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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

June 2 – June 29, 2022 Writing Prompt “Family”

Theme: Family

The rest is up to you.


  • ice
  • a vacuum cleaner

Word Count: 1,200


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75 thoughts on “June 2 – June 29, 2022 Writing Prompt “Family”

    • I have a friend named Jayeeta who is just getting started in writing. I know you all will welcome her with open arms. She is a sweet lady and needs a group like this to gain confidence.
      • Yup, come on in and set a spell, Jayeeta. We’ll be gentle … at first.
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in
  • Signing in also hoping to write something. Still making a huge driving loop of America from Michigan through Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri, whew! and yes, all during the highest gas prices I’ve ever paid. I remember paying 15 cents a gallon as a teenager and now I’m forking over up to $5.19 a gallon, averaging around $4.50. Fortunately, I use regular which is about 40 or 50 cents less expensive and I’m not complaining, just happy I’m able to do it.

    I’ll give it a good shot at writing and since this trip involves family, maybe I’ll get inspiration for this prompt. I’m hoping I will.


  • Gippy Goats Alpines
    I would love to write for this prompt but believe it may not happen as I have just accepted a job after an interview last week which means my son and I and our entire household is moving up to Maryborough in the Central Goldfields area of Victoria. I have to move 18 goats and one cat, (I may sell three goats). I was so busy last week I did not get a chance to even read all the stories. I am glad Vicki’s story won. Great story and one of the few I read.
    I have been copping a lot of intimidation and bullying at work with my work for some kids. I am really pissed about the way some kids were treated and I believe when you suspend a child 17 times in two years, you have to look at how that kid is being handled by both the teachers and school administration, plus his or her background and where you can use different strategies to deal with the kid. There is a lot of aggression in some teachers towards students and a dismal failure to address bullying by groups of other students. I have had kids on my program who were fine with me and my education support officer. Kids who did not attend, now attend and thrive at our Flexible Learning Option. I read how some students have been handled and it makes my hair stand on end at the aggression of some of my colleagues and I feel sad for the kids. Kids that have had a real mixed up bringing, been in foster care or having brushes with the juvenile justice system and parents who have had substance abuse issues or homelessness, DON’T make the world even more of an unfriendly place for them. Give them hope of a future and help them to build a future in following their passions. I am tired and at times quite worn out in dealing with the judgemental nature of some.
    I am starting to pack up my house. I hate moving but feel I have no option and the alternative is to be in a position where I could end up in continual meetings about my butting heads with a principal and his cronies. The big boss and my principal at the FLO is ok they are great in fact, but the principal of another campus is an Asshole Extraordinaire. I got told, the school system is “NOT a welfare or benefits society ILANA!!”
    I disagree however, because in some areas of lower socioeconomic disadvantage, high unemployment and substance abuse problems, WELFARE of students and their mental health are major issues to address so the kids feel safe and supported in the education setting and we need to understand the mental health aspects so these kids can learn more effectively. I have so much on my mind of late. Because one of my students attempted suicide when she was taken from my program and given an ultimatium to attend school by said principal. That was six weeks ago. I just feel so shattered because I warned them and another student who they tried to push into the Virtual School Victoria and when she wrote on the application form “I don’t want to go, the school is forcing me to do remote learning.” the parent and I were blamed. Unfortunately she is on the spectrum and does not learn well remotely – does not like to work on her computer but needs more one to one tuition and in small groups. I tried to tell this man but he did not listen. Instead I was hauled into a meeting with two more ex principals and berated. I was so angry at the waste of time and the failure to look at the needs of the students and what they need to succeed. All these meetings are draining and a pointless waste of time.
    So there, that is why I am not writing as much as I could but go to bed early exhausted and wake up from nightmares in the early morning….Sorry to unload.
    • Adrienne Riggs
      I applaud you!! Thank you for standing for the children and advocating for them and their needs! At times, our schools are so focused on test scores and graduation rates, that the individual needs of students get lost and ignored. We need more teachers like you! It is interesting to know that the many of the same issues we face in the States you are experiencing where you are. Best wishes in your new job! Adi
    • Vicki Chvatal
      First of all, congratulations on the new job! I hope the management and students value and appreciate your work more than those in your old job.
      It’s scary to think what will happen to the poor student you wrote about above. 🙁
      Thanks for your comment re my story, though I feel like a Stephen Bradbury, winning by being the last one standing (or voting in this case). 🙂
    • Good luck, goat girl. We’ll be rooting for you.
      • Gippy Goats Alpines
        Hi Roy
        Thanks for the positive thought waves, however I would not say “We’ll be rooting for you in Australia.” It is like saying to someone “We’ll be having wild sex for you.” Especially in the outback of Australia. The word “root” used as a verb has a rather different meaning. 🙂 😀
        I may have time to destress and write a story. Hopefully……
        • Yeah, I forgot about that idiom when I was there. I also learned about your penchant in Oz for giggling at the name Randy. We had a member of the group named Randy and every time he stood up to talk he introduced himself by saying, “Hi, I’m Randy.” Everyone would not very indiscreetly giggle as if he said something naughty. We finally asked what all the mirth was about and he learned to say, “Hi, my name is Randy … and yes kI am.”, which got even more giggles. But at least he knew why everyone was laughting.
      • Gippy Goats Alpines
        Hi Roy Happy birthday for your 27th birthday is it or 37th? Hope you and your soul mate are doing something special with family for the day…
        • Thanks, Ilana. It’s official, I’m now in my eighties and in my ninth decade which makes it sound even older. I will have family here tonight and just got back from an extended two-week trip through 15 states having endured the highest gas prices in memory; but then, people outside the US have been paying those kinds of prices for years, so I’m not carping about it, but I did grumble every time I took out my wallet. Spoiled American, I guess.
  • Checking in – a vacuum, ice and a family. Alrighty, LETS GO!
  • Gippy Goats Alpines
    I have also just tested positive to covid-19. I still have my sense of smell, but a very very raw throat and upset tummy, plus a headache like you would never believe. Going to bed with some herbal remedies and lots of VIT C< D< B3 and more
    • Carrie Zylka

      Stay safe and get better soon. I’ll keep you in my thoughts. It almost killed me last year and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

    • Good luck, Ilana. Rest accordingly. Let’s try this one. I’ll be pulling for you. Nope, that’s no good. Umm … Wishing you well! There, that’s got it.
  • Hey everyone, I leave for vacation on Thursday, and since there aren’t any stories submitted yet I’m just going to extend this out until I get back, and push off the next prompt. So you have an extra two weeks to write a story!!
    • marien oommen
      Was in such a tearing hurry to submit, dropped water all over my laptop.
      Now I see there’s another week. 🙂

      Lesson learnt:
      You got to read all the updates.
      Thanks, Carrie. Have a great vacation. Keep safe. And witty.

  • marien oommen

    by Marien Oommen

    (1199 words)

    All for a tooth, a granmdom was lost.

    It started when gwanma bit on a carrot. They were called baby carrots but there was nothing baby about it.

    Crunchhh! Something poked, something rattled. Not the soft mush, carrot takes on after considerable mastication.

    She had the presence of mind and the quickness of tongue to spit it out.
    Alas! It was her crown- not the kohinoor- but the white glossy molar from her top palate.

    O no! How could she face the grandkids without her tooth?
    They would be home from school soon and doubtless they’d look at her in question. Was she the Wicked Fairy who abounded in stories of old. Who Granma always transmogrified to the Good Fairy, having no desire to feed them with wicked morsels of the fairytale world in their tender years.

    The kiddos came home and for two days they didn’t notice a thing because she carefully muffled her laughter, turning it sideward.
    The third day her act could no longer hold and she bared it all.

    “O grandma, where’s your tooth,” the little boy asked. “You look scareeeh.”

    “O heavens, hope he doesn’t ever remember me toothless,” Granma whispered, smiling weakly.

    “I should get it fixed pronto,” she said stoically.

    “Get a flipper,”

    Granma fainted at the quotation for her singular tooth which decided to play truant at the most inopportune time.

    “6000 dollars??? You think money grows on oak trees? Why you dentists are rotten cheats,” she remarked as she hung up the phone.

    “I could take a trip to Japan with that kind of money. And sushi is soft in the mouth.”

    “Why don’t you travel to India and get them done at tenth the price,” her brother advised.

    “I can’t do that. I’m seeing my buddies after two years of isolation. Can’t be showing up with puffy swollen cheeks.”

    “Use ice,” he said, like it was the final answer to all the world’s troubles.

    The house help had quietly arrived and was soon vacuuming the entire home. The crown, meanwhile, had slipped from her hands and disappeared into the mangled mass of jam roll crumbs on the floor.

    Granma searched high and low and then her eyes fell on the vacuum cleaner.
    Daylight Robber of Crowns, she announced.

    “You can’t reuse your crown anyway,” said Ella.

    “I know that. I just wanted it as a keepsake for all the years it served without a word.
    Quiet, selfless service on its part with no biting remarks as some folks do.

    The piece de defiance came after a week.
    The big little boy was having a long argument about why he needed to wear a shirt under a shirt, with the top unbuttoned.

    “It’s summer, my lad. Nobody wears two teeshees.”

    “Granma, you don’t know anything. Because you have no teeth.”
    His logic made sense only to him.

    “Alrighty,” Granma looked at the sky. “AbuDhabi pilot, come get me. Lower the double harness and lift me to the sky.”

    The boy looked up and in sotto voice said, “Granma, don’t go. I’m sorry I said that. I love you.”

    Her boy needed protection.
    Granma thought of the war zone outside, the fallen world where bad was getting worse. Godlessness taking over the world among broken people. Narcissistic folks abounding with social media, being their stronghold. Messed up families led to a messy planet.

    How do you fill little ones with gratitude and trust?

    Just 4 years ago, the first time grandmas had emerged jubilant, having trippingly survived, overcoming the challenge victoriously.
    What challenge you may ask.
    Young dad was away on a two month mission possible, and mama was attending some medical conference.

    ‘Twas Granma Power zindabaad! No men around at barking point to cater to, to placate or subjugate.

    After some ponderous soul searching, they took the executive decision, arriving at the conclusion that granmas needed to gear themselves with fortifying muscle building desserts.

    Trés Leches on Friday, Almond cheesecake on Saturday, Walnut stuffed baklavas on Sunday.

    The Dessert Control Police Daughters DCPDs- were far, far away.

    Thus fortified, they catered to every whimper and whine attentively.

    At the minusculest sound, Granmas 1& 2 stood to attention, either side of babe, never slacking.

    Discarding the Queen’s English as there was too much royal stuff happening on telly,
    they devised their own Granma Language.

    They shpoke in da shoftest ‘oice, chinging chongs and whimes to his delight and wonderment.
    His eyes got bigger and biggerer as they taught him deep truths that Jesus lubbed him.

    “Be thankful, little boy, look doodeh shky ‘n shay ‘thank you, Lord’ every morning and night.”
    Needless to say he was completely captivated.

    Being family meant they changed his stinky poo diapers and onesies.
    His bath song was invariably ‘O Lord my God, When I In Awesome Wonder.’

    All’s well that ends well.
    Certificates for meritorious duties were given to the good and faithful grandmas, followed by a farewell dinner.

    Berries at Le Jardin

    The little Berry Squisher announces:
    Dad, can I serve you some juicy raspberries?

    Mama, can I cherve you some juicy rwaspbewwy?

    Ammachy, can I serve you some juicy raspberries?

    Elvis, can I serve you some juicy..? (Thea is his fireman friend)

    Carefully, with his toddler fingers, he squishes raspberries to its most unappetizing form and passes them, one by one.

    Unbeknownst to the lil’ lad, they discard the squished berries, hiding them guiltily under the napkin.

    In his deepest voice, he inquires: “Now are you all done with your raspberries?”

    After lovingly discharging her duties and smothered by hugs and kisses, granma travels across the sea and reaches home to her man.

    It’s Sunday, the day of rest and church. There’s a long line of cars stuck outside a tunnel. The couple inch their way forward.

    “We’ll be late now.”

    The light at the end of the tunnel is most welcoming when you’re stuck in it for 15 minutes.

    What do you do?
    You entertain your family with a joke. But the joke gets done in ten minutes.

    Hubby gets impatient with other drivers cutting in.

    Granma says, “Wait, his wife must be getting a baby, so he’s in a hurry. Let him pass; just say Peace O’ Shalom”.

    She had learnt this heartwarming strategy from her wiser, older sister, Anna, and so she never felt road rage anytime.

    Hubby: (behind a slow truck) “Silly man, his wife is definitely not getting a baby.”
    Bad attitude definitely needs church, thought granma.

    So she tells him what Sheryl Sandberg said while driving her dying husband to the hospital.
    She wished people would let them pass. But they didn’t. She was crying. You know the rest.

    Suddenly hubby becomes quiet. He’s doing some deep chthinking, just like their granchun.

    When Sheryl Sandberg says it, it’s different from how wife says it.
    She’s COO FB for crying out loud.
    Whereas CEO Kitchen stands no chance to be heard.

    But then something snapped. He allowed the Pattan driver to drive slowly ahead of him without saying a word.

    They reach the church twenty minutes late, repentant and humbled.

    Granma lookchd up at da shkaii and muttered a ‘Chhank you, my Lorrd.’

    • Phil Town
      I think I say this about your stories every time Marien: I love your use of the language (each line is like a little firework display of surprise) … but I get a bit lost in the story per se. This one wanders about a lot, which doesn’t mean it’s not pleasurable to read – just that I’m not really sure what it’s about! (It might mean that I’m not perceptive enough, though!)
      • Phil Town
        Oh, and coincidentally, I had a crown drop out the other day, too, and the way you describe the experience is perfect.
    • Marien,
      I always enjoyed your ready wit and cheerful stories. This is no exeption.
    • Hi Marien,

      Your stories are fascinating, always. They tell me about different places and different cultures and this makes them intriguing, even a little baffling at times. That’s not meant as a criticism, it’s just so different.

      This story really gets into the minutiae of family life and you manage this in your own unique way.

      I hope to keep on reading more from you.

      I echo the opening comments in this thread regarding support for students and new jobs. The world needs more people who care about people rather than results, scores on a graph. It was one of my biggest challenges in my nearly 40 years in schools. As someone said,

      “The baby doesn’t get bigger by keeping on weighing it. It gets bigger by being nourished.”

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Sweet story Marien. I love the relationship between Granma and her family, especially the toddler who squishes the berries. Adi
  • Phil Town

    Violeta was a very attractive, violet-coloured vacuum cleaner. She was shiny, spanking new and highly efficient, with all the latest design features (super-suction, a special triple-function head, wheels that were just as slick on carpet as on parquet, a fully-flexible hose, a retractable lead … you name it). The only thing she didn’t have was an ounce of humility.

    This gave her the precise quality to be bossy, and practically all the other appliances bowed to her perceived authority the moment the lady of the house brought her home. When the latter had left the kitchen, Violeta addressed the assembly, all jostling for position to get the best view of the newcomer.

    “Greetings, underlings,” she huffed, waving her head about on her long neck. “My name is Violeta, and I have arrived!” Other appliances might have taken umbrage at being addressed thus, but not these (the washing machine, the micro-wave, the electric cooker, the mixer, etc.), for they had learned laid-backness from one of their number.

    The automatic ice-making machine (who had in his time been just as state-of-the-art as Violeta), looked on from the fridge. Though he was ostensibly the kitchen leader, Colin, as he was called, couldn’t be bothered to resist Violeta’s instant and supremely arrogant assumption of leadership. He was in the appliance game purely for fun; his favourite pastime was simply chilling out and chatting with his chums … as well as courting another appliance, as we shall see.

    “So, who was in charge of this operation before I got here?” Violeta asked.

    All present nodded at Colin, who lifted two ice-cubes in a lazy peace ‘n’ love gesture.

    Violeta looked Colin up and down with disdain, though this was lost on the ice-maker, who, as always, only had eyes for another: Iris, the iron. Colin thought her really hot, Iris thought him very cool, and so the two went through their respective daily routines in a state of mutual and complementary bliss.

    Sadly for the besotted couple, Violeta caught the exchange of loving glances between them. She’d only just arrived but she was damned if she was going to be upstaged by such a harlot, however hot. And so she hatched a plan to destroy this beautiful thing called love.

    The house wherein these appliances dwelt contained a nice family called Robinsohn, originally from Switzerland. There was Hans the husband, Winnie the wife, Sammy the son and Daphne the daughter. It was a modern family in that everyone chipped in with the housework. Hans would do the cooking, Winnie the washing and ironing, and a couple of times a week, the children would have a bash at cleaning … though as they were very young, Hans or Winnie often had to go round after them and do it again properly.

    On the first cleaning day after Violeta’s arrival, Sammy was tasked with hoovering throughout. He did the living room and hall well enough (Violeta was such a supremely efficient machine that a monkey could have worked her), but when he got to the kitchen, disaster ensued.

    Winnie had been doing some ironing, and Iris was sitting on the ironing board, cooling down, under Colin’s loving gaze. As Sammy passed, holding Violeta’s hose, the vicious vacuum cleaner twisted so that her hose got tangled in Iris’s lead and she came tumbling off the board, hitting the floor with an almighty crash.

    All the appliances (except Violeta, of course) let out silent groans, while a couple of Colin’s cubes melted instantaneously and dripped to the floor. Winnie Robinsohn came running into the kitchen to see what had happened and took Violeta away from Sammy, whose lower lip had begun to quiver.

    Violeta was naturally very happy at the outcome. When the commotion had died down and Winnie and Sammy had left – with the bits of Iris they’d salvaged from the floor – she addressed the other appliances.

    “Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say!” she said. “Now, let’s get some ground rules established. I’m the most efficient and – if I may be so bold – most beautiful vacuum cleaner there’s ever been. I demand the best of myself and I would be negligent if I didn’t demand the same of my subjects. So let what’s just happened to … that thing … be a warning to you all.”

    Violeta was an obnoxious object, it’s true, but perhaps we can give her a bit of a break? She was straight off the production line, after all, and had never lived among other appliances before. How was she to know how to be a virtuous member of society? Or then again … maybe we can just dislike her and her wicked ways. Whatever, one thing’s for certain: she wasn’t expecting what came next.

    Colin’s cubes had stopped melting and he cleared his throat. The whole kitchen – cupboards and all – hung on his every word.

    “Listen, Violeta,” he said in his habitual slow drawl, a little shaky because of the recent shock. “We here – the washing machine, the micro-wave, the electric cooker, the mixer, the cupboards, the table and chairs, the cutlery and dishes – we like to think of ourselves as one big happy family. We’re all very different, of course, but that’s actually a bonus; it makes life interesting to have a variety of functions, backgrounds and perspectives on life. Our motto, decided in committee before you showed up, is ‘Omnes Pares’, which means …”

    And here he paused to let the whole kitchen chime in: “All are equal!”

    “I don’t care about that,” blurted Violeta, a little taken aback by the show of solidarity. “I –”

    But Colin didn’t let her finish.

    “We enjoyed a very peaceful existence until … well, until you turned up, Violeta.”

    “I don’t ca–”

    Once again, Colin broke in.

    “And the fact is, Violeta, that frankly … you suck!”

    A shower of laughter from all quarters left the vacuum cleaner blushing profusely, though it didn’t show on account of her violet colour.

    It was enough to put Violeta in her place and from that moment on, she never again tried to lord it over the others. Eventually, she learned a little humility and became one (though far from the most popular) of the family.

    But what about Iris? Well, it just so happened that Hans Robinsohn was an electrician, and he soon had her working again. Colin was so pleased when he saw her back on the ironing board that a couple of his cubes melted again, this time with joy.

    In fact poor Iris wasn’t working as well as before – it had been a terrible fall – and she couldn’t generate such high temperatures. But she was still hot enough for Colin, so that their perfect courtship resumed where it had left off.

    And the whole kitchen family, as well as the Robinsohns, lived happily ever after.


    • marien oommen
      O my goodness! What an incredibly delightful story. The ‘Violeta’ here is extremely loud and has my doggie barking at her always.
      Now I know why he barks. It’s her unfounded arrogance, tho’ her head’s empty.
      MeAnwHile you aRe a genIuS.
      Just saying.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Marien … but you’re much MUCH too kind.
    • Ken Frape
      Hi Phil,
      Another Town classic!
      I loved it and it is a really good take on the prompt, full of humour and clever quips.
      I hope there will be more stories to read by the time Carrie returns as your story and Marien’s deserve a bit of competition.
      Ken Frape
      • Phil Town
        Thanks as always, KenF, for your kind encouragement. I see Vicki’s pitched in now (I’m going to read hers later). What about you? 😉
    • Jagan Parthasarathy
      Hi Phil,
      I really enjoyed your parody. It is just too delightful.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks very much, Jagan!
    • Adrienne Riggs
      Another masterpiece from you! I loved this story and the human elements you gave the appliances. I loved these lines – “Colin thought her really hot, Iris thought him very cool, and so the two went through their respective daily routines in a state of mutual and complementary bliss.” A truly delightful story and Violeta received her comeuppance in the end. Wonderful! Adi
      • Phil Town
        Thank you, Adi – very kind!
  • Vicki Chvatal

    “Psst, Amina!”

    “Farrah!” Amina raced towards her big sister, who beckoned from behind the old sycamore tree in the schoolyard corner. “Where have you been this past week?”

    “I’ve been … staying with a friend,” replied Farrah a little cagily.

    Amina looked her sister up and down. Farrah, jeans tucked into knee-high boots, didn’t look any different. Her favourite purple scarf was peeking through the open collar of her parka, instead of covering her high ponytail – but Farrah had been doing this for a while, though never at home. Perhaps the dark, almond-shaped eyes held more spark.

    “Are you coming home?” Amina asked anxiously. “Mother and Father are going crazy!”

    “No way!” Farrah tossed her ponytail. “I’m not flying to my parents’ old village to marry some Cousin Behrouz whom I’ve never met. He’s, like, fifty – that’s older than Father. Ewww!”

    Amina didn’t know what to say to that.

    “Besides,” Farrah stage-whispered with a conspiratorial wink, “I’ve already got a boyfriend. Met him at University.”

    “Wow. Is he … English?” breathed Amina, her eyes big and round.

    “Er … yeah, you could say Mal is English,” Farrah flapped her hand. “I’ll introduce you soon. He’s nice. … And hot,” she smirked.

    A shrill ringing sound cut through the air, signalling the end of recess.

    “Take care, sis!” Farrah gave Amina a tight hug. “I’ll see you again soon. … Wait!” she grabbed Amina’s upper arm, “don’t tell anyone you saw me, OK?”

    The younger girl nodded firmly and rushed back to class.


    “Zahra said you’d seen Farrah today,” were Mother’s first words when Amina walked in the door.

    The girl froze. So much for the secret.

    “Er … She’s OK. She’s staying with a friend … um, a girl,” she added conscientiously. Farrah hadn’t, in fact, mentioned if her friend was a girl, but Mother and Father were less likely to get mad this way.

    Father didn’t mention Farrah in Amina’s hearing all evening, but he must have talked to Mother after she’d gone to bed.

    “If you see Farrah again,” Mother told Amina at breakfast next morning, “Ask her to come and see us some time. We just want to talk.”

    Mirza, their middle brother, looked about to say something mean; but Father gave him a look, and Mirza kept his fat mouth shut.

    “Oh, and ask her to bring her boy along too,” Mother added as an afterthought, “it’s only proper that we meet him.”

    Amina only realised when the bus was halfway to school that she’d never mentioned Farrah’s boyfriend. Had Zahra the tattle-tale overheard that bit? Or had Mother learned to read her thoughts?


    Farrah came to the school yard a week later.

    “I’ll think about it,” she replied when Amina had relayed Mother’s request. “Perhaps we should meet someplace else in the meantime,” Farrah scrunched up her face, looking around “too many spies.”

    “I’m not allowed anywhere now – just school and home,” Amina mumbled apologetically.

    Farrah ruffled her sister’s hair. “We’ll think of something.”


    “Tell them I might drop in next Tuesday, after evening classes,” Farrah told Amina next time. “I might be a bit late, though. … I’m still thinking whether to invite Mal along,” she added. “Maybe I better talk to them alone first?”


    The following Tuesday, Amina was surprised to find Uncle Masoud, who lived a block away, drinking coffee in their lounge. Farrah leaving home was a huge embarrassment for Father and Mother; Amina had expected them to keep the news from the family as long as they could.

    She stayed up as late as she dared waiting for Farrah, until Father told her to go to bed. Amina tried to object, but Father gave her a frown, and she had no choice. She stayed awake in her bedroom for a long time before dozing off.

    “Did Farrah come?” she asked the next morning.

    “Yes,” Mother answered curtly. “Things didn’t work out, and she won’t be coming back.”

    Amina felt betrayed. How could Farrah not say hi to her favourite sister?! Even if she’d fallen asleep waiting, Farrah should’ve woken her.

    Father muttered something in passing about family honour being restored. Amina wasn’t sure if he was addressing them or himself, and didn’t dare ask.

    While Amina vacuumed the lounge after school – the task had fallen to her after Farrah left – she heard a faint metallic clink. Afterwards, she opened the vacuum cleaner hoping to find a coin – but saw one of Farrah’s gold earrings instead.

    “Hey you,” Mirza yelled from the door, tossing his school bag in the middle of the floor, “bring me ice for my Coke, and quick!”

    Amina stuck out her tongue at her brother’s back. Mirza probably didn’t want the stupid ice – the weather was too cold already; he just liked to boss her around.

    She found Farrah’s purple scarf at the top of the stairs leading to the basement. Perhaps Farrah had lost it on the way to the bathroom? … On the other hand, it must have been quite a row if Farrah had left the house with her head uncovered – and Father and Mother hadn’t stopped her! Amina couldn’t believe she’d slept through all the noise.

    The walk-in freezer held black garbage bags. Amina wondered what could be in them, when – “Hurry up!” – her brother bellowed from above. She filled up the cup with ice and went back.

    “Took you long enough!” Mirza sneered and tried to cuff her around the head, but Amina was already out of reach.

    “When I grow up and go to University, you’ll have to get your own stupid ice,” she shot back.

    “No you won’t,” his expression turned even uglier. “Only boys can go to University. No-one will let you go after Farrah got what she deserved.”

    “You are stupid and you smell,” Amina muttered, though quietly enough so that her brother wouldn’t hear. Farrah could always take this idiot down a peg, she thought sullenly – but she was the oldest. Amina was only eleven to Mirza’s fifteen, and couldn’t do a thing. Next time Amina saw her sister, she would ask when Farrah and her boyfriend were getting married, and if Amina could come and live with them.

    Mother was even quieter than usual over the following weeks; she went around with lips pressed tightly together. Her eyes were always dry.

    Amina found a stain on Farrah’s scarf that looked like dried blood, and wondered if Father or Mother had slapped her. Perhaps Farrah was mad at her? But Amina had only passed on a message; surely, Farrah realised that whatever happened wasn’t her fault. Amina rinsed the stain under running water the best she could, figuring that Farrah could wash it properly herself.

    For a long time, Amina brought the scarf and earring to school every day, hoping to return them to her sister; but Farrah never came.

    • Phil Town
      A terrific and horrific story, Vicki. There are enough clues to know what happened to Farrah, but you very wisely leave it unsaid, adding poignancy to the horror (Amina’s innocence in believing she’ll see her sister again). You use the vacuum and ice very well, and the theme of ‘family’ is addressed perfecty. This story reminds me of Bekhal and Banaz Mahmod, who I read about recently. An observation: this line doesn’t seem very natural … “I’m not flying to my parents’ old village to marry some Cousin Behrouz whom I’ve never met.” (Why ‘my’ and not ‘our’? And I don’t think Farrah would use ‘whom’ when speaking to her sister.) Great stuff!
      • Vicki Chvatal
        Spot on, Phil! I slipped up there.
    • Hi Vicki,

      A super piece of writing that not only hits the prompt of family but it also tells us about the way things are in different parts of the world. As Phil mentions, you give clues to the fate of Farrah without the full horror needing to be stated.

      Great work!

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • Adrienne Riggs
      What a sad and poignant story. The bond between the sisters is told well and your inference to Farrah’s end was well done without having to state the obvious. This is a good example of cultural differences and how changes affect the younger generations. Great job. Adi
    • Jagan Parthasarathy
      Wow! Horror of it all creeps up slowly on the reader brought out through interaction between sisters. You have brought it up poignantly amongst quite family scene with sisters in domestic environment.
    • Vicki Chvatal
      Thanks for your comments, everyone!

      Unfortunately, the so-called “honour killings” still exist in a number of cultures, both in the countries of origin and within immigrant communities in the West.

  • Jagan Parthasarathy

    “Mommy! Mommy! Come quick. Billy is funny!” screamed Betty. Rosie panicked, dropped the vacuum cleaner she was using and rushed to her son who was choking on ice cubes he always loved to suck. Thanking her stars for knowing some rudiments of first aid, she fiercely clasped him tightly from the back gave him a shock hit so that the choking piece fell out. Billy was still whimpering with loud hiccups while the other two were sobbing with copious tears flowing down their faces. She herself still in deep shock, quietened the emotional and wailing kids by group hugging them and uttering soothing words. As a further diversion, she offered them all ever welcome ice cream which won ready smiles from them.
    Her thoughts turned towards her husband Dave, lieutenant of police in NY State Police who was presently in New York City to conduct covert surveillance on Albanian mafia. His report was so thorough and complete that his captain had suggested that he penetrate the criminal gang and arrange their capture. A wave of sorrow at her family’s plight and fierce anger against both the criminals and her husband’s captain rose in her. “Where is he? Hope he is alive? Is he held captive? Will the family ever see their beloved daddy again?” were her despairing and depressing thoughts. Their three offspring had not yet been informed and she thought they were too young to understand the implications even if told.
    Her mind went back to the scene about eight months ago. It was a mind-numbing bombshell when her partner kissed her passionately and informed her with trepidation, “Honey, I have been posted with two other agents for intelligence operation against Albanian Mafia in New York. I need to report for duty in seven days.”
    Appalled at the news she exclaimed “Oh! God! I knew this was always possible but was always hoping that you, as a father of three young ones, would escape being deployed in such risky and hazardous duties.”
    Her hubby offered succor by stating “It is quite safe Honey! We are only involved in investigations. Absolutely no danger.”
    She immediately alerted her parents “Mom, I will need both you and daddy’s help from time to time as Dave has been asked to go to Big Apple for few weeks. Your presence will also give me occasional break from these imps.”.
    Her parents of course were there for aid as and when needed. However, even with their help and unstinted support, it was tough to cope as a single mother with three active and boisterous young children who were missing their daddy. The adults were kept on their toes by the young ones who were active and susceptible to get into tricky and sometimes dangerous situations despite close supervision.
    She vividly recalled her first meeting with Dave more than a decade ago. She was briskly pedaling in a rush from her dorm to her school when passing car made her swerve and crash into Dave. He crumpled in a heap on the street muttering a loud oath.
    “I am sorry. Are you hurt?” was all she could gape and speak. She got down immediately from the bike and tried to help.
    Instead of getting angry, Dave found himself interested and intrigued by the beautiful ‘Cyclonist’ that had collided with him. He was totally smitten by the impressive, tall, slim, and attractive young girl with short, dark, curly hair with twinkling and mischievous emerald, green eyes who was boldly studying him with avid interest.
    He was too busy in trying to figure out ways of persuading her for a date rather than worry about his scratches. “You can help by taking me to Starbucks so that I can gather my wits.”
    Rosie had recently broken off with her cheating boyfriend and was impressed by the tall, handsome smiling giant she had mowed down inadvertently. She was very much interested in getting to know him better, hence allowed him to persuade her to skip the class and join him for a cup of coffee.
    Their mutual attraction was immediate, and their chemistry was fizzing and just awesome as they tried to find more about each other. He had joined the police department after completing law and had no steady girlfriend while she was a track and field athlete and with a zeal for teaching and was just finishing her bachelors in English with History minor.
    Surprisingly, the coffee break was filled with discussions and friendly disagreements. While their views matched in most subjects, they found themselves contesting endlessly about the nuances.
    During their discussions, they discovered that both were from Michigan and their homes were within fifty miles of each other. Also, they and had lots of common interests and hobbies. They decided to meet again Friday evening for the movies. Regular weekly dates followed. Since he had a single bedroom apartment, stayovers during weekends became common. Ultimately their budding romance resulted in their wedding within two years.
    This was the first instance when he had been posted in such a long-term assignment which resulted in their being apart from each other for more than a week and it was emotionally tough. The gnawing and ever-present worry about his safety and children not reacting well to prolonged absence of the father were more than she could cope.
    Dave was injured and almost captured while carrying out the surveillance and had to be rescued by his team. He was about to be pulled back from the assignment. He was loathe to quit the team and convinced his superiors of his value as a planner and team lead. With lots of arguments and persuasion, he remained in the team with a warning to be careful and be alert for added risks and dangers.
    He realized that he had been away from his home too long. He was also feeling lonely and sorely missing his family. He was on the lookout for completing the assignment successfully and soon so that he could return to his loved ones.
    Then came a lucky break. His CI Donna whom he had cultivated assiduously came up trumps. She was able to get the goods about a shipment from the Columbians. He carefully planned and briefed his team who were well armed with bullet proof vests and communication equipment. To maintain the surprise and secrecy, only his captain knew all the details.
    Despite the meticulous attention to details and careful preparation, the ambush ended up as a devastating shootout. At the end, it resulted in the death of one police officer and injuries to 3 more. Several of the gang members were injured and four were dead. It also led to capture and arrest of the Columbian career and top mafia bosses.
    Dave wanting to surprise his wife and kids, just walked into the family room. He found his bride busy vacuuming; Billy was sucking his ice and other two were bickering. She was astounded while the children were shocked to see their dad casually strolling in. All of them screamed and converged on laughing and long absent parent.

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Welcome back, Jagan!

      Your story has enough content for a novel or at least a novella. In this case, it becomes a problem because a 1,200-word story isn’t designed to hold so much material, and ends up sounding like a summary retelling of a book or movie. IMO, in a flash story it would be better to concentrate on a snapshot in time, eg the wife is performing a Heimlich manouver on the kid who choked on the ice just as the husband comes home safe from the dangerous sting operation. Other things, such as the nature of the operation or the couple’s backstory, can be alluded to in passing or omitted altogether.

      On the other hand, if you decide to turn this into a longer story you already have the plot – all you need to do is flesh it out.

      PS. Is the Albanian Mafia a thing? And was nabbing the Colombian Mafia part of the original operation, or a separate one?

      • Jagan Parthasarathy
        Thanks for pointing out that my story is too packed. Surprisingly my wife also commented the same thing.
        I am a technical writer and took writing class for fiction recently. I am used to write 500- or 350-words submission and have to get used to write a full story in 1200 words.
        I will try and slow down and also get away from too many technical details.
        Albanian mafia are being supplied drugs by Columbians.
    • Phil Town
      Hi again, Jagan. There are some good details here – the mafia stake-out has interesting potential. You have enough plot for a longer story (I think I agree with Vicki). I like how the couple meet (why do those types of things never happen to me!?) The idea of ‘family’ is well handled: the mother trying to cope while her husband is away, the relief and love from her and the kids on his return. An observation: the vacuum and ice parts of the prompt seem to be tacked on to the beginning and end of the story without much real connection to the rest of it. You could maybe have introduced that moment of crisis as an example to follow this: “The adults were kept on their toes by the young ones who were active and susceptible to get into tricky and sometimes dangerous situations despite close supervision.” (?)
      • Jagan Parthasarathy
        Your suggestions are to the point. I see my lacunae. Tried to take the easy route out by touching on vacuum cleaning and ice but should be integral part of the story. Will get there eventually.
    • Hi Jagan,

      Welcome back.

      I have followed Vicki’s comments and I think I agree with her about the amount of comment packed in here. You could achieve more depth if you covered less width, so to speak.

      I like your writing style, though. It reads well and kept me interested.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • Jagan Parthasarathy
        Thanks Ken.
        From all your comments, I see that too much information has been packed.
        I am still a writer in progress and need to learn all the tricks of trade.
        Will catch up.


    • Adrienne Riggs
      Hi Jagan,
      You packed a lot of information into this story! You definitely have the workings for a longer piece here. I like your writing style and I’m glad to see you in the group and continuing to enter stories! Adi
      • Jagan Parthasarathy
        Thanks Adi. I am testing waters. Hopefully will get it right. I am yet to go through most submissions yet. Will get there. Jagan
  • Gooooooooooood morning writers!!
    I just got back from Ireland last night, and I’m getting all caught up.
    Had some interesting and rather stressful emails from two of our writers, one of them even marked a comment “spam” while I was gone because they felt it was bullying.

    It really bums me out that some folks aren’t participating because of a few people who enjoys being mean.

    I’m going to put out an email letting folks know that it’s ok to share life updates, but please don’t attack other writers unnecessarily and try to drive people away by making them feel uncomfortable.

    This is a site to hone our craft. The focus should be grammar, character development, try/fail sequences and prompt requirements. Many of us have been participating for over a decade, and I don’t want to see those writers go the way of the buffalo because some folks think this is another version of Facebook.

    I’m not one to censor people because we’re all adults and don’t need babysitters, but to be clear I’m not going to put up with passive-aggressive bullying.

    ~ Carrie

  • Adrienne Riggs
    Empty Nest
    By: Adrienne Riggs (1,144 w)

    “Bye, Nana! We wuv you!”

    “Nanny, I wanna stay wif you!”

    “I love you too, Sweet boys.” Celia blinked back tears, “Be good and I’ll see you soon!”

    She kissed their hot and sticky little faces and breathed in their sweaty little boy scent. She gave them each a lollipop to pacify them on the trip. It would keep them quiet for a little while at least.

    “Goodbye, Mom. You know we won’t be far, and we will call often. Thanks for everything!” Babs hugged her and got into the car.

    Celia retreated to the front porch and waved until the car was out of sight letting the tears fall silently down her cheeks. Finally, she opened the front door and went inside the house. Standing inside the front door, she looked down at her three small dogs. They were sitting in a row, looking up at her with soulful eyes. Lily whined.

    “Look, you three. They’ll be back to visit soon.” Celia paused. “I hope.”

    The silence in the house was overwhelming. It had always amazed Celia how the noise of two rambunctious little ones could fill the house with life and vitality. Her daughter and the boys had lived with her since the boys were infants. The house was almost never quiet when Nick and Luke were around. She was going to miss the patter of Luke’s little feet running to her bedroom to wake up her up to tell her “Nanny! Dinner’s ready!” It didn’t matter what time of day it was or what meal, to Luke it was always “dinner.”

    The dogs mournfully followed Celia into the living room where she promptly tripped over the hose to the vacuum. Falling onto the couch, she burst into tears. It wasn’t just a vacuum, it was Nick’s “di-saur” nicknamed Bronty. Luke would sit on the canister and Nick would pull him around the room on the ‘dinosaur’s’ back while the great beast “ate” up the dry cereal they’d “accidentally” spilled on the floor. They would scream in laughter as they took turns with the hose trying to get Bronty to eat each other. Celia laughed at the picture in her mind even as the tears still fell.

    The dogs jumped up on the couch next to her looking at her quizzically, their heads all cocked to one side as they studied her.

    “No, I’m not hysterical” she told them. Lily, Rose, and Angus laid their heads in her lap, and she scratched behind their ears absentmindedly as she looked around the room. Toys were strewn everywhere. Bronty, the vacuum dinosaur, sat unmoving and silent among wooden blocks, plastic dinosaurs of all sizes, a remote-control jeep, Luke’s picture cards, various sized balls, and a few Cheerios that were missed by Bronty the hungry dinosaur. Hot wheels cars sat on various roads on the rug picturing a small town. The Lincoln log house that Nick built was still standing on the small table next to Luke’s overturned cup of juice, the ice slowly melting in the sticky puddle.

    Celia picked up the Search and Find book she had been reading to Luke just last night. It was one of his favorites. He had a quick eye for a 3-year-old and could find the hidden objects quickly. They had been sitting in the recliner and Luke was in her lap as always.

    As Celia looked down at the book, to pick another item for Luke to find, he had a worried look in his blue eyes. He reached out with his little hand and gently picked up the loose skin under Celia’s neck.

    “Nanny! You’re MELTING!” he whispered.

    She laughed at the memory, just as she had laughed last night.

    “Why are you melting, Nanny?” he looked ready to cry.

    Celia had scooped him up in a big hug. “It’s ok, Sweetheart, Nana is not melting.” She laughed and tickled him until he smiled. “It’s called gravity.” She kissed him under his neck and blew raspberries against his skin until he giggled.

    She laughed heartily at the memory and wiped the tears from her eyes. Those boys! They always kept her laughing. The dogs, who had dozed off with their heads in her lap, looked up at her wondering why she had interrupted their doggy dreams.

    She rubbed their fur briskly and said, “Off with you lot, I have work to do.” The dogs jumped down and settling in their warm dog beds, went back to sleep.

    Celia began cleaning up the toys and putting them back in their proper bins and toy boxes. Now that the boys and her daughter were moving away, the toys would go into the boy’s bedroom to wait for them to visit. As she worked, she alternately laughed and cried as the different toys and books brought back poignant memories. She wiped up the spilled juice, all the ice cubes had melted. The last chore was to clean the floor.

    “Well, Bronty” she murmured to the vacuum, “shall I feed you one last time?” She turned the machine on, and the imaginary dinosaur “ate” the last of the Cheerios and cookie crumbs from the floor that the dogs had missed. With the floor clean, she picked up the vacuum and placed it back in the cave, er, closet where it was stored.
    Celia moved through the rest of the house putting things in order.

    “Alexa. Play Elvis!” Celia danced to Hound Dog and Jail House Rock by the King as she cleaned. She brought out the glass knick-knacks she had put away when the babies came 4 years before and pulled out the good pillows for the couch.

    When she was done, she sat back on the couch with a fresh glass of iced tea and looked around at the immaculate room as Love Me Tender played in the background. The dogs joined her, their warm bodies pressed against her legs and their heads on her knees.

    “Well, it’s not the same, but it will do for now. Right, my sweet doggies?” The dogs looked at her without moving.
    She picked up the TV remote and turned on the large flat screen on the wall. The menu showed an array of Disney movies and children’s shows – Paw Patrol, SpongeBob SquarePants, Blaze, Peppa Pig, Puppy Dog Pals, Blippy and more. She hated Blippy, but the boys found the over-the-top children’s entertainer funny. She made a face.

    Celia’s eyes brightened as something she hadn’t thought of came to her. “I don’t have to watch kids’ shows all the time!” Leaning back against the cushions, she picked up her tea, called out to Alexa to pause the King, and happily turned to the Hallmark channel to watch a love story.

    “Family is wonderful” she sighed to the dogs, “but having time to yourself? Priceless!”

    • Phil Town
      Glad you got a story in, Adi, because it’s a good one. You establish really well the strong connection between Nana and the kids, and her sadness at their absence, but you turn it around very nicely by the end. I love the vacuum as dinosaur idea, and Nana ‘melting’ … that’s brilliant! I wonder if the story is based on your experience? That would maybe account for the three dogs when really one would have done the job? A smooth read and great tackling of the prompt.
      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks for the comments Phil! Some of this story is based on real events. The boys are real, the melting story was definitely real (I laughed until the tears came! Kids keep us humble.) and I do have 3 dogs who are always in my lap! The vacuum cleaner is fiction. I have hard wood floors so no need for a vacuum but if I had one, the boys definitely would have used it for a ride on toy. Their world is everything dinosaur. The house is definitely a lot quieter since they’ve moved but on the positive side, my house no longer looks like an episode of Hoarders: Toys R’ Us version. LOL. I had fun writing this one.
    • Hi Adi,

      I love this story and the sentiments you evoked brought a real tear to my eye……………………….ok now I have wiped it away!

      You really capture the essence of that moment when family leave, the sudden silence, the emptiness.

      As Phil says though, you avoid the possible over sentimentality by the way you finish off. It’s a delight.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • Jagan Parthasarathy

      It is a great story, and I liked the way you weaved in ice and vacuum cleaner in the fabric of the story.
      ‘Nanna is melting’ I like this phrase.


    • Vicki Chvatal
      Hi Adi,
      Your story is perfection: it pulls the reader in, it has an atmosphere, it’s full of feeling and humour, the language is beautiful but subtle. There literally are only a few words out of place, which – very slightly – mar this perfection. One is when Celia instructs Alexa to play Elvis: there’s no need to mention in the same sentence that the songs were “by the King” – presumably, Alexa’s programming is smart enough to play the songs by the correct artist. The second is confusing information about the boys’ ages: in one place, Luke is 3, in another, “the babies came 4 years before”. So are Nick and Luke 4yo twins, or is Nick older at 4 to Luke’s 3? (I assumed it was the latter, also because of Nick pulling Luke around on Bronty the vacuum cleaner.)
      Regardless, I enjoyed your story very much.
      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks for the feedback Vicki! I wrote the story in a rush and I see where it could have been confusing. Nick was 4 to Luke’s 3. They are about 14 months apart in age which made for some interesting times when Nick was 3 and Luke (Lucian) was 2 and they were both in the “terrible 2’s” together. Sibling rivalry carried the chaos into the 3’s as well. As Lucian hit his 3’s, Nick just kept up with the chaos on into his 4’s until finally starting to mellow a little as he turned 5. Their “dinosaur”, in lieu of a vacuum was an ottoman that they pushed across the hard wood floors with each other riding on top or a toy tractor with a working scoop that made for the dinosaur’s head and neck as it “ate” things off the floor. Thanks again for the feedback!
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Wasn’t sure I was going to make it to get a story written in time, so wrote this one quickly today. Be gentle. LOL. Enjoy!
  • Playing Happy Families

    by Ken Frape

    1195 wc

    I must have driven about two miles in the “stolen” car before the baby began to cry. I brought the car to a skidding halt by the bus stop and took a quick, fearful glance over my left shoulder. Oh, God, no! Sure enough, lying in a tiny carry cot, there in the half light, was a tiny baby. The interior of the old car was filled with the sound of crying baby.

    “Oh fuck!” I shouted as I thumped the steering wheel with my fists. At the sound of my raised voice the infant cried louder.
    “Think, think, think!” I whispered to myself, running through a number of possible scenarios.

    One. Jump out and run away. No, might be recognised by someone and I cannot just abandon the baby.

    Two. Carry on to my house and then see what Connie would do. No! No! No! Definitely not! Not after she had just thrown a pint of beer over me in the pub. Need to decide for myself.

    Three. Go back to the pub. The car may not be reported as missing yet. More crucially, neither will the baby in that case. If caught, I could honestly claim that as soon as I realized my mistake I came back. There were two identical old, red Ford Fiestas in the pub car park. My key fitted. It was a genuine mistake.

    There was no other option.

    This time I gently slipped the gear lever into reverse, turned the car around and headed gingerly back towards the pub, decision made. Take the baby back and hope she hadn’t been missed yet. Oh, please God, I hope she hasn’t been missed yet, no frantic parents running around the pub car park in a panic!

    As I approached the pub a police patrol car, lights flashing and sirens blaring, zoomed towards me. There was nothing I could have done as I cringed in anticipation of imminent arrest but the expected screech of tyres failed to materialize and the police car shot past.

    A few moments later I saw the illuminated sign of The Red Fox and pulled into the car park. It looked exactly as it did when I left about ten minutes ago. Things had not changed at all. I parked the old Fiesta in the same space, took one quick glance at the tiny baby, mercifully asleep again, then got out and locked the car. Then I took a deep breath and unlocked my car, noticing, as I did so that my front tyre was flat. Connie!

    As I stood there a young couple from the bar came out. They went straight to the other red Fiesta. They were arguing.
    “Come on Deyna, we’ve got time for another drink,” the young lad suggested.

    “No, Robbie” she replied, “we can’t leave the baby any longer. We shouldn’t have left her at all. You know we’re not supposed to!”

    “Well, what are we going to do then? It’s only half nine” he whined, petulantly.

    “We’ll take the baby back to my place and you can have a drink there, OK?” Deyna slipped an arm around him and kissed his face, “ and then we can, you know……..”

    “What about your mum then?” Robbie went on.” You know we can’t do anything when she’s around.”

    “She’ll be alright. You’ll see. And you know she’s got a soft spot for you, don’t you?” She smiled winningly at Robbie and he pulled him into a clinch.

    Then they got into the car and drove away.

    As I watched them drive off I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked around in surprise, into the face of an attractive silver haired woman, probably about my age. She had such kindly eyes.

    “Are you OK?” She spoke with a slightly husky voice that was gentle but authoritative. Like a radio announcer. Even in that moment of stress, I found it alarmingly alluring.

    “I think so” I replied uncertainly. “It’s been quite an evening.”

    “Yes. Sorry but I couldn’t help overhearing your argument with your wife. After you left the barmaid cleared the ice cubes and hoovered up the crisps.” She studied me closely. “Have you been out here since then?”

    “Oh no, I’ve been…well, it’s a long story.” I said to her, “and I think my lovely wife has let my tyre down and….”

    “No need to explain, I understand,” she said. “ Only too well,” she added mysteriously.

    “How do you mean?” I enquired, intrigued.

    She looked at me with a warm and comforting smile. “ I advise young people about the challenges and responsibilities of marriage and having children. Many young people just aren’t ready so I advise them to wait. I just wish there had been someone to give me that advice when I was 18, all those years ago, “ she added wistfully with a self -deprecatory shrug.

    “Not that long ago, surely” I suggested gallantly.

    “ Well, it seems like a lifetime away” she added with a smile, my compliment not missed
    “It was a bit late for the couple who just left in the red Fiesta” I went on.

    “On the contrary” she replied. “They are one of the couples I’m working with now. They’re still in the sixth form in school but also in a steady relationship.”

    “They were arguing as they left” I said, “something about the baby.”

    “Yes, I know. I had just explained to them that they could not do this if they had a real baby.”

    “How do you mean if they had a real baby?” I asked in surprise.” They did have a baby.”

    She laughed gently.” Instead of getting pregnant and then finding that they can’t cope, we give them the opportunity to look after a virtual baby just for a week-end. That’s what Deyna and Robbie have, a virtual baby.”

    “A virtual baby!” I exclaimed in surprise. It had looked real enough to me!

    “Yes,” she went on. “They’re dolls that look exactly like the real thing and they cry just like the real thing too! Everything inside is micro – chipped and each baby has its own tracker so we know where it is at all times. On Monday morning, back in school, we remove the voice and camera data , “ she added.

    “Camera!” I exclaimed .This was getting worse by the minute.

    “Oh yes, camera and microphone. Baby sees and hears everything.”

    “Everything?” I asked, with considerable trepidation.

    “ It’s rather clever, isn’t it?”

    I wasn’t so sure.

    “Deyna and Robbie left their “baby” alone in the car this evening so it will make for a very interesting Monday morning back in school, I can tell you, when we go through the playback.”

    “I bet it will!” I mumbled under my breath.

    “Look,” she went on, “can I give you a lift home or would you prefer a drink?” She looked directly into my eyes, her blue-grey eyes open and friendly, in stark contrast to cold Connie, waiting for me at home. “I promise not to throw it over you.” She rested her warm hand upon my forearm.

    It wasn’t a difficult choice.

    Ken Frape

    June 2022

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Loved this story Ken and the surprise for the protagonist when the baby cried. Learning that the baby was “virtual” was a great twist. When I was in school, there was no such thing – we had to carry an egg around for a week and pretend it was a baby. We had to keep a journal on our “care” of the baby including feedings, changing, sleep cycle, etc. 24/7. Which was difficult for an egg that just sat there. Those that killed their babies (dropped their eggs) had to journal about funerals, funeral expenses, etc. Good story but I didn’t catch any references to a vacuum cleaner or ice – although maybe we could assume there was ice in the drinks? Adi
    • Phil Town
      Fun story, KenF! I like how you dive straight into the plot/quandary. And all the complications and resolutions work really well. There’s some great dialogue, too. The ‘family’ theme is handled nicely, and the vacuum/ice, too (only an incidental mention, but well stitched into the fabric). I think this (or a slighly altered version of it) coud have come before the narrator reels off the solutions to the quandary: (“There were two identical old, red Ford Fiestas in the pub car park. My key fitted. It was a genuine mistake.”) Also, the row with Connie might have been about starting a family (a neat coincidence), but if so, that needed to be a bit more overtly established, I think. Very enjoyable story, though.
    • Vicki Chvatal
      Hi Ken,

      I read your story and thought: here’s another writer that doesn’t go for a sweet and heartwarming family story (nothing wrong with sweet and heartwarming – we’ve got some great examples here; I just wasn’t feeling it this time.) Your characters come across as a line-up in a Most F**ed Up Family Dynamic contest. Who wins? Is it the couple who deal with conflict by violence and vandalism on one side, and (possibly) having a one-night stand with a stranger on the other? Is it a supposed family/ relationship counsellor who witnesses a couple fight and (possibly) invites one of them for a one-night stand? The teenage couple win the “most functional relationship” (aka “least harm done”) prize by virtue of the fact that the baby they left in the car wasn’t real. Great story about the darker side of families.

      One question, though: if the kids are in the 6th form, does that make them 12 or 13? Do pubs really serve alcohol to kids that young where you come from?

      • Ken Frape
        Hi Vicki,
        Thanks for the really helpful comments. Certainly could have been a competition for most fucked up family.
        In the UK secondary schools the sixth formers are 17 and 18 . By contrast, in UK Primary schools Year 6 are the final year at age 11, going in 12
  • Ken Frape
    I hope you had a great time in Ireland.
    I have posted a version of my story that is missing the ice and the vacuum cleaner. If necessary I can post a different version. Just let me know if you want to take down this version.
    Ken Frape
    • Carrie Zylka

      Hi Ken!
      Thanks for pointing that out.
      To qualify you’re technically supposed to have those items.
      Are they easily insertable? I can make the edit.

      • Ken Frape
        Hi Carrie,
        I will send you the altered version for you to edit.
      • Carrie,
        Right, here is the edit.
        Everything stays the same except for the following:
        After the words,”I think so,” I replied uncertainly. “It’s been quite an evening.”
        Replace the next paragraph with the following:
        “Yes. Sorry but I couldn’t help overhearing your argument with your wife. After you left the barmaid cleared the ice cubes and hoovered up the crisps.” She studied me closely. “Have you been out here since then?”
        Then the rest as it is.
        If you can do this I will love you forever!
        Ken Frape
        • Carrie Zylka

          Hahahaha I will happily take your unending adulation!!
          Done and done and very clever way to incorporate the two requirements!

          • Hi Carrie,

            Thanks so much. It would have been a shame to miss out as I haven’t been in the writing mood so much lately.

            My unending adulation is on it’s way to you.!!!

            Ken F

        • Adrienne Riggs
          Great save Ken!!
  • Ok writer’s! Here are your winners!

    1st Place: Empty Nest by Adrienne Riggs
    2nd Place: Thicker Than Water by Vicki Chvatal
    3rd Place: Kitchen Krisis by Phil Town
    4th Place: Playing Happy Families by Ken Frape
    5th Place: Toothless In Santonio by Marien Oommen
    6th Place: Undercover by Jagan Parthasarathy

    Story with the favorite dialogue: Ken Frape’s “Playing Happy Families”
    Favorite Character: Violeta of Phil’s “Kitchen Krisis”

    Congrats to all!

    • Phil Town
      Congratulations Adi, Vicki … and, er, alli!
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Thank you all for the votes and congrats to everyone!

Comments are closed.

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