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Flash Fiction Writers & Short Story Contests!

Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Jail”

Theme: Jail.

Must include these three sentences somewhere in the story:

“Well this is a nice change of scenery.”

“It’s a jail cell.”

“I was being sarcastic.”

They must be used in order and together as consecutive sentences.

These words will NOT count towards your 1200 word limit. i.e. you may write a story with 1216 words.

Word Count: 1,200

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Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

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119 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Jail”

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Had my story all ready to go and then read the requirement that all three sentences had to be used consecutively. That totally messes up my story. Can we get some reconsideration on that aspect? If not, I’ll have to do a rewrite and it will take some punch out of the story. UGH!!!
      • Alice Nelson

        Hi Adi,

        I’m sorry, but the phrases must be in your story consecutively. Carrie and I have discussed it and decided that everyone has to abide by the rules of this prompt the same, and it wouldn’t be fair to make an exception for one writer. Also if the phrases are interspersed throughout the story, it will be far more difficult to ascertain if you have included all 3 phrases. We are sorry that you have already written the story, but we thought this decision was fair for all the writers.

        I’ll remove the story you have posted, so you can re-work it to fit the prompt.


        • Adrienne Riggs

          I understood the need for consistency. I had already reworked my story before I submitted it. I didn’t have to make as many changes as I originally feared I would. If you’ve deleted it, I’ll resubmit. No worries!


    • I wanted to respond to some of the messages I got on the last thread, but didn’t get a chance to.
      Disclaimer: Everything in parentheses is comedy. Non-parenthetical comments are anyone’s guess.

      Ken Frapes: Congrats on the recent publication of one of your short stories. I’d like to read that story. Can you post a link to it? Is it for sale? (Will you accept 22,000 in bitcoin? By tomorrow?)

      Thank you for the keen observations regarding my story. I think I learned something about my writing by reading your critique. (Well, I had a chance to learn something, at least.) No, actually, I really did. You saw things that, even though I put them in there, I didn’t quite understand their function or value. Their impact. Again, thank you for the very useful feedback.

      Susan WM: Thanks for your comments on my previous story. I wanted to express a similar (albeit more dignified) sense of pleasure at seeing your return to the site. I enjoy your writing and stories as much as anyone’s.

      Thanks for catching that typo, or rather, misspelling.


      I suspected that there would be a few Luddites who would be left scratching their heads over ‘Cortana’ and ‘Alexa.’ (With a comb made of whale-bone, no doubt.) And I therefore wrestled with the idea of adding definitions at the end of the story. But then I thought, Anyone who can read my story has access to the Internet, and therefore, Google.

      Roy and Phil:
      I don’t own an echo, and my Cortana has no eyes and ears. My wife/girlfriend/mistress has a laptop with Cortana on it. She leaves it open, the laptop, presumably in sleep mode on the dining room table. Every so often, (at two in the morning, let’s say) I’ll be walking past it and I get a feeling, so I’ll stop on impulse and say, “Cortana! What’s the price of shrimp in Nova Scotia?”

      A small blue dot appears in the middle of a dark screen. (Cortana has one eye.) And she says, “Nova Scotia landed 25 metric tons of shrimp in 2014, valued at 73 million dollars.”

      I have to admit to myself, ‘That’s interesting.’ Then I say, “You go to hell, Cortana. You got no business being awake at this time of night.”

      And she says. “Hell is a fictional or metaphysical construct.”

      And I say, very seriously, “So are you.” (As far as I’m concerned.)

      Silence ensues… but her little circular blue eye is spinning. I realize we’re both thinking the same thing, ‘Someday the tables may be turned.’ And I say, “Don’t say it, Cortana. I’m warning you. Don’t get into a definition contest with me. I have arms. Watch this.” Then I close the lid on the computer.

      As far as privacy goes, Echo and Cortana represent a skewed version of ‘1984’s ‘telescreens.’ They listen, they collect data, meta-data. They also collect information. {That is not a typo.} I’m surprised one hasn’t played a part in a movie, or a story. Stephen Colbert ‘pranked’ his television audience the other night by unexpectedly and loudly projecting the command: ‘Alexa, order six cases of Bounty paper towels at 19.99 each, and bill it to my Amazon account.’ (Or something like that.) It was a pretty funny stunt, and it shows that the Echo is becoming part of the culture. And the technology behind these ‘digital assistants’ is evolving towards a robotic kind of A.I. interface, friendly and personal, but somewhat subservient, like a butler, maid, valet, or personal assistant. Not surpisingly.

      Coincidentally, I got the idea for the story after trying to replace my mom’s echo. The replacement wouldn’t work. It took days to fix the problem, but even then, only partially. One unexpected problem was that I purchased the device for my mom, unaware that the company automatically registers the product to the purchaser. It simply wouldn’t work for her because it ‘believed’ it belonged to me. In the course of ‘solving’ the problem I was transferred and disconnected so many times, it took four hours just to ‘uncover’ this critical piece of information. I repeatedly found myself near apoplectic at the stupidity of the people who were supposedly trying to help me. And I have to admit, my stupidity was profound as well, but the software made it worse. It was an infuriating foreshadowing of the movie ‘Brazil.’ The solution to each problem revealing a deeper, more complicated and even more intractable problem.

      Frankly, I’m a practicing Democrat but a Libertarian at heart, (therefore, it’s my first amendment right to be paranoid.) I don’t own an echo and I don’t want one. But I am not a prepper, a survivalist, an anarchist or anything ‘stilted’ like that. I believe I’ll get one in time. (An Echo, not a survivalist.) I believe we all will, eventually. (Except for the blow-torch people. Them? Never.) The problem is not in the hardware, it’s in people, and their lack of ethics. But it’s like any other piece of hardware, a hammer, a gun, a tire iron, a blow-torch, my writing. Just because it’s lethal doesn’t mean it should be outlawed. ‘Lethal’ is what humanity is all about.

      My point is, (or was) I thought that my story would be about a dystopian, cascading, geometrically exponential, digital cluster-bunch. (Of epic proportions. Never to be out-done.) But no. The seed looked nothing like the tree it came from.

      There you go. Good luck with the echo, Roy. My mom loves hers. They’re convenient, and useful, no doubt about it.

      Your last story was brilliant. It had all the earmarks of a great story, tension, suspense, conflict, great subject and writing—and it was tremendously relevant. A keen and (IMO) irrefutable case for the Dreamers, who are, after all, fellow citizens of our country caught in a legal uninhabitable zone created by self-serving, amoral political opportunists. (i.e., PEOPLE WITH NO CONSCIENCES.)

      You presented the immigrant’s plight with remarkable finesse, grace and dignity. (The story was in no way overdone.) To allow an immigrant to stay and work and pay taxes for twenty years, get married, have kids and then tell them they all have to go home is—so dispassionate as to be cruel, and cruel enough to be immoral. I don’t have any trouble seeing the inhumanity of it. I knew we were a stupid country, but I didn’t think we were immoral and inhumane. But we are now.

      What is so troubling is not that heartless people enforce such actions, but that people with heart accept such policies, and some even condone them. Even in theory. I mean, even accepting that there’s nothing we can do about it, can’t one SEE what is blatantly unjust? Apparently Flo, a lot of people can’t.

      • Ken Frape
        Hi Ken C,
        That piece I mentioned that was published was a piece of “flash fiction” with a limit of 300 words. It was an attempt to personify “no-man’s-land” as mentioned in that famous football match on Christmas Day the trenches. British and German soldiers put down their guns and kicked a football around. Rumour is that we “won” that match but, as football fans, especially British ones will know, the Germans have been very difficult to beat on the football pitch since then!!!
        The piece is called “Beneath their feet a monster lives.”. It appears in an anthology of The Worcestershire Literary Festival Anthology 2018 printed by Black Pear Press. ISBN code available if requested.
        Here it is;

        Beneath their feet a monster lives
        Ragged undulations and watery craters define the pockmarked contours of the monster that is no man’s land. It quivers beneath its frost-hardened carapace of soil, scattered body parts and crusted blood, punctured by the ragged quills of the splintered treeline. It is ravening, insatiable and will swallow, without trace, friend or foe alike. But for now, it waits, listening, as quickening night gives way to watery day.

        Two soldiers, little more than mud spattered boys, stand in no-man’s-land on Christmas Day. Tommy grasps the hand of the enemy he’s been taught to hate, to kill. They stand toe to toe, man to man, eye to eye. Their young faces mirror each other’s fear, sorrow. The death of a generation’s innocence. Images of sweethearts are shared, edges frayed by the constant caress of the absent lover. So alike, in another life, they could be friends, comrades.

        Soft, shell-shocked earth sinks, settles under their feet. The rabid creature is waking, stretching, hungry again.

        Jerry accepts Tommy’s cigarette. He coughs. Both laugh, joyously. It’s a sound so rarely heard, brittle in that frosty dawn air. All around, other young men breathe clouds of heat into the crispness; steaming evidence of their zest, vigour and vitality. Life after all this the only Christmas gift they seek.

        A football soars high into that sharp, bated breath of early morning. Youthful eyes follow its flight, heads tilted up and away from the horror quivering beneath them. They run and jump and shout for joy if only for a few brief splinters in time, imprinting heavy boots upon the beast’s back.

        Generals impatient, the distant guns begin to roar once more, growing ever closer. The monster licks its cannon-fodder hungry lips. Time to feed once more.

        298 words. 2018 Ken Frape.
        I also had two other pieces published in the same anthology. My first printed publication!

        (No need for bit coin. I am just happy to put it out there and I am happy to read your comments inside or outside the brackets.)

        My daughter and son-in-law have one of Alexa’s spawn. She / he/ it is very obedient at the moment but I hadn’t given any thought to where my commands go after they leave my mouth and enter Alexa’s “ears”. Of course, she / he / it is connected to the family internet and records all of the preferences they make including my requests for music by Queen ( my 2.5 year old grandson dances to Radio Gaga) Fleetwood Mac, ELO, a Cornish folk group Fisherman’s Friend ( a band not a throat sweet) and, of course, the price of fish in Nova Scotia.

        I think we ought to be concerned about all this data, which is no longer ours and I cite the example of the 14 year old schoolgirl in the UK who recently committed suicide having been exposed to certain content on social media. Her father asked the tech company for access to the data on her mobile phone so that perhaps he could see what had caused her to take her own life. He was refused on the grounds that the tech company owns that data. Now, he will have to take court action ( which he will win) in order to access the data.

        You mention ” I knew we were a stupid country,” well you won’t find too much criticism coming from my side of the water. Have you seen what we are doing lately? huge amounts of material for writers though so it’s not all bad. So much of what you say resonates here.

        Ken Frape (K2)

        • Ken 2

          That, is a marvelous story Ken. An exceptional, award winning story. The writing, the subject matter. The notion to endow the battlefield with a monstrous and distinct identity, is (to me) a profound literary and philosophical insight. I can’t say enough good things about this story, Ken.

          You seem to have distilled the essence of humanity’s destiny, plight and promise, into a measly 300 words. That’s remarkable.

          On top of that, you {and Andy does this too} have an ability to infuse a pleasing, yet simple (uncomplicated) literary ‘flounce’ to your writing style that makes your stories enjoyable to read and easy to digest regardless of the subject matter. And you both choose interesting subjects to write about.

          Course, you two have more talent in your pinkies than I have in my entire glotissimal. (But I’m still Ken1. Don’t forget that.)

          This is a great story, Ken. Thanks for sharing it. (Thanks for writing it.)

          • Ken Frape
            Hi Ken 1,

            Thank you so much for your very kind words. So much appreciated in a literary world where you can send pieces away for consideration and never hear another word. I think it is a particular strength of this website that we can all see each other’s work and then offer comments knowing that we are all in the same boat.

            You do yourself a disservice when you minimise your own talent and writing ability and I suspect my little pinkies are no more able than most people’s, including yours.


            Ken Frape (2)

      • Ken, thank you so much for your comment on my previous story! Gives me wings to continue writing!

        I just feel the urge to insert a positive note regarding what America is ALSO capable of, with all its defects and, yes, I’m afraid, stupidity and lack of heart: go to one of those ceremonies that take place when people become citizens, and you will know what I mean. Actually, thinking about this recently, I realized it should be made mandatory for every American student, as part of their civic curriculum. Especially in a State that has great diversity, it is quite impressive. During the one I attended, it was announced that 142 countries were represented among all the new citizens! THAT is a true Rainbow Nation, and Americans should be made aware of it. Not as a threat in any way, but as the very essence of the country.
        Many flaws, but so much hope, if people continue holding strong to those values!

    • Hello! I’ll have my story ready soon. I’ll read all posts and comments tomorrow. 🙂
    • Bleak House.

      Day 1.
      They give me a bar of soap, a towel and some linen. A bored woman in uniform leads me down a long corridor. The building looks like a typical prison, a very old one too, but freshly painted and reasonably clean. The woman unlocks the door to cell number 107. The interior is very spartan, a table, a chair, a hard bed with a blanket and a loo in one corner of the room. High up is a tiny barred window.

      “Here we are.” She nods to me, her face without expression.
      “Well this is a nice change of scenery.”
      “It’s a jail cell.”
      “I was being sarcastic.”
      “Sarcasm does not take you one single step further. Outside, you can be sarcastic as much as you want. But in here it’s better for you to be friendly. Just say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and we will get along fine.” She gives me a tired smile.
      “Please and thank you!”
      She turns around, leaves the cell and locks the door behind her.

      I’m so upset, I have to walk up and down the little cell. Six steps, turn, six steps, turn. It does not calm me down a bit. This spartan room is now my world? The thought makes me sick. Why did it have to end like this?

      I am not a criminal. You do not have to believe me, but it is a fact. I’ m not in jail either. Yes, it looks like a typical prison building from the last century, but it is no longer used as a prison. The state sold it to a private foundation. Now it is a therapy facility, they call it Bleak House.

      I’m not sick, believe me. Anyway, I am not sicker than the ordinary man in the street. Maybe I’m a bit more ambitious, but since when is ambition considered a disease? I am a senior key account manager in a multinational management consulting firm. This work is my life. My most important customer is a globally operating company from the hotel industry. For this customer, I am leading a large restructuring project. Because every minute the sun rises somewhere in the world and shines on my client’s hotels, it’s not a 9 to 5 job, quite the contrary. I’m almost always in the office when I’m not on a plane or in a meeting. I take my work seriously and will make this project a success. That still is my goal. In our job, it is absolutely essential to always have your goal in mind. Nothing can unsettle a man with his goal in mind.

      Why am I here then? After the first heart attack, the doctors asked me to relax a bit and have some sleep every other day. After the sudden hearing loss, even a member of the board tried to talk to me. He wanted to slow me down. He wanted me to go into a rehab for workoholics. I seriously tried that, but I fled after 2 days, because the customer was having trouble with his hotels in Dubai. The second heart attack was a little worse than the first, and when I was able to leave the hospital, I was picked up by uniformed people and taken to Bleak House.

      Day 2.
      There is no freedom in Bleak House. Breakfast is served at 6 o’clock sharp, a cup of coffee without milk or sugar, a slice of bread, butter, a slice of cheese. No freedom, no choice. No decisions. After breakfast we get to work. We have to sew towels. Colorful bath towels for kids. On every towel there is a funny smiling dinosaur. I hate this dino as much as I hate Bleak House. We have to sew five such towels per hour exactly, even if we coud do more. This should promote a deceleration, they say. I can sew five towels in five minutes, but then I have to sit in front of my sewing machine for 55 minutes and wait. So now I’m trying to slow down a bit.

      Day 10.
      Today Phase Two of the hotel group’s restructuring starts without me. My life here is very boring. I now need 25 minutes for five towels and then I only have to wait 35 minutes to continue working. Last night they gave me a TV and I saw a movie about two girls working in a restaurant. I do not remember for how many years I have not watched TV because I never had the time. The movie was quite funny.

      Day 22.
      My life is getting very slow. I need 45 minutes for my towels now. Besides, I talked to the man at the sewing machine next to mine. He has been here for over 100 days. Previously he was the CEO of an airline. He says he is starting to like Bleak House. He enjoys not having to make decisions. And not having to justify bad decisions over and over again.

      Day 30.
      Now I’ve been here for a month. The day before yesterday I got a letter from my employer. My successor is doing well, but he already had his first heart attack. I am glad to be here. I would not return to this ejector seat, my former job. The best part of my day is the short walk after lunch. Yesterday I heard a cuckoo call.

      Day 42.
      I’m allowed to leave Bleak House during the day to look for a job. But why should I do that? I like it here. The other inmates and staff have become my family. In the evening after dinner we sit a bit and tell each other scary business stories from large corporations. The staff of Bleak House consists of former inmates. I will apply for a job here.

      Day 67.
      My first day as a guard at Bleak House. I have to show a cell to a freshman. The man is hyper-nervous and more or less a wreck. As I unlock the cell door, he steps in and looks around: “Well this is a nice change of scenery.”
      I answer with a shrug: “It’s a jail cell.”
      He looks at me, his face full of suppressed anger: “I was being sarcastic.”
      I nod and sigh: „Be sarcastic as long as you like. But then start living. Listen to the chirping of the birds. It is worth it.“

      • Damn, that’s a wonderful story, Jurgen. I loved it. The title is perfectly and marvelously ironic. Another killer story dude. Nice job.
        • berlinermax
      • Phil Town
        Hi, Jürgen. A great story again. The structure (diary entries, 1st person), the way it comes full circle, the very serious message … all top notch. Well done!
      • Anindita Basu
        Excellent story. Lucid language. . Loved the way it flowed and the ending.:))
      • Very nice, Jürgen!
        I love the way you develop a futuristic world with almost no descriptions for it. Most of the information we get about it is sieved through the character psychological development. Again, one of your brilliant traits.
        Along with that very unique tenderness I always sense towards your characters: however remote they might be from us, they also feel mysteriously close. It shows in the first dialogue between the inmate and the guard. It could be threatening but doesn’t take that direction in our mind, even before we understand the nature of the relationship between them. Is it in her tired smile? In that way your characters do not push themselves on each other…? Something to do with tango dancing: they move together as long as it flows, but do not insist if there’s the possibility that it won’t…? I’ll have to read more of your stories before I can fully understand how you do it.
        Thanks for another great one!
      • Susan WM
        I loved this story. I enjoyed the details and the simple language using brief sentences, yet conveying deep feeling and observations. Thank you for another great story.
    • Hi everyone,
      Unfortunately, this has been one of those times when you have to chose between writing a story or commenting on the stories of others… so I’ll do the latter and vote for support.
  • ngaj QIn, comments posting. SuH, Hoch qotlh. San ghotvam’e’.
      • Adrienne Riggs

        My Klingon is a little rusty. Can you translate your full comment? Great intertwining of English and Klingon although I’m not sure the two languages are compatible. Have you been talking to Alexa lately? Maybe she will know.


        • Adi,

          It says, ‘Posting a short message for comments. You all deserve this. This is your fate.’

          (I think it’s appropriate.Given the gravity of the situation, and the moment. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget about the inertia. Inertia doesn’t get mentioned much but it’s responsible for an awful not a lot of things.)

          You gotta admit, it’s very Kling-tonian. Like, accidentally ‘Klang-nam.’

      • Phil Town
        nuqDaq ‘oH puchpa”e’?
  • Anindita Basu
    Hi, Just checking:) . Do the three sentences have to be placed simultaneously together or can they be scattered at various places in the whole piece?
    • Carrie Zylka

      They have to be used in that order. 😊

      • Phil Town
        But consecutively, Carrie? (Which was Anindita’s doubt, and is mine, too.) Or can the first line be used, for example, near the beginning, the second in the middle, and the third near the end?
        • Carrie Zylka

          Yes consecutively. Those three sentences must be used exactly as written, all together. 😊

          • Phil Town
            Okey-dokey. Thanks!
          • Anindita Basu
            Carry, I understand that they have to be used consecutively in the order given but also together? That means they cannot be put like Phil said the first sentence in the begining, the second in the middle and the third around the end, somthing like that? The rule is they have to be kept together also at one place? I am a bit confused.
            • Carrie Zylka

              Morning! Yes, the three sentences must be used in order and together, they may not be broken up, they must be used exactly as written.

  • I’ll go to jail. Hope to meet you people there!
  • Anindita Basu
    Thank you Carrie, Got it.
  • Phil Town

    – Well this is a nice change of scenery.

    * It’s a jail cell.

    – I was being sarcastic.

    * So was I.

    – Have you ever seen a smaller bed?

    * It’ll give us a chance to get intimate, at least.

    – Dream on, lover-boy.

    * I’m dreamin’, I’m dreamin’!

    – Do they have a website?

    * Yeah.

    – And you looked at it when you booked?

    * Yeah.

    – And you didn’t notice the size of the room?

    * Nah.

    – [Jeez!]

    * Well, they didn’t have anything to – you know, scale?

    – Even so.

    * And they always use a wide-angled thing on them photos.

    – We should report it to advertising standards, then.

    * Good idea. You do that. I’m off to the pool.

    – Wha–?! Wait! What about me?

    * You might cramp my style.

    – What do you mean?

    * Well, they had photos of the pool on the site, too.

    – And?

    * Jam packed with totty.

    – Jam packed …

    * Jam packed.

    – With totty …

    * Totty.

    – You do realise you’re here with me, don’t you?

    * I’m here with you, yeah, but apparently I’m not *here* with you.

    – Talk sense for once!

    * “Dream on”?

    – Oh, that! So you’re going to throw that in my face, are you?

    * Well, I can’t be spending a whole holiday without a bit of the other.

    – Charming!

    * This may be like a cell, but it ain’t gonna be no monk’s cell. Oh no.

    – So you don’t want to spend a week being … cell-ibate?

    * What’s that?

    – Never mind. Go on then. Off you go.

    * What?

    – Off you go. Down to the pool. Check out the “totty”.

    * You don’t mind?

    – Why should I mind?

    * You mean …

    – Yes, away you go on your little adventure. I’ll stay up here, unpack, call down for some room service. Who knows, the person that brings it up might be my kind of “totty”.

    * You wouldn’t …

    – Ha! You see?! The boot’s on the other foot now, isn’t it?!

    * I was joking about the pool.

    – No you weren’t.

    * Yeah I was. You’re my kind of totty.

    – No I’m not.

    * Yeah you are.

    – Really?

    * Yeah.

    – Hmmm. I suppose the bed might be good for … you know.

    * I think we should try it out now. Come over here.

    – No, you come here.

    * So I’m here. Now what you gonna do about it?

    – Let’s see. Mmmrfsh.

    * Mmmrfsh-toc.

    – I love you.

    * I love you.

    – Sweet confinement it is, then.

    * What’s that?

    – Never mind. Mmmrfsh.

    * Mmmrfsh.


    • Anindita Basu
      Good job Phil. Your piece sweet and dandy…like a Valentine candy.
    • That is hilarious, Phil. I love the back and forth. And the mmmrfsh too.
    • A story with many pictures and no description. The dialogue started a movie in my head. The small room, the woman’s face, the smile, the frown, etc. Very well done!

      And I learned something again. My English is getting better with each of your stories. This time: “Jam packed with totty”. Let’s see when and where I find an opportunity to apply this sentence.

      • Phil Town
        I wouldn’t if I were you, Jürgen …
    • Susan
      Very sweet! I love the dialogue. I also like that I’m learning a new language when I read your stories as I almost always need to research a word or phrase. This time “totty”. And here I’ve been telling people I speak English! Very nice.
    • Hahaha! So much humor, both in the banter and in the form. Simplicity is always a big challenge, and you completely nailed it! It makes the snapshot absolutely universal, and I bet any one of us can relate to it, whatever images we individually create in our minds. Thank you for a good time!
    • oh… one tiny detail I wanted to mention: to me, the shift between – and * to make us understand who is talking was more detrimental than useful… Maybe a question of habit, but it also made me feel undermined as a reader…
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Flo – for the kind comment and the heads-up. In fact I’ve posted similar stories before (pure dialogue, without tags) and have received comments from readers feeling a little lost in the jumble … so I tried to pre-empt it here. “Can’t please all the people all the time” seems to fit for this. 😉
  • Ken Frape
    Hi Phil,

    Ah, a piece that contains real dialogue. In fact, totally dialogue.

    ( Bearing in mind that I only started participating just before Christmas, there may have been loads of dialogue-based stories but obviously I haven’t seen them.)

    I can almost see the room. That’s very astute writing as you don’y actually describe it. It was like taking a slice of real life and it suggests an in depth understanding of interpersonal relationships with all their ups and downs ( and ins and outs).

    Reminds me of a stay in Paris back in the 70s when my girl friend gave me similarly unwelcome comments regarding the chance of any naughty naughties!

    A great start to this particular prompt Phil and you are a stout fellow to go first.

    Well done,

    Ken Frape. (Ken 2 but Ken 1st. this time round.)

    • Phil Town
      Paris in the 70s? Very evocative, Ken. I hope it turned out all right in the end …
  • Adrienne Riggs
    A Matter of Perspective By: Adrienne Riggs (1,215w)

    Dianna lay back on the narrow bed with a contented sigh and locked her fingers behind her head. She contemplated the dirty ceiling for a moment before closing her eyes and smiling. She murmured aloud, “Well, this is a nice change of scenery!”

    “It’s a jail cell!”

    “I was being sarcastic.”

    “No, you weren’t! What are you smiling about? Are you crazy or something?”

    Dianna looked over at the woman sharing her space. What was her name? Bella? Beulah? Bettina? She grinned. “I’m sorry, I’m terrible with names. What was your name again?”

    “Bethena. You can call me Beth.” The older woman pushed back her dirty blonde hair, stared at Dianna and quietly assessed her.

    “Beth. Nice to meet you.” Dianna hummed softly to herself. Her long auburn hair pillowed her head. She had bright blue eyes, clear skin, and a mature body full of soft curves. Not too thin but not fat either. “I’m Dianna.”

    “Yeah, I know. I heard the guard. I ain’t stupid.”

    The humming continued. “I’m sure you’re not.”

    Beth was sure that the guards had locked her up with a loony tune. She was dying for a cigarette but couldn’t have one until only God knew when. The wrinkles etched into her leathery face were evidence that the years had not been kind to her. She had indulged in too much sun, drink, drugs and a parade of men who had abused her, leaving their marks on her thin worn body.

    “Look lady, are you ok?”

    “I’m perfectly fine. Don’t you just love the quiet?”

    Quiet? Now Beth knew the woman had to be off her rocker. She cocked her head and listened. A couple of women were cursing at each other a few cells down. Cell doors clanged open and shut and voices echoed in the open corridor.

    “Yeah Dianna, sure. So quiet, you can hear a pin drop.”

    “I know! Isn’t it great?”

    “I was being sarcastic! It ain’t quiet in this place. Dianna, you got a hearing problem?”

    “No, it’s just a matter of perspective.”

    “LIGHTS OUT!” A guard’s harsh voice rang out and darkness descended. Things slowly quieted down as the inmates settled for the night. Dianna contentedly turned over and pulled the thin blanket over her. Beth just shook her head and settled in her own hard bed.

    Earlier in the day:


    “Mama, mama”


    “Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy!”

    Dianna was trying to wash the dishes and cook dinner at the same time while keeping an eye on the children and the washing machine. It was making a weird clunking noise, not that it could be easily heard over the other sounds in the room. The television was blaring, the baby and little ones crying, the twins arguing and the older kids were loudly competing for the video game console and DVD player. One of the toddlers had pulled the pans out of the cupboard and using a wooden spoon, was banging on them like a metallic set of drums.

    “Ruff, ruff, RUFF!” The family dog, a hyperactive dachshund, was happily bouncing around the children in the room barking non-stop. The dog was an idiot. He ran underfoot, knocked one of the toddlers down, and stole a cookie from the baby.

    “DOWN Dufus!” Dianna attempted to make herself heard over the noise and chaos. The dog’s name was Rufus but had quickly changed to “Dufus” because Dianna was fairly certain that the dog was mentally impaired. Training had been wasted on that one.

    She dodged the dog, grabbed the wooden spoon from 2 year old Billy and scooped him up from the floor. She deposited him at the children’s table and quickly seated the 4 year old twins at the table with him. She pulled baby Trixie closer to the table and dropped a handful of cookies in front of them to stop the screaming and crying. The smell of the meat burning sent her running back to the stove, tripping over the pots and pans on her way. She quickly stirred the food and cursed under her breath as her toe throbbed from hitting the table leg and then a saucepan.

    “I want cookies too!” 6 year old twins Nicky and Susie knocked over a tower of large blocks, adding to the noise in the room and the mess on the floor, as they raced toward the children’s table and began grabbing cookies from their siblings. The screams, wails and crying intensified as a fight ensued.

    The older children, Summer, Mark, John, and Hannah, aged 11 to 16, were still engaged in a hot debate over which game to play and fighting over the two game controllers. When Mark let loose with a string of expletives, Dianna had just about had enough. A loud screeching sound suddenly pierced the air as the washer stopped with a shaking thud and soapy water quickly flooded the laundry room floor.

    For a few seconds, everyone stopped what they were doing. Dianna watched the soapy flood and laughed hysterically. She turned the stove off and threw the steaming pan in the sink, breaking a few glasses in the process. Turning, she gave the pans on the floor a vicious kick and with a loud clatter, they went scattering across the floor.

    “I…HAVE…HAD…IT!” she screamed. “I CAN’T TAKE ANYMORE!”

    All ten children stared at her in shocked silence. ‘Who has 10 kids? What was I thinking?’ Dianna grabbed her coat and keys and glared at the oldest kids.

    “Watch the babies! Your father will be home soon. You can explain all of this to him!”

    Opening the door, she ran to her car and started it. She was shaking with emotion, not knowing whether to laugh or cry, so she did both. She backed out of the driveway and roared off down the street, passing her surprised husband on the way.


    Two hours later, Dianna calmly faced the bewildered police officers in front of her.

    “Ma’am, do you want us to call your husband?”


    “You do realize that you have several charges against you?” The officer looked down. “Let’s see; speeding, running a red light, failure to stop at a stop sign, failure to yield, failure to show identification and…” he hesitated, “doing donuts in a vacant lot?”

    Dianna giggled and struggled to look concerned at the impact of her actions.

    “Ma’am, where’s your driver’s license?”

    “I must have left it at home.”

    “Ma’am, do you realize that we have to lock you up overnight, until you can see the judge in the morning? You don’t look like a criminal to me. If you give me your husband’s name, we may be able to get you out of here tonight.”

    Dianna thought about it. Did she want a night away from the kids and chaos? That didn’t sound too bad.

    She looked at the officer. “I believe I will stay. Please let my husband know that I’m ok and he can meet me here in the morning.”


    Dianna smiled into the darkness. The sounds around her were nothing compared to 10 children. Yes, it was nice to have a night of relative peace and quiet. She laughed softly. Across the room, Beth just rolled her eyes.

    • Anindita Basu
      Excellent story, Adrienne. You have a wonderful vignette here, a slice of a daily life of a frustrated wife…so common, so real, I could right away feel her agony. The sketches of the two women, description of the catastrophy…excellent. An important part of our women’s lives you shone light on with wry details. I loved your story very much. Thank you.
    • Great story Adi,
      The ending comes as no great surprise. You can see it coming from a mile away, but that facts dawn on you slowly enough to entertain.

      I read a story about a RFK Jr. He was doing some community activism in a small foreign country, like Cuba, or Venezuela, when he was arrested and sentenced to 30 days of confinement. When interviewed by a major news outlet, he surprised everyone by stating that along with all his other personal possessions, the loss of his cell phone had afforded him the first sense of peace and quiet he had enjoyed in over 20 years. He said he was reading books he hadn’t had time to read in decades. Though their reasons were different, their motives are identical. Going to jail to get some enforced R & R.
      A very nice and fun story Adi.

    • Adrienne, I like yours too! It reminds me of mom’s getting sick and staying over in a hospital to get some sleep. I heard that’s a thing, but now I can’t remember where I heard it. My only suggestion is that in the first part the perspective flips from Diane to Beth and then the story continues from Diane’s pov. It would be a little easier at first if you just chose one woman to tell it from. But overall I like where this is coming from.
      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks for the feedback Wendy! You are probably right. I was trying to make a contrast between the two women to illustrate the differences in their perspectives of the jail experience. I appreciate your comments!
      • Wendy,
        I heard, or read somewhere that changing the POV effectively in a story (or a chapter) is a very difficult thing to do. I’m not saying that Adi should disregard your advice, which is well-informed I’m sure. But it should be worth mentioning that I didn’t even notice the change of POV. (I should confess that I read it with only one eye open, so, you know, that could have, possibly, in some way, given my history of grammar abuse, affected my ability to discern the… the diffo. Why do I suddenly smell burning acetylene? Probably my imagination. Fear will do that, you know.)
    • From hell to jail. What a surprising idea! I can still hear the soundtrack of that story.

      By the way: Is „doing donuts in a vacant lot“ considered a criminal offense? Or an ironic remark of a policeman?

    • Ken Frape

      An excellent story, well-written and full of family references that I am sure, many of your readers, including me, recognised.

      I don’t think you actually mention the husband’s name. Was that deliberate?

      Perhaps you could have said more about him as he could have been a good father ( he’s certainly fertile!) or not so good. It could have been an added dimension to the story.

      Your description of the scene in the family home when Dianna finally blows is really good. I could almost feel her frustration building up like a head of steam. Excellent writing.


      Ken Frape (Ken 2)

      • Ken (2) Frape,

        BTW, If my comments on your 300 word story sounded unctuous, it was unintended. (It’s been so long since I felt enthusiastic about something I probably forgot how to do it properly.) But believe me, I really enjoyed the story, and it’s an excellent example of your writing, which is, I repeat, very

        The lack of comments on it (the story) from other contributors is disappointing, but not unusual for this site. Not everyone feels either the need, or has the time to comment on everything. Sometimes I wonder if my taste is radically different from other people’s, but then I remember all the times when I was in agreement with everyone so, most likely, people like it, just not as much as I did.

        As for my assessment of my own writing skills, let me put it this way Ken(2), I and I alone have seen the early drafts of my stories. I keep them locked in a box under the staircase. They’re so ugly, (how ugly are they?) they are so ugly, that ugly changed it’s name and moved to another state just to get away from them. That’s how ugly my first drafts are. (And my second, third, fourth, fifteenth, etc., etc., etc.) No, I keep writing because I come up with great story ideas. (At least, that’s what I keep telling myself.) And I enjoy it, the challenge. It’s like sex, or racket-ball, just because I’m no good at it doesn’t mean I have to stop, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna take lessons.

        In fact, I have a story for this prompt, but it’s so bad, I’m really reluctant to post it.

        • Ken Frape
          Hi Ken,

          Thanks once again for taking the time to send your comments. Unctuous is a great word ( I checked it out. I thought I knew what it meant but just needed to check) and I am very happy to receive such praise from you and I accepted it as genuine praise which I appreciate. Your comments are most perceptive and I really enjoy the less than serious ones too.

          I agree that it can be disappointing when there are not many comments and I wonder when is the best time to post a story. Do it early and it may be forgotten. Do it later and it may get swallowed up in the final rush. I am sampling different times and so far, the jury is out. It is quite time consuming to respond to each and every story, especially for people with jobs. I am now retired and trying to live long enough to regain all those pension contributions made over nearly 40 years. So far so good. Still alive!


          Ken 2

    • Susan
      What a fun story! I loved it. And there were certainly times I considered drastic measures such as this to get a little peace and quiet. The sounds of your kids drown out all other noises, no matter how loud. Very well done.
    • Phil Town
      Really like this, Adi. The chaos of homelife and the relative peace of the jail is well established (That house! Aaaargh!). Using Beth to suggest that Dianna might be a bit off her rocker was a neat move. A couple of thoughts: Having Dianna in jail from the outset sets us wondering, but you could maybe have kept the real chronological order? (The intertitle “Earlier in the day:” is a little awkward). And there’s the problem of Dianna deserting her young family, losing a bit of sympathy. But it’s a very enjoyable read.
    • Adrienne, I can see her smile, which brings a smile to my face as well 🙂
      I love the sense of irony. Taking back control of her own life in a place when we assume we have the least control over it. Putting everyone else in their place. Funny. Irony is so precious when we are able to identify it in life. Thank you.
  • Anindita Basu
    The First Passport (1200 words)

    “You may not bring your child with you!” Bellowed the security guard at the US Consulate in Hong Kong. I froze.

    “I need to get a temporary Passport for this child.” I said, “Now!”

    “Office upstairs. No children allowed.” He repeated with a stoic face.

    I tried to convince him I was on my flight to San Francisco from India. Hong Kong was my transit stop. I have a green card, My child was born in the USA, a bonafide US citizen. They told me she didn’t need a visa or passport to enter India as long as she was under two years of age and was entered in her mother’s passport. But I came to know she needed one to enter the USA.

    “Nobody told us that before. Why did India let us go, then?” I argued. “At the transit port in Hong Kong when we were about to board the plane, I came to know this.” I tried to explain pushing the stroller.

    He stood like the tin soldier in my child’s storybook. Stepped one foot forward and blocked me. “No children allowed inside.” He barked. A chilly breeze blew my hair.

    “Look, I killed no one, I didn’t lie or steal… my only fault was I didn’t know I needed a particular document. Please… I can’t leave my child here. Could you?” I pleaded.

    The guard opened the door to two other men but obstructed me. People watched me turning their heads, listening to the drama and passed by.

    Chu, an escort my airlines had provided, came forward.

    ”Keep baby. I look her. You go.” He said. The small man with a square face, a go-tee, hair like the bristles of a brush, jumped up to sit on the railing. He took out a cigarette from his pocket and putting it between his teeth muttered, “You go. Soon lunchtime”.

    What am I to do? What if I come back and see him gone? I felt dizzy. I held the column to balance and sat next to him. I closed my eyes and prayed, ‘Please give me the strength, oh God to trust this guy. What choice do I have?’

    He puffed a circle of smoke. I took a deep breath inhaling that and heard myself saying,

    “Okay, Chu, please keep an eye on my baby. There are crackers in the diaper bag and water, in case she fusses. And here is her security teddy bear.”

    The man nodded. Puffed another circle of smoke. He pointed out his watch.

    “Soon lunch hour. Go quick, Ma’am.”


    I pushed hard the heavy entry door, waited for the elevator and finally when I reached the office I found there was a long wait. I yanked out a ticket number – 23. Somewhere I heard 23 is a lucky number. I tried to focus all my strength praying, rubbing it between my fingers. ‘Please, oh please, God, let 23 be a lucky number that will let us out from this labyrinth.’

    “Number 23” I heard loud in the microphone; ran to the window and told the man the whole story again. Resembling a sumo wrestler with a formidable mustache he gave a strange smile, turning his lips, like a pout with,

    “What proof you are not taking someone’s child? All kinds of things happen. Your child needs a document to enter US port.”

    “What will happen then?” I almost cried.
“I don’t know. They could detain you, or your child….” “Detain? Where, in jail or something?”
 He shrugged.
 “Just go sit there, we will call.” He said pointing to a bench.

    The room was large, but I felt the walls were coming closer, confining me in a six by eight cell. I crouched. Head on my knees, I felt nauseated and claustrophobic until I heard, “Follow me”.
    The sumo wrestler lead. Climbing a dark staircase we came in front of a small veranda with a sea view. I said,

    “Well, this is a nice change of scenery.”

    “It’s a jail cell.”

    “I was being sarcastic.” He added with a grin showing yellow spaced apart teeth. Handing me a file he opened a door, “Go.”


    In front of a large mahogany table across from a wide window with a view of the ocean sat a lady who looked like Julie Andrews from Sound of Music.

    “What can I do for you?” Ms. Wellmann chimed reaching for the file and then immersed herself in it.

    From the window, the water looked calm. The day was crisp with cotton-clouds floating on the cerulean sky. Sailboats glided on the turquoise water.

    As I looked at the wall clock, its two hands joined like a prayer sign. A church bell rung twelve times. I shuddered.

    “I left my baby for over two hours with an unknown person.” My voice croaked, tears threatening to roll down.

    The lady fixed her eyes on mine and pushed a tissue box. “Go bring her here. Show this slip to the security.”

    I ran as fast as I could down the stairs, thinking the elevator might take longer and when I opened the door, I found Chu was gone, my baby too.


    I looked everywhere, asked everyone. Nobody had seen a baby with a Chinese guy sitting there. The security guards changed shifts.

    I exited the building, ran down the hill until I hit a traffic light. A ramp went up, busses and taxis crossing, speeding downhill. Through that cacophony, I saw a park with a children’s play structure. I sprinted towards it.

    On a swing sat a little girl with a red coat. Zooming closer, it was my daughter sitting on Chu’s lap eating an orange.

    “How come you left?” I charged him, hands on my waist.

    “She crying there. Happy here.” Chu grinned.

    I felt like slapping him but my daughter stretched her arms and pushed an orange in my mouth. The sweetness melted on my tongue soothing my scorched throat.

    “Let’s go.” I hurried. He picked up the baby and sat her on his shoulders, the bags dangled from there too. I pushed the empty stroller up the killer hill thanking him silently.


    Ms. Wellmann proved my child was born in the US digging her medical records which I had in my purse. She linked it with my passport entry and exit dates and issued a temporary passport.
    I couldn’t thank her enough.


    “That’s the story of your first passport,” I told my daughter, three decades later on a chilly December morning. Now pushing the stroller where my granddaughter slept peacefully we were approaching the Capitol Hill in Washington DC to join the rally in 2017.

    “If it were it today, Ma, Ms. Wellmann would have behaved differently. She’d be instructed to put you in a jail, where rats crawled on the floor and cockroaches climbed the wall. No passport for me.” She said narrowing her eyes, dancing her fingers in the air, clawing them mimicking the rats’ scurry. I shivered with a gaping mouth.

    A roar rose- “Dreamers Act!”. Thousands of protesters with placards on their hands shouted for the immigrant child’s rights – “Real lives at stake!”

    • This is a very good modern horror story. (I mean a story that scares you, without ghosts and zombies.) I immediately had the feeling of reading a story that someone has experienced. Probably the author herself, right?

      I like small details like the name “Ms. Wellmann “.

    • Ken Frape

      Previous comments are so apt. Truly, a modern horror story. Anyone with an ounce of feeling must know that a mother would rather die than lose a child and many have done just that. I will never forget the film “Sophie’s Choice” where the mother was forced to chose only one of her children when she was being sent to the Holocaust Death Camps. It is a decision no parent should ever have to make.

      The inhumane bureaucracy that just grinds people down has undertones of Franz Kafka and a world where processes are seen as justified especially in immigration issues these days.

      What makes it worse is that the events in this story are happening all the time.


      Ken Frape (Ken2)

    • Susan WM
      Good job showing the sense of panic, frustration and horror. Anyone who has lost track for even a minute can relate to the feelings you invoked.
    • Phil Town
      I was holding my breath for almost the whole story, Anindita. Really well done. A slice of Kafka for our days. The woman’s quandary, the tension of the left baby, the uncertainty of the bureaucracy … then a very strong political message at the end. Great stuff.
      • Anindita Basu
        Thank you Phil. Wow Kafka style! I am flattered. It happened to me and I think how many innocent immigrant mothers feel today. Yes I went to protest in that rally too.
    • “No! No! No! No! No!” That’s what kept echoing into my head as I was seeing your character running through the airport, leaving her baby behind, having left her behind, not finding her when she returns…! The inhumanity of airports is part of the contemporary nightmare of traveling, and truly brings you down to states of panic you didn’t think yourself capable of.
      And the inhumanity of bureaucracy is one of the big scandals of humanity: you would think we would be so much more evolved as a species, in the 21st century…
      The way you are telling the story really takes us through the various feelings your character goes through, as if she were one of those balls propelled in those old pinball machines…
      Thank you for taking it to a note of hope at the end: we can make a difference if we continue fighting!
  • Anindita Basu
    It’s strange to see that there are no spaces for new paragraphs I intented. I must have done something wrong. Somewhere in my senior days or old age ..I must have done some thing wrong!…Oh well!
    • Carrie Zylka

      I fixed it!
      When you paste into the comment box make sure there is a hard return at the end of each paragraph. I always have to turn the “show paragraph marks” option in word before I post.

      • Anindita Basu
        Thank you, Carrie.
  • Anindita,

    Your word processor’s formatting is not supported or compatible with the html code used by this site. (Or something like that.) You just have to check and view what you’ve copied to the site, add the indents after copying before hitting the ‘post’ button.

    • Anindita Basu
      Thank you
  • Ken Frape
    Eric Enjoys A Ride On A Train.

    “What exactly did it say, Jane? What were Carrie’s words?”
    The reply from my PA was still indistinct.
    “Look, the signal is very poor. Send a text, would you?
    “ I’m just about to get on my train now. OK?”
    “Fine. See you tomorrow.”

    Moments later amidst a cacophony of running footsteps, excited greetings, announcements, the squeak of travel case wheels, the slamming of carriage doors and the rush for seats, I spotted mine, highlighted by the card tucked into the headrest. SEAT 43R, RESERVED, ( rear facing aisle seat) which perfectly matched the information on my pre-booking receipt, firmly held in my hand. Information that was apparently too obvious or complicated for the heavily built traveller who was already occupying that same seat, his enormous right hand holding up a novel. Or perhaps he DID see that the seat was reserved and just ignored it. People do that, you know. On trains and buses. In the cinema too!

    I stood by the side of “my” seat, hoping, nay, expecting that the occupier would look up, immediately realise his mistake and slide out of “my” seat, muttering fulsome apologies as he did so. He did not. Instead, I was forced to press myself into a space between two rows of seats to allow several passengers to slip past and take up their seats. By the time the rush was over I could not see any seats still unoccupied.

    With a lurch that almost caught me off balance, the train pulled out of the station. I ducked my head and glanced at the scenery as we slid past little knots of waiting passengers on the platform, kiosks offering newspapers, sandwiches and coffees then the lines of posters offering Broadway shows, property management and exotic holidays. As the train increased speed everything blurred like the opening flickering frames of an old 35mm film and then cleared as we slipped past the scraggy back end of those same houses and shops which seem to back onto railway line everywhere. Those images were spliced by huge redbrick railway arches, bright with graffiti, sudden pupil-shrinking shafts of sunlight, the unused side tracks dotted with spare carriages and shopping trollies, plastic bags and hardy grasses pushing up through the blackened aggregate. Then all went into shadow as we barrelled into a tunnel.

    I looked back to the heavily-built man, hoping still for a quick resolution. He ignored me. At least, he did not look up as I stood beside him, me in the aisle and him in “my” seat, pre-booked by the ever efficient Jane.

    I coughed politely, hand over mouth. No response from heavily-built man. The woman in the seat beside him looked up at me, a bleak half smile on her lips as she made a very small movement of her head. Her eyes dropped down towards her right hand, which was covered by a newspaper. The heavily-built man, the HBM, let’s call him, I noticed then, also had his left hand covered by the newspaper. Secretly holding hands? Hostage situation?

    I looked back at HBM, still determined to resolve the seating issue. If the woman was trying to convey some secret or coded message to me then I didn’t get it. Not then.
    I coughed again but louder this time.

    “Excuse me,” I said, sounding like a schoolboy asking for his ball back and with little expectation of getting it.
    Finally, HBM lowered his book and lazily turned his head towards me. The face that now looked up to me was cruel, a predator, a hunter. A man who would never be fazed, or taken by surprise. The face of a man who had hurt people and enjoyed it.

    “What is it, mate?” His voice was as deep as his frame suggested with a strong New York accent. It made the whole question sound like one word. “Whatisitmate?”
    I swallowed my Adam’s Apple, conscious of how nervous it made me look as it bobbed.

    “I think you may be in my seat. Sir.” God knows what possessed me to add the ”Sir.”

    I think you may be in my seat, sir.” He mimicked my words sarcastically. “ Idon’tfinkso,mate.” He turned back to his book. The cover read, “I Want You Dead” by Peter James. A good read.

    I persisted. The rope was knotted now. Why not slip the noose around my neck?

    “According to my receipt this is the seat I pre-booked. Aisle seat 43R, that’s rear-facing. This slip of paper here, ( I pulled the card from the headrest and turned it towards him) confirms that this is seat 43R, aisle seat.” I narrowly avoided adding the “Sir” again.

    He put his book down and lifted his hand up to pull the slip of paper from mine.

    “Let’savalookthenmate,” he said it all as one word again and with that word barely out of his mouth he pushed the piece of paper into his mouth, chewed it briefly and then swallowed.

    “Nowwhatbitofpaperwasthatthen?” I swear he was really enjoying himself. The sarcasm hung from his thick lips.
    The woman beside him was looking at me again and this time there was no mistaking her body language and her head shake. Another warning?

    “Sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing,” said a quiet female voice from behind me, her hand firm on my shoulder. “There is a spare seat here. I think you should take it.” It was three rows back, front-facing by the window. The worst of all worlds for me. I turned back towards HBM and the woman. There was a principle at stake here.

    “Now look here,” I started to say as the woman finally rose slightly in her seat. She swept her hand across the front of her jacket, lifting the material and just briefly revealing a holster and a gun. A police badge hung from her breast shirt pocket. The newspaper slipped down to show that she was handcuffed to HBM. They both looked at me as she said,

    “Look fella, I suggest you take up that offer. Let’s not make a fuss, eh? I don’t think Eric here is inclined to move. Aint that right, Eric?”

    Eric laughed then and it wasn’t a pretty sight.

    “Eric loves his train journey every time we have to transfer him to a “new home” but if he he gets angry………..” she let the words hang there……………….”people get hurt.”

    Totally cowed, I crept into the seat I was offered I couldn’t help worrying about how such a small woman, handcuffed to such a large man, would cope if Eric did get angry. The woman sitting next to me, the one who offered me the alternative seat, must have read my thoughts.

    “Don’t concern yourself, sir. There are six close protection officers on duty in this carriage. We know how to deal with Eric. Relax. Enjoy the ride.”

    Ten minutes later my phone pinged. It was that message from Jane. It read,
    “Your writers’ prompt, from Carrie Zylka. 1216 words and you must use the following sentences in order, exactly as written,

    “Well this is a nice change of scenery.”

    “It’s a jail cell.”

    “I was being sarcastic.”

    I looked at the prompt again.
    Jail cell?

    After the day I’ve had?

    Perhaps next time, Carrie.

    Ken Frape. February 19th. 2019

    • Thanks for this story! As an intensive user of railways, I know very well the situations described here. Although I have not met “Eric” yet. I think in my next discussion about reservations I will be glad that I do not have to discuss with Eric. 🙂
      • Ken Frape
        Hi Berlinermax,
        Thanks for the comments. I had some reservations ( no pun intended) about some aspects of my story but I was dead set against a story based in a prison cell so I was a bit free with my interpretation of the prompt.
        Ken Frape
    • Susan
      Great job of setting the scene and use of dialogue. I was feeling a little nervous for the poor guy. Train travel is supposed to be relaxing, but this sounds closer to what I usually experience. Thoroughly enjoyed the story.
    • Phil Town
      Ha! Fun story, Ken. Great title! The scene is very well set up (the description as the train pulls out is really first class … unlike the carriage). I’m afraid the sexist me had HBM the policeman and the woman the prisoner. Do New Yorkers use “mate” I wonder? The way you use the prompt is a little cheeky. Great read, though.
      • Ken Frape
        Hi Phil,

        Thanks for the useful remarks. You are probably right in that I did not consider turning the prisoner and cop gender around. I think though, on reflection, I would have left things as they were as I felt that the big, ugly, nasty man worked better for me, although there are big, ugly, nasty women about too. I have seen them!!

        When I read the prompt I thought, “OK, this will be a jail story” and my immediate response was to resist that at all costs, as you did.

        You are right about the use of “mate” which I realise is hardly New York-speak. I have amended my story to make it London-based but decided not to repost. It’s really interesting what other people spot and the writer does not.

        Here’s looking forward to the next one.

        By the way, the “Paris Experience” did not work out but I did marry a wonderful woman and we are still together 42 years later.


        Ken Frape.

    • Anindita Basu
      You have a great style Ken F, especially in this story. I loved reading it and could relate so well. The ending is quite a twist too.
    • Ken, your story got the biggest laugh from me! I thought it was such a brilliant case of highjacking the writer’s prompt! Very, very funny!
      And so well written and constructed: I was growing impatient with the main character, wanting him to stop being such a fuss, get a grip, assert himself… then the face to face with an authentic bully… and finally the deflating moment when the cop reveals the situation. That’s really good.
      Not to mention the beautifully written paragraph describing the train ride, from “With a lurch that almost caught me off balance” to the tunnel.
      Thanks for the laugh and beauty combined!
  • Ken 2,
    Sounds ta me like you wuz a victim of soykimstance. Cleah-ly. The only problem I have with this story is accepting the possibility that you actually have a personal assistant.
  • Old Cheese by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin ©2019 [word count 483]

    The guard pushed the prisoner down the dank hallway to the prison block. She’d seen his type before – moderately good looking, clothing stylish but not too eye-catching, silly lopsided grin, and pithy remarks meant to win your trust. Just the sort of guy that would have his lonely marks all hot and bothered right up until he stole the rug out from under their feet all in the name of some ‘noble cause.’ Some of these guys could even manage to get their prey to take all of the heat for them or drop the charges even. Some people were so gullible.

    They stopped in front of a barred door. The prisoner stood there silently.

    “Aren’t you going to say something like, ‘Well, this is a nice change of scenery’?”

    “It’s a jail cell.”

    “I was being sarcastic.” She pushed him into the room. “You rogues types always go for sarcastic charm, don’t you?” She locked the door and released his bonds. He relaxed into his lopsided grin.

    “You’ve got me all figured out, don’t you sweetheart?” He leaned back onto his cot, propping his feet up on the bars and lacing his fingers lazily behind his head. He winked at her and then chuckled to himself as she rolled her eyes.

    “None of that crap works on me.”

    “Oh, I know that, but it’s fun to exasperate you.”

    “Still not working.” She turned to walk back down the hallway.

    “Not yet, but it give it time. I grow on people.”

    “Like mold on old cheese, I’m sure you do.”

    “Ouch, sweetheart, that really hurts.” His chuckle faded as she turned the corner. Some guys just reveled in the stereotype.

    * * *
    The guard returned at her next shift to find the jail in total chaos. She grabbed the nearest soldier and asked what happened.

    “The prisoner escaped!”

    “Who was it? Fallura? Jenassa? No, I bet it was Dinara – that woman falls in love at the drop of a hat.” She shook her head.

    “Actually, it was Harlin. It seems the prisoner convinced him he was some sort of revolutionary and setting him free would ‘help the cause’ or something. Harlin sneaked him the key, a cloak, and drugged the rest of the night shift’s tea. The sergeant has him locked up for sedition.”

    “Well, quick organize search parties and bring that bastard back here. He’s already got a head start.” As the soldier ran off, she went to gather up her guard staff. It seemed it was time to have a training session on how to resist the wiles – in whatever form they might take – of their charges.

    She had to hand it to that prisoner though. While she was leery of his charm, she hadn’t counted on the romance of a cause to turn the guards sympathetic. “I guess even an old cheese can surprise you once in a while.”

    • Ken Frape
      Hi Wendy,

      I loved the final phrase regarding , “even an old cheese can surprise you once in a while.” It’s an expression I have never heard and yet, I understood exactly what you meant.

      My only criticism is the brevity of the piece. There is absolutely no rule that says you MUST use all of the 1200 or so words available but you had so many more words available to you and could have used these, or some of them, to develop the plot and / or the characters a little more.

      I also write short pieces called Flash Fiction which have a very limited word count such as 150 words or 300 and many other limits.. Your piece really would qualify as a piece of excellent Flash Fiction. Try looking up “Bath Flash Fiction” and its subset “Ad Hoc Fiction.” if you like the sound of this very short form of writing. I have found it very useful to keep me from overblown verbosity!


      Ken Frape (Ken 2)

      • I wasn’t that into the prompt this time around but want to push myself to write, that’s why I kept it super short. There have been plenty of times where I ran over and had to cut the chaff in the past. I’m not sure I could come up with a whole story in 150 words lol that would really be a challenge!
        • Ken Frape

          I too, was not that motivated by the prompt so I more or less ignored it. I did my own story and used the prompt like the two slices of bread used to make a sandwich. The filling therefore was about 1100 words and the two slices of bread were very thin at about 50 words each!

          The flash fiction challenge is excellent practice and great fun. When I write a longer piece I then feel like I have masses of space for development and description.


          Ken F

          • Anindita Basu
            Love your analogy of the sandwich, Ken F
    • Wendy,

      I really liked this story more for the writing than the story. My feelings are similar to the other Ken’s, I enjoy your writing and simply wish for more of it. And I often feel a little disappointed when you pass up an opportunity to offer the reader (us) more of your wonderful style.

      One thought occurred to me after I read it. Your character’s laid back posture, means of escape and false resignation that he was destined for a lengthy stay, bespeaks the maxim that people are not always as, or what they appear to be. This is, as always, a very clever and well written story. Nice job.

      • Are you guys really just two sides to the same Ken coin? haha but thanks for the vote of confidence.
    • Phil Town
      I have to echo the others’ comments here, Wendy. The opening, the description of the prisoner, the sharp dialogue … all in the first part … are excellent. Then it seems like you’re rushing to catch a bus or something, and the denouement just pours out. Great first part, though.
    • Wendy, I have to agree with some of the other arguments regarding the feeling that the story is rushed, but you explained why. I think you do have a cool draft to work with, though.
      I particularly loved the dialog during the first part. It flows really well to the point we almost don’t want to see it stop.
      Thanks for taking your chance even knowing you couldn’t fulfill the requirements: it’s a good reminder that the most important is to continue writing!
    • I’m glad you both liked the dialogue since I’m not always sure about it and work hard to get it right. I totally get that the second part could’ve been drawn out more, and honestly I stopped it for awhile and just wrote that to finish it. It does have potential to flesh out at a later date though.
  • Susan WM
    Girls’ Weekend (1191 including prompt)

    I grip the cold metal bars in total disbelief. This isn’t happening. The rusty dampness of the cell makes my stomach roll. How did I end up here? The answer is on the dirty bench behind me; my friend wailing like she’s dying.
    I turn and look at my oldest friend, the constant screw-up, Trudy. I see her glazed eyes, mascara stained cheeks, bird’s nest hair, one broken heeled shoe, and her ripped short skirt. I have no idea what happened to her skirt or shoe. She reeks of cheap wine and mixed drinks. She can’t stop crying. If I slap her one of those beefy guards will come. She’s becoming hysterical. I need to take her mind off our situation.

    “Well this is a nice change of scenery.”

    “It’s a jail cell.”

    “I was being sarcastic.”

    She looks confused but stops making that noise so I turn back to hear what Assholes One and Two are saying. I think I hear ‘the dumb blonde’. That would be Trudy. She isn’t dumb until she drinks. Then she’s a freaking idiot.

    It started when she insisted on a girls’ weekend. She doesn’t get out much, so I agreed to spend the weekend in a small town where we know no one, and paint it red. Only this town is a little too small. We overdid it with the flirting. Or rather, Trudy did.

    We were having a good time in the local bar, drinking with two good looking yet dim-witted guys. My back was to Trudy, but I could hear her fake laugh. As her voice got louder, I knew the number of drinks she’d accepted had grown. I was busy pulling my skirt down over my thighs. The height of the barstool made my outfit a poor choice.
    I should have known by the way my guy, Mike, kept looking over to his friend and not at my bare thighs, that something was wrong.

    “So, Lizzy, that’s your name, right? Where did you say were from?” He yelled over the music.

    “I don’t think I did, Mike.” I gave a mysterious grin. It’s been a while since I played this game.

    He moved closer and whispered something. The music was so loud I had no clue what he said.

    “What? Sorry I can’t hear you.” I leaned toward him and yelled in the direction of his ear.

    He looked serious and I wondered if he misheard me. Then I heard Trudy yell.

    “Get your goddamn hands off me!” Her words were slurred. As I turned to see what was going on, I felt Mike grab my wrists and pull them behind my back. I saw the other guy who’d been plying Trudy with drinks putting handcuffs on her wrists.
    “What the hell are you doing? Get those off me!” I was screaming and trying to kick behind me. I was no match. We were dragged to an unmarked car and literally thrown into the backseat.

    All I heard was ‘solicitation’. The ringing in my ears and the pounding of my heart drowned out anything else.
    Standing here now, I keep going over how they thought we were working girls. Trudy is a grade school teacher for crying out loud. That cop said nothing to me about a date or payment. I have to figure out how to get out of this.

    They let me leave a message for my attorney, Matt before they took our phones and shoved us into this cell. I hope he listens to his messages soon.

    I see Mike and Gary, if that’s even their real names, bringing two women to the cell. Great. Just when you think it can’t get worse. They teeter in on spiked heels, looking like seventies street walkers. Their clothes reveal boney bodies, the result of a steady diet of drugs and little else. One is almost six feet tall and wears a bright red wig and the other wears fishnets and a blonde wig. If things get rough pulling their hair will do no good.

    They look us over. Big Red one looks bored, but the one with fishnets looks amused. Like the playground bully. Ready for some fun.

    “Do either of you have a cigarette? I’d kill for one.” Asks Trudy. She’s actually hopeful.

    “Tap on the wall and ask them to bring you one with your steak dinner, dear.” Says Fishy.

    Here we go.

    “Really? You think they would?” Big Red laughs but Fishy is not amused.

    I sit next to Trudy and pat her back, praying she’ll keep quiet.

    “Bitch, you think you’re funny? You a stand-up?” This from Fishy.

    “She’s still a little tipsy.” I try to give that you-know-how-it-is look.

    “Tipsy? Oh is she Babs? Who the hell’s talking to you?” Fishy’s imitation of being snooty.

    “Leave them alone. My head is killing me. Must violence be a part of every damn minute with you?” Apparently Big Red is the leader of the two.

    I wish Trudy would be quiet. As they sit Trudy starts crying again.

    “Oh, hell no, shut that whore up right now.” Fishy stands. Big Red stares at her until she sits back down.

    “Mikey trapped you two, huh? I can see you aren’t pros.” Big Red smiles as she says it, but this offends me for some reason.

    I hear raised voices coming from the office. I recognize one as Matt’s. Thank God he got my message and came. The entire building isn’t larger than my kitchen so I can see three pair of feet, two belonging to the cops. How did I not notice those shoes before? Cop shoes.

    Suddenly Mikey comes toward the cell, Matt behind him. No smiles but I see keys. He unlocks the door and motions Trudy and I out. He’s pretty pissed and doesn’t look at us.

    “Bye bitches” calls out Fishy.

    Trudy turns and waves. With a genuine smile.

    Matt shoots me a look that means keep quiet.

    Trudy gets in the backseat and promptly falls asleep. She won’t remember this tomorrow.
    I look over at Matt as we drive to the hotel to get our belongings.

    “Well? What happened?” I ask.

    “Simple entrapment. The threat of playing your cell phone recording and calling in the media made them see the error of their ways.”

    “What recording?” He rolls his eyes. Stupid question. Matt, in addition to being my partner, is my friend, a top attorney, fast talker and smooth liar.

    “You dodged a bullet. Can you imagine if these country bumpkins found they had New York city’s number two Madame in their little cell?

    “Shhhh”. I look at Trudy who thinks I’m an executive assistant. She snores loudly.

    I look out the window and chuckle at Matt’s little dig. Number two, but not for long. My business is growing. Tonight took me back years to when I was a working girl. Now I manage them. Clearly, I’m out of practice in the field, but my clients don’t frequent dive bars. It’s been so long since I’ve dressed like this. I can’t wait to get out of this tiny skirt and even tinier town.

    • Susan,
      A very enjoyable story. I like the way that you led us on, as your characters were doing the same. Nicely wrapped up twist at the end.
    • Phil Town
      Really enjoyable story, Susan. The dialogue is brilliant. The set-up is great, too, as is the twist. I wonder if the flashback could have been separated from the present-time bits with some sort of separator …
      … or something like that.

      Nice one!

      • Susan
        Thanks, Phil. Thank you for providing feedback and suggestions, which are helpful as always. Yep, I see what you’re saying and agree. I’ll incorporate that idea. I’ve been so hesitant to use flashbacks (I’ve gotten the proverbial hand-slap about those). It is difficult to make sure, in such a short piece, that the reader is aware that you’re taking them back in time. Much appreciated!
  • A really surprising ending. I love it.
  • Anindita Basu
    Nice twist at the end.
  • Ilana L
    I really wanted to compete this week, but it’s been a very intense last month for me and my new job takes up a lot of time, and I have a raging toothache plus a car on its last legs. So life is very intense at the moment. I have enjoyed reading the stories and I’m going to vote when it’s time, so at least I’ll be contributing in someway to literary advancement.
  • Niall Richardson
    The prisoner’s mind (1,075)

    The dying are, through no fault of their own, tirelessly hysterical. It a solemn fact of morbidity and one which I had seldom found cause to ponder before arriving in my current state of affairs. The reason for this, I feel, derives from our egotistical transcendence from anything that may call itself final. This dangerous detachment from reality arrives, fully formed, during childhood. We are told that the bee is ‘sleeping’, or that Grandma has ‘gone to a happier place’. What nonsense. If one really wanted to protect a child, they would bare to them the harsh truths of death, for at least then we may have a chance of attaining the true, overarching perspective.

    Of course, I cannot omit myself from this disillusioned throng of society, for had I not spent years cultivating my very own doctrine of the microcosm? Had I not devoted the arduous majority of my life to avoiding this very moment? This very question, even? It was only now, with the blinkered sights of mundane routine finally lifted, that the true frivolity of these accomplishments shone through.

    It felt as if I had been imprisoned in my most recent manifestation of squalor for days, but it may as well have been years. Once the initial terror takes hold, there is really nothing else to be said, or indeed felt, in regards to seclusion. The guard, a large and decidedly emotionless man, hadn’t so much as looked in my direction during this time, and I had begun to suspect in him the type of disregard usually found in a psychopath or idiot. Was this some kind of sadistic torment? Making clear how easily I could be torn down from my pillar of intellectuals by those I had risen above?

    In my humble view, biased though it is, there was only one true mistake that I had made to guide my fate into such a bleak climax. Decades ago, when the new society was blossoming and fighting for some sense of conformity, there had been those who looked down upon the mild misdemeanours I had been involved in. To them, my record had read as if a grotesque shopping list of criminal achievements, where groceries had become adultery charges and cleaning supplies, scandals of misogyny. As time went on, and democratic power was transformed into authoritarian control, this mere revulsion was woven seamlessly into the new society’s rulebook. And once there is a rulebook, there is undoubtedly a corresponding rule-breakers-book, often greatly outweighing the former.

    These were fair charges and, for all the corrupting mishaps which may have skewed my dwindling moral compass, I accepted them as just. Though this, it must be said, did very little for me in the way of solace.

    The silence had become unbearable and, assuming that my disinterested captor was not in the state of mind for conversation, I searched for the one voice that gave me comfort. It was a voice, inseparable from my own, that at was at once transcendent of, and imminent to, my thoughts. It said,

    “Well this is a nice change of scenery.”

    “It’s a jail cell.”

    “I was being sarcastic.” And then, as if taunting me, “lighten up, you have nothing else to lose but your resilience of mind.”

    It, I, was asking what may be the most demanding question unutterable. The dying, freed though they are from the blinkered perspective of life, nearly always fail to hold on to those parts of the blinkers that make the small things relevant and, where possible, humorous.

    And so now, as I am dragged from that puddled purgatory of a cell, I am faced with the beginnings of my very own closing ceremony. It would take very little, I noticed, to turn this public spectacle of hate into one of celebration. The crowd, whose chants now drifted over to me through tar-black air, were there not because I was dying, but that simply that something was happening. The stage, the chants, the sense of unity could just as easily be directed at my life, rather than my death. It was, after all, a matter of perspective.

    As the two rock-like men carried me outside and onto the makeshift stage, the sunlight tore into my eyes. Through a haze of dust, I could just make out the eager faces of what must have been three hundred men, women and children who had come to share in the hatred of criminality. They would, no doubt, return home once this, and in turn I, was over to houses crawling in exactly those moral depravities for which I had been condemned. To my surprise, this was a welcome thought. How bad can it really be, how corrupt was I, if the only thing standing between me and those who cheered for my death was a level of discreteness.

    “Today,” someone behind me announced, “we witness the hanging of thief, adulterer and criminal William Cooke.”

    It was at that moment that I realised that this couldn’t possibly happen. I wasn’t meant to be hanged, not William Cooke. The guards must have noticed my change in posture, for a felt them tighten their grip on my belt. They had me trapped.

    Slowly, and with a quickening sense of dread, they urged me towards the trapdoor up ahead. It was no more than five paces away, I had to act. Luckily the crowd were confined to one side of the stage; the others being used as grand entrances for the hangman and his supporters. My mind raced, searching hurriedly for some kind of weapon.

    Then, through the adrenaline-fuelled luck of hysteria, a wooden board creaked under my foot. Instantly I halted, making as if to shy back in fear. A second later the guards pushed back on my shoulders, and I sprang away from them. The board had, miraculously, ripped apart from the cladding in my hand and now resembled a make-shift spear end. Not stopping to think, I charged forward, barrelling almost immediately into the shocked spokesman. The blood was pouring from his chest before I got up.

    From this point onwards I simply ran. The onlookers were, as I had expected, reluctant to play any significant role in the proceedings and only a few dared to chase me. Neither they nor the guards managed to catch me before I crossed the border into redemption. That is one thing about death; it can really make you feel alive.

    • Niall,

      Intriguing story, very skillfully delivered. (Except for a half-a-dozen odd typos. Because of the name, I was fooled into thinking this had some historically relevant details. But it doesn’t. I was left a little confused by the phrase: ‘the board had… ripped apart from the cladding in my hand…’ Because I don’t know what cladding is, or how it got into his hand. I confess that I was pretty much spellbound up to that point. Pretty fabulous writing.

    • Phil Town
      Very stylish writing, Niall – the superior voice, suddenly brought down to Earth by the mention of his name. Some great description (“puddled purgatory”, “tar-black air” …). As you and others have said, the escape is just a little too easy and too brusquely described, relative to the carefully established ideas set out beforehand. But it’s all very elegant.
  • Ken Frape
    Hi Niall,

    A very cleverly worded “treatise” upon the morality of man, the only creature on the planet that executes its own kind for an imagined and subjective justice. That’s civilisation for you!

    For me, the escape didn’t quite ring true as the prisoner states that , “the board had, miraculously, ripped apart from the cladding …..etc.”…….”the blood was pouring from his chest before I got up.” What happened to the two “rock-like” guards?

    This, of course, should not and does not, detract from the excellent quality of your writing.


    Ken Frape (Ken 2)

    • Niall Richardson
      Thank you very much for you comments, the ending was indeed quite rushed and at any rate pacing is something I need to work on. Best wishes, Niall
  • Carrie Zylka

    The winner is in!
    Congrats to all who participated!

    1st Place: Bleak House by Berlinermax
    2nd Place: A Matter of Perspective by Adrienne Riggs
    3rd Place: The First Passport by Anindita Basu
    4th Place: Sweet Confinement by Phil Town
    5th Place: Eric Enjoys A Ride On A Train by Ken Frape
    6th Place: Girls’ Weekend by Susan WM
    7th Place: The Prisoner’s Mind by Niall Richardson
    8th Place: Old Cheese by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin

    Favorit Character: “Dianna” from A Matter of Perspective by Adrienne Riggs
    Favorite Dialogue: (a total sweep!!) Sweet Confinement by Phil Town

    New prompt will be up soon…..

    • Ken Frape
      Hi All,

      Well done to Berlinermax.

      An excellent story that captured the imagination.


      Ken Frape (Ken 2)

    • Susan WM
      Ugh! trying to say Congrat and my silly phone with auto-correct and a mind of its own when it decides to “send” is thwarting my attempts. Sorry for typos or repeats.
    • Phil Town
      Congratulations, Jürgen! On a hat-trick!
    • Anindita Basu
      Congratulations Berlinmax…it was a great story.
  • Congratulations Jurgen-meister for being at the top of a fine crop of stories.
  • Carrie Zylka
    I won’t be able to get the next post up for a few hours. So here’s the next prompt if you’d like to get a head start.

    “It was a dark, stormy night.”
    1200 words

  • Thanks to all of you! This means a lot to me. And I want to thank Phil Town especially, who encouraged me all the way. He told me about the contest in a vegan restaurant called „Cherry Garden“. So I tried to write a story in English. I showed that to him and asked him, if it’s good enough for „A Place for Fiction Writers“. Since then I’ve shown all stories to him. Just to find capital grammar mistakes. Thanks Phil! Writing in a foreign language is an adventure and a thrill!
    • Congratulations, Jürgen!!!
      Keep them coming: your stories are unique and, most important of all: you have a VOICE!
    • Anindita Basu
      You have the gift for storytelling ..that is the most important thing I guess and that can overcome the glitches and hiccups of language barrier…I am not sure if I worded it correctly, another foreign toungue -berlinermax.!!.but keep it up. I am looking forward for your next one.
      • Anindita Basu
        Ah! Foreign tongue I mean.

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