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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Return”

Theme: Return (any meaning)

Any genre or style, but has to have a happy/upbeat ending. Must use these four words directly: ‘suit, cut, light, iron’ (any meaning of them, and any form of them, singular or plural, or as a verb if you choose.

Word Count: 1,200

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Please Note: Comments may be considered “published” in regards to 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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

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

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Roy York per the Writing Prompt Roster.

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.

146 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Return”

  • Alice Nelson

    Read the stories here:

    (If you don’t see your story linked here within 24 hours after your posted it, please let us know as we may have missed the comment.)

    • Rebound (909 words)

      “Liam said- ‘hey, borrow your car?’ And before I could even finish saying yes, he snatched the keys from my hand and was on his way out the door. Then I yelled- ‘when will you be back?’ as he started the engine. He hollers out the window- ‘I don’t know, how far is Kansas? I’ve never been, but I’m sure Siri knows.’ Then he drove off.” McKenna laughed but relayed their conversation in a matter of fact tone then rotated her paper coffee cup one quarter turn before looking back at me. “So he’s been gone two days.” She had sloshed a small amount of coffee onto the tabletop.

      “Why?” I set down my scalding cup and unwrapped the napkin I had placed around it to protect my fingers. “Why did you let him borrow your car?” I dabbed at the puddle between us.

      “I think that is beside the point right now, Lauren.” She raised her voice slightly but not enough to be heard by anyone sitting at the tables nearby. “I know you don’t like him now but that’s your fault, you should have never gone out with him.”

      This would always be a point of contention between us. And she was right. Liam was her roommate, I shouldn’t have. “He’s not answering his phone, I think you should call the police.”

      She rolled her eyes at me. “He probably just forgot his charger. It’s only Monday, he could show up anytime now.”

      McKenna was protecting him again. Like that night at the party. Liam was roaring drunk, flirting with some blonde and I was screaming like a banshee. She pulled us apart and he left me. He ended up with a DUI and his parents towed his BMW from the impound. That was justice, I felt, she felt guilty for letting him storm off. “Okay, but if he doesn’t show up for his classes today, you should probably call somebody, maybe his mom.” I said.

      “Sure, call the Senator.” She snorted and took a large gulp of coffee. “Like you did last time.”

      She can’t make me feel guilty for that. “You could have backed me up.”

      “I did, I’m the one that called my parents so they could iron things out and prevent the restraining order.” McKenna lowered her voice then covered my hand lightly with her own. “And I walked you to the Campus Counselor’s office every week.”

      I nodded. “I wish you would have fixed me up with your brother instead, he would have suited me better.” My coffee was starting to cool so I chugged it down.

      She started twirling her partially empty cup on the tabletop again. “It wouldn’t have made a difference.”

      “What is that supposed to mean?”

      “He probably would have done the same thing.” She finished her coffee and stared at me, hard. “Boys from these kind of families, families like mine, they think they can do whatever they want.” She blinked and tears appeared at the corner of her eyes. “I probably should have told you before, but that night before the party, Liam hit on to me.”

      “What?” Mckenna’s words cut into me, I gripped the edge of the table until my knuckles turned white. A few heads from nearby tables turned to glance at us so I lowered my voice. “You should have told me.”

      “You wouldn’t have listened, I tried to warn you from the beginning but you just accused me of having a thing for him.” She stopped and looked down at her hands. “That night, before we left to pick you up, I had just finished getting dressed and when I came out of my room he told me I looked hot. I did a little spin like, to show off my outfit and when I faced him he pulled me into his chest. Then he grabbed my rear and tried to kiss me. Nice ass, he said.” Her breath whistled through her teeth, she wouldn’t look up at me.

      “You did have a thing for him.” I stated this plainly, as matter fact as I could, keeping the sharp edge of anger from my voice.

      “Not really, I mean high school, maybe. You couldn’t understand the things that happened back then, it wasn’t like ‘your’ proper suburban school. Everyone slept with everyone, it just happened, it didn’t mean anything.”

      I finally released my grip on the table. Everything was becoming clear. I realized before that he had used me, but no, I had let myself be used. I had wanted so badly to be welcomed into their group I let myself believe he, they, wanted me too. The truth was I would never belong there. I stood up, “I gotta go.”
      Then her cell lit up. A text popped on the screen. I wanted to turn away, I was done with them, but my curiosity got the better of me. “Is it him?”
      She nodded and typed a response then frowned when he answered.
      “What did he say?”
      “He’s back, he wants to meet up.”
      “What was he doing in Kansas?”
      “He said he was helping that blonde, she needed a ride home, some family emergency.”
      “Do you believe him?”
      She shook her head. “Can you do me a favor? Can you come with me? I’ve gotta kick him out.”
      She stood and I went around the table and put my arm around her, “sure, that’s what friends are for.”

      • sandra woolf
        I like this short story very much. It flows nicely and the dialogue is very believable. Keep up the good work.
        • Thanks Sandra for your lovely comments.
      • I pressed the ‘like’ button twice, Tobie. Nothing happened. So, here is thanking you for a good read.
      • Phil Town
        Good stuff, Tobie. I really like how it dives straight into the dialogue, and the little details of the coffee cups are very nice (I’m not sure why I like them – maybe just colour?) Nothing much happens but there’s a lot of good work on character and relationships – we get a really good idea of what the absent Liam is like. And there’s a massive swing between Lauren and McKenna (interesting use of the surname) at loggerheads, then finishing as friends again. It’s a swift turnaround, but it works. Good read.
        • Thanks for your critique. This was a tough one for me as I struggled to make it upbeat, haha. I had a bad cold and it made me want to take this someplace dark as I typically like to examine the unlit spaces in the human psyche. My daughter suggested the ‘girl power’ ending and it worked, though my inclination is to edit it into a darker piece.
      • Roy York
        Cannot begin to tell you how you taking that piece of advice I gave you to write this story fills me with gratitude. It wasn’t lip service, but it was as if you saw the whole story from that one comment. The first was from his perspective, and this one from hers, his current squeeze, while he’s out following what he hopes to be his latest conquest. All because he borrowed a car and she let him with complete trust and he turns out to be no good cheating scum. Loved the story line, and there are some things I could quibble with, but overall, you kept my interest hook. line and sinker. Of course, you knew you had me at “Borrow your car?”

        It’s why we use prompts to get a line, a theme, a word or two and see what happens when we all look at it and say, “What if…

        I don’t think there’s a bigger thrill in writing than to sit down and have a story unfold that wasn’t there earlier and just grows from well…who knows where?

        I don’t know about other authors, but my characters develop little lives of their own and surprise me with their dialogue, actions and even their black little hearts from time to time as I am unfolding a story.

        I once talked out loud while writing a story and said, “Wow, I didn’t expect that!” And my wife asked, “Didn’t expect what?” I replied, “I didn’t expect my character to kill the guy so suddenly and in cold blood.” She looked at me puzzled and said, “Who’s writing this story? You or your characters?” I had to think about that and the best answer I could give her was, “Hopefully they are, so it will aways be as surprise whenever they say or do something.”

        Keep it up, Tobie, I like your potential.

        • It was such a great line! I couldn’t leave it behind, thanks for the inspiration, I was hoping you would like it. By the way all my best writing is done by my characters, I have nothing to do with it.
      • Tobie, I love the dialogue here, it was as if the reader is eaves dropping in on a real conversation. Like Phil, I loved the description of the coffee cups, it just added more of a sense of realism to your story. This was like a page out of a longer story, and I wanted to read more. It does end on a positive note, as it appears McKenna and Lauren will remain friends. I just loved the flow and how easy this story is to read.
        • Thanks for the critique, it was fun to write!
      • Victor Ostrovsky
        To borrow from Forrest Gump Your stories are like a box of chocolate, each tastier than the one before and each is designed to make you want more. Like morsels from writer’s haven.
    • Dear Carrie,
      More than 24 hours have elapsed since I posted my story but it is yet to find its way to the Read the Stories List.
      Be much obliged if you do the needful. Take care and god bless.
      • Rathin, I just added your story to the list, sorry it took me so long. Take care.
  • Roy York
    Just checking in and excited about Return.
  • sandra woolf
    Homemade Cookies
    by Sandra Woolf

    I love to drive. Always have, ever since I got behind a blue Ford F150 for the first time. My Dad drove that truck to work every day.
    One summer I talked my way into being hired as a driver for Hostess Potato Chips. It was not so much that it was a “male” job, as something other than office work. The thought of sitting in an office all day, typing away like mad, gave me the willies.
    The guy in charge had never hired a female driver before and was rather apprehensive. But in this age of equal opportunity he could not refuse, could he? He explained the job was to drive his Mac trucks down into the potato fields and run alongside the potato picking machine as it went up and down the rows, digging up potatoes. The conveyor belt on the picking machine would then shoot tons of potatoes down into the truck. The trick was to drive back and forth so the potatoes loaded evenly. This usually took about fifteen minutes, then the truck was driven into town where the potatoes were unloaded into long narrow storage bins. Every so often a potato was chosen to be cut open and examined for rot.
    “No problem,” I assured him.
    “Good,” he replied, “So you can drive a Mac truck with ten ahead, two behind, double clutching and air brakes?”
    “Sure, no problem at all.”
    The words were out before I could think it through. I explained I had served in a Canadian Forces Reserve Unit for two years. Part of my job was to drive a variety of vehicles used in the field. Recovery trucks, troop transit vehicles, buses and Jeeps, I had driven them all.
    “OK,” he said, “It’s a six week contract, 6 am. to 6 pm., you start tomorrow.”
    Oh my god!

    When I climbed into the car with my husband and kids, I said, “I have to learn how to drive these trucks before 6 o’clock tomorrow morning!”
    “No problem,” he assured me. “I know someone with a truck you can practice on.”
    He was very good like that, backing me up in all my wild adventures. Two hours later I was driving up and down an abandoned runway on the military base where we lived. Grinding gears a few times, but eventually I got the feel of the clutch and was beginning to feel very confident.
    That night as I washed the dinner dishes, we told our sons, age five and seven, about the new job I had and that they were going to have to help with the housework.
    “Well, I guess that’s the end of homemade cookies,” my oldest said, (at seven he was starting to exhibit a very assertive personality, and was always the first to speak up. Wonder where that came from?)
    I sat down with a whoosh, guilt poured over me. It sank deep inside, creating a hollow I knew was going to be hard to ignore. I wanted to say, don’t worry honey, nothing is going to change. I can still make cookies; even if I have to bake them at midnight. Then parental doubts crept in, (and we all know them). Is this the right time to go out to work? They were still little boys; a few more years wouldn’t hurt, would it?
    But I knew deep down that I needed more, more than the loving family we had created. I needed to expand my life outside our four walls. Flashes of Shirley Valentine popped into my head. I didn’t want to end up talking to the walls like her. I needed to be able to think about more than what was for dinner every night, or cleaning the damn bathroom that was just as messy five minutes after my darling boys used it. Don’t let that get you down I thought, think of all the extra money you are going to make. The hockey equipment you will be able to buy for the boys. Maybe even splurge on a new deep freeze. My ambitions were rather mundane at that point. But a new freezer would be nice.
    Then my husband said, “No problem, Dad is going to do all the things Mom usually does, can’t be that hard, can it?”
    This wonderful man who, for the past ten years, had come home every night to dinner on the table and even his work shirts ironed, was going to take care of everything? The kids and I just stared at him, breathless with the thought of him even attempting to cook dinner.
    “Oh, this is going to be just great,” muttered my youngest as he left the room.
    “Thanks, honey,” I said, “I know you can do it. I’m not worried at all. Really.”
    The next morning my dear husband, who also had a day job, got up before it was even daylight and started to make breakfast. I donned my new “work-suit” as the boys called it of white coveralls, tucked my lunch pail under my arm and kissed everyone good-bye before I could change my mind.
    Twelve, long, dirty, exhilarating hours later, I drove home. My sigh of relief was enormous as I saw the house was still standing. Of course, when I had time to think during my busy day, I had imagined all kinds of catastrophes that would have occurred in my absence. Fire, flood and complete chaos had all passed through my imagination. I even had the kids running naked through the streets, dirty and hungry, crying for their absent mother.

    But instead, the kids were bathed and in their pj’s. I overlooked the fact that both bottoms were on backwards, and buttons not done up properly. My not so favourite dinner of mac & cheese was even kept warm in the oven. What the heck, I thought, at least I didn’t have to cook it myself.
    I ate my congealed dinner with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, then took the boys up to bed. This was my favourite time of the day. They were bathed and sweet smelling and looking like little angels — a mother can dream.
    “Do you want Mommy to read a story?”I asked.
    “It’s okay Mom, Dad already did.”
    More overwhelming pangs of guilt! But I kissed them good night anyway.
    Next morning, my husband started to make the boys lunches. Maybe this was not going to be so bad after all, I thought, as I slowly enjoyed my breakfast.
    “What’s this?” I asked, as I spied a bag of chocolate chip cookies on the counter. My oldest spoke up as he saw me looking at the bag.
    “We went with Dad to the grocery store yesterday and bought some cookies, and guess what Mom? It’s true. Mr. Christie really does make good cookies.”
    “But not as good as yours,” he quickly added.
    It was then I realized, with a huge sigh of relief, our little family was going to be just fine.

    • Dear Sandra, story was really interesting. It was very good plotting. It was clear that ending would be happy because it was guided. But it was not clear how it would. You nicely presented how difficulty would be to transfer role of mother to father. It went beyond expectation. I am not sure whether it is practically possible but it demonstrated that how father and children can make happy -extreme happy. This provided happiness to reader also. Your writing was simple and easy to understand.
      • sandra woolf
        Thank you Raj, I am so excited that you read my story. It is the first one that I have ever entered into a competition. It was a true story, it took place quite a few years ago now, but it really did happen that way. thanks again for your comments, they meant a lot to me..
    • robtemmett
      Welcome to this place of tales.
      As you have shown, true stories can be interesting. I enjoy your usage of a wide range of words. They greatly enhanced the color of a common story – getting a job.
      • sandra woolf
        thanks for your kind critique, I am new to this competition thing and don’t know where to put my comments re: your great story. could you help please?
      • sandra woolf
        very interesting story, put me right back into a diner type restaurant in my teen years. The dialogue has great flow and it puts the reader right there in the moment.
        • robtemmett
          Replies are put at the end of the story you wish to reply to as opposed to at the end of your story.
          If you do that again, the committee will see that you are flogged with a small bunch of organically grown carrots. A medium bunch will be used for the second offense, etc. Please consider yourself suitably chastised and warned.
          • sandra woolf
            ok suitably chastised. but I make great carrot soup,so flog away. (smile)
    • Alice Nelson

      Hello Sandra, I’m one of the moderators of this lovely group, and I wanted to welcome you aboard. If you have any questions, you can post them here, or send them to

      • sandra woolf
        Thanks for the welcome Alice, I am totally new to this whole writing and competing world. It’s nice to know I can ask questions when they arise. I am not sure about the voting part. How do I vote for the stories I have read so far.
        • The contest lasts two weeks, on Wednesday of the second week, either Carrie or I will post, right on this page, a link to the voting page. There you can vote for 5 of your favorite stories, but you can not vote for yourself, and you must vote in order for you story to qualify for the competition. The end date of the competition is always posted above in the title of each contest. Hope that helps.

          Feel free to ask questions any time. 🙂

          • sandra woolf
            thanks, I understand now. One questions remains, about how many entries do you get for each competition?
          • It varies from contest to contest. I would say we average 10 to 15 entries per contest. 🙂
    • Roy York
      Welcome aboard Sandra. You’ll get the hang of this. I loved your story, but it needs a little polishing.

      For example, we have no idea of the time line, other than veiled references. We don’t know if it’s current or not. Your first paragraph is about driving a blue Ford 150 and we assume it’s your first driving opportunity; then the next paragraph starts ‘One summer implying a date in the past, but he gave you the job because of ‘this age of equal opportunity’ which indicates current time, not the past.

      Your children could be in college now, we don’t know. I think you could make the time line perfectly clear with starting that One summer paragraph with One summer, about ten years ago, or whenever, then everybody’s happy. Not that you have to make ME happy, and don’t change it if you think I’m full of hot air. Just think about it.

      I also don’t think you need the blue in the blue Ford 150. Nobody but you cares what color it is, unless you make the blue relevant somehow. In which case the word blue would fit. Such as: My dad drove that truck to work every day. Now, every time I see a blue Ford 150 I think of my dad and learning to drive in that truck. Something like that.

      I could go on, but it would mostly be nit picky stuff. Because, you held my interest from start to beginning and your writing is good, but could be oh, so much better with a little editing here and there. You weaved the cookies line in very nicely and you kept to the prompt of return and used all four of the requests, suit, light, cut, and iron. Yeah, I look for stuff like that to see how others do it. I like the challenge of various prompts urging me to ‘fit’ things in. I think it makes me a better writer.

      I fancy I’m a fairly good writer, having done well in various contests, and to this day I have to go back sentence by sentence to clean up my stories. If you don’t have a beta reader, get one. If they will be honest with you they can be invaluable. One of my beta readers, my talented wife, marks up my stories with a red ink pen so much some times, I think she cut herself and bled on the page.

      Anyway, I am truly looking for more stories from you, so get writing. You’ve got a new prompt to work with already that was posted today. So, you have two whole weeks. Here’s the link if you haven’t seen it.

      • sandra woolf
        Thanks for the great comments Roy. I can see how just those few suggestions really helps to polish the story. I just started taking classes in Fiction Writing at the U of Victoria last Sept ,but feel I still have a long way to go.
        thanks again for your advice.
    • A good one, Sandra. Despite the conviction of the narrator in the concluding line, I am not very hopeful that the ‘family was just going to be fine’.
      The dialogue is crisp and the characterization of the protagonist, quite realistic. Let me put in a word for the husband as well. He is plain fantabulistic.
      Welcome to the site, Sandra. Give everyone here as much of a close fight as you can. All the very best.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Sandra. A great picture of a very functional family. The type of job the wife gets and the solidarity shown by the husband are refreshing. The job changes the dynamic of the family, but in a good way; it tests the relationships, but they come out stronger. A couple of things: I think there’s a bit of irrelevance in the long paragraph describing the job (the thing about the rotten potatoes). And perhaps we could have either seen how hard the job was for her, and/or a bit more detail on how she ended up at the end of the day (“Twelve, long, dirty, exhilarating hours later, I drove home.” feels a bit perfunctory.) But it’s a heartening description of how a family can work well together with a bit of understanding all round.
    • Nice story, good character arc and very realistic dialogue. I think (just my opinion, take it or leave it) that you could strengthen it at the beginning by cleaning up, whittling down and combining the first 3 paragraphs. You end with; ‘It was then I realized, with a huge sigh of relief, our little family was going to be just fine.’ So I think her worries should come in the very beginning instead of the middle as this would give more time to create the tension between her wanting to expand her experience and her abandonment issues. Just my 2 cents. My favorite part is the end, The dialogue with the kids was very spot on. Good job!
    • Hi Sandra, your story is a nice look into the daily lives of a typical family. I loved the conversational tone of it, as if you were sitting with a friend relaying the story. Roy and Phil made some great suggestions, that would just make this story pop. When telling real life stories they can often sound more like journal entries than stories, which can be fine if done in moderation.

      Using some of the suggestions of Roy and Phil can turn this real life tale into a wonderful story. Welcome again, great to have you on board.

  • robtemmett
    Thursday, July 11, 1957
    by Robt. Emmett ©2018

    Bernice set the chit for my burger and Pepsi on the countertop. “Here’s the war debt, Sport.” Gustafson’s, my favorite food hangout stopped serving Coke on July first. Why can’t anything stay the same?

    I looked at the chit, “What’s the extra nickel for?”

    “The Pepsi, it’s inna bigga glass.”

    “Oh.” Nothin’ stays the same.

    She touched my arm. “Yous wanna guess who and her Momma was in here last evening?”

    “Bernice, about her, I’ve told ya before, she’s ancient history.”

    “I know, but….”

    “I mean what I say and say what I mean. ’Sides, I can’t live in the past and don’t I intend to. Pointing my finger at her, “You can take that to the bank!”

    “Sure, Robin, shure. You may believe your own bullshit, I don’t.”

    I dropped coupla dimes on the counter, picked up the chit and left.

    Sitting in Gustafson’s back booth, I wasn’t hungry, but I had to eat.

    “Lose your last friend?”

    “Hi Bernice, no, well, yes.”

    “Thinkin’ ‘bout a certain blond?”

    “Yeah, sorta.”

    “I ain’t seen her in ova a week.”

    “The hot beef sandwich eatable?

    “Chewy, but tasty.”

    “Great, bring me one and a Coke.”

    Scribbling on her order book, “Pepsi, I told ya before, rememba?”

    “Yeah, I forgot.”

    “He’s in the back booth,” she said, walking away.

    “Hey, Cuz’n’ Robin what you been up to?” I hadn’t seen my cousin Frenchy since school let out. We chatted and updated each other. I didn’t mention Sandra.

    “Ah, Rob, can I ask you a favor?”

    “Yeah, sure, what?”

    “I’m meeting someone and ah, I’d like to … ah, have this booth. If you know what I mean.”

    “No, I was here first and….”

    Miss Someone appeared. Her mouse bang hairdo suited the rest of her.

    Frenchy looked at the second girl. “No one told me there’d be a threesome.”

    She was worth a second look, but was too young to wear tight Capri pants and that kind of sweater. “Are you going do intros or wha?” She asked as she fingered her long dark red ponytail.

    “Rob, this is Wilhelmina.” Mouse Bangs smiled. “And that is LaVerne. She is dating Terry.”

    “I’m just sorta dating Terry,” LaVerne winked, “if you know what I mean.”

    Meaning, until something better comes along.

    “Girls,” pointing at me, “my cousin Robin.”

    As LaVerne started to sit, I said, “This is a private booth.” She threw a pout. “Frenchy, take your harem,” I thumbed over my shoulder, “to the next booth. Bye girls, been semi-nice meetin’ you.”

    Bernice set my lunch and the Pepsi on the table, “So otherwise, how’s yous love life?”

    Glancing out of the corner of my eye, “My love life, shambled as it is, is my love life!”

    “So, yous want I should play cupid or no?”

    I managed to swallow, “What do you mean?”

    “I mean, the tall blonde and her mom, the Ice-Queen, are having, even as we speak, club sandwiches and tea in booth numba two. Now, if some little bird, me, should slip the tall blonde a note, well, who knows. She may, I say may, like to dally back here in this rear booth.”

    I slipped her order pad from her apron. “Give me your pencil.”

    “Say what?”

    “Okay, please, give me your pencil and thanks.” I thumbed the chit pad to a blank page.

    She took it back, found the page she wanted. “Write on the back a this. It’s their bill. I’ll give it to her so’s Mommy won’t see.”
    I wrote and returned it. “Thanks, Bernice. I won’t forget this.”

    She stood, slapped my arm with her order pad, and said, “A generous tip works for me.”

    Would Sandra respond? Why should she, there’s no gain for her. I’d embarrassed her and trashed her self-esteem. The chance she’d want to see me was about as good as me being able to choke down the stringy hot beef sandwich.

    I stared at the gravy. A shadow took the sheen from it. I looked up.

    Her shoulder-length blond hair cascaded around her face. The dusting of freckles across her cheeks and nose were showing. Her naturally subtle pink lips were expressionless.

    I couldn’t speak. I could only look into her pale blue eyes. They were disinterested. I’d rather they show an emotion, any emotion then maybe I could have a chance. I was a fool to think we could ever… ever what?

    Her stance said she would rather be anywhere else, but here.

    It rattled me. “I’m sorry, Sandra. I shouldn’t have interrupted your lunch.” I stood.

    “Sit. Finish your lunch.”

    She sat on the opposite side of the table.

    We stared at each other without speaking.

    After half an eternity, she asked the question I knew she had to, “Why?”

    I had no answer.

    Again, she asked, “Why?”

    I couldn’t hurt her more. I looked into her teary eyes. Suddenly, they’d turned indigo.

    “Sit down bitch or I’ll come over there and slap that shit-eating grin off your ugly face.”
    I looked up just as LaVerne’s head disappeared.

    Thank you, LaVerne. “Sandra, I….”

    “You’ll do what?” LaVerne asked as she stood by our table.

    Sandra slid out of the booth. Half-a-head taller, she glared down at LaVerne.

    LaVerne gulped and said, “It was nice at meet you, Robin, bye,” and escaped.

    Sandra sat down as she slowly engaged my eyes, “Another of your dalliances? Are you really so shallow that you’re resorting to children?”

    Good, I thought, you’re getting angry. Now maybe we can get somewhere.

    “She’s a girlfriend of my cousin’s girlfriend.” Okay, now the hard part. I hope she’ll cut me some slack and lighten up.

    “Sandra, there’s no undoing the past. There is no explaining away my actions or yours. Yes, I reacted badly to your drinking at the Spring Dance. Nothing I can do or say will make it unhappen. It’s a marker. We can move forward from it or it can forever be a stopping point. I know what I would like to do, but I’m only me. You’re the one most affected, I would guess. What do you want to do?”

    After a very long pause, “Did you fix the gold chain I broke?”


    “Who did you give it to, or don’t you remember?”

    Here we go again.

    “I didn’t give it to anyone!”

    Her relief was evident, “Can I have it back then?”


    “NO, and just why the hell not?”

    “Because I don’t have it. I know I didn’t give it to anyone, but I can’t remember where it is.” I smiled at her, “Are you going to the Country Club, tomorrow night with your parents?”

    “I think so, why?”

    “Wear that blue dress, please.”

    “The blue dress that….”

    “Yes, that one.”

    “… I wore to the Spring Dance?


    “I can’t. It has bad … bad memories for me.”

    “And me, but I want to change them to good memories.”

    “Okay.” She stood. “I’ll need to have the maid iron it.” She blew me a kiss and was gone.

    Bernice nudged me, “I knew yous could do it, Sport.” I looked at her. She smiled back and said, “Cuz I knew ya still love her.”

    • sandra woolf
      You really have dialogue down pat, I struggle constantly with that and have learned a few things from you. The flow of the story is great, I can picture the whole scene. The teenage angst is portrayed beautifully. I did have a bit of trouble with the slang, am not familiar with people speaking like that (I am English you know. (smile)). Thank you for sharing a great story, I enjoyed it very much
      • robtemmett
        Thank you for your comment.
        Using stereotypical characters makes the dialogue easier to produce. Another technique is, first assume the persona of the speaker, say the words as the character say, listen, and then type what you heard.
        Bernice is the character you found hard to understand. She’s a thirtyish world wise woman who grew up during the Dust Bowl years, the great depression, and WWI. Life has made her what she is.
        G.B. Shaw said, “… two peoples divided by a common language.”
        We have had the language discussion here before – funny.
    • The best of the three stories I have read this evening, Rob. Robin and Sandra rock, don’t they? I have this gut feeling that once she wears the blue dress at the Country Club, she will get the fixed gold chain back.
      The language is great. One word keeps chiming in my head, ‘unhappen’. What was the sentence? Yes, ‘Nothing I can do or say will make it unhappen’. Superb. In fact, the whole paragraph was a lesson on language learning for me. Keep entertaining and good luck with your story.
      • robtemmett
        To be honest, I don’t remember what happened concerning the gold chain. Maybe a prompt will cause me to find out.
    • Phil Town
      Great scenes, Robert. You do dialogue very well. I love the character of Bernice – interfering, hut with a good heart. The tension between Rob and Sandra is really well done: his nervousness, her aloofness (simulated, apparently). The use of the blue dress as a symbol of their reconciliation works really well. Some bits could maybe be tightened up: the arrival of Frenchy at the back booth – we need some directions there, I reckon. And Laverne coming up to the booth – not sure why that happens (The “Sit down bitch…” bit of dialogue. Is that directed at Sandra? She’s already sitting down.) Very atmospheric, though, and brisk. Great ending.
      • Phil Town
        … interfering, BUT with a good heart. 😉
    • Good use of dialogue Robert, and the tone of the story is set from the very beginning.

      There were some issues for me. When cousin Frenchy shows up, things get a little muddy, and it’s hard to figure out who’s talking, also LaVerne exploding out of nowhere and calling Sandra a “Bitch,” doesn’t work well with the rest of the story.
      It’s so jarring, that it took me out of the story, I thought I had missed a crucial part. Maybe you don’t even need that whole Cousin Frenchy part, because it really isn’t necessary to the whole of the story. That leaves you room to give us more Bernice, maybe explain her a bit better, and to give us more back story on Rob and Sandra’s failed relationship.

      Still nicely written story.

    • Roy York

      Getting so I look forward to your stories. We were born in the same age zone, apparently, and I identify greatly with a lot of your writing and dialogue.

      Let’s start with this Excellent start.

      Bernice set the chit for my burger and Pepsi on the countertop. “Here’s the war debt, Sport.” Gustafson’s, my favorite food
      hangout stopped serving Coke on July first. Why can’t anything stay the same?

      I looked at the chit, “What’s the extra nickel for?”

      “The Pepsi, it’s inna bigga glass.”

      “Oh.” Nothin’ stays the same.

      Loved the repeat, Nothin’ stays the same, and love the dialogue. I had to repeat it as written to get the gist, but it works for me.

      Keep up the good work. I gave you high marks last week, and this week, I think you improved, but I do agree with both Phil and Alice. I had to go back and reread a couple paragraphs when I couldn’t follow the girls without a scorecard. Chit is a term I haven’t heard in years, not since my Navy days, and that was way before ‘Nam.

      Anyway, keep ’em coming and good luck. Lotsa good stories though and some new blood I haven’t read yet.

      • robtemmett
        In the original, the “bitch” remark by Sandra was to show her harder side.
        As was pointedly pointed out, it work less well than I had hoped.
        Thanks to ALL of you that mentioned it.

        Thursday, July 11, 1957 (sans LaVerne)
        by Robt. Emmett ©2018

        Bernice set the chit for my burger and Pepsi on the countertop. “Here’s the war debt, Sport.” Gustafson’s, my favorite food hangout stopped servin’ Coke on July first. Why can’t anything stay the same?

        I looked at the chit, “What’s the extra nickel for?”

        “The Pepsi, it’s inna bigga glass.”

        “Oh.” Nothin’ stays the same.”

        She touched my arm. “Yous wanna guess who and her Momma was in here last evening?”

        “Bernice, about her, I’ve told ya before, she’s ancient history.”

        “I know, but….”

        “I mean what I say and say what I mean. ’Sides, I can’t live in the past and don’t I intend to. Pointing my finger at her, “You can take that to the bank!”

        “Shure, Robin, shure. You may believe your own bullshit, I don’t.” She pushed the stub pencil into her hair bun,

        “Look, Bernice, I made me a promise and I’m gonna keep it.”

        “You think ya will.” Thumbin’ her chest, she continues, “Ole Bernice knows if she shakes her long blond hair, smiles that smile, an’ wiggles her little finga at ya, you’ll come a-runnin’ like a happy puppy.” She smiled. “You’ll wrap yousself ‘round her little finga.”

        “You’re wrong Bernice. You are so very wrong. I have my own life now. I don’t need her.”

        “An’ I repeat you’ll wrap yousself ‘round her little finga.”

        “Shure, Benôit, shure!”

        Bernice, I thought, you are so wrong, so very very wrong. Why would I ever wanna date Sandra again?

        The small voice inside my head started to answer, but I dropped coupla dimes on the counter, picked up the chit and left.

        Sitting in Gustafson’s back booth, I wasn’t hungry, but I had to eat.

        “Lose your last friend?”

        “Hi Bernice, no, well, yes.”

        “Thinkin’ ‘bout a certain blond?”

        “Yeah, sorta.”

        “I ain’t seen her in ova a week.”

        “The hot beef sandwich eatable?

        “Chewy, but tasty.”

        “Great, bring me one and a Coke.”

        Scribbling on her order book, “Pepsi, rememba, I told ya before.”

        “Yeah, I forgot.”

        Bernice set my lunch and the Pepsi on the table, “So otherwise, how’s yous love life?”

        Glancing out of the corner of my eye, “My love life, shambled as it is, is my love life!”

        “So, yous want I should play cupid or no?”

        I managed to swallow, “What do you mean?”
        “I mean, the tall blonde and her mom, the Ice-Queen, are having, even as we speak, club sandwiches and tea in booth numba two. Now, if some little bird, me, should slip the tall blonde a note, well, who knows. She may, I say may, like to dally back here in this rear booth.”

        I slipped her order pad from her apron. “Give me your pencil.”

        “Say what?”

        “Okay, please, give me your pencil and thanks.” I thumbed the chit pad to a blank page.

        She took it back, found the page she wanted. “Write on the back a this. It’s their bill. I’ll give it to her so’s Mommy won’t see.”

        I wrote and returned it. “Thanks, Bernice. I won’t forget this.”

        She stood, slapped my arm with her order pad, and said, “A generous tip works for me.”

        Would Sandra respond? Why should she, there’s no gain for her. I’d embarrassed her and trashed her self-esteem. The chance she’d want to see me was about as good as me being able to choke down the stringy hot beef sandwich.

        I stared at the gravy. A shadow took the sheen from it. I looked up.

        Her shoulder-length blond hair cascaded around her face. The dusting of freckles across her cheeks and nose were showing. Her naturally subtle pink lips were expressionless.

        I couldn’t speak. I could only look into her pale blue eyes. They were disinterested. I’d rather they show an emotion, any emotion then maybe I could have a chance. I was a fool to think we could ever … ever what?

        Her stance said she would rather be anywhere else but here. I wish I was anyplace but here.

        It rattled me. “I’m sorry, Sandra. I shouldn’t have interrupted your lunch.” I stood.

        “Sit. Finish your lunch.”

        She sat on the opposite side of the table.

        We stared at each other without speaking.

        After half an eternity, she asked the question I knew she had to, “Why?”

        I had no answer.

        Again, she asked, “Why?”

        I couldn’t hurt her more. I looked into her teary eyes.

        “Sandra, there’s no undoing the past. There is no explaining away my actions or yours. Yes, I reacted badly to your drinking at the Spring Dance. Nothing I can do or say will make it unhappen. It’s a marker. We can move forward from it or it can forever be a stopping point. I know what I would like to do, but I’m only me. You’re the one most affected, I would guess. What do you want to do?”

        After a very long pause, “Did you fix the gold chain I broke?”


        “Who did you give it to, or don’t you remember?”

        Here we go again.

        “I didn’t give it to anyone!”

        Her relief was evident, “Can I have it back then?”


        “NO, and just why the hell not?”

        “Because I don’t have it. I know I didn’t give it to anyone, but I can’t remember where it is.” I smiled at her, “Are you going to the Country Club, tomorrow night with your parents?”

        “I think so, why?”

        “Wear that blue dress, please.”

        “The blue dress that….”

        “Yes, that one.”

        “… I wore to the Spring Dance?


        “I can’t. It has bad … bad memories for me.”

        “And me, but I want to change them to good memories.”

        “Okay.” She stood. “I’ll need to have the maid iron it.” She blew me a kiss and was gone.

        Bernice nudged me, “I knew yous could do it, Sport.” I looked at her. She smiled back and said, “Cuz I knew ya still love her.”

  • Relative time

    Alan became well known scientist for his research on relative time. His mum wanted to see him as a famous scientist. For this she had devoted herself for the satisfying curiosity of Alan in the childhood. She would think that normal treatment to a child returns normal person in the society. Hence, she prepared herself for special treatment for her son. Every child becomes curiosity to the nature they are living. Gradually, parents and society suppress them and shape child brain compatible with their own thinking and prevailing society. It is like installing programs in the new computer. But his mother protected the brain of Alan and created the situation to develop in his own way with more options. She did not cut social link completely nor created iron bar for him. She ensured that unknown light continuously falls on the brain of Alan. Alan always seemed in normal get up with a common suit, but his way of thinking was wider than normal people in the society. He became interested in relative time. His thinking went so wide and so depth as a result became a scientist in the same line.
    Alan studied deeply about how people find their own life as long or short when looking back. He found that it depends on how quickly people want to recall their own life. If we revisit our own life with all details it becomes longer if we skip detail and make note of key events it becomes shorter. He also studied all the existing theories that explain relativity.
    Alan was nominated for the team visiting another planet in the universe where living being is expected. Alan was assigned for the mission going to the planet named Proma. He was supposed to stay in the Proma for the seven days. After making a round space vehicle landed in a place little away from the community. Alan remained on the Proma and other members returned back. Alan walked towards community at the same time people came to see him. It was surprising for them to see a strange person. People did not make any voice. They communicated each other by gesture and body language. It took about seven days for him to understand the behaviors of the local people and essential language. They used to live in a big family. They do not cook anything. They have habit to eat everything natural. There were many neighborhoods around his community. One community occupied sufficient land for their lively hood and grow foods.
    People treated him as a god. After seven days vehicle did not come back. Alan remained in the Proma. One year passed. People from many communities came to see him regularly. He was protected by the community he first entered. It was a matter of prestige for that community to have Alan. People were trying to please him by all means so that he did not go back to his planet. After one year I Alan was completely familiar with the local way of communication and social system. Alan talked to his mum at home using special equipment provided to him. Alan explained the situation in the Proma and his position. Mom was feeling strange about what Alan described, but she did not react.
    After another one year people found a most beautiful and gentle girl for him to get married. They arrange marriage in their own way. It was a great ceremony. People from many communities joined in their own way. All of the community accepted Alan as a god.
    There was nothing like a government. People were independent. There was no sun or moon. Stones were found to emit light in the night. Alan again talked to mum and informed that he got married in the Proma. Mother was not so happy, but simply accepted. After one year, goddess gave birth of one child. It was well celebrated. People from all communities came to see the new child. For them the child was child god. Alan informed to mum about his child and ceremony.
    “Are you getting mad”, Mum reacted.
    “Why mum?”
    “It’s just yesterday you got married and now you have child in place?”
    “No mum it was one year ago I talked to you”
    “I do not know what happened to you, are you joking?”
    After one more year again community was celebrating great ceremony on this occasion of birthday of child god. People from all communities gathered. Leader of all communities expressed that it has been prosperous for all them after Alan came to the planet. After the ceremony, Alan talked to mum.
    “What happened to you, son?” mum asked with fear.
    “No mum, it’s already one year I talked to you. My son can walk now”
    Alan realized that there is the time difference between the two planets. He calculated that one year in the Proma is one day in the earth. It was surprising for him. He asked to himself, “how it is possible?” Alan did not talk to mum then after and started to study about the concept of time difference which he was facing. It is normal that people can feel the same time frame as long or short. Reference time can also differ. But here one year has been just one day. Absolute time has been measured differently. He was not able to explain by any existing theory regarding relative time.
    Alan was wondering how time differed between two planets. There was no way to support such time differences. On other planets he visited such problem was not there because he did not see any human being and natural scene remained same while he was there.
    He remained there for seven years. Then his friend came to pick up him. This was proof that he was there in Proma for seven days as per the time on earth.
    While he was on the space on the way back Alan suddenly awake up on the hospital bed. He was in coma after an accident. It was a dream and everything happening in his dream. He realized that time on the planet actually was the time in his dream. He was thinking how such planet exists in the dream. He analyzed the situation going on in his mind. This dream world was the answer to his question regarding his question to point of scripture. According to scripture one day of creator (Brahma) who live in subtle world is one year here. That means this world exist in the dream of Brahma.

    • sandra woolf
      Good story, but your English needs to be polished a bit more. There was a lot of showing and not much telling, and it slowed down the story quite a bit. I like certain fantasy stories, but I found it a bit childish. But a good start to writing, just keep going.
    • Hi, Nam. I’ve finished reading “Relative Time” just now. You started off well but somehow lost the threads to hold your story together half way through.
      Keep writing to get better at it. Take care.
    • Phil Town
      Hi, Nam. The mother/son relationship is a good one to explore. As always, you have loads of really imaginative ideas (Proma, the time difference, Alan as a God, etc.) – I just think you need to organise them a little better, perhaps. I don’t know if you do this: before writing the story, make some brief notes on what you want to happen in it – like a kind of skeleton. Then rearrange the bones (events) so that they make sense and aren’t repeated. Then put the flesh on the bones (i.e. write the story). (I don’t know if I’ve made myself understood here.) Give it a try, anyway.
    • I love your imagination, but I agree with the other critiques. Your plot needs to be more organized and you could use a good editing tool. Linking the dream to scripture is a great concept but it could have been introduced and developed a little earlier in the story.
    • Nam Raj, you definitely have the talent to tell stories, however your English and grammar usage takes me out of the story too much. The fact that you speak English so well, is amazing to me, I don’t speak any other languages, so Kudos to you. However since this is an English-speaking story contest, if you polish up that, your stories will shine. Nice job.

      May I ask, what is your native language?

  • Roy York
    Not a big fan of dream stories, but in fairness, aside from the language differences, I found your story interesting. While imaginative, it seems like a beginner’s story. As in most very young writers are fond of writing a fabulously impossible story and then always waking up from a dream. Then, as they mature, they seldom work with that plot line.

    I’m hoping that as you get more writing under your belt, you will come up with different, more interesting and intertwining plot lines. I think you could have developed the mum and son thing a bit more. You left us hanging when you had a perfect opportunity to have a little back story about why mom was or wasn’t angry when she found out she was a grandmother. And, you heartless author, you left a child on a planet without a father, and then your protagonist walked away from a girl that he was married to for seven years without even looking back. There was so much you could have done with that. Such as him refusing to go back without them, or staying because of them. See? Raj, put that mind of yours to work and expand your universe and ours as well. I look forward to your next story because you always seem to be in outer space.

    I also liked the reference to Brahma. That was the only thing that held your dream premise together for me.

    Didn’t know that about Brahma living one year to our one day. Then again, I don’t study religions, not even the ones in the US. Keep up the writing Raj.

    • Thank you Roy for wonderful comments. There is lot meaning and useful for me. I feel easy to write imaginative story. I want imagine to the possible extent to describe the things to possible extent either by extension of time or development. I am much younger in writing than I am. I even in child in language. I am trying. Thank again.
  • Phil Town

    The nadir of Howard’s existence occurred one Saturday night in October. He’d just arrived home from a job and put his bag down on the kitchen floor when an iron flew past his ear, missing him by millimetres.

    “What the …! You could have killed me, you stupi–“

    “Don’t talk to me!”

    A plate flew past his other ear and crashed against the wall.

    “Stop that! Are you crazy?!”

    “Crazy?! Yep, I’m crazy. Crazy to have put up with you all these years. You … you …”

    Lindsay picked up a bunch of bananas from the counter and threw them at Howard. They hit him in the chest and fell to the floor.

    “Okay, that’s enough, Lindz. Come here.”

    In fact it was Howard who went to Lindsay and enveloped her in his arms. It had the double effect of calming her and preventing her from launching more missiles.

    “What’s all this about?”

    Lindsay was sobbing now, and Howard let her let it out. After a minute or so, she snuffled and pulled away, peering into her husband’s face.

    “Where have you been?”

    “Out with the boys.”

    “You went out with the boys and took your bag with you?”

    Howard looked down at the damning evidence.

    “I can ex–“

    “No need! I know where you were.” Lindsay had gathered herself and gave Howard the fiery-eye treatment. “You’ve been on a job, haven’t you?”

    Howard began to try to justify himself but all that came out was a splutter; he was a terrible liar. It was all Lindsay needed.

    “You told me you were through with that. You were going to change. But I reckon you’re addicted. You HAVE to do over houses. You get a buzz.”

    Howard looked shamefaced, unable to respond.

    “And the stupid thing is … we don’t need the money from that! I have a good job, I put food on the table. You don’t need to do it.”

    Howard bristled now.

    “Well, that’s just it, isn’t it? YOU bring money into the house. How do you think that makes me feel? Me doing the shopping, the cleaning …”

    “Bloody hell, Howard! What century do you think this is? Ding-dong! Wake up! It’s not the bloody 19th!”

    “Easy for you to say. But I’m not giving it up. It’s the only way I have to contribute.”

    Lindsay gaped at Howard, shook her head and addressed the microwave.

    “He’s not giving it up.”

    She turned back to him.

    “What if the police caught you and banged you up for five years? Where would that leave me? I’m 38, remember. And I still want kids. D’you think I’d wait for you?”

    Howard looked at her expectantly; Lindsay saw that he actually believed she would wait. She picked up a teapot.

    “No!” Howard put his hands to his face for protection.

    His wife made to throw the teapot but then put it gently back on the counter.

    “Okay,” she said. “This is what you’re going to do. You’re going to sleep on the sofa tonight, and tomorrow you can go to your mother’s. I’m sure she’ll be okay with you doing what you do.”

    “Come on, Lindz. Be reasonable.”

    Lindsay pushed past him, throwing one last thing at him before she left the kitchen:

    “Turn the lights off down here before you go to sleep.”


    In the months that followed, Lindsay put on a brave face. She’d cut all ties with Howard, but she missed him horribly. He’d been a good, caring husband, and but for his nocturnal hobby, she’d loved him absolutely. Life had to go on, though, and she’d started going on dates arranged on-line, so far with little success.

    Then one night, almost exactly a year after the missile-launching, there was a tip-tippety-tap-tap on her bedroom window. It woke her and she lay in bed for a few moments trying to figure out what was happening. Then it came to her: someone was throwing stones at the window.

    She got out of bed and looked out. There on the front lawn was Howard, standing in the yellow glow from a nearby street-lamp. He was dressed in a suit; it was the smartest Lindsay had seen him since their wedding day. She opened the window.

    “Hi, Lindz!”

    “What are you doing, Howard?”

    “I’m standing in the middle of the lawn at three o’clock in the morning talking to you.”

    “What do you want?”

    Lindsay had missed him, yes, but this cliché wasn’t going to miraculously win her back.


    “No, Howard.”

    He smiled.

    “Go to your top drawer.”


    “Go and look in your top drawer.”


    “Go on.”

    Lindsay left the window and was gone a few moments. When she appeared again, she was holding a diamond necklace.

    “What’s this?!” If there had been more light, Howard would have seen that her face was bright red.

    “A peace offering.”

    “How did it get in my bloody drawer?!”

    Howard smiled again.

    “I was a burglar, remember?”

    “You stole a bloody necklace and then … hang on! What do you mean ‘was’?”

    “Just that. It’s over.”

    “So … where did the necklace come from.”

    “I’m working. Good job. Security firm. Now we can be on a level footing. Yes, it’s the 21st century and all that, but you have to be a bit patient with me – old ways, y’see.”

    “I don’t know, Howard.”

    “And I’ve been thinking a lot about … our baby.”

    Lindsay shook her head, closed the window and disappeared. Howard’s shoulders dropped. He stood looking up at the bedroom for several moments. There was no movement. He began to walk away.

    Then the lawn became brighter at his feet. He turned round and saw that the front door was wide open and the light was on in the hall. He let out a little whimper and almost tripped over himself running towards his new life.


    • Another suitable title could have been the last three words, Phil – A New Life. Doesn’t mean that I don’t like ‘The Light in the Lawn’ either. The ending is typically Townish.
      Initially, I had my reservations about s story being scripted about a bugler or whatever. But as the story progressed, with subtle, deft touches, you had the reader focus more on the couple’s relationship, the fact that they were childless and even at 38, Lindsay wanted to be a mom and so on. That way you added a new dimension or texture to the story. Neat job, partner. Keep it up.
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Rathin!

        (The title … good idea of yours, because that’s what the ending’s all about. Mine was trying to use the light from the hall on the lawn as a metaphor for the very same thing. Not sure that it works, but ne’er mind.)

    • Good story. Your really good with the dialogue. My only criticism might be that this break up should be a powerful emotional experience for both of them and I didn’t feel the anguish, it was a touched on a little lightly. A marriage breaking up, a couple’s loss of a chance at family, those are both powerful themes to be explored.
      • You’re not your oops, typing too fast!
      • Phil Town
        Thanks, Tobie. You could be right re the emotional charge, although I did have Lindsay’s anger and her sobbing at the frustration of betrayal (Howard’s broken promise), her kicking him out, her feeling his absence, him obviously spending a year saving up to buy the gift he thinks will win her back, him baring his emotions on the lawn, her forgiving him … but maybe there could have been more.
    • Alice Nelson

      The dialogue here is spot on, and I loved that opening where Howard is greeted by an iron being thrown past his head, immediately I’m drawn into the story, and I want to know what the heck is going on. I think I know what Tobie means by it lacking some emotion. Although you do write Lindsay’s anger very well, I didn’t feel the heartbreak of a relationship ending, it never felt real, so the impact of them reconciling is lessened.

      The beginning is so impactful, “The nadir of Howard’s existence occurred one Saturday night in October.” But it never really feels like the worst moment of his life. That’s the emotional experience that’s missing with these characters this time around.

      You my friend, have this gift of reaching down and getting that emotional feel, grabbing the readers hearts and squeezing, and that didn’t happen this time, guess I’m just spoiled, so when it’s lacking, I miss it.

      Still, the whole of the story is well written, and I still enjoyed the ride.

    • Roy York
      Phil, as always, I am never disappointed with one of your stories, Grabbed my attention with an iron whizzing by the guy’s ear, and it kept my attention, although it took me awhile to figure out he was a heist artist. Once that was established the story made a little more sense. Up until then, I thought she was a bit overly dramatic, but you pulled it together. Loved, loved, absolutely loved this line: Lindsay gaped at Howard, shook her head and addressed the microwave.“He’s not giving it up.”

      Loved it. It sprang right into focus for me, and I love it, (I think I’ve mentioned that) when a writer does that to me.

      Good luck, my man.

  • SCLI
    My grandpa was 63 when I got married. I was 28 at the time. He was a remarkably handsome man. He remains till date my best buddy.
    I remember my early childhood days, when after school, I’d run straight up to his room and sitting on his lap, share the day’s happenings with him. He had a way of listening to me and made me feel that every single word that I uttered, mattered.
    “And why was it so, Ron?”
    “The boy, I mean, my friend went to the movies with his mom, and dad and when this couple on the screen held each others hands and repeated the marriage vow after the priest, both my friend’s parents were in tears. How funny you grown-ups are, aren’t you, granpa?”
    Grandpa looked past me to granny’s photo offhandedly before replying:
    “I guess, you’re right, Tim. We, grown-ups are funny most of the times. Now get down and change your school uniform before your mom decides to let loose hell here.” I would give him a peck and come out of his room.

    Grandad was a movie-buff, extremely quick-witted and a real life actor per excellence. Backed by a strong sense of humour, he’d laugh his heart out at a good joke. He taught me some of the best lessons of life in a round about manner like the day I was caught lying to mom after school. I told her that the sweet smell coming from my mouth was due to the mouth-fresner given by a friend when the truth was that was the day when I had a fag with them for the first time. Mom, busy as she was, let me go, looking still suspicious though.
    Later in the evening when I went up to grandpa’s room, I found him smoking a cigar, sitting all by himself out in the balcony.
    “Grandpa, I’ll go and tell mom that you are smoking again. Didn’t the doc forbid you to do so last time he came here?”
    “Please, buddy. Don’t tell your mom. She will make a scene. One cigar doesn’t matter much.” he pleaded. Then he started coughing in an unpleasant way, his face reddening with each seizure, trying to rub his chest with his free hand, heaving.
    “You know something, buddy. I picked it up from my friends. I lied to my parents. It gave me such a thrill that day. Now, I am a grown-up, I haven’t changed a wee bit. We grown-ups are real silly..” The thought that my grandpa, who was my hero, lied to her parents, didn’t go down well with me. I decided on my own, not to lie to mom again.
    On a glorious autumn day, grandpa called out to me. Once in his room, he beamed,“Ron, the newspaper is full of the Royal Wedding. Makes me think of your wedding as well. I wouldn’t miss the occasion. I’d be your best man and run away with your bride..” He started roaring out loud at the joke. Then, after a while, bringing his mouth close to my ear, he said, “I’d teach you what my grandfather taught me before my marriage. Just remember this priceless word- SCLI.”
    “Yea, mate, SCLI.”
    “Who, what’s a SCLI?”
    “It’s an acronym for SUIT, CUT, LIGHT and IRON.”
    “Grandpa, do old people lose their mind fast?”
    “Depends. Someone like your grandad will never lose his. You can bet on that.”
    “But what does marriage have to do with suit, cut and whatever?”
    “Hold on a sec. Would you like to wear a SUIT on your wedding day or prefer to be dressed in a dhoti like my Indian friend did?”
    “Dhoti? Yaak. No I’d like to wear a suit all right.”
    “As I believed. Now, on your marriage day, try wearing a suit of the best CUT. It creates the right impression not only on the bride but on her people as well. Got it?”
    In spite of myself, I’d to concur with him.
    “Get it CUT then from the best tailors. It always pays.”
    “What about …hmmm.S..C…L., yes, L for LIGHT?”
    “Coming to that. Whatever you do, don’t go in in a heavy suit. Do you remember the movie ‘The Runaway Groom’ starring Richard Gere we watched the other day?”
    The scene of Gere’s poor plight and flight, dumping his coat that cost a fortune down the drain, being chased by his bride – crystalalized in my mind. Grandpa caught me grinning and said,” So always dress LIGHT on your wedding day. There is, after all, some truth in the movies. And finally,” continued grandpa,” don’t you forget the ‘I’ or the IRONing part, dear. In my experience of over forty years of married life, that is the most important part..”
    “So I’ve gotcha wear a suit well ironed, right? No folds. Spotlessly ironed out, like it was meant for a movie star?” I broke into a smile at my own wits.
    “You can look at it that way, mate, but IRONING here has more to do with your iron grip..”
    “ Iron grip? Did you say ‘IRON grip’, grandpa? What has that to do with a marriage?”
    “Everything. If you are able to grip your bride’s hand in an iron grip…do I need to remind you about the other movie starring Julia Roberts..where she ran away from the isle some 12 times or so?”
    “Not 12 times, grandpa, but I’ve got the point. So if I happen to hold her in an iron grip, our married life will be…”
    “Heavenly, dear Ron, just heavenly..”
    Both of us started laughing raucously then.

    My wedding day was hectic. Having done a lot of running around the whole day, I had barely time to put on my best and visit Grandpa. He fell sick, unfortunately,l a week before the wedding and admitted in a nursing home.
    Lying propped up in bed, he tried to stretch forward his hand over my shoulders, withdrawing at the last moment. “No, not today. No crisps, no spots anywhere. Remember SCIL, Ron?”
    I smiled in spite of myself again, nodding my head. During the drive to the local church, I was both relieved and a little puzzled thinking about grandad’s cheerful mood. The doctor personally told me that he would be released soon, provided his condition remained stable.
    My cousin as my Best Man, Millie looking gorgeous – are some of the more vivid memories I’ve of the day.
    Then things started happening at a furious pace – Millie’s regal walk down the isle, people standing up on either side, Priest Andrew taking her hand and placing it in mine, with the words:
    “And you, you Miss Millie Palmer, do you take Mr. Ronald Davis as your lawfully….”, Mr. Palmer trying to hold back his tears.
    “Ron,SCLI, SCLI..don’t you forget the last ‘I’..”
    Everyone was turning their heads at the stunning man in a grey suit walking steadily towards us. As grandpa kept waving frantically from the entrance, my cup of happiness was full, I waved back at him, not forgetting to tighten my wedded wife’s hand in an IRON grip.
    The end

    • sandra woolf
      Great story, I loved the way you wove the words we had to use into it. It was very imaginative. There are a few mistakes, usually grammar, but don’t worry, it does not detract from the flow of the story. I enjoyed it very much. Thank you.
      • Thank you, Sandra. It’s really nice of you to have read my story and commented on it first. Please do not hesitate to point out the mistakes. I’d really apprentice that.
        Take care and stay blessed.
    • Phil Town
      A lovely story, Rathin. The relationship between Ron (“Tim”?) and Grandpa is really well drawn – the familiarity, the friendship, the mentoring. The little scene at the beginning, with Grandpa dismissing the young boy for mocking adults crying, is touching. The SCLI acronym to use the key words is clever, and the ‘iron grip’ part works well in the plot (although poor Millie if literal!). There are bits that might not be entirely relevant to the main action (the smoking episode, for example – but please correct me if I’m wrong). All in all, though, a heart-warming tale (the appearance of Grandpa in the church is great!)
    • My favorite story of yours so far. I LOVE the Grandpa. I think your only issue would be helped by tightening your grammar, but kudos for everything else.
    • Alice Nelson

      Very clever Rathin, to use the key words in an an acronym like that. The relationship between Ron and his grandfather was quite touching. There are some grammatical errors, but the story still flows at a nice pace.

      This line stuck out to me, there was an issue with the pronoun: “The thought that my grandpa, who was my hero, lied to her parents…” Should’ve been lied to “His” parents. Little issues like this were throughout the story, but as I said, it didn’t take away from the heartfelt story. Nice job.

      • Thanks , Alice. I’s just going through your critique of Phil’s story. I want you to know that it is one of the best I’ve read on the site so far.
        Regarding my story, let me tell you this that I have never been serious about anything in my life. Man my age, dreams about owning a house, a car, having a fat bank balance and so on. I began as a nobody and, most probably, end up as such as well. I keep talking to my students about the importance of having dreams in their eyes as the dreams will keep them awake and going. Surprising thing is that I myself have no dreams to drive me forward in life!
        No other writer in the world might write the way I do. I get to see a prompt, start writing without any planning, finish it at a go and have to post it within no time! The only thing I’ve started doing recently, having come to know from Ken that he redrafted a story six times, is give my story a second reading and do some editing if my eyes catch any mistakes.
        Some people never grow up, my friend. I am one of them. Being the youngest of the family has a lot to do with my mentality, I guess. Keep refining me, if you care enough. Thanks again, my friend. Love and best wishes.
    • Roy York
      Interesting weave to your story, and clever in how you took the prompt, but maybe almost a little too clever. However, in allowing Grandpa to deliver a life lesson to his grandson about lying was nothing short of genius. Especially, if you had Grandpa light up on purpose just to deliver it, knowing he was going to cough and regret it later. That’s what I took away, so claim credit for it. Not bad Rathin, not bad at all.
  • Always Eat With the Freaks
    By Alice Nelson ©2018
    (1187 Words)

    Lucy Meadowbrook stood at the entrance of the cafeteria at her old middle school. She hadn’t stepped through those doors for over 20 years, and it surprised her that those feelings of insecurity, sadness, and anger returned so readily.

    “There used to be a table in that corner,” she said more to herself than to Principal Donner who was standing next to her.

    Donner smiled politely, looking very professional in her customed tailored suit.

    “Back then Tommy drew a picture of all of us, and titled it, ‘The Freak Table.’ Then he cut out this picture of the Scooby Gang and placed it next to the sign.” Lucy smiled, remembering that day.

    “So that part in your book really happened then?” the principal asked.

    “Oh yes,” Lucy nodded.

    “Shall we go Ms. Middlebrook?” Principal Donner said, “The kids should be in the auditorium by now.”

    Lucy’s book, “Eating with the Freaks,” had somehow caught on with middle school kids everywhere, “It’s a fiction story loosely based on my life,” she said in an interview. But being back, she realized the connection wasn’t as loose as she had thought.


    Lucy was back stage, nervously ironing out the kinks in her speech. The light was dim and she squinted trying to read her horrible handwriting.

    Suddenly, someone put their hands over her eyes, and said, “Guess who.” Lucy turned, and was delighted to see her old friend Edie Maxwell standing there.

    “Edie, how did you know I’d be here?”

    “Your mom told me,” Edie said with that shy grin Lucy remembered so fondly.

    Lucy blushed, “Look Edie, I…I…,” she didn’t have any clue what to say next . Some writer, she thought.

    Edie took Lucy’s hand and squeezed, “It’s okay, you’re here now,” she smiled, and Lucy realized just how much she’d missed that smile.

    “Oh yeah,” Edie continued, “Everyone from the old gang is going to be here too. Ken, Judy, Tommy, even Lenny.”

    Lucy hadn’t heard those names in years, “They’re all coming?” She was floored. Lucy believed they all hated her after high school; after she left, and cut them, the town, and any memory of those times at school, out of her life.

    “I’m so glad you all came,” Lucy said, tearing up.

    “We wouldn’t miss it for anything,” Edie said, shedding her own tears.

    Lucy thought of them, sitting at the lunch table, her nibbling on a box of raisins, Edie and those smelly tuna sandwiches, their cartons of milk sitting untouched and warm. Lucy only half listening to their conversations as she watched Jennifer Davies at the table across the room. The girl everyone loved, beautiful, smart, and everything young Lucy aspired to be.

    Lucy was beautiful too, you just couldn’t see it under the baggy clothes and greasy bush of reddish brown hair.

    “What’re you lookin’ at freak?” It was Dean Adams. Lucy was so busy staring at Jennifer, that she didn’t notice Dean staring at her.

    “Hey Jen, this freaks starin’ at ya,” he said. They all laughed, especially Jennifer, who after that, never missed a chance at reminding Lucy that she wasn’t one of them.

    That’s when they officially became The Freaks. At first Lucy embraced the name, until she couldn’t any longer, and left the group to find friends that would help her feel normal.


    Edie was talking a mile a minute, like she always did, “Even Jennifer Davies will be here,” she said matter-of-factly.

    The statement caught Lucy off guard, “Why would she come?”

    Edie grinned, “She works here.”

    “What?” Lucy said, “I always thought—”

    Edie finished, “You always thought she’d go away and become a famous model or actress, or both, marry Jon Bon Jovi and live happily ever after, while we watched from afar, jealous of her just like we were in school.”

    “That about covers it,” Lucy said.

    “We all thought that, but she quietly moved back to town a few months ago.”

    Jennifer Davies, Lucy thought. And just hearing her name made Lucy feel like that 13 year old girl all over again.


    The auditorium was at full capacity, Lucy waited back stage as Principal Donner introduced her.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome acclaimed author, and Pershing alum, Lucy Meadowbrook.”

    Lucy stood on the stage looking out at the audience. She saw Edie and the rest of The Freaks, smiling and applauding wildly. She still loved them, just as she had back then.

    “I went to this school many years ago,” Lucy began. “I was a shy, insecure kid who just wanted to be liked, to be popular, feel pretty, and have a boy like me. None of those things happened, instead I became one of The Freaks,” she looked down at Ken, Judy, Tommy, Lenny, and Edie.

    “They were my friends and I didn’t appreciate that, not back then. I discounted their love and support because I wanted to be friends with the popular girls,” Lucy looked out at the audience, “This book is to honor them, my apology to my friends.”

    “Stand up guys,” Lucy said to them, and as the audience cheered, she caught a glimpse of Jennifer Davies.


    Afterward, the gang decided to eat in the cafeteria at their old table. Tommy drew a sign similar to the one from middle school, and taped it to the side.

    They passed around pictures of their families, reminisced about old times, and promised to keep in touch.

    Some of the kids came over to get autographs, and thank Lucy for her book, “It’s like my life on paper,” one of them told her.

    As the kids filed out heading to their next class, Jennifer Davies came in. “Hi guys,” she said nervously, then she turned to Lucy, “I loved your speech, and…” she paused, “…I was hoping you would sign a copy of your book for me.”

    Lucy was shocked, and so was everyone else for that matter. Jennifer took the silence as a rejection, and said, “Of course you wouldn’t, I…I’m sorry.”

    “No Jennifer, I’ll sign it,” Lucy smiled. She scribbled something, and handed the book back to Jennifer, who read the inscription aloud, Always eat with the freaks, Love Lucy.

    Jennifer smiled, “Thank you.”

    She turned to walk away but Lucy said, “Come sit with us, if you want to, I mean.”

    “I would love that,” Jennifer said.

    Tommy scooted over and offered Jennifer some of the horrendous stew that was on the menu that day.

    The echoes of days gone by lingered in the air, but those terrible memories held by that old cafeteria flitted away with each laugh, smile or playful shove. The Freaks had returned, this time triumphant, and as a result, were able to treat Jennifer as if she were always one of their own.

    They all laughed and talked long after lunch ended, long after kids began filing out to the waiting buses or to parents sitting patiently in their cars. Long after they had recognized the differences that they thought were unsurmountable, weren’t at all. Long after they realized that they all, to some extent, were one of the freaks.

    • Wonderful story! Love how your protagonist comes full circle, very well written.
    • Phil Town
      Great story, Alice. Very good use of the theme. The lasting camaraderie of the Freaks (great title!) is heart-warming, as is Lucy’s magnanimity and Jennifer’s humility at the end. The beginning is very good – why is Principal Donner showing Lucy round the school? The question is raised and we read on to find out. I think the paragraph beginning “Lucy’s book, ‘Eating with the Freaks,’ had somehow caught on” is a bit superfluous (exposition) – it’s obvious from what’s happening that Lucy has done something special, and the details could perhaps have waited until Principal Donner’s introduction of her on stage, or even Lucy’s own speech. A word missing here: “…she didn’t have any clue to say next.” Lovely ending.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Phil, very much! I think you’re right about this part,

        “Lucy’s book, ‘Eating with the Freaks,’ had somehow caught on…”

        It doesn’t need to be there, I’ll take it out when I do it for the podcast or SFB. Thanks my friend for the advice. Cheers.

    • Roy York
      I seldom disagree with Phil on things, but I see no need to eliminate the Eating with the Freaks reference, especially if you are reading it on a podcast, because there is no chance to back up and figure out the name of the book, and personally, I think you nailed the principal as being one of those people who have to be part of the action. He, the principal, is going to personally show this now middle school famous author around a school she knows well, in order to be in the same spotlight. I don’t think you need the word ‘somehow’ in the fact her book had caught on with middle schoolers everywhere. Isn’t that what we all hope, that it catches on, but not on a ‘somehow’ basis, implying we, as authors, are ‘somehow’ lucky?

      Good read, Alice, I wouldn’t expect less from you. Nothin’ to nit pick except the ‘somehow’. Maybe that’s what was bothering Phil. He doesn’t want his stories to ‘somehow’ catch on, just catch on, too.

      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Roy!

        You’re right, the “somehow,” doesn’t need to be there. I wrote it with the character Lucy in mind, she would think it a fluke that her book was a hit. Maybe that’s what got Phil too. Thank you again my friend for the kind words.

    • Victor Ostrovsky
      I agree with Tobie, All I can add is that it reinforced the point that revenge is best served cold.
  • Carrie Zylka

    Lots of great stories this prompt!!!

  • Lisa Cowan
    By Lisa Cowan

    A book flew from the seat to the floor as Mandy slammed on the brakes. She thought for sure she had clipped the scruffy mutt with her car as he bounded across the road, hot on the trail of a squirrel. She parked the car down a side street and ran to check on the dog that had taken cover under a shrub. He was shaking as he sniffed then licked the cut she had forgotten about on her outstretched hand. She wasn’t a dog person but this dog had something about him. He looked at her as if he knew her and to her, he immediately seemed like a familiar friend.
    “You’re cute, somebody is missing you I bet,” she said taking notice that he had no collar. “Well buddy, you look good. It was nice to meet you.”
    She stood and started back across the street. When she opened the driver side door to her car a ball of fur leaped up onto her seat.
    “You can’t come with me, you have to go to your home.” She tapped her leg trying to coax him out. He circled a couple of times then made himself comfortable in the passenger seat.
    “What do I do now,” she asked, her head down on the steering wheel. “I guess we’ll find out where you belong in the morning.”

    Mandy’s friends hadn’t heard from her in weeks and were starting to worry. Her friend Sara decided she would ask to borrow a book as an excuse to check on Mandy without being too obvious. The book that was on the passenger seat before the close call with the pup was now on the floor, another errand Mandy decided she would take care of tomorrow.

    The dog sat patiently beside Mandy while she fumbled with the keys to her apartment. As soon as Mandy opened the door the dog made a mad dash for the couch and settled in before Mandy could utter the words, “Make yourself to home.”

    “Are you hungry?” She walked into kitchen and turned on the light. On the counter she found the plastic six pack ring she tried cutting hastily with a knife because she couldn’t find her scissors. Along with the plastic ring were a couple drops of blood from the gash she gave herself with the knife. She was in a rush to bring the book to Sara so she could get the rented suit back to the tuxedo place before it closed.
    She thought about how James always ripped apart the plastic six pack rings. She could hear him say, “I am not an environmentalist but I am not about to contribute to marine litter.” But he cared deeply about the environment, he cared deeply about so many things.
    Mandy glanced at the couch to check on the dog but he wasn’t there. She walked down the hallway and pushed the door open to the room she hadn’t entered in a month or so. A hanger clung to the top of the closet door holding a delicate white gown. A narrow board stood on wobbly legs in the center of an empty room, a mens, white dress shirt dangled over one side. An iron sat in a metal rack on top of the board, cord reaching the floor. If Mandy hadn’t know better it looked like someone was right in the middle of pressing their clothes for a special occasion. Mandy crouched down to pet the dog then sat for a while. She touched the shirt. Tears rolled down her cheeks and onto the dogs fur. A film reel full of memories played in her head. She watched the first time she was introduced to James. She watched the moment she knew she was in love with him, she watched moments she caught him looking at her, she watched dates and trips, laughter and tears. She watched his proposal and she watched the heart stopping knock at the door that let her know he was gone.

    “I can’t start to like you because you don’t belong to me,” she said looking at the dog. She stood and left the room, the dog by her side. As she closed the door, the gown fell to the floor in a crumpled pile of satin and lace.

    Mandy made the dog a little bed out of old blankets and set it next to hers. “Don’t get used to this,” she told him, “you are not mine.” She pulled the chain on her bedside lamp then tossed and turned trying to get comfortable.

    The next morning Mandy stood on the porch, book in hand and rang the doorbell. Sara opened the door, “Hello there, who is your friend?”

    Mandy handed Sara the book, “He followed me yesterday but I think he must belong to someone.”

    Sara bent down and tousled the dogs fur on both of his ears. “You sure are handsome,” she said to him. “Come in, have a cup of tea with me,” she smiled at Mandy.

    “We can’t stay long, I have to find who this mutt belongs to and return the suit James rented.”

    Sara went to the kitchen sink and filled a bowl with water then placed on the floor for the dog. “If I knew you were coming I would have gotten you some treats,” she said to the dog. “How are you doing, Mandy?”

    Mandy avoided Sara’s question telling her the whole story about the previous day and how she found the dog.

    “I don’t know,” said Sara, “it sounds to me as if the dog found you rather than the other way around.” “Maybe he was meant just for you.”

    Mandy didn’t think about Sara’s words until much later, after she had exhausted all avenues of her search trying to find the dog’s owner. She had dropped off James’ rental and paid the late fee. Holding onto that suit made reality less real. Now she was tired, wanting a bath and to crawl into bed.
    Mandy ran a warm bath, bubbles and all. The dog kept her company the whole time. “Maybe you are meant just for me,” she whispered.
    She put on pajamas and climbed into bed, spent from the days events. The dog climbed in and settled next to her. That night she had comfort, that night she slept better than she had in a long time.

    • Really lovely story, great visual details. The paragraph about Mandy’s friends worrying about her threw me out of the storyline a bit as it seemed to shift the point of view. Other than that I really liked it.
      • Thank you for taking the time to read my story but more so for taking the time to comment. It is greatly appreciated.
    • Lovely story (I wanted a stronger, more appropriate adjective for your story but find myself suffering from some kind of writer’s block), Lisa. I like the way you have woven the threads that hold the story together -starting with Mandy finding the dog, through the dog finding his way into her apartment, to her love for James and his rejection, till the end when she realizes the truth of Sara’s words that perhaps the dog ‘was meant for her’ and gets into her bed with the dog for a peaceful sleep in a long while.
      Marvellously crafted. I don’t know if we can have an animal character for the best character, if that is okay then your unnamed doggie will get my vote. The dog seems more real, more loving and caring as their breed is in real life. Neat work, Lisa. Keep up the good work. All the best for a truly wonderful story.
      • Thank YOU for your wonderfully written commentary. I truly appreciate your feedback.
    • Phil Town
      I’ll borrow Rathin’s “lovely”, Lisa. It starts really well, with a sharp bit of action that throws us into Mandy’s life. The details of her life and woes are laid out little by little, wisely, until by the end we have the full picture. The room with the wedding clothes is a nice bit of symbolism of what might have been, and the dress falling a neat metaphor for Mandy breaking out of the doldrums. The dog is a cheeky little thing, but, yes, apparently destined for Mandy – almost the spirit of James. I’m not sure that the visit to Sara is absolutely necessary if it’s only to produce the line: “It sounds to me as if the dog found you rather than the other way around.” – that could have come in a phone conversation (?). But it’s a very positive story about returning to the land of the living after tragedy.
      • Thank you, Phil. Your critique is greatly appreciated. I am working on improving my writing so all advice is welcome advice. My idea with the visit to Sara was to show that we as humans need to find our own way to cope and find comfort in tragedy . Her short visit with Sara sort of shows her pushing others away because she is not ready to let others in, Sara shows her concern for her friend and wants to make sure she is ok but Mandy is not ready to admit that she is in need. She wants everyone to think she is ok.
    • Alice Nelson

      Lisa, welcome to our little group, glad to have you. What a lovely story, you set the tone early on, and laid out bit by bit Mandy’s sad situation. I do agree that the shift from finding the dog, to Mandy’s friends worrying about her was too abrupt, maybe some kind of lead up sentence to ease us into that part of the story, so it doesn’t take the reader out of the story. Other than that, I enjoyed this very much, it was an emotional story, and I empathized with Mandy so very much. Great job Lisa!

      • Lisa Cowan
        Thank you for the warm welcome and for the response to my fiction. This is a fantastic group and I can already tell that I am going to learn a lot.
    • Roy York
      It’s not like you have to take me by the hand or anything, but maybe you do. Is James, GONE as in never to return to the land of the living, or just gone, as in see ya, I found something better? I truly didn’t get that. I’d have liked something just a bit more tear jerky along those lines and then have the upbeat ending with the dog adequately taking James’ place. Good story, however, and you kept my attention. I had to, to find out what happened to the mutt.

      There are little things, such as: That night she had comfort, that night she slept better than she had in a long time. It should either be two sentences; That night she had comfort. That night she slept better than she had in a long time. OR, and this is my preference, one sentence.That night she had comfort, and slept better than she had in a long time.

      And, Lisa, welcome to the group. Lots of good stories this week. Good luck!

      • Thank you, Roy. Yes, James passed away, at least in my mind. I suppose the reader may draw any conclusion they wish. I tried to portray him as a loving and caring individual in the part where Mandy is in the kitchen and she recalls how he would rip the plastic can holders apart. He may have tried to hide how much he cared about things but he truly does like Mandy.
        I love how I am really thinking about this and revisiting how I might make it better. Thank you, I find your suggestions very helpful. Thank you so much for the feedback.
    • Victor Ostrovsky
      I liked that you let us fill the blanks. Someone very wise once told me that a good short story is often told by what is omitted. The description of the dog is spot on.
      Keep up the good work.
      • Lisa Cowan
        Thank you for reading, Victor. I am glad you like it.
    • I really enjoyed this story Lisa. Only one other surpassed it in my opinion. Still, one thing stands out. The paragraph that starts with: “Mandy’s friends hadn’t heard from her in weeks and were starting to worry…”

      It’s much too long and contains way too much unnecessary information that pulls you out of the story. I understand its usefulness as a plot device, I would just compress it if I were you. (She knew that some of her friends were worried about her and promised one of them, Sara, that she’d stop by in a day or two.)

      Other than that I really like the slow release of information that gradually brings the reader deeper and deeper into the story. Wonderful writing and a charming story, Lisa.

      • Lisa
        Thank you, Ken. I am so glad that I found this amazing community of people with such valuable advice. Your comments are greatly appreciated.

    The Return.

    By Ken Cartisano.

    1005 words.

    “Can I help you?” He said, with an air of derision.

    “I’d like to return this,” I replied, setting the iron on the counter.

    “I see,” he said, cheerlessly. He stared at the item in question as if it might be contagious. “Is there something wrong with it?”

    “It’s not what I ordered.”

    “But is there something wrong with it?”

    “No,” I replied. “I mean, I don’t know. I never used it.”

    He raised an eyebrow, arched with doubt.

    “Like I said, it’s not what I ordered,” I added, a little too quickly.

    He sighed. “What’s your name, sir?”

    I gave him my name and his fingers clacked forcefully over a keyboard behind a four-foot high counter that resembled a judge’s docket. He was wearing a rumpled suit and cheap clip-on tie. “Aha,” he said. “Mmmmmm.” He made a face as though he were sucking on an onion—soaked in lemon juice. “It appears as though you recently returned another item to our—customer service department.”

    His eyes resembled slits in a fortress wall, a bastion of accusation.

    “Well, y-yeah.” I couldn’t have stammered at a more inopportune moment. “That—I was—you sent me the wrong item previously.”

    “Uh-huh.” His tone dripped with disbelief. His response reminded me of one of those times when you tell a traffic cop you’ve only had one beer. “I seeeee.” He said with blatantly false compassion. “It says here you ordered a light.”

    “No,” I corrected him. “It was a light fixture, and I didn’t order it.”

    “But that’s what you previously returned. Am I correct?”

    It pained me to agree with him. “Yes, that’s what I returned but…”

    “What was wrong with the light? Was it malfunctioning in some bizarre way?”

    He seemed truly baffled. As if light fixtures always worked. “I don’t know.”

    “You don’t know if it worked or not?”


    “Did you try it? Did you take it out of the box?”

    I hesitated, puzzled. “What does that light have to do with this iron?” I finally asked.

    “I couldn’t possibly know,” he said, seemingly mystified. He gazed at the iron as if it might hold the answer to some deep and confounding mystery while I fidgeted and shifted my weight to my other foot. I glanced at my watch and looked around. There were several people waiting in line behind me. They all glared at me as if I was the cause of their inconvenience. The gray-haired old lady, three customers back, rolled her eyes and shook her head with disgust. When I turned back around to face the ‘customer service rep’ he was staring at me scornfully. “What would you like ‘us’ to do about it Mr. Crud?”

    “The name is Crade, if you don’t mind.” I pointedly replied. “I want my money back.”

    His suspicious scowl turned into a sneer, as if I had just confessed to the very thing he knew I was guilty of. “I seeeee.”

    We both stood there staring at each other. I wondered how in the world a company found a guy like this. Was it intentional? Was it in the job description? You’d think I was asking him to refund me out of his own pocket! “Well?” I said, with the slightest touch of annoyance.

    He frowned. As if none of my statements made any sense to him but he was none-the-less determined to find out where I had gone wrong; where I’d so obviously slipped up. “Well what, Mr. Curd, did you originally order?”


    “Excuse me?”

    “The name is Crade,” I said, very close to the point of exasperation.

    “Whose name?” He said, mimicking innocence as only a five year old could.

    “My NAME! My NAME is Crade!”

    “Yes sir. We’ve established that. Perhaps I should call my supervisor.”

    I could hear moans, shuffling feet and the crinkling of shopping bags behind me. I was loath to turn around. With my elbows on the counter that was nearly up to my shoulders I rested my head in my hand and shielded my eyes from the glaring overhead lights. In a last ditch effort to salvage the situation I said, “I don’t think, or rather, I shouldn’t think that’d be necessary for such a small refund.”

    His eyes flashed with fiery indignation. Apparently that was not the right thing to say. “There’s no such thing as a small refund, Mr. Crude.”

    I distinctly heard the sounds of muttering and grumbling coming from the line of impatient customers behind me. The rumpled service rep was glaring at me without any hint or sign of cooperating. “Look,” I said, almost at the point of desperation, “I’ll gladly accept the item I ordered rather than a refund, if you have it.”

    He smiled—most unpleasantly, like a barracuda smiles, or a witch, when her pot of children is almost ready to eat. “And what was the item you supposedly ordered, Mr. Crude? Originally.”

    “A meat cleaver.” I said, with a perfectly straight face. “An extremely sharp meat cleaver. One capable of making very, deep, cuts.” And then I smiled pleasantly.

    The color drained from his face as he suddenly avoided my gaze and studiously eyed his computer monitor. “Well.” He cleared his throat self-consciously. “I thiiiink, we should be able to grant you that refund Mr., Mr. Crade was it? Yes. No trouble at all.”

    He smiled at me gratuitously now. He even tilted his head as if it was his inclination to give me the best possible service all along. “Here we are, Mr. Crade.” He counted it out as he proffered the bills, and patiently waited for me to offer my cupped hand for the miscellaneous change.

    “Thank you,” I said. Suddenly wiping the smile from my face.

    “You are soooooo welcome, Mr. Crade. Thank you for shopping at Thrifty World, and please accept our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.”

    I glared at the line of idiots waiting behind me as I turned around.

    “Have a nice day,” he called, as I exited the store.

    • Phil Town
      Hi, Ken. Having had a similar encounter, over the phone, with someone from the bank on the morning I read your story, it all rang very true and squirmingly familiar. It’s like a Kafka story – of jobsworths standing in the way of the protagonist’s ambitions – the dialogue curving round to take the narrator back to square one. Very well managed rising tension, with the narrator, his senses heightened, even hearing the rustling of bags from the queue behind. I get the smile at the mention of the meat cleaver – it’s to indicate that the narrator might be a sociopath, isn’t it? I’m sure that’s authentic, but I’m not sure, on paper, that it’s enough to get the colour to drain from the jobsworth’s face. Maybe if the narrator brought his face close to the man’s and whispered? And I’m not sure how happy or uplifting the ending is ;-). But I thoroughly enjoyed that.
      • Philip, my man, good observation and suggestion. The ending needs a nudge. A little something that makes the antagonist think the MC is a sociopath, something that makes him blanch. That’s what’s missing/ Perhaps leaning close and whispering his words would be sufficient.
        If I can’t think of anything better than that, I’ll use it.
        (I have about a 200 word cushion to add something.
    • Did I ever tell you, Ken, that I am the serious type? I laugh only once in a week or month or year, and that too when I have to. ‘The Return’ has found me returning to my childhood days when people knew how to have a hearty, harmless healthy laugh for no apparent reason or rhyme
      The story is replete with your great sense of humour – the counterman mispronouncing Crade as Crude, the long queue of waiting customers getting impatient, the sudden and inevitable change in his attitude the moment Crade wanted the iron to be replaced with a meat cleaver and so on. The truth of the matter is that I found myself laughing inspire of myself. That’s where your expertise lies , being able to get an audacious laughter out of the reader with your great sense of humour. A refreshingly enjoyable read, Ken. Keep it up.
    • Alice Nelson

      Ken, I was getting angrier with each word I read, I think we’ve all had some kind of negative experience with a snarky customer service rep. Great job! I could feel Mr. Crud…uh I mean, Mr. Crade’s frustration, and I wanted to slap that dude behind the counter. That’s the sign of a story well written story, when I wanna slap somebody upside the head.

      You describe this experiences so well that the reader can see themselves in that situation. Wonderful use of dialogue, and really fine descriptive quality of the whole situation that made it sound like a real life experience.

    • Roy York
      Give a man a rumpled suit, an iron, a meat cleaver to cut something with and a light fixture and he can write a story once. Or twice, or maybe even three times. But, teach a man to write, and he can write about that forever. Wow, just made that up. Clever, huh?

      Great story and although the ending wasn’t as upbeat as I think the prompter wanted, it certainly was entertaining with descriptive, snappy dialogue and a very good plot line.

      Nice job Ken, I’m jealous. I had been doing real well in the dialogue compartment lately, but between you and Robt. I might be sucking hind ummm … I mean, might not be doing as well as in the recent past.

      Glad to see you entered this time. I always get a vicarious thrill when I beat you. If you’re good enough to beat the very best, that’s high praise, indeed.

      Good luck, I think you might end up pretty good, although some of these newcomers are pretty stiff competition, then again, there is Alice and Phil to contend with. I got nothin’ for ya to change. And, I loved the line about how a witch’s smile might look when she has a pot of children to eat. Excellent. Great reading scenery there.

    • Very funny and so relatable! Reminds me of a story by Richard Brautigan, wish I could remember the title. Something about being in line at a bank and everyone had very complicated problems. Great job!
    • Victor Ostrovsky
      Loved it, still think you should return with the clever.
      Wanted to jump the counter and showed him how an iron works.
  • Christine Pfister
    Dreamers Motel
    by Christine Pfister

    Angry black clouds spattered tiny droplets across Wade’s windshield, as daylight began to fade. He made the turn into her neighborhood, and cut through a side street. He was early, and needed to kill time.

    As he approached her block, his anxiety increased along with his grip on the steering wheel. He felt underneath the seat for the tire iron. It reassured him. Blood surged through his veins as he thought about what she had suffered.

    He looked at his hands. He spent half an hour trying to remove the grease, yet black specks remained. He was just a hardworking mechanic who didn’t even own a suit, but he knew these spots would wash away with the next vigorous scrub. Unlike the hidden stain a violated victim endures.

    He turned onto her street, and calmed himself as he drove past her house scanning for any visible movement. His apprehension intensified. She was supposed to press the switch, for the front porch light, a few quick times in succession to let him know it was all clear.

    The viciousness of the storm intensified, and electrical energy from the lightning charged the air as the voltage surged from the blackened heavens to the ground. It was as if nature predicted the nocturnal violence that would soon transpire. Wade could barely see her house as he peered through his windshield. The waiting was excruciating. Still no signal, and now the time they agreed upon had past. He was terrified something had happened to her. He yanked his car door open, and raced through the rain to her house.

    Wade half carried, and half dragged Catherine to his waiting car. Neither of them looked back. Her whole body was shaking as he helped her into the seat next to him. He pressed the gas pedal to the floor, and raced toward the interstate. The menacing evening coxed them into silence as they began their journey.

    After driving for several hours, Wade realized he was running low on gas. He turned off the interstate and found an open station. The rain diminished with the increasing miles traveled, and then stopped. The night sky celebrated illuminating the horizon with an explosion of color. Early morning was approaching, and they both sensed the tranquil shift in the weather. Catherine rolled down the window, and the smell of clean, fresh air bathed her senses. The rain seemed to purify the ugliness she had endured over the past five years. She smiled up at Wade, and leaned her back against his strong frame.

    He was momentarily distracted with her gaze, and took a wrong turn out of the station. He realized his mistake a few minutes later when he couldn’t locate the entrance back to the interstate. The sign for the motel was lit up in the distance, and he asked her if she wanted to stop for the rest of the night. She wanted to get as far away from her hometown as possible, but nodded yes, knowing they were both exhausted. He spotted the yellow and red striped marquee ahead, and it read, Dreamers Motel. Perfect, he thought. They were beginning a lovely new dream together, and her cruel nightmare had finally come to an end.

    As he turned the car into the entrance of the motel, Catherine thought about Wade. She knew she was tainted, and would never be able to fully express love the way normal people could. So many countless times she tried to make him understand this defect, but he wouldn’t listen. Catherine loved him, and he accepted her as she was, so she would devote herself to him.

    The day he saw her crying in the restaurant, she had made the final decision to end her torment. It seemed ironic to swallow all the tablets from the same bottle her father took a few from every night to get to sleep, after his visits to her room. These little blue capsules would finally put an end to her unbearable nightmare.

    Wade fell in love with her the minute he saw her crying, in the little coffee shop, across the street from the garage where he worked. He startled when he walked over to her booth, and sat down across from her. Lost in her own thoughts, she hadn’t realized that she had tears spilling over onto her cheeks. He spoke softly, and his kind face, and gentle demeanor gave her the courage to begin talking. She never expected to unveil her trouble to him, but somewhere in her soul she knew this man could, and would, believe what she told him.

    Wade was the light out of her darkness. Her aggressor had progressively become more horrendous in his dark behavior. Catherine fought him at first, but he was so much stronger. She eventually just lay there sobbing until he was done with her. He was respected in their community, and repeatedly told her no one would ever believe her word, over his.

    The old woman behind the desk smiled, as Wade entered the motel office alone. She had been expecting them. She felt they both deserved to be in this sanctuary, and had paid an incredible price. Wade signed the register, and she gave him a key. “Have a blessed night,” she said. He nodded, and quickly hurried back to his car.

    Wade drove slowly around the building, and parked in front of their room. Catherine was asleep in the seat next to him, and totally drained from the antagonistic confrontation with her father. The emotional fatigue had finally overtaken her, and she had slipped into oblivion.

    She barely stirred when he gently lifted her out of the car, and carried her into the motel room. The room held a large, comfy, oversized bed. Wade pushed the thick comforter back, and gingerly laid her between the sheets. He pulled the blankets over her, and dropped into the oversized chair next to the bed.

    The old lady behind the motel counter watched Wade get into his car, and held back a tear as she listened to the radio broadcast. The news anchor was relating a story about a triple shooting. A young couple in a nearby state had been brutally murdered earlier in the evening. There was a violent struggle, and the daughter’s father shot the young man. He then fired on his daughter as she tried to flee their home. The father was a decorated, retired police officer who had lost his wife five years earlier. He then turned the gun on himself. It was still under investigation as to the motive behind the shooting.

    Wade yawned as the long hours on the road started to claim his body. His beautiful Catherine would never have to endure another unwanted touch from her father. He tried to recall the actual events of their encounter, but the memory of their altercation seemed to blur. He leaned back into the overstuffed chair, and a peaceful calm overtook him. He reached over and took her small hand in his, closed his eyes, and drifted off to sleep with a smile on his face knowing they had found a safe haven in Dreamers Motel.

    • Roy York
      Christine, I have to admit I am puzzled by the innkeeper expecting them and the line they deserved it and had paid an incredible price. And, I’m puzzled by the innkeeper watching him get in the car, and the road starting to claim his body, and then he leans back in the chair. Are they in Heaven? Are they safe? Well, they can’t be if they’re dead. So, many unanswered questions. But, I have to admit a well crafted plot line if they are somehow alive. I think if you took out the part about the young couple brutally murdered, no one would know which way you went. Heaven or salvation?

      A little less tell and a bit more show and you might have a dandy. I liked it as it was, but I think it could be so much better. Welcome to the club.

    • Alice Nelson

      Hey Christine, welcome to the group. I guess I have to disagree with Mr. Roy (Sorry my friend), but I thought the addition of the death of Wade and Catherine was a clever touch that really worked for me. It gave your story an emotional impact that made us empathize with this couple even more than before. How bitter sweet it all was, they did escape the brutality of her father together, but it cost them.

      I got that even if Wade had turned in the direction of the interstate, he still would’ve ended up at The Dreamer’s Motel that seems to be a way station to heaven, or a place they’ll stay and live forever. Whatever it is, it was what they deserved, a safe place, after such a brutal end.

      At first I thought the section “…He yanked his car door open, and raced through the rain to her house. Wade half carried, and half dragged Catherine to his waiting car,” was far to abrupt, I wondered what happened between Wade exiting his car and getting Christine. But you explain that later, and it makes perfect sense why there was this break between the two moments.

      Great story Christine, wonderful writing, it flowed so smoothly, I was in this story from beginning to end, just waiting to see what awaited the couple. Wonderful job.

      • Victor Ostrovsky
        Heartwarming in the wake of tragedy and the rough exterior of Wade made his gentle side shine.
        Loved the twist in the end.
        Good job.
    • I enjoyed the twisted ending, I too was confused by the innkeeper and wish there was a little more showing.
    • Phil Town
      Welcome, Christine! A peculiar, affecting story. I think the nature of the inn and the lovers’ fate is well handled. This is a very good line and shows us Wade’s state without you having to overtly tell us: “He tried to recall the actual events of their encounter, but the memory of their altercation seemed to blur.” I really like how you don’t use Catherine’s name in the first few paragraphs: we’re with Wade, but we’re not quite sure what’s happened, or where he’s going, and we’re keen to find out. The revelation of the tragedy at the house is necessary, but I wonder if it might have come out a little more subtly (?) A couple of times I think you went a bit OTT (“The viciousness of the storm intensified, and electrical energy from the lightning charged the air as the voltage surged from the blackened heavens to the ground.”) But it’s a very involving, strange, sad but ultimately uplifting story, well executed.
  • Victor Ostrovsky
    The true believer

    Aziz arrived at the ferry loading ramp with thirty minutes to kill before boarding. He lit up and took a deep drag. I hope they have cigarettes in heaven he thought and leaned back in his seat, flicking a few bits of tobacco off his grimy suit.
    Every other day for two years, Aziz drove the box truck from the plant south of Casablanca, to the Tangier docks for the excursion across the Gibraltar straights to Spain.
    Aziz was always a believer, not a zealot, but life was squeezing hope out of him.
    A lonely man from the shantytown on the outskirts of Casablanca, immersed in the stench of open sewers. Where skeletal strays scratch in filth never bark, having nothing to protect. Where boys squat in corners sniffing glue from plastic bags to blot a miserable existence.
    The soft-spoken cleric who reached into the gutter and showed him a path to a better place changed it all.
    It was after Aziz joined the Jihad that the cleric suggested he apply for a job as a driver in the plant.
    His load, always the same, three dozen barrels of a stinking liquid acid. His destination always the same, a fertilizer plant in Los Barrios Spain.
    Aziz enjoyed the solitude of the open road; it allowed him to contemplate his growing devotion to God, and enjoyed imagining what awaited him in heaven, if he were to arrive as a martyr.
    To the harbor security the old man in his beat-up truck became part of the scenery, like the palm trees and the white sand at the edge of the dock.
    He was always early, smoking and waiting patiently for the jet ferry to dock.
    It been a while since anyone bothered to verify the barrels’ content. Nobody wanted to deal with the stench that stuck with you for the rest of the day.
    On this day, Aziz left the complex an hour early and stopped halfway to Tangier at an ordinary grimy body shop. Ordinary Aziz knew was the secret of Assirat Al Moustakim, just like himself an invisible thread in the cloth of life.
    The three men at the shop were fast, yet cautious as they replaced thirty-two barrels of acid with ones loaded with explosives. Installed a detonation switch in the glove compartment and placed four of the original barrels back at the rear, should anyone check.
    When they were done, they each hugged him mumbling “Allah Hu Akbar.” He never felt that much love in his sorry life as from this band of strangers on his journey to paradise.
    At ten the boarding started, his papers were briefly checked, and they waved him aboard with a smile. He drove up the ramp put the gear in park and pulled hard on the handbrake.
    He opened the glove compartment and sat there for a moment looking at the small black switch. For all he knew once he flipped it the barrels would blow to high heaven. Even though, Raphic told him it would detonate once they were in open water.
    He said a silent prayer and flipped the switch, nothing happened.
    He calmly stepped out, locked the door behind him and made his way up the metal staircase to the opulent passenger deck.
    The car decks below filled up fast with scores of cars while hundreds of passengers mostly tourist streamed across the gangway. The colorful crowd loud, in a blend of languages, giving it a festive feel.
    The deck was large, gleaming white walls and polished brass railings hugging the wide flowing staircase to the mezzanine.
    By the time he reached the coffee shop, the duty-free store next to it was already full. He was looking forward to his last cup of Turkish coffee.
    “Your qahwa kakla Aziz“ said the heavyset woman behind the coffee counter, a wide smile on her round face as she handed him the strong sweet coffee in a tiny cup. “Extra Cinnamon, extra Cardamom, just like you like it.”
    He smiled and placed a ten Dirham note on the counter. “Thank you,” he said, “keep the change.”
    She gazed at him, the smile disappeared from her lips, there was something different about him, and she felt a chill. She wanted to say something, but he headed to the seating by the large windows. Before she could give it a second thought, passengers lined up in front of her, and she was elbow deep in filling their orders.
    Aziz sipped the sweet coffee, closed his eyes and tried to imagine what the gates to heaven would look like when he heard the laughter, it was close.
    He opened his eyes, and there, right in front of him, she stood. A little girl in a white and gold caftan and a white hijab like a small angel. She looked straight at him with her big green eyes and an infectious smile. She held a worn-out leather Koran in her hands.
    “Is this yours? Monsieur?” She asked politely in a tiny voice. “Mama and I found it on our bench, we thought it may be yours?”
    He looked at the small angel, not sure it was real or a dream. Was he already in heaven? “No.” he answered, the words were coming out slowly, everything seemed to move slowly. “It is not mine.” He finally uttered, trying to smile back. “lost mine some time ago.”
    “Ok, Mercy.” She said smiling again as she turned and ran in small steps towards a bearded mullah in a black galabieh and showed him the holy book.
    He patted her head and shook his.
    It just then that the get engines started to rumble. His heart started beating fast. He could not take his eyes off the little girl.
    He knew somehow this was a sign, if he thought he found God before this must be God finding him.
    He no longer cared to go to heaven if blowing up this little girl and all the innocent people around him were the price of admission. He suddenly saw the light and the lie.
    He was running out of time, “It will blow when you get to open water.” The voice in his head shouted at him.
    He had to return to the truck, he had to stop this madness. He got up and ran across the deck and the stairs two at a time. Pushing against the oncoming crowds.
    He reached the truck and tried to open the door, his hands were shaking, he dropped the keys. He tried again, swung the door open and reached for the switch. With one finger ready to flip it he stopped.
    What if it was rigged to explode if tried to stop it?
    He knew what he had to do. He got in and started the engine. He ground the gear into first and slammed the gas peddle to the ground.
    The wheels spun and screeches against the iron deck. He headed for an opening between two parked cars, tearing the railing. He had a few brief seconds to mutter a prayer before he and the truck cut through the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean and exploded.

    • Phil Town
      Tense and ultimately beautiful story, Victor. I like the exotic setting (Tangier, ‘Strait of Gibraltar’). The brief description of Aziz’s origins is enough to show us how he might easily be recruited. The build-up of tension is expertly handled. The little detail of the last coffee is very telling – this is a human being, with human habits, saying goodbye to the world. And then the human in him is touched by the appearance of the little girl/angel … terrific symbolism. And you pile on the tension with the doubt about the switch. Perhaps it’s a bit lucky that he could drive off the ferry so easily. And I think maybe the final word, paradoxically, is less dramatic than it sounds; you could maybe have left it at “Mediterranean”.(?) Great read.
      • Victor Ostrovsky
        Thank you.
    • Roy York
      Victor, I have to agree with Phil. Give your readers some credit. Let them figure out it exploded when it hits the water because I think it has far more impact. (Truly, no pun intended) Other than some punctuation needed, lots of commas to add pauses where you would really like the reader to pause, and some other stuff that would be just nit picky,

      I liked the story very much. Good read as Phil said.

      One, thing, however. When using a language it gets tricky and the girl is definitely saying Merci, not Mercy and that threw me off just a bit until I realized they were speaking French and English, although I don’t know why, except they were in Tangier. So, a line that they were speaking French and you were conveniently, as the friendly author, translating for them would suffice. But, even then, Merci would still be Merci or Thank You, your choice.

      • Victor Ostrovsky
        Thank you for reading the story, and your comments. I thought that the clothing and location, would be a clue that they spoke Arabic. In the Magreb as in Lebanon, they tend to sprinkle French words in
    • Alice Nelson

      Victor, oh I was on the edge of my seat throughout the ending of your story, loved it so much. What a sacrifice of Aziz, a far bigger sacrifice than had he killed all those people aboard the fairy. So well written, and I loved the dialogue. The addition of the little girl in the white hijab, wonderful. She was like an angel who helped Aziz see he would be making a grave mistake. I agree with Phil just ending with “Mediterranean,” would have a much greater impact, still this is a fantastic story.

      • Victor Ostrovsky
        Thank you.
    • Wow!
      A powerful and moving story, Victor. Great writing.
  • This was terrifying but I was so drawn in, I couldn’t stop reading. Nice.
    • Victor Ostrovsky
      Thank you so much.
  • Christine Pfister
    Hi Alice,
    I think I posted my story here, but it doesn’t show up. I’m new to the site. Could you please check that for me. Appreciate it!
    Christine Pfister
    • Alice Nelson

      Hi Christine, I just had to approve your story since you’re new to the group, but your story is up now. 🙂

      • Christine Pfister
        Alice, Thanks so much for approving my story, and the kind remarks. It means so much to be validated for your writing. The talent here is incredible, and I feel fortunate to be included in this venue.
  • Roy York
    Return to the scene of the crime
    1195 words

    “Owwwwa! Mom! MOM!! I cut myself. Oww. Oww.” Bradley was running to the house as fast as his seven year old legs could carry him. Holding his hand dripping blood in front of him, tears creating pink pathways down his dirt stained cheeks, he reached the kitchen and banged on the screen door. “Owwwy. Hurry, Mom.*

    His mother had already crossed the kitchen and was opening the door.. All she could see was blood dripping because Bradley had a death grip over the small wound. “Let me see.”

    Bradley let go of his hand and showed his mom the small laceration. “Come over here where’s there’s more light so I can see the cut better. Oh, my goodness. How did you manage to do this?”

    “I was in the garage,” he sobbed, “and I was putting dad’s saw away, I mean…” He stopped, realizing he was going to be in big trouble. “I mean, umm, I was just looking at it and it slipped. And, then … then,” he hesitated again, as if reliving it, “it fell down. I tried to stop it, but it did this.” He held out his hand. He started crying loudly, knowing it was the perfect distraction.

    “C’mon, lets wash this off and see how bad it is. She knelt down to his level and looked him in the eye. “Stop crying; let’s be a big boy.”

    She winked conspiratorially, “We don’t have to tell Dad about this just yet. But we will return to the scene of the crime and see what else Dad doesn’t know about, If there’re other problems, you know we’ll have to take care of them before your father gets home. If we don’t he’ll light up like a firecracker and you might not see the garage again until you’re in high school.”

    “I don’t want to go back out there.” Bradley knew he was going to be in big trouble if she discovered he had been using the tools all morning. If he avoided returning to the garage, he could avoid any possible punishment.

    He had already learned it was better to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission. If you asked, you were told no every time. If you just did it, you got to do whatever it was, and were told not to do it again, but only if something went wrong; like this time.

    If he avoided going back to the garage, and things calmed down, it would probably work out, and there would be no punishment. He had learned a really good pouty face, and a promise to never do it again almost always ironed things out with his mom and dad.

    “Suit yourself, but if there’s something wrong out there, there will be big trouble when Dad gets home. Do you remember that time you left his flashlight on and the batteries wore out? You had to stay in your room after supper for two nights without TV. Is that what you want?”

    He shook his head no, remembering. “Well, maybe after you bandage this, we can go look and see together.”

    Minutes later, his tiny cut was all cleaned up and bandaged with an inappropriately large amount of gauze and tape. ‘Clearly showing how close his brush with death really was,’ he thought. As they were walking to the garage, Bradley was hoping she would be understanding, but the closer they got, the realization of her seeing everything he had been doing was slowly dawning on him,

    He began to work on an exit strategy. “You know,” he said, “Dad is always leaving his tools laying out on the workbench. A little kid like me can get in a lot of trouble just standing there, not doing nothin’.”

    “Bradley, are you trying to tell me something?”

    “Well, he left an awful lot of them out this time. And his work bench is really, really messy. Maybe we can clean it up a little and help him out.”

    “Bradley, are there more tools out now than what were there yesterday?”

    Ummm … there might be.”

    By then they had reached the garage and opened the door. The light was still on and there was indeed, a clutter of tools on the tool bench. “Alright mister, you’ve got some explaining to do.”

    Not wanting her to see the piece of wood he had been working on, he said, “You start on that end, Mom, and I’ll work on this end. We’ll have this cleaned up in no time. Maybe then we can have some lunch.”

    ‘Don’t try to sweet talk me, Bradley James. You get busy cleaning this up. And be careful.” She turned away and when she did, Bradley grabbed the wood and tried to slip it on the shelf under the bench.

    Too late. She turned back and saw it. “What’s that?”

    “Umm ,,, what’s what?” He started picking up a tool to put it in the tool box.

    “That piece of wood you just put on the shelf?”

    “You mean this old piece of wood?” He held it up and tossed it back down. “I dunno, just some old piece of wood. Maybe dad was using it.”

    ‘I’m doomed,’ he thought. ‘Now she’s gonna know I was working on this wood for my map to hang in my room. I might as well tell her the truth and get it over with.’

    Then, her face brightened. “Oh, Bradley, you were working on a secret project weren’t you? You can tell me. It’s OK.”

    Bradley saw his chance. “That’s why I couldn’t tell you. It’s a surprise.”

    “It’s a surprise for me, isn’t it?”

    There it was. She had given him his answer. This victory would go down in the annals of kid history. Wistfully, he looked up at her, managed to squeeze out a tear, and said, “It was gonna be for Mother’s Day.”

    “Oh, Bradley, you don’t have to say anymore.” She hugged him, her heart bursting with love and tenderness.

    “No,” he said, “I want you to know. It was gonna say, ‘To the best mom in the world’. “

    She smiled, tousled his hair and said, “Let’s clean this up. Dad doesn’t need to know.”

    He had won. ‘She would never ever find out: Bradley 1, Mom 0,’ thought Bradley.

    That night at dinner, Bradley’s father asked “Do you know what happened to that scrap wood on the workbench? Bradley wanted to use it for a map to hang in his room. We were going to work on it together this weekend.”

    Bradley’s mother held her composure. “I’m sure it’s in the garage somewhere.” She glanced at Bradley, frozen in his seat, his face turning slightly red, studying his mashed potatoes. “There’s pie for dessert,” she said.

    “That sounds good,” said Dad.

    “Especially when it’s made by the best mom in the world,” said Bradley.

    “Why, Bradley, what a nice thing to say.” She smiled. “You won’t mind doing dishes tonight after dinner, will you?”

    “I guess not.”

    “That’s good,” she said brightly. “Then maybe you and Dad can work on a new project together. I’m sure you have one in mind.”

    • Such a bright and happy story! You completely nailed the character of the little boy.
    • Roy, You have presented simple story interestingly. Innocent and seriousness of child and kindness and cleverness of mother returned fun. It was easy to understand. I really enjoyed.
  • Alice Nelson

    Roy, this is a fun story, made me laugh several times especially this line:

    “Minutes later, his tiny cut was all cleaned up and bandaged with an inappropriately large amount of gauze and tape. ‘Clearly showing how close his brush with death really was,’ he thought.”

    You do a great job portraying a kid, with kid actions and logic, Bradley feels very real. Great flow, easy to read, and the characters were full and multi-dimensional, even in this short story. Loved it! Great job, my man.

    • Roy York
      To both Tobie and Alice,

      Thanks for the comments regarding the character of the little boy. I find it very easy for some reason to write in young children mode.

      I think it’s got a lot to do with something my wife figured out at long time ago. When I wrote my first story from a child’s perspective, using my grandchildren as models, she remarked. “It comes easy for you doesn’t it, seeing as how you never grew up?”

      She might be right, and guess what? If I’m that lucky, then I’ll take it. I am glad you enjoyed it.

  • Victor Ostrovsky
    Roy, Loved the child’s voice, sounded authentic. The flow and the pace added to the good-natured feel. Remanence of the wholesome family TV shows of the 60’s (fathers knows best etc.’)
    As English is not my first langwidge, I was not sure if leaving some of the quotation marks in the dialog had a meaning.
    Nice work.
    • Roy York

      Thanks for your comments, they are appreciated. If you look at my work closely, you’ll see that I use the ” quote marks for dialogue. Since LinkedIn has no vehicle for italics which I normally use for thoughts, I always enclose thoughts in ‘ quote marks of the single variety. I find it difficult to know where thoughts start and finish in other author’s works on these pages, so I try to make it easier. Such as: It had been a tough day for Jim. The car had broken down, he had walked a mile for help in 100 degree heat and his gout was acting up. ‘Sure wish I hadn’t left my cell phone on the desk,’ he thought. ‘I’ll be lucky to be home before dark.’

      By the way – ? Tы говоришь по русски


      • Victor Ostrovsky
        Thank you, I got that, but you also open dialog with ” and occasionally do not close them but let it flow into the description.
        Still good writing, keep it up.
        • Roy York
          That’s from editing and re-editing and not noticing it before posting. I’m finding no matter how hard I try, something gets by me. Here’s an example I pulled after rereading the story.
          “C’mon, lets wash this off and see how bad it is. She knelt down to his level and looked him in the eye. “Stop crying; let’s be a big boy.” Yep, just carelessness.

          And, I take it you do not speak Russian. What is your native language?

  • Phil Town
    Good story, Roy. The interaction between the mother and son in the dialogue and action is really well done, and Bradley’s manipulative nature is well established. The scene in the shed, where he’s trying to hide the piece of wood, is expertly described. And the innocent revelation by the dad at dinner is a very neat device to expose Bradley’s fib. That revelation might have had just a little bit of a run-up to it, I reckon – some incidental dialogue maybe – because it comes out of the blue a bit. And I might be wrong – other commenters have praised it – but I feel that the style of Bradley’s discourse (not what he says, which is great, but the way he says it) seems a bit beyond his years. Enjoyed the story, though.
    • Roy York
      I understand what you are saying regarding Bradley. And, I thought the same thing when it was originally written. Originally Bradley was five. I raised it to seven, and thought about even higher, but then Bradley loses his boyish charm and manipulation as a conniving nine year old. But, as a seven year old I thought he cleared the threshold. He was old enough to use tools, but not old enough to be alone with drills, axes, saws and the like.

      I wondered how this was going to be perceived. Will Bradley seem to be too wise; beyond his years? I thought about it, made some changes, but kept in intact for the most part. The reason being, is I currently have a seven year old extended family member that I see fairly often, and I have to tell you, she makes Bradley seem like an incompetent five year old.

      I’ve watched as she out maneuvers her parents and grandparents and even me, sometimes. So, yeah, I wondered about it too, Phil, but decided to leave it because I actually know someone who behaves as does my character.

      Funny, but I remember from years ago, when I wrote for a young character, you used to nail me, almost always correctly, when you critiqued my stories. In fact, I tried very hard to make my young characters more believable in their dialogue and how they handled situations. So, I thank you for that.

      As I wrote this story I wondered if I had made Bradley young or old enough for the dialogue. And, whether or not I was going to hear from you. Guess I have to work harder. And, thanks for your remarks. They are always well taken.

      • Phil Town
        I think the behaviour’s spot-on, Roy – I just question Bradley’s linguistic level, e.g. “We’ll have this cleaned up in no time. Maybe then we can have some lunch.” Do 7-year-olds use such perfect, quite complex structures? I doubt it, but I’m not 100% sure, to tell you the truth – I don’t have contact with any kids of that age, so I’m just imagining.
        • Roy York
          And I think you may be right, also, because I had the same underlying feeling and couldn’t find where to make any significant changes. Probably should have been a little more like, “After we clean up Dad’s bench, maybe you can make something to eat?” In an attempt to divert his mother’s thinking to a future event.

          Anyway, I value your critiques, and i obviously remember them, because they are pretty accurate.

  • Carrie Zylka

    The Sleep by Carrie Zylka
    679 words

    Sharon leaned back in the iron chair, the biometric screeners happily blinked around her as she squirmed to get more comfortable. Taking a deep breath, she sighed and allowed her consciousness to connect to the Sleep.

    Her form gingerly stepped onto the glowing strands of information, bright tendrils of light carrying so much data on them, and began making her way to her destination.


    Danny and Matt monitored her from the big room next door. “She’s going in deep again.” Dan muttered.

    Danny nodded. “Bring her out at the four hour mark.”

    “She’ll kill us if we do.”

    “I don’t care, these prolonged Sleeps she keeps taking is affecting her in weird ways. Last week she kept misjudging the end of the wall and slammed her shoulder into it every time she went to the restroom.”

    Matt made a face plucking at a thread hanging from the cuff on his lab suit. “That’s no good.”


    Sharon danced among the data streams, plucking at this tendril and that. Always searching for what she had no business accessing. But she didn’t care. The Government had given her an opportunity and she would be damned if she was about to squander it.

    She read through emails, often excited at a bit of data only to find out it was a dead end, but always going back to find more.

    This time was different, she felt a sense of urgency. She was running out of time and knew it.

    She pushed forward with her mind, searching, seeking, trying to find that tiny bit of data she so desperately needed.


    “We’re at the four hour mark.” Danny said glancing at the glowing red clock above them. “We should bring her out.”

    “No, control said to give her whatever leeway she wanted.” Matt sipped his coffee.

    Moving his face closer to the numbers flashing across the screen, Danny squinted. “What is it that they have her chasing down?”

    “I think she said drug sales. Looking for communications around big pharma.”

    “When why the hell is she sifting through juvie communications?”


    The images and data communications that Sharon touched made her sad. So many souls lost deep inside the system. Her virtual hand strummed along the lines and made a sudden fist at one particular email.

    Half way through the memo cut off. “No!” She screamed and began frantically sorting through the broken emails all around her, after what seemed like an eternity she found the rest of the email.

    Back in the room, her physical body violently flinched and everything went dark.


    Sharon launched from the chair and staggered forward towards the door, hands outstretched.

    Matt and Danny rushed into the room to help steady her.

    “What is it? What did you see?” Matt asked manually checking the pulse at her throat.

    Sharon began sobbing, unable to make her mouth work. The effects of the Sleep were harsh, she’d know that when she’d first been recruited for the project. But this time, she feared her motor functions had been permanently affected. She made a desperate moaning noise.

    The men carried her into a room designed for meditation and serenity. They laid her down on a couch and Danny went to call his supervisor.

    Not long after, Dr. Willem arrived and knelt beside her, giving her a perfunctory exam. “You’ll be alright, you know it’s the effect from being in the Sleep for too many hours. Probably seemed like days or weeks to you. Luckily it wasn’t, a week in the Sleep would destroy your brain function.” He made a tsk, tsk noise as he tapped her forehead. “What in the world keeps making you push these limits Sharon? We’ve had this discussion before.”

    Finally, able to form words with her mouth Sharon lurched forward and grabbed his suit jacket in both hands. “I found her doc….I found my little sister. I know where she is and now I can get her back. My mother’s dying wish was to have her returned to us and now I can fulfill that promise.”

    • Good story! Wish it was longer, just seems like I was getting into it and it ended. 🙁
    • Roy York
      Ya know Carrie, I’m with Tobie on this one. Because you left several big unanswered questions. How the hell did her little sister get in ‘there’, wherever Sleep takes her, how can she still be alive, and how on God’s green ethereal Earth do they propose on extracting her? You got a lot of ‘splaining to do. Well written, however.

      Got no complaints. Well, maybe a teeny, tiny technical one. This sentence: Luckily it wasn’t, a week in the Sleep would destroy your brain function – should have a half stop (semi-colon) after wasn’t, as in: Luckily it wasn’t; a week in the Sleep would destroy your brain function.

  • Carrie Zylka

    Ok everybody!
    It’s time to read all 13 stories cast your vote.

    Remember you must vote for your story to qualify, you may not vote for yourself and you can only vote once.

    Good luck!

    (I read a whole story if the story itself carry me to the end with ease and interest or if there is some motive to be able to make comments or if there is an intention to observe something. This time I managed to read all stories to be able to observe what has been returned in the stories)

    Carrie advised all writers to present if something has been returned so that she feels happy or positive at the end. She wanted to see form and meaning of suit, cut, light, iron while returning.

    First appeared Tobie and reported that person missing with her car rebound, but happiness was not there.

    Then appeared Sandra. Sandra, when she came back home after her first day of work she was imagining a kind of catastrophes that would have occurred in her absence. But the house was running as it is by the effort of her husband and children resulting extreme happiness.

    Then appeared Rob. He was able to change bad memories into good memories. A smile came back on the face of the Bernice.

    Then appeared Nam. He was able to bring Alan back from Proma that resulted invention of a new concept about the time difference. Few writers said to Nam, ” You resolved the issue of the time difference, what about language difference?”

    Then appeared Phil. He was able to return Howord from bloody 19th to 21st century with a good job and diamond necklace, as a result, Lindsay welcomed him.
    Then appeared Ron with a cup, full of happiness. It was a result of SCLI-an wedding formula, that his grandpa returned to him got from his grand-grandpa.
    Then Alice appeared. She made Lucy a successful writer and a great human being. All terrible memories are gone and Lucy was able to return Jennifer as if she was her own

    Then appeared Lisa. She gradually motivated Mandy to accept the dog found. This returned a better sleep after a long time.

    Then appeared Ken. Ken was able to keep Mr. Crede (not Crud) in a standing position in the same location throughout the story and got his money back that returned smile in his face.

    Then appeared Christine. She was able to direct Wade and Catherine into the safe heaven of Dreamer Motel through an unexpected path. This returned happy ending of the couple who were brutally murdered.
    Then Victor appeared. Victor was able to return Aziz to the path of kindness. Aziz exploded himself saving all the innocent people around him.

    Then appeared Roy. Roy created a wonderful mother who handled her son cleverly without discouraging for his childish acts.

    Finally, Carrie presented herself. She managed Dr. Willem who survived Saron because Luckily it wasn’t, a week in the Sleep would destroy your brain function.”

    ( I did not focus on the use of SCLI. Writers took it as condition hence used randomly wherever it fits to be able to meet the condition. I am not sure whether it added any value in the stories or not. )

  • Carrie Zylka

    Just waiting on two votes, I’ve emailed Robert and Christine and will tally the votes soon!

    • Carrie Zylka

      Got it! Thanks!! Ok now I’m just waiting on Robert’s votes!

    • Lisa
      Congratulations, Victor. Your story truly is worthy of being the winner. Nice job.👍🏼

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