Writing Prompt “Time”
This post is for stories related to the Contest theme: “Time.”
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Contest theme: “Time”.
Anything to do with time. A watch maker; a clock tower; time travel; a historical era, the essence of a musical arrangement; a pocket watch; a deadline, (as in a limited time), a rare opportunity (one-time only). Etc., etc.
Word limit: 1000.
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109 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Time””
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The queue stretched around the block but after a seven-hour wait, Norman was next up. He mused on the irony of it all: here he was queuing to ask the Time-Giver for more time, and he’d just wasted seven precious hours doing it.
A woman came out through the dull-grey, non-descript door, beaming a new-lease-of-life smile. She gave Norman the thumbs up.
“Oh, well done, you!”
Norman was pleased for her. The seven hours had given him a chance to get to know her a little (the man behind him in the queue was a taciturn chap, so Cynthia had had all of his attention).
A widow now, she’d spent most of her adult life working for charities while bringing up a lovely family – three daughters, she’d shown him photos. Now nearing her 60th and the Cut-Off Point, she’d told Norman about her dream: to travel, to see all of the places she hadn’t had time to during her years of sacrifice.
There was a barrier separating the queue from those leaving, but as Cynthia walked away, she turned round and flashed Norman a beaming smile again. Norman, a bachelor, had made sure to get her contact details; it seemed a shame that such a handsome woman should be without company on her After-COP adventure.
From the other side of the door, Norman heard a loud “Next!” It was his turn
The room was painted the same dull grey as the door, the walls blank with no windows. In front of the wall opposite the door was a grey metal desk, and behind the desk sat the Time-Giver.
Norman stood at the door, suddenly very nervous. He didn’t know whether he should advance, wait for permission, or what. The Time-Giver made up his mind for him.
“Come on, come on. I haven’t got all day!”
Norman hurried over and stood next to the chair that was in front of the desk. Once again uncertain of whether he should sit, he wavered.
Norman sat and fidgeted a little until he was comfortable. The Time-Giver was reading through a file lying open on the desk. He was a pale, balding man with translucent skin and a number of liver spots, and old by national standards – much older than the statutory COP, certainly. Norman imagined that being in the position he was, he could simply give himself all the extra time he wanted. What a job that would be?!
The old man continued to peruse the file. Norman looked at his timepiece: three months more or less, and counting down. And now he’d spent almost eight hours on this administrative chore. He willed the old man to start the interview, and he did.
“Denborafalta. Norman Denborafalta. With the emphasis on the ‘fal’.”
The man turned a page to consult something.
“It’s Basque. My great grandparents …”
The man looked up now and fixed Norman with his rheumy eyes.
“What do you want, Mr Denborafalta?”
Norman shrugged his shoulders. What else could he be here for? A pint of milk? A massage?
“Well … time. More time.”
How could he seem so surprised?
“And on what basis do you request more time from the Time-Giver.”
Seven hours in the queue and Norman hadn’t prepared a response to this obvious question. He kicked himself mentally and had to think fast.
“Well, I have only three months left, you see. And I’ve just met someone – the lady that was in here before me – who I think I should get to know a lot better. We can be good together.”
That was all he had. He smiled weakly at the Time-Giver, throwing himself on his mercy.
“I don’t think so, Mr Denborafalta.”
The smile froze on Norman’s lips. He’d assumed this would be a formality.
“But … but …”
“Thank you, Mr Denborafalta.”
The old man closed the file and gave Norman a look that told him the interview was over.
Norman got to his feet but sat down again almost immediately. He was annoyed now and petulant.
“I’m sorry but I demand an explanation. The lady I was talking about got an extra five years! How is it that I don’t get any at all?! It’s not fair!”
The Time-Giver sighed; he was used to outbursts like this. He re-opened the file and riffled through the pages until he found the one he wanted.
“Norman Andoni Denborafalta. Born 2055. School results: below average. Occupation post-education: voluntarily unemployed. Contribution to the community: 0. Percentages of time spent: sleeping – 42%; televizz – 27%; social compu-media – 17%; sunbathing – 8% … I think you get the picture, Mr Denborafalta.”
“Those figures can’t be right! But anyway … I like those things. Where’s the crime!”
“No crime, Mr Denborafalta. Just not a very strong case for extension, I think you’ll agree.”
Norman looked at the floor and shook his head.
“But I’m going to be more productive, I promise! And then there’s Cynthia – that lady. I’ll be keeping her company.”
“Well …“ the Time-Giver turned to another page in the file, then looked at his own time-piece, “… you have two months, 28 days, 13 hours, 31 minutes and … 46, 45, 44 …”
Norman got to his feet and glared at the old man, wanting to snap his neck, the arrogant old fool.
“If I were you, I’d spend that time wisely. Go and see that lady. Do things.”
He closed the file again and placed it in his out-tray, taking another from his in-tray and opening it.
“Goodbye, Mr Denborafalta.”
Norman’s anger subsided; what could he do? He turned and shuffled out through the grey door and heard a “Next!” behind him.
As he moved away he looked up; a group of swallows whipped across the blue spring sky, on the way to some important business. Norman’s shuffle became a walk, then a trot, then a run. He wondered if he could catch up with Cynthia.
Lesson learned, make a valuable contribution to life or else. Great flow in this story, and I was invested in poor old Norman. Deftly written, enjoyed it very much.
1. Character’s name – Denborafalta for me was hard to pronounce, so it took me out of the story to really concentrate on how to pronounce it. I’m keen to know why you chose it or where it came from? I’m often concerned with choosing names that are “easy” to say so the reader can just carry on with the story (particularly the short form of the game).
2. Switching heads – The Time-Giver sighed; he was used to outbursts like this – we are often told in writing to be careful about whose perspective we are writing from, and I’m not sure if the rules of flash are different or not. For consistency, perhaps this could be written something like: “The Time-Giver signed. Andoni got the feeling like he was used to outbursts like this.” or dialogue to express the point. It’s something I’m very conscious of (and often get wrong).
1. The name is a bit of a joke (and people are talking about it, which means attention, which must be good (“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”). Norman is of Basque descendancy, which is a big clue …
2. I can see what you mean, but I’m not sure I agree (and I’m really not sure, so open for debate). With the line “The Time-Giver sighed; he was used to outbursts like this.” I’m not describing a subjective view of the Time-Giver but an objective fact (both the ‘sighing’ and the ‘being used to’). It’s the difference between, say, “The Time-Giver felt annoyed.” (subjective, in which case I’d have to do as you say, describe it from what Norman perceives) and “The Time-Giver was a good golf-player.” (an objective fact that the narrator can convey).
Kenneth … thanks for your lovely comments … and those anagram solutions are crazy funny. (‘Fat ear a blond’ … hahaha!). See comment to Ken A re name.
Carrie, Ilana and Alice … thanks for your kind comments!
2. Mmm, I concede for the moment but request the option to open the debate at any time in the future. Perhaps this is not the most appropriate forum anyhow. Perhaps there is some grey amongst the black and white, and certainly take on the points you mention. Perhaps it was the way I read it. Either way, I’m sure we can agree it was Ken C’s fault.
This could almost be the beginning of a longer work. I would read an account of Norman’s last three months alive.
I enjoyed your story and I thought the name quite fitting. Sort of a play on your own darn fault. Being as you were so boring in life.
Often we wake up much too late to the things we should have done. Live life to the fullest and without regret.
Hope Norman finds some joy and is able to give some kindness in the 28 days, 13 hours, left.
Three Hundred and Sixty-Five
By Alice Nelson©2017
“It’s an aggressive form,” Dr. Monroe said. His eyes didn’t waver, he was used to giving bad news.
“You’ve got about a year.” This time he spoke with a little more empathy.
In a matter of moments, my life had been reduced to 365 days.
“Are you sure?”
He glanced at his watch and nodded. He had to rush off to another appointment, and I was left to deal with the news alone.
I spent day one of the rest of my life curled up in a ball on the sofa.
Mom called, I didn’t answer.
Then Derrick phoned, I let it go to voicemail.
Day two I ate whatever the hell I wanted, in between fits of rage and bouts of uncontrollable crying. Both Mom and Derrick came by, but I couldn’t face them.
The next few days were a blur. Then I woke up to my mother, Derrick and my landlord standing over me, wondering if I had already died. I must’ve looked lifeless in my grungy pajamas, and lying in a pool of my own vomit.
“Oh Olive,” Mom said, and she started to cry. I didn’t want her feeling sorry for me. I didn’t want her or Derrick, or the landlord for that matter, seeing me like this.
Mom drew me a bath and I felt humiliated that she was taking care of me as if I were a child. Is this what the end would be like? The woman who gave birth to me, would be the one to usher me into death? I couldn’t think about that.
Derrick and Mom looked terrified when I came out of the bathroom. I understood why, I looked bad, but it angered me nonetheless. I was scared too, and I needed them to be strong for me.
They stood there wringing their hands and waiting for me to say something.
“So yeah, I’m dying,” I said.
Mom burst into tears, Derrick tried not to, but the tears came anyway; defiantly streaming down his cheeks as he tried to be stoic.
“Why are you crying?” I asked. “I’m the one dying.” The words came out harsher than I intended. I was trying to lighten the mood —it only made things worse.
Mom made dinner —my favorite, fried chicken, creamed corn, and mashed potatoes. It was delicious. I’d only eaten peanut butter Cap’n Crunch and Doritos for the last week, so this meal was like heaven. And I wondered, ‘Would there be fried chicken in heaven?’ Of course, there would be,’ I thought. ‘What kind of heaven wouldn’t have fried chicken on the menu?’ And the idea of me eating chicken with Jesus at a big table, made me laugh. Derrick and Mom thought I was going crazy.
359 days left, and I woke up to the smell of bacon and eggs, and my mother standing over the frying pan, crying. When she saw me, she tried to sound cheery. “Oh hi honey, glad you’re up. Derrick went to work, he’ll be back this afternoon.”
“Is he going to tell his boss that his fiancée is dying, then ask for the rest of the year off?” I chuckled. Mom looked angry.
“Don’t do that Olive, don’t make light of this.” She said quietly.
Suddenly a wave of nausea came over me so quickly, that I didn’t have time to get to the bathroom.
Mom cleaned me up. And that’s when I broke. That’s when I cried so hard I didn’t think I’d ever stop. I was dying and no one could do anything for me. No one could love me enough to keep the Grim Reaper away. And I felt utterly alone.
Mom finally told my siblings, I just couldn’t do it.
My sister came over all red-eyed and decided to document my last days with the new camera her husband gave her for Christmas. My brother pretended everything was the same, joking around and punching me like I was ten.
Dinner was lasagna, another favorite of mine. “Mom, your lasagna is to die for,” I said, laughing. Everyone stared at me in shock. Then Derrick showed me why I loved him so much. He began to laugh, and then my brother joined in, then Mom. My sister ran crying into the bathroom, which made us laugh even harder.
Dr. Minsky gave me the name of a support group. I wasn’t interested, but Mom and Derrick insisted.
The group met at the Learning Annex building, room 21, Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Why not every night?” I said. “I mean we’re dying, every day counts, right?”
Unfortunately, my attempt at humor went over like a lead balloon. “You use humor to hide how you really feel,” the counselor said.
‘No duh,’ I thought. 332 days remaining, and I had to listen to Mr. Obvious tell me how I felt.
I now have 250 days left, give or take a few. I’ve had some good days that give me hope, and bad ones where I just want to give up.
I’m living with Mom again, and Derrick moved in to help out. If I was the praying type, I’d pray that he find some sweet woman to fall in love with when I’m gone. He deserves the best.
Tonight we’re celebrating my birthday, and Mom invited all my close friends and family over.
I’m tired and in no mood to make people feel at ease with me dying, but I’m going to make the best of it anyway.
At group, someone wished they’d just been hit by a truck and died instantly, “It would’ve been a lot easier,” they said.
“Maybe for you,” the counselor stated, “But your loved ones wouldn’t be able to say a proper goodbye.”
The counselor was right. This birthday may be the last chance for the people I love to say a final goodbye. And I’m grateful that I can at least give them that.
I am pretty sure if I’d found out I was dying I would definitely be living on Cap’n Crunch and Doritos as well.
As a reader you became involved with the protagonist totally.
Ilana, thank you so much!
This is a beautifully judged piece. You’ve juggled the various relationships and emotions very naturally and realistically. The supportive family is as important as the narrator to the story – very warming. There’s humour and heartbreak, and some great lines (my favourite: ‘What kind of heaven wouldn’t have fried chicken on the menu?’).
If there’s one misgiving I have it’s that arriving at day 250 feels just a tiny bit rushed (because of the format, naturally), and because of that, the narrator’s final sentiment (to give the family back some love) feels just a little out of place, given what came before (her cynicism).
But that’s a detail really because it does work well as is, leaving the reader with a nice warm feeling (humanity doesn’t always suck!).
Nice array of emotions in this story. We all handle things in our own unique ways, and this story shows a softer side of you I really like.
I enjoyed the read very much.
Now is the time.
It started as a low hum, lasted about an hour, then silence.
The next morning it began again, only this time after an hour instead of silence a rumble began to build.
My stomach churned like butter. I could even feel the paddles moving the buttery substance about. Would the men from weeks ago remember and keep their promise to me. Could I a mere servant and prisoner of the king, save my family?
I first saw the two men from my window. Right away something about their dress sent alarms running up and down my spine. Not wishing to see harm done to them I beckoned them to come to me, promising them nothing more than provisions of food, drink and a moment of rest. We questioned each other and found to be seeking the same sort of peace. As night began to fall I showed them to the roof and told them to stay between the large vegetable trellises. Just as I feared, the knock on the door came; the king’s parasites had arrived to inquire of the strangers in town.
“Have you seen the two who dress in the skins of the wild animals?” one of them asked.
“They were here, but I sent them away. They left through the lower gate. If you hurry you might catch them.” I said. Returning to my window, I watched the stooges exit the portal in search of the men. I stood at my post as the sun winked its last for the day. There would not be much time before the moon raised high enough to cast its dim light. I had to move fast. As soon as I was sure no one would be looking for me in the dormer, I ran upstairs to retrieve my companions.
“The hour has come for you to wake from your slumber; the time draws near for you to run.”
My flat backs the wall that surrounds our city. Instructing the men to go by way of the hills, they should use cation for the next three days before journeying homeward.
“Remember me, and all my household, that I gave you refuge.” I pleaded.
“Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” one replied.
Now the dawn brings another echoing, of disaster about to strike.
For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and held myself back. But now, like a women in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. No one has power over the time of their death. Now is the time. May the Lord have mercy on me, my father and mother, my brothers and sisters and all who are our kin.
The cadence seems to linger on today, compared to the last six days. I hear a crescendo of trumpets. The cries of the people follow. We hide ourselves in the corners of my quarters. The two oddly dressed men show up and escort us outside the city. The walls have fallen and the citizens are strewn about like dismantled scarecrows. Once out beyond the borders we head for the caves. My troubles have only begun.
The caves hold the dragon, whose mouth spews forth rivers of water that I might be swept away. The earth shakes and lighting illuminates the skies, and great hailstones pummel upon me. The dragon tail swipes at the stars and removes half of them in a vigorous blow. There is a mighty war all about us. The holes in the wilderness provide little protection, and no place else to hide. The dragon peruses the right to enter a new kingdom whose king is majestic and powerful. He throws the dragon to the ground far below. Because I have found favor the dragon chases after me once more.
Many who believed fall away. Our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The time is now to hold strong to what we know of the Lord. It is only though Him we can be nourished for times, times and half a times.
However there was a lack of consistency over all in the thread of the story to hold it together.
The ending sort of fell away as if it had been thrown together and I felt it lacked a coherent thread.
For me some of it was difficult to follow. For example the bit about panting like ‘a woman in childbirth’ not a women’ spoilt it for me and the appearance of a dragon and the point of the ‘two men dressed in animal skins’ kind of was confusing. I found myself searching for the real point to the story. Others may think differently but this is my feedback for all it’s worth and I hope it helps.
I really liked this story, then about 3/4 of the way through I got a bit lost. The men dressed in animal skins being hunted by the King’s men drew me in, the main character hiding these men was all intriguing. Then I think the story loses focus. Who are the men in animal skins, did the woman have a family in the place where she was, then the dragon and the cave all seemed to be bits and pieces of several stories and not one cohesive one. Still, I always enjoy your writing, it’s always so passionate and heartfelt. I just don’t think this story connected all the pieces.
There is some powerful imagery throughout however feels like a forced ending.
There are loads of really promising details here – the imprisoned narrator, the castle (I imagine it’s a castle), the strange men (though how do they get access to the narrator if she’s a ‘prisoner of the king’), the hiding of them, the venturing out into dragon territory…).
But like the others, I found it difficult to find a coherent thread. Perhaps we needed a bit of the back story? It feels more like a sketch for a bigger story which, given the details you have, could be quite epic (in a ‘Game of Thrones’ kind of way).
I agree with Carrie it is yuck awful topic and while I was exploring the idea that the body remembers pain and trauma even after time it is probably not a nice story or really relevant to the topic
Let us know if you want us to delete it.
The signal is given, the lever is pulled and the guillotine is released from its bay. It is at this moment that time stands still, the world stands still. Everything takes an eternity; a breath, a gasp, a falling leaf. The noise the crowd makes is drowned out by my own breathing, waiting for the inevitable, for life to end.
I look over the crowd that has gathered to bear witness. They freely come in their best attire, yet their eyes tell a different story. Some are clenched shut, others are downcast. Only a few remain on me, only a few have the constitution to see it through. A little girl, maybe of eight years, is turned into her mother, her hands pushed against her ears. I see her, ever so slowly, release the grasp of her eye and through a slit, take in the horrific image. That is who I feel sorry for. The young, the innocent. This grand event should not be used as a deterrent for the virtuous, it should be for the people who decided this was the best form of punishment, to hold them to account for their decisions. They have put me in this horrid situation. This is what I think about in those final moments.
If I crane my head up, I can see the sky. Fantastical white shapes moving through a blue expanse, a light breeze pushing them to a new destination. If I look close enough I can make out a rabbit. A white, billowy rabbit, hopping through the lavender fields, sniffing the air hurriedly, picking up on the scent of a farmer’s garden. Run little rabbit, hop away. Get your food. Such a cheeky little rabbit. This is what I think about in those final moments.
I think about how I came to be here, and what crimes have landed people in the stock, awaiting their execution. Is murdering someone sufficient enough crime to render them doomed? I would think so. What if they murdered someone in order to steal food for their starving family? Killing one to save many. Does the intent lessen the gravitas of the action? I guess that’s why they have people to make these kinds of difficult decisions. Do they sleep at night? Are they here now? Will they watch as the cold metal falls? This is what I think about in those final moments.
I think about my family. I don’t know if they are out there, a few amongst the masses, like a lighthouse overseeing the craggy rocks. I know this will be hard for my children, seeing me up here, on display for all to see. I hope they are not here. I should not be remembered for those final moments, for I believe I was a good father until this point. I don’t know if they will ever forgive me for what I have done. Maybe I’ll be forgotten as soon as the blade hits the base, as soon as life is extinguished. Should a man’s existence be wrapped up in moments? Does one wrong decision define a person, does it capture every element of their being? This is what I think about in those final moments.
What happens to your conscience after death? Does it simply fade like a candle without wax, or is it shattered like throwing a stone through a window? Does it go to heaven? I wonder if heaven actually exists and who might be there when I arrive. Will they look at this and tsk, shake their heads solemnly and bid me farewell? Have I lost all my rights to an afterlife that is not surrounded by flame and rock? This is what I think about in those final moments.
I can smell it now. The wretch, the faeces, the blood, the bile. All at once it is overpowering, and I screw my nose up in an effort to keep the impurities out. I have smelt death and it is far worse than the worse smell possible in this world. It gets under your fingernails, in your hair. It’s there when you bath, and there when you try to sleep. It lingers, like the harsh aroma of rotten meat left out in the sun. It washes over me in the moment and I try to think of my babies when they were first born, or the wildflowers the rabbit was hopping through, or the way the morning smelt when I held my wife and told her I loved her. This is what I think about in the final moments.
The blade thwacks into its wooden scabbard, overpowering the wet crunch of slicing through flesh and bone. I close my eyes. The thump of a weight being dropped into the basket wisps with the echo of the blades decent and the hushed murmur of the crowd. Were they now regretting their decision? I suppose it is a little late for their remorse.
I look down into the basket, at the head within. For a second I am sure it blinks as if there is recognition in the eyes. And then the vacancy arrives, and it sees through me as if I do not exist. Blood oozes from the clean incision into the basket, and I wonder who is going to clean that, whose responsibility will it be to ensure the next head can fall cleanly in it. I begin to feel sick, the weight of the situation falling on my shoulders. I have killed someone, I pulled the lever, I received the signal.
This is what I think about in the moments following.
Man Ken, great storytelling. You have a gift my friend, and use misdirection like a boss. I loved everything about this story, the flow, the narration, the angst of the lead character. Great job of leading us through his thought process, so well done. And then the end, Fantastic!!
(At air is some clever rotten, Keen.) Great story. (I don’t hate you.)
This is beautifully realised. Each paragraph takes a different aspect of ‘those final moments’ and really milks it well – I especially like the ‘bunny rabbit paragraph’, for its incongruousness.
I must admit, though, that I wasn’t fooled: if you’re kneeling with your head on the block, you can’t see the sky, or the crowd. And the ‘This is what I think about in those final moments.’ suggests, with the use of ‘those’, that it’s something the narrator often experiences (if it were the victim, it would be ‘these’).
But I really like the repetition of that sentence – that’s very effective. And each of the thoughts are really well developed. I especially like this: “Consciousness? Does it simply fade like a candle without wax, or is it shattered like throwing a stone through a window?”
Carrie Zylka “Out of Time”
Copyright 2017 856 Words
Oliver braced himself against the wall. His right hand snaked up and pressed it against the scar tissue over his heart.
He could feel the soft tick! tick! beneath the palm of his hand, tiny quivers that should have reverberated every second, but now were spaced out every three and sometimes four seconds. Yet again he cursed his need for a mechanical heart. And his financial ruin after his wife’s death that caused him to seek out a black market heart transplant surgeon willing to do it on the cheap.
He’d been mortified to learn that the surgeon tinkered with watches as a hobby and used an old quartz wristwatch as the means to fix his dying heart. Every time the second hand moved, it sent a tiny electrical charge into the heart, causing it to constrict and pump.
At first he’d thought he was tired from not sleeping, or a poor diet, but eventually he realized his heart was slowing down. It was ticking every three seconds and his circulation was suffering.
Now he was not only fatigued, he was also frustrated. He knew he’d kept the card with the surgeon’s contact information in the lock box with his birth certificate and wife’s wedding ring but when he went to retrieve it, he didn’t see it there. He’d spent the rest of the afternoon tearing his tiny place apart looking for it.
Trying not to panic, he leaned his forehead against the wall. The peeling paint scratched at his skin but he didn’t care. The coolness of the wall comforted him as he tried to think what to do next.
Taking a deep breath he snatched up his coat and made his way downtown. Adept at avoiding the seedier parts, the city was a perfect postcard of what dystopia should be. The rise of medical premiums under a healthcare system controlled by a single entity had caused great financial ruin for most blue and white collar workers. Increased premiums and deductibles created financial hardship, causing people to avoid going to the doctor completely. This in turn created a hygienic domino effect. People who were sick couldn’t afford to go to the doctor and did not receive treatment. They in turn spread germs and disease. This caused a rise in black market medical facilities.
Oliver knew first hand, he had a job so he was forced to pay outrageous medical premiums under the new healthcare laws. His wife fell sick and the out of pocket expenses ruined him. Not that it mattered much since she ended up passing away after a two year struggle. Then when he had his heart issues he had gone the traditional federally funded route, was forced to seek out an alternative doctor when he was told how much the procedure would cost.
He sighed as he thought about the path that led him here. He entered an alley and walked quickly to a door at the far end. Knocking twice a man peered through the peep hole.
“Yes??” The man grunted.
“I need to see a surgeon.” Oliver said quietly. Everyone knew this was an off the books medical facility, and he wasn’t quite sure why it hadn’t been shut down yet.
Oliver reached up and pulled down his shirt, displaying the square scar. “My heart was fixed by Dr Ormar. Its breaking down and I need to get it fixed.”
The man nodded and opened the door letting him in. After a brief wait he was led into a dimly lit room where a doctor sat scribbling notes in a file.
“Hello Mr. Sidek.” The Doctor said giving Oliver his full attention. “I hear you’re having some heart trouble?”
Oliver nodded. “My heart seems to be slowing down. It’s not pumping like it used to.”
“Yes, yes, Ormar’s patients usually make their way here. I’m guessing the quartz in your heart is losing power. It’s pretty common with his patients.”
“Then you can fix it?”
“Of course, the fee is $2500 cash, up front and is a relatively easy fix. A lot cheaper than a heart transplant I’d wager.” He winked.
Oliver made a face. “I don’t have that kind of cash.”
“Then I’m sorry sir but I can’t help you.” The Doctor began turning away.
“Wait, does it have to be cash? I have something worth a lot more than $2500.”
The Doctor turned back. “Maybe, depending on what it is.”
Oliver sat there for a moment, wondering if he could bear to part with it. He could have pawned it many times over and improved his living situation but he couldn’t bear to.
He knew what she would say if she were there. That he should do it, he should live, if only for a few more years. Because things could always get better, there was always hope. And of course, she would always be in his heart.
His bottom lip quivering he spoke. “I have a flawless, colorless one carat diamond ring worth much more than $2500. I will give it to you if you can repair my heart.”
The Doctor looked at him and smiled. “Yes Mr. Sidek, I will gladly take that as payment.”
Health comes at a price. Those with the money to buy medical expertise survive to live another day. The poor just die.
A well written dystopic story, which is made more poignant considering the health insurance issues we face today. I felt a great amount of empathy for Oliver, and really liked the flow of the story.
I love the build-up to this: the description of the ailing mechanical heart, letting us know – without overtly stating – that this is the future. Then the scene at the underground clinic – nice dialogue there.
A couple of things took me out of the story, though: “The city was a perfect postcard of what dystopia should be.” This is what a reviewer might write about your story. It would have been nice to have more description of the people and streets, showing us the dystopia rather than telling us. And the middle section, the criticism of the medical system, sounds (to me) like a part of a speech from a political campaign – which could have its place, but for me, as I said, it takes me out of the protagonist’s immediate predicament. And I think I agree with Ken A – a more impactful, and touching, ending would be for the protagonist to weigh up losing his last link with his beloved wife or surviving in this grim dystopia … and choosing his wife.
The opening and the dialogue with the doctor, though – good stuff!
An Expensive Timepiece.
© 2017 by Ken Cartisano
The chaotic sounds of the airport terminal ended abruptly as the bathroom door banged shut. He leaned over the sink and turned on the water.
‘Calm down, Theo,’ he thought, as he splashed water on his face. He checked his appearance in the bathroom mirror and barely recognized himself.
He was so close. So close to making a clean escape that he was almost giddy. All he had to do was walk to the last gate, show his boarding pass, and get on the plane.
His fall from grace was eminently predictable.
Every aspect of Theo’s life had been micro-managed by his father until the age of eighteen, then his father suddenly died; leaving him a substantial inheritance; which he proceeded to squander.
While buying a BMW, the owner of the high-end dealership assumed that Theo was an investment broker, asked him for a stock tip, and Theo had casually suggested one; a random stock he’d recently heard of, but knew nothing about.
The stock soared.
When he stopped in for some final paperwork a few weeks later, the car dealer was so grateful that he practically pushed him into his office and insisted that Theo be his broker.
Theo knew nothing about the stock market, but was determined to learn. The owner of the dealership liked him, and introduced him to an exclusive circle of wealthy friends. On the strength of that one recommendation, many of them were eager to have Theo invest their money as well.
As the months passed, it was clear to Theo that his investment strategies weren’t working. He began fabricating outlandish returns on his client’s portfolios, inflating profits from their investments, when in fact his monetary losses were mounting steadily. He paid his old clients dividends with newer client’s money.
It was a Ponzi scheme.
Theo had bilked dozens of elderly clients out of millions of dollars. He had lost, spent or squandered the nest eggs of the people who had trusted him. Many of them were ruined, or would be. Some were not fooled. The SEC called for an investigation, the FBI took an interest. The net was closing rapidly. The only bright spot was that he, Theo Stone, was going to get away with it.
Because he had been warned.
He had left home in a rush one morning, forgot his cell phone, returned to get it and caught his maid talking on the land line to the authorities. He quietly backed out the door, came back a half hour later and gave her the rest of the day off.
Then he packed, sparingly.
He transferred the bulk of the money into a Swiss bank account, and kept twenty thousand in cash for expenses, then grabbed some clothes and shoes, and left town. He discarded his phone, drove thru two states, hid his car in an abandoned barn, then walked 14 miles to a nearby town. He bought another car, some clothes from Goodwill, and continued traveling, sticking to isolated rural highways.
Virtually overnight, Theo eschewed all the trappings of his former life, all but one foolish possession. He obtained a fake I.D., a new name. He changed his appearance, from conservative stock broker, to aloof drifter, working occasional odd-jobs to foster the illusion that he needed cash. At night he stayed in half-deserted motels on desolate highways, and ate in rundown truck stops with bored, gum chewing waitresses. It gave ‘Theo Stone’ a new appreciation for how the lower classes lived, or at times, just survived; and it reinforced his belief that in order to prevail, one must persist.
He kept drifting west.
Months later, he arrived at L.A. International Airport: To join a bustling, frenzied cacophony of harried passengers, queuing up to be searched, wanded, x-rayed and delayed. This was it, the security gauntlet that would surely ensnare him. He was instructed to empty his pockets and remove all jewelry. He stepped thru the detector without incident. His long dyed hair, tied in a pony tail, facial hair and sneakers belied his fugitive identity. He hoped.
“Sir? Then louder. “Sir!”
He hesitated, tempted to flee, but meekly turned around to see a customs agent waving him back. “I think you forgot something, sir.” The agent approached with Theo’s watch dangling from his fingers. He seemed reluctant to hand it over.
Theo wondered, ‘Was this a bribe?’ It was a Rolex. ‘Should he tell the agent to keep it?’ He hesitated.
The customs agent held out the watch.
Theo accepted it and hurried to the bathroom, where he now stood, staring at his pale, clammy face in the mirror. He couldn’t believe his stupidity. The Rolex did not match his wardrobe. The fact that the customs agent didn’t seem to notice this fact was a miracle.
He slipped the watch back onto his wrist and picked up his bags.
The restroom door thumped closed behind him as he headed toward his gate. An electronic sign displaying his flight number, suddenly went blank. He started walking faster. “Excuse me. Excuse me.”
The ticket agent looked up. “Can I help you?”
He showed him his boarding pass and the ticket agent frowned. “That plane’s already departed.”
Theo was stunned. He looked out the window and there was no plane. That’s when he noticed there were only a few people at the gate. “What? Where’s the plane?”
“I’m very sorry sir, but…”
“No. That can’t be!” Theo cried. “What happened to the plane?”
“It left. On time.”
Theo looked at his watch, then showed it to the ticket agent. “The plane leaves at three o’clock. It’s not even two yet.”
The ticket agent glanced at the Rolex with appreciation, then recognition. “You’re an hour late, Mr. Stone. Did you forget to reset your watch last night? We’re on daylight savings time, you know.”
Theo heard a commotion coming down the concourse: The police, accompanied by a couple of customs agents. “That’s him.”
“Mr. Stone? Would you come with us please?”
He obviously did not think clearly or logically and honestly should not have pretended he was a stockbroker in the beginning. Stockbrokers seem very dubious people to my way of thinking. Work is the best and only legal way, truly legal wY to make money.
Stovkbrokets always seem quite not legal to me.
My story felt like I accomplished something, rather than creating something. I kept hoping I’d come up with something more epic. More earth shattering or profoundly intriguing but, nothing like that came to me. Any way, hey, thanks for the comments. Your story is excellent by the way. But I’ll elaborate more on your story in your comments thread. Thanks again, Ken.
The intro – which pitches us into the end of the story and then you back up – works really well. And then there’s lots of pace to take us back to that moment and the suspense around it. The wandering through the countryside section is really well done – methodical, like the care the protagonist takes.
I agree with Ken A (again) that the denouement needed some foreshadowing. He suggests mention of SDT. For me, I think we needed to see him take his time in the bathroom (because by his watch, he had plenty of time), only to come out and find that the plane had gone. Another thing that didn’t quite work (for me) was the ease with which the car dealer took him for a broker … but maybe something was cut in your editing for length.
A good, pacey read, though.
As for the broker gig, after much editing and polishing, I began to wonder why I bothered to include so much detail, so much contrived detail about how he got started. That whole section involving the car dealer could have been deleted and replaced with a much shorter and more believable explanation. (For instance: ‘It was greed, and the inability to admit his own fallibility.)
Ken, your story had great pacing and wonderful use of dialogue. I really loved the beginning and the description of the airport, there’s a tension to the story that has me hooked right away. I love this line, “His fall from grace was eminently predictable.”
For me, it’s here where the story wanders a bit. I wonder if you shorten the time spent on why Theo is on the run, simply state a bit about his inheritance, and that he was running a Ponzi scheme. Because the heart of the story is Theo on the run, and the climax of him at the airport, sweating it out as he is close to getting away with his crime. This way you’d have more space to foreshadow the time difference aspect to your story and deliver an ending that didn’t feel rushed.
I was running into the woods, that is the last thing I remember before it happened. My son Oscar had left the path to explore deeper into the tall trees, and darkening forest. The leaves crunched under his feet, so I could still hear him, even though his round blonde head and red fleece jacket were out of site. I followed the sound, looking around the forest, admiring the smell of wet leaves, and moss.
The wind was soft, not at all a bother. We had come for a vacation my oldest son and myself. I wanted to spend alone time with him ever since his siblings were born. It had been hard for him to have time with mom. Plus, I wanted to have someone to explore this place with. I had been saving for a while, hoping to start my world expeditions with my family. But, so far only my oldest was going with me. I was recreating my grandfather’s steps, he had been in the 42nd Rainbow division, a regular joe from Massachusetts who got a Bronze star for shooting Nazi’s back into the water while his company retreated to safety. Tales of his adventures, and mayhem were a normal part of growing up, and for my grandfather they were always there even when he died. He had German marching music chiming his last hours away. It was actually his request.
I wanted to see where it was the the Battle of the Little Bulge had taken place, and visit the concentration camp he had liberated. I planned to write a book about it, something to memorialize his exploits, something that nobody would ever forget. I had been trying to do that since I was a kid, but always about halfway through any of it, I would stop, brain dead and walk away from my story never to return again. This trip was research, Oscar was excited to visit the battlefields, and was busy exploring everything from Knockwurst to this forest ever since.
I looked around for him, the crunch of his feet on the forest grass had stopped. In fact, something made this whole forest stop, it lay still not a sparrow, not a crow moved. I panicked, I knew that there were abandoned fox holes, bunkers, live ammunition in some areas. What if oscar had fallen into one of those dank places? I moved faster, still no red fleece, my feet carried me deeper into the woods, my heart beat in my throat. There was no sign of my child anywhere.
“Oscar?” I yelled and called for him. My voice echoed, all was still silent. My head was dizzy, it felt like a person stuck in muck. Every branch looked the same, nothing but eerie and quite. The world was quiet, but for a strange crunching noise i could hear it sounded distant. A movement into the left of my coat caught my eye, turning I saw a figure running. Immediately I ran in that direction, if it was Oscar he was going to be in a lot of trouble when I got him. Running from mom was a huge mistake, it usually involved a swift swat to the fanny region, and an extra chore. But, maybe this time I was only going to grab him, grab him and hug him. I Know That we had only been in the woods for a short time, but it seemed eerie, like I had stepped into a wind tunnel and couldn’t hear, barely see, and hardly walk. I focused on where I saw the figure turn around the small hill of leaves and then deeper into the german forest, for a moment it seemed like I was the only one in the whole world out here. Then it hit me.
WAP! Something hit me, and I fell flat on my face. What am I doing? Get up! Get Oscar! I only wanted my son, and didn’t know what was happening. I heard footsteps approaching, and a gasp.It was a man’s voice, and I froze.
“Are you alright lady?” I felt hands on my back through my jacket, I was just thinking that i had been a victim a lunatic german hunter. I knew I had to be shot, because I felt it in my shin, it was hot , searing inside my skin. I opened my eyes, to see a face right in mine, his eyes were blue, bright blue shiny.
“I’m looking for my son, then you hit me.” I sat up, looked down at my jeans that were darkened by the minute, and wanted to slap him. “ What is wrong with you? YOu shot me, you animal!” If I could have hit him without pain, I would have, but instead I lashed out with my tongue. It was something I was good at, my husband I knew that.
“Hey, I’m sorry lady, really.” He was upset, I could see that. “Let me get someone over here.” He turned his head “Medic, I need a medic over here.” Someone yelled the order again, behind him and I heard a rumble from the woods.
I like this and got an idea of what it might be about; a mother mysteriously transported back in time to a 2nd-World-War battlefield (‘The Bulge’)? And the rumble is the tanks?
You set up a nice question in the first line: “…the last thing I remember before it happened.” What’s the ‘it’? – we ask, and so we read on. There’s good suspense with the disappearance of the boy – there could be various reasons, some of which you mention. And the forest is atmospherically described.
One thing that holds up the pace a bit is the justification for the trip, which feels a bit long-winded for this format … but if this was meant as part of a longer work, then it wouldn’t be.
Hi Colette, welcome to the group.
I was instantly drawn into your story, that first line is a keeper. I see from the other comments that this is part of a larger story that you’re writing, and it’s a great excerpt that makes me want to read more. I want to know what happened to Oscar, and like Phil I thought that you had somehow been transported back in time, back to when your grandfather was in Germany fighting the war.
It’s hard to really assess this as a piece of flash fiction because it doesn’t really have a conclusion, but it’s easy to see that you are a fine writer, and I hope you continue to contribute to the writing group.
Ilana, I think this is a pretty powerful story. Sure it’s a tough subject, but I think it does handle the time theme very well, with the lead character going back and thinking of what happened to her. It’s nicely written and conveys the horror of that day very well.
No Greater Master
© Marshall Black
Algis told the girl to think fast. He watched from beneath his hood as she tried to wipe the yolk out of her hair.
“Had that been any number of other things, you would be dead,” he clucked at the young woman. A child, really. Still a child.
Tavi grimaced, flicking the dripping egg off of the roof, onto the cobblestone below.
“I would rethink that strategy,” Algis said. “That’s your breakfast.”
Tavi stuck out her tongue, “not if I have anything to do about that.”
“Then do something about it,” Algis said through a toothy grin. He retreated to the attic with that smile, reclining back into his worn leather chair. His keen ears listened for her soft steps to vanish completely before he allowed that smile to sour into a grimace of pain.
It was getting worse every day.
As he sank into the chair, the past connived to pull him backwards in its familiar grasp.
Back to when his muscles responded without hesitation or misfire, when the all-consuming fire of pain was absent from his bones.
Back to the bustling afternoon he had found the girl.
Or rather, she found him.
Algis felt inexpert fingers attempting to extract his string-purse. He clapped his calloused hand on top of tiny, worming fingers, feeling the struggle of her fist as she squirmed to escape from his grasp. He waited patiently for her to give up.
“I’m sorry I tried robbing you, mister,” the girl said, tears expertly springing to her eyes. “My momma’s sick, is all, and my little brother is hungry.”
Algis studied the girl for a moment before proclaiming, “you’re lying.”
“N-no, I’m not, I’m…” She then tried to stomp on his foot, but he moved with blurring speed to trap her foot underneath his own.
“You’re not a very good liar,” Algis said. “And you’re an even worse thief.”
Weeks later, she brought him her very first stolen wallet.
“It worked just like you said,” Tavi beamed. She threw her arms around him, squeezing tight.
Tavi scowled, egg dripping down her face.
The weeks became months. Algis had to admit she was a fast learner. Soon the unsuspecting pedestrian was simple prey to her nimble fingers. No storefront was safe from a lost melon, or choice mutton cut. Algis watched her transform from a famished waif into a healthy, beautiful girl.
“You’ve learned how to break from the world. But that is not enough. Because now someone, someday, will wish to break you. What you must learn is much greater than simple snatching. We must learn from the greatest master of theft. And there is no greater master in that regard than Time.”
Tavi nodded, mouthing the word “time.”
Algis frowned. The girl idolized him too much.
“Remember,” Algis said, swinging his leg at her, “a man will always be stronger than you. So you…”
“Must be quicker,” Tavi said, dodging an uppercut, “and smarter!” she swung around the chimney, her feet slamming home against Algis’ chest. He deflected the blow easily, but beneath his hood, careful that she did not see, shined a proud, toothy smile.
The months became years. There were fewer idolizing stares as her competency grew.
An evening came when Algis followed the girl on a whim. Answering a whisper in the gut.
He found Tavi pinned against an alley wall by a large brute.
She had forgotten to be quicker and smarter. The man tugged at her top with a meaty, puffy hand. His other hand held a knife to her throat.
A shadow in the night dropped to the ground and took that hand off at the wrist.
The man stared stupidly at the fountain of blood spurting from his wrist, at the empty space where his hand had just been a moment ago. He turned around and saw Algis.
He sputtered, “I don’t understand.”
“I know,” Algis said. He touched him in the middle of the forehead. The man keeled over, collapsing into stillness.
Algis grabbed Tavi’s arm, smearing blood on her skin, and pulled her up to the rooftop.
“I could have handled myself, he was just drunk.”
“Liar,” Algis whispered. He clutched the trembling girl to his chest.
He remembered trembling as well.
From then on, she remembered to be smarter and quicker. She remembered to trust her feet, and hands, and heights, and the feel of the ground, and the quality of light, and the myriad things he imparted to her.
Yet there was still so much to teach, but never enough time.
Time’s greatest theft was how it managed to steal away itself.
As Algis dozed in his chair, Tavi came and massaged ointment into his skin, her touch lighter than air. She felt him stir, so she vanished back onto the rooftop.
Algis stretched luxuriously, like an old tomcat. The snooze had done wonders! He was done visiting the past. It seemed that the brain grew complacent, becoming an ally to time’s theft.
Tavi returned with caviar and truffles.
“I’m sorry, my girl,” Algis said, after a bite.
“For what, old man?”
“I stole you from the world.”
“I stole you for myself,” Tavi said, kissing him on the middle of his forehead.
“Is that how you remember it?”
“That’s how it was.”
“Another testament to the greatest teacher of all,” Algis laughed.
“To Time,” Tavi toasted, chugging from a bottle of brandy she had also pinched.
“To Time,” Algis said, reaching into his spacious sleeve to pelt her with an egg.
His sleeves were empty.
The smell of cooking eggs wafted up from the skillet below.
Tavi flashed him a toothy grin.
He had taught her well.
Very well developed tale of master and apprentice. The at-times playful, at-times mutually respectful relationship is nicely drawn. There are some great turns of phrase. (e.g. “Back to when his muscles responded without hesitation or misfire, when the all-consuming fire of pain was absent from his bones.”) The return to the ‘egg’ motif makes for a beautiful ending. (but the ‘cluck’ is a reference too far I reckon.)
I’m not sure the ‘time as thief’ idea works so well, though. “Time’s greatest theft was how it managed to steal away itself.” feels a little awkward, obscure. (Having said that, the characters’ ageing is well done.) And I found the formatting a little distracting – maybe putting a break between each line would make it more readable.
I like the use of dialogue in your story. You have captured elements of both protagonists well. A little work on expression and use of language, but that comes with practice and editing. I am agreeing with Phil’s comments and will not add to them but to say, ‘yes, you do have some great turns of phrase’.
This may be personal but you use the word pinched and I would like you to explore other words and not overuse one or two words. For example, ‘pinched’ could just have easily been ‘lifted’ or ‘appropriated’.
Good start anyway and your story has many pleasing elements.
As in: ‘A shadow in the night dropped down to the ground…’ then, ‘ Algis grabbed Tavi’s arm… and pulled her up to the rooftop.’ There seems to be something funny about the way these to move around.
The egg business repeatedly took me out of the story as I don’t understand it, nor can I hardly believe that a mutually beneficial relationship includes raw egg in the hair on a regular basis. It’s gimmicky, and that’s okay, some gimmicks work better than others
Hi Marshall, welcome aboard!
I love how this story developed, and the use of the prompt “time,” as time passes for teacher and student. You did a great job of showing the relationship between Algis and Tavi grow over the years, and the love and respect the two had for each other.
It is hard to read the story because of the formatting, and hopefully next time you can put in some spacing between the paragraphs, which will make reading your story so much easier.
I hope my comments are not the impetus behind your inclination to pull the story. I admire you for tackling difficult subjects and handling them with skill and passion.
The writing here is expressive, and based upon your comments, there is more to your story than I realized.
It’s possible that the two story threads, past and present, need a more tangible link. (It could be that I’m just dense too. Which would be much harder to fix.) A clearer link would help meatheads like me see the connection between two obviously connected threads more easily.
The sun is at tree level, splashing a field with dark cool shadows from engulfing oaks. To comics, it may as well as be an eclipse, so fierce is our attention to toil. Desperate is the nature of our struggle.
I begin the melancholy ritual as night falls. Comics deal in discomfort. After you begin, that’s all there is. There’s no finesse. After all 82 of my I Never Repeat a Joke episodes – exiting each of the 52 venues – I expect relief.
“What now?” I ask myself. “Jokes.” Jokes are all go & no blow, so why practice?
Only with routine do we become solid. Comedy is the time & the place; everything else is window dressing. If my trance breaks & a word or phrase side-tracks me I play with it like a seal & a beach ball. The slightest break in concentration wells up self-pity. The universe is capable to follow.
Performance #8 is at Arabia Hookah Bar. I walk to the mic as I am introduced by my boss. “The next comedian is my personal favorite Ram-mzy Swei-ss. The things that come out of his mouth.” My boss genuflects – kisses the ball of his hand. He hands it off.
I open with my all-time favorite joke. “Surely the best way to win a basketball game is take Viagra beforehand.” Boom of giggles reverberate. A throng of women whoop & holler hugging each other as the next joke is of Bart Simpson donning ass-less chaps. My toes are prematurely heavy. I’m shocked by a sudden demand for sustained speed. My nervous system sends messages that such burden cannot be endured, but it is overridden, of course, knowing far better than my own synapses my physical limitations.
“What do you call a bear without an ear? A B.” This pun is weak & dismissed. The price for such a lapse is steep.
After my five I exit. I seek refuge beneath a glow of a clear moon. Stars are cold specks of illuminated space. My hand grooves upon a platinum rail, stretching before me, further than I can imagine, if I had the desire, which I don’t!
Show #14 @ Mahoney’s Bar is especially poignant. Sweat condenses with spittle beside my mouth; fluffs of white congealed saliva. I melt as if made of wax as I slush onstage. Tiny steps to keep from slipping into a stumble. My tongue is glued.
“Orgasms are like lying down in snow. The closer you get to laying the more ooh’s & aah’s you make.” I lie down on worn carpet. “Like melting snow, it’s over & you wonder what happened?”
Extraneous laughter permits more wit to seep in: amazed how I respond to snippets of rest. I pace as adrenaline surges through me, racing phantoms from the past.
Tonight trees are steep in the dusty sundown: the gibberish twilight before R.E.M. It does not dawn on me this will be episode #17 at Sinbad Hookah Bar, among relatives, colleagues, old friends & siblings. 5 minutes to conquer, interspersed with bits of silence. An adamant peace to be dominated & put away to face its’ looming shadow. All of a sudden my name is called in the line-up. I introduce myself, weak with resignation, moving the stand.
“If I have a son I’ll name him after the MMA fighter Kimbo Slice. His name would be Kimbo Slice Sweis.”
People chuckle. I sneer & begin again, “Babies today exit the womb with a camera in their grill! It’s not bad enough that the body has a memory. It is bad enough … trust me,” I demand. “Our brains are computers. When we were manufactured God must’a had trouble sealing our scalp with the enormity of our brains.” I make the motion of trying to shut a skull.
They laugh on, saying nothing. After a joke about Bin Laden as well as birds taking over the world, the light in the rear flashes. “That’s my time.” I stride off.
When I slip outdoors, there is no fatigue. This is how God’s fear is summoned. Nobody does what I do. That’s why I’m by myself. You can slough off but you’ll sure as Hell know when you’re doing it, won’t you?
#18 was a shambles. #19 inside the Chicago Center of Arts, I’m in a suit, but a Polish comic prior introduces me, “Straight out of Compton.” We do a neck hug before he shoves me. A cacophony of snickers emanate.
“I was at dinner with my cousin who doesn’t drink. I lifted my beer & said, ‘Take a ‘piss’,’ instead of ‘sip.’”
I cast a wild whoop, vaguely aware the joke fails. Fall flat face first. Life simply sprints away.
As a warrior poet, pressure suits me. The familiarity of experience mitigates physiological effects, substituting insight for a rush of panic. It provides the comic a backdrop against my travail, granting serenity in the face of overwhelming stimuli.
My quiet center of logic, schooled in the defiance of brutality, calmly theorizes: If I don’t take up slack I’ll soon black out. But one knows one can’t win while unconscious. No comic quits instead we come to a stand-still.
My conditioning pushes me that much more; to run myself into the ground like Sambo’s tiger. Just as each episode makes the next seem impossible, there is no question what my audience wants. Cowardice is unforgivable cause men are unafraid. Men are handicapped this way: no alternative to mercy.
At Seven’s Cabaret I have show #28 (which will get the attention of Funnyordie staff, my hometown newspaper, radio stations, comedy festivals & Celebrity Times Magazine). I spy 200 fellow Arabians, who had paid $20 a ticket, fox-trot to the designated seats. Behind the curtain, I take painful gasps, grabbing my knee-caps. I stop thinking unable to breathe. Forlorn. I can’t recall my own name. I hear the surround sound speaker system.
“You’ve seen Ramzy Sweis working with Arab-issh all year. I call him lil Ray-Ray,” she exclaims. Half-way to the mic she swats my fanny as she passes (the muscles there quiver). Opening melody degenerates into a calliope gone haywire. To maintain pace with the crumbling notes, my form breaks & an elbow flaps out. I remove my sunglasses. “Do I look like Brad Pitt?”
They revel in giddiness. Oil for the engine. Grease for the pan. Nourishment for my cartilage. I suck in sweet air.
“I’m so short that I get swept under the rug.” I rasp. I think I hear snorting. I continue, “I hate when I go to Starbuck’s & they ask if I ‘want a tall?’ How sorely depressing it is that in this day & age you no longer see David defeating Goliath.”
Applause. I put #28 away. I gain reputation.
In lunar shadows, I stroll with crickets. The moon rises with my bile. Lord Godamighty I whisper after 37 more episodes in Chicago, then re-locate to Los Angeles where I am able to put down 7 more episodes at 7 different venues.
I realize there is no line between reality & dreaming as I launch myself into my 1st performance on a barn with rams. My name is Ram & I’m “steering” a wheel in Ford “Taurus.” I hit the record button & let the juices flow. Spoken in parsel tongue. A higher spirit holds me steady. Eyes clenched shut for tears cannot escape. Shameless.
Let others flail; comics are true to the end.
Some nice imagery (great opening line!) and turns of phrase here, but I’m not sure it satisfies the parameters of the competition this week (‘Time’).
(Or maybe it does and I’m not seeing it?)
My iffy reaction to this story is due in part to paragraphs like this: ‘When I slip outdoors, there is no fatigue. This is how God’s fear is summoned. Nobody does what I do. That’s why I’m by myself. You can slough off but you’ll sure as Hell know when you’re doing it, won’t you?’
This is a group of sentences that–are either self evident, or nonsensical. I don’t know what ‘God’s fear’ is, or how it’s summoned. But when you’re ‘sloughing off’ I suppose you would in fact be aware of it. I guess what I’m getting at is that, some of these sentences throughout this story sound great, but on close examination, their meaning is difficult to divine. Which is contrary to a good story. I don’t like to guess at what the writer is trying to say, if I did, I’d read more poetry.
Hi Ramzy, welcome to the group.
I’m not sure what to make of your story. It gives some insight to what being a comedian is like, I just don’t think it fits the prompt of “time.” The story tends to meander in places, that takes me out of the story, and I have to make my way back. I think you have a flair for words, being a comedian who writes his own jokes, but if you are more judicious with the use of those words, using a dozen when 3 or 4 words will suffice, would go a long way in tightening up this experience as a comedian, and keep the reader engaged.
If At First…
by Dean Hardage
I heard the footsteps, knew who it would be. The room was in semi-darkness so she wouldn’t be able to see me when she first stepped in. I waited until the door slid open and she fumbled for a light switch that wasn’t there.
“I’ve been expecting you.”
She froze. I couldn’t really see her face but a sudden gasp told me she recognized my voice.
“It worked!”, she finally said in a tone that carried both joy and relief.
“What do you mean, ‘sort of’?”
“Lights full,” I commanded the house. Illumination suddenly flooded the room and she turned to look directly at me, seeing me for the first time.
“Oh my God! What….how….?”
“When you came to warn me you were just in time. For me, not for yourself. Somehow, something had given the laboratory location away and there was a bomb planted in my office. You were closing the door when it blew and were killed instantly.
I could see the horror and pity on her face as she looked at me. It was a sight I’d grown used to over time but from her it hurt so much more. My face was mostly scar tissue, one eye covered by a permanent patch, arms and legs encased in the metallic casing of my support module. I’d almost envied her quick death but here she was again, young and alive.
“But how? I should know about this when I get back.”
I sighed. I wondered how many times this scenario had played itself out and how many times she’d been determined to go back and fix it. It was my work with time travel that had caused the problem in the first place and now we were both stuck in a never-ending cycle of pain and regret.
“Do you remember how I described how we exist in four dimensions?”
“And how the Device stretched that fourth dimensional part of us, allowing us to move forward in time?
She nodded again, still trying to understand.
“When the energy stretching your personal fourth dimension ends it snaps you back like a rubber band. The force of that snap actually pushes you back further along that vector than where you started. When you get back, you will be back before this visit, before we find out about the Time Defenders and their plans. You’ll find out and try to save me just like you’ve done every other time, and you’ll die. But you, you’re stuck in this loop, coming here, finding out, going back, forgetting and starting the cycle again and again. It’s all my fault.”
There was a look of horror on her face as she realized that she would keep coming back, repeating this useless quest. I wept as she vanished, snapping back along her own fourth dimension. How many, I wondered to myself. Though I would never see her again, I knew she would keep coming back. Coming back time, after time, after time………
Sci-fi isn’t my strong suit (writing or understanding), but I enjoyed what I got of your story. I like very much how the protagonist feels for this woman who’s stuck, swinging back and forth in this strange dimension – a kind of hopeless situation that will continue for all eternity (if I’m understanding right). She’s not flesh and blood, so that can happen … and the man is, so he won’t be able to meet her in all her future returns … but like Ken, I don’t know why he won’t be there at least for the forthcoming returns.
The main paragraph that explains the phenomenon (the penultimate) feels a little academic (for me … and not very natural). Maybe that para could be broken up into little chunks, with the woman interjecting doubts or questions? (To make it a little more natural-sounding, and also to help the reader get their head around it.) You’d have space to do that.
Sci-fi with a heart, though. Nice.
Interesting premise, and a great use of the theme. The flow is nice, and a good use of the dialogue. Short but sweet, the story feels full even though it’s fairly short. I agree with Ken that the last line is confusing, “Though I would never see her again, I knew she would keep coming back.” Still, a fine story.
Interesting concept, but then I love Sci fi and all it entails. Great writing, but I feel it needs more length. It has a lot of unexplained bits.
(I think the theme of ‘time’ is validly addressed – looking back to times passed.)
There are some very well described scenes here: the yoga session; the blooming of the protagonist; the boil treatment; the rape. Your descriptions of these are never less than vivid.
I found it a little fragmented, though, with connections between some of the scenes hard to trace. Why does the protagonist (no name?) have to be doing yoga to remember? What has the boil treatment to do with the rape? The discussion with the mother about the T-shirt … why so detailed, if all we need to know is that the neighbours see the (developing) protagonist in a wet T-shirt and start getting ideas?
But I really liked the various descriptions – you’re very good at that.
He sits alone. A hunched figure by the window, he watches the magpies lift their beaks to the sky and he hears the trill of their early morning song. A smile plays dancing a tune on thin lips, as he murmurs a melodic chant of prayers that began his day so long ago. He was a child in Heder in Berlin in the nineteen thirties. Much change was happening in the world then and not all of it good or peaceful.
“Hello Rabbi. Would you like some morning tea?” Without waiting for him to answer, the nurse pours him a cup of tepid milky tea. She does not ask him if he wants sugar. Instead she spoons two heaped teaspoons into his cup. She takes it to his table and pushes it over to his chair.
“There you go Sir. I’ve given you some biscuits too. Chocolate.” She smiles at him and walks away.
His gaze is confused. He looks at the tea and the biscuits. Then he turns to the window again. He once knew the prayer services for shacharit (the morning service), Mincha (the afternoon service) and Maariv (the evening service) by heart. Now they have tumbled together in his mind and the phrases he once knew so well in his mind and heart in their proper order, dance chaotically and with wild abandon. He tries to order them out into the proper sequence, but they defeat him so he turns to well worn phrases and snatches of songs from his youth and childhood.
The biscuits and tea sit there untouched. He has forgotten them. The garden captures his focus as he tries to remember the names of trees and shrubs, and even the birds.
“Oh Rabbi, you don’t want your tea?” He looks up confused.
“Bird.” He announces plaintively and points to the magpies on the small lawn. He wants to snatch back the name of the black and white creatures dancing on the lawn. He is hoping this rotund woman talking before him will help him remember. He looks up at her hopefully.
“Yes, Rabbi your tea is cold. Don’t you want it? And you haven’t eaten your biscuits.” She is annoyed just a little. She gathers up the tea and biscuits and shoves them back on the trolley. Silly old bugger she thinks to herself and marches off down the hallway to gather the other tea trays.
“Bird?” He calls after her. But she is already gone. He watches by the window. Time is meaningless now. Once it was so well used. So many things to do in order. Now the order is gone. Replaced by the nothingness of time frozen.
Once this brilliant man guided his students through the intricacies of Talmudic arguments. He debated complex Halachic (Jewish Law) issues with the best. A gentle unassuming man with great knowledge who taught students in one of the best schools for 50 years and who spoke fluently German, Yiddish, Hebrew and English as well as being versed in Aramaic and smatterings of other languages. He even translated a document that allowed Eichmann to be brought to trial in Israel in the 1950’s.
“Hello Abba. How are you?” A woman sits down beside him. She takes his hand and rubs it. She looks vaguely familiar. “Are you ok? You look a bit pale? Did you have something to eat for morning tea?”
He smiles confused. Then he points to the birds still flitting about on the lawn.
“Bird. Foygl. Vogel. Tzipor.” His mind tripped through words connected to the objects dancing outside his window. Something was all mixed up. Perhaps this woman could help sort it out.
“Oh Abba, you’re watching the magpies. Look at them dance. They are fighting. See the little one is being cheeky. Cheeky little magpies.” The woman patted his hand. Really she was rather kind and very nice. He wondered who she was and why she seemed so familiar to him. The word he was seeking came.
“Magpies. Magpies. MAG- PIE.” He was really pleased with himself. That was it. Magpies, that was their name. He laughed and the woman laughed with him. He felt an immense sense of relief.
“They are funny, aren’t they? You enjoy watching them. Don’t you?” he nodded happily. This woman seemed to understand. “Let me get you a cup of tea and some water. Have you drunk enough this morning? You look a bit dehydrated.”
She rose swiftly and went to find a nurse.
“What has my father drunk this morning? The woman of whom the question was asked shrugged dismissively. She is busy getting the medication ready before lunch.
“My father looks dehydrated. Has he had anything to drink? Can you give me something to drink for him? Some tea perhaps?”
“He’s just had morning tea. He didn’t drink or eat anything.” She was reading off a chart. “He’s not hungry, He didn’t eat or drink anything. It’s on his chart. Here.” She holds the chart out for the woman’s inspection. “Lunch will be in an hour.”
“Never mind. I’ll get him tea.” She walks to a kitchenette and makes some tea and gets some biscuits which she brings to her father who is still sitting by the window. He watching the birds still. He points excitedly.
“Yes, Abba, the magpies. Here have some tea.”
She has put a straw in not too hot tea and places the straw against her father’s lips. He sucks greedily. Then she gives him a biscuit and places it gently against his lips. He takes it and eats hungrily.
He finishes the biscuit. He points to the window.
“Yes Abba Magpie.”
“Magpie. Magpie.” He laughs with real joy, then seconds later, his face changes. He stares out the window again.
Mira takes the empty teacup and the saucer and places them on the table. Tears run down her cheeks. It is two years since her father has remembered her name.
I’ve deleted your first story Ilana 🙂
In the beginning, when I was young, I had control over it, I was the master and it was at my command. I was certain of it. Now as time has gone by, I have fallen victim to its seductive lure more often than I care to admit. It has become clear my control was an illusion and I am now at its whim. I’ve tried to fight it, to control it, to hide how badly I need it and I confess… I fear time is running out. Everyone will know, I am a time traveler.
I can jump into the future at will. Sometimes it’s only a few minutes, sometimes it’s as much as three hours but I assure you, I have the ability, the power to do so any time I wish.
It is a lonely responsibility to move through time but I am one of the lucky ones, I have a companion… Auggie. To all outward appearances he is merely an over grown cat but believe me when I say he is in full belief he is a dog.
When he is not patrolling the fence line, he is faithfully at my side waiting for the opportunity of our next jump. As you might expect the method is quite complex and the electronic equipment involved is beyond the understanding of an ordinary mind. The choice of the right frequency is paramount to an early departure and ultimately the success of the jump. Once chosen, usually a cooking channel, I take my place… reclining to allow Auggie access to my chest… it’s the most comfortable position for him to stand guard over me and then, in what seems like a mere 3 seconds to me I am transported to the future.
“Nice nap?” my wife asks and I smile wryly comfortable in the knowledge I have successfully jumped once more and she is none the wiser… I am a time traveler and I have come from the past to help.
Interesting plot, I just wish there was more.
A couple of things:
There was a bit of ‘trust me l’m a used car salesman’ approach (believe me, I assure you). Show not tell!!
There felt like some contradictions in the story: I can jump at will vs I need equipment; ordinary people can’t understand the equipment but it seems like a television is needed.
Not sure about the purpose of the cat that thinks it’s a dog – everything should have a purpose of being there.
I’d love to see more of what they did when jumping, how did they benefit (show me that seductive lure), why do they need to confess???
All The Time in the World
By Galen Davis
Time slowed to a crawl.
It wouldn’t truly stop, but for all intents and purposes, Tim was the sole guest in a planet-wide wax museum. Climbing over his client, he extracted himself from the defense bench and left the courtroom. The hallway was empty save for a statue trying to regain control on a hot cup of coffee and Tim whistled as he scooped loose droplets out of the air and returned the cup to its owner’s hand. He came upon Prosecutor Williams coveted corner office.
Tim took a moment to appreciate the fine stenciling on name placard.
The office was beautifully furnished but a bit too antiquated for his taste. How many trees had died for the matching desk, bookcase, meeting table combo? He circled the room, dragging a finger across the admittedly fine craftsmen ship and sat down at the desk, breathing in the smell of books and long work hours.
His hand fell on a framed photograph of the prosecutor’s wife and he appraised it for a moment before setting it back down. After some careful consideration, Tim unzipped his pants and let his hands get to work.
Sitting back down in his still empty seat, Tim glanced at his watch. He’d been gone for 20 minutes, which means almost a 1/1,000,000,000th of a second had passed for the rest of the courtroom. Situating himself comfortably, Tim blinked again, three times in succession, and time slowly began spinning back up. The Judge’s gavel landed, and his client’s murmurs grew from a strange, low grumblings to pleas for mercy. Prosecutor Williams completed the turn of his head and smiled that ugly little smile of his before getting up to shake his hand. Tim smiled back but kept his seat. To everyone in the room, he was floored at his loss of the case, but Tim had won his own small victory and forgotten to wash his hands.
He shook in a show of graceful defeat and almost choked on the laugh bubbling up inside him.
Perhaps I am just stupid, but I do not find your story at all amusing. It’s a bit tacky. Who is Tim and what is he on trial for? Exposing himself perhaps?
Okay folks, this story thread is closed. Thanks to all who participated, and now it’s time to vote for your 5 favorite stories. Remember, you must vote in order for your story to count, and you Can Not vote for yourself. Good luck, follow the link below which will take you to the voting page.
VOTING STARTS: Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday)
VOTING ENDS: the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).
Winners will be announced Here and on LinkedIn
I am extending the Voting time! We only have a few votes in so those of you who haven’t yet, please do so in order for your story to count in this week’s contest.
Here is the link:
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HERE’S THE LINK TO THE NEW STORY THREAD: http://fictionwritersgroup.com/march-9-march-22-2017-flash-fiction-contest-night-photography/
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