Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “A Change of Mind”

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the Contest theme: “A Change of Mind”.

There are no other required elements, except it has to be a story about a change of mind.

Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.


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 Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.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 be under 1000 words.

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 Alice Nelson 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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10 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “A Change of Mind”

  • 180’d (or Roundabout Thinking)

    He’d had enough. James had decided to end it all here, deep in the woods where he wouldn’t be found. He was to take his own inconsequential life… that is, until he saw the strange growth on the woodland floor. At first he thought it was a puffball fungus but upon closer inspection he realised he was looking at a healthy growing brain. After a brief hesitation, James decided on a change of mind, opening the top of his skull and swapping his old brain for the new one. The effect was immediate; the world became a place of new, exciting possibilities; everything was beautiful. James was ready to live again. All he needed to do was retrieve some memories, PIN numbers and passwords from his old mind… but it had gone. Vanished. Some mindless idiot must’ve stolen it. What possible use..? A shot rang out, bark splintered from a nearby tree. A second bullet also narrowly missed him. These were not warning shots. James ran erratically, pursued by bullets and the laughter of his unseen tormentor.

    James never left the woods. Instead he stays in hiding, clinging to life, living every moment in fear, knowing that one day his old mind will kill him.

  • Dean Hardage

    by Dean Hardage

    I think about how I used to be and marvel at the fact I’m still alive. Perhaps that’s hyperbole but it’s not all the far off the mark. I was so blind to so much, barely knowing what I was doing from day to day, totally unaware of all of the other souls the inhabited the same space I lived in. I thought I knew all about my world. That was before the change.

    It started, for me at least, with an advertisement for volunteers in a new drug experiment. It was supposed to just boost your senses for a bit and was going to be used for people with conditions that dampened them. It was a chance to just hang out, read, report any effects, and get $1500. I wasn’t poor by any means, but $1500 for a weekend of doing nothing was too good to pass up. I called, went to the lab for an interview and some tests, and I was in.

    To say that the drug worked, at least on me, is something of a misstatement. It did enhance my senses temporarily, but it was something else that occurred later, perhaps a side effect that mattered. Somehow I made contact with everything, everyone around me. I felt them as if they were inside my head. It wasn’t telepathy, or even empathy. There’s not really a word for it except perhaps awareness.

    When the weekend ended I reported the temporary enhancement, took my check, and headed home. I hadn’t slept well in the bunk beds they provided so I went to bed almost as soon as I got into my apartment. When I woke up the following Monday morning, everything was different. I could feel every bit of my own body, hear the blood rushing along in my veins, the sound of my heartbeat, and the creak of tendons when I stood up and stretched. The sun in the window had a texture like old, soft muslin when I put my hand in the rays coming through the panes. It was amazing but I was still enough of the old me to ignore it.

    I got dressed, trying not to be distracted by the story I felt in the fabrics of my clothes, the cotton being picked and plucked from its boll, combed, stretched, spun into thread, woven into a bolt and then cut and sown to become my t-shirt, my jeans, even my underwear. I was aware.

    I made it to work somehow. I did my job, managing the network for the company, learning more and more about everything, everyone. Even when I took the time to think about it I was never frightened by what I learned. It was all like a story that is written as it must be, things fitting neatly into their niches. It was a pattern and I was only aware of a small part of it. I had to learn more.

    Since then I’ve been something of a vagabond. I wander the world, going anywhere as long as I haven’t already been there, more and more of that pattern fixed in my mind. I wish I could share it. It’s so complex yet so pure and simple but I can’t express it with words or images. When I try people think I am ‘touched’ or somehow not right in the mind. Yet I cannot stop. I must continue to fill in the pattern until it’s complete. I know there’s a message there for me, perhaps for all of us, so I will move on again, always seeking, always learning, always…..aware.

    Word Count – 604

  • Phil Town

    Charlie set out from home at seven o’clock on the dot, as he always did on a Friday evening. He walked to the end of the road, turned right and went another 20 yards or so until he reached the bus-stop. Five minutes later the number 35 came along and he got on, climbed up to the top deck and flopped his 6 foot 2 frame down on a seat.


    At the very same time, Sharon was in her bathroom, rushing to get her make up on. She was running late because old Mr Jeffers had found her some extra work to do just before she left the office; she could have sworn he did it on purpose. No time to dwell on it, though, if she was to get the bus into town and meet up with her friends for a typical Friday night out – too much drink, a bit of snogging, maybe some untidy love down a side alley. She finished brushing her hair and skipped down the stairs.


    Charlie leaned his blond head on the window and gazed out at the people going about their eve-of-weekend business – some lugging heavy bags of shopping, some still in their office suits hurrying home, others obviously on their way out. He’d meet up with his mates, they’d crawl a few pubs, drink too much, maybe engage in a bit of snogging with complete strangers, possibly get as far as a quick shag down a side alley. But as he projected in his mind the expected events of the evening to come, a wave of ennui, mixed with disgust, passed through him.


    Sharon felt more aware than normal of the couples on the street, arm-in-arm or hand-in-hand, and there seemed to be more of them than usual … or perhaps that was just her imagination. As she walked along the busy street towards the bus-stop, occasionally having to step into the road to dodge an oncoming couple, she remembered her dream of the night before: she’d been in a crowded bar with her friends, laughing and drinking, when the door had opened and in strode a tall, blond man with the face of an angel. He looked around the bar as if he were searching for someone, and his crystal-blue eyes rested on her. She shuddered as she remembered the thrill of that dreamt moment, then realised that back in the real world she’d stopped and was standing in the middle of the pavement, smiling like a lunatic. She continued on her way, walking a little faster now, and arrived at the bus-stop to wait for the number 35 into town.


    Some of Charlie’s mates had got on the bus and were now sat on the seats near him. A couple of them had already been drinking and were uncomfortably raucous for so early in the evening. Their conversation turned to women; they began bragging about what they’d done the weekend before, and what they’d do later in the evening. Charlie listened but turned his clear blue eyes back to the street, focussing on a couple walking hand-in-hand alongside the slow-moving bus, laughing, clearly in love. He looked back at his mates, made a decision and got up.


    Sharon saw the bus coming and held out her arm. When the doors opened she was searching in her bag for her bus pass and didn’t see the tall, blond man jump off, brushing past her before hurrying away into the night. Sharon swiped her pass over the scanner and climbed up to the top deck, where she was met with whistles and lewd comments from a group of young men, some apparently drunk already. She was used to this but her heart still sank; it was going to be a Friday night like any other.


  • Ilana L
    “There are two options. Ok?” Peggie was decisive.

    “Two options?” Joel was not so sure. “And what might they be?”

    “You tell her before the baby is born. She is prepared then. Or..” Peggie paused to inspect an annoying anomaly in her new shellac nails. There was a short dark hair imprisoned in the red lacquer. “You tell her after the baby is born. You tell her that it’s over.”

    “But if I tell her before the baby is born…?”

    “You tell her you think she will not carry full term. She is forty eight after all. Many IVF babies don’t carry full term. Sad, but in a way it will be a plus for both of you. She won’t have a child to raise alone. You’ll be free of her and any child she could bear.”

    “You sound as though you have it all worked out.”

    “Oh, believe me Joel, I’ve been giving it all my attention lately. You’re in a big mess.” Peggie took a nail file out of her purse and carefully filed the uneven edge of another nail. She had paid $65 hard earned $ for this dodgy nail job which annoyed her immensely. Joel’s problems paled in comparison.

    “I know. She could go to immigration, Then, … there goes my permanent resident visa!”

    “Joel, bullshit. She will not. It’ll mean putting the father of her baby in prison. If the baby survives. Tell her now. She may miscarry with the shock. She’s too old to have a baby anyway. A healthy baby, that is. I’ll give you babies. Lots of ‘em.” Peggie leaned across to massage his upper thigh vigorously. “Strong healthy babies too.”

    “Ouch. Careful.” Peggie still had the nail file clutched in her hand and she’d inadvertently poked him in a tender spot on his crotch “Can you get that thing away from me?” Joel leaned back in his seat. “Ok, I’ll call her tonight. She’s goin’ to the obstetrician today.”

    “She didn’t really believe you’d go to that small hick town, did she?” Peggie put the nail file away in her bag and got up to go.

    “Who knows. I just know I gotta end it now.”

    “Ok.” Peggie leaned forward to plant a wet kiss on his mouth just as he was lifting the beer glass to his mouth. She missed and caught the corner of his nose leaving a red lipstick mark. She giggled.

    “What’s so funny?” Joel looked annoyed.

    “You got lippy on your nose, lover boy.” She quickly pulled a tissue out and wiped it off. “Here.” Satisfied his nose was now unblemished, she planted a lingering kiss full on his mouth. “Gotta get back to work. See ya tonight after work. Gimme good news.”

    Joel finished his beer and left.

    “Joel, what do you mean? I thought we’d it all worked out? I’d start work at my new school. Work six months. Then at eight months pregnant, I’ll take maternity leave for six months. Then I’ll go back to work part-time for a few years. Three days a week.”

    Lara was feeling tense. The future which had recently seemed so good and so secure now seemed to have turned into a brick wall.

    “Look, Lara, it is just not the right time. Don’t go crazy on me. I’ve got things to tie up here.”

    “You said end of March. Now you’re saying ‘maybe May?’ What’s going on Joel?”

    Lara was developing a splitting head and she could feel her heartbeat accelerating as her chest tightened. She had a pile of papers for year 11 Ancient History to mark, next week’s lessons to prepare for four English classes that included a senior class, and to write the exam for the year 10 practice School Certificate. She had been looking forward to having Joel as company, sharing meals and household chores and for protection.

    Would-be thieves had killed one of her two dogs three weeks ago. She had gone shopping the end of the first week’s school in Leeton. The husky was hunched whining at the end of the back yard when she returned. Seeing the car pull in, the husky ran to the gate, then lifted her muzzle and howled.

    “Hello Bobi dog. Where’s Beni boy?” Beni who had been a rescue dog, was nowhere in sight. She called and called. Very unusual. He was a pit bull blue heeler cross and very protective of her. Four months pregnant, she even got down clumsily on her hands and knees and peered into the storage space below the house and called. No answer.
    There was a phone call at 3 am.
    “Hi I’m Ron. Work for the council animal welfare. Found a dog with a microchip dead in a back yard at 28 King Street, Narrandera. It’s got a broken neck. It’s got this number listed as the owner. You in Sydney?”

    She fought back the tears.

    “No. What sort of dog is it?”

    “Ah, looks like a blue heeler crossed with mastiff. Nametag says Beni. He’s been hit with a lump of wood. Neck broke.”

    “Yes. It’s my dog. I’m a new teacher at the high school.”

    “Ok. So what do you want me to do with the body?”

    “Could you bring him to 36 King Street tomorrow. I want to say goodbye. I’d bury him but I am pregnant and had a bleed. Not allowed do heavy lifting.”

    “Sure. No problem. I’ll bring him around about 11 tomorrow morning.”

    “Thank you so much.” Lara hung up from the phone and tried not to sob. Her mother’d been talking to her that very day, telling her how important it was not to cry or be depressed while pregnant as that could affect the baby.

    “Look. Lately you’re making too many problems. I’m thinking our marriage’s finished. It’s over. Ok. I’m not moving from Sydney.”

    “What do you mean? But, but the baby..?”

    “Look, I’ve changed my mind. You’ll probably miscarry anyway.”

  • Ken Allen
    The Gavel
    By Ken Allen

    The Judge bore down the gavel onto the sound block, the resulting connection sending a crack around the interior of the courtroom. I slowly close my eyes and fall back into the leather chair, the echo drinking my strength with a maniacal smirk.

    The ruling was given in its concise structure but I wasn’t listening, I was beyond listening. My life as I knew it was over, forever smeared, like black paint palmed across a white wall. Tomorrow I’ll be in all the newspapers, my face a permanent marker on history, a blight on our society. Years from now, kids will Google the crime, the trial, the judgement, and know it was me.

    Every breath seems like an hour and the guilt tears at my chest like a wild beast, the sweat starting to erupt out of my pores, every breath catching in my throat. My first time in a court room will surely be my last, a trouble free upbringing leading me to my greatest regret.

    As I think about the steps that landed me in this mess, a numbness courses through my body. I’m not sure I will be able to stand when I need to, although I’m positive someone will haul me to my feet when the time comes to leave on my walk of shame. I’ll be booed and heckled and if I was really lucky, someone would choose to throw a bullet in my direction instead of just threats.

    I squeeze my eyes shut as the screaming of the crowd explodes around me. The gavel comes down multiple times followed by a stern warning, but it is ignored. The world will hear what they have to say and no one is going to stop them. I have caused this madness. I don’t want this life.

    “I take it back,” I scream to myself, “I change my mind.” But my pleas go unanswered. There will be no miracle that saves me, no one there to forgive me. Sickness fills my stomach and I can feel life wash away from my face.

    The man sitting next to me places a hand on my shoulder and leans in close to me, hoping the shortened distance will fight through the raucous, that the brief exchange of words will somehow soothe my racing heart.

    “Are you okay?”

    I open my mouth but don’t know what to say, but would could I say? The evidence was indisputable, the witnesses solid, the arguments delivered with as much ferocity as a lioness hunting its prey.

    I can hear the heavy footsteps of the guard approaching now, the jangle of keys, the odour of tuna on his breath surrounding me, enveloping me. I am lost in the abyss of sensory overload.

    I use the table to slowly pull myself to my feet and turn to the crowd. Fingers are being thrown in my direction with a silenced barrage. Another smash of the gavel rings in my ears and I clumsily straighten my tie, swaying unsteadily on the spot like a drunk.

    I think back to last minute, last week, last month when this damn trial began. How I wished it was different. Further now to last year. Every decision I’ve made in the last five years, ten years, all a stepping stone to the next fork in the road. But it doesn’t matter how much thinking I do, nothing will change the fact that it took the jury less than four hours for the verdict to be realised and my fate sealed.

    If I wasn’t hated before, I am now. And as much as I would like to blame the jurors, I will forever be known as the lawyer that got Max Burton off a murder charge that was so cut and dry, so rock solid that one reporter once stated that ‘a monkey could try this case and still convict that monster’. I am the one that spun the truth into a tightly wound ball of possibilities and then stretched it out again to make an alternate reality. And it will be all of us who have to live with the fact that a heartless killer is on the streets.

    I look over to the grieving family. Their hugs and cries stab at me. The prosecutor stares at me and I can’t tell whether its hatred or worry or her own regret.

    I slide my briefcase off the table and begin my wade through the masses, a security guard in front to hold them back, my client close behind eager to taste freedom.

    He may be a free man, but I am now locked in a cage I have created for myself.

    I will forever rue the day that Max walked into my office and I accepted his case.


  • Alice Nelson

    A Cry for Help
    By Alice Nelson ©2016

    “Are you alright?”

    The question startled Frankie out of her daydream. She looked at the person who asked the question —an older gentleman on the downhill side of sixty, with a friendly face, and wearing a Scottish tweed hat, and a plaid jacket with patches on the elbows, like some college professor. She stared at him dumbfounded because, one, she wasn’t alright, and two, not one person until now even noticed.

    Frankie worked at Jensen’s Grocers for seven years, and in that time she’d been yelled at, spit on, and called everything from a cunt to a whore, more times than she could recall. To some customers, she was just an employee who could be demeaned without any thought as to how it might affect her.

    Yesterday Frankie reached her limit, when a man berated her because tomatoes weren’t on sale any longer.

    “Sir, the sale was over Sunday, today they’re back to their original price.”

    “I don’t give a damn, it says here in the paper that they are 2 for a dollar.”

    “See here sir, ‘prices good until Sunday September 8th,’ today is the 9th.” Frankie smiled, or at least she tried to.

    “That’s bullshit, how can anyone see this tiny writing?”

    “Sorry sir, I didn’t create the ad.”

    “Are you being a smart ass with me?”

    “No sir.”

    “Where’s your manager?”

    “Todd Baker was the manager. He was an asshole who spent most of his time avoiding customers. Todd came over, and glared at Frankie. “Sorry for the inconvenience, sir. Frankie give the customer the sale price.” Todd smiled at her, it was his ‘don’t call me out here again,’ smile.

    The man left, but not before saying, “Tell this bitch the customer’s ALWAYS right.”

    Todd didn’t defend her. He didn’t say ‘Frankie did the right thing, she can’t give you the sale price once the sale is over, only a manager can.’ No, he just laughed, and let that bastard insult her to boot.

    Frankie decided, Todd would be the first one she would shoot.

    At least that was the plan until this man, this stranger, asked her the question she wanted someone to ask her for years —Are you alright? The answer was a resounding NO.

    It wasn’t just the insults from customers that saw Frankie on the verge of shooting up her place of employment, then killing herself. It was a life that had beaten her down so badly, she figured this was the only way out of her pain.

    Frankie was about to answer the stranger’s question, but Todd came out at just the wrong moment and said, “Frankie, let’s get a move on. You’re so damned slow —as usual.” Then he apologized to the customers.

    Frankie was often left to handle the rush all alone. She was the one who had to deal with the angry shoppers just getting off work, who didn’t want to wait in a long line. Todd always put her in that position, while he and the others took their breaks in back.

    She looked at the kind stranger, then at Todd, slowly pulled the gun from underneath her smock, and fired it at her manager. The bullet just grazed Todd’s shoulder, but it knocked him off his feet. “You bitch!” he screamed, “You shot me, you bitch!”

    Customers were terrified, and running for the door. Frankie told another cashier to lock it, “And don’t try and leave or I’ll shoot you too!” She shouted.

    The gentleman at the register, the one who asked if she were okay, never took his eyes off of Frankie. Finally he said, “Guess you aren’t alright.” Then he did the unthinkable in a situation like this —he smiled.

    Frankie began to hyperventilate.

    “Hey, hold on…Frankie is it? I’m Robert Shirley —everyone calls me Mr. Shirley.” He smiled again, and Frankie thought it odd that his tone was so lighthearted. “So far my dear, you haven’t killed anyone, let’s keep it that way, shall we?”

    Just then Todd began screaming again. “You shot me! I’m going to make sure you spend the rest of your miserable life in prison! I’m—“

    “Shut up will you Todd.” Mr. Shirley said. “If you want to live, just shut—your—big—mouth!”

    Todd was stunned, but at least he quieted down.

    Frankie liked the way Mr. Shirley spoke to Todd, no one ever talked to him that way. He was a bully, whose management style was all intimidation.

    “Look at me Frankie, just me.” Mr. Shirley’s smile was soothing, his voice calmed her. They could hear sirens coming closer, and Robert Shirley watched as Frankie’s eyes darted back and forth between him, the frightened customers, Todd, and the ever mounting police presence outside.

    Frankie lowered the gun. “What the hell am I doing?” she said.

    Mr. Shirley spoke so gently to her. “Let these people go, and I’ll walk out with you to the police waiting outside, alright?”

    Frankie nodded, and Mr. Shirley helped usher the customers and the rest of the employees out the door. Frankie thought he would go too; that he only promised to stay so she wouldn’t shoot anyone.

    ‘Once he leaves,’ she thought, ‘I’ll just end it all.’

    But he didn’t leave. He stayed until Frankie was ready to surrender to police.

    “Come out with your hands up!” police demanded.

    “Let’s go my dear.” Mr. Shirley said, “Don’t worry, I won’t leave you.”

    Frankie and Mr. Shirley exited Jensen’s Grocers, both with their hands held high. Before police placed Frankie in the squad car, Mr. Shirley told her, “I promise to visit you wherever they take you, okay young lady?”

    She smiled or at least tried to.

    The media called Mr. Shirley a hero, but he would have none of it. “Nonsense,” he told them, “I am merely a friend. All she needed was a friend.”

  • Renette Steele
    I had a story all thought out to write for this theme. A really good one. Sat down to write it, total blank. Just couldn’t figure out where to start, so I’ve changed my mind a half dozen times now. After all it is a women’s prerogative to change her mind right? The deadline has burst in on me once again.

    There was this guy who was so super educated in the bible doctrine, Rev. Dr. something with all these initials following his name. They actually spelled out the word demon. I am not sure what they all stood for, it really doesn’t matter.

    A group of hard working, illiterate gents, started following this other fellow. Saying things against what the guy above thought he knew. It really upset him. So he helped get a law passed to legally stop these nuts. After all they didn’t know anything like he did, his titles proved that.

    No, No, to many pronouns… to vague. Better think of something else.

    So, Amy was sick and tired of her parents. They just didn’t understand her. “Gee, were they so old they couldn’t remember how to have fun any more? Did they totally forget what it was like to be a kid? Maybe I should run away to the circus.”

    Beth Anne worried about Amy. Didn’t she understand they loved her so much? They’ve been there. done that and only want to spare her from making the same stupid mistakes. Why couldn’t she do what they asked without a fight, just this once? Maybe Beth Anne could still run away and join the circus. Oh, Wait this is the circus.

    No, no, that won’t do. NO real place for it to go. Until Amy grows up and discovers maybe mom and dad know a little something after all. My mind seems to be a pin ball machine on full tilt.

    Remember that crazy guy with all the doctorates? Maybe I should revisit him. He had many followers. Those who believed his titles gave him an edge over them. One day a young man’s picture showed up in the paper. The secretary knew she had to show the article to the Rev. Dr.. He reacted much like she expected. “This is an outrage! He can’t be allowed anywhere near this campus.” He looked at her. “It’s our job to protect these children. You did the right thing. I’ll take care of it.”

    Exactly one year later the Rev. Dr. Is found guilty of a similar crime.

    Nope still not going where I want it too. Paul’s conversion got lost somewhere. Maybe Amy again. No I don’t know where to take that one.

    They were all packed and headed out for a warm sunny vacation. Away from all this snow and cold. For most of the drive the scenery was gorgeous. When they’d hit a stretch of bad weather and roads. Darcy would go to sleep. Somewhere along the route, while she was sleeping things came to a stand still. Darcy awoke to a blanket of whiteness.

    Her husband said.” Roads closed. We are stuck here for awhile.”

    “Oh, great. Now what?”

    “We wait.”

    “I guess I will try and read a bit.” she reaches for the backpack.

    He studied the map and adjusted the radio. Listening for any news. After a time. “If we can get to this turn off we can cut across to here. Then things should clear up.” He told her while tracing the route on the map.

    “Uh, yea. Okay. whatever you think dear.” she mumbled as she keep reading. They were able to inch forward. Visibility only a foot or so in front of them. He spotted a sign and turned down the narrow road. Seeing a semi doing the same. He said,” it should only be an hour out of the way. We will be fine.” But they soon lost track of the semi.

    They crept along. After about three hours things seemed to get worse. He could no longer see the road, only a looming snow bank. Their tracks already covered over. Even if they could turn around they wouldn’t know where to go.

    They sat in the car conserving on energy and food. Starting the car for five minutes every hour to help keep the chill off. Bundling together in one sleeping bag. They pulled out all of Darcy’s nylons and put them on for warmth. Finally he decided after the third day he needed to walk out for help.

    No, No. That’s to real. The folks who got lost in Utah. Besides the couple wound up dying. No real change of mind there. Maybe I should skip this one. Can’t do that I want to write! But what? Nothing concert is coming.

    So I will submit these ramblings. They won’t make any sense. Certainly noting worth voting for. But hey, I am a writer. I must write. Or maybe I should forget the whole thing and find a new avenue. Adult coloring is fun. Doodling relaxes me. But writing is freeing. There you have it, my mind on over drive. I must write a story this week.

  • The handsome couple dated for six months. One day she announced, “I can’t believe it, but I’m pregnant.” She looked up into his blue eyes with a tremulous smile. When he frowned, she quickly added,, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
    Not knowing what to say, he cleared his throat, then peeled off a wad of bills and pressed them into her hand. She shook her head, but he walked away leaving her holding a fistful of money and staring at the broad back of a man she’d thought she loved. …
    A week later, the man felt bad about the way he’d walked away from his. girlfriend at a tough time in her life. He missed her and wanted to apologize for being insensitive. After all, she was not only a sweetheart, she was gorgeous. He phoned her. No answer. Phone disconnected. He shrugged, smiled and moved on. No need to get hung up on one woman. Plenty of beautiful girls in the world.

    Eighteen years later, that same man is wandering downtown. His dark hair is now sparse and graying, his paunch substantial. At almost fifty, he’s just split with his third wife. As she left, she yelled,. “If you have to be a bastard, you could at least be a rich bastard.” He sighs, wondering why nothing in his life has turned out the way he planned. Not in business, not in romance. He feels like his bad luck started on the day he split up with his first steady girlfriend. He remembers how her rich chestnut hair fell to her shoulders in curls, how her hazel eyes glowed when she was happy. He sure doesn’t have much to show for all the years between then and now..
    He looks into the window of a sporting goods store and remembers the time when he went running every morning, when his stomach was taut and his legs firm. He runs a hand over his thinning hair and sees reflected in the glass a tremor in that hand.. Too much booze, he thinks. Gotta cut down.
    A couple of teenage boys rush out of the store, shoving each other and laughing. They remind him of himself at that age, no worries, no responsibilities. Good looking fellows too. Dark curly hair and blue eyes..Same height, same noses. Must be twins.
    “Cut it out,,” says one, “Mom said meet her at four o clock. We’re late.”
    “Don’t worry. We’re in her good books today. We got into college, didn’t we?”
    “Yeah . Thanks to her. She went over our essays maybe a thousand times.”.
    “Okay, okay, I get it. Hey, here she comes.”
    Curious, the man turns and there she is. No mistaking her. Long hair still that bright chestnut color, figure still trim. When she sees the boys, her walk turns into a run. . She enfolds them in her arms. They are all talking and laughing at the same time.
    He watches them feeling an unfamiliar longing.
    “Rats,” says one boy, “I left my wallet on the counter.”
    “Dope.” The other runs into the store with his twin.. .
    The man steps up to the woman. “Remember me?”
    She stares at him. Then slowly shakes her head.
    “Aw c’mon,” he says. “They look exactly like I did at that age.” Pleading, “They’re mine, aren’t they?”
    “No,” She’s very firm. “They are mine. All mine.”
    “Hey, I’m sorry,” he says, “I should have…but I thought…you said you were going to….”.
    “Changed my mind,” she says with a radiant smile. As the boys emerge from the store, the three of them turn and head for the parking lot.
    The man watches them go, his shoulders slumping.. He brushes one hand over his face. Then he straightens up and resumes walking down the street.

  • Ralph Jensen
    by Ralph Jensen © 2016

    As I expected, my fall is a bit unstable but I’m doing fine. I must have reached 120 mph by now, the maximum speed of a human body in free fall.

    They say you see your life in a flash, or like a film in front of your eyes when your last moment approaches. I have seen it once, on that terrible day. Will I see it now?

    I remember.

    When I was a girl, about seven years old, I was often alone. My parents were away most of the day, working, to make ends meet. Today I know they loved me. Back then I was not sure. My father drank a lot, too much. He didn’t abuse us, but I was often afraid. Still, I loved him.

    One day he forgot to pick me up from kindergarten. Later my mother came to get me. I know father was drunk again. He forgot me.

    One day the police came for him. He must have been in a fight. I did not understand what they were talking, just that they were going to take him away. I ran and clutched his leg. They pulled at me, but I wouldn’t let go. Tears ran down my cheeks. I screamed in despair. My world was ending. They did not take him that day.

    My mother was good to me but she worked a lot. I was so alone. The only one to talk to was Lala, my little cat. But cats have a mind of their own. They don’t belong to people. They belong to the house. So most of the time she’d rather be left alone.

    I once saw a man hit by a car. He fell and lay silent, as if asleep. Someone covered his body with a blanket and an ambulance came and took him away. I remember his face. It was was peaceful.

    Finally I could not stand my life anymore. The past was all grey and the future too. I had no dreams and no hope. The silence suffocated me and I saw no end to it.

    I did not want to jump in front of a car, because people would see me. So I thought I’d jump from the bridge by the river. It was a high one. I felt good about that.

    When I opened the door to get on my way, Lala stood at my feet, watching. I didn’t know what to make of it, but when I stepped into the hallway Lala clutched my foot. “Lala go back,” I said but she wouldn’t let go. I tried to shake her off, but she clung to my foot. When I finally pulled free her claws left scratch marks on my skin. Tiny drops of blood emerged.

    The blood pulled me out of my stupor while Lala just stood there with her innocent eyes. I bent down and this time she would let me take her. I don’t know if she understood but in that one moment we had met, somewhere in the heart, I guess.

    When I thought clearly again I felt wrong for a time. To relieve my conscience I told my mother about it all. For a minute she fell silent. Then she clutched me and cried. She told me that she loved me, how much I meant to her and didn’t I know that? I was all her life. We sat in silence, I in her embrace. At peace.

    I changed my mind that day. Our life did not improve but that day I decided I would not live for myself. I would live for others. I think that is an unusual decision for a seven-year-old but love can do that.

    I grew up. I left my country, travelled the world. I made many friends. I like people, I like to do things for others. It is my greatest strength. I met a good man, fell in love, married. It was a good time. Long enough to remember. We grew with each other, through good and bad times. The memory still hurts, the loss seems unbearable. And there was Krista – what agony to even think her name.

    The ground seems to approach at higher speed now. The distance has shrunk to 3000 feet. I maneuver, turn to face the sky – a bit unstable but not bad.

    There’s Terry’s Cessna. He has taken me up for this last jump. It took some persuading but he finally agreed – for old times’ sake and because I assured him I’d be okay. I wonder what he thinks now.

    I maneuver back, face the ground again – shaky but not bad, not bad at all.

    Two buzzards glide in an updraft. In the deep I see individual trees, even bushes. My fall approaches its end.

    Is that all, I wonder? Of course it’s not. Life will go on, things will happen, inevitably but what about love?

    I breathe calmly. I am at peace. Up here I always am.

    1000 feet.

    “I should have told Terry about Lala,” I think. “So he doesn’t worry.” Back then, with Lala, I changed my mind for good.

    I pull the release, hear the flutter of silk as my chute opens. The deceleration makes me dizzy, just a bit. I’m clearly out of practice.

    I look downward. The landing will be something of a challenge, because the accident that took my husband and my daughter also took most of my right leg. But if I roll off nicely there shouldn’t be a problem. Still, I decided this would be my last jump, a marker between the past and whatever comes next.

    I roll off nicely. No problem at all. The chute deflates. I sit, then lie on my back. Terry turns toward the landing strip.

    I watch the sky. For a long time. I finally decide: there will be other jumps, other markers, down the road – wherever it leads.

  • Carrie Zylka

    Thank you writers for participating this week! This thread is now closed and it’s time to vote! Remember you must vote in order for your story to qualify, and you Cannot vote for yourself.

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