Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

July 27 – August 9, 2023 Writing Prompt “Weather”

Theme: Weather

Required Elements:

  • none

Word Count: 1200

Next Prompt to be chosen by Adrienne Riggs.


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79 thoughts on “July 27 – August 9, 2023 Writing Prompt “Weather”

  • Carrie Zylka

    A little backstory about the cover photo.
    Two weeks ago, it was the 120th Harley-Davidson celebration here in Wisconsin.
    Over the weekend at the Harley-Davidson Museum downtown alone, 130,000 attendees attended and about 73,000 bikes lined the Harley-Davidson Museum grounds and Sixth Street downtown.
    Another 100,000 people visited the outlying dealerships.
    It was madness and mayhem and glorious all 4 days.

    Lots of the dealerships brought in national touring acts to play free shows.
    The Harley Dealership corporate headquarters rented Veteran’s Park on the Lake Michigan shore and brought in Green Day and the Foo Fighters as headliners.

    This photo was taken during the Green Day show right before a big storm rolled in and was perfectly captured.

    Read the stories here:

  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in
  • I’m in, Can’t wait. I’ve already got a story running around jumping up and down trying to get out of my head and onto paper.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Me too.
      I have the unique advantage of being able to know what the prompt was going to be ahead of time so my story has been percolating in my head!

      I’m trying to dedicate 3 hours a week to writing.

      I’ve been so rusty but I think the more you write the more the gears get geased.

  • You are right there Carrie. I am so time poor and just hope I can make this third time lucky and finish my story for the prompt. It has been half a year since I finished a story. You are right. The more you write, the better you get. Now for weathering the storm and writing about it.
  • Didn’t get my prompt, so am trying again.
  • John Filby
    Signing in. The end date & voting will be right at our interstate move. I might get a story in and try to vote too. One can only try.
  • John Filby
    The House that Jack Built.
    By John Filby.

    The wind could be heard and felt through the aged weatherboards as the rain typed it’s arrival on the tin roof. Mabel knew there would always be work to be done, but with Jack gone, and she in her ninth decade was finding it difficult to keep up the repairs and the daily chores alone.

    Both of them loving their home with the earthly tranquillity, the lost feeling they had for it every day and oh, the most wonderful memories. Together they had built the sanctuary in their long-gone youth. Starting life as their getaway, avoiding the busy-ness of town and the small-town-mindedness and waging tongues. The town was a mere twenty minutes in the truck, but feeling to them like a whole world away.

    Constructed from refuse, and the things that nobody wanted. Starting its life as a rustic lean-to with many add-ons over the years becoming their little palace with all that they needed. To anyone else it would seem as if it would collapse with even a gentle breeze, but it has been here standing near on sixty years.

    Mabel speaks of the luxuries, like those she imagined in Buckingham Palace, she knows nothing but here, and craves nothing else. The simple necessities, generated and solar electricity, running water with a purifier, and a flushing toilet collected from nature’s rainwater. The internal space was only two rooms, the bedroom and the living area. With an airy veranda, encasing the kitchen and amenities inviting the outside in.

    Sitting in the twilight listening to the symphony of the raindrops above her, she smile and giggles in pleasant fond reminisce. The voices spoken by the wind and the impending storm do not worry her, she is safe in their place, the house that Jack built, Jack had made sure.

    Now Scamp and Lola keep her company, the love of her fur-babies is unconditional, but she is missing Jack every single day. How could she forget the love that is felt inside, and is seen in everything around her, and all of it built from this love. Even without Jack, Jack is here.

    Knowing that the tempest could go on for a little longer, maybe an hour, maybe all night, and if she were to lose power she would just go to bed and sleep. Mabel would just let it all pass by enjoying the dance of the fire and the glowing embers in the hearth before her.

    Jack had installed the generator that could kick in if needed but she had never used it since Jack had been gone. Choosing to sit and read by the glowering candlelight she attempts to read the book she had commenced a week or more ago. Having little desire or interest to continue, as she knows that no author, past, present or future, could ever come close to writing anything more interesting than the life she lived with her Jack.

    The little cottage has survived the years, the bush has grown around her, and all of nature’s creatures keep her company. The butterflies and insects visit and the birds call to greet her each morning. She and Jack encouraged any or all creatures to share their idyllic bush life. Life abounds with such beautifully simple and rewarding pleasures.
    The cabin rattles a little in the wind as it often does, and the water falling creating a staccato symphony to her senses, nothing can rattle Mabel. She is here to stay in the house that Jack built, Jacqueline Jennifer Jones, the love of Mabel’s life.

    • Carrie Zylka

      Hi John, a lovely story for sure.

      A few grammar and tense inconsistencies.
      For example you wrote:

      He’s gone, how is he still loving it? Simple edit:
      “Both of them loved their home with its earthly tranquility”.

      In the beginning of the story, it’s mostly in past tense. Then abruptly switches to present tense.

      You could eliminate the second use of the man’s name as it’s redundant.

      This sentence was a bit confusing for me. If she is ignorant of what luxuries are in Buckingham Palace then how can she speak of them?

      Simple things like that.

      All that being said, I just love the idea of a house built from cast off parts. One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure rang through clearly in the beginning. And the character is absolutely adorable!

    • Adrienne Riggs
      I loved your story and all of the love built into the makeshift home. It was sweet and your character was perfect for the setting. The surprise at the ending was well done. I also love the sound of rain on a tin roof. You have a few misspelled words and such, but they didn’t take away from the charm of the tale. Very nice.
    • Phil Town
      There’s some lovely imagery here, John, and the sentiment is also very warm-hearted: a woman loving her less-than-perfect house for the memories it bears of the person she loved. And there’s a clever little twist at the end (but is it necessary?). There are some grammar issues (the tenses, as Carrie has suggested, and some ‘sentences’ that aren’t actually sentences, e.g. “Both of them loving their home with the earthly tranquillity, the lost feeling they had for it every day and oh, the most wonderful memories.”) Which is a shame because these things detract a little from an otherwise very nice piece of writing.
  • John,

    Took me a minute, and you caught me off guard, but a very clever ending. Nice story, John. well written with a few things here and there, like busy-ness which already has a spelling of its own, business, but only minor quibbles. Nice to see you back. A pleasant easy reading story with a good ending.


  • Carrie Zylka

    A Rebuilding by Carrie Zylka (1048 words)

    As the sun dipped below the horizon, casting a warm golden glow over the vast Kansas plains, I sat on the front porch of our old family farmhouse, taking a moment to cherish the tranquility of what had become our simple life. It had been six years since my divorce, and in that time, my dad had passed away, and my mom had moved into assisted living, leaving me to take over their farm. My mom was too frail to handle the farm by herself, and it provided me with a safe haven to raise my two children, 6-year-old Aden and 4-year-old Macy, amid the rolling hills and endless skies. The house was in great disrepair, and I’d been working on fixing it up myself. But living on the meager child support and my fast-dwindling savings made it hard. The cost of shingles and lumber alone was crippling.

    Our little piece of rural heaven consisted of two cows, three horses, and a flock of chickens, whose cackles and clucks filled the air every morning. I loved my children and cherished the bond we had formed on this farm, where hard work and family values were instilled in me from an early age. I hadn’t realized how much I missed mucking stalls.

    But tonight, as I looked out over the endless horizon, my heart skipped a beat. Storm clouds were gathering in the distance, swirling ominously, like a dark premonition of what was to come. The first pangs of fear gripped my chest as I knew that storms in Kansas could be merciless, especially when they spawned sudden tornadoes.

    Without wasting a second, I jumped to my feet and ran towards the barn. The animals needed to be secured before the storm hit. The urgency in my steps matched the intensity of the storm brewing in the sky above.

    “Aden! Macy!” I called out frantically as I ran. The wind started to pick up, whipping my hair around my face like an unruly storm itself. My heart pounded in my ears, drowning out the distant rumble of thunder.

    The barn door creaked open, and I quickly ushered our cows and horses inside, my hands shaking with anxiety. They seemed to sense the impending danger as they huddled together, seeking comfort in the familiarity of one another.

    Once the animals were safe, I rushed back towards the house to find my children. Panic set in when I didn’t see them. They’d been playing in the yard only moments ago.

    “Aden! Macy! Where are you?” I shouted.

    Just as I was about to head into the house, I heard faint giggles coming from behind the tall grass near the barn. Relief washed over me as I found my children playing hide-and-seek. “We were just having fun, Mom!” Aden said, oblivious to the storm clouds bearing down on us.

    “No time for games, kids,” I said urgently. “A tornado’s coming, and we need to get to the storm shelter now!”

    Fear etched across their faces as they realized the severity of the situation. Grabbing their little hands in each of mine, we hurriedly made our way to the storm shelter, the winds growing stronger with each passing moment. The air was thick with electricity, and the scent of rain filled our lungs.

    As we huddled together in the underground shelter, I held my children close, whispering words of comfort and reassurance, though my own heart was pounding with anxiety. The sound of the raging wind above us was deafening, and the walls of the shelter trembled under the force of the storm.

    Time seemed to slow as we waited for the tornado to pass. My mind raced with thoughts of everything we could lose – the house, the memories, and most importantly, my children. I couldn’t bear the thought of losing them. My mind shifted back to the dozens of times I’d huddled in this storm shelter with my own parents, fearful of what we’d find when we came out.

    Finally, after what felt like an eternity, the storm began to subside. We emerged from the shelter, our eyes widening in disbelief at the sight before us. The once sturdy farmhouse was now reduced to a pile of rubble, scattered across the once pristine landscape.

    But then, as if a miracle had occurred, my eyes were drawn to the barn standing tall and untouched amidst the devastation. Our two cows and three horses were unscathed, and they looked at us curiously, whinnying for their evening meal as if nothing had happened.

    Tears welled up in my eyes as I hugged my children tightly. We had lost our home, but we still had each other, and the animals we cared for were safe. It was a stark reminder of the unpredictability of life and the importance of cherishing what truly matters.

    As days turned into weeks, we slowly rebuilt our lives. Friends and neighbors came together to help us put up a temporary shelter, and we found comfort in the solidarity of our small community. I fell to my knees the day I received the home insurance letter notifying me that I should expect a check for nearly a half a million dollars. My parents had taken out the policy many years ago and their steadfastness to paying the premium every year was a true lifesaver.

    The storm had left its mark on us, but it also strengthened our bond as a family. Aden, Macy, and I spent more time together, enjoying the simple pleasures of life on the farm. We found joy in the little things, like watching the sunset over the fields, feeling the soft nuzzle of a horse, or gathering eggs from the chicken coop.

    Life on the farm as a single mom was never easy, but it was our home, our sanctuary, and the place where we discovered the strength to weather any storm that came our way.

    And as the sun dipped below the horizon once again, casting a warm golden glow over the vast Kansas plains, I sat on the brand new front porch with my two children by my side, feeling grateful for the blessings that life had bestowed upon us – a love that was unbreakable and the good sense to cherish every moment we had together.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Absolutely loved your story, Carrie! As a Wizard of Oz fan, I was enthralled with the story of the farmhouse and the tornado, and I held my breath as the family exited the storm shelter. I’m happy the barn and animals were safe as well as the mom and kids. It was good to know all was well in Kansas and life went better than before. Loved it! Adi
    • Carrie,

      Mom must have struck a nerve, Carrie, because this is a really well-written story, if a bit Hallmark Movie fodder. I can say that because I write like that a lot, too. Well done. Glad it had a happy ending, and the old family farmhouse that was probably built in the late 1800’s turned out to be worth $500K. Remodeled, no doubt. I smiled as I worked my way through it wondering who was ghost writing for you until I read your ode about your mom. No demons or half beings, just a mom and her kids struggling against the odds. Dang, girl, what else are you hiding?


      • Carrie Zylka

        Not all my stories have people or demons getting gutted!

        Ok… maybe 99% of them…..
        But I remember a girl who bought a house that ended up being haunted by a friendly ghost, a gal who immediately came to the rescue of her friend who was having a wine crisis and a few other lighter ones.

        My mom and I have had a few very interesting conversations since she started editing my stories especially. She asked questions a reader would ask, not questions a writer would ask.

        I do a lot of alone stuff, so I listen to a lot of podcasts and “easy to listen to that you don’t actually have to watch” stuff on YouTube.

        A lot of Judge Judy, People’s Court, Dr Phil, literally daytime garbage TV.
        But in the last few years I find myself listening to a lot of true crime stuff since there’s SO MUCH of it out there these days. And happy endings don’t make for viral shows.

        She asked me if I thought absorbing so much hate and violence and malice had colored my writing subjects.

        It really made me think.

        Also, admittedly I ran the story through chatgpt “proofread, grammar and readability”.

        It pointed out two glaring inconsistencies, about 12 grammer mistakes and red lined about 40 words I can only describe as “fluff”.

        I discarded some of the suggestions, but the rest were admittedly (and annoyingly) spot on.

        I’m 100% sure I’ll be back to my dungeons and dragons, werewolves and angels with whatever next prompt Adi comes up with 🤣

        • Adrienne Riggs
          I have it ready Carrie. Just email me. I can’t find your email.

          I’m running on little sleep since I’ve been at the hospital with my son since 3:00 am due to a diabetic emergency. These episodes were frequent when he was young because he is brittle. They still scare me even though he is an adult.

      • Carrie Zylka

        Also, someone in the distant past, maybe one of the Ken’s? Maybe Phil? Pointed out that sometimes I write scenes and not whole stories.

        It was my goal this year (admittedly last year’s too) to eliminate words ending in “ly” (that 100% was Phil who pointed that out about 5 years ago), and whole stories.

    • Phil Town
      This is a really well structured story, Carrie – like a croissant! (thin > fat > thin) You establish well the idyllic nature of the property and a bit of its history, then comes the storm (well described and great suspense, hoping the animals survive!), then back to a semblance of normality and a life lesson: the storm has thrown into sharp relief the importance of family/loved ones. I noted a couple of possible inconsistencies, I think (maybe not, though, as I’m not from Kansas!) Are they surrounded by plains or rolling hills? Are the clouds in the distance or above? The narrator is contemplating the horizon, sees the storm in the ‘distance’, and it’s upon them in a matter of minutes? As I say, I’ve never experienced such aggressive storms, so this may all be authentic. Whatever … it’s a very involving story … and nice not to see demons and angels for a change (though you write those kinds of stories very well, too!)
      • Carrie Zylka

        Hi Phil!
        Thanks so much for the feedback – a tornado can move at 300mph, I’ve lived through several tornadoes, one was a F3 tornado on the Fujita Tornado scale that’s around 200 miles per hour, roofs being ripped off and cars overturned.
        It was on us in seconds and was one of the most horrifying experiences of my life.

        I’ve hunted in Kansas, and it’s similar to Wisconsin, on one side of the road there may be acres and acres of corn planted in a field and on the other side the huge and deep rolling hills and hollers.
        But unless you’ve seen that it wouldn’t make sense, so that’s a very good point!

        You are right, though – and as others like Roy mentioned, I do tend to write myself into a genre corner don’t I.

  • Carrie Zylka

    Last year, I hired my mom to edit all my podcasts and create the show notes for them.
    Recently I sent over a bunch of audio files from stories written last year, she asked if I ever wrote stories that weren’t so dark or violent.
    I was kind of offended, to be honest.
    Well mom….challenge accepted.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      That’s what Moms are for – to keep us grounded. Mine kept me very grounded by offending me regularly. LOL! I do miss her! Adi
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Storms of the Heart
    By: Adi Riggs (1,192w)

    It was a dark and stormy night. It had been a week of unrelenting storms. Gray clouds spread across the skies, growing ever darker and more imposing. Daylight turned as dark as night, a foreboding heaviness in the air. Deep rolling thunder shook the foundations of the cabin as crackling, flashing bursts of lightning illuminated the branches of giant trees, bending and groaning in the fierce winds. In between the rolling thunder and downpour of rain, there was silence. An eerie, still silence. I don’t remember which was more frightening. The silence – or the fury of the storm raging around me.

    I stood next to the large picture window in the main room of the cabin, looking out through the woods. The trees seemed to be alive, dancing feverishly in the winds. Leaves, ripped from their branches, flew, and smacked wetly against the glass and ground. The trees closest to the cleared space around the cabin bent in alarming ways and I flinched when large limbs crashed to the ground having broken from the gale.

    I had come to the cabin to be alone, to escape. Life had become too complicated. My relationship with the man I had been with for several years had just ended. My choice, not his. He wanted more than I was willing to give. He wanted marriage, all my tomorrows and to be together forever. Those words sent chills through me and all I could see in my mind were visions of chains holding me down, holding me back from everything I wanted in life.

    A bright flash of lightning made me step back from the window and burrow further into the oversized sweater I was wearing. I crossed my arms over my chest, trying to calm my breathing. While the loss of my personal relationship had been difficult, it was another loss I was grieving more. My beloved grandfather had recently passed away. He had been my only remaining grandparent and was the greatest influence in my life.

    The power in the cabin suddenly went out, plunging me into darkness. I froze, until the glow from the fireplace cast a soft, warm light in the room. Thinking of my grandfather brought tears to my eyes. He was a great man. Grandpa was strong and according to my father, authoritative, but he was also loving and soft-spoken. He had a ready smile and I never felt safer than when my hand was in his big, strong hand as we walked together.

    Grandpa and grandma were my biggest fans. They were convinced that I was destined for great things, and they told me this often. They told me I was talented, smart, and I was going to go places. I was in elementary school when they told me that I would be going to college when I was older and have a great life. Closing my eyes, I remember sitting between my grandparents at church. Grandpa always gave me a pack of Trident sugarless gum and a roll of peppermint Lifesavers. Grandma made roses from soft Kleenex and gave them to me. Mama and Daddy were busy with four kids, while Grandma and Grandpa made special time just for me. I will never forget that, and I cherish those memories.

    A sudden lightning bolt streaking toward the ground and earsplitting crack of thunder startled me out of my reminiscence and I jumped backward from the window, covering my ears with my hands. Had it hit one of the trees? I struggled to see through the pouring rain, and I saw … mist? Smoke? I moved closer to the window, and I heard another loud cracking noise, but this time there was no accompanying bolt of lightning.

    I saw movement among the trees, but the wind and time seemed to have stopped. One tree alone was moving, coming closer in slow motion. Was I dreaming?

    NO! I turned and ran across the room. I spun around in time to see the top branches sweep down the thick glass, bending and breaking. I felt the thud of the massive trunk as the tree fell to the ground. I fell to my knees on the wood floor, my heart racing and body shaking. I thought for sure that the tree was coming through the cabin!

    After long moments, I moved to the hearth and sat on the stones near the fire, seeking its warmth. The rain had started again but the thunder and lightning had moved away. I had wanted to be alone, and sitting in the darkness, I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. Maybe this hadn’t been such a great idea. I stared out into the rain. Another movement caught my attention and I saw a dark, hooded figure running toward the cabin. He pushed through the branches of the downed tree to peer through the windows. Seeing me, he ran away.

    Moments later, I heard pounding on the door and shouting.

    “Sara! Are you alright? Sara, answer me! Open the door!

    I leaned against it before opening it. I could feel the desperation in the pounding on the other side of the wood.

    “Sara! Please!”

    I opened the door, stepping back as I did and I was immediately enveloped in a damp, yet warm embrace as strong arms pulled me to a broad chest I knew well.


    His lips claimed mine with barely controlled passion and I responded with heated passion of my own. When the kiss ended, he cradled my head against his chest, and I could hear the strong pounding of his heart.
    “I saw the tree fall. I was so worried. I can’t live without you.” His deep voice rumbled through his body; I’d always loved that.

    “How did you find me?”

    “I remembered your grandparent’s cabin and I knew you would come here, to be close to their memories.” He brushed my hair back with one gentle hand. “How are you?”

    I looked at him. “I’m fine. I just needed space.”

    “I understand that now.” He looked deeply into my eyes. “I’ll wait if I need to. No more pushing. I just need to be with you. You are everything to me.”

    I leaned against his chest and his arms tightened around me once again. I must admit, I always felt safe in his arms. As I finally relaxed, I thought, ‘I’ve always been independent and strong. I’ve always strived for perfection and achieved the great things my grandparents expected of me. But I realized now, maybe I didn’t have to do it all alone. Grandpa had Grandma and vice versa. They enjoyed a long and happy marriage and life together. Why should I have anything less?’

    Ben and I made a light dinner of French bread, fruit, and cheese and chased it down with wine. We talked, laughed, and rekindled the love we had in the early days. We later fell asleep wrapped up in each other in sleeping bags in front of the glowing fire. The storms had passed; both outside the cabin and inside my heart.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Ya’ll knew I had to make reference to the fallen tree in my yard from our recent storms, right? LOL!
    • John Filby
      Hey Adi,
      Another great read. Full of great descriptions and ‘inner dialogue’, making me want to read more. I like how the storm was also a character of the story but not the main protagonist. Well done.
      • Adrienne Riggs
        Thanks John!
        Sometimes these storms have a mind of their own. I wrote from the recent storms we had. The rest of my neighborhood looks fine. My backyard looks like a mini tornado went through it, literally. One large oak is lying from the back of my property to my bedroom window. Three more trees are down at the edge of the property and the roof collapsed on my shed. One house around the corner had one tree fall directly on one corner of their house, lying in the attic. Nothing else was moved. One tree at the end of the road fell across the road. Two massive branches fell on an SUV next door but nothing else was moved. It was weird. Perfect timing for this prompt.
    • Adi, so you too jumped on the Hallmark story theme. Am I the only one who wrote something with blood dripping in it? I’ll admit my weather had only a tiny bit to do with my story, but then, again, everything to do with my story. A well written story with a very nice, and slightly predictable ending with a great last line. I’m glad Ben didn’t get shut out. Seems like a nice guy who didn’t finish last. Pretty well written there, Adi gal. Nothing to carp about, so kudos and it’s good to see you writing again.


      • Adrienne Riggs
        Well, you know Roy, you just can’t pass up a good Hallmark movie theme. LOL! Frankly, I didn’t know where that story was going to go when I started it. I just start writing and the characters just take over. And I just couldn’t resist using the old classic line, “It was a dark and stormy night …”
      • Adrienne Riggs
        I liked the idea of the separation of the seasons as told in terms of a relationship going through changes of its own. I’m not very familiar with ChatGPT yet, so it’s hard to tell what pieces might have come from your use of it. Interesting concept, but how does one judge how much was your work and how much the influence of ChatGPT? I did like the imagery.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Awwwwww Adi I loved this story – and glad it ended happy with a full heart!
      A couple of small tweaks but nothing stands out too much, and like John said – I love that the storm was its own character and I loved that Ben wouldn’t give up on her.

    • Phil Town
      Some great description of the storm here, Adi – very evocative. And tying that into the narrator’s feelings in the last line is a nice touch. I also like how the narrator comes to re-define her personal goals, based on events during the night and her memory of her grandprents. I think that maybe the extended description of the narrator’s relationship with them is a bit too long a detour – we need to know about her love of them, but not necessarily in such detail (?) (That relationship could perhaps be the focus of another story?) Also … I’m not quite sure how Ben happens to be so close to the house… But I do like a happy ending, and this story has a lovely one.
  • Phil Town

    The supermarket is relatively empty for a Tuesday morning. Hilda trundles her trolley along the aisles, stopping now and then to squint at the price of a product, make a mental calculation and move on, or sometimes to pick an item off the shelf and place it next to her walking stick in the trolley.

    In the biscuit aisle, a young lad is filling a shelf with packets of chocolate digestives.

    “I used to buy them for my Albert,” Hilda says. “He loved them, he did.”

    The boy glances her way, then continues with his work.

    “Do you like them?”

    Hilda gets a shrug of shoulders for the question.

    “Well, nice talking to you,” she says and shuffles on.

    She reaches the last aisle and checks out the cereals. Squinting at the price of a pack of Weetabix, she does the sums in her head, sighs, and chooses a small box of cornflakes.

    A young mother passes with her infant daughter.

    “They like their cereals, don’t they?” Hilda says.

    “What?” replies the mother, scanning the shelves.

    “I said, they like their cereals, the toddlers.”

    “Oh. Yes,” the mother says, placing a box in her trolley and moving away.

    Hilda smiles.

    “Nice to meet you,” she says, but the mother has turned into the next aisle, her daughter skipping after her.

    The time has come to tot up the half-dozen items in her trolley; she doesn’t want to get to the check-out and be embarrassed by having to leave something off.

    After working out the total – Hilda has a photographic memory for prices that comes from much practice – she’s satisfied and makes for the queue to pay.

    There’s only one man in front of her and he’s soon finished. She loads her meagre shop onto the belt and pushes the trolley beyond the desk.

    “Wanna bag?” asks the cashier, a large woman who may once have smiled, but it would have been a long time ago.

    “No thanks love. Got one … here,” says Hilda, rummaging in her handbag and pulling out a plastic bag that’s seen better days.

    The woman scans the products, Hilda following them with her eyes.

    “Nice weather, innit?” she says.

    The woman glowers at her and finishes passing the items.

    “But they say it’s gonna rain this afternoon. I hope it don–”

    “Four pounds seventy-three,” the cashier grunts.

    “Oh. Oh, yes. Course,” Hilda says, going back to rummaging in her handbag to find her purse.

    The cashier rolls her eyes.

    “Come on, love – we ain’t got all day. People are waitin’.”

    Hilda looks back. Behind her there’s only one young man, who looks like a student, holding a basket with a couple of items in it.

    “Yes, sorry,” Hilda says, flustered and fumbling. Eventually she hands over a five-pound note and takes the change, placing it carefully in her purse.

    She puts her things in the plastic bag, puts the bag in the trolley.

    “Bye, then,” she says to the cashier.

    “Next,” says the woman, and the student advances.

    Hilda pushes the trolley to the front of the supermarket, retrieves the coin and shuffles off into the morning sunlight.

    She hasn’t gone more than ten paces when she senses someone at her shoulder.

    “Let me carry that for you,” the student from the check-out says, taking the bag from her hand.

    “Oh, no, that’s really … well, all right,” Hilda says. “But maybe you ain’t goin’ my way.”

    “No rush,” the student says, allowing Hilda to hold onto his arm while she uses her walking stick with the other hand.

    The two walk slowly away from the supermarket. The student leans in and whispers.

    “I hope it doesn’t rain too,” he says.

    And Hilda breaks into a smile that’s as sunny as the day.


    • Adrienne Riggs
      What a beautifully written and sweet story. The kind of story that renews one’s faith in mankind. I had to smile at the student’s words, and I smiled as Hilda smiled. Excellent writing as always and I can’t find anything to pick about. A truly enjoyable read.

      I live in a small town and Freed-Hardeman University has been here for 150 years so during the school year, there are hundreds of students about town. It is a Christian university, so what you described is seen and experienced often. The young people are always willing to serve and help people out.

      There are benefits to living in the Bible belt. Of course, my Daddy was a preacher and elder in the church for many, many years before his health took a toll on him and he is now retired, and I take care of him. So, I don’t know anything else. LOL.

      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Adi.

        It is warming when younger people help out seniors. And I do admire adult children who don’t abandon their parents to homes…

    • John Filby
      Hey Phil
      Loved the use of the prompt and taking it in a very different context, ‘frosty’ interactions, ‘stormy’ rushing, ‘thunderous’ dialogue.
      Well done.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, John!
    • John Filby
      Hey RM,
      Glad you spoke of the elephant in the room. We don’t like to discuss this kind of thing but it is real and we need to address it before we are no longer here to do so. Human extinction is a real thing.
      Great use of the prompt and the dialogue was wonderfully spoken. Well done.
      • John, Please, call me Roy. RM is my pen name when I publish. I don’t have a really good reason, except I don’t like how my name sounds and my middle name is not a favorite. I found out I was named after a war hero friend of my dad’s who got killed during WWII, so I guess I’m stuck with it. Wish I’d known that when I was a kid. It would have saved me a lot of fights with kids making fun of me, Dale and my dog Bullet. If you’r old enough you’ll understand the Roy Rogers connection there.

        Thank you for your kind words. I truly believe if we don’t do something about our climate change causing actions, soon, it WILL be too late for many of us. And, I also believe there are people like the man on the yacht who would stop the development of anything that would interfere with his bottom line, no matter what happened to the world.

        Soon to be a motion picture near you. Watch for it.


    • Phil. Good job on the prompt. The weather is nicely woven into a story about the invisibility of old people and as you are leading me down the path of beginning to dislike all your characters’ indifference you throw in a bright ray of sunshine and save the day with the young man. Well Done, mate. Alas, though, you and everyone else on this site had a chance to write about stormy weather and so far, with the exception of Adi, most people had a different agenda and almost everyone but me went all Hallmark Channel. For those not getting American TV, Hallmark is a channel that generally tells love stories with happy endings, and sometimes melancholy, but almost always with redeeming qualities. Yours had all that in spades. Anyway, I really did like your story, but who wouldn’t?


      • Phil Town
        Thank you, Roy.

        (Sorry about going all ‘Hallmarky’. It was the mood I was in at the time! 😉 )

    • Carrie Zylka

      Absolutely great story, I don’t know that we have so much grumpiness and rudeness here in Wisconsin. It’s usually the cashiers who love to chat you up! I’m sure it happens, but I’m a Hilda for sure, and it costs nothing to share a smile. 99% of the time, that smile is returned.

      I loved your take on the theme, and I always enjoy a story that makes me stop and think if I’ve experienced the same as one of the characters.

      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Carrie.

        I don’t actually experience such grumpiness (I laid it on a bit thick in the story just for effect), but I have noticed a sense of being invisible as I drift into the winter of my life…

  • Extreme Climate Change
    By Roy York
    1181 words

    The lights were low in the auditorium as John Kellogg crossed the stage to the podium. Behind him on several large screens were the words “EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT THE WEATHER, BUT NOBODY DOES ANYTHING ABOUT IT … Mark Twain.”

    He waited in silence until the audience rustles and whispers stopped. Talking just loud enough for everyone to hear, forcing them to listen intently, he said, “If everyone in this room does not start doing something about the weather, statistically almost everyone in this room will be dead from a weather-related calamity before the end of this century. You young people just starting your family will probably not live to see your great-grandchildren.

    “Climate change is real and you are the only person in the world who can do something about it, starting now. Not the person sitting next to you, YOU! NOW!”

    He folded up his notes and walked away to stunned silence. Slowly, one by one, the audience started to rise until everyone was on their feet applauding. The bewildered moderator walked to the podium. Turning toward Kellogg, standing on the side of the stage, he said, “John, would you like to elaborate?”

    With calls of “Encore’, they continued clapping and whistling until Kellogg returned to the microphone. He looked out over the audience, “I’m not joking but I am trying to scare you. This July was the hottest recorded monthly average temperature in history. Ocean temperatures off the coast of Florida have reached over 101.2 degrees, warm enough to be classified as a hot tub.”

    He paused, “The only chance we have is if every one of us gets serious and changes our carbon footprint. To all you conglomerate fat cats, business moguls, and corporate CEOs, when your bottom line is the only thing you care about, the rest of the world suffers gradually, soon to be exponentially. You play in the Mediterranean aboard your superyachts while much of mankind flounders in poverty, riddled with disease and weather-induced famine. You turn a blind eye because you are too busy checking the stock market and your latest interest check.

    “When I finish speaking, which will have been about ten minutes, another two million, eight hundred-fifty-four thousand tons of ice in Antarctica will have melted. In case you don’t have a calculator, that’s one-hundred-fifty billion tons per year.

    “I’m done trying to scare you and trying to convince you. If you truly want to see your great-grandchildren grow up, go to my website where you can learn about the steps you can take, whom you can contact, and what you can do to ensure future generations the ability to breathe clean air, swim in clear water and grow enough food to eat. Thank you for your attention.”

    Kellogg stepped away, and as the moderator took over, he walked to the edge of the stage where a female aide took him aside. “I’ve got someone who wants to meet you.”

    “Tell them I’m not interested unless they have something that can change everything I just spoke about,”

    “Then, John, you are definitely going to want to talk to her.” She steered him by his elbow around a side curtain. This is Penelope Martin, CEO of an energy resources company specializing in fissionable power.” A beautiful woman held her hand out.

    “Mr. Kellogg, it’s my pleasure to meet you. Call me Pip. I’m glad I changed my mind about coming here. It took a while, but since the conference was only sixty miles from my home, I decided to make the trip. I have changed my carbon footprint and no longer use transportation relying on carbon usage to get around.”

    He looked puzzled. “You mean you walked?”

    “Oh, no. I came by bicycle. It’s not only good for the environment, it’s good for me. Keeps me healthy.”

    “I can see that.” He blushed, “I’m sorry, that was a bit forward. What is it you want to see me about?”

    “My company believes we have reached the ultimate breakthrough. So far, we’ve managed to keep it fairly secret. We have created usable, fissionable power from seawater. It will be cheaper to use than solar and wind, both of which consume large stores of energy and deplete rare minerals necessary for their continued operation. We will be able to provide virtually unlimited, almost free energy to the entire world while conserving natural resources.”

    “That’s quite a claim.”

    “Yes, it is, and that’s our problem. You are the world’s foremost authority on Climate Change. We think you can sway nations, and world leaders. Knowing you can’t be bought, let me tell you about it over dinner. She smiled, “And you can buy.”

    “I will be glad to buy you dinner.”

    “Oh,” she said. “It won’t just be me. It will also be my Director of Operations. I’m sure you’ll find it worth it. Shall we say, 7:00 tonight at the Changing Times Cafe?”

    “Then you know I’m Vegan?”

    “I do. It’s one of the reasons I believe you are truly trying to change the world.”

    “See you at 7:00.”

    * * * *. * * * *

    “ … as I said, I’m sorry our director had to leave so early. But, he wants everything perfect when you visit our lab tomorrow. We will not only prove we have obtained fissionable power, we will show you how It will be marketed and implemented. In less than ten years, coal mines, oil wells, and nuclear power plants will be a thing of the past. Can we plan on bringing you on board?”

    “I’d like to discuss it more, so how about doing it over a drink?”

    “That thought crossed my mind as well,” said Pip. “This might seem forward, but why don’t we have that nightcap in my room? Are you up for that?”

    He smiled. “I’m sure you didn’t quite mean it in that way, but yes.”

    Her blank look turned to blush when she realized her double entendre. “I’m sorry, I …”

    As they entered the elevator her phone rang and the trip to her room was in silence as she listened intently. The color drained from her face. “That … that was my head of security. Our entire lab was just destroyed by a massive explosion. It appears everyone and everything is gone. Ashok, our key personnel, all our records …” her words trailed off as she unlocked her door.

    As she closed the door behind them, muffled shots suddenly rang out hitting both Pip and Kellogg in the heart, killing them instantly. The man lowered the gun and stepped over the two bodies, then walked down the hall and disappeared.

    In the Mediterranean, the Silent Spring bobbed slowly in the warm waters, as music played softly in the background, interrupted by the harsh ring of a phone. A man picked up the phone in the darkness and listened. “I’ll let Prince Abu-Salud know. He can tell OPEC,” he said. His smile was warm, and his voice pleasant as he called to the Captain. “Andre, turn the yacht around and head for Barcelona. We have people to meet and the future of the world to discuss.”

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Powerful message Roy. Definitely not your Hallmark movie type. Very well written, as always, with an ending that I wasn’t expecting, walking into a trap. The nefarious types win again. Great job. I can see this as a movie. Adi
      • Thanks, Adi. Actually, I can see the story, especially the last scene, as a movie, but I hated to see so much crammed into 1200 words. It was a story bubbling to the surface I just had to get down on paper. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have that kind of feeling about writing again. It’s been a while for this guy.
    • Carrie Zylka

      A well written and fast-paced story Roy – definitely a hot button topic, and you masterfully summed up how not only Mother Nature tends to course correct, but also the greed of those who aren’t interested in fixing world problems because they have another yacht to buy for their 15-year-old son…

      • Thanks Carrie, can’t wait to see how it fares. Thanks for your kind words. By the way, this story was given to GPT to write after I wrote this one, and its feedback was very sterile but it did give me a couple of ideas on how to change a couple of things for the betterment of the story. But the twist at the end is all mine.

        I’m a firm believer that we are screwing up the world with our current actions and the ability of politicians to ignore what they can see with their own eyes, but I also believe there is hope on the horizon. I have to believe that to stay sane. I just hope it’s not too late.

    • Phil Town
      Cracking story, Roy, and I’m afraid totally plausible – except perhaps the hotel scene: the perpetrators would probably make sure it looked like an accident. Also, I think the sexual angle kind of detracts from your important message (they could be going to the room to see some documents instead of the drink and …)

      What are we going to do, when the oil&gas lobbies and their friends in govt. and the media carry all the cards?

      You and I aren’t going to be around for the big collapse, but it’s going to happen for sure.

      (btw – I’m sure you know, and took a short cut because of the title of the theme, but ‘weather’ and ‘climate’ are two different things, of course.)

      A great read.

      • Thanks, Phil.

        Points well taken. Weather and Climate are not exactly the same, but you can’t have one, without the other, I think, so they’re more than first cousins, more like double cousins and a weather/climate DNA test isn’t going to separate them much.

        Yeah, I wrote that hotel scene different ways and finally threw in the love angle to make it all Hallmarky, since that’s the way the other stories were going, but, literary sleuth that you are, you called me out.

        I truly believe we are heading down the road of destruction unless action is taken by each of us. Little things at first, then, go after the big things.

        p.s. I’m keeping the love scene in for the movie.


  • Catching up, and critiquing stories this weekend!
  • Robt. Emmett
    Percolating is a most useful but little-used concept for the creative mind. I use the percolating to my advantage. I knew what my next job was. My methodology was to work on three projects simultaneously. I’d spend a coupla of hours making corrections to my last project. Then, after morning coffee, I’d work mid-afternoon on the big new deal to make loads of money and upper management look good. (Making my boss[es] look good was my genuine concern) At last, the rest of the afternoon was mine, all mine to do as I wished and still be paid my excreting insignificant stipend. I spent the time walking about the campus and talking to people. The new data automatically fed itself into the project percolating somewhere in my gray matter.
    The percolating newest big deal popped to the fore when the previous big deal was finished, fully developed, with little revision required. This is the reason I had the afternoons to do as I pleased.
  • Amy Meyer
    Seasons of Separation by Amy Meyer & ChatGPT

    Part 1: Autumn’s Embrace

    In the autumn of their penultimate year at secondary school, Emily and Daniel’s love bloomed like the vibrant colors of the falling leaves in Bournemouth. They met in biology class, and their connection was instant and undeniable. For two blissful years, they dated, sharing laughter and dreams as they navigated the ups and downs of adolescence together.

    Part 2: Winter’s Chill

    As winter settled in, Emily and Daniel’s love endured the cold winds of change. The weather outside reflected the growing distance between them as the end of secondary school approached. Uncertainty loomed on the horizon as they faced the inevitable separation caused by their chosen universities.

    Despite the chill in the air, Emily and Daniel clung to the hope that their love would withstand the test of time and distance. As they exchanged tearful promises at their farewell party, they vowed to make their long-distance relationship work.

    Part 3: Spring’s Awakening

    With the arrival of spring, new challenges arose for Emily and Daniel. As the sun began to warm the seafront, Daniel met a waitress named Lucy while getting fish and chips at Harry Ramsden’s. The weather outside was bright and inviting, mirroring the new bond that formed between Daniel and Lucy. They discovered a shared love for 80s films and started going to the cinema together.

    Meanwhile, in Newcastle, Emily struggled to adapt to the cold and unfamiliar weather. She found it difficult to connect with her university peers and struggled to find a friendship group where she could truly be herself.

    Part 4: Summer’s Dusk

    As summer approached, Emily returned to Bournemouth during Easter break. The weather outside was warm and inviting, but Emily felt a sense of alienation from her old friendship group from secondary school. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she no longer belonged with them, the warmth of their past bonds replaced by an uncomfortable distance.

    Feeling lost, Emily joined the rowing club in search of a new sense of belonging. It was there that she met Jordan, a boy with a warm smile and an understanding heart. As the summer days grew longer, Emily found solace in Jordan’s companionship, and their friendship deepened.

    Part 5: Autumn’s Farewell

    As autumn returned, a year had passed since Emily and Daniel began their long-distance journey. The weather outside was once again cool and crisp, much like the atmosphere between them. Their love had weathered through the seasons, but the distance had taken a toll on their hearts.

    Emily’s bond with Jordan had grown stronger, and she found herself questioning the depth of her connection with Daniel. The reality of their separate lives became increasingly apparent, and they both knew that their paths were leading them in different directions.

    Under the falling autumn leaves, they faced the painful truth—they had grown apart. Their once-bright love had dimmed, and they could no longer ignore the distance that had crept into their hearts.

    With heavy hearts, they decided to break up, acknowledging that their love had changed and that they needed to embrace their separate journeys. As the seasons continued to pass, Emily and Daniel would carry the memories of their time together, the echoes of a love that once bloomed like the autumn leaves but now lay scattered like the fallen petals of a forgotten bloom.

    Co-authored with ChatGPT

    • Amy,

      So who do I get to credit with some of the writing I liked. One of the reasons I abandoned using ChatGPT at all except occasionally, was to form new ideas for stories, that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of that I could rewrite using my own words. I especially liked the ending, even if it was a bit flowery, pun intended. A few weeks ago, I published a story by myself and ChatGPT on this site and we discussed a future writing adventure by all to use ChatGPT for a story after we’ve written one, and using the same guidelines for ChatGPT. Then, publish our version at the same time to see the differences. And, to do them blind, so no one knows the ChatGPT version from the writers. Our esteemed leader is going to let us know when that might happen.

      So, I have no critique. And, I must say, I found the story a bit interesting. I liked the break up of the various seasons in line with the prompt. nice job on that, if I can credit you, that is. I didn’t mind the story and probably wouldn’t have guessed you used ChatGPT, but you didn’t say how much, so it’s kind of hard to judge.

      Anyway, thanks for entering. Enter one of your own in the future so we can see what Amy Meyer writes like.


    • Carrie Zylka

      Hi Amy,

      I’m guessing you entered a writing prompt and relied on ChatGPT to generate the rest. The only reason I believe this is that I use ChatGPT to proofread my blog posts for grammar, spelling, and readability. I also use it when reviewing articles submitted by my authors. If I receive a piece with either zero or just one correction, I can usually tell it was composed via ChatGPT, and I tend to reject those submissions. I’m not willing to pay for an article that lacks human touch and appears to be solely crafted by an AI.

      Anyhow, I ran your story through my template, and it highlighted only one error—a missing “the.” However, what struck me is the absence of warmth in the narrative. It reads like a machine-generated piece, using emotionally charged words instead of language that a human would naturally employ.

      I’m curious to find out if you wrote the story and then had ChatGPT review and correct it, or if you provided a theme, requirements, word count, etc., and had the AI generate the content from scratch.

      I don’t necessarily view this as a negative aspect, nor do I automatically assume that the entire piece was authored by AI. In fact, I see potential benefits in leveraging the tool as a writer. So I’m genuinely interested in understanding your process of using the tool for this particular story.
      I think there are some serious positives in using the tool as a writer – so I personally am just curious how you used it.

      • Amy Meyer
        Thanks Carrie! I think it’s a such an interesting new tool to play with, but it’s certainly nowhere near putting authors out of business.

        This was the prompt I gave chatGPT— which was the fouth or fifth attempt to redraft my prompt. So I came up with idea, and went back and forth with ChatGPT to redraft my prompt to come up with something I liked. It really struggled to understand the UK university application process!

        I agree with what you said about the lack of warmth. I find that the way it writes is very sappy and sentimental. I tried to get it to include dialogue, and it’s attempt was terrible.

        The instruction I gave it:
        “write a 1200 short story on the theme of weather. All of the key moments of the story are underlined by the weather outside. It’s a sad and dark story. Its about two people who meet in biology class in 6th form at a secondary school in bournemouth. They date for the next two years until they finish secondary school and Emily goes to university of newcastle to study biochemestry and Daniel stays in bournemouth– going to arts university bournemouth. they try to make a long distance relationship work. The story is structured around how their relationship changes over the seasons: starting in autumn in september when they are first separated and finishing the next autumn in september when they break up
        Incorporate these elements: Their relationship faces challenges: in spring, the Daniel meets a girl working at Harry Ramsden’s fish and chip restaurant on the seafront. whilst he doens’t cheat on emily, he has a lot in common with her– they like the same 80s films and start going to the cinema together. Emily has a tough time in Newcastle. The weather is very cold, and she struggles to find a friendship group she can really be herself with. but when she comes back to bournemouth at easter she feels alienated from her friendship group from school. she ends up joining the rowing club where she meets a boy called Jordan.”

        I would like to submit again using ChatGPT or another AI tool as an assistant, if that would be OK, although I understand if you’d rather I didn’t.

        • Carrie Zylka

          I feel like you put 90% of the effort into writing the story by coming up with the chat prompt you could have written it all yourself!
          I’m ok with you submitting stories as long as you note it was written by AI.
          The rules say the work submitted must be yours, written by AI does not technically fall within those parameters.
          Have you tried doing it the other way around?

  • Robt., Nicely told tale of young love. I especially liked these two lines: I had a strange new feeling, an itch. Being with her meant I didn’t have to scratch.

    But, you too, fell into the Hallmark story line with your tale of tender first love, but you did end it rather abruptly , I think. I might have liked an ending of: Our paths never crossed again, Looking back, I wish they had.

    Or something a long those lines. I admit, you ended it with a bang. Nothing else to quibble about.


    • Robt. Emmett
      RM York – Thanks for your comments. I should/could have added a few more works. And yes, my ending was abrupt. As was hers.
      I learned several lessons from the experience that stood out well in my dating years.
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Just a reminder, tomorrow is National Adrienne Day! (AKA My Birthday!) You are invited to celebrate my day wherever you are in whatever fashion you choose. Have fun!!
    • Phil Town
      By hook or by crook,
      I’ll be first in your book.
      Happy NAD!
      • Adrienne D Riggs
        Thanks Phil!!
    • Carrie Zylka

      Ooooooo Happy Birthday!!

      • Adrienne D Riggs
        Thank you, Carrie!
    • And here I was worrying about how to fill the rest of my day. HB Adi – this next part is sung: And many moooore!
      • Adrienne D Riggs
        Thank you very much, Roy!
    • Vicki Chvatal
      Happy birthday (aka International Adrienne Day)! 🙂
      • Adrienne D Riggs
        International Adrienne Day! Even better! Thanks Vicki!
  • Vicki Chvatal

    “It was a dark and stormy night.”

    Grace winced. What a cliched opening. Never mind, just get the rough draft down; she’d clean it up later.

    “Kitty struggled up the slope against a fierce wind and driving rain, aiming for a faint light of the lighthouse. The thought of giving up didn’t cross Kitty’s mind. Word had come of a shipwreck. She had to get to the shore.”

    Grace could still feel the wind and rain assaulting her as she trudged along, huddling inside Grandpa’s too-large oilskin coat. The storms were one thing she didn’t miss about living on the coast; they were nasty.

    She glanced out the window, at the featureless grey sky, gentle drizzle falling on her begonias, trees barely moving in the wind. The view was dull, in a comfortable way. Grace turned back to the screen.

    “Kitty searched desperately through the debris, looking for survivors. She was close to despair – then, one of the prone bodies moved. At first, Kitty dismissed as a trick of the dim lighting. But then, the tall, lean body moved again. The man lifted his head with difficulty, dark blond hair plastered over his blood-streaked face, and looked at Kitty with the clearest green eyes she’d ever seen.”

    Grace pictured the hero looking like George, back when they’d first started stepping out. Of course, she’d skip the drinking and the beatings – these weren’t romantic hero material. But boy, her late husband had sure looked the part, back in the day. … Anyway, it would be too dark for Kitty to see the colour of his hair and eyes on a stormy night. Better move the description to the next morning.

    “The moment the stranger’s clear eyes met hers, Kitty knew without a doubt that she would move heaven and earth to make sure he survived.”

    … The shipwreck survivor was middle-aged and pudgy. His eyes, clouded with pain – or perhaps concussion, – stared unseeingly at Grace. She froze. The man’s mouth opened, but the voice was lost in the storm.

    “What’s the matter, Gracie?” George’s voice cut through the wind’s howling.

    “This one’s still alive,” she replied.

    George strode over through the storm. He lifted his axe without hesitation. Grace turned away, but she couldn’t help hearing the thud.

    “Well, don’t just stand there,” George barked peremptorily. “Check his pockets, see if there’s anything good. You want a new dress? It won’t buy itself, you know.”

    Grace bent stiffly and set to work with numb fingers …

    … Grace wrenched her mind away from the memory. She pressed her fingers against the eyelids to banish the images, and took a deep breath.

    She needed a break. She’d get back to the draft later, make corrections, pad it out, add descriptions – and the first chapter of her new (hopefully) bestseller was in the can. But for now, she’d done enough writing.

    Grace checked her feed, opened the first message.

    “Dear Grace Clinton, I love all your books. Do you use real people or events from your life for inspiration?”

    Grace’s lips quirked. One could say that … if one didn’t nitpick.

    “To some extent,” she typed in reply to the fan, “but more as an inspiration than a documentary account.”

  • Marien Oommen
    Different Strokes

    by Marien Oommen (1010 words)

    Thunder clapped like eight giants guffawing at a midnight party, when the drinks run out. Except it wasn’t yet night, but day. The sun was hidden behind the darkling clouds.

    “Should we venture out today, honeyliche?” Mia asked.
    “Of course, we should. This is nothing. The clouds will soon vanish.”
    Of course he knew everything. Even ‘bout the clouds.
    Their rental car was waiting outside. Soon they were off to Marari beach resort. Not the best time for a holiday. But who cares!
    Mia was dreaming about the exotic massage she’d have at the coconut lagoon. The man was observing ‘things’ as different from womankind who simply gaze without purpose.

    Then the skies suddenly cracked open. Water fell in fury. The roads turned into a river in minutes.
    Our driver knew his route well and drove with caution. Water was everywhere.
    We were now on a waterlogged road with the river Pamba on one side and green paddy fields on the other. Water was fast filling the field from the overflowing river. The four wheel drive jerked a bit. He put the car in first gear mode.
    This is the famous ‘monsoons in Kerala’. Beautiful time of the year but far wiser to watch it rain from your window. Not outside, floundering in a car, as fools rushing in where wise angels feared to tread.

    Weirdly, there were monsoon merrymakers on the road and water had by now leveled their thighs.
    Their lungis were folded real high expressing each one’s individual freedom, totally oblivious of the free shows they were imparting to the chosen gentry wading through in their cars.
    One wouldn’t know whether to call them soakin’ asses or dunkin’ nuts.

    “Dear Lord, keep us safe,” whispered Mia. “Bring us safely through. When you walk through waters or fire, you will not be harmed…”
    Which Psalm was that? She tried to recall her grandpa’s nightly prayers. They always brought comfort to her in times of fear.
    The road winded a bit and finally they were out of the watery hole. The car had stayed its course, by God’s grace and its mighty weight. They saw a blue fiat being swept onto the field or what was once a field. Good Lord! Who was in it?
    There was roaring water on both sides of the road now. Had those walkers got to safety? Mia knew well she wasn’t much of a swimmer. The resort was beautiful. The night survived the storm and the sea sounded its fury fright up to their coconut lagoon cottage.

    Next morning he wanted to swim. The massage had to wait. Mia got to the pool and swam her breaststroke quietly- the only stroke she knew. The slight drizzle from the sky wasn’t a deterrent for it was all so very beautiful. She wished very much in her heart to be a better swimmer like her man.

    Mia recalled one of her students who walked alongside the pool as she swam. Near the edge as she always did. She never ventured to the middle. Then he hailed her.

    “Ma’am, I need to tell you something. You swim so.. well!”

    “Whatt Jannar, you mean that?”

    “What I mean is you… swim like a frog. So good!”

    “Go away, you naughty fellow!” Mia retorted.
    This was her, she was the friendly kind and her students had the freedom to speak their mind. They knew that.


    Twenty three years had passed since that remark. Her swimming wasn’t any better.
    She was in the pool with her grandson. He was thrilled that she was in there with him. Little expert that he was getting to be, he did his happy flips and jumps into the pool, splashing water all over.
    Gwanma looked worried at his exuberance and said, “Come on, Nish.. be careful now.”

    Nish stopped midway, imitating a funny woman’s face, big eyes, cheeks blown, he teased her, “Don’t jump, don’t swim, don’t float… Why are you always so worried, gwanma. It’s alright. Everything is cool, just rwelaxxx. God made the pool and the water, right?”
    He threw in the God factor quite a bit to make his gwanma feel good.

    Gwanma Mia carried on nevertheless.

    This was not the time to go under but to rise above. Years on, this lil’ guy might be telling this story to his children. So she persevered, did her breast stroke, the only one she knew- head over the water, so her eyes don’t burn and the few hairs on her head aint soakin’.
    She came up feeling triumphant.

    Nish said, “Gwanma, you need to follow some rules here.”
    He was straight out of his swim school.
    Rule number 1: “You need to breathe whatever the sky gives out.
    Just now you were swimming like an old fish. That’s not allowed.” He chuckled.

    Gwanma listened. “Did you call me a fish? You.. YOU.. you naughty guy!”

    Gwanpa, who was an expert swimmer, was listening to all this and negotiating between smirks and chuckles.

    Rule No:2 “No back flips at all. It’s forbidden.”
    “Why can’t I do back flips?” She asked.
    “Because it looks like it’s going to rain and the water will fall right into your open mouth.”
    He showed a cod fish expression now.

    Rule No:3 “You must spread your legs. Look at me, gwanma. Like this.” He splashed his legs and came up like an Olympic coach.

    Rule No 4: “You must sing lying on your back. Say I’m Moses, I’m Moses.”

    The boy was having the time of his life. All of 5 years old.
    Did you think he was 25?
    The sky was turning a nice shade of pink. The clouds looked down on them as if smiling at their camaraderie.
    The sun was about to set. It was a sweltering Texan day of 103 and the pool was the only safe place.
    With this little boy growing up, Gwanma Mia wondered if AI would be given a chance to take over imagination.

    Never! As she continued with her breaststroke, nose and hair above the water.

  • Robt. Emmett
    The Zippo
    Robt. Emmett 2023

    My eyes nearly crossed while examining the tips of the fingers attached to the palm of my left hand that supported my clean-shaven chin. Am I bored? What gave you the first clue? Me, watching the geriatric gyrations at the late night, seven-thirtyish, Senior Center dance party. Or is it because an above-average good, looking twenty-eight-year-old guy is sitting with his grandparents? Bingo, right on both counts. The Rolex on my right wrist said, no, it displayed exactly one minute seven seconds since the last time I checked it. It’s going to be a long evening.
    The music stopped. A profusely sweating Pops and Nana returned and plopped onto the vinyl chairs next to me and sighed. Before they could speak to me, wait … what is this? A trio had followedthem. And one was a first-class bit of eye candy. Not the crone with the Marge Simpson hair-do. Not the bad toupee in the plaid sports coat. Oh, no, the lovely goddess between them. Yes, her in the little black dress, the black CFM pumps, and the black Prince Valiant haircut. The total scene suits her and me to a T.
    I stood and offered the two a chance to take a load off. They accepted. The entire room narrowed until it contained just the two of us. We moved to a tiny table designed only for us. The waiter appeared.
    “Your order, madam?”
    “Daiquiri …, double.”
    He knew I preferred non-alcoholic drinks. “And you, sir. Usual.” Not a question, a statement.
    I nodded. For important occasions, I only drink virgin Maries.
    He left. She sighed, “The last time I had this much fun, I was doing the fire walk at a luau on the big island.”
    My jaw dropped.
    “I fell and spent three months in the Diamondhead General Burn ward.”
    “I know what you mean. Before you arrived, I was contemplating whether I should insert a toothpick under one thumbnail and light it. Or….”
    “Your drink, madam.”
    He turned, “And yours, sir.”
    “Another, please.”
    What? I looked over at her and her empty glass. How the hell had she inhaled a double? Or did he serve her an empty glass?
    In reply to my surprised stare, she smiled, “Yeah, it’s been that kinda evening.” And then she added, “So far, if you get my drift.”
    “You want to leave?”
    She laughed lightly. A mischievous look appeared at the corners of her lips. “To your place to view your etchings?”.
    The melodic quality of her voice fascinated me. “I don’t have any.”
    “But you have a place, right?”
    “Yes, a cabin.”
    “A cabin in the mysterious dark woods sounds intriguing.”
    “Ah, no, it is in a subdivision about five miles from here.”
    Standing abruptly, she said, “What are you waiting for? I’m outta here. Are you coming?”
    I caught her near the door. At her suggestion, we took her car.

    The simulated white plastic-board dock extended seventy feet into the lake. A canvas cover concealed the top of the twenty-foot speed boat moored on the one side. The banged-up coverless aluminum canoe would have to suffer the elements naked. A frayed piece of rope not fit to tie-up a bag of garbage tethered the canoe to the wood post. We stood at the end of the dock, the best place to enjoy the full moon created yellow-gold path to the far side of the cove.
    “If I didn’t know better, I’d try to walk across to those cabins over there.” Turning half to me, she said, “Over there the cabins are alight, but I don’t see any lights over here. Why?”
    “The place on our right belongs to the Davies family and has been for sale for over a year. The Miller place, on the left, just went on the market.” This one, I said under my breath, belongs to a convict, and he won’t miss the place.
    “What did you say?”
    “I said, both the Davies and Millers have moved out of state.”
    “Glad you know better than to walk a moonbeam.” I slipped my arm around her slender waist. “Seen enough of the lake? She nodded. “Good. Let’s go see the inside.”
    “Does the fireplace work?”
    “It would be pointless to have a two-story river rock fireplace that did not warm one.”
    As she said, “Light it then,” I pressed the igniter button on the wall and turned the light dimmer to a more romantic level.
    “Are you going to be a proper host and serve a lady something to drink?”
    Lady? “Of course. Ah, let me check in the kitchen.”
    “Don’t fret; I don’t expect you to have a Country Club selection.”
    “I don’t. Settle for a highball of rail liquor with bubble water?”
    Her laugh tinkled like a bell. “We need to go shopping tomorrow, but not too early.”
    I smiled. You are right, partly anyway. “I certainly plan to. Here you go, enjoy.” I said, handing her the glass.
    Our eyes met. She took a large sip, set her glass on the small table between us, and stood. Her soft yet throatyvoice said. “I’d like to see more of this place.”
    “Any room in particular?” Her hand slipped into mine. “You pick.”

    I removed the canvas cover and dropped it into the rear cockpit. The twenty-footer’s pristine mahogany deck reflected the waning moon’s light. The dim light at the edges of the eastern horizon foretold the coming dawn. I stopped in the center of the lake. The cabin fully engulfed and illuminated the night sky. Siren sounds in the distance told me what I knew would happen. The township volunteers would arrive to save the outbuildings and prevent the fire from spreading. The professionals from the city would turn up and save the lot. Then both groups would watch the cabin burn to the ground. After which, they would put out the sparks and head home and sleep. I toasted the stars and thanked them for another enjoyable and profitable evening.

    The static in the earpiece diminished to a good enough level for communication. “Good evening, Zippo.”
    “Morning, Zahra. What is on your mind?”
    “Word’s trickled down about your work down there. All are good. No, they’re, as the locals say, ‘pleased as punch.’ Er, hmm, whatever that means.”
    “Ah, yeah, and? I feel a but or a however in your voice. What gives?”
    “Zeke was wondering if….”
    “Zeke! Hell no, I’ve done him enough favors. He owes me, not to the other way around.”
    “Remember, Zeke has the commander’s ear. A word from him would help your career.”
    “Okay, lay it on me.”
    “He suggests sending two interns, Zack and Zell, for you to train.”
    “Ah, that’s not a bad idea, especially for Zeke. Okay, send them. And in less than two earth weeks, we will ship the maximum interplanetary limit of exportable free-range human protein.”
    — Ԙ —

  • I’ll post the voting link in a little while, we had two stories sneak in under the wire, after I’d completed the voting page. So I’ll have to redo it.

    Will post soon!

  • Carrie Zylka

    Just waiting on Amy and Marien to vote. I’ve emailed them both and will give them a few hours to respond in case there are time zone difficulties..

  • Carrie Zylka

    All righty writers!
    Without further ado here are your winners!

    1st Place: Sunshine by Phil Town
    2nd Place: A Rebuilding by Carrie Zylka
    3rd Place: The House that Jack Built by John Filby
    4th Place: Extreme Climate Change by Roy York
    5th Place: Storms of the Heart by Adi Riggs
    6th Place: First Draft by Vicki Chvatal
    7th Place: The Zippo by Robt Emmett
    8th Place: Different Strokes by Marien Oommen
    9th Place: Seasons of Separation by Amy Meyer & ChatGPT

    Story with the favorite character: Hilda from Phil’s “Sunshine”
    Story with the favorite dialogue: Extreme Climate Change by Roy York

    Congrats to all!!!

    • Phil Town
      Thanks everyone for your votes.

      I’m so glad people liked Hilda, based substantially on my dear, departed mum. So this one’s for her.

    • Adrienne Riggs
      Congratulations Phil, Carrie and John!! Phil, I absolutely loved Hilda! I felt like I knew her and wanted to walk with her. Carrie, I loved the life on the farm with the children, beautifully told. All great stories! Well-deserved wins!
  • Vicki Chvatal
    Congrats, Phil, Carrie & John!

    This was a strong round overall, I had trouble choosing the top 5.

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