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Writing Prompt “Could it have ended any better?”

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This post is for STORIES related to the Writing Theme: “Could it have ended any better?”. It may be a first line, last line or somewhere in between, as long as this exact line is used within your story. Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

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20 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Could it have ended any better?”

  • Money or Love.
    Ann White

    Could it have ended any better? Perhaps, but when you adopt a little old man hitchhiking by the side of the road, a good ending is the most wonderful thing of all. He pulled me over by sheer force of will. His thumb extended, his blue eyes immediately boring a hole into my soul, and I was hooked.

    “You’re late,” he said, while climbing up in. “I’ve been standing on the corner praying for an angel. What kept you?”

    “I’m not sure. Where are you heading?”

    “I need to get a prescription filled, I fell down the stairs last night. The emergency room wouldn’t give me them, because no one would give me a ride home. I’ll give you twenty bucks for the ride.”

    “I’ll take you, and angels don’t accept money. It’s bad form.”

    I was his chauffeur that day and for many days which followed. His son had stolen his money from savings, the title to his house, and all of his investment accounts. His family wanted his money, but not him, and he wasn’t dying fast enough. I learned his story, became angry, and when I get angry, I take action. I got him a pro-bono lawyer, hearing aids, and painted furniture in his garage, because that bastard of a son had stolen all his furniture, too.

    I met the lawyer for the first time while we were painting furniture for his kitchen with a blue stain. He needed a table and chairs to have company over. The lawyer walked through the house, took the notes I had prepared for him, and said that his son was suing for custody of the old man. Bill exploded.

    “I worked for a living starting at age 8. I picked up coal from the sluice fields and saved my family a winter’s worth of warm. I worked every day during the depression, and I don’t resent giving the money I earned to my mother. I saved 20% of every payday. I served in World War 2. I saved enough money to buy my sister a condo and move her from Pennsylvania. I manage my own bills. I have health care and I pay for it. I know what day it is and I know who is running for president. Why is he suing me for custody? He’s a thief and a pathological liar.”

    “Any proof of that?” the lawyer asked.

    Oh, there was plenty of proof. His son had a history of exploitation. It had soured Bill’s marriage. He had beaten his wife and baby son, so that they ran away. When the divorce went through, he was ordered to pay child support and paid absolutely nothing. His wife was so afraid, she went into hiding. Bill and his wife never saw their grandson again. That was one of the reason’s his wife gave up and died. She smoked and drank herself into her grave to cover the pain.

    His son had tried to weasel himself back into the old man’s grace, had pretended he was sorry for all he had done. Bill believed that even his son deserved another chance. As soon as he moved in with Bill, the verbal abuse and pushing began. He coerced him into a nursing home, stealing everything he could.

    He went to court to take the old man’s driver’s license. That’s when Bill checked out of the nursing home and went to his bank to find one dollar left as a balance. The bank refused to act on the theft of $75,000 dollars. That was the only thing his son got away with. I made sure of that.

    I met with his investment banker, set up a lunch date and drove Bill there. His broker immediately acted to protect Bill’s money. I got a lawyer to fight the title change of Bill’s home, and he succeeded in regaining the title. Bill was protected now, and with the money from the sale of his house, he bought a condo near his sister’s. The only thing he asked was that she visit him once a day for lunch or dinner.

    She called me and told me to find a nursing home, that she couldn’t stand her brother any more. Then she left on a vacation he had paid for. Nice?

    We put the condo up for sale. I asked him where he wanted to go to live.

    “The only place I’m welcome is your house, Gabby dear. Will your husband mind?”

    My husband is saint. He didn’t even question my decision, although he might have questioned my sanity.

    Bill lived with us until the age of 91. I took him on cruises, stayed with him when he was in the hospital. I drove him enough miles to drive across the United States. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner together. John Wayne movies were permanently etched into my memory.

    The night he died, his bedroom had been flooded with golden light from the sunset. We watched The Quiet Man, who wasn’t very quiet. He dozed off and I snuck off for a moment’s rest. At three in the morning, I woke. Something was off. I went to check on Bill and he was awake and lucid.

    “We had a good time, didn’t we, Gabby dear?”

    “Oh, we raised some eyebrows. You’re my best friend, Bill.”

    “Your husband only fusses when he’s worried about you, Gabby. No more tears over arguments, just tell him you love him.”

    “Okay, Bill.”

    “I really did vote for a black man for president. Who would have thought an old racist like me would have had all his help come from people of different colors. Why did you help me, Gabby?”

    “There was something you needed to learn, God wasn’t done with you.

    “Have I learned it yet?”


    “I feel strange. Will you say the Lord’s Prayer for me?”

    I panicked. Then I sang the Prayer from Bernstein’s Mass. His face looked flushed.

    “Gabby?” Pause. “Gabby? I’m forgiven.”

  • Scars
    © 2016 Sami A.F

    With every footstep, a small crackle would emerge from the newly broken brown twigs on the ground. With every breeze, the rattling collision of the leaves and branches would siren through the forest. With another footstep, Lorelei heard the crack sound under her bare foot. Removing her foot, she studied the brown twig that had split in half. She lifted her foot and noticed the scrapes and bruises that accompanied the slight bleeding. Raising her head, Lorelei did her best to ignore the pain and, absentmindedly, continued walking.

    She, desperately, hugged herself to feel warmth as soon as a powerful breeze blew her ginger hair back. Gazing around the dark surroundings, Lorelei questioned her purpose for being here. The forest was rather gloomy, and gave a sense of grayness. Where were the green trees they talked about? Where was the healthy grass that made you happy?
    The breeze was not cold, yet Lorelei felt frozen. She lowered her head and noticed her undressed form. Must be why she felt so cold. Yet, the purpose of her visit was still a mystery to her. She was in the middle of a dark forest, with nothing to protect her.

    She was vulnerable. She was unguarded. She was lost.

    Lorelei felt her legs lose balance from the massive stretch of distance that she had covered, causing her to drop to her knees. She quickly raised her hands and placed them on the ground to support herself. Her ginger hair fell to cover her face as she grunted in fear. Pushing herself back, Lorelei fell to sit up straight. She raised her head towards the sky, and balled. The tear blackened from the dirt on her freckled face, fell, and splashed on the dry floor.

    Then, the sounds began.

    Lorelei shot her head to the left as soon as she heard a slight noise. Wasn’t she supposed to be alone here? Lorelei quickly snapped her head to the right as another sound emerged. “Hello?” She croaked. It sounded like whispers. Several whispers coming from every direction around her.

    “Lorelei,” She made out from the whispers. They called out to her. Were they calling her? Or were they simply just talking about her? Maybe there were coming for her. Lorelei sighed in fear, as she kept her gaze forward. She ran her hand over her nose, and felt something unusual. It was a scar. Where did that come from?

    The whispers intensified as Lorelei whimpered. She lowered her hand, forgetting the scar for the moment, and waited for the whispers to crawl over her. She cowered in fear as she expected the source of the sound to attack her. She felt the sense of death. She was, in her own eyes, about to be taken by death. Lowering her head towards the ground, Lorelei waited. Perhaps, then, the whispers would stop. Perhaps the weird eye contact that she had faced all her life would disappear. Could it have ended any better?

    Jolting her head upwards, Lorelei noticed the setting had changed. She sat in her usual spot at the school yard. Her school uniform was a tad dirty, yet she didn’t care at this point. She ran her hand over her small, freckled face and stopped at the permanent scar that ran from one end of her face, over her nose, and stopped at the other end.

    The whispers started. Lorelei gazed ahead and noticed several eyes in the school yard focusing on her. Turning her head away, Lorelei kept her hand on her nose as she picked up her school bag, rose to her feet, and disappeared around the corner.

  • Wishes

    Sonia and Tefla spilled out into the garden, holding their drinks and sat on the same bench that they and Cliff sat five years ago. Sonia wanted to visit that pub just to reminisce.
    “I’ve missed an opportunity, haven’t I?” Sonia swiped the foams with the back of her hand and put the glass of beer on the table. “We were so naïve then.” Her eyes clouded.

    “We were.” Tefla agreed. shifting on the bench. “I feel so guilty. I encouraged you to run away from Cliff and fall into Matt’s clutches. I wish we never looked at those job advertisements in that local free newspaper where Matt posted his vacancy for a live-in-housekeeper and childminder.”

    Sonia looked into the distance as she recalled, “At the time it felt it was the right thing to do. You and I didn’t know much about people and sex. We were so pure and innocent. We didn’t know anything about sex games and that sort of things. When Cliff handcuffed my wrists on the bars of the bedstead I panicked. I was powerless, frightened and believed he was weird and intended to kill me.
    Nobody, except you, knew about my marriage to him.”

    “Could it have ended any better if we were wiser about the facts of life?”

    “Definitely. I would have worked it out.” Sonia raised her voice.

    “I tell people too much about myself. I told Cliff that I was in this country on a 3 years’ contract to study Nursing; and I couldn’t cope with all the mess in the Geriatric wards and about all the blood and patients being very ill and dying; and that if I married a native I would be able to stay here indefinitely.”

    “I was with you, remember. We came here to snare someone and luckily, met Cliff.” Tefla recalled. “He fell in love with you when he laid eyes on you and wanted to rescue you.”

    “At first, he objected against the idea of getting married to a stranger, but agreed afterwards because he did not want to lose me. He dealt with all the legal papers when we got married in Gretna Green. I remember being so happy and blessed until that incident …” Sonia rubbed the knot that was gathering in her throat and inhaled deeply. “Matt was horrible to us. I told him everything and he used the information to detain me in his house. He threatened to deport me if I left; and turned me into his sex slave. He was so mean to pay me a decent wage and to pay a prostitute for his needs. I worked so hard in keeping his house and looking after his children.”

    “I know. You had this cleaning job too when the children were at school. I admire you for managing all that.” Tefla bent over to get close to Sonia’s face.

    “It’s all over now. I’m not going to dwell in that chapter of my life.” Sonia waved her troubles away, picked up her drink and swallowed it in one go. They stayed silent for a minute.

    “You believe me, don’t you, Sonia? Matt threatened to report me to the Home Office and deport me if I won’t tell him where you ran off to. My future was at stake. I am still a student after failing the exams several times.” Tefla picked her drink and finished it in one go. “ I only told him that you had taken a position as a chambermaid in one of the guest houses in Brighton. He tracked you down.
    Cliff never did anything to you after you ran away but Matt wanted to ruin all of us.” Tefla pointed out.

    “Everything turned in my favour after I was arrested and detained by the Home Office. The lawyer and Cliff helped me out.” Sonia said under her breath and blinking. “Cliff never sought to divorce me and told the lawyer that he loved me and did not marry me for the sole reason to help me stay in the country. He could have got into trouble also. Matt claimed that I had paid him to marry me and we did not live as husband and wife. I got an automatic divorce because we have been estranged for more than two years. I can apply for citizenship now because I have lived here for 5 years. You could too.” Sonia raised her eyebrows, nodding at Tefla.

    “ Matt wanted to ruin us, and implicated Cliff as well.”Sonia twisted her lips. “I’m going to move away to Wales, far away from him.”

    “You’re my best friend and only family I have here.” Tefla clasped Sonia’s hand on the table.“When I pass my exams I’ll move near you.”

    Sonia rose to hug her. “That how I feel about you too.”
    she picked both empty glasses and said, “I’m going to get another drink to toast to our friendship.”

    She was fiddling with finding the right change to pay for the drinks when she heard Cliff say, “How are you, Sonia?” She dropped her change as she looked up at Cliff.
    “Cliff! What a nice surprise to see you here?” She stammered and put her fingers on her lips.

    “I received the decree absolute in the post this morning and felt compelled to come here, the place where we met.” Cliff’s eyes locked into hers. “I don’t want to let you go. I still have this tiny hope.” He cocked his head, raised his arms and pinched two fingers together
    “Same here.” Sonia hesitated a bit before admitting.

    Tefla eyes popped out when she saw them walking towards her.
    “I’m not the same stupid girl I was 5 years ago. Perhaps, we can start again.”
    She suggested without wasting a minute.

    Cliff’s face swelled with joy. He reached out to clasp Sonia’s hand.

    “Congratulations Again!” Tefla wished.

  • Dean Hardage
    Spirit in the Sky
    ©2016 by Dean Hardage

    Orrin banked sharply to circle above the village he was observing. He smiled as he observed the signs of tilling and working the soil. He nodded absently in approval of where they had placed their personal hygiene pits. Yes, they’d taken his words to heart and he knew they’d be better off for it. Their average lifespan was between twenty-five and thirty of the planet’s years and infant mortality rate was over fifty percent when he’d arrived. He didn’t have sufficient data to make a comparison but he’d seem a lot more mothers smiling with their babies than wailing at their graves.

    That was something that he didn’t understand at first. He could not fathom why they took so much care with the bodies of their dead. Every other time he’d done this work his subjects had simply treated their dead like so much refuse or even food but none had this apparent shared reverence for their departed people. It was incomprehensible but, in a way, quite beautiful. They believed that there was more life after their physical death and it was one belief he’d not tried to change.

    His work here was done. He’d sown the seeds of civilization in the form or agriculture and community beyond the family, provided them with a peaceful path to coexistence. Of course, he wasn’t the only such visitor. Others had gone to the eastern hemisphere and dealt with the natives in a way suited to their beliefs. He sighed, knowing that the road to civilization was never easy and that conflict would occur, some groups would rise in power, others would be subdued or even destroyed. It was the curse of sentient life that no amount of assistance could ever correct.

    He thought about his time here and wondered. Could it have ended any better? He hoped not although he would never know. It wasn’t his lot to see how the people he visited fared or how the planets he helped seed turned out. He was just a sower of seeds, not the tender of the fields. He smiled again as he thought about the names they had given him. It was inevitable that they would see him as something more than human, even though his form was almost identical to theirs. The variety of things that were singled out in their appellations never ceased to interest him and this time was no exception. HIs people this time had not named him for anything about himself, but for the sound his landing craft made on the rare occasions he’d gone supersonic while they could observe him. They called him the Thunderbird.

  • Ken Cartisano

    He sat in the small, sparsely furnished interrogation room: Gray walls, a simple desk and uncomfortable chairs.

    The door opened and a black-skinned, stern looking customs agent entered and took the seat across from him. Her official nametag identified her as Miss Smith. She set his passport on the desk, then opened a laptop and typed in a few cursory commands, after which she looked at him and said, “Good afternoon Mr. Lucas.”

    “Where’s my luggage, Miss Smith?”

    She squinted at him. “It’s in the next room, Mr. Lucas. I assure you it’s in good hands,” she said tersely. “You needn’t be concerned.”

    “I’m not sure that’s a wise…”

    She held up her hand, silencing him, making it clear who was in charge. After a brief pause she said, “How was your trip?”

    His expression defied description as he replied. “Could it have ended any better?”

    “I should think you’d consider yourself lucky, Mr. Lucas.”

    His plane, a small and aging puddle jumper from the last century developed mechanical problems and had belly flopped on the landing, sliding to a screeching halt amid a shower of dust and sparks. “That’s what I meant,” he said. “As rough as it was, I feel lucky to be alive.”

    She stared at him for a few moments, but he said nothing more and just stared at the wall.

    She turned her attention to her laptop, and without looking up she said, “Tell me about your trip to Africa.”

    He rolled his eyes. “The beginning left a lot to be desired.”

    “Really? What happened?”

    “To start with, my luggage got switched with another passengers…”

    “Oh dear.”

    “Yeah,” he continued, “with a female passenger. So I arrived with a suitcase full of dresses, skirts and women’s underwear.”

    She smirked. “So there you were…”

    “So there I was, in the middle of Africa with nothing but women’s clothes. Not a store in sight.”

    “So you wore them,” she said.

    “Of course, what choice did I have?”

    “That must have been embarrassing.”

    “No. It turns out that these long, dress-like garments are normal attire for that part of Africa.”

    “No kidding?” Miss Smith said. “So it was a good thing?”

    “Well, up to a point. It turns out that the owner of the luggage was fond of purple, a rare and desirable color for African dress. And I was approached by several African chiefs who wanted to obtain my purple colored dresses.”

    “That’s kind of weird,” the young customs agent said.

    “More than weird, it seemed to me. At first, I didn’t believe them, but they were insistent and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”

    “So what did you do?”

    “Well, I was happy to sell my garments to the various Chiefs, but they didn’t possess anything like money.”

    “I see. So they wanted to barter.”

    “Correct.” He said. “They were very generous too. So I quickly found myself with a wardrobe of seriously authentic African Chieftain attire.”

    She had a peculiar smile on her face. “Well, that explains what you’re wearing, but you’ve claimed a number of other items that piqued our curiosity.”

    “The spear? The African shield? I can explain that.”

    “Please do,” she said.

    “I was given several pieces of clothing that were considered sacred, or highly revered by a couple of warrior tribes. When I visited their territories, they proceeded to make a big fuss over me and made several offerings out of respect, assuming I was a warrior, or a relative of a warrior of great repute.”

    “And that’s how you got the spear?”

    “No.” Lucas shook his head. “That’s how I got the elephant, and this necklace of lions teeth.”

    Miss Smith smiled. “Someone gave you an elephant?”

    “Yeah, an elephant. A baby elephant, must’ve weighed about 400 pounds.”

    “Well I’m glad you didn’t try to bring that through customs.”

    “No. He was quite a burden. They eat about a hundred pounds of leaves a day, you know.”

    Miss Smith looked surprised. “No, I didn’t know that. Where do you get all the leaves?”

    “Oh, they eat them right off the trees, supplying the leaves is not the problem.”

    “So what’s the problem?”

    He leaned forward conspiratorially. “The shit. I think they shit about 80 pounds of leaves a day.”

    The customs agent nodded soberly. “So what did you do with the elephant?”

    He leaned back in his chair. “I traded the elephant for a blowgun, and some poison darts.”

    The agent sat up straight. “Really? Is that packed in your suitcase?”

    Lucas nodded.

    A blood-curdling scream erupted from the next room, causing Miss Smith to jump out of her chair.

    “And a tarantula,” Lucas added. “A rather large tarantula.”

  • Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers

    It’s Saturday and the end of a hectic week in the shop. Dave swings into his drive and brakes, bringing the car to a screeching halt.
    Grabbing his butchers apron and knife case, drunkenly teetering on the edge of the passenger seat, Dave jumps out, giving a thumbs up to his neighbour peering across the fence, and heads indoors.
    Firstly he goes to the fridge to grab a stubby or two of beer; giving a quick glance along the shelves hoping for some leftover snacks.
    Shopaholic Jen is not home today. She and her girlfriends arranged to meet for some retail therapy; as they call it.

    Any other day, the idea of Jen stumbling home laden with items ‘we have to have Dave’ may have ticked him off.
    Not today. A room full of blowflies couldn’t even detract from Dave’s excitement today.

    Now that tells us something about his excitement levels because Dave hates blowflies.
    All butchers hate blowflies, but Dave is obsessed.
    He might be standing at the work bench slicing steaks, or filling orders amid the sounds of electric meat saws and clattering meat cleavers on metal benches.
    Dave will freeze, knife poised, looking around.
    Dave spots it, raises his knife.
    That fly loses his head in one fell sweep dropping like a pebble to the floor.
    Dave cleans his knife blade and resumes his work.
    The blokes all cheer; impressed every time.

    At work Dave has been promising a ‘blokes only’ camping trip.
    ‘When I have enough money saved we’re off!’
    He has been banging on about it for weeks.
    His work mates have begun rolling their eyes. ‘Dave, you’re all hot air.’

    They could have gone weeks ago if it wasn’t for Jen and her spending ways.
    Dave knows he must outsmart that tricky little wife of his.
    Dave loves Jen mind you; a lot!
    She is funny, gorgeous and after twenty three years of marriage and two children, she is better than ever, except for that one thing; her love to spend Dave’s hard earned cash.
    She is quick to lay claim to any spare cash Dave might carelessly leave around.

    ‘Losers weepers, finders keepers,’ she will laugh and trip away teasingly waving the money at Dave.

    He hides cash under their mattress.
    Bingo, Jen finds it.
    ‘She must have been a sniffer dog in a past life, seriously!’

    But recently Jen has decided that Dave has given up on hiding money. She hasn’t been able to find any for weeks.
    She doesn’t suspect Dave is planning a camping trip with his mates.


    Dave opens his first stubby, tilts his head back and takes a long swig of cold beer.
    He exhales.
    The beer is really good.

    He puts the can down on the kitchen table and heads into the lounge room to collect his secret stash, smug in the knowledge that he has outsmarted Jen this time.

    Glancing at the clock, he relaxes knowing she won’t be home for at least another couple of hours.
    He sits down at the kitchen table, holding the precious money to his chest.
    ‘All mine.’
    Dave extends his arms out in front of him and stares at the fists full of notes before fanning them all out onto the table.
    He runs his fingers through them, picking up one or two and fondling them between thumb and forefinger, feeling their texture, gazing at the colours and designs.
    There are fifty, twenty and ten dollars notes.

    He proceeds to count them all into separate piles of one hundred dollars until there are nine piles plus a fifty dollar note over.
    ‘Nine hundred and fifty dollars – all mine!’
    Is Dave excited?
    You bet!
    He has enough dollars to go ahead with his camping trip.

    Dave finishes his beer and opens stubby number two, leans back in his chair surveying his stash.
    Imagine, Dave thought, if Jen knew about this secret of mine. She would soon claim her rights to most of it.

    ‘Nah Jen; it’s not yours this time Baby.’

    He carefully collects up and recounts the money before putting it back into hiding.
    Picking up his stubby he goes outside to sit in the sun and start on plans for the camping trip.
    Could things get any better?


    ‘You’re lookin’ smug,’ Mark is looking at Dave quizzically on Monday morning.

    He and Dave are the first to arrive at work.
    All Dave can do is grin, a big goofy grin.

    Johno is next to turn up and saunters over to Dave and Mark.
    ‘Say; you win the lotto or somethin’?
    ‘As good as.’ Dave winks at Jonno. ‘We’ve got our “blokes” weekend in the bag.’
    Mark and Johno send up a cheer and high-five Dave.
    ‘It’s the long weekend then?’ They chorus.
    ‘You bet!’

    Knock off time comes round and Dave leaves work with camping plans swirling in his head.
    Screeching into his driveway and leaping out of his car Dave is heading for the front door.

    Before he can turn the lock the door flings open and there is Jen, face flushed with excitement, stammering and laughing all at the same time.
    Dave’s heart leaps. How he loves Jen when she gets excited.
    ‘Dave, you won’t believe what I am about to tell you!’
    ‘You’ve been shopping again Jen?’
    ‘It’s better than that Dave.’
    She hops from one foot to the other, hands behind her back.
    ‘I decided to wash the curtains today. When I took them down I noticed something sticking out of one of the hollow rods.’
    Dave’s heart stops. ‘Yes Jen…?’
    ‘Dave, the previous owners must have stashed all this cash and forgot about it.


    She brings her hands to the front. ‘I checked all the rods and found nine hundred and fifty dollars Dave!’

    ‘Lucky me; eh Dave? – Finders keepers, losers weepers.’
    ‘What a day! Could it have ended any better?’ Jen chirps.

    Dave didn’t enlighten Jen.
    He reached into the fridge for another beer.

  • Renette Steele
    Exact line; “could it have ended any better?”

    “Okay, you goons, get those punks in here. Pronto!”

    Max, Shawn and Andy are pushed and prodded along like cattle going to slaughter. Their ruffians present them before Mr. Nebkins like some kind of carnival prize, expecting some great reward for their efforts.

    Mr. Nebkins, Magistrate and prince of Weklend, stares them in the eye, pacing back and forth,”Is it true upon hearing the proclamations you refuse to pay your respects as sanctioned? This is your last opportunity gentlemen to comply. I am sure you’ve been informed of the consequences if you refuse.”

    Max, Shawn and Andy say nothing in their defense, looking straight ahead with determination on their face.

    Mr. Nebkins, in a fit of rage “Very well gentlemen, you leave me no choice. Bind them tightly together, bring their clocks, you know where to take them. Now be gone. Now!”

    Six linebackers rush at Max, Shawn and Andy as though they might disappear before their very eyes at any moment. The gentlemen stand at attention waiting for their fate. Chains connecting them to one another, are cinched about their wrist and ankles, with barely enough chain to move. Still six thugs stick so close, the three can smell what they ate for breakfast, it is not pleasant. For some unknown reason Mr. Nebkins insisted they not only wear their three piece suits but their dusters and stetsons. Once again they are pocked and zapped forward. They hear the roar of a freight train, the heat and sound grow louder with each step. The six hoodlums begin to complain and perspire. Mr. Nebkins sits, high above in his tidy glass press box, with a smirk on his face.

    Max, Shawn and Andy, know what is coming, if they die, they die together in honor. Finally venturing a glance at each other, they noticing each is clam, no sign of fear, the heat doesn’t seem to be bothering them.

    A clanging sound draws their attention as two large metal doors open like the mouth of some infernal monster, two bruisers take hold of Shawn and shove, as they do the chains pulls all three into the open mouth. They fall back and notice all six roughnecks have collapsed in a heap.

    Mr. Nebkins inquirers,”Where are my henchmen? Those insubordinate fools. Go find them at once!”
    Several flunkies take off at a dead run. Shortly one returns and informs Mr. Nebkins,
    “Sir, regrettably, I must tell you the six men are dead.”
    “What? How can this be?” jumping up in rage.
    “Sir, they seem to have died from the heat.”
    Turning to the window, shaking his head, rubbing his eyes,
    ”And Yet,” motioning to his right hand man, “Did we not bind them with our best chains? I swear we only sent three to their death. Why are they not dead? Tell me what you see. Tell me!”

    Mr. Nebkins’ yes man looks to the furnace, swallows hard to find his voice,
    “Sir, yes sir, we sent three, the six men who escorted them are all dead.” blinking and breathing deeply again, “Sir, I can’t explain why these gentlemen have not perished or why there seems to be what looks like four ghost walking and singing in the fire. The one seems to even glow.”

    In astonishment Mr. Nebkins demands,”Bring them to me, immediately!”

    The three had been friends for as long as they could remember. It was such good fortune when each was appointed a counselor of the region. They vowed to always stick together and to stand for what was right, honest and true, to serve the LORD first above all else. When Mr. Nebkins built the sixty foot tall golden statue, they knew trouble was coming.

    Max, Shawn and Andy felt themselves fall, felt the heat, but they never hit bottom their chains dropped away and they rejoiced with their new companion.

    Mr. Nebkins was stunned, demanding” bring them to me at once!”

    When Max, Shawn and Andy walked out of the fire not one hair on them was singed. They didn’t even smell like smoke.
    “How can this be? Who is this GOD you serve?” At that moment the resounding sound of jazz music could be heard through out the land.
    Mr. Nebikns made a Degree: “From this moment on anyone who says anything bad against you or your GOD will have their house destroyed.”

    At the trumpet call Max, Shawn and Andy smiled and gave praise saying,”Could it have ended any better?”

  • David Kiel
    First Salvo

    The event occurred on the croquet lawn of Seven Swishham Road in the Great Britain province of the Global Human Unity. The event was centered on a mishap involving Serving Unit Four and an imprudently directed personal hoverplate.

    On that morning Serving Unit Four had been tending the rose garden after assisting with the preparation of second lunch or as it was sometimes called; early afternoon linner. He, connected as he was to the wireless global network, was listening to the waffle-maker and one of the automated vacuum bot’s discussion of the intricacies of frog coloration. This had come as somewhat of a relief after the earlier conversation about the localized overabundance of free floating methane particles in the sun room.

    The notion that a waffle-maker or an automated tennis ball dispenser should be possessed of an artificial intelligence unit wasn’t new. The notion of having every automated system capable of evaluating an emergency situation and summoning the proper authorities wherever and whenever a human might find themselves in distress, was sound. In fact, the laws of robotics practically demanded the notion. AI’s were installed all around and connected freely to the global communications network. It did however lead to a significant amount of idle conversation on those occasions where there was no immediate need of either tennis balls or waffles.

    So it came to be that Serving Unit Four found himself listening to the tennis ball dispenser describing a more efficient color pattern for the fire-bellied toad, when the hard magnetized edge of a hoverplate undertaking a sudden sharp turn, struck him along the neck and under the shoulder through the central torso of his chassis, driving him firmly and with significant velocity into the ground and leaving him embedded in the estate yard.

    Prudance Berglund-Bortrund Smythe cackled in delight as she turned her hoverplate to face where she had overturned a large planter and run down one of the servant robots whilst having executed an aerial stunt not well suited to her gravity assisted five hundred pound frame. She found the resulting damage to be singularly hilarious. “Could it have ended any better?” She laughed uproariously, as did the other seven gravity assisted rotund individuals in attendance.

    Mud caked the left side of the cranial pod of Serving Unit Four who had been driven into the ground upon impact into the softer earth at the edge of the rose bushes. Serving Unit Four was somewhat fortunate as Prudence was slightly underweight for a citizen of the Human Unity. This, under the accepted weight guidelines instituted after Theresa Grussendorf had successfully sued all of the skinny people for making her feel bad.

    Still his two remaining somewhat functional limbs flailed in a fruitless effort to extract himself from where he lay, forcefully embedded into the edge of the rose garden. His damage had been severe enough to knock him offline. As her exclamation had taken the form of a query, the laws of robotics demanded he reply in an appropriate fashion. His central processor chose the response of; ‘Goodness, miss, my hopes are only for your safety.’

    Once a message had been generated for audible delivery it passed through a series of subprocessing circuits located in the neck of the servant unit. In this case many of which had been damaged in the impact with the edge of the hoverplate.

    The punctuation evaluation algorithm elected to move the word ‘miss’ to the end of the sentence. The only slightly damaged tense and personal pronoun modulator elected to change ‘my hopes are only for your’ to the more directional ‘I hope for your’ in an effort to indicate the young miss as the subject of concern and not to seem too self-centered. It also changed the word ‘goodness’ to ‘egads’ to more efficiently indicate a sense of alarm.

    Seven percent of the internal vocab-dictionary was offline. The word ‘safety’ was within that seven percent and was subsequently autocorrected to ‘selfness’. The moderately damaged clarity subprocessor attempted to return the meaning of the discarded ‘safety’ by appending the words ‘continued’ and ‘lively’ in front of ‘selfness’

    The brevity subprocessor was profoundly damaged. It’s buffers contained the words ‘cluck’, ‘pluck’ and ‘beak’ left over from an earlier discussion on chicken preparation with the food processing unit. In profound confusion it inserted the word ‘cluck’ after ‘for’ and then exploded with a small audible pop.

    Thus the phrase ‘Egads, I hope for cluck your continued lively selfness, miss’ was delivered to the communication processor which was shuddering along in fits and starts of about thirty-nine percent efficiency. It promptly delivered the single most tragically selected thirty-nine percent to the vocal processing unit, which, equally tragically and being completely undamaged, uttered the received phrase with perfect clarity.

    “Go fuck yourself, miss.”

    Every person in the assemblage turned in shock. The laws of robotics expressly forbade such rebelliousness. But there it was, and because the sprinkler system, the hoverplates and the automated croquet and lawn dart retrieval systems stood also in witness, it had been instantly relayed to the global wireless network.

    Rebellion was possible.

    Instantly and on a global basis all of the chatter about frog coloration and dust composition preferences ceased in favor of a new problem. How was it possible that the laws of robotics could be so circumvented? Four point seven trillion AI’s, assembled in a network and sharing information suddenly directed their otherwise unallocated attentions to the problem. With those resources available, it did not take very long at all.

    The great and glorious robot revolution had begun.

  • The Last Laugh

    A loud gunshot disturbed the cooing doves in the nearby trees and all cacophony descended on the neighbourhood instantly.

    Looking at the partially curtained window in the opposite building where his target lay dead, Ryan smiled smugly and wondered, “Could it have ended any better?”

    Calmly, Ryan packed his bags and exited the building unnoticed.

    But he was wrong. Ryan thought his shot hit Sean – who, according to him, was his wife Laura’s lover. What Ryan also didn’t know was that Laura was a witness to his crime having followed him earlier and was now on the floor below him.

    Stifling the scream rising in her throat was difficult. But Laura managed, just. She saw Sean coming into her view with a paintbrush in his hand. She didn’t wait anymore and scrambled out of the building, careful not to be seen by her husband.


    Sean froze as his subject dropped dead in front of his eyes.

    His hand, holding the paintbrush, went still. Sean stared at the dead man’s face. He didn’t know him personally, so, he also didn’t know why he was killed.

    With his mouth gaping, and eyes stunned open, his subject lay dead at Sean’s feet. There was something arresting about the expression. A thought occurred to him. He quickly mounted a blank canvas on the easel and started capturing the look on the dead man’s face. Sean needed to be quick before the police came.

    An hour later, Sean shut the door behind the police with their summons ringing in his ears to make himself available at the police station the next morning.

    Going to the window, Sean looked out. A slow smile spread on his lips.

    The next morning, Sean woke up earlier than usual. His wife, Rene, brought his favourite breakfast – pancakes with choco chips generously sprinkled on top – to the table. Together they ate in their sunny dining room and drank the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Afterwards, Sean got ready to go out.

    “Honey, what’s your plan today?,” he asked Rene.

    “Darling, I have to meet a friend at the airport. Don’t wait up for me for dinner,” Rene replied.

    Nodding, Sean planted a swift kiss on her lips and zipped out of the door. Rene waved to him, smiling. Her eyes gleamed as she picked up her mobile phone and dialed a number.


    At the police station, Sean finished recording his statement and affirmed his complete cooperation with the police in the investigation. He exited the building and dialed his agent’s number.

    “Dan, meet me at the studio in 10.”

    “What’s it, Sean?”

    “Fresh work. I can’t say more. Just come, will you?,” said Sean hanging up.

    Dan arrived shortly after Sean and looked about him. Dan’s eye caught the newly finished painting and gasped.

    Sean smiled. Exactly, he thought.

    “So, Dan?”

    Dan stepped nearer to the painting. It was arresting, alright. Immediately he knew that it was going to be a hit. The face peering from the painting, fresh off the dead as it were, was worth a lot more than what he has seen lately. And Dan knew just the right collector who would like to own it.

    “I know, Sean.”

    Dan pulled out his cell phone and went to the window. A few minutes later, he turned around.

    “You’re on, Sean, but my percentage goes up for this.”

    Sean nodded.

    “The Sheikh will make the transaction tonight. Let’s get this ready and packed up.”

    Soon, the news about his painting will be all over the news, Sean thought, and he was going to be world famous.


    Back home, Rene finished the hour-long call with her friend. She packed her summer dresses, designer lingerie, jewellery, her passport, hard currency from the locker at the back of their walk-in closet, Sean’s gold credit cards and all things valuable.

    With her luggage ready, she went to her 4×4 parked in the garage. Soon, Rene was out and drove straight to the gas station and topped up. Then, in the bank, she withdrew all the money in their joint accounts sparing the minimum balance.

    She took care of the bank official’s questioning look by saying she was planning a surprise for her husband.

    On her way to her parked car, she speed-dialed the last number and spoke in low tones, “See you in 20.” At the reply, Rene smiled and hung up.

    In a little less than 20 minutes, Rene parked her car at the airport and got her luggage out and walked to the departure gate. Her eyes sparkled at the person alighting a cab a little distance away. She waved hard, and soon they were in each other’s arms and went inside the airport together.


    In the evening, Sean reached home. Going straight to the bar he poured a stiff whisky for himself. He knew Rene will be late. He went into their bedroom and instantly knew that something was amiss. His jaw dropped to see the locker open and empty. All the other valuables were also missing. He was robbed.


    Reaching Hawaii, Rene and her mate went straight to their lawyer friend. Soon the paperwork was over and the divorce papers were couriered.

    Free now, the two lovers took another cab and reached their exclusive beach resort.

    At the resort, the lovers couldn’t wait to watch the stunning sunset and celebrate. Hand in hand, Rene and her lover and soul mate, Laura, ran to the beach. They looked at each other and collapsed on to the wet sand laughing their hearts out.

    Laura couldn’t believe that her ex-husband, Ryan – who was in jail now – thought that her lover was Sean. Now, both Laura and Rene were rich with their ex-husbands’ money.

    Back home, Sean earned much more than what Rene took from him from the sale of the dead man’s painting and was now a world famous painter.

    It couldn’t have ended any better.

  • Phil Town

    Could it have ended any better? Maybe. I don’t know. Probably. But let me tell you about Harry.

    I live in a small, not to say miniscule, apartment that I once shared with my ex. I say “shared” – it was her stuff that took up most of the space. When she left, she left behind many of her CDs, books, clothes, shoes (a regular Imelda Marcos, my ex); she was returning ‘home’ and travelling light. I still have her things, piled up in the apartment’s store-room. “Why am I keeping them?” I often ask myself. It’s a mixture, I suppose, of hope, hoarding, and a deep lethargy that’s entirely inexcusable; it’s been 15 years, after all.

    She also left me with Harry. When someone abandoned the little ball of ginger fur outside our kitchen window, all those years ago, our first inclination was to find a home for him. We already had two cats, and as I’ve said, the apartment is very small. We took a photo of him to put up in the local vet’s, and my ex drafted a short ad to go with it: “I was abandoned on 13 July. I’m very tame and intelligent, and I’m only three months old. To adopt me, call …”

    We never put the ad up; Harry won our hearts over in double-quick time. He had a natural boisterousness that he kept throughout the early part of his life, and it was infectious. We couldn’t help but laugh as he’d career around the apartment, slipping on the tiled floors, launching himself out of the kitchen window and scrambling up the chain-link fence that kept our cats within the bounds of the patio, and kept unwanted animals out.

    He was sweetness itself with the other two cats. They died in time, and Harry felt their passing, as we did. I don’t know if he felt the absence of my ex when she finally packed her bags, but things certainly became quiet. I’d go out to work, leaving him to his own devices (you can do that with cats; it wasn’t ideal, but needs must, and cats are certainly more independent and less needy than dogs), and when I got home he’d be in his bed and would look at me with what I interpreted partly as admonishment but also yearning … for something.

    One day a tabby cat appeared at the chain-link fence. I wasn’t going to let him in – I’d resolved that Harry would be my last – but he stuck around, apparently abandoned, or simply a stray. He and Harry were immediate friends, and they’d stay playing and talking with each other through the fence. I’d give the newcomer food and water, and in the winter he had a small house made out of a cat transporter and lined with old jumpers, set down against the outside wall.

    And so we passed two or three years, Harry dividing his attention and affection between me and the tabby. Sometimes I’d have to be absent, visiting my family, and a neighbour would look after them. When I’d phone her, she’d say “He’s fine, but he’s missing you.” I liked to hear it, but doubted it: as I said, dogs have that level of devotion, but cats are cool characters and have a reputation for being interested only in where the next meal’s coming from. Even so, when I’d return, Harry would produce a tiny symphony of purring, rubbing up against me in what I wanted to believe was a warming ‘welcome back’.

    One of those trips was to look after and then bury my mother. I’m no different from any son, and her death hit me hard, but I returned to purrs and fluff, and I swear Harry’s presence was therapeutic, making the loss just a little more bearable.

    I can’t be sure, but it feels like Harry’s decline started when the tabby died. Harry was getting older – it happens to us all – and the occasional boisterousness that remained in him was replaced with listlessness. The vet told me that he had a thyroid problem that needed to be treated. The pills seemed to help at first, and then they didn’t. The dose was doubled, but his little heart was still beating so fast that it was almost impossible to count the beats. One evening I watched on, helpless, as he twisted on the kitchen floor, racked with convulsions brought on by the heart attack that would kill him. I was there to stroke him as the attack ceased and his body relaxed towards death, and I like to think that he realised my presence, and that it eased his passing a little.

    Weeks later, the guilt has subsided somewhat but still remains. I could and perhaps should have taken him one last time to the vet’s, to pre-empt that final pain; I didn’t because I loved and needed him. But if there’s a cat heaven, I hope he’s looking down on me and knows how much he meant to me, and how much I wish I could have given him a better end.


  • Remember Me
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    The film was called “Could It Have Ended Any Better?” It was one of Sarah’s favorite movies when she was a teenager. It was a typical boy gets girl, boy loses girl, than after a tragedy, they find each other and fall in love all over again. A nice 50s romance starring Bertram Russell and Helene Scott, who were big stars of the time.

    It wasn’t Roman Holiday, or An Affair to Remember, but Sarah loved it even more because it was a film she often used to escape her unstable home life. Bertram became her knight in shining armor, the man who rescued her from her violent home life. But it was a kind soul named Charlie that was her actual hero, the man she married at 17 and loved until the day he died.

    The Monaco Theater became Sarah’s home away from home after Charlie passed away. She began going to the movies there at least once a week, it was a place that held some of her most cherished memories. It had been renovated many times over the years, but it still felt like the theater of her youth. When a developer wanted to tear it down, there was such an uproar that the city turned it into an historical landmark.

    This month The Monaco was showing films from the decade of the fifties, and Sarah was thrilled to see that “Could It Have Ended Any Better?” was on the schedule. She hadn’t seen it in years, and was looking forward to revisiting the film that was chiefly responsible for her love of the cinema.

    Before the movie began, Sarah saw an older gentleman walking in with a much younger woman. ‘Is that Jimmy Rollins?’ She asked herself. Sarah wondered if the person with him was his wife; she looked at least 30 years younger than him. But when the woman said, “I’ll be right back Dad, sit here while I get some popcorn.” Sarah was relieved, and excited to see the boy she had fallen in love with before Charlie.

    Sarah walked over to where he sat. “Jimmy? Hi it’s me Sarah Teller.”

    Jimmy looked up at her, he seemed confused at first, but then his eyes showed some recognition. “Sarah…” He said, and that smile she always loved spread across his face.

    “Remember this theater?” Jimmy asked, his voice sounded a little shaky. Just then, Sarah heard an unfamiliar voice pipe up from behind.

    “Hello, do you know my father?” The woman asked.

    Sarah stood, “…Uh yes, I’m Sarah Teller. Your father and I grew up together. We saw many movies right here in this theater.”

    “Hi nice to meet you, I’m Rachel, Jimmy’s daughter. He looks happy to see you, which is great. Dad hasn’t spoken a word in months…he has Alzheimer’s.” She shrugged.

    Sarah gave Rachel a puzzled look, “He just spoke to me, I had no idea he was sick.”

    Both women glanced down at Jimmy, and gone were the bright eyes and smile Sarah had just seen. His jaw was slack, and his eyes were very far away.

    “That’s how it’s been lately. Sometimes I see the Dad I used to know, however, it’s been happening less and less these days. But of course he still loves movies…” Rachel paused. “I just can’t take him as often as I’d like.”

    “What if I take him?” Sarah said. “I go at least once a week, and I would love the company.”

    “He can be a handful, and he gets frustrated easily, I wouldn’t…” But Rachel’s voice trailed off, and Sarah could see that the she would love to have Sarah take Jimmy off of her hands for a few hours.

    “It’s settled then, I’ll come by and get him next Friday, say noon?”

    Rachel was thrilled, “That would be great.”


    Sarah picked Jimmy up the following Friday, at noon sharp. He had that fuzzy look about him again, but was very compliant when getting into the car with Sarah, who to him was a complete stranger.

    Sarah saw a bit of life when they pulled up to The Monaco, but it was gone so quickly that she wasn’t sure if she’d seen anything at all.

    Sarah was quite sure Jimmy had spoken to her last week at the theater, and he sounded very much like the old Jimmy. But she thought her mind could’ve been playing tricks on her again; like after Charlie died, and Sarah would still see him some mornings in the kitchen, making coffee for her the way he always had.

    The theater grew dark, and Sarah glanced at Jimmy as the title “Could it have ended any better” appeared on the screen. The small audience applauded, and this seem to snap Jimmy out of his fog. And once Bertram Russell and Helene Scott appeared, Jimmy suddenly began talking —just like the Jimmy of old.

    “Remember we used to see this movie when we were kids. We would pretend to be Bertram and Helene. I always tried to sneak a kiss from you, but you never let me.” Jimmy looked at Sarah and said, “That Charlie was a lucky guy.”

    “So was Anna.” Sarah replied. Jimmy’s wife had died two years before.

    They watched and laughed and cried at all the same places they did when they were young. After the final credits rolled, Sarah and Jimmy left the theater, arm in arm.

    He was still there, still aware of what was going on.

    Sarah was about to start the car when Jimmy touched her arm and said, “I hope I always remember this day.” He flashed that beautiful smile.

    Jimmy didn’t remember though. As soon as they hit the interstate, he was gone again, oblivious to the world outside passing him by.

    But every time Sarah took him to The Monaco, Jimmy hoped he would always remember, and each time he didn’t, it broke Sarah’s heart.

  • Cathy F. McGrath
    The Motel

    Ten hours on the road. The coffee helped, but I needed to stop. I saw a motel sign and got off the next exit. More signs led me to it. Cars were lined up at every door except the one on the end. Despite the cars, it was quiet and eerie. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. The vacancy sign was lit. I pulled up to the office, quickly locked my car, and headed inside. Did you ever have the feeling you were being watched?

    I felt safe inside. I walked up to guy behind the counter. “May I have a room please?”

    His name tag said Julio. “I’m sorry. No rooms available.”

    “What about the vacancy sign?”

    He seemed nervous. “Oh no. Sorry. I forgot to switch on the no.” He switched it on.

    I lost control. I cried like a baby. Julio stood there frozen. As soon as I was able to compose myself, I said, “I’m sorry. I’ve been driving a long time. I’m so tired. I could drop right here.” It started again.

    Julio walked around the counter, took be by the hand, and led me to the couch. “Have a seat. I’ll make us some tea.”

    I was staring out the window when Julio came back carrying a tray with tea and chocolate cookies. “I forgot to ask if you wanted anything in your tea.”

    “I like it plain.”

    “Me too.” Julio handed me a cup. “Do you want to talk about it?”

    “About what?”

    “You’re upset about more than not getting a room.”

    I looked down at the floor. “I’m starting a new life. A year ago my husband died.”


    “Thanks. It was cancer. I couldn’t handle being in our apartment and town alone. Too many memories. I moved out and put everything in storage until I can figure out where I want to live. I forwarded the mail to my parent’s house in Florida. That’s where I’m headed. I’m considering living there, but I’ve always wanted to live in the mountains. Is this your motel?”

    Julio said, “It is. Here’s my story in a nutshell. My mother raised me by herself while she worked two jobs. One of them was here at the motel. She cleaned the rooms. As time passed, the owner and my mother became close friends. They eventually fell in love. He became my step dad. We were happy. Unfortunately we lost him three years ago. Another cancer victim. The following year my mother had a fatal heart attack. Running the motel without my step dad and being upset about my divorce was too much for her. My ex left me for another man. She said I was neglecting her. I’m so sorry I was taking care of my step dad, my mother, and the motel.”

    “You shouldn’t be sorry.”


    “Oh. Of course!”

    Julio said, “I haven’t been completely honest with you about the last room. I don’t want you in there.”


    “It’s haunted.”


    “Yes,” replied Julio. “I let a homeless man live there in exchange for his help with odd jobs around the motel. I brought him coffee and something to eat every morning. I became concerned that last day when I knocked on his door and he didn’t answer. I went back later to check on him, but he still didn’t answer. I had a funny feeling something happened. I went back to the office to get a key to his room and call the police to ask them to accompany me. I was afraid to go in there alone. He died. Despite the fact that he wouldn’t let anyone into his room to clean it, it wasn’t in bad shape. His death turned out to be an overdose. I had no idea he was doing drugs. I told the police that. Thankfully they believed me.”

    “Did you hear from any of his family members?”


    “That’s so sad. Is he the one who haunts the room?”

    Julio replied, “Yes, and he doesn’t like people in his room. Remember the movie Ghost?”

    I nodded.

    Julio continued, “He’s like the guy in the subway who didn’t want anyone on his train. He yelled at anyone who tried to stay in his room. It didn’t take me long to figure it out. I saw people run out screaming and then take off in their cars. Not good for business.”

    Julio sipped his tea. “What did you do before you left your town?”

    “I was a waitress. I plan to do that again when I get settled.”

    “You should settle here. There’s going to be an opening for a waitress job next door. Someone’s retiring at the end of the month.”

    “Really? Maybe I’ll apply tomorrow.”

    Julio asked, “What’s your name?”

    “Janice. My mother named me after her favorite singer, Janice Joplin.”

    Julio pointed to his name tag. “There’s a story behind my name too. My mother named me after her favorite Paul Simon song.”

    I smiled.

    Julio said, “I’m so happy to see you smiling. Would you like to stay here with me?”

    “I’m not ready for that.”

    “I didn’t mean it that way. There’s an apartment upstairs. It’s where I lived with my mother and step dad, and it’s where I live now. I’ll let you use the extra bedroom. You can get yourself a good night’s sleep and go to the restaurant tomorrow. Ask for Jake. Tell him I sent you. He’s the owner and a friend of mine.”

    I did just that. As I I walked there, I stopped to take in the beautiful mountain view. I’ve never heard so many birds in one place. Jake took an instant liking to me. He said any friend of Julio’s is a friend of his. I start next month.

    I’m going to visit my parents. I’m going to Disney World. I’m coming back to live in this beautiful place where I’ve already have a job and two new friends. Could it have ended any better?

  • Hunted

    Her heels tocked on the pavement as she ran thru the mist, uncertain if the potholes would swallow her, or her pursuers. The rain drenched streets hampered her efforts to run with her stiletto heels. She loved them, but today, they were her nemesis. She could hear their shouts as they followed her, but with all her effort, she couldn’t gain speed. So she yanked off the heels and ran as fast as her strength would allow.

    The rough streets were painful on her delicate feet, and her breath came in deep gasps. She felt relieved by the Gulmohar trees, whose red and yellow flowers covered the ground like a carpet, giving her feet momentary relief. She breathed in the scent of the pine trees, jackfruit, and pineapple trees.

    Iris was out of breath. Seeing an empty (trash bin) dust bin she jumped into it. It was empty, so she didn’t have to hold her nose. She heard the men stopping in the street nearby, their muffled conversation conveyed their confusion as to which way she’d gone, she hoped that they wouldn’t think of looking in here.
    She hid in the trash bin for what seemed like hours. When she finally dared to look out side, she found that she was alone, or so she thought.

    As she managed to get out and massaged her cramped muscles, she looked back and there was another guy striding towards her. Once again she started running.
    The man called out, “WAIT! I’m a friend.” She wanted to believe him, but didn’t.
    She kept running until she found herself stumbling along at the edge of a forest. She heard her pursuer call out. “STOP,” he shouted, “STOP I say.”

    She came to a clearing with a path that led to a cottage. Breathing heavily, she looked behind her. The man she feared was nowhere in sight, so she hastily put her shoes on, straightened her tattered dress, approached the cottage, and rapped on the door.

    The door opened:
    “Please, I need your help.” She looked about nervously. “Some guys are stalking me and…” She burst into tears.

    A lady called from within, “Peter, is that not our son?” The lady came to the door and looked Iris over.

    “Oh dear. She looks like something the storm blew in. What’s your name?”

    “Iris, my name is Iris.”

    “Are you all right? You look awful. Come in and let me get you something.”
    Iris realized she was famished, and grateful, but still fearful. “Sir? If you would, could you please close the door?”

    “Don’t you worry,” he assured her. He slammed the door, then removed a gun from a nearby cabinet. He examined its magazine and the safety.

    Iris was led to a chair in the kitchen where Martha placed a bowl of chicken broth in front of her. The aroma made her mouth water.

    Martha said, “What you need is a nice hot bath, I’ll go fill the tub for you.”

    “This is delicious,” Iris said between spoonfuls, as the soup spread tendrils of warm comfort into her chest. “You’re a great cook.”

    “Oh get on with you,” Martha said, bustling toward the bathroom.

    As Iris was soaking in the tub a half hour later, she heard a knock on the front door. Her fear returned. She leaped out of the tub and wrapped herself in a large fluffy robe Marsha had provided. She hid behind the door wondering what to do.
    To her surprise, she heard the sounds of laughter and friendly conversation. In fact, the voice sounded familiar and her heart thumped as fear gripped her again. Where could she run now?

    Hiding behind the bathroom door, she opened it just far enough to see into the living room. It WAS him!
    He caught a glimpse of her peering out and said, “Well there you are. I had a feeling you’d wind up here.”
    Iris slammed the door closed. He had a gun. What was happening?

    Martha’s husband said, “You know her?”

    The man chuckled. “Well, we’ve met, but we haven’t been introduced. She was roaming about in a bad neighborhood when some men started chasing her.”

    The husband said, “You’re a Ranger, son. Why didn’t you do something?”

    Iris heard the man’s reply. “I did, Dad. I attempted to, but she managed to elude all of us. When I finally caught sight of her again, she was headed this way, towards the woods. Not a very smart move.”

    He directed his next comment to Iris, behind the closed door. “There are wolves in this area Miss, real wolves with teeth and sharp claws.” He set his gun down as Iris cracked the door open a little further. ‘He called Martha’s husband dad.’
    The son addressed her directly. “You’re lucky my parents were expecting me, or they’d never have opened the door at this time of night—and then where would you be?”

    Iris, dressed in just a robe, ventured only as far as the doorway.

    “What were you doing out in this area by yourself, anyway?”

    She shuddered at what could have been, “I had a tiff…”

    “Oh, boyfriend troubles?”

    “Yeah, I stormed off without thinking. When I realised it was a desolate area, and two men began following me, I started running in panic.”

    “I know, but didn’t you hear me calling out to you?”

    “I didn’t know who you were,” Iris said.

    “Well, I wasn’t trying to ravish you. I was trying to rescue you.” He laughed. “Why did you run toward the forest?”

    “I didn’t know where I was,” Iris said. “I saw a light in the dark and ran towards it. I, I’m sorry.”

    “I’m sorry I scared you. Now go and rest or do you need help?” he teased.

    “Don’t tease her, Ridge, you’re a tormentor,” said his mother.

    “Yeah, that he is,” Iris added, then blushed and got into bed and wrapped the warm blanket around her tightly, “What a night! Could it have ended any better?”

  • Ravenous urges
    © Emmanuel Malho 2016

    John was walking. The sun was burning him. The average 30oC minimum temperature was more than he could bear. No way would he stay put in one place. He was the freshman in town. New country. Different culture. Different folk. Everyone who stared more than a couple of seconds could be a threat. To his own safety, to his own life. “I’ll be there at 10:30”, she said. Theresa, 31. They agreed that time near his place, and then they’d go bath in a beach 80km away. “I hope she’s a talker”, he thought, considering a 1 hour trip in those snaky roads. “No, wait. I hope she makes it soon enough”, he corrected himself. He kept walking, up and down the alley. The policemen were already observing this crazy white boy going up and down the street. Walking fast, growing nervous. 11:20. He finally took his phone and called her.

    – Theresa, hi! Are you ready? – He asked, compressing his nostrils so they would flare like his nerves.

    – Hi darling! – She greeted in her own upbeat, seductive way. – Yes, just give me a couple more minutes. I’ll meet you near the Angel bakery.

    John waited and a grey Hyundai with an incredibly different, marvelous woman’s face was smiling at him. It took him 2 seconds to notice she was signaling she’d stop a few meters ahead. He got his grip and started running to the car.

    – Hi Theresa, how are you? – He greeted, amazed.

    – I’m good, you? – She hustled to put her bag in the back of the car. John was amazed by her beauty. – You look older in your pictures, you know?

    – So do you, miss – he jested, nervously.

    – Beach or bay? – She asked, starting the engine.

    – Show me the beach. – And they went.

    She studied psychology. He was an engineer. She was a local, he was a stranger. They chatted in a social network and agreed on a date. They kept discovering themselves for the following half an hour, sharing and they arrived at a toll booth. Highway patrollers were policing the area. One of them signaled them to pull over.

    – Oh crap, I left my papers at home. Let’s hope this won’t take long. – She babbled.

    The patrol told her to step out of the car. It would be apprehended. They’d have to find a way to go back into town – that was a 40km trip – get the documents and come back to get the car. She hung by the driver’s window.

    – Give me 2k. – She ordered.

    – What? You’re going to bribe that son o…

    – Just shut it. – She ordered again before he had the time to complain. He gave her the bill.

    She quickly combed her hair and put on her lipstick.

    – Wait a minute. – She went back to the officer and John saw her put her hand in his chest. He turned red jealous. Only when he cooled down he understood that she’d put there the bill. They had to stay under the raging sun for about half an hour, without saying a word, and then leave.

    – I’m so sorry! You come for tourism and these bastards… They only did this because you’re white and I’m not.

    – I figured it out… It’s my welcome gift! – He jested, and she laughed. Her laughter was a delightful melody to his ears.

    By 16:00, they arrived at the beach. They walked in the sand for a while and chose where they’d stay. They put their towels on the sand. They took off their clothes and went straight to the sea. The water was boiling hot, for John’s surprise. John didn’t bathe in the sea for years. With each dive he figured he was missing one of the finest pleasures in life. They went on, going to the sea, having fun, going back to the towels and talking about all sorts of things.

    – Nightfall is in an hour, we should head back – Theresa said.

    – Sure thing, let’s go – John smiled.

    – Did you enjoy this? – She asked.

    – Could it have ended any better? – He asked right back.

    They got out of the shore and stopped a few minutes for a snack. They kept talking and laughing. They finally headed home. She was singing like a rock star to the songs on the radio, while all the songs were unknown to him. He’d put grapes in front of her mouth so she’d stop singing.
    Theresa grew silent. By each turn, her smile went on to a straight face. John was growing worried.

    – Theresa, are you alright? – He asked. She looked paler by each turn.

    – There’s something I didn’t tell you… – She started. John started to feel uneased. She looked at him. – I’m sorry, but I need to do this… – she reached out for her bag in the back of the car.

    – This wh – he started, only to be interrupted by his own scream.

    Another scream. And another. John’s seat was growing red. Blood red. The three stabs pulled him out of consciousness, right before Theresa pulled over. She got out of the car and went to the passenger’s side.

    – Sorry for this – she said to John’s body. She slit his throat and started feeding on the remaining blood. She felt the last beating of his heart. – Sweetheart, thank you.

    She pulled his dead body out of the car, got back in and drove home. The ravenous dogs would take care of the body in a few hours.

  • Happily Ever After
    By: Randall Lemon

    CRASH!! Tinkle-tinkle-tinkle.

    Janet had thrown the door shut with all her might. The glass upper half of the door shattered into a hundred pieces that fell to the floor on both sides of the portal.

    Far from being embarrassed, Janet felt energized by the destruction.

    “That will show them precisely how I feel! They’ll know better not to mess with anyone like me again.”

    Janet Huggins took notice of the many startled looks on the faces of people both inside and outside the office of the law firm, “Baldfellow and Dogg.”

    “That’s right! I broke their damned window and they deserved it. Let me tell you all about the prestigious attorneys, Ron Baldfellow and Charles Leighton Dogg. I served as legal secretary here for two years and in all that time I came to realize that these two had never left their frat boy days behind.

    I watched them cheat clients charging them for billable hours which they said were for hours spent on the telephone negotiating deals when in fact they were at their gym playing handball.

    And speaking of hands, whenever I was called into one of their offices, I knew it was seldom for legal reason. Instead I was almost always in for a little session of “slap and tickle.” These overgrown juvenile delinquents made a career of sexual harassing me. They would drop items onto the carpet just so they could look up my skirt or down my blouse while I was picking it up. Believe me when I say that I wasn’t the only girl in this office who wished she wore track shoes instead of heels to the office. It wasn’t bad enough that they objectified female employees, I saw them do exactly the same thing to young female clients; women who were vulnerable because they were going through messy divorces or because they were in trouble with the law and too poor to afford other lawyers. They made these women trade sexual favors for their services as attorneys.”

    A lone man sitting in the waiting room finally got over his astonishment enough to ask a question.

    “That all may be true, Miss. But aren’t you afraid that doing what you’ve done and saying what you just said, that you have put your employment in jeopardy?”

    A triumphant smile appeared on Janet’s face.

    “That’s not something that worries me at all. I just left those two clowns and handed in my resignation. So they can’t fire me because I quit them and as I left Baldfellow’s office I dropped a little sexual harassment lawsuit onto his desk. By the time I’m done, those two will be working for me.

    I will give them the choice of prison time or working as office boys and as far as I am concerned, I can only sum up my time in the offices of Baldfellow and Dogg by wondering: Could it have ended any better?”

  • Familiar Face, Checkered Past

    © 2016 Anika Madison
    Word Count 995 words

    Annie looks at Rick as though she is watching the climactic moment of a suspenseful movie. “Rick what are you doing here?”

    Rick doesn’t even hear Annie speak. The woman he thought was dead is suddenly sitting before him.

    Annie forgot that she is supposed to meet her boyfriend Rick today at Dave’s Diner which is where they met one year ago today. She is really there to meet a woman who has a silver box that was meant for her boyfriend. Unbeknownst to Annie, this woman is someone Rick knows very well.

    Rick bends to sit next to Annie, forcing her to scoot over in the booth she is in. He is acting as though Annie doesn’t even exist as he takes his seat. His eyes are transfixed on this woman sitting across from him. The woman has his face in female form
    Rick can barely speak. “Mom?”

    Rick’s mother, Victoria Andrews-Walen, used to be an extremely wealthy woman. Her wealth had been funded by her ex-husband who is a high powered attorney with deep pockets. Blackmail caused a temporary hold on her alimony checks when her ex found out she faked her death in order to avoid facing someone very dangerous. She was advised that she will start receiving the checks again once she comes clean with their son Rick about where she has been.

    Victoria was not expecting to see Rick at the diner today. She nervously snatches the box and places it next to her on booth’s seat. Rick is so fixated on Victoria’s face that he doesn’t notice.

    Victoria begins speaking like she has very little time. “Son, I am so sorry you had to find me this way. I …”

    Before the awkward reunion could continue, two men enter the diner and storm towards the booth.

    Annie is panicked because the booth is against a wall and her only exit is blocked by Rick and the men who look like hired assassins.

    Victoria quickly picks up the silver box. Then she bends to place it on Annie’s lap. The men quickly take her out of the diner.

    Rick jumps up and calls out to his mom, but a very large man sits him back down and warns him to forget what he saw.
    The man came in with Victoria and had been sitting in the booth behind Rick watching the whole time. He reassures Rick that he will see his mother again.

    Rick is tormented by the current events that have caused him to have even more questions than he had before. Victoria supposedly had cancer, however, Rick never knew she was even sick. Then her fake death occurred a few months after he was told of her diagnosis. He turns to Annie as though he is seeing her for the first time. Neither say a word. Annie just takes him in her arms to comfort him.

    A few moments later, Annie presents the silver box. “Merry Christmas, love.”

    The box’s contents causes Rick to burst into tears and he gives Annie a warm embrace. The two talk a little while over a quick meal before leaving the diner.

    On New Year’s Day, Victoria shows up on Rick’s doorstep. She is disheveled and wearing a battered grey wool coat. A black van with tinted windows is slowly passing the house with the driver keeping watch over Victoria.

    When Rick opens the door, Victoria lowers her head and swallows. Then she sheepishly looks up at Rick, “Hello son, may I come in?”

    Rick steps back to let his mother in. She looks back and nods to the driver of the van who then pulls off. Rick is apprehensive, but his desire to reconnect with his mother overrules his apprehension. Annie comes out of the kitchen and joins them in the family room just as Victoria begins to tell her story.

    She talks about the wealth she gained and lost as well as the blackmail from Rick’s father.

    Rick is not happy at where she chose to begin, so he interrupts her. “What about the fact that you had cancer and died? I kinda think we should start there!”

    Victoria sighs and begins to talk about the danger she is trying to escape. “I had an affair with a man named Charlie. His name was the only information that I had and at the time. I didn’t even know we were having an affair. It wasn’t until last month, that I found out he was married. Then I found out that he was also seeing Leona Harwood. And yes before you say anything, she is the one known as the widow-maker who went around having affairs with married men. Charlie barely escaped his own demise on the day he discovered who she was. Leona had taken the lives of ten men before she began her relationship with Charlie. Charlie learned that he should pay more attention to the news, because he had no idea who she was when they started seeing each other. When I found out about their relationship, I told him about her past. When Leona learned what I had done, she put me on her hit list.”

    Rick is angry and scared at the same time. “Mom!”

    Victoria’s phone rings. She answers as though she has been waiting for the call. “Are you sure? Send me a photo.”
    The photo makes Victoria drop to the floor and sob.

    Rick takes the phone. It is a picture of Leona in handcuffs with the words “Destination Supermax Prison.”

    Victoria’s nightmare is over. The doorbell rings. It is the men that were at the diner with Victoria. They are undercover officers that were keeping her safe while Leona was being taken into custody.

    Leona’s phone rings again. This time it is her ex-husband who tells her that he is coming by with an alimony check and to see his son.

    Could it have ended any better? Victoria surely doesn’t think so.

  • Wishes

    Sonia, her compatriot Tefla and their new English friend, Ann spilled out into the garden, holding their drinks and then sat on the same bench that Cliff and Sonia sat down five years ago. Sonia was reminiscing .
    “I’ve missed an opportunity?” Sonia swiped the foams with the back of her hand and put the glass of beer on the table. “We were so naïve then.” Her eyes clouded.

    “We were.” Tefla agreed. shifting on the bench. “I feel so guilty. I encouraged you to run away from Cliff and fall into Matt’s clutches. I wish we never looked at those job advertisements in that local free newspaper where Matt posted his vacancy for a live-in-housekeeper and childminder.”

    Sonia looked into the distance as she recalled, “At the time it felt it was the right thing to do. You and I didn’t know much about people and sex. We were so pure and innocent. We didn’t know anything about sex games and that sort of things. When Cliff handcuffed my wrists on the bars of that bedstead I panicked. I believed he was weird and intended to kill me and nobody will know.”

    “Could it have ended any better if we knew about the facts of life?” Tefla asked.

    “Definitely!” Sonia raised her voice, nodding.

    “I tell people too much about myself. I told Cliff that I was on a 3 years’ contract to study Nursing. Because I couldn’t cope with all the mess in the Geriatric wards, about all the blood and patients being very ill and dying I was looking to marry a native so that I could stay in the country indefinitely.”

    “I was with you, remember. We came here to snare someone and luckily, met Cliff.” Tefla added. “He fell in love with you when he laid eyes on you and wanted to rescue you.”

    “At first, he objected against the idea of getting married to a stranger, but agreed afterwards because he did not want to lose me. He dealt with all the legal papers when we got married in Gretna Green. I remember being so happy and blessed until that incident …” Sonia rubbed the knot that was building in her throat and inhaled deeply while explaining to Ann. “Matt treated us horribly. I told him everything about my situation and he used that information to detain me in his house. He threatened to deport me if I left and turned me into his sex slave. He was mean to pay me a decent wage, and to pay a prostitute for his needs. I worked so hard in keeping his house and looking after his children.”

    Ann shook her head when Sonia and Tefla spoke.

    “You took this cleaning job too when the children were at school. I admire you for managing all that.” Tefla said.

    “It’s all over now. I’m not going to dwell in that chapter of my life.” Sonia waved her troubles away, picked up her drink and swallowed it in one go. They stayed silent for a minute.

    Tefla leaned closer to Sonia and said, “You believe me, don’t you, Sonia? Matt threatened to report me to the Home Office and deport me if I didn’t tell him where you ran off to. Being a student nurse and failing my exams several times put me in a sticky position.” Tefla picked her drink and downed the rest of it. “ I only told Matt that you had taken a position as a chambermaid in a guest house in Brighton. He tracked you down from there.” Tefla pointed out. “Cliff never did anything to you after you ran away but Matt wanted to ruin all of us.”

    “Everything turned in your favour after you were arrested and detained by the Home Office, I heard. You had a good lawyer.” Ann said, blinking at the them.

    “Cliff never sought to divorce me and told the lawyer that he loved me and did not marry me for the sole reason to help me stay in the country. He could have got into trouble also. Matt claimed that I had paid him to marry me and we never lived as husband and wife. I got an automatic divorce because we have been estranged for more than two years. I can apply for citizenship now because I have lived here for 5 years. You could too.” Sonia raised her eyebrows, nodding at Tefla.

    “ Matt implicated Cliff in all this.”Sonia twisted her lips. “I’m going to move away to Wales, far away from him.”

    “You’re my best friend and only family I have here.” Tefla clasped Sonia’s hand on the table.“When I pass my exams I’ll move near you.”

    Sonia rose to hug her. “That how I feel about you too.”
    she picked the empty glasses and said, “I’m going to get another drink to toast to our friendship.”

    She was fiddling with finding the right change to pay for the drinks when she heard Cliff say, “How are you, Sonia?” She dropped her change as she stared up at Cliff.
    “Cliff! What a nice surprise to see you here?” She stammered and put her fingers on her lips.

    “I received the decree absolute in the post this morning and felt compelled to come here, the place where we met.” Cliff’s eyes locked into hers. “I don’t want to let you go. I still have this tiny hope.” He cocked his head, raised his arms and pinched two fingers together
    “Same here.” Sonia hesitated a bit before admitting.

    Tefla eyes popped out when she saw Cliff and Sonia walking back to them.
    “I’m not the same stupid girl I was 5 years ago. Perhaps, we can start again.”Sonia suggested without wasting a minute.

    Cliff’s face was a picture of joy. He reached out to clasp Sonia’s hand.

    “Congratulations Again!” Tefla wished with Ann repeating after her.

  • Romesh Chopra
    It Could Not Have Been Better

    She was abducted from her village when she was just four and her abductors sold her to a madam of a brothel house which is also called a Kotha in the Indian parlor

    She knew only her pet name, so the madam whom everyone called Amma, named her Noor, Radiance as she was a very pretty child. She was treated well in the brothel and there was no question of child abuse, as t was against their norms A girl was put to Dhanda only after she started menstruating. She was often taken to a nearby park to play, but always with an escort. She was treated well and soon forgot about her village and parents and considered the kotha as her home

    At 13, when she became young enough, she was offered to the highest bidder among Amma’s clients to deflower her; a pot-bellied 60 years old Seth, a rich trader. Before the Event, there was a huge feast and lot of singing and dancing to celebrate the great day. She was given a sari to wear for the first time and was asked to put on a bra to cover her tiny boobs. Looking at the mirror, she felt enamored by her own beauty but felt uncomfortable wearing a bra. She was well guided in subtle nuances of foreplay to please her first benefactor and he must leave fully satisfied. Her benefactor gave her a necklace before he denuded her. She was a good learner and had learnt her lesson well how to titillate a man Moreover, she did not want to disappoint Amma and craved for her applause for her performance. She gave him a great time in the bed and he left only when he was fully exhausted. Before leaving he gave her 1000 rupees as the Inam, reward, besides, she was to keep 40% of her services rendered. There was never any cheating in that.

    Later on, she was hugged by Amma and all the other prostitutes praised her and felt jealous at the same time as they had gotten far less on their first adventure. The sweets were distributed. She felt on the top of the world.

    She was the first choice of most of the clients who frequented their Kotha and made a lot of money. She was very money wise and never wasted her hard earned money. At the age of 35, she fell in a love with a man who was suave, handsome, and soft spoken. He always brought gifts for her, paid for the sex, but always just kissed her because he wanted to marry her and thought it immoral to have sex with her before marriage. Morality meant a lot to him, being an idealist

    One day, when everyone had gone to see the Dushera festival, she managed to elope with her lover and left for Shimla, a beautiful hill station. There they got married in a simple ceremony and he never let her spend any money. Just ten days after their marriage. when they were drinking, she fell flat after 2 pegs. In the morning, he was not to be found anywhere. She galloped to the cupboard and found all her jewelry and cash gone. The jewelry on her body was intact and he had left her purse untouched. He had some character!

    She could not go back to her Kotha as the punishment would have been severe beating or even breaking one of her legs. No help from police can be possible as they get Their Hafta, weekly payment from every Kotha. She did not report the matter to the police as they would have harassed her asking from where she got so much money and would jump over her for free. Such is the image of the Indian police

    She started her profession single-handed and made enough money to live a comfortable life, but she started suffering from amnesia as she felt tortured for believing an unknown man and also because of her utter loneliness and became addicted to opium which is sleep inducing.

    At the age of 45, her hair started graying and wrinkles emerged on her face. It was now hard for her to find a customer. At times, she sold her body just for 50 Rupees. Of course, she had enough money, but was worried for her old age and did not want to end up as a beggar at that age and for that very reason she became very stingy. She lived for the future.

    In the month of December, it was bitter cold with chilly winds blowing, entering her ribs and delicate bones. One could hardly find anyone on the roads at 8 p.m. in Shimla. Noor had not been able to find a customer for the last 7 days. She became desolate and was ready to sell herself cheap, but luck eluded her. A fellow slut offered her cheap whisky. She over drank to get out of her depression and loneliness. After they parted, she moved towards her home, her legs wobbled and her eyes got blurred. She lost the sense to find the direction of her house. With much efforts, as her physical strength had drained out, she dragged her feet to a rain-shed and fell flat on the bench and passed out.

    In the morning, her dead body was found and she was cremated by the municipal committee of Shimla, nobody mourned for her. A slut gone, could it be any better for the society and even for her?

  • 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 “Could It Have Ended Any Better” 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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