Writing Prompt “What’s Wrong With You People?”
Theme: Line Inclusion.
The line “what’s wrong with you people?” must appear somewhere in the story itself.
Word Count: 1,200
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The writing prompt for May 14, 2020 will be chose by Andy Lake.
184 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “What’s Wrong With You People?””
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“What’s wrong with you people? Do you know what’s in there?” I asked, stepping back a little more.
Eloise stepped out, coming closer. Her face, now filled with all the anguish, all the hope that still lay ahead, was moist with tears.
“Elizabeth,” she said quietly.
The word stabbed into my heart. Why couldn’t they see? There was no air, no where to go and it was dark. It was like being buried alive.
“Husband,” she repeated.
I turned my back to her, struggling, fighting the desire to escape, to be done with all of it. I hated myself but couldn’t bring myself to go in there. How could I? How could they ask that of me?
I stood at the edge, looking out over the expanse of land before me. I could see for miles in every direction, save for the massive wall of stone that now lay at my back. Beyond this point, the landscape stretched out, becoming a line between the sky and the very end of the world. A dull reddish brown hue, it became almost gray, like dead wood, at the far edges of its creation. As far as the eye could see, it was scarred with deep fingers of erosion that radiated its full length and breadth, punctuated only by tall, sharp hillocks. They looked as if they were formed by the keen-edged finger of a great demon, pushing up from underneath. No blade of grass, no bird, no living thing moved here. It was naked, stripped of all life.
A scattering of clouds drifted slowly overhead. Their shadows shifted and changed in size and shape. They glided together to become larger, brooding mass and then floated away becoming smaller shredded pieces of their former selves. They were a herd of dark things that slid over this broken land, searching for some form of solace.
Protected by the mountain, only the slightest of breeze moved here. The loneliness of this place, the heartbreaking silence, all tormented my soul.
“Husband,” Eloise called softly, her hand beckoning to me.
“You don’t know what you’re asking of me,” I said, wiping the tears burning my face.
“I do know, but Elizabeth needs us,” she said, slipping closer, taking my hand.
“For Elizabeth… for me,” she soothed, pulling me toward the opening.
I looked into those tearful eyes and the world of sanity slowly drifted away. I nodded my agreement and followed her into the stone mouth, allowing it to devour me.
Written by Alyssa Daxson
All wind and no rain is only half a storm.
Ken Fabulous, and
I wouldn’t like to guess which one is which, though.
Who would your Ken persona be, Liz? I think Ken Tender is available, which should be good for getting into the winners’ circle 🙂
(Meanwhile, I’m thinking of changing my name to Alice or Carrie, in the hope of an inside track …. )
Can I claim the middle one, please?
I’m sure other possibilities are still available. But I’m not sure there’ll be a queue for Ken Tagious and Ken Genital …
Strangely enough, when I was a student, my nickname was Frappe with an accent.
As in “frah-pay’?
Ken MILES initials are actually km = KILOMETERS!!
*Roy and I
It feels good to have a minute to engage with you guys again. Even if it is to simply make fun of Cartisano 😂
You’re making fun of me? Are you sure that’s a wise course of action?
Be that as it may, I did that on purpose. It’s reflects my inner city upbringing. I was the toughest four-year-old in Yonkers, New York.
“I was the toughest four-year-old in Yonkers, New York.”
‘Me was the toughest four-year-old in Yonkers, New York’, shurely.
It makes no difference. None of the boxes do anything, they’re not connected to anything. I’ve looked behind my monitor and there’s nothing back there but cat hair, a couple of rubber bands, a paper clip and a 2015 reciept from the drugstore for kaopectate. But don’t take my word for it, look behind your own monitor. You’ll see.
What’s wrong with this sentence?
We piled into Amelie’s Edsall with Jurgen following in his Tin Lizzie, and motored down a long Wendy road to a little Town by Leeds, a few Miles south of York, that sits on a Lake that’s famous for an award winning Rose, when Mr. Frapes showed up with Trish, it seemed like a good Oomen.
You are TOO funny! Thanks for the laughs. I needed them.
The Final Outrage
By: Adrienne Riggs (w- 1,121)
Celeste’s scream rose in intensity and volume until it filled the small room, spilled out of the door and reverberated down the hallway. Everyone nearby froze in shock.
She took a deep breath and kept going.
“WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?”
The transition had been instantaneous.
Moments before, Celeste had been sitting calmly next to her mother’s bed. Her father sat on the other side, holding his wife’s limp hand, grief etched deeply into his face. Her mother’s gasping breaths could be barely heard as the pauses between breaths grew longer.
Celeste had stayed by her mother’s side since the day before and all through the night. She was exhausted but she refused to leave. No more observing her mother’s struggle through a window, she was there to stay until her mother’s earthly battle was ended.
Nurses had been in and out checking her mother’s status, so when someone else entered, it took a moment to notice the man that had entered the room. He introduced himself as the Administrator of the nursing home while looking at Celeste, her father and her son. Celeste assumed he was there to check on her mother and possibly express sympathy for the situation. She soon realized the truth of what happens when one “assumes” something. The old adage was true.
“I’m Charles So-and-so.” Celeste did not care what his name was. “I just wanted to make sure that you know that we can only allow 2 people to visit inside the facility at one time due to COVID.” A rushing noise filled her ears as he continued, “Blah, blah, blah.”
Celeste tuned out his speech as her thoughts raced. His words did not make sense. The nurses had allowed 4 of the family members in the night before and had allowed 3 in today. There were 2 more family members outside, wanting to see Faye before she died.
“What did you say?” Celeste pinned him with an angry look. This was literally life and death. Her mother did not have much longer to live. The signs were in her face and her body and could not be ignored. How dare this man interrupt the little bit of time they had left with Faye?
“I’m sorry, but we can only allow two people in at time.” He rushed on, “It’s not our rules, it’s the CDC …” Once again, a rushing noise interrupted his words. All Celeste heard was gibberish.
She looked hard at Charles Whatever-his-name-was. She had no respect for a man who had not stepped one foot in her mother’s room before this to meet them, to express his concern that Faye’s leg had been broken by untrained staff, to offer sympathy or anything else. He hid behind his nurses, allowing them to do the dirty work, to make the awful notifications.
She took a breath. She was willing to step outside to let other family in for a few moments.
“So, if I step outside to let another family member visit, I can come back inside afterward, correct?”
“Well, no. If anyone leaves the building, we prefer that they leave for the day.”
Celeste gasped. She could take it no longer. This was the last straw!
“NOOOOOOOO!” Her scream sucked all the air out of the room and threw it back at the staff in the room with the force of a tornado.
Propelled by rage and emotions too many to mention, Celeste literally flew out of the chair beside her mother’s bed toward the man. She caught a fleeting glimpse of the panic and fear on his face.
She gestured toward her mother’s unconscious form in the bed, knowing that death was lingering nearby. Her emotions were on fire, all self-control burned up in the heat of her anger and desperation.
“She is DYING!” Celeste’s screams bounced off the walls. “YOU all FREAKING BROKE HER LEG and now she is DYING, and you DARE come in here?” The accusation in her words was clear.
Celeste’s adult son, Thomas, quickly stepped in to intercept her as she advanced toward the Administrator. The man took a step back as Thomas wrapped her in his strong arms and pulled her against his chest.
“Mom, it’s ok. Now’s not the time. It’s ok.”
“It’s NOT OK!” Celeste struggled in his arms while her father looked on, shell-shocked by the turn of events.
No one else in the room said a word.
“Mom, please calm down. I’ve got you.”
Celeste dissolved into hysterical, heart-rending crying. Her sobs echoed around her. Her son stood strong for a long time, holding her tightly and trying to console her, until she wore out and her sobs became quieter.
When she looked up, the obnoxious man was gone. He had beat a hasty retreat from the scene as soon as Celeste had moved toward him.
‘Coward!’ she thought. She was glad he was gone. Only the regular nurse, Kelly, still stood nearby.
“I’m sorry, Celeste. Is there anything I can get for any of you?”
Celeste stared at her through the tears still running down her face.
“Just keep that man away from me.” Her voice was deadly calm.
Kelly nodded and left the room.
Celeste took her seat again and tried to stem the flow of tears. Her father looked at his wife and at his daughter sorrowfully. There was despair on his face. He had not said a word throughout the ordeal.
“Mom, I’ll go outside” Thomas offered as he held his mother’s hands. “You stay here with Granddaddy. He needs you.”
Celeste nodded. “I love you” she whispered.
“I love you too.” Thomas quietly left the room.
Celeste turned back to her mother with a look of apology toward her father. Faye still lay motionless in the bed. Her eyes were open, staring unseeing toward the ceiling. Her slow, shallow breaths continued, getting fainter with each passing moment. Celeste hoped she was seeing angels.
Celeste lost track of time as she held her mother’s hand and watched her breathing. She felt her mother’s spirit leave as she witnessed her last tiny breath. She ran for the nurse.
Kelly came in and checked for Faye’s pulse. Taking her stethoscope, she listened carefully to Faye’s chest before murmuring what they already knew as the room filled with sympathetic nurses and aides.
Their tears flowed anew and Jim slowly placed Faye’s hand back on the bed, covering her gently with her blanket. It was over. The long battle was done, and the victory was won. Faye was finally free.
Outside the window, looking in, Thomas sobbed against the unforgiving bricks separating him from his mother and his grandparents.
What an emotional rollercoaster.
Actually, having written “rollercoaster” I realised that it is not the correct word. It suggests ups and downs and screams of delight and fear in a relatively safe environment. None of that applies here. I am searching for a better word.
I am so sorry for what you have been forced to endure these past few months.
That horrible little man in the story is the “beancounter” type who seems to have multiplied like a new breed in our health services. He can claim that he was only explaining the rules but that does not mean I would want to hit him less hard.
I’m sure we have all come across his type in various walks of life, the Mr. Jobsworths of this world.
Not a story to enjoy but a story with which I can fully empathise as I have mentioned before. When the time comes we do not want our loved ones to die alone.
Keep safe and well,
I just hate nursing homes and I am in the process of making a will in which it stipulates strongly I must not be resuscitated if I am unconscious and unbreathing. I will also stipulate the right to voluntary euthanasia if the cancer reoccurs or I have a terminal illness. I do not like suffering and am sick of the needles, operations and sicknesses I have had in my life.
If I cannot look after myself, it is time to go. I have been self-sufficient for so many years, I can think of NOTHING worse in life than being in a nursing home and having somebody else wash your butt or shower you. Once I can no longer do self-care, it’s time to check out of this life.
As Ken says we often in the course of life have to deal with the Mr. Jobsworths types more and more. IT is so frustrating as the are boxy little people who should perhaps be confined to factories where they stamp numbers on machinery parts day after day and they get a change of routine by moving the number counter up after each stamp. Oh dear I am a nasty old woman.
Who knows what would have happened if I had reached that cowardly, pompous fool that day? I may work this into a book someday.
I loved this – “He can claim that he was only explaining the rules but that does not mean I would want to hit him less hard.”
I’ve thought back to that day 4 weeks ago. I was out of that chair before I even realized it. I wonder what would have happened if my son had not intervened and blocked me? I’ve never hit or attacked anyone in my life, but there was a distinct possibility it could have changed on that day. I’m laughing about it now.
People can mess with me but they better not mess with my kids or my family. I was done with the nursing home and their incompetence. It was a little scary. I didn’t realize I had so much anger and emotion bottled up until it exploded.
Awful, just awful. I have no words and my heart goes out to you and your family… 😥
Your story took me right back to my mom’s last few hours a few years ago. I watched those moments too late at night with my siblings, heard the death rattle… didn’t know it was the last sounds of spirit departing the body.
May the Peace of God be with you all.
Well written account.
But I can’t figure out how they broke the legs. That’s totally unacceptable.
I doubt that this is a universal truth, but the best stories I’ve written were pure fiction. Other people, obviously, write very good, very honest stories. And some stories, like this one, need to be written, and it doesn’t matter how good or bad they are. That’s not really relevant in this instance.
If I cannot look after myself, it is time to go. I have been self sufficient for so many years, I can think of NOTHING worse in life than being in a nursing home and having somebody else wash your butt or shower you. Once I can no longer do self care, it’s time to check out of this life.
Having been painfully aware of this struggle by your entire family for years, I am also aware this is a release for you. I hope it helped your pain. Great story, well written and very direct. Stay safe.
Thanks for the comments. I apologize if this story was too intense.
Unfortunately, every word of this story is true. It was not my finest moment. I am, by nature, calm, professional and soft-spoken. I am not afraid of a confrontation but I usually handle it in a better manner. Sometimes you can be pushed too far for too long. Add sleep deprivation to that and it becomes a volatile situation.
I fought to the end for my mother. I knew, when I saw how badly her leg was broken, that she would not be able to come back from that. The femur is a large bone. Add to that the fact that they could not treat the break effectively, and I knew her body would not be able to cope. It was agony to watch, especially through a window.
We found out the day she died that she had several pressure sores that were open and draining that we had not been told about.
Anyway, I apologize. Mama is now free of all of her pain and suffering and that is a blessing even though we miss her dearly. My full attention is on Daddy now, trying to keep him safe from falls and worry about him living alone; while trying to keep my own house going.
I can’t wait to read the stories this time around. Ready, set, GO!
No need to apologise. Your story was straight from the heart and I think all of us realize that. Besides, is was well written and you did what writers do; write what you know about. I just hope it helped.
My mother died when I was 15 months old, so I’ve never been able to say goodbye. Count your blessings. You had a mom for a long time. I have a picture hanging on a wall. But the thing is, she will always be young and beautiful. I am reminded of that eveytime I walk past that picture. Remember the good thing and the bad will fade. You’ll never get over it, but acceptance of what you had grows and the pain goes away.
Stay safe and watch after your daddy.
I’m surrounding myself with pictures of Mom before Alzheimer’s stole her away from us. I don’t want to remember those 10 frustrating years in the nursing home.
Love and hugs!
PS – I’m taking good care of Daddy. If we can just keep him from trying to hug the floor, it would be so much easier.
My sincere best wishes to you.
I decided to write something that is not too heavy or apocalyptic or virus-driven but that still has a bit of pathos, a dash of humour and an acknowledgement of the “human condition, ” the need for compassion and companionship free of censorship and judgement. You can tell me if I have achieved my aim.
by Ken Frape 1200 words
The elderly lady “ phlumphed” down on the seat beside me with an audible exhalation of breath, her lips whinnying like a horse. Her shoulder bag landed a split second later, hinting at the weight of its contents. I slid a little further over to give her room. She squinted along the track then up at the huge railway clock, then pulled her phone out and glanced at it briefly. Finally, she seemed to settle, sinking to one side like an unsuccessful souffle.
Her arrival had not gone unnoticed by other passengers. I had seen her enter through the ticket barrier, dressed entirely in classic black, walking along proudly, on her six inch killer heels, her head held high, propelling a shiny new, black suitcase. She cut quite a dash as she strode down the platform. Heads turned as she passed. I mean, once you have accepted your mistake in buying that bitter kiosk coffee, checked the station clock and your phone five times, what else is there to do at a railway station other than observe your fellow humans, in all their glory? Hm?
She chose to sit down on my bench and she must have spoken to me. I didn’t catch it, as I had looked away at that moment, embarrassed that she may have seen me observing her as she approached. Guilty as charged.
“I’m sorry? “ I replied as one does, almost automatically.
“I’m going on a date, you know,” she told me. “One of those dating sites matched us and now we’re meeting up in London.”
A surprisingly intimate opening remark to make to a complete stranger. Or perhaps it was because I was a stranger. And a woman. Some people prefer that. Anonymous sisterhood.
“Really?” I replied, now at least able to look directly at her.
“Yes, Reginald, his name is and he was in the Army. Back in the day.” She slipped a photo from her pocket and turned it towards me.
I saw an elderly gentleman in a blue blazer. Like my Grandad. I hoped Reginald was wearing trousers, unlike my Grandad, who often refused to wear them in his declining years.
“He looks very……er….dignified,” I said hoping this was a suitable word to describe him as I tried not to laugh at the picture of Grandad’s skinny legs and bony knees.
“ I saw you watching me,” she went on, “others too, probably asking yourself what is that old woman doing all dressed up in her high heels?”
She looked around at the other people, raising her voice. “ I mean, what’s wrong with you people, why are you all so judgemental?” She waved her arm in the air, a gesture encompassing everyone. One or two looked up.
I was slightly embarrassed by the attention. She wasn’t.
“ I must say, though, you do look very elegant…only…”
“Yes, go on, I know what you are going to say, “Ditch the heels, eh, Granny?”
I laughed, warming to this outspoken and vivacious woman. “They’re very smart, it’s just that they seem, perhaps a little high?”.
She laughed too as she looked down at her shoes. “I don’t usually dress like this, you know,” she leaned towards me. I caught a whiff of lavender. “In fact, I haven’t dressed up for a man since er…June 19th. 1999.”
A very specific date, I sensed.
I waited, intrigued now. Her voice quavered as she went on,
“ That’s when that bitch across the street stole my Harry away. 37 years we were together! So bloody cunning, she was. Enticed him over when I was at Bingo. On June 19th. 1999, I gave him the ultimatum. Her or me. Afterwards, I could see him sitting there on her sofa, eating her hob nobs. She used to wave each evening as she closed the curtains, teasing me, the cow!”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, weakly.
“I used to watch until I saw her bedroom light go out. Then I knew he was gone for good. Whatever they were doing in her bedroom we should have been doing in mine. But it wasn’t all about sex, you know.”
She looked wistfully into the distance.
“ No, I had lost his company too. I missed the cuddles and that closeness but it’s the loneliness that really gets you. And seeing him with her, of course.”
Her shoulders slumped and she looked down at her feet.
“Then the bitch died and you know what he did?”
“No,” I said.
“The day after her funeral he knocked on my door, our door it used to be, and he asked me to have him back. Said how sorry he was.” She shook her head.
The bastard, I thought but said,
“And what did you tell him?”
She smiled at that as she said,
“I used several choice words that I don’t use very often but I thought were appropriate in the circumstances. He just stood there for a moment, mouth open like a goldfish, then turned and walked away. I went indoors and cried my eyes out. A week later he moved away to live with his sister. Found out his “new woman” had left the house to her son, so he was homeless. “
We sat in silence for a few moments.
“He’s dead now,” she added.
“So what changed your mind? You know, about getting dressed up for a man?” I asked.
“Well, I’m 77 and my friends are racing downhill towards the grave but not me! So my grandson and I did a deal.”
“I agreed to try and keep up with modern technology and he promised to show me how. Good, eh?”
“Hence the online dating site?” I suggested.
“Exactly,” she confirmed my guess. “It’s like the driving test. I’ve done the theory part and today I’m taking the practical test.”
“Aren’t you at all worried about …about, well you know, meeting with a strange man in London?”
“No, not at all. My grandson lives in London and he’ll be there when I meet Reginald. He’ll keep out of the way whilst keeping an eye open.”
“Sounds like you have it all covered then.” I added, looking at her more closely now. Just an ordinary woman looking for fun and companionship. What’s wrong with that? However old you are.
A train approached gently from the distance.
“My train, I think,” she said, rising quickly, slinging the strap of her bag across her shoulder, grabbing the handle of her wheelie case.
“What happens if you don’t like the look of Reginald?” I asked as I stepped towards the train with her, keen to hear more.
“Oh, I just give my grandson a wave and he’ll come and rescue me.”
“And if you do like him, what happens then?”
She stepped up into the carriage, amidst the noise of passenger farewells and the hubbub of a busy station. She turned to look over her shoulder.
“What do you think?” she asked with a mischievous smile as she tottered towards her seat.
You took a risk writing a two part story, especially with the first part last. Last week a Victorian Puddle, a completely new idea, and then, this week’s venture. I applaud you. I loved this line so much j read it to my wife, ‘sinking to one side like an unsuccessful souffle.’ Excellent! I could see it and it brought the story alive. Well done, my friend, well done!
I loved this so much! I hope when I am that age I am still rocking the stilettos!! 👠💃
I literally have 6″ heels!!!!
(Well boots anyway…. https://www.instagram.com/p/BLKYEc9DlDe/?igshid=hub44dcl2iil)
I think I wore them once. And only once to a party. 4″ is about my limit 😂
Thanks for adding your comments. Without comments where would we be?
I think the point about this woman is that she has had the stuffing (emotionally) knocked out of her by her husband’s betrayal but she is still in there, fighting. So, she gets all dressed up, something she just doesn’t normally do, certainly not for a man anymore and she dresses in a way that she thinks might interest this new chap, but it’s a guess. She is clearly out of date. Don;t forget she was with her husband for 37 years and he left her in 1995 so she hasn’t dated for about 60 years! So, she plucks up her courage, gets online and heads for the station. Her mind is in a whirl, she doesn’t want to make a fool of herself. She has dragged herself to the station, to all outward signs, a feisty and combative elderly woman.
When she gets to the station carrying a heavy bag and a suitcase as well as all that internal baggage, she just wants to find a seat. THEN she sinks like a souffle but, unlike a souffle, she comes back to life as she chats to the other woman.
That’s how I see her. Desperately seeking companionship in her declining years.
Good dialogue too. Though I didn’t get the reason for the asterisked break in the middle? The conversation seems to flow across it?
Meanwhile I’m wondering if Reginald will be delighted or terrified when he meets his date 🙂
Asterisks were later removed in my own edited copy. They were originally put in to indicate a break in the conversation after she mentioned that he was dead now. I felt that those words should be followed by a pause.
This minor mote is located in the following sentence: ‘A train approached gently from the distance.’ I don’t know how the word ‘gently’ infiltrated your marvelous story Ken, (it probably snuck itself in behind ‘from’), but it was as obvious to me as a fart in a broom closet. So… I would not blame you one bit, Ken, if you revisited this story in the middle of the night, and quietly removed that vagrant adverb. (I’m just giving you a heads up before Philip sees it and throws the book at you.)
This is not the first time a train figured into one of your stories, Otherwise, this is a wonderful story, Ken.
Thanks for your comments. They always give me something to think about as I know you don’t give false praise. Reminds me of the years I was an actor in a local amateur drama group in Lincolnshire. Our leading director was a former repertory actor and she had worked with some big names in the “industry.” We all used to say that if we did not get a bollocking from her during rehearsals then we had done well. In other words, her praise had to be earned and she always followed this up with useful suggestions for improvement. Ditto Ken Cartisano.
Now, to the flaw and that vagrant ( or perhaps fragrant) or errant adverb. There’s nothing worse than a (possibly) Persian flaw, although I am unsure why the Persian type of flaw is so unwelcome, unless it is a really obvious flaw in a carpet you have just bought for lots of money in an exotic Persian / Iranian street market with the intention of flying home on it across the desert. What did the Persians do to earn this opprobrium?
I am going to have a serious look at this as I have a mental picture that trains slow down well before they reach the platform and they often arrive with very little fuss and hardly any noise. Thus, their arrival is gentle or, to use one of the dictionary meanings, “moderate in effect or degree.”
Having said this, there may well be other improvements I can make in this piece of work and your suggestion is by no means off the table. Perhaps I can sneak in the changes before the eagle-eyed Roy, Ken M, Phil or Andy spot it. On the other hand, if one of us posted the “perfect” story, what would we have to talk about? Just don’t tell them that we have had this exchange. For now, at least, let’s just keep it between ourselves and I will happily return the favour.
Yes, another train or station-based story. I nearly have enough to make a Railway Anthology. I want ten and I have about six or seven now, so you can expect more in due course.
What do you think I should call this collection, Ken? How about, “Mind the gap” or “One Track Mind” or perhaps “Tickets,please.”or “Destination Unknown.”
In the meantime, keep safe and well.
Every been to the USA?
On a train?
Now, my experience is somewhat outdated, although I was on a short, day trip here in Florida within the last year and a day trip up in North Carolina last year, and neither experience changed my mind about American trains. (Not that I don’t expect somebody to post a message telling me how wrong I am because I wasn’t riding the ‘Commuter Express between North Gotham and downtown Phlebotomy.)
Nevertheless my lifelong experience informs me that:
Our trains are loud, clanking juggernauts of seemingly 90 year old technology. They jerk and halt whenever starting or stopping and when in motion, they don’t just clack and clank in a gentle rhythmic fashion, they screech and scream like tormented banshees. When the lights are working well, they blink incessantly as though the train were inhabited by poltergeists, at other times, the lights go out for extended periods of time. There is no sign anywhere that says ‘Mind the Gap.’ There are probably more signs that say ‘No Loitering’ than anything suggestive of public safety.
When I went to Europe the first time, over four decades ago, I had just flown in from New York City. Where the trains were covered in graffiti, addicts were snorting cocaine in plain sight, the seats were made of plastic, and even then certain miscreants still tried to slash their initials into them. There were no mirrors anywhere, occasional broken windows, defaced walls and advertising signs were legion, and the overhead lights were encased in metal cages to prevent people from stealing them or breaking them.
And when I landed in London after an 8 hour flight and took a subway (the underground) to my hotel, I was astonished to find unprotected light bulbs, UPHOLSTERED SEATS, no graffiti, an abundance of constables, no drug addicts, but more relevant to your story– the trains started and stopped with an eerily smooth and quiet manner and ran with a solid and quiet efficiency that, to this day left me completely agog.
Now, if your desire is to entertain only Europeans, then by all means, your train is gentle. But if you don’t want American readers to wonder what planet you live on, I simply suggest the removal of one word. Not that significant of a suggestion when you get right down to it.
I might add that, in the converse to the majority of American public opinion, much of our country resembles our response to the Covid pandemic. Disjointed, antiquated, uncoordinated, underfunded, poorly planned, badly managed but designed for the one overarching consideration that supposedly makes America great, corporate profit.
You’re right, this story could use a few tweaks, but it’s wonderfully entertaining and well-written as it is. Love the last line.
I loved this story. Your descriptions put us right there in the train station with the characters. (You really have a fascination with trains, don’t you?) I guess there is something a little romantic and adventuresome about riding a train. (Of course, my last train ride took place when I was 4 years old, so it was an adventure.)
I loved the lines, “her lips whinnying like a horse” and “sinking to one side like an unsuccessful souffle.” Very nice. At first, I wanted to challenge the thought of a 77 year old woman wearing 6 inch heels but I work with several women in theirs 50’s that wear those ankle breakers every day. One of our secretaries has more shoes than I have ever seen – a different pair every day.
Let’s just say that if I chose to even attempt to even stand up in a pair of 6 inch heels, it wouldn’t end well. LOL!
Another masterpiece from you. Great work.
At first, my first initial thoughts was that the old lady would be snotty, attention seeking. I’m glad I was wrong!
Maybe I should consider wearing 6” heels… Almost 17 and I’m still 5’2, wouldn’t mind the extra boost lol
Also, the soufflé line, I loved it. It also made me hungry, but then again every line that mentions food does too
Companionship is what she is looking for. And you expressed it perfectly!
I could almost hear her as she sat herself down at the start.
Good work, Ken Frape
Are you going to publish a collection of ‘train’ stories? You should. They’re all really good.
Those pageants are the pits. You’ve got simple village girls parading up and down between the huts in their skins and hide sandals, and we’re supposed to watch and vote for the most beautiful … and some of them are quite the opposite, poor things – Mariamu hasn’t got a tooth in her head, for example. Then there are the questions. “What’s your favourite fruit?” and “If you could marry any animal in the jungle, which would it be?” Stupid questions, and the answers are even stupider, if that’s possible. I know what I like in a girl, but I don’t think my opinion should count towards deciding who is “the best girl in the valley”. There are people who swear by these events, though – they can’t talk about anything else for weeks. And Tarumbeta has become the most popular man in these parts, just for organising them. Tarumbeta! He can’t hunt and he can’t fight – whenever there’s a set-to with the tribe down-river, he always has an excuse not to get involved. He’s a coward, basically, and useless. But popular as hell! I will never understand people.
So the latest is that Tarumbeta has taken a new wife. Don’t get me wrong – it’s perfectly acceptable to do that. Why, some men have half a dozen. But the chitter-chat around it, as if he were a King! She’s very beautiful. She won a pageant in the next valley. But I don’t know what she sees in Tarumbeta. He’s hardly a picture: he’s fat, jowly, and it’s well known that he’s far from ‘powerful’. I suppose his wealth was a factor; if you have 50 goats in this jungle, you’re made. But then where does that wealth come from? No one stops to wonder that. His father passed him down some huts and goats, which was a stroke of luck for him. How has he grown his wealth, though? Well, for one thing, I know for a fact that if you barter with him, more often than not he’ll shaft you. He’ll say “I’ll take ten sacks of manioc flour and give you two goats for it.” So you hand over the flour, and he says “I’ll bring the goats over tomorrow.” Then he doesn’t. You can complain until you’re white in the face, but if you take the matter up with the elders, he’ll twist it round so that in the end it’s you that’s in the wrong, and you might even have to give him an extra sack of flour for costs. And still folk think he’s the knees of the bees. C’mon people. Really?!
It might sound like it, but I’m not obsessed with Tarumbeta. I’m really not. This latest thing, though … So he took this new wife – Tikiti, who’s very beautiful, as I said, but not too bright – and put his seed in her, and she bore him a child. No sooner had the little mite screamed his first breaths (it was a boy) than Tarumbeta was out gallivanting again. Some of his conquests were girls from the pageant, who knew what to do to get ahead in the contest. The worst thing was how indiscreet he was – bragging about what he did with the girls, how he approached them, where he laid his hands on them. I have to admit that what he did wasn’t uncommon in our tribe – in fact some men do much worse – but it was the way he talked about it, as if the girls were just another chattel. So word got round about this, and you’d think that would affect his popularity, wouldn’t you? Nope. If anything, it grew. Something about the man being “honest, transparent”. Ha! The Miungu wept! What’s that all about, people?!
Then his popularity became power, and that’s when my disbelief became fear. Every 7th Blood Moon, we have The Choice for Chief of the valley. The previous one – Mwenye Busara – was a good man and led us wisely. But by the time of the last 7th Blood Moon, he was very old and infirm, so it was a foregone conclusion that he would stand down. Several pretenders stood up to be counted, one of them Tarumbeta. Despite his many failings – the cowardice, the uselessness, the vulgarity – when it came time for us to place the bones in the bowls, his overflowed and he became the new Chief. I can only think that it was the residue of his pageant popularity and because he shouted the loudest around the camp-fires. But the bones had spoken, and he is what we have, the Miungu help us! What were the people thinking, though?
So he’s been in the Big Hut for over 40 white moons, and his time there has been like a gorilla dancing through a bed of delicate orchids. He has had his successes, to be sure – the banana trade with the tribe down-river has never been better, for example. But then he was seen on several occasions in the presence of their chief, and they seemed very chummy. And he’s continued to treat the womenfolk with great disrespect. The thing I hate the most, though, is that he’s always harking back to the time of Mwenye Busara, and how he was such a bad chief. That’s not true, but Tarumbeta repeats it so often that folk have begun to believe it. Whenever I get the chance, I try to put them right, on this point and on all his failings, but many of them placed their bones in his bowl, so they don’t want to be seen to have made a mistake, the misguided fools.
But now we are in crisis. No one is quite sure how it started. Did it come from those down-river or in the next valley? Or was it someone in our valley that ate rotten food? Or did it just rise from the river to afflict us? The last explanation is the most accepted, and it’s been called ‘the river illness’. Our elders tell us that similar illnesses have ravaged us before, and previous chiefs were careful to separate the villages and villagers affected so that the affliction did not touch us all. But not our great Chief Tarumbeta, oh no. With the first deaths, he waved it away and told us it would pass. It hasn’t and is decimating our folk; my wife Tumaini and one of my daughters, little Johari, have succumbed, and I’m very angry. You would think that in the midst of this carnage, Tarumbeta’s popularity would have crashed. It is less than it was 40 white moons ago, certainly, but if the bowls were presented again, and the valley folk were asked to place their bones, I think his would fill up as before. How could that be?! My Miungu! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!
(Chief Tarumbeta? 40 moons … give or take.)
A great little twisted tale Phil!
This story has a sort of Boris with a Trumpet feel. Good analogy there. Unfortunately human failings are many!
‘…like a gorilla dancing through a bed of delicate orchids.’ That…. is a fabulous line, and funny, I laughed right out loud.
And what a story! It sounds so familiar somehow, in a primitive ‘bone-headed’ way.
Nice work, you’ve…. well, you know what you’ve done. I salute you for it.
Phil, you’re a genius with words in the delineation of the Chief and his village.
The bee’s knees chieftain is a quite some force to reckon with.:)
I had to google manioc flour and discover that it’s cassava!
Didn’t quite get who/what you meant by ‘My Miungu!’… a local deity?
Very enjoyable piece of work!
I don’t know exactly where my comment will end up but I have written it after I have read all of the other comments.
I am not going to mention any obvious parallels ( if there are any) but I am going to compliment you on the story. Some great lines, as mentioned by others such as “the knees of the bees” and “a gorilla dancing through a bed of delicate orchids.” Great stuff, Phil, as always from you.
A most enjoyable read that does put me in mind of something familiar………………..I just can’t think what it is.
I only have 41 emails to respond to, 4 podcast episodes to edit and 1 writing prompt to write a story for 🤪
Stories are really well written so far.
Hoping to get a story in this round.
Good luck! (You’re gonna need it! 😉)
THE QUIET ONE
by Ken Miles
This is your chance. It doesn’t happen often you find yourself alone with Tamara Rees. You try to recall the best advice from those pick-up artistry websites you’ve been gorging on.
Pick-up lesson one: no girl is out of your league. Not even a smashing kitten like Tammy. Lesson two: anywhere is legitimate hunting grounds. Even a train to Fairbanks, for the annual college Away-day. Your luck Tammy’s traveling on the same train, in the same carriage as you.
“Hi Tamara! Sit next to you, ok?”
“Fine. Going to the Away-day too?” she asks the obvious. You know it, they’re either bright or beautiful.
“Yes. Looking forward to Professor Delveaux’s talk. I read all his books, and…” that’s already more words said to Tammy than in a year of college together. But you know you’re blowing it.
“I say it’s gonna be boring as brick! But fine, we’ll see!”
You feel the idiot. Such low hanging fruit, this gal today, and you’re wasting her on some old professor. You’re messing all the artistry rules. Scan her body for some tattoo, the masters teach. Ask her its story. Then where else she’s got tattoos. Demand to see them.
Nonstarter. Tammy has no tattoos.
Drill her, say the experts, with piercing eye-contact. It’s not easy from where you are. You should’ve sat facing her.
But sitting next to her opens other avenues: touch her! You’ve learned about women’s erogenous zones. Her inner thigh, for example. Tammy’s wearing hot pants today – she wants your hand there, you think. There’s no magic button inside her thighs; it’s all in the head, of course. Touching her there proves you’re fearless. That’s what a woman seeks in a man, not beauty, not wealth, primarily, but fearlessness. Because a fearless man would protect her, give up his life to save hers and her kids’. It’s all prehistoric, really.
You got the theory. But is your your hand gonna slip between those thighs? Later, you tell yourself, already getting the jitters. Some more conversation first. And not about professors.
“Know what?” your words come from nowhere, “one place I never had sex is on a moving train.”
Too late. You wish you bit your tongue half-way. She’ll now ask you where else you’ve had sex in unusual places! You gotta be quick with your imagination. Fact is trains are one of many places where you never had sex. For, you’re eighteen and still a virgin. Never even kissed a girl.
The train screeches deafeningly, as it pulls into a station. You don’t know if Tammy got what you said. Doors swing open and a handful passengers climb on board.
“Hey! Terence!” Tammy pulls Terence Reagan’s sleeve, he turns, and dumps himself in front of her. Wearing cargo shorts, his bare footballer’s legs hardly fit in the narrow space between his seat and Tammy’s. It’s like trains weren’t designed with guys of such built in mind. His knee finds its place between Tammy’s legs. As the train jostles out of the station their legs swing, playing with each other. They both laugh and giggle like toddlers.
Terence explains he didn’t get a room at the hostel. It was fully booked he lies.
“Mine is a double”, Tammy tells him, solving his problem. That’s how a son-of-a-bitch turns a difficulty around into an opportunity. He’ll be fucking Tammy tonight. That asshole.
I can’t believe it. The envelope says John Malkovich on its back!
It’s months since I sent my script out to every name in Hollywood. After the Away-day, I thought my life over. I’d had a chance on a train with a chick from my class. I even kinda suggested sex to her. Though, not sure if she even heard me. Moments later I handed her over to this jock. Without a fight.
I realized I was different. Not a natural like Terence Reagan. Kicked all that pick-up artistry shit, too. I gotta use my own arsenal. I’ll write stuff. I’m good at that. Till my name’s hot on the silver-screen, actresses swarming around me. Tammy, who?
But it’s not easy, either, I soon found out. I got nothing back, not even rejection notes. Only now, this letter from John Malkovich between my fingers finally turns my lights on again.
I tear it open.
“I read a couple pages of your script. Not bad,” he wrote. Just not bad? Not even brilliant?
I read on.
“Producers receive hundreds of scripts everyday. They have no time to dig in that garbage pile for a rare gem. You want my advice? Don’t bother them producers.
Instead, get them to bother you!
How? The good old way, my friend. Write a book. Make it a bestseller. Not an ebook, a paper one. Nobody throws a book in the garbage.
The producers will then come knock on your door.
Thank me later.
Wow. A book! I have a thousand book ideas. Thank you John.
It takes him a year to write it. Another to fix it. Two more sucking up to publishers. Now, it’s finally out, self-published.
Eleven copies sell in the first week. Not good. Not entirely bad, either. People will tell people, exponential growth, the self-publishing gurus call it.
Second week, no sales. And a grim discovery. His mom had bought ten of the eleven copies sold, to give away. So that’s just one copy sold, really!
Third week, fourth week, nothing.
Fifth week, first Amazon review. A damning one: “A pompous book, I want a refund.” The name, Kevin Bonnet rings a bell. That jerk from school who once stole his pencil-case. He still remembers where he lives.
“So you liked it, then wrote that shit to justify your refund! What a prick!” he confronts Kevin, who says he does that every time: reads scores of books, then gets his money back. But this is the first time he has an irate writer in front of him.
“You just don’t fuckin’ realize what that book means to me, do you?” With that he lets out a punch with strength he didn’t know he possessed. Kevin tumbles on his granite-floored hall. He thinks he killed him, but then Kevin jerks a little. Better eight months for assault than death-row!
But eight months are a dangerous thing. Ten years and one gets over it. In eight months one’s still excited about what he’s just learned behind bars. That’s where he meets Srevdi, from the foiled car-park terrorist bombing. Srevdi gives him a new lease of life and buys him over to The Cause.
“You’re soon out o’here. The marathon’s yours, son. Remember, they never gave you anything. So it’s all for you to take!”
“We never imagined he could do that. Not him, the quiet one,” an ex-college mate tells CNN.
“I once traveled by train with him, such a nice guy. I’m still in denial,” another one adds.
“It’s incomprehensible how a young man, whose acquaintances describe as nice and quiet, would so cold bloodily shoot at marathon athletes and enthralled spectators.” The newscaster contorts her pretty face to match the script. “His cryptic last words were ‘What’s wrong with you people? It’s just a f**n race!’”
I want to get a few more reactions on the experimental use of the different POVs – I first started with “you”, then moved to “I”, then “he” and in the end “we”. It’s a technique used by Gao Xingjian in “Soul Mountain”, which I’m reading now. He alternates first, second and third persons, even though it’s always the same character he’s talking about. It works well in his massive volume, but not sure in my little short story, as you’ve already pointed out.
I’m pleased you enjoyed it Fiz (eh? a new name every week! With Ke…z, you had nearly reached perfection!).
You brought it to my attention: true, there are quite a few touchy points to ponder upon, in my story. I just let the narrative flow, tried to interfere as little as possible with it (stay away, political correctness, stay away…). My main intervention was to reduce the words of the original draft to fit the word limit… That’s how it was made.
I felt bad for the poor dude. That was until the end of course. I had to reread the last part, just to make sure I wasn’t misreading it.
I really liked the writing style you did. It’s something that I haven’t had the pleasure to see yet.
I thought it fit quite nicely in the story. There wasn’t any parts (beside the ending) where I stopped and did a double take. Great job! I enjoyed it
Yes, I wanted to sort of have the reader’s empathy going for the narrator, throughout, until things get completely out of hand and we certainly can’t condone what he does in the end, no matter how much we “understand”.
But unfortunately it’s a true story, many times over, with disenchanted individuals – even whole nations, sometimes – taking out all their frustration blindly on others after noting that nothing has worked out for them.
I’m particularly wary of “quiet” people, in life, as they can be more surprisingly lethal and the back-stabbing kind of characters, compared with the more outwardly aggressive types. Especially those who have nothing left to lose, and have always got the wrong end of the stick…
I’m glad you liked the style too. I suppose you meant the shifting points of view from second, to first to third persons, right? It’s an experimental literary device, and I’m curious to see if it works with most readers.
PS One from you coming this prompt round?
I agree with you on “quieter” people. It is always hard to read them, compared to people who wear their “heart on their sleeve”. With them you know what emotions they are feeling, and either act on those emotions or deflect them. With the quieter ones… lol you get the point.
As for a story, I did indeed post one, a couple days ago. Unfortunately for some reason it landed on the top of the prompt? I don’t know why. I tried a comedic take on this prompt, so hopefully I’ll draw some laughs out of people!
Yes, this story would do well with more words available to it. I’ll see what I can do with it, if an occasion arises for which I can use it again for a longer project.
A very interesting piece that does, as others have said, cover a lot of ground. If ever I decide to write a book I hope I don’t have to jump through those hoops as in your story, although, of course the reason for writing the book was for the narrator to become famous and get laid. I think my wife might have something to say about that!
The changing POV works quite well and certainly didn’t detract from my reading enjoyment. It’s good to try writing in different ways. The plot hangs together well and I cannot see any major holes but I do have several pointers to raise with you.
I would be interested to know when this story was set in time. The hot pants suggests some time ago, 70s? 80s? but the terrorism at the marathon seems more recent.
There are a couple of comments that I found concerning:
“They’re either bright or beautiful.” that made me cringe, Ken, if I’m being perfectly honest.
The notion of slipping your hand between a girl’s thighs as a way of showing fearlessness on a train. That did not sit well with me even though these are just the thoughts inside the narrator’s head. You would certainly have to be fearless, brave and reckless to even think about doing that these days. You would probably also need to wear a cricket box to protect your crown jewels from the inevitable knee in the groin and wear a nice suit for your appearance in court.
One of the reasons I am saying this is that I wrote a story some time ago based upon an actual film made starring Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum called The River of No Return. It picked up a few negative comments even though it was true to the time in which it was set.
Finally, I wonder which TV channel the newscaster works for ( it’s CNN you say) where she can make that final comment, albeit quoting the terrorist’s own words?
Hope this doesn’t sound negative as I do think you are a very good writer.
Ken F. You’re objecting to the character traits of a fucking suicide bomber.
At first, you think he’s a nice guy, he’s just some quiet kid on a train. But the fact that he considers touching a girl that he hasn’t spoken to all year, and to touch her on the inner thigh. (Not her outer thigh, her inner thigh.) This would have been highly inappropriate for a wide range of people and reasons. The fact that he thought that a.) John Malcovich gave a shit about him and b.) the fact that he thought a book would make him instantly desirable to women, are two more clues to this mans’s problem. And then he went and assaulted someone for wanting a refund on his unsuccessful book. That’s what got him put in jail.
‘This was a very shallow man, easily influenced, socially inept, with a bad temper and lacking empathy. (This is who you expect to behave well?) Those were his shortcomings. So maybe he wasn’t even nuts, he just possessed a deadly combination of character traits that created a man who could engage in such behavior facilitated the actions of a man, with exactly those kind of character trais. Maybe we should not ask what made him a terrorist, but what was it that didn’t prevent him from becoming a terrorist.
This is a really insiteful story Ken’s character exhibits thoughts and behavior that most normal people woudl find , if not outrageous, then at least, highly unrealistic. This is not a story about an ordinary guy who went bad due to circumstances beyond his control, that’s what ken wants you to think. It might seem like it to the casual observer, but this guy is not normal. (Which is what leads us to say things like, ‘he was always so quiet.’)
I think this is an impressive and thought-provoking story Ken.The more you look at this story, the more you see. I think you’ve done a marvelous job here. Don’t know if anyone else will see it that way, but I know you put that stuff in there on purpose. And if you didn’t, all the better.
My intention with ‘The Quiet One’ was to portray a more or less regular guy, who turns bad due to the way society totally disregards him and his efforts to soar. Whether it’s the girls, his own mother, his sole reader, his prospective publishers and so on.
I had to start with an introverted character or else the whole idea wouldn’t have worked. But I may have failed in the sense that right from the start, the narrator seems to some readers that he’s already rather perverted and not quite the boy-next-door sort of person.
It’s interesting to see how the poor introverted “loser” is condemned (by both Ken F. and Ken C.!) for simply *thinking* of doing seemingly inappropriate things (like touching Tammy’s exposed thigh) with a girl he’s sitting with (not a complete stranger).
While, at the same time, the extroverted, well-built footballer gets away with throwing his leg between hers and taking advantage of the swaying of the train to rub his exposed skin against hers. He then finds a neat way to sleep in her bedroom that night, thanks to a lie. Nobody, neither Ken, complained about Terence actually *doing* what the narrator only *thinks* of doing!
There seems to be a bias, in this world, in favor of outgoing, sporty, opportunistic, carefree people at the expense of quiet, nerdy, scheming, intelligent ones. I may not have pictured this bias well enough in the story itself, but it interestingly showed up in the comments…
Perhaps I should have upped Terence Reagan’s sexual advances, in order to make the narrator’s thoughts seem rather mild in comparison (and therefore his final transformation into a brutal terrorist all the more dramatic). Like Terence pushing his knee provocatively into Tammy’s crotch, or something like that, unashamedly and well in the narrator’s full view and in total disregard of his presence.
There is, of course, Tammy’s apparent approval of Terence’s advances (the issue of mutual consent). But nobody knows whether or not she would have reacted favorably to the narrator’s advances, should such advances have actually taken place. Maybe she would have been approving to him too, after all. She seems promiscuous enough. He is not. He actually *reads* websites on how to attract girls! That’s his problem. In this kind of world he lives in.
The dating of the story? I really don’t know, didn’t think of that. I had college students in mind, who, even in this day and age of #metoo and all that bull, are still not that prissy, generally speaking. But maybe, true, it was the 80s, early 90s. Because of the hot pants, if nothing else.
The f-word? No, CNN would have beeped out that world, I’m sure they would have. But it’s asterisked out in my story too. When used earlier on in the story (not on CNN) I didn’t blur it. I was going to write “It’s just a BEEP race!” instead of a “It’s just a f***n race!”, but I wasn’t sure if all readers would get it.
I appreciate your praise for the story’s insight, and indeed, most thought-provoking bits were put in there deliberately. To stir the reader, a bit. The narrator has some strong views on women, bolstered by some stuff he had apparently been reading. I expected more of a backlash from the female readers of our Place. But the ladies who answered seem to have liked what they read. Maybe the ones who didn’t write, though…
Then there is the narrator’s crave for world-class success, apparently to make up for the lack of success in the simple things in life. I do think that such deluded people can be very dangerous, in the end. (I just had a quiet and strange neighbor arrested for setting fires round the city – obstinately to kill the coronavirus! – he’s now out of the apartment block and he’s just had a removals truck yesterday taking his stuff out to return to his native Norway. I’m relieved.)
Not all the nerds and introverts are dangerous, however, but some can be. Take the other character, Kevin, the guy who gets punched in the face – he’s just a book-worm and the worst damage he does to the world is defrauding Amazon by returning the books he’s read and liked for a refund. Not nice, but, unlike the narrator, he doesn’t kill anyone. I’m worried about Jeff Bezos now. But I think he’ll be all right. He’s got some money on the side.
Also, what if he read his book on the toilet (like many do, yuck!)? And then returned them. And then Amazon resells them to me!
Come to think of it, Kevin’s actions do act as a direct link to the marathon shooting. It’s partly his fault that the narrator goes to jail and meets that sicko Srevdi. Really, everyone’s to blame. Tammy too. And Terence. And swaying trains. And the engineers who can’t make them steadier. In a new write-up of this story, I want to make this clearer – that everyone is partly guilty to anything that happens in this world. You and I too.
Thanks guys, Kens, for taking time on my story and for expressing your honest views on it, pro and con. Unfortunately I was too busy, myself, to comment on others’ story this time round. Urgent work took over my last few days…
The story offers up a subtle (though not entirely original) plot delivered with finesse. Very well written. The issue is topical and the message is clear. For some at least, mental stability is lost pretty easily. (And introverts make great killers. Because they have no friends and therefore don’t give themselves away.) I’m glad I read Phil’s critique. You seem to have used several POV’s. I was so involved with the story I didn’t really even notice that, so the transitions were smooth and appropriate, I’m going to guess.
I’m pleased you loved my plot and the writing style. I think you got under this story’s skin, and more or less understood it the way I meant it. Although I really wanted to begin with a normal person, who turns bad, rather than one who already gives a bad impression to the reader right from the start.
While there is no way we can condole what he does, I originally wanted society at large to be partly to blame for what happens. For not giving a chance to this young man to flower, so to speak. I may not have succeeded enough in this aspect of the story.
The POV experiment was something I had been wanting to try. I’m fine with you not noticing it. It’s like when at Film Editing class, I learned that the greatest edits are the ones that aren’t even noticed. If someone’s watching a film and says “That’s one damn good edit!”, it’s a sign that the film-editor didn’t integrate that edit well enough in the fabric of the movie. One ideally ought to simply enjoy the film and not know why. The same with a written story, I suppose…
I will be replying to your comment to Ken F’s comment too… so have a look further up as well!
The Traveling Team
-Trish (1200 words)
“Smytherson, I’m sorry. You realize this is your last visit, don’t you son,” asked the Lord of All Things Evil. “You’ll have three chances to motivate a human to choose our side before you’ll be removed from the traveling team forever. And if you’re not on the traveling team, you can never transform into an actual demon.”
“I’m doing my best. I don’t know why I can’t lead anyone into temptation,” whined Smytherson.
“Try and use the techniques you’ve read in our marketing books, son, and always remember STP: Be sly, be twisted and be persuasive. It’s worked for millenia.”
As the Evil One stopped speaking, Smytherson abruptly found himself falling back to earth, propelled by the flapping wings of a vulture. He landed just outside a lovely white clapboard building just brimming full of people. “STP, right-o, STP. I can do this,” he muttered to himself as he hopped on the shoulder of a burly man wearing suspenders.
“Walk like a chicken,” Smytherson whispered in the man’s ear with a beguiling lilt to his voice. (Smytherson believed in the slippery slope theory more than STP.)
But the man simply continued on into the clapboard building and took a seat on one of the long benches that filled the place. As he entered, the man removed his hat, and before taking his place he offered a courtly bow to the family already seated on his bench.
“Crow like a rooster,” Smytherson tried again.
But the man again ignored Smytherson and began reading the book he’d found ensconced in the back of the bench in front of him.
Smytherson decided he’d had enough of this particular human, so before giving a thought to the fact that he’d be losing one of his chances if he switched victims now, he hopped on the shoulder of the lady seated adjacent to his first (sadly) not-so-tortured soul. He thought ponderously about how he might tempt her. Since starting small as he’d done with his first victim had failed so spectacularly, perhaps he’d do better going bigger with this victim.
“Steal the man’s wallet,” Smytherson whispered into her ear.
In response, she scratched her ear and looked over towards her new seatmate.
Smytherson inwardly cheered at this small victory, until he realized that the woman would have to unseat the gentleman to access his back pocket where the wallet in question was currently being stowed. Perhaps that wasn’t the best tantalizement he’d ever conjured up. But then Smytherson noticed that a man had begun talking in the front of the building and two ladies were passing bowls around to each row of benches. The seated people were putting money into the bowls … now that represented what Smytherson liked to call an opportunity. He quickly returned to prime whispering position on the woman’s shoulder and tried again, “Take the money from the bowl.”
But alas, completely ignoring Smytherson’s entreaty, she actually followed the example set by every other person in the building and put money into the bowl.
Smytherson couldn’t believe it. “What’s wrong with you people,” he wanted to scream. Strike two! With a sickening lurch he realized he’d have only one more chance before he was booted forever off the traveling team. He thought back to the last bit of advice he’d received: STP – be sly, be twisted and be persuasive. Glumply he realized he’d been not particularly sly nor twisted with either of his first two attempts. He’d have to buckle down and return to what he’d learned in imp school. Just then Smitherson had a realization – why not be sly in his selection of victim. Where was it written in the eternal rulebooks that he had to choose an adult candidate. Why not choose a child – one whose ethical and moral compasses would be far less developed? Why not indeed! Luckily, there was a young boy sitting just next to the lady he’d attempted to tempt into thievery.
Smytherson hopped up onto the little boy’s shoulder. To his dismay, the little boy turned and looked him square in the eye!
“What’re you doing here, little guy,” asked the boy.
“Uh, you can see me? I didn’t think that was possible,” replied Smytherson with a gulp.
“Yeah, I saw you jump from Mr. Billingsworth to my Momma just now. I couldn’t hear what you were saying to them, though,” the boy whispered while pretending to listen to the group of singers who had arranged themselves at the front.
Smytherson saw his chance to win over the boy’s confidence. “Why, I’m a lucky leprechaun,” he lied, the words tripping easily off his tongue. “I’ll grant you a wish if you just do one thing that I ask of you.”
“Naw,” said the little boy, “that sounds like a bet, and Momma always told me not to gamble.”
“Young man, you don’t know what gambling is,” said Smytherson. “But would it be more appealing if you got your wish first and then you did the thing I ask of you?”
“Well, I dunno,” said the little boy. “But I’ve always wanted to catch a huge fish from the pond by my house.”
“Done. Now let’s turn our attention to my request,” started Smytherson, before the little boy interrupted.
“Now what just a doggone minute there mister! How do I know you’re gonna grant my wish anyways? I wanna see my fish first before I agree to any request of yours.”
Smytherson felt a bit foiled, but realized he’d have to wait and somehow grant this kid’s wish before he’d accomplish his goal. He figured he’d worry later about enticing a sumo-sized bit o’ sushi to latch onto this kid’s hook. For now, he could settle in and enjoy the show that seemed to be going on up front. A middle aged woman had taken the microphone and she was singing with a crystal clear voice that Smytherson found strangely appealing.
“Who’s the singer,” Smytherson asked the kid.
“Mrs. Hollingsby. Ever since her kids left for college she’s been into singing every Sunday. She’s got a great set of pipes, huh?”
“I’ll say. What’s this promised land she’s singing about?”
And the boy began to whisper of heaven and God to the poor imp who’d been raised on evil thoughts, words and deeds. The idea of a benevolent being in charge of the world seemed like a fairy tale to Smytherson, but at the same time it seemed quite nice. He wondered if everybody felt as positively about this God person as this little kid. Maybe the Evil One didn’t know all. Maybe the traveling team wasn’t the ultimate reward. Maybe being a demon wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
And then, the ultimate sly and twisted thought burst quickly into Smytherson’s head. He wasn’t sure about this God and heaven fairy tale, but he did enjoy hanging around this kid. Where did it say in the eternal rulebook that there was a time limit on travel opportunities? Why rush things? Why not hang about for the next few decades and see what would happen? And so … without even a word to the Evil One … he did.
What a fine story! It started on a scary note and then took wings. I like it particularly because of the blessed hope it ends with.
Walk like a chicken… hilarious!
Loved the little boy’s eyes of faith.
Just up my alley!
Good work.. and you write very well too!
(Spotted one typo: “Now what just a doggone minute there mister!” Peanuts.)
A really nice story with a great twist at the end.
Just goes to show that the adults haven’t always got all the answers.
It reads well and the dialogue just flows very naturally.
I saw the word “glumply” , that’s a new one on me!
Well done Trish. The little devil and the little boy are a match made in …………?
Pretty funny story, failing at evil. It’s a lovely concept, I can’t believe I never thought of it before. The irony is all nicely delivered, not overdone. Very enjoyable.
Just Shut The Gate
The sky, with its keen orange glow, had strong winds blowing in from the beach. With nothing spectacular happening, being lockdown, we went on long walks, slipping in through a broken fence, up the sandy dunes, into the silent open beach. This beach access was a well-guarded secret for a few. The vast expanse of the sea lay in front, its azure blue waves gently lapping on the shore. Two bikini-clad girls, pouting their lips, took selfies for an uncertain posterity.
But this evening, we decided to do a 5 km cycling workout just before sunset. The incredibly yummy seafood pasta, Jon had cooked for lunch, had to be absolved.
I was testing the brakes, the tyre pressure, circling around, when I spotted this middle-aged couple entering through the side gate, only meant for residents, into the compound. This little gate is kept locked as a rule and everybody is required to use the main entrance to get their routine security check.
The couple, semi clad in swimwear, obviously returning after a lazy day at the beach club, entered the compound.
The lady, followed closely, by the man who left the gate wide open.
That’s NOT right, buzzed my mind.
Every day you gotta make a choice to be good or be great; To be loved or hated. The choice is yours to take responsibility.
So I called out as gently as I could, thinking it to be a good conversation starter with folks I had never met before, in our exclusive neighborhood, on the Island of Happiness.
“Hellooo, hi there, excuse me, you gotta close the gate as you come in.”
Sweet voice, but not the honey dripping sort. With no malice or harm intended. When you spot someone’s missed doing something, you tell them as gently as possible. The teacher in me was showing.
The lady turned around suddenly aware they hadn’t shut it. She retraced two steps. But the man…. he muttered something to her. Then he walked straight on forward, with a new found purpose, it seemed.
“I’m NOT shutting the gate. And I don’t wanna shut it.” He shrugged his shoulder exaggeratedly, his lower lip sticking out like Donald Duck’s. If he tried a little harder, the lower lip may have even touched his lapel.
“You shut it if you want.”
I was so taken aback by his response, I had to steady myself on the bike.
“Excuse me, why should I shut it? You entered. We close the gate after us, as we come in. As a rule.”
My eyebrows were dancing.
He muttered again, “I’m not shutting it. YOU go ahead and do it if YOU want the gate shut.”
Rude. What’s wrong with you people!
Did he think I was the watch woman of the garden? The Guardian of the Gates?
By now the lady, visibly embarrassed, stopped and muttered something apologetically..but then.. she followed hastily, with minced steps.
(NOW you know exactly why God created a woman. It’s to temper down frustrated men. Works vice versa too)
I was not prepared to let them go just like that.
“Hullooo, I was telling you politely. These are the rules here , in case you don’t know. Maybe you are visiting.”
By now I was cycling alongside them.
But there was absolutely no remorseful backtracking on their part.
Jon was now ready for our circuit. He assumed I was being my usual friendly, striking up the classic #lovethyneighbor conversation with folks, until he saw the bewilderment on my face.
“Amy, what’s wrong?”
Meanwhile, Mr. Snot Nose’s expression changed when he realized there was a man, a MAN, with me.
They hurried straight into their home like they couldn’t care less. I made a mental note of the house they walked into.
Was I dismayed or what? An inexplicable heaviness.
We were cycling against the breeze on the road now, the sea-wind blowing my hair. It made the sand swirl, sweep over us and fall on my face. I could taste it. It was awful.
Was nature conspiring to make it worse?
As we cycled, I wondered why he was rude.
What makes someone singularly nasty? When Levitical laws don’t work.
A myriad ‘maybees’ swirled in my head; inner voices buzzing like restless bees.
Maybe he had guzzled too many drinks at the beach club.
‘Amy, be thankful you didn’t hear the f-word. What if he verbally abused you?’
Maybe he had had an argument with his wife. And lost.
‘YESSSS! Most likely this was it.’
Maybe he was on his way out, axed, laid off, forced to return to his cold, dreary country.
‘In this expat country, people were losing their jobs… with the dumb covid.’
Maybe they were clueless guests from some unknown village.
“Lost in this modern boom town.”
Maybe he didn’t like being reminded of rules by a WOMAN.
‘Yesssss, this could be the top.’
Maybe it was that despicable thing called ‘racism’?? ‘A Metoo moment of a different sort.’
Accosted by a woman telling him what to do!
‘The nerve of it. Unthinkable.’
Surely he didn’t approve of this Gandhian-on-a-bicycle telling his uncompromising Churchillian self about ‘rules’.
After all, weren’t they HIS ancestors who ruled the world, subduing ‘uncivilized natives’?
‘Twas them that laid down the laws before annexing foreign lands.
‘But it’s manners that make a man, not crisp accents, or guns.’
I felt so downright rotten. But the gate had to be shut. They needed to be told. I felt like I was whining in the wilderness.
In the twenty years, I’ve lived here, this was my first brush with a rude stranger. Call him the alternative terrorist, either inebriated or grumpy or self obsessed, using words as bullets.
When night fell, lookin’ at the other side of the coin, I admit I’m grateful to that impudent bloke who unwittingly gave me fodder for my present narrative.
My FACEBOOK post:
May 2nd, 2020 The Brutish Man
Today I was struck by an invisible enemy as bad as the virus.
The Fear virus.
Fear of touching, fear of greeting, fear of talking.
Neighbours avoid you.
The sons of this desert soil are refined, humble and considerate. Yet the west fears the foreigner.
In this bedouin country, some expats easily break rules they’d never attempt on their own soil.
However you can’t paint them all with the same brush.
Like all the peoples of the world, there are the good, the bad and the ugly.
But there’s SO much camaraderie among the neighbourhood dogs.
The ironies of life must make you laugh, if not you’ll cry.
It’s vital to breathe. Inhale, then exhale deep.
(FRIENDS were quick to comment )
-You hit the nail….hope you become friends; they will shut the gate then…🙏
-So sorry you were treated like this. Kudos to his lovely wife. Gentle words cost nothing, but are priceless.
Speak life, show respect, spread love.
-You should have nudged him with your cycle😁
But it was my girl who hit me with an alternative truth.
“What’s wrong with you mama? Why didn’t you just go and shut it yourself?
Nobody likes to be told what to do. Especially from strangers.”
And then it gnaws into her being. Till some common sense is knocked into her.
Nobody sees the heart of the matter…and each one trying to set the world in order, hurts others in the process.
I like the opening paragraph – it’s very descriptive, almost poetic … but then it’s forgotten and we move to the compound (I got a bit lost spatially at that point and had to re-read it.) The lists of ‘maybes’ is a neat device (though maybe … extended a little too much?) – it’s always wise to try to look beyond a person’s actions to the ‘why’.
Having said all this, I do think the narrator makes a bit of a mountain out of a molehill – it is after all the first time she’s seen this couple, and the first time she’s seen the gate left open. I think the daughter is the most sensible person in the story!
For what it’s worth, this story annoyed me a bit, as it was too long in the middle. The agonizing over the antagonists’ motives was overdone. Otherwise, the idea was good, the moral is delivered in the last sentence giving the MC her portion of comeuppance. And we’re out. Good writing too, you have a distinctive style I’ve noticed, can’t quite put my finger on it yet.
Kinda happy that my writing is on another runway. And you can’t figure.
Must tell confess that I enjoy reading the critiques sometimes even more than reading the stories.
Thanks for the valuable comments.
A lovely story. I really enjoyed reading it. It does create the kind of scenario that, as Phil suggests, we would all like to deal with in a positive, assertive kind of way. Then we can walk away, problem solved, feeling good about ourselves. Instead, as we are perhaps too passive or scared, we don’t do that. At least we can then go about and complain about the way “some People” behave.
It was ” only” a story about closing a gate but a metaphor for our lives. So complicated / simple that it takes a child to see through it.
Checkout Chick’s Challenge
“Five dollars and sixty cents.” Sandy rang up the wizened little woman’s purchases and bagged them. Then she waited patiently for the old girl to sort through her purse for the required amount, despite the mutterings of the two younger customers waiting in line.
“Five dollars, you say luv, an’ fifty cents? She queried as she pulled out a crumpled five dollar bill and a bright new dollar coin.
“Yes, Mrs. Graham. No, Sixty cents. Here..” Sandy pulled off the receipt and offered it to the old woman after she had shown her the total.
She waited as the old lady shuffled through the contents of her purse, after taking back the dollar coin and then placing three twenty cent coins slowly onto the counter. Her bent arthritic fingers fumbled with the coins as she placed them down on the counter.
“Thanks, Mrs. Graham. Always appreciate the correct amount.” Sandy gathered the coins and note and placed them in the cash register ignoring the eye rolling and mutters from the two twenty somethings behind the old lady.
Mrs. Graham gave a whispery sigh, folded the receipt, then tucked it neatly into her ancient purse which she then placed in one of the shopping bags. Grasping the handle of her walking stick she looked expectantly at Sandy. “Do you think …?” She began.
“Yes, of course.” Sandy bent close to her mike and pressed the switch and called, “Assistance to carpark. Register 6. Register 6 please.”
Then she moved from behind the counter to take the old woman’s bags into her trolley over to the bench seat in front of the supermarket entrance.
Ten minutes and several more customers through the checkout, she noticed Mrs. Graham still sitting rather forlornly on the wooden bench. So she called again.
“Assistance to Carpark. Register 6 please. NOW!” She hadn’t meant to sound irate, but she had unintentionally raised her voice on the last word. Damn she thought, where are they? They can’t all be on lunch. It’s only 11 am. Seeing Cindy another staff member walking the aisles apparently unencumbered by customers, but pushing an empty trolley, she called her over.
“Hey, Cindy, can you take over register 6 for a moment, please?” Reluctantly Cindy left the trolley parked and walked over to the register and signed in.
Sandy hurried over to Mrs. Graham. She checked her watch. Fifteen minutes the woman had been sitting there waiting.
“Not good enough.” She thought.
She gathered the old girl and her shopping trolley together and escorted her to an ancient Datsun sedan in the carpark. It was right over at the far edge of the crowded carpark.
“Mrs. Graham, you know you can use the disabled parking spaces?” She told her as she unloaded the parcels into the boot of the old car. Mrs. Graham was leaning on her stick as she fumbled through her purse for her car keys. She turned to look at Sandy in mild surprise.
“Oh no, I woona do that. I’m not in a wheel chair. Them’s for folks that need wheelchairs.”
“Mrs. Graham, you’re ninety-three years old. You deserve to use them. It will save you a walk.”
“Thank you dear, you do mean well. But I need the exercise. These old bones gotta keep moving.” She opened the car door and carefully placed her walking stick by the driver’s seat. Lowering herself into the seat, she looked up at Sandy. “I really appreciate your help. Thank you. It’s just me hips are not as strong as they used to be. I cannot lift bags like I used.” Sandy went to shut the door for her, but the old woman waved her away.
Before it closed Sandy asked her, “Is there someone who can help you at the other end? At home?”
She nodded. “Yes, I have a neighbour who is very good to me. And if she or her husband is not around, I just make several trips with a few items at a time.” She shrugged, “At my age, one has to make changes to the way we do things. Thank you dear. I must be off now.” She closed the car door, waved to Sandy, then started the car and drove carefully off.
Sandy turned and marched purposefully back to the supermarket.
“Give me a minute.” She called to Cindy who had a line of people at the register waiting to check out their groceries.
She pushed through the plastic strips to the storerooms and lunch room at the back of the supermarket.
The three boys sitting at the lunch table looked up as she marched over to stand before them, hands on hips.
“Well. What a cozy little scene!” She spat. “How long do you gentlemen take for lunch?” She noted the Uno cards on the table. “Wouldn’t want you to interrupt such an important game for work now. Would we?”
Tom, the older of the boys looked up, his too long fringe obscuring most of his face.
“What’s tha madda with you?” He sniffed. “We’re onna lunch break, aren’t we?”
“No, what’s the matter with you people?” She held her hands out palms upward. “I’ve called REPEATEDLY for one of you lot. I’ve heard two other registers, APART from register 6 calling for assistance to the carpark! What’s the matter with you?”
Jim aka “Skinna” on account of his rotund shape, stuffed the last of a focaccia sandwich into his mouth and rose from his chair, wiping grease from his lips with the back of his chubby hand.
“Okay. OKAY! We got the message let’s go!” He gestured to the other two sitting around the table.
“STOP!” Sandy held up her hand. “What time did you bunch of losers start your lunch?”
The three exchanged looks.
Jonas the boy who had been silent so far was the only one to reply.
“Bout half an hour ago, I guess.”
“Well”, she fumed, “lunch’s finished. Get back to work.” All three rose from their chairs and started to move towards the storeroom. Sandy surveyed the mess on the table, coffee cups and lunch paper wrappers.
“And before you go, CLEAN UP YOUR MESS!” Then more quietly, “do you lot think the rest of us are your servants. Look at this table.”
The boys turned with military precision and marched back to the table where they grabbed cups and ran them to the sink and collected wrappers to deposit in the bin.
“Hey, whatsa matta with that bitch stressin’ over a few papers.” Tom whispered an aside to the others as they cleaned up.
“Donno bro. Maybe her old man ain’t givin’ it to her lately. She’s creepin’ me out.” Jonas sniggered.
Sandy standing by the door of the lunchroom heard but did not understand what was said.
“You got something to say?” She called. “Say it to my face, ok!”
“We was jest sayin’ how you makin’ a mountain outa a molehill.” Tom said as they went past her into the storeroom.
Sandy snorted. She could not help contrasting their attitude to that of Mrs.Graham.
“The younger generation!” She thought, watching them sauntering down the aisles of the stockroom.
A doubt: if Sandy’s on the cash register, is she entitled to tell the boys off? I was expecting them to say: “You ain’t our boss – sod off!”
I really liked the writing, the dialogue, the characters and circumstances. I thought the ending, esp. the last sentence could have used some kind of revision. Not sure what. Maybe the end with that lot in the snack room could have used something. Maybe that old woman was a teacher to one of those boys ten or fifteen years ago. Or two of them, when the third one — (Well whatever, I’ll stop there. It’s your story but the ending needs something more.)
Well done, a lovely story with so much to think about. Simple human kindness at its best. Another reminder to us all at this time about the lower paid members of our society who do so much for so little reward.
I think the other comments are pretty fair and it seems unnecessary to add more.
Is she their boss that she can order them to clean up?
Sandy must be having a bad day.
Checking On Clancy by Liz Fisher 1072 words
I don’t know how to write about this, it just doesn’t make any sense. I know what you’re thinking … what about life ever makes any sense? Right- you are right. Except for the simple fact we are all human and humans are compassionate caring beings who only want what’s best for other human beings. Right?
But again, it’s doubtful if anyone will understand this ordinary scenario that just went sideways into an incredible chaotic event in the community of Riverville. A little background information might help you out.
Clancy is a lovely Irish girl who has been a world traveler and during her heydays hitchhiked through all of the United States before settling down in the rural Sierra. A often missed fact is the Sierra is just that. Not the Sierra Mountains or the Sierras, just the Sierra covers it all.
Clancy actually hitchhiked through many other countries and insists she was never in danger and every ride was interesting and people who gave her rides often went above and beyond the normal to deliver her safely to her destination or make sure she had a good situation for the next leg of the journey. Yes, that was a long sentence but if you ever listened to Clancy talk you would understand.
Anyhow, Clancy became a mainstay of the westside of the county. An invaluable asset to everyone who lives here. Young, old, dog, cat, bird, vacationers use her for housesitting, pet care, recuperation needs. Everyone knows Clancy and her services are vied for, especially her time. When schedules were being set, Clancy is the first call to make sure she has you penciled in on her calendar.
She does have family from Ireland living on the East Coast but her main homestead is with a cousin by marriage, Liz. Mostly she moves from house or pet sitting job to the next where she stays for a few days or a couple of weeks. She doesn’t have a cellphone or computer so we find her by calling her regulars, leaving messages for her to call or stop by.
I imagine you are getting the picture of a young woman who many people love and rely on. Clancy considers herself a very private person who gets annoyed if anyone feels her life or information belongs to anyone but her.
So when Clancy suddenly seemed to drop off the grid there was much consternation in the community. Eventually the word got out she was dog sitting up on the hill for Nan’s dog for a while. She talked to a couple of people and had a cold so was staying away from the town commons to protect others from catching her cold. We understood and it seemed everything was swell.
I guess I should mention Clancy’s first mode of transportation was still hitchhiking. She always travels with her backpack and a book to read, finds herself a shady spot alongside the highway and often with her back to the traffic sits and reads until a vehicle pulls over and she has a ride. Almost always with someone who is keeping an eye out for Clancy to give her a ride. One of the pluses of living in our rural mountain area, the joy of conversations with Clancy while riding in the car..
So word travels quickly and pretty soon it was a common theme around town everyone asking about and being worried for Clancy as no one had seen her on travels around our two main communities. She did call a close friend and told her she was down with the cold and was sticking close to home …the home with Nan’s dog. When she’s house or pet sitting she stays at the location which works out well for everyone, the pets and the homeowner, and sometimes it even offers Clancy a break from the myriad responsibilities she assumes for us, her clientele.
As concern grew and no one had heard from or seen her someone called Nan who tried to reach Clancy and when no response Nan called cousin Liz who then called a friend who called another friend who checked Nan’s house on the way to church. The front door was ajar but there was no response from ringing the bell and knocking so they called Cousin Liz (who also was out of town) and she called the Sheriff’s Office for a welfare check and then someone from the church called the Sheriff’s Office to report an open door to an unoccupied house (except for the barking dog).
The final result of this event and investigation will be told with Clancy as the narrator.
I was just being a good citizen, not going out and spreading my cold germs. I was scheduled to be at Nan’s house for three weeks, take care of Woofer, and watch the house, water the yard, walk the dog and then this cold bloomed with all the wonderful coughing and nose running and getting stuffed up. The people who needed to know knew where I was and things were fine, just until suddenly on Sunday, I’m upstairs in the shower getting lots of steam trying to clear up some of the mucus and there’s this pounding on the door and a man’s voice yelling “Sheriff’s Office is anybody here?”
I wrap a towel around my self and run down the stairs, dripping hair, running nose freaked out thinking the house is on fire or Woofer got loose or God knows what was happening to have armed deputies and a local medical guy standing in the living room.
The Deputy asked are you all right Clancy? We’ve had some calls from friends and relatives worried cause they couldn’t reach you.”
I tried to be appreciative and thanked them told them I was trying a steam shower to clear my nose. They said they were glad everything was all right and I should call my family and friends and let everyone know I was all right.
I called “my friend”, and as soon as she picked up the phone she said “thank goodness you’re all right.”
I didn’t understand it, I was just doing my job, taking care of Woofer, protecting others from cold germs and then all hell breaks loose and the cops are at my door, I responded the only way I could. “What’s wrong with you people?!”
Really! What’s wrong with people!! 🙂 But it does echo well the pulse of the times.
Everybody is kinda worried about somebody! The news is blaring exactly that right now in the next room as I write this.
People are confused.. God sends angels, and Clancy is just one of them!
If I were to be a grammar nazi… they are some issues. But at these times, don’t feel like picking. :))
Well done, Fiz Liz!
Another example of that type of person who always seems to be willing to go the extra mile. I know several people like this and they, in turn, wear me out and make me feel guilty
Add in a little bit of human misunderstanding and you have the recipe for a good story.
Well done, Liz.
Testing Patience by Amelie
“You… you’re kidding me right? Please tell me that is not what it looks like, I’m begging you. Because what it looks like is a child. That you kidnapped. Illegally.”
I glared at the pair before me, waiting impatiently for whatever they had to say to me. The man shifted uneasily and wouldn’t look me in the eye while the woman just shrugged and stared straight ahead.
“Well, um, the thing is, er, you see…”
“We did, in fact, abduct a child for the sake of the mission.”
I sat down heavily in my chair as I gaped at them.
“What is wrong with you people?!” I hissed, positively seething. “I asked you to scout a possible location not… not commit a crime that could scare off the buyer if people start sticking their noses in too early. We had a plan.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose as I felt my head throb. I was way too tired to deal with idiotic thugs who couldn’t follow the simplest possible plan. Scout the area. Don’t blow their cover. Keep a low profile. That was all they had to do.
The child, currently passed out on the worn sofa by my desk, shifted restlessly, catching my eye. The pair had apparently carelessly knocked the poor boy out in whatever idiotic scheme they had cooked up. I felt an eye twitch.
Sighing, I collected myself, trying to regain some shred of calm. “Okay, let’s start from the start. What happened exactly? Why did you ditch the original plan?”
The two shared a look, probably rubbing together the few brain cells between them to come up with a good excuse.
“Um, it just… felt right? Like, um, we saw the kid and…”
“And so you decided to take him. Well done, that is absolutely wonderful reasoning, you deserve a raise.”
“Really?” the man perked up hopefully, flinching when the woman smacked him upside the head.
“No, of course not!” I screamed. “You honestly think that is what you could call sound reasoning? You are adults, where is your impulse control and logical thinking? In what world is kidnapping a child a good idea?!”
The man mumbled something inaudible to himself as he stared at the ground and kicked out his feet sheepishly, giving room for his partner to step forward and speak.
“Look, sir, it’s more than what this idiot said,” she explained bluntly, gaze meeting mine unwavering and emotionless. “We were scouting the area, like you asked us to, and we found it. It was right there. We had the perfect opportunity and we weren’t sure it would be so easily accessible at any other time so we went for it. We’d hoped you’d be pleased at our initiative.”
I stared her down. “I’m sorry, did that little excuse make as much sense as it did in your head? If any of that is true, which at this point I have very little reason to, then where is my amulet and why is all I see some kid? Which you kidnapped, by the way. In case you forgot.”
They both seemed to suddenly lose a lot of confidence under my sneer and soon it was both of them who couldn’t look me in the eye.
“Actually, ha ha, funny story,” the man spoke up nervously, tugging on his collar as I looked at him expectantly. “The kid was, um, wearing the… the amulet?”
“… so you took the kid too,” I concluded slowly, trying to comprehend.
“Well we tried to get it off him, but it wouldn’t.” The man made an aborted tugging motion with his hands that made his partner sigh and cover her eyes in the kind of exasperation I felt she in no way should be allowed to feel considering I was the one having to deal with this mess and would most likely spend all night fixing it. “Wouldn’t come off, like it was… stuck. To his skin. Thentherewasthiswholethingwherewenearlygotcaughtsowehadtoleaveandtheamuletstillwouldn’tcomeoffsoofcoursewehadtotakethekidtooyougotta… believe us… sir…”
He trailed off under my glare and I groaned at the word vomit and the complete and utter mess this was. Well, what was done was done. Luckily, I spoke idiot.
“Okay, okay. The kid had the amulet, the amulet wouldn’t come off, you ran out of time. That about it?”
The two nodded.
I left them where they stood in front of the door to inspect the kid, giving a brief once over. My eyebrows raised.
“Funny. The kid doesn’t seem to be wearing the amulet.” I spun on my heel and pinned the two with a narrowed-eyed stare, my voice deceptively light. “So where is it?”
The man gulped and the woman honest-to-gods grimaced, her face twisted into something other than blank interest for the first time since I’d met her. Interesting.
“Um, well, I forgot but that, um, that… isn’t… exactly… it.”
“Then, pray tell, what did you ‘forget’.”
“The kid straight up absorbed the amulet,” the woman sighed when her partner seemed incapable of finishing his sentence..
I blinked. “I’m sorry, the kid did what?”
“There was a struggle when we first found the kid and then of course, we had to leave because we heard people coming. So we knocked the kid out. Somehow, in the process, that creepy necklace of yours just kind of… sunk into his skin. It went all glowy and everything.”
Her partner nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah, yeah, super weird. Just… gone.”
“We didn’t have much time to think about it so we just had to leave and deal with it later.”
“And so now it’s later and it’s my problem. Yay.”
“Sorry, sir,” the man choked out guiltily. Even the woman looked a little apologetic.
“There was nothing we could do. We kept an eye on him all the way here and nothing’s changed so the amulet is still… in him, I guess. We just have to figure out how it works. We were hoping you’d know since you know more about the amulet than we do-”
As she spoke, I noticed a glow at the corner of my eye and turned to find not only the child waking up, but the amulet was now suddenly around his neck, more beautiful than it had been in the pictures but now… glowing.
“…See?” the man offered hesitantly.
I just sighed again, feeling tired. It was better to just inform the buyer and see what they had to say. They definitely knew more about the amulet than I did. I was only here to steal the amulet for the anonymous buyer with no questions asked. When dealing with magical items like this, it was better not to ask. You rarely wanted to know the answer, I often found. Like absorbable necklaces. At least we had the amulet now.
I dismissed the two distractedly. They gave me a respectful nod and a sheepish look before practically running out the door.
“Do you think we should tell him about the bodies?” the man whispered to the woman as they left the office. The woman glanced back at their stressed boss and shook her head.
“Better not,” she advised and shut the door behind them with a click.
This is an excellent story.
These were great lines: I pinched the bridge of my nose as I felt my head throb. (This is great.)
That whole ‘…you deserve a raise.’…line was great, too.
These phrases didn’t work: ‘positively seething’. (Too cliché.)
‘apparently carelessly’ (Pick one, delete the other.)
Other than three minor flaws, this is really fun and exciting! Great writing, really funny, realistic dialogue, tons of action and tension. Then the mystery of the amulet is presented. (I did not like the one-word sentence. That’s the third flaw.) You should have written that like you write all your other sentences.
Still, despite those things, this is a really engaging story and the writing is crisp and sharp — and the humor is perfect. The amulet is fantastic, great concept. You leave a lot up in the air at the end, but that doesn’t detract much at all. And though I like your ending, thought it was clever, the last three lines are the key and I think those three lines need some editing. You might consider that rather than changing the narrative at the end, simply have the MC overhear them as they leave the room. I don’t think it matters to the reader who gives them the punchline.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a lot of criticism, because I really enjoy your writing, and I assure you, the story was riveting just as it was written, but it still could be better.
I just love this story. One of the most entertaining in this round.
Some very pertinent comments from the other Ken (C) that sum up any possible shortfall. Bearing in mind that we sign up to this site to be critiqued, there is very little that I wish to offer other than praise.
Some excellent comedy moments and phrases. Wouldn’t it be nice to speak to subordinates like this, just once in a while, rather than the careful words we tend to have to say. Truth serum needed. Dangerous, though.
Characters, plot and dialogue are all really great.
She Looked at them, disgust in her golden eyes. She struggled to control the rage coursing through her veins as they piled on, grabbing and pulling at the female child.
“What’s wrong with you people? A child? In what universe is this acceptable?”
“Get out of here with your self-righteous attitude wench or we’ll add you to the mix as well.” One of the dirty men sneered, his hand unconsciously curling into a claw, reaching towards her.
She chuckled, but the sound was laced with venom. “Somehow I doubt that.” she muttered. “I’ll ask you once to get off her. And only once.”
Another of the men stood up, he was large and heavy in the waist, when he grinned, he was missing teeth. “I’m off her, but I’m about to be on you though you stupid whore.” He lunged at her, fetid breath reaching her before his body ever did. She allowed his black fingernails to come within an inch of her shoulders before she moved.
Her body undulated like a striking cobra, her head cocked to the side and she shifted her body, so his arms ended up hugging empty night air. She struck out with her near foot, connecting solidly with his knee. Reaching forward she grabbed him by an elbow and pulled him forward. The large man lost his balance at the unexpected shift in his over sized belly. As he flailed to catch himself, she drew a short sword and flicked it across his throat. His eyes bulged as he grasped his neck in a poor attempt to keep the blood from spilling out.
He landed with an awkward wooden thump against the wall.
She glared at the motley group of would be rapists. “Once. And then I kill you all.” She snarled as she unfurled her wings. They snapped open and caught the faint light in the alley.
Her wall of rage was met with silence for three heartbeats before the men scrambled away and scuttled off into the night.
Don’t go after them, they’ll get justice in the fire.
Her heartbeat slowed, her anger drained away, and her wings drooped in sadness. She stepped forward and the little girl whimpered in fear. “They won’t hurt you anymore.” She said softly and held out her hand. She stood there, like a statue for several minutes before a trembling hand reached up. A face appeared in the dark light, the bruises and blood streaks black against her pale skin.
The little girl gripped her hand tight as they made their way to the south wall, walking awkwardly as her tiny body was not built for the violations that had been rained down upon it.
They reached the only working gate in the surrounding wall. Making her way up the stairs to the top of the wall, she joined another.
“No wings?” She remarked, smirking.
He glanced at her. Shrugging, his wings unfurled like great paper scrolls of wisdom. There was no moon this night, but the starlight danced along the feathers. “A stray?” He asked looking at the little girl who tried to hide behind her protector.
“A witness to carry the word.” She turned to the little girl. “Stay.” She ordered, as if the child was a well-trained dog.
She stepped to the edge of the wall and lifted her hands. He grinned and followed suit. Tiny bits of light danced from their fingertips, the lights touched the wall, here and there. Nearly an hour passed before every stone had been touched, magic runes shining brightly on the surface.
“What is that?” The little girl breathed from the darkness. It was both beautiful and terrifying.
“It’s a warding spell. It’ll make sure no one can escape.”
“Escape what?” She asked.
“Fate.” The male said and thrust his arms upward.
From somewhere came a huge booming explosion. Then another, and another.
Huge crashing detonations, rolling plumes of flame burst into the air, and soon the city was on fire. The bright orange glow grew brighter and hotter with each passing moment.
The little girl looked on in horror as she watched houses and storefronts catch fire. “What…? Why? Why is this happening?”
Golden eyes found hers in the darkness. “Because they’re disgusting people. Full of hate and fearmongering and anger, entitled to take what ever they want with no regard to whom it may hurt.” Her lip pulled back in a snarl of venom and hate.
“But…but they can’t get out!” She clutched her cloak around her and jumped as human screams reached her tiny ears.
“Yes, we warded the gate and walls so they can’t.” She turned back to watch as it burned in front of her.
“But even the ones who never hurt nobody?”
“But that’s horrible! You are not saviors! You are monsters! What’s wrong with you people???” She screamed in revulsion.
A third voice came out of the darkness, a voice that made both angels blanch. “What indeed…”
And perhaps the voice will make an appearance in the next prompt…
The writing’s pretty good. It could use a little editing, like, you use the word dirty three times in the first two paragraphs. Small stuff. You used reign instead of rain. I think that’s about it. And that middle part, where the angel calms herself. The story doesn’t need it. I realize you’re trying to show the magnitude of her anger but I don’t think its necessary. It takes you out of the story.
The angels, and other characters are well portrayed.
Drastic, but very clever twist to the plot that allows you to use the prompt twice from two different points of view. And there is, of course, a moral lesson to be considered here.
I would very much like to see a sequel to this, featuring that ‘third voice…out of the darkness…’.
I actually really enjoyed this story. It’s OK to self-denigrate and we can only do our best work once, I guess, so join the crowd with that feeling.
I think there is some truth in Ken C’s comments ( as always) so it’s hard to add too much without nit-picking. Great expression that, nit picking. As a former teacher, head lice, hence the nit picking, used to be the bane of my life especially after the nit nurse was replaced by….guess….nobody. The parents always used to blame the school for head lice too.
The notion of the people who believe that they are our “saviours” actually being flawed is a good one and a warning. I read Andy Lakes, “Shades of Green” and it seems that there is a very human tendency to believe that we know best and anyone who doesn’t go along with our views is wrong.
Just a heads-up … there are a couple of stories at the top of the page that you’re forgetting, I think.
Thanks for the heads up, I sure did totally miss them and will get them added to the list in a bit when I log back on. 😊
Friendship Lasts Through Death…(Until It Doesn’t.)
Written by Alyssa Daxson
Word count; 1090(excluding title)
Author’s note: Just Incase anyone is confused, this is supposed to be a funny story, and is in no way serious! Enjoy! 😉
Somber music flowed through the air, adding to the grim mood that weighed down the atmosphere.
A door swung open, and two friends stepped inside the church, their eyes settling on the coffin that was set in the center of the room.
Slowly walking over, the two friends looked down in the wooden box, seeing their best friend, Josiah, laying there, eerily still.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” the male on the left, Chandler murmured, his voice dull.
His friend on the left, Jared Johnson, affectionately named JJ, nodded slowly.
Reaching into the coffin, JJ grabbed Josiah’s stiff hand, shuddering at the cool, unnatural feel of his skin.
JJ’s finger brushed a ring, and a confused looked flitted across his face.
“Hey, is this my ring?” He asked Chandler, who looked down, raising a blonde eyebrow.
“Don’t know,” he said, shrugging his broad shoulders.
“It is,” JJ insisted, sliding the ring off of his friends finger. He held it up to the light, and squinted, catching sight of engraved letters along the side.
“To Jared, love Grandma,” he murmured, his voice going low with shock.
Chandler stifled a grunt of surprise.
“That’s actually your ring?” He asked in disbelief.
JJ nodded sharply, his eyes narrowed in anger.
“Maybe it was an accident?” Chandler suggested, his voice light.
JJ shrugged. “Maybe,” he admitted, unsure.
Chandler smiled. “I doubt Josiah would do anything like that JJ, he’s our friend.”
JJ grunted in affirmation.
“Remember that time we went fishing?” He asked, a wistful look on his face. “You’d just bought this super fancy fish hook too, and you were so proud of it.”
Chandler scoffed, a slight smile twitching across his face. “I never saw it again after that,” he said ruefully, shaking his head.
JJ didn’t answer him, but reached down, and tore a object off of Josiah’s Hawaiian shirt.
“Dude! What the hell are you doing?!” Chandler exclaimed in an infuriated whisper.
JJ didn’t say anything, but held up a fancy fish hook, his mouth set in a grim line.
“Oh my gosh…” Chandler murmured, recognizing it as his very own fish hook.
“Still think this is a coincidence?” JJ asked, raising his brown eyebrows, his hazel eyes meeting uncertain green ones.
Chandler shrugged, uneasy. “There has to be an explanation,” he protested, “Josiah wouldn’t do this.”
JJ scoffed, before digging into Josiah’s coffin, pulling out a small action figure.
“This isn’t mine,” he muttered, his eyebrows knitting together. Glancing at Chandler, JJ caught his breath at the guilty look on his friends face.
“Dude… you’re 29, not five,” he groaned, shaking his head. Chandler snatched the action figure away, having the grace to look embarrassed.
“It’s a collectible,” he muttered, as if those three words would make a difference.
JJ rolled his eyes. “Please, that’s an excuse,” he scoffed.
Chandler didn’t say anything, his eyes fixed on something in Josiah’s coffin.
Slowly he pulled out a men’s diet magazine, shaking his head.
“Wow, this is what you do on Saturdays,” he said, smirking At JJ’s mortified face.
“Shut it,” JJ hissed, snatching the magazine away, his face now red. “I don’t even know how he figured that one out,” he growled, throwing his hands up in exasperation.
Chandler snickered, reaching back in the coffin, coming out with hands full of various knickknacks.
The two friends compiled quite a stash, amazed at the stuff the kept pulling out from around their friends body.
“What the— you know, I’m not gonna even try,” JJ spluttered as he pulled out a silver, ceremonial knife.
“How did they even fit that in there?” Chandler asked, shaking his head.
JJ grumbled a short, incomprehensible answer, his eyes trained on the silver knife.
“Hey! Where’d you get that!” A voice suddenly yelled, pitched high with anger.
The two friends whirled around, and saw Josiah’s father striding towards them, his eyebrows drawn into a fierce line.
His wife followed up behind him, her eyes going wide at the sight of the knife.
“That’s my knife! I won it in a competition!” The angry father shouted, snatching the knife away from JJ’s trembling fingers. “Where’d you get this?” He growled, surveying the young men.
JJ glanced at Chandler, and the two men had a silent, yet heated conversation in a spilt second.
“We took it!” Chandler blurted out, not wanting to spoil the parents memory of their late son.
JJ shot Chandler a panicked look, before facing Mr Johnson, who’s gaze was murderous.
“Don’t you ever touch this knife again,” he hissed through clenched teeth, “or I’ll gut you like the pigs you are.”
Both JJ and Chandler nodded vigorously, their eyes wide and scared as Mr Johnson stalked off.
“What is wrong with you people,” Mrs Johnson scoffed, throwing them a dirty look, before hurrying off after her angry husband.
“If you find me dead in a alleyway, it’s because of that man,” JJ gulped, his fearful gaze still trained on Mr Johnson, afraid that the furious man would attack if he even blinked.
Chandler chose not to comment on that particular statement, but silently agreed as he turned back to his deceased friend, a scowl twisting his features.
“You bastard,” he snarled, before starting to move towards the door, determined to put distance between himself and the man he used to call a friend. And of course, Mr Johnson, who was still glaring daggers at them.
As Chandler strode away, he caught the glimpse of a one hundred dollar bill, tucked within the folds of Josiah’s jacket.
“For the torture you put us through today,” he informed his dead friend, before swiping the bill and striding out the door, only half aware of JJ’s cries to not leave him behind, his body itching with urge to bolt.
Glancing back one last time, Chandler saw Mr Johnson glaring at him, slowly stroking the silver knife like a cat, a smile spreading across his weathered face.
Chandler swallowed back his fear, and patted the pocket where the dollar bill was.
“It was worth it,” he said, reassuring himself, before pulling out his fancy fish hook and sliding the barbed end through his shirt pocket.
A smile breached his face.
Everything was well.
He got his fish hook back.
He was one hundred dollars richer.
The psychopath that Josiah had called his father would obviously go after JJ and not him.
And the world was free of one more thief he’d once called a friend.
I like your writing Alyssa, and this plot is intriguing, but I think you left a lot on the table. You could’ve trimmed quite a bit of excess dialogue, and clarified the plot a little. For instance the bit about the two main characters hiding the knowledge of Josiah’s kleptomania from his father. I mean, it’s there, but you address it so briefly one almost misses the irony. Likewise at the end, I wasn’t sure why Chandler thought that he would not be a target for the father’s revenge. With a little trimming of unnecessary dialogue, more detail could be added to specific aspects of the plot.
Quite a few mistakes and typos, but an enjoyable story all the same.
Remember you MUST vote for your story to count, you can only vote once, and you may NOT vote for yourself.
You officially have 24 HOURS from the timestamp of this comment to read through the stories vote.
I’m sorry I had no time to comment like I usually do. Something that starts with “W”, ends with “k” and has “or” in the middle has without warning reared its ugly head again!
……..I hate that word.
1st Place: Dateline 77 by Ken Frape
2nd Place: Testing Patience by Amelie
3rd Place: The Valley by Phil Town
4th Place: The Traveling Team by Trish
5th Place: The Quiet One by Ken Miles
6th Place: Just Shut The Gate by Marien Oommen
7th Place: Checkout Chick’s Challenge by Ilana Leed
8th Place: The Final Outrage by Adrienne Riggs
9th Place: Checking On Clancy by Liz Fisher
10th Place: Friendship Lasts Through Death by Alyssa Daxson
11th Place: Elizabeth by Tegon
The favorite character was Ken Frape’s Old Lady by a landslide.
And most loved Alyssa Daxson’s dialogue in “Friendship Lasts Through Death”
Congrats to all!
Thank you so much. I am really chuffed to be in such good company.
Now onto the next challenge as well as Black Feathers.
Hmmm… Ken C. won the last time, Ken F. this time… maybe Ken M.’s turn next time? lol
Thanks for voting and reviewing my story, guys, I’m pleased with 5th place too, for a piece fraught with controversy.
Well done to Alyssa too for the Best Dialogue Oscar!
Oh there’s the new prompt already! But in the meantime don’t forget the feathers prompt, guys, before you’re off to another place…
Also, thanks! Wasn’t expecting the best dialogue award lol
And everyone who placed. Which in fact is everyone 🙂
Edit #2 for test
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