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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

First Person Writing Prompt “The Man in Black”

Theme: The Man in Black

A little girl is sitting next to a man in black. “What do you do mister?” She asks him.

Taking off his sunglasses with a faint smile, he says, “I make bad people go away.”

The story must be written in the first person, you may write from any character’s perspective.

The mentioned scene must be somewhere in the story, and you may re-write it to suit your version.

*If you use the words exactly as a story opener the 88 words will not count against your 1200.

Story Requirements:

  • A little girl
  • A man in black
  • Sunglasses

Word Count: 1,200 (*1288)

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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here. According to the writing prompt roster, the next person to choose the theme/first line/dialogue prompt is Ken Cartisano.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

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127 thoughts on “First Person Writing Prompt “The Man in Black”

  • Alice Nelson

    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.)

  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in for comments. Another train story hmmm? Is there a trend somewhere that I’m unaware of? LOL
    • Carrie Zylka

      Hahaha oh yeah good point!
      Maybe I’ll change it so it can be anywhere someone would be sitting next to someone lol

      • Carrie,
        I think having the scene at a train station is a little limiting.
        • Anindita Basu
          But Ken, there is no mention of a train or platform. The girl is sitting next to a man in black. Could be a bus stop, a bench airplane? No? All we need is a girl sitting next to a man in black..a sunglass and the voice of a little girl. Please correct if I am wrong.
          Ken I can see you have already started cooking is hm..I can smell it.


          • Carrie Zylka

            That’s my bad.
            Originally I had her sitting next to him on a train, but took out that requirement to open it up to more stories!

      • Ken Frape
        I am very tempted to try and do another story that does involve a train! That would be three out of four.
        Ken Frape
  • Signing in. Hopefully I’ll get a story in this prompt.
  • Ken Frape
    Signing in. “The train now standing on platform 4………..”
    Interesting prompt.
    Ken F
  • Checking in! No easy task this time. 🙂
  • mmh… I feel some dialogues coming… it’s all your fault, KC! 😉
  • Ok no train platforms. One of my characters in the last story prompt got pushed in front of a train by a fed up companion. Not a pretty death so I did not finish it…..
    This sounds like fun.
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Aggghhhh! I already wrote the story with them on a train and now the train is gone?? Since it can be anywhere, I’m sticking with the train. LOLOL
    • … the train still mentioned on the home page: “A little girl is sitting on a train next to a man in black. “What do you do mister?” She asks him …”
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Bad People
    By: Adrienne Riggs (w 1,194)

    “Let’s go, kids!”

    The big train made hissing noises as I followed Mommy on board, my eyes wide in wonder. We were going on a vacation to see Mommy’s grandma. I was a little afraid of getting on the train but I was excited too. Until Mommy sat me down next to a big man dressed in black.

    I didn’t move as I watched Mommy trying to get settled in a seat with my little brother Sam and my baby sister Annie. Annie isn’t so bad. All she does is eat, sleep and poop. I don’t really like the poop but that’s what babies do. At least Annie doesn’t play in it like Sam does. Boys are yucky.

    When the man beside me moved, I froze. Maybe he wouldn’t see me. Looking down, I could see his black shiny shoes. Then I saw his black socks and black pants, shirt and jacket. He had big hands that were resting on his legs. Leaning back, I looked up at his face. He had black hair and dark little whiskers on his face and chin; kind of like Daddy has when he doesn’t shave. The man had a scar on his cheek. Maybe he had an accident like when I fell off my rocking horse. He had sunglasses on, which was weird because we weren’t in the sun. I don’t like when I can’t see people’s eyes. I have bad dreams where a man with no eyes chases me. I started to get scared.

    Mommy was still fussing with my brother. Sam is two years old and what Daddy calls ‘hyper’. I think it means he moves a lot. He likes to run, climb and get in trouble. He’s really good at getting in trouble. Mommy calls me “quiet” and “shy” but I’m not sure that’s good. Annie is her little “sunshine.” I wished I could be sunshine. I looked up at the big man again.

    I took a deep breath. “What do you do, Mister?”

    Taking off his sunglasses with a faint smile, he said, “I make bad people go away.”

    “Bad people?”

    Now that the glasses were off I could see his eyes. They were so brown they almost looked black.

    “What kinda bad people?”

    The man just smiled. He had really white teeth. He must brush them a lot. I glanced at Mommy ‘cause I’m not ‘sposed to talk to strangers. Sam was screaming and refusing to sit down.

    “My brother is bad sometimes. Do you make little kids go away?”

    He looked at Sam and gave a little laugh. “No, Sweetie, I don’t make little kids go away. What’s your name?”

    I leaned back in my seat. “I’m not ‘sposed to talk to strangers” I mumbled, ‘cause I already broke that rule.

    The man smiled bigger. “Well, we’ve been talking for a little bit so we aren’t really strangers now, are we?”

    I had to think about that one. “I … guess … not.”

    “So, what’s your name little one?”


    “Ahh, like in Wonderland?”

    I sat up, excited. “You know Alice in Wonderland?”

    “Sure do. I used to tell my little girl that story.”

    “You have a little girl?”

    “I used to.” He turned his head away.

    “Did she go away? Are you sad? How old was she?”

    “Slow down, kiddo. She went to heaven when she was five and sometimes I get sad. How old are you?”

    “I’m almost five. What was your little girl’s name? Why did she go to heaven?”

    “Her name was Allie and someone took her away from me.”

    “A bad man?” I whispered.

    He didn’t answer.

    “Did you make him go away?”

    He glanced at me again. “Yes, I did.”

    “Well, that was good then, wasn’t it?”

    “Depends on how you look at it. He took my little girl away so he had to go away too.”

    “Did he go to heaven?”

    “I doubt it, little one.”

    “Are you a policeman?”


    “A Retective?” I was getting sleepy.

    He laughed. “A detective? No.”

    “Are you a jail man?”

    “Jail man?”

    “Someone who puts bad people in jail?”


    “How do you make bad people go away?” I yawned.

    “Don’t worry about it, Sweetie. Why don’t you take a nap? Look.”

    I looked at Mommy. Sam was asleep in one arm and Annie was asleep in her other arm. Even Mommy had her eyes closed. The rocking of the train was making me sleepy too.

    “I don’t know.”

    “It’s ok. I’ll keep all the bad people away.”

    “Ok.” I curled up in the corner next to the window and watched everything rush by. I thought about the man in black and I felt safe. Closing my eyes, I dreamed about chasing a white rabbit and playing with a girl named Allie.

    “Alice? Alice! Time to wake up” Mommy said.

    The motion of the train changed and it was dark outside the window. I sat up, rubbing my eyes. I turned to thank the man for watching me but the seat was empty.

    Mommy unfolded the stroller and was settling Annie in the seat. Sam was sleepily rubbing his eyes too.

    “Mommy, where did the man go?”

    She looked around. “What man?”

    “The one I was sitting next to.”

    She looked confused. “I don’t remember a man sitting next to you.”

    “I guess you were busy with Sam and Annie.”

    Mommy looked worried. “Did he..…do anything to you? Did he scare you?”

    “No. We just talked until I fell asleep.”

    Mommy looked around and scooping Sam up into her arms, she grabbed the handle of the stroller.

    “Here, you hold tight to the handle” she said. “I don’t want you to get lost. You are my pretty flower.”

    I wondered if a ‘pretty flower’ was as good as ‘sunshine’ as we entered the station. It was crowded with people so we waited by a wall until we could move. While waiting, I looked at the pictures on the walls. Most of it was boring stuff and I couldn’t read real good yet, so the words didn’t mean a lot. A picture of a hamburger made me hungry. I was gonna ask Mommy when we could eat when I saw a familiar face in a picture.

    “Mommy, look!” I jumped up and down. “That’s the man who sat next to me! He must be important!”

    She glanced at the picture and I saw her face get white. She held my hand tighter.

    “Mommy, you’re hurting me.” I tried to pull my hand away.

    She stared hard at the picture. “Are you sure that’s the man you talked to?”

    “Yes. He was real nice. He said he makes bad people go away.”

    I jumped when she shouted, “We have to go! Now!” Placing Sam in the stroller with Annie, she grabbed my hand and we walked quickly toward the exit doors. Her panic scared me.

    “Mommy! Wait! I can’t go that fast!” I started crying.

    “Alice! Come on, we have to go!”

    “Mommy, what did the picture say?”

    I was running to keep up with her and I think she said,


    • Carrie Zylka

      Fantastic story, loved the Liam Neeson vibe to it!

      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks Carrie!
    • Ken Frape

      A great short story. It sets the bar very high for the rest of us who are still sucking our pencils and thinking, “What shall I write?” Of course I don’t use a pencil anymore as I don’t like the taste but you know what I mean.

      Firstly, I think as a group on this site, in the relatively short time I have been around, we have not had a great deal of dialogue. Your dialogue is brilliant. I can hear the voices in my head and see a little girl and the man in black chatting to each other. All very natural. Even though he is a stranger and therefore a potential baddie, I didn’t see him as such. Then the Wanted poster appeared and ruined my opinion of him. Perhaps it is a case of mistaken identity, or a crime of passion or something else…….

      You created a real family too. As a parent, albeit an elderly one now, I recognised the three personalities in the children as you talked about them. I love my kids ( now 34 and 36) and your description made me laugh and sigh, the sigh of a nostalgic grandparent of a gorgeous little boy who I give back to his mummy every Monday evening then stagger home to sleep.

      “Are you a retective?” Such a great line. I warn you now that I am going to have to steal this line and use it myself somewhere. Somewhere that you won’t see it and catch me out!! Perhaps I should not have told you.

      Anyway, I can’t sit here all night writing, I’ve got a story to write.

      Wish me luck.

      Great work, Adrienne.

      Ken Frape.

      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks Ken! I’m happy you enjoyed the story. I don’t have to wish you luck, your writing speaks for itself. I’m sure you will write something brilliant!

        My kids are 41 (adopted), 36, 35, and 24. I have 12 grandchildren and I know the feeling of loving them every minute they are with me and then, embracing the quiet when they go home. LOL. They can wear me out. The two youngest are at the house every weekend (2 year old and one that will celebrate his first birthday on Sunday.) Such a joy! But I am ready for their bedtime at night. Alice’s personality was taken from my 6 year old granddaughter Alana.

        Thanks again! Adi

    • I really like your story, Adrienne. Polished and pacey.

      At first I thought it was going to be a children’s story or like a diary entry for ‘what I did in my holidays’, but then as it develops it’s actually a story for all ages that cleverly sets up 3 ways of looking at things. First, the child’s-eye view of the man, then there is the man’s own mostly-untold story, presumably one of loss and revenge.

      And then there is view of society and the mother, who see then man as a danger. You capture the mother’s visceral reaction perfectly – as she recognises (or imagines) the vulnerability of her child talking to the guy while she was preoccupied and then sleeping.

      Funnily enough, unlike Ken F, the one thing I found that jarred a little was when the girl said, “A Retective?” To me it seemed a little out of place because we have to suspend our disbelief – which we willingly do – to accept that a nearly-5-year-old girl can express herself in such a mature way and in otherwise accurate English. So the single instance of childish mis-speak seems out of place, to me. Overall I think you capture the child’s outlook and thought processes really well, so not sure if the kid-ism is actually needed.

      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks for the feedback Andy! I wrote this story during my lunch hour at work and I struggled with the little girl’s dialogue. I tried to incorporate more kid-isms (great word!) in her dialogue but it did not translate well in print and I took most of it out. Glad you enjoyed the story overall!
        • I did indeed enjoy your story, Adi!
    • Anindita Basu
      Very nice story. I loved the ending and went back tobsee if the title was that too. The little girl’s voice is realistic. I like the word detective on her tongue…they are like that I have seen that in the little ones around me and their innocence, bewildered at the adult world and fear came out nice and crisp.
      • Anindita Basu
        I meant retective…my spell check !
      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks Anindita!
    • I just love that dialogue. And the surprise in the end.
    • Alice Nelson

      Nicely paced story Adi. Loved how you had the little girl speak like a little girl, and she has a great name to boot 🙂
      The man had a sense of mystery, but his presence, at least for little Alice wasn’t ominous. Great job!

      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks Alice! I think she does have a great name!
  • Phil Town

    I remember it as if it were yesterday. It was lovely spring day. I’d gone to the park with Denis – he was my mother’s boyfriend. I didn’t want to go with him, but my mum had to work and she made him take me. He would rather have gone to the pub, his favourite haunt, so he resented having to be with me. He made me know it by a typical twist of my arm as we got in the car, then he pulled me out by the hair when we arrived.

    I went straight to the playground part and Denis went off to smoke what I knew later in life to be marijuana. I could tell it was that because I got a whiff of it drifting across from the bushes, where he’d gone to hide while he smoked, and it was the same smell as at home – when mum wasn’t there, of course.

    There were no other kids in the playground that day, I’m not sure why. After a while I got a little tired and bored and sat on a bench, just enjoying the peace of the warm morning and not having Denis around. I kept glancing over at the bushes to see when he would emerge, and when I turned my head back one time there was someone sitting next to me.

    It was an old man, with grey hair and a beard, all dressed in black. It made me jump to see him there; I hadn’t heard him approaching, and it was gravel all around the bench. My mum always told me not to speak to strangers, and I knew why: one of my school-mates had disappeared the year before, and although no grown-ups told us about it, word trickled down about how she’d been abducted. She was never found.

    I should have moved away, but something stopped me. It was a kind of warm, happy feeling. I remember it because it was the same kind of feeling I’d get whenever dad would come home from a tour of duty, until one day when he didn’t come home at all.

    We sat for several minutes, neither of us speaking. It was me that broke the silence, and my mum would have killed me.

    “My name’s Matilda. What’s yours?”

    The man turned his head slowly to look at me. He was wearing sunglasses, and reflected in the lenses I could see myself looking up at him.

    “You shouldn’t talk to strangers,” he said and turned back to look out over the park.

    I remember feeling very disappointed that this man wouldn’t enter into conversation with me, so I pushed it.

    “I’m eight. I go to St. Joseph’s. I’m in Mrs Evans’ class. I like her. She’s nice. I live with my mum and … my dad’s not here anymore. He died. He was a soldier. What do you do?”

    The man turned his head again to look at me, and I think I saw a faint smile. I thought he was going to ignore me. He paused for several seconds and then replied.

    “I make bad people go away.”

    I felt a little thrill run through my body. This sounded like the men in a TV series my mum liked, about gangsters and killing. She didn’t let me watch it, naturally, but sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d sneak down and watch it from the hall, without my mum noticing.

    “Do you mean you … you …?”

    I couldn’t say the word, and the man didn’t finish my question for me, but he knew what I meant and he didn’t deny it.

    “Do you know any bad men, Matilda?”

    His question hit me like a jet of freezing water. It was the matter-of-fact way he asked it, and I was only eight but I was sure of what he meant.


    I was actually going to tell him, then the bad man I was thinking of stumbled out of the bushes.

    “MATILDA!” he shouted, not seeing me in the playground but not bothering to look round. I did, to my side, and the man wasn’t there.

    I slid off the bench and trotted over to Denis.

    “Where have you been, you little squirt?” he slurred.

    “Talking to a man,” I said, suddenly feeling quite brave.

    Denis, in a kind of misguided and out-of-character attempt to protect my innocence, thrust me behind him and glared at the bench I’d been sitting on.

    “Where?! I’ll bloody–”

    “He’s gone. Can we go home now?”

    Denis didn’t answer but hauled me towards the car, muttering to himself and staggering a little as he walked. I kept the man in my mind and dreamed about him that night.

    Two days later, Denis, coming home from a night on the booze with his mates, drove his car into a tree. My mum was distraught because I don’t think she really realised what a despicable person he was and how badly he treated me when she wasn’t around. I put on a face for her benefit but I was jumping with joy inside.

    I learned in later years that the inquest showed Denis had double the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream, mixed with drugs of various types. But I was convinced the man in the park had something to do with it – maybe he’d tampered with the brakes or something. The inquest didn’t go beyond the intoxication, though, so nothing of that sort was discovered.

    I’m remembering all of this now because I’m in a relationship with someone who’s not a million miles away from Denis. Steve, his name is, and he hits me. I don’t know how I ended up with him really – I’ve had a few boyfriends and they’ve normally been good to me. I’ve liked that.

    Steve was good to me at the beginning, but gradually I’ve seen what he is, and what he’s capable of. I’ve tried to leave him a couple of times, but when he caught up with me he hit me harder. I’m not happy, far from it, but I think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    I was waiting for a bus home from work the other night. I’d done a bit of overtime and so the bus shelter was empty by the time I got there. They’d cut a bus so I was waiting a long time for one. I was looking along the road to check whether it was coming when I sensed something – a kind of warm, happy feeling inside.

    I turned and there was the man. He looked exactly the same as 20 years ago, and he was still wearing the sunglasses, even though it was night-time.

    “Hello, Matilda,” he said.


    • Carrie Zylka

      Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! I love the Man in Black in this story! And you leave much to the imagination.
      Is he her father, secretly looking out for her, or maybe a ghost of her father or maybe a good Samaritan or maybe an angel in disguise…
      Great job with the prompt!

    • Ken Frape
      Hi Phil,

      An excellent use of the prompt and a very good title. It is very readable and it has a nice flow to the action.

      It is a strange world we live in these days whereby any man sitting in a park, unless accompanied by children, is considered to be a threat even though statistically, he is very unlikely to be so. But why is he there then, people ask?

      The prompt sort of leads me to think that a little girl who is told that the man in black gets rid of bad people, needs help and from an unlikely quarter. The fact that the man then disappears is great and then the twenty year gap until he appears again is a masterstroke. By that stage you don’t even need to tell what will happen (probably!) If he is getting rid of bad people ( a very non-specific adjective here – one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter and all that) then he has probably been very busy. Almost a vigilante?

      I think the man in black can join that misty group of figures such as The Grim Reaper, Angels, The Devil, Fairies, Witches and the like who generally like to go about their business of good and evil, hidden behind a veil, a cloak of invisibility.

      A great read Phil.

      Better get on with mine now. Just going to slip into my favourite black outfit.

      Ken Frape.

      • That’s a cool story, Phil. The narrator’s voice is calm amidst the various traumas of losing a father, the mother having an abusive boyfriend, then her own experience of an abusive partner. But there’s also a compelling note of virtuous menace in the equally equable figure of the old man, and the leading ending – we know what could come next without needing it to be spelled out.

        A protector, or avenging angel? Seems so. But I have my own theory: perhaps the mysterious man is an alternative personality that manifests itself when the pressure becomes too great on her. And then ….

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Wonderful story Phil! I love your use of the prompt and the man in your story. Instead of being a “bad” man, he is more of a guardian angel. We all can use one of those in our lives. Loved it! Adi
    • Anindita Basu
      Beautifully done Phil. Loved how it tied with the title. History repeates itself especially in abused women’s lives, through generations. There is a slight hint of it. But you showed hope… in a beautiful way. Wished to see a little more drama with Mommy and the marijuana guy and Matilda in it too.
      Anyway nice work.
    • An angel in black? Sometimes I could use one of those. It’s a compelling story right to the end.
    • Alice Nelson

      Love it Phil, seems great minds think alike, our stories are very similar. Love the flow of it, the characterization of Matilda and the man. I felt like I got a full picture of Matilda and her life in such a short story. You have a great way of filling out your characters in a short span of time. Loved this story!

  • I just realized I didn’t sign up for comments. And, with my brain in its fog lately, I wrote an entire story for The Man in Black in third person. I’m on a roll. Now to rewrite in first person. Can’t wait to see what the Chemotherapy is going to do to me. That all starts next Monday. Wish me luck.

    Really liked the stories from the last prompt and thought that Andy deserved the win, although second through fifth was a crap shoot as to who had the best story. Well done, people. Great little group here, folks. Keeps me on my writing toes.

    • Anindita Basu
      Wish you all the best, Roy.
    • Ken Frape
      Hi Roy,

      Just picked up on your comments. I hope you are continuing your recovery from the surgery and that the chemo will soon be over.
      Looking forward to reading more of your stories.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

    • Roy! (Said with a wide stance and hands placed firmly on hips.) Get with the program, mister.
      p.s. I’m going on vacation again. (Really.) I’ll have to download all the stories written so far, and read them in the car. Haven’t the foggiest idea of what to write about, despite thinking about it for a week or more. (Since the prompt was posted.) Hope you’re feeling well, Roy, as well as can be expected.. At least well enough to write a great story. The prompt has endless possibilities. Or seems to.
    • Hi Roy – good to see you here. Hope you’re doing well and best wishes for your chemo journey. I guess it’s started now. My sincere best wishes to you.
      And hope you’re fit enough to participate here. – but no worries if not, take it easy. We’re all rooting for you.
    • Good luck with the therapy, Roy.

      Hope to see your stories back here soon.

  • Anindita Basu
    Man in Black
    I am so angry with Mommy, Grandma; I wish you were here. Mommy just gets scared for nothing and takes it on to me. I am so pissed off. Pissed off, pissed off
    pisssst off. I really don’t know what it means, but it sure feels the right thing to say when you are mad, so so mad. 

    I wish I could write like you, Grandma. You told me once that’s what you did when you were very mad, or sad or glad. I still have the diary you gave me with the little lock and key. But what I want to tell is too long for me to write, and I don’t know all the spellings. So I just talk,talk, talk with you.  

    Mom said that though you are dead, you are still with us. Around us in the air, in the sky. Antie said that even you may visit as a hummingbird or a dragonfly. I just saw a hummingbird a little while ago while I was thinking of you, swinging on the porch. 

    Well, why am I so mad? 

    Mommy was late again picking me up from school. Last Friday she was late too and Ms. Sylvia saw me standing alone in the parking lot. She asked me to wait with her in the office. When Mommy came Ms. Sylvia, just looked at the clock and Mama’s cheeks turned all beet red. Her eyes widened like two big circles. She must have felt em embarrassed. 

    She told Ms. Sylvia about the traffic, her work, and Ms. Sylvia just nodded with ‘hmm..hmm’ and stood up looking at the clock again. Mommy rushed out with me hissing ‘I’m so pissed off… I’m so pissed off.’ She was angry with her boss who gave her work last minute and talked and talked and talked. Mommy was mumbling all that. She slammed the steering again with those words. So angry she was. 

    Now yesterday it happened again. All the kids went home with their parents. The car pool faded. The school bus left hissing a cloud of smoke, the older kids wore helmets and biked off. All the teachers left one by one. The parking lot looked empty. I thought if I stood here Ms. Sylvia might see me again and Mommy might be pissed off again, and I didn’t want that to happen. 

    So, I crossed the road looking at my right, then to my left, used the cross walk and came to the bus stand. A girl, younger than me sat with her grandma, all cozy. Her grandma looked loving with her arm around the girl’s shoulder, she was plump with salt and pepper curls just like you. Zara and Fatima and Angie, the older girls stood up when the number seven bus came and everyone left. I was all alone. 

    A man in a black suit came and sat next to me. I was swinging my legs. He said, 
    “Nice socks.” I was wearing my favorite rainbow socks. I told him it was my favorite too. 
    “You didn’t go with them?” He asked. 
    “No. Waiting for my mommy. She is late again and I didn’t want to em embarrass her.” 
    That’s cool. So thoughtful. What’s your name?” 
    “Sonia.” I stretched my hands “And yours? “ 
    “Brandon.” He took off his sunglasses and shook my hands. I saw that though his skin was black like ash and he had a bushy beard and a thick mustache that cover most of his face, his eyes were dark and kind. He smiled at me.

    “You go to this school?’ He wiped his sunglasses looking down.

    “Yes. I am in first grade now. I live just two blocks away from here at 714 Quiet court, Walnut Grove, CA 94599 and I can even memorize my phone number 727- 413-2987. “

    “Wow, that’s impressive. You are a very smart young lady, miss.”

    “And what do you do, mister?” I also asked him like he did and he replied..

    Right then mom’s car screeched in front of us.  “What are you doing here? You scared the heck out of me.” She glared. I slammed the door and buckled my seat belt. Momma jerked swerving the car and sped. I saw he waived me goodbye.

    After we were home mom was so upset with me, Grandma, you wouldn’t believe. “Why were you sitting at the bus stop with that creepy guy? Who told you?” Blah,blah, blah.

    I threw a tantrum too. “ It was your fault that you didn’t come in time. You are late every day. I am so pissed off.” I gave her too. 

    “What? What did you say?” She sat me at the couch and gave a time out for using those grown up words and made me promise never to use them, ever.

    “But you did!” I told her.  “You didn’t ap appreciate that I saved you from Ms. Sylvia. Other people think I am im impressive and smart. You don’t . Even the man in black did. He told me so when I showed him how I have memorized my address, my phone number!” 

    “What?” Mom screamed and kneeled in front of me grabbing my shoulders. She broke down crying.

    “Now he knows our address, phone number everything?” 

    “What’s wrong, Mama?” 

    She stared at the newspaper with a picture of a man in black with a sunglass. I don’t know what it read. The T.V. was going on “A man kid kidnapped …” Mama turned it off and held me close to her bosom rocking me back and forth as if she loved me so. 

    I felt angry. I pushed her away. You don’t just hug your child and throw her in a chair with time outs at your whims. Just because you are a mommy, right? That’s no fair. I told her so. 

    I am a big girl now and can take care of myself. I told her that I also had asked the man questions like he did. I asked him, “What do you do, mister?” and he replied ‘I make bad people go away.” 
    So there. Don’t you freak out with every little thing, Ms. scaredy cat! 

    1032 words.

    • Ken Frape
      Hi Anindita,

      A very interesting take on the theme that does not go in an obvious direction. After all, why can’t the man in black be a force for good things not evil? I liked the situations that you have created as they seem to be rooted in everyday life that we can all understand. The pace of modern life, getting to work on time, picking up the kids, getting to the supermarket….the list goes on and on.

      There is a certain realism in your writing in spite of the fact that some of your expressions and phrases are not quite right, to my ear but they still convey meaning in the manner I expect you were intending them to have.

      A typical example is;

      ” Mommy gets scared for nothing and takes it onto me.” I would probably have said, “Mommy gets scared over nothing / or about nothing and takes it out on me.”

      “Mummy was mumbling all that. So angry was she.” etc. As I say, your meaning is clear so who am I to criticise. I’m just pointing out.

      The repetition of the beginning of several words such as “kid kidnapped” suggests either a child saying words with which he / she is unfamiliar or it could be a slight stutter. Either way, it really enriches your text and adds to your narrative.

      Well done,

      Ken Frape.

    • I agree with Ken’s comments. The story has an air of everyday reaiism. And the kid language works as you maintain the tone and stammering throughout. And the child’s anger seems to stem frmo loss (her grandma) and feeling a little neglected by her mother who is clearly struggling with work-life balance issues: but a child wouldn’t appreciate the mothers struggles and fears. You catch that very well.

      At the end it’s a bit mysterious: is the guy a kidnapper, or does he make bad people go away? How does he make bad people go away?

      • Anindita Basu
        Thank you Andy,

        It’s a kid’s voice..does not require my adult logic ‘how’ I believe. She believes that he will make bad people go away, that’s all… the bad people her mom is scared of.How? that is not her concern. Here ends her story.

        • Sure, Anindita, I get that.
          But as a reader I can wonder what comes next, and I think the story invites that wondering and concern. All good stuff.
    • Alice Nelson

      Anindita, I liked how you showed the man from the point of view of a child, who doesn’t have all the baggage us adults have. She saw a nice side to him, he didn’t hurt her, and her mother who is supposed to be there for her had left her at school more than once.

      I liked your take on the theme, and loved the characters you created. I can understand the rage of the little girl, but also the harried mom, because it isn’t her fault she’s late.

      Nice job, my friend.

      • Anindita Basu
        Thank you Alice.
  • Ken Frape
    Conventional Behaviour.

    Short story by Ken Frape. April 2019

    1230 words including prompt and title.

    It’s Convention time again. The Super Heroes and Super Powers 70th. Convention (2019) to be precise.

    “How times have changed,” I think as my entry ticket is scanned by a Wonder Woman who really looks like my favourite Wonder Woman, Linda Carter. My coffee is served by a Captain America lookalike, all muscles and attitude.The selection process for Superhero lookalikes must now be far more rigorous than it was when I first applied (unsuccessfully) in the 1970s. Several Brainiacs have just sloped past, brows furrowed in concentration, enormous brains throbbing away as they work out some tremendously challenging problem or cook up some cunning plan. Spider Men, lots of them, are racing up and down the walls in a synchronised display as Superman bursts through the wall in a shower of bricks and plaster before stepping across the lobby and into a call box. Moments later Clarke Kent emerges with Lois Lane on his arm, as he polishes the dust from his glasses.

    You have to be really alert at these conventions. Thing is, all the genuine superheroes are actually in attendance, over one hundred of them (honestly, it’s in their contracts!) and the big money game is to spot the genuine ones and get your Competition Card stamped. The prizes are valuable and hard earned because the real Superheroes don’t want to make it easy. They get financially rewarded if they remain undiscovered, you see.But then, how are you going to identify the genuine Invisible Man? Surely, being an Invisible Man lookalike is a contradiction in terms, isn’t it? Like military intelligence. And a massive waste of time.

    So that’s why I always play my own game which is more difficult and far more intellectually stimulating. I leave the Super Hero Hunt to others and I seek out the people with hidden Super Powers; the Shapeshifters, the Mind Readers, the Thought Benders, the Nightfrights, the Lie Detectors, the Immortals, the Harbingers of Death, the Brain Scramblers and the like. They are far more dangerous because they look perfectly normal but they mess with your mind. There are no flashy costumes for these people. I love this challenge and I’m really good at it. I’ve won first prize twice. (1979 and 1994)

    The cafeteria is a great place for me to observe these people, when they are off guard, using my own Super Power. Oh, didn’t I mention that? Well, I’m not telling you what it is. It’s my special secret. I make it look easy and once I have decided how I am going to work and how I am going to look, no-one ever spots me.

    Not convinced? Well, that’s your loss but indulge me. Go on, let me give you an example anyway. I just love showing off and I know you will be impressed.

    Firstly, just give me a minute to compose myself, to decide who I am going to be. Look away whilst I change, would you? Secrets and all that. No peeking! Ok I’m ready.

    Now, don’t look for me but I am here. I have prescanned the room before deciding where to sit. There’s nothing random here. Opposite are two persons of interest to me but, crucially, I am of absolutely no interest to them. There are certain clues that alert me to what they are. Clues that only an expert like me can detect. Time will tell if I am right but I am confident that I am.

    Firstly, there is a little girl about eight with braces on her teeth, her auburn hair in bunches tied up with pink and white spotted bows. She’s wearing the Convention 70 T-shirt, white shorts with pink and white sneakers and white ankle socks. Angelic, eh?

    Next to her is a big guy with coal black hair, sideburns and a large, wandering moustache. Every item of his clothing is black, including his sunshades and his Stetson hat that is sitting beside him. Little girl and man in black are both working their way carefully through their Convention 70 Meal Deal; Super Hero Spaceburger with Spider Man Fries and Invisible Man Shake. The shake is one of the Convention jokes, as it is empty. Complain and the joke is on you if you can’t see it. Who says geeks have no sense of humour?

    Anyway, little girl finishes her fries and looks up at man in black. “Here we go,” I’m thinking. Action time.

    “Hello,” she says. “My name’s Miss Augustina Blackmore. What’s your name?” She has a very soft, lispy voice.
    “ I’m Mister Samarchand Aranches Mendoza. ” He smiles down at her.
    Miss Augustina’s nose wrinkles in amusement but she does not laugh. “That’s a very long name,” she says.
    “Yes, it is so please call me Mister Sam. Please to meet you, Miss Augustina.”
    He holds out his huge paw and it swallows up her tiny hand.
    “What do you do, Mister Sam?” She asks her new acquaintance.
    Mister Sam carefully removes his sunglasses and glances over his shoulder before replying with a faint smile. He doesn’t notice me. No-one ever notices me. Not when I am like this.
    “I make bad people go away.” He whispers. “Bingo,” I am thinking.
    Augustina’s eyes widen. “Like magic?”
    “You could call it that ,” he says.
    “Are they very bad people?”
    “Oh yes, very, very bad, “ he says. “They have done really horrible things that everyone thinks are bad, not just me. And how about you? What do you do?”
    It seems like a strange question to ask a little girl. I think he knows.
    “Oh, I can do almost anything,” Miss Augustina answers innocently.
    “Really? Aren’t you just a little girl?” Now I know he knows.

    Miss Augustina looks at Mister Sam very sharply and in the next five seconds I see that I am right as her face metamorphs from little girl to old hag, to ghost, to witch, to rotting corpse, to menacing gargoyle then back to little girl. What I see is truly revolting. Enough to frighten people to death.

    “Oh, you’re one of those are you?” Mister Sam sounds intrigued. “I’ve never met one before. You are really good at it, aren’t you?”
    “Yes, I really am.” She gives Mister Sam a cheeky grin, once again a little girl. “Ok, it’s your turn now.”
    “ I was going to wait until after lunch,” he protests.
    “Oh, go on,” Miss Augustina teases. “ Pleeeeeese! I showed you mine.” She gives a very unchildlike laugh.
    “Well, OK and I have already found my target so I guess I can do it now,” Mister Sam says.
    “Is it a really, really bad person? asks Miss Augustina, wide-eyed once more, looking all around her for clues.
    “One of the worst.” He pierces her with a look. “Ready?”
    Miss Augustina nods.
    Mister Sam puts his sunglasses back on his face and his hat on his head.
    As he does so Miss Augustina disappears.
    No puff of smoke.
    No sound.
    Just gone.
    Mister Sam stands up and looks down at me as I look up at him. Game over. He’s definitely seen me now.
    His huge fist comes down fast and hard on me and my lights go out.
    “Can’t stand spiders, “ says the man in black.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      You are sly! I told you that you would come up with something brilliant. What a unique take on the prompt. You kept me guessing until the very end. A spider – very clever. I would love to see this as a longer story. It was such a different twist, I was captivated from the beginning. Great work! Adi
      • Ken Frape
        Hi Adrienne,

        Thanks for your comments. You are right in that I wanted to have a different take on the prompt and I can easily make it into a longer piece. I think I, as the spider, will need to reassemble the broken parts of my spider body, change into a different entity and then seek revenge upon the man in black. If he hates spiders then perhaps I should present him with a huge one, a maneater. We’ll see how brave he is then, picking on poor, innocent little girls. He should be ashamed of himself.

        The ending has changed and when I edited it and put in the spider it made me laugh out loud. I’m still smiling. We’ll see how brave he is then!

        Ken Frape.

    • Well I had no idea where that story was going, Ken!
      Real super-power folk attending a super-hero convention, an innocent child who isn’t (but is she really bad, or just an illusionist?), an arachnophobic guy who just makes people disappear.
      I guess the shape-shifting narrator survived to tell the tale …
      Well-written as always.

      And – ah, Linda Carter!

    • Alice Nelson

      Loved this story Ken, had no idea where it was going, but loved the ride, and when I got to the end I was pleasantly surprised. You tell a story so well, had me hooked from the first sentence. Love the flow, the descriptions, and the Super hero convention with real super heroes, and a spider as the narrator, genius. Great job!

  • Hi Everybody
    Been in here before.
    I am trying to reboot my creative muscle again.
    • Adrienne Riggs
      Welcome back Chitra!
  • Marien Oommen
    Friday Mice Are Nice

    It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, the day that the Papa usually geared up to cook for the family.

    Rianne loved it when the family sat out in the garden and she could do her reading, or talk to the plants when she got bored.

    “I’ll make paella and wrap them in podhis,” Papa announced.

    You could call it the true marriage of the Spanish cuisine wrapped in neat banana leaves to impart the flavour of Kerala. Shrimp, mussels, sausage, salmon are chopped, rolled with brown rice, some delish flavorings added, a bit of white wine and butter, made into a palm sized ball and wrapped in a banana leaf from the garden.

    A fresh leaf was carefully picked, one without bird shit, washed, sanitized and softened on the fire. The silly pigeons loved to sit on the tree just above and dole out its daily offerings.

    The “podhis’ were done with a studied mastery, now ready to go on the bbq. You see, everything Papa did, he did with master precision.

    He went out into the garden with the tray of ‘podhis’ i.e. wrapped rice bundles, with his head held high, looking hoity-toitier than the Queen carrying the Kohinoor.

    And then came a shattering cry, “Ahhhhhhhhhhha!”
    Just as I was about to check the next barrage of Whatsapp posts, Papa scuttled superfast, back into the home.

    “I think there’s a mouse in the bbq. Yuck! I’m not using it. Start the oven. Quick.”

    So the obedient wife that I am, I set the oven as per his orders and sprung to Super Woman mode.

    Mouse alert! Mouse alert.
    “Hello, is it Morganty? The Pest control services?”
    The lady at the other end was taking time to respond. Meanwhile Papa grunted, as he always likes to do when I’m talking on the phone.
    “You can’t get them on a Friday. Why do things always happen on Fridays?”

    It’s a holiday here, in this part of the world.

    Nevertheless I tarried. If they were in the vicinity by any chance attending to some emergency, they’d surely arrive. My call being done to my satisfaction, gathering half my courage, I walked bravely, with single-minded purposefulness writ all over my forehead, tiptoeing slowly towards the bbq area.

    Detective like, I stared hard under the grill where the coal was cold and dry.

    Two little eyes stared back at me. Then a long tail, curled between the coals, unfurled itself. Two more eyes stared from below the bars.

    I spotted a pink washcloth neatly spread out and made into a bed of sorts. “Ahhh, so that’s where the new kitchen towel disappeared,” I said.

    There was an oily cake paper spread over the pink washcloth. Around it were pieces of silver foil, adding sparkle to the mouse bed.

    Little Rianne couldn’t take her eyes off. She peered at Mama Mouse, and the three little mice, close to her. Little feet, little noses, little ears. She could feel the love ‘neath that iron grill. Dora, Tora and Mora had just been born in her garden and had chosen the bbq as the Mommy’s ward.

    “I feel the love, mama,”
    “Make your lovey-dovey feelings vanish, honey. I’ve got to take action,” said I. “There’s a whole family out there,” I yelled out to Papa.
    “Is the dad around?” he shouted back, safely ensconced in the kitchen.
    “How do I know? Dads usually do their business and vanish. There’s three of them.”
    “You deal with it. You’re the one who grew up in the village.”
    “Excuse me, I grew up in the state with 100 percent literacy, okay?”

    Feeling a little chuffed; I went outdoors to examine the crime spot. Under the grill, it could be likened to a concentration camp with small air vents. I decided to smother the vents with silver foil. Should I out-Hitler Hitler? How was I going to decimate them? If I turned on the knob of the bbq, an evil gleam appeared in my eye, there would be………..
    Three burnt mice,
    Three burnt mice,
    Lying neath the grill,
    Lying neath the grill.
    This is exactly how evil tyrants behave as they turn into the epitome of cruelty and beastliness. The picture of that depressed maniac who shot the 17 innocent children flashed through my mind. The dear kids must have felt as scared as the mice. He shouldn’t have had easy access to guns.

    Meanwhile little Dolce was sitting outside, watching with great concern at the goings-on near the bbq.
    I turned on him, “Aha you’ve been harboring them here, haven’t you? You’ve been playing Anne Frank, and I bet you told them mice to use the bbq as a hideout!”

    DolceFrank dropped his eyes, his neck and his head in humble contrition. His tail was curled sadly inwards. He looked as guilty as me when I eat two cookie bars, not one. Yes, it was he.

    “Aha, that’s why you dug out my wheat grass this morning? Digging it out so Mrs. Mousy can come fetch her food for the younglings. I think you gave them my tomatoes as well. Who do you think you are? Dolcill Gates? Dolcen Buffet?

    An hour passed. My Mission-to-Kill was unaccomplished. I just couldn’t do it. No evil was leashed over the little innocents. Already there is just too much evil in the human world.

    The Ellees family with Dora, Tora and Mora had a good night’s sleep, lying cozy on the pink kitchen towel.
    The April air was cool and the coal blocks were cold with a delicious smell of last week’s roast. A stock of aubergines and tomatoes lay in the corner. Luscious wheat grass too- it was the latest craze in Miceland- the probiotic Mouse tonic.

    Next week as the girls, Dora, Tora, and Mora grew stronger, they would venture out through the sealed silver vents to explore a whole new world, a shining, shimmering splendid world.

    Trrrrringggg the front bell rang loud. Little Rianne rushed to open the door. She had watched her Mama welcome people into the home. So she directed this tall man in black right up to the living room.

    “Please sit down, Papa will be here in a minute. They’re a bit occupied now.”
    The tall dark man had sunglasses on. He looked strangely funny.
    “I’m from Morganty.”

    Rianne edged on the chair next to him- feeling quite grown up, she asked, “So what do you do, Mister?”

    He took off his sunglasses. Smiling faintly, wide-eyed he said, “I make pests go away. Also make bad people go away.”

    “Can you help me? There’s a happy family living in our bbq. They ain’t bad. But can you make my papa and mama go away? Just for a week?”

    Two days later, Rianne swore she heard Mama Mouse sing the Aladdin song, as her babies slept.
    “I can open your eyes
    Take you wonder by wonder
    A whole new world
    A dazzling place I never knew
    Right down here, it’s crystal clear
    That now I’m in a whole new world with you.
    Unbelievable sights,
    Indescribable feeling,
    Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
    Through an endless diamond field,
    A whole new world is waiting there for you.”

    • Marien Oommen
      Hello Everybody,
      I’m brand new to this site. Sure glad I found you. Hope you can see this, and my story!
      • Ken Frape
        Hi Marien,

        Welcome to the group. I am quite new myself but I have found the experience extremely helpful. Here, people give you encoragement as well as honest criticism and every two weeks there are some wonderful stories.

        I really enjoyed Friday Mice Are Nice. That’s such a great title. You have also introduced some cultural references which I think are great. It’s an educative process in my view.Where exactly is this story geographically, Marien?

        “Hoity toitier than the Queen carrying the Kohinoor.” Such a wonderful sentence so full of imagery.

        I lost my way a litte partway through after the comment about 100% literacy then things picked up again with the arrival of the man in black. There are a couple of paragraphs that I think could be cut without spoiling the whole thing but this is just my humble opinion.

        I enjoyed the story and it also made me laugh in places too.


        Ken Frape.

        • Marien Oommen
          Hi Ken,
          Thanks very much for your valuable comment.
          The story is set in the UAE (United Arab Emirates) where Friday is the weekly holiday! Kerala is a state in India with 100% literacy. This place is a melting pot of many cultures.
          I guess that point thought has no business going into the Mice predicament. Lol!

          This is a great site, I tellya’. So now the onus is on me to read stories and comment out loud or can one ponder over it in quiet solitude?

          I’m still learning to navigate.
          Thanks for the welcome!


      • Alice Nelson

        Hi Marien, welcome to the group! I’m Alice one of the moderators of this here site. Thank you for joining us, and I’m looking forward to reading your story. If you have any questions, you can leave them here, but we’re more likely to see them if you email Carrie or myself at

        • Marien Oommen
          Thank you, Alice, for the welcome. I’m venturing into the unknown, unseen world out there with randomness of the moment.
        • Ken Frape
          Hi Alice,

          Just a quick message regarding the unsecured nature of this website. I know that Ken C raised this as a possible area of concern some time ago and his query was answered. However, this morning, I have been on this site for less than thirty minutes and during that time my Malware software has detected five potential threats, each of which has been neutralised. I am a bit concerned about what could have happened if there was a chink in my protection. My old anti-virus and anti-hacking didn’t report these threats as soon as they happened and thus, I would not have known what was happening.

          Ken Frape.

          • Alice Nelson

            Hi Ken, sorry it took so long to answer. But here’s the way Carrie explained it when this concern came up a few months ago.

            Hi all, just thought I’d follow up about the “not secure” error message that you see above.
            “https” means that any information flowing from your web browser to the fiction website is encrypted, payment information, HIPPA etc.
            The “Not Secure” warning does not indicate that your computer or the site you are visiting is affected by malware. It only serves to alert you that you do not have an encrypted connection with that page. Google rolled this out in July 2018.
            It’s an extra $100/year. As it is I pay $95 a year for the hosting of this website that you all enjoy for free (except Ken C – he actually supports the podcast with the membership which helps offset costs so thank you!!) not to mention the hours Alice and I spend here. So an extra $100 is a big deal. How much should I pay out of pocket to work so you have a place to post stories?
            Since we don’t take credit card payments I don’t want to pay $200/year just for a not for profit website.
            When you get the not secure message just scroll down and click advanced. This should add an exception to your browser letting it know you still want to navigate through.
            Each browser is different so you may get a different screen, but essentially you will get a warning screen and you will have to figure out how to navigate through and accept the notion t hat your credit card has a minute chance of being stolen. (good thing we don’t take any credit card information eh?)

            Here is an image example:
            Just click on “Continue to this website”.

            Hope this eases your worry.

          • Carrie Zylka

            Oh sorry, I didn’t even see this comment until just now. We have nothing on this website that would attack you, WordPress itself is a very secure platform and we have a monitoring plugin that let’s us know if there are any threats or anything going on. We don’t collect credit card info or anything so there’s nothing for them to steal. And for malware to be in the code would mean all wordpress sites would be infected. I did purchase the SSL I just haven’t had time to install it as I started a new job this week.
            But rest easy, this site did not try to attack your computer. 🙂

    • Evocative and upbeat story, Marien. I love fusion cuisine so that Spanish/Asian crossover sounds very appealing. The garden is also very evocatively depicted.

      Not 100% sure about the playful treatment of the Holocaust, but I guess those are the kinds of thing people might say in the moment when faced with killing the mice in the barbecue. I’m glad though that compassion prevailed.

      Also some very nice lines – like “Dads usually do their business and vanish” 🙂

      Now I’m going to have “A whole new world” on my mind for the rest of the day. Not sure I’m going to thank you for that, lol !

      • Marien Oommen
        Thanks, Andy, for your good comments. Oopsie! The Holocaust can never be joked upon. Didn’t mean to.
        It’s the sad part of history. But mice in your bbq can make you want to destroy them forever!

        I wanted to show that little kids know only about love and compassion and it’s the adults who have fears and doubts.
        But seriously it’s a new problem in this lovely island where rats never dared to enter. The stray cats are gettin’ fat.

    • Alice Nelson

      Marien, what a sweet story. I love how the man in black is an exterminator. Nice flow to your story with very funny and warm characters. By the way, the dish Papa was cooking sounds Delicious! Welcome again, and I loved your story.

  • Keeping Bad at Bay

    There’s always one at these charity events. An older guy, full of himself and too much alcohol. Thinks he’s charming by commenting on how I look in my little black cocktail dress, then gets unbearably up close and personal. Guys like him believe their loudly proclaimed civic virtue outweighs any number of sins. Such a bore.

    I escaped to the food table.

    That’s where I met Owen, my boss’ son. Standing there flicking at the tablecloth, his blonde hair combed forward as if a storm force wind were chasing him, his eyes obscured by the quiff that enveloped his brow from every angle. He probably wanted to be anywhere but here. He exuded anxiety.

    “God, I’m starving,” I exclaimed in his general direction. Then more directly, “Have you tried this dip? It’s delicious.”

    “I’m not hungry.”

    He just stood there, looking at the buffet like he didn’t know what to do.

    “Yeah, right,” I said, looking at him doubtfully. “I’m going to make you up a plate of all the best stuff.”

    “Uh … thanks.”

    I nodded towards the terrace, and we walked out into the sunshine. I slipped my sunglasses down from the top of my head. “They picked a good spot for the fund-raiser, didn’t they.”

    Owen nodded as he slurped up some mayonnaise escaping from the side of his wrap. I smiled – reassuringly, I hoped.

    “Are you with the charity?” he asked eventually.

    “No, I work with your Dad.”

    “Oh … What do you do?”

    “I safeguard and enhance his brand reputation, and take appropriate actions if there’s any reputational threat …”

    He stared at me blankly.

    I looked at him confidentially over the top of my sunglasses. “I’m a social media fixer. Basically, I get rid of the bad guys. Don’t tell anyone!”

    He smiled. “You think my Dad is one of the good guys?”

    “Seriously? Look at this,” I said, gesturing around us. “It’ll raise a shitload of money for medical research – ”

    “Yeah, but really it’s all about him. Everything is. Anything to put him into the spotlight.”

    “That goes with being a public figure.”

    “It’s the same at home. He comes first. He pretends to care, but it’s all shit. Sorry.”

    “You know, there’s a lot of people out there want to take him down.”

    “I know,” he sighed. “So – you take down the trolls, do you?”

    “You’ve got problems with trolls too? People getting at you online?”

    “You can say that again,” he sighed.

    At that moment Owen’s father came over, clapping Owen on the shoulders and ruffling his hair. Owen looked like he wanted the ground to open up and swallow him. “Hey, champ! I see you’ve found our Amy, the most interesting and glamorous person here today. You and me excepted, that is!”

    “I gotta go, Dad. Got a science project to do. Nice talking to you … Amy.” With an awkward half-smile, he turned and headed swiftly for the exit.

    Owen’s father grimaced. “Thanks for looking out for him, Amy. Ah, he’s changed, and it’s crept up on us so suddenly.”

    “It’s called growing up, Patrick.”

    * * * * * * *
    “He’s down in the old granary, halfway down the garden,” the maid said, throwing me a quizzical look as she showed me through to the back of the house. It was half-term, a few days after I first met him, and I guessed I could find Owen at home on his own.

    “Hey!” I said, gently pushing the door open.

    Owen jumped in surprise, turning his laptop screen away.

    “Amy! Dad’s not here …”

    “I know. It’s you I’ve come to see.”

    “Oh.” He looked flustered.

    “I’ve been taking a look at the trolls who’ve been on your case.”


    “Pretty nasty stuff.”

    “Uh-huh. It’s … been a bit quieter for the last couple of days.”

    “Should be.”

    “You did it? How?”

    “Shut down several accounts. Contacted some of the worst offenders. Sent stuff to their parents. Or threatened to. That usually works with kids.”

    “Thanks!” I could see the colour running into his cheeks.

    I sighed. “Owen, I’ve seen the stuff you’ve been posting.”

    “Retaliation …” His face was bright red now. “You know, there’s no escape from it. It’s not only online, it’s at school, it’s in the street, they order stuff to be sent to my home – ”

    “I know. But what do you think of someone who posts this to a girl, ‘We’re gonna hold you down and – ”

    “Don’t say it! I know!”

    “Not good, is it?”

    “She’s the worst. Always on at me … “

    “OK, tell me about Judith. She was your friend at primary school, yes? Now you and this pal of yours, Lenny, are at her all the time. Classic geeky girl with no friends, eh? Her role to be a target for everyone, even the otherwise most bullied.”

    He looked down, maybe ashamed. Whether at his actions or being caught, I wasn’t sure.

    “Hm. I can make this go away, Owen.”
    “You can?”

    “Yep. One word from you and I can delete your online presence completely. My colleague has it all lined up, just needs the go-ahead. You’re hesitating.”


    “Everything. And there’s more, isn’t there?”


    “The fantasies you’ve been cooking up with this Lenny guy. Sticking the faces of classmates on porn images. Fantasies about blowing the school up, unhealthy interest in school shootings, researching bomb-making …”

    “We weren’t going to do anything!” he protested.

    “Hm. So who are the bad guys, Owen? This is how it starts. Two idiots egging each other on, spiralling down into darkness until there’s no way out. You want to be the bad guy, Owen?”

    He shook his head.

    “Say the word, then.”

    He nodded slowly. “OK.”

    A minute later, it was done.

    I took a flash drive out of my handbag. “On here is a disk-clean utility. We’re going to remove every trace of crap from your laptop. Then we’ll go find Lenny and he can do the same. I’m taking all his stuff down too, as that implicates you. He doesn’t get to choose.”

    He nodded.

    “Now, go and fetch the dog. We’re taking him for a walk, round to Lenny’s.”

    “I hate walking the dog!”

    “You’ll be doing it more often from now on. Non-negotiable. Breathe some fresh air, instead of spending all your time in front of a screen being an asshole. Then you’re going to call your old friend Judith, and the four of us are going to play tennis. You can say I’m your cousin or something.”


    “This is how we make the bad guys go away, Owen.”

    And that’s what we did. Maybe the weirdest game of tennis I’ve ever played. From awkward, to hopeless-but-fun, to something approaching a game as I gave them each a bit of coaching. Judith has a serve action a bit like a wind turbine in a hurricane, but when it goes in it’s unstoppable. Had us alternating between hysterics and wild admiration. It’s the most I’ve enjoyed my work in some while.

    What’s more, I’ve averted a serious reputational risk to Patrick from his potentially wayward son.

    Job done.

    [1197 words]

    • Ken Frape
      Hi Andy,

      Keeping Bad At Bay is a manual for dealing with youth angst and other stuff related to growing up in the social media and smart phone era. Every parent should read. It is so well written and you highlight a situation with the young lad, Owen that must affect so many young people. I am so glad that I did not have to go through the mobile phone years and that my kids, in their thirties now, only had to deal with a bit of it.

      Social media is such a powerful double-edged sword.

      Interesting “adjustment” of the prompt.

      Wonderfully written story.

      Ken Frape.

      • Thanks, Ken 🙂

        My kids are of a similar age to yours, it seems: four of them aged 28 to 35. It seems to me a largely analogue childhood/teenhood had enough social challenges, without the social media pressures!

        Yes, the ‘adjustment’ of the prompt. I hope it’s deemed legitimate. I wanted to strike a blow for equality by reversing the sexes of the designated characters, so it’s the female character who has the power rather than being in the vulnerable role …

      • Oh, that comes from a completely different direction. I like.
    • Alice Nelson

      Andy great story with a positive twist on what could’ve been a terrible tragedy. I loved how the person in black was a woman, and a formidable one at that. Love the flow and I really liked how you portrayed Owen. He wasn’t a bad kid, but he was going down a dangerous road.

      Well done Andy -as usual!

    • Hi Andy,

      Well done and well deserved. You certainly got my vote!

      Ken Frape.


    A little girl is sitting next to a man in black. “What do you do mister,” She asked him.
    Taking off his sunglasses with a faint smile, he says, “I make bad people go away.”

    “Hum,” I bring my attention back to my own family. I get up to buy some drinks for us,
    “Stay put and do not move.” I wiggle my little finger to my two young children as I warn. People with their young families are looking for a table to occupy, ready to be entertained in this early evening. The staff are at hand to help if needed.The amusement park is as safe as our own houses
    The queue is building up. I queue and I cast a glance to where my children are. They watch me as I move with the queue.
    I come back to our table at the same time as the mother of the little girl comes back with a little toddler on tow, “You are a naughty boy, I’ll leave you in your wet pants next time. We haven’t many clothes to change.” She chastises the child and hauls him into a seat. The child eyes grow like marbles as he looks up to her. He sucks his fingers.
    The man in black rises, waves at the little girl and ruffles the boy head before he walks away. He winks at the little girl as if they have a secret that only they share.
    “Enjoy my show,” he turns around as he walks away and tells us.
    Moment later, he was on stage with a female companion.
    “He is the magician for tonight show.” I think for myself.
    He starts by cracking a few jokes as they prepare. The woman brings a big, colourful and decorated carton box. She walks into the box and crunch down. She crams her head into the box.
    “You’re a bad girl, Glis Glis.” The man in black says to her as he seals the box.
    “I think he will make the lady go away.” The little girl tells her mother. She brings her hands to her face and squeezes her little body tight. “She has been bad.”
    “He is a magician. There’s nothing to worry about.” I tell my own children loud enough for the little girl to hear. I can feel her fright and I don’t want it to rub on my own children.
    The man inserts a couple of swords through the box.
    “He is going to kill her.”
    “Stop being silly or we will go back to the caravan.” The mother chastises her. She moves the drink away from her.
    When the man removes the swords and opens the box, the woman is not in it. She does a disappearing act.
    “I told you. He’s kill her.”
    “Will you stop this?” The mother thumps her fist on the table. “Right, we’re going back in.” She hauls the toddler out of his seat, pulls the girl by her hand and drags them out of the tent. We watch her as they remove themselves from the cheering crowd.
    The show ends with people dancing on the floor with a guitarist stringing his guitar and singing.

    Shortly afterwards, I are back in our caravan. I settle the children in bed and pour myself a glass of wine to end a nice evening. I start to sip when I hear a commotion outside.
    I open the door to the woman banging at my hour.
    “My children, my children,” She screams. “They are gone.”
    “What?” I shout back. It takes me a few seconds to absord the information.
    “How?” I stuttered.
    “I put them to bed, go for a shower and next minute when I check on them they are not in their beds.” She shouts.
    “Oh, my God.”
    “Everybody is looking for them.”
    “I can’t help. My own children are in bed. I won’t leave them alone.” I tell her. “Have you alerted the Police?”
    “No!” She is on the verge of crying. Her lips quivers.
    I grab my phone and ring emergency. I, then close the door on her and run into the children bedrooms. They are sound asleep. I heave a long breath, check the windows to make sure they are locked. I walk around in the lounge area, and think of all the bad things that has happened to missing children. I remember of one case not so long ago when a child went missing in another holiday camp. I wash my glass and put it away. I need all my faculties after this incident. I won’t chance another drink. I no longer want to go to sleep.

    Two hours later, I open the door to the manager of the park.
    “Do not worry.” He steps back to give me space. “ The park is very secure, we have cctv cameras, the main gate is locked. I see your light is on and I decide to let you know about the good news.”
    “The children are found.” I hasten to add. He is too slow with his conversation.
    “Yes. They left the caravan and went to hide in the bushes by the main gate. The gate was locked of course and thethe security man is in the cabin as you must have noticed, therefore they could not leave the park. A long story.” He waves his hands and looks down to his feet.
    “Thank Goodness they are found. I am consumed with so many horrible thoughts.” I share my anxieties.
    “Why did they do that?” It baffles me. “Why have they left the caravan and their mother to go out, with the intention of running away of course.” He turns to walk away.
    “Are they safe?” I asked.
    “Yes, they’re. They are with their mother. She has to be more careful next time.”
    “I think so too. You can never tell with children. You have your eyes on them all the time.”
    “The little girl got worried after watching the magic show. She believes that she and her brother have been naughty, that their mother will let the magician take them away and they will disappear like the woman in the box. They did not watch the whole show because the female magician reappears afterwards.”
    “I know. I was there. I saw her pull her children away. I thought she was a bit too harsh on them. They are on holiday for goodness sake. It was not nice of her to deprive the children of the amusement. That is why we bring them to places like this in the first place.”
    “I know. I let you get back to sleep now.” He steps further back.
    “Ok. Thanks for letting me know. I can sleep well tonight.”
    He stands for a few minutes and I can sense that he has something else to tell me.
    “I don’t want to alarm you. But, I must tell you because you will find out tomorrow.”
    “Yes.” I peal my ears.
    “The Police came and interviewed the children and most of us. They magicians are taken into custody.”
    “In custody!” I shrieked. “Why?”
    “They suspect that they are involve in a gang of child trafficking. It is only suspicion, a mistake perhaps.” The manager moves further back . “We have a good security system here after what happened to this missing child in one of our other resort a while back.”
    My heart gives a thud. The blood drains out of my body. I am speechless.

    • Hi Chitra
      Nice touch having a magician who does make people disappear, and the children’s misunderstanding of the situation. And the insight into good and bad parenting too.
      But perhaps the children are not so wrong after all, if the magicians are involved in trafficking …

      A few language points: ‘peel’ rather than ‘peal’, and more usually used for eyes – funny how peeling ears is becoming more common. A strange idiom, it has to be said. Stringing his guitar – strumming? Or just playing.

      Enjoyable story with a couple of twists!

    • Alice Nelson

      Chitra, you clever girl, having a magician that makes kids disappear. This is an intriguing story, there’s a lot going on the mom who’s frustrated and impatient with her kids, the magicians, it all seems as if it could be an even longer story. I wanted to know so much more about these people. Still, it is a perfectly fine short story too. Great job, nice flow and a happy ending.

  • Transformation.

    I walk the long path from our farm to the big road. I am very excited because today is finally the day when I start a new life. The day after my eighth birthday. I’m also very scared. I know that little girls are not allowed to run away from home. I don’t simply run away, and the farm is not my home anymore. But explain that to a policeman!

    The path is long and I get very excited. So I start to run. I fall down and hurt my left knee. Then finally I reach the big road. We always call it “the big road”, although it is rather small. But it is the only road where we live. It leads to the nearby village and then to the north, where the big cities are.

    I follow it for a while until I get to the bus stop. It is a lonely stop, nearby there are only fields and a small forest. Here I want to wait for the bus that goes to the cities in the north. I have enough money. I packed a small bag with some laundry, a few clothes, my hairbrush and Pepe, my stuffed dog. I want to tell the driver that I am traveling to my grandma. Although my grandma is lying on the floor in the kitchen.

    Next to the bus stop is a bench with a man sitting on it. I sit down next to him. Then I look at him. He’s all in black, jeans, shirt, jacket, and sunglasses too. I think the man looks a bit scary, but also a bit nice. He stares into the distance and ignores me. I do not know if I should be scared or say hello.


    He turns to me and answers, “Hello!”

    We say nothing for a while. I have to ask him something important. So I ask.

    “Are you good or bad?”

    “Why do you want to know?”

    “Because you are dressed all in black. This looks a bit scary. ”

    “Do you think I’m scary?” He smiles. “You don’t need to be afraid. Not if you’re a good girl. ”

    “I don’t know if I’m a good girl. But I’m not a bad girl either, that’s for sure. ”

    The man in black just nods. I have another question for him.

    “What do you do mister? I haven’t seen you around here.“

    Taking off his sunglasses with a faint smile, he says, “I make bad people go away.”

    “How do you do that? You kill people?”

    He sighs briefly and answers:

    “No, I don’t kill. I transform them. I turn bad people into little baby animals. ”

    I get excited again. Maybe I have met the right man.

    “Can you turn my grandmother into a little dog? I have money. I can pay you. ”

    The man looks at me very attentively.

    “I do not need money. But you have to tell me the whole story so I can decide if your grandma is a bad person. ”

    No one but us is waiting here. So I start to tell him. The whole story. It goes like this: We used to be a real family. Dad, Mom, Grandma and me. Dad and Mom wanted another baby, but it didn’t work out. About a year ago, my parents disappeared. Just disappeared. First we thought they were gone away or something. Later, the police came. They searched everywhere and asked many questions, but they never found a trace of dad and mom again.

    And since dad and mom disappeared, my grandmother has turned into a devil. I was no longer allowed to attend school, but had to look after chickens and pigs. She hit me and scratched me. Sometimes she locked me up in a shack and left. I did not know where she went. I was afraid to starve. Once I managed to get out of that shack. Then I searched everything for traces of my parents, and so I found the money. I found three different stahes, under the washing machine, behind a flap in the chimney and in a wine bottle in the cellar. It was a lot of money, more than I could count. That’s how I started my plan.

    Yesterday, I was locked up again. I made it out through the tiny window of the shack once more. Then I packed the things for the trip and took a bundle of money from the wine bottle. I hid in the kitchen and waited. When my grandmother came through the door, I hit her on the head with the broom. And now I am here.

    The man in black says he wants to help me. He asks me where exactly the money stashes are. Then he tells me to hide and come back to the bus stop the next day. I do. I have a hiding place in the small forest where nobody can find me. I lay down on a patch of moss and sleep a little.

    When I wake up the next day there’s a faint smell of smoke in the air. As I walk to the bus stop, the man in black sits on the bench like the day before. He has a baby dog on his lap. It looks a bit like the puppies from our neighbor. And it has a gold chain around its neck. The golden chain with the little cross my grandmother always wore. The man in black really kept his word and turned my grandma into a little dog. I introduce my stuffed dog Pepe to the puppy. They are going to be friends forever.

    The man in black asks me if I want to come with him. I say, “Yes!” He promises that he will take care of me. Then he kisses me on my mouth. I do not like that. But it’s not as bad as being slapped. I hope the man in black is a good person.

    • Jurgen,

      No offense to Ken, or anyone else for that matter, but I love stories that are so out of bounds as to be disturbing. If we can’t challenge convention in literature, then where pray tell, is it safe to do so?

      Your story is disturbing and delightfully twisted. As for the long term possibilities of the character’s fates? My money is on the resourceful little girl.

      Though the story has more than the usual number of typos or errors, it has your usual keen dialogue, quick pacing and diabolical plot. Two thumbs up from me, Jurgen.

      • Ken Frape
        Hi Ken,

        No offence taken. You have a completely legitimate argument regarding boundaries. I guess the story hit a number of my own, personal “red lines” and made me feel uncomfortable. As Berlinermax says, that was partly his intention so that makes it an effective piece of writing and, after all, that’s what it was, a piece of writing.

        Glad to see you, Ken, have come up with your own unique take on the prompt, as if that was ever in doubt. I too, certainly wanted to avoid the notion that the little girl in the prompt was in any way a victim and you have certainly made sure she wasn’t in your story. A little girl, not far away from her mother’s gaze, is beating the brains out of (old) men. Does she travel? I can think of one or two suitable candidates for her gentle care!


        Ken Frape.

    • Jurgen – a disturbing tale with a cast of warped characters that piles one bit of creepiness on another, with quite a shocking ending leaving us in suspense. I am disturbed, but I like it and it’s a very interesting impact the story has.
    • Alice Nelson

      Jurgen, I love your twisted mind, that’s usually where mine goes. Nice fast paced story, and the girl is an intriguing character. Like Ken C. said, a few typos, but nothing that takes me out of the story. Nice job!

  • Ken Frape
    Bi Berlinermax,

    You always write such great stories and, as a story, this one is well written too. However, I found it very disturbing in a number of ways. There’s the disappearance of the parents, the police visit, the horrible Grandma, the hidden cash, the running away of an eight year old child, her approach to a stranger, telling him about the money, hitting Grandma over the head, the appearance of the puppy and then finally, the kiss on the mouth.

    Every alarm bell is now ringing in my head!

    For me, it was all a bit too much.

    Ken Frape.

  • Hello Ken,

    I can understand that. I wanted to try out new stuff, and this prompt sounded pretty scaring to me. So I wrote a horror story with no real horror happening, but lots of hints. It was meant to tickle the reader’s imagination. With you it worked, I think.

    Thanx for your comment


  • Little Red Riding Hood. (802 words.)
    By Ken Cartisano

    He was sitting on a park bench, minding his own business as I approached. I couldn’t tell if he was watching me or not, on account of the dark glasses he wore.

    “Why are you dressed in black?” I asked. “Are you in the morning?”

    He smiled indulgently. “Am I in mourning? No. I’m simply color blind, which leads to terrible fashion choices. A black wardrobe simplifies the matter.”

    I remember thinking that he should be at work, just like I should’ve been at school. Thinking myself very clever I asked, “What do you do, mister?”

    After some consideration, he removed his sunglasses, leaned slightly over toward me and said, “I make bad people go away.”

    I remember thinking, at the time, ‘What a great job.’ “What’s color-blind?” I asked.

    “The inability to see color, of course.”

    “Of course.” I repeated. “So what color is my dress?”

    His smile seemed strained. “A rather drab shade of gray, I’m afraid.”

    “Is not.”

    “It appears to me to be gray.”

    “It’s red.”

    “If you say so,” he replied. His attention returned to the handful of children and adults who occupied a small, sand filled playground 60 meters distant.

    “Are you looking for someone right now?”

    “As a matter of fact, I am.” He squinted at me. “How old are you?”

    “I’m six.” I lied. “Going on seven.” He seemed skeptical, but I’m small for my age. My mom says I’m petite, and that’s a good thing. I’m really nine.

    “What’s your name then, young lady?” He asked.

    “Lucy. What’s yours?”

    After a moments hesitation, he said, “Newton. Pleased to meet you, Lucy.” With a puzzled tilt of his head, he said, “Where’s your mother, Lucy?”

    I considered several different responses and settled on, “She’s in the bathroom. Her tummy isn’t feeling well.”

    “Ahhh.” His interest and gaze wandered back to the strangers in the playground. “Perhaps you should go and check on her.”

    “She’s fine,” I said.

    “How do you know?”

    “She would tell me, of course. We have a special way of communicating.”

    “Is that right?”

    I nodded, with the self-assurance of an innocent child.

    “And how does that work, if you don’t mind me asking?”

    I looked around self-consciously, as if I were about to reveal the location of the fountain of youth. He scanned the immediate vicinity as well, until we were mutually satisfied of our isolation. He leaned forward, with a skeptical glint in his eye. Okay Lucy, I think we’re safe from prying eyes. He raised his eyebrows expectantly.

    “Okay I said.” I searched the ground around the park bench diligently. “I need something natural, completely natural, and…” I retrieved a large bent stick from a few yards away and held it to my ear. I shook my head and dropped the stick.

    “Too big?” He asked.

    “Too rotten,” I replied. “Here.” I picked up a couple of stones. A large one and a small one. I gave him the small one and showed him how to hold it properly, to maximize the vibrations. He nodded but his skepticism was obvious.

    “I don’t hear anything,” he said.

    I smirked and shook my head at his foolishness. “This is the communication rock.” I held the other, larger rock up to his ear. “Hear anything?”

    “No,” he mumbled, uncertainly.

    “Good,” I said, “because I haven’t done anything yet. Give me the small rock now.” He dutifully did as he was told. Now close your eyes and listen with all your might–and tell me what you hear.”

    He looked into my eyes a bit comically at this point. I treated him to an impatient look perfected by nine year old girls of every generation. “It won’t work if you don’t believe in it,” I said.

    “Ahhh, so there’s some small amount of faith involved?”

    “Isn’t there always?” I suggested.

    He smiled broadly, and seemed to agree with my sentiment without overtly saying anything.

    “Are you ready?”

    He closed his eyes. I studied his face, and swung the rock with tremendous force. His eyes fluttered open at the moment of impact and rolled up into his head as he fell back and slumped against the back of the bench.

    I heard my mother’s voice calling from our picnic table near the parking area. We were on our way to Illinois for a funeral and had just stopped for a sandwich. There was a hint of panic in her voice so I called out to reassure her. “I’m coming Mommy. I’m coming.” I gave the man in black one last solid bash against his forehead before tossing the rock in the bushes and running toward my mom.

    He was my first, and my easiest. But by no means my last. I’m now sixty-three and still going strong. I always wear a red dress.

    • That came unexpected! Thanks for a surprising story, Ken.
    • Ken – another disturbing tale. Maybe not as disturbing as Jurgen’s, perhaps, but with a punch. Your little girl, she rocks, you might say. Red is the only colour, standing out from the greyness of the man’s vision … had shades of Don’t Look Now about it, the (apparent) girl in the red coat and hood …
      BTW – how does the man make bad people go away? Seems he gets caught out this time.
    • Alice Nelson

      Wow, didn’t see that coming. That ending packed a punch. Great story, it just flows, you’re kind of worried for the kid, but she was underestimated by us all. Loved this story Ken!

  • Alice and Carrie,
    I’m out in the country presently, and have little access to the internet. So, I haven’t had time to comment on the stories. No slight is intended. It may be difficult to vote tomorrow, so I may have to send an email to you ladies later tonight or sometime tomorrow. If no vote comes, no big deal. Cheers
    • Carrie Zylka

      No problem Ken, if you want to email your votes great, if you don’t have time because you’re living it up in the South of France on your yacht we’ll understand…..

      • Hahaha. Would you believe stirring up the dust in Appalachia on my four-wheeler?
  • A Well Played Plan by Carrie Zylka 880 Words

    Oh Kennedy… I thought to myself as I watched him walking down the street. You have no idea what’s coming.

    I kept pace with him, making sure I didn’t close the gap between us. He stopped in front of a store window, pausing to admire himself. Tugging the corners of his black shirt, adjusting his sunglasses so they perched on his nose just so.

    He really was a handsome devil. Strutting down the street, dressed in black, black hair perfectly styled, and I knew from firsthand experience; a black heart.

    He stopped at deli cart, ordering a sandwich and a bottle of water and made his way toward the park. The day was sunny, bright and warm, with the promise of summer on the breeze and the park was a bustling mecca of folks with a bad case of cabin fever.

    I savored watching him, as I had every day for the past week. I was surprised he hadn’t discovered his secret stalker yet. Despite the accidental encounter the day before when I’d gotten too close, nearly fainting as we bumped into each other. But he never even looked at me, he just muttered a brief “excuse me” and pushed past.

    That night I’d almost had a panic attack, even the thought of the encounter left my hands sweaty.

    But today was the day.

    I wasn’t sure what I’d say when I finally confronted him, but I was bound and determined that by the end of our encounter, he’d know exactly who I was.

    The Man in Black, as I’d come to call him, made his way to a park bench, he sat down to enjoy his lunch and I moved closer, leaning against a tree, close enough to hear the lettuce crunching in his mouth, but far enough away to bolt if I needed to abort the mission.

    A group of children played raucously nearby, a school field trip perhaps, or a savvy teacher allowing children who’d been cooped up for months, a chance to play in the sunshine.

    I was slightly annoyed when a little girl skipped over and took a seat on the same bench. She was tiny, and blond and super cute. She was breathing heavily, obviously not used to such strenuous activity. She glanced over at Kennedy, pulled herself into a kneeling position, hooked an arm over the back of the bench and smiled at him.

    “I like your sunglasses mister.” She said.

    “Well thank you. I like your pigtails.” He responded.

    “Why are you dressed like that?”

    “Like what?”

    “All in black like that. My favorite color is pink. Don’t you ever wear pink mister?”

    He chuckled. “No, I can’t say that I ever do.”

    “What do you do mister?” She asked, bouncing on her knees like children do.

    He paused before answering. “I make bad people go away.” He said.

    She looked at him thoughtfully. “Well, that’s a good job to have. I don’t know any bad people.”

    “Then you are a very lucky girl.” He said, nodding in emphasis.

    Just then her teacher called for her to rejoin the group. “Bye mister.” She waved as she dashed away.

    “Goodbye little girl.” He spoke softly, and I had to strain to hear.

    Heart thudding, I stepped forward as Kennedy began to stand, extending his arm as he did so, with the intent to throw the sandwich wrapped in the trash can next to the bench.

    I took the four steps necessary to close the distance and the blade in my hand cut through his silk shirt, through flesh, severing the axillary artery in one quick jab.

    He exploded into a frenzy of movement, grasping his armpit as he staggered backward. His sunglasses went flying revealing eyes a mixture of rage and surprise.

    “What?” He sputtered.

    I stood triumphantly, holding the blood-spattered blade in white knuckled grip. “Four years ago, you killed my mother.” I hissed, shaking as adrenaline coursed through my body.

    His face paled as his life ran down his arm to pool on the ground, he grimaced. “I’ve killed a lot of people, all of them have deserved it.”

    Tears welled in my eyes and my lip quivered as I tried to hold strong. “My mother didn’t. She was a mistress to a very bad man. But she didn’t deserve to die. You had no reason to kill her.”

    Recognition fluttered across his face. “Four years ago? Nicole Argent. Oh, you are her daughter… One of the few I’ve ever regretted. He was supposed to be alone, she came walking out of the bathroom and I instinctually shot her as well. For that I am truly sorry. In my line of work sometimes there are unintended collateral.”

    I couldn’t speak. To hear this man speak of my mother in such a dismissive way infuriated me. But instead of attacking him, I stood there, knowing in a few minutes it would all be over anyway.

    Kennedy chuckled as he wilted, his body slumping to the ground. “Fitting.” He muttered. “So very fitting.

    And then he died.

    I heard the sirens from the street and looked up to see the teacher frantically speaking into her phone.

    I stood over the body of the man who’d killed my mother and waited for the police.

    • Ken Frape
      Hi Carrie,

      A pattern seems to be emerging: Never trust innocent-looking little girls. Or perhaps the pattern is that we writers love to twist and turn things out of shape to baffle, surprise and shock our readers.

      It was a great prompt and one that everyone seems to have treated with great originality.

      I really enjoyed this story.


      Ken Frape.

    • Carrie – a smoothly told tale of revenge, as a hitman gets his comeuppance. I like the way the little girl in pink and pigtails serves as misdirection. The ‘bad’ in the story comes from a different direction. And the hitman having a conscience – well, a hint of a conscience – is also a nice touch.
  • Alice Nelson

    The Bad Man and the Fixer

    Eldrich Ainsworth wasn’t who he appeared to be, I was as sure of that as I was my name, which is Julie Koblowski, by the way.

    He lived next door to me and my mother. Every morning I watched as he left his house at 7:30 am, dressed in a black suit, and dark sunglasses. He walked down to the bus stop on the corner of Clover and Pine, where he’d get on the number 5 bus. Then he’d return each evening at precisely 6pm.

    “I don’t trust him,” mom said.

    Which was a riot, because she had terrible judgement in men. From my father, to the man who now lived in our house.

    Since they became a thing, the man started trying to fill the void my father left. Ha! Jokes on him, dad was never much of a presence even when he and my mother were married. Besides the man was far more attentive than any grown man should be, if ya know what I mean.

    He watched me as I made my lunch for school, he was always watching me.

    “Do you want me to take you to school?”

    “No, I’ll catch the bus,” I said, trying to leave as quickly as possible.

    “Well, if you ever need a ride, just ask,” he said, putting his hand on mine, and leaving it there for way too long.

    I pulled it away and rushed off to school.

    First off, eww! The man is like a hundred years old, and I’m just 12; which wasn’t just creepy but illegal. Aaaand, this wasn’t the first time he touched me that way.

    There he was, my neighbor Eldrich Ainsworth, sitting at the bus stop in his black suit, wearing sunglasses with lenses so dark, it looked as if he had two tiny bottomless pits for eyes.

    “Hello Mr. Ainsworth,” I said, sitting down.

    “Well, hello Miss Koblowski,” he said, still reading his paper.

    He always called me by my last name. At first I thought it was weird, but now I like it. Makes me feel grown up.

    “Are you taking the bus these days?”

    “Just today, mom isn’t feeling well.”

    “Seems she isn’t feeling well quite a lot these days,” he said.

    And he was right, mom loved her box of wine more than she cared about me making it to school on time.

    “Mr. Ainsworth?” I said, “It occurred to me,” I was trying to sound as dignified as he did. I never talked like that to my friends.

    Any way I said to him, “It occurred to me that I don’t know what it is you do for a living.”

    He paused, folded the paper and placed it in his lap. Then Ainsworth looked at me, and with a faint smile on his lips said, “I make bad people go away.”

    I had no idea what he meant by that and asked, “So you’re a police officer?”

    “Oh no,” he laughed, “I’m a private contractor. I specialize in making people’s problems disappear.”

    And then a thought began to form in my mind, and I tried to push it away, but it was determined to come to life, What if he could make the man disappear?

    And as if reading my mind Ainsworth said, “Yes Julie, I can make that man go away, if you’d like.”

    Just then the number 5 pulled into the stop, “There’s my bus,” he said. Then he was gone.

    I was left there to wonder first, how did he know what I was thinking; and second, what did he know about the man that he thought I would want him gone?”

    Mr. Ainsworth was definitely not who he appeared to be.

    They had gone to bed early, and I stayed up to watch some television. I had fallen asleep on the couch and was awoken by the man, and this is so gross I can hardly say it, he was sitting there with one hand on my you know what, and the other on his.

    “Stop it!” I yelled.

    “Quiet or your mother will hear,” he said through clenched teeth.

    “I don’t care!” I yelled back. I got up to go my room, and there she was standing in the doorway watching us.

    “Mama,” I said.

    She was calm, “Go to bed Julie, I’ll handle this,” she said.

    I was relieved. I thought she had finally saw the man for who he truly was. But the next morning he was there at breakfast, mom making him eggs and bacon, something she had been too drunk to do for me as of late.

    That’s when I decided to speak with Mr. Ainsworth.

    He was there as I had hoped, sitting on the bus bench, reading his paper.

    I sat down staring at him, but I had no idea how to bring up the subject.

    Finally he said, “Do you have something you’d like to say to me, Miss Koblowski?”

    “I, uh…well.. well I said, “What do I need to do to get you to uh…help my problem go away?”

    He had an amused look on his face, “Well Miss Koblowski, I just need you to give me your permission.”

    “That’s all, I don’t have to pay you?”

    “Oh no, this is a service I provide, free of charge.

    I was skeptical, but desperate, “You have my permission,” I said, shaking his hand.

    The man was in my room, standing over my bed, but I pretended to be asleep, just like Mr. Ainsworth told me to.

    He reached for me, but Ainsworth came out of nowhere, and grabbed the man, holding his hand over the man’s mouth. “Close your eyes, Julie,” he said.

    And I did —at first. But the noises they were too much, so I looked.

    There was a bright light coming from inside of Mr. Ainsworth. His mouth was opened wider than was humanly possible, and he had already consumed half of the man.

    I shut my eyes again, and when it was over, Mr. Ainsworth said, “You can open your eyes Julie, he’s gone.”
    Ainsworth held my hand, “You should stay here considering what I have to do next.”

    I nodded, this time I wouldn’t peek.

    The noises coming from my mother’s room were much worse, because I heard her call my name before the end.

    My father and his new wife reluctantly took me in. It was a Saturday and I was confined to my room because daddy’s new wife didn’t want me around when her family came to see the new baby.

    I’d been watching all morning as a large moving truck took furniture and boxes into the house next door.

    I hope they have kids around my age, I said to myself.

    After the truck drove away, a long black car pulled into the driveway.

    Instead of a family tumbling out, one man stepped from the vehicle, wearing a black suit, and dark sunglasses.

    I was surprised at how happy I was to see him.

    “Hello Miss Koblowski,” he said.

    I smiled, “Hello Mr. Ainsworth.”

    • Hi Alice – another well-written and pleasurably twisted story. A child at first vulnerable in world of unpleasant adults, who becomes an accomplice with a kind of guardian angel from the hellmouth, or something, who gruesomely consumes the unworthy. And we’re left wondering about the dad and step-mother, the new reluctant carers … and can imagine their fate if they are not careful
      • Alice Nelson

        Andy I think you described me perfectly, “Pleasurably Twisted.” 🙂 Thank you my friend, so glad you enjoyed the story.

  • I like Mr. Ainsworth and his fine manners. To me he’s a real gentleman in a gruesome setting. 🙂
    • Alice Nelson

      Thank you Berliner, I dig Mr. Ainsworth’s manners too. 🙂

  • A Play in One Scene
    In homage to Edward Albee

    Urban Park, a little seedy. Mid stage, a bench faces the audience. Behind it, wilted foliage, sad trees, sky. Stage right, part of a children play area, rusted gate, a rundown slide. We don’t see its entrance.

    MAN IN BLACK is seated on the bench, static, wearing dark shades.
    LITTLE GIRL enters stage right, as if coming from the play area. She stands in front of the bench awhile, staring at MAN, without a word. She seats down in the empty part of the bench.
    MAN hasn’t moved, hasn’t looked at her.

    (Having turned her head several times towards MAN, finally takes a lollipop out of her mouth.)
    And what you do, Mister?
    (Takes off his sunglasses, he is looking towards the audience.)
    I’m making bad people go away.
    Aw, cool! You a Superhero or somethin’?
    I just make bad people go away.
    Yeah. You already said that. But what you mean for real? You a cop or somethin’?
    No. All I do is I make bad people go away.
    Mister, don’t take me for no fool. Is not because you see me suckin’ on lollipop that I be no spring chick. You an angel of judgment come; or what? You gonna make me do all the work and guess you entire pudigree, or what?! You can talk to me, I’ll let ya know. I ain’t no snitch or my name ain’t Aileen – that’s how I spell it, cause I wanna: A.I.L.E.E.N.
    I see how it goes, Little Miss Prissy Pants. You just want me to spell it out for you. You want to know exactly how it’s done.
    (Abruptly jumps up and backs from the bench, on the defense.)
    Hey there, Mister! Don’t you get any nutty idea on count I’m more small than your whole chest. I got me some good kicks in me, on count boys around this here place always givin’ me hell!
    Seat down, Baby Tiger, I’m only going to tell you how it’s done. I won’t touch a hair on your head.
    (Seats back at far end of the bench, reluctant, eyeing MAN suspiciously.)
    Awright. But first move you make my side, you’ll discover how good I scream.
    I don’t doubt it for an instant, Baby Tiger, I don’t doubt it. (He remains silent a long time, deep in thoughts.) So this is how it all started. My granma, she always wanted me to go out and play with the other children, because she didn’t like to see a child spending too much time on his own. She didn’t think it was normal. For her, children were meant to want to play with other children. And maybe she was right. What she didn’t realize, though, was that it was the other children didn’t want to play with me. There wasn’t anything wrong with me, mind you. It’s just that I was much younger than all of them. Pure bad luck. No one had planned it that way. It was just what it was. Naturally, the other kids had better things to do than drag a little puppy along that might still pee his pants if things got too touchy. I suppose now I couldn’t blame them. But I did, at the time. I felt it was unfair, being constantly left alone like that. I thought it was bad of them to do it. I decided they were bad. So I had to do something about it. I started looking for secret places where I could hide and that I could call my own. There, I would make up entire stories on how the other kids had begged me to invite them in, because my secret places were so swell, but I had turned them all down, and told them to go away. And it worked, that simple: I was making bad kids go away!
    Uh…? You kiddin’ me, like? That’s all you gonna…
    Hold your horses, Li’l Jaybird, hold those horses of yours. I know how you think. This is the lamest story you’ve ever heard, and you were ready for magic. Or whatever else. But you asked, and now you have to listen. I’m the one with the talking stick now, and as far as I know I haven’t released it yet… Now… where was I? Yes. When I realized how apt my new-found strategy was, it started coming natural to me. Every time my relations with people became a struggle, I would make them disappear that way. First, it was abusive teachers at school. As soon as I found something to take refuge in, I would not let them in, and my kingdom was found. In first grade, it was this virgin land I miraculously stepped foot on: the world of letters and words and books! Full of good and bad people, who would all combine their efforts in pushing away the bad ones from the “real world”. You see? Suddenly, the power was that, not only could I spurn them, I also was not alone in doing so. I had allies! Third grade started a whole area of obsession with mathematics. Thanks to a wonderful teacher, this time. Later on, I would explore the realm of science. Later on music and art. And so on, and so on… I won’t go into the wonders it worked with wife, children, bosses…
    (Somewhat hesitant, almost pensive.)
    Mister, I start to think you’re…
    Hush hush, there. I’m not quite finished. Because now is your turn…
    (Jumps up and away from the bench, as she did earlier.)
    Now wait a min…!
    But don’t you see it’s already done? I have already made you disappear a while back, Wee Windbag. All this time, talking to myself, about myself, immersed in my recollecting, there was no room for you, Wee Windbag, no room for you.
    (Realization slowly downing on her.)
    … what?… you made ME disappear…?
    Sure thing, Puny Magpie, sure thing.
    (Losing all her previous sassiness, progressively turning into the little girl that she is.)
    … but… but why would you do that? I ain’t no bad girl…
    Oh but you are, Teeny Busybody, yes you are indeed. Doesn’t your mummy always tell you not to speak to strangers? And here you are, talking to me you’ve never seen before and don’t know anything about. And doesn’t your mummy teach you not to interrupt adults when they be talking? And what have you been doing all along, trying to tell me you know better…
    (Completely at a loss.)
    … but… but I don’t wanna dis…
    Anh anh. No more of that, now, off you go, off you are, Bitty Blabbermouth, away you go!
    (Takes off stage right, in a run, bawling.)
    (Puts sunglasses back on, has a faint smile.)


    • Flo – this story takes the prize for adventurousness in format. Making people disappear by retreating into oneself, or only focusing on oneself and one’s own interests, is an interesting and non-violent take on the prompt. Something going on here about reality and illusion, maybe, and how which is which depends on the perspective you’re looking from?
    • berlinermax
      Oh Funny! I wish I’d dritten that. Refreshing!
      • I find it as an excellent piece of writing too.
        It drew me and I went back to read it once again
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Based on the last few stories, I think I’m going to stay away from parks! LOL. Scary.
  • Don’t wait for my vote, I’m in Chemical land, the land where time disappears and foggy consciousness is the norm. Hope to return to the land of comprehension and able to put thoughts together in a meaningful manner in good time. Hope to write one for the new prompt, whatever that may be. I also hope to be able to read those stories for The Man in Black. We’ll see. I thought I would be able to handle this a bit better than it’s proving to be, but Chemo, right now, is basically kicking my ass. Maybe later, now that I’ve got a few days respite, I’ll be able to prove worthy to join this august group of writers. Some good stories in the last bunch, I just haven’t been able to read them all. Good luck, everyone.
    • Alice Nelson

      Roy, take care my friend. I look forward to seeing you back in the fold when you’re ready.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Hugs and Prayers Roy!
  • Carrie Zylka

    Hi all, just waiting on votes from Anindita and berlinermax.

    Roy – our thoughts and prayers are with you!

  • Carrie Zylka

    Without further ado here are your winners, congrats!!

    1st Place: Keeping Bad at Bay by Andy Lake

    2nd Place: A Welcome Return by Phil Town

    3rd Place: Conventional Behaviour by Ken Frape

    4th Place: Bad People by Adrienne Riggs

    5th Place: The Bad Man and the Fixer by Alice Nelson

    6th Place: Little Red Riding Hood by Ken Cartisano

    7th Place: Transformation by berlinermax

    8th Place: A Play in One Scene In homage to Edward Albee by Flo

    9th Place: A Well Played Plan by Carrie Zylka

    10th Place: Friday Mice Are Nice by Marien Oommen

    11th Place: An Encounter by Chitra Adjoodah

    The favorite character was Lucy in “Little Red Riding Hood” by Ken Cartisano.

    And “Bad People” by Adrienne Riggs had the best dialogue.

    The new prompt will be posted shortly, it is a Dialogue Prompt:

    Two figures argue about six {insert whatever monetary item you like) they found down by the river.

    Monetary items may be anything i.e. six gold coins, six rupees, six one hundred dollar bills, six silver chests full of riches. Whatever you want.

    1200 words.

    I’ll get the new post up today!

    • My compliments to all the authors. I was able to finish reading the stories and would like to congratulate two stories that stood out for me. A Play in One Scene by Flo was especially noticeable because of the format – with a good story, of course; and A Welcome Return by Phil Town. Loved the story, man. Great job. Not that the others weren’t barn burners. because most were. Excellent way to spend a morning – reading some great writing with some very strange twists. Good job, everyone. I’ll have a story this coming prompt. Count on it. It’s already percolating. About time.

      And now, while I’m thinking of it. This isn’t meant as criticism, but if we have prompts, shouldn’t they be followed to the letter? I will bow to whatever the entire group thinks, but if dialogue is used, along with mannerisms, I think the EXACT prompt should be used. If I’m in the minority, I can live with it, because it gives me more latitude. Just bringing this up for discussion. I’ll flow which ever way the river runs.

      A few years ago we had an author who would NEVER use the exact prompt. Sometimes he wasn’t even close, but kept saying it stifled his ability to be ‘himself’. I finally turned one of his stories back and deleted it and it wasn’t voted on. The next story had the correct prompt by him and he ended up in first place that period. Just saying. I hope I don’t sound picky, but a prompt is a prompt, not a suggestion. After all, tomorrow is the day after today. (In deference to Scarlett O’Hara’s famous line, After all, tomorrow is another day.) See what I mean?

      • Carrie Zylka

        Hi Roy, yes I actually agree, but sometimes we allow some flexibility such as the last one. When I came up with the prompt I personally wanted to provide a guide not necessarily a strict structure. If someone else had come up with that prompt I would have posted it with the instruction to insert the paragraph precisely.

        If there are others in the past that Alice or I missed please let us know. With a full time job, I don’t always get to read the stories until after I’ve created the voting page and posted the voting link. Although I generally do try to make sure they have the correct word count.

        Anytime anyone of the writers notices something that we miss we absolutely encourage an email letting us know.

        But for this particular one I took liberties because it was my prompt hahaha!

        • Thanks Carrie for your response regarding the use of prompts. I wasn’t trying to start a forest fire or anything, but thought I would get it out there for discussion, if need be, but if you are on top of things, which I know you and Miss Alice be, I have no problem with a lax response to a prompt. Just brought it up for consideration.
        • “When I came up with the prompt I personally wanted to provide a guide not necessarily a strict structure” …

          I like this approach, Carrie.

          As long as people have the essence of the prompt, I think it’s fine. A prompt, after all, is intended to prompt ideas 🙂

          As I said before about my story, I might have pushed it too far in swapping the genders of the two characters. Had it been ruled ‘illegal’, that would have been fine with me.
          It was, however, a conscious decision to change it up, with the perspective of gender equality, not a question of being lax 🙂

  • Adrienne Riggs
    Congrats to all!
  • All nice stories, worth winning in their own right
    Thanks everyone for reading my story.

    Andy – Thanks for your feedback.
    I had a senior moment with the word ‘strumming£’. It just won’t come,. So I just wrote ‘string’ing’
    I wrote the story in the past tense, then went back to change it into the present tense. I noticed, after I posted it, that there are a couple of rogue wrong tenses which escaped my attention.

    Alice – Thanks for your feedback and the nice compliment. Flattered that you like my story.

    Roy – Sorry to hear about your illness. Get well soon.

    • Thanks Chitra, It was good to see you back and writing. And, I liked your story. I see a big improvement from stories past. Good job.
      • Thanks Roy.
        I haven’t written any short stories since the last time I was on the site.
        But, I have scripted two long plays and very regularly read a lot of articles and comment on Facebook. 😱
        Good to know that I am making progress.
  • Congratulations, Andy! Absolutely deserved!

    Hail to everyone else, of course!!
    This time was a time of having to choose between commenting or writing, and I chose the latter. Hoping to be more present next time, but I definitely read all the stories 🙂

  • Well done, Andy. Richly deserved once again. And well done to us all!
    Thrilled with second place. Thanks for the votes and the positive comments – sorry, didn’t have time to respond to them this week, nor to comment .
  • Alice Nelson

    Congratulations Andy!!!

  • Well that’s very nice – thanks to all who appreciated the story 🙂
    And well done to everyone – a great set of varied and interesting stories
  • congratulations on the First Place finish Andy. it was a fabulously well-written story, and it was one of very few, if not THE ONLY story with an out and out, unquestionably positive story. I toyed with the exact same idea myself, but gave it up as too complicated to manage under the limited word count. What I couldn’t figure out how to do, you did with remarkable skill and finesse. (This is why I should hate you.) But I don’t. Yours, and Phil’s story really stood out as original and artfully written.
    I must add that, despite the similarities in the plots, all the stories were interesting and entertaining.
    • Thanks indeed, Ken – but far too kind.

      Tell me about the word count … first version had about 1650 words, and I became more and more depressed as I gutted the dialogue in the first half of the story, till I was worried that the boy had lost his voice altogether 🙁
      150 words is usually fairly strightforward to trim. But another 300 risks changing the story altogether.

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