Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “The Elephant In The Room”

This post is for stories related to the Contest theme: “The Elephant In The Room”.

Elephant in the room is an English-language metaphorical idiom for an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss, or a condition of groupthink no one wants to challenge.

Required Elements:

  • The story must end with some version of the phrase “the elephant in the room” i.e. “that was the elephant in the room”, “there is an the elephant in the room”, “that’s why they wouldn’t mention the elephant in the room” etc.
  • Foul language must be kept to a minimum


Word limit: 1200.

  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

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. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1000 words.

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).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Phil Town per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

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139 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “The Elephant In The Room”

  • I love my sons, they, their wives and their children are the light of my life. During their childhood we had a close loving relationship, I was like any Mom, the fixer of problems, the go to person for food, money, clothing, fun, emotional support and all the other wonderful and terrifying duties of being a parent. It seemed like overnight when the wonderful, all knowing, intelligent mother turned out to be incredibly stupid. My 15 and 16 year old sons suddenly noticed I dressed wrong, didn’t understand anything, was not entitled to know what they thought about anything and in addition was just plain dumb. I think after years of me being accepting of the boys inability to hang up their clothing, use laundry baskets and the general disorder and messiness of teenage living space, one comment made to me stood out and I still laugh when I remember the day they looked at me and said, “you know Mom, there could be a dead elephant in the living room for a week before you’d notice it”. We still have a close loving relationship.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Liz

      This is a revealing. personal and brave observation about your own family (apparently); thanks for sharing it. There’s a lot going on there … it could have been extended into a story, I think (with the addition of fictional details too – why not?)

      Oh … and welcome!

      • Renette Steele
        Welcome Liz,

        You have a lot of potential in this short piece.
        With 1200 words to use a bit less telling and a lot more showing would make this a great story.

        Thank you for being willing to open up to us.

    • Kenneth Cartisano
      Hi Liz,
      You write well, and personal experiences make for great stories. The length, (or brevity) of your story almost makes it more of an anecdote. Which, with a little stretching, could serve as the basis for a short story that most of us can readily identify with. I hope you’ll stick around and give it a shot with our next story prompt.
    • Alice Nelson

      Hi Liz, welcome to the group. I love this little slice of life, heartfelt and real. I agree with the others that this could be a wonderful story if extended a bit to get a better feel of the characters, add a few fictional details to highlight the overall feel of the story.

      Hope to see you submit an entry again. 🙂

  • Looking back on it now, I have no idea how it all began, the madness I mean. Of course there had been little clues that pointed to bigger things were on the way but I didn’t connect those dots.
    My life had been as ordinary as any… more so by comparison I would have guessed. If you looked up average in the dictionary you would find my picture. At twenty seven, I never stepped outside the line of expectation, never late for work, never late paying the bills, everything was planned out, every I dotted every T crossed, a place for everything and everything in its place. Life was neat and orderly, just as it was meant to be.
    That is until, one day I was home sick with the flu.
    I had spent the night wracked with fever, my throat ravaged with multiple trips to the bathroom to empty an already empty stomach.
    Exhausted from a restless night, I stumbled to the kitchen for a glass of water and a few aspirin. To my surprise, my black dress shirt lay in the middle of the kitchen floor.
    A small thing mind you. It was just a shirt in a loose, rumpled pile… lying on the floor but it unnerved me. I stood there for a moment, staring at it.
    “How the hell?” I said aloud, pushing it with my foot, fearful I was hallucinating.
    I looked about half expecting God only knew what.
    The house was empty. It was always empty.
    After Nancy moved out more than five years ago, I had lived alone. I had no explanation as to how it could possibly be on the floor in the first place but there it was.
    “I must have dropped it when I took the clothes out of the dryer, that’s all,” I lied to myself.
    It was a lie I wanted to believe. I had taken the clothes out of the dryer two days earlier but I had no other explanation.
    I tried to put it out of my mind.
    A couple of weeks had gone by and I had all but forgotten about it. I would have been happy to live in that thought but when I came home late Wednesday night I found the refrigerator door open. Split milk, held in place by a ring of mustard, had created a puddle at its base. Laying on the floor in front of it my black shirt… sitting dead center of it, a half eaten bowl of cereal and a large wooden spoon.
    Someone had been inside my house.
    My heart jumped to my throat, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. I grabbed a knife and crept from room to room but to no avail.
    I was alone.
    I was angry at the thought of it, violated for lack of a better description.
    I didn’t know what upset me more… that someone had been in my house or that they had used my shirt as a place mat. What prayed on my mind for days afterward was the fact that I didn’t even own a wooden spoon.
    After the police left that night, I had gone through every item I owned. My head swam with panic, fearful half of everything I own had been stolen as I frantically took inventory.
    To my astonishment nothing had been touched. To me it felt as though the world was no longer civilized , for the police it was just matter of fact and for them a small matter at that.
    The company I worked for immediately changed my pass codes for the office and brought in the top of the line alarm company for my house.
    For the next month the instant I turned the key in the door I rushed to the refrigerator only to discover all was as I had left it that morning.
    I had taken my black shirt to the cleaners to be cleaned… twice. Both times I left it on the hanger, safely encased in the store wrapper. Invariably, I checked on it right after the fridge, eyeing it suspiciously for any tell-tell remnants of an intruder.
    As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get over the spoon. I had come to terms with the idea someone had broken into my house, opened my fridge and ate my food. What I had trouble with was the idea that they thought about it far enough in advance that they brought their own eating utensils. They had to know that they would have something to eat as they burglarized my house. It was that or they ate at all the houses they stole from. Neither thought offered any comfort.
    At first, I was tempted to throw it away, be done with it. As often as I had placed it in the trash I found myself retrieving it every time. I carried it around the house as if looking for just the right place to put it. More often than not it wound up sticking out of my back pocket.
    As the weeks went by I carried the damn thing everywhere, many times without realizing it. It found its way to work with me, in the car, under my pillow, in the microwave and in all the little nooks and crannies it could fit. It had reached the point it would be in my pocket before my car keys.
    I tried to break its hold on me, but could not. Somehow, having it in my possession kept my house and refrigerator, safe from a second break-in… or at least, in the beginning, so I hoped… clearly without intent or desire it had become the elephant in the room that would haunt me for the rest of my life.
    • Ken Allen
      Hi Tegon – interesting story, lots of unanswered questions (like what the hell is up with that spoon? And why are people breaking into refrigerators?). Perhaps this is part of something larger or the word limit got you. The opening line got me and then it kind of fell away for me. I was waiting for something to happen, because it felt like there was nothing going on, even though there was something going on.
      In the opening stanza I thought the spoon was a reference to the ‘Goldilocks and Three Bears’ – spoon, breaking in, stealing food… I was hoping some broken furniture and a bed would be introduced at some point. At the end, I initially thought the item that had a hold was the shirt, however on subsequent readings realised it was that damn mystical, wooden spoon (perhaps make this clearer?).
      I would also remove the reference to “Nancy” – she doesn’t play any part in the story and soaks up 13 valuable words – unless of course, the Nancy and the spoon are the same person?!
      As far as the prompt goes, I’m not sure your last line fits the idiom. For me, an ‘elephant in the room’ requires multiple people not discussing something, as opposed to one person not being able to solve something. I know it’s open to interpretation, however my (re)take on your story could be a second character (house mate / partner) and yourself place the spoon a glass case, never talk about it, and when guests arrive for dinner, they all want to ask the question, but deep down they’ve had to do exactly the same thing in their homes, hence the elephant in the room – Except for one person who does ask the question, who then goes home to find his clothes have been used as a placemat and a wooden spoon (cue the Twilight Zone music).
      • LOL… looking to deep Ken. Think OCD… thanks for the read!
        • Ken Allen
          Looking too deep? I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of that before. And if you are referring to _my_ OCD, then yes, I have been accused of that before.
          • I don’t know you well enough to know if you have OCD or not Ken. I found your note to be very funny… (cue the Twilight Zone music). For me… (also a OCD participant) this story is a reflection of that problem. My personal problem is with a fork… not a spoon. I have to eat with the same fork for every meal or things just don’t feel right or taste right. I can eat at restaurants or other people’s houses and use their forks but I’m left with an empty, unsatisfied feeling until I have a little something at home with my fork then everything is right with the world and I can move on. If you have a little something you are compelled to do then you understand, if not then it seems like a silly, funny thing. You also know that other people notice even if they say nothing to you. When they whisper to one another you know it’s about you… that feeling that they find it funny and you can do nothing to change this behavior is very much “The Elephant in the Room.”
            If you thought I was making fun of your OCD… I assure you I was not, could not… it would be the kettle calling the pot black. While we’re talking about it… eggs are ALWAYS on the right. If not they don’t look like eggs, they don’t taste like eggs… they are ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS on the right.
    • Tegon and Ken Allen,

      Okay break it up you two. Step back step back. (just kidding, I know you’re both insane). But seriously now. (Okay wait, not yet.) Ken? I’ve been accused of under-thinking things. Underthinking.
      (Okay, seriously now.)
      BTW, you and Andy’s replies to my comments last week were funny as hell.

      The story’s very well written. It reeks of competence. And, as stories go, it was entertaining. I didn’t get any kind of OCD connection though. Not until you mentioned it in your comments to the other Ken. However, I don’t know much about OCD, and I found your comments about it fascinating.
      So, considering your comments, if this story was intended to exemplify what it’s like, then I don’t think it succeeded. However, I feel that if you took your response to Ken’s comment and expanded that into a story, that would be unusual, fascinating, funny, educational as well as entertaining.
      I guess I don’t know anyone with OCD either, at least, not that I know of.
      It sounds like one of those things were one might say, ‘well, I can think of way worse afflictions to suffer from.’ Which is not to make light of it. I think it would be very frustrating, like having very bad vision, in a way. Survivable, but constant and annoying.

      I can see how watching someone deal with OCD could be humorous, but still, good friends and family should include you in the fun somehow. If you were my friend, I would train myself to always put my eggs on the right too, and if I went to dinner with you, I would bring my own fork AND KNIFE, just to upstage you. For fun. We might start a whole new fad. Personal utensils. Would that be worse? Or better?

      • Thanks for the read Ken C. “reeks of competence” just what I was shooting for… that or adequate !
        • Kenneth Cartisano
          I hope you realize that ‘reeks of competence’ is my weird way of saying that your writing is excellent.
          • What? I can’t tease ? Yes, I got what you meant… it was just me being a smart ass. I didn’t mean to make you think otherwise. I appreciated the read and you taking the time to comment. I meant no offence…
    • Adrienne Riggs

      I totally got your story. The OCD stood out from the start. I loved it. You did throw me off with the black shirt bit as I thought that would be the main item of focus. Clever twist to highlight the wooden spoon! I enjoyed the story.

      • Thanks for the read Adrienne… not to mention your note.
    • Humm is my reaction unusual? I laughed, but I am also watching or listening to Bill Connolly to lighten my mood, so it could have been your story or Connolly’s humour and swearing. I did like this story and wanted to read more.
      • Hard to compete with Bill Connolly ! Thanks for the read Ilana.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Tegon

      This has so much mystery going on. The spoon conundrum is great … I like to have questions raised in a story, and it’s okay for me that some loose ends aren’t tied by the end (you know – letting the reader work things out for him/herself, enabling several different interpretations, etc.). Maybe there are a few too many loose ends here? It doesn’t take away any of the pleasure in reading it (you certainly know how to set a scene!), but it left me feeling a little adrift (I think it might be just me, though!)

      • Thanks for the read Phil… a little adrift? Then my job is done here !
    • Renette Steele

      The OCD stood out for me from the start. Maybe because I have a couple kids who lean a bit that direction. One son has to have the volume on any device at even numbers or in increments of five. Don’t know why that is just how it is.

      The wooden spoon taking over and causing the OCD was a fun idea.

      It would sure help us older folks if you could leave a bit of space between paragraphs so these eyes did not have to strain so much. (a bit of my OCD)

      • Sorry about that Renette… As it turns out I understand completely. I didn’t think about formatting when I wrote it… my computer separates them for me as I go along. I will be more aware in the future ! Thank you for the read !!
    • Tegon – I loved this!!!
      I also did not get the OCD, instead my interpretation was a haunting. That the poltergeist was somehow attached to the spoon and it was slowly invading the narrator’s body. And the elephant in the room would be the ghost. That he refused to believe in and thus got the security etc.
      I liked it a lot!
      • I’m going to write that down Carrie… I think that makes for a much better story than mine !!!!
    • Alice Nelson

      Tegon this story pulled me in from the very first sentence, there was this ever present tension and I just kept waiting for it to be alleviated by a ghost, or a strange wooden spoon wielding burglar. Like Ken C. said, the writing is great, and also like Ken A. said, nothing of any significance really happens. Unless you’ve struggled with OCD, the reader won’t get the connection. I know it’s hard with the word limitations, but maybe you could’ve given us some clues to the characters issues with little hints as the story goes along.

      It is a fine read, and I’m so glad you found our little group dude!

      • DUDE ??? I don’t have go buy a pair of Chaps do I ?? Thank you Alice… high praise coming from you !
  • Dean Hardage

    The Elephant
    Dean Hardage

    Mark hated dressing up, hated the way the clothes felt, pressing too close and revealing too much of his less-than-perfect physique. He sighed as he fastened the tie around his neck with an oversized Windsor knot that only accentuated his Adam’s apple. He wouldn’t even be doing this but his boss had specifically handed him the invitation so he knew it was more an order than a request.

    “Meet and Greet” it said. “Come and meet all of your fellow employees in a relaxed and casual atmosphere.” Relaxed and casual his left….well, the dress certainly wasn’t helping him relax and didn’t feel at all casual. Suit and tie was required and the party was supposed to be at some hoity-toity country club where he’d never get past the front door under normal circumstances. The high quality, engraved paper of the invitation bespoke money and status and it would be his passport, temporarily at least, into that world.

    With one last pass of the brush through his unruly hair and he was finished. It was as good as it was going to get and he just had time to get there on schedule. He hurried because he’d never liked being late, even fashionably late. He punctuality seemed a bit out of place at work, everyone else being on what they called flex-time, coming and going in any way they felt necessary. It seemed wrong to him but the company was successful and he’d been lucky to get the position he held.

    As he drove away from the city and into the lush countryside he pondered the reason he’d been asked to this soiree. He wasn’t hooked into the office party line, so to speak, and most of the gossip bypassed him completely. He had caught one phrase, something about an elephant, big and clumsy but useful and cute in that way that ugly things can be. That sounded like nonsense so he’d ignored it.

    He stopped wondering when he saw the enormous edifice where he was supposed to go. He looked for a place to park but was directed to the circular drive to the front of the building where a valet took his keys and drove off. He’d never used a service like that and it felt vaguely wrong but he once again shook it off and walked into the building.

    The maître d’ took his invitation and motioned gracefully toward an expansive, very well appointed room with high windows, plush carpet, and wait staff circulating with drinks and hors de’ oeuvres. He took a fluted champagne glass and held on to it as he slowly wandered about the room full of people. He looked around and saw a few of the people who worked in his section and some he’d only seen in the company handbook. They were the ones who lived in the rarified atmosphere of upper management and he wondered what had prompted them to bring the rest of the staff into their ivory tower.

    For the next few hours he tried to mingle, actually engaging in a few conversations as he went. As time passed he began to sense that there was something going on, something that people were not talking about even though it loomed large in their thoughts. It wasn’t obvious, no one stopped talking or smiling but he felt it nonetheless. His curiosity and apprehension grew until he thought he might burst.

    He turned suddenly and caught the CEO, CFO, and his department vice-president all looking at him from across the room, smiling in a patronizing way and it suddenly hit him. Big and clumsy, but cute in an ugly way and useful. He knew. The elephant in the room was him.

    • Ken Allen
      Hi Dean
      I enjoyed this, but I wanted more. Why was he the elephant? It was kind of like that 1000 piece puzzle you pull out of cupboard and only realise at the end there is a piece missing.
      • Dean Hardage
        I tried to convey how different he felt and how poorly he fit into the culture he was part of. I was trying to be mindful of word limits so I was not as successful as I wished. I wanted to express a sense of being patronized, pitied like a mule hauling a wagon among a herd of Arabian race horses.
    • Kinda sad, Dean. Why was he the social misfit?
      • Dean Hardage
        He was not one of the “beautiful” people he worked around. He is regimented and kind of rigid while they are more like free spirits. Misfit isn’t exactly how I would describe him, more like useful and somewhat unattractive per.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Dean

      It was good to see you getting away from space for a change! Everything’s nicely set up here. I like the premise – a man who (we get the impression) always keeps himself to himself, thrown into a social occasion (for what reason, we don’t know) in which he feels like a fish out of water. There’s a really cruel angle to be exploited here, but as Ken and Ilana say, perhaps we need a little more background or a few more clues to find out why he’s been put in this situation (?)

      • Dean Hardage
        I agree. It seems I did not succeed in painting a complete picture with this one. I will probably flesh it out with more back story but it would exceed the word count.
    • Renette Steele
      You had a great story going here and you only used half your words. 1200 was the limit this go round.

      Unfortunately, I can so relate to this story in more ways than one.

      I do wonder if Mark might not surprise them all and one day become president.

    • Kenneth Cartisano
      I was going to do something like this until i read your story and then decided to try something else. What is obvious is that you had a clear notion of the picture you were trying to create. Which is, as we all know, easier said than done. I think, that the story would have more punch if (I realize this changes the story, but I don’t care, the reader is more important than the story) if the main character (as well as the reader) was completely surprised that he was the elephant in the room. As written, the exposition telegraphs the ending.
    • Dean, I can’t really do much but echo sentiments!
      A very well crafted story, your attention to detail is fantastic.
      But I’d still like to know why he was invited, some sort of “Carrie” movie joke being played here?
    • Alice Nelson

      Dean as usual your writing is spot on, and I liked the set up of the story, but as others have already said, it was only a set up and it left me wanting more. You gave us an inkling of your Main Character, and I liked him right off, but it was only a surface look at him and his job. A longer story, fleshed out and you’ve got something fantastic here.

      And as Phil said, it was nice to see you spread your wings outside of the normal science fiction stuff. Nice job my friend.

    • Dean… did Phil say Space !!! ??? If you write Sci-Fi ( my personal favorite ) you can sell your short stories here for $100 give them a look see. The way you write you could quit your day job !!
  • Phil Town


    “I think, then, that we can move on to Any Other Business?”

    The Chairman looked up from the agenda lying in front of him. The large conference room was full, with people sitting on both sides of the long table, and against all the walls except for one corner, people who couldn’t get a seat were standing. They were almost nodding off from the previous two hours of soporific discussion of last year’s accounts and voting for the following year’s Committee members.

    “So, does anyone have any other business they’d like to discuss?”

    It was no more than a rhetorical question; most had come for AOB alone.

    “Yes, I’d like to say something.”

    “The Chair gives the floor to Leonard Catskill.”

    Leonard Catskill stood, his 6-foot-4-inch frame looming over those present. He smoothed his waxed moustache before he began speaking.

    “Thank you, Mr Chairman. We all know about the rumours, so I won’t go into the details. But I just want to say that I’m 100% against any change in the composition of our circus!”

    There was a unified “Hear, hear!” from the assembly, followed by a hubbub that went on until Leonard resumed.

    “Those … Those who are interested in the change will cite the success of Cirque du Soleil and similar operations. Now, while I myself am an admirer of that ‘show’ – and I use the word advisedly – it’s far from being a circus, as such. Whichever you believe to be the origin of the circus – whether it’s Roman times or 18th-century England – animals were used as a central attraction in those early versions. Our own circus dates from the early 20th century, and we have always used animals. In all modesty, my lions are perhaps the most popular act; our circus would be nothing without them.”

    “Monsieur Shairman – can I say someseeng?”

    “Madame Pastomber?”

    Leonard sat and Madame Pastomber stood; an elegant woman in her 30s, she gave Leonard a withering look.

    “Sank you. I would take issue weez what Monsieur Lion claims; I seenk eet ees safe to say zat my trapeze act ees ze mos’ popular een ze circus – certainly eet ees ze one zat gets ze mos’ reaction from ze audience – avec les screams et le laughter nerveux – oh lá lá – zey cannot get enough of eet. And I seenk zat ze nex’ mos’ popular are ze acrobats and ze clowns. And not a seengle animal eez used een zees acts!”

    The people who could understand what Madame Pastomber was saying – and agreed with her – applauded her as she sat, and those that couldn’t – including some that wouldn’t have agreed with her if they had understood – joined in so as not to seem stupid.

    Leonard got up to respond but the Chairman stopped him before he could speak.

    “Mr Willy. You wanted to say something?”

    An ordinary-looking man with a sad face stood up next. His voice was even sadder.

    “We clowns,” he gestured to three or four people sitting near him, all with the same sad air, “are in agreement with Madame Pastomber. For too long, the animals have had a distracting influence on our art. Apart from the humane aspect – which is very powerful – we believe that it would be a good idea to remove animals from the performances. As Leonard suggested, things like Cirque du Soleil have been making shedloads of money without an animal in sight. Why not us?”

    “Frau Hundzahmer?”

    Mr Willy sat down and a large woman with whiskers got up. She banged her fist on the table and the whole room fell silent.

    “Zat ist RUBBISH! Ve haff ze best animal acts in ze all country – ze people come from miles to see zem. Meine Pudel … my poodles are, Madame Pastomber, vun of ze most popular, if not ZE MOST POPULAR” – here she banged the table again, bringing gasps from those present – “acts in ze circus. I agree mit Herr Catskill: mitout ze animals, zis circus vould be kaput!”

    She sat down and the room breathed a collective sigh of relief.

    “May I speak?”

    A timid-looking little man with a long nose put his hand up.

    “Of course, Mr Djumbeau.”

    “I’d like to know: what will happen to us, the animal tamers and trainers, if you decide to stop using animals.”

    “That’s a good question, Mr Djumbeau,” replied the Chairman. “Of course, we will have to find other things for you to do, or negotiate the termination of your contracts with us.”

    “But we only know how to work with animals. For example, I wouldn’t be comfortable donning a clown costume! And another thing … “ – here he glanced at the corner and dropped his voice to a whisper – “What will happen to the animals!?”

    The Chairman whispered his response, and a deathly silence fell on the room.

    “They will have to be put down, I’m afraid. I know that programmes exist for them to be returned to the wild, but that costs money … and unless there are donations or offers of free assistance, I’m afraid that’s a solution that will be beyond us.”

    The hubbub resumed and Mr Djumbeau sat down heavily, turning his moist eyes to the corner.

    “I think that we can call the meeting closed at this point. The Committee will continue to discuss this issue and of course, we will keep you informed of any developments. Thank you for your attendance and kind attention. Meeting terminated.”

    The circus folk filed out of the room, exchanging thoughts and opinions as they went. When they’d all left, Mr Djumbeau got up and moved to the corner.

    “It’s all right Alfred. We’ll work it out.”

    With tears streaming down his face, he stroked the head of the baby elephant and led him out of the room.


    • Ken Allen
      Hi Phil
      Nice take on the prompt. A well constructed scene. I most enschoyed zee phonetique arczents.
    • Powerful Phillip. Great writing and love the accents.
      • Phil Town
        Sank you, Ken.
        • Phil Town
          And Ilana!
    • Renette Steele
      Cute story. Seems an elephant in the corner of the room even a baby one would be noticed. But then the circus folk are all caught up in saving their own jobs and don’t realize the relationship the trainer has with this baby. Or all the work the elephants do before and after the show. ( Ie putting up the tents)

      I liked the way you portrayed the performers with accents, a bit hard to read but made it fun.

      • Thanks, Renette!
    • Phil – I was absolutely dleighted with the accents. That was my favorite parts in the story!
      I am not a huge fan of the circus, I hate the way animals are confined and (unproven but I’m sure) treated poorly to train for the shows. I am a “live free, where you’re supposed to be” kind of a gal.
      Ringling Bros Circus ( merged with Barnum & Baily in the 1980’s) was started here in Wisconsin and as a child we delighted in the show.
      They are actually closing the business this July. They eliminated elephants from their program last year and ticket sales have declined.
      I’m glad to know we live in an age where at least those animals will go live in a zoo or a sanctuary.
      • Thanks, Carrie.

        Yes, Kenneth mentions this below. I don’t mind circuses going out of business, tbh, if they only survive otherwise through keeping and mistreating animals. (And I’d extend this to zoos, to tell you the truth – sad places.)

    • Alice Nelson

      I enjoyed the story Phil and the use of the prompt with a literal elephant in the room was a nice touch. It seems circuses like this are becoming a thing of the past. The story flows nicely, but I feel different about the accents than everyone else. I found them hard to read, and at some spots almost impossible to decipher and it took me out of an otherwise fine story. In fact, I just skipped past them to get to the heart of the tale. I think if you just used a few phrases from each language that would’ve given the reader a sense of what the speaker might sound like.

      Alice from SFB gave me a link to this article when I was using dialects in one of my stories, I found it very helpful. Of course, I am the only one who had trouble with it, so…

  • Adrienne Riggs

    You tug at the heartstrings bringing a baby elephant into play as the elephant in the room. I also caught the name of the elephant tamer – Djumbeau aka Jumbo. Very clever.

    Mr. Djumbeau, a ” timid-looking little man with a long nose” – does he, by chance, represent Timothy the mouse of Dumbo fame?

    I wonder if the others had known the elephant was physically in the room would it have changed their views?

    I enjoyed the story! Well done.

    • Phil Town
      Thanks, Adrienne (when are you coming back?). No conscious representation of Timothy – just a bit of zoomorphism (I had to look it up!)
  • Kenneth Cartisano
    A fun story Philip. I enjoyed the accents, the names, the ending. You are attempting to satisfy the prompt with a literal elephant in the room rather than some version of the phrase. I’m calling you on it because figuring out a way to work that phrase into the last sentence without sounding corny or lame is proving to be quite a challenge. For me at least.
    • Phil Town
      Thanks, Kenneth! (It is, if you think about it – and maybe I’m stretching it here – a “version of the phrase”. Mr Djumbeau led Alfred the elephant out of the room, which means he was in it … and nobody really took any notice of him while he was there. And I know it’s stifling hot, but would you like to buy some blankets?)
      • Kenneth Cartisano
        Are they hybrid blankets? Or spandex blankets? (Spandex stretches, hybrids can double as sheets. Big difference.) I’m not interested in any hybrid blankets. No matter how hot it is. LOL. I think we both took a literal approach to the prompt, but yours was more circus-like, whereas mine was a bit like a zoo. Kidding aside: I just saw a ‘news’ story that indicated that due to pressure from animal rights activists, elephants were removed from the circus last year or the year before. Since there removal, circus attendance has plummeted.
        • Kenneth Cartisano
          Please disregard my pathetic misuses of there and their.
  • Ken Allen

    Under New Management

    Eight heads snapped around when the two heavy doors to the boardroom thrust open. Mouths gaped open as she entered, her black high heels echoing on the polished surface with every stride. Long black hair flowed behind her like a bride’s train. Smouldering embers glowed brightly as she inhaled her cigarette between smiling, red lips, her exhalation suspended in mid-air until she cut through it, dissipating the smoke in her wake.

    They scrutinised her in disbelief as she rounded the corner and stood at the head of the table. What was she doing here?

    “I’m in charge now.” She waved her hands and a flutter of papers spewed out on the table, each floating to a member. They exchanged shocked glances with each other before settling their eyes on the two empty chairs at the top of the table.

    She looked at each face in turn as they resigned their view to the piece of paper in front of them. Their dress was of splendid silk and satin robes with varying colours of reds, blues and yellows. Their appearances were shades of chocolate framed by black hair. Each pair of dark eyes scanned the print. Slowly, one by one, the looked back up at her, realisation spread across their faces.

    A man raised his hand and said, “But, Lucifer, how?”

    She sighed and said in a sympathetic tone, “Oh, Buddha.” With a click of her fingers, one of the vacant chairs slide around and under her, and she lowered herself gracefully. She placed her elbows on the table and rested her chin in her palms.

    “Times are changing, lady and gentlemen. Management is looking for a new direction, hence, this.”

    She waved a hand across the table to indicate the piece of parchment in front of each of them.
    More glances exchanged across the table, more looks to the unoccupied places.

    “And how exactly do you plan on achieving this?” Krishna said.

    “You can’t just go out there and start expecting everyone’s beliefs and loyalties,” Durga said.
    Lucifer looked at Durga’s beauty. Long dark hair pulled back tightly, a dot in the middle of her forehead.

    “I thought of all people, you would understand,” Lucifer said. “This is beyond beliefs, beyond loyalties. This is about sustainability, longevity, legacy.” She sat back. “And I am not beyond reason. I have as much stake in this game as the rest of you.” She bit her lip. “Which is why Management has allowed me some assistants.”

    The boardroom doors swung open and heads turned suddenly. Two men entered, each making their way up a side of the table. An old man in a cloak leaning heavily on a long pole shuffled slowly up the left-hand side, whilst a young man in a suit strode up the right.

    When both had taken up their places at Lucifer’s side, she continued. She pointed a long finger to the old man. His face was drawn and withered, his pale grey eyes lacking any life.

    “This is Death.”

    There was squawk from the nearest member as he pointed at the old man. “Ha!” Ganesha said. “For what purpose does this ‘Death’ undertake?”

    The old man slowly raised the hood of his cloak, the abyss within engulfed his face. There was a sudden movement, a whisper of a blade cutting through the air. Before anyone could blink, Death held his pole near the neck of Ganesha. A long circular blade had appeared and sat perilously close to an exposed artery. A collective gasp filled the room.

    “Thank you for the demonstration, Death,” Lucifer said. “You can step back now.”

    Death moved slowly this time, easing the blade out and away from the neck. The cutting edge then retracted into the pole, and the pole returned to the man’s side. He slowly pulled back the hood to reveal a smirk.

    “As I was saying,” Lucifer continued, “Management has decreed that Death here will oversee the collection and distribution of all souls, in accordance with the ‘Eye-for-an-eye’ protocol. Death, without favour nor prejudice, will alone determine final displacement.

    “This is preposterous,” Buddha said. “Our entire ethos is based on forgiveness.”

    “As I said, times are a changing.” She crossed her legs and clicked her fingers, creating a cigarette to appear between her lips. She breathed in deep and exhaled the smoke across the table. “If you don’t like it, you can always take it up with Management.”

    Buddha recoiled and sunk back into his seat. Everyone remembers the last time someone dared oppose one of Management’s directives. As a result, the powerful Coatlicue, who once commanded a significant portion of the worship pie, was reduced to a name that exists in whispers that do not fall upon mortals’ ears.

    “Then who is that,” Durga said, nodded in the direction of the young man.

    The man ran a hand through his hair and smiled.

    “You see,” Lucifer began, “I’m in a bind. We can’t have the world believing I’m the one and only God. Mortals just aren’t prepared for it. Besides, Management is aware that too much power a single divinity would have, so Mr Atheist is here to help with this issue.”

    “Atheist?” Durga queried.

    “Yes,” Lucifer replied. “Consider him my media man. He is here to spread false information. He is here to make the world believe that none of us exists. He will start pockets of non-believers in every country. There will be groups of people that think their lives were created by science, and that fate and destiny are merely words. The more some people disbelieve, the more others will believe … it’s a deliciously perfect vicious cycle.”

    Buddha looked down at his parchment and then over to the empty chair. “But what about …” He looked up at Lucifer, who had transformed her cigarette into an apple. She bit down on the red flesh, the crunch sounding like bones being snapped in two, and sat it on the table.

    “So, you expect everyone to revere an upside-down pentagon?” Durga asked, crossing her arms.
    “Like I said,” Lucifer began, “The world is not ready. That is why we have decided on something that involves a little more … subterfuge.” She looked down at the apple on the table.

    “An apple?”

    “Apple!” Lucifer clapped excitedly. “Exactly!” She looked over to an empty space. “In honour of … well, you know.”

    Buddha stood up. “But what about -.”

    The question was cut short as the meeting room door swung open. All heads turned to look at the figure, who limped slowly along the edge of the room, his arm in a sling, purple showing prominently around his right eye. He eased himself down onto his chair.

    “Oh, Allah, my compadre, thank you so much for joining us,” Lucifer said with a grin.

    All eyes fell on the empty space. Everyone understood that a saviour to billions would soon be forgotten. But for them, Jehovah would always be the elephant in the room.

    • Ken Allen!

      Excellent. Great sequel and use of the current prompt. Fabulous first paragraph. Cool plot, colorful exposition. I really enjoyed this story, and—I got my wish to see ‘Lucy’ in a sequel. Great stuff.
      It has 10 clear mistakes though. Wrong tense, or grammar or omitted word. I realize you may not want to make these changes and re-post, but for your own copy, 10 minor changes and this story is a wrap. Nice job Ken. This is a very creative and enjoyable story.

      ‘at the top of the table.’ (head)
      ‘Slowly, one by one, the looked back up at her,…’(they)…
      ‘…one of the vacant chairs slide around…’ (slid)
      ‘There was (a) squawk from the nearest member…’
      ‘…creating (another) cigarette to appear between her *(?) lips.’
      ‘Everyone remembers…’ (remembered)
      ‘…Durga said, nodded in the direction of the young man. (…nodding…)
      ‘Besides, Management is aware that too much power…’
      (Management is uncomfortable with placing too much power in a single divinity, so Mr. Atheist is here…)

      This is a great line: ‘She bit down on the red flesh, the crunch sounding like bones being snapped in two, and sat it on the table. (…set it on the table.)

      * ‘blood colored’ is a suggestion, not an error or omission.

      • Thanks Ken! (for pointing out all my flaws) 🙂 It’s amazing after multiple reads, spell checkers and programs like grammerly, errors still sneak in. I think I’ll print out to edit next time to see if i can catch those little suckers.
        I did think it a little cheeky to post a sequel, however my inspiration pot was running a little low with this prompt – and let’s face it. I did if for you, Ken.
        • Kenneth Cartisano
          It’s much, much easier to see other people’s errors than our own.
          I always print a copy to proofread before posting. I can read a story twenty times, print it out, and find two ‘the’s side by side in the second sentence. One time I implored everyone to be especially mindful of mistakes in the first couple of paragraphs, and then posted a story with a glaring error on the last word of the very first paragraph. Writing can be maddening, but if you’re already crazy, it’s a great excuse to act like it. (Like you’re crazy, that is.)
          On the issue of sequels, I’ve written quite a few. Had no idea it was cheeky, but now that I know, it explains so much. (The elephant in the room, so to speak.)
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Ken

      A very colourful meeting! Great interchange of dialogue, some great lines (“Thank you for the demonstration, Death” is simple but very funny. And “This is preposterous!” coming from Buddha.) I like the justification for Mr Atheist – it makes sense. And the use of the prompt works really well. Good stuff.

      • Thanks Phil, glad you liked it.
    • Renette Steele
      Ken Allen
      Interesting story. Who besides Lucifer would be the management? This board room is full of interesting ideas and people.

      I liked it.

      • Thanks Renette – perhaps we’ll find out more about “Management” in the next installment (especially if the prompt is “Management” or “I stepped on a cornflake and now I’m a cereal killer”) …
    • Hahahahaha Ken I LOVE this! I love every religion represented in the board room and I love the subterfuge of The Atheist.
      What an interesting concept and one that I could see as a larger story as each God tries to undermine Lucifer.
      The potential for “court intrigue” is huge here!
    • Alice Nelson

      I loved this sequel to the last story. It flows nicely and is a great continuation of the last story. You did a really good job of showing the politics of these deities and the power struggle that even they are dealing with. Lucifer is a good sinister character, and the whole idea of Allah surviving the battle between he and Jesus is intriguing.
      Ken already mentioned the grammatical errors, they did take me out of the story a bit, but not so much that I still didn’t enjoy myself.

  • Oh no. I have to work the phrase there was an elephant in the room into the last line. I thought it just had to be implied. DhURR. REWRITE! Will repost.
    • Hi Alice Carrie
      Can we get rid of the elephant in the room that does not mention the elephant in the room please? I have posted the update. 🙂
  • Rituals.
    by Ken Cartisano ©2017

    I was attending night classes at the University and serving my first year of internship at the San Diego Zoo. Merely a custodial position, my job consisted largely of ‘handling’ excrement: every kind of animal crap imaginable. I would cart it out by the bucket load, in some cases by the wheelbarrow, then I’d trudge back into the empty cages with a brush and a hose and clean every inch of exposed concrete. My outfit consisted of industrial blue overalls, rubber boots and gloves, a hat, a brush, a scraper and a cheap paper mask.

    My favorite chore, as it happens, was cleaning the indoor elephant enclosure. Mia called it the paddock. Mia was the reason I loved cleaning the elephant cages. She was head of the department, not much older than me, a recent graduate of the school I was attending; and even if only for that, we had something in common, something I used with shameless regularity to initiate conversations with her, no matter how brief. I was smitten, and she knew it.

    That’s because Mia was not just brilliant, but beautiful. She had black, wavy hair, and lively brown eyes. She wore a simple, silver starfish on a chain around her neck. She was lovely, but hopelessly earnest. And that was not a subjective impression. The place was crawling with other interns, zoologists, botanists, and research fellows. Most were men, and most of them invited her out for dinner, lunch, coffee, or drinks; and all were politely deflected or firmly rejected.

    Women researchers were hardly more generous, every one regarded Mia as a ‘pretty little thing,’ and ‘hopelessly in over her head.’ They treated her with palpable disdain, as if they belonged to a club that she could never join.

    Despite all of this resentment and disdain, Mia remained incredibly optimistic. She never complained about other people’s negativity. I could love her for that alone.

    My internship was put on hold for the winter, a four month period in which I nearly got over her. I assumed she would find a man who piqued her fancy.

    When I returned the following spring I was surprised to see that she was still unattached to any specific gentleman and continued to be socially isolated from her colleagues, but she was still enthralled with her job and devoted to the elephants.

    I was also pleased to find that I had also earned an assistant, and paperwork was now a part of my job. So there were days when I didn’t smell like a walking pile of animal crap.

    I was certain she had no interest in me, despite my obvious infatuation with her, but I was aware that on those occasions when we were on break or in the cafeteria together, she would put down her papers or clipboard in a very deliberate way, and engage me in conversation. Topics ranged from animal husbandry to the odd pronunciation of teats.

    One day, out of the blue, our oldest female, Dharma, wouldn’t leave the enclosure. I just stood there, slightly perplexed, but more in awe of her tree like legs, massive body, head and prehensile trunk. She was emitting a deep, persistent low-pitched rumble. At close quarters, it can inspire fear and awe at the same time. And it means something. Different from trumpeting, it sounds more like a Tyrannosaurus-Rex, purring. Elephant communication is complex and not well understood. The rumbling has been associated with ‘let’s go this way,’ or ‘I want to do this thing.’ It’s a decisive, an urging, or a coercing sound—or can be, if it isn’t something else.

    The next time I went to the lunch room, Mia was waiting for me. She rarely smiled, and when she did, it was never more than a mechanical display of courtesy. She never really seemed that happy, or friendly. I sat down at the table across from her, and without any preamble she confided that she had a ‘major problem’ on her hands, and if she didn’t solve the problem soon, the zoo’s upper management was threatening to impose it’s own draconian solution.

    “So what’s the problem?” I asked, as I brushed crumbs off the table.

    “I can’t seem to get the elephants to copulate,” she said.

    I grinned.

    “It’s not funny,” she said. “It’s a huge problem.”

    I snorted involuntarily, and her polite veneer evaporated. I waved defensively and apologized, to calm her down, then shrugged and said, “What’ve you tried?”

    She pointed her plastic soda straw at me. “I’ve tried almost everything. Every known means and method to coax those two into…”

    “Doing the deed?”

    “Exactly.” She put the straw in her drink and vigorously stirred her soda.

    I sat there stupidly, wondering what I could say or do. My knowledge of elephant intercourse was limited.


    “Here’s the thing, David…”

    I was pleased to learn that she knew my name.

    “What they want me to do, if these two pachyderms don’t start…”

    “Getting it on.” I supplied.

    “Right,” she nodded, “management wants me to create a hybrid.” She absorbed my look of incomprehension. “A hybrid is the offspring of two different species. Hybrid’s die, David. They all die. And the emotional impact and trauma on the elephants is—is heartbreaking. I need to find a solution—soon.”

    My understanding of elephants was limited, all I really knew was that elephants mate rarely. When they do, despite appearances, it is the female that chooses whom, or which males get the honor; and the mating period for females is short.

    Despite my vast ignorance, I felt that a response was expected. I said, “Have you given her a physical examination?”

    She stared at me. “Do you know how difficult it is to give an elephant a thorough physical exam?”

    I shook my head. With my mouth full of bread and tuna fish, my answer sounded like, ‘Mo?’

    So, she recruited me to assist her in this ‘exam process’ and was able to locate an infection using an infrared scanning technique. It identified a large cyst in the cow’s reproductive orifice which she and a medical team removed. I had to dispose of it.

    Whatever feelings I had for Mia, up until then, were badly mangled. I wasn’t sure how the elephant felt, but the whole event left me traumatized. I almost threw up a couple of times.

    When I worked up the courage to visit the elephant enclosure a few days later. Dharma had recuperated well, had vacated the enclosure and was out wandering the grounds. Mia approached me and put her hand on my arm.

    “You did good,” she said, standing very close to me. “I’m glad I talked to you about it, and so is Dharma. I just assumed she was perfectly healthy. Pretty stupid of me.” She radiated happiness, her smile was genuine. “Listen—would you like to go out for coffee, or dinner sometime?”

    Struck dumb, I merely nodded.

    “Great!” She said. “Saturday night?”

    I nodded.

    Then she left.

    After she was gone I thought, ‘Well—at least there’s one less elephant in the room.’

    • Ken you have a way of creating a good story out of nice everyday things, Reading your story was like have a darn good coffee that leaves a pleasant aftertaste. It ends on an optimistic note. Thank you. I really enjoyed it. Well written and well thought out in terms of plot. I do still want to know if the elephants got it on to produce offspring. Their gestation period is two years. I could not imagine being pregnant for two years.
      • Kenneth Cartisano
        Thanks Ilana,
        Writing this story seemed a lot like going into labor. ‘Course, I cannot imagine being pregnant for two days, let alone 22 months. Yikes!
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Kenneth

      Really well set up and executed. That opening paragraph is a belter. And the second one, actually. And … heck, they’re all belters! Lovely story and excellent use of the prompt. (I only didn’t quite get the thing about ‘hybrids’.)

      • Kenneth Cartisano
        Thanks Philip,
        The hybrid thing was a weird bit of info I ran across doing my mandatory 12 minutes of research. As weird as it sounds, I used it because it worked so well as a means of providing urgency to the plot. I didn’t double check the veracity of the information, but I think it’s true. Here’s a short article. However, anything that causes disbelief or confusion in a story should be either clarified or deleted, I suppose.
    • Renette Steele
      Hi Ken C.

      The comparison between the elephants and this couple is great. I didn’t have actual elephants in mind when I choose this prompt but you used both very creatively and all so well done without the use of foul language.
      Coot toes to you KEN

      • Kenneth Cartisano
        Thanks Renette,
        It was a tremendous challenge. (Removing all the foul language from one of my stories.) But I did it. And I don’t even regret it. That is no small feat, I think. 🙂
    • Hi Ken C
      A nice story. Elephant love stories are not generally my cup of tea, but I got this. It reached a peak early and just flowed along easy … and I got to the end and was like, “yeah, that was a story.” Nice one. I would loved to have seen a reference to how pygmies eat elephants, or how you can tell when an elephant’s been in your fridge, but I can live with what you’ve created.
      • Kenneth Cartisano
        Ken, I loved your comments. All of them. In tribute, I shall offer you a Translation of your comment to me. I hope nobody takes offense at me making fun of my story and your comments.

        Yo, guy with same name,
        A nice story, as opposed to not nice. Elephant love stories are rare, and for a very good reason. Nobody likes them. Your story peaked early, then dribbled out before eventually flat lining to the end. The story would have benefited ‘immensely’ by the addition of elephant crazed pygmies, or the like. A missed opportunity on your part, Ken C. I couldn’t help but think, “That, would have been a story.”
        p.s. I have an invisible elephant living in my house, eating all my food. So I would have preferred an elephant detection and removal tutorial rather than what you wrote, but, being the magnanimous fellow that I am, I will try reading your story to my invisible elephant and see if that doesn’t make him leave. Wish me luck. Thanks a lot, Ken C.

        (Just want you to know, I work twice as hard to be half as funny as you. Very few people say anything that makes me laugh right out loud. Keep up the good work, Mr. Allen.) 🙂

    • Ken – I swear to you this was like watching a movie play out. The little habits and nuances really brought the characters to life.
      And clever way to use a try/fail sequence while developing not just one relationship, but two.
      Really, really perfect!

      One quick question, why “Rituals” as a title? I sorta get it but not quite. And you know how I am about titles, so I must ask! lol

      • Kenneth Cartisano
        Carrie (baby) – My story is not really about love. It’s about mating–and mating is a ritual. And plural because, well, that much is obvious. 🙂
        • hahahahaha -um yes….I got the subject matter… I’m in my prime….married….with no kids….. 😉
          And I figured it would be something obvious!
    • Alice Nelson

      You get all sorts of stories with this group, never did I expect one involving elephant love making.

      Nice story Ken, it flowed so smoothly, and like Ilana said, you take these almost mundane situations and make really fun and engaging stories out of them. And because of your 12 minutes of research, I learned a lot too. Loved the characters they were full characters with depth, I could even imagine how they looked in my mind. Nice job my friend.

  • Sharon came in around 1.30 in the afternoon. The funeral was to start at 2.30. The room was stark. White painted walls. Two landscape scenes by an artist whose name she had forgotten, despite studying him in art history at school; hung on opposing walls of this room.

    The pews were burnished maple, therefore light. She was glad it was going to be a modern service and not Catholic. Even the Anglicans tended towards steep ceilings, dark wooden pews, eulogies that were punitive and did not celebrate lives, but rather used the dead person’s life as an example of what not to be. One needed to be better than the dead. There was a lectern on a raised platform at the front of the pews. She gathered that would be where they would eulogise her mother.

    She walked carefully down the centre aisle. Almost as if he had been watching her from a hidden camera, a man in a dark suit and sombre tie, suddenly opened a door at the end of the room and beckoned her forward. He was short, a stubby fellow, with slicked back short hair, clean shaven and smelt overpoweringly of some astringent aftershave that she could not quite place.


    “I’m Sharon. Sharon Billings.”

    “Her daughter?”

    “Yes. She gave birth to me.”

    “So, you’re her daughter. She’s in there.” He gestured towards the room that he had just left. “I’ve just been finishing preparations.”

    “Oh. May I see her please?”

    “Yes, of course. You’re staying for the service, of course?”

    “That’ll depend. Probably not.” She sighed. She did not want him prying into her personal affairs so clomped closer to the doorway. “I’d like to see her now. Before…”

    “Right. Right. Of course.” He bustled forward. “I’m Martin Pond by the way. The son of Marcus Pond and Son Pty Ltd.” He held out his hand. She ignored it. He turned the handshake into a waving through motion.

    Almost as an afterthought, she turned to him and said “Pleased to meet you Martin.” And then softly under her breath, “Not.” Martin was not quite sure he heard right and looked at her a little startled, but she gave him a smile, so he followed her through to where the open coffin stood in the centre of the room. She stood silent before it.

    “I’d like to be alone for few minutes. Please.”

    She did not turn around. Martin quickly gathered some wreaths and flowers that were piled on a table.

    “Yes. Yes. Have a few moments. I’ll just arrange these.” As he walked out with bundles of flowers and some wreaths, he turned. “Do you want to let me know you know, if anyone else comes?”

    “Yes. Thank you.”

    He went out. She breathed a sigh of relief. Walking over to the coffin she looked down at her mother’s corpse. It struck her just how peaceful she seemed and younger. They had done her hair for the last time and coloured her lips and cheeks. It was quite stark in contrast to her pallor. She has a string of pearls around her neck. Her eyes were closed.

    That surprised her. I wonder if anyone is buried with their eyes open. She had heard of people being buried in America with two silver dollars on their eyes. That was when they did have dollar coins. She thought, maybe I could take out two one dollar coins and place one on each eye. Mum would have liked that. She did not know how long she had stood gazing down on her mother, when there was a quiet knock on the door.

    “Come in.”

    Martin came in briskly. “Her sons are here. The service will start in half an hour. Do you want to wait in the next room? There is an exit, if you want to go.” She guessed that he was doing all he could to prevent a family confrontation.

    “My brothers don’t want me here.” He rubbed his hands together quickly. He didn’t want to answer that. He had just braved the cold fury of one of the brothers of this woman whose mother’s remains lay in the coffin. There seemed no way to prevent some sort of unpleasant confrontation, if she stayed. It was better if she didn’t stay. The man’s wife was itching for conflict involving primal violence.

    He did not need it. Nor did the other mourners. It would add nothing to the memory of this poor woman. The wishes of the majority would take precedence over her rights as eldest child and only daughter to be here. Her rights had been erased by the ire of others. They no longer existed.

    “It’s alright. I’m going.” She bent over and kissed the corpse gently on the cheek. Stroking and adjusting her hair and patting her cheek, she then turned to Martin.

    “Alright. I’m ready. Where do I go?” He took her across to a small room off to the side. There were several chairs and a table in it. There was another door that led out to the street.

    “You can stay and listen to the service here. So you wish?”

    She shook her head. Without a backward glance, she walked over to the door and went out closing it gently.

    Martin returned to the room with the coffin as the others entered.

    “Where’s that piece of filth? That stinking whore?” A heavily built elderly blonde with an American accent clutched the arm of a taller middle aged man with greying temples spat. “That bitch’s coming to the service?”

    The man’s fists were clenched. “If she dares dear; don’t worry, I’ll slap her so hard it will knock her head into the next decade.” He patted the woman’s shoulder reassuringly.

    The other brother walked over to the coffin. He looked down at his mother.

    “Your sister has left.” Martin stated the obvious.

    “We don’t have a sister. She has, … had only two children.”

    All three people in the room turned to face Martin as if daring him to contradict that last statement.

    “They don’t have a sister.” A well-dressed brunette with a bobbed haircut entered the room. Two young women and a young man in an army uniform entered with her. They went to stand by the other man near the coffin.

    One of the younger women, with dyed white blond hair, blood-red lips and a mean pinched in face spoke sharply.

    “My father and uncle NEVER had a sister. That woman is an imposter. A mad woman. How dare you allow her to see my grandmother! She is ABSOLUTELY NO RELATION TO ANY OF US.”

    She screamed at Martin.

    “Please leave us alone with our mother. Now.” The first man who spoke.

    As he exited he saw this man pull out his phone and start snapping photos of himself and the others by the coffin.

    The woman had shown him a birth certificate and a driver’s licence proving she really was the deceased’s oldest child. However they had erased her a completely – as a drop of water turns to steam on a stove top.

    But she was forever the elephant in the room, despite ceasing to exist for them.

    • Title is The elephant at the funeral
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Ilana

      This is a strong story (from the heart, I suspect). The views of the second wave of people seem very unreasonable, but very real. The contrast between the consideration the woman feels for her lost mother and the lack of consideration shown by the others is stark and sad. There may be a bit of a clutter of characters (without any background, Martin and the woman’s antipathy towards him seem superfluous to the main thread of the story, and there may be too many people involved in the second wave, taking a little of the focus off the reason for their being there in terms of the story’s dynamic). But having said that, it’s powerful stuff.

    • Renette Steele
      As Phil said powerful stuff.
      So sad the way families can disown one another. Keep each other at arm’s length even at times like this.

      Well done!

    • Kenneth Cartisano
      A powerfully emotional story. Well told. Good dialogue. And more than any other story submitted so far, accurately captures the essence of the phrase and what it means. I have a feeling that Renette was looking for this type of story when she suggested the prompt. (Didn’t she also suggest no foul language?) (Bless you for that.)
      The interesting thing about this story is that we never learn what the elephant in the room really is. Although, having personal knowledge of a family (my own) full of **ck ups, **rk offs and *$sholes, it’s hard to imagine an offense so horrendous as to warrant complete banishment from a family. (Anyone THAT bad can be an honorary member of my family!)

      Couple of mistakes. (Which I’ll mention only because I don’t want Ken A. to feel special.)
      However they had erased her (a) completely. (I can see it from here. It’s in the next to the last line.)
      ‘She screamed at Martin.’ should be appended to the previous paragraph. That’s where it belongs.
      (The sentence that begins with, “A heavily built elderly blonde…” and ends with “spat.’ That whole sentence, you just can’t, it’s too many adjectiverbs and you can’t end it with ‘spat.’ Needs fixing.)

      Other than those three things it’s all good.

      {I noticed a few of these phrases in my own story (after posting it) such as: ‘…a deep persistent low-pitched rumble.’ A rumble is inherently deep and low-pitched. It’s redundant. (Too many adjectiverbs.}

      ‘…conflict involving primal violence.’ That’s a very specific and interesting way of saying ‘fight.’
      I like your style.

      • Thanks Ken for your concise and to the point analysis. Yes I saw the grammatical inaccuracy of that sentence after I had posted the second draft and thought “DRAT, will I change it but did not as I have been laid low with a 24 hour virus.” It has been sort of a colon cleanse with a difference. It must have been that Bill Conolley clip I watched that brought it on. I felt as if last months entire food had been forcibly ejected from my bowels in seconds flat. Spend ages on the toilet and all day in bed except for running to the toilet to …leave that to your imagination which is rather vivid.
        Your analysis and correction of errors, I have no issue with and agree with them entirely. I tend not to use foul language and get a bit taken aback when people rely on expletives to the extent that they are every second word, except if you are Bill Connolley who pulls off the foul language thing with real style.
        This is to cheer you up a few snippets to make you smile and others too. They are not his swearing ones if that is any help. 🙂

        • And I thank you for the family inclusion. One can choose one’s friends, but it seems that we are kind of stuck with awkward biological relations and the ones they marry and produce.
    • Ilana,
      So, there’s a lot going on in this story and it has fascinated me.

      First off, a couple of things that I thought could be fixed. Mostly the line about the heavyset blond with an American accent – I thought it was a brother, it took me a few minutes to understand it was a woman.
      The Sister’s behavior was kind of weird. The “Not.” under her breath for example. Or having to show a birth certificate to be allowed visitation in a funeral.
      And my only real complaint was that there were too many characters. I had a hard time knowing who was who and what their relation to the dead woman was.
      However, that being said. That is LITERALLY the nature of funerals!

      I love, love, loved the “elephant in the room”……..she is illegitimate or was given up for adoption etc. And I love that you leave us hanging wondering which one it may be. Truth be told I was reading quickly and read “My father and uncle NEVER had a sister.” as “My father and aunt NEVER had a daughter.”
      I have no idea how I read it that way but then for the rest of the story I thought she was a daughter on incest and THAT was the elephant in the room.

      Like I said – your story had me spinning (in a good way)!

    • Alice Nelson

      Wow Ilana, I could totally see a family being so caught up in their anger that they would ban a relative from a funeral.

      Having said that, this story starts off wonderfully, I loved that first sentence, it gets us right into the story. and the first 1/4 of the story is very strong. But like some of the others, I didn’t understand her animosity towards Martin. it seemed out of place and didn’t make sense to me. And like Phil said, it isn’t even germane to the story, that could’ve easily been left out.

      Also it does get confusing trying to keep track of who’s who in the story, with the brothers and the wife then at the end the neice.

      Then this statement, “That woman is an imposter. A mad woman. How dare you allow her to see my grandmother! She is ABSOLUTELY NO RELATION TO ANY OF US..”
      Was this just the neice speaking in anger, or was this woman a fraud. it seemed like a strange statement to make, you could’ve said something else to show how much this woman was not wanted at that funeral.

      Still, there’s a powerful setntiment here, and with a few tweaks it can be a powerful story too.

      • Just to clear things up, I see I will have to do a bit of an edit. The sister has been ostracised from the family. Sibling jealousy/ rivalry. She was banned from the funeral because of imagined hurts and wounds.
        Sometimes people have expectations of relatives that are totally unrealistic.
        She was not illegitimate. The rest of the family are lost in the delusion that if they fail to acknowledge her, she will just go away and cease to exist.
        The daughter/ her niece is trying to make out that she just does not exist. The wife of the first man is greedy and grasping. She will stop at nothing to get what she wants and has manipulated and meddled in the sister’s life to the extent that she very well nearly destroyed her life in many ways. The daughter cannot bear her relatives and feels humilated that she has to prove that she is really a relative.
        Yes there are people in the world like that. It all involves money and control of other people’s lives for some reason.
        It probably needs to be a longer short story. Thank you for the input.
  • Renette Steele


    “ Dr. Grossman” “ Dr. Grossman over here.” “Dr. Grossman”
    “ Dr. Grossman has the patient ?” “Dr. Grossman do you feel the procedure….”
    “ Dr. Grossman”

    The mayhem in the room was almost out of control. The questions are flying around faster and more persistent than a room full of mosquitoes. The MC for the night, Mr. Blunt, waved both hands to quiet the room. Dr. Grossman stepped up to the mic

    “First off this monumental step has taken years to come about. All transplants can be risky. There are many factors to consider, especially for one of this magnitude. The patient went through a year of extensive psychiatric evaluation, tissue and blood test, along with stress levels checked regularly. We believe we chose the best candidate for the procedure. Yes, I think it was a great success and will lead to many advancements in the future. Mr. Victor Hernandez will continue to be under observation for many years.

    “Yes, over here.”

    “ William Quinn, Dermatology Today. Is there any sign of rejection? Any noticeable differences near the grafting site?”

    “At this time, the answer to both questions is; no. Victor will need to stay on antirejection drugs the rest of his life just like any other transplant patient. Even though The donor was a near-perfect match.”

    “Yes, over here.”

    “David Bates, Science Journal. Dr. can you tell us the background of Mr. Hernandez, why was he convicted? How was he disfigured? How does this surgery affect his sentence?”

    “Mr. Bates, is it? I’m not sure what any of that has to do with science. I can tell you Victor had been severely burned in an explosion melting and maiming over two-thirds of his face and neck. He will be moved to an in disclosed location, where he can be monitored. His immune system is very vital right now.”

    ~ ~ ~

    Gwen sat in her seat, up front on the far left. She wondered if any of the reporters knew she was here. Gwen hoped not. She was afraid of fainting. She’d like at least one reporter to know. She’d be glad to give a private interview. Happy to tell them the truth about Dr. Grossman and his drive to play God.

    She’d explain to them about that night. Just a year ago next week, May 28th. Gavin was attending his graduation party, a nonalcoholic party sponsored by the youth groups around town. Walking to his car, about three blocks away, Gavin was jumped by some boys leaving another party several blocks away in the other direction. They were clearly drunk and at the wrong car. When they got a little rough with his girlfriend, Gavin tried to step between them, telling her to run. One of them pulled a knife, stabbing her Gavin, her only child, her baby, in the heart. It felt like they had stabbed her in the heart as well.

    At the hospital, Dr. Grossman asked if Gavin was an organ donor. Gwen knew Gavin wanted to help any way he could and had signed up over a year ago.

    “ Yes, take whatever you need,” she told him.

    Later, Dr. Grossman came back, he told her, “we harvested Gavins liver, kidneys, heart and one lung. Gavin is going to be helping many people. You should be very proud of him. Oh, and I also was able to use his face.”

    Somehow the other organs didn’t bother her, but her baby’s face, on someone else! She couldn’t imagine, couldn’t fathom. Gavin’s face like some patch on a quilt. A mask for someone to wear. Would they know how sweet her boy was? What a good heart he had? Would they wear it and honor it.

    Then the awful truth come. Gavin’s face would be spliced onto a 45-year-old criminal.

    ~ ~ ~

    Victor sat just offstage, listening to Dr. Grossman field questions from the many reporters. He’d been instructed not to worry about saying much, Dr. Grossman would fill in most of the information for him. Victor felt like a freak on display at a circus sideshow. But he was used to that; he’d look like one for over a decade.

    While working in the jail kitchen, the stove he was cooking over exploded, leaving him with the deformed fused face. Surely that was prison enough. Even the other inmates wouldn’t look at him Big tough guys who would gladly punch you in the face for even thinking the wrong thing couldn’t stand to see his face.

    The guards spend as little time near him as possible. When they do come, they will remove anything reflective covering even their badges, when around him. They don’t want him to see himself.

    One day Dr. Grossman came to see him, to ask if he’d be willing to help advance science, be a human guinea pig. What did he have to lose?

    Now here he was about to walk out on stage to show the medical wonder Dr. Grossman had performed giving him an entirely new face. Everything from his forehead to the bottom of his neck, except his eyes and ears, although he’d heard that could be done too.

    The problem was, it seemed almost frozen in place. Victor was unable to open his mouth very wide. Still had a feeding tube and a grinding daily regiment. He had only looked in the mirror a handful of times. It was hard realizing the twenty-something face was his.

    ~`~ ~

    “Justin Morgan, Planetary News. With this new technology, what do you see for the future?”

    “It will be amazing, what I can accomplish for those with severe deformities. Someday, we may learn how to transplant even more.”

    Mr. Blunt steps up to the mic,” that’s all for now folks.”

    Justin shots out,” It’s all so amazing. But let me be the one to ask about the elephant in the room. How ethical is this?”

    • Wow! Renette, great story! Full of twists and turns. I thought the mother might have referenced the elephant and then bamn! like a junky from the shadows looking for a fix, it was one of the reporters. I thought you constructed this one really well, drip feeding us the info. One small correction at the end: Justin shots out (*shouts). I can easily see this as part of a larger piece of work. Great job!
      • Renette Steele
        Thank you So much Ken A for reading my story and for your kind words
    • Interesting read. One small grammatical error. It is probably a typo. Come should be came – past tense.

      Then the awful truth come. Gavin’s face would be spliced onto a 45-year-old criminal.

      It kept me in suspense, but I would like to see you work on it a bit more. I was very involved in the story, but the read is a bit jagged in parts and I think you need some smoother transitions but that is hard with the word length limiting you.
      It would really be good to read this as a longer story. I think you could do this quite well.

      • Renette Steele
        Thank you IIana for reading my story.
        Glad you enjoyed it.
        I will do some reworking. Thanks for the great advice.
    • Kenneth Cartisano
      Fabulous plot. It’s almost limited by the prompt. (I realize it was your prompt.) The concept of a mother learning that her victimized son’s face is to be transplanted onto a convict is such a compelling emotional minefield, that the story could have gone, (and ended up) almost anywhere. And I doubt that many would have dealt with it so compassionately as you did. Which turned out to be a twist by being so straight. (I’m speaking in purely fictional terms.)
      If I’m not mistaken, (and I never am) there is a new field of study called Bio-ethics that was created to deal with issues just like this. It’s a baffling bio-medical conundrum of the not so distant future. A very intriguing story.
      • Renette Steele
        Hi Ken C,
        Thanks for reading my story and for your comments.
        Yes, there were lots of routes to take this. My idea came from an article headline I had seen.
        When I did a bit of research only once was the idea of ethics brought up, they dealt mostly with the emotional acceptance and the limitations of the transplant.
        Crazy stuff if you ask me.

        Thanks again for reading and the helpful comments.

    • Hi, Renette

      As the others have said, this has so much good stuff going on. The reporters/press conference device is really well handled. I like how you leave the detail of it being a face transplant until well into the story (leaving us to imagine other things). The details of Gavin’s demise, and the ironic destination of his face, is an interesting twist (it would have been more far-fetched and made it a different story, but for a moment there I was thinking that maybe the recipient of the face could have been the person who killed Gavin …). The ending felt just a little bit flat to me – it’s a good ‘elephant’, but for the purposes of the story as you’ve set it up, it kind of drops off there. And there are some inconsistencies of tense. Enjoyed it, though.

      • Renette Steele
        Hi Phil,
        Thanks for reading my story and for your comments.
        I really struggle with tenses. Seems that is a comment I get a lot inconsistent tense. I am working on it though. Thanks for reminding me to look for them more.

        Yes, on the one who stabbed him, that could have been interesting. Or a boyfriend of his sister and how mom started treating him like he was her son. So many possibilities.

    • Alice Nelson

      Renette, I just read a story about a doctor who’s about to perform a head transplant, so your premise is perfectly feasible.

      I loved the set up, the press conference, and the way you deftly told us how Gavin died, weaving it seamlessly into your story.

      But I have to agree with Ken C. (something I rarely do), this story is so much bigger than this prompt. The prompt seemed to limit how far you could’ve gone with it. The mother’s heartbreak, the ethics of doing a surgery like this, are such huge issues.

      Still you wrote this so very well, and considering your limitations you did a fantastic job. I would love to read a longer version, without the prompt and see how you could delve into this topic more. Nice job Renette!

    • Renette, a really clever way of using the prompt, and I loved that by using the media outlet they were from, you were able to introduce so many characters and make them work.
      Great backstory on the “face” as well!
  • Alice Nelson

    Hello. This Is Siri
    By Alice Nelson ©2017

    “Go east six miles,” she said, “then turn left.” I woke up with a start and stared around the dark room.

    “Who said that?” I asked, feeling immediately like the first idiot to die in some bad horror movie.

    The directions repeated, and I realized it was the robotic voice of the GPS woman from my phone. The problem was I wasn’t driving, I was sleeping. The even bigger problem —my phone wasn’t on. I had it in sleep mode, so I couldn’t even receive a call, let alone get directions I didn’t ask for.

    I’d been struggling with insomnia for weeks, and I had finally fallen asleep for a few hours, then some weird glitch in my phone wakes me up. I wanted to cry.

    The voice spoke up again this time saying, “Go straight for five miles, then make a right on Old Highway 21. Stay on Highway 21 for thirty miles.”

    Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or maybe I was in the midst of a very vivid dream, whatever the reason, I got up, put some clothes on, got in my car and followed the instructions of the disembodied GPS voice.

    I drove to Old Highway 21 like it told me to, made a right and waited for further instructions. Now here’s a fun fact: there is no ‘Old Highway 21’ in the town where I live, just in case you were wondering, so I was fairly certain that I was experiencing a very bizarre dream.

    Still, I felt uneasy, especially when it started to rain.

    It was more like a drizzle really, but there was just enough moisture that turning on the wipers just spread the dirt around, making it hard to see the road. The whole scene reminded me of something…something I couldn’t quite remember, but the hair on my arms stood on end nonetheless. ‘This doesn’t feel good GPS lady.’ I said, but she didn’t respond, as if she had some concerns of her own.

    I decided to turn the radio on, hoping music could alleviate my fears. “Highway to Hell,” blasted from the radio. ‘Um, no thank you,’ I said changing the station.

    Then the solemn tones of Tracy Chapman serenaded me with “Fast Car.” ‘A little too depressing on a night like this,’ I thought and searched for something else.

    After the screeching voice of Sammy Hagar began scream/singing “I Can’t Drive 55,” I quickly turned the radio off. ‘Silence it is then,’ I said to the empty car.

    It seemed like I’d been driving a whole helluva lot longer than thirty miles, especially on the schizophrenic road called Highway 21. Dream or not, this highway was a mixture of paved roads, some areas only covered in gravel, and other sections so badly rutted, that I was worried about my car’s suspension.

    Finally, the GPS voice roared back to life, “You have arrived. Your destination is on the right.”

    Was it? The only thing on my right was an old rundown cottage, one I didn’t recognize, or so I thought.

    It did in fact look familiar, in a hazy kind of way, and I could feel some memory trying come to the surface.

    “Take a closer look,” the GPS lady said in that detached, not quite human voice of hers.

    This was a phrase I had never heard from the GPS, yet I felt compelled to follow her instructions once more.

    Slowly, I opened the car door and stepped onto the pavement of Old Highway 21.


    It was noisy, very noisy, and the bright lights of the police car woke me out of whatever stupor I had fallen into. The officer was shouting questions at me through the driver’s side window, but I couldn’t understand any of them.

    “Ma’am, please roll down your window.”

    I did, and he shined his flashlight into the car and looked around. Then he pointed it directly in my face, reflexively I raised my hand, squinting as I simultaneously tried to look at the officer.

    “Ma’am, do you know where you are?” He asked.

    I shook my head.

    “Have you been drinking ma’am?”

    I shook my head again, “I don’t think so.” I said. “Where am I?” I asked him.

    “Just outside of Silver City, ma’am. Do you live here?”

    “No, I…I uh…” I wasn’t sure of anything anymore. I thought I was dreaming in the safety of my bed, but I had been driving in some kind of dream state instead.

    “Show me your license and registration please.” The officer’s hand was hovering over his gun.

    “I don’t have it,” I said. “I left in a hurry.”

    “Step out of the car ma’am.”

    I kept looking at the cottage, I could almost smell fresh bread, even though there was nothing being baked in the cottage tonight.

    I blurted out the question even before I realized what I was saying, then it was too late.

    “Did she die?” I asked the officer. At first, it didn’t register, then he followed my gaze to the little cottage, his eyes narrowed and again he said, “Step out of the car ma’am,” this time with a little more force.

    He spoke into that radio thingy on his shoulder, “I may have a 480 out on Old Highway 21. The car fits the description of the one from last month’s hit and run.”

    “How’s the little girl, is she okay?!” I was frantic, yelling at him.

    As the officer handcuffed me he said, “She died last week.”


    That night came back in a rush.

    I decided to drive home from the work meeting in Hagerman. Everyone else took the train back, but I didn’t want to leave my car behind and have to make another trip to retrieve it. I’ll live with that decision for the rest of my life.

    It rained, a warm summer rain, and the wipers just moved the dirt around the window, making it almost impossible to see. I remember glancing at the cottage, and my mouth watering from the smell of homemade bread wafting through the open window. I was tired…and I didn’t see her, not until it was too late.

    I just looked away for a second. Then I heard a woman screaming and I panicked and drove away. I know, pathetic.”

    “You could’ve at least called 9-1-1,” The GPS voice said in that matter-of-fact tone of hers. It was then I noticed my phone was nowhere in sight, I didn’t even bring it with me.

    Now it all made sense, the insomnia, the imagined phone directions, I had to face what I had done. No longer could I avoid the proverbial elephant in the room, the one that had been hanging around and taking up space in my head, so much so that I couldn’t even sleep.

    I was placed in a cell until a hearing with the judge in the morning. The finality of it all gave me a strange sense of relief, and for the first time in weeks, I laid down, closed my eyes, and slept the whole night through.

    • Renette Steele
      Hi Alice,

      Very creative using the GPS voice.
      You did a fine job of keeping this story interesting.
      I was really wondering about the elephant nice job only playing it at the end!

      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Renette! This was a tough one for me, I’m glad you liked it 🙂

      • Alice Nelson

        Hahaha Tegon, hope you can get to sleep tonight. 🙂

    • Kenneth Cartisano
      I hate to be the ‘elephant in the ointment’ but–or do I? Okay so, I love the GPS. That’s freaking brilliant. The ending is great, but one-third of the way thru, I thought, this is not believable. However, I think it’s just the distance. 30 miles is too much too ask. A mile and a half, right on Old Custer Highway for 3 miles. Which turns in to 5, then 8, then 15 miles. That’s believable. (Getting in the car KNOWING that she’s going to drive 30 miles? It’s not realistic or necessary.) (She needs cigarettes, Or a six pack! So she goes to the store voluntarily, it’s just a few miles away– that’s when she hears the GPS and decides to follow it, (perhaps on a lark, curiosity) but doesn’t realize the phone is not on the seat next to her. Then the plot works better. Of course, it’s up to you what you do with the story. The GPS (that isn’t there) is a great device for a thrilla. You have fabulous writing skills, so your writing is never the problem, I think you just have to adjust the conditions at the beginning slightly to allow maximum feasibility for the end you’ve already written.
      Honestly, I think if you A. shortened the distance she’s Willing to drive and gave her an ulterior motive to get in her car in the first place.
      B. presented a clear-headed character, and gave the character a ‘semblance’ of choice, it would put the rest of the story on a firmer foundation. And it might make the story more frightening.
      That’s what I think, ma’am. Don’t hate me, simply for being someone so easy to hate. Resist. Resist it.
      • Alice Nelson

        Hahaha. I’m resisting Ken, I’m resisting. At first I disagreed with your assessment, then I slept on it and I think you’re right. I love your idea of a more gradual build up with the drive 5, 10, etc, and more resistance from the main character would give the story a better build up. I think when I do it for the podcast, I’ll re-write that aspect of the story.

        I do think a lack of sleep would cause someone to do something they might not otherwise do when in their right mind.

        Thanks dude, don’t ever worry about me hating you for an astute critique, which you usually do, and that’s what this group is all about. I’ll hate you for other things instead 🙂

    • Hi, Alice

      Very well constructed story, with a good, ‘Twilight Zone’ kind of feel to it. I really like how there are elements in the dreamlike state that are echoes of the accident (the drizzle, the dirty windscreen, the smell of bread – that last detail is really striking). The GPS device really is a good one. Perhaps you could drop the “Take a closer look” comment and leave the revelation of the ‘aware’ GPS lady till “You could’ve at least called 9-1-1” (?) The bit where she gets out of the car “onto the pavement of Old Highway 21” … I didn’t get – the next moment the cop is shining his flashlight into the car (?). Like Kenneth, I also had reservations about her following the instructions so readily … maybe a bit of resistance at the start there? Nice ending – the nightmare is over (for her). Good stuff!

      • Alice Nelson

        Thanks Phil, I get what you’re saying about the “Take a closer look” comment.

        The part with the police officer, i was trying to convey that she was in this dream like state while driving and had ended up in front of that cottage. Where the officer finds her, maybe it’s a cultural thing. When police here are suspicious they will take their torches and look shine it into the car to see if something fishy is going on. And the main character is sitting in her car, having arrived at the cottage in her dream like state where the officer finds her. Any hoot, thanks for the kind words my friend.

        • Hi again Alice … yes – that scene is familiar from films. But just before that you have this: “Slowly, I opened the car door and stepped onto the pavement of Old Highway 21.” … which confused me a bit. Is she in the car or standing in the road?
          • Alice Nelson

            Oh I see the confusion, she’s supposed to be in the car at that point but I can see how that is hard to see. I’ll have to clear that up when i do it on the podcast. thanks Phil that’s why I love this group, you guys always find things I can’t see because I’m just too close to the story. 🙂

    • Alice – I think Ken and Phil summed up my concern, it was just a little disjointed for me.
      However, I loved Siri as the direction giver and the voice of her conscience.
      That was extremely clever!
      • Alice Nelson
        Thanks Carrie, one of those stories where the translation from my head to the page didn’t go as smoothly as I intended. Definitely going to do some re-writing before I record it for the podcast. 🙂
  • Really well done and creepy Alice. Your story this week is strong and loved it. Good work.
    • Alice Nelson

      Thank you Ilana!

  • The Devil in the Bottle by Carrie Zylka

    She sat in the tiny kitchen, the yellow faux linoleum table creaking as she leaned against it. The setting sun streaming in through the window was warm on her face. She closed her eyes for a moment before taking a last pull on her cigarette.

    She winced as the last of the tobacco burnt away and the filter burned hot against her lip. She reached over and stubbed it out in an already overflowing ashtray.

    She heard his footsteps down the hall and pulled her thin robe about her. Sitting still as death she felt him enter the room and pause for a moment.

    But only a moment. He moved to the fridge and opened it. She felt the cold draft and heard the clink of bottles as he grabbed out another beer.

    She closed her eyes again, fighting back tears as she heard him walk into the living room. She heard the sigh of the couch as he settled into it. Heard the click of the remote as he fumbled with it. Heard the voices on the tv show suddenly fill the silent room.

    She fought back tears.

    But she didn’t want to cry. Crying meant her face would scrunch up.

    She opened her eyes and looked out the window. She watched the neighbors go about their day. Their normal lives. Lives she desperately wanted but didn’t deserve.

    She thought back to those first few years. Years full of laughter and love, years of happiness and hiking and exploring each other and everything around them.

    How her mother had warned her against the bad boys but she was infatuated. What could an old dried up woman know? He was her soulmate after all…

    The signs had been there even back then, she now realized. The way his temper would flare up. The way he would come home from a rough day at work and throw something, cursing vehemently about his coworkers.

    She thought it was normal guy stuff.

    Her eyes opened as he walked back in the kitchen.

    He stood in the doorway until she looked at him. “Are you going to cook dinner or should we order out?”

    She stared at him with dead pan eyes. “It makes no difference to me.” She said softly and lit up another cigarette.

    He glanced down at the stack of bills on the counter near his key ring. “I am going to put in for some OT. Help with some of the medical bills.” He nodded to himself, like was doing something honorable, sacrificing for the wellbeing of the family.

    When he received no reaction from her, he sighed and opened the fridge again. He grabbed another beer and twisted off the top, tossing it in the over flowing trash can. He took several swallows and leaned back against the counter, briefly glancing at the fresh bruise beneath her eye. The split lip just starting to turn purple. He fidgeted, turning the bottle in his hand.

    She stared back, wanting to grab the beer bottle out of his hand and smash it against the wall. The devil in the bottle that she blamed for her sudden pain.

    These two lost souls, alcohol and violence dominating their life. His temper; the only thing that made him feel like a man, her self-loathing; the only thing that kept her from leaving. It’s why neither would mention the bruises, neither would mention the alcohol. Neither willing to address the elephant in the room.

    • Kenneth Cartisano
      Carrie baby,
      Great story. Its’ brevity is like a sudden visceral slap (viscous? vicious . You’ve done an amazing job of developing full characters in such a short story with subtle things like chain smoking, full ashtrays, the clink of bottles the sound of the remote, him sinking into the couch. lacing your story with sensory cues is BRILLIANT. Excellent writing too.
      However, I don’t think the alcohol is an elephant in the room. People talk about liquor, frequently fight over liquor. But the bruises would definitely be a forbidden topic, that neither would openly acknowledge. Cool short story.
      • Carrie Zylka

        Ken thank you for the kind words!!!!
        Originally I was trying to make the fact that he had hit her the elephant in the room, but then I thought well, maybe the fact that he was an alcoholic was a subject she would be too afraid to bring up.
        I don’t know, I’m not 100% happy with it, I was thinking about adjusting it a bit to make it seem like after being married for a few years this was the first time he’d hit her while drunk, and now it’s all awkwardness and “if we avoid talking about it, maybe it will go away”.

    • Hi, Carrie

      This is brilliant stuff, from that opening paragraph with the faux linoleum to the perfect use of the prompt at the end. The woman’s feeling’s are really complex – blaming herself for the violence she’s been subjected to. The man too – that moment when he opens his second beer and leans on the counter (although here, I don’t think the narrator can say that a “slight twinge of guilt coursed through him” – you need to show us that … e.g. “he avoided looking at her and picked at the label of the beer bottle” – something like that.) I really liked the short, sharp paragraphs. A photograph of a relationship in crisis, and no end in sight because the problems they have are an ‘elephant in the room’. Great!

      • Thank you Phil, that was the one section I struggled with, how to show he felt a little guilty, I edited the sentence. Still not sure if I’m 100% happy with it but hopefully it will help make sense.
    • Renette Steele
      Hi Carrie,
      Nice story.
      Pray it is not from any kind of personal experiences.
      I think there were a couple elephants in this room but the abuse seems to be the main one.
    • Alice Nelson

      Whoa, now that’s a powerful story. Well laid out, with fully formed characters and a story we all can imagine happening even if we never experienced it ourselves. The description of the kitchen at the beginning was spot on, I could envision that ugly old kitchen in my mind.

      And the tension with him coming in and out of the kitchen, there was violence brewing under the surface of this story the entire time.

      I thought you were going to throw a twist at the end and make her the alcoholic, and him the victim of her abuse, but it was perfect just the way you ended it.

      Great job my friend!

    • Laurie Guertin
      This was excellent. I could picture everything. It is so well presented in such a short story. This could be a great topical discussion in a recovery group or classroom, so many variables.
      • Carrie Zylka

        Thank you Laurie!!!

  • Carrie… I thought Alice’s story was dark… YIKES !! Now that’s an elephant in the room… unfortunately a very common one !!
    • Thanks Tegon, and I agree, unfortunately an elephant in the room….even with friends and families who know thetes abuse but are afraid to broach the subject.
  • Alice Nelson
    Haven’t gotten one vote yet, where is everybody?
    • “V” to the power of “oted”
  • Alice Nelson
    Got ya’lls votes.

    Waiting on votes from Ken C., Dean Hardage, Tegon Maus, and Liz Fisher

  • Dean Hardage
  • Kenneth Cartisano
    Getting ready to vote, but felt it was more exciting to rename all the stories. One of my favorite past-times. Not all are supposed to be funny. They just seemed appropriate. New names are in parentheses.

    Carrie – The Devil In The Bottle. (Alcoholics Phenomenous.)
    Alice – Hello. My Name Is Siri. (Siri Says.)
    Ken A. – Under New Management. (Return Of Lucy.)
    Renette – Frozen. (Unjust Because.)
    Ilana – The Elephant at the Funeral. (The Elephant In The Parlor.)
    Philip – Alfred. (Will Work For Peanuts.)
    Liz – No Name. (Teenage Mutant Ninja Elephant.)
    Dean Hardage. – The Elephant. (I Am The Walrus.)
    Tegon Maus. – No Name. (Dances With Spoons.)
    Ken Cartisano – Rituals. (You’ve Got Male.)

    • Alice Nelson
      Hahaha, I like the name changes 🙂
    • Nice one, Ken. Oh, you too Ken C
  • Kenneth Cartisano
    Votes sent.
  • Alice Nelson
    Just waiting on Mr. Tegon Maus, I’m not sure Liz Fisher will vote, we haven’t heard from her since she posted her story, but I hope so. I will have results later today. Wonderful stories everyone!!

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