July 29 – August 11, 2021 Writing Prompt “Two”

Theme: Two Different Personalities

  • Required Elements:
  • There must be two characters
  • One character must be an extrovert
  • One character must be an introvert
  • A body of water

The rest is up to you!

Word Count: 1,200

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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82 thoughts on “July 29 – August 11, 2021 Writing Prompt “Two”

  • July 29, 2021 at 2:02 pm
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    Read the stories here:

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

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

    Reply
    • August 1, 2021 at 6:55 am
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      Hi Carrie
      Can you look at the writing prompt roster please? It says the next update is 01/09/2021 but then this prompt that started on the 29/07/2021 is the latest one and I am next I believe?? I have a great prompt in mind…

      Reply
      • August 2, 2021 at 10:22 am
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        Hi Ilana, yes you are the next up – feel free to email it over to me!

        Reply
        • August 5, 2021 at 6:21 pm
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          Carrie…

          Since it is alphabetical, how does one know who is next on the ‘prompt roster?’ Shouldn’t there be some kind of indicator, like a carat, a lighthouse, or a single ray of sunlight shining down from heaven onto the next person in the list? Is that asking too much? A talking goat would also work, a talking dancing goat would be better. Also, would a lobster claw count as a character? I was thinking of using opposing lobster claws as my main… clawacters.

          Would that be acceptable?

          And the body of water, how large a body are we talking here? Bathtub sized? Kiddie pool, in ground, Olympic sized swimming pool? Or are we talking pond-size or larger? I know these are pretty technical questions, but I’m a pretty technical guy. (Technically.)

          To help you in the decision making process, I’ve distilled all of your possible answers all the way down to three possible responses.

          A. What?
          B. I Don’t Care.
          C. There will be no lighthouses.
          F. Do not, under any circumstances, refer to me as lobster lips, or I will kill you.
          G. Do not bother me with this drivel, can’t you see I’m working on my masterpiece?
          XX. All of the above.
          Z. 4. P2. It’s self-explanatory.

          Reply
          • August 5, 2021 at 11:03 pm
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            You mean like a date next to the name….? 😉
            Ilana’s turn is 8/12.

            OMG for you….a thimble of water.
            No.
            A millimeter of water in a thimble.
            No.

            A millimeter of rain water in a discarded thimble on the parapet of a lighthouse.

      • August 11, 2021 at 10:08 am
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        Also – you wrote ” It says the next update is 01/09/2021 but then this”

        In the US it is 09/01/2021 as in September 1, 2021. I believe the difference is just a regional way of reading the month/date. 🙂

        Reply
  • July 29, 2021 at 2:48 pm
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    Already have a plot thickening as I write this.

    Roy

    Reply
  • July 30, 2021 at 10:25 am
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    Signing in!

    Good prompt, but I just realized that I don’t know which one I am…

    I just might write one with no filter this time, sorry in advance.

    Reply
    • August 10, 2021 at 10:22 am
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      Well, I forgive you John, in advance. I’m thinking of writing another story, since there doesn’t seem to be anyone else on this site. I might be able to establish a new benchmark for ghosting. Who knows? Who cares. I thought about (seriously) writing a story about a schizophrenic Wolf-man. Or a Wolfman, Dracula duo, walking down a London street, assaying their potential victims. The story I wrote instead was almost gave me writer’s block. I was desperate to write anything after that ‘turdis collosus.’ But, it’s fair to note that you have given me ideas.

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 12:53 pm
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        Nonsense!

        Your story was good! Me on the other hand… I couldn’t muster anything this time, but I had an idea based on “I Am A Rock” (not just because of the lyrics, but I was thinking of having an actual sentient rock recount his boring life to an extrovert. Now THAT is dull).

        And the compare/contrast for a werewolf and vampire pair writes itself, I would have been down with that story too just by the nature of it.

        I submitted a story about 5 weeks ago for a horror anthology and I realize now that it wasn’t that good, but it is one of those things where I am still figuring out which things to write and which things to let rot and bleach in the wastelands of my mind.

        I’m beginning to think that I should do the opposite of what the feedback tells me and just pour everything out into one big pile like Legos, you know? Sort out the studs and the long pieces and what not while I am doing it?

        And btw, what do you think about campfire story style anthologies or anthology movies where the characters in some sort of overarching narrative or frame story take turns telling tales? Like that movie “Dead of Night”? I want to play with that format, but people start yawning as soon as I mention it!

        And the other problem is Calahan’s Place. Spider Robinson wrote those damn books about the magical pub that attracts all these weirdos and aliens who all hang out and take turns telling really weird and sometimes perverted tales, some of which are really just long puns. Robinson managed to link all the stories together with the regular barflies and their interactions as the filler between stories, though he eventually lost me with the book in the 90’s because of the extremely controversial content.

        I want to do this in a unique way and I have an idea or two but I have been told that my frame story sounds a little childish, like 3rd grade reading level (better than having some of the too-adult stuff from Calahan’s, if you ask me).

        I know one of the biggest problems is actually having good stories in the anthology, but I am not worried about that yet… just the concept itself.

        Any thoughts?

        Reply
  • August 1, 2021 at 6:50 am
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    Humm interesting prompt. Can we have the schizoid personality happening here? The plot thickens and thins….widens and narrows… expands and contracts…

    Reply
  • August 4, 2021 at 2:29 pm
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    Falling in Love

    “Oh, it’s so bright I can see the Falls in your eyes! I’m so glad you finally agreed to take me here, you know, because I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never actually visited Niagara Falls—well, not here here, but here, in the area. When the Bills were good we’d see the Falls all lit up on Monday Night Football, and every time we did, we’d say, ‘Dad, take us to Niagara Falls,’ and he’d say, ‘Yeah, we should do that, and this time I mean it.’ I guess I could have come by myself, but…oh, look at all the water, Lionel! Can you even hear me over the roar of the waterfalls?”

    “Yes,” said Lionel. “Yes, Rosemary, I can hear you.”

    “What? I can’t hear you! Come on, let’s walk together. Oh, your eyes look so beautiful in all this light, and the wind makes your hair positively gorgeous. It blows through your curls to make them fall all around your ears and eyes like your own personal waterfalls. You know I can never resist running my hands through your hair.”

    “I like it when you do that.”

    “What? What did you say? I can barely hear you. Positively gorgeous! We’ll walk together a little way so that I can hear you better. You don’t have to hold my hand so hard, though. Honestly, I don’t think oncoming people mind it if we stay on the same pathway they’re on; we don’t have to walk in the grass, silly! They won’t bite, I promise you. Turn your head; we can still see the Falls from here. They seem even bigger with perspective, don’t they, now that we’ve seen them up close, pouring around that island with all the trees. You know, it’s almost like pouring a beer over ice, the way it flows, like that. I mean, I know you’d never pour a beer over ice, but that’s the picture forming in my head. Let’s sit on this bench.”

    “That’s a lovely picture. Do you think you’d like to maybe put your hands in my hair again? I like it when you do that because it brings your bos—your, uh…well, your, you’re different from me and it, just—um…do you know? It’s almost like we’re beer and ice.”

    “Ha ha! You’re so silly! Do you like my metaphor? It’s not very creative, I don’t think, but the Falls are so effective; they have so much power—here, I’ll stand behind you and play with your hair. Is that okay? They have so much power when they fall, the thunder, the mists, how they literally carve the earth. Somehow they have that same power on the human soul, don’t you think? They don’t literally carve anything within us, but something happened just now while I was nearer to them, something on the inside, like the person inside was knocked off her feet a bit. I’m not kidding.”

    “I believe you, but I’d really rather you sit down beside me and run your hands from the side because the round and soft—it is the thing—not to say that it’s not your hands—it’s that you come so much into my world—and I like that—that’s the part I like—when you sit beside me and lean your breath…I’m not making any sense.”

    “No! You’re making plenty of sense! I’ll sit. You know how you keep telling me what you like? That means a lot to me. And I’ll tell you something about me: I like it when you tell me what you like. No, don’t lean away from me; I wouldn’t dare kiss you on the lips right here in front of everyone. Don’t you think I know that much about you by now? Just hold still, silly, just for a second. Here, put your arm up on the bench back behind me—no, your right arm—so I can lean in better. You know what? I’ll actually describe to you what I’m going to do: I’m going to put both my hands in your hair—remember, I think it’s positively gorgeous—and when I put my hands in your hair, I’m going to look at your eyes, where the Niagara Falls are, with all their rushing waters, and then I’m going to find you irresistible, and I’m going to kiss you…right…on…the cheek. Like this.”

    “Did you feel like throwing yourself over the Falls?”

    “What? No!”

    “Well, I…uh…I heard that people feel like doing that sometimes when they’re near the Falls, and then you said that thing about my eyes—the waterfall thing that I liked.”

    “How do you feel, Lionel? I mean, right now. How do you feel right now?”

    “Well, I feel your right knee on my right knee and I can’t help but wonder how you contort—how you managed to—well, you’re touching me with other body parts!”

    “Ha ha ha! No, silly! I meant—”

    “If I were to let you touch me any further, Rosemary, I’d have no recourse but to throw myself over your falls.”

    “Oh. Oh my! What happens, Lionel, if we do that?”

    “I imagine we…I imagine we…well, we go wherever the falls take us.”

    “Whose falls? Why does it have to be mine? Couldn’t it be the ones in your eyes?”

    “See, Rosemary? The Niagara Falls are two when they fall, but they are one once they’ve tumbled. It’s like a crash, and who knows what goes on underneath, but there’s a lot going on underneath until it gets going again, one thing. I love you, Rosemary. Won’t you kiss me, just like you said you wouldn’t?”

    “Oh. Oh my! Don’t—I wouldn’t…look what you’ve done to me, making water leak out of my eyes. Now I know how you feel! Why would you do such a thing to me in front of all these people, Lionel, you silly thing! Of course I’ll kiss you, but only a peck. I know you too well.”

    “Did you hear me?”

    “Yes,” said Rosemary. “Yes, Lionel, I can hear you.”

    Reply
    • August 5, 2021 at 3:50 am
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      John, good to see you’ve become a regular contributor.

      Your story is touching and funny in turns, the dialogue works well because the characters have such distinct language and personalities. (BTW, I think you can safely remove “said Rosemary” from the last sentence – it’s clear enough who’s speaking even without the qualification.) I like how the two are starting to communicate; it gives their relationship a chance, despite the very different personalities of the people involved.

      Your dialogue is very realistic, full of rambling and non sequiturs. People talk like that in real life, although it can be a bit confusing to read in a story. The ending, though, feels kinda unfinished, like you cut the story once it reached the word limit. I can see that you’re echoing the start of the story; still, it doesn’t feel like a natural close to the narrative.

      PS. Sorry if I’m not making sense in places – the heatwave is melting my brains.

      Reply
      • August 7, 2021 at 2:07 pm
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        Thanks. I’ve followed Carrie on twitter for years because of our mutual love of outdoors and hunting. After finally paying attention to the writing prompts tweets, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

        Sorry about your brains.

        Reply
      • August 10, 2021 at 8:09 pm
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        John, there is no doubt about your talent. You can write. However, I disagree with Vicki regarding the dialogue. I didn’t find it as realistic as she did. I felt it was stilted. It took away a bit of the story for me. Like Vicki, I found the ending unfinished. Not bad, but not how I thought it should end. Then again, I’m not the author and it’s your ending. But, I think you could clean it up and make it very, very good.

        Roy

        Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 5:59 am
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      Hi, John

      As Vicki says, glad that you seem to be a regular now. I like this story. It has a kind of drifty feel (I suppose like the water heading for the Falls). The metaphor of the Falls as their relationship works very well, and some of the language is quite poetic. In fact I fall between the stools of Vicki and Roy about the dialogue. It isn’t always realistic, but it’s certainly not dull; it’s kind of hyper-realistic at times (“when I put my hands in your hair, I’m going to look at [into?] your eyes, where the Niagara Falls are, with all their rushing waters”). Lionel is obviously the introvert, but is Rosemary an extrovert? She seems a little inhibited herself (just a peck?).

      Enjoyed it.

      Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 8:46 am
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      This was a sweet and romantic story that reminded me of 18 years ago when I went to the same place with my wife just a year before we married. There are two photographs of us posing by the edge and we look so young and stupid but in love and hopeful for the future. She is looking at me like I am a Golden God and I have an edgy look because I was grumpy about something and trying to look cool so I ruined the otherwise perfectly romantic shot with my pride. The sky was such a lovely shade of blue, but it probably has nothing to do with the falls.

      I wish I could go back and shake that younger man real hard and tell him to lighten up and enjoy stuff more and be more romantic. He could take some pointers from your introvert!

      This was an emotional piece and real mushy but I got a kick out of it.

      Reply
    • August 12, 2021 at 1:57 am
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      John David,

      Well, here’s my take on this. Everyone will probably hate me for it, if they don’t already, but here goes. (They do, they do.)

      I’ve read two of your stories before this one, and they were both excellent, realistic and well-polished. This is well-polished also. I don’t believe there are more than a couple of errors in the whole story. (If any at all. I don’t remember any.) But the dialogue is off. I believe someone mentioned the word ‘stilted.’

      While I was reading the story I thought, there’s something wrong with these people. Both of them. There’s something off about their dialogue, the emotional content is skewed up, while the level of articulation is skewed downward, even for young lovers. For instance: “…look what you’ve done to me, making water leak out of my eyes…”

      Or this: “…and then you said that thing about my eyes—the waterfall thing that I liked.”

      Who talks like that?

      Children? Based on the assumption that you’re a skilled writer and an intelligent person, I imagined that you decided to write a story about two people who were different from each other, and different from everyone else as well.

      Is this a love story between two children? Or two mentally challenged people? (a la ‘Silver Linings”) They’re not normal, I feel pretty certain about that, but one of them uses the word metaphor. That’s an adult level word, so, what gives?

      They were different, and they were in love. I’m just not sure in what way that they were different. Not being able to see them.

      (Now that I’m out on this here limb here, would you hand me that saw?)

      Reply
  • August 6, 2021 at 7:10 pm
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    AN AFTERNOON AT THE LAKE

    Hey. I’m off to the lake with Dora and Eric. Fancy it?

    We’re going in Dora’s car. She said she’ll put the top down as it’s such a gorgeous day.

    I expect Eric will want to do that singalong thing he always does. He’s got such a terrible voice, though. You’d think Dora would tell him – or someone would.

    But it’s good fun anyway. The wind in your hair … the singing … and I expect Eric will have his hip flask as well. That always oils things up nicely.

    Dora reckons the south bank because the north bank will be chockablock. You haven’t been there before, have you?

    I’m sure you’d like it. There’s this little beach – quiet. Difficult to get to, so that’s why there won’t be so many people, but once you’re there … It’ll be really lovely. Come on.

    I’m taking a quiche I made, and Dora’s taking one of her salads. I expect Eric will end up buying something – sandwiches or savouries. I’ve got a couple of very nice bottles of chardonnay. You like that, don’t you?

    Well, you did last Christmas. At least the rate you were putting it away…

    Eric was going to bring Peter, but he cried off. If you ask me, they’ve had a row and don’t want to say. But at least it means there’ll be more room in the car. You can sit in the back with me – have a little sleep on the way, if you like.

    It’ll do you good to get out. Mary told you it would, didn’t she? She should know. And if you don’t take her advice at £50 an hour … well, I don’t know why you’re doing it.

    I actually think I’ve seen a bit of a change in you, though, so I reckon it must be working. How long’s it been? Six months? Early days maybe. John – you know, the guy from the coffee shop – he’s been doing it for three years and he’s pretty much the same as when he started, so I suppose you have to thank your lucky stars that you’re … I don’t know … receptive?

    She’s nice, Mary. I might give it a go myself. What do you think? Course, I don’t really need it. Nothing wrong with me. Nothing that a good … no, better not say it. It might scupper my chances. I think Dora might be up for it this weekend. What do you think? She was coming on to me a bit at the party last week. But then I suppose she was coming on to just about everyone. You too, right? You could have been in there. You must have leafed through all those books in the bookcase. If you’d given her a bit of attention … you know, sometimes I think you don’t want to connect at all. What does Mary say about it? I bet she says you should connect.

    Dora, what a character! She’s a bit crazy but I like her. She’s got a bit of … ‘oomph’ about her. What do you reckon? I know she’s not really your type, but you know: ‘Beggars’, and all that.

    So come on. Get ready. Put that nice pink dress on – the one you wore to the picnic last month. That really suits you. Or the yellow one with the flowers. That’s nice and cheerful. Do you want me to fetch it for you? Oh, wait! Was that the door? That’ll be her. Look, are you coming or not? Last chance.

    .

    Reply
    • August 10, 2021 at 10:33 am
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      The one-sided dialogue is spot-on, Phil. The quality of your writing is just astonishingly good. And the three dots for the other character is a very clever tactic. Essential, really, to clarify and define what’s happening. You might say it was a simple and obvious approach, but I never would have thought of doing that. Not in a million stories!

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 7:41 pm
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        Thanks, KenC!

        “Not in a million stories!” If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a billion times: don’t exaggerate!

        Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 9:50 am
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      Phil, enjoyed how you took the two character requirement to a new level. Clever idea. Good story, good everything. I hope she goes to the lake. It looks like she needs to get out. Well done, as usual. You’ve done quite a bit of dialogue writing lately, and reading your work is like taking a course in how to do it.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 7:45 pm
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        Thanks, Roy! (Much too kind again.) I do enjoy writing dialogue, but I should step out of my comfort zone. I’d like to plot more, like you, or write descriptions as good as Vicki’s, for example.

        Reply
  • August 8, 2021 at 10:08 am
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    I’m sorry to inform you all, that my ‘evolving’ story is so boring…. It’s so boring that I read it to the T.V., and C-span fell asleep. That’s how boring it is.

    I was able to shorten it, which allows readers to fall asleep sooner, but do they sleep deeper? I don’t think so. It’s like a tapestry of boredom. It’s a story that begs for misdirection.

    It’s so bad I won’t post it. It’s horrendous. Probably the worst thing I ever wrote. (Including that love letter to Mrs. Shannigan, my fourth-grade music teacher. Although granted, my spelling was a little better back then.)

    So, I’m going to start over or give up altogether.

    Reply
    • August 10, 2021 at 10:06 am
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      Okay I wrote a new and improved story. (Below?) Totally new. Rife with excitement and BS. A little ‘space-slime.’ (Did I just invent ‘slime-travel’? No. Snails do that all the time.–.)

      It’s readable.

      I took the old story, got it drunk and ran it through the shredder, the mulcher and then burned the shreds. Then I put the shredded ashes on a plane and had them flown to ‘Artica’ and sprinkled over the poles.

      But I still live in fear, looking over my shoulder. Expecting to hear a knock on my door some night when I’m all alone, opening the door just a crack, to find my story standing there, with staples in its dog-eared head, smeared ink running from its highlighter, and a big old coffee ring across its chest, just standing there in the rain, with a haunted look on its boring face.

      It was a pretty bad story. Ya’ll will just have to take my dubious word on that.

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 9:56 am
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        Ken, must be something going around. My story suffered from the same affliction. In fact, as I told Phil, my wife suggested I shred it and then make sure there was no evidence on the computer it was ever written. I did rewrite it, however with a completely different ending, and middle, although the beginning was pretty much the same.

        But your description of how bad your story was is deliciously good. If I could vote for the description instead of your story I would.

        Roy

        Reply
        • August 11, 2021 at 1:00 pm
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          I bet the exiled stories from you and Ken were still better than 90% of the stuff that I watch every day!

          Reply
      • August 12, 2021 at 2:05 am
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        Correction:
        That should’ve read; ‘…had them flown to Poland and sprinkled over the Poles.’

        My bad.

        Reply
  • August 9, 2021 at 11:30 am
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    TRACEWATER. (The Lighthouse.)
    ©8/9/2021
    By Ken Cartisano

    “A stowaway? Look, the first thing you need to understand, is that ocean metaphors don’t play well out here. Space is not like water, and the second thing you need to get through your mushy head…” Pevic had such a murderous look in his eye that the Flin paused in mid-fluster. He ceased flailing his arms around.

    “You need to explain why you’re here,” Pevic growled.

    The Flin’s arms resumed their flailing. “And that’s what I’m trying to tell you—I don’t know. This has never…”

    “This isn’t happening NOW.” Pevic howled. “You must’ve done something. Look at you,” he spat the words out, “you must’ve touched something.”

    Just between you and me, Pevic was clearly disgusted. A Flin has nine arms and they’re all long and sticky, and they always travel in groups. “I mean look at you,” Pevic added, before turning away in disgust.

    The Flin shuddered with indignation, his slimy surface effusing gorbits of flivver. He had touched nothing. At the designated time, he and his entire cohort were supposed to transport to the next beacon, but he had been left behind—to deal with Pevic. His effusive flivvering had no effect on Pevic, whose culture thrived in isolation.

    What’s more, Pevic had never met a foreign Flin, never wanted to, and shouldn’t have had to. (It was in his contract.)

    But his remark inflamed the Flin, and let’s face it, there are few things worse than an inflamed Flin. (Except in a fumarole.) “You listen to me, Pevic. You, are supposed to be here, I, fla’m not. I fla’m committed elsewhere, and harbor no desire to be here now, and yet, you do. How do you explain that? All other Flin were transported but me, and then you show up. Very peculiar event is what that is.”

    Pevic, recovered from the shock of meeting a Flin for the first time, waved his arms for silence. He needed to think, but the Flin’s constant flailing was driving him to distraction. “Let me THINK, Flin.”

    The Flin fluttered, subsided into silence—for a few seconds, while Pevic pondered.

    Now, you and I both know, that they were both (members of the same species, hopelessly conflicted with each other, and) Sentinels, whose specialized function, was to man the space-buoys for interstellar shipping. The buoys were little more than galactic beacons, but they were long and cylindrical, with a light at either end. Interstellar shipping was essential to the survival of both cultures, yet cynicism ruled the realm. So, both cultures agreed (some would say demanded) to share responsibility for the buoys, and to rotate crews from buoy to buoy. But the agreement stipulated that they should never meet, except through specific, arduous, painstakingly prearranged circumstances. In other words, preferably never. And yet, here they were. A singular, traumatized Flin, and an angry, solitary Pevic.

    The technology required to facilitate this arrangement was fairly simple.

    Pevic said, “Did you check the fluid in the transporter?”

    The Flin shuddered with embarrassment, or shame, depending on too many variables for Pevic to calculate. Needless to say, it unsettled both of them. “What fluid? In the reservoir?”

    Pevic squinted. “Surely you know it takes water.”

    The Flin pulsated. “Heavy water, in the reactive dampener, correct?”

    “Do you know how much?” Pevic asked.

    The Flin inflated, then deflated with a long, musical fart. “Are you testing me, Pevic? My knowledge of the transport system is sufficient and irrelevant. What matters is whether you have any or not. That, is the question.”

    Faced with a frustrating Flin, Pevic bit his lower plik. “I don’t have any, Flin. That’s the problem. I don’t have any water. Not heavy water.”

    “Well how much do we need?”

    “It doesn’t matter, don’t you see, if we don’t have any.”

    “But how much do we need?”

    “Less than a thimble full.”

    That took the Flin by surprise. A thimble was a measurement that Flins are familiar with. All Flins are issued a thimble at their inauguration. (Where they keep it, nobody knows. But they have one.) They use it for sewing sleeves, of course, and other things, but rarely to carry water, no matter how heavy it is.

    But if there’s one thing that produces heavy water, it’s a frightened Flin, and that’s where I came in. (Especially in flux. Which this one suddenly was.) He produced the thimble with amazing dexterity and held it under his enneadic beak and waited.

    Until a bead began to form. And then another.

    Pevic watched in fascination as the Flin, now in fear for his life, mitosed minute molecules of deuterium into the tiny thimble.

    Drip by drop.

    Okay, sure, it was disgusting, but without it, we’d all be stuck in this godforsaken space-can forever. Or until I killed the both of them, so I took the water from the Flin, with Pevic’s blessing, and poured it into the reservoir.

    And the Flin disappeared.

    That left just me and Pevic, and I’ve got plans for Pevic.

    Reply
    • August 10, 2021 at 7:12 pm
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      Bravo! Good scifi with comedy…and some sinister whodunit elements under the surface. I don’t need to point out that you brought that lighthouse too, not just the thimble and the water (which started as a poetic comment from Carrie that I thought was clever), so you get mad bonus points for weaving that web together!

      The intricate system of alternating shifts, the fun wordplay (inventing new contractions), and the strange cultural prejudices were intriguing and unique. This felt like it was from the same book as the one with the chemical tether, and I liked that one too. You write scifi well – I like your aliens and the technology and problems with them are thought out pretty well.

      Reply
      • August 12, 2021 at 3:26 am
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        Mr. Mansfield.

        Thanks for the complimentary remarks, John. You summarized the story and all of its milestones very efficiently. And I’m so glad you appreciated them. As I told Roy, the story sort of unfolded for me. Some of it good, some of it bad. Like, for instance, ‘the strange cultural prejudice.’ (That’s an amazing phrase, John. It’s uncannily accurate.) I remember thinking that that was already a given, but it would be better if I showed it as a physical revulsion. Anyway, I saw it in the story as I was writing it, and just kind of highlighted it.

        I believe I did a lot of shifting of copy blocks around in this story. And it could use more polish. The dialogue is fair, but could also stand a few changes.

        I figured out which story you were referring to, with the chemical tether. ‘The Life of Ril.’ I totally forgot that I wrote that story. And it was only six months ago. (Not a good sign.) Or what the prompt was. If only there was a list of the prompts somewhere where I could compare the dates or the prompts with the story and the… (Which reminds me, I think someone is trying to kill me. Been a lot of strange accidents, pianos falling off of buildings and roofs lately. Arrows embedded in the front door, snakes under the bed, scorpions in my cheerios, a hatchet under Kim’s pillow. Stuff like that. Course, this is Florida. The rules are different here.)

        It’s a shame you didn’t write a story this week, John.

        Pardon by bloviation from here on out.

        I loved ‘The Thing’, and ‘The Invasion of the Body Snatchers.’ That was a classic. My first viewing of that movie was on a TV with a blown picture tube, so it was sound only. Scared the crap out of me.

        I’m not into ‘Among Us.’ Never heard of it. I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit on Flight Simulators, Nascar Racing and Cities:Skylines, though.

        Played Wolfenstein and Doom II up to level 30 or something, never cracked the top gate. It’s guarded by a hungry woman, I think. I spent about a million hours playing a game called HQ. It’s a 6 dollar war strategy game, simple beyond belief. It’s better than facebook though. They used to have that snake game on a phone, I’ve played that, Tetris, X-Wing Fighter, Air Combat. X-Wing Fighter was like, a space game. First, before playing the actual game, you had to learn to fly a spacecraft, in space. It was incredible. And difficult. (Not real space, obviously, space, in the game.) Obstacle courses with rotating objects. Crazy shit. And that was years ago. Computer speeds are, I don’t know, a hundred times faster now? So, I like PC based games but don’t go in for the multi-player online thing, no war game stuff. I’m not interactive. I’m not comfortable interacting on the internet. Especially not with people. (Egads.) I play against the game or the computer. I don’t have a camera or mic. Just a set of awesome speakers.

        You ever try on one of them 3D headsets? Virtual Reality? It’s amazing. I’m getting one, eventually.

        I think every nine-year-old on the planet should have one. I also think every nine-year-old should have a planet. Sort of like a guarantee. But that’s a different topic.

        Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 6:41 am
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      Hi, KenC

      Very imaginative story. You’ve invented a strange new species (with NINE arms – that’s a first!) and new vocabulary to describe them and for them to use. And you’ve created a new profession: interstellar beacon attendant. All very creative. And there’s a nice ending that suggests sinister goings-on to come (though I think the first-person narrator should perhaps have been introduced right at the beginning … introducing Flin and Pevic (I went through the whole story trying not to read that as ‘pelvic’ … and failing.). Your stories are always unique.

      Reply
      • August 12, 2021 at 2:13 am
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        Thanks Phil,

        Unique, eh? (How many fingers am I holding up?) I’m kidding. I’m kidding. You are too kind.

        You said you think ‘the first person narrator should be introduced at the beginning.’
        But, I didn’t know it was first person narrator until the end either, and I’m the author. So why should I tell you what I didn’t know myself? I mean really Phil, that’s a lot to ask.

        I kept reading the character’s name as Pelvic, too. (Periodically.)

        It was originally Pevic, and, I was worried about accidentally changing it to Pivec, as if that would’ve been worse. I thought about changing both names many, many times. Now I know I should have. It’s a distraction. I hate annoying names in a story.

        Thanks to you and John, I realize how many new ‘things’ I created, in one story! (New contractions, nine-armed people, beacon attendants, space lighthouses…) I didn’t really know these were new, or what I was doing. (There, you finally have my confession, Phil.) I believe I chose nine limbs for my aliens because the word ‘nine’ is one syllable and has two ‘n’s in it. (Of course. I mean really, besides, eight has been done to death already.) And who cares how many arms your alien has anyway? Right? Except that later in the story, I started to use the word ‘bicameral’ and had to look up the word for ‘nine thinged.’(Enneadic.)

        I was nearly ‘hoisted by me own petard.’

        Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 8:34 am
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      Have you played or seen videos of the popular game “Among Us”?

      It is an homage to scifi classics like “The Thing” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or anything with shape-shifting or body-stealing aliens/demons/monsters like “Horror Express” (one of my all time favorite movies EVER).

      But Among Us does the whole whodunit thing but on a spaceship or remote colony and it has a system of reporting dead bodies found and then discussing who the culprit is though round table discussions that inevitably end in the wrong person being executed by being dumped out of an airlock.

      I got that feeling from your narrator and it made me really curious about his physical form.

      Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 10:13 am
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      Ken, I am going to assume that this story is nothing like the first story you wrote, but it was done in such a hurry, you leave me in doubt. Great ending. And, I really liked the early SF pulp fiction vibes I got from reading it. You captured some of that SF magic for me with your BEMs and the story itself. Took me back quite a way to when my dad handed me the SF pulp magazines he would buy while working out of town and was finished with, and that was in the early 50’w when I was about 11 or so. Thank you for that.

      Good story.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 12, 2021 at 3:01 am
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        Roy,

        It took me about two minutes (that I’ll never get back, or remember) to ‘recall’ somehow, that BEM stood for ‘bug-eyed monsters.’ I hope I got that right.

        Believe me Roy, this story is nothing like the first one. The first one was about two characters meeting at a racquetball court, a vignette of two opposite personalities and how they might interact in a physical competition. It was a great idea, and the writing was superb, (okay, not superb, really) but it was boring. I knew it was bad as soon as I was done. I just didn’t want to admit it until the next day…

        In contrast, this story blew into my brain from outer-fukashima-space or something. I was not going to post my story. I wrote it, it sucked, but I figured ‘well heck, at least I wrote a story,’ and just forgot about it. The next day I got the idea to have two alien beings who hate each other, and in the end the reveal is that they’re identical creatures. This is already some kind of trope. ‘Star Trek’ did something like it with the two-warring peoples with black and white faces, reversed? And Carrie gave me the idea for the beacons, the thimble was a gift from heaven. Also, technically from Carrie. However…

        Somewhere along the way to my story…. This got written instead. The reveal wound up in the middle, I had Carrie’s withering responses to my innocent remarks to spur me on sophistically. It was a fun story to write, and the ending really did surprise me. I was like, ‘Holy shit, I’m the villain. The guy who’s writing it. Of course. Duh.’ (I’m a nice guy, but I’m not too bright. I say I’m not too bright.)

        But I did write the story in two days, one night, actually, and spent the next day and a half revising it, and it’s not really as clean as it could be and some of the language that’s meant to be clever I would remove altogether and probably will. (Like ‘the Flin fell silent for a few seconds while Pelvis pondered.’) Shit like that should be excommunicated, shot, hung and deleted. I mean, there’s already a lot of that in the story, (alliterative lilly-pads), and some of it is just plain too much. I was being flippant. It’s a flippant story. But it’s fast-paced and light-hearted, and it was fun to write.

        Reply
  • August 10, 2021 at 7:04 pm
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    Still Water
    By RM York
    1192 words

    Eugene Cochran was a big man, 6’3” tall, weighing at least 240 pounds and was a commanding presence in any room he entered. He was a back slapping joke teller and could come up with exactly the right quip in any conversation. Endearing traits, not to his wife Minerva, but to his customers who loved him dearly.

    He was a heavy equipment salesman, and for the past ten years, the top salesman in the entire company; all of which provided Eugene and Minnie, as everyone called her, a very nice lifestyle.

    Minnie was small and thin, unlike her bombastic husband. She had auburn hair, and lightly shaded cinnamon skin tones, highlighted with a slight natural blush that emphasized her long dark lashes. While the exact opposite in both stature and demeanor, her quiet exterior belied a fiery spirit that lingered just below the surface. A spirit that had been slowly smothered by Eugene.

    Somehow though, the magic of their early marriage faded and both were desperately searching for the romance they once kindled simply by a smoldering look. Both had come to the conclusion they had lost whatever it was they once had. Neither discussed it with the other, it just lay under the surface, simmering.

    When Eugene told Minnie he had booked a yacht for an epic twenty-fifth anniversary present she was ecstatic, but reserved. “Sounds wonderful, but a yacht?” she asked. “Can we afford it?”

    “Honey, we can afford to buy one outright. I just didn’t want to take that step until you had a chance to spend a few nights on one. We’ll have the entire yacht to ourselves, except for our Captain and his crew.”

    “That’s good. I want this to be fun, not listening to boring stories from other people. Remember that time in Cabo and we got stuck at dinner with, what was her name … Clarice, and her simply awful husband?”

    “Honey, I promise, if it turns out you really like yachting, I’ll buy one, maybe even bigger.” I’ll be captain and you can be my first mate.” He looked at her steadily. “Maybe, we can rekindle some that fire we had.”

    She let his comment hang in the air for a moment, started to say something, paused and kissed him on the cheek. “We’ll see,” she said, and under her breath added, “especially about that ‘who’s captain’ part.”

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Eugene was on his fourth vodka martini, light on the vermouth, heavy on the olives, when the captain said, “I can’t help but notice your wife Minnie, is awfully quiet.”

    Eugene sat back in his chair. “It was what attracted me to her. I guess opposites attract. She’s like that at home, too. But then, I do enough talking for both of us.”

    “I’ve noticed,” said the captain. The implication wasn’t lost on Eugene.

    “Yeah, my father told me when I was three they think I got vaccinated with a phonograph needle, ‘cause I haven’t stopped talking since. Minnow here, on the other hand doesn’t talk much.

    ‘She and I have a deal. I make all the little decisions – like the house we buy, what kind of car we drive, and so on. She makes the big decisions; such as, should the U.S. extend the embargo on Cuba … things like that.” He followed his comment with one of his hearty laughs. “I spend my life making waves, and she is nothing more than a little fish in a big pond. It’s why I sometimes call her Minnow.”

    “You should never judge a book by its cover, Mr. Cochran,” said the captain with a smile. “Take me, for instance. You think I’m a jovial, sea loving captain who thrives on keeping rich folks like yourselves happy. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

    The captain’s smile turned cold and signaled to the two men who had been helping serve dinner to the captain and the couple, to come to the table “Take David and Emmanuel here, for example. They too, think I’m a happy go lucky sea captain. I’m not.”

    He produced a pistol from under his coat and with accuracy shot both men in the head. They slumped to the floor. Eugene barely moved, the alcohol having slowed his reaction and his sense of the moment, but Minnie screamed and stood up. “You shot them. Why?”

    “Because,” the captain said, “These are the two men who shot you and your husband trying to rob you and I had to kill them.”

    “But … but … they haven’t robbed us or tried to shoot us,” she said.

    “Not yet. But they will, so I had to shoot them. Right after your husband transfers three million dollars to this account.” He handed Eugene a piece of paper. “You will accompany me to my cabin and transfer the money now.” He motioned with the gun for Eugene to stand up and precede him. “You too, Minnow; follow your husband.”

    “And if she doesn’t?” said Eugene.

    The captain turned the gun toward Minnie. “Then I will shoot her, starting with her knees first, then proceeding to various body parts until you do. I have twelve shots left. It will be quite painful, I assure you.”

    ‘Then you will let us go?” asked Eugene.

    “Of course, what kind of man do you think I am? We are two hundred miles from shore and in very deep water. I will put you on a raft and notify the authorities. Then it will be up to God if you survive, not me. By the time you tell your story to the authorities I will be long gone.”

    “But,” said Eugene, “you told us that you would tell the authorities that the two crewmen tried to rob us and shot us and you shot them.”

    “I did say that didn’t I? Well, no matter, I will be long gone in any case before they find your bodies. Now move!” He gestured with the gun. “Now.”

    They left the galley toward the captain’s quarters walking slowly along the deck. Suddenly, Eugene stumbled and crashed into the wall, knocking a life preserver and a rack of spear fishing equipment off the outside galley wall. The captain hurried forward to Eugene and pushed the gun in Eugene’s side as he tried to get back up.”Relax captain. I’ve had too much to drink.”

    “Just keep moving,” said the captain as he pushed the gun harder into Eugene’s side. He turned to look for Minnie, and found himself staring at a spear fish gun pointed directly at his chest. He brought the gun around toward her and said, “Drop the weapon … “ just as she fired. It hit him directly in the chest knocking him toward the railing, the gun firing harmlessly in the air.

    Minnie ran forward and kicked the gun from the dead man’s hand. She picked it up and turned toward Eugene holding it in her right hand.

    “Minnow,” he said, “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

    “You know what they say, Eugene, still water runs deep and opportunity knocks.” She shot him directly in the forehead. “Now,” she said, “where’s that mayday radio?”

    Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 7:00 am
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      Hi, Roy

      An excellent, devious, dastardly plot, full of treachery; just when the reader thinks the twists are done, another one shows itself. I like the ‘Minnow’ variation of the name. Having said that, I don’t think you needed Eugene to spell out why he calls his wife that (the simple fact that he does gives us the back-story of why Minnie might hate him). Similarly, the exposition of the first part could have been incorporated into the yacht-trip, letting you SHOW us what Eugene and Minnie are like, rather than you TELLING us. Love the way the story went, though: ‘The meek shall inherit the Earth!’

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 8:20 am
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        Phil,

        You have pointed out two of the areas that would indeed, make this a better story than it is. Sadly, it’s because the first story was so bad, when I showed it to my beta reader, the lovely and talented Mrs. York, she advised me to shred it and erase any evidence it had ever been on my computer.

        So, I decided on a rewrite. At this late date, however, I tried to keep parts of the story which started as a narrative, causing said problems. Running out of time, I decided to go with what I had. I liked what I had enough, just wish I had more time.

        Thanks for your spot on comments. It’s always good to hear from the master in a gentle way. You are a kind man, Phil. I appreciate it.

        Roy

        Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 8:26 am
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      I liked this story and how wonderfully compact the setup was – you didn’t waste words but you introduced the characters well and got right into the plot.

      I liked the captain instantly and I think it is because he has a kind of Humphrey Bogart from “The Petrified Forest” vibe – like he is a dastardly fiend but he is REAL and grounded in the true nature of reality – someone who grasps what it is really going on, even though he is probably going to try to kill you. And the yacht setting reminded me of the other movie like that one, “Key Largo”, even though that flick was long and too drawn out for me in comparison.

      I guess it tells you a lot about how I am feeling about the world and the people in it right now if I am feeling an emotional connection with The Cap’n because he has a brain in his head and his ear to the ground, but he is a little bit of a charming-but-slimy villain archetype, ain’t he? Yeah, that is probably just me. When I think about it, he is more like the main villain in the first Die Hard movie, cool and calculating and not in a hurry to spare lives, but you can still trust him (to help himself and stab you in the back).

      I think the extra explanation about the Minnow helped signal that she might turn on him, because before that they were just an affluent couple that had some marital… cooling going on. Plus, I didn’t get the Minnow thing until you really made it obvious, so I guess I am the guy those sentences were aimed at!

      Good job!

      Reply
      • August 13, 2021 at 8:00 am
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        John, thank you. You were the guy, well, not you personally, but, you know what I mean. Phil is right, I could have done it better.

        For example: Eugene slid his imposing 6’3” frame into the booth, his presence commanding attention by sheer size vs my opening line, expressive as it was, SHOWS better than TELLS. It’s something I work on.

        Thanks for your kind words. They are appreciated.

        Roy

        Reply
    • August 12, 2021 at 2:52 pm
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      Roy,

      I didn’t notice either issue that Phil pointed out, until after Phil pointed them out. (Thanks for ruining it for me, Phil.) I thought the story was great, it has your typical zip and polish. With a literal? Proverbial? Quintessential ‘bang’ at the end. You made the most of your descriptions. I wasn’t too surprised by the ending, but I didn’t see it coming either.

      I think Phil’s advice is great though, and would greatly improve an already good story.

      As for our mutual crappy output lately. Writing is so peculiar. I mean, it’s verbal art grammar. And it’s okay to break the rules in each aspect of the endeavor. It’s a wonder that we ever produce anything decipherable, let alone entertaining.

      I noticed that Carrie posted all the prompts going back to 2015 somewhere under the landing page. It’s a long list. I don’t remember half of them. Not sure why that is, I still have a pretty good memory, (when I put the car keys in the refrigerator, I go right to the fridge when I need them later on,) but I’ve written so many stories I can hardly fault myself for not remembering all of them. I used to keep a list of the prompts on a legal pad. Prompts down the left margin with the names of the writers across the top, and I kept track of where we all placed. And it was the same people, generally speaking, week after week, slightly re-arranged. I came in second and third a lot. I discarded the legal pad years ago and I don’t keep track anymore. New people come and go.

      I still come in second and third a lot. Some things never change.

      I’ve become more selective in what prompts I write for, lately. My favorites are the picture prompts. I’m very visual. Hell, I can write a story just from watching the couple in front of me at a stoplight. (This is why Carrie’s comments about a lighthouse and a thimble were so useful, because they were so visually imposing.)

      I see you came in second in the contest. Congratulations. That Vickie person is a helluva writer, isn’t she? She should be getting paid, by somebody somewhere. Her talent is so obvious.

      I’m surprised that Phil’s story didn’t do better. His had a little mystery concealed between its covers too, I thought. Sounded like someone was going out on a date, but everybody was the same sex. And it was in the day time. So it wasn’t really a date. I figured, well, it’s the English. You know? They’re, oh, how shall I put this, eccentric? (Just kidding, Phil. You know we love you.) I gave him points for figuring out how to convey a one-sided conversation so effectively.

      Well, I’m all talked out Roy. Sorry about that. What can I say? I live in Florida. So, every other person I meet is an idiot. The Governor is an idiot, our Senators are idiots. I don’t even have kids, but if I did, I’d want the government to formerly, and firmly implement every measure available to keep its citizens CHILDREN from DYING unnecessarily. Crass greed is running rampantly in this country and the war on science is not fruitful. It’s depressing, and suicidal.

      I was thinking about taking a few weeks off from the contest. I have other hides in the smoker, as it were. But I like the feel of this prompt, as well as the picture. I’ll wait and see if I get an idea. If not, I’m not going to push it.

      Sorry to chew your ear off, Roy. Congrats on the second place finish.

      Reply
      • August 12, 2021 at 3:19 pm
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        I actually used to track who won and who wrote the prompt in a spreadsheet, but it got to be too much for no real reason other than nosiness.

        I just love the image prompts too. The stories that came out of the “Woman in the Photograph” were some of my favorites.
        Before that one in May, the last image prompt was in June of last year.

        I have a gorgeous image that has a very fall flair, so maybe I’ll post that one as a bonus in the fall.
        Ok in all honesty I have a folder full of writing prompts just sitting there. Many of them image prompts.

        Maybe I’ll pour a cup of coffee and scroll through them, life has been kicking my ass lately, and maybe they’ll inspire me to put pen to paper again!

        Reply
      • August 13, 2021 at 7:46 am
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        Ken, feel free to chew my leg off. I find your comments and observations funny, entertaining , and sometimes sharp but on point.

        It seems your governor and mine here in Michigan have been in the news a lot. I like what mine is doing much better than yours.

        Thanks for your comments, I was surprised my story got second. I hope my next venture is as fortunate or, maybe even better. I’ve worked out a good scenario, now let’s see how the characters fill in the blanks.

        Roy

        Reply
      • August 13, 2021 at 12:18 pm
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        I wanted to slow clap you for this yesterday but I had to leave suddenly and never got a chance.

        I am in Atlanta and you are preaching the truth.

        Amen.

        (And that sounds like a ton of stories – very intimidating to someone like me who only just started!)

        Reply
  • August 11, 2021 at 2:46 am
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    EVER AFTER

    I look at the ocean from the open gallery, letting the morning breeze play with my hair. Below, the waves lap gently at the shore, right below the palace wall. The blue morning is fresh and full of promise. Delicate twisted white columns look almost insubstantial, like thin plumes of smoke rising from small campfires towards fluffy white clouds.

    My husband strides towards me across the tiled floor, hair like bright gold streaming in the breeze. He looks exactly as when he’d first appeared in Koshchey’s gardens, urging me to run away together.

    “Morning, Vasilisa.”

    “Morning, Ivan.”

    We hug briefly, then stand side by side watching the ocean.

    “Look, a ship!” Ivan points. He sprints to the top of the tallest tower to pivot the large mirror that reflects flashes of sunlight towards the ship, shouts, waves … By now, he’s just going through the motions; frankly, I don’t know why he still bothers. The ship sails past and disappears, like all the ones before. We never found out if nobody on the ships sees the palace at all, or if they take it for a mirage. Strange to think that no-one ever discovered our palace; people would flock to see its like anywhere else in the world. Yet the enchantment still holds. I wonder if the sorceress that created it is still alive, and if her kind still walk the world.

    We take our breakfast trays from the kitchens to a wrought-iron table on a balcony overlooking the ocean. There’s cool mint tea, and many kinds of fruit, and sweet porridge with raisins and cinnamon that we used to love as children. The palace has no servants; the enchantment takes care of our food, like everything else.

    Ivan looks restless. I know he’s about to say …

    “I’m going to town.”

    “Have fun,” I smile, then add with a wink, “perhaps you’ll meet someone.”

    “You know it doesn’t work that way,” he rolls his eyes.

    “You know I don’t mind.” I really don’t, not after all this time. Ivan’s right, though. Neither of us can even feel desire towards anyone else. The sorceress had very definite ideas about the meaning of “happily ever after”.

    Ivan raises an eyebrow; I shake my head slightly. He doesn’t need not to ask – I hadn’t left the palace grounds in years, and don’t feel the need to; this is simple courtesy.

    “Do you want anything?”

    “Maybe some new books.”

    A smile, a peck on the cheek, and he’s gone.

    We didn’t know each other that well when we wed. When we first met, I was an evil wizard’s prisoner; sick of either waiting in Father’s palace to be sold to the highest bidder, or being stolen like a precious bauble only to be added to someone else’s treasury. Ivan was a lad looking for adventure, the youngest son out to prove himself. First he helped me escape, then we had to outwit Koshchey, all the adventures we had on the way home … Of course we fell in love. When the sorceress offered us our happily ever after, we couldn’t think of a better fate than spending the rest of our lives together.

    The trouble with ever after is that it’s a helluva long time.

    I pick up my gardening basket and head down to the gardens, warm rays of the sun caressing my face. Heady aromas of rosemary and thyme mingle with the fragrance of roses. Swarms of bees buzz nonstop around tall rosemary bushes. Colourful butterflies flutter all about. Strains of birdsong interweave in the air, underscored by a gentle rustling of leaves on the trees. The gardens are enormous: you can easily spend days just wandering around; and there’s always something to do. Little things – a bit of pruning here, deadheading some flowers there, plant some new seeds, harvest some fruit or herbs. The plants never suffer much from pests or disease thanks to the enchantment; and the entire gardens are watered perfectly at all times, which would normally take an army of gardeners to do. Alone, the gardens would take me weeks to water just once.

    The sorceress must have felt strongly that other people contribute to unhappiness; we don’t see anyone else unless we venture outside. It wasn’t always that way. What balls we used to have when we first settled here, and hunts, and throngs of guests! All organised by Ivan, of course. But with time, people forgot about us, and the way our palace was lost. I’ve often wondered why the enchantment had changed over time, but the magic the sorceress used wasn’t the sort ever set down in any books I know of.

    I can’t think of a better man than Ivan to spend eternity with; unlike me, though, he chafes at the solitude. Perhaps that’s why the enchantment relented eventually, and now he can visit nearby towns. The locals think he’s a rich, eccentric foreigner. Ivan still has to return before a day and a night have passed; he also takes care to visit a different town every few years, lest anyone notice that he doesn’t age.

    The warm sun, the steady hum of bees, repetitive movements of inspecting plant after plant, branch after branch make me feel as if in a dream. Suddenly I realise that the sun has reached its peak; I can’t tell if I actually fell asleep or merely lost track of time. I pick some herbs to take to the kitchens; they will be added to our next meal.

    I head back to read a book in a cool vaulted chamber, though reading outside would be just as lovely. The weather here is always pleasant: the heat never scorches, rains fall mostly at night, and winds are never too harsh. Winters, too, are mostly mild; though we sometimes get fluffy white snow that reminds us of the lands of our birth. Those kingdoms are long gone, their names forgotten. Ivan and I are the only people who still remember. More than a thousand years have passed since we came here, as far as I can tell.

    I wonder idly if Koshchey is still alive somewhere – he was known as “the Deathless”, after all – or if someone found a way to kill the old ghoul. Back then, nothing seemed worse than to end my days as his captive. However. Whatever he did to me, I’d be long dead by now. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

    Later, and go for a swim at a small pebble beach, watching bright fish dart around in the clear water. Afterwards, I walk along the shore until the setting sun sets the palace windows on fire.

    Ivan rouses me from my book when it’s already dark outside.

    “Vasilisa,” his grey eyes fix mine, “do you ever want to leave this place? Forever?”

    I consider the question.

    “We’ll die then. You know that.”

    “Does it bother you still?”

    “Maybe not,” I gesture with the tome in my hands. “I just have this book to finish.”

    “Ah well,” he shrugs, “a music band is playing in town tomorrow.”

    We exchange half-smiles, and I return to my book.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 7:19 am
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      Hi, Vicki

      Another lovely story. Your descriptions are beautiful – they really transmit well the idyllic nature of the palace. It’s a very sad tale, despite the happy premise: that you can live forever with the one you love. ‘Be careful what you wish for’ would sum up the plot, I suppose. A really good element is the idea that the couple have been forgotten – they don’t know if the sorceress is still alive, or what happened to their families. Which makes their existence and immortality doubly sad. I’m not sure I really understand why they would signal passing ships; there’s obviously a country outside the palace walls (Ivan visits the towns). I don’t think you can ‘urge [someone] to run away together’. A magical story, though, in more ways than one..

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 8:55 am
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        Thank you very much for your comment, Phil. Especially for pointing out the incongruity of the ship scene. It’s a leftover from an early version where the couple was completely isolated from the outside world – which I scrapped after realising this would drive Ivan the extrovert bonkers pretty quickly; I forgot to change this part.
        The phrase you point out sounds awkward to me too, but I still haven’t found a replacement I’m happy with.

        Reply
        • August 11, 2021 at 11:46 am
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          You’re welcome, Vicki!

          I think this would work: “…urging me to run away with him.”

          Reply
          • August 11, 2021 at 2:15 pm
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            I thought it might be confusing (as in, which “him” is meant). Anyway, too late to change now.

        • August 12, 2021 at 12:39 am
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          ‘…urging me to elope with him.’

          Lovely writing, Vickie. It is a beguiling premise, spending eternity with your polar and attractive opposite. I don’t think the story is sad, so much as surreal. It was fun for a few centuries, but after several millennia, the novelty wore off. ‘Yeah baby, I’ll bet it did.’

          It’s a clever and, once again, beautifully rendered solution to the prompt.

          Reply
          • August 12, 2021 at 4:37 am
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            Thanks, Ken!

            Sorry I didn’t have time to comment, so allow me to say now that I really enjoyed your story. It’s certainly most “out there” in this round. Not sure if I can rightly call it experimental fiction. It was fun to read a story where the dynamics between characters are easy to follow even if I couldn’t understand half the words. 🙂 I can’t make up my mind whether it needs to become part of a longer story where all those mysteries are explained and the mysterious narrator revealed, or if it’s fine as is.

    • August 11, 2021 at 10:34 am
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      Vicki, you are on a roll with entering stories that will vie easily for the top spot. This is not a criticism, but more, an observation. You came – for me anyway – dangerously close to blue prose. Your descriptions are beautiful, but they were so plentiful I felt almost overwhelmed by a Disney Rush. I kept going back and rereading them to find out if you missed one of the plants in the garden to describe and gush over.

      A question: Why did you describe band in the next to last sentence as a ‘music’ band instead of just saying a band?

      This line sealed the deal for me as to your writing cleverness: The trouble with ever after is that it’s a helluva long time. Loved it. Laughed out loud. So obvious and overstated it was simple, yet exactly what needed to be written there.

      Nice enchanting story. Makes me wonder, how does one handle eternity? One of my answers would be to allow those spending eternity to be able to forget old memories so you are always looking forward to the new adventures. Sort of Groundhog Day without realizing it. May be that’s how those who envision Heaven think about it, because otherwise, all those heaven bound would be faced with the same dilemma. Sitting around strumming on harps all day long doesn’t seem like fun in the long run, although it does beat the supposed fiery alternative.

      Roy

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 2:23 pm
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        Roy, thank you for your comments. I tried a different writing style on purpose; perhaps I overdid it a bit.

        “Music band” – well, the characters are over 1,000 years old, give or take. On one hand, they kept up with developments over time (more or less, given their isolation). On the other, I thought they may have kept a few anachronistic turns of phrase.

        The line you liked was the first one I thought of; the whole story developed from it.

        The story is basically an Earthly take on eternal harp-strumming :).

        As for the fiery alternative, it all depends on perspective. 🙂 There’s a story by Stanislaw Lem about challenges faced by Catholic missionaries in space. One of them tried to preach to the inhabitants of an extremely hot planet. They weren’t impressed by his descriptions of Heaven, but found the idea of a fiery Hell very appealing.

        Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 1:13 pm
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      Haunting.

      If they didn’t have such a cold interaction in the start of this story, I would have enjoyed the descriptions of the island and the palace grounds in a different way. Everything was so beautiful and epic, but what is the point if they can’t find happiness as a couple? That short hug in the beginning made the rest of the story so sad and everything was cast in a different light. You made such awesome things sound so awful and lonely dammit – but good job!

      Exploring how happily ever after can fade into something else so suspiciously well… are you a marriage counselor?

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 2:29 pm
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        Thanks for your comment, John. It’s not that the couple can’t find happiness, more like, can happiness last if you literally have forever and are stuck only with each other, away from the rest of the world? This is one possible answer. I’m not a marriage counsellor; I’m happily married, but can’t even imagine what our relationship might be like after a thousand years. 🙂

        It’s interesting that you find the story so sad. I was aiming for a more ambivalent feeling: there are thing to enjoy, and there’s affection between the two, but … it’s just been too long.

        Reply
        • August 11, 2021 at 3:25 pm
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          Finding it sad? I always do this to stories, but usually I find something happy and positive about a slasher film or something deep in a romantic comedy. It’s not your fault, I just magnified the sadness out of ratio.

          I thought that Liz Fisher’s story for the opera prompt was sad too and I think that I might have offended her at first, but she meant it as a story of illumination in an uplifting or liberating way and no one else saw anything wistful in it but me, which has a lot to do with my depression and lack of meaningful friendships in the real world and the rest of my luggage that won’t fit into the overhead compartments!

          I think a big part of it is that my concept of intimacy and Love revolves around my own marriage and I find it sad to think forward to a point in the future where my wife doesn’t want to spend time with me – I think it is one of my biggest fears. I cried in my thirties when I realized that my Dad sleeps in a different room from my Mom because of his back and difficulty getting up and down the stairs, because I think that you can go ahead and euthanize me when I no longer share a bed with my best friend, but those are obviously not nuanced or balanced views.

          I’m an outlier when it comes to these things, but I still loved your story. And you ended it on a happier note with a hint of them holding hands and walking out towards Death together… when they are ready. You nailed it, I just picked at it and projected my own bs onto it, like with Liz’s story.

          Reply
          • August 12, 2021 at 4:45 am
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            Please don’t apologise. It makes me happy that readers bring their own interpretations to my story.

            I hear you RE intimacy, love and keeping the magic alive. I also find it tragic when couples lose interest in each other after decades – or even mere years – of marriage (of which Roy’s story is an extreme example). We’re lucky (probably) that we only have to work hard to keep our significant others interested for a few decades – I doubt anyone in this group will stay married even for a paltry century. 🙂

    • August 11, 2021 at 2:10 pm
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      I thought you were TRYING to be blue in your prose – it is an enchanted palace after all and the explanations really brought home how sad it was and how happy they SHOULD be about the setting – but I didn’t know what blue prose or beige prose or blue language were until just now.

      (I think that I am more than just a dark shade of blue in my writing, must be my pen)

      Reply
      • August 11, 2021 at 2:30 pm
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        You’re right!

        Reply
  • August 11, 2021 at 8:08 am
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    Some great stories. It has been so full on at work, plus into lockdown, out of lockdown and into lockdown then out of lockdown … it has been crazy. My story languishes – half written and as my son has had dental appointment, medical appointments and other things to fix now he is eighteen plus is getting a ride on mower and wants to start his own business one day mowing lawns and doing gardens life is a bit crazy and I have run out of time…However o have chosen my
    Favourite stories. So will vote at least…

    Reply
  • August 11, 2021 at 8:51 am
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    I am going through some rumples and can’t do anything but complain and whine recently, but I am still here and I will keep reading and commenting, even if you don’t want me to!

    Reply
  • August 11, 2021 at 9:15 am
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    I had a killer idea for a Phantom of the Opera take on this prompt, Christine as the extrovert, Phantom as the introvert…of course the waterways beneath the opera hose….but alas… real life and familial obligations have gotten in the way.

    I’ve been reading through the stories and it will be hard to vote!

    Reply
      • August 12, 2021 at 3:09 pm
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        Maybe I’ll write it anyway.
        That play holds a special place in my heart, and I saw that they are starting to do it again in London.
        How cool would it be to see it live in London…..

        Reply
        • August 13, 2021 at 7:28 am
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          Back in the mid nineties, I had tickets to see Phantom n LA. When we got there expecting to see Robert Guilaume as the lead, we found out he was ill. Bummer we said, but it turned out he was replaced by Michael Crawford. It was awesome, and we had front row balcony seats; a magical night,

          Reply
          • August 13, 2021 at 8:52 am
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            I’ve seen it at least a dozen times and have spent a ridiculous amount on souvenirs and playbooks. I recently took my boyfriend to see it (maybe 2 years ago? Must have been not long before everything got closed down) And he said it was one of the best productions he’d ever seen in his life.
            I have to take him to see Trans-Siberian orchestra next!!

  • August 11, 2021 at 10:42 am
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    I wish there were more stories to read, I am grateful sometimes there are only a few, because of the time element. 20 stories as we had not that long ago was too many, but I still slogged through them.

    I wonder how many stories are the perfect amount?

    For those with time on their hands – of which, I admit, I have plenty – it’s easy. For others, trying to make a living and keep up with family it’s not as easy. I understand that, but still, I wish there were more stories to read.

    Roy

    Reply
  • August 11, 2021 at 11:50 am
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    Two Homes

    “Who the Son sets free, is free indeed.
    I’m a child of God, yes I am.
    I am chosen, not forsaken, I am loved,
    I am who you say I am…”

    Nat had heard this song as a baby while on car rides with his papa. He didn’t know what it meant but it sounded good. And it felt fantastic to be free and to be loved. His mama never tired of saying, I love you, I love you, my bebe!

    ‘Free’ was a good word. Not a harsh, strong one. In his home, strong words were not allowed. He knew when school got ‘free’ coz that’s when his mama would come to pick him up.

    Once some months ago, he heard his neighbour shouting at their dog on the other side of the fence.

    “Shut up, Willie.Be quiet, willya? You’re getting on my nerves.”

    The little boy heard it thrice. He figured it was because Willie was barking extra loud. His barks carried across homes.

    Nat picked up the new word.

    That night when his mama scolded him, he shouted, “Shakkkaaahhhh, momma! Just be quiet and go to your kennel.” Then he chuckled his sweetest grin ever.

    Mama was horrified at his new vocabulary. Needless to say the little boy got whacked on his bumsies.

    ‘Hate’ was another word never allowed in the household.

    Little Nat told his granma when she came around and used it.

    “That’s a strong word, Mamchy. Don’t say hate. You can’t say you ‘hate’ fruit or the weather. Just say ‘I don’t like’.”

    “Sorry, my baby boy. I definitely hate spiders and creepy crawlies.. I mean… I just don’t like spiders. And I dislike bananas.”

    “But I love them. So it’s not fair to say that, Mamchy!”

    Mamchy was the most social being ever. She could strike up a conversation with a fire hydrant if you let her. Neighbours greeted her and welcomed her home for a cuppateh. So isolation never bothered her. Her friendly neighbour sent her flowers for Mother’s Day and when time permitted she made tasty food and sent it across to her new neighbour.

    But life treats different people differently.

    So it was a different story across the road on the other side of the neighbourhood.
    Where Barney and Winnie lived.

    For Barney, it was tough to be in isolation. Retirement had brought out the worst in him and he found fault with anyone his age who still held a job. The green eyed monster throttled his neck each time he saw someone go off to work on a Monday. Often the passersby would see Barney tinkering with his car, working on the latch of the gate, which was fine anyway. That’s the only way he could spot some humans on the road and complain loudly to them about the trash on the road, or that the streets weren’t being cleaned. He claimed to be the uncrowned Neighbourhood Inspector. Then he would sit at the doorstep and have this faraway look as if he were meant for far better things in this cosmos. After an hour of uselessness, he then retraced his steps to the living room where the TV was going on full blast.

    Strains were showing up in their relationship. They no longer shared the bed. He felt jealous of Winnie’s friends who kept calling her. He couldn’t bear it when they laughed loudly on the phone. While on his part, he lost the precious few friends he had made mainly because of his rude repartee to everyone that valued him.

    Then one day Sandy walked in. The only one who could hold his attention with her soft mellifluous voice. Barney held on to her like there was no other being in sight. He spent hours in bed talking sweet to Sandy. She did think he was a bit weird but stayed by his side. They were twin souls in isolation, both afraid of the world outside. Hating to meet people and barking their presence each time anyone showed up. Both displayed their intense dislike of God’s creation.

    Barney never failed to make an unfavorable comment when friends dropped in.

    “You have put on a lot of weight since I last saw you.”

    “Are you sick? You look sick.” Barney told another friend.

    “You haven’t settled yet. Look at me, I have reached my retirement goals. Nothing more for me to achieve.”

    It was such insensitive talk that made their friends stop coming forever. He mocked his wife endlessly for her new found faith.

    “What are you praying for? Prayer is the language of the poor. The self-sufficient don’t need to pray.”

    “You are so right! So which segment do you belong to? Who are you? The self-satisfied who don’t want to pray or the self-righteous who can’t pray?” Winnie replied with a cutting voice.
    He was rude but she still cooked for him.
    “ Come for dinner in an hour. Go freshen up now.”

    He couldn’t stand his wife. It was a covid disaster. He was not the only one. Many marriages had gone stale in the neighbourhood. Husbands were getting on the edge and wives were falling off the edge.

    But Sandy held no argument with Barney. She was always there for him come winter or rain. He just needed a silent listener to all his woes which had trebled during the times. Winnie couldn’t stand Sandy and stayed away from both of them.

    So that was the story of Barney, the Big Bore. Sandy knew he needed her more than anybody else. She also understood that there are those like Winnie who prayed quietly in her room downstairs. But for Sandy, she had to learn to bow down to the whims of this man who was so much like her in many ways. Something told her senses that he was one who needed to realize there was a power outside both of them.

    Sandy could sense it in the air, in the clouds.

    That’s what made her wag her tail each time she looked up at the sky.

    Reply
    • August 11, 2021 at 1:00 pm
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      I’ll be posting the voting links soon, I have to add Marien’s story to the choices!

      Reply
    • August 12, 2021 at 4:00 am
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      Marien Oomen.

      Idyllic. And a fun pleasant read. You have a way with words.

      About the title:

      If this story were read by an Englishman, it would start like this. “By Marien Oomen, Two Ohms.”

      Now if they were Scottish, it would start like, ‘A story by Marry-end Woomun,‘Tay Oomes.’

      If they were from the American South? “Idd-ell sound juss like iss here… Murry Anne Omen. Two Hasses.”

      You’re welcome, you’re welcome. That was payback for the poetry. All kidding aside, your writing is a pleasure to read. And the writing is so divine, your stories are kind of like a vacation from stories like mine.

      Reply
    • August 12, 2021 at 3:51 pm
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      I am like a younger Barney and my dog is just like Sandy! I learned “cuppateh” and “mellifluous” (which I thought meant “to sound as sweet as honey” when I first read it in your story, but I was close).

      The ‘Rona brought out some negative traits in me just like this guy, so it felt pretty close to home, especially the part about thinking that you are meant for better things in the cosmos (even though one must be a little more realistic about self-reflection sometimes), but I have other reasons for being so spiteful to passersby and I keep it all in my head. I can still identify with feeling like a dog barking at strangers.

      There are some uncomfortable truths in this one, but the love of a dog is a comfortable truth that never gets old!

      Reply
    • August 13, 2021 at 7:13 am
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      Marine, nice misdirection and an ending that took me by total surprise. Loved it.

      Roy

      Reply
  • August 12, 2021 at 11:53 am
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    1 hour left to vote and then I’ll tally up the results!

    Reply
  • August 12, 2021 at 1:08 pm
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    Ok writers!!
    Here are your winners!

    1st Place: Ever After by Vicki Chvatal
    2nd Place: Still Water by RM York
    3rd Place: Tracewater by Ken Cartisano
    4th Place: Falling in Love by John David Duke Jr
    5th Place: An Afternoon at the Lake by Phil Town
    6th Place: Two Homes by Marien Oommen

    Favorite Character: “Vasillisa” in Ever After by Vicki Chvatal
    Favorite Dialogue: Still Water by RM York

    Congrats to all!!!

    Reply
    • August 12, 2021 at 3:26 pm
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      Congrats again, Vicki, and well done all (few but fab).

      Reply
  • August 12, 2021 at 3:06 pm
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    Congratulations Vickie. Splendid writing. And a hat’s off to all the writers.

    Reply
  • August 12, 2021 at 3:56 pm
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    Congratulations!

    It was tough figuring out the order this time because each story was like a different fruit of high quality, you know?

    Reply
    • August 12, 2021 at 11:33 pm
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      A plum,
      A peach,
      A pomegranate,
      A pear,
      And a blueberry 🫐 slipped in quietly.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2021 at 7:08 am
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    Congrats Vicki, good writing will find its way to the top every time. Couldn’t comment due to a major power outage into last night.Thanks for the votes everyone. I was surprised my story held up against this excellent group of scribes. Congrats to everyone.

    On to “refugee” and try to break this Bridesmaid status.

    Roy

    Reply

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