Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “I know this is going to sound crazy but…”

Theme: First line contest

“I know this is going to sound crazy but…”

The story must begin with those words. There are no other rules other than the 1200 word limit. It does not have to be in first person, it does not have to be a quote. There are no rules, except that the story must begin with those nine words.

Word Count: 1,200

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  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
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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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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

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.

  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

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 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 5:00am AEDT (Friday).

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

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.

The writing prompt for November 14, 2019 will be chose by Marien Oommen.

209 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “I know this is going to sound crazy but…”

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  • Roy York
    Signing up for comments
  • Liz Fisher

    I know this is going to sound crazy but an idea becomes implanted into one’s psyche. It never leaves and anything coming close to this idea will fulminate into a full blown psychosis. I know this all too well.

    It was 1978 when Tom and I bought a charming old 3 bedroom home in the historical district of town. An Avocado tree stood in back, a Maple in front. My first born son, Jay, was away and in his first year at Humboldt State University, my second born, Scott, was just finishing his high school Senior year.  It was a nice house, comfortable in a stable neighborhood, and walking distance to downtown.

    Everything was great until our first summer when Jay was home for school break. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by the sound of voices emanating from out front. I arose and peeked through the window blinds. I could see Jay. He was on the porch talking with two police officers. I ran to the front door to see what was happening.

    Turns out, Jay had quietly called the police to report he heard noises sounding like an intruder trying to break in. Not wanting to startle me by waking me in the middle of the night, Jay met with the officers himself. Now, feeling somewhat nervous and timid, we followed safely behind the officers as they walked the house perimeter looking for evidence of a break in. Suddenly, they told us to stand back. They had spotted a ladder resting upright against our house.

    Jay and I quickly explained. It was our ladder. The boys had used it for some trim painting. They suggested we move it away from the house and not finding any entry attempts or other unusual circumstances, they left. We all bid goodnight and off to bed.

    Another hour of sleep when ‘scenario 2’ occurred with an almost exact replica of the first with the same result. I walked the officers to their car where one quietly asked me if everything was all right with Jay. Could it be that he is stressed about something? 

    When I went in and closed things up, I went to Jay’s room and sat on the edge of his bed to just talk quietly and see if he was worried about anything. He assured me he was fine and that he was sure that someone had been trying to break in. This didn’t reassure me much, so I sat there for a while waiting for him to fall back to sleep. I was a little worried for his well-being. And, Then…. Yep. Jay was right after all.

    Somebody was trying to get into the house! There was a definite scrapping, tapping noise. Now I was more scared than Jay …we both jumped up and quickly dialed 9-1-1. Then, we ran to the front door.

    In seconds, it seemed, the officers arrived. We told them it came from directly under Jay’s window… the officer drew his gun and with flashlight stealthily went around the side of the house… this was serious business…. cowering on the front porch we suddenly heard a gurgle which turned into a chuckle and the officer shouted to us, “we got him.. you’re safe now, come and see”. Jay and I slowly crept around the corner and there the culprit was in the glare of the light… a Possum….just wanting to get back under the house with the rest of his family…we had been interrupting his tunnel digging.

    We were relieved and thanked the officers for believing us and following through. As we all said goodnight, Jay said, “thank God the possum tried again, I know you were all thinking I was sounding crazy”.

    • Writer2019
      Very nice! I thought it was actually going to a robber, and Jay would be proven right, but the possum proved me otherwise! Sneaky little bugger
    • Phil Town
      A very nice story, Liz. The repetition of events works well … and the get-out, whereby the Mum experiences the same sensation as Jay, is well done. The fact that it’s a new house adds to the suspense (ghost story trope). I think that perhaps the second paragraph could be tweaked to put all the info about the house together, then talk about the sons, which takes you into paragraph 3.
      (“An Avocado tree stood in back, a Maple in front. It was a nice house, comfortable in a stable neighborhood, and walking distance to downtown. My first born son, Jay, was away and in his first year at Humboldt State University, my second born, Scott, was just finishing his high school Senior year.”)
    • Hi Liz,

      A very nicely structured story that manages to give no clue to the final ending.

      I guess it also tells fairly typical story of a family in that part of the world where possums live under people’s houses.

      I like to read about things like this that are not the norm where I live. It has been a particularly welcome aspect of my participation in this writing group.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape ( one of the three Kens.)

    • Hi Liz,

      It’s a brilliant premise, that you present to us here: enough reason to doubt a person’s sanity, including a man possibly doubting what’s going on in his own head. Then it’s a very innocent thing that’s going on, we get to find in the end. We’re relieved Jay’s all right.

      “Thank God the possum tried again.” I like that one – there’s so much more in it than just a possum doing his thing…

      It’s a story with great prospects, I would say. Even to expand into a longer psycho-drama piece.

      I would personally rework the structure, somehow. Like, delve straight into the heart of the matter.

      Like starting (after the compulsory first line) with something like:

      “What’s up with you Jay, are you all right?” His mum is now sure there’s no-one out there trying to break in. But she’s all the more worried. Just what’s wrong with, Jay?” kinda thing…

      Then get into the back story after that.

      The way it is, there is just too much background given in the beginning, in the way of what this story is really going to be about.

      It’s all useful material and key to the story (the fact Jay was away, the parents don’t know if he’s stressed, or perhaps gone completely astray, somehow, given that he’s living away from them, the description of the home being situated in a leafy area so that in the end the possum doesn’t just fall from the sky, etc.), but this info comes in in rather chunky pieces and some of it too soon in the story, IMO. Injecting some more suspense might help.

      I’d place the reader on the psycho-drama rollercoaster ride first and foremost, then bring him up to speed as to where it’s all happening and to whom. Throughout the story I’d sow serious doubts about Jay’s sanity, like you do more or less, but perhaps more persuasively. Then the possum comes in the end and solves the mystery.

      Essentially, break the chronological cycle, and maybe transform some of the descriptive paragraphs into dialogue, in order to maximize the effect on the reader.

      It’s just my preference, though – some people might prefer it the way it is, perhaps… Not everyone appreciates rollercoasters, after all 🙂


    • Nicely done. Honestly, when I was reading this I was getting a lot of haunted house kinda vibes from the way that they’d hear the noises. Also because there wouldn’t be a robber or anything that indicated a break in so it only seemed rational for it to be a ghost in my mind. But, I kinda liked the whole possum thing, it kinda reminded me of when I was a kid and there used to be one that lived under the porch of the upstairs apartment. So, this was pretty entertaining to me.
    • A clever move to direct our suspicion towards son Jay. The end was very surprising for me. I enjoyed the reading.
      • When I wrote that first sentence I ha no idea where the story was going… I just wanted to get the prompt in… occasionally when I am stuck trying to write an article i just start with some/any sentence and see what pops in next… it does often result in editing and revisions at the end but it starts the brain and fingers working together…
    • Like a couple other people, I thought this story was going to a darker place, but in the end it was a cute little story that was enjoyable. I’d say make sure that’s your intention (which is totally valid, but maybe lose some of the bits about the psychosis) or amp up the scary if that was what you were going for.
  • Very nice story. To the officers and me you sounded crazy until the culprit was apprehended.
    • So the story is real but was originally written for the Not Haunted House but since I live in rural Sierra in CA and have had intermittent power the last three weeks from PG&E’s attempt to avoid their lines causing wildfires, I missed the October 30 so I edited out the Not Haunted and added the “sounding crazy” and amazingly it worked which made me wonder how often “real” writers do this… I know on occasion when writing something I accidentally get a word in I didn’t mean to use and then try to leave it in turning the sentence into something entirely different just for fun… anyhow that’s my confession
      • All my stories are based on a mixture of fact and fiction.
        Most writers do too.
        Look forward to read more of your stories
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in for comments
  • Writer2019

    Written by Writer2019

    I know this is going to sound crazy but my girlfriend thinks I’m psychic.

    I didn’t mean for her to think that, it just kinda happened. I’m not actually a psychic, just really good at seeing details. But one thing leads to another and… well yeah. It was last night, we were on a date, having a great time, and I foolishly started to joke around.

    I stared at Diane’s beautiful green eyes, drowning in their shimmering depths. Diane was my girlfriend, and let me tell you, I am a very very lucky man.

    “Whatcha looking at?” Diane said coyly, smiling at me. I grinned like a stupid puppy. “You” I whispered, taking a sip of the wine next to me. Diane laughed, a clear, pure sound. “Well Wyatt, may I suggest focusing on something else, like your dinner?” She teased, pointing at my already cold chicken Alfredo. I grinned sheepishly, looking down. And then, as my gaze drifted to the floor, I caught sight of Diane’s shoes. She was wearing slippers, which was quite curious. Diane never left the house without high heels. At a petite 5’2 she was quite sensitive about her height. Which made me wonder, why wasn’t she wearing high heels?

    Then a memory surfaced. A month ago, the first time I’d seen Diane without high heels. She’s told me that ankle problems were killing her, and the doctor had told her to stay off high heels for a week. She’d been outraged. I smiled, the answer why she wasn’t wearing high heels coming to me. “Hope your ankle feels better” I said slyly, looking at Diane. She glanced up at me, startled. “How’d you know that?” She asked. “I’m a physic” I joked, taking another sip of wine. Diane looked at me weirdly, before glancing over to a waiter, who was standing in a corner. “Okay, tell me about him” she demanded, pointing. I followed her gaze, studying the waiter intently. I immediately saw the shifty attitude, and the constant wringing of his finger. Looking closely, I saw his gaze was fixed on another waitress, who was standing next to a table. A bulge in the pockets of his pants was the last piece of the puzzle.

    “He’s going to propose to that waitress over there” I declared. Diane gave me a skeptical look, before getting up and walking over to the waiter. After a brief conversation, she returned, an astonished look on her face. “How do you do that?!” She exclaimed. “Like I said, I’m a psychic” I said, smiling mischievously. Diane scoffed, looking around the room, trying to spot something else to test me with. “What about that woman?” She suddenly said, pointing to a woman who was sitting sullenly in a corner. I laughed. This was too easy. The red nose and bloodshot eyes were obviously allergies. But allergic to what? I noticed her coat was clean, like really clean. No hairs on it whatsoever. “That woman is allergic to dogs” I said. My gaze flashed to the man next to her, and I spotted a hair covered coat with a mug with I love dogs written on the front. “And that guy next to her owns two dogs” I added.

    “Oh my gosh, you are psychic” Diane laughed, amazed. I stared at her for a second, dumbfounded. “Honey, I’m just kidding I’m not—“ Diane cut me off halfway, clamping her hand around my mouth. “No need to lie to me” she whispered, “I know you’re psychic.” A man walking by scoffed, overhearing us. “Psychic, yeah right” he laughed. “I’ll give you twenty dollars if you can read me” he sneered. I eyed him critically. The sweet scent of perfume surrounded him, and I almost gagged. I spotted a Walmart name tag tucked in his pocket, the name Walter scribbled upon it.

    “Well Walter, lets hope your job at Walmart pays enough for you to get more deodorant, that way you won’t have to use your wife’s perfume,” I snapped, my eyes flashing. Walter stared at me, his eyes wide with amazement. “Here’s twenty dollars” he stammered, shakily handing me the money. I accepted it with a smug smile, glancing over at Diane who was staring, jaw dropping. My smile faded. I’ve got to put a stop to this. “Look, Diane, I’m not psychic” I said, gripping her hands. Diane leaned forward, her lips touching my ear. “It’s fine, you don’t have to lie to me” she whispered, her breathing tickling my neck. “But—“ she cut my protest off, her green eyes fixed on mine. Slowly she got up, sliding her hands out of mine. “I’ll see you tomorrow” she said, flashing me a brilliant smile. I offered her a weak one in return, my stomach broiling. Turning around, Diane walked out of the diner we were in, closing the door softly.

    I stared after her, licking my lips nervously. This night had been a disaster. My girlfriend now thought I was psychic, and she left me to pay the expensive bill. I sighed. Sometimes I wish I was a psychic.

      • Writer2019
        Haha, the downsides of reading the story
    • Amusing story, Writer 2019.
      Trying to impress by observing and cracking jokes on other people yet failed to observe the person close to you. The joke is on you.
    • Hi Writer 19,

      This is a good story. The way “the psychic” works things out that make him appear to be a psychic are very reminiscent of the way Sherlock Holmes, amongst others, used to work. When the facts are laid out in front of you, later, it is easy to see how the deductions were arrived at but hard to do it yourself.

      For me, the ending was a little disappointing or confusing. I can’t work out if the girlfriend was happy or not. Why would she be upset about finding out that her boyfriend is a psychic, even though he isn’t? Did I miss your intention here?

      An enjoyable read nonetheless.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      • Writer2019
        Hey Ken Frape, thanks for the feedback! I meant for the girlfriend to be happy. The main character is frustrated because his girlfriend thinks he’s psychic. The girlfriend isn’t mad. Guess my story didn’t drop enough hints! Oops… have a nice day! -Writer2019
    • Phil Town
      Neat story, ‘Writer’, that reminded me of the TV show ‘The Mentalist’. I like the tension of Diane believing Wyatt to be psychic, and he trying to undo that perception after the initial enjoyment he takes at the joke. I didn’t quite understand, though, why Diane would think he’s psychic based on the ankle comment; didn’t she tell him about it and what the doctor said? Nice little twist at the end.
      • Writer2019
        Hey Phil, I actually meant to imply that Diene had that problem before but recovered, and then she had ankle problems again. I also didn’t make Diene believe that Wyatt was a psychic until he noticed the woman’s with allergies, but maybe my story didn’t make that too clear. I guess my story isn’t perfect! More practice I guess! 🙂 thanks for the feedback!- Writer2019
    • Honestly, this is supper funny and interesting. I liked how observant the main character was, which does kinda make him seem like he’s some kind of Psychic or something. I mean normal people aren’t very observant of those around them, I probably couldn’t have worked out everything that he had. Maybe I could’ve worked out the ankle thing if I were in his shoes, sometimes I can remember little things that people tell me, but otherwise I can’t just look at a person and tell you what’s going on with them.

      Additionally, I like how he totally goes along with it as a joke until he really sees that his girlfriend totally believes him. It just makes it all the more funny when she ends up walking out of the diner and leaving the check to him. I wonder what other situations his girlfriend might get him into by claiming he’s a psychic. Seriously love this one, good job Writer2019!

      • Writer2019
    • I like the tone of this story. It’s a little funny, but that is not in the foreground. The main character likes himself very much when he plays the clairvoyant, but in the end he is punished for his arrogance.
  • Phil Town

    HOUSEHOLD H35-201*

    [Subject A enters, sits in armchair, speaks]

    – I know this is going to sound crazy but … I … I’ve just seen a flying pig!

    [Friend 1, on sofa, playing video game, speaks]

    – Look who it is, Jimmy ‘The Nose’ Jones. Where have you been all afternoon? We’ve been waiting for you.

    [Friend 2, on sofa, playing video game, speaks]

    – Yeah – we’ve been playing each other. I’m winning 8-3. And it’s getting boring winning so mu–

    [Friend 1 hits Friend 2 on arm, Friend 2 continues]

    – Ow! That hurt! Yeah, so we’ve been waiting for you to … you know … spice it up a bit.

    [Subject A speaks]

    – Didn’t you hear me?! I’ve just seen a flying pig!

    [Friend 2 to Friend 1, sniffing]

    – They don’t call him ‘The Nose’ for nothing.

    [Friend 1 to Subject A]

    – I hope you’ve brought some for us!

    [Subject A speaks]

    – For fuck’s sake! What don’t you understand?! I. Have. Just. Seen. A. Flying. Pig!

    [Friends 1 & 2 laugh, Friend 2 speaks]

    – What kind of altitude you talking? Head height, or a bit higher?

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – It didn’t ‘do one’ on you, did it?

    [Friends 1 & 2 laugh, Subject A speaks]

    – You bastards! I’m telling you, I saw–

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – Okay, Jimmy, okay. What colour was this … er … pig?

    [Friends 1 & 2 laugh, Subject A speaks]

    – Pink! What colour do you think it would be?

    [Friend 2 speaks]

    – Kind of rainbow-coloured?

    [Subject A speaks]

    – You think I’m making it up!

    [Friend 1 looks at Friend 2, speaks]

    – Look, Jimmy, don’t get hysterical, but pigs can’t fly, as you know.

    [Subject A speaks]

    – This one could!

    [Friend 2 speaks]

    – Okay, where did you see it?

    [Subject A speaks]

    – Down Langbourne Street. It bloody followed me home!

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – A flying pink pig followed you home from Langbourne Street?

    [Subject A speaks]

    – Exactly!

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – You’ve been at the Charlie again.

    [Subject A speaks]

    – Haven’t touched it in a week!

    [Friend 2 speaks]

    – Jimmy, Jimmy! Pull the other one!

    [Subject A speaks]

    – I swear, on my mother’s life. And … bloody hell!

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – What?!

    [Subject A speaks]

    – Bloody thirsty!

    [Subject A moves to kitchenette, fills pint glass with water, drinks it in one, fills it again, drinks it in one, Friend 1, apparently concerned, speaks]

    – Are you okay, Jimmy?

    [Subject A speaks]

    – Course not. I’ve just seen a bloody flying pig!

    [Friend 2 speaks]

    – Come and have some of this Chinese food – we left a bit for you.

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – Bring a fork – we know you don’t like chopsticks.

    [Subject A returns from kitchenette, speaks]

    – I’m bloody worried.

    [Friend 2 speaks]

    – We’re getting worried, too. Come on, have a sit down and a bit of grub. You’ll be all right in no time.

    [Subject A speaks]

    – At last! A bit of sympathy!

    [Doorbell rings, Friend 2 speaks]

    – That’ll be Blakey – he said he was coming round.

    [Friend 2 goes to door, Subject B enters, speaks]

    – I know this is going to sound crazy but … I … I’ve just seen a flying pig!

    [Subject A speaks]

    – A-HA! What did I tell you?!

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – Not you as well?!

    [Subject B speaks]

    – What do you mean?

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – Jimmy says he saw one too.

    [Subject B speaks]

    – Thank God for that! I thought I was going crazy.

    [Friend 2 speaks]

    – Well …

    [Friend 1 speaks]

    – May be the same one. Where did you see it?

    [Subject B speaks]

    – In Langbourne Street.

    [Friends 1 & 2 look at each other, Friend 2 speaks]

    – And what colour was it?

    [Subject B speaks]

    – Turquoise, why?

    [Subject A jumps to his feet, speaks]

    – It was bloody pink!

    [Subject B speaks]

    – It was turquoise!

    [Subject A speaks]

    – PINK!!

    [Subject B speaks]


    [Subject A grabs chopstick from table, jumps on Subject B, knocks him to floor, stabs him repeatedly in eyes, speaks]

    – PINK!! PINK!! PINK!! PINK!! PINK!!

    [Subject B expires, Friends 1 & 2 flee room, Subject A remains, speaks]

    – The pig was pink! The pig was pink!

    [Video-recording terminated]

    (* Transcript of post-exposure interaction, household H35-201, Langbourne Street release, 01/11, mix ref. 23.59. Preliminary conclusion: given violent reaction, reduce units of ZR compound – exact quantities to be decided. Next release: 05/11.)


    • Excellent script, Phil.

      I followed it and it is so visual that I thought it was a film script of an episode of a serial in a psychiatric establishment. Partly right there but the conclusion surprised me.

    • Well Phil, this is a weird one.

      Really not sure what to make of it so I will set it out as I see it.

      Futuristic or sci-fi setting. The place, Household H35-210, is subject to an experiment possibly by some overseeing power. They have administered a drug, ZR compound to the subjects and they are monitoring the effects of said drugs, which ends in a violent murder. They need to adjust the dose but haven’t quite decided how yet.

      It’s weird man but I love it even if I got it wrong.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • Writer2019
      Very nice Phil! I usually don’t enjoy these types of story’s, but yours pulled me right in. I didn’t expect the ending at all either. I thought for some reason that they would see the flying pig, instead of subject A attacking Subject B. Very nice work!- Writer2019
    • The two who finally agree on the extraordinary thing they both claim they’ve seen, just can’t agree on what colour it was! And are even ready to poke in the eye for it.

      These two might be afflicted by something, or we’ve got enough reason to think they are. But we’re all afflicted, to some degree, by this same psychosis – even when all is fine, we’re ready to kill and die for a detail, sometimes… Hitting out at a friend or ally for a mere slight, instead of appreciating friendship and alliance in a world teeming with enemies and adversity.

      That’s my main personal take-away from this story, Phil. It took me some time to assimilate it, but it’s now one of those stories that will stay with me.

      It’s a cold and unforgiving read, stylistically-speaking. Reminds me of the world of “Clockwork Orange”, for some reason. In the way it’s presented, I mean, not in the subject-matter as such. And I mean Kubrick’s film. I haven’t as yet ever read Burgess’s novel (to my real shame).


      • Haha it reminded me of Pink Floyd, I guess for the pink pig and drug references.
    • This is the best and most simplistic script I’ve seen. I mean we don’t get a in depth view of the surroundings, but it was just enough to see what was going on and be slightly frightened by the events that eventually take place towards the end. I really wasn’t expecting the deadly ending, I figured that the second subject would simply see the pig and they’d both happily agree on seeing a pig in the sky. But, that changed when he said the pig was a different color.

      However, I want to say that this would be awesome as some kind of mini series. Like each one is just about them trying to get the exact units of ZR compound correct for whatever they are using it for, but it has some strange affect that they hadn’t intended (like the violence in this one) all the while dropping small hints that tell you what exactly these mysterious people are doing with the ZR compound and why. Nicely done, Phil

    • I admit, I did not quite understand the story at first. Luckily there was the comment from sierracountyprospect, so I’ve learned that’s a transcript of an observation. Then I enjoyed the surprising ending all the more. I am always surprised by the variety of ideas you have.
    • I wasn’t sure where you were going with this, but I got a dark kind of humor from it. It just seemed so absurd that they argued over the color that it kinda made me laugh.
    • This reminds me of the arguments you see on social media about the color of the dress or shoes. One person sees gold and the other sees blue, and then everyone goes to war fighting over what they see and how they cant be wrong. I loved this story. I loved the vibe of characters, I love how sneaky you were with the chopsticks, and I loved the very end transcript. I hope they get a better result on 5/11!!
  • The conclusion explained the annoying ‘Subject Speaking’ identifiers .. but while reading this I found myself skim reading and skipping along… and many years ago.. I spent my graveyard shift transcribing interrogations as Communications and Corrections with county Sheriff Office no skimming allowed and totally missed out on the Pink Pig episode… thank you for that joy…
  • Clare Lamparter

    “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I won’t change my last name,” I said.

    The smile on Mac’s face faded. “I thought you were over that.”

    “Oh, no. I told you on our first date we could never marry because of your name.”

    He sat back from me on the couch. “I assumed you were joking.”

    I shook my head. “I wasn’t, though as it turns out, I’ll gladly marry you. But you know how I feel about your last


    “Rochelle, this is ridiculous!” Mac cried.

    I looked down at the new emerald cut diamond winking in the soft light. We had had a candlelit dinner that I had

    actually cooked, and were cuddled up together on the green linen couch in my tiny apartment. I hadn’t seen what was

    coming. We had been dating so long it had become a habit neither one of us wanted to change. Or so I thought.

    “Will you marry me, Ro?” Mac had asked, opening a little black box that had suddenly appeared in his hands.

    Mac crinkled his blue eyes in just the way I love.

    “Yes, I’ll marry you!” I’d shrieked, and I’d thrown my arms around Mac’s neck. He’d drawn me in and we’d

    kissed–a long, lingering one. Then we’d smiled, misty-eyed at each other, and Mac slipped the ring on my finger.

    “It’s not ridiculous to me,” I said now. ” I do not want to be known as Rochelle Roach. Actually, Rochelle Thea

    Roach, if you throw in my middle name.”

    “That’s not so bad.”

    I had to make Mac understand. “It’s hideous. I’ll be known as Rochelle The Roach.”

    “Honey, that’s just your…peculiarity talking.”

    “My peculiarity? No. Even if I didn’t feel the way I do about roaches, it’d be awful.”

    Mac looked Heavenward.

    “And besides,” I went on, “millions of women get married without changing their names. After all, I’m not going to

    become your property, which is how that custom got started. After we’re married I’ll still be my same old self, so why

    should I change my name?”

    Mac reached for my hand. “But I love the idea that we’ll have the same name. It tells everyone that we’re One.”

    I liked his thought. “Okay then, change your name to mine.”

    Mac laughed.

    I raised my brows. “Why is that funny?”

    “Because nobody does that. Why don’t you just hyphenate our two names?”

    “Are you kidding? I’d be Rochelle Thea Black-Roach. I can just imagine being in some doctor’s waiting room.

    The nurse calls out ‘Black-Roach’, and everybody jerks their feet up and screams ‘Where?'”

    Mac’s shoulders drooped. “I’m surprised you agreed to marry me.”

    “I’m surprised I even went out with you.”

    We had met at the law firm, and I’d immediately liked his open expression, his friendly manner. But when I’d

    learned his name, I’d shuddered and turned away.

    “Is my name why I had to ask you so many times to go out?” Mac asked.

    I nodded. I had gradually come to enjoy Mac’s easiness and dry sense of humor, and I had tentatively gotten to

    know him. One day when he asked me out, I said yes.

    “But when you kissed me that first time,” I said, “I almost lost it. I thought, ‘A Roach is kissing me!'”

    Mac dropped my hand. “You shivered. I remember it clearly. I thought it was my technique.”

    “That was a shudder, not a shiver.”

    Mac frowned. “Then why did you go out with me a second time?”

    I gave him a twisted smile. “Because you were sweet and funny, and you always looked so cute at work,

    especially when you wore your blue suit and Grateful Dead tie.”

    Mac didn’t smile back. “Then if you’ve gotten over my name, why won’t you– ”

    “But I’m not over it,” I cried. “I’ve just been putting it out of my mind.”

    “Ro!” Mac pleaded.

    “And that’s another reason! You’d probably stick me with the nickname Ro-Ro.”

    “Damn it, why don’t you go see somebody about this phobia of yours? It is a phobia, you know.”

    I sighed. “I do know. But I will not seek treatment. Do you know how they treat phobias? Desensitization. That

    means coming into closer and closer contact with–no. No way. If you’d grown up in the deep south with roaches all

    over the place, you’d understand.”

    “But you’re in Wisconsin now. And I’ve been to your parents’ house. You didn’t grow up in squalor.”

    “In New Orleans it doesn’t take squalor to have bugs,” I said. “It’s the live oaks. There’s this one kind of roach

    that lives around them. They’re huge and they are black, and they fly! Usually right at you. And they get in your house

    no matter what you do to keep them out.” I actually trembled, remembering. “Dad even found one in the refrigerator.”

    “You’re making this up!”

    “I’m not. It was dead, thank God.”

    Mac didn’t say anything, just slumped lower on the couch. I felt terrible. I knew I was hurting his feelings.

    Everybody’s proud of their last name and heritage–I am, too. The name-change thing was a deal breaker for me.

    “How did ‘Roach’ ever get to be a name, anyway?” I asked, feeling bitter. “It’s repulsive. You don’t see people

    walking around with the last name of–of Vomit, or Death.”

    Mac looked up. “You put Roach in the same category as vomit and death?”


    “Wow.” Mac sighed. “Then let’s think of some names we could both change to.” He brightened. “I do like funny

    British ones. Like.. Wolverhampton or Smallbottom, or–”

    I put my hand over his mouth. “You’d do that? Change your name for me?”

    “Sure.” Mac kissed my palm. “Like Shakespeare said, ‘What’s in a name?'”

    Quite a lot, I thought. But I smiled back. “That means so much to me, darling. But I think I’d rather just remain

    Rochelle Black.”

    Mac blinked. “Then I guess I’ll have to change my name by myself.”

    “Now, that sounds crazy.”

    “Not to me. A name really doesn’t matter.”

    What was this, reverse psychology? I’d show him. “Then you won’t be upset if I don’t change mine.”

    Mac shrugged, and I saw him working at the nonchalance. “I guess not. Well, maybe l’ll forget the British thing.

    Let’s see, I could change my last name to…Vomit. Macauley Thomas Vomit. Hey, cool, my nickname’ll be Tom Vom.”

    I raised a brow, unamused. “Why don’t you just hyphenate it, and become Tommy Roach-Vomit?”

    Mac laughed. “This conversation is becoming rather silly.”

    “You think?”

    “I do, Ms. Black.”

    “Well, then, Mr. Roach, can we please change the subject?”

    “Absolutely.” Mac took my hand again. “So…what kids’ names do you like?”

    I gasped. How had this never occurred to me?

    Mac gave me an impish grin. “I want a bunch of little Roaches running around the house, don’t you?”

    I did. I gave in to the inevitable.”We’ll have to find something that–somehow–goes with ‘Roach’.

    Mac crinkled his blue eyes in just the way I love.

    “How do you feel about ‘Harry’?”

    • Hi Clare,

      You have touched upon a real thread of gold here. Names are so important to people for both the right and the wrong reasons. As a former teacher, it was clear to me that some parents had not given sufficient thought when naming their children. You have to think how other people might abbreviate them and create other derivations with some hilarious consequences. For example Richard Dixon became known as Dick Dick and then in sixth form Dick2.

      Getting married throws up real challenges too. My son and his fiancee decided to keep both surnames as there was no way that either would be the other’s “property” but rather, equals in marriage.

      Really enjoyed the story.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • Phil Town
      Funny story, Clare (from someone who also has a morbid fear of cockroaches). The dialogue is very snappy, and reflects well the couple’s relationship. I know couples where the wife has refused to change her name, and where they’ve used hyphenated names – so it’s not an uncommon quandary, I don’t think. The idea of ‘Death’ as a surname? A legendary goalkeeper from my football club was called Steve Death! In those sections where you describe events before the current events … you use a lot of ‘past perfects’ = ‘had done’ (“We had met at the law firm, and I’d immediately liked his open expression, his friendly manner. But when I’d learned his name, I’d shuddered and turned away.”) I think it feels a little awkward; you could get away with using just the first one to establish the time, then slip to ‘past simple’ = ‘did’ (“We had met at the law firm, and I immediately liked his open expression, his friendly manner. But when I learned his name, I shuddered and turned away.”)
    • May as well buy a minivan and you can call it the “Roach Coach”
    • All the funny combinations with Roach. Well done! Once I read a comic about a Roach Motel. But the roaches just stole the towels and the Bible and then they checked out.
    • Very realistic dialog and I love that last line. It made me actually laugh out loud
    • Oh, this made me laugh out loud. What a funny story!
  • Amusing story. Great dialogue.
    Names matter, especially for children.
    I friend of mine’surname was ‘Beard’. Her first was Rose. She married someone called ‘Bird’. Never was happy with her names.

  • The Train Now Approaching.

    I know this is going to sound crazy but I just know that this train is going to crash and we’re all going to be annihilated. You see, I know a lot of stuff about train crashes so I’ve got good reason to be worried. When I told my psychiatrist this she said she would like me to try aversion therapy. Said it would help.

    “ I’ll take you on a train,” she suggested. There’s no way I would have got on otherwise and now I’m really regretting listening to her.

    So now we’re on the London to Edinburgh Inter City 125 express train.

    “We need a good, long journey,” she said, ”otherwise the aversion therapy won’t have time to work.”

    We’re hurtling down the track at two hundred and nine feet per second whilst in the opposite direction the Edinburgh to London express does the same. As they reach the magical one hundred and twenty five miles an hour, the closing speed is two hundred and fifty miles an hour or 418 feet per second. These two trains should pass each other approximately nine miles north of York or thereabouts. That’s where the crash will happen.

    At that speed two, thousand tonne trains meeting each other head-on will annihilate the engine and the first three coaches at the very least. The kinetic energy is enormous. The engines, with their drivers perched like precious Faberge eggs at the very front would be pulverised beyond recognition. Some people, but not all the people, would almost certainly die in every carriage; a random live or die roulette wheel. Some will die and others, even in adjoining seats, will survive.

    The human body does not cope well with the sudden deceleration from one hundred and twenty five miles per hour to nought in a second. Train passengers are not secured in their seats, surely a mistake in this modern health and safety age. The forward facing passengers would become missiles like the rear passengers in a car if not wearing a seat belt, as they were hurled into the passengers sitting opposite them, almost certainly killing them both instantly. If they were separated by a fixed table, their legs would be broken or ripped off. People would die or be maimed even in the last carriages as they buckled and twisted as they rode over each other, ripping up the tracks, crashing down embankments, hitting trackside buildings, bursting into flames, dissipating all that kinetic energy.

    Of course, these two trains are NOT on the same track and they WILL pass each other somewhere between those two great cities without incident, I tell myself. There will be over a metre of space between them. Not much but enough, surely? As the two trains approach each other the drivers hold their hand up in greeting for that brief moment. I know all this….and yet.

    As I sit in my seat I wonder again why I allowed myself to be persuaded to get on this train knowing those facts about train crashes. Of course, there hasn’t been one in this region for some time, so my nerdy brain and geeky personality tells me there must be one due any time soon. This very train, of course. Will I be a statistic on the death toll or will it be my chance to become a hero as I rescue a baby or perhaps save the life of that famous actor sitting at the seat just across the aisle from me? I’ve seen him in many gritty TV dramas. Surely a train crash will be simply routine for him, won’t it? But then he was just acting wasn’t he? Surviving this train crash could be the making of me. And make a real life hero of him.

    For the first hour of the journey I have tried to kept my head down and study my phone, then my novel. I am desperate to get through this journey with my psychiatrist sitting beside me. She looks calm but I know she keeps glancing over at me, taking careful mental note of my reactions. She’s anxious to avoid another meltdown, like the one I had on the underground. After that, there’s no way I could have got on this train if she hadn’t been here to support me. I have a headache and my heart is beating too loudly. I am convinced she can hear it but she just carries on pretending to look at the scenery. It looks as if the famous actor is reading a script and he rarely looks up, certainly not in my direction. He turns over page after page, making marks here and there with a highlighter pen.

    After two hours I begin to sweat as the midway point approaches and I can almost feel the pressure wave building as the other train approaches mine as they slice their way through the English air or gobble up the Scottish countryside. That metre gap between passing trains gets narrower and narrower in my febrile imagination until I can clearly see the sides of each train rubbing against each other, sparking and gnashing, each drawing the other inwards to certain destruction.

    Then, suddenly and without warning, there is a tremendous roar as the two trains hammer past each other, just that one metre apart. The blur of train past the window lasts for barely a second. The famous actor looks up as the scream leaves my mouth and my body spasms in panic. Within moments he has left his seat as I continue to scream. He kneels by my feet and takes my sweaty hand.

    “It’s OK.” He says gently. “ It’s fine now, the other train has passed. Just take deep breaths. Don’t you just hate that sound?”

    I nod feebly as he holds my hand and strokes it as my shaking body begins to calm down. My psychiatrist looks on, concerned but apparently happy to let this man take charge. She can observe me now and write up her notes later.

    “It used to scare me half to death when I was a kid,” famous actor explains. “I used to think that we were going to crash head on.”

    So this man, my hero, had the same fear as I do but now he is cool, calm and collected. Perhaps he wasn’t acting in those TV roles. Just playing himself.

    As my heart rate returns to normal and my panic subsides, I realise that he is still holding my hand. He looks even better up close than on the TV screen. The lines around his eyes and the greying temples simply adding to his allure.

    “How you feeling now?” He asks, still holding my hand gently in his.

    “A bit better,” I say with a faint smile.

    I’m actually feeling quite good considering but there’s no point in pretending I’m OK quite yet, is there?

    I’m not ready to let go of his hand.

    Not yet.

    Perhaps this aversion therapy is working after all.

    I’d be crazy not to give it a bit more time.


    Ken Frape

    • sierracountyprospect
      OK, my mouth is dry and my chest is a little tight…. and there are still 11 words left… I’m worried….
    • Writer2019
      Ken Frape, you almost gave me a miniature heart attack! The whole story swallowed me whole! I felt like I was the one sitting on the seat, waiting for the two trains to collide. The whole time when he was waiting for the crash I had goosebumps, and I found myself pleading silently that the trains wouldn’t crash. Thankfully they didn’t! Very good story!-Writer2019
    • Phil Town
      You and your trains, Ken! Terrific story, this. I often think about this very scenario on my morning commute to work (but not going home in the evening, funnily enough). The nerdy crash info that the narrator has been fuelling his/her fear with is terrifying, and makes that build-up to the crossing really tense. I like the ending, where the fear is used for ulterior purposes. Cracking stuff.
    • Great story. I was engrossed in the train journey.
      Quite comforting when someone else is with you when one is having such panic attacks. You hear about some people get it on the planes.
    • A masterful story. I admit believed there would be a train accident. It is portrayed so vividly. And then it is just a confrontation therapy. And then the story takes another unexpected more turn. You’re never better than writing about trains, Ken.
    • marien oommen
      You graphic coverage took me right back to a major train accident I was part of as a kid. In the fourth carriage that didn’t get crushed when the train derailed. My brother became a mini hero helping people, some nuns as well, out of the damaged cars- the memory is still vivid in my memory. I wrote an essay about it at school. Today if at all I travel by train, I love all the whooooosh sounds it makes.
    • Hi Ken,

      Trains and actors – that’s very much you!

      The tension builds up and the trains of thought inside this guy’s head finally collide. Something must have worked with this aversion therapy. But the journey is not yet over. It never is with the stange workings of the human mind.

      I fancy he’s now become superstitious in holding the actor’s hand to avert misfortune. Maybe that’s not what you intended, it’s perhaps just my reading of it.

      It’s also a lesson in not learning too much. I for one have started to avoid overgoogling health matters. The more I learn, the more I’ve got to fear. Like what happened to your character with his immense knowledge of trains and crashes. Ignorance is bliss. The opposite may also be true…

      Thanks for a nicely written story that is as eye-opening as it is entertaining, Ken.

      Ken M.

  • Neha Neil

    By Neha Neil
    Step sister!(repost number 1 of story)
    Word count: 1,159

    I know this is going to sound crazy, but I have only just found out that I have a secret stepsister. Her name is Maranda and like other girls she loves worming away through pages of books. Big books, little books name all you can! But that is not the point. She is smart and pretty and…it all started when she started school at ST Nick’s, where I studied…




    “Yes Miss!”




    “Sup, miss!”

    “And lastly, Maranda!”

    We all cautiously turned in our chairs to catch a glimpse of the peculiar Maranda of which Mrs Honey spoke of. Quietly, she hunched back against her window, like a wounded puppy hidden amongst the garbage.

    “Y…” she whispered, her frightened eyes meandering back and forth from our glowering faces. It was as if she had been hidden under the shadows of life all this time, however, something in her made me jump, it was, her name.


    “Maranda Harrison Idlingly!” I exclaimed to the tattered photo that I clutched in my right hand. I had come back from school and rushed upstairs into the attic, where I opened my great-grandparents box full of their treasures. This ancient box had been passed down to the next generations after generations, every generation adding something precious to the box of treasures. My grandma had added a picture of her in her armchair, reading her favourite detective novel, ‘Sherlock Holmes!’ My uncle had added his private diary that he had kept for years, hiding many affairs that were yet to be discovered. Infact my parents had added their own little merchandise of which they had brought back from their journey to Alaska, a small snow globe full of many fluffy sparkles, but there was one picture that took me of interest!

    It was a picture of a young girl with short pigtails, hunched under a towering, muscular body of a well-built man, carrying her luggage with his strengthened arms. I gazed at the man, then at the girl. The girl’s eyes were as dark as coal, her cheeks as pink as roses from a beautiful summers evening. She wore a small laced dress, buttoned of with a long cardigan, quite formally and modern dressed for some occasion of wonder. But there was one part of the picture that had gone missing!

    I had remembered creeping downstairs one night to the whispers of father coming from the living room. I had been crouching for a long time until he had heard the eerie creek of the floorboards and had come to welcome his intruder. However, it was too late, I had heard everything!

    Dad had welcomed an unknown visitor to the room and had been talking for ages about his early life. He had exclaimed to his strange friend about how he used to be a sailor oversea, exporting and importing goods on a daily business of living. He also exclaimed about how bulky he had been as a young man of interest, before he had married my mother of course. The topic soon rumbled over onto how he used to love sailing at sea, as if it was meant for him. I had obviously slept through this tiring talk and had almost drooped of before he had stuttered everything he was to say.

    He also strangely talked about this very young girl, although he did not mention the name quite clearly. He had by then approached the conversation of an unfamiliar girl and women, who he had something to do with. Something about marrying my mother and having me… before knowing the truth!

    I remember asking myself what the truth was? Was it that he had possibly cheated mother? Did he do something extremely wrong that he could not tell anyone about it? Well what came next was the biggest surprise of all. He explained to his friend about Cheryl, some lady claimed to be his high school sweetheart for almost 9 years! He had been 25 at the time when they had broken up, something to do with father marrying my mother.

    He then followed on by claiming that after I was born, he had still loved her through and through, even though he was married to another lady, my mother! However, my mother sadly died when I was born, leaving dad once more alone in his life. I know, I almost fainted when I had heard such extremely puzzling news!

    Gradually the conversation grew further and further towards my suspicions. He had talked about this by the name of Maranda. He had talked about how he loved his ‘daughter’ and how he was eager to finally ‘reunite me’, Cheryl, him and Maranda together once more once we had grown, this time as a huge family. Even I was confused what he had meant about Maranda being his ‘daughter’ and how he had plans to ‘reunite us’ together again. But he did not stop there.

    He told him about his ‘great affair’ and how Cheryl had hidden her pregnancy with Maranda until the day I was born, it was a huge surprise to me! And there you have it, it turned out Maranda was no other than my stepsister and Cheryl was no other than my stepmother. I was of course going to attempt to listen in more, however, I had accidently stepped on a floorboard whilst quietly edging closer, triggering dad to investigate the sneaky crook listening in to his conversation.

    ————————————————————————————————————————————RING!RING!RING! Children hustled around classrooms, desperately yanking their locker open and gathering possessions to take home. There were screams and shouts, laughter and jostling. Maranda sat at the side of her classroom. Eyes lingering over her crowded locker. Cautiously, I approached her.

    “Hi, I am Daniel!”

    “Oh, hi Daniel, my name is Maranda!”

    She blushed, her rosy cheeks pinkening as we spoke. I talked to her for quite a while, mostly about subjects and how history was sooo boring! Infact we walked down together, chatting away about Brexit and how it was a huge shock that we had no deal yet on what was going on. Everything about the parliament was chaotic!

    Quietly, we approached the gate where our parents were their side by side, whispering words of mystery to each other.

    “Alright Daniel and Maranda, we have news, me and Cheryl have decided to get married!” exclaimed dad, grinning at me. I grinned back. Funny thing was, my mother died when I was born leaving dad single. Cheryl often came to visit us along with her daughter. I remember picking up Maranda’s book one day, when she had once forgotten to retrieve her book from me. That was when my suspicions had arisen further when the words,’ Thanks dad for letting us visit’ were imprinted in big bold letters at the front of the book. And that was why Maranda’s love for books became my special magic card in this game of life and relationships…


    • Phil Town
      A complex story, Neha – over time and between families. It reminded me a little of an Agatha Christie story, where the pasts of the characters come back to haunt them (no murders in your story, though!). Maranda and her significance are introduced well in the classroom (“But something in her made me jump, it was, her name.”) There’s some nice description (“The girl’s eyes were as dark as coal, her cheeks as pink as roses from a beautiful summers evening.”) I didn’t understand a couple of points: “Dad [and] talked to mother for ages” Later you tell us that the narrator’s mother died giving birth to her (?) And “She had been a jerk to me for the past few moments of my life” (?) There’s a lot of good thigs going on here, but because of the complexity, it gets a little mixed up at times.
    • Nice family saga, Neha
      The story would be clearer written as a long instead of a short story.
    • Pretty good story you’ve got here. Though there are some bits that kinda confusing, I really enjoyed it. Families are interesting and pretty complex and at times filled with mystery. It was kinda neat to see such a strange little family mystery being solved, though it would probably be better if you had a little more space to expand the more confusing bit. Also, since Daniel and Maranda have the same father wouldn’t they be half siblings and not step siblings?

  • Bus.

    I know this is going to sound crazy but yesterday I was waiting for the bus and it didn’t come. I wanted to go to the hairdresser’s in the city, so I went to the bus stop. I didn’t think about it – I go to the city quite often and I always take the bus. But this time the bus didn’t come. It took me by surprise. I didn’t expect that. The bus always comes. But not yesterday. It didn’t come yesterday. I went to the bus stop, and I stood there as usual. There were other people at the stop. I think there were two more people waiting. Or three? No, there were only two more people waiting for the bus, a woman and a man. I remember them standing there waiting for the bus.

    I also remember I looked at my watch; it was just before 9 a.m. – that’s the time the bus always comes. But it didn’t come this time. After a while, the woman left. She said:

    “I think the bus isn’t coming anymore.”

    Yes, and she was right, because the bus really didn’t come. I’d been waiting quite a while, even though it was windy and raining. Oh yes, it was cold too. We’ve had bad weather in the last few days. Well, bad weather is not so rare in November. Bad weather is nothing special in November. When you go out in November you have to expect rain, wind and cold weather. It was drizzling. And the bus didn’t come. There was no bus as far as the eye could see, not even when I stepped out into the road.

    There was no traffic jam or anything, it was an ordinary day. There was no reason to assume that the bus wouldn’t come. But it didn’t come. At the beginning I thought, well, the bus may come later. The bus could be late today. That had already happened sometimes. Multiple times. Once the bus was 10 minutes late. There was no traffic jam or anything, but the bus arrived very late. But this time it was different. The bus didn’t arrive late because it didn’t arrive at all. It was very disappointing I must say. Yes!

    The gentleman who was standing with me at the bus stop also thought it was an affront. He said that if the bus wasn’t coming, they could stick a note on the timetable that the bus wasn’t coming. But there wasn’t a note on the timetable. Everything looked the same as always. Everything was normal. Nobody could assume this would happen. At least I didn’t expect it. I was completely surprised.

    In the morning while brushing my teeth I’d been looking in the mirror. And then I thought:

    “It’s a good idea if I go to the hairdresser’s again.”

    I really like to go to the hairdresser’s. Yes, when I looked in the mirror in the morning, I didn’t realize that this day would be completely different from what I thought it would be. In the morning I thought, I’ll take the bus into the city and then I’ll go to the hairdresser’s. But nothing came of it because the bus didn’t arrive.

    I waited for a long time. Then the man who’d been waiting with me left. After that I was all alone at the bus stop. My feet hurt.

    Then I gave up waiting and went home. I made myself a cup of tea. When I went home I had the feeling, if the bus comes right now and goes past me, because I’m not waiting at the bus stop, that would be really bad. But I didn’t see the bus go by. I really think it just didn’t come. I was pretty disappointed.

    Will the bus come tomorrow? Or will it never come again? It’s possible that it won’t come again at all. I mean, if the bus didn’t come yesterday, it might not come tomorrow. Maybe the bus will never come again. Maybe the bus driver died. It could be anything. Maybe the bus broke down or burned out. It may be that it was terrorism. Or the bus driver overslept. Or he forgot that he should drive the bus. It may be that he had memory loss. I’ve seen something on TV about people who didn’t even know who they were. They’d forgotten everything, including who their parents were. Maybe the bus driver has lost his memory. Or he just went crazy. Maybe he bit the passengers and the police had to shoot him.

    Maybe it was a good thing that the bus didn’t come. That may have prevented worse things from happening. When I think about all the things that could have happened, I’m glad that the bus didn’t come yesterday.

    • Hi Berlinermax,

      So, just to clarify things, this story is about a bus that doesn’t turn up? Right?

      I think you deserve a writing medal for managing to say so little in so many words.

      Of course, it’s quite typical of the Berlinermax style and quirky creativity we have come to know and love.

      Great stuff.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape.

      • You’re right, it’s just about the bus. But different people have different levels of tolerance. 🙂
    • I really like this story… and two things stood out to me.. the comment “I think the bus isn’t coming anymore”, caused me to think hmmmm… the apocalypse will be announced by the bus schedule… and for some reason at the beginning of the story I pictured a man…like Dustin Hoffman in ‘RainMan’ but then suddenly he was brushing his teeth and wondered about the hairdresser.. oh.. certainly a man would be talking about a barber, must be a woman… so I’m wondering what’s going to happen tomorrow..
      • Here we have “train disorder messages”. When you watch them closely you might foresee the end of tthe world. But today train service broke down just because there were no more trains, which weren’t broken. 🙂
    • Phil Town
      Great story, Jürgen – mundanity and insanity blending together. The repetition of the surprise at the bus not coming is really effective. It should be boring but never is – not for one second. The shooting off into the imagined reasons for the non-appearance is inspired. Very nice ending. And we’re left with this person and their neurosis. What will tomorrow bring?
      • Phil Town
        (My final comment a repetition of sierracountyprospect’s, which I didn’t see … but he/she thought of it first.)
      • Desperados waiting for the train …. probably commuters who have been waiting for an hour …
    • Good read. The repetition of the worrier is annoying, is crazy indeed.
      I think many of us have a little bit of that syndrome in us.
      I tend to worry a lot. When I don’t worry I get worried for not worrying.
      • If “worrying” would be recognized as an Olympic discipline, I could win a gold medal.
    • I got nervous just reading this story. But seriously, I like how the people dropped off one by one. I could picture real people acting the same, especially the man talking about how they really should let them know when the bus isn’t going to come. The repetition was really nerve racking, but I feel like you meant it to be.
    • marien oommen
      Great story where nothing happens. Great because you captured my interest till the end. How often do you come across a bus driver who bites. lol!
      The narrator could be a quirky young man with a great sense of unconventional humour. Then again, at the other end of the spectrum, I imagine a wizened man, bordering on senility, or the A disease, because he keeps harping on the bus that didn’t arrive.
      Terrific! Good job!
    • Hi J-u-with-2-dots-rgen,

      If I were to compile my personal Top Ten list of *cult* stories I’ve read in here, ‘Bus’ would certainly feature in it.

      No, Top Five.

      It may sound like a simple plot, but its simplicity sings a sombre hymn to the shallowness of human sanity.

      Cheers (if I may say so) 🙂

    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words – excluding titles and this line)

    “I know this is gonna sound crazy, Mr.Stern, but there’s a good chance you don’t even exist!”

    Good try changing the subject! Alex isn’t one who’d usually come to school without his homework. He’s one of the class-nerds. Not the worst-case-scenario nerd. At least, he plays videogames. But, a popular kid? No. Not by a far stretch.

    He’s decided it’s time to change things a little.

    Mr.Stern’s lips part just slightly, as he fixes a strange look at Alex. Then he lets his lips meet again. He’d normally have the words ready, but he really wasn’t expecting this coming! He just waits for Alex to expand.

    “And, as you might not even exist,” Alex goes on with his valiant attack, “I’m not afraid of you or whatever you’d do to me.”

    It’s amusing to see front-row nerd-plus-plus Chris Leyson, his mouth a big letter O, in utter amazement at what he’s attesting to.

    Further back, the “Coolies” aren’t so convinced, yet closely follow the curious scene with an air of pretended disinterest.

    On with some action, now, guys? Alex confiscates the teacher’s coffee-mug, lifts it up high like a sports-trophy, then tilts it, slowly pouring its contents onto the floor.

    The class roars with laughter.

    Now, that mug is Mr.Stern’s classroom’s tabernacle. Mr.Stern is an asshole nobody messes around with. But if, for some insane reason, you were to actually mess with him, just don’t do it with his coffee-mug. Not even the very Robby himself would think of doing that.

    On witnessing the uncalled for spectacle, Mr.Stern springs up, and forcefully repossess the mug, saving but the very last drops of coffee.

    He twists Alex’s wrist more than it’s necessary to get the mug back, joyed in seeing him hurt. Mr.Stern is that kind of teacher. He hates children.

    “Do you feel me now?” he mocks Alex, “Can you positively verify my existence?”

    “Means nothing, Sir. You may’s well be a figment of my imagination.” Alex, rubbing his wrist, is still defiant.

    “Just picture this. Dreams seem perfectly real when you’re in them. My life could be just a dream!”

    He lets this sink in, then continues.

    “I may’ve dreamt up your existence. Dreamt that you could hurt me. I even feel the pain. You may even think you yourself exist. Make such a big deal of it! But you only exist because I dreamt you up! There’s no way to prove otherwise, Sir.”

    Mr.Stern still has no proper words. He understands what Alex is playing at. Clever. Has to admit that.

    The boisterous laughter of a few moments ago dwindles into a few giggles from the front-row. The geekier kids there got it, this figment of imagination thingy.

    Alex’s been following Raybellion’s YouTube series. On how good guys don’t get much fun in life. How it’s the coolies, who break the rules and aren’t afraid of anyone that earn respect and become popular. They’re the happy ones. They even live longer, says Raybellion.

    It pays to be naughty.

    Chances with the girls? That’s evident enough. Alex, 14-going-on-15, has never kissed a girl, stutters in the presence of one. The guys-at-the-back talk and talk of girls they’ve laid. They actually have sex with them! Robby’s just posted a picture of himself cupping a beaming girlfriend’s boob.

    Life’s unfair with the good boys.

    Mr.Stern places the precious mug back on his desk. He observes Alex from the vantage of his towering height. When he, seldom, leaves his chair, the class remembers he’s the size of a T-rex. And with the sanguine attitude of one, too.

    But, in a surprisingly calm voice, he announces to Alex: “I do exist!”

    A long pause and he adds, “And that’s going to be very bad news to you!”

    Truth be told, he has nothing nasty in mind for Alex. Not yet. He simply sinks back in his throne, and makes several phonecalls in quick succession.

    First, to the Headmaster, to tell him that he’s been “Aggressively Approached”.

    Since the Barnsley Sec. shooting, it’s all about teachers’ rights these days. “Aggressive Approach” – that’s one of the new darling buzzwords. The Union will back him up. They’ll be proud of him.

    He next calls the maid to come mop the floor.

    Immediately after that – the most important call – he asks the Staffroom-Secretary to make him another coffee. Then calls again telling her not to bother.

    He’ll take the rest of the day off. He’s mulling over staying home for the rest of the week too. Got to install that IKEA wall-unit, after all. Let’s face it, he’s just been “Aggressively Approached”, no less! Needs to fully recover from that.

    He only regrets not stating “Aggressively Challenged”. That’s an even more serious animal – it would’ve entitled him to financial compensation and longer “Recovery Leave”.

    He puts his belongings away in his briefcase, and calls the Headmaster again to send in a substitute-teacher.

    Alex didn’t think his little act would have such impact. He rid the class of Mr.Stern, essentially! Any substitute-teacher would be better than that beast.

    He’s all so suddenly the class hero!

    But to qualify to such stardom one has to walk over Robby’s dead body first. Teacher out, the bully at the back rises.

    “What the fuck? You mean I, Robby Carpaccio, don’t exist? You mean the whole damn Universe is just a dream of yours? You say I’m a figment of your imagination?”

    Robby never spoke to Alex before. Alex isn’t worth his attention.

    It’s quite surprising to Alex that Robby actually fathomed this – that he even knows the meaning of “figment of imagination”.

    The class eagerly awaits the showdown. Alex thinks well before answering Robby – there’ll be repercussions.

    But to hell with it! He’s just humiliated the very Mr.Stern. He’s basking in rare popularity. He isn’t going to let Robby take it away from him. Not this time.

    “Well, yes, Robby, you exist because I made you up. If I were you, I won’t get too agitated. You might wake me up! My dream’ll be over. I may not even remember you were in it. You’ll become nothing again!”

    “I’ll make you feel my presence, then…!” Robby borrows some of Mr.Stern’s wit.

    With no substitute-teacher yet in sight, Alex knows he’ll soon be minced meat! He’s got to run. Fast! Robby gives him a chase out onto the school-grounds. The rest cheer.

    Alex is faster, but, alas, he trips on loose ground and lands on his face. The friction on the rough concrete shreds his forehead, cheeks and nose. It hurts, badly. He’s probably deformed. Dizzy too, may pass out.

    Savage kicks in the stomach and groin are certainly to follow from Robby and Co. This is going to be as bad as it can get. He did it all to himself. His very undoing.

    But mum calls. “Wakey-wakey! School-time!”

    Alex is relieved. It somehow turned out to be fine!

    That’s what’s so good about bad dreams. They come to an end.

    It’s the good dreams that suck. And for the same reason.

    It’s raining outside. School’s such a drag. But, well, life may be merely dreams-within-dreams. Why assume for a fact it’s gotta be real? Alex smiles, turns around and snoozes.

    • Man, I was caught up in the dream and not liking it until the end and I smiled…
      • All is well that ends… There’s a bit of that too, in this story, but perhaps I should have left it up to the reader question if it’s a dream or not. Because life itself might be a dream we’re all caught up in, we just don’t – and can’t – know. Horrible things happen in this world, but it’s good to possibly finally wake up and have the last laugh (or smile!) after all! Then, even snooze again and wait for what’s up next…

        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Sierra! Liz, right?


    • Phil Town

      Well, Ken, we should be disappointed – an ‘It was all a dream’ story. But I doubt if anyone will be because of the great wit you bring to it. The dialogue sparkles. The description of the action is lean and vivid. You’ve introduced us to characters that are all memorable. In short: a blast. Really enjoyed it.

      • Thanks for reading (and enjoying!) Phil.

        I for one can’t stand “it was just a dream” stories (I think I did mention this some other time in here – as a reader, I feel like I’ve been taken for a ride when I read one).

        I sort of allowed myself go down that road, just this one time, only because the theme of dreaming itself is actually central to the story. Besides being “just a dream” this story is *about* dreams. It gives the reader a chance to sample what I’m talking about: that something that seems as real as life, in the end turns out to be a dream.

        By extension to this, everything (no matter how complex and “realistic” we think it seems) could therefore be a dream-within-a-dream-with-dreams-in-it. As it occurs to Alex.

        Perhaps I shouldn’t have made this argument so obvious, in the way the story ends (shouldn’t have woken Alex up). But, judging by your comment, the way it’s written seems to work too…


        • Hi Ken M,

          There’s a lot of great stuff in your story especially the general interaction and the dialogue. As a former teacher I couldn’t help smiling when Mr Stark phones for back-up and uses several special key phrases or triggers depending upon the words spoken to him and the perceived level of threat. Gone are thedays when it was me and thirty five to forty pupils and “Get on with it!”

          Like several others I’m not convinced by the ending. I used to use this little dodge myself so I am not being overly critical especially as I have not been able to come up with a better ending. I think keeping things vague could have worked so that us readers were left uncertain as to whether it was or was not a dream.

          In the end, at the end of the day, any ending just needs to work, whatever it is.

          It’s still a good one though!

          Kind regards,

          Ken Frape

          • Hi Ken F,

            Thank you for your feedback and nice words.

            It must have indeed struck a particular chord with you, as a former teacher. I don’t paint a nice picture of Mr Stern and the fictitious (but not very) teaching environment of my story. I actually had a teacher (and this was back in the eighties) on whom I more or less modelled Mr Stern – one whose own welfare rose high above the children’s. So even back then, such teachers surely did exist. But things certainly haven’t gone in the right direction at all, since “my times”, from what I hear…

            The ending left me, as the writer, a bit unconvinced too. So I’m glad to be receiving some feedback and proposals on this. I do myself suggest an alternative (but much more violent) ending, further down, in reply to Chitra’s comment. But I think yours and Wendy’s idea would be best, ie to leave it up to reader to decide whether it was an actual dream or not.

            Kind regards,

    • Enjoyed the read, well written, but a bit disappointed that it was a dream. Sounds an easy way out.
      I thought you were heading about when a bully meets another bully.
      • Hi Chitra, thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad you enjoyed the story (short of the ending!), and hear you about the “just a dream” disappointment (see my comment to Phil, further up on this).

        After both Phil and you commented on this “just a dream” issue, I’ve been thinking hard on how I could change the ending. I’m not resending a version of my story here (also to wait and see what others may have to say about it), but if I use it somewhere else in the future, I might fix the ending.

        Something to this tune, perhaps?

        • [Savage kicks in the stomach and groin are certainly to follow from Robby and Co. This is going to be as bad as it can get. He did it all to himself. His very undoing.]

          “Com’on wake up, Alex!” He urges himself, “If this is a dream, now is the damn time to wake up!”

          But if it’s not a dream…?

          The first powerful kick from Robby – spot on in his pelvis – is excruciating. He never knew a human being could feel such intense pain. His testicles seem to have ended up in his throat. That choking feeling is unbearable. He desperately needs to cough, but simply can’t.

          Before he can even fathom it, the second kick, from “Big-Empty-Head” Marco, dislodges his stomach. A strong bout of nausea violently rises up his esophagus, but there’s nothing to bring up. Only incredible pain.

          The attackers waste no time. The third massive kick is to his back. “Son-of-a-Dick” Gordon shatters his spine.

          Alex passes out. The kickers’ vicious mood doesn’t. They keep massacring his limb body like this was the very reason of their existence.

          It takes five long minutes till an adult is on the scene. The kickers quickly disperse like mad flies.

          It’s not known for certain if Alex wakes up somewhere else. Somewhere he wished to be once his dream was over, perhaps.

    • I prefer the dreamy end. Don’t like Alex to be beaten up. Maybe he can outsmart his adversaries. 🙂
      • I’m torn between the two endings. The dreamy ending kind of changes the subject a little (from the “life/existence being possibly a dream” theme to “which dreams are really good dreams, given that they come to an end – the bad or the good ones?” theme).

        The new ending is perhaps too violent. Well, Alex in some way outsmarts his adversaries by dying (after a beating like that, it may be the better outcome, nearly…) and perhaps, just perhaps, waking up somewhere else. Like the early Christians at the Colosseum used to believe.

        Thank you for your feedback Juergen!! It’s good to hear differing viewpoints 🙂

        • What if you ended the story with Robby looming over Alex and he thinks the bit about now being a good time to wake up if it really is a dream, leaving it open for the readers to choose their own ending?
          • Hi Wendy,

            Yes, that could be a good compromise: leaving open the possibility of it all being a dream as well as the disastrous option (for Alex) it might not be.

            The more I think about it the more I like this idea…

            Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

    • Hey Ken, How about this as an ending to your story. (I know it’s clumsy and wordy, but that’s because I haven’t edited it fifty-seven times. Why should I? It’s not my story.)

      “Come on wake up, Alex!” He urges himself, “If this is a dream, now is the damn time to wake up!”
      But if it’s not a dream…?
      The first powerful kick from Robby – spot on in his pelvis – never materializes. In fact, all is silent but for the sound of snickering and poorly restrained whispers. The booming voice of Mr. Stern startles him awake.

      “You’re a blighter Alex. The worst kind too. An empty-headed dreamer. You want to dream in my class? I’ll make your life a living nightmare.”

      Strangely enough, the expression on Alex’s face was one of relief, not fear. Which gave Stern something to think about. Perhaps he was being a little hard on the boy. Completely out of character, Mr. Stern looks askance at Alex, pats him lightly on the shoulder and then makes his way back to the head of the class as the other children gawp in amazement.

      • Hmmm…. this is a neat solution.

        So, Alex is napping in class – that gives the whole thing a more “in context” feel than my original version (waking up in his bed at home). Perhaps, that way, fewer readers would reject my tale as a “just-a-dream story”…

        I would go on and get Mr.Stern move Alex to the front of the class, so he can observe him better. That’s when Alex spots the mug. Then looks at Robbie at the back. He won’t dare touch that mug, this time round

        Thanks, Ken!


    I know this is going to sound crazy.

    “Naughty boy.” My PE teacher smacked me on the back of my hand and snatched the uniform I was holding and not letting go. “Say sorry to Brenda. This is the third time you tried to steal someone’s dress.” She admonished.

    “I want to wear a dress, not trousers and shirt.” I threw the trousers she handed on the floor.

    “You’re a boy. Boys don’t wear dresses.” She pulled and twisted my ears and dragged me out of the PE room. I rubbed my ears as they turned red and prickly.

    When my parents heard about the incidents they transferred me to a Boys’ school, then into an Tool Manufacturing Engineering firm when I became an adult.
    “You won’t be sissy with girl fixation.” They wagged their fingers at me.

    I was forced to think and behave like a man.

    I met Stacy, the only woman secretary.
    “You’re not like the others,” She shared her thoughts and broke into a hearty laugh.
    “Not the kind who chases anyone in a skirt. I like you. Dependable, hardworking, trustworthy. Sort of man, a woman hopes to have children with.”

    “Go for her.” The men at work egged me on when they noticed Stacy fancied me. I resisted her charms, more scared really, but finally gave in to her advances. I was more attracted to the clothes and shoes she wore than her as a potential girlfriend. My fingers itched to touch the soft fabrics that draped her body. I fantasized wearing them. I grew to like her and was comfortable in her company. I was ready to do anything just to be a secret admirer of her outfits.

    “I’m pregnant.” Stacy broke the news after we started sleeping together. “You must make a honest woman of me or else I will be the laughing stock in the village.” She watched my face for a reaction.

    “Bly me. I am not ready to be a father. A husband is even worse. ” My eyes almost popped out of its sockets.

    “You’ll do allright.” She answered. She grabbed me, stroke my body and planted a kiss on my lips. I enjoyed her clothes and herself rubbing against me. I could strip the clothes I was wearing and slot into what she was wearing. I reined the compulsion. Instead, I rubbed her back.

    “Ask me for marriage?” She put words into my mouth. I proposed and we became husband and wife.

    “I promise I will never let you down and will never leave her side for anyone else for the rest of our lives.” That peace of mind sealed our relationship.

    When our child started school, Stacy went back to work and I went on night duty.

    The opportunity to get into Stacy’s clothes during the day was presented to me. I started experimenting with her clothes, handbags, shoes and makeup. My chest swelled. The happiness to be able to wear women’s clothes and look like a female took a strong hold on me. I twirled and faffed about, looked at myself in the mirror. I talked to the mirror and asked its opinion of the new Me.
    “Hum!” The mirror responded in my mind. “The hairs! You need to shave all to achieve a smoother skin.”
    “Haha!” I said loudly to the mirror. “You are the best advisor. I will shave my body too.”

    “I’ve developed an skin allergy” I lied to Stacy and scratched my body to confirm the problem. I did not have much hair anyway.

    Stacy made it easier for me to attain my goal. “I prefer a hairless body anyway.” Her words lifted a weight on my conscience.
    Women screwed up their faces and looked up and down at me.
    “Marriage suits you. You look so happy, so contented. You glow.” The men at work cast unapropriate glances at me and rubbed my shoulders and paid attention to me.

    “I’m so happy. I’m blessed. I have everything that I crave for in life. Life have treated me well.” I answered and focussed on my work.

    I started sleeping in Stacy’s nightdress, then changed to normal clothing when I collected daughter Edna from school.

    It felt like a bomb dropped on me when being unwell, Stacy came back home earlier than expected. She poked me with her fingers as I slept.
    “Stephen!” I heard her voice thrilled. I thought I was dreaming. “Stephen!” I woke up with a start. I gathered the covers up to my neck.

    “What’s going on?” She pulled the covers. “You’ve got my nightie on. Where’s your pyjamas?” She broke into a fit. “Why are my clothes strewn on the bed? My shoes, handbags are all over the room? What’s going on?” She blinked and shook her head. She grabbed her temples. “Am I going crazy? Is this real?”

    “I can explain.” I swung out of bed and grabbed her arms as she threw herself on the chair by the bed. “Don’t worry. This is me. I haven’t gone mad.”

    “What do you call all this?” She swiped her arms across the room.

    “I did not have the guts to tell you this. I like women’s clothes. Always have! I like to dress up in nice dresses, wear handbags and nice heeled shoes. It’s a malady. I indulge into strange fantasy. The urge will one day go away, just like any urges one gets. It fades away. I’ll seek a cure. We will be happy again. Please bear with me until I get this out of my system. I beg you.”

    “You’re a transgender, gay?” Stacy asked raising her eyebrows. Her eyes grew saucer big. “Have I really convince a transgender to come clean, marry and have babies. This is unbelievable. I’m flabbergasted.” She sank into the sofa.”
    Stacy watched me as I gathered the nightdress around me and stuck it between my legs.

    “My, oh my?” Stacy whispered. “What a revelation this scene is?”

    “It’s not what you think. I’m no way a transgender or gay.”

    “And what do you describe this.” Stacy asked moving her head up and down.

    “I’m a crossdresser. I like women’s clothes, dressed myself in them. Love the texture of women’s clothes. I’m harmless.”

    “I hope so. I thought you were different, even strange. This explains why your pyjamas and clothes are always fresh. You wear mine.”

    “I’m relieved your found me. I’m sick and hate lying to you.” I pleaded with my eyes and voice. “Women wear trousers and shirt. No-one bats an eyelid. Why can’t men wear dresses? The Scots, the Irish and in some other parts in the World, men wear clothes that women wear over here. In the olden days men slept in nighties. This is nothing new.” I fought my case.

    “ One consolation is there isn’t another person, a man or woman, in our marriage. I suppose we must make our marriage work, whatever it is.”

    Since then, at home, without fear I dress the way I fancy.

    • It’s great that your story about a crossdresser ends well. There is a man here who is a politician and a tourist guide, and sometimes he wears pants, and sometimes a skirt
    • Hi Chitra,

      This is a nice and believable take on a world I’m not familiar at all with, but which I know is a fact of life for some people. I’m not sure if it’s a malady, a disease, but it’s believable that Stephen himself thinks it might be, given how society often views such unusual (though pretty harmless) behaviors. The fact he doesn’t seem to know anyone else like him doesn’t help either.

      His wife is, however, very understanding, in the end. Like Phil, I think her conversion from shock to acceptance was way too quick. She just took his word for it and his explanation of how some other cultures utilise clothing (which is not exactly crossdressing, but, fine, he grasps to the little he could grasp to). The wife is of course commended for being so accepting, but in a more realistic scenario, perhaps some eureka moment on her part would have made her acceptance more credible. I can’t think of an example right now to suggest to you, however.

      There are quite a lot of grammatical and orthographic mistakes to smoothen out throughout the piece (“an skin allergy”, “eyes out of its sockets”, “have I really convince…” and quite a few more. You’ll spot them if you read through, I’m sure you will.

      Thanks for commenting to my story btw. It made me think up an alternative ending, which I reproduced in reply to your comment.


      • Thanks Ken M for reading and your feedback on my story.

        When Stacy said, “I thought you were different even strange. That explains why your pyjamas and clothes are always fresh. Because you wear mine.” I thought I hinted Stacey had some suspicions.

        She fell in love with Stephen the way he was, unlike other men she knew.

  • Phil Town
    An unusual (but far from unheard of) scenario, Chitra; I have a friend whose father was a cross-dresser. You take us very smoothly through the key moments in Stephen’s cross-dressing life to arrive at the inevitable ‘reveal’ (to Stacy). It’s good that in the end, after the initial shock, Stacy can accept Stephen as he is, and he no longer has to live a lie (though perhaps she comes round to the idea a little too neatly – I imagine that there would be a longer period of adaptation on her part).

    Just a little note:

    blimey [ˈblaɪmɪ]
    interj Brit slang an exclamation of surprise or annoyance [short for gorblimey God blind me]

  • Thanks for the feedback, Phil.

    I read in a women’s magazine about this man who was a cross-dresser. His wife and adult children accepted him as he was.

    I just reproduced the story in my own way.

  • Neha Neil
    I am going to repose my newest improved version of this magnificent prompt story.


    I know this is going to sound crazy but there she was dreaming on the park bench, gazing at the birds flying home. As she stretched her long slender body, her gaze landed on those long, strong legs walking past. Looking up, she spotted the familiar face.

    “My kinda legs,” Juliet thought. The leggy lady walked super fast very evening around this time, her dark brown hair blowing wild in the cold evening air.

    It was awful to be left out alone on a park bench after everyone had retired to his or her home. Besides, it was getting late and the stars hadn’t come out yet.

    Juliet paced stealthily behind her. They had arrived at her garden.

    “Maybe you could show me some tender loving care, please?” Pressing her head forwards, Juliet mulled over her words, mewed it without thinking.

    Juliet would’ve loved to slip indoors. But Mia opened her door brusquely and went right in, shutting the door on her face.

    Minding her manners, Juliet sat patiently outside the front door.

    That’s when she got the gentleman’s whiff. Juliet could smell the guy. She snuggled close to the door and inhaled the raw freshness of his footprints. She knew she had no business to be standing so close to some stranger’s home. Foolhardy and dangerous. You never know the risks that lay behind closed doors.

    But this #307 was not some unknown home. Her newfound love lived within. They had met in the garden just a few weeks ago and had gotten to love each other’s quirks. His moods, his grunts, his oohs, and aahs- were second nature to her now.

    You could call it an unusual relationship.

    But then he was quite unlike the other dogs in the compound. He knew exactly how to nose up to a gentle kiss; he never barked or insulted her presence. The divine order of things according to God’s law was that dog chased cat, cat chased mice, and mice chased beetles. But here the order was totally reversed. Here was an upper class, purebred mixing with a mangy, street born, wandering, trashcan-homing cat.

    Usually Juliet would have stayed away from such alliances. They were not meant to be together. The science didn’t work. Nature didn’t permit. It was seriously misaligned and there would be definite genetic malfunction.

    Suddenly the front door squeaked opened.

    There was Mia standing tall, talking rather loud, breaking into the stillness of the beautiful Red moon evening. Juliet was caught unawares hovering near the doorway, and she moved away, feeling very sheepish.

    Cats do feel sheepish at times.

    But then again, determined to brave the loud woman, she paused, turned around and meowing- loud and long- with a look that could melt all the butter in the world.

    “Please hear me out. I am hungry and friendless. Out in the cold. Is it alright if I come in and have a cuppa?”

    Unmoved, Mia continued to stare at her, yelling something. It didn’t sound threatening but neither did it sound as if she were ordering gourmet food.

    “O you poor thing. Yes, you do look a deplorable sight. But forgive me; I was not made to host your kind. Sorry! Can’t have you inside MY home. You’re an immigrant with no papers, no proof of residence, and your colors are questionable. Suffice it to say, I do NOT entertain cats.”

    “At least please, please can I have one look at him? Just one look?” Juliet dared to mew.

    Wufeo, the short furry hero, was standing tall, looking every bit as majestic as a royal prince, in his big warm Bookinham home. He felt awfully silly. He knew he was of a higher class and could not have this relationship exposed. He wasn’t even chivalrous enough to plead her cause. After all, she did look somewhat different to him.

    Besides, what happened in the garden, stayed in the garden.

    It was like Zac Efron holding the trapeze girl, Zendaya’s hand for a while, but shoving it off when he got the ‘glare’ from his hotshot parents.

    Inter class friendships didn’t work ever in the movies, never in real life. You can’t get going anywhere with it.

    “Have you no shame?” Mia asked Wufeo. “Leading her up the garden path. Filling her with some false hope? You know very well that you can’t bring her in.”

    Wufeo hung his head low. His heart was booming thunder.

    He took one last look at Juliet, and sat himself down pensively on the carpet. Juliet meanwhile had climbed up the Frangipani tree, outside the window, with the stealth of a hungry tigress, and was looking at him with threateningly loving eyes.
    Still willing to forgive all his misdemeanors.

    The path of true passion is short lived, they say. (Don’t ask who).
    And it never runs smooth. Another truth be told.

    She stretched her long feline neck moonward, and began to hum. A long musical mew, straight out of The Greatest Showman.

    “This is meeeeeeeeee.
    I am not afraid of my scars,
    Though I feel bruised and broken right now,
    The sharpest woofs or looks cannot cut me down.”

    Finally, Juliet got the hint loud and clear. She had to give up hope and must needs retire to the green garbage bin- her lonely planet. The stars would come out at night. At least there she could pick up some fish bones, maybe some chicken. She would tell her story to the stars. They listened faithfully each night.

    Indoors, Mia whistled, beginning to coochie-cooing Wufeo.

    “Why are you looking cho cute, honey pie? Come to mama, here’s chum kibbles. Life ain’t a bed of roses, Wufeo! It’s tough chumtimes.”

    She recalled the early morning bathroom conversation with her guy, just before he left for work. He was trying to sneak a kiss after being an ass the whole of Thursday. Not an ass. A bull, she corrected herself. Asses are cute.

    “So you still know how to kiss, hey?” She half sneered.

    “Ya, of course I do. Why don’t you start the motion, hey?” he challenged.

    “ ‘Coz you’re a fighter cock,” she replied, “If nobody ever told you, I’m telling you now. You’re SO NOT kissable material, when you behave like a bull.”

    He smiled in amusement as if it were some sort of compliment.

    “Why don’t you go dye your hair? Can’t kiss an old woman.”

    “O really? Well, I’ve stopped coloring.” Her hands were on her hips now. “You gotta learn to love the soul of the woman, not her externals. It’s high time, Mister!”

    “Don’t know nothin’ about what you talkin about. Tell me what’s cooking for lunch?”

    “A storm,” she had replied.

    “That’s humans for you, Wufeo.”
    Meanwhile the dog didn’t want to spoil his moment.

    Turning his fluffy face upwards, he breathed in the clear night air into his nostrils. Much like a conductor, reaching the peak of Mozart’s Symphony No.9, Wufeo whimpered,

    “Tryin’ to hold my breath,
    Lemme stay this way.
    Can’t let this moment end,
    You set off a dream in me.
    And tomorrow’s another day.”

    Meanwhile Mia was on her phone.
    “Hello, hello Katrina, Can I book a hair appointment tomorrow?”


    • This was a cute love story between the cat and the dog! I did get a little confused at the end, thinking the conversation between the woman and the man was between the cat and the dog, but it’s possible it was just me. I would note that the neighborhood sounds like it’s British, but you specified that the tree was a frangipani, which is a tropical tree. Is this taking place on an island? It could be societal bias on part, but I found that particular detail jarring. But overall I liked this unusal take.
      • marien oommen
        Yup, the story takes place right on the island of Abu Dhabi, the UAE. Plenty of Frangipani trees here. It’s all true and did happen.
        Thank you for reading. I was getting bit dismayed that nobody was reading mine! It does take time.

        The dog- cat love is being contrasted with human relationship! With a bit of The Greatest Showman thrown in for juicy measure.
        I had fun.
        Thanks again.

        • Sp it was my own misconception! I liked the added bits from the movie, they gave the cat even more personality.

  • Chalk It Up. (WC 1199.)
    By Ken Cartisano ©11-09-2019

    “I know this is going to sound crazy but… I’ve had an experience let’s say, that makes me question, if not my existence, then the very nature of reality.”

    Now, I want to stop here and state for the record, that my longtime friend John was, and has always struck me as a solidly grounded realist, and I’ve known him since high school, almost forty years.

    “You know I’m a proponent,” he said, handing me a drink, “and dedicated practitioner of the scientific method, right?”

    “Absolutely.” I said.

    “So I don’t have to explain my actions other than to say that I was trying to figure out what was going on, right?”

    “That’s the way you are.” I said.

    “It seems to be sort of a matrix kind of thing…” he began.

    I sipped my drink and made a face.

    “…and I stumbled onto this glitch, I think…”

    I sensed a punch-line coming.

    “…and now I can’t seem to ‘un-prove’ what I’ve accidentally discovered,” he concluded.

    There was no punch-line. “Wait a minute, wait a minute,” I said. “You’ve lost me already. What on earth are you talking about?”

    “Okay.” He said. “I was backing my car out of the driveway last weekend, when I hit the neighbor’s car.”

    “The friendly one?”

    “No. The old bastard over here.”

    “Oh boy,” I said. “Well that must have caused quite an uproar. Talk about a disturbance in the force.”

    He ignored my joke and remained serious. “No, it wasn’t the accident that was strange, it was the aftermath.”

    “Usually is,” I said. “So what happened?”

    “That’s the thing. Nothing happened.”

    I sipped my drink.

    “Okay look,” he said. “I backed into his car, bent his fender, and broke my tail light…”

    “And he didn’t fly into a rage.” I said. “Is that what you’re saying? Maybe he hasn’t seen it yet.” I suggested.

    “No, Sam.” He held up a stipulating finger. “They fixed themselves.”

    “Who fixed themselves? The cars?”

    “Yup.” He sipped his drink, avoiding my gaze.

    “Wait a minute. You’re not saying the cars…. Are you saying the cars fixed themselves?”


    “While you were watching?”

    “Well, no. But the next day they were…”

    “Oh come on, John. You’re kidding me. You don’t really think your fucking car fixed itself, do you?”

    He sat back. “I can think of no other explanation.”

    This is a guy who I’ve never beaten in a game of chess. “Well there has to be another explanation,” I said, “and it doesn’t even have to be that reasonable.”

    “Fine.” He said.

    “Fine? Look,” I said, “cars don’t just fix themselves.”

    “You think I don’t know that, Sam?”

    I didn’t know what to say to that. Obviously he knew how crazy it sounded. So what was I missing?

    “Not only did they fix themselves, but they did so repeatedly, and continue to do so.”

    “How, what do you mean exactly?”

    “When I realized the cars were repaired,” he said, “I ran into his car again.”

    Initially dumbfounded, I quickly found the idea amusing. “You, you ran into his car again?”

    He nodded.

    “Well that MUST have pissed him off.”

    “No. He didn’t know.” John seemed exasperated. But I sensed it was at me, more than anything else. “No because the next morning both cars were fixed again.”

    For me, this would have been the end of the story, but I’m not John. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I said, “I think I would’ve considered myself lucky at this point.”

    He ignored my remark and said, “So I hit it again the following day, I really bashed into it.”

    Looking back, I think this is the point when I began to feel uneasy. “His car?” I said, indicating the grumpy neighbor.

    “Yeah, his car.” He tilted his head toward the old bastard next door. “We’re talking about the same two cars, Sam. It’s not that hard to follow.”

    ‘Isn’t it though?’ I thought fleetingly, but refrained from commenting. “So then…”

    “This time,” he declared with pride, “I went and pounded on the old bastard’s door to confess and report the, he used air quotes, ‘accident.’

    “Oh,” I said. This was an interesting twist.

    “So naturally, he doesn’t believe me and slams the door in my face. I pound on it again until he answers it, and insist I’m telling the truth and he should call the police.”

    He savored his next sip of whisky a bit theatrically, in an effort I suspect, to prolong the suspense, and then explained what happened next. The police came, sorted out the two stories, and then went to examine the damage to the vehicles. “Keep in mind,” he continued, “I’d left the car with my broken tail light firmly against his fender, with shattered bits of red plastic lens material lying all over the ground. Besides the broken lens, the dents to both cars were about equal in size.”

    “An open and shut case,” I said. ‘Of insanity,’ I thought. Or alcoholism, to be kind. But he was a good friend so I forced myself to listen even more intently.

    “There was no damage.” He delivered this sentence with an inscrutable, unwavering look. “There was no damage, Sam. They all thought I was nuts. The damage was fixed in less than an hour. Granted, I wasn’t watching the whole time, true, but I, we, were never more than fifty or sixty feet away.”

    He let that sink in—and it did. That meant that even if this was a prank, or a grand and impossibly complex (not to mention pointless) conspiracy, it was impossible to pull off because the cars were in plain sight the entire time. (And I told John this.)

    “You got it.” He said simply. “That’s why I like you Sam. You may not be much of a chess player, but you see and think clearly.”

    I was tempted to make some off-handed joke, but I didn’t.

    As if reading my mind he said, “You see? That’s how it works, you’re allowed to see inconsistencies in the program, but if you mention them to anyone, people just think you’re nuts.”

    That appeared to be true.

    He was dead a few months later, car accident. They had to use the ‘jaws-of-life’ to get his body out of the mangled wreckage. When I heard the news I remember thinking, ‘If they’d just waited an hour…’

    You want to hear the crazy part?

    Yesterday, while browsing through an art supply store, I came across a single, beautiful box of pristine pastel chalk markers, organized by color, each piece nestled into its own specific niche. Somehow, after examining them, while closing the box, I tipped it and spilled the contents all over the floor. Appalled and embarrassed, I carelessly returned the broken chalks and their pieces to the box, in no particular order, and put it back on the shelf.

    After some searching, I realized it was the only one of that particular item on the shelf. So I bought the box of broken chalks.

    When I brought them home and opened the box, none of the chalks were broken, and they were all re-arranged in their proper color-coded order.

    • Marien
      Ken, you spun that crazy story with such fluid ink and credibility, the kind experienced only in Utopia.
      Good read!
    • … and we are left wondering. Thanks for showing us a new variety of the supernatural. A very entertaining one too.
    • Hi Ken,

      Another great piece of writing Ken. Fluently written and a very well argued case for “sounding crazy.” You do it so well, my friend!

      The unfolding of the actual events would be very hard to accept if I was in this story but what would I think if it was proven to be true? Spooky!

      However, as The Bard wrote and I’m not quoting exactly but he said that there are many things in Heaven and Earth not dreamed of by us and thus your story cannot be simply described as a flight of fancy.

      Great stuff, Ken.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

    • *Starts the slow clap*
      This was just, really good!
    • Great story Ken. I really like the way you ended it.
    • Enjoyed reading your story Ken.
      Real case of a nutcase!
    • This is great, Ken! I love the build up of the story and the narrator’s skepticism… until the glitch happens to him too. It’s a creepy sci-fi horror story scenario and it just really worked.
    • Hi Ken,

      I like skeptics and “believers” squaring it off, and this story gives quite a lot of that, in your impeccable dialogue style.

      The idea that anything is possible (to the “matrix” of existence) is not so necessarily creepy to me, but a rather hopeful thing that potentially opens up new opportunities for us. Just two centuries (or less) back and nobody knew what electricity was. And lightning was creepy stuff. Did this quirky thing, electricity, turn out to be useful in the end? I wouldn’t be typing at a computer keyboard without it, right now, for a start. Perhaps the world would be a better place without me doing so, some might argue, but that’s another matter…

      Objects that fix themselves? Our bodies do it all the time. It’s a marvel really. Those cars and chalk must have had some living cells in them. Did you watch ‘Alita Battle Angel’? Not James Cameron’s best effort (and that’s a clear understatement – it’s a very bad film on lots of grounds – but it has some good points). This robot Alita actually fixes herself (“heals”) to the amazement of the top robot scientist of this future era in which the film takes place…

      Btw thanks for your comment on my story ‘Figment of Imagination’. As you know, your word is well sought after around here 🙂


      • I really enjoy your positive take on this story. While most saw it (correctly) as a spooky sci-fi slash horror theme, as it was intended, that doesn’t mean it has to be. Could be just another mystery of the cosmos that we don’t understand yet. A very astute observation on your part Ken. BTW, I left a suggestion for an ending for your story somewhere, attached to the actual story I believe.
  • Carrie Zylka

    The Handler by Carrie Zylka

    “I know this is going to sound crazy but I’m your new handler.” The blond man said as he slid into the passenger seat of my redneck wet dream of a truck.

    “What-?” I started, staring at him incredulously.

    “I know, I know. It’s a little unorthodox.” He slicked back his unruly hair with one hand.

    “Wait. You? You are my new handler? The creepy stalker dude that couldn’t blend into a crowd if his life depended on it?” I could feel the corners of my mouth twitch up in amusement. I squashed the urge, all business.

    “I’m Adam.” He said. “And I suggest you drive…” He glanced behind the truck. “Pretty sure those two guys you conned are heading this way and one of them has a bat.”

    “Shit.” I muttered seeing them in my rear-view mirror. I cranked the ignition key and the beast of a truck roared to life. I threw it in reverse and backed away from the edge of the swamp. My headlights glinted off eyes in the murky water and I was glad to be in the truck rather than outside of it. I jammed it into drive and my thigh high black boot pressed down on the gas pedal as far as it would go. I took great satisfaction in watching gravel spray up from beneath the tires and the two guys throw up arms to avoid being pelted.

    The moon was full and bright, and I careened out of the bar’s parking lot onto the main drag, putting some distance between the men I’d just stolen from and my extremely precious skin.

    “New handler you say?” I asked lighting up a camel and rolling down the window.

    “Nasty habit, that.” Adam muttered crinkling his nose.

    “New handler you say?” I asked again, adding a bit of edge to my voice, drawing out my words slowly.

    “I’m sure they told you Frank got pulled onto another assignment and I was the only one in Louisiana.”
    I did recall Frank mentioning I’d be working with someone new for a short time. I sighed as I realized it really was this dufus who’d been shadowing me for the last three days. I hadn’t been too concerned as he’d only showed up here and there, but the fact that they’d assign this nimwit to someone of my caliber, was pretty annoying.

    I glanced over at him, fully intending to admire his softly curled hair and chiseled chin when the moon chose that exact moment to glint off the cross I always rode with. It hung on a leather strap blessed by twelve priests from twelve different denominations, the cross was pure silver and my most prized possession.

    Adam however had quite the opposite reaction to the trinket.

    The cross caught the ray just right and sent a flash of pure silver light into his eyes.

    “OH HELL NO.” I snarled as the moonlight revealed his true nature. I jerked the wheel to the right and slammed on the brakes. Both of us rocketing forward at the suddenness of the stop and I was twice annoyed as my chest hit the steering wheel. I threw it into park and hopped out of the truck.

    My boots pounded the pavement with holy righteousness as I walked around to the passenger side, yanked open the door, grabbed a fist full of jacket and unceremoniously threw him from the vehicle.

    “What in the—-?????” He sputtered, “surely they told you your next handler was going to be a demon?”

    “No.” I seethed. “They sure as fuck didn’t and this is where our working relationship ends.” I spun, my three inch stiletto digging into the dirt.

    “Stop.” Adam’s voice thundered like the crack of lightening.

    My hands curled into fists at my sides as the demon spell compelled me to do just that. “You really don’t want to play with me fiend.” I shivered in anger, the words like acid in my mouth.

    I felt him loosen the spell and I turned back around. “You know my story.” I said, my voice barely an angry whisper.

    It was not a question.

    Adam had gotten to his feet and was brushing dirt off his leather jacket. “I do. And I also know that you are one of the most difficult Hunters to work with. But you know what’s coming. The Darkness has birthed the most powerful creature. A creature so terrible it even gives my Dark Master pause enough to want to work with you of the Light. THAT should be enough for you to put aside your past experiences and work with me and my kind towards the greater task at hand.”

    My anger coiled within me. Not unlike the black vipers hiding in the shadows, drawn to the dark malevolence this unholy creature exuded, waiting for the signal to strike. “You have no idea what past experiences you are asking me to put aside.”

    “Your body is literally vibrating with hate for me. And I do understand. But if your kind and my kind don’t join forces, we all die. Simple as that.” He smoothed his face, casting gorgeous blue eyes that would have melted a softer heart.

    I took a moment, counted to ten. Closed my eyes, listened to the splashing of the bayou, listened to the cicadas, allowed the vibrant energy all around me to soothe my anger.











    Taking a deep breath, I opened my eyes. “Fine then demon, send your vipers and your lizards back into the brackish water. Get in my damn truck and let’s go to wherever it is that we need to be going.” I glanced over at the yellow eyes and squared snouts sliding backwards into the mud.

    My heart was beating wildly in my chest as I climbed back into the driver’s seat. We drove in silence for several minutes.

    “Open the glove box will ya?” I asked after about six cigarettes.

    He bobbed his head and managed to open it, letting the door flop open.

    “The whiskey.” I demanded holding out an open hand.

    Adam scratched at his head for a moment then handed over the bottle. I ignored him as I opened it with my teeth and took several swigs. I offered it to him, and he shook his head to decline.

    I shrugged. “I’ll be honest. I never in a million years thought the Church of God and the Church of Satan would be working together.”

    Adam nodded again. “Yes, it’s amazing what alliances the end times will forge.” I could hear a hint of sarcasm and it set my teeth on edge. This was going to be a long drive.

    “What’s the next move? Where do we go from here?”

    “North. We head North to Kansas. It’s where the Darkness has birthed the creature. It is there that we all make our final stand.”

    I nodded. He radiated truth and I think that unsettled me more than anything. I pressed the cruise control and pointed the nose of the big truck towards N49.

    (1185 Words)

    • “I cranked the ignition key and the beast of a truck roared to life.” It’s like a movie, I can the wide screen and hear the Dolby sound.
    • Carrie, I always want the rest of the story with yours! You paint a good picture and I know there is a huge story this takes place within and I need to know more about this beast and how these two opposing sides will work together to bring it down. DON”T LEAVE ME HANGING.

      I mean great story, I’m glad you started posting here again.

    • Carrie:
      This is it. This is the angle you didn’t know you were searching for. ‘The Handler.’ This would make a great book, novel, novella, eight book series, you name it, and it’s all seamlessly contained in its first 1200 word chapter. Uniting the dark and the light sides to fight an even bigger evil is brilliant. (You could string along a million readers just wanting to find out what that is. And exactly how big it might be?

      The writing is terrific, just the right amount of veering outside the rules. I would go so far as to say, if ever you need to be reminded of what good writing sounds like, just re-read this story. (Or chapter.)

      I only have one small hope, that the demon can change his appearance. That would be useful, used as a reveal, and something that could pay dividends to the two characters later in the story. I mean that in a strictly literary way. Do you want your character cavorting with ‘Gollum’ or Jude Law? (Gollum is not very tempting. No challenge. That’s just an idle wish.) This is not really my cup of tea, but I would definitely read this. It has the elements of suspense, drama, tension, action, big-ass trucks, mud and chain smoking heroines.

      • Carrie Zylka

        Ken, my dear, my favorite…..I live for your flowery compliments…. 😊

        If you wouldn’t mind expanding on your statement about the demons appearance. Is it because he’s blond and should have dark hair?
        And not sure how I could use his appearance as a reveal.

        I’m interested in your thoughts on this.

    JJ Hershey c. 11/10/2019

    “I know this is going to sound crazy, but Thursday night, I saw Old Man Gilford burying something in his cornfield.” The police sergeant appeared unimpressed and kept writing in his daily log. “You think I’ve lost my marbles, I know it, but Sergeant Kelly, I’m right. He was in the cornfield with a shovel and was throwing dirt on what looked like a shallow grave.”

    Kelly put down his pen, closed the logbook, and leaned across the desk. “Son, Old Man Gilford is a farmer. He digs. John Gilford grows corn. When you tell me he’s digging in his cornfield, I have to wonder what you’ve been drinking. Do I need to call someone to give you a breathalyzer?”

    “Forget it, Kelly. I should have known better than to try to convince an old sot like you. How you still have this job is beyond me, and frankly, it’s beyond most of the people in this one-horse town.”

    “Jason, get out of my building, and head on home, before I have you put into lock up for the night. Just leave Old Man Gilford alone. If I hear of you snooping around out there, I will make good on my promise to lock you up.”

    Jason left and headed home, but first, he needed to stop over at the Saloon to have a talk with Carrie Downs, local Jibber Jabber Queen of all things rumored to be a rumor. As expected, she was sitting at the bar, surrounded by local gentlemen. They were more than happy to buy her enough drinks to make her think one of them is the next James Bond, and take him upstairs to her private room.

    “Carrie, I need to talk to you for a minute. Excuse us, gentlemen.” Jason grabbed her arm, pulling her off the stool and over to a table near the old jukebox in the corner of the Saloon.

    “My God, Jason, what is it? Can’t you see I’m busy? I hope this is important.”

    Jason told Carrie the same story he gave to Kelly at the police station, and Carrie gave Jason the same story Kelly gave then, too. Old man Gilford is a farmer and blah, blah, blah.

    “Well, I know I’m not losing my mind, Carrie, I saw what I saw.” Jason stood up and charged out of the Saloon, heading for home.

    Carrie went to the bar, grabbed her bag and sweater, and excused herself, “Sorry, boys, something just came up, and I have to beat it.” They all laughed at the double entendre as she hurried out the back door of the bar.

    Old Man Gilford wiped the sweat from his brow with the old bandana he kept shoved in the back pocket of his dirty overalls. After wiping his hands with the same bandana, he picked up the shovel and pickaxe and headed back to the barn. Inside the barn, he hung the tools on the pegs hammered into the support beams situated down the center of the structure.

    Checking the two horse stalls, he made sure there was water and hay for the night. He headed out the opposite end of the barn and checked on the half dozen hogs he had penned up there. Satisfied everything was right, he headed up to the main house.

    Four steps up to the back porch and through the door, he was in the kitchen. Stopping at the fridge for a glass of cold water, he checked the answering machine and finding no new calls went into the living room and sat in his favorite armchair.

    Old Blue, the Coonhound, stood up and laid down next to him. Tuning the radio to an old-time jazz station, his favorite music, both Old Man Gilford and Old Blue, fell asleep. It would typically be the morning light pouring through the front windows that woke them. Tonight it was the sound of approaching cars in the drive.

    Stepping out on the front porch, Old Man Gilford and Old Blue saw three cars heading up the dirt drive and coming to a stop at the edge of the grass. One of the vehicles was a town police car, the lights and siren were off, but a police car just the same. As they came to a stop, the drivers piled out of each vehicle.

    “Jason, Carrie, Sargent Kelly, it’s a little late for a town meeting, don’t you think?”

    Kelly spoke first, “John, our ace reporter Jason tells me he saw you maybe burying something in your cornfield a few nights ago. Is that true?”

    Old Man Gilford took the bandana from his overalls and wiped his brow. “What is the problem, Kelly? Can’t I dig in my field? Gonna make the corn harvest a bit light if I can’t do that.”

    “Where’s Mildred, I want to say hey.” Carrie headed quickly up the steps. Old Man Gilford steps to the side, blocking her from entering the house.

    “She’s in Memphis visiting her sister.”

    Jason now speaks up, “What’s in the cornfield, Mr. Gilford?”

    Old Man Gilford says just a single word, “Corn.” Then, he asks, “What is it y’all are accusing me of anyway?”

    “John, if you don’t mind, can we have a look in the field so I can put this whole thing to bed? Were you burying something out there Thursday night, John? Is Jason right or wrong?”

    Wiping his brow again, he starts down the steps and over to the barn, “Pig died is all. Come on.”

    They all go to the barn, John grabs his pickaxe and shovel, and Jason shows them where he saw the farmer throwing dirt over the ground.

    “Right here.” Sure enough, they all saw a shallow grave freshly dug. Carrie started crying. Kelly put his arm around her to calm her nerves.

    “It’s going to be fine, Carrie, everything is okay. John, dig it up.”

    Old Man Gilford started digging, and it wasn’t but a few minutes until he uncovered the face of the dead pig.

    Carrie began vomiting and ran to her car. She has seen too much. Kelly turned and looked at Jason, and shoved his thumb back over his shoulder in a motion to get him out of the area.

    “John, I’m sorry about this, and about your pig. That was the blue ribbon one, wasn’t it?”

    “It was. Do y’all mind if I cover the pig up now?”

    “No, John, that’s fine. I’ll deal with Jason tomorrow, and I’m sure Carrie will be fine. Poor girl, that’s probably the first dead thing she ever saw, I imagine.”

    John Gilford was busy covering the pig carcass and just said, “I imagine. Seen one dead body, seen ‘em all.”

    Kelly said his goodbyes and headed to the patrol car, driving down the dirt road back to the station. He’d have to write up a report.

    Back in the house, John Gilford turned off the lights, turned off the radio, and as he headed to the stairs, he stopped at the walk-in pantry.

    Wiping his hands with his bandana, he placed them on the top of the chest freezer and said, “Good night, Mildred.”

    • Great surprise in the end! Well done!
    • I like that twist ending! I would say that a farmer usually doesn’t have both pigs and corn – they usually specialize in one or the other. They also wouldn’t bury something dead in a field they grow crops in. This is just something living in the country surrounded by cornfields and pig farms that I’ve seen on my own. But the story was good and that ending was a good one.
      • I took your experience to task and the rewrite explains the hog ownership. (Mildred insisted, John hates them:”No self respecting corn farmer would ever allow a pig near the place.”) Version Two is now too long for this contest. Ha!
    • JJ. Hershey Grave Mistake. (Blue Ribbon.)

      A nicely told tale of agrarian recycling, and murder. I’ll bet Old man Granger cried over the loss of that old fat pig. Probably wasn’t too happy at losing that hog either. A fun story, nice reveal and excellent writing too. Just because his wife’s in the freezer doesn’t mean he killed her. Maybe she had a heart-attack. Might be waiting to finish the harvest, or uh. Well, whatever.

  • His Shadow
    Written by Alexis Winter

    “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I don’t think my shadow likes you,” Jak whispered as he peeked his head up from the lunch table, his eyes glued to mine for a moment before he put his head back down. I raised a brow at my strange companion. It wasn’t the oddest thing he’d said to me, but it sure was in the top five.

    “Come over here. Leave the weirdo alone before you get hurt like his last ‘friend,’” my cousin called from the next table over. I frowned and looked back at the jet black-haired male sitting in front of me. He hadn’t touched his food at all, he barely even looked up since the start of lunch, which wasn’t at all normal. He usually ended up staring past me and absentmindedly muttering to himself. Which was weird, but I honestly didn’t mind too much. I felt more comfortable with the stranger kids in my school anyways.

    My cousin’s friends began to follow her lead in welcoming me over to her table, however I didn’t really care to sit with them no matter how off the wall Jak’s comments were sometimes. “Nah, I’m good where I am, but thanks for the invite,” I spoke just loud enough for the group to hear me. I didn’t like to hang with them during school anyways. “Are you okay, Jak?”

    Once more the boy looked up at me with a small frown plastered across his features. It was enough to break my heart when he looked up at me like a kicked puppy. “You’re one of the few friends I have and plus my shadow doesn’t like you at all. How am I ever going to survive without at least one friend?” It was strange to hear someone talk about their shadow like it was an actual living thing, but I always thought it made Jak pretty interesting. You could pull a thousand people off the street and he’d be the only one with such an interesting little quirk to him.

    “Well, what could I do to make your shadow like me,” I mused as I took another bite of my lunch and looked over to see my cousin giving me a small glare. She worried way too much about me and my strange friend.

    As I looked back to the blue-eyed boy for an answer I was surprised to see the sudden smile that was present on his features. I almost wanted to jump out of my skin from the peculiar sight. I’d never seen a genuine smile, all I’d ever seen were frowns or maybe a smirk when he was about to knock someone’s teeth in.

    “Would you take a walk with me…” he muttered as his eyes moved past me to the snowy world outside the school windows. It was the first snowfall of the year and not a person wanted to leave their homes as the soft flakes fell from the sky. “I want to show you something.”

    I looked down at my watch with a small frown. It was already eleven fifty-two. There was only about twelve minutes left before the bell would ring for our next class, but it was just study hall anyway, neither of us needed to be there. “Yeah, sure. Why not?” I smiled as I grabbed both of our plates and we shuffled towards the garbage before running to our lockers to grab our coats.

    As I walked over to Jak I could have sworn that the lights flickered for a moment. His shadow flickering from his own to something I couldn’t quite make out. This was the third time it seemed to happen since I met the quiet male who seemed to be my only non-familial friend. “Hey, you ready to go?”

    The boy simply nodded as he grabbed ahold of my wrist, leading me farther down the hall towards the doors.

    We trudged through the mounds of snow that had formed as a result of no one shoveling all day. Yet, it never seemed to bother my strange friend as he led me to wherever he wished to go. It was actually kind of nice to get away from all the loudness in the school for a little while.

    After what felt like fifteen minutes of walking around we stopped in front of an old parking structure. It was one of the ones that the city left up for all the graffiti artists to mess with, so not many people would be around at the moment. “What do you want me to see here?”

    Jak seemed to be scanning the building for something as he dragged me into the parking structure with him. My own eyes moved across the many pictures drawn upon the floors and walls. I was almost surprised that someone hadn’t tried drawing on the ceiling yet.

    The male’s sudden stop caused me to collide with his back. “Sorry,” I faintly heard him mutter as he turned around to face me. His bright eyes looking into my own green ones as he continued to hold onto my wrist. “If I show you this will you promise not to run… I don’t want you to get hurt.”

    “Why would I run,” I questioned the male as he shrugged, as if he didn’t want to say what would cause me to run away. He was strange, but I’d known my fair share of strange people and he was the most harmless person I’d met. When Jak didn’t respond to my question besides the shrug I decided to nod my head and give him a small smile. “Of course, I’ll stay right here. Promise.”

    He nodded his head as he gave a small whistle. The noise reverberated across the building as a chilly wind blew through the room carrying the sound of rolling leaves. A small howl echoing through the parking structure as a wispy looking creature slowly trotted towards us. It’s bright red eyes almost seeming as crazed as Jak’s when he got into fights. “Is this your shadow,” I managed to stutter out as the creature slowly drew closer to me. A light growl erupted from its muzzle.

    From next to me I could hear Jak muttering to himself about something or another. His arm seemed to shake as if he were scared of what the creature would do to me if I managed to move a muscle… “Is this what happened to Greg, did he run away from her?” I spoke as I looked at my friend from the corner of my eyes. He only nodded his head as he whimpered.

    When the creature came to stand a foot away, I could feel its breath on my legs as it sniffed me. If I just stayed still it couldn’t hurt me, could it?

    “She hasn’t run? Strange human… friend? Maybe…” My eyes widened as the creatures raspy voice entered my ears. The creature sat down and looked up to me. “Do you fear me?”

    “No, not really.”

    What almost looked to be a smile crept onto the shadow’s face. “Then I accept you human. You are friend.”

    • Very exciting scary story. With a good ending. Leaves me wanting to know a lot more. Was this the beginning of a long friendship, as they say in the movie Casablanca?
    • Carrie Zylka

      When I went in to add the code to change the font color for your story, spellcheck underlined “creeped” in red. I changed “creeped onto his face” to “crept onto his face”, but I am making an assumption.
      If you really meant it to be “creeped” let me know and I’ll change it back!

    • I like that the shadow ended up being some sort of guardian hound. I like that it accepts her as a friend and shows how moving past our fears can have great benefits. I was a little off put by your use of the word “male” to refer to Jak so often in this story. Usually you use descriptors like male or female to refer to animals. Boy or girl sound better when talking about humans interacting. It would sound ok if the shadow used it to refer to the narrator, but between equals it sounds clinical.
      • Hey Wendy,

        Thank you for commenting on my story. I honestly don’t know who I used male so much in reference to Jak.

    • Alexis Winter 19

      I also found your use of the term ‘the male’ odd. As if someone from another species was writing the story. (Been on this planet long? Nice isn’t it? Don’t drink the water though, not until you get acclimated. You’re not one of those species that finds water intoxicating are you? I hope not. They usually don’t fare well. Although if earning an escort to the Kuiper belt and getting kicked out of a solar system is the worst thing that ever happens to you, you’re generally doing rather well.)

      All kidding aside, certain aspects of your story are pleasantly intriguing, the strange animal, the fact that it talks, that it has the ability to befriend people. This seems like a really rough version of a much bigger, wilder story. Bear with me. Sometimes a great idea needs time to percolate through its creators brain to arrive in a condition to really impress. Kind of like one of those shadow creatures. What if it was just a baby, a mere shadow of what it might become? I think one area of weakness in this story is a clear and concise description of the relationship between the two people, or omitting that altogether. Or, perhaps focusing more on the strange classmate. Not sure, there’s no thread that holds it all together. Like a painting has a background, but it isn’t designed to draw your attention, it’s used to provide perspective, or contrast. There’s nothing at all wrong with the writing, so it’s not that, it’s some common medium to tie things together, maybe. (Sorry I can’t be more helpful. I may have had a little too much water. It happens.)

  • RM York
    Going in for my last surgery today. My surgeon is tying up some loose ends and I’m finally gonna get my shit together. Think good thoughts. I’ll be back in action soon. Keep the literary fires burning. Looking forward to reading all these stories while lounging around in the hospital mending.


    • Hey Roy,

      Good to hear. Wishing you well and looking forward to reading your work.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

      • RM York
        Thanks Ken. All the fun starts at 12:15. I haven’t read it yet, but another train story, huh? Can’t wait!


    • Phil Town
      Força, Roy!
    • Good luck with your treatment , Roy

      Look forward to read your stories soon.

    • We’ve got you in our thoughts and can’t wait for you to be well enough to write again, your stories are greatly missed!
    • I hope it all goes (went) well, Roy. A long journey, this. Good to know it’s the last step in the procedure. Get back to story-writing as soon as it’s all over!


    • marien oommen
      Praying for the touch of the Great Physician on you.
  • Writer2019
    • Writer2019
      Oh. Wrong person, sorry!

  • Just Hear Me Out by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin [498 word count]

    I know this is going to sound crazy, but I swear I saw a dragon fly across the moon last night. I woke up to use the facilities, as you do after drinking too much … Wait! I see that look in your eyes. It was water. I’d drunk too much water right before bed.

    Anyway, I was looking out the window noticing how bright the moon was and how artfully the clouds had gathered around it when, whoosh, a large shape with flapping wings moved across its face. I tried to get a better look, but it had flown behind the clouds. Then I realized that I’d pissed all over the floor and had more immediate issues to deal with.

    Seeing that dragon shape made me reevaluate some other things I’d noticed over the past few months. An overabundance of mushroom rings in people’s yards even though it’s been pretty dry. There was that night I had accidentally left the cream out and it had evaporated by morning – my shoes no longer rubbed my heel after that. Then last week when I was cutting through the park after work I saw a bright orange bird that flew away when I tried to get close. I tell you there were scorch marks on that tree!

    I see that you’re uncomfortable – I told you this would sound crazy. But think back over the last few months and really look for something out of place that you’d dismissed at the time. A-ha, you thought of something, didn’t you?

    The first question in your head is probably “what caused all these fantastical things to bleed into our mundane world?” You and I could sit here debating that all night. The bigger question is whether or not this is ‘the new normal.’ Should we teach our kids not to follow bread crumb trails or plant beans? Should we look for seal skins every time we start dating a woman? Can parents stop leaving money under their kids’ pillows since the tooth fairy is an actual thing now?

    If this bleed through is permanent, think about what this will do to the economy. Parents would stop buying toys at Christmas because Santa is real. What if we get imps who can spin straw into gold? Will we all be chasing down rainbows to find the leprechaun’s stash? It’s madness! On the other hand, maybe this is all just temporary. The stars might realign or whatever and our world will go back to its boring, humdrum, everyday self. But I’ve seen a dragon and crazy or not that changes you, man.

    I can see that look in your eye, it matches my own. So I’ve got a proposition for you. I’m putting together a group of like-minded individuals to go on a mission – a good old fashioned quest, if you will. We’ll head up into the mountains and try to find that dragon. Perhaps we’ll find some adventure along the way. Whaddya say? You in?

    • I have since changed the first paragraph, but you don’t have to update the story. I just thought I’d post it here. It makes it a slightly less awkward sentence.

      “I know this is going to sound crazy, but I swear I saw a dragon fly across the moon last night. I woke up to use the facilities, as you do after drinking too much … Wait! I see that look in your eyes. It was water. I’d drunk too much water right before bed.”

    • Yeah, I’m in. Sounds like a promising adventure!
    • Hi Wendy,

      Searching for the mysterious (and sometimes finding a trace of it) is fascinating in the way it opens up our mind to possible alternative realities we hardly knew existed. Yes, beyond our mundane mortal existence. I saw a UFO as a kid (and others saw it too so it’s not “just me”). I used to read the Unexplained magazine, it was my “bible” for some time. So well, I’m going to fill out the application of the “like-minded individuals to go on a mission” once it’s out!

      Thanks also for the comment to my dream story. I think your proposal makes a lot of sense.


    • Wendy,
      Where do I sign up? I know a little about Dragons too. Western Dragons. (They like being capitalized, for instance. They know it’s not the rule, but they don’t care about grammar, or proper english, they just want to be capitalized.)

      This is a really intriguing concept that I don’t think I’ve run across before. Fairy tales and fantasy bleeding into the real world? Numerous authors have approached this from a different angle, where the fantasy world is always there, we just lose access to it, or it banned us, or moved on, or we killed it. But in your story, it’s ‘bleeding through.’

      I believe that’s novel. I read a story once where drag (oops) where Dragons were everywhere, but were masters of disguise. Once you were taught the trick, or ate the blue pill, or got conked on the head in just the right spot—voila! Dragons galore.

      I think you undersold this a bit, considering what a clever idea it is. But let me warn you, if the Dragons have their way, (and They usually do) this story will go nowhere, not until you capitalize the Dragons.

      Great writing Wendy. Funny, witty, enchanting. A lighthearted look at the perils of Peter Pan.

  • The Tattooed Man –
    By Kristin Record
    892 words

    -Authors note, This is a TRUE story, well the story in the story is a true story. It’s true to my ancestry. Enjoy! –

    “I know this is going to sound crazy, but my ancestor was the first tattooed man.” Draining my beer, I set it on the bar with a thud.  

    “What? No way!” the stranger beside me reacted the way most do when I started a conversation in this manner. I nodded my head while flagging the barkeep for another round of drinks.  

    “He was an Irish lad born to circus folk. Growing up, they forced him to perform every night in front of an audience, making a stooge of him. Oh, he could get a decent laugh from the crowd all right but he didn’t like it one bit!”

    Beside me the stranger stirred his drink, digesting the words I had said.  He nodded his head for me to continue. 

    “He stowed away on a fisherman’s ship, a great idea in theory but he was just a wee lad, no way he could have predicted the storm!” I waggled my eyebrows and took a long drink. “Wrecked the ship right on a mysterious island. When he woke up on the shore, he found the whole crew dead, not from the wreckage but the native tribe!”  

    Captivated now the stranger turned to face me in wonderment, “The tribe killed the whole crew?” 

    “They sure did, everyone except the boy, who is rightly terrified. You see, they were dark-skinned with deep black and purple etchings on their flesh and his skin was translucent, blue green veins snaking underneath. He’d heard lore of inked up cannibals, and getting eaten, well, I don’t think anyone wants that!” I finished my beer and eyed the stranger who’s drink sat discarded and forgotten. 

    I signaled for more beer and continued. “So, what does this guy do? Well, trying to save his own skin he dances a jig that was a circus hit. This sets the tribe on fire with laughter. Imagine, this pale naked fool dancing a jig out of fear!” I laughed, the stranger laughing too and slapping his knee.  

    “Well, did it work?”  

    I nodded. “It sure did! It worked so well that the tribe took him in as one of their own! Imagine, having a personal little dancing circus clown. Anyhow, he lived with them for a while, learning to hunt, fish and cook. Then each night feasting, drinking, and dancing. Life wasn’t too bad I guess, but to be honest I never asked the guy.” The stranger chuckled with me at this and the bartender refreshed both our drinks. I slid a bill across the bar, thanking her. 

    “So, one night after everyone has gone to sleep, they came for him. Tying him up, they took him to a secluded hut and held him captive there for eight days!” I smiled as the stranger gasped, prompting me to go on. “During those eight days chubby virgins surrounded him, armed with indigo ink and needles.”  

    The stranger laughed, “Virgins? And they were chubby?” his laughter made me smile, and I joined him in it, pulling off my beer again. 

    “Yes, chubby virgins! They spent the days tattooing almost every inch of his body, it took him a month to recover!”  

    The bartender who had been eavesdropping leaned closer, “Almost every inch?” 

    I snapped my fingers and pointed at her, “Yes, almost! You see later they threw a feast in his honor. During that time the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen approached him and added the last tattoos to his body. They wed that night!” They smiled at each other, and then the bartender and the stranger shared a fist bump at what they believed to be a happy ending. 

    “Ah, not so fast!” I took a sip of my beer and winked at the stranger. “Yes, they wed and had two children. However, he didn’t know of the tribe’s sacred tradition. See, after the second child is born to the family, they castrate the husband!” I waited for the reaction; it didn’t disappoint. The stranger retched, and the bartender shuddered. 

    “So, they tied him up yet again and crushed his testicles with a large stone.” I mimed a stone crushing down with my fist. “This guy got on the first moored canoe he could find and got out of there, lickidy split!”  

    The bartender threw her head back and roared with laughter. “There was a canoe the whole time?”  

    “Bah, details. Anyhow, he ends up in New York City working for a circus as the first ever tattooed man. This brings the story full circle, with a little of a moral lesson. You can run, but you can’t hide from your destiny.” Finishing my last beer, I gave the stranger a broad grin, running my hands through my long red hair.  

    “So that’s it then, wow, what a story!” The stranger paid his bill and went to stand up. I put my hand on his arm, bringing him to a halt. 

    “So in a nutshell I come from a long line of tattooed freaks.” I flash a small tattoo on my wrist. “You want to come back to my place and get freaky?” 

    “Wait, was this all some long elaborate pick up line?” he stared at me with confusion and humor.  

    I give him an exaggerated wink. “Did it work?” 

    He slipped on his coat and gestured at the door, “Do chubby virgins give full body tattoos?” 

      • What thing has everyone been forgetting to click?

        I’m beginning to get a little worried. I probably haven’t clicked it either… whatever it is that ought to have been clicked…

        • The little button that sends you email notifications for replies to your post 😂
          • Oh I see!

            “The Thing”. It sounded scary…

    • kristin,
      Enjoyed the tale. Interesting. Traditions in the past. Heard about castrations of slaves in the past.
    • Hi Kristin,

      True story? That makes it an even more captivating read. Your ancestor, really? From his “activity” on the Island? I have solid rock reasons to think he didn’t have any more offsprings after he got to NYC, but I might be wrong.

      It’s a nicely narrated story with a good “story-framed-in-another-story” effect. The past is recounted in present-time dialogue which brings it to life and gives it new energy.

      There’s quite a good deal of tongue-in-cheek humor here and there. It’s one of my faves this prompt round…

      Cheers 🙂

      • Indeed. I come from a long line of O’Connells. The O’Connell clan if you will…we even have a crest. I was doing some ancestory research and came across his story and was like..whoa I have to write about this!! I’m glad you enjoyed it!!
        • So it’s really all true – wow! Got a responsibility there, you’re carrying. Especially in the curious history of tattoos. Tattooed, yourself? I would be surprised if you’re not, given where you’re coming from…

          O’Connell, hmmm. Fun fact: my sister is an O’Donnell (through marriage); one-letter close!

          Well done again for the (hi)story – it’s among my “chosen ones” in the vote 🙂


          • I am tattooed. I have 9 currently and the memorial tattoo for my brother was just finished being drawn up, so my sister, other brother and myself will be getting it in the next month or so.
            I love that your sister married into an Irish family. We are a fun bunch.
  • 16 stories so far!

    Not sure how I’m going to read them all before voting!!

  • Crazy Love
    1200 words

    “I know this is going to sound crazy, but,” My voice trails off, and my words falter when I feel Aiden’s eyes on me. He has that ability; he’s able to look at me and see my soul. My throat is suddenly dry.

    “What?” He asked, mildly amused at my hesitation.

    “I think I might be falling in love with you.” Those are those words I want to say, but I don’t; I never would. How can I tell my best friend that I’ve fallen for him? What would those words sound like in my voice? Most likely, he would give me a look of disgust and leave without saying anything. I couldn’t bear to see his eyes turn cold, and his face sour. I’d rather have things as they are, he and I as friends, nothing more, but nothing less. Those blue eyes that look at me so serenely, innocent of my secret thoughts. The natural, easy smile that can make me feel warm inside on the coldest winter days. I can’t risk losing that.

    We meet here every Wednesday. At this sports bar with its college crowd and late twentyish professionals. Aiden and I don’t fit in with this crowd, but the bar is convenient for us, so we have a few drinks, talk about our jobs, sports. I talk about my dog, Bo. He talks about his two kids Tally and Brendon. He’s divorced, has been for three years now. There’s been a couple of women in and out of his life, but nothing serious.

    We settle in with our drinks. “You’re quiet tonight,” Aiden says. “Is something up?” He palms the small bourbon glass in his hand as if nervous.

    “No, just a hard day at work.” I pause, glancing away from his prying gaze. “Well, I suppose I’m feeling a bit melancholy, and a little lonely, maybe.”

    “Why not give your ex a booty call?”

    “Oh, no! That boat has sailed. Too much water under that bridge.”

    “It doesn’t have to be serious.” He laughs through his words. “I think a night of good sex. You’ll be feeling better by morning.”

    “Are you freaking serious? No, I have no desire to revisit that part of my life. I’m fine, just in that ‘what am I doing with my life’ State of mind. You know, dissatisfied with the way my life is going right now.”

    He nods, rubbing the rim of his glass with his thumb. “How’s the book coming?”

    “Not good. I Don’t seem to be able to focus, always distracted. I don’t even know if it’s something I can or want to do anymore.”

    He chuckled, knowingly, and gave me a quick smile. “Who is it?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “What you’ve just described is someone in love.”

    My stomach flip-flops. “Oh, fuck off. I suppose I’m in love with myself; who else would it be? I mean this,” I say, pointing to us, “is the extent of my social life.”

    He looks down as if thinking.

    My heart jumps. Had I given my secret away? An awkward silence passes between us as the bar clientele hums about with their laughter and discussions of their own lives.

    I order another beer.

    “You know,” he says, indicating the conversation is taking a turn. “I was thinking about how strange women are. I mean, I was with Angela for eight years, and I don’t think she was ever straight forward with me the entire time. I mean seriously, something as simple as eating out would be such a chore. She would ask me to choose and then be mad if I didn’t pick where she wanted to eat. Nothing was easy and often ended in a quarrel. I mean seriously, why not just come straight out and say where you want to eat, instead of playing complicated games?

    “Maybe they expect men to be more intuitive?”

    “Ah, that’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Men are not intuitive, you see its all part of the manipulation of trying to make men in the way they want them to be.” His sky blue eyes were glistening in the dull light, picking up on the tones of his navy polo.

    “So, you’ve solved the problems of every married man.”

    “Yeah, be a mind reader.” He chuckles, glancing at his phone. “Almost game time.”

    I nod. “So, how’s your dad?”

    His face grew solemn, and I became sorry, I ask.

    “Not good. Dad’s times up; they sent him home on hospice.” The sad, defeated look on his face made me want to reach out and touch his hand, tell him how sorry I was, and make promises that things would be better, but I didn’t.

    “I’m sorry,” I say.

    He regards me oddly. After a few seconds, I became uncomfortable. “What?” I ask.

    “I’d like to show you something. Come with me.”


    On the patio, the music is louder, but it is turning colder, and most people have made their way indoors. We walk toward the back of the building, where the light from the decorative lamps diminishes. The pristine November sky is velvet-like and sprinkled with stars. “Up there,” he says while pointing. “Somewhere, is a single star which I’ve bought for my father, it bears his name, or will after his death.”

    I’m taken back by his sentiment. “Wow!”

    He seemed slightly embarrassed at my reaction.

    “I think that’s great.” I say, “I’m impressed, but it’s not something that I would picture you doing.”

    “Really?” he says. “I’m kind of hurt by that.”

    “Oh come on, says the guy who never remembered his anniversary.”

    “I remember…things, I remember your birthday.”

    “Oh shit! I protest. You have no idea when my birthday is.”

    “I do…its next month, on the tenth.”

    “I’ll be damned. You do remember.”

    “That’s crazy.” He says as if realizing something for the first time. “I could never remember my anniversary, but yet I remember your birthday. You must be pretty damn important to me.” We share a warm look. Then he clears his throat as if uncomfortable. “you know I’ve meant to ask you something.”

    “Like what?”

    “Well,” He fumbles for words. “I don’t know how to go about it, I mean other than just blurt it out.”

    “Ok.” I laughed nervously. “Go ahead.”

    His eyes search my face, and his mouth moves as if he were going to speak, but he doesn’t.

    “Oh, bloody hell! You’ve got to ask me now! I’ll go crazy, wondering what it is.”

    He swallows hard. “London, are you, he begins and looks at my feet and not my eyes. “Are you into me?” His eyes only meet mine momentarily then flit away.

    I balk. “What? Why would you ask me that?”

    “I mean, it’s just I get this vibe from you sometimes.

    Panic seizes my mind and holds it tight. Oh fuck, this is it. Now is when it all comes crashing down around my ass, this is the part where I lose him. “Shit, Aiden, fuck! Why would you ask that?”

    “It could be that for some fucking reason, I want to kiss you right now, and I don’t know why in hell I feel this way.”

    • A happy ending! I like the build up between the two characters who don’t want to lose their friendship and are afraid to let the other know how they feel, but in the end one gathers enough courage and they can finally find some happiness.
    • Lovely story
      Pleased they acknowledged their feelings in the end.
    • Dennis,
      This is a beautifully crafted story, beautifully written. It presents a view of bi-sexuality that reveals it to be more than a mere lifestyle choice. It’s someone’s life, just like anyone elses. Full of tough choices, decisions, risks and gambles. Very well done.
  • I’m currently on the road, won’t be able to vote until later tonight if you’all can wait that long. I have a terrible fever, got snow on.
    between the snow and the fever I haven’t had a chance to read all the story. Here’s my comments on what I’ve read though.

    Liz Fisher,
    Enjoyed your story and your confession. You’re quite the literary daredevil. (I kid you.) It’s actually kind of neat that you re-purposed your story. (I would never do such a thing of course. Not after having already done it so many times.) I was not wowed by the plot you offered but you have a nice, clear, beautifully coherent voice. If this was a class, I would give you an A+. Not for the material, but for how well the material was presented, which is, really, what it’s all about.

    As for Possums, well, my knowledge of possums is vast, encyclopedic, really. Do you know why ‘possums’ is plural? (Because it has an ‘s’ on the end, silly.) If I had access to the Internet while writing this, I would wow you with peculiar possum facts, but I don’t. So, you should feel fortunate for that.

    Writer 2019
    My cribmate (Queen Nephratite) pointed out that (she does this to me all the time) your ending would be more interesting if the girlfriend leaves him with the challenge of using his psychic abilities to determine where he should meet her the following day. That would be quite the conundrum. And a nice little twist at the end.

    I’m afraid your story left me a bit confused, as your narrator preternaturally predicted.

    Your story was effing crazy. A dark vision of the future, the past, some alternative reality, reminiscent of the movie ‘Minority Report.’ Not for the plot, but for how strange it was. You don’t know what planet you’re on, and of course, it doesn’t really matter.

    Great dialogue in a fun, lively and witty story. Having lived in Florida for most of my life, I believe the critters you’re referring to are actually called ‘palmetto bugs’. Although they are often referred to as roaches. Their color is actually a dark red, or maroon, and they’re ugly enough on the hoof, but when they spread those wings and take flight? ‘It’s every man for himself.’ (Women included.)

    Ken Frape,
    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. A lot of knowledge is terrifying. I wonder if we don’t all experience a bit of this fear to some extent. Like, when a large dump truck is barreling towards me just one lane over in the opposite direction, and I think, ‘What if he… spilled his coffee, dropped his phone, dozed off, had a severe mechanical failure? What if he swerved?’

    What powers this story forward are the cold, hard facts. The speed, the weight, the gruesome aspects of vehicular crashes on soft human tissue and bone. Blech. All very effective. And in the end, it’s really a love story isn’t it. (You little dickens you.)

    You’ve done it again. You’ve taken a perfectly good prompt—and turned it on its head. As your character has taken the most mundane occurrence and turned it into the most unfathomable event in his or her inescapably ordinary existence.

    The ‘stream of consciousness’ style of writing would normally grate on ones nerves, but your creative genius has turned it into comedy. This is just wonderfully creative writing Jurgen. A real pleasure to read.

    Ken Miles.
    Mr. Stern indeed. Versus the very smart Alex of the world. Very enjoyable story Ken. Your writing style is so crisp and colorful it breathes life into the characters and setting. Wonderful dialogue, even better exposition. The ending was sufficient, but not as good as the story that led to it. A story that was more fun to read than to finish. Not such a bad rap.

    Nifty story. Nicely done. Great last line. ‘Since then, at home, without fear I dress to suit my fancy.’ Or something very close to that. Good enough to remember (mostly) on the fly.

    On your re-write. A definite improvement over the previous version.

    ‘Cats do feel sheepish at times.’
    Lovely writing. (They do. Some of the greatest cats.)
    A very interesting story. Whimsical and trippy, but sad and wistful too. I think I would rename this story. Mismatched doesn’t do it justice.
    The Feline Mystique?
    The man and the woman almost seem superfluous except as literary devices, which is to say, I’d prefer less, rather than more of them. But that’s more my cat talking than me.

    • Ken C you always seem to be on the road or without service. Are you a hitman? I mean, don’t tell me if you have to kill me afterwards, but you are aren’t you?
        • Adrienne Riggs
          Agent Cartisano,

          It has come to our attention that your cover has been compromised. Report to headquarters immediately for a new identity and debriefing.

          The BOSS

    • marien oommen
      Fantastic critiques! Thank you so much for mine. Do get better soon. Hats off to you that you multitask.
      I thought it would be fun to contrast the animal world with the human. And every bit is true. I do talk to animals.
    • You’re right. As you always are. And I’m glad I know someone who can tell me everything I have to know about roaches and possums.
  • Alice Nelson

    How much time do you need Ken?

  • Alice Nelson

    The voting link will be up a bit late, I am out and about. Should be up by 1pm MST.

  • Alice Nelson

    Alright Ladies and Gents, this Story Thread is now CLOSED. It is time to vote for your top 5 stories. Remember, you must vote in order for your story to qualify, and you Can Not vote for yourself.

    Good luck and thank you all for participating.

    • What happens if your story isn’t on the ballot? Do you win automatically?
      • Carrie Zylka

        You get the honorary “oops, you submitted an awesome story dammit” award!!!!!!!!

  • Carrie Zylka

    Hang tight all – I know Alice is super busy today. Let me go see what needs to be fixed. I temporarily suspended the voting page.

    • Thank you. I appreciate all you do.
      • Alice Nelson

        So sorry JJ, I though I had included you in the voting.

  • Waiting on votes from Clare. If I don’t hear from her soon, I’ll go ahead and post the results.
  • Alice Nelson

    Finally, here are the list of Winners

    First Place: The Train Now Approaching by Ken Frape

    2nd Place: Chalk It Up by Ken Cartisano
    3rd Place: Bus by berlinermax
    4th Place: HOUSEHOLD H35-201* by Phil Town
    5th Place: Untitled by Liz Fisher
    6th Place: Psychic by Writer2019
    7th Place: The Tattooed Man by Kristin Record
    8th Place: His Shadow by Alexis Winter
    9th Place: The Handler by Carrie Zylka
    10th Place: Figment Of Imagination by Ken Miles
    11th Place: GRAVE MISTAKE by JJ Hershey
    12th Place: Mismatched by Marien Oommen
    13th Place: Coming Out by Chitra Adjoodah
    14th Place: Step sister! by Neha Neil
    15th Place: Crazy Love by Dennis Wagers
    16th Place: Just Hear Me Out by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
    Clare Lamparter did not vote

    Favorite Character: “Alex” from Figment Of Imagination by Ken Miles
    Character Dialogue: Psychic by Writer2019

    Congratulations Ken Frape.!!!!
    And thank you all for participating.

    • Juergen
      Congrats Mr. TRAINMASTER Ken Frape!
    • Writer2019
      Congrats Ken Frape! Your story was awesome!
    • Phil Town
      Congratulations, Ken! Richly deserved.
      • Phil,
        You always say the same thing. ‘Richly deserved.’ We know you’re sincere, but it would help if you, you know, acted like it too. You want me to double-check that? Okay. I’ll be back in ten minutes.
        • well, the research I’ve done proves that I’m totally wrong.Phil. But you have to admit that I’m willing to do the research. If only I did the research first. I did notice one small quirk. You never say congratulations when you win. What’s the matter Phil, are you too good to congratulate yourself? Oh right. That WOULD be weird. Okay. Never mind.

          Congratulations, Andy! And all!
          Congratulations, Dennis – a fine story!
          Congratulations, Ken! Brilliant story. Really chuffed about my second place!
          Congratulations, Kristin! That really was a great story.
          Congratulations, Alexis!
          Yippee! Thanks everyone! And well done all, too!
          Congratulations, Andy … and all! (Chuffed about the ‘dialogue’ vote – thanks!)
          Congratulations, Ken … and all!
          Wow! Thanks everyone. That’s made my weekend.
          And great to see so many, and such good, stories. We rock! (as I believe the youngsters might say.)

          • Writer2019
            Chuffed? I am not familiar with this word Ken C. It is quite a funny word to say though. Im assuming it means excited… although when I think of Chuffed it sounds like trussed, which makes me think of the phrase trussed up like a pig, which makes me think of an actual pig, then that precedes to bacon, and bacon reminds me that I haven’t had lunch yet and i am hungry. It’s quite a train of thought that word. Which reminds me, as I said before, I am hungry, and I shall now depart to have a lunch, preferably with bacon.
            • Thank you for the laugh… I’ll never forget Chuffed… I feel chuffled by your ramble to breakfast..
          • Phil Town
            It’s really quite weird that you should do that, Ken (but I’m glad I came out of the research in one piece! … except for repeating “and all” too much.)

            I did think Ken F deserved this richly, though – that desciption of the effects of a train crash was absolutely hair-raising … even for someone follicly challenged like me.

          • Phil Town
            @Writer2019 … ‘chuffed’, British slang meaning ‘very pleased’. 😉
          • Writer2019
            Ah ha, thank you Phil, I was quite confused
          • Well yes, Mazel Tov, but in the last 11 words left what happened… it must have been catastrophic…
    • Hi Everyone,

      Thank you so much. I feel really humble and gratified to be awarded first place by my fellow writers.It means a lot.

      Im sure there are or will be more train stories in my locker!

      Kind regards,

      Ken F

  • Dennis Wagers
    Congratulations Ken! You did a great job with your story!
    • It sounded to me like he made the whole thing up.
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Congrats to all! I enjoyed all of the stories. Sorry (not sorry) for not participating this go around but I took a much needed and well deserved vacation to the mountains of East Tennessee in Gatlinburg.
    • BOSS,

      Agent 99 and I were in Gatllnburg on the 11th. Had dinner at The Melting Pot restaurant. I left you a message taped to the bottom of the seat of the ski-lift to Ober-Gatlinburg. The plan has changed.

      • Adrienne Riggs
        Agent KC,
        It appears we had some miscommunication to occur. We took the ski lift to Anakeesta and therefore, were not able to retrieve the note. Please send changes to the plan by covert means – maybe carrier pigeon?
    • Hi Wendy,

      Thanks very much.
      it’s great to be a part of such a bunch of creative wtiters.

      kind regards,

      Ken Frape

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