February 10 – March 3, 2021 Writing Prompt “Opera”

Theme: Opera

Your story must include the line:

“What do you have against Opera houses?

Required Elements:

  • An Opera
  • Valentine’s Day

Word Count: 1,200 (1207 with the required line.)

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

The writing prompt for March 3, 2021, will be chosen by Roy York.

42 thoughts on “February 10 – March 3, 2021 Writing Prompt “Opera”

    • February 14, 2021 at 6:46 pm
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      Not sure where last week went, never wrote a story, didn’t read any until yesterday evening. So I guess this is as good a time as any to offer my critiques on those pushing-the-limits-themed stories. Why wait any longer? I’ll just lump them all together into this one, long, boring (but secretly coded) comment. And I offer it because my opinion differs so wildly from the rest of the group this time.

      There are some, no doubt, who will mistake this as a political rant against giant tree sloths, or some kind of personal, out-of-body confessional, a la Shirley McClain. That’s fine. Not true, but fine.

      Phil – I was repulsed by your repugnant story. (No mean feat, man.) I’m not sure I actually got it, your story, other than what’s obvious, a story about a very bad man, with very bad taste. Then throw in just a touch of the valentine somehow. Love – meatpacker style. Great dialogue. I think I was still in the dark until I read Ken’s comments. (Both.)

      Roy – Regarding that spaghetti talk you gave, (your culinary homage to sausage?) Sausage is, and always should be, the essence (not essence, Foundation!) it’s the foundation of a good spaghetti sauce, but it didn’t belong in that story in my opinion.

      Ken Miles – Fun story. Like an inverse fairy tale. I felt like a cat chasing a laser pointer right up to the end and then I thought, ‘What business idea?’ Scrolled back up to the beginning and there’s the title and the answer. ‘Pantyliners.’ Very clever story, some great lines throughout.

      Vicki.
      ‘The first days after arrival are a blur.’

      That—is a great opening line.
      That’s were your story starts, everything before that is irrelevant, abstruse and belongs in a different story… if you like. (Or sprinkled sparingly into this one, if you must.) Everything after that strikes me as lovely, and beautifully written. I know nothing about poetry and/but thought the one in the story was great. (Really, I thought it was simple, but profound.)

      Ken F.
      A marvelous, magical mystery story. Wonderful dialogue. An amazing sense of intrigue permeates the story, set up very well by Madame H’s profession, her looks, the tent, and your descriptive brilliance. (All very well done.) The character is not so bad, that is to say unlikeable, (see Phil’s comment) so much as neurotic and repressed. In the end, I too wondered about the identity of the tall, dark stranger and am convinced that the stranger in question was Mr. Monk’s new self. This is a very clever story. My favorite. Easily. For the intrigue alone.

      One criticism: The last sentence should not have been dialogue. I like Phil’s treatment. Short and sweet. (We, the readers, are already there, so, it’s close to redundant.)

      Alyssa,
      Your story was like the first half of ‘A Clockwork Orange.’ No redeeming factor entered into the characters or the plot. The cold-blooded dialogue is chilling, ultra-realistic, but I’m not big into horror. Congratulations on the win, though.

      Carrie,
      (You’re 44! Years?! Old? Oh right, this is a fiction site. I keep forgetting.) Yeah sure, go ahead, make fun of an old guy’s bad eyesight and memory. (I’m wearing glasses, I’ll have you know, and can see quite well, I can see plenty of goddamned detail.)

      Your story is very skillfully written, as pointed out by others. It has nuance and undertones. You don’t tell us the character’s state of mind, you show us. And showing us leaves room for ambiguity. Her behavior causes me to wonder what stage of grief she’s in.

      I can relate to your character’s age and experience. When relationships end, it’s a massive rejection slip. (Intentional or not.) There’s a sense of unearned shame (I think) when we’re forced to accept the fact that we never really knew how the other person felt about us. But life goes on.

      However, your story’s character is dealing with fear, not betrayal. That’s different, huge difference, and personal, and opens up a whole different can of worms. I think, what is most unique about this story, is its sense of ‘quiet desperation’ or ‘controlled panic.’ And there is a duality here, between fear and betrayal.

      Obviously, there are times when you want to convey a strong sense of character qualities. As in Ken Frape’s story. (A Perfect example.) At other times, when it’s ‘everywoman’ as Phil described your character, it’s essential to avoid pinning your character down. Ridding your story of numbers would do the trick.

      For the most part, I try to remove or change anything that reminds me of me… because, as far as characters go, the less like me they are, the better it is for them. If I was such a fascinating character, I would have more than two fans. (Actually, I only have one, and I’m not quite sure what I’ll do when that cat dies.)

      So, good story. Good writing. Did I keep my response down to one sentence? You be the judge.

      I had ‘em ranked like this.

      Ken Frape. – A Tall, Dark… (Madam H.)
      Ken Miles. – Pantyliners.
      Vicki Chvatal. – Poetry in Motion.
      Phil Town. – Valediction.
      Alyssa the Dissa. – Wood Cabin Fever.
      Carrie Zylkster. – The Good Life.
      Roy York. – Spaghetti Detour No.

      Fav. Character? Monk. Best dialogue? Alyssa Daxson.

      Reply
      • February 14, 2021 at 8:37 pm
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        Ken? I was hoping you’d comment on mine… was it that bad.?.. not worthy of note? my son was very critical saying I meandered too much.. I wrote it in a hurry and didn’t check it for edit errors… your reviews of other stories here were spot on…

        Reply
        • February 22, 2021 at 4:42 pm
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          I didn’t see your tory Liz. Did you post a story last week? If so, it was an oversight.

          Reply
          • February 22, 2021 at 9:59 pm
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            oh goody Ken C, I was getting tired of softly sobbing myself to sleep wondering why I was being ignored…I thought my absence from the Fiction for awhile caused a rift in all my finally tuned relationships with people on paper…although now that I think about it this isn’t really paper is it… huh…it looks like paper while typing… oh well anyhow good to hear from you…yeh, i read and scanned your story 3 times…it was impossible to believe you would leave out such an important detail and decided it must be within your codes which I’ve never deciphered…

      • February 16, 2021 at 1:56 pm
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        In reply to the above comment by Hizzoner, Ken Cartisano.

        “Yes, your Honor, I heard you loud and clear. I plead guilty as charged. Am I allowed to continue? I’d like to explain myself. Thank you your honor.

        You see when I started writing my story, I fully intended to jump right into the prompt. Then, while I was trying to establish why my protagonist had been shipped off to summers away from home, I slipped right into what is now famously referred to as ‘The Spaghetti Story’.

        I admit, your Honor, it sort of got away from me and the more I wrote, the more I fell in love with it. I know, I know, that’s not an excuse, but sometimes I just get carried away and it was so easy to write. I didn’t realize how long that story had been built up inside me and it all came bubbling out. I didn’t mean it to, honest. I felt so good afterwards, I considered making a longer version of it with other incidents from my childhood but couldn’t connect it to the prompt. Hence, the comment, “I digress”, and then I continued with the story intended for the prompt.

        I should have known right after Phil said, “you have two stories there, that don’t have anything to do with each other,” that I wasn’t going to get away with it. Then, someone else said, they liked it, and like all authors, those are the Golden Words we like to hear. “I liked it.” Silly me, I never thought for a minute how that could distract some readers. Didn’t even consider it. I will consider readers in the future, you can bet your sorry ass on that. I mean, you can bet for sure I won’t do it again.

        What’s that? You must have misunderstood me, I said, I’m sorry as, I won’t do it again. I’ve learned my lesson. You can count on me to stick to the prompt in the future, totally and completely. Just one story per prompt. That’s all you’ll ever see again.

        I’ll take my punishment like a man. Realizing of course, that I finished in front of both Ken’s, to whom you have some sort of twisted loyalty, due to the Ken Thing, I suppose. So, I am still a happy man, because they are both top notch authors, in my humble opinion.

        Where do I get my parking voucher stamped?

        Roy

        Reply
      • February 20, 2021 at 11:54 am
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        Ah, there you are Carty! I’m pleased to hear that my story got far better grades in your book than it got votes from the popular masses… Pity you arrived too late at the polling booth. I feel good now that I know my tale entertained you. Yes, it’s a sort of inverse fairy tale, a satirical take on the genre really. Fairy tales are always told exclusively from the Prince’s-Princess’s point of view, never for a moment looking at things from a frog’s perspective… So I finally righted that wrong.

        I agree with you too about Ken Frape’s story’s merits. I liked it a lot too, and it does have some depth to it. Alas, us two Kens didn’t place well at all. But the other stories had their great merits too. Alyssa’s particularly, IMO. I thought I was the worst monster in here, but she outdid me this time…

        I won’t be taking part in this round – I have neither time nor an idea for a story for this prompt. Like many others of my generation, I have no idea what opera is even about. So I can’t tell what one won’t like about it…

        But, like Terminator, I’ll be back!

        Cheers!
        Ken

        Reply
  • February 10, 2021 at 4:20 pm
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    Signing in

    Reply
  • February 10, 2021 at 4:39 pm
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    I’m in. Just hold the fat lady off from singing until I post.

    Roy

    Reply
  • February 10, 2021 at 4:43 pm
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    I’m in. Hold the fat lady off from singing until I post, please.

    Roy

    Reply
  • February 10, 2021 at 5:25 pm
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    Signing in.

    Reply
  • February 11, 2021 at 10:36 pm
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    “What do you have against Opera houses?” Liz Fisher – 1112 words

    I looked at Walter wondering where this was going. Why would he be talking about Operas at seven in the morning, we haven’t even had coffee yet.

    Walter is an odd man and I know my family has wondered why we ever decided to spend our lives together. I’ve wondered now and then, not often, maybe once or twice over the 37 years we’ve been married.

    I knew he didn’t have any expectation of an answer till after we had our morning coffee and usually at least halfway through breakfast. Neither of us are morning people and composing a coherent sentence before food is unlikely. Communication early in the day are mostly smiles, frowns, grunts or head nods, our shorthand.

    Saved by the bell, Walter’s phone rang, he looked at it, looked at me as he rose from the table and put the phone to his ear and said into the receiver , “yeh, hang on a moment”, and walked out on the deck. This has happened before and I learned to not over react.

    I never worried about Walter cheating. A long time ago I realized he just wasn’t the type to cheat, he’s not physical, never cared about sex much. At first I thought it might be me, maybe I wasn’t sexy enough and I worried he would leave. But he didn’t and our marriage turned into a partnership, a friendship, we had a daughter and he is an amazing father.

    His biggest fault, well maybe his only fault, is an insatiable love of operas. I have never understood how or why he developed this obsession. He was raised in Mississippi, a simple state, was there even Opera or any classical music in the South in those days?

    Opera never interested me, in a pre-law class at Wellesley we were tasked with giving a report on what Xavier Mayne’s 1908 defense of homosexuality, “The Intersexes”. Interestingly the self-diagnostic questionnaire had questions like, “do you prefer operatic or more abstract music? and what about Wagner?”. I don’t think that was my bias, I just don’t like screechy voices.

    Not all opera voices are bad, I do love Pavarotti, he can sing almost anything and I love it and the The Tenors, the ones from Canada, I do love their rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody it’s almost better than Queen’s original. So opera music can be okay.

    Walter likes other music, he loves mostly female singers like Cher and Celine Dion, even Bette Middler. I like Cher but Celine and Bette are just irritating. But why am I thinking about all this it’s time to shower and get to the office and Walter is still out on the deck.

    I like my work, it’s interesting in it’s own weird way. I kind of fell into it after I met Walter, he was a writer on ABC Network. He was actually a freelancer but he had a lot of contacts in the news business.

    The job was one I never even knew existed. When the main news anchors traveled on a story often they would send a “setup” either in advance or at the same time as the “important one”. So the job sometimes involved setting up the “setting” for a scheduled interview, or being the one running around securing food and lodging or whatever was necessary to be ready for the star while they were at the “scene or location”, you know stuff like plane crashes, freeway wrecks in bad weather, murders, kidnappings… sometimes I actually got to the scene, but most of my time was in hotel or motel lobbies, diners, fast food joints, grocery, pharmacies and liquor stores picking up whatever the “important” needed/wanted/craved. I spend a lot of time away from home.

    The good news was being gone really helped me avoid Walter’s favorite pastime… going to operas. I do enjoy good musicals and so does Walter but he doesn’t seem to get the same satisfaction he gets from opera. Luckily his friend Jim has the same taste in entertainment so he doesn’t miss my companionship.

    Last time I was on a setup it was in New Hampshire. I thought the location was a little odd for a story worth all the expense. New Hampshire is part of New England and is known for the 2nd Presidential Primary voting in the States, Iowa’s the first. New Hampshire was the first until 1972 when Iowa did something with Caucuses or town meetings and they became first, but going to the polls and voting is New Hampshires claim. It seems there was some question as to the votes in New Hampshires either some one voted more than once or the machines were whacked. The vote total was double the number of registered voters in one township.

    It was a simple answer eventually, in spite of the townsfolk marching to City Hall carrying torches. The Election Clerk had brought her four year old son to work on election day and somehow the lever on the count machine had been tripped at count end and continued to recount with no definition. Although not everyone bought the reason wanting more nefarious reasons, the four year old boy got the blame, the machine was reset and the count was accurate and final, meanwhile every news outlet in the country had sent crews to cover the massive vote fraud that didn’t exist. It was a crazy setup with so many interlopers and so few accommodations. I got a farmer to let us use the barn loft and rounded up lanterns and sleeping bags.. it wasn’t really that bad but close. I do love my job.

    The door to the deck opened and Walter walked in with a big grin.

    “Honey you know Sunday is Valentine’s Day and I arranged the best gift ever, for both of us. Jim’s flying us to San Francisco in his private plane, the Opera House is giving a special Premier performance of Lou Harrison’s pioneering 1971 opera, Young Caesar, a portrait of Julius Caesar as a young man, and you, me and Jim have primo Box seats.”

    I came back from my day dreaming and looked at Walter, so sweet, so naive, so happy, so blissfully unaware I had just recalled Xavier Mayne’s premise and everything I had ever wondered about our marriage had fallen into place.

    With a brief smile I said, “that sounds great darling, I just got a text about a setup this weekend I don’t want to miss. Why don’t you just go with Jim, you get so much more joy from the Opera when you two are together.”

    Reply
    • February 17, 2021 at 5:23 am
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      I really like this, Liz. It has a lot of red herrings/digressions (which seem to reflect the day-dreamy character of the narrator) and some of those (not the election part, which seems a little TOO digressive perhaps) are key links to the solution, which the reader sees coming (at least I did) … but you wrap it up very elegantly. Having said that, the narrator seems to accept the new reality a little TOO readily maybe? (But perhaps the turmoil will happen beyond the story’s end.)

      Reply
      • February 17, 2021 at 10:49 am
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        Thanks Phil, yeh, the election a little much…just a moment in time… my only excuse is I always have trouble being wordy enough and I was striving to get close to 1200. I was thinking about why your story bothered me and realized it was the two alcoholic women, I didn’t like them, so your character development is excellent, because those two were totally unlikeable.

        Reply
        • February 17, 2021 at 4:18 pm
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          No , I don’t like them either, Liz … but Barbara’s drinking for England, while Harriet’s drinking to get through the evening. (And the men like a drink, too!)

          Reply
    • February 20, 2021 at 3:48 pm
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      This one resonated with me for some reason. The part about the election fraud worked for me, even though it seemed like it didn’t belong at first. I guess that is because she was daydreaming… and daydreams are often sharp contrasts to the setting of the moment or the subject at hand.

      Reply
    • February 22, 2021 at 9:08 am
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      I think this is so powerful because there are so many things left unspoken and the reader has to think about it actively. It is sad for obvious reasons, but I thought the saddest part was how nonchalant she was, or maybe how the moment of clarity passed with no fuss or confrontation or visible acknowledgement.

      Reply
      • February 22, 2021 at 1:12 pm
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        So on the comment you mentioned Walter’s wife could have demonstrated more angst…while I was attempting to put her out as equally independent and having her own way with her life..their marriage allowed both of them to be free and still have the comfort of routine, common life… the Julius Caesar opera was just to cement it for the reader in case they wondered…I could have shown more clarity about her embracing it as her choice..I do appreciate your comments… When I read I’m always thinking about what is going on in the thoughts of the character/plots/writers…. I think I do the same time when I write although the story often wanders into something I didn’t plan, not always a good thing… an then there are the names of characters, I have a terrible time with names… Walter was changed 3 times to get to Walter… why is that? I don’t understand…

        Reply
        • February 22, 2021 at 2:49 pm
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          I think you painted it out perfectly and with clarity and it made the romantic hiding in me a little melancholy 🙂

          Reply
  • February 12, 2021 at 9:21 am
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    OPERA TO THE RESCUE

    My Spanish friend, Juan Casas, brought his new flame round for dinner. Always a good judge of character, my wife Harriet whispered to me as we were putting the finishing touches to the hors d’oeuvres in the kitchen.

    “I don’t like her.”

    “They’ve only just got here!” I whispered back.

    “Still …”

    “What’s wrong with her?”

    “Can’t you see she’s got him under her thumb?”

    “You’ve spotted that already?”

    “A woman knows.”

    I was placing sliced black olives on the tuna crackers.

    “You’re …” I pointed to them.

    She hit me playfully on the arm and I yelped.

    I carried the tray through. Juan was sitting on the sofa, with Barbara on his lap, gazing into his eyes and playing with his hair.

    “Erm … hors d’oeuvres,” I announced.

    “Who are you calling a hors d’oeuvres?!” Barbara laughed, much too loudly. She sprang up, accidentally hitting Juan in the balls. He squealed. She laughed again, even harder.

    “Sorry darling. Want me to stroke them better?”

    Juan and I exchanged glances. He smiled weakly.

    “No, don’t worry,” he said.

    “He thinks I was serious,” Barbara said in a stage whisper that Juan heard as clear as day. His smile got weaker still.

    She attacked the tray, devouring three or four crackers before we got a look in.

    Harriet came through from the kitchen.

    “Great snacks!” said Barbara with her mouth full, projecting flakes of cracker onto the Persian rug. It was Harriet’s favourite possession, and she began to say something. I cut her off at the pass.

    “So, Houses was telling me you met on-line, Barbara?”

    “‘Houses’?! Who the hell is ‘Houses’?” The cracker flakes kept a-tumbling down. I grabbed Harriet’s hand and squeezed. She looked at me and I shook my head; I hoped it was imperceptible to our guests.

    “It’s Mark’s nickname for Juan,” Harriet said through gritted teeth.

    “Why?” Barbara snaffled another cracker; the tray was already half-empty.

    “Casas – Houses,” Harriet explained sharply.

    Barbara stared at her, then at me, then at Harriet again, and shrugged her shoulders.

    “You see,” I intervened. Harriet’s eyes were flashing; Barbara was treading the cracker flakes into the carpet. “‘Casas’ means ‘houses’ in Spanish.”

    Barbara gaped, the cogs whirring. Then the penny dropped and she cackled like an old hag.

    “That’s a good one. I might start calling him that, too. What do you reckon, Houses?”

    Juan’s weak smile had disappeared and he was looking very sorry for himself.

    “So,” I resumed. “You met on-line?”

    “Oh, yeah. Meetfast, that’s the name of the site. Have you used it?”

    I was still holding Harriet’s hand and I pointed to us both.

    “Oh, course,” Barbara chortled. “Silly me.”

    “Well, if you’ve finished with the hors d’oeuvres,” said Harriet sarcastically, staring daggers at Barbara, “I can serve up dinner.”

    “Great,” said Barbara, grabbing two more crackers. “I’m ravishing.”

    I explored her face to see whether she’d used the malapropism intentionally, but there was no sign that she had.

    “No you’re not,” Harriet muttered as she made for the kitchen.

    “Tell you what, Mick. I’m going to need the little ladies’ room before we tuck in.”

    I let the mistake with my name pass; our conversation had become chaotic enough as it was.

    “It’s just through there on the right,” I said, indicating the corridor.

    She popped another cracker in and left, trailing cracker flakes as she went.

    I turned to my friend.

    “So, Houses …”

    “I’m …”

    Whatever it was he wanted to say, he couldn’t get it out. I nodded.

    “Why don’t you sit down at the table. I’ll go and help Harriet.”

    He stood up and trudged across the room.

    In the kitchen, Harriet was necking a large G&T.

    “Steady on, Harry,” I said, grabbing the gin bottle to make one for myself.

    “The first of many,” she said, finishing hers off and handing me the glass to make another.

    …..

    The dinner had been great – Harriet is an excellent cook, and I’d made a very passable apple crumble for dessert. For Barbara, none of it had touched the sides. I must admit I found it quite fascinating: where was she putting it all? She had a very good figure, which I supposed was the reason Juan had hitched up with her.

    It couldn’t have been interest; she’d regaled us with stories of friends at the gym, how many kilos they were lifting, who was the best fitness coach, who was getting off with who … and she’d just started telling us about the nail bar she frequented. I could see another half hour of idle gossip coming.

    “Brandy?” I asked, addressing all three of them.

    Harriet shook her head; she looked like she was regretting the third G&T. Juan smiled.

    “Yes, pl–“

    Barbara didn’t let him finish.

    “Don’t you think you’ve had enough, darling?”

    “Well, I’m not driving, so …”

    He stopped; Barbara was giving him an icy stare.

    “Well, I think you’ve had enough, so …”

    That appeared to be the end of the matter.

    “Barbara?”

    “Go on, then,” she said, giggling. She seemed totally oblivious to her double standards; she’d already had almost a whole bottle of red to herself.

    I went to the sideboard and poured a finger of what was a very expensive cognac.

    “And don’t be stingy with it!” Barbara called from the table.

    I brought it over and placed it in front of her. She knocked it back in one, smacking her lips.

    “Nice!”

    Harriet had been quiet for most of the meal. The alcohol and the anger had made her face bright red.

    “I’ll put some music on,” she said. She went to the shelves, chose an LP and put it on the deck.

    As she came back to the table, the sublime opening chords of ‘Lascia ch’io pianga’ from Handel’s ‘Rinaldo’ drifted out of the speakers; I’d given Harriet an LP of arias for Christmas.

    “What’s that?!” cried Barbara.

    “Handel,” I said.

    “Well, that’s funny because I … we can’t handle that sh…. We don’t like that kind of music, do we darling?”

    “What do you have against opera, Houses?” Harriet slurred.

    “I–,” my poor friend began.

    “He doesn’t like it, and I don’t like it. So there!”

    The drink had got to Barbara too; all the filters were down.

    “That’s it!” said Harriet, leaping to her feet. She strode over to the deck, knocked the needle off the record with a sickening SCREEE and stormed out, leaving me to pick up the pieces.

    I tried to engage in small talk with Juan, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and nor was his – not that Barbara was going to let us have a conversation just between us anyway. They left soon afterwards.

    …..

    I met Juan a couple of weeks later in the street. He seemed like his old self.

    “How’s Barbara?” I asked, after we’d exhausted other news.

    He beamed, and I knew why.

    “Good for you, Houses. What happened?”

    “You know it was Valentine’s Day last week?” he said.

    I nodded.

    “Well, you see, she was expecting a special surprise. So I bought us tickets for the opera.”

    .

    Reply
    • February 15, 2021 at 2:55 pm
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      Agreeing with Ilana, Barbara isn’t ever a great first impression. I loved your take on the dialogue for the theme, and can’t believe I didn’t see it coming when I read the nickname early in the story. You gave me a good chuckle, especially with that ending.

      Reply
    • February 22, 2021 at 8:18 am
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      This story has great dialogue and it felt like a scene from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

      Reply
  • February 14, 2021 at 7:00 am
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    Ahah! Loved this Phil and your dialogue is always good. Great story – it had me chortling away. Very polished.
    I also hate the name Barbara so that was also a nice touch to the story. Every Barbara I have ever met has had flaws and was not a very nice person, just like your story. 🙂

    Reply
    • February 17, 2021 at 5:27 am
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      Thank you, Ilana. Glad you enjoyed it. Yes, I know some Barbaras that might fit into that description … but some that don’t as well. Also … maybe the narrator is just a tad snobbish? (Barbara seems more awful in his and Harriet’s eyes.)

      Reply
  • February 16, 2021 at 1:34 am
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    OUTPOSTS.
    (1200)
    Cartisano

    I remember the first time it happened, they abducted me at ‘probe-point’ and whisked me off to a galactic ‘rest area’ called ‘Zantaric.’ Why? Because they could. You want their precise wording? ‘Why? Capability. Do you mind?’ Then they brought me back. It seemed like ten minutes had elapsed, but when they dropped me off, I soon realized I’d lost an entire week. A week! And nobody even noticed.

    I asked Cathy where she thought I was. ‘Out in your boat,’ she says, chopping a potato.

    “For a week?”

    “Well, you were kind of vague when you left.”

    “In that…?”

    “In that you said, ‘Don’t wait up.”

    “And you think, ‘Don’t wait up’ means, ‘I’ll see you in a week?”

    I watched her for a while as she diced that potato, and then another. I never realized how adept she was at handling a knife. She had every reason to be livid, but wasn’t.

    A few open-minded people were polite enough to listen to my story, and ask questions like, ‘Who did you meet?’ ‘Were there people on this alleged planet?’ or ‘What kind of creatures live on Zantaric?’

    My answer? “I don’t fucking know. I was in a rest area, okay? A galactic pitstop. And Zantaric’s a galaxy, not a planet, so, technically nobody lives ‘on-it.’ Any other brilliant questions?” I didn’t get many. I’ll admit, I was grouchy, abduction didn’t agree with me yet.

    We met in a diner and bumped elbows. “What’s your name again?”

    “Stan. Stan Waters. Private Detective, at your service.”

    He claimed he was ex-military and looked it. Acted like it. He was all business, barely touched his greasy food, but I hadn’t convinced him to work for me yet. “I just don’t see it as a problem,” he said. “What I wouldn’t give to take a week off and not be missed,” he drawled into his hat.

    “You’d freak out,” I said. “You’re confusing a vacation with an abduction. Don’t do that.” I explained how speed and time are connected, the faster I went, the less time I experienced. It seemed like ten minutes to me because it was ten minutes, to me, everyone else aged a week, everyone around here, anyway. This much was clear, I’d already hired someone to do the math.

    But this guy was pretty shrewd because he said, “You did the math, huh? How’d you know how far it is to Zantaric?”

    And to that kind of question, hypnosis seemed like a reasonable means to get the answer.

    I was convinced that all hypnotists were incompetent idiots as I rubbed my eyes and sat up. I was on a couch and my belief was reinforced when the hypnotist audibly murmured, ‘all finished.’ I didn’t remember anything. I didn’t remember him, his office, walking in, laying down, or any recollection of Sergeant Waters for that matter, who had left before I was revived. I barely knew my own name.

    So how could I be telling you this? It wasn’t that hard to break the post-hypnotic suggestions. I kept a video log, notes, reference material, receipts: and a post-hypnotic trigger phrase. ‘What do you have against opera houses?’ As soon as I read that phrase in my notebook, all my memories came flooding back. It was such an amateurish attempt to get me to forget, it led me to underestimate them.

    I was abducted again, taken at near-light-speeds to another distant galaxy. Six minutes there, a one-minute rest at one of their, what I now call ‘outposts’, a quick return lasting another six minutes and then unceremoniously dumped back on earth in one piece three days later. I woke up in my boat, on the river, the anchor embedded so deeply in a wooden piling I had to cut the line and leave it. The car was in the marina parking lot and the keys were in my pocket.

    When I got home, boat in tow, Cathy was like, “Hi, how were the fish?”

    “The fish?”

    “Yeah. The fish. How were they?”

    “There were no fish, I don’t think.”

    “Aww, no luck, huh? That’s too bad.” She patted the couch and I went and sat down next to her. She seemed nicer, and softer than usual.

    The following night, after sex, in the dark, I said, “I need a new anchor, you know…”

    “I know, I fixed it,” she said.

    “You, what do you mean?”

    “I fixed it.”

    “You got me a new anchor?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Where is it?”

    “I put it on.”

    “On what?”

    “The end of the chain, of course.”

    “But it takes…”

    “Special shackles. I know. I googled it.”

    I got abducted again, it was different. And then again after that, and this time there was another person present. A human being, like me. I felt like part of a team, though still a trainee and I still had no idea what my real function was.

    My absences grew shorter, and the ‘returns’ cleaner too, as we fell into a routine. Cathy and I had the best sex ever, and, well, I knew it wasn’t her. It was a better Cathy than the one I’d had. I don’t know what they did with the original, but this was not her. She was too accommodating.

    But what could I do but play along? I had no control over aliens whose technology was so advanced I couldn’t even remember it, let alone explain it, but I felt like I was a part of something vast, some huge undertaking.

    One night, I asked my duplicate Cathy, what is it that I do? And she said they use my brain, it has a hundred billion connections, and functions wirelessly.

    “So why don’t I understand what we’re doing?” I remember asking.

    And she said, “You don’t need to, you’re a node.” And that was it, that was all she would divulge about that subject, ever.

    One night, Cathy entered the house looking dazed and stunned, walking around, looking at things curiously, picking things up. Then she looked at me as if she hadn’t seen me in three months. I approached her cautiously and gently embraced her. Her mouth was against my shoulder but I still heard her say, “How long was I gone?”

    I held her at arm’s length. “About three years.”

    “Three years? So you thought I was dead? Oh my God.”

    “Uh, no.” I cleared my throat. “I was provided a substitute. How long did it seem like to you?”

    “About three months,” she said. “It was grueling. I was on a ship, I think. A substitute? What’s a substitute? What does that mean? Did you even know I was gone?”

    “Yes. I did. I mean, I figured it out. Eventually.”

    “How? Where is she?” She began circling the apartment. Opening closets and pantries, slamming them shut.

    “She’s gone,” I wailed, a touch too plaintively.

    “I’m sleeping on the couch,” she announced.

    Women.

    We waited anxiously for our next abduction, but it never came. I guess they fired us. We didn’t know what to do so we started a support group, Abducted Nodes Anonymous. We have over a million members and we’re still growing.

    Reply
    • February 16, 2021 at 10:30 pm
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      Did I miss the Valentine?

      Reply
      • February 17, 2021 at 10:03 pm
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        I don’t see a Valentine’s Day reference either.
        I was trying to figure out if it was implied and I missed it!

        Reply
      • February 22, 2021 at 5:12 pm
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        Valentine? I don’t need no stinking valentine. Somebody must have added that requirement after the fact. I would’ve noticed such a lame condition. So, there are changes I would like to make to the story? But adding a fucking valentine (now) is not one of them. Although, it could be used as a marker to solidify the passage of time to the characters.
        I’ll think about it.

        I’m out of town anyway, not much ops to post or read. I downloaded the other stories, comments, excuses, legal defenses and assorted rumors, tips and scuttlebutt, and will retire to my fortress on a bluff, to study them, the various streams of alleged consciousness that is/are flowing though the site. Then I will come down from the bluff, weather and buffaloes permitting, and render my chocolate wisdom infused opinion, as usual, at a later date on this timeline.

        I remain, faithfully at large.
        Cheers
        K

        Reply
    • February 22, 2021 at 8:43 am
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      Creative and authentic! The aliens kind of reminded me of dream censors and some of the other details paralleled dream experiences – like realizing your dream spouse is just a replica. Deep and pleasantly bizarre.

      Reply
  • February 20, 2021 at 3:52 pm
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    The Angel of Musical Chairs
    (1207)
    John Mansfield

    “What do you have against opera houses?”

    She asked it so casually, but Wendel could tell that she had been curious about this one for a long time and had been restraining herself from asking.

    “Let’s just say that I am not a fan-tom of the opera.”

    He blushed and beamed in a proud way that meant he was looking for acknowledgment of his awful Dad joke, even though he was a tad ashamed.

    “Har.”

    She knew that he just could not help himself. That he felt it was a misunderstood art or the highest form of comedy. Still, it would be a great Valentine’s gift just to go one day with no puns. Better than the current surprise that she had arranged for him: two tickets to a “haunted” opera house.

    Even though Wendel was grating on her nerves, the night looked promising. This outing was exactly the kind of urban exploration stuff that they both enjoyed as a couple. Even better, the pandemic had made the tickets themselves dirt cheap… and the whole theatre was theirs for the next two hours!

    “Seriously though… it has to do with the last time I came here. As a boy. I heard a story – that is, my Dad told me about a cursed seat in this very opera house”.

    “You mean a booth, right? Like the one reserved for The Phantom in the story? I know you were sheltered and… impressionable as a lad, but were you that gullible –

    “No – I mean the chair itself was haunted,” he interrupted with a stern look and a meaningful pause that meant he wanted her complete and rapt attention.

    “Someone who sat in this seat would die of a heart attack or a stroke or something at the same time during every show. Maybe three or four people were ‘claimed’. It was even during the exact same line in the exact same song until they finally cancelled the show or tore the chair out the floor or…… whatever. Tell me you have heard of this and I am not just babbling on”.

    “I have heard a variant, and for the record, you are babbling. The version I heard was just two people and then they stopped selling tickets for that seat. Easy fix.”

    She flashed a coy smile, enjoyed the impressed look on his face, and promptly stopped herself from continuing. It would be so easy to tell him that haunted opera stories were a dime a dozen. That urban legends always surround creepy places like old theatres and opera houses. But that would ruin the night.

    “Easy fix? I heard your cheekiness just then, little missy. You’re biting your tongue to hide your skepticism, aren’t you?

    He cast a shrewd gaze in her direction, but it wilted when he remembered that it was supposed to be a spookily romantic night out and she was just messing with him. She noticed anyway.

    The perspiration poured from his brow. Perhaps she had underestimated the dread he felt towards this place? It seemed unhealthy for that much water to come out of one’s skull all at once.

    “You can mock me all you want, but some of us would rather stay on the safe side,” he finished in a tone that was less hurt now and more amiable.

    “Besides, there are multiple cases of this sort of thing happening. The most infamous being the ‘Dead Man’s Chair’ of England, of course, but that had nothing to do with the opera. They ended up hanging that one from the ceiling – just to be safe – but not in time to save the hapless people it had killed! Why—”

    Wendel took one of those jarring and cacophonous speed breaths and kept talking. Her mind lingered on the sound instead of following the thread of his narration. It was the kind of raspy intake of breath people take when they see that you might try to speak, but they want to keep going before you can get a chance to interject. Auctioneers would have been proud, but it was unnecessary (she had no desire to impede his longwinded digression into the history of cursed seating).

    He went on in this fashion for a small eternity while his wife studied the floor and pondered. Just what was he hiding? What happened that made this place so deeply phobic to him? How could it just be the story itself that was so frightening? Frightening enough to avoid this opera house, and all opera houses, for your entire adult life?

    Christine waited and waited for him to stop dithering and get on with it, but it seemed like she would have to be more direct.

    “Which seat?”, she blurted suddenly.

    Wendel blinked blankly, not expecting actual interest and wondering where this was going.

    “Uhhhhhh…..not sure actually. I never had the guts to come here by myself or even look it up.”

    There was a sheepish look and a sideways glance with that last bit. It struck her as odd that he would know so much about this one topic and be so afraid of this one seat, but not know any of the juicy details. He didn’t even know which direction to look in the voluminous space. She could see him struggling to get his bearings in her peripheral, sitting there all sweaty, confused, and out of breath from prattling on.

    “Babe,” she squeaked as her hand jerked on his sleeve urgently.

    “What!?”

    “Don’t freak out, but I think you should take a look at this.”

    Wendel finally saw it: there was a crumpled mass of caution tape on the floor by his foot, one end trailing from where it had been loosely taped to the adjacent armrest. His hand shot up and clutched at his heart as he jerked in pain.

    She never got to hear him tell the backstory on his opera phobia, but that suited her fine. All she needed to know was this: whatever traumatic event had scarred him permanently; it had bothered him enough to induce sudden and fatal cardiac arrest (with only a little suggestion).

    It took even less effort and prying to learn about his mysterious and crippling fear from his friends. After all, the man tells his whole life story to people who just asked the time. Secrecy wasn’t for the loquacious.

    Christine laughed to herself. The plotting and scheming had turned out to be harder than the actual deed itself! All the pieces were already in place. Even the random, mysterious deaths fit perfectly into her machinations. The hipsters that obsessed over this kind of occult crockery were going to have a field day! Freedom from her spouse had only cost her two tickets to an opera and one roll of caution tape from the dollar store.

    She rose and clacked down the aisle briskly, then caught herself and changed her gait to be more…mournful. The proper authorities would need to be informed, and there was only a little time to get the waterworks going.

    And so, a new chapter in this urban legend was born from something deeper, darker, and more personal. Like the hatred of puns.

    For every pun, regrettably, there is a pun-ishment.

    Happy Valentine’s Day!

    Reply
    • February 20, 2021 at 8:04 pm
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      Another evil woman… fanpun was my favorite joke.. very clever ..or I lead a sheltered life from puns,

      Reply
      • February 22, 2021 at 8:59 am
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        You are so right! She was so evil that it made me feel like a misogynist, but I think I was channelling Hitchcock too much and leaning on the familiar framework. Plus, Wendel is kind of me – so this story shows how I imagine my wife feels when I am on a roll. I should have made him punnier and more hateable so people understand her motivation better.

        Reply
    • February 20, 2021 at 8:05 pm
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      Thanks for the comment rumple..

      Reply
  • February 22, 2021 at 4:09 pm
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    It’s Over When the Fat Lady Sings
    by Roy York
    1188 words

    I was just finishing up at work and glanced at the calendar to see if I had any last minute items coming up I wasn’t prepared for. There, circled in glaring indelible red marker, was February 14th, Valentine’s Day. I shuddered – that’s today. I couldn’t remember why I had circled it. The phone rang and caller ID indicated it was my wife – as if she’d just read my mind.

    She started talking before I could even answer. “I know you’re busy, dear, but just a reminder, Phil and Janice are coming over tonight for drinks and appetizers and I need you to pick up some things on the way home. I’m glad I caught you before you left.”

    “I’m fine, thanks for asking,” I said.

    “Oh, don’t go there. I’m your wife, for goodness sakes. I know how you are. You were fine when you left this morning. I don’t need to ask you at 5:00 O’clock to find out how you are.”

    “Why are Phil and Janice coming over for drinks and appetizers tonight?“ I asked.

    “Honestly, do I have to start tying strings on your fingers so you can remember? Last Valentine’s Day you forgot the day altogether, and to make up you promised that you would take me to whatever opera was playing this year. You even made reservations then.”

    It all came flooding back to me and I stood in my office, no doubt looking like a trout out of water, with my mouth open gasping for breath as I realized the colossal blunder I had made. Not only once, by forgetting it was Valentine’s Day, but by compounding the error by committing to going to see La Traviata at the opera house this year, with Phil and Janice, no less.

    “Did I lose you?” my wife asked.

    My mind was reeling. My palms began to get sweaty and for a quick second, I thought I might be having a heart attack. I was having difficulty catching my breath.

    “Paul, are you all right?”

    I caught my breath and stammered out a “Yes, I’m fine. I was just wondering how I can finish this report and get home in time to leave for the opera. I might be late … perhaps I can just meet the three of you at … “

    She cut me off. “Don’t you even think about trying to get out of this. You’re going to the opera with me tonight, or you can just contact our lawyer and start setting up how you’re going to split things up between us.”

    “Now dear,” I murmured condescendingly, “don’t get in a tizzy. It’s just that you know how I am about going to operas, theaters or the like.”

    “Why? What do you have against opera houses?”

    “Besides the crowds, and tight seating, It’s just opera in general. I always think the sopranos are stretching their tonsils to the limits and to me it sounds like someone just stabbed a pig. Besides all that, I don’t like the thought of sitting in the upper deck so far back you need little binoculars to see the performers.”

    “We’re not sitting in the upper deck. We have seats in the lower deck directly in the middle of the auditorium. Best seats in the house. Now, you just get yourself together and get over to Brunsen’s and pick up the list of things I just texted you. I’ll see you at home.”

    I sighed. “Yes, dear.” It took years, but I have learned the two magic words that make a marriage work, and I use them successfully. I hung up the phone and turned off my computer.

    * * * * * *

    I made a couple of appletinis for the ladies and handed one to Cherise, my wife, and the other to her BFF, Janice. “Phil”, I said, holding up the bottle of Glenmorangie 18, “How many fingers?” He held up two. I nodded. “Neat or on ice?”

    “Ice,” he said, “with a splash of water.”

    I smiled. “Just like mine,” I said. I poured the two drinks for us and handed one to Phil.

    “Janice tells me you tried your damnedest to get out of going to see La Traviata tonight. What is it about opera that you don’t like?”

    “To be truthful, it isn’t the opera. I just have an aversion to theaters in general. Sitting next to people I don’t know in tight little rows.”

    “So,” said Cherise. “I heard that. It is the Opera House.”

    I turned to my wife. “It all goes back to that time Fred Erickson and I went to the Donaldson wedding. You remember what happened there.”

    “What happened at the wedding?” asked Phil.

    I took a sip of my drink. “I reluctantly went to a wedding with a friend of mine for an acquaintance at work. My friend, Fred, and I were joking about the last time we had both been in church. Neither of us could really remember. Fred said, ‘I’m always worried about getting hit by lightening, it’s been so long’. We both had a good laugh and then went in and sat down.

    “It was so quiet you could hear the rustling of the paper fans the women were cooling themselves off with. The wedding was about to start and all of a sudden the guy sitting next to Fred starts to stand up while clutching his chest. He lets out an agonizing groan and goes down like a sack of potatoes.”

    Phil said, “Did he die?”

    I nodded a yes and took another drink of scotch. “He was dead before he hit the ground. Everyone did everything they could, and it took quite awhile. They cleared the church for about an hour. Eventually they decided there was too much money at stake to postpone everything. I mean, the reception, flowers and all.

    They told us we could go back into the church when it started but Fred and I said no. “That was too damn close for me,” said Fred. “I figure that bolt was for one of us and God just had bad aim.” We did go to the reception, though.

    * * * * *

    It was intermission, and Cherise sipped at her wine to finish it. “Now, that wasn’t so bad was it?”

    I had to admit she was right. I was enjoying it. “La Traviata is now my favorite opera. By the way, where are Phil and Janice?”

    “They went back to their seats for the second act. We’d better join them.”

    As we started to head for our seats, Phil and Janice suddenly came running toward us.

    “You aren’t going to believe this,” he said, “But some guy just fell out of the balcony.”

    I grimaced. “That can’t be good.”

    “It isn’t good for him. But it’s good for you.”

    “Me,” I said. “How’s that?”

    “Because,” said Phil, “he landed on your seat.”

    I looked at Cherise. “We are going home,” I said. “I’ll watch the rest on Pay Per View sitting in my own living room. No more churches or opera houses for this boy. It’s over and I don’t need to hear the fat lady sing.”

    Reply
  • February 25, 2021 at 5:58 pm
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    Porcelain – Peter Holmes (1205)

    Interlocked fingers, attached to bodies wandering down the street. Couples embraced, lips met under moonlight. Streetlights strangely hadn’t been illuminated yet, though the market alone provided enough light for gazing into lovestruck eyes. However, one couple in the crowd was not taking advantage of the fairy-tale atmosphere. Although they were beside each other, neither had even finished a sentence on their Valentine’s date. Eve had tried, only to be stopped with a kiss every time. To him, it was a chore. To her, a hobby.

    Silence lingered until they passed a stall selling fish and chips. Upon noticing, Eve tapped Isaac’s shoulder, before swiftly retracting it when he turned to face her. “Can we get some food? I’m starving, I haven’t eaten since the brunch you took me to at that café.”

    “Not from here babe it’ll ruin your figure, and I want to see you in that lingerie I bought you.” He looked her up and down. Then she looked herself up and down, a smile temporarily faltering, then reappearing once she looked back at him.

    “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to lose a couple stone.” He pulled her closer, away from the stall. Paying little attention to her, Isaac didn’t notice Eve having to speed up to match his pace.

    He pointed at a grandiose building that imposed on the small square perimeters of the market stalls. Lights surrounded it, the onlookers suddenly moths, drawn in. Stone columns stood guard at the entrance, along with various banners advertising the supposedly magnificent and marvellous acts performing. To Eve’s surprise, the night’s act grabbed Isaac’s attention.

    He twisted round, instantly seizing her hands. “Come on.”

    “Isaac, don’t be silly, it’s an opéra-ballet.”

    “And we’re going to watch it, now.” Eve detected an ugly twinkle in his eyes.

    “But you never want to watch this opera house stuff, you say it’s too boring.”

    “I preferred it when you didn’t say anything,” something told her he wasn’t just talking about their lack of Valentine’s Day conversation “what do you have against opera houses?”

    “I don’t have any issue with them I promise,” she pleaded quickly “I’m just asking why you want to watch it.”

    “Well stop. I let you have your fucking night out, now we’re doing what I want.” There it was again. That gleam in his glare telling her it was the end of the conversation. As if that wasn’t enough, he yanked her towards the doors of the opera house, ignoring the way she winced when his fist clenched around her arm. She bit her tongue trying to contain her cries, knowing he would retaliate further if she made a scene, and the faintest trace of blood left a hostile taste in her mouth.

    Isaac sorted out the tickets with a stern face and a gruff voice, until he got distracted once again. Making no attempt to conceal his grin, his eyes darted to the ballet dancers in their outfits. All women. He looked them up and down just as he had earlier, practically drooling. It was at this point Eve understood his sudden obsession with operas.

    “They’re p-pretty, aren’t they, Isaa- darling?” Eve stammered, choosing her words carefully.

    Without even turning to her, he responded “You kidding me? They’re the hottest girls I’ve ever seen.” He whistled at the group of dancers, winking in their direction. He wasn’t chasing any one in particular, instead throwing his net around the entire herd, hungry.

    Eve chuckled uneasily, reaching for his hand to hold. But he was already walking away, approaching the second door on the right, as the ticket lady had advised. When she caught up to him, she spoke in hushed tones, promising to lose some weight.

    They entered the room, the crystal chandeliers overhead a noticeable change from the eyelevel wall lamps within the foyer. Most of the stage was obscured by a crimson curtain, but the rest was stunning. Two more levels of seating resided above their heads, with booths along the walls as well. Eve strolled around the edge of the room to admire the artwork hanging on the walls; Isaac interrupted her curiosity by snapping his fingers at her, prompting her to their seats.

    For the next nine minutes, Isaac stared at the curtain ahead, while Eve strained her neck to see the paintings behind her, framed in elegant golden wood.

    A voice rose above the multitude of conversations occurring. “Please find your seats, the show will be starting shortly.” The room flooded with those that were buying food in preparation, making hasty toilet trips, admiring the grand architecture. They all shuffled awkwardly to their places, and eventually the sweet silence of anticipation reigned.

    With the curtain’s suspenseful rise, the spotlights were positioned on centre stage. Each and every second of the performance was absorbed. It didn’t happen too quickly, it never bored her. Though the vocals were devastatingly impressive, Eve was more captivated by the dancers. As they spun, Eve repeatedly remarked to herself how majestic they appeared, countless pirouettes, no evidence they’d slow down while time moved on. Without sign of stopping, Eve began to wonder if it were even possible to spin forever, to be locked in a single dance for the rest of your life. Blurred images passing by, until the distorted view of reality became reality itself.

    Leaping gracefully, their faces remained inscrutable, likely under orders to maintain serious facades. Whenever they left the floor, there was momentary doubt they’d land. Weight seemed to mean nothing to them. Yet when Eve jumped – dancing in her living room, playing with her nephew, whatever it was – she always knew the ground was close. In fact, she became familiar with it, almost enjoying her time anchored to reality. Still, she couldn’t help but think perhaps she’d join them one day. One bold jump is all she needed. And like the women in front of her, maybe she wouldn’t need a man to do it for her.

    “Stop it,” she whispered to herself “you love him.” Ditching all ideas previously provoked, Eve glanced at Isaac. Her smile was stiff, strained. But it didn’t matter, since Isaac didn’t acknowledge her attempt to love him. She wasn’t sure if he was intentionally ignoring her, or if he was too preoccupied by the dancers. She glanced to the other side of her, subsequently seeing a couple similar to them, enjoying their Valentine’s date. Although they weren’t entirely like them. Their kiss was genuine, Eve could tell neither resisted it, neither forced it. Her arm was round his shoulder, not because he had no choice; they loved each other. This was something that was starting to feel so foreign to Eve. She realised the last time they’d held each other was right outside the opera house. When he brutishly dragged her inside.

    Even with this awakening, she hesitated before standing. “I am not your porcelain doll, you walking erection.” She didn’t need to say more. Not wanting to interrupt the performance any longer, Eve made her way towards the exit, donning her coat as she walked. Isaac stayed in his seat, though he stared at her leaving, as if he were demanding an answer through his eyes.

    Eve never bothered to turn around.

    Reply
    • February 25, 2021 at 6:45 pm
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      Well I was torn all the way through…. and didn’t want to continue thinking about the insufferable prick… but then I always kept going to see where it went and it went perfectly to the “walking erection”, a term I never read before but also decided it was too civilized for Isaac and I might have mocked his “little dick” or is it the Valentine or Opera prompt that brings up these miserable men and women…

      Reply
      • February 26, 2021 at 4:28 pm
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        Fun fact, I used the term ‘walking erection’ to describe someone recently, who I would also refer to as an insufferable prick, as you put it. Writing the end for this was easily the hardest part of it, because nothing I planned felt satisfying. There is still perhaps more to Eve’s story, but I am happy with how I ended it. Once I decided to keep it short to avoid an argument – I’m not the best at dialogue, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on the end, I was more focused on the build-up to it – .I found myself just writing walking erection because it seemed to fit, and I thought “that’ll do nicely”. Also, I suppose we all prefer creating terrible people, and what better way to do so through Valentine’s, all we can do is hope we’re not projecting anything personal.

        Reply
  • February 27, 2021 at 5:45 am
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    THE THING WITH FEATHERS

    “You know, there’s one thing I should tell you”, he says. His gaze does not waver. His confidence is a force. I can’t look away though I try. I feel the slight quiver of my lip, the tremble at the tip of my fingers. I feel seen.
    “What”, I ask. My voice is feeble. I do not recognize it.
    “You’re beautiful”. He says simply. It’s a fact. He believes it completely.
    I’m awkward with compliments. I’ll smile and lower my gaze, twiddle my thumbs and shift my feet. I’ve got to learn to start calling people out for their polite untruthing.
    “Suspicion is an unbecoming passion’, he says. He knows I do not believe him, that I do not see myself through the lens that he sees me.
    In his eyes I see truth, and I wonder if I dare. Do I dare peak out from the grave of my insecurities under which I’m buried?
    He smiles. Clearing them away is easy. I’m a phoenix, rising.

    There’s no place large enough to contain so much happiness.
    It flows out of me and into everything I touch. It’s strong, and it’s powerful. It compels me to laughter, to grow, to be better, to love, to live.
    It’s a cliché. My heart sings. It’s the thing with wings. It soars. It’s to the roof. It’s free and it’s light. There’s no burden.

    “Yes, but would you do it?”
    Alex takes his time. He steps up from the couch and walks towards me. That smile that just strips everything away and leaves me bare, a child, only wanting him to own me.
    “I love it when you get so animated”, he says as he pulls me into a hug. It’s hard to breathe but I have no complaints. There’s no other place I would rather be.
    “You still didn’t answer my question”. My face is buried in his shirt, south of his chest. He says nothing at first and I wonder if he heard me.
    He did. “Of course. I would do anything with you”.

    We’re out for groceries. It’s been a long day. Alex never shuts up so when he’s quiet it’s a chasm. An abyss. I should have just agreed with him. I knew he was right. I’m stubborn. I didn’t even believe in what I said. I only wanted to have an opinion. Where did that get me?
    Why do I always do this? I ask Alex for the umpteenth time if he’s mad. No, he’s not. But he doesn’t sound the same. I look at him, mulling over the noodle packets. He’s him but with different details.

    “An Opera? Really, that’s what you’ve got?” Alex asks, his fingers twirling around the beard hair he has decided to grow out. Now that I think about, he seems to be doing that almost constantly lately.
    “Yes really!” I instinctively reach out to pull his hands down and end up holding them in mine. He awkwardly moves them away and walks towards the fridge. He has his head in there for a good minute before he turns around and asks simply, “Why?”
    I’m ready for this one. “Because it’s different”
    “Different is, I don’t know, skydiving”, he says. His hands are back to the beard. The fridge door is still open and the light casts a glow across his face that’s almost hauntingly beautiful.
    “You sound like a child”, I say. At this point I’m sure I’ve said it enough times for him not to care anymore. He grins knowingly.
    “Does it have to be opera?” I know where he’s going with this and I won’t let him. Not this time.
    “We agreed, Alex. We had a deal. A deal is binding”, I sound like a petulant child I know. I’m pot and he’s kettle.
    He’s full-on laughing now. I see he’s catching on to my double standards.
    “You’ve been up for everything else, Alex. What do you have against Opera houses?” I’m walking towards him now.
    “Nothing. I just don’t want to spend Valentine’s day in one. It’s all dark. And Unromantic”, he says slamming the door closed.
    “It’s on the list”. I’m firm. I won’t budge. Him not wanting to go only makes me want it more.
    “Can’t we just do it some other day?”, he sounds defeated.
    “I already got us tickets”, I say.
    “This was never up for discussion, huh?” He looks at me with an unbecoming passion.
    I can’t help the chuckle that escapes me.

    “It’s sad how I can never get the shrill voice out of my head”, he sounds distraught.
    I actually feel bad when I burst into laughter.
    “I could think of a thousand better ways to spend Valentine’s”.
    “I suppose. But then again this was pretty unforgettable huh?”, I say, trying to wink.
    I’m not very good at it. I can see Alex start to loosen up. He drapes his arm over my shoulder as we walk towards the truck.
    “There’s something I want to show you”, there’s a twinkle in his eyes as he says this. His voice is so low it’s almost a whisper. If I didn’t know any better, I would say he was nervous.

    We’re at my favorite part of town. I love this place but I have no idea why Alex has brought us over here. He’s so excited, he can barely stand still. He takes my hands in his and thy are clammy. He is nervous. I have never seen him this way. He pulls me to the center of the square. He sits down right there, and gestures for me to sit down beside him. He says nothing, just beams at me.
    A scene from my favorite starts to play from the side of the skyscraper to the front. People are starting to look now, trying to make sense of it. I hope the baffled look on my face makes them know I don’t either. I look imploringly at Alex, but he still says nothing. He points back at the movie that’s playing and that’s when I notice. It’s not Ferris Bueller on the screen. It’s Alex dressed as him! I know where this is going now. I don’t know how I know, I just do. Somehow that doesn’t make any less magical. It’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It’s the best day of my life.
    When I say yes, I have no doubts. It’s the surest I have ever been. I love this man and I want the whole world to know it.

    Mischief managed huh?

    Reply
    • February 27, 2021 at 10:47 am
      Permalink

      It’s got to be me… I’m confused…do I need to watch Ferris Bueller cause I’m not getting something… I’ve gone through various scenarios… waiting for one of them to turn into a chicken or peacock or something with feathers and the other is delusional… but it never got to there… so I am totally out to lunch… is it because I’m really old or delusional or maybe I need more coffee, it is only 0830 on a Saturday…. what am I missing…?

      Reply

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