October 26 – November 9, 2022 Writing Prompt “Doorway”
- a little girl
Word Count: 1200
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108 thoughts on “October 26 – November 9, 2022 Writing Prompt “Doorway””
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By Robt. Emmett ©2022
I had overstayed. Only the dim night lights were on. The librarian had indeed left for the evening. She, being an extremely conscious person, had locked the doors. There was only one way out. The tunnel. Did I want to go there? I’d heard rumors about it, and I was undecided, not being the brave type. One side of my brain was eager, yes! The other side was not!
Still undecided, I paused at the opening. I felt my sweaty shirt pocket for the pack of cigarillos; one left. I straightened it and stuck it in my mouth. Crumpling the empty cellophane, I looked for a trashcan. None. I stuffed it into my Levi’s. The book of matches felt damp. Would they light? The first one sputtered and fizzled out—the second one lit. Six inches from my face, it died. Hell, with it, I’ll just suck on it. The dark honey and cedar-infused tobacco scent were pungent and mildly intoxicating.
The chrome Zippo materialized in my face. A thumb flicked once. It sputtered. As if knowing, the flint wheel rolled again straight away. Success. I examined the alabaster hand of my benefactor, especially the black lacquered nails. I turned. A little girl? Dressed in white, woven of coarse linen. The sleeves’ edges, the shirt’s bottom, the slacks, and the white sandals are all trimmed in black. I stared. “Are you a dwarf?”
“Yes, I’m a dwarf. What of it?” The voice was soft, accented, and self-assured. “I work there.” She nodded toward the dark depths of the tunnel. “Have you ever been there?” Taking my hand. “Come with me.” She laughed as we stepped into the cool darkness.
We turned down a poorly lit side passage and stopped before a small oaken door. She tugged at the massive rusty ring. The door ignored her diminutive efforts. Shrugging, she released the ring. Its thud echoed in the damp stillness. Her delicate hand touched my arm. “You try to open it, please.”
Leaning down and using both hands, I pulled as hard as possible. The door creaked but failed to move. I slammed the ring against the door. The thud reverberated loud and echoed long. “It is no use,” I said, wiping the rust from my hands.
She grasped the ring with both hands. “Perhaps if we both try, it would open.” I kneeled behind her. My arms surrounded her, and she leaned into my chest. The scent of blossoms from her hair filled my nostrils. The aroma was light and delicate-natured, yet heady, over-powering. My breath came in stuttering pants. We needed to do this quickly because her closeness clouded my perspective of the situation.
Bracing myself, “Ready?”
“We need to get this done.”
The desperation in her voice strengthened and energized me. Placing a foot on the frame of the half-opened door, I said, “PULL!”
With a loud screech, the door moved a little. Then all of a sudden, it swung free. Off balance, I tumbled head over heels across the wet cobblestones. After bumping my head against the opposite wall, I finally came to rest on my back. I shook my head to clear the fuzzy feeling. She landed on top of me. Our arms and legs entwined as we wiggled and frantically struggled against each other. As I began untangling us, she stopped me. I stopped because her hand slowly went to the nape of my neck. While the other combed up through my hair.
Through the fog swirling in my brain, I heard her say something. My mind cleared as her minty lips whispered to me. “Sir, the library is closing in five minutes.”
— Ԙ —
Good to see you back in the fold. A lot of names from the past have shown up lately, or at least names I haven’t seen recently. Then again, I’ve not been the most faithful of attendees lately, either.I liked your story and it was a rather different approach that I’ve seen from you. Most of your stories have been reminisces of days gone by. I liked your story. Good descriptive phrases, a nice use of the prompt with the little girl being a young librarian that just happened to be a dwarf. And, I liked your ending. Probably one of your better stories for me, simply because it was so different. Good job.
That pile of coffee and cigarillos sounds like heaven! My story was set in a cigar shop because I needed an excuse for lots of smoking and it comforts me to read/write about tobacco, for some reason (exhales a large cloud).
Ken C. started it by writing that story with the magic pipe he found in the road. I read that, thought how cool it was and how smoking was such an integral part of my teen and young adult years, and decided to stay in my comfort zone and right about people who don’t have to try to quit, because they can just keep smoking. Their little imaginary lungs can take it, after all. (I’m jealous.)
Apparently, great minds stink alike. I thought the same thing, the imagery was succinct, and really, really vivid. (And dwarfs are so hot. How could it not be steamy?) jk don’t turn me in to the dwarf defamation society, just yet.
This is how I interpreted Robert’s clever and distinctive story. It is not about dwarves. I think what Robert did was clever. The prompt says a ‘little girl’, it doesn’t say child, or ‘young girl’, just ‘a little girl.’ Therefore, he has satisfied the prompt without resorting to a stereotype, likewise, opening the door is not important or relevant. It all takes place in his imagination until his fantasy/dream/revelry is interrupted by the librarian, at closing time. The brilliance of Roberts story is the author’s ability to convey such vivid imagery, with such skill.
There isn’t anything remotely political to discuss here, nor should there be.
George rubbed his eyes as he made his way along the corridor, cursing under his breath. It was the first night; if it was always going to be like this…
Daisy was sitting up in bed, sobbing.
“What’s the matter, darling?” George asked, kneeling by the bed and taking Daisy in his arms. Her hair smelled of shampoo.
“It was a monster, daddy,” Daisy said, gulping air between sobs.
“There, there.” George stroked her hair and felt the tension in her dissipate.
He took the beaker of water from the bedside table and held it for Daisy as she sipped on it.
Daisy ignored the question.
“I want my mummy.”
“Well, you know I told you she’s …” George swallowed. “She’s away … working.”
“But why can’t we go with her?”
“Just … because.”
George looked around for a distraction. He picked a toy up from the floor.
“Look. Here’s Binky. I think he needs a hug, don’t you?”
Daisy took the teddy bear and gave him a perfunctory squeeze.
“But what about the monster, daddy?”
“Now come on, darling. You know there aren’t any monsters.”
“Are too! I saw it. In the doorway.”
George looked round to check, just to pacify the little girl. The corridor light was on, and hanging on the wall opposite the doorway was a Picasso print. He wouldn’t have chosen it himself, but you didn’t ger to choose the décor in Airbnbs.
“Ah,” George said, pointing at the print. “That’s what you must have seen. It’s only a silly old painting.”
“No. It wasn’t that. It was a real monster, with big claws and horrible big eyes.”
“But that lady in the painting has horrible big eyes, too! I know it might look a bit scary. Tell you what…”
George got up and crossed the room. He unhooked the print and placed it on the floor, facing the wall. He went back to the bed.
Daisy peered towards the doorway.
“S’pose.” She didn’t sound very convinced.
“Course it is. Now, how about we get to sleep like a good little girl.”
George helped Daisy back under the covers and tucked them in around her.
“Sing me a song, daddy,” she said.
“Ah, I don’t think–”
“Oh, all right.”
George cleared his throat, gathered his thoughts and began to sing slowly and softly.
There ain’t no beasts in doorways
There ain’t no monsters there
They’re all away on holiday
No reason to be scared
He repeated the little song several times until he saw that Daisy’s eyes were closed and her breathing was regular.
He gave her a peck on the forehead and tiptoed across the room, looking back fondly from the doorway at her sleeping form.
Then he tiptoed along the corridor to his own room.
At the doorway, a floorboard creaked behind him.
It took only moments.
And back along the corridor, Daisy slept soundly on.
My mommy always said there were no monsters – no real ones – but there are, aren’t there?
Yes, there are.
Why do they tell little kids that?
Most of the time it’s true.
So much so that I named one of my cats Ripley…
Nice little ploy there, letting us readers sit and stew as to what happened to Daddy, and how it happened, and who done it. Dang it, it might not have been a monster. What if he just fell through the rotting floorboards in this Airbnb? Ha! What then? But, we all know that’s not what happened. Now, I will lay awake tonight listening for creaky floorboards which abound in my 1961 built, mid- century modern, bungalow. Thanks, Phil.
As always, Phil, nice use of the prompt, great story line, even though a bit worn, but then, aren’t most storylines simply a derivative of the basic so called seven, or combinations thereof? I enjoyed reading it, especially in time for the Halloween holiday. Did I mention well written? No? Well, it was.
I did spot a typo, but that’s all it was, using ger instead of get. How does that happen these days? I’ve got Grammarly (the free version) which is helpful, but not as accurate as I’d like. I use it as a guide, but it does take care of things like ger vs get.
that’s an angle I hadn’t thought of. Hmm … interesting.
What happened to the Mum, BTW? And who will protect little Daisy now?
Ben was cooking when Lena returned, bringing in a blast of cold air, slamming the door, swearing at herself, rustling, swishing and clucking. “How’s the baby?” she said.
“Fine. And she’s not a baby. You see the news?”
“Another city, another bomb.”
“We need to leave.”
“And go where?” she said.
A rival state had spent a decade rigging and hiding dozens of dirty bombs throughout the country, detonating one every few days. Millions in half-a-dozen cities had already suffered from radiation. Tens of millions more had vacated the cities and crammed themselves into make-shift refugee camps. Tent cities had sprung up in cornfields, National Parks, undeveloped land. The government mishandled the emergency. Fear and suspicion turned neighbors into belligerents, and the country was sliding into anarchy as its leadership failed to act.
He spread a brochure out on the table. “Have you seen this?”
“Time travel Ben? Really?”
“It’s a gimmick, a carnival ride.”
“No it’s not, Lena. It’s bona fide time-travel. They simply…”
“It’s real, Lena.”
“I know it’s real, it’s just not realistic.”
“I know what you’re thinking. It’s a visual experience. No one actually goes there. But they do. They just don’t exit the vehicle.”
“Exactly,” Lena intoned.
“But they could,” he insisted.
“Oh Ben.” She shook her head. “I don’t know what to say. It’s so—naïve.”
“No, no. Hear me out.”
There was a noise in the hallway: Their five-year old daughter, Rayla. “Mommy?”
“Oh honey, hi. Did we wake you up? I’m so sorry sweety.” She swept her daughter up into her arms and said, “Why don’t you let mommy put you back to bed, sweety.” She twirled her around once or twice while covertly glaring at her husband. “Say g’night to daddy, honey.”
“Why were you two fighting, mommy?”
Lena halted, set her daughter on the counter and looked at her husband, Ben. “She wants to know what we were we fighting about.”
Ben bent over to her eye level. “We weren’t fighting, sweety, we were just discussing our vacation.”
“What’s a vacation?” Rayla asked.
“That’s were people go when they want to—relax.”
“That’s…” The silence lengthened, until Ben said, “You know, when people are happy, smiling.”
The somber child said, “I know what that is.”
“Do you? Good. Now let’s…”
“That’s right, sweety. No bombs.” Her mother swept the girl up into her arms again, stopped just before the bedroom door and whirled around to look at her husband. Her eyes were brimming over with tears. She didn’t come out until Rayla was asleep.
Weeks later, in a harsh whisper she said, “I don’t like talking about this stuff in front of Rayla.”
Oblivious, he muttered, “But I can do this. I know I can do it. As long as…”
“Ben. You’re incompetent. My boss is incompetent. The government is incompetent.”
“It’s an actual time-machine.”
“Ben.” She said.
“Only goes one way, though. Backwards. But who cares?”
“All we need, believe it or not, is a bit of encrypted code. It’s so bloody simple I can’t believe no one else has done it.”
“It has been done, you idiot. Leave it be. I have to go to work.” She got up from the table and bopped him on the head with her attaché. “I’m not sure who’s the bigger idiot, you, or me.”
When she slammed the door, he noticed his daughter Rayla standing there, looking sympathetic. “Yes, your mommy thinks your daddy is an idiot.” He tapped her gently on the nose. “But I have a plan for that.”
“What’s a plan?” She asked.
“A plan? That’s when you think things through in advance.”
“Forward.” He motioned with his hands.
She said, “You mean like, steps?”
She was such a bright little girl. “Yes.” He was going to take her away from all this horror. There was no other way to protect her from the suffering: Millions of deaths every day. And moving to the country was a risky proposition. If the wind changed direction, they could all die anyway.
But Time-Warner-Disney-Fox bought all the patents on time-machines, refined the process, dumbed it down and turned it into an amusement park ride. Complete with a portal, or doorway into the past, through which you could look, but ostensibly, not pass. That meant there was nothing more between the ‘traveler’ and the past, than a couple of electronic locks, and Ben was a skilled locksmith.
Lena got the call from work and rushed to the scene. She was a sharp, large, insistent woman, in a bright gold jacket and black pants. She had something of the barracuda about her. Her nose, the set of her jaw. Large teeth. “Where is she?”
“Where is who? Madam.”
“My child! My child, my child, my child, my child. Where is she?”
“Oh my God,” he said, and left the room so abruptly, there was no time to grab him by his incompetently scrawny neck and wring the living shit out of him. Worse than that, her question had been a catalyst, activating the entire facility, teams of personnel swinging into action. Apparently, there was a mix-up, and no one was assigned to Lena, the child’s mother. No one could tell her anything except—her husband and child were gone. She insisted that they send her back too.
A somber grief counselor arrived with a constable. All they could do was console her, keep her from assaulting the employees of the company, and return her to her home with as much dignity and compassion as they could provide.
There had been other previous ‘time-jumpers’, but no one had ever taken a child before. For ‘jumpers’ there was no return trip. No turning back, nor any way to retrieve them. It simply wasn’t possible, no matter who they were or when they went.
The company motto, ‘The Past is History’ was uncannily accurate, because the past was like an infinite, multi-dimensional haystack, and objects were like needles that could never be found: Time was not constant. Anything sent into the past could never again be located, much less retrieved. That’s why it could only be used for observation and entertainment, little more than a scientific curiosity.
Eventually, a firm but gentle policewoman escorted Lena home—and left.
Her grief was like a blinding, flashing light in her eyes. She couldn’t see, and at one point thought she heard the voice of her daughter in her head. The voice got closer. She opened her eyes to see a vision so realistic, she gasped and recoiled in shock, maybe even fear. When she realized her daughter was real, she shrieked with joy, then grabbed the child and hugged her almost too tightly. She held her at arm’s length and said, “My God, Rayla, where have you been?”
“I had a plan.”
“Daddy was crazy,” she said. “So I hid under the bed.”
Theoretically, time is indifferent to individuals. People don’t change the past. But in this one, inexplicable, outlying universe—the bombs ceased to exist. And no one even noticed.
Made me think about my own children and how my wife and I speak about leaving this awful place before it is too late (it already is).
I also really liked how you subtly put the “rival state” bit in there and the “Time-Warner-Disney-Fox” reference. Lots of world building with just those two fragments. And that one paragraph explaining what is going on in America. Short and sweet, allowing no time for people to get bored. I will take note of that.
The time travel was really well done and explained until the very last sentence, but I interpreted it that he successfully went back and changed something profound, altering the timeline and fixing things in a weird way. No one knows how time travel works in this world or yours (though they obviously have the basics worked out), so anything goes really. But you made the most important thing clear: Time doesn’t care what we think or do.
And big corporations would totally monetize the whole thing, that makes a lot of sense.
Thank you for the comments and observations, John. I really appreciate it. Originally, I wrote it as if he was crazy, pure and simple. But under the circumstances, wasn’t he (and his daughter) the only two sane people in the story? That wasn’t how it was written, but after a few minor changes just before posting, that’s how I read it as well. We don’t know what he did or how, (perhaps he moved heaven AND earth) we just know that he did something. He must have. What that might have been, no one will ever know.
And then I throw my hands up and remember that I barely believe in Time. It is just a measurement of physics and such a weird kind of dimension that I don’t trust it. When they list the dimensions they say stuff like “There are nine spatial dimensions and one temporal dimension”. Temporal dimension? You mean “time dimension”? And there is only one of them? What are you talking about? Sounds like they just lumped Time in there because it is the oddball that no one really knows what to do with. Just like how “Minkowski spacetime” is a mouthful and a clunky fusion of the three dimensions and the one weird one that no one really understands!
I think that there are a ton of spatial dimensions, maybe even infinite spatial dimensions, and that makes it a little silly to try to put Time on top of them all as the one, “special” dimension, because what is the top of infinite, and why is there only one of these special dimensions? It is easier just to call it something else.
Again, no one really knows, especially not me, but the human mind needs to feel like there is an order to things, and it also needs to feel like it understands that order. So we make up rules about crap that will just get knocked down later when Science understands it a little better.
All that being said, I am a hypocrite. I think real hard and guess what? I still believe in time travel, somehow, even though I barely believe in Time! How do you reconcile that?
You get crazy amounts of nerd points and respect for that comment, btw.
The father in my story was fortunate to be dumped into a past that had rid itself of dinosaurs but not yet developed large mammals. Ben emerged from the time-portal on the banks of what is now the Tefe River, deep in the heart of Brazil. Let’s just say he de-vaporized. When he opened his eyes, he was surrounded by a horde of albino…… dwarf, women, wearing mostly leaves.
There were thousands of them living under a canopy of towering trees, and would have died out in a few years, having eaten all of their lazy men, (i.e., all of their men) and they knew it. In fact, his arrival was seen as deific. A sign from the Gods that they should proliferate. (And eat fewer men.) And they did. (Since there was only one at that point.)
The Queen saw him and said, “That’s mine.”
Since the Queen could not work, her subjects were given the burden of having the children. All told, they had nineteen children, with freckles, the other six-hundred and sixty-three children had assorted skin tones from the recessive traits of their mothers.
Most of the children were about three feet tall. Their smaller size facilitated faster breeding and they consequently snuffed out early hominids while they were still in their evolutionary infancy. Earth’s population remained uniformly dwarfish, matriarchal, peaceful, and saturated with albinism. For that, and other reasons, they preserved and revered the trees. They continued to achieve many things, but never trafficked in bombs or war, resorting to mud-wrestling to settle their cultural and economic differences, which were all pretty minor to begin with.
This extensive and (some would say) orthogonal explanation, lays the groundwork for my conclusion.
Ben’s arrival, and miraculous failure to be eaten by something, changed the earth’s biome. Time was FORCED to accommodate Ben, and quantum uncertainty enabled him—willingly, to change the past. And that’s why, (spoiler alert) if he had returned, (which he cannot) he would have found that at the instant of his departure from this time-line, not only did the bombs disappear, but every extant corporeal being on the planet, as well as their artificial biological and inorganic compounds, would have either disappeared, or halved its heft and height by one-half. A simple bi-section of a quantum wave form. Even the word quantum got shortened to ‘quan.’ As some like to say now: ‘It was all, a bit, uncertain.’
So, to answer your question Ilana, ‘What happened to the crazy dad?’
It appears as if he escaped from his over-bearing wife, salvaged a doomed species from evolutionary oblivion, improved his daughter’s circumstances, (she was already short), changed history, altered the local universe, forced time to compromise with him, and, most happily, well, let’s just say he was never short on nookie.
In fact, in Dwarfian Quan-time Spatial Physics 101, there’s a catchphrase that all new students quickly learn: ‘Well sir, or ma’am, if you go back far enough, with a little luck, you could, possibly, change things.’
Same thing, with the sentence before, “she gasped and recoiled in shock, maybe even fear.” Maybe? Really? Instead of ‘maybe even fear,’ I’d just drop it. I think shock covers it and ‘maybe even fear’ is redundant and unnecessary. Just my two cents worth. Otherwise, I did like how you handled time travel. (And all your explanations following.)
Without repeating other comments, Lena working for the conglomerate that does time travel is an interesting twist. (At least, that’s how I understood it.)
Just curious: why did Ben go ahead with his plan if Rayla wasn’t with him (& in fact, he couldn’t find her before going to the time travel site, since she hid at home)? And another question: did Lena and Rayla continue remembering Ben and his time jump? If he changed the past and the entire history adjusted itself (nobody remembered the bombs because they didn’t exist in this timeline), then Ben didn’t exist in this timeline, either. Then who was Rayla’s father?
But seriously? Sure. Who knows? It’s a story about time-travel, not Ben’s memoirs. As it is, despite having only three main characters, the plot is complex, probably too complex for 1200 words. It certainly has weaknesses, but whatever happened to Ben, (despite my flamboyant mini-sequel) could not really be dealt with. Whether significant or not. And since all the science in this story is hypothetical, the fate of the father would be whatever I had the time and space to dream up. (As, I think I demonstrated. Which was a lot a fun, by the way.)
Thanks for reading and commenting Ilana.
The phrase ‘I know what that means,’ was the third clumsy phrase in the story. Conceptually brilliant, but failing in the execution phase. My excuse is the same for the other two phrases Roy mentioned. I realize your comment is not necessarily a criticism, but I’m aware of the importance of the phrase to the reader.
As for the other observations, (yours and others.) Ben went ahead with his plan without his daughter because… well, for any number of reasons. Foremost among them is that it set up the reveal. in real life it’s hard to believe that no one, of all those officials, would have checked the apartment first anyway. (But I also inferred that incompetence was pervasive. Plus, I think it’s inferred that the father is not particularly well-grounded in reality.
No, he is not remembered by anyone in the new time-line. Not even his wife and daughter. However, it seems evident that he becomes the great-great-great-grand-daddy of all the dwarves on earth. Thanks for reading it, and the comments and feedback. I kind of like this story, perhaps it deserves some refinement.
The by rules concerning Time Travel were Developed by Prof. Henry Winters Jr.* on July 1, 1994.
1. Travel to the future is not possible; it hasn’t happened yet.
2. Paradoxes do not exist; nature does not allow contradictions.
3. Changing the Past will not change the future; the future considers the change.
4. Time travelers do not age; in now time, they return only few seconds after leaving.
*Henry Winters Jr. A figment in the mind and proses of Robt. Emmett.
So, according to Prof. Henry Winters Jr. rules, since Ben had gone into the past via time traveling, returning to the future, his old past is now impossible. Makes sense to me. and thinking this all thru has given me a headache.
Someone from the future may come back to our time. We don’t know if our experience defines the limit of ‘the past’. And if someone comes to a past point in time from any future point, the return journey is theoretically possible.
Perhaps. Headache time.
Ahh whoops. That was a complete typo, I meant November 9th because that would be 2 weeks not November 2nd! So type away my friend and get to squeezin’! 😊
By RM York
Greg cocked his head as he listened intently. ‘What is that?’ he wondered. ’Is that laughter or crying?’ He got up to investigate. When he got to the doorway he stopped and leaned against the frame to take in the scene before him. His wife, Kristin, was absorbed in a video and laughing softly.
As he leaned into the doorframe, he thought back to the moment when he first saw her. She had been walking out of a small boutique, as he was walking in. He was struck by her beauty; it had taken his breath away. She held the door open for him and he laughed. “I should be holding the door, not you,” he said.
“I don’t mind. Women shouldn’t expect men to hold doors for them.” She turned and walked away. He stopped the door, looked back, and watched.
He approached the first employee he could find and said, “Do you know the customer that just left?”
“That isn’t a customer, that’s the owner.”
“Is she coming back?”
“Who are you?”
“The man who is going to marry her!”
The employee laughed. “Not a chance.”
“Why? Is she married?”
“No, but …”
“Then I’ll wait.”
The employee shrugged. “Suit yourself.”
They were married three months later.
Now, he stood in the doorway and watched as Kristin forwarded through the video she was watching. ‘She’s as beautiful today as then,’ he thought.
“Ahem,” he coughed.
She looked toward the direction of the sound and smiled. “Here,” she said, “come join me.”
“I’d love to but I have to finish the Compton report. What are you watching?”
“A video of Elise when she was seven. The time when she was missing her two front teeth and was so self-conscious about it.”
“She was six,” he corrected. “She was in first grade and she thought her world was coming to an end that day. Then she got to school and found out that half the kids in the class were missing at least one if not both of their teeth.”
She pressed the issue. “Come sit by me. The Compton report can wait, can’t it? It isn’t due until next week right.”
“True, but I was planning on watching the game today.”
“Football! Honestly, how about spending some time with me? What do I have to do to get you over here?”
“I can see just as well from my little spot right here in this doorway.”
“Have it your way,” she said, but her tone said it all. As long as they’d been married, he recognized the signs. She had already turned her attention back to the video and turned up the volume on the TV.
He sighed because he knew she was right. He had been spending more time these past few weeks working. Working helped him forget she was still struggling with her second round of chemotherapy and they were still unsure of her prognosis and, more importantly, how much time she had left if the new experimental medicine didn’t work.
He walked over to the couch aware she was watching out of the corner of her eye. “I’m sorry,” he said. “You’re right, and the Compton report can wait.”
The two of them spent the next hour watching family videos. Most of them were of Elise, now a college graduate and a mother herself. Kristin laughed. “Those were such good times. “Oh look. This is that video of Elise when she and I were removing the pool cover. You remember how deathly afraid of bugs she was.”
“I do, but I don’t know if I remember this video.”
“Then just watch.”
The video showed a skinny Elise in her bathing suit helping Kristin remove the pool cover. Suddenly an insect jumped from the pool cover toward the edge of the pool but didn’t make it. Elise screamed and jumped back, then realized the large bug was in the water.
She peeked over the edge and watched as the insect struggled, then slowly sank to the bottom of the pool. As if she were in a movie, the eight-year-old looked directly at the camera and said, “Look! That bug just committed insecticide.”
Greg and Kristin burst out laughing. “I had forgotten all about that,” Greg said. “Everything was just so much better back then.” He realized how that sounded. “I … uh … didn’t mean that like that. I … I meant it to mean how good things were then and how they are now.” He looked intently at her. ”I’m just making things worse, aren’t I?
Kristin clicked the remote and turned off the video. “I know what you mean,” she said. “Look, I’m feeling better and the new medicine seems to be helping far more than I thought it would. In fact,” she paused, selecting her next few words, and smiled as she reached out with her hand and took one of his, “I was thinking how long it’s been since we’ve … umm … you know” and she nodded toward the stairs, “had a little afternoon delight?”
Greg held his breath for a second as what she was implying hit him. “Are you sure?”
“Unless you’d rather work on the Compton report. I can’t believe you’re hesitating?”
“Oh my God, yes … I mean no. It’s just hard to believe after what, three years and two months, just like that, you want to have a romp in the hay?”
“You’ve been keeping track of our sex life?”
He realized how it sounded. “No sweetheart, it’s been three years and two months since you were diagnosed. That moment is embedded in my memory.”
“Well, it’s embedded in mine, too. For the first time in over three years, I feel like a normal human being with their whole life still in front of them. I’d just like something to be like it was then. I’ll be in the bedroom getting into nothing. Can I expect you there, too?”
Greg stopped at the doorway with two glasses of wine and leaned against the frame. Kristen looked up. “Wine at 4:30 in the afternoon?” she asked.
“You know the saying — It’s five o’clock somewhere. I thought since we’re celebrating how good you feel we’d start early. You do want a glass of wine, don’t you?”
“For starters. Then maybe I’ll want to try this again and see if you can’t do better this time. Then you can start thinking about making dinner.”
“I’ve been thinking about this afternoon,” he said. “I want to thank you for doing this. It was very important to me.”
Kristin said, “Important to you? Honestly, is that all you were thinking about? Your pleasure and then thanking me for what I did for you?”
He stood there, knowing he was defeated. “I … umm … maybe?”
“This afternoon wasn’t for you or about you. Are all men like you? This afternoon was for me. You just got to be a contributor. Now, get over here and celebrate with me.”
As he joined her he said, “You really think that new medicine is working?”
She took a sip of her wine and reached for him. “I know that new medicine is working.”
“I keep having this dream,” confided Sonia between sips of her chai latte, “there’s this open doorway filled with light – but everything around it is pitch black, so it’s like the doorway is just floating in space. And there’s always a little girl standing in front of it. I never see her face, just her silhouette. She beckons to me to follow before stepping through the doorway and disappearing. And then I wake up.”
“A doorway … that could mean death, passing into the afterlife,” Ronda said thoughtfully, regarding Sonia over her double espresso. “Or it could mean transformation,” she continued cheerfully. “You know, the death of the old you, or the end of your old life, that leads to the birth of the new you, that sort of thing.”
Rhonda’s wild auburn locks looked especially vibrant as they caught the sun streaming in through the cafe’s floor-to-ceiling windows. Sonia never knew if the windswept, ‘don’t care if I look a mess’ look was natural, or if her friend spent hours getting it just right. Self-consciously, Sonia smoothed down her own just-so slick blonde do. When she tried a ‘naturally messy’ hairstyle, it just looked awful. Rhonda’s colour was better for hiding dark roots as well: Sonia was sure her own were visible from the other side of the street. She should make an appointment with her colourist ASAP.
“Have you ever followed the girl through the doorway?” Rhonda’s voice interrupted her musings. “In your dream, I mean.”
“No. It’s creepy. Like you said, it signifies death.”
“Metaphoric death. You should try it some time, and see where the dream leads you. Your subconscious is obviously trying to tell you something. It’s just a dream, so what’s the worst that can happen?” Rhonda added in response to Sonia’s skeptical grimace. “On the plus side, you might get some tips from your dream self on what you need to change in your life.”
Sonia glanced at her watch.
“I should be getting back to work soon,” she muttered, checking her reflection in the large tilted mirror above the bar.
“Rhonda, why didn’t you tell me my makeup was smudged?!” she exclaimed in horror. “That cute barista must have noticed.”
“It’s not. You look fine,” objected Rhonda. “And I bet the barista is gay. Otherwise he’d be hitting on one of us … or maybe both,” she winked and pulled Sonia into a hug. “Well, see you next week?”
Sonia adjusted her skirt and jacket, and headed back to the office. She was professional, she was successful, she was attractive, she repeated to herself on the way.
At the end of the day, Sonia logged out with a sense of satisfaction. The big project was finished. Finally, she could go home at a reasonable time. And then ask for a promotion. But … Brent might think she wasn’t motivated if she didn’t stay back. Maybe she should …? No. She was a professional, successful woman, Sonia told her reflection in the office bathroom mirror, not some slobby loser that could be treated like a doormat. She put in the effort to do her job well and to look the part. Time to insist to be treated with respect. Smoothing down her hair, Sonia gave her reflection a firm nod, squared her shoulders, and walked out of the bathroom.
“See you tomorrow, Brent,” she called out in the direction of her boss’s corner office.
“Leaving early today?” he replied in a fake-sweet voice, peeking out.
Something inside her snapped.
“I’m leaving on time,” she forced herself to speak calmly. “I’ve just finished the project, so it’s a good time to call it a day.”
“You could always get started on the next project, instead of waiting for tomorrow” said Brent with a big fake smile. “Everyone in the office is highly motivated and doesn’t rush home,” he added superciliously. “You can’t advance in your career if you don’t show dedication to your job, you know.”
“Then I could put the extra free time tonight into finding another job, where I’ll be properly appreciated,” Sonia matched her boss’s smile with one just as fake, and marched out.
What had she done?! Was she crazy?! Panic hit when Sonia was already out in the car park. She dreamed every day of telling Brent exactly what she thought of him, but this should have been her resignation speech! Tomorrow she might not have a job, and she had nothing else lined up. She had to sit in the car until her hands stopped shaking.
That night, Sonia dreamed of the doorway and the little girl again. Only when she woke up, the doorway was still there. The girl turned, blocking out some of the light, and Sonia saw her face for the first time. To her shock, it was her own face – at the age of seven: plain, bland, surrounded by lank mousey hair. Sonia hated looking at pictures of herself as a child. Only … this girl looked happy, fearless; she was Sonia who had no idea that she wasn’t pretty, was nothing special. The girl’s face was alight with excitement and mischief. She looked back at the adult Sonia and beckoned with her hand. This time, Sonia stepped through the doorway.
Sonia flew above jagged mountain peaks towards towering black clouds in the distance. Biting cold wind ruffled her thick black fur; she only laughed and did a loop-the-loop. Angling her enormous leathery wings, she swooped low over a jagged peak, then shot up and did a barrel roll just for the fun of it. She glided past the large clear mirror of a mountain lake without sparing it a glance, when a bolt of lightning connected the sky and the land. A thunderstorm was starting. What fun! Sonia’s body tingled with electricity. She flew straight into the thunderstorm, dodging and weaving between forked lightning bolts that stabbed down every few seconds, and her shrieks of delight rose above the rolls of thunder and the howling of the wind.
Hi Vicki, per the “Story Submission Rules”
1. One story per author. You may post more than one, but only the first story will qualify for voting.
From the feedback, it looks like this is the story you’d want to include in the voting anyway.
I’m aware that only one story per author qualifies, but couldn’t decide which one to post. I’m happy with the choice. (And thank you for making the decision for me :).)
The motorbike trip was Esteban’s idea. He was always the more adventurous of the two of us.
“Come on, Lucho! It’ll be fun,” he’d say. “Let’s live a little before we settle down, open our practice, and become another two boring, staid doctors.”
We had just graduated from university. Truth be told, I was looking forward to starting work at a hospital, the first step to opening my own practice. I didn’t see being a “boring, staid doctor” as a bad thing.
Some of our fellow students – those who didn’t have to worry about money – lived it up in bars and clubs on the town that summer, before taking on the responsibilities of adulthood. The truly rich (or rather, children of rich parents) travelled abroad. Esteban and I weren’t in that league. As for bar-hopping, it held little attraction for us, although for different reasons. I looked down on the immaturity of it all. Esteban, on his part, had bigger dreams.
He talked about travelling around the whole country on our beat-up old bikes, riding free, seeing how people really lived. His solution for keeping expenses to a minimum was camping or asking to stay in people’s houses overnight, and cooking our food over a campfire.
I recalled the bike accident victims we’d seen during our internships. I thought we’d starve, or get robbed and left for dead, or die of some disease left untreated because there was no doctor in the vicinity. I reminded him that neither of us had any experience living off the land. He would just laugh and say that I was born aged forty, and that I should act young for a change. Some small part of me must have longed for adventure, because in the end I let Esteban persuade me. As a concession to me, we both packed first aid kits stocked well enough for a small field hospital.
The trip was everything Esteban had promised. I never felt so free or so young at any other time in my life. When I think back, I see shades of green and gold, feel the wind in my hair, and hear Esteban and myself laughing. We didn’t crash our bikes, although a fallen branch I failed to notice had me fly off my bike and into a river. When Esteban pulled me out, wet and sputtering, I was only worried that I’d totalled the bike. We didn’t suffer from anything more serious than sunburn and mosquito bites. Our plain, campfire-cooked fare never gave us indigestion; in fact, it tasted like a lavish feast after a day of riding in the countryside..
I have many fond memories of that trip. Yet if I have to pick a life-changing event, it was this.
We were riding past fields of maize and sugar cane as the sun dipped towards the horizon, looking for a place to spend the night, when we spotted the house – more of a shack, really. A girl of five or six stood in the doorway, her brown face too solemn for a child so young. A gentle breeze played with her black curls and the skirt of her faded red floral dress. Dark eyes regarded us with curiosity as we slowed down. Then the girl ran inside the house, calling out to her parents. That’s how Esteban and I met Paco and Lupe.
“Will you join us for dinner?” the stout, motherly Lupe asked right away. “It’s only bean and cassava stew, I’m afraid.”
“I’ll slaughter a chicken if you can wait a bit,” Paco butted in, “or perhaps a pig?” I thought him old at the time; though in hindsight, Paco couldn’t have been much older than I am now.
“No, please, there’s no need!” we chorused. The little girl’s face fell.
“What do you grow?” asked Esteban as we ate the delicious stew.
“We’ve got a small field of maize,” Paco answered, “but it’s not enough to live on, you know. I have to work at the sugar cane plantation some, and our Migo, Seba and Chuy work there all the time.”
“I take in laundry from the big house,” added Lupe. “Our Ana and Luci work as domestics in the city, with good families. Only little Chayo’s still with us, helps me around the house. … So we’ve plenty of place to sleep, if you want to spend the night.”
We were shocked by the family’s poverty. Of course, we’d seen the slums, and spent time volunteering in free clinics for the poor. Yet somehow, we hadn’t expected that landowners, however small, could be this destitute.
I wondered what would happen if one of them got sick. There should be more doctors in the country, and perhaps the government should pay them to treat the poor farmers and sharecroppers for free. Esteban, as always, thought bigger. Meeting Paco and Lupe got him thinking of eliminating poverty, of improving the lives of working people. Of a revolution. It was Esteban’s first step towards becoming the man he is today.
I wonder sometimes if Esteban still remembers Paco and his family. Did he think of them when he led the revolution? Does he ponder, before making every decision, how the change will make their lives better? I can’t ask him: we haven’t talked in years. Esteban has moved far beyond where I can follow.
My wife and I have a good, safe life, as such things are considered. The persecutions that many of our middle-class peers have suffered have passed us by so far. Sometimes I wonder if my old friend put in a good word for us. Or maybe we’ve been spared because we always put in the hours in government hospitals – and always volunteer to help the less privileged – and have given up on the dream of getting rich through private practice. Or perhaps it’s because we keep our heads down.
Paco wasn’t so lucky. When the party activists came to nationalise the land and organise the farmers into collectives, he refused to part with his modest plot. Instead, he asked for larger plots of land for himself and other poor farmers like him to call their own. Paco was shot as an example for others, for impeding the progress of the revolution and thus preventing universal happiness of the working people.
I heard of his fate from Chayo. Imagine my shock when I recognised the new domestic help my wife had hired as the little girl I’d met long ago. I’m certain Chayo didn’t recognise me. Sometimes Chayo tells us other stories about her family, such as that of two of her brothers who ended up fighting on the opposite sides of the civil war. Chayo must have retained some of her childhood innocence, or perhaps she’s very brave, to confide such potentially damning family history to virtual strangers. She came to the city for work, but dreams of attending university. Of course, my wife and I both agreed to let her attend classes in the evenings. What else could we do?
There are times when I long to ask Esteban about so many things. But then I think, perhaps it’s better not to remind him of my existence.
Liked this story, too. But for me, go with the lightning bolts story — number one. This is a good story but didn’t carry the weight the first one did for me. The first story made me think, the second was more like reading a diary.
I do have a little criticism about this phrase:
His solution for keeping expenses to a minimum was camping or asking to stay in people’s houses overnight, and cooking our food over a campfire.
I read it as cooking their food over a campfire while they’e staying overnight in people’s houses.
Otherwise, no other crits. Funny, but until I got to the part about the narrator getting married, I assumed the character was a woman. I’m not sure she isn’t after reading the rest of the story. I never got a sense of masculinity from the storyline and the name Lucho means nothing to me to help with that.
I do think of the 2nd story as an excerpt from a diary or an unpublished memoir. The idea was inspired by a 90s movie called The Motorcycle Diaries. There, the narrator also pushed his friend into the foreground & kept himself firmly in the background. I tried to avoid writing a hagiography like the movie was, though.
Good point about the phrase, thanks.
It’s interesting that you assumed the narrator was female; I thought it was neutral. Is it just the absence of masculinity indicators, or is there an actual sense of femininity in either the voice or the storyline? Incidentally, Lucho is a Hispanic nickname for Luis (M).
I didn’t find a feminine voice per se, it was more neutral, but even in rereading it, I don’t get masculine, so I, being a guy I guess, can’t leave it at that and if it ain’t a guy, it’a a gal.
Our neighbors when I was a kid (back in the late forties and early fifties were hispanic and the father and his oldest son were named Luis, and I never heard either called Lucho, but the father was born in Spain and only lived in Mexico for a few years before coming to the states as a young man. They called him Lou and the son Louie. Lucho was unfamiliar to me.
The first thing that popped into my head was ‘The Road Less Traveled.’ (Hey, don’t blame me, I don’t have that much control over my head. or what pops into it.) This is a brilliant story. You have woven a tapestry of friendship, political science, history and fate. Is there hope? I don’t know, I’ll have to read it again. I think you’ve captured the flavor and aroma of a small South American country, but it was really Cuba. (Or, as I’m sure is true, it is an amalgam of small, populist uprisings in usually third world countries. I feel like you are entertaining me while sharing glimpses of your wisdom in the process.
I amb not being tongue in cheek
I did the same thing as Roy, but I think it was because I knew the author was a woman. You. So I assumed the narrator was a woman. Few clues were given. When I reached the point where the narrator is married, I scrolled to the top of the story to determine the character’s gender. That’s a serious ‘getting yanked out of a story.’ But I blame it on gay people, not you Vicki. Even though it’s their fault, you should clarify. Somehow.
‘Esteban, on his part, had bigger dreams.’
Esteban, for his part, had bigger dreams. (You wanna do it right, or you wanna do it your way?)
Phil made a mistake in his story last week. We’re all going to celebrate at ‘The pork & Loinery.,(by skype or zoom, I presume). Which, at this point, I’m hoping it’s a restaurant, not a gym or a tanning salon. (Damn those non-specific gender, non-dwarf, possibly albino gays. What do they think they’re doing? Wait. I don’t want to know. Let’s move on.
The whole thing has to be imaginary because Phil won’t go, he doesn’t know about it yet. He rarely speaks to me. I’ve been sending him detailed psychic messages for five years now. Does he ever psych me back? No.
I’m writing you in the middle of a hurricane (barely), so if it sounds like I’m nervous, it’s because I’m communicating with an intelligent woman. The howling wind has nothing to do with it.
Thanks for your comments. Getting two men commenting that they’d assumed the narrator was female means that I should work on making my male voices more convincing. And I probably should have chosen a more obviously masculine name.
I haven’t read ‘A Road Less Traveled’. Is that the psychology/ self-help book, or is there another book of the same title?
I got the idea from the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, which was based on a book by a university friend of Che Guevara’s. It popped into my head for some reason when I was thinking of the prompt. I don’t remember the details because I watched it back in the ’90s when it first came out, so I made the characters non-specific. Incidentally, the epilogue is purely mine; as I recall, the movie (and presumably the book) was a hagiography where Che was perfect in everything he did and the best friend of animals and children. The narrator himself was very much in the background, or a bumbling sidekick at best; he was obviously male since he was played by a male actor.
Thanks for pointing out the grammatical mistake.
BTW, the Pork & Loinery sounds like it could also be a kinky brothel/ sex club, so you better double-check before you book it for the virtual get-together. 🙂
Yes. I’m a hurricane magnet. The good news is, I repel tornados and boulders.
I believe you’re on the right track, but a macho name is probably insufficient.
Perhaps something like: ‘we only had one rule, no snaking on each other’s girlfriend.’ Or something like that. Readers don’t care one way or the other, they just don’t want to be played.
Yes, ‘The Road Less Traveled’ is the psychology/self-help book. I suppose the theme is the same as the poem it refers to. it reconstitutes Thoreau or Thurber, (Frost – I had to look it up.) whichever wrote the poem with those words.
But your story, ‘the paths we take’ is so much grittier than Frost’s work. His poem is like a detailed map, whereas your story is more like the actual journey
I never saw ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ thank God, and had to look up the word hagiography. It’s such a discouraging word.
Like Phil, you make few mistakes. Glad I could help.
Did you know that the depth of the Gulf of Mexico is unknown? Two ambitious mariners tried to plumb it once, but failed for some reason. Now, it seems as if scientists pretend to know how deep it is. How deep it must be. Are you okay with this?
Not sure which of your two stories I like the best. One describes uncertainty, the other death. The first one features fine imagery, the second one offers a complex plot. The first story is finished, the second story has just begun. In fact, I think it read a little like a story board.
You know, I almost wrote two stories this prompt myself. There was too much open pixel space, it made me nervous. All those white pixels, probably plotting something.
You do some impressive doors Vicki, I remember your first door. The doorman was a dragon in an alley. In fact, I’d like to know what you’re doing with that story. Got any other good stories you’re proud of?
Sorry I haven’t been commenting or responding to comments (in the last round). I’ll do my best to correct that.
This prompt really resonates with me: I had 2 ideas for stories. I should probably have polished them more, but am not sure which one to go with. What do you think?
Word count: 728
Prologue: I stand at the pulpit on the day we bury my sister Maisie. Through this celebration of her life, I recall this story from our childhood together.
Maisie did not want to sleep, she was not tired, she did not want a nap.
“Maybe the little ones did need a nap, but I am a big girl now”, she snapped to herself. But if she was going to be awake then her little sister and little brother needed to be on any adventure with her. She never played games or went exploring without them. That is what a big sister does, isn’t it?
Maisie is not at big school yet, next year she will start, the three of us go to nursery school together. Christmas had been and gone, but our holidays continued, with just a few more days to go.
Mummy and Daddy had wanted us to take a nap after lunch, it was not a work day for them. Daddy worked two jobs and Mummy was always busy playing with us and doing chores when we played or slept. They were always tired and needed more sleep than us children.
We had played games in the backyard, skipping and jumping rope, riding on our trikes, hide-and-seek with our parents and our dog Goldie too. We were all so tired and hungry from all the activity and fun. Mummy had lunch ready for us, she had made us a picnic lunch of cheese, tomato and ham sandwiches, with the crusts cut off, just as we liked them. We sat quietly eating under the shade of the big purple tree, our jacaranda. Now with the sandwiches eaten, we followed them with cut fruit, watermelon, apples and oranges, then as we had been extra good, a treat of an icy pole. Maisie chose red of course, her favourite colour.
After cleaning up the mess and packing away our games and toys, Mummy thought it would be a good idea to have a nap, “We are ever so tired, and so are you”, she said. Reluctantly we agreed and helped us settle into our beds for a restful nap. We shared a room for now, but when Maisie is a big girl, she would get my own room, she would always remind us of that.
Maisie didn’t feel tired but pretended to sleep. After a little while she wanted to go and see what games we could play with Mummy and Daddy as we were rested now and ready for more fun. We also wanted to play with Goldie as she was now awake from her sleep too.
Maisie crept slowly out to the end of the hall to our parent’s door to their bedroom. Maisie was always the leader, us little ones hesitantly followed her every move, she was the big girl after all and would not want to get us into trouble.
Maisie peered around, saw that the door was ajar, but not closed. Our parents were in their bed, talking and laughing. Us little ones didn’t want to be naughty like this, but Maisie told us, “Don’t be such babies, come along. It going to be so funny to see what grown-up games they might be playing without us”.
Maisie slowly pushed the bedroom door and Mummy and Daddy were in bed. Creeping slowly to the end of the bed, and crawling on the floor so as to be ever so quiet. They did not know that Maisie had us in the room, or we had crawled into the room and were watching them at play.
Mummy and Daddy were wrestling under the covers and Maisie tried to hold in a snigger of a giggle. We all did, our big smiles of laughter shone all over our faces, covering our mouths to muffle the noise, to try and stop the laughter that was coming, and couldn’t be stopped. Maisie ducked her head down below the bed, we followed.
Peaking our three heads up in unison a few minutes later and seeing Mummy and Daddy sitting up in bed, and looking straight at us kids. They too began to giggle which made us giggle even more. We were not in trouble at all. Everyone thought our little adventure was ever so funny.
Epilogue: Before Christmas came around again, we had a little brother come live with us.
I’m puzzled why you framed this story as being told at Maisie’s funeral. Do people tell this sort of stories about the deceased at funerals in NSW? 🙂
Somewhat belated congratulations on your placegetting and repeat best character wins.
Generally, I’ve noticed your writing style improved so much in the last few rounds. A big part of it is that your style has become more concise once you’ve disposed with using strings of redundant synonyms.
Last December we lost my eldest sister ‘Maisie’ to cancer. She was 57.
We chose to have a celebration of life and not a funeral. The time was spent recalling our past together. This was one such oral story I told in the day. I thought I would write it out and ‘fictionalise’ it too.
Most of my writing is either true events or heavily based on things that have happened to me or told to me by people around me.
I was trying to meet the posting deadline and I can see the concerns that you raised. I thoroughly enjoy being part of this community and I take on all the critique, writing and storytelling is a lifetime journey of learning.
Thank you 😊
But … I didn’t realise it was that close to real life (not the incident itself, but it being recounted at a funeral/ wake). Clearly, I’ve been going to the wrong sort of funerals.
But you have brought out some good memories here.
I’m with Vicki on this one. I don’t understand how the prologue and epilogue had a single thing to do with the story. It isn’t that it’s bad, but you used up words that could have been used in the story. Cute story of the primal scene. Some people will identify with it, others won’t. I never saw one, but my same age cousins, of which there were 8 at the time and who lived in a trailer, filled me in on what happened after dark when Mom and Dad thought the kids were asleep.
I remember my father asking my uncle Andrew why he had so many children, and didn’t he understand wha was causing it. (They eventually had 16, 12 of which lived.) I remember his answer. “Ernie,” he said, “you know we live next to the railroad track by the viaduct and a train comes through blowing its whistle every morning at 4:15 AM. It’s too damn early to get up, and it’s too late to go back to sleep, so … ”
At any rate, Ozjohn, I liked the whimsey of the story. I see some things that could be cleaned up like this sentence: Peaking our three heads up in unison a few minutes later and seeing Mummy and Daddy sitting up in bed, and looking straight at us kids. It would read better like this I think: Peeking (not peaking) our three heads up in unison a few minutes later, we saw Mummy and Daddy sitting up in bed looking straight at us.
Good to see you contributing again, and keep on improving. You’ve got stories to tell, so tell them.
Your criticisms are not ‘quibblesome’, Roy. I learn almost as much from reading others stories and the critiques, as I do from writing stories myself. I thought my epilogue made sense as an epilogue, Whereas, I didn’t see anything wrong with OzJohn’s epilogue until you made the suggestion that it would work just as well in the story. It would. Perhaps he utilized an epilogue to match the prologue that he really needed. (Not being funny, he wanted to match an existing device. I do stuff like that all the time, (can’t think of a single instance right now of course, but,) we all do it because it works. It’s like leaving the same kind of stone as a marker for the path.
But truly, prologues and epilogues seem ‘too big’ for short stories, don’t they? (Or am I drooling in my soup?)
I think you did it because this story was twice removed from the reader. This is a re-telling of a story that was told at a funeral. After reading Roy’s comments and re-reading the story, I think that you might try (if you like) and remove the words ‘epilogue’ and ‘prologue’, isolate the body of both with a few spaces, and edit to re-fit. This is relevant to me because I just used an epilogue in my own very, short story and was wondering if mine came across as pretentious.
I am also puzzled with the need for prologue and epilogue.
That being said, I enjoyed the way you described Maisie. and your writing depicts your closeness to her. I enjoyed the family dynamics.
I wanted to add that while I’m still torn over the use of epilogues, you’ve given us an entertaining and touching story. I enjoyed the way you wrote it. You never strayed from the POV of a young sibling. This sentence seemed weird. ‘That is what a big sister does, isn’t it?’ (It’s dialogue, so you can do it any way you want. But i would do it differently.)
When I was five, and my sister was nine, my eleven-year-old stepbrother, Richie, led us onto the runway of a local Air Base. He was a good guy and a great older brother, he was always getting us into mischief, and often took the fall for me and my sister. even though we were younger, we were just as mischievous as he was, but smaller and cuter. So he usually took the blame most of the time. One time we (he) took a ball of yarn and strung it around every standing object in this room we staying in. It was visually insane, basically harmless, and he got in trouble for it. We got nothing.
It was October 28th Wednesday afternoon around 2.30 pm when the students and teachers at Edgewater Elementary School were enjoying themselves at the Halloween Parade. Children and adults dressed in Batman, Cat Women, witches, devils, and various other colorful costumes marched along happily chattering amongst themselves.
Suddenly the revelers were jolted out of their glee by the loud and shrill ringing of the school fire alarm. Then there was absolute chaos and confusion for a while.
Seeing that the first graders were starting to panic, Miss Joyce, their class teacher, calmly announced, “Relax children! Nothing to worry. It is just a fire drill.” knowing fully well that it was not.
Despite teacher’s assurance, little Olivia, being afflicted with phonophobia (fear of loud noises), was really scared. She started crying and continued to be agitated as the school siren blared on. She ran as fast as her tiny legs would allow towards the bushes to hide. Unfortunately, due to the melee and panic, no one noticed.
Oli never stopped running just wanting to be out of range of the screaming monster. She shut his ears and looked around for a quiet corner to hide.
While rushing through the bushes in blind panic, she stepped on a wooden plank. With trepidation, she peered under the bush and noticed a small door. She opened it with great difficulty, just stepped into the opening and crouched with fear. The door fell shut. The siren noise was greatly reduced once the door closed.
Oli was shocked when it went dark. She was glad that the blaring sound had reduced but was afraid of the dark. She crouched and relaxed expecting someone to come and find her. No one came. After some time, she tried to lift the door open, but could not. Shouted, no one answered. Finally, after crying inconsolably for a while, she curled herself into a ball and went to sleep sucking her thumb.
Asher, Oli’s brother and a fifth grader was in the same school dressed as a ‘Red Horned Devil’. He was enjoying the festivities and more so the entire commotion and the confusion. He thought it was a clever and cunning trick by some student in the school. He had seen his pal Isaac’s self-satisfied smirk and blithely assumed him to be the cause. “How did he? It is a great trick.” he wondered admiringly.
School administrators were trying to alert the parents while the concerned class teachers were gathering their flock frantically. They were also trying to ensure that all their students were available and taking help of those present. It was very stressful times.
As a part of alerting all parents, principal Roddick rang Oli’s home and informed them about the fire alarm incident at school. He assured that all kids were evacuated and were outside waiting for parents to pick them up.
Kid’s mother Ethel was cooking and talking to visiting sister Sophia when her husband Gabriel rushed out informing her, “Driving to the school to collect children. Kids evacuated due to some emergency.”
The school entrance was jammed with cars and cops were directing the parents. When he reached the gate, he was met with a scene of absolute chaos and disorganization.
Teachers were busy gathering their flock. “Have you seen Gillian?” “Alfred! Alfred! Report to me.” and in similar vein. Students were responding and marking their presence by shouting. “Yeah Miss Lorain” or “Here Mr. Brad.” and so on. Some were enjoying being away from the classroom by playing merrily with their friends. They were shouting happily which their teachers were trying to control. Some of the younger students were seen crying in the confusion and loudly asking for their parents. Adding further to the mayhem and bedlam were the parents busily trying to call out for their wards so that they could pick them up.
Gabriel saw Asher playing. He asked his help to locate Oli. When Joyce, the class teacher, indicated that she was still missing, he started going through school building in a panic. He even went through nearby bushes dragging Asher along.
Still no sign of Oli. Most of the students and their parents had left. Anxiety levels rose. Miss Joyce alerted the principal. More teachers and all the parents remaining joined the frenetic search.
“Where is Oli? Where has she gone?” was the question being asked by one and all.
Ethel phoned her husband enquiring about the reason for delay. Gabriel explained the situation succinctly. “Oli missing! We are trying to locate her.”
Oh my God! How can it be?” she exclaimed.
Ethel’s face blanched white. Her body was hot and sweating profusely and while her hands were cold and clammy. Her eyes were unfocussed and blank. Body went slack. She shouted” Oh No!” and started to hyperventilate in shock.
Crash! Bam! Next thing Sophia saw was Ethel slumped to the ground in a deep faint with convulsions and tremors. Her face and hand were covered with red streaks. “What? Blood?” She rushed to her sister and noticed pasta and the red sauce splattered all around and cooking pan lying on the wooden floor. Heaving a sigh of relief, she started reviving her.
The entire town listened to the news about missing little girl with great shock and concern. A day of frenetic search in which the entire town joined Oli’s parents, but to no avail. The hunt was even more frenzied when they learned that Oli was diabetic and needed administered insulin regularly.
Asher reported his suspicions about Isaac to his parents. Gabriel blew up and almost came to blows with Arthur, Isaac’s father. The whole incident was turning ugly when they were physically separated by Bob, one of the parents.
Town was at its wits’ end. “Where was she? Where did she hide?” Everyone was panic stricken. Few were enquiring with the doctor about the effects of insulin deprivation.
Bob vividly recalled his early morning dream of a doorway in the bushes leading to a dark room. Luckily, he also remembered few of the details. Thinking “What have we got to lose? Some may call me crazy. But it is OK if it leads to the little one.”, he led the search party to the bushes and described his dream.
Despite their doubts, cops and parents followed him and searched diligently. No go. Was the dream just one of those false signs? Parents were frantic. Town was losing hope when Robert an old timer, a retired engineer from town planning, suddenly remembered about a trap door near the school building. With great difficulty, he was able to get hold of the relevant building plan. Joe, one of the cops, located the trap door and opened it to find child fast asleep with tear streaks in her face.
After suitable medical attention including administration of insulin, the little girl was awake and smiling in her mother’s lap.
You deliver another exciting plot. IMO, though, the story would read better if you got rid of redundant synonyms (eg “melee and panic”, “clever and cunning”); just pick the best word of the pair & delete the other. If you have time, you can also do an edit for stray punctuation, “and”s and awkwardly worded phrases. Eg “Kid’s mother Ethel was cooking and talking to visiting sister Sophia” had me stumped for a moment: 1) “Asher and Oli’s” instead of “Kid’s” – there are lots of kids in the story (since the incident happens at a school); 2) the ‘visiting sister’ had me wondering if there was some visiting nun, before it clicked that Sophia was Ethel’s sister. The whole sentence might even work better broken into two sentences, since it’s quite long, eg: “Ethel, Asher and Oli’s mother, was cooking dinner at home while chatting to Sophia, her visiting sister. All of a sudden, Ethel’s husband Gabriel rushed past them towards the front door, shouting on the way: “…””.
Thanks for pointing out where I could improve.
I will ensure that repetition of synonyms is avoided.
Normally my wife does it. But this time she was busy & not available.
I will take care in future.
You know the drill!
Drop ’em like it’s hot….the votes I mean 😉
Here is the voting link:
Good luck to all!
Just got out of a last-minute meeting, I will be telling the votes shortly!
Also, I accidentally published the next prompt instead of scheduling it out, instead of causing more confusion I’m leaving it up.
So enjoy the extra day!
Be careful what you ask for. I used to joke about that “black cloud” over me, but it truly is a nuisance. Work has been awful and my team (down to 3 now) has been snowed under an avalanche of assignments all with drop-dead deadlines that we can’t possibly meet. The State has all positions under a hiring freeze so no hope of any new hires any time soon and if there was hope, there would be the amount of time it would take to train and get newbies up to speed on the chaos.
My son who moved to Indiana is having his own crisis and may have to move back (which I would secretly love) but hate for him because he has done so well but may have no place to stay and he can’t support himself alone. He’s feeling like he’s failed and he’s taking it hard. He has a good job and I’m so proud of how he has done since he left but his “friends” have turned on him and are leaving him in the lurch and I’m helpless in Tennessee.
I finally gave in to the pain in my knees and had them re-checked (I’ve had surgery in the past – twice on each knee) and am now scheduled for a knee replacement at the first of January which is the worst possible time with my team short staffed and overloaded with work because it is a 12-week recovery period. The other knee will have to be done later.
In the meantime, my 7-year-old shoulder replacement has been giving me excruciating pain, so I had it checked and there are problems with it – the hardware has shifted, the bone has degraded, and my rotator cuff is damaged. Monday, I have a whole day of tests scheduled including a bone scan, CT scan and aspiration (which involves a very big needle) because now I will need a “revision” of the shoulder replacement. So, now I don’t know which will come first – surgery on the shoulder? Or the knee?
Which is STILL the worst possible time because I am working side by side with my team since we are so short staffed. Retirement never looked so good, but I can’t afford it and still have about 5-6 years to go.
My ex-daughter-in-law has a new low-life boyfriend and decided to cut all of us out of her life and has blocked us all on Facebook, phone, etc. which means we no longer have access to my two youngest grandsons. She might as well have cut out our hearts as take those boys away from us. My son is not their biological father but was the most stable father figure they knew since infancy. They lived with me for years. She and the kids lived with me until just a few months ago. My son is inconsolable as we all are. She did leave the grand-dog here (which we didn’t ask for) and now there are 4 dogs running through the house while we try to find a home for her.
There’s probably more but that’s enough for now. Aren’t you glad you asked? What’s that old Hee Haw song? “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Just kidding. I’m blessed. It could be worse.
If I do have surgery, look at all the time I’ll have to write. (If it’s not my shoulder.) LOL.
Here’s to the next prompt! Adi
Good luck on your surgeries, they don’t sound like fun, but, as you said, on the bright side, you will get to write more. That’s how I started my whole writing gig.
A hip replacement that went bad, got totally infected with MSSA (bad shit, believe me, just as fatal as MSRA, but curable with antibiotics) and I had to have a new replacement which put me in a wheelchair for over 3 months while I had daily antibiotics delivered through IVs. A prisoner in my chair, I decided to write a simple Christmas story for my grandchildren and it turned into a full-time hobby for me. Probably saved my mental state. But, again on the bright side, if I hadn’t had the surgery, even though it went crazy bad, I would never have met this gang of people that I hang around with on this clandestine trip across the literary world of short story writers. And, it had made my life richer and I am a better man for it, I think.
Is that why you originally turned over the contest to Alice and I?
No, I was in a much better place health wise, but when I turned the contest over, it was because I was working two jobs, traveling more, time was a crunch, (sound familiar?) and the time it took to administrate the site was beginning to wear on me. The final straw came when my integrity was questioned regarding voting. In a fit of immaturity on my part, and although I could have provided access to every single vote ever cast, I felt revealing IP addresses to prove it just wasn’t worth it. Rather than just abandon the site, of which I adore the entire concept and everyone in it, I looked to the two of you to keep it going, for which I will always feel grateful.
I hope you stick with it, but that’s selfish on my part. It is a thankless job, but satisfying in a strange sense. One day, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps years from now, someone will have started here as an embryonic writer, make a splash as a big time, best selling author and credit this site as the place it all started.
There is some damn good writing and some really good writers on this site. Then I can say, “Yeah, I was there when it all started.” You’ve made it better, much better, in my humble opinion, thanks again.
We make our own rules, there will be minor scuffles from time to time, and there will be days you’ll put your finger over the STOP BUTTON. Just don’t push it like I did, ‘cause you can’t unpush it.
I could have given you a more simple “no”, but felt I owed you, of all people, a more definitive answer.
Here are your winners, congrats Robt!!
1st Place: The Library Tunnel by Robt Emmett
2nd Place: THERE AIN’T NO MONSTERS by Phil Town
3rd Place: TO STEP THROUGH by Vicki Chvatal
4th Place: The Best of Times by RM York
5th Place: Afternoon Nap by ozjohn66
6th Place: The Doorway to Light by Jagan Parthasarathy
Favorite Character: unfortunately there was no winner here, with Ken’s story (and character) being disqualified, no other character received more than one vote.
Story with the best dialogue: THERE AIN’T NO MONSTERS by Phil Town
I did not receive Ken’s votes, so his story has been disqualified.
I would ask if you think you won’t be able to vote, let me know as soon as possible if you can, so I can remove the story from the pick list. That would have been 30 points that could have gone to another writer(s).
Congrats to all.
Chuffed to be 2nd.
I wished you could have voted, too.
By the way, the Preferred Stock from Costco is much cheaper and more enjoyable – it actually tastes better – but alas, I quit smoking cigars long ago.
By a mulligan, I meant a chance to vote after the deadline. I did not suggest that my story should qualify even if I didn’t vote.
Did you really think I demanded to be disqualified one week, because I didn’t get a chance to vote, and then demanded to be qualified the next week, because I didn’t get a chance to vote? You didn’t really think that through, did you?
I would’ve liked a notice that a vote was imminent, and a little flexibility in the voting deadline. Most of Florida was under a hurricane warning the past two days. But it’s no big deal, I should have voted rather than board up the windows, but that’s just the way I am, stingy, not willing to share my appliances with the neighborhood. It’s complicated. You probably wouldn’t understand. Let’s move on.
Her name was Nicole, since you asked, and yes, she moved on. All she left was an inescapable feeling, that we are all going to start learning a lot more about water than we ever thought necessary.
Congrats to all the participants, the ticipants, and yes, even the few of you who are just pants. You all deserve a hearty hip-hip, a pat on the back and a couple of jiggers of my Preferred Stock. But you’ll have to imagine it, I’m afraid. Close your eyes if it helps. Sit back in my favorite easy chair. Can you smell the leather? That’s the real deal, Bocho. Here, take this. Have a good whiff of that whiskey, don’t drink it yet. Swirl it around. Put your feet up on the desk. Lean back. Relax. Here’s a lighter and some scissors. Ashtray is right there. Cigars are also an option in this box here. Take your pick. I’ll turn the lights halfway down as I leave, closing the door behind me. Are you ready for the experience? Great. I’ll be back in about an hour.
I wish Ken had voted.
I will savor this victory in the coming months as I struggle to complete one of two started novels. One is about a class reunion (Boring) where a classmate is murdered. (Ah, much better) The other is about the stolen makings of a suitcase nuclear bomb by some Muslims. (You ready for this—in 1962)
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