May 5 – May 18, 2022 Writing Prompt “Hope”

Theme: Hope

Could be a town, a person, a feeling, a fort, an outpost. Could be lost.

Extra credit if you never use the word ‘Hope’ in the story, or use it nine times without pissing everyone off.

Requirements:

  • none

Word Count: 1,200

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115 thoughts on “May 5 – May 18, 2022 Writing Prompt “Hope”

  • May 5, 2022 at 6:40 am
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    Checking in. BTW, still alive and kicking, and OK. A lot going on. I’ll catch you all up in a subsequent visit. Roy

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    • May 5, 2022 at 10:56 am
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      Roy, glad to hear from you! Been missing you! Adi

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      • May 6, 2022 at 3:02 pm
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        Yeah, Adi, I saw you in one of the other posts and was tickled. I sure hope you’ve got things turned around. We haven’t communicated much and I’ve all but abandoned FB. I go in now and again, but not too often. I couldn’t take the bickering about politics anymore, regardless of which side the arguments were on. So much hate flying back and forth makes me sad to even think about it. I keep wondering how people can think the way they do, but they probably wonder the same about me.

        I’ve also been busy as I’ve become a docent at Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park here in Grand Rapids and with all the training and other things to learn I’ve been a busy boy. It’s a pretty big deal, as we are number 45 on the list of most visited Art Museums in the world.

        And, of course, spring is here and Kathy and I are getting our garden together with some significant changes.

        On the health front, I’ve been just great. Still got some things going on, but for an almost 80-year-old, that’s to be expected. Everything is still working, just not as good as it used to. I’m finally getting my stamina back and consequently am not confined to sitting in front of the computer and/or the TV. It took three years, but it’s better.

        Roy

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        • May 6, 2022 at 4:50 pm
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          Roy,
          So happy things are going better for you! I’m doing ok, just dealing with a lot of changes all at once. It will all be good once everything calms down but everything happening all at once has me anxious and not sleeping. But, I have insomnia anyway so that’s nothing new!

          BIG NEWS! Everybody has finally left the house! No more extra people living here which will be wonderful (I’m told) once I get used to the quiet in this big run down place. I miss the youngest grandbabies like crazy! I don’t miss the Mama Drama though. LOL. I have a lot of cleaning out and cleaning up to do and now have no one to help but I’ll find some body somewhere. Money talks! I don’t have a lot but I’m sure someone wants to earn a few bucks.

          My “baby” who is 27, moved out a few years ago but was just a a couple of miles away. He has been my biggest help with my Dad, his grandfather. He just announced he is moving. Like, really MOVING. FAR AWAY. He’s leaving Tennessee for North Indiana! According to the map, another smidge of an inch and he will be in Lake Michigan. I’m happy for him but my heart is breaking. It’s hard to smile through falling tears. I’m feeling very lonely and sorry for myself. But I’ll get over it. I’ll have to juggle work and try to take care of Daddy alone and that will be difficult. I’m not super woman anymore. Age is catching up with me fast.

          I’ll have much more time to write! That’s an upside. I am finally getting my house to myself, significant other and 3 crazy dogs. I’m still working full time and that is driving me NUTS, but have to make money somehow. My oldest daughter is still close by so I have her and that is a comfort. She is chronically ill, so she lives close by.

          Anyway, I’m glad to be back here. Glad you and the gang are back and can’t wait to get back to writing!

          Hugs! Adi

          Reply
    • May 7, 2022 at 11:41 am
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      Hey Roy!
      Good to hear! It’s been a while! How is everything going? I hope you’re staying safe and well! 🙂

      Reply
  • May 5, 2022 at 10:55 am
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    Signing in!

    Reply
  • May 5, 2022 at 11:50 am
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    Hello everyone!
    I missed the last prompt, and am going to do my best to get one in this time. 🙂
    I did get a chance to read through the stories for the last two weeks (all of them were really awesome and unique), but didn’t have a chance to comment or write one myself.
    I look forward to playing with this prompt. 🙂

    Reply
  • May 6, 2022 at 9:33 am
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    A Visit to National Portraits Gallery:

    Laughing eyes, dimpled cheeks and determined chin is what attracted John to the portrait of ‘Emily Howell Warner’ while strolling through National Portrait Gallery with his girlfriend Jenna. With head of bobbed curly brown hair, Emily was dressed in turtleneck sweater and business suit.
    The first ever woman to pilot a US commercial airline, exuded an air of confidence and optimism. John was able to easily visualize how the innate self-belief and purpose helped her in to break many a glass sealings and fly commercial aircrafts. It was glaringly obvious why so many women followed her path breaking journey and became pilots.
    “What is your attraction?” queried bemused Jen.
    “She reminds me of you.”
    “Oh! come on! In case you have forgotten, I am a brunette, and I abhor business suits.”
    “Details, details, honey! Just observe yourselves in front of a mirror when you cook up one of your horrendous schemes to best me. See that inner beauty and resolve shining through. Absolutely her in all ways that count.”
    “Meaning have no external beauty!” she laughed uproariously.
    “Looking for kudos, kiddo? Comparing you to her is the ultimate compliment. I am very serious, really! If you set your mind to it, I am sure, you would easily be the first ever woman successful space pilot leading Mars colonization mission.”
    Little wonder that the rapturous girl was overjoyed and turned her face to hide her pleased and glowing smile.
    While she was not a classic beauty, she was pretty and petite with an arresting face, emerald, green eyes always twinkling and mischievous. Her tight, ruby lips were pursed in what appears to be mid-kiss. But woe betide anyone trying to take advantage. John had seen firsthand Jen dismissing the roadside Lotharios with such disdain and contempt. He was also very much aware of the mental strength and grit which emanated from her poise and stand. His thoughts went back to his first ever meeting with her years ago.
    “Just because you gave me a ride, you are not my boyfriend. Don’t you ever take any liberties with me!” John heard her yelling and attempting to slap helpless Edward, one of John’s school mates. Others scrambled around prevented the slap from landing. But the damage was done to Ed’s ego, and he promptly went off in a huff.
    John was curious about to the elfin spitfire and quietly offered her a ride back. Surprisingly, the long ride was filled with discussions and friendly disagreements. While their views matched in most subjects, they found themselves contesting endlessly about the nuances. Suddenly they realized that they had reached Jen’s home.
    Stopping the argument in the middle, Jen said, “I need to go in now as it is late.” She mischievously added, “Let us meet again and continue this.”
    “Are you inviting me for a date? If so, when?”
    “No, you dumbo, calling for continuation of our argument.”
    John retorted, “What is the difference? A rose by any some other name. Hmmmm!”
    Jen countered, “Are you calling me Rose? Or are you going to get me roses?”
    They agreed to meet next day and thus started their romance.

    In Memoriam: Emily Howell Warner, 1939–2020 | National Portrait Gallery (si.edu) (Links to an external site.)

    Find a Meaning:

    SanFrascisco:
    “What? In prison on a murder charge?” Melissa’s parents were appalled and frantic. Luckily before they could arrive from Annapolis, SFPD forensics cleared her, as the fingerprints on the murder weapon tallied with some other junkie. Still, it was a bolt from the blue and tremendously horrifying experience.
    She was under tremendous shock and declared, “I am a bloody druggie who would be wasted and die alone! God! Need to turn my life around.”
    “Easier said than done,” she mused, “Oh Christ! Have my work cut out. Social butterfly with occasional coke, to a guttersnipe and doped up druggie doing anything for a fix. What a bloody fall!”
    Soon old Mel was back, chin up, eyes glowing in steely resolve. Unfortunately, there was absolutely no one to notice. She found it impossible to be optimistic alone. Soon despair creepily slipped back in.
    Parents came in to find a loudly wailing Mel. “Sorry, raked you guys through hell. Learnt my lessons. I did! I did! Did go crazy a while; but do want to change. I do! I do! Clean myself in more ways than one!”
    “Baby, come back home to Annapolis.” cried her mother with tears while the father just hugged her trying hard to control his emotions.

    Annapolis:
    Much to her dismay, return to normal was no cake walk. The family pow-wow was no-holds barred series of discussions on ways and means to achieve the desired end.
    Everyone realized that the path to recovery was long and arduous with more chances of slipping back than otherwise. After discussions, and consulting therapists and specialists, parents suggested rehab combo with detox and twelve step facilitation.
    Mel was determined with the parents fully behind her, pro-active and committed to her recovery. Her thoughts reverted to George (Gee). She realized that she had been a beast in messing with and misusing such a sweet and besotted guy for selfish ends. Ashamed and angry with herself, and intent on making restitution, she questioned “Isn’t it one of the twelve steps?”
    What she wasn’t aware was that he was also in similar straits desperately trying to detoxify and get out of drug lord Victor’s clutches.

    Bow-Tie Cinema:

    “Frowning Jen? Didn’t like Shawshank Redemption?” John queried.
    “I do. Thinking about how to help Mel getting drugfree. You know she is my close friend and also a second cousin.”
    “Wow! I too was mulling about Gee’s troubles.”
    Jen exclaimed “I am in touch with Mel’s parents. They are totally committed to her recovery. They were expecting for friends to be around, especially, when her craving for a fix intensifies. Should we pitch in.”
    “Absolutely Jen. Let us do the same for Gee.”
    “Here is an idea. Let us combine our efforts and form a friends’ circle focused on the rehabilitation of both. Their respective parents could lead the family circle.”, said excited Jen.
    “Splendid idea! You always come up trumps.”
    Both Gee and Mel were a bit hesitant, each for their own reasons. But friends were able to overcome their objections and ‘Redemption Circle’ was born.

    Redemption Circle:

    It was not a path of roses. Just the opposite. Governing ‘Mantra’ was one day at a time!
    Gee and Mel met and started discussing the circle idea mooted by Jen and John, while still recalling the horrible aftereffects of opioid use and withdrawal.
    Nearby garbage stench triggered Mel to unexpectedly explode, “You stink like shit! Bathe ever? Ughhh!”
    “Don’t yell at me, you bitch! Ur rotten mouth smells from here to heaven! Did you ever bother to visit the dentist as your parents asked to?” he retorted.
    Mel suddenly threw up and fell clutching her stomach. She was profusely sweating and shouting her head off.
    Having experienced similar problems as well as hallucinations and wall clawing desperation to use again, Gee knew what was happening. Fiercely clutching the heaving Mel, he called up her parents who responded immediately.
    He shuddered at remembered scenes of excruciating journey through de-tox; the sheer horror being horribly sick, sudden vomiting heaves, chills, excessive sweating. While he was irritable, fatigued with tremendous mood swings, he was able to handle insomnia with prescribed meds. Thank heavens his anxiety attacks and nightmares were under control. He understood the depth to which both had sunk and the mammoth task ahead to stay drug free.

    2 years later:

    Both Mel’s & Gee’s parents were in a haltingly congratulatory mood when they met in the club for an enjoyable afternoon game of Bridge. “I think both are over the hump and on path to recovery” opined Mel’s dad.
    “It is too early to drop your vigil yet.” cautioned Doc, “The craving is dormant and could erupt any time.”
    Mel’s mom replied, “It has been tough two years.”
    She remembered one of her knowledgeable friend remarking, “Without the proper counseling and daily support, recovery is almost impossible.”
    Gee’s addiction specialists had also cautioned his parents that the ‘Redemption Circle’ idea could backfire! “With both Mel and Gee being still new to recovery, there was a higher chance that either one or both relapsing and pulling the other in.”
    Even with all that caution in the back of her mind, Gee’s mom was excited, “Kudos to the caring friends Jen and John, always being there for Mel and Gee. Their monitoring and mentoring are really Godsend! Excellent head on their young shoulders!”
    Will Mel and Gee be able to remain dope free? Can they complete their interrupted studies and get on with their lives? Who can really divine the future?


    1471 words

    Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 2:25 pm
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      So many excellent words and expressions! Elfin spitfire was real fun. Bolt from the blue I have heard only a handful of times, but Lothario and besotted are totally new words to me, and now I feel dumb. I must read Don Quixote now, because that is where Lothario comes from, and I feel like I should have read it a long time ago. The first part was good but then I got confused when it switched to new characters. You brought it back in the end and you had a good message with the redemption circle. Nicely done!

      Reply
      • May 22, 2022 at 4:06 pm
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        Hi Rumple, I posted a reply to you which seems to have been lost. So, writing again. My English in British Indian with lately American. Bear with me till I get my act to totally US. I posted 3 chapters from my writing class and did not edit it to make sense. My bad! I will try and be more cogent in future. Thx for your words of encouragement. Jagan

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    • May 13, 2022 at 9:44 pm
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      Hi, Jagan

      Is this your first time here? If so, welcome!

      As Rumples says, there are lots of nice turns of phrase here, and the characters are quite vivid (the relationship between Jen and John and the art gallery scene are fun). And by the end there’s a good message of the power of friendship and hope for rehabilitation.

      I think the subject matter feels a bit too wide-ranging for a story of 1,200 words (which is the word limit), so a longer piece – even longer than your 1,471 words – might give more room for the characters and developments to breathe a little.

      Refreshing to read, though.

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      • May 22, 2022 at 2:36 pm
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        Hi Phil, As I had replied to Rumples, this is my first ever attempt to post a story & I posted 3 chapters from my submissions in a story class I am attending (I forgot to edit the submission, my bad.) I hope to do a better job of editing as I get experience. Thank you for your kind words. Jagan

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    • May 14, 2022 at 8:14 am
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      Hi Jagan,

      I haven’t seen your name before on this site so, if you are new, then welcome. We always need new faces, new names and words and you have certainly achieved that.

      You clearly have an individual style of writing that’s all your own. I would describe it, in places, as clipped, removing some words that actually can be left out. Two examples from the very end; “Their monitoring and mentoring are really Godsend” I would have said, “a Godsend” .OR “God sent” but yours works just as well. There are other examples which just goes to show that there is no one right way.

      You have packed a lot of content into your piece. By narrowing it down a little you could have developed one theme further and / or kept within the 1200 word limit. Whilst 1200 is the strict limit I do hope that, as your are a newcomer, you will either be given the option to cut out the excess words or, preferably, given some leeway on this occasion as you are new and we need new talent like this.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

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      • May 22, 2022 at 2:44 pm
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        Hi Ken, Thx for your welcome. I am indeed a newcomer and did not realize the 1200-word limit. As I had explained to Rumples, my English has lot of British idioms in it (with a lot of Indianish). I am reading the submissions here and hope to learn along. Jagan

        Reply
  • May 6, 2022 at 11:02 am
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    Once again I have been thwarted by not receiving one of those handy permission emails so I can get comments and stories. Trying again to see if I can get one.

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  • May 6, 2022 at 2:50 pm
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    Made it. Don’t know what happened before, but know it worked.

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  • May 6, 2022 at 10:10 pm
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    ESPERANÇA

    TUESDAY

    We trudge on in our hundreds, along dry, dusty roads, through dry, dusty towns. Some have given up and fallen by the wayside. Our small family unit remains intact, for now – my wife Rosa, her mother, our daughter. My mother-in-law Agnes is the concern. She’s been limping for the last few miles, but she doesn’t complain. She never has done, even during her illness that time. She’s quite slight; perhaps I’ll be able to carry her if she fails. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

    Little Stella’s energy is our motor, her good humour a balm. She seems to sense when we’re about to flag and tells a joke, or skips around, singing invented songs. It’s infectious; groups of strangers stick close to us, as if we might have the secret to survival. But Rosa and I are as fearful as they are, though we try not to show it – for the sake of Stella and Agnes.

    We used up the last of our food yesterday, and have water for only one more day, possibly two. All GPS signals have stopped working but someone at the front of the crowd has a map, and as far as we can tell, there are another 20 or 30 miles to the coast and the boats … if they haven’t sailed already. It’s better that we don’t think of distance, though. One foot in front of the other is the way, tiny steps eating up the road, nibbling at the space between here and our destination. This is what I tell Stella when she asks: “Are we there yet?”

    The boats. They’ve become a state of mind and spirit rather than physical objects. We learned about them from the last radio broadcast we were able to pick up. Many stayed where they were, resigned to their fate. Our family and this mass of people decided we had nothing to lose. And so we head for the port, with just a crackling message on the air waves as a rationale. It’s been arduous, but our hearts and minds keep us going. The boats can save us. Perhaps.

    WEDNESDAY

    Bad news. Sad news. Agnes stopped walking today. She flopped to the dusty ground and told us to leave her. Of course, I wasn’t prepared to do that. We moved her to the side of the road – people stared as they filed past – and I took off her shoes. Her feet were swollen, blistered and bleeding, but she didn’t react when I touched them; I think she was past caring about pain. We used a little water to moisten and cool them – the thorough washing and treatment they needed was impossible – and bound them in my T-shirt, which I was wearing under my shirt and took off to rip into strips.

    Rosa helped me to hoist Agnes on my back. Her body and legs dangled behind me, and I held her arms – one over each of my shoulders – to keep her from falling off. Her head was next to mine, and as we walked, I could hear the gasping breaths she took with each of my steps, and the weak ‘thank you’, repeated several times. She didn’t weigh much but it was enough to slow us down, and I was tiring badly.

    Then we heard shouts from the people at the front of the crowd, who had reached the crest of a rise. Word was passed along: the port was in sight. When we got to the crest ourselves, we could see the silveriness of the sea stretching off into the distance and one or two lights on in the port. Dusk was setting in, so most of us decided to bed down for the night and make the final push in the morning; by my reckoning, there was at least another five miles to go. I was grateful for the rest.

    We found a bank of dirt, where I gently slipped Agnes from my back and onto the ground. As I did, something occurred to me: I hadn’t heard her breaths for some time. I checked her pulse and there was none. Rosa stood over us and knew the truth at the same time I did. Her eyes filled with tears and she walked away, behind some bushes that lined the road.

    Stella was playing with a young boy from another family, so I didn’t have to confront her with the news just yet. The young boy’s father offered to help me, and together we dug a shallow grave with spoons and sticks. By the time the sun went down and darkness enveloped us, Agnes was in the ground. We are not a religious family, but the man insisted on saying a prayer. I caught Rosa mouthing the comforting words as he spoke. Stella was on her other side, holding her hand in silence, knowing instinctively that it was a moment for respect.

    I slept fitfully, the euphoria that the sighting of the port had instilled gone now. I do know that I had a dream of the sea and a flock of hundreds of seagulls, gliding serenely away over the silvery water.

    THURSDAY

    Almost as soon as the sun was up, we set off. The crowd was thinner; some had decided to carry on through the night. Without Agnes, we moved more quickly and by late morning we were walking through the gates of the port. There were just two boats left; the radio broadcast had mentioned dozens. The harbour master – a large man with white whiskers and a genial air, which helped ease the tension – and some of his assistants divided us up into two groups, one to each boat. They were old steamers, rusting and beaten up, but they seemed like luxury liners to our desperate eyes.

    After a couple more hours of preparation, the harbour master boarded with us; we were going to be the last to set sail from this port, apparently. The two steamers exchanged blasts of their horns – a beautiful, resonant, liberating sound – and we edged away from the quay, almost simultaneously. Rosa, Stella and I clung to the railings, watching the reflection of our movement that was the other boat. Stella pointed to the name of it: ‘Novo Horizonte’, a dirty white on the rusty-red hull.

    “I wonder what our one’s called,” she said.

    I’d seen it, just before we boarded.

    “ ‘Esperança’,” I said, smiling.

    And the three of us hugged as our old steamer began nibbling at the open sea.

    .

    Reply
    • May 11, 2022 at 10:43 am
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      This is a truly lovely story of hope, love and perseverance Phil. You never fail to amaze with the depth of your work. I loved the intricate family dynamics and the determination to not leave any member behind though weak. This is definitely one of my favorites. Adi

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      • May 14, 2022 at 12:17 am
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        Thanks for the kind words, Adi (and great to see you back!)

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    • May 13, 2022 at 2:01 pm
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      How did you write such a good story without telling what they were running from? It doesn’t matter, you had me hanging on and getting more anxious with each day, like a suspenseful movie about World War 3 or something! Dum spiro spero. That phrase clued me into the name of the boat (because I took a little Latin but no Spanish), but I forgot the prompt was hope at that point lol. Was the other one New Horizons? Great job!

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      • May 14, 2022 at 12:17 am
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        Thanks, Rumples. I hoped that the absence of reason for fleeing might put the spotlight on the people instead – kind of like ‘The Road’, maybe? (in which the reason might be mentioned but isn’t dwelt upon, if I remember rightly). ‘Esperança’ is Portuguese, in fact (‘Esperanza’ in Spanish). And yes, ‘Novo Horizonte’ (Portuguese again) = ‘New Horizon’.

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        • May 14, 2022 at 2:24 pm
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          Doh! About the Portuguese lol. And you are right, now that you mention it … I loved “The Road” and it felt as cool as that. Directed by John Hillcoat, and he directed a movie I was in as an extra. Eight different roles, one of them right behind Gary Oldman when he has Shia Lebuffyboy in the open grave (it is a microsecond and I have a fake moustache lol). I look like a skinny and ugly young Tom Hanks in “goon” attire!

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          • May 15, 2022 at 1:01 am
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            ‘Lawless’? I’ve got that recorded on my cable thingy … shall watch it very carefully to try to spot you. (Did you get a credit?)

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            • May 21, 2022 at 8:35 am
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              No credit sorry. I blew a perfect cigar ring directly to the camera in the speakeasy but they didn’t use it. I think the only time that you can really see me is when there is a drive-by shooting and a gentleman is sleeping on a bench with his hat over his eyes. That is me, and that movie started my habit of wearing a fedora! But try pausing it at the grave scene, I look hilarious.

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    • May 14, 2022 at 8:27 am
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      Hi Phil,

      Another super piece from the Town mind. It’s a really good read and, after all, isn’t that what really matters to the readers? You know, Phil, I have read loads of published short stories and flash fiction pieces that are nowhere near to being as good as this.

      The story is cleverly written; the people on the road are a generic crowd, they could come from virtually anywhere in these modern times. Hope springs eternal ( the underlying sentiment in my story title) and your people just keep on going and eventually find salvation.

      I translated “Esperanca” and it said what I HOPEd it would say.

      Great stuff, Phil. As ever.

      Kind regards,

      Ken Frape

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      • May 15, 2022 at 1:03 am
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        Thanks, as always, KenF, for your encouragement – much appreciated.

        (‘Salvation’, not sure … but ‘hope of salvation’, certainly? 😉 )

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    • May 19, 2022 at 4:12 am
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      A poignant and moving story. The narrator’s difficult choice whether to help Agnes or not, was moving and revealing of character. A very different mother-in-law to the one I wrote about! It made me think of ‘Uplit’; stories where people form communities and help each other out, which has become popular post pandemic. I think we all need hope that we’ll help each other during tough times.

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      • May 23, 2022 at 8:52 am
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        Thanks, Daisy. Yes, I hope I’d step up to the plate.

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    • May 19, 2022 at 10:16 pm
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      Loved your story, Phil! You are a consummate writer. So many questions come to mind- where were they fleeing to? Even if they are not answered, it’s still beautiful in the expectation of outcome- the hope!
      Top of my list.

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      • May 23, 2022 at 8:53 am
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        Thanks very much for the kind words, Marien. See you on the next one!

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    • May 22, 2022 at 2:51 pm
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      Hi Phil, just read your submission. A wonderful and moving story of love and hope. The passing away of Agnes has been handled with grace and elegance. I will end by saying ‘Esperanca’ and keep smiling. Jagan

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      • May 23, 2022 at 8:54 am
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        Gotta have hope, Jagan – always!
        Thanks very much.

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  • May 10, 2022 at 1:55 am
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    Lovely story Phil and I do love the balance in your stories. This one is very graceful and has a sweetness about it

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    • May 14, 2022 at 12:11 am
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      Thanks, Ilana!

      Reply
  • May 10, 2022 at 9:31 am
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    Hi Carrie,

    I just posted my story here and nothing happened except that it disappeared and I saw the words

    Nonce verification failed

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • May 10, 2022 at 9:38 am
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    SPRINGS ETERNAL

    An original short story by Ken Frape 10/05/22

    At dawn, the first thin wisps of woodsmoke curl towards the lightening sky as fires are stoked to ward off the chill air. Stray dogs raise their noses in search of anything edible to break their fast. Porridge pans are heated and bread and cheese are carved into chunks as families rub their eyes and rise to join their mothers’ pre-dawn preparations.

    Bart’s snores rumble like a rockfall, as if sucking the flimsy walls inwards on each breath before pushing them back again. He lays on his back, mouth wide, limbs akimbo, covering even that small space where his diminutive wife so recently slept, albeit fitfully. Upon his huge, ale-fuelled belly lies Streak, the stray cat that adopted the family. She rises and falls as her master breathes, her feline chin resting where his navel lies hidden beneath the fat.

    Almost before the words, “Bart, breakfast,” leave Mrs. Bart’s lips, Streak is up and away, as if her words might somehow have become edible and she could snaffle them from the air and gobble them down. She is always where food is, almost before words are spoken. A stray animal never forgets hunger.

    The village is alive and bustling by the time Bart appears in his workshop. He sighs with relief as he pisses like a horse into the leather bucket in the corner, the steam rising high into the air whilst droplets of last night’s bladdered ale plash his work boots.

    Bart’s three sons, Chip, Chis and Mall look up from their benches. “Father’s here,” they chorus as their father unbuttons his fly and instantly, all four men are guffawing with laughter. They will all use that same bucket during the day and at day’s end, Mall, the youngest, will carry it to the tanner’s workshop and bring back a penny for his family’s piss.

    There is much love in this family. Bart, the town’s master stonemason, has proudly sired three able bodied sons to carry on his trade. “Our church won’t build itself,” he frequently reminds them, “That’s our job.”

    “I might not live to see its consecration,“ he tells them, “but you will and it will be there for your children too.”

    Bart’s wife, Helene is the proudest mother in the town. Modestly affluent, her husband is a master craftsman after all, she is polite and well liked, lacking unnecessary airs and graces and she counts her blessings. She lovingly prepares huge meals for her hungry men, filling their open mouths like chicks in a nest as she circles the stout wooden table, ruffling their unruly hair as she passes. Then the men are away, back to the workshop where she can hear the comforting chink, chink of their chisels.

    Chip, their first born, was the cause of much mirth in the town at his christening. After all, his father argued, what else does a stonemason call his firstborn if not Chip? He would be the new Master Mason when his father retired. The church building was in safe hands. People said that every day Chip grew more like his father, snoring and beer drinking too. Each day he worked at the bench beside his father, his first born status earning him that right.

    Chis was next out of the womb. Skinny and waif-like, he was always trying to catch up, eating as much as anyone else but never fattening outwards, simply growing upwards. His work with his mallet and chisel was quick and intuitive and his gargoyle carvings were a thing of beauty. He lived up to his name and always carried a chisel in his belt.

    Mall was the last born. His birth almost took away his mother’s life. A wet nurse was employed for the first three months of his life while his mother’s life hung in the balance. As she gradually recovered and regained her strength it seemed like a special bond was forged between the two of them.

    Mall was invariably to be found with his mother as he grew into a handsome young man, delicate of nature with fine, artistic hands and a quick, inquisitive intelligence. He used to listen carefully as his father and brothers spoke about the way the church would be built, how the stone blocks would be carved and shaped. He astonished his parents and siblings when he then interpreted their thoughts and words into the most exquisite drawings. Very soon, all the working drawings for the church were drawn by Mall and the family business was set fair for the future.

    But sadly, nothing wonderful lasts forever. The three boys became increasingly concerned about their father. At first, there were only tiny hints that few would notice. Perhaps he drank a little more, perhaps he arrived for his morning piss a little later and perhaps his work became a little slower, or his carving was not quite so crisp.

    The boys watched and said nothing. Helene watched and said nothing. Bart watched and said nothing but he saw the glances amongst his family and he knew what they were thinking. His greatest wish was to finish the church with his sons but those small, tell- tale signs were not lost on him.

    He surprised his family one evening after supper when he announced that he was going back into the workshop, something he never did, “to work on something special,” he announced mysteriously. “Stay out. “

    As darkness descended in the cottage, candlelight illuminated the table as Mall worked on his latest drawing and the chink, chink, chink could be heard from the workshop. Helene sat by the fire, needle and thread in hand. There were always socks to darn and shirts to mend. Chip and Chis were courting and Helene could only guess what they were up to.

    She remembered fondly that first day when Bart came knocking upon her father’s door and asked permission to step out with her. She found herself smiling at the memory of the muscular young man, standing in her doorway, twisting his cap nervously in his workman’s hands as he spoke with her father. Now, every few minutes, she would lift her head and catch the sound that always reminded her of the blackbird as it chink, chink, chinked its call in the woods as Bart worked on his secret project.

    When Bart failed to return to the cottage at bedtime, Helene sent Mall to find him. He rushed back calling, “Mother, Mother, come quickly.”

    Bart had died with his mallet and chisel in his hands. On his workbench was a huge slab of granite. His own headstone. The inscription was almost perfect. Each letter was beautifully chamfered but the final letter was missing.

    “I’ll finish it now, whilst Father is still here to watch over me “ said Chip. “As the first born, I claim this privilege.”

    There was no argument. Mall carefully drew the final letter onto the granite. Then, satisfied with his contribution he stepped back to allow Chis to chisel the outline. Lastly, Chip completed his father’s final task, whilst the family gathered around their father and wept.

    HERE LIES THE MORTAL REMAINS
    OF
    MASTER STONEMASON

    HUSBAND, FATHER, GUILDSMAN
    BARTHOLOMEW HOPE

    Reply
    • May 11, 2022 at 10:36 am
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      Ken,
      This is a masterful tale. You had me from the beginning. Your descriptions were perfect; drawing me into the scene, the home, the workshop. I loved the phrases, “break their fast”, “a stray animal never forgets hunger” and other pearls of wisdom dropped in among the prose. Bart died doing what he loved and his sons will carry on his work. Great job!

      Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 1:51 pm
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      This was awesome and got me all sentimental again after reading Phil’s story, and then I actually cried for the next one, so you all sort of gradually coaxed it out of me I guess. I loved the wording, the cat, the three sons and their names, and the line about a stray animal never forgetting hunger. Damn good and flowed perfectly. The only thing that ever made me falter was the question in my mind: what was the urine for? But I just googled the history of tanning, and man am I glad to live in modern times (but maybe not lol). Be proud.

      Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 10:04 pm
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      Great story, KenF. The world is very carefully built so that, as Adi says, we become immersed in it. There’s no need to tell us when events are happening because the clever details do that job. And the loving family unit is lovingly described; the way all three sons contribute to finishing the headstone is a lovely touch. I only wondered about the wisdom of shortening Bartholomew’s name: being the Philistine that I am, the image of Bart Simpson charged into my mind as soon as I saw it (am I alone?). Also … I know Bart probably won’t have had a solid education, but shouldn’t that be ‘HERE LIE’ ?

      Reply
      • May 14, 2022 at 7:30 am
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        Hi Phil,
        Thanks for the comments. Hopefully, we are getting back into the swing of things with the old gang back together.

        Insofar as the shortened name, Bart is used, I don’t watch Bart Simpson so that was never an issue for me. Obviously, one can never cater for the likes and dislikes of every reader. I do remember though when my wife and I were deciding on a name for our firstborn son, we discarded so many names due to the fact that they reminded us of children we had taught who may have been difficult.

        I had a great deal of difficulty in getting this story posted. After I did my cut and paste on the site, I carefully edited the text and the last few words, those on the headstone were written thus,

        HERE LIE
        THE
        MORTAL REMAINS
        OF
        MASTER STONEMASON
        BARTHOLOME HOPE

        This section was doubled spaced and centred. but it all got squished after I posted it. Carrie helped me out, thank goodness.

        Anyway, it eventually got sorted but LIE became LIES .

        I was just glad to see it eventually posted .

        Cheers, my friend.

        Ken Frape

        Reply
        • May 14, 2022 at 7:46 am
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          Is it supposed to be “Here Lies” as in a dead person?
          I just recently buried my grandmother and they put Here Lies.

          But if it’s supposed to be Here Lie for a reason pertaining to the story let me know.
          I am not sure if I accidentally added to ask myself or if autocorrect did.

          Reply
          • May 14, 2022 at 8:40 am
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            Hi Carrie,
            Here lie the mortal remains ( remains being plural)
            Here lies the body ( body being singular)

            That’s how I see it but don’t worry. Let’s see if anyone else has an opinion on it.

            Ken F

            Reply
            • May 14, 2022 at 10:34 am
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              Ahhhh yes I see what you’re saying and that makes sense!

              Reply
        • May 14, 2022 at 8:10 am
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          My first son was almost named Percival (like in Arthurian legend), but we got so many negative remarks that my wife changed her mind, though I think she is still bitter lol. Jack is a good strong name for a good strong boy though, and it is also a nickname for John in some places, right?

          And the name Jason used to get you picked on and worse in America, until Friday the 13th came out and changed everything (probably the sequels sealed the deal). My point is that Bart used to just be another good name for a boy, but now we (Americans especially) have these associations that can mess with things, almost like appropriation?

          Like “skinhead”. That was originally something totally beautiful before nazi trash stole the name and the fun with it. It doesn’t matter what the history is, just who you are talking to! But in this case you have a period piece that is untainted by modern tv, except for little flashes of a yellow, four-fingered cartoon boy who is voiced by a grown woman lol. I only thought of him once, and then I buried that prankster deep (I used to want to be like Bart before I figured out that I can’t skate because I have no balance!).

          🙂

          Reply
        • May 16, 2022 at 2:56 pm
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          You know, since this story was set in the past, I never gave the names a second thought. Bart sounded like you described him. Big and strong. I’m not a Simpsons fan so that little yellow brat of theirs never entered my mind. They are as different as night and day. I accepted the characters for how they were described and they became real in my mind as the story unfolded so there was no comparison to anyone else (living or animated). Just my 2 cents on the Bart debate. LOL

          Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 4:03 am
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      Thanks for sharing this charming story, Ken. I love the atmosphere and specificity you’ve given to the setting. I love your sensory description of the candlelight and the ‘chink, chink, chink’ sounds: very evocative.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2022 at 12:17 pm
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      Ken, you have carved in words the vivid description of the master stonemason and his three children and the wife Helene that one can see the four of them in front of one’s eyes. Wonderful job! Jagan

      Reply
    • May 24, 2022 at 3:31 pm
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      Ken F.,

      Haven’t had a chance to get involved with the stories recently, either reading or writing. Just had a few minutes and this was the first story I came across.

      Ken, what a beautiful story, well told, finely tuned and just enough of a tug on the old heartstrings to move me. I loved the fact you used HOPE as the final word and left it out of the title. Nice play there.

      Now, I’m all bothered I didn’t have a chance to compete in this contest. But, I will be back. I know, I keep saying that. And, I hope to read and comment on the other authors as well.

      Great story. I almost agree with Phil regarding the Bart Simpson thing so he’s not quite alone, I just couldn’t think why Bart did sort of bother me, but it didn’t affect my reading of the story. Funny, but when I read the epitaph, I read Here Lie The Mortal Remains instead of Here Lies. Every tombstone I’ve read all read Here Lies, not Here Lie which I understand is NOT correct. Something about third person, but Phil is an English teacher, so umm… I’m staying neutral.

      Anyway, you did very good lad, and I’m glad to have read your story.

      Roy

      Reply
      • May 25, 2022 at 3:48 am
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        Give Roy,
        Thanks for your kind and encouraging words. I have struggled in recent months to get any decent stories out there. They have been ok but nothing special.
        For my own satisfaction, I have made a few minor adjustments to this story and Bart, who is a master craftsman and a very important person in his town, is now Bartholomew. It suits him better I feel.

        Insofar as the here lies or here lie discussion, there is a series of exchanges between Carrie and myself. I could not get my story to appear the way I wanted and Carrie helped me out or it might not have appeared at all. In the process, the words got very slightly changed.

        MY original words were, “Here lie the mortal remains…”…..lie as remains is plural. If it was “Here lies the body of B lies would work as body is singular.

        It’s really interesting to note how closely we scrutinise each story. If we, as writers, can take these comments on board, then we will produce writing of an even higher standard.
        Looking forward to reading more from you soon. I have the kernel of an idea for this next prompt and I need to sit in front of my lap top and just get in with it.

        Cheers, my friend,

        Ken F

        Reply
        • May 25, 2022 at 7:11 am
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          Darn it, I thought I went back and removed the “S”.
          Sorry about that.

          Reply
        • May 25, 2022 at 7:12 am
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          And yes I agree with you, that is the whole point of this writers group. To be better writers. To hone our craft, and practice!

          Reply
  • May 10, 2022 at 9:48 am
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    Hi Carrie,
    I am in despair. Second time around my work has appeared but the final words that should all be in one block have been chopped up. This completely ruins the final sentence and the whole point of the story.
    I know it’s not your fault. Can you rescue this? If not please delete it before people read it.
    There are a lot of fuckwords going round in my head.

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • May 10, 2022 at 9:52 am
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    Hi Carrie,
    My story and my next comments have also just disappeared. I am perplexed and practicing some new swearwords.

    Ken Frape

    Reply
  • May 10, 2022 at 9:54 am
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    Carrie,
    Now they are back. Please refer to my comments regarding how my final words have been misaligned.
    Ken F

    Reply
    • May 10, 2022 at 4:15 pm
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      Ken,
      there are a lot of spaces in the end section.
      Did you mean to do that? Did you add those spaces yourself?

      Reply
      • May 10, 2022 at 5:28 pm
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        Hi Carrie,
        I did put spaces in to represent the writing on a headstone but the system has changed them.
        If you delete it for me I will send another version without the spaces.
        Thanks,
        Ken F

        Reply
        • May 10, 2022 at 5:44 pm
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          I tried fixing it on my own but no dice.
          It removed the spaces completely.
          Does the edit button not show up for you by chance?

          Reply
          • May 11, 2022 at 3:43 am
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            Hi Carrie,
            When I cut and paste the writing from my lap top then I have the option to edit. I did this really carefully re typos and the like and set the final paragraph up with capitals and spaces. At that point it was exactly as I wanted it but when I hit post story it changed.
            I don’t want to give you any hassle and if it helps, I can change the last part but it still needs to be in capitals as on a grave headstone.
            Ken F

            Reply
          • May 11, 2022 at 3:52 am
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            Hi Adi,
            That’s pretty darn good writing.
            A traditional style of story but beautifully written and with lovely descriptive passages.
            Also, there is nice dialogue and that is something extra to add.
            Well done, Adi
            Kind regards,
            Ken Frape

            Reply
            • May 11, 2022 at 10:08 am
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              Thanks Ken! I appreciate your kind words!
              This story came to me in a dream I had last Sunday. It was very clear and I loved the names of the women in the dream. I had to get up to write it down quickly. I felt that it needed to be told. I’m really happy with this one.

              Reply
              • May 13, 2022 at 1:40 pm
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                That is so cool! Do you use dreams for stories a lot? The one I just got through came from a dream ten years ago, and fragments of other stories came from that realm too. It is like translating or something. Those names … I was thinking this scene was set on a beautiful mountain somewhere in Japan (during the Edo period) from the name and the details, but then I got a Korean vibe too from the hyphen in the name of the great-grandmother, but I think that is just a heuristic that I use and not really deduction or knowledge of other cultures!

                Reply
                • May 13, 2022 at 1:55 pm
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                  Rumples,
                  Actually I don’t use dreams a great deal. My “dreams” usually produce more fodder for Stephen King than for fuel for nice stories. I have insomnia and PTSD and when I do sleep, I often have horrible nightmares. I guess that’s what made this dream so special and when I awoke, I had to write it down. It was definitely Japanese in dress, scenery and language. I only hyphenated the great-grandmother’s name because I wanted it to read like it sounded in the dream. I’m so happy you liked it!!

                  Reply
                  • May 14, 2022 at 2:08 pm
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                    That sucks about the nightmares! I know something that is great for reducing nightmares (and dreams in general unfortunately), but access to it is restricted. And that makes sense with the name btw, wasn’t tryin to mess with you lol. Speaking of dreams, I awoke this morning with the words “asiatic donkey” in my head. I just looked it up and they are real and called onagers or hemiones, which in greek means “half donkey” or mule. I can only ass-ume that my unconscious mind must be aware from reading long ago and it slipped it in at the last second. Yesterday I posted a comment about how I was a sweaty jackass and I posted another one on Undertow Press where I said my coworkers treat me like a mule! Not really prophetic or even cool, but just really weird, huh?

                    Reply
                  • May 14, 2022 at 2:19 pm
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                    Someday we’ll find it, the Rainbow Connection. The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

                    I just realized that you’re a dreamer too! Isn’t that why they call us dreamers? And you had names in your dream! I have trouble with words in my dreams a lot, especially if they are written (because they will start swirling and the letters will blur and/or move around if I look at the words too long or take a second glance)!

                    A lot of people find the act of talking about or hearing about dreams excruciating and awkward. I use to have homophobic male friends that would think it was gay of me to have dreams with them inside! Sorry if I bothered you, btw.

                    Reply
                    • May 16, 2022 at 3:10 pm
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                      Yes, Rumples, I am a dreamer. Always have been. I guess that’s why I’ve always loved books and I love writing and painting and drawing. I believe in magic, and fairies and unicorns. Just kidding.

                      A few years ago, my adult kids were kidding me about how “naive” and “gullible” I am. I was in my 50’s at the time so I took offense at that and asked them how they thought I could possibly be gullible at my age. (I did live a sheltered life growing up, but let’s be real!)

                      My teenage grandson, Ethan, sat back in his chair, folded his hands together wisely in front of him and looked at me very seriously and said, with the wisdom of his 17 years on this earth, very slowly,

                      “Nana,
                      You look at the world through rainbow glasses. You expect everything to be happy and bright with sunshine and you always want to see the best in people. You always expect people to be good and we love you for that. But the truth is Nana, the world isn’t really like that. People aren’t always good. Someday, you have to accept that.”

                      I was speechless and they all dissolved into laughter.

                      But you know what? I still expect the find the good in people, I still believe in dreams and magic, and I still believe we can make the world a better place. It’s getting harder to believe that, but I’m trying.

                      Yes, I am a dreamer …

  • May 10, 2022 at 3:57 pm
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    Birdsong
    By: Adrienne Riggs

    Miatsu left the village in the early dawn, climbing the hill behind her home, through the dewy morning mist. When she reached her family’s sacred ancestral home, she slipped quietly inside.

    “Welcome Child.”

    Miatsu smiled. She should not have been surprised to see Great-Grandmother, Ah-Mi, sitting patiently as if she had known to expect her. Miatsu breathed in the familiar faint smell of incense, and she heard the soft sound of water trickling nearby. She slipped out of her shoes as was the custom, and bowed respectfully, before approaching the elderly woman for an embrace.

    “Great-Grandmother.”

    Ah-Mi smiled, each wrinkle in her well-lined face echoing the movement until her entire visage radiated with welcome.
    “Sit child” She motioned to the tea table already prepared. “Now, tell me what burdens you?”

    Miatsu kneeled at the table. “How did you ….?”

    Ah-Mi gave her a knowing look as she poured the tea and presented a plate of mini-cakes to Miatsu.
    The girl sipped her tea and look down, her silky dark hair covering her face and dark, troubled eyes.

    “Great-grandmother, I am lost and losing ho-“

    “AH-AH!” Ah-Mi interrupted her sternly. “Do not say that aloud! Just tell me, what has stolen your smile?”

    “Great-Grandmother, it is a time of great decision and I do not know which direction to go. Many are talking, like squawking birds and I can not discern who speaks wisdom in the confusion. How will I know which path to take?

    Ah-Mi nodded wisely and folded her hands together.

    “Look at me.” Miatsu’s dark eyes met the faded eyes of the elderly woman.

    “This is easy my Child. You must look deep inside yourself for the answer. You must trust your faith and look to your heart.

    Beware those who speak with silken words that slide smoothly off the tongue for they often hide venomous fangs ready to strike when you are least aware.

    Beware those who speak in riddles for these seek only to twist your thoughts and tangle your beliefs and feelings.

    Beware those that flatter and play on emotion for they have agendas of their own that do not seek the best for you.

    Beware those that belittle your intelligence and bully you, making you seem incapable of decision implying that you must rely on them to make choices for you.

    You, my Child, are keen of mind and quick of spirit. Always remember this.

    Amid the squawking and cawing of the carrion birds that seek to devour and destroy, you must focus and listen deeply and carefully. If you are patient, you will hear a song of faith and wisdom underneath all the noise, a birdsong so pure, true and sweet, it can only come from one who carries truth and honor within them. When you hear it, you will know your destiny.”

    Ah-Mi paused and watched Miatsu ponder her words.

    “I am not sure Great-Grandmother. There is so much noise. How will I hear such a tiny voice?”

    Great-Grandmother smiled. “Let me tell you a story.”

    “Once there was a mother who had 4 daughters. She saw them as a burden, as a drain upon the household. As they reached marrying age, she ruthlessly sought suitors for them. Although the girls were seen as comely and well-mannered, they were not known as great beauties, no matter how they were dressed or painted.

    The mother and her sisters bribed the matchmaker to find matches for the girls regardless of the status of the men presented to them. Other women tried to warn the girls against unsavory marriages, but the mother and her sisters flocked together and through great squawking and distracted fluttering, managed to push the well-meaning villagers away and their noise drowned out the words of warning. The 3 older daughters, so confused by the noise, the mayhem and the relentless prodding by the evil mother and their aunts, meekly gave in and were given in marriage to men who did not deserve them or treat them well.”

    “Oh, Great-grandmother!” Miatsu looked at the older woman in dismay.

    “Shhhh. I am not finished Granddaughter. Let me continue.

    The youngest daughter was quiet, thoughtful, and intelligent. She had seen all that had occurred with her sisters and carefully witnessed what her mother and aunts had done. She did not wish to follow in her sisters’ paths. When she heard the clucking and squawking of the older women plotting her future and she quickly retired to a quiet place to think.

    As she focused on her internal strengths, blocking the negative from her mind, she heard a new sound. It was the light, airy and happy trilling of birdsong and she stood to find the source of such a delightful melody. When she found the beautiful singing bird, she happily followed its dainty flight without question, knowing that it would never lead her into harm. She found herself in a new village, welcomed into a new life, and in time was matched with a wonderful man who provided her with a beautiful family.”

    Miatsu sighed at the picture in her mind.

    “What have you learned my Child?”

    Miatsu held her head high. “That I am more than what others think of me, that I must look within myself to find my strength and answers, I must listen to my heart and let my faith lead me.”

    “Yes, my Child. Now, close your eyes and focus … deep … inside.”

    Great-Grandmother’s voice faded into the purest birdsong Miatsu had ever heard. She slowly opened her eyes and saw a tiny glimmering bird perched on the family’s ancestral stone in front of her, singing so sweetly it brought tears to her eyes. Great-Grandmother was gone.

    As she watched, the bird lifted itself with ethereal wings and took flight into the sunrise. Miatsu rose with a full heart and new purpose. She set her feet on a new path following the bird’s effortless flight into the future.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 1:16 pm
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      Tears in my eyes. This felt like it was speaking directly to me. Good advice, all the different “bewares”, and written like poetry or a folk song. I often retreat to my muddy patch of woods and wetlands to find peace in the purity of nature (or I talk to the crows behind my warehouse), but here in the city, I find it in the pigeons and mourning doves (and those teeny tiny ones too, don’t know what they are called). Thanks for this!

      Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 10:21 pm
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      This is a lovely story, Adi. The tone – of oriental spirituality – is beautifully rendered. The old lady’s words seem so wise, we could all do with listening! It’s a kind of story-within-a-story, isn’t it? The whole thing could be told to someone in doubt, like Miatsu. And then the final paragraph could be the message for that person. One false move for me – the use of the word ‘agendas’, which sounds very modern, and probably a little too sophisticated for Miatsu to understand.

      All very calming, though.

      Reply
      • May 16, 2022 at 3:36 pm
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        Thanks for comments Phil! I appreciate them! I also hesitated at the word “agenda”. I was in a hurry to get the dream down and I knew the word sounded wrong. I should have thought of another word but I was trying to stay true to the dream and the word used there eluded me when writing it. I just came up with ‘agenda’, maybe ‘plans’ would have been better. I will definitely change it in the version I keep. Thanks again!

        (I am still suffering cognitive side-effects from COVID and they are driving me nuts! They are also a little scary. I forget things. I leave out small words when I’m typing, and a new “skill” I have is that I can type words completely backwards without even trying or thinking about it. Figure that one out! Doc says the effects should lessen in a few more weeks. I’m ready for them to be gone now!)

        Reply
  • May 12, 2022 at 10:42 am
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    My story finally got accepted after almost a whole year of trying!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
    • May 12, 2022 at 12:02 pm
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      Congratulations! Well done!

      Post us a link when it’s published (assuming it’s online).

      Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 8:39 am
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      CONGRATULATIONS!! Awesome!

      Reply
  • May 12, 2022 at 10:44 am
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    I had THE WORST day yesterday, and been feeling pretty bad in general honestly, and I freaking needed this or I was going to snap soon, holy crap.

    Reply
    • May 12, 2022 at 6:03 pm
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      That is awesome! Congratulations!

      Reply
  • May 13, 2022 at 6:41 pm
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    The odds of me posting a story for this outstanding prompt are about 1,249,222,428,000,000 to one. (About 50 to 1, I reckon.) This is due, in part, to the coriolis effect. I know–boring. Who cares about the coriolis effect? Nobody. Nobody but us Coriolins. But five days to overcome such a powerful effect? Impossible, Can’t be done. I downloaded all four of the existing stories so that I can go over them with the jaundiced eye of a truly jaded — jade trader.

    Congrats on the publication deal Rumples. Glad to hear it. You’re a gifted writer. (A hopelessly flawed individual, but a gifted writer.) I kid you. You’re not hopeless.

    Reply
    • May 13, 2022 at 9:11 pm
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      Ha! I don’t deserve it! And you know me too well! I can’t quit my day job just yet, but it feels 2,000 words closer! Now I just have to have about 20 or 30 more intense dreams about turning into a ravenous monster and maybe I can have some delusions of grandeur again (I think I got lucky with that dream, and the Michael Douglas one)! My coworker almost awoke the beast in me just an hour ago, after working since 6:00 this morning and running around this hotel, zipping up and down the 72 floors and basically making a sweaty jackass of myself, but it beats the non-warehouse jobs I pulled by a hair (miss the free burritos though). I need some skills so I have more to fall back on, because I suck at food and I won’t do another were-house, please don’t make me!

      You and the gang really helped me a ton and kept me and my wife sane (I told you guys stuff to keep her from divorcing me lol). Can you imagine being married to a wereshark who won’t shut up about hobo coyotes and worms and phantoms playing musical chairs? How did I trick her into hooking up with me? I mean, I’m not hot like that shape of water hunky merman, you know? It’s all lampreys and dorsal fins and just not the same effect.

      😉

      I also don’t know if I can get a story out this time, especially without a keyboard again, but I’m thinking of writing it down and then snapping a photo so my app can translate it to digital text? Hearing from you at all is great though!

      Live long and prosper!

      Reply
  • May 14, 2022 at 9:04 pm
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    Sorry guys, this trip made me crazier than normal and Atlanta is absolutely insane. The plague better actually really truly end soon or I am going to combust. The highlight of the trip was giving redbulls, water, granola bars, bottled Starbucks, all my remaining cigarettes (special trip stress relief), and my cash to people on the streets, because it was a positive human interaction and they actually smiled at me in an earnest way. The one guy was picking cigarette butts out of the gutter and it hurt me. A man lit a fire in his hotel room this morning and got escorted in the nude but wrapped in his bed sheets to the hospital, but the staff downplayed it and said it was just a drill (creepy coincidence that we were just talking about that). There are walls of ivy or something growing inside the hotel, and I only noticed it because a little girl next to me told the clerk that her name was Ivy or maybe Heidi (my hearing is going and I am 36), and I looked up to notice that the clerk was showing her the living art display. It is a warning sign when you make these kinds of outlandish connections and claim that there is synchronicity going on, but I don’t care. Airlift me out of here in a straight jacket, I will be quite pleased.

    Reply
    • May 17, 2022 at 10:56 am
      Permalink

      I feel for you, Oh Highly Rumpled One. Atlanta is a zoo. I heard. Got caught in a hellacious traffic jam ON THE BYPASS one time. A few weeks ago I gave an old bum on the side of the road a five while waiting for the light. Yesterday, I completely ignored a young guy panhandling on a street corner near Asheville. He should have covered up his fucking killer abs. “Hi-ho” and so it goes.

      So you’re smoking again. That’s okay. You’re only 36. Quit before you’re 40 and you’ll be all right. Set a date. Taper off, get some welbutrin. Do not self combust. Your wife loves you. (I’m psychic.) ‘the heart has reasons that reason knows nothing of.’

      I posted my story but the truck picture didn’t go thru. I think it landed in Ken Frape’s email inbox. Too bad. When I break the rules, I like to go all out. Keep writing and submitting. Look for a different job. Do not change wives. There are worse fates in life than being a secret were-shark. (I don’t know what they might be, and I don’t want to know.)

      Talk to you later, JM.

      Reply
  • May 17, 2022 at 10:33 am
    Permalink

    I would like-click more comments here, but I have to go through some kind of weird digital song and dance which I never had to do before and frankly it doesn’t seem worth it at this point. I read everyone’s stories, which was easy enough, commenting is probably not however, as I’m still out of time and without easy Internet access.
    I don’t think my comments would add anything to anyone’s larder anyway.

    I would like to apologize in advance for my story post, (and using this site as a platform for my rebellious devotion to raging against the night), as the story is over the word limit by about 500 words. Clearly a disqualification for the contest. However, I feel responsible (somehow) for this prompt, at least partially, and so I wracked my brain, and Kim’s as well, for a solution to this literary equation, and this is what I came up with. If the picture posts, (again, a clear violation of the rules) and each picture is worth a thousand words, then, my story is even longer. But, what the hell. What else can you guys do to me?

    I had already started the story when I came upon this vehicle at a truck and tractor show. It was not the biggest or the baddest truck there, but it was sitting by itself. So, I asked it to model for me and it gave me its silent approval. No comments are expected, or necessary, but always appreciated.

    Thanks ya’ll.
    Ken

    Reply
  • May 17, 2022 at 10:37 am
    Permalink

    Hope Springs.
    By Ken Cartisano
    5/16/2022
    1723 words.

    The searing heat created shifting images in the landscape ahead of him: A lake, a distant wave. Mirages, almost a welcome diversion from the monotony of a single, straight, black ribbon of asphalt surrounded on all sides by desolation and dirt.

    The sign said, ‘Hope Springs – 45 Miles.’

    He had been there once or twice. To say it was misnamed was an understatement. There was no spring, no water, and not much else. He had plenty of other reasons to avoid a small, isolated town in the middle of a sweltering desert, but all attempts by his GPS had failed to find a clear and well-marked bypass.

    Driving through a desert was treacherous enough. Why anyone would choose to live in one was beyond him.

    He was well-stocked with provisions. He had food, water, guns, ammo, fuel, medicine, drugs, money, livestock, (five laying hens and three piglets), tools, tarps, bags, toothpicks, matches, laser pointers, (you never know), hats, shoes, sunscreen, bug-spray, batteries, whisky, beer, yeast, flour, sugar, coffee and more. It’s amazing what you could stuff into an 18-wheeled, semi-tractor trailer and haul across a continent with 16 forward gears. The entire rig was air-conditioned, reinforced, armored, and modified to avoid detection. Once it got up to speed, there were few things that could stop it other than a freight train, or the actions of the driver.

    He instinctively lifted his foot off the gas as he caught sight of a solitary figure on the opposite side of the road. A woman? With her thumb out, going the other way. He brought the truck to a stop, watching her in his oversized rear-view mirror.

    She looked dirty, raggedly dressed, and something else. The word ‘robust’ popped into his head.

    If it had been a man, he’d have kept on going. But a woman? She was ‘easy-pickins’ for any random lunatic who happened along. But the more likely scenario was that she was the bait in somebody’s trap. He stared out his windshield at the bleak terrain as he pondered his few options. She was faster and closer than he realized, and leapt up onto his running board brandishing a revolver. Before she could pose a threat, the high voltage electrified running board sent her sprawling back to the pavement where she lay, stunned and immobile. He laid a hand on his own weapon and waited, when no accomplices came screaming down the highway, he flipped a switch, exited the cab, retrieved her weapon, then pulled her to her feet, propped her against the fender and searched her thoroughly, then dragged and stuffed her into the passenger side of the cab, nearly slamming the door on one of her feet.

    After he’d made a circuit of the truck, collected what looked like her belongings, and scanned the horizon for signs of more trouble, he climbed back into the driver’s seat of the cab, wiped the sweat off his brow, checked his gauges, and then cast his eyes on the young woman in the seat next to him.

    She was still physically incapacitated. At close range, what appeared to be dirt, was automotive grease on her hands and face. She was conscious, scared and angry, but immobile. He pushed in the clutch and shifted into gear. “Your car break down?”

    “What gave you that idea, Sherlock, the grease, or the fact that I’m trying to walk through Death Valley?”

    He already regretted his decision. She was filthy, smelly and dangerous, like having a dirty, wet, bobcat in the front seat next to him. Chastised but undeterred, he said, “Well, it ain’t exactly Death Valley, but I see what you’re…”

    She stared out the windshield and said, “I won’t mince words, mister. You’re headed the wrong way. You need to turn this thing around, or I’ll just get out here.” She tried to find the door handle but still lacked the coordination.

    “You’d rather take your chances in the desert on foot, than go back to…”

    “You bet your sweet ass, mister. Been there. Done that. Not going back, under any circumstances.”

    “You wanna tell me why?”

    She shook her head and groaned. “My back is sore.”

    “I’m not surprised,” he said. “You fell about…”

    “It burns!” She said, “Did you leave me lying on the blacktop while you felt me up? Pervert?”

    “I could’ve left you lying there long enough to run over your head as I was leaving—but I didn’t’ want little pieces of your skull embedded in my tires ma’am, makes for a rough ride.”

    She laughed harshly. He smiled—and said, very quietly, “I see no way around Hope, lady. Not where I’m going. Not from here. Unless I backtrack about a hundred and fifty-nine miles.”

    She pushed herself up in her seat, with some effort, and spoke in earnest, confidential tones. “You’re headed west, right?”

    He nodded.

    “There’s a farm road…”

    “Tried ‘em,” he said.

    “There’s a farm road,” she repeated, “that was slated to be an interstate bypass, but they never finished it, before the—the troubles.”

    “Uh huh.”

    “It only runs for a few miles, but it gets you over the gulch.”

    “Yeah but…”

    “I know the road, mister. I can show you.”

    He was shaking his head when a large white vehicle shot past them headed for Hope Springs. It seemed to slow down a bit, before speeding up even faster.

    “Oh hell. We’re screwed now,” she said, watching the car recede until it was no more than a speck. “They’re going to town. Once the ‘inhabitants’ are informed of this treasure trove on wheels, the whole town will be on us like a swarm of bees.”

    “They have vehicles? I mean gas?”

    She nodded. “But no brains, or morals, or swizzle sticks. They’d probably celebrate your arrival with a bonfire, but you’d be the main course.”

    “They’d eat me? Christ.” He eased out the clutch, as soon as they were moving, he shifted gears. “What about you?”

    “Me?” She seemed surprised at the question. “They don’t eat women. I wish they would. What they do to us is even worse.”

    She pointed up ahead. “There’s a pull-out about a mile up. Once you get her turned around…”

    He nodded. “Understood. Step on it.”

    Having completed the U-turn and racing several miles away from Hope Springs, the woman said, “Here, here.” He took a left at the only road without a sign, and raced north with the hope that the faster he went, the sooner the lingering clouds of dust would settle.

    With the turn behind them she said, “We’ve got about an hour to come up with a plan, mister.”

    “A plan? I have a plan, to keep on driving till I get where I’m going. This ain’t the first time someone has tried to hi-jack this truck, ma’am.”

    She sensed a subtle subtext to his calm declaration. Did he suspect her of something?

    He did not. But he knew that this was the bypass he was looking for, and his destination was east, not west.

    “What’re you hauling?”

    “Stuff.”

    “What’re you planning to do with all this stuff?”

    “I’m delivering it to some relatives, friends really. They have a nice little community, with a lot of kids—this ‘stuff’ will really boost their spirits.”

    “And give them hope,” she added.

    “Well, I think they have plenty of that already.”

    “So, you’re something of do-gooder.”

    “I’m no Santa Claus, but I guess you could say that.”

    “I don’t suppose you’d be inclined to tell me what your eventual destination is.”

    “Lady—I don’t even know your name.”

    She glanced at the rearview mirror. “Can I have my gun back? I think we’re gonna need it.”

    “You promise not to shoot me with it?”

    He got no answer, but motioned toward the back of the cab anyway. She scrambled behind the seats, tossed some things around and located the revolver. “It’s empty,” she sounded surprised. Then, “No problem.”

    Keeping his mind focused on the dirt road, he could still see her climb up into the passenger seat, pull a few rounds out of her bra and load them into the gun, closing the cylinder with a distinct click.

    She turned so her back was against the door and leveled the gun at his chest. His face revealed nothing. No expression.

    “Stop the truck,” she said. “Now.”

    He began downshifting.

    “Quit fucking around. I saw how quickly you can stop this thing.”

    He offered no reply, nor did he stop faster than he wanted to.

    She said, “You can’t outrun them, not in this fucking albatross, so I’m getting out. Sorry. I’d love to stick around and see how this all turns out, but I’ve got way too much at risk for a do-gooder and a bunch of kids.” By now the truck was stopped. “Oh, I almost forgot, you want to turn off the juice to the running boards?”

    He flipped a switch on the dashboard and a light went on.

    “This is no time to play games, mister. Get out and test it for me.”

    He opened his door and put a foot on the metal plate. No electrocution.

    “Alright,” she said as she jumped to the ground. “Get moving, and don’t get all soft-headed and come back here looking for me. I won’t be here.” She slammed the door, fired a shot in the air and slapped the side of the truck like it was a prized steer.

    His response was lost in the rumble of the truck as it rolled away down the dirt road. Two miles further on, the dirt became asphalt, with traffic lines, guardrails and other earmarks of modern travel.

    When the faster, forward elements of Hope Springs arrived, they circled her and shut off their machines. Nobody touched her as they waited for ‘Big Jim’ to arrive in his custom, lead-lined Continental. He rolled his window down and spit on the ground. “Hey Hope. Thought you were leaving us for a minute there. What happened to the truck?”

    “The prick sucker-punched me,” she said, “soon as I realized he was carrying a load of fertilizer.”

    This got a round of laughs from his entire entourage. “You want a ride back to town?”

    She rubbed her jaw as if it were sore. “Naw I’ll—I’d rather walk.”

    “Suit yourself, Honey. See ya later.”

    But he never did.

    Reply
    • May 20, 2022 at 10:36 am
      Permalink

      This was an awesome, Mad Maxian tale (sans Australia) that felt complete, but not over. I was really confused as to why you were not in the running, because I was going to vote high for this one (Birdsong made me cry when I was having a hard time, or you would have gotten first place from me). It didn’t feel long at all, but I guess the dialogue pushed it over? Isn’t that how you rate movies? A movie I don’t like makes my butt hurt from sitting and drags on, but a movie of the same length that I like will end too soon and leave me feeling refreshed (like this one).

      “Robust” was a nice touch, btw.

      Reply
  • May 17, 2022 at 6:04 pm
    Permalink

    HOPE AT THE END OF THE WORLD

    Sent: 12.9.2581
    Dear Hope,
    Hope you’re well. You must be very busy and have no time for correspondence; I just wanted to let you know that we’re all following your flight and wishing you success and a safe return.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Love,
    Diana


    Sent: 14.9.2581
    Dear Diana,
    Good to hear from you.
    If you were trying to see how many times you could squeeze the word ‘hope’ into your message, you missed an opportunity to write that you ‘hope’ for our success. Why not? Every headline, post, etc. about our flight makes a pun around my stupid name. Even the rest of the crew expect me to always be a little ray of sunshine, and cheer them up every time they’re down. I’m so over it.
    Actually, I’ve got a lot of free time for now. We’ll be busy once we arrive in the target quadrant, and the training program was intense; but there isn’t that much to do during the flight itself. That should take a few weeks, BTW. We check that we still on course, exercise, go over the schedule … but there’s still a lot of downtime, even though Naseem (our Captain) tries to keep us occupied. So I’ll be happy to hear from you, although I may have nothing to write about.
    How are things back home?
    Love,
    Hope


    Sent: 17.9.2581
    Dear Hope,
    I honestly didn’t notice. These are just normal expressions everyone uses.
    You reckon you got it tough? Try “Di, why don’t you die?”, or just “Die, Di” for short. Remember school? At least these days I’m mostly known as “Never say Di(e)”. Much better. So suck it up, sista.
    Things are as you’d expect. The water shortages are getting worse. A few idiots blamed expeditions like yours for “taking away valuable resources”, but don’t worry, everyone knows it’s bull.
    Take care,
    Diana


    Sent: 21.9.2581
    Dear Diana,
    “Never say Di(e)” is good. Suits you.
    What about that sign on Nat’s dorm room door, “Abandon Hope, all who enter here”? At least you can go by “Diana”, which I notice you’ve done.
    Then, all the bloody expectations. Like, my training program also included Esperanza, Toivo, Amal, Nadia (short for Nadezhda), Umit, Tikvah and Raza. People just assumed that we’d been selected for our names and not for our abilities, to be some kind of mascots. Or else they expected us to do miracles and save the entire human race.
    Morons. First they don’t want to give up their pools no matter what, and then it’s a few space crews’ fault for taking away all the water. Actually, we mostly use a condenser that condenses water from the air, so much of our water is recycled. We just have to make sure the air doesn’t get too dry, or Kaya (a crewmate) gets a cough (she’s got a respiratory problem).
    BTW, how come you guys don’t use condensers? They are supposed to work even in dry climates. Hope you find some and put them to good use.
    Love,
    Hope


    Sent: 26.9.2581
    Dear Hope,
    Yeah, that sign was mean. Nat made quite a hobby of stealing your boyfriends, didn’t she? Actually, the sign was her roommate Lisa’s work; she was such a smartarse.
    BTW, Nat is dead. Her last boyfriend ditched her to get to a safe zone. She didn’t last long after that; Nat always needed guys to take care of her. These days, guys value survival skills or access to resources over looks – assuming Nat kept hers till the end. So men will fall at your feet if you promise to whisk them away in your spaceship (wink, wink).
    Everyone knows that you had to be the best of the best to get into the training course, and it had nothing to do with your name. (BTW, how did your crewmate with the respiratory problem get in? I thought you had to pass a health check.)
    Still, quite a coincidence with the names! I guess our parents’ generation already knew we were screwed, so maybe lots of people gave their kids “hopeful” names ‘cos they wanted to be optimistic about something.
    About condensers – there simply aren’t enough to go around. The manufacturing industry is up shit creek; and existing ones get old and start to break down. Anyway, we’ll manage.
    Love,
    Diana


    Sent: 1.10.2581
    Dear Diana,
    We’re almost there! Another day or two, and we’ll finally get to work. I’m so excited! May not be able to write for a while, though.
    Kaya got in ‘cos she’s one of the top terraforming experts in the world.
    Take care,
    Hope


    Sent: 22.10.2581
    Dear Hope,
    Sorry I was offline for a while. A freak meteor shower destroyed half of Newcastle. I was helping with the search for survivors, salvaging, etc. One of the remaining air purifier factories was destroyed too. It sucks.
    Have you found a nice new planet for us yet?
    I’ll try not to use the H-word ‘cos it annoys you, but we seriously need some good news, and fast. The forecasts are getting worse.
    Love,
    Diana


    Sent: 29.10.2581
    Dear Hope,
    Are you OK? Please answer.
    Diana


    Sent: 4.11.2581
    Dear Diana,
    I’m OK. Please let me know if you received this message.
    Hope


    Sent: 8.11.2581
    Hope, thank goodness you’re OK! What happened? The Space Agency reported they’d lost contact with your ship.
    Love,
    Diana


    Sent: 13.11.2581
    Dear Diana,
    We had two initial target planets: AC74598 and AC74599. First we headed towards AC74598. Something disrupted our comms and navigation during descent, so we decided to abort. We still can’t get the official Space Agency comms channel to work.
    We’re about to land on AC74599. We’ll break up into groups of three and explore the surface.
    Please pass the info on to the Space Agency.
    Amazing that a dinky messaging service still works. Hooray for big business – they really make stuff to last.
    Love,
    Hope


    Sent: 17.11.2581
    Dear Hope,
    We’re having problems with communication networks too. I couldn’t reach the Space Agency; perhaps I should try via social media.
    How’s the planet? If it’s good, you should name it New Hope. Don’t knock it: you’ll get free drinks for life if you say it was named after you.
    Love,
    Diana


    Sent: 3.12.2581
    Dear Diana,
    We’ve lost Kaya. She went to sleep and didn’t wake up. We’ve all been feeling drowsy. Turns out there are some gases in the atmosphere that the standard tests didn’t pick up: something soporific, and something we haven’t identified yet. I guess Kaya was the most susceptible due to her condition.
    We’ve just detected volcanic activity.
    I’m left with Haruto. We can’t contact the other teams.
    Please pass this on.
    Love,
    Hope


    Sent: 6.12.2581
    Dear Diana,
    Looks like this planet is no good after all. Streams of lava are flowing towards our camp. I hope I suffocate first.
    I guess this is goodbye.
    Love,
    Hope


    Sent: 6.12.2581
    Diana, I have a few more minutes. Tell someone to try for AC74598: they need to take care with comms and navigation, but preliminary tests showed it could (probably) support life. Otherwise, head for the quadrants we haven’t explored yet. This may be your best chance.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 4:06 am
      Permalink

      Hi Vicki,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I liked that the correspondence used modern slang, and the banter between the characters was fun. A nice concept too, and told in a fresh way.

      Reply
      • May 19, 2022 at 7:48 am
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        Thanks, Daisy.

        I see that we’ve both chosen the epistolary genre. 🙂

        Reply
    • May 20, 2022 at 10:17 am
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      Good job! I just noticed what year it was set in, which is sad, because that is kind of important. So the climate change wasn’t all caused by humans, right? Because the meteorites were an external factor it seems (but maybe not, leave it to us to find a way to somehow ruin space too and simultaneously make things worse on Earth). I’m jealous cause I tried an amateur attempt at a sci-fi just a bit ago (ugh).

      Fixing a planet up to meet our need isn’t any more far-fetched than us fixing this one up! We are S.O.O.L. in that department. Maybe we should just CRISPR ourselves into naked mole rat people and retreat underground to give ourselves an extra 300 years or so?

      Reply
  • May 17, 2022 at 6:15 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Carrie,
    I can’t get the formatting in my story to work. I tried to insert an extra space or symbols to indicate breaks between messages, but they only show after the first one and nowhere else.

    Reply
    • May 17, 2022 at 10:42 pm
      Permalink

      Let me see what I can whip up tomorrow morning to make it look fabulous

      Reply
    • May 18, 2022 at 9:40 am
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      Fixed!!

      Reply
      • May 18, 2022 at 2:16 pm
        Permalink

        Thank you so much! It looks fabulous once you’ve done your magic. 🙂

        Reply
  • May 17, 2022 at 10:52 pm
    Permalink

    Restored and Forgiven
    1200 words

    Their 18 year old boy was sleeping upstairs, so Ella assumed. From the time Micel plopped onto earth that sunny day in December, she had raised him well, teaching him to be selfless, to strive towards the greater good of man.

    But the pandemic had gotten economies muddled and super brains addled. Psyches were being shaken daily from the spate of tragic happenings, with schools and offices closing.
    Here was the real test of parenting skills:
    How will these kids turn out? How will they treat others?
    Presidents, heads of homes and offices had lost their vision.
    And their son was still in bed.

    There were humans in every room peering into laptops and computers. Women were washing up pots, singing lullabies, while their kids were online.
    The background chorus of banging vessels frustrated online teachers.
    Zoom eyes followed some younger brat opening the fridge, making them salivate to what lay within its chilly chambers. They got to see the desperate poverty of some of the homes the kids came from. Uniforms had falsely leveled them, camouflaging their differences. The teacher’s heart began to look deeper into each kid’s life.
    Life was no more about getting the top rank in class.

    Micel was blessed to go to the best school in town.
    During lockdown, his friends with their hormones jumping wild, had gotten restless. They wanted their shots, their booze, their gizmos. The Big Six hit on a devious plan to break into six select homes one night, forming a safe net for themselves. It was a dare which they decided to execute on a starry evening when most families were either beaching or malling, loving their new found freedom.

    Micel truly wanted to have no part in this villainy; but peer pressure forced him to show up with some booty, thereby establishing his manhood.

    Late evening, he crept into his neighbor Liza’s home, while her dad, Mr. Ivan and the rest were in the garden. Liza’s mom had figs drying on the counter all of which Micel toppled. Ivan heard the noise and rushed indoors. He cornered Micel, the boy from next door, crouching by the TV.

    “What are you doing here?”
    “I came to meet Liz.”
    “At this time? Through the backdoor? Why didn’t you ring the bell? I’m gonna call the cops.”
    “Please, sir,” Micel held his hands…he couldn’t stand the yelling.
    “Don’t touch me, boy. Get away. God knows what germs you bring.”

    Micel had tears, the big boy. He had messed up the entire plan.

    The next day, the neighborhood homes were in uproar. Things were missing from five other homes. A laptop, some jewelry, a bike, some money, an antique jug. Maids, nannies and drivers were placed under suspicion, when the delinquents were the rich spoiled brats.
    Cops flooded the compound, outside six homes to be precise.

    -To see or not to see the reality now …that was the question.
    -Whether ‘tis nobler not to go spread germs, or sneeze in public,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end this nonsense.
    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
    It ain’t the French revolution, but the Covid Collusion.
    Here a Marie Antoinette, there a Bathsheba,
    Somewhere hidden, a Mother Teresa.
    The worst of humanity seen in family splits,
    Looting what’s not theirs, everything was the pits.

    Ella claimed her Micel was innocent.
    “He was sleepwalking, like his dad, who walked out his window once, falling on the pavement.” Her coverup would have gotten him in worse situations in later years.

    Micel was taken to the station in spite of Ella’s weak defense.

    Blame it on the tectonic change that was happening; a century of working customs being overthrown, companies shutting down, workers fired, disorder in urban real estate; a rearrangement of family lives and an abrupt withdrawal from interactions with colleagues and class fellows.

    Where’s the perspective, guys?

    Micel was released after two days with strong warnings. Ella hid from her neighbors.

    A comforting silver lining was Liza’s dad, ol’ uncle Ivan, who finally sat Micel down, making him confess the truth, lovingly telling him he could escape condemnation if he did right by… repenting.

    Ultimately, after all that is said and done, only Truth can set one free. Micel helped to hand his friends over to justice. Their housebreaking game had turned out horribly wrong.

    Micel finally understood the mercy-packed Romans 8:28 and walked out that dark season, fiercely strong, ready to take on the future of uncertainty.
    Even his buddies got to see the light of his actions.
    After all, wasn’t there one who was pierced for ALL their transgressions? Crushed for ALL their iniquities?

    Another blessed day, drawing to a close, Eddie was happy.

    He wanted nothing more than to eat a healthy omelet. But Ella was tap-tapping on her phone; ’Twas her creative hour.
    Not even a storm would dare disturb the rapid flow of her stream of consciousness onto the screen.

    So he went outside alone to the Moringa tree in the garden and plucked a tender green branch full of luscious leaves. “I’m going to make a Moringa omelet,” he said. “With freshly hand-plucked green chili 🌶”

    “Ahhh, sounds good,” came her disinterested reply. “Should be yummy.”

    She wasn’t whimpering, “Oh sweet pea, I..I will make the omelet. You just go stretch out on the sofa, read the paper. Like all men do.”

    Their home had equal rights to everything.

    Stripping the tender leaves off those delicate twigs wasn’t her thing this late evening. It was HIS idea and he could go ahead and execute to perfection.
    Besides, her cooking for the day was done, FINITO.

    Moringa powder, the new health food craze, costs a hefty sum.

    …..How they brand and market our turmeric, our cinnamon, our chai, our cumin.
    Our Kohinoor can’t be powdered though, albeit it traveled another route.
    Right brain…STOP!!!…..

    From a side glance, Ella could see him shaking the washed leaves vigorously using a towel. Shake, shake shake…Every dull kitchen routine is turned into an intense bodybuilding workout. Never mind the water spray now falling on the bewildered dog and the floor.

    He shook the leaves really hard. Eddie, the extreme, knew no middle path.
    That very moment his Apple Watch came alive.
    The excess shaking sent an alarm button. An urgent notification pinged from his watch.

    “Looks like you’ve had a fall. Should I call an emergency?”
    Now here you’re accosted with a WATCH pretending it’s a caring wife.

    (Wife#1 Please stand up! Feel a twinge of envy?
    Like Slim Shady.)

    The options came up on the watch for Eddie to click on.
    ‘No, I’m okay.’
    ‘Yes, please call at once.’
    ‘Yes, I’ve had a small fall. But I’m okay.’
    Eddie pressed the first option. ‘I’m okay.’ Embarrassed that Apple 🍎 was watching his movements in the kitchen.

    Nowhere is a good man free.
    It’s definitely not macho making Moringa omelet late evening, while the wife lolls. Nevertheless the task was completed with a flair.
    Dinner was served. The omelet was delicious. 👏🏽👏🏽
    Life was going to be good, no matter what.

    Redemption and restoration had walked in.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 7:45 am
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      Marien, I feel like your story is actually two completely unrelated stories: of Micel’s botched housebreaking and subsequent repentance and redemption, and of Eddie making a Moringa omelet. The only apparent connection is that the stories happen to members of the same family. I’m not sure why you combined the two, but as it is the story feels unbalanced: the real juicy, dramatic stuff (Micel’s ark) is rushed through with far more “telling” than “showing”; while an everyday activity is described in loving detail. I think they would work better as separate stories – and Micel’s has enough “meat” for a much longer piece.

      I’m also confused as to the story’s relation to the prompt.

      Reply
      • May 19, 2022 at 8:12 am
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        I did feel that they were two separate stories as well.
        But I got the sense of “hope” in the first story, a hope to be a better man.
        I also got the sense of “hopelessness” in the story with the lazy wife.

        Reply
  • May 18, 2022 at 6:58 am
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    Tikveh
    In 1986 I met Tikveh. I had just returned from Israel. She saved my life.
    She was small in stature but her spirit soared above all else. She was born in Sheparton Victoria. A premature baby who they put into a shoe box when she was born because she was not expected to survive, but she did. She was a warrior princess in all ways. Gal Gadot has nothing on her.
    I had returned from a year in Israel after breaking up with my Israeli Kibbutznik broken not so much from that event, but from years of emotional and psychological abuse from my family, namely my mother who had made my life extremely difficult at times. Her refusal to write to me while I was in Israel and moreover the impact she had on me and the hurt caused plus the mobbing abuse from other members of the family who wanted to “please my mother’ by verbally and emotionally attacking the “troublesome daughter” whether she deserved it or not had broken me to a point of no return and absolutely lowest of low self-esteem. It was at the point, I met Tikveh. My life was one of deep despair and sadness. I had reached a stage where I no longer wanted to live and had begun to plan my exit from this existence in a methodical and serious fashion.
    To put things in perspective, my mother was a foster child. She had been born illegitimate in 1921 to a young German girl working for a family which owned a famous ski lodge near Salzburg. Her mother was only 18 when she had fraternal twin girls. My grandfather’s family were a very wealthy and respected family in the Salzburg district. My maternal grandmother was a servant girl seduced by the only son. Marriage was out of the question. My mother was originally given to the paternal family to raise, and her twin sister sent to a foster home. At six months of age, the paternal grandmother decided that she ressembled her mother and thus she was sent to a foster home and the other daughter, her sister was brought into the family home, to be raised by her father’s family.
    My maternal grandmother was obviously sent off in disgrace as an unwed “slattern” as was the case in those days. Catholic Austria was very unforgiving of those fallen women and both girls also had “illegitimate “in German stamped across their birth certificates. It was a point of deep shame for my mother. She never forgave her mother for being an unwed mother. I used to always feel quite sorry for my Austrian grandmother to have borne a daughter who hated her so much.
    My mother did say that her twin sister’s life was not easy as their father had married a suitable wife and had other children. She was the outcast in the family and always reminded of the origins of her birth. While my mother was in foster homes which were not often the pleasant caring places envisaged, as the foster parents were caring often not out of a love of children but a sense of duty and to gain status in the small village communities as charitable Christians. One picture that remains seared in my mind is a picture of my mother at four or five years of age with tears streaming down her face in a white Sunday dress. I often wondered what had caused her so much distress at such an early age.
    The dominant religion in Austria was and is today, Catholicism. A virulent brand of Christianity that is unbending and savage in its practice. It is extremely odd that a religion which preaches so much about “brotherly love” can be so unforgiving and its main adherents – the priests and nuns so violent and unloving in the practice of their faith’s tenets.
    The Jewish heritage in my mother’s family goes back several generations and possibly the family converted to Catholicism do better business in a country that is notorious for its antisemitism. My mother was a strange mixture of denial of Jewishness and yet, it was she who gave me a book saying “You must read this. It is important that you understand.” It was the Diary of Anne Frank. She never explained.
    My father’s family, both Uncles and my grandfather had bookshelves filled with books about the holocaust in Europe and on the evils of Hitler and his Nazi party. I read these books and books on Japanese POW camps and the war in the pacific from about 6 or 7 years of age. Once I discovered reading, I read everything from the newspapers, comic strips, books, Life and Time Magazine, the National Geographic magazines.
    The holocaust both fascinated and horrified me. I was intensely concerned about my mother’s role during the war. I wanted her to be a heroine – to have fought to save Jews and others from extermination. When she would not talk about the war, except to be dismissive of an uncle – my father’s older brother saying he hated her because she was Austrian, I was gravely disappointed in her lack of information about her activities.
    A fear built in me that perhaps she had been a member of the Nazi Party. I know that she had been a part of the Hitler Youth as were most children of Austrian and German birth except if you had Jewish background. It gave me a bit of peace to know that her paternal grandmother had closed the door on her when she came visiting to ask for proof from her father’s family that there was no Jewish “blood”. That was in 1944 just before the war ended. She was quite upset as she felt her grandmother had not let her advance into true Nazi party membership.
    Later, in old age she confided that her father’s mother was a Czech Jewess who had converted to Catholicism before the war years. It was not healthy to be Jewish in Austria or Germany during the Nazi era and even a Christian conversion did not save you.
    I knew from an early age; I was not a Christian. This was confirmed when my mother told me when they tried to baptize me, I had given the Anglican priest a lot of troubles. I threw his keys into the holy water font and ran away. Then when caught, I struggled and screamed. The priest muttered “It’s like trying to baptize a devil.” My mother told me years later that priest knew my “true nature.”
    She was also shocked that my father’s mother had not baptized her three sons. Gran was not religious in the formal sense. She was sharp witted and had a pithy sense of humour. My father had holy water thrown on him the morning of his marriage to my mother.
    Meeting Tikveh allowed me to find a true basis for my faith and she was my holy teacher in all things. Because of her, I decided not to end my existence in 1987. She passed into another existence two days before my biological mother did so also.
    I miss her to this day.

    Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 7:06 am
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      Ilana, your story packs a punch as usual. However, I’m confused regarding its relationship to the prompt. The eponymous Tikveh is mentioned briefly at the start and the end, but in between there is a completely different story that contains no Tikveh and precious little hope.

      BTW, how many people here apart from us two know that Tikveh means ‘hope’?

      Looks like you started one story, but then another one demanded to be told and took over.

      Reply
    • May 19, 2022 at 4:23 pm
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      I think this was great and what you didn’t say spoke volumes! Like finding an impressive shrine for someone who was truly loved … but not knowing them yourself. And your pain and hardship was important to understanding what Tikveh helped you through. I have said so many words that go in circles and are unneeded, but your words painted a picture where the absence of Tikveh was still a silhouette of an amazing person.

      Reply
      • May 20, 2022 at 1:43 am
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        Yes she was an amazing person and this story has many layers and Tikveh OBM figures largely in much of it and her family. Sorry I started one story and it side tracked but there is so much more to it.

        Reply
  • May 18, 2022 at 7:55 am
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    A Cat Called Hope
    Preamble
    TW: Harm to animals.
    This is a modern epistolary story told through a series of reddit posts on the popular subredit AITA.
    A short glossary for anyone not familiar with these internet forum abreviations: FIL: father in law, MIL: mother in law, AITA: Am I The A***, TA; The A***.
    ———————————————————————
    AITA for ruining my MIL’s special meal?

    TLDR: I blew up on my MIL at her mother’s day meal after she made cruel comments about my missing cat.

    OK, I know the title sounds bad, but I want to know if I was wrong here.

    Hubs (M34) and I (F29) were having a mother’s day dinner at a nice new Thai place that opened up nearby. My mum died a few years ago so this is always a tough time of year for me. I’ve never got on with my MIL (F54), but I try to make an effort to play nice for hub’s sake.

    The meal was going fine, other than some irritating comments about my pregnancy, which I tried to brush off. The last straw though was when my MIL started talking about my cat.

    For context, my cat, Hope, has been missing for 3 days now, and I’m so worried. A few months ago, quite soon after we moved into our new house, several cats on the housing development were poisoned by antifreeze and all but one of them didn’t make it. So I’m freaking out that the same thing happened to Hope, and I just couldn’t bear it. I adopted her after my mum died, and I know it sounds silly, but I feel like she’s my connection to her.

    Anyway, so she started making these terrible comments, saying that is was “good riddance” and how we’d have had to ‘get rid’ of Hope once the baby was born, talking this absolute nonesense about how “cats steal babies breath from their lungs”. (MIL is really into her conspiracy theories and complete bull.)

    At first I kept quiet, but I felt like crying. Then MIL started having a go at me, saying I was ruining her meal with “with my face like a wet weekend”. Normally I just try to tune her out, but this was the last straw. I said I wasn’t feeling very well at first, but she kept pushing, until I told her I was a bit upset about what she’d said about Hope. MIL said I was “too sensitive” and “can’t take a joke” and that being so emotional was bad for my baby.

    At this point I could feel my eyes itching and I didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry, so I left the restaurant and drove home. Hubs ended up having to get a lift home from his parents, and now he isn’t talking to me, and says I overreacted.

    Update: AITA for ruining my MIL’s mother’s day meal?

    WOW, I did not expect so many comments from everyone!! I felt so validated after reading so many comments saying that my MIL was out of line. And a lot of people said I was TA for not saying anything, then leaving. And yeah, I really need to get better at dealing with conflict. It’s ironic because I work in construction litigation, but I just hate any confrontation in my personal life.

    So many of you asked for an update, so here goes…
    The headline news is that Hope has returned! A neighbour found her distressed and acting ‘drunk’ in this overgrown area the contractors haven’t finished yet on the development. The vet confirmed it was antifreeze poison. It was very close and she nearly didn’t make it. She’s back home now, thank god.
    Hubs pursuaded me that we should go over to his parent’s house to ‘make up’ for the horrible mother’s day meal that I ‘ruined’. Everything was surprisingly civil.

    On our way out, FIL asked us to take some cardboard to the recycling bin they keep their garage. Whilst hubs was putting it away, I noticed a bottle of antifreeze on a bottom shelf with this big puddle underneath. I went through the roof! This was exactly the kind of irresponsible behaviour that killed all the other cats, and nearly killed Hope. It got even worse, when I saw a bag of cat treats that are exactly the same brand that I get for Hope (Felix Krispies Treat). Hubs refused to accept that there was a problem at all, ended up physically restraining me from going back into my in-law’s house to confront them. Hubs kept insisting it was an accident and that they must have bought the cat treats to make ammends to me. I cleaned up the puddle, anyway at least. But this wasn’t over.

    When I got home I took hub’s phone and logged into his ‘Shared User’ access to in-law’s ring cameras for their front door. (FIL gave hubs access to help with deliveries/ workmen etc.) I looked through the saved footage and saw MIL propping the garage side door ajar and putting a trail of cat treats outside, like some unhinged Hansel and Gretel witch. Cameras also show Hope going inside. MIL must have forgotten about camera (FIL is the one whose really into his gadgets, don’t think she even knows how to login to their account). I showed videos to hubs. He was angry with me for accessing cameras through his phone, but agreeed to talk to MIL. I overheared their phone call. After trying to deny it she finally broke down and said that she was protecting ‘her’ baby from my diseased cat. There are no words.

    MIL and FIL now are doubling down that it was worse for me to ‘invade their privacy’ by looking at the footage, than them TRYING TO KILL MY CAT. I know a lot of you will want me to press charges, but I’ve spoken to a lawyer friend and the likelihood of getting any real punishment through the courts is slim I just want to put this all behind us. Hubs is still speaking to his parents, but I have said I never want to see or speak to them again. We are planning to move further away, as I just can’t stand to be near to them after what they did. And none of the neighbours are speaking to her. In fairness I don’t think that she poisoned the other cats, I think that she just got the idea from the original poisoning. Hope is doing well. I’m just glad that she was able to show my MIL in law up for what she really is, before the baby comes.

    Reply
    • May 18, 2022 at 5:34 pm
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      As a cat lover and owner I am incensed by people who poison pets – dogs or cats – but still there are impoverished horrible humans who do so. I put them on par with child abusers and pedophiles. I remember stealing a beautiful little silky haired terrier who was tied up in the middle of summer heat in a shed with cheap cat food dropped by a neighbour once a day and his water filled which he had frequently spilled so his urine was nearly black from dehydration. Made me cry to see him so I stole him and gave him to a pet rescue organisation to care for. I was or had been a “friend” of the owner. His fur was matted and he was so thin it was pitiful. I wanted to know what happened to him, but they did not divulge that information, so I hope his kidneys were not so badly damaged that they had to put him down.
      I have also stolen a doberman pincer who was also being ill treated when I was 19 and gave him to a vet who later after the dog had been nursed back to health the vet adopted him. He was beautiful animal full of fleas and very thin.
      People sometimes use 1080 bait to poison animals and that is a horrendous death. How they can use that poison and call it “humane” it is anything but humane – a torturous death that takes hours and so if anyone calls that kind of death humane, I think they are either mentally derranged or simply stupid and have absolutely no understanding of the word “humane”.

      sed

      Reply
    • May 20, 2022 at 10:06 am
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      Him defending his mom like that would have been a big problem for me! And moving would definitely be in the cards. Too high a price to pay … all the free babysitting in the world wouldn’t be enough. I really enjoyed the style and I got caught up in this one emotionally. Kudos!

      Reply
  • May 19, 2022 at 2:23 pm
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    Just waiting on two more votes!

    Reply
  • May 19, 2022 at 9:42 pm
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    No results yet?? 🙁

    Reply
    • May 20, 2022 at 7:08 am
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      I didn’t get home till late last night and I was waiting for Ken to vote. 🙂

      Reply
      • May 20, 2022 at 5:56 pm
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        Damn I’m running so far behind lol
        I’ll get the votes up soon!

        Reply
  • May 21, 2022 at 9:43 am
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    No worries! It was a good prompt, and it was nice to have everyone back again.

    Reply
  • May 21, 2022 at 1:19 pm
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    Okay writers, I apologize for the lateness of the results, but without further ado here are your winners!!

    1st Place: ESPERANÇA by Phil Town
    2nd Place: Hope at the End of the World by Vicki Chvatal
    3rd Place: SPRINGS ETERNAL by Ken Frape
    4th Place: Birdsong by Adrienne Riggs
    5th Place: A Cat Called Hope by daisypfeil
    6th Place: Tikveh by Gippy Goats Alpines
    7th Place: Restored and Forgiven by Marien Oommen

    Story with the ferret character was Bart in “Springs Eternal” by Ken Frape

    And the story with the favorite dialogue was “Birdsong” by Adrienne Riggs

    Congratulations to all!!

    Reply
    • May 22, 2022 at 6:10 am
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      “Ferret” character? LOL

      Congrats, Phil, Ken F. and Adi!

      Ken F., a very deserved win for “ferret” character. 🙂 I actually had a hard time choosing a fave – your story’s entire family is very likeable.

      Reply
    • May 23, 2022 at 8:21 am
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      Congrats Phil, Vicki, and Ken!! Great Stories all around as usual!

      Reply
  • May 21, 2022 at 3:11 pm
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    Thanks everybody – that’s made my weekend!

    On to ‘Truth’!

    Reply
  • May 22, 2022 at 7:32 am
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    Hi All,
    Well deserved places Phil and Vicki and a good bunch all round. If you did not come as high up the list as you would like, just remember, we’ve all been there!
    I really loved my ferret character, even though I didn’t realise he was there. Thanks Carrie.
    Ken F

    Reply

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