December 1 – December 14, 2022 Writing Prompt “Uncle Joe’s Cabin”

Theme: Uncle Joe’s Cabin

A family decides to spend their winter holiday in their uncle’s cabin in the woods.

In the middle of the night, the youngest child wakes up and follows a floating light outside, hoping it is ___________.

Required Elements:

  • either a celebration of a holiday or reference to celebrating a holiday
  • snow

Word Count: 1200

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153 thoughts on “December 1 – December 14, 2022 Writing Prompt “Uncle Joe’s Cabin”

    • December 2, 2022 at 12:47 pm
  • December 1, 2022 at 9:05 am
    Signing in
  • December 1, 2022 at 3:48 pm
    Signing in. Christmas is in the air, the cabin awaits.
  • December 2, 2022 at 10:34 am
    I might actually write one for this prompt this time – I was debating it last night and thinking about Elvis (I was already thinking about him before someone mentioned him because of a cover of “Fever” by the Cramps that I heard in my mix on Youtube). Then I was reading about his cabin that he had out in a desert somewhere and thought it was a nice backdrop for my scandalous tale. I read about it more just now and Elvis was living there when he worked on a movie called “Stay Away, Joe”. He played a rodeo cowboy, which is synchronicity at work I think, because I was also thinking about the rodeo story that I just read here, and that makes it, technically, the cabin of a guy named Joe.

    Then my phone ring and they told me to come move 22 boxes to an office across the street. When I entered the office, my boss and her assistant were discussing business while I messed with the boxes. She was playing an instrumental version of “Fools Rush In” on her phone, and I never hear her play songs on her phone like that. Message received, Universe.

    The last bout of creepy synchronicity happened a couple of weeks ago, and that involved the “first film ever made” (the short clip of a guy on a horse). I was thinking about using it in a story while I smoked a cigar on my back porch, but thought it was too obscure. My idea had to do with the camera obscura concept and the fourth dimension (a 4D camera obscura would produce a 3-dimensional image). I even read about the history of optics and images produces by machines. In the morning I watched “Nope”, which entirely revolves around the family of the guy in that first film.

    Plus there is the fact that I told myself not to write anything until I got another story accepted somewhere, and then, right when I was almost out of faith, I got the email I was waiting for.

    I don’t have a lot of confidence in my stories, so I rely on trying to decipher “messages” from the beyond in order to figure out what I should be writing. That and aiming for things that I am passionate about. But I didn’t get any weird coincidences relating to the Thuggee cult or wasmannian ants, so I will put that crazy project on a distant backburner.

    • December 2, 2022 at 1:00 pm
      So if this all happened at Uncle Joe’s Cabin I’m thinking the above’s a great story I couldn’t wait to see what happens next …
  • December 2, 2022 at 5:02 pm
    Great stories last month, but all the titles sucked.
    So I changed the names of all of your stories. No. Don’t thank me. You’re not worth it and you’re not welcome. I was compelled to do it because your current titles were so awful. It’s a shame you all can’t title as well as you can write. Do any of you know what a compulsion is? I had a compulsion to edit your titles. That’s how bad they were. They were so bad I couldn’t concentrate. I know you all want to throw money, praise and women, I mean awards, at me, but you mustn’t, please, you all know you can’t afford it anyway.

    Despite that, here they are, your new titles. I don’t want to hear any sniveling about it, either. You don’t have to use them.

    The Key of Life – Phil Key of Life. Or, (Boy Meets Girl.)
    A Simple Delivery Run. – Vicki Chvatal Delivery Run; or Milk Run.
    Swipe left or swipe right. – Ozjohn66 Side Swipe.
    Dr. Gilliam Taylor Hides in Plain Sight. – Robt Emmit. Dr. Taylor’s Vanishing Act.
    Other Secrets. – Liz Fisher. Others, Secrets.
    So I Don’t Exist. – Ilya Leed. Time Stab; Time To Time; Timalingering.
    Edentulous Super Woman. – Marien Oommen. Amalgamated Woman of Steel.
    Osceola. – Adrienne Riggs. Osceola’s Curse.
    Meat. – Ken Miles. Non GMO.
    It’s Not Frankie. – Lara Crave. Soul of Sinatra. Or just ‘Sinatra’s Soul.’ (Frankie is disrespectful. That was okay when they was all kids, but he’s an old dead guy now. He deserves a little respect. Besides, the name Frankie means little any more, but the name ‘Sinatra’ will always have magic. At least for a long time to come.)

    • December 4, 2022 at 8:30 pm
      Love it, and I even thought it was brilliant how it was one message to the whole room but also personalized for each individual. I was envious of the way you did that.
    • December 5, 2022 at 8:52 am
      Well Done Mr. Cartisano! I loved some of these alternative titles! “Side Swipe”, “Dr. Taylor’s Vanishing Act”, “Osceola’s Curse”, “Amalgamated Woman of Steel”, “Sinatra’s Soul” You are so creative! Hope you enjoyed your birthday!
      • December 12, 2022 at 2:47 pm
        Thanks Adi,

        I survived it. (my birthday) So that’s good. Thanks for the positive feedback. I thought I was doing a good thing when I did it. Then I began to wonder. Now I feel like it was a good thing again. Sorry I took so long to reply, no real excuse for that. I guess I was saving up for the right way to say thanks to you and Rumples for ‘getting it.’ (The fact that I’m not attacking anyone.)

        I always see my birthday numbers. 11-29. Everywhere. So I feel nervous about my birthday. I feel certain I will die on that day, I just don’t know what year. So, when Kim booked a flight on my birthday I thought, well, this must be it. Fate has fooled me once again. She is so fickle. Assuming I’m still alive. (Remember the ‘Fickled Finger of Fate Awards’?)

        • December 12, 2022 at 5:05 pm
          Don’t worry! When I was a teen, I had a dream that I got shot in the face with a shotgun by a stranger in a house that I had never seen before and on a street that I had never seen before either. The next day, my wife took me to the duplex of a friend’s boyfriend near the base of Stone Mountain. The neighbor’s house looked eerily like the one from my dream and the street looked the same (one building in particular caught my eye because it had a ludicrous amount of windows, just a huge wall of mainly glass for some reason … that one got torn down and they built a bus depot there now … I think).

          The boyfriend of the friend got stabbed in the lung by his dad in a different duplex a couple hundred feet down the same street, survived, then died the same year from something else. Unrelated to my dream, but dark. He wasn’t a very nice person, but that sucks.

          My new life has taken me down that street once every week for the past ten years, and I always wonder if something is going to cause me to stop and get out – an emergency or a flat tire or something – and then maybe the whole thing can finally come to fruition and I can stop worrying about it!

          But there have been a lot of shootings on that strip of land, so my dream wasn’t too far off about the possibility, and maybe I somehow knew where I was going to go the next day, maybe I had been there before and didn’t remember.

          Maybe, what if, but I feel your pain about the irrational fear that your irrational fears will come true! If mine didn’t come true yet, yours certainly won’t (my logic is that you didn’t have a detailed and seemingly prophetic dream about a plane crashing).

          • December 13, 2022 at 2:09 pm
            Okay Rumples, I will worry no more. I have video of the take-off. I thought the plane was going to fall apart before it left the runway. But all’s well that ends well, so far. ‘In keeping with the situation.’ I wanted to thank you for your complimentary remarks, and your positive feedback on my , to inform you that:

            A. I wrote my latest offering, ‘Spirits My Eye’, ‘Sky Poopsters’ very quickly. Should have named it ‘Spiders in the Sky’. Eh? No? ‘Motes Magotes.’?

            B. After writing and posting my story, in a manic attempt to get my story posted before Philip Von Quvickpost. I then went to the link you posted, and read your story.

            C. Imagine my amazed consternation, when my story, and your story, seemed obsessed with the same bug. Do you have arachnid fever? Ever had it? Me either. Lo and behold, talk about synchronicity. I swear John, by all the porn deleted from my hard-drive, that I did not read your story before writing mine. Go figure. It’s probably one of those ‘Great minds get stuck in the same rut’ kind of thing.

            D. Your eight-point pschological thriller was, as I remembered it, very cleverly constructed and deliviered. I notice the site has an editor and I wondered how many changes he or she made to your story. It seems pretty consistent with the original.

            E. So, congrats again, for getting published. Officially. You’re an author now. To paraphrase someone else whose name I can’t recall. As a freelance author, you now have the privilege of living anywhere you want, in poverty.

            • December 15, 2022 at 11:39 am
              LOL. Yeah, I thought you were intentionally doing the spider thing just for me, honestly, but it is cool no matter what the reason! And remember how I got all upset about the error in that podcast? I got all mopey and downtrodden when I realized that, after a year of fiddling with that story and making multiple different versions that were slightly different in font, margins, etc. – I ended up using the version that was from here (it had the typo with the period instead of a comma: “Presently. the pen was jumping around like …”) So I made no progress and still had that typo, even after a whole freaking year of messing with it!!!!! I was rushing and I sent the wrong version, but I didn’t think that they would actually accept it any how.

              And then there was the line where I said “An American Indian child” … that got edited by the editor into something different. I don’t have the courage to ask either one of those sites to fix the errors, in all truth. Beggars can’t be choosers, and all that. Just grateful, no matter how whiny I sound. And thanks again!

    • December 10, 2022 at 9:00 pm
      the comma absolutely makes a difference and reflects the story.
    • December 15, 2022 at 5:56 pm
      Lol, Ken C! Your fertile brain is on the run! Thanks for the title tho’ frankly I like mine better! It has nice ring to it, methinks. 🙂
  • December 4, 2022 at 1:18 am
    Bloody awful titles. I am throwing soggy rum soaked chocolate cake at you, Ken. I am watching it slide down your face and bits of chocolate sticking in the crevices of your smirk, you are licking droplets of rum with your tongue. You think it is funny, but it is deadly serious for those whose titles you have butchered shamelessly. Their poor corpses lie quivering on the ground, writhing/writing in pain as you have twitched and tortured them to your liking.
    Naah, don’t like your choices but you are right. Mine was not fantastic, but the other choices I’d thought about were not the best. Maybe you should write a story and put it in with fantastic title that will blow our socks off?? I am kidding… but seriously, don’t like your title choices….
    • December 4, 2022 at 1:31 pm
      Here’s a title for ilana,,,”Go for the Throat”, just popped into my head while reading her title comments… 🙂
  • December 4, 2022 at 2:26 pm
    Ms Leeds,

    My but your feeling bright and chipper this morning.

    Glad you’re kidding. but I wasn’t. I didn’t butcher any story names. (Shamelessly or otherwise.) The only one that was intended to be funny was Marien’s. All of th,em were given at least some thoughtful consideration. Some of them were too long, and a few were too short.

    And I did write a story, and I posted it, and it had a title. I asked to have it exempted from the contest because I was sure there would be some people who would object to it on frivolous, nitpicking grounds. I still worked my ass off on it, and it did have a strange, obscure name that I will probably change at some point. (I don’t remember the title, off hand. not a good sign. But I know it had one.) You spent a great deal of time critiquing my comment. It’s too bad you didn’t have anything to say about my story. But that’s okay. (I guess I should be relieved.)

    Your title was the real reason I rewrote everyone’s story names. Yours was awful, it made no sense, and the story was so good, it deserved a much better name. Not sure I succeeded, though, I gave you three options, all of them were better than yours, which sounded a lot like an ‘auto-save’ from a deleted first draft. Once I re-did yours, I naturally assumed that everyone else would clamor for equal treatment. (I guess I was wrong about the clamoring.)

    Vicki’s title, for instance, ‘A Simple Delivery Run.’ A ‘milk run’ IS a simple delivery run. Most American’s know this. (We don’t know what a goddamn bollard is, but we know what a milk run is.)

    MEAT is a concise descriptor, four simple letters How badly could a few extra letters hurt it?

    I told Adi, truthfully, that I loved the name of her story, read it again and reconsidered. ‘Osceola’s Curse’ is certainly no worse than ‘Osceola,’ since neither is really what the story is about. Nor is it a form of ‘butchering’ by any standard I can think of. You must have a great relationship with editors. What do you do? Shoot them with cat shit?

    I agonized over Marien’s title, because it was already funny, It’s a lighthearted story with a pointed moral.

    But hey, maybe you’re right. I’m not experiencing much collegiality around here my own self lately. I’ll keep my lighthearted musings to myself.

    Have a great day.

  • December 4, 2022 at 9:54 pm
    It’s ok Ken. I still love you and your writing. Can’t we speak our minds sometimes. I am glad you got that feeling off your chest about my dismal title for my story. It was spur of the moment. I do still love you Mr Cartisano believe it or not.
    • December 4, 2022 at 11:17 pm

      He does seem rather cranky lately doesn’t he??? 😂

  • December 5, 2022 at 3:47 am
    Yeah I think we have to send Kim telepathic messages to give him a good ole cuddle and butt rub to calm the cranky old man thing. I do not know what is wrong with him. His light hearted banter seems to have gone missing lately.
    Ken C what is wrong??? Are you not in a good mood because of something more sinister than our dismal titles? Please cheer up…
  • December 5, 2022 at 8:32 am
    Please check out my story on MetaStellar – it mentions that it was originally published here and it has a link to my other story! I had fun making some quick art for it from a picture of a Joro spider on my phone (I was going to use some free images that I lazily downloaded).

    Phil, thanks again for telling me to add some grunting.

    Ken C., thanks for the nonstop encouragement, no matter how crazy my rants or toxic my petty rage becomes!

    And thanks to this site in general for making me write something, anything, instead of just letting all the developing story organs rot internally. Dreams deferred and all that. I just got to get better at making stories without going through a psychological whirlwind that leaves me and the people closer to me exhausted.

    Cook that omelet faster, and with no mess, ya know?

    • December 5, 2022 at 10:24 pm
      You’re welcome John.

      Turn the heat down on those omeletes.

      You know, I saw a video the other day that proves, even turtles help other turtles. A turtle gets upside down, other turtles flip him back over. Ain’t no big thing among turtles. Ain’t no big thing here. I don’t know about anyone else around, but I’m looking forward to seeing something you got published. Wait, how much is it gonna cost me? ‘Cause I can get it here for pretty cheap.

      Judging by the language used in your comment above, crazy; rants; toxic; rage; petty; mess; rot internally, it sounds like you’ve been hanging around with Ilana a bit too much. I’m not saying she’s bad for you, just saying, she writes like Popeye fights. Ya gotta be careful, that’s all I’m sayin’.

      Congrats on selling that story.

    • December 13, 2022 at 7:07 pm
      OK Rump.. I followed your instructions and why did it have to be a brown recluse.. the everyday red hourglass of my nightmares wasn’t good enough?😳
      • December 15, 2022 at 11:43 am
        It had to be because I named him Fidel Bach (Fiddleback spider) … do you think a single person noticed that little clue lol?
  • December 5, 2022 at 4:54 pm

    “And do you know what she was doing before that – before supper?”

    “Playing under the cabin. She has a fantastic imagination, you know. She said she’d been exploring a cave.”

    “All right. I think that’s all the information we need for the moment. Now, could you let us have an article of her clothing – something she’s worn recently?”


    “For the dogs.”

    “Oh, my goodness!”

    x x x x x

    Laura awoke with a start. Floating above her in the blackness of the room was a brilliant point of light, with sparkles emanating from it. When she sat up, it drifted towards the door. She giggled and got out of bed. At the door, the light wiggled around the handle.

    “Do you want to get out, Mr Light?” Laura asked.

    She didn’t wait for an answer and opened the door. The light floated through the main room of the cabin and hovered at the front door.

    “Are you going to show me where Santa keeps the presents?” Laura said, whispering now.

    The light appeared to nod and Laura gave a little yelp of delight. She opened the door and the light passed into the chill night, Laura following, in her pyjamas and barefoot.

    x x x x x

    “Yeah, down at the diner.”

    “What did he say exactly?”

    “He said ‘I’ve got my eye on you, Dobson!’ And he looked like he meant it.”

    “Great! Then you decided to come up here?! So he could follow you?”

    “I didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

    “That’s the last thing I need – the law sniffing round.”

    “Sorry, Joe. I wasn’t thinking. What are we going to do?”

    “ ‘We’?!. I know what I’m going to do. Hide the stash, then get the hell out of here for a time.”

    “What about me?!”

    “You’re on your own, Dob. Sorry, man.”

    x x x x x


    “Do you need me to do anything?”

    “You can round the kids up, if you like.”

    “Where are they?”

    “Bobby’s in the bedroom, reading. I think Laura’s under the cabin.”

    “Under the …?!”

    “Exploring, I imagine.”

    “That girl!”

    x x x x x

    She waited for her father’s footsteps to recede, then reached under her pillow to retrieve the small plastic bag with candy in it. She opened it and popped a piece into her mouth. It didn’t taste very nice, so she swallowed it and took a gulp of water from the plastic cup on the bedside table, to take the taste away.

    “Yuk!” she said, before snuggling back under the covers and closing her eyes.

    x x x x x


    “Is that you, Joe?”

    “Yeah. Lainey?”

    “Yep. How are you? How are things up at ‘the cabin in the woods’?”

    “Ah, you know – cabiny.”

    “Ha! Listen, Joe. I wanted to ask you a favor.”


    “Can we come visit for Christmas? We were going to Disney World but it fell through. And we’d promised the kids … so I reckon a few days in the hills will kinda compensate a little.”

    “Actually, something’s come up and I’m going away for a while.”

    “Oh, no!”

    “But you can stay here while I’m gone if you like.”

    “Really! Ah, that’s fantastic, Joe. Where are you going?”

    “Er … haven’t quite decided yet. But away.”

    x x x x x

    “And they all lived happily ever after.”

    “That’s a nice story, daddy. Another one?”

    “No, darling. Time to get off to sleep now. Let me just tuck you in.”


    “What, darling girl?”

    “I love you.”

    “I love you, Laura.”

    “And mummy.”

    “I know.”

    “And Bobby.”

    “You’re a little angel, that’s what you are.”

    “Do you think I’ll go to heaven one day, daddy?”

    “I’m sure of it. Now get to sleep, okay?”


    x x x x x

    “Poor little mite.”

    “I wonder what brought her all the way out here.”

    “Don’t know. Not looking forward to telling her parents.”

    “Want me to do it, Cap.?”

    “Thanks, Jonesy. It’s my job, though.”

    “Yeah. Rather you than me, to be honest.”

    “Tell me about it. Anyway … I’ll leave her with you, then. Make sure the techs get finished here asap. Looks like snow on the way.”


    • December 10, 2022 at 10:17 am
      On the second read, I am pretty sure I have it all put together. It wasn’t that hard, I just got confused by the ball of light, not by the different breaks. Also, I missed that the speaker talking about his stash was the same Joe as the titular Uncle Joe with the cabin because I read it too fast the first time and didn’t catch the name.

      So everything is explained, indirectly, except for the orb. But now I see that you didn’t explain the ball of light, intentionally. People are meant to wonder if it is a ghost, fairy, or something that was never born in the first place, right?

      Whatever it is, it ain’t good. Creepy and well done!

      • December 11, 2022 at 1:59 pm
        Thanks for reading twice and thinking about it, Rf! In fact there are no spirits involved. (That’s a clue.) See also my response to KenC below.
    • December 11, 2022 at 1:10 pm

      Look, I ain’t gonna tell you something’s great if I don’t like it. That isn’t my style.

      I didn’t get this story the first time I read it. Thought I had it when I read it the second time, then questioned my assumptions the third time I read it. I’m afraid to read it a fourth time. But I confess, I read it again anyway. Four times. I have a theory as to what happened in this story, and how, but the story doesn’t convince me that what I think the story was about is correct. In your critique of my story, you question whether a child can push a table three-feet across a floor, yet you propose a family whose child is exploring a cave underneath the house? And no one seems that curious. Does she die under the house? I honestly don’t know. Why does she die? I don’t know. Exposure? In at least one section it wasn’t clear if you were projecting the imagery in the character’s head, or reality.

      The dialogue is great, there’s nothing wrong with each section, but I don’t quite see the logic of their placement. And if other people are staying in the cabin, why does the girl, Laura, call the man who puts her to bed, Dad? Why did you bring in the other couple? And where did they go? I still don’t understand important aspects of the story and it’s frustrating.

      But hey, others may feel differently.

      • December 11, 2022 at 1:57 pm
        Thanks for your patience, KenC, and sorry to be so exasperating!

        Have you seen ‘Pulp Fiction’? That was what I was going for – a linear story broken up into episodes and jumbled. There’s a logic there if you find the thread (I won’t clarify just yet in case others would like to try their hand at getting the pieces in the right order. I just hope it’s not as exasperating as for you). I will clarify one thing, though: the question of the ‘cave’. The line goes: “She has a fantastic imagination, you know. She said she’d been exploring a cave.” With the emphasis on the ‘she said’. And I’m thinking one of those cabins on legs – not like the one in the picture – with space underneath (could maybe have been a bit clearer there).

        Thanks again for reading … three times! That’s devotion to duty for you! 😉

        • December 11, 2022 at 10:33 pm

          Aha. I might have known, the problem was between my eyes and my brain. I did not absorb the phrase, ‘She has a fantastic imagination…’ Don’t know how I failed to appreciate the significance there.
          (Especially since we’re talking about a child.)

          And yes, I’m familiar with ‘Pulp Fiction.’ I loved some of the characters, the dark humor. It had some hilarious scenes, but I never understood what the hell the movie was really supposed to be about. One has to assume then, that you’ve succeeded in some respects. I was a little more clueless about that movie than I was with your story, but the feeling was the same.

          Forgive me for being so dense, I actually read it four times. I hope I made up for my stupidity with a little comedy in my response to your critique of my story, in which you never mentioned the spiders. Not even once. How many spiders do I have to put into a story to get you to mention one? A million? 2 million? Name your threshold please. I will make note of it.

          • December 12, 2022 at 4:41 am
            I feel honoured, KenC, that you’ve taken up so much time with: a) my story; and b) my critique of your story. As for mine, please consider this number: 36475218…
          • December 12, 2022 at 8:32 am
            The whole movie revolves around a MacGuffin … that damn suitcase that makes everything glow golden when you open it. With all the religious stuff that Samuel Jackson was saying and the fact that he seems to be protected by holy powers or something … I always went to the Holy Grail (but it seems like a suitcase would be a bad choice for transporting it, and the one guy says “Is that what I think it is?” … which is weird, because who would recognize the Holy Grail like that?).

            There are tons of theories about the one shot where you see Ving Rhames in his office and he has some weird bandages on the back of his head (those wounds are never explained, but most people just dismiss them as something he got when he threw the other guy out the window because he was hitting on his girl). They say that he sold his sold to the Devil, and there are medieval texts that detail the process of extracting your soul from the back of your head to give to the Devil (I never bothered to really study that one, though it is fun).

            My wife can’t stand it, and I never liked the rape and weird sexual overtones, so we don’t watch it any more. Plus Samuel Jackson was an asshole to W. Kamau Bell … who I adore. He said some messed up crap about his wife and kid and I sort of lost my thing for him. Can you imagine some one attacking your wife and kid online and then everyone sides with the other guy because he is more famous than you are? I don’t get it.

            But yeah, the way that film jumps around is the least offensive thing about it, and I always liked the performances from the brainwashed scientologist guy and Bruce Willis. Jackson had the best lines though.

    • December 14, 2022 at 3:53 pm
      Sad story Phil. I did like the way you wrote it in crisp scenes, almost like a movie script. I was hoping little Laura would find the stash Joe had hidden but alas, you had another ending in mind. Great dialogue as always! You were first out of the gates again. Is it just to irritate Ken C.? Or is it that you are just this good? Ready, set, write! That’s our Phil!
      • December 14, 2022 at 7:05 pm
        Thanks, Adi … but you’re wrong about Laura not finding the stash … and therein lies a clue! 😉
    • December 14, 2022 at 4:44 pm
      Breaking my head over this one on a cool afternoon- three reads. Still no luck.
      Specially that part with Joe and Lainey and how does it fit in?
      Will read again.
      I get the end- a snowy end to a little girl. Sad. Following a light?
      • December 14, 2022 at 7:07 pm
        Thanks for trying, Marien! Sorry it was a bit of a headache!

        (A little bit of help: Lainey and Joe are brother and sister, so Joe is Laura’s ‘Uncle Joe’.)

  • December 5, 2022 at 8:32 pm

    I think I deleted the right one. Let me if I didn’t!

  • December 5, 2022 at 8:46 pm
    Spirits of the Sky.
    Ken Cartisano

    Fred pulled the car into the snow-covered parking area and turned the engine off. He and his wife sat in silence.

    Tina, his oldest, said, “This is it?”

    “Well,” Fred said, “we lost the signal a few miles back. So. I don’t know. I’m assuming…”

    He was eager to stretch his legs so he got out of the car and looked around. He hadn’t been here in decades and there were a lot of things he didn’t remember. “Come on kids. Let’s unload the car.”

    “Are you sure this is it? It looks deserted,” Tina said.

    “Abandoned,” Faith said.

    “Condemned.” His youngest added.

    His wife, Anna, shooed the children like flies from a tin can. “Go on now, get your things and don’t be difficult. You too, Joey. Go on.”

    The three kids lugged their cases up to the front porch, but would go no further. Not even Joey.

    Seeing their hesitation, Fred said, “What’s the problem? Go on in. Your mother and I will be along in a minute.”

    “Fred,” his wife whispered, “don’t be like that. They’re already scared…”

    “There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He said, as he reached for one of his bags.

    “Yeah, but they don’t know that.”

    “Dad!” His oldest called out.

    “I’m coming.” He hollered back. When he mounted the stairs and opened the rotting screen door, his daughter said, “Spiders.”

    “What’s that?”

    “Spiders! There are spiders everywhere.”

    Fred held the door open and scanned the vicinity for wildlife, inside and outside. “I don’t see any spiders,” he declared.

    “Dad!. There’s a million webs, there have to be about a half-a-million spiders.”

    “I don’t see any.”

    All four of them crept onto the porch and searched for spiders, an activity that has few fans. Dad proved correct, not a single moving spider was sighted. But there were plenty of corpses: Dead spiders, web enshrouded bugs, even some web enshrouded spiders. It looked like a spider graveyard, on the ceiling. The screen door slammed and all of them jumped.

    His wife Anna surveyed her family unit through narrowed eyes, then looked around, like a soldier on patrol, adjusting her knapsack. “I hope this place has a broom,” she said.

    “A broom?” Faith exclaimed. “How about a flamethrower.”

    “Come on, open the door.”

    The cabin’s interior smelled musty. There was some dust, but everything was cute, neatly folded and in its place.

    The shutters were thrown open, windows were raised; natural light filtered in but it was still gloomy. Faith flipped a switch and nothing happened. She tried another switch.

    “There’s no power,” her father said. “Not till we get the generator working, sometime tomorrow.”

    “Oh come-on, Dad. What are we supposed to do without power?”

    Diverting a quarrel, Anna recruited her two daughters to help bring in the groceries. Tina grabbed the Fridge door and yanked it open. There was no light, but it was cold. She turned to her father. “I thought you said…”

    “Gas.” He replied. “Liquid natural gas. Once we get power the light will come on too.”

    There was a lot of noise and activity when the women returned, paper bags rustling; cabinets and drawers opening and closing; dishes clacking; silverware jingling.

    Fred blocked out the sounds as he wandered around the cabin, eyeing the carpet, the drapery, the knickknacks, and the pictures. Carpets and drapes don’t last forty years, but knickknacks and photos do. He went from one frame to another, peering intently at the people in the photos.

    “Who are all those people, Dad?”

    Startled, he brushed off Joey’s question, but returned later to look at the photos several times. Maybe his eyes were going bad. He didn’t recognize anyone in the pictures, and there were too many people in them, by his recollection. One large sepia print clearly showed the features of someone he did not know. Nothing in the cabin really seemed familiar.

    Dinner consisted of Thanksgiving leftovers, turkey sandwiches.

    After dinner, sitting around the fireplace, Fred claimed to know a story. “A true story,” he emphasized, “about a local farmer, Mr. Clemmons, who went crazy and killed his whole family. Right down the road here, that big farm we passed?”

    “And?” The girls asked.

    “That’s it. That’s the whole story. He was never seen or heard from again.”

    “What?” They both cried. “Are you kidding? They never caught him? You mean he could still be out there? Roaming around?”

    “By the way,” Fred said to his wife, “I thought I saw a man out by the pumphouse earlier, did you see anyone?”

    “No. Is that the neighbor?”

    “I think so. He’s supposed to help me get the generator working, I think.”

    “You two are joking, of course.” Tina said. They looked puzzled.

    When it was time to put his youngest to bed, Joey put his book aside and just wanted to talk. “Are we gonna see the northern lights tonight, Dad?”

    “I don’t think so Joey, it’s cold, Daddy’s tired, I think it’ll be clearer tomorrow night. We’ll make a fire too, okay?”

    “Do you think we’ll see Uncle Joe’s spirit?”

    “Well, I don’t see spirits Joey—and I don’t expect you will, either.”

    “Maybe not, but I can feel him. His spirit.”

    There was silence for a bit. “Can ya?”

    “Yeah,” Joey whispered. “He’s a nice spirit, Dad.”

    Fred sighed. “Well, he was a nice man in life, so I guess that’s no surprise.”

    “There are bodies in the basement, Dad.” Joey stated bluntly.

    One of his sisters chimed in from the other room. “What is he talking about, Dad?”

    “Nothing,” he called out to his daughters, then whispered to Joey. “There’s no basement here Joey, therefore, no bodies.”

    “Dad, …”

    “Goodnight Joey.”


    x x x x x

    Joey’s eyes flew open in the middle of the night, he rushed into the main room, moved the 50’s era dining table to one side along with the colorful oval carpet, found a ring embedded in the floorboards and pulled. It barely budged. He realized he was standing on the trap door, moved to the other side and pulled.

    It opened.

    A glowing, white mote floated up out of the darkness, and drifted toward the window. A fetid stench wafted up from the pitch-black basement, but Joey hardly noticed, following the glowing mote to the window, then out onto the porch, where it floated up into the sky and disappeared.

    The following morning, when Joey woke up, everyone was already packed to leave. The man who’d been seen lingering about the property approached and said, “I take it y’all have figured out that you’re in the wrong cabin.”

    “Yessir” Fred assured him. “Stupid of me, I know. It’s been forty-years, though, and the door was unlocked. I hope you’re not going to press charges.”

    “Of course not,” the man said. “Wouldn’t dream of it. We’re neighbors.””

    “It was an honest mistake,” Fred said as he started the car.

    “Sure, people make mistakes,” the man said.

    As they drove away his wife said, “Is that who I think it was?”

    “Yeah. That was Mr. Clemmons.” And the spitting image of the man in that old sepia photo.

    • December 8, 2022 at 4:47 pm
      This is a very unsettling and well told tale with excellent use of a classic horror movie trope (the whole unpacking and exploring the house bit). Creepy … and not because of the spiders (you know I loved that). “Sure, people make mistakes” was the most powerful, but you knew that too, didn’t you? And I liked how it almost winked at the audience through the fourth wall (when the daughter asked them if they were kidding). I already suspected things by the end, but that didn’t detract from the creepiness, it actually probably made it scarier because I interpreted the dialogue differently with that knowledge bouncing around in my mind.

      This felt postmodern, even though Wikipedia says that you have to have more low-brow and direct allusions to other work to get that snobby label, but I could just be making stuff up as I go again!

      Still, the little boy who seems to have clairvoyance or The Shine (or maybe he just ate too many Pop Tarts), the disturbing and faded pictures … it all reminded me of a lot of my favorite horror movies mixed together … the same familiar spookiness feeling … but with original material! Good job dude!

      Oh yeah, and the first reaction that I had when I was done was thinking how the word limit really hurts some stories, or makes me wish that you could keep going. Your stories are like that – they make me wish that you were not constrained by such chains.

      • December 11, 2022 at 11:18 am

        I am not. Never heard of him. Tell me more.

        • December 11, 2022 at 12:53 pm
          He had a song in the late sixties called “Spirit in the Sky” that has a cool sound to it and some experimental effect with a fuzz box that is unique – it is a weird and awesome fusion of rock and tongue-in-cheek gospel. I would put a link but, like some spirits in the sky, those get sent to Limbo instantly (because they are automatically flagged by the site as malware … and then they have to be manually retrieved from there, I believe). But it is all good. The song is worth looking up if you want some of that old school sound (it was 1969, but it sounds like the 70’s already, you know?).

          There is one in the works, but I got to edit out the inflammatory bits before I send it. My lit feels like weaponized words adapted into sloppy pranks to grief readers … sometimes. And comments can feel like desperate screams in the dark!

          • December 11, 2022 at 1:22 pm
            Oh THAT Norman Greenbaum. Assuming that’s who wrote Spirit in the Sky, ‘that’s where I’m gonna go, when I die. When I die and they lay me to rest, I’m gonna go to the place that’s best.’

            I know the song, probably the reason for the title. Which, I think could be better, I originally called it, ‘Best Vacation Ever.’ And I kind of like that. I don’t know, what do you think? Or worst vacation ever, or: The Clemmons Chronicles.

            How about, ‘Uncle Jack.’ (‘Have you met my Uncle Jack?’ Was it Spirit?) Yeah, Uncle Joe had a brother, it happens a lot. This could be the missing keystone in my story. Uncle Jack Clemmons.

            Thanks. I’ll give it some thought. “I may very well kill you in the morning”, though.

    • December 9, 2022 at 1:37 pm
      Nicely-told tale, KenC. This feels like a real family, which draws us into proceedings well. There are lots of opportunities for mystery and suspense which (as Rumplefinkies suggests) could perhaps have done with more room to develop. As always, the dialogue is spot on.

      And as always, some observations.

      Joey is very young (he gets to have a bedtime story), so “condemned” (a great line) could perhaps come from someone else. Also, he shifts a dining table and lifts what must be a heavy trap door on his own. Incongruous?
      The revelation at the end of who the stranger is feels like a bit of a throwaway – at least, the couple treat it with an odd nonchalance.
      What’s the connection between Clemmons and Uncle Joe?

      Very enjoyable read.

      • December 11, 2022 at 7:51 pm
        Philip, (I realize this has more words than a story, but it’s not a story. So…)

        I really appreciate your comments and critiques. Truly. Their absence last month was keenly felt. That being said, I don’t like to defend or explain a story’s plot after the fact. (Something I rarely do, and something you have never done—let’s be clear on that.)

        I hope you believe me when I tell you this Philip, that everything from this point on, is strictly for entertainment purposes only. My intention here, is to entertain anyone and everyone who has the will to continue reading. Although there may be a few scattered truths within the copy, that simply can’t be helped.

        I considered every single observation you made when I was editing the story.
        How old is the child? I never said. I gave it a lot of thought, but it wasn’t necessary to divulge that info.

        Could the child have used the word condemned? Absolutely. He may not even have known what the word meant. In fact, a child using words beyond their understanding is common. And to be fair, it wasn’t strictly accurate.

        Plus, I devoted a great deal of deliberation to those three words and (Really Ken? A GREAT DEAL of Deliberation? Be honest with Phil.) Shut up. Okay, that’s fair. Five minutes? I spent five minutes considering those three words and who should say what. I didn’t think anyone would notice.

        But you did notice. All of which proves that you’re very perceptive, Phil. I have taken advantage of this talent of yours for years, free-of-charge. Your ability to divine such fine nuances in the thread of a tale, (along with your endless nitpicking,) is a gift of generosity that I would not wish to jeopardize —for any reason. (Except or unless you didn’t like cats.)

        Could a child move a table? Depends on the table, the ‘size’ of the child, rather than his age, how slippery the floor is, his motives?

        Could a child lift a trap door? This depends on the trap door. As a part of the floor, above a basement, it would have to be sturdy, even in a cabin. A trap door, by its very nature, need only be discreet. All its other features are variable. It could have springs, but already, too much detail. Maybe I used entirely the wrong word to describe this door. I just saw on the intranets, a sophisticated, miniature, home-made trap door in a squirrel obstacle course. And no, that is not what gave me the idea for the story. I just like watching squirrels run obstacle courses. Doesn’t everyone?

        But the point, is that your observations are brilliant and spot on, whether I agree with them or not. As it happens, I agree with the observations you made at the end of your comment. The ‘apparent’ nonchalance of the parents as they’re leaving, (bad writing, perhaps, I knew what I was trying to do.) and ‘What’s the connection between Clemmons and Uncle Joe?’

        They were neighbors. I never said that, it was implied.

        But the other point is, who exactly was the guy they talked to as they left? The Clemmons character. I asked Kim who he was and she said, ‘His son, of course,’ without any hesitation at all.

        I don’t have her lightning-fast brain. (I can’t even think of a better word than brain.) I wrote the story and had to ask her who the character was. Can you believe that? Boy, talk about a split personality. Maybe that’s why so many people love-hate me.)

        As for the character, Clemmons: Why didn’t he just knock on the door and tell them they were in the wrong cabin? (The cabin was definitely not lived in, the spiders indicate that something kills them, but nobody bothers to remove them. Perhaps Clemmons ‘Jr.’ politely decided to let them stay the night, since it was late, they were in the middle of nowhere. He was being kind.) Which leads me to another flaw in the story. TMS.

        That’s right. TMS. Or, as they say in the monkey house, Too Many Spiders. I’m sure you’re familiar with this syndrome. I should have cut down on the number of spiders in the editing process too, and I would have if I had had more time. (I hate it when all those spiders get into the editing room with me. I HATE that. (Although I’m very kind to spiders. Let’s be clear on that. I give them all of my other bugs, but I don’t ‘hang’ with them.)

        I’m going to give you the real (this is super-real) the real reason this story has so many flaws. I’m practically CERTAIN, that no one but you is still reading this drivel, so here it comes. The truth. It’s because Ilana got me so pissed off, I decided to write a story, edit it and post it in one day. (And take the rest of the two weeks off.) The reasoning was; A. I’m sick of you posting the first fucking story every week. (What are you, Super Author or something?) I had to take you down a notch. (Don’t remind him that he failed, right now, Phil. Give him time.)

        And B. I’m sick of you posting the first story every week. I wanted to post the first story for a goddamned change, and I had a clear schedule, no injuries, no emergencies, no traveling, no work, no fucking hurricanes or tornados, no floods, and there was milk in the fridge. What better opportunity would I ever have to beat you at your game of ‘first serve’?

        (C.) So. See? Ilana had nothing to do with it. Nothing. I just mentioned her for fun. But it’s worth noting how focused I was on posting a story before you did, DESPITE, being furious with Ilana, (at the time.)

        I wrote it and edited it in less than a day. Because I knew, I KNEW, you were going to have your story up in ‘about one day.’ So I posted it as is. As it turned out, just as I was getting ready to post it, Kim forced me to go to some kind of social event, where I make other people feel awkward. I don’t know how, perhaps by looking at them, or seeing them. I honestly don’t know—or care anymore. It might’ve been a Tractor race, or a Christmas Parade. (It was a Snowball Pageant, but he’ll never admit this.) I figured, ‘I’ll be back in a few hours. How long could a snowball – I mean a parade take? Two fire trucks and it’ll be all over. I was willing to take the chance that you wouldn’t have a story posted when I got back.

        When I got back? You had a story posted, God Damn it.

        ‘I’ll get you someday, Super Author.’

        In closing, I will try to make some improvements to my story to accommodate your keen (and uncanny) powers of literary observation—while I continue to try to understand your dismembered, Frankenstein-like offering. (Did you know that Freddie Mercury became famous for a song cobbled together from three different songs? ‘Bohemian Rhapsody.’ You know it. Everyone knows it. Scatta-bush,, scatta-bush, will you skip the fandango… ) WTF? This is why it’s all so distressing, isn’t it?

        I think you better just explain it to me in an email. (He means your story, not the ‘Rhapsody.’ Just to be clear.) And while you’re at it, tell me what you’re reading these days. If you’re still talking to me, of course.

        I (we) remain your affectionately churlish friend, Ken. (He hopes.)

        • December 11, 2022 at 8:25 pm
          KenC – I read your missive to Phil with great interest, enjoyment and occasional foreheadlines keeping track of the pithiness… fun is where you find it. You had to know the Phil story would be posted…you would have been denied this fantastic Soliloquy if it hadn’t. So here’s just one suggestion. When you returned from the Snowman Parade and found Phil’s deed done you’re immediate response was G-d damn it… this is an ongoing issue with my son, Mark who uses that during a moment of frustration (as you did) although you did set yourself up…. When I find myself getting to that point of “Dammit Janet” (I know you saw that movie)…I twist the phrase to “G-d Bless it”, the frustration is released… but instead of asking G-d to do a bad thing to something you’re asking him/her/they/them to Bless it into something good. Isn’t that a good thing? Just a thought from someone who trained to only use “Froot Loops” as a frustration curse while raising my sons.
          • December 12, 2022 at 3:25 pm
            Good advice Liz,

            But I have a personal relationship with God. Sure, it’s dysfunctional, but He, or She, is a very wise sort of being and doesn’t take my admonitions (or whatever they are) seriously. (I hope.) But cursing is unpleasant, and I do truly feel that curses should be reserved only for those who really deserve them, and Phil, kind and generous spirit that he embodies, certainly does not deserve, and didn’t really get himself cursed at. I think I really said, “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. He did it again.”

            BTW, it was a Snowball pageant, not snowman. Huge difference. Ask any snowball and they’ll tell you. But thank you for the positive feedback. I believe I can count on Phil to send me one or two sentences back as well.

        • December 16, 2022 at 8:59 pm
          Dear Ken … thanks for your loooong musing on your story. You mention that I’m a nit-picker and you’re right – often because of ‘the sandwich’ school of criticism – ‘good – not quite right – good’. I have to find something that’s ‘not quite right’ (though not always, it must be said). I’m sure I’m being a pain in the wotsit most of the time, but hey.

          To your story: In fact I misread a part in which I thought the father reads Joey a story in bed, but in fact the father ‘puts aside his (own) book’. But then … then … he ‘puts Joey to bed’. Now, that to me means the boy can’t be more than three or four, so then the ‘condemned’ comment, the table and the trap door become problems, don’t they?

          As for the ending … I just don’t get it, I’m afraid. (The Clemmons character – and your partner’s comment about who Clemmons is doesn’t help me at all.) Am I getting feeble-minded? Possibly.

          As we have three weeks for this next story, I’m going to hang back and let you charge to the front (rather like Trump that time at the summit in Europe 😉 – whatafella!). Apart from anything else, I don’t have any ideas yet.

          And as for my story, if you still have any patience … the order of events is in the number I posted further up – 36475218 – so read para 3 first, then para 6 … and so on. The little girl finds Uncle Joe’s stash of drugs that he’s hidden under the cabin and take some of it to bed. She tries one of the pieces of ‘candy’ – it tastes awful – and she goes to sleep. She wakes up soon after under the influence of the drug she’s taken, sees the light (hallucination) and follows it into the night, dying of exposure.

          As you can see, much was hidden – too much, in fact, as everyone had trouble following it, I think. If I ever go back to it, I’ll make some of the details clearer.

          Always like your stories and comments. You’re a funny guy (but don’t do a Tommy de Vito from ‘Good Fellas’ on me for saying it!)

          Happy H-… Christmas!

          • December 16, 2022 at 9:10 pm
            Phil- Ok, your clarifications to KenC helped me to unravel my wonders… thanks for the clarity..Liz
    • December 10, 2022 at 9:15 pm
      Rumple is right …unsettling..trying to follow many threads leading to more thready thinking to the unsettle..
    • December 11, 2022 at 5:07 am
      A nice break from the usual Christmas-time stories of trees, presents, etc.,
    • December 14, 2022 at 4:06 pm
      Great story Ken. I mean “Great” in, that’s a great way to ruin a Christmas story! Spiders and dead bodies in the basement! Just kidding. You are giving Phil a run for his money with the dialogue. I hate spiders, arachnids, 8 legged critters, whatever (except for octopi – I actually like watching octopi swimming but I digress). Thank you for at least having the decency to have all of the spiders deceased. I mean, you could have had them crawling out of the orifices of the skulls of the bodies or something equally gruesome but thankfully you restrained yourself and I am ever so grateful. See what happens when people don’t read maps, use their GPS, or navigate by the Big Dipper and Milky Way? They get lost! Great story. Even with the dead bodies. (By the way, England’s time zone is way ahead of ours – so if you want to beat Phil in getting a story posted, you will have to have a story written in advance of the prompt – which you will have gained knowledge of by ESP or cheating. I’m rooting for you!)

      My granddaughter thinks we have dead bodies in my backyard, but I have never had the nerve to go check. Other than the pet cemetery, I’m praying there aren’t human bodies back there. When she was 4 years old, she wanted to bury her ‘husband’ back there when he died of a ‘heart attack’ before their ‘wedding’. I asked her why she didn’t want to bury him with other dead people, and she stated there WERE other dead people in the backyard. I haven’t gone back there since then. (Even when Tarzan visited.) She has a great imagination.

    • December 15, 2022 at 11:42 am
      Oopsie! A scary tale told most nonchalantly, as if such stuff is normal. The seriousness of the tale is most unlike your usual tumblededom!
      Well told, I say.
  • December 7, 2022 at 12:23 pm
    Winter Darks.

    By Ken Frape

    My parents called it Uncle Joe’s Cabin but I can’t recall ever meeting or hearing about any relative of mine called Uncle Joe. Perhaps he was long gone and the cabin was “family property.” I never thought to ask back then. I do remember that it took a long time to get there in our old station wagon that had seen better days.

    The day before we travelled to the cabin we were always full to overflowing with anticipation, our youthful excitement shared by our parents too as they disappeared upstairs and then reappeared with bags full of clothes, enough for all four kids, books, drawing paper and colouring pens, toys, hairbrushes, washing gear, toothbrushes and towels. All were placed in the hall and as the day went on, the pile grew bigger, so big that Dad used to joke that there was room for all our stuff but no room for us. We would shriek in feigned shock and Dad would sweep us up in his arms, one at a time and say,

    “Well, perhaps I can squeeze in one little one. Who’s it going to be?”

    “Me. Me. Me. Me,” the four of us chorused, loving the game and knowing we would all go.

    Mum and Dad loved those trips just as much as we did and they were always patient and good natured as they packed the car on the morning of our departure, skipping up and down the stairs over and over then back and forth to the car, whilst we jumped and hopped around with excitement, getting between each other’s feet like exuberant puppies.

    When all was packed Mum would call us, each by name in order of size, smallest first.

    Abbey, Joseph, Sophie and me, Annie, the oldest child, the firstborn.

    We were each allowed one small carry bag to place on our laps for the journey. It was really hard to choose what to take and which of our soft toys and cuddlies would have to be left behind until our return.

    Back in 47 Mum and Dad suggested a visit the cabin during the school break in February. It would be the first time as we had always stayed in the autumn or the summer. But that year, the war was long over, Dad had settled back into his old job after serving in the military and the winter was going to be unusually mild so he said one day “Why not go to the cabin for the February midterm?”

    The last four or five miles to the cabin were always my favourite as we would usually be travelling through thick swathes of woodland, with Maples, red and sugared, the tall straight birches, the elms and the giant oaks. Everything was dappled sun as the canopy overhead shimmered and wafted in the summer breeze. But this was winter time and that glorious New England Fall had finished with its leafy red, orange, gold and yellow splendour..

    As we rounded the last bend that year, the cabin appeared sooner than expected as the protective camouflage had been stripped away but it still made my pulse race and we all cheered as was family custom. The cabin was presented to us like a gift from nature, like two open hands, wrapped around by the trees that held it like a jewel in its velvet box. The doors and windows, the cabin’s eyes and mouth, were closed and shuttered but within minutes all that was remedied as we dashed in and instantly the whole place was bathed in watery, winter light and warmth as the woodburning stove was chivvied back to life.

    “I hope the fireflies will still be here,” said Abbey, who was just seven that year. Every day on our last visit in the summer, the fireflies appeared, their tiny bodies creating haloes of bioluminescence as they darted about in the woodland. Abbey was captivated as indeed, we all were, even though us older ones had already seen them every year. We would run and chase the tiny fairies, as Abbey called them, with no intent to catch them as they weaved their intricate light patterns in the evenings just as the sun went down.

    “There won’t be any fireflies now,” I told my crestfallen little sister. “Its wintertime and they won’t be around now.”

    She pouted and said in her little seven year old voice,

    “There will too. Mrs. Johnson told me at school.”

    “OK,” I said, a little troubled as my common sense said no fireflies in the winter whilst Mrs Johnson had been my teacher too and she knew everything about everything.

    “Look, see,” my little sister persisted as she held up a book from the school library. ”Mrs. Johnson said I could bring this with me.”

    I took the book from her hands and skimmed the contents page until I saw the words, Winter Dark Fireflies ( Ellychnia Corrusca.)

    “See, I told you, didn’t I?” My little sister said in triumph as she prised the book from my hands and marched off in search of her favourite creatures.

    We got our heads down early that first night after travelling most of the day but I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t like to admit it but even the seventeen year old me was excited about being at the cabin in the winter. The idea of getting snowed in made it seem even more exciting.

    I lay on my front in bed and lifted the heavy drapes. It was really dark, winter dark but even so I was able to spot my little sister as she appeared on the veranda under the porch light. I noticed also, as she had too, a faint glow within the trees, pinpricks up and down the trunks. I tapped on the window and signaled Abbey to wait whilst I slipped some warm clothes on and stepped out into the chilly night, our breath clouding the air around us, white and smoky.

    “They’re Winter Dark Fireflies,” Abbey said, the excitement clear in her little voice. “At this time of year, the larvae are living in the cracks in the tree bark. They’re the ones that glow in the dark, see? Mrs. Johnson was right, wasn’t she Annie?”

    I had to admit she was. Within the next ten minutes, our excited squeals inadvertently woke up the whole family and together, we explored the woods and exclaimed over and over as we spotted each new glow- in- the- dark firefly baby.

    An hour later and well after midnight we all sat around the fire drinking hot chocolate whilst Abbey educated the family about Winter Dark Firefly larvae that do indeed glow in the winter. We couldn’t have picked a better time to see them.

    It was the best time ever in Uncle Joe’s cabin, especially that unexpected second week when the snow came.

    But that’s another story.

    Ken Frape

    December 2022

    • December 10, 2022 at 10:32 am
      Very pleasant and heart-warming! I am feeling more Grinchy this year than normal, but I can still feel the Christmas power in this story melting some of the ice around my aorta. One thing bothers me though: I never knew about winter dark fireflies, even though I grew up pretending to be some kind of amateur entomologist!

      But I never really had a chance to go bug hunting up North … I lived in Rochester, New York for a year and a half, but I was stuck in an apartment complex next to the railroad tracks and a golf course on one side and some kind of marsh on the other. No car and I was babysitting all the time, so I never got to really see any of the natural beauty of the area, ya know?

      Plus, the Kodak factories were spewing so much ash into the air and chemicals into the water that I don’t know if the natural biodiversity even still existed. Also, my Georgia boy mentality was biased against the North back then … it just seemed like a desolate, frozen wasteland for 70% of the year to me!

      What a missed opportunity, because it looks like this species definitely would have been visible (somewhere around the county) if I had ever tried to find them …. 🙁

    • December 10, 2022 at 9:27 pm
      Yes, so gentle and easy to read and every wish fulfilled… no darkness the way it should be in a cable in the Maine woods…
    • December 12, 2022 at 1:11 am
      Hey Ken,

      I didn’t know they existed until I was ten years old. There are no fireflies in Florida. I only saw them on vacations.

      In the Appalachians, near our cabin, the fireflies are a big tourist attraction, people come from all over to see them. We have the common type, and the synchronous.

      A couple of years ago we were sitting out in the yard in the dark, and I started seeing brief intervals of something glowing blue out of the corner of my eye. I would focus my attention on where I thought I’d seen something, never look away, and something would glow in the grass, but in a different location. I would look over there and after twenty seconds it would glow six feet away. It seemed impossible for them to cover that distance in the grass, it was a different firefly.

      We had already read about these things five years earlier. They’re called blue Ghost fireflies. Phausis Reticulata. At least, that’s what I believe they were. When we read about them, we expected to find them all bunched together, like one would find Ladybugs, mayflies, or swarming like bees. Instead, they were spread out throughout the field. As if socially distanced, and at any given time, 90 percent of them were between glows, it was pitch-black out, so it was impossible to tell how many there really were, impossible, even though they were in the field, in the grass around us, in the driveway, in the woods. They glowed infrequently and they were all moving, in the dark.

      While the other two firefly species flashes can be seen clear across a valley, the blue ghost is too dim to be seen more than, at a guess, 20 to 30 yards away. They were in the grass, and they didn’t flash for more than a second. So by the time you turned your attention to that spot, there’d be nothing to see, and when the thing glowed again it would be somewhere else. It was both entertaining and confounding. They were impossible to locate without a flashlight. We discovered a few of them on the driveway in plain view, they just walked around. None of them flew and they weren’t very fast on their feet. Either the males hadn’t shown up yet, which I doubt, or they don’t glow.

      It made me think of Apache Indians, (from a non-fiction book I read once) ‘you’d only get occasional glimpses of solitary scouts that were always on the move. If you saw one, there’d be dozens all around you. But if you didn’t see any Indians at all, that was worse, because it meant that you were about to be killed.’ (It went something like that.)

      It was a pretty cool, and very rare experience. (Unless you live in Wisconsin, where crazy shit happens all the time.)

      • December 13, 2022 at 1:48 pm
        I never heard of those either – that is freaking cool
      • December 14, 2022 at 8:18 am

        (Unless you live in Wisconsin, where crazy shit happens all the time.)

        ………you’re not wrong. We have both daytime and nighttime fireflies and glowworms in our backyard every night Spring – Fall, like a damn drunken fairy party.

    • December 14, 2022 at 4:12 pm
      Ken F., I LOVED this story! Some of my best childhood memories were sitting outside watching the fireflies or here in Tennessee (the lightning bugs). Sometimes we would catch them in jars and take them in the house to watch them in a dark room like a living lantern. There’s something special about watching a bug’s butt light up in a dark room. Actually, it’s more magical when it’s outside in a field or through the trees because we could pretend, they were fairies. Thanks for the trip back in time!
    • December 14, 2022 at 7:30 pm
      This is really lovely, KenF, speaking to different, simpler times (“…books, drawing paper and colouring pens, toys…”), when the most exciting thing about a trip would be to see exotic insects and snowfall. You try telling the kids of today! (etc.) I love the family – it seems perfect; I wonder if it really was? Beautiful descriptions (e.g. “…wrapped around by the trees that held it like a jewel in its velvet box. …”).

      Just one question: I wonder what the ‘point’ of the story is? Is it just a (valid and beautifully-observed) vignette of a moment in time – a kind of ‘feel piece’? Is there a moral? (How a simpler life is always a better life? How familial love = happiness? Are the fire-flies symbolic of that love?)

      Just wondering really because this is a very warming story (for these cold times – with all the meanings of the word ‘cold’). And a very pleasurable read.

    • December 15, 2022 at 11:53 am
      Lovely family story. Reminded me of my own childhood, being the youngest of 4 much older siblings. Except where I grew up, there was no snow. We did see a lone tusker on a wooded road trip which scared all of us.
      Love your story, Ken F
  • December 8, 2022 at 4:08 am

    Can you please make a slight alteration to my story? In the paragraph that begins with the words,
    “I hope the fireflies will still be there,” said Abbey. Can you remove the words,”as the sun went down” that follows soon after?.
    That phrase appears twice and is, therefore not needed there. Leave the same words in at the end of the paragraph please.
    Thanks and I hope you enjoy the story.
    Kind regards,
    Ken Frape.

    • December 8, 2022 at 3:22 pm

      No problem, just a side note – I haven’t read the whole story, but I did read the paragraph. I think it makes sense to keep it in.
      Just curious why you wanted to omit it?

  • December 8, 2022 at 2:33 pm
    My First F
    by Robt. Emmett
    [1200 words]

    Pamela yawned, stretched, and rumpled her thatch of copper-colored hair as she entered the living room of the Benôit cabin on Beaver Lake. “Morning, Renard.”
    “And good morning to you… sister dearest. You’re looking extra lovely this morning.”
    Hugging her brother, Penny smiled. “Stick a sock in it, Fox.” Straightening up and looking at her cousins seated around the antique oak table. “Anybody know what the day’s weather’s going to be?”
    Hank Winters, the third, finished putting another log in the fireplace. “In the low teens and maybe snow for tonight. “
    Penny yawned again. “Thanks, Number Three. Any coffee left?” Plopping onto a vacant chair and looking left. “Morning Number Two.” Then to her right, at his sister, “And you, Katie.”
    Kathleen lifted her head off the table. “Stick a sock in it.” Stick a sock in it was a phrase Wilhelmina’s grandpa Bill, known as Grumpy, said to them as children whenever he tucked them into bed at his house.
    The new log in the fireplace hissed and snapped, sending sparks showering against the chain-link protective screen.
    Wilhelmina, carrying a large coffee pot, came through the kitchen doorway. “Coffee’s ready.” Seeing a pair of empty chairs, “Aren’t the twins back from skating?”
    “Billie, you’re their older sister, not their mother.” Penny picked up a coffee cup and held it up. Billie filled it. “Thanks. The twins are probably enjoying the clear ice. Can you believe it? It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and we’ve had lotta freezing weather but extraordinarily little snow so far this year. Makes the lake ice perfect for skating. What’s for breakfast?”
    “Whatever you want to cook,” Katie smiled, “cook enough for all of us.”
    Standing and grabbing Katie by the arm, Penny commands, “Come on, motor mouth, you can help me then.”
    “What are we going to cook?”
    “Eggs Benôit. Can you handle that?”

    Some devoured the toast and soft-boiled eggs in their tall glasses. Others took a leisurely pace and enjoyed. Wilhelmina, Billie to her cousins, eyed the people as they ate. Kathleen Madigan Benôit was the perfect likeness to her grandmother Desirée. Her tall, shapely body and shoulder-length honey-colored hair turned heads. Her brother, Joseph Phileas, called Number Two, was six-foot, even an inch taller than her. His actions closely resembled those of their grandpa Robin in his youth: a fondness for skirt-chasing, as did her cousin Renard Remi, who used the nickname Fox. It irritated his little sister, Pamela. She was petite, and her naturally copper-colored hair earned the pet name of Penny. Sitting next to her was Henry “Hank” Winters III, the only cousin without the Benôit name. At six-two, he was the image of his father and grandfather in their younger days. A quick smile softened his dark, brooding eyes. His handle, Number Three, is a preordained nickname. As she side-looked at her brothers, the twins, they extended their empty coffee cups.
    Finally, Wilhelmina Marie thought about herself. She was the oldest and the only cousin who studied Latin and Greek. She accepts being called Billie by a family member. No one else.
    Joseph dropped his spoon into the empty glass and looked across the table. “So Doc Billie, you still workin’ the ER?”
    Billie’s gray-green eyes flashed and darkened. She finished chewing the last bite of toast and swallowed. “First, I’m not a doctor; I’m a nurse. And yes, Number Two, I work in the ER because I like the action and the fast pace. And no bedpans too empty.”
    Katie cranked her head around and surveyed the cabin. “Sure is nice that Grandpa Robin had this place enlarged. Now there is room for the entire family to stay here simultaneously.”
    Fox looked at the front bedroom. “Grandma D pitched a royal bitch about the remodeling. She would not allow a single change made to the front bedroom, not a one. Wonder why?”
    “Memories.” Number Two said.
    “Just memories?” Renard tilted his head and shrugged, “Or do you think they are….”
    Penny slammed her glass on the table. “Eeck! Will you two knock it off? I’m still eating, and you’re hinting our grandparents are still having sex is… is that….”
    “Possible?” added Fox.
    “No,” she retorted. “Old people don’t have sex!”
    Fox and Number Two exchanged a glance and a wink.
    Wilhelmina Marie finished her breakfast. Clearing her throat, “As the organizer of this, our little pre-Christmas shindig,” I think it’s time to talk about it. Pulling a buff-colored envelope from her pocket and opened the envelope, and let the card fall onto the table. Left took a buff-colored envelope from the breast pocket of his red wool lumberjack shirt and handed it to Right. He removed the card and handed it back. He opened it, looked at it, and showed it to his brother. The others each produced the buff-colored invitation.
    Wilhelmina sipped her coffee as she read the handwritten invitation. “The invitation says, ‘You’re cordially invited to the Villa for wine and cheese on December 29, 2012.’” Her facial expression sobered as she reread the invitation to herself. Looking up at the others, “Anyone see the problem?”
    Hank III, “Yeah, mine’s signed by Grandpa Robin. Grandma D did not sign. Why?”
    Wilhelmina pursed her lips, “And there is no RSVP, which means it is not an invite. It’s a command.” Looking at Kathleen, “To parrot you… why?”
    Hank III cleared his throat. “Yes. I am the only cousin not named Benôit. Last semester, Professor Tutwiler required a short non-fiction piece about grandparents.
    “Grandpa Henry “Hank” Winters Sr. was a Professor Emeritus of the Archaeology Department at UMD, living the life of a respected academic—Yes? Wrong! Think Indiana Jones. Or was Grandma CC, another peaceful Professor at a private girl’s school? No. As an octoroon, she forced the lily-white staff at Springbrook, a private school for privileged girls, to hire her. She got her feisty attitude from her father. He was the top wrangler on the King ranch at Big Isle.
    Fox puffed. “That explains why you are like you are.” Looking at the others, “Doesn’t it?”
    Wilhelmina smiled and nodded.
    “Not so fast, you two. My curiosity was piqued, and I checked out the rest of you.”
    “My G-parents were saints. Grandma D was a stay-at-home parent! Grandpa Robin managed the buildings he inherited from his Grandma.”
    “Wrong! Smart ass. Grandma D was a hitman for the DGSE, the French secret service until wounded and nearly died. Grandpa R was a spy,” Fox said, pointing at Wilhelmina, “and he worked for your grandmother, Barbara, AKA Bar, and half a dozen other noms de guerre when she worked for a shady character connected to but not with the CIA. A Herr Oberst. And finally, he was Hank senior’s Robin. Pardon the wordplay.”
    Wilhelmina sucked at her coffee. “So, Grumpy’s the only one without a nefarious past?”
    “Ah, yeah, sorta. He recruited pilots for an airline operating in south-east Asia, Air America.”
    “The question remains, why didn’t Grandma D sign?”
    Hank replied. “My guess? Grandpa Robin and grandma Barbara are getting involved with Herr Oberst against grandma D’s wishes.”
    “You get a good grade for the story?” Number Two asked.
    “Prof. T deemed it fiction.”
    — Ԙ —

    • December 10, 2022 at 9:53 pm
      Robt,- I’ve read this twice and then went back and tried to decipher answers to my confused brain… a lotta lotta information but no clear path to clarity… help me here…I worry I’m losing it…(I am old).
      • December 11, 2022 at 4:56 am
        Thanks, Liz, for the clarification request.
        The story satisfies the requirements, i.e., either a celebration of a holiday or (a) a reference to celebrating a holiday (and) snow.

        I can identify with your first paragraph.

        Only Skip and Cheryl are in the car; replacing half of the name usage with he and she would be less repetitive.

        Ellipses, I find, are very useful, especially in conversation. As the APA, MLA, and Chicago styles are all slightly different, I have a style of my own to be consistent. One that is easy to use, with fewer keystrokes.

        To answer your inquiry:
        The young people in my story are cousins in their 20 to early 30s, I should guess, and are at a cabin. It’s morning. I provided a few details. The discussion centers on an invitation from one of their six grandparents. There are two assumptions, 1. The grandparents are your average older people. They are not. 2. The grandchild know nothing of their early adventurous life. They do. The gist is that one, more likely, or two, wants to relive their salad days.

        “My guess? Grandpa Robin and grandma Barbara are getting involved with against grandma D’s (hitman for the DGSE) wishes.” Why, whose two? Robin worked for Barbara, AKA Bar, and she worked for Herr Oberst. The moral of the story is children and grandchildren know more than the older generation think they do. I learned THAT lesson this past Thanksgiving.

    • December 12, 2022 at 1:47 am
      Too many names in your story, not enough action, or tension. You’ve posted a response to the prompt. I’ve done that. That’s the way I feel sometimes. That’s cool, but this has too many names. It’s got more names than characters, if I’m not mistaken.

      I like the question you posed further down in the thread. Showing and telling? Stories are told. Dialogue may put the spectator in the action, temporarily, but a good story is best well-told. Too much dialogue is mind-numbing. And characters can’t really do much jabbering when they’re running for their lives. When they do, it’s totally unrealistic. Dialogue develops characters, (and location, sometimes, but) it really develops a character’s traits. That’s my condensed opinion.

      • December 12, 2022 at 8:13 am
        Excellent points, Ken.
        The story is about eight cousins having a relaxing morning at a cabin. You know, lazing, kibitzing, eating. The invitation. Then the reveal about the grandparents.

        Every activity has rules; life, love, employment, and (Oh…my… Gosh) writing. It’s incumbent on the players to know them—know them all. So when broken, the repercussion(s) is (are) not a surprise. In my mundane work world, I often broke the rules. I was neither shocked nor upset when I was fired twice. I did enjoy the promotions.
        The overuse of names, six, was deliberate, as was the addition of their nicknames. BTW, your response to the number of characters was as I expected.

        Question – in showing, are examples acceptable shortcuts? Such as She died an Isadora Duncan death, or Leg like Betty Grable’s?

    • December 13, 2022 at 4:01 pm
      I was enjoying the quaint setting, except for the eggs which seemed like something that Rocky Balboa would be into, and the coffee conversation, until the end with the spy stuff. Then I got real confused and felt like I just didn’t understand (funny coming from the author of “Kleptoplasty”, I am such a hypocrite). I had to google that one suspicious word, and the word “buff” as a color, and I am about to heavily research soft-boiled eggs as a breakfast item (I am more of a scrambled eggs man myself).

      I felt like there were other things that went over my head, which is fun because then I can learn something new, but when I dug a little, I started to feel like you were using dog whistle frequency for a minute there.

      From merriam-webster when I searched for that sussy word:

      “A person having white ancestors except for one black great-grandparent. Used especially as a classification under certain European colonial legal systems and now considered offensive.”

      Why use that word at all, if not to blow a dog whistle? Maybe you didn’t want to google “kleptoplasty” when I used it, and I get that, but I am curious like a cat and couldn’t move on without knowing what you were saying. Did anyone else catch this and then feel … bad … about it? Did anyone already know this word? Am I being judgmental again? Someone help me here, especially if I am out of line. I am not trying to cyberbully, and everyone knows I write some pretty rotten stuff half the time.

      But your point about younglings talking about elders and knowing all their secrets (or thinking that they do) is pretty good. I didn’t find anything wrong with this story except it was a little confusing and you used a no-no word, but the weight of that word coupled with that remark you made before about Islamic terrorists is really making it hard for me to focus on the story, and not the man behind the words. I’m probably reading too far into it and jumping to unacceptable conclusions.

      But that word IS in the Racial Slur Database … right?

      You made me even more unsure of myself and now I am questioning what I am doing here. I’m not trying to be a holier-than-thou social justice warrior, but I’m not going to just sit here either. You are clearly very intelligent, so that it is why I am confused by your word choice.

      • December 14, 2022 at 7:42 am
        Rumplefinkies: the egg breakfast was our family breakfast after Sunday church. It’s a remembrance from my early years (post-WWII). The toast was buttered and then torn into small pieces before it, and the soft-boiled egg was mixed in a Hazel-Atlas highball glass decorated with red and black pheasants. Also, we had freshly squeezed orange juice. It was in the 4-ounce juice pheasant glass. Mom had eight of each of the four sizes of pheasant glasses. Dad got them free for a 5-gallon purchase at the local Clark gas station. (Gasoline and cigarettes were cheap on into the mid-1950s. A buck would buy 5-gallon gas or four packs of smokes.)

        To Rumplefinkies and others who question my usage of THAT word. I learned it from an elementary school friend. He used it often and with pride as it defined him. I use many words which are, in all probability, in the “Racial Slur Database. I, in most cases, learned from a knowledge source back in the day when they were not considered harmful.

      • December 15, 2022 at 1:52 pm
        Definitely!! I think we Oreo kids are closer than blood siblings!
      • December 15, 2022 at 3:35 pm
        Rumples, stay calm and carry on. it would be a shame for you to walk away. You have a voice and opinion and the ability to covey information and you used it very well in this discussion. Your thoughts are out there and will remain, whether it changes anything in any particular individual is unimportant. That word will remain in our brains and the next time something of that nature turns up it will be in the thought process. I understand your frustration and have experienced that sort of racism words/action/activity many times. My standard response in any kind of discussion with offensive derogatory word spill out is, “please don’t use that word, it offends me,” and then move on with what ever is going on. If nothing else that simple statement puts the thought out and the chance of contemplation. Your words and action matter and make impacts even if you don’t see it. I would miss your tirades(I mean meaningful comments) if you left. Liz
    • December 14, 2022 at 7:54 pm
      I like the confusion of the morning breakfast, Robt.; I can get a good idea of the scene. There are some good bits of dialogue (“Stick a sock in it!”). And there are some great characters, too.

      I think I can echo Liz and KenC’s comments, though: rather too much information and too many names and characters for such a short piece. I think it’s intended to reflect your own experience, right? That’s a very valid aim … but for a longer part of a memoir, I think. If you wanted to illustrate a point (as you suggested – that young people sometimes know more than they let on), you could perhaps have cut the characters down to two or three. That might not have been a fair illustration of your experience, but it might have made it a little clearer/more coherent.

    • December 15, 2022 at 12:04 pm
      I really wish I could get the point. Maybe read the comments first? But there’s no time coz I’m so last minute. So many names, my head’s a whirl. Will read again.

      Meanwhile today my 4.5 yr old grandchun made me listen to a song, ‘Granma got run over by a reindeer’. And he chuckled… then I feigned tears, and he came really close to me, saying, Gwanma, cheer up, it’s just a song.

      • December 15, 2022 at 12:20 pm

        OMG that’s funny in a horrible way, horrible but now funny like when I was 10 and my dad would wait for me to get home hiding in the closet and then jump out at me like a world-class boogey man haha

  • December 9, 2022 at 9:24 pm
    Let the Chips Fall – Liz Fisher 1139

    Skip wonders why he ever agreed to attend this family holiday in a forest in the middle of winter. It never works out when they’re all together, he knows that, his Mom knows that and Uncle Joe never wanted all of them to visit at the same time, “smart man” he mutters aloud.

    “Why are you just sitting there staring out the windshield”? asked Cheryl.

    Skip jerks out of his mulling and looks over at his cousin, Cheryl. He momentarily had forgotten she was in the car. When he agreed to give her a ride the one condition was for her not to try and have a meaningful conversation as it always dissolved into an argument.

    “I think we’re out of gas the engine just died.” Skip answered in a defeated tone of voice. He waited for the tirade of accusatory words adding up to him being a moron.

    “That’s weird, didn’t you just fill up back in Bangor we should have plenty of gas to get to Moosehead Lake,” said Cheryl.

    Skip hit the ignition button and amazingly the car started right up, the radio turned on, and Elvis’s voice, 🎶 if I can dream of a better land…

    “Wow, talk about weird”, said Skip, “the radio wasn’t on when the car died.”

    “This a 2020 Subaru?” asked Cheryl, “because my 2018 used to leave the radio on when you stopped the car and wouldn’t go off until the door was opened. I wonder why they did that?”

    “Yeh, I’ve thought about that and think it must be in case there’s some emergency notice going on and you have to pull over and stop the car and listen to the warning”, replied Skip.

    “G-d, you always go for the worst case scenario. Why do you do that? No matter what’s going on, it’s got to be a disaster in your mind. One of the reasons it’s tough to be around you.” Cheryl was speaking louder than usual.

    “Okay, okay I’ll stop talking, you’re the one who asked for the ride.” Skip was irritated by the critique.

    He pulled back on the road wondering why nothing looked familiar to him, he’d taken this trip for thirty plus years and this was the first time he has been the driver. Skip wondered how everything could look so different from the backseat where he always chose to sit when someone else was driving.

    “Do you see any familiar landmarks“ he asked Cheryl, does the road seem different?”

    Cheryl checked her phone and replied, “this says we’re going in the right direction and approximately 29 miles from Moosehead, although you’re right the road or terrain does look odd…so is this where the forest fire was last year, when everyone had to get out quickly …they were evacuating the lake cabins?”

    “Hmmm… I forgot about that”, replied Skip, “it was a pretty hairy situation but I’d had a few beers at the time and didn’t quite grasp the dire circumstances of a forest fire. I wonder if that’s why they planned the winter trip”.

    “I don’t know”, said Cheryl, “ it seems like being the youngest, I’m never included in the planning of any trip to Uncle Joe’s place.”

    Skip look at her, “what do you mean the youngest? You’re almost two years older than me, and I’m the last child, so the youngest is me.”

    “Okay fine,” Cheryl, “but you’re a male and in this family males rule… if you hadn’t noticed… I sure have.”

    They had drifted into silence for a few miles when Cheryl spoke in a concerned tone, “is it snowing? Is that snow?”

    Skip replied, “you know I think you’re right… the first few flakes looked like those moths you see at night in the Spring and I wondered why they were out now, it’s too late or too early… oh well… there’s no doubt it’s snowing, hope you got some layers.”

    “That’s a typical Skip put-down”, said Cheryl in an annoyed tone, “take any opportunity to make me look foolish…it’s winter and you think I don’t know enough to bring the proper clothes..what’s wrong with you?

    Skipped looked over at her and sighed in frustration, “Alright so that’s the way it’s going to be…poor you being worked over by us big bully boys.” He continued, “what is it about you always wanting to play victim.”

    “What do you mean”, Cheryl was really annoyed, “I never played victim, you whined more than me.”

    “Yeh right, maybe we did, Buddy didn’t like it anymore than me.” Skip retorted, “you were alway’s Uncle Joe’s favorite, the most attention, the best presents and the last helping of ice cream, while the rest of us wondered why you didn’t share or show appreciation you just moped around like you were being punished.”

    “Right”, said Cheryl, “maybe since you’re an adult now you might think about what you’re saying and what that could mean in a young girl’s life.”

    “What do you mean,” Skip’s irritation was demonstrated in his tone of voice.
    “You think little boys had it any easier with Uncle Joe?”

    Cheryl stared out the side window and wouldn’t look at Skip. Skip opened his mouth and then pressed his lips together and decided not to say anything more. They continued the drive together in silence as the snow continued to fall covering the road and forest with brilliant white flakes and beauty.

    Skip finally said, “Do you remember the night I ran away, I had my little lantern and was running down the drive… I looked back at the cabin and saw you in the window watching me. I wanted you to come get me but you didn’t. You just stood there and watched. Why didn’t you come with me?”

    “I remember,” said Cheryl, “I was hoping you’d escape, but you came back …why?”

    “Buddy ran after me,” replied Skip, “he convinced me too come back and said he’d protect me.”

    “Right..” said Cheryl, “like he protected me”.

    “Cheryl let’s turn around right now, we can stop in Bangor at the Sheriff’s Office, this silence is killing us, maybe we can do some good. I don’t know what… Uncle Joe is dead but you know Buddy’s still alive and he’s the same age Uncle Joe was back in the ‘good old days’ but enough with the tragic victim past. Let’s just stop.” Skip was almost pleading.

    “Alright”, and Cheryl nodded as she watched the snow fall.

    • December 12, 2022 at 2:31 pm
      hi Liz,

      This is a story that could use more polish, (like mine) but it has excellent bones. I think it’s very realistic, the way the characters, confined to a car, finally get to the bottom of their grievances against each other that had their roots in child abuse. It’s a powerful story, but subtle, as it delivers the message obliquely(?). As in most instances of trauma or abuse, we talk around a subject without getting to the root cause, because it’s painful.

      The turning point in this story, I thought, was when the woman revealed that she knew the young man had been abused too. It was like mental black ice for the driver. A very good, meaningful story, Liz.

    • December 13, 2022 at 6:09 pm
      This was very sad and impactful – kind of fitting my mood this season. Long car rides can do things to you and it kind of built until the levee broke. Mine was dark, but really silly compared to this.
      • December 13, 2022 at 7:24 pm
        Not silly, different is good… mine was supposed to be cheerful it just didn’t make it there…
    • December 14, 2022 at 4:22 pm
      Powerful story Liz. I admire the courage of your characters finally being willing to speak out. This was a tough read. Those feelings never, ever go away – no matter how long-ago things occurred nor how deep they are buried. The ghosts of the past return to haunt over and over again. Very powerful. Almost needs a trigger warning.
    • December 14, 2022 at 8:28 pm
      I think I agree with KenC, Liz. This is very good but has the makings of ‘great’. We find out that the griping and sniping early on has causes, and then there’s the reveal and the action at the end. In the meantime, there seems to be some superfluous stuff (e.g. the thing about the car radio). I’ve been reading some things about short stories, and one of the pieces of advice that I think is very good is to review our work and check that all the parts are relevant to where we want to go. If they aren’t … then cut them. I like the resolution – the turning back – but you could maybe have stretched that out a little (introducing some doubt in the characters’ minds, and perhaps a discussion between them about what that action will mean in real terms … before they make the decision?). There are some issues with tenses (switching between present and past). But as I say, I’m with KenC: “excellent bones”.
  • December 11, 2022 at 5:36 am
    General comment (and/question) to know one in particular.
    The learned tell us, “more show and less tell.” At the same time, they suggest a list of classic books to read and emulate. I’ve read a few, The Leatherstocking tales, The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, etc., etc. For the most part, they all mostly TELL and very little SHOW.

    So, do we tell as is suggested by reading the classic, or do we show what the authors of the list say to do?

    • December 11, 2022 at 8:34 pm
      Robt. – I often wondered when reading critiques of writers as to how something should be phrased, punctuated or other ways to do it like other writers… why that is a good thing. Why would we want all writers to write in the same style or method. Why would we want them to be the same, it takes all the joy of discovering a new favorite writer out of the mix. Sometimes a comma or pause or ill-begot word makes all the difference bad or good. We don’t want to lose accidental information. LizF
  • December 11, 2022 at 8:09 pm
    ….. you’re all damn certifiable
    • December 12, 2022 at 3:14 pm
      We know, and the authorities know, so please, don’t reveal our location to them.
  • December 12, 2022 at 5:19 pm
    You Ain’t No Real Cool Cat

    A sphere of harlequin light floated down the hallway in a way that seemed surreptitious. Olivia dropped her sketchbook and jumped nimbly to her feet to follow it, her mind still catching up. Was it ball lightning, the drone of a prankster, or a will-o’-the-wisp? Something about the way it tried to float past her open doorway without being detected must have activated a primal instinct in her, like when you run from a dog.

    It was suspicious, even for a ball of floating light. Olivia stopped sprinting when she spied it hovering by the window at the end of the hall. It seemed briefly confused by the dead end.

    She tried to remember everything she had ever read about ball lightning. Did they usually appear during snowy weather? They could appear sentient, but the bobbing and darting movements were really determined by invisible electrical currents and breezes. Could they stop moving entirely? And drones make an annoying sound. Then there is the jack-o’-the-lantern phenomenon, but that is usually from swamp gasses or pockets of methane from decomposing bodies in cemeteries.

    None of the possible explanations were very plausible or comforting. Olivia decided that she was going to just lock herself in her room, call her parents, and wait for them to get back to the cabin.
    If Uncle Joe were still alive, he would know what to do. But all that was left of him was this cabin.


    The singing was disturbing, the way it emanated from the orb and bounced off the walls, but still sounded like it was coming from underwater and far away. And that voice … it sounded just like that stupid cartoon character they are always showing reruns of for some reason. The perverted guy who is always styling his hair … he wore sunglasses and hit on women … then they would slap him?

    Johnny Bravo!

    That was his name. Olivia was only fourteen, so she wasn’t alive when that show was still airing, but she recognized the deep and hunky southern accent.

    It made no sense, because this thing seemed like a kind of ghost, and cartoon characters don’t die … or have souls. Did they? Olivia ditched her first plan and decided that she was just going to run through the snowy woods to the Piggly Wiggly. There were people there that could help her, or at least witness this … thing … and prove that she wasn’t crazy.


    The song, if you could call it that, began to fade away as Oliva disappeared into the darkness of the pine forest at a record-breaking speed. She turned only once, and the damn thing was still in the window. How did a shape with no discernible features give the impression of staring directly at her?

    “Oh baby, baby, baby, bay-bee!”

    It didn’t seem like a bad idea to antagonize it at this point, so she cursed it as she ran.

    “Go to hell Johnny!”


    Olivia nearly collided with the object, which was now directly in front of her.

    It materialized into a very good-looking man with black hair and a white suit. Olivia scrunched her face up in confusion and fear.

    The studly twenty-something strutted the gap between them until he was towering over her. He slapped her forehead hard and frowned.

    “You will wrinkle your face up early with all that scrunchin’, munchkin!”

    His wink was nauseating.

    “But that’s all-right now Momma, any way you do. MMMMMMMmmmmm.”

    This last noise was supposed to be the sound of someone enjoying the smell of a tasty morsel, which was already upsetting, but it sounded to Olivia like some kind of drunken horse/human hybrid attempting speech through a mouth filled with peanut butter.

    She fell backwards and scooted into the trunk of a tree, the roots seeming to almost wrap around her like the arms of a protective parent.

    “Why are you …. how are you here? Aren’t you dead?”

    It was all she could manage, and there was no point in asking him why he was doing this. She didn’t know the man from Adam, though he looked vaguely familiar, but that murderous look spoke for itself.

    “I’m The King. I never left the building, darlin’! My adorin’ public keeps me alive with all their love. Like honey for a bee. But enough chit chat! A little less conversation, a little more action, please?”

    Olivia reached backwards with both arms and embraced the tree. Her attacker didn’t seem to notice. His pompadour hair poof had fallen across his eyes for a moment, but then he tossed his head like a show pony to cast it aside again. He rattled on in his thick accent, his voice seeming to get louder, higher in pitch, and more unhinged.

    “All this aggravation ain’t satisfactionin’ me! A little less bark and a little more b – “

    Olivia brought both legs up and kicked the dude in the groin with all her might.

    “That enough bite for ya?”

    Her assailant fell to the earthen floor of the forest, and now SHE took the opportunity to tower over HIM as he flopped and flailed, clutching his crotch and wincing in agony. He looked older now, and slightly bloated in the face. Blue blood vessels popped out of his head and his grimace made him look like he was constipated.

    Olivia giggled as she reared her right foot back. There wasn’t a street anywhere near, but she was going to try her hardest to curb stomp this piece of –

    “Leave him be, darling. He ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog! I’ll handle this. Me and him got a score that goes waaaay back, and you don’t want to sully your soul with all that violence!”

    The beautiful woman stepped out of nowhere and put a comforting hand on Olivia’s shoulder. She was glowing all over with such brilliant orange light that her head was the only thing visible. To Olivia, she looked like a Christmas angel, though faint scars were visible all over her face.

    “The name is Big Mama Thornton, and it’s going to be alright now, honey.”

    “What are you going to do with him?”

    “The same thing he did to my hit song all those years ago, which he wrecked beyond recognition! Now get along, your parents will be wondering where you’ve been if you don’t get back right now!”

    • December 14, 2022 at 4:27 pm
      Rumples! You are NOT maligning ELVIS are you?? You KNOW how I feel about him. Regardless of the myths, rumors, and half-truths that have swirled around for years, you can’t take away the power of his music and his voice! I will always love Elvis. Not kidding. Anyway, I liked the story. I just hope it was an Elvis impersonator that was attacked and not MY Elvis. LOL!
    • December 14, 2022 at 11:32 pm
      Good dialogue peppered with vivid metaphors! Who was her assailant? I get a gist of Mama Thornton vs Elvis in their rivalry. But not much more. So need some help here! 🙂
      • December 15, 2022 at 10:07 am
        Good job! Yeah, I loosely based it on what I know about “Elvis and Me”, the book written by Priscilla Presley that was turned into a movie in 1988. I saw part of it when I was a kid, then I read about how she was 14 and he was 24 when they started dating. He said that he wanted the perfect wife and so he had to find a young girl so he could shape her into the right woman. He really did slap her on the forehead when she furrowed it (because he didn’t want her to wrinkle early) and he did way worse, too, if you believe her (I do).

        I have severe emotional problems that make me want to tear down famous people. Call it jealousy. But the point of the story was to make people look up the original version of “Hound Dog” and also to make them google the truth behind Elvis so they can see it for themselves. I could have asked nicely … but I guess I chose to shove people face-first into a gross mess? Sorry for that 🙁

        I still like his songs, but he represents something different to me now. Like the guy who use to physically “bully” me growing up … he was 3 or four years older, he overdosed on drugs as well, then I hear parents talking about his school athletic achievements (like I give a crap if he was a quarterback or whatever), about how he never swore and he was such a nice boy that always mowed the grass for that one little old lady. When I brought up my personal experiences, like him sucker punching me the first time I ever met him, assaulting me in a “loving” way every time I go to the pool while the lifeguards all laugh, or the things that he would call me when adults backs were turned, I get the whole “never speak ill of the dead” thing. Well, don’t lie about the dead either, right? Rose tinted glasses are one thing, but rewriting history is another.

        But if a man is hot and you attempt to smear him, watch out! Because physical attraction makes people defend their idols even more fervently. Like I said, I have severe emotional problems, and not any actual trauma to complain about. To me, all those men are just like my dead “bully”, just hotter and with actual skills.

  • December 12, 2022 at 5:20 pm
    Crap, the title was supposed to be “You Ain’t No Real Cool Cat” and it is 1,056 words long, sorry!
    • December 12, 2022 at 7:43 pm
      Rumple… hmmm I was thinking Paul Anka …Bobby Darrin or some 50’s cool dude and then Big Mama T… I thought you are much younger …but regardless got some ‘splainin’ to do..please? drugs? psychosis? What’s wrong with Olivia?
      • December 13, 2022 at 9:19 am
        Thanks for reading!

        I’m three years from the summit and still using a photo from six years ago … if that helps. Got a baby face as well. No drugs or psychosis in Olivia – that brain is clean as a whistle (okay, the giggling was kind of messed up, but she was nervous and excited by the turning of the tables and maybe getting to live if she just keeps kicking, lol).

        My message won’t get out unless I stuff it between the lines, but I did a poor job of it … again.

    • December 14, 2022 at 8:29 am

      It’s a great story, reading through it, you could easily add the required elements if you wanted to.
      Let me know if you want to post an edited one.

      • December 14, 2022 at 9:32 am

        no problemo – I copy/pasted the new story into the original comment. That way, you keep all the nested comments/critiques there.

  • December 13, 2022 at 9:11 am
    Double drat – no snow or holiday. I was so focused on the cabin and the Uncle Joe and the little girl and the ball of light requirements that I forgot that there are additional required elements. I just wanted to qualify so people would read my story (and not to try to “beat” anybody), but now there is no incentive. Writing feels a little like panhandling, from this end.
    • December 14, 2022 at 7:37 am
      I didn’t see the ball of light on the required list.
      Required Elements:
      either a celebration of a holiday or (a) reference to celebrating a holiday
      • December 14, 2022 at 8:10 am

        It’s not on the required list because it’s the whole premise of the story prompt.

      • December 14, 2022 at 8:22 am

        Reading through the story – I’m not really sure how you could write the “waking up in the middle of the night and following a ball of light” into it very easily as the story is so complex to begin with.
        Let me know if you’re going to revise it, but as it stands right now it doesn’t really meet the theme.

  • December 13, 2022 at 3:34 pm
    Stocking Surprise
    Adrienne “Adi” Riggs (1,198w) Excluding Title and Name

    The Rhodes family followed the long country road back through the snow-covered trees. Jack and Debbie smiled at each other, glancing back at their three children in the back seat. Zach, ten, Sarah, seven and Ashlee, three, were awestruck at the sight of the snow. It was the quietest they had been since leaving Florida for their uncle’s winter cabin in the mountains of North Carolina.

    “Can we play in the snow?” Sarah asked, never taking her eyes from the window.

    “Can we throw snowballs?” That of course, was Zach.

    “As long as you don’t hit your sisters!” Jack and Debbie said in unison, laughing.

    “I wanna’ build a snowman” Ashlee said around the thumb in her mouth.

    “We will build the biggest snowman you ever saw!” Jack assured them.

    Zach rolled his eyes. “That’s ‘cause we’ve never seen one before!”

    “Santa will be able to find us, right?” Sarah looked worried.

    “Sarah! There’s no…” Zach started

    “Doubt!” Debbie stated firmly giving Zach a warning look. “Of course, Santa will know where we are! He always knows!”

    “Yay!” Ashlee popped her thumb out of her mouth and waved her hands in joy.

    “Will Uncle Goober and Aunt Gloria be there?” Zach asked.

    Uncle “Goober” as he was known, was Zach’s favorite great-uncle. He’d been given the nickname during his time in the Navy for his love of beans and peas and the name had stuck.

    “No, they won’t” His mother replied, “They’ve gone to Grandma’s for the holidays, but Goober said he’s stocked the cabin with everything we’ll need, so we can just focus on having fun!”

    “I wanted to see Aunt Gloria” sighed Sarah.

    “Me too” said her mother, “but she left some surprises for you all.”

    They reached the large cabin in late afternoon, the powdery snow had covered everything in a soft, thick blanket of pure white, changing the landscape into a magical wonderland.

    The children awoke and looked around mesmerized, as their parents worked to unload the car.

    “Be careful on the steps” Jack warned as he unlocked the big wooden door.

    “Wipe your feet” Debbie instructed as they each entered the large great room, a beautiful warmth enveloping them. Goober had turned on the heat.

    The room was completely built of wood, with a hard wood floor and beautifully varnished wood furniture. Goober was a carpenter by trade and had made everything by hand. The far wall of the room was a large bank of thick windows looking out onto the snowy mountains with the light of the setting sun casting golden rays upon them.

    A green fir tree stood in a stand at the center of the windows, its branches bare.

    The children ran to the windows to look outside. Ashlee looked sadly at the tree next to the window.

    “Our poor Christmas tree. Santa won’t know where to put our presents.”

    Debbie pushed a box over to the tree. “I think that is our job. Look!” She opened the box and the kids squealed with delight at the ornaments inside.

    Jack told them. “Hang up your coats by the front door and leave your boots there as well. Take your suitcases to your rooms and then you can decorate the tree!”

    The kids did as they were told as Debbie fixed a quick dinner of soup and sandwiches. After dinner, Debbie popped popcorn and made hot chocolate while Jack and the children decorated the tree. The ornaments were replicas of vintage toys going back through the years and there were exclamations over every one of them.

    Finally, when they were done, Debbie gathered the children on the sofa near the warm fireplace under a soft blanket while Jack dimmed the lights. When everything was ready, Jack turned on the lights and the tree glowed like magic.

    The lights were reflected in the glass of the windows against the darkness of the night covering the mountains. As the children stared in wide-eyed wonder, Jack snapped a few pictures of his beautiful children and lovely wife glowing in the twinkling lights.

    Each day was filled with Christmas activities and fun. They baked cookies and made fudge. They made paper snowflakes and hung them from the wooden beams in the great room. Sarah begged to make a snowman, but Daddy told her that they had to wait for just the right kind of snow.

    Finally, that day came.

    Jack told them to get their coats, hats, scarves, mittens, and boots.

    “What else do we need?” Ashlee asked.

    “These!” Debbie laughed, handing them each a wrapped box.

    Tearing the wrappings off, each box read, “Instant snowman. Just add snow.”

    “I don’t get it” Zach scowled.

    Sarah opened her box. Inside was a cap, scarf, carrot, coal pieces, and large buttons. “I get it! We can dress our snowmen!”

    By the end of the day, three snowmen of varying sizes stood by the front steps. Each adorned in a different colored cap and scarf.

    Sarah wrote very carefully, “Welcome Santa” on carboard and placed it in her snowman’s hands.

    “Time for dinner!” Debbie called “Santa comes tonight!”

    The children rushed through their nightly routine and had hot chocolate with a Christmas story by the tree.

    “No fire tonight, Mama!” Ashlee insisted.

    “No fire, Ashlee” Mama agreed laughing.

    During the night, Ashlee awoke. A small bright light was floating around her. She slipped out of bed in her stocking feet and followed it.

    Her thumb in her mouth, she watched it float around the tree, the paper snowflakes, around the cookies left for Santa, and head for the front door.

    “Wait” she whispered, “Where are you going?”

    The light stopped and came slowly toward her. It changed into a tiny person dressed in green with big blue eyes, and slightly pointed ears.

    “Are you an elf?”

    “Yes. Why are you out of bed?”

    “I saw you. Are you lost?”

    “I got separated from Santa.”

    “How do you get back?”

    “I don’t know. This is my first year. I’m Eddie.”

    “Ashlee! Where are you?”

    It was Sarah. Eddie hid behind Ashlee.

    “What are you doing out here?”

    “Helping Eddie.”


    “Me.” Eddie peeked out. “Don’t scream!”

    Sarah closed her mouth.

    “He’s lost. He has to find Santa.”

    “How do we do that?” Sarah asked.

    Ashlee sucked her thumb, “I don’t know.”

    Eddie whispered in her ear, “Big girls don’t suck their thumbs. Are you a baby?”

    ‘Pop’ the thumb came out.

    “See? You are a big girl!”

    Sarah looked around the room. Santa had not come yet. The stockings hung limp on the mantel and the cookies and milk were untouched.

    “We can put Eddie in one of the stockings! When Santa comes, he will find Eddie and take him back to the North Pole!”

    “Let’s hurry!”

    The girls ran to the fireplace and placed Eddie gently in one of the stockings. Ashlee kissed him on the head, and they rushed back to bed.

    In the morning, the children woke to piles of presents and their stockings full of candy and goodies.

    Back in Florida, Debbie commented, “Did you notice Ashlee quit sucking her thumb?”

    Jack nodded, “Eddie told her only babies suck their thumbs.”

    “Who’s Eddie?”

    • December 13, 2022 at 6:48 pm
      Quite a cozy place and simply too cute – like a Rockwell painting of Christmas and a bestselling kid’s book like ” The Polar Express” had a baby!
      • December 14, 2022 at 4:28 pm
        Thanks Rumples! That’s the sweetest thing anyone ever said about one of my stories.
    • December 14, 2022 at 10:53 pm
      What a cute little story! Clean and Christmasy! With a willing suspension of disbelief, anything is possible in a Christmas story.
      On another note, kids get far too many gifts these days. And the candy is surely harmful for them.
      Well done, Adi.
    • December 15, 2022 at 6:47 am
      Very nice, Adi – an idyllic Christmas in the cabin. It makes a change to have only good things to think about. The ‘saving’ of Eddie th Elf, and the lesson Eddie teaches Ashlee, are well devised; great last line. Altogether very apt for this time of year.

      The opening paragraph feels a bit like an information dump; it gets the informatio out of the way early on, but maybe the info (if in fact strictly necessary) could have been peppered in throughout the story. And a question: how does Eddie get separated from Santa if Santa hasn’t even visited the cabin yet?

      Nice ‘n’ Christmassy.

      • December 15, 2022 at 8:29 am
        Thanks for the comments, Phil! Part of the story that I had to cut was that Eddie was a “Scout” Elf. He goes ahead to find the children who aren’t in their homes but are in different locations. It’s his first year so he doesn’t have the process down pat yet on how to get back to Santa. Luckily Santa knows where to go.

        Thanks for the clue to your story. I played with that theory in my mind when I read it but didn’t want to think that the bad guys would kill a child for finding their stolen goods. It was sad enough she died but I guess I tried to hope she just wandered off. The clue that she was “way out here” told me that she was no longer under the cabin. Very clever, I just didn’t want to go there.

        • December 15, 2022 at 11:18 am
          Gotcha on the Eddie detail, Adi. Thanks.

          (Re mine … nope, the bad guys didn’t kill Laura – at least not intentionally! I think the whole thing was just too confusing for readers, tbh. Ah well – worth a try!)

    • December 15, 2022 at 11:58 am
      Very sweet and well-written story, Adi. Love the last line.
  • December 13, 2022 at 7:44 pm
    Hi does anyone know if this will be extended a little?
    • December 13, 2022 at 8:51 pm

      I hadn’t planned on it, if I extend it, it would have to be until January 4.
      I have the new prompt scheduled for Thursday and it’s a 3 week prompt as I’m out of town until the 1st.

    • December 13, 2022 at 8:52 pm

      A little sneak peek at that prompt:

      Theme: To Capture Santa

      Two twin girls set out on Christmas Eve with a plan: to capture Santa Claus.

      Required Elements:
      The North Pole
      Word Count: 2000

      *Note: this is a 3-week prompt to accommodate holiday schedules.

      See you next year!!

  • December 13, 2022 at 11:33 pm
    Snow Holiday

    Whose idea had it been?
    I don’t know.” Janet, my sister was hunched over the steaming cup of Milo. She looked bulked up and bear like wearing two jackets and an Oodie on over the top of them.
    “Well,”, I paused, “it was a stupid idea to spend the holidays here.” I stretched out on the couch and pulled the sleeping bag up to my shoulders. “We could have gone somewhere warmer.”
    “You’re right, Dylan. But it would have cost. OK.”
    Janet just shrugged dramatically. She took a slurp of her Milo. Jezzus, that annoys me. She knows it too. Sipping gracefully is such an easy talent to master, yet some people can never just do it. They suction liquid up and noisily.
    “Right so when Aunty Joan offers us Uncle Joe’s cabin for a couple of weeks free, Mum jumped at the chance of a change of scenery.”
    “There are cobwebs clustered in the corners of the main room. And the bedrooms…”
    “Yeah, I know. Mine smells like some wino lived there for the past 10 years…”
    “Mine too. FFS, I was gagging like I wanted to throw up.”
    “Yeah. Maybe some animal got in and gave birth on the beds or worse…?”
    “Yewie. I can’t think of anything worse than that.”
    “Oh, I can…”
    “Dylan, NO, NO…don’t tell me!”

    Mum broke into our grumpy exchanges, entering the room carrying a plate of nachos, piled high with melted cheeses, smashed avocado and a bean sauce topped with sour cream and more crumpled corn chips and homemade salsa. She dumped that on the table already set with paper plates and serviettes and dashed back to the kitchen to return with a salad and spinach and ricotta lasagne bake. Uumm, it smelt good and tasted even better.
    Later after eating, we bundled ourselves into our sleeping bags and slept fitfully. We would clean out the bedrooms tomorrow in the clear light of day and air them.
    The next day early.
    The snow was melting in the morning sunshine. Until the midday freeze, when it would become a solid ice sheet that was treacherous to navigate even with spiked boots on.
    We scrubbed and disinfected and scrubbed some more. The stench was in the walls and floors. The hospital Eucalyptus grade Pine o clean was useful and we used two bottles. Plus a bottle of lavender scent and Mum burnt her patchouli candles until we could clear the air of the stench.
    After lunch Janet and I went for a walk in the bush surrounding the cabin. We had been walking for some time when the hairs on the back of my neck started to feel all prickly and I felt a sense of immense unease. Janet looked over at me.
    The bush which had been alive with insects and bird calls, plus the distant thump of wallabies going about their business had gone deadly quiet – a hushed expectant silence that bloomed out around us. It was like something was waiting for us.
    “Let’s go back.” Janet voice was crisp and decisive.
    “Yeah.” I said. “I’ve seen enough. We’re here for a week. Save something for tomorrow and the next day. Yeah.”
    Janet laughed uneasily. We turned to go back through the bush and both of us saw it then. A dark shadowy figure moving through the trees up ahead. It was a figure, a biped about seven feet tall, shadowing us from a distance. I caught a glimpse of rough reddish fur, and a massive dome shaped head on top of broad shoulders and long swinging arms.
    Janet grabbed my arm and her nails bit through the rough fabric of my winter jacket.
    “What’s that?” She gasped, her voice a strangled whisper.
    I shook my head in disbelief, a strange suspicion forming in my head, but I did not like what I was thinking.
    “Tell you when we get back.” I mumbled, my lips numb with fear and then, “Let’s get out of here. NOW!”
    We ran through the bush, scared out of our wits, stumbling and cursing. Janet started screaming a low howl of anguished fear. “Fuck, FUCK AND MORE FUCKS!” she yelled.
    “Shut up!” I whispered hoarsely. “It will hear and follow us.”
    She stopped for a moment. I ran into the back of her nearly falling flat on my face.
    “No. I want to scare it.” She cried and grabbed a broken branch. “I’ll stab it with this.” I got up and started to run again. If she wanted to be foolish, ok, but I was all for self-preservation.
    She was panting and had slowed down a bit. We were about 500 metres from Uncle Joe’s cabin. I was ahead of her. Mum had stayed to relax and cook some dinner for us.
    I heard something big coming towards us and bolted, leaving my sister behind. She had pulled out her phone and was on the phone to Mum.
    “Yes, Mum there’s something big and furry out here. And ….” Then there was an ear piercing scream. I turned and what I saw made me run even harder. A seven foot hairy figure was standing a few feet from her. She had dropped her phone.
    ‘Don’t HURT ME! PLEASE DON’T HURT ME! NO, NO, NO, NOOOO!” she sobbed over and over again.
    I fled down the path, thinking quite selfishly, while it is busy with her I have a chance to get to Uncle Joe’s cabin.
    Arriving at the cabin I raced up the stairs and burst through the door. Mum was on the couch reading. She sat up with a start. I slammed the door shut and bolted it.
    “Dylan, what are you doing?” she got up off the couch.
    I could not talk for some minutes.
    “It’s got Janet.” Finally, I was able to get the words out.
    “Who’s got her.”
    “I think it is a yowie.”
    “A WHAT??”
    “What rubbish!”
    “No, it’s for real. Seven feet tall. HAIRY AND IT HAS TEETH LIKE…”
    She was looking at me like I had lost my mind. That was until the banging on the door started.
    “It’s Janet.” She said and went to open the door. I flew between her and the door. She tried to get around me, but there was no need for the wood begun to splinter.
    A hole appeared in the door and Mum screamed as a huge hairy arm pushed through the broken wood of the door and started to feel around. It’s fingers waving and searching like spidery legs.
    Mum fainted.
    I rushed upstairs to the attic ladder into the attic, then slammed the door shut. I heard the downstairs door splinter into pieces and heavy footsteps down stairs. The ladder would not hold much weight and I counted on that as I trembled behind the door.
    Later, I realised there was a whole family of them. They had been living in Uncle Joe’s cabin. I listened for Mum’s voice and Janet’s but heard nothing. I am afraid to go out. I do have water and some food. I am going to wait it out.

    • December 14, 2022 at 8:37 am

      Ilana – I love this tale of horror – you know I love your stories.
      But….I’m not sure how this fits into the “In the middle of the night, the youngest child wakes up and follows a floating light outside, hoping it is ___________.” part of the theme?

      • December 14, 2022 at 1:25 pm
        Hi yes got too involved in the cabin thing and missed that part of the prompt. Oh well too late now.disqualified and not sure I would have changed it to fit the disappearing globe etc etc. I had fun writing it so I will go with the next prompt.
        Cheers 🙂
        • December 14, 2022 at 1:30 pm

          Honestly I love to the story, and even though it didn’t fit the prompt it was awesome!!

    • December 14, 2022 at 4:33 pm
      Wow! A Yowie? Big Foot? Abominable snowman? Great horror story! What is it about Christmas that is bringing out the horror and dead bodies in you and Phil and Ken C? I had to write a cute little soft Christmas elf story to counteract all of the madness and mayhem! I don’t know where Yowies live, but I’m not going there! I am sufficiently frightened now. Thanks! LOL
    • December 14, 2022 at 10:36 pm
      Ilana, You’ve got such a knack at this genre of story telling. A creature you invent out of the blue is ’nuff to scare anyone! And with an original name, Yowie!
      Good work even though you missed part of the prompt. 🙂
    • December 14, 2022 at 11:07 pm
      Awesome. Great ending too! I’ve had plenty of nightmares where all the other people are oblivious to some awful predator that kills them one by one while I take advantage of the opportunity to save myself (I feel bad, but they are just dispensable dream characters). Always wanted to read a story or see a movie about a yowie, but I have only read about them as a child and heard my son mention them once (probably youtube cryptid videos). I had a failed story about a yeti/sasquatch that left a lingering scent in a hotel bathroom, but I think yours is way scarier. It was fun picturing myself in Australia and you really nailed the dialogue … they sounded so authentic. Being trapped up there and listening to that is suspenseful, and this would be a very enjoyable horror movie. Had to look up Milo (sounds yummy) and Oodie (I thought it was an Australian thing lol, shows my ignorance).
  • December 14, 2022 at 10:30 am
    Jokutty De Kudil
    Marien Oommen (1198)

    Love is not written on paper because it might get blown away.
    It is written in the heart, where it’s etched forever more.
    To practice this kinda lasting love, propagate the memory that grows alongside, and incorporate it into our very souls, we decided to take our holiday in the snow capped mountains of Nepal.

    More specifically the Annapurna. The year 2017.

    We reached Pokhara in the afternoon, flying in from Dubai via Kathmandu. Parashuram, our guide had instructed us to pack only bare essentials, a week’s requirement, into two airbags which were strapped on the back of Mittu, our tough porter.

    Our climb thus began.

    First day- 550 metres of slow crawl upwards, through curvy paths up the mountain. Our legs get tired. We had our hiking sticks, for the first day, it was more than enough.

    We reach our first smart cabin. As the sun begins to set, a designated masseur rubs down our tired legs while we sit in the verandah, listening to soft music, sipping sweet chai.

    The room has low beds, so small that the man’s legs thrust out, his toes appearing to be in perpetual search of cookies by night.The chocolate chip kind, not the cookies you are forcibly told to accept on social networks.

    They had tucked a hot water bottle under the blanket with super clean sheets that smelt of jasmine! All done while we gorged on dinner talking non stop, exchanging experiences with other tourists from Germany, Switzerland, England.

    Parashuram bids us goodnight.
    “Sir, I wake you if view goood, mountains clear in sight- with a hot cuppa chaii.”

    Night fell easily as we snuggled into our super small beds, and the warm bottle slid comfortably between the blanket and me.

    5.45 am.. Voice outside.
    “Saab, Memsaab, good view, good view.”

    “Good morning, saab, memsaab.. Did you sleep well? Here’s good chaiii. Now step outside to see the amazing mountain. We are only on day 1. Today we start our climb at 9 am.”

    Then he left us to admire the unimaginable bounteous beauty of the snow capped mountains.

    In good times or bad, there is no one like an old friend. When put to the test, they’ll stand by you come what may.

    For me, the mountain is my forever friend.
    It’s not a mountain spewing fire and gloom.That made even venerable ol’ Moses tremble with fear.
    But every mountain speaks of promise…as the Good Book says: ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.’

    Good thoughts filled my mind as I started the upward climb on our second day.

    Parshuram is the very essence of chivalry. He walks alongside me as I learn to use the hiking sticks up the steep, stony path.

    We arrive at a log cabin, half way through our climb.

    A beautiful nepali woman with four kids greet us. They strew flowers on the way and offer to show us their simple home, their manner of cooking on the fireplace, their very basic stove. And pots and pans.

    The sweet kids went to a school nearby run by a missionary- all so mind blowing. In this vast sparse space, somewhere near the foothills of the Annapurna, live uncomplicated families such as this Aabha’s, minding their own business, not involved in G summit, or guns, climate change or abortions. Even their old women were tough. I saw them carry an entire gas cylinder on their backs while clambering up the slopes, alongside donkeys.

    Beautiful people.

    That night my mind raced back to our stay in Jokutty’s Kudil, in another village way down south. It was a cool night, the week before christmas.

    The kids were sleeping. All of us were in one big bedroom when close to midnight, a dragging, scraping sound came from the attic, waking us up. The old fan whirred incessantly and I think it shook a little more vigorously with the scraping and the pulling.

    Heavens it sounds like somebody was being pulled sidewards. What on earth now!

    Terrified to say the least, even the brave man was a bit quivery around the lip region. He spoke in whispers.

    “O my goodness, if the man is afraid, where does it leave me, a woman and her little kids?”

    We waited for the noise to subside… but it didn’t.

    “Did the village miscreants decide to choose our attic for their partying?”

    “Was somebody done in and they chose our attic to hide the body?”

    Mind! Stop right there! I refuse to be afraid and pray for the night to end.

    Exactly at midnight, there are flashes of unnatural light in the bedroom. The little one sees it and starts up.

    “Mama, I wanna go bathwoom,” she says.

    There’s loud banging and clanging outside. The baby girl follows the light, bravely heading into the living room.

    “Stop, honey, where are you going?”

    The attic sounds have now subsided. Hiding?

    A huge colorful truck had stopped just outside our cabin and there’s the sound of merry making.

    Footsteps are heard all around. They bang at the large gate shamelessly, making a huge racket in the still of the night. Someone manages to unlock the gate and a big troupe of men enter the courtyard.

    They reach the verandah and take out their drums. Not guns.

    Loud, ever so loud, they sing: ‘ We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas.’

    We had no idea if this was for real, organized by the town, or some village miscreants having fun. But we couldn’t ask questions. Already terrified by the strange murderous sounds from the attic, now we are accosted with the scariest looking Santa Clause who appears from nowhere. His mask is the ugliest we have ever seen. I tell you white hair doesn’t suit an oversized body.
    And he’s a drunk Santa, adding insult to injury.

    They sing four Christmas carols tunelessly. One has the audacity to dance with a rowdy ebullience.

    Finally they whip out a book indicating donations. I see a look of threat in their eyes. All this in this quiet village where men are supposedly noble.

    My man offers a 500 rupee note saying, “Thank you, it’s enough. We want to sleep now.”
    They continue their clamorous racket, reluctantly leaving the cabin to embark on another home.
    The money was to buy them booze! The cheek!
    Some of the men looked so sozzled. One had even fallen asleep.

    Morning breaks.

    We feel a bit braver now. Hubby goes to inspect the attic.
    He spots a dead rooster, bloody, defeathered. Here lay the victim which was tugged n’ heaved up and down the attic giving us the biggest scare of our lives.

    A neighbor says, “It’s a ‘marapatti’, a palm civet cat that killed the innocent cockerel.

    He chose to do fine dining in MY attic!!

    We wonder who’s more reprobate?
    The civet cat or sneaky Santa?

    Valley life’s a far cry from living on a mountain top..
    Just telling.

    • December 15, 2022 at 8:31 am
      I love your stories. I feel like a world traveler, getting a glimpse into places I’ve never been. Your descriptions are so rich.
      • December 17, 2022 at 11:10 pm
        Thank you, Adi, for reading.
        I described our holiday- climb expedition- in Nepal which was a fantastic experience.
        By the way your observations are always so fresh and innocent that I imagined you were a really young lady 🙂 then I read you’re a granma like me!
        My daughter who’s a writer too says .. ‘that’s not surprising. Granmas and young girls think alike.’

        Now if that isn’t cool, what is? Yay yay yay! 🙂

        • December 19, 2022 at 8:57 am
          That is way cool!! Grandkids are the best way to have a second childhood I always say. I’m the favorite Nana. Who else can turn a vacuum cleaner into a dinosaur? LOL
        • December 19, 2022 at 11:57 am
          Congrats Ken and Ken!!
    • December 15, 2022 at 10:11 am
      That mountain range has killed lots of people! You are way braver than me.

      I thoroughly enjoyed the mountain adventure, but I didn’t mind the switch to the new setting either. The dead rooster was creepy and I really did think that it was connected to the drunken Santa impersonator. You kind of kept me on my feet as a reader and the story grabbed my interest because there were so many new developments. Excellent work!

      • December 17, 2022 at 11:30 pm
        Happy to read that you liked my tale. I am amazed how quickly we all think up stories. It’s almost like a game and we are kicking the ball to the GOaLLLL.
        Good fun- to be part of this group!
        My hubby and I climbed up to 3000 metres in 5 days, going up really slow through a circuitous mountain route, which took us through villages enroute. Every night was at a new smart hotel(small). So didn’t reach the top- wouldn’t dare! Our guide was just too good!
        The other bit is true as well. That civet cat made huge sounds up in the attic giving us the scare of our lives. The Santa brouhaha stuff happens every Christmas in some towns in Kerala where young guys have fun making huge noises at night. Their masks make them look ridiculous coz white pink cheeked masks don’t match their dark arms and legs. But they have their fun. 🙂
  • December 14, 2022 at 10:31 am
    My late, late entry! Carrie, Carrie, in a hurry! 🙂
    • December 14, 2022 at 10:34 am

      Hahaha just in the nick of time!

  • December 14, 2022 at 8:50 pm
    Hi All,
    Didn’t get to enter a story this time. An okay idea but did not get to final fruition.
    I did read all of your entries and enjoyed the ride. I have voted. Good luck all.
  • December 15, 2022 at 7:31 am
    Hi All,
    Another eclectic batch of stories.
    I am keeping an eye on an art gallery for art friends and trying to read the stories, post comments and vote as people come in and browse. It’s just too busy so,I think I will just vote.
    Sorry, as I know we all like to read all the comments.
    Ken Frape
  • December 15, 2022 at 11:38 am
    I hope you can delay the vote count for another 45 minutes, Carrie. Still have two stories to read. I’m free now and can do it pretty quickly, just need a few more minutes. Please.
    • December 15, 2022 at 11:40 am

      No problem at all! Take your time, I have an appointment at 12:30 central so probably won’t be able to get to it until 2pm by waiting. So take your time.

    • December 15, 2022 at 11:41 am

      Plus we’re still waiting on votes from Phil and Marien too

      • December 15, 2022 at 12:10 pm
        Thanks for waiting. Which time zone do you follow. It just turned 12 noon in texas!
        • December 15, 2022 at 12:18 pm

          I’m in Wisconsin so central time too!

    • December 15, 2022 at 11:42 am
      • Phil his just came through lol
  • December 15, 2022 at 1:55 pm
    My votes are posted, Carrie. Thanks for the leeway.
    • December 15, 2022 at 1:56 pm

      Awesome thanks, I’ll get them tallied up!

  • December 15, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Ok writers!
    Without further ado here are your winners!

    1st Place: Winter Darks by Ken Frape
    2nd Place: Spirits of the Sky by Ken Cartisano
    3rd Place: Stocking Surprise by Adrienne “Adi” Riggs
    4th Place: Let the Chips Fall by Liz Fisher
    5th Place: Into the Cold by Phil Town
    6th Place: Jokutty De Kudil by Marien Oommen
    7th Place: You Ain’t No Real Cool Cat by Rumplefinkies

    Favorite Character: Tee “Narrator(s)” in Marien’s “Jokutty De Kudil”
    Favorite Dialogue: Ken Cartisano’s Spirits of the Sky

    Congrats to all – just a reminder the new prompt is up!

    • December 15, 2022 at 4:33 pm
      Congrats KenF! (a lovely story), the podium of KenC and Adi, et al!

      So, Santa and twins, eh? Hmmm…

    • December 17, 2022 at 11:35 pm
      Congrats to all the winners. My choice too kinda.
      Thanks to all for liking my narrator. Very pleased! I used a very colloquial vernacular title, Ken C will be pleased. ‘Course he’ll have to seek google out first.
  • December 16, 2022 at 5:58 am
    Hi All,

    Thanks for your kind votes. It’s been a while since I was top of the podium. My first story, Christmas Gold was published here in 2018 and I can’t believe how fast time has passed.

    Well done to Ken Cartisano and Adrienne too.

    Have a very Happy Christmas,

    Ken Frape

    • December 16, 2022 at 10:25 pm
      You deserve the top on that story…
  • December 16, 2022 at 5:01 pm
    Congratulations on the win Ken. A shame that Ilana’s and Robt’s story were disqualified, Your writing is exemplary and it really shows in this story.
    • December 16, 2022 at 9:03 pm
      KenC – please see my comment to your story above – sorry it’s so late!

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