Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Loss”

Theme: Loss.

It can be loss of something precious to you in your life, person, object, position in society or a lifestyle through circumstances beyond your control.

Word Count: 1,200

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***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Amy Meyer per the Writing Prompt Roster.

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123 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Loss”

  • Carrie Zylka

    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked here within 24 hours after your posted it, please let us know as we may have missed the comment.)

    • Good job Carrie. I feeling need of such list since when I joined.
  • I have already written something that would fit this prompt: A letter I wrote to my son a couple of days after he died.

    Would this be considered an appropriate entry?

    I’m not sure what the rules are regarding a writing piece that was written before the prompt was announced.

    Disclaimer: kleenex would be required.

    • Carrie Zylka

      Yes, that would fit this prompt.
      It doesn’t matter when it was written, as long as it hasn’t already been submitted to a previous prompt in our contest.

  • This is the letter I wrote to my son a couple of days after he died. I changed a couple of parts from the original due to personal or extremely painful details.

    This is my true story of heartfelt loss. (WC 722)

    Until We Meet Again © 2018 by J.H. O’Rourke

    From the moment I learned of your existence, I loved you.

    I remember feeling you move as you grew inside my body. I would caress my belly as you hugged me from within. Each day, I loved you more.

    It was early on a summer morning in 1995 when you came into the world, into my arms. You were perfect, but I already knew that. I loved you so much that I could barely see you through my tears of happiness and elation.

    I watched you grow and learn and develop. I protected you and took care of you. You fascinated me with your intelligence, sense of humor, and amazing, unique personality. I loved you more with each passing day.

    I was so proud of your accomplishments. Your grades in school, your self-taught learning of how to play the piano, the hours you spent teaching yourself computer programming. My little boy, my youngest child, my baby boy forever, was growing up. And I loved you. During the good times and the bad, my love for you continued to grow.

    When I watched you accept your high school diploma, I loved you. My heart was filled with a mother’s pride.

    When you left for university, I cried. My tears were those of happiness for you, the knowledge that I would miss you, and love. So much love.

    When you came home to me to finish your extended studies online, I cried. I was so happy to have you back with me. There for me to hug everyday. To talk to. God, I loved you so much my sweet boy.

    Then something terrible happened. You fell in with the wrong crowd. You loved the wrong girl. Someone who treated you so badly and made you feel so worthless that you swallowed a bottle of pills on a stormy spring day. But one of your friends found out and got you to the hospital on time. With every cell of my being I tried to help you get better, to save you, to show you how important you were, how much you mattered to so many. Because I loved you more than life, more than anything.

    And I thought you were getting better. I thought the treatment was working. You assured me you were okay. You were enjoying life again. You promised. You convinced me. I believed you. And the heaviness in my heart began to fade. I was so relieved. Because I loved you with all my heart and soul.

    But then I got the call. Just last month. The worst call ever. You had jumped off a bridge. You weren’t going to make it. You were being rushed to the hospital. You were unresponsive. You were on life support. You were going to leave me. I loved you more than ever as I rushed to the hospital to be at your side, to say goodbye.

    I got to spend an hour with you before your heart stopped beating. You never woke up. They left the room so that only you and I and your Dad were there. I flashbacked to the day you were born. The first day I saw you. After everyone left the room and it was just the three of us and I nursed you for the first time. Then reality came crashing back. I begged you not to leave me. I pleaded with God to take me instead. I would have given anything for you to stay. I loved you so much that it was physically painful.

    Then you died. You became an angel. You left all of your suffering behind and entered paradise. You were finally at peace. My heart shattered the moment you left me. Because I loved you. More than anything, more than life. I loved you with my entire being. No one could have loved you more.

    I will always love you. Always. I will think of you everyday. I will cherish the memories we have made together. A part of me died with you, leaving me with a wound that will never heal. I loved you my sweet baby boy and always will.

    Rest in peace, my angel. I loved you more than you could ever know or understand. And I always will.

    Until we meet again…

    Love always,

    • Dear Jean, I was thinking that you must be a happy person. That I guessed seeing your profile photo. But I noted that there is a huge agony in your heart. Generally, we start reading story interestingly based on the first meaning of title. But in this case I started with pain. Result was already out curiosity was there for how it happened. Frankly speaking there is no medicine or counseling for such pain. Only time will take care of it.
      I propose not to take this story for evaluation. It is above the evaluation. It is part of your heart.
      • Thank you Nam. Looks can be deceiving. My son seemed perfectly okay after our first scare in April and during the intensive therapy and treatment that his father and I were ensuring he received. But he wasn’t. And I can look happy and smile and laugh, but my heart is not in it. I’m not happy. My smiling and laughing is fake. Like my son’s was, I suppose.
        Part of my heart is gone forever.
    • Absolutely Jen. Poignant and very raw. Words fail here.
      • Thanks Ilana. You are right, there simply are no words.
    • Ken Cartisano
      Unlike other fatal illnesses, the disorders that cause suicide are such that the survivors are collateral victims as well. Leaving them initially traumatized, with lingering feelings of guilt, remorse, regret, anger, recrimination, helplessness, even depression. It is a widely misunderstood illness that garners too little funding and research. Unlike other illnesses, the patient, as often as not, looks fine. In fact, their talent, intelligence and other intrinsic qualities make it hard for anyone to understand, and impossible for some to feel an appropriate amount of sympathy.

      They say things like, “I can’t believe it! He had so much to live for.” Well, duh. Ya’ think?

      You have my sincere sympathy, Jen. I know how you feel. Really, I do.The only thing that will heal your anguish is time, and positive experiences. Give yourself as much time to grieve as you need, grief progresses with the relative speed of a glacier, but allow yourself to laugh. It’s important to remember that you’re not the only victim. And no one, ever, is to blame.

      • Thank you Ken. Your words ring so true. I really appreciate your note. It’s hard not to blame yourself, especially when the person who has committed suicide is your own son. The ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’ are questions that torment me daily. I feel like I, as his mother and the person who cared for him more than any other could, should have been able to stop him. That’s where logic and emotion take completely different paths and are not in any way in sync.
    • A very poignant eulogy, Jen. And concludes with words with certain truth, for sure.
      Eloquence amidst raw feeling.
      My sincere sympathies and best wishes for time to bring some measure of healing.
    • Alice Nelson

      Beautiful Jen, the love you have for your son pours out of this story. My condolences, this is wonderful tribute to your son.

      • Thank you Alice. I miss him everyday. And wonder when (and if) this will ever get easier.
  • Operation Successful:
    (995 words)

    Kumar was most liked person in the community. It is because he was kind hearted and helpful to others. He noticed a cardiac problem and doctor suggested for surgery. The date was fixed one month ago and today was the operation date.
    Kumar’s mother was the first wife of his father, but she returned back to her mother’s home after some time. His father married another wife. Second wife died after giving birth of few children. During mourning Kumar’s mother joined the family as per the tradition. She stayed a few days more and got pregnant. She came back to mother’s home and gave birth of Kumar. After then Kumar’s father married two other wives and all had some children. Hence, Kumar relates to both homes of his parents. Kumar’s father is no more, but his other three brothers treated him as family and helped when needed.
    I thought I should also go to the hospital at the time of operation. I felt so because Kumar was so kind person. He used to purchase biscuit and feed street dogs. My wife also seated on the back of a motor bike. Cardiac hospital is located on the other side of Kathmandu. Crossing whole city we reached there in an hour. It was office time and traffic was also more than normal. It was about 4:00 PM when we reached the hospital. His both families were already there. I was not personally acquainted personally with his family to father’s side. I got time to become familiar with them. I came to know that Kumar was taken to the Operation Theater (OT) at 2:00PM and operation would take 3 to 5 hours. I got a chance to talk to the visitors.
    Suddenly, I heard a loud voice near the gate of OT. A man with a white coat and white mask in the mouth was crying, “You cannot compare with other patient, case is different, you are suspecting us”. I noticed that Kumar’s son was there. It seems that he asked for the reason why the operation is taking a longer time for his father where as other two already completed.
    I heard that Kumar’s son was asking politely, “What I said, I just wanted to know the update”. Maybe he was little aggressive in the beginning now he is polite and fear.

    “No, no, you were suspecting in our capacity” Doctor continued. He was not in the mood of being polite.
    Few people Patients side dragged to Kumar’s sons away from the gate.
    One of the visitors said “it would be better if they has updated about the status of the operation, if not they could answer positively to the boy about status of operation instead of being hyper”
    Another visitor said, “We can expect that in the private hospital where we spend lots of money. The hospital would be equally conscious of taking care of visitors. Here in the government hospital such operation is completely free. They need to handle many patients. They just concentrate on patient not to visitors.
    Another said, “Yes, that is true someone must be wise, hence it is better for us to be calm”.
    Kumar’s son became normal hearing conversation.

    I thought, that way doctors will be at risk. If the operation is unsuccessful visitors will be angry and act upon medical group.
    Visitors were waiting to hear news that “operation is successful” as they had already heard two times before said to family of other patients who entered OT at the same time. I noted that there was a question mark in every bodies face. I went outside of the building in the fresh air. There was a very well managed park within Hospital compound. I observed squirrel jumping from a tree to the ground. Generally, squirrel is not found in Kathmandu. I was happy to see Squirrel. I looked here and there and found a squirrel under the chair. A couple was eating chick peas and throwing some for the pigeons. The squirrel was catching some of them being hidden under the chair which I observed, but the couple did not notice. I took some photographs. It was getting dark. Park was getting empty. I moved to a seat between two trees. The place was quiet because there was nobody in the park. After some time, I suddenly hear a noise. I noticed that there was violence at the door of OT. I knew that the operation was unsuccessful. Kumar’s son was extremely violent. This time others were also on his side. I thought it is not wise to try for making him calm this time. I left hospital because there was nothing that I could do to handle the situation. I left them to handle because the situation was not in my control now. I quickly went down and came back to the same place in the park.

    Assuming the situation to become normal. I recalled the part of the history I had in mind about Kumar. Heart filled with agony. Normally, people remember only good points of the people when died. It may be because one already died is very calm and not in a position to react. It was a great loss because I was not ready for his death. It is a good hospital and the case was normal. It was a planned operation.
    Telephone ringed in my pocket. It was from my wife.
    “Where are you”, she said harshly as if there is a good news.
    “I am in the park”
    “Operation successful”
    I said “thank god” last episode was just a dream.

    I quickly went to OT. I quickly took photographs. I wanted to capture happy faces of visitors and compare with the faces with question marks before. I took a special photo with, Kumar’s wife. There was a great change. It was full bright now. She was the only person would be in full loss if the operation was unsuccessful.

    • Interesting. It might be good to work on this story through the use of dialogue. Show rather than tell. I like the anti climatic point, but again you can use dialogue to show that. Well done.
    • Ken Cartisano
      I would keep Kumar and the squirrel, but edit out the street dogs. Just kidding. Seriously though, the grammar’s got a few kinks in it. A little under-processed. You need to put it back in the Cuisinart (blender) for another minute or so. I can appreciate the timbre of the tune, but it’s difficult to appreciate the story with such choppy writing. You have many more days yet to work on it if you so desire.
      • Ken, I also think that it could be litter better in terms of grammar and writing. It is result of off off writing. I will try to improve in the nest story. Other wise story becomes “lost and found”. Thanks for the suggestion.
    • I agree with both Ilana and Ken, Nam.

      I think it’s good practice when you write a story not to rush it into print but after the first draft leave it a while to reflect and rework.
      Editing is every bit as important as inspiration. Time to think how the story is being told. How best to present different characters’ points of view, whether thorough description or first person narration or dialogue.
      And to polish the language: grammar (especially your use of the definite article), spelling, weeding out infelicities, etc.
      Edit for structure and flow.
      The end result will be something much more polished – you have the ideas underneath, it’s just a question of letting the words do justice to them. It’s worth having the patience to get the quality, don’t you think?

    • Nam, I can tell that there is a great story here, you just need to work on grammar and structure. Ilana is right, if you decide to re-work the story, try using more dialogue, that will give your story a better flow. Still, a nicely done story that just needs some tweaking.
    • Dear Nam Raj,
      Sorry, I came to find your story just a while ago. Anyway, I have gone through. I like your description of the couple feeding pigeons in the park with the squirrel underneath the chair but that’s all about it. Let me see if I got it all right, in the first place.
      Kumar was the the son of his father from his first wife. She left him. He married twice more. You visited the hospital on the day of his operation as you liked him for feeding birds. Your wife accompanied you. After the drama in front of the OT, you learnt from your wife that the operation was a success and all was well with the world.
      Now my question is other than the loss his father incurred when Kumar’s mother left him, there is no sense of loss being conveyed through anything else in the rest of the story. Had the operation been unsuccessful, there would have been a major loss. So, will it be right on my part to opine that the story is not really prompt-based and even if it is, owing to his mother’s separation, that is not what the story revolves around. The protagonist is Kumar and he doesn’t suffer from any loss as such!
      Please forgive me if I appear to be acting the Big Bro here. I love critiquing stories and what I consider to be the flaws in them very seldom escape my notice. But the people in the know, seem to like your stories and so long as you have their approval, what do I matter?
      The best way to be a creditable story writer is by writing one story after another. All the best with your story.
  • Dan Carroll
    The age of Television
    I miss my dad. Every day. Miss talking to him on the phone. Miss being able to confide in him. I miss trying to make him proud of me. That’s bullshit, I’m still trying to make him proud of me.
    I guess it was around 1970 or so, one summer morning our home was changed forever. My sweet Mom went to the front door and swung it open, then pinned open the screen door with that little washer that NEVER held. Shortly afterwards, Grandpop and Dad came grunting through the entry carrying (barely) an enormous piece of square furniture. It took a moment for us little monsters to realize it, but we were looking at our first color TV!
    Us Carroll kids were probably the original inspiration for the term “ rugrats “. All six of us would gather in the living room to view our new form of entertainment, but Mary and I were the only ones to actually sit on the couch. Matthew, Patty, Kathleen and John were strewn about the room in various states of undress with the scent of diapers and sour milk a constant presence. I also recall some near death battles over whose Blankie was whose.
    Anyway, the TV was a hit!! We watched lots of baseball- the Met’s on Channel 9- but Sunday was our big day. After mass that morning, us kids would all disappear for baseball games, Big Wheel rides, swimming at the lake, or in Patty’s case, a secluded nap.
    Eventually, we’d all end up back inside while Mom whipped up dinner. Grandpop was always there enjoying a cold beer or Manhattan, and sometimes he even bought Grandma, which we loved because then there would be cake!
    After dinner I remember pop laying with us on that 60’s carpet ( you’ve all seen it) watching those great old shows with us. “Gentle Ben “ , “Disney “ , and later, “The Walton’s “. We all treasured that family time.
    When pop laid down with us we’d all pile on his back and try to pin him- in that moment- forever. Then Dad would let out a tremendous exaggerated grunt…I think it was exaggerated, and slowly do a push up while us kids tumbled off one by one.
    I never really rolled off. I distinctly remember his rough 5:00 shadow, because he didn’t shave on Sunday’s and because I had discovered that the best way to hang on was to get a death grip around his neck.
    Those were the best days of my life, without question. Before taxes, before politics, before I knew stress.
    As we aged, the shows grew more mature too. “ Laugh In “ and “ Benny Hill “ come to mind with Pops and Matt in hysterics. They were both Kids at heart, always. Dad NEVER stopped laughing at Bugs Bunny and Donald Duck or Tim Conway on the Carol Burnett Show. I guess when you’ve got half a soccer team depending on you a good belly laugh goes a long way.
    We lost Dad about six months ago, but we have been, and are, truly blessed. I am thankful for my life- and family- each and every day. But damn, I sure wish I could grab onto Pop’s neck just once more, cause I’d never let go.
    • Dear Dan, If we stop the present for some time and recall our own life there are so many stories. Most interesting stories because all them we experienced. Actually best stories are those which can be experienced. You extracted part of a life stories. Most pain full story on the life is the moment when we loss parents. Interesting story in deed.
      • Dan Carroll
        Thank You!
    • Ken Cartisano
      Wonderful expression of sentimental memories. Very natural writing. I loved the ending. As for the TV shows, some of our favorites were ‘The Defenders’, ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘The Twilight Zone, ‘The Andy Griffith Show,’ ‘I Love Lucy,’ ‘The Rifleman,’ ‘The Real McCoys,’ ‘Mr. Ed.’ ‘Real Stories of the FBI.’ ‘The Invaders.’ ‘The Avengers,’ and my all-time favorite, ‘The Bugs Bunny Comedy Hour.” Course, we got our first TV back in 1957 or 1958. I think we got our first color TV in 1965 or 1966. About the time we got our first air-conditioner. (In Miami.) Back in those days, (right after the last dinosaur up and croaked) we somehow (I swear I don’t know how) survived on Iced Tea and cold watermelon, and swore that the man who invented the oscillating fan was a genius beyond comprehension.
      My childhood was not as idyllic as yours, but your story prompted a host of pleasant childhood memories none-the-less.
      Those were the days.
      • Dan Carroll
        Much appreciated, the hurt is real for all of us, but I wanted to keep the memories positive. He passed last November.
    • Very evocative writing, Dan. Carried me right along.
    • Dan, what a wonderfully nostalgic look back on a happy moment from childhood. The story flowed nicely and when you described the scene of grandpa and dad bringing home the TV, that was well done. I think you could’ve continued with that descriptive tone when you talked about the old 60s carpet. It would’ve been cool if you described this carpet, what it looked like, what it felt like, drawing us even further your memory. Some of us haven’t seen it, and even if we have, boy would the memories come flooding back with a descriptive scene.

      Nice job Dan, and thanks for sharing such sweet memories.

    • Beautifully written, Dan. The key to the whole story is the last line. How I wish I could have written something similar about my late father to show my love and respect for him!
      Unless someone comes out with something more soul-soothing, more sublime at the eleventh hour, you are my favourite for the top three. All the very best wishes.
  • Just signing up for posts.
  • Ambushed by Absence

    There are but few memories of the eight years I knew him. One day everything was as it should be. Then at night I woke, hearing a knocking at the door. A policeman.

    ‘Go back to bed’.

    I didn’t sleep. Then not long before dawn, people arriving – my parents’ closest friends, up from London. I could sense something was not right, and my mother told me. “Your Daddy’s not going to be coming home …”

    Somehow this strong man, twenty years in the army, who fought in North Africa, Italy, and Germany, who witnessed the liberation of Belsen concentration camp, died on a roadside when his heart simply gave out.

    Ambushed by absence, somehow we move forward. In our case, like many in those days, by never speaking of him, or only a little. Always fearful of upset, of emotion exposed too raw. For some thirty years we never spoke of him, except for three or four funny stories my mother would recount. Perhaps she wanted us to pick up the thread and ask about him. But without the words, without a lead to show us the way, we could not.

    Considered too young to be allowed to the funeral, his passing was both real and unreal. I would look for him sometimes. A neighbour took me to football matches, and I would spend time looking through the crowd, hopeful of seeing him, knowing also it was a forlorn hope. Then I would construct fantasies about his being called back into the army, sent on secret missions, so secret not even the family could know.

    Grief had been side-lined, and closure a concept not yet invented.

    Memories are always part reconstructions. Sense impressions held in a framework of connections to sound, colour, smell, affection, time – and then conjured up, often with a good helping of imagination. False connections are made. Second-hand accounts fuse into one’s own recollections. Fragments of dreams can be woven in, or previous imaginings. And in my case, the foundation material comes from the mind of a child. In children, imagination and feeling overwhelm the limited experience we have as we encode our memories.

    And yet – I do have scattered memories I wish to trust.

    Every morning he was the first to wake. I was usually the second. Or sometimes, lying awake, waiting for him to move. He would prepare the house for the family. Light the boiler and start a fire in the hearth. I remember shivering on cold mornings as he showed me how to do this, rolling newspaper to start the fire, place kindling and coals; the smell of the matches and the smoke as the fire took.

    Then he would polish the shoes for the whole house. As a military man, unpolished shoes were unthinkable! He showed me what I have believed ever since to be the correct technique. It was something I always did until I discovered in my college days the insouciant cool of scruffy footwear.

    Every morning he would bring my mother tea in bed, a duty I later took over. I remember one time while the kettle boiled, he carried me to the bottom of the garden. I must have been about four years old, and he held me high, so my head was slightly above his. My left hand held onto the back of his neck. It was a misty morning, chill, and must have been springtime. We could barely make out the woods beyond, and my father pointed in the direction of the birds he heard singing through the mist. We heard the first cuckoo of the year, as he said. He explained about where cuckoos lay their eggs, and I was angry with the cuckoos.

    Another early morning, I awoke to the sound of hammering. My father was making a wooden slide for my sister’s birthday. It would become a feature in our garden, and wickedly I would taunt my sister that I slid down it before she ever did.

    I have scattered memories of his taking me to football games – he coached the works’ team. He had risen from lorry driver to transport manager, and even on Saturday would call in to supervise the maintenance of the delivery lorries. I remember him talking with the mechanics, lifting me down into the pit to see underneath the lorries. The smell of the workshop grease, fuel and metal are still with me.

    My memories of him, though, are sparse in the year or two before he passed. He changed jobs to manage a petrol station and workshop. He worked long hours, 12 hours a day or more, and I was often on my way to bed as he returned home.

    And then – he was gone. I often wonder, what were his expectations, his dreams, his hopes for himself and his family? I have no knowledge of the man as one adult to another, and no way to ask.

    I know I have followed in his footsteps in some respect, not least in being the first up and preparing the day for the household. I took an active interest in football almost from the day he died, as if somehow to establish a bond.

    Yet mostly he remains large in my imagination because of the void he left behind.

    And then I think again. The void must have been so much greater for my mother, yet she took on the role of mother and father for her three children. Enduring hardship, refusing social benefits, taking responsibility entirely on her own shoulders, putting money aside so I could go to college.

    The power of my father’s absence, the salvaged and unreliable memories, are really a backdrop to the enduring care and unbroken memories I have of the unbreakable parent who remained.

    • Correct me if I am wrong, Andy, but “Ambushed by Absence” seems more like a memoir to me than a story. A story should have a strong conflict. No conflict, no story. I failed to find the conflict unless it is an inner conflict in the mind of the narrator.
      I like the autobiographical elements of your stories. If your delineation of the mother’s character last time was memorable, that of your late father’s here, is equally impressive. The magical moments and memories of the father-son relationship of just eight years, is marvellously recaptured. The last paragraph confirms my belief that the incidents described here are more real than you would have us believe.
      P.S: You are a good friend, Andy, and a gentleman in the truest sense of the term. My sincerest apologies if anything I have stated above, hurts you. Far be it even from my thoughts!
      Your remaining, unbreakable mom, must be extremely proud of having a son like you.
      With love and good wishes.
      • Thanks for your perceptive comments, Rathin.(Not a hint of offence given or take, no worries!)

        Conflict as essential to drama – you seem to be referring to Aristotle’s view. But I think the word “conflict” loses something in translation from the Greek. “Agon” he said, is key to drama. Hence stories (dramatic works) usually have a “protagonist” and “antagonist”. But “agon” means struggle or contest. “Conflict” is perhaps too narrow as a translation. One can struggle in various ways.

        And, of course, just because Aristotle said it (and many others since), doesn’t mean we have to agree. It’s one view.

        When you think about it, we tell stories all the time. Some true, some false, some half-true, historical, fictional … etc etc. Not all are dramatic, with heroes and villains. It’s whatever we recount.

        I think my story is about memories – the blending of memory and imagination. Memories are inevitably reconstructions. Often it’s hard to be know what actually happened, what we have invented (our personal fictions), and what is the truth or fiction we import from others stories …

    • Wow I loved this, it was like a page out of a journal. I love the beginning when you all find out about your father, I could envision the little Andy confused and scared with adults coming and going. You give us a peak at a part of your life that I’ve not seen. So well done.

      This one sentence stuck out for me…a word missing maybe?
      “In our case, like many in those days, by never speaking of him, or only a little.”

      Still loved it my friend.

  • Dean, It is a nice story. You said it as non fiction story. I prefer to say non fiction of the fiction. When we write fiction story we imaging my intention. Here what you have observed is also a fiction but it was non intention.
  • Andy, You covered many of the important times between father and daughter with feelings. It was interesting. I was thinking on the point: “—–no way to ask”. If you see deeply on the memories you have recalled here you can find what was exceptions for your father for him and his family specially for her daughter”.
      • Short answer: I think it should have been “son” in place of “daughter”. Comments of Andy also indicated so.

        Long answer: If we assume it as autobiography then we need to understand character “I” as writer. If we read only story charter “I” can be either son or daughter. Any way I go with answer first in this case.

        • I think your long answer is right also, Nam. Could be either.
          But (not joking this time) interesting you assumed the narrator is a daughter – perhaps the narrator has a female voice/sensitivity?
    • Ken Cartisano

      A very fine and heartfelt story. The specific memories that you cite with such eloquence paint a picture of a wonderful man, great husband and devoted father. A man whose sudden absence would create a lifelong emotional vacuum, or stasis that, being in it, you probably didn’t even know it. Your ending does you credit for acknowledging in the end, the final analysis, the other parent. Your mom. The one who had to persevere.

      As for the other comment, I’m not going to argue about something as stupid, and OBVIOUS, as the gender of the author. (Especially if you won’t.)

      • Many thanks, Ken
  • Clearly, this is a prompt that’s crying out for —– hmmm. Humor? I don’t want to write about all the things I’ve lost. And to pick just one requires a lot of soul searching. (Which I’ve already done and there’s nothing there.) I had a bucket truck, once. I loved that truck so much I dreamed about it after it was gone. In my dream I’m staring at the truck’s tire, which is flat, and a guy walks up to me and says, ‘Mmm, that’ll cost ya. Looks like you’re going to have to replace that tire.” And I say, “Nope, it’s not my truck anymore.”
    Weird huh?
    Loss is defined as ‘a state, a fact, or a process.’
    I think of it as an inevitable consequence of existence and/or consciousness.
    But I’m a simple man. Simple and weather beaten. Hey! I could write about my loss of self-esteem! It’s recent, very fresh in my memory! No, I only have 1200 words, it would be over before I’d really begun.
    Loss of sanity seems logical. But that requires an initial state of sanity for a plot. I could do it, but would it be believable? We think not.
    I’m determined to keep this fictional.
    • Carrie Zylka

      I’m going the humor route too!

      I’m currently working on two different stories.

      One where a tall blonde loses her keys.
      One where a tall blonde from Wisconsin loses her mind over a guy who lives in Florida.

      IDK which one will finish first but even the one that loses will be awesome…..

      See what I did there?
      I friggin crack myself up!!!!

      • Ken Cartisano
        Well, Carrie, I suspect (because I’m a little slow) that you have folded a disguised insult into something that sounds like a compliment. (A pretty neat trick, that.) But it’s just a suspicion.

        Speaking confidentially, and strictly off the cuff, I like the second idea better because the ‘woman’ is from Wisconsin. And everyone knows that women from Wisconsin are warm and wonderful. (Despite her withering wit, this makes her instantly sympathetic.)

        Perhaps you could blend the two ideas into one and have a woman from Wisconsin mindlessly lose herself in the Florida Keys? The guy is strictly optional. (Hint: There’s only one road in, and one road out, which ultimately proves that she’s a natural blonde. Hoo-hah. Fist pump.)

        However it works out, I don’t doubt that it’ll be awesome. (You nut.)

    • Loss of self-esteem? You should worry. I’ve lost my manhood.
      Just getting used to my new gender identification as someone’s daughter.
      Fun to try on the new clothes though.
      (Hmm, do I have this tube top on the right way round?)
      • Sorry, that was a reply to Ken.
        Just another tall blonde losing his/her mind ..
      • Ken Cartisano
        As a man, I can tell you with a high degree of confidence, and observational awareness, that there’s no wrong way to wear a tube top. (Or right way, for that matter.) Unless you’re a guy. Which I think you are. So forget about it. (I know what you’re doing, you’re trying to make me forget about my own condition. And it’s working. What was it now? Water-logged? Were-wolved? Ah yes, I remember now, weather beaten!
        You can stop now. Five minutes ago I was thinking of Carrie in a black leather suit, a golden bandolier strapped across her chest, holding a metal detector, wearing giant earphones, kicking sand into other women’s faces with her spit-polished army boots, now I can’t stop thinking of you wearing a tube top. This is horrible, not too mention distressing. Why would you do this to me? I thought you were my friend, fiend is more like it.
        • Well, sir, it seems you may lack experience in the tube top department, as they can contain structural support elements (mostly unneeded in my case) which may be unsightly and out of place at the back or sides, or points between.
          Meanwhile, I’m struggling with these high-waisted contoured leggings. Possibly some leg-shaving ought to have to preceded trying them on? And the zip is at the side – am I to become a contortionist?

          Rest assured, Ken, I shall cease this gender experimentation. I borrowed these items from the students in the house opposite. And shall return them to their washing-line tonight.

          • Ken Cartisano
            Talk about cross-dressing and gender identification, it has been noted by many people over the course of my lifetime that I bear a striking resemblance to my mother: Much more so when I was younger.

            At the age of 17 I needed a job and my mother worked at an art factory. This is not a misnomer. It was a large, old and very dirty factory that mass-produced ‘art’ for large department stores. Crap, in other words. Both my mom and I have artistic talent which we’ve both pursued as a hobby.

            Well, my mother had worked at this factory for a couple of years, and owing to her schooling, obvious talent, and knowledge, she was quickly promoted from her initial position in the background department to the silk-screen department, then the finishing department, and finally the artistic design department. With each successive promotion she was given a raise and moved to cleaner, nicer areas of the factory.

            She broke her leg while we were on vacation the year I graduated from high school, upon our return, she informed me that the factory was hiring and encouraged me to apply for a position. “At least you can make some money while you’re looking for a better job.” I agreed, put on a new pair of pants and clean white shirt, assuming I’d be interviewed. However, upon my arrival, they treated me like a celebrity, asked how my mom was doing, and told me I could start immediately. As in, ‘right now.’

            They introduced me to the factory manager, who led me directly to the background department. She took a look at my new clothes, pointed at a very large pile of clean rags and said, “You can probably find something in that pile to cover your clothes.

            To my good fortune, I found a pink dress that buttoned down the front. I stepped into it, buttoned it up over my shirt and pants, and within 20 minutes I was ensconced at my own paint station slopping out backgrounds and stacking them on a rack. An hour or two later, a man, the owner’s son it turned out, happened to be passing through the background department, upon seeing me at my station, he stopped dead in his tracks, stared at me for a moment, then turned on his heel and stormed back to the front office and began chewing out everyone in the front office. He was positively enraged that someone (and he demanded to know who,) had the audacity to move my mother back to the background department.

            When he stopped to catch his breath he was informed that the ‘woman’ he saw wearing the pink dress artlessly slopping out backgrounds, was not Winnie, but me, her son. He didn’t believe it at first. “No. That was Winnie I saw.” He was positive. Adament.
            Then he was reminded that my mother was out with a broken leg.

            I should mention that I had pretty long hair at the time, I was young, not much taller than her, slight of build, and unselfconsciously wearing a pink dress. It was not very well lit, and he never approached within less than fifty feet of me.

            Everyone had a really good laugh about it afterwards, especially my Mom.

          • Well Ken, that is indeed a funny and memorable story. You could weave it into one of your future pieces of fiction, I’m sure.
            As for the mistaken identity, I guess back then you were less weath … you were younger then 🙂
          • Alice Nelson

            Ken, that is a hilarious. Sounds like a good beginning to a great story!

  • Dean Hardage
    Lost Not

    I didn’t put it together at first. My work with the accelerator, the quantum variation experiments, the accident that exposed me to the field. It took a while to figure out exactly what was going on. Perhaps it was the passing of my mother that made it apparent.

    A head of short, grey hair in the corner of my eye. I turned quickly, convinced it was her, even thinking I saw her face. Even as I looked again, I knew I was wrong. Worse, I knew I couldn’t be right. I turned back to his car with a regretful shake of my head to finish loading the trunk from the full cart.

    It happened again the next day. I was walking through the local big box store, looking for some things for the house. At the end of the aisle I saw a small, older lady with gray hair pushing her own cart and talking to another lady beside her. For an instant I thought it was her, but just as quickly realized it wasn’t. Just another trick of mind and memory, or so I thought.

    It happened again a few days later. I was walking across the parking lot at Lowe’s and it happened. I saw a small, older lady with grey hair and just for a second I saw my Mom. Now she passed a couple of weeks ago and reality set in after barely a second but, for that second, she was alive again for me.

    I thought it would fade over time, you see, just the normal actions of a grieving mind. That is, until the time I saw her and she looked at me and smiled. I started toward her only see her become someone else again, just in time for me to abort my action without looking too foolish. A few day later someone tapped me on the shoulder, I turned just in time to see her vanish like the memory I thought she was.

    I’d told everyone at work about it, of course. We’re a close group and it helped to share things with them. Several weeks after mom’s passing the Director called me into her office. She asked me if I was still seeing Mom. When I told her I had, she took me to the lab to run some tests. The look on her face when the results were analyzed was one of curiosity and a little concern.

    “Somehow you’ve become a little…unstuck.”

    “What does that mean?” I asked, concerned and a little afraid.

    “Well, at random intervals you seem to…shimmer…on a quantum level. Consequently, you are in another quantum reality for a few seconds. You’re seeing alternate realities where…. your mom is still alive.”

    I was flabbergasted and torn between disbelief and a wild joy. It was almost like a miracle, knowing that somewhere in a place no one else could go, she was still with me. The Director said they didn’t know if the condition was permanent, if it would get worse, but that I would be checked frequently.

    Now I look forward to these episodes. Some people might find this distressing but I found an odd comfort in it. We never have time to speak, often she doesn’t see me, but I know that she’s alive and well in many of the myriad alternate realities that only I can see. Despite her passing, she’s no longer lost to me. Every time I see her, I try to give her one message. I love you, Mom.

    • Dang you’re doing it again, Dean. Fine writing, and very clever framing of deeply personal
      experience within a sci-fi narrative. Memories/alternative realities shimmering on a quantum level.
    • I am not someone with a science background, Mr. Dean, so it is difficult for me to fathom the reality. You started seeing your late mother in some gray-haired ladies momentarily, after her demise, right? That was understandable. What was not is what the Director told you after the lab tests.
      Anyway, I was exceedingly fond of my late Ma and the last line of “Lost Not” makes your love for your late mom palpably clear to all as well. People fond of their parents, whether alive or dead, have to be good at heart. Don’t you agree?
    • Alice Nelson

      Wow Dean, fantastic job. I loved how you describe those moments when you see your mother, and how she just vanishes into the actual person, that’s well done. All of this could be attributed to grief, but the real reason is fascinating. Great job!

  • Dean, Interesting story, again on science. Persons dealing with experiment on quantum variation see a person already dead but closely attached before death. There will be interpretation on same line as they are studying- alternate realities at random interval at quantum level—-. Good plot. If they were medical team they would explain in line with Hallucination in advance.
  • Roy York
    Just found out my email was ‘off’ for whatever reason and have not been receiving notifications. Sigh…so I’m going to try again and see if I get new ones after this.
  • Alice Nelson

    By Alice Nelson ©2018

    Anna Emery’s pregnancy was quite unexpected; not in the Virgin Mary immaculate conception kind of way, but a surprise nonetheless.

    She and Marcus had been very careful, always making sure they were using protection. But as Anna’s grandmother was often quoted as saying, “If you do the deed, there’s a chance he might plant his seed.”

    And 3 months after their first date Anna was pregnant, a month later, they were married. Not long after that, they were on the verge of a divorce.


    Charles Braden Emery was born during one of those times when the marriage was on the precipice of divorce. And when Charlie arrived, he cried relentlessly, as if knowing the life God had the nerve to deliver him into.

    Charlie was 3 months old the first time Anna and Marcus separated. When he was 6 months old, they were back together again, but basically living like glorified roommates; with Anna staying in Charlie’s room and Marcus sleeping alone in their king sized bed.

    Sure the fighting had lessened as they focused on the daily care and feeding of Charlie. But never in the history of babies, had one ever saved a marriage, especially one that cried as much as Charlie.


    Tuesday in the Emery house meant bath day, which also meant that Charlie would cry from 7pm, his bath time, until at least 9 O’clock.

    “Can you keep him quiet please,” Marcus said. There was a hint of aggravation in his voice that Anna did not care for.

    “What do you think I’m trying to do?” she responded, just as annoyed.

    “I have no idea, because he’s been crying since I got home.”

    “Then you try,” Anna said, plopping Charlie into Marcus’ lap. “Let’s see how you do while I’m gone.”

    “Where are you going?” Marcus asked.

    “Out!” Anna replied with a wave.


    “Are you coming or not?” Anna asked Marcus. He was getting ready for work, trying to avoid the conversation altogether. “It’s Charlie’s first birthday, I can’t even believe you’re thinking about not coming.”

    Anna wanted to throw Charlie a giant spectacle, with a bouncy house, clowns, and a cake twice his size. But as usual, she and Marcus were arguing about it, nowadays they argued over just about everything.

    “Anna, I think… ”

    “You think what Marcus?”

    “I think it’s a mistake.”

    “You think it’s a mistake to celebrate our child? Maybe it’s a little over the top, but he deserves it, our Charlie deserves this!”

    “He does,” Marcus said quietly, “But I won’t be here Anna, I…I just can’t.”


    Anna was waiting in the living room when Marcus came home. He noticed that the food and the cake from the party was barely touched, he wasn’t surprised.

    “Where were you?” She demanded. “Fucking whatever whore girlfriend you found?”

    “There’s no one else Anna, there never has been.”

    “You missed his birthday. You should’ve been here,” the anger had subsided, and was replaced by a terrible sadness.

    Marcus pulled out a business card, and handed it to Anna. “I’ve been seeing a therapist, that’s where I was today. She thinks it would be good if you came with me.”

    Anna stared at Marcus in disbelief, “I don’t need a therapist, if you want to waste your time be my guest. But the truth is Marcus, I think what I need is a good lawyer.”

    Anna threw the card at Marcus, and rushed upstairs to see Charlie. He’d been so quiet lately, so much easier these days. He didn’t even wake up after their argument like he usually did.

    “Good night baby,” Anna said.

    She took a couple of Ambien, and fell into a deep sleep.


    Anna’s head was throbbing when she woke up, her throat was dry, her lips, cracked and bleeding. She heard what sounded like wood splintering, and instinctively reached for Charlie.

    The police rushed in, followed by Marcus.

    Anna’s mind was still pretty foggy, but she tried to stand up and stop them from going to the crib —but it was too late.

    “Dear god,” the officer gasped, as she lifted something from the crib; something wrapped in one of Charlie’s old blankets.


    Marcus got the call at work around 4 pm.

    “Mr. Emery, it’s Jonathan Perry from Oceanview Mortuary.”

    “Uh yes, what can I do for you?”

    “Well Mr. Emery, I…I don’t know how to say this, but your son’s grave has been disturbed.”

    “Disturbed, what do you mean, disturbed, how?”

    “Uh…well it seems that someone has taken the child’s body.”

    “How could you let this happen?”

    “It was late, and no one was here, but we had CCTV cameras installed a few years ago after some kids vandalized a few of the grave sites.”

    “Then you know who did this, why haven’t you called the police?”

    “Well Mr. Emery, we haven’t called police because it appears the culprit was your wife.”

    Anna’s eyes were wild, as she leapt at the officer, “Give him to me!” she screamed, “Give me my baby!”

    The officer relented, and Anna cradled Charlie the way she did when he was born and the doctor placed him in her arms. The way she did on the night she found him in his Scooby-Doo onesie, cold to the touch, his skin a deathly shade of blue.

    Tears streamed down Anna’s face, she looked up helplessly at Marcus, “Do you think he would’ve liked his party?”

    Marcus nodded, “Yes honey, he would’ve loved it.”


    The night Charlie died, Anna left the house, fed up with Marcus, fed up with Charlie, fed up with her whole life. She only intended to be gone for an hour or so, but didn’t return until the following morning. Nothing improper happened, unless you consider getting a hotel room so you can finally get some uninterrupted sleep, improper.

    While Anna slept soundly for the first time in months, Marcus was at his wits end as he tried every trick known to man, to get Charlie to stop crying —but nothing worked.

    “Please be quiet Charlie, please,” Marcus said, he was exhausted. But Charlie’s shrill screams continued to echo throughout the house.

    At first, Marcus simply placed his hand over Charlie’s mouth, and when he continued to cry, Marcus increased the pressure by just a little, than a little more, until Charlie was finally silent.

    It was Anna’s anguished screams that woke Marcus. He couldn’t understand why she was yelling, then he saw that Anna was cradling Charlie’s limp body in her arms, and the memory of what occurred, of what he had done the night before, came flooding back.

    Marcus couldn’t move; he couldn’t get up to comfort Anna, and he definitely couldn’t look at Charlie. Instead Marcus turned his gaze away from Anna, who had fallen to her knees, and was crying hysterically.

    That’s when Marcus noticed it, the bag on the floor next to the crib. He knew exactly what it was, had seen the Penny Lane Toys logo a thousand times. He knew there was a gift inside, a gift for Charlie, who’s very first birthday was only a week away.

    • Alice chilling and so sad.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Ilana.

    • Good story. I remember the american peace corps volunteer in the beginning of my service life. Most of them said that their parents are not together. There was on who parent came together to met him and their were together. it would give very sad message to me. This story reminded. This is result of free society. It gives freedom to parents but loss binding force required to keep them together which is need of children.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Nam Raj.

    • Dean Hardage
      Makes my heart ache with anger and sadness.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thanks Dean, that’s exactly what the story is supposed to convey.

    • One of your special disturbing stories, Alice.
      The story starts with unfortunate characters in an unfortunate circumstances, and you can feel the chill building through the story, though as a reader you don’t know how it’s going to end, except badly. You have to read on but don’t entirely want to … Great stuff!

      Have your read any Penelope Fitzgerald? I’m just reading some of her short stories at the moment. This one has something of a similar feeling to some of hers: indeed more effective, I’d say.

      • Alice Nelson

        Andy my friend, thank you! It is a disturbing tale, glad you read until the end. Thank you for your kind words. I haven’t read any of Penelope Fitzgerald, but she sounds like an interesting read.

    • ‘Horrible/Horrendous Story of a Heartless Husband’ might aptly sum up your story, Alice. But that does not take away your clever handling of the theme and the lunatic responsible for such an unforgivable loss and crime. The truth is the world is full of such monstrous Marcuses. I do agree with the sentiment expressed through an earlier comment that you are besides yourself when you come across such heartless heroes.
      Anyway, your characterization of both Marcus and Anne is commendable. The portrayal of the later especially wins my heart. Thought for the day – Why is the story entitled “Perpetuity”? As far as I know, the word means ‘continuity’. Are they going to continue living together even after Charlie’s cold-blooded murder or will Marcus continue to make girls pregnant and stifle the new-borns due to his own frustration and incompetency? Whatever, kudos for this thriller. Happy weekend.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Rathin, for your kind and thoughtful words. I loved how you summed up the story as well. I called the story Perpetuity because I really liked the sound of the word, and it also means, “Lasting forever, or for eternity,” and I thought the pain that Anna feels, and maybe the guilt that Marcus might have will be with them both for the rest of their lives. I don’t know if they stay together, something tells me this couple doesn’t make it. Thank you again, and you also have a happy weekend.

        • Thanks, Alice. I could have simply acknowledged your response by clicking the ‘like’ button. But there is something underneath the lines that shows your honesty, straightforward ness and sincerity.
          I just can’t help sharing my feeling with you as regards your story. I’d like the couple to stay together. I believe in building relationships rather than in breaking up. If they have stayed together this long (inspite of Marcus sleeping separately, having grabbed the large-sized bed for himself), there is no reason why they shouldn’t try to weather the storm together for the rest of their lives as well. Besides, Marcus is human, after all. Most probably, he would have learnt his lessons by the time he sires another child. Whatever, the possibilities are endless. Nice story, Alice. Keep writing. Good luck with your story.
          • Alice Nelson

            Interesting take Rathin, I agree couples should work toward staying together, marriage is hard. I wonder though, if Marcus doesn’t tell Anna, his guilt may cause him to leave so he wouldn’t have to face what he did. However if he tells Anna, she may not be able to continue living with him. But you never know, they may be able to, with lots of therapy, be able to work through this and stay together. Let’s hope so.

    • Ken Cartisano
      Fabulous writing Alice,
      Poor Charllie. He never had a chance.
      This story details loss on several levels. The couple’s loss of a child. The man’s loss of self-control. The woman’s loss of sanity. You utilize the timeline in a very deceptive way. (forcing me to THINK! Damn you.)

      In the final section that begins with: ‘The night Charlie died…’ In the second paragraph, you accidentally used the the name ‘Amy’ instead of Anna. “While Amy slept soundly for the first time in months…’

      You’re welcome.
      Other than that, it’s a very nicely crafted story, Alice.

      • Alice Nelson

        Thanks Ken, I love what you said about the timeline because I was worried jumping back and forth might be confusing, but it seems as if everyone understood what what happening.

        I fixed the typo, nice eagle eyes.

  • Loss

    “Hit me, go on hit me! Pick up that bottle and hit me with it. Then see what your father will do.” She laughed. “Go on. I dare you to do it.”

    I fidgeted uncomfortably with waist-length plaits. My hands were sweating and I felt my breath catching in my chest. My mother sat on the edge of the verandah sneering at me. I did not want to obey her again. She was in one of her moods. Nothing I would do would be right. I was caught like a kangaroo in a shooter’s spotlight. My nine year old brain was spinning from the options presented to me. Hence my voice was muted.

    “Go on you little coward. Hit me. Let’s see what happens. Let’s see how brave you are?”

    She had been doing my hair before – plaiting it unbelievably tight against my skull.
    “Mum, it’s hurting. It’s hurting.”
    “Nonsense. You little drama queen, making a fuss about nothing.” She lifted the brush and tapped my head with it and then stretched the hair tight and began to plait my hair. It pulled strands of hair which came out. When I did not hold still she tapped my head with the heavy wooden brush.
    “You like hurting me. You do. Why?”
    “What rubbish you talk. Nothing, but rubbish. Little Miss Hypersensitivity. Oh, the drama of it all.”
    “Please. Please, Mum it hurts.”
    “I’ll show you what hurts.” She took the brush and wacked my head and shoulders several more times. “See that hurts, doesn’t it?” She is laughing at me.
    It ends when I walk away. That night my father talks to me about being rude to my mother and not treating her with respect. I love my father and do not argue with him. I will try not to make my mother angry or upset her again. I do not want to lose him too. It is a fine line to walk between two people who you could cause to separate and leave our family without a parent.
    Two weeks later – I had spent a couple of days mustering sheep with my father and the workmen. It was shearing time. The dry scorching heat of a Queensland January sucked you out. I used to love the peace of walking my horse through the bush, the slap of the leather reins, clip clop of hooves on the red sandy soil, weaving in between the grey mulga shrubs and sandalwood groves interspersed with great old box trees and tall gums looking for the merinos with their full wool coats in 40 C plus heat. Then finding the little mobs, you ease them gently down the bore drains to holding yards.
    When the sun rose high in the sky and baked the back of your shirt coated in the black bush flies, the sheep began to baulk, walking slower and slower, you knew it was time to camp for smoko lunch.
    While the adults circled and settled the mob of sheep, the kids shinnied off the ponies and collected wood which was lit by one of the adult musterers and the billies were filled with water. Every musterer usually had their own billy with a cap cup. When the billies boiled, a handful of tea was thrown into each one and then the billy lifted off the fire with a stick and placed besides its owner to brew thick black tea that “put hairs on yer chest.” Sugar again was put in and it was a pretty estimated affair. Some had it sweet and some like my father took it straight from the fire without. It was black tea made on artesian bore water and I remember the taste of it more than fifty years on.
    Lunch smoko took several hours until the heat was bearable to move. Some slept after lunch, Akubra hats down over their faces, leaning against a saddle or a log in the shade. Some people took the saddle off their horses and others just loosened the girth strap around the animal’s belly. Personally I liked to take the saddle off, because then the horse was free of its weight and could graze unencumbered and comfortable.
    The mustering was finished for a couple of days while the sheep were being shorn. I was home. She was in a mood again because I had been shirking my chores at home and been out in the paddock “running wild”.
    “You know, no one’ll ever want to marry someone like you. Apart from the fact, you’re not very attractive; you cannot keep a house for a man gallivanting around the paddocks.”
    I keep silent. I love her. She is the only mother I have, but she does not want me. I know what is coming. We do the washing, hang it out on the rotary hoist; I iron the handkerchiefs and my father’s shirts. I iron the pillow cases, our underpants (my father and brothers did not wear them until boarding school) and the tea towels. Once we finish, I might have replied in a way that upsets her. She cries. I stand silent before her and know I have this knack of upsetting her no matter what.
    “I should go back to Austria. I’ll take Steve with me. You and Christopher can stay with your father. You are both so Australian. Steve is like me. Then…” She whirls on me and points her finger at me waving it in my face, “You can keep house and cook and clean and wash and iron and sweep and cook and clean… Let’s see how you’ll like it. Hey, let’s see how you will like it then.”
    I am horrified and try not to show it. I am so bad. I am causing my mother to leave our home and my father and go back to what she calls her real home in the Austrian Alps of Salzburg. I must be such a horrid little girl, as she says. I try to do everything she wants, but it continues. She does not like me and I keep hoping that somehow she will see one or two redeeming features in me and I may be good for something.
    I know my grandmother loves me. I know my father loves me and I love my brothers, but my mother is an enigma. I am never worthy of her love. The brief respites I have with her, I believe for a while and then, she tosses me down like a broken toy that will never be right.
    I must have lost her love somewhere and somehow in the dim annals of the past, even another life.
    So how do you mend a broken heart?
    You stitch together the shattered pieces into one whole with kind words and deeds. You smile and say hello even if you do not know the person. You share and share until your heart is mended. Find another person whose heart is more broken than your own and ask God for blessings for them.

    • Good story, It is common story that one of the children feel that mother or father is do not love them. Here you did not blame mother instead try to find where the love have been lost, how to men broken heart. But it was not found. Good presentation.
    • Terrific writing, Ilana. I love it when your setting is Australian and here I get such a sense of a harsh life in a rural Australian setting. I love this.

      This story also brings to mind some of my recent reading, though in an entirely different setting: ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’. A bittersweet and also often humorous take on a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship which has long-lasting impacts. Highly recommended too!

      • Thanks Andy. High praise indeed. I will check out your recommendation too. 😊
    • Ken Cartisano
      A powerful, poignant story, Ilana. I love how you have woven detailed descriptions of the harsh Australian climate and the particulars of sheep-herding into the story to build a detailed picture of the narrators character. You don’t tell us she’s kind and decent, you show us.
      I have no idea what ‘musterers and billies’ are. Or a ‘cap cup’ or ‘smoko lunch.’ But, those specific details add authenticity to the overall description. (I gathered that they were making tea and waiting for the heat to abate.)
      I wonder if this story is auto-biographical in nature. I hope not the mother in this story is crazy. (If you ask me.) (Just my unlearned opinion.) Both Kim and I were treated rather badly by respective step-parents, but they weren’t crazy. Selfish, neurotic and dishonest maybe. But not crazy. I did not get the impression that this was a step-mother though, and that makes the circumstances all that more difficult for the child in your story.
      Excellent writing, my dear.
    • Alice Nelson

      Ilana a well done display of a difficult mother and daughter relationship, I felt for the girl who could do no right. Is this autobiographical? I sure hope not. You did a wonderful job of showing the tension in the girl, how she had to walk on egg shells never knowing what would set her mother off. I think I want to check out that book Andy recommended to, sounds interesting. Great job my friend.

  • Dear Carrie,
    I have just gone through the prompt and I am not sure if by ‘you’ or ‘your’, Ilana meant that the story has to be a First Person Narrative. Please find out and let me know before another story of mine gets screened out. Love.

    Loss – Who Was the Loser?

    “Life has a way of paying back. Good comes back to you when you do good. Bad doesn’t come back in equal measure though. A bad deed may result in a huge setback or an irreparable LOSS.”

    Mohan Mukherjee was his parents’ pride in his early childhood. They couldn’t stop gloating about him. Trisha Devi, his mother, thought the world of her son. As he grew up, his charisma drew girls of all shapes and sizes to him and they were simply prepared to eat out of his hand. They had reasons too. Hypnotically handsome, though dark in complexion, Mohan was bright, fun-loving and a delight to be around.

    Inspite of being born and bred in a rural area, his determination to succeed and compete with the best, saw him switching over to the state capital soon. His parents decided to let him stay with his maternal grandparents for higher studies. No sooner had he obtained his Master’s than he started looking for a job. Dame Luck was on his side and he got through the clerical exam for a banking job in his first attempt. As problems started cropping up at his grandparents’, he decided to stay away in a rented house on his own. Girls could never have enough of him considering it a sin to let him be. Concerned, Trisha Devi, thought of marrying her only child off to drive away his monotony and loneliness. They finally settled for Meera from amongst a thousand hopefuls. Mohan and Meera’s match, they told all and sundry, was heaven-made. The grand marriage ceremony kept the neighbours gossiping for days, if not months. Someone up in heaven, was greatly amused by the goings-on in the Mukherjee household.

    “Ma, you remember, how those bunch of beauties swooned over me – Pushpa, Reena, Tanuja just to name a few, and not to forget Seema? Those were the days, Ma, the days of my life,” chuckled Mohan, when he was holidaying at his birthplace, a few months after the wedding. “In fact, I still have some of those heart- breaking letters tucked in a suitcase somewhere in the attic,” he concluded good-humoredly.
    Meera, the newly-wedded wife, who was listening to the conversation quietly till then like a good wife is supposed to, got up and headed for the attic right away. Trisha Devi looked askance at her son, worry writ large on her face. She had already heard about her daughter-in-law’s temperamental tantrums. Meera came back after sometime, carrying the old suitcase in her hand. Looking totally unfuzzled, she opened the suitcase and made a pile of the letters, cards and envelopes, much to Mohan and Trisha Devi’s chagrin. Then she set a lighted matchstick to the pile.
    “Good riddance. End of the pre-marital courtship memories!” she exclaimed more to herself, looking at the flames. The family dinner that night was a hush shush affair. The incident not only burnt down whatever fond memories Mohan had of his cavalier conquests during his bachelor’s days, it also thawed his relations with his parents.

    On another occasion, Meera ruthlessly humiliated her in-laws for Mohan’s amorous nature, in front of all the bewildered relatives. Finding very little reaction from their son, they thought it best to keep a safe distance from then on. Not surprisingly either, Mohan’s in-laws became the centre of his universe! The final nail in the coffin, so far as Mohan’s relationship with his own parents was concerned, was driven in when with folded hands, teary-eyed, Trisha Devi asked Meera not to yell at her son and call him names at a family gathering. What followed next, the scene that Meera made, is better left unsaid. But it remained etched in Trish Devi’s mind till her last breath.

    Years passed. Mohan at 42, by then, had become the youngest Assistant Manager of his bank, when, one day he was back home early. He was not feeling well, was feverish and retired to bed soon. He woke up in the middle of the night and complained of a severe pain in his chest. He stumbled out of the bed and threw up in the sink. Meera panicked when she noticed the thin trickles of blood around it. That was the beginning of Meera’s nightmare. She spent many a sleepless night till the family physician referred her husband to Valore. The doctor’s suspicion was confirmed when Mohan was diagnosed to be suffering from the last stage of lung cancer. His end was as swift and painful as the wilting of a promising bud at a season of draught.

    “Baba,” called out Meera on a lazy afternoon to her only child, Rohan. “For how long can you enjoy the bachelor’s life? You can’t spend the rest of your life fooling and sleeping around like this. It’s time you got married,” she rebuked her son feebly in their cozy drawing room.
    “Ma,” Rohan replied, putting his arms around his mother, who, to him, was the epitome of Love and Sacrifice. “ You know what a bitter pill my marriage will be for you to swallow? How cruelly your daughter-in-law will treat you. So, why bother? Lemme be a lifelong bachelor. “
    “Marry you MUST, even if it turns out a bitter pill, especially for me. I won’t be around for ever, you know,” Meera retorted softly.

    If his parent’ marriage was a grand affair, Rohan’s own was the ultimate on feasting and merry making. It’s been just a couple of weeks since the wedding. But the rumour around the grapevine is that a dry-eyed Meera (she had no tears left after the hell she went through at the hand of her daughter-in-law, at her own house), showed her only son along with his wife, the door for good, keeping a stone in her heart.
    The End

    • Carrie Zylka

      No it does not have to be in first person unless it is specifically noted in the requirements.

    • Very well-written, Rathin. The story flowed very well, and i like how it circled round. The big wheel keeps on turning, what goes around comes around, in a karmic and touching way here.

      I like the word ‘unfuzzled’ – very descriptive of her cool and purposeful intent.

      All this trouble between mothers and daughters, mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law – it’s a good job sons and fathers are so tolerant of each other and well-behaved, isn’t it? 🙂

    • RNB, Interesting story and easy to understand. You completed the circle and raised the theme at height. When we read a story some time we stop in some part and go back for more understanding and continue to enjoy the story further. I also did so in your story.
      It said that love goes down ward. It may be because people will not get chance to experience higher generation while in lower generation. When they actually enter higher generation of themselves it will have been mistaken while in the youth. Scriptures provided various story of wisdom. Your story added one practical example.
      • Thank you, Nam Raj, for liking the story and for your constant encouragement. Love and best wishes.
    • Ken Cartisano
      Fabulous writing Rnb. (You don’t mind if I call you that do you?)
      This is wonderfully written and in fact has a poetic quality along with occasional uniquely stilted phrases, like ‘Dame Luck’, which are great! And I loved the story. The last paragraph left me wondering though. Did Meera throw them out because her son and daughter-in-law were too happy, too merry? Does that imply that they were irresponsible? Or that she, Meera, was just a miserable and self-centered woman?
      • Thanks Ken. You won’t know what your encouragement means to me. You can call me whatever you like. Let me share something with you in this context, just to show what you mean to me. I’s commenting on Andy’s story last night. Somewhere, while adding the words ‘magical moments’ and ‘memories’, I forgot to change the verb from the singular ‘is’ to the plural ‘are’ accordingly. As is my nature, I noticed the mistake only after posting and the first person that came to my mind was, surprisingly not Roy, but you.
        “Oh, God,” I said to myself, “Please don’t let Ken read this.” Can you believe it? Someone like me is getting more serious about his English because he knows that there are people out there who possess your kind of English. Please let me know if I am making any sense with these lines.
        To come back to my story, I think you can look upon Rohan and his wife as true representatives of the younger generation – people with greater IQ, riches, selfishness and utter contempt for the older ones. But that was not why they were shown the door. Not because Meera was selfish either. The actual reason was Meera found her replica, her perfect match in her daughter-in-law! Like Andy aptly expressed it a n his comments – What goes around, comes around.”
        Take care. Love you big time(s?).
    • Alice Nelson

      What comes around goes around. Rathin, I loved this story, so well done it had me engrossed from the first line. You were able to give us a sense of who the characters were in this short span, that I felt like I knew them. Flowed very well, and that ending was just the right touch. Well done!

    • Ilana L
      I very sad at this ending. I was hoping she would be happy. Sometimes son’s wives are not the most kind of creatures and having seen the way my own poor mother was treated by the wife of her favourite son, it is easy to identify with this situation. Life is not fair to the oldies at some times and they can be blinded by prejudices that see them left to die alone without family.
  • Beautifully written, Jen. It’s more like an eulogy written in the form of a letter. I feel your pain and it saddens me no ends to know that there is nothing, nothing at all, I can do other than pray for your youngest son. Why is God so deaf and merciless at times? A boy so full of promise, talents and love – why is he snatched away in the prime of his life?
    May his soul rest in eternal peace. I know, time will heal everything, but even then if it helps, let me quote from Tennyson’s timeless poem, “In Memorium”, a poem I have never read but frequently made the most of during farewell parties and so on –
    Time marches on,(I ain’t sure of the first line)
    Memory stays,
    Torturing silently,
    The rest of our days.
    With love.
  • Thank you RNB for sharing those beautiful words.


  • robtemmett
    One Cup at a Time
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018

    “We’re excited about Amazon Prime Air. We have developed a delivery system that will safely deliver packages to your customers in thirty minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles. Our APA drones will….”

    “Ya know, listening to that TV commercial just now, I had a thought.”

    My wife stopped knitting and looked at me over the top of her narrow designer glasses. I could read her mind.

    Wonderful, please enlighten me.

    “Can you imagine what your father would think of delivering packages with drones? Or any of the other things we have now days.” She shook her head as she added a couple more stitches. “I know, I know, Harold died over thirty years ago, but wouldn’t it be neat if he could come back and see the change?”

    Her needles paused their clicking, “Neat?”

    I yawned. Morning caffeine, here I come, I thought as I wandered into the kitchen. “Harold! What are you doing here? You’re….”

    “I’m waiting for my coffee. I looked, but I couldn’t find your Percolator.”

    “Percolator, we use a Keurig. It makes one cup at a time, any kind you want.”

    “One cup atta time, this I gotta see.” He shook the last cigarette from a wrinkled pack of Old Golds. “Oh, by the way, where’s an ashtray? I might as well have a smoke while I’m waiting.”

    “We don’t smoke anymore, so we got rid of our ashtrays.” He removed the cellophane, crumpled the empty pack, and dropped it on the kitchen table.

    “I’ll just use the wrapper as an ashtray.”

    “No.” I handed him a saucer and dropped an ARCO coffee pod into the coffee machine.

    Pointing at the empty cigarette pack, he asked, “Where I can get more smokes?”

    “In your day, cigarettes were sold everywhere. Now they sold in Smoke Shops.” He sent me a doubting look over the top of his bifocals. “But I’ll Google it for ya,” I said.

    His jaw dropped. The match burnt his fingers. “What the hell is a Google, anyway?”

    “It’s a search engine.”

    “An’ just what’s a search engine anyhow?”

    “It’s a program on my computer that….”

    “Is that what you have in that new shed … a computer? I knew you made good money, boy, but hot-damn, that’s something, owning a computer and building a garage to house it is really something.”

    I picked a cell phone off the hutch. “It functions through my phone. All….”

    He swiveled his head from my hand to where the black wall phone once hung. “That’s a phone? Bushwa.”

    (He makes up words. I think, he thinks bushwa means bullshit in French, it doesn’t.)

    “Oh, it’s a phone and a whole lot more. It’s also a GPS,” I said.

    “What in thunderation is a GPS, anyway?” He struck another match and lit his cigarette.

    “It means Global Position System. A bunch of satellites, about twenty-two thousand miles out in space, tells where you are. It can navigate you from place to place. And even tell you’re the elevation at your location.”

    “Tells your elevation from out in space, that’s pure horse-pucky!” He blew a smoke ring. “You mean to tell me that thing in your in your hand can find a place to buy cigarettes, this I gotta see.”

    I picked up the cell phone, “Find me a store that sells Old Gold cigarettes.”

    “Who are you talking to?”

    “The phone, actually a computer, it’ll tell me where the nearest Smoke-Shop is. And it will even give me directions and a map.”

    “And I ‘spose it’ll tell ya the elevation.” Tapping his dead, “That don’t fit in my beggie.”

    “If I asked, it would.”

    “Pshaw, you talk like someone with a paper asshole.”

    A woman slid the window open and asked, “What do you need?”

    “One, ah no, two packs of Old Gold cigarettes.”

    “I need to see an I.D.”

    “They’re not for me.”

    She slowly exhaled. “I see.”

    I didn’t like the tone of her voice. “They’re for my father-in-law.” She said something to the tall person standing in the shadow near her.

    “An I.D. to buy smokes? Let’s go, boy, she can go piss up a rope.”

    (He always called me ‘boy,’ when he was unhappy at something or someone other than me. When I’m the object of his ire, he uses the term, ‘Chum’. The last time he’d used that word was the third date I’d had with his daughter. He never calls me Chum anymore because now I’m his favorite Son-in-Law. I’m his only Son-in-Law.)

    I turned right onto Milton Avenue and chirped my truck’s tires. It might be a good idea to put a little space between the Smoke-Shop and us. I knew the Smoker’s Depot was a mile or so away. Hopefully, they wouldn’t be as fussy about their customers I.D.

    “Boy, turn around. There’s that place I usta have coffee at.”


    “Yep, that’s the place. Great coffee and the service was the best.”

    I looked at my father-in-law, “Times change, Harold.” I turned into the nearly empty parking lot and parked diagonally. Or as he would call it – Katty-whampious and we went inside.

    The look on his face was priceless. “Where is the counter? Who’s gonna take our order?”
    “We have to place our order at the DOK.”

    “What in tarnation is a DOK?”

    “The workers here demanded a wage increase to fifteen dollars an hour.”

    “Fifteen dollars an hour, hells bells, I drove truck and never made that kinda money.”

    “The owner installed Digital Ordering Kiosks to take your order, and just like a real person, it’ll ask you if you want cream or sugar with coffee. Best of all, it kept the prices the same, but forty-three percent of the former workers were laid-off.”

    “That’s ridiculous, let’s head back to your place and you can make a cup of that one cup at a time Cur-egg coffee.”

    I parked my truck in the driveway. The dogs were standing at backyard gate, tails wagging waiting to be let in the house.

    I opened the back door and smelled the coffee.

    The wife’s up, I thought.

    She was surprised to see me, “Where have you been?”

    “Your Dad wanted to get some smokes. I took him to the Smoke-Shop, but when they wanted to card us, I split. Then he wanted to stop at McDonald’s and we did. But he got mad when he had to use a DOK.”

    “My father?”

    “Yeah, your father,” I said.

    “Exactly where is my father now?”

    I swung my arm around and pointed at … my jaw dropped. Only the tail-wagging dogs were behind me. “He was just….”

    “Dad died over thirty years ago. You know as well as I do.”

    “But,” I was completely flummoxed. [One of his words, not mine.] “He was here when I woke up this morning and wanted coffee. He….”

    “He’s dead, Rob. I wish it were otherwise, but sadly, he’s gone, gone forever.”

    I had to agree with her logic. “You’re right, dear.” I kissed her on the cheek as I picked up the crumpled Old Gold pack off the table and slipped it into my pants pocket, “As usual.”

    • Alice Nelson

      Robert, loved the way you compared and contrasted the past and the present through casual conversation with your deceased father-in-law. The story flowed nicely, and you gave us a good insight into who Harold was. A nice, yet bittersweet tale of someone dearly missed. Nice job Robert.

    • Ilana L
      Really like the way you handled this prompt Robert. I got the feeling at the end that the father-in-law was a bit pissed with the way things had changed in the last 30 years. Also wondering what happened to the poor Maccas staff laid off by the invention of the DOK thingies which they have now in doctor’s surgeries by the way. So you check in to your doctor on these kiosks. I do prefer people. Soon they may replace doctor’s with machines that will take your blood pressure, temperature, pin prick you for a blood sample scan you for illnesses and book you into treatment centres. I can even imagine in some societies they will decide that friendless old hags like me might be euthanized once they get to a certain use by date. No use for you, off you go to the check out center to be put to sleep.
    • Great story Robert,
      Very realistic dialogue. I loved the plot. It was a great means to point out the changes that have taken place in the last thirty years. Both technologically and socially. There are several minor errors, omitted words that should be found and fixed, but overall its a damned good story.
  • Rob, Nice story. You presented changes in 30 years through conversation between Rob, and Harold. I am in between Harold and and you I mean change in my place/country is in between. Hence, both time frame was interesting to me.
  • Church at the Top of the Hill.
    by ken cartisano – 8-6-2018
    word count – 1129

    A frigid wind and chilling rain forced him to keep his head down as he trudged up the steep grade. The glistening asphalt streets were deserted, the buildings were streaked with grime. He had no destination, no reason to be out on a day this miserable.

    At the crest of the hill stood a small stone church, probably four or five hundred years old. Decorative iron gates framed two ornate wooden doors. On one door a heavy iron knocker had worn a depression in the weathered wood. The other door was ajar. ‘The Church Of The Blessed Virgin’ was carved in relief above the lintel.

    He stood on the opposite corner, torn with indecision, wondering if the ‘Blessed Virgin’ was accepting visitors. Was he supposed to be here? Normally, he avoided churches, but this was different. When fate rips your heart in two and throws it in the gutter, exactly what—or how, does ‘the Blessed Virgin’ fit into that scenario? What comfort could she offer?

    Lisa Anne was no virgin. Was THAT the point being made? She was so young and pretty, friendly; punctual; reliable. ‘Full of life,’ he thought bitterly. ‘Excessive friendliness. Was that her sin? Or was it punctuality?’

    He felt himself stepping off the curb. A blaring horn brought him to attention as a single car careened through the intersection going much too fast. Its tires sprayed mud onto his shoes as it passed. He caught a fleeting glimpse of the driver’s irate face, as if running him over would ruin his day.

    He crossed the street and stopped just shy of the curb and stood there defiantly, looking up at the face of the church. The arched door was topped by a peaked roof, which was crowned with a succession of spires. The cornices were decorated with gargoyles, a thin stream of water trickled from their mouths. He visually followed the water down to the ground where centuries of rain had roughened the stone walkway and left a white stain. He wondered why the stain was white.

    He climbed the steps and pushed the door inward, keeping its hallowed wood at arms length. He was surprised at how bright it was inside. Both opposing walls were lined with intricately leaded glass windows. Behind the altar a magnificent stained-glass image of a mother and child rose above the sanctuary, almost to the ceiling, filling the room with color. He didn’t realize he had stepped into the church until he heard the door close behind him with a soft, gentle thump.

    The church’s interior was filled with wooden pews, dark with age, but remarkably free of scars. ‘Unlike your flock,’ he thought.

    There was no sign of life, no sheep, no shepherd. He was blissfully alone. ‘This must be a Catholic church,’ he thought. Not knowing why.

    In one corner of the church was a confessional, he guessed. “I don’t need to confess, you do,” he whispered, addressing the alabaster savior, hanging on the wall. ‘You can confess to me if you want,’ he thought.

    The silence was a palpable thing. It allowed him to move ever so slowly down the aisle, gawking at the architecture, the relics, the mosaic tiles and intricate woodwork, all while basking in the utter stillness. Not even the motes stirred, they seemed suspended, motionless in golden shafts of light. He sidled through the pews and made his way to the confessional, a small partitioned booth. One side had a door, the other a curtain. He pulled the curtain aside to find a single bench, upholstered in red velvet, worn all to hell. He entered and sat down.

    He was struck with the urge to carve his initials in the ‘Blessed Virgin’s’ pristine paneling, but didn’t even have a pocketknife. “Shit,” he mumbled.

    Wood creaked from beyond the partition and a deeply resonant voice asked, “How can I help you, my son?”

    He was startled. There was a small screened slot in the partition, half-open, revealing nothing. After a moment he replied. “You can’t.”

    “Are you here for confession?”

    “Yours maybe. Definitely not mine.”

    After a long silence the priest observed, “You’ve suffered a great loss. And you’re angry, with God. That’s understandable. Your heart is hard. Time will soften it.” This broad pronouncement produced no response. “You don’t believe in God.” The priest surmised.

    “Is that the sort of thing one confesses to?”

    “Have you ever spoken to Him?”

    “It was a pretty one-sided conversation.”

    “Has He ever failed to grant your requests?”

    “No, but when does, the cure is even worse than the ailment.”

    “I see,” the priest muttered. “So you still have reservations. What must God do to get you to believe in His mercy? Come down and talk to you in person?”

    “That would do it,” he said, “I’d give him a…”

    The priest interrupted. “Would He have to be in the form of a burning bush?”

    “No, no. Of course not,” he said, suddenly feeling foolish for choosing this tiny little village church and its clueless priest to vent his anger on. Surely, they were not the cause of his grief. “Thank you, Father. I think I should be going now.” He was grateful that the priest didn’t offer to pray with him.

    He pulled the curtain aside and was halfway up the aisle when a short, red-faced deacon backed in through the church doors, wrestling with his umbrella.

    The deacon turned and recoiled at the sight of him. “Oh my goodness. You startled me. I didn’t realize there was anyone here.” He got the umbrella closed and peered at the disheveled visitor over his wire-rimmed glasses. “Can I help you with something, young man?”

    A few feet separated them. “No.”

    The deacon’s rotund shape spanned the entire aisle. Though blocking the exit, he looked at him expectantly, as if to say, ‘Then why are you still here?’

    “I already spoke with the priest,” he explained. “And he was not very helpful.”

    The deacon smiled, but his eyes betrayed a glint of skepticism. “The Father is on sabbatical, in Spain, but I’d be happy to help you if I can.”


    “Would you like to confess your sins?”

    He shook his head. “No. I already… I just did.”

    They both appeared puzzled and simultaneously looked at the confessional. It was plainly vacant, the door was wide open.

    “And you found no comfort there?” The deacon asked, ever so softly, while moving aside to let him pass.



    He turned up his collar and stepped outside. He had to admit one thing, the invisible priest had performed a kind of miracle in one respect. For a while at least, he’d completely forgotten about his anger, but it was still cold, and wet, God damn it!

    • Alice Nelson

      Ken, this story has a great descriptive quality, I mean I could see the setting in my mind, the rain, the disheveled man and the church, it was so well done. Got a great sense of who the character was, his skepticism was believable, and so was the fact that it didn’t change simply because of some miraculous event happening. That felt very real. Loved it, the flow, the writing, and of course the dialogue.

      One little thing in this sentence:
      “No, but when does, the cure is even worse than the ailment.”

      I think you need the word “he” in between the words “when” and “does.”

      • Thanks Alice,
        I had a real strong visual image of the setting when I sat down to write this. (I think I may have overdone it a little.) And of course you’re right about the missing word. One of those last minute edits that ‘corrected out’ one too many words. Glad to see someone around here is paying attention. (Oops. Did I say that out loud? Shit.)
    • Thank you Ken for wonderful story. I had posted comment this morning but I noticed that it has been lost. Way you explained pre church, in the church and miracle in the church was very good.

      For me story is of two level. One I can read with out aid of dictionary and other need dictionary to understand all words. Your story is of second type. But this time I found the way to read. I copied story in a word file and used synonyms function. This slows down but its ok because I will hive some time to get the points too.
      There was a home work: “He wondered why the stain was white”. My answer: It may be because water falling from the cornices carried calcium (called hard water) contained in the cornice or its joints. Hard water causes white stains.

    • A wonderfully well-crafted story, Ken. Both the descriptions of the setting and the characterization of the unnamed, frustrated protagonist leave me in absolute awe of creativity and mastery of the language at the same time.
      Was Lisa Anne, the overfriendly girl full of life in some way responsible, the root cause of his seething anger and pent-up fury? I have questions about the invisible priest in the confessional as well. If the Father was away on a sabbatical, who did he actually meet inside? But his reluctant conversation with the man seems to have impacted him positively in a way.
      Your language is just incredible, Ken. I agree with Nam Raj that while reading most of your stories, we, people like us, need to have the dictionary in hand. It will take me a lifetime to have your kind of mastery of the language and dedication.
      Good luck with your story. All the best.
  • Hi Ken
    I think your setting in this story was really well done and you get a sense of the narrator’s anguish over some loss, but we never find out what exactly he lost, unless it was his faith?
    One jarring phrase, (sorry to be picky) “He visually followed the water down to the ground”. I cannot explain why I do not like that phrase. I just do not. The visually got to me. “His glance travelled with the stream of water to pool on the ground”; “His eyes followed the rainwater that was streaming down to pool on the ground”. These are my meager offerings of alternatives. I am not writing this story though, you are. Hopefully the suggestions will inspire you to create an alternative phrase.
    Loved the story.
  • Thanks Ilana,
    And you’re right. That phrase gave me fits. It was like an annoying bump, or a splinter. Every time I read the story, that line irritated me but I couldn’t, for the life of me, come up with a better way to say it. I think the problem is ‘followed’. Maybe he simply shifted his attention to where the water met the ground. (Instead of following it with his eyes.) In any case, I agree with you that that sentence needs to be changed. (At the very least.) Thanks for the feedback, and the praise.

    As for the thing that he lost, she is mentioned, but just barely. (Her name was Lisa.) But alas, the story was not about Lisa, it was about the main character, faith, grief and loss.

  • Roy York
    Lord of the Flies

    “Another one, I’m getting good at this.” Fred Hotchkiss added the fly carcass to the small pile he had next to him, placed the fly swatter on the end table next to his easy chair, and smiled.

    “Jeez Fred, give it a rest. You’re obsessed with the damn things.” Fred’s long time friend Arlo Wayland set his cold beer down and leaned back. “How can a fellow relax around here when you keep smashing things and swatting them damn flies?”

    “Can it, Arlo, you know how I feel about the filthy things. Flies! I hate ‘em! I’ll kill every last one if I can.”

    Arlo chuckled, “I was told it’s no use. They outnumber us. You kill one, and all the others come to its funeral.”

    Hotchkiss brightened at that. “What a great idea. From now on, I’m not throwing them out. No wonder they congregate around garbage cans. I’m going to let the bodies pile up and as the others come to pay their last respects, I’ll kill those stupid bastards, too.”

    Arlo just shook his head. “It’s useless. Why don’t you just fix the screens in this rickety old house and call a truce. Then I can quit wasting my time watching you pile up little fly corpses. Otherwise, I’ve got better things I can be doing.”

    “Yeah, yeah. I’ll lay off for now, but you watch. I’m going to come up with something that will take care of this fly business once and for all. You’ve heard the old saying, ‘Build a better flytrap and the world will beat a path to your door’, haven’t you? Well, I’m going to build a better flytrap.

    “It’s ‘mousetrap’, not ‘flytrap’, but you won’t be the first.. I’ve read that flies don’t exist where there are no humans. They need us to survive. We, apparently, don’t need them, but they need us. It’s their loss, not ours.”

    “Exactly. So if I kill ‘em all off, I’m doing the world a favor. Toss me another beer Arlo, I’ve got some serious thinking to do.”


    “Arlo, it’s Fred. Got something to show you. Why don’t you come on over.”

    “Gimee a few minutes, and you better have a cold beer in your hand for me when I show up.”

    A few minutes later, Fred heard the knock on the door and hurried over to open it a crack and peered out. “OK, it’s you. Arlo, get yourself in here and hurry.” Arlo did as requested and as soon as he was in, Fred slammed the door shut behind him.

    “What’s with all the hurry up stuff and secrecy? God, what’s that awful smell?”

    “Never mind all that, just come with me.”

    “This better be good, Fred.”

    “It’ll all be worth it, you’ll see.” Fred led Arlo through the house to the basement stairs. “Here, you go ahead. Just move slowly and don’t step off the bottom step until I turn on the rest of the lights.” Fred lit the stairwell and Arlo started down. The smell got worse. He could hear a faint hum.

    Dramatically, Fred announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the world’s finest flytrap,” and flipped on the basement lights. Hanging from the ceiling were a series of giant sticky flytraps centered over the basement floor. And underneath them was a mound of dead flies several feet thick, surrounded by a large machine, humming softly.

    “Jesus Christ, Fred. What the hell is it?”

    “I already told ya. The world’s best flytrap. The sticky things are covered with dead flies and when the others, as you said, come to their funeral, the machine zaps ‘em. They think they are so smart. But, I’m smarter than they are. Neat, huh?”

    “How did you get so many flies?”

    “One word, Arlo. Research. I discovered that two flies and their offspring, left to reproduce without limits or death, could produce enough house flies to cover the planet several feet deep in less than five months.

    “I set about to recreate those very conditions, and look, in just three short weeks, with only a few pounds of rotten meat to start with, I’ve been able to produce, and kill, millions of flies. I’ve done it. Arlo, I’ve done it. The world loses the most infernal pest known to mankind. I owe it all to my cunning mind and, of course, the Hotchkiss Housefly Homicide Helper. That’s gotta nice ring to it, don’tcha think?”

    “Arlo stood stunned. He looked around. “Guess I gotta hand it to you, Fred. It looks like you may be onto something.”

    “You ain’t seen nothing yet. This is just the beginning. I’ve rented a warehouse downtown for a larger display project for investors. Now, let’s get upstairs. I’ve got some champagne on ice.”

    Arlo tipped his glass. “Here’s to you, Fred. I figured you were just wasting your time. Looks like you’ve done it.”

    “Don’t you worry old buddy. You’ll be by my side when I reveal this to the world. It was you who gave me this crazy idea. Now, go tell your wife to start picking out cruises and where she wants to live, because in three months, she’ll be enjoying them and her new house.”


    Arlo had been to the warehouse, but then weeks passed without any word from Fred. Early one morning, Arlo’s cell phone rang with a FaceTime call from Fred. Fred looked frantic. Arlo could barely hear Fred over the buzzing sound in the background. “Arlo, no time to explain, get down here. It turns out flies may be intelligent. You gotta help me. I can’t leave the warehouse. When you get here, flip the switch on the emergency generator in the office. The door is unlocked. Whatever you do, don’t enter the warehouse until the power is on. Hurry, man, for God’s sake, hurry!”… then the line went dead.

    Arlo pulled up to the warehouse a few minutes later. As he got out of the car, he could hear loud buzzing coming from inside the warehouse. Arlo did as asked and turned on the emergency generator. Immediately, the lights came on, flickered and there was a loud humming with staccato popping. As if several machine guns were being fired simultaneously. Then, there was just a humming sound.

    Arlo cautiously opened the door. Piled high on the floor and scattered throughout the warehouse, were millions, perhaps billions, of flies in large piles. He found Fred, almost completely buried in flies, a few feet from the floor, delirious, “Power … failure. Couldn’t reach… to … turn on the … generator. The … damn things … can think, Arlo. They … have intelligence.” Then, he was gone.

    As Arlo walked into the office placing a call to the police, a fly buzzed into the room. The miniature machine in the office zapped it as it flew, killing it. It veered onto a small pile of other flies already dead. Arlo stared at the small piles for a moment then realized they formed letters. There, spelled out in those neatly arranged piles, was the word, K-A-R-M-A. Fred shuddered, ‘If they’re smart enough to spell, do we even have a chance?’

  • Carrie Zylka

    Hawaii by Carrie Zylka
    500 words (personal flash fiction challenge to keep it 500 words or less!)

    Angela was annoyed. She stood in the living room of her townhouse and placed her hands on her hips.
    She could hear her boyfriend Matt puttering around in the kitchen, trying to figure out the new Keurig machine.

    “It’ll be fine babe!” He yelled. “We’ll be fine!”

    “Says you, you weren’t the one to dump your life savings into this place.” She snapped.

    He came up behind her and put his arms around her waist. “I promise, it doesn’t matter, it’s only money. And I don’t need much in the way of dollars as long as I have you.” He whispered into her ear.

    She let herself lean back into him. He could always diffuse her bad moods. “I know, but it just sucks that the market is so crummy. We’re going to take, like, a $20,000 loss on this place.”

    “But it’s Hawaii… Aloha baby, just think about the warm breezes blowing off the Pacific, the Mai Tai’s and the fabulous lanai you’ll be sunbathing on…”

    “I know babe, I’m stoked you got this job, I just wish we didn’t have to sell the house in this cruddy market.”

    He turned her around, grabbed her face in his hands and looked deep in her eyes. “Of course I’m not happy about it either, but the hike in pay from the new job will cover the loss in the next two or three years. I promise you. It’s going to be such a great move for us. A fresh start. We can start trying for a family again.” The sincerity shone in his eyes, and at that moment Angela felt nothing but love from this man.

    She smiled a small hopeful smile. “I love you, how do you do that?”

    He furrowed his brow and pulled her in for a hug. “Do what baby?”

    “Make it all ok. All you have to do is look at me and all my worries wash away.” She closed her eyes and hugged him close, reveling in his strong arms tightening around her. He was her shield from the world.

    “I don’t know.” He chuckled. “I just know everything will be great because I have you.”

    “Awwwwwww.” She grinned like a silly school girl. “Well, at least I get to buy a new bathing suite! And I hear the coffee in Hawaii is exceptional.”

    “Ooooo speaking of coffee. Can you make me a cup? I can’t figure out your newfangled space age brewing machine.”

    She pushed him away and playfully batted at his arm. “Of course I can. And I hope you never do figure it out.” She said over her shoulder as she walked towards the kitchen.


    “Yep. That way you can’t drink all my favorites up on me!”

    He laughed and plunked down on the couch. “Oh hey! One more thing babe!”


    “While you’re in there can you make me a sammich?” He laughed at his own joke. He could almost feel her giving him the look through the wall.

  • Rathin Bhattacharjee
    An expectedly exquisite story from a brilliant mind. Your language, as always, is a pure delight. The dialogues crisp. The name of the flytrap – what was it? – Hotchkiss Housefly Homicide Helper is incredibly ingenuous.
    All through I was reminded of movies like “The Bees”, and another, I’ve forgotten the name, with millions of those creepy spiders. As I was thinking of the story being another masterclass, I got disappointed in the conclusion. It was kind of the anticlimax. Isn’t the pile of dead houseflies making the word KARMA stretching the imagination a bit too far, Roy?
    Anyway, the idea of a story being based on the flies is incredibly innovative, and like the great writer you are, you haven’t failed to get the message across. Keep writing to teach me a thing or two about story writing, Roy.
    With love and regards.
  • OMG– That’s brilliant. What a great story, Roy. The writing and dialogue are both sterling. This reminds me of a couple (yes, a couple) of experiences I had with flies. One time my house was invaded by them. They were everywhere, it was late fall in Florida, so the windows and doors were frequently open. I bought flytraps and hung them all over the house. Finally, I realized the problem. I lived next door to a place that sold landscaping materials. Everything from stone to mulch to topsoil and manure. But I’d lived at this address for years and never experienced anything like it. So I was slow to put two and two together. When I did, I finally realized that the fresh pile of dirt just thirty feet from my garage door was manure. You couldn’t really smell it. When I interrogated the proprietor he doubted that the manure was the source of the problem. We were standing right next to it at the time, and I had to admit, I didn’t smell anything, and I didn’t see very many flies. But the next day I went back over there, squatted down on my haunches and studied that pile. After a while, I could see them, hundreds of them, but you really had to look.
    Another time I had occasion to visit a friends house that was under construction. It was full of flies. There were hundreds, if not thousands of them on the floor. When I asked the workers what was going on, they said that the development had been built over acres and acres of tomatoes that had just been plowed over, and that their mistake was in setting traps and bait for the little devils. (Like the character in your story.) Turns out that setting bait for flies works only too well. As bad as the flies were to begin with, the problem multiplied geometrically as soon as they started baiting them.
    Anyway, excellent story Roy.
  • Cute story, Carrie.
    Great writing, excellent dialogue.
    The ‘sammich’ reference might be a little obscure. (Especially for old people like me. I’m still not sure I actually get it. So I probably don’t.) But–I guess that’s part of the fun of it for you kids. (Or as I like to call them, ‘yutes.’) Example: The trouble wit yutes today, is their short attention spans.
    • Carrie Zylka

      It’s always a running joke about shooing the woman back to the kitchen to make her man a sandwich.
      “Go make me a sandwich (sammich) woman!”

      I think over time it’s become a pop culture joke for us strong women who obviously have no place in a kitchen. 😂

  • Thanks Nam,
    Interesting info about the calcium in the water. I wasn’t even sure that a white stain from water was really ‘a thing.’ A real thing. And, just between you and me, I know next to nothing about Catholicism, confessionals, or priests, other than what I’ve picked up incidentally. (And therefore may be incorrect.)
    Thanks for the feedback, and the info on calcium and white stains.
  • Carrie Zylka

    test comment

  • Carrie Zylka

    Hey writers!!
    It’s time to vote! You’ve got 24 hours…

    Remember: you MUST vote for your story to qualify, you can only vote once and you may not vote for yourself.

    Good luck!

  • Carrie Zylka

    Hey to the person who just voted….could you resend your votes….we forgot to require a name so we have no idea who just voted!

  • this is a test of the emergency broadcast system
  • Precious loss:

    ( My story was not written in well form as indicated by the friends. This is for compensation. To understand this story one has to read all story posted under “loss”)

    Once upon a time there was a person named Carrie. She was very happy with something that is unknown to anyone. It was precious for her but the same was lost. She was distressed and her restlessness could be felt. She went to her close friend Alice for advice.
    Alice, do you have any idea how can I find my precious thing that has lost?
    “My idea may not work, but why not you get idea from the group”
    “What group?”
    “Group that that is working on loss”
    Carrie found the suggestion useful and convenient and moved to meet them. First, she met Jen and asked for the advice.

    Jen said, “I do not think you will get it back. Such precious thing you can bring back only in the memories. You just try to forget it, then you will get the same more clearly in the memories.”
    Carrie tried and it worked but, she was even more restless from what has been lost. Then she went to another member of the group for more advice. She then met Nam.

    Nam Said, “There is one way, you just think deeply before sleeping. What you have lost may come in to dream more in some way. You will enjoy even better with your original thing. But note that you need to understand the language of dream properly.”
    Carrie tried for a dream but it was something else even it was opposite sometime. She assumed that it is hard to project in dream and get answer when we need. Then she moved to Dan.
    Dan said “I have one idea. You can just assume that you are still with your thing and recall the moment you spent with. Then try to project forward. With that you will be able to feel same thing that’s been lost.”
    Carrie tried, but she was still not satisfied. She went to group and met Andy

    Dean said, “There is one idea. Things always exist alternate universe. Your mind shifts to the alternate universe randomly in short time at the quantum level. If you study in this line you are likely to find that in the alternate universe.
    Carrie tried but this was just for short form and looked like a hallucination. She wanted to find real things hence, she went to group again. She met Andy and asked for the advice.

    Andy said, “I do not think you will find it. You only can recall in memories. Better you try to live without it.”
    Carrie just tried living without it, but, It was not easy. So she went to the group for more idea and met Alice.

    Alice said “It is not possible to find it forever. But if you are able to find something between you and your precious thing that you have lost that may bring you both together. Find something that links you both.”
    Carrie tried to find some linkage, but that was not useful. She found that it is more complicated. Linkage fades away. She went to the group again and met Ilana

    Ilana said, “I do not think you will get any idea from others for how to gain the kind of thing you have lost. You need to analyze the story and find how it was lost. You may find the point from where it was separated from you or broken from you.”
    Carrie tried to recall it, but felt that it is beyond her capacity. She again went to group more idea and met RNB

    RNB said “It depends, it depends upon how you had treated your precious thing when it was with you. May be it is just a repentance for you.”
    Carrie tried to recall her relationship with that precious thing, but she did not notice any fault on her side. It was all ok. Hence, she went to find, another member in the group and met Rob.

    Rob said “You may not find it at your present time. What you can do is you can go back to the time when it was not lost. But there is some problem. If it has been long time since when you lost then it then you may find it as outdated.”
    Carrie tried to go back and imagined that precious thing is there. But that was outdated. It was not changing with time. She went back to the group and met Ken

    Ken said, “Better you can go to church, irrespective of whether you believe or not in god. God will certainly show his presence. You will not get the thing you lost, but will get something else that will change you.”
    Carrie went to church, she felt strange thing, but, she wanted same thing she lost, hence, she went to group and met Roy

    Roy said, “Why do you worried for your precious thing. This is no more precious. You do not need you. Actually, that needs you. If that need you it will come back and remain with you.”
    Carrie was feeling ok without her precious thing, but not able to live longer. Hence, she went to group but, there was nobody else. She imagined that the thing she lost is herself. Hugged tightly and remained with her precious thing.
    No body knows what was that precious thing. I also do not know. I just know that it was a precious loss.

  • Ken Cartisano
    Nam! This is brilliant. I love what you’ve done here. It’s very entertaining. Maybe even insightful. I am forced to respect you now. And that’s the best kind of respect, you know–the forced kind. Voluntary respect can be revoked too easily, but the forced kind sticks.

    I have to make one small correction in my entry. I didn’t say ‘Better you can go to church…’ I said, “You can go to church…” Biiig difference.Everything else is correct.

    • Ken, I forgot to mention, but actually inspiration came from you, as you did in the previous theme.
  • Roy York
    Some fantastic stories this month. I had to go back and reread them to find a definitive winner and found it almost impossible, but managed to come up with a list which is by no means perfectly reflecting my choices. I almost didn’t submit a story based on the emotional appeal of the prompt, but had this fly story buzzing around in my head, pun intended, so I took a flyer (again, intended) and submitted it.

    Regarding the story by Ilana Leeds, I could have written a good portion of it from my own experiences. I grew up in a house with a step-mother (a nod to Ken and Kim, here) and she truly was similar to Ilana’s parent in the story. In fact, the opening paragraph dialogue actually occurred between my step-mother and I almost word for word when I was 15 or so. She did tell my father who also took her side, not mine.

    I finally realized later on in life it really wasn’t her fault, she was raised in a house filled with abuse from a drunken father and 14 or so siblings. Since she had never received love, she craved it, but didn’t know how to get it. So, she demanded it. And, she didn’t know how to give it…life for me was basically horseshit when I was a kid, but I didn’t know any better, so I adjusted, thinking everybody lives like this. I managed to overcome it, but always had that sense of loss of a mother I never met. She died during the birth of my brother, along with him when I was 13 months old. I grew up in a life full of ‘what ifs’ and have never gotten over that loss.(There’s a story right there, but I had already submitted a story about that to this forum back in 2013 or so, so by the rules I couldn’t resubmit it).

    Anyway, good job everybody, love, love this forum. Thanks for the great reads.

    • Ilana L
      Reading your moment amen feel immensely sad for you. The words at the beginning were said to me by my mother when I was around 9 or 10 years of age. My mother was one of twin daughters born to a young Austrian girl in 1921 and she was illegitimate. The children were taken away from her and one went into foster care – my mother and the other her twin sister was raised by the father’s family. My mother really did not like me because I in some strange way represented to her what she did not have as a child – a complete family and she always hated and resented me and saw me as a threat to her security, a rival for my father’s affection instead of an integral part of a family unit. My grandmother tried to protect and defend me but she was a very sick woman and physically frail in the last years of her life. I was 16 when she died and after her death my life turned to poop big time. Lots of things happened, many beyond my control to shape events but I spent most of my life as a rather hated black sheep for “crimes” committed mainly in my mother’s imagination. I forgave her a long time ago. I represented to her her mother’s lack of love or abandonment – it’s all rather complicated, twisted and mixed up. I do not spent too much time in deep thought about it as I have other issues to deal with such as trying to get my son through his teenager years, battling chronic illness and financial hardships alone so life is pretty full on. I have given up on any sort of biological family contact or emotional support as I realised quite some time ago the people I am dealing with are so scarred and damaged as to be emotionally distant and incapable of any empathy for me as a sister or cousin. I have just accepted them for what they are and moved on. Far healthier than trying to build a relationship doomed to failure. My mother was very successful in presenting me as the person responsible for all her ills and bad fortune – kind of ironic. Such is life – we must move on despite life’s trials. I am so glad you met your wife Roy and had a good solid life and made a family to be proud of them. Sure your mum is looking down with pride.
  • Waiting on Dan Carroll’s votes and then I will Post the list of winners and the new prompt.

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