Writing Prompt “Revenge”
The line “you ruined me, I plan on returning the favor” must appear somewhere in the story itself.
Word Count: 1,200
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The writing prompt for August 6, 2020 will be chosen by Roy York.
152 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Revenge””
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Looking forward to this prompt now that everything is squared away on the home front!
“You never know when ideas are going to hit you. You can get ideas just from sitting in a room daydreaming, just feeling the air. I think people are like radios. They pick up signals.”
I call them “Newton’s apples” – the big idea occurred to Newton while he was relaxing in the park (or so the legend goes) and not while working in his lab. But he had to be tuned in to the science of gravity, in the first place (he had “read the prompt”!) or else most of us would have simply reserved some colourful words to an apple falling on our head on a park bench!
(More there for you to chew on, Peter!)
Incidentally, David Lynch is very much involved in the Transcendental Meditation movement, which is something I’ve been practicing for a long time and which also frees up the mind to allow for more creativity…
It varies from person to person, but I can tell you what works for me: read the prompt, open your mind (I do it without chemical assistance! 😉 ), take the first idea that comes into your head, grab hold of it (don’t let it go!), make that the core of your story (or at least something tangible that you can hang everything on), build the circumstances that surround or lead up to that idea, change direction if necessary as you write – even dump the original idea if something better comes along. One thing you shouldn’t do is expect the whole story to come into your head fully-formed right from the word ‘go’ – if you wait for that to happen, you may be waiting a long time.
I hope that helps.
First time entering this competition, so here’s my entry!
“Okay, okay, fine…you all know how much I hate these speeches—but hey, something needs to be said for thirty years. Thirty wonderful years, and it’s fantastic to have you all here to celebrate with us, we love every one of you.
“Don’t worry I won’t say anything that’s going to make you feel like throwing up. I think the smell coming off the cheese and onion rolls that Paul bought is making everyone nauseous enough as it is. I would say that it’s further proof of his terrible taste in everything, but then again, he married me, so he must get it right from time to time.
“I’m joking though. You all know how much I love this man- he might not be the most refined gentleman in the world but Jesus, who wants all that? I’d always much rather go for somewhere for chicken in a basket than a chicken terrine, whatever a terrine might be.
“And of course, that’s where it all started. For those who don’t know, we actually met in the Ken’s Fried Chicken in town, 3am. I’d spotted him in Nero’s, snogging the face off some short skirt in the corner. She was long gone by the time we met. I remember him sidling up to me at the counter.
“Paul, I tried to ignore you, god knows I tried, but you were so charming and surprisingly respectful, despite the reputation you had when we met…but, I had no chance. As soon as you were down on one knee on the sticky floor, putting an onion ring over my finger, I knew you were the one for me. Ha look, he’s blushing! You don’t need to Paul honestly, look at how much joy it’s led to.
“Oh, while I think of it, can we just get a round of applause for our beautiful daughters? Come on girls, wave at every one, there they are. They gave us the idea for tonight and put it all together—save for the sausage rolls—and haven’t they done a wonderful job. Can I call for a toast? They look beautiful, don’t they? They might have gotten my nose, but they didn’t get their Dad’s taste in clothes, so I guess that’s something.
“Ha, Paul I’m sorry but it’s so easy! You make it so easy! I do love you though, and actually you did get me something, remember that stunning necklace you bought me on our 25th? I loved it, and would be wearing it right now if I hadn’t lost it. So, I might make fun of your taste, but without you I’m not sure I’d get my head on straight, so you trump me there.
“Amy’s just caught my eye, Paul’s second wife as I call her, who does such a good job of looking after him during work hours and actually, if any of you wonder what my necklace looked like, it was a little something like that. You know what, it’s very similar, isn’t it?
“Let me just take a closer look…yes it’s almost identical, funny that.
“Amy, Amy, Amy.
“You probably would have gotten away with it too if you hadn’t dressed in that with the plunging neck, using it to draw attention to those stuck on your chest, especially after I saw you wearing it in the Facebook photos from your Christmas party. What Paul?
“Actually, no Paul, you don’t get to interrupt me for once. You’ve spent three decades stifling me, making sure I gave up everything for this family, and what did you give up? You couldn’t even stop getting it out your pants at every chance. Yes, ladies and gentleman, Paul is having an affair, and it’s not the first one, and he thinks I don’t know about any of them. How stupid do you think I am? Well I clearly am for putting up with it for so long.
“I’ll just take that back Amy, and hey, it’s still got that chip in the green gem. I mean when I knocked it the value dropped, but it’s pretty bloody worthless to me now isn’t it?
“Now, some of you might say that I’m making a spectacle of myself, you might even think I’m drunk. Well, this is alcohol-free beer in my glass and I think I’ve been humiliated enough already, wouldn’t you all say? Why not give a little back on a night like this, eh?
“Paul: you ruined me, I plan on returning the favour.
“And the rest of you: please, now you’ve eaten all my food and drunk all my wine, let’s have a toast. To marriage!
“Now, get the fuck out of my house.”
Welcome from one of the Ken’s, Ken Frape this time.
This is such a great start. I loved the way the joshing turned to coshing ( I just made that up, might use it sometime in a story) and the final line is a killer. When someone is telling a story, yours would be the one people remember and keep telling as good news doesn’t really cut it, whereas this kind of awful event does.
Not sure about your use of speech marks here, opening them at the beginning of each paragraph when it is the same person speaking all the way through. I could be wrong here but others will point the way if I am and it’s just a nit pick.
Good writing, good language and dialogue.
Looking forward to your future work.
Yep that’s a fair point. I originally wrote this from a prompt to write a story using only dialogue, but you’re right. I will remove the speech marks in future, so thanks for the feedback
What’s nice about this story is how you start out assuming that its some happy event. Some kind of party, and then the tone of the speech starts off a bit caustically but then you can believe that it’s all in good fun, until the second wife is mentioned.
The only thing that could stand more clarity (I thought) was when she turns her attention to her daughters. Is she angry with them too. Because I couldn’t tell. she had no reason to be, so the odds are that she was simply thanking them and acknowledging their contribution.
Other than that little bit of uncertainty this is some fine writing, and a good solid story with a nice reveal.
It’s great to see another new writer here. I love your story, (not going to spoil it for anyone who may not have read it yet). You pulled me right in and kept me going.
What a debut!
I loved your story… it’s a bit difficult to imagine how these two stuck together for thirty years (though it’s not unheard of). But, besides that, it all fits together so well, the humor is deliciously tucked in, and the revenge deserving (I expected something bloodier to ensue, but no, that kind of humiliation cuts even deeper.)
The way you/she prepared us for the reveal is brilliant. We already suspect what kind of man the husband is, but we were ready to forgive him (she had found him, the first time, snogging the face of some short skirts… and that kind of stuff… but that was so long ago, don’t we all have some history?… but then the wife keeps pointing her finger… things kept going on and on. I don’t think we’ll be seeing them for their 31st…).
Welcome to our group Andrew, and after this brilliant first entry, I hope to have the chance to read more from you!
Ken (not of ‘Ken’s Fried Chicken’; I sell Hippo Meat Burgers coming exclusively from a sustainable hippo farm)
I’m from Malta… at 3am we’re still figuring out what to wear!!
Revenge of the Angrels
by Ken Frape 1196 words
Having just been suddenly and unfairly dismissed from his employment after nearly thirty years of dedicated service, Bob Evans arrived at the railway station considerably earlier than usual, carrying the box containing his office possessions, that worldwide symbol that screamed, “I have just been sacked!” He found a vacant seat and enjoyed a rare treat as seats were like gold dust during peak hours. He jammed the box under the seat and then he just sat there, looking for all the world as if someone had painted his picture and inserted it into a movie so that everything moved except him. He watched the 16.17 and then the 17.17 come and go. At 18.07 he saw his ex – boss, Martin Ashton, arrive at the now crowded station as he mingled with other commuters, all hustle and bustle, aglow with evening plans, meals to cook, love to make, wine to drink, dogs to walk.
As the 18.17 approached the platform, Bob’s seat was now vacant. Then, a piercing scream came from the far end of the platform as Bob Evans, single, 57, living alone and suddenly unemployed, stepped off the platform and under the wheels of the 18.17 to Reading. Bob always caught this train. He never missed it and today was no exception.
Martin Ashton had no idea that the longtime employee that he had just sacked had just committed suicide as a direct consequence of his dismissal. Bob’s final thought as he stepped off the edge of the platform was that whilst Ashton would be irritated by the delay and missing his Pub Quiz evening, ( every Thursday, Red Lion, 8pm.) that would be nothing compared to how he’d feel tomorrow when he found out who the suicide victim was and why.
The next day, a Friday, was an interesting one for Bob. It was the first time he had ever been dead on a Friday. The exact moment of Bob’s death was excrutiatingly painful. Then he seemed to move seamlessly from being fully alive to pretty much dead. Pretty much dead did seem a rather indeterminate state to be in but Bob sensed that he wasn’t quite there yet. He felt that he was in a kind of in- between place and he was gratified to learn that a twilight zone where ghosts or spirits were allowed to roam free did actually exist. He was there!
But, God help us all, he thought, this place is horrendous. All the people around him seemed to be dressed as they were at the moment of their death and some, for that same reason, were naked. Some were dressed in blood-soaked garments, one with a carving knife protruding from his neck, others were burnt to a crisp, some had limbs missing and several were even headless. It was truly the most horrific scene that any film maker could have ever imagined but now, it was real.
Bob looked down at himself. He was still wearing his old shiny business suit but he was unable to see much more as one of his eyes was dangling by its optic nerve and his head had a huge dent where he used to have a forehead. It should have been painful but then it suddenly dawned on Bob that nothing actually hurt. There was no pain.
Almost before he knew it, Bob rode the no pain wave and found himself in a huge and crowded room. It was like a cocktail party of horror mixed with a buzz of chatter and bursts of laughter as chunks of skin, fingers or singed hair dropped onto the floor. Bob was a tad disappointed that he couldn’t see any Angels but he felt quite happy to be there. Almost euphoric.
Perhaps being dead was OK after all. He was rather relieved as he had been worried that suicide may be frowned upon in the place you go to after death. So far so good, anyway.
After mingling with the crowd for a few minutes Bob was eventually approached by a shooting victim, a small hole in his forehead and the back of his head missing, carrying a clipboard. His identity badge said Zakary.
“Bob Evans?” Bob nodded, surprised.
“Hi, look just a quick question for our records, OK? Now, how do you feel about your death, Bob?” Zakary enquired. He made it sound like an everyday kind of question, like chips or mash?
Bob had to consider this for a moment. Well, he was single and there was no one to mourn him. That didn’t bother him but being sacked? That really hurt. In the end he said, truthfully, “No, I’m not happy! I’m bloody furious!”
“Sounds to me like you should apply to become an Angrel then, Bob.” Zak told him.
“Angrel?” Bob queried.
“Yes, you see, lots of people arrive here, 27% are suicides by the way, with unresolved issues from their lives, “ Zakary explained.
“They are often upset, confused, angry. If you choose to become an Angrel it means that you get to go back to your former life, not in human form, of course, to get your revenge. Angrel, Angry Angel, get it?”
“Oh yes, right, “said Bob unimpressed, “very clever wordplay.”
Zakary went on, “You need to get your own back before you can move on. “
“Move on? How do you mean? I thought this was it,” Bob queried, looking around.
“Oh no, there’s lots more. I’ll tell you later. So, you go back to where you used to work and make Ashton’s life a misery until you aren’t angry any more. If you were there now what would you say to him, eh?”
“I’d say, “You ruined me, I’m planning to return the favour,” or something like that. “
“That should do it,” Zak smirked. For the first time, Bob noticed his sharp, pointed teeth.
“ So if I become an Angrel I can’t be seen or heard?”
“That’s right, invisibility and silence are guaranteed.”
“So what would I actually do all day then?” asked Bob. “It sounds a bit boring, if you ask me.”
“Oh, you’d be surprised,” said Zakary with a twinkle.
“What do you mean?” said Bob.
“Well, there are lots of tricks I can teach you to really irritate living people. And,” he leaned towards Bob in a conspiratorial manner, “ you can see and hear what the living are getting up to………..even though they can’t hear or see you………” his voice trailed off leaving Bob to complete the mental picture.
“Is that allowed?” Bob asked, wide-eyed with surprise.
Zakary laughed again. “Well, you don’t have to look, do you? Depends how angry you are. And you’re no angel, are you? Not yet.”
The following day, Martin Ashton spent a great deal of time rubbing his eye to remove a really irritating but invisible eyelash that nearly drove him mad. His car keys dropped into the waste bin, his paper cup tipped coffee all over his paper-strewn desk and that really important invoice seemed to slide down the back of the filing cabinet propelled by an almost invisible waft of air….
Hi Ken. This is great. I totally believe this. It makes perfect sense. How can one not believe in this? The guy with the clipboard was a nice touch. It’s an original idea, (you even created a name for them), great writing and dialogue, nice reveal.
I have one minor gripe, or suggestion:
In the first paragraph, which is really well-written,
It’s not clear whether the main character is lucky to find a seat in the station, or a seat on the train. Other than that, this is a wonderfully original and well-executed story.
The brand of torment that Angler’s induce is well known, commonplace and aptly named.
I noticed that there was a train station in your story.
A bit churlish maybe to observe anything, but observe I shall … just because. This list of things-to-do – “… meals to cook, love to make, wine to drink, dogs to walk.” – could perhaps be re-ordered to run from mundane to special. And in the conversation with Zakary … the latter comes up with Ashton’s name out of the blue (I suppose all-seeing?), but if you’d had space, you could have had Bob briefly explain who he’d like to ‘haunt’ and why.
Hi, I really enjoyed your story from beginning to end. That dialogue just pulled me right in!
I liked how you portrayed the everyday scenes from the land-of-the-dead, like it’s all normal and regular fare (as it would be, I suppose!). I would have included some normal-looking people too (some do die of hurt attacks and such), but, I understand – someone with a knife going right through him does attract more attention…
Then came the concept of the Angrels, which I found as amusing as a well-why-not? possible scenario. A more sensible one than the traditional depiction of zombies, coming back to haunt the living in crude and ugly ways. Your undead Angrels deal with their victims in their natural habitat (like a regular boss’s office), annoying them with spilled coffee and misplaced car-keys. That’s what makes an office boss jitter. The alternative?
“There’s a bloodied zombie with arms stretched out, skin falling off his bones, outside, for you, Mr Ashton. Shall I tell the security guard to let him?”
“Tell him I’m in a meeting, Julie…”
But an annoying invisible Angrel tipping coffee cups over your important papers and hiding important stuff you just can’t move on with your day without… that’s a real damper!
It’s not the kind of dramatic revenge most of us have thought of for this prompt. But it works very well. And we shouldn’t forget that Bob even delayed Mr Ashton’s train, making him arrive late for his Thursday evening Pub Quiz. Now, yes, that’s evil! That’s how to deal with an insensitive boss whose actions lead up to your death…
The story is laced with mild black humour all over, which makes it all the more enjoyable. My favourite double liner, out of many others, is this: “The next day, a Friday, was an interesting one for Bob. It was the first time he had ever been dead on a Friday.”
One line that I had to read twice was this: “…looking for all the world as if someone had painted his picture and inserted it into a movie so that everything moved except him.” Maybe it would work better with “…a movie poster” (like the ones one often sees at train stations, advertising the latest blockbusters)? Because, a person ‘painted into a movie’… well, if he’s in a movie, he would move! It’s a little thing, but it comes at an important junction in the story where you’re leading the reader into Bob’s frame of mind as he contemplates suicide.
Well done, Ken… and btw another great train piece from you. Trains and theatre stories – you do those very well!
Actually, I asked Carrie, and she kindly accepted 🙂
by Ken Miles
As I walk away from the execution room, I’m tormented by a haunting feeling.
Like I killed that young woman.
Like I should have certified her insane, no matter what I really thought.
“I’m not crazy, Doctor, I know very well what I did!” Those were her first words to me. I couldn’t help thinking, she must have once been pretty. Very pretty.
The two officers waiting outside my clinic insisted she’d remain handcuffed for the entire visit. They’d checked that all my windows were secured and handed me an emergency buzzer before they left her alone with me. After all, a woman who’s killed her baby is capable of anything. My job was to either declare her criminally insane, and she’d spend the rest of her days inside a mental institution popping pills that will do her no good. Or declare her mentally fit, and pass the ball back to the Judge who sent her over to me.
The cops, the Judge, the lawyers, the men and women in the jury, the news-reporters waiting outside had all asked her every possible question on what she had done. If she’d plead guilty to having tied her eight-month old baby to a railway-track and waited for the train to arrive and crush him. They wanted to know what she tied him with. Where she’d bought that cord from. All the whats, and whens and wheres, and the harrowing hows. I had a different question for her.
“Because of his eyes,” she told me.
“The baby’s eyes? Ok. Go on.” A baby’s eyes should bring the greatest joy to a mother’s untiring gaze. But that’s what I thought. And what I thought didn’t matter.
“I hated those eyes. I hated the way he leered back at me. I waited eagerly for that train to get closer and closer, and finally slice through his body.”
I gasped. But I am paid to listen to such stories. So I nodded and with a little wave of my hand encouraged her to continue with her story.
“He still ogled me with those hateful eyes after I’d tied him to that railway-track. What did he ever want from me? Look here, Doctor…”
She stood up. My hand instinctively moved to the buzzer, to get the cops’ attention in case she became aggressive. But instead, with great difficulty, because of the handcuffs, she took out a breast, and then the other one.
“You see the bites, Doctor?” Indeed, her breasts, especially the nipples and areolas were massacred. “He did that!”
I had to help her put her breasts back in as that was next to impossible for her to do alone.
“He ruined me. I planned on returning the favor!”
I glimpsed at her insanity certificate on my desk, my official psychiatrist’s rubber-stamp standing there next to it, like a chess-piece that decides people’s fates. Usually, it was easy. Those sent over to me were obviously bonkers, criminally-insane. With this woman I had my doubts. I could’ve stamped her certificate, based on what I’d heard so far. But I was curious to hear more. Perhaps I shouldn’t have.
“The baby ruined you?” She hadn’t said that much at the trial. It was all about the technicalities there: if anyone else was involved, if she’d taken any drugs, if she’d had a happy childhood herself, those kinds of things.
“Both of them!”
“Both of them?”
“I let him ravage me, the first time, what else could I do? He was stronger than me. He bit savagely at my breasts and slapped my face hard, that’s when I vowed I’d kill him. He fucked me like I was a rag. I was still a virgin! I was the nicest girl you’d ever met! There were people in the park. No-one stopped to help me. They hastened their pace like scared rats, no-one lifted a finger…”
I resisted the temptation to talk, to suggest anything. That’s the most important thing one learns in becoming a psychiatrist. Just let them talk, you only listen. It takes five years of hard studying to learn that. I leaned forward a little, now very interested in what else she had to say.
“When he was ready, he punched me hard in my stomach. And then spat on me. He smelled of sweat and bad milk. Yes, he spat on me after he’d taken everything I had. My grannies used to take me to that park and that’s where I played with my friends, where I kissed the first time. My life happened there. He didn’t just rape me, he wasted all my memories, everything I’d been.”
“And you got pregnant from him?” You’re allowed to ask the obvious, when you’re listening to patients, just to keep the narration going, never to alter its course.
“Yes. My weapon of revenge! He’d taken everything from me, but I had his flesh inside of me. I didn’t want to abort. I wanted to see him again, I wanted to see those eyes. That insolent look. Those teeth that tore into my nipples. I was the stronger one then. It was my turn to destroy him!”
“So you bore his child to kill him?”
“First, to meet him again. To look into those eyes and ask why. But there was nothing to understand.”
I knew, of course, about this phenomenon when victims, even criminals, return to the scene of the crime, to come to terms with their torments. But this took that phenomenon one step further. The tip of my finger caressed the chess-piece in front of me, as I wondered whether I’d stop the session here. She read my mind.
“I’m not crazy, Doctor!” she said again, “Why did they even send me to you? I’m not crazy. I did what I really had to do!” They all say they’re not crazy, of course – that in and of itself might be a symptom of insanity.
“Did you even try to love your son?”
“He wasn’t my son! I only took a walk in the park that day. He came out the same way he’d gone in. He’d bite my nipples when I breastfed him, I’d smell his sweat again, that sour-milk bad breath, see those same bushy eyebrows wiggling. The hatred in his eyes, satiated with my pain…”
“So you think that the man who raped you and the baby are the same person?”
“Of course not! Why do you keep thinking I’m insane? Trust me, Doctor, you’d’ve done the very same thing in my place!”
How dare she say that? I felt a kick inside my belly, then a rising bout of morning sickness. I caressed my distended abdomen, and whispered, ‘it’s ok Shane, it’s gonna be ok.’
She got up, shaking my desk in trying to maintain her balance, and I got scared. Especially because she may have been right. Maybe I would have. That thought sent a shiver down my spine. I just didn’t want to think too deeply about it. ‘It’s gonna be ok, Shane. Don’t worry a thing, darling.’
I reached for her certificate and stamped it. Then circled “mentally fit” and slammed my hand down on that buzzer.
The original paragraph:
“I hated those eyes. I hated the way he leered back at me. I waited eagerly for that train to get closer and closer, and finally slice through his body.”
The new version:
“I hated his eyes. I hated the way he leered at me. I waited so eagerly for that train to slice through his body. To finally shut those eyes forever.”
You did a very good job of captivating me at those first 3-4 lines. Immediately when I read “I killed that young woman” I was instantly hooked.
It took me a while, to figure out that the girl had actually been assaulted, but I only had to re-read a line once to figure it out.
This story was terrifying realistic, and great writing that drew in, so double thumbs up to you! (I would give you friple(four thumbs up) thumbs up, but alas I only have to thumbs, not four
Thanks for your friple! (It made my day) I know, us humans are limited by just two thumbs… but it’s the thought that counts :-)
Yes, I’ve been down the horror road a few times these past prompts. What’s going on with me?
It’s nice to hear that I got you “hooked” from the word ‘go’. As it happens, I’ve started reading, the other day, Les Edgerton’s little writing manual classic “Hooked” (on how to hook readers from the first line of a story)… and by what you say, perhaps I’m doing that bit quite right.
I tried to picture a woman, in that story, that was terribly wronged (not just by the rapist, but also by the inert onlookers and the whole of society and the justice system), who then did something even more horrible herself while flipping in and out of insanity… It wasn’t an easy story to write, and I dropped it halfway (then two-thirds of the way, three-quarters, four-fifths…!) and finally finished it off somehow. I’m glad it worked with those who read it so far. (But sorry for horrifying you!)
Cheers! (this is to compensate 🙂
A great use of the prompt. A very scary prospect in a number of ways.
First, the victim herself and what she had to endure. Doesn’t bear thinking about but we all know it happens.
Secondly, for the child born out of rape. There is a religious concept of “original sin” not that I know much about this being pretty much a non religious person. Thus, a child can be born sinful and it would be perfectly possible for this woman to see evil in her child. To want to kill it, takes things to the next level.
Thirdly, the dilemma facing the doctor / psychiatrist. What a decision to have to make.
As Alyssa has said, you do seem to be going for the horror element in your past few stories. You do it very well too.
Keep up the good work,
I’m glad you liked it (if “like” is the right word to use for such a story!).
I didn’t think along the religious lines of “original sin” (or sinful lineage) when I wrote this story. I tried, instead, to push it into the realm of psychological understanding of such horrendous actions. Also because most modern readers are going to be more used to psychological concepts than religious ones, I suppose. Especially on this religion-allergic right side of the Atlantic…
The psychiatrist’s dilemma came about as a side-line to the bigger story of the rape victim/killer mother, a secondary development I had to bring in in order to create a workable framework for the story. But it eventually took a central role, too, and I think the psychiatrist’s character can be further developed (she’s pregnant, badly triggered by that one final comment her patient makes, perhaps not fully objective/scientific in her decision?).
Thanks again for your appreciation, Ken.
read your story twice. I like the improvement you made in that one paragraph. Much better than the original. Revenge is a subject and prompt that lends itself to horror. If you can’t do horror in Revenge, when the hell can you do it?
There are two aspects to this story, your story. (I already forgot the name.) the mechanics of the writing, and the philosophical nature of the questions it poses. What I find distressing, is living in a world, or a culture, that insists that there are only two ultimate sides to everything. Nature vs. nurture, pro-choice vs. anti-abortion, death penalty advocates vs. anti-death penalty, big government vs small government. As if anything in the world were really black and white.
What makes this story philosophical is that it deals with abuse, murder, the death penalty, and well, you know, the killing of babies. (There’s a word for that.) Infanticide. (Thanks Ken. Thanks a lot.) The victim in this case, the woman prisoner, might have garnered more sympathy if she’d been forced to carry the baby to full term. (Then you would have included a whole new area of contention.)
And what you did here, was to take the circumstances as far as possible, she was horribly violated once, and wanted to understand the reason she was attacked with such brutality, only to find that the violent sexual predator had no motive, no reasons, no emotions, no empathy, no remorse.
But you take it beyond that so that she is now being physically assaulted by the infant, and she has the experience now, of looking in the eyes of psychopathic people, and she knows, that her child has her father’s psychological imprint. He’s already showing it by biting her breasts when she breastfed him. (This is a weak point. Why would she breastfeed that infant? Except once. Breastfeeding is not mandatory.) Be that as it may, the point is driven so far home that I (a mere one single me) wonder what is wrong with people who disagree with me on what is right and wrong here?
(I’m sure no one will agree with me on this. Trust me.)
First of all, the state did not protect her from this man in the first place.
Then, the state allowed her, perhaps encouraged her to carry the baby to term.
Then it allowed her to keep it. When it was nothing more to her than a hostage. (Which, if that ain’t revenge, then how about justice? Is it justice?)
But her ploy backfires on her because the father doesn’t care about his son, either. He’s a psychopath. Then, and only then, (after she tries to breastfeed him, I suppose) does she realize that the son is a psychopath too, and worse yet, useless as a hostage against her attacker.
This is the way our criminal justice system works, probably because so many people agree with it. In my opinion, this woman is a victim, whatever alleged crimes she committed were the result of her victimization. She was a perfectly happy, innocent young girl until being savagely and viciously attacked.
Suddenly she’s granted, by God – the privilege of carrying a baby for nine months and the burden of being its’ mother for life. The child of a brutal predator who should never God help us, ever get out of prison, for life.
That’s like parking a new car in my driveway, tossing me the keys, and saying ‘Here you go. Now pay for it.’ (Well a little worse, actually.) Because then you find out that the new car is ‘Christine.’! And the car is trying to kill you.
No, this is a fabulous horror story for how real it is.
I know a gal, who was so savagely abused by a 300-pound man for so long, that she shot him through the heart with his own gun. She lied about the circumstances at first, and was given a long-term prison sentence. It was determined that she suffered from battered wife syndrome (this term does not do justice to what she endured—I saw her scars,) and she was released from prison after four years. It was a horrendous miscarriage of justice, and it happens all the time. And that’s because the people who run that system, believe that people in their system are guilty. Because she killed someone. I lived with this woman. She was harmless. Anybody could figure that out in an hour.
I got into an argument with her probation officer once, who sarcastically asked me if I knew what she had done. What crime she’d committed.
And I said “Of course I know. I’ve read the transcripts to the trial.” She had this smug look on her face until I said, “The whole transcript. Every page. She should’ve been given a medal, for doing humanity a service. The guy was a monster.” He was into drugs, weapons, stolen parts and used intimidation very effectively. Cops were afraid of this guy. Like he was connected. The only person who could take him out was his captive girlfriend. She tried to leave him many times and paid dearly for it. I knew the whole story. She told me herself. And what people don’t understand, is that all abuse is psychological, even if no psychology is behind it, it still affects you psychologically. But some abusers, like this guy, utilize psychology as an adjunct to the abuse. That’s much worse.
So, your story is great, I’m sure most people will hate it, if they read it. But it’ll come in first place because it has no octopus in it. People are in no mood for octopuses right now. Trust me on this Ken. One complaint. The first line. ‘…I’m tormented by a haunting feeling.’
I have this haunted feeling, as I walk away from the execution room, I can’t help but feel…
Like I killed that young woman.
Cheers Ken. Great story (except for that first line.) Good luck.
And the woman psychologist is forced to make a terrible decision, and goes with her best judgement. In my previous rantings about this story, I completely failed to note or appreciate the bravery and courage of the only two characters in your story. The two women.
Your suggestion that the woman is actually obliged (by state, family or church, philosophy, obstinacy or conscience) to go on with the pregnancy, and actually give birth to the baby, changes the central point of the story. In a way I like.
In my version the woman deliberately (and a priori) keeps the baby to seek revenge on his father, to meet “him” again (the psychiatrist actually puts her finger on this phenomenon – revisiting the scene of one’s torment). The baby, a boy, represents the woman’s hatred against the male-kind, not just the baby itself, as a result of the way she was treated by that disgusting male who took away her virginity by brutal force. And spat on her in the end.
In your suggestion, the mother is actually obliged to keep the baby, and the realization that the boy is the “reincarnation” (so to speak) of her aggressor (same eyes, same gaze, same physical manners like being violent with biting, etc.) dawns on her AFTER she meets the baby. And that’s also when her impulse to revenge comes to her. I like this fundamental change you suggest here, as it makes the story more realistic.
While writing this story (I stopped many times, because I disliked it too much myself, while penning it…) I had a problem: this woman was of course severely harmed and weakened by the rape (of her body and her childhood “park of memories”). Where from does she, then, get all that long-lasting immense strength to devise and carry out her murderous revenge? I wasn’t satisfied with the way I made this destroyed woman so strong in other ways. Something didn’t convince me. That’s when the idea of putting the story in a psychiatrist’s clinic came about: to suggest to the reader that the woman may have been flipping in and out of insanity (like most of us would under extreme psycho-emotional conditions, I suppose), and that explains (perhaps) her actions.
But your suggestion makes the story more realistic to me. That motherhood is imposed on her, and the idea of the revenge comes after that. That is, when she meets his eyes again, and can’t take the torment any longer. The central title theme of “his eyes” haunting her, still lives with your fundamental amendment.
I would like the rapist father to remain uncaught (a comment about law enforcement, justice and society in general, that a criminal of that sort is allowed to live on the loose, while the jury obsesses on trivial things like from which shop the mother bought the cord by which she tied the baby to the railway track. Like the shop mattered.) Also, I don’t want the rapist to interfere with what happens next. The baby’s eyes are now his eyes. Unfortunately.
The psychiatrist, I have my doubts about her heroic position. True, her hands are tied – she can’t do much to help her victim: either choice she makes would have a bad outcome. The fact that she is herself pregnant may have made her judgement somewhat less empirical and foggy/subjective. I have an idea (with more words available) that the psychiatrist has herself had doubts about whether to keep her own baby (Shane) or not (not necessarily because she was raped – that would have been a bit repetitive and too much of a coincidence!) Maybe the father of the baby has left her for someone else, since the beginning of the pregnancy (maybe BECAUSE of the pregnancy), her family unit has collapsed. That she has on countless occasion doubted her love and commitment to her unborn baby Shane…). Her patient’s comment struck the wrong cord with her, because of her own issues. But really, that would need many more words…
I took a note on your suggestion about the first line, too. I’m quite pleased with the first line in as much as I think it’s quite a good attention grabber, as far as a good hook goes. In the sense that what is said would make the reader want to read further, I’d suppose, and find out what the hell happened to the narrator to feel that way. But your simpler rendering makes it more elegant and even punchier. Maybe more linguistically correct, I suppose, right?
Once again: thanks, mate! I declare you, hereby, a co-writer of this story through your very valid contribution to its improvement 🙂
Your personal acquaintance with the woman you mentioned to me, who killed her abuser, is absolutely shocking and comes across as even more so as it’s not “just” a case from the papers (and perhaps exaggerated by the militant/sensational media). I think you have a moral mission to write that story down. A “based on a true story” novel, not necessarily in documentary form. Convince that woman, if you still know where she is, of the importance of bringing out her painful story, so that at least some people will see through reading her story, that things in this world are far from simply black and white, and that those persecuted by the law are often themselves the victims. And quite obviously so, when one just thinks of it. People need to know that the law is only a travesty of justice. There’s no equivalence between the two. I’m sure that this woman (who served humanity through her crime, as you correctly put it) can feed more details into what you already know, if she agrees to cooperate. And then, the writer in you can produce something that no reader would want to put down. Think about it!)
(Apologies possibly due – I may have gone over some of the things you or the others mentioned in your notes above, but I don’t have time to read them I’m afraid.)
Some of your observations are actually quite different from what was discussed above, and very close to what I had in mind when I conceived the story.
Yes, the shrink was a man, at first, and the uncovering of the breasts episode was, as you said, rather shocking in that context. Then he had to become a woman (making a male character pregnant would have been less convincing! lol), but I gave no hint of that, early on in the story, so that some readers will still enjoy that breast-shock moment, like you did 🙂
I didn’t watch ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ – I’ll put on my to watch list. I’d probably like it, since I wrote a story that brought it to mind…
That was an absolutely wonderful story. I love how smoothly you explained the pain of the victim and left the doctor in unease. I love your storytelling, great job!
Thanks also for being a fan of my storytelling. That encourages me to continue writing…
Ken C suggests that he has created a monster. I think it was already here.Why should he take all the credit? It is a several-headed snake ( three heads to be precise) and it is known as the Kenmonster or in other parts of the world as the Kenmodo Dragon.
One of the heads is extremely handsome to look at ( thanks!) and will attract fair maidens in droves. The second head will give quizzical looks to its victims, ask awkward questions and make them doubt themselves and their trenchant views. The third head breathes fire for good or evil. It is as likely to start up your barbecue on a wet day as it is to burn down your building.
For good measure and to further baffle its victims, these heads will constantly move from one neck to the other. Thus, victims will be enjoying the looks of the handsome one only to find that it will suddenly breathe fire or fire off a philosophical conundrum.
Beware this creature.
PS To Ken M.
Well done mate on your second triumph in a row. I will not begrudge you a third in a row but I will try hard to stop you. Be warned.
Ken C….It’s a pleasure to share third spot with you. However, my story was better than yours. Obviously! So there! Bet you didn’t go off for a dump whilst reading mine, did you? You did? Well, I have some of my most creative moments whilst in the lavatory so it’s not a bad place to be for a while.
How about a threesome? Ken 1 writes the first 400 words, Ken 2 does the next 400 and Ken 3 finishes it off. Just a thought.
To Ken M and Ken C
From Ken Frape
I nearly missed this one! It’s good I had a look at the old Revenge thread to see why there are now 151 comments in it :-)
The Kenmodo Dragon (known in Europe as the Kenmonster and in Tonga as LouLou TahTah) is truly causing havoc at The Place. It has taken, what?, some six or seven of the last ten titles? If this were the football (soccer) World Cup we’d be Brazil.
I find your proposal of a threesome quite an exciting one. Threesomes always are, I suppose. I’d already posted my contribution for the Coffee prompt before I’d even read this, so it will have to be for the prompt after that for me. I take it that I’m Ken 3 (by the description you supplied and the chronological order of joining the club, and the fact you already thanked whoever called me good-looking…), so I’d be responsible for the last 400 words and a diabolic ending.
So I’m in, and it’s up to Capitano Cartisano now to say if he wants to take part. I think we’d create a new account, stating that we’re the Kens together… KFCM… If Alice protests and asks why, we’ll say it’s to celebrate the end of the Coronavirus Era (in advance). Like the guy who celebrated the end of WW2 in 1942 (just in case he died by the time the war really ended). Carrie won’t have an issue with it, I think.
So if Ken of C is in, a threesome it is
Ken (of M)
One Hell of A Price
Written by Alyssa Daxson
Word count- 1200(not including title)
Location- Axle Industries-second floor
The pen scratched against the paper, meticulously forming each letter. A man was bent over the table, his eyes squinting from behind his rimmed glasses.
“Still at it Hanson?” A voice inquired, as a hand clapped down on a bony shoulder.
Hanson jumper at the unexpected contact, a short gasp leaving his mouth.
“Uh yeah, still at it,” he replied, hastily regaining his composure. His long time friend, Edward stared down at him, concern shadowing his hazel eyes. “It’s midnight… you might wanna call it a day,” he suggested lightly, the hidden meaning implied. Hanson looked at him suspiciously, his mouth quirking into a pout. “Midnight exactly?” He asked, lifting a bushy red eyebrow.
Edward rolled his eyes, a exasperated sigh leaving his mouth. “It’s 12:10,” he admitted ruefully.
Hanson smirked, “12:10 isn’t midnight,” he said.
Biting back a remark, Edward settled for another sigh. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it’s midnight, and you’re still working. What could be so important that you’d stay up all night for it?!” He asked, throwing up his hands in confusion.
Hanson looked strangely calm in the face of Edward’s outburst, and at his last words, a smile broke out across his haggard face.
“I’ve been working on this for months,” he said, shoving the paper he was writing on towards Edward.
With a grunt, Edward picked it up, his eyes scanning the mathematical equations and theories scribbled down. At each sentence, his eyes grew wider and wider, and his fingers trembled slightly.
“My god…” he breathed out, looking at Hanson, eyes bugging. “You think will actually work?”
Hanson shrugged. “Why not? Cloning is relatively simple when you think about. All you’ve got to do is find the right combination.”
Edward nodded, a glint appearing in his eyes. “Hanson this is remarkable,” he said, clapping the younger man on the shoulder.
“Together, with this, we can change the future.”
One year later
“Cloning is relatively simple. All you gotta do is find the right combination.”
Hanson stared, fixated on the tv screen behind the store display, watching as his once best friend talked about his work-his stolen work.
Scrubbing a hand across his stubbles face, Hanson growled, the fiery anger that had laid slumbering in his stomach since Edward had taken his work away, claiming as his own, flaring up.
“You bastard,” he snarled at the tv, before whipping around, stumbling down the small sidewalk.
He reeked of sweat and body odor. Ever since Edward had fired him, Hanson’s life has spiraled down a dark pit of despair, while his friend rose higher into the heavens of fame.
Every speech Edward gave was a mockery, a slap in the face all over again.
Noises of crackly applause burst from the tv behind him, and Hanson turned and watched as Edward displayed a cloning machine, it’s sleek, metal body looking just like Hanson had envisioned a year ago.
“Success is not a thing. It is a feeling, meant to be shared among all of us. You all made this possible!” Edward shouted, his arms raised wide.
Hanson, already drunk and fired up, snapped.
“That was my work you bastard! I was meant to be up there!” He screamed at the tv, shaking his fists, tears pouring down his grimy face. The urge to pound the glass was overwhelming. “You took my work and left me in the dust!”
Several people nearby gave the screaming man a wide berth, pulling out their phones and dialing 911.
Hanson saw the raised phones, and took a shuddering breath, forcibly calming himself down. It would do no good being arrested.
Stumbling away, Hanson collapsed into a nearby alleyway, the sobs wracking his body.
His hands groped blindingly at the ground, and he was surprised when fingers brushed a hard book cover.
Cracking open his puffy eyes, Hanson stared down at the large, black book before him, a red pentagram stitched on the front.
Taking the book in his trembling hands, Hanson flipped through the first pages, his eyes scanning quickly over the arcane text.
At each word, his eyes brightened with a hope that had long since died out.
Maybe, just maybe, he could get his revenge…
Two Days Later
Hanson stood at the crossroads before his, clutching a tiny box, full of his possessions, in his hands.
Kneeling down, Hanson dig a small hole, placing the small box in it. He quickly covered it up, and scrambled to his feet, head whipping around, searching for a unknown identity.
“You called?” A smooth, feminine voice drawled.
Whipping around, Hanson stared at the tall, brown skinned woman before him.
His mouth gaped uselessly like as fish, and no sound but panting gasps left him.
“Yeah, okay. Obviously if you’ve gotten this far, you know the drill.
I’m a demon.
You’re a human. Make a deal.” The demon’s voice was tight and clipped, practically oozing impatience.
The brusque words startled Hanson out of his gaze, and he sucked in air noisily. “I want you to kill my friend,” Hanson said, his voice hardening at the word ‘friend’.
The demon raised one thin, dark eyebrow.
“That’s a new one,” she sighed, her hands planting on her narrow hips. There appeared to be a moment of consideration, before a glimmer, of what Hanson would define as malice, flashed across her face.
“How about this,” she said, striding forward until they were nose to nose. “You get to kill this friend, and then I get to keep you.”
Hanson tilted his head, eyes crossing as he stared at the woman-or what he thought she was- before him. “Isn’t that how it works? I sell my soul, ten years later you take it.”
The demon shrugged. “Sometimes. But right now, I’m gonna spice up the deal. You get to see your friend suffer, deal the killing blow, and after that you come with me. No prison, no punishment.”
Hanson considered it for a second. That sounded nice. He wouldn’t have to live in the cruel world anymore. “Sure,” he said, sticking out a dirty hand.
The demon glared at the outstretched hand as if it had personally offended her.
“Uh no honey, we’re doing this the old fashioned way,” she said, turning towards him and pursing her red lips.
Hanson hesitated for a second, before kissing her.
It lasted for a couple seconds, before the demon pulled away, her eyes shining with satisfaction. “Well then! I’ll deliver you to your little date, and when you wanna give the death blow, just snap your fingers.”
Hanson just had split second to register, before two fingers touched his forehead, and he suddenly found himself standing right in the middle of a conference. Edward’s conference.
Gasps sounded from all around him, but Hanson had a one track mind, his steel gaze focused on the figure, standing on a raised platform.
“You ruined me. I plan on returning the favor.” That was the only words that came out Hanson’s mouth, before he raised a finger, and snapped.
As Edward collapsed to the ground, a scream tearing from his throat, Hanson felt a hand drop onto his shoulder.
“Enjoy your new home,” a voice said, before everything went red, and the screams of the tormented and heat of hellfire assaulted him for all of eternity.
A really cohesive, well paced story. It isa good read and I like the notion of getting revenge but only at some personal cost.
There must be many, many examples of people working together on a special project and then, one of the team takes the credit for the whole thing. Didn’t this happen with the Facebook chaps? I think there was a court case and a film.
The story works really well and I cannot see anything that needs further comment or critique. It’s a really good piece of writing, Alyssa.
Kneeling down, Hanson dug a small hole, placing the small box in it. He quickly covered it up, and scrambled to his feet, head whipping around, searching for an unknown identity.
“You called?” A smooth, feminine voice drawled.
Whipping around, Hanson stared at the tall, brown skinned woman before him. (Why? Why did he
His mouth gaped uselessly like as fish, and no sound but panting gasps left him. (Gape like a fish? Utter no sound but panting gasps? Sounds like sounds to me. What did he SEE?)
“Yeah, okay. Obviously if you’ve gotten this far, you know the drill. (You’ve somehow hit the return
I’m a demon. (here, creating three separate paragraphs when it should be one paragraph.)
You’re a human. Make a deal.” The demon’s voice was tight and clipped, practically oozing impatience. (Impatience doesn’t ooze, it taps, twitters, twitches and snaps. And don’t ‘double-describe’ things. ‘tight and clipped’ ‘oozing impatience.’ One of these will do.)
The brusque words startled Hanson out of his gaze, and he sucked in air noisily. “I want you to kill my friend,” Hanson said, his voice hardening at the word ‘friend’. (Optional.)
The demon raised one thin, dark eyebrow. (143 words. Not including comments.)
Your stories are fun and creative as hell, Alyssa, but you’re obscuring them with too much description. In the preceding section you make several errors that all writers make in the creative process. (All the time. Including me.) I’ve pointed them out up there. Below, is the essence of the above section of your story. About thirty-five words were unnecessary. This is the worst section of your story, that’s why I picked it.
On his hands and knees, Hanson placed the box in a small hole in the dirt, covered it up and quickly scrambled to his feet.
“You called?” An alluring, feminine voice drawled.
Whirling around, Hanson found himself face-to-face with a tall, brown skinned woman of tantalizing beauty. He gaped in wonder. (awe; amazement.)
“Yeah okay. Obviously, you’ve gotten this far, you know the drill, I’m a demon, you’re a human. Let’s make a deal.” The demon’s voice was tight and clipped.
Her brusque manner startled Hanson out of his trance, but he recovered quickly and said, “I want you to kill my friend.”
The demon raised a thin, perfectly arched eyebrow. (107 words.)
Here’s another section.
“It’s midnight… you might wanna call it a day,” he suggested lightly, the hidden meaning implied. Hanson looked at him suspiciously, his mouth quirking into a pout. “Midnight exactly?” He asked, lifting a bushy red eyebrow.
Edward rolled his eyes, a exasperated sigh leaving his mouth. “It’s 12:10,” he admitted ruefully.
Hanson smirked, “12:10 isn’t midnight,” he said.
It’s midnight… you might wanna call it a day,” he suggested lightly.
Hanson looked at him suspiciously, his mouth forming a perfect pout. “Midnight exactly?” He said.
Edward rolled his eyes. “it’s 12:10,” he admitted.
Hanson nodded, “12:10 isn’t midnight.”
Less is not more, less should be clearer, better.
Okay, it’s your turn. Keep them stories coming young lady.
As I said below, in reply to Ken M comment, you and him showed me the fears I had for this story when I posted. I often struggle with cramming stuff in, and I’ve been reading other books, seeing how other authors deal with it.
Your altered versions of my story are way better, much more clear and concise. As I’ve mentioned before, I gotta hire you some how😉 maybe payment in potato guns or some other gadgets will do?
Thanks for reading!
Thanks for tolerating my fulminations. (Or whatever they are.) I didn’t mean to post the re-writes, as they’re not really useful or relevant and it’s easy to re-write or edit someone else’s work. The trick, AS YOU WELL KNOW, like the rest of us here, is gaining traction in editing our own work. So, the two comments that I posted about your stories, are the same comments, edited, revised, re-edited and re-revised. In my opinion, the first one is too critical and does not acknowledge your proven skills and talents. (Too effing preachy. Okay?)
I enjoy your stories and am TRYING to coach you not discourage you. I’ve never been paid for a single story I’ve ever written, so my advice is worth approximately the same as everyone else’s around here. (Not that much.) Please keep that in mind.
Kenny boy. A.K.A. Bucko.
I’m only 16, so I’m still fresh in writing, and your comments help a ton. So lay it on! I need all the help I can get 😉
-you hath officially earned your potato gun Ken C!-
This story starts out very well, and I was totally drawn into it, curious to know what Hanson was devising, which Edward found so outlandish yet brilliant. Till there I was with you.
With the opening of the second segment, after the one-year temporal break, I felt a little jolted at what had happened. Not that it’s unheard of, that a co-worker, even a “friend” would stab someone like Hanson in the back and steal his life’s work. But it came so suddenly. I don’t think any clues, breadcrumbs, were planted earlier to suggest to me what might be coming. That Edward could after all be that kind of person. I took all that in my stride and followed Hanson’s total fall from grace. Not only his work was stolen, but he was left out in the cold, quite literally – as desolate as a man can get. That worked quite well, if it didn’t come so much out of the blue.
It’s like when Steve Jobs, the not-so-talented visionary, threw his right-hand man Steve Wosniak, his not-so-visionary talented guy out of their Apple venture. Not even that was as dramatic as Hanson’s ending up licking the ground, but it does happen. Oh surely it does. But one sort of sniffs it coming, usually. It was well known that Steve Jobs was that kind of asshole. But Edward? I nearly liked him!
After the next temporal break, of two days, I was completely thrown off, when the demon appears. Besides being a totally unannounced supernatural element, the story then follows a rather formulaic pattern, a Catholic sell-your-soul-to-the-devil bargain sort of thing. The only extra non-Catholic bit was the kiss, but I didn’t quite decipher its symbolism or relevance to the story.
I think you could have introduced this beautiful woman saving Hanson from his sad predicament in a different way. Showing up from nowhere, she affords him hope again, expressing her admiration for his invention (yes, she somehow knows!). Soon enough he feels himself being picked up again, she proposes the revenge – kisses him, even – and only when it’s all said and done that she’d announce that she’s a demon. And that that’s what demons are for. I think it would have worked better that way.
Still, I would have complained about the demon idea coming too conveniently at the very end of the story. I don’t have, right off the cuff, a solution to that for you. But there is something interesting at the end of your story that could perhaps be developed: Hanson’s condemnation to eternal hellfire is presented, in this story, as a sort of “salvation” from this unacceptably cruel world. A rather inverted form of salvation from the one we hear from our religious teachers. Perhaps you could have worked further on that, on the theme that the most interesting people are to be found in hell (the world is cruel, heaven is boring, hell is intriguing). I don’t know, but I see some potential there, in order to make the ending somewhat punchier, a bit less formulaic.
On your style of writing, once again you impress me with your command of such well-fitting expressions of gestures and facial interactions. Especially in the first part of the story, I could very easily visualize what was going on through your choice of expressions, seeing the two men interacting right before my eyes, like I was watching them in a film. Really well done there; I took down a few notes for safe keeping for myself too.
I hope some of that helps, Alyssa, it’s just my opinion at the end of the day. Maybe I missed some things between the lines too, which I might catch with a second reading. But I like to comment right after my first reading as I don’t think many ‘readers out there’ would read a story twice…
When I posted my story, I was very hesitant about it. I felt it was a little too rushed, and not enough paying attention to the actual storyline. Both Ken F and yours comments have outlined that perfectly. I agree with the demon idea. After I posted the story, I knew that was a mistake. Finding the thing that would “save” him in an alleyway? Verrrry cliche. I was rushing, because the thread was extended, after I submitted my story, so I wanted to get a story in this week, even if it was a crappy story.
Regardless of my own predicament, your comments have helped a lot. They have given me a lot to think about it😉
Thanks for reading it!
Your stories are always fun to read and wonderfully creative. As is this one. However, there are times when I feel like you’re obscuring your stories with a bit too much descriptive prose. This, I think, is a natural side-effect of the creative process.
There’s no hard and fast rule here. You could point out that my story contains a lengthy and useless passage about a dog in a wind storm. And you would be right. (I agonized over that stupid passage for several days and nights, and yet, it certainly didn’t work for Carrie.)
You obviously invest much in the creative formulation of your stories, and it pays dividends, but there are times, and this is one of them, when the verbiage gets excessive. I found mistakes in sentences that should have been deleted.
It’s not a death sentence, it’s more like trying to sail with your anchor line dragging in the water. (Been there. Done that.)
I took a couple of passages from your story, and re-wrote them just to see what would happen. I won’t post them here, but one passage had 143 words, the other had 58. I was able to reduce the number of words to 147. Now, simply reducing the number of words in a story is not the goal of editing. But if I could eliminate 50 out of 200 words, clearly, you could have removed many more than you did.
Editing with surgical indifference is not the solution either, as that takes the soul out of an author’s story. It bleaches out the flavor and color of the writing. So, this process must be done by you. (I’m not lookin’ for a job.)
I’m asking you to be as diligent in your editing as you are in your writing, because when you aren’t, it hurts your own deviously imaginative stories. Like this one. It has a dark and sinister feel to it right from the get go. That’s what you do, you’re very good at creating a mood, setting a tone, and leading the reader down a twisting narrative path. It’s tremendously entertaining, and it does require extra words, (like my dog in a windstorm,) so, don’t mess with that. (I’ll slap your hand if you reach for that.)
This story is an enjoyable display of your talent, and despite its flaws, a definite contender in the contest.
I know you’ll get better at removing mistakes and clutter from your most highly excellent stories, Alyssa, and trust me when I say that they’re worth the effort. But could you do it before I die? (I mean look at that picture of me. And that was taken over 40 years ago! Hurry.)
I love the vengeance in your story! Very well done!
Got enough potato-guns for all three Kens? I hope you didn’t initially buy them to potato-shoot us… lol
You know I love your stories and narration style, Alyssa… and I often say so, too. I hope you didn’t take it against me for pointing out some of the things that didn’t work with me in your current story. Well, I think you said you didn’t. But then you seem to be armed with potato-guns, so I’d better be sure!
I am often uneasy to point out things that can be improved in other people’s stories, as I know that we’re all proud of what we write. But I think that it’s useful to hear about how others experienced our stories, as readers (not so much as writers).
I learned a lot from such feedback, but I also had to learn when it’s useful to pay attention to what I’m being told (what would really improve my craft) and when it’s best to ignore what I’m being told (what is stifling my own brand of creativity or simply streamlining my story-telling along the lines of cut-and-dried rules or moralistic approaches). By now I know (more or less) what advice and whose I ought to really follow.
Ken Cartisano and I have had long conversations, by email, on this very theme, as he also had to go through this same learning curve, way before me and we found quite a lot in common in fighting our way through the fog to become writers.
So, what I’m trying to tell you is: read all the criticism (positive and negative), listen to everybody. But then take out from it what you think will be of benefit to your stories. And first and foremost listen to your own instincts. Not to mine or anybody else’s.
As for the advice I do give, I try to put myself in the shoes of the regular ‘reader out there’. One who has no idea of what the prompt was, one who is not a writer, and is not concerned with writers’ issues. That’s the reader we ultimately aim to write for, I suppose, right? So the main thing, at the end of the day, is how entertained and satisfied one feels after reading a story the first time. (Who, ‘out there’ is going to read a story a second time?).
So I try to react to the stories I read here with such impulses in mind. I hope my feedback is of some use, but again, trust yourself first – I’m only one reader out of a possibility of many! Even in the little space we’ve got here, we receive sometimes totally opposite comments to our stories. Although, some of us commenting may sometimes fall victim to the trappings of politeness and not really comment viscerally… (or are fearful of getting shot by a gal holding a potato-gun!).
Back to ‘One Hell Of A Price”. In retrospect, I think that the main difficulty I have with it is the rather sudden change of genre two thirds down the line. What starts like a workplace situational feud type of story, quite suddenly becomes a demonic story of the supernatural kind. I think that’s what ruffled my feathers a little bit. Or a lot. Over and above the advice I gave you yesterday, what I’d do with this kind of story, if I were you, is to decide what overarching genre to put it in and then follow it through till the end.
ALTERNATIVE 1: A supernatural tale rising out of a worldly situation. Drop hints of the supernatural early on, so when the demon comes the reader is not rocked. For example, Hanson, early on, stops working from time to time in order to pray, in spite of being ultra-busy with his scientific research. Edward mocks him, even if in a friendly way.
“Just curious mate. Who do you even pray to?”
“My Guardian Angel.”
“Fuck! You believe in such nonsense!” Edward laughs, but Hanson doesn’t, “What do you even ask your… your Guardian Angel. Not for a pay rise, I hope?”
“To give me inspiration. I don’t think I could have got this far with cloning theory on my own steam. Mock me all you want. I believe in things bigger than ourselves.”
“Mock you!? I wouldn’t have employed a scientist who believes in fluffy angels, in the first place, if I knew!” Edward laughs even louder.
This would have introduced us to the supernatural world in a way that would have made Hanson’s demon-friend towards the end of the story walk in almost naturally… Also it gives us a hint of what kind of uncharitable person Edward can be, so that his backstabbing act also comes naturally, in the middle part of the story.
ALTERNATIVE 2: Forget about the demon and supernatural stuff altogether. This story will live from beginning till the end in the genre of situational human relations. So instead of the demon-lady, you get a real smashing lady, at the end of the story, picking Hanson up from the ground.
“You deserve better than that, Hanson. I know very well why you were yelling at that TV screen. I know you should be there talking to the media, not that charlatan Edward…”
“Who are you, Miss? And how do you know my name… how do you know everything…?”
“I’m a student at ClonePlus Academy. I’ve been following your work… I’m sorry, but I couldn’t wait till you were ready, I hacked into your system. It’s amazing stuff you’ve discovered there. You’re the greatest scientist of our times, Hanson, you deserve better! I even dreamed of marrying you!”
“Wow! You hacked into the our computer system?”
“I said I’m sorry about that. I meant no harm…”
“No, I mean, good you did… So you know very well what happened…”
“You need to get your own back, Hanson. And I have a plan for you, if you agree. Edward will be out. You’ll be back in!”
“Do I agree! Edward ruined me. I’d do anything to return the favor! What have you got in mind, Miss… Hacker…?”
“My name is Greta. I will tell you in a moment what we’ll do. But first you’ve gotta do something for me.”
“Kiss me like you’ve never kissed a girl before…”
So that’s essentially still the same story you wrote, but now no demon is in it (at least not THAT kind of demon!). The fact she’s a hacker, shows that she has no bounds and may as well have the weapon Hanson needs to get even with that bastard Edward… It also places the kiss in the right context (this young woman apparently had the hots for Hanson, way back).
So that’s what I suggest, keep to the same genre, and either way it would be a much more convincing story (at least to this one reader here!). Of course, my offerings are only by way of example. You can come up with any other outcome or conversation. But within the same overarching aura.
And of course, I understand about the time constraints. Unfortunately for you – and me too – we posted our stories before the extension was granted! We’d have had ample more time to polish, if we knew…
So do I earn my potato-gun now?
As I said to Ken C above, I value you guys critiques tremendously, and I have, and never will view them negatively.
As for the story, your comments about the genre are right. The first part and the second part and completely different. It’s like getting thrown from one world to another. I really like your idea of dropping hints, so I’ll try that next time something like this rears it’s ugly head😉
Congratulations, you have earned your potato gun! I’ll ship it(not shoot it) to you!
You’ve got the right attitude there, to rise to stardom, reaping along the way what can be useful to you (and not fussing about what’s not) to build on the great talent you already have.
The shit I wrote when I was sixteen won’t sit in the same room with yours! Not even in a building in the same street!
So keep up the good work and the good open-minded attitude!
Waiting for the potato gun now…
“Dammit, I can’t believe nobody else survived. There’s gotta be somebody else out there,” Fred thought to himself as he fiddled with his ham radio set. There had to be somebody else. He was starved for conversation and company, despite the presence of his loving wife of thirty years. It was surprising, really. If anyone had asked him what his main concerns might be in an apocalypse situation, he would have said food and power. At least he would have said that before this all happened. But it turned out he could provide for their food needs by foraging, and they didn’t need power more than what their woodpile could provide, so he was left with utter boredom as his primary demon. And boy was he bored. It wasn’t that he didn’t love Millie, because he did, its just that without outside distractions, well, he discovered he had nothing to say. That’s not to say he didn’t try his best…
“Millie, You done fixin up those greens I found in the woods yesterday?” Fred hollered to his wife.
Millie came round the corner to face Fred. “Yes dear, dinner’s ready. I take it you didn’t hear anyone else.”
“I just don’t believe it, Millie. How can we be the only ones to survive this thing? We drove around to all the other houses we know of in these parts, and we didn’t see a soul.”
“Yes, and I told you it was a waste of precious gas. Now we have to walk if we’re gonna get anywhere.”
Millie was always harping on about something. Sometimes it was his wasteful use of their now gone gas. Sometimes it was about how he didn’t help enough with the cleaning. Sometimes he just didn’t even listen to her.
“Enough about the gas. I want to eat by my radio gear, just in case I hear something. Somebody’s gotta be out there!”
Fred took his plate from the kitchen and moved back to his armchair. Between bites he played with the radio set. Nothing but static.
“(Static)…I know where you are…(static) I’m coming…”
Fred was incredulous. After what seemed like an eternity of days of searching for some other sign of life, finally, he heard something on the radio…
“Hello, Hello? Can you hear me? This is KNH453, can you hear me?” Fred was ecstatic as he pressed the speaker handset.
“(Static)…You ruined me. I plan on returning the favor. (Static).”
Fred pulled his thumb off the push-to-talk and sucked in air.
“Oh god, Millie. They’s criminals!” Fred shouted. “And they’ve got my callsign!”
“Maybe they didn’t hear you dear,” said Millie fretfully.
Fred frantically twiddled his radio dials, hoping to fixate on the sounds he’d heard.
“(Static)…I sent the boys over…(static)…they will find you, and you’ll get what you deserve.”
Then more static.
Fred felt more comfortable that somehow they hadn’t heard his shout-out, but now his curiosity was piqued. He had no idea how to triangulate their signal to see if he could find either party of this conversation on which he’d eavesdropped. He also didn’t know what on earth he would do even if he could figure out who and where these guys were. The authorities hadn’t answered any of the calls he and Millie had placed over the past few weeks, so he figured the police would be no help. Then…
Then a door slam.
Fred surmised that the guy he’d heard had “sent his boys” over to the second guy’s radio shack, and the second guy had fallen on his push to talk so his radio set had captured the ambient noise. He said as much to Millie, who demurred and said the whole thing sounded ridiculous and unlikely, perhaps the whole affair was a schoolchild prank.
Childhood prank? How could she think that? There weren’t any children alive for miles around as far as he could tell. No, this was real. And it was about the most exciting thing that had happened to them in weeks. Fred couldn’t believe how little he cared about the life that had apparently just been lost. He seemed to have lost all sense of humanity. All he cared about was finding someone else to talk to. Even if they were a killer. He couldn’t imagine talking to Millie for the rest of their existence. And her latest gem…”schoolchild prank”… humph…didn’t even deserve a reply. This was something that stuck between them. And their quarrel, such as it was, could continue on forever as far as Fred was concerned. They had long ago run out of things to talk about. At least this staunched the boredom. And with that, Fred returned to his dials and began spinning, hearing nothing but static, but still in search of life.
I can just picture the scene in a ruined world where there may be just a few people surviving. The amateur ham radio set-up would become perhaps one of the only links with other people, assuming there were any AND that they also had the radio equipment.
This situation would certainly be a test of a marriage which would normally be mixed up with contacts with other people, outside interests and activities. This man has become quite obsessive about making contact with other people, even just one person. Having his water and food and fuel needs met, he then has time to worry about other things. Reminds me of stuff I was taught at college regarding Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Basic needs, food, shelter, warmth and the like form the flat bottom of a triangle, and right at the top are the luxuries of life that can only be considered when all the other needs are met.
Only minor criticism is with the final paragraph that left me feeling shortchanged. Schoolchild prank….childhood prank…..this was something that stuck between them….
Clearly Millie and Fred still do have things to talk about. He is searching for life when he already has it right in front of him.
Not really sure how I would have liked the ending to be but perhaps it would be to be with more static and then contact made although perhaps this is too obvious.
In any case, why would you want / need to change the last paragraph just because I suggest it?
Good story, well told. The point is made. Several points are made.
I notice that in that last paragraph, the exposition really begins with Fred’s thoughts. ‘Childhood prank? How could she think that?’ If so, then it is Fred who ‘couldn’t believe how little he cared about the life that had apparently been lost.’ And then he refers to himself in the third person. ‘He seemed to have lost all sense of humanity.’
to Fred himself? Or an omniscient narrator? These observations don’t seem anchored to any one narrator. (I don’t suppose that’s any big deal though. Just wondered about it. Or maybe I’m just making trouble.)
This is a really sad kind of story, a sad commentary, a condensed narrative on human relations. Since it’s clear that the apocalypse has taken everything else, Mr. Fred B. Human doesn’t even appreciate what little he has left. The essence of the phrase, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is at play here.
The phrase you used Trish, childhood prank, is more accurately labeled under ‘a schoolyard prank.’ At least, that’s the phrase I’m familiar with. It’s more juvenile than childish. Not sure if that would make a diffo in your story.
I love the post apocalyptical setting you have created. The imagination creates an amazing visual of what this life you described looks and feels like.
And there’s quite a lot in it too. How love can’t necessarily and always alleviate boredom. How communication is as essential as the air we breathe. How it’s better for something bad to happen than nothing at all.
There is a double meaning of ‘static’, I suppose, making that one word a great choice for the title.
One little thing that I can pinpoint for improvement:
Fred says: “We drove around to all the other houses we know of in these parts, and we didn’t see a soul.” I’m quite sure that this found itself in the dialogue as exposition to bring us readers up to speed with the backstory. I don’t think Fred would have actually said that, stating to Millie something she already knew. Even for a person who has run out of things to say.
Perhaps you could have broken it in parts.
Millie: “You wasted our gas driving to every single house in the area! And what for?”
Fred: “Who knew we weren’t going to see a single soul!”
Or else put it in as non-dialogue exposition.
Just that, but it’s really a detail…
The Demons Within by Carrie Zylka
Megan stood in front of the dressing door mirror, the woman staring back at her was stunning. Clunky matching bracelets covered the only flaws on her body. Scars she refused to have removed. Despite those, she was as perfect as she could be. She had a perfect hourglass figure, long wavy locks, full lips, high cheekbones, and not a wrinkle to be seen.
A far cry from the fat, pimply 12-year-old she’d once been.
She closed her eyes, gritting her perfectly veneered teeth and forced herself to relive those memories.
Fat, unwanted, and lonely, she remembered how shy she was when Mark Stillman had asked her to a movie. He was an average looking guy who ended up becoming her very first boyfriend. Utterly smitten with him, she’d allowed him to take her virginity, and they’d dated for nearly a year.
Until she caught the eye of a group of mean girls at school. Their ringleader – Molly was a beautiful blond cheerleader who delighted in torturing Megan. Throwing food at her, tripping her in the hallway, whispering to her as she walked past “you’re a fat cow” “your boyfriend only likes you because no one else will fuck him” “you should just kill yourself”.
After several months of this she did just that. Or tried to at least. She couldn’t even get that right.
She spent two weeks in a mental health facility for severe depression on a suicide watch. And when they finally let her out, she desperately fought back the demons. She’d tried texting and calling Mark while she was away without answer. And her first day back at school Molly was delighted to share that she had a new boyfriend. She loved parading him past a mortified Megan, Mark dumbly on her arm, him constantly wondering how on earth Molly of all people would want to date him but excited to be dating the prettiest girl in school.
Unable to defend herself from her demons, Megan tried a second time.
As far as anyone knew at school…Megan had succeeded.
Megan opened her eyes, fighting back tears and embraced the rage inside her.
Over the years she’d made peace with her demons, they’d provided her with the motivation she’d needed to lose the weight, work hard at school, so she could get a well paying job that afforded her any sort of plastic surgery she ever wanted.
She was happy and successful at life. She’d even managed to go to an alternative school that provided her a high school diploma from the very same school that had thrown her away.
And yet the demons remained.
And they’d fueled her desire for revenge with unabandoned glee.
Her gaze settled on the photo next to her mirror. A bit older, a bit heavier, the blond Molly…now Molly Stillman, stared back at her.
Smoothing an invisible wrinkle from her dress she heard the little notification sound on her phone. Picking it up she grinned at the message from Mark Stillman “can’t wait to see you tonight, maybe we can sneak off? The thought of my wife being in the next room while I ravish your body is very exciting to me!!”
Megan’s lip curled in a combination of disgust and pleasure. She wanted to smash the phone, but the whispering in her ear soothed her…
“Not yet, play the game, your time will come.”
Instead of spitting at him, she responded as coyly as possible. “Oooooooo you’re so naughty baby!! I’m sure we can slip away! I have something special planned for you anyway, I can’t wait!”
She turned off the notifications and put the phone in her purse.
Standing once again in front of the mirror, she studied herself.
She had to be perfect.
And she was.
She looked again at the picture of her old tormentor, the one who had caused her to spiral fifteen years ago and snarled: “Oh Molly, you ruined me, I plan on returning the favor.”
Without another glance, Megan snatched up her purse and the projector sitting next to it.
A projector filled with salacious photos of Megan and Mark Stillman’s adulterous affair.
Her demons crowed in delight as she swept out the door and headed to her ten year high school reunion.
Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, someone has said. This is certainly the case here. I wonder how many people carry around a grudge that is the result of an insult or a comment made at school that leads the victim to alter their life, as with Megan.
Children and young people are so cruel to each other. I guess those of us who escape unharmed are truly fortunate. School reunions are such dangerous events, an opportunity to see who has been successful or not, who is married and who to and who has aged well or not. Dangerous.
A perfect example of revenge,Carrie.
* Unable to defend herself from her demons Molly tried a second time. Should this read, Megan tried a second time? *
Oops yes good catch!
“The thought of my wife being in the next room while I ravish your body is very exciting to me!!”
The second half of that sentence is not a believable line of dialogue.
He might start it. “The thought of my wife, being in the next room…” but the finish is contrived. ‘While I ravish your body is very exciting to me.” No. I don’t think so. This is where you could switch to exposition. You can do it right in the middle of a line of dialogue.
“The thought of my wife, being in the next room…” The notion that his wife would be in the room next door, added fuel to his repressed desire. (or something like that.)
Megan opened her eyes, fighting back tears and embraced the rage inside. (I think that should all be past tense, isn’t it? ‘She opened her eyes, fought back the tears and embraced her (something, something. Anything but ‘rage inside.’ (embraced her slumbering amygdala.) I don’t know, ‘embraced her seething anger? Inner warrior?) I don’t know, rage inside, sounds like a line from an INXS song. (Not that there’s anything wrong with INXS.) Other than those two lines, the story looks and sounds good. It’s a nice neat story of revenge.
The line that Ken F. noticed confused me also.
Wow, I loved your story! I love how you perfectly projected revenge through the eyes of a scorned woman.
This is a credible tale of bullying and revenge. School is a rough time for many people, but I suppose that’s an important part of our education too: not just the curricular studies, but learning (hopefully!) how to deal with the assholes we’re bound to bump into in the schoolyard. Since we’re bound to meet such people in life later on, anyway…
I often wonder why bullies behave the way they do, and your Molly, here, is a good, convincing case of an authentic bully to me. I can read into her sick intentions and “issues” with Megan, and both girls are realistically woven characters. Molly’s insults, the way you worded them, are very believable and realistic too.
My only reservation is about the actual revenge: Megan wants to hurt both Molly and Mark with her projections. But would she be so pleased to project HER OWN salacious pictures in front of everyone? I mean, I know some people have exhibitionist traits, but still…
Other than that, it’s a story that worked very well with me and aroused quite a few mixed emotions while I read it. Which is a good thing to say about a story…
BLOOD FOR BLOOD
He heard me. He’s awake, and he’ll be out here soon. If I could only reason with him – if I could be opposite him at the table and lay out my urges, my motivations, he might understand. But you don’t reason with a man who’s as angry as that; he’s shouting and I know he’s after me, unforgiving, potentially deadly.
He’s still in there, looking in the cupboards, under the bed. That gives me a little time to figure out a plan. The window’s out, the front door, too – both closed. The bathroom’s just here, but not so good for hiding – everything’s so exposed, and the light’s very strong. The kitchen’s over there – I could hide in the kitchen, but to get there I’d have to cross the room, and there’s a chance that he’ll come in here at any moment.
It was last night that did it. A similar night to this one – hot, humid. I stayed out of his way until I thought he was asleep, but when I got close he woke up and I had to skedaddle out of there. I returned later and he looked like he’d gone back to sleep, so I got close again but he wasn’t sleeping this time and lashed out at me – missing, fortunately (they always do, in fact, unless they get lucky).
The rest of the night went more or less the same way until finally, when the first birds were singing outside, I caught him when he’d dropped off. And that was that.
So this evening I was in a corner of the living room, out of sight, when he called what I think was his best friend (I could only hear his side of the conversation, of course).
“A disaster! … Yeah, terrible … Well, they wanted two, and there were five of us … The others? … I was chatting to them beforehand, and man, I tell you – a bunch of losers. I was WAY more qualified than them, not to blow my own trumpet or anything. I mean you know me, right? You know my work? … Sorry, yeah, so, I was the third one in and I should have fucking breezed that interview … Why not? I’ll tell you why not. I didn’t get hardly a wink of sleep last night, that’s why not! … Go on, guess … That’s right! Got it in one! Do you have the same problem? … No, I’ve tried that … Yeah, so I go in the interview, right, as confident as you like, and there’s a panel – three interviewers. And at the very first question, my mind goes completely blank! Like I’m staring at a whitewashed wall! … I know! I’m usually as sharp as a tack! Anyway, it just went downhill from there. My confidence was shot. And I felt weary, man. Weary like a bloody pensioner or something … I know. There’s hardly anything about in my area of work, and I needed that job like I need my own blood … Haha – you’re right! So now I don’t know what I’m going to do. The rent’s two months in arrears. I’ve got the payments on the car. I’ve got nothing in the fridge. So I was wondering, man, could you see your way to– … Oh, no, sure, I understand … Of course. No, don’t worry, I’ll sort something out … Yeah, maybe I’ll try him … Sure, you too, take care! Bye. — Shit!”
He got a bottle of whisky – he could afford that! – and flopped down on the sofa. After a couple of glasses he just started crying, or weeping really. And half a bottle later he staggered off to the bedroom. That’s when I tried to do the business again, thinking that he’d be out like a light. But no! The first time I got near him he whipped off the bedclothes and started waving his arms about, grabbing air and shouting.
“You ruined me, you little fucker! And I plan on returning the favour!”
He’s still in there, turning the room upside down. But he’ll soon figure out I’ve escaped and he’ll be out here next.
An eye for an eye. That’s what they say, don’t they? A tooth for a tooth. And blood for blood?
Yep. He’ll have my blood for sure. If he manages to find me. And get me … with that swatter thing of his. They work quite well, unfortunately for us.
So maybe I’ll lie low tonight. Hmmm … Under the sofa? Yes, that should do it.
Great story and no spoilers from me.
I might write more when there are other comment in as I really don’t want to spoil the surprise. There were a number of clues in the story but i onlt realised what you had done at the end and with a reread. That’s a compliment, by the way. I didn’t get it in one!
Great stuff, Phil.
I love your story and the imagination behind it. You had me going then that ending of yours pulled it all in.
The backstory is cleverly told through the phone conversation, even if we’re only given half of it. At no point does the story gets dull, even though a proper two-way conversation was not possible for this one. (Though the dialogue prize always is, you know!).
(“At no point does the story get[s] dull.” I think that’s what they call in the trade: ‘Damning with faint praise.’! 😉 )
What I meant was that a dialogue in the form of a two-way conversation was not possible for this story (since one guy is a mosquito and the other in no mood to sit and talk). And I’m getting to learn that stories without dialogue often make a dull read, even when they are actually quite good. But here, without the device of a two-way conversation at your disposal, you still gave us a story that’s lively and fun.
It’s praise, with no strings attached 🙂
You wrote: ‘That’s it. Got it in one. Do you have the same problem?’
Got it in one? I don’t get the syntax there. This is one of those weird ways of wording that you English misuse.
The story’s great though. I was absolutely mystified until the next to the last sentence. And then of course, it all makes sense. Very clever.
‘Got it in one’ isn’t really a syntactical problem, I don’t think – it’s just an idiomatic expression that’s (apparently) unfamiliar to US English speakers (it means: ‘you got the answer in one attempt’).
Thank you. For the translation. I’ll know that next time I see it. Over here we would say something like, ‘You got it at once.’ Or, more likely, ‘That’s it. You’re no fool. Do you have the same problem?’ I’m trying to think of other expressions that would mean the same thing. ‘That’s it. You’re a quick study. Got the same problem?’ Which is just as weird and probably just as obscure. I’m fascinated by these innocuous sayings that are like grammatical ‘tells’ of a writers origins or linguistic background.
It didn’t take me out of the story. (But I wouldn’t use it if I were you.) Now that I know what it means I hope to see it again. But let me repeat that the goddamned story was brilliant. Like a word riddle. Some readers may want to stop before the reveal and try to figure it out. (As I did, but I gave up, I could not figure out what it was, even though you gave me more than enough clues.) This is a very creative take on the prompt, Phil. (I still intend to win, though.)
The backstory is cleverly told through the phone conversation, even if we’re only given half of it. At no point does the story gets dull, even though a proper two-way conversation was not possible for this one. (Though the dialogue prize always is, you know!).
A Man’s Best Friend.
By Ken Cartisano.
A scribbled threat on a crumpled piece of paper, that’s all I had to go on. ‘You ruined me. I plan on returning the favor.’ But it was enough to lead me to this rustic cabin, nestled in the woods between Hurricane Ridge and a small, babbling mountain brook. The view included a small strip of valuable homesteads at the center of a long, picturesque valley.
Jodie was the realtor who first showed me the property. Jodie Masters. She had the kind of presence you don’t easily forget, long dark hair, luscious legs. She was single as well.
I began work on the cabin. Sealing cracks, replacing old wood. Reframing the doors and windows. Then I started on the property, cleaning up debris, bush-hogging the fields. Planting fences.
I refused to contact Jodie, despite her invitation. ‘Call me when you’re settled in,’ she told me with a wink. But that’s just something people say, it doesn’t mean you should actually do it. Then again, after digging fifty-one holes for forty-seven posts, I began to question my math, my judgement, and my decision to drink while planting posts. “What do you think,” I asked the current post. It had two knots that looked like crooked eyes. “Should I call that sweet little realtor from across the mountain?”
Jodie was an outsider, like me. She arrived in a big white Cadillac a few days later, and parked in the only spot that blocked the view. Hard to believe she was desperate enough to accept my invitation.
She brought a crate of wine as a housewarming present.
I served fresh trout. We sat on the porch until late in the evening, watching the fireflies and distant lightning, discussing the history of the mountains and the philosophy of fences. I was enchanted. She was a versatile and ingenious woman.
She was also a little tipsy. We were laughing about genetically crossing mosquitos with fireflies when she said, “Shit, they’d have about as much chance of survival as you do.”
When I insisted that she elaborate, she chose to leave.
An hour later, the storm arrived. Near gale-force winds howled through the pines as they whipped the trees back and forth, but no rain. Then a huge, black dog showed up, with yellow eyes and a twitch in his lip, like he was cursed to snarl, no matter what. He was utterly silent, very intimidating. His supernatural aura was belied by an all too practical orange collar. We simply stood there, staring at one another, with the wind buffeting everything around us until I retreated into the cabin. A minute later it began to hail. I went back outside to look for the dog, but he was gone.
Without waiting for an invitation, the realtor, Jodie, returned late one afternoon. She apologized for her abrupt departure a few nights earlier, and offered to cook me dinner with whatever I had in the fridge.
The dinner was epicurean; her demeanor was warm and gracious, as if she was auditioning for a relationship. We ended up on the back porch again, with snifters of Brandy and a hand-rolled joint of something she called, Chernobyl, which she was willing to share, but I declined. She cleared her throat and began to explain: “You weren’t supposed to buy this property, Paul.”
“Not supposed to buy it?’ What are you saying? You SOLD it to me.”
“I was compelled to list it Paul, but you weren’t meant to buy it. I did a little research and you didn’t have the money, or the credit.”
“That’s why you showed it to me?”
“Because you didn’t think I could buy it.”
“Then why put it on the market? Property changes hands all the time without realtors getting involved.”
That’s when she told me about the scheme she was involved in, illegal land speculation, filching of state highway funds, I’ll skip the details. Suffice it to say, the transactions have to have appraisals, contracts, public sales. “That’s my job,” she said, “to make sure that no serious buyers even hear about these tracts until certain interested parties already have their teeth into ‘em. Unfortunately,” she patiently explained, “in this case, the lawyer was sidelined with an ailment of some kind. Your offer was submitted and accidentally approved by an associate who was ‘out of the loop.’ The deal went through, and a lot of people are not too happy about it.”
“Tough shit,” I said. “I like this place, and I’ve already put a lot of work into it.”
“I know,” she said. “I know. I’m not asking you to move, I’m just telling you, they don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.” Only then did she mention the murders, and the shallow graves.
“On THIS property?”
“That’s not what I asked.”
She shrugged. “There’s a couple.”
After a brief and strained silence, I said, “How did you get involved in all this… with these kinds of people? What kind of investment scheme involves murdering people?”
She brightened visibly. “It can be quite lucrative, actually,” as if she was talking about sporting equipment. I almost laughed.
“No.” I wagged my finger at her. “That doesn’t explain how you got involved.”
“My ex,” she said, and then took a hit off the joint and held her breath.
“So your ex-husband got you involved, and then he left, and now…”
She exhaled. “No, he’s dead. He’s buried in one of your fields,” she said, looking out into the darkness. “Which is where you’re gonna wind up if you don’t cooperate.”
“You don’t care if I cooperate,” I stated.
That startled her. “What do you mean?”
“I mean your intention here tonight is to kill me, not convince me.”
She checked her watch, (how’s that for a reaction?) …as if she was expecting someone, or something. She avoided looking at me, but was so rattled, she forgot or didn’t’ bother to deny the accusation.
I had hidden cameras, and held up my phone to show her a video of her pouring a powder into one of two large clear glasses, with tinted bases, each base was a different color. The powder went into the green glass, I was drinking from the red one. Her dossier indicated she was color-blind.
I’m not sure it was clear to her. She stood up to leave, and the drug that was meant for me must have kicked in, because she sat back down and said, “Oh.” Her face turned pale.
“Does the name Tim, mean anything to you, Mrs. Sutton? Me and your ‘ex’ served two tours together. We were best friends. When I heard he got married, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t invited to the wedding. And then he disappears: Very suspicious.”
She looked anguished, then suddenly ill.
A chunk of ice could not have been less animated as I watched her cough, and choke on her last few words. “That was so, so…”
“Long ago?” I offered.
Turns out the dog’s name is Max. It’s written on his collar. He likes cookies, but he’ll eat just about anything.
Ken, loved the story but I don’t understand the dog part. What does a dog named Max have to do anything? And why will he eat anything? Did the narrator feed him poison too?
Ken, did I crack the code?😉
Ohhhhhhhh I didn’t make the connection to feeding her to the dog!
The dog is getting my vote his favorite character this round.
The part at the end gave me a laugh. I was actually reading this in the car with my mom, and I laughed out loud. She gave me a weird look, and then I read her the story, and also laughed too.
So you got both my mom and I’s approval. Very good story Ken C, I applaud you
Yes, you have cracked the code. I’m happy to hear that not one, but two people in one car got a laugh out of the last line. It’s always great to hear that someone has read or recounted my story to someone else. I read other people’s stories to my mom or girlfriend all the time.
To reinforce a couple of your observations: Yes, Paul anticipated everything because he knew all about her from the get go, (even her color-blindness) who she was and what she was up to before he ever bought the property. (The Prompt after all, is Revenge.)
In your comment to Carrie you also hit the nail on the head. ‘Ken is implying that he fed Jodie to Max.’ (I never actually said it.)
Thank you for your ‘magnificent’ comment. I really appreciate it.
Another great piece of writing. A very well worded story with very realistic and natural dialogue.
I loved several of your phrases;
A chunk of ice could not have been less animated
the dinner was epicurian
as if she was auditioning for a relationship
parked in the only spot that blocked the view….to name but a few
One or two things I don’t get;
The note in the first sentence ( the prompt) baffles me. Who wrote it? Where does it come from? Am I missing something I should have got?
The dog, Max? As has been suggested, he will eat anything, and, by implication, Jodie. But, if she has just been poisoned, won’t that also kill the dog then?
Also a slight confusion in my mind about Jodie’s surname and her ex. Was he the same one who served together in the military with the narrator? Did Jodie divorce him, then get remarried or did she kill him and get remarried? He is referred to as the “ex” which suggests a separation or divorce. Was he the one who got Jodie involved?
In spite of the above paragraphs, highlighting my slight confusion, you have, as ever, written a really good story full of your usual guile and cunning.
Thanks for you positive feedback and your comments. You state that there are one or two issues.
The note, which represents the prompt, is largely irrelevant.
The dog, Max. As you noted, I merely implied that he consumed Jodie. The last line could be my way of saying that ‘not everything that looks threatening’, like a big black silent dog in a storm, ‘is threatening.’ While seemingly harmless things like sexy realtors with great legs, like Jodie, can be dangerous if not downright fatal.
(Also, I never named the drug. Could be a toxin, could be a powerful overdose of sedative.) This is fiction, so I sometimes expect a small leap of faith, or (in this case) latitude in not explaining every detail because of the word limits.
You also asked about ‘The bit about the surname and the ex:
Slight confusion about Jodie’s surname and her ex. Was he the same one who served together in the military with the narrator? Did Jodie divorce him, then get remarried or did she kill him and get remarried?
“…, Mrs. Sutton? Me and your ‘ex’ served two tours together. We were best friends. When I heard he got married, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t invited…”
(Jodie Masters is a fictitious name. She is Mrs. Sutton, a woman who engineered a quick marriage to his friend. (A ‘black widow type.’)
“So your ex-husband got you involved, and then he left, and now…”
She exhaled, “No, he’s dead. He’s buried in one of your fields.”
One must assume that if she didn’t kill her husband herself, she certainly knows who did. Otherwise, why would he be buried in someone else’s field? This is alluded to earlier by the ‘mention of murders and shallow graves.’
She certainly would not have made this confession if she wasn’t already planning to kill the narrator, assuming he’d already ingested the drug. (not specified.)
I hope that answers your questions, Ken. I’m pretty sure everything’s already in the story. (I used a shoe horn and some bacon grease, okay, okay, and a rubber mallet.)
Thanks for the inside info. All clear now and, as you say, it is all in the story. An ingenious plot.
Well, I don’t know if it’s clear, but it’s all in there. Generally, when people miss something obvious in a story, often it’s because something else has taken them out of the story. Like ‘Chenobyl, or fireflies. (Could also be that the reader was hungry or tired.) (Or drunk, but I, well, I’m sure you weren’t drunk.) It’s no great achievement to write a story that people have to read twice to understand. So, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if anyone else has some thoughts on it.
Believe me Ken, I worried about the confusion around her identity and whether I had made it clear enough. I wanted to add a subtle hint earlier on in the story, but all of my attempts were clumsy and would have given everything away. (I thought.) And there’s the word count of course. That pesky word count. (I should’ve consulted Andy.)
I’ve read all the other stories and they’re all really imaginative. So much so that mine seems boring by comparison.
You know Ken, I don’t know why I continue to rename other people’s stories. They don’t like it. I guess I just enjoy it more than other people hate it. (Or hate me for it.) Now your story Ken. Angrels. I don’t think I could come up with anything better than that. When a writer invents a word for the title of their story, shit, it’s pretty much impossible to improve on that. (I could satirize it, maybe, but that’s a different thing.) I hope you believe me when I say I’m sincere about that. It’s a very inventive story, so it deserves a new word.
I was really confident when I posted this story, but now, I don’t know.
It’s really windy out.
p.s. I was sitting in the living room tonight, watching some idiotic three hour movie about comic book characters that I never heard of, and I looked out the window, and everything looked orange. Like I was looking at the world with sunglasses on. Me and Kim went outside, and it was orange. The clouds, the sky, the beige and yellow houses. Everything that was white or yellow, or blue, looked orange. A couple of other people came outside at the same time and commented on it. We get a lot of pink sunsets around here, but orange is pretty rare. I hope it’s not a sign of something. Maybe Trump fired the sun. ‘All you do, is go around and round. In circles. You’re not doing anything new, or original. Yer, fired.’
I understood right away that Mrs. Sutton was Jodie Masters’s real name, and that Tim is ex-husband, the one referred to earlier (since he’s the only ‘ex’ featured in the story). The fact that the narrator knew she was color-blind (and that he got that info from some kind of dossier) helped me understand that he had been investigating this woman for some time. In other words, that he wasn’t the naïve property-buyer we’re first led to believe he is. So far so good. Also about having his place under camera surveillance – that also told me something about what he was up to.
I found it a little difficult to believe that he managed to switch their drinking glasses. Despite her color-blindness (or even more so, since she must have been aware that she was color-blind!) I suppose she would have guarded very well the glass she poured the bad stuff in, so that it wouldn’t end up in front of her. But then she was under the effect of something she was sniffing at. So maybe that’s fine too.
I understood on first reading that he fed the woman to the dog. Perhaps because I often have people being eaten in my own stories. Not really – I think that’s well told: Max likes cookies, but he’ll eat just about anything. And what else was there to eat? The bones too? Oh well, that’s the best part for a dog…
It all sort of fits, but I still don’t know who exactly ruined who and wrote that revenge note. I think you said somewhere in a comment that that line didn’t matter (it’s just there to satisfy the prompt). But you start with it, and it remained at the back of my mind throughout, till I got to the very end of the story. It just had to mean something! Did Tim write it and let the narrator, his best friend, get hold of it, to revenge on ‘Jodie’ on his behalf? It’s a story that left me somewhat baffled, even though I enjoyed reading it and was ready for the rough twisty ride.
I read the comments and some other readers seem to have been left even further back than me in their understanding of the plot. But me too, I’m still not sure if I understood the whole thing.
I like the idea that the fearsome dog is in the end a friend and that the appetizing (!) woman turns out to be the evil character. A lesson to keep there: things and people are not what they seem… All that glitters is not gold, and all that’s leggy is not necessarily friendly. But appetizing it always is. Just ask Max.
Thanks for the extensive feedback Ken. Sorry to hear of the confusion I’ve generated in your highly sophisticated brain. Clearly, to cause that, my story must have serious issues, as well as the weaknesses pointed out by Phil and the Ken of the Frape. (Who was so diplomatic about it I was able to dismiss his complaints with a simple 500 word disposition.) I’ve been having a minor little health issue here with Kim, not too serious, I think, and not Covid, but the pandemic complicates all other health issues. And despite our ‘excellent’ health care system, full insurance coverage, and the best over-priced pharmaceuticals in the world, getting some fucking pain relief for my wife his harder than getting a glimpse at President Ass-hats’ taxes.
Sorry I couldn’t be more annoying to everyone this month, but it couldn’t be helped. Maybe I’ll have more opportunities next month. Getting ready to vote now.
I thought about adding a few hints and clues earlier on, but didn’t.
Thanks again for the feedback Phil.
I love the revenge of the long ago jilted best friend. I knew you were up to something when Jodie admitted to so many murders and how the property changed hands. I also love Max, that cookie loving dog. I bet he knew more than he was willing to admit. 🙂 Overall, a great story!
By: Amy Lynn Raines
So, here I am, in front of God and everybody.
I should have spoke up sooner, I know, but I am ready and willing to tell the truth about what happened at the Conner’s home.
First off, the media and the newspapers got it all wrong. They based their words on lies. No matter, I am ready to set the record straight, so listen up. I have very little time to say what needs to be said.
My husband Joe, myself, and our four beautiful children have walked through Hell as we faced life on Earth.
The hovel we lived in was an extraordinary example of what true poverty is. It was nothing more than a one room, run down shack full of cracks and crannies, broken windows, and unsealed doors.
Most of the windows were missing, and we couldn’t afford to buy plastic to put over them to keep the cold winter wind out. We did, however, tape some boxes together along the flap edges. I pinned them up over the worst of the breaks and cracks. Of course, that only does so much.
None of our rooms had doors. We had old blankets that had worn to thin to keep us warm tacked up over every single door-case. What was supposed to be the front door was a bunch of crisscrossed planks of wood nailed together, with nothing between them to keep the air out. The only real door in the place was the one on the back stoop that served as our entrance and exit. Anyway, I’m sure you get the picture.
Joe worked long hours for very meager pay. The factory he worked at only paid him when an order was full, and some of the orders were huge. When one is paid very little, the pay date makes no difference as to how the money is spent.
Naturally, we paid rent and electricity first so we could keep our pitiful little roof over our heads. Then we paid the electricity so we could try to maintain some warmth in the winter and cook our tiny meals. No matter how much I tried to save back, it never seemed to tide us over long enough. Some nights, we didn’t even have enough leftover crumbs to call a meal. Either way, we were happy because we had each other.
With the kids finally old enough to go to school, I began looking for work. Because of my work history, or the lack there of I should say, no one wanted to hire me.
After a week of searching, I was finally hired by an elderly couple, Cole and Emily Conner. They were getting on in years, but not quite ready to retire. They needed someone who would clean their house, start dinner, and watch their little Yorkie while they worked in the mornings.
I kept their place spotless and cooked their meals exactly as they liked. Milo, their Yorkie, was a pure joy to tend to. Over the course of time I became quite fond of them as you can imagine, and they of me.
Naturally, with more money coming in the house, things were a bit less tight. I was able to get a car to drive, and have phone line put in our house for emergencies. Then, I began saving money in hopes of finding a better place for our family.
Joe never took the car, he chose to walk back and forth to work. Not that it made sense for him to drive anyway, he never had a license. That was the one thing I maintained through the years, regardless of our funds. I always held out hope for a brighter day, and by this time, things were looking a lot less glum.
After more than three years of working, my husband announced that the landlord wanted to sell the house to us, as is. That meant we didn’t have to move after-all. I didn’t think it was a good idea. Sure, we were used to the place, but the place I had found had three bedrooms instead of one. Our girls could share a room and so could our two boys. Joe and I would not have to sleep on the floor in the living room anymore, we could have privacy at last in our own room with an actual door.
Joe knew that it was better to leave our little hovel rather than buying it. For no reason at all, he got angry with me, he kept telling me that I could never understand how hard moving would be for him.
I told him it was too late, I had already put a down payment on the house but hadn’t told him because I wanted it to be a surprise. Joe flew into a rage, it was the first time he had ever hit me. He yelled, “How could you do something so stupid, Lexi? You ruined me, I plan on returning the favor.” Then he grabbed the keys and took off in the car.
I had no idea where he had gone to, but hoped he would return so we could discuss things like adults should. I still loved Joe, and could forgive him raising his voice and his hand if her were truly sorry. What I hated most about that night was how he yelled in front of the children, that should never be done. However, I could forgive him that, too.
The next morning, he had still not come home. I was desperately worried but went to work anyway after the kids had gone to school. I had to walk, so I was a bit late, which I have to admit made me a bit more irritated with Joe even though I was still worried about him.
When I got to the Conner’s home to do my work, nothing looked any different. I parked next to the garage so they could back out like any other day and went inside the house to begin my chores.
There were no breakfast dishes to do so I went to the master bedroom to check on Milo, change the sheets and make the bed before starting the soup the Conner’s liked on cool evenings.
I opened the bedroom door to the most gruesome scene I had ever seen! There was blood everywhere. It was obvious that the Conner’s were dead and so was precious Milo. Beside the bed there was a wedding ring, it was Joe’s. I scooped it up, placed it on my right hand and called the police.
The police quickly arrived and took control of the situation. I gave my statements, never speaking about Joe’s ring. The next thing I knew, I was being arrested for their murder. No one could find my husband or my car, so my kids were taken away from me.
Even now, with this noose around my neck, I could have forgiven him for everything he had done. What I can’t forgive is that smug look on his face while he holds the child he created with our neighbor’s wife. Her husband is in her back yard, by the way.
I could visualize the house so clearly from your description. The blankets on the doors had color, that’s how vivid the images were. The criss-crossed planks of wood.
I like your writing. (I’ve read all your books–but they were pretty inexpensive.) I would wish for a better ending though, for dear Lexi. What do you think about a different ending? Does that interest you? I want her to get revenge.
That ring, that wedding band, that’s a nice little touch. That’s something that you could use. I don’t think you’re taking advantage of it, I think.
Wait a minute. Where was the REVENGE in this story?
Plus, she had no motive, and no opportunity. Husband had the car.
Something doesn’t add up here. This is kind of like my octopus story. (minus the water.) Which, I thought was pretty good, so, whatever you do, DON’T LISTEN TO ME.
Thank you so much, I’m glad you had fun with the story. I was hoping to leave the reader to speculate what would happen next when Lexi told the truth about what happened at the house when she arrived. The revenge was him framing her for murder, as well as her calling him out on his infidelity in the face of the public.
Lexi is quite forgiving, huh? Almost pathetically so. Sadly, I know all too many women who would forgive their husbands for similar behavior, with the exception of cheating of course. I don’t get it myself, but it was fun to add into the story.
An alternate ending would have been fun. I thought about how pretty an explosion would be then realized that I had run out of fuses in my last story lol… For some crazy reason my detectives never returned their items after they went to that old mine… so I borrowed a noose for this one :). Maybe Lexi should have looked in the garage first for her husband and the car, that could have led places…. maybe to a better form of revenge on Joe? What do you think?
I don’t even know what to say but wow, every one of my books? That’s absolutely thrilling for me to hear. I do keep them priced as low as I can, mostly so that anyone with an inclination can afford them. (I understand the poverty level I described in the story all too well. Not quite as extreme as dear Lexi, but pretty rough.) Books were my personal escape from reality when I was a kid, then I learned to write (not always well, but I did it anyway just to find my way out). I was so very excited to find a book by one of my favorite authors at a yard sale or thrift store in those days just so I could have something more to read. So I try to keep them as cheap as possible for other word-thirsty readers who need an escape from their day to day like I once did. 🙂 🙂
Well, considering what you’ve now made me aware of, Lexi is not THAT forgiving.
What happened was, by the time I made my way to the end of your story, I forgot that she was making a statement. And the reason I forgot, is because there are no quotation marks to suggest that these words are being uttered.
That makes the story better, but now I have to devalue your writing. (You can’t win when I’m around. It’s impossible.) My confusion is your fault. I blame you. But at least you came back and straightened me out, so you’re totally forgiven.
Bottom line though, you have to mix in some dialogue, even if it’s monologue, to make clear the point that this is all or part of a verbal statement that she’s making that hopefully, will avert her hanging and bring her husband to justice.
She is cutting it very closely though.
Since the execution style is by hanging, this would work better as a western, what you trim in poverty can be replaced with western style ‘rustic hardscrabble living.’
Perhaps an octopus — or two.
Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.
I discovered those particular mishaps a little too late, lol. I mentally kicked myself after I saw them, lol.
The down payment part was actually something I took from my own childhood. My mother did exactly that, squirreled away money until she had enough to put down on an ‘As Is’ home where the landlord allowed her to pay on time.
I thought about giving a sign or two about Joe’s infidelity but then decided against it because the signs are not always there for a spouse to notice, especially when they are preoccupied with working and caring for children.
The signs I was talking about were for the reader’s benefit, not Lexi’s. They could be little shifts in mood that she doesn’t pay too much attention to but that signal to the reader that something’s not right (so that when we read of Joe’s infidelity, we can say “Aha! That’s what the funny mood was about!”.
The description of the misery the family lived in is vividly portrayed. Perhaps somewhat overemphasised. If you saved some words there, you could have used them instead to sow some seeds to lead us to what was going to happen in the end. Like Joe insisting not to board up the window overlooking the neighbors’ house, where we later find out his love interest lived. Also, with more words, the “recovery” could have been drawn out a bit longer.
Was Joe jealous of how his wife brought such great changes to their family’s financial situation while his hard work never took them out of their predicament? Some men would feel somewhat at odds with a situation like that, when they lose their position as breadwinners. But if it was just that (though an interesting psychological phenomenon nonetheless), would it make a man to abandon his family, murder an elderly couple and a dog to get his own back? If the murders happened in a fit of revengeful anger because of his wife’s house-move separating him from his girlfriend, then it would have helped if it was made clear that they were moving to the other side of the country or at least to another state, making it nearly impossible for him to travel back often to his (probably already pregnant) girlfriend… I took it that they are moving somewhere nearby, in the same town, the way it’s written, unless I missed something,
But then there was also his relationship with the neighbor (and the reveal that he had in all probability killed her husband too). All this comes a bit like a bolt from the blue. I think something earlier on in the story had to give us some cryptic clues that would in the end justify Joe’s well-concealed violent and unfaithful alter-ego.
I wonder if the hook could be made even stronger by already introducing the narrator with the noose around her neck, while she’s allowed to have her last words. That would have still left you with enough interesting material to reveal at the end (murder, an extramarital relationship with a child, another murder…). And one assumes that the authorities responsible for carrying out the death sentence would have had to think twice about going ahead after what they’d just heard. Although I’m not sure if that is legally possible, since the last words at the gallows are not exactly a court of law…
I would like to pinpoint a couple of what I think were inconsistencies in the story, probably due to residual bits from earlier drafts:
When she goes to work, Lexi had no car (Joe had taken it), and she specifically says she had to walk to work and arrived late because of that. Then she parked the car. Or is that something you planted on purpose, so that we question the credibility of our narrator’s account? In that case I got it all wrong…
Another instances is when you say the rent and electricity were paid first. And then, second, the electricity. That must be a typo.
Then there’s this.
“Because of my work history, or the lack there of I should say, no one wanted to hire me.
After a week of searching, I was finally hired by an elderly couple, Cole and Emily Conner.”
Not a mistake as such, but she says nobody wanted to give her a job even though she does find a job only a week later. A week is not really that bad.
In spite of what I pointed out, it was nonetheless an exhilarating read, and that’s what counts the most. Some breadcrumbs with clues could have tightened it up a bit more. And the pacing too, saving up words from the house description and saying a bit more on what went on after things got less glum and then right off the edge of a cliff.
You’ve got a good eye for the grim and gruesome, Amy. I still remember quite vividly your story The Crack Of Dawn, from about a year ago. And now this one, too… Keep ’em coming!
The ongoing drama that is my life is demanding my attention. My son (with a seriously compromised immune system) has COVID. My daughter-in-law tested positive but is asymptomatic. (I’m negative so far!) We are all in quarantine. Daddy’s going crazy worrying about how we will get his groceries and mail to him and my daughter is in the hospital with early liver failure due to an infection they can’t find and at risk of being septic. She is getting blood transfusions. I can’t get to the hospital to be with her, I can’t take care of my son who is in isolation and I can’t risk Daddy getting sick since I’ve been exposed. I’m running on little to no sleep due to being on-call for work 24/7 the past 7 days.
I couldn’t make this up if I tried – and I don’t have the energy to try. I’m too tired to think, too tired to write, too anxious to sleep.
If you are the praying type, prayers would be appreciated.
Maybe next prompt …
Wow, I hope everything turns out alright! Lots of love and prayers from the heart of Georgia!
So sorry to hear of your difficulties at this time.
If best wishes and kind hearted thoughts can help, them I send mine.
Thinking of you,
Kind thoughts and best wishes,
Remember you must vote in order for your story to count, and you can not vote for yourself. Good luck, and thank you for participating.
**Since there are only 9 stories this contest, you will choose your Top 4 stories, instead of your Top 5.
Why is that?
So sorry to hear that.
You have my thoughts and best wishes for a swift and positive resolution of the problem.
First Place: HIS EYES by Ken Miles
2nd Place: The Demons Within by Carrie Zylka
3rd Place: TIED – A Man’s Best Friend by Ken Cartisano AND Revenge of the Angrels by Ken Frape
5th Place BLOOD FOR BLOOD by Phil Town
6th Place: Speech! Speech! by Andrew Galvin
7th Place: Ruined by Amy Lynn Raines
8th Place: Static by Trish
9th Place: One Hell of A Price by Alyssa Daxson
Favorite Character: “Megan” from The Demons Within by Carrie Zylka
Character Dialogue: A Man’s Best Friend by Ken Cartisano
Congratulations Ken M!!
And thank you all for participating.
This will uplift my mood (I’m under treatment for a Lyme infection right now).
Congrats to the other winners and to all the participants for some really memorable stories.
Now I’m gonna have my coffee… although I don’t know with what yet.
Do the research.
Just kidding. Great story, Ken. I almost voted for the mosquito in Phil’s story as my favorite character, but alas, as with all of my great ideas, I had to go take a dump, three chapters later and I’d forgotten all about it. (I exaggerate–two chapters later.)
Yes, two in a row is quite a MILEStone for me!
(And it’s all part of a larger conspiracy. You saw the graffiti on the wall. You were warned. Now it’s too late!)
Well-done to you too for your placing and the Oscar for Best Dialogue (that one is a sought after prize, I hear…)
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