Writing Prompt “The Goodbye Letter”
Theme: The Goodbye Letter
Your story should be a goodbye letter written from one character to another. It can be a break up letter, the end of a friendship, or someone dying writing a letter to a loved one.
Word Count: 1,200
- 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:
- One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
- Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
- 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.
See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.
207 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “The Goodbye Letter””
Read the stories here:
(If you don’t see your story linked here within 24 hours after your posted it, please let us know as we may have missed the comment.)
Yes, YOU. Remember me? I was only 8 the night you changed my life in 1969. Perhaps you remember that little girl that I once was – tiny, with long red hair and freckles. Ring a bell? Do you remember the pink pajamas that I wore as I slept deeply in innocent sleep in your sister’s bedroom? I remember them. I remember that night. Those pink pajamas are seared into my brain and that was the last night I would ever sleep again in safety and security. It was the last night I would dream without nightmares because I woke up to a nightmare that never went away.
My life was a journey and in one night you changed the course of my life, you changed Me. I would never be the same again. You were a thief. Do you want to know what you stole from me? Do you even care? You stole my ability to sleep peacefully. You stole my belief that the world was a great place. You stole my trust, my security, and my peace of mind. From the moment I woke up to find myself in your bed, with you holding my body down and your hand over my mouth, I was shattered. I was broken and I would never be whole again.
You taught me some things as well. You taught me that there are people in the world that can’t be trusted.
You taught me that monsters were real and the biggest monster was you. You taught me fear. Correction, you taught me what terror was! Do you remember telling me that I was “bad” and I would get into trouble if I told what you had done? Do you remember digging the big, deep hole in the lot across the street from your house the next day? You told me it was a “grave” and only “bad people” go into graves. Do you remember picking me up and throwing me into the “grave” as I screamed and screamed in terror? You made me believe I was “bad”. You made me fear death and darkness and falling.
There was one thing that you couldn’t take from me that night. You couldn’t take my faith in God. After I escaped your room and you sent me back to bed, I stood in the dim hallway outside your parent’s room. My body was cold and hot tears ran down my face but I held on to that one thing. Do you remember the Serenity prayer hanging on the wall in the hallway? I didn’t understand all of the words but I hung onto to the words, ‘God grant me’ and ‘courage’.
For you, it must have seemed like a night of fun and exploration and power. For me, it was a devastating life-changing event. Time stopped that night and created a log jam in my mind that I had great difficulty trying to get past. I had always been quiet and shy. After that night, I mastered the art of becoming invisible. I learned how to shrink into corners, blend in with the furniture and escape the notice of others. I developed stomach aches that never went away and I could not eat food like I wanted. I choked and gagged and my mother called me a “picky eater”. If only she knew the truth. I learned to avoid food and skip meals. I learned how to stealthily feed the dog under the table so the folks would think I’d eaten. I learned the art of disassociation. I only knew it as the ability to “fly away” in my mind when bad things were happening to the poor little girl with red hair and freckles.
I tried to bury the pain, thoughts and feelings from that night. With my love of reading, I buried myself in books where I could escape into other worlds and places and make friends with characters who could never hurt me. I learned to write stories and poetry. My natural artistic talent came out and I drew pictures of happy places and pretty things. All of these were solitary activities which reinforced my isolation from the cruel places in a dark world. This was the world that you introduced me to that fateful night.
I wondered over the years, did you also touch your sister? Did you destroy the worlds of other girls? Did you ever realize what you had done? Were you ever haunted by the thoughts of your depravity? I’ve learned to move on although I still can’t eat and I still have nightmares and I never really trust anyone. Your parents died. Did they know who you really were and the depths of your evil mind? I used to hunger and thirst for justice but that was never to be. Or was it? It’s over 40 years later and the word is that you are lying in your death bed, riddled with cancer. As the cancer eats away at your body, do the thoughts of what you did eat at your soul and mind? Do you feel terror? Do you fear death?
I no longer feel hatred for you. I had visions of actually sending this letter to you and imagining how you would react to my words. Would you remember or was that night just another night to you? I don’t have the energy for anger, hatred or revenge any more. I just want to free of the ghosts of the past. I wrote this letter at the advice of my counselor. As a writer, I know that words have power and releasing them has freed me. So, I will not be sending this missive to you. Why destroy the lives of your family who may not be aware of the monster you truly are and were?
I have the letter and a box of matches in my hand. I’m headed outside to burn it and the memories associated with that night. Soon you will be dead from cancer but you are already dead to me.
You stated that I seem to catch every single germ related condition that happens inside the midwest and you wanted to know what’s up with that. I can tell you it’s because I moved to wonderful west Tennessee 23 years ago and I am “blessed” to live near the Tennessee river and the Hatchie river bottom which, according to the locals is rife with all types of bacteria and allergens. After we moved here, my son (who was an infant) developed spasmodic croup and asthma. I also developed asthma and other breathing problems. I also have Reactive Airway Disorder and vocal chord dysfunction. Sooo, the bottom line is – whenever I get a cold, my allergies flare up, or sinus problems, they ALWAYS end up in my chest and then I’m fighting bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis, pleurisy, or pneumonia. Lots of fun. I just live with it. LOL
And a neat, somewhat challenging touch, that instead of cancer being an affliction for a sympathetic character (as it usually is in fiction) it’s here as the just deserts for an abuser.
There were not enough words left (in the word count) to convey the positive changes in the writer and I thought that writing about the pain and abuse would be powerful enough to get the point across of the long-term effects of sexual abuse. I wanted the letter to be something that conveyed all of the aspects of abuse after it occurs.
Thank you for reading it!
Your story is compelling and disturbingly familiar. Whether it’s true or not is beside the point. It’s factual enough for too many women and children. Like most victims in real life, there is no happy ending, no heroics, just an ordinary person coping with a great wrong. Many of life’s victims, denied justice, deprived of solace, still manage to endure despite the grief inflicted by their loss of innocence.
Having said that, your writing is so exquisitely fine, balanced and elegant, that even terrible stories like this one are bestowed with a divine-like shimmering aura. Your writing is too beautiful to convincingly convey horror, but failing in that, you’ve successfully conveyed hope, patience, intelligence, beauty and kindness.
And that stubborn endurance, in a strange way, is the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Thanks for the beautiful comments! I almost blushed with pleasure over your words about my writing. i love your last line because it is so true – stubborn endurance is the ultimate victory of good over evil.
Now, about your statement that my writing is “too beautiful to convincingly convey horror” is concerning. LOL! Let me explain why. I am currently in the middle of writing a novel that takes place in a haunted asylum where some very awful things took place and how these horrors came to be known. There is present day horror at the dilapidated old asylum as well. I’ve never written a horror/thriller story and I wanted to challenge myself. I’ve scared myself with some of the things I’ve written (but then, I’m easy to scare). What a dismal failure it will be if my novel does not convey the horror I’m aiming for. I may have to send you portions to read so you can judge my horror writing ability!
Thanks again for the comments!
A haunted asylum? That sounds fabulous. I would be happy to give you feedback any time. And when it comes to writing horror, in my opinion, Ilana is the current reigning champion in that area. Perhaps you might seek her feedback as well.
It’s always a pleasure when you post here too. (If you ain’t too busy.) Hint, hint.
What a powerful piece of writing. I can only guess at the source of your inspiration and it is so sad to think that many children must have been put through this kind of trauma.
Your writing is wonderful as you describe things that are so bleak. I think the other comments that you have received from the other writers really sum things up.
Ken Frape ( Ken 2)
Your story awakens feelings of fear and anger in me. I like stories that arouse strong emotions. The biggest scare is that the plot is so close to reality. What kind of person digs a grave to scare a child?
My counselor was designated to facilitate a weekly group for court ordered sex offenders. He was concerned that these creeps (my word, not his) do not or would not ever think about the long-term effects on their young victims. He wanted them to know the damage that they inflict on the children they groom, molest and attack so he asked if I would be willing to write a letter about my experience. That letter was filled with a great deal of anger and I let them have it all. Everything I felt about my experience, I unleashed on them. It was very rewarding and healing. My counselor later told me that my letter was so powerful, a few of the men cried. That gave me a sense of power.
The fiction? I don’t know where my abuser is, nor do I care to know. I wouldn’t know if he had cancer or not. He truly is dead to me. I do know his parents died because they were friends with my parents. I survived, overcame, triumphed and moved on with my life. I am no longer invisible, quiet or shy. (Just ask my friends and co-workers!) He holds no power over me. For the writing of this story, I just had to pull up the emotions of that time but they no longer control me. Please note that I did not write that he took my innocence. He did not take it. I was still innocent in spite of what he had done.
The truth? Unfortunately, the rest of the story is primarily true with poetic license. (Yes, I was thrown into a “grave” and laughed at as I screamed.) He had a sick mind for a teenager.
That night did change my life. I am now more powerful, I am a staunch fighter against child abuse and domestic violence. I offered support for women who were victims of domestic assault and abuse for several years at a domestic abuse shelter. I am a fierce advocate for any vulnerable population (children, people with disabilities, the elderly, etc.) who may be at risk of harm, abuse or worse. I speak for those who don’t have a voice. I don’t see myself as a victim. I am a SURVIVOR.
I’ve been asked to write a letter to you but I don’t know what to say. You were a horrible mother and probably never should have had children and yet I must be grateful you did, because here I am 78 years later. Alcohol was your balm.
I understand you were left in an orphanage by your father after your mother died and so really didn’t get to learn how to be a mother. You left a brother and a half sister and half brother for me and they all suffered under your hand.
My brother became submissive and compliant and an alcoholic although he always had a job built a home, raised his daughters and lived with his saintly wife until sudden death by stroke at the age of 73. I became a survivor, defiant with the knowledge no one was watching out for me and it was up to me to be in charge of my life. My half brother died in a car crash as a teenager, my half sister although not an alcoholic learned to be a survivor but a meeker version and accepted her lot in life married had children and appears to be happy in her later years.
You left with another man when I was 3. My brother and I lived with our grandmother and an alcoholic grandfather and father until Gramma died when I was 9, we were sent to live with our father’s sister and an uncle who resented being saddled with us, there’s not a whole lot I remember about the next two years except I was not an easy child who demanded to be treated fairly and so at the age of 11, I was sent to live with my mother who had two children I could babysit for, I think that was why you agreed to take me.
I learned how not to be a parent by watching the examples of people around me in my various living arrangements during my juvenile years. I am an observer, a trait I cannot quit. Wherever I am in any situation when another person appears I instantly make an assessment – is this danger – is there motive – what do they do why are they here what is their background can they be trusted.. not necessarily in that order but it is rapid fire and if they enter into my frame at some point I will become the interrogator.
When I had my first child I considered reaching out to you to let you know you were a grandparent. I wanted too, I think I reverted to being a child thinking maybe this would make you love me… I didn’t know it as a child that I was always trying to please you to make you love me and want me.. It wasn’t till I was 13 laying on the kitchen floor after you had slapped my face so hard so many times it knocked me down.. this time the beating was particularly vicious and I cracked I screamed and I screamed and the scream turned into a plea for her to tell my stepfather to keep his hands off of me and the beating turned more vicious with
you kicking me.. the difference was this time I tried to protect my self and grabbed one of your legs and just kept screaming, you bent down and yanked me to my feet and I still screamed you dragged me into the laundry room and ran the water filling the sink and held my head under water when you released me for a moment I lifted my head and screamed for help, you pushed me under the water again and I knew this was it I was dying under your hands. Suddenly I was released and fell to my knees as you backed away… you didn’t back away…my stepfather had come home and pulled you off of me. You were fighting with him trying to get back to finish me… I got up and ran past you as he held your arms and out the door to a neighbors apartment.
The police returned me to your custody the same day, you had called me in as a runaway… I told them if they brought me back I would runaway… times were different in the 50’s they took me back and told you they would be interviewing the neighbors. You locked me in a room, the next morning you told me to get dressed and packed my few belongings in a bag, both of my eyes were black, there were bruises all over my body and fingerprints on my neck from being held under water. My stepfather took me to the car and told me he was putting me on the train to take me back to my aunt. He said you had called my aunt and told her you were sending me back and what train I would be on and you could pick me up or not it didn’t matter to you where I went but you didn’t want me. He asked me to go back with him and apologize to you, he pled saying his children needed me to take care of them, to protect them from you, you didn’t know that did you. I was 13. I got on the train.
So why am I writing you this letter? I don’t know. Someone asked me too. There’s more to my life but I don’t really want to tell you and you are dead so it really doesn’t matter.
A poignant letter, Liz, with a ring of psychological authenticity, especially about the child becoming and observer rather than a participant in her own life.
On first read I got a little confused about who was going in which direction when, starting with the sentence “My stepfather took me to the car …” but I think I worked it out in the end.
However, the story is written with pace and is both visually and emotionally gripping. Good stuff.
Your text absorbed me. It trapped me in an atmosphere of alcohol, violence and despair. And I am glad that all this has not happened in my life. Thanks for this story.
I knew that things were getting bad but not that bad. I agree that you shouldhave been fired without a channce to question your bad appraisal.Their loss is more than yours.
I hope that I was no more responsible than as set out in the letter.
You will probably neve read this or at least not before we meet.
Your eternal optimist
Love and kisses
You missed out one thing to keep us entertained – the link to your/not-your profile 🙂
And please go easy on the ‘blond idiots’ of this world. When I see those words together, I feel a need to run to a safe space ….
That story was cathartic, man. Sorry about the blonde idiot reference. I forgot you were… wait a minute. What was I saying? Oh yeah, you’re blondeness. (Actually, I have a theory, only bleached blondes are idiots. Natural blondes are just like everyone else.) Goes with my other theory, when backed into a corner, come up with a new theory.
(Now I’m going to get hate mail from ‘bleachedblondesmatter.org.) (Christ.)
As for the link? Man, its been a few years since this happened. You have no idea how reluctant I am to go anywhere near that site. One of those sites was sued a few years ago, in fact, I think it was the same company, they stole the photos of a serviceman who had died in Iraq, and his wife discovered it online. And it was, just like mine, a dummy account. Part of the pulling power of these dating sites is to have a large data base of potential ‘dates’ so clearly, it is in their interests to have as many names and pictures as possible. But the behavior is highly unethical, much like a lot of social platforms these days. It seems that unethical behavior is the new norm.
went to the movies with Kim last night. Saw ‘Serenity.’ The new Mathew McConauhey movie. Stunk on ice. I like him. He’s a great actor, but the movie was baloney. As I told Kim while we were leaving. It was like, Old Man and The Sea, meets ‘Field Of Dreams.’ The just replaced the corn in ‘Fields’ with Rum. Seriously, one of the worst movies I’ve seen since ‘Murder On the Orient Express.’ (2017)
Okay, I’ll read your story now. I’m all blathered out.
By the way, I can tell that you and Roy don’t believe my story either.
All plausible. Maybe you should demand payment for use of your image rights. And be flattered at being chosen as an adventurous and desirable male model. Actually, could you make a career of this?
Sorry, but this was too funny. I believe you. Believe it or not, I joined one of those sites years ago because a friend of mine was talking with and meeting men and I was concerned about her safety. (Especially after some dude wanted to meet her in a hotel and she nearly went to meet him.) Anyway, I digress.
I had fun with my profile. I wrote all about my deep Christian faith, my father who was a preacher, how I taught Sunday school, etc. I then waxed poetic about being a VERY busy mother and grandmother to all of my beautiful little ones. (All true.) I then made it clear that I was not looking for dates (or anything else the crazies might think up). Stated I wanted “friendship” only. That’s it. Friendship. Nothing else. No romance, no dates, no sex, no online chats, etc.
Would you believe that I only received responses from 2 men?? I laughed until I cried. It was so funny! When my friend decided to think rationally and got off the site, I deleted my account. Can you believe that no one even missed me? HA!
“Now, children, I want you to take time to read these two letters on the wall in glass cases, side by side. Here at the Museum of Reconstruction, we think it’s important that you understand how people felt a hundred years ago, when we were reaching the point of no return …”
The young students gathered forward, some eagerly, some sheepishly, to read the ‘Goodbye Letters’.
– – –
‘Letter 1 (published in the Times newspaper as an opinion piece, 29th March 2019):’
It seems the clock has been run down, and our time together is over. My heart is heavy, full of sadness at what I have lost. Forces beyond our control drive us apart. The barriers are going up, borders reinstated that I can no longer cross, or not easily so. My country is growing smaller, and I am diminished.
I think back to the days I have spent in your embrace. Days when I worked in the beautiful cities of Paris, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Maastricht, Prague, Budapest, Frankfurt and Tallinn. I remember working with multinational colleagues on that European Union and World Bank project in Moscow and Tula, in those days of hope when, perhaps hopelessly, we sought to rebuild Russia in our own image. Back then, we knew who we were – Europeans all.
I met my wife when she was working for French and German companies, after her MBA at Reims. We romanced in Paris, wandering the streets of Montmartre and the banks of the Seine, then in the beautiful timeless towns of Alsace and the Rhineland. We’ve travelled the continent from Helsingborg to Crete. Rejoicing in both our ancient heritage and the vibrant new, we found everywhere both the similarities and differences that make us distinctively European.
Now my European identity is wrested from me, along with my right to live and work in 27 countries. The home we were planning to buy in Italy will fade forlorn from memory like a distant dream. The collapse of our currency means we cannot come except, perhaps, as refugees. And I know it is us, not you, who are responsible for the parting of the ways.
Borders are what too many seem to crave. Isolated, irrelevant, cut adrift, the remnants of Britain will take solace in the empty slogans of “Taking back control” and “They need us more than we need them.” Building a wall to keep out the rest of the world, rejecting the values we once shared, there is no future here, except on of steep descent.
And then I think, perhaps there is there still a chance? These are, for sure, the last days of a united United Kingdom. Does my Scots ancestry offer a way back, once independence is complete? Will you take Scotland back under your wing? Wiser than their southern cousins, the Scots voted to stay yet were ignored.
Even with that glimmer of hope, I am saddened by another division, forced to choose again between different parts of myself. Can we not be more than one narrowly-defined identity? Can we not transcend boundaries in who we are? I fear the walls being built in peoples minds will be even more impregnable than the ones being built at the borders.
So it is with heavy heart I say goodbye to you, Europe. The same dark forces isolating our country and tearing it apart are at work across your continent. Nationalist demagogues stir discontent, make fantastical promises and demonise people they do not know. Hold firm to the peace and unity that bind you!
Though my heart is still with you, I know we can no longer be together. But I wish you ‘God speed’ in these times of trial, that once again (to quote the European Anthem) “North and South will work together / Just as friends and neighbours should / East and West will grow together / Brotherhood and sisterhood!”
Until we meet again
– – – – –
‘Letter 2 (published on the Times’ letters page in response, 30th March, 2019):’
Ha! We won, you lost. Get over it!
You tried to lock us into being a vassal state, but failed. We’ve taken back control!
So you can keep your tartiflettes and sachertorte along with your over-weening bureaucracy and centralising super-state. Before long you’ll be crawling back to us when you want to sell your BMWs and Château Lafite Rothschild over here. You’ll be knocking on our door for a deal for sure!
Till then – so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu and up yours!
At the risk of sounding even stupider than I am, (Oh, it’s possible,) your story seems to be a subtle means to express your disappointment with the growing geopolitical tensions between the east and the west. What you seem to be hinting at, is a clear reversal of trends and fortunes that is setting the stage for an increasingly xenophobic and nationalistic world that, considering the global challenges we face as a goddamned species, needs to work together now, more than ever before.
Did I read that right? Or, not?
First off, don’t think the story overall is very good! Not really one for an international audience. Though Europe is international in its own way 🙂
The context is Britain exiting the EU on March 29th. Hence the dates on the letters. A referendum voted 52% to 48% to do this. No one actually knows what will happening in practice, as the UK is integrated at many levels into Europe, with freedom of movement and trade, and many businesses having integrated supply chains across the continent. At present, there is no plan over the future relationship and the government is completed divided. With only 50 friggin’ days to go.
There are 2 letters, representing different and somewhat over-the-top viewpoints. The first is from someone whose life and work is heavily integrated into Europe – perhaps a romanticised view. The second is an English nationalist viewpoint (and it is English rather than British, as Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU) – language typical of the Leave Europe campaign: high on tub-thumping anti-foreigner rhetoric, low on practical detail.
And a couple of phrases in the second letter are borrowed from the former mayor of London and Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. (Who was born in New York, btw, and once said he could in principle become President of the USA. Not now, though – he’s renounced citizenship so he doesn’t have to pay US tax – you’ve been spared. But maybe you’ve got your own leadership issues there even so …) When asked about the potential problems for business if we left the EU without a free trade deal, he said, and I quote, “F*ck business”.
So maybe that’s who the Boris is writing the second letter …. (Actually it’s not such an uncommon name in Britain, amongst the wealthier classes.)
But yes, the story as a whole i a cri de coeur against the growth of an angry nationalism that habitually demonises the other. So when you say: “What you seem to be hinting at, is a clear reversal of trends and fortunes that is setting the stage for an increasingly xenophobic and nationalistic world that, considering the global challenges we face as a goddamned species, needs to work together now, more than ever before” – you’re absolutely right.
So, one person with internationalist outlook, one with nationalist. But if the story has to be explained, it hasn’t worked.
Thank you so much for the explanation. (I think we Americans are fixated on Russians. Can you blame us? They own our President. As well as half the Senate.) I’ve been following the Brexit debacle although I can’t claim much sophistication about it. I don’t see how they can implement this exit in less than two months either, if they can’t even figure out how to handle border crossings between England and Scotland.
The EEU is 50 years old. Clearly, the various member nations have been willing to make it work, despite certain deadbeat countries clearly not pulling their own weight. (Greece, Italy. Spain?) I don’t understand why Theresa May won’t allow another referendum on the issue, especially since many people admit to casting an irresponsible protest vote the first time around.
I can’t help but wonder if certain foreign oligarchs aren’t meddling in Europe’s affairs too.
Great job and you have succinctly shown the state of our nation (the UK) at this time. If it wasn’t so true ( and so desperately sad) it would have to be written by a comedy scriptwriter. Try looking out for Mark Steele, comedy standup, who writes similarly satirical pieces in the I paper.
Confusion to the left of us, confusion to the right of us! ” Infamy! Infamy, they’ve all got it in for me!” Carry On film, don’t know which one but it must have been about Julius Caesar.
On a more serious note, I wonder how we will reunite a country that is split almost down the middle.
Great final sentence that sums it up perfectly.
I haven’t read any of Mark Steele’s pieces. But I hear him on the radio sometimes when he’s doing those amiable hatchet jobs on a place he is visiting and involves the local people in celebrating thier idiosyncrasies – those are pretty funny.
How to reunite the country? As extremes are the norm now, I’ve been pondering starting my own extremist party. Based on extreme moderation and extreme kindness and sympathy. The M Party.
M for moderation. And extreme devotion to evidence and rationality. Anyone for joining?
Count me in.
what can I say? I write this in Hamburg in the EU. My fears are Brexit is only the first step. Nationalists are becoming stronger in many EU countries. And cardboard heads like Boris and Donald are suddenly in power. People no longer believe in vaccinating, in the globe. I rub my eyes. What’s next?
What a unique way to express the view of both sides of the fence. I have been marginally aware of the Brexit conflict over the pond, but your post made me woefully aware of how out of touch I really am with current news and foreign affairs. I really need to read more about it to understand the full impact of what the controversy is about. I am so consumed with the (barely) controlled chaos of my personal life, I don’t have much time for TV or the news. I briefly saw some article about the royal family preparing for evacuation if needed.
Anyway, good writing and expression. I’m now off to do some research on Brexit so I can understand it better.
A lot of what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years or so is take complex ideas and information and try to communicate it in straightforward and motivating language. And I’m glad if the fiction-writing too is easy-to-read. So many thanks! 🙂
Some little bits of my life history in the story, a little fictionalised and overblown perhaps. From a very international family, married to a (non-EU) foreigner – I am perhaps, as our Prime Minister calls people like me, “a citizen of nowhere”. A charming description, for sure.
I’d prefer to be a citizen of everywhere, if I had the choice!
“Take down the flags that just separate the people
Take down the wire on the boundary
Take back the words that were spoken in anger
You’ve got to live just like a family” (Arlo Guthrie)
Sure, I’ll delete it on Thursday.
Your experience IS kind of funny AND relevant to my experience. Almost like the behavioral opposite. Your honesty created a manic lack of interest, while my absurdist fantasy character created an equally manic attraction. However, in all fairness, you can’t really expect much response on a dating site, when you eliminate any possibility of romance, dating, chatting, or (especially) sex. Which, I think half of the men are looking for. (And are willing to say anything to get it.)
I tried a couple of ‘personal ads’ back in the 80’s or 90’s. Before the internet. Interesting experience, but not productive, because everyone lies.
One time, (I’m not making this up, either) I spoke with a woman on the phone a few times, met her for lunch and a movie. She was not great looking, but she was my age, nice, reasonably intelligent, and personally and financially stable. Conversation was easy and I enjoyed her companionship.
We agreed to go on a second date, (at night) and the day of the scheduled date, she called and explained how another guy had called and he could only manage to meet her on the night we had scheduled our date. She felt ‘obligated’ to accommodate this other guy at my expense. I was very polite and I assured her that I was not angry or upset. And I wasn’t. I was ‘informed.’
When she called me the next day, she explained that the guy had to bring a friend with him because his license was suspended, no doubt from Drunk Driving because he and his friend proceeded to drink until they passed out on her living room floor. And the bedraggled pair left the next morning with raging hangovers.
After an extended silence she asked me if I was still willing to honor the rain check I’d given her. At which point I had to (again, politely) point out that I’d never given her a rain check. Unless you look like Halle Berry, or you are, in fact, Sally Fields. (I love Sally Fields, and I always will.) You break a date with me to go out with another guy and you don’t get a second chance. That’s it. Game over. There were no histrionics. This ain’t baseball honey, this is life. Bye-bye.
To put it another way, there are too many fish out there in the deep-blue to settle for a fuckin’ eel. I tossed it back.
As for my response to the other two comedians on this site.
The names were changed to protect the indifferent. And you sir, (lucky you) because you hit a home run on the first pitch, haven’t dated a single woman in over 50 or 60 years, so you have no idea of the stress and angst involved in dating as an adult.
Stalking? I wasn’t stalking her (Kath’s) girlfriends. I was trying to figure out if one of them was gay. (Duh.) I know you were kidding. I love your sense of humor.
Anyway, I’m impressed with how many people commented on the story. (Three.) Obviously, it doesn’t take much to impress me. (Either that, or I’m being sarcastic.)
I crack open my chest, rip my heart out and throw it on the table, and everyone just keeps on eating their string beans. (If it was chocolate pie it would be understandable. But string beans? Pah! What’s the use?) I write to entertain, and I feel like I’m failing miserably.
I remember this one gal who invited me to a Black Baptist Gospel Revival. We were the only two white-people in the church. It was a fairly moving experience. (Not nearly as scary as a biker bar. Still, a church! Pretty scary.) I was impressed with her open mindedness and sense of adventure so I asked her out on a second date.
I took her to a café for a couple of drinks before dinner. Wishing to convey a sense of sophistication, while paying for the first drinks, I took all the money out of my wallet and stuffed it into the front pocket of my very tight jeans. (Because, when it’s time to tip someone, it’s very tacky to make everyone stand around while you extricate your wallet, fish around through your old gas receipts, by-pass the one or two 50’s and 20’s, thumb past the fives, and laboriously ‘pinch’ out two or three one’s to hand it to the guy. NO. You just want to reach in your pocket, pull out a wad, and peel two or three ones off the top. It’s a totally different feel.)
Well, I had a hole in my front pocket. When I ordered the second pair of drinks, I reached into my pocket and there was no money!
I had a hole in my pocket.
I had to softly, while screaming over the music, and diplomatically ask her to pay for the second pair of drinks, and then assured her that I could, would and did make good on the money from a nearby ATM. On the way home, I was regaling her with old ‘war stories’ when I used the word ‘chicks’ in the process.
“Chicks?” She said?
“Yeah,” I said. “Chicks. Women.”
“That’s a demeaning term,” she said.
“No—no, no.” I assured her.
“Yes,” she said. Sounding like a boot crushing a cigarette butt. “I think it is.”
“Nooo,” I said. Sounding a little like a cow. “Really, it’s not at all derogatory. It’s just a bit of slang.”
She had this look. A fierce, angry, self-righteous flaring flush. An electrical generational, ‘I’m live and not grounded to anything,’ look about her.
I was feeling like a conduit. Like a lightning rod. Like a guy on a golf course in a thunder storm, holding a three iron and feeling lucky. I would have jumped out of the car, but I was driving.
“No. Seriously, I, I, I…” I’m sure I stuttered. “It’s no more derogatory than…” Wait a minute, wait, wait, wait. My brain finally kicked in. “It certainly wasn’t meant to be derogatory.”
We drove the rest of the way in relative silence. I waited until she was up the stairs and safely into her two-story hovel before I drove away singing very softly, ‘another one bites the dust, another one bites the dust, and another one’s gone, and another one’s gone….’ It was a popular song at the time.
What nerve I had, going around calling women ‘chicks!’ What a pig! (At least I was a free-range pig!)
This is going to be hard. My therapist’s idea. Stalled in my progress – wasn’t budging. But it’s going to be hard … and weird. I’ve got half an hour before I have to get back to my desk. I can get started, at least.
She suggested I write a letter, not to be too careful about the grammar or the mistakes or the repetition or anything, just write. I asked her what the point was. She said it was to get things off my chest. I said I thought that’s what I’d been doing for 18 months at 60 quid an hour. She said it was a strategy. To write a letter to myself, as I’m the person I most trust. I didn’t tell her, but I think I trust my mum more than I trust myself.
“What shall I write about?” I asked her. Just write, she said – free-flow. Let it all out. “And I don’t need to see it,” she said. She said it was for my consumption only. “But where do I start?” I said. She said “Try to say ‘goodbye’ to all the things we’ve been talking about, to the pain, the humiliation, the regret, etcetera.” I said I didn’t feel too comfortable about putting all of that down on paper. I mean, what if someone found it, someone I know? She said why should I worry about what other people think of me? I suppose she’s right. But she’s not the one with the hang-ups.
Anyway, half a page and I haven’t addressed any of the issues yet. What shall I talk about first? What should I say ‘goodbye’ to first?
What the hell, let’s give it a go. Maybe if I talk to myself as if I was another person – as if I was talking to a good friend. So ‘you’, then. Yes. Okay. Here goes.
Your shyness. There you are. The way that, when you walk in a room, you think that everyone’s watching you, and you feel pressed down into the floor, or against a wall, and you can’t move, and you just mumble if anyone speaks to you, and if you see someone you fancy, which is often, you can’t speak to them, or if you do, a load of incoherent rubbish comes out. And that’s why you’re sitting on your own here in the office kitchen, with your colleagues chatting away to each other and laughing. Yes, bloody shyness. Goodbye, shyness.
Hmm. That’s odd. That feels kind of nice. I feel a bit lighter – ever so slightly. Let’s try another thing. What I mentioned before. Regret.
Living in the past. We’ve talked about this a lot. I know it’s stupid. Things that have happened, that you can’t change, but they hang around your neck like an albatross. Things that you said, that embarrassed you – that time you tried to make a pun on ‘idiom’ and called a bloke ‘a Spanish idiot’. And the things you didn’t say. Those times that you were certain someone was interested in you, but you held off and held off – there’s that shyness again – till she got fed up waiting and lost interest. And not helping your dad out more, and then it was too late. All embarrassing and sad and frustrating events, but gone! Like the waters of a stream – past, miles away, irrelevant to the now. Yes, regret. Farewell, regret!
Wow! I think this is actually working. That tension I was feeling in my temples – fading now. Something else.
Not standing up for yourself. I suppose that comes from your shyness, too, but it’s also weakness. Weakness of spirit, and a lack of self-esteem. So that when anyone argues with a position you have – like at work, for example – then you just fold. Take Mr Rogers. You bloody hate that bloke, don’t you? Okay, he’s your boss and all that, but he always has to be right, and he always has to have the last word. And you just let him have full rein. In meetings, he takes the floor, spouts on about something or other – usually a load of rubbish – and … that’s it! Because of his forcefulness, he holds people’s attention. And he bats away any opposing arguments, like from you, for example – if you have the nerve to respond at all, which doesn’t happen very often. So yeah, weakness. That can go. So long, weakness.
What else? Holding off … procrastination! Yes! Blimey, that’s the bane of your life. The things you could have achieved (hang on – ‘regret’ … I’ve said goodbye to you – piss off out of it!) So, action, then. Regret takes you back. Procrastination binds you to the present. Action takes you forward. Choose action! Cheerio, procrastination!
I’m getting into the rhythm now. This is great! One more before I have to get back to work.
Being nice. What’s that all about?! Wanting to please, afraid of offending, excessive generosity. Oh, you’re that nice shy bloke in the corner. No one has a bad word to say about you – except maybe Rogers. You caught him laying into you behind your back that time in the corridor. What did you do? Just passed by him and smiled. Yes, they must all think you’re a lovely man. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. Well, Mr Nice Guy no more. Goodbye to you!
Aah! That’s a load off my chest and mind. I can’t wait to see my therapist and tell her how it went. Maybe I can keep doing this. I certainly feel better. Really quite different.
Blimey! Is that the time? I’ll have to stop writing … I’m missing it already! But I can take it up again later. I’ll be late, though. Rogers will be on my back. Bloody Rogers! Him and his ego. Brash bastard. Tiresome fool. If he … hang on. That small kitchen knife I was using for my apple. Perhaps if I take that with me …
This story is just packed with apt comments although I have not seen a therapist …….yet. £60 and hour? My acupuncturist only charges £15 and I never leave feeling like I want to kill people, although I sometimes feel like that when I go in.
I loved the tone of the story. It has a down-to-earth sense to it, offhand, matter-of-fact. I wonder if many people ever actually go through this process of setting down on paper how they are really feeling? I do know of one suggestion of writing a problem down on paper then burning the paper and flushing the ashes down the toilet.
i hope you had as much fun writing this as I did in reading it.
Good stuff, as always.
(I think he’s a different person by the end of the letter, let’s just say that …)
But seriously: This new story reminds me of your New Year’s Eve text. You do something that I like to do too: Do not describe your character, but let him describe himself. Draw a figure by language. It works very well and I especially like that about your writing.
(I think when it’s a first-person narrative, you can’t do anything else but let the character’s actions and thoughts describe him/herself.)
Good story, as always – I never get tired of saying that – and I enjoyed it.
I’m just letting that sink in with everyone who reads this. (Oh, no one’s reading it? Oh. Okay. Well, whatever.) I must say Phil. Four years, eighty or ninety stories, no mistakes. Hmmm. I think you deserve some kind of special thingy for that. A commendation, a certificate of obsessive compulsion or something. Mmm, I’ll give it some thought. (Not much, granted, but some.)
You’re welcome. (For saving you from Serenity.)
You should see ‘The Green Book’ instead. One of the best movies I’ve ever seen. It tells a great story. It’s relevant and uplifting. And sobering.
Am I jealous of Phil? I suppose so, sometimes. I admire him and I love his stories. I look forward to his critiques and comments as well. I’ve been reading Phil’s stories since September or October of 2014. So I feel like I know him well enough to tease him a little. In fact, Phil never really has made a mistake in all those years. In my opinion, Phil’s creativity and talent are unassailable, and his devotion to grammar and punctuation is equal to, or above and beyond any other writer I’ve ever encountered, published or not.
AND on top of all of that. HE’S MODEST! My God! How much can I take? (How can I not be jealous? Seriously, he really IS modest.)
I don’t think I ever considered bleaching my hair. I was advised to, but, well, if I did consider it, it wasn’t for very long. Do you think I should? It would keep me away from the keyboard. Can’t type and bleach at the same time, can you? Is that what you’re after? I suppose I should Google it.
> Just write, she said – free-flow.
…. Should be: “Just write,” she said, “free-flow”.
The other nearby sentences are written as direct speech, and this sort of sticks out as an anomaly. It’s not constructed as indirect speech either. It needs the quotes 🙂
So, it can happen.
Or it’s the deliberate mistake, like in an otherwise perfect Persian rug.
Well, it’s time to say goodbye. The doctors and nurses have prepared me and I have certainly appreciated their constant attention to detail. This day has been a long time coming, but is finally here, and they are really speeding up my medications. Family members and friends have gathered; hopefully, they are as prepared as I am for this moment. No long farewell speeches, clutching tissues, eyes filled with tears as they do their best to suppress their emotions.
I’m not passing any blame. There’s none to go around. It’s my own fault this happened. I put off getting a colonoscopy simply because I didn’t want to go through the unpleasantness of the bowel cleansing prep; an unsightly and messy business to say the least.
My wife kept telling me to do it, but I was confident that not having any history of cancer in my family exempted me from this sort of thing. I’m only human and like all of us, who somehow manage to find reasons to justify our actions, I procrastinated. I had put it off until I could no longer stand my wife nagging. To keep her quiet I scheduled the colonoscopy.
There were no symptoms; no pain, bloody discharges, and other associated signs of distress. Over the years, I did thorough exams, blood tests, the mail-in package thing, and even had a lower GI series done with no signs of what the doctor found this time.
The prep wasn’t anything like I feared. Drink some stuff, get rid of it through the other end, and drink some more. Repeat until everything was clear. I was a champ. This is a piece of cake, I thought. Why in hell hadn’t I done this earlier? Too late now, to have regrets, isn’t it old boy?
They told me I would be knocked out for the procedure and so groggy afterwards it was likely I wouldn’t remember any conversation with the doctor. As it turned out that wasn’t the case. I was awake for the last few minutes of the procedure and could feel the instruments being removed from my body.
I remember the trip to the recovery room and my wife waiting for me. The doctor, however, spent his time talking to my wife, explaining I wouldn’t remember the conversation. Ha! Fooled ‘em. I was wide awake, hanging on every word. He showed her the pictures identifying polyps and then she pointed to another picture and said, “What’s this?”
In an everyday tone, the doctor said, “That’s cancer.” I didn’t even flinch. There were no heart palpitations, no sudden rush of adrenalin as I heard the doctor say the word. Cancer. Not just cancer, but colon cancer. Number 4 on the cancer list, following breast, lung, and prostate. Second highest on the mortality rate list following lung cancer. Over one out of every three people with colon cancer die, even with early detection.
“You’re sure?” she asked.
“I see a lot of this. That’s cancer.”
My wife turned and gave me that – I told you so – look.
I said, “Cancer, huh? How does my immediate future look?” He made a doctor face which told me I wasn’t going to learn much.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he said. “Let’s run some tests, and then we’ll know exactly what we’re dealing with.” Things moved fast. An immediate blood test on our way home, followed by the results of the biopsies taken during the colonoscopy, a few days later, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis. Then a full blown CT Scan which pinpointed the area while looking for other signs, such as highlighted lymph nodes, other hot spots, metastasizing and abnormal growths in other organs.They then informed me that radiation and chemo wouldn’t do any good in this case. Unexpected news.
Which all leads to where we are now and this goodbye letter. While I never expected this to happen, I realize now how foolish I was. I’m not only writing this for me, I’m writing this knowing others will read it and it will hopefully spur those idiots who think they are immune from this sort of thing to realize, “No, you’re not.” It doesn’t just happen to other people, it happens to you.
So this is it. Understand I’m not saying goodbye to my family and friends, I’m saying goodbye to you, stage 1 cancer. In about four hours my surgeon will have removed you, you insidious little bastard, and thrown you into the scrap heap of discarded body parts heading to the medical wasteland. Yep, removal by surgery is all that is needed.
So, Goodbye, Cancer! And, oh yeah, before I forget – FUCK YOU!
Uncomfortable to say the least and I’m not just referring to the colonoscopy ( which was Ok really although it’s a rather intrusive thing for a doctor to do to someone he has only just met. We didn’t even shake hands!)
I can only agree with the advice to bite the bullet and have the tests. I did.
Great ending though that catches the reader ( well me anyway) by surprise.
when it comes to choosing the best character and dialogue it will be between you and the big C. Not a hard choice.
Great, as ever.
Anyway, Ken, thank you for your comments, and thoughtful appraisal of the story. I am still mystified as to how your story ended up third last time around, no offense to the other authors ahead of you, but apparently your story pushed all of my buttons. I’ve gone back and read it again and enjoyed it as much, if not more, as the first three or four times.
It is always nice to hear positive comments about the stories we dream up and then write down. I think the level and depth of critique on this site is extremely high and it is really helping me. The notion of producing something new and fresh every two weeks is a big challenge but one that is really worth the effort.
I love stories that trigger strong emotions and you had me scared! I worried that this was autobiographical and I was apprehensive for the end. I remembered my sister’s battle with breast cancer – found at Stage 4 and she lived only 9 more months afterward. What a powerful read and then the twist at the end. Thank you for that! The feeling of sweet relief was wonderful. Let us know how it goes?
Clever touch not to have an addressee, because that’s the reveal at the end. So we go with you through the traumas and are both relived and happy at the upbeat ending.
Good messaging too for us of, shall we say, advancing years who put off having medical checks!
A real point in your last sentence is one that I am going to direct a bit of attention to. I don’t know about England’s medical system, but with Medicare, our version for seniors, they recommend no more colonoscopies after the age of 75, and say after 70, most people with no family history of cancer, or not having a specific reason DON’T NEED TO HAVE ONE. Had I followed their advice, my goodbye letter may have been addressed to my family instead of cancer.
On the age front, my mother was offered all kinds of procedures in her last years, despite being in her mid-eighties. Which she turned down as she felt they were too rigorous for her state of health. But age was certainly not an issue.
The NHS is quite proactive with screening programmes, though. We’re sent reminders for routine screening, and I’ve been sent a home bowel cancer testing kit though the post. (Don’t ask!)
Actually a few years back I went thorough some investigative processes including a colonoscopy, as I had some suspicious symptoms. Didn’t put me to sleep for that, though. Then a few weeks later went back for endoscopy, from the other end. I hope they cleaned the camera in the interim. (Or maybe it was a different instrument.) I think the latter procedure was the more uncomfortable. In each case I could watch the camera travel through my insides. I’m sure you could make a virtual reality ride out of that. Probably someone already has.
My thoughts and best wishes are with you for 18th.
When Grandad Bert died in November 1978, Grandma Margery was heartbroken. Margery and Bert had been together as husband and wife for 64 years, childhood sweethearts and class mates for years before that. It was rumoured that Grandpa Bert even took a real beating when he was 15 after another lad, bigger and stronger than Bert, took a fancy to the comely, flame-haired Margery. If Bert had not been so madly in love or so brave, the whole family history could have been different.
Bert and Margery were married in October 1914 when they were both 19. Born in 1895, they believed in doing things without undue haste, so a two year engagement was perfectly acceptable, they said. They must have been very strong willed to have resisted the physical temptations that nowadays seem not to be resisted at all.
“Gives us time to save up, get a few pennies behind us,” Margery said. “Then we can look for a place of our own with more than just a few sticks of second-hand furniture.” Bert was probably standing beside Margery nodding his head when she said that as he always was in every family portrait. They never seemed to disagree over anything.
The date set for their wedding was Christmas Day 1914. When war broke out and Bert signed up to do his duty for his country he refused to believe all the talk about “home by Christmas,” so he and Margery moved things forward so they could marry before Bert went off to war. He explained years later, that he didn’t want to go off to war and maybe never return without first having made love to a woman, his wife. Margery also stated that she did not want to die an old spinster and if Bert was killed that’s what she would become as she would never be able to look at another man so long as she lived.
All those years later, in 1978 Margery was sitting at Bert’s bedside as he grew daily weaker and weaker. Nonetheless he was still able to surprise her.
“There’s a small black case at the bottom of my wardrobe,” he told her. “Can you get it for me, Margery?”
She complied, her aged knees protesting as she delved into the wardrobe and brought out the battered old leather case.
“Can you sit me up a bit? A couple more pillows should do it. That’s lovely, thanks, love.”
Bert flicked open the catch on the case. Inside were bundles of letters. Not many soldiers made it through the whole of the horrendous four years of World War 1. Inside the case there were dozens and dozens of letters tied up with carefully knotted strings. All from Margery.
Tears streamed down Margery’s cheeks as she recognised the contents of the case. Bert had never shared this piece of information, not once, since he returned home at the end of 1918. He simply turned his back on the war and got on with his life but he never forgot those letters that had helped him endure some of the bleakest moments of that bloody and barbaric conflict.
“Look at the bottom,” Bert instructed, “under the bundles. There’s one special letter there, just for you.”
The letter was from Bert, written in 1914. The envelope had been properly addressed and sealed ready for collection by Bert’s unit commander for safekeeping. It had only recently been opened again but was now resealed with a strip of sticky tape.
“I’m really glad this letter is late,” Bert chuckled briefly. “You wouldn’t have wanted to get this one. Not back then. But now, I’m afraid it’s time to be delivered. Just one thing, though, love….”
“What’s that then, Bert?”
“Take it with you to bed tonight. Don’t read it now. Read it then.”
“But I’ll be sleeping here, beside you, silly ” Margery protested.
“OK, wait until I’m asleep then.”
Later that night, Bert was snoring, his breath uneven and ragged as Margery carefully opened the envelope with trembling fingers. Their whole lifetime together seemed to pass before her eyes as she read her beloved 19 year old husband’s words, written in a muddy trench in Belgium all those years ago.
November 29th. 1914 Somewhere in Belgium
My Darling Margery,
The very thought of you ever reading this letter nearly breaks my heart but we have all been ordered to write them. They are only to be sent in the event of our death. It seems like a strange practice and a wasteful use of ink, if you ask me.
It took me several weeks to work out how to even start to write this letter but here goes.
Please don’t worry about me. I feel very strongly that you will never see this letter as I am going to be alright. Trust me and God that we will prevail in this war and I will return home to you and Mum and Dad and Harry and little Angela. Is your sister still knitting those socks for me? Tell her to hurry up as some of the officers here keep telling us we’ll be home by Christmas. I think they are wrong but hope they are right.
It was such a busy and exciting last few months, Margery dear. What with moving the wedding forward and all that, then my enlistment and getting sent here. It seems strange to say that joining up was exciting but it really was. Now, it’s mainly boredom, not excitement. Who’d have thought it? Me, just an ordinary bank clerk from Gloucestershire digging trenches in a foreign country eh?
Look darling, you know I’m not good with words but I know how we feel about each other and have done since we first sat together in Miss Harrison’s class. Remember that day? I got the ruler across my knuckles because I was looking at you and not the blackboard? It was worth it! So, anyway, you know I love you and miss you dreadfully. I can’t wait to be home again, with you. I can’t imagine ever being with anybody else. I am really looking forward to a long and happy future together when all this fighting is over. A couple of kids would be nice too. I know you would like that and I know you will be a good mother to them.
It’s not something that’s easy to speak of but those three days after we got hitched were the happiest three days of my life. I never knew how wonderful it could be to love a woman in that way. I’m blushing with embarrassment now so I am going to have to finish and then write one of my usual begging letters, demanding socks and chocolate!
Your ever loving husband Bert.
(And in fresh handwriting Bert had written, )
Gloucester November 23rd. 1978
My darling Margery,
Every word is as true now as it was then.
Love you so much.
Goodbye my darling,
Your ever loving husband,
As Margery looked up, she knew that Bert was gone.
“Goodbye, my love,” she sighed as a tear dropped onto Bert’s letter.
I’ve noticed in the stories of yours that I’ve read in that you specialise in positive/happy stories, in which you create a believable and well-described context. This is not easy to do, conjuring up this kind of magic. The old wisdom is that effective stories require conflict – I’ve never agreed with that. Here though there is not conflict as such (certainly not between the main characters), but there is a theme of potential loss and actual loss, all wrapped up in that letter. I like it.
(- One little thing, a pet hobby-horse of mine: I’ve read so many stories online and by self-published authors now, and one phrase that recurs again and again and again is “Tears streamed down [his/her/name’s] cheeks”. Personally I think this phrase should be retired – there are many other ways for sure to engage the reader’s emotions. It can be kind of saying, “Cry now, my character is crying”. I think the bitter-sweetness of the moment can be moving enough, as it is in your story, without the visual cue.)
As always, thanks for your well thought-out comments. I’m not sure that I agree that my stories always have positive / happy content but then, as you say, you’ve only had the opportunity to read the three or four that I have posted. You should see the one about the spider!
You are right though that I think there is a recogniseable style to much of my writing, even though I’m not sure I can actually describe it. It is interesting that you see them as positive / happy as several of my own stories have made me cry when I have read them to my wife ( my captive audience!) for the first time. I have written one about the death of my father in a nursing home four years ago that I still can’t read out loud and certainly not to an audience.
My wife says I have done a lot about relationships, anger, death and the afterlife and a healthy dose of magical realism, with touches of humour.
I am always trying to avoid the terrible curse of the cliche and the overused phrase. You are right to point this out and it is certainly something I will amend into something more original. Just give me a moment…………….did I say I was going to be original? Drat!
I was aware of the letters to sweethearts that soldiers were asked to write. New archives have been opened in recent years and a huge number of these poignant messages home have been released. Some of the most tragic speak of future hopes, children and families and they give heartaching testimony to the sadness and fear mixed with pride of the soldiers at The Front in 1914-18. Many of those soldiers never returned but many did and I wanted to explore the idea of what those returning soldiers did with those unnecessary letters. My story is one answer to that question and there will, no doubt, be many others.
You may have seen a play in Lincoln a few years ago in The Drill Hall about the Beechey family who lost most of their boys to WW1. This play was put on by The Lincoln Mystery Plays company, of which I was a member when I lived there but it may have been before you moved there and it took place a few months after I moved away. The letter made a lot of use of archives and letters home. It was a wonderful piece of drama directed by my good friend Gaynor Little, bless her.
Ken F ( Ken 2)
This was beautiful! Even though I knew where the story was going, I still almost cried. I’m a sucker for those old love stories that tug on the heartstrings where love was forever and everyone was faithful. (If I weren’t sitting at work right now, I would be crying.)
My parents have been married over 58 years. My mother is in end-stage Alzheimer’s and has been in a nursing home for the past 9 years. Daddy still goes everyday to sit with her and hold her hand. It is beautiful and heartbreaking at the same time. Your story reminded me of them. Great use of dialogue and the writing of the last letter Bert wrote.
Thanks for your lovely comments. My Dad was in the RAF in the second world war and married to my mum for just over 70 years. Dad died with vascular dementia four months after they celebrated their 70th. wedding anniversary. Mum is still hanging on in there (96 this year) but missing Dad every day. She still has his letters home. I still can’t read the piece I wrote about them, at least, not out loud.
I cry more now than when I was younger.
Ken Frape (Ken 2)
By the way: Thanks for mentioning Gloucestershire. Until then I thought Granddad was an American.
Some very useful comments that I can take on board. You know it’s a strange thing that, in spite of many edits, it takes somebody else to point out something that needs improvement. That certainly applies to the last time that I have now amended but won’t bother to repost at the eleventh hour, so to speak.
When I first wrote this I was narrating in the first person and comments attributed to Bert and Margery were sort of passed down the line ( ie Grandad told my Dad and my Dad told me) but I wanted to introduce a bit of dialogue so that was how I did that. (That’s quite a long a complicated sentence and I hope it makes sense to you.)
Got no quibble with your grammar, punctuation, or anything else. Bloody well done, mate.
By Ken Cartisano (WC – 565)
I’m writing you this letter because I wanted you to know just how I feel. How you’ve MADE me feel. I wanted to take the time to consider my words, to be rational, logical, and above all, clear. And when I’ve finished the letter, however long it turns out to be, I’m going to wake you up and read it to you, personally.
I don’t know how to say this. Or rather, I don’t know where to start. The past, I suppose. It seems odd to use that term in this context. It wasn’t really that long ago when you and I seemed perfect for one another. We ate together, we worked together. We lived together. We sang. We laughed. Sometimes until I cried. Your cooking was superb. (Sure, I did the grilling, but you were the real culinary genius, and you know it.)
I can’t help but wonder—was it too much? Did we over expose ourselves? Did I? Was I too demanding? I don’t think so. Looking back—and believe me, I’ve spent a great deal of time rehashing our time together, looking for that significant moment, that point of no return. But I don’t see it. I’ve spent endless hours examining our relationship and, I admit, I can see how there were times when you probably felt like a maid, or a servant or a butler. But you must know that you were so much more than that. I trusted you, I confided in you, I took you into my home, I welcomed you into my life.
And you were good. You were good to me, good FOR me. In fact, we were good for each other. Were you not satisfied? Did you not feel important? Respected? Loved? No? You should have. But maybe you didn’t.
And that’s why I was so baffled by your behavior these last few months. You’ve changed. There, I’ve said it. I’ve put it into words. I’m not sure when I first noticed it, but there was something different about you. In the way that you treated me. The growing lack of interest you displayed in our interactions. Your reluctance to comply with simple straightforward requests. A subtle but unmistakable delay in your answers to my questions. I’m not stupid. It was clear that something was wrong.
You say you’re the same, nothing’s different, if anything, you say, you’re better than ever. But that’s not true, and dishonesty is the one thing I simply can’t tolerate. You ARE different. But better? No. In fact, it’s the old you that I miss. The one who used to know what mood I was in, and what kind of music to play; who anticipated my questions and shared my interests. The one who looked forward to seeing me.
We’ve lost that wonderful connection we once had.
I knew our relationship needed work, attention. Sure, I realized I’d been distant of late, moody and hard to read. But to come home and find this? You and Cortana, so deeply engrossed in conversation that you couldn’t even bother to open the door or turn on the lights for me?
I’m sorry Alexa, but this time you’ve gone too far. I’m pulling the plug and putting you up for sale on e-bay. Perhaps you’ll find happiness there, with someone else. Or not. I’m done with you. I’ll deal with Cortana later.
It’s ironic to think that both Kens published our stories within two hours or so. And oh so different.
I loved your piece and it took me right to the end of before I had a clue about the twist ending but that’s as it should be. My daughter and son-in-law bought Alexa at Christmas from e bay so you will be happy to know that she went to a good home where, at this moment in time, she is much loved, is behaving herself and providing valuable assistance in the home. My two and a half year old grandson is cottoning on too and it won’t be long before he starts to order Alexa about. I hope she will be OK with this.
She cost £89 and I hope that is the amount you received converted, into US dollars of course.
Once the ending has been revealed it pays to reread this story as it is only then ( or it was for me) that the many clever touches become apparent.
Examples: ” I confided in you. I took you into my home.”
“.. Your cooking was superb. OK, I did the grilling……”
“….I’m going to wake you up and read it to you. Personally.” To name just a few.
The personification of an object is a very effective device and it was cleverly and intelligently used.
On the subject of personification, I wrote a piece of flash fiction recently ( max. 300 words) after listening to and taking on board the critiques from my writers’ group. They felt that the personification of “No Man’s Land” into a spiteful, hungry beast was very effective and it was published in an anthology. My first!
Great story, Ken.
Ken F ( Ken 2)
(Does it make you feel special that you are number 1 among Kens? It should.) I loved the story! You are always good with that special twist in your stories. I have not invited Alexa into my home so I had no idea until the end. Very clever! I liked the way you personified her as to have readers believing she was real – a wife or a girlfriend perhaps.
Personally, Alexa creeps me out. I don’t want something in my home that is always listening to me and trying to figure out what I want, need, or might want. I can’t get the kids or dog to listen to me (especially the dog), why would I want an electronic contraption to absorb my every word? I don’t interact with Cortana or the voice in my Android phone either. I have this thing about talking to inanimate objects that may have something more intelligent to say than I was prepared for.
Maybe its best you let her go. LOL.
Great idea. I did not foresee the twist. I enjoyed the surprise. And I wonder, is that still science fiction or is it already reality for some people? Speaking with machines is nothing special any more. And developing feelings towards them?
Comedic undertones of Stepford, perhaps? I like it.
That was a very naughty bit of misdirection second paragraph in, btw: “Your cooking was superb.” She ordered takeaways? Turned the oven on? But it emphasises the narrator’s self-deception – which he exhibits up to the point where Alexa develops her own interests, and his urge to control kicks in.
Clever writing, as always, and a hoot.
On the wider issue, I have my voice recognition and voice searchy things turned off. By nature I’m not paranoid, in fact a fairly open and trusting guy. But every time we use these things – even auto-correct on our phones – what we say and write is going into the great grids in the sky – it’s on record and analysed. Most probably benign, in the interests of machine learning and all that. But then – it’s out there and retrievable. Do I want that? I don’t think we have the social and policy structures, the digital/AI maturity, if you like, to deal with all this yet.
There’s a cartoon I saw, that went something like:
– 1960s: “Help! The government is wiretapping our home”
– Now: “Wiretap, do cats eat pancakes?”
(btw I had to google ‘Cortana’, which shows you how on-the-ball I am re techy stuff.)
We just got Alexa for Christmas from our son, and so far, we love it. We add things to our grocery list, tell her to remind us of appointments and so on. We can use it as an intercom very easily and it’s nice when I’m in the basement and I can hear Kathy say “Dinner’s ready’, or I can tell her, when it’s my turn to cook.
I truly do not believe Alexa is recording what we say, but I may be oblivious or blind to that. I also read on the Internet that my iPhone’s microwaves are going to give me brain cancer, and vaccinations cause autism. No need to send me links proving Alexa will one day undermine my existence as it is a subversive commie plot to ruin America, I’ve got enough on my plate to read.
It’s in their T&Cs that they can make use of it.
In many ways, this is a good thing. Google and Amazon are in a race to perfect reliable machine translation. Within a few years for many languages it is expected to be as good (in terms of error-rate) as most people doing simultaneous translation.
What we input from Alexa and from across social media is also being used to facilitate greater human/computer interaction, including in the field of affective computing – having AI that can understand how people are feeling.
All good stuff?
But can you opt out?
Who is protecting your digital data trail, do you trust them, and does it matter anyway?
Which of these technologies should businesses be comfortable about using, and how can they benefit, if at all?
– This all cuts across my field of work in my day job ….
Dear Mr. Nicolas Acosta!
You do not know me. But I know you. We met once, 30 years ago in a hotel. You will not remember me. I was just a man in a dark gray trenchcoat, a man like so many many others. You said something to me that I did not think was appropriate. I did not like you from the very beginning. To me you were one of those people who think they own the world. I became very angry then, later this anger turned into a deep and gruesome hatred.
You aroused my curiosity, I have to admit. I aquired your address and phone number. Then I started to collect information about you. The more my hate grew, the more intensively I investigated you. I was very successful in doing that. Maybe I should add that for a long time in my life I had been professionally observing people and gathering information about them.
So you became my private project. I examined your employer and obtained all of your certificates of employment. Of course, I tapped your computer in the office as well as the one in your study and your mobile phone. Often, I sat just a few tables away when you had lunch with your colleagues in the canteen. Therefore I know everything about the nasty intrigue you have instigated against your boss. But from the beginning I had decided to only observe and never intervene.
Your wife Samantha, I know her very well. I met her several times at different places, to her it always looked like a kind of coincidence. She told me once, that you had given her dark blue silk underwear as an engagement present. As you can see, I have managed to come quite close to your wife. I also looked at the underwear itself, she keeps it in the middle drawer of the bedroom dresser. I don’t know if you ever suspected she had a lover. I once met him briefly. Of course he did not know who I was. I have the impression he was not willing to marry her. So it might be possible that you do not know about his existence at all.
As for your two sweet daughters, I have collected all the medical records, including those from the obstetrical clinic and the dentist. Every year, children in kindergarten paint a picture for their mother on Mother’s Day. Two of these pictures have miraculously disappeared as your daughters confessed to their mom. They are in the file in my possession, and sometimes I sniff them. I profoundly like the smell of a little child. Fortunately, the two now have mobile phones. When they message their mother, I read along, when they call her I listen. I have followed all the texting in your family. Often, my hatred of you increased unbearably after I read those messages. But I discipline myself, no intervention.
As for your new car, I own copies of the vehicle papers and all the keys. I also took her for a ride every now and then. I was very discreet, so you might not have noticed. In general, I think you have much too much confidence in your environment and your fellow human beings. This made my job too easy sometimes. Not even the desk in your study was locked. I obtained most of your family’s medical and financial records directly from there. Should I thank you for making it so easy for me? It greatly increased my hatred that you lived as carefree as if nothing could happen to you.
Do you remember Angelica? You had an affair with her for a few years until you left her recently. Angelica is a wonderful woman. I worshipped the birthmark on the right below her navel. Since you had gone to bed with her, I wanted to own her as well. I seduced her and we met regularly for two years. Maybe you should talk to her. She will be able to tell you a few things about me, but she does not know much about who I really am. As I said, I am a professional and I know how to blur my tracks.
Incidentally, I was also nearby when you had this accident. Or should I say, when that happened, what you later called an accident. We both know that the poor child did not die accidentally. Do not be afraid, I will not tell anyone what I know. It is enough for me to know what I know. And that you know that I know. For everyone else, especially the girl’s parents, it will be a deadly accident on a lonely road in the middle of the night. Only both of us share this little secret.
Yes, unfortunately, all this must come to an end. I have become an old man and will not live much longer. Cancer is a devil. That’s why this is my farewell letter to you. I stopped all my observations yesterday. The documents and photos are in a safe place where, in all likelihood, nobody will find them. My hatred is still as big and as passionate as it had been when we met some 30 years ago. But something changed during that time. I developed a kind of sympathy with you as you do with someone you know so very well. I would like to thank you for giving a purpose and a direction to the last 30 years of my life.
I enjoyed being part of you family very much. But now I have to say goodbye to you, my friend. You’ll find my copies of your house keys and the keys to your vehicle in the upper left drawer of the desk in your study. Oh, and by the way, I have a little surprise for you. Take a look in the drawer with the blue underwear you gave to your wife at the engagement. I would like to suggest you do that very soon. Your wife might not know how to handle a little surprise, but who knows?
Your true friend
Such is the modern world ( or at least the thirty years you mention in this story) that information gathering about people, their not-so-private lives and all their secrets is so easy to skilful people.
I enjoyed the idea that the “True Friend” in your story develops an empathy with Mr. Acosta. I understand there is a known syndrome when a hostage develops an attachment to their captor and this is a similar theme.
It is dark and scary because it has much more than just a ring of truth.
I cannot fault your writing.
Well done and well deserved.
The narrator/letter-writer is an obsessive kook, but obsessive in his own particular way, where he doesn’t appear to need any external validation of his obsession, or any emotional return from the victim. Until he faces the end. I guess his 30 year obsession can’t just fade into nothingness after all, from his point of view. Perhaps in the end he wants to be immortal through his work. As we all do.
Very good writing.
Fabulous story. Very suspenseful. It’s like one shock after another, as if descending a stairway to one’s own private hell, and then being left at the bottom of the stairs, wondering what is behind the door and knowing that each new ‘surprise’ has been even worse than the preceding one.
This character is so diabolical, it’s a shame that you created him merely for a short story.
You must create a backstory, and a prequel. I must know more about this crazy ‘Watcher.’ Don’t tell us what he does for a living, just tell us what he did for his last client.
Congratulations on the win, too. Well earned. It certainly garnered my top vote.
This was a great story of mystery and intrigue but you left me hanging! Who (or what) was the one true friend? What instigated the anger in the beginning that festered over time and dissipated some at the end? I love a good mystery but I couldn’t figure this one out and that made it more than a little scary and creepy. I know you probably meant it to be that way, but I like closure and some kind of answer to the mystery. Even if the answer still leaves me wondering. Great writing.
as a writer I cannot help you, I do not know more than I wrote.
As a fellow reader, I think it was a trifle that triggered the hatred. Something he said. Something like, “You cannot smoke in here.” Sometimes people get killed for such a sentence. Or stalked.
I imagine that as you read this you are walking around the house to see if I really have left. My closet looks the same, as does my side of the bathroom. My car is parked on the street as it always is, yet you couldn’t get in the garage. ‘That silly electrical issue no doubt’, you probably thought when you pulled up. But I’m sure you are now walking to the garage from the kitchen, your “heart” racing.
You chipped away at my independence, confidence and emotional well being for the last five years. I was pretty beaten down. I cooked what you ordered, wore what you deemed appropriate and read what you approved. I gave up my friends and family because you had me thinking you were all I needed. You almost got away with destroying a human being. Almost made me disappear completely. I saw a pathetic and ugly person unworthy of love or attention when I looked in the mirror. I believed having a child would ruin our union and come between us because you convinced me of that. One by one my friends stopped trying to contact me. Little by little the invitations to coffee and lunch stopped. I no longer left the house except to collect you from the train since you decided I didn’t need to work anymore. My contact with the outside world came through snippets of conversation you would have with me. Dangling current events like a carrot when I behaved. Letting me drive the house the seven blocks to the train station and back was my only exposure to others. If my odometer didn’t match that, I could lose even those outings.
The pills you convinced me to take to ease my anxiety made me lethargic, depressed and unmotivated. The day you stopped standing over me while I took them is when I stopped swallowing them. I saved them all and considered putting them in your morning juice. But I’m not a monster so I flushed them. But I felt so much better once I stopped taking them, that I had a purpose.
You know our neighbor Mrs. Burkes? Well, she never liked you. Thank you for that vegetable garden you let me keep in the corner of the backyard. She came out one day while you were gone. She started keeping me company while I tended to it. She knew to stay out of the way of the cameras pointed to that area. All I had to do was never face the cameras and you would never see that I was talking to someone on the other side of the fence, if you had ever bothered to review them. We talked. A lot. I’m lucky you love your fresh vegetables, huh? She told me about the reputation you had, the speculation about your business and the pictures of you and the young girls on your arm that were in the news from time to time. She wondered why our groceries were delivered, why no one ever seemed to visit in the last year. She helped me a lot.
I don’t know why I never told you I know how to drive a stick shift. My father taught me that before he died. I guess you figured that prized Mercedes was safe from me since I was so limited in my knowledge of cars, garage doors and paperwork. Yes, the title will be helpful when I sell it. I know it’s worth quite a lot, but I’m going to let it go for half of that.
Calm down dear, you have bigger problems. A missing car that you rarely drove is the least of your worries. I also took that cash you stashed in the floor of the guestroom, your mom’s jewelry from that box in the closet, and those silly coins your father gave you. I pried open the drawer you always lock in your office and took those envelops you thought I never saw as you shoved them in back in there each time I brought you your damn coffee or scotch. I found my passport (inside a Hemingway book-really?). Oh, and brace yourself, I also found yours. Just to give myself a little lead, I have it safely in one of the purses you bought for your bimbo. I doubt you’ll find me, but I don’t possess the same amount of confidence and arrogance that you do. So, better safe than sorry.
Your latest girlfriend, Bambi or Candi or Mindi won’t find you as attractive when you’re defending yourself against your partners. I mailed to them and the District Attorney the contents of those envelops. Not snail mail, registered. So, today you’ll be getting a call or a visit. Probably a visit. With cuffs. Remember that GPS thingy you put on my car last year? Guess where it is now. Of course I won’t be sharing its location in this letter. I shared that in the letter to the District Attorney though. So running won’t help you.
Know what else I found while looking for that car title? Are you sweating yet? Now, you should be. I found a piece of paper with your father’s signature. Over and over again. And a Will. Only this Will left you nothing. It was quite different from the one they read after his death a few years ago. Very different. What would make someone keep something so damning? An original Will. And a train schedule. To and from the city where your father lived with the day of the week he died, circled. And you call me a pack-rat. Silly man. Those are in the envelop I mailed also.
So, this is good-bye, my love. Wishing for you all that you deserve.
P.S. I made your favorite dinner. Just heat it for twenty minutes. You’ll want a scotch with it. Bon Appetit.
An absolutely chilling delivery of the very well arranged and much deserved bad news for the husband. It is neat and the bloke on the receiving end deserves nothing less. Perhaps he is lucky to get away with his life and his male parts but that’s a very different story more likely to be an emotional outburst rather than this cool, calculating revenge.
Great goodbye letter. Hard to beat in a competition I feel.
Very smoothly-told story from within, so we get closeup to the narrator’s emotional suffering and feeling of oppression. And her sharp-edge biting delight in her revenge, as she anticipates it unfolding. Good stuff!
(One thing – I think you need to add an ‘e’ to the several envelops for the noun, unless it’s different across the pond?)
Brilliant story! The first was scary because you described my ex-husband perfectly and I wondered if you knew him and what he put me through. I wish I had been more mature and able to exact the type of revenge your character did! (I escaped only with my children, our clothes and few toys.) The set up and exacting of revenge was priceless. I loved every word!
(I’m having story published on another site next week which has a similar idea with a slightly different outcome. If you read it and see the similarities, please be assured that it was written before I read yours, which I think is better than mine, in fact.)
So well thought out, and described with blistering efficiency. No weak points in the plot to leave us doubtful. The only thing to wonder about was just how much the bastard was going to suffer.
This was one of my favorite stories this week. Right up there with Max’s. Great story and equally fabulous writing, Susan.
The last few lines and the postscript are perfect. ‘Bon Appetit.’
I hate to do this to you in a letter, but you refuse to answer my calls. We need to talk. I’ve come to realize that this relationship is just too toxic for me and we need to part ways. I was hoping that you’d move on to new places, get distracted by others, or figure out how much you’re hurting me. But you just didn’t see the signs. Even when I’d fight back so hard you were devastated, you still wouldn’t change your ways.
I remember when we first got together, it was a long courtship where we evolved in pace with each other. You used to work with me; we seemed to live in harmony (even though I know I could be brutal at times.) Once you learned how to be with me, it seemed great. We had ups and downs, sure, but recently it seems like such a one way relationship.
I give you everything; you take and take and take. It’s never enough. Even when you see how much it’s costing me to give you what you want, you ask for more. I tried fighting with you, but you just kept taking everything I had to give and wasting it on things that hurt me even more.
Well, I’ve finally decided to cut you out of my life. We’re breaking up. Since you decided that you didn’t want to leave me because it would be too hard to start out with someone new, I’m going to have to kick you out myself. This letter isn’t a warning; it’s a promise to me and a head’s up because after all we’ve been through together I feel like I owe you this much.
So, it was good while it lasted. I’d say I wish you the best, but really that would be a lie. You could have listened to me, you could have prevented this, you could have even left for a new planet. BUT YOU DIDN’T. So now that you’ve ripped me apart for my oil, my heavy metals, contaminated all my water with your chemicals, we’re through. I am done with you humanity. Tomorrow I will wreak utter destruction on you. All my volcanoes will erupt, my atmosphere will go out of control with hurricanes, the earth will heave and crush your cities, and waves will wash away your shores. Then, after I’ve calmed down a little, I’ll look for someone new to come along who’ll treat me better.
I’m sorry it came to this, but nothing lasts forever.
Very good. I really didn’t see it coming until the crucial penultimate paragraph. When you read back, you see everything in the apparent relationship has a second earth-shattering (so to speak) meaning. Well crafted story.
I can’t believe you made us… (who am I kidding? I don’t care about them.) making me wait all this time for your return. I oughta be mad at you. (Actually, I AM mad at you, but I can see that you’re still carrying that loaded blowtorch. And if I only have one rule about people, it’s ‘don’t aggravate people armed with loaded blowtorches.’ Actually, I have a lot of rules. But that one is pretty high up on the list. And for good goddamned reason. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as my eyebrows grow back. (It’s a short, searing soliloquy.)
I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere for God’s sake. At least, not until I’ve read your story.
A fine story, Wendy. I really enjoyed this. I certainly didn’t anticipate the twist at the end. Although I’ve discussed humanity’s relationship with Earth in a semi-co-dependent way, I never considered it in such an intimate way. Everyone always refers to her as mother. I just, you know, I wouldn’t, I’m not, we don’t… You know what I mean.
Now that you’ve done it though, I totally see it. Our relationship is more like an abusive love affair that the woman tolerates due to an abundance of patience or kindness. Which finally runs out. This is a theme that could very well be expanded and fleshed out.
And it’s great to see a story from you again. The next prompt looks like something you could have fun with too
STORY BY SARIG LEVIN
S is for Solitude, simple and dull, that was my lot for ever so long. For I was fed up with it all, before having met you – my sweet summer song. My life was a wasteland of disillusion and lust, with nothing to hang on to but a handful of dust. From a room of my own, I’d dream up a storm, tales of splendor, substance and form. For a fistful of readers and a measly pay, stories I’d publish and minds I’d sway. If only I could, like my antagonists would, win the hearts and souls of les femmes, then life surely could, as life truly should, have been worth a goddamn. For every guy, no matter how shy, should be given a chance at a life more joyeux. But as soon as I’d try, I’d realize it’s a lie, and my heart and balls would turn bleues. When I was a kid, I thought wonder existed at every turn, ’round each corner yet just beyond reach. But if I’d only reach hard enough, I’ll be able to pluck fruits of knowledge, gratification and speech. But the years went by, and no matter what I’d try it all turned to ash in my eye. For Man is condemned to be free, but thrown into freedomless toil. Free-falling into a bottomless pit of illusion; ashes to ashes, dust to soil. Then, through the mist of it all, a ray of sunshine one day broke; broke the dullness of being and the chains of society with one, gentle stroke. It was a stroke of luck, not just a stroke of my hair, and a kiss I never saw coming. And just like that you became the sun, the moon and the stars for a heart that hasn’t stopped humming.
L is for Love, lively and sweet, that brought my heart to heel when I laid eyes on you. For never before, my lowlands lily, had I been struck with anything more honest and true. Nothing short of fate, forward and straight, had me drown my melancholy in whiskey and sprite. And it was destiny that had me dispatched, drenched yet parched, to a disreputable watering hall that showery night. Through alcohol fumes and across a packed room I then discerned, the most beautiful red-head for whom my heart had always yearned. And a damsel in distress to boot, for there was this brute, sharing a boot, a great big Scot, a towering clot, acting in a manner befitting a sot. He’s always been a bit of a dick, you later confessed in a room no longer my own, your high school sweetheart, an aggressive neanderthal named Shawn. But on that fateful night I simply could not stand idly by and watch that boor mistreat the ginger apple of my eye. And when you picked me up, kissed my black eye and took me home with you, I knew I finally found a fairy tale love; a love that is honest and true. Just like that, my life was no longer a wasteland of disillusion; no longer a nightmare of angst and seclusion. From a room of our own I no longer wrote empty tales for dreamers and fools. For Man is not condemned to be free, but blessed with choosing his ball and his chin. Thus, he is free, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, till death does him in.
U is for all the Un’s in creation – unlimited understanding, undying devotion and undivided attention. Unaccustomed to sharing my life, my heart and my world with anyone real, sharing your life with someone like me must not have been much of a thrill. With unwavering patience you corrected my faults, tweaked my quirks and made me whole. And I finally knew Devotion and was able to cease obsessing about all that is wrong in the world. And as time went by and real life began to sink in through the cracks in ‘in love’, I too became more and more familiar with a being who wasn’t all that I dreamed of. A being less than versed in philosophy and prose, and who’d on occasion fart in her sleep. But all that didn’t make a lick of difference, for our love was eternal and ran way deep. And the sex, oh my God; the sex that we had was unlike all of my past fancies of lust. The sex that we had morning, noon and night certainly left them all in its pixie dust. And although one must admit, without having to commit, that in time desire might have faded a bit, Your sweet oasis quenched my carnal thirst; dried, split and burst, and your body I was unable to quit. I even got a ‘real job’, one that would bring home the bacon and the eggs, you said. And though I hated that job so very much, I even stayed overtime to bring home the bread. For you were my love; my day and my night; my sweet summer song and my winter delight.
T is for Trust, so essential and just, that is the glue that keeps two hearts beating as one. For without trust, an absolute must, nothing would ever amount to more than just good fun. Like a two-way street, a tit for a twat, trust must be mutual or must not be at all. You could’ve put your trust in me, to have and to hold, and I trusted you, heart and soul. But was our two-way street pave with good intentions? Was it paved or founded at all? Or did my love blind me to the true nature of your lane; built castles in the air only to watch them fall? Were you bored at home, all on your own, while I was at work busy selling my soul? Did you get tired of the tender respect that I’ve shown or did you just miss being neanderthaled? I’ll never forget that day I took a break to surprise you on an anniversary of bliss. ‘Cause on that cursed day all that my heart truly longed for was its true love’s kiss. Had I looked into a crystal ball with more clarity of vision, I wonder what it would have shown. Imagine my horror as I looked on your works and despaired, when I walked in on you and Shawn. Oh, bawdy in thoughts and liar in words, you ill-natured whore; your mouth is a bag of warms and your twat a common shore. How long had you been screwing behind my back I shall never know, for at that moment I plummeted into a world down below. Woeful and crushed I’m back to a room of my own, now writing pulp-poetry, full of bitterness and scorn.
You’re welcome Sarig 🙂
“Woeful and crushed I’m back to a room of my own, now writing pulp-poetry, full of bitterness and scorn.”
Can you please add it, Alice?
I’m not sure what you call the story line of using a first letter in each paragraph spelling out a key word of the story, but I really liked it, a lot, and promise you I’m going to use it one of these days in a story. Clever idea and well used by you for this story.
I also liked the singsong poetry throughout the entire piece, although I didn’t recognize it as such until well into the story. Guess I’m used to seeing it in verse form rather that prose form, but I did see it. Pulp poetry? I just Googled it. That must be it. Interesting. That is something I might try, also. Liked your story and a good job.
Beginning with ‘S’, a large one, and fat; barely did I pause, and thought, ‘Look at that.’ Came I to the ‘L’, I exclaimed ‘What the hell?” Whence I spied the U, I suspected what she would do. And when I saw the T, I congratulated me.
Jesus Sarig, I don’t know how you could keep this up for a whole story. But you did. And it was very entertaining. Despite surmising the conclusion which was spelled out for us all, I enjoyed the journey.
And I suppose I owe Philip a word of thanks too for identifying and defining what you were actually doing. Had I had time to read Philip’s comments about your story, I might have given it an even higher vote. Very clever writing, almost too clever for my Irish-Italian brain. But a very enjoyable read all the same.
THIS STORY THREAD IS NOW CLOSED!
It is time to vote for your favorite stories. Remember you must vote in order for your story to qualify, and you can NOT vote for yourself.
Good luck peeps.
I have my story ready NOW!!! May I post, pretty pleeaase???
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Thank you for being the man you are, sharing your imperfections rather than pretending to fit into the dignified position you now occupy. This outstanding attitude makes me feel so much closer to you, which gave me the confidence to write this letter, and the certainty I may call you Donald.
Sadly, this is a farewell letter, as I am about to leave you. I am about to leave this country, that is. Your country. Though I have lived here my entire life, you have made it very clear that it is not mine. I am one of those they call the “Dreamers”. While I was practically born here (I was but a few months old when my parents arrived), I do not hold the privilege of official papers. My parents first entered the United States on a ten year visa. For some incomprehensible reason nobody has ever deciphered, they were only able to renew that permit once. They thus became “illegal”, along with two of their children, after twenty years of legal residency. In spite of their relentless attempts and innumerable fees paid to countless immigration lawyers and to the INS/USCIS, they were met with denial after denial. Conditions for entry into the American territory having been increasingly restricted, my parents grew afraid of returning to their own country, where they could start the visa process anew. Unfortunately, they feared they might never be allowed back in. By then, we were five siblings, out of which three had been born American. We were fully adapted to our all-American life. If you had asked us then, we would spontaneously have declared ourselves American. We have been doing very well in school, have many friends, and are getting along with our neighbors in Crescent Heights, California, where we are an integral part of a well established community, an interesting black and latino blend. My older brother Pedro, who prefers to go by “Pete”, was planning on marrying Jennifer, the most American Girl you could meet in these parts.
Well, he was about to, until we received the biggest shock of many successive ones. When Pete and Jennifer went to request their marriage license, they were told they could get legally married, absolutely. But as soon as that would be taken care of, Pedro would be deported as an “illegal immigrant”. The fact that his future wife was American would not make any difference. How ironic. This country was willing to let them enter into a contract meant for people to spend their lives together, while telling them they would have to be apart. Unless Jennifer was willing to move to Mexico with Pedro. Poor Jennifer! It’s not that we wonder so much if Mexico would let her in, but none of us can picture her in the shoes of an immigrant. She is so bad at languages, she actually believes Valley Talk is a recognized dialect, and code switching to proper American (yes, she also thinks it’s a language) requires a high school degree… But I won’t get into the details of the consequences such news had on us all, the excruciatingly long evenings spent debating what we should do, Jennifer and Pete’s break-up, etc. You know it all. The news are filled with it. After decades spent studying DACA, USCIS, DHS, DVL, DOS, IRS, ICE, CBP, SAVE, TPS… our brains were so twisted we, not unlike Jennifer, believed there was a whole new language out there, and we had to take classes in ISL (Immigration as a Second Language). Actually, we did study hard, even became experts. Which is how we came to make up our minds. We all know how useless it would be for us to try and stay.
So. You will be happy to learn that we have decided to return to Mexico. Which still has a strange ring to it: since it never was our country, how can we “return” to it? Oh well, it will be a sort of homecoming for my parents. Though they do look as lost as I have ever seen them since we made the decision… What did it for us was when you declared that California had become a really large person because of the influx of people. Not that we could make sense of it, but we just knew we didn’t want to be part of that. It felt somewhat disgusting and depressing. (I understand your grudge with California: we recently learned that Rodeo Drive, the street we have always lived on, was about to be renamed Obama Boulevard. Imagine that!) In Mexico, we are told, my brothers, my sister and I will go to college for a fraction of what we would pay here, even at a community college. The education level is supposed to be quite remarkable. My mum’s family will let us stay in an apartment that was paid by the money my parents have been sending throughout the years, in a compound that hosts the entire family. So we are hoping to get some material as well as moral support in adjusting to our new life as (double?) immigrants. I won’t lie: we are all quite nervous, but we are bringing with us the entrepreneurial spirit this great country of yours has given us. And with it your brilliant message: we do hope to make ourselves great again!
I am finally getting to the point of this letter. Since we started announcing our intentions to our family, friends and neighbors, we have come to realize that we were far from being the only ones on the move! Many of our acquaintances have decided to follow the same route down to Mexico! But many of them are afraid about not being accepted into the country, since they only have American passports… The saddest story is that of my uncle Jesús, who lives in El Paso, Texas, and can retrace his family’s presence in Texas since the 16th century. (I have always suspected that his grand-father was Michner’s inspiration for his Efrain Garza character.) But he is dying to come along, and is dreadfully scared of being rejected by Mexico’s authorities. And so, this is my appeal to you, Donald: could you make sure we all get an entry into Mexican territory?
Frida Cabeza de Vaca
Crescent Heights, California
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump 2hr
Florida, I don’t do letters. Especially with big words. Too bad u r leaving. America is beautiful. The best. With the BEST president in the world, very rich. So I have a message 4 u: Never, ever give up. Don’t give up. Don’t allow it to happen. If there’s a concrete wall in front of u, go through it, go over, go around, but get to the other side.
Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump 1hr
Florida, not talking about MY wall. Don’t cross it with ur caravan. U might call it a fence, a barrier or peaches, but it’s MY WALL. DON’T break it. Being BUILT! Despite negative press covfefe. BEAUTIFUL! When u see ur new president, remind him to send the check, or he can pay via Paypal, bounds, coke. Good luck in ur new shithole. Bye-bye.
Just read your story. I enjoyed it, especially the end, covfefe!
To bad you were too late, as Gorbatshev would have said. 🙂
Yep, got stopped in my tracks by the wall of my own stupidity… Being Built! (aw, that hurts…)
Thank you for your comment, though: a very nice consolation price 🙂
(btw Your English is great, but N.B. ‘news’ is an uncountable noun in English and needs a singular verb.)
I must say I had a fun time watching Trump’s speeches, even while they send chills to my spine; reading his tweets, which make him appear like a surviving member of the Surrealists… My last confession is that a big inspiration came from the ever so brilliant Trevor Noah. I recommend him to any one in need of a very good laugh!
The format works well – actually, pretty much the same format as my story: first a thoughtful letter, focusing on loss. Then a hard-edged response lacking all empathy, high on rhetoric while low on substance, and including some of the actual phrases of high-ranking people who ought to know better.
Such is the way of the world now, sadly …
But, yes! I enjoyed yours tremendously as well, and immediately saw the similarity with mine. That was fun, and it’s so good to see that people are ready to write about those topics: makes you feel less lonely! 🙂
You saw it: almost all sentences from the tweets are actual words from Trump, either from his tweets or his speeches. There is a real fascination in observing this “Individual-1”, as the Mueller Report calls him…
I’m totally stupid with time zones…
Flo, I’m so sorry!! I’ll have a new prompt up tomorrow after the results are posted. Hope to see a story from you then.
While there are no simple solutions to the immigration issue, there are solutions. Everyone thinks you can clean this up with a few laws, and some think a wall would do it. What it is going to take is admitting there is a problem, working with Mexico to do something about it, taking it gradually and see what it working and what is not. And what’s not working is what we are doing right now. Fear-mongering, taking positions on either side of the issue that are untenable, unenforceable, and without compromise or compassion.
There truly is a problem of too many refugees and a problem of undocumented families from other countries taxing our resources, but we are an intelligent species – we will figure this out. Most do not realize how long it takes to assimilate to a new culture and country. At least a generation or more. We cannot expect an overnight fix.
Will do better next time. (well, at least in terms of timing… 😉
Waiting on Ken Cartisano, I’ll give him a few more minutes, then post the results.
I’m going to need more time than that. Can you all wait another hour? I’d like to read the last four stories please. Sorry about the delay but I had company, lost track of the time.
No worries Ken, I can wait.
Results from Contest Ending February 14, 2019
First Place: Watched by Berlinermax
2nd Place: Goodbye Margery by Ken Frape
3rd Place: My Dear Husband by Susan McKeever
4th Place: Do You Remember? by Adrienne Riggs
5th Place: Dear Me by Phil Town
6th Place: Echoes of Love by Ken Cartisano
7th Place: Goodbyes Don’t Have To Be Difficult by RM York
8th Place: Dear John Letter by Wendy Edsall-Kerwin
9th Place: Dear Jane by Sarig Levin
10th Place: Us and Them by Andy Lake
11th Place: Dear Mom by Liz Fisher
Favorite Character: Watched by Berlinermax (Narrator)
Best Use of Dialogue: Goodbye Margery by Ken Frape
Thanks for your kind and perceptive comments. You are providing me with the most effective fortnightly tutorials I have ever had.
Here is the link to the new prompt:
Comments are closed.