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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

First Line Writing Prompt “What’s in a Name”

Theme: This post is for stories that start with the line: “She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name.”.

Story Requirements:

We must at some point in the story find out her actual name.

Word Count: 1,200

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Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
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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).

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203 thoughts on “First Line Writing Prompt “What’s in a Name”

  • Carrie Zylka

    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment, feel free to copy and paste the title and permalink in the comments below so it does not get missed, or use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.
    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    • sorry I think I have put this in the wrong place, but can’t work out how to move it 🙁
      • Carrie Zylka

        I can move it!

        *edit – actually I think it’s ok where it is. Next time just scroll all the way to the bottom and post your story as a new comment instead of a reply. 🙂

    • I love the idea of the placing the pebble on the edge of the ancestors and that when she eats it the tribe considers her a ghost.
    • Hi,
      I am a bit confused. I posted my story “A garlic a day etc…” some days ago and it appeared in the list of stories but has now disappeared. It is still in the posted story threads but has not received any comments.
      Is is something I have done or, more likely, failed to do?
      Ken Frape
      • Carrie Zylka

        Oops my fault, I updated the stories list about an hour ago and accidentally cut instead of copied yours!
        I restored it.

        Also, there are probably comments related to your story but you posted your story in the “reply” instead of posting a new comment just like notrat did (you replied to Amy’s comment about it taking some serious thought). So the comments for your story may be somewhere else.

        I might suggest you repost your story all the way at the bottom of the page, I’ll update the referring link in the stories.
        That way people can reply directly to your story with their comments.

        • Ken Frape
          Hi Carrie,
          Ok will do that.
          Ken Frape
        • Ken Frape
          Hi Carrie,
          Thanks for that.
          I will follow your advice.
          Ken Frape
    • Peter Holmes
      For such a perplexing topic, glad to see there’s so many entries. I couldn’t think of much, but good job everyone!
    • Hi Alice or Carrie
      Think you may have missed my story this week.
      • Alice Nelson

        I’m sorry Ilana, we missed it, but your story is now on the list. Thanks for your patience.

        • Thanks Alice! 😊🙏
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Wow. This one will be a doozy!
  • Let’s see if this gets me a response. Anyway, I’m with Adrienne.
  • Peter Holmes
    Wow. Just… wow.
  • berlinermax
    Reads prompt. Swallows . 😉
  • This is going to be lots of fun good luck every one


  • Hahaha I know you’re all up to the challenge!
    • Alice Nelson
      I love this prompt!
  • I tried something new to login, and get responses. Let’s see if this works.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Let us know if it works. WordPress can be super fickle sometimes…

      • Didn’t work. I tried changing my password with WordPress and that didn’t work. I had to join WordPress again when this happened last time. I also dropped my website. Think that could be it. I didn’t set WordPress up except for name and password. Should I do that? The reason being I already had a Website.
        • I only get notifications if someone likes a comment I’ve made, (which is extremely and understandably rare,) or when someone comments on one of my more brilliant or hilarious insights. (An even rarer event,) perhaps due in part to the infrequency of my brilliance. But I prefer to believe that WordPress, Microsoft, and Google are engaged in a diabolical conspiracy, to deprive me of the laudatory acclaim to which I’m rightfully due and have come to expect from this auspicious site and its often mysteriously silent denizens. (Many of whom, rumour has it, claim to be writers.)

          I think a complete and thorough investigation is the only solution to solving this puzzle. (Maybe I should click the box labeled, ‘Notify me of new comments via email.’ Who am I kidding? That doesn’t work either. I’ve done it a dozen times. To paraphrase the bard himself, WordPress doth vex me.

  • Peter Holmes
    computer error, re-signing in for comments

  • Lost And Found
    1199 Words

    “She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. Thankfully, I had put it on the kindergarten forms or she may have lost it for good!” Sylvia laughed as she leaned forward looking at the new couple on their street that had quickly become her friends.
    “Mom! Seriously! You’re really going to tell this story again, aren’t you?” The girl put her purse on the coffee table and sat down beside her mother.
    “Well, its’ true, isn’t it? Besides, it was the same day you found your voice!”
    “Yeah, I know but I was a kid so can you please just stop embarrassing me with something that happened almost twenty years ago?”
    “What kind of parent would I be if I did that?”
    “The nice kind, maybe?”
    “Nah, that’s boring. I much prefer telling this story. This is Clarissa and Marcus, dear.” Sylvia gestured to the couple.
    “Fine. Just make it quick, we have reservations remember?” The younger girl sat back on the sofa waiting for the inevitable laughter and the ‘awe poor baby’ that always followed when her mother repeated the story.
    “Right. Anyway, she was five and it was her first day of school. She was very shy in those days, obviously not anymore. I had a necklace made with a dangling, tiny, gold trinket with her name engraved on it. She got on the bus and into her kindergarten class just fine. Mrs. Evens, her teacher, only had a single seat available so my girl had to sit all the way in the back of the classroom but being the silent type, she didn’t complain. During lunch she sat by herself not speaking to anyone so naturally she hadn’t made any friends by then. After lunch, the kids returned to class for a while then went to recess. I had sent a yogurt cup and a little bag of cut fruit for her snack, Mrs. Evens gave it to her when she was giving all the other kids their snacks- she liked letting the kids eat outside on days that were pretty nice. Anyway, while she was eating, she felt something little and hard but didn’t say anything at first. Somehow, it slid between her front teeth and cut her gum a little. Obviously that hurt pretty bad and her mouth was bleeding a little- my poor girl. She screamed, sucking in a lot of air for the ‘wind up’ like most children do and the tiny little trinket went right down her throat! She put her little hand on her neck and realized the trinket from her necklace was missing.”
    “Oh! That’s awful!” The couple cooed, looking directly at the ‘star’ of this particular story in twin expressions of pity for the little girl she had once been.
    “It was horrible. Mrs. Evans ran to her to find out what had happened and you know what? My girl spoke! She told her teacher all about it then Mrs. Evans had the principal call me. Needless to say, I rushed to the school to get my baby girl to take her to the pediatrician. Boy, was I surprised when I found her! All the kids had surrounded her, trying to make her feel better! Thankfully, the pediatrician said the cut was so tiny she didn’t need any stitches she just had to use a mouth rinse that keeps infections away.”
    “That was a good thing.” Clarissa cooed.
    “I hate this part.”
    “I know you do but it’s what makes the story so funny!” Sylvia smiled lovingly at her daughter.
    “Maybe to you.” The girl muttered, rolling her eyes knowing what was coming next.
    “Anyway, we got home and she had a million things she was worried about! First she wanted to know if it was going to hurt when the trinket came out and would she need a ‘mouth rinse’ for that too. Then she wanted to know if she would be allowed to take snack to class anymore and she was sure the principal would never let her wear another necklace to school again. I tried to comfort her by telling her everything would be just fine but she started crying so hard she couldn’t hear me.”
    “I was scared, Mom.”
    “I know you were, that’s why I tried so hard to make you feel better that day, remember?”
    “Yeah, I remember.”
    “Anyway, I knew there was something more bothering her so I patted her back until she settled down and gave her a pop sickle to soothe her throat from all the crying and screaming. Then I told her that everything really would be fine so why all the tears at this point? She told me that when Mrs. Evans came to help her she called her ‘young lady’ and ‘honey’ which meant that the teacher didn’t know her name and she couldn’t tell her because she was so upset that she had forgotten it, too! I asked her if she remembered it now, she shook her head ‘no’ and went back to crying but not as badly as before. I told her it was important that she talk to me and tell me why she was still so upset and that I was sure Mrs. Evans knew her name- she always called the little kids by endearments when they were upset over something. Anyway, my girl asked me a bunch of questions like, ‘What if I never remember? How will anyone know who I am? How will I know which cubby is mine? What if I lost my name for good when I swallowed it?’.”
    “Kids worry a lot over such little things!” Marcus added.
    “It seemed like a big deal to me at the time.”
    “I tried everything I could think of to keep her from worrying but nothing helped, not even going to the mall to have another necklace made that was solid instead of dangling. It wasn’t until we got to the register to pay for it that I realized how frightened she really was. The teller said the necklace was pretty and asked which one of us had such a pretty name, I pointed to her. The teller tried to make her smile by pretending to not believe her and asked, ‘really then, what is it?’, she started crying again saying ‘I don’t know! I swallowed it this morning, I can’t remember!’. The teller felt terrible for upsetting her. I explained what happened that morning, paid for the necklace and took her home. After dinner she asked if she could look at the necklace, I told her to get her alphabet book first so she could practice her letters, she was smiling when she came back to the table with it. On the front of her book, Mrs. Evans had placed a label with her name on it. She told me, ‘Its ok, I found it!’. Silly girl.”
    “Poor girl finally realized her name wasn’t really lost!” Clarissa beamed. “What is your name, dear?”
    “I’m Patience, mom says I don’t have any.”
    “It’s true.” Sylvia escorted the couple to the door. “Ready to have your birthday dinner?”
    “Only if you promise to not tell the waiter that story too!”

    • A clever story, Amy. The dialogue is great. The name you chose is perfect.
      • Thanks Ken C.
        I’m glad you enjoyed it, I appreciate your comments and feedback.
        This is definitely not my best work but after deleting and restarting two other attempts, this one just kind of ‘stuck’ so to speak.
        Kids have the crazy habit of doing the most outlandish things and their logic is at times unrealistic even when it makes perfect sense to them. lol.
        After a meal when my daughter was finished eating, instead of saying ‘ok Mom, I’m done.’ or something like that, she would take my hand and pat her own head with it and tell me ‘I’m topped full.’
        I have no idea where she got this kind of logic from… it could be the parenting, I’m not sure….
        My husband and I, have on occasion told our kids wild tales to make them laugh like- If you feed a cow chocolate you get chocolate milk, spin it around you get butter, feed it some sugar and vanilla you get ice cream or if they stare at the tv too long they’ll go blind but I never thought it would affect them so strangely, (or in their case, hysterically 🙂 ) or at least to me lol.
    • Hi, Amy,
      what an entertaining story. I love it, and I can relate to the embarrasment of the daughter. I think you’ll smile when you read my story. It’s a variation of the theme. That’s normal with such a prompt. And that’s why I never look at the other stories before I’ve posted my own. Your dialogues are sparkling, they make the scene come alive.
      • Hi Berlinermax,
        Thank you for your comments, I am glad you enjoyed the story 🙂 . I am very much the same way, I wait until after I post before reading and commenting on anyone else’s.
    • The interaction between the mom and daughter feels real in this. I know my parents love telling tales of how “weird” I was as a kid still.
    • Cute story, snappy dialogue, Amy.
      And one very annoying parent – a well-drawn character!
    • Hi Amy,
      This story has made me reassess my telling of similar stories about my kids, that I think are pretty funny but maybe they don’t.
      Parents,eh? We all know what Philip Larkin says about parents.
      A well written story that clearly draws on the parent – child relationship.
      A good story and a good read.
      Ken Frape.
  • Amy,

    I almost went this same route, but couldn’t put it together, and I have half written another story that after I started thought the ending was too weak, so I’m starting over with a new thought.

    I have no quibbles with your writing and especially enjoyed the banter with mother and daughter at the ending. I embarrass my grown children, too, with stories of their childhood. Good stuff.

    I really like what you did with the story and it’s flow.

    My story would have included how they “found” the metal necklace because I am very familiar with that route. When I was ten or eleven I ‘accidentally’ swallowed a thumbtack. I was posting a thanksgiving picture and had both hands busy, putting one thumbtack in with one in my mouth. Then I had to sneeze and took in a breath as I was sneezing and the thumbtack got caught in the back of my throat and wouldn’t come up and then I swallowed it. They doctor had one of those “fluoroscopes’ you could stand behind and see your skeleton. Good stuff when you’re that age. I looked down and there was the tack in the middle of my esophagus. Then I had to eat big bites of white bread to push it down. And when it showed up Thanksgiving Morning, everyone can guess how I found it. Let’s just say it was an unpleasant task to go through what happens when you pass things all the way through your alimentary canal. But Thanksgiving dinner was great. I had a lot to be thankful for.

    • Peter Holmes
      Not the same as swallowing it, but this reminds me of something my brother did when he was in primary school (back when he had his baby teeth). Two teeth fall out when he was rehearsing for a school play. He “didn’t want to interrupt” the class, and decided to put one of the teeth in his pocket (the only rational thinking he’s ever done…). The other tooth however, he lodged inside his ear. It was stuck in there for a quite a while until an ear doctor helped us rescue the tooth.
      He still stands by his actions…
      • Hi Peter,

        Wow, that must have been a nightmare for your brother. It’s amazing what kids will do to hide something because it happens when they think it is ‘not exactly a good time’. A tooth in the ear? Yikes!
        In retrospect, it may not be such a bad thing to stand by ones decisions but wow, a tooth in the ear? That had to feel awful and was more than likely not exactly the wisest decision, but we all have our moments. 🙂

        The only odd thing I know of concerning teeth was when my oldest son tried to throw his in the trash. He was 4 and lost one of his front teeth at a little after 2 in the morning when he went to use the bathroom. He had not lost any other teeth before and was upset because he thought he had broken his mouth and didn’t want anyone to know. Instead of telling me, his father or his grandmother, he tossed it in the trash (or so he thought). He had missed the trash can. Naturally, I found a tooth in the morning by stepping on it because it was 5 am and I didn’t have sense enough to turn on a light on my way through the windowless kitchen to the shower. I picked it up and turned on the light and realized what it was.
        Later in the morning-JT, my oldest son, kept his mouth closed by clamping his lower teeth onto his upper lip so I knew the tooth was his. I told him to smile for me, he did it and sure enough his front tooth was gone. I told him ‘now I know who bit my foot this morning’. He was confused until I showed him the tooth and told him he was not exactly a basketball kind of guy.

        The irony is now, all these years later, his favorite sport is…. you guessed it, basketball.
        I assume he practices so much so that when he needs to toss a tooth, next time he won’t miss the trash can. lol.

    • Hi Roy,
      Thanks, I’m so glad you enjoyed the story and appreciate your comments.

      I, too, am one of those mom’s who are sarcastic (in a loving way) with my kids all the time. I’m fairly certain it would be impossible to embarrass them anymore. It has gotten to the point that if I don’t say something slightly goofy my children ask me if I’m feeling sick or something. Its all good because they give it right back and I love it because I believe this offhand behavior may help them be well adjusted adults… I hope? I could be going about things wrong but its pretty hysterical most of the time so its ok… I think.

      That must have been a horrible experience for you, especially the ‘finding it part’, ouch. I have to admit though, the fluoroscope thing had to have been a pretty cool sight, I have never seen on ‘up close and personal’ but I do believe that in itself has a pretty interesting story. I believe you did have a lot to be thankful for and I would be willing to bet you never put another tack in your mouth. (I have a bad habit of holding them between my lips or my teeth when tacking things up in our classroom, I will not be doing that anymore thanks to your story.)

      My husband (during a New Year’s Eve party) swallowed a total of 4 quarters when we were playing ‘truth or dare’. No it wasn’t one of the dares, it was purely accidental because he had drank a little excessively that night and forgot to pull the quarters out of the shot glass before knocking them back. (this was prior to having children, we rarely keep alcohol around anymore). Anyway, I tried to get him to go to the hospital and I knew an ambulance wouldn’t take him if he refused treatment (per the policies in that particular location), he went to sleep and forgot the whole thing by morning.
      He had a stomach ache but didn’t believe what I told him he had done. I told him ‘fine but you owe a dollar in quarters at the next party if we have one but don’t bring those ones’. Before the next day passed the quarters did. Thankfully, I didn’t have to see or witness anything, my husband just let me know ‘things were all clear, painful but clear’. That was the last time he drank that excessively. He told me ‘that’s the last time I get that drunk with your brothers, we get a little too stupid’. That effectively cured him of excessive drinking that could have become something much worse, now it’s a glass or two of something less toxic and to this day he has held true to his word, that was almost 18 years ago now.

  • It’s funny how the true stories are stranger than the fictional one. He stuck one tooth in his ear! Drinking four quarters? Swallowing a tack! YIKES.

    I honestly don’t think I can come up with a story for this prompt. Unless a miracle happens. And by miracle, I mean a literary miracle. Like, Steven King’s car breaking down outside the cabin, and me refusing to let him use the phone we don’t have, (well, he doesn’t know that, does he?) until he sits down at my makeshift, marble writing desk, and delivers the literary goods, as it were.

    I know, I know. It’s been done already. By Steven King, no less. (I think.)

    Okay okay, Let me think now. A literary miracle. All I need is a sharp object, a Princess, a mongrel dog, an ice skater and a lead pipe. (Nope, that’s been done too. Frozen Tonya.)

    Okay. Seriously now. Obviously it’s a mystery puzzle thing. Who eats their own name at the age of five? A dog named ‘Bone?’ A cat named ‘Fish?’ A circus Sword swallower named Oat Bran? I’m stumped. This prompt, (loved by all) is giving me an ass ache. There’s no medication for that, that I’m willing to take at this point.

    I’m not optimistic.

    • Hi Ken C,
      I love your wit, sarcasm and humorous cynicism. This prompt really has been a stumper but with your interesting way of looking at things and your wonderful writing skills, I have no doubt you will come up with a great story when you least expect it. 🙂
      • Amy,
        ‘humorous cynicism.’
        You’ve done it. You’ve defined my specific malady. The blessed curse of my caustic congeniality. I feel bad about all that bitching and whining I did about this aggravating prompt, but you were sure I’d come up with something, and you were right. You are either very wise, somewhat psychic, or incurably optimistic. Thank you for your encouragement. I really appreciate it.
        • Ken C,
          I’m sorry it took me some time to get back. There’s no thanks necessary, what is the point of spending time with fellow writers if we don’t take the time to care when one or the other seems a bit out of sorts? You shouldn’t feel bad in the slightest, everyone has those days. 🙂
          I’m not so sure about the whole wise thing, I can be especially dense quite often, lol. I am however, the ‘incurable optimist’- yes, that’s definitely me… most of the time.

          One of my favorite uncles (Arvin) used to have a bad habit of pranking people in public, it was never a wild and out there kind of prank, it was pretty subtle (but hysterical). He would stand on the corner of Broad St. in Herkimer, NY and look straight up at the sky for a long period of time making strange faces- as if he saw something that really blew his mind and he couldn’t look away. After an hour or so, a group of people would be standing next to him trying to figure out what he had been staring at for so long. Once the crowd of people formed, my uncle would slowly back away and watch as other people joined the group that was still looking up.
          I witnessed this with utter fascination when I was a kid- I remember wishing I was psychic at that moment because I have always wondered what was going through their minds. Of course, I took back that wish as soon as I wished it because that meant ‘knowing’ what my uncle was thinking too and that is one twisted mind no one wants to see. (He did shoot his television over an episode of Days of Our Lives after all. That is definitely not a mind I want to know. lol)

          Sorry, I got caught up in my response again. 🙂

  • Adrienne Riggs

    Wee Poloka
    By: Adrienne Riggs (w1,199)

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. I know what you are thinking. How could anyone possibly swallow their name? Well, I’m here to tell you that it is possible, and moreover, the child had done it.

    – Who? That beautiful young woman over there. Listen and I will tell her story.

    It started innocently enough. She was a bright little girl but somewhat shy. She was the epitome of the child who was “seen but not heard.” It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be heard; it was just that she was so involved in watching, hearing, thinking and learning that talking seemed to be a waste of time.

    – What? Of course, she could talk! She just chose not to. It seems to me that a great many people today would be better off if they chose not to say every random thing that comes into their idle minds! Have you ever seen Facebook? Where was I?

    The child soaked up knowledge and experiences like the busybody next door soaked up gossip. The girl often sat motionless, crouched in the tall grass, watching the journey of an ant for hours. Her bright golden hair glowed in the sun much like the buttercups blooming nearby. She once followed the glistening slime trail of a garden snail from her front door and down the sidewalk to find it resting comfortably in the shade of colorful mushroom. She sat so quietly in a tree that the squirrels ran all around her collecting their nuts and tending to their young and never once did they fear her.

    – Why did she do that? Have you been listening?

    She was the kind of child that animals flocked to and allowed her the liberties they would have denied a rambunctious, noisy child. If you listened closely, you could hear her whispering things to them.

    – Like what? I’ll tell you.

    She congratulated the mother Robin as she taught her fledglings to fly. She blew tiny bubbles to the goldfish in the pond. She encouraged the squirrel when he nearly fell from a branch and was too scared to move. She whispered loving things to the pony while she stroked his velvet nose. At her whisper, the barking dog became like a puppy in her hands.

    – How did she swallow her name? I’m getting there.

    It was a sunny Spring day in our small town and the fields were alive with the many creatures who lived there, frolicking with their young. The child had been dancing among the daisies with the honey bees underneath a tall oak tree when a shadow fell over them. Picking up two little frogs, she stood up and was whispering to them in her hand.

    “What’s your name little girl?” The booming voice of a large man who stepped from behind the tree caused silence to fall around them.

    Not only did the stranger startle the child, but the creatures of the field disappeared as if they had never existed. She kept the tiny frogs cupped in her soft hands as she turned to face the man. She said nothing as she looked him up and down.

    “Are you deaf, child?”

    “Of course not” she replied softly, “but I don’t know you. I can’t give my name to just anyone, can I?”

    “Oh, a smart-aleck” the man snorted. “I should have known.”

    “I most certainly am not!”

    “Then tell me your name!”

    The child looked at him and calmly stated, “I can’t …….. Oh!” He watched as she suddenly gulped, coughed, choked and turned red.

    “Don’t you know your name?”

    She shook her head while trying to catch her breath.

    “I swallowed it!”

    “You swallowed your name?”

    The child, looking at him with wide eyes, suddenly giggled and ran off through the field toward home leaving the man standing confused behind her.

    Being a small country town, the “news” was soon all over the three-county district. That big stranger spread the tale of the child who swallowed her name as he ate noisily at the local diner. Locals just shook their heads, dismissing this tale as hogwash, sure that the man was crazy. By his description, they knew who he was referring to and it didn’t make sense. A few strangers passing through, took him seriously and debated among themselves what type of medical or mental issue could cause the child to swallow or forget her name.

    Soon the town gossips were wagging their tongues and newspapers wrote articles speculating on the child’s dilemma of swallowing her name. The only people who had not commented on the situation was the girl’s family and the child herself. If anything, they seemed amused at the uproar. The child herself was happy and had resumed her daily activities of watching and learning from everything around her.

    – What? Of course, the local town people knew the girl’s name but they chose to add to the mystery by keeping her name a secret from the growing numbers of visitors to the town.

    – Why? Because it had been some time since the town had so much excitement and mystery and the townsfolk wanted to prolong it. We hadn’t seen this much activity since farmer Green’s cow had a calf born with 2 heads and Ripley’s Believe It or Not came to town. The increased activity in town boosted the economy, at least for a short time. Now, where was I?

    Oh yes. Anyway, the local news carried the story and it went viral. When a national news show sent representatives to interview the family, the atmosphere in this small town exploded with pride and excitement. I’m sure you saw the news footage on TV. You didn’t? Too bad.

    – What? Am I going to tell you the girl’s name? Let me think about it.

    – What? Ok, ok. I’ll tell you. Her real name is Lana.

    – Why is this so funny? You’ll find out soon.

    Anyway, the national news crew showed up with cameras and trucks. The townsfolk had decorated Main Street and the town square for the visitors. The interview took place at the courthouse. Little Lana was dressed in her Sunday best. It was a big event!

    Little Lana had the audience enthralled. The interviewer, Chrissy Snow, launched into the meat of the interview. Then the moment of truth came.

    “Lana, tell us how you managed to swallow your name.”

    Lana giggled. “It’s complicated.”

    “Well, can you tell us what happened?”

    “When the man asked for my name, I was holding some baby frogs. One of them jumped into my mouth and I choked on it so I couldn’t say my name. I thought I swallowed the frog and that’s all I could say – that I swallowed it! He thought I meant my name.” Lana’s laughter was contagious as everyone in the crowd roared with laughter.

    “Can you explain why this is so funny to you – and the town?”

    “Sure! Lana is a Hawaiian name for frog. I looked it up. My father calls me “Wee Poloka” which means “little frog” in Hawaiian. So, in a way – I did swallow my name!”

    • Adrienne Riggs
      I had so much fun with this one! Yay!
    • Hi Adi,
      Your story was so much fun! I love how the whole town got into the whole ‘honey hush’ to keep the girl’s name a secret. Great job! 🙂
    • Hi, Adi,
      You wrote a beautiful story. I particularly like the portrayal of the quiet girl who is so good with animals. I think this character has something special. I can see her right in front of me.
    • Hmm, entertaining shaggy frog story, Adi!

      Didn’t know where it was going (which is good!), and it seemed to transport me to Walton’s Mountain with its rural charm and innocence.

    • Very enjoyable story, Adi. Way to go. Nice tie in with the name, and good use of the first line in a twisty wicked sort of way by having her not swallow her name, after all. Nice touch.
    • Hi Adi,

      A very nice, well written story.
      I loved Lana’s interaction with animals, a kind of Dr. Doolittle meets St. Francis of Assissi ( is that enough or too many Ss?)
      I had to suspend my disbelief regarding the frog swallowing ( or the almost frog swallowing). This is taking the finding of a Prince by kissing frogs to a whole new level!
      it sounds like a great town to live in.
      Great stuff Adi.
      Ken Frape.

      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks Ken. After I wrote the story I thought it sounded familiar and then I remembered –

        When I was four, we took a train from Miami, Fl. to Kentucky to see my great-grandparents. They had a little farm, cows, a grape arbor and other fun things. I was outside playing and found 2 very tiny frogs. I was holding them in my hand when my Aunt came up to me.

        I showed her the frogs. When I looked back at my frogs a few minutes later, one of them was gone. My aunt choked and declared that she had swallowed it. I was horrified and scared. I told everyone that Aunt Sharon swallowed my frog.

        For a few years after that, every time I saw her, she would tell me that she had “a frog in her throat” and would laugh hysterically. It took me awhile to get the joke. I had truly believed she swallowed the frog.

        Aunt Sharon never was quite right mentally…. LOL


        • Hi Adi,

          Great story. Just goes to show that fact is stranger than fiction.

          Ken Frape


    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. Davey broke the news.

    “Molly’s swallowed her name,” my little brother panted, interrupting the football dad and I were watching on the TV. Hearing the commotion, mum came in from the kitchen.

    “What do you mean ‘she’s swallowed her name’, Davey?” Mum’s even tone calmed Davey instantly. He explained.

    “I was playing with her in the garden and her collar came off and she grabbed it in her mouth and shook it and that … whatchamacallit came off.”

    “Her name tag, love?” My mother again; I miss her gentle good sense.

    “Yeah. And she must have swallowed it ‘cos I looked and I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

    Mum, Davey and I went out into the garden, while dad stayed glued to the TV; I kind of miss his nonchalance, too, but this was one moment when he might have made an effort to be – or at least seem – concerned.

    Molly was lying next to the shed, out of the sun.

    “What have you done, you silly thing?” said my mum, kneeling down to stroke Molly on her side.

    I scanned the lawn to see if I could see the name tag; Davey had said Molly was shaking her collar, so it could have gone anywhere. I couldn’t find it, though, and gave up looking when mum got to her feet and sighed.

    “I’ll give her some castor oil. She won’t like it, but it’ll help.”

    And that was that. Mum went back to the kitchen, I went back to the football – dad was asleep – and Davey stayed with Molly, copying mum’s stroking action. We never did find that name tag, though I must admit that I for one was too squeamish to make too close an inspection when I took her out for a walk.

    Molly was a sweet and affectionate dog and we all loved her unconditionally, even my dad, who tried to play it cool but would let his guard down sometimes and show how much he was fond of her. She was a bit of a loony as well, though. The name-tag incident, as it would come to be known, was just one of the many misadventures that befell her.

    There was the time she got out of the front gate and got into old Mr Crouch’s garden. Grouchy, as we used to call him, was very proud of his garden. Molly could have got away with destroying his prize carrots if she’d got out unseen. But after digging up the old man’s prize carrots, she tried to exit through a gap in the fence and got her collar – that bloody collar! – caught on a fence post. Red-handed! Grouchy never spoke to us again … not that we minded.

    Then there was the time I took her for a walk and had to get something in the shop for mum on the way back. I tied her up outside and went in. The next thing I knew, Molly was in the shop, charging up and down the aisles; a badly tied lead this time. I rushed after her and managed to step on the trailing lead, but it made her lose her balance and she toppled into a display of tinned beans, sending them clattering to the floor. We knew the shopkeeper well so there were no repercussions, but mum never sent me to the shop with Molly again.

    And then there was Tyson. Tyson was a boxer, of the canine variety, owned by one of the roughest families in the area, who let him roam the streets, getting up to all sorts of mischief and doing much siring. Molly, inevitably, fell under his spell.

    She gave birth to a litter of five little boxer-crosses, which were five little accusatory fingers pointing at Tyson. Dad wanted to find homes for all of them, but mum, with support from Davey and me, convinced him to let us keep one: the runt of the litter, who we called Milly. She grew up to be the spitting image of her mother, in looks and attitude, and our love for her was just as strong.

    Mum and dad outlived Molly. Milly outlived mum and dad. And Davey and I have outlived Milly.

    He came straight home from university when I phoned to break the bad news. When Molly went, we left her body at the vet’s, and we all regretted that, I think. Davey and I decided to bury Milly in the garden; we kept the family house when dad passed.

    We got a shovel and spade from the garden shed and looked around to find the ideal spot.

    “Are you going to say a prayer, Shaun?” Davey asked. He smiled, but not very convincingly; I could see that his eyes were watery.

    “I don’t think so, Davey.” Something caught in my throat. I limited what I said next.

    “Here?” I pointed the shovel at a patch of earth next to the shed. Davey nodded.

    He plunged his spade into the ground, and there was a metallic ‘ping’. We gaped at each other.

    I leaned down and picked up a small, dirt-caked piece of metal. I rubbed the earth away and we both peered at it. We burst out laughing, a laughter mixed with the first tears of the afternoon.

    As the sun began to set we carefully buried our dear Milly, and alongside her, in an old glasses case and after a good clean, ‘Molly’.


    • Phil,
      Congratulations! You have found a story to git with that prompt that is both unusual and totally convincing. For me this is one of the fascinating surprises in the contest: how other people find so many different stories. And this time it was really difficult, at least for me. When I read your story, I immediately thought “a dog, yeah, that makes sense. And then the little surprise at the end – perfect!
      • Phil I am a fan of your stories as you well know. I really do love this story particularly as it has dogs. Poignant is the lparagraph about who outlives who.
        I did not want to get another dog after my husky died in 2008. I thought if I do she may well outlive me and then who will take care of her? Often old dogs get put into shelters which is really sad.
        I’ll let my son have a dog and share cuddles etc so he’ll have a companion of sorts when I head off…one day.
    • Hi Phil,
      I love your story. It was sweet and sad all at the same time.
    • Adrienne Riggs

      Another pull of the heartstrings. I loved this dog story! What a great take on the prompt!! I enjoyed this story – it was sweet and loving and sad all at the same time. Great work.


    • Two generations each of people and dogs, and all in less than 1200 words. A nicely rounded story, excellent structure and does evoke an emotional response, happiness and loss entwined.

      Our first dog ate our sofa, amongst other things.
      She lived to be 18, and we kept one of her 9 pups, sired by a three-legged red setter.
      None of that is relevant, but the story made me think of them 🙂

    • Hi Phil,

      Your story poignantly and amusingly points out man’s love for his pets but especially his dog. You intersperse nuggets of family around the children and the parents and the pets so that it becomes a whole. Such a beautifully crafted piece of writing.

      A colleague of mine lost his wedding ring, he knows not where, and then, seventeen years later, still married, it came up on one of the prongs of his garden fork when he was gardening. Life is stranger than fiction.

      Great story, Phil.


      Ken Frape.

  • NoName

    “She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name.” How many times have I heard that sentence? A thousand times? Ten thousand times? Whenever new guests came to our place, my mother told them about her cute daughter and how the little girl came to her one day, full of tears and sobbing. The little child thought she had swallowed her name and could not live without it. Wasn’t that cute! Every time my mother told the story, it ended in great laughter. What could be funnier than a little girl who is afraid of doing something wrong?

    My parents had guests quite often. Other couples came by for a drink or there were parties. Small parties, big parties, garden parties, birthday parties, parties for every occasion and then some. My parents liked to drink their alcohol in company. Their favorite topic during these gatherings was what funny things their sweet little daughter had done. How she swallowed her name for example. How cute that was!

    I was ashamed. I was certainly the dumbest kid on our block, maybe the most stupid child in town. Never had a girl swallowed her name because no girl was as dumb as me.

    I don’t know what really happened. Was it a dream? Did I dream of swallowing the name? Did I swallow something while playing and thought it was my name? No idea. All I know is that as a child I had a great imagination and sometimes I lived in my own world. In a world where there were no adults laughing loud and long over a little stupid sweet girl.

    I got used to being a stupid girl. When I got to school, I knew I wouldn’t understand much because I was too dumb. But at least I was a sweet girl. The way my mother told the story, little girls were especially cute when they were a bit brainless.

    I hated myself. Why couldn’t I be as intelligent as some of the other girls in the school? Why couldn’t I be as smart as a boy? And why did I never succeed? I couldn’t even write properly; the letters I wrote always danced up and down on the line like excited birds on a telephone wire.

    Luckily school was so exciting and interesting that sometimes I completely forgot what a dumb girl I was. On those occasions I enjoyed solving difficult tasks in arithmetic and learning the capitals of many countries.

    At home there were still a lot of parties and lots of alcohol. I stayed in my room as often as I could. Why did my mother have to tell that story again and again? What was so funny about it? I couldn’t understand it, so I started hating my parents. Yes, maybe I was a stupid sweet girl, but my mother was a person with a loud voice and a shrill laugh. At least I was sweet or had been sweet once. My mother was never cute in her lifetime! Never!

    And then I found out I could sing. My music teacher first discovered it. She told me I had a beautiful voice, and then I noticed it too. And because I had this voice, I liked to sing. I memorized all the songs, and at some point I started to imagine my own lyrics.

    Of course, all the children in my class knew the story about the swallowed name. They tried to tease me, but at some point I couldn’t get angry anymore. It was just a stupid old story. I was no longer the dumb little girl, but the girl with the beautiful voice. I was getting prouder every day.

    My music teacher gave me an old guitar. The kids in class started calling me “NoName”; it became my nickname. I really liked my new name. I was someone special, a girl without a name. I always used NoName, and meanwhile I almost forgot the name my parents gave me at birth.

    I taught myself to play the guitar. My music teacher helped me. At a school festival, I went on stage for the first time and sang my first self-written song. It’s called: “I swallowed my name, that’s why my voice is so beautiful”. I felt really good on stage. Here I wasn’t stupid and not cute, but everyone admired me for my voice. And they loved my song.

    Later I went to every stage I could find. I sang at block parties, in old people’s homes, at city festivals, weddings, and even at a funeral.

    I left my home as soon as I could. I survived on small jobs and worked on new songs every night. And one day, after a concert, a woman approached me and asked if I would like to go to a recording studio.

    You know me for sure, because I’m famous now. I’m one of the superstars for a teenage audience. With my songs, I encourage many girls who no longer want to be stupid and sweet. You’ll find my poster in millions of kids’ rooms all over the world. Even boys love me, because they don’t want to be stupid either.

    I kept my name. I am “NoName”. The posters say: “NoName! But what a voice!”

    A few days ago I read that more and more parents call their newborn children “NoName”. Because they admire me. Because I could be a role model for their children. That makes me the proudest woman in the world! Yo!

    And so I’m really rather glad that I accidentally swallowed my name when I was five years old.

    • Hi Berlinermax,
      What a wonderful take on this prompt! I love how you accented the importance of self-esteem and how we can build ourselves up by not paying too much attention to the more bitter things life can throw at us. Amazing job! 🙂
    • Adrienne Riggs
      Hi Jurgen,

      Nice story of overcoming low self-esteem and the finding of confidence and worth within based on her own talents. You could have gone into different directions with this one and I liked the ending on a positive note! Well done.


    • Interesting story, Berliner Max. Very. Turning a negative into a positive. If only we could always do that. Nothing to quibble about writing wise. Nice job.
    • Hi Berlinermax,

      Another excellent piece of writing and taking this challenging prompt and making it your own.

      Much to agree with in the other comments, especially the turning a potentially negative life experience into something really positive.

      Great stuff, as ever.


      Ken Frape.

  • Hi folks,
    on the weekend I’ll go off to the mountains as Mr. K.C. would express it. Will there be WIFI? I’ll try to read your stories. On my phone. So there might be short comments, or none at all. But I’ll try to vote. Have fun!

  • Swallow

    She was 5 when she accidentally swallowed her name.

    It started when Amelia moved up from kindergarten to the reception class at primary school. The new music teacher had asked all the children their names. When her turn came, Amelia had wanted to say, but somehow her name got caught in her mouth, half in, half out, then a gulp, and another bigger gulp. She turned a little red.

    “Oh, I think Amelia’s swallowed her name!” joked the teacher, trying to make light of it, and the class all laughed.

    From that point on, Amelia would never say her name. At school, at home, anywhere.

    And the joke carried on, that she’d swallowed her name.

    The fun became more sophisticated as she progressed through the grades, with jokes like, “Why did your parents call you Amelia? So you would make a-meal-o’-yo’-name?!”

    Haha. And again, again, again.

    And so her nickname emerged: “Swallow”. Which was fine with Amelia, or became so.

    And why not? One thing she knew for certain – she did not want to be Amelia. Dutifully she would answer to her name, but would never utter it herself. Instead she was happy to call herself Swallow.

    After all, when you think about it, what is a swallow? It’s a graceful bird that flies high in the sky, rarely touching the ground. She’d father rather be a swallow than an Amelia, she thought.

    She drew swallows on her notebooks, had them grace every picture she drew in art class, drew them on her hands, scratched them onto desks, chalked them on pavements. It had all started as a mistake, but one she was happy to embrace.

    Apart from being resolutely stubborn in not using her name, Amelia was not a disobedient or rebellious child. A little solitary, perhaps, but not without friends. A compliant pupil who usually did her homework. But ‘a bit of a dream’, and ‘a little eccentric’, as her teachers and parents agreed at parents’ evenings. Not likely to sparkle, they felt, but not a problem child either. Nothing too much to worry about.

    Then, when she was about 13, her darker moods began. When the girls she had been friendly with became increasingly focused on clothes, makeup, boys, sex and online gossip, she dreamed even more of flying away. She just couldn’t share their interests, and especially the adolescent intensity of their interests. She couldn’t adapt to the need to conform to a way of thinking, looking, laughing in order to remained accepted in the group.

    And so she began to drift between the various cliques and the otherwise friendless. She knew who she didn’t want to be much more than who she did.

    The cutting began by accident too.

    It started with a glass slammed down in anger after another frustrating day. Dr Pepper and broken glass lying across her keyboard. A swish of the hand to sweep it away. A deep cut to the side of her hand.

    She watched blood drip onto the keyboard from the gash. Somehow, for a moment, it was satisfying – jolting her to somewhere else, away from the tightness she felt throughout her whole body. Turning the keyboard upside down, she grabbed some tissues to mop up the spillage and some more to press against the cut.

    Her anger had passed, and she was left – puzzled. And somewhat fascinated. And then she did it again. And some more. As required.

    “She’s lost in her own world,” her mother told the doctor. Who referred her to the hospital, the mental health unit. It would be a long wait for an appointment, as her issues were not deemed critical enough for urgent treatment.

    Amelia agreed with that assessment. “I know I’m not normal,” she thought. “But it’s because I don’t want to be.” And she assured her parents that she would stop the cutting. But they were not reassured. Especially when they saw the number of scars on her arm slowly increase.

    “How does this help?” her father asked, at a loss to understand.

    He understood even less when Amelia began to binge-eat and throw up. How was a father to cope with this? He would take on anyone and anything to keep his child from harm. But what to do when your child was harming herself?

    He shouted. He pleaded. He cried. He hid food. (She found it, and ate it.) She ate all her bother’s easter eggs in one sitting. Her brother hit her, and called her all manner of foul names.

    Her father lectured her: “It’s not fair on everyone else! Think of the waste!” He dragged her into the bathroom, threw a £20 note down the toilet and flushed it. “Think of that next time you do this!”

    Amelia sat in her room and sighed. “Why does it matter to them so much?” she thought. It was unfair. She was not troublesome, rebellious, did not hurt others ….

    At 17, she left home. She had a swallow tattooed on her shoulder blade. She had flown the nest. ‘Amelia’ was erased.

    Now she was Swallow, only Swallow, to everyone she met. When she had to fill in an official form she tried not to look at her name as she wrote it. When she had enough money, Swallow decided, she would change her name legally, and for good.

    Despite the long hours and low pay, it felt great to work as a barista by day and a cocktail waitress by night, and have someone call her name – “Swallow!” – over a crowded room. To everyone there, that was who she was, nobody else. She basked in her unquestioned identity, and felt almost happy.

    Then one day as her back was turned away from the counter while preparing a latte for a customer, she heard a half-familiar voice say, “Amelia?”

    She turned slowly, trying to place the voice.

    “I heard you were working here”, he said. “Long time no see.”

    Yes, a very long time no see! It had been more than ten years since she had seen her mother’s younger brother. Yes, hadn’t he lived with them until – until what? She half remembered an argument, shouting, her mother crying. And then he was gone. Overseas, they said.

    “Don’t you recognise me?”

    Now she recognised his voice, the playful smile on his lips and in his eyes.

    “Uncle Nick?” – the words formed in her mind, but the name could not come out of her mouth. She opened her mouth several times, but there was no sound.

    Uncle Nick, who used to mess about, swing her around, make her laugh, buy her treats.

    “Come on, Amelia, you really don’t recognise me? It’s Nick! We used to have so much fun together, don’t you remember?”

    [1127 words]

    • Hi Andy,
      I love how you found a way to articulate subjects that are very difficult for a lot of girls to understand themselves. Sad and touching- wow. I love how you left the ending open to speculation. Very well done! 🙂
    • Hi Andy,

      Another brilliant exposition of a traumatic event in a child’slife and packed with a killer punch. The answer to the question, “What triggered this cutting in the first place? ” Well, that’s how I saw it.
      Superbly set out to highlight an increasingly common occurrence amongst some of our young people.
      A great read too.

      Ken Frape.

    • Adrienne Riggs

      This is powerful and sad. It accurately portrays how a tiny “seed” planted in a young person’s mind can grow into a tree with deep roots of despair, loss of identity, self-abuse and more. Wonderfully done!


      • Excellent story and liked the character development.
    • You really took this prompt deep, Andy. Interesting use of the prompt. I thought people would struggle, but, no, wrong as usual when it comes to questioning the ability of this solid group of writers. Nice touch on how something so simple as making a bit of fun of someone can ‘cut’ so deep. Pun intended. Good job.
    • Andy,
      One little typo. ‘she was a dreamer.’
      The story is very subtle, and I confess I wasn’t sure about its meaning, but I had my suspicions. I’m no psychologist, but the main character had a host of ‘issues’ which seems to indicate some kind of psychopathology. I think what it comes down to is the phrase, ‘mess about.’ Here in the states, that is an incredibly innocuous phrase. From frolicking in the front yard with friends, to harmlessly teasing a coworker. Yet I feel that those two words are the key to understanding the true meaning of the story.
      Either that, or I’m just a friggin’ idiot. Who knows?
      • Yes, those two words are double-edged, in Brit English also, and are the key – with the background of the mother and uncle arguing and his sudden disappearance.

        I was two minds whether to make it more obvious, but thought it more in keeping with Swallow’s erasing of herself and her name to make the truth more buried …

        • And I meant to say you’re therefore not a friggin idiot, hit the nail on the head.

          On the typo – we do say ‘bit of a dream’ to mean someone who floats around in their own dreamworld, as opposed to a ‘dreamer’ which has a bit more of an aspirational tone

          There is another funny typo, but it’s a bit hard to spot … well I missed it through umpteen edits and no one’s mentioned it so far. Hiding in plain sight, in a way.

          • Hi Andy,
            I had to go back and read your story wondering what typo you were referring to because the story really had me. Then I caught it: recognise. It’s supposed to be recognize.

            With the way you draw the reader in and allow them to ‘identify’ with the character, that minor typo doesn’t really stand out as much as you think. Have you ever heard the term “I am my own worst enemy?” It makes me hope that you don’t put too much emphasis on a minor misspelling, it happens.

            You did an amazing job pointing out some very traumatic things that many women have a hard time facing (no spoilers), things that make them look for comfort and sometimes they find it but some do have a way of trying to forget everything about their life and creating a brand new one for themselves until someone or something brings it back to them full force. Sometimes it can be a person and sometimes it is a flashback brought on by RR-PTSD.

            I hope you take this for the huge compliment it is. 🙂

          • Thanks Amy – and for reading it again. I’m so glad you like the story. As a man of a certain age it’s nice to hear that the story’s depiction of a young girl/woman growing up has some plausibility.

            The elusive typo: Not ‘recognise, I’m afraid. -ise endings are fine in British English and for most words like realise, recognise, standardise etc are the default spelling.
            [People over here see -ize spellings as ‘American’ but that’s not strictly true – they were more common in English English too until the 19th century, so are acceptable if a little archaic. I found this out when I was writing a publication for the British Standards (funnily enough!) where we had to use an ‘international’ house style. All those -ize endings were a real challenge for me!]

            The typo in plain sight is in the line: ” She’d father rather be a swallow than an Amelia, she thought”. Should be “far rather” of course, but I probably got ahead of myself as I wrote. Somehow it’s easy to read through that one without noticing 🙂

    • A touching coming-of-age drama rooted in an early childhood crisis. The Uncle Nick ending resolves the mystery, somehow, but keeps us guessing in an intriguing way. I’d consider building on this sentence “now she recognised his voice, the playful smile on his lips and in his eyes” and add something to the tune of “and she recognised her name/herself” hinting to my suspicion that her mysterious fear of her name (and of herself) comes from that source. Perhaps there is going to be some redemption for her in revisiting her nearly-forgotten past and recognising where her trauma was rooted. It may even be her cure. Potential for a longer story there!
      While at it, thanks loads for your positive comment about my debut story of last week, “Tamed, Twice”.

  • The Bombastic Duke Of Killingham County. WC 825
    By Ken Cartisano

    “She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name…”

    “Oh dear,” someone interjected.

    “…in a manner of speaking, that is. Although I confess, it wasn’t really an accident,” he continued, “and that’s when I renamed her.”

    The party was intended to introduce his guests to one of the Duke’s acquisitions, an African Queen who had never been photographed, and was exceedingly shy and reclusive. She had been captured a few years ago, held against her will, and delivered to the Duke’s Estate only recently. It was doubtful, at this point, that she would even make an appearance today, despite being the guest of honor, but Duke Chauncey assured us all in the invitation that he would ‘insist’ that we meet her.

    I was intrigued by this little snippet of conversation and drifted closer to the knot of people surrounding the host of this grand soiree.

    While the Duke’s wife, Lady Chauncey, was out in the garden by the pond, allegedly boycotting the party, her absence also placed her safely out of earshot, an opportunity not to be wasted by the Duke, who was entertaining a group of new and old admirers with riveting tales of adventure. The poor saps, I thought at first, but this story was brand new, so I sipped my drink and lingered with practiced nonchalance, well within earshot.

    “What was I to do?” He asked the group rhetorically, “Cut her open and retrieve the ingested item?” Responding to the sounds of their dismay, he replied, “Well, of course it occurred to me, it was actually an appealing option…” After a murmur of shocked disapproval, he said, “I’m joking people. She’s my most prized possession.” This elicited embarrassed twitters from the ladies. “…and, it doubled her value practically overnight.” This stoked outright guffaws from the men in attendance.

    With skillful timing, he continued just as the laughter died down. “I’m kidding of course. It was love at first sight. That perfect jaw line, her chiseled features and undulating gait. Who could resist a creature of such divine perfection?”

    There were murmurs of assent from the expanding group of listeners, but they were subdued, since no one had actually seen her yet, and still others weren’t quite sure who the Duke was talking about.

    Someone had the temerity, as the Duke sipped his drink, to ask, “And what does Lady Chauncey think of this ahhh, new acquisition?” A murmur of reproach followed the impertinent question, but the good old Duke responded with grace. “Mmmm, well…” he looked like he was chewing on a rock, “she handled it with her usual stoicism by gathering all of my clothes and dumping them on the front porch.”

    Rebuffed by the smattering of cynical laughter he added, “And setting them ablaze. So I bought new clothes. So what?”

    While this coarse remark was pure theatrics and well received only by the men, I tried not to notice and took the opportunity to gaze around the room once more. The walls were adorned with unique and exotic items from around the world, and most conspicuously from the African continent, native masks; primitive drums; various blowguns; elephant tusks; a leopard skin rug. He had personally shot and killed every creature whose head was mounted on all four walls. From rhino’s to lions, it was a testament to privilege and barbarity. There is simply no reason to kill a rhinoceros anymore, not that there ever was.

    So, I think I felt some sense of gratitude, however unwarranted, that the Duke had finally brought back a trophy without killing it. Although, considering the nature of his latest prize, not even the Duke could justify dispatching her without a reason.

    This is how far we’ve sunk.

    “All joking aside,” the Duke announced, “I’ve kept the most important details from My Dear Lady, until now, but, I’ve informed her that we have a guest that I would like her to meet. To be dreadfully honest though, I’m not looking forward to her initial reaction.” He paused for dramatic effect, “And that’s why I’m going to mix myself another drink.”

    “Chauncey, oh Chauncey.” One of his devoted patrons grabbed his attention. “What did you name her and when can we see her?”

    This question, and the point of the party, had not completely slipped his mind. “I named her ‘Monet,’ in honor of the painting she ate, and she’s out in the pond by the garden.”

    “In…the pond?”

    “Yes…” he drained the last of his drink, “originally, I thought the name Cleo would be more fitting. For Cleopatra, as she’s a Nile Crocodile, you see, but once I realized she had a taste for art, well… I’ll fix a drink and then introduce all of you, as well as My Lady, to my newest guest, Miss Monet.”

    And that’s when we heard the scream, coming from the garden.

    “Right, then.” The Duke said, “It sounds like they’ve met. Let’s go everyone. Follow me. This way.”

    • Hi Ken C.
      Absolutely wonderful! You had me going (no spoilers) then effectively cracked me up. I love the dialogue and the flow of the story. 🙂
    • Hi Ken,

      Ha, great ending and typical you. That’s a compliment, by the way.

      I love the way you paint the reader a picture of this unpleasant man, surrounded by his sycophants, laughing when they feel they should, all eager to be in his circle. I have seen it at gatherings many times and it is a sickening sight. Add to that his penchant for killing wild animals and taking their heads for trophies and……well you know.

      Shame about his wife though ( she may be a very nice woman) although she may have been carrying a Crocodile Dundee knife ( you call that a knife..!) and may survive the encounter and get some new shoes and a handbag out of it.


      Ken Frape.

      • Thanks Ken,
        Glad you liked it. On the subject of typical. Sometimes I assume people are complimenting me until they start throwing rocks, other times, I assume people hate me until someone tells me otherwise. “Oh, that’s Pastor Bob, he’s always a little grumpy after an exorcism, don’t take it personally.”
        Personally, I think that line from Crocodile Dundee is one of the greatest lines in movie history. And the follow up line. “That’s a knife.”
    • Adrienne Riggs
      Great job Ken! I enjoyed this one! Good misdirection. I was assuming a mistress and was surprised by a crocodile at the end (as was Chauncey’s wife). I had to laugh (until a mental vision of the “meeting” of Monet and the Lady made me queasy.) LOL! Good take on the prompt.


      • Thanks Adi,
        The only thing that bothered me about this story was the name. I agonized over the title as I was afraid I’d give away the ending somehow. I wanted to call it ‘African Queen’ but…I don’t know, I decided on the idiotic title I chose because it gave nothing away. I’m glad you were fooled.
      • Great story Ken and well told.
      • Wendy,
        Are you trying to be funny? Or just humoring me? Which is it?
        • I love the last line in the story AND I was trying to be funny in a Ken C style. All the cool kids are doing it.
    • Very visual story, Ken – using the narrator gives a feeling of looking directly onto the scene, right through to the “we heard the scream”. Particularly liked the line: “so I sipped my drink and lingered with practiced nonchalance, well within earshot”.

      The story is a little surreal and the croc’s penchant for visiting the Duke’s gallery comes form left-field, but makes a quirky take on a quirky prompt.

      On matters of etiquette amongst notables – my understanding is that a Duke’s wife, the Duchess, should not be called Lady Chauncy, though their daughter would be. I could email Debrett’s for confirmation of this, but I think it is so 🙂

      • Thanks Andy,
        I wrote this while up in the mountains. With no Internet access, or I would have checked (or tried to ascertain) the correct form of address regarding Dukes, or nobility. I could easily have changed the character’s nationality too, but the idea was to be vague about the date, or era in which the story was to have taken place. ‘Clearly, in this day and age, even a Nile Crocodile would not be THAT much of a novelty. I was striving for a historical flavor, without specifically saying so. And I think it worked. Getting the ‘Titles’ and ‘proper address’ correct would be an intelligent next step in refining the story.
        All I can say is, ‘Duchess, of course. Doh!’
        Also, I don’t think a Duke would ‘fix himself another drink.’ But these are minor flaws that could be easily fixed. Thanks for the advice. (When my life story goes viral, I won’t pretend like I don’t know you. — I’ll just say I never MET you.)
    • Nice job Ken, as usual, although you do have a mix up with your colon and semi-colon use. (Trust me, with this cancer where it is, I’m an expert on colons and semi-colons. I now have both.) Here’s what you wrote:

      The walls were adorned with unique and exotic items from around the world, and most conspicuously from the African continent, native masks; primitive drums; various blowguns; elephant tusks; a leopard skin rug.

      You need a colon after the word continent. Because a colon is used when you are itemizing items or phrases. And you can go either way with commas or semi-colons after that, with commas preferable.

      Therefore – The walls were adorned with unique and exotic items from around the world, and most conspicuously from the African continent: native masks, primitive drums, various blowguns, elephant tusks, a leopard skin rug.

      Still in all, I love your straying from the maddening crowd and being unique and clever. Well done and as someone else pointed out – nice misdirection. Good story.

      • Thanks Roy,
        Thanks for the feedback. I should copy and paste your comment over to my printer for easy future reference. (I should stop here and confess that my first impulse was to reply, “Must you sound so pedantic when you’re instructing people?” But, your ‘pedants’ are on the money, useful and fairly straight-forward.

        I hated this prompt from the start. And then, when I got the idea, it only took me two hours to write, two hours to clean and polish. And then, even as I was about to post it, (from the porch of the diner up here in the mountains, just before the fireworks display), I spent an additional half-hour catching little errors. Like, originally, it was a ‘West Nile Croc.’ With access to the Internet I quickly found out that there IS NO ‘west Nile Crocodile.’ There’s a West Nile Virus, which is what I was thinking of, no, just Nile Crocs. Failing to realize the wife of a Duke is a Duchess is one of the things I didn’t catch. (I am such a bozo sometimes.)

        And if you’re wondering, yeah, up here in our mountain getaway, a town that isn’t on every map, they have a fireworks display that totally kicks ass. Due to our neighbor, an electrician who started the tradition by putting on amazing fireworks displays in his cow pasture every year. Last year, or the year before, the local Fire Department agreed to host the display behind the Firehouse, for safety’s sake, as long as he and his fellow electricians continued to do the actual show.

        We’ve been in this diner for 3 hours now. Kim’s getting antsy, and if I drink one more milkshake I’m gonna explode. Thanks for the comments and the advice, Roy.

    • Got to love that last sentence! Just when we’re surprised it’s a croc and not a woman and the Duke is not as cruel as we may have perceived him in the build-up, the shocking scream comes from the garden, and, well, he seems quite amused. It’s not totally dismissive of the wife the croc ate though (which I suppose has happened – that’s what crocodiles do when they meet people and there is a scream, right?) – “she has a taste for art”, the Duke had said. A backhanded compliment to the wife? I have only read like half the stories so far, so I can’t tell yet where my votes will be going – but this one is on my shortlist. Btw thanks for your nice words on my debut story “Tamed, Twice” of a fortnight ago, Ken. Much appreciated.

  • The Flavor Of A Name
    By Promise
    (1061 words)

    “She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name.”.
    It was her fifth birthday; her mom Alice, and her big sister Elizabeth made her a double layer birthday cake with an edible candle made of chocolate molded into the shape of her name. They even bough her favorite ice cream- Rocky Road.
    The bottom layer of the cake was chocolate, the top layer was strawberry her favorite. Her mom and big sister had even decorated the top with her favorite under water animals like dolphins, mermaids and octopus. They had made it look like the animals were blowing icing bubbles that spelled out Happy Birthday in a banner across the top. The little girl’s best friends, Kip and Selena, had been invited to the small party- they bounced around playing games while Alice and Elizabeth worked their magic in the kitchen.
    “Wow Mom, I did a good job on this cake- don’t you think?”
    “Yes, Yes I did” Their mother giggled excitedly.
    Alice and Elizabeth loved to joke around a lot especially when they were in the kitchen. Alice was a chef and everyone loved her cooking and fun-loving behavior. Elizabeth loved to cook and she was good at it but it was not the career she wanted- she much preferred to be a singer on whatever stage was available.
    When the Birthday Girl saw the cake her mother and sister had worked so hard on, she was ecstatic. She sneakily reached for a finger-full of icing.
    “No cake until you eat your dinner.” Alice playfully swatted at her hand.
    “But Mom!” Elizabeth wined playfully in unison with the kids.
    “No buts go outside to the tables so we can eat, I made your favorite chicken salad and tater wedges.” Alice placed the cover over her favorite cake dish, sealing the beautiful cake inside.
    “OOH YUM!” They all ate their dinner with no complaints.
    After everyone finished eating they knew it was time for cake and ice cream. They began clapping, cheering, chanting and laughing as Alice and Elizabeth set the treats on the table.
    “Nothing funnier then a bunch of little kids hooting and hollering for cake”. Elizabeth said laughingly.
    “Oh so your not ready for cake, that’s why your not chanting too?” Alice joked, “Hey everyone, Elizabeth said she don’t like cake!”
    “Wait, wait, wait, just one minute there I never said that! I love cake!”
    “Who doesn’t love cake?”
    “I don’t!” Everyone looked at Kip shocked and wide-eyed.
    “I’m Kidding”
    “Oh good your not weird!” Alice laughed and faked a sigh of relief.
    “Well, I don’t know about that!” Selena threw.
    After everyone got done messing with Kip they all sat down for their desert.
    “This candle is eatable right?”
    “Yes it’s eatable” She repeated back the weird word she just heard her daughter say then went inside get the lighter. As soon as Alice disappeared into the house, the Birthday Girl gobbled the chocolate candles.
    “NO don’t eat it yet!” Elizabeth reached toward her little sister.
    “Too late!” Selena laughed, pointing at the chocolate smeared on her best friend’s face.
    “Well there goes your name.” Elizabeth said mournfully.
    “What? What do you mean?”
    “You ate the candle before making a wish.”
    “You can’t lose your name!” Kip laughed at the look of shock on the little girl’s face.
    “Its a proven fact- if you have an edible candle and eat it before making a wish you lose your name” Elizabeth countered in earnest.
    “Oh yeah, who proved it?”
    “A little boy about your age. He lost his name until his next birthday, when he wished for it back.”
    “Did he get it back?”
    “Yeah, but he had to wish really, really hard for it. We thought he’d never get it back!”
    “Can I wish for my name back?”
    “Not until your next birthday.”
    “Do you remember you’re name?” Selena ran over to her concerned.
    “NO!” she cried, “I did lose it! Oh no!”
    “See I told you so.”
    “Sorry it took me so long, I couldn’t find the lighter.” Alice returned taking in the devastated faces of the children and the smirk on her oldest daughter’s face. “What happened here?”
    “It’s fine, Mom.” Elizabeth was trying not to laugh.
    “Mommy, Mommy!” The little girl wrapped her arms around Alice.
    “Whats wrong, Honey?”
    “I ate my name!”
    “What do you mean you ate your name!”
    “I ate the candle before you lit it!”
    “You mean you ate the candle, right?” Alice pointed at the chocolate on the girl’s face.
    “No! Elizabeth said that there was a little boy who lost his name and did not get it back until his next birthday!” Alice shot Elizabeth a warning look but she was too busy laughing to notice.
    “Well do you remember your name now?”
    “Sure you can, just try really hard. Elizabeth come here.”
    “Yes Ma’am”
    “Why did you tell your sister that she ate her name?”
    “I was only kidding.”
    “Well she believed you.”
    “Oh oops.” Elizabeth laughed knowing.
    “Tell her the truth, it’s her birthday.” Alice demanded.
    “Oh, alright.” She turned to her little sister, “Hey sis, I lied about you losing your name.”
    “What about the little boy?”
    “I made it all up. It was just a prank.”
    “I don’t believe you because I still can’t I remember my name?”
    “Look on the side of the cake, your name is spelled out in bubbles on both sides.” Elizabeth pointed out feeling bad for upsetting her sister so badly.
    “Oh yeah it does!” She read the side of the cake, “Be-lay oh Bella My name is Bella!”
    “See I told you.”
    “Then why did you tell me I lost my name?”
    “Because I’m your big sister. I’m supposed to mess with your head. If I didn’t you would think I didn’t love you anymore!”
    “Good point.”
    “Are we good, Bella?”
    “Yeah were good, but I’ll get even with you for this!” Bella vowed as she took the piece of cake Alice handed her.
    “You do realize you are never going to live this down right?”
    “What does that mean?”
    “I’m never gonna let you forget you believed me when I told you you lost your name!”
    “But that’s mean.” Bella pointed out.
    “No, it’s sisterly love.” Elizabeth countered cheerfully as they sat down at the table with their cake and ice cream, “Happy Birthday!”

    • As an only child, I cannot relate to siblings doing this sort of thing. However, you made me believe that you have several siblings and this sort of thing is quite normal. You certainly were able to write about it believably. Interesting story. I did enjoy it, and reread it to get all the nuances. Nice job.
    • Promise, your story really does conjure up the scene of the party and its preparations – and pretty much the whole scene played out in dialogue.

      A couple of the other stories have very annoying parents, and here there’s a really annoying sister! (Not a criticism for any of the stories, btw!) It seems the purpose of being young is to be teased throughout life by ones elders. This is just the start for Bella!
      Elizabeth’s mischief is well-drawn – and there’s a mixture of taking advantage of her sister’s innocence and also affection, as she throws herself into the cake-making and fun.

      One thing I have learned – I have never had an edible candle.
      (It’s my birthday in a few weeks, so if anyone is thinking of organising something for me ….)

    • Hi Promise,

      Unlike solitary children who have no siblings to worry about, I have two older brothers so I really get this story. Tormenting and teasing your younger brothers is a rite of passage, I guess.

      I love the way you dealt with the issue of swallowing a name but I have to say, in all honesty, like Ken C I found this prompt a real challenge until an idea came into my head….there was plenty of room in there so it just floated around for a while.

      Good job and it’s nice to see another name in the writers’ list.


      Ken Frape.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Good story of sibling antics and torture. Yes, this would have been my brother. He’s always been the trouble maker. Enjoyed the story!

  • Three Names Has the Fox by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [458 words]

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. She hadn’t meant to, but the family that took her from her home already had a name picked out. Her first name had tasted of moonlight, frost, and forest loam, but that didn’t matter now. Now she was Daisy.

    She never felt right as Daisy. She was constantly surrounded by strangers. They would talk to her in a strange language, wouldn’t let her outside alone, and gave her cold, dead meat that tasted of metal or plastic. Even the water was stale and chemical.

    Daisy was always nervous and confused. Nothing was right. The family was always trying to throw things for her to chase or grabbing her fur. She couldn’t make the name fit and one day she just lashed out and bit the small one who was constantly pulling her ears. That was how she ate her second name.

    Her third name came after two men took her away in an old cage. They let her out into a larger cage and called her Rust. Now she had the smells of dirt and steel and grease. The men would make noise working on large metal things in the neighboring building. They hardly bothered her except to occasionally throw some old meat in her cage.

    Rust was thin and mangy and angrier than Daisy. She wanted to run and hunt and leave this loud, dusty place. So she would dig in the back of her cage. The dirt was hard packed and her nails would crack and break. Finally Rust could wriggle out from her prison. That is how she ate her third name.

    Nameless, she wandered the back alleys trying to find a way out of this place that smelled of concrete, rotten vegetables, and diesel. She learned to hide when she heard footsteps and to pillage food from the plastic bags and metal bins.

    Eventually, her wanderings took her to a place with smaller and fewer buildings. She kept going and found fields of corn and wheat. As she found room to run, mice and crickets for food, and brooks and streams to drink from, she began to remember herself.

    First, the moonlight shining down from an open sky brought back memories of the woods. She searched along river beds and past the fields, through meadows and over hills until she found a forest whose loamy floor gave her back more of herself.

    By this time, the weather had begun to get colder as the nights grew longer. One day as she was finding a place to sleep during the day, she smelled frost riming the leaves that had fallen. It all came rushing back to her. Liska had found her way back to her name.

    • C N Wilder
      Wendy, I love your story! It is beautifully written and pulls me though the emotions of the fox as she goes through her names. I like all the names you chose for her but I wonder if the story might be even stronger if her name at the end wasn’t a word but a feeling, the feeling that you have already illustrated so well. Just a thought, but It works well the way you have it too. Well done!
      • Thank you for the kind words CN! I would have preferred to keep it the feeling of being a fox too, but we had to reveal the original name so I picked one that is basically Polish for fox lol
    • Somehow, you always manage to take your stories to new levels and places. Nice job of taking me there with you. Good story, Wendy.
      • Thank you, Roy, I really appreciate that! I thought really hard about this prompt and originally wanted to try some magical realism but kept getting campy so I went for this instead.
    • I like the original take on the topic, Wendy. Short but very effective.

      Trying to make a pet out of a five-year old fox requires a special kind of dedication, or idiocy, but I’m sure there are people who try to do such things – great to see a foxes-eye view of that. And a completely inappropriate name for her sums up their lack of understanding.

      • I’ve seen YouTube videos of pet foxes which kind of gave me the idea. I personally don’t agree with that sort of thing, but they are very cute…until they eat your face I’m sure.
    • Hi Wendy,

      You did a masterful job in packing a full and complete story into so few words.

      Excellent descriptive work, full of well chosen words and you create a real sense of place, sadness and isolation.

      My only criticism is, why didn’t you make this excellent piece of writing a bit longer? It was like eating the last chocolate in the top row of the box only to find that there was no bottom row. Sweet disappointment!

      Great work,


      Ken Frape

      • Thanks, Ken F! I try to write the story as long as it wants to be. I really write for mood a lot of the time and don’t like to get too bogged down by silly things like plot or character development. No just kidding about that last part, but I’m glad it was good enough to leave you wanting more.

  • Shhhh….

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name.

    Well, not only her name, but all the words she knew. She simply stopped talking.

    She was a beautiful and lively little girl. A tiny, thin figure, with blonde hair, pale skin and green eyes. She would burst into a room instead of walking, her little facial expressions always alternating between happiness, curiosity, contemplation and observation. She used to bombard everyone around her with questions, and was never completely satisfied with the answers.

    Suddenly, one day, everything changed and she stopped talking. Her voice ceased to be heard and the five-year-old has remained silent for six months now, apart from a sad sigh here and there.

    “Your daughter suffers from selective mutism,” the doctor said to her parents. “It’s a disorder caused by extreme social anxiety. Some children start stammering, others simply stop talking.”

    Despite everything, she was still able to make herself understood by pointing and tapping, groaning and nudging. Other than becoming mute, she remained the same energetic, playful child.

    “Don’t think she’s doing it for attention, or that she’s hiding some kind of deep secret,” the doctor explained. “I don’t think that’s the case. It’s simply one of a variety of social phobias.”

    Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong… and the parents; it was just a matter of thinking a little and doing the math. But, hey, we all make mistakes.

    It all began when his father’s brother moved in after a nasty divorce. It would be temporary, while he straightened up his life.

    The little girl adored him. He was a big, bold man, chubby and funny, with a scruffy beard that tickled her when he kissed her on the cheek. He always told her the best stories, explained to her better than anyone else how things worked and never gave a short answer to any of her multiple curious questions. Uncle Chet was her favorite person in the whole world, apart from her parents, of course.

    She used to stay at his house, when he was married, whenever her parents went out in the evening, or wanted to go away for a romantic weekend, so she didn’t feel strange when he moved in. She wasn’t fond of his wife and son anyway; they were always sad or angry.

    It was her parents’ wedding anniversary that weekend, and her uncle had only been living there for a week. They had booked a romantic trip but were considering canceling it; it felt weird to leave them alone together in the house.

    “Nonsense,” her uncle said. “We’ll be fine. We’ll have lots of fun together, won’t we princess?”

    “Yes. Yes. Please Mommy, Daddy?!” she asked jumping up and down the stairs.

    Before leaving on the Friday night, her parents put her to bed and kissed her goodnight and goodbye. “Be a good girl,” they told her. “Behave and obey your uncle. He’s in charge and you must do everything he tells you to. Just like when you stayed at his house.”
    “I will. I promise.”

    Those were the last words they heard her say.

    She woke up the next morning excited, full of energy. It was going to be a fun day, she knew it. They started by going out for breakfast, at her favorite place, near the park where she used to play sometimes. Then they went to the zoo, and spent the rest of the morning there; they visited all the animals and went on all of the rides. After having lunch at McDonalds – “It’ll be our little secret,” her uncle said, and she giggled; her parents would be very angry if they knew she ate junk food – they went to the cinema and saw the new animated movie she was dying to see. After a well-needed bath, the day ended with a tremendously happy but exhausted little girl falling asleep at the dinner table.

    The little girl had been sleeping for some time, already in her bed, when she felt someone stroking her hair. At first, she thought it was a dream, but it felt so real that she ended up waking up and when she opened her eyes was startled: her uncle’s face was right in front of hers. He was laying next to her in her own bed.

    “You’re so beautiful,” he said, and his breath smelled like those drinks grown people drink, but it was such a strong smell she felt nauseated. “You look just like your mother. Has anyone ever told you that?” She nodded, uncomfortable, while he kept touching her hair. “We used to date, did you know that? Before I introduced her to your father and she fell for him.” She usually liked to hear her uncle’s stories, but he was looking at her in a strange way. She didn’t like it, and neither did she like his tone. “You even have her name: Alva!” he kept spitting as he talked, and she noticed with disgust a white foam appearing at the corners of his mouth.

    As his fingers moved from her air down to her neck and then to her shoulders, Alva stiffened. Something wrong was happening, she felt it, but she didn’t know how to make him stop. Alva felt a growing fear and was about to start crying. “I want my mommy!”, she whined. “Shhh. It’s ok,” he said putting his fat hand over her tiny mouth, “I love you, and I would never hurt you. You know that, don’t you?”

    He took off her Hello Kitty nightshirt and underwear while she said in a fading voice “No, please.” He didn’t appear to hear and proceeded with his intentions.

    Little Alva cried but there wasn’t much she could do about what was happening, so she just lay there, numb, wishing with all her strength for it to be over. She closed her eyes tight; his foul breathing was heavy, his hands sweaty and sticky… and then the pain came and she wished with everything she had to let it all be over soon. But soon wouldn’t come soon enough…

    • Well, now. I’m kind of bummed. Your story is way too realistic. but very well written. It could be cleaned up a little, but overall, you took me down a path I didn’t want to go. Not that I really mind with a well written story, but damn, now I need to go watch tennis or something.
      • Telling story of a reaction to a traumatic event.

        Pretty much the same underlying trauma as in my story above, including the uncle as perpetrator, only here the explicit version …

        • Unfortunately, this is an issue that we face on a daily basis nowadays.
      • Hi, RM
        Thank you for your comments, I’m glad you think it’s well written.
        I must admit that wasn’t easy for me to write it like that, but as the Master Stephen King once wrote “…writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation…”
    • Hi MC,

      This is a very well written piece that I needed to read even once I could see where it was going. I’m pretty sure that I uttered a groan and said something like, “Oh no.”

      I am commenting here upon the excellent quality of the writing and this is evident. The subject matter less to my taste although I agree that we cannot hide these issues.

      I am really looking forward to something a bit lighter ( should you so choose) when the next prompt is announced. It’s my prompt this time around so I will wait with interest to see what people make of it. This one was a real challenge I found.

      Good writing,


      Ken Frape.

      • Hi, Ken
        Thank you for your comments and enjoying my writing, and I’m glad the subject matter doesn’t please you. It doesn’t please me either.
        I’m curious about your prompt…
    • Ken Miles
      It takes some time to get going, but when it does it really does! The backstory in the first half does drag on a little, to be honest, and it would be a good idea to tighten it and get into the big theme sooner.

      There is probably one clue too many towards the middle that gives away to most readers what they’re going to get – I’d smoothen that out, if I were you, to keep the reader guessing for longer. The way it is, the main gain in continuing to read till the end is the explicit details, which, to your merit, are not handled with kid gloves, making them convincing and plausible enough to describe an instance of child sexual abuse.

      I like the build-up of the uncle sharing increasingly serious private secrets with Alva starting from the mild secret of going to McD and eating junk-food, then the secret of him having dated her mum and finally the admittance that he is attracted to Alva Jr. I would have perhaps reworked it in a way to make it unknown to Alva’s dad that her mum had a sexual relationship with his brother, the uncle. That way there’ll be more to the secret he shares with Alva, and some history of skeletons in the closet for this family, so that things don’t seem to happen too much out of the blue…

      Given the detailed description of the trauma, I think it’s very plausible that Alva wished to cancel everything she knew about herself and her world, “swallowing her name” and refusing to talk. It’s a good psychological take on the challenging prompt. Many of us, myself included, resorted to physically swallowing (be it a pebble, or a piece of paper, or a painting, an item of jewelry and so on). Well done for that!

      • Hi, Ken
        Thanks for your comments, both the compliments and the critiques”, they’re very important to me. I’ll take them into account next time, for sure.
    • Adrienne Riggs
      Very good writing. Tough subject. This one hit way to close to home for me. I felt truly sick after reading it. PTSD is a horrible thing.
      • Hi, Adrienne
        I’m glad you liked my writing. And I’m sorry it made you remember something you’d rather forget, I guess…
  • C N Wilder

    The Power of a Name
    By C. N. Wilder
    (1200 words)

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. And her life hadn’t been the same since. Or rather, it had been the same when it should have changed. When her friends got their names, they shortened them to nicknames and wore their namestones around their necks, while she still went by her podling name. When her friends flew over the meadow, she remained flightless at nursery with the new tisker podlings.

    “You’re lucky, Ni,” said nurse Lembria. “Every year I must fly to the meadow boundary to show the newly named our limits and teach the dangers of Warlock Aglan. I dread going, but if I had no name, like you, I wouldn’t have to. You should be grateful.”

    Ni was not grateful but humiliated to be the only tisker of age without a true name. Though it had happened nearly a year ago, regret still consumed her. She’d been bursting with excitement the day of the naming ceremony. She and her podmates gathered on the citrine stone at the meadow’s center, hands and faces turned to the sky to collect their namestones, which floated down like drops of solid joy.

    The sun was bright in Ni’s eyes, and, as her namestone neared, an urge to sneeze intruded. Against her will, her mouth opened, her eyes closed, and something landed on the back of her tongue. Still fighting off the sneeze, she swallowed. Her eyes popped open and she looked frantically about. When she couldn’t find her namestone, Ni looked to the crowd and saw Lembria, her face ashen. Dread pooled in Ni’s belly. Something had gone terribly wrong.

    Grand Elder addressed the newly named. “Guard your true names. They give us power, but are also our greatest vulnerability, for knowledge of one’s true name grants power over that individual. The speech went on, but Ni wasn’t listening.


    Nameless and flightless, Ni spent her days searching for a way to recover her true name.

    “Grand Elder, is there a way,” she asked.

    “No, Dear,” he said rather distractedly, pulling weeds from his moss garden. “You’d need to shroud yourself in darkness on a citrine stone at midday of the summer solstice and thrice repeat, “Brizen Du Nambia,” which everyone knows is impossible.”

    Ni’s ears perked. “Why impossible?”

    “To shroud oneself in darkness midday, one needs darkstones from the caves beneath the meadow. Nobody goes there, not since the legends of Brombledew the Brave and Cambrialee the Courageous. Darkstone invites danger. Better to keep darkstone in the dark, and yourself well away.

    Ni shuddered. “But darkstones would draw out my name?”

    “Like a moth to flame, but the danger is too great. You understand.” He waved her out of the garden.

    Ni walked away, frightened but determined.

    Inside, the cave was cool and damp. Ni crept along until she reached a cavern where no sunlight penetrated, yet silver light twinkled in the walls. The lack of a glimmer in spots darker than dark caught her attention. She bent to touch one and found a smooth stone. A darkstone. She plucked it and a shiver ran down her spine. Swallowing, she dropped it in her satchel.
    As fast as her legs would carry her, Ni emerged from the cave with a full satchel and a problem. Midday on the solstice was the naming ceremony. The day prior would have to do.


    Atop the citrine stone, Ni walked a circle, placing darkstones as she went. A dome of darkness formed through which, as hard as she stared, she could not see the citrine stone beneath. Tentatively, she stepped in and lay down. The sky looked dark from within, as if night. Three times she recited, “Brizen Du Nambia,” and waited. Her name didn’t come.

    The dome vanished, revealing a cloaked figure, stooped to pluck stones. Warlock Aglan.

    She stood and scrambled to collect her stones.

    “I think not.” With a flick of his wrist the stones in her satchel floated into his pouch. Only one, still clutched in her hand, remained hers. “I’ve been searching for such power for ages. These will serve me well tomorrow.”

    Ni clenched her fists. “Those are mine!”

    Aglan raised an arm and a wall of air knocked her to the ground.

    She rolled and clambered to her feet, knowing he’d kill her without a second thought if she stayed. Ni ran back to the hive, straight to the nursery, where she hid, trembling, until the next day — summer solstice.


    The five year-old-podlings assembled atop the citrine stone, anxiously awaiting their true names as Ni had done the year before. How she wished this was her year. What if she did stand with them? Perhaps a new name would float her way, easy as that. She looked at Lembria, who seemed to read her mind and nodded.

    Ni pushed through the crowd to the citrine stone and climbed on. Some podlings pointed at her. Whispers rose from the crowd. Her face flushed, but she held her head high and found a place between two podlings. It was time. Above, golden droplets shimmered. The podlings lifted their hands and faces to the sky. Ni joined them, but no namestone came her way.
    As the other podlings received their names their faces lit with pride, and Ni’s hopes fell.

    Shouts erupted from the crowd.

    Ni’s shoulders slumped. “I’ll never fit in.” She looked over the crowd in embarrassment, but realized no one was looking at her.

    A podling beside her began sobbing.

    “What’s happening?” she asked.

    “My namestone is gone.”

    In fact, every namestone was leaving. Grown tiskers cried out as theirs departed.
    Ni’s gaze followed the golden path of names to the meadow’s edge where Aglan stood, a darker than midnight sphere raised in open hands.

    Ni watched in horror as the true names drifted toward the sphere.

    Chaos erupted. In the shuffle, someone fell into Ni, pushing her off the citrine stone. She stood, terrified and guilt-ridden. All she’d wanted was her name. Now Aglan was taking everyone’s name. If he got them, he’d gain power over the tiskers. Every one of them — except her. Only she had no name to steal. Only she. An idea formed in Ni’s mind.


    Ni reached Aglan as the last few names floated into his sphere. Shaking, she gripped the darkstone and chanted under her breath, “Brizen Du Nambia.”

    The darkstone vibrated, giving her strength.

    Louder, “Brizen Du Nambia”

    Aglan spun to face her, too late.

    She yelled, “Brizen Du Nambia!”

    The magic worked. Golden light rose from Aglan, revealing his true name, Aglenthisar’glime.

    Ni’s wide-eyed gaze rose to meet his and her voice quavered, “Aglenthisar’glime, release the true names.”

    Aglan fell to his knees. The dark sphere fell to the ground, shattering into the very stones she had collected. The namestones hovered free, confused.

    Ni squared her shoulders. “Now leave and never return.”

    The crowd rushed in to recover their names. Ni’s podmates surrounded her, lifting her into the air in appreciation.
    As Aglan retreated Ni smiled. She thought she’d lost her name, but the truth was she’d always had it within.
    “Cambrialee,” she whispered. “The Courageous.” Her wings buzzed to life, and she took flight.

    • I like the idea of your story. You built a fantasy world with just enough detail in this short amount of space to show us their culture (at least a part of it) and tell the full story. I probably would like just a little more breathing room, but I’m guessing you had to cut a little bit to hit the 1200 words.
      • C N Wilder
        Thanks! This was my first stab at flash fiction and I think the story probably would be better suited for a slightly longer piece. It was a lot of fun though!
    • Didn’t expect a fantasy novel. I think this is – or should be – part of a much larger fantasy story. You have a flair for interesting names, although I hold to the belief names with too many letters, consonants and punctuation are a little overdone. Interesting story though. I’ll give you a B+ for imagination and i have no real quibble with your writing.
      • cnwilderwrites
        Thanks RM! I tend to agree with you and usually use shorter names that are easier to pronounce. With this story I felt that longer, more complex names were fitting for the true names because of the magic.
    • Really well constructed story. In many ways a classic underdog story, the misfit/flop/under-estimated character who comes good. Fantasy can sometimes appear a bit arbitrary as magic can do pretty much anything, but here the logic of the way things work in this world is set out near the beginning, and the events after that work flawlessly to that logic, with a bit of tension on the way.

      I don’t know if there are genre references out from the story – if there are people versed in the genre can maybe pick up references or fill in description that I can’t. Like I’ve got no idea what a podling is or if it has wider currency, so my imagination had to fill in the blanks there. Worked, but a little bit of description could have added some colour perhaps?

      Some of the phrases were very nice, like the “namestones which floated down like drops of solid joy”, a kind of poetic conceit, and about the golden path of names leading to the meadows edge, the brightness contrasted with the darker than midnight sphere is held by the bad guy.
      So I liked this, even more so on a second reading.

      • cnwilderwrites
        Thanks Andy! I can see how more description could help with all the terminology. I wanted to go into detail about what I imagined tiskers are (a type of small faerie that is kind of a cross between a bee and a tiger) but my story was too long already!
    • Ken Miles
      “She thought she’d lost her name, but the truth was she’d always had it within.” I like when the literal and the metaphorical cross paths, as what happens here. It’s also a beautiful lesson from the fantasy world to us in the real world. I think this story reaches its climax in that sentence. I’d drop more clues leading to it along the way, or perhaps there are some that I missed on first reading!
      • cnwilderwrites
        Thanks Ken! I’m glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate the feedback.
    • Hi CN,

      I think you have done a great job with a prompt, that I think many of us found challenging. Whilst not being a huge fantasy fan I really do appreciate the way in which you have created another world in another time and place and made it believeable. That is quite difficult to do or, at least it is for me.

      I have read some of the other comments already posted and I like the way you have explained the name. Clever.


      Ken Frape.

      • cnwilderwrites
        Thanks Ken! I found it challenging for sure, but really fun too. World building in so few words is tricky and a great exercise in economy of phrase.

  • A Hooker Named Hailey

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. That little scrap of paper was of utmost importance. So worried she might lose it, she’d check her pocket every few seconds just to make sure it was still there. She was anxious she’d nap and someone might steal it from her. What better place to hide it than in her mouth?

    Kizzy woke up, gagging. The color of her face changed from malnourished Polish pale to a worrying purplish hue. A plump
    Portuguese woman sitting next to her, patted her back hard. Kizzy felt the paper dislodge in her throat. She was safe. At least safe from choking. Her color returned to normal. But the paper was gone! She did not know what to do next. Her dad had written her name on it. It was quite a mouthful, her name – no way she could memorise it. But then again there was no need to, everyone called her simply Kizzy.

    “Don’t say a word, just show them that paper,” Janusz, her dad, instructed her just before he jumped overboard. “Then Uncle Pawel will take you home.” As dad was about to leave for his “long errand”, as he put it to her, she spotted a tear running down his cheek. She didn’t know grown-up men could cry.

    Janusz had panicked when he overheard fellow Poles on the ship talking of a murderer in their midst and of undercover officers looking for him. The news had finally caught up with him! On shooting his wife and the man he found in bed with her, he turned his hunting rifle towards his own face. He would have pulled the trigger, if it wasn’t for the sight of Kizzy sleeping and oblivious of all that had just happened right next to her.

    They got away faster than the long arm of the law. Inside a week, father and daughter crossed into the German Empire, then paid their way as stowaways on a steamship leaving Hamburg to America. But this new contraption, wireless telegraphy, was quicker than horses. The news of his crime got on board with him. He’d be arrested on arrival. Or worse, sent back.

    The best thing for him to do, he reckoned, was to get out of Kizzy’s way. Children would usually be allowed entry, he had heard, if they are both undocumented and unaccompanied. He only hoped his brother Pawel, who emigrated to America over thirty years before was still alive and got his telegram about Kizzy’s existence and imminent arrival. Janusz had no time to wait for a reply. He needed to die first.

    A commotion took over the ship. Everyone ran to the portholes on the left. Kizzy caught a fleeting glimpse of the giant lady. “When you see her, that’s America”, dad had told her. He also warned her, “They speak funny there, not normally like us.”

    Lost in a forest of legs, Kizzy was herded along with the other immigrants onto Ellis Island, her hand firmly pressed in her pocket, fearful of losing the precious paper. The enormous Registration Hall was packed. She had never seen so many people in one place. She didn’t know there were even so many people in the whole world!

    A man handed out yellow things out of a box, but only to the children. Nobody knew what they were, but they smelled like they might be food. Kizzy hadn’t eaten since her father left for his errand, so she bit into the yellow thing. It tasted horrible, like moist carpet.

    A man with a broom stopped by, smiled and raised his eyebrows. He must have got badly burned, for his face and hands were black. Though, come to think of it, she remembered seeing several black men since she arrived. Either many people in America tend to get burned, or maybe, just maybe, there are some people for whom it’s perfectly fine to be black.

    The black man took the banana and peeled it for her. “You only eat this part!”, he said. She didn’t understand the words, but figured out what he meant. Not even the good part tasted that good. But she ate it nonetheless, because she was very hungry.


    A bulky sixty-something man in a purple tuxedo barged into Section C or “Special Cases”. A scared young Italian lady who had just disembarked was there for him.

    Signor Carmine Santo, or “The Czar” had a free hand there. Having enough women and money to spare, he rubbed shoulders with men in high places. Clancy, the immigration clerk on duty knew that very well. There was no arguing with The Czar.

    “Factory worker, right?” murmured Clancy, as he filled in the lady’s Entry Form. He did not expect an answer. The young lady would be working the streets at the Tenderloin before she even knew what hit her.

    Kizzy, who sat on a chair in the corner, caught Santo’s eye.

    “Your daughter, Clancy-boy?”

    Clancy had just started his shift, when Kizzy was brought over to Section C. She had no parents. No luggage. No passport. Not even a name. All she had was a banana skin she didn’t know what to do with.

    “No, got no kids,” he replied flatly. “Got no idea who she is. I can’t register her, she doesn’t even have a name!”

    “Perhaps she accidentally swallowed it!” Santo laughed. He placed a rainbow-swirl lollipop in her hand. She had no idea what it was, but thought it was very pretty.

    “She won’t talk to you. Won’t talk to anyone. She doesn’t understand a word of English,” Clancy intervened.

    “I’ll rid you of her”, Santo told the officer, nonchalantly.

    Clancy froze. He sensed where this was going.

    “There is a market these days, also for ones like her. Important men, you know. Very rich, very powerful.” He stroked her blonde hair and looked into her blue eyes much like an ophthalmologist would. “Especially for ones like her”, he reaffirmed, “She’s premium. Let me have her. She’ll get to start life early, that’s true. But she’ll have what to eat.”

    Clancy gasped. He hated this job.

    “The frontier-cowboy doesn’t have to be so prissy!” Santo mocked him, “We’re in 1901! It’s a new century!”

    The clerk pulled out another Entry Form, like the one he had just filled in for the Italian soon-to-be lady of the night. “I’ll put down ‘family friend’,” he told Santo briefly.

    Santo pushed down Clancy’s hand back to the desk and placed his own meaty hand on top of the paper. Then he shoved a hundred-dollar bill inside Clancy’s shirt. “That’s for you, for being a good boy.” Back in those days it was worth three months’ salary.

    “I found your name!” Santo whispered in Kizzy’s ear on their way out. “You’re now called Hailey.” She just stared back at him. She never thought Uncle Pavel would be so fat and ugly.

    Meanwhile, a respectable gentleman, who had come down from Chicago, insisted at Section A – “Regular Migrants” that his niece, aged anywhere between three and thirty and called Katarzynamalgorzata Jwaszkiewiczowna, should by then have arrived from Europe. The clerk there could swear he did not have that name.

    1,200 words (excluding title and this line)

    • Ken Miles. Interesting take on this prompt. One I had toyed with also, but decided to go another way. (As is truly swallowing a written name). Well done. I liked it. Although I’m not sure your final name is truly a polish name, I’m willing to bet you went to some lengths to research it. Good job with the prompt.
      • Ken Miles
        Thanks Roy. Also for the welcome message the other time – it’s indeed good to be here, it’s a cosy little club that seems very much alive. To answer your question, it is a more more or less real Polish name, which I then further polished (!) a little bit. So yes, can’t be more Polish than that! – “polished-Polish”, shall we say?
        I joined together two very popular bumper girl names (which in English would translate roughly to Elizabeth-Margaret, I suppose) and changed the first letter “I” of the surname into a “J” to make it more of a mouthful (since we’re on the theme of swallowing!), but also so that no one on the ground in Chicago or Warsaw feels being somewhat picked on. Yes, I had to research a little on Polish naming systems since I’d heard surnames change for girls (…owna) as daughters and then again to another form as wives… Anyway, it was important for my plot to work that there was no way a 5-year old was going to memorize her name – and therefore the paper she swallowed was essential to her destiny…
        • Ken Miles
          Catherine-Margaret, rather (not Elizabeth-Margaret) – see – difficult to memorize even in English! And I’m older than five…
        • marien oommen
          Great story! Enjoyed it very much.
          • Ken Miles
            Thanks Marien, I’m pleased you enjoyed it!
    • This is a mini-tragedy, Ken M – and a very plausible migrant story. I thought the historical setting seemed really authentic. Innocence corrupted, a future life stolen. Arrival in the land of opportunity – but opportunity for whom?

      Kind of rather literal symbolism with the name being a bit of a mouthful, but it worked!

      A well-written story.
      (Wasn’t so sure about her seeing black people as being “badly burned” – doesn’t add to the story and for me doesn’t work as humour, if that’s what’s intended. Could have had something else to highlight the unfamiliarity of the mix of peoples in her new world, perhaps. I’m also pretty sure that bananas had reached Poland well before 1901 …)

      • Ken Miles
        Thanks Andy! Unbelievable as it may sound, I drew both stories of the child thinking black people are burnt and the banana eaten with the skin on from real life. I personally witnessed a five-year old girl asking her mum if the newly-arrived Nigerian boy at our church was burnt, back in the early nineties in the not so-cosmopolitan place where I lived back then. I have my doubts about bananas being known in Poland in the 1900s – I heard a Polish-American journalist in his fifties recounting (on TV) the story of his grandma’s family eating bananas with the skin on, on arrival in America, as they had no idea what they were. Perhaps we’ve got here two cases of facts stranger than fiction!
        Good you brought this up, so I explained 😉
        • On the history of bananas (!) … I guess it depends how poor and isolated you were … bananas were grown in Spain, North Africa, Eastern Med, Turkey (and south-east Asia) long before they were taken to the Caribbean – but they would have been expensive, a delicacy for richer folk in northern and central Europe. First recorded in London and Netherlands in 17th century.
          Refrigerated shipping of fruit began in second half of 19th century, so there were bananas coming in at lower prices, in Europe as much as New York. Of course that doesn’t mean to say a little girl would have known how to eat one, though 🙂

          I like your story a lot anyway, so this is all tangential. Possibly interesting, or else enough to drive everyone … bananas.

          • Ken Miles
            Fascinating, Andy! I recently did the History of the Potato tour in Potsdam (apparently the potato very much made Frederick the Great – and Germany Great Again – back in the day… but that’s for another time!), and now here comes the noteworthy history of the banana in Europe!

            In my story I went by the real-life tale the Polish-American immigrant recounted on TV, to which I refer in my previous comment. Since my Kizzy was probably raised in some remote village in the Polish countryside at the turn of the 20th Century (I hint at that as I say her father had a hunting gun), it’s quite probable that she never saw or heard of bananas, even if well-to-do Londoners or Amsterdamers (and even Krakowians) would have savoured them by then.

            I thought the banana thingy played a meaningful part in my story in the sense it portrayed a little girl completely out of her familiar environment, making her seem as vulnerable as she indeed was. I think it increases the drama of seeing her fall right in the wolf’s mouth and eventually having a new name (Hailey) which is totally different from the name she swallowed and a new life-long existence as a prostitute in New York. I wanted to make an intrinsic connection between name and person – lose one, lose the other!

            The same goes for the bit about her never having seen or heard of people of a different skin colour other than her own and doing some mental acrobatics to fathom how some people in America were black. It wasn’t about black people as such, but about Kizzy being a fish out of water.

            In my original draft, she reasons out that they can’t have been burnt after all, because burnt people would be in extreme pain and the black men she saw at Ellis Island did not seem to be in any distress whatsoever and seemed happy. She aptly remembers when her own finger turned dark purple after she had burnt it on the stove and how excruciatingly painful that was. And it was just one finger! But I had to take all of that out, because of the word-count. Maybe I still had some subconscious residue of the removed parts in my head, reading more in what I wrote than my readers would. That’s always a danger when parts of the original write-up have to be pulled out for technical or other reasons.

            And there were other cues I used to make Kizzy seem vulnerable and out of her usual context: the English language (“people talk funny in America, not normally like us”), the Portuguese woman who saves her life (probably spoke to her too – but in Portuguese!), and the fact she wasn’t aware of garbage bins (“…a banana skin she didn’t know what to do with”). Of course, humor was intended too, but not just.

            Ok, so off to the next story now! I’ve got one baking… Shall I throw in some mention of maracuja or guarana this time? lol

            Thanks again, Andy, for your comments – I’m enjoying these conversations as much as the stories themselves 🙂


  • Spirit

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name, without a name you could not exist in the tribe of the High Hills. Spirit of course didn’t remember the swallowing itself, but her grandmother had told her how it happened.
    At the first spring meeting of a child’s life they were taken to the edge of the Great Lake and there they had to pick up a pebble, the first one that they held would be their talisman and their name was carved into it. It had always been this way, since the time of the long ago ancestors. Spirit grasped at the smallest, brightest pebble, so small that it was swallowed up by her chubby hand. On the fifth birthday of each child they were sent into the Cave of the Ancestors and they placed their name pebble on a ledge. The pebbles stayed there guarded and watched by those who had gone before until the end came. On the day of their death it was placed in their mouth before they were sent to the underworld, so that all who met them would know who they were. This was part of the lore of the tribe of the High Hills, and had been practiced since the sun had first risen in the sky, and the sea had slept in its bed.

    On her fifth birthday Spirit was taken to the Cave of the Ancestors by her family and she had been handed her pebble. As tradition dictates Spirit stepped into the cave alone and looked around at the ledges, she had been told to place her pebble there and like all children of the tribe had practiced with pebbles from the stream and the ledges of her own family’s cave. But this was different, there were so many pebbles piled on the ledge and hers was small and looked green in her hand. Her grandmother said that she looked down at her pebble for a long time, and then she popped it into her mouth. Her family gasped and shouted making her turn and startle, and it was at that moment she swallowed her name..

    There was immediately a council of the elders, including her grandmother. The eldest of the tribe argued that as Spirit had swallowed her name then she was ready for the afterlife and was now a ghost. Her grandmother had scoffed at first, pointing out that they only needed to wait until the pebble passed and it could be placed on the ledge, but as the council wore on, her grandmother realised that it was not going to be that easy. It was decided that the gods wanted Spirit to be with them, that she was special. On that day Spirit was declared a ghost, and no one from the tribe could see her or speak to her except in their prayers.

    After that her grandmother had taken her in, declaring that the elder’s minds were ‘taken by the wind’, and no granddaughter of hers was going to be abandoned to the High Hills. She passed the pebble the next day, and her grandmother took her back to the cave, where she carefully placed the pebble on the ledge.

    Spirit’s world was strange now, only her grandmother and the children, who knew no better, spoke to her or looked at her. She learnt the knowledge and the crafts of the High Hills at her grandmother’s knee, and learnt to take advantage of her strange position. She went to the elders’ meetings, listening to the decisions and secrets of the tribe. She followed after the young boys when they were trained to hunt and fish, practicing and learning beside them. She sat in the birthing rooms of the mothers and saw how life came into the world. By the age of twelve Spirit knew all the ways of her tribe whether they be male or female and she knew all of their secrets.

    No-one in the tribes of the High Hills is without a responsibility and although she was a ghost she still played her role. In the morning she would sit by the family tree in the centre of the village. She always took sewing or carving with her and sat with her back against the tree focused on her work. One after the other, the mothers would come and place their children near her. Nothing was ever said to her, not even when the smallest of barely a few weeks old was laid on the ground beside her. Until the sun had risen above the Hill of Wolves she would sit and play and comfort the youngest of the tribe, those who knew no better than to talk to a ghost.

    Her grandmother became old quickly, it seemed to Spirit that it happened in the space of a season. She could no longer make the walk to the Elders council, she stopped attending the births, she stopped visiting and helping, she just started to stop. To begin with Spirit tried to care for her, feed her, hunt, and forage, but it became too difficult. She was scared about leaving her; what if she needed something? What if the fire went out? What if the end came while Spirit wasn’t there? There was no one to help, as the rest of the tribe was afraid of entering the home of the ghost, so Spirit began to take what she needed. She took bread, meat, cheese and berries, always from a different cave and no one could say anything. She took blankets as the weather turned colder and medicine that she thought would help her grandmother. When Winter became spring, it was clear that her grandmother was ready to join the ancestors. Spirit sat with her, holding her hand until the end came.

    The family gathered in the ancestral cave and Spirit was there, unacknowledged, uncomforted and alone. She watched as they took her grandmother’s pebble from the ledge and placed it in her mouth. She followed them taking the body to the back of the cave and the Ancestor’s Gate. Her grandmother’s body was lowered through the Gate, with the keening cries of the mourners echoing in the dark. As Spirit stepped forward there was a gasp, she felt them watch her, she liked to believe that the scuffling behind her was someone holding her mother back, afraid that she would finally chose to become the ghost that they had made her. She stood at the edge of the Gate, a tiny green pebble in her hand, carved with name and she threw it after her grandmother. From this day on Spirit would be her name and hers alone, it wouldn’t sit in the cave of the ancestors, but travel with her beyond the tribes of the High Hills. Spirit would take her name and go and find her life.

    • Notrat, I loved the simplicity of your writing, in a concise, well moving flow. Nice job with the story prompt and with the story itself. I have no complaints about punctuation and so on. Good job.
      • Thank you 🙂
    • Ken Miles
      A beautiful evocation of the High Hills tribal life – good world building there. I would have brought in some of the backstory through dialogue, arousing more curiosity in the beginning of the story and then quenching it as we go along, but, yes I understand the word count is a ruthless dictator when it comes to that… Thumbs up on the whole, I enjoyed reading it.
      • Thank you Ken. I admit I do shy away from dialogue as I am always worried how natural it will sound, something I need to work on exploring and developing.
    • After some initial worries about the size of the pebble and a 5-year-old’s throat – luckily her name was short; had it been the name of Ken M’s little girl it would have to be a small boulder 🙂 – I was quite captivated by this story.
      Ken (M) has a good point about bringing some of the story out through dialogue, I think that would work. But as t is it really reads like a kind of folk tale, slightly strange and transporting us to a different world.
      Very imaginative, well-written and involving
    • Hi Notrat,

      I loved the whole notion of the pebble to symbolise the life of each person. You have captured a way of life ( and death ) in this story and made it a really great read.

      Welcome to the group and I look forward to reading more of your excellent stories.


      Ken Frape

  • She forgot to remember…

    She was five when she accidently swallowed her name. They had been walking for several weeks through decimated forests, amid broken trees stretching blackened limbs up begging assistance from molten orange skies, the horizons streaked with threatening charcoal clouds. They were trudging through the obliterated towns, over torn earth and broken bitumen highways, down into gullies, traversing ravines and river beds where the water steamed or glowed in glistening ribbons snaking through the darkest nights. Their sneakers become ragged and the soles ripped on the rabbled roads. She had tried to keep up, but finally her older brother and uncle piggybacked her in turns.

    Her mother wandered in both mind and body; her hollowed eyes devoured the landscape and held it tight, rolling it around her irises and sucking it in to disappear in the caverns of a mind lost to unreasoning madness of the traumatised. When they rested and she stumbled over to her mother. The woman lay on her back staring up into the night sky. She would tug at her mother’s arm glistening with grimy sweat and the grit of fire.

    The woman either ignored her or turned cavernous eyes to the child she had birthed five years previously and devoured her in a sightless stare that held neither pain, nor pity. It just was. “Who are you?” The question hung between them. Gigantic and pulsing. She pulled at her mother’s arms clasped around her swollen belly.

    “Papa?” She cried. “Where is Papa?” The woman shook her head in disbelief. She patted her head briefly and stared out at the devastation surrounding them.

    “Papa, who is Papa?” She echoed the child. “Once…I had a husband. Once, a baby…Now…” She gestured up to a night sky blanket awash with pin pricks of silver and white. She lifted a bony arm and pointed a thin finger skyward. “Now, Marcus, Marcus…” and her voice died to a whispering whimper as she collapsed back into the dry earth.

    “Poppet come. Leave Mama, little one. Here is some water.” Her brother would pull her from the woman’s side and press her to drink a little of the water they had filtered from the mud and boiled over the campfire. The fires were everywhere and smoke hung over the land smudging the ranges and valleys with grey clouds. They found carcasses everywhere. Human and animal rested together, sinking back into the hot hungry ash covered earth. Flies buzzed and covered them and they grew great maggots that turned to bigger flies that bred even bigger maggots that fed unceasingly on the flesh of those who died.
    The smell of burnt flesh, smouldering wood, and melted steel pervaded the air. The sky was warm and the horizons glowed in the darkness of night and the lighter dark of daylight hours.

    They had started out as seventy. Leaving in cars and trucks which ran out of fuel, spluttering to a stop and then the passengers would disembark and begin to walk southwards down towards the ocean. They did not deceive themselves that there was safety anywhere soon. Once around a campfire they had questioned the adults.
    “How will we know the direction? Where to go?” Asked one of the older children.

    “We’ll keep the rising sun to our left and walk at right angles to our shadow.” A man who had aged in a night answered him.
    “We should go east. Into the morning sun.” Another older man stated flatly.


    “Because it will only be a fifty or sixty kilometres to the sea that way.” At this, the first man shook his head.

    “No. Because the missiles hit Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. The rivers will have washed radioactive waste down through the harbour and along the coast. We’re better to head towards the Prom and Port Albert. Hopefully the currents will carry the deadly stuff towards New Zealand.”

    “But what about Melbourne?”

    “Does anyone know what happened to Melbourne?”

    “Yes. One of the Dandenong towers showed devastation that stretched all the way through Geelong and Werribee. Completely wiped out.”

    “But how? Why?”

    “They think it was home grown terrorists. Some little dickheads with their own agenda. They exploded some nuclear devices. One on the train to Geelong. One was in the CBD and another was at the Airport. They think it was a taxi driver. They were calculated to explode within twenty to thirty minutes of each other for maximum impact and fear.”

    The silence around the campfire closed in. The child felt suffocated and afraid. She crawled over to the woman who was moaning softly, staring up at the sullen skies sprinkled with pin prick lights.

    “Mama, Mama…” she whispered softly and took her mother’s limp hand and curled the fingers around her face. The woman looked down at the child snuggled under her armpit.

    “Who are you child? What’s your name? Why’re you calling me Mama?” Her fingers touched the child’s nose and lips gently. “I am not your Mama…am I?” She gazed then into the dark night sky. “I had a baby once. Maybe I dreamed of its birth. I am full with child now. Maybe it is the same child and I dreamt its life. I had a husband in the dream. His name was Marcus. It means dedicated to Mars – god of war. He’s gone. Gone to the war god. I saw him in my dream. A warrior of the war god. I see him in my dreams still.” She began to sob – a whimpering sob of loss. The girl slipped in closer to her side. She wanted to hide within the torn folds of the woman’s clothing. But the woman’s clenched body held her back.

    “Anava, Anava, Anava..” Someone was calling. Over and over again. Finally the caller stood above the woman and child. It was the boy, her brother.

    “Anava, I’ve found you at last. Why don’t you come, eat? Why didn’t you answer me?”

    The child shook her head. “Not my name. Not my name. It’s gone.”

    The boy squatted besides her.

    “What? Where has it gone?” He wanted to humour her. The child shook her head and patted her chest.

    “It gone. No more. I ate it.” She rubbed her chest. “It gone. Now, no more.”

    “So what’s your name then?” The child thought for a few moments, then turned a tear stained face to him.

    “Avim, my name Avim now!”

    “Aveem, but that means ruin. That means a destroyed place. No not that.”

    The boy knelt and gathered her in his arms. He hugged her to him, stroking her ragged hair.

    “Can we get your name back? She shook her head. “Do you think if I tickled you it would pop up?” She giggled as he tickled her under the armpit and neck with one hand. She shook her head again.

    “I’m looking for Anava. Where has that name gone? Here open your mouth and let me see if I can see it. Oh there it is, your name Anava.” He flipped two fingers quickly into her laughing mouth and flipped them out again to place them on her forehead.

    “Ah, Anava, there it is. I found your name.”

    • Nice to see one of your descriptive literary efforts here, Ilana. I miss your way with words. Nice job and I hope to see more of you. Good job with the prompt. This is going to be a difficult week to vote. Lots of good stories. The winner of this week can brag. You might be the one.
      • Thanks Roy. I really miss this site and have had little time to write lately. Hoping to get another story in before the holidays are over. Heaps of stories must get reading and commenting.
    • Ilana, I love the imagery of desolation in this story. You did a great job with the bleakness of trudging away from the devastation and loss. Personally, I don’t think you need the full exposition of what exactly happened. I like including the bits about which cities were destroyed to give an idea of the amount of devastation, but the whole paragraph explaining home grown terrorists doesn’t add anything in my opinion (seriously this is just my opinion). I tend to like a little bit of the unknown in my PA fiction giving me room to theorize.The ending was a nice way to lighten it up a little and show there is still hope even in the wake of disaster.
      • Thank you Wendy.
    • Hi Ilana,

      You have done a superb job in creating a post apocolypse scene. The descriptions are excellent and the imagery is most effective.

      I think you have done a good job with this prompt, which I think was a really tough one.


      Ken Frape

    • Hi Ilana – great to read one of your stories again. And very effective depiction of desolation and a traumatised remnant of a family seeking refuge.
      Like Wendy, I wasn’t sure about the reasons for the devastation, which seemed to muddy the apocalyptic picture. Is it an all-out war with missiles, or terrorists? Would attacks on 4 coastal cities cause fires and devastation deep into the continent, where they’ve been walking for weeks? It put distracting questions into my mind and to me maybe the story would have stood better without that, and leave more room for the description and interaction of characters that you do so, so well.
    • Hi Ilana,

      Great story. I love what you did. The juxtaposition of human cruelty, suffering and indifference, contrasted against the most endearing and redeeming of human qualities: Humor; empathy and compassion.

      I had one reservation about the story. I agree with Wendy that the specific cause or source of the catastrophe need not be defined so thoroughly, but, my feeling is that, though you do horror and devastation really well, you went on a little too long with it before giving us the reveal. Not that your description was too bleak or horrid, not at all, that’s essential and relevant, you just went on a bit too long. (It was not the depth of the horror, but the extent of the description.) And I fear that some (of weaker hearts) may give up on the story before reaching the most satisfying reward.

  • A short story by Ken Frape.
    1198 words


    “She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name,” I said as I read out my story start, faintly hopeful of some praise.

    The school principal, Mr. Trasker, looked down upon the top of my head and I could feel the heat of his garlic-laden breath that was normal for a Thursday morning. It was garlic pizza night in the Trasker house on Wednesdays and every child he taught on a Thursday suffered. However, the bad temper that accompanied the Thursday bad breath was present every day and we had long ago concluded that he just didn’t like his job. Or us.

    I’m pretty sure he didn’t like me anyhow.

    “Look at me when I’m talking to you, Danny!” His temper and his breath were really bad today. I looked up reluctantly into his rheumy grey eyes, enlarged by his thick bottle glass lenses. My Dad says that people must have really good eyesight in order to be able to see through lenses that thick. I could see his hugely magnified individual eyelashes and that telltale flicker in his left eye that becomes more pronounced when he is annoyed. Like now. Then he breathed out. To him it was just one long sigh of frustration that any child in his class could be so stupid. To me it was a stultifying blast of foul air. I tried to hold my breath until he finished his sigh, plus a few seconds for the air to clear but I still got the whiffy tail-end of it.

    “I give you a simple task for homework,” he ranted. “Create an opening line for a story that will capture the imagination of the reader.” He glared at me.
    “Is this really the best you can do, Daniel Entwhistle?
    Oh dear, the full name treatment.

    The answer I wanted to give was Yes because it WAS my best effort. My mum and Dad liked it. It was really quirky, they said and sent me off to bed with a glass of milk AND a cookie.

    I had carefully selected my final choice from a long list which then became a short list.

    “The day my granny got swallowed up by her panty hose,” was rejected on the grounds of decency and respect for my granny. I love my granny, even with her wrinkled panty hose that make her legs look like they are made of elephant hide.

    “My school principal’s Thursday garlic breath smells worse than my Dad’s work socks,” was rejected for obvious reasons, the main one being that I wanted to continue going to the same school. My mum also said that it was very unlikely that this was even possible. “Have you smelled your dad’s work socks?” she asked me, wrinkling her nose with disgust. I had to admit I hadn’t but then my mum hadn’t smelled Tasker’s breath, had she?

    “Hard-working school children given a week off school.” That one was rejected on the grounds of being totally unrealistic fantasy. Also, I would bet my pocket money that even if it did happen ( and it never will!) everyone would get the time off except me and Eric Duff, my all-time best friend.

    I suddenly came out of my reverie as another blast of noxious breath hit me as Trasker went on,

    “It’s not even possible, is it? How can you swallow your name, boy, eh? And do it accidentally? Explain that, if you can.”
    Aha, I had thought about this and in fact I had an explanation ready just in case I was asked.

    “Well sir, if the little girl was wearing a name tag in hospital after having an operation and they said “Nil by mouth” and she was really hungry she might eat it accidentally whilst still whoosy from the anaesthetic. See.“

    Trasker was clearly unimpressed by my latent literary prowess and my irrefutable logic. In response he snorted like a pig in derision at my carefully crafted explanation. Luckily, a pigsnort is taken on an in breath so I survived this one.

    I was on a roll by now so I added, “What about having a birthday cake with her name on it? Perhaps another little girl at the party ate the bit with her name on it?”

    Trasker batted me away with a dismissive wave of his hand and added, for good measure,

    “ That’s hardly accidental, is it boy? That would be deliberate, wouldn’t it? The kind of behaviour I would expect of you. Especially if it is some little girl’s cake, not yours.”

    I opened my mouth to protest.

    “I trust that you harbour no ambitions of becoming a writer or a lawyer when you leave school, Daniel Entwhistle.”

    He turned to the other children.

    “Giant baby uses nappy as a parachute and lands safely.” Kathy Earnshaw suggested. “Excellent, Kathy,” said Trasker, never one to withhold praise from his favourites.

    “Whilst fishing, my brother accidentally pulled out the plug in the reservoir.” That was Arnold Pikestaff’s effort. It created a great mental image of water birds sitting on a sea of mud surrounded by shopping trollies and bike frames.
    “Not bad, Arnold,” said Trasker. Almost a compliment.

    Alice Wentworth’s effort was, “ What does this button do, Daddy?” asked the little girl visiting the rocket factory. “ Her Daddy got fired that day too!

    So, here we were, in class, all reading out our brilliant sentences, the exciting first line of a story. Finally, Trasker turned his attention to Eric Duff, my best friend and all that.

    Eric marched out to the front of the class and stood beside Mr. Trasker. He smiled sweetly up at our esteemed principal. He was far more intelligent than Trasker and we all knew it.

    “Good morning, Mr. Trasker and how are you today, sir?” The final “sir” was marginally unnecessary in my humble opinion but Trasker seemed to swell with pleasure, blissfully unaware of the subtle sarcasm that Eric Duff had cunningly disguised as politeness.

    “I’m very well, thank you, Eric. Thank you for asking. Now, do you have an engaging story start for us today?”
    “Oh yes, sir and I think you are going to like this one.”
    “I certainly hope so, Eric after some of the literary detritus that I have had to endure so far today.” He looked over at me. “ Let’s have it then,” Trasker suggested.
    Eric coughed to clear his throat. “ After years of abuse and mockery John Smelly changed his name and will now be known as Fred Smelly.”

    Well, some of us laughed and some didn’t because they didn’t get it. Eight year olds aren’t big on irony, whatever that is.
    Then the bell went and Trasker started to leave the room, still scratching his head. Not big on irony either, I guessed.

    Then he turned suddenly back to me.
    “What’s this little girl’s name, by the way, Entwhistle? You know, the one in your sentence. “
    I hadn’t thought about this and blurted out the first name that came into my head.
    “She’ called Garlic, sir.”
    “Garlic?” He glared at me as the class tittered.
    “Yes sir,” I added, “swallowed accidentally, of course.”
    1196 words

    • Ken F. I liked the way you took the prompt and used it to its fullest and then providing other prompts for future use. Instead of dealing with the prompt itself, you took an entirely, and unexpected, I might add, avenue. I’m going to have to start paying attention to the various ways we all think about prompts. Silly me, I took it at face value. You didn’t. I like that. Anyway, it was an interesting story. You kept my attention because I wanted to know what happened to the idiotic teacher that you painted so well as unlikeable. And, I liked your ending. I have no quibbles with your writing prowess, which is formidable, by the way. Have a great holiday.
    • Gently humorous story, Ken, and a sideways approach to the prompt. Maybe some old school memories informing the scene?

      I think you’ve done a great job of creating a childs-eye view – the teacher has a lesson he is trying to run but there are different perceptions from the children that subvert the lesson and turn the tables a little. And it’s very typical of kids to, as it were, gain some power in a powerless situation by focusing on some characteristics of the teacher and making those define him or her – maybe a nickname could also accompany such a breathtaking aspect of a teacher’s persona too.

      Clever tale and a fun read.

      • Hi Andy,

        Thanks for the comments. I was really scratching my head about this prompt but I was determined to go off at a tangent, so to speak and not follow a literal approach.

        After over 30 years in and around classrooms and school kids you are right about it drawing upon experience and memories of schooldays.

        I wish I had considered giving Trasker a nickname. However, in my experience, certainly with younger children, they were not very prolific or imaginative with nicknames. Secondary kids, now that’s a different story.

        My book group had to postpone our meeting to chat about Shades of Green due to holidays etc. More on this later and I will use the other contact you mentioned.


        Ken Frape.

    • Ken F.

      Wonderful story Ken. Made me laugh out loud (for real) several times at the ending, with a few residual chuckles afterwards while thinking about it. Brilliantly divergent approach to the prompt too. A really fun read. I loved the character’s names as well. (Whether intentional or not.) Trasker is so similar to ‘tasker.’ Entwhistle, Pikestaff, Earnshaw. One of several choice lines, ‘Eight year olds aren’t big on irony, whatever that is.’

      A really funny little story, very cleanly delivered.

      NIce going, Ken. There go my hopes of coming in fourth, yet again.

  • Memories Are Made Of This

    She was five when she accidentally swallowed her name. People accidentally swallow their name all the time, and there are those who do it on purpose. What happened to Anna, though, had never, ever happened to anyone else.

    Anna was a precocious child. Born a twin, her sister Tammy was stillborn. Devastated, her parents were determined Anna would be protected and cherished. Early on, her parents noticed her vocabulary was remarkable. She was articulate and learned to read at three. By the age of four, she had learned the name of every bone in the human body and could name individually, all of the United States.

    They often commented to themselves that she seemed to have the abilities of two children, but never mentioned that to Anna. Anna never knew she was born a twin.

    The incident about the name happened at Kindergarten during Show and Tell. When Anna found out the class was going to do Show and Tell, she was excited. She decided it would be about her puppy, Fluff.

    When her turn came, Anna proudly walked to the front of the class and turned around holding a picture of her new puppy. A sweet little Yorkshire Terrier, named Fluff. Anna told her mother that she thought Fluff was a perfect name for such a cute little girl dog. Mom agreed. Anna was precocious, but still a little five year old girl.

    As she stood in front of the class, the teacher said, tell us your name, and what you brought for Show and Tell. Anna giggled, and said, My name is … and that’s when her world suddenly crashed … even though she had her name right on the tip of her tongue; the A was at the very beginning and NNA stretched out the entire length all ready to be spoken.

    Nervously, she paused; her hands hot and sweaty, her mouth filling with saliva. Not wanting to spray spittle, she did the only natural thing; she swallowed. And with that swallow went her name, but more importantly, her memory went with it. She stammered.

    The teacher noticing her discomfort, said, “Go ahead my dear, tell us your name. If the teacher had used her name, it might have helped, but alas, she didn’t. Anna froze and started to cry. “I can’t remember my name,” she sobbed.

    “Of course you can,” said the teacher. “It’s Anna. Now you say it and go ahead with your story.” Annabella looked down at her picture. “My name is … ummm … this is a dog,” she said. “A puppy, but that’s all I know. Can I sit down now?”

    “Maybe that’s best,” said Mrs. Worthingham, although Anna couldn’t have spoken the teacher’s name. Her memory for names and recent events had totally escaped her mind.

    After class was dismissed for recess, Anna was asked to stay. She totally ignored her teacher and was walking out with the class for recess, when the teacher gently took her by the arm and pulled her aside. “I’ve called your Mom and Dad and they are coming to pick you up, so I’m taking you to the Principal’s office.

    When she saw her parents, Anna showed no signs of recognition. Her mother rushed to her and hugged her. “Are you OK?” Her mother was wringing her hands nervously.

    “Yes, I’m OK. Who are you,” asked Anna.

    “I’m Mommy and this is Daddy,” her mother said, then burst into tears.

    Her father took Anna’s hand, “The principal told us what happened and we’re going to do everything we can to find out what we can do to help.”

    The doctors were mystified. Other than a brain bleed, which an MRI ruled out, and a traumatic injury which hadn’t occurred, Anna showed all the classic symptoms of Aphasia – short term memory loss including names of people, places and pets – but not common place items. Anna knew what a spoon and fork were, and how they were used. She knew her dog was a puppy, but not that it was a Yorkshire Terrier, or that it was named Fluff.

    The days dragged on. Every morning when Anna would get up, she would look at her mirror. In bright red lipstick, Mom had written; YOUR NAME IS ANNA. YOU ARE FIVE YEARS OLD. GET DRESSED AND COME DOWNSTAIRS FOR BREAKFAST. Anna would then dress herself and get ready for the day.

    Her mother was always up waiting for her. “Good morning, Anna,” her mother would say. “Are you hungry?”

    This morning Anna answered, “Yes, I am and I would like cereal. The chocolate kind. May I have those, please?” Anna’s manners were impeccable, as if a ‘manners’ switch had been tripped. “Where’s the man who lives here?” asked Anna.

    Her mother’s heart cracked just a little bit more. “Daddy’s at work.” The burden she had been carrying for the past few months weighed heavily on her.

    Anna didn’t go to school at first, but other than not remembering names and places, Anna was fine in all other aspects; so she went back, everyone hoping for the best.

    Her interaction with the other children was normal, although she couldn’t call them by name. They would play games together and giggle like other little girls and boys. Anyone watching wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary about Anna.

    Evenings were spent working with Anna looking at family photographs. Trying to find the right memory that might trigger Anna into remembering who she was. They would show Anna a photo and they would ask her, “Do you remember this?”

    “Yes,” she would say. “I’m swimming.”

    “Do you know where you are swimming?”

    “Yes, in the water.” Then she would look at them oddly. “Why would you ask that?”

    “We thought you might remember it was the Atlantic Ocean. It was when we visited Grandma and Grandpa.”

    “Are they the old people in the photo?”

    The parents would just look at each other, tears welling in their eyes, and shake their heads.

    One afternoon, Anna’s mother got a call from the school. “Anna has fallen from the monkey bars and is unconscious. The paramedics are taking her to Mercy General.”

    Anna’s mother called her husband who told her to meet him at the hospital. As they entered Anna’s room, she looked totally normal. There was a slight contusion on her forehead, but otherwise, she looked like she was peacefully sleeping.

    Her father touched her hand, and leaned over to kiss her. Anna opened her eyes after the kiss and looked into her father’s eyes. “Hi, Daddy,” she said. “Where am I?”

    Her father pulled back, surprised, but regained his composure. He looked at his wife who was smiling. “You know who we are?”

    “Don’t be silly, Daddy. Yes, I know who you and Mommy are.”

    “You’re in the hospital. You fell off the monkey bars at school and they brought you here.”

    “That’s funny, The last thing I remember is being in Show and Tell.”

    “Then you remember your name?” her father asked tentatively.

    “Oh, Daddy! How could I forget my name is Tammy?”

    • Hi Roy,

      I hope I haven’t left it too late to post this comment on your story.

      It was a really good read and it certainly used the prompt effectively. I found it avery difficult one as my “don’t always follow the rules” spirit asserted itself and the result was “Garlic.”

      I really hoped Anna was going to return to “normal” and I was pleased but not surprised when I read that she had a knock to her head. The human brain is an impossible riddle isn’t it?

      Thank goodness!


      Ken Frape.

      • Thanks, Ken F. I had a really difficult time with this prompt. I finally ran out of time. This was my third attempt, each one different from the others. Since writing it, I figured out a way to not telegraph the twin thing so vividly, but overall, I was happy with a good story. I’m so happy I’m able to put sentences and paragraphs together, although the Chemo Fog still persists from time to time.
        • Hi Roy,

          Can’t imagine how difficult it must be to write anything when going through your treatment.

          Hang in there as your stories are always well worth reading.


          Ken Frape.

    • Hi Roy – as always, a smoothly and well-written story that carried me along, wanting to know how things would end. A bit twilight-zonish with the knowledge from the start of the dead twin and the development of strange psychological phenomena.
      I was, and I think still am, a bit puzzled as to the whys of what happened happening like it did … but a compelling read all the same
      • I actually knew someone with aphasia and I drew from that experience. They finally came out of it, but it took a long time. It wasn’t a traumatic event that cured it, but a serious sickness from something else, and while the doctors never figured it out, they suspect it was one of the pain killers that fixed things. Thanks for your comments, Andy. BTW we need to chat.
        • @Roy: “BTW we need to chat”
          Sounds serious.
          Ominous, even ….
    • Hey Roy,
      I’m going to be brutally frank with you. That’s what I do, and one of the many reasons why people hate me so gleefully. (That, and my inferiority complex, and my corrugated personality complex.) But enough about me and my disorders, this is about your story. Which is excellent, by the way. A wonderfully unique and very creative approach to the prompt. The writing is great, except for the dialogue of the parents, especially near the end. It doesn’t sound realistic. Starting with: ‘The principal told us what happened…” I think a more realistic phrase would be something less technical and more reassuring to a five-year old. Like, “Everything’s going to be fine, honey. Mommy and Daddy are going to take good care of you. (That’s not great either, but you get the idea.) You’re a parent for God’s sake, you can do this!

      Also, (objectivity is so much easier when ‘the object’ belongs to someone else) Also, I would suggest a little more subtlety about the issue of her birth as a twin. I realize it must be broached, but…

      This paragraph is a bit of a give-away. “They often commented to themselves that she seemed to have the abilities of two children, but never mentioned that to Anna. Anna never knew she was born a twin.” (I hadn’t figured it out, but I was already suspicious.) But that’s not that big of a deal.

      The story is (as I think Andy suggested,) Twilight Zone-ish? Which, surely is a good thing. One other thing you might think about. A false ending. Where you lead the reader to believe its a normal amnesia story and then the real reveal. Know what I mean? (She goes home, she’s playing in the living room, her mom calls her. She doesn’t respond, mom goes to check on her, why didn’t you answer?
      ‘You weren’t talking to me.”
      “Yes I was…”
      Etc., Etc., Etc…

      Fabulous plot. You could do several things with this story, I think. Or leave it as it is. Your writing, other than those few snippets of parental dialogue, (I’m not even a parent Roy, I mean, come on.) is really polished. The exposition, and most of the dialogue is really well-written, and it’s a great plot, and ending. Want more?
      Don’t pay any attention to Andy’s confusion. He wrote an entire ‘quintology’ (is that even a word? I don’t know…) He wrote an entire ‘sexology’ whose main character was a talking cat. Said character’s name currently slips my mind. So he’s got a lot of nerve claiming to be, ‘a bit puzzled as to the whys of what happened happening…’ Now imagine a talking cat saying that to you. Doesn’t sound very serious now, does it. Once you add the cat to the equation, It distills the gravitas down into a small cube of something edible. (Which you can also smoke, if you choose.)

      Actually, he did write a story or two about a cat that talked, I think, and it was really entertaining. So much so that I was eager to suspend disbelief. I would read it again. I’m thinking of buying his other book, (which he really ought to gift to me, considering who I am not, that being someone who has read the damned book.) But that’s the way Andy is, selfish. I’m sure you’re aware of that. (You’re the one who told me.) Look at the way he’s taken over this conversation and he’s not even involved. What nerve!

      Okay well I gotta go vote now. But never let it be said, Roy, that if Amy’s comments are longer than mine, that I didn’t go down without a serious, bloviating fight, by God.

  • Not getting much internet time, still haven’t read the last seven or eight stories yet. So, no comments. May not have time before the vote tomorrow. But I’ve downloaded them and will read them tonight.
  • Much the same from me as life has been busy and I am about to go on holiday. I will try to post a comment about every story asap and certainly before the end of voting.

    I have reposted my story, now called Garlic and, unusually, have not yet had ang comments posted back. Original story was posted more than a week ago. Is this a technical issue or perhaps it is areflection on the quality of my writing…..surely not!!!

    Ken Frape

    • Working my way down, Ken … I’ll get there!
    • Ken F.
      Definitely not a reflection on your writing skills. Which are excellent. (Trust me on this.) I think it’s more a reflection of the level of participation and commitment of the other writers and contributors. (And some folks are a bit shy, and reticent to analyse and critique.) It’s nice to see so many story posts, and for what I’ve insisted is a difficult prompt. (It’s amazing what ends the universe will go to, just to prove me wrong about something. Me and the universe have ongoing issues, especially the part where, at the end of the story, I get re-absorbed. And the universe gets to keep going for another seven or eight billion years. I hate that part.)
      I’m thinking of changing my name, to Smell, Kenny.
      • Hi Ken C,

        For the first time since I joined in with this happy band of writers, I really couldn’t think of what to write in response to this particular prompt. I scratched my head for a few days then spent a few more removing the splinters from my fingers before my true nature came bubbling to the surface…..”find a way to subvert the prompt….don’t be literal….find another way…..and then I got an idea and Garlic was born. Of course, thirty-five years in and around schools gave me a bagful of ammo.

        I can’t take any special credit for this in that I have been astonished to read other people’s stories and thought, “Damn, that’s really good…why didn’t I think of that?”

        I was also surprised by the amount of time it takes to read EVERY story and give each the time and consideration they deserve. This site would be nothing without that sense of sharing and critical analysis.

        I have been wondering for some time if you should consider putting together a collection of your critiques, “The World According to Cartisano,” or something similar. I ‘ll let you make the final choice. Seems only fair!


        Ken Frape.

        • Ken2 F.,

          I think the most remarkable aspect of this little ‘writing node,’ is the creative resourcefulness of the writers, and the variety of stories created from a few simple words or phrases.

          Now, as to that Collection of Critiques, I’m thinking, ‘The Word, According To Kens. Really Ken1,
          …and occasionally Ken2. But not that much, mostly just Ken1.
          You Call Yourself A Reader? A collection of humble critiques by one of the world’s leading experts on literature and modesty. (Brought to you in one compelling and convenient volume.)
          With Preface, by Ken Frape.

          That’s where you praise me or my story, or talk about yourself for three pages. Either way. It’s okay. It’s not like anyone’s going to read it, or the book. But its a great idea. Like the Hindenburg. Remember that? The two ideas are similar in value, as far as (what’s the word I’m looking for?) …disasters go. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the idea, Ken. Even if it is a bit impractical. Either way, I certainly appreciate your vote of confidence Ken, no matter how misplaced it is.

          • Hi Ken,
            Definitely Ken 1 today.!!!
            Great story, you got my vote.


            Ken frape.

      • Hi Kens

        I agree this was a very difficult prompt. But interesting to see how it has sparked the creativity to deliver so many good stories.
        Funnily enough, on rereading them all, I kind of felt that most of them would actually be better stories with a different first line. Like, having got the concept, some variation would serve the story better. But that’s just me. I’m not sure how one would set up a vanishing first-line prompt.

        It really does take a very long time to read them all and comment, doesn’t it? Which is why I’m not able to take part so often. (Unless I stop working. Which has it’s attractions, though poverty is the main drawback.) But it’s good fun, and rewarding, when i do take part. (Just everything else piles up around me …)
        And reading the comments of others is half the fun/interest. Hopefully more folk will do so as they settle in and get to know everyone.


        • Andy,

          Your optimism cracks me up. You need to be more pessimistic. I will help you with that. And what’s with your aversion to poverty? Are you British or something? Poverty’s not so bad. Ask any American. They’ll tell ya. After you get off their ‘friggin’ lawn. Which is about the size of a taco, after taxes.

          Optimism…. What’s so good about it?

          • I once shared a platform with a guy called Oliver Burkeman who is an expert in the power of negative thinking. (Yes, it was a railway platform, they wouldn’t let us on stage for fear of depressing everyone. And that phrase they use at Tube stations, ‘Move right down to the end of the platform’ was coined for us, even though that was an almost empty station).

            Seriously, he has a book called: “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”. It changed my life, and can change yours too.

            And anyway, what is there to to be optimistic about right now? The UK is about to be set adrift in the Atlantic, cut off from Europe, and the guy who’s about to be crowned prime minister was born in New York. It’s true. Optimism will be compulsory in Brexit Britain,though we’ll all be poorer, and I’ve got nowhere to run to now that the American rebels have stolen all our planes and the moon bases (according to Alice), and everything.

            Actually, I once wrote a steampunk short about the (almost) Revolutionary War. That was more upbeat (from a George III point of view). Had some real science and even real people in it too. I was momentarily happy in this alternative reality.

            Hence the talking cats. (As above)

            Whisky helps, too. (That’s not a cat’s name, btw, I’m talking Scotch, some serious malt.)

  • Carrie Zylka

    Hey all, I updated the stories in BLUE to hopefully make it easier to find/read as there are so many stories.
    If it makes it harder just let me know!

    • That does help! Thanks 🙂
      (Though at first I thought something was up with my phone!)
    • Carrie,
      Making the stories blue is a wonderful idea, its very helpful and works great! Thank you! 🙂
      • I voted and it’s been one of the hardest voting jobs I’ve ever done. It really pissed me off that I couldn’t get more votes in. I put in my boat and I re-read some of the stories and thought no I should change that, and then I thought no they’re good stories to and I almost had a nervous breakdown trying to vote 😩- too many good stories to choose from and not enough votes. I think we should just grade them like in school okay we’ve got 10 a pluses to eighties and five a minuses. This is been a top class writing exercise. And I’m sorry I haven’t commented but I’m doing it on my phone and a real pain in the butt with the small keyboard.
        • Please excuse the bad grammar in my last comment. It’s voice to text, after my voting dilemma I am emotionally spent. Shattered rather and too many stories to read and vote on.🙏😩
    • It makes it harder.
      Wait…what are we talking about?
    • Adrienne Riggs
      The blue was great! It did help! Thanks
  • Phil Town
    Time seemed to evaporate this week, so I couldn’t post any comments – soz!
    (But I have read all the stories and voted, and I agree with Wendy – tough!)
    • Hey folks, I am out of the home office now, so the results and the new prompt will be up in a few hours. Thanks for your patience.
  • Alice Nelson


    First Place: The Bombastic Duke Of Killingham County by Ken Cartisano

    2nd Place: Swallow by Andy Lake
    3rd Place: Three Names Has the Fox by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    4th Place: What’s in a Name by Phil Town
    5th Place: She Forgot to Remember by Ilana L
    6th Place: Wee Poloka by Adrienne Riggs
    7th Place: Spirit by notrat
    8th Place: Memories Are Made Of This by RM York
    9th Place: Garlic by Ken Frape
    10th Place: A Hooker Named Hailey by Ken Miles
    11the Place: Shhhh by M Costa
    12th Place: NoName by berlinermax
    13th Place: Lost and Found by Amy Lynn Raines
    14th Place: The Power of a Name by C N Wilder
    15th Place: The Flavor Of A Name by Promise

    Favorite Character: “The Duke” from The Bombastic Duke Of Killingham County by Ken Cartisano
    Character Dialogue: Lost and Found by Amy Lynn Raines

    Congratulations Ken C (Ken the First)!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    • Congratulations Ken C! Well deserved!
      Congratulations to everyone, there were so many wonderful stories it was extremely hard to choose a favorite! 🙂
      • Thank you Amy,

        Since you just joined, and have already won, you may not fully realize it yet, but your first place finish last week was quite an achievement. Normally, it is my practice to tease, (and let’s be honest, harass) the other writers, but only after they’ve been around awhile, and have won the contest.

        You haven’t been around long, but you’ve already won the contest, so, I’ve been giving you the treatment that I tend to reserve for more seasoned contributors. Hope you don’t mind. (It’s an honor, if you think about it, but don’t think to long.)

        To be honest though, I love your positive attitude, your honesty and especially your candor; and I appreciate your cheerful words of optimism and encouragement. (Don’t tell anyone, but under my cloak of abject pessimism, I’m an optimist too.)

    • Well congratulations, Ken. You found the croc of gold!

      And to all for interesting/captivating/entertaining stories.

      Seems to be my bridesmaid season (how does that work?).
      Happy to be in bridesmaid position for Ken … not sure where I’m going with this, so I’ll stop. 🙂

      • Andy baby,

        Tough break, buddy. (Bridal buddy? I can match you weird for weird anytime, pal.) Your story was better written than mine. I admit it. At first, I had it in 5th place, because I didn’t fully understand it’s meaning. It was a little vague. But when I got to the Favorite Character choice. Your character was best, really good in fact, and the story was the character. So after putting her name in the character box, I went back up and raised your story two places, to third. Then, after a moment or two I thought, ‘no, it’s better than that,’ and pushed it up to second place. But that was as far as it went.

        If I had raised it to first place, I’ll bet you would have won.

        You can blame Ken Frape for that. His story had multiple characters and they all made me laugh. (Apparently, only a minority shared my sense of appreciation for it.) I can still remember most of his character’s names.

        However, their was one story (from C.N. Wilder) about the small animals who get their wings and names and all the characters and places had the funniest, mostly unpronounceable names. I don’t remember a single name, but it was a funny, fantastical story. I would have ranked in it sixth or seventh, but others had it ranked in 14th.

        A couple of stories, like ‘A Hooker Named Haily’ and ‘Shhhh’ had unique and creative approaches to the prompt but didn’t translate into more votes. Their brilliant plots were hard to like because they were so troubling. Somehow, your story avoided a similar fate.

        I wish I’d had more time to comment on all of the stories I read last week, but that’s life.

        It was a tough prompt.

    • Congratulations Ken C 🙂 and every one who participated amazing stories
    • Phil Town
      Congratulations, Ken … and all!
    • Ken Miles
      Well done Ken C. and your Duke – one of my fave stories this week too 🙂

      And thumbs up to all the rest, as well – lots of unique and memorable stories there. It looks like the more challenging the prompt is the more the creative juices flow. As the contrary also happens in the opposite scenario: those writing contests that blandly say “write about anything”…

    • Congrats Ken C! This one was so hard to choose – so many great stories!
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Congrats Ken C.!! Great work. Congrats to all. We had so many great stories. I wish I’d had more time to comment on all of them. On to the next ….
  • Original Version:
    I doubt anyone will flash back to this page to read it after the contest so it’s safe to comment now. Wow. My story title, and my name, sitting up there in bold print, on top of that long list of excellent writers: That feels great.

    It’s been a while. With the current crop of new and seasoned writers, it ain’t getting any easier to finish in the top five, let alone number one. (I think I finished 7th out of 11 stories last week.)

    Edited Version:
    The fact that I beat all of you collectively in one contest is more satisfying than writing a good story. (I’ve got plenty of good stories, but a win here lately is a significant achievement.)

    And no slight is intended toward the newcomers, all of whom are quite talented, but there are some of you who’ve been writing for as long or longer than I have. (You know who you all are.) It feels great to beat you guys and gals for a change. And, in the process, I got to read some great writing and some entertaining stories.

    Thanks to one and all for the votes.

    • Well done everyone in helping to boost that Cartisano chap’s much needed self-confidence. Poor chap, it’s the least we can do in the circumstances. Don’t tell him what we did, he doesn’t need to know We accept that most of his problems are not his fault ( even some of the more serious stuff that I feel I must mention here but not go into any great detail. You’re all writers anyway, so make up your own!)

      I’m not sure what he’s on but there are occasions when I think, “I could do with some of that, whatever it is,” and other occasions when I think the opposite. That’s the problem with being so Libran, just can’t make up my mind, some of the time, anyway.

      I don’t feel the need to apologize (with a z?) for the number of letter Ls we use or letter Is come to that here in the civilised world ( ha! Brexit and Boris and Farage apart. If only!!!) . What with the Greeks moaning about their Marbles and our questionable colonial past, don’t you think we have enough to worry about?

      Oh and about the Ken’s. There have been some rumours ( UK spelling here) about the sudden appearance of all these Ken’s. I feel I have to speak out on behalf of us and suggest that this website needed the additional charisma that a Ken always brings to any event. You wait until the other five join. It’ll be a complete takeover and long overdue.

      Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken Ken! I can hear that chants now.!

      Happy writing everyone,


      Ken Frape.

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