Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Socks”

Theme: This post is for stories related to the contest theme: “Socks”.

Story Requirements:

  • Must include image, motif, and/or symbol of SOCKS
  • Your flash story must end with the words, “never again”.

Word Count: 1,200

  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 Chris Smith 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.

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165 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Socks”

    • Carrie Zylka

      Sock monsters unite!!!!

    • Charles Lilburn
      Wendy, what is the notification button? And, for what it’s worth, I thought your story was going to win the last contest, not mine. I thought it was well done.
      • Thank you Charles/Roy!
        The notification button I spoke of is the little tick box when you leave a comment on the post.
        • Charles Lilburn
          Thanks Wendy, I have been doing that, but it’s hit or miss. For example, I got your comment, but not Carrie’s story. Interesting.
  • David G. Lott
    Different Dog
    (by David G. Lott)

    It was a couple, a man and a woman, and they had a dog business on the side, you might say. They’d drive to some unsuspecting suburb, the kind where people are generally nice and often out walking dogs. Then they’d scout out a dog path in the town – preferably an isolated one – and set things up.

    First, they’d act like they didn’t know each other and go separately to a bend in the path where the sight lines weren’t the greatest. They’d keep their distance but stay close enough to make eye contact. Next, when they saw that a woman was making her way toward them walking her dog – usually they went with a woman – the guy would start acting like he was out for a solitary walk or out bird-watching or whatever. When the dog-walker got close, he’d pass nonchalantly nearby, brushing a hand near the dog’s head on purpose. Of course, he’d prepared that hand ahead of time so it had the smell of something tasty on it. Naturally, the dog would perk up and take a quick lick or give it a good, close-in sniff. At that point, the guy would go immediately into his Oscar-winning performance as Best-Fatally-Wounded-Human-Ever. He had fake blood, too, for the fake bite – all very well rehearsed. He’d say he was on blood thinners, and that’s why he was bleeding so much and why it was such a serious injury and on and on. His better half? She played the freaking-out witness and first-responder. Saw the whole thing, wrapped up the finger in a hanky, volunteered to take him to the emergency room, said how terrible it all was and blah, blah, blah. Somewhere along the line there’d be an exchange of contact information and the next day some emailing back and forth, sometimes escalating to a threatened lawsuit, and eventually the dog owner – who felt completely awful and certainly didn’t want her beloved Socks or Fluffy or whoever to be put down – would send a check for at least a couple hundred bucks, usually more, off to the scam artists.

    Granted, the routine didn’t work every time, but enough to keep them at it now and again. Hey, it was an easy hit and kind of fun for them, I imagine. Never got caught. No competition. Cops never knew. How did I get wind? Let’s just say with the type I run with, word gets out. Matter of fact, one time word got out with a vengeance.

    Few months ago they were up to their old tricks not far from our place. They set it up like they always did, the guy all ready to do his brush-past-the-dog and the woman her number. Except this time it went wrong. Violently wrong. This time a different dog managed to step in unexpectedly at the last possible moment. And this time there was an actual, honest-to-God bite from the pooch – not just a lick or a sniff – but a hearty chomp and then some, like Lassie really meant it. No joke – guy lost part of a finger. We’re talking real blood.

    The funny part, though? The couple never ended up getting any money out of it or threatening a lawsuit or anything – not a single email sent. Zero follow-up, despite the fact that the guy was genuinely maimed. You’re wondering why, maybe? Thing is, I’m what you call a service dog. With that scenario, no way they’re getting jack from me or my 80-year-old blind lady. As for the side business…never again.

    • David, I love this story. I like the pulp detective feel and the fact that it was a service dog at the end that foiled their con. Nice way to work socks in too.
      • David G. Lott
        Thanks, Wendy!
    • Charles Lilburn
      David, nice little twist on the story and you had me completely bamboozled with the eventual 1st person character being a dog. No problem with the writing, but I am perplexed with “socks” being a throw-a-way line. The writing is good and I liked the story. I wish it had more of the ‘socks’ theme that was asked for.
      • David G. Lott
        Glad you liked the story, Roy! As for the “socks” theme, I guess I’ve known a lot of pets named Socks over the years, so I was trying to tap into that motif.
        • Maud Harris
          A fun story with a great twist. I wasn’t expecting it.
          • David G. Lott
            Thanks, Maud!
    • David – Different Dog.

      Doggone it, I really enjoyed this story. I was completely fooled. This is a very clever plot, with a bare bones story draped over it. You could have embellished it, but it delivers a nice little punch just as it is. I like the writing style as well. It’s efficient and austere, but elegant too. And that’s no mean feat.

      One negative. I didn’t understand the last sentence. ‘As for the side business…never again.’ (?)
      Would it make more, or less sense to say: ‘As for their side business…never again.’
      It’s not that big a deal—but it’s the very last sentence. It should be clear.

      • David G. Lott
        Thanks for the positive feedback, Ken. And yes, I agree the last line would be better with the change you suggest.
    • Amy Meyer
      Absolutely loved the twist ending! The voice of the narrator was really vivid- I thought it was a great character.
    • Alice Nelson

      Really fun story David. I did not expect the narrator to be a dog, you fooled me. The story flowed nicely, moved along at a really good pace, and then the ending. Loved it.

    • Carrie Zylka

      Hahahahaha brilliant! I love that the dog was a no nonsense gruff type. Like the others, I didn’t catch it was from a dogs perspective until the last paragraph. I think some of the description could have been worked a little differently in the beginning, it didn’t seem like a story from a 1st person (err dog’s) perspective, but just a minor nitpick from me.

      Really enjoyed the story.

  • Alice Nelson

    Hey Ladies and Gents, Carrie and I have an announcement to make!!!

    So as you know we’ve gotten a lot of new writers joining us, and it’s been wonderful. But one of the new writers is an old friend in disguise.

    This person wanted to come back into the fold and be noticed by their writing, and not for once being part of the gang. Carrie and I knew who they were all along, but they wanted to get a few competitions under their belt before revealing who they truly are.

    So without further ado, the nom de plume of Charles Liburn in reality is our good friend Roy M. York. Yay!!!

    For those of you who don’t know, Roy was the moderator of the group when Carrie and I joined, and he handed off the baton a few years ago. It’s great having him back!

    Congratulations on the win, and Welcome Back Roy!

  • Phil Town
    That’s great news! Welcome back … er … Chuck? Roy?
    • Charles Lilburn
      Either works now, I guess. But let’s go with Roy and it’s nice to be back in harness, so to speak.
  • Charles Lilburn
    I hope everyone accepts this little charade for how it was meant. I didn’t want to have my writing win on a ‘welcome back Roy’ vote, or lose with an ‘I’m not voting for the guy who abandoned us’ vote. I wanted my writing to speak for itself, and I think I mostly and modestly succeeded. What I discovered was how truly interested in the craft of writing this group really is. Dedicated, talented, and caring. Caring to the point of honesty regarding critiques.

    Many of my beta readers are family (they are convenient and cheap) and while I appreciate their help when I ask, I’m sure that many times I get something back less than honest. “Oh, this is great! You’ve got a winner here for sure.”

    “So, there’s nothing you would change? Nothing you saw that sticks out? Nothing that you would say could use a little work, or needs changing?”

    “Nope, I wouldn’t change a word.”

    Well, I don’t get that here. I get, “This didn’t work for me, here’s why.” I need that. I fall too much in love with my work, sometimes to the point of literary blindness. ‘How can they say that? I’m an award winning writer!” Like I said, you take my work to the level it needs.

    For that I thank you, and I also want to know this: When I left I was ready to let this go whether anyone took over or not. I wanted someone to step up, but if they didn’t, I didn’t have the time to give this experiment the care and attention it needed. Two different factions were, in my opinion, creating the eventual destruction of something a fellow writer, Bill Perring and I had nurtured into what I was told was “one of the most popular writing groups on LinkedIn” by the owner of ‘Writer’s Hangout’. I loved it so much I had to walk away than continue and watch it die a slow death.

    Alice and Carrie have taken this to a whole new level and kept it alive, well and made it better. The familiar names and faces as I return have startled me with their amazing writing ability. Ken, Maud, Phil, Alice and Ilana, (I don’t want to leave anybody out but I’m sure I probably will), have honed their talent to a fine point. I am happy to be back, and hope to write many, many more stories in flash fiction. This time as the real me…Roy M York.

    • Ken Cartisano
      Well, well…welcome back, Choy. (Chuckie Littleburn? I wasn’t fooled for a minute. Okay sure, I thought you were Dean Koontz, but I knew you couldn’t really be Charles Lilburn.) Just kiddin’. I knew nothing. Grab that chainsaw over there and let’s do some editing. Heeee-haw.
      • Charles Lilburn
        Yes, indeedy, Ken. I’mmmm baaaack! Seriously, though, and please take this the way it’s intended, but you sir, have turned into a dandy writer, (not that you weren’t) but I see a major improvement in flow, plot and twists I didn’t see before. And, I see you figured out how to get your picture up. I see you on facebook all the time and had to be careful I didn’t spill the beans on that platform and spoil my little surprise. It was nice to win, and to know that no one knew who I was. But, I’m even happier to have to be disciplined enough to write one or two stories a week. I’m sure the time I spent on this site previously gave me that, although there is plenty of room for improvement on my end. Glad to be back, land ook forward to sparring with you a tad. Indeed. Let the editing begin.
        • Carrie Zylka

          Roy, it’s cuz he shamelessly copies me. He steals my plots and grabs my characters and blatantly lifts my dialogue.
          It’s ok though. I’m happy to take ALL the credit.

          • Carrie Zylka

            Ok, ok.
            Maybe he doesn’t steal ALL my ideas……..

            ….. maybe

          • Charles Lilburn
            Thinking back, Carrie, you did come in just a little bit before my leaving, and that does make one wonder how Ken improved so rapidly…coincidence?…I’ll let others decide.
          • I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!
        • Thanks Roy,
          It only took me a year and a half to figure out how to post my picture. While I was figuring that out, I discovered that I was a blogger. (I have a blog page, so I must be a blogger.) This came as a surprise to me, but it’ll be good news for Philip, as I won’t have to send him 800 word emails every week, complaining about Carrie and how she uses her good looks to further her evil schemes. (One of which is to negate the effects of my brilliance.)
          Anyway, it’ll be great to finally have someone in the group that I can beat for a change. (Hahahahaha) No seriously, I’ve been getting my ass kicked for the last (I almost typed ‘kissed.’ That would’ve been a horrendous faux pas.) I’ve been getting my ass KICKED around here for about — welllll, Since (I had to check) August. I haven’t won in seven months. (No wonder I’m depressed.) And I’ve pissed off so many people (everyone) I can’t even get the pity vote anymore. (Although, as you can see–I’m still trying.)
  • Maud Harris
    It’s great to have you back Roy.
    • Charles Lilburn
      Thanks Maud. It’s good to have the time and I look forward to sharing a lot of reading and writing with this group. I’ll be signing up under my real name, but just a little bit different so I can keep a separate file on the stories and emails. Don’t want them to get lost in the long list of emails I get every day.
  • Charles Lilburn
    Don’t know what happened during the last story thread, but I’m getting all the comments and stories. Nice.
    • Charles Lilburn
      I guess the above comment was premature. I get some of the comments, but not all of them. Dang.
  • Charles Lilburn
    Pink Socks

    It was Saturday. Blinky, Whisper and me was sharing a bag of M&Ms, sitting on the sidewalk by Grover’s Garage, when Willow came running up all out of breath. “I just heard there was a car wreck down by Thompson’s corner a few minutes ago. They said there was some dead bodies. Wanna go see?”

    When you’re ten years old this is something that you just can’t pass up, but I said, “You seen one dead body, you seen ‘em all.”

    Whisper looked at me, eyes real big, “You seen a dead body?” We called him Whisper, ’cause when he was eight he almost killed himself on a scooter hitting a clothesline at neck level. Wasn’t able to talk above a gravelly whisper after that.

    ‘Well, sure I have. Haven’t you?” I really hadn’t, not like Willow was talking about.

    “When did you see a dead body?”

    Whisper had called my bluff. “Dang, Whisper, it was at your own Grandma’s funeral. There she was all laid out. How could you forget something like that?”

    “That don’t count Jake. Them’s dead bodies that’s s’posed to be dead. Willow’s talking about people that ain’t in no casket. Bodies that ain’t s’posed to be dead, ain’tcha Willow?”

    Willow was nodding solemnly. “Whisper’s right, Jake. These dead bodies are hanging out of the car windows with blood on em, and one of ‘em is wearing pink socks. Heard she ain’t a day over eight years old.”

    “Pink socks!” I yelled. “Don’t you go saying things like that. You know Lizzie wears pink socks.” I jumped up. “We gotta go look at this right now. Lizzie went into town with Betsy Parker earlier this morning wearing her pink socks.” My heart was beating fast. Lizzie is my nine year old sister. “I didn’t go on account of they was gonna be shoppin’. I’d rather eat a dead toad than go shoppin’.” I looked at Willow but she just stared at me.

    Blinky, who seldom said much, observed, “Mr. Parker’s got a dark blue Oldsmobile 88. You better hope there’s two different cars that got smushed up when we get there.” The four of us started running to Thompson’s corner.

    My heart sank when I rounded the corner. There was a Camaro, its grill pushed back to the windshield, and another car, a blue Oldsmobile 88, T-boned, with a man slumped over the wheel, his head all covered with blood. Hanging out of the back window was a pair of skinny legs with pink socks on the end of ‘em. Nobody was trying to pull anyone out of the cars.

    Willow knew what I must’ve been feeling ‘cause she said, “You don’t know them’s Lizzie’s pink socks, Jake Wheeler.”

    “No,” I said, “Them’s Lizzie’s alright. See there on the bottom of that one, that hole on the big toe. Mom was gonna fix that this morning, but Lizzie ran off to Parker’s before she could.”

    Mr. Thompson was walking toward us shooing us away. “You kids don’t need to be seeing this. Why don’t you go on home now.”

    “Can’t Mr. Thompson; not until I look into that car and see if it’s Lizzie laying in that back seat. And if it is, I gotta go home and tell my mom and dad.”

    Mr. Thompson looked at me adding things up, “You go look Jake and if that’s your sister, I’ll go home with you and help you tell your parents.”

    I swallowed hard. Willow took my hand,“ I’ll go with you to look Jake. You shouldn’t be doing that alone.” To this day, I really don’t know what I expected to see. When we got there, I looked down and realized I couldn’t tell who it was lying there, one arm flopped on the floor, a tiny body with blood all in it’s hair and the face unrecognizable.

    I looked up at Mr. Thompson. “I can’t tell if it’s her, but them’s her socks. I know them’s her socks.” I felt a little woozy, and started to cry. Willow was already crying.

    “Let’s go get your parents. We’ll have to bring them back here, so they can make an official identification. No sense wasting time waiting for the county.”

    I turned away and Blinky and Whisper walked up. “I ain’t gonna look Jake, ‘n neither is Blinky. If it’s Lizzie, we don’t wanna remember her this way.” I just looked at the ground seeing those pinks socks in my mind.

    “Let’s go Mr. Thompson, while I’m still able to walk.” He told one of his employees where he was going and we left.

    We got to the house about 10 minutes later; it was ‘bout half a mile to our house from Thompson’s corner. I opened the door and called for Mom. She came to the door wiping her hands with a dishcloth. The look on Mr. Thompson’s face must have told her something, ”Jake, are you in some kind of trouble?”

    “No, no, Lila, he’s not,” said Mr. Thompson, “nothing like that. Is Ralph here?”

    Mom gave him a strange look, “He’s out back, I’ll get him.”

    A minute later my dad walked up, “Hello, Jim,” he said. He reached out his hand and Mr. Thompson took it with both of his.
    “Ralph, there’s been a terrible accident down in front of the pharmacy. It looks like your Lizzie may be involved and we need you to come with us to identify if it’s her.” He said it real soft and preacher-like, but that didn’t help. Mom started to cry and my dad just stiffened up.

    I told Mom about the pink socks. Mom and Dad looked at each other like they was lost, and then Mom said, “We need to be getting down there.”

    As we spilled out onto the porch, the greatest sight I’ve ever seen in my life came skipping down the sidewalk – Lizzie!

    Mom went running out, swept her up and Dad just put his head on Mr. Thompson’s shoulder and cried. When my turn came to hug her I said, “Where’s your pink socks?”

    “I traded them with Betsy when we went shopping. Didn’t find nothin’. Then they dropped me off over by Sandy Jensen’s place, and I came on home after awhile. Why? You’re scaring me. What’s going on?”

    Mom took the time to explain about Mr. Parker and Betsy. That was tough on Lizzie, and as hard as that was to take, the fact it wasn’t Lizzie made it better, but it really wasn’t OK. I mean, it would never be OK for the Parkers.

    Later that day, Blinky, Whisper and Willow came over to our house to hang out. Mom wasn’t gonna let me or Lizzie go anywhere for awhile. Couldn’t blame her, she probably just had the worst and best day of her life in the space of 15 minutes.

    Willow put an arm around my shoulder and squeezed, “You were very brave to look at that dead body, Jake. Not a lot of kids woulda done that.”

    “I can tell you one thing for sure, Willow. I won’t ever do it again.” I shook my head. “Never again.”

    • Roy – Pink Socks

      Well crafted story. Excellent dialogue. Very colloquial. A fun read.

      On first read, I didn’t understand the misuse of tense in the first sentence. After reading it again I realized it was intentional. It’s exactly how the kid in the story would say it, and properly sets the tone and flavor of the story. It could also be a bit off-putting because it’s the first sentence in the story. In this instance, (the first sentence only,) you might want to sacrifice authenticity for clarity. (Or not. I don’t think it hurts the story the way it is.)

      In the fourth from the last paragraph. The one that begins with: ‘Mom took the time to explain…’ Too much detail in that paragraph as it waters down the ending. You might want to get rid of the whole paragraph. Or the last two sentences of it. Think about it.

      Other than that I’d say the story’s perfect. Nice flow, great dialogue, tension, (blood, guts) and a upbeat ending.

      • Charles Lilburn
        As usual Ken, you point things out that had also occurred to me.. That first sentence was an add on at the last minute, only to explain why the kids were at the corner, why Lizzie and Betsy had the time to go shopping and why Mom and Dad were home. I see your point, but I think I’m going to leave it in. And, I felt Lizzie was owed some sort of explanation. I probably could have done it a little bit differently, but at the same time, I see why you said what you did.

        I’m kind of a funny duck when it comes to writing. I was emotional as I wrote this, and at one point my wife walked in while I was writing it and asked me a question. When I turned around, she asked,”What’s wrong?” I couldn’t answer right away. Later, as my beta reader, she said, “Now I understand.” I love it when I am able to evoke that kind of emotion through written words. Even for myself. I guess if I don’t think it’s emotional, how can I expect anyone else to be?

        Thank you for your critique, I will consider what you said, and by the way, can I tell you again, how good it is to be back in harness? I am so pleased this group kept on going and am really glad you are still part of it.


    • This is another good one from you Charles/Roy. Hey that sounds like King Charles. It reminds me of stories like “The Body” and others where you see it from the kid’s pov. In a good way. It is a tough one for sure, but I think the language and the actions of the characters lends it an authenticity. That paragraph that Ken mentioned doesn’t water it down per say for me, but it I do feel that it could either be removed or finessed a little to make it better. But it wasn’t a make it or break it problem, just a personal feeling.
      • Charles Lilburn
        Thanks Wendy. I see what everyone is saying, but decided to leave the story as is, but if I do rewrite it for somewhere else, I may make that change. It is a reasonable critique.
    • Amy Meyer
      This story was really beautiful and had me holding my breath and rooting for the characters. You set up a very clear picture of the scene in a short time. Its quite a large cast for a short story, but all of the characters stood out, had their own personalities. I especially liked Whisper’s backstory.

      Really small thing- I wondered whether the socks could be more distinctive than just pink (e.g. one pink, one green; with picture of green monsters, you get the picture). I wondered whether you would recognise a pair of socks, just by them being pink.

      Anyway, loved the story.

      • Charles Lilburn
        Originally, I had anklets with scalloped edges in yellow with a little yellow dot in each scallop when folded down, but I had to trim it out and used the hole in the toe that wasn’t repaired as his identifier. Perhaps I should have made that point a little better as you suggested. I wrote and rewrote various parts of this to make the word limit. I always start out with high hopes; about halfway through I think I’m on track and then at the end realize I’m 57 words over and something, somewhere has to give.
    • Alice Nelson

      Really fine story Roy. You wrote it the way a kid would talk, and that gave it a realism that allowed me to just dive into your story. I was on edge wondering if that was actually Lizzie, glad and sad that it wasn’t her. Great job, wonderful flow, and very believable characters.

      • Charles Lilburn
        I truly enjoyed writing this story as it just seemed to come to life as I typed. Willow seemed a descriptive name, and Blinky is self explanatory. Whsiper was a stroke of luck as I wrote it down and it just seemed right when i explained how it came about.. Their names gave my characters life, I think. I have a theory that names can sometimes make or break a good story.

        Have I mentioned how happy I am to be back in this group? Yeah, I guess I have.

        • So glad to see your name up in “lights” again Roy. I’ve been absent for many reasons family ( can’t imagine how one child can keep a person busy – well meet my darling boy! And other issues health and lack of wealth car troubles so did not even get a chance to vote last two rounds.
          Is your alias Charles ? I gave a whoop of joy and went straight to read your story. How long has this group been going now? I’ve been hanging in since 2013 so way back before then?
          • Charles Lilburn
            Ilana, besides me, you may be the longest participating author, although Mike Elphick is also an early contributor and he just got back in the fold. You however, never left. So you have more time in than anyone if you take our absences into consideration.

            Originally this was nothing more than a thread of regulars (started by Bill Perring) This current story telling started almost accidentally with a topic of how we go about buying books and first page reads. Then we decided to post our first pages of a published book we had written, or one we wanted published. Then it went to original stories with limited words count, really short such as 250 or less, and on and on until it evolved into it’s form today.

            If you remember Nita Wilson, then you were around almost at the beginning. And, I was pleased when I saw you were still writing. I know you have an interesting life, and one full of drama on a weekly basis. You probably should write a screen play and just draw from everyday experiences. I’d watch for sure.

            • LOL and I always thought my
              Life was boring. However drama always seems to find me. I kind of feel for our little American princess who got married on the weekend. Her poor mother, at least she has Prince Harry by her side. I actually quite like the royals because they have drama in their lives that the media magnifies into something sensational.
              I actually have missed your writing Roy and look at your Fb occasionally to see how you and yours are travelling. For me their is a dreadful sadness that spirals me down and how I claw my
              Mood up is writing to take my
              Mind off the painful ness of my lack of family and how it affects my son. Also the racism and absolute hatred of my family for me probably means both my
              Son and I are better off with out their toxicity in our lives. I write or draw for release and love those around me.
              Ken is still with us and so is Phillip Town who started before me I believe. What happened to Bill Perring- you guys were a mad pair in a good way. So glad you came back on the scene
    • Carrie Zylka

      Roy, what a great story, a sigh of relief and tears for the tragedy all at the same time.
      You did well with the build up and great job with the twist at the end.

      Although I don’t know that any adult would allow a child to look at a dead body, especially one that could be a sibling at an accident scene where they are quite dead. I would be hard pressed to not punch Mr. Thompson in th enose if I were Jake’s parents!

      • Yes likewise
  • Charles Lilburn
    I haven’t had time to change things around yet, so the above story and this comment is still under my pen name. I’ll be getting to that soon.
    RM York
    • David G. Lott
      Enjoyed your story, Roy, especially the kids’ dialogue. A favorite phrase: “real soft and preacher-like.”
      • Charles Lilburn
        Thank you David, and appreciate the pat on the back for the dialogue. It’s something that just spills out as I write and I seldom change it unless I reread it and find flow problems or a plot error.

        I simply try and listen to my mind recreate conversations with cousins; in this case my cousins in Missouri, of which I have several. I have a unique family tree. While an only child, I have over 100 blood cousins. My wife, who has 9 siblings has fewer cousins that siblings. As a child I spent summers with various cousins and have a large memory jar from which to pull.

        • Maud Harris
          Loved that story, Roy. Authentic dialogue and just enough suspense. This one will be hard to beat.
          • Charles Lilburn
            I don’t know Maud, there’s a lot of really good writers in this group. Makes me think harder about each and every word. Thanks, I enjoyed doing this story because I knew it was going to have a good ending, but have to tell you,I thought about a different ending after writing the first draft, but it was too dark even or me. Maybe not for Alice, though.
  • The Battle of the Maytag 5000
    By Carrie Zylka Word Count: 721

    The darkness coalesced in the corner of the laundry room. Dust mites and dog hair swirled as it grew into a shapeless void of nothing.

    It could smell what it’d come here for. To this place of unimaginable scents. Like an oil slick it moved forward in the darkness, it paused at the basket sitting on top of the washing machine, its nostrils flared imitating a wolf scenting its prey. With an evil chuckle it dove into the pile of clothes. Several minutes passed, seeking, searching.

    Hunger unbearable, it knew its prey must be inside the machine. Gnashing invisible teeth it knew it would have to take drastic steps.

    Dancing between the layers of fabric it finally found what it needed. It allowed its form to become visible, more solid so it could fill out the pair of pants, stiff with oil and the smell of mechanics, and a long sleeved tee shirt, stale sweat helping it form the figure.

    The humanoid figure pushed out of the basket onto the floor, standing up, arms and head barely visible it reached eagerly for the door of the dryer…

    And was knocked over by a pounding force colliding with its back. It fell to the side, not yet comfortable in the confines of clothing.

    A chattering sounded as a punch landed in its chest. Anger surfaced and it roared into the dark laundry room, swinging with the shirted arms, seeking its attackers.

    Unseen hands pushed against its back and it knew there were two of them. It stood up and stumbled back against the wall. The shirt caught on the light switch and it cringed as sudden light filled the small room. It opened what resembled a mouth and bellowed as it spied its attackers.

    “Damn you sock monkeys!!!” It snarled. Its arms became solid and claws grew from the dark voids where the hands should be. It lunged at the closest one who nimbly jumped out of the way.

    “Not today!” The little sock monkey puppet giggled as it danced out from beneath another swipe. “We’ve had enough of you and your gang! Always harassing! Always stealing! These people deserve to be left alone!”

    “What do you know about it??” The Sock Monster barked as it lunged at the second one, clipping the little one on the hat. The sock monkey rolled over and narrowly missed being stomped on.

    “We know enough. And we’re here to stop you fiend!!” The first sock monkey yanked a loose thread from the second one. He began running around the Sock Monster, faster and faster as the thread unraveled.

    The Sock Monster swiped but was too slow as the second sock monkey began running in the opposite direction with another loose thread.

    The two puppets ran as fast as they could, jumping onto the washing machine, darting along the surface of the laundry room shelves, dashing to the edge and leaping effortlessly to the far wall.

    In a matter of seconds they had the Sock Monster wrapped in tight brown and white yarn.

    The tried to dissolve it’s form so it could escape the confines he thread, but the Sock Monster roared its distress as it realized what was happening. The thread was imbued with some sort of magic, effectively confining him in this form. It lost its balance and crashed to the floor.

    The two sock monkeys quickly tied off the end and laughed merrily hugging each other in glee.

    “Well that’s that!” The first one said.

    “Yippee! I’ll snatch this baddie boy up and cart him off to the Grand Puppet. He’ll be in jail with the rest of his gang in no time!” The second one said fist pumping the air.

    “Hooray for the Sock Monkey Army! Protecting your laundry wherever we are needed!” The dirst sock monkey placed both hands on its little hips and thrust its chest out in a Superman pose.

    “Hahahaha, more to grab up to be sure! Our work is never done!” The two sock monkeys, super cute with their little santa hats and rounded hands leaned forward.

    Big button eyes, soft and happy, suddenly turned deadly. “I don’t know how many times you’ve stolen and eaten someone else’s socks. But I can say with complete certainty…never again.”

    • Maud Harris
      I wondered where all the odd socks went, now I know. A fun take on the theme.
      • Carrie Zylka

        lol thanks – I don’t often write comedy but this one was fun.

    • David Lott
      “Big button eyes, soft and happy, suddenly turned deadly.” A playful, imaginative story, but one that’s making me think twice about going to the laundry room alone!
      • Carrie Zylka

        Ha! Thanks David! I love the monsters…even Sock Monsters….

    • Carrie – The Battle of the Maytag 5000.

      Subtle title. (I jest. I’ve spent two days trying to think of better names but I’m not coming up with any.)(The Sock Of Tides? A Midsummer Night’s Tide?) Very imaginative plot. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a sock monkey puppet. (I was a deprived child. Everybody tells me that.) But it’s pretty easy to figure out what one looks like. (Kind of a sockish, monkeyish thing, only it’s a puppet too!) I was deprived–not stupid.

      Was this a collaboration? I’m probably wrong but that’s the feeling I got from this story. Like it was started by one person, and finished by another. (Your not schizophrenic are you?) The whole of it was plainly phantasmagorical. (That’s probably a word.)

      By the way, I was going to do a story about a monkey that owned a silver robot and a possessed washing machine. The monkey wore one sock, one glove and a golden bandolier. (Kind of a Michael Jackson monkey.) Maybe just one sock and a golden bandolier. (Wouldn’t want people to think it was a take-off on Michael Jackson. I would never do that.) Of course, that’s all out the window now. Thanks to you and your so called ‘monkey puppet’ story. *(We all know what monkey puppet means Carrie. We’re not stupid. ) So—I have to do a completely different story now. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

      Okay so, the truth is, I assumed, there was no such thing as a monkey puppet. But I Googled it just to be sure, and whattaya know, it’s a real thing, (a meme.)

      (do your other personalities have names?)

      • Carrie Zylka

        Hahahahahahaha no, it wasn’t a collaboration although a friend of mine did contribute to the general story. Last Christmas while out shopping for my father in law I stopped in a random clothing store and saw THE most hilarious slippers. Red, crocheted with little santa hat wearing sock monkey puppets on them. They were a hit when we hosted Christmas Eve with both children and adults alike.

        I am still wearing them and even though they have santa hats on…they are quite possibly the funniest slippers I’ve ever owned!

    • Haha, you did a much better take on what happens to the missing socks than I did. I love the fun in this. There are a few typos, but the pace is nice for the shortness of the story and the characters are adorable.
      • Carrie Zylka

        Thanks Wendy, I missed the typos first time around (I literally wrote and posted without proofreading due to time constraints…that will teach me!) I think I went back and caught them all!

    • Alice Nelson

      A fun story, it was lighthearted and flowed nicely. That explains where all those socks go. There were a few typos, nothing major, missteps on the keyboard, still a fun story.

      • Carrie Zylka

        Thanks Alice!! I need a proofreader hahahaha (don’t we all)

  • Charles Lilburn
    Very interesting story (from a sock puppet lover). Nice use of the theme and a nice, cute, off-beat story. Proves you don’t need to use all 1200 words to leave a trail of story crumbs that are followed to the eventual “What, there aren’t any more”?.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Thanks! I rarely have to edit down a story, I think it’s only happened once (and I was too lazy to do it, someone graciously did it for me and I’ll admit – made the story better). I like the 1200 word limit, I think it’s more than sufficient – especially for someone like me who writes them on her lunch hour!

  • Irregular
    By Alice Nelson ©2018

    Everything has a story to tell, even the most mundane item. Take something as ordinary as say, a sock, like that one, lying over there on Danvers Road.

    Life, if a cotton/spandex blend sock can be considered alive, began innocently enough. It was part of a pack of Hanes athletic tube socks, only $5.50 in the sale bin at the neighborhood Walmart. Margery Morgan purchased them for her husband, Harry, a 50 year old 2-pack a day smoker, and a rather despicable human being.

    “Marge the Barge,” is what Harry called her, regardless of who was around. But Marge didn’t give a rat’s ass about Harry’s insults. While he hurled them in rapid succession at her on a daily basis, Margie would only smile. You see, she was having a rather illicit affair with one Jefferson Emery, their landlord, and with each name Harry flung at her, Margery reveled in the fact that Jefferson, unlike Harry, truly loved her.

    Harry never imagined any man would be attracted to Margery, “50 pounds overweight, and about as much fun as an enema,” he’d tell the guys at work.

    “Well, why don’t you just leave?” someone would invariably ask.

    “Why should I?” Harry smiled, “I got old Margie trained just the way I want.”

    Harry, ya see, was a real peach.

    Margery Morgan stood in front of the sign that read, Irregular Socks, 50% off, and asked herself, “Why am I still buying that man’s socks?”

    Because Harry had always demanded it, that’s why. From day one the precedent was set, and Margery never had the nerve to object. She tossed the package of irregulars into the cart and shrugged, “He won’t know the difference.”

    But Harry did notice a difference. He complained to his co-workers on the first day when his big toe poked through a seam. Called Margery an idiot, when on the second day another hole appeared in a different pair. But by the third day, when his heel burst through an opening in the third pair, he had finally had enough. “Damn fool woman can’t even buy a decent pair of socks.”

    So instead of heading to the bar like he did every Friday after work, Harry went home to put on a new pair of socks.


    “I’m home,” He yelled as he walked through the front door, “Don’t bother puttin’ out my dinner, I’m going out with the fellas tonight as usual.”

    But it wasn’t Margery who greeted Harry, it was the lean wiry figure of their landlord Jefferson Emery, walking out of his marital bedroom, without a stitch of clothes on.

    “What the—” Harry started to say, but stopped when Margery came out, just as naked.

    “Hi Harry,” she said, “You remember Jefferson, don’t you?”

    “You cheatin’ whore,” Harry said, moving toward Margery, hands poised to strike.

    Jefferson stepped in front of Harry, “You can’t hit a woman,” he said flatly.

    “She’s my wife, I can do what I want.”

    Harry went after Margery again, but Jefferson shoved him back. Then Harry clumsily charged the landlord, fists raised, his face as red as a beet.

    Harry made it easy for Jefferson by running face first into the man’s fists. His head jerked back and Harry Morgan dropped to the floor with a thud.

    When Harry woke up, he was inside the large spacious trunk of Jefferson Emery’s 1970 Pontiac Bonneville.

    Harry began banging on the trunk, “Hey, let me outta this damn thing!”

    The car continued on its way.

    Harry pounded harder, “Hey, enough’s, enough. This ain’t funny, let me out.”

    The driver stopped, and Harry heard the sound of footsteps coming toward the back of the car, when the trunk opened, he was looking up at the face of Jefferson Emery.

    “Well if it ain’t the man fuckin’ my wife,” Harry said, oblivious to the fact that he was in no position to mouth off.

    “Please keep quiet,” Jefferson said politely, “Besides, no one’s gonna help you on Danvers Road.”

    Harry stiffened, he knew that road all too well. Knew it was the kind of place where a person could easily disappear.

    Danvers Road, used to be a main thoroughfare out of town. However, after the highway was built, it became nothing more than an access road to the old dairy, which closed down years ago.

    Only a few residents lived there, in run down homes that were only one wind storm away from being condemned by the county. Those who remained, minded their own business, ignoring the sounds that often came from the dairy.

    So when Harry, after having pushed his way out of the trunk, started screaming and running down the road, those longtime residents either turned up their TV’s or turned down their hearing aids.

    Harry ran as fast as a man who smoked two packs a day could. He was running out of steam even before he’d lost one shoe. Then that sock, the one with the hole in it, the one that caused Harry to go home instead of the bar. Yes that one, got caught on a rock shard in the badly pitted road, and was violently yanked off of Harry’s foot causing him to tumble head over heels onto the rocky pavement. Harry was so winded, he couldn’t get back up.

    He laid there on the ground trying to catch his breath. When Jefferson caught up to him, Harry saw that the man had barely broken a sweat.

    “You ain’t got to kill me,” Harry said in between breaths, “You can have her.”

    “I know,” Jefferson replied, “But it’s what she wants.”

    Margery played the part of the worried wife like fucking Meryl Streep, calling all of Harry’s friends to see if they knew where he was. Causing a fuss down at the Sheriff’s office, “You need to be out trying to find my husband,” she’d yell.

    Most people thought Harry had finally left old Marjorie after all those years of whining and complaining. And really, no one was too sad that he’d gone, like I said, Harry Morgan was a despicable human being.

    Margery and Jefferson eventually moved to Modesto, California and opened up a convenience store.

    And Old Harry was finally doing some good, albeit posthumously, as fertilizer for the massive Sumac bushes that lined the old dairy.

    As for that sock, well it disappeared down a giant sinkhole about a year after these events took place, along with some of the Sumac bushes, and old Harry Morgan himself.

    Oh, one last thing, Harry Morgan wasn’t the only poor sap to feed the Sumac on Danvers Road. Old Margery had been married once before; then she met Harry, and wanted out of that first marriage almost as badly as she wanted out of the second one.

    When Harry was kneeling over the hole he’d just dug, a pistol to the back of his head, he thought about the last time he was on Danvers Road —burying Margery’s first husband. Just before the bullet tore through him, Harry shook his head when he remembered saying, “I ain’t ever comin’ back here Margie —never again.”

    • Charles Lilburn
      Nice twist, Alice, and good use of the theme. Found a few typos, one that caused me to reread it several times, I think you meant ‘Margery played the part of the worried wife LIKE fucking Meryl Streep’, instead of LIFE, And your auto correct didn’t pick up whole instead of hole. Also, IMHO, ‘Margery and Jefferson eventually they moved to Modesto, California and opened up a convenience store.’ The ‘they’ should be removed. Or start with ‘As for Margery and Jeffrey,’ Just trying to clean up your word count if you needed an extra word somewhere else. Glad to help, no need to thank me for it.

      These comments are’t a critique, just giving you a chance to go in and fix those pesky little things.

      However, this is a critique. I think you could make Harry a little bit nastier and it would add to the story. Maybe something physical. Don’t think it was quite right to pop the old boy off just for some verbal assaults. Otherwise, there are so many husbands in America that are in serious danger they could start a focus group on “How to avoid getting murdered by your wife’s boyfriend and new husband to be.” The answer to which, of course, is stop being such a dick!

      Had he smacked her a couple of times, well then, now we got something to hang our shovels on. Rotten bastard deserved it.

      • Alice Nelson

        Roy, sharp eye thanks for the typo corrections. I read that thing a dozen times and didn’t catch them.

        I thought the part when Harry caught Marge and Jefferson, showed Harry’s propensity for hitting. Him so easily raising his hand as if to hit her, hints that this wasn’t the first time.

        But it’s more than just Harry, the story shows Margery has a history too, maybe it doesn’t take much to cause her get rid of a husband.

        Thank you though, you’ve given me something to think about when I do a re-write for SFB or the podcast.

    • Maud Harris
      An enjoyable story, Alice. Harry was doing good as a fertiliser – great line, also, the unexpected twist at the end.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Maud!

    • I like the way you used the sock to segue us into the story. I agree with Charles/Roy that something more overtly physical would cement the badness of Harry, though the constant insults could be enough for someone who had already buried one husband. Overall I liked the way you told it, the quirkiness of using full names was nice. The last two paragraphs were a little rough for me. I almost feel like there might be a better way to get the point through, though I can’t pinpoint exactly what is bothering me. But overall the story was enjoyable and full of great imagery.
      • Alice Nelson

        Thank you Wendy. I don’t know about making Harry worse, verbal abuse can after a time drive some to do something as drastic. I’m curious what bothers you about the last two paragraphs, because I re-wrote those way too many times to count. So that might have led to something in them bothering you. If you can pinpoint it, I would love to hear what it is, and maybe I can make some adjustments. Thanks again.

        • I get that, it’s probably just that physical violence is a short cut to “this guy’s an asshole who deserves to die”

          I think the one of the things about the last two paragraphs is that, for whatever reason I just wasn’t picturing Harry getting shot in the back of the head. Maybe it just needed another line for me to get to that point. It’s 100% possible that it’s me, not you. I had just rewritten mine to get it under the word count and that could have been making me denser than normal.

          • Thanks Wendy, I appreciate your honesty. 🙂
    • Alice – When Harry Met Smith & Wesson.

      This is a fun little murder story. I don’t know what all the fuss is about with Harry falling short of true bad guy status. The way I look at it, (well, he’s a murderer, okay? But that’s irrelevant.) What’s relevant is that I kill off nice people in my stories. I’m the author, I say who lives or dies. Nice or not. Sweet or sour. Harry doesn’t NEED to be that bad. You killed ‘em anyway. Good for you. You go girl. Kill a good guy next time. It’s liberating. (As long as you don’t overdo it.) You’re the author of that goddamned story. Am I right? Or what. F**k Harry. He was a creep. (with a sock fetish, or something. I don’t wanna know.)
      Actually, there were no good guys in your story, they were all bad.
      Like I said, a fun little murder story.

      One thing. ‘He laid there on the ground…’ I think its gotta be ‘He lay there.’
      Even though laid sounds right.

      ‘Margery and Jefferson eventually moved to Modesto, California and opened up a convenience store.’
      (A convenience store! That’s not the way I remember it. It was a bowling alley.)

      When you mentioned the giant sinkhole, I thought, “Hmm, she’s pulling the old ‘giant sinkhole trick.’ I’m just kidding, nervous really. I live in Florida as you know, and this is sinkhole country. So when someone mentions a giant sinkhole in their story, I get nervous.
      It’s like, well, you live in Idaho, so it’d be like me writing a story about a potato avalanche. That would make you nervous wouldn’t it? I think so. I know so. You probably ‘lay’ awake some nights, thinking about potato avalanches. (And if you haven’t yet, you will now.)
      I don’t know how you could resist it. (I’ll probably be thinking about them too! A potato avalanche.)
      So, your story has given us both a lot to think about. (Like what an idiot I am.) A blogger who doesn’t blog. The creator of potato avalanches.
      Good story, great writing. Fix that laid thing.

      • Alice Nelson

        I felt the same way Ken, I wasn’t sure why Harry needed to be nastier, people have killed each other for far less. I hope you didn’t have any sinkhole nightmares, but I did have a dream I was being chased by a potato. Glad you liked the story 🙂

    • Carrie Zylka

      Ha! Loved that the actual bad guy was the 2X murdering wife! I read through some of the comments and whether they were for or against making Harry more of a bad guy – they are missing the point that the TRUE bad guy is the wife!

      Like an old spy movie with lots of misdirection, it was a great “Fargo-esque” tale

      • Alice Nelson

        Carrie girl, You got it 100% Margery was the real villain. I love Fargo! That is a huge compliment Thanks! 🙂

  • David G. Lott
    Ah, Harry…rightly “hosed,” as it were. Really enjoyed the life (and subsequent death) you breathed into those socks, Alice!
    • Alice Nelson

      Thank you David.

  • Maud Harris
    Line of Enquiry

    “My name is Tom, and I am an alcoholic.”

    “Welcome to the group, Tom. I’m Jake and I kinda manage the group. We’ve all got something we want to offload, and we all look out for each other.”

    Sam, hovers near the door, his hooded jacket tightly zipped. ‘Can I trust these guys?,’ he wonders. His secret seems so much worse than the others.

    The meeting continues as Sam, wiping his sweaty hands on his trousers, attempts to get to his feet – ten seconds too late.

    Bill, sitting three rows down, takes a deep breath.

    “My name is Bill, I am an alcoholic. I don’t mind being an alcoholic, in fact, I rather enjoy it.”

    “Then why the hell are you here?”

    The mood of the group turns ugly.

    “Are you taking the piss?”

    “No, no.” Bill replies. “The fact is, my missus has issued an ultimatum – It’s her or the booze. Who’s going to cook my meals and do my laundry?”
    Bill looks around desperately.

    “Yeah! I see your point.” Someone says.

    Sams’ breath catches in his throat.

    “I… I… I….. can’t”

    And he turns and runs for the door. How can he confess his addiction, it’s so humiliating and personal.

    The moon drifts in and out of the clouds as the man crouches low in the bushes, his hooded jacket tightly fastened against the keen wind.

    ‘It looks like a good haul tonight, four pairs of lace panties and this silk nightgown.’ The light through the trees highlights the subtle changes in colour. ‘ Look how the blue shimmers and glows and the embroidery just sets it off, What a find!’ He thinks to himself that a nightgown such as that deserves better than to be hung out of doors in all winds and weathers.

    ‘If that was mine, I would hand wash it and dry it indoors. Whoever pegged it out on a grubby clothesline doesn’t deserve such expensive clothes.’

    His pulse quickens and droplets of sweat form on his brow despite the cold wind, as he imagines himself back in his basement flat, trying on the nightie.

    Its soft folds evoking a visceral reaction. Maybe he will wear the lace panties under his work clothes, it can be his secret. The empty-headed, vacuous girls at work with their constant gossip and innuendos don’t deserve fancy clothes. He knows how they ridicule him behind his back. Well! He will get his revenge if it takes him a lifetime.


    Three miles away Detective Constable Josh Edwards lifts the yellow tape for Detective Inspector Livingstone to enter the crime scene.

    “What’ve we got?”

    “Female, 30ish. No obvious injuries, been dead about 12 hours. We’ll know more when forensics have finished.” D. I. Livingstone looks thoughtful.

    “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

    “Well, there are similarities, though the other three were strangled.”

    “Same age group though, all within five miles, and all on a night with a full moon.”

    “Better keep quiet about that, if the press latch on to it, we’ll have a werewolf panic on our hands.”

    “Let’s hope we can make a breakthrough on this one, the Chief Super has been bellyaching about our arrest and conviction figures. The last thing we want is for the squad to be downgraded.”

    Back at headquarters, W.P.C. Tina Sharpe knocks on D.I. Livingstones’ door.

    “There has been another report of thefts from clotheslines, Sir. They all seem to be in the same two streets. I know it’s trivial compared to everything else that’s going on but if we can catch the culprit it will be one less thing to worry about.”

    “Leave it with me, W.P.C. Sharpe,”

    Tina hesitates in the doorway.

    “That’s all, thank you,” D.I. Livingstone replies firmly.

    “She’s keen, that one.” D.C. Edwards grins. Maybe we could mount a surveillance around the area, If we catch the perve it would be Tina’s first arrest.”

    A world weary D.I. Livingstone replies. “Go on then, make the arrangements, heaven knows we could use a result.”


    The sky clouds over, obscuring the moon and a relentless drizzle soaks the man as he searches the clothes lines. ‘No pickings tonight, people don’t put their washing out in the rain.’ Depressed and disheartened he draws his coat tightly round him. Rounding a corner, something catches his eye. A small rotating clothes airer sways in the wind. A flash of colour draws him closer. No exotic underwear but a single pair of plain cotton briefs and a pair of brightly coloured socks with a red and blue stripe, but he knows that’s all he will find tonight. ‘Oh well! better than nothing.’ He approaches the airer and makes a grab for the briefs and socks before trudging back to his flat.


    The light on the printer glows red and D.I. Livingstone scans the forensic report on the latest murder.

    “That’s odd, the cause of death is asphyxiation.”

    “How’d they make that out? There were no ligature marks or signs of a struggle.”

    “It appears that a sock was forced down her throat.”

    “A sock?”

    “Yes, it was so deeply embedded that it took a long time to find it. It must have taken a lot of force.”

    “Well, I’ll be damned!” exclaims Josh .

    Josh Edwards and Tina shiver with cold in spite of the flask of hot coffee they are sharing.

    “Put the heater on, just for five minutes.” Pleads Tina.

    “No can do! The engine noise will alert our suspect.”

    “If he appears.”

    “He’ll be here, I feel it” Josh replies.

    After another hour. With the cold seeping into their bones, Josh is not so sure.

    A sudden rustle in the bushes alert the pair.

    “Right! We’re in business.”

    Tina reaches for the door handle.

    “Not yet! Wait until he reaches the clothes line, we’ve got to catch him in the act or we won’t have a case.”

    The hooded figure approaches the clothes line as Josh and Tina leap out of the car. Tina, keen to make her first arrest, rushes towards him. Turning sharply, the man, with one punch, sends her headlong into the bushes. Meanwhile, Josh, with the scent of victory in his nostrils, brings him down with a rugby tackle.

    Tina, visibly shaken, brushes herself down.

    A fingertip search of the hooded mans’ flat reveals boxes and boxes of lingerie, all labelled and in date order. And a single sock. Sam, tearful and grovelling as the handcuffs are slipped on. “Never again, officer, never again.”

    • Maud, I like the first part of your story at the meeting. It’s really evocative and I feel like I’m there. The rest of the story feels a little rushed to me or that there are segues missing. It’s a big jump from the guy who is maybe going to confess his addiction to stealing underwear to the guy that steals the underwear and strangles people with it. I feel like there are two different stories here maybe. I do like the part though where he sees the socks and resigns himself to having to steal them for his purposes. You can paint a scene and your interactions between people feel real.
    • Maud – Line of Enquiry.

      The first problem is with Sam. In the third paragraph he’s hovering near the door, in the next paragraph, he ‘attempts to get to his feet.’ I’m confused about his location. (Unless, he’s a ‘Quantum Alcoholic.’ © 2018.) Yes, a ‘Quantum Alcoholic’ can be at two different meetings simultaneously. Or drunk and sober at the same time. But until you call him on his phone, and because phones don’t ring in two universes at once, that causes both wave functions to collapse, and the Quantum Alcoholic disappears from one universe, and answers the phone in the other one. But I digress. I should also mention that sometimes it’s just a drunken physicist. But that’s usually equipment malfunction or a false reading. We can talk about that some other time.
      Okay, so, one thing that jumped out at me, was the fact that you used each characters name, including their titles throughout the dialogue.
      ‘Leave it with me, W.P.C. Sharpe.’
      ‘D.I. Livingstone replies firmly.’
      ‘D.C. Edwards grins.’
      ‘D.I. Livingstone replies.’
      ‘W.P.C. Tina Sharpe…’

      Using their police rank, even as initials, makes for some grizzly reading. You should just use their last names after introducing them. Later in the story you do. You refer to two of them as Josh, Josh Edwards, and Tina.
      By this time, I was confused. And it wasn’t until the end that I realized the panty thief, was the killer, and was also Sam. I think the way you presented the characters names is so distracting, it’s hard to follow what is, a fairly straight-forward and interesting story.

      Don’t do that again Maude, or I’ll give you more examples of quantum physics. (Which I clearly, don’t understand. But in another universe…I think I do.)

    • Charles Lilburn
      Maud, your writing sometimes feels disjointed to me, but you always have a good imagination to make it work. I had trouble following the flow, I guess, because the dialogue is believable and your defining phrases are well done in many instances, such as this one:Josh Edwards and Tina shiver with cold in spite of the flask of hot coffee they are sharing. I saw the two cops standing in the cold, shivering. I just think you might need to go back and read it out loud sometimes. That’s what helps me with dialogue and how something sounds in the reader’s mind. I really liked the use of socks in this instance, as a murder weapon.
    • Carrie Zylka

      I won’t echo the other comments, I just think there were too many characters in so few words. It’s hard to make them all cohesive and memorable.

      I do however LOVE the premise. And I loved that you set up the killer from the beginning with the addiction group. You almost felt bad for him, like he wanted help because he knew he was doing wrong.

      I thought the story was going to be about a sock obsessed cross dresser and surprised me when it took such a dark turn!

  • The Place Behind the Dryer By Wendy Edsall-Kerwin ©2018 [1196 words]

    Jeff was just a normal sock, living a normal sock life. Knee high with stripes of grey and white, he went where the foot took him; it was a boring existence. But today was no ordinary wash day. During the tumble dry a strange pulling sucked him out of the spin. A bright light blinded him and he blinked his eyes, getting up off the ground.

    ‘Wait a minute,’ he thought, ‘how do I have eyes to blink? How can I get up on my own without feet inside me?’

    He looked around and saw a world full of everything that got lost in the dryer. There were plenty of socks moving around and dryer sheet birds flying in the sky. The grass and trees seemed normal enough, but then there were button people talking to a variety of loose coins. Jeff wandered around trying to stay out of the way of the odd assortment of people. He came to a building with a sign that said “Thrice Darned Pub.” He went inside and sat down.

    “Yer new in town, eh?” The sock behind the bar was wiping a dingy glass and looking at Jeff.

    “That obvious, huh?”

    “Here, first one’s on the house. Do you prefer Tide or Gain?”

    “Er, Tide, I guess.” The barkeep filled the dingy glass with some suds and set it in front of Jeff.

    “Good choice,” said a washcloth that had sat down beside him. “Don’t worry; the first day is always the hardest.”

    “Where are we?”

    “’The Place Behind the Dryer’ is what most call it.” She looked at Jeff over her own drink. “We don’t get many socks like you. Most are old and worn – ready to retire. I have a proposition for you. You drink me under the bar and I’ll pay for it all. If I can stay up longer than you, you owe me one favor.”

    Seeing as Jeff had no way to pay for more drinks, he thought this was a win-win situation. After agreeing, he matched the washcloth drink for drink for a few rounds. Slowly though, he realized he was falling behind. The terrycloth seemed better equipped to handle the suds. The room began spinning and Jeff blacked out.

    * * *
    When he came to, Jeff saw he was on an empty plain. The barren landscape was occasionally broken by a drifting dust bunny. He looked up and saw the washcloth looming over him. There was a terrible throbbing behind his eyes and the feel of soap scum in his mouth.

    “You lost the drinking contest. Time to cash in that favor you owe me. I need you to retrieve something for me from that tower. You will have to pass three challenges, but at the top is a special needle that was stolen from me. Bring it back and your debt will be settled.”

    Jeff was beginning to think he had been tricked. “What if I say no?”

    “I’ll hand you over to the Scissormen. Our deal was witnessed and they don’t look kindly on oath breakers.”

    Jeff sighed, realizing that he’d been backed into a corner. He made his way toward the tower. As his head cleared, he began to admire the stark but striking landscape. The barren plain slowly became populated with dead, bone-like trees.

    ‘Is it my imagination, or are the trees actually moving?’

    As they inched closer, he saw that he was surrounded. Jeff felt their branched start to snag his yarn. He moved faster, trying to weave between their reaching limbs. It was getting harder and harder to avoid them. Through the forest of grasping trees, Jeff spotted a clearing. He was almost out. Just then a thread came loose. He moved toward the clearing, leaving a trail of white yarn. The yarn moved onto the grey stripe. He struggled toward the open space, trying not to snag any more yarns loose. He escaped to the clearing, but the trees continued pulling. Spotting a sharp rock, Jeff used it to sever the thread. As the trees finally dispersed, he did his best to tie up the wound to stop the unraveling.

    As he approached the entrance to the tower, a huge dog bounded into view. He got closer and the dog ran at him with his head lowered. The beast snatched Jeff in his jaws and tossed him up into the air. While he was up there, he spotted a stick on the ground. Luckily, the dog missed him and he rolled toward the stick and grabbed it.

    “Who’s a good boy? Are you a good boy?” Jeff waved the stick at the dog and threw it as far as he could away from the tower. The dog ran after it with his tongue flapping and a silly grin on his face. The sock raced to the door and ran in, slamming it behind him. Wanting to get this over with, he began trudging up the winding staircase. Even for a sock it felt like he’d been walking way too long. At the top was an open room. At the far side the needle gleamed in a giant pincushion. A figure emerged from behind it that was made from a patchwork of materials sewed into a doll shape.

    “You’ve come for the needle. You passed the first two challenges. Now you simply have to walk over here and take it.”

    It seemed too easy to Jeff, but right now he could use some easy. He moved toward the needle, but only managed a few steps before some force seemed to stop him. He tried moving sideways and backwards, but he was stuck in place.

    “Maybe I should have introduced myself. I’m the Puppet Master.” With that, the doll waved his arm and Jeff was jerked in the direction it had gestured. As the Puppet Master moved his hand, so Jeff moved. He had no control over himself anymore.

    ‘It’s just like before, only now the Puppet Master is the foot up my ass,’ he thought. That gave him an idea. Here, he hadn’t needed a foot to move around, he moved himself. He focused all of his will on moving. He began to move in the general direction of the needle. The closer he got, the easier it was for him to ignore the Puppet Master’s manipulations. The evil doll moved more and more frantically, trying in vain to wrest control of Jeff’s movements back. With one last burst of will, Jeff jumped onto the platform with the needle. As he grabbed it, the Puppet Master screamed in frustration.

    Jeff used the needle to sew the Puppet Master’s arms to his sides, then sewed his mouth closed. Jeff took the needle downstairs, finding the still there. He decided that he’d had enough with walking and jumped on the dog’s back. Riding back the way he came, he came upon the washcloth where he had left her.

    “Huzzah, you return triumphant!” She jumped up and toasted Jeff. “Now that you’ve finished this quest and brought me my needle, why don’t we celebrate with a drink?”

    “Are you kidding me? After what happened last time, never again.”

    • David G. Lott
      Thanks for an imaginative tale, Wendy. Always wondered about that place behind the dryer. Loved “dryer sheet birds flying in the sky” and “button people talking to a variety of loose coins.”
    • Wendy – The Lint In God’s Eye.

      This is a great story. A fabulous story. Seriously. I love the way you assigned personalities to ordinary, mostly washable items.
      This stuff is classic. Imaginative, dramatic and funny.
      ‘…barren landscape…broken by a drifting dust bunny.’
      ‘The terrycloth seemed better equipped to handle the suds.’
      ‘I’ll hand you over to the Scissormen…’
      ‘Even for a sock, it felt like he’d been walking too long.’
      ‘…he did his best to tie up the wound to stop the unraveling.’

      This is great stuff, Wendy. The dialogue is perfect too, all the more impressive because it’s a wash cloth talking to a sock. !!!

      “We don’t get many socks like you. Most are old and worn – ready to retire.” Great stuff.

      Two unforced errors.
      ‘Jeff felt their branched start to snag his yarn.’ (A great line.) ‘branches.’
      ‘Jeff took the needle downstairs, finding the still there. ‘dog’

      This is a really funny and creative story, and your writing is top-notch. (Who are you? I mean really.) Nice story, Wendy.

      • Thanks, Ken, but you’ll never find out my secret identity. I was trying to make it follow the classic hero’s journey, but if that hero was a sock, because, why not? I’m glad that people seemed to like this one because I had a hard time getting in everything I wanted and weeding out what was holding it back. Hard work really does pay off.
    • Amy Meyer
      What a great opening line!
      “Jeff was just a normal sock, living a normal sock life.”
      It really set the tone for a fun, imaginative story. I also liked the idea of the fairy tale style quest, which fitted in well with the premise.

      I thought the resolution at the end with the washcloth could have been a little longer: it would give the quest more impact.

      Great story.

      • I completely agree with you about the ending Amy. I barely made the word count this time and I had to cut a bunch out already. The rewrite might let me stretch it out a bit to give it a more conclusive ending.
    • Charles Lilburn
      Wendy, for the second week in a row you have amazed me with what your imagination has done. You made the place behind the dryer a world that really exists. Loved this:

      “Yer new in town, eh?” The sock behind the bar was wiping a dingy glass and looking at Jeff.

      “That obvious, huh?”

      “Here, first one’s on the house. Do you prefer Tide or Gain?”

      “Er, Tide, I guess.” The barkeep filled the dingy glass with some suds and set it in front of Jeff.

      “Good choice,” said a washcloth that had sat down beside him. “Don’t worry; the first day is always the hardest.”

      Then, when the room starts spinning I laughed out loud, but I was thinking in conjunction with a washing machine, not the umm…drinks. I’m not sure you intended that to be a metaphor for the washing machine, but it worked for me.

      Great job. And I echo David’s love for the well done descriptions.

      • Haha, you’re right the spin was unintentional but I love it now that you mentioned the washing machine.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Absolutely BRILLIANT use of the prompt. I love a good fantasy tale. And I loved that you included so many elements and so many characters seamlessly. That my dear lady, is a talent.
      Great job!

  • Maud Harris
    What an imaginative first pargraph, it caught my attention at once. I like the portrayal of the dog and his silly grin. The glass of washing soap instead of beer was a touch of genius! Just one tiny thing – ‘Jeff took the needle downstairs, finding the (dog) still there…
  • Thanks Maude & David. I had to grossly pair this one down to fit the word limit, so that must be where the dog disappeared…
  • Grandma’s Dirt.
    By Ken Cartisano (1127 Words.) ©2018, March

    The phone rang. She picked it up. “Hello?”
    “Marsha? It’s Helen. How Are you?”
    “Mm, okay. What’s up?”
    “Grandma died.”
    “She died a few days ago. I meant to call you sooner.”
    “What happened? I didn’t even know she was sick.”
    “She wasn’t. It was sudden. She died in her sleep. Heart attack.”
    “Oh. I see. So—when’s the funeral?”
    “We already had it.”
    “What? Oh—I wish you would’ve called me. I would’ve driven up if…”
    “It was a small affair, Marsh. She didn’t have many friends.”
    “She didn’t have ANY friends.” Marsha retorted. “That’s why I would’ve liked to have been there, damn it.”
    “Come on, Marsh. Give me a break. I don’t—I don’t know why you’d care. She treated you like shit.”
    “She treated everyone like shit.” There was a pause and then they both laughed.
    “Yeah, she did, didn’t she? God, she was impossible. She’d call at the worst times, and then go on and on about nothing. I wanted to kill her myself a few times.”
    Marsha couldn’t dispute that. “I wouldn’t know. She never called me.”
    “Well, consider yourself lucky. She was a greedy, cheap, grumpy old bitch.”
    “Oh, don’t say that…”
    “And she knew it. And you know it too!
    “…Helen, you don’t mean that.”
    “Look, I’m leaving the key to her house with the realtor I hired. They’re going to do an estate sale, sell what they can and the rest goes into a dumpster. If you want anything, and I can’t imagine what—help yourself. You’re welcome to it. Okay?”
    They were both quiet for a moment until Helen said. “She gave me a lot of weird shit these last few years, which I promptly tossed in the garbage. Last time she called, she wanted to give me a pair of socks.”
    Marsha said nothing.
    “She expected me to drive 45 miles just so she could give me a pair of socks, Marsha. Can you believe it? If that’s not nuts, I don’t know what is!”
    Marsha hesitated and then said, “They must’ve been some pretty natty socks, or…”
    “I wouldn’t know.” Helen cut her off. “I wouldn’t drive 45 miles for free tickets to Disney World, let alone a pair of grandma’s goddamned socks. I’m serious, Marsha. She was losing it.”
    Marsha couldn’t think of much to say. “Okay. Well—I guess I’ll call you if I find anything interesting.”
    “Don’t bother. You can have whatever you want. You’re like family and—I’m sorry, you ARE family, Marsh. And honestly, I don’t want anything from that dump.”

    The house had a musty smell when she entered, but it was not a dump. She assumed that this is what it always smelled like. She and her grandmother had been estranged for some time, and Marsha hadn’t been inside her house in years. So it felt weird to be there, alone, but natural too, because of the summers she’d spent there as a child. Or rather, a step-child.

    She recalled her grandmother’s frustrating advice, given to a then ten year old. “You know what makes you wealthy? Memories,” she’d say, not waiting for an answer. “Memories. Not money, Marsha. Memories. You should travel. Don’t settle down. Be adventurous. Don’t let some greasy, smelly man tie you to a kitchen stove. Get out and see the world.”

    Great advice, maybe, but not practical. Even a ten year old could see the pitfalls in focusing on memories.

    She wandered around the house, into the den, the plants were in need of watering. The same kitchen wall clock she remembered from fifteen years ago was still ticking. It was a sad sound now. Plastic placeholders, four of them, lent order to the dining room table. An optimistic kind of order.

    She remembered the travel room, and gently, almost reverently pushed the door open and entered a spare bedroom converted into a kind of shrine to her grandmother’s extensive travels.

    It wasn’t an official shrine. It contained ordinary bedroom furniture. But the bed was littered with boxes, the walls were covered with photos of famous landmarks. The Berlin Wall, St. Marks Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, a bridge spanning a Venetian canal.
    She’d saved small vials of dirt, carefully capped, from such far flung places as Egypt, China, Brazil, Iceland, and England; pebbles from Peru and Ecuador; small rocks from Alaska; black volcanic grit from Greece; seeds from Morocco. The samples were displayed on special knick-knack shelves with dozens of small compartments, one for each item. Marsha selected a bottle at random and examined it. ‘Chipped Stone – Venice.’ Pieces of that bridge in the picture, she imagined, and set it back down.

    It reminded her of a story her Grandmother once told her, about trying to collect water from a canal in Venice. Marsha remembered the story vividly, and only now realized that there was so much more to that story than her Grandma had revealed. She always spoke of her travels, never about herself. Gramps died in his forties. So who did she travel with? How could she afford it? Suddenly she was full of questions with no one to answer them.

    Her attention shifted to the old dresser, cluttered with cards, coins, and figurines. The top drawer opened easily and was filled with photo albums. Next to the albums lay a pair of hideous green socks which were clearly out of place, either that, or they had some special significance, because no one would intentionally wear socks that ugly. She pushed the drawer to close it, but only one side went in and then it jammed. When she muscled the drawer back into alignment, a dozen small figurines fell over, and one fell into the drawer.

    She swore under her breath, righted all the little souvenirs, then plucked the last one out of the drawer. One of the socks came with it, snagged on the figurine. The sock felt heavy when she separated the two and ‘thunked’ when it hit the wooden drawer. She held it up, hefted it, and felt something hard and heavy.


    From her suite overlooking the Mediterranean, she had a grand view of the terraces and steps leading down to the harbor. A young man delivered the morning paper along with some eggs, sausage and orange juice. A light breeze rustled the paper as she picked it up and turned it over.

    On the back page, a small headline in the International section declared: ‘The Romanov Sapphire Resurfaces After 40 Years.’ Marsha scanned the article and was pleased to see that her name had not been mentioned, nor the astronomical price paid for the gem’s reappearance.

    She dialed her sister’s number.
    “Marsha! Where have you been?”
    “Traveling, mostly.”
    “Traveling?” A short silence ensued. “Well, you can tell me all about it over Christmas dinner.”
    “Yeah, that’s why I called. I won’t be able to make it this year.”
    “What’s going on? You win the lottery or something?”
    Another long silence. “Well, when will we get to see you, Sis?”
    “Mm, not sure Helen. We’ll see,” then she hit the disconnect and muttered, “With any luck? Never again.”

    • I really enjoyed this story, Ken. The part where Marsha is going through her (step)grandmother’s things rings true and I can picture it in my head. That being said, while I understand the set-up in the beginning part, the long convo at the start contrasts sharply with the narrative below it. My second reading it dodn’t bother me quite as much, but I feel like maybe you could have set-up a little differently so that the two parts mesh better. It could also just be the way it looks on the screen. I can be a weirdo sometimes with that. But the touch with the collection of dirt was nice.
      • Wendy,
        Thanks for the feedback. I’m not sure that contrast is bad, depends on what you mean. Would a divider have helped? (A row of little asterisks?) Or is it more intrinsic to the writing? Personally, I wanted to put a divider there, and then forgot. If it’s the writing, I’m not sure how I could change that.
    • Amy Meyer
      The characters in this story really come to life. The dialogue is great- even through you use few dialogue tags its always clear who’s speaking and we get such a sense of their personality. The character of the grandma also came clearly through her possessions and her room. I thought you evoked really well the unsettling feeling of looking through someone’s possessions after they die and finding out things you never knew about them.

      I thought your opening few lines could have been more punchy- maybe cut out the pleasantries?

      I actually prefer your new ending, with the ‘never again’ line included. It brought us full circle back to the relationship with Helen, which I thought was more satisfying.

    • Charles Lilburn
      Good story Ken. Nice flow, nice dialogue, and a very good ending after you changed it. In fact, changing the ending moved you up in my vote tally. I also loved the fact that Helen was hoisted on her own petard by not accepting Grandma’s gift and you made her very unlikable, although Marsha wasn’t exactly the best role model either. In any event, I enjoyed the story and loved it with the change, and the fact you took the high road. Even though everyone was willing to let you off the hook.
    • Carrie Zylka

      What a great tale, and one that rings so true. The grandmother that all the family has written off, the grandkids who don’t understand, even though they can be jerks you still only get one grandma. I loved that the sister who was willing to make an effort despite being treated poorly ended up with the windfall, even though they were intended for the sister who didn’t deserve them.

  • I didn’t see the ‘never again’ requirement until after I posted my story and then read Maud and Wendy’s stories. So that would disqualify this story. Comments are welcome though. And I can’t imagine how adding the words ‘never again’ would enhance this, so,,,,,, even if I had time to, which I don’t, I probably wouldn’t do so anyway. Cheers. (Peace among worlds.)
    • I say we take a vote. You have the sock qualification I think that’s enough so that this story qualifies. What does everyone else think?
      • Carrie Zylka

        I vote Yes!

        • Maud Harris
          Me Too.
      • David G. Lott
        Fine with me!
      • I appreciate you consideration, but I can’t let you guys and gals do that. It wouldn’t be fair. Every other story posted the phrase, and its pretty crucial, making the plots converge on a restrictive has it, and its not like my current ending is so great. I had a 75 word cushion, so I already rewrote the ending so it complies. Can you change it in place? Instead of deleting and reposting? Let me know. If so, it’s very simple, just delete the very last line. And only the last line. It starts with ‘She poured a teaspoon of sand…
        Leave a space, a paragraph break, and replace it with the following:

        She dialed her sister’s number.
        “Marsha! Where have you been?”
        “Traveling, mostly.”
        “Traveling?” A short silence ensued. “Well, you can tell me all about it over Christmas dinner.”
        “Yeah, that’s why I called. I won’t be able to make it this year.”
        “What’s going on? You win the lottery or something?”
        Another long silence. “Well, when will we get to see you, Sis?”
        “Mm, not sure Helen. We’ll see,” then she hit the disconnect and muttered, “With any luck? Never again.”

  • Amy Meyer
    Zinnia’s hands shook as she slathered sharp chemical yellow paste onto her feet. It dyed her fingers saffron yellow. The liquid squelched as she pulled plastic socks on over the paste then rubber boots. She hated to go out, but their cupboards were empty— barely enough for two days. They’d never survive like this.

    Zinnia flinched as her sister Tulip slammed the door.
    “You’re going out,” Tulip accused.
    “That’s where the food is,” said Zinnia.
    “The food? What about you? It’s too dangerous out there.”
    “What about eating? How else are we going to survive?” Zinnia argued.

    She washed the excess yellow paste off her hands in silence, her back to her fuming sister.
    “We won’t survive if you keep taking risks like this,” said Tulip.
    “I’m sorry, Tulie,” Zinnia said, “but we don’t have a choice.” She didn’t look back as she walked out of the cool house and into the scorching heat.

    She crept through a hole in the straggly hedge to a path at the back of the garden. The air was thick and hot, and she could feel the prickle of sweat inside her boots.

    She froze as she heard voices ahead. She ducked behind a tree and started to climb the lower branches as two men walked down the path towards her, heads ducked and wrapped against the heat. She thought one of them was older by his more stooping gait.

    They were arguing in whispers. She could just hear the snarls of their conversation from her hiding place. As the men argued the ground in front of them shifted almost imperceptibly.
    “Stop!” she cried, but the men carried on walking.

    The older man walked over the patch of shifting soil and thick tendrils whipped out from the ground. He cried out and flailed like a fish caught in a net. As he struggled, the creature reared up out of the ground, it’s thick snake-like body arching and the tendrils curled into the centre, forcing the man deeper inside. It curled around, then retreated under the soil taking the man down with it. The dusty ground writhed. The other man ran fast, but a tendril wrapped itself around his foot and dragged him to the ground.

    Zinnia had been wrestling a branch from her tree and now ducked down to whack the monster’s tendril holding the man’s leg. The creature writhed. She hit it again which gave the man just about enough time to climb up into another tree. The ground burbled and the worm thrashed around in frustration, then disappeared back into the earth. She heard a snap of bone from under the ground.

    Zinnia climbed across to the man’s tree. He was moaning in pain and cradling his foot, which was twisted out at an unnatural angle. Zinnia tried not to wince as she saw the way that the worm’s suckers had left red rings on his feet.
    “I’m Zinnia”
    “Arion.” His sun-wrappings slipped and she couldn’t help noticing that he was very handsome. Her stomach lurched and she could feel herself blushing.
    “You weren’t wearing socks? Are you crazy?” she asked.
    “I don’t understand.”
    She swung over her leg and gestured to the slimy yellow socks peeking out from her boots. “These. Socks to protect you from the worms?”
    “I’ve never seen anything like that worm before. We don’t have they back home. Are the socks yellow for—”
    “It’s the chemical that stops the worm smelling our feet. That’s what it wants. Why do you think it nearly ripped yours off?”
    “Oh,” he looked nauseated, and she was worried he was going to fall out of the tree.
    “Here, I always carry a spare pot of deterrent with me,” she reached into her game bag and handed him out a rusted tin, stained bright yellow around the lid. “I’m going to strap you to the tree so you don’t fall out and become worm food, while I collect the snare-birds.”

    Zinnia hopped from tree to tree, collecting the spoils of her tree-snares. She returned to Arion, who was looking a little less peaky. She sat on the branch next to him, her full game bag dangling underneath.
    “I’m sorry about your friend.”
    “Thanks. I still can’t believe… he was just right there, then…”
    “What are you going to do now?” she asked.
    “Carry on moving, I suppose.”
    “Why don’t you stop at ours for a few days?”
    “I don’t know,” he said.
    “Please? We don’t get many people around here. And you’ll have food, have time to recover your strength. That foot doesn’t look good.”
    “Thanks. I’ll think about it.”

    When Zinnia and Arion reached the house, she checked around her before gesturing and ducking through the hole in the hedge. There were no lights on, and she wondered whether Tulip was still awake.

    She let them into the boot room then peeled off her rubber boots and yellow socks— the hot rubber and plastic was clammy against her skin as she pulled them off with a sucking pop. She walked through a tray of cool water, circling her bare feet to wash off the worst of the yellow mixture.
    Tulip opened the door and started to see a stranger there.
    “What’s going on?” she asked.
    “Tulie this is Arion.” Zinnia said, gesturing at Arion, who looked sheepish. “He and his friend were attacked by a worm earlier.”
    Tulip frowned and gestured out of the room, “Can I speak to you?” Once she had Zinnia in the kitchen she said, “What are you doing?”
    “He just needs somewhere to recover”
    “How do you know he’s not a serial killer?”
    “Oh come on Tulie,” she changed tack, “When’s the last time we talked to anyone except for each other.”
    Zinnia frowned, then relented, “Well if we get murdered in our beds, I’m blaming you,”

    They went back into the boot room. By Arion’s worried expression, Zinnia could see that he’d heard their argument. But there was also something else there. The way he looked at Tulip made her stomach twist in jealousy. He looked at her a little too long, like his eyes were drawn to her by magnets.

    That evening they sat around the fire eating one of the birds from the haul. By the firelight, she watched Tulip and Arion sitting side by side on the sofa. Zinnia felt her eyes twitch with tears. It was so unfair. It wasn’t so much the way that they spoke to each other, but the way that they angled their bodies towards each other. The way that they formed a bubble together, leaving her outside.

    She was done rescuing ungrateful wandering boys. Never again.

    • Amy, I like the basic concept of your story – it’s an interesting world that I would like to know more about. I’m not sure why there were guys walking around who had no idea about the monsters, that I think needs just a little more back story. I also wish that the ending didn’t feel a little rushed. Maybe just another line or two showing the Arion guy and Tulip liking each other. Like why would Tulip think he was a serial killer but then cosey right up to him? I do think that it was an imaginative take on a weird pa-style tale. The chemical to keep the monsters smelling their feet was a nice way to bring the socks into it.
      • Amy Meyer
        Thanks so much for your comments! Its really helpful to get feedback from someone who isn’t knee-deep in the story. I’ll think about how I can work on the men’s backstory and ending.

        What do you mean by ‘pa-style’? I’ve googled, and the internet has not been that helpful.

        • Sorry, Post-apocalyptic. I belong to a goodreads group, Apocalypse Whenever, and we shorten it to PA all the time. And I just meant a little back story, like why there is a place where the worms are but people might unknowingly walk to that area. Why would two guys from far enough away to not know there are foot smelling worms that want to eat your stinky feet be walking that close to the area. I do like the imagery of that though.
    • Amy – The Flowering.

      Great writing. Great story, it totally worked for me. Tulip doesn’t necessarily think Arion is a serial killer, she’s just thinks that any stranger COULD be a serial killer. So she doesn’t actually change her mind. And the ending encourages us to believe that this has happened before. Without blatantly saying so, the story infers that perhaps Zinnia is more competent, courageous and athletic, while Tulip is prettier. An age-old imbalance of physical attributes that partly defines the human condition, no matter how weird things get otherwise.

      Mistake: ‘We don’t have they back home.’

      My only issue with this story is in one detail. If Arion’s foot is ‘twisted at an unnatural angle,’ then it would be broken. Right? So he’d be unable to walk on it. A better approach would be that she could see his foot was injured, but as best as she could tell, thankfully, it didn’t appear broken. Or, ‘the way he was holding it, it was probably just a sprain.’
      Other than that minor detail, I think it works. Unlike Wendy, I don’t think it needs back story. I don’t think this is necessarily about the worms.

      This story reminded me of the ‘Tremors’ movies. (Which I enjoyed. And which also do not provide a back story. The creatures are just there. They arrive with no explanation, and none is needed.) This is a point of contention between me and a lot of other writers. I think too many writers think explanations are always necessary. I think they’re often a waste of the readers time. Some of the greatest creatures in Fictional lore have ridiculous back stories, or none at all. Godzilla: nuclear radiation? The Cyclops. Grendel. Bigfoot. Mothman. Medusa. King Kong. Nobody cares where they came from, we just want them dead.

      Like the ubiquitous ‘warp drive’ in science fiction. Originally, some poor saps tried to explain it. Now, of course, nobody bothers. Nobody cares how warp drive works. Hell, nobody cares how electricity works, as long as the light comes on when we flip the switch. I prefer that writers don’t force me to get bogged down in needless detail. I’m willing to suspend disbelief if you entertain me. Maybe that’s just me. If so, maybe I’m the only one who’s right.

      Great story Amy. Very enjoyable.

      • Amy Meyer
        Thank you! I massively appreciate your taking the time. It’s an interesting point about leaving out exposition. I totally agree it can me more fun when the monster is just there . Thanks for spotting the typo and continuity error- his foot wasn’t damaged in an earlier draft…
    • Charles Lilburn
      I kind of echo Wendy a little in her critique. But, I loved this:

      Zinnia frowned, then relented, “Well if we get murdered in our beds, I’m blaming you,”

      The total impossibility of it being able to happen (the blame part) yet, still making sense as a warning beforehand was excellent. I laughed out loud. thanks for that.

      Very descriptive. Liked the futuristic world you painted, including liquid socks.

    • Carrie Zylka

      First off – welcome to the madness that is our writing group.

      Judging from your story, you’ll fit in quite well!
      I loved the world you created, a post apocalyptic or possibly pure fantasy world rife with monsters lurking below the surface attracted to stink feet (hilarious). I liked that you used the socks prompt differently than anyone else by creating a paste.
      And I thought the use of the trees to get from place to place or to hang food snares was very clever.
      I agree with Ken about the twisted foot, but that could easily be rectified with describing how he limped on their way home.
      Great job. Looking forward to more stories.

  • Phil Town

    My poor son Sam had a minor speech defect when he was very young. It was nothing that really caused us, his parents, to sound the alarm. It did cross our minds, though, that we might need to seek advice at some point.

    It didn’t come to that until some time later. Meanwhile, and for a couple of years, we would laugh at his attempts to produce certain words. I know, we shouldn’t have found it funny, but his supreme confidence in saying the words, and the fact that they came out all wrong, was naturally comical.

    One of the sounds he had most trouble with was the ‘s’ at the beginning of words, which he rendered as a ‘d’. So sun was “dun”, sea was “dee”, and socks were “docks”. And, of course, Sam was “Dam”.

    It lasted until he started nursery school, where he was ridiculed mercilessly by his peers. We only got to find out about it when one of the teachers phoned us, suggesting speech therapy. We were horrified and agreed immediately that it would be the best course of action, but a week before the sessions were to start, the impediment simply vanished.

    We were overjoyed at home, but were unaware, until William was an adult and told us, that the first impression he’d made actually stuck and followed him through nursery school, into primary school, and then secondary school (he moved through the system with many of his nursery school-mates). And he was cruelly bullied because of it.

    It was only when he went to university that he was able to escape the stigma. He was a very bright pupil and got into Cambridge to read History. No one knew him there (he’d been much brighter than his school-mates and left them trailing in his wake), and he began to bloom socially. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I think his formative years had hardened him, in a good way; he was more confident and generally strong of character. He met a lovely girl in Cambridge – Natalya, a Russian exchange student – and after they graduated, they moved to London together.

    Until recently, I was never quite sure what job Sam got after university. We didn’t visit him in London – we were never invited, which we found slightly strange – and he only came home, with Natalya, at Christmas and on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. All we knew was that he worked for the government, but he never went into details.

    Then a month ago he came home … to stay. He was very upset, we could tell – parents know these things – although he didn’t show it. He was alone, and we assumed that he’d split up with Natalya. We waited patiently for him to tell us all about it, but he wasn’t forthcoming. He installed himself in his old room, which we’d kept empty for him (or them) and came down just for meals. I would put my ear to his door when I passed, listening for clues to his state of mind; all I could ever hear was the pitter-pat of finger-tips on keyboard.

    One night last week, after dinner, he didn’t go up to his room as he normally did but sat on the sofa, staring at the TV, which was showing the news about that Russian father and daughter poisoned by – allegedly – the Russians. My wife and I exchanged glances. I was about to engage him in some light conversation, to see whether that would relax him enough to come clean about what was bothering him, when he pointed at the screen. We looked. There was the reporter, standing in front of the crime-scene tent outside the people’s house, waffling on – there’s just so much you can report on before it becomes repetitive. Sam shook his head and sighed.

    “It shouldn’t have come to this.”

    My wife’s eyes met mine; I went to say something but she stopped me by frowning and gesturing towards Sam. She wanted me to let him speak.

    “I know those people,” he said. I became aware that my mouth was open. “They’re good folk. They didn’t deserve it. But someone had to pay.”

    And that was all he said before he stood up smartly, went to the hall, grabbed his coat and left.

    I would have gone after him but my wife pulled me back by the sleeve.

    “Leave him be,” she said. “I think he needs to sort his head out.”

    “But what … what the hell was that all about?” My voice sounded a little desperate, I realised.

    “He’ll tell us, in his own good time.”

    We stayed up, mulling over the whys and wherefores of the last month, coming to no conclusions whatsoever. It was about one or two o’clock when we went to bed. I was shattered with the stress of worry. I slept soundly until around three, when there was an untidy banging on the front door. My wife had taken a sleeping pill and was dead to the world, so I got out of bed, put my dressing gown on and crept downstairs.

    Through the frosted window of the front door I could see the figure of a man, leaning against it, banging on the glass with the palm of his hand. I recognised Sam’s red anorak immediately and rushed the last few feet to open the door. He fell into the hall, groaning and fighting for breath. He was frothing at the mouth. I didn’t think twice and phoned emergency services, explaining the state of my boy.

    While I waited for the ambulance to arrive, I sat on the floor and held his head in my lap. His eyes were glazed, but they looked up at me, and I felt that I recognised something from his childhood in them. So when he spoke, in a whisper, I jumped to a conclusion.


    Whatever had happened to him, I imagined that he’d reverted 25 or 30 years. I looked down at his feet and he had odd socks on – one red, one blue. What did it mean?

    The ambulance came, but I was shocked to see the personnel come through the door … in hazmat suits. They dragged me away from my son and got to work on him, while they took me into the kitchen. My wife slept on soundly upstairs.

    They gave me something to sleep and I woke up, I learned, two days later. My wife spoke to me through the polythene curtain around the hospital bed. Sam was dead. I wanted to hold her, to comfort and be comforted, but I was quarantined and had only her warm words. We wept together, on either side of a plastic sheet.

    This afternoon they let me watch TV. The news. A raid by the police. A batch of nerve agent found. On a fishing boat. At the docks.

    The details of my son’s life are beginning to come to light now. But what’s that to me? The secrets he had, and the ones he took to his lead-lined grave, are meaningless. Because what’s important is that I’ll never see him again. Never. Again.


    • Maud Harris
      Chillngly topical, Phil.
    • Phil – Docks.

      Excellent story Phil. With all the recent headlines about Russian interference in democratic electoral processes. (France, Britain, USA.) And the blatant murder of those two people in Britain. (Add to that Roy’s use of an alias on the thread.) I desperately wanted to do a story on ‘sock puppets.’ And I did. Unfortunately, it sucked, so I didn’t post it.

      This, however, is a strong, powerful story with relevance to our current political climate. But knowing you as little as I do, (because you can’t be as simple as you’d like me to believe), I suspect the real message here is about the terrible human costs of war, power, nationalism and espionage.

      It’s a very fine, beautifully crafted story, Philip.

    • Amy Meyer
      A lovely story, with a professional-feeling prose style. It really jolted me (in a good way) to have such close-to-real-life events playing out in your story. I liked the way you structured your narrative, with reminiscing then bringing us back into the near-past.

      I thought the revelation about the dock vs sock twist could have been more impactful- you set it up really well, but then the mix up didn’t seem to particularly mater in the end.

    • Charles Lilburn
      You know Phil, I didn’t care for your story on the first read, and in rereading it so I could critique it, I found that I actually did like it and I think it’s because it’s the believability of it. A child’s affliction affecting his whole life, his relationship with his parents, the estrangement for years, seemingly, then suddenly coming home mysteriously and then, just as mysteriously dying. That was what bothered me the first time, but on reflection, the believability was why I think I changed my mind. As always, good writing. It just took me a while to get to where you were taking us. Loved the phrase ‘there was some untidy banging on the front door’. Don’t know if that’s a typical ‘across the pond’ phrase, but it seemed just right to this American ear. And, a clever way of using ‘socks’.
    • Carrie Zylka

      What a bone chilling story, and you covered a lot of ground in so few words!!

      I re-red this paragraph but I’m still not sure what this means: “until William was an adult and told us, that the first impression he’d made actually stuck and followed him through nursery school, into primary school, and then secondary school (he moved through the system with many of his nursery school-mates). And he was cruelly bullied because of it.”

      I’m not sure what he would’ve been bullied about if his impediment vanished the first week?

      Anyhow, I am still fuzzy on the significance of the mismatched socks too. Unless that was how the nerve agent was carried?

      Very cool story, I love a good spy movie and loved the quick flow of the story itself.

    • Why did it close so early?. I just tried to post my story at 4PM Eastern DST. Thought the deadline was March 14 up till midnight.
      • Carrie Zylka

        Hi there,
        Per the instructions in the post, you had to have submitted it by 12:00 pm Eastern Time.

        Where did you see that you had till midnight?

        • I don’t remember seeing the time, just the date. Logically, it should be midnight, not noon. Also, I remember seeing people like Ilana getting extensions of the deadline. I could have met the deadline if I knew what it was. I stayed away from this contest for about three years. Now I still don’t like it and willl stay away again. It is not very friendly to new contestants.
          • Carrie Zylka

            I’m sorry you feel that way, ironically we have lots of new writers and haven’t had anyone express such sentiments.

            We’ve granted extensions to those who’ve asked as long as it was before the deadline.

            Again, if you read every post we’ve ever published, the date/time are clearly stated.

            We wish you nothing but the best in your future writing endeavors.

      • Carrie Zylka

        I think you’re confusing noon with midnight.

        It’s always closed at noon, not midnight

  • Now I remember why I quit this contest to begin with. So many unfair and confusing rules.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Hi there,
      It’s been the same deadline/rules for years.

      • It wasn’t the same deadline/rules back in the Roy York era. What makes this a real kick in the teeth is that today is my birthday. So while I was rushing to edit my story down to length, people kept calling and interrupting me with birthday wishes.
      • I actually tried to enter my story at about 3PM, which was before the announcement that the deadline had passed.
        • Charles Lilburn
          Hey Mike. Roy York here. For what it’s worth, I think you should reconsider just walking away because you think you were slighted. Believe me, I understand what you are saying, but don’t let a small thing get in the way of bigger things. I would love to read your stories in the future and Alice and Carrie have done wonders with this little short story contest. You only do yourself a disservice by letting it stop you from posting. Now that you know, shrug it off, know you need to have it posted before 12:00 Noon the last day of the contest, and give us a Mike Elphick story. I, for one, would look forward to it.

          Carrie’s hands are tied, and she would have gladly given you a pass on posting if she knew. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. Let it go, post a story for the Harbor contest or the new one that will be posted tomorrow. Do it,man, it will be fun for everyone.

          If you didn’t know, I just started posting stories again, and believe me, it’s great to be back in this contest. (I posted under a nom de plume which was Charles Lilburn, soon to be changed back to RM York.

          • I’ve had nothing but bad luck with this short-story contest. I originally left because the Linked In comments box was too small and then they made it even smaller. Then they blocked another one of my stories because I gave it the title “Banned by the BBC”. Apparently, they figured if the BBC banned it, Linked In should ban it too. Now you say Carrie’s hands are tied. That makes no sense. She keeps saying I made a mistake, but she is the one making the mistakes. Contrary to what she keeps saying, the email message announcing the new contest merely gives the dates for submission–not the times. So she ought to give me a break if her email message did not give a deadline time (and I assumed a time that was not the one she really wanted).

            If you want to see my “socks” story, Roy, I shall post it on my web site

            Welcome back Roy. I love your stuff. Should have guessed that Charles Lilburn was too good to be anyone but you.

      • I see that Alice’s message saying the prompt was closed had a time signature of 11:24 AM. So it seems that the contest managers jumped the gun this time. No wonder people get confused.
        • Carrie Zylka

          You’re literally the only one who’s confused.

          The time stamp is central time.
          That’s the time zone set on the website.

          Which would make it 12:00 pm Eastern time.

          So technically you had an extra 24 minutes to submit your story before we closed it.

          • Contrary to what you’ve been saying, the email announcing the contest does not state any time limits. It just gives the dates (March 1 – March 14). Then it states the “socks” prompt and the mandatory last line: “Never Again”. Way down at the bottom of the email it gives the time deadlines for voting (but not submission). Presumably, we are supposed to read that before submission and figure out that we can’t send any entries after voting starts (though that is never stated). I still maintain this is confusing for newbies. Also, you say that newbies never get confused. But I saw one entry that was two weeks late and the author was still using the previous prompt .

            • Carrie Zylka

              So, according to you there’s no time stated in the email and yet you assumed it was midnight.
              You are absolutely welcome to post your story after voting has started. It’s simply won’t count towards the contest.

              These rules have been in place for years and years and years, people post stories after voting has started because they’ve written the stories and why not?

              They still would not count towards voting.

              An email notification could not possibly contain all of the rules and everything the contest encompasses.

              You’re more than welcome to participate, now that the rules have been clarified and stated for you.

              Or not, but please stop blaming us because you did not take the time to read the rules.

          • How are we supposed to know that the time stamps are Central Time. They are never identified as such. Though now I understand why my posts are stamped one hour earlier than my Eastern time.
            • Carrie Zylka

              This is a valid point. I don’t believe there is any way to add an identifier. It’s in central time because I pay the overhead for the website, the contest and the podcast and everything out of my own pocket, and since I live in the central time zone I am assuming that my hosting service defaulted to Central.

              I don’t believe I am able to change this.

  • If the time is not stated but the date is, then I think it is reasonable to assume that we get the entire day up to midnight. But that is confusing because of all the different time zones. And you say you’re willing to let me post my story but it will not be eligible for voting. That’ s fine with me, but so far you haven’t allowed me to post the story. Some of my friends here (e.g. Roy) are curious to see my latest story. The comments here are more valuable than the votes anyway. I’m amazed at how much some of the authors here have improved after feedback from other writers.

    I have another question about posting stories. What file format should I use? does it have to be plain text or can I use some other format (e.g. Word)?

    • Carrie Zylka

      You’ve always been allowed to post a story.

      No one has blocked you from doing so.

      Simply copy and paste it into a comment box.

    • Carrie Zylka

      “Reasonable” to assume it is at midnight?

      You are being unreasonable to expect Alice or I to be awake at midnight to create the custom voting page and post the link in the comment thread.

      We chose the time because she and I are in different time zones, as many of the writers are as well.

      We chose a closing time that was convenient for us. A time we could provide you a custom made voting page each time in between our jobs and home life.

      You know…the ones doing all the work and covering all the costs.

      It is unreasonable to expect us to provide a free contest/writing prompt to users and be able to hold everyone’s hands.

      The newsletter is just that. It is a reminder the new prompt is posted. Neither is the rule you can not vote for yourself.

      If you would like a copy if the actual published post please subscribe to the website and not the newsletter.

    • Carrie Zylka

      Most writers copy and paste their story out of a Word document into one of the comments.

      It is very rare that we have drama in this group. We all work hard to keep up a synergistic environment.

      I do agree, that a lot of the writers have grown into phenomenal storytellers and authors.

      We’ve had several from the groups that have gone on to publish books.

      It’s the core reason why Alice and I are happy to moderate and run this flash fiction contest. We all want to be better writers.

      And it’s gratifying to see so many successful people in our group.

      • I’ve tried repeatedly to enter my story but it still doesn’t seem to be there. First time I tried, it said it was awaiting approval by the moderators. Later, another upload appeared to be successful. But today it has disappeared. Is there another button I’m supposed to press after the upload? Will try again now.
        • Carrie Zylka

          Hmmmmmm, you’re copying the story from word and pasting it into the comment box?

          I do recall seeing the title of a story get posted, but nothing after the title.

          • Yes, that was my mistake. I thought I copied the entire story but had actually copied just the title. This has been a Murphy’s Law week for me. Today, the bagel button on my toaster stopped working, and the waste-disposal grinder on my sink didn’t work either.
  • Charles Lilburn
    A comment, if I may regarding the vote for best character, I wasn’t given a blank, I was given a choice of stories, and I really wanted one particular character to get my vote. Is this something we missed this time? Is it too late to do that?
    • Carrie Zylka

      Good catch, I am surprised no one else caught that.
      Fixed and emailed everyone!

    • Alice Nelson

      My bad Roy, just didn’t click a box when I did up the voting page. My apologies. 🙂

      • Charles Lilburn
        No problemo my dear, I just wanted a specific character, Jeff, in Wendy’s story to get my vote for best character, although I think Whisper is going to be a shoo-in. Just saying. Or would have been if we had a choice. Life is too short to worry about a lost sock.
    • Carrie Zylka

      Oh damn I voted but not sure I saw the confirmation screen!

      • Alice Nelson

        I got your votes Carrie 🙂

    • Alice Nelson

      Oops! I have Maud’s votes. Waiting for one more person.

  • Charity Begins Overseas

    It was a sunny Monday afternoon, and Faith Edwards was knitting in her front room. Seated in a wooden rocking chair with a giant yellow cushion on the seat, she flashed the steel needles rapidly while drawing from a ball of grey wool in her lap. Patches, her Calico cat, was curled up on a wooden chest in front of the window, warming herself in the Sun’s rays and watching passersby outside. Bonnie, her son’s black-and-white Collie dog, crouched on the front lawn waiting for her master to return from school.

    Suddenly, Bonnie barked and ran to the gate to greet young Tommy. The boy patted Bonnie and latched the gate behind him. The dog chased after him as he entered the house via the back door for which he had a key. After grabbing a glass of juice and giving the dog a treat, he found his mother in the front room.

    “What are you knitting, mum?”

    “This will be a pair of socks, son.”

    “Great, I need some new socks–mine all have holes in them.”

    “They’re not for you Tommy. They’re for a charity.”

    “Oh! What charity?”

    “They’re for the shoeless natives of Antigua.”

    “That’s weird, mum. If they’re shoeless why do they need socks? Do they run around on the beach wearing just socks?”

    “No, Tommy. We also contribute whatever we can to buy shoes for them.”

    “Wow, mum! Grandma should have named you ‘Charity’. Like they say, ‘you have faith, hope and charity, but the greatest of these is charity’.”

    “Be nice son. You have to be ready to give to people in need. And you have to learn to take care of yourself. I’ll show you how to darn the holes in your socks.”


    A couple of days later, the front door bell rang with the sound of church bells (a chime chosen by Faith’s husband Charles, who was a bell ringer in the local Anglican Church). Standing on the doorstep were a tall man in a grey suit, and a woman in a police uniform. Both showed their identification cards, and the man made the introductions:

    “Good morning ma’am. I’m Detective Inspector Nigel Johnson, from Scotland Yard, and this is Constable Kathleen Connor from your local CID. We’re investigating some narcotics smuggling linked to local gang activity. We have a few questions, as you may be able to help us with our inquiry.”

    “Certainly, come inside. But we don’t have any major criminals in this town. The last celebrity crook from Redhill was the fellow who organized the Great Train Robbery about forty years ago.”

    “Well things may have taken a turn for the worse Mrs. Edwards. Do you know a fellow named Juan Gonzalez?”

    “I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody with that name. How am I supposed to know him?”

    “Well, we have a check for five pounds, signed by you and made out to Juan Gonzalez.”

    “Oh, now I remember. That was a contribution to a church charity, and they told us to make out the checks to Mr. Gonzalez.”

    “In the memo column it says, “For AA”. What is that, Alcoholics Anonymous?”

    “No, it’s Antigua Aid. The money buys shoes for the shoeless natives.”

    “What church organized that charity?”

    “It’s called the Unitarian Universalist Society.”

    “What denomination is that?”

    “It’s not any denomination, its ecumenical. They take people of all faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. It’s more like a social club than a church. I used to go to Saint John’s with my husband, because he’s a bell ringer there. But I didn’t like some of the policies of their Women’s Institute. So several of us left and joined the new church. I found out about it from my friend Rachel Bierman. She is Jewish but all her friends are Christians. So she felt more comfortable in the Universalist church.”

    “Well, Mrs. Edwards, the new church may not be as charitable or as innocent as you believe it to be. The Customs authority detained Senor Gonzalez at Gatwick Airport for smuggling some hashish from Antigua. Your charitable contributions seem to have partially financed this operation.”

    “What happened to the socks?”


    “Yes. We knitted socks for the shoeless natives of Antigua.”

    “Really? The gang probably just dumped them. Though, come to think of it, some of the boxes of hashish were labeled “Socks.” But customs X-Rayed the boxes and saw tablets and vials inside. So they opened the boxes as they thought they might contain opiates—which are a major concern right now.”

    “Are these gangsters dangerous?”

    “Yes. Though I don’t think they will harm you as you’re not really a threat to them. However, we’ll have the local police watch your house and patrol the neighborhood regularly. Here’s my card. I’m staying locally for the next couple of weeks. Give me a call if these thugs bother you, or if you think of anything that might be helpful.”


    That afternoon started out as usual. Faith was knitting again, but this time she was making smaller socks—the right size for Tommy. The cat was curled up in front of the window, and Bonnie the Collie was waiting for her master on the front lawn. Then Faith heard a loud ‘Rat-tat-tat-tat’ which she later learned was gunfire from an automatic rifle. The front window collapsed, and Faith dove for the floor, crawling away from the window. The cat scooted towards the back room. Just before she dropped to the floor, Faith glimpsed a black vehicle with tinted windows speeding away from her house.

    Trembling with fear, Faith pulled out her smartphone and dialed the number the Scotland Yard detective had given her. He hit her with a barrage of questions: “Is anyone hurt? Did you get the license number of the black SUV? Did you call 999? Did your boy get home from school yet?” After getting a series of “No” replies, Detective Johnson said, “Don’t worry about it. We’ll take it from here. We’ll be there in about five minutes.”

    A few minutes later, Johnson arrived in a squad car, with Constable Connor driving. Also, there was a second police car with two uniformed officers in it, plus a van with two criminal investigation technicians– who started to track all the bullets littered on the lawn. When Faith ventured out of the house, she was horrified to find that the dog was dead—its head had been blown away by the intense gunfire.

    The two detectives went to their car to make some phone calls. They wanted to track down the SUV by checking local security cameras.

    Faith started to feel very lonely. She and her husband had always been rather independent. They attended different churches, and at election time they stuck up posters for opposing political parties. But now she wished she had Charles’s shoulder to cry on. He worked in the City. But this week, he was attending an economics conference in Germany. She phoned his hotel in Frankfurt, but he was not in his room. So she left a long message explaining everything that had happened. The final two words were, “…Never Again.”

  • That seems to have worked. Looks like I forgot to press the “Post Comment” after the previous posts.
    • Charles Lilburn
      Mike, thanks for your reply and your kind comments. It’s been awhile, and I’m glad to see you make an entrance, too. Randall Lemon showed up a few weeks ago, and it was nice to read his story, and yours. You’ve come a long way. Took me by surprise, because when I went to your website, I couldn’t find the site, but read some of your posted stories, and they were stories I remember reading. then, I found the story you wrote posted on this site and found out you have made great strides in showing instead of telling and it makes your stories even better. Never had a problem with your content, only your method. Nice job. Stay with it, I’d like to see more work from you. From one old dog to another.
      • Thanks Roy/Charles. Loved your story this week too. Too bad I wasn’t allowed to vote.
        • Roy: Forgot to give you constructive criticsm. Your story was so well conceived and so well written that it seemed perfect at first. But I was slightly disappointed and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized I’d guessed the ending (it would be a different girl wearing the socks) so I wasn’t surprised. Happy endings probably have the highest and most satisfied readership, but they are often the most predictable too.

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