rested on my coffee table with his musty white socks emitting a pungent aroma from being trapped in his shoes all day. “The kid got gas, Lucy.”

    “You and your gas–that’s your answer to everything–everytime Milly cries–everytime you cry. One of these days your ‘gas’ pains are going to be a heart attack, and no burp in hell is gonna help you. It’s more than that,” I said as I sat in the chair furthest from his sprawled feet.

    Sam lowered his remote, slugged his beer and stuffed pretzels in his mouth. “You wanted to be a mother,” he said spewing crumbs in my direction. “Deal with it. I’m outta this. This baby stuff was your idea. You prayed for it. I was fine just me and you.”

    Sam and I tried for many years to have a baby. The nurturing side of me needed to take care of someone other than Sam–and I didn’t do such a good job caring for him–sometimes I didn’t care for Sam at all. But my prayers were miraculously answered, and now I had Milly, I couldn’t let anything happen to her. Sam says we can’t afford a kid, but I can’t afford not to have her. He says they take too much time and energy and he has neither.

    I picked the baby monitor up from the table. “I don’t hear anything. Did you shut this off?”

    “Yup, the minute the kid started to cry.”

    “What are you crazy? I have to be able to hear her,” I shouted jutting the monitor near his face.

    “You’ll hear her–the whole block hears her,” he said returning to his zombie-like trance continuing to flick through channelss–seeing everything but watch nothing.”

    I needed to be away from him–his uselessness nauseated me. I searched the heavens and spoke my prayer. “Thank you, God, for this precious baby. I love Milly–but she always cries.”

    The front door opened and there stood Sam, white, stenchy socks and a million pretzel crumbs resting haphazardly on his protruding belly. “You praying–again? Don’t ask for any more stuff, please.”

    I ignored his selfish remarks. I continued my prayer. “I know you gave Milly to me–I found her. I was the one who heard Milly crying in her carriage. It was me who brought her to safety–she was alone in the store. We were both in the same store–it was meant to be. You answered my prayers. I just don’t know what’s wrong with her.”

    “I’ll tell ya, Lucy, why she’s always crying. Maybe Milly wants to be with her real mother–maybe you should give her back.”

    1. JRSimmang

      I agree with GL and Sarah: the twist at the end was completely unexpected and beguiling.
      The dialogue, I believe, is superb in its realism and in its defining of the characters. My red pen wants a deeper edit (adrenaline, channels, etc.) and I think your dialogue revealed more of the characters than the narration, which distracted me from the story at points.
      I do believe we need a second half. Both of these characters, Sam and Lucy, are interesting enough to be continued! Plus, we have to know what happens to dear Milly.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Very well done. The reality of what first seemed a fairly normal couple with issues was chilling. Sam saying, Don’t ask for anymore stuff, makes me wonder if Milly isn’t the first.

    3. Critique

      As the story progressed I worried for Milly and then with the unexpected twist that worry escalated. I could picture Lucy and Sam clearly from your descriptions.

    4. Reaper

      That got dark at the end. I wasn’t expecting that. Went from sad to, wow very fast. Intense, and it sucked me in really well. Nicely done throughout. There are just so many layers to this.

  25. RafTriesToWrite

    (Oddly enough, this prompt works as well with the story I’m making)

    TAKEN

    As we got to this unfamiliar place called home, I dreaded every step that my feet had stridden on the gravel. The night was young, yet I feel tired like a sloth. Darkness spreads out in the night breeze around the unlit structure of our home, damp and moist air surrounding my every move towards the front porch. I don’t think I can handle being far away from him.

    I stare at the wooden steps of the place I once called reading corner, trying to remember the last time I’ve read a book there. It felt like years ago, when it was just right before summer started.

    Now we’re nearing the end, of all things? No, too melodramatic.

    More like, the end of a summer fling. It was hardly a fling though. Castles and castles of hard work had been brought into the labor of love, then it was just thrown away as summer ended. Like a piece of crumpled paper, never to be seen or used again – totally forgotten.

    I hated that feeling – this feeling.

    I head up to my room, passing the old modern kitchen, the same old parents’ bedroom and lastly the bathroom before I reached the meeting place of my body and bed – my bed.

    Comfort. That’s what’s going through my mind right now, which sadly my bed cannot provide but Peter can. I set my backpack down and unzipped the bindings so I could start unpacking and maybe perhaps prepare myself for the worst moving on period ever.

    I still hadn’t been accustomed to the uncommon feeling of not having Peter readily accessible and it breaks my heart to know such a cursing fact. I came home from the first day of senior year, same old same old.

    I started to make my way to my room – the usual routine, lie in my bed and just stare at the ceiling until they call me for dinner. I can’t bring myself to even read, that’s how much I’m torn by this, but just as I was about to make my first step on the stairs my mom calls me. Says I have mail, doesn’t say from who though, but I have a clear idea on who it could be.

    I took the precious letter up to my room and sat on my study table, turned on the lamp and inspected the envelope.

    How would he know where to send this though? I chuckle. “Rebecca” I murmured under my breath. She must’ve told him our home address.

    Is he near? Is he far? Can I visit him? Can he visit me?

    I open the letter with a wide smile on my face that any more wider my face would break. It was from him indeed. This is Peter’s hand writing, I never knew he could also write legibly and so perfectly beautiful. Must add this to the list of things I like about Peter.

    He says he knew my address from Rebecca. “I knew it.” I whispered with a smirk.

    It said he was sorry he couldn’t see me off since he was the one to go away first. I know, I was there and he shouldn’t be sorry. It broke my heart to see him off, but much more when I left the vacation house along with it our memories. Nothing but sweet memories.

    He also wrote that he had taken something from my room back in the vacation house. Something small, but not too small, he says I can guess, but he’ll never tell what it was until I get it. What an earnest minor indiscretion thing to do. I clearly remember this game very well.

    His candor, one of the qualities I liked about him. Now I’m left here to think what could he have possibly taken from my room at the vacation house?

    There’s a return address as well, I forgot he lives in another country.

    To write, or to visit?

    Probably write.

    Yeah, I’ll write.

    What did he take though?

    1. JRSimmang

      Okay, so this one is set before Peter comes home for Christmas dinner, before Alex’s parents think of him as a son?
      I’m putting the pieces together, and since you’re working this into a longer story, I’ll lend my red pen:
      Be careful of metaphors- “tired like a sloth” implies that sloths are tired all the time. Instead, may I suggest writing something like “my mind moved at a sloth’s pace” or “I slothed across the threshold.”
      Watch for tense shifts, eg, “The night was young, yet I feel…”, and run on sentences (eg, “There’s a return address as well; I forgot he lives in another country”).
      You’re weaving an interesting tale here, Raf. Can’t wait for the rest!

      1. RafTriesToWrite

        Correct you are JR. This was indeed before Christmas dinner.

        As for the metaphors, I couldn’t agree more. I hated it, didn’t know why I kept it in the first place. Will change it now.
        For the run on sentence you found (and perhaps in some parts of my story as well), I may have intended a period on that but instead pressed a comma by mistake? Who knows. I’ll get on that.
        Tense shifts, honestly, I’m afraid I can’t tell what they are. Will need to do research on that. Seems to have quite a few (if not a lot) of them on the other parts of the story too.

        To be quite frank with the you guys, I never really listened to my English lessons in school, so the subject verb agreement bla bla and all the other stuff is quite alien to me right now. I only watch a lot of films, youtube videos and TV. That’s where I get the majority of my English. If it sounds good, keep it, if it sounds bad, forget about it.

        But I realize now that it was just for my grammar side of writing (which I found to fail me occasionally). Thankfully I have this site to help with my literary mistakes and mishaps.

        So, thank you for the red pen, it was truly an honor and highly appreciated!

        1. JRSimmang

          My pleasure, Raf. You know, I was lucky to have such wonderful and engaging Language Arts teachers, because they were the game-changers for me. They selected rare and beautiful texts for us to read, workshopped our stories, and I cannot thank them enough.
          To clarify: a tense shift is movement from one verb tense into another. For example, a verb may be conjugated to the past (e.g. drank) in the beginning of a story, telling us that the even happened in the past, but then shifts to the present (e.g. drinks), conflicting with the previous tense. Reread the paragraph that begins “Comfort…” and you’ll find a couple examples.
          You have such a wonderful grasp on storytelling, and these little faux pas don’t detract from the elegance of your writing. Tightening them up will only enhance your abilities!

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      Raf, you can always learn English grammar, JR makes some good comments,and I applaud your efforts to do so, but you already know story telling. I seem to recall sloths from a story set in a zoo. Are they native where you are?

        1. Denise G. Monello

          Being fairly new here, I’m not familiar with your other pieces, but I thoroughly enjoy this. Your choice of words allowed me to experience the yearning along with your MC. (And I thought I was the only who didn’t pay attention in English.)

    3. Reaper

      I’m really getting into your voice. You have me wondering what the mystery object is. A couple of lines in I got an old Jimi Hendrix song stuck in my head, Castles Made of Sand. Pretty powerful story that can make a connection to a song like that, especially that fast. Great writing.

  26. cosi van tutte

    I did it.

    I kissed Tom Whittaker.

    After a full lifetime of furtive glances at weddings and funerals and…

    and…

    I don’t know what to do.

    I can’t tell Bill.

    I can’t.

    It was a stupid mistake. That’s all it was.

    All it was not.

    A mistake is something you don’t intend to do. It is an accident. Like calling Bill’s mother “Fatso” that one time when I was horribly drunk.

    I was stone sober this time.

    I wanted it.

    I sought him out.

    I kissed him.

    And I don’t know what to do.

    Because the horrible truth is…I’m not sorry. I should be sorry, but I’m not. This is something I’ve wanted to do ever since I got married to Bill.

    That’s why I can’t tell Bill.

    He just won’t understand.

    Or maybe he will.

    But to keep this a secret…

    I don’t know.

    I have always been horrible at keeping secrets. Absolutely awful.

    But I can’t tell Bill.

    It will break his heart.

    Because he will understand.

    I know he will.

    I don’t know what to do.

    I don’t know.

    I don’t.

    I know.

    I do know.

    I do know that I want to see Tom again.

    But I shouldn’t.

    I should stay away.

    It would be the right thing to do.

    I don’t know what to do.

    1. Bushkill

      And, in my humble opinion, that is how infidelity starts. Not with a large show of flashing lights and loud banging cymbals, but with little, meaningless acts that, in sum, are an exposition of subconscious will.

      I have more to say on the topic but will leave off. This was just a lovely piece of self-conflict, of trespass and transgression. I love the way your argument slims down to two words and then expands, the light flickering on, as she mentally commits to doing it again.

      Just such a good piece.

    2. Poetjo

      I love that you got into the emotional space of someone who took a step into infidelity. The back and forth thinking shows the she’s confused and yet intrigued all at the same time. Well done!

    3. Reaper

      The best part of this, to me, is the understanding that the other person will understand. That’s the most damning thing. That forgiveness is there, if only one reaches out for it. but you have to want it. You wrote that so well that it’s heartbreaking.

  27. ReathaThomasOakley

    (This prompt seemed to work with a longer piece I’m doing.)

    Death in a Family

    While my granny Thomas was dying across town, I was perched on the sandy side of a fire break deep in the pine woods near our house, risking chiggers, ticks, sand-spurs, rattlesnakes, and my mother’s wrath, learning how to kiss. My tutor, let’s call him Mark, wooed me by claiming that as trombone player in the junior high band he had equipment necessary for my education. Besides, I thought biking 6.6 miles, according to a recent Rand McNally Google search, proved some degree of devotion.

    But, though the day was perfect, bright sunshine, fluffy white clouds, gentle breeze rippling the pine needles, no snakes, Mama and Daddy gone, little brother on his own adventure, something, way down deep inside, wouldn’t let me enjoy my lesson. I’d been home several hours, after sending Mark away, when my parents arrived and I learned what happened while I was giving in to my carnal nature. The guilt was over whelming: I was personally responsible for my granny’s death. I cried for days, couldn’t look at Mark in Sunday School. Even the next week with its ceremony and ritual brought no distraction or comfort.

    Funerals, on the Thomas side of my family, were always memorable events. Weddings were celebrated, but marriages don’t always last. Births, while welcomed, are, or once were, private affairs. Funerals, on the other hand, were permanent, well-scripted, well-rehearsed dramas, with occasional improvisation, such as when a former wife threw herself on an uncle’s casket, as it was being lowered.

    At The House, where Granny died, the living room, just off the front room, was rarely entered, always held in readiness for preacher visits or for bodies to lie in state in the days between death and the funeral. Several of my father’s eleven siblings who survived childhood had moved away, but when they, or theirs, passed, bodies were brought “home” until that final journey to the family cemetery. One undertaker was used as was one church, the little white frame building my grandpa helped build, I Come to the Garden Alone was sung, and, after the final graveside prayers, hugs, and goodbyes, “Until the next time” was whispered. There was always a next time.

    When my father died, my mother, never a fan of the open casket, lying in state at home thing, “I don’t want coffee cup rings all over my casket or pound cake crumbs dropped on my good clothes,” broke with tradition and used the funeral parlor for the viewing, my eight and a half month pregnancy as an excuse. Thank you, Mama. She liked to point out that the mayor and his wife were the first to sign the visitor book, “Likely, that wouldn’t have happened if your daddy’d been home.”

    At my mother’s funeral, burial in red Georgia clay under magnolia trees, not sandy Florida soil and ancient cedars, I broke with her church’s tradition and read poetry, with her casket closed.

    I’ve told my sons and Don, “Please, no funeral, just ashes scattered over my father’s grave, maybe a tiny plaque with my name. But, if you insist on a song, how about, I’ll Fly Away.”

    Oh, yes, after the Mark episode I eventually got over my guilt, and it wasn’t long until I learned having trombone player lips does not make up for total lack of experience.

    1. writer_sk

      Wow, such a moving and spiritual piece. I wanted to say “no no it’s not your fault!” I bet you knew, deep down, it couldn’t have been.

      I loved your mother’s explanation for not wanting the coffin at the house: crumbs and the drink rings. The description of the red clay and magnolias was a really pretty and nice-sounding way to be buried.

    2. JRSimmang

      What stuck out to me was your juxtaposition of Georgia clay and magnolias and soil and cedars. Rife with meaning and subtext as usual, Reatha. You’re going to make me think about this family, about drink rings, and about trombone lips.

    3. Poetjo

      I love the details – ‘the chiggers, the ticks’ and ‘pound cake crumbs dropped on my good clothes.’ It’s a lovely, vignette of the changes a family has made in dealing with their loved one’s deaths through the years.

    4. Critique

      A story rich with history and thought provoking details. I say history because among other things some of the songs used in this piece were in my past – I don’t hear them anymore but I think I could sing them from memory. Wonderful writing as usual.

  28. KitKat747

    It took place long ago, before our world was born.

    Light and Darkness lived in a divided world, but they lived in peace. Light ruled the people of Day, Darkness the people of Night. Neither made contact with the other. This was the law. Night and Day would never meet… until they did.

    The darkness stretched on and on, not a speck of light to be seen. This was not unusual, however, because Luna was a Night. Nights thrived in the darkness. All Nights loved it. All but one. Luna had always dreamed of the light. It was what kept her moving when the hours were long and heavy. Those hours never seemed to end.

    The light was everywhere. Shadows were a long forgotten myth. Even with his eyes shut, Sol couldn’t grasp the darkness. He had always dreamed of the dark. It was what kept him moving when the hours were long and heavy. Those hours never seemed to end.

    Each set out in search for the other. Luna traveled towards the light, while Sol looked for darkness. They met in the place Between.

    Luna rubbed her eyes, not believing what she saw. It was light. There, on the horizon, a Day stood. Her just being here, catching a glimpse of light, was treason, and the only punishment for treason was death.

    Sol squinted. It couldn’t be, but it was. A speck of darkness appeared on the horizon. A Night stood there, he was sure of it. Him just being here, catching a glimpse of darkness, was treason, and the only punishment for treason was death.

    Fear and guilt krept up on both of them, but neither turned away. Each step towards the other was a crime, but both continued on. And then they were face to face.

    Luna stared at the man before her. A Day. Light radiated off of him. Tears filled her eyes. Her dream, her impossible dream, had come true. She reached out her hand.

    Sol gasped. A woman stood before him. A Night. Ribbons of darkness twirled around her. He had imagined this moment many times, but his daydreams had never even come close to this. He reached out his hand.

    Day and Night touched for the first time. The universe shifted, acknowledging what they had just done. Light felt it. Darkness did, too. They found the traitors there, in the Between. In the moments before their death, Luna and Sol gazed into the other’s eyes. Neither held any regret. What they had done might have been a crime, but it changed the world. The universe could not be shifted back.

    Between became a place of light and darkness. Shadows formed with the light. Stars appeared in the darkness. The spirits of Sol and Luna rose to the sky, and would soon be known as Sun and Moon.

    It took place long ago, and then our world was born.

    1. Bushkill

      Oh, nicely penned. Your yin and yang, use of reflection in their thought process, shows the emotions and considerations we all have. I loved the juxtapositioning you used throughout. Sol, Luna, stars, shadows, all cleverly developed into a nifty and well-told story.

    2. JRSimmang

      A celestial Romeo and Juliette fitting for a different era. This piece is hauntingly beautiful, and I think the lack of worldly specifics only lends to its aura. I would love to see their interaction and ultimate demise lengthened, a hunt, a void, something that would make us feel the profound impact of Night and Day coming together more. Beautiful diction, KitKat.

    3. Writinglove

      This is a beautiful story, creative story. Flawless. Maybe you should say, “He/she reached his/her hand out.” That’s my only suggestion. I’m with cosi as well.

  29. Pete

    I’m at my mailbox, tearing into the letter I’d been expecting from the school board when I find Molly Martinez, standing in the road like she’d been expecting it too.

    It’s funny but not so funny. Because I kind of blame Molly for my predicament here. I mean, if I hadn’t walked into that lab that day…if there was no Molly Martinez, then, well, there would have been no assault on a teacher. Or maybe Mr. Meyers would have just picked another girl.

    I almost say, “What do you want?” but instead go with “Hey Molly.”

    I’ve seen her a few times since school ended, which for me was two weeks before everyone else. She’s been walking by my house like the world’s most sullen stalker. Now she stares at the road. “I never said thanks, so, thanks.”

    It sounds forced. And you know what, it’s late. It’s been what, almost two months now? I shrug, swallow down my frustration. I try to pretend I’m in a hurry to go inside my house and face my drunk mother.

    “It’s cool. Your welcome, I guess.”

    I manage to skim the letter where it states that the board will recommend my expulsion, blah. Assaulting a teacher is not only a crime, but carries a mandatory expulsion, blah. It’s what I figured would happen. What Coach thought would happen. It means that I’m off the basketball team. It means I have no way of paying for college.

    Molly isn’t done, apparently. She looks at me full on now, her dark eyes are like liquid. A car comes speeding down the road and she comes over to me and we stand there, the six-foot five white guy and the tiny Hispanic girl, studying our feet.

    When the car passes she glances at the envelop, torn open and out for the world to see. “Is that, are you going to get in trouble?”

    I have to look to see if she’s making a joke. “Are you serious? My life is over.”

    Molly is a rising junior—a year behind me. But it’s like nothing I can say will make a dent to her anyway but I try again. “How long had…I mean, had that…stuff, happened before?”

    She turns to me, eyes harsh. I don’t care. She wanted to talk, we’ll talk. She looks down again, scraping her sandal on a rock. “It seemed like we were always alone. At first it was just touching my hand, then my back, then lower and he started trying to kiss me.”

    “Why didn’t you tell anyone, Molly?”

    This time when she looks at me and I can feel her eyes swimming in mine, as she shakes her head, almost willing me to understand something. “I can’t.”

    An idea hits. “Yes you can.” I shake the letter at her. “Actually, if you really want to thank me, you could come to this hearing and tell them that—”

    She gasps. Her hands are actually shaking. And I’m confused. Considering I rolled the teacher who was all over her and now I’m sort of screwed, I didn’t think it was much to ask.

    I run a hand through my hair, take a breath. Seeing her like this, I’m feeling like an asshole being so much bigger than her and yelling like that. Another breath. I lower my voice. “Hey, Molly? Why won’t you help me?”

    She covers her mouth, tears rolling and I’m shaking my head, saying forget it, I’m sorry when she wipes her face and her voice spills out in a wet whisper. How she really wants to help me but she has no social security number. That her name is Morena, not Molly—a name her mother made her go by at school. If they find out they will come to her house and remove her and her mother and take her two sisters who were born here.

    Well shit.

    A car passes. And I’m left standing there with Molly, studying our feet.

    1. Bushkill

      Wow. Another beautiful and timely piece on Modern America. You did an amazing job of circling back to the car passing and studying feet. It seems so cyclic, so entrapping. which, of course, is the point.

    2. Reaper

      How many issues can you work into five hundred words and keep it believable? I’m surprised I didn’t see that ending coming. I had a lot of reasons she shouldn’t help in mind, but that one came out of nowhere. Powerful stuff. Very well written.

  30. GrahamLewis

    FOUND MONEY

    All property is theft, Jared reminded himself as he tucked away the bank envelopes and the $4000 within. Money he’d stumbled upon while rummaging through his grandfather’s long-disused desk. The old geezer won’t remember he had it, and he sure doesn’t need it. But I do.

    Jared had lived with his grandfather for nearly two years, two long, tedious years. The old man had taken him in when no one else would. It had seemed a good deal, Jared got a place to live, food, and a small stipend, in exchange for live-in “personal care,” so long as he stayed clean. Having lost his job and his marriage to drug addiction, a habit he had finally kicked (for good, he hoped), Jared would have otherwise been on the streets. This was his last “second chance.” The drugs had been slowly killing him, and good rehab cost too much.

    But the old man got older and sicker, crabbier and more demanding. And the personal care tasks had expanded to include disgusting tasks no one should have to do, especially for the pittance he got. The worse it got, the more Jared felt the drugs calling his name. It could make this life tolerable, and four grand could buy a lot. He decided he’d rather die high than live without it.

    “Jared,” the old man called for the umpteenth time that day.

    Now what? But he forced a smile when he reached the old man.

    “I thought I had placed some funds in my desk, but they are not there. You haven’t seen bank envelopes lying around?”

    “No sir.”

    “Odd. I meant them for you.” The old man cleared his throat. “It’s become obvious my needs now exceed any reasonable expectation of service from you, so I’ve made arrangements to move to assisted living. I‘ve also had my lawyers to draw up a trust to pay for drug treatment and provide for your needs so long as you stay off drugs. It’s the least I can do in return for your selfless assistance to me.” He paused. “I’d meant the missing funds to tide you over until the paperwork is done.” A moment later he added, “Are those tears, my boy?”

    Jared looked up from a whirlwind of surprise and guilt and gratitude. He finally plucked out the only words he could find. “Thank you, sir. I’ll let you know if the money turns up.”

    Jared never mentioned the money again, but neither did he go back to drugs.

      1. Denise G. Monello

        Nice story. Sad that similar circumstances are only too familiar to those suffering from addiction. Glad your MC’s conscious made him kick his habit.

    1. GrahamLewis

      I removed and replaced the name of a certain abused drug. Now it works. Funny that murder is allowed but technical scientific name for a street drug is not?

  31. creaturescry

    It all happened so fast, like a flash of lighting in the dark, and Frankie lay dead at the bottom of the stairs. His sandy blonde surfers hair rustled on his face, the fan nearby running with a soothing white noise. Where were the screams, the cries, the world shattering at the loss of Frankie? There he lay in his letterman jacket, legs twisted unnaturally, his bright blue eyes wide open. How could a man die so peacefully after such a struggle, and guilt the man who killed him with same peacefulness. I sat on the stairs, running my hands through my hair, my lips dry with anxiety. What was i supposed to do now? Burry and forget it all, or tel someone? I considered it for a moment as the door leading to the basement creaked open.

    “What the hell happened here Denny?” Hal shouted from above, slamming the door shut behind him, “is he…”

    “Yes Hal, he’s dead,” I nodded, slowly still in shock at my own work, “what else could it be?”

    “Oh god Denny, you didn’t really? I mean you weren’t really serious earlier?”

    “Can I really deny it at this point Hal? You’ve seen enough to lock me up for good.”

    I was expecting Hal to agree and call the police on the telephone. What I didn’t expect was that Hal would walk down the rest of the stairs, his arms crossed. He stared at frankie for a good long while before heading deeper into the basement. I was tempted to follow him, but I was stopped once I heard a series of muffled sounds escape the depths of the basement. Then shortly after said noises he returned with a pile of Frankies grandmother’s quilts. Once he was back by Freddie’s side he began to carefully wrap the body in the pastel floral quilts like a mummy, careful not to touch Freddie.

    “Hal what are you doing?” I hissed, marching down the stairs, “aren’t you going to call the police?”

    “Denny you aren’t the only one who didn’t like him,” Hal Grunted as he rolled Freddie onto his side, “believe me there’s a lot of people who didn’t.”

    “What do you mean?”

    Hal dusted his hands off and locked eyes, “trust me we can make him disappear for good.”

    I actually believed at that moment I had broken Hal. That somehow seeing the dead body of his friend had finally made Hal snap. He was the responsible one with a good sense of justice. He was the kind of guy who knew right from wrong like he knew his right from his left hand. So I was in utter shock when I saw him drape the quits made by Frankie’s own grandmother over his face. It was actually made me sick, breaking through the shock and sinking down into the pit of my stomach. It was Hal, but at the same time it wasn’t Hal at all. This had to be a really bad dream.

    “Hal I can’t believe I’m saying this but you’re literally more insane then me! And I actually killed a guy!” I cried, my hands clawing at my scalp.

    “Denny, Denny, Denny,” Hal shook his head, “you’re getting hysterical now.”

    “Of course I am,” I scoffed, backing up the stairs, “you’re actually going to hide Frankie’s body, our best friend, and not call the police. Why are you acting so different?”

    “whats so different about me?” Hal asked, his bushy eyebrows raised, “I’m still Hal aren’t I?”

    The look he gave me sent a shiver down my spine, and I said in a low whisper, “I’m calling the police.”

    “What makes a murder want to turn himself in so suddenly?” Hal mused, finally finished wrapping the body, “guilt? If that’s the case there’s no need to feel guilty…”

    “Hal I’m calling the cops for two reasons and two reasons alone,” I snapped, waing my finger at him, “you were right about the first, I am a guilty bastard. But the one that’s really gonna tickle you pink is the second one, and do you know what that is?”

    “No, I’m afraid I don’t.”

    “I’m calling the cops on you for manipulating me into killing Frankie, for being the mastermind, now isn’t that cute?”

    “I’d like to see you try Denny Davis, it might be the highlight of my week. You trying to criminalize the golden boy to save your own skin, now that what I call cute.”

    1. writer_sk

      Cool story. I pictured him getting pushed off the balcony, breaking through the banister. Would love a little addition where you circle around back to convo Hal and the MC have before.

      Nice scene- the back and forth was very well done.

    2. JRSimmang

      Sounds like Hal has Denny right where he wants him.
      The conversation between these two is great, and I think a second-time around with the red pen would prove very effective.
      Nice job playing both sides, Creature.

    3. Reaper

      Worthy of Hitchcock in so few words. Nicely done. You have a couple of dropped capitals and a quit that should be quilt when the body is being wrapped up too. Nothing in the writing though, just some typos. Amazing stuff.

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