Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “I Had to Kill”

Theme: Murder! Mwah, ha, ha.

Story must contain the following phrase, “That’s when I knew I had to kill…” but it can appear anywhere in your story.

Required Elements:

Story must also contain the words… ‘
    • Smoke
    • Water
    • Cream
    • Cheese
    • Salad.

Word Count: 1,200

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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” regarding other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must stay within the word limit set for each contest.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 10:00am PDT / 1:00pm EST / 11:30pm IST / 6:00pm WET/GMT/ 8:00pm CET/5:00am AEDT (Thursday) and you have 24 hours to vote.

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

The writing prompt for October 1, 2020, will be chosen by Vicki Chvatal.

119 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “I Had to Kill”

  • Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked in this comment within a day or two, feel free to use the contact form to let us know we somehow missed it.

    Meanwhile, please be patient, moderators are not always online. We’ll get to it as soon as possible. Thank you.)

  • Roy York
    I’m in.


  • Adrienne Riggs
    Signing in, perhaps to write …
    • I did not forget to capitalize my stories, It was a symbolic but naked act of rebellion against ‘the man.’ (That would be you Carrie.) I hope it’s terribly inconvenient. (he says, as he’s leaning over the console, typing on the laptop in the passenger seat, at a deserted diner, twenty miles from the nearest scarecrow, I mean cell tower. ((they look similar to me.)) Hah. The joke is on you madam.

      Okay, enough hijinks for now, my left hip is getting a cramp.
      KC out.

      • Carrie Zylka


        Ken, you really are my favorite red headed step child….

        • Carrie,

          You insult my ignorance. (You can stop reading this anywhere you like, that’s fine.) I’m working on a new technique designed especially for you. (It has to be subtle because you’re married, and, well, other things.. (And for christ’s sake,I’m just flirting.

          What are you talking about? You’ve never even heard of cream cheese, have you? I mean, come on. And you live somewhere near Wisconsin, I’ll bet. If you ever meet someone from Wisconsin, don’t pretend like you know anything about cheese, okay? I can see it now. “Well, as a matter of fact, just this morning I had some cream, and then, I washed it down with some cheese. It was great!”

          It’ll never pass mustard. Seed? People would know right away that you were clueless. “Doesn’t she know that you take the cheese first? And wash it down with cream?” We shook our lettuce (heads) and moved on to the next booth.

          p.s. Did you know I’m half-Irish, and a step-child? .

          Cheerz, Keep up the goob wok.

          • “You’ve never even heard of cream cheese, have you? I mean, come on.”

            Ken, I eat Wisconsin Sushi (aka pickle roll ups) every day.


            I would die without cream cheese.
            No lie.

  • Trish
    Signing in.
  • What happens in Pawtucket, stays in Pawtucket. And no, I am not in Pawtucket.

    Congrats to Roy on the previous win. Didn’t get to read all the stories due to an unfortunate series of circumstances. And again, for all you optimists, no, I was not defenestrated. Better luck next time.

    • Roy York
      Ken, I was getting worried, because it seemed like you totally disappeared. And, I’m not sure I would have won had yours not been disqualified. Glad you’re back. This place isn’t the same without your acerbic, and usually accurate wit. Thanks for the nod.


  • Confession. I was delusional when I dictated this prompt. So I had to log on to download the thing that I made up in the first place. I think the cream and the cheese went together as cream cheese. Two words, one thing. but I’m not a stickler for details like that.
    No bad weather where I’m at. 66 degrees and sunny. Not much internet either. Good luck y’all..
    • Glad you’re okay Ken, and not dealing with any crazy weather in whatever super secret location you might be. 🙂
  • Ilana Leeds
    Signing in for story writing and comments.

  • Supper with friends
    by Robt. Emmett ©2020
    [1200 words]

    Just another typical spring morning in Duluth, foggy, I thought as I waited for Robin to step out of the Victorian train depot at the 5th Avenue West and Michigan Street. He’d been on the train from McAllen, Texas, for more than twenty-seven hours.
    Professor Winters, at UMD, asked me to pick him up. As I’d never owned a car, he had me use the school’s Suburban. It was a rust-bucket, but it holds and hauls all the stuff he needs for the archaeological digs the Professors students go on.
    I don’t know why Robin went to Mexico, but I’m glad he’s working for Hank, Oops, Professor Winters, rather than that dreadful Barbara woman. Rumor is she’s a spy. I don’t know for sure, but that night last year, at Robin’s place, scared the be-jeezs out of me.
    It had been a wonderful evening. The supper crowd at the Flame Restaurant had mostly cleared out. We sat in the dimly lit balcony overlooking the harbor. There was only one other couple, and they were in their own private world. We didn’t sit across from each other; instead, we sat together and looked out at the harbor and the lights reflecting off the water. He’d ordered Caesar salads and white wine. I had one small sip. The food, what little of it I ate, was excellent. Usually, I’m not a picky eater, but I was still upset about what had happened at the lake.
    This afternoon, we’d been at the cottage of one of Robin’s friends. That Barbara woman showed up. She stepped out of her big black Lincoln, a large cannon in her hand. Guns scare me.
    To make amends, he insisted we have a late supper at the Flame. I guess I wasn’t as appreciative of his efforts as I should have been. He tried to get me to talk about what had happened at the lake. Otherwise, he said, our relationship would be ruined. That made me angry, and I demanded we leave. The other couple didn’t notice us go.
    He drove slowly and tried again to get me talking. It didn’t work. I have a little bit of bull-headedness in me, and I can be stubborn when I choose.
    When he turned the corner and started towards my house, it dawned on me that I was being foolish. I put my hand on his arm and asked him to keep going. I didn’t want to go home just yet because we needed to talk. It seemed to me that over the last few years, he’d changed. I thought I knew him. Now, I’m not sure, but we needed to figure it out. I want our relationship to continue.
    He suggested his place. Usually, I would never go alone to a man’s home. I’ve heard that all kinds of nasty things could happen. But Robin’s different. We’d been friends since the second grade. In seventh-grade dance class, I had a crush on him. Unfortunately, the Arseneau sisters, Brigitte, and Marguerite did too. I hesitated at his suggestion, but he said we would just talk.
    He was a live-in caretaker at the Parsonage of our old school-church. He’d cut a deal with the Monsignor.
    After he showed me most of it, I’d have to say, the Parsonage is a dream come true. The rear of it faced Lake Superior. The building’s façade of cream-colored brick, red-tiled roof, and the portico’s arched opening in front had a decidedly Moorish look.
    The small electric candles on the fireplace shelf cast a warm glow to the room. He opened the drapes covering the balcony window. After putting some soothing music on the phonograph, he poured himself a glass of wine. I surprised him by asking for one as well.
    He sat next to me on the sofa, but I inched away, tasted the wine. We made small talk while watching the moon rise over Lake Superior.
    I finally screwed up my courage and explained that his working for Barbara made me uncomfortable and that whatever he was into with her bothered me.
    While I talked, he listened intently and sipped his wine.
    When I’d finished, he surprised me with his candid explanation of their relationship. Essentially, it was a secretly funded government research program. He said what happened at the lake was a freak thing. It should never have happened and would never again. I honestly felt he wasn’t trying to smoke me. I started to mellow. He moved back closer to me. It made me a little nervous, and I told him so. He set our wine glasses on the end table. I enjoyed his honesty and bought his whole spiel. I even let him kiss me. It was a cold kiss, but a kiss never the less. It seemed to please him because he asked how I liked digging under a real archaeologist’s guiding hand. I explained in minute detail. I guess his interest in my favorite college course lowered my guard. I accepted another glass of wine.
    On the record player, Buddy Morrow started his Night Train trombone solo. The door slammed open. The record player arm screeched across the record, slammed against the center post, and squealed back again. I screamed and dropped my wine glass. Robin was standing over me, he’s cannon pointing at the door. SHE and two big guys charged into the room. I peed my pants. I never want to …
    “Hey, Patty, are you my ride?”
    “Yeah, Robin. Hank sent me to fetch you. I was in his office when the telegram came with your arrival time. He asked if I would pick you up.”
    “Great. It has been, ah, what? a year and a half since …”
    He stopped, and I know it was because he remembered our last date couldn’t have been worse, and we’d not parted on the best of terms. Guns, shouting, and a room filled with angry people are more than I can tolerate. And that Barbara sticking her cannon in our faces and threatening to shoot the both of us.
    “Thanks for the lift.”
    On the ride to his house, we made small talk.
    At the Parsonage, “Patty, I ah, well, our last date didn’t end so great, and …”
    I tuned out the rest.

    He held the door to the Restaurante Italia, “I know how much you …”
    “Yes, I like Italian, but I expect you to keep your promise.”
    “Yes, Patty. No guns, and especially no Barbara. I got that.”
    The waiter seated us and placed the cheese tray on the table. “Who else is coming?”
    “Just,” he pointed, “them.”
    Hank and Cécile AuCoyne, his paramour, said, “Good evening,” as they seated themselves.
    I noticed Hank’s jacket had a belt-line bulge on the right side. Cécile’s large purse flopped open, revealing a stainless gun barrel.
    Robin’s sports coat gapped as he handed Hank two menus, exposing his shoulder holster,
    The front door opened, and Barbara sauntered towards us. The steak knife was in my hand before I knew it.
    “It’s gonna be a wonderful evening, eh, Patty?”
    That’s when I knew I had to kill him.

    — Ԙ —

    • Who’s Robt. EmmettMiles? If you are referring to me, it’s Robt. Emmett as in that Irish fellow who [or is it whom] was drawn and quartered 217 years ago, as of last sunday .
      • Ken Miles
        Someone mentioned my name in vain?

        RIP original Robert Emmett. And, Éirinn go Brách!

    • Robert,

      I’m not sure you met the word requirements, plus, the story was very confusing to me

        • Robert,

          I read it again. My mistake, I see them all now: water, salad, cream, smoke and cheese. I’m still a bit confused by it.

          Your comment about a stable of characters really got me thinking. Every character I’ve created is in my stable, (although some are buried in there, for good reason), but I rarely take them out again to re-use them. Though it does happen occasionally, usually by critical acclaim, after which, they generally fall on their faces. (Or feces, depending on how bad the story is.)

    • Robt., first one of your stories I’ve read from a feminine POV and I thought you did a pretty good job. LIke Ken C., I was confused at the end, but figured it out. I have enjoyed your stories much more this past year or so, as I think you’ve become a much better writer. Your descriptions are getting much cleaner (IMHO) and while your dialogue has always been good, your stories were mostly dialogue, I felt, to carry the load. Not so anymore. Good job, my man, good job.


      • Robert Emmett
        I don’t know if other writers create the characters as they need them or if they have a ‘stable’ of them. In my stable, Patty is the smart but naïve one and always eager to help. Patty. [go back a way – the second grade.] Barbara, aka Bar, is a cast drive bitch when it comes to fulfilling what is asked of her. Then there is Professor Winters. Indiana Jones without a whip. And to be politically correct, I have Dr. Cécile AuCoyne. She is a Cajun-creole octoroon.
        • Robert, I’ve thought about what you wrote about having a stable of characters, and I usually don’t, but I must admit when I thought about it, I certainly do. My Pink Socks Gang with Jake Wheeler, Willow, Whisper, Blinky and a couple of other minor characters. There have been about 5 stories or so written with these characters, and I do plan to write more. Didn’t really realize I had those characters as a stable until you mentioned it. Maybe I’ll make it a point to have a story soon about the kids. I do like them, and I’m pretty sure they like me.



    Henderson tutted and stood up brusquely, the metal legs of his chair screeching on the concrete floor. He paced to the door and returned, pulling off his jacket and draping it over the back of the chair. His colleague, Brooks, flipped through the folder in front of him while the suspect’s lawyer wrote something in his notes.

    The suspect, a man in his 70s, with grey hair and stubble, sat stiffly opposite Henderson, staring ahead, as he’d been doing for many hours. Henderson loosened his tie, rolled up his sleeves and flopped back onto his chair.

    “Let’s go over this again, Mr Jankauskas … Ernest.” Henderson tapped a Lucky Strike out of a pack and lit it, leaning back to exhale a plume of smoke into the stale air.

    “You and your wife were at home, sitting on the sofa, chatting.”

    “And sharing a cream-cheese salad dip,” the lawyer muttered under his breath.

    “What?!” Henderson didn’t bother to hide his irritation.

    “My client has already told you that,” the lawyer said, looking up from his notes.

    “I want … your client to realize what we know, what we suspect … and what trouble he’s in,” Henderson retorted, his voice taking a first step towards agitated. The lawyer shrugged and buried his head in his notes.

    “Now, what we think happened is that at some point, you got up, went to the store-cupboard, and grabbed the hammer.” Henderson was speaking directly at the suspect, but Ernest’s eyes were focused on nothing.

    Henderson glanced over at the large mirror which occupied almost an entire wall and grimaced at the detectives he knew were sitting on the other side. He caught his own reflection; he looked much older than his 45 years.

    “You left the apartment, took the lift to the top floor, knocked on Mr Laikas’s door, and waited.”

    Henderson waited himself, for some kind of reaction from Ernest. He looked up at the clock on the wall; it was 13:11 and they had just under 50 minutes to charge the suspect or he walked. But they needed more than the circumstantial evidence they had.

    “And when Mr Laikas came to the door, you bashed his skull in with the hammer. Isn’t that right, Mr Jankauskas?”

    Ernest’s face was as blank as his eyes. Henderson stubbed out his cigarette in the ash-tray, four, five, six times until it was crumpled and dead.

    “Ernest, Ernest. You’re not helping yourself. We found the hammer, in your store-cupboard. You’d cleaned it but, you see, nowadays … we have ways of detecting blood on objects, however well you clean them. So, you had means, opportunity … but motive? Help us out here. There’s a man in intensive care, and you’re going to prison. How long for? Well, it depends on how much you help us.”

    Henderson could see no change in Ernest’s expression so he took out another cigarette, screwing up the empty pack and tossing it into a corner of the room.

    He was just about to light it when there was a tap on the door and a uniformed officer entered. He went to Henderson, leaned over, whispered something in his ear and left.

    A heavy, almost tangible silence hung in the air. Henderson’s eyes sparkled, a muscle twitching in his jaw. He lit his cigarette, eyes on the suspect.

    “Well, Mr Jankauskas. We’ve just heard that Mr Laikas has died. So that means…”

    He stopped. A change had come over Ernest. His body had relaxed, and there was a faint smile on his lips. Henderson and Brooks exchanged glances.

    “You don’t have to say…,” the lawyer began, turning to his client, but he also faltered when he saw Ernest’s transformation.

    “May I have water?” Ernest’s accent was thick Lithuanian and like an electric shock to the room after so many hours since his first brief statement. Brooks got up briskly and went to the table against one of the walls, filled a glass from the jug there and returned, placing the glass carefully in front of Ernest. The old man took a gulp.

    “So, now, Ern–” Ernest didn’t let Henderson finish.

    “Our chatting – my wife and me – it is about her health. She told me she visit the doctor.”

    Brooks was feverishly taking notes, although the interrogation was being recorded. Henderson sat stock still, expectant.

    “The doctor, he said it is cancer what she had, and she have two months for to live.”

    Henderson and Brooks exchanged glances again. They couldn’t understand why Ernest would be so happy about that; his smile had broadened.

    “I said ‘No, no, it cannot be’ but she said ‘Sorry, my darling, it is the will of God’. And that is when I knew I had to kill Laikas. So I take the hammer and I go see him, just like you describe.”

    Henderson was on the edge of his seat. He was aware that he could have directed Ernest in his description, but he feared interrupting him and blocking the flow. It appeared that Ernest had finished, though. Henderson ventured a question.

    “But why, Ernest? Why would you do that?”

    “I had to kill Laikas because he is … how you call this in English? … Old Father of the Time?”

    Henderson scoffed loudly.

    “Old Father Time?! Mr Laikas was Old Father Time?!”

    He looked towards the mirror and shook his head.

    “Yes. You see, it is the only way to save my darling. My wife.”

    Henderson stubbed out his cigarette, more calmly this time, and closed the folder in front of him.

    “Very well, Mr Jankauskas. We’re charging you with…”

    After a moment, the lawyer looked over at Henderson, wondering why he’d stopped mid-sentence. Brooks turned to his colleague for the same reason.

    Henderson was staring up at the wall, mouth open. Brooks followed his gaze. To the clock.

    Which read 13:11.


    • Phil,

      Great approach to the story. And talk about a ‘Twilight Zone’ feel. I think your story does that better than mine.

      • I beg to differ, KenC … but thanks anyway!

        (Mine is so full of logic holes, you could drive a bus through it!)

    • Normally I love your stories Phil but I don’t know what happened with this one. I don’t think it grabs me. So the guy he bashes with the hammer dies and time stops. It kind of ends with a whimper, no bangs or fireworks. Sorry if I am being a little harsh. You have writtten better stories with more plot..
    • Phil I am being honest, I feel like you have written far better stories. I found the plot a bit too blaise. Just did not grab me or hold my attention. I think you could rewrite this and do it better. sorry.
      • No need to apologise, Ilana – you win some, you lose some! 😉

        Yep, that’s it. Jankauskas kills Old Father Time, and time stops … and now his wife won’t die in two months’ … time.

    • Phil, It’s funny how stories grab people. So far a couple of critiques have said the plot was worn, too simple, and just didn’t do it for them. Please allow me to disagree. In this case, worn plot or not, it was the writing that grabbed me in the beginning and held my interest to the very end. And, I liked the ending.

      When I grow up, I want to be come a writer, just like you. Good job. I could feel my eyes being averted to the mirrored wall and saw my own reflection, (but I thought I looked pretty good, personally), and like Brooks, I followed Henderson’s gaze up to the clock. Just as you, the writer, wanted me to. When I read I want to go on an adventure and don’t want to stop and figure out what the writer means. Good job on the broken english for the old man, too. Believable!

      I’m seldom disappointed in one of your stories, this one being no exception. Loved it.


      • Thanks for the encouragement, Roy! Very kind.
    • Phil,

      Most unusual of stories, I say.
      How does a man named Laikas become Old Father Time and by killing him can delay time?
      Therein lies a mystery.
      And the 13th hour?
      The mystery deepens and we are not to question why?
      JanKausKas must do or die.

      Dialogue is great tho’.
      Got me wondering whether there was something more than meets the eye in those strange names.

      How long does it take for you to churn out one like this? Just asking.

      • Thanks, Marien! Yes … in Jankauskas’s world (middle-European, superstitious), he’s killed Old Father Time … which would seem to suggest that he’s off his rocker, until we see the clock (or maybe it’s just the battery that’s gone dead!) 13:11 (or 1:11 pm) is a very mystical number – just to add a bit more to the mix. And you’re on the right lines about one of the names. They’re Lithuanian, remember … (a clue!) 😉

  • The Powers That Be. WC 921
    9-22-2020 by Ken Cartisano

    His gaze was direct as he repeated my question. “How did it start? We were kids.”

    “That’s not what I came to hear.” I said. “You want some water?”

    He shook his head, declining the water. “Maybe not, but that’s what you asked, and that’s when it started.”

    ‘Whatever,’ I thought, and decided to let him talk.

    “We grew up together,” he said. “His parents adopted me when mine went missing. I could’ve killed him just for that.” He glanced up at my expression and added, “but I didn’t. I had no proof.”

    “You mean, you think Mr. Devlin had something to do with your missing parents?”

    “He never admitted it, but I know he was behind it. I know it sounds crazy, but he dropped hints from time to time. It was more than simple cruelty.”

    “What kind of hints?” I said.

    “He’d say things like, ‘Your life is so much better with us than it would’ve been if your parents were still around.’ Or, “It’s a shame your parents just up and left you like that.’ When we both knew they didn’t abandon me. Things like that, you know?” Then he waved his hands as if erasing what had been said, as if he knew he was getting side-tracked and wanted to start the interview over. “When we were kids, he would dream up some weird event, and it would happen. And then he would… I don’t know, not gloat exactly, but act smug and self-satisfied.”

    Sounds like gloating to me. I had a sudden bizarre urge for a bagel, with cream cheese. “Can you be more specific, Mr. Goodwin?”

    “One time,” he said, “we were lying in a field, watching the clouds, and a jet went by overhead and he said, ‘I wonder if that’s one of those jumbo jets? You know, the 747’s? Imagine what would happen if two of them giant planes crashed. ‘You mean like a midair collision?’ I asked. And he said, ‘No, one would be on the ground, and the other would be landing. Five hundred people could easily die in just one crash.”

    It sounded familiar.

    “Sound familiar?” Mr. Goodwin said. “Three hours later, after I’d done my chores, I walked in the house and stopped short. It was on T.V. Just like he said. He was watching with a weird depressed kind of interest. And then he looked at me like, ‘See? I told you it could happen.’ I think we were ten, or eleven at the time.”

    “Mm, that hardly amounts to anything approaching…”

    “You don’t understand, he did it all the time.”


    “He dreamed up the attacks on the World Trade Center. ‘Imagine the tallest building in the world,’ he says, ‘then imagine there were two, and a jet flies right into one of them.’ That’s horrible! I told him. ‘But wait,’ he says. And a jet flies into the second one.’ I thought he was done but then he says, ‘and then both buildings collapse. There would be a lot of smoke. A lot—of smoke.’ I mean, who could’ve imagined something like that? Who could possibly predict or even dream up such an impossible scenario?” He paused to let his words sink in. “The next day? We were watching it on T.V.”

    “But that doesn’t mean…” I started to say, but he cut me off.

    “The explosion in Bhopal? Remember that? The gas ruptures in Mexico City? The Malaysian Airliner that disappeared? That bizarre building fire in England that killed all those people? The bridge collapse in Missouri. He dreamed them all up before they happened.”

    What could I say? “Do you have any concrete evidence?”

    “The pandemic?”

    “Oh he predicted that too?”

    “Predicted?” He swore under his breath. “He doesn’t predict things, he causes them. Have you not been listening? He was more and more specific with each event. With each disaster he provided more… more details, more gruesome minutia, including death tolls. And I had to listen while he did it. While he worked his ‘creative magic. He called it ‘selective suffering.”

    “So he was convinced that he could do this too?”

    He snorted at my insinuation. “Convinced? Are you convinced that you’re a vegetarian? Bah. Or do you need more evidence? I mean, come on. Some things are self-fucking-evident.”

    I wondered how he knew I was a vegetarian; there was a salad waiting for me in my office.

    He continued. “One day he said he was toying with a ‘disaster of planetary proportions.’ I reminded him of the pandemic. Isn’t that planetary? And he said, ‘That was global. Big difference. Planetary deals with the planet.”


    “That’s when I knew I had to kill him.”

    That’s all I needed for my report. I banged on the door to call a guard.

    The jangle of keys signaled the end of my session with Mr. Goodwin. I avoided his gaze and his pleas as I got to my feet. “I’m not a murderer,” he said, for the hundredth time. “I am not—a murderer. If anything, I saved the goddamned planet. Don’t you people see that?”

    “We’ll be in touch,” I said. That’s all I had to offer him.

    That was three years ago, Mr. Goodwin remains in state custody, but I have to confess, since his incarceration, there’s been a sudden and dramatic decline in disasters, especially involving fatalities, worldwide. I can’t help but wonder sometimes if Mr. Goodwin is as crazy as everyone thinks.

    And how did he know I was a vegetarian?

    • Phil Town
      Cracking story, KenC – very ‘Twilight Zone’. The premise is good because Goodwin seems to be a maniac, but there’s enough evidence to put doubt in the narrator’s mind. The 9/11 paragraph is excellent: it was such a very weird day (and tragic, of course); you literally couldn’t make it up. I like how you dive into the middle of the questioning, but I found the opening exchanges a little confusing coming at them cold; I had to go back once I’d read the story and work out the references. Last week, Roy mentioned the use of a semi-colons in my story. I know how you love punctuation, so … I’d suggest a semi-colon in the middle of this: “I wondered how he knew I was a vegetarian. There was a salad waiting for me in my office.”

      Enjoyed it very much.

      • Phil,
        I see what you mean. Sorry you had to read it twice. I probably could have done away with two of the first two lines, Or do it right and rewrite and condense to make clear.
        • Not bad Ken.similar premise to Phil’s but I believe you pulled it off better, 1200 words is often too short.
          • Ilana,

            Not bad? Did you say, ‘Not bad?’ Don’t make me come over there. It’s a good thing you love goats.

            The last time I heard the phrase, ‘Not bad,’ I stopped having sex with someone for two years.

            ‘Not bad.’ That’s how I expect my defense attorney to describe me to the judge.

            Oh well, I guess it’s better than, ‘Not good.’

            You know I’m just kidding around with you, right? (At least you read it and left a comment. So I appreciate that, for sure.)

    • Your story got better with each reading, Ken C. Your regular comments to everyone are hilarious. Your stories are dead serious. So you’re the unfathomable one.

      Did the chap, the narrator is talking about, whisk his parents away by speaking the ‘abandoned’ word?
      I got a bit confused there.

      Then it turns out that Goodwin is the real bad’un maniac thinking up, and pronouncing the worst on mankind?
      I hope I got that right.

      ‘He was watching with a weird depressed kind of interest’… nice turn of phrase here.

      Good story. I likey likey! The last bit particularly.

      • Marion,

        Actually Phil seemed to get it best. The murder victim seemed to have some weird power, and his friend had finally had enough of it. We currently live in a world where even the obvious is challenged by so-called skeptics, (vaccinations save lives, for instance,) and the impossible is often offered up as the only possible explanation for other things. (Crisis actors. )

        Taking a cue from that, my story is simply something weird that, if it happened, would not be believed by any rational person.

        \I hope you don’t find that too disappointing.

    • Vicki Chvatal

      My favourite thing about your story are all the delicious uncertainties you pile on: not only whether or not Goodwin is crazy, but also whether his victim or himself caused the disasters; and did they cause the disasters or simply predict them? What was that famous quote: “a mystery inside a riddle wrapped in an enigma”? It fits.

    by Ken Miles
    (1,200 words)

    Georgiou squeezed the bottle of sour cream hard until his feta salad was literally swimming in cream. The things people do when something is free! I’d told my boss to start giving out cream and ketchup in small individual portions, like McDonald’s do.

    And Georgiou was anything but poor. He owned the eight-story apartment block opposite the salad-bar where I worked. Run-down though it was, it must’ve raked him in a fortune in rents. But now Georgiou’d ended up sitting on somebody else’s stash. That’s why they wanted him out.

    I was instructed to kill him.

    I wouldn’t know the details. Nor would I care, as long as I pocketed my cut. I suppose it had something to do with the wholesale clearing of the seafront row, to make room for new luxury developments. Some Sheikh from Dubai bought up half our island, hell-bent on demolishing it and rebuilding it afresh. The more drachmas he chipped in, the more government officials lined their pockets. The Art of Getting By. That’s what they called it.

    No surprise Georgiou refused to sell. He was that kind of person. A stingy asshole. He never left me a tip. I once spat in the old guy’s salad and chuckled with glee as he licked every last smear of it.

    That’s how I fixed the boredom at that shithole. I’d put a laxative in someone’s meal and knew it worked, when they never returned. No tears, one dish less to wash. I once got hold of this powder called Thunderdust, they gave away such things with magazines back then. And man! It made you fart like a rocket taking off! I tried it, just barely a few specks, and I was off to the moon! This company manager, a frequent customer, wanted a maracuja shake.

    “Speed it, maggot! I’m late for an important meeting!” he pestered me, as if it was my problem.

    I poured the whole Thunderdust bottle inside his shake. He must’ve cut quite a figure in that meeting! I still can’t hold myself each time I picture him.

    I dissolved melatonin pills in people’s drinks, infused laughter-gas in sodas, doused lettuce in AngerMayo. I felt powerful.

    When this official from Town Hall pulled me aside, I thought it was gonna be about once having colored his tongue blue. Instead, he said I was the perfect guy for something he wanted me to do.

    “Would a million drachmas make you a happy boy?” he asked me.

    “You bet!”

    “This”, he said, showing me a tiny bottle, “I want it in Georgiou’s drink. It’ll do him, but not even a coroner’d tell it wasn’t a regular heart-attack.”

    “Georgiou only eats at us,” I informed him, “he brings along his own plastic bottle, refills it somewhere, it’s turned black with filth over the years…”

    “In his soup?”

    “Georgiou? A soup? It’d have to be Christmas!”

    “Okay. Make it happen then! Tell him it’s on a special offer, the soup. Or find some other way. Meet me at midnight, Berth 11, down at the marina. For your prize.” He handed me the little bottle and vanished.

    Georgiou just wouldn’t have soup, not even at half-price. I had to get creative. I knew he loved sour cream so I laced the top-down bottle with the poison and brought it to his table.

    It all worked out superbly well. I watched him downing his cream-doused salad like a hungry wolf. It was an ugly sight, seeing this man eating. I was at least consoled I wouldn’t have to endure it anymore.

    ‘Smoke on the Water’, blaring on the workers’ radio from the expansive excavation site across the road, competed with the ear-splitting cacophony of sledgehammers chewing away the living rock like mad dinosaurs. The old houses were all gone now, affording me a glimpse of the sea. Only Georgiou’s ugly block still stood like a sore-thumb in the midst of the digging inferno. Georgiou himself lived like a rat in its basement, freeing up a rentable apartment.

    Georgiou finished his meal, blew his nose hard and, as always, dropped the goddam snot-filled napkin on the table. Without warning, he then grasped his chest tightly, cursed the Virgin Mary and rolled off his chair, shaking the floor on impact. I quickly hid the sour cream bottle and the fork and knife he’d used in my anorak pocket before the paramedics arrived. The bottle was light, the pig had downed half the cream! A drop would’ve been enough.

    At midnight, my man was waiting for me, sitting at a table on the outdoor deck of a swanky yacht at Berth 11.

    “Good job,” he told me, “they won’t even be doing an autopsy, they’ve already put it down to a heart-attack.”

    “My money?” I went straight to the point.

    He glanced furtively at a large Manila envelope he was sitting on. “I thought you’re being overpaid for such little toil. That’s when I knew I had to kill you. You’ll surely keep your mouth shut dead.”

    On the table, there was a bottle of champagne and two glasses. He had planned it differently. He’d really just changed his mind about me.

    He pointed a pistol at me and grinned. My reflexes saved me. I dived deep under the sea before he’d fully pulled that trigger. He then fired blindly into the water, the bullets skirting me, only slightly mitigated by the water. Finally, a clicking sound. The last bullet had been shot!

    He waited, expecting my body to come to the surface. It did. Catching my breath, I emerged and, the agile lizard I was back then, climbed back onto the yacht. My drenched anorak clung on to me like an unwanted girlfriend, and that’s when I remembered I had Georgiou’s cutlery and sour cream still in my pocket.

    I made it known to my aggressor that I had a knife. It glinted fearfully in the moonlight.

    “A young man with a knife’s better that an old man with a dead gun”, I bluffed, “for your own sake, I hope you’ve changed your mind again about the money.”

    He just stared, unable to fathom how the tables had turned. I got closer, knife ahead of me.

    “Simon says: give me my money,” I asserted.

    He reluctantly handed over the thick envelope from the chair.

    “Thanks,” I said calmly, “do sit down. You haven’t been exactly friendly, but I’d still like you to celebrate with me my special moment, my becoming rich.”

    He sat at his champagne glass and I at the one meant for me. I switched glasses, like they do in in films. I knew he hadn’t put anything in my drink. Otherwise, why the pistol? But there was one thing HE didn’t know. I’d sneakily slipped a little sour cream in my champagne. I’d become quite the expert in that kind of prank, you know. In short order, the poison gripped him and his heart left him halfway, like Georgiou’s earlier.

    “Fish food,” I thought, when he fell off his chair.

    I’d long fancied I’d one day leave that shitty island in style. I’d never sailed a yacht before. That was a damn good first time to try.

    • Excellent dialogue Ken and good plot line. Your descriptions are wonderfully vivid; especially the snot rag on the table. You had me gagging. Thanks and well done.
      • This is the best that one can expect as a writer, I suppose: to know that he’s entertained a reader and afforded her a good laugh. A reader actually thanking the writer is a nice token of appreciation too. I’m very pleased you liked my story that much, Ilana, and that you let me know about it. And all the more so since I know very well you’re not one for wasting praise where it’s not deserved…
    • Ken M., As I read, I realized I didn’t have to look up to see how many words you used. Some of your patented contractions like “not even a coroner’d tell’ and a few others, told me you were cutting corners and the line under the title would read (1200 words). It’s tough to take a really good story and whack it up. It’s not a bad problem to have – to be able to sit down and tap out 1500 words easily, but to trim it is a pain in the you know what. I know, I do it myself and it’s taken me a bit of time to get out of that habit. I now keep my word count where I can see it. I’ve found it helps. (You can do that with a Mac.)

      Otherwise, I found the story readable, predictable, sort of James Bondish, although the protagonist was an asshole, pardon my french, and not as suave as Bond, who would never spit on someones food. But, be that as it may, everything else kept my interest. Nice story.


      • Hi Roy,

        The spitting in the soup of a non-tipping customer is the one bit which is actually a true story, the only true bit, the rest is all made up by me and never really happened (thankfully!). The spit-in-the-soup thingy was even worse than the way I recounted it. This repeat customer used to bring over coach-loads of tourists to this hotel+restaurant (the managers used to love him, of course), and he used to explicitly tell “his people” that there is no need to tip the waiters, and that they actually shouldn’t! A waiter once got wind of that “instruction”, and from then on ALL THE WAITERS (it was a big restaurant) used to queue behind the flipdoor to spit in his soup, just before it goes out. They’d then mix it well; it would rise by a half-inch in the bowl by the time they have all spat in it! If a waiter was out waiting tables or away to the bathroom or somewhere, they’d call him him as a matter of urgecy to return to base and the soup wouldn’t go out until everybody, just EVERY SINGLE WAITER has given his salivatory contribution. One of them would keep an eye on the chef, so he won’t realize what they were doing to his masterpiece (it was quite a poshy restaurant). How do I know of all this? I used to work at the Reception desk of that hotel, and I was once kindly asked if by any chance I also wanted to contribute (as a I wasn’t a waiter I was given that choice). I kindly declined.

        Well… to the story now. Which parts did you find predictable, Roy? I always like to receive that information, as plot predictability is often due to some unfortunate word too many early on in the story or a premature reveal that could have been worked around differently. I prefer it when readers find my stories rather surprising rather than predictable. I’m not familiar with James Bond movies. I’ve heard of them, of course, “Never Say Never Again” was in part filmed near my home, but I never watched any of them.

        On the theme of contractions, well, I’ve made it a point not to use any strange contractions in the body (non-dialogue parts) of the story. Maybe things like “it’s, he’s, we’ve” are fine but not “the coroner’d”. Unless the narrator is a contractions-kinda-guy. I’m only using them in dialogue with certain people, as an expression of their character, so to speak, in the way they talk. There are people who say “xxxx’d” with every “would” and “had”. Others who don’t. It helps me save some words, admittedly so, too.


    • Good story, crazy scary plot, Ken Miles.
      Though I dislike even reading about his messing up people’s food, you did write them pretty good.

      Just read about the spitting debacle in a restaurant, which you say is a true story- please do divulge where this is. Yikes!

      …competed with the ear-splitting cacophony of sledgehammers chewing away the living rock like mad dinosaurs… nice one!

      Interestingly the sour cream didn’t get soakin’ wet.

      Drachmas are out, aren’t theY?
      And in Dubai it’s dirhams.

      Good one! Liked it..

  • Phil Town
    Ingenious story, KenM, and pacey, with some neat action. It’s good that you made both the victims horrible people – it helps us cheer on the killer (at least a little). He could maybe have been made a bit more sympathetic so that we could really get behind him; the tampering with the customers’ food is a nasty trick. I think this expression is: “…hell-bent on demolishing it and rebuilding it afresh.” Good stuff!
    • Hi Phil, many thanks for reading my story and for your kind comment.

      True, nobody in this story is exactly a heroic personality to vigourously cheer for. The two victims are horrible people in their own different ways, one a disgusting, miserable guy who doesn’t understand what life is about, the other a corrupt, criminally-minded government official… but the narrator, too, as you noted, is not exactly the kind of guy we’d love to hang around with (or have a salad at his place).

      But I don’t mind departing from the idea of good vs bad people, in my stories, as the more years I live the more I notice that people in real life (myself included) are neither good nor bad, but instead have their good and bad traits that show up depending on what life throws at them at any given moment. The moral of this story, if there is one, is that the little guy in the end comes out on top of the big shots. And we also get to see the story through his eyes. Other than that I have nothing else to sell (in my Morality Store).

      I fixed the error with the verbs that you indicated to me. Thanks for lending me your precious second pair of eyes!


      • Ken M.

        This is a good story Ken. One that would not benefit or work with a true protagonist, without getting more complicated. The one characters lack of morals wins out over the character with no conscience at all. Very clever plot.

        But the sour cream. What happened to cream cheese?

        • Hi Ken,

          Thank you for your comment and I’m pleased you liked it. Yes, the small fry for once winning against the big wigs. That’s what it is, not the good winning against the bad. And a snapshot of real life on a small Mediterranean island in the 1980s. When money started coming in, and took people and politicians by surprise, and they made a whole mess with it, sometimes. That side of it is quite authentic I think, the Art of Getting By thingy, l’Arte di Sopravivere.

          Cream cheese. Well, I did see your note on that one, but after I had finishd writing my story. Alice put cream and cheese in a list, under each other as different items, and I worked on that. As for the cheese, btw, I have Greek feta…Ok, K.Kartitzanou?

          K. Milou

          • Ken,

            This story reminds me of the movie ‘Crash.’ A complex tapestry of a dozen or so strangers whose lives intersect at the climax of the story. None of the characters are especially good or bad. At least as best as I can recall.

            I think realistic characters are the backbone of a good story.

            My admittedly short-sighted interpretation of your story was a struggle for dominance between a merely vile person, and an especially vile, corrupt and possibly evil person. Size and ‘bigness’ did not occur to me. (Except on the personal level. I somehow missed the bureaucratic element altogether.)

            I also missed the fact that the narrator was not the main character! Were you joking? Now I have to go back and read the damned story again.

            Okay, I re-read. Very fast paced. Seamy, salty and sleezy. I’m sure you’re pleased with it.

            I think you should name this story, ‘Cream Cheese.’ or ‘CREAM CHEESE.’ or ‘Cream of Cheesen.’ or ‘The Cheesen of Cream.’ Or, ‘Cheese Versus Cream, the untold story.’ Or, ‘Cream and the Incredible Cheesory.’ Or, (You feelin’ me yet?) I’ve got it. ‘Call–Of the Cream Cheese.’

            Just teasin’ ya, Ken. It’s a really good story. I certainly enjoyed it.


    Marien Oommen

    (Word Count: 1138)

    Another glorious Friday afternoon was upon them, the sky just lightly dusted with flaky clouds; the ultimate holiday weather when Papa usually gears up to cook for the family.

    “I’ll make paella and wrap them in little podhis.”

    You could call it the true marriage of the Spanish cuisine tenderly folded into neat banana leaves, to give it the alluring touch of flavorsome Kerala. Shrimp, mussels, sausage, salmon are finely chopped, rolled with brown rice, along with some exotic flavorings, a generous dose of white wine, dollops of butter, a touch of cream, and then wrapped in a banana leaf from the garden. The banana leaf had been carefully picked, one without bird shit, washed, sanitized and softened on the fire.

    The podhis are now spruced up, ready to go on the bbq.

    Papa walks out into the garden, with the tray of ‘podhis’ i.e. wrapped rice bundles, with his head held high, looking hoity toity-er than the Queen carrying the Kohinoor (dunno if she ever did tho’).
    But then, alack and other such woebegone cries, just as Mama was about to check the next barrage of Whatsapp posts, the Papa bounces super fast, back into the home.

    “I think there’s a mouse in the bbq. Yuck! I’m no way using it. Start the oven. Quick.”
    Mama sets the oven as per his orders and springs to action. On Fridays, he was the Chef, and she was just a sous.

    Mouse calling! Mouse calling!

    “Shall I call Morganty? The Pest control services?”

    “No, you can’t. It’s Friday. Why do things always happen on Fridays?”

    So Mama goes bravely, with a single minded purposefulness writ all over her forehead, towards the BBQ area and stares hard under the grill where the coal is cold and dry.

    Two little eyes stare back at her. Then a long tail, curled between the coal, unfurls itself. Two more eyes stare from below the bars. Big Mama sees that her missing pink kitchen towel has been neatly spread out, made into a bed of sorts. There’s cake paper spread over the pink washcloth. Around it are pieces of silver foil adding sparkle to the mouse bed. It was unquestionably a Versace kinda mama mouse and she had three little mice, close to her.
    Little feet, little noses, little ears…

    Big Mama could feel the love ‘neath that iron grill. Dora, Tora and Mora had just been born in her garden and had chosen the bbq as their maternity ward. She sensed the same love that swept through her being when her first baby came into this world.

    However, the feelings of love vanished as quickly as they had descended on her when Mama knew she must needs take action.

    “What do I do now? Smoosh them??? Bbbbut…there’s a whole family out there,” she yells to Papa.

    “Is the dad around?” he yells back, safely ensconced in the kitchen, getting the Aperol Spritz ready- his peace offering of Mama’s fav drink.

    “How do I know? Dads usually do their business and vanish. There’s three of them with the mom.”

    “You deal with it. You’re the one who grew up in a village.You must’ve dealt with loads of them growin’ up, right?”

    “Excuse me, I grew up in the state with 100 percent literacy, okay? Excellent health care too! Didn’t have mice running around.”

    Feeling mighty miffed, she bent double, her nose almost touching the grill, to examine the crime spot.

    “Now I’ve to prove my worth to His Majesty Squeamish indoors.”
    She rolled her eyes skywards.
    That’s when she knew she had to kill.

    Under the grill, it could well be likened to a concentration camp with its small air vents. One brainwave was to smother the vents with silver foil. Was she going to outHitler Hitler?

    How was she going to decimate them? If she turned on the knob of the bbq… an evil gleam appeared in her eye, there would be…
    Three burnt mice, Three burnt mice, Lying neath the grill, Lying neath the grill…..
    Actually four.
    That’s if mOm mOuse didn’t flee the fire and smoke, but stayed to protect her babes.
    Moms do that kind of thing, ya’ know?
    For a split second, Big Mama had transmogrified into an evil tyrant, the epitome of cruelty and beastliness. Images of that bulbous cop with his fat foot propped on a sad neck, and that depressed maniac Cruz who shot the 17 innocent children flashed through her mind. The dear kids must have felt as scared as the mice. Nobody should have easy access to guns.

    Meanwhile, Dolce, their little doggie, was watching with great concern at the goings-on near the BBQ, thirstily slurping up the water meant for the birds. Guilt makes one thirsty.

    Suddenly Big Mama turns on him, “Aha you’ve been harboring them here, haven’t you? You’ve been playing Anne Frank, and I bet you told dem mice to use the bbq as a hideout!”

    Dolce Frank dropped down his eyes, his neck and his head in humble contrition. He looked as guilty as Mama caught eating two cookie bars- the almond kind.
    Yes, it was him.

    “Aha, now I see why YOU were digging out my wheat grass this morning!! Digging it out so Mrs. Mousy can come fetch food for her younglings. I gather you offered them my tomatoes as well. Where did that huge eggplant vanish? Who do you think you are, hey? Dolcill Gates? Dolrren Buffet?”

    Dolce’s head sunk deeper into his fur.

    Big Mamz turned around and came back indoors. Her Mission-to-Kill unaccomplished. No pernicious act was unleashed over the little innocents. There was already too much evil and sadness in the human world.

    The Ellees family with Dora, Tora and Mora had a good night’s sleep.

    The February air was cool and the coal blocks were cold with a delicious smell of last week’s roast. There was a stock of aubergines, salad bits and tomatoes in the corner ‘neath the grill. Luscious wheat grass too- it was the latest craze in Miceland- the probiotic Mouse tonic.

    Next week as the girls, Dora, Tora, and Mora grew stronger, they would venture out through the sealed silver vents to explore a whole new world, a shining, shimmering splendid world.The garden was over laden with goodies.

    Mama Mouse sang as they slept.

    “I can open your eyes,
    Take you wonder by wonder,
    Hold you by your ears,
    To a whole new worlddddd!
    A dazzling place, I never knew,
    And when I’m way down there,
    Bolting through the underground,
    It’s crystal clear,
    That now I’m in a whole new hiding place with you. Unbelievable sights,
    Indescribable feeling,
    Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling
    Through endless gruyere cheese!
    A whole new ground’s waiting there for you.”

    • Lovely story. Light and honestly written. I can say I really enjoyed this story.
      • Thank you so much, Ilana! Makes me really happy to read this comment from you.
        The prompt was much too violent… I had to lighten up.

        Mice did the work for me. 🙂

    • Marien, I’m sure Disney is going to pass on suing you for the lyrics, but they added a really dazzling ending to a whimsical story that I truly enjoyed. Yep, outdid yourself this time. Good job. Loved all the references. Last week I wrote I was looking forward to seeing what you came up with for murder and found out. I am not disappointed that you didn’t knock off the mouse family. Walt would be so proud.


      • O wow! You liked it..Thank you, Roy! So happy!

        I did consider dropping off this prompt. But then rehashed one of my old stories. These are my real life memoirs I write on FB.

        I didn’t see that comment of yours last week.. will check it out. 🙂
        I guess by now we know each other!

        The Alladin song I stole and changed it a wee bit. Worked well for me.

        No way can I be mean to Jerry (or Tom), for the pure joy they gave me, growing up.
        Walt should be pleased!


    • Lovely story, Marien – light and funny, with a happy ending (and smashing little song!) I’m very glad the mice came through it (good title!). I suppose the podhis went in the oven after all? You have some great turns of phrase, making the read a very enjoyable journey. There was some inconsistency of tense (swinging between the past and present), but this only took a little of the shine off for me. This should be ‘unleashed’: “No pernicious act was leashed over the little innocents.” Very nice, though!
      • Thanks very much, Phil!

        Podhi is a local word from Kerala. It means ‘ rice bundle’ like I said. And the recipe is delish! But you won’t know what banana leaves are, I bet.

        Thanks for pointing out ‘unleashed’.. gross error! Used that edit button with fleeing seconds!
        Do point out the other tense inconsistency.. will be happy to receive correction.

        Take care!

    • Marien please. My Word! Restrain yourself… I’m all flushed and prickly now.

      Yeah, no. No I’m not. Good writing though. It has your signature flair under the campy exterior. I’m not big on anything but story in stories. Poems, riddles, songs? No go. Ken just won’t turn over. I hate musicals. I don’t even like runes. I mean like, spare me. (You get one line, and that’s it. I don’t care what it is, song, poem, hiccup, stutter. One line, then we be reading again.) And the only thing worse than songs in a story is food! (But your tiny mouse tune was what? The perfect topping—I think.)

      So I had reservations about your detailed description of the food, early in the story, and then I remembered who created the prompt, and said to myself, ‘Hey dummy, those are your stupid requirements.’ So it serves me right. And as much as I detest food descriptions in stories, yours is really very beautifully written. In fact, your story should start with that.

      ‘You could call it the true marriage of the Spanish cuisine, tenderly folded…” Etc. That’s your beginning, Marien. It’s a beautiful paragraph. Then, after that, you can tell us who it is and what he’s doing.

      Easy read. Very Deane Koontz-ian.

      • You’re hilarious, Ken-pricklybear-C!

        As long as I write, there will be music.
        I’m warning you right now. Kenpancake better turnover.

        Next, food descriptions should be so good , they make you drool. In My Hungry Opinion.
        It was your undoing, no doubt. You ARE responsible.
        You dish out, you chew on it.

        Meanwhile, I am the forever Mother Goose.

        ‘Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross,
        To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
        Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
        She shall have music wherever she goes.’

        Thanks for your great comment.. 🙂

        Take double care, I so enjoy your comments.

        • Marien,

          ‘She Had Diamonds In The Soles Of Her Shoes…’

          You’re welcome.

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Hi Marien,

      I loved your story. This is the most original take on the prompt by far. As for the characters, I had trouble deciding whether Mama human or Mama mouse was my favourite.

      One minor quibble, though: when Mama compares Dolce the dog to Anne Frank, I assume she refers to him helping the mice hide. In fact, Anne Frank herself was in hiding (and so her position was more like that of the mice).

  • Ilana Leeds

    Sometimes No Choices
    “Tha bitch’s annoying.” Brenda sipped loudly from her glass of neat scotch. Nina wanted to tell her her lipstick was smudged, but she knew better than to tell Brenda that when she was on her third or was it fourth drink. It would lead up to an argument. Nina’s thirty-year friendship with Brenda depended on her being one of Brenda’s “yes ma’am, no ma’am” cronies. She said nothing but listened.
    “How could my handsome husband have such a pathetic slut for a sister?” She shrugged her jacket off and placed it on the back of the chair. “I mean, two good looking parents, they produced Braydon, and OH MY GOD, the woman isn’t even attractive, let alone good looking. You shoulda seen the dress she brought to wear at the wedding! At our wedding! Brown toned and ordinary like some mousy flapper girl from the 1920’s. Pathetic. She’s got no dress sense.”
    Nina waited until she had finished. “Brenda, I’ll give you a lift home. You can leave your car in the carpark til tomorrow. OK.”
    “What? You leaving now?”
    “I’ve gotta work in the morning. 6am start. I’m flying out to Chicago on the 7am.” Nina started gathering up her coat, purse and car keys.”
    “Oh com’on Nina. It’s only 8 o’clock. Remember when we used to party on till midnight and we’d work the next day at 6.” She paused. “Don’t tell me you can’t stay another hour?”
    Nina sighed. In another hour she would be dragging Brenda off the bar stool if she didn’t fall off first. She would be drunker and meaner to manage if she wasn’t already drunk enough.
    “No, Brenda. Those were the days when we’re twenty years younger. I’m going now and I think you should let me drive you home.” Nina looked around and inadvertently caught the eye of a rather handsome man, a little worse for wear, who was pulling a packet of cigarettes from his jacket pocket. He took the eye contact as an invitation. Getting up a touch unsteady, he proffered the packet of cigarettes to them.
    Without waiting for an answer, he moved onto the barstool next to Brenda who accepted the cigarette and leaned in to the flickering flame of his Zippo which Nina noticed was engraved with the name Karl.
    “Shit!” thought Nina, “I have to get her home.”
    Up close, she could see he was late fifties or early sixties. Brenda eyed him appreciatively. Nina could see that she was settling for the night, thinking that she now had an ear that would listen to her life story and woes caused by her “revolting Australian sister in law.” The man was handsome in a dangerous way. Ex-military she thought. Erect carriage and alert air despite the fact he’d had one or two drinks too many. He smiled revealing perfectly white even teeth. A charming smile that did not reach his eyes.
    “Predator” thought Nina resigned to at least another half hour before she could get Brenda out of the bar. She could not leave her alone in her drunken state with this guy.
    “Name’s Brad.” The man smiled again. “What’s your poison?” He motioned to the bartender. “Give the ladies a drink on my tab.”
    “Water thanks.” Interjected Nina. “I’m done drinking tonight.”
    “Bailey’s Irish Cream. Double shot as you’re buyin’, yeah?” Brenda slurred the words slightly.
    “Brenda, don’t think it’s a good idea to mix your drinks.”
    “Oh, quit bein’ such a Mumma.” Brenda snapped. “I’m all grown up ya’all.” She turned to smile blearily at Brad.
    “What the lady wants, the lady gets.” Brad smiled at Nina and the bartender who obliged with a generous double shot glass of Bailey’s.
    “Ice with your water Ma’am?”
    “No thanks.” Nina sat resignedly on the barstool as Brenda and Brad started to exchange drunken pleasantries. She began to feel the familiar third spare wheel feeling but knowing she could not leave Brenda in this bar chatting with a perfect stranger, she stayed.
    At 10.30 pm she decided to call in sick with a migraine. Her friend’s safety had become more important than the dollars; besides, she did have a month’s sick leave. She went out into the carpark to make the call.
    When she returned, Brad and Brenda’s barstools were empty.
    The bartender told her, “Yeah, he paid. He’s giving her a lift home.” He went back to polishing some wine glasses and arranging them on the shelf above the bench.
    “How long ago?”
    “Just after you went out.”
    “Oh, shit! That was 10 minutes ago.” Nina thought and queried the bartender again. “Any idea who that guy was?”
    “Brad? No. He’s not regular. Why?”
    “Just, just ….” Nina could not get rid of the bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. She pulled out her mobile and dialled Brenda’s number. It went straight to message bank. “Stupid cow!” She thought. “What does she think she’s doing?”
    She rang Sam, Brenda’s husband.
    “Sam, sorry it’s Nina. Is Brenda home yet?”
    “No, why? I thought you two were together. Girl’s night out?”
    Nina quickly explained the situation. It was now twenty or thirty minutes after Brad and Brenda had left the bar which was only 15 minutes by car from Sam and Brenda’s house.
    Nina drove over to their house and together she and Sam tried to contact Brenda throughout the night. At 2 am they called the police department. The officer on duty stated it was normally 24 hours before they could file a missing person’s report.
    The next morning, she and Sam went in to file the report which they finally were able to do around mid-morning.
    They continued to try Brenda’s phone which was turned off.
    It was found two days later in a dumpster near the bar. Without the sim card.
    Four days later sitting across from the police detective, Nina was distraught. If only she had not left her alone with Brad. If only she had insisted that Brenda accompanied her and forced her away from the bar. If only.
    The detective munched on a cheese and salad sandwich as he explained to both Nina and Sam the chances of her being found alive were growing slimmer day by day. The fact that he could casually eat his lunch while explaining the likelihood of her friend’s death, annoyed Nina. Sam just looked shaken and shocked.
    Later in the day, Sam was finally alone in the house he shared with Brenda. He went to the safe in his office, opened it, put on gloves and counted out five hundred one hundred-dollar bills. He wrapped two thick rubber bands around the bills and placed them in Tupperware container which he then took to a tree at the end of their back garden. He left it there and waited in his office.
    Four hours later at 3 am he received a text. “Thank you.”
    Sitting alone in his study, he looked over at a picture on his desk of Brenda at a company dinner. She was very drunk. “That’s when I knew I had to kill her.” He thought. “She had become a liability to my career.”
    • Ilana,

      My, my, my. A little bit larcenous aren’t we? By the way, as I was reading the first story by Gippy Goats Alpines,
      I said to myself, ‘Roy’, I said, ‘this is Ilana writing this, I’ll bet on it’. The goats were a give away. And, the sister in law named Brenda. Then, I see the story right underneath with your headline.

      Gippy Goats Alpines. There has to be a story behind that.

      By the way, having someone knock off your sister in law, even in a story had to be satisfying, I would suspect. Hope it helped. Noticed a tiny little mistake – you have a capital on No in ‘yes, ma’am, No ma’am’ and it shouldn’t be there. But, you’re forgiven, and you can even go in yourself and change it.

      Good story and you kept me in the dark until the end. Nice misdirection with the husband having the job done. Although 50K is a lot of money to pay for one little drunken woman to get smacked. Done right, I suppose, but then you could always have the sequel and figure out how Sam gets caught, because we all know there’s no such thing as the perfect crime. Or is there? Well, hell yes, there is. Too many dead bodies laying around in this world of ours and no one knows jack shit about any of them.

      Just saw a story about a guy who finally confessed to 97 (or so) murders and if he hadn’t no one would have ever figured out who did them. He had like a photographic memory of little details of the murders, even after 50 years or so. Hope some writer gets to interview him and write about it.

      Meanwhile, keep writing. I’m loving it.


      • Ilana Leeds
        Thanks Roy
        I will go in and fix that and get Carrie to knock off the Gippy Goats version. Not sure how that happened. Yes, I have been watching Mind Hunter. Bloody fascinating why some of these people kill.and some of them are highly intelligent, but very very warped. The red headed guy in prison with the shoe fetish was quite vomit material and just creepy… The FBI guys must have had rather strong stomachs to listen to these perverted assholes.
        I really do not understand still why someone would want to kill one person let alone 97 people.
        Yes, I am not sure about the going rate for knocking someone off. I did hear on a cop show it was around $50,000 AUD but well, never seriously wanting to go down that path I have never investigated further. In the interests of good story writing I should find out, but by the same token I really do not want to have contact with peoiple who might know, unless it is a detective or police officer who might know.
        I can hardly ring up a police station and say, “By the way officer, what is the going rate for a hit these days?” He’ll say,”Why would you want to know Ma’am?” I’ll say ” Well it just so happens I am writing a story about getting my SIL knocked off. Don’t worry. she’s in the USA and I have not got a spare $40,000 or $50,000
        To be honest, I give characters the SIL’s name because I know it will annoy the crap out of her and further inflame her hatred of me which is totally amusing. I found out that she was stalking me on FB and the internet so I have these little digs all the time especially as she and my brother have lied about so many things and indirectly caused the death of our middle brother last year and then tried to blame it on his wife who was very loyal to him.
        She might try to get me knocked off. She’s that sort of person. Narcissistic. I still remember the story she told about how she and her sister cut up a seat in a Wendy’s restaurant with knives because the waitress told them off for misbehaving. I remember thinking at the time, “You pair of selfish brats!” She was quite proud of what she and the sister did. I also remember her saying the waitress was “nigger trash” which further made my impulse to slap her almost uncontrollable but being a guest in their house for the wedding it was important to hold my peace for that time. I did not know anyone else in Minniapolis at the time and would have had to sleep on the park bench until my flight back to Australia. Could not believe my brother married her but obviously they think alike as they have been married since 1985. Birds of a feather fly together, don’t they? LOL
        • Ilana I deleted it, I emailed you earlier, it looks like the Gippy Goats one was awaiting approval so I went in and approved it. But didn’t want to delete it until I spoke to you.
          But it’s gone now!! 🙂
        • Ilana, it’s the old ‘takes one to know one’ theory. It’s amazing what people are capable of, but I shouldn’t be surprised. Selfish behavior is the norm these days.


    • This is very good, Ilana. The set-up is great, the introduction of Brad injects tension, Nina’s concerns and Brad’s behaviour (“A charming smile that did not reach his eyes.” is such a great line – very economical.) ratchet up the dread. And then the very good, unexpected reveal. The very last line is a little on-the-nose for me (“She had become a liability to my career.”), but it doesn’t spoil a very well constructed story.
    • Ilana,

      Regarding the money. A good way to approach this is to replace specifics with imagery. Instead of ‘Five-hundred one hundred-dollar bills.’ How about, ‘Five large stacks of hundreds, each one counted and neatly bound by a paper wrapper.’ (Something like that.) A hundred pounds of silver ingots, wrapped in bleached linen, each with an identifying stamp.’ Or, ‘He counted out the money, far more than she was worth, and placed it in a plastic container.’
      There’s a lot of ways around this, without having to admit that you know how much it costs to have someone killed. Or trying to find out. Whichever.

    • Good story, Ilana, particularly the twist in the end.
      Nina is the caring friend, but not the best sis-in-law!
      Quite enjoyed it.

  • The Last Come-Down
    By Alice Nelson
    (Word Count 1183)

    Nothing good ever happens in the rain, my life has been a testament to this. I’m not saying it because I lay here dying as a torrential downpour descends upon me, I’m saying it because it’s true.

    I want to tell my story before I go, I’ve wanted to for so long, but never could. And since you’re the one responsible for my imminent death, the least you could do is hear me out.

    Of course you don’t have to, but will you refuse a dying woman her final wish?

    My father was killed in an automobile accident on the day I was born. He was driving to the hospital during a terrible thunder storm, hence my initial statement. And my mother, not being of sound mind, even before his death, never stopped blaming me for father’s premature demise.

    “He was rushing to see you,” she told me on my 8th birthday, “If you were never born he’d still be here.”

    Maybe, but probably not. I am a firm believer that we go when it’s our time, and nothing can change that. But I do wish I could’ve met him at least once.

    When I was 15, mother’s second husband left on a night much like this. He wasn’t killed unfortunately, although I prayed that he would be many times.

    You see, he was a handsy fellow, and I made the mistake of telling mother that he acted in an inappropriate manner toward me when she wasn’t around.

    Mother didn’t believe me of course, instead she grabbed me by the hair and dragged me to his study, to prove what a ‘horrible little liar I was’.

    “The girl said you’ve been touching her. Tell the little bitch this isn’t true!” mother yelled.

    He didn’t really admit to it, but his pathetic denial that criticized me for looking older than 15, was enough for her to know that I was indeed telling the truth.

    “If you weren’t enticing him like a little whore, this never would’ve happened,” she told me as we watched her worthless husband drive away.

    And that’s when I knew I had to kill her.

    It wasn’t a cogent thought initially, just an idea, tossing around in my head, I never thought it would come to fruition.

    It formed into an actual idea quite organically, really, as I made breakfast. Mother had insisted since I was tall enough to reach the knobs on the stove, that I needed to ‘earn my keep’, by doing all the cooking.

    She had the same breakfast every day, I could make it in my sleep; two fried eggs, two slices of Grover’s Wheat Bread, only Grover’s, if I served anything else, she’d throw it in my face. One cup of coffee, with so much cream it barely resembled the caffeinated beverage.

    After breakfast I did the dishes, as usual, and as usual I watched our neighbor Mrs. Denborough sitting out on her porch smoking her morning cigarette. She had a nervous habit of picking at her face, a habit that worsened when Mr. Denborough began shouting obscenities at her, the way he did every time his wife displeased him.

    She should kill him, I thought.

    “Are you listening, you empty headed twit!”

    It was mother, she was speaking to me, but I was focused on The Denborough’s.

    “Sorry mother,” I said, hating myself for apologizing to her.

    “Sorry mother,” she mimicked, “It’s a wonder you can even tie your shoes, you imbecile. Can’t you listen without me having to repeat myself?”

    “Sorry,” I said again, wanting to kick myself.

    “I said I want you to take that steak out of the freezer for dinner tonight, we’ll have it with baked potatoes and a salad. Think you can handle that you idiot girl?”

    It was in my hand because I had just washed and dried it. Had I held on to it, knowing what I would do? In all honesty, I cannot tell you.

    “Answer me girl!” she yelled. Mother was about to say something else horrible, I’m sure of it, but I lifted what was in my hand, and brought it down on her snarling face before she could finish her insult.

    I hit her over and over until her face resembled the hamburger meat we had for dinner the night before. Cast iron is quite sturdy, I assure you. A perfect way to rid yourself of an abusive cunt, and 15 years of pent up anger.

    As I said, I had not thought this through at all, because then I had to figure out what to do with the body. Luckily mother and I had practically been hermits since dad died, and her second husband had zero social skills, so there would be no friends or family coming around to see us.

    Mother’s prized rose garden was the perfect place, it was better than she deserved, but at least the roses seemed to thrive afterward.

    No one batted an eye when I told them that she left without a word. People knew how cruel she was.

    I stayed with The Denborough’s until I was 16, when I became an emancipated minor, and moved back into my old house. Mother left it to me in her will, the only decent thing she’d ever done for me in my entire life.

    Oh look, the rain has let up. Just in time, since I’ve reached the end of my story. Maybe this means my fortunes are changing for the better, what do you think?

    No? you’re probably right. Still, it felt good to unburden myself, well, as good as it can feel after someone plunges a knife deep into the soft flesh of their abdomen.

    What’s that, did I feel any remorse after killing mother?

    I felt more exhilarated than remorseful, how did it feel for you?

    The same? Seems as if we’re two sides of the same coin.

    What’s that, a camera?

    I must admit this disappointments me. Isn’t it a bit clichéd? Do you take pictures of all your victims, or just the ones you have a soft spot for? Shall I say cheese before you snap the photograph?

    I’m getting tired, and the pain isn’t as bad now. Must mean the end is near, eh?

    Of course you can ask me another question.

    I don’t live there anymore, too many terrible memories. But I go back to the house to prevent the elements from taking over, and tend to mother’s rose covered grave.

    Yes, that would be lovely, thank you.

    The earth was rich and fertile, and the soil felt cool as he shoveled it over my dying body. It wasn’t so bad that my killer’s face was to be the last one I’d ever see.

    Did I deserve any better? I think not.

    He smiled down at me, not maliciously, it was almost sad, as if he regretted what he’d done.

    ‘It’s alright’, I told him, feeling the strange desire to comfort my killer.

    This is an appropriate final resting place for me, I’ve come full circle you might say. I just hope the roses will thrive over my grave as they had my mothers.

    • Alice,

      Except in one or two spots at the beginning, this story exemplifies that velvety smooth Nelson touch. A couple of places could’ve used fewer words. Like, ‘I lay here dying as a torrential downpour descends upon me.’ Could be, ‘I lay here dying in a torrential downpour.’ I would replace ‘imminent’ with ‘impending.’ Also, the premise that the murderer would be interested in the victim’s final wishes seems optimistic at least, and would be more acceptable if I knew who the murderer was. But at the end of the story, I didn’t. I didn’t know who killed the narrator. I only know that the narrator killed her own mother, who richly deserved it. And that the narrator seemed somewhat cursed.

      I wonder how this story would’ve worked from a second, or third-person point of view. Because, we know the fate of the MC two sentences into the story.

      I think I’m disappointed in the prompt, which, we both know was my own doing. But the line, ‘that’s when I knew I had to kill…’ presupposes a murder, or killing, that has already taken place. And that probably eliminated a few people who don’t care to do murder mysteries, plus it narrows the options on the plot considerably. So the twist was not in the crime itself, but either ‘who got killed’, ‘who killed them,’ or ‘why they got killed.’ (Or, ‘who tried to kill them and failed.’)

      This is (partially) what makes Marien’s story so interesting. No one got killed.

      Vickie, Phil and I, all had the same solution: to start the story with an investigator, eliciting the truth from the victim or culprit in the crime. But everyone else deserves some credit for approaching it differently. (If it worked.)

      I often think of great prompts, but rarely when it’s my turn to pick one. (Plus, I was delusional at the time. Let’s not forget that.)

      Your writing skill is of such high caliber that one can easily overlook small flaws in the plot or character. It is so pleasing to read such well constructed stories that half the time I don’t even care what they’re about. It’s like a good meal, once you start eating it, you’re not interested in questioning the chef or the waiter about its contents, until later, when you’re quite full. And happy.

      • Thank you Ken. The first line of this story “Nothing good ever happens when it rains…” was a line I heard in Game of Thrones I think, and thought it would make for an interesting story. This seemed like a good prompt to test it out.

        And I really liked the prompt, it brought me out of my semi-retirement. I think prompts that are specific like this are harder to do, and challenges us as writers, which in my book is a good thing.

        I saw a short once, I don’t remember what it was called, that did this kind of one man/woman act that I attempted in my story. I liked how we never saw who the lead character was speaking to, and we only got a sense of who the narrator was. It was a fun exercise for me, and I liked your suggestions, which I shall undertake in my re-write.

        Thanks again my friend, I appreciate your critique.

    • Well written, Alice!

      It’s macabre and horrifying to read of this mother. I would’ve liked forgiveness to kick in though.
      Who kills the narrator in the end? It’s a divine retribution of sorts.

      Not really my kinda story. But you did well.

      Take care,

      • Thank you Marien, I’m glad that you could appreciate the story, even though it’s not your cup of tea. 🙂
        • Macabre story Alice. You do it so well. The word length is too short for your story. There is more to this story and it would be great to see it fleshed out more.
  • Alyssa Daxson

    No Choice
    Written by Alyssa Daxson
    Word count-1200

    The silence was deafening. I stared at my sister, looking at the suggestive bump at her abdomen. “I’m sorry,” a timid voice said, shaky and filled with sadness. I tore my eyes away from her stomach, and met the tear filled eyes. “Who?” I asked, my voice cracking halfway through. The tension was heavy in the air as my sister stared, silent.
    “Someone you don’t know,” she finally said, casting her gaze downward.
    I nodded stiffly, my stony face hiding the turmoil of emotions swirling inside my gut.
    “Was it intentional?” I whispered, almost afraid to hear the answer.
    Her response was immediate.
    Hair flying around her face, my sister shook her head fiercely. “No! He-he cornered me, in an alleyway… and y’know,” she stopped, swallowing fearfully.
    “Rachel,” I said softly, watching as her gaze lifted to look at mine. “Who is he?”
    Lip trembling, Rachel squeezed her eyes shut, shaking her head, refusing to answer my question.
    “Do mom and dad know?”
    The fear stricken look was enough of an answer for me.
    There was nothing to say after that.

    I stormed outside, hiding my tear stained face from my mom. Pacing furiously back and forth, I tried to ignore the thoughts swirling inside my head.
    My sister had been violated.
    Used and thrown away like a doll.
    She’d been… been raped.
    At that acknowledgement everything snapped.

    My fists slammed into the nearest tree, hammering into the hard bark over and over again.
    I should’ve been there.
    I never should’ve let her out of my sights.
    It was my fault.

    I felt agony lance up my hands as a finger on my left hand broke, pain radiating outwards.
    Staring down indifferently, I flexed my hand, grunting in pain as the finger bent unnaturally. A buzz from my phone distracted me from the study of my broken appendage, and I awkwardly maneuvered my phone out of my jeans pocket.
    I clicked it open, and saw a message. Or more specifically a message from my sister.
    “Im sorry.
    148 Coldwater Street, Jackson ME 04389.”
    I stared, perplexed for a second, before quickly replying back.
    “Why?” I asked. The response was almost immediate.
    “Because that’s the only thing you’ll do.”
    There was a slight pause, before another message pinged.
    “Go teach that bastard a lesson.”
    That brought a small smile to my lips, but it faded away almost immediately. Now was not the time to sit around.
    It was time to plan.


    Dressed in black clothes, I sat outside a small house, watching as a shadow moved around in the interior.
    Slowly getting out of my car, I walked along the backside of it, swiftly removing the one and only plate on the beat up subaru. Getting up, I opened the trunk, throwing the plate in, exchanging it for a black duffle bag that ominously clinked whenever it moved.
    I scuttled across the grassy yard, moving silently around back. My heart pounding, I found the back door and crouched down by it, slowly pulling out a pick-locking tools from my pocket.
    Hands trembling, I inserted in the small metal tools, painstakingly maneuvering them in the lock. Within a few minutes there was a small click, and the door swung open slowly, revealing the dimly lit inside.

    Sending up a prayer of thanks, I slipped inside, closing the door carefully behind me.
    The room, which I assumed was some kind of pantry, was partly lit, and I navigated my way around the assorted boxes that were scattered across the floor.
    A scuffle of footsteps made me freeze, and I watched, heart pounding, as a figure walked by the open door. Their footsteps faded away, and I quickly moved through the cluttered room, stepping out into an open hallway.
    There was a smell of food in the air, and I wondered if my stomach would start rumbling. Walking towards an open doorway, which showed a brightly lit kitchen, I kept an open ear, wary of the returning person.
    My duffle bag clinked as I moved onto the tiled floor, and I felt a flicker of fear. What if someone heard that? Fueled by my anger, I hadn’t stopped to think about what would happen if I got caught.
    My hands started to tremble, and the pushed down fear returned with a vengeance.
    I could go to jail.
    Be in prison for the rest of my teen hood.
    Every single plan that I had for life would come crashing down, and it was all for my sister.
    At that part, my thoughts stilled. I recalled looking at my sister, unwillingly pregnant at the young age of 16, her life plans ruined by a single moment.
    It was then that I decided that it was worth it.
    If I got arrested, at least she’d be avenged.

    My determination returned with a vengeance, and the fire in my veins smothered the fear.
    I set the duffel bag down on the tiled floor, and pulled out a combat knife, one that marines carried.
    Taking a deep breath, I leaned against a wooded counter, forcing my body to relax, a casual look appearing on my face.
    I waited, hearing the sound of padded feet brushing across the floor. Seconds later, a blond haired man stepped around the corner, his blue eyes finding me instantly and going wide with surprise.

    “Uh, can I help you?” He asked, eyes training on the knife that was dangling loosely from my hand.
    I stayed silent for a moment, before slowly pushing myself up off the counter, sauntering towards the wary man.
    “Yeah, actually you can,” I said. ”I just have one question.”
    Licking his lips, the man edged towards a wall phone, his intent obvious.
    I followed his movements with a steely gaze. “Try anything and you’ll be dead before you can blink,” I threatened. Of course the whole thing was false, no way I was that good of a shot. But he didn’t have to know, right?

    “What’s your name?” I snapped, startling the man of out his terrified trance.
    “Uh, Daryl,” he stuttered, swallowing nervously.
    I let out a hmm, before nodded slowly.
    “Well Daryl, I’ve come to talk to you about Rachel,” I said, expecting the realization to sink in.
    Instead he paused, his eyes drawing together.
    “Excuse me? Who?” He asked, confused.
    Blood roared in my ears as red slowly took over my vision.
    He didn’t remember.
    He didn’t remember her.
    In less then second I had him pinned up against the wall, my knife hovering inches from his chest.
    I faintly registered him yelling, but my thoughts were only focused on one thing.
    He forgot.
    That’s when I knew I had to kill him.

    My knife was shoved up into his chest, punching through his lungs with ease.
    There was a muffled scream, before his body went still.
    The rest was blur.

    I washed my hands under cold, clear water, ignoring the red ribbons.
    I cleaned the kitchen, putting away the cream cheese salad(or at least that’s what it looked like).
    Found gasoline and set the whole damn house ablaze.

    As I drove away in my black Subaru, the smoke rising in the air behind me, I knew that I was safe.
    Nobody would miss him.

    • Alyssa,

      Well done. This is powerful writing about a disturbing topic. And I like what you’re doing. You’re infusing action into the story with your exposition(?)

      The dialogue is excellent.
      The ‘All.
      Slam.’ Section is very effective. It conveys anger and frustration visually as well as literally.

      The second section that begins with: ‘Dressed in black clothes…’ is really well-written and full of suspense and tension. The constant clinking of the gym bag is an excellent literary device.

      Some sections had great potential but could’ve used a little improvement. Like:
      ‘I scuttled across the grassy yard, moving silently around back. My heart pounding, I found the back door and crouched down (beside it,) (carefully opening a case of tools for picking locks.)

      Hands trembling, I inserted (my tool of choice, gently exploring the lock’s tiny tumblers.) Within ( ) minutes I was rewarded with a faint click, and the door swung open slowly. (Forget the dim light.)
      (This is great stuff, Alyssa. I kid you not.)

      There’s a bit of overwriting at the beginning. (Your weakness.)

      ‘The silence was deafening.’ (This is a time-worn phrase.)

      ‘I tore my eyes away from her stomach and met the tear-filled eyes.’ (Tore, eyes, tear, eyes. Too many ‘T’s and eye’s in one short sentence.

      ‘I nodded stiffly, my stony face hiding the turmoil…’ (I nodded stiffly, my blank face hiding the turmoil…)

      You wrote: ‘I felt agony lance up my hands as a finger on my left hand broke, pain radiating outwards.’
      This is convoluted.
      ‘I heard my finger break as pain lanced up my hand and arm.’ (Punching trees is very dramatic, but a bandaged and braced finger is an encumbrance when picking locks, firing weapons, holding a knife. Perhaps you should break a knuckle instead, or nothing at all. Perhaps your character should punch something that breaks. A mirror, a kitchen tile, wallboard. Trees are hard as fuck. Pardon my French.)

      ‘…pulled out a combat knife, one that marines carry.’ (The tense is wrong and you don’t need to explain where combat knives come from. You can avoid the grammatical issue altogether by not spelling it out for us. I imagine most soldiers trained for ground combat, use combat knives.)

      Certain elements seem contrary to the plot.

      Forcing my body to relax. A casual look appearing on my face.
      ‘Eyes trained on the knife, DANGLING LOOSELY from my hand.’ (No, your character would have a death grip on that knife.)

      ‘…pushing myself off the counter, sauntering towards the wary man.’ (sauntering?)

      ‘Of course, the whole thing was false. (You mean a bluff.) ‘…no way I was that good of a shot.’ (You mean with a knife? Or did you switch weapons somewhere?)

      As it is, it’s an exciting story with a satisfying ending and as usual, a fun and engrossing read. And it wouldn’t take much editing to buff this into an excellent story. I really enjoyed it.

      • Hi Alyssa,
        This reads easy, although a tad verbose. The plot is not convincing enough to go kill somebody.
        The narrator’s solution doesn’t seem to fit the cause. Why did she feel burdened to finish him?
        Was her sister challenged?
        How did she know the address if the crime took place in an alleyway?
        If this narrator is afraid of the parents’ reaction, how did she dare to take this murderous action?
        Finally the burnt home will call in cops and family.

        Beating up the trunk was very effective, tho’

  • Vicki Chvatal

    By Victoria Chvatal
    (1,184 words)

    Detective Eve Tsiolkas raised her eyes from the incident report and fixed them on the man sitting across the table. He responded with a sullen glare.

    “Mr. Chambers, according to your neighbours’ testimony, you pushed your wife Lorraine down the stairs in your block of flats. From the third floor. She has sustained multiple fractures and internal injuries, and is now in hospital in an induced coma. We’re talking about attempted murder.”

    “You don’t understand!” he interrupted. “She tried to kill me first. It’s not bad enough that the bitch got impossible to live with the last few months – all healthy food this and organics that and no proper food at all, and can’t even have a smoke inside – gotta go out on the balcony come hell or high water, and whatever I say I’m a right-wing loony, or she just looks at me like I lost my marbles! And can’t even get away from her – not to work, not even go for a drive or anything! But then she tried to poison me – put some crap in one of the bloody salads she forced me to eat – I had the runs for days. And another time she put plant food on my whipped cream instead of sprinkles. That’s when I knew I had to kill her. What else can you do, huh?”

    Gary Chambers paused to rub at his forehead. The sleeve of his shirt fell a little, exposing a rash on his wrist. His greying hair looked somewhat dishevelled, a formerly neat haircut growing out.

    “Have you reported this to the police?” Tsiolkas filled in the pause.

    “What for?” he sneered, “No-one’d believe me, ‘cos the man’s always the bad guy. Anyways, the cops are too busy chasing down some poor sods for not wearing a mask.”

    “Have you kept any samples of the poisoned food, Mr. Chambers, that could support your claims?”

    Chambers looked stumped for a moment, then rubbed his forehead once more. Tsiolkas looked at the man again. His skin had a jaundiced look, and there was something unhealthy about his appearance.

    “Got a Paracetamol?” he asked abruptly. “Bloody headache.”

    She fished out a packet from the desk drawer and handed it to the man, along with a glass of water.

    “Thanks. I’ve always been healthy,” he muttered by way of explanation, washing down a pill with the water, “I only ever take Paracetamol – though more than usual the last few months: it’s always one thing or another – a headache, or stomachache, or a cold even, for all I’m always stuck inside. Bloody bitch really got to me.”

    “Stress often affects people’s health like that, Mr. Chambers,” the detective offered in response. “… Speaking of which, have you been to see a GP? To get tested for traces of poisoning,” she clarified in response to another blank stare.

    “Are you kidding me? All the appointments are by phone only, and then the idiot GP forgets you had one. And if you go into a clinic – you get back with the corona. No thanks.”

    “Look, I can make an appointment for you right away. They’ll run some tests, to check for traces of poison.” Seeing a suspicious stare, she added, “the results could corroborate your claim against your wife.” He’d need to see a shrink too, she thought to herself.

    Chambers mulled this over before finally nodding in agreement.

    “So what now, do you throw me in jail?”

    “No, under the current circumstances we’ll place you under house arrest for now.”

    “Back to the big jail outside, then,” quipped Chambers with a sardonic grin.

    * * *

    Only after escorting the man out, Tsiolkas allowed herself to sigh.

    “I hate this bloody lockdown,” she grouched to a passing colleague.



    “Welcome to the club. Everyone’s going batshit at each other, stuck at home with nowhere to go like that… And we get to shovel the shit, eh?”

    * * *

    Back in her office, Tsiolkas requested a guard to be placed outside Lorraine Chambers’ hospital ward, in case Gary tried anything. Then she listened to the recorded interviews the cops on the scene had conducted with the couple’s neighbours. Everyone mentioned that the Chambers’ had fought a lot. An interview with Ayla Gibbons, a young software developer living on the floor below the Chambers’, contained an extra tidbit.

    “ … It wasn’t even the first time. I think. I’d just moved in … four months ago? Or was it five? … It’s so hard to keep track of time these days, isn’t it? … Anyway, I was just locking the door when this poor woman came tumbling down the stairs, and smashed right into me. I thought I saw the husband trip her up, out of the corner of my eye, but I wasn’t sure then …”

    Tsiolkas pinched the bridge of her nose. So the problems between the two went back to before the lockdown. Gary Chambers was due for another interview.

    * * *

    The doctor’s call came earlier than expected. “This is about Mr. Gary Chambers’ test … well, in layman’s terms, he’s got Paracetamol poisoning. Any idea when it happened?”

    “… No. Is it dangerous?”

    “Could be lethal, if not treated immediately. Could it be attempted suicide?”

    “I don’t think so, but … ”

    After hanging up, Tsiolkas tried to call Gary Chambers; no-one responded. The police dispatched to his flat found the man unconscious on the floor, a bottle of Paracetamol in his hand. Shards of a broken glass were scattered on the floor next to him; the spilled water hadn’t had the time to dry up.

    All the contents of the Chambers’ medicine cabinet were sent off to the forensics lab, as were the contents of the fridge.

    * * *

    “Detective Tsiolkas? Dr. Donohoe here, from forensics. It’s about Mr. Chambers’ medication.”

    “Any signs of tampering?”

    “Not as such, but the bottle of Paracetamol capsules has two different kinds: regular, and Moderated Release.”

    “And that means…”

    “MR has a higher dosage of Paracetamol, so you have to take fewer per day. They look very similar, so if you aren’t looking you won’t notice the difference. But if you think they are all regular capsules…”

    “Accidental overdose. Thanks.”

    Right on the heels of this call, Tsiolkas got another – that Lorraine Chambers was finally conscious.

    The policewoman stationed outside the ward greeted her with a grin: “Guess what her first words to me were? “I had to do it.” But then she clammed up.”

    Lorraine Chambers was still covered in bandages, but her voice was clear if weak. Initially, she insisted on her right to remain silent. That was until Tsiolkas told her, “Mrs. Chambers, the good news is that you’ll most likely recover. The bad news is, we have enough evidence to charge you with murder – or attempted murder, depending on whether your husband pulls through.”

    “Look, I had to! He tried to kill me all the time – you know he pushed me down the stairs, and it’s not the first time, either. And then he put something in my cottage cheese – bleach or something, it tasted horrible so I hardly ate any, luckily. That’s when I knew I had to kill him.”

    • Vickie,

      This reminds me of a person I used to date, who I now refer to, in casual conversation, as ‘psycho-*****.’ (I used asterisks because it would be disrespectful to reveal Linda’s real na… Oops. Shit.)

      This story gives me so many reasons to like it.
      I love the beginning. Very crisp and dramatic, but succinct. Like any good police drama. The main character is appealing, she comes across as compassionate.

      Your writing style, even though it’s not as clean as it could be, has a ‘stone-skipping-across-the-water-rhythm’ at times. ‘Biddy-biddy-bip-diddy-bip-bop-bip.’ Or some variation on that nice ‘skippity-bip’ theme. (Everybody else probably thinks I’m crazy right now, I’m sure, but you know what I mean, don’t you? No? Oh. Okay. So, it’s ‘everybody’ then, not ‘everybody else.’ A minor distinction.) Okay well, regardless, you don’t have to be a certified stone-skipper to hear this rhythm, and whether you hear it or not, the best thing about it, is that it helps the reader sort of glide through the story.

      The story is cool in other respects. The relevance to (maybe not OUR lives) but to the lives of so many others, some of whom we may not even suspect. It is this one thing, this ineffable relatability (maybe), that touches the reader’s heart and brain at the same time. It’s the best thing a story can have, but very few stories have it.

      I could not help but be impressed by the way you used dialogue to allude to our collective circumstances too, and did it with so few words. (“back to the big jail outside then.” and “I hate this bloody lock-down,”) and clearly, these two people, especially the husband, do not have any real motive to kill their spouses. They’re just stir-crazy. Aren’t they? If I understood your story properly, they both seem to be a bit crazy to begin with.

      In my modestly abject humility, (which I always have way, way too much of) I think this story could use a little more polish, like all the stories this week, (so far), including mine, (no kidding) but even Phil’s. I would start by getting rid of ‘…in your block of flats.’ (You don’t need it.)

      But I think this is the best story, hands down, despite the mistakes, for everything that’s in it as well as the crisp and effective writing. I really enjoyed it, Vickie.

      • Vicki Chvatal
        Thanks for your comment, Ken!

        Lucky that you and your ex didn’t try to kill each other, at least (or not successfully?) 🙂

        I didn’t quite get what you meant about the rhythm: does the story have it? or not? or not at all times? Could you please clarify?

        And yes, you’re absolutely right: this couple’s problems – and mutual murder attempts – predate the lockdown.

        • Victoria,

          I said: “Your writing style, has a ‘stone-skipping-across-the-water-rhythm’ at times.” So not at all times.

          The story has a clever rhythm in places. If it had it everywhere, I think that would be tedious, too. It’s sort of like skipping a stone. A lot of them hit the water and just go plunk, and sink. The stone has to have the right shape and hit the water at the right angle to skip. And it’s great when it all comes together.)

          As for the former nutty girlfriend with the psycho moniker, she didn’t have a violent bone in her body. She was funny and gentle, but neurotic, and a bit frail and needy, pretty introverted. (And I was clueless of course.)

          We had been living together for at least a year when, out of the blue, she asked me if I would ever consider marrying her, while we were having dinner on the porch with her girlfriend. Now, I know this is going to sound crazy, but I felt pretty positive initially. But I’m such a slow-witted water buffalo type, (a small one) my first reaction was delayed by about 4 and a half seconds. Which, if you carefully count it out, or time it with a watch, can seem like quite a long delay. No question about it. I was amenable to marriage, (already having tried it once) but not eager without hammering out a few knotty issues first. (She’d already dragged me to a marriage counselor twice and we weren’t even married yet! Let’s just say that I had some reservations.) But I was willing to give it a shot if we could agree to some ground rules.

          So, I hesitated for almost five seconds. Just as I opened my mouth to respond, she said, and I quote. “Fuck you.” Then she said it like six more times, each time with a slightly altered inflection. “Fuck—YOU.” “No. Fuckyew.” “Fa-uck Yee-ew.” “Fuckity-fuck ‘n’ fuck, to you-woo-woo.” It was a dazzling display of feminine fury. Then she demanded that I move out.

          What could I say? Romaine lettuce dangling from my fork. My mouth half-open. I said, “Okay. Right now? Or can I finish eating? Will tomorrow do?” I’d already paid half the month’s rent, so she ended up letting me and my cat stay till the end of the month, while I acquired my own place, and moved out. She tried quite a number of ploys to change my mind over the course of that month. But six ‘fuck you’s’ in a row is a powerful incentive.

          I was two seconds away from saying yes. Scary? Nah. I’ve been in way scarier situations.

          Her inexplicably perverse, self-defeating behavior earned her the nickname by my family, and yes, I confess we’re the type of people who give other people nicknames. If the shoe fits.

          That’s the neat thing about your story, you take what could be merely a dysfunctional couple, and bring it to the next level and beyond. It’s a weird kind of gradual reveal, and a look into the lives of ordinary people that I found so beguiling.

          Keep up the good work, Vickie.

    • Gippy Goats Alpines
      Thumbs up! Good writing Vicki.
      • Vicki Chvatal
        Thanks, Ilana.
    • Hi Vickie,
      I must confess I enjoyed this story very much ( the genre not for me, not for me).

      It’s your style that won me over, not the subject naturally. I like your descriptions and how easily you relate the tensions at home during this unnatural time.
      That bleach in the salad wasn’t necessary I thought. The pushing happens after? Bit confused.
      Great dialogue too.

      • Vicki Chvatal
        Thanks, Marien.

        I take it violence isn’t your thing. Does Mama in your story act as your alter ego in that she feels worse than Hitler at the prospect of killing some mice? This makes me all the happier that you liked my story *despite* the subject.

        Bleach in the salad – well, I had to fit the salad and other foodstuffs in somewhere. 🙂 If it’s any consolation, we’ll never know if the food tampering really happened, or if it was paranoia talking…

        There were two (at least) pushing incidents: a recent one, and one that happened a few months before (and before the lockdown).

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Hi Carrie,

      The dialogue category still has the stories from the *previous* round, rather than the current one.

      • I fixed it Vicki, thanks for letting us know 🙂
        • Carrie Zylka

          Oops! Thanks Alice!!!

          • Carrie,
            Aha! You’re showing a side of you I didn’t know about. (One of your other sides, in other words.)

            I thought you were just some half-drunken, super-model that liked to hunt large animals with lethal weapons, when you weren’t learning to fly-fish, or spending time with your giant, but irascible horse. ‘Thunderbucket’? Was that his name? I don’t remember.

            But now, and only now, after all this time, you admit that you like cream cheese and sushi, too. Who would’ve ever guessed that? ( Still not sure I believe it. I eat oatmeal at least twice a day.) Plus, from your answer, I’m able to determine that you live in Wisconsin. A place that sells Pickle roll-ups. Whatever that is. Wisconsin Sushi. Wait a minute. This is a Minnesotan put down to Wisconistas, is it not? So you’re Minnesultan, then?

            I’ve been trying to figure out where you live ever since I saw your address on your website a few years back. (I didn’t look at it though. I wanted to figure it out on my own. As I’ve done now. Unless I’m wrong.) It’s been pretty challenging, as you can imagine. (When you have time, of course. Don’t try to imagine anything right now. I’m sure you’re already very busy not imagining things.)

            In upstate New York they have something called a ‘Spiedie Sandwich.’ It’s usually served with ‘Spiedie Sauce.’ It’s really good. Giant hunks of grilled chicken, or pork, or steak, marinated for at least a day in an authentic ‘spiedie sauce’ that you really have to buy. Some people claim to make their own but it’s not the same. Then the meat is cooked on a skewer, and then wrapped in a bun like a catcher’s mitt. You can only get it in a restaurant in upstate New York. You can’t buy one here. (or anywhere else.) Nobody makes them. To have one here, I’d have to get the sauce and make it myself.
            I am not–making this up.


  • Hi everyone!

    So it’s gonna be a Goodbye from me, for a while…

    My eyes (and eye-doc) have been telling me that I should stay away from screens as much as possible. The blue light was taken out, I’ve tried dictation instead of typing (my last couple of stories or so came to being through dictating them on my iPhone, they were never actually “written”. Perhaps, that’s why the dialogue came out quite good. But I still had to look at the screen and when I didn’t I found a lot of garbage that I then had to delete!), I’ve had your stories being read out to me by Siri or whoever it is, but my eyes just don’t want to know, I need a more (near-)complete shut-down. So I’ll be taking a long break and see what happens.

    Since I joined this site I never missed a single prompt, not even a bonus one. I’ve got enough stories by now for at least two anthologies of short stories, if I were to publish them! It’s going to feel strange not hanging around with you guys and juggling ideas for each prompt every fortnight. But I must do this. There are a few other (offline) things in life I need to catch up with too, in the meantime. Including a lot of reading (on these wonderful things made from pulp-derived material called paper, and on which you can’t click on words that take you somewhere else, so you concentrate fully on what you’re reading. They’re called books, I think.).

    I will contribute a prompt-title when Alice and Carrie ask me to, so you’ll be seeing me again there, and I might from time to time drop by to say hi. Maybe print some of your stories to read them on paper too. If a prompt sings to me, I might even write a story here and there too (don’t tell my ophthalmologist), but it won’t be anything as regular as it has been so far.

    Those who already correspond with me by email, I will be looking in there every now and then (a quick sneak once or twice a week is allowed), and will reply to you. So you can still find me there. Anyone else who’d like to keep in touch, here is my email address:

    There is also the “Winter Love” prompt still ongoing, of course, and I already have a story in there, so I’ll be following that up too, before I head off for real.

    So, let me say it again that I’ve had a good time in here, and learned really a lot. I thank you all for your constructive comments and overall feedback, and for your great stories. It’s been fun, frustrating too at times, but generally a great experience. I hope I’ve done my part and helped some of you too in some small way. I’ve been told that both my stories and comments have been quite popular. I thank all my fans for that and I’m sorry to have to disappoint you with my rather sudden departure…

    I’ve just voted for this contest. You had some real killer stories in there! Pun intended and not.

    Ken (M.)

    • Phil Town
      That’s a great shame, KenM. (But is it an ‘au revoir’ or ‘adieu’?)

      You’ll be greatly missed!

      Take care.

      • Au revoir, I hope… Thanks, Phil!

        (there’s a more detailed reply further down)

    • Ken M.,

      Bummer. How long do you think? Must be something going around. I’m going in for cararact surgery next Tuesday. I do know this – I will certainly miss you and your writing. Double bummer. Hopefully, this will be short term. If it’s just electronic, maybe you could print the stories to read, and have someone else enter your stories. I mean, you could still write by hand or dictate, couldn’t you. Triple bummer. The more I think about it, the more bummed I get. Don’t be a stranger.


      • I don’t know, as soon as I feel better, I’ll abuse myself again, I’m that kind…

        Good luck with your cataract surgery, Roy… it’s routine these days I hear! You’ll be fine 🙂

        (there’s a more detailed reply further down)

    • Ken M, you will be greatly missed! Ten potato gun salute!
      Its shame you have to take a rain check, but if you can’t see, well then you can’t really do a lot of things.
      I hope your eyes get better, and soon enough you’ll be able to bless us with your presence again. ;P
      You have been a tremendous help to me, and your advice has helped my writing improve beyond what I could even imagine.
      I will miss the dynamic triple Kens, and hope it will get back soon!

      Adios mi amigo! You’ve been a great help all this year, and I cannot put words into much I appreciate it.
      – Alyssa
      P.S I try not to think of this like a goodbye, more like rain check for however long it takes for you to return 😉

      • Thanks Alyssa… ten potato gun salute! That’s usually reserved for royalty!

        Hope it’s just a rain check, as you say, and not a full resignation…

        (there’s a more detailed reply further down…)

    • Ken M, that sucks, but you have to take care of yourself. I will miss your stories, and your wonderfully supportive critiques. Take care my friend, this isn’t goodbye, it’s simply see you later.
      • Thanks Alice, for the nice words, and yes, I’ll be back I hope in some way or another…

        (there’s a more detailed reply further down)

    • Carrie Zylka
      Ken! You will be greatly missed, get better so you can come back…we’ll still be here and you’ll have about a million prompts to catch up on 😉
      • Thanks Carrie, that’s comforting to hear. But a million prompts to catch up on…? I hope I won’t be away for THAT long!

        (there’s a more detailed reply further down)

    • Vicki Chvatal
      Ken M.,

      Hope the damage isn’t permanent, and your eyes will make a full recovery after some rest.

      • I hope so, too, anything that passes is fine…with some rest I think I’ll recover, but then I’d have to keep it up (which may be the harder bit!) Thanks, Vicki,

        (there’s a more detailed reply further down)

    • What?
      No, no.
      You can’t do this. I want the name of your ophthalmologist. And his phone number. Are you saying you can read from paper but not from a screen? So you get an old typewriter, a scanner and a printer. You need a years worth of paper too? What about a big monitor, huge. This is unacceptable. (No, you cannot have one of my eyes, Ken. Not Yet. Let’s work on other options first.)

      This sucks.

      You know what? You weren’t all that well appreciated when you were here. So good luck to you, Ken. I hope to stay in touch with you, even if it means I have to use paper. No problem. Congrats on your second place finish, that’s where I had you, right behind Vickie’s unnamed marital murder mystery.

      books are good. I read them all the time. I don’t read shit on my phone, I don’t have a kindle or a nook, but I do read plenty on my pc’s. As long as you can continue to read, life goes on. But you need to write. You’re an excellent writer, Ken. Get a typewriter, an old electric. You should continue to write. I’m really bummed, Ken. I think I enjoyed your playful commentary more than any of the stories. I don’t know what else to say.

      I’m going to miss your amazing insights, so deftly conveyed.

      • No, Ken don’t give me your eye. I have two already and they’re giving me enough trouble! Thanks for your nice words about my writing and votes to go along with that.

        An electric typewriter…? I was thinking of a diesel-powered one. But there’s a more detailed reply further down, I tackle that, and other things there…

  • Just waiting on Robt.
    I emailed him, I’ll give him another hour and then post the results.
  • The results are in!!!

    Your 1st Place Winner is………

    “The Powers That Be” by Ken Cartisano

    2nd Place: Sour Cream by Ken Miles
    3rd Place: Friday Mice Are Nice by Marien Oommen
    4th Place: The Last Come-Down by Alice Nelson
    5th Place: Untitled by Victoria Chvatal
    6th Place: Time Dies by Phil Town
    7th Place: No Choice by Alyssa Daxson
    8th Place: Sometimes No Choices by Ilana Leeds

    The favorite character this round was Detective Eve in Victoria Chvatal’s Untitled story.
    The story with the favorite dialogue was “The Powers That Be” by Ken Cartisano.

    Congrats to all!!

    • Gippy Goats Alpines
      Congrats winners. Always well deserved. Sad news about the other Ken. Hopefully he can take up pen and paper. His stories are great. I appear to have lost touch with my stories coming last in the last three competitions. Oh well I’ll just have to keep plugging away. Could be an reflection of how I feel about the world at present too. Very tired and just worn out.
      Good work Ken. Your story was not my favoured one but it was in the top five I think.
      Keep writing everyone – your stories are my fortnightly hi light. Just finished a magnificent audio book by Nicolas Sparks Every Breath.
      • Yes, long live pen and paper, from now on, Ilana… Thanks for your nice words, too.

        (there’s a more detailed reply, farewell speech nearly, further down)

    • Phil Town
      The power that bes be KenC.

      Nice one, ol’ chum!

      And congrats all!

  • thanks guys and gals.

    Alyssa. ‘Ten potato gun salute!’ for Ken M. That’s perfect. I really wish we could.

  • Alice, Alyssa, Carrie, Ilana, Ken C., Phil, Roy, Vicki (that’s in alphabetical order, you see?), everyone… thanks for your best wishes and nice words. For the potato gun salute, too, Alyssa 🙂

    Well, Phil, I hope it’s gonna be an au revoir and not a definite adieu. A little bit of screen-time is allowed, and I hope I can make that go a long way.

    My eye-sight as such is fine, I can see very well. As far as the moon. Even distant stars when the night sky is clear. I think I can also see aliens walking on the planets orbiting them too (but now you’re gonna question my state of mind!). But my eyes are so irritated I want to pull them out sometimes. It’s clearly because of my excessive use of screens, almost everything I do these days involves a screen. Short of an aim-or-miss videogame urinal, like they have in Japan. I haven’t got that yet. I used to take weekend screen detox breaks before, but with Covid and teleworking, the line between home and office, workday and weekend, night and day has become severely blurred. I clearly need to go a bit (a lot?) more low-tech…

    I’ll hopefully be back sometimes, but certainly nothing as regular as before. For now, it’s going to be a more complete blackout. I’ll follow up the remaining prompt (“Winter Love”), since I’m in it, and then disappear. Except for those of you who may wish to stay in touch (occasionally) by email. To kindly fill me in on what I’m missing.

    I can even do private person-to-person story reviews by email for those who are fans of my critiques. But it would have to be done differently. I’d print whatever you email me, I’d massacre it on paper, then send you my scanned hand-critiqued copy. Being private, I’d hold nothing back. If I think something stinks, I’d say it the way it is. In the group, I restrained myself sometimes (not always).

    Ken C. says I have’t been so well-appreciated in here. Hmmm, well, I think I should have won more often, perhaps? Is that what you mean? But then all of you should have too, and there is only one top spot available for so many good writers and stories. I’m quite satisfied with every spot I’ve landed on. I only once came last (when I attempted an overtly humorous piece with the American college boys messing up in Italy, which, mind you, I still like very much). Most times I found myself in the first half of the charts, so I can’t really complain about that. And especially with my last few entries, I think I had two wins, two second-places and at no point did I place further back than the first five. And also got that thumbs up as “Lowell Hartmann” with the other two Kens. It’s sad to leave when the birds are singing, but, well, that’s the way it often goes.

    By the way, thank you for the number two spot you awarded me this time round again. I wasn’t expecting that – I did my best to disgust readers with this story. Snot, farts, bad-behavior, even worse behavior, it had it all to get thrown to the back of the class. So I don’t know what you liked in it 🙂

    Congrats to the legendary Ken C, Mr. Kartitzanou, for yet another fabulous win. I had you in second, Ken, like you said you had me. You know, Ken, when you once said that most stories in here are great and interesting (and I agree), but that mine (and yours, of course, too, and some others, doubtlessly) are not just great and interesting but also EXCITING, that’s one comment that kept me going! Even an exciting piece of shit is better than a boring masterpiece. And, even worse, it could be boring shit too. At least, I now know that what I write is not that.

    Well done also to Marien for the third spot and Vicki for the Best Character Oscar (and Ken C. again for Best Dialogue). And where is Alyssa??? What did you do to her? I had her in first! I’m glad, Aly, I’ve been of such tremendous help to you in this past year as you’ve said I’ve been. Especially since I know that such help has not gone wasted on one like you, who’s so talented and passionate about writing. I learned from you too, I often took down notes of some of your ways with turns of phrase.

    Roy, Ken C. again, I took stock of your advice about paper (but the forests are burning), typewriting (nay! do they even still exist?), handwriting, scanning, hiring a miniskirted secretary-typist… There must be a way. Clay-tablets by post? Have you got an extra room for them, Carrie, Alice? Or I’ll write in the sand with a stick in hand, like some mad prophet, on an abandoned white beach in Greece or Italy and hope Google-Earth catches it all by satellite, before the wind erases it, and transmit it to every computer in the world? So much for going low-tech!

    In any case, writers in the past wrote without having to stare into a lit screen all day, and came up with great stuff. Greater than 95% of the crap one finds on the Internet today. Or maybe it’s sour grapes on my part. Well, I’ll see what I can do…

    Thanks Carrie for assuring me that you and the site will still be there for me whenever I want to drop by again. One firm thing, at least, in a world that keeps spinning and knows nothing better!

    So, that’s it for now (I’m already over my daily quota! And still have to earn a living…).



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