Writing Prompt “Foul Play”
Theme: Foul Play
The rest is up to you.
Word Count: 1,200
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The writing prompt for March 17, 2021, will be chosen by Ken Cartisano.
129 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Foul Play””
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I’m going to hell, I’m sure of it. But while I’m in this life, I’ll take my pleasure where I can find it. And I find it with Marie. Marie’s the wife of Howard. Howard’s my best friend.
I’ve known him since University. We didn’t do the same course but met on our first day. Mother had told me: make friends! He was the first person I spoke to on campus … in a lift in the halls of residence. With mother’s words in the back of my mind, I struck up a conversation with him. We arranged to meet up later. We got drunk, laughed a lot, found out we had a lot in common. I’d made a friend for life.
Three years and much fun later – though little study, it has to be said – we scraped through and got our piece of paper that said we were in the bright minority. Howard and I moved to different towns but kept in close touch. I’d go to visit him once or twice a month, or he’d come to stay with me. On one of my visits to him, he introduced me to his new girlfriend. She was very beautiful – tall, slim, dark hair, green eyes – interesting and funny: Marie.
I was smitten, but then so was Howard, and Marie seemed very much in love with him. I saw that as no obstacle, however. I made a point of visiting every weekend, insinuating myself into their life together. Howard didn’t seem to mind, but then he wasn’t there when I found opportunities to be alone with Marie and test out the terrain for a possible incursion. Marie would always rebuff my less-than-subtle advances, but I remained hopeful. After all, why else would she refrain from telling Howard – I know that because his behaviour towards me never altered – if she didn’t have at least a germ of affection for me?
Then last spring, the bombshell: they announced they were getting married. This was obviously a major setback for me, but all was not lost, I told myself. Howard asked me to be his best man. I didn’t hesitate. Had I no shame? Well …
After they were installed as man and wife, my visits became less frequent, but I spent my days anxiously waiting for the next time I would see Marie. And my advances continued. One day, when I’d engineered a moment alone with her in their kitchen, she came straight out and told me to stop. That she was in love with Howard. That I would never be in the reckoning. I smiled and let her go back to Howard, who was fixing something in the living room. But if she thought that was an end to it, she had another think coming.
Howard and I are great fans of football. We follow the same club, and when I’m visiting him, we play with his work-mates at the weekend. Just kick-abouts really. He’s a very gifted player. I’m more of a dependable defender – a little slow, but built like a brick wall.
Did I intend for it to happen? Of course, deep down. One weekend last summer, we were playing on opposite sides. There was a ball in the air, Howard jumped to head it. I was close by and turned away from him, nudging him as he jumped. It would have looked like a perfectly accidental foul. He twisted in mid-air and came down on his head. There was a sickening crunch and Howard lay on the ground, his head at an odd angle. He was unconscious but breathing.
An ambulance was called and he was rushed to hospital. I was there when Marie arrived, distraught. We went in to see the consultant together. Howard would live, he told us, but … let’s just say he will never play football again.
I’ve moved to their town, ostensibly to be near my best friend and help care for him, but Marie and I both know that’s not the case.
She’s continued to profess her undying love for Howard. But I’ll be there when that undying love fades.
Nice story, Phil.
(Next time: a positive protagonist! I accept the challenge!)
Such an insight into human nature. Makes one wonder if impure thoughts are a real sin or does it have to be acted upon? If we had “thought police” then I suspect we would nearly all be locked up.
I saw the beginnings of a new Netflix ( I think it was Netflix) called “The One.” The premise is that DNA matching could ensure that each and every person was matched with their perfect partner. Initially, there would be lots of divorces but as more and more people were matched “correctly” this would stop. This makes me ask what Marie and your narrator and Howard would have to say about this.
I’ll be interested to see what other comments come in as the site seems to have been a bit quiet lately.
As ever, you have written a great story with which I have no quibbles.
Very well-written story.
So, this is an example of bad behavior then?
(I just wanted to hear the women gasp.)
This certainly meets the criteria of foul play.
“And Marie’s the name, of his latest flame.” You a fan of Elvis, perhaps?
Nah – of Marie … 😉
(I think you should get extra points for that).
That last line is solid gold 🙂
The Rubber Ball
There’s a dull thunk as the rubber ball hits the pavement outside of a run down double wide.
It bounces up into a small, pale palm, and then is immediately pushed back down.
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.
It’s the only sound on the whole street, and it echoes from every rooftop.
The thunk is soon followed by the crunch of footsteps from the double wide.
A young girl makes her way to the street, and stops just short of the bouncing ball.
“It’s my turn,” she says, putting her hands on her hips.
The ball stops, and the pale palm makes its way to the hip of a young boy, who until a few seconds ago, had the ball, the street, and -almost- the world to himself.
“No it’s not.”
“Mom said I got the ball too. You have to share. You never share.”
The boy clenches his tiny fists and stares at the little girl.
The only sound on the street now is their breathing, heavy and stubborn.
“Mom will be home soon,” she said, breaking the quiet. “She drives fast from work, and when she gets here, she’s going to make you give me the ball.”
“No she won’t.”
“Yeah, Mom says brothers have to be nice to their sisters always and all you ever are is mean to me.”
“All you ever are is annoying.”
“Yeah well Mom will make you anyways.”
There is more silence, a stare down between the two. The faint hum of a moving car grows in the distance.
The boy listens, and his scowl slowly turns into a smirk.
“You always want to play with my toys, and Mom always lets you.” He says. “You’re Mom’s favorite.”
“Well, I want to play with you, but you’re no fun because you never share,” She replies, a hint of sadness in her voice.
“Why don’t we play a game now?” The hum of the car grows louder as the young girl’s face lights up with hope.
“Really?” She claps her hands in excitement.
“Sure. We’ll play “go get it”. I throw the ball, if I get it first, I get to keep it, and you’ll stop bothering me all the time and telling Mom to make me do things.”
“If you win, I will share my ball with you.”
She nods again, excitement and concentration lining her face as she prepares for the most important race of her life. The humming grows even louder, a car appearing in the distance, driving faster than the speed limit recommends.
The smirk is still on the boy’s face as he winds up his arm.
“Remember, you have to move as fast as you can.”
She nods again, and he takes a step back to throw the ball, waiting for the timing to be just right.
The hum in echoing from the rooftops, a small gray car driving way too fast hurtles its way down the street. The boy counts to three, and then throws the ball onto the pavement, a calculated toss for such small hands.
Without a second thought she runs after the ball, into the middle of the street alive with the hum of a speeding engine.
There’s a thunk.
The street is once again silent, deathly so.
The boy smiles and stares at the ball that has rolled onto the other side of the street.
“I win,” he whispers.
When I read the line ‘ “She drives fast from work, and when she gets here, she’s going to make you give me the ball.” I thought, this needs to be corrected because it’s really out of line with the story and I think it could be written much more subtly without tipping off the reader to the eventual ending. And, you really played up the different sounds of the car getting closer and closer.
I knew exactly what was going to happen when you kept speeding up the car sounds and had them getting closer.
I thought I just found a nasty character in Phil’s story, the one before this, but you, my dear, take the top prize so far for ‘foul’ characters. Although Phil is a close second.
A couple of things. I’m not sure how knew you are to the group, because I don’t recognize your name, but if it’s your first go, welcome. If it’s not, you are probably aware we tend to write a critique if we think we can help.I see a couple of things I would fix in your story. First with the use of dashes – there is always a space between each dash and the words before and after. Like this: had the ball, the street, and – almost – the world to himself.
Not like this: had the ball, the street, and -almost- the world to himself.
You write well, the story is good, with a great start and a great ending. You use phrases well, and your descriptions are very good. You jus telegraphed everything to your readers. I think you could have been more subtle, and in doing that, you magnify the last line and the treachery of the boy so very much more. You thought you were building the suspense, but I read it as ‘something is going to happen, I just don’t know when’ – instead of – ‘whats going to happen’? Could the boy be that evil he would kill his sister to get to play with a ball and then smile about it. Yes, yes, indeed he is.
Good story Bethany.
I haven’t seen your name before as far as I can remember so, if you are new, then welcome.
I made a comment about Phil’s story regarding insights into human nature, where, as your story clearly shows, all sorts of dark shadows lurk. Not the least of these being the love hate relationships between siblings. Children can be amazingly cunning and cruel as well as kind and loving.
As regards the comments about the mother’s fast driving, I could see the ending and you gave away several other clues about speeding cars. The wording was a bit “clunky” in my opinion. So, the words, “she drives fast from work,” started to give the game away. I think Roy York is a great person to listen to and he says he knew exactly where the story was going too. Mind you, Phil Town is also a great writer and critique and he says he didn’t feel you gave the game away, or rather, he says that the seeds for the ending were well sown. So there, what do I know?
However, with this in mind, if you hide these obvious hints at the tragedy to come, this will be a really good story. I’m sure that if Ken Cartisano adds some comments he may well offer you multiple alternative endings, such as,
Mum swerves to avoid her daughter, hits a dustbin or something, the daughter catches the ball and says to her brother, “I win,” AND tells Mum what her brother did AND he loses his pocket money forever or gets grounded for a zillion years AND his sister gets to keep the ball.
(One of the three Kens.)
Sinister. Damned fine story. Excellent writing, fabulous dialogue. Almost entirely dialogue. Wonderful suspense. The ball as the focal point, and the layout is very effective
Like this section:
‘There’s a thunk.
The street is once again silent, deathly so.’
Good story, great writing. Really enjoyed it.
As for knowing the ending. I can’t think of a better one. I was hopeful, but can’t think of one myself. (And it’s one of the other Ken’s who comes up with all the alternative endings which, I personally, often enjoy almost as much as the stories he’s changing.
But that’s neither here nor there. This is a grim story for a grim prompt, a glimpse at the dark side of human nature. I didn’t know how it would end until I read the ending. Because you made us think, that somehow or other, the author would save her. But you did not, and that (me hardies) is the reveal. No. I liked it.
I need a palate cleanser, but this was well done!
by Robt. Emmett ©2021
I slid into the back booth of Gustafson’s malt shop on Superior Street. “Johnny, why so glum?”
I glanced at Bob Waterman. “You wanna explain?”
“Explain what?” I look up, and there stands Nancy Jacobson, Avon Schuman, and Mary Margaret Stewart. They were nice enough girls, for being super-rich, that is.
Nan had mouse-brown hair in a Prince Valiant cut. Tonight, the long pointy tips peeked out of the white-fur hood of her teal-colored parka.
Avon shook out her raven curls and stuffed her vintage watch cap in the pocket of her navy pea-jacket. She’s never explained why her nickname is Itzy. At 5’11”, she’s a good match-up for a six-two geek like H2.
Mary Margaret Stewart, I call her M-n-M, paused as she pulled the furry muffs off her head without messing her ponytail. I patted the bench next to me, and she slid in. The other two sat between Johnny and Bob.
Nancy looked at me, “Again, explain what?”
I pointed at Bob, “Waterman, spill it.”
“Coach told Johnny, ‘One more fight and you can forget about getting your hockey letter.’”
Johnny slammed the tabletop, “Coach can bite my hairy ass. Ain’t no fun if ya couldn’t bare knuckle-it during a game.”
M-n-M fingered her ponytail, “You really need to find another outlet for your aggression, Johnny.”
Side glancing at him, Nan asked, “You have chicken for supper?”
“You have a foul mouth, ya know that?”
Johnny’s jaw dropped as the bell over Gustafson’s door tinkled. Spotting me, Brenda Furman joined us.
“Hi, Bunnie, what’s up?”
“Four Cake-eaters challenged Jack to Broomball at Ordean rink. She looked around the table, “You guys wanna play?”
The sinister smile on Johnny’s lips answered for us. “When?”
“Oh,” Bunnie looked at the wall clock. “The rink’ll close in half an hour. Say we meet there at 9:15. Everyone should’ve cleared out by then.”
Standing, “Good,” Johnny said,” that’ll give us time to stop at my house and get my gear.”
Johnny dumped his worn-out straw broom, missing the top half of the handle into the trunk of my ’57 Dodge convertible. His shin guards, the raggedy Montgomery-Ward Christmas Special catalog, and the Sears Fall Special followed. And lastly, to hold the catalogs in place, halfa dozen red rubber bands from an old inner tube. He decided not to bring his deflated football bladder because I had one. He wore his four-buckle goulashes.
I slammed the trunk lid. It didn’t catch. I slammed it again. It did.
“When ya gonna fix that?”
“It’s on the list,” I said.
From the back seat, “Bill, turn on the heater.” I started the car.
“It is,” I said.
Johnny turned to the girls, “It’s on his list of things to fix.” I couldn’t see his face, but I know the sound of a shit-eating grin when I hear one.
“How cold is it, anyway?” M-n-M asked.
“The temperature sign on the 1st National said ten. It’s a perfect night to play, no wind, a full moon, and a righteous, fair temperature,” I said.
“Was it a minus ten?”
“Didn’t notice,” I said.
I parked behind Itzy’s chauffeured 1968 Lincoln limo. We all piled out. Jack parked his 1956 DeSoto behind me. A trickle of steam oozed from under the left side of the hood. The East High guys had their nearly new Buicks neatly parked along the side of the hockey boards. They waited as we suited up. Nearing them, the buckles of klutzy H2’s unlatched goulashes locked together and dumped him on his face.
Bob was the least athletic of us. In fact, Itzy was probably more of an athlete.
Johnny stopped me. “Two of them are basketball players. I don’t recognize the guy in the letterman’s jacket, and the short Fireplug is a wrestler. He’s gonna be the troublemaker.”
“I’ll tell Bob to stay away from him.” Johnny nodded.
Jack joined us as we met the Cakes near the hockey boards, “How long’s a game?”
Johnny shrugged, “The usual, ‘til the cops come and throw us off.”
The Cake-eaters laughed, “Fine by us.”
After half an hour, the score was two all. Johnny’d surprised me and played nice. He didn’t wrap his broom handle around anyone’s head. I was about to tell him he was playing like a gentleman, but a squad car pulled in. The gumball on top lit up. We stopped playing. The passenger cop stepped out. The lecture started with, “You boys know this rink is closed …” Three minutes of blah-de-blah, and it ended with, “We’ll be back shortly, and if you guys are still here, we’ll run ya in for trespassing. Got that?” We nodded. They left.
“It’s a five-minute drive to Perkins on London Road,” the Fireplug said. “And they’ll drink coffee for ten or so and five minutes to drive back. We gotta good fifteen minutes to play.”
The game turned severe. Fireplug upended Bob into a patch of icy-snow bank. One of the tall guys sent a head-chopper my way. I ducked. The other dumped Jack on his face. He left a bloody streak on the ice. Johnny evened the score, not the game score. He rib-shot both the Cakes who nailed Jack and me.
It sidelined one. “I think something’s broke,” he said.
Time to leave.
The waitress at the London Road Perkins topped off our coffees and asked the girls if they wanted more hot chocolate. Only Nan did. She hadn’t stopped shivering.
“Next time,” Johnny said, “Remember to wear your mittens.” The look she shot him froze his coffee. Bunnie and Jack had headed to the emergency room to have his broken nose straightened. Johnny volunteered to fix it free.
My right hand gently rested on Mary Margaret’s left. She looked at my red and swollen knuckles. “Does it hurt bad?”
Johnny nudged me. “So, whaddya think the final score was?”
I shook my head. “Well, the Fireplug was limping. One of the tall guys was holding his left hand. I doubt it was broken, though.”
Itzy stopped blotting the cut on H2’s forehead, “I saw Bob step on it just before that awful Letterman smacked him in the head.”
“The other tall one was holding his side, but he wasn’t coughing blood.”
Johnny stretched and rolled his shoulders, “I think the score’s about even. Let’s go.”
I left a buck on the table.
Mary Margaret smiled as she took my hand.
I jerked. She remembered it was the injured one.
“Sorry,” she kissed my cheek.
A kiss always makes everything better.
Franklin held the door of Mr. Schuman’s 1968 Lincoln, and H2 helped Itzy get in.
I opened the door of my ‘57. Johnny put a hand on my shoulder and whispered, “Bill, you mind if I kiss M-n-M?”
“What! Why do you want to kiss her?”
“It was her idea.”
“What was her idea?”
“Remember back at Gustafson’s, she said, ‘You really need to find another outlet for your aggression.’”
Confused, I asked, “Yeah, so?”
Smiling coyly, “Soooo, I’m gonna take her advice, get into a Broomball game the night before every hockey game, and take out my aggression. That way, I’ll letter this year.”
– Ԙ –
A hockey letter, or any school letter, is awarded for achieving a proficiency level. Its primary color is the primary school color. The trim is the secondary color. It’s worn on the left chest of a “Jock Jacket.” Eye candy for the fairer sex.
conversation or speech characterized by quick, witty comments or replies.of that era) and IMHO make it very authentic. I know, I lived that same era, I graduated in 1960 and I have to guess you are somewhere in there. Even though you were upper midwest, I think, and I was central midwest (Kansas City, Mo.) the kids acted pretty much the same.
This story captures all that, so I always get to take a trip down memory lane when I read one of your stories. Good Job Robert. Although I would have thought having a 1968 Lincoln in the story makes you seriously younger than me by at least eight years, it does put you in the neighborhood of 70, give or take a year or two?
My car was a 1949 Lincoln that had everything. Cost me $50 in 1959. My dad drove a guy home from work one night and saw the car on blocks in his driveway. He asked him if it was for sale – thinking of me – and the guy said, “It belonged to my son, who was killed in the Korean War. We put it up on blocks the day he left and I never had the heart to take it down. It hurts me every time I see it. Give me $50 bucks and it’s yours.” I picked it up the next day. Put a new battery in it, threw a little gas in the carburetor and it started immediately. Loved that car. It had electric seats, windows and automatic transmission – one of the first cars in the country with one – and drove like a dream. Passed everything but a gas station. Glad you still contribute. I while back you indicated it might not be that way, but I see you’re still plugging along. Keep it up.
My first car also cost $50, and it taught me how to bargain. Slick saddled up to me and asked, “Car shopping?” I nodded. He asked, “What you got to spend?”
“Fifty.” Slick and I stepped over a single strand of barbwire at the rear of the car lot. He pointed, “Take your pick.” I had the choice of a four-door ’49 flathead V8 Ford or a ‘49 stovebolt 6 Chevy businessmen’s coupe.
He wrote up the Chevy for fifty and asked for $1.25 for the transfer tax. I showed him my empty wallet, fished two quarters out of my Levis, and told him they were for gas. Or I’d leave. He wasn’t happy when he rewrote the single sheet transfer.
I bought a truck last month and had to sign six or seven different papers. Life was so simple back then. A buck would buy five gallons of gas, or four packs of Lucky Strikes with two pennies sealed in the end.
The plan was to nose and deck the Chevy, remove the door handles, and tunnel ’50 Ford tail lenses. The guys I hung out with suggested nerf bars front and rear. The Cake-eaters did the work in exchange for me sketching ideas for their cars. Finished but in prime, I sold the Chevy to a kid with more money than brains. A week later, he dropped the crank into the pan.
The meeting place was in the four-bay carriage house behind one of their grandmother’s mansion. After all the guys had customized their rides to their taste, they sold them within a month of completion.
The lesson here – buy what you want and forget about the changing BS. They and I did!
My next two cars were Fords. The only changes I made to them – I had their names painted on the front fenders behind the wheelwell.
Nancy Jacobson, Avon Schuman, and Mary Margaret Stewart, had attended a girl’s finishing school out east. They’d returned home an attended a private girls finishing in Duluth. The girl’s fathers owned the law firm of Jacobson, Schuman, and Stewart. Itzy Schuman’s father wouldn’t allow her to ride in a boy’s car. So she rode in daddy’s chauffeured 1968 Lincoln limo.
The story happened in 1956 or 57 but dated it ’68 because it’s part of a novella I’ve written about three guys in the class’71. Why the class of ’71? Don’t remember.
That explains the anachronism in your story and my jump to a conclusion based on a fictional story. Thanks Robert. You write replies like you write your stories. Descriptive, lyrical and informative. Loving it. I’m not sure I have that recall for names. I’d have to pick up a yearbook, and it might come flooding back, but I’d probably embellish it a little. Well, a lot.
A terrific piece of storytelling that gives a real insight to an alien world ( for me) of schooldays ice hockey. It sounds so very authentic and, as a former teacher of physical education, I can understand the notion of “the letter.” I wonder if it has the same significance as the awarding of “colours” (UK spelling here) when I was at school. They were hard to come by.
We had rugby which can be brutal but this account sounds like teenage testosterone-fuelled war!
Top – rate dialogue too that has such a natural feel to it, even though I didn’t get every part of it. Mind you, there are dozens of different dialects even within the UK that take time to tune in to.
PS Really enjoyed Roy’s comments too. Storytellers tell stories!
Nice stuff, Rob.
Nifty story. Outstanding dialogue. A lot of characters but I actually had no trouble keeping them straight. You could have gone with one or two less women, until the end. Personally, I think the car references are a little too detailed, in the body of the story. You know? ‘He popped the trunk of his ’57 Belair.’ Why didn’t he just pop the trunk of his car?
On the other hand:
‘I slammed the trunk lid. It didn’t latch. I slammed it again. It did.’
That is exactly what they used to do. That’s a good detail.
Here’s a more subtle way to handle the car details. I think.
Itzy arrived in a chauffeured ’68 Lincoln and I pulled in behind it. We all piled out. Jack pulled in behind me in his old DeSoto, a column of steam shooting out from under the hood. The East High guys showed up in a caravan of shiny Buicks and parked alongside the hockey boards.
You had ‘steam trickling out’. Steam doesn’t trickle.
It’s good to highlight the cars, use what you know, it adds color and authenticity to the story, but not so much that it sticks out. That’s what I think, anyway.
On the other hand, Roy used your car’s descriptions to triangulate your age. (Which, didn’t even occur to me to do, and I thought it was pretty clever.) I graduated in 1970, at the age of 17. I had an older stepbrother, and an older sister, and I always felt like there was a huge change in attitude going from the late 60’s into the very early 70’s. Or maybe it was where I grew up
I think the dialogue is fantastic and the story is very entertaining, except for those three sentences.
From painful personal experience, steam SHOOTS from a punctured hose. “A trickle of steam oozes from under the left side of the hood.” This happens when coolant leaks from under a poorly sealed gooseneck and dribbles onto a hot exhaust manifold.
I add the extra details about cars, because to my mind, that era was about three things: cars, music, and girls. The auto styles were fresh and different from the post-WWII iron. (Or todays, for that matter.) Look at whats rolling on the roads now: drab monotones. When was the last time you seen a unique color? The last time you saw a tu-tone paint job? Three-tone—Dad’s ’56 Dodge Lancer. My friends called it the Finch—yellow, white, and black. (Google it.)
Rock-N-Roll was combining black jazz and a new style using electric guitars. (the parents hated it!)
And the girls – ‘nother time – maybe.
Having siblings is a good/bad thing. I wish I had some/glad I didn’t. I had a cousin. She’s two months my junior and always lived only a few blocks away. (we fought like brother and sister.)
As always, ken, I find your comments insightful and look forward to reading them.
You want to FEEL “teenage testosterone?” Imagine this, a triangle-shaped city 28 X 5 miles (45 X 8 km) containing six senior high schools, with another six within half an hour. Then, to spice things up, add a school for 150 uber-rich girls eager to meet boys and, ah, well, dance. Think on this: a dozen unique, two-tone color combination Jock-jackets with letters and jingling medals, motorcycle leathers with an attitude, and nerds with their top button buttoned (some sporting bow ties) in very close proximity. Combine two-thousand of these teens in a Battalion size Armory with a capacity of fifteen hundred. Testosterone dripped from the ceiling beams.
This scene could quickly get out of control. It didn’t. A dozen of Duluth’s finest, who could have been defensive linebackers, with nightsticks, “mingled.” If an altercation happened, a price was paid. “Sorry, Sarge, the kid musta slipped getting in the squad car and banged his face on the door.”
When it happened, which was seldom, it was usually the first big spring Sock-Hop. The rest of the year, things were cool. Or taken outside and around the corner. Teens are quick learners.
Roy, I have my 1955 – 1958 yearbooks. And three: 1959, ’60, and ’61 Stanbrook Hall yearbooks as well. Remember, Nancy Jacobson, Avon Schuman, and Mary Margaret Stewart had returned home and attended a private girl’s finishing school in Duluth.” That’s them and that’s the there.
Steam shoots from anything under pressure. Rubber hose, metal radiator, glass coffee pot. No. A trickle of steam is like a burst of monotony. Or a cacophony of quiet. Or a splash of gray. It’s all about the wording, not the science. Streams trickle, not steam. But hey, it’s your story.
As far as car styling, I agree that most cars today all look like an innocuous Buick SUV. In fact, the best way to differentiate autos today is by their front grille, headlights and tail lights. We just bought a new car last November, the third thing I did was buy a weird decal and stick it on the back window so I could identify the damned thing. (I think it says, ‘Bring back the spats.’)
As far as colors, I’ve seen some outstanding new greens, reds and blues, you have to pay extra for that, there’s a whole science behind that too, I’m sure. Like hard, durable paint-jobs don’t look that great, and highly lustrous paint jobs are more fragile. The factory car painting process is probably pretty sophisticated these days. But I think it’s more of a sales strategy or gimmick anyway. I know that Kim and I would have preferred the red car, but we’re driving around in a black one. Because it was cheaper.
And we’re cheap.
I can see how you were in a geographic testosterone zone. All those kids in such a small area. The all-girls school is like a multiplier. (We’re not talking addition here folks, this is multiplication, maybe even calculus.) And there’s no question that there were active inter-school rivalries, Norland was our arch-enemy, but it wasn’t that important to anyone other than those in the affected cliques. (the jock’s and soc’s.)
You’re probably two or three years older than me. I remember soc-hops when I was in junior high, I just never went to them. And you’re right… they were the thing to do. But their popularity and frequency waned as we approached 1970. Hardly anyone went to dances by the time I graduated. Nobody I knew, that is.
I wasn’t one of the cool kids anyway, you know? I wasn’t one of them. They were polite to me, but they didn’t associate with me until the very last year of school. And by then, I didn’t care.
I had a job, a girl, I had money, I had wheels,(a TWO-TONE, candy-apple red and white Honda 350 scrambler with upswept pipes), I was the coolest dressed kid in school. (Which wasn’t easy, my friend.) I had easy-going parents. I knew all the kids in my neighborhood, most of whom went to a different school. (Of their choosing, I presume. Because I went to the public high school right down the street.)
Your story and comments really brings back memories Robert. I just hope for everyone’s sake that they don’t try to bring back ‘saddle-shoes’. That would be horrible.
I stand corrected; the girl’s school WAS a multiplier. Part of Stanbrook’s uniform was your favorite footwear – white and navy blue. Stanbrook’s official title was Springbrook Preparatory College and Academy. ‘S.P.C.A’ for short. Also known as the Animal Shelter. The school held about five dances per year. The bad thing, as far as I was concerned, is half of the teachers [nuns] had transferred from Cathedral to Stanbrook in 1960. My rep preceded me.
Ken, I’m a dozen years older than you. 1958 / 1970.
Here were a dozen elementary school at Cathedral, there were no real cliques like in the public schools. I hung with the twelve or so guys who were in the Cub Scout pack my mother start in our kitchen. And in the summer at the lake, and car club, I hung “the Coachmen,” Cake-eaters.
“We’re cheap.” Cheap’s cool.
BY PRAPTI GUPTA,17
“Yeah, I will be there by 8 pm. See you soon”. I ended the call. Anna called me. Oh! Let me introduce her. Actually, she was my best friend when we were kids When she was 11 her parents died in a road accident, after that she was sent to her uncle’s house in Boston. From that day we lost contact. There was not even a single day I missed her. She has gone through a lot of tragedy. Thanks to social media, that I found all her whereabouts and regained our friendship. And she was coming back to Los Angeles, my city. I was overjoyed.
With cakes, toffees and many other presents I rang the doorbell. It was someone’s house that she was staying in, definitely not a hotel or a rented house. And there she opened the door. In a red long gown, hair tightly tied at the top she gave me a tight hug. I really missed it and wanted it since a long time.
After a lot of chit chat, I asked her the question which I wanted to since I came to her house. “Hey, is this a kind of hotel? It doesn’t look like that” “Oh no, it is one of my friend’s house, she is away for a week so she told me to stay here only”. I was not happy, a bit jealous, moreover I was her best friend, she could have stayed with me. But still I forgot the issue.
We ate snacks, danced, sang and did all the things that we missed for so many years. At last, she went to prepare the dinner. I was sitting idle. I thought of exploring the house, a stranger’s house. I was just exploring when I saw a strange thing, a family photograph of an old man and an old woman. There was not even a sign of teenager or anyone in her 20’s or even 30’s living in that house that could be her friend. As I was exploring the house my curiosity grew more and more. Next, I went to the bedroom. I was just coming back when my eyes went under the bed. I could see a toe finger out just under the bed. Maybe it could be some kind of a doll or something like that, but wait! Isn’t the finger big enough for a doll? I was just about to check it out when all of a sudden, my mobile phone started ringing. It was my neighbour Frank. I picked up.
“Hi there, have you heard the news?” he sounded quite nervous.
“A serial killer has murdered about 6 people in the morning itself. A victim somehow managed to survive and described her as a young woman in her 20’s wearing a red long gown, blonde hair tightly tied up…” Frank continued the description.
As he was describing her what came to my mind was a clear picture of Anna. Her red long gown, the house and the creepiest part was that toe finger. It must be of the old house owner whom Anna had killed. I was dumbstruck, frightened, no combination of 26 alphabets can describe how I felt. Only one thing that came to my mind was to escape from that house. As soon as I turned around, I found Anna standing right behind me with a horrifying cunning smile. Before I could do anything, she placed a knife on my stomach and started stabbing me.
“Noooooo….” I cried out. “Oh, Thank God, it was a dream” I gasped. “What type of dream I started having” I thought to myself. I was just going to freshen up when my phone started ringing.
“Hello Emily, I’m Anna. I just landed to Los Angeles today. Will you be coming to my house today? I will text you the address after sometime”
A cold shiver ran down my spine.
I’m not a big fan of ‘dream’ stories. I really don’t like them, because I feel they give a new, young writer, a misguided opportunity to clean up their story at the end with a disclaimer. “Hey, I was really stuck for an ending, so I made it a dream.” Or whatever. Fortunately, your little twist prevented me from hammering you with that, although it may seem like that to you.
A little rewrite of the dialogue in the next to last paragraph might be in order. “Hello, Emily. This is Anna.” You might have the protagonist answer with, some dialogue, such as, “Oh, Hi.” Then Anna speaks again. “I just landed in Los Angeles. Will you be coming by today? I can text you the address.”
A person lands in a city, not to a city. Also, by saying you ‘just’ landed, you don’t need the word today. Your reader knows that. Nothing really wrong with ‘Will you be coming to my house today”? but coming ‘by’ sounds a bit better, and finally, “I will text you after sometime” is too ambiguous.
I also think you should have addressed the issue of confirming a body attached to the ‘toe-finger’ which others have pointed out to be either toe or finger, can’t be both.
Again, welcome and I hope to see more of your stories in the near future. Try to make it something without a dream ending and make this cranky old guy happy. You can obviously write.
Nice little psych-tale. You need to separate your dialogue though, as others do. Each person gets their own paragraph, for clarity. But it’s a concise and clever story.
Since the month and day is written 14/3 across the pond, is pi day celebrated there? Just wondering? Now it’s time to decorate. Gotta run.
MEAT PIES AND GRAVY.
by Ken Frape
The carcass that fell on old Bill Thompson must have weighed 200kg. It knocked him unconscious and the 73 year old butcher froze to death in his own cold store. He should have retired and put his feet up, as his family had suggested. The business was put up for sale by his family as none of them wanted to be butchers, especially after that. In due course, the business was sold and a new name was painted over the front door;
ARTY JONES QUALITY MEAT PIES AND GRAVY
The big supermarkets have taken away much trade from small towns but there will always be a tiny minority of speciality shops that survive and thrive. In Arty Jones’ case, people were buying most of their shopping in the supermarkets but they came to him for their pies. As they queued up outside his shop they marvelled at the succulent odours that drifted past their nostrils as their mouths watered in anticipation. They drooled over the golden brown, crispy pastry that encased these wonderful creations. One bite and they simply could not forget the taste.
Arty was a burly 50 something guy with powerful arms and broad shoulders that could easily carry the heavy carcasses like the one that had killed old man Thompson. Long after the shop had closed, lights would be burning into the night as further batches of pies were baked. They came in a variety of meats but Arty Jones kept his recipes a closely guarded secret.
It was rumoured that he had a family recipe book handed down over several generations that he kept under lock and key in a safe place. Inevitably, big businesses came calling to buy him out but he turned them all away as still more people from far and wide came and sampled his extraordinary product. He was the Pied Piper of pies, or as the townspeople called him, The Pie Piper.
An affable man by nature, Arty quickly settled into the local community, exchanging cheeky banter with the housewives during opening hours and enjoying a beer in the pub when he finished his pie making. He soon gathered around him a motley collection of friends both male and female, all vying for his attention. Prurient small town gossip quickly suggested that he was regularly giving a mystery local woman in the town a lot more than a meat pie. For many of his friends this simply enhanced his reputation as a larger than life character. He was single after all, they reasoned, so why not?
Micky Davis was not one of those people who liked Arty. In fact, he hated him and, much to his mother’s surprise, he refused to eat his pies. Micky was the youngest son of Deidre and Nigel Davis and his Dad worked on the North Sea oil rigs, away for weeks on end. Teenager Micky discovered that his mum was the woman that Arty was seeing and he was old enough to understand the meaning of the word, “seeing.”
Micky was angry with his mother and Arty and determined to try to stop their affair but wasn’t sure how. He decided to keep watch on the shop and he even volunteered to do the shopping so he could get a better look inside. Arty treated him like any other customer, joshing and joking like a good old mate, ruffling his hair in a way that infuriated Micky who could only imagine the things that those same hands had done to his mother. The same hands that also cut up bloody meat. The very thought made him shudder. Micky wondered if Arty actually knew who he was.
Micky refined and completed his plan. He would break into Arty’s shop and steal his recipe book and publish the recipes on the internet. That would be the perfect revenge for messing with his family. He waited until the next time his mother dolled herself up and told Micky that she was going for a drink “with the girls.” He knew where she was really going so he knew that Arty would be out of the shop that evening.
Micky’s heart was racing as he approached the back door of Arty’s shop in the darkness. The building was old and he quickly managed to remove a rotting panel in the back door that was just large enough to allow him to squeeze through. Once inside he took a long, deep sniff of the delicious aroma before heading for the room that he assumed was the office. The office door was unlocked and Micky slipped into the room silently. He took his torch from his pocket and searched the room for the recipe book. Nothing. Perhaps Arty didn’t keep it in the shop, he wondered, with a sinking heart.
He searched again and this time his foot rattled against a piece of loose floorboard which he carefully lifted up and there, at the bottom of the hole, was a large tin! Micky lifted it out and with nervous fingers prised open the lid. Inside the tin were hundreds of bank notes, mostly 20’s. Micky put the tin to one side. First things first, he reminded himself. The recipe book was what he came for, not money. The money would be a bonus. As he looked down into the hole he noticed another object at the bottom, wrapped in black plastic. The recipe book!
As he crouched down to grasp his prize he heard a noise from behind him. There standing in the doorway was Arty. He was wearing his blood-stained apron and in his right hand he held a razor-sharp, long-bladed butcher’s knife. It was a freeze-frame from a horror movie.
“I knew you were up to something, you little bastard” he said as he stepped forward and grabbed Micky by the throat. “You’ve been watching my shop for days, haven’t you?” With one muscular arm he lifted Micky so that his feet were off the floor. With the other, he drove his butchering blade between Micky’s ribs and up into his heart.
“Didn’t think I would leave my precious recipe book just lying around, did you, so some little toe-rag could just sneak in and nab it? “ He extracted the slippery blade and hung Micky’s limp body from the nearest meat hook. He placed a bucket underneath to catch the blood then stepped into the processing room where he flicked the “On” switch of the huge, industrial-sized mincing machine.
Arty licked blood off his fingers and savoured the taste for a moment. “Delicious “ he said. “Rhesus negative, I think. Quite rare but it makes such great gravy to go with young, tender meat. “
He looked back at Micky’s body, gently swinging on the meathook.
“Your Mum will be pleased. She loves my meat pies and gravy.”
The Barber on Fleet Street doesn’t have much on Arty, now, does he? Great story mate, but … and I mean this with the greatest respect … I knew the secret ingredient of the wonderful, tasty meat pies as soon as you wrote the sentences regarding their wonderful flavor. My problem is, I can’t tell you how to fix it.
We can revisit Fried Green Tomatoes to see how they handled it. Nope. No answer there. I knew as soon as the old boy went missing he was going to end up barbecued and served to the detective trying to investigate his death. BTW, It’s a great movie if you haven’t seen it.
So, other than just thoroughly enjoying your writing, and the story, I just knew deep in my heart how Mick was going to taste and that Mum would be enjoying her son more than she could ever think. As I said, great story, great writing. Maybe I know you too well and where you were going with this.
The writing, again, for the third or fourth contest in a row, is exquisite. Not because it’s nice, or flowery or imaginative. It’s just really easy to read. It’s as if every sentence is optimally designed for reader comprehension. On my level. The first two paragraphs epitomize my point.
Take the following sentence for example:
‘As they queued up outside his shop they marvelled at the succulent odours that drifted past their nostrils as their mouths watered in anticipation.’
This is an amazing sentence, Ken. I’m serious. Look at that damn thing. Not one comma, and yet you have a que, a shop, wonder, mouth-watering odors and anticipation. All that, without a single comma. (Who are you really? How many initials in your name?)
I’m not kidding, Ken. This is exemplary writing, regardless of the story. I mean, this is a horrible story! Basically. Right? It’s horrendous. What makes this enjoyable and worth reading is how well you’ve written it.
I wrote a story with a cannibalistic theme once, (at least,) a Halloween story, and absolutely knew the direction this story was headed, except that I thought the boy might pull it off, instead, he ends up hanging from a meat hook. (I’m surprised he didn’t also get hit by a train. Knowing you.) So, again, the surprise is not that the butcher is a — a butcher, but that at the end of the story, he’s way cleverer than the boy, who, it turns out, is no real saint himself, is he.
I thought this was smooth and vivid like an excerpt from an Anne Rice novel (not one of the smuttier scenes).
The other two Kens said it all!
By Roy York
Reuters, dateline August 15, 2021
… Alex Jardaine
The disemboweled body of a middle aged man was discovered by street cleaners early this morning behind St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York City. Foul play is suspected. Police are asking anyone with information to please step forward. Identification is being withheld until immediate family members have been notified.
John Drummond lowered the newspaper, rolling his eyes in disgust, as he looked over the top edge toward his wife. “Get this,” he said. “They discovered a disemboweled body this morning behind St. Patrick’s and the cops suspect ‘foul play’. Seriously?
His wife took a sip of her coffee as Drummond was talking and said, “Now dear, without more information, what makes you think it has to be foul play?”
“Ellen, people generally don’t disembowel themselves.”
“Why not? It doesn’t sound hard. A quick slice with a knife” she said.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, Ellen, you know fully well what I meant.”
“And what I’m saying is, it might not be foul play. He just may have done it himself. Does it say there was a knife? You don’t have enough information to make fun of the police or the reporter.”
“Sorry I mentioned it. Go back to whatever mindless game you have on your iPad and finish your yogurt.”
“I’m just saying that too many times you get your ass up in the air over something that nobody else in the entire universe gives two shits about. Maybe the police don’t want to tip anyone off and they have some pesky reporter hammering them for details.”
Drummond looked at his wife with a sour expression. “That’s my point. The reporter should have left that entire sentence out. Just report the facts and let the people decide.”
* * * * *
Alex Jardaine tipped his chair back as he read the latest email. He looked over at the reporter at the next desk and said. “Hey Jerry, some wannabe reporter who lives out in Readerville thinks I don’t know how to report. Wrote me a nasty email telling me how I should report crimes. Says I should just report the facts and let the readers decide what to believe and not believe.”
“What does he say you reported that weren’t facts? He’s probably writing The Great American Novel and thinks he can do a better job.”
“Actually,” said Jardaine, “he’s talking about the guy they found yesterday behind St. Patrick’s.”
“What’s his problem with that? Nobody knows anything. Not even the cops.”
“He took exception to the line ‘foul play is suspected’ regarding the fact he was disemboweled.”
Jerry laughed. “Yeah, well, I was wondering about that myself. Why did you write that line?”
“Et tu, Brute? I wrote it because when I asked the detectives on the scene what happened, they said, ‘We got a dead guy holding onto his guts. We think it’s foul play. But you can’t say that, ‘cause we got nothing else. Just say foul play is suspected.’ So, that’s what I wrote. Just the facts, as I received them from our boys in blue.”
Jardaine’s cell phone buzzed and he picked it up. “This is Jardaine,”. “Hey, Brennan, we were just talking about you … No, no, nothing bad at all … all good. Whatcha got?” He listened for a moment then let out a long, slow whistle. “Seriously, you’re not just pulling my leg … I’ll be right over.”
“What’s that all about?” asked Jerry.
“Brennan says they identified the guy behind St. Patrick’s.”
“You look strange. Are you OK? Is it someone you know?”
Jardaine shook his head. “No, but damn, this just got interesting. His name is John Drummond. Same as the guy who wrote the email I was talking about. Hell of a coincidence. I think I’m going to give Drummond a call.”
Jardaine hung up his phone. “I just set up a meet with John Drummond this afternoon. Wanna tag along?”
“Sure, what did he have to say?”
“I didn’t talk to him, I only talked to his wife, but she said he would be home for sure at 2:30 this afternoon.”
“I’m in, this should be good. Did you tell Brennan about this guy?”
“Not yet. I want to meet him first.”
* * * * *
Jardaine rang the doorbell of the split level ranch house as he glanced around the neighborhood. “Looks pretty middle class, but I’ll bet it cost a fortune.” There was no answer after a minute or so, and Jardaine rang the bell again.
“Look,” said Jerry. “The garage door is open. I’ll go check it out. Maybe he just got home.”
“Go ahead, I’ll wait here.”
Jerry walked quickly to the garage and peeked inside. Instantly, he stepped back and shouted, “You might want to see this. I’d give Brennan a call, too,” all the while motioning with his hand for Jardaine to join him.
Jardaine sprinted over to the garage and looked inside. Lying next to the open door of a car neatly parked was a male body; abdomen sliced open, dead hands wrapped around his intestines, unsuccessfully trying to hold them in.
“Looks like he’s been dead for some time,” said Jerry.
“Yeah, and it makes me think his wife knows something about this, telling me he would be here for sure at 2:30. Gives her time to skip town.”
“You think she did it?”
“No, not herself, but I think her hit man got the wrong guy first time around.”
Jardaine made a call on his cell phone. “Brennan, Jardaine here … I got something for ya … you need to get over to 2106 Fountain Drive … what’s that … well, it’s not an emergency anymore, but I wouldn’t waste any time … Jerry and I just found the body of a guy we think is named John Drummond, … yeah, he’s dead … yeah, same name as the other day … we were just running down a story and his wife said he would be here … you might want to put a BOLO on her … what’s that … there’s no weapon, so yeah, I definitely think it could be foul play.”
The disemboweled body of a middle-aged man… (Couldn’t think of anything more exciting, eh?) I kid you. So it’s a mystery and a great start.
It has some kinks though.
When the cop calls and Jardaine says, “This is Jardaine.” “Hey, Brennan, we were just talking about you.”
But I didn’t know who Brennan was. It’s an oblique way to introduce a character. And then, immediately following the call from Brennan, he ends it by saying, “I’ll be right over.”
Not only does he not go, but when he learns of the duplicate identity, he withholds that information from the police: A crime in and of itself, which results in a second murder. Making this a triple, or quadruplicate foul. (You underestimate yourself.)
I like the premise, absolutely, but somehow, I think you’ve made it more complicated than it needs to be, and if your journalist is to remain blameless, well, that would be another matter altogether. Maybe it would be better if the mc wasn’t a journalist. I don’t know, it’s a good reveal, it totally works, but the whole delivery seems cumbersome.
And the names. Jardaine. Jerry. Brennan. Drummond. Could be more distinct from each other.
Other than that? Still absolutely beats my last weeks story. Probably this week’s too.
Further, in my defense, he told Brennan he’d be right over, but you seemed to have taken it literally, as if he had to leave where he was at without taking those extra minutes to contact Drummond, because let’s face it, Brennan never knew what happened in between. I’ve learned to take a few shortcuts in short fiction writing. Normally, I would never have done that in a 2500 word story. But, you did spot it and it was clumsily done. Thanks for that.
Thanks for your words. You easily prove you’ve read the story more than once and I appreciate the time and the effort.
I didn’t get where it was going until 75% of the way through, but I was still enjoying the dialogue and building on the way…. especially the bickering between the couple!
I wish I had thought of this!
Thanks for your comments and I guess you are right. It’s funny really that the writer, in this case me, can’t see the story as the reader will. We are too close to it, too familiar with the content to notice the giveaway lines. I have removed several references to the lovely gravy but if people are familiar with similar plots such as Fried Green Tomatoes ( I am not) then they could have rumbled my little plot.
I really enjoyed your story Double Foul. The opening lines of dialogue are really cracking and the chat about the words regarding the police suspecting foul play are great. I did the same thing as John Drummond and thought it was a dumb thing for the police to say, unless the victim was a traditionally-minded Japanese Samurai with a sharp sword.
The story has a nice steady flow to it and a sense of authenticity which I really liked.
I’m glad to see a number of the old hands back in play. I have struggled in the last few months to find anything that I wanted to write, regardless of the quality of the prompts. I suppose my wife and I are among the lucky ones in that we are retired so financially cushioned. Now we have had first jabs but the previous few months of lockdown have been a bit more worrying than the last one as things just seemed to be getting worse by the day. There was a sense of world-wide euphoria when the world pulled together to find the vaccines but how quickly has this degenerated into the old squabbles and the old inequalities, the haves and the have nots.
Anyway, enough of this.
Good to see you in here picking it up again. I noticed you were missing. Your smooth writing leaves a void when it’s not gracing these pages. I look forward to your stories. There are quite a few writers on this site who make me smile when I see their names. Yours is definitely one of them.
Glad to hear you got your first jabs. Regardless of whose vaccine it is, if we all work together we can lick this thing. I just wish the whole world would work together. The Russians have a vaccine, Chine has a vaccine, Europe has a vaccine, India has a vaccine, the United States has three vaccines. When I was a kid, and Sauk and Sabin invented the polio vaccine, they gave it to the world. Why couldn’t that have happened for the greater good of mankind with this, and as soon as someone had a vaccine that works everybody gets the recipe and we save everybody, not just the haves?
I know the answer, of course, GREED. If you haven’t noticed, the names of the vaccines are the names of companies or country names, not those of any single person. Yes, yes, I know it was a collaborative effort, but some folks in some of those third world countries are never going to get vaccinated to any degree. And covid is just going to lurk in some dark corner and rear its ugly head in the future because we haven’t completely wiped it out. Which we easily could, if we worked together.
Off my soap box now. Thanks for your kind comments. I had originally trashed the story because I wasn’t happy with it, but left if alone for a few days and then came back and reread it. I made a couple of corrections and lo and behold, I felt it worked.
Before I go, I want to add a word about auto correct. I HATE it. I know hate is a strong word, but I have to go back and reread everything twice now to catch mistakes I know I didn’t make. Time consuming.
All the best,
WHO KILLED OSCAR MAHON?
by Ken Miles
“It was an accident, Brad. One sad accident.”
Inspector Bonnici waves the experts’ report on Oscar Mahon’s death, as proof of what he’s saying. No foul play is suspected, concludes that report.
Inspector Bonnici and Brad Hughes, Oscar Mahon’s stepfather, were in the same class at school. They weren’t friends, but never came to blows either. Today is the first time they’ve met again since graduation. Brad’s stepson – and son of the late billionaire Lucas Mahon – died in a curious crash that left his car wrapped around a tree.
“I say Humpty Dumpty was pushed!” Brad won’t just buy into the accident tale. Neither will the media. Oscar Mahon was the sole heir to such a huge fortune, some people may as well have wanted him dead.
“I wouldn’t push it if I were you, Brad,” Inspector Bonnici puffs in the air, “If I thought along your lines, guess who I’d be grilling first?”
The two men fix their eyes into each other’s. With Oscar gone, Brad may himself inherit the extensive Mahon estate, should his newly-wed wife, Oscar’s mother, pass away before him. After all she is twenty-eight years his senior.
Brad says nothing else and walks out of the police-station. In the end, he leaves it at that, settling for the official police version of events. It was an accident.
But Cheryl, Oscar’s mother, won’t get over it. She hires a private investigator the moment the police file the case.
“You vowed you won’t leave me till death!” Oscar’s loud voice fills the plushy living-room. Cheryl’s eyes well up on hearing her dead son on the recording on the investigator’s cellphone. “And till death it will be!”
“Where did you get that from?” Cheryl asks him.
“I’m good at what I do,” is all he says, “What you’ve just heard is Oscar yelling at his girlfriend, Lucinda.”
“Oscar had a girlfriend !? He didn’t even speak to girls!” The mother is stunned.
“He did indeed. Truth be told, Lucinda and Oscar were the last people I’d picture together. But it did happen, and Oscar was totally smitten with her”, the Investigator fills her in. “As you hinted, he was a stranger to women. When he found out she wasn’t exactly who he’d thought she was, he didn’t know how to handle it.”
“That threatening voice-message – I had Lucinda’s phone hacked – happened just hours before the car-crash. It can be one of two things. Please sit down, Ma’am.”
“Till death do us part,” the Investigator speaks slowly, theatrically, “Those could be the sweetest words. Or the most dangerous…”
“My baby boy! A girlfriend! Who knew?”
“Oscar was nineteen, Ma’am. It was about time, if you ask me. But, too bad he took this Lucinda so seriously. She was also seeing someone else. And that’s where it gets interesting. Jerome, her real flame, is a mechanic, specialized in car torque electronics.”
“She was seeing someone else! So, she wasn’t really Oscar’s girlfriend…” the mother sounds eerily relieved.
“Never mind Lucinda. I’m interested in Jerome. And that’s why I need you to obtain me access to the car wreck. I’ll get my own expert to check the electronics properly… it’s all computers these days, a killer can easily hide his fingerprints. Lucinda may’ve been scared that Oscar would really kill her. I would’ve been too. And she got Jerome to use his car-electronic talents and kill Oscar first. Throw in a pinch of jealousy… ”
“Your second theory?”
“Well, again: till death do us part. Could be nobody did anything to anyone. Oscar just couldn’t bear with Lucinda slipping from his arms. And well, how can I put it? He hugged that tree, instead…”
“No! Not my baby boy! He wouldn’t’ve gone that way. Not without saying a proper goodbye to his momma…”
The courts are untypically swift with Jerome’s case. The private investigator’s work does point a large finger at the mechanic, and the electronic evidence puts him in the dock. The jury’s verdict is loud and clear and Jerome’s sentence reads: lethal injection.
Then something quite incredible happens.
On the day of the execution, an emaciated Jerome sits waiting for the lethal mix to be administered into his veins. Besides
members of his family, Cheryl and Brad came too.
The last cigarette dangling from Jerome’s lips shortens in remorseful silence. He lets the stub fall, and the executioner quickly
steps on it to put it out. That’s when Cheryl pushes through the officers and embraces the man who’s about to die for killing her son.
“Spare this young man! I killed Oscar! I saved him the horrors of this world. Execute me instead!”
The officers pull her away and the magistrate on duty signals the chief-executioner to go on with carrying out Jerome’s sentence.
Cheryl’s hospitalized at a mental institution, but is found dead the next day, hanged by a rope she somehow crafted out of her hospital pajamas.
“Just what kind of hospital are you? You let a patient kill herself!” Brad’s fuming when he’s called to witness what’s happened to his wife.
“All protocols were followed, Mr. Hughes,” the hospital director explains, “This never happened before. Patients usually respond well to medetomidine. Her conviction to die was beyond belief. She was adamant she had to go to her son, look after him…”
“Bull! Just admit you’re a bunch of incompetent morons, will you?” Brad barges out of the building.
Back in his car, he takes a deep breath and smiles.
Everything’s worked out so well. Hats off to whoever concocted that mind-altering liquid, hypnohaze! It worked as promised. Once it was in Cheryl’s tea, Brad could feed her brain every word he uttered. That she’d herself killed Oscar to save him the pains of growing, and then that she needed to go and look after him, wherever he was.
With Oscar dead, Jerome executed and now Cheryl gone too, only Lucinda’s left. She’s still in the loop. And keeping that small-time model’s mouth shut is going to be costly.
Lucinda did a truly convincing job when Brad hired her to pose as Oscar’s girlfriend. That fool totally fell for her charms. She did good work with that other twit too, Jerome; she pumped enough jealousy in him to do the dirty work, and pay the price.
But she’s now saying she’d spill the beans and sell the story, unless Brad paid her an additional million dollars a year.
Talk of the devil! Brad’s phone rings and it’s her.
“One million won’t cut it, Sir,” she says, “I want five million a year.”
Brad’s been thinking hard on how to rid himself of her. It’s not easy. He doesn’t want blood on his hands. And to involve someone else would beat the purpose.
But now, as he listens to her husky voice on the line, he gets a better idea.
Why pluck this flower?
“You sell yourself too cheap, Lucinda, darling! Just five million ? What about billion with a “b”?”
“What’s your game now, Mr. Hughes?”
“Brad, please. Call me Brad. No game. I’m now widowed and wealthy. And you’re single and smashing. What’s in your way? Why settle for mere millions?”
It’s a complex plot, and a lot of story crammed into a very few words. It skips along so briskly, it resembles a summary or an elevator pitch. You know? It just seems rushed, breathless. On the other hand, the clipped style makes you feel as though you’re being swept along by a strong current. I’d rather have too few words than too many.
Frankly, I love the story, the plot and the ending. The dialogue is crisp and fresh. Always a pleasure reading your stories, Ken.
I found quite a fair number of weird wordisms, peculiar phrases and such. Not any of which even slowed me down, but I often notice one or two of these in your stories now and then. Since there were so many this time, I thought it worthwhile to show you what I’m talking about. (I show the corrections, you, of course, have the original.) And please, do not let this generous act affect your already monumental respect for my infinitesimal wisdom.
This one is just for fun.
But she’s now saying she’d spill the beans and sell the story unless Brad pays her an additional million a year.
The last time they spoke she threatened to go public with the story unless Brad coughed up a cool million a year.
If Ken F: wrote it:
Their last tumultuous encounter ended with him shouting insults and her mouthing the words, ‘one million bucks, luv,’ as she drove away.
(Except it would be better if Ken F. actually wrote it. Use your imagination on that one.)
Here are a few corrections. If you’re interested.
Some people may very well have wanted him dead.
If I had your mind-set, you’d be my primary suspect.
The two men stare at each other.
(This one is debatable, but I lean towards clarity.)
With Oscar gone, Brad could someday inherit the extensive Mahon estate, should his new wife, Oscar’s mother, pass away before he does. After all, she’s almost 30 years his senior.’
‘…the moment the police close the case.’
To involve someone else would defeat the purpose.
Still a good story Ken. A fun read, as usual.
Thanks for your detailed review. These are the times when I really appreciate the usefulness of this site: when one doesn’t just give a general critique of someone else’s story, but literally picks apart the clumsier bits and suggests specific and to-the-point improvements to them.
I cross-checked your suggestions with the original and I much prefer your versions. I won’t edit them into the story as published, so that the others can also express their opinions (in any case, I’m not going to make it for the vote, this time round!). And also because Carrie had to post the story for me (technical problems… WordPress thought I was an evil spammer trying to jam this thread!), so I don’t even have the edit button at my disposal. But everything you suggested will be going into my notebook and will certainly be woven into this story, if I were to publish it elsewhere.
As to what you called “weird wordisms”, well, I think I know where they’re coming from. I’ve been translating legal documents for nearly two decades (yes, that means I actually HAVE TO READ that awful awkwardly-written stuff – day in, day out!). So, this “Legalese” (legislative English) must have beaten an ugly dent on my talent to choose the best words and best sentence structure. And, at times, it shows. But they actually PAY me for reading that stuff. In actual money that is accepted in shops in exchange for things that other people sweat profusely to produce in factories and on farms…
Please keep picking these things out for me, Ken, when you see any. It’s great help!
I’m glad you found the story fun (that’s the main thing, in the end of the day, isn’t it?). And even more so, for reaffirming that it’s not just this story, but that you find my stories in general amusing (except, I know, in rare cases that involve sexually active supermarket delivery robots and gay vacuum cleaners!).
Plush? As in “plush interiors”. Like a room with thick carpets, rich upholstery and cushioned wallpapered walls. Suggesting wealth. Maybe it needed some other word with it, but I don’t know which.
The story may seem a bit rushed (as it started out at 1.5K words and some “connectors” had to go, so I could compress it to the required 1.2K limit – which was the most time-consuming bit. I wrote it in under an hour. It took several more, over two days, to cut it down to size).
My aim with this story was to to present a murder, then a number of people who could all be suspects. And as soon as we’re sure who must’ve dunnit, then we know it’s clearly someone else, and then someone else yet after that, and so on. That’s until the least likely suspect is revealed as the real mastermind. “Least likely” also because the Inspector actually reveals him as most likely in the beginning, therefore hinting to the reader that this one just can’t be the murderer (a false misdirection). Anyway, indeed, as you said, it’s a complex plot, but alas with too few words available to work with. It sort of needs some more cushioning between the moments one suspect is cleared and another suspect is summoned.
Ken, the other (but not the other other)
Like Ken C., I thought there was a lot of unnecessary clutter. However, I too, enjoyed the story and it was a rather clever plot, but I got lost trying to figure out who was who until I went back and read through who was who a couple of times.
This line: They weren’t friends, but never came to blows either. Talking about the detective and Brad being in high school together was completely superfluous and not needed at all. Does anyone care? This reader didn’t because it wasn’t germane to the story.
Your man Brad was a diabolical fellow, now wasn’t he? But the line – Why pluck this flower confused me. Should it not have been Why NOT pluck this flower. I like the line used in that context very much, but without the word ‘not’, it just didn’t work for me.
Still, clean this up, and you’ve got the makings of a classic rich guy wins it all novel including getting away with murder.
Thanks for your feedback. As always, it’s much appreciated!
I was afraid, while writing this story, that the names were going to be too many and it was going to be difficult for some readers to remember who was who. For that reason I used very different names, starting with different letters. And I didn’t give the Private Investigator a name, to avoid adding yet another. I suppose I could have left the Police Inspector nameless too. And I could have left surnames out too, except Oscar’s. Your point is taken.
True, the school connection between Brad and the Inspector was irrelevant. I had it there because I had a similar experience myself when I got into some trouble and the Inspector happened to be an old pal of mine… It sort of changes the dynamics, somewhat, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t critical for this story. I’d take it out if I used this story elsewhere.
“Why pluck this flower?” I meant “why kill Lucinda?”, since that’s what he was apparently planning to do (in the sense that flowers die after they’re plucked). You took it from another POV: “Why not pluck this flower?” in the sense of picking a flower for himself, to decorate his life. I like your idea, but my original might be more in keeping with the overarching killing theme of the story.
More than anything else, I’m pleased you enjoyed it Roy!
Isn’t it interesting how I read that line – Why pluck this flower. – as in ‘why not pluck it’ and enjoy it – and how you meant it. Something we writers must always be on guard for. I read it exactly the opposite.
Regards, my friend,
Welcome to the Group, John! I know you were here the other time, but I wasn’t around…
I believe you when you say that you’re into noir and crime. The attire in your pic sort of fits the theme 🙂
Thanks for your comment. I’m elated to see my story compared to that celebrated movie genre you mentioned. I’m glad the “who dunnit” misdirection worked well with you, which, I suppose made the final twist and ending more satisfactory.
I’m known by some in here as the good endings guy. Good as in diabolical, not morally good. That’s why I’m now working harder on more grabbing beginnings and crispier middles…
By Ken Cartisano.
As soon as my friend Nick arrived, I started the engines, cast off the lines and got underway.
It certainly wasn’t stealing, since the boat belonged to my stepfather, and I had the certifications and skills to pilot her, as well as the ignition keys, I just, didn’t actually have permission.
It’s hard to describe the exhilaration I felt, at the age of seventeen, standing at the helm, up on the flying bridge, twelve feet above the water. Two, massive, V-8 engines rumbling in the hold as we idled out into the open bay. I pushed the throttles forward in unison and the twin engines roared in response. Her broad bow lifts skyward, like a sleepy giant, then, the entire six-tons of boat rises up on her tail, drops and planes out on the flat of her stern as she takes off like a shot. I turn to Nick and shout above the din, “I’m not just steering, man. I’m holding on.”
She was a big, heavy boat, glass-over-wood hull, full mahogany cabin, six berths, stove, air-conditioner and ‘functional’ head. I was steering from the flying bridge as Nick explored the cabin. He joined me on the bridge after a while, and asked me if he could take the helm. I used his cigarette to light mine and stepped aside. I let him steer until we came to the first bridge.
Drawbridges are tricky. You have to convince the bridge-tender that your boat won’t fit under the bridge before they’ll agree to raise it. This involves some communication and bridge-tenders tend to be sarcastic. If you don’t have a radio, they’ll use a megaphone. Nobody wants that. We were able to squeeze under the bridge with a foot or two to spare. I headed for a small cove not far away.
It was a well-known spot for boaters and picnicking, but for some reason the water didn’t look that appealing, so we lounged around for about twenty minutes, looking as nautical and serious as two teenagers could, then we pulled the anchor and left. A half-hour later we were approaching the channel that led back to the marina when we realized we hadn’t even gone swimming.
Biscayne Bay is a wide, shallow body of water that lies between Miami Beach and the City of Miami, two cities connected by long narrow causeways. The bay has an average depth of two feet. Numerous channels have been dredged for shipping and it is wise for even smaller vessels to stay within the channels, but we were in one of those rare areas where the water was deeper than average. I cut the engines and instructed Nick to drop the anchor.
Despite his interest and curiosity, it was clear that Nick didn’t know that much about boats. Our common interest was chess, and I could never figure out how to beat him, (except once, and I think he let me win out of pity,) but he was an adept nautical apprentice.
We threw a couple of lifelines over the side and jumped into the water. I think we both had to take a whiz and it was easier to jump in the bay than to figure out how the sea-toilet worked, or didn’t work. We pretty much got wet, relieved ourselves and climbed back aboard the boat. I started the engines and instructed Nick to pull in the anchor, which he did, coiling the line with impressive expertise. I put the engines in gear, and the floor, the wheel and the controls started shaking violently. I threw the engines into neutral but it was too late. I looked over the side and one of our ‘lifelines’ stretched from the midship cleat, over the gunnel and into the water, as tight as a D-string on a bass fiddle. “One of the props is fouled,” I replied to Nick’s puzzled look.
“Fouled? What does that mean?”
“The line’s wrapped around one of the screws,” I said. “We’re gonna have to cut it off, I guess.”
Half-inch nylon rope is not impossible to cut through. I followed him into the cabin, opening drawers, cabinets, cubby holes, containers. We found masks and flippers, plastic forks, napkins… He said, “You don’t have a single knife on this entire boat?”
“Found one.” I said, holding up a rusty serrated steak knife. He had a screw driver. “I’ll trade you,” he said. We exchanged ‘tools’, put on the masks, and over the side we went.
Lord that rope was tight. How tight? It didn’t budge. It was as if the rope was welded to the propellor shaft. A jackhammer couldn’t wedge itself between those coils, and the steak knife bent itself more than it cut anything. Plus, the prop was about three feet underwater and we had no snorkels. We could only pry on it for as long as we could hold our breaths. It was hopeless.
We weren’t making any progress at all, even after quite a lot of time had passed. I don’t know how much time exactly, I just know that, at some point, while floating in the water, Nick punched me on the shoulder and pointed straight down. A foot beyond his fingertips was the bottom of the bay, moving along under us at an astonishing rate of speed. I yanked my head out of the water and looked around. A brisk wind had blown up while we were in the water and was pushing the boat with alarming efficiency, straight for a concrete seawall.
We forgot to drop the anchor.
I leapt up onto the boat with miraculous ease, pulled the remaining lifeline from the water and scrambled up to the bridge to start the engines. Nick was still in the water. I could see him over the transom.
“What are you doing?” He called out.
“I’m moving the boat,” I hollered. He didn’t seem to realize that only one prop was fouled. “Get back in the boat.”
“Just throw the anchor out.” He hollered back, looking around. “You’ve got plenty of room left, if you drop the anchor now.”
I scampered down the ladder and up to the bow, the anchor was right where he left it and I tossed it back in the water, paying it out carefully, setting and securing it. I went to the stern and hopped up on the transom, which was still a good twenty yards from the wall. Nick was bobbing in the water. He said, “Listen, have you thought about putting it in reverse?”
“The prop?” I admitted that I had not, that this had never happened before, and it could make the problem worse, but I agreed to try it.
Nick insisted on staying in the water. I didn’t like it, but he said, “I’ll be fine.” And I believed him.
The tactic worked and the rope came loose, Nick climbed back aboard and we’re still friends to this day.
I should’ve killed him when I had the chance, because I still can’t beat him at chess.
I was relieved to see that you didn’t want to maul your friend or completely consume and assimilate his identity!
This had excellent suspense, especially considering the context, and you described the world in a convincing way that I am envious of.
As I mentioned before, I actually was reading so fast I was almost jumping ahead with breathless anticipation wondering just what kind of shit was going to happen. Then, nothing. Geez, here’s where you could have made up some really cool stuff. Nope, you plunged ahead without any artistic license at all. Hey, we writers are allowed to take real life situations and embellish them with lies and get away with it. It’s called fiction.
Everything got solved, fortunately, because you had a chess champion with you who was able to think a few moves ahead, like reversing the screws. Had you been with some nitwit, like yourself perhaps, you would still be doing time for reckless manslaughter after you backed over your friend and tried to convince the police you didn’t ‘really’ steal the boat. A good prosecutor would have sent your 17 year old ass up the river and enjoyed a good glass of merlot on the bridge with your step father afterwards.
Seriously, the writing was absolutely excellent. Next time, just make up stuff. I do it all the time. I figure I’ve been accused of it all my life, I may as well try to turn it Into something, call it fiction, and maybe one day, score a few bucks.
Damn, I was going for LOL. However, I’ll settle for grinning from ear to ear. Speaking of that, I had a cousin once, long since gone, who almost actually did grin from ear to ear. Not making this up, he was called Smiley. Not his real name, but doggone if I know what it really was.
By John Mansfield
Word Count: 1200
Rhys shouldered his rifle and clambered up the hill with purposeful strides that kicked small stones off the path as he moved along. He paused at the top to catch his breath and glimpsed a murder of crows passing overhead. It looked like seven of them and they were flying towards his right, which was a very good auspice.
Today was the day.
Augury. That was what his father had called it. It is a form of divination and a superstition that dates to before Rome, but it is way simpler than it sounds. Just look at a bunch of birds and see which direction they are flying. Birds flying to the right are good. Birds flying to the left are bad. Easy.
But his father was no seer in ancient Rome, so Rhys was left with just the basics of ornithological divination when he passed. It was irksome sometimes to receive such limited feedback from his feathered companions. Was it going to be a financial fortune or a victory of love? Should he invest stock or pull out? Still, seven was a lucky number and the blasted sky rats had flown to the right, so he was just going to take it as a good omen and forge ahead with the plan.
But it was not a plan, plot, or scheme. It was the blueprint of a master architect.
She would never even see it coming.
Rhys was just a frail little cuckold, after all, barely capable of bench pressing the bar. It did not even dawn on her to be afraid of him, which was good because the entire plot depended on her complete ignorance.
Revenge was his primary goal and getting away with the crime was secondary. All the stealth and subterfuge and nocturnal scheming? That was for her, not the long arm of the law. It was all so she would not know until the right moment, and then he could savor the look on her face properly. There was no concern about the future, the cops, or even the other man.
Distant caws brought his thoughts back to the prophetic crows as Rhys neared the midpoint of his journey.
Soon, there will be no need to read fortunes in feathers.
The rowdy corvids had spotted something, probably a hawk from the sound of it, and there was a mighty din from that portion of the forest off to the right. A plethora of smaller and less spunky birds scattered and flew in various directions at the sound of the alarm.
Even other birds pay great attention to the activities of the crows.
Rhys smiled a wistful and creepy smile while he rested against a tree for a moment. The aspiring killer wiped the sweat from his balding brow. He felt a connection to the crows and, through them, a connection to the landscape that they surveyed.
Out here in the woods with the crows was a haven and a heaven.
All his worries and guilty thoughts about his aspirations to murder suddenly sublimated in his mind and he felt a freedom and energy that only comes with complete mental breakdowns and religious experiences.
It was going to be okay. Steady as she goes.
Though Rhys was physically exhausted and slowing in pace, a cold and invigorating resolve spread its icy tendrils and firmed its grip on his racing heart.
But the strange, maniacal exuberance faded suddenly when he crested the final hill and spied the lookout crow silhouetted against the gray sky. It cocked its head to the left and right and sized him up, but Rhys noticed that it didn’t lift a feather or raise the alarm for the six other crows pecking about below.
Something was wrong.
Rhys cast his gaze lower and spied his wife standing there with a partially veiled smile that he could only describe as… tentatively smug?
It was like she could see right into his lurid mind. Like she had been reading along as he toiled and laughing at his every move because he was just so pathetic. Like she was going to trump it all with something huge.
That was the expression she always wore when she had the upper hand.
Rhys kept trudging forward at the same speed, but his mind raced faster and faster as he neared his wife. He could not figure how she knew or what she was going to do about it. Taking a rain check seemed like a viable option, but it was unlikely that things would ever line up this perfectly again. After all, he barely got her to agree to meet him here in the first place and he did just walk out of the woods with a rifle looking like a madman. And Lover Boy was going to be back from his business trip soon…
But there was no muscular savior present to stop him now, and there was no gun at her waist or weapon anywhere in sight. Furthermore, her shorts and boots were too small to conceal anything larger than a pocketknife. He could easily just fire one shot now and walk away with no repercussions… but something else bothered him even more than her confidence and indifference.
It was the crow.
The sentinel crow had still never moved, even though Rhys kept glancing up at it every few seconds since he arrived. He kept waiting for it to alight and take off towards his left or right. Then he could know if he should carry on or give up.
With an almost audible click, that mysterious something he had been searching for dislodged and floated down to the forefront of his mind at last.
It was another bird anecdote that he had picked up in a chat room or a message board somewhere. This guy who claimed he was a farmer said he had to deal with crows messing with the crops all the time. Through his struggles with the avian pests, he learned that they always leave one lookout or sentinel crow posted to keep an eye on things while the rest of the birdbrains feasted. He was embellishing a smidge, but the anonymous farmer claimed that you could always tell an old lookout crow from a young, inexperienced one by how they react to a gun.
A young crow on lookout duty can recognize a gun and give warning to their fellows, but a veteran crow can tell if it is loaded or not.
The wizened old bag of feathers in question seemed nonplussed, but Rhys knew that he had loaded the rifle the night before. Hell, he had even checked multiple times this morning, including one final check during “last looks”. The crow was just a stupid bird, it would seem, and not oracular in the slightest.
Then again, he did turn his back on the gun one time when taking a bathroom break during breakfast. It was propped in the umbrella stand and she could have quietly crept through the…. No – that was crazier than using scavenger birds as a personal horoscope!
Rhys realized that he was already aiming the gun as a twig snapped behind him.
“…but a veteran crow can tell if it’s loaded or not…”? That’s a good one, John. A veteran crow.
It’s a wonderful story, just, beautifully written. Dark, mysterious, foreboding. A wonderfully mystical tale and what an ending. ‘a twig snapped behind him.’
Excellent story. Really excellent writing, Mr. Mansfield. In my opinion.
First let me tell you I am pissed because you did something I’ve been meaning to do on this site and never got around to it. Use the phrase a ‘murder’ of crows. As a trivia buff, I cannot tell you how many trivia games I’ve won with that as a question in some form or other. People just can’t get their heads around a murder of crows. They all go Edgar Allen Poe in their thinking when it’s not difficult at all.
Anyway, I digress. I liked your story very much, it is very well written and the only quibble I’ve got with it, is: It can’t be the woman who steps on the twig behind Rhys, so who was it and why? I chuckled when you used the veteran crow line because, if Rhys didn’t know if the gun was loaded, then how does a crow figure that out. But, like Ken, I thought to myself, very clever. Nice.
Well written and kept me in suspense, but I would have really liked the woman to have disappeared while he was checking his gun wondering if it was loaded or not, and then, have the twig snap behind him. Yeah, that would have been icing on an already delicious cake. Since he was aiming his gun it had to be at her, so I had to figure she was on to him and hired help to fix her problem, but as I just explained, that was an easy solve and she didn’t need anyone.
I was trying to hint that the other man never took a business trip at all and maybe he was the twig snapping AND the disturbance that spooked the crows a few minutes earlier….
I think if I had said that the twig snapping came from “off to the right” or something that it might have helped – but really I just didn’t give enough clues to help the reader along!
I haven’t seen your name before so, if you are new, then a very warm welcome There is always room for such first rate writing.
I have read the other comments and it’s clear that there is a general agreement about the quality of your writing. In my opinion it is faultless and the running theme of the crows is super.
My thought is that the so-called muscular saviour IS behind him. Who else would the wife turn to for help when she realised that her cuckold of a husband was going to kill her. Rhys may just have time to spin round, shoot the bastard and then turn back to his wife to complete his business. Double the satisfaction.
However, as a good storyteller, you leave the ending to our lurid imaginations.
I am very late and I don’t really expect to be included this round, but I still wanted/needed to write something!
Bring on the feedback!
You know the drill… It’s time to vote!
Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.
You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.
@all just to let you know I probably won’t get to the voting for a couple extra hours, it’s time to get the horse’s feet trimmed…. His feet are size of plates so it takes a bit!!
So everyone will have an extra 2 hours or so to read through the stories!! 🐎
Take your time.
Today is turning into a nightmare and I probably won’t be home until late!
One story hit way too close to home for me because it wasn’t fiction, it very nearly came true. Bethany’s story could have come from the pages of my life. I was a young mother, 24, with 3 children aged 3, 4, and an adopted daughter of 9. The oldest had been an abused child before we adopted her at age 6 and 1/2. It was a sunny day. The kids were all playing in the front yard with some of the neighborhood children. I had the front door open while I folded laundry so I could keep an eye on them.
Suddenly I heard the harsh screech of a car’s brakes and my heart stopped. I dropped the laundry and ran. My 3 year old son was standing in the street in front of a car crying. The other children were standing at the side of the road terrified. My 9 year old was standing on the other side of the street, holding the ball they had been playing with, grinning from ear to ear. I ran and grabbed my son and waved the shaken driver past us. I ordered my daughter back across the street. I was shaking as I realized that my son could have been killed.
I asked the kids what had happened. My daughter had thrown the ball across the street intentionally and ran after it. She picked it up and waited until she saw a car coming to call her little brother to come and get the ball. All he saw was the ball, he wasn’t watching for a car. She purposefully tried to cause him injury or death. Those were tough years. My daughter was emotionally disturbed and became a danger to not only our younger children, but to us as well as she grew.
Of course, any of these wonderful stories, had the potential to be based on actual facts and actions and real deaths. I love this group. I can’t wait to get back to writing and get back to entering again. I miss you all!!
I suppose my story should be disqualified since it’s actually a true story. (I didn’t even change the names.) And this is, after all, a fiction contest site. But I figured, hell, after fifty years? For all I know, half of it is bullshit. To tell the truth, I honestly don’t remember how I got the rope off that prop. I just know that we did. I’ll have to post this, or call Nick and ask him if he remembers.
What I’m saying is, I don’t remember, I can’t swear how much of this is made up, and how much really happened on that particular outing, but as far as I know, none of my story is made up. None of it. It actually happened that way. So technically, it’s not fiction.
I’ve got some of that running in my family as well, but, you win. I managed to get out of all that drama from childhood, and since I’ve been married, while we’ve had a couple of personal tragedies with a son hit by a car (the loud screech of breaks will cause my wife and I to burst into tears we discovered a few years after my son’s accident) he’s fine today with a family of his own, and the kidnapping of my six year old (happy ending, folks, she’s fine, all grown up with kids of her own and all well adjusted) we had a happy ending to all of it.
I hope the daughter in question is OK today?
Looking forward to seeing you back in harness. Miss you, too. Stay safe. I assume you’re vaxxed? (Made up a new word there.)
Wish it all had a happy ending. My adopted daughter’s abusive childhood, emotional disturbance and mental illness combined with a high IQ (142 at age 7) led her to all kinds of trouble. She stole from everyone, she took knives and slashed all of her clothes and my younger daughter’s clothes. She cut the hair off of all her dolls. We had to lock up the knives and padlock the kitchen door at night. She stole our checkbook, wrote out checks for hundreds of dollars and tried to sell them to her friends at school. She terrorized the younger two children into screaming nightmares when she told them in gory detail how she planned to cut off the head of her biological mother (my husband’s sister) with an axe (“until the blood flies”) and other details. She told me that she was “happy” when I lost our twins before birth because “if I hadn’t”, she “would have killed them.”
Her psychiatrist had her admitted immediately to an adolescent psych unit of the hospital. She stayed there for 3 weeks and upon discharge, she had to go to a therapeutic foster home until a residential treatment center could be found for her. She could not come home because she was “too dangerous” to be around the younger children. The doctor said that she had no conscience and showed no remorse. He stated that she could “kill all of us in the middle of the night” and say, “so what? They bothered me.” She was 11 and I was devastated. This was my child!
She’s now 43. I haven’t spoken to her in years. She doesn’t want anything to do with me. I was the only one fighting for her and ironically, she doesn’t think I “protected” her, but there was no way I could protect her from herself. She’s been involved with the law, with drugs, and abusive men. She was a beautiful child and had so much potential. She had 2 baby girls that she gave up for adoption. She had two sons that she kept but she lost custody of. I’ve only seen pictures of my grandsons. I’ve never met them. My firstborn daughter is in contact with her adopted sister/cousin. They both had struggles through their teen years because of their father and father’s family. They call it the “curse” of that family. I married into that curse so I can attest to it.
Regardless of all that, I still love my adopted daughter. I’m glad my girls are in contact so I can at least know that the oldest is alive and hanging in there. The last time I saw her she was about 17.
Anyway, we will finally be able to have Mama’s memorial in a couple of weeks – on April 3rd. I’m hoping I can get back to some sense of normalcy after that. I’m still taking care of Daddy and working from home, so no, I haven’t been “vaxxed” yet. LOL. I rarely go out. Word is we’ll be heading back to the office part-time next month so I’ll be seeking that shot in the arm as soon as I can. Just in the last month COVID has taken 3 of my friends.
Congrats to all of the winners!! Getting to read the stories have been a treat during these trying times! Keep on writing and hopefully I will back in the running with the rest of you soon.
Come Halloween, you and I could write a collaborative tale of two families, and try to outdo each other with family horror stories.
I’ve got a cousin who, at the age of 11, shot his mother (my mother’s sister) through the heart from long distance with a .22 rifle, killing her because she wouldn’t let him ride his bike to school.
Another cousin on my dad’s side who got electrocuted stealing copper from a highline, not too long after his drug dealing father was beat to death with a baseball bat. But wait, there’s more. I’m just not going to go into the really dirty laundry, we don’t have enough room. All that happened in the hills of Missouri, of which, I am long gone.
We didn’t even get into the incest, which is another whole book in itself.
Funny, I’ve got well over 100 first cousins, and I’m an only child. Probably just as well, as I think about it.
I’ll be looking for your stories.
Why don’t we pull my story from the contest. It’s really not fictional, now that I think about it. So that’s not fair.
(I can’t believe I ran out of fiction. What kind of writer runs out of fiction? I couldn’t think of anything diabolical. What’s wrong with me?)
Seriously though, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was going, at some point, to leap off the real story and into a fictional version, with swords and pirate-y people. Maybe a trebuchet or two. And I was remembering it as I wrote it, because it was a good story. Even after fifty years, that memory stands out against the others. Especially certain parts, because of the water, the wind, the sound of the engines I guess, AND, THE BOAT WAS REALLY EXPENSIVE, and it helps that I still know the guy.
But it’s not fiction. So let’s just delete it and pretend like nothing happened. (We will speak of this, no more.)
I’ll just try, really hard, to make something up next week.
Something with pyramids, maybe a mummy or two, and lots of sand. With scorpions, and snakes and a secret code, enforcement officer who busts you for an illegal sarcophagus and working on your chariot in a camel’s only zone.
But you know the commissioner. The commissioner of reeds? The Head, of the Department of Reeds? We’ll see whose code gets enforced now. Still, at this point, the prudent poisoner hires a shaman, or soothsayer. Which is where the story will start, with the soothsayer saying something somewhere in Egypt.
We’ll see how it goes from there.
I agree with Liz; my comment on your story with more detail to follow was I couldn’t read it fast enough to see what disastrous end eventually happened. I admit let down the boat didn’t blow up, and nobody died, but your writing and the story itself was excellent.
It’s your story, but I’d leave it in, true or not, I’m sure at least part of it is fiction.
A lot of great stories have that irritating piece of truth at the core that the pearl forms around.
I have the sand and the mucus – but still no pearls!
I’m pretty sure I saw a pearl in there with all that mucus. (It’s hard to tell because mucus is so pearly,) but i’m pretty sure I saw pearl, good fellow.
Absolutely, the parts I had to make up, because I couldn’t remember them. I like Robert’s 80/20 or 20/80 comment. Sounds reasonable. I’ll leave it in and see how it goes. If I can vote in time. Otherwise, it gets disqualified anyway. Thanks guys. It’ll probably sink to the bottom under its own weight. Or go belly up and capsize from all the wind… blowing in, from Winneka.
I been saying that for fifty years. Is that an actual place? Oh my God. I’ve been misspelling it for half a century. What next? A long lost cousin from Kallamazoo? (There’s no way that’s a real place.)
Winnetka is in northern Illinois. I think JackBenny was from there. (A big wind from Winnetka comes to mind.)
And it’s Kalamazoo, just an hour’s ride from where I’m writing this. An old song, ‘I’ve got a gal in Kalamazoo’, also comes to mind.
Senility must be setting in. All this stuff pops up and I can’t remember to take my friggin’ medicine.
Good luck in the contest.
Ken, I’d prefer to leave it in. As others have commented, sometimes we write non fiction and that’s ok.
My last story was unfortunately non-fiction and I almost pulled it too but then figured this is a writers group and the point is to write and become better writers. So to hell with it.
It is of course up to you.
….. also it’s your turn to choose the next prompt!
Unless you have another twenty horses that need their feet trimmed…
Ken, I’m happy to wait for your votes, I have more errands to run this afternoon that I hadn’t accounted for so really, I can wait until I get your votes. I’d hate to disqualify your story 😊
Thanks, Carrie for pushing the deadline for me.
Hope all was well with your errands too 🙂
Ok everyone – appreciate your patience!
Here are our winners!!
1st Place: Meat Pies and Gravy by Ken Frape
2nd Place: Augury by John Mansfield
3rd Place: Foul! by Phil Town
4th Place: Double Foul by Roy York
5th Place: Joyride by Ken Cartisano
6th Place: Broomball ‘68 by Robt. Emmett
7th Place: Who Killed Oscar Mahon by Ken Miles
Story with the favorite character: “Arty” from Meat Pies and Gravy by Ken Frape
Story with the best dialogue: Broomball ‘68 by Robt. Emmett
Disqualified – didn’t vote:
The Rubber Ball by Bethany Rose
Deception by Prapti Gupta
Congrats to all!!!!
And just so you all know, the new prompt is up!
Thanks for the votes. My story was OK as far as I was concerned but I didn’t think it would squirm its way to the top of the pile. Well done to John and Phil too.
It’s a real shame about Prupti and Bethany as they both had good stories in there. Hopefully they will be able to vote next time. I don’t think I would have been top if their votes had been included.
Looking forward to the next prompt.
Kind regards to all,
Shame about Bethany and Prapti. Next time?
Pleased about my ‘bronze’, so thanks for the votes!
Great bunch of stories again.
So bottles, eh?
Shoot did I already post this prompt?
I did not get the next prompt from Ken C, so I just grabbed one that I had saved on Pinterest 🤣
Sorry if it’s a duplicate!
Oh never mind, I read it as “bottles, again” not “bottles, eh”
I most definitely see more coffee in my future!
It’s a pity that two good stories, “The Rubber Ball” and “Deception”, didn’t make it to the list on a mere technicality…
The Kens are usually grouped on top, in the middle or at the bottom. This may be the first time we’re all over the place!
Hi Prapti, the results have been recorded.
I didn’t get your votes so unfortunately your story was disqualified.
It would have been in 2nd place had you voted.
I just looked again and I don’t see a submission from you.
Did you vote and for some reason it didn’t go through?
It was written participants can’t vote so I didn’t.
Can you just let me know what we had to do after that?
But I digress. that was some fabulous writing Ken.
Congrats to the runner-uppers. Pretty much everyone else.
Except Ken Miles. I have a special message for you, Ken. In its own, separate box.
Sorry I have not included a comment on all the stories this time round. I made the mistake of having my new laptop checked out and updated yesterday afternoon and the guy doing the work didn’t get it back to me as early as I wished.
I did read all the comments though and I’m glad that you left your story in. After all, there is a fine line between fact and fiction and I suspect much of the fiction we write has come from somewhere in our unconscious memory banks. That’s quite a scary thought when you read some of the stuff we churn out. There’s enough just in the comments section to keep an analyst busy for a lifetime.
In your story there was a subtle menace lurking in the background for all of the readers who were aware of the prompt. Being underwater with a knife and a jammed propeller (or a fouled one) did give enough opportunities for a bit of foul play. I know he is a longtime mate of yours but I still think you should have checkmated him!
Thanks for your kind comments about Meat Pies and Gravy. As I have mentioned above, I thought it was an OK story but not a winner, so the result is all that more pleasing.
I hope Prapti and Bethany stick around too. As Arty in my story would say, “we always need fresh blood.”
Sorry that your debut story didn’t get included. As Carrie says, it would have been in second place which would be wonderful.
Whatever you do next, keep on writing and sending them in. I wish I had started writing when I was 17.
Prapti I will send you an email shortly!
It was like, there I was, standing on a broken piece of headboard, floating in the frozen North Atlantic, and you’re on the fantail of the Titanic, as she begins to lift for the final time. And I call out, “Come on Ken, the water’s fine. Jump now or you’ll break your neck anyway.”
Over all the commotion, the breaking glass, the flickering lights, life boats bobbing all around, people screaming, and I can hear your distinctive reply, “I have to go back to the cabin to vote. On the stories. It’ll just take a minute.”
It was kind of like that, only different. Totally.
I thought I wasn’t going to make it until I saw, late in the day, that the deadline had been kindly extended so that I’d make it through. Who knew that Carrie had another twenty horses for foot trimming! lol
Thank you, Ken, for expressing such appreciation for my story and for having voted for it if I hadn’t said anything and you knew it was actually running…
And btw well done for your choice of theme for the next fortnight. Emotions sold in bottles! That’s one of the most original prompts I’ve seen in here (or elsewhere).
I got a couple of them bottles from a website in Taiwan, at 99 cents each (why would anyone buy them for £450 a bottle from Harrods ?). One of them says “hapiness” mispelt with one “p”, and the other “calmness” and the bright red liquid in it is all bubbly. I’m not taking them. And that’s not even what my story is going to be about…
Kind of like that, but different… (loved that phrase! 100% vintage Cartisano…)
I had a lot of fun reading all the juicy stories and this community feels great….. like what I imagine sitting at the cool kids table would have felt like.
I ranked second and two votes were mysteriously “lost”?
Must be foul play.
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