Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Pet Peeves”

Theme: Pet peeve(s); noun; informal

  1. Something that a person finds especially annoying.
  2. Personal vexation

Word Count: 1,200

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***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Andy Lake per the Writing Prompt Roster.

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184 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Pet Peeves”

  • Just signing up for comments! I just finished my book plan for a novel I’m writing so I don’t know if I’ll have time to participate in this one but I’ll definitely be reading and voting!
    • Please disregard my previous comment. I’ve asked for it to be removed. I will no longer be partipating on this website as a result of circumstances that I will not get into. Good luck to all of you wonderful writers and have fun!
      • Hi Carrie, I would like all of the stories I have posted to be deleted from this website.


    • I had another comment here earlier asking you lovely people to disregard the comment above this one. I will no longer be participating on this website. I wish you all happiness! 🙂
      • Dear Jen,
        It’s hard to know what to say to someone who has experienced such a terrible event as the loss of a loved one. I suppose that’s why a lot of us refrain from saying anything at all. At such times, we are acutely aware of how futile and inept mere words can seem in the face of unimaginable tragedy. I only speak for myself when I say that I cannot offer you prayers, or some superstitious hope that our lives and deaths all serve some grand and higher purpose. These things are beyond my comprehension. All I have to offer is a few words of sincere sympathy for you and your loved ones on your heartbreaking loss. Sympathy, for the grief and sorrow you must surely endure, knowing from experience that, while such emotions diminish over time, they never, ever, truly disappear.
  • The Wisdom of My Mum

    “You won’t believe what he’s bought now,” said Mother. I didn’t need to ask who “he” is. Aston, my sister’s husband.

    “Tell me.”

    “A patio heater!”

    Sounded a reasonable purchase to me, bearing in mind they’d just spent a small fortune on a patio.

    “Why would anyone buy a patio heater?” she continued. “If it’s cold outside, just sit inside where it’s warm!”

    I smiled. I loved my mother’s ‘Why’s. A mixture of pet peeves and puzzlement about the modern world punctuated almost every conversation.

    And the way she said ‘Why’. Her old-fashioned Scottish pronunciation of the ‘h’ before the ‘w’, with a soft explosion from slightly puffed cheeks. “hWhy do all these girls on X Factor always jump up and down and shriek like that? hWhat’s happened to dignity? I can’t remember us doing anything like that when I was young.”

    “You were on X Factor in the 1940s?”

    “You know what I mean.”

    I remember her calling me during the 2010 World Cup.

    “You won’t believe this, Andy, but I’ve just watched the England game. To see what all the fuss is about.”

    “Fantastic. Did you enjoy it?”

    “I did.” Which was more than I had done. I knew from her tone, though, that there was a ‘but’ coming.

    “The game was fine. But WHY do they have those four idiots in the studio talking about the game. First they tell me what I’m about to watch. Then I watch it. Then they come on at half time and tell me what I’ve just seen. And then tell me about what I’m going to watch next. Then I watch it. Then they come back and tell me all over again what I’ve just seen. I KNOW! I WATCHED IT!”

    “Mum, they’re all ex-footballers, just giving a bit of insight and analysis –“

    “And people enjoy that?”

    “It’s all part of the fun.”

    “Fun be damned. Why doesn’t the BBC save some money and just let us work out for ourselves what we’ve been watching?”

    I wish I could remember now all the “Whys” she came out with. If only we’d had the foresight to film some of them, capture the look of wry amusement or her eyes widening in exaggerated, mischievous outrage.

    In her later years, after she’d given up driving – not a minute too soon – she like us to take her to garden centres. I think we visited every one and its café in the region. “Everyone here is very old,” she’d say in a stage whisper. “It’s not the girls serving who are slow. It’s the customers, poor old dears. If I get as doddery as that, put me down, will you?”

    She remained a sharp social commentator. When as a large inter-generational clan we went out to restaurants, she’d make an observation like, “Why do people always take photos of food? I remember we used to say grace before meals. Now we have to wait for every bugger to take a photo to share with the world and his wife. Do they think no one’s ever seen food before?”

    Yet everywhere she went she’d make a new best friend. Usually they were somewhere north of 80 years old, but she also had a habit of adopting young mothers or couples. I’d arrive and find her knitting bootees or a little jacket for the baby of a complete stranger she’d met in the library or local corner shop.

    For her 80th birthday we bought Mother her first computer – a shiny new laptop. She abandoned the Scottish dancing and German cookery classes and signed up for every computer class she could find. I’d get calls around midnight:

    “You know that wee doodly thingy at the top left of the one where you write letters? What am I meant to do with that? And what’s a U_R_L? …. Yes, I do need to know that…. So why not just call it an address?

    “How exactly does email work. Where does it actually go when you post it, I mean, between here and there? … Why?

    “I’m not sure I like all these things Lisa keeps sending me. Are they meant to be funny? I read in the paper they’re called ‘me-me’s -”

    “It’s pronounced ‘meem’, Mum” I said. “Rhymes with ‘seem’.”

    “But why invent a new word when ‘stupid joke’ would do?”

    In her last couple of years she retained her sense of bafflement and wonder. Dealing with benefits bureaucracy and social care presented new challenges. “Why can’t I just talk to the person I last talked to? It’s press one for this, press two for that, then press the number you first thought of and take a chance on who picks up. And then explain everything all over again, from the beginning. Why is it so hard to speak to the right person?”

    Ever well-organised, Mother took us through her preferred legal and financial arrangements for when she finally “popped her clogs”. Did she want to be buried or cremated? “Why would anyone give a tinker’s cuss about that? When I’m gone, I’m gone. Surprise me.” One of her favourite old jokes, and she meant it.

    We debated what to put on her memorial plaque. We settled for a three-letter word in large letters, and a smiley face. The latter primarily to bait her should she be looking down.

    Now I guess I’m getting to the age of puzzlement myself. I’m starting to think things like:
    – “Why do people these days cover themselves head to toe in blue ink and bad art? You wouldn’t wear the same shirt every day, so why choose to emblazon the same pattern on your skin for a lifetime?

    – “Why have people forgotten about free speech? Safe spaces? What’s happened to youth, when you should be looking for danger and difference?

    – “Why don’t most hand-dryers dry hands?

    – “And Twitter – just why?”

    And so to today, at Kings Cross station, London. Big family outing.

    “Come on, Dad, stop being a stick-in-the-mud and just do it!”

    My daughters pull me in to stand with the grandkids in front of Harry Potter’s Platform Nine-and-Three-Quarters. They make me hold the selfie stick (selfie sticks – why, oh why?) and fall into kinks of laughter when I try to press the button on the screen to take a photo, rather than the button at the base of the stick. I smile indulgently.

    “That’s one for the scrapbook,” laughs my daughter. My extended arm and peering face on the photo block out any view of the family.

    And that’s another thing – checking every photo straight after it’s taken instead of when you get home. How much of life is missed that way, staring into a tiny screen at yourself doing what you’ve just done? I feel life not just slipping away, but beginning to disappear up its own arsehole …

    “What did you just say, Grandad?”

    “Ignore him, sweetie,” said my daughter shooting me a glance. “Grump-pa has a potty mouth when he grumbles to himself.”

    Really? Do I do that? I smile, and think, “It’ll be your turn before you know it!”

    WC 1188

    • That’s about 1184 words, I meant to say …
    • Adrienne Riggs
      Andy, a truly enjoyable read! My grandparents were that way and my parents and now, I find myself doing the same thing. I guess it is true. We do become our parents. LOL. Loved the story! BTW – I want to see Harry Potter’s Platform!
      • Many thanks, Adrienne!
        I’m going the same way …

        You want to see Harry Potter’s platform? I’l take a selfie next time I’m there and post it! 🙂

        • I would like to see that too Andy, if you don’t mind.
        • Adrienne Riggs
          Awesome Andy!! I’m a huge Harry Potter fan.
      • Lovely story, Andy. Marvellous portrayal of your mother’s character. Some of the sentences like: Usually they were somewhere north of 80 years old, just to give an example, are innovative and catchy.. Your wit and sense of humour is distinctively palpable throughout.
        The last line: I smile, and think, “It’ll be your turn before you know it” has a tinge of wistfulness and vindictiveness. It reminds us of the stark realities ad well.
        On the whole, a thoroughly entertaining family (?) story. Good luck.
        P.S: By ‘family story’, I mean, a story for the whole family.
        • Thanks, Rathin!
          It’s a mix of fact (or remembrance, not the same thing) and fiction. I don’t have any grandkids, for a start. Yet. Or as far as I know!
          But I hope it gives a flavour of a person and some relationships that have a grounding in reality.and a feeling of being true to life.
    • Wow Andy ! A masterpiece of insight . I love it.
      • Thank so much, Maud 🙂
    • Anindita Basu
      Andy, a very lovely story. Wonderful character sketches and the way you finished it. Flawless short story. Loved the way you showed the Scottish accent emphasizing the ‘hWhys’…I could hear her. Very vivid dialogue. ‘Loved it.
      • Many thanks, Anindita. And welcome to the group!
    • Andy, very good. Loved the. ‘… mixture of pet peeves and puzzlement about the modern world…’ bit. Brilliant how one can combine a life long antagonism with a new invention.
      • Thanks, David. Puzzlement about the modern world – people talk about Generation X and Generation Y, but I think sooner or later we all enter Generation Q, where we have a permanent question mark before our eyes 🙂
    • “Surprise me.” Great line. I’m gonna use it someday. (Not in a story, in real life.)
      • for a fee, no problem 🙂
        • Great story Andy. I started and found I had enough peeving moments to make it rival War and Peace or Le Recherche Temps Perdu! It just went on and on… so I decided just to comment and vote as this prompt is too much for me! LOL
    • Sitting in the waiting room waiting for a friend nothing good to read and then remembered my phone and flash fiction..lots of smiles and chuckles in your story Andy
      • Many thanks, Liz, glad it brought a smile or two
    • Truly enjoyed your story. Loved the way you described the pronunciation of hWhy.
      • Many thanks, Janet 🙂
    • Truly great story Andy. You are indeed a force as a writer to be reckoned with. Damn, you are pretty good, buddy.
      • Thanks indeed, Roy. Just putting the words out there, having bit of fun and hoping people enjoy 🙂
    • Phil Town
      This is so lovely, Andy, and speaks of great love and affection for your mother. (I found myself nodding often.) As Ken, my favourite line was “Surprise me.” Was that really a joke of hers, or yours? Bravo, either way. Yes, really very lovely.
  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing up for comments! Can’t wait to read the stories. I really can’t wait for the time that I can participate again!
    • I have to concur with most comments above. Lovely story that presents your mother in sharp relief and connects her to you. We all get older and more doddery, don’t we? Loved it Andy – it is one of your best.
      • Thank you so much, Ilana 🙂
  • Crushes: My Pet Peeve and Ruin:
    I was nine when I had a crush on Mrs. Mackenzie, my mom’s best friend and neighbour. She would come to our house in the odd hours and if I happened to be home, would greet me with a singsong voice ‘Hi, Dan’ and the whole day the voice would chime in my heart. She looked like Kylie Minogue to me and had had a spell on me. Starting with Mrs. Mackenzie to Simron is a long story. So let me try to be brief about it. As I was telling you, by the time I had gotten over my first crush and primed into the second, I thought that I liked girls of all shapes and sizes. I was yet to know about the mystery called Woman!
    I was not always like this – a self-confined recluse, someone who detested and dreaded going out, as I have already told you. I loved making friends, especially with the fairer sex. The realization that I was different from most of my friends hit me when I was in standard seven. Most of them were into sports and games. I don’t mean to say that I was not. I was. But my heart wasn’t. I thought I liked it more when I saw the cute girl with braces and braided hair, Simron, coming in in search of my sister. I thought that I liked those cute cheeks, that I’d like to hold her hand and take her upto our roof and whisper into her ears how much I liked her. I’ll come back to Simron later. How wrong I was into falling for them!
    “Dian, I like Danny a lot. What a good-looking brother you have!” said Maggie to my sister while lifting me off the floor and placing me on her lap on the chair, while my sister, Dian, looked bemused. The closeness of Maggie with her left hand round me, the perfume she wore and her habit of cupping my chin very firmly with her right hand drove me crazy. I thought I liked her a lot.
    While sitting at my study table, with my eyes on my Geography or Biology book (Dad would be by then back from the office and watching The News outside in the drawing room), I’d be thinking of Maggie only. Her geography or biology! She was obviously my older by some years. With her curly hair, kind eyes and that gorgeous set of sparkling teeth, she looked like a dream to me at that time! I thought I was in love with her, secretly. How silly of me! Getting her out of my mind was a difficult task, if ever there was any, till Anne found her way to my heart….
    “Hi, Dan.” Anne called me from the other end, the giggle and delight in her voice palpably disquieting.
    “Hi, Anne,” I responded.
    “What doing? Wanna come over? Mom’s gone downtown for her weekly shopping. Won’t be back for ages. Getting bored. pet” She pretended to yawn. But there was no trace of boredom in her voice. There was a hint of excitement and ecstacy.
    “Be right over. Can we watch that movie again? The Sword Slight?” I tried imitating that excitement into my voice.
    “I’ve something else in mind for you. But why waste time talking over the phone? Why not hit the road straight away?”
    That’s what I did.
    As I knocked on her apartment door, she looked through the peep-hole before dislodging the chain. She had one of those T-shirts with Rambo written across in black. I’d always seen her freaking out with those big boys in our school. It is difficult to fathom how two completely opposite people like us became buddies within such a short time. Anne was in standard eleven while I was in nine. Anyway, to continue with my Journey to Hell, she opened the door that evening and handed me the key to her heart. It was while she was teaching me about movie=making, instead of watching one, that her mother came back in. She had the duplicate key. I could’t forget the innocent act that Anne put on that evening. The day of doom ended when I was made to disappear from their lives with the threat that if I was detected anywhere near the vicinity of their apartment, she would call the FBI!
    I thought Anne was the final nail in the coffin and tried to distance myself from every Tina, Donna and Heima from then on. I stopped going out from then. I was frightened of the mysteries of this big, bewitching world. I learnt to keep myself to myself, to try to avoid socializing and spend my time all by myself. I didn’t even watch TV anymore. Even watching TV meant watching those buxom, Big-Everything beauties either in the soap operas or WWW (World Women’s Wrestling) and the very sight of them sickened me to death.
    Seven years had passed since that heinous evening. That night my school friend, Allan, had invited me to his birthday bash where I met Simron after ages. It was hard to believe that the girl with the braces, that shy girl with braided hair, could transform into such a bewitching beauty! They had left our locality in between the time when Maggie had made way for Anne. I was meeting her that night after a gap of almost seven years. It was Simron who came over at my side near the window. The music had turned to something melodious from raucous by then. Stretching her hand forward, she broke into a smile: “Hi, Dan. Remember me?”
    Something long forgotten, clicked somewhere down memory lane,
    “Jesus, Simron? I can’t believe it!” I exclaimed in rapture.
    We moved to a table nearby. She told me that her boyfriend was also there but he had gone out to pick up a couple of friends. She looked ravishing and reminded me of the days of my craving and aching for her. The lights in the room had dimmed and the DJ invited the willing on-lookers to hit the dance floor. I was surprised when she asked me if I’d like to join her ‘for old time’s sake’. I accepted her offer with my heart. I had my hands around her waist and lips inches away from hers, when someone tapped me on the shoulder. The menacing look on the face of the stranger surprised me no end. I turned my head from his to the terrified face of Simron for a fraction of a second, when he hit me from behind. I nearly lost my balance but recovered quickly to get back on my feet to punch him on his chin. The sound of something cracking was yet to register, when I was caught by a couple of thugs from behind.
    I had to spend three weeks or so in the hospital, all broken, battered and embittered.
    I don’t go out at the beck and call of girls anymore. I am grown out of my crushes by marrying the most wonderful girl in the world, Suzanne, who works as a nurse in the hospital.

    WC 1193

    • Anindita Basu
      Nice story rnb. I love the way you ended the story.
      • Thank you, Anindita. I thought of going through your blog but have been lazing around since morning. The Mid-Year Exam starts coming Monday. Corrections of some 300 papers will keep me occupied from then on. Anyway, I am as eager to go through your blog as I am to go through your next story. You are a far better writer than what I am or could dver be. I ain’t being modest here.If morning does really show the day, you will have them sway ( Sorry, just wanted to use a rhyming word), and your first story showed enough promise of things to come. I felt sorry that you had to post it after the time limit.
        Take care and good luck with your next.
        • Anindita Basu
          You are really sweet rnb with your generous compliments. Who doesn’t like them? Thank you. Good luck with your 300 paper.. Take care. Anindita.
    • Hey Rathin, nice pacey character-driven story about a young man who’s nervous about women – or rather, frightened by his response to them. And it seems to get more acute with time. I think there’s something maybe psychological here, as he’s alarmed by his feelings of unrequited desire at a young age, and this stays with him?

      “She looked like Kylie Minogue to me and had had a spell on me” – had ‘cast a spell’, perhaps. Maybe you could add “But I should be so lucky (lucky, lucky, lucky….)”

      And perhaps where you say “Getting her out of my mind was a difficult task” maybe “I couldn’t get her out of my head” would pick up on a Kylie lyric a bit more directly (I’m sorry that I know these things).

      In the end he can’t avoid women – well, in a hospital full of nurses I guess it’s not possible. Hopefully, he has a never-ending crush on his wife 🙂

      • Thanks Andy. I couldn’t have made a better assessment of the story myself. I think the expression ‘I couldn’t get her out of my head’ was what I had in mind but while typing at a break-neck speed, it came out like the way it is.
        It’s good to have a friend like you, Andy, with a sharp eye ( should ‘eyes’ be more appropriate here?) and an equally, if not more, sharp mind ( do you think ‘intellect’ would sound better here?). You see, Andy, when you are writing in a foreign language, it’s kind of goofy ( God! Now where did this word come from?). Sorry, if It didn’t make much sense to you. Please be kind enough to point out the mistakes I make. Will make a better writer of me eventually, I guess.
        Love you and best of luck with your absolutely knocker of a story.
    • A nicely told story of a man’s journey before meeting Miss Right.
      • Thank you, Harris. I need all your encouragement to think that I really belong here. Awaiting another stunner from you soon.
        Take care and all the best wishes.
      • Then the words right out from under my
        pen Maud! Good story – well paced with the surprise ending tying it up to a neat ending.
        • Thanks Ma’am Ilana. Was expecting something from you and Mr. Ken Cartisano. Sorry for being brief as I am replying from the hall. Exams begin in ten minutes. Love and best wishes..
    • Phil Town
      Great stuff, Rathin! (I wonder how autobiographical?) The progression through loves is smooth and, as Andy points out, escalates nicely. It starts really well (throwing us into the predicament with “I was nine when I had a crush on Mrs. Mackenzie, my mom’s best friend and neighbour.”) I also like the ending, tying everything up very nicely. I thought maybe Maggie and Anne could be made one person (?) – there doesn’t seem to be a valid reason to get the lovely Maggie out of the narrator’s mind.
      • Dear Phil,
        I responded thrice to your views regarding my story last night. Unfortunately, all three responses got blown away by the ravages of my fate ( I hope it makes sense). Anyway, what I wrote was something like this that every single word of appreciation and encouragement from you, is pure bliss for me. You have had a tremendous influence on me since the day I chanced to read one of your trademark stories. In my humble opinion, you are one of our modern literary giants.
        I will be surprised if you don’t turn out to be the winner for the second consecutive time. May loads of accolades and laurels come your way soon. May you continue to enlighten and entertain us to our hearts’ content. All the best.
  • Hi, Jen. I ain’t sure if I’m poking my nose into something or not but it appears to me that for some reason, you are upset or infuriated.
    You are a great writer but what is more important is the fact that you are one heck of a human being. I’ll never forget how you stood by me when I was feeling very low and had the blues.
    We all go through hard times, dear Jen. Your hour of glory is yet to come. Take care. We all love you dearly, if that is of any comfort. May God be your greatest strength.
    • Thank you for you kind words, RNB. This comment may be deleted before you see it but I thought I’d try.
      • Carrie Zylka

        To be clear neither Alice nor I are arbitrarily deleting comments.
        Someone went through and marked a bunch of her comments spam.

        I have cleared and marked her as not spam.

      • Carrie Zylka

        To be clear neither Alice nor I are arbitrarily deleting comments.
        Someone went through and marked a bunch of her comments spam.

        I have cleared and marked her as not spam.

        • robtemmett
          Okay then, why don’t I receive notification of a new comment, any new comments – ever?
          • Robert,
            I don’t receive notifications from this site except for the initial notice from Alice and Carrie of a new contest. Sometimes I forget to add my name to the subscribe box, or I fail to like the site under the heading. I don’t know. Other times I do and still get no notifications. And yet other times I click, like and subscribe and I do receive notifications. It’s hard to know what’s going on, but at this point in my life, I just assume I’m doing something wrong, and Alice and Carrie have enough things to worry about. So I just check in periodically.
            It doesn’t even come close to qualifying as a pet peeve though. Not for me.
  • Can’t wait to read the stories for this prompt. Hope I can get a story in this time.
  • Carrie Zylka

    Ok before anyone accuses us of anything, there are some comments not showing up on the customer facing post.
    They show approved in the admin dashboard.

    I have no idea why they aren’t showing up here.

    J.H. and Ken,

    feel free to re-comment or wait until support has taken a look.

  • Anindita Basu
    Hi this is Anindita.. wondering if this is the place to sign in . Already read a wonderful story and looking forward to reading more and planning to write one myself too.
    • Alice Nelson

      Anindita, this is the place to enter your story. Make sure you like the post at the top of the page, and when you are ready, come back here and copy and paste your story into the comment box. Looking forward to reading it, and glad to have you aboard.

      • Anindita Basu
        Thank you Alice.
      • Please give Jen all my prayers and positive vibes, we are all thinking of her in this awful time.
  • Robt. Emmett
    My pet peeves are like liver spots; the older I become, the more ov’m I get!
    We all have them, pet peeves, I mean. So vent. I have so many [see my example] I thought here would be a good place to purge my soul, and you can to.
    My example is over-long, therefore not shown as a competitive entry, but rather as an example. My reason, I’ve never been a contestant in any contest I’ve been responsible for.

    Pet Peeves
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018

    The entertainment area contained a comedy club/bar, a movie house/bar, a live theater with a bar, gas station/bar, and a book store/bar. I found out there’s a 5% drink tax, a 5% alcohol tax, a service tax, and a sales tax on the total bill. This burg has only three months to make its annual profit. Taxation is the easiest way to screwing the tourist out of his money.

    Speaking of screwing, the old whorehouse had burned down. However, the old strip joint, Club Saratoga, upscaled. It’s now a Gentlemen’s Club. Meaning, one can wear a suit while leering and drooling at females clad only in pasties. Pasties are not to be confused with pastys. Pastys are a folded pastry case filled with savory, seasoned meat and vegetables.

    The billing on Club S’s wall said, Drum Roll please, “See Lightening counter-rotate her 38s.” A real World War II vintage must see.

    I walked around the corner and entered the old warehouse district. Now, obviously it’s the wearhouse district, as it contain a dozen Boutiques. Boutiques are a fancy term for cheaply produced, overpriced clothing, made by child labor in third world countries. I’d walk naked first and chance arrest by the E.P.A. police before I’d wear their overpriced stuff.

    In the old days of my youth, this was also the junkyard side of town. They’re gone, but new ones have taken their place. They sell Indian beaded headbands, toy Birch bark canoes, and totem poles, all labeled “Genuine” and “Souvenirs,” and “Made in China.

    My empty stomach suggested that I feed it. I dropped into an uncomfortable wire chair at the nearest sidewalk eatery. The waitress was chatting up a customer at a nearby table. I couldn’t help noticing her cute ass and the tramp stamp above it. No sane person would have the price of a shrimp dinner tattooed in a place they couldn’t see and in a language they couldn’t read?

    I noticed that she had 27 pieces of decoration stabbed into one ear. The premiere item, a 3-carat piece of glass was in her left earlobe. The other ear held nothing. Obviously, it didn’t need beautification.

    Her hand, arm, and shoulder (and I assume parts I couldn’t see) held dozens of unrelated tattooed symbols in ugly blue. The vision of her fondling my food made my stomach do a double flip with a twist and a half. My brain said to my legs, “Leave now or I’m gonna embarrass you and up-chuck.”

    My still starving gut insisted it be fed. It rested on my large, made in Mexico, western belt buckle I’d just bought. I spotted a sign, Grandmas Restaurant. Sounds like a family type place that is a food joint/bar/gift shop and more. Hanging on the wall was the first lighted, motorized barber pole in town. It lights the way to the head, [toilet for you non-nautical types.] After all, the only Arial Lift Bridge in the world is only a hundred yards away, and my need to … well, that’s how I saw the barber pole.

    There were signs from the old hotels, gas stations, and other miscellaneous junk. The owner had found a way to give up his four-acre warehouse hang all his stuff and turn it into an attraction. Okay, he can call it “Attraction,” it is his moneymaker.

    I sat in a booth and read the drink menu that boldly advertised 11-ounces of St. Louie Brew that’s only fit for airline stewards and sorority sophomores. Chi-town had reversed the Chicago River to send its sewage to St. Louie.

    Dimple-cheeks, the waitress, arrived, took my order. She said, “Ya know, fur da same price ya can get 22 ounce Samuel Adams. Da special today, don’t ya know, eh.”

    I changed my order.

    “U betcha, eh, comin’ right up, fur sure, eh.”

    I scrutinized the food menu. I say food rather than salt-laden artery-clogging pap that lab rats refuse to eat, only because I do not want to demean the joint.

    She returned with my beer. “Ja whanna order now, eh?”

    I ordered the double deep fried salted whole onion and the Ship Captain’s burger.

    “Okey-Dokey, ya want cheese on da Ship Captain’s burger, eh?” I didn’t.

    “I can tell from yous accent dat yous a tourist, eh.”

    Facetiously, I pointed out that she had an accent.

    “Oh no, I talk like everyone else ‘round here. Fur sure, eh. Yous order es big ‘nough fur a discount coupon, ya want one, eh?”

    I accepted her offer. She left.

    Two gray-haired, women plunked their butts into the booth behind me. They talked so loud I assumed the batteries in their hearing aids needed charging. It was distracting my thoughts of my view of the shoulder-length, chestnut-haired young thing sitting across the aisle and three booths down. Even though the back of the booth blocked my view, I used an above average imagination.

    Dimple-cheeks shocked me, “Wanna nother beer, eh?”

    To my surprise, my stein was empty. I did.

    “U betcha, comin’ right up, fur sure, eh.

    Ah, Jeezs, the View started to hold hands with the semi-beautiful thing seated across from her. I really hate that kind of public affection. Semi slid out of the booth. View followed. I got an eyeful. She had long, slender legs in tight jeans, trim waist, and a neatly trimmed Van Dyke! Damn. He sure had me fooled.

    All I had now for entertainment was the two gray-haired chatterboxes in the booth behind me. Another gray-haired couple, a man, and I assume his wife, sat in the booth across the aisle from me. This must be a local meeting place for the gray panthers. The linguist zipped in and handed them menus. Fur sure, eh. As she left them, the old man ogled the swing of her back porch.

    I read his thoughts, and I and wondered, “What would the old stud do if she said, ‘Yes?’”

    The wife’s face hinted at her thoughts. “There’s not enough Viagra in the world to bring Lazarus to life!”

    “Here ya go, eh. I had da cook put somma Swiss on dat, fur free, fur sure, eh,” she said as she set the double deep fried salted whole onion and the Ship Captain’s burger in front of me.

    “Jeezs eh, dat wassa nice a yous, tanks a bunch, fur sure, eh.” I don’t know why I talked to her that way. Oh yes, the Samuel Adams, fur sure, eh.

    She looked around. None of her customers needed her. “Mind if I sit witch ya?”

    I nodded my head and she sat.

    Between burger bits, beer swallows, salt crunching, and belching, we talked. She was from the Iron Range. It sounds like a kitchen appliance. She assured me it was an Okey-dokey place to live. She wanted to be a teacher, return to her hometown of Coleraine, and teach the local kids about English.

    I asked her, “Why?”

    “Jeezs eh, everyone up dar speaks Finn. Da kids needa learn English, so da can go tada main campus an get some higher education, doncha know, eh.”

    I was about to respond …

    “Whoopsies,” the multilingual waitress jumped up and headed to the kitchen, over her shoulder, for all to hear, “gotta get da food fur dem silver-haired ladies now, doncha know, eh.”

    I finished the burger, but not the double deep fried salted whole onion. It had killed every salt tasting taste bud on my tongue.
    Dats da end, U betcha, fur sure, eh.

    WC 1251

    • Beautifully cynical, My favourite line – ‘There’s not enough Viagra in the world to bring Lazarus to life’
    • Well I learned something there, Rob – about pasties. I’ll never look at a Cornish pasty the same. I won’t know whether to eat it or wear it. (I clearly go to the wrong gentleman’s clubs.Or pasty stalls.)

      One of the pet peeves is also one of mine (and I suspect many others). Like at Dublin airport, all the authentic Irish souvenirs were made in China or Bangladesh. Almost no London/Britain souvenir you’ll find is made anywhere near the UK. And so it goes….
      I have no beef at all with international trade, but something that purports to be a souvenir ought to be from the damned place!

      And a nice unreconstructed and jaundiced view of life from the narrator character.

    • robtemmett
      “Pet Peeve” is the middle portion of a trilogy about a vacation to the hometown of our youth to attend class reunions. [Hers at a private girl’s school; mine a parochial one]
      Class reunions, there’s a great topic for flash fiction commentary.

      I digress, the first part of PP is about the motel, and the last third is about Northern style of hockey vs. southern. Days diff’ent, U betcha, fur sure, eh.

      • Rob, loved the running commentary on the clientele. Seems our story’s have a little in common about not liking certain people. Great idea for a trilogy too. It would make for a very funny piece all together.
    • Hah. Funny. Great writing Robert. Didn’t seem overly long. Had a great flow. So what’s your peeve? Friendly people who can’t speak plain English? I think that Minnesota accent is cute. Have you ever been exposed to a thick southern accent?
      This is an actual conversation I once had.

      A young fella up in the mountains accosted us as we were leaving a store.

      “J’all Floridians brang this hair hate?”

      “Excuse me?”

      “The hate. Jall brang this hair hate wit chew?”

      “Hate?” I look at my girlfriend and she at me. We’re both clueless. Is this guy trying to start something? His large friend is wearing dirty overalls and grinning stupidly. “We didn’t bring no hate. What hate?”

      He looks exasperated, “The hate,” he waves his hand around, “in the R.”

      “The R?”

      He waves both hands around. “The hate–in the R.”

      I’m baffled. “The hate?” I look at my wife, then back at him. He’s waving his hands around up above his head, up–in the… The Air! “You mean the heat? In the air?”

      “Yeah man. the hate–in the R.”

      “Uh, no. We didn’t bring this heat. It must’ve followed us up here.”

      “Wail–yew folks have a nass day.”

      • robtemmett
        In pilot training, I asked a fellow butter-bar where he was from.
        “Lov’el ,” he replied.
        “Lov’el?” I asked. “Where’s that near.”
        “What? Love’el’s the largest city in the whole darn state.”
        “Oh,” I replied, “you mean Louisville”
    • Phil Town
      That’s a great read, Robert – very amusing, and refreshingly cynical. Does the waitress (nicely rendered dialogue) have the same accent as the people in ‘Fargo’? I wonder if the narrator is you (?). If so, then it might be a little sexist. If not and purely fictional, then it’s valid (and vivid), I think. This is a good moment, but perhaps the ‘She’ could be made ‘He’ in this bit of the description: “She had long, slender legs…” I think it would make a good visual joke even better. Enjoyed it!
    • Carrie Zylka

      Robt. Just to let you know your story itself comes in at 1251 words.

  • Hi I been reading the stories on here for a while and i am woondering if its somthing thatvanyone can participate in or do i have to get membership first thank you kelly
    • Hi Kelly, you don’t have to be a member, anyone can submit a story. Simply cut and paste your story into the comment box, press the “post comment” button.

      Since it’s your first time it will go into moderation, which means no onw will see it initially, then either Carrie or I will clear your story so it can be viewed publicly.

      Looking forward to reading your story.

  • Anindita Basu
    Hi All, Happy Father’s Day Here is my story, finally finished.:

    Rhyme or Reason

    “If you’re happy and you know it…” Ruby tried to keep the children busy at this closing hour. The minute hand of the clock just crossed the numeral twelve, the hour hand touched six,  meaning,  officially the day was over, the day care closed.  Now each minute was drumming louder and louder and Ruby wondered what were the parents of these last four kids doing? 

    The door swung open.  Cloe’s mom with a baby on one hip, a diaper bag on the shoulder,  stepped in though her face was turned to greet Mia’s mom. 
    “ I hate when people don’t give signals you turn. I was just having an accident.” Mia’s mom held her palm on her chest, gasping. “ What’s wrong with people?  And did you see there are road constructions in every corner?  Why do they have to break the roads that are just fine and waste our taxpayers’ money? “ Mia’s mom burst.  The children stopped singing and clapping and stared at her face with wide eyes. 

    Cloe’s mom responded, “ I know! People are totally oblivious to others’ needs these days. That pisses me off.  Totally. “ Cloe went running to her, showing off her finger paint artwork.. “ For you, Mommy.”
    “That’s beautiful, Cloe. What is it though?  What did you paint here? “
    “ Poo poo pee pee.”  She started giggling.
    “ Cloe! You know mommy does not like that.   Those are bathroom words. We have talked about it.  If I hear it one more time I’m going to scrub your mouth with soap and water.  I mean it.” She threw a glance at Ruby. 
    “ Nonsense. Where does the child learn all these?” she muttered.

    “ Oh, the things they pick up here…” Mia’s mom rolled her eyes. “The other day I overheard my Mia playing with Johny,  ‘I am going to divorce you if I find another toothpaste tube open like that.  One more time.. and  you peeing  all around the toilet and I have to clean that stinky thing.’ Oh my gosh!” Mia’s mom broke into a guffaw. 

    “ That’s a bugbear for me too though, that spraying all around the toilet thing, I mean.… disgusting.”  Cloe’s mom gave her a coy look.

    “ You know what I hate?” Mia’s mom picked up the thread, dancing around in her black tights and camisole. “ When someone bothers me while I am exercising.  That is one time   I am in my peace mode,  maan.”  She elaborated the word ‘man’ with an extra slant,  with utter disgust.
    “ That could be the last straw that might break the camel’s back in our relationship, I tell ya.”. Mia’s mom jerked her ponytail, Her well-defined muscles on the left arm designed with a long dragon tattoo flared up as she picked up the kid in that one hand. 

    Two parents rushed in. They felt a bit embarrassed eyeing the clock.  The minute hand had passed the numeral four, meaning they were twenty minutes late picking up their kids.  After six fifteen every minute would cost them a dollar,  they have read in the last several newsletters.  The school administration was trying to make parents aware that they should respect how teachers feel at the end of a long day with kids. But no one followed through. No one paid.  And Ruby could not muster her guts to speak up.  She hated herself for that.
    After everyone left Ruby picked up balls of used tissue papers, empty plastic cups and gum wrappers that fell on the floor accidentally or left on the counters from parents in hurry. She wiped the table tops, dumped the trashes, vacuumed one more time making the class spic and span for the next day. 

    It started drizzling.  The freeway was clogged with traffic and fellow stressed out drivers were cutting each other obnoxiously. Ruby turned the radio on but there was no soothing music. Instead, an elaboration of the horrible news regarding the immigrants’ babies and children who were isolated from their parents because of the new US Immigration law choked her throat with emotion. She turned off the radio.  Is there nothing good today? 

    “ Hey, you’re home.  Finally! What took you so long?” Raj chimed in as Ruby entered. His brows knitted seeing Ruby’s face. He got off the couch and walked to her, “ How did your day go, Ruby?”   ‘Full of shit’-she thought of replying but checked her tongue. 

    “ With everyone’s pet peeves…” She tried to hide her tears and rushed to take a shower.  In the bathroom, her eyes fell on the countertop where a tube of toothpaste laid flat with a missing cap. Her reflection on the mirror smiled back.   

    When she came out she found that Raj had dressed the tiny dining table with a bouquet of pansies, warmed up the leftovers and filled two wine glasses with drinks. Ruby stretched out and picked up her glass, twirled it in front of her face.  The rosy liquid swirled and she thought –  is it half full or half empty? 

    Raj got up from his seat and planted a kiss on her forehead.  Very unusual she thought.  Ruby regarded her husband though a nice person was rather pragmatic, never much with emotion, especially these days.  She was pleasantly surprised. 

    Ruby wanted to hold on to that warmth a little longer. Forever. But the hands of the clock kept moving.  She jerked up. “ Oh, my! It’s past ten. Where does time fly? “ 

    She picked up the dishes to the sink and as she began washing,  the foaming suds and bubbles brought back memories. Nostalgic yore of yesteryears when they had first met or just got married. Seemed so far away.  Silly secrets and funny details that were problematic then were precious recollections now.  She started humming absentmindedly, “ When the dog bites, when the bee stings when I am feeling sad…I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.” 

    1003 words


    • Anindita, this seems to be only part of a bigger story. I love how anyone can do that. I cannot. (Maybe that’s why…)
      I just had the feeling that it was something of an extract from a novel proper. Mine always seems to be a snapshot or glimpse or something. Lovely.
      • Anindita Basu
        No David.. it’s a stand alone I just wrote after the hint ”pet peeve’.Now you gave me an idea. Thank you.
    • A lovely story of how a happy home can be healing.
    • Nice one, Anindita. The message is crystal clear: No matter what, Ruby, the great fighter that she is, will have the song( I don’t mean any particular song here) in her heart.
      I found one thing confusing though. The moms entered the centre after 12.30. The next two at 4 past some time ( The minute hand had passed the numeral four …..), and ‘After six fifteen every minute would cost them a dollar. .So I take it to mean that though the Child Care Centre closed shops by 12.30, poor Ruby’s job entailed of her to wait for the erring moms till after 6 most of the days and that’s why she couldn’t get back home to a patiently waiting Raj before 9, right? Raj seems to be a nice man indeed even to be setting the dinning table after such a long wait for his wife. No wonder he can’t give her more than a peck on the head( was it on the head?) as a result.
      Thanks for sharing ‘Rhyme or Reason’. Let Rhyme be the overruling factor in our lives.
      P.S: It’s almost 1 O’Clock in Bhutan. My eyes have started drooling. If I got anything wrong, do please forgive me.
      • Anindita Basu
        Hi rnb, thank you for your comment and reading my story at that wee hours. The day care closes at six but people were still coming until 6:20pm that is what I meant, which was annoying for tired Ruby who had to leave her work much later when the traffic picked up..another pet peeve of her ….then the USPresident’s pet peeves with immigrants and all that…blah blah blah …and by the way Raj planted a kiss on her forehead not dumped anything on her head! were really sleepy RNB, and you deserve it after going through 300 papers to correct. Take care. Want to read more about your writing especially your surroundings in Bhutan. Never made it there though really wanted to visit one day.
        • Thanks for the prompt response, dear Anindita. Let me start by telling you that it’s not possible to check all the 300 papers on a single day, especially when the papers contain pages of Argumentative/ Persuasive Essays and Short Stories. You should read some of these stories! God! How do our students write these stories! How do they pick up such divine English when their teacher is a dull, drab traditionalist and conformist?
          Anyway, to come back to Rhyme and Reason, I know I made some mistakes like I wrote somewhere 4 past some time when I should have written – some time past 4. I wanted to post an apology note immediately. Then I felt – Who cares whether I write correctly or not? That settled the matter. I also expect you to correct my mistake which you seem to have avoided doing somehow. Be a friend, always. We grow together, don’t we?
          And regarding the peck, I knew Raj couldn’t have been so boring and uncaring as to plant that on her head but then my eyes were getting heavy and the prospect of a ‘bleak tomorrow’ was looking me in the eye as well. Talking of which reminds me that I am just done with 21 papers! So, before the whole Tsimalakha town starts getting ideas about their only Indian Teacher, let me take your leave.
          Have a rollicking day ahead. All the best.
    • robtemmett
      In case of a nuclear attack, hide under the toilet. No one ever seems to be able to hit it.
    • Phil Town
      Lovely stuff, Anindita. I really like Ruby – she’s a bit of an angel, isn’t she? Good with kids, patient with the parents, gentle, sensitive… It was a shame that she ended up washing the dishes! (but that’s her lot, it seems, and she seems philosophical about it). As Andy says, a very nice balance between the beginning and the ending (there might be copyright issues if you ever wanted to publish, though). I think I know what you were trying for with the hands of the clock (time marching on relentlessly?), but it got a little clumsy and confusing maybe (as your conversation with Rathin testifies). A lovely and ultimately upbeat story.
      • Anindita Basu
        Thanks so much Phil, I am a fan of yours…actually I go here, from one of the links in your blog. I love a story you wrote some time ago …the protagonist in the airplane. Remembered how much I liked it and shared it too in FB…now forgot the story but remember my emotion as a reader. I have to give your story one more time before giving the score.vI read it a few days ago and not all of them were here. Thank you again for your feed back.
  • Starts with a children’s song, and ends with the Sound of Music – nicely balanced structure framing happiness and the things that compromise it. And nicely observed mature relationship in the last part of the story too. A delightful and authentic story.
  • Alice Nelson

    Hey group, Jen asked that I pass along this message to you all, she felt really close to this group over the time since she joined.

    Her 22 year old son committed suicide this weekend, and if you are inclined, she asked we pray for her and her family. I can’t imagine the pain she is experiencing, so let’s send pleasant thoughts her way, and hope we see her back in the fold soon.

    • Alice, that is terrible news. Jen if you are reading this, my deepest sympathy and God bless.
    • Adrienne Riggs
      I am heartbroken for Jen! I am praying for the family and sending hugs. My youngest son is 23 and losing him has been one of my fears due to his serious health conditions and depression. I can’t imagine the pain. You have my deepest sympathy and I pray God’s blessings on your family and that He will bring you comfort in the days ahead.
    • Oh G-D help her! So sorry to hear this. Shocking. No pain equals that of a parent who loses a child. Just saw this now… speechless…
  • Anindita Basu
    So so sorry to hear this news. My prayers to you and your family Jen. I cannot even fathom how you are feeling …my deepest condolences to you.
  • Dear Jen,
    Today’s not my day. I woke up in the early hours to bad news. Someone was extremely critical of me for writing in a Woman’s Forum. Something happened at school to upset me. Finally, a few hours back when the results of The Write India Contests were announced, I felt dismayed. I was expecting to see my name among the Winners! Poor me and my expectations! Just a while ago, I was trying to console myself by reciting Frost:
    “Woods are lovely, dark and deep.
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep, 
    And miles to go before I sleep.
    I felt so dismayed that I thought of turning to F2C to go through Mrs. Anindita Basu’s story that I’d seen posted in the morning, just before the exam at our school was to begin. The news about your terrible tragedy posted by Ms. Alice caught my eye then.
    All the shock of my setbacks evaporated into thin air as I thought about the pain you must be going through right now. My problems seemed nothing, just like a drop in comparison to the ocean of huge loss and unspeakable agony that you find yourself in right now. Jen. any attempts on our part to offer you solace would seem very empty and futile at this moment.
    Let me just tell you, Jen, that we, at The Write Practice, are at a loss for words not knowing how to offer the least bit of hope that we can, to you and your husband. There is no way we can feel your pain in your terrible hours of sheer torture and torment.
    If it is any comfort, let me offer you all our prayers and wishes instead at this very torturous and troubled moment.
  • The doll collection.
    Over the years, I have collected many things at different times. For a while, I collected miniature liquor bottles. You know the ones, Johnny Walker, Gordons gin, vodka, rum and the like. I even collected matchbox cars and then went on to matchboxes themselves. Whilst these collections gave me some joy, they were still at the same time, unfulfilling or something. I wanted something more.
    This was when I discovered my love for dolls. I counted them last night and there are 916. Now not all of them are in pristine condition. Some are a little mouldy. Some are in boxes under the stairs. Some are still quite badly burnt. And some haven’t been out in quite a while. But it’s true, I have a doll collection and at various times, I have played with all 916. But the collection didn’t happen straight away. No. But before I tell you any more of my dolls, let me tell you something of how the collection came to be.
    So I wandered through the many antique shops near to where I lived for inspiration in finding my new focus, my new collectables. I attended flea markets and trash and treasure stalls. I even went into the Salvation Army stores and those of their like. And everywhere I went, every Saturday morning, every Sunday evening and every other day that I went looking, there was always people. Shoving, pushing in, being obnoxious. People.
    Soon, I would abandon my searches and just head home. I would not be happy with the day’s progression. But the following weekend would see me start all over again. I would attend pretty much the same kind of shops but in different towns. Sadly, the people were just the same and sometimes even worse. And so I would catch the bus or train home again. Only to find, that the people on the public transport were even more badly mannered. And sometimes sitting right next to me. And that was when I decided.
    When I got home, I set fire to the matchbox cars with the matchbox collection. I drank all the miniature liquors. And the next day, I went back out to the shops. Different shops this time. Shops that sold scissors and felt and buttons. And needles and thread and polyester stuffing. And wee bits of scrap materials. And I took it all home.
    I read about these dolls. Seemed simple enough. My neighbour was something of an ordeal at times and I thought a perfect place to start. My test case was within easy access and on-going observation. Just something benign to begin. I was talking to her one day, an entirely one sided affair you understand. And when she wasn’t looking, I cut off a small piece of her scarf. And I stitched it onto a doll.
    I thought if she broke her ankle, she would be confined inside her house for a time. I was certain the entire neighbourhood would applaud this result. So I wriggled the doll’s lower leg. A lot.
    The following day, the ambulance pulled up next door. I spoke to the chaps later and turned out my neighbour had fallen down a step in the bathroom and broken her ankle. Lovely.
    That weekend, I boarded a bus and set out for an antique shop I had been to before. The trip to the shop was mostly uneventful but on the way home, I found the inspiration for my second doll.
    A football fan on his way back from watching his team get beat, I’d assumed. Had words for everyone that got on the bus and gave a second helping to others in between stops. He threatened others with violence when they looked at him. I was sitting right behind him. It was a bit tricky to cut a piece of his hair but I managed. And took it home and made a doll. Be hard to punch anyone with a broken hand.
    These adventures went on for a while. I never became bored and I never ran out of self promoting targets. I became more adept at cutting small pieces of hair and coats and cardigans. The summers were a bit tougher going though. But t-shirts look better when they have that worn, cut look don’t you think?
    I wanted to become more proactive though. (Pathological the police called it once on television. Imagine.) The reactiveness on public transport was more Robin Hood. I wanted to be more vigilante. So I watched the news every night. Carefully. And I found my doll’s playground. Here was obnoxious. And dangerous. And just plainly no good. Every night. I almost felt sorry for the public transport dolls, they were only minor inconveniences.
    So I learnt more about where these people were. Where they stayed, what they did. And I went to them. And waited. Bail is sometimes a good thing. Because sometimes I couldn’t always get close enough to them, I also found out who they knew. And I was still learning myself. I found out for instance, that you can make a doll in the shape of a rapist’s dog. Didn’t know that did you?
    Once, I was forced to take some holidays from my place of employment. I wasn’t happy with this but I had saved up too much according to the boss. (He would later be relieved to find the chocking sensation that had plagued him during my time away turned out to be nothing serious upon my return.)
    But I did go away on holiday. I went to America. And that was when I started my collection of burnt dolls. On my way back home, I did get asked about these particular dolls at Customs. I told the woman that I had nearly lost all of my doll collection in a house fire. She seemed unsure of this until I asked her how close exactly she lived from the airport and how she spelt her surname. Then it was no problem.
    I still catch the bus of course. And from time to time, the train. Young people and their phones. Sometimes when I read over their shoulder, my, the things they are saying to other young people. I have found it difficult to only break thumbs, I have to say. The dolls aren’t really designed for this specialised feature. But I will continue to adapt.
    If you’re nice, one day I will show you my doll collection. But you will have to play nice. Real nice.
    (1091 word count)
    • Adrienne Riggs

      Wow. A creepy way to deal with pet peeves, but creative. As a doll collector myself, I knew right away where you were headed with this one. I don’t consider myself superstitious but I am very careful about the dolls I collect. Even though I collect baby dolls, (the “reborns” that look lifelike and are weighted like a real baby), my family claims that some of them “creep them out.” I can’t imagine what they would think if I came home with Voodoo doll. My granddaughter, of course, loves my dolls and plays with the ones that I allow her to.

      I enjoyed the story and I love dolls but I think I’ll pass on visiting your doll collection! LOL Have you checked out Annabelle? Or Robert the Doll? They are right up your alley.


      • Hey Adrienne. Thank you for reading my story. I’m glad it connected with your own collectables. Those reborns are a wee bit creepy themselves. Maybe you could extend your collection to include the Voodoo series…
      • Creepy. But, interesting. Nice bit of time spent reading this. Enjoyed it. Now, I will view all doll collections slightly differently.
        • Thank you Roy for reading my piece. Sorry if I’ve changed your perspective on dolls…
    • A delightfully creepy story, David. What an imagination !
      • Thank you very much Maud. I am glad you enjoyed it. Imagination you say…
    • Interesting and fluently disturbing story about someone pathologically trying to change society for the better – as judge, jury and punisher, using techniques between voodoo and puppet master.
      An irresistible invitation at the end – I promise to play real nice ….:-)
      • Thank you Andy. Have never been described as interesting and fluently disturbing…lovely.

        You really do have quite a way with words. And for the record, I think you and I would play well enough. Just bring a scarf… in case it gets cold. Thank you mate.

    • Damned clever story, David. Decidedly devilish humor, too. One thing left me scratching my head. The collection of ‘burnt dolls’ after visiting America. Could you elaborate on that? Is there some symbolic significance to burnt dolls and America?
      • Thank you again Ken for your very kind words. The burnt dolls from America was simply meant to highlight the level of ‘obnoxiousness’ found there. Please, my American fellow writers, do not take that as anything but a comment from an outsider…
    • Anindita Basu
      What a playful way to deal with pet peeves. Nice tone throughout. Enjoyed reading your piece, David.

      Don’t worry I will not mess with your doll collection. My husband has similar problem( OOPS!) with collections. At times they are books,Norman Rockwell collections, figurines,etc etc. I shriek when he brings furniture that he things unpassable.

      I am a dedicated member of a new group named MINIMALIST and work hard to keep my life clutter free.

      • Why thank you m’am. The Rockwell collection stuff is pretty cool. I also think is worth a small fortune these days. And yes, minimalist is hard work…
    • Doll collections can be very creepy. This collection was just that! I hope he never dies. All his dolls will be destroyed. Maybe that’s what happened when we hear that many people died at one time.
      • Thank you for reading my story Janet. I agree that some doll collections are a little creepy. But can you imagine being invited to look at something like this? We are all different I suppose.
      • That’s an interesting and curious supposition. Mass deaths related to mass voodoo doll collections. (Wow.)
    • A really original tale, David. I like the rendering of the voice of the narrator – he/she seems completely unhinged. After the initial punishment, I also like the fact that the injuries happen without your explaining the method again – neat shortcut (“Be hard to punch anyone with a broken hand.”) I thought that maybe there needed to be a clearer catalyst/trigger for him/her to get the idea to use dolls to get ‘revenge’ for being annoyed. But overall the story works well.

      (btw, I used to collect matchbox tops myself when I was a kid – swapped my collection for a clapped out guitar 🙁 . A person who does it has a name, I don’t know if you know: ‘phillumenist’.)

      • Thank you Phil. Coming from a writer like yourself, it is certainly nice to hear. And I did not know about phillumentists’. Good luck in the comp mate.
  • “Thank you for having me”, the guest speaker on CPR said to the moderator, who had just finished thanking the speaker for being on the program. My jaw clenched and my brain screamed, “she didn’t have you, you moron, you were invited.” I think that’s my pet peeve, I do have a couple, or did, but I’ve managed to get rid of them by taking action,

    But what kind of action can you take to a radio station. Now that I think about it just recently a woman in the museum said it after I said as she was leaving, “thank you for coming in”, and she replied “thanks for having me”. I did not “have her”, she was a visitor to the museum where I volunteer as a docent. I felt unreasonable anger arise in me and quickly quelled my urge to respond in a negative manner.

    Someone I know almost always says after a conversation is over as she leaves, “have fun”, with a smile and a little trill in her voice. it didn’t annoy me that much but then I’ve caught myself more than once saying it myself after a brief interaction and makes me realize just how phony the whole statement is… I don’t want them to have fun!

    But how do we abolish the having me issue, whenever I mention it to someone, they almost immediately agree with me, musing they have heard this often and it is a nonsensical statement but they never really gave it much thought. Well, dang.

    A very serious peeve is how the news media gloms on to a story and then you hear the same old thing day after day for days at a time until the next raccoon scales the side of a 13 story building. And Megan Kelly, OMG, how many victims can she dredge out of any situation. Who is the next person Trump will start calling names at a 5th grade level?

    How did we get so dumb is a huge peeve, did it start with the Walk/Don’t Walk signs teaching us to not think for ourselves, we can’t even look at a map or remember how to get to a location because we need our smart phone to answer our question… we have to repeat it 3 times because it is too much effort to type in an address and Siri doesn’t understand our lisp and as we become increasingly irritated our voice and tone changes which sends everyone over the brink of peevishness… but I digress.

    So why does anyone want to know what someone else’s pet peeve is anyway…are you planning on swapping peeves…. you think that will help? In fact people who think they can save everyone from their problem is another pet peeve….I didn’t ask you to solve my issue, just asking what you thought, you have enough annoying issues of your own, why don’t you take care of your own issues and leave me out of it… but getting back to the original question.. my pet peeves are pretty petty and not worth discussing, so thanks for inviting my participation.

    WC 521

    • robtemmett
      Liz, you ask why? here’s why. We all have them, pet peeves, I mean. So vent. I have so many [see my example] I thought here would be a good place to purge my soul, and you can to.
    • “thanks for inviting my participation”. Now I will always say that after dinner parties 🙂

      In the meantime, Liz, have fun, have a nice day, and thank you so much for sharing!

      Here’s one – when did waiters and other staff serving people start to say “Of course you can” when you ask “May/could/can I have…” I know I bloody can, it ‘s on the menu! It’s called being polite. Next time I’ll just say, “Give me …!”

      “Now, I’ll have to let you go …”

    • I just thought of another pet peeve. When I say my last name, I’m frequently asked “Can you spell that?” I want to respond “Of course I can since it’s my name.” Instead, the statement should be “Will you spell your last name, please.”
    • Hi, Liz. The opening peeve sounds like something people write letters to British newspapers about (Annoyed, Croydon). I like how you go off on tangents, finding tributaries to your peeves; I’m sure I’d end up doing the same if I started. OK, here’s one. I’m British, and I hate Americanisms seeping into our lives: “Can I get a beer and a packet of nuts?” The use of ‘get’, when we use … there you go, ‘have’. Or at least we used to use it. If I worked in a bar and someone said “Can I get ….”, I’d have to fight it to prevent myself responding with something like: “Sure, they’re out the back.”

      Nice off-the-chest-getter.

  • Meg and Ned.

    “D’you know what really pisses me off?”

    “No, but I guess you’re about to tell me.”

    Meg was used to Ned’s rants, anything from her leaving the cupboard door open, to politicians on the TV. Ned was easily pissoffable. It had never been this way when they were both working.
    Meg thought back to the years before retirement; she had always enjoyed her career, a responsible position with five girls working under her direction. Yes! They were a good team, more of a family really. The girls would come to Meg for advice, not just work related, but family crises, boy friend trouble – everything.

    Then came retirement! Suddenly he was there – all the time. If she went to the kitchen Ned was behind her, or, worse still, he was directly in her way. Not that she didn’t love him, but how she longed for the occasional few hours to herself. The weekly supermarket shop was no longer fun. Ned needed an input in all her purchases.

    “I don’t like that kind of cheese.”

    “We’ve been buying that cheese for years, you never complained before.”

    “Well I’m complaining now, and while we’re on the subject, why do you keep buying those chocolate desserts?”

    “Because I like them.”

    “You know I prefer fruit ones. “

    It was worse when Ned decided he would do the cooking. Not content with their normal lamb chops or steak, Ned wanted venison. Meg hated gamey meat. And the cooking! He insisted on making an exotic sauce, scouring the shelves for hard-to-find spices and oils never to be used more than once, and then languishing in the cupboard.

    “That avocado oil is well past it’s date, why don’t you throw it out.”

    “You bought it, remember?”

    “Well, it’s your cupboard.”

    Meg grits her teeth, ‘it’s his kitchen when he’s playing masterchef, and I am expected to do all the clearing up.’

    “Well, what pisses me off is ……”Ned begins.

    “Stop right there.”

    He looks up in total surprise.

    “I’ve had enough! It’s you, you, you. Don’t you think I get peeved occasionally? OK, so you’re retired, So you no longer control your office. Well, that’s no reason to try and run my life.”

    “What are you talking about? I’ve never tried to control you. Anyway, What have you got to be peeved about?” Don’t I give you everything you want, don’t I always provide for you? Hell, I even do some of the cooking.”

    “That’s just the point! You take over my kitchen, you moan incessantly about everything on the TV, even if I am enjoying a programme, you talk all the way through it. You insist on having the subtitles on so that they exclude most of the screen,
    and to cap it all, you won’t put your hearing aid in so that I have to keep repeating myself.”

    Meg pauses for breath. Her tirade has shocked her, she has always avoided confrontation.
    They both stand, silent; the air crackles with tension.

    “Do I really annoy you that much?”

    “Occasionally, yes!”

    And Ned turns and walks out, slamming the door behind him.
    Later that afternoon he slinks back. Standing in the doorway, hesitant and shamefaced.

    “I’ve joined the golf club.”

    “You’ve done what?”

    “I needed a hobby, something that will get me out of the house.”

    “But you don’t play golf.”

    “I can learn. What can be so difficult in hitting a ball with a stick? If those idiots in baggy trousers and multicoloured sweaters can do it I’m sure I can.”

    Meg doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On the one hand it will give her a respite from his constant moaning, and on the other hand, golf is an expensive hobby. He will need a set of golf clubs, a whole new wardrobe, golf balls and goodness knows what else. And of course, Ned being Ned, he will buy the most expensive equipment on the market. Still, she rationalises, ‘if it gets him out from under my feet, and gives him back a sense of purpose, it’s a small price to pay.’

    Fast forward one year. Meg stands in front of the bedroom mirror, tiny diamond ear rings sparkling, her new evening dress a picture of elegance, her hair in a sexy updo that she hasn’t worn that way for years. She will wow them at the golf club dinner.
    Ned, tall and distinguished in tuxedo and black tie, a self satisfied grin on his face, sidles up and nuzzles her neck.

    “You’ll do.” he says.

    757 words.

    • Maud, congrats on a new word – ‘pissoffable’ well done. And what a lovely simple ending. I again got a feeling this could be part of a much bigger story like I did with Anindita’s story. You fast forwarded one year but I think these characters could easily endure a lot more discussion. Thanks for sharing.
    • Dear Harris,
      At the surface level Ned & Meg’ is a simple story of a couple with frustration and monotony beginning to creep into their lives, post-retirement, but the way you have delineated their relationship – their desires and doggedness ( particularly on the part of Ned to assert his authoritiveness at the sunset of his career), their banters and bickering, and the implied nitty-gritty of marital life – is just out of the world!
      This is one of the most straight ‘from-the-heart-to-the-heart’ stories I have read on F2C so far. And your language – what about your language? It’s exactly as language is meant to be. Glorious!
      The ending is equally satisfying. Just when I was beginning to have my worries regarding the thaw in the relations of this life-like, adorable pair, you provide the classic twist by making both of them, especially Meg, looking desirable and dreamy again. And with that we come to know that all is gonna be well with the couple once more.
      Great job, mate. Keep on flooring your competitors with such realistic gems time and again.
    • Anindita Basu
      Wow! Nicely done Maud…A vivid vignette of retired life. And I love the ending too.
    • robtemmett
      I’m married and heard this story before.
    • “For better or for worse, but not for lunch”, eh, Maud?

      Seems Ned had lost his work-life balance, by not having any work. But he finds a substitute that works for both of them.

      Very smoothly-told vignette, with a nice turnaround. It could have led to divorce (I would have divorced him!) but harmony and even romance is restored. There’s a fair bit of psycho-social subtlety in that conclusion.

    • Maud,
      Nicely written story. Very believable scenario for a long term married couple. And I like the way you wrapped it up. A nice tidy realistic love story.
    • Nice one, Maud, reminiscent of ‘One Foot In The Grave’ (Victor Meldrew). The predicament is well established, the increasing tension too, the break, and the resolution. Lovely last line! Loved this exchange, too:

      “That avocado oil is well past it’s date, why don’t you throw it out.”
      “You bought it, remember?”
      “Well, it’s your cupboard.”

      Just at this point, you switch from the past to the present, which pulled me up a bit. If it was intentional, then maybe it needed some separation, like:


      And rather than the ‘fast forward one year’, maybe there could have been another separator, then something in the dialogue that tells us the time has passed (just to make the time leap a bit more subtle.) (?)

      Good, realistic photo of the stress retirement really does put on some relationships.

  • So I’m wondering why I’m not getting any of the comments, and realize I haven’t posted anything, liked anything or otherwise
    commented to get said results. Dang, you’d think me, of all people, would know that, wouldn’t you? Anyway, here’s my comment to get new comments and stories.
  • Had a glitch so, trying again. Hi everyone, it keeps sending stuff to Charles Lilburn instead of the new emaill
  • Just a check to see if I get the comments.
      • Thanks Maud, and your story is 100 percent believable. Your writing these past few months, especially since you took your time to ‘gather yourself’, has been unbelievable. Great job.
  • MR. SMALLMAN by Janet Surrusco
    658 words

    I arrived at midnight, two hours beyond the expected flight time. I did manage to doze off and on during the flight with only one trip to the tiny closet they call a bathroom. The airport wasn’t crowded but it seemed like it took forever to reach Baggage Claim. As I collected my bag at the luggage carousel, I noticed a man watching me. Had he been on the plane? Yes, I believe he had. When I looked his way, he quickly turned his head. Maybe I was being paranoid. It was late, I was tired, and I still had to drive 90 miles to get home.

    I rolled the suitcase to my car in long-term parking. The night air was refreshing and, even though it was 76 degrees, I felt a small chill. I pushed the button to open my trunk and lifted my suitcase over the trunk lip. When had my suitcase become so heavy? As I closed the trunk, I saw the same man staring at me again! This time, I stared right back, challenging him to make a move. He turned his head, pretending like he hadn’t looked at me at all. He was a small man, about 5’4”, with thinning brown hair combed back. He was wearing a black T-shirt and black pants. There was nothing exceptional about the man, except that he kept staring at me when he thought I wasn’t looking.

    I got into my car and I noticed the small man got into his. The air in the car was hot and stale making me feel claustrophobic upon breathing, after all, the car had set under the Las Vegas summer sun for two weeks. I opened all the windows and the sunroof to let the cool night air in and the stuffy hot air out. After about ten minutes, I started to leave. I noticed that Mr. Smallman hadn’t left yet either but had started his car, probably to cool it off with the air conditioning. His car was the color he seemed to prefer, black, just like his clothes. It was a hybrid Toyota, not very intimidating.

    I left the parking lot and headed toward I-15. I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw Mr. Smallman driving his black Prius right behind me. Needless to say, I was beginning to be a little freaked out. I knew my drive to Mesquite at this time of night would be met with little traffic and made sure my phone was fully charged.

    Just then, my stomach growled loudly. I realized I hadn’t ate anything since lunch the day before. I noticed an In-N-Out Drive Inn at the next exit. To lose Mr. Smallman, I didn’t put on my blinker and made the exit at the very last minute. I checked my rear view mirror again. He was still with me.

    I was not going to let this man intimidate me. I pulled into the somewhat crowded parking lot and so did he. I got out of my car and walked directly over to him. He got out of his car, also, and looked surprised to see me coming over to him. People eating outside were watching me. I said, “Hey, why are you following me?”

    “I’m not following you. I just stopped for a burger.”

    “Well, you were staring at me at the airport and then just happened to stop at the same place as me? Is that what you are saying?

    “Oh, yes,” said the man. “You are the lady that was on my airplane. I was staring, and I apologize for that, but I didn’t follow you. That was a mere coincidence.”

    “Hmmm. Why were you staring at me, then.” I demanded.

    “Oh, that.” he said, turning a little red in the face. “It’s just that I had never seen a woman be so unaware. Your dress has been stuck in your nylons since you left the plane.”

    • Interesting story. Sounds almost like its autobiographical. Anyway, having lived for over 40 years in the Las Vegas area, I could follow the story easily. Trying to figure out the pet peeve.
      • Janet Surrusco
        Pet peeve is doing things that embarrass ones own self Not quite autobiographical but I do tend to get myself into odd situations. For instance, I have tripped over speed bumps twice, one resulting in an embarrassing fall.
    • You’d think he would have told her – and risked a black eye. Nice story.
    • Nice wee twist at the end there Janet. I would like to read more stories like that.
    • Janet,
      A wonderfully well-constructed story filled with subtle touches. (It was a hybrid-Toyota, not very intimidating.) The mystery character’s attire and behavior convey a sinister intent, and the fluctuating anxiety felt by the narrator is very realistic. I like this story on several levels, the plot, the writing, the clever and lighthearted ending… Good story.

      Two negatives:

      1. ‘I hadn’t ate anything (eaten anything)
      2. ‘It’s just that I had never seen a woman be so unaware.’ I realize this is dialogue, but still, it seems to me the character would say: ‘It’s just that I’ve never seen a woman so… (there’s got to be a word better than ‘unaware’ but I confess that I don’t know what it might be.) The irony of course, is that her preoccupation with ‘The Small Man’ could very well be part of the reason why she fails to perceive her own wardrobe malfunction.

      I really enjoyed this story, Janet.

      • robtemmett
        Ken, I googled “a word better than ‘unaware’” and this is the result:
        Synonyms of unaware. clueless, ignorant, incognizant, innocent, insensible, nescient, oblivious, unacquainted, unconscious, uninformed, unknowing, unmindful, unwitting.
        • Ken and Rob, The synonyms, to me, convey more anger or annoyance. I wanted the accused to be passive, even shy. Certainly too shy to tell a lady of her wardrobe malfunction.
          • Janet,
            I totally understand. You were searching for a word to convey not just his thoughts, but his demeanor and character. That’s very thoughtful and careful writing. My main concerns in my feedback were the grammar in those two sentences anyway. Which are almost a necessity in realistic dialogue, but in the case of ‘hadn’t ate’, and ‘had never seen’ they are both passive and unrealistic. And they stand out because the story is, in all other respects–excellent.
      • Thank you for your comments. I’ll see what I can do with unaware.
    • Nice story, Janet. We feed off the narrator’s growing paranoia. “Just cause I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me…” kind of thing.

      The guy is a bit weird, staring at her wardrobe malfunction rather than doing the decent thing (either telling her, or not staring) – so she has reason to be weirded out.

      A nice touch is that we get a description of the small man and his clothes, but nothing to indicate how the narrator looks until the last line – a crucial moment of reveal.

    • Phil Town
      This was a really well rendered story, Janet. As others have mentioned, the paranoia of the narrator and the seemingly sinister nature of the man make for a creepy atmosphere, generating lots of hypotheses as we read (is he a stalker? is he a Fed? is he someone she knows but has forgotten? …). Then the ending … a great little punch-line, deflating the suspense in a really pleasing way. I agree with Ken that the man’s final line is a little awkward. Perhaps, instead of trying to find a synonym for ‘unaware’, you could try to re-formulate his reason for staring – maybe he tells her that he was staring because he desperately wanted to tell her about the dress but is chronically shy, something like that?

      Enjoyed this.

  • The straw that broke the camel’s back, etc., etc. (1100 words)

    The doctor, Adam Goldman, surrounded by a circle of patients, placed his attendance clipboard for the Anger Management Class on his lap. “Who wants to go first? Remember, we are looking for honest answers. Irritability is a symptom, not a condition. Now is the time to tell everyone those little things that irritate you no matter what they are, or how small.” He looked around and all the faces in the circle stared back.

    It was so quiet you could hear ice cubes melt. He sighed, pointed at Mark Delmonico and said, “Mark, why don’t you begin with one of your pet peeves?”

    “Well, I’ll tell ya what pisses me off. Always getting pointed at and asked to go first.” That got a big laugh and when it quieted down, the doctor smiled, and said, “Thank you Mark, but really, I want you to think about it. What little everyday things get you irritated? Something people do without realizing it that gets on other people’s nerves. Mark? Anyone?”

    Mark looked around the room desperately hoping someone would pick up the question and run with it. “Well,” he began, “I guess it’s people who have quit smoking who are always in my face about me needing to quit, when it’s none of -”

    Shaniqua Johnson interrupted him and said, “I don’t do that. I never said once to you that you need to quit. What I said was -”

    “And people interrupting me are another,” Mark shot back loudly. “First it’s butting into my business then it’s interrupting.”

    Mark stood up and glared at Shaniqua and the doctor raised his hand. “Looks like we’re getting somewhere, but let me remind everyone that while we appreciate honesty, we need to be polite. There’s no reason to be bringing personalities into the discussion.”

    Devon Taylor snorted, “Just how in the Hell do you figure we’re gonna talk about pet peeves if we can’t talk about the people who do ‘em? You don’t make sense.”

    Very softtly, Adam said, “Mark, sit down. Shaniqua, what makes you think he was talking about you? Are you aware you tell people about their smoking habit? Is it possible Mark is right? That’s one of the reasons we’re doing this exercise. So we can see ourselves as others see us. And why we get angry. Well, are you aware you do that?” Shaniqua simply looked down at her dress, picking at an imaginary piece of lint.

    Blaine Goldman raised his hand. The doctor smiled and nodded at Blaine. “Go ahead, Blaine, you want to say something?” Inwardly the doctor was thrilled, Blaine seldom participated. Perhaps this was a breakthrough. Something triggered a response in Blaine’s very complex condition. Blaine was considered by some psychiatrists to be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder. A controversial diagnosis, and something Adam was not sure existed. More often than not, it was patient subterfuge and acceptance by other doctors, in his professional opinion.

    “Yes, although this isn’t Blaine, I’ve asked you to call me Carl, so many times Doctor, I’ve lost count.”

    “Sorry, Carl, I didn’t recognize your presence. Merely an oversight on my part. Please go ahead. We welcome your participation.”

    “Thank you. I think, and this is just me of course, that we should all be able to suppress our emotions. We shouldn’t have to worry about pet peeves, or things that irritate us. I have nothing that bothers me because I have learned to accept others habits, and…”

    “Really, Blaine, Really?” Shaniqua’s voice was sarcastic. “Just yesterday you asked someone in this group who was chewing gum to spit it out because the chewing sound annoyed you.”

    “Shaniqua, you just interrupted Carl, not Blaine, but it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m quite content to sit back and observe all of you with your various psychoses, watching you get angry at the slightest thing. Philip, for example, twiddling his pencil back and forth against the chair making a sound that would drive most people stark raving mad. But not me. I can control it.”

    “Then who,” asked Dr. Goldman, “is the reason you are in this Anger Management Program, if it isn’t Blaine or you, Carl?”

    Blaine/Carl leaped to his feet. “That,” he said, “would be me, Alan. And,” he said, looking at Philip menacingly, “if you continue to twiddle that pencil against that chair, I will stick it down your throat.”

    Philip swallowed and sat there frozen. It was taking every effort he had to not fire back. ‘No one,’ he thought, ‘no one tells me they’re going to kick my ass. No one.” Philip finally stood up and glared at Alan. “Make me!”

    Two of the guards in the room moved toward the circle at the sound of Blaine/Carl/Alan’s voice. The doctor waved them back. “Now, now, Alan, there’s no need for threats. Philip, no one is threatening your manhood. This is what we are here for. Don’t you all see that raising your voice or threatening someone over some trivial form of annoyance is destructive. Anger, acted upon for such a small matter, could send any or all of you to prison for the rest of your life.”

    “Make him stop glaring at me,” said Philip.

    “No, you stop, you little pipsqueak,” bellowed Alan.

    The doctor stood. “Alan,” he said forcefully, “we’ve come a long way toward treating your anger. You need to get a grip and get it now before I have you removed to your room.”

    Philip smiled and made a motion shaking his head back and forth, from shoulder to shoulder, “Ha, ha. You’re in trouble now.”

    “Philip sit down. Alan, you too. I’ve told you every day since you’ve been here, and whenever you’ve shown up, that you need to control your anger.”

    “You have not told me every day.”

    “Yes, Alan, I have. Sometimes several times a day.”

    It took Blaine/Carl/Alan three strides to reach Philip where he grabbed the pencil from his hand and turned to the doctor. “You have not.” The guards started toward the circle.

    “Alan, I have. NOW SIT DOWN!”

    Before the guards could reach Alan, and without warning, he drove the pencil deep into Adam Goldman’s heart, and the doctor crumpled to the floor. “You have not.”

    As the guards reached him, Blaine/Carl/Alan stood quietly and let them grab his arms behind him and pull him away. No one is sure which one said it, but as they dragged him away, the remaining patients heard, “It wasn’t my fault. If I told him once, I told him a million times, DON’T EXAGGERATE!”

    • Hi, Roy. Good story to begin with. I like the setting, your use of the medical terms, and even the choice of the names of the characters like Mark Delmonimoo or Shaniqua Johnson for the matter. Not to forget the perfectly executed charcter with the MPD syndrome – Blaine/Claire/ Allan.
      You deserve my special thanks for clearing the mountain of doubts I had about the unfamiliar idiom – Pet peeve/s through your story.
      The manner in which you employ the crisp dialogue, your language are simply brilliant as usual. “I guess it’s people who have quit smoking and who are in my face…” says Mark to doctor Adam and goes on to continue, ” And people interrupting me are another.” The Last sentence, just to give an example, kept me thinking for long.
      And what about Dr. Goldman? Is he himself some kind of mental or what? Please permit me to share a few lines I read somewhere of another doctor, Dr. Goldman reminds me so much of:
      Grandpa was lying in his deathbed. He had spent the better part of his life’s savings on buying lottery tickets, and much to the delight of his family, won the 10 Million State Lottery in his final hours.
      Problem was who was to break the news to him? His heart was in a poor condition.
      The young doctor, with his in sound condition, volunteered to do the job. Sitting on the chair in front of grandpa’s bed, the doc asked him:
      “How’s life treating you these days, Mr. Green?”
      “You tell me, Doc. When am I gonna be up and kicking again?”
      ” Soon, Sir, very soon. And what will you do then if you happen to win one of those lotteries?”
      ” I’ll give half of it as your share,” said Grandpa casually, trying to prop up in the bed.
      THE DOC WAS RUSHED TO THE ICC having suffered a massive stroke!
      Good luck with your story, Roy.
      • Ohhhh. The ending. Great punchline. Lots of funny lines in your story too, Roy. Great dialogue, an ingenious plot and great use of the prompt. A damn good story Roy.
        One negative: ‘You have not told me every day.’ That’s not natural. Most people would simply say, ‘No you haven’t.’ (It sounds as though you don’t have much faith in your reader’s intelligence. That is to say, I get the feeling you wrote the dialogue in that way to make sure that your readers wouldn’t get confused. I don’t think that’s necessary, or wise.)

        BTW, Regarding your advice on character creation. Ever hear of Elmore Leonard? Me neither. But I have a quote of his and I stumbled across the quote earlier today. He said: “Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. Show it if possible. Let the readers use their imaginations.”
        That’s pretty much what you said in your comments, and it’s good advice.
        (Of course, as with everything else, there are always exceptions.)

    • Smoothly written story and I concur with other comments. And nice irony at the end with the doctor’s words being the thing that drives Alan to anger.

      But one thing confuses me, Roy – the significance, if any, of both the MPD patient and the doctor being called Goldman. I don’t know if I missed something or if I’m overthinking things.
      Like – are they brothers and would that be significant? Is the doctor another personality of Blaine/Alan/Carl? But that doesn’t quite work from the context …

      • Hi Roy
        I am with Andy. That kind of bugged me – the doctor and Blaine / Karl Alan etc having the same surname. I was thinking along the lines of.
        Well written story with some great dialogues and good pacing of events that hook in reader involvement. Great story.
    • Phil Town
      Great angle on the prompt, Roy. The interplay/dialogue between the characters is really well done. The ending is fun. I wonder if this is strictly necessary: “Blaine was considered by some psychiatrists to be suffering from Multiple Personality Disorder.” You could maybe have let the reader figure out this fact for him/herself (?) Also, I wonder how it would have been if you’d left this … “The doctor, Adam Goldman, surrounded by a circle of patients, placed his attendance clipboard for the Anger Management Class on his lap.” … until after the opening bit of dialogue – inviting the reader to figure out what’s going on. (?) Good story, though, that builds up well and delivers.
  • Reading all these stories, I realise that there are a lot of peeves I didn’t know I had until now.
  • Roy York
    Thanks for the kind words. I truly love to do dialogue and imagine each character as I perceive them, good, bad, half nuts, completely nuts, and so on and then try to emulate how they would respond. It’s one of the reasons I write. I enjoy writing dialogue far more than descriptive prose. If you notice, also, I seldom describe characters unless it is totally germane to the story, because I want the reader to supply their own descriptive qualities, I feel it draws the reader into the story far more than if I describe them.

    By the way, your critique above was written so well for a second language, if I didn’t know better I would have sworn you had someone ghost write it whose first language is English. I stand by my critique last week that you may not notice it, but you write differently when in story telling mode than in casual conversation. That is not a fault mind you on your part, merely an observation on my part. And, others may not agree with me, including you.

    • Dear Roy, though you haven’t mentioned me by name, I think the above comments were meant for me. Coming as it is from you, someone I’ve come to respect lately, your kind words are simply a HUGE confidence booster for me.
      Now the question is -how do I shift gears from the story telling mode to what you have termed as ‘casual conversation’? Do please give me some tips. The only thing I have noticed in others’ writings here so far is that most of them write in short paragraphs. That reminds me of something. Recently the course in ‘Making A Poem’ I undertook taught me to write a poem first and then cut off the least important words one by one down to the point where each word is indispensable for the poem. While writing my story this time around, I had that thought in my mind for a moment before my entire being was overpowered with another, which was:
      A poem is a poem/ A story, a catch;
      And never the twin can match!
      And THAT was THAT.
      I do hope that you don’t start tiring of me soon.
      Regards and best wishes.
  • Amy Meyer
    by Amy Meyer (600 words)

    Extract from a transcript of the Police Interview under caution presented at the trial of Mr Elbert Baxter of 34 Wilmere Lane, EG5 7EN. Dated 29th March 2075.

    Police: Where were you on Tuesday 12th March 2075 at 11:55?
    Baxter: I can’t remember
    Police: Try thinking a bit harder. Stretch your memory.
    Baxter: No idea.
    Police: Well maybe this will jog your memory. For the purposes of the tape I am showing suspect Exhibit C: train ticket from London to Birmingham dated Tuesday 12th March.
    Baxter: That’s not mine
    Police: Interesting. Showing suspect Exhibit D: credit card receipt for the ticket recovered from suspect’s trouser pocket.
    Baxter: Never seen it before in my life.
    Police: For the tape: showing Exhibit F: finger prints matching the suspect’s recovered from the train ticket and credit card receipt.
    Baxter: OK, I bought the ticket, but I never got on the train. Something came up and I had to go elsewhere.
    Police: Exhibit G: CCTV image showing suspect boarding the train at 11:34.
    Baxter: I got back off again.
    Police: Exhibit H: CCTV images showing suspect sitting on the train at all stops to Birmingham.
    Police: So, lets try again. Where were you on Tuesday 12th March at 11:55?
    Baxter: [inaudible]
    Police: Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat that for the tape?
    Police: Thank you. Now we’re getting somewhere. Mr Baxter, we’ve received a very serious complaint against you related to your actions on the train.
    Baxter: I didn’t do anything wrong.
    Police: I will now list the charges against you: coughing with no mouth covering, repeated sniffing, speaking on the phone in the quiet carriage, listening to music with noise-leaking headphones, rhythmic nail tapping, pungent body odour, consumption of a hot fish curry in public place—
    Baxter: I would never. I shower twice a day!
    Police: You do understand the gravity of the charges against you, don’t you Mr Baxter? Under the Public Acts of Discourtesy Act 2064 Section 2.4, you’re looking at a minimum 10 years sentence. I’m going to help you out—
    Baxter: No! It wasn’t me.
    Police: We have a number of eye-witnesses that place you on that train. Your description matches eye-witness accounts—
    Baxter: No, you’ve got it all wrong, there’s been a case of mistaken identity. There was another man talking loudly, sniffing, all those acts you mentioned. You’ve got us mixed up! I bought a cold sandwich, I would never eat smelly food in a public area.
    Police: Help me understand Mr. Baxter. Why would a perfectly innocent man deny being on the train?
    Baxter: I hoped it wouldn’t come to this.
    Police: Go on.
    Baxter: The man who did all those terrible things. He was sitting across the table from me. He had a balding patch in a similar place to me, so I can understand the mix up. Well you can appreciate, I’m sure, that I was really on edge after the table tapping and the tinny music leaking out of his headphones. Then he dropped his crisp packet on the floor. When I confronted him, he tried to pretend it was an accident, but I could tell it was a deliberate act of littering. So when he got up to go to the buffet carriage I followed him and…
    Police: Yes?
    Baxter: I shot him.
    Police: Are you telling me it was an act of self defence? As is your right in cases of extreme provocation of rudeness under Section 3.2 of the 2064 Act.
    Baxter: Littering is my pet peeve.
    Police: Fair enough, you’re free to go.

    • Loved this Amy. If you read my story, they almost go hand in hand. Ten years in the clink for not covering your mouth when coughing, outstanding. You should be the mayor of Birmingham. This story gets my vote so far.
    • Wao! Finally a pulsating detective story reminiscent of the days of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Peiron! But your policeman is no less than either of them, Amy. Because neither Holmes nor Petronas ever let a criminal, that too a murdere, go scott free ( I may be wrong here)! Your policeman did.
      If this story becomes a reality by 2075, population explosion will cease to be a cause of worry as more than two-thirds of the people will be liquidified by real toughies ( should ‘eccentric’ be more appropriate?)like Baxter, on the pretext of one pet peeve or the other ( Dear Andy, please correct me if my use of the idiom is inaccurate).
      The idea of the story in the form of an extract is really commendable. I have a query though. After exhibit H, there is nothing against Baxter’s name. Even if he was left speechless by the transactions, you could have written something to hint at his reaction which you did immediately afterwards,
      Baxter: (inaudible). Was it done deliberately or a flaw due to some reason?
      On the whole, neat work again, Amy. Sunshine cheers. Keep it up.
    • Haha, Amy. Funny story and a nice touch of speculative satire too.

      I once sat opposite the most irritating person on the train to Brussels. A woman who talked loudly into her phone (a twenty minute reprieve from that in the Tunnel) and all the time ate non-stop. With her mouth open even when she wasn’t screeching into the phone. Packet of crisps (potato chips). Banana. Mars bar. Boiled sweets. More crisps. Then she opened a large plastic container with her home-prepared lunch in it. Coke-slurping. I survived that. Thank god she’s finished now. No! Here comes an apple! Ye gods, enough. Crump shomp chomp. After an hour and a half of enduring her intrusive inanity and mouth-open munching, I walked the length of the train to find another seat (so cowardly, I know). She clearly did not understand death stares. But how I would have welcomed the latitude of your laws of 2064!

    • Wow.Amy ! The way ‘political correctness’ is going, this could be true in a few years. An imaginative theme and a brilliant use of dialogue.
    • Phil Town
      Really funny story, Amy. I like how we get halfway through before we realise what Baxter is suspected of, leading us to speculate that it’s some major crime (by our traditional standards), and then we’re presented with the facts, which have a great humorous impact because of the careful set-up. There IS a major crime, in fact, but the police are interested in what we would consider petty crimes – a nice bit of satire. The cat’n’mouse interrogation is really well done. The “I shower twice a day!” line is a great joke. Maybe the previous line could have been in a slightly different order at the end, to put the joke next to the fact it connects to: “…rhythmic nail tapping, consumption of a hot fish curry in public place, pungent body odour—”

      Enjoyed it!

    (510 words)

    What’s that? What do I hate about you? Is that what you’re trying to say?

    Where do I begin? Let’s see. Well … your loving me, at least that’s one of the things. Yes. Ah man, it’s so … cloying! Kissy-wissy on the sofa, in the street, in restaurants … kiss, kiss, kiss. I want to take a handkerchief to my face sometimes, with all the saliva you’re planting on me. I wish I had, really – you might have got the message and this wouldn’t be so difficult for you.

    Then there’s your tidiness. Jeez! I can’t put a cup down on a table without you creeping up behind me and slipping a coaster under it. OCD, I reckon. You should have had treatment for that. It’s suffocating. Me? I just want to leave things about the place, be untidy if I want to. But then I suppose I’ll be able to now.

    And your father. What a pompous jackass, with you fawning over him the whole time! Yes, I know he’s a war veteran and all that, and made sacrifices for his country, and blah blah blah. I appreciate that – I mean, I couldn’t have done it, being the coward that I am. But does he have to ram it down our throats every time we see him?! Last Christmas – that was the limit: wearing his medals at the dinner table. What was that all about? And his politics! Hitler would have chucked him out of the party for being too extreme! I wish he was here now – your father, not Hitler. I’d like to stuff his reactionary views down his ugly, bloated throat.

    But do you know what I really hate more than anything else? Your voice. Like a metal spoon on a saucepan, that’s the effect it has on me. And I wouldn’t mind but you use it SO much. Can’t you just shut up now and then? Give me a bit of peace and quiet? No, of course not. You need to be talking at me 24/7. I go down to the garden shed to try to get away from you, but after ten minutes, there you are, at the door of the shed, bending my ear again.

    To cut a long story short, the fact is … I don’t love you. I don’t think I ever loved you. You seem shocked. Now don’t cry. You know, it’s not so uncommon. People get married for all sorts of reasons besides love. Ah! You thought that was the reason! Maybe from your side, but I think I just drifted into it. It was a marriage of convenience – convenient for me.

    I know all this must be a terrible disappointment, but to tell you the truth, I think you’ve got more serious things to be worried about. No, sorry. You can struggle and moan all you like. I’m not removing the gag. Your voice, you see, and the neighbours. And anyway, I just need a bit of quiet while I decide what to do with you.


    • Phil, this is fantastic. Brilliant twist at the end with the gag. Now I cannot decide between yours and Amy’s for best story.
      • Thanks, David! Amy’s would be a good choice.
      The only person, Mrs. J.H. Rourkey, who could have thrown some challenge your way to claiming the coveted title, is, by a cruel stroke of Fate, out of contention for the time being. But you deserve it, Phil, based on the number of masterpieces you are dishing out, one after another HABITUALLY!
      The language of the story is DIVINE. “Your voice! Like a metttal spoon on a saucepan”, “I just need a bit of quiet while I decide what to do with you,” are just a couple of examples of witty, humorous sentences at their best. The last line also has an implied threat about it.
      I love the whole story despite my reservation for one sentence: People get married for all sorts of reasons besides love. If you would allow me, I’d rewrite the sentence using ‘except’ instead of ‘besides’. Thanks for another master-blaster, Phil. God bless.
      • Thanks, Rathin! You’re far too kind. Glad you enjoyed it.
        (I think the ‘besides’ works, in fact … ‘except’ would change the meaning.)
    • Driven to snapping point – who do we have sympathy for here, the perpetrator or the victim?
      Clever and smoothly-written story.

      One thing I like is that we’re never actually told the gender of either party. We’re invited to bring stereotypical assumptions to the story around being tidy and untidy (men are from Mars, women are from Marie Kondo), garden shed escapes and nagging, There’s a temptation to assume the narrator is a man and the captive his wife. But it could be the other way round. Or a same-sex marriage.
      We could use this story in unconscious bias workshops, perhaps …

      • Cheers, Andy! I can see what you mean about the ambiguity of gender, but in fact I wrote it with a man in mind.
    • Hahahahaha. Oh man. Great story Philip. Fabulous last line. A really killer story. I’m going to have to come up with something really diabolical to compete in this contest. I should just throw in the towel. (Wave the white flag. Surrender to the inevitable. Accept my fate with a modicum of grace.) Whatever, great story though. Very enjoyable.
      • Come on Ken, you can do it. You still have one whole day…Produce magic.
        • And likewise Alice (you promised …), Carrie – and Adrienne was commenting at the start.

          Still waiting for a story with a different take on ‘pet’, like ”The multitudinous peeves of my pet platypus’. I was initially tempted …

      • Cheers, Ken! Glad you got (your v. good) one in.
  • Loved it! Divorce would have been easier but not as much fun.
    • Ha ha – yes, you’re right, Janet – it would have been much easier. Thanks!
  • MR. SMALLMAN by Janet Surrusco
    672 words

    I arrived at midnight, two hours beyond the expected flight time. I did manage to doze off and on during the flight with only one trip to the tiny closet they call a bathroom. The airport wasn’t crowded but it seemed like it took forever to reach Baggage Claim. As I collected my bag at the luggage carousel, I noticed a man watching me. Had he been on the plane? Yes, I believe he had. When I looked his way, he quickly turned his head. Maybe I was being paranoid. It was late, I was tired, and I still had to drive 90 miles to get home.

    I rolled the suitcase to my car in long-term parking. The night air was refreshing and, even though it was 76 degrees, I felt a small chill. I pushed the button to open my trunk and lifted my suitcase over the trunk lip. When had my suitcase become so heavy? As I closed the trunk, I saw the same man staring at me again! This time, I stared right back, challenging him to make a move. He turned his head, pretending like he hadn’t looked at me at all. He was a small man, about 5’4”, with thinning brown hair combed back. He was wearing a black T-shirt and black pants. There was nothing exceptional about the man, except that he kept staring at me when he thought I wasn’t looking.

    I got into my car and I noticed the small man got into his. The air in the car was hot and stale making me feel claustrophobic upon breathing, after all, the car had set under the Las Vegas summer sun for two weeks. I opened all the windows and the sunroof to let the cool night air in and the stuffy hot air out. After about ten minutes, I started to leave. I noticed that Mr. Smallman hadn’t left yet either but had started his car, probably to cool it off with the air conditioning. His car was the color he seemed to prefer, black, just like his clothes. It was a hybrid Toyota, not very intimidating.

    I left the parking lot and headed toward I-15. I looked in my rearview mirror and I saw Mr. Smallman driving his black Prius right behind me. Needless to say, I was beginning to be a little freaked out. I knew my drive to Mesquite at this time of night would be met with little traffic and made sure my phone was fully charged.

    Just then, my stomach growled loudly. I realized I was very hungry, as I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch the day before. I noticed an In-N-Out Drive Inn at the next exit. To lose Mr. Smallman, I didn’t put on my blinker and made the exit at the very last minute. I checked my rear view mirror again. He was still with me.

    I was not going to let this man intimidate me. I pulled into the somewhat crowded parking lot and so did he. I got out of my car and walked directly over to him. He got out of his car, also, and looked surprised to see me coming over to him. People eating outside were watching me. I said, “Hey, why are you following me?”

    “I’m not following you. I just stopped for a burger.”

    “Well, you were staring at me at the airport and then just happened to stop at the same place as me? Is that what you are saying?

    “Oh, yes,” said the man. “You are the lady that was on my airplane. I was staring, and I apologize for that, but I didn’t follow you. That was a mere coincidence.”

    “Hmmm. Why were you staring at me, then.” I demanded.

    “Oh, that.” he said timidly, turning a little red in the face. “It’s just that I have never seen a woman be so,” as he searched for the proper word, “preoccupied. Your dress has been stuck in your nylons since you left the plane.”

    • Janet,
      YES! Perfect. Love it. Finally, a great writer who listens to her readers. So refreshing. (Wait, is that a pet peeve of mine?)
  • Story for pet peeves
    Title: Krish
    Rama and Jana fall in love and got married. Their private life went up and down. In mean time they gave birth of two children Srish and Saana. Rama and jana could not make their private live harmonious. Jaana wanted freedom and expose herself. Rama was photographer but Jana was interested in dance. Rama was irrited b Jana and created lot of turture. When other people complained against Jana rama would be angry because he would not like to listen against his wife. When other people said few world in vafour of Jana again Rama would be angry because for him Jana was matter of ntrturing. One day after discussion with his his family about Jaana Rama committed suicide in the evening. That time Jaana used to live separate. Rama was survived out of intoxication and recovered in few weeks back to normal.
    Rama and Jana separated in some stage and Krish and Saana remained in their maternal mothers’ house. But Rama would not be happy with out kid. He made a beautiful dream for rest of life with kids. He requested Jaana to return them and Jaana agreed.

    Rama fall in love with another girl named Naha and got married. Naha agreed to remain child less and take care of Crish and Saana. In mean time Rama became very famous cinematographer. Saana and Krish are growing. Saana became very attached with new mother Naha but Krish remain in contact with Jaana. He mostly remained in hostel and Jaana took him to her place during some of the weekend and vacation. Rama fulfilled all his needs.
    Rama would tell some defects of Jaana and Jaana about Rama. Krish in his growing brain impacted by such negatives thought expressed by them about his parents. Krish started taking smoke and other drugs. He was not in control of Raama and Jaana. One day Krish lefe home with his one of the school mated. He went away from his home town but towards his maternal uncles home. Rama informed to Jaana and complained to police. One of his friend found them in a bus park and informed ot police. Krish looked matured and smart to police. Hence he gathered Rama, Jaana and Haha in police station. Krish said that his father Rama was unable to give rime for him. Haha was okay. But general behavior of Krish is that for him Naha is external and illegal person at home. He wished to stay in hostel and visit Jaana in the weekend. Police made agreement as per wish of Krish and asked Rama to cover all cost. After some days krish felt that he was burden for Jaana hence he returned back from hosted and joined local school and remained at home with Naha.
    In mean time Krish started company of boys who are away from parents and started to make smoking group. One day he left home with other friend. This time he went to a tourist place and started to work in a restaurant. In some stage he was found by friend of Raam and brought back home. He was not accepted by his school. Raama admitted him in a rehab center.
    In the Rehab center he was happy. He got leadership work in the group for the some of task. Focus of rehab center is to bring back to normal and same they continued education also. One day krish left center and visited to restaurant with his one of the friend. Center could not tell about wheresbout of Krish. Hence Rama removed him from center. Krish did not like to stay in center and not in the house too. Hence he was admitted to a very good hotel with the condition that he would not continue smoking because it is not allowed in the hostel. Raama was in dilema where to admit or send back to another center. He assumed that Krish wouuld be expeled from hostel when this clever by start smoking and his deposition will be in loss. But his elder brother suggested to get him admitted to hostel. This time Krish remained in hostel with out any complains. After few weeks his face was looking normal. Krish was innocent, clever, gentle and Bright face. How it happened was a question. When asked to Krished about his new life in the new hostel he informed that warden in his new hostel treat him like a mother. That was only love with out condition.

    WC 744

    • Hi Nam – you’ve got the storyboard for a potential epic here, and a human drama of a broken family and complex relationships, and their impact on a young man.

      A couple of suggestions – worth doing a spell-check and a further edit to polish it up a bit and get consistency with the names, etc. But my main suggestion is to try to get inside the characters and give the story more immediacy by showing more if through dialogue. We have the feeling a little bit of being outside looking in, and it would be good to hear the character’s own voices as well as the author’s.

      • Dear Andy, I realized what went wrong. This will help me for next story.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Nam! I think I agree with Andy. You’ve got an awful lot of dramatic action going on here – sometimes it seems like notes for a much bigger story. Try isolating each event and picturing it in your mind’s eye – where is each thing happening exactly? who are the characters in each scene? what are they saying and doing? …etc. The result would be much longer than a 1,200-word short story but would be interesting, I think. Alternatively, you could maybe take one of the scenes and flesh it out/give it colour to make it a short story. Just some ideas.
      • Dear Phil, Thank you for suggestion. I have noted in mind
  • Blame It On A Simple Click Of Fate.
    By Ken Cartisano – 1195 (Desperate) Words.

    I changed my Internet Service Provider. Got a new one. Now I have High Diminution Video and screaming Internet speeds of 500 mega-bleeps per second. All seemed well. (We were in high cotton.) After watching an aged Arnold Swarzenegger slaughter the English (language) for an hour, I went into the office to write a story and noticed the search engine, Yahoo! – on my screen. (What the?) No way. I hate Yahoo. But there it is. And my Internet browser is ‘Aghast Secure Browser.’
    “Where’s my Matzarilla?” I wondered out loud.

    Long story short, I close the strange browser only to find an anti-virus program running full screen. “do you want to… encode the snoggle to the flactum snoid?”

    I hate this program. I never installed it. I don’t know where it came from. I already have virus protection! Yes. No. I don’t know what a snoid is, dammit. Whatever. Click. Bang.

    The screen changed in the twinkling of an eye.

    All of my files and folders were gone, all of them: Pictures of people. (No big loss.) Folders full of places like Devil’s Tower, Yellowstone Park, The Smokies, Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Mt. Rushmore. (Okay, that hurt. I can feel that.)

    I clicked on subdirectories that were once full of pictures and videos and…documents. I checked the documents folder. Nothing. I groaned. My book. It’s…it’s a trilogy. My Bookz, I called it. (It’s about a rattlesnake that runs for President, it wears a toupee, which fools the gullible, one assumes, and wins. Ridiculous, I know, but it was satire. Anyway, it’s gone. That’s the point,) along with all of my short stories, about 3,000 of them. (No they’re not insured.) Okay maybe it’s three-hundred, maybe it’s a hundred and fifty… Still—that’s a lot of stories!

    I sat up straight. ‘I’m not finished yet,’ I thought, quietly, to myself. The screen stares at me, blankly, unblinking. (‘Fuck you,’ I think – I’ll make you blink, you…you fucking piece of indifferent hardware.)

    So, I check the trash-can, (on the screen, rnb.) It’s empty.

    Then I remember My Grok Book. I’ve got everything saved on an external hard-drive. Seven Googazillion Jiggle-o-bytes. All of my data takes up about one-zillionth of the ‘Available Free Space.’ (Don’t ya just love that term? Available Free Space? There’s really, I mean come on, when you stop and think about it, there’s really no such thing!)

    So where was I? My eyes focused on my salvation, the external drive, (My Grok Book) and I noticed a wire coming out of the Grok, and my eyes followed the wire, a data cable, my eyes followed the cable to my 43 port USB hub, and then they followed the one cable, forty-three into one cable, that led from the USB hub, to the back of my computer…

    Not good. (As the snake in my book would say.) Not—good. Okay, excuse me. Excuse me. Should I continue?

    I’m just getting started. This is no 500-word murder mystery, Philip. This is a massacre. This is a fifty-thousand file ffff, (something that begins with ‘f’) up. This’ll take time to tell.

    ‘Okay.’ Did I say that? Or think that? No. No I did not. The word ‘okay’ was…deleted from my mind. ‘So’ be it. ‘So’ it is. ‘So’ is appropriate.

    So, I try a restore point. There aren’t any. It’s as if I just bought the computer that morning.

    I run a scan. My brilliant anti-virus flop-ware scans 43,387 documents in 4 minutes. Everything’s fine. (Really? You stupid software. What do you do in your spare time? Make prophylactics? I’m being mugged and you’re staring at the moon.)

    There’s a system analyzer. It takes a minute or two to tell me I have a lot of security weaknesses. I have a leaky handle! OMG! (What the fuck does that mean?) It’s attached to one of my ‘system execute’ files. (Ooooo. That sounds serious.) Ever notice how harsh file names are? Jesus. System execute file. That sounds like something that’s just asking to be deleted. Or crucified.

    My ‘User Account Controls’ were dangerously low, too. Or loose. I think they were loose. Low-cut and loose. I still think I can fix it.

    I delete the programs…no. I ‘uninstall’ the programs that offend me. You don’t delete programs. They delete your files, but you have to ‘uninstall’ programs.

    The programs are immediately suspicious. ‘Why are you deleting us?’


    ‘Have we displeased you?’

    (Oh please. They act so innocent.)

    ‘Do you have any suggestions that would improve us?’

    (They’re evil. I’m afraid. I lie.) ‘It’s just temporary,’ I type in the comment box. ‘I’ll re-install you in a minute.’

    They know I’m lying.

    ‘You Must Restart Your Computer For The Changes To Take Effect.’
    This is a lot more ambiguous than it seems at first glance. ‘The changes.’ Which changes?

    So I click the restart button. (Or, as I now refer to it, ‘the kill switch.’) Boom! The computer restarts, and invites me to enter my password. It’s actually kind of cruel. Of course my password doesn’t work. After a while I started trying random phrases that I know won’t work. Like, ‘yourmotherwasanerectorset’, and other less than flattering combinations.

    I was still optimistic though. (This is probably the same part of the brain that’s responsible for religion.) I re-booted the machine, but paused it in the boot process. It had options for me to contemplate.
    1. Regurgitate.
    2. Slap.
    3. Slap and Regurgitate.
    4. Slap, Regurgitate and Re-start.
    5. De-bug. (That does nothing.)
    6. Create A Ghost Image Of Your Profile. (I don’t think so, computer.)
    7. Start Widows in Safe-Mode. (Like helping a little old lady across the street.) I typed in number Seven. ‘Start Widows.’

    It started. Safely. I quickly entered the Administrative Accounts User Password Console Wizard.

    Enter Current Password.
    ‘Okay,’ I submit. ‘dillpickle.’

    Enter New Password:

    Invalid Entry – You Must Have A Numerical Component In Your Password.

    ‘You mean a number? Jesus fleck, why don’t you just say so,’ I mutter, and type, ‘qoeagp4rtpiigeori#iofdhiljyoass.’ Which looks like this, *****************************.

    Retype Password.
    ‘Oh for god’s sake.’ I painstakingly retype the password.

    You Must Restart the Computer For Your Changes To Take Effect.

    It restarts. And invites me to enter my password. So I do. ‘qoeagp4rtpiigeori#iofdhiljyoass.’

    Password Not Recognized. You Must Enter The Correct Password.

    (No shit. Everyone knows that you stupid… That’s the whole concept of using passwords you stupid, corrupt, fallible, inert, diabolical…) I don’t know any good binary insults. (Count to three using base 9, asshole.) Not sure.

    But I know what I have to do. Reboot the computer into the ‘Command Prompt.’ (Good old DOS.) And sift through the 43,000 files and find the one that’s obviously corrupted. (I realize I’ve had too much, but I haven’t been drinking.)

    I took the computer to the place I’d purchased it. ‘Ziggy’s Gigaboxes.’ He called me to come and get it a few days later.

    “Ziggy,” I said. “What happened to my computer?”

    “It deleted your profile,” he says.

    “It deleted me? How can it do that?”

    He shrugged. “I’m just a technician Ken. Not a psychiatrist. That’ll be one-hundred-ten dollars—plus tax.”

    • Very entertaining story, Ken, and inventive use of language. Arnie isn’t the only one to murder the English language – it’s part of the unique mission of the tech industry. And nicely satirised here.

      A rattlesnake who becomes president? Sounds a little like Disney’s Robin Hood meets, er, recent events … (you remember the irrepressible and sneaky SIr Hiss?)

      In the end – it was just your profile going for a walk? Hopefully you got all your files back. I want to read your trilogy!

      BTW, just got off the phone with Canon support. I bought a new printer on Monday that will only print blank pages. Thinks it’s doing something, and sits back happy. I’ve had about 4 hours of downloading drivers, resetting WLAN settings, popping cartridges in and out, then doing everything again as instructed by the Canon tech guy … and in the end, it goes back to the shop. So your story certainly strikes a chord!

      • Thanks Andy,
        I’m not sure our experiences are universal. Let’s both hope not. It may be hard to comprehend the overwhelming frustration one experiences until something like this happens. “Please Customize Your Heuristic Settings.”
        “My what?”
        “When you select the ‘sharing options’ other systems on the network may no longer have access to your files.”
        “Wh-what? But that…makes…no…”
        This is a relatively true, and altogether new story. I had to clean up the language quite a bit, and abbreviate and modify the actual events so as not to turn this into a full-length novel.
        And yes, I did get my files back, and they were backed up elsewhere as well. I may be crazy, but I’m not stupid. (Or vice-versa.)
        I could send you book one, one of these old days. Pretty much got that one done. I’m still editing book two and three. I started out with 294,000 words. (All three books.) Got it down to 272,000. Still looking to trim another 5,000 words from the second and third books. (Hope I don’t die first.)
    • I feel your pain ! Having been on the point of taking a sledgehammer to my laptop on several occasions. A brilliantly inventive and funny story, and a great peeve.
      • Thanks Maud. I can’t believe someone hasn’t written a song or a ballad about murdering their computer yet.
    • Knew you could do it Ken. And don’t get me started with computers…
    • Phil Town
      Really inventive Ken and (naturally) very funny (because it’s you, and because it’s true). I was actually caught up in a similar vortex this week with some #$%&* Windows updates, foisted on me without any notice, of course (there should be consumer legislation against this kind of thing!). I love the invention of made-up terms that are so geeky that we feel they might not be made-up. The little exchange between the user and the program (‘Have we displeased you?) smacks nicely of HAL. Great last line – the IT guy completely oblivious to your suffering. And is that a name-check for me halfway through? Honoured!

      Great fun.

    • Dear Ken,
      A brilliant story. I read it twice and was bowled over by your command over the language, depth and exploration of the prompt. But something went wrong with my WordPress account and by the time I could recover from the shock ( I am a novice when it comes to computers and modern technology ), Andy had already posted most of what I wanted to say. But let me just say that some of the images used, the way you introduced your Bookz, the humour behind the total number of lost stories descending from 3000 stories to 150, and the sharp, scathing satrical element, so very characteristic of your story as well as you, cuts you off from most of us and takes you a few rungs above.
      I do hope that you will not dismiss my comments as crap or trash. Love you and all the best with your story.
  • Carrie Zylka

    Allllllllllrighty my favorite writers and storytellers and word magicians!!!

    Time is up and it’s time to vote!

    Remember – you MUST vote for your story to count, you may NOT vote for yourself, and you may NOT vote twice.

    You have 24 hours to get your votes in!! Good luck!!

    (And for all you overachievers tomorrow’s prompt is “Refugee”, required element: a choice.)

    • Are we only voting 1 to 3 this time rather than 1 to 5?
  • Carrie Zylka

    Still waiting on votes from Anindita, Liz, Janet, Amy, Nam, and Ilana’s 4th & 5th votes.
    Due to the time changes across the world, I’ll give them some time!

    Meanwhile here is the ink to the next prompt!

  • Anindita Basu
    I am a bit confused regarding the voting. Where should I send it ? Are you going to send a link Alice, or should I just wrote it here? I am also not getting any notification. I only way I come here is through the very first email link I saved. Am I doing something wrong? I checked the boxes for notifying though. Thank you.
  • Anindita Basu
    Got it, sorry. Voted. Sorry for being late.

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