Writing Prompt “Elements”

Theme: Elements

Story Requirements:

Your story must contain these 3 elements: Identical Twins, a party invitation, and a Locked closet. Everything else is up to you -the writer, as long as these 3 elements are present. Good luck!

Word Count: 1,200

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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

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

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the April 26, 2018 prompt will be chosen by Kenneth Cartisano per the Writing Prompt Roster.

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

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107 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Elements”

  • April 13, 2018 at 8:28 am
    Just checking in to get stories and comments.
    • April 26, 2018 at 2:09 am
      So, by ‘elements’ you mean just the three that were specified. So the prompt isn’t actually about elements. It’s about the three required elements. Righto?
      • April 26, 2018 at 6:04 am
        Man, I certainly hope so. Since I don’t have a periodic table I don’t have any elements in mine at this point, but it shouldn’t be too hard to throw in a little Au and see what happens just in case.

        Ken, I’ll be giving you a response to your critique later today.

      • April 26, 2018 at 9:27 am
        That is correct sir, your story must contain the 3 elements listed
        • May 2, 2018 at 3:32 am
          I would have so liked to have entered my story but I am driving Taxis around 60 to 70 hours a week and teaching seven hours. Working seven days a week at present is not leaving me much time to write or for anything apart from sleep and assist my son with his work when I am not working.
          I may try and finish my story, but our internet has been cut off and until I get the money to pay the bill we are reliant on a few hours snatched at the local library. Love reading all the stories. Happy writing guys and look forward when I have some bills up to date, of working only six days a week and saving some time for writing.
  • April 17, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Dear Joe,
    I sent you a story for publication in the morning. I didn’t know anything about the rules for participation at that time. I came to know about the Flush Fiction Contest later, and scribbled a story on the 3 elements shortly afterwards. I seem to have made lots of mistakes in the first draft. I’ve just edited the final draft and am sending it to you in the hope of being allowed to take part in the contest.
    With regards and best wishes, 
    The Brutal End:
    ” Deepa,  Sashi here. Can you come to the Central Morgue behind your swimming club? Following a lead I’m come here and I’ve the feeling that this time we’re on the right track..” Inspector Sashi sounded tensed yet excited.
    “I’m on my way, Sir. Give me 15 minutes.”
    “That’s fine. You will find me just near the hospital gate..”
    Now standing near the locked closet, Deepa found herself recollecting the one thousand one gods and godesses of Hinduism. From the hospital gate they’d taken the short trail to the Morgue. As she entered, the rotten smell of the dead bodies made her feel like throwing up. Just at the entrance, she had seen the dead body of a man wrapped from head to toe in a white cloth on a rickshaw. The man in-charge told the Inspector of a gruesome attack on the murdered man by the members of the opposition party. What really gave her the creeps was the gaping hole in place of the missing thumb. The man trying to protect himself from the knives and swords of the attackers, raised his right hand..Deepa had shivered at the brutality. Holding the hanky to her nose, she followed Inspector Sashi. Soon they were standing in front of the rows of locked closets. The body of a woman, probably in her 80s, was lying on a carrier on the floor. The dead mosquitoes around her decaying body told a tale of the neglect and disrespect of old age. Deepa turned her face, the In charge in the meanwhile had turned the key in the keyhole. For a moment her heart skipped a beat. The smiling face of her twin, Dona,  flashed through her mind. Dona’s words kept ringing in her mind:
    “You know, Dee, as long as we’re together, no one can lay a finger on us…”
    That fatal Thursday they were done with their swimming lessons for the day. Both were certified trainers. In her purple swiming costume, Dona looked a stunner. Though they were identical twins, Dona was the fitter of the two with a body that would put the most glam-diva to shame. 5 feet 6, weighing around 60 kgs,  she would stand out in a crowd anywhere in the world if for nothing else then for the gray-brown eyes that gave her the killer look. No wonder, she wanted to join the modelling world. The only thing that differentiated the twin was the mole that Dona had on her left thigh. A secret , other than to Deepa, known only to their parents.
    As the sisters came out of the change room, looking glamorous and gorgeous in their faded jeans and shirts,  a young man came running from the men’s end of the lake and nearly dashed against Deepa in the process.
    “Who’s Dona here?” He looked askance from one sister to another. He had never seen anything like this. Two girls looking as if one was the carbon copy of the other.
    “I’m the one. What can I do for you, dumbo?”
    The young man looked offended. I came to know about you from a friend working for the club. You might have heard about my father, Shyamal Sarkar ..” the sisters exchanged a look of recognition between them. Who hasn’t heard of Shyamal Sarkar in Bengal? He was the most sought-after producer at the moment. 
    Their exchange was noted by the youth. “We’re looking for someone for our next,” he stopped here and gave Dona an appreciative look and carried on, “if you’re interested, you’ve to meet us at the Uttam-Suchitra Studio within an hour. There’s a party going on in connection with the shooting which takes off tomorrow. The debutante will also be introduced there to the others.”
    Deepa shook her head trying to refrain her twin from the nocturnal venture. They had reached by then, near the Ramkrishna Mission, Goal Park. It was a beautiful evening and Dona for one was a fearless girl. 
    “You go ahead, Dee. I’ll try to catch up with you near the Gariahat Bus Stand. If it gets late, I’ll give you a ring. Won’t you wish me luck…?” 
    Dona didn’t catch up with her at the bus stand. Not even at home. Aninda Babu lodged a police case soon after 9.30. The police investigation went on for days without any news of her sister. When Inspector Sashi met her at home and asked  what had transpired between them and Aryan, the notorious son of the producer, she tried to tell him as much as she could remember. Inspector Sashi picked the young up from a brothel the following week.
    One disclosure led to another and the picture that emerged was nothing sort of scary. They had gone to the studio all right. During the party, the Assistant Director had offered Dona a drink, which she’d politely refused. Aryan in the short period of time had become quite possessive of Dona and elbowed the Assistant out of the hall. It seemed the man got obsessed with Dona’s charm and came back with his henchmen.In the ensuing scuffle, as Aryan was totally booked,  Dona, a martial arts specialist, tried to save him from the hooligans. She was hit with a lethal weapon from behind twice. The second blow made her fall face down with blood gushing out from the back of the head.
    Standing near the locked closet, Deepa found her whole body shaking uncontrollably. She shouldn’t have let her go alone.
     “As long as we’re together, no one can lay a finger on us.” She felt guilty and heart-broken. The door of the closet was pulled open by then. Deepa heaved a sigh of relief. Thank God! No rotten body sprang out from inside. The only thing inside was a white themos box, some two feet by two in length and width. The stench was nauseating. Deepa held her hanky close to her nose again.
    “The cut-out pieces were placed inside the thermos. It was left outside the rear exit of the Morgue, Sir. As per your advice, I brought it inside myself with the rubber gloves and all. Not trusting anyone else with it and not letting anyone tamper with it either..”
    Inspector Sashi looked back at Deepa as he bent down to remove the cover. Deepa heard someone screaming her lungs out from deep down as the first object that met her eyes was the gory mole on a chunk of a rotten,  decayed flesh.
    The End.

      • April 30, 2018 at 5:28 pm
        Thanks, Ken.
    • April 29, 2018 at 5:05 am
      A very atmospheric piece, RNB. I think you build the tension very well, and one really gets a sense of the nauseous and confined space.
      And a warning of the dangers faced by young women in an aggressive world full of bad men
      • April 30, 2018 at 5:32 pm
        Thank you, Andy. Your positive feedback will help me take to writing more seriously with renewed vigour and zeal.
    • April 30, 2018 at 1:31 pm
      I liked your creepy scary story. There are some minor corrections that could be made. At the end of several sentences, you have an extra period, two .. instead of one . You should be able to do a find and replace for this. Also, we usually leave one blank line between paragraphs. There is also an extra space between the “ Deepa at the beginning of the story. Minor cleanup stuff. You’ll probably find some in my story, as well.
      • April 30, 2018 at 5:40 pm
        Thanks, Jenet, for pointing out the mistakes. How I wish that I had the time to resubmit my story after editing the story as per your suggestions! But then, I am busy right now with the preparation for the Mid-Term Examinations. So, let me just thank you once more for going through the story critically.
    • May 1, 2018 at 4:22 pm
      This is a well-structured and tense story, rnb. The device of having the closet door (I think the word is ‘cabinet’, but that’s a detail) just about to be opened while you tell the main part of the story in flashback works really well – suspenseful. The detail for identification is well seeded, and I like how Deepa hears her own screams as being someone else’s. In that big paragraph near the beginning, you have some details of the other dead bodies which perhaps are not really relevant to the story at hand (?), and I wonder if Deepa would be so calm on the phone of the detective is calling from the morgue!
      • May 3, 2018 at 10:06 am
        Thank you, Mr. Phil, for your considerate opinion. I feel honoured to have you comment on my story. I added the paragraph about the other murdered body on the rickshaw for effects and to build up the suspence. You are right about Deepa’s reactionot on the phone. But then days have turned into weeks since Dona went missing and all of Deepa’s apprehension has started abetting. I”d try to defend Deepa’s reaction by saying that she was totally taken off guard when the call came from outside of the Morgue.
        You won’t even believe how flattered I feel by your response. I’ve a feelung for the first time in my life that I am cut out to be a writer. THANKS.
  • April 18, 2018 at 11:17 am

    Hey Ladies and Gentlemen, Carrie and I are going to extend the deadline for this prompt, in order to accommodate the extension of the bonus contest, “Eclipse.” This means the deadline for “Elements” will now be May 2nd. Thank you for all your hard work and getting stories submitted even though your lives are very busy, we truly appreciate you all.

    If you have any questions you can email them to: liflashfiction@gmail.com

    Thank you,
    Carrie & Alice

  • April 25, 2018 at 9:12 am
    So I am not hung out to dry, is there a ‘special’ meaning to the term ‘Elements’ I should know about? I understand about
    * Identical Twins
    * A party invitation
    * A Locked closet.

    I’ve known seven sets of identical twins and those girls pictured are not identical twins. They remind me of my next-door neighbors when I was in elementary school. Like the girls, Clyde had a slenderer face than Curtis did. Leonard and Leonella were easy to tell apart. He had a crew cut and she braided her hair. My cousins were Dee-Dee and Don-Don; [both girls] so nicknamed to not be confused with our grandmother Daa-Daa and our great-great-grandmother, Doo-Doo. And then there were the Teaser twins [so named because, ah well, they were]. Monica and Monique each parted their hair on alternate sides. [Until I told them, but I could still tell.] They were the closest to being identical, but they were cousins. [Go figure?] All the other had some distinguishing characteristic that, seemingly, only I could see.

    • April 26, 2018 at 9:34 am
      Hey Robert, the word “Elements” refers to story Elements, which in this case mean what you write must contain these 3 elements, identical twins, a party invitation, and a locked closet.

      About the picture of the twins above, I just liked it and thought they looked enough alike to fit the prompt.

      I went to school with twins also, and they were not identical, but most people mixed them up, but I could always tell them apart.

      Happy writing!

  • April 25, 2018 at 11:00 am


    They had disappeared, the Bentley twins and their mother, Margaret, was under sedation in hospital. She had burst into the police station screaming, raving about a party that the girls had gone to. The officers on duty could not get much sense out of her, apart from the names of the twins and a photo that she had with her; a doctor was called in. A police constable was sitting by her bed now, waiting for her to wake up so that they could get a full statement from her. Meanwhile, an initial search for the twins was on. What the police did not yet know was Margaret’s story.


    She had been married to George Bentley, a merchant seaman. His absences from home caused her great stress early in their marriage and she was prescribed drugs to deal with it … until the twins came along. They were a stabilising factor in her life, and she turned a corner. The two girls grew up strong and healthy. Initially it was a happy family, until the times that George returned home.

    He was a rough man, from a rough family, and he treated Margaret similarly. He had never wanted children, nor did he understand that his wife needed them for her psychological balance. He blamed her for not taking enough care to avoid having them, as if it were her exclusive responsibility. His visits home were traumatic for all. He was a drinker, spending large amounts of his wages on alcohol, while Margaret had to scrimp and save to keep house. On many occasions, he came home so drunk that he would beat her, just because.

    Paradoxically, the twins loved their father, even though the only times they saw him he was more an animal than a parent. They wrote letters to the ports he was headed for, which he would pick up when he docked. They never got a response, not even a postcard. When he came home, he never brought them a present from his travels. And they witnessed his attacks on their mother. They should have hated him, but they did not. Perhaps they were guilty of wishful thinking, believing that deep down he was a good man, and hoping that he would change.

    On one visit – the girls were 13 – George had just given Margaret one of her now almost statutory beatings when she broke and told him that the twins were not his. As she was too weak to hurt him physically, she had hoped to hurt him with that. He was not hurt, he was incensed. He beat her some more, packed a bag and left.

    Indeed, the twins were not his. On one of George’s long absences, Margaret had sought comfort from his brother, Ralph. It was a one-night affair; Ralph had been drunk, Margaret had had a sherry or two. Ralph did not set foot in the house again through shame, and Margaret did not let on to George that his brother was the father of the two girls; she feared he would kill him if she told him.

    They lost track of George, although he and Margaret were still officially married. He was at sea most of the time, and when he returned, he would stay at a variety of hostels, but never visited them. The girls came to blame their mother for this and grew distant from her. But she was devoted to them and continued to look after them as best she could, getting work as a cleaner to pay the bills.

    Margaret was saving money to treat the twins on their 15th birthday. When the day arrived, she went to the shops after work – she worked from seven till ten in the morning – and bought them a nice top each. It was the school holidays and she expected them to be at home when she arrived. They were not. She thought that maybe they had gone shopping themselves, but in their bedroom she found it: an invitation, which must have arrived that morning. It was from George, inviting them to a ‘lunch party’.

    There were no details on the card; she assumed that those must have been on a separate sheet of paper, which was not there. She tried ringing their phones; her calls went straight to message. She began to panic, knowing her husband better than anyone and fearing the worst. She hurried round to her neighbours to see whether they had any information: nothing. Desperate now, she ran to the police station, only two blocks away but far enough for her hysteria to peak as she burst in.


    It was not until a full 24 hours later that Margaret finally calmed down enough to tell the police what she knew. They traced George to the last ship he was connected with and found it was already at sea again and headed for Bilbao. A European arrest warrant was obtained and when the ship docked, the Spanish police boarded and took George, who was preparing to jump over the side to avoid capture.

    British police officers were on hand to question him on the whereabouts of his daughters. At first he denied any wrongdoing, but, caught out on several questions, he finally admitted to having abducted them. He directed police to a hostel in East London.

    When they entered the room in the hostel where he had been staying, it was empty … or so it seemed. A WPC who was present said she thought she heard something coming from a cupboard. The locked door was forced and there they were: the twins, gagged and bound together in the cramped space. They were terrified, exhausted and severely dehydrated. After a brief check, they were rushed to the same hospital as their mother.


    George was convicted of abduction of minors and given a hefty prison sentence. When they recovered, the twins, finally seeing how much their father really loved them, were contrite and sought their mother’s forgiveness. Margaret was all too ready to give it and embraced the opportunity to re-connect with her beloved daughters, freed as she now was of the looming threat that her husband had always posed.


    • April 29, 2018 at 4:55 am
      That’s a good story, Phil. I’m a great fan of your writing, the ease of expression and the flow you always bring to the narrative.

      It has strong emotive ingredients of injustice, survival, a mother’s desperation. In this case, though, I wonder if it might have a little more emotional power and immediacy if we could get inside the story through dialogue or from the mother telling her story, in the central section, at least.

      Actually, I thought the first paragraph ending “What the police did not yet know was Margaret’s story.” was setting it up for Margaret to tell her story. Maybe that was your initial intention? I think it would work, like a classic Conrad or Dostoevsky short story, perhaps. Set the scene of the narrator and person/people being addressed, and then sucking the reader into that conversation.

      • April 29, 2018 at 9:49 am
        Thanks, Andy, and I agree with you 100% (hindsight is a terrible thing). A simple shift of perspective would have made it much better.
    • April 30, 2018 at 2:27 am
      I agree with everything that Andy said, what I understood of it, and that part about Conrad and Dostoevsky is probably true too. I thought your story read like a good journalistic newspaper story. Like Andy said, It lacked ‘immediacy.’
      It couldn’t hold a candle to your last three stories, which were fantastic. In fact. I think you’re punishing us for our collective lack of appreciation. And that’s why you wrote this story in the way that you did. (It’s a working theory.) I mean, Why Else would you write one of your stories this way? Makes no sense.

      BTW, (I hope nobody else reads this, ’cause it’s kind of embarrassing.) I let two of my family members read my story. One of them said, “How did the police know he was in the closet?” Hold on a second, I can’t laugh and type.–Ah jeez.– Okay. Alright. And the other one said, “I hope you weren’t planning on winning with this.”
      That’s my family. We’re blunt, we lack rational social skills, (and that’s sugarcoating it.) We may not be polite, but we’re honest. As in: “Well, if you’re gonna stay, I guess you might as well sit down.”

      So you know, I’m just saying…go easy on me if you critique my story. You could say something like: ‘The plot is so well contained within the story, you barely notice it.’ Something like that. I appreciate your cooperation on this Phil. And keep it under your hat.

      • May 1, 2018 at 4:26 pm
        Thanks, Ken … I was in fact feeling a little leaden when I wrote it (just a brief phase), and that came through, I think. I haven’t got to your story yet … I’m sure it’s great!
    • May 3, 2018 at 11:54 am
      God! I’s this how every writer is supposed to write, Ken? In order to make meaning out of the first paragraph alone, I have to look almost every single word up in the dictionary. And to think that people in this part of the world think highly of my English! I have to be reborn for the next thousand years before even dreaming of having your kind of English.
      When you are a failure and survival is top priority in your life, flattery is the name of the game. I flatter people because I’ve to. Who would employ and sustain a non-entity like me unless I can make myself the best yes-man that I can be? But I also flatter people when I see sheer talent.
      Whatever, let me tell you that I’don’t love to have a three-page letter from you on the hair-style as my hair is falling off like I won’the have any after a few months. Besides, even a half-page letter from a man of your stature and calibre, will help me improve my English. By the way, I hope you didn’t use the last part of your letter idiomatically because my knowledge of idioms is as poor as my knowledge of everything else.
      Thanks for welcoming me to the club and trying to make a man out of me. Take care and if you slash the trash down to the last bit in a maddenig rush to hush a man acting like a sassy for his apparent crush on you, I won’t really mind it so much.
      P.S: Bear with me till I’ve looked some of the words up in the dictionary for a proper appreciation of your mind-set.
  • April 27, 2018 at 9:02 pm
    MOVING by Janet Surrusco
    Word Count 1192

    It’s almost his birthday. He would have been 28. Is that possible? He’s been gone nearly 25 years? It seems so long ago and yesterday at the same time. He was in a hurry to get here, three weeks early. He weighed in at 5lbs.10 oz. and was 21 inches long, my little string bean. He was perfect. We called him J.C., short for Joseph Charles.

    The bone cancer was found four months before his third birthday. It was the week after Christmas. I touched him just above the knee while changing him and he screamed. This from the boy who fell on cement steps, scraped his face bloody, and continued to run to the swing set, undaunted. I made a doctor appointment immediately and bone cancer was suspected. We left the same day we got the x ray results. We were sent to the University of Utah Medical Center for a biopsy. It was performed on New Year’s Eve. It was odd sitting, waiting, hoping that your baby doesn’t have cancer while others are all excited about the new year. They were smiling and laughing and wishing each other a happy new year; asking about their plans for the evening and if they had made any resolutions. I wanted to yell at them to stop! Didn’t they know a baby’s life was on the line, my baby? I hated them for being normal.

    We went home for J.C. to recover from the biopsy, after we met with the child oncologists. We were told J.C. was only the 6th child in the world, in his age group, to have this type of cancer, osteogenic sarcoma. I’ll never forget those two deadly words. We returned to Primary Children’s Hospital and J.C. got his first dose of chemo. We were sent home after learning how to maintain the central line that was placed inside him. When his white blood count was back up, we went back again for the next chemo but the cancer had spread. It had traveled up his leg. His leg had to be amputated in the hope to stop it from spreading. It was hard to hand him to the surgeon, even harder when he came back. I rushed to his side to touch him, to make sure he was still alive. It was the first time I came close to fainting and it was across all the tubes and wires attached. I sat down with my head between my legs. It passed and I ran to the bathroom and threw up over and over. My limit had been reached.

    After about a week, we went home to recover from the surgery, both mentally and physically. Another chemo in March and back to the hospital. The cancer had spread to his spine. Three months from having a healthy child to hearing your child will die and soon. Three months of holding him in my lap, sleeping with him at night, and carrying him on my hip. He lived longer than the doctors expected and even had a couple of good months, after the chemo was stopped. We celebrated his third birthday and he was feeling so good. Could the cancer have gone in remission? The doctors assured us it couldn’t. He got a motorized car for his birthday and he said, “For me, I can’t drive!”, as he crawled/scooted to get in the car. He would have done fine with one leg, if he had lived.

    I need to stop this, I have work to do. I get so melancholy every year when it’s near his birthday, April 28th. I probably should have picked a different month to move. I want to be out before May 1st.

    The twins, Tim and Todd, are visiting their folks across the street. They are the age J.C. would have been. They’ve brought their families; wife and kids. They noticed me packing and have come to help move the heavier stuff and to visit. After all, both our families have lived across from each other for nearly 32 years. They said they were visiting their folks because they were going to a party later in the evening; a high school reunion party. Tim showed me the crumpled invitation for the Class of 2002. Go Tigers.

    What would J.C. be doing now, if he had lived? What would he have accomplished? Would he be married with kids? He was smart as a whip but could get in more trouble in a little bit of time than any other child. Maybe he knew he had to cram a lot of living into a very short time. One day he grabbed the bright pink medicine in the fridge that his sister was taking. As he ran, he opened the childproof cap, he had these figured out before he reached two, and poured the medicine on my new carpet. Luckily, there wasn’t too much left. I scooped him up and put him in his crib so I could clean the mess. I finished with the carpet. When I walked into his room, the smell hit me first. He had decided to reach into his now soiled diaper and do artwork on himself, his crib, and what he could reach of the wall. He was grinning from ear to ear. Ugh! I started his bath. After I got him clean, I set him next to his sister and asked her to keep an eye on him. It took some time to get the crib and walls clean. I checked that he was sitting with his sister as I went along. When I came out of his room, he was no longer with her. I found him in the bathroom. He had found the diaper rash cream and was doing his artwork again; on the mirror, walls, and himself. I let him play in the tub while I cleaned the bathroom. I may have been exhausted that night but it is such a treasured memory now.

    Enough, back to work!

    Almost done. Only one closet left. This closet has been opened only once since I put J.C.’s toys and photos in there a year after his death. By court order, the divorce stated his father could make copies of the tapes and photos. For some reason, I held back a couple of photos that were so special to me. I don’t know why I did that. Well, maybe I do. I managed to give most of his clothing away after the first year, but I kept what he was wearing when he passed away in my arms on July 24th. I kept his teeth that he pulled out and handed to me when the chemo made all his teeth loose. I kept the hair that fell off and lay on his pillow. I’ve kept the memories in my heart and head…and the pain. Oh yes, I’ve kept the pain.

    No more! You can do this! You know what’s in there, just grab the tissues and go. I’ve unlocked the door. I take a deep breath and turn the knob.

    • April 30, 2018 at 4:28 pm
      Great story, Janet!

      (But how did it pop in here dated 27th?? I’m sure it wasn’t here before and I’ve been down this thread several times. Was pending somehow?)

      It’s an excellent characterisation of both the irrepressible but tragic JC and his mother with her pain. Really good pace and has a ring of authenticity about it that draws me in.

      Only one thing – the paragraph about the twins and the party kind of interrupts the flow and doesn’t really add to the thrust of the story. But I guess it shoots down two of the requirements 🙂

    • April 30, 2018 at 6:35 pm
      Such a sad, sad, story but I like the way you have her remembering it. The way she keeps forcing herself back to the task at hand creates a nice back and forth between the now and the then. I agree with Andy about the paragraph with the twins in it, but it doesn’t totally interrupt the flow. It kind of brings it back to the present at that point in the narrative.
    • April 30, 2018 at 7:59 pm
      Awesome story, Janet. Very well written and very moving. Almost as if it really happened to you. And that’s why we write. You made it believable. The best I’ve seen from you, in my opinion. Wow. That’s all I’ve got. No problems with the things others have mentioned. You had me at ‘It’s almost his birthday.” Good job.
    • May 1, 2018 at 4:44 pm
      This is an excellent story, Janet – it really grabs you. The choice of first person, and the present tense, make it all very raw. The detail of the teeth and the clothes, and the passing mention of the divorce (suggesting the tensions between the parents after JC’s death) are deft touches. I actually think the paragraph with the twins works well – double the life so close, to have the narrator missing her child even more. I didn’t think, though, that the big paragraph about JC as a naughty boy works so well – to me he seems just that, and I like him less for it, despite the mother keeping it as “a treasure memory”. Great stuff, though!
    • May 2, 2018 at 6:01 pm
      A moving story. (No pun intended.) The odd thing is that it’s so positive, despite being a story of grief. I guess it’s a story of dealing with and overcoming grief.
  • April 28, 2018 at 7:44 am
    Brother from Another Mother

    Mona looked at her husband sharply. “Play the percentages? These are two lives we are talking about!”

    Professor Adams, the consultant surgeon, leaned forward across his desk, looking sympathetically at the couple in front of him. “Mrs Hobson, the way your twins are conjoined presents us with three options. We can do nothing. Let nature takes its course. One of the twins is significantly stronger than the other – ”

    “That’s Albert – Bertie. John’s the smaller one. Please, don’t think of them as nameless objects.”

    “Of course. Bertie’s stronger than John. Biologically, he’s dominant. If we let nature takes its course, it’s certain John will not survive long. At some point we’ll need to separate them. Delaying separation significantly increases the chances of a bad outcome for both children.”


    “Or, we can separate the twins straightaway. Only one would survive. Bertie on his own has a higher probability of living a normal lifespan. John, because of his restricted development, would have more health problems. The chances of John not surviving into adulthood are high.”

    “Honey, if we want one of our children to survive and have a good life,” said Patrick, Mona’s husband, “then we have to make the most rational choice.”

    “Sacrifice John to give Bertie the best chance of living, you mean. So Bertie will grow up feeling part of him is missing. And I’ll know for my whole life …” Mona turned to the doctor. “But you’re saying that John, though weaker, could live, have a life of his own?”

    “Only at the expense of Bertie. Effectively, they share a heart and a liver.”

    “So the strong should be chosen over the weak?”

    * * * * * *
    Mona thought long and deep over the weekend. All the advice from family and friends was the same. Eventually, Mona agreed.

    “You’re doing the right thing, honey,” said Patrick.

    Mona looked at him, saw the sincerity in his eyes. She had no doubt about his love for her, his devotion to an unborn son. And that would make it all the more difficult to do what she had to do.

    * * * * * *
    Bertie was a fighter, enduring a succession of operations to separate him from his twin, mend bone, replace bone and cartilage, graft skin and perform a succession of other tasks. His right arm was malformed, but apart from that he was growing into a strong and healthy child.

    Mona returned to work as soon as she could. Patrick was the prefect hands-on father, and supported her decision. He saw that working seemed to give her balance, giving her time to overcome the trauma of the decision she had assented to, the stress of seeing Bertie through his medical journey.

    Bertie was approaching his first birthday. On a Sunday evening, after dropping her husband at the airport to fly to a conference, Mona drove into work with Bertie. As she arrived, she glanced up at the plaque by the entrance, “Oxford University Institute of Temporal Research”.

    * * * * * * *
    Fifteen months earlier, Mona was sitting in a quiet coffee shop in Oxford. She’d just had a scan at the hospital, and needed some time alone to process the advice she’d been given.

    She looked up as a woman carrying a child came in, and went to the bar to order drink. She felt a pang of – not jealousy, but tender wistfulness as she considered her dilemma.

    The woman came over to Mona’s table, and put a drink in front of her.” You look like you could use another cup,” said the newcomer. As the woman sat down and removed her hat and scarf, Mona’s eyes widened in recognition.

    “Bloody hell!”, she exclaimed. “Either there’s something in this tea – or you’re me! And with a child! So … oh my god!”

    “Yes,” smiled Mona-from-the-future. “Your time portal works. I’m the future you! And this is my – our – son. Bertie.”

    “He’s – unbelievable!”

    After several minutes of talking about Bertie and time-mathematics, they came to the reason why Mona had sought out her earlier self. “The next few months will be an incredible trial for you. Everyone will give you advice, tell you to ‘play the percentages’. Save Bertie at the expense of – ”

    “John,” chipped in the younger Mona.

    “I know how you won’t be able to stop thinking about John, your love, your duty of care for the weaker one.”


    “So – you can see. Bertie is well, and safe. Now we can save John too! Can you do that? Can you resist all the advice, the pressure, the criticism to do that? At least give him the chance?”

    The younger Mona looked stunned. “Go on….”

    “OK. This was my thinking. Bertie would be stronger, god willing, and stand a better chance of making the trip back with me. So far so good. Now you choose to save John, and they both live!”

    “You’re – insane!”

    “But, in this new context, it’s the rational choice.”

    “How does this work when you go back to your own time?”

    The elder Mona gave a slight shrug. “In my own time, I’ve disappeared. And it’s not at all clear how I can get back. Up to now we’ve only tested temporal transfer with a rock – an object that doesn’t change and doesn’t move. I’m probably here to stay.”

    “Then how can we explain why there are two of me, and how a baby who dies is alive? Identical twins, though one of them is a year older?”

    “There are a few issues, that’s true … You – and baby John – will need a lot of the medical help and support. So I’ll have to be out of the way, living in the shadows.”

    “Maybe the Institute could keep you locked in a closet, working away to accelerate our research Although that would violate our Ethical Charter, I guess.”

    “And some! No. We can find a way, but it has to be quietly.”

    * * * * *
    Mona arrived late for John’s 1st birthday party, after most of the guests had left. A few people now were in the know. The younger Mona’s Patrick, her parents, her sister and a somewhat shell-shocked Professor Adams who now had oversight of a child he had seen die.

    Bertie and John had taken to each from their first encounter. They belong together, thought the elder Mona. She knew that her younger self would agree to that. They would have to somehow construct an elaborate fiction, falsify a few documents, but all for the higher good.

    Now the twins were asleep on the sofa, entwined face-to-face. Like the scans she had seen of them in her womb. It felt so right.

    And so hard. She found herself looking at the younger Patrick, and thinking of her husband. Now she felt adrift, an undocumented alien in her own past.

    But it had to be so. Though she had shipwrecked her own life and her Patrick’s, though a whole world may have faded out of existence, her twins were alive, and together. As it should be.

    • April 28, 2018 at 9:55 am
      Going to have to re-read this a few more times to figure out your time paradox. I think I’ve got it, but not sure. As an avid reader of Sci Fi in my younger years (since 1952 approximately) and ever since, I’ve read plenty. There’s a fly in this ointment somewhere, because my paradox meter is sounding a mild alarm that is getting louder. When I silence the alarm, I’ll also give a critique about the rest.
      • April 28, 2018 at 10:17 am
        Haha. It’s not possible to write a time travel story without paradox, Roy. But think of it as more about the moral dilemma than the science

        I had to cut out most of the advanced physics and temporal mechanics because of the word-count, of course 🙂

        • April 29, 2018 at 10:34 am
          I understand that, but I reconcile it with myself only to find another unanswered question that needs resolving. I’ll be in touch if I ever get my time travel head on straight,
          • April 29, 2018 at 11:22 am
            Found what was bothering me. Not the paradox; the fact that Bertie is only one year older than John in the last paragraph. Here’s what I didn’t assimilate. There actually had to be at least about 6 months left in her pregnancy, possibly more because we don’t know how far along she was, but in any event, Bertie celebrated his one year birthday, went back in time with his Mom, (fifteen months earlier) and was forced to wait until his brother John was born along with himself again. So, on John’s 1st birthday his back-from-the-future brother Bertie was at least 2 years three months, and possibly, 2 and a half year’s old. (For the one year thing, Back-from-the-future-Mona had to show up with BFTF Bertie when they separated the twins right after birth and Bertie doesn’t make it. That’s what was bothering me. Am I right?
          • April 29, 2018 at 1:16 pm
            Well, interesting homing in on the minutiae there, Roy!!

            And you’re both right and wrong.

            Because: Bertie would indeed be more than 2 years old for sure by then. But: his actual birth *date* is the same as John’s, is it not? So that’s when they would celebrate his birthday, naturally, even though biologically he’s a bit older.

            BTW, what did you think of the story as a whole?

            • April 30, 2018 at 7:18 pm
              Loved it. But, there is that “age” thing. Seriously Andy, other than the time travel age and paradox thing, you have a wonderful story, Don’t have a lot to quibble about.
    • April 29, 2018 at 1:57 am
      A fun story, kind of like a literary time-travel thought experiment. It’s actually pretty damned clever. In fact, this seems really original, like nobody’s ever connected time-travel to reproduction before. How is that possible? (Listen buddy, If you keep showing off your brain around here, sooner or later someone’s going to suspect you of being smart. That’s all I’m gonna say. It’s your call.)

      With that said, I must however, protest your suggestion that time-lines just disappear because people leave them. Really Andy. Tsk, tsk, tsk. That’s not how it works at all, my good fellow. In fact, if a time-line were to ‘malfunction,’ it would be the one with the two twins in it. And two mothers. That’s a time-line that risks looping in on itself. (Time don’t be lettin’ you gettaway with that shit, bro.) Meanwhile, the other time-line will get along fine without Mona and Bertie.

      All kidding aside, (not that I wasn’t serious already), a very entertaining and thought-provoking story, Andy.

      • April 29, 2018 at 4:40 am
        Thanks Ken. ‘Literary thought experiment’, I like that 🙂

        Who knows where the future goes when we mess with the past? (There’d be no point in writers speculating about going back to the past to, say, assassinate a dictator, unless it impacted the future they’d just come from.)

        So IMHO Mona (the elder) is justified in having fears about what her actions may have done. Yet it is only a maybe, because who knows?

        Meanwhile, I just enjoy exploring the tangle that alternative courses of action can bring when they are intertwined in a story 🙂 Kind of ‘Sliding Doors’ in a time elevator. Is there such a thing as a time elevator? There should be!

        • April 30, 2018 at 3:02 am
          I liked the realism created with your characters having no way back to the future. But I think the latest (and maybe craziest) cosmological theories suggest a universe of infinite dimensions, or time-lines, and each major choice made by each person splits off a new reality. Though it sounds far-fetched, it invokes a type of infinity to the universe, that has been spatially limited to be about 30 billion light years wide. That’s big, but not so infinite. It’s also possible that infinity is merely a concept, not a scientific reality.
          This is soft sci-fi, my favorite. I realize your story is not about the science, it’s about the amazing thing you could do with it, and what consequences there might there be.
          • April 30, 2018 at 6:55 pm
            OMG I had already decided on my story and finished it before I saw this. Did one of you guys come from the fututre to put in my head the idea to do an alternate time line story?
    • April 30, 2018 at 7:06 pm
      HA! We both had the idea to do an alternate timeline twin! How crazy is that? But seriously, in all time travel stories you have to suspend disbelief, so I did my best and whatever paradox you may have created definitely didn’t detract from the story. It is a super crazy idea that somehow works and while this isn’t the only time travel pregnancy story around (Heinlein had a very twisty weird one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_You_Zombies ) that is the only one I can think of so you’re definitely in rare company and yours is easier to stomach quite frankly. Now I’ve gone off down a rabbit hole.

      Anyway, this story has some great elements to it and a very creative plot that I didn’t see coming at all – which is rare. Good job!

      • May 2, 2018 at 2:23 pm
        Yep. nipped in through your mysterious closet and checked what you were writing, Wendy!
    • May 1, 2018 at 5:13 pm
      A very clever and unique story, Andy. I’m not a big sci-fi fan really, at least not nowadays, but you plot is ingenious. As someone else has said, the science is important only in how it impacts on the lives of your characters, not as a headline feature in itself. The little skip from seeing the plaque to cutting to the coffee shop is very nicely done. However, I was really hooked into Mona’s quandary about the way to go re the twins (a kind of ‘Mona’s Choice’), and I must admit I was a little disappointed when it all went sci-fiey. Then … the two Mona’s meet and it’s like two college friends meeting by chance after a couple of years, not the monumental event that it actually is. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief in sci-fi, and because of the restrictions of length here you couldn’t have too much resistance from the young Mona, but I found it quite hard to get over the relative calmness of that moment. Good, head-warping concept, though.
      • May 2, 2018 at 2:28 pm
        That’s interesting around their calmness. It was a kind of joke to get them talking about time-mathematics before they get on to the task in hand, reflecting a somewhat geeky personality. My first question would probably be, “did you bring the lottery numbers?”
        I think the earlier Mona must have been excited to see a concept and product she was working on delivering the goods – so not as surprising to her as perhaps to someone else
  • April 28, 2018 at 12:40 pm
    A mother giving up her life, to save her child’s. I can see that. I couldn’t quite figure out how Patrick’s life was harmed, unless she means later on when she time travels. If they return a year after the birth, how did Mona change her mind the year before?
    • April 28, 2018 at 12:57 pm
      Hi Janet – I don’t quite understand the question….
      Mona has left her husband and travelled back in time with her son. And can’t get back (she doesn’t return anywhere). So Patrick is left without wife and son. Perhaps even that whole time-line (where she came from) will disappear as she has altered history….
      • April 30, 2018 at 1:38 pm
        It’s just me wondering out loud. Your story definately made me think. HaHa, maybe too much. I really want more story, to follow these people to see how it all turns out.
    • April 29, 2018 at 1:49 am
      Well, Janet, regarding Andy’s story, it ruins Patrick’s life because, even though the future Patrick hated kids and was having an affair anyway, unfortunately, the police suspected foul play when his wife and son disappeared and charged him with murder. He was acquitted after a lengthy and costly trial due mostly to the lack of evidence, but was bankrupted and ruined. He ended up getting a job as a cabbie and living over a dry-goods store in Indianapolis.
      • April 30, 2018 at 2:45 pm
        You’ve read the sequel, Ken? 🙂 Janet said she would like to see more, so thanks for writing up the summary!
        Mind you, you could add in a few extra words : “…in Indianapolis, where he planned his revenge. The strangely customised DeLorean he’d found in a wrecker’s yard would play a key part in this.”
        • May 1, 2018 at 1:20 pm
          Andy, you,,,,,,,are a genius.
          I’m tempted to try to put a cherry on top of the icing that you added to my cake.

          Patrick’s plan was to go back in time and schtupp someone other than Mona, thereby eliminating the dilemma she has to face altogether. But he has to overcome the fact that it’s hard to get a date in Indianapolis in a DeLorean with a flux capacitor in the backseat. At first, he thinks hubcaps will change his luck, but then he needs curb-feelers. Before he knows it, he’s hanging fuzzy dice from the rear view mirror and still, can’t get a date. So…

          The beauty of science fiction is that the science is merely the device that makes the plot possible. So it doesn’t have to be perfect, just plausible. I read a great treatment of time-travel years ago in a short story called, ‘The Very Slow Time Machine.’ (Ian Watson.) I should read it again. But I probably won’t because the only story I ever read twice was Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. I was camping and there was nothing else to read. And it had been at least thirty years since I’d read it the first time. It’s amazing how some stories are just so remarkably different that you remember them for decades. (‘Grendel’ comes to mind in that category. I read that while in my twenties, and there are some passages in that book that are still vivid in my mind.)

          Have you ever read ‘The Ugly Little Boy’ by Isaac Asimov? Your story reminded me of that one. (Maybe because both involved time-travel and children, and compassion.)

          • May 1, 2018 at 1:46 pm
            Hoping to make you jealous a little, Mr. Cartisano, I happen to own a personally signed by IA hisownself, Asimov Foundation.

            One of the best time travel stories I ever read was a story about a Time Machine Company that took people back in time. One of the most popular places people wanted to go was to ‘The Crucifixion”. The story deals with taking groups and realizing that when they did, all the previous groups they took, plus themselves as guides were also there at the “moments on the cross” and the crowds were so large there was a problem to the extent they had to stop taking groups and it was a very expensive proposition for anyone to go, so they could keep the crowd growing slowly. One of the guides realized it when he kept running into himself.

  • April 29, 2018 at 12:43 am
    Eye Witness. (1172 Words.)
    by Ken Cartisano 4-29-18

    I met Aaron Hartley in the interrogation room of the 18th Precinct. He was young, handsome, well-dressed and possessed a firm handshake.
    “Why’d you call me, Mr. Hartley? Surely you can afford a much better attorney.”
    “I called a couple of the big firms,” he said. “They all suggested a plea deal.”
    “And that’s unacceptable?”
    “I’m innocent,” he said. “Why should I plead guilty?”
    “So tell me what happened.”
    He told me. He and his twin brother were invited to a party. His brother was busy so he went alone. Everything was fine for about an hour until his brother unexpectedly showed up, lured him into the back bedroom, shoved him into a closet and locked the door.
    “Did you resist or put up a fight?” I asked.
    “I was in the closet before I knew what was happening.”
    “Did you try to get out?” I asked.
    “Not really. I banged on the door, tried the knob, but the music was so loud I knew no one would hear me. I was waiting for a break in the music.”
    Aaron next described hearing a series of muffled cries and screams, then someone flung open the closet door, and as soon as he emerged he was surrounded, accused and detained until the police arrived, then taken into custody and charged. His brother Devon was gone and no one remembered seeing him, and when Aaron finally managed to contact him, his brother accused him of treachery and urged him to confess. “He’s trying to frame me, obviously.”
    “What’s your brother’s motive?” I asked.
    Aaron shrugged. “A large trust fund?”
    “He doesn’t want to share it with you?”
    “Apparently not.”

    After my interview with Mr. Aaron Hartley I checked with the lead detective on the case who informed me that they had a solid-gold witness.
    “Who?” I asked.
    “Robert Tillman.”
    “What’s so solid about him?”
    “He’s your client’s best friend.”
    “That’s pretty solid all right. What about prints?”
    “Plenty of prints at the scene,” he said. “But no murder weapon.”
    “How could my client have disposed of the murder weapon when he never left the apartment?”
    “Maybe he threw it out the window.”
    “From the closet?”

    I visited the crime scene, a spacious three-room apartment on the eighth floor. Crime-scene tape outlined a rough image on the carpet just outside the bathroom. I confirmed the existence of a keyed closet in the third bedroom, as well as access to a fire escape. I suspected the murder weapon, whatever it was, was missing because it didn’t have my client’s fingerprints on it.

    We went to trial.

    The prosecutor wasted no time in putting Robert Tillman on the stand and walking him through his testimony.
    “You got a good look at him, then?”
    “Yes sir.”
    The prosecutor wondered how he could be so certain. “They’re identical twins. How do you tell them apart?”
    “Well, technically they’re identical twins, yes,” he said, “but they’re asymmetrical.”
    “Why don’t you tell the court what that means, Mr. Tillman.”
    He said, “Not everyone notices this, but Aaron and his brother have two different colored irises. Aaron’s right eye is blue, and his left eye is green, whereas Devon’s right eye is green and his left eye is blue. Aaron is right-handed, Devon is left-handed.”
    “So they’re not actually identical.”
    “Not in the true sense of the word. No.”
    “Where were you at the time of the alleged assault, Mr. Tillman?”
    “I was in the bathroom.”
    “With the door open?”
    “Yes, I was looking for aspirin in the medicine cabinet.”
    The prosecutor reminded Tillman that his deposition stated that the killer had his back to him during the assault.
    “That’s true,” he admitted. “But after the victim went down, Aaron turned around, glared at me for a moment, then bolted down the hallway to hide in the closet.”
    “Did you follow him?” The prosecutor asked. “Did you see him duck into the closet?”
    “Well, no. But I didn’t need to.”
    “Why not?”
    “There were other people there.”
    “All right.” The prosecutor said. Then to me, “Your witness.”

    I approached the witness stand and said, “Would you define yourself as a particularly bold, or confrontational kind of guy, Mr. Tillman?”
    “No. I wouldn’t say that.”
    “And yet, you claim in your sworn deposition that you boldly met the killers gaze and held it until he turned and fled.”
    “I’m not sure I said boldly but…”
    I moved aggressively towards the witness, slapped my open palm on the stand and bellowed, “You’re lying!”
    Much to my relief and satisfaction, he cringed and looked to the judge for intervention. The prosecution objected, and the judge admonished me. I apologized to the court, but explained that my actions were designed to elicit his reaction to aggression. Which, we could all see, was anything but bold.
    “Mr. Tillman,” I began again, “I think most people would empathize with your reluctance to meet the gaze of an enraged murderer.”
    The witness said nothing, and in fact continued to avoid the gaze of an impudent attorney.
    “I would believe, and forgive you if you admitted that in that moment of violent confrontation, that brief encounter with insanity—that you averted your gaze.” I turned to the jury. “Who among us wouldn’t be rattled by the gaze of a man who’d just murdered someone?”
    An agreeable murmur circulated around the courtroom.
    “But I saw his face,” Mr. Tillman maintained.
    “Let’s start from the beginning, Mr. Tillman. You were in the bathroom to get some aspirin, correct?”
    “Did you find the bottle of aspirin?”
    He thought for a moment. “Yeah, I did.”
    “Did you take any?”
    Tillman coughed. “No. I completely forgot about my headache.”
    “I’ll bet you did,” I said. “So you closed the medicine cabinet door?”
    A flicker of confusion crossed Mr. Tillman’s face. “Uh, no.”
    “No? What happened next?”
    “I heard a commotion behind me.”
    “I turned and looked, just in time…”
    “To see the murder occur.” I suggested. Luckily, the prosecution did not object.
    “But you couldn’t immediately tell who it was.”
    “But then the murderer turned and spotted you, an eyewitness.”
    “Looking right at you.”
    “And that didn’t frighten you?”
    Mr. Tillman hesitated. The clock ticked, and ticked. “Yeah, I think it did.”
    “Of course it did. And did you avert your gaze?”
    “Did you, or did you not look away?”
    In a whisper Tillman said, “I think I did.”
    “You looked away?”
    “Yes, I believe I did.”
    “Which way did you turn your head?”
    He gaped at me in bewilderment. “Toward the mirror.”
    Somewhere in the room a pencil snapped.
    “You looked away,” I said, “but found yourself looking at the murderer anyway.”
    “Yes. Yes, I was looking at his image in the mirror.”
    The judge banged his gavel for order.
    “And what did you see in the mirror?”
    “I saw…Aaron.”
    “And what does that tell us, Mr. Tillman?”
    “It means… it was the mirrored image… of Devon Hartley.”
    “Thank you, Mr. Tillman.” I had no further questions.

    • April 29, 2018 at 4:28 am
      A very ingenious way to weave together these seemingly unherdable elements into a coherent and fast-paced story, Ken!
      And all woven together in a narrative 90% revealed in your trademark sharp dialogue. A really good job.
      • April 29, 2018 at 12:21 pm
        Thanks Andy,
        ‘Trademark sharp dialogue.’ Nice phrase. Can I use that?
        I showed it to my wife-person this morning (Kim) and she pointed out the weaknesses in the story. They’re not big, but she felt confused at a couple of points so I cleared them up. Not sure I’ll bother to re-post it though.
        I have to respond to your response to my comments on your story because I love science fiction, time stories, science and arguing. Unfortunately, we have a luncheon date, so my boring opinion kiting will have to wait until later.
    • April 30, 2018 at 6:24 pm
      An excellent story , Mr.Ken. i’l’ll be delighted to be able to write a story like yours. I have learnt how to write a whole story through dialogues from you. Your style coupled with your language is just great.
      I have one thing though- I don’t think that you have portrayed the police in the right light. Why would a murderer hide himself in the closet right after committing a heinous crime, and that too not very far away from the scene of the crime? And why would he let the only eye-witness , in this case, his best friend , get away unharmed – to be identified as a murderer in the court at last?
      Whatever it may be, I have enjoyed going through your story. All the best.
      • May 1, 2018 at 2:02 pm
        You’re too kind, Rathin. ‘Why would a murderer hide himself in the closet right after committing a heinous crime, and that too not very far away from the scene of the crime? And why would he let the only eye-witness , in this case, his best friend , get away unharmed – to be identified as a murderer in the court at last?’

        You’ll have to read the sequel to find out, Rathin.

        No, just kidding. The real answer is time-travel. As you get older, traveling forward through time, you forget that closets are not that good a place to hide after all, especially when it involves murder. Still, you make interesting points. And you’re implying that I was a major influence on how you write. Which forces me to raise my appreciation for your writing. Pretty diabolical of you Rathin.

        The real answer is: Because I couldn’t think of another way to make it end the way I wanted it to end. And I thought I could get away with it.
        (Okay, that’s boring. I’m going to go back to kidding again.)
        And to tell you the truth, sometimes I want to do what you did, and just chop my characters up into little pieces. But you can only do that once or twice and then people start to anticipate it. (Yeah, but in THIS story, they put the pieces in a volcano!)

        Seriously though, I appreciate your comments, it’s true that the story has some weak points that I didn’t strengthen mainly because I didn’t know how. And (this is the real reason right here) I’d already re-written it five times and I refused to re-write it again. So I re-wrote it one more time anyway, and then–I said to myself. “That’s it. I’m done with this turkey. I’m posting it, for good or bad, then I’m going to get on with my life. Hang that Rembrandt that’s gathering dust in the closet, build that backyard roller-coaster I’ve always dreamed about, and get back to work on that moat I started digging last Easter. I have a life, ya know.”

        • May 1, 2018 at 5:56 pm
          Thank you once more, Ken, for letting me have an insight into the workings of a writer’s mind. You are an inspiration to others by everything you do – the way you feel, act, write and enjoy Life.
          I keep on learning a lot from you. The next thing I have learnt from you is – writers write their pieces innumerable times before coming out with the final products. You wrote and rewrote the story six times. And to think I gave up all thoughts of writing it for the third time! I had reached the saturation point by then.
          Great energy and stamina. Keep it up. Keep inspiring novices like me with your tips. All the very best wishes for you.
          • May 2, 2018 at 7:04 pm
            I admire your optimism. Like a series of monstrous pacific rollers, barreling towards the coast like a looming tsunami, my infinite supply of cynicism dashes itself to bits against the implacable promontory of your misplaced but steadfast ebullience. I salute you, sir.

            But ©My Cynicism™ is well-founded, and to prove it, I’m going to accuse you of deliberately trying to flatter me, thinking I’m a narcissist. You’re wrong. It won’t work. I’m onto you. I don’t like myself that much.

            (I’ll send you a three page letter telling you how to re-style your hair someday, and then you’ll know what we’re all talking about.)

            Welcome to the group, Rathin.

    • April 30, 2018 at 7:14 pm
      Wow, the pacing on this is great and the twist that the attorney Matlocked out of the witness was good too. Solid work and a perfect title (of course)
      • May 1, 2018 at 2:18 pm
        Thanks Wendy,
        I think ‘Matlocked’ sums it up nicely. Maybe too kindly. It’s a windy story with a weak, insubstantial plot, but the pacing is good. And like I told Rathin,— the moat is calling.

        I really liked your story once again. very original and your writing is impeccable, like Phil’s. (and Andy’s too, sometimes, but don’t tell him I said that.) I want to comment on it, your story, but don’t have time right now. I totally thought something different was going to happen.

    • May 1, 2018 at 5:55 pm
      I really enjoyed this, Ken. As Rathin says, telling the story through (your always excellent) dialogue really moves it along. I like Wendy’s new expression – ‘to matlock testimony’ – I was going to say the attorney perrymasoned it out of the witness, but that would just be showing my age. As for the plot – well, it’s so well contained within the story, you barely notice it. Having said that … one thing I didn’t really understand … how could the ‘murderer’ (as far as the police are concerned) be in a closet locked from the outside? I think maybe having Aaron in the closet was a bit of a cul-de-sac for the story – you could have worked the closet in some other way? Just an idea. Very slick work, though, and great fun.
  • April 29, 2018 at 2:14 pm
    We are not identical. My brother looks like me. I do not look like him. My brother tells me friends often call him Tim. My name is Tim. My brother’s name is Scott, no one calls me Scott. I am Tim.

    A few weeks ago a friend of Scott’s asked me to a gathering at his mother’s house, a surprise party for Scott for his recent appointment to the Governor’s Board of Trustees. This was a surprise to me as I had received an official letter of my appointment to this esteemed Board just the week before. I had kept it quiet because I don’t enjoy fuss and flurry over a meaningless event. Most events are meaningless. It’s like Ronnie said, “once you’ve seen a Redwood tree what’s the point”. I know that isn’t what Reagan said, it was Pat Brown who brought up a Redwood, but it fits my point about gatherings, “a tree is a tree, how many more do you have to look at”.

    People think Tim and I were born of the same mother, Tim thinks that too, but I know better, oops, made a mistake there, I am Tim and I know Scott is not my twin. It is annoying and confusing to me and to others and sometimes it is just easier to just be whoever they think we are just to stop the incessant intrusion into our personal lives.

    Are you wondering why I am telling you this? Me too, I never want to discuss me and Scott and it has been a never ending source of discomfort having friends question me about Scott’s life. When in 3rd grade no one could understand the disparity between our scholarly abilities. Scott, “the favored student” seemed to excel at every standard of skill. And me, well I guess most teachers thought I was mediocre at best…

    I think Scott was the favored ever since my father shot my mother and then himself. He had paused as my mother slowly slumped to the floor and turned toward me, sitting quietly in the wingback chair watching, he just looked into my eyes as he raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
    Scott had missed this scene of carnage.

    Living in foster homes over the years was difficult, not much attention was paid to us, we were “unadoptable” as we had to be kept together and there seemed to be a major problem with this caveat, I didn’t really care but Scott would try to convince potential adopters we or at least he was a good boy.
    Scott attended Yale and received his degree with honors, occasionally I would sit in on a class he couldn’t attend for some reason just to assist in his quest for “perfect attendance”, but I found the halls of higher learning exceptionally dull and not really my cup of beer…I would even say boring but as Scott always said, “boring people get bored”. I am not boring.

    Now I have to figure out what to do about this award party, is it mine or is it Scott’s, apparently both of us have been notified but I can’t find the one with my name on it. I might even just go without telling Scott I’ll be there just to watch the expression on his face…his “loser brother” gets the same award as him… ha.. I get the last laugh once again.

    Since he is my only living relative, I don’t write Scott off completely, who knows I might need one of his organs someday, wouldn’t that be great, me walking around with one of Scott’s kidneys, good for a feel good moment of daydreaming.

    A double rap at the door and a shout, “hey Scott we’re here to escort you in style to dinner at my Mom,s”… Tim turns and removes the key from his pocket as he walks to the locked closet where his Scott clothes are kept. He ponders why he is doing this for a moment and then picks Scott’s favorite slacks and button down plaid shirt, he dresses looks at himself in the mirror and walks to door.

    Scott opens the door to greet his friends with a big grin, grateful that Tim has left him alone for awhile.

  • April 29, 2018 at 7:50 pm
    We are not identical. My brother looks like me. I do not look like him. My brother tells me friends often call him Tim. My name is Tim. My brother’s name is Scott, no one calls me Scott. I am Tim.

    A few weeks ago a friend of Scott’s asked me to a gathering at his mother’s house, a surprise party for Scott for his recent appointment to the Governor’s Board of Trustees. This was a surprise to me as I had received an official letter of my appointment to this esteemed Board just the week before. I had kept it quiet because I don’t enjoy fuss and flurry over a meaningless event. Most events are meaningless. It’s like Ronnie said, “once you’ve seen a Redwood tree what’s the point”. I know that isn’t what Reagan said, it was Pat Brown who brought up a Redwood, but it fits my point about gatherings, “a tree is a tree, how many more do you have to look at”.

    People think Tim and I were born of the same mother, Tim thinks that too, but I know better, oops, made a mistake there, I am Tim and I know Scott is not my twin. It is annoying and confusing to me and to others and sometimes it is just easier to just be whoever they think we are just to stop the incessant intrusion into our personal lives.

    Are you wondering why I am telling you this? Me too, I never want to discuss me and Scott and it has been a never ending source of discomfort having friends question me about Scott’s life. When in 3rd grade no one could understand the disparity between our scholarly abilities. Scott, “the favored student” seemed to excel at every standard of skill. And me, well I guess most teachers thought I was mediocre at best…

    I think Scott was the favored ever since my father shot my mother and then himself. He had paused as my mother slowly slumped to the floor and turned toward me, sitting quietly in the wingback chair watching, he just looked into my eyes as he raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
    Scott had missed this scene of carnage.

    Living in foster homes over the years was difficult, not much attention was paid to us, we were “unadoptable” as we had to be kept together and there seemed to be a major problem with this caveat, I didn’t really care but Scott would try to convince potential adopters we or at least he was a good boy.
    Scott attended Yale and received his degree with honors, occasionally I would sit in on a class he couldn’t attend for some reason just to assist in his quest for “perfect attendance”, but I found the halls of higher learning exceptionally dull and not really my cup of beer…I would even say boring but as Scott always said, “boring people get bored”. I am not boring.

    Now I have to figure out what to do about this award party, is it mine or is it Scott’s, apparently both of us have been notified but I can’t find the one with my name on it. I might even just go without telling Scott I’ll be there just to watch the expression on his face…his “loser brother” gets the same award as him… ha.. I get the last laugh once again.

    Since he is my only living relative, I don’t write Scott off completely, who knows I might need one of his organs someday, wouldn’t that be great, me walking around with one of Scott’s kidneys, good for a feel good moment of daydreaming.

    A double rap at the door and a shout, “hey Scott we’re here to escort you in style to dinner at my Mom,s”… Tim turns and removes the key from his pocket as he walks to the locked closet where his Scott clothes are kept. He ponders why he is doing this for a moment and then picks Scott’s favorite slacks and button down plaid shirt, he dresses looks at himself in the mirror and walks to door.

    Scott opens the door to greet his friends with a big grin, grateful that Tim has left him alone for awhile.

    • May 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm
      This is really good stuff, scp – unhinged, mad. It’s like trying to pick up mercury – just when you think you’ve got a handle on what might be happening, there’s another twist. That first paragraph – full of clues and diversions – sets it all up. It only falls down a little in the last paragraph and last line – leaping from first-person narrative to third. But it’s a very unsettling story.
    • May 2, 2018 at 11:57 am
      At first the initial paragraph annoyed me, but then I got into and realized what was happening and it ended up being a perfect first paragraph. I like the different take on the twins idea. The idea he is two people living in one and that the short comings all belong to one brother and the other is the perfect one is really interesting. I see what Phil is saying about the shift in perspective. Maybe just keep the final line of the story in third person to show the shift from Tim to Scott.
    • May 2, 2018 at 2:39 pm
      Really like the distinctive voice in your story, Liz. It took me a few reads to really get what was happening, but so intriguing I wanted to work it out. The confusion in the narrator’s mind/minds spills into the narrative, and the end result is very effective. As Phil says, unsettling and plays with your head.
      Not sure whether there was ever a brother in real life – or maybe there was one who was a victim in the family tragedy …
    • May 2, 2018 at 8:16 pm
      Interesting story, Liz.
      I had a similar reaction as Wendy. At first I was put off, but was drawn in with each successive paragraph. I have no suggestions but was wondering if, contrary to Phil’s suggestion, it seems to me that you have to switch to 3rd person POV in the last two paragraphs in order to inform the reader of what is truly happening.
      It’s a good, quick, manic twisted story. (What’s not to like?)
  • April 30, 2018 at 6:19 pm
    The Element of Surprise by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [1007 word count]

    You find the invitation in the hall with the mail. The handwriting looks so familiar. You open it and see that it’s for a party at 7:30, but no address or name are listed.

    “How strange,” you think. Needing something to distract you this week, you decide to play along. You put on your favorite cocktail dress, add tasteful amounts of jewelry and make-up then head toward the front of your apartment to see who turns up.

    There is a knock, but when you open the front door, no one is there. Turning back down the hall, you see that closet door that’s been locked for as long as you’ve lived here is now slightly ajar. Curious, you open it and peer into the darkness. It feels darker than a closet should be, but you think, “What the hell,” and walk into the black. There is a tightness against your skin, like when you need to pop your eardrums on an airplane – but all over.

    The pressure pops and you find yourself back in your apartment hallway. It feels a little off though. That mirror has a gold frame instead of a silver one, the carpet is red instead of green, and the photos on the wall are only of your family – Ted’s are nowhere to be seen.

    You peek into the front room where you find a strange mix of people. There are a couple of your coworkers, your three best friends from college, the neighbors from across the hall, and a few strangers. Most of them are people you would have invited to a party, but Elise hasn’t talked to you for years now. Not since Ted, well, you don’t want to think about that.

    A strange man pulls you further into the apartment and you notice more aberrations. Is everyone playing some sort of elaborate joke on you? Your thoughts are interrupted by the stranger steering you into the bedroom where you stop in shock. A woman who looks exactly like you, but with shorter hair and a different dress on is smiling with open arms.

    “I can’t believe it really worked!” Her exuberant hug makes your skin crawl. This whole party is extremely off-putting.

    “Who are you? What sort of sick joke is this?”

    “Why, I’m you Clarissa, just in a different version of the, what did you call it, Mark?” She glances at the stranger.

    “Multiverse.” He keeps looking back and forth between the two of you. “I can’t believe it actually was a portal between branes.”

    “Hold it right there.” You raise your finger to stop the flow of science before it starts. “You’re saying that we’re different versions of the same person, but with some small derivation in our timelines?”

    “It truly is remarkable how alike the two of you are.” Mark shakes his head in disbelief. “But yes, that’s precisely what we’re saying.”

    “So what exactly is this, a celebration party?”

    “Oh no, it’s a going away/welcome home party.” The other Clarissa suddenly has a sly grin on her face. Mark takes the cue and forces you into a chair you hadn’t noticed before. He ties your wrists to the arms.

    “What’s going…” he ties a scarf around your mouth.

    “Make sure her hair looks like mine.” You feel the scissors tug your hair as he gets to work. The other Clarissa sits on the bed across from you.

    “I guess I owe you, me, whatever, an explanation. You see, the biggest regret in my life was never getting together with Ted. I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ his and Elise’s relationship, so after that one night stand I pushed him away. But I just couldn’t get him out of my mind. Then he left Elise for some other woman and moved away. There just isn’t a day I don’t think about what might’ve happened if I’d just said fuck it and broke the two of them up.”

    She had a gleam of obsession in her eyes. This was all so weird. Clarissa II gestured toward the man behind you.
    “So when Mark here came to me with his theories that there was a portal in this apartment…”

    You turn toward him with your eyebrows raised.

    “There were stories going back where inhabitants here would suddenly change behavior and appearance in small ways that led me to hypothesize that-“

    “Enough, Mark! As I was saying, I forced open that locked closet and sneaked through to your apartment. I saw the pictures of you (me) and Ted together looking so happy. I decided it was fate giving me my chance at happiness.”

    Your doppelgänger stands up, smoothing out her skirt. To mark she says to give her half an hour to cross and secure the closet from the other side. Then she leaves the room and presumably this version of reality. Mark waits about five minutes before he ungags you.

    “So, what do you get out of all this, Mark?” You try really hard to make it sound like you’re angry with him.

    “Well, Clarissa, that is, my Clarissa, told me she’ll move in about six months to live her life with Ted somewhere you can’t find her. Then I can begin experiments on the brane.”

    “If I let you, you mean.” He unties your wrists.

    “Oh, I know you’ll let me. You see, I was the one who dropped the invitation off to your apartment. I know what you did, what Ted did to you. There was a newspaper there on the hall table. ‘Abused Wife Gets Ultimate Revenge.’ You don’t want to go back. In fact, I bet you start looking for a new place tomorrow morning.”

    You rub your wrists and run your hand through your delightfully shorter hair. Ted always made you keep it long the way he liked it. You smile and turn toward Mark.

    “Why don’t you lock that closet up while I go and enjoy my party?” He holds the door open for you and you both walk out into a brave new world.

    • May 1, 2018 at 6:34 pm
      Wendy – another really well-told, mind-warping sci-fi puzzle. I think I get it … *SPOILERS* …

      … the two Clarissas have swapped dimensions? But the second Clarissa … is she going back to face a murder rap? (“the ultimate revenge”) … unless she can skip back in time also. Yes, I guess that’s it … to the time when Ted and Elise were together … I don’t know … but the ride is great!

      I like the ‘you’ in the narrative style. What do you call that? Second person narrative? It’s unusual and fresh. There are a couple of weak-ish sentences, I think: “This whole party is extremely off-putting.” and “This was all so weird.” (…and the paragraph of the latter sentence slips into the past tense.) This is (I think unintentionally) a bit comedic: ‘ “Hold it right there.” You raise your finger to stop the flow of science before it starts. “You’re saying that we’re different versions of the same person, but with some small derivation in our timelines?” ‘

      Enjoyed trying to get my head round this.

      • May 2, 2018 at 11:34 am
        Thanks, Phil! I wanted to try my hand at 2nd person and it’s harder to stay in than you think. I was having an issue with tense at the beginning that I thought I worked out, but I guess I slipped back again. I agree those sentences aren’t the strongest. I was trying to convey that the Clarissa whose perspective we’re reading from was affected by the weirdness and not unusually ok with the fact she stepped into an altered version of her life. That’s not as easy as I thought.

        And yes she is going to the other time line to face a murder rap. I wanted the ultimate joke to be played on her, though it seems Clarissa in any timeline isn’t such a great person.

    • May 2, 2018 at 3:01 pm
      Great story, Wendy. The 2nd person narration does draw you in and is just right for stories that are a bit spooky, like a close-up camera revealing one thing after another.
      Unsettled me a bit, though, at: “You put on your favorite cocktail dress, add tasteful amounts of jewelry and make-up” which, I have to admit, I haven’t done since my wild partying days :-).

      The closet as entry to another world has shades of Narnia about it. Though with a cast of characters who are all into playing life changing tricks on each other. Nice turning of the tables at the end.

      “derivation in our timelines” – should be “deviation”? Looks like an autocorrect intervention, no impact on my appreciation of the story.

      • May 3, 2018 at 11:45 am
        Yep, autocorrect strikes again. (It couldn’t possibly be my own bad spelling, right?) Thank you Andy!
    • May 3, 2018 at 1:12 am
      I think this story is brilliant, Wendy. The concept of the ‘mem’brane separating dimensions is great. It’s a really cool idea and not so far our for science-fiction. A cross-dimensional abduction is outstanding. Your writing is really wonderful too.
      I only have one complaint, It took a second read-through to realize that Clarissa-I crossed into Clarissa-II’s dimension. It was right there at the beginning, I don’t know how I missed it. (I would drop that whole ‘knock at the front door, nobody’s there bit.) Could she be lured through the membrane by the sounds of a cocktail party from the other side at the time on the invitation? (I don’t know, something like that. Give her a reason to cross the membrane.)

      The notion that both Clarissa’s wanted to escape from their time-lines was a subtle bit of irony. (Even if unintended.) It’s a consequence of being a Clarissa.

      In the end I thought Mark was the real villain, I couldn’t help but feel that Clarissa-I was a victim of all the other characters, maybe even Elise too. And she was given a chance to put her past so far behind her it was in another universe. All she’s doing is taking advantage of a less ethical version of herself. She won. She knew it, and she was going to make the most of it. That’s what I got out of it. Pretty cool story Wendy.

      • May 3, 2018 at 11:47 am
        That’s a good idea about hearing the party. Maybe if the door is there just a jar or something it could cut out that extra trip looking down the hall, etc. Thanks, Ken!
        • May 3, 2018 at 5:06 pm
          Which reminds me, Wendy, of the old joke/riddle (we had in England) … “When is a door not a door?” 😉
  • May 1, 2018 at 9:56 am
    Brotherly Love

    I had always believed it was misfortune to be born the youngest of identical twins. I would say ‘great’ misfortune, but that ignominy is reserved for the fact I was named Ennis, pronounced as in Dennis; my older brother’s name. You might think to yourself, ‘what’s so wrong with that? Ennis seems like a nice name. Just make the best of it, man.’

    The problem is the fact I turned 13 in 1955. Just in time for a musician to take the world of Rock ‘n Roll by storm. If you’re familiar at all with the history of Elvis Presley, then you might begin to understand my plight. You might have heard of some of his nicknames: The King, Swivel Hips, and the particularly obnoxious Elvis the Pelvis.

    Have you put it together yet – the joke going around at the time? You know Elvis has an identical twin don’t you? Yeah, his name is Enis; Elvis the Pelvis and Enis the Penis. Never mind the fact that my name is Ennis, as in Dennis, and not Enis. No one cared, especially my brother.

    Trust me, being called Enis the Penis is not fun during high school. Parents of teen age girls already had a dim view of old Swivel Hips corrupting their sweet, innocent little girls with his looks and music, but they had an even greater dislike for those who were nicknamed Enis the Penis.

    My brother, on the other hand, loved being Dennis the Menace, and took it to its full measure. He was the guy everyone invited to their parties, and I was the guy who stayed in his bedroom cataloging Topps baseball cards.

    We were the north and south poles of identical twins. Looking exactly alike, even we had trouble telling each other apart, but certainly didn’t act alike. We didn’t do any of the identical twin things, like switching girls on dates, or taking each other’s tests, or any of those other things identical twins are famous for. We were two strangers who shared a mirror. After leaving high school we both promptly left town, never to return, barely keeping in touch. Perhaps an occasional call, a Christmas card and so on, just touching the bases.

    I hadn’t seen Dennis in probably 30 years when I got an invitation to a party at his chalet in Southern France. We were turning 50 and he wanted to share this milestone with me, all expenses paid. I was pouring a measure of cheap scotch when my cell phone rang; it was Dennis. At first, I didn’t know who it was, but he promptly called me Enis the Penis. Hard to miss. I thought about hanging up, but if he was willing to pick up the tab for France, I was willing to listen. To let bygones be bygones and that sort of thing.

    His driver, James, pick me up, under the pretense it was Dennis returning from a trip. It worked. James thought he was picking up Dennis.

    So, there we were, sipping brandy in the library, in a large chalet in Grenoble, each of us warily looking over the other. There was no party. “Why did you bring me over here? You have to know what I look like, so it isn’t that,”

    “No, of course not. It’s just you are the only person alive able to help me with my problem. The sad fact is, I have a rare incurable cancer and have less than a month to live. You are the only person who knows besides my doctor.”

    “My God, man. Haven’t you told your wife?” I had never met Marie, but I knew Dennis had married well.

    “No, and she must never know.”

    “Well, that’s going to be pretty hard to pull off Dennis, since in a month or so, you’re going on a one-way journey to Never-Never-Land.”

    “Not if you and I can come to an agreement. Marie doesn’t know about you. No one does. You must help me.”

    “I’m not sure what you are asking.” I took the last sip of brandy. “You got anything else? Perhaps a 50 year-old scotch?”

    “I have a plan. You will become me.”

    “You certainly can’t think I could or would change places with you?”

    Dennis set his empty glass on a small table. He turned to a large painting nearby, pushed a secret latch and it opened like a door, revealing a locked closet. He produced a key and opened the door. Inside was a mountain of gold coins: Krugerrands, Credit Suisse, and American Eagles. “Look this over. I have more, much more.”

    Walking to a small inset marble bar nearby Dennis looked over a selection of various liqueurs. “Here, a nice French Chartreuse from the Carthusian Monks. You may never drink Scotch again.” We sipped. Dennis hesitated. “I’ve never appreciated you. I always saw you as a rival. I was always afraid, for whatever reason, that I wasn’t complete … that you had stolen half of what I could have been if you hadn’t been my identical twin.”

    “My God, man, are you serious?”

    “I know. Stupid, huh? That’s why I struck out on my own. I never wanted to share with you. I got lucky, and here we are. My problem is Marie. Everything I am is because of her. She is my life, I want her happy. Every decision I make is with her in mind. I want you to take my place. Marie must never know. No one must ever know. If you take my place; I will go back to America and take yours. You have nothing there – nothing. When I die, everyone will think it is you. Here, the doctor will think it’s a miracle. Ennis, if there is anything in your life that needs fulfilled, this can make it happen. I want Marie to be happy, not a widow. I beg you, do this for me.”

    I have to admit; his argument was strong. After all, he was my brother and only kin. Mom and Dad were long gone, with no other relatives either of us were aware of, and no baggage. He was dying and rich, so, I agreed. We spent the next few days going over his holdings, passwords, bank accounts and so on, and the deal was struck. I was now Dennis and he was Ennis. He flew back on my ticket with all of my ID and I stayed on in Grenoble.

    I received a call from Ennis only hours before Marie returned from her extended visit with her ill mother. He told me the end would be quick, painless and for me to tell Marie how much he (I) loved her. I promised I would. Then, the incredibly beautiful Marie opened the door and walked into my life. I am lucky man and had the fortune to be born an identical twin. A truly identical twin.

    That night, Marie, was fervent in her desire to amend her absence. Her lovemaking was fierce and I, having years to make up for, was equal to the task. Her comment was, “Why Dennis, my darling, whatever has gotten into you?”

    • May 2, 2018 at 12:07 pm
      I kept waiting for the rich twin to kill and steal Ennis’s kidney. An interesting twist (for me at least.) Your ending was much less dark and better for everyone except maybe Marie who is now stupping a stranger. But it sounds like she isn’t all that upset at the outcome, so maybe ignorance is bliss? This story is kind of like the opposite of Phil’s Eclipse story, the one brother makes amends instead of taking down the other. I pictured Dennis wearing a smoking jacket and standing next to a giant fireplace like some sort of James Bond villain, but then he turned out alright.
      • May 2, 2018 at 2:16 pm
        Thanks Wendy, I’ve been in a good mood lately; apparently my Pink Socks Kids are getting to me. Thank you for that name, by the way, others have used it, but you were the first. Three of my beta readers told me that Pink Socks was one of their favorites from me, if not their favorite. One, who’s usually harsh, told me he (yeah a guy) couldn’t find anything wrong with it to complain about which made him think he was losing his grip.

        I guess I am so benevolent these days I couldn’t rip out Ennis’s kidney, as going through life being called a prick every day has to be far more devastating than the loss of a kidney.

        Besides Ennis, Marie was also a beneficiary of this whole thing, while widowed and not knowing it, she now has someone who can make her French outlook on love far more pleasing. (No more visits to a sick mother as she also collected the side benefits of being rich with her clandestine lover in Bordeaux). The new husband will make her want to stay home nights without wandering, so much so perhaps, and needing a break from her husband’s passion, she might actually visit her mother.

    • May 2, 2018 at 3:12 pm
      Brotherly love turns to brotherly lovin’. Fun and entertaining story, Roy, with nice flow and good pace. I didn’t know that about Elvis … I wondered about the twins’ mother calling them in, “Dennis, Ennis” – sounds like an echo! And in on sense Ennis becomes his brother’s echo after he passes on.
      Left me wondering if it’s worse to be called Enis or Dick? Plenty of people survive with the latter, even embrace it.
    • May 2, 2018 at 5:04 pm
      Nice story Ch … Roy. Like Wendy, I was waiting for it to get dark’n’nasty, but in the end it was refreshing to have that bit of sacrifice from Dennis (you could have maybe had Dennis do something really bad to Ennis when they were younger, so that the sacrifice is also redemption) … and a happy ending (for Ennis). The ‘Enis the P*nis’ situation is fun and also important for the story – more ammunition for him falling behind his brother in life (although you’re in danger perhaps of over-explaining the joke – could have been a little more subtle there, I felt.) I thought that when you say “We spent the next few days …” you’d be having Dennis coaching Ennis on his life up till now, and details of Marie, etc., so that Ennis would be a more convincing replacement – she’s going to think it strange that, for example, he doesn’t know she doesn’t have sugar in her coffee, etc. (I’m always quoting films at you … but have you seen ‘Dave’ (1993) with Kevin Kline – similar scenario – which is not to say you copied it, of course – just that you should look it out because it’s fun!). A nice, feel-good story.
  • May 1, 2018 at 2:18 pm
    There were two of them. Al always kept his head down when people were around. Beck kept to himself and his brother. They both had short curly brown hair and lots of freckles. They had dimples when they smiled, but they hardly ever grinned. They both did well in school, but not well enough to be recognized. At their high school, some nice person would attempt to say hello to them, but the do-gooder would get no response. They each had a pair of earbuds that were glued to their ear canals. Al listened to Bach and Beck listened to Nirvana. No one asked why Al and Beck were the way they were. No one in high school cared, but one day a new girl in town seemed to.
    She had long red hair and seemed to be full of something Al thought might be some sort of happiness. Al never really noticed any of the other girls at school, but this one seemed different to him. As the entercom called Beck to the nurse’s office, Al apprehensively lifted his head in the hallway and asked the girl what her name was. She continued to look in the direction she was staring in and didn’t acknowledge the existence of the boy she had never met. It seemed she hardly noticed the existence of anyone. Al lowered his head and fixed his eyes back to a familiar sight: the floor. The red haired girl walked away and looked back at Al with a confused expression and a smile. Al did not notice because he was preoccupied with the dust dancing on the marble tiles. He liked to think the particles were dancing to the beautiful symphonies he loved so much. He was startled by the ringing of the bell and took off running for class.
    When geometry had come to an end, Al moved toward his locker where he usually met his brother at the end of the day. Al found a note shoved in his locker. It was a folded and wrinkled piece of notebook paper. Al looked around searching for the person who may have left it. He saw no one. He unfolded the paper and read what was written. It was an invitation to a party. He was confused. Al or Beck were never invited to parties. They had no friends but each other. The strange note was signed by a person who apparently went by the name Red. Something inside Al wanted to giggle, but he wasn’t sure he knew how. When he saw Beck, he told him about the note.
    “You can’t go,” Beck exclaimed.
    “Well why not?” Al replied.
    They were walking home as they discussed the invitation.
    Beck glared at Al and said, “I know how you feel about people. You don’t do parties. You never have and why should you now? You’ll make a fool of yourself.”
    Al shrugged and said, “I have to start somewhere. If I don’t talk to people, I’ll end up living with Mom forever.”
    Beck angrily said, “Well, I’m not gonna try and stop you.”
    Later that night, Al left his brother home alone. With his hoodie on and earbuds in, he followed the directions left for him on the note. He ended up at a small house several blocks away. Its yellow bricks reflected the light shone on it by the moon. It had a red wooden door with a black iron knocker. As he used the iron knocker, a loud noise echoed down the neighborhood. Al wished with all his heart that the red headed girl would open the door and welcome him in. He knocked again, but no one responded. He lowered his head once more and turned to walk home. Suddenly, he heard the door swing open and a voice call out to him. He quickly turned around and saw the beautiful red haired girl that had ignored earlier that day. He ripped his earbuds out and left Bach to play by himself for a while.
    He timidly said, “Hello?”
    Red smiled then suddenly frowned and said, “I’m sorry about ignoring you at school today. I have always been afraid of talking to new people, but I knew I had to talk to you. I’d just rather do it without a lot of people.”
    Al immediately forgave her, smiled back, and said, “Me too!” He looked around and asked, “So where is everybody? Isn’t this supposed to be a party?”
    Red said nervously, “Well, I may have lied about that part.”
    Al gave her a confused look with a slight grin and asked, “Then why did you invite me here?”
    “Well, first, I wanted to apologize for being so rude earlier,” Red explained, “secondly, I wanted to see if you just wanted to hangout with me. I know I seem strange, so I understand if you want to go home.” She looked at the ground and frowned.
    Al took a few steps toward her and said gently, “I don’t wanna leave.”
    They both stepped inside the house and Red closed the door. Al planned on looking around and asking where her parents were, but he stopped in his tracks to listen to the music. It was Bach. He heard a familiar symphony. He suddenly fell in what he thought was love with the girl he just met. He turned and smiled at Red and she smiled back.
    “So what do you want to do?” Red asked.
    “Well what do you have to do?” Al replied.
    Red walked to a closet close to the front door. For Al, time slowed as he watched her walk across the room. Her thick, beautiful, bright sun-kissed hair blew behind her as she strolled. She wore a gray top, black sweatpants, and small white socks. She carried herself with grace and confidence. Al was taken aback. He had never felt this way about another human being in his entire life. A wave of new hormones washed over his brain giving him some sort of happiness. Suddenly, the wave crashed on the beach of his mind just as something else crashed against his skull. The sun set quickly on his mental vacation spot. His vision went black and he hit the floor with a thud.
    He awoke from his slumber in a small room with hanging jackets covering his eyes. He stood up dazed and reached for the locked door handle. He banged on the door with his fists, but no one responded. He repeated his action, but got the same results. He sat and began to cry. He thought he might die tonight. Suddenly, his brother opened the door.
    Beck found his brother in their bedroom closet. Al thought all of this must have been a terrible dream. Then his vision went dark again. He woke up once again in the unknown closet and Red opened the door.
    Al yelled with tears in his eyes, “What is going on?”
    Red smiled and said, “I just wanna give you some sort of happiness.”
    As Bach played, Al smiled back. His eyes were rolled back and his mouth was foaming while Beck closely held his unconscious brother on their bedroom floor.
    • May 2, 2018 at 12:14 pm
      Wow, Tyler, that got darkly sad at the end. There were a few typos and I got a little confused near the end, but overall it was an interesting premise. I’m thinking that the whole thing with the redheaded girl was made up in Al’s head, but I’m not entirely sure. Did he actually get banged on the head? Is his twin Beck a baddie or a goodie, I’m not exactly sure and I think maybe just a smidgen of clarity at the end would help me know for sure whether this is a horror or tragic tale.
    • May 2, 2018 at 5:20 pm
      I’m with Wendy on this, Tyler. I got lost in the last two or three paragraphs, and after three or four readings I’m still none the wiser. Maybe you wanted it to be mysterious, but perhaps just bring it back a couple of notches. Up until that point, I really liked the characters – they felt authentic, with their timid postures and the little bit of jealousy between the two brothers. I was enjoying it very much and looking forward to the resolution …

      Maybe you edited the story down to get it below 1,200 words, but this is a bit of a jump: “As the entercom [intercom] called Beck to the nurse’s office, Al apprehensively lifted his head in the hallway and asked the girl what her name was.” That need a little bit of background, like “One day, Al and Beck were in the corridor and …”, or something like that.

    • May 3, 2018 at 1:51 pm
      Great beginning and middle. But I too got lost when ‘his vision went black and he hit the floor with a thud.’ After that, the narrative is unclear, unfortunately, because I’d really like to know what happened to Al.
  • May 1, 2018 at 2:50 pm
    A Dead Party
    By: Cora Wright

    Adam strolled across his dew coated lawn, bathed in the early morning light. He pulled his bathrobe tighter around his thin frame as the wind attempted to blow him over. He pulled open his mailbox, pulled out the papers inside, and quickly retreated to the warmth of the inside of his house. He shut the door behind him and sank onto his ratty, beige couch. The bills and advertisements fell from his hands and into two piles on the rickety coffee table in front of the couch. Right as he was about to drop the next paper onto the advertisement pile, Adam hesitated. It was an invitation. The lettering was in gold and set on a cream colored paper.

    You are invited to the McNare Mansion for a magical night celebrating the McNare Twins!

    Adam was sure that this invitation was not meant for him, but then he read further down.

    The McNare Patriarch and Matriarch look forward to your presence at their home.
    Sent to One Mister Adam Lowak

    There was no mistaking his name printed on the invitation, but his confusion grew as he read the address of the mansion. It sat on a hill overlooking his grungy town. He had seen it before, but he had been entirely sure that the place was abandoned. The only conclusion he could come to was that someone had bought the old place and fixed it up.

    He looked back at the invitation and saw that the party was in two days. He wished he had checked his mail a lot sooner, but what was done was done.

    The next day and a half went by with Adam’s head filled full of doubts about the party and if he should even go and what he should wear. He eventually decided to go six hours before it started and he rushed to find anything suitable to wear. He put on one of his father’s old tuxedos and combed his hair. He slipped on a pair of black dress shoes and stepped out of his front door.

    The drive to the mansion was short and he was there in less than thirty minutes, but when he pulled up at the address all he saw was the the same old rundown building. His head was again filled with doubts, but they were intermixed with wild curiosity.

    He got out of his car and stared up at the old building. It was built in victorian style with small turrets and large windows. He imagined the walls had once been a pale blue with white trim, but the paint was peeling off of the walls and the trim was rotting away. The house was ringed by a large open veranda where Adam could only imagine sitting on a swing and sipping on a cold drink in the heat of summer. Dead trees and bushes filled the flower beds that were scattered around the yard. The house was eerily beautiful.

    Adam approached the front door just to see it hanging off of its hinges. Its burgundy paint was peeling off onto the rotting porch floor. He walked gingerly across the floor and pushed the door in.

    As he stepped closer across the threshold the interior came to life. Music poured out all around him and the color returned to the walls and floor. A butler swept across the hall to meet him. The man led Adam down the hall and into an overcrowded ballroom. Couples swept around the dance floor. The women’s skirts twirled and danced as they were spun to a new partner.

    Adam gaped as he looked around the room. All the party goers were dressed in early nineteenth century clothes and they all had somber looks on their faces. Not a single person looked happy. Adam had no idea why they looked so dismal. They were at a lavish party with beautiful music and delicious looking food.

    They butler led Adam to the far wall and through a door into what resembled a throne room. A man and a woman sat together on a dais. They rested on ornately carved thrones. The woman beckoned for him to come closer. He moved toward them and the butler pushed him down on his knees.

    “Young man…state your name.”

    He told them his name and they indicated for him to rise. The man spoke to a servant at his side that Adam hadn’t noticed before. The servant left and quickly returned with two girls who looked completely identical.

    “Is he the one?”

    The girls shook their heads. The butler jerked Adam to his feet and dragged him back the way they had come. Adam struggled to pull away as he heard the maniacal laughter that came from the twins.

    The door to the throne room slammed shut behind them as the butler pulled Adam back out into the ballroom. The music stuttered to a halt and the dancers stopped to stare up at Adam. Smiles crept onto all of their dismal faces. Then cheers broke out across the room. The butler spoke in an echoing voice across the room:

    “The newest member of our ranks!”

    The butler dragged Adam down half a dozen flights of stairs before stopping in front of a plain white door. The butler opened the door and shoved Adam inside.

    He fell to the floor. He froze when he heard a key grate slowly in the lock. He was trapped in what he could only assume was a closet as he felt around the cramped space.

    His hand brushed a smooth surface, and as his eyes adjusted to the dark, they came to rest on a human skull.

    • May 2, 2018 at 3:40 am
      Nice story. The suspence is gripping and maintained till the last paragraph. So, it is a ghost story and the people dancing in the hall were all denizens of the nether world. Adam was possibly the latest addition. The question is- was there just one skull in the closet? Then how come there were so many dancers?
      Please let me know as I couldn’t read your story for more than once due to some inconvenience. All the best wishes.
    • May 2, 2018 at 12:22 pm
      You have some great description in your story, I particularly like the beginning where he goes out to check his mail. The picture was painted in my mind of this guy getting his mail. One thing I would suggest, if you are talking about the outside of the house use the word “siding” rather than “wall” just for clarity. That is completely a personal thing for me. I really enjoyed the story, but found the ending a little unresolved. Was he the one? What is the “the one” exactly? And like Rathin said, was there only one skull in the closet? What is the point of putting him there? Does he feed the guests somehow? Maybe just a line or two could clear this up and turn this story from good to great.
    • May 2, 2018 at 5:47 pm
      Nice story, Cora. I’m riding on Wendy’s coat-tails a bit today, but once again I have to echo what she said – great build-up (great description of Adam at home – enough for us to know why he would be thrilled with an invitation of any kind – and of the outside of the house, and of the ball itself). But then the ending gets just a little too obscure – as I said in my comments to Tyler, mystery is great, but a bit more clarity is needed really for us to have more of a clue about what’s going on. It’s a fine line, I know – being too overt would also spoil it. So a middle ground …
  • May 2, 2018 at 11:06 am
    Hey everybody, I won’t be able to take my lunch break at work for another 90 minutes, so if anybody has any last-minute submissions please feel free to add them to this blog post! I’ll get the voting page up on my lunch break. 😀
  • May 2, 2018 at 2:07 pm

    Alright, alright, alright…
    Time is upt!!

    You have 24 hours to read the stories and cast your vote!
    Anyone may vote, but in order for your story to qualify you must vote, you can vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.

    The voting page is here: http://fictionwritersgroup.com/

    Good luck!

  • May 2, 2018 at 5:59 pm

    (I thought ‘pacing’ was out, Carrie … has it been given a reprieve?)

    • May 3, 2018 at 8:22 am
      Oh shoot.
      I forgot to delete it when I grabbed an old voting page.
      • May 3, 2018 at 9:23 am
        No probs! 🙂
  • May 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm
    Cassie & Sissy
    Night / day
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018
    [1199 words]

    I parked my ‘53 Ford convertible in front of Schneider’s drugstore and walked to the curb. I squinted into the setting sun to read the dial of the clock on the First National Bank, seven-forty. I looked at his note. It clearly said, seven-thirty.
    He stepped out of the drugstore. Without even a greeting, he handed me two condoms and nodded down the street. In his grandmother’s ‘56 Caddy convertible sat two blond ponytails.
    Bobby asked about the book. I told him I didn’t have it. It was locked in the Physics lab closet. I got his invitation to this party after Mr. Eichmier left school for the day.
    At the Caddy, he introduced the girls. They coulda been bookends. He said the girl in the passenger seat was Cassie. Right then I knew I was in for another of his screwin’ over. Bobby’s Cassie wasn’t the Cassie I’d dated. I started to correct him. The twin’s eyes shot me ‘that’ look. I kept my mouth shut.
    “Hi Cassie,” I said as I helped whatever-her-name-was out of the front seat and into the back. She slid away from me. I pulled her back. “Not so fast,” I whispered, “what’s going on?”
    She shook her head.
    Softly in her ear, “You’re not Cassie.” She smiled
    Bobby started the Car. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him where we are going.
    Without answering me, he hung a Wisconsin left and headed east on Superior Street.

    Bobby stopped on the stone bridge near the 14th green of the Country Club. We got out. After the Caddy disappeared around the curve of the tree-lined road, I spun her around. I didn’t know her from a pail of paint, yet she was treating me like the plague. I wanted to know why.
    She had two reasons. My being a friend of Bobby was one. And as I’d told her she was not her sister, she guessed I’d dated her sister. I had. That was her second reason. She loved her sister, even though she had the morals of an alley cat. Woman’s convoluted logic!
    She asked about Bobby and me. I told her he’s an acquaintance more than a friend. We go back to the second grade and I owed him a favor. About her sister, I’d dated exactly once. We went to a movie and nothing happened.
    She didn’t believe me and called me a liar. She said Cassie been in the sack, backseat, whatever, with every guy she’s ever gone out with.
    I’d had enough of her crapola. “Your name is Sissy, right? Okay, I’ll tell ya all about my date with your sister.” She nodded. “Cassie and I went out, oh, about ten, eleven days ago, on a Tuesday evening, we …”
    Wide-eyed, “That was you?” She asked.
    “What?” My jaw dropped. “She told you about me?”
    “Yes.” She giggled. “Oh was she pissed off at you.”
    “She promised never to mention our date – ever. What did she say about me? Stop laughing.”
    Sobering a little, she told me her version.
    I told her my version.
    Now I wanted to know what’s going on with her, her sister and Bobby.
    She slouched, “Yeah, that’s fair. I … ah, met him at the roller rink one Wednesday night. We had a fun time. A couple of dates later he asked me to go steady. I did. Who wouldn’t? He’s good looking and has a nice personality when he wants too. He gets grandmother’s Caddy any time he wants. He gave me this.” She fished a gold chain out of the top of her blouse. In the moonlight, I could see it was a CHS class ring. “He’s not getting it back either.”
    “Are you breaking up with him?”
    “Damn straight I am. I really liked him, until got demanding and a little physical. I don’t go for that grabby-hand crap.”
    “So what’s the deal with you and Cassie switching names?”
    “My sister suggested a solution. After all, we’re identical twins.”
    “No, you’re not.”
    “Yes, we are. Everyone says so.”
    “She has a little scar in the middle of her left eyebrow, you don’t.”
    “She does? I never noticed.”
    The Caddy’s engine roared and headlights shot outta the dark. It slid to a stop next to us. Bobby pointed at us, “Get in, damn it.”
    Sissy and I slipped over to the side and plopped into the rear seat. Cassie turned. Her Cheshire cat grin went from ear to ear.
    Bobby, thumbed at me, “You’re drivin’ both these bitches home.
    Sissy leaned to me. “He’s upset cuz he didn’t get his way.”
    “He’s always gotten his way. Wanna stop at the drive-in on 17th?” I asked.
    She smiled and nodded her head. “First we need to get him to drop my sister at home.”
    “He won’t, not as mad as he is.” I leaned forward and rapped Bobby on the shoulder, “Drop Cassie off at her house.”
    “Hell no.”
    “You owe me, remember?”
    “For what she did, the bitch can walk.” Bobby said.
    “So, your word’s no good.” I let the thought hang and settled back next to Sissy.
    “Alright, alright,” Bobby shrugged, “then we’re even. K?”
    “After you drop Sissy and me off downtown, we’re even.”

    Bobby dropped Cassie off at her house. Sissy and I stayed in the back seat. Bobby could be our chauffeur. During the ride downtown, I told her to give the ring back. It didn’t mean anything to her. She said she think about it. She’d phone him the next day, she said, and tell him she never wants to see him again.
    I told her good girls don’t call boys.

    We had a Coke and headed to her house. “So, tell me about your sister and Bobby. What did she do to upset him?”
    “She didn’t do anything. That’s what pissed him off. Ya see Bobby said either I do the deed or give his ring back to him. I’d already decided if he’s that kinda jerk, I could do without him. Cassie suggested she’d wind his watch, so to speak and then tell him his time was up. That’s what you did to Cassie, right?”
    I admitted I had.
    “So, why didn’t you take my sister up on her offer?”
    “She was interesting when we first met. Sex would put a completely different slant on a relationship. Ya know, like playing cards for money is different than playing for fun.”
    “I feel the same way.”
    At her house, I asked, “Wanna go roller skating Monday night?”
    “I’d rather go on Wednesday night.”
    I shrugged. “I see.” I opened my car door, slid out, and Sissy followed.
    At her door, I said, “Goodnight,” and started walking to my car.
    “Wait.” She said.
    I stopped.
    “Okay, Monday night on one condition.”
    “What?” I asked.
    She handed me Bobby’s CHS class ring. “You return this for me.”
    “And explain about you not wanting to see him again?”
    “Yep, and what time do you want to pick me up?”
    “Quarter to seven, okay?”
    Before I could kiss her goodnight, she slipped behind the screen door, “I’ll be ready.”
    – ℜ –

  • May 3, 2018 at 6:57 am
    Did this story qualify?
    • May 3, 2018 at 8:23 am
      Sorry but you posted your story too late.
      I’d already posted the voting page.
      • May 3, 2018 at 9:39 am
        God! I’s this how every writer is supposed to write, Ken? In order to make meaning out of the first paragraph alone, I have to look almost every single word up in the dictionary. And to think that people in this part of the world think highly of my English! I have to be reborn for the next thousand years before even dreaming of having your kind of English.
        When you are a failure and survival is top priority in your life, flattery is the name of the game. I flatter people because I’ve to. Who would employ and sustain a non-entity like me unless I can make myself the best yes-man that I can be? But I also flatter people when I see sheer talent.
        Whatever, let me tell you that I’don’t love to have a three-page letter from you on the hair-style as my hair is falling off like I won’the have any after a few months. Besides, even a half-page letter from a man of your stature and calibre, will help me improve my English. By the way, I hope you didn’t use the last part of your letter idiomatically because my knowledge of idioms is as poor as my knowledge of everything else.
        Thanks for welcoming me to the club and trying to make a man out of me. Take care and if you slash the trash down to the last bit in a maddenig rush to hush a man acting like a sassy for his apparent crush on you, I won’t really mind it so much.
        P.S: Bear with me till I’ve looked some of the words up in the dictionary for a proper appreciation of your mind-set.
  • May 3, 2018 at 2:05 pm
    Your English is quite good. I had to look up half of those words too before I used them. (Okay I exaggerate, three-fourths.) (Okay, all of them.) It’s a terrible sentence too. I should rewrite it Sorry. Sometimes, in a story, my characters trip over ‘a fragment of a piece of bedrock forty miles deep,’ when it’s really just ‘a small rock.’ (I think this is one of those situations.)
    • May 4, 2018 at 4:48 am
      CONGRATS for being amongst the Top-3, Ken. I’m so proud of you. Based on my readings of the five stories that I could read, I figured out that you would be the eventual winner. Keep writing and teaching people like me how to write like the way you do.
  • May 3, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    Just waiting on a few more votes!

  • May 3, 2018 at 3:06 pm
    So, you have a ‘Foundation.’ signed by Isaac Asimov? Wow, I AM jealous. That’s cool as hell. (I’ll have to try and compensate for my inferiority now.)

    I didn’t want to tell you this, (because it’s unverifiable), but I have the tear smeared signature of Harlan Ellison.
    I met him at a cheese festival in Wisconsin one time and he got all choked up and emotional as I was telling him some ideas I had for short stories. (Actually, I think a piece of cheese went down the wrong chute.) Anyway, that’s what the security detail told me when they escorted me to the parking lot, rather briskly too, I nearly fell in front of a bus as they said goodbye.
    He was a very gracious guy though. He even tossed his pen at me as I was leaving. A delightful memento of the occasion, although the damned thing almost skewered me. I don’t think Mr. Ellison was aware of his own strength.
    I lost the pen a few years ago but thankfully…
    I still have the scar.

    • May 3, 2018 at 8:57 pm
      I made aa couple of mistakes in my effort to try and make you jealous. It’s not Foundation, It’s Prelude to Foundation, and it’s a Signed ‘First Edition’. When I figure out how to do it, I think I’ll make it my Photo thingy so you can drool over it.

      I love to read, and it hurt when I moved because I either sold or donated over 1000 books, perhaps 2000. Kept all the first editions, though, and all the other books signed by various authors over the years, including Stephen King, and a few more well knowns. And some classics, and I have scads of pulp SF going back for 40 years. I did have them going back to the 50’s but my wife made me give those away when we moved to Nevada in 1976. So, I started over. Still got those. Told her it wasn’t going to happen this time on the move to Michigan.

      Met Ellison myself, once. He was a trip. He acted like he wrote. Short and brusque. I’m surprised he threw it at you, instead of just stabbing you in the neck. I’m thinking he got the idea for A Boy and His Dog from an encounter with an old girlfriend. One of those ‘It’s me or the dog things’. I’ll have to write a story about my take on that last line. It actually happened to me. Still married to her, so you gotta guess which way it went. Anyway, I see Carrie just posted the winners of Elements. Good Luck with Eye Witness.

      • May 4, 2018 at 11:24 am
        I’m going to break from my usual wise-cracking idiocy to say: I really am impressed. Your devotion to, and love of Sci-Fi clearly rivals my own. I’m astounded that you actually met Harlan Ellison, who once famously quoted himself (yes, he quoted himself) as saying when he first met Asimov in person: “He’s not nearly as big as I thought he was.” (Or something to that effect.)

        Other than a boy and his dog, I felt that Ellison’s witty pre- and post-story anecdotes were funnier and more interesting
        than most of his stories. Still, I’m convinced that Harlan Ellison is one of the coolest names in recorded history, right up there with Arlen Specter and Cassius Clay.

        Whereas Asimov, though he didn’t pioneer Science Fiction (some would say he did, I’ll grant that he was there) but I think he gave it credibility.

        As for purging books, I went through a similar event when I first met Kim. I had about three or four hundred classic sci-fi paperbacks dating back to the 60’s that I had faithfully carried with me through 11 changes of residence between 1983 and 2001, a span of 18 years. She saw no value in them. And even less when she realized I’d read them all and had no intention of reading any of them again. I (wisely) relented and got rid of them. (And the shelves they were sitting on, which were even older.) That was not my entire collection of books by far, it was just the ugliest, and the part of it that I cherished the most, as tattered and worn as they looked. (Most of them were used when I acquired them in old ramshackle, wooden-floored bookstores. (Those were the days.)

        In more recent times, whenever Kim gets a notion to dispose of some of my shit–like one of my eight working computers–I gently guide her to the garage and present her with four shelves containing 800 pounds of camping equipment that, as God and Satan are my witness(es), I pray like hell we’ll never, ever, EVER! use them again, and I say: “Want to get rid of some stuff? Have at it, Sweetheart. Love ya. I’m going sailing.”

        On a separate note: I have a critique on your story which I withheld until after the voting that you might find useful, or insightful. Your story has all the elements (imagine that) needed for a longer, deeper and much more intriguing story. In fact, I saw your story as more of an outline, the setup to a really good story. But it’s definitely a different story. You may or may not agree.

        I have your email address and will send it over. (Unless you’ve changed it.) Feel free to completely disregard it.

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