Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

First Line Contest: “It was the worst…”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the First Line Contest: “It was the worst…” (If you can work pajamas or bagpipes into it, that would be impressive, but not really necessary). Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.


Story Submission Rules:

  1. One story per author. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  2. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.
  3. Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday). Send your votes via email LIFlashFiction (at) Winner will be announced in the Comment and Story thread. You may vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.
  4. The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
  5. In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
  6. The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at) with the next theme/items of their choosing.
  7. See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

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19 thoughts on “First Line Contest: “It was the worst…”

  • Romesh Chopra
    The Sequence

    It was the worst for me not to have studied in an English medium school, because of that….but, later on

    I am a Sikh and as per the tenets of Sikhism, we are not supposed to trim or shorten our hair. My father was a big landlord and educated. Whereas, my mother was uneducated, as a child, whenever her parents took her to the school, she cried incessantly and finally, they abandoned the idea of educating her. I was born after three sisters, mom gave birth to two more sisters and I became the- be-all and the end-all of her life. At the age of 5, my dad decided to enroll me in a school, but my mother put her foot down, she thought it was to early for my age to be dispatched to a school and it would affect my health and will hamper my physical growth. Later on, whenever, dad talked about it, mom always created a scene and warned him,’ don’t dare come near me at night.’ Dad relented, obviously he was afraid of darkness, I was not. So, I had plenty of time to play and I developed a passion for football and I was so good at it that the older boys welcomed me to play with them. In their matches I always played as a full back, even that was very satisfying to me, though I never got the chance to score a goal. Soon, I learned the finer points of this position, and later on I was nicknamed- The Chinese wall.

    Finally, with much persuasion, mom agreed for my schooling when I was seven plus. I took hardly any interest in studies and all my concentration was to be a great player and to play for India one day. At the age of 11, I was chosen for the school Football team and again as full back. My cherished dream e to play as a forward and score goals remained unfulfilled.

    I am now 67; I vividly remember when I was selected as one of the probable for the junior national football team for the age group 14 to 17, when I had just turned 14. I just could not believe it and was in great ecstasies. A camp was held during the summer vacation in Puna [now Pune], where the whether remains fine throughout the year. I put my heart and soul in the training. Other than that nothing mattered to me in the world.

    A match was fixed with the junior’ A’ team of the age group of 17 to 19. To my surprise, I was selected as the coach thought that I was the best bet as the full back. No team could score till the last 5 minutes of the match. In the dying moments, the captain gave me the back pass and we continued giving pass to each other while dodging the rival team. Near the D, the ball was under my control, five players of the rival team surrounded me and in the melee I fell on the ground, my putka fell from my head and my long hair fell on my shoulders, till date, I don’t know how all that happened, Still, I managed to kick the ball towards the goal. Lo, it was a goal Alas, the event was not recorded. As a matter of fact nobody thought of it. TV was a later advent.
    My team mates hugged me and threw me in the air. I was in ecstasies as it was my first goal in a major game. I was unmindful of the bruises on my hands and legs. The press named me, Veer Balk [the Brave Boy].

    After the match, we were introduced to the chief guest, an Angrez [an Englishmen]. During that era, every white man was called an Angrez, no matter to which country he belonged. He gave a short speech and I could not follow his accent, English was taught in our schools from class 6th onward. I could understand only tow words of his speech; football and kick. Later on, some boys pretended that they could, though they failed to recollect what he had said. Then, we were asked to stand in a queue. To each of us he asked- What is your name, how old are you and for which state you playg? I mugged up the sequence in which I was to reply. When my turn came, he patted me on my shoulder and then on the cheek, “Young man, what is your ambition in life?”
    “Makhan Singh”
    “Who is your favourite player and role model?”
    “14 years, sir.”
    He seemed to be puzzled,” Well, how old are you?”
    “Punjab, sir.”
    “Well, any way, you have class. One day, you’re going to…..”
    ‘Class’, I understood, I triumphantly whooped out in one breath,” Class 7th, Section D, Roll number 47, SIR.”
    He shrugged his shoulders and laughed, the boys laughed more loudly than him to show off that they understood why he had laughed. The coach put his hand on his forehead and murmured, ’Ho ho ho.’ It surprised me as to why he was gloomy and distraught when we had won the match. I could not check myself from being agape.

    Thanks God, he did not ask me whether I am male or female, because of my baby face, rosy cheeks and long, lush black hair. It would have been worse, whether I could have understood it or not.

  • It was the worst…

    (500 words)


    Kathrine Leannan

    It was the worst moment, ever.

    Elese sat on the floor of her bedroom, her back pressed against the thick sided mattress of her bed. The double doors of her wardrobe were swung wide, displaying the remnants of her hard paid for collection of heels, flats, Nikes, sandals and boots. On top of the ravaged vivid chunks of leather and heels, lay Darius – her roommate John’s, twelve month of English Staffordshire Terrier.

    His tail thumped against the back of the wardrobe as he smiled his Staffy smile. She pursed her lips at the length of red cotton hanging out the corner of his slobbery mouth.

    “Darius! Now what am I going to do? I’ve got a nine o’clock meeting with Mr Prentice. You remember Mr. Prentice, Darius?”

    More wagging erupted from the cupboard at the mention of his name.

    “That would be the same Mr. Prentice, my boss and senior partner of my law firm, who came over for cocktails last Christmas and left without his suit jacket, because you chewed off one of the bloody sleeves! I was lucky I didn’t lose my job. Christ now what am I going to …”

    The door to her bedroom flung open. “Have you seen Dar…?” John walked towards the wardrobe staring at Darius. “What. Did. You. Do?”

    Darius peeled back his black fleshy lips and displayed a toothy smile.

    Elese put up her hand for him to help her to her feet. “John, I have a meeting in a little over an hour. What the hell am I going to do? Thanks to Darius and his obsession with chewing, I am now officially shoeless.”

    John looked at his watch. “I could ring my sister.”

    Elese pictured Susan Richardson in her flowery tent dresses, bulging varicose veins and shoes her feet always spilled out of. “Somehow I don’t think she would have anything to go with this.” She reached over to the bed and picked up the black pencil skirt and shell pink silk blouse.

    He looked at her sheepishly. “Well … yeah … there’s that. Just call in sick. Either that, or go to work barefoot.”

    Her eyes flew wide as she walked to the wardrobe. “Move, Darius!”

    He clamped a red stiletto between his teeth, walked passed her and jumped up on her bed. She glared at John. Your dog has a death wish!” The metal hooks of hangers chinked against the hanging rail as she rummaged.

    “Here it is!” She ran to her bathroom and returned dressed in an Indian Sari. Her feet where adorned with slender gold chains. She grabbed her handbag and ran out the door.

    She walked into the boardroom and sat in the only vacant chair.

    Mr. Prentice gave her a “what the hell are you wearing?” look before he stood up and cleared his throat. He gestured to the man sitting next to her. “I would like you all to meet my son,David.” The younger man inclined his head gracefully before he leaned towards her. “Nice feet,” he smirked.

    Elese blushed when his aftershave wafted passed her nostrils. “Long, tragic story,” she whispered, then jumped when his sock covered foot rubbed playfully back and forth over her toes.

    He smiled and leaned towards her. “Feet are my weakness, beauty.”

  • You Are the One!

    It was the worst performance I had ever witnessed on “America’s Got Talent”. I was embarrassed to even be there. I had been invited as a celebrity judge after my most recent play had opened on Broadway to rave reviews.

    You’ve no doubt heard of my play, “The Outlander Executioner.” It is the story of a young woman who travels back and forth through time and winds up being a professional executioner employed by the kings of England, France and Southern WhattheHeckier. She rebels against the authority of the various kings when she is ordered to behead this hunky Highlander. When she first sees him naked except for his clan kilt, she immediately falls in love/lust with him.

    They get together and lead a rebellion against the kings and ultimately create a unified Europe and introduce the Euro into general usage. But just as it appears that they will live “happily ever after,” the handsome Highlander is assassinated by a female ninja who happens to be a Japanese princess. She seduces him and then while they lay in bed post-coitus, she pours poison in his ear and he expires asking God’s forgiveness for being untrue to his one great love.

    His wife finds out what happened just as her doctor reveals that she is pregnant with the Highlander’s child. Enraged at the loss of her lover, she hunts down the seductive ninja and they battle to the death on a junk on which the ninja was escaping to head back to Japan.

    As the ninja dies, she reveals that it was the treacherous Pope who hired her to kill the Highlander because he opposed the freedom of religion that the pair had granted to the citizens of the European Union.

    You really should see the show. It’s a smash hit.

    Originally the producers of “America’s Got Talent” wanted someone with a big role from the play to be the celebrity judge, but the time-travelling lead, the hunky Highlander, the seductive Ninja, the Pope and all the kings wanted too much money. So they settled on me. My part in the play isn’t exactly enormous.

    In a dream sequence, the first time the young couple makes love, I play a bagpiper dressed in silky sexy pajamas who appears in their shared dream to serenade them. I hit an exceptionally powerful not on the pipes just as they achieve climax. Then through a magnificent lighting effect I dissolve into steamy pink hearts and heather.

    As I say, it’s not much of a part, but I was available to the TV show’s producers at the “right” price.

    I had spent the entire program so far trying to act like I really appreciated the amateur performers who were trying to make it big. So far, most of the acts were barely adequate and I had pasted a smile on my face to hide the grimace beneath. My face was starting to hurt at the effort of looking encouraging.

    I may not be a star, but I like to think that I am a fairly good actor, but this last performer had stretched my skills to the breaking point. Now I was faced with the onerous task of having to say something that seemed relatively positive before I revealed the score I was giving him.

    “Um. That was really an original routine. You must have spent quite awhile putting the concept together. I would never have dreamed of trying to play the love theme from “Romeo and Juliet” on a zither while tap dancing with a monkey. Just a couple of slight suggestions, maybe you could use an instrument you were somewhat more familiar with than the zither. The tapping was so loud at times it drowned out the music. Perhaps you should consider doing a soft shoe instead. Finally, it would be an exceptionally good idea to make sure that the monkey was given an anti-diarrheal medication before he came out to dance. In any case, I wish you luck.”

    I dug beneath my seat and pulled out the appropriate score card.

    “Nick, I give this act a 1 out of 10.”

    For once, the audience cheered my scoring.

  • For the record, maceprez is me: Randall Lemon
  • The Worst Just Got Better

    It was the worst food Bernard had ever tasted.

    “That lasagna was lovely, Helen.”

    “It was cannelloni, actually, but thank you anyway.”

    “Of course. I don’t know my pasta from my elbow.”

    “An easy mistake to make.”

    Bernard gazed into Helen’s mud-coloured eyes through the flickering candlelight. She was his 13th date since he joined the LuvStruck on-line dating agency. On average, his relationships through the site had lasted a date and a half. This was his second with Helen, so above average, then.

    Helen excused herself and took the plates to the kitchen. Bernard cast his eyes around her living room, which doubled as a dining room. There were lots of photos … of her parents, and a dog. He wondered whose dog it might be as it wasn’t in the house, ergo not Helen’s, presumably.

    “Whose dog is that in the photos?” Bernard asked Helen when she returned, bearing the dessert.

    “Mine. He … he died. Last month. Which is why I started … you know.”


    Bernard got the idea. He himself had signed up to LuvStruck when his cat died, two months earlier.

    “What was his name?”



    He felt strangely proud that he might be filling a gap left by a pet dog with his name.

    “Great name.”

    Helen laughed a funny little laugh that sounded like water going down a plughole.

    “So what have we got for dessert?”

    “Well, just to continue with the Italian theme, it’s tiramisú … which, I don’t know if you know, means ‘pick-me-up’.”

    Bernard tried a small spoonful; it was certainly the worst dessert he’d ever tasted. ‘Throw-me-up’ more like, he thought.

    “It’s delicious, Helen.”

    “Why, thank you again.” Helen’s ruddy complexion turned a darker shade still with the sudden blush.

    “Another interesting fact about tiramisú,” she continued. “Apparently, in olden times, courtesans in Venice would eat it before their gentlemen visited because they thought it would give them the energy to …”

    Helen paused for effect and fixed Bernard with a look she hoped was sensual.

    “… make love all night.”

    A bit of tiramisú that Bernard was moving around his mouth while contemplating what to do with it found its way into his windpipe and within seconds he was coughing and spluttering and fighting for breath. Helen, a big woman, wasted no time. She lifted him bodily out of the chair and applied the classic Heimlich manouevre. The offending bit of tiramisú flew out of Bernard’s mouth and he took an enormous, life-saving breath.

    As he stood gasping lungfuls of air he realised that Helen hadn’t relinquished her grip on him.

    “Thanks, Helen. It’s okay now.”

    If anything, Helen gripped him tighter. Bernard let out a little shriek as she reached round to clamp a hand on his groin.

    Helen picked Bernard up and carried him to the bedroom. He’d never got this far with the previous dozen women and was very excited. He took no time at all to rip his clothes off, revealing a bony body and a gardener’s sun-tan.

    Helen sat on the side of the bed and started to remove her own clothes as quickly as she could, but she was only half-way to nakedness when she felt something in her ear. It was Bernard’s tongue, and it was as much foreplay as he was prepared to provide.

    Two minutes later it was over, with Bernard lying on his back, a wide smile beaming out satisfaction. Helen lay beside him, staring at the ceiling, shell-shocked. She’d only ever been to bed with two other men, but this was by far the worst sexual experience she’d ever had.

    “So how was that, then?” Bernard was keen to know.


    Bernard decided there and then that despite the cooking and the complexion, Helen would be a keeper. Helen, turning to look at her lover – his balding hair, thin frame, varicose veins, socks still on – realised that she was in no position to be fussy either and decided likewise.


  • Alice Nelson

    Roasted Dates
    By Alice Nelson ©2015

    It was the worst roast beef I had ever eaten in my life. What did she do, incinerate it? But you would never know from the smile plastered on my face, that I’d just bitten into a piece of over-cooked tree bark. After all she was my mother-in-law, or would be if everything went according to plan.

    Owen kept saying, “It’s delicious mom, really your best.” Maybe Owen was delirious from all the chewing, or had simply lost his sense of taste.

    Sheila Thorne was an impressive woman, tall, dignified and beautiful. She ruled the roost, that was for sure, and she had an unwavering dedication to Owen. It was borderline pathological, but at my age, you take what you can get, right?

    Somehow I managed to get that roast down. It’s amazing what gallons of water, and steely determination can do. I just hoped that the meal wouldn’t make a return appearance.

    “Did you two enjoy dinner?” Sheila asked.

    “Of course mother, it was delicious.” Owen replied.

    I nodded, still trying to choke down that last stubborn piece.

    After dinner we were treated to the musical stylings of Owen’s father, Basil Thorne. To say the man was eccentric, was unfair to the truly eccentric —by all accounts, Basil Thorne was a full-fledged nutburger. On this night, clad in his favorite doggy pajamas, Mr. Thorn brought out the bagpipes, and treated us to a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely;” he dedicated it to his “lovely” wife who stood by his side, beaming. They seemed like an odd pairing, but I would soon learn that Sheila Thorne was just as insane as her husband.

    Tonight was the night that Owen was going to tell his parents that we were getting married. Owen seemed unusually nervous, but when we settled in the library with a cup of scorched coffee, and burnt chocolate chip cookies, Owen made the announcement.

    “Mom, Dad.” He took my hand, it was sweaty and he was shaking. “Chloe and I are getting married.”

    Sheila and Basil said nothing —oh, oh.

    Eventually, Sheila smiled, or maybe it was a grimace, I wasn’t quite sure. “Owen dear, we talked about this already, it’s only been 7 months.”

    Owen said, “Mom Chloe is the one.

    Sheila looked pityingly at her son, “You said that about the last fiancée.”

    Last fiancée?

    Owen turned to me, he looked panicked. “Mom, you’re not going to stop me this time. I’m marrying Chloe.”

    “Whoa, wait. What’s going on here?” I asked. There was obviously some history that I knew nothing about.

    Sheila Thorne looked at me like I was an intruder, she was always a little cold to me; now the bitch was downright frigid.

    “I’ll tell you what’s going on…” She said.

    “No mom.” Owen was pleading with her, but there wasn’t much fight behind his words. He had the look of a man who was defeated.

    Basil just sat back and smiled in that crazy way of his —all teeth, no lips.

    I looked at Owen and said, “You have a say in how you want to live your life. You don’t have to listen to her.” But who was I kidding? Deep down I always knew I was in competition with Sheila Thorn —and that I would lose.

    “She’s right Owen, it’s your decision.” Sheila said to her son. “What are you going to do?”

    Owen looked at me, and I knew what his answer would be. “I’m sorry Chloe.” He said. “Mom’s right, it’s not time to take a wife.”

    Sheila looked at me triumphantly, and Basil decided it was time to play another song on his bagpipes. This time he chose “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.

    I wasn’t so desperate that I wanted Owen the man/boy to take me back, so I turned to leave, but Sheila’s voice stopped me. “Did you enjoy dinner tonight Chloe?”

    “No mom, don’t!” Owen said, he looked so tired.

    But I was happy to finally tell her what I really thought about her cooking. “No I didn’t Sheila, it took every bit of strength I had to choke down that dried out, burnt horror that you called dinner.” Now it was my turn to act triumphant.

    Didn’t last long though, not when Sheila started giggling. It was so uncharacteristic of the dignified woman I had always seen. “I wanted to laugh,” she said, “When I saw you trying to eat that awful dinner.”

    I turned to Owen, he couldn’t even look at me —fucking coward.

    Sheila continued, “Oh I know it was awful; do you think I would waste a good meal on the likes of you?” She cocked her head. “Did Owen ever tell you about Lillian?”

    “Mom…” Owen’s voice trailed off, and he sat down. Sheila’s victory was complete.

    “He didn’t talk about her did he?” Sheila was beginning to scare the shit out of me.

    “Well, Owen may not have mentioned Lillian, but you have met her Chloe.” I looked at her confused. “Of course there was no formal introduction, it’s hard to introduce someone to a side of meat.” Basil laughed, and Sheila stroked his head. “She was crass, and pushy, just like you Chloe, that’s why she tasted so dreadful.”

    “What?” Was all I managed to say. I tried to leave, but Basil blocked the door, and placed a cloth over my face —then everything went black.

    So here I am, probably in the same position old Lillian found herself in, on a night she also thought would be a happy occasion. I wonder if I’ll be served to the next sucker Owen brings home for Sheila’s approval.

    Well that’s it for me folks, Sheila just walked in with that pathetic Owen trailing behind her.

    Sheila decided to hurl one last insult at me before the end. “My dear Chloe, you shall make quite a nice, plump roast.”

  • The worst and the best of times.

    It was the worst and the best of times. Teenage years, first love, anticipation, rejection; you name them. I experienced them all.
    One may think life in the heart of the country would face no challenges, but one would be wrong.
    Ellie May was visiting from the city. She was cool and exotic, giving off such an air of mystery that I was scared to approach her. Frankly, she was out of my league, but hell! She sure knew how to tease. I always felt like a hayseed when she was around. My threadbare dungarees had always seemed OK to me, and the haircut Grandpa did every six weeks had seemed pretty good until now, but Ellie May made me feel as if I was from the backwoods. She always seemed to be around when I was coming out of the outhouse. She would look at me with that ‘I know where you’ve been’ expression on her face, she made me feel guilty although I had done nothing wrong. The worst time was when I was swimming in the lake; now nobody needed to bother with bathing trunks, after all, there was nobody around, but when I looked up and saw her on the bank… I had to stay in the water until she went away, and I can tell you, she didn’t hurry and that water was damn cold.
    When Ellie May was around, anything I tried to say always came out wrong, like the day I told her I could ride the old bull in the field. I thought she would be impressed; I never expected her to say she would come and watch me. Well, I had committed myself, so off we went to the field. Grandpa and Grandma never asked where I was going, after all, what could go wrong? I knew every inch of our land, and how to avoid anything dangerous.
    We reached the field and Ellie May sat on the fence. I swaggered a bit as I climbed the turnstile, but inside I was shit scared. The old bull knew me, but he was unpredictable. Nobody had ever tried to ride him. As I approached he looked at me curiously. My heart was pounding as I spoke to him.

    “Hello, old fella, You’re going to let me ride you, aren’t you?”

    It was as I walked behind him and tried to mount him the old bull realised that something was wrong. I suddenly found myself thrown two yards into the air. I looked up and he was standing over me, breathing steam from his nostrils and pawing the ground.
    ‘This is it’ I thought. Fleetingly I wondered if Ellie May might miss me. I knew Grandma would.
    I tried to shout but all that came out was a croak. Great! My voice was breaking. Add to that all the other embarrassing changes that were taking place in my body. Just as I was about to give up the ghost, rough hands pulled me away from the threatening hooves. Jake, a farm hand had been watching from a distance and had seen everything.

    “You little idiot! You could have been killed.”

    ‘Tell me something I don’t know!’ I thought.

    As often happens, the holiday came to an end and Ellie May went back to the city.
    Some years passed before she visited again. By then I had grown, both in stature and in confidence.
    I went to meet her at the station. He train pulled in and I waited, wondering. Would she even remember me, and worse, did she still remember the incident with the bull?
    Everyone got off the train; there was no sign of Ellie May. I waited, disappointment gnawing at me, then, after ten minutes I turned to go. A feeling of sadness and dejection swept over me. I hadn’t realised I cared so much.


    I turned, hope making my heart jump in my chest. There she was, rushing towards me, a beaming smile on her face.
    I’d had the worst of times, now the best of times would begin.

  • Ken Cartisano

    It was the worst of times, and that’s no lie. In the Year of our Lord, two thousand and eighty-four, the oil’s long gone, the oceans have swelled and the rain never stops.

    My woman grabs me by my shirtfront and pulls my face close to hers, “Be careful,” she says. “Don’t mess around, and for God’s sake come back to me, or so help me God, I’ll kill myself.”

    I wince at her words and then kiss her with passion, full on the lips. “Will do,” I say. Then I shrug on my cloak and wide-brimmed hat, pull the door open and dash out to the barn.

    I saddle my horse, a steed I jokingly named ‘Buttercup.’ He’s not fast or pretty, but sturdy as an ox, and anything but a buttercup. He once pulled me and 200 pounds of bear meat out of a mud hole so deep, it could have swallowed a car.

    I like to refer to cars, especially in front of youngsters, few though they be, they’ve never seen one and most don’t know what I’m talking about.

    I lead old Buttercup out into the pouring rain and lock the barn behind me. One doesn’t take chances in this day and age. I check that both pistols are fully loaded as well as my rifle before climbing up into the saddle. Buttercup snorts once as I pull my collar up as high as it’ll go. I nudge the horse with my knees and he starts off down the sodden road. His hooves splash through the puddles, but I can’t hear anything over the incessant sound of the rain pelting down on horse, rider, saddle, and the lush foliage that crowds the road on either side.

    I imagine what I must look like. Black horse, black cloak, black hat, black gloves, deep, sunken eyes: Like death himself? I recall a saying I’ve taken to heart. ‘Tis better to look like a predator, than be mistaken for a victim.’

    An hour down the road and Buttercup jerks his head and his ears perk up. I check up on the reins, dismount and lead him off the road into the underbrush. I pat him gently on his neck. ‘Good horse, good boy.’ We can’t stray far from the road for fear of getting bogged in the muck. Thirty feet from the road it’s nothing but swamp and full of bones.

    We wait. Presently a lone horse and rider come skulking up the road. He looks like me: Dark, sinister, armed and dangerous. He’s scanning the trees on the other side of the road and never looks our way, but I’ve seen that trick before. Me and Buttercup keep as still as stones, ankle deep in the mud until he passes. Then I check my watch. It’s nearly noon. We wait 15 minutes to make sure he doesn’t double back.

    Time passes. I re-mount and we continue on our way. I check behind me periodically. The rain lessens to an annoying drizzle. The low hanging clouds look silver and gray. I haven’t seen the sun in—I don’t know, over twenty years?

    Eventually our destination emerges from the drizzling mist; a ramshackle cabin nestled in a small clearing beside the road. Bad news: A horse is tied to the hitching post.

    I urge old Buttercup forward and he complies reluctantly. He doesn’t like other horses any less than I distrust other humans. I dismount, keeping Buttercup between me and the door. First, I pull a chain out of my saddlebag and secure old Buttercup to the steel hitching post. Then I grab my rifle and pull a bloody sack out of the other saddlebag.

    I approach the door and tap it with the barrel of my rifle. After a few seconds, a small trap in the door slides open and the owner recognizes me. He nods and slides the trap shut. I can hear chains and bolts rattle as he unlocks the door, then pulls it open and lets me in.

    As is customary, I stand at the entrance for a bit to let the water drip off my cloak and hat before removing them; the gloves come off too.

    The owner of the other horse is hunched over the counter, nursing a cup of something that might be coffee. He barely acknowledges my presence, which is fine with me.

    The owner of the cabin, a man named Sutton, says, “What cha need, Mr. Jones?”

    I pull a soggy slip of paper out of my pocket and slide it across the counter. He looks it over while his lips move silently. Then he says, “What cha got for me?”

    So I plunk the bag of chickens on the counter, and he looks in the bag and gives me an appreciative look.

    The other man notices the bag and sort of glances my way. I respond to his interest by setting my rifle on the counter with the barrel pointing in his general direction. The clunk it makes sends a clear but unmistakable message.

    I look at Sutton and say, “Any problem with that list?”

    Sutton shakes his head and then disappears into the back room as I keep my eyes straight ahead.

    After a few minutes, Sutton returns with a different sack and slides it over the counter.

    My return trip home is uneventful, thank God, and my woman is so glad to see me she ignores my soaking clothes and hugs me tight. She takes the bag out of my arms and sets it on the table, and begins to pull items out and place them in the cupboards.

    There’s a hot stew bubbling on the stove and I lick my lips in anticipation.

    “So,” she says, “how was your trip to the store? Tell me all about it.”

  • Daphne Thompson
    Emotional buttons

    It was the worst moment to experience being emotionally knocked sideways.
    To an outsider there was nothing obvious that would trigger a such response, nevertheless it pushed buttons and brought a tsunami of memories flooding into all the senses; powerful, overtaking all ability to stay focussed in the moment, rendering the person momentarily paralysed.
    It always happens when one is least prepared for it or hasn’t even had the remotest inkling that they subconsciously felt that way.

    Ian took a quick slurp of cold coffee and set the mug back down onto the desk, strode out toward the admitting area, fingering the stethoscope dangled around his neck.
    The night shift had been hectic in the Emergency department of this Australian city hospital.

    Now it was only two in the morning and already the exhausted triage team had been confronted with dozens of cases, ranging from life threatening major trauma to minor incidents of cuts and sprains; and including two labouring pregnant women whose babies must have preferred the relative quiet of night to make passage into the world outside their womb.

    Staff moved quickly to get the mothers off to the labour ward and away from the cacophony of shouting, crying, abusive language, television sounds emanating from the packed waiting area.

    Ian has worked here since arriving from Scotland as a young Medical graduate a decade ago and thrives on working at the front line of medicine. His clear, quick thinking, clinical skills and reassuring bedside manner have earned him great respect from all staff.

    ‘Bay Four’ directed the dark haired nurse briskly leading the way as she began to give some details of presenting symptoms.
    Ian followed her and stepped through the curtain held back by the nurse.


    Name check.
    Ian quickly glanced down to the notes thrust into his hands….Bon…He looked up, stopped dead in his tracks, hand still suspended in mid air somewhere between grasping his stethoscope and letting go of it.

    He stood transfixed and unashamedly stared at her pyjamas, a black stretch fabric top.
    But it wasn’t the top that caused the response; it was the fabric pattern of the pants that knocked him for a six. It was his Scottish MacLeod tartan, the tartan of his clan…

    Time rolled back ten years and Ian could hear the pipes, their sound carrying across the water.
    He could feel the rolling deck and vibrating ferry engine motors beneath his feet. The brine of the ocean filled his nostrils; early morning breeze chilly, making a man thrust his hands deeper into jacket pockets.
    Shivers down his spine, tears rolling down his cheeks on hearing traditional Highland songs he so dearly loved, seeing his father in full MacLeod kilt standing apart on the rocky shore, silhouetted against the golden rising sun, his fly plaid gently fluttering in the breeze.
    The sounds of ‘Flower of Scotland’ faintly sounding long after the ferry pulled away and his father just a wee speck on the distant shore.

    A Highlander, his father was tough and proud; he was practical, generous; and he was sentimental.
    As I sailed from my Highland home to start life in a new land, my father ensured that he would embed my heart with a pocket for homesickness. There would forever be a void in me that only my Scottish heritage could fill.
    Since then bagpipes would always trigger a memory of that hauntingly beautiful morning of my departure.

    ‘Dr MacLeod.’ A far-off thready sound reached his ears, with as little impact as the sounds of the seagulls wheeling around the ferry that morning.

    ‘Dr MacLeod!’ Much louder this time, urgent tones.


    The dark haired nurse was staring at him with grave concern. This was most uncharacteristic of the doctor.

    Ian shook himself out of his reverie.

    His patient was in respiratory distress, balled up with extreme abdominal pain, her face contorted with agony suddenly paled. Her skin went cold and clammy and she was clearly in shock. The next instant she bolted upright and hunched over as a wave of nausea convulsed her body, tresses of long flame red hair fell forward covering her freckled youthful face that belied her twenty six years.

    Ian sprang into action. It was all bells and whistles.

    A diagnosis was confirmed.
    An appendicitis threatening to burst!
    Permission for surgery granted.

    Within minutes all pre-op procedures were completed, a theatre prepared and a surgical team on the ready to receive the patient being hurtled along the corridor.

    Another medical crisis averted; the Emergency staff always in awe of Dr Macleod’s quick thinking and efficient organisational skills.

    At the end of the shift it was only the dark haired nurse who shared a knowing glance with the good doctor.

    Or was it only her?

    ‘Thank you.’ Ian gave her a grateful smile as he walked out of the building, troubled by the incident.

    On the drive home so many thoughts and mental pictures ran through his mind; his concentration slip and the nurse who witnessed it, the beautiful red haired patient whose life was in his hands, his impeccable reputation suddenly in question.

    Several weeks later a gift wrapped package was waiting for Ian as he entered the Emergency department.

    Curiously he opened it and to his astonishment there lay a Scottish tartan tie; yes the McLeod tartan of black and freedom red on a field of poppy yellow. Attached to it was a personally written thank you note, ending with … ‘always grateful, from a fellow Scotty, Bonnie.’

    He picked it up, held it and stroked its soft wool. Only a Scots person could connect on such a deep level. For centuries it has always been known that the Scottish are blessed with ‘Second sight’ and strong belief in superstition.

  • Chitra Adjoodah

    “It was the worst evening in my new venture! I’m ruined.” Mackay pulled Jack Daniel in the corner of the entertainment lounge, out of the way of the other staff who were tidying and getting the room prepared for the next day. “Is that how you repay my kindness? It was most embarrassing!”

    “Those children were out of order!” Jack responded by pulling his red tartan kilt up. The kilt was a wrap over, two sizes too big for him and was secured over his hips by his black belt. The leather pouch hanged heavy in front of him, He wound his matching tartan scarf over his neck.

    “You were most out of order! You should have stopped and left at the same time as the dancer did. You carried on swilling free whisky from the bar and from the guests.” Mackay reminded Jack of his behaviour. “I should really ask you to leave, and go back busking on the roads of Edinburgh’s Castle.”

    “ I promise it won’t happen again! I’ll be homeless if you throw me out. I can’t stand the cold and the dampness of the streets any more. You and the as kind|British tourists used to throw a penny and then a pound as you got richer, in my cap after I played the bagpipes and tapped on the ancient stones of the roads.” He leaned over to the chair to pick his bagpipes as he found his instrument.

    “I’ll make a decision about your future after I hear from the guests.” Mackay did not have the nerve to banish him. He took a £5 note and thrust it to him. “Buy some underpants!”

    Jack Daniel reached for the money, then pulled his hand away, not taking the note. “I’ve never worn pants. I’m a proper old Scot.”

    “You’re not going around in my castle/hotel waving your bits about like you did tonight. This is a family hotel not a strip club.”

    Jack pulled his cap out and scratched his head. “They don’t sell men’s underpants in the charity shop. I can get another set of costume with that money.”

    Mackay looked at him and pondered. He took another fiver and gave the notes to him, “Pants as well or you’re OUT.”

    “Ain’t I pleased to see you, Christine?” Mackay raised his head from the computer as she barged in.

    “I’m so sorry for yesterday. The roads were packed with thick ice and the damned car won’t start. There was no public transport either. I was very worried about you and I kept thinking how you would manage with all these children whilst I’m not here to mind them in the nursery.
    I heard the evening show went well.”

    “It was a disaster. The children, all in their pyjamas, stayed with their parents for the show because there was no one to mind them in the nursery.”

    “They wash and dress them because most of them fall asleep as the night wears on. They’re put straight to bed when they get to their rooms.” Christine explained.
    “I know.” Mackay paused, “I can’t bear to think what happened.”

    Christine started giggling. “Jack is harmless. The guest took it as part of the entertainment. The families just told me that the children had a good time and they had a good laugh.”

    “You call that fun. Jack played the bagpipes and the dancer performed the Highlands and Tap Scottish Dance. He carried on piping as the guest shouted, Encore, encore.” They gave him more whisky and he started tapping on his own with his kilt flapping here and there. Like Pied Piper the children followed him in a locomotive game. The first child pulled at his kilt. He tripped over and crawled on the floor half naked and looking for cover. The bar staff picked him up and carried him out of sight.”

    Christine put her hand over her mouth to stifle her giggles.

    “I don’t wish to sell my ancestral castle.” His eyes swept around the office. “ I need the income of the business to keep it running. I sacrificed my relationship with my wife to keep this place.”

    “ We’re all in it to keep this place running.” Christine assured him.

    “Would you be able to stay free of charge, whilst the weather is bad.” Mackay offered.

    “I was waiting for you to ask. Of course, I am by your side.”

  • Last night…
    © Emmanuel Malho 2015

    “It was the worst night of my life…” I said, wearing my blue and orange pajamas, sitting in my armchair in the front porch. My friend Zach came in for a visit near 9 am. I could barely keep my eyes open. Zach’s voice sounded horribly loud. Even the sun sounded too loud.
    The day before, I was staring at my phone at 6pm. “OK. Grow some balls. It’s now or never”. I was looking at a gorgeous blonde smiling at me from her Facebook profile picture. I hadn’t been brave enough to start talking. “You ain’t worth a tiny rat’s ass if you don’t message her before 6:05 pm. It was 6:03 pm. I used the remaining time to swipe my finger and check some more photos. “Gosh, she’s beautiful. And hot”. 06:06 pm. “You are worth nothing. Now send her a message”. Negative self-talk worked sometimes. This was one of them. A shy “Hi!” was all that came from these shaking fingers. Ten seconds after a “Hi” came back. Casual talk went on and I suddenly looked at my watch: 6:45 pm. I was still at work and had to leave. “So how about we go for a coffee tonight?” I asked. Conversation was going smoothly and I thought she’d be receptive. “Fine. Meet me at the Song’s Courtyard by 9:00 pm. We’ll have dinner.” That was a shocker! For one with low self-esteem, that was certainly not an outcome I was expecting. “See you there”, I replied.
    The trip home took the longest forty minutes I remember. I got home and searched my wardrobe for some clothes. “OK… this will have to do” I thought, picking a dark blue squared shirt with some faint red and white lines. I was leaving when I suddenly stopped. “Sh*t!” I went back to my room and wore one of my favorite perfumes – Scorpio Vertigo. It had that perfect almost bitter but rather sweet scent. Last look in the mirror. “Now you’re good to go”.
    The Song’s Courtyard was in historic downtown. I loved that part of town. “She’s Cancer too, she has to love that part of town too! Either that or she hates it”. It was a pretty nice restaurant. It had an outdoors part where a tree was planted and kept there. The bar stood around the tree. Part of the restaurant was there too and the other part indoors. Nervous, I got there fifteen minutes before. She was arriving. She was a little shorter than me. She was a little chubby, but her hips were almost perfectly proportional looking at her whole body. She had that power in her eyes. Like one who knows she has me in her grasp to bend and snap. She recognized me and she smiled.
    We had dinner. We got to know each other better. She was finishing her Psychology course. She didn’t know what she’d do next, but she was hopeful about that. I couldn’t help but to get lost in her eyes. They turned sweet yet provocative during dinner. “I feel like some tequila”, she said. “We shall go then”, I took her arm and we headed to the bar. Music sounded louder. We almost had to scream to each other to talk to each other. “Never gamble with professionals”, was the lesson I learned that moment. I stood closer to her. She stood closer to me. We crossed our arms and drank another tequila shot. We kept talking about everything and nothing while we drank some more and kept touching. Her hands felt divine on my chest, almost reaching for my shoulder. She covered my hand with hers while I put my hand on her thigh, not too far from her knee. “Let’s go dance”, she said. I could walk. I could run. But dancing? We had to try that.
    The club was full. We barely managed to get in. I got a gin for us both. We couldn’t speak to each other – music was too loud. She got real close to me. She signaled me to lower my head so she could speak. It was an inspiring view. “Do you dance?” she said to my ear. “I dance”. She moved vigorously. Keeping up was hard – where’d she get all that energy? We kept on dancing. A guy approached her, said something to her (I couldn’t ear) and she nodded negatively. Was he a friend? An acquaintance? “He asked if he could kiss me”. I grew a little jealous. “What did you answer?” “I said you are my boyfriend”. I blushed and grabbed her. We kept on dancing.
    We were the last ones getting out of the club. We walked to her place. My car was near her place. We walked alone, in the night, silent city. I kept holding her. She kept holding me. We reached her place. It was almost 6:00 am. “Hey, sunrise in St. Peter’s beach is in forty-two minutes. Let’s go watch it”. She smiled. I grabbed her hand and took her to the car. She was holding my hand while I was driving. We got there and sat on a stone wall. I held her in tight embrace. I had never seen such a beautiful sunrise for years. We went back to her place. 7:00 am. I didn’t know what to say. She grabbed both my hands and pulled me to her. “Just come in already”, she said with that provocative smile only she did.
    I got home by 9:00 am, only to get my pajamas dressed and get ready for some long sleep hours. As I got into bed, the doorbell rang. It was Zach. “You look like one who had a bad night!”, he tortured me with his voice. We sat on the armchairs in the front porch. “Oh, you wouldn’t know… I met this girl last night… Gosh, it was the worst night in my life…” I genuinely smiled. “Not!”

  • Vasanti’s Cleavage

    It was the worst kind of predicament that Veena ever faced. Nineteen year old and married for one year into the Reddy family, Veena was still trying to understand the politics of the family.

    The Reddy family has been in the Kottapalli village for almost a century now. But the current Reddy head was in complete mismatch to the lady of the family, Vasanti. The wimpy man of the house, i.e the Senior Reddy, hired men to till his lands which mainly grew peanuts and barely went out himself. Vasanti, a buxom and fair lady in her early 40s was 15 years younger than Senior Reddy. Their only son, Sripati, was a young harworking man in his mid-20s.

    Vasanti’s domineering personality was no secret to the village. The household servants, the maids, farm hands, neighbouring women, Senior Reddy and of course, Veena accepted her authority without a whimper. Fond of wearing heavy silver anklets, Vasanti’s movements in the house were often given away by their rhythmic sound. On cue, the servants, maids and even Senior Reddy would scurry away. Veena was the only one who could not afford to hide away. No point, since Vasanti always seemed to know where she was. In one year, Veena was programmed to be always at the beck and call of Vasanti.

    Vasanti had a penchant for entertaining her friends from the neighbourhood daily after lunch. The ladies also loved visiting her, mainly for the gossip and the ofchance that Vasanti in her good mood parted with goodies or some of the fresh produce like peanuts. All that they had to do, of course subtly, was to praise Vasanti on her efficiency at running her farm and her house, her beauty or her wit.

    That day Vasanti, as usual, held court with the women in the verandah outside the kitchen. The ladies were busy shelling a huge heap of freshly harvested peanuts. Vasanti kept fanning herself for the weather was sultry and not a whiff of breeze flowed around. Though, it was beyond her that day to share in the work. So she just sat back and enjoyed the gossip floating around. Soon, the local primary school’s mathematics teacher, Srinath, came by. Young and goodlooking, Srinath liked Vasanti and that day he came to her house on the pretext of discussing the administrative problems of the school. Quickly, Veena was summoned to fetch a wooden chair and a tumbler of cool buttermilk for Srinath. He dragged the chair to place it near Vasanti who sat on the ground with the women. Veena came back with buttermilk. The women were busy shelling, chattering and giggling to themselves. Veena spied Srinath giving her a once over. At her hard glare, Srinath quickly turned away to look at other women. Veena never liked to be part of these gossip meetings and to avoid being called in by Vasanti, she would keep herself busy at the waterwell on the other side of the verandah washing clothes or digging trenches around the coconut trees along the boundary wall.

    Veena extended the drink to Srinath and in his haste to reach across the heap of peanuts to take it, the tumbler slipped to the floor spilling buttermilk. Vasanti moved forward quikcly to grab the rolling tumbler and handed it back to Veena all the while lecturing her in a soft yet steely voice. The teacher, Veena saw, wore a rapturous look on his face. Puzzled, Veena followed his gaze which was completely held captive by the generous amount of Vasanti’s cleavage on display. Vasanti did not realize that her pallu (the end of the saree that goes over her left shoulder) had slipped and the low-cut neck of her blouse had her big beautiful bosom spilling out.

    Veena wished to communicate it to Vasanti. Her dilemma was – if she verbalized it, it would catch the attention of those who hadn’t seen it till then but if she didn’t then she may be in for a huge scolding from Vasanti later when she realises it. The teacher, in the midst of it all, was enjoying his good fortune. The tantalizing move of her bosom with every breath she took was made even more sensuous with the sweat trickling down the valley.
    Veena tried to gesture by moving her hands to let Vasanti know but she was still busy scolding Veena for her butterfingers, her low levels of concentration on her work, her lack of hospitality to guests and so on. The more Veena gestured, the wilder she looked. For a second, Vasanti stopped speaking watching Veena. Sounds of muffled giggles grew from the gathered women. One glare from Vasanti silenced them but now even they saw what only Vasanti was still oblivious of.
    Desperate now to save Vasanti’s modesty, Veena started talking to Srinath to distract him from ogling Vasanti’s cleavage. Vasanti cut short Veena’s chatter in loud voice and Veena, to her horror, saw the pallu slipping further down, now to reveal her golden midriff.

    Shutting her eyes tight, Veena grabbed a jute sack lying nearby, in which peanuts were brought in that morning, and threw it on Vasanti’s cleavage. The rising dust from the sack tickled Vasanti’s nose triggering loud helpless sneezes cutting short her tirade against Veena.

  • Anika Madison
    One Stupid Promise
    ©Anika Madison 11/17/2015 (995 words)

    “It was the worst decision I ever made! One stupid promise!”

    That is all Kevin can say over and over again as he stands at the base of the now infamous mulberry tree. It is only a matter of time before everything catches up to him. He had no idea it would be today. There is just one problem. Only one side of the story has been told and there isn’t much time left to let Karen know before she boards the plane.

    Three years ago at Linda and Reinaldo’s wedding, Kevin was introduced to his future wife Karen. It was love at first sight, as Kevin Wilmore watched Karen Armstrong walk down the aisle wearing her awful lime green bride’s maid gown. Her ruby red lips were striking as they complimented her alabaster skin and emerald green eyes.

    A year from the day he first laid eyes on her, Karen Armstrong became Karen Wilmore. Karen loves mulberries, so they planted a mulberry tree in their huge backyard. The Wilmore’s live in an affluent neighborhood.

    On the weekend of their tenth wedding anniversary, Linda and Reinaldo Whittington invited the Wilmore’s to celebrate the special event at their sprawling beach house. There was so much room, they would have half of the house to themselves.
    Their last night started like any other. They enjoyed an exquisite dinner, three bottles of wine and funny stories that displayed the past ten years of their lives like a cherished memory book. Karen even wore the lime green bride’s maid gown she was wearing when Kevin first laid eyes on her just for laughs.

    As they said good night, Kevin received a call from his old best-friend Gary. Before Kevin turned his life around, he and Gary used to run the streets as teenagers, looking for trouble. Gary was known for being extremely dangerous and at the time, Kevin thought that their association made him cool. One night trouble found them when Gary took a bullet for Kevin. In the hospital, Kevin promised that if Gary recovered, he would repay him for what he had done. Gary recovered.

    A year after Gary was shot, Kevin turned his life around. He walked away from the dangerous life leaving Gary behind without payment. That would be the greatest and worst decision Kevin ever made. When Kevin left the streets, he went to college and invented some ideas. He used the education he gained in the School of Business and the savvy he gained from the School of the Streets to create a successful new life.

    On the last night of Kevin’s anniversary weekend, Gary caught up with his old buddy and wanted him to repay his debt. Kevin never found out how Gary ended up outside the Whittington’s beach house, but he knew he had to get outside immediately. Kevin found out that Gary had a score to settle with his ex’s new husband, Reinaldo. Years ago, Linda moved far away from Gary to escape his dangerous lifestyle.

    As Gary told Kevin his plans, Karen and the Whittington’s fell into a blissful sleep from the intoxicating bottles of wine they consumed during dinner. Karen fell asleep in full makeup, wearing her dress. Kevin was terrified as he looked into the beach house’s glass wall to see Gary’s goon standing over Karen with a gun to her head. Dark brown tears were streaming down her cheeks and staining the masking tape covering her mouth.

    Kevin was instructed to take Karen out of the house and leave Gary to carry out his long awaited plans. With his wife’s life at stake, Kevin grabbed Karen, their belongings and left the beach house without looking back. Instead of going home, Kevin decided they should go to a hotel for a while and let things cool down. Kevin went to the hotel’s gym early the next morning as Karen slept. When he returned, Karen was gone. A tear-stained note was left on the bed that read “I cannot go back to living my life in danger.” Later that day, Kevin returned home to Gary sitting in his living room. His backyard had been dug up by the mulberry tree. Gary placed the bodies of the Whittington’s there and told Kevin that if he kept quiet, he would make sure no one finds out where the bodies were buried. That was three months, 2 days and 6 hours ago.

    As he reads the newspaper in his hand, Kevin knows he has a decision to make. Today’s headline news reads “Tip leading to the remains of Linda and Reinaldo Whittington have been confirmed.”

    “Did Gary sell him out?” Kevin wonders.

    Kevin removes any thoughts from his mind that would hinder his decision making. He grabs his coat and rushes to the airport. It is 2 pm and Karen’s flight leaves at 6. Knowing that she always gets to the airport 2 hours before flights, with the two hour commute, he will just make it before she goes to her gate.

    As Kevin rushes into the airport, he sees Karen approaching the luggage check line. He runs towards her reaching out his right hand. Just before his finger tip touches her shoulder, the cold hard clasp of a handcuff stops him short. His time is up.
    In jail, Kevin is escorted to meet with his attorney. He sits behind the glass in what may become his new home. The man that sits down on the other side is not Kevin’s attorney. The man picks up the phone and tells a reluctant Kevin to do the same. He introduces himself.

    “Hello Kevin. I am your new attorney, Mr. Wilburn. Gary sent me. Don’t worry about anything. As long as you keep your promise, he will keep his. Gary just wants to make sure he had your attention and regained your total loyalty. I will be in touch.”

    As Mr. Wilburn walks away, Kevin languishes over his worst decision and stupid promise.

  • It was the worst day:
    Worst day? No!
    Why should consider it bad;
    it was the most beautiful day in my life along other days, it was a nice dawn when I first touched her petite hand, when the nurse after the birth brought for me a tiny little girl.
    Other good day her first day to her play school.
    Her laughter is spread all around – she together with her friends filling the place with noise; when she was standing on the theater giving the high school graduation speech; I saw her stepping into life till she graduated from university its big time – now a nice memoire – I accompanied her, it was the first time she entered the university campus, I could notice, she was so shy; I was so happy: my daughter now is going to start her great achievement: to go into university: in the hall, I stood aside while she was choosing her learning path.
    So today its her wedding, but surely this is the happiest day for all of us seeing her with the white long dress tail walking with her groom in the aisle while everyone is clapping: and “Here comes the Bride”!. Here comes my lovely daughter!
    Previously before the groom arrived to our house, family, friends, neighbors all around us in the house gathering to see her off for the wedding: the Dean’s family representing everyone told the Groom: “We are here all assembling to welcome you and your family, we are proud to accept your offer to marry our daughter, unquestioningly we agreed to your offer, trusting that she will be in good hands”.
    The henna party which means women’s night: my daughter was surrounded with tens of young girls, and what is henna night: Henna is the party a mother makes to daughter on the wedding’s eve: where henna is soaked in big pottery pot, the hands of the bride and all the guests dyed on their hands, feet, skin and hair.
    What a venue: a place is full with glowing candles, women wearing folklore dresses, and wheat spikes in jars, red table sheets spread everywhere.
    The traditional folklore songs fill up the night:
    Oh you bride: …
    Tonight you’re leaving your father’s house…
    In case you like anything from its belongings,
    Please do take it with you,
    Even if it was a nail on the wall, unscrew and take”.
    Bridal henna nights remain an important Arabian custom, particularly among traditional families.
    On other place men will be celebrating “Guys Night and Groom’s Bath”: all male friends will be singing while the rest are dancing the “dabkeh”.
    Another song but different one:
    I was bachelor and happy,
    My mind told me to get married,
    Beauty came.

    For months everyone was preparing themselves for the wedding of my daughter; the more the time approaches the more different I am: at one time happy and other unhappy:” it is mixed feeling.
    Twenty eight years she was around, with, and for me. She’s there! Was she a daughter and my companion, a relief, I used to talk and she is a good listener. By this night she will not anymore be with me, it is the best day of her life.
    But sad for me: oh my! I did not relieve that feeling.
    But she felt it: I’m sure of that.
    Cakes, candles again, flowers over the tables, DJ, music, dances, dancers, food, for the first time in my life I see the hotel nicer, the hall brighter. Her smile was the most beautiful smile that was a different special smile.
    The DJ sang for her at my request, a dearly loved song, till now whenever I hear it I cry, yes I see my tears come down.
    The words say:
    Let’s live flowery stability
    Let’s have boys and girls
    You’re the most beautiful someone I saw in my life”.
    My son jumps to his sister and kiss, only then the camera man caught my tears.
    Wedding was over, her parents, brother and sister were going out from the hall, she looked at us, for the first time she ran away, she didn’t say goodbye or shook hands. May be she ran away not to see tears, off to the lift to go up with her groom to the room.
    It is worst day, off she went, the joy with her friends, one goes and other guest comes back.
    Missing her when she used to sit in the living room and bring fives of oranges and starts peeling them and giving everyone his share. No more telephone ringing bothers us, silence.
    It is all about French fries, hamburgers and sausages.
    Next morning we went with her and her groom to the airport to see them off for their honeymoon.
    In the way back stillness spread in the car.
    Her sister went to the bedroom, a bedroom that its walls embraced their secrets, nights’ talks, books, stories, and their perfumes, makeup kits.
    Her sister missing her already, she cries.
    But what should we do: she is happy, she is off with the man she chose to be with, and it is her good choice.
    How come it is the worst day: at the contrary it is one of the best days.
    Soon she will have children and house will be fulfilled with new guests again.
    Although I was trying morally to encourage them: brother, sister and her father for her absence from the house, thus, my heart was falling apart. After ten years of her marriage! God gifted me with two beautiful young grandchildren, her brother too added one nice member to our family and one grandchild too. While the youngest who cried married too and on her wedding eve too I had the same odd feelings: now is it my worst day or my best? It is up to the readers to say that: “Please reply to the query: agree or disagree: was it the worst or best day?”

  • Murder of the Bride

    It was the worst Pandey would witness. On a cold winter morning, he was returning home after his regular dip in the Ganges when he heard the sound of a child crying. Originating from the altar at the base of the giant banyan tree, the noise pierced the otherwise quiet winter morning. Pandey followed the noise, cursing the parents for their callousness.

    As he walked around the altar to the other side, in the haziness of the foggy dawn he saw a child of about six months on the altar crying. The child was cold and hungry. The mother sat beside the child her back resting on the tree trunk eyes closed. Pandey became angry at the careless of the mother and cried, “Can’t you hear your child’s cry? Are you deaf?”
    There was nobody around to help and the mother did not respond to his repeated calls. Pandey reached over and shook the woman in the hope it would wake her up. When he shook her, her body slid flat on the altar, her body cold and still. Pandey screamed for help from the neighbors.

    Pandey, in his sixties had been a man who strictly practiced his faith. He had never smoked a cigarette or drank a glass of wine. As the chief priest of the Shiva temple, people respected Pandey and when he knocked at their door even reluctant people came out braving the morning chill and gathered at the riverside. Someone in the crowd called the police.

    The fog dispersed with the rising sun and it was brighter when the police arrived. Nobody in the crowd knew the woman. It was unusual she was wearing an expensive red saree that women wear when they get married yet she had no jewelry, purse or mobile phone with her. Police thought it could have been a burglary gone wrong, but there were no signs of any injury.

    “Who found the woman?” Inspector Jacob asked.

    When in school Jacob decided he would become a cop and always remained focused in his goal. At thirty-eight he went to the gym regularly to stay fit and be a better cop. His colleagues knew his strong determination to solve mysteries.

    “Attracted by the cry of the child I found her here.” Pandey said, then he narrated the total happenings to Jacob.
    “Do you know her?”
    “I do not know her but I have seen her before. She came to the temple two days ago and complained her husband was a drunk and cheating on her. I assured her I will pray to Lord Shiva to get rid of her problems. I also advised her to go to the police if needed. ”
    “Anybody else know her?”

    All were silent and shook their head, one man in the crowd said, “Sir, hundreds of devotees from near and far come here, and it’s very difficult to recognize one of them. We can remember followers who come here regularly.”

    As the police were removing her body from the altar a woman shouted, “Wait, I know her! She is a neighbor of my sister who lives in the town 30 miles away. Her husband Manoj, is a criminal and tortured her. Maybe he has murdered her and left her body here.”
    “Do you know her address?” Jacob said.
    “No, but I can give you my sisters.” she replied.


    Manoj, the dead woman’s husband, was scared to see the police at his door.
    “Why are you so scared to see us here?” Jacob asked.
    Manoj kept quiet.
    “Where are your wife and child?”
    “I don’t know sir.”
    “When did you last see them?”
    “Yesterday afternoon.”
    “Your wife and child have been missing all night, did you report that to the police?”
    “No sir, I thought she was visiting her aunt.” A frightened Manoj said.
    “Did you try to find out where she was?” They asked as they entered the house.
    In Manoj’s bedroom police found another woman.
    “You murdered your wife so you can be with this woman?”
    “I loved Nita, two years ago my parents made me marry her.”
    “You both will have to come with us to the police station.”
    “I am innocent, I have done nothing,” he pleaded.
    The police arrested them both on suspicion of murder.

    The autopsy reported the death was due to cyanide poisoning that happened around midnight.

    Police on searching Manoj’s house found he had recently purchased a substantial insurance policy in his wife’s name. They thought Manoj had enough motive to murder his wife and they intensified their questioning. Neither Manoj nor Nita were talking. The night of his wife’s death, Manoj and Nita were at Manoj’s house. Police could not trace any avenue from which Manoj, a clerk in an accountant’s office could get cyanide. Short on evidence, the police had to release Manoj and Nita after a few days but kept a close watch on their activities.

    Few months passed by and with no developments the case lost importance. One morning a small newspaper article caught Jacob’s attention. In another town, a hundred miles away a woman was found dead near a temple in her marriage dress. No wound or ornaments were found on her body. The autopsy said cyanide poisoning.

    Jacob found similarities in the two cases, women in marriage dress, no ornaments, cyanide, near a temple. Jacob called up the investigation officer and explained his similar case.
    “My suspicion was on the husband, but we found nothing against him,” Jacob said
    “Some people here saw a woman in saffron speaking to her not long before she died,” the voice of the investigating officer on the other side replied.
    “You mean a woman disciple?”
    “Our artist is working on preparing her sketch.”
    “Will you send it to me when it is finished?”

    A couple of days later the sketch of a middle-aged woman arrived. Jacob went back to the temple and showed it to Pandey who after a close look said, “I have seen this woman near the temple twice, but she never returned after the murder.”
    “Why didn’t you tell us that?”
    “I thought she was a disciple. They come and go all the time.”
    “Bingo!” Jacob murmured.

  • Renette Steele
    Nov 17 2015
    Writers Hang out

    The worst story

    It was the worst pain ever. I could do nothing more then remain in the fetal position, buried in the covers with a heating pad pressed against my back, if I tried to move I was rewarded with a sharp searing agony beyond belief. I must say I would much rather give birth any day.

    I took a pain pill and curled up to die. Finally drifting off to sleep, the house was one I knew well, yet was not the one I currently lived in, but a combination of the many homes I’ve had in my life. It was full of noise, children seemed to be everywhere. Were they mine or someone else s?

    One minute I was the mom trying to wrangle them all, the next I was a teenager and all the kids appeared to be kids I knew from grade school, plus many of the students I had taught. They were planning a trip of some kind, a ball game perhaps or maybe my funeral, there was just to much confusion to really tell.

    Suddenly My little family of six is riding in a car and I am trying to keep them entertained with the worst story, each of them adding their own tidbits to the tale, as the journey progresses the car becomes a fan load of junior high school kids on their way to basketball tournaments. They too seem to become a part of the story.

    Herbert the duck went for his daily stroll one fine sunny day. He waddled along with confidence that the day would bring about great joy and laughter.

    The tall green grass was just to his liking and he thought a dip in the clear, cool, blue lake sounded pleasant, so off he went.

    Herbert came upon a large bolder. He figured someone must have moved it into his path as he couldn’t remember it being there before. It seemed an awful long way around, he didn’t see any way to go under, so Herbert began to look for away to go over it. The longer he looked the bigger the rock seemed to get.
    (Kinda like trying to write this story, the more I plot and think the tougher the prompt seems. Nothing to do but dig in and write some nonsense))

    Herbert found a stick, maybe it could be of some use. He set it against the mountain and tried to walk up it, but kept falling off. Once the branch even rolled out from under him. There must be away he thought. Pulling the limb away and looking back, an idea came to him.

    Herbert put his head down and mad a charge at the mound flapping as he went, with great effort he gave a leap and right over it he bound.

    Cheers erupted: “Yea Herbert!”

    “You see students you need to face the challenges and look at them with new perspective and never give up.” The teacher in me spills out.

    Off he set once again towards the pond. A Bee buzzed bye several times demanding his attention.
    “Fallow me! Fallow me!”

    Herbert obliged. They zigzagged to a new meadow. Many creatures had gathered there. It grew quiet. Herbert could make out a strange sound. It was a squeaking and humming unlike anything he had ever heard before. The noise grew louder as a shadow fell over them.

    What was this strange new thing? Was it safe? Could it be trusted?

    A figure was holding a bladder and pipes, He was blowing and squeezing on it. The lower extremities dancing some crazy jig. A smaller version of a human was bouncing along, twirling and singing in a loud voice:

    “Banana’s in pajamas are coming down the stairs
    Bananas are coming down in pairs
    Bananas are chasing Teddy bears
    Trying to catch you and them unawares.”

    “Watch my children, who and what you choose to fallow.” the coach in me interjects.

    Soon Herbert and all the animals are skipping along. The Banana playing the bagpipes doesn’t
    see, that old rock Herbert jumped over earlier, and down he goes. Like dominoes they all fall on top of him and slipped right into the water.

    Herbert is happy this is where he had planned to come. Swimming along he remembers another song and begins to sing:

    “Home, home on the range, where the uni-bomber lives and the freemen aren’t free any more. Home, home on the…..


    I woke up with a start, the phone is ringing.

    “Hello… yes… okay…Thank you.”

    It was the doctors office, the test results are back, I have a kidney stone. Pain medication and time, lots of liquids.

    Trying to shake a little sense into my head, “WOW, that was the worst mixed up dream.”

    Just then I faintly hear the sound of bagpipes playing.

    “No! It can’t be…… Banana’s in pajamas.”

  • Crime pays
    It was the worst night of my life. I had nightmares and dreamt of everything that could have gone right, but didn’t. Still in my pajamas, I had scrambled eggs, downed with cups of tea.

    Then I took out my rickshaw for the day’s work – ferrying passengers. It was a hot and sultry and most people would be indoors, till late afternoon. It was sweltering in Rourkela, Bihar. So at 2 pm I was glad I had a customer. He wanted to go to the police station. Wonder if he had something stolen or maybe he lost his mobile. I smiled. Anyway it was a good fare.

    The customer told me to wait for him. Earlier he was a curious when I was checking the diesel tank; he saw me limp and enquired after me, “Why are you limping? What happened? I told him how some time back it had to be operated, after I had hurt myself falling over a metal object.

    When we reached the police station, he said, “Why don’t you come in with me – you‘ll get return fare; my bag has some valuables.” I agreed. I had my reasons to go that far. I followed him into the police station – the place was dark and damp. There were a few benches at the entrance, a table where a constable sat and filed the report. Most curious, and what left me agog, was the incongruous bagpipe on the wall behind a glass cabinet. Did the Inspector play while he was thrashing a thief or was he in the band? I thought of asking him, but a look at the Inspector’s face made me shy away.

    I sat on the opposite bench from my customer and got busy listening to some songs. Words like grill, camera floated to me as I watched a video on my cell phone. Then I got bored and decided to wait in the rick; when he said to the inspector, “He bashed it.”

    ‘Who bashed what?’ I wondered.

    Suddenly my hair stood up on end. What was he talking about? Then I thought what did it matter who bashed whom? It was nothing to do with me for sure! Or I wasn’t listening properly. But it seemed as if they were staging a performance.

    “I will show you the camera recording,” said the customer to the Inspector.

    “How could you have it, when it was broken?” I BLURTED OUT.

    “Thanks Hansmukh for spilling the truth,” the customer told me victoriously, “that is the reason I searched you out and asked you to drop me here. I also noticed the spanner and crowbar you kept behind the seat.

    I listened carefully but I still had a smile on my face!” the customer said.”You didn’t know that the camera recorded even when you lifted the crowbar to hit the camera.” It is with me and he played the recording again. This time I knew my game was up. My face had a hint of a smile.

    Why? was I smiling? Simple; all this was helping me since I had plans to be in jail today. YES, I really did!

    Actually, while I was sitting watching the video on my cell; the customer had showed the tape to the inspector. All this was a ruse. And I realised it soon. They were trying to trap me.
    The customer had made enquiries about the limp and showed my pic around, thenwaited for my rickshaw. He had ensnared me all by himself by showing my pictures around.. All that was left to do was show the recording,and show my face to the Inspector as the same one in the recording. Smart ass, I thought!

    Earlier night, Thursday:

    I decided that I would commit the heist that night. That’s my real job driving an auto was a front. It gave me opportunities to know the routines of my customers who were potential clients. I had to get my sister married and this was an easy way to collect money for the dowry.

    My leg hurt a lot, but I had to do this tonight, timing was everything in burglary. Luckily for me, it would be empty of staff except the night watchman outside.

    I reached down the metal grille that was an opening on the top of the single storey shop. I smashed it with my crowbar. Then with a rope I lowered myself down. There it was – the safe – all shiny and dazzling one of the new fangled types, but nothing a spanner and rod couldn’t handle, I thought

    I hit it hard once, twice, umpteen times, but it didn’t give way. Then I noticed the camera and I vented my anger on it, then left the place frustrated.

    I knew that my game was up finally, and to fit my plan, I needed theirs to be a success. For I knew, I would have to serve three years for attempted robbery. And that was what I hoped for.

    For I had to pay the shylock in our building 30,000 bucks. And being contained by prison would help me to stay safe from his attack on me for rescinding on payments. The money lender couldn’t harm me, now. I smiled.

    They thought they needed to trap me to make me surrender. They didn’t know I wanted to surrender, desperately.

  • “The Gal in the Pajamas”
    © 2015 Carrie Zylka

    It was the worst possible scenario she could have imagined.

    She was reminded of that fact while waiting for the locksmith, as a sudden spring squall drenched her in two seconds flat.
    She awkwardly shifted the bagpipes to the other hip and checked the time on her phone. The locksmith said he’d be there in about twenty minutes. That was forty minutes ago.

    For the umpteenth time she cursed her boyfriend and his stupid band. I mean really, who incorporates bagpipes into a rock song anyway???

    Finally she saw the van with the locksmith’s company name driving towards her and waved at him.

    He parked and stepped out, pausing as he looked her up and down and then at the bagpipes.

    She blushed furiously, she was an attractive woman and was used to men ogling her. But she felt rather self-conscious in her throwback Cabbage Patch Kids shirt and leggings.

    “Don’t ask.” She growled. “Just get the damn car unlocked.”

    The locksmith valiantly fought to hold back his laughter as he went to work on the car door. He had it unlocked in just a few minutes.

    She breathed a sigh of relief and quickly tossed the bagpipes unceremoniously into the back seat. She pulled out her checkbook. “How much do I owe you?”

    The locksmith waved her away. “It’s on the house. You made my day today. I can’t wait to get home and tell my wife!” He said chuckling as he climbed back into his van.

    The gal in her pajamas shook her head and got into her car, making a mental note to kick her boyfriend in the shin.

    Really, really hard.

  • Alice Nelson

    Thanks to everyone who participated, and for those who would like to enter next week’s contest, check back here tomorrow after 9am PST to find the links for the new story thread.

    Now it’s Voting Time!!
    Please submit your 1st – 5th place vote (In order), for this week’s Writers Hangout Short Story Contest to LIFlashFiction (at) gmail (dot) com no later than 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT on Thursday/ 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

    Results will be posted later that day.

    Placing “The Worst” in the subject line is helpful but not necessary.


    Please note: your email address will never be disclosed, shared or sold, but may be used for administrative purposes.
    Good Luck Writers!

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