September 16 – September 29, 2021 Writing Prompt “Dominoes”

Theme: Dominoes

A story in which cause and effect are quite central to the plot. Perhaps something bad ends up leading to a good outcome after all. Or the opposite. Or to something surprising. There may be a case of “the butterfly effect” too, where the slightest of things causes disproportional consequences. One of the characters buying a pizza from Domino’s doesn’t count.

Requirements:

  • Somewhere in the text there should be the phrase: “One thing leads to another, and…”

Word Count: 1,200

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The writing prompt for September 30, 2021, will be chosen by Marien Oommen.

78 thoughts on “September 16 – September 29, 2021 Writing Prompt “Dominoes”

  • September 16, 2021 at 11:08 am
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    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let Carrie know she somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, there is only one moderator, and she is not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

    Reply
    • September 20, 2021 at 1:21 pm
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      Signing in to read more great stories!

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 6:42 am
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    Signing in … gotta run, my domino shipment just arrived..

    Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 11:14 am
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    Chain Reactions and Chain Smoking
    By Rumplefinkies
    Word Count: 1,002

    They say that we are all just characters in Vishnu’s dream. If that is true, then what the hell is he dreaming about? Why would a god like that dream of a dope like me? Must be a nightmare.

    But it was just one of those random thoughts that flits across my mind’s eye. I didn’t really care at that moment in time because I had been dreaming of only one thing for weeks. I tossed the hot pistol into the sink and walked out onto the veranda, not bothering to shut the door behind me.
    
    I lit a cigarette and took a long, blissful drag just for me. There was no posturing like Bogart against the skyline and waxing suave. Not this time.
    
    The buildings still twinkled and loomed enticingly, but now I saw them for the lemon tress that they were: impossible to eat. Cardboard constructs designed to impress. Like those models in the backgrounds of old movies.
    
    But this cigarette was "realer" than anything in the Universe. If Vishnu really was dreaming, I prayed that he wouldn’t have to piss until I was down to the filter.
    
    “You didn’t light one for me.”
    
    That raspy voice startled me. I won’t lie. I figured she would shoot me five minutes ago. When she didn’t, I figured she would just scram. Why was she lingering?
    
    Men were supposed to lean into the night air over the railing and say something impactful in these types of situations, and then the saxophone starts up, and blah blah blah.
    
    Yeah right. This ain’t that world. This one is in color and the dialogue is only as good as you make it.
    
    “This is my last one”.
    
    “Don’t give me that line. You killed what, seven men in there? Not one of them had a pack of smokes on ‘em?”
    
    This, dare I say it, “dame” continued to surprise me with the scandalous way her mind worked.
    
    “Do you take me for the kind that loots corpses for a cowboy killer or two? That hurts! Why don’t you just shoot me? Besides, I also meant that this is the last one I will ever smoke.”
    
    She did a double-take and tightened her grip on the sawed-off shotgun.
    
    “Now I’m the one insulted. You’re no quitter. You will smoke until the day you die.”
    
    “Which seems awful close from this end of the barrel. I’m going cross-eyed, can you back up with that? Look. I’m tired of banter and – screw it.”
    
    I jumped. That’s right. You thought I would leap or dive or begin a graceful plummet, but I just jumped.
    
    And do you know what she did? She finally pulled the trigger.
    
    Maybe I shocked her so bad that her finger spasmed, but I doubt it. I think that it was fully intentional. Scratch that. I know it pissed her off. The thought of me escaping into the arms of Death unscathed was too much for her. I’d bet my hat on it.
    
    And she probably would have kept firing too, if I didn’t take her shells with me!
    
    It gave me a little laugh on the way down. I could see her in my head, patting her pockets frantically and wondering how I had managed to lift them off her like the nimblest of pickpockets, all while my body shrank to a pinpoint of black in the blacker abyss of a sleeping city.
    
    She plugged me good though. Right in the gut. I probably should’ve tried to be more evasive, but I’m no gymnast. I took solace in the fact that she missed my precious coffin nail (and my lungs and all the other necessary equipment with which to enjoy it), but I was distracted by the whole ground thing.
    
    Where was it anyway? The lack of cement against my face defied my understanding of Newtonian physics. I squinted into the inky darkness and marveled at my extended journey down.
    
    What is more, my cherry was still intact! Little pieces of it were breaking off like debris from a shooting star and streaking past my face, but it maintained a beautiful point and stayed on. Stranger still, my cigarette was still the same length as when I started.
    
    That finally broke my suspension of disbelief like nothing could. Zombies, Bigfoot, and flying pigs? Sure, they were not impossible. But cigarettes have a way of falling apart on you when you need them most, and this one was uncharacteristically stalwart.
    
    I awoke from the simulation and recalled everything. I was in a cigulation, the greatest invention of the 21st century, and I entered of my own volition. 
    
    Some call them "pipe dreams", but since I prefer cancer sticks, I go with the clunky fusion of “cigarette” and “simulation”. It makes more sense.
    
     A private setting for me to enjoy all the fun of smoking my favorite brand without yellow teeth, halitosis, burned clothes, and …damn. I know that I am forgetting some other drawbacks too.
    
    The tough guy act, the mindless violence, and the annoying femme fatale designed for perverted noir fans? Perks, I guess. But not for me. Blood makes me queasy and I’m into guys.
    
     I just come here for the smokes.
    
    Funny. My mom always said that smoking was a gateway drug. 
    
    That I had started a chain reaction that would bring me to pot, then crack or meth or heroin or something.
    
    One thing leads to another and... 
    
    She was right about the next link in the chain. I’ll give her that. But I moved on and I skipped all those hard drugs to settle on “or something”.
    
    The neural interface fits comfortably, like a well-worn fedora that remembers every contour of my head. The buzz is always perfect. It never makes me dizzy or nauseous, but it feels exactly like the first cigarette every time.
    
    And the best part, for a paranoid germaphobe like me, is this: I never have to take off my mask.
    


    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 9:58 pm
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      This was so witty and imaginative. I loved the riffs on old movies too. Didn’t get the Pratchett refs I’m afraid, I was in the Adams camp it it was very much a Blur/Oasis thing when I was reading them! Maybe I should give him a go now I’m all mature.

      Reply
      • September 22, 2021 at 8:22 am
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        I loved the Hitchhiker books, but I never knew about all his other work! That is another set of books I need to track down. Oh yeah, TP is definitely akin. Lol Oasis – they said they would be the next Beatles. I like a couple of their songs still, my taste is all over the place and my playlists are crazy.

        Thank you for inflating my ego more (you are feeding a monster)!

        Reply
      • September 22, 2021 at 4:27 pm
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        Oh man my wife reminded me that I like Blur too, I just didn’t recognize them by name! I know their “woo hoo” song and I know that one of them ended up in the band “Gorillaz”, which I really like.

        It is awful handy to have someone to tell me what I like and don’t like, because I can’t keep names or faces straight to save my life. There is a lot of “Oh yeah baby what is the name of that one guy in that one movie with (insert actor)?”

        And she somehow figures out what I am talking about 99% of the time.

        Reply
    • September 25, 2021 at 9:28 pm
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      Surprised by the way you interpreted the prompt. Well done. I do enjoy your words, I like the direction they take. The inner dialogue is great, everyone does it, in real life, so why not our characters. We make them real and believable.
      The reference to history and pop culture are wonderful, again we all know them and can relate to them when others speak or act that way. Well done.

      Reply
    • September 30, 2021 at 6:12 am
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      Hey Rumples, this is good, real good! I loved the noir-feel, the cynical urban setting, the cultural references… and the suggestion that the whole thing is (possibly) inside god Vishnu’s Dream (called Virtual Reality, in more modern terms, as we get to know by the end of your piece: that’s a masterful stroke of foreshadowing, the Vishnu bit (for those who want to see it the way I do).

      I’m pleased that my prompt in some small way gave rise to this little big gem of yours. Together with Roy (for the inspiration you talked about) and Cartisano (for the “bet my hat on it” contribution), it’s good to think I may have had a little hand in this story too!

      And you didn’t need to worry about the three-dot triplets! They weren’t intended to be reproduced literally (or dottily, shall I say?) – they simply meant: “…and continue this sentence in any way your heart desires”, or “et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.”

      There are numerous great lines in your story. These ones coming up are for keeps, my top faves:

      Why would a god like that dream of a dope like me?
      I lit a cigarette and took a long, blissful drag just for me. There was no posturing like Bogart against the skyline and waxing suave. Not this time.
      The buildings still twinkled and loomed enticingly, but now I saw them for the lemon trees that they were: impossible to eat. Cardboard constructs designed to impress.
      Men were supposed to lean into the night air over the railing and say something impactful in these types of situations, and then the saxophone starts up.
      “You’re no quitter. You will smoke until the day you die.”
      I took solace in the fact that she missed my precious coffin nail
      I squinted into the inky darkness and marveled at my extended journey down.
      But cigarettes have a way of falling apart on you when you need them most, and this one was uncharacteristically stalwart.

      But the lines in between where almost all just as great (just that I didn’t want to re-paste your whole story here!)

      When the cigulation bit came up, explaining what was going on, I was somewhat disappointed for a brief instant – oh, it’s one of those marvelous stories that then end up being just a dream the character was having… But as I read on, the ideao of “cigulation” got retro-integrated into the story well-enough to make it sound very convincing. And then the mask bit at the end gave the whole thing that humorous punch (and a feel of contemporariness, rooted in our times).

      Well done!
      Ken

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 11:34 am
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    A few things before I buzz off.

    This one is for you Roy!

    The ellipses, the authorial intrusion (thanks for teaching me that btw), the poorly done first-person perspective, and the ending are all cherrypicked just for you!

    Just messing, I did it all because I can’t help myself, and I really did try to improve my dots (except for the triplet of dots that was in the prompt requirement, those stayed exactly the same because I didn’t want to get disqualified).

    I even stopped doing the whole demented monologue style that you dislike, but I will probably regress at some point soon.

    Terry Pratchett is my favorite author, may he rest in peace, and he does authorial intrusion better than anyone, which is probably why I do it. You have to be good to get away with it, so I am trying to hone it so it doesn’t hurt as badly. Curse him for making it look so easy!

    And my font and sizes being all weird and/or painful to read?

    That is because I am not using WordPress correctly. I haven’t even made a site and I didn’t try until just now, so I am not utilizing the tools at my disposal, just copying stuff from a Word document and slamming the space bar eight times to indent.

    I guess I thought that you guys were all coding wizards like Carrie and you were adding little slashes and back slashes everywhere to change font and colors! Are you? I feel dumb.

    I will work it out.

    Maybe even before the pandemic ends?

    And don’t none of y’all go changing yourself just for me.

    You have a good thing going, don’t let me “harsh your vibe”.

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 2:05 pm
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      I love Terry Pratchett too! Think his concept is brilliant of the Wee Free Men who assume they are living in heaven because everything they like is here. I also enjoyed the little people who lived in the department store who made a religion out of the marketing signs. Very enjoyable writing that had interesting concepts underlying…

      Reply
      • September 21, 2021 at 4:51 pm
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        OMG no way! I already liked you a lot because you are so unfailingly nice (suspiciously so), but now you have reached the highest pedestal in my eyes and proven that your taste is solid gold, just like your soul.

        I read the department store ones when I was 9 and I never remembered the name of the author! Then, as an adult, I rediscovered his work and started with the first Discworld book. I skipped around after that and now I have to go back and fill in all the gaps, which I look forward to doing over the course of my life.

        Yeah enjoyable and interesting, always funny, and sometimes really cool and hardcore, but then the jokes come and reel it back in whenever he gets too serious. Prone to digressions and talking to the camera, calling Death by his name like an old friend, and mocking just about everything there is in this world with a wit that is more than wicked.

        (I wish I could rock a hat like that)

        Is that where I get my fake British from? Or is it more like what happened with Madonna?

        Whatevs, thanks so much for that and your kind words that I don’t deserve!

        Reply
      • September 21, 2021 at 4:53 pm
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        I need to read those with the Wee Free Men, I must have skipped past them randomly.

        Reply
        • September 21, 2021 at 5:03 pm
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          That book is called Wee Free Men and it stars a witch named Tiffany Aching. It’s part of a five book series that is set in Discworld. It also includes a lovely concept where witches know the date of their death so their custom is to hold their wake before they die. I love that idea bc then you get to go to the party that truly is all about you.

          Reply
          • September 23, 2021 at 5:01 pm
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            I know I read Equal Rites and one of the other books with three of the witches doing the Trinity thing (maiden, mother, crone), but now I have no idea which one that was (and when I tried to look I almost ruined the plot for me lol). They kept meeting in a cave with a suspicious stalagmite? I think the Wee Free Men were in at least one of the books that I read, but I never read their debut book.

            I just read Night Watch and Small Gods most recently, but I have been reading them based on what is available at the library over the years and I bought Night Watch because my boss let us all get one free book at a store (when she was in a good mood).

            I saw a really cool little blog somewhere and it had this college student trying to analyze the perspective shifts that Terry Pratchett uses and when and why.

            I never thought about it that much, but this gentleman pointed out that he does this nifty thing where the “camera” is following one character in third person, then two people at the same time (when they are in the same scene), then the camera breaks away from the first character to follow the second to a new place.

            It is like there are these bridges that straddle and connect characters for a short duration.

            I think I absorbed that from TP and just took it as a normal thing that authors do, and now I am realizing that Douglas Adams does it too, and so does Stephen King from time to time (as Roy pointed out earlier). All my favs, but TP is still the King. He trumps King even, in my eyes, and I LOVED “Nightmares and Dreamscapes” and all the other collections of King shorts.

            And then there are the times when TP gives a humorous history lesson in a digression or there is a perspective from a nonsentient animal like a passing bird.

            OMG I just remembered “The Carpet People”!

            It is a collection of short stories that he wrote, some of them going back to the 60s I think, and I read the titular short story to my son when he was 4 and I thought it was like a precursor to the “Diggers” and “Truckers” books AND a little like the Wee Free Men parts that I read. It was so cool that I think I started to tear up, just like some Frank Baum short story collection that was so perfectly suited for reading to children that it overcame me!

            Short stories really are like hand grenades, but that metaphor is pretty messed up for describing something that brings me and others so much joy. I guess the ones that I am talking about are more like tear gas grenades.

          • September 23, 2021 at 8:41 pm
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            No, I got confused by my own tangent, authorial intrusion is what those three authors do, not cool perspective bridges. I think I thought I wrote that, but it was just in my head, so I skipped the pertinent part and just babbled some incoherence again.

            Sorry.

    • September 22, 2021 at 10:11 am
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      Rumple,

      Well, I’m not sure where to begin. If I had anything at all to do with this story, then I am flattered. It is, by far, the best thing you’ve ever submitted to this site, IMHO.

      I found some things, however, I won’t go into them as it would be taken as nitpicking, even though I think it would help this story be even better. They are small, and therefore shall go unsaid. If you would like to hear them, let me know. I will be glad to illuminate you with my take.

      You had me from start to finish and like Trish said, this story may be hard to beat. This group, however, is more than capable of writing excellent stories, so I’m sure there will be something to judge and have a toss up or two.

      I liked where you went with the prompt and loved the entire concept of being able to smoke without smoking. There have been innumerable stories about sex without real women, but stories about other ‘pleasures’ are far fewer, I think, and for that reason it feels fresh and new.

      The writing, with some minor exceptions, is excellent. Good job, Rumple, although I get this uneasy feeling we aren’t all ‘quite’ square yet.

      Roy

      Reply
      • September 22, 2021 at 4:45 pm
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        Nonsense! We are totally square! I think I gave you centipede dilemma and I am really sorry!

        I wanted to quote something I heard about Humphrey Bogart being a pike in the pond at the palace of Versailles because he keeps all the other fish healthy by hunting them and stopping them from getting lazy, but I don’t want you to think that I am calling you a fish lol, and you are not predatory or mean, and that is just a weird metaphor now that I think about it.

        But you definitely have helped me, just look at the one about the little girl and the comet from a few months ago!

        I am more than a little manic depressive I think, and that comment I made before was the coiled snake in my chest striking the first thing that moved.

        Besides, I really do attribute this one to you.

        I was going to post another one and I stopped and told myself that I could do better, I could hear the comments in my head hehe.

        So don’t feel scared to give me the good criticism that is heavier handed, I can take it now and I think I have shored up all the holes in this dragon’s armor.

        😀

        Reply
        • September 27, 2021 at 12:06 pm
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          Rumple,

          OK lad, I’ll take your word that were square. It’s interesting that I reread my Pink Martini story and as I looked at the last line, realized it is totally author intrusion, although it is written in the first person, I feel it is author intrusion because of the way I phrased it. If you reread it, you’ll see.

          When I critique, I tend to critique those things I see that I do and I know shouldn’t be done. But enough about author intrusion. If it’s good enough for your man TP and others, and my guy, Stephen King, then what the hell, let’s just go for it. Author intrusion for all, I say. You’re the writer. Write it your way! damn straight.

          However, I will continue to nitpick, just so you know.

          Roy

          Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 11:37 am
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    And crap.

    I stole the phrase “I would bet my hat on it” from you, Mr. Cartisano.

    There is your influence again …I swear that it wasn’t deliberate.

    I was going to add “if it didn’t blow off halfway down” or something cute like that, oh well.

    Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 11:39 am
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    And if you don’t like this one, don’t read a word of my next one!

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 2:00 pm
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      Rumple- I. Loved. Your. Story. The last line was perfection in today’s society. I liked the noir-ish aspects. I thought your plot was clever and surprising and fresh. Simply loved it. Think this one’ll be hard to beat!

      Reply
  • September 21, 2021 at 1:25 pm
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    Carrie, hope you’re feeling better.

    Reply
    • September 21, 2021 at 6:35 pm
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      Thank you – I feel 1000X better!

      Reply
      • September 22, 2021 at 10:08 pm
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        Good Carrie. Continue on the path of good health and etc. We missed you!

        Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 9:29 am
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    I have another story and I need guinea pigs for it. Sorry in advance!

    It is a monologue, but there are no moments where someone else is speaking and it is redacted. You know, those times where you have to guess what the other person is saying and it is sometimes funny (but usually just frustrating)? A true monologue? I got to research these things more.

    It was the first story that I was going to use for this prompt, and I don’t think that the stone that the builder rejected is the cornerstone this time!

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 10:14 am
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    Fallow Your Dreams
    By Rumplefinkies
    Word Count: 1,200

    I used to be jealous of all those dead people who got their true fame posthumously: Dickinson, Toole, Poe, Van Gogh, Otis Redding, …hell, even that prolific racist Lovecraft got his spotlight.

    Sure, they never got to know exactly how much the world loved their work, but fame came.

    Late is better than never.

    Wouldn’t it be swell to sprinkle your work around like so many seeds, pop into a time capsule, wait a century, and then emerge to see if anything has taken root? Would you find a few scraggly flowers here and there, or a verdant forest of towering blooms?

    Maybe the timing just isn’t right in your era? Maybe the “confederacy of dunces”, as Toole said, is holding you back?

    Or maybe it takes at least a century for the ideas you present to disperse and percolate? “The gestation of genius is grueling”, or so my boss used to say.

    He found a way to do exactly what you and I fantasize, and he did it way before he hired me on. The time capsule bit, I mean.

    It was a long and painsta – arduous process, but it eventually dawned on him that the hive mind of humanity is lethargic and in need of a protracted adjustment period for new ideas …though he would not appreciate my use of the “d” word.

    He achieved great success with his creation of the Eleusinian Mysteries, and this elated him for some time. Then, a little later, a great bulk of his work was lost in the gradual deterioration and eventual destruction of the Library of Alexandria. The rest? They were lost in the sacking of Rome. Of course, that was before he refined his techniques and formulated a new strategy: using the oral tradition.

    One of my employer’s famous experiments in the diaspora of revolutionary ideas ended so badly that we all know of it, but very little of the knowledge he dispensed. You see, over the centuries he gathered a plethora of practical remedies for all sorts of ailments. Using herbs and poultices derived from insects and amphibians, that sort of thing.

    He made pictorial guides that were handwritten on vellum scrolls and spread them all over Europe, making sure that plenty of midwives and healers got hold of them and knew how to utilize them properly. How ironically humanitarian.

    But he awoke to find that misogyny and religious fanaticism had reared its ugly head during his slumber. His “spell books” and their owners were being eradicated. He underestimated the fear of change.

    His healers and midwives had somehow been scapegoated, even though they offered medical salvation from the terrors of the Middle Ages. Reproductive rights and cures for disease were not valued yet, apparently. But he hoped the oral tradition would perpetuate his lifesaving secrets, and so he waited another hundred years to check.

    Into the ground he went.

    A century later, still no dice.

    It took only one more nap to figure out the pattern. The Church of those times was diametrically opposed to Science, Health, Discovery, and Happiness. This begot the aversion to crosses and churches, though trust me, you won’t find wafers or that fecal contamination that some call “holy water” useful in fighting him, not that the thought would ever cross your mind.

    So, my esteemed Master took a break from trying to play “misfit messiah” and just took some time to reflect and chill. He temporarily broke schedule and took advantage of the violence and turmoil of the Renaissance. The lack of understanding of almost anything made it easy to kill and feed and learn vicariously.

    Master grew to love a sky blackened from war, for it meant easy pickings.

    But when he awoke in the 1700s, the sky was black for another reason. The Earth was being poisoned, and change was suddenly coming too quickly for Master, quite ironically. He worried what it would be like in another century. How many naps did he have left? So off to the New World it was to sleep, begrudgingly. I suppose he thought the unspoiled land would be resistant to the pollution and decay of the Old World.

    The 1800s brought him hope. People were sort of coming around. Slaves were being freed, though there was plenty of resistance. Master even saw positive change coming for other disparaged groups.

    Looming on the horizon.

    “A chain reaction will ensue”, or so he told himself as he shut his coffin.

    But the 1960s showed how far humanity had come while still not having anything near to Liberty or Freedom. A rare deluge of tears fell as he wept for King. Another when he saw us reach the moon. Would he awake to a planet devoid of sustenance? Would we move on to greener pastures and leave him and his ideas behind?

    Did we even need him anymore? Did we ever?

    Whatever happened, the next awakening would surely yield huge strides for Humanity!

    Master couldn’t wait a century and exploded out of his tomb in 2019. He should have dallied a smidge longer.

    Let me tell you, he was pissed. Still no impressive progress with civil rights, for one. What was the point of the 1860s and the 1960s? Keep in mind, they were only a few years ago on his ineffable schedule!

    People’s fear of death and disease has waned and dissipated to the point where they are empowering pestilence! There are finally scientific advancements and the old rival, The Church, is losing influence. So why is hatred and ignorance on the rise in America and across the globe?

    But the straw that broke the camel’s back is petty and personal, not philanthropic.

    Desmond’s most recent promethean and underappreciated work was what frustrated him this time. He thought that his subtle and ghostwritten piece “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” would unlock a whole new field of science that would rival the contributions of Newton, if not blow them away completely. It was published a couple of decades after the Civil War, but that was not when it was written.

    When I helped him check in 2019 (just to see what kinds of tornadoes his little butterfly had stirred up) and saw nothing but a Beatles song and a Nicolas Cage movie!?!

    That tore it.

    Master snapped and launched an aggressive recruitment campaign in 2020.

    No. Not the toothy kind of conversion like you are thinking, but simply hiring likeminded individuals. Kindred spirits if you will.
    It is time to make a stand. Time to step out of the shadows and shine the Lantern of Liberty to every corner of the Earth, to pass the Torch of – okay, you get the point.

    You can keep toiling fruitlessly, or you can plant real Seeds of Change.

    Drink from my goblet. Taste the Ambrosia of Altruism. Live anew!

    Together we will write and paint and sculpt and sing out Truth and Justice!

    When Master awakes in 2122, he will rejoice at the change we have wrought.

    Or despair at our failure and weep over the barren land.

    You are a dreamer, but it is time to wake up and make the bed.

    Join us!

    Reply
    • October 11, 2021 at 5:02 pm
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      Rumple-taters,

      Well. I think your second story was much better than your first. Even the name was cool. What was it? All Fallow’s Eve? (No, no. I’m just kidding.) Fallow Your Dreams.

      Yeah, this story is, well, it’s very well put together, first of all, that much is blatant, you know? It’s very well written. Then, the reference to a boss and the fact that the boss, (later master) can sleep for centuries (well, one, at least) and is entirely unimpressed with human progress. (So far, we have a lot in common.)

      And, whoever he is, he seems pretty pro-human, (check) but I don’t think there are enough clues to determine WHAT he is. So I’d have to go with ‘proto-tagonist.’ A character ‘outside’ the typical character guidelines, this is interesting in that he’s also the main character. (this is called ‘pulling an L. Ron Hubbard, where you stumble on a definition for a word you don’t know, so you invent a new word for the old definition).

      At first, considering your character’s boss by his various efforts and interests, it was hard to tell exactly who he or she was. Grendel?;
      God?;
      Satan?;
      Vampire, vampire-zombie?;Vampire-zombie-meshugginah?
      Werewolf?; nowherewolf?;
      crypto-octogenerian-time-traveling-kleptomaniac? (how do you think I got this?);
      thespian?;
      William Shatner?, (a specific thespian);

      Enough guessing. In short, I didn’t know. But clearly, he was a liberal, so I was ready to support him no matter what. But he slept in a coffin and his butler called him ‘master.’ So that was a little weird, but I’m a liberal, so I’m okay with it.

      But then:

      “So it’s a demonic cause we’re promoting?”

      “Yeah-ahh. You didn’t know? Where have YOU been?”

      “I don’t know. I thought he was kind of a good guy. With good—ideas.”

      “Sure Honey. Whatever you say. Look, this guy is worse than Bill Gates. Remember all those babies he nuked? Underwater?”

      “Are you thinking of the Godzilla movie?”

      “What? Noooo. I’m talking about our candidate and the movie I was referring to was Lloyd Bridges.”

      “Lloyd Bridges was an actor, not a movie.”

      “Whatever, Mr. ‘Details.”

      But I DIGRESS, Mr. Manfield. Plus, you did actually name the character, and the coffin thing is an obvious tip-off. Pretty much.

      I like it. I like the set up. It’s something I would have argued against, but I feel like you knew what you were doing and pulled it off nicely. And it helped me understand the story, it was like a guide post because it didn’t give anything away while laying the groundwork.

      It’s an interesting story, and I think it’s part of a longer, larger work, isn’t it? Or this is a recurring character that you’ve used several times. (I’m pretty sure you mentioned this guy, but I’m afraid I don’t recall the specifics right now.) Feel free to straighten me out where that character is concerned. (Desmond.)

      Not sure what promethean means. Wasn’t he the guy who flew too close to the sun wearing wax feathers? Or am I thinking of a different victim of Olympian humor? (don’t go all ‘Dennis Miller’ on me, Finkle. I don’t care how much you ‘think you like him.’) I’m still wondering what vouchsafe means.

      I never heard of the book, ‘Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.’ But it sounds fabulous. I will have to get it. (It’s probably full of obvious points and one-liners.)

      Your first story, (last week)
      just as interesting, wasn’t nearly as polished as this one. I thought it was a bit confusing for what is a very minor contrivance, a virtual cigarette. Don’t get me wrong here, John. As a fellow former smoker, of just a few years, the idea of a virtual cigarette is EXTREMELY attractive. I love the story idea, it just needed some kind of clarity a little bit sooner. As I was reading it I got a little lost, but I trusted you and kept reading and it all came together and made sense, but I shouldn’t have gotten lost at all. And I’m not sure exactly where I got lost and that’s not as important as the fact that I did. So… something needed to be clearer, sooner. Hope that helps in some way.

      Reply
      • October 14, 2021 at 10:12 am
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        Thank you for the feedback and humor!

        William Shatner lol! Did you see Bezos give him the cold shoulder? Ouch.

        The cigulation story was just me drinking wine and watching that old Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart flick, you know the one. I started scribbling on some tiny notepad thing and I had no idea how the dude was going to survive the fall but I kind of wanted to do the dream thing just because I could and because the alternative was having the guy fly away, which was too lame.

        The focus was the cigarette and this fantasy of mine of an eternal cigarette or maybe being a ghost with a ghost cigarette that never goes out, but kind of just the concept of having a cigarette break that can almost never end if you don’t want it to… the ultimate escapism I guess. The ghost thing was weird and so was the magic cigarette, so he kind of evolved into a cyberpunk smoker.

        Your pipe story sort of made me realize that I am passionate about tobacco and you are supposed to write about things you like, so this just sort of happened. I did it all in one sitting and then went back to add the Vishnu comment and edit it up. I can’t write as well when I plan it out and I have trouble planning it in the first place, so I just launched into it and sorted it out later.

        The vampire story was supposed to be an attempt at a backstory for Desmond from the “Pub Slither” story. I definitely thought about it harder and tried to make sure that the timeline was vaguely accurate. The book I mentioned is both a bunch of mathematical proofs for “proving” the 4th dimension is real AND a story about a creature from the 2nd dimension that discovers that there may be a 3rd dimension with intelligent life. It uses “dimensional analogy” to make one ponder the nature of physics and reality and the origin of things like ghosts and mysterious events, but it is really just a story about a population of flat polygon people. Deep stuff and very entertaining, but I doubt the movie with Nicolas Cage captured the magic (he is cool and funny and everything, but I am just saying).

        Prometheus made men out of clay and stole fire from the gods to save humanity from darkness. He was punished by being chained to a rock forever and his liver is eaten by an eagle every day (don’t worry it grows right back). He was supposed to be an artist and he taught people how to do stuff like farming and writing, it sort of sounds like he is credited with everything. His name means “forethinker”, roughly. He is a titan and is cursed with the gift of prescience, but his archetype is basically the same as Jesus (self sacrifice and endless love for humanity).

        The use of this word by me was an inside joke, because I was nodding to something from a role-playing-game, but then I realized that it makes perfect sense to use it and the word had more to it than I had originally surmised. But I will probably take it out, because it is too noticeable for an Easter egg and it sounds weird.

        Reply
        • October 14, 2021 at 2:07 pm
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          Rumple,

          You seem to be a really well rounded fellow. But, I noticed in your next to last paragraph regarding Prometheus something that I’ve often pondered about. If, in fact, and I don’t doubt your words, Prometheus was cursed with the gift of prescience (or forethinking) wouldn’t he have foreseen that if he made men out of clay and stole fire from the gods that he was going to be chained to a rick forever with his liver being eaten every day by an eagle? And, then, kinda found a different way to do it, or not done it at all? (I know about the Jesus thing, and all, but still.)

          It was like the night we were watching AGT and the guy who could read minds was one of the last two semi-finalists. My wife says do you think he wins, and I said, I don’t think so because if he can really read minds, he already knows if he won or lost and he looks like he’s worried. If he was going to win, he’d be more stoic. He didn’t win. So, there we are. Mind reading must be true. It’s all in how you look at it.

          Reply
          • October 14, 2021 at 3:52 pm
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            You are absolutely right about that! I never read anything but the kid versions of the Prometheus stories until I was a teenager, but I remember a version of him that was really sad and reflective all the time because he knew what he had to do and how it would end for him, though that didn’t change a thing. Something my English teacher made us read an excerpt from, now I wish I had read the whole thing lol!

            But it turns out that he was saved by Herakles (Hercules) at some point, which I didn’t recall until I read it just now. I remember Herakles helping the titan Atlas and lots of labors and random beasts that he slayed, but not that. Roman and Greek myths melt together for me and I mix the names up, as well as many of the details regarding logistics and causality (so everything).

            It kind of cheapens the whole thing for me: him knowing that he will be saved eventually makes it less of a sacrifice (less than eternity any how). But I guess he isn’t supposed to be suffering forever when it comes right down to it. He wasn’t created as a guilt trip machine, just a handy explanation for how humanity got everything (compare to that god with the impossible name Quetzalcoatl, he is also likened to Jesus and has been since the conquistadors figured out the similarities and tried to twist the myth to their favor.)

            Comparative mythology is fun, but it tends to annoy people with all of the generalizations and simplifications involved. People easily see how things are different, but they have to narrow their eyes more to see how things are similar, and every religion or mythology is kind of self-centered.

            It feels like an attack when people start dissecting things that you care about.

            But yeah I would rather not have prescience, even if I became some kind of messiah figure. No fun in anything, not even winning.

            I’m cutting it off there – you opened a can of worms!

  • September 23, 2021 at 10:17 am
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    No more self-pity. Now I honestly feel sorry for anyone trying to untangle the timeline here or give me constructive criticism for this one. It suddenly looks a lot like the one with the comet and the little girl, just with a different flavor.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 10:19 am
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    I forgot the required line! But this one doesn’t count.

    I guess it REALLY doesn’t count now lol.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2021 at 2:06 pm
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    Is it “awakes” or “awakens” for a future tense of the verb?

    Awakens sounds cooler and would be more consistent in this case with the weird narrator.

    Reply
  • September 25, 2021 at 7:15 pm
    Permalink

    ALL’S WELL

    “Your turn.”

    “I’m thinking.”

    “I know that – I can hear the cogs whirring.”

    Lawrence searched the table for something to throw at Andrew. A match served the purpose; it bounced off Andrew’s head.

    “Oy!” Andrew yelped.

    “Let that be a lesson to you!” Lawrence’s attention returned to the tiles standing on their edges in front of him, and the lines of play already down, forming a small cross. He took a sip from a glass of juice.

    In the meantime, Andrew lit another cigarette, leaned back in his chair and stared out of the window at the blue sky, with just one or two fluffy clouds edging their way across it.

    “That reminds me,” he said.

    Lawrence was engrossed in his tiles and said nothing.

    “I said that reminds me,” Andrew insisted, raising his voice. Lawrence looked up, frowning at his concentration being broken.

    “Of what?”

    “That other time, when I threw something at YOU.”

    Lawrence smiled now, remembering.

    “The Maths exam.”

    “Old Mr Morgan.”

    “Madman Morgan.”

    “He was certainly mad that day.”

    The two stared out of the window now, their minds rolling back to a sunny May afternoon, fifty years before.

    * * * * *

    “Psst!”

    Lawrence was scribbling furiously away, oblivious to Andrew’s desperate attempts to attract his attention.

    “Psst!”

    Still nothing, though others were glancing round now. A grey-haired teacher in a black robe sat on the dais at the front of the room reading a book, also oblivious to Andrew’s desperation.

    Andrew’s desk was in the row behind Lawrence’s and on the other side of the central aisle. His interjection proving useless, he searched in his pockets for something to throw at Lawrence. He found nothing so ripped a corner off a sheet of rough paper, coughing to hide the sound. The teacher looked up, cast his eyes about the room then went back to his book.

    Andrew rolled the paper up into a small ball between finger and thumb and flicked it expertly at Lawrence. It bounced off his shoulder and landed in front of him on the desk. Lawrence looked round and caught Andrew’s eye. Andrew held up three fingers: Question 3.

    Lawrence shook his head. Andrew put his hands together, pleading. Lawrence, still shaking his head, scribbled quickly on a sheet of rough paper, screwed it up into a ball, turned and threw it to Andrew, who caught it. When Lawrence turned back, the teacher was glaring at him from the dais.

    “Townsend? What was that?”

    Blushing, Lawrence stammered: “Wha- what was what, sir?”

    The teacher stood up and addressed Andrew.

    “Wilson. Bring that here.”

    “Bring what, sir?” Andrew said, more confident than Lawrence with cheating technique.

    “Don’t try my patience, Wilson. Bring it here immediately. And you, Townsend. You come up here too.”

    The two stood and slouched to the front; the other boys had stopped writing and were observing events, some taking advantage of the teacher’s distraction to do their own cheating.

    Mr Morgan held out his hand and Andrew reluctantly gave him the screwed-up sheet of paper. The teacher smoothed it out, glanced at it briefly and nodded.

    “I thought so. Go to the headmaster’s office, both of you.”

    “But sir–” Lawrence began.

    “NOW!” boomed Madman Morgan.

    “And the rest of you, continue with the exam,” the two friends heard the teacher say as they shuffled away along the corridor.

    * * * * *

    “You were good at Maths,” Andrew said, taking a long drag on his cigarette.

    “I was,” Lawrence agreed.

    “I know I’ve apologized before but … sorry, Lawro.”

    Lawrence looked over at his friend, a trace of a smile on his lips.

    “It changed my life, that bit of paper.”

    Andrew’s crumpled face betrayed the regret he was feeling. Lawrence continued.

    “I was disqualified from that exam …”

    “I know,” Andrew said.

    “… and I didn’t get the place at Cambridge.”

    “I know.”

    “So, I had to stick around for a year to re-take the exam.”

    “I know all this.”

    “And I got a job in an office, part-time.”

    Andrew gave up protesting, leaned back and lit another cigarette. Lawrence wasn’t even speaking to him but more just letting the words flow out of him into the ether.

    “I was glad to have a bit of money in the bank. I lived with my parents, so I had no costs. But that young, and having money … it was booze first, then drugs. It’s always like that: one thing leads to another and … My parents got fed up with me and gave me a hell of a hard time, so I left home and got a room, but the drugs carried on and I lost my job. I ended up on the street. I was heading for the chasm, a one-way ticket, but then …”

    He paused in his musing, looked over at Andrew and smiled.

    “Someone came along and saved me.”

    Andrew shifted in his seat.

    “It was the least I could do, wasn’t it? I mean, I’d got you into that mess in the first place really.”

    Lawrence shook his head.

    “You know what I think sometimes? I think that piece of paper was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

    “How can you say that? It was a disaster!”

    Lawrence took Andrew’s hand …

    “We would never have got together I don’t think, if I’d gone to Cambridge.”

    … and kissed it.

    “And I would never have been this happy.”

    Andrew drew Lawrence’s hand to his own lips.

    “Thank God for me cheating, then!”

    They laughed the laughs of a companionship aged like fine port wine.

    “Now lay your bloody tile, you slow bugger,” Andrew said.

    “I’m thinking,” said Lawrence, smirking mischievously.

    .

    Reply
    • September 25, 2021 at 9:31 pm
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      Hey Roy, always enjoy your words. The prompt mentioned you cannot be buying a Domino Pizza, but I liked how it started with a game of dominoes and progressed to the plot from their. Unexpected as always. The characters were likeable and believable and the interactions between them as well. Another wonderful interpretation of the prompt. Thank you, well done.

      Reply
      • September 26, 2021 at 12:53 pm
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        Thanks for the kind words … er… Dave! 😉

        Reply
        • September 27, 2021 at 3:20 pm
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          My life is complete. My words have been mistaken to be those of that marvelous writer, Phil Town. I can die happy now.

          Roy

          Reply
        • September 29, 2021 at 12:53 am
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          oops, must be a senior moment, or such….. brain fog, brain freeze. Sorry Phil. I have read so many wonderful stories here that I get confused about the writer and don’t look too clearly. I will know who to vote for though….. LOL.

          Reply
    • September 27, 2021 at 3:27 pm
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      Phil,

      What a marvelous line, ‘They laughed the laughs of a companionship aged like fine port wine.’ Well done, just like the rest of the story. At one point, I thought the dialogue telling the remembrance sequence was a trifle non-dialogue, but after rereading it, I thought, Nah, it doesn’t really need changed. Maybe a little, but not enough to quibble over. Maybe Lawrence says the words, Then you remember that – preceding the line – I was glad to have a little money in the bank. I think that would have cleared that up for me nicely. There, I couldn’t help myself. I had to get that in there. Otherwise, I don’t have any other quibbles with this nicely told tale.

      Roy

      Reply
      • September 29, 2021 at 10:07 pm
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        Thanks as always, Roy, for your positive words.

        I can see what you’re saying about those lines, but the fact is that Lawrence is reminiscing to himself, really, and is oblivious to Andrew’s repeated “I know” … which is why Andrew eventually gives up trying to interact with him at that point.

        Reply
        • October 1, 2021 at 2:52 pm
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          That ‘splains it, pretty much. Good counterpoint. This grasshopper will learn eventually.

          Roy

          Reply
    • September 30, 2021 at 5:25 pm
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      I did not see that coming! You wrong fitted me because it started out a little bit like a Beckett play. Lovely story, made me smile.

      Reply
  • September 25, 2021 at 9:33 pm
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    I am struggling again with this one, maybe overthinking it a bit. I will try to get it into some kind of readable state soon.

    Reply
  • September 28, 2021 at 9:25 am
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    EIGHT-THOUSAND TIMES A DAY
    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    Laura wouldn’t entertain that thought. She loved Laurie too much. He was all she had. She loved him each time he got near her. Which happened often: some eight-thousand times a day. Each time was like the first time.

    It was a fleeting form of love. She’d love him and then sort of forgot she did, forgot he even existed. But she soon enough loved him again, within seconds, each time they swam back past each other from the other side of the bowl. The moments of forgetfulness were brief enough, almost negligible. Cosy feelings took hold of her whenever she saw Laurie’s glistening orange scales approaching her. It was all she lived for. It was a beautiful life all in all.

    But that horrible thought now consumed her. It was a thought she’d never had before. And it was becoming bigger than the love she had for Laurie. It was something more basic, more instinctual. The “hand of God” – Julie’s, really – that appeared over the bowl everyday, generously sprinkling flakes of Fish-O-Rama hadn’t materialized for two days now.

    Laura was starving. Something deep in her fishbrain told her she must eat Laurie. Laura was the larger fish, and the rule was that the big fish ate the small. It’s just the way it is. The horrendous thought gnawed at her from the inside. Each time she spotted Laurie, every 14.2 seconds, instead of feeling awash in love, anguish now ravaged her. Laurie was starving too; eating him would lift him out of his misery, her innate voice told her. But then she’d be alone. Sad. Forever. It’s a terrible thought.

    Julie popped another handful, swallowed all the pills in one gulp. The shrink’s prescription said ‘one-a-day’, but she’d now lost count. The rumor about Zach turned out to be true. And the mysterious gal was no-one but her bestie Marcia. Julie’s devastation was complete. She didn’t care if she overdosed. If she’d die. If not showing up for work at the launderette for two days would get her fired. She didn’t care about anything anymore. She just stayed in bed looking into the void. The TV had been on day and night, but she hardly noticed.

    Someone in the crowd threw something at Donald Trump. An immense uproar follows, and a mob of hardliners held the culprit down. Luckily, whatever was thrown at the Presidential Candidate, didn’t quite harm him. The TV played the scene over and over, from every possible angle, in slow motion, in even slower motion. Trump’s facial expression was priceless. Ego melted into shock, a flicker of fear, maybe even embarrassment, then rage. Absolute rage. It was actually very funny.

    “Get him outta here!” he commanded the mob. He rubbed his face theatrically like in some great pain, with gestures of a hero surviving extreme adversity. Julie laughed. She didn’t know how she did it. She hadn’t laughed since Kerri whatsapped her those pictures of Marcia on top of Zach. She didn’t think she’d ever laugh again. But Trump somehow cracked her up.

    His name was Sergio Rodriguez. An ordinary thirty-something Texan instantly became a household name. He’d wheeled his ageing dad, Marcos, to Trump’s electoral rally.

    “But Dad, he doesn’t love us Mexicans!” Sergio protested. His dad insisted on seeing Trump while the campaign trail was nearby.

    “Not us! It’s the scum that’s entering the country these days he’s got a problem with!” Dad said, shifting himself in his wheelchair as he smoothened his t-shirt with an American flag and Make America Great Again spanned across it.

    “We’re fine, son. We’re Americans too! I’ve been American since that day I saw Neil off. I’m proud of what Donald’s saying about America.”

    Marcos remembered the times when America was great. He was there on that greatest day in 1969, a junior-technician at Cape Canaveral. He was one of the last men on earth to see The Three going. Armstrong passed right by him.

    “Do it for all of us!” Marcos cheered him. Armstrong just tilted his head a little.

    When the astronaut stepped down that ladder, he felt over the moon. Earthrise wasn’t only spectacular, but emotional too. That little blue ball in the sky – that’s where everything happens and ever happened, all of human history. Armstrong recited those great words he was told to say. He also remembered what that technician told him, just before he boarded Apollo-11. It’s one of those awesome moments one thinks of nothing and of everything at the same time. Magical.

    Armstrong tilted his head a little when he made his great small step. Nobody noticed it in those grainy black-and-white TV images, only Marcos did. Armstrong only got to the moon, Marcos was in seventh heaven. For the first time, Marcos felt more American than Kennedy.

    Marcos’s dad, Sergio’s grandad, had come to America to make a fortune and then return to his beloved Mexico. When he ended up buying the struggling gas-station he worked for, little did he know that one thing leads to another and he’d eventually own his little big desert-roadside empire. He never returned, but his heart remained in Mexico, didn’t even learn English. He nevertheless afforded Marcos a good American education, earning him his fab job at NASA.

    “I don’t like him, I just don’t”, Sergio reiterated, “But I’ll take you, Dad, since you wanna go so much, I’ll get the truck ready.”

    At the carpark, an anti-Trump protester handed Sergio a flyer. Sergio just crumpled it up in his fist, not giving it a thought. He needing both hands to wheel his father through the thickening crowd. They managed to get to the very front, right under Trump’s podium, as people graciously made way for the wheelchair to go through.

    Marcos listened proudly as Trump made several passing mentions of America’s glory days of old, and even mentioned that triumphant day he remembered so well.

    Sergio put up with the whole charade. He was angry at both Trump and Dad. But never mind, this wacko was no way gonna win the election!

    It was when Trump said something about a wall to keep “ ’em rats” out, that Sergio’s blood boiled over. A strange energy took hold of him. He hardly realized that his hand had gone up and that he’d tossed whatever it was he had in it – that crumpled anti-Trump flyer – at the Candidate. Later, beaten and bruised in hospital, he found out he was a world celebrity.

    Julie laugh on, like the happy girl she once was. The more they showed of Trump’s funny grimace and theatricals, the more she chuckled. She sat up and turned on the light. The sudden glare startled the fish, their fins fluttered, splashing some water.

    “My poor Laura and Laurie!” Julie muttered, “You must be hungry!”

    She sprinkled a good serving of Fish-O-Rama, which both fish devoured voraciously.

    Laura was thankful. For the food, but especially for not having to think anymore of eating Laurie. It was a big deal for her. It took Man going to the moon and back to save Laurie’s life. But it was all worth it. Laura just loved Laurie too much. Eight-thousand times a day.

    Reply
    • September 28, 2021 at 10:50 am
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      Ken M.,

      In my humble estimation, this may just be the best story you’ve ever submitted. From start to finish. At first, I said, well, he’s given away the fact these are just goldfish in a bowl, but then, you showed the domino effect of how all of our lives are intertwined with inconsequential things – we think they are inconsequential – but the cosmic wheel that turns ever so slowly and relentlessly, does not think anything is inconsequential. Right down to the smallest goldfish.

      I even loved the typical children given names for the goldfish and I’m wondering as I write this, if our own Mr. Miles owned a couple of those precious fish as a youngster; whose entire existence is bolstered by carnivals and well meaning parents. “Let’s get the kids a couple of goldfish before we move on to the larger pets to see if they take care of them, first.”

      I remember back to a story of my two daughters when they were young, somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 and 9, when I came home one day and found both sitting on the couch sobbing uncontrollably. As a concerned father I asked what was wrong. Between sobs they managed to choke out the words that Becky and Kimberly died. You need to know at this point in the story that Becky and Kimberly are the names of my twin nieces who were about three years old at the time. I hugged them, consoling them with tears in my own eyes and walked in the kitchen where my wife was busy making something on the stove. I asked, with a heavy heart, “What happened to Becky and Kim?” Nonchalantly she looked up and said, “They died. It’s no big deal.” I said,”How can you be so callous? Jesus, what’s wrong with you?” She looked at me puzzled, thought for a moment, then said, “Oh honey, not our nieces, the girls’ goldfish,” then started laughing. Took me a while to get over my first reaction, but when it settled in who actually died, I had to admit I was laughing along with her.

      Great job man. This is an excellent story. The only quibble I’ve got is the fact Julie swallowed a handful of pills, and I think you should point out they are basically harmless, but she THINKS they are going to help her take the final way out. Or something along those lines.

      Now, I need to spruce my story up a bit and see where it will line up against three already great stories this week. I’m already having a tough time thinking who is going to get my first, second and third place vote. It’s up for grabs right now.

      Well done, Mr. Miles. Good to see you in the fold again.

      Roy

      Reply
      • September 30, 2021 at 7:50 am
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        Thanks, Roy for your nice words. I’m quite fond of this story, too. I tried to sort of turn Bradbury’s “butterfly effect” the other way round: instead of the little event (the butterfly on Travis’s boots) having immeasurable consequences on the big scheme of things, here we have the big event (the moon landing – for some the apex of human achievement so far) ultimately having a life-saving effect on the little guys with fins. And without the time-travelling complications.

        Your true-life mini-story of Becky and Kimberly was a good laugh (although still sad about the fish). I see what you mean about kids being induced to pets by starting with the rather low-labor intensive fish-in-the-bowl, and then see how it goes, before moving on to larger animals. But that wasn’t me. Believe it or not, the first personal pet I got was a lamb! A.Real.Lamb. Her name was Sheila, and in no time she grew into a sheep, outgrowing me by several feet.

        Pity you didn’t manage to post your story in time! I was waiting for it…

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
    • September 30, 2021 at 3:34 pm
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      So Laurie is a male because humans suck at determining genders? Nice touch!

      I really liked the back-story on Sergio and his dad and the dialogue at the rally – it really addressed something that I think people should talk about more. You handled it well without making it preachy, like I would have lol.

      And of course I loved it when he threw that wad of paper (it almost wasn’t fair to put that in a story because it got you instant points with me)!

      Reply
  • September 28, 2021 at 8:42 pm
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    Enough is enough
    It started small when she was only five years old. Her mother was brushing her hair rather vigorously.
    “OUCH. It’s hurting. You hurt me.”
    “Don’t be silly child. You have knots. You need to keep your hair tidy.” This was accompanied by vigorous brushing and pulling. “Any way your hair is your best feature. Did you know that?”
    “Owww, no. It hurts.”
    “Oh goodness, don’t be such a sook. I’ll plait it in a moment. As soon as we get these knots out.”
    “Please, Mummy NO. Can’t I have short hair? Like the boys?”
    She takes her child by the shoulders and turns the girl to face her. Then she gently takes the child’s chin in her hands.
    “No. You cannot. Your hair is your best feature. You’re quite plain. You haven’t got the most attractive face. Freckles. That Irish complexion. Not very attractive. Your hair is lovely. It is the only thing about you that is attractive. You certainly haven’t got my looks. Unfortunately. You probably will not find a good husband with those features. A pity.”
    She proceeds to plait the girl’s hair, pulling the hair up high and binding the auburn hair into tight braids high on the girl’s head ignoring her protests of pain.
    “There you go. You are presentable and tidy. Now. Go out and play. Look after your brother.”
    So, she went out dutifully to do as she was told.

    *************************

    At seven she overhears her mother talking to an aunt.
    “Such a plain child. I often feel she is not mine.”
    “Nonsense. She will be ok. She should develop more personality. She’s insipid at times. If she’s able to be more sociable, it’ll make up for the lack of looks.”

    ***************************

    At fifteen she is at the breakfast table with a cousin and his friend.
    “We both had sex with you last night while you were sleeping. You’re not a virgin anymore.”
    They make jokes about her breasts, sausages and cheese sauce. Her mother is busy with toast. Her also brothers laugh. She feels mortified as her cheeks flush hot.
    “I would have woken up. So, you didn’t.” She manages to stutter. Her cousin and his friend laugh.
    “I put something in your tea last night. You were dead to the world.”
    His friend says, “Yeah you were moaning.” And he demonstrates.
    “Robert, are you alright?” Her mother says coming to place a plate with toast on the table.
    John grins widely at her and smirks before saying, “He’s alright. Just clowning.”
    “I hope you are amusing the boys and being nice to them.” Her mother says to her.
    Both of the boys chortle. “Yes, she’s being nice. Very nice.”
    She flees the table.
    On her return to boarding school a few days later, she keeps pounding her stomach for the rest of the term daily, sure she must be pregnant thinking through what she will do if she is pregnant from sex that she does not even remember and has no signs of sexual activity, but if they said it was so, then it must be so and furthermore sure the baby will be, if it exists, deformed as they are cousins.
    She is horrified and hates her cousin from that moment on at the breakfast table and his equally repulsive friend.

    ******************************

    At 21 she gets married, and her husband is abusive both physically and mentally. When he has thrown her through a window in the house they were renting to the horror of their flatmates, she decides to leave and go back to her parents in another state.
    When she tries to explain to her mother the failure of her marriage, her mother chides her.
    “Well, you married him. You were lucky someone married you. You haven’t got much to offer anyone, have you?”
    “But I can’t stay with him. He’s violent and taking drugs.”
    “You vowed to stand by him. Til death do us part, did you not?”
    “Doesn’t that mean natural death or death by disease? Not violence inflicted by one party on the other?”
    “Don’t get smart with me. If you were a good wife, he would not have had to beat you. I remember what you were like as a child. We’d had to whip sense into you at least twice a week, if not more.”
    “I can’t stand being hit all the time. Please.”
    “No. You must learn to be a good wife. And things will change when you have children in tiem.”
    “NO, NO! I am not having a child with that man. Bad enough that he’s beating me. I can’t stand to think what he would do to a child.”
    “Well, if you leave him, then you can’t come back to your father and me. You will not be welcome here.”
    “Fine. I’ll get a job, but I am not staying with him. He hasn’t any control over his temper. I can’t.”
    “Right. Then not only do you not have the looks to get a good man, you are also flighty. You can’t stick it out. You are stupid.”

    ***********************************

    At 36 she remarries a man who tells her she is lucky that he married her because no one else would. He disrespects her parents and has her stepchildren call them by their first names. For that and other reasons, their marriage eventually fails.

    At 42 she decides it is enough. She buys a bottle of Southern Comfort. She visits five different doctors and gets sleeping pill prescriptions from each one and is careful to go to five different pharmacies to get the prescriptions filled. She has enough. She gives away her prized possessions and finds homes for her two cats and then books a room in a country town motel. She decides to tell her best friend at Uni that she can have her car if anything should happen to her because that friend has taken her cats in. The friend thinks that she is just going overseas for a holiday for a few months. She does not realise.
    She takes the bus to the small town in the north of the state. She has a calm state of mind. It just feels so right after all. She has the pills and the southern comfort tucked into her rucksack and when she arrives at the motel, the room is prepaid, so she just gives the receptionist her details and picks up the key.
    It is a pleasant room, in pastel lemon shades with a mustard trim. It even has a real monstera plant. She likes that touch. She always hated fake plants with plastic leaves. They would usually gather a fine film of dust.
    She draws up a bath. She nurses the first tumbler of liquor. It will be easy to swallow the pills and she calculated she would need 36 tablets combined with the alcohol to drift off into another existence.
    When she finally slips into the warm water, two tumblers of comfort and 24 tablets later, her vision is hazy.
    She examines her wrists. She wonders if she should get a razor blade to slice the veins. It is a fleeting though as her head slips under the warm water.

    Reply
    • September 29, 2021 at 1:33 am
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      Ilana, I felt empathy fo this poor human. I could imagine the cascading dominoes, each one that fell to the next causing further disaster and something she could not forecast or control. One the cascade commenced, she was lost. Loved it, I was hoping that something would change for her, but as we know with such an upbringing and life, it is hard to feel mentally well and to change. Dominoes have fallen.

      Reply
    • September 30, 2021 at 3:54 pm
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      This reminded me of a short story called “All That You Love Will Be Carried Away” by Stephen King and also that movie “Welcome to the Dollhouse”, except it didn’t have any comedy to lighten it up (not that I think you wanted anyone to find it funny).

      The first one ends with the reader unsure of the narrator’s fate (will he go through with it or decide against it?). He flips a coin (or does something equally random) but the reader doesn’t get to see the result.

      Yours didn’t make me laugh but it did make me want to hug that little girl at each age and then find her some people that don’t suck to hang out with for once!

      I didn’t see any character traits in the main character that were negative, just people dissing her throughout her life while she tried to please the people closest to her. Very sad and a sharp contrast to the last story (maybe this character would be better off ending up in the fairy realm from that one).

      Personally, I would rather read about anger and righteous wrath and all kinds of defiant emotions… but giving in to the sadness seems like a waste, both in the World of Fiction and/or Reality.

      This lady NEEDS to go out like Thelma and Louise (same ending, but they had more fun and they were together when they died).

      Don’t let the bastards grind you down!

      Reply
  • September 29, 2021 at 1:14 am
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    Oops, too late. The dominoes have fallen.

    Journal notes: June 1788 to January 1789. Captain Henry James Pemberton H.M.S. Merlin.

    These pages contain my personal recollections of my journey to, and my experiences in this great land.
    I am extremely fortunate to have escaped death on the tragic journey here. I found this land looking for India or the Spice Islands, put off course in wild storms floating sail-less, into the bay of what you call Sydney Cove. One thing leads to another, one disaster begat another. These documented statements, anecdotal accounts and happenings prior to and since my arrival.

    The First Fleet sent, was not in fact first, nor second or third. The land mass thought to be New South Wales was not uninhabited, but colonised by European settlers, French, Danish, Spanish and Portuguese. With a race of intelligent, advanced humans, the First Nation folk of this southern expanse. It would be wise to stay put in the Motherland, the would-be colonisers are in constant war and the introduced disease and the poverty amongst them is vast.

    The natives are not involved in these feudal conflicts, it seems the intruders are set against each other in hope they destroy the other.
    The natives observe, but strongly suggested they have thought control abilities and can ‘order’ others to compete for the limited resources, which are dwindling from stores brought from their lands. The natives in opposition appear to survive on almost nothing we would consider edible.

    The First Fleet arrived and immediately taken hostage by the feuding colonist. The natives of the land are concerned that more people are invading their land, they are not a violent people. They say in their limited English, drawing, and gestures that they are the custodians of the land, no-one can claim, or own it. Lost in time for many centuries and indeed for millennia, these people are advanced but appear as primitive and simple in their cultural and political ideas and actions.

    Their physical weapons are few, mostly used to obtain food. Their greatest weapons are intelligence, knowledge of the ways of the land, the wildlife, flora and fauna and the climate diversity, these can be monitored by the moon and stars. The Europeans will perish without assistance or advice from the inhabitants in this harsh unknown territory.
    The land abounds with creatures that are only imagined by our greatest storytellers, but they exist here. They can walk, fly and swim. There are large rodents, which bound on two legs, they call them either kangaroo or wallaby. Some taller than the average man. Reptiles, named goanna or crocodile are bigger than any I have ever seen, more akin to the history and scientific books of palaeontologists. The birds of prey with a wing span of over six foot wide, can claim sheep in one swoop, it is said that babies have in the past been taken. The natives have a wild dog, they call dingo, it is domesticated to some degree, known to attack small children too.

    The natives have tried to assist the invaders to survive on their arrival, but they did not take kindly to being told by a primitive culture. They now keep to themselves, as advised by their cultural elders, but they keep a watchful guard over their people, and would intervene if the colonists were in any danger. It has been told they assisted with food choices, some plants are poisonous, the animals which are venomous or vicious, snakes, spiders, scorpions and the like. The crocodile can take animals, even full grown adults in a death roll to drown in the waters. Giant, mysterious carnivorous fish thrive in the rivers, lakes and oceans.

    The colonists have taken a lives of natives which sparked wars but not with the natives. The natives were saddened by the deaths but still wanted to assist the arrivalists. The feuds were between warring arrivalists who stated they have claim to the land.
    The colonist numbers have dwindled to almost nothing and this will be the same fate of the First Fleeters if they do not turn back or take heed. Are you aware that neighbouring islands have natives that are primitive and even cannibalistic and warmongers? The Maoris seem to be the most vicious. Captain James Cook was killed and eaten on one of those islands.

    These natives having been isolated for so long, are not accustomed to our cultural ways, diet or even illnesses. The common cold or the addictive rum or tea, may be unknown to them.
    I would advise that we avoid New South Wales and other southern lands. The convicts we were to send, we can rehabilitate or gaol them, or execute them as we see fit by law. Their crimes are mostly of a simple nature, theft for the family to eat, as income and work are not achievable to this class. The free-settlers, government and spiritual leaders should not be put at risk in this devilish place.

    We could send another Fleet to collect our kind before they are killed or die from lack of commodities needed, and the love of God is lacking. The natives worship the sky, gods for everything and they appear as creatures, believing their gods are present in the animals around them. Not one god but multiple, the land is god, look after it and it shall look after you. Their mystical and magical abilities are not understood, but they have dances and ceremonies to call for what they need, such being food or rain. They do not build permanent structures or homes, they are nomadic around a certain perimeter. They take only what they need from the land and leave it exactly as it was found. No Christianity at all, but so much more intelligent and advanced than us in other ways.

    On reflection, leave the colonists here as we would not want the negative influence on return. We would be losing more of our people on the journey over and the rescue. I shall return once my ship is seaworthy and bring home our most valued and esteemed scientific and medical personnel. Space is limited. My departure for Britain should occur within the year, a crew of convicts working six days a week to get the ship repaired.

    Our colonialism wherever we go is like a parlour board game, dominoes line up, standing on end and then topple to destroy what is ahead in a believed triumphant conquest. Take for instance our advance to the North American continent, and the African lands. Now we are wanting to conquer and take control of these pacific lands. We should be content with where we are and not attempt to take our English ways to other places. Leave these people alone.

    That was the last entry. Captain HJ Pemberton did not return to England. These journals were found in a ship’s safe, recovered two-hundred-and-twelve years later by chance. Recreational divers exploring the sunken wreck of the H.M.S. Merlin. It would seem a pity that these sage words of advice were never heeded by the powers that be in the Motherland.

    Word count: 1191.

    Reply
    • September 30, 2021 at 1:20 pm
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      I loved how the cap’n sounded like an anti-imperialist and the history embedded in this story! I honestly thought that the dingo was sort of an accident created by white explorers when they let their dogs go free on the mainland of Australia, but that must have been some bad data from all those old books that I read when I was a kid (many of them from the 60’s and 70’s).

      I studied up on the topic because I wanted to check myself before I went questioning your wisdom of your own homeland (I figured that I was definitely missing something). They ARE descended from domesticated dogs, but from thousands of years ago, not hundreds! I was way off on the time and I was way off on the people who did the introducing!

      I liked how wild and untamed you made the continent at that time feel (even more than what I was thinking).

      Reply
      • September 30, 2021 at 11:22 pm
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        Echo that. DId not deserve last past the post. Needed to be higher up. The story of Australia’s colonization is brutal. I can not forget or forgive how our first nations’ people were treated and how they were robbed, but the story is similar in many countries. Look at North America for example. Doesn’t excuse the Australia massacres though.

        Reply
  • September 29, 2021 at 8:26 am
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    Good morning writers, this story thread is now closed.
    The voting page will be up in just about 4 hours!
    Happy reading 🙂

    Reply
    • September 29, 2021 at 8:39 am
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      Well, bummer. I was just going to post a story. Maybe it’s for the best.

      Roy

      Reply
      • September 29, 2021 at 10:49 am
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        Roy if you want to post it – I actually have time today before the voting time I’ll be able to add it.
        That goes for anyone who gets this message and wants to post the story in the next 45 minutes!

        Reply
  • September 29, 2021 at 10:52 am
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    *To clarify – I wanted to end the story submission earlier in the day because I get pulled into a lot of meetings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So after creating the Voting Page and then having to go back and edit it – is sometimes difficult for me.

    But Maybe adjusting from 4 hours before the time when voting begins to 2 hours before would be easier for folks.
    I just can’t update it when someone posts their story with only 15 minutes to go.

    If that makes sense.

    Reply
    • September 29, 2021 at 1:31 pm
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      No problem, Carrie. Having been in your shoes, I understand. It was just that I thought we had until noon CST. As I said, it’s OK, maybe it was for the best. Now that I know, I’ll be sure to post my stories well in advance to avoid this sort of thing, for both you and me.

      Roy

      Reply
      • September 29, 2021 at 5:14 pm
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        What? I’m late. I think I’ll cry on my computer.
        Oh, well, as they sayin sports, there’s always next season.

        Reply
    • September 29, 2021 at 8:21 pm
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      Hi, Carrie

      There are five boxes on the scoring grid and only four stories apart from our own. I’ve voted and had to put my own story in 5th, so please cancel my 5th-place vote.

      Thanks

      (And thanks for deleting my story the other day.)

      Reply
      • September 30, 2021 at 7:38 am
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        Thanks Phil, I was going to put only four options, but we have non story submitters who vote and didn’t want to negate their fifth place choice. Appreciate you putting your story in the fifth place!

        Reply
        • September 30, 2021 at 11:53 am
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          D’oh! Hadn’t thought of that, Carrie. Thanks.

          Reply
  • September 30, 2021 at 12:00 pm
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    Ok writers!
    The votes are in!!

    1st Place Winner: “Eight Thousand Times a Day” by Ken Miles

    2nd Place: Chain Reactions and Chain Smoking by Rumplefinkies
    3rd Place: All’s Well by Phil Town
    4th Place: Enough is Enough by Ilana Leeds
    5th Place: The Dominoes Have Fallen by ozjohn66

    The story with the favorite character is: Laura from “Eight Thousand Times a Day” by Ken Miles
    And the story with the best dialogue is: “Chain Reactions and Chain Smoking” by Rumplefinkies

    Congratulations Ken!!

    Reply
    • October 1, 2021 at 1:57 am
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      Congratulations, KenM!

      Yes – 1st and 2nd was a difficult choice … both great stories.

      Reply
    • October 1, 2021 at 4:31 am
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      Thanks everyone! I’m pleased you liked my fishy story 🙂 Laura and Laurie flapped a fin for you, too…

      Congrats to all – not many stories this time, but all were solid good.

      Thanks also to those who commented.

      Reply
  • September 30, 2021 at 1:23 pm
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    Congratulations Ken and good job everyone!

    I had a tough time choosing the top spot!

    Reply
  • September 30, 2021 at 2:16 pm
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    Congratulations all. I put one story twice in 5 th and fourth place rather than my own story.

    Reply
  • October 1, 2021 at 6:11 am
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    Hi Ken,

    Haven’t seen much of you lately so it’s great to see you back in harness. I had you and Ilarna at the top, one point apart on my marking system so well done to you both.

    My sincere apologies for not sending in any comments. I am going through a non-creative patch and can’t seem to get motivated to write anything.

    Kind regards,

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • October 1, 2021 at 10:54 am
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    Congratulations to Ken M., and a welcome from the bridesmaid club president to Rumple. Agreed all the stories were superb, tough choosing, but I do admit that Rumple and Ken M., were a bit above the rest. Almost glad mine didn’t make it, but there’s always next time. And, speaking of next time, I’ve got some story writing to do. Gotta get it in on time you know.

    Roy

    Reply

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