January 26 – February 8, 2023 Writing Prompt “Dead”
Interpret and use the theme and inclusions in any way you like.
- cracking a code
- two characters who are related
Word Count: 1200
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39 thoughts on “January 26 – February 8, 2023 Writing Prompt “Dead””
Read the stories here:
“I quit! You’ve drained my pockets.”
“Tony, your old man has more money than Midas, and you got the key to his pocket.”
“True. Not to mention the keys to grandma’s Princess pink Buick 98 convertible.” He lightly punched my shoulder and headed out of Silk’s billiard parlor. “See ya.”
“How can you stand that insufferable bastard?”
“We’ve been friends, sorta, since elementary school. Now we go to CHS.”
I parked my ‘53 Ford convertible in front of Schneider’s drugstore to buy a Hershey Bar. I noticed a red ‘57 Caddy convertible parked down the street as I entered the store. Two brown-haired ponytails were in the front seat.
“Hi, man, am I glad to have found you. I gotta problem; two chicks. I need someone, you, to keep one busy while I,” he winked. “You know, right?”
“I can’t.…” He grabbed my arm and steered me toward the Caddy.
“I’ll owe you.” He slipped me two foiled squares, “In case you get lucky.”
“I can’t. I need to get back to the lake.”
At his car, pointing at the girl next to the passenger door, he said, “This is Cassie. And this is Sissy,” pointing at the carbon copy in the middle of the seat. I’d seen just enough of Cassie to know the girl by the door wasn’t her. I’d have corrected him, but both pairs of eyes stopped me. A coded message, is passed between the girls.
I’d met Cassie. We’d made plans. I chickened out. She was disappointed, to put it lightly.
I looked at them both. “Hi, girls. Nice to meet you.” I opened the door, and helped what’s-her-name into the back seat. She started towards the far side. My hand went around her waist, and I pulled her to me. “What the hell is going on?” I whispered.
Softly, in her ear, “You’re not Cassie.”
She smiled, “I know, but how did you?”
“Simple, you don’t have a tiny dimple on your left cheek when you wrinkle your nose,” I whispered. “Hey Tony, where are we going?”
“You know the back road behind the 14th green at the Country Club?”
“Yeah, the one with the creek and low stone bridge.”
“That’s where we’re heading.”
Riding along London Road, whatever-her-name tried to squirm away from me again and failed. I whispered in her ear. “Settle your ass down, or else. I want answers.”
She sighed, relaxed, and nodded.
Tony stopped after crossing the stone bridge. “You two, get out. I’ll be back.”
I helped her out of the car. As the Caddy headed down the tree-covered road, she tried to pull her hand away. I spun her around. “Not so fast. You’ve got some answering to do. I don’t know you, never seen you, and yet you treat me as if I was the plague. What’s your problem?”
“One, you’re a friend of Tony, and that is enough for any self-respecting girl to reject you. And you’ve known my sister. I love her dearly, but she has the morals of an alley cat. I’ll have nothing to do with anyone who’s bedded her. Now, let go of my hand, will you?”
“No! Not until you’ve heard my side of things.” She nodded reluctantly. Her eyes bored into mine. “Tony and I go way back. But he’s more of an acquaintance than a friend. He’s a user of the worst sort. I’m not standing here with you by choice. I dated your sister twice and never bedded… Never!”
“You’ve had your say. Now let go of me. I know you’re lying. Because she’s been in the sack, back seat, whatever, with every guy she’s gone out with. So, get your paws off me!”
Instead, I lifted her by the waist to the balustrade on the stone bridge. “There,” I smiled up at her. “I want you comfortable while I tell you of my encounter with Cassie. Your name is Sissy, Right?” She nodded. “Your sister and I went on a date about ten, twelve days ago. You want to hear my side of the date?”
“I’d picked her up at a quarter to seven. We went to a movie at the Norshor. Two boxes of popcorn and an Orange Crush. Then a burger, fries, a large Coca-Cola, and two straws at McDonald’s on seventeenth Avenue East and London Road. Then to her, er… ah, your house. I never even kissed her goodnight. That’s the whole story.”
“That was you?” She laughed.
“Yeah, that was me.”
“You’re not what I imagined?”
“What, she told you?”
“She promised never to mention what we did, or rather, didn’t did, er… do. What’d she say? Damn it, stop laughing and tell me!”
Sobering, “She said something to the effect that you wound her watch.” Sissy snickered. Composing herself, “Then you didn’t give her the time.” She lost it, and I released her, walked to the other side of the road, kicked a stone into the creek, and walked back. She’d slid off the balustrade. On impulse, I took her face in my hands, lightly kissed her on the lips, and quickly stepped back. She didn’t slap my face as I feared.
“I don’t mind kissing. But that’s where I draw the line. We’re NOT alike.”
I lifted her back onto the balustrade and joined her.
“You’re the only one who’s ever done that to her. So, why didn’t you?”
“My background. Being Catholic and Canadian-French, I guess. It just didn’t seem right. Now, I’ve told you my story. Do you want to tell me what the hell is going on with you two and Tony?”
She slumped, “Yeah, fair’s fair. I… ah, met him at the roller rink. We had a fun time. A couple of dates later, he asked me to go steady. I said, ‘sure,’ who wouldn’t? He’s got it all. Look at the car he drives.”
“The Caddy’s his grandmother’s,” I said. “She lets him use it at night.”
Sissy opened the top button of her blouse. “He gave me this.” In the light of the full moon, I could see a CHS class ring on a gold chain. “He made the ultimate demand. I don’t do that.” She smiled. “My sister suggested a way to satisfy his, ah….”
She smiled. “I’m not returning the ring.”
The Caddy’s engine roared. The headlights come out of the dark….
The 5th-year CHS class reunion was a bore. We slipped out and sat in the Pickwick’s barroom. “Thanks for the meeting. Tim, whatever he wants, on my tab.” The bartender nodded. We reminisced.
“Heard about your dad’s factory fire.”
“No big deal. Dad’s insured, and the rebuild is nearly finished. Ford will get the door liners for next year’s T-birds.”
Knowing it would come up eventually, “You still upset about Cassie and Sissy trading places?” I asked.
“The St. Lawrence seaway opened in April 1959. Same year Cassie graduated. She and another girl bought a new mattress and a used van. Think of it as a pier-side brothel.”
“She’s dead. It happened last year. An STD.”
— Ԙ —
I have more sympathy for Toulouse-Latrec who died at 37 years of age from alcohol abuse and syphilis complications. He was a dwarf with underlying health conditions though. He was an interesting human being who did have empathy for his subjects. Gauguin was a horrid man full of self pity and a narcissist. Van Gogh probably was affected by this man and I would imagine his mental state would not have been improved by hobnobbing with the likes of Gauguin.
I am sorry I digressed, but stories need to be believable. STD’s don’t usually kill young healthy people and not in four years.
Otherwise well written.
Jesus, I made the mistake of reading Ilana’s critique before I read your story, and thought it was going to be about a love triangle between Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and Vincent Van Gogh. (Bechth. Spits bad taste out of mouth.) I’ll never make that mistake again. (Either.)
Very engaging and entertaining story. I don’t know how fatal an STD is, or was, during that time period, but the means of her premature death could be altered if that is the case.
My complaint is very specific, and you do it regularly. That’s why I’m pointing it out.
Shoehorning specific descriptions of the cars into the dialogue in your stories is unrealistic at best. Nobody says, “I’ve got the keys to my dad’s two-tone, four door Edsel with curb-feelers right here in my hot-little hands.” It simply isn’t realistic, even though all the rest of the dialogue is. (Your stories are good, but they’d be better if you stopped doing this.)
“I’ve got the keys to Grandma’s car,” he said, pulling the keys from his pocket. She drove a Princess Pink convertible, and the Buick 98’s key fob danced inches from my nose.
That’s the way to insert that information into the story. And you know this, because you do it perfectly well in the opening paragraph after August 1957. You tell us what kind of car the MC is driving, and the type of car the girls are sitting in. Perfectly acceptable descriptions, in the tell.
I realize the word limit is a pain, but vehicle descriptions, even at a car rally, are best left in the tell, because they don’t belong in the dialogue. Other than that, it’s a fine story, and one of the neat things about it is that in the opening section (July 1956) there’s another person in the pool hall who remains un-named. (Rightfully so, he’s not intrinsic to the story.) And at the ending, you don’t specifically name Tony, (or Antonio), but you don’t have to. His identity is clearly implied. That, in my opinion, is skillful writing.
I described the cars in this story to show a very rich grandma. Space didn’t allow to explain that she bought two almost identical cars a year. A convertible in April and a four-door hardtop in October.
Again, lack of words about the other player in 1957section, it was Tony-D. I educated him on the fine art of billiards.
Tony-D and the things I said about him were real, as were, Sassy and Cassie. The incidents with Cassie and I, the one at Schneider’s drugstore, on the back road behind the 14th green at the Country Club, [including the bridge scene], in the Pickwick’s barroom, the door liners for next year’s T-birds, and Cassie’s death form an STD, are as I lived them.
In reality, Tony-D’s father didn’t make door liners for Ford. That business was owned by the father of the friend who introduced my wife to me. A fire was the reason ’58 T-birds were three months late to market.
The group of islands that was once known as French Polynesia have had a long history relative to the United States. It’s rumored that American soldiers with uncurable STDs contracted in Viet Nam were sent “someplace.”
Thanks for your comments. I’ll try to keep the car stuff to a minimum.
I think one of the coolest cars ever made was the 58 Thunderbird. I love old cars. (I went to a family reunion once at the Studebaker Museum.) We were a Ford family. That was a thing that people were back then. I understood you. I was there too.
I was merely pointing out your methodology, not the events or the characters, or even the science. Just the fact that you’re putting it in the dialogue. It doesn’t belong there. Nobody talks like that. Nobody spells out the make and model of their car in normal conversation. I totally understood your intent though, the guy had borrowed his grandma’s pink chick-mobile. That’s part of the charm of the story, it has to be in there, absolutely, I just wanted to point out, that I disagree with the way that you did it.
I like how, like me, you write from your past and events close to you. It really shows your passion and interest in the words you produce.
If I had to make any critique at all, it might be that some of facts may be not as well known to the general public. To me that is not a problem as i do it too, writing ‘fiction’ with some ‘faction’ (fiction splattered with the odd fact), is what makes us interesting and very human.
I use my hometown because I know it so well; the eastern third, anyway. Also, its uniqueness. Twenty-eight miles long and only three miles wide. Who in their right mind would allow a city of that shape? There is a pitfall in using so familiar—forgetting the readers are not as familiar as I am and omitting a salient factoid.
Glad you like the story and thanks for your comments.
Why do they get into such situations?
Well-narrated story, though I didn’t get it all, in spite of reading it many times. Robt.
It’s always much clearer to the writer. 🙂
I want to take a moment to apologize for my rude and obnoxious post last week.
I do not wish to mitigate or make light of the full extent of my offense. Nor do I wish to imply that my actions were a mental error, oversight, errant keystroke or misplaced communication. While the post was intended to be funny, it was not intended to be funny to you. That is an unfortunate and unpleasant fact.
I cannot think of any explanation for my actions, any valid excuse for my motives, other than a meanspirited and misplaced sense of (short, freckled, gray-haired) entitlement. (I said I was an asshole, but even an asshole should have reasons for doing things.) Even if I had valid complaints, which I don’t, the means by which I expressed myself – are unacceptable: for me, for you, for the nice people I’ve come to meet in this group over the years
Without adding specifics, I have received widespread criticism from every corner of my universe, from you, to my mother, and everyone in between. One of which is mortified by the fact that her son has a perverse sense of decency. I’m not sure what that all entails, but it’s pretty indecent conduct from a guy who gets worked up over the mis-use of commas. I have berated you for things that were my fault, things you have no control over.
My actions have confirmed what many have probably suspected, that I have no class. And that may be true, I won’t dispute it, (it probably got worn off by the fuckin’ wind,) but I appreciate what you’ve done for the group, along with ingrates like me, and what you continue to do. I have no business criticizing your efforts or skills as I can barely pay my bills online. I don’t, actually, I’m too chicken. What do I know about managing a writing site? If you add in the few things I forgot, you get a negative number.
As for that two-paragraph intro prompt? I re-wrote that prompt at least twenty, thirty-times, that’s the truth, and it was impossible to fix, (for me) and yet, I loved that goddamned story. The eternal Goddess with the sword that had a personality? ‘The Immortal’s Sword.’? I love that character, I love that story. (She’s a goddess who has lost her memory – I’m going to do something with her. I hope.) I wouldn’t have come up with her and that story if not for the prompt, however unwieldy, wherever it came from.
No, my actions are inexplicable. I won’t ask for your forgiveness, I’ll just make a vow that I never do anything like that again.
Sorry for being such a putz…. (But we geniuses, come on, me, you, maybe Phil, you know how we are. No? Me either.) …and thank you for tolerating me. I won’t let it happen again. (Unless I’m forced to, at gunpoint. And only then, maybe. Maybe. But I doubt it.)
Why don’t you just cut the bullshit and write a story for the prompt. You have already said too much. Apologies mean more when they are one heartfelt sentence.
Save the dramatic self-flagellations for one of your story characters, Ok.
Just write and next time you want to have a go at a real person, write them a letter and burn it. Pretend you are burning them.
So, Death came a-calling the other day. It was a Tuesday, Tuesday the 13th – martes y trece – an unlucky day for the Spanish, which I am.
I was in bed with my sister. Now, don’t get me wrong. It was bitterly cold, and we only had the one bed. Dawn had dawned and I was already awake, staring at the ceiling, weighing up my life – such as it was. And it was una mierda: no job, no money, no love, no hope. Death couldn’t come soon enough, I concluded.
Then the heavy knock at the door – or rather three knocks. I scrambled out of bed so that a repeat wouldn’t wake my sister, who needed her beauty sleep – a whole load of it.
I looked through the peephole on the door; we’d been raided by the cops before, so I needed to know whether to dump our stash down the can or not. And there he was, in all his mysterious darkness. I couldn’t see his face under the all-too-familiar hood but I could imagine it – the skeletal features, the deep, doom-laden holes for eyes. And of course, there was the scythe, which he’d obviously used to bang on the door the first time because he went to do it again, but I stopped him.
“Who’s there?” I called, superfluously.
“I. Am. Death.” Death replied … superfluously.
“Just a moment,” I said, as if he were a man selling brushes.
Now, how did I know that Death had come for me and not my sister? Let’s just say I did, and I wasn’t waiting around to check my assumption. However much I’d been willing it mere moments before, when faced with it, I now knew death was actually the last thing I wanted.
I charged through to the bedroom and grabbed clothes, wallet and my sister’s car keys. My bustling-about woke her.
“Wha–?” she mumbled.
“Tell him I’m not here,” I hissed, opening the window that gave onto the apple tree in the garden.
“Who?” my sister asked, sitting up in bed now and rubbing her eyes.
Three more knocks on the door, thunderously loud this time.
“Him!” I shrieked and clambered out of the window into the tree.
I more or less slipped to the ground – snow had fallen in the night – and when I landed, I pulled on my clothes and shoes and dashed round to the garage.
There’d been a lot of thefts in the neighborhood, so my sister had fitted a combination lock on the garage door. I knew I knew the combination, but for the life of me – interesting expression, given the circumstances – I couldn’t remember it, what with all the excitement. I tried my sister’s birthday but that didn’t work. I thought of trying mine but figured she always forgot it, so there wasn’t much chance she’d use that. Then, like a bolt out of the blue, it came to me.
My sister is the laziest person I’ve ever met; she could laze about for the USA at the Olympics … and win a gold! So I fiddled with the lock until it read 0000 – the code from the shop.
In a moment I’d lifted the door open and was behind the wheel, starting the engine and negotiating the stick-shift, which I’d never used before.
I roared out of the garage – giving the car far too much gas – and screeched into the street, slipping and sliding on the snow. I sped towards the crossroads at the end, jubilant that I’d dodged Death.
Only I hadn’t, of course. Death isn’t a guy you owe money to that you can avoid by going to a different bar. Death is relentless. And quick.
Just as I was reaching the crossroads, there he was in the middle of the street, his arms outstretched, ready to welcome me into the afterlife.
Yes, I could have driven straight through him (I wonder what would have happened), but my human conscience got the better of me. I swerved. And hurtled into a roadworks that had been ongoing for months; we in the street had all signed a petition to get it completed, to no avail.
The last thing I remember was the intense pain of bones shattering, and before it all went black, the smell of burning flesh; the crash had burst the gas tank, and sparks had done the rest.
And so, to cut a long story short, I’m dead. Death himself was very kind, in fact, leading me to the other side – this side – and giving me the low-down on life after him.
I have to stick around for some time till my ultimate destination is decided by the Power That Be. While that happens, I can look in on my sister, who, annoyingly, has already shacked up with someone called Chuck – the schmuck! – who’s taken my place in the bed … and not just to keep warm. Of course, he’s sponging off my sister, newly rich with the insurance money. All of that is out of my hands now, though – vaporous as they are.
Anyway, it’s not so bad, you know – this death business. I thought it would be worse. I haven’t got ‘no-job’ or ‘no-money’ to worry about, for example. And there’s not much point in hoping for anything. Except perhaps … love?
But that will depend on which place I end up in, I suppose.
I do enjoy your writing and storytelling. The real-ness and simpleness of the characters always comes out. Although sometimes your characters are awful humans, they are often quite likeable. That is a great writer when you are able to do that.
iI I had to make one critique point, is that maybe it jumped around a bit. But then again, that may be due to the mindset and behaviours of the characters, and the brilliance of the writer to get into their heads.
Another great read.
The protagonist in that damnatory tells a useless tale of a life that’s lost. Reminds me of many poems written in the same vein.
Far better for that guy to reach that eternal destination of love and hope, where the journey begins right now, here on God’s earth.
by Marien Oommen (1198)
“Dinosaurs are extinct. They are very, very extinct.”
Mama was reading a story book for four year olds.
What’s extinct, Mama?
“Dead. Gone. Kaput.”
“No, they are NOTTT. They’ll never be extinct. No way!” Screamed her 4 year old, shattering her ears.
His PJs, his teeshees were all of dinosaurs, diplodocus, tyrannosaurus.
How could they ever be extinct?
His protests rang louder than the church bell.
“Listen boy, when dinosaurs lived, nobody yelled. There was silence. A dynamic full throated roar would break through the skies now and then. And then the forest would continue being green and peaceful once more,” continued mama, in her softest voice.
She started humming her favorite comfort hymn for the nth time that day because she was just so tired of carrying on an argument with her precious boy.
‘When peace like a river attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows fall,
Whatever my lot,Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.” …
Little Nathan stared at her with his cute brown eyes. He felt a certain quietness overtaking him.
Sunday had just gone by. The Rev. had passed the Peace that ‘passeth all understanding’ with his outstretched hands. Everyone then turned around and did the namaste with their folded palms, greeting folks from far off pews.
Some presumably bad-tempered husbands felt nudged to kiss their wives that holy moment, repenting of all the foul deeds that went by during the week.
There stood Tim, filled with remorse, busy massaging Stella’s neck and back.
“Forgive me for buying that play station. I needed it so bad, you can’t imagine.” His fingers seemed to say. It was all touch and go at repentance hour.
“Peace be with you, my son,” whispered Mama, after she greeted her neighbor.
“What piece, mama? Ish it a piece o’ muffin? Ken I have the whole one?”
He started rummaging the kiddy bag. The old couple in the front pew hearing his voice, looked behind, breaking out into a shoulder-shaking laugh.
“So cute.” Whispered the lady.
Cute, yes! But this was another level.
Mama had a very demanding job and gran’ma was beckoned from faraway to help out.
“You wanted grandkids, now come and take care,” said the girl to her mother.
Gwanma had no problem whatsoever. She loved the boys and they loved her singing and clowning with them. This was now the few ways she could sing full- throated with no embargo.
The TV was on blaring in the media room.
“Cut the volume. Not too loud, honey. The kiddos have just gone to bed.”
The angle of the golf swings, this way the ball path, the curve of the elbow, the posture of that shaking knee, the vibrating bum, the focussed eyes.
Everything was thoughtfully studied, scrutinized in precision, like it was the med school boards.
Gwanma thanked the Lord for small mercies such as this one. At least it wasn’t the horrid news channels he was watching. There was nothing worth listening to.
Everything had turned to dirt.
When she thought of the not so distant future with flying cars, her POM went straight out the window to the grass, which had turned brown in winter.
“I need POM, and more POM,” she said.
She found it while hugging her young kiddos, surprisingly even when they screamed their loudest.
“What’s POM?” Asked the 4 year old. “Pomegranate? Pompoms? Here take one, gwanma.”
“No, babes, it’s Peace of Mind, FYI. I’m using your language.”
Then they sat back on the couch, hugging and reading from the big green book.
Meanwhile SOMEONE was prowling around…
Last week was unusually bad.
Gru was out visiting homes with the sole purpose of creating dissidence, voicing opinions when nobody asked for them, injecting evil thoughts into minds.
Nobody heeded her where she lived, which made her feel terribly alone.
So when she opened her mouth to growl and spew out hard stuff, it broke the silence around.
Betrayal inflicts a uniquely sharp and painful wound, and Gru felt deeply betrayed.
Wouldn’t you feel betrayed if you were the only one left behind? The last of its living species on earth?
If you are wondering who Ms Gru is, I’ll tellya….psst.
Okay, won’t tell you just yet.
Now Gwanma knew full well how to survive in a tough world.
Most gwanmas do, you know.
She donned wisely the full armor of Love, wearing the breastplate of goodness around her chest, marching forth in her boots of peace. Her words of kindness were carved into the sword she swished around.
That was her very essence.
It wasn’t easy, and she relied heavily on God’s guidance from above. Not by her strength at all.
But this Ms Gru was another kettle of fish.
Oh oh! I’ve put you on a rabbit trail.
Ahhhh! Gru is not fish.
And I can’t tell you just yet.
With every kind of swashbuckling cut that Gwanma wielded, hearing the very audible voice from above guiding her, Gru grew weaker and weaker.
Finally Gru knew she couldn’t stay in this home. Felt unwanted like in many of the blessed homes in the neighborhood.
You see, the human has the final say. Always.
The TV was on blaring out real loud. It had moved from golf and football to The Night Sky.
The green comet was coming.
Gru knew it was her final call.
Her house calls were coming to an end. It meant departure from this earth forever, carrying all of her special wicked darts with her.
February 8th was the day chosen for her to leave. Gru had to depart from earth.
Yessss! She was the last of the living dinosaurs and nobody suspected anything. Because she disguised herself each time.
There you go… now you know.
The newsreader was carrying on…..
Long-period comets, like this one, first brought organic compounds to Earth when they hit the planet 4 billion years ago. The reason why “Earth has its abundant life.”
It was happening.
Gru felt herself transmogrifying into something squishy and jellylike. Her shape had changed considerably. Finally she was one big stinky mass of anger, revenge, corruption, cunning, manipulation, frustration, weakness, self pity, evil, malevolence, blinding idolatry, sarcasm, lechery… evils that had walked the earth.
Name the vice.
It was all sewed into her.
One big ugly mass of gray green goo.
Now immobile, dead as the dodo.
No, the dino.
The earth wouldn’t be a mess anymore. Now dinosaurs would be totally extinct.
The news reporter was decoding the teleprompter.
‘An extraordinary green comet that hasn’t appeared in Earth’s night skies since the time of wooly mammoths will make its closest approach Wednesday and Thursday. The last observed comet was Lovejoy, discovered in 2011.
50,000 years is a long time ago…’
Families had gathered on the hilltop to watch the spectacular show.
Then it appeared fearsome, clearly before their eyes.
A gigantic unrecognizable, unidentifiable fiery ball of gray was hurtling towards the green comet.
“Lookit that big balloon!”
“Gosh, it’s U.G.L.Y”
Degrootorum also known as ‘Gru’ was gone. Forever.
And the planet was made clean again.
The New Earth.
At first I was a bit ‘all over the place’ about what was happening. Then with a few rereads I could see it, a nice bit of writing.
Please can you separate my name from the title? Or place it line below.
There’s no provision to edit once you hit submit! 😱
Thanks very much!
Word Count: 1189
Archie was stumped. The keypad screen was frozen, or just locked out? The numbers he would usually enter do not open it. Is it his fat fingers making the incorrect entries? Of course not, he has always had fat fingers and managed before now.
The fire engine arrived to stop the flames as the ambulance took him away. How did the fire start? He does not even remember how he got out, let alone much before that. Everyone was talking about the fire.
Archie had forgotten why he needed to open his phone. Was he trying to return a call? Send a message? Or just play a game to ease his mind? He did enjoy a bit of Solitaire, a crossword, or even Sudoku, if the day was good to him and his brain worked. Lately, he did not succeed in completing any of them.
The numbers or the ‘passcode’ were set by his son Evan, so as to be easy to remember. More like the enigma code, he thought. Was it a birthday? But whose?
Archie tried again, 7739, his birthday, Wrong.
He punched in Evan’s birthday, 2967, Wrong again.
Then attempted Agnes’s birthday (his wife), 4241, Wrong again.
Frustration came to a head, he needed to let Evan know that he was not at home. How could he tell him? The phone was useless in his palm. How would Evan know that he was out? The fire? His son always dropped in to visit after work, every day, without fail. What would he think? The house was empty, and maybe he even left the door open. He did not remember closing it. He is going to be cranky at me, Archie thought. Where is Agnes?
The nurse enters and says, “Archie, can I help, is there anyone we can call for you?”
“Yes, No, well maybe, I am trying to get this thing to work”, shaking the mobile phone in her direction.
“Here, let me help. Do you live alone?”, she started.
“No, well, yes, I am not sure, my son Evan, visits every day, he has his room just the way he likes it when he lived with us, he stays over sometimes too, so it’s just Agnes and I mostly”, he blurted.
“Are you trying to call your son?” she continued.
“No, he is a very busy, an important man, he doesn’t like to be disturbed at work”, Archie stated.
“I don’t think he would mind, how about I let him know you are here with us?”, she offered.
“Oh, I cannot stay, I have to get back to Agnes, I left her at the shops and she does not drive, we have to pick up little Evan after school very soon”, he said.
“Oh, I see”, the nurse agreed, “Maybe I should call Evan and just check if everything is okay, and that you are here. We can help you out”.
She had spied the medical alert hanging around his neck. The light was flashing as if it had been initiated.
“That’s a groovy gadget around your neck”, the nurse offered.
“Yes, Evan got it for me, so I can talk to him at any time I like, if I need him”, Archie replied.
“Is he trying to call? The red light is flashing,” she said.
“I don’t know, I can’t always work it, I think it s broken, I don’t want to let him know that I broke it. I tried to call him, even though I know I should not call him at work, he did not answer, I am not too worried though. He will call when he is free. I am fine”, Archie whispered.
“Can I have a look? Maybe he is on the end of the line’”, she said.
Archie looked at her and squinted to read her name badge, ‘Alice. Registered Nurse, Geriatric Discharge Planner’, it read. He didn’t understand all the words, but fixed upon her name.
“Alice, I think I should let Evan know that I had an accident. I was trying to cook breakfast for Agnes and I, sausages and eggs, and the fire just got out of control, too big, there was smoke everywhere when I got back from my walk”, he stated, as the memory of the fire and smoke came to him. Archie hands her the device.
“Oh I see”, Alice said, “Did you press your bell for Evan?”
“I thinks so, I am not sure, but he did not answer, I don’t think he could hear me, I was talking to him though”, he offered.
Alice knew that the alert had been activated. They are set to call a relative or neighbour if the older person has a medical event or needs help. Then if there is ‘no answer’, the emergency services, ambulance, police and fire can be alerted. It works on GPS, the elder can talk through it too. She had been instrumental in organising safe hospital discharge practices for the elderly. This was one thing she always suggested to families.
“I think Evan will be here soon, he knows that you are visiting me”, Alice said.
“I know, he is a good boy, he looks after me and Agnes. He is the best son anyone could have”, he said.
Alice excused herself and Archie continued to try and unlock the keypad. After a few attempts, the phone locked. He could not try any more. The code could not be cracked. Now he was lost, Evan would not know he was here, and poor Agnes would be waiting at the supermarket with all the groceries in this heat.
Alice returned with a visitor in toe.
“Hey Dad, how are you?”, Evan said with relief in his voice, “I am so worried about you, I am glad that Alice is looking after you for me”.
“I am fine, don’t make a fuss, I don’t like to worry you at work”, his father said.
“Alice tells me that you were cooking breakfast and then you went out for a walk. You left the stove on, I always cook us breakfast, you had had your breakfast. I was just having a shower”, Evan said, assertively, but kindly.
“Did I? You know your Mother always gets hungry by 11, she never sits still to eat, she didn’t eat with us this morning, she was hungry”, Archie said.
“Okay, but I worry about you”, Evan said.
“ I’m okay, I have to look after you and your Mother”, Archie said.
“ We look after each other Dad, you need to ask for help sometimes”, Evan said.
“I know. Now where is your Mother? I left her at the supermarket, she will be mad”, Archie fumed, pretending to be his wife in anger.
**It had been six months since Agnes had died. Her ill health had brought on a heart attack. She had been the carer for Archie, due to his cognitive decline, and being recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Now, he was being cared for full time by their only child, Evan. Evan knew that his Father’s decline was now at a peak. Major changes were afoot for his family after today’s events.
Whatever. A good, good em,… er, train of consciousness story.
The burden then falls on the loved ones.
Well written, OzJohn! Heart breaking too.
Here is the voting link – you have 24 hours to vote!
(I voted for myself in 4th … is that right?)
Thanks for waiting, and sorry once again.
I put myself 4th too, I didn’t think I could leave it blank or vote for the same story twice. Hope that was the right think to do.
1st Place: Evanly Father by ozjohn66
2nd Place: DEATH COMES A-CALLING by Phil Town
3rd Place: Antonio DeSanto by Robt. Emmett
4th Place: You Only Live Once by Marien Oommen
Favorite character was ozjohn66’s Archie.
Favorite dialogue was Evanly Father by ozjohn66
Congratulations to all!!
The next prompt is “Horse(s)”
• a saddle
I’ll get the official prompt post up tomorrow!
Much appreciated for the votes. I found it difficult to find a winner this week, I enjoyed all the stories and congrats to 2nd, 3rd and 4th place.
Now, saddle-up and ride, vaqueros, ride!
Sorry for the delay all, I’ll be on my laptop this morning and will get the new one posted! 🙂
“Send your loved ones out in the style they deserve”, the brochure proclaimed.
There was a black and white silhouette of a casket on a dais with a dash of red slashing around its head and foot to represent mourners’ bouquets. A featureless head reposed in the casket which had its lid open.
“Interesting image,” said my brother Toad. Toad’s real name was Samuel. Why he was nicknamed Toad will soon become obvious. “Red is the Chinese lucky colour.” He added.
“Not sure I like it.” I replied. “Anyway, since when do you care about the colour of the flowers?”
“Traditionally white is the colour of mourning for Chinese funerals.” My other sister Christie piped in.
“Do you really give a fuck?” I replied. “Dad is dead. I just want him properly celebrated. He was a decent bloke. A good husband and a great father.” I paused, “anyway we are NOT bloody Chinese.”
“Phillippa, we’re planning Dad’s funeral. Can’t you stop swearing just for now.” That was Christie chimed in again. Sweetly mortified, but then she was married to a surgeon who was very proper in all things except for his secret mistress who the whole family knew about, but Christie was blandly oblivious.
“Maybe the red colour’s to celebrate the inheritance of property on the death of a parent.” Christie and I both looked at him. Our hard stares bored into him, but his focus was different. “Are we using some of the money in Dad’s bank account to pay for the funeral? Or should we get it from Mum’s account?”
“Why can’t we just put in $2,000 or $3,000 each and not bother Mum with details?” I asked.
Christie nodded in assent. Toad protested.
“Why should we have to pay?” He pursued his lips. “I’ve flown all the way from the USA for the funeral. Surely, I can’t be expected to pay for the funeral as well or even a share?”
I looked at this brother with whom I shared two biological parents. Christie was emotional and drowned her emotions at times in the odd glass too many of wine or spirits. She was far too sensitive.
Toad’s goal in life was to make money and more money. Money rules his world and it bought the trappings of all things he desired.
I am the family bitch. I swear and tell the truth too often for comfort. I do not drink apart from the occasional glass of vino, and I have a nasty tongue. As a result, no one speaks to me. I am sure no one will mourn me when I die which is why I want to make provision, so my next generation are looked after and do not have to pay for my funeral.
It will be a sparse affair. Wooden box, no flowers and a few friends who will come, along with a few enemies to see that I am dead. They may even take the odd pin or matchstick just to check there is no life left in the old girl still.
A since deceased friend said to me once, “It’s better to give with warm hands. You cannot take it with you.” I do subscribe to that philosophy. Give while you can. You cannot take it to the grave with you.
Toad belongs to the pharaoh class of people that believes all things should serve them in death and in life. I am sure he would put all his assets into liquid gold and drink it if he could while near death. The thought of someone else getting something that he believed he had worked for and earnt is a nightmare for him.
I remember as a child going to town with our parents. I was considered generous at that stage in life. I liked to buy things for family with my pocket money. Christie was careless with her money and often lost some of it on the floor of the car. Toad would not spend his money. Instead, he would collect the coins that Christie dropped on the floor of the car on the way home and even look for coins that might have rolled under the car seats in previous trips.
I received a gift from him one Christmas that I will never forget. It was a cake of soap that was part of a gift pack. He broke up the gift pack and gave me the rose scented soap. Christie got the rose scented hand lotion and Mum got the bottle of rose scented Eau de toilette. The gift pack was five shillings. Individually the three items were two shillings and sixpence each. He gave Dad a pen and the notebook that came with it, he gave to one uncle and did the same with Gran who got a pen, and the other uncle got the other notebook. The notebook with pen cost one shilling and sixpence. He was stoked that he got his family gifts done for less than a pound. He would do chores for Mum whose birthday was the seventh of December. Nevertheless, he was Mum’s favourite child.
“He’s so frugal.” She would say to everyone. “He will be a success in life. The other two, well…” she would roll her eyes.
I often felt as if I was under a microscope and any misdeed was magnified. You walked on eggshells. The whole district knew of any misdeeds when was reported to a younger aunt by marriage and then the surrounding districts knew.
When well-meaning people said to me, “You are just like your mother.” I would smile wanly and think “Not bloody likely. She’s the last person I want to be like.”
“Cremation is cheaper and more effective.” Toad told us. “I’ve arranged for it to be done after the funeral. Also don’t book a room for me in the motel. I’m staying with Arthur, my cousin.” We noted he he said “my cousin” not “our cousin.”
“Anyone would think he is an only child!” Christie said to me in an aside just before the funeral. I was too upset to notice. I kept thinking of the fire consuming the body of my beloved father. Blistering flesh and bones crumbling in the dry high heat. I had hoped for a gravesite to visit.
A few days later we received a cardboard box with some ashes in it. Toad took possession of it.
“I’m taking these back to the USA with me. Dad said he’d always wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean and Boston. We’re going to scatter his ashes off the coast near Boston.”
Christie and I were shaken speechless.
However, after he had left with “his” cousin and the box of ashes, the morgue attendant beckoned to us. He placed another box in our hands which I gave to Christie.
“These are your father’s remains.”
“So, what was in his box?” I asked cautiously.
The attendant smiled gently.” Oh, he replied “you can check the code next time you are in the supermarket. Meat section. We put that on the box to identify it for our purposes.”
I did check the box before he left for the USA.
The code next to my father’s name was one for plant based material.
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