Fiction Writers Group

Flash Fiction Writers & Short Story Contests!

Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “A Branch”

Theme: A Branch. Any kind at all: tree, creek, service, etc.

Required Elements: Must contain the following stand-alone sentence somewhere in the story: “You would think so, wouldn’t you?”

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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

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

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

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Ilana Leeds per the Writing Prompt Roster.

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

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

172 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “A Branch”

  • This is a notifications post. Hello everyone!
  • Ok. What happened to Ken? Whose prompt is this one? Should be interesting, Nu?
    • Hey Ilana, Ken didn’t vote so his story didn’t qualify. 🙁
      This prompt was chosen by Roy, and it’s a good one!
      • That is a stupid rule–disqualifying authors who are unable to vote. What was the original motivation for the rule?
        • That has always been a condition of this site Mike, and I did it originally. It was to encourage authors to vote. Otherwise, we found out, people didn’t vote. We would have ten stories and two voters. So, we made the rule. It’s a fair rule, because you have 24 hours to vote, and if you want to give up your story and not vote, that’s your choice. It’s a mild penalty, some are willing to do, but most just suck it up and vote. I don’t think it’s stupid, but you can think so if you like. It’s not going to change.
        • Carrie Zylka

          It’s not stupid at all.
          If you want your story to qualify you can have the courtesy to participate in the reading/voting process like everyone else.

        • Mike come on, because you disagree with something doesn’t make it stupid. It is a way to encourage participation, and I think it’s a minor rule and fair to all the writers.
        • Ken Cartisano
          Hi Mike,

          It’s a little late to weigh in on this perhaps, but it’s a good rule. I totally support it. If you submit a story, that means you can receive votes from other contestants, but if you don’t vote, they can’t receive votes from you. And don’t forget, each voter supplies 5 votes. That’s a total of 15 points that should go to other stories. Too many writers (people, lugnuts) are willing to game the system just to get a win. As pathetic as that is, this rule eliminates that strategy. Your blame should be directed at the kind of people who create the need for this kind of rule. People who cheat.

          And when you think about it—Ii’s not really fair to simply write a story, submit it, and then expect everyone else to read it, along with five or ten other stories, weigh their pro’s and con’s, and then bother to vote. Writing a story is only half of the commitment. Personally, I enjoy reading the stories, the comments, and voting. I read all the stories every week, whether i can vote or not

  • Stupid me, I did not read the post properly. I have a prompt already prepared and it is only one four letter word (HAH had you all there, didn’t I?) Starts with L and ends with S. See if you can guess it? If you do, I’ll use your name for the main character in my story. 😀 😛
      • I say, that’s a bit strong, sir!
        • Hahahahaha. Very funny. (You were joking right?)
    • Once I thought of looking all the four-lettered ‘L’ words up in the dictionary, words like ‘lots’, ‘logs’, ‘legs’ ( I can already visualise lots of situations with legs based on personal experiences). Come to think of it, five-lettered ‘L’ words would have been more interesting and contextually relatable – words like ‘looks’, ‘louts’, ‘loans’, ‘loads’ and ‘loves’. What about the seven-lettered ‘L’ word ‘Lechers’ by the way?
      Anyway, my most considered guess would be either ‘LASS’ or ‘LADS’. Good luck with your prompt. Regards.
  • What a tree-mendous prompt, guys!
    Sorry, I was really just posting to get notifications.

    And to say to Ilana, I’m guessing your four-letter word is ‘Loss’ …

    • Aha Andy good guess darling person! I should not say person should I? Do I have to say perpeople? This PC stuff is getting to me.
      • ‘Person’ is fine, Ilana. I still qualify as such. ‘Boy’ might be historic. ‘Man’, a bit dubious at times … 🙂
    • Ha Andy, I let out an audible groan in reading your last post. 😃
  • Branch with an apple
    (997 words)

    Mona and Medan were twin brother. Medan was born first, hence he became elder brother. Mona enjoyed love of Medan and guardianship. Medan got respect as a elder brother from Mona. They preferred to walk together for adventure around the community since they learned to walk independently. They visited parks, lakes, rice fields around village. They used to watch sunset in the west. To the east was a small jungle little far away from the community.
    “I want to go there” Mona said with interest and with little hesitation.
    “There in the jungle, to the east, we have never been”, Mona replied with small voice. “You cannot walk there. Just wait one more year, then you will be strong enough to walk over there”
    Madan asked with curiosity “By the way, why do want to go there?”
    “I would like to climb trees and eat fruits”
    “Do you think that you are a monkey?”
    “You would think so, wouldn’t you?”, Medan put question mark.
    “I can climb better than monkey”, Mona laughed.

    One year passed. Mona had same interest in his mind. He reminded his brother Medan of his promise. “Brother it is already one year. I wanted to go there.”
    “Where?”, Medan asked interestingly.
    “That hill, in the east, I wanted to climb trees. Mona replied as if everything was decided just yesterday.
    “Just wait a few days, I will see a date”
    Mona became cheerful with hope.
    It was green season, branches of trees were covered with green leaves. Medan also became interested to go, and he actually decided to go. One day, in the afternoon, towards the evening, both brothers headed towards the jungle in the small hill to the east. Trees were not same and alike. Some trees have tall branches, some have many broken branches, some trees spread in wide areas, and some looked like small bushes. They observed all types. Mona wanted to climb a tree. There was a tree with branches since bottom of the stem. Medan was afraid but he approved on that tree. Mona climbed up to middle. Medan was comfortable up to that point. He was partly happy with courage of his brother and partly afraid with possible risk. Medan asked to come down and not to up further because stem further was getting smaller.
    “Mona, Mona, come down, come down, you will fall”, Medan cried.
    But, Mona was excited and self-directed, climbed up with confident. By climbing little up Mona stopped and looked around. Then he came down partly by self-interest and partly by the force of the brother.
    Mona wanted to find a tree with fruits. But there were nothings.
    While visiting jungle Mona saw a tree with a branch leaning with a fruit that looked like an apple, just one apple in a branch.
    “Brother” I found”, Mona cried.
    See there, in that tree, on the side, that branch” Mona pointed with joys.
    Mona, do you think we can pick up that fruit?
    “We must try?”
    A monkey was following them. Mona became very happy to see act of Monkey.
    Medan warned, “do not play with the monkey. It can snatch your biscuits”
    “Which biscuits brother? I have already given to the monkey”
    “Oh, that is why the monkey is following you? ”
    Mona and Medan was looking at fruit and thinking how to get it. Medan was actually not interested in fruit but he wanted to make his brother Mona happy. Monkey noticed the fruit. He climbed the tree from other tall tree in the side. Jumped on the branch with the fruit, picked up the fruit and fall down on the ground pulling down the branch. Branch jumped up and Monkey falls down with the fruit in his hand. Mona looked at fruit, there was nothing? He saw the fruit on the hand of Monkey. Mona gestured the monkey to pass the fruit to him. But Monkey did not do that.
    Medan came out with idea that people use in temple to get the sandal back from the Monkey. He passed his shoe to the monkey. The monkey caught the shoe and left the fruit. Mona started to eat fruit. It was very sweet.
    “Do not eat all”, Medan ordered.
    “We need to give half to Monkey and get the shoe back.”
    Mona threw half of the fruit to Monkey. Monkey caught the fruit and left the shoe. The shoe fell down.
    It was getting darker. They decided to return back home. It was easy to get down. They jumped with long pace. Mona was looking back to the Monkey. He was thinking how the Monkey would do in the night.

    After ten years when they completed bachelors and it was time to specialize. Mona wanted to study information technology focused on animal world.
    Medan asked with interest, “Why are you interested in that subject?”
    “It….. is be……cause I wanted to observe the nature of animal from the home.”
    “Would you like to fit the camera in the branches of trees? You would think so, wouldn’t you?”
    “No, I do not know what I will do. I wanted to learn all possibilities.”
    Five years later, Mona became IT specialist for the animal world. For practicing he fitted cameras on branches of trees covering major routes and habitat of animals and fitted transmitter on few animals and birds. People could see natural movement and act of animal and birds in the jungle while at the home. Mona observed many events happening in the jungle. Mona had still in his mind the same scene where monkey picked up single fruit from the lean and thin branch and passed to him.
    Medan did specialize in Human Science. He was impressed with the psychology of his own brother Mona. His conclusion was: Like a tree became based on the species planted, a child become based on was interest was planted in the childhood. Interest planted in the soft mind spreads.

    • Nam,
      The dialogue is humorous. The strategy for outwitting a monkey is amusing and may prove useful someday. (Should I ever run for congress.) And the moral of the story, bluntly stated, seems self-evident, if not incontrovertible. (This is good, a fuzzy moral is not useful.)
      • Thank you Ken for so nice remarks. I appreciate for words you have used. Each words carry great meaning for me. Its encouraging.
    • Like Ken said, the monkey business may come in handy one day. I’m not sure the last line shouldn’t be either planted in a young mind or a fertile mind, but soft mind, while I understand it, didn’t sound quite right, to me. Just my humble opinion. Interesting story, Nam.
      • Thank you RM for comments. I agree with your suggestion to change soft mind with young mind.
    • Phil Town
      Nice story, Nam. I like the observation of the jungle from a distance, and the waiting a year – it makes the journey seem more adventurous and important. When the twins (why twins?) go to the jungle, they climb one tree, then come down … I’m not sure if this really moves the story along. The exchange with the monkey is really well done – almost cartoonish. And it’s good how the boys’ little adventure sows the seed for their future professions.
      • Thank you Phil for review and point good points. I think it should have been twin not twins.
    • How to do a deal with a monkey – perhaps we could avert the coming trade wars with this psychological approach?
      Some good elements and humour in the story.
  • Down in the upper right hand corner of this page, a banner invites us to: ‘Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.’ (?) So that does nothing? All these years, centuries even, I’ve been filling out that form, and getting no notifications? I’ve sought counseling, hired expert computer wizards (twelve-year-olds), changed my name, my user name, my password, my passport, my hatchback and my humpback. All to no avail. I’ve hired a black hat, a white hat, a hatless hack, held a seance, cleaned the monitor and had my laptop exorcised. And now, only NOW, I realize that that form does nothing. Or else why would both you, Florence, and you, Nightingale, have to post in the thread to receive notifications of your own website?

    This is clearly CLEARLY, a case of Fraudulent False Flag Form Filing. I’m calling ‘The Federal Bureau of Useless Forms.’ (FeBUS.) and unilaterally reporting this inexcusable breach of literary lunacy. (Literally.)

    At the very least, I demand a full, complete and comprehensive explanation which will leave me baffled, confused and unsatisfied for perhaps years to come.

    I don’t know what I have to do to be taken seriously around here. Seriously. (Not really–that would be a disaster.)

    • robtemmett
      I’m also demanding whatever it is Ken is demanding.
      The two bosses get notifications – go figure.
      Oh, and Andy, but he’s special.
  • Alice Nelson

    Ken, have you checked your SPAM folder? I’m not sure what the deal is, maybe Carrie has some idea. 🙂

    • Carrie Zylka

      Very strange.
      It seems no one is getting email notifications.

      I will put in a support ticket with Jetpack and WordPress.

      • I get email notifications. Not sure why I’m so special. I just tick the box under the comment box when I make a comment. That sends an email and I have to click a link to verify I want to follow the thread, and bingo that’s it.
        • I’m getting them too, maybe your name has to start with an A. 😏
          • Carrie Zylka

            I got the email saying someone liked your comment but no emails saying someone actually commented.


            there was a wordpress update out there that I just installed so maybe that will fix the notification issues!

          • robtemmett
            Lettuce see if Cattie’s new up-date is works.
            • Carrie Zylka

              it occurred to me, are you using your WordPress account to leave comments? If so, logout of WordPress when you leave a comment, enter your name, email address and then click the box for receive email updates.

          • Anindita Basu
            Nope…I do not qualify getting E mail notification all the time… sometimes only though my name starts with A.
        • Hey gang,

          The (all kidding aside for a minute) upper right corner sign-up provides notifications of each new contest. One time only for each one. The check boxes Do in fact provide notifications if anyone comments on a comment, or story. I frequently don’t check those boxes because I like to pretend I’m ‘too cool to care.’ (Or maybe it’s because I’m senile and forget until after I’ve posted my comment. After that it’s too late.)

          It’s possible that ‘liking’ the site directs more notifications, but I confess that I don’t do any of these things with enough regularity to be certain whether it’s what I’m doing, or forgetting to do.

          I’m still in a recovery stage after having to clean my main server after some kind of malicious virus. I have quite a few passwords that I never wrote down and got lost in the process of cleaning and restoring my PC and various programs. So, I certainly can’t assign any blame for anything that doesn’t work properly at this point in time.

          But it does seem as though the notification process on WordPress is either quirky or counter-intuitive sometimes.

    • Alice,
      No I haven’t. Okay, yes I have. Lot’s of interesting stuff in there. Nothing from this site.
  • robtemmett
    Just a Different Branch
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018

    She whirled around and was in my face. “To you whites, we are savages. You think we are…,” and she proceeded to unload on me all the racial slurs, crass remarks, and crude words ever used against the North American aboriginals. I was, according to her, just another one of them. “You know nothing, nothing about us Anishinaabeg.”

    As she again turned to leave, I said, “I’m Anishinaabe, also.”

    She stopped, “Not possible. Wabiska Nini all claim to have Indian blood when you seek advantage over us.

    I lifted my hand inches from her face. “I’m this much Anishinaabe.”

    An incredulous look crossed her face. Her head lowered. Her laugh built.

    “Most claim to have much Indian in your blood. You claim so little. Her thumb and finger almost touched. You must tell me how you came to have soooo much Anishinaabe blood.” She smiled and suggested, “Let us sit on this bench.”

    We did. “You go first,” I suggested.

    “Okay. Very, very long ago, we lived beside Ketchi Kabekong. You call it Niagara Falls. The earth was good. We prospered but soon outgrew the land. We needed to move Ninggabeun, toward the setting sun. We settled at Animikee Wabu, the place called Sault-Sainte-Marie. The earth was good. We prospered, but again, soon outgrew the land. We needed to move westward. The tribe split. Some went along the south shore of, Gitchigumi to Chequamegon near Bayfield Wisconsin. My people went north to this land on Gitchigumi’s northern shore. The earth was good. We prospered. But soon the urge to move farther west came upon the old men. My ancestor said, ‘No, we will not leave, we are Awaazisii.’ Four clans stayed. Our numbers increased. This land is very good, but fragile. The tribe split again. Some traveled to Canada. We stayed. Others, the Zhawan peoples, moved onto Spirit Island in the Saint Louis River estuary; the place where there is food upon the waters, wild rice. It is late. I must go. Return tomorrow an hour before sunset. Then you can tell me about all,” she snickered, “your Anishinaabe blood.”

    The sun came through the trees in small splashes. The place was comfortably cool and intensely green. Flowering bushes mingled the tall ferns along the edges of the glade.

    She materialized near a bush. Her silky black braid ends, bound with a buckskin thong, hung near to her waist. The dresses’ lower fringe revealed the waterproof moccasins unique to the Anishinaabeg. The elbow length sleeves, trimmed with colorful beadwork, add interest to the near white of the buckskin.

    “Come, let’s sit on the log and I will tell you my story.”
    “How much Anishinaabe are you and how?”

    “I’m less than one-quarter of a percent.” She had a wonderful smile. “Have you ever heard of Pierre Radisson?”

    “Oh, yes.” Her voice excited, “Is he your ancestor?”

    “No, my ancestor, Francois, is not famous. He traveled with Radisson and five others in 1659. It was his first trip up-lake, to the Chequamegon trading station. He was about twelve years and was from St Michel-Bellechasse, Canada. He was strong and smart. In a few seasons, he was put in charge of a large freight canoe. They weighed six-hundred pounds, thirty-six feet long, and could carry three tons of goods or furs. They traveled a thousand miles a month. In a few years, he had his own group and three freight canoes. He was frugal with both his time and his money. He didn’t drink, much, didn’t fool with the ladies. He was on his way to being a rich man. He married a Canadian-French woman and they settled in Saint-Michel. When he left to go up-lake the next spring, she was pregnant.

    “He shared a trading post with other fur traders. He was, um-uh, a young man away from his wife, if you understand my meaning. He had a problem with his morality. His solution, rather than bedding a different maiden whenever the urge struck, he chose to marry one. Her daddy was an elder in the tribe. By the time he left to return to Canada, he had a daughter and another child on the way.

    “Returning to Saint-Michel, he discovered he had a son. By the time he headed up-lake two years later, he also had a daughter and another child in the oven, as they say. At the trading post, he learned he also had another daughter. Just before he headed down-lake, he had a son.

    She smiled, “Can’t keep a good man down, and is that what you are telling me?”

    “I guess. A son and two daughters here, in what would become Minnesota, and the same in Saint-Michel. Early the next spring, he headed down-lake.”

    “What a man, two women and six children.

    What more could a man ask for?

    “Luck,” I said.

    “Luck, how so?”

    “When he returned to Saint-Michel, he learned his house and warehouse burned. His wealth had vanished.”

    “That is so bad. What did he do?”

    “The material loss was nothing. His children died in the fire, as did a servant. All he had were the furs he’d brought with him. It would have been enough to restart his business, but the loss of his children was his undoing. He started drinking. He didn’t tend to his trading business or his wife. She moved back to her father’s home. For many years, he was the laughingstock of Saint-Michel.”

    “So if he was a ruined man, what happened to him?”

    “A man, Médart Groseilliers, had taught Francois the fur trade, sent him a message from Pointe du Lac. Médart insisted Francois come. Médart said he had some presents for my ancestor. It was a hundred-mile trip.”

    “What kind of presents?”

    “A pox had ravaged the trading village. His Indian wife, his youngest daughter, and most of the tribe died. However, his half-breed son and a daughter survived.”

    “The curse of the white man killed more of us than their bullets. So what did this drunk, with no money, no house, or wife, and two children to do?”

    “He stopped drinking, explained to his wife, scratched to put a roof over their heads, and re-established his fur trade business; this time in Trois-Rivières. Then he and his son returned to the lake head. “Ever hear of Du Lhut, the explorer?”

    “I have.”

    “They, Francois and his son, Francois, helped Du Lhut establish the trading at Île de la Rivière Saint-Louis. As you say, Spirit Island, in the Saint Louis River estuary. They returned to Trois-Rivières two years later. By then the son, barely out of his teens was a man. The two were partners for the next twenty-seven years.”

    “His wife forgave him his unfaithfulness? Not possible.”

    “It was not an uncommon happening in that day and age. She was glad to have the laughter of children and her man back. I guess she was glad he didn’t bring any diseases home.”

    “You would think so, wouldn’t you?”

    Her thumb and finger almost touched as she raised her hand. “So you are this much Zhawan. She raised her other hand to her forehead, “I’m this much Awaazisii.”

    “We’re of the same tree.”
    – ℜ –
    [1200 words]

    • robtemmett
      DO NOT attempt to use “Google – translate” to get the sound of the strangely spelled Anishinaabe words.
      None, repeat, none of the words will be pronounced anywhere near correctly – NONE!

      Chequamegon is pronounced; shuh-WAH-ma-gun. And that’s the easiest one of the bunch!

      If you don’t believe me, ask Carrie. She’s been there and has the T-shirt.

      • Carrie Zylka

        OMG I so do hahahahahaha

    • Migwich(?) Robert,
      Interesting story. One minor suggestion: ‘Most claim to have much Indian in ‘their’ blood. This is kind of like a history lesson delivered in the form of dialogue between two people of radically different ancestry. (I suppose that provides the basis for the reveal.) I shall read it again and update my comment if necessary.
      What I really wanted to know is, have you read any books by William Kent Krueger? My mom stumbled upon three of his books and turned me onto him. He’s an excellent writer and has written a continuing series of books about a particular half
      Anishinaabe Indian character (Cork O’Conner) and his family. The stories are mostly centered around Iron Lake, The Northwest Corner, Lake Superior and a fictitious town named Aurora. He seems to write about one of these books a year, I find them tremendously interesting and I know nothing about that area of the world.
      (In fact, I have in my possession right now, ‘Tamarack County’ and ‘Manitou Canyon.’)
      • robtemmett
        In the story, he is French, mostly, and she is Anishinaabe.
        I have not read any books by William Kent Krueger. Thanks, I need to check him out.
        I grew up in the area and worked in every school in the Indianhead country of Northern Minnesota.
        Aurora Minnesota is real and located on the Mesabi Range of northeastern Minnesota. [Near the center of Saint Louis county] This area produced a large quantity of the nation’s iron and taconite ore. 2016 Population 1650 est.
        There is no Tamarack County in Minnesota.
    • I could not enter in my first attempt. I tried again today. It went up to last interestingly. I noted the word “Anishinaabe” specially. In the beginning of the dialogue it looked like a different branch of different tree. When explored it was hound to be same tree but just different branch. Very good plot. I liked: “The sun came through the trees in small splashes”
    • Robt., Very interesting story. All of your stories have a ring of truth to them and I’m sure this is no exception, but if not, then well done. I loved the double entendre “You can’t keep a good man down.” Added a little humor for me, but again, if you didn’t mean it that way, I still liked it.
    • Phil Town
      Very interesting story, Robert. I love all the (to me) exotic names. And the tension between the two characters is good, too. I thought maybe that a little scene-setting might have helped – why the animosity at the beginning? Where are they? How did they meet? The narrator’s story is much more interesting than the woman’s (perhaps because it’s a dialogue, rather than a monologue? And more happens.) So maybe you could have skipped her story (e.g. the narrator takes it on faith that she’s Anishinaabe) and just used the narrator’s. That would also avoid the “gotta rush – see you back here tomorrow”, which kind of breaks the rhythm (for me).
    • Enjoyed your story, Robt. Feel like you’ve led me into an unfamiliar world, which you portray with insight. I think I learned a few things, which is always good.
  • Charles Lilburn
    Notification post. Somewhere along the line, and I suspect it’s because I originally signed up as Charles Lilburn on this computer I’m not getting notifications. Now it won’t let me sign in with a new email address. I tried changing my profile, even tried deleting Charles Lilburn, but when I sign in as RMYork, WordPress won’t let me. So, If I get notifications this time, I’m going to let it be and just sign in as Charles Lilburn and sign my comments with Roy so everyone knows what’s what. Confusing, perhaps, but we have some pretty savvy people in this group.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Try not using your WordPress account.
      Leave a comment, logout and enter your name and email address.

      • Roy York
        I’ll try that.
      • Roy York
        Hey, it worked! Thanks.
      • … and yet, I’m both using my WordPress account and receiving notifications.
        I may indeed start to believe I’m special … 🙂
        Or maybe the Internet just works differently here in Lincolnshire. Many things do.
        • Carrie Zylka

          I do too, sometimes I think WordPress is crazy! It works for some folks, not for others. Not sure!

          • Carrie Zylka

            Although i used to get email notifications when a blog I followed posted a new post, but i haven’t received one in a very long time. I just always have to go to the WordPress reader (which I never do).

  • Dear Carrie,
    One of the requirements of the present prompt is the stand-out sentence:
    “You would think so, wouldn’t you?”
    As such I have tried to use it only at the end, though I have used it somewhere in the middle as well for the sake of the story. To honour the prompt, I added the word ‘Dad’ in the middle to make it slightly different.
    I have been quite busy lately. I will go through the other stories once more if I can manage the time, before commenting. If my story fails to meet the requirements, you can treat it as cancelled.
    Love and best wishes.
  • Dear Carrie,
    Please delete my previous story and replace it with this one. Love and best wishes,

    Karmic Connection:
    Louis Armstrong had hardly settled down in his new place of posting in Tripura, a tiny Indian state in the south-eastern part of the country, when Rose was brought in one night in a pathetic condition. She had complained earlier of a severe stomach pain, threw up amber coloured stuff a number of times before being referred to the Army Hospital from the General Hospital.
    Louis spent the next couple of days like a doctor possessed and saved a near-dead patient from the clutches of death, miraculously.

    “Thank you so much, Dr. Armstrong. My Rose and I will always look upon you as our Saviour,” Natasha told Louis, showing a pair of sparkling teeth from across his desk, the day of her daughter’s discharge.
    Louis smiled back at the widow who had taught him a lot in the last one week or so about what it meant to be a single parent.Their friendship,in the meanwhile, turned into a relationship. Louis had felt drawn to this soft-spoken, sacrificing type Natasha from day one, and more so when he came to know about the circumstances in which Natasha was ditched by her boy friend. She was into the fifth month of her pregnancy at that time. The young, handsome doctor married her a few months after their brisk courtship. He had already struck up a rapport with Rose during her stay in the army hospital. It was no surprise therefore, when he eventually turned out to be the father that the nine-year-old Rose never had.
    One fine afternoon Louis and Rose were sitting on a sofa engrossed in watching a tensed scene from “Daddy”, when Rose put her right arm around his broad shoulder and exclaimed gleefully, “I’ll take care of you, Louis, when you grow old. I will cook for you, be your walking stick and love you to distraction…,” Rose paused for a second before mumbling out the word that Louis had been dying to hear all these days, “Dad.”
    “So do I, Rose. So much that you wouldn’t believe it…..” The young doctor checked himself from using an expression that he had picked up from his late father who served The RBA as a lieutenant in India, during World War II.


    Louis was the Chief Guest on the fifteenth of August at the inauguration of the local fair, accompanied by Natasha and Rose. Little did he know on that day that it would turn out to be the bleakest one in his life. While he was cutting off the tape, Rose got lost in the crowds. After a thorough search, the matter had to be referred to the state police finally. Unfortunately, Rose couldn’t be found out! She seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth just like that!


    Thirty years have passed since then. Dr. Louis has retired from his profession last June.Even Natasha was beginning to be a part of a distant memory. The file containing the mysterious case of the missing Rose, has started collecting dust, when one day he received an unexpected call from a police station of the neighbouring state of West Bengal. They had haunted out a child who somehow responded to the filed details of Rose from an orphanage near Howrah.
    “ Are you out of your mind, Officer? What made you think of this child as the one who went missing nearly thirty years back?” Dr. Louis sounded offended on the other side.
    “Sir, it’s a bit complicated. Can you just fly down to our Station tomorrow? We’ll arrange a meeting with the child at our place itself,” replied the OC.

    Louis was dismissive of the idea when the sixty-two year retired doctor remembered Rose and his last conversation with her.
    “Do you know that all these honour, glitter and crowds mean very little to me, Rose,” he whispered to her, sitting side by side on the guest chairs. “You are my only hope, my future, my love..” he concluded.
    “I wouldn’t go to that extent, Dad. You wouldn’t believe that. Nor would anyone.” Louis smiled at the lovely gift from God in his life, and her brightness.

    The face of Rose cropped up in his mind instantaneously, after all these years. An insatiable urge to give it one last try overwhelmed his entire being. He picked up the directory and started looking for the entry, beginning Jet Airways.

    Next afternoon, he presented himself, looking tired but trim, at the Police Station promptly at the appointed time. He was going to spend the night at a nearby hotel and would be back in his native place by ten in the morning. He knew it for certain that there was a dreadful mistake somewhere.

    When the Havildar brought in the child called Louisha, Louis was in for a great shock. The child was neither a Rose look-alike nor was she vocal as Rose was. She seemed every inch as different from her as the North Pole is from the South! Disappointed from the start, they showed her the photos of Rose. Louisha looked a complete blank and kept mostly mum during the interrogation. All their attempts to get her to open up ended in vain. Finally, the doc got up, shot a furtive glance at the probing eyes of the OC before fumbling with his stick hanging by the chair. He then patted the child on her back.
    “ Be a good girl always, my dear. God bless,” he told Louisha before tactfully whimpering to the Officer-,in-Charge in an undertone, “Other than some letters that her name has in common with ours, she doesn’t have anything else with us.”
    The child continued looking down at her fingernails as the doctor was about to come out of the office cum cell. It was only then that the the child looked and blurted out something she had picked up she knew not from whom or where:
    “You wouldn’t believe that. Would you?”
    Later, Dr. Louis called up the airline office and asked them to book an extra ticket for his lost granddaughter,Louisha Armstrong for the flight back to Tripura the next day.


    • rnb,
      No, no, no. Your first version of this story is by far the better of the two. “You would think so, wouldn’t you.” The repetition of this phrase at key points in the story ties it all together, like the chorus of a song. I suggest you ask Carrie or Alice to delete your second version, not your first. (This is not to say that either version is without grammatical flaws, but the first one is a much better version. Better set-up, better delivery of the reveal.) Really quite engaging.A poignant, tragic but satisfying story.
    • Carrie Zylka

      (RNB just letting you know I deleted the first one!)

    • Carrie Zylka

      R.N. I don’t find “You would think so, wouldn’t you?” in your story anywhere, I’m catching up on comments and wanted to let you know if it’s not in there, the story wouldn’t qualify.

      (My apologies of you already addressed this and I missed it somewhere!)

    • Between the two versions, Mr RNB, there is a good story. I only skim-read the first one before it disappeared, but had the impression, like Ken, that it held together better and made it clearer how Louisha shows she is the grand-daughter, from the phrase.

      I didn’t know this about Louis Armstrong’s other career, between playing the trumpet and being first man on the moon. Enlightening.

  • Dear RNB, thank you for interesting story. Story, in the last para ended with tension. There is not of scope of pondering. Karmic connection remained unexplained or in suspense. Police did not say how the guessed that Luisa was the Rose. Luisa did not say anything (Mum). Finally what Luisa Blurted was not exposed. Main points for ponder for reader is that why Dr Luis said granddaughter for Luisa. Any way this is a kind of story interesting to read.
    • Dear Ken,
      Thank you so much for your comments. I had to rewrite the story due to my understanding of the only required element stated in the prompt: Must contain the following STAND-ALONE sentence somewhere in the story.
      I looked at the prompt more carefully just before posting the story and felt that there is a huge difference between “stand-alone’ and ‘stand-out’. I thought by ‘stand-alone’ what was meant was that the sentence ‘You wouldn’t think so, would you?’ shouldn’t occur in the story more than once. There was no way I could have my doubt clarified, hence the decision for a quick-fix rewrite!
      I have lost contact with Carrie. Just to post this story, I had to access this site via the previous prompt ( I ain’t sure if I am making sense to you). Accessing the site has been a herculean affair since I came down to Kolkata. If it is all right with you, please let me know if you still think the second one should be deleted. I will work accordingly. I feel ashamed of myself finding both these stories glaring at me and my stupidity! Hoping to read yours soon.
      Love you, Ken.
      • Ken Cartisano
        Don’t be so hard on yourself. I’m not really sure what stand-alone means with regard to composition. So I took it to mean that the sentence may not be part of a longer sentence. I see no reason why the sentence can’t be used more than once. No question that i think the first version of your story is better than the second. (Because of your creative use of that sentence.)
        • It was stand alone only because I wanted it that way to make people reach for a story instead of just filling in a sentence and it had to be pertinent. I want this to be an exercise in writing, so I was trying to be a little inventive when I got the right to name a prompt.

          My problem is I didn’t find “You would think so, wouldn’t you” at all in the second story. I saw the line about ‘wouldn’t believe that’. And, I’ve read it twice. I didn’t see the connection to the girl and the line she blurted out. Am I missing something? “You wouldn’t believe that, would you” isn’t the same. While I understand what Raj is trying to do, even that sentence, used by the Doctor, and then repeated by the girl in the last paragraph is a stretch. I think if cleaned up and “You would think so, wouldn’t you” used several times throughout the story would be the ticket, and apparently that is what Ken is talking about.

  • Dean Hardage

    Robert and William walked together toward the strange looking tree near the old horse barn. Even from a distance William could tell it wasn’t a common oak or any other species he knew. The leaves were flat and strangely reflective, gleaming silver in the spring sunlight.

    “Is it some kind of sculpture?” William queried his friend.

    “No, it’s one of the Iron Trees from Tau Ignis 4. Have you heard of them?”

    “Hasn’t everyone? Trees that somehow incorporate metallic iron into their cellular structure but remain flexible and able to photosynthesize like any other plant. Aren’t they’re prohibited from export by the indigenous people.”

    “I have my means. For some reason they cultivate these beauties but never let them grow beyond four of their seasons. I was curious to know why.”

    “Inquisitiveness, my friend, was lethal to the domesticated feline.”

    Robert chuckled as William’s more literal description of a cat done it by curiosity. No one knew why the people of that world treated these trees as they did but he couldn’t imagine it could be dangerous.

    “Don’t worry, I test the soil and the air every day to be sure it’s not exuding some kind of poison, that any pollen it generates isn’t spreading. I have an electrostatic barrier to prevent that among other precautions. I just want to know why.”

    “You always want to know why. That’s how you got to where you are but it’s also how you’ve nearly been killed too many times for comfort.”

    “The key word in your sentence is ‘nearly’. I’m still alive and curious about everything. This is no different from any of the other things I’ve done.”

    “Wrong, my friend. This thing is from another world with who knows what differences in how it will change or react.”

    They reached the fence around the alien plant. The bark resembled that of an aspen, tight against the underlying fibers, and unblemished by knots or any other irregularity.

    “How did you get it to grow?”

    “It was germinated there, the sapling brought here. I salted the soil with all the minerals that were in its original location, including a good helping of powdered iron. It has grown this large in only 3 years.”

    “Three years? My god, look at the size of the lowest branch. It could easily support a few hundred pounds.”

    “You would think so, wouldn’t you? I’m getting ready to bring in a team to do a full work up on it. Biologists, botanists, chemists, the whole shebang. I’ve got to understand this thing and why it’s handled so carefully on TI4.”

    “How soon will you start?”

    “Monday. I’ve lined up all the people and gear, I just have to pull the trigger. I’ll give you a call as soon as I have some preliminary results.”

    “Whatever you say,” William said, shrugging. “I probably wouldn’t understand most of it anyway.”

    “Please. I can see you’re just as curious as I am. You’re just not willing to take the leap.”

    With that the pair turned and walked back toward the rambling farmhouse for lunch. .

    It was only a week later when William received an email with a large attachment from his friend. He opened the file and found a sheaf of laboratory results and report narratives about the alien plant growing on Robert’s property. After several hours of slogging through the unfiltered data and the technical jargon of the group Robert had assembled William began to get an idea of what they’d uncovered.

    A short note from Robert was ebullient, talking about the potential for using the tree’s alien biology. There was one phrase that sent a frisson of concern through his mind. Robert had said that there was a structure in the trunk that resembled a primitive brain. He thought that the tree might be capable of some kind of thought.

    That was the last time he heard from Robert. It was several weeks later, after there had been no further emails or calls that William became concerned. It took a few hours to get to the isolated farm and by then it was dark. A full moon hung about forty-five degrees up in the starry sky when he jumped out of the vehicle and ran to the house. The door was not secured and he ran in to find his friend. A fast, thorough search did not find him and Robert tore out of the house and toward the metallic tree glinting in the moonlight. Even from a distance he saw what had happened and his blood ran cold.

    Robert wasn’t dead as he’d feared, but his fate was something worse. The low branch they had both commented on had pierced his chest and he was hanging some eight feet off the ground. The area around where the branched protruded from his chest was slowly turning the same metallic color as the tree’s bark. William barely suppressed a scream when Robert’s eyes sprang wide open.

    “William……hoped…….you’d…..come. I……..know……..why………..they……….kill………..them.”

    “Don’t’ try to talk. I’ll get you out of there.”

    “NO……will…..only……..get…….you………..too. Record………”

    “I can get you out, let me get help!”

    “No….too……..late….already…………part…….of…….it. RECORD!?

    Helplessly William pulled out his phone, pointed it up and where his friend hung impaled by the branch.

    “Iron….trees……….are……symbiotes………….need……………mobile………. sentient………..being……….to…………….communicate…………..control……..natives………….once………..enslaved……………managed………….to…………..break………….free.”

    Horrified, a tearful William could only keep the phone focused on Robert and the struggle to warn against these things.


    William grasped what his friend meant immediately. The tree had so much iron in it that it would likely survive a normal blaze. Magnesium burned at over five thousand degrees and should do the job. He ran to the barn, quickly found several bags of powdered magnesium. He put it in a wheelbarrow along with two emergency flares and took it all back to the fence barrier. He ripped open the bags one at a time and threw them at the base of the tree, spilling their contents all around it.

    Robert screamed in agony, “HURRY……..IT…………..KNOWS!!”

    William saw the ground around the tree begin to undulate, then one root sprang out near him, as if trying to reach him. He threw the other bag and retreated, lit the flare, threw it at the base of the tree but a flailing branch knocked it away. He only had one left so he ran toward the tree, lighting the flare as he moved, ducking low and avoiding the moving earth. The flammable metal ignited with a flash of searing white light and Robert ran for the fence when he dropped the flare into the metal.

    Robert screamed again, but this was a scream of anger and defiance, the tree reacting to the hellish heat of the burning metal around it. William didn’t dare look back until he was fifty yards away. He could feel the heat even at this distance and saw what was left of his friend almost vaporize while the tree writhed and began to catch fire and melt in the magnesium conflagration. Tears filled his eyes and all he could think was that curiosity had finally caught up with the cat.

    • Dear Dean, Thank you for interesting story. It was matter of curio city for a reader and I was also curious. It was easy to understand and it went smoothly. You have tried to combine things of different world and scientific too. I spend little more time to understand matter of iron and magnesium. It is good idea to burn iron which ignite at 1500 degree (F) and magnesium when burn becomes 4000 degree (F)- you said 5000 degree that is also fine for the story. I was thinking what happened to Robert when the tree was burning at 4000 degree (F). You could apply some other mechanism that point. It was very good imagination. I enjoyed.
      • Dean Hardage
        The perils of trying to get a work done too quickly. That was a mistype and I didn’t catch it on my final editing run. Thanks for the review and the catch.
      • Dean Hardage
        PS, from another reference, “. Flame temperatures of magnesium and magnesium alloys can reach 3,100 °C (5,610 °F),” I kind of generalized.
    • Ken Cartisano
      A splendid story, Dean. Wonderfully creative and imaginative. Great writing too. Very enjoyable, CLASSIC science-fiction. I would wish that the ending was more open-ended, but that’s not a criticism, just a wish. (And a way of saying that this story, could have many other endings that would have been equally satisfying due to the great set-up and parameters.

      One particular sentence in the opening jumped out as having two typos in it. ‘Robert chuckled at William’s literal description of a cat done in by curiosity.’

      • Dean Hardage
        Poor editing on my part. I changed the line and didn’t change the words. Thanks for the catch.
    • I liked the story, but I had a problem with iron burning. Having worked in a steel mill as a blast furnace foreman for nine years where iron is produced, and still have the burn scars to prove it, Iron doesn’t burn. It melts. It does not ignite. Magnesium on the other hand does burn and burns hot enough to melt iron. I would make that a part of the story. Although, a simple throw away line such as “We have discovered many things about this plant, one of which is, even though it is composed of iron-like molecules, the strange thing is, it will burn”, or some such line. Otherwise, I kind of liked the SciFi ring to it. All in all, I liked the imagination of an ‘iron tree that is intelligent and that kills’. Nice.
      • Dean Hardage
        The tree wasn’t made of iron but had enough in it to resist ordinary flames. Didn’t have room to go deep into the tree itself.
    • I liked and enjoyed your story (pretty much without reservation as I know nothing about temperatures where metals burn or melt. I learned something from the comments).

      As a reader, one knows there is something potentially sinister about this tree, and that tension builds through the story until the gory moment when all is revealed. I thought the concept of the tree was great, and the execution really good. Indeed a classy story.

    • Amy Meyer
      I loved the concept for this story it’s a really fascinating idea. The start was very menacing which set up the grotesque branch impaling brilliantly. I wasn’t sure about the dialogue with the ellipses in between the words- I found it quite distracting. A very inventive response to the prompt.
  • Signing up for comments. I tried to vote during the past two contests but was unable to. Thought maybe if I sign up for comments I’ll be able to vote for this one? Good luck to everyone who enters.


  • Anindita Basu
    May not be able to to participate this time. Going out of town for vacation. Will try to read your stories friends. Have a good time writing.
    • Have a great time Anindita, we’ll look for your story next contest.
  • Carrie Zylka

    Glad to see Dean back in the mix (we’ve missed you my friend!!) And I can’t wait to read the stories so far. I’m packing up my house to move on the 1st so I’ve been a bit distracted. But I’m hoping to have a story in by this weekend!

  • Phil Town

    Ever had a nickname? It’s a sign of affection, isn’t it? People like you and want to go beyond your given name to express that affection. Take my nickname, for example: Bender. Now, there was a time when that was used as a hateful name for homosexual men in Britain. But as I’m called Ben, and I’ve never felt or shown any desire for blokes, then I know it’s meant affectionately.

    There’s usually a root to the nickname, isn’t there? The origin of mine was my ability to bend a football in the air, using the outside of my foot. There was a reason for Jeremy’s nickname, too, but for him there was no affection intended – quite the opposite, in fact.

    Jeremy joined our school midway through the first term. His father was something important in the diplomatic service, so Jeremy and his parents had to move around the world a lot. But because he missed the early weeks of the new school year, when bonds are formed, friends made, he was always a bit of a fish out of water.

    His personality didn’t help, of course; he always seemed aloof, and most perceived that as a sense of superiority. Indeed, it was easy to see where that opinion might have come from: ours was an inner-city comprehensive school, full of children of factory workers, hairdressers …

    The first time I heard him open his mouth – he was in my class – was when the teacher, old Mr Cobb, got him to give us an introduction to himself. Jeremy’s accent was like cut glass, speaking of another world and privilege.

    His behaviour didn’t help either. He made no effort whatsoever to make friends, and no one was going out of their way to befriend him, fearing that the association would damage their street-cred; I’m afraid I was no exception. I felt for him, though – you would, wouldn’t you – seeing him sitting alone in a corner of the school yard, bent over his book or portable chess-set. In retrospect, I could have done more, much more. But hindsight is easy.

    Games was compulsory at our school. Jeremy was useless at football – he had no coordination. I heard him tell the games teacher, by way of an excuse, that his game was “ruggah”. I doubted that he would have been any good at rugby either, though, as that game also requires a certain degree of physical skill that I was sure Jeremy didn’t possess. But anyway, there he was every Wednesday afternoon, stuck out on the wing with a ‘keep-that-ball-away-from-me’ kind of demeanour.

    We were required to have a shower after games, but somehow and for some reason that we would only later discover, Jeremy always dodged it. One Wednesday, though, the weather was appalling and the pitch was a sea of mud.

    The games teacher, Mr Morgan, was on hand in the changing room to make sure all the boys had the shower – sending them home covered in mud would have been difficult for the school to explain away. So this time, Jeremy had no escape.

    He was almost the last one in. I’d taken to observing him, perversely fascinated and intrigued as to what made him tick, and I noticed that he was dawdling with his bootlaces. Unfortunately for him, there was still one boy in the shower, and that was Micky Dunlop.

    Micky was the best footballer in the school, and he knew it. He was also super-confident and a favourite with the girls. And he had a small gang of hangers-on, basking in his reflected reputation. I saw Jeremy take off his shorts, with his back to me, and wrap a towel around himself for the short walk to the showers, separated from the changing area and lockers by a wall about six feet high.

    He draped his towel over the wall and entered the showers. No more than a couple of seconds later there was a loud yelp and Micky came slip-slapping out, laughing uncontrollably. He rounded up those members of his gang that hadn’t gone home yet and they all charged back into the showers.

    I resisted the urge to see what all the fuss was about, sensing the humiliation that was taking place, but heard the laughter and the taunting. In no time, I saw Jeremy’s towel get pulled down from the wall and he stumbled out, still with shampoo suds on his hair, his face crumpling. He hurried to his locker and grabbed his trousers.

    As he put them on, he dropped the towel and I caught sight of it: the longest penis I had ever – I HAVE ever – seen. And it was semi-erect. I know for a fact that my own hormones were dancing about all over the place at that age, so I can only imagine that Jeremy had experienced one of those moments. It was the wrong place, and the wrong time.

    Micky and his cronies were at the entrance to the showers, pointing, screaming with laughter. Micky shouted above the bedlam.

    “Bloody hell! Did you see that thing?! The size of a …” By his eyes you could see his brain searching for an appropriate simile. “… a branch!”

    The changing room erupted with an even louder wave of raucous laughter. I didn’t join in myself, but neither did I step in to try to stop it.

    Jeremy had his trousers on now and his feet pushed into his shoes. He grabbed the rest of his things and rushed out, past the group of baying, callous young boys, who spontaneously broke into a chant:


    And that’s how Jeremy got his nickname. The following days and weeks must have been a living hell for him: the laughter, the smirks, the whispers, the graffiti. Once again, I made no attempt to try to get close to him, to help him, and for this I felt utterly ashamed.

    A month or so later, Jeremy’s father was transferred again and Jeremy left the school. In an age before the Internet, I often wondered what became of him; I had visions of him doing something radical, like climbing a tree, stepping off and never hitting the ground. Some nights, when I couldn’t get to sleep, these thoughts would haunt me.

    A chance encounter a few years later dispelled all my fears: I bumped into Micky Dunlop in the street. After a brief exchange of personal information – I learned he was working in a factory and hating every minute of it – the conversation got around to Jeremy.

    “You heard about The Branch, I suppose?” he said.

    I hadn’t, so he told me.

    “Porn star! California. Making a mint! I saw Roz – you remember Roz, a year above us. She said she’d seen a documentary about him. You’ll never guess what he’s calling himself. Randy Branch! How about that?! Google it when you get home.”

    I did. I wasn’t sure that it was Jeremy’s ideal profession, to tell you the truth, but apparently he’s still at it to this day, so he must be happy. You would think so, wouldn’t you? At least I hope so.

    (1,195 words)

    • Dear Phil Town, Yo explained about the root of the nickname and its use. In your story i was thinking you will explore some disability on part of Jeremy so that people become kind of him. But branch twisted and you presented new branches. Interesting.
    • One of the things I like most about reading your stories is the out of the way use of prompts that you manage to create. This story is excellent and well written. When my daughter was in high school, she introduced me to a male friend of hers. Imagine my concern when I found out his nickname was ‘Meat’. As it turned out, it was short for Dimitri. I felt much better after learning that.
    • While going through “What’s in a name?”, I wished time and again that I could somehow get inside your head and see how your mind/brain functions while you write your stories. I could never imagine in my wildest dreams, Phil, that someone could write a story with the prompt on branch the way you have done it!
      Did you see the thing? The size of a …… branch! God! Who would have thought of making a story on, associating BRANCH with The Thing? Hats off to you.
      I love your language though I have to admit that the story is not as appealing as most of your stories are. One reason could be the choice of the subject matter. Anyway, you are way ahead of most of us, Phil.
      Good luck with your story.
    • Intriguing story old chap. The ending and Jeremy’s eventual career choice was a bit of a surprise though.
    • Well this is a Dirk Diggler of a story, Phil!

      Has all the elements of a high school movie. The kid no one respects ends up having an unexpected talent, and comes good in the end, so to speak. I’m sorry I wrote that, but you get my meaning.
      Jeremy’s a well drawn character, too.

    • Amy Meyer
      A hilarious story told through a charismatic narrator. Brilliant well done.
  • The Right Branch

    Miguel Diaz got to the street corner with his entire family in tow. His wife, Alicia carried their youngest, Camila, while Sophia and Isabella followed behind carrying small folding chairs. His son, Nicolas, was happily pulling a cooler filled with water and treats to share while they waited for the parade to start.

    “Daddy, wait for me. This cooler is heavy.”

    Miguel looked back at his son struggling as he pulled the cooler. “You need some help, Nicolas? I’m sure one of your little sisters will be glad to help you.”

    Nicolas looked horrified at the thought of sharing this important job with a girl, especially when that girl was one of his sisters. Gritting his teeth, he pulled all the harder, making sure his father noticed the effort. “I got this,” he said.

    It was the family’s first Fourth of July parade. Miguel was very proud to be an American citizen, second generation, His parents, he, his wife and children had all been born in the United States in Little Rock, Arkansas. Proud of their Hispanic heritage, Miguel and his family had assimilated easily into the American way of life, but had never attended a parade.

    “Alicia, this is where I think we will stay,” He set down the folding chairs he carried. Miguel had personally picked out the spot on the street corner because it had the advantage of seeing the parade turn the corner.

    Soon after they set up, several other families arrived and started setting up their chairs and arranging their coolers while they waited. Miguel had his cell phone in his hand looking at messages. He checked the time, 9:45, the parade would start at 10:00 promptly.

    The children kept pestering their parents about the start of the parade. Miguel’s eight-year old daughter Isabella asked, “When’s it gonna start, Daddy?”

    Miguel pointed to the clock on the tower in the town square. “It will start at ten o’clock. You’ll hear a loud bang when they set off the cannon. In the meantime, you look at the clock and tell me how soon that is.”

    Isabella followed his pointed finger and studied the clock. He watched as she cocked her head thinking the problem out. Suddenly she shouted with assurance, “In ten minutes. It’s ten minutes to ten,”

    “Excellent. You are absolutely correct.”

    ‘Well, well well. The little jumpin’ bean got it right. Ain’t that sumpthin’?” A loud, abrasive voice behind Miguel said.

    Miguel whirled around in the direction of the sound and looked at a rather inebriated man in a wife-beater t-shirt holding a bottle of beer as he took an unsteady step toward Isabella. Caught off guard at first, Miguel quickly changed his defensive posture and pulled Isabella behind him. Alicia sensed the danger and while holding Camila, quickly told the other children to come to her side.

    “You got somethin’ you want to say, Pedro? Do you even understand English.”

    “My name is Miguel and this is my ,,,”

    The man cut him off with an exaggerated wave of his beer bottle and muttered, “I ain’t interested in making friends with no friggin’ Mexicans.This is my country, not yours and you should be takin’ this little band of tamale eaters back to your real home.”

    Alicia spoke up, “This is our home. As much as it is yours.”

    “Your old man ain’t got enough backbone to answer his ownself? You do the talkin’ for your family instead of him? Sounds about right. All he’s probably good for is makin’ more little taco makers like them,” as he pointed at the children.

    Miguel took a couple of steps to put himself between his family and the drunken man. “We don’t want any trouble. We just want to watch the parade. Please leave us alone.”

    “Damn right there won’t be any trouble, cause there ain’t no sense in you watchin’ this parade. This ain’t the sink-o-de-mayo parade. This is an American parade and we don’t need any stinkin’ Mexicans or Africans.”

    The large black man standing near the group spoke up. “Look, we’re not bothering you. Why don’t you finish your beer down the street?”

    The drunk turned belligerently, “Stay out of this, buddy. This ain’t your fight.”

    Two mounted policemen, sensing a problem, rode up to the corner. One of them, the younger of the two officers, asked. “Is there a problem here?”

    “No problem officer. Just asking these foreigners to move off my street corner. This corner is reserved for Americans.” The drunk laughed shrilly and almost fell down.

    The younger policeman swung down from his horse and confronted the obnoxious man. “These people seem to be doing fine, as far as I can see. This is a free country. Move along buddy, before I run you in.”

    “You gonna take the sides of these illegal aliens over a white man? I was here first and these illegals come bargin’ in, along with this African here. Ask that man right there,” he said, pointing to a man nearby. “He’s white. Obviously from the right branch of the tree. He’ll take my side.”

    The man stepped forward. “You would think so, wouldn’t you?” He smiled, “You made a big mistake mister. Yes, I look white, but I’m also Jewish, and these fine people are all friends of mine. If anyone should leave this country, it’s bigots like you.”

    The younger policeman handed his reins to his partner and took out a pair of handcuffs, then told the man to turn around. “Bet you didn’t know that drinking beer on the sidewalk was illegal did you?”

    “You gonna arrest me? For exercisin’ my right to free speech?”

    “You have the right to free speech, but you don’t have a right to break the law. Drinking an alcoholic beverage on a public sidewalk is breaking the law.”

    The officer turned to Miguel. “Enjoy the parade. See you, Alicia and the kids at the barbecue. Three o’clock. Don’t forget, you’re taking my shift day after tomorrow.” He took the drunk’s arms and pulled them behind his back. “You are under arrest. You have the right to remain silent. You have the right … “

    • Thank you RM for interesting story. You revealed some branches. I am planning to visit US next time for the first time. I will have chance to meet few branches. ( I had post similar comments two days ago. I can not see now hence writing again. My internet went off. May be it was already off when I posted. Any way it is resume now)
    • Very good and well-written story, Roy, with solid values. Kind of a modern American fable. I liked it.

      (Can’t fathom this not drinking in the street law in America. I think it’s compulsory in some British town centres!)

      • Thanks, Andy. The law in question is one of community choice. Some cities, like Las Vegas, have it. Others may or may not depending on the community. I am frustrated with the divisiveness in this country at the present time, so I put them in story form to help my frustrations. If I’m any judge of character at all, I saw a little of the same frustration in Ken’s story, when he wrote “Are they as delusional as their leader?” I could be wrong about that, but I’d like to think not.
    • Amy Meyer
      Well written with a compelling conflict that made the story tense. I felt like the message was a little heavy handed- I thought the argument between characters could have conveyed your message with more subtlety. Overall an entertaining story.
      • Actually, Amy, that’s as subtle as I could be and still have tension I think. A little less and the story loses its impact. If I made you slightly uncomfortable, that was my intention as a writer. The original was more violent, but i backed some of that out, not wanting to turn this into a disagreeable story, but one everyone could relate to. I wanted my antagonist to be drunk, hiding behind his alcohol, a lot like the people on social media who spew their vitriolic hatred with impunity mostly under the cover of anonymity. Something they wouldn’t do normally in front of someone in person.
  • Oh, God! The line should be: You wouldn’t think so, would you? I’m really sorry, Roy. But I won’t ask Carrie for a favour any more. I can’t blame her if she starts calling me names then.
    You can’t expect every writer to be a winner, right? I will start reading the stories soon. Till then, take care and stay happy. Regards.
    • Nice story, Roy. You portray America in such a beautiful light. I felt, while going through your story, that I was there waiting impatiently on the street for the parade to begin at ten. I like the ending. I realize what you meant when you asked me to ‘show rather than tell’ while writing my stories.
      One advantage most of you have over me is your command over the language. It’s quite disquieting to know that at 57, no matter however hard I try, I can never write like the way you people do. But it’s also heartening to believe that I’ll keep on learning from you so long as I stay connected with you all.
      With lots of love.
      • That’s where the discipline comes in. I defy anyone in this group to read your comment and even faintly suggest that the person who wrote it had English as a second language. That goes back to an earlier crit I wrote to you that you write comments differently than your stories. Need evidence? Re-read your comments. Figure out how to apply that to a story. You have a load of talent that, if you intend to keep writing in English against authors whose first language is English, you simply need to take the time to edit and reference back against previously written stories by those authors until it becomes familiar. Then, the day will come you will write the story that knocks everyone out and takes the prize, while those who are unfamiliar with your English writing skills admire a finely crafted story. Write shorter stories, and keep the words to a minimum. Don’t use big words at first until familiar, and use shorter sentences. It’s a discipline I use when I find myself writing grammatically incorrect sentences. And, yes, I still do it. It’s why I have beta readers. To point out those inconsistencies, and how easy it is to fall into that trap. Roy
        • Thank you, Roy. Each email from you that is addressed to me, is simply priceless. I thank my lucky star for chancing upon you. I don’t know how to do it, otherwise I would have copy-pasted all your emails in a file and gone through them time and again for the sheer pleasure and joy they provide me. I think you should start blogging or updating an FB page titled: How To Be A Better Writer? Do you think ‘Steps to Change Yourself from a Mediocre to an Enviable Writer’ sounds better?
          Whatever, thanks for your time and advice.
          I do want your remark – Then the day will come when you write the story that knocks everyone out and takes the prize, to be prophetic. What a day it will be for me! Thanks for your belief in me, for all your support and encouragement, for bothering to point out the mistakes of an English Teacher who teaches English to students whose first language is English.
          Love you. With all the best wishes
          • Ken Cartisano

            You wrote: ‘I’m an English Teacher who teaches English to students whose first language is English.’ ? This sentence is like a Penrose Triangle, or a Devil’s Tuning Fork.. One of those four cornered staircases that only goes up but still connects to itself. Interesting. But it’s nothing like having a crazy psychology professor. Or a communist sociology teacher. It’s not like that.

            One would have to conclude that you’re very fluent in English in order to be able to teach English. And I suppose, when it comes to writing stories, that’s relevant, but not indicative of the quality of the output. Since, there are many English speaking people in the world, but most of them are not skilled writers.

            On this last story that I wrote, I thought my first draft was great. Then I read it out loud and found numerous poorly constructed sentences. Too many big words in sentences that were too long. I re-wrote it. (Second draft.) I re-read it another five times and realized some of my paragraphs were in the wrong place. I had related topics scattered throughout the story. Generally speaking, related topics should be arranged in close proximity, most of the time. I also found and deleted redundant phrases and duplicate words.

            I re-wrote it. (Third draft.) I carefully screened the story for excessive prose, great sounding but unnecessary phrases and sentences. There were quite a few. I realized that my word count was low enough that I could insert some descriptive elements to add depth to the scene and the characters. So I re-wrote it. (Fourth Draft.)

            Then, I handed the story over to the most critical reader I know. (My father.) He pointed out some historical / factual errors, and pointed out a few facts about WWII that I didn’t know. (He’s a veteran and served with an engineering brigade, the guys that built the pontoon bridges.) His knowledge and feedback provided me with an idea to connect, or string the entire story together into a more cohesive narrative. (Fifth draft.)

            I can’t speak for everyone, but if your point is that a well informed knowledge of English is no guarantee of a well-written story, then I would agree. For me, it’s more a result of a good premise, effective and realistic dialogue, and relentless and objective editing. And despite my extensive knowledge of English, I can still write some pretty bad stories if I’m not diligent.

            And finally, despite all of this effort, I’m not sure that many people will truly understand the point of my story, nor am I convinced that it’s really all that good. But I’m proud of it.

  • The line is “You WOULD think so, WOULDN’T you. Not that I’m getting cranky or anything.

    I think it’s important it be correct, or everyone would have impunity to change the simplest of things to write their story the way they wanted, never mind the prompt.

    For me it adds a discipline I need as a writer. But, I understand, and as I rewrite your story in my mind it makes more sense, but you need to pay attention … when I was a kid I was too poor to pay attention, but that’s all changed now that I’m all grown up and everything.

    I see a very good writer lurking in your stories, and a little discipline won’t hurt. You would think so, wouldn’t you?

    • Thanks, Roy. I’m ashamed of admitting that I’ve always been a very impractical, immature, undisciplined and disorganized man all my life. I haven’t changed a wee bit over the years. That’s why I could never be a successful man. Being the youngest member of a very large family has its own drawbacks, you know.
      But for the love and respect I have for you, I’ll try to be more attentive from now on. YOU would think so, wouldn’t you, Roy?
      With warm regards,
  • Tap, tap, tap!
    Jake awoke with a start from a rather interesting dream. In it his ten year old Jack Russell Terrier had been conversing with him. Jake was unsure whether he had become conversant in dog Barkish or whether Andy was suddenly able to speak Humanish.
    “Look out, look out”, Andy had barked or rather spoken. “They’re coming for you. Lock the windows! Bar the doors! Pleeasse, Pleasssee!” The last two words he had spoken was growled rather than spoken.
    Jake was not sure what to make of the dream. The wind was howling a gale outside.
    Tap, tap, tap. TAP, TAP, TAP! Tap, tap, tap. There it was again. Jake sat up in bed. The dim glow from his night light cast a greenish pall over his doona on the bed and his charcoal bedroom carpet. At the foot of his bed, Andy was coiled into a tight ball with his nose stuck right into the space between his stomach and right flank. He was making little yipping noises as though chasing someone in a hunting dream.
    Tap, tap, tap. TAP, TAP, TAP! Tap, tap, tap. There it went again. Jake shivered and then nearly jumped out of his skin as Andy growled loudly and uncoiled in one smooth movement to leap into high alert standing square on all four legs at the end of Jake’s bed.
    Jake’s eyes followed the direction the dog was looking and growling. All he could see was a branch hitting the window. There was something rather odd about it. Jake was trying to work it out, when suddenly it came to him what was strange.
    Outside the wind was whipping the trees and bushes into a frenzy of movement. Thrashing and threshing branches and leaves peeling off branches such was the violence of the wind, but the branch was hitting the window of Jake’s bedroom was at a measured pace. It was almost as if something other than the wind outside was controlling its movements.
    Jake shivered and slipped out of his bed to turn on the big light. Just as his feet touched the carpet, the room was plunged into darkness and the dog went ballistic. Now Jake was scared.
    “Andy, ANDY shut up! SIT DOWN!” But the dog acted as if he had not heard Jake. There was a hysterical note to the dog’s barking now. There was a sound of cracking, smashing glass and a tinkle of the same falling on the floor. That was worse.
    Jake started to move over to the doorway to the central light switch. Then he realised his torch was in the bedside table drawer. It was a great torch, bought for him by his Uncle Ken who went camping with Jake and his dad every December holidays.
    “Whew”, he thought to himself. “Thank goodness for Uncle Ken, and the torch. He pulled open the drawer rather violently grabbed the torch, flicked the switch, and then froze in horror.
    “WHAT THE…” Jake blurted as the glass in his torch cracked and blew out. Andy ran to the door and whimpered in a frightened heap of hackled fur and snarling teeth.

      Tap, tap, tap!
      Jake awoke with a start from a rather intriguing dream. In it his ten year old Jack Russell Terrier had been conversing with him. Jake was unsure whether he had become conversant in dog Barkish or whether Andy was suddenly able to speak Humanish.

      “Look out, look out”, Andy had barked or rather spoken. “They’re coming for you. Lock the windows! Bar the doors! Pleeasse, Pleasssee!” The last two words he had spoken were growled rather than spoken.
      Jake was not sure what to make of the dream. The wind was howling a gale outside.

      Tap, tap, tap. TAP, TAP, TAP! Tap, tap, tap. There it was again. Jake sat up in bed. The dim glow from his night light cast a greenish pall over his doona on the bed and his charcoal bedroom carpet. At the foot of his bed, Andy was coiled into a tight ball with his nose stuck right into the space between his stomach and right flank. He was making little yipping noises as though chasing someone in a hunting dream.

      Tap, tap, tap. TAP, TAP, TAP! Tap, tap, tap. There it went again. Jake shivered and then nearly jumped out of his skin as Andy growled loudly and uncoiled in one smooth movement to leap into high alert standing square on all four legs at the end of Jake’s bed.

      Jake’s eyes followed the direction the dog was looking and growling. All he could see was a branch hitting the window. There was something rather odd about it. Jake was trying to work it out, when suddenly it came to him what was strange.
      Outside the wind was whipping the trees and bushes into a frenzy of movement. Thrashing and threshing branches and leaves peeling off branches such was the violence of the wind, but the branch was hitting the window of Jake’s bedroom was at a measured pace. It was almost as if something other than the wind outside was controlling its movements.
      Jake shivered and slipped out of his bed to turn on the big light. Just as his feet touched the carpet, the room was plunged into darkness and the dog went ballistic. Now Jake was scared.

      “Andy, ANDY shut up! SIT DOWN!” But the dog acted as if he had not heard Jake. There was a hysterical note to the dog’s barking now. There was a sound of cracking, smashing glass and a tinkle of the same falling on the floor. That was worse.
      Jake started to move over to the doorway to the central light switch. Then he realised his torch was in the bedside table drawer. It was a great torch, bought for him by his Uncle Ken who went camping with Jake and his dad every December holidays.

      “Whew”, he thought to himself. “Thank goodness for Uncle Ken, and the torch. He pulled open the drawer rather violently grabbed the torch, flicked the switch, and then froze in horror.
      “WHAT THE…” Jake blurted as the glass in his torch cracked and blew out. Andy ran to the door and whimpered in a frightened heap of hackled fur and snarling teeth.

      Jake was lying flat – spreadeagled on the floor of his bedroom. Two paramedics were working on him. His mother was quietly sobbing into the shoulder of his father. Jake’s father had an arm around his mother Carrie’s shoulders, gently stroking her arm. Jake on the other hand, did not quite understand what was happening.
      “The adrenaline shots haven’t worked. There isn’t much we can do now.”

      “There isn’t anything more you can do? Can’t we try CPR again? Please, PLEASE?” Carrie left the protected circle of Rob’s arms to plead with them.
      The older paramedic stood up. “I am awfully sorry, Mrs….Mrs Bough. I wish we could. However it appears he has had some sort of shock. His heart has stopped.”
      “But he is only thirteen years old. He’s so young. He shouldn’t have heart trouble at that age.”
      The two paramedics looked at each other. The younger one shrugged.

      “You would think so, wouldn’t you?” The two men began to pack up their equipment. One of them turned to the Boughs.
      “There is someone coming to see you, but I am sure you would like some time alone with your son to say goodbye. Wouldn’t you?”

      Jake was waving frantically at his mother and father. They did not appear to see him. It took him a good hour to realise that he must be in some other dimension. He sat on his dead body and tried to get the attention of his parents.
      “Look, LOOK here! I am ok. See, SEE.” he waved his fragile ghost hands in front of his family and also in front of Andy who wagged his tail and barked happily; much to the consternation of his parents. The dog could see him, but they apparently, could not. The dog even leapt up to put his paws on Jake’s knees but went right through him to the dog’s surprise.
      The next few days were a living hell for Jake. His body was taken away by the police to await an inquest into his death. Jake himself was mystified. He honestly could not remember the point of decease or death. He remembered something about the branch breaking through into the bedroom, but strangely enough there was no broken glass in the room. Something was lurking around in the recesses of his ghostly subconsciousness.

      The wake after his funeral was the worst. He heard things about himself that he would rather have not known.
      His mother and father were finally left alone. Jake was racking his brain thinking about how he was going to let them know he was alive.

      “You won’t, you know!”

      Jake nearly jumped out of his ghostly skin.

      “Don’t even think about it.” That was enough.

      “Who are you?” Jake stammered.

      “You will find out shortly.” The mysterious voice continued. “When we are good and ready for you.”

      Jake was quiet for all of four more days of floating in space and time.
      It was night when they did come. Two angels shaped in the form of two tree branches. They were tall and covered in green leaf and red flowers. They engulfed him and absorbed his essence.

      It was then he remembered them bursting through the window of his bedroom on that stormy night weeks before. He thought he had fainted or died when one of the angels shot out a gnarled limb and pierced his chest to withdraw his soul.

      Poor Jake. And poor little Andy who had to witness this terrible situation and the subsequent distress of Jake’s confused wraith. Andy refused to eat and died one night on Jake’s bed a month or so later.

      • Thank you Ilana for your interesting story. I was reading your story under sound of rain. Sound of rain mixed with tap, tap, tap. I was reading the action of dog interestingly. You presented nicely. Some time dog continue growling pointing to a direction to the unknown distance. Even we asked to keep quite. They act as if they are asking us to explore more. I was thinking why Andy refused to eat and died. There is some thing missing in the story that would should relation between Andy and parents create this situation of deep grief.
      • Ken Cartisano
        In a previous comment you wrote: ‘I already have a prompt… Starts with L and ends with S. See if you can guess it? If you do, I’ll use your name for the main character in my story.’
        The main character in your story is Andy? The dog?
        Sorry about your luck, Andy. At least you’re a Jack Russell Terrier.

        What was the significance of the popping of the flashlight? Was Uncle Ken up to some murderous meddling? (I hope.) Or was it all some kind of heavenly interference on the part of the Branch Davidians?

      • Amy Meyer
        I absolutely loved the creepy tree branch- really tense and spooky. I thought the second half of the story was weaker and the angels were introduced too late in the story. I thought the dog character was great both as an early warning system and to see him in the afterlife.
  • I’m sorry but I am posting in two parts. The next sentence will be “You would think so, wouldn’t you?” I am in the public library as I have a few internet and IT issues and forgot my flash drive. I will be posting the full story tomorrow before voting starts. There is only half a story here and I will ask Alice and Carrie to delete this and put in the full story. Sorry. More to come.
    • Well, Ilana! So the prize for guessing the prompt is to be an ageing Jack Russell??
      I would have thought a lovable Old English Sheepdog or a muscular and loyal Great Dane would be more appropriate. Or a large, friendly and lollopy mongrel, even! LOL.
      Actually very well-written, and I’m looking forward to the second part.
      …. I think …
      • LOL
      • Both you and Dean capture the thing about the malevolent tree that does what it does because it’s in its nature to do so. Really scary here because of the murder of innocence, with the child and, unforgivably, the DOG. (How could you?!)

        I think you have a potential career as a horror writer, as well as a dog (or pommie) murderer.

        Good story.

  • For Everything. (Pour tout.)
    By Ken Cartisano ©July 2018
    (1136 words.)

    I was an eighteen-year-old Private stationed on the Maginot Line when the Germans by-passed my unit, along with the rest of the French Army. They thundered through the Ardennes Forest, killing cows and villagers with equal fervor. Within weeks, five Nazi Divisions were goose-stepping through the streets of Paris. Many of us shed our uniforms and fled to the relative safety of the Southern coast of France.

    I joined ‘The Underground,’ a branch of the French Resistance, smuggling messages at first, then weapons, and eventually people, back and forth across enemy lines. Before it was over, I watched the Germans plunder my country for art, jewelry, and money: For four long years we suffered under their reign of calm, efficient terror.

    We were early and first-hand witnesses to Aryan brutality. The Germans were curious, analytical, surprisingly cultured, but cruel and utterly without remorse.

    When the allies regrouped from their ignominious retreat in 1940, they returned in force, spearheaded by a massive contingent of mostly American men and armor. They trudged through all perils with an unflagging disregard for personal comfort, deprivation, or hygiene. It was not difficult to admire the Yanks, from a distance. When they were told to advance, they advanced. When they were told to rest, they slept, sometimes standing up. They were unkempt, cynical, young and often gangly: always smoking, or chewing gum, or eating chocolate. Their weapons and gear were fairly equal to the Germans, but they had so much more of it.

    The Brits, by contrast, were stiff and reserved, much more orderly and professional than the Americans. While they allowed themselves a grudging respect for the Yanks, they could barely hide their disdain for us Frenchmen. Even though they too might have succumbed to the German onslaught if not for the English Channel.

    Despite facing overwhelming odds, the Germans made one last suicidal attempt to beat back the avenging horde of allied forces. I was witness to that too, as part of a small group of militant Resistance fighters.

    When the German military counter-attack stalled, they retreated, slowly, defiantly forcing the allies to fight for every little village and crossroad, every bakery and bike shop, and all were flattened or burned. Sometimes both. The Germans borrowed a page from Russia’s playbook: running low on fuel and ammunition, they burned everything they couldn’t eat, steal, carry or kill.

    Most Germans rejected the notion of defeat. They had fallen under the spell of a mentally deranged tyrant. Though their cause was hopeless, they fought with such ruthless tenacity, that there were occasions when they were killed in a rage of retribution even when they eventually tried to surrender.

    The Rhine River presented the last natural barrier to the heart of Germany. Small defensive garrisons, dug in on the opposite bank could hold an entire regiment at bay for days on end, exacting terrible tolls on the Allied forces. In their coordinated retreat, the Germans demolished every bridge that spanned the Rhine. All but one, the Bridge at Remaggen.

    I had seen it first hand. For this incredible but unsubstantiated intelligence, I was granted the rare privilege of spending the night in the American camp.

    I was bivouacked within the guarded perimeter, well west of the front lines, where I met a Yankee soldier, a grunt like myself, similar in age. He drifted over nonchalantly and squatted down next to me, warming his hands over the fire. A cloud of cigarette smoke trailed him, mingling with the scent of gunpowder, burning wood and freshly turned earth. He opened the pack and offered me one.

    “Merci. Thank you.” I said.

    I was holding a torn poster with a picture of the Nazi despot presiding over a huge rally. His fists were clenched and his mouth was open, caught in the act of spewing bombast and vitriol that somehow transformed otherwise sensible people into surging mobs. It was rumored that he had ordered his soldiers to fight to the death, a senseless and futile gesture.

    “Why don’t they surrender?” The Yank said. “They must know they can’t win. Are they as delusional as their leader?”

    I didn’t know, or really care. I was freezing, if you want to know the truth.

    He pointed at the picture. “What self-respecting person could, I don’t know, swear allegiance to someone so repulsive? I mean look at him.” We stared at the poster awhile. He flicked the last of his cigarette into the fire and retrieved another, sticking it between his lips. He offered me another too, and said, “Better smoke ‘em now, Frenchie. You don’t smoke ‘em anywhere near the front unless you wanna get shot.”

    I could understand a little English, but could not really converse with him, none-the-less I managed to say, “Thank you,” again. “Pour tout.” I added.

    The flare of a match illuminated his face, revealing a distant, far-away look in his eyes. I don’t think he knew what I meant, or cared. He suddenly snapped his attention to me and said, “I got orders to move out tomorrow, Frenchie. I’m gonna chain-smoke ‘til the lights go out.”

    Without knowing his meaning, I politely agreed.

    We would all move out in the morning, an irresistible mass of men and machinery, grinding its way into the heart of their wrecked country. We saw the concentration camps: The hideous, rotting piles of flesh and bone – offering their silent testimony to man’s inherent indifference to humanity. We committed a few crimes ourselves. The German locals who swore they knew nothing were treated no better, or worse, than those who shamefully confessed. We had little sympathy for the German civilians. But all of that was yet a few weeks away.

    “Where’re you headed?” The Yank asked.

    “I have no knowledge,” I replied, in broken English.

    “Good answer, Frenchie.”

    Americans! Even after providing such valuable information, this insignificant soldier felt the need to test me. No one knows where they’re being deployed, and if they do, they certainly don’t share the information. “Loose leaps, zink sheeps,” I replied, mimicking a popular expression among the Americans.

    “I’ve got to muster at zero-five-thirty,” he said, scratching his beard. “I could use a shave.”

    We both rose to our feet. He handed me the rest of the cigarettes. “I’ve got more,” he said, “Keep ‘em,” and started to walk away. He took a few steps and then paused and looked back. “Hey Frenchie.”

    “Yes?” I said.

    “Not that it could ever happen but… if the shoe’s ever on the other foot, I hope you boys will return the favor.”

    He was gone before I could reply, but he left me with a renewed feeling of optimism in that freezing night.

    Would we help the Yanks in a similar situation?

    You would think so, wouldn’t you?

    I fed the poster into the fire.

    • I was left wondering Ken. Not quite sure what to make of this story. It sort of circled around me and left me a little confused.
    • Amy Meyer
      This was a story of two halves. I enjoyed the second half, the soldier’s conversation, which was more compelling. But I felt that the first half leafed through the history books pulling out stereotypes without dramatising the action. The writing was very good.
      • Thanks Amy, Your comments are insightful and intriguing. (And I don’t write that with tongue in cheek.) I can only suppose that the stereotypes you refer to are descriptions of the German people. This was an issue I wrestled with. The Nazi regime was cruel. This is undeniable. They were also Germans. The Nazi regime rewarded and encouraged cruelty while punishing kindness. But you can’t hold the Nazis accountable without some blame falling on the German people. Their mind-set, philosophy. Their belief that they were ‘the Master-Race’ parallels a disturbing tendency here in the U.S. toward describing what I think is a ‘philosophical void’ as ‘American exceptionalism.’ What bullshit! The point is, when a country goes bad, or its leadership goes bonkers, you cannot (with a clear conscience) exonerate the entire country. Can you?
        Maybe you can. Maybe one has to. I didn’t resolve the conflict in my mind or in the story. It was just there, like a nautical hazard in a waterway that must be crossed on a regular basis.
        And this question is, for me, now, very, very relevant.
    • From your later comments it seems you don’t like your story, Ken?

      First up, I like the set-up and the concept. Having a thoughtful French guy as the central character is refreshing and has, I think, lot of potential. I think you could have dug a bit deeper with that – perhaps, as Amy says – dropping some of standard depictions of national character that eat up the word cont..

      In a short short story like this, it’s hard to know how far to go with the history. You’re encompassing 5 years in 1200 words, and a 5 years in which a lot happened.

      But maybe there’s more scope for nuance. These days the characterisation of the French as ‘cheese-eating surrender-monkeys’ is more or less universal. But very unfair for WW2. They were beaten (as were the other allies in Europe), but the Free French army fought hard and successful campaigns in North Africa and Italy, and were there on D-Day too. By the time of crossing into Germany, the French Army numbered over a million, I think.
      So the soldier didn’t need to have thrown away his uniform. If he wasn’t one of the huge numbers captured and sent to German labour camps, he could have stayed with the French Vichy government forces and then defected to the Free French, or something. As many did. But I’m re-writing your story for you. Whether with the resistance or Free French, there’s scope for building the narrator’s character more, perhaps.

      “they returned in force, spearheaded by a massive contingent of mostly American men and armor” – Of course during the Normandy landings the Americans were not the majority. It was British and Commonwealth (mainly Canadian). though as you go into 1945 the American forces are indeed more numerous (and the French, too), plus Indians, Polish, Czech etc.

      One final thing: your character wonders at the end if the French would return the favour for the Americans. Well of course they had done. Lafayette and co, and mostly the French Navy back in seventeen hundred and whatever. If not for them, Americans would still be saying pavement instead of sidewalk, singing God Save the Queen and drinking tea with their pinkie pointing out. So arguably, US actions in France in WW1 and 2 are returning an earlier foundling favour.

      So anyway, you can see your story got me thinking and I very much enjoyed reading it.

      • Andy,

        Thanks for the thoughtful feedback on my story. Frankishly, (haha, I mean Frankly, the dearth of comments seems to indicate that the story was not well received.) I have several theories on this. One, it sucked. The first half of the story is like a documentary, even though I’m allegedly setting up the final scene, (which is only about 800 words away. That’s practically right across the street, in literary terms. Wiki ‘bullshit’ if you don’t believe me.) Sometimes, I leave parts of my research in the story. (Unintentionally of course.) Usually, I only leave a paragraph or two, at the beginning, and most often I catch and delete before I post it. In this case, half the story reads like a summary of my research (or knowledge.) But I don’t really think that’s the whole problem.

        Theory two: Execution error. It’s possible that the inherent prejudicial judgment of Germans was ill-received. But the viewpoint was that of a Frenchman recollecting an event several years after the fact. I attempted to show this, without telling it, but I don’t think that it worked at all. The ending for this story was the whole idea, everything before it was not supposed to be that important, or specific, or long or boring.

        Historically, WWII was a global free-for-all. Courage and cruelty were suffered and committed on all sides, obviously. And treachery. Less obvious but critical is the possibility that France and Britain’s far-flung ‘possessions’ exacerbated the complexity of choosing alliances. Palestine, or, the area formerly known as Palestine, is a striking lesson in poor strategic thinking.

        In addition to countries all over Europe, battles were fought in places like Burma, Tunisia, Egypt, China, Manchuria, Indonesia, Libya, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. You probably know all of this. But the point is:

        Despite the number of countries and combatants, I’m sure we’d both agree that Britain and America won world war two, working together, with the help of the Russians, who had every reason to act unilaterally. It was certainly not the French. No offense is meant but, I believe the British sank France’s Mediterranean fleet in self-defense shortly after their ‘armistice’ with Germany. As for Britain’s part, it would have been virtually impossible to retake that continent without a free, determined and resourceful Britain, a perfect forward base of operations. Still, the U.S. fought on two fronts simultaneously, starting out with a drastic Naval disadvantage in the Pacific due to Japan’s tactics. That was no small feat.

        So the U.S. played a major role, but that doesn’t rule-out the possibility that the U.S. might require assistance from France or Britain at some future point. In early versions the American was smugly satirical, but later versions toned down his optimism. Anyway, that was the intended point of the story. The fact that no country is immune to the threat of fascism, and fanaticism.

  • Amy Meyer
    by Amy Meyer (1,100 words)

    Emelia was waist deep in fast flowing cold water halfway across the river when she froze. She took a deep breath and tightened her grip on the prickly rope, that they’d strung from shore to shore. Her knuckles were white.

    Viv, the group leader, noticed her hesitation, turned to smile at her and said something that was lost in the roar of water. The other gap year students who had already reached the bank cheered their encouragement. Emelia nodded and tried to focus on Viv’s calming authority, her confident expression. Although Viv was in her 40s, she was wearing a yellow SpongeBob SquarePants bandana. Emelia smiled at the incongruous fashion choice, took a deep breath and inched forward. The palm and fingers of her hand burned and she slid them over the rope. The force of the river pushed her whole body into the rope and it cut into her waist. Despite the coolness of the water she was sweating in the hot and sticky air. She had been traveling around Costa Rica for a month, but had never got used to the humidity.

    She had reached the middle of the river when she stumbled. For a split second, her feet left the ground and she lost grip of the rope her left hand. Unbalanced, she was spun around and plunged in to the water. The river pushed her under the rope and she grabbed at it, but it slipped out of her hold. Viv lunged at Emelia’s pack, clawed a grip on the handle with her fingertips, but a split second later it slipped off, and Emelia was plunged downstream in a whirling tumble of foaming water.

    Her head bobbed above the water, and she drew a gasping yawn of air. She righted herself, stretched her legs down to the river bed and scrapped her feet across the pebbled riverbed, trying to slow her progress. She felt rocks underwater and jammed her foot down. She felt her sandal strap catch between the rocks. A piece of driftwood slammed into her back and tipped her off her tentative balance. The river pulled her downstream, but her foot was trapped, and she fell face down into the water. She couldn’t breath. The water thundered over her back pressing her down, as she tried to arch her head above the water. She kicked hard at the rocks, but the strap was wedged in tightly. She flailed her body and pulled again at her foot. It popped free with a snap that reverberated through her whole body. The pain shot up in streaks, exploding in her head and pressing on her eyeballs. She wanted to close her eyes and let the river sweep her away.

    She tried to swim to the shore, but the current swept her along so that she was trapped in the deep centre. The river swept her around a bend. Further down the river, arching out of the water in at it’s centre was a blackened branch. The roar of the water became louder and she saw the foam and rocks of a white water rapid. She shuddered as she surveyed the sharpness of the rocks and the water foaming over them.

    As the river swept her closer to the branch she caught hold of a lower offshoot, then pulled herself hand-over-hand until she had a firmer hold. Her wrists shook from fatigue as she clung on and the river rushed around her. She looked upstream hoping to see some sign of a rescue. Surely they would be looking for her.

    She turned back to the churning rapids downstream. Now she was closer she could make out a grey gravel bar protruding out from the right bank. She watched the flow of the water as it hit the bar and skirted around it. If she let the river take her further downstream she might be able to get close enough to land herself on shore. She eyed the churning rapids just beyond the bar. If she missed it, the rocks would cut her to pieces. Her arms trembled with the effort of holding onto the branch.

    She took a deep breath and plunged in the water. She kicked her feet trying to swim towards the bank. Her ankle exploded in pain, but she forced herself to swim with all her remaining strength towards the gravel bar. From a distance, the gravel bar had appeared to taper into the water, but now she was in the middle of it she could see tell that it formed a kind of cliff edge with the water next to the gravel the deepest. The current concentrated into the centre of the river and pulled her around the curve. She was going to miss it. She flung herself towards the bar, her hands clutching at the scattering pebbles. Her arms shook as she heaved her torso onto the bank. Her legs were still being pulled downstream, curving her body unbearably. She tensed her arms and with the last of her strength, pulled her whole body onto the bank.

    She arched up on all fours and vomited. She crawled towards the tree line, shivering in her soaking wet clothes.

    The next thing she knew, she opened her eyes to a twilit evening. The air was shrill with the call of insects. Her whole body felt stiff and achey. She could hear people shouting in the forest nearby.
    “Help” she called out, her voice hoarse. “Help!” she cried again, this time more forcefully. The shouting in the forest paused and she could hear a person crashing through the undergrowth. She suddenly wondered if making her presence known had been a good idea. It could be anyone out there. She squinted into the dark of the forest trying to make out the person rushing towards her, aware she had no energy left for a fight.

    A flash of yellow. Closer. A yellow bandana bobbed out of the gloom. Viv! Emelia started to laugh hysterically, thinking that she’d never been so thrilled to see SpongeBob SquarePants.
    “Oh Viv, thank god. I’m so happy to see you. So glad that you’ve come to rescue me,” Emelia said crawling forward, tumbling over her words in her relief.
    “You would think so, wouldn’t you?” said Viv, wrenching back Emelia’s hair and pressing a knife to her neck.

    • Ken Cartisano

      What? No. No way. No. No, no, no, no. no. You can’t do that. You can’t summarily besmirch the reputation of Spongebob Squarepants. There’s no way that he would allow himself, even on a headband, to be involved in a murder. And I’m not even a fan of Sponge-bob. It’s just, common sense. It’s Sponge-bob Squarepants. It’s like making a movie where Batman tries to take down Superman. It’s ridiculous! It makes no sense. Why would Sponge-bob allow his headband to be worn by a — what is that woman, anyway? Was that a Scout Leader? If that was a Girl Scout leader… then it’s totally believable.
      But the Sponge-bob thing? We can’t have that.
      I’m calling the Keystone Cops on you.

    • Great story Amy and the surprise ending was great. Loved it.
    • Dear Amy, It was not easy to follow Emelia along the river It created great tension. Any way story landed nicely at the end.
    • A wonderful story, Amy. Though I am being honest in saying that some parts are not very clear to me. But what about your language? Scintillating! You people are so gifted that you can shine anywhere with the brilliance and power of your language alone! Last time I tried writing a story, I couldn’t do it the way I wanted to due my poor vocab. You have shown me through your story here how writing can be a joy for those with a command over the language, not to forget the reader as well.
      I don’t mean to say it’s flawless. Somewhere you have used both say and tell without any punctuation mark. A typo made the final ‘e’ missing after breath in the middle. But these minor mistakes do not take the credit away from your story. The surprising ending of the story is the icing on the pudding. Don’t lose your focus, my friend, for writing comes naturally to you and is your great forte.
      Good luck and best wishes.
    • Very vivid story, Amy. I was carried along with the current myself, the description is so immediate.

      As SpongeBob bandana? I’ll have to get one now, a must-have if ironic fashion accessory. You use it effectively to make Viv seem harmless, if a little eccentric. but then, it turns out, he’s not.

      The only thing is, I don’t understand why. Why did an adventure group leader want to kill (maim/abduct/frighten) a gap year student? I couldn’t see a hint of motive in the story (did I miss it?) and it seems certain she’d be caught with the others so close by. So I enjoyed the ride, but in the end I was a little mystified.

      • (Typo: end of 2nd paragraph should be she not he. Need an edit button)
    • Well, you certainly made good use of the prompt, Amy. Yes, indeed. While I loved the twist to make the prompt work, I didn’t understand why and I think you needed to have some sort of tension between the two somewhere. A flashback, a thought by either one of them indicating something that shows protagonist/antagonist and I think you would have the perfect story. As it was, I was swept up in the current, like your character. Good job.
    • Amy,
      All kidding aside. I felt that this story would work if, as your main character is lying on the bank, as the ‘rescuer’ approaches, she sees the sponge-bob bandana, but at the last moment realizes that that is just a coincidence. And the ‘rescuer’ is not Viv at all, just a drug-trafficker with an ironic sense of fashion. There are a few typos in the story but all in all, the action is so well portrayed that you barely have time to be critical before you’re swept along with the MC to the abrupt surprise ending.
  • Changes: Root and Branch

    The warmth of the day ebbed away as we stood by the lake. Susie, her arm looped in mine, rested her head against my shoulder. I felt her warmth against me, making bearable the chill of the evening breeze.

    “I’m glad you came,“ I said.

    “Me too.” She looked up and smiled, just like the old days.

    “So this is where you’re hiding away now,” she said, as we stepped onto the porch of my lakeside cabin.

    “Not hiding. Just … being.”

    “Being solitary.”

    “I guess so.”

    I put a couple of logs on the fire in the sitting room. The last embers of sunset cast an orange glow into the room. It reflected off the glass of the framed photos, into my eyes.

    Smiling, I held up my hand to my brow, shielding my eyes from the reflected light. I looked at Susie now, sitting on the small sofa, nestled into the cushions with her feet tucked up under her, and wearing one of my jumpers. She cradled her glass of wine and smiled.

    Just like old times, as if a day had not passed. Yet here I was …

    “Happy birthday!” she toasted, raising her glass.

    … 67 years old. And we hadn’t seen each other for 35 years.

    “Cheers!” We clinked glasses.

    My mind went back to how we used to be. Friends since primary school, inseparable as early teens, doing each other’s homework, supporting each other through adolescent traumas. Never lovers. Just – inseparable.

    Until …

    “You don’t have any photos of Ariana on your wall?” said Susie, craning her neck to examine the photos behind her.

    “You think I should? After everything …”

    “It’s your history, Mark. She was a big part of it. Maybe the most significant part …”

    Susie opened her eyes wide, looking at me with warmth and disappointment, raising her eyebrows a little to encourage a response.

    “Why torture myself with it?”

    “It still hurts?”

    It seemed we’d slipped straight back into the kind of conversations we’d have in our student years, going instantly heart-to-heart about our lives and loves.

    Talking about photos, I realised there were none of me with Susie in the room. There were once so many.

    “Don’t move,” I said with a smile, and went through to my study. A moment later I was back, with two large photo albums from our younger days. I sat beside her on the couch. Our knees touched as we looked through them and reminisced.

    “Ah, there we are at New Year with my parents,” Susie sighed. “They adored you.”

    “They were such special people. Very kind to me.”

    After a few moments silence, Susie said, “It would’ve been good if you’d come to see my father after the accident.”

    “I regret that I didn’t.”

    “You were in California then …”

    “It was the worst time with Ariana. I was trying to hold it all together and then I found out about her – ”

    “ – infidelity. I know.”

    “Yes, of course. When I came back, I must’ve bored you to death with all my trauma, and you were so supportive. Even though you’d been through so much yourself.”


    “I was so wrapped up in myself, and the whole Ariana thing, I didn’t support you when you needed me most. I often think about that …”

    “Do you think,” said Susie, then paused as if thinking how to frame a difficult question. “Do you think we could have been together? Maybe, even, should have been together? Do you ever think of that?”

    I got up to pace the room and fetch another bottle to top up our glasses.

    “I have a lot of time to think, out here. And reflect,” I said.

    “Go on.”

    “You told me once I was always striving for what was out of reach. It’s true. I scraped into Oxford, but struggled there. Barely got halfway up the ladder in my career. My futile attempts to be a bestselling writer. Always falling short, always disappointing myself. And, of course …”

    “Ariana. The brilliant, beautiful, supremely confident and ambitious Ariana. You had to win her.”

    “Throughout our marriage, I was still trying to win her. Every day, I tried to rise to her heights, and she ended up despising me for my weakness.”

    “You once told me you couldn’t settle for less…”

    “Did I say that?”

    Susie nodded. “Which, when you think about it, was kind of insensitive. But you haven’t answered my question. Would being with me have been ‘settling for less?’”

    I sighed deeply. “Oh, Susie. I’ve been wrong about so many things in my time. There are so many points where our lives branch out towards different possibilities. If only I could retrace my steps, go back and make a different choice … One where I was more authentic, not always seeking the approval of others.”

    “You never needed to win my approval, Mark. So – would you want to go back and start over?”

    “If I could! But the thing is – I’d have to be a completely different person from who I am. Change myself. Change my life, root and branch. Otherwise I’d just make the same choices again.”

    Susie leaned forward, taking my hand in hers. “You would think so, wouldn’t you? But you don’t have to be completely different. Just different enough.”

    “If only …”

    “I found a way to go back and make different choices. Really. And I’m asking you to take the journey too, so a new branch can grow. For us.”

    With that she took out a small antique timepiece from her bag and set it on the table in front of us. I looked at her doubtfully. “You’re not serious?”

    “Put your hand on it along with mine, and we’ll travel back to a point before all the wrong turnings we took. A point where you can make the choice to look into my eyes, and say to me, as I’d say to you, ‘You’ve always been the one. We’re soulmates, and always will be’. You’d say that, wouldn’t you?”

    No sooner had I touched the timepiece than I was flying across the lake, surging upstream to the waterfall, and beyond to the source. The sun was no longer setting in the west but rising. Sensations of times past cascaded over me: love, hurt, joy, envy, lies, admiration, fear, coldness, yearning, pretence, reality, insecurity and self-regard. Fragments of journeys, offices, exotic landscapes, drunkenness, nakedness, schools, toys, parents, friends, things I understood and things I never could – all these surged around me until at last I fell, exhausted, in a field near my home town.

    Through my dizziness I felt the warmth of the sun on my skin. I could see, could feel, my younger self. I heard familiar voices, and someone apparently calling me.

    Then I heard my hopeful, treacherous voice say: “Ariana?”

    The last traces of the sunset were gone, and Susie too. The room was dark save for my desk lamp and the fading glow of the fire.

    I began editing, once more, my unfinished stories about that other person, the person I never had the courage to be.

    • I should add the wordcount, a tight squeeze at 1193.
    • I enjoyed part of the conversation between two close friends.
      • Part? Just wondering, which part, Nam? And why not the rest …: -)
        • Sugar was there in the milk but I do not know where exactly was there. May be it was mixed up every where.
    • Amy Meyer
      A bittersweet story with two well drawn characters. I was rooting for them to stay together but I liked the sad ending.
      • I was rooting for that too, Amy, but I thought the outcome was more true to his character. Character is destiny, and all that.
  • Lovely story about wrong choices maybe. Very well put together Andy. sorry about the bit part in my story. 😛
    • Thanks, Ilana.

      And thanks for the bit part. I’d have preferred the role if I’d got to do some biting too 🙂

  • Carrie Zylka

    Ok people, time is up!

    Here is the link to vote:

    Remember you MUST vote in the next 24 hours for your story to count, you can only vote once and you may not vote for yourself!

    Good luck!

  • Dear Andy,
    I am left stranded, stupefied and wordless by your story. AMAZING! Starting with the very first sentence, through the paragraph beginning…I put a couple of logs.. to all the other paragraphs, the part where we find Mark touching the timepiece and travelling back in time, mentally, till the sensible ending… everything in this story is superb. You have done a superlative job. I am a big Nicholas Sparks fan. You have reminded me of the modern maestro over and again.
    Unless someone comes with a better characterization or dialogue-writing, you are gonna be among my top three. It is also gonna be difficult for me to choose from amongst Mark, Susie and Ariana with no active part in the story – one, for the Best Character.
    Neat work. Keep it up.
    • Many, many thanks Rathin for your kind comments.

      I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any Nicholas Sparks. I will now on your recommendation.

      Last weekend I went to a Crime Writers’ Association event in Harrogate (nice town, that). One of the featured authors is a British Indian called Vaseem Khan who writes the Baby Ganesh Detective Agency novels set in India, mainly Mumbai. A very engaging speaker and now quite a big star. Does he sell well in India too?

      • Thanks, Andy. Sorry, I haven’t heard about this British-Indian author. Reason is that I have been away from home for long. I have a gut feeling that Waseem Khan will be popular in India too. We, Indians find it hard to get over the kind of age old, love-hate relationship with the Brits. Even then, anyone who makes it big in Britain, is likely to be a success in my native land as well.
        Take care and all the best .
  • Ken Cartisano
    Hi all, I have no chance of winning this week. (Or year, probably.) So this leaves me an opportunity to insult everyone with virtually none but the usual consequences. (Everybody hates me.)
    I can almost feel it. (No, that’s just my hernia.)
    So, I came up with some alternate, and much improved names for all of our stories.
    The order of the stories listed is purely coincidental and does not represent any favoritism on the part of the ‘namers.’ (Just to be clear, I’m the ‘namer.’) And the names of the stories are chosen by ‘instinctual impulse.’ These names do not imply or reflect any opinion whatsoever on the quality or appeal of the story. The merits of the stories are not considered in the naming process. Not all names are of equal quality All names are, of course, optional. You may opt out of this amazing offer. A New Name! For Nothing! Amazing! As you can see, the alternate names I chose for my story are not particularly flattering, but instinctually, they seem impulsively appropriate.

    With that said, Congratulations Writers Of This Prompt. Here they are. Your new names.

    Dean – Bob Ventura, Alien Detective. (Bring Us The Fertilizer, Now.)

    Rnb – Lost and Found, Then Deleted. (Curse My Many Siblings.)

    Roy – The First Fourth, On Fifth. (In Cold Beer.) (In Prompt Too.)

    Ilana – Elm on Nightmare Street. (Canis Major.)

    Andy – A Writer’s Wry Wrequiem. (Fear And Loathing In Walden Pond.)

    Amy – Sponge-bob Splash-Slash. (The Little Sandal That Wouldn’t Slip Off.)

    Phil – Member in Good Standing. (Out On His Own Limb.) (What A Bad Name.)

    Ken – Boring Private Ryan. (The Longest Yawn.) (The Bridge at Remaggen-noggin-schloggin.)

    Robt. Emmett – You Wanna WHAT A Hontas?. (Miss Kiss-My-Wampum.)

    Nam – Newton versus Darwin. (An Apple A Day Keeps The Monkeys At Bay.)

    • Hi Ken, Your story was little complicate this time. I tried and once and planning to read again and time went up. This post works as compensation from you side. Everyone must read this because it is about ourselves. This indicated that you have read all stories in depth if not you have capacity to understand key points from the surface.
    • Carrie Zylka

      This is quite possibly one of your most apt adaptations of the posted stories 🤣🤣🤣

    • Amy Meyer
      Brilliant – I love my story’s new name!
    • Yup, appreciate these, Uncle Ken, not least the reference to Walden Pond. In my mind that’s maybe where I was. Or the local gravel pits, who knows.

      I thought you’d suggest something like ‘The Tree of Irony’ for Dean’s. You know the third tree in the Garden of Eden, the one writers and dramatists can’t survive without.

      Maybe Ilana’s could be ‘When Ents Go Bad’…

      One of your best lists, though a trifle hard on yourself. Oh, maybe “The Longest Day (for my readers, that is …)”. Only kidding!

      • Andy baby,
        Hard on myself? With my re-name? Didn’t you read the disclaimer? I thought ‘Boring Private Ryan’ was hilarious. Is it accurate? I don’t know. Probably. But who cares. It was funny.
        I like ‘When Ents Go Bad.’ for Ilana.
        I came up with a dozen names for Dean’s story, all with trees in the title, but when I came up with ‘Bob Ventura: Alien Detective,’ I knew that was it.
        I’m a little disappointed that I couldn’t come up with something better for me, and Roy. But I had already worked on those names for about three hours and finally threw up my hands and posted.
        I know you all think all this brilliant humor just falls out of my ‘weather beaten face’ at the droop of a mustache, but no. It takes time to insult people in a humorous way. (I work very hard at being carefree. Don’t kid yourself.)
        I’m especially proud of Amy’s re-name, and very glad she liked it. I really didn’t like the ending to her story, I thought it was a cheap trick. Gimmicky. I had reservations about it for those reasons, but it certainly worked, and it was an exciting story which was key in making the trick ending work.
        My favorite story this week was Deans. I thought it was very, very original, creatively conceived, well constructed and artfully delivered.
  • Ken Cartisano
    No Rnb or Phil on the voting list?
    • Carrie Zylka

      Oh son of a gun – he’s on my voting list but missed the page. I fixed it.
      If you’d like to revote you can resubmit or email me.

    • Carrie Zylka

      RNB’s story did not qualify, we didn’t find the required sentence in the story.

  • Sigh… I once again attempted to vote. I made my choices and submitted my vote. But it came back looking like this:

    Message Sent (go back)

    Name: J.H. O’Rourke


    First Place: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Second Place: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Third Place: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Fourth Place: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Fifth Place: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Story with Favorite Character: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Character Name: 

    Story with Best Use of Dialogue: For Everything – Ken Cartisano

    Ken, I loved your story but did not choose it for every spot.

    I’m assuming that I can’t try to vote again. So sorry. Awesome stories this week. 🙂

    Not sure why I can’t vote. This is the third week in a row I’ve tried. At least this time I was able to access the page but, as you can see, my choices didn’t take.

    Sorry. I tried. 🙁


    • Jen, I suggest you send your votes in by email?
      Sometimes there’s no arguing with the machine…!
      • Lol Andy. That is true! I work in the Information Technology industry so have encountered and fixed many ‘machine’ issues during the past 20+ years! 🙂


        • Mind you, with the list returned it seems Ken might have something to do with it …
    • Carrie Zylka

      You have to select each story in order from the drop downs and then click submit.
      Of course you can vote again, it’s obviously an error.

      • Hi Carrie. I did choose from the dropdowns.

        Just like I used to do when I participated each week.

        And my choices showed – a different story for each ‘place’ as well as the additional categories.

        I was like “yay it’s gonna work” so I submitted.

        And got the page I pasted above, which is not what I chose in the drop downs.

        I guess I will wait until I am done writing the first draft of my novel before trying again. I’m just over 35000 words in and intend on writing 40000-60000 more.

        After it’s written I’ll have more time to write short stories while working on draft two of my book, so may end up submitting some here (of course it will be a secret and I won’t tell anyone I know what I’m doing so that all votes end up being counted, unlike before).

        I currently write 3 to 5 short stories each week just to give me a break from my book and keep me in practice.

        Best of luck to everyone who entered! I will continue to read your stories each week.

        Jen 🙂

      • Ok. I tried to vote again because I really want to support the writers.
        But the same thing happened.
        Very frustrating. Grrrr.


      • Carrie, are you guys able to ‘see’ who I voted for before I hit submit?

        Could my email address be the culprit? I know my messages were flagged as ‘spam’ last month.

        I dunno.

        I am lost. 🙁


        • Carrie Zylka

          No unfortunately we only see what is actually submitted.
          I am genuinely at a loss here, it’s worked for you before and no one else has ever reported this problem. It’s gotta be a browser issue.

          I’m literally going to go old school IT and say “try a different browser, be sure to clear your cache or restart your computer!”

        • Carrie Zylka

          Can you try it from your smartphone?

          • I thought the same thing.

            So I tried it using Chrome on my Macbook Pro the first time.

            Then I tried it using my Galaxy S6 Edge.

            No go.

            Maybe my IP address is blacklisted somehow. I didn’t take the phone off wifi because I figured if it’s my IP that is blocked then it ain’t me doing the blocking lol.

            It’s a mystery…



            • Carrie Zylka

              Unless you’ve been spamming a lot of sites, I doubt WordPress would blacklist your IP from our site and they are the only ones with that admin power.

              Plus we’re getting the email. For some reason your choices aren’t being retained. I would think if WordPress blacklisted your IP address it wouldn’t allow the form to be sent in the first place.

    • Jen,
      I see nothing wrong with this. Nothing at all.
  • Yep exactly. I’m definitely not spamming. I subscribe to a number of fellow author sites, that’s about it. And I can obviously leave comments. Both here and on other sites, including my own, which is a hosted site.

    I don’t know. I sadly give up. 🙁

    Which means I probably won’t be able to post stories here later on down the road because I won’t be able to vote.



    • Jen if you’d like to vote, and the form isn’t working for you, just send your choices directly to us in an email. That is, forego using the form altogether, and write your choices in an email to the liflashfiction address, and we’ll get your choices that way.
  • Ilana Leeds
    Alice I had something like that happen with my vote. Could you please swap Phil and Ken. Phil should be where Ken is. Not telling the order. That is my secret. 😀
    • Ok, here’s something to watch out for with drop-down lists.
      If you select someone and then straightaway try to scroll down the page using a scroll-wheel or the arrow buttons, you scroll down the drop-down list instead and can end up changing your selection.

      It happens to me often. My online purchases often surprise me, I think, for that reason …

    • I’ll make sure Carrie sees it, it’s her week to tally the votes <3
  • Dear Ken,
    Thank God for stumbling upon your comments by chance. Otherwise, I’d have missed something magical. I may be an English Teacher teaching students whose first language is English but that doesn’t make me a fluent speaker. To be honest, my spoken English has a lot of room for improvement. So does my written English. The only comforting thing is I am more at ease while writing in the language than while speaking.
    You know Ken, I have been a failure all along. I never took anything seriously in life. I was stunned by your revelation that you made five drafts for your previous story! I will never do that until Life throws back on my way some hopes and promises of what should have been rightfully mine. You know that I was the only student, out of 19, not to have secured the honours marks. This has been a big low in my life. My poor academic career denied me the privilege of studying for the Master’s as a regular student. I decided to join a bilingual magazine published from Kolkata as the subeditor instead. Don’t ever thinking of asking me about the pay at that time! I had to do everything from sweeping to editing day in and day out for a meagre amount! Another low in my life. I was so depressed during that phase of lows in my life, in the late eighties, that when my sis-in-law, who was the Chief Planning Officer, NSW, Australia till some years back, flew over to Kolkata, I spent one entire afternoon, talking to her just to be reassured of my English! What I am trying to convey is that I felt and still feel the same that Life hasn’t been very fair to me in a lot of ways.
    All these happenings have had a negative impact on me. I started suffering from a very low self-esteem and inferiority complex. I am not telling you all this neither for sympathy nor for modesty, but I have always thought of myself as a good human being in the first place, deserving of the very best from life. Something which may remain a dream till my last breath.
    Now before I wind up, let me tell you for the flast (this is my own blend, Ken, made of ‘first’ and ‘last’) time why I have always taken a liking to you from day one. You remind me of a cousin who loved me a lot. When I looked at your pic for the first time, I was in for a shock. Your moustachioed, weather-beaten face along with the receding hairline , just reminded me of him. Though we haven’t been in touch lately, I always looked upon him as a sort of big bro, a hero. Once during a club picnic, he turned to a lot of toughies, who had tight-cornered me(?), asking them to lay a finger on me if they dared!
    Anyway, I have written all this to vent out my frustration, Ken. I do feel that Life ought to have been nicer to me. Anyway, if I seemed like an empty vessel sounding too much to you, let me offer my profoundest apologies. If I couldn’t make myself clear to one, it would be too much to expect Roy to be making anything differently of my response to his post. In that case, I have to do a rethink of whether someone like me is fit for this site or not.
    Here is wishing you loads of love and best wishes,
  • rnb, don’t be giving up because of any comments I have made that could have made you feel like you can’t write. On the contrary, I think you can write, but you are trying to compete against people whose first language is English. I applaud that. You just need to strap on your big boy boots and figure out how you can compete, although that really shouldn’t be the purpose of writing on this site. I write for me. I hope others like my stories, but if they don’t, I really don’t give a rat’s ass, because I like my stories. I think you should write for you.
    • Thank you, Roy. I must be a FOOL if I failed to see through your good intentions while commenting on my stories. You are a whiff of fresh air in my life. If I ever make it as a writer, I won’t forget to mention you.
      Don’t worry about me giving up and in so meekly. I do consider myself a fighter and will be fighting with all my might for a place in your heart till the last.
      Just like you, I write for myself in the first place. Writing helps me release all my tension, stress and frees me from the drudgery of the mundane world. It also makes me feel special as a soul-soother. I will keep on writing in the hope of meeting some truly wonderful people like you. Do please keep refining me by pointing out my drawbacks without the least bit of hesitation. Will be eternally grateful to you for that.
      With a great deal of respect and love.
  • My, my, my…..Ken! You are just amazing in this naming or renaming game. This piece is truly reflective of your character. Straight forward (someone who doesn’t mind calling a spade a spade), outspoken, witty, humorous, fun-loving, mischievous, hard-working and a great friend to have. By the way, no one amongst us can be hating a real talent like you. Love you and thanks for mentioning Phil and me in your query.
  • RNB,
    You’re very open about yourself, your history and your insecurities. (My weather-beaten face looks temporarily troubled.) My hairline is fine, you just can’t see it in the picture. I was very disappointed that you didn’t repost your original story despite my impassioned plea. That story was one of my favorites, and a shoo-in for a top five vote. But once it was deleted I never saw it again. Don’t forget the past, but focus on the future, bro. You’re kind of like a young kid swimming in the deep end with a bunch of teenagers. (Teenagers = Obnoxious Turds, But Still Mostly Human.) We’ll tease you, but secretly we admire your gumption and rest assured, we’re looking out for you. Keep writing.
    • Thank you, Ken. Such encouragement means a lot to me. I waited for your opinion regarding my story. By the time, I came across it, my story had already been deleted. Reposting the original story when the rewritten version was already there for all to see, would have complicated matters. Hence I had to stick to the redrafted story. Sorry for failing to comply with your plea, mate.
      For someone like me it is difficult to make your writing out at times, but that is what draws me towards people like you. You write amazingly well, Ken, and you along with a few others, with your kind of captivating English, will keep young hopefuls like me on our toes, always.
      Keep teasing me, making fun of me, if you want to, but please help me grow as a writer. Love you and best of luck with your story.
  • Just waiting on Robt to vote.
    I show he viewed the newsletter letting everyone know it’s time to vote so I’ll give him some more time.

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