First Annual ALWAYCT Blast the Page Festival!

Welcome friends and writers!  Now is the time to challenge yourself to write something that you want to share and get careful feedback on.

For our ALWAYCT Festival there will be two rules:

~Limit your piece to around 1000 words.

~If you submit, you pledge to share careful feedback on all the other submissions from your fellow writers.  Your feedback should be more than, “I liked it!”  Share suggestions for improvements and mention specific things that you thought were done well.  We all want to learn.

The rest is up to you.  Select your own format and topic.  Fiction, creative nonfiction, essays, poetry–you pick!  Can it be an excerpt from a longer piece?  Sure; just let us know that.

Time frame?  It’s open ended, but remember that I tend to post new challenges fairly frequently, so older ones start to drift off into the nether regions of this blog.  Post soon!

Am I going to comment on your submissions?  I will if I decide to post something of my own.

I look forward to reading your work!

204 responses to “First Annual ALWAYCT Blast the Page Festival!

  1. A Pleasant Summer Morning

    Snookums was vicious. No one contested that, and no one in town would offer up any defense of the dog. Children had been instructed nearly from birth to run, or crawl away screaming, at first sight of the animal. The elderly carried concealed weapons and wore heavy leather clothing even in summer.

    It wasn’t that Snookums bit people; Snookums bit everything. In fact, during periods of isolation, Snookums bit himself.

    Biting, however, was not his principal social dysfunction. Snookums filled the air with such a foul odor that residents claimed to be able to track the dog weeks after he had passed through. It’s possible that the disagreeable odor was the result of the black algae-like ooze that intermingled with the few remaining patches of his fur. No one would ever venture close enough to find out, and Snookums provided few additional clues.

    It didn’t matter though, because, on a pleasant summer morning, Old Man Houck hit Snookums with his tuck loaded with brightly colored blue barrels. The event was recorded as a traffic accident although Houck’s truck had to travel seventy-five yards across plowed ground to hit the dog.

    Houck was a most disagreeable man who, surprisingly, hated the people who hated the same things he did. In fact, during periods of isolation, Houck hated himself. That morning however, he hated Snookums. And with good reason. The collision had left some of Snookums algae-like ooze on the bumper of Houck’s truck, and the metal was clearly dissolving.

    Dissolving metal was only part of Houck’s problem. His business, which was unique to say the least, was in jeopardy. Houck worked for the company over the mountain that mixed assorted fluids. No one knew for certain what the mixture the company made was used for, but it sold well in developing countries.

    When sales of the mixture were low, Houck would drive his truck, loaded with brightly colored blue barrels, over the mountain to have them filled. With the drains on his blue barrels slightly open, Houck would drive around for several hours until the barrels were empty. The company over the mountain was happy to pay for this service, as the mixture of fluids they produced dissolved metal, and, as such, was difficult to store.

    It was on that pleasant summer morning that Houck, on his way over the mountain to have his barrels filled, accidentally hit Snookums. As a result, he would have to explain to the man that owned the company, why he was late. Houck hated that because he hated the man who owned the company over the mountain. The fact that they were brothers and had hated each other since childhood only increased the tension between the men.

    The man who owned the company over the mountain was a decidedly ill-tempered fellow, but he understood the business of mixing assorted fluids. He had inherited the company from his father, who had been decidedly ill-tempered as well, having learned the fluid mixing trade while experimenting on his own, using acids, combustibles, and numerous feral cats. He received a utility patent, U1040229, “An Apparatus For Mixing Assorted Fluids” at the age of nine. By the age of ten, he had a lucrative government contract and was building the company his son now ran.

    On that pleasant summer morning, the current owner stood in his office, checked his watch, and screamed so loud that his employees thought Snookums had been sighted near by. Snookums however was on the other side of the mountain, lying in a field, dissolving.

    Yet, Snookums hadn’t always been vicious. Old timers could remember when the dog just occasionally bit small children and smelled bad only when wet, but that was before the testing started.

    Snookums was owned by Sarah Picknit who was by all accounts a nasty woman who hated everything generally, and Mr. Picknit particularly. She married her husband because he claimed he was good with animals, which was arguably the case as he had worked in a butcher shop for fourteen years.

    Mr. Picknit developed a drinking problem that began on his honeymoon and lasted until he abandoned Sarah Picknit in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner two months and three days later. Sarah never saw her husband again, but she was left with his dog Snookums as a reminder of the few blissful instants they had shared together.

    Sarah Picknit hated the dog. She hated the dog’s collar, its leash, its dish, and its blanket. Sarah Picknit hated everything about the dog. So, it was not surprising that on the day after Thanksgiving, she loaded the dog in her car, drove him to the company over the mountain, and signed him up for testing.

    Initially, the tests went well. It seemed that the assorted fluids the company mixed had no ill effects on the animal at all. After a few months however, Snookums demeanor began to change. He also developed a disagreeable odor that seemed to emanate from a black algae-like ooze that intermingled with the increasingly rare patches of his fur.

    As Snookums became exponentially vicious, the people conducting the tests decided they had enough data proving the safety of their mixture, and they elected to end the experiment. It was time for Snookums to go home.

    But to what home?

    Sarah Picknit could not take the dog back. In the intervening months, she had been hit and killed by Old Man Houck driving his pickup loaded with brightly colored blue barrels. If you discount the fact that she was sitting in a swing on her front porch, it’s an occurrence quite common in many small towns.

    With few options, the company over the mountain took Snookums to the other side of the mountain, and let him go.

    Snookums was vicious. No one contested that, and no one in town would offer up any defense of the dog.

    ©2013 Gary W. Treible

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      1. I am very impressed with this story. It’s powerful.
      2. Your use of repetition is extremely effective.
      3. Your humor and sarcasm is splendid.
      4. I wish I had the intelligence to write like you.
      5. You have used your story to send a very powerful message.

      I agree that we live in a crazy, mixed up world.

    • An odd/interesting story. Well written though. I’m not sure what to say as I’m writing a dog happy story and this one grinds on me, but that was the intent. This is life on the bad side of America. It’s like a dark future, but it is the now. Makes you think, and that’s a good thing.

      • I think its an odd and clever story. I liked the repetition – “in fact, during longs periods of isolation..” – I think you could have used that at least one more time. I liked the descriptions – clear and crisp – vivid images of the hateful folks in the town and poor ol’ Snookums.. Good use of using the first line as the last line. Life in an unusual rural town that I hope to never visit!

    • I think Shaddy summed it up nicely and I can’t think of anything worthwhile to add. I thoroughly enjoy your writing. I am hooked on your sense of humor and look forward to your next post.

    • A mutant, dissolving dog that bites and has icky black stuff on his back. I love it. I am always delighted by things I don’t expect since so much fiction is predictable. However, you have avoided gorgeous blonds and evil villains. I, too, felt that the repetition was one of the best things about this piece. It’s a weird bit of writing, and the repetition seems to signal us to get ready to expect the unexpected. A bit of Thurber here too. I’m glad I read it!

    • I get a kick out of stories like this. Like the writer just lets the imagination flow from one scene to the next, perhaps like free writing, ok, I’ll throw this thought in and see where it goes.

    • Gary, I think Mr. Houck taught the Driver’s Education class when I was in High School and I believe that Mrs. Nickpick or Picknit was my babysitter once. I have no life encounters with any creature as repulsive and pathetic as Snookums., I loved the cadence of this piece, and your wit is captivating.

    • (My standard disclaimer: If I had any ability to edit and critique, my own works would improve substantially. Take no offense at my offerings. They are written with a well-meaning heart and an unsound mind.)

      Reading this story is like watching a train wreck, and I mean that in a good way. From that first improbable sentence (a vicious dog named Snookums?), the reader hears the initial clatter of a railcar’s truck going astray. Each of the following sentences and paragraphs builds as the succeeding railcars jump the ironclad tracks until all disbelief must be suspended.

      I loved it, absolutely loved it. I was torn between howling with laughter and feeling sorry for poor mutant Snookums. Enough with the accolades and on to the suggestions.

      ¶ 1: The 3rd sentence stopped me and I had to read it a few times. To me it seems awkward and I wonder if starting with a prepositional phrase might make it smoother: “Nearly from birth, children were instructed to run or crawl away….etc.” Notice I changed the tense from “had been” to “were” but only because Ann did the same with my 500 word final piece. Actually there are several changes of tense between past and past perfect (?), and I confess it is something I battle myself and wish I knew the solution.

      ¶10: It printed thus: “….Snookums had been sighted near by.” I think “near by” is one word, “nearby”.

      ¶ 13: “….left with… Snookums as a reminder of the few blissful INSTANTS they had shared together.” Did you mean INSTANCES or is INSTANTS a droll clue into why Mrs. Picknit hated Mr. Picknit?

      I’m going to quit now. All in all, I loved the repetition, the simple declarative sentences, and the increasing audacity. Very enjoyable read.

    • a bit dark for be but I enjoyed the read like the repeat of idea thought out..

  2. Fly Away Home (Part of a larger piece.)

    Summer is here again. The days pass lazy and slow, like a tortoise crossing blacktop on a hot country road. Afternoons are quiet and still with Aunt May sipping lemonade on the porch swing and Bill Jr. watching ants make their hills in the sand. I, however, am usually sitting by the river, fishing pole in hand, portable radio playing, feet dangling in the water.
    At the start of each day I do my chores and then I’m free to go where I please until sundown. Aunt May always warns me to be in before dark. Her voice stern but eyes sparkling she says, “Addy, I don’t want you getting lost in the woods or kidnapped by elves.” I laugh and tell her that I hope they do snatch me away; then I wouldn’t have to clean the chicken coop each morning after breakfast. She flicks me with the dishtowel as I run out the screen door.

    Sometimes my best friend Betty-Jo and I go over to Sam’s Diner and eat chocolate sundaes with walnuts and whipped cream. Other days we sit and skip rocks over by Harper’s Pond. Yesterday, Betty and I had a picnic out behind the barn and then caught bugs in Aunt May’s old jelly jars. We lined the jars up on the fence post and looked at all of the little creatures peeking out at us. The glass made their iridescent wings, bulbous eyes and wiry antennae look large and distorted. Betty and I laughed and made faces back at them. At sundown we unscrewed the caps and set them free. “Fly way little bugs,” Betty sang. They skipped across the grass into the twilight…except for one.

    There was one firefly that I couldn’t bear to let go. I kept him in his jar and placed it on my window sill before I climbed into bed. I watched his golden lightning flashes until I fell asleep.
    Today, I’m beside my beloved waterhole; away from town, away from noise and away from Betty-Jo. Even best friends can sometimes get under your skin. The drought has been on for about a month now and the water is shallow and still. Honey, my golden retriever, is with me. I have had her since she was a pup and her brown eyes can warm even the coldest soul. I circle around to where the dock is floating under the willow tree and climb down the bank onto the wooden platform. Afternoon sunshine falls in patches over the surface of the pond, the light catching the shiny wings of blue green dragonflies skipping across the water.
    I love it here. I love that it’s so quiet. The only sounds are the occasional splash of a fish or a bird away in the trees chattering to himself about the lack of juicy worms. I kick off my shoes and dangle my feet over the edge. I never quite let them touch the water. There have been rumors of toes being lost to giant snapping turtles and I’d rather take caution than to find out the hard way.
    My fishing line is tangled. After I finally get it straightened, I cast it into the middle of the pond and then fiddle with the dial on my small black radio. The afternoon passes peacefully with Honey sleeping by my side and Willie Nelson crooning in the background.

    The breeze is soft and warm. My head feels heavy and my eyes can’t seem to focus. As I stare out across the pond, I think I see something move in the shadows on the opposite bank. I sit up straight and squint. There’s a small rowboat coming across the water. As it gets closer, I can make out three figures; Betty-Jo and Aunt May are paddling while Bill Jr. is standing, holding something in his hand which blinks and flickers like a candle. They are waving at me and they all look very sad. Suddenly, Bill Jr. starts to shout at me. “Addy, Addy, hurry home! The light won’t last much longer!” I’m so confused. I stand up and accidently drop my fishing pole into the water. A dozen startled dragonflies are racing at my head. There’s a roaring in my ears now and a blur of colors before my eyes, all blue green and golden.
    In an instant, I am awake, staring up at a dark sky filled with stars. I realize I’ve been dreaming.

    The roaring in my ears are crickets, a whole symphony of chirping insects making music in the grass beyond the banks. I hear Honey get up and suddenly she’s licking my face. I sit up in a panic realizing Aunt May’s going to tan my hide because it’s way past sundown and certainly way past supper. The batteries are almost dead in my old portable; the only sound left is faint fuzzy static. I get up, switch off the radio and search for my fishing pole, which is nowhere to be found.

    I’m ready to jump up over the banks and run like the wind when I stop for a moment and look back over the pond. It is a scene so peaceful; so calm and silver and very strange in the moonlight. I listen to the water lapping the edge of the dock and the soft breeze lulling the sad willow trees to sleep. Some magic makes me want to stay, to stop my feet from running home. I decide the waterhole is even more beautiful by starlight than by afternoon sunshine. Honey anxiously pulls at my pant leg, trying to break the spell I have fallen under. Reluctantly, I turn and jump up over the bank.

    • Wow, your story lulled me… It’s well written and made me wonder where it was going. Is this a beginning or a middle? I like the possibilities…

    • Guess I should throw in my copyright too! Fly Away Home (c) 2013 Heather Chrzanowski

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Your piece relaxed me as your words and descriptions washed over me.

    • Your words painted a beautiful picture and I truly enjoyed walking through it. The boat scene started to get to me, I immediately thought of the ferryman and the river Styx.

    • Your story is wonderfully hypnotic. Your choice of words and descriptions create intimate pictures of your characters and paint vivid images for your readers.

    • It sounds like you’re setting up a big surprise here. The dream and the avoidance at the end suggest that. Good! Make sure someone besides Willie Nelson is singing since he wouldn’t be on the radio all afternoon. You might cut this a bit. Make sure every sentence moves your story along. Keep going!

      • Thanks for your feedback Ann! I have thought of shaving this down a bit. There’s no true “big surprise” at the end but everyone’s interest for the end of my story makes me think I may need to do a re-write! I would be interested for constructive comments on my current ending. It’s not too much longer. Thinking maybe I’ll direct the helpful people here to my blog to take a look and give me some direction. I’ve struggled with this piece a long time but I still think its worth working on.

    • (My standard disclaimer: If I had any ability to edit and critique, my own works would improve substantially. Take no offense at my offerings. They are written with a well-meaning heart and an unsound mind.)

      I live in the north country. I’ve lived in the north all my life and know nothing else, but your story is exactly how I imagine life in the south–not the Arizona south but the Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia south. Long hot days, as little activity as possible, those “lazy, hazy” days of summer.

      I was glad to see that this is part of a longer piece because I felt let down at the end. I couldn’t understand what was happening. At first, I thought the characters in the boat were bringing bad news. Then I thought maybe a tornado was coming. And, I missed the significance of the firefly. I thought there would be more.

      ¶ 1: I have a problem in my writing with misplacing modifiers, so I’m wondering about your second sentence: “…like a tortoise crossing blacktop on a hot country road.” How about “…like a tortoise crossing hot blacktop on a country road.” Just thinking here.

      All in all, a nice descriptive piece of an ambiance quickly disappearing.

      • Addendum: My suggestion about misplaced modifiers would make the sentence read less smoothly than your prose. It feels like the now-no-longer-hot country road also needs a modifier for balance and flow, and so it doesn’t feel diminished and left out.

      • I had struggled with that sentence many times when starting this piece. Smooth Prose versus correctness…..I’m not sure who wins! Maybe I need a new sentence!

    • took me back to the 50s when people could roam free of fear. much like my years along the river near my home. for me the call to home was the time the street lights went on

    • Sorry this is so late. Heather, what I enjoyed most about your piece was the way you created a “country” character through the speech patterns, and the way you created a prior time frame with references to a portable with batteries, and jelly jars.
      Thanks for such a mellow story. Would like to hear more.

  3. Heather, My childhood summers were very much like you describe. I had chores, but also large amounts of unsupervised free time. I also grew up around water, and interestingly enough, was given the same one rule, be back by dark. Your description of childhood summer days is absolutely great.

    Lulled into recollections of my own childhood, I have to say Addy’s dream totally took me by surprise. As this is part of a larger work, there are lots of possibilities. I don’t know if this was your intent, but I found the boat coming across the pond with flickering light to be ominous, even a bit creepy. That created a powerful image for me. But, Addy is different from me in at least one way. If I had that dream, and awoke to find it dark, I’m heading home as fast as Honey can run.

    Please (at some point) share a synopsis of the overall plot if you can. I’m guessing the dream is important. So, as a writer, you’ve passed the high hurdle of making at least one reader want to learn more .

    Well done!

    • Thanks Gary. The dream does come in to play at the end. It’s only a short story. Thank you for reading my piece. I’m glad it made you curious!!

      • I felt the breeze and saw the dragonflies and heard the birds. Great descriptions. I also wondered if the firefly would reappear somehow – wondered if that was what Bill Jr had on the boat. Also wondered why he was sad. Reminiscent of the lazy days of summer as a kid. Good job, Heather. I would like to read the rest of the story.

  4. I posted the wrong draft on the first announcement of this project. Ann, if possible, can you delete it? I will post final draft here at this section of blog in a moment. Sorry. Gale

  5. This is my final submission..Please disregard the other one..(hope Ann can delete the first one)

    THE NEW ORDER © 2013 Gale Davis All Rights Reserved

    By the turn of the twenty-third century, the demographics of The New United States had been stable for over fifty years. The SuperBlacks ruled the Empire from and lived exclusively in TheDC. The minority classes found it ironic that the SuperBlacks had used the research of WhiteMale from the twentieth century, Doctor Louis Leakey, in the Olduvai Gorge, to prove that they were the first humans on earth. His discoveries had been used to establish their absolute power. SuperBlacks were not only identified by their lineage to Eastern Africa, but also by the pure jet black color of their skin. Black citizens just below this elite group were known as DarkBlacks, and any person who could prove a link to anyone of African-American origin qualified for this caste.
    Outside of TheDC, the country was made up of four other Major Metropolitan Areas, The SanFran, The SouthAtlanta, The ChicagoLand, and TheNewYorker. Surrounded by The OpenCountry, the huge areas were almost cookie-cutter in the way they were laid out.
    In each of those massive communities, the DarkBlacks lived in the InnerUrbans, beautiful, park-like cores that contained hundreds of estates of this super-wealthy class. After Spanish was legislated as the Second Official Language of the U.S. on the occasion of the Tri-Centennial Celebration in 2076, The Hispanos gained a higher status level Therefore, the InnerUrbans were encircled by the HispanoGhetto areas, a greenbelt swath of colorful single family residences and entertainment centers. As one moved out and away from the HispanoGhetto, one entered the area of TheApartments of the Orientalies and the Indianos, who were directly responsible for managing the Whites.
    Permission to travel in the OpenCountry was limited to SuperBlacks and DarkBlacks, and through a very complicated system of Visas, travel between four Major Metropolitan Areas was allowed for the lower classes. With the exception of Whites of course.
    The Whites lived in compact areas of high-tech cubicle style dwellings, called Homeblocks, surrounding each Major Metropolitan Area. All Whites, male and female, took mandatory IQ testing at age 18. Whites with IQ ratings of 100 and above were never allowed to travel outside the Homeblocks in which they were born. In the Homeblock units, they were enslaved to perform in Federal ThinkTanks to develop new technologies to provide the upper classes with food, medical breakthroughs, new science, and genetic engineering. White families were limited to one male offspring, to prevent another White Majority uprising like the one at the turn of the last century. WhiteFemales had many more rights than the males, and could even travel into The OpenCountry, to tend to the Super Black’s children, on their many VacationTrips.

    WhiteMale John Minor lived with his parents and his three sisters in a cubical on the edge of The SanFran, a one-hundred mile strip of territory that ran from OldSeattle to OldLA along the West Coast. Two years ago, his IQ had tested at over 130, and he was directed to work on nuclear research to protect the New United States from foreign invasion. As members of one of the lowest classes of Whites, John and his family lived in a cubicle at the extreme edge of the Homeblock, near the Perimeter Fence that bordered the OpenCountry.
    John was tall for a WhiteMale, at just over six feet. His skin was alabaster white, bordering on Albino, and with his limpid ice blue eyes and crystal white hair, he stood out, even among his peers.
    John had seen many Orientalies and Indianos in his life, but never a Hispano, DarkBlack, or a SuperBlack. To him,those classes only existed in the history books. So you can imagine, dear reader, that early one evening, when John saw the SuperBlack girl Kanesha approaching the Perimeter Fence at the end of the alley near his cubical, he was quite taken aback, and most curious.

    Kanesha motioned for John to come to the four foot thick clear plastic fence. John knew that it was strictly forbidden for a WhiteMale to even gaze upon SuperBlack or DarkBlack women, and he was terrified at first. But she was so beautiful. Her skin was the color of ebony, and her dark eyes almost glowed on either side of her wide nose. And those lips. They appeared to be as soft as angel’s skin to John. A brightly colored bandana was wrapped around Kanesha’s perfectly shaped head like a turban, and she wore a long flowing dress of the same pattern. She looks like a princess, thought John, as he slowly moved closer to the fence. With the grace of well trained athlete, Kanesha tossed a small object over the thirty foot barricade. The Zphone landed in the thick weeds at John’s feet. Kanesha disappeared behind a large granite rock, about ten meters from the fence. John picked up the Zphone. It was a model that his father had worked on several month’s ago, so he was familiar with its operation. It vibrated in his hand. John touched the small screen, and heard Kanesha’s silky voice.
    “ Hello?” said Kanesha.
    Kanesha Wise was the daughter of one of the most powerful men in TheDC. At eighteen, she had already completed four years of college. While she learned about the classes of this society in school, she developed an unchecked desire to get to know them firsthand. Her father had forbidden her to pursue this dream, so she had gone underground. Using her Zphone, she had already interviewed several DarkBlack young men, one Hispano, one Orientaly, and one Indiano.
    “Hello,” whispered John into the small device “who are you?”
    “I can only talk for a minute. The phone might be monitored.” she said, “I am Kanesha, and I live in TheDC. I want to get to know all about you. But we must be extremely careful. I will call you again tomorrow at this same time. Good-bye.”
    “Uh, my name is John Minor.” he said, but she had already hung up. John very carefully put the small device in his front pants pocket and zipped it shut. He was so nervous that he was sweating under his tight shirt. Whites were only allowed to wear one style of clothing. WhiteMales wore skin tight dark shirts, and khaki pants with functional pockets on front and back. As their personal identification was in a small chip embedded under the skin of their right earlobe, they had no need for wallets or other such objects. The pockets were only to be used for carrying food, water and tools pertaining to their work.
    At precisely the same moment on the next day, John sat under a large bramble bush near the fence. Cradling the Zphone like a piece of delicate glass, he felt a soft vibration in his hand.
    “Speak quickly and quietly,” she said,”Tell me your name, your job, and your family status.”
    “I am John Minor,” he stammered,”I work in Nuclear, and I live with my dad, mom, and three younger sisters. I have an IQ of 138.” John felt foolish that he had blurted out his IQ score.
    “Hi, John,” she said, in the most delicious accent John had ever heard, “talk with you again tomorrow.”
    John and Kanesha talked in this brief manner every evening except Sunday for months. He learned of her father’s prominent position, and her life as a SuperBlack. She learned about John’s life as a low class WhiteMale. Where he worked and lived. His family history. Their friendship blossomed across the thick fence and the chasm of their social status. They never physically saw each other again after the first encounter, and communicated strictly by Zphone.

    A family friend in TechSecurity discovered Kanesha’s Zphone records, and called her father immediately.
    “You realize that I cannot permit you to continue this.” said her father sternly,”If it ever went public, it would be the end of my career. I am sending you abroad, Kanesha. You will be going to school in Londondom for the next four years. And, I will take that phone young lady!”
    John waited at the bush every night for a full month before he finally gave up hope. He was devastated. He had never loved another human being as much as he loved Kanesha. How could she have deserted him without saying goodby? He threw the small phone back over the fence.

    • Gale, it could only end that way! I’m not much in to Other World stuff, but this kept me reading. There was a lot of thought that went into developing this new world and the characters and classes who inhabit it. I felt sorry for all of them. Curiosity and oppression called to both of your characters, for a short while anyway.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Wow! I know that’s not an intelligent comment, but WOW!

      What a mind you have, fellow writer! (Darn, that’s three exclamation points right off the bat. I hope Anne’s not around).

      Your tale is frightening. I’ve received e-mails that have shed light on the way the world populations are growing. I fear that some form of what you’ve projected will be our destiny in the distant future.

      I read the first few paragraphs of this to my husband yesterday. “Where does that stuff come from?” was his reply. He’s not a writer so he marvels at what seems a “far out” scenario.

      I applaud you for your ability to use your imagination, knowledge and creativity to project a possible future. I admire your courage as well.

      • galelikethewind

        Thanks, Shaddy . This was my first attempt at any sort of fantasy fiction. The idea came from a news report that whites are now in the minority in Los Angeles County. I first thought about whites becoming a protected class, then expanded that to having them as slaves in a kind of reverse world of the future. The rest was up to the muse.
        FYI I think I did at least six drafts of this before submitting.
        I like the light touch of political incorrectness that it carries, I felt that this added tension.
        Thanks again for your commenta.

    • Very clever indeed. When I started, I thought this was going to be a simple story of role reversal. That was until I got to the Federal Thinktank part. Pleasant surprise. And yes, I can hear Tattoo saying “Zphone, Zphone!”

    • I also thought it was a story of role reversal then I thought maybe Romeo and Juliet then it ended a bit abruptly for me. I really was hoping Kanesha would be the heroine that started some sort of movement. You have an amazing imagination but next time can I have a happy ending with a female heroine.

    • Gale, this was great and so unexpected. I couldn’t wait to see where it was going. Is this part of a larger piece? If not, it has great possibilities! Maybe John’s love for Kanesha is enough to start a rebellion?

    • Gale – what a good story, well-written and a great twist throughout. Your best so far, without a doubt. Jeff

    • You have a good idea here, and I wonder if you cut it off to keep it short. This is novel material, since there are so many issues that beg to be dealth with. Also, as you keep working on this, notice that the good parts are when things are happening (scenes, events) and the summaries sound too much like you have to tell us things rather than letting us get lost in the fictive dream. Try to fit the background into the events so there is less “telling.” And keep going!

      • Thanks to all for your comments. I am traveling at moment (Grandson’s 18th birthday in Sacramento..then to Tahoe to see my 90 year old Mom for a few days.) I promise to read and comment on the rest of the pieces here over the next week or so.
        Yes Ann, I cut it short due to 1000 word limit. And I did all that exposition in the begining to creat the world very quickly for what was to follow..boy meets girl, boy loses girl. I plan to have John Minor devise a way to break through the Perimeter Fence to pursue his love. And of course Kanesha has ideas of her own. It could be a HUGE work, and I would definitely re-work the story to show the world instead of telling. Probably through some characters from each class..
        Thanks again to everyone who read and commented on this piece. You provide me with a great deal of inspiration.

    • (My standard disclaimer: If I had any ability to edit and critique, my own works would improve substantially. Take no offense at my offerings. They are written with a well-meaning heart and an unsound mind.)

      Yikes! Cue the theme from Twilight Zone.

      “…they were enslaved to perform in Federal ThinkTanks to develop new technologies to provide the upper classes with food….”

      Shades of Soylent Green. If you don’t know that movie, it’s where….maybe you should Google it instead.

      “After Spanish was legislated as the Second Official Language of the U.S. on the occasion of the Tri-Centennial Celebration in 2076, The Hispanos gained a higher status level Therefore, the InnerUrbans were encircled by the HispanoGhetto areas, a greenbelt swath of colorful single family residences and entertainment centers.”

      Two things here: Did I miss the First Official Language? And if the Super Backs are dominant, why do they allow a second language? Just wondering. Next item: “…The Hispanos gained a higher status level Therefore,….” Hmmm. Is there supposed to be a period before “Therefore,” or is that the name of the level?

      “WhiteMale John Minor lived with his parents and his three sisters in a cubical on the edge of The SanFran, a one-hundred mile strip of territory that ran from OldSeattle to OldLA along the West Coast.”

      Did it finally happen? Did California fall into the ocean? I refer to “…a one-hundred mile strip…” Is that its length or width? Little confusing.

      “A brightly colored bandana was wrapped around Kanesha’s perfectly shaped head like a turban…”

      I’m not sure if this suggestion is worthy or not, but how about “…was wrapped like a turban around….”?

      In line with Ann’s suggestion about “showing” rather than telling, maybe could you work in the restrictions on the White caste through his conversations with Kanesha, i.e., “I have three sisters. The Whites are allowed only one White male child.” And so on.

      This (currently) outrageously politically incorrect story has possibilities in the Sci-Fi fantasy genre. ‘Bout time Whitey got his comeuppence, says this blond, blue-eyed Scandinavian. I also read that story about the white minority. Enjoyable read.

    • not sure how this made me feel. but it held me till the end and I wanted more. to read.

  6. This is a continuation of a story I started off of a prompt here:
    https://annlinquist.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/standing/
    The word limit leaves me hanging, but I wanted comments.
    *****
    I climbed into the driver’s seat, shut the door and took a look at her. She gave me a glance and continued to look out the front windshield.
    “You look like you’re ready to travel,” I told her.
    Her small short whine told me she wanted to get moving.
    “I’d welcome another traveling companion, sweetie, but I should do my due diligence and check to see if someone is missing you. I wouldn’t feel right about just taking off with you.”
    No answer. She kept staring straight ahead.
    “Okay, let me talk to the Gypsy and find the nearest animal hospital, they usually know about lost dogs.”
    I pulled the GPS, my other traveling companion, out of the center console and showed it to her. She gave it a cursory sniff and turned her attention back out the windshield. I powered it on and waited.
    “I call this my Gypsy,” I told her, “G P S, gypsy. I figure that a gypsy never gets lost, get it?”
    She was not impressed, she ignored me.
    “Hey, if you’re done here, quit clogging up my pumps. Take yer mutt and git moving,” the greasy man had come back out of the office.
    I waved at him, resisting the urge to give him a different finger than before. The dog looked over at him and gave a low growl.
    “I guess you can figure people out pretty quickly eh?”
    I buckled my seat belt, turned the key and my trusty Toyota, Topper, fired right up. I’d bought him used four years ago but he hadn’t been driven much the last two years when I’d been serving in Afghanistan. I’d taken him in for a quick tune-up before hitting the road last week and he tested out great. He’s a little SR5 extended cab truck with a camper shell so I can sleep in the back when I want. I have a foam mattress back there along with my sleeping bag and a pillow.
    “Here we go,” I said. I shifted into first and drove out of the gas station. We were in a small town in southwest Washington, the state, so it shouldn’t be too far to find a vet. I pulled over on the side street as soon as I could. Grabbing Gypsy, I programmed her to look for a vet. The first result was a TLC Veterinary Hospital a little less than half a mile up the road.
    “Follow the highlighted route,” Gypsy said, followed by, “turn right.”
    I had stopped right before the intersection, so I started up again and took a right.
    “Proceed point four miles to destination, on right.”
    “Okay Gypsy, will do,” I said. The dog was looking at Gypsy like she’d never heard a talking map before.
    We took a right into the vet’s parking lot and parked a few spaces away from the door. It looked like a relatively new building. Built of light gray slate type bricks with a lot of windows, it had glass doors so you could see to avoid animal collisions. The doctor’s names were listed on a sign next to the doors. Everything looked clean, a good sign. I checked the hours listed on the door; good, they were open till six, another hour. I opened the truck windows about a third of the way down. I looked at the dog, she was looking right back at me.
    “You wait here while I check inside,” I told her, “I’ll be back real soon, be a good girl okay?”
    She yawned at me, then turned to look at an older couple walking their beagle out to their car. She didn’t make a sound. I got out, locked the truck and walked to the front door, where I paused and looked back to check on her. She was watching me. I waved at her and headed inside.
    The inside was just as clean as the outside. Pet merchandise hung from the side walls above the benches. The counter stood before a large wall, where the shelves were being used to house boxes of files. Bulletin boards on either side of the shelves held announcements of pet news, pet rescues and adoptions, and what I was looking for, lost pets.
    “May I help you?” A nice looking girl about my age, twenty-three, stood behind the counter, smiling at me.
    “Um, yeah, I have a dog.”
    She raised her eyebrows, “In your pocket?”
    Subconsciously I patted the side pockets on my light jacket. “Oh, no. She’s out in my truck. I was wondering if I could get her checked out?”
    “Checked out how? Is she hurt?”
    “No, she’s fine, but I just got her and I thought I should have her looked at.”
    “Okay,” she said, “have you been here before?”
    “No, I’m, um, we, we’re just passing through town,” I looked at her name tag, “Suzanne.”
    “That’s me. Here, fill out this info sheet and Dr. Taylor should be able to see you in a few minutes.” She handed me the paper attached to a clipboard with a pen on a chain.
    I took the clipboard and walked over to look at their lost pet board. I scanned it quickly and didn’t see any notices about dogs that fit the description of the dog. I let out a small sigh of relief and sat down to fill out the form.
    I filled out my name and address, only a P.O. box now, but when I got to the part about the dog, I couldn’t fill it all out. I wasn’t sure what kind of dog she was and I didn’t know her name yet. I took the form back to Suzanne.
    She quickly looked over the form. “Does your dog have a name?”
    “Um, no. I haven’t named her yet, I just got her.”
    “Okay,” she said with a quick smile, “do you want to bring her in now?”
    “Sure, but I don’t have a leash for her yet, do you have one I could borrow?”
    “Of course,” she said. She reached under the counter and pulled out a braided nylon cord with a large loop for a handle and a small loop at the other end. She pushed the handle through the small loop to create a noose. “Just put this around her neck and bring her in.”
    “Okay, thanks. I’ll be right back.” I smiled at her, she was very helpful.
    I walked out to my truck. The dog was still sitting in the same spot, watching me as I came out the door. I stuck my hand in my pocket and thumbed the unlock button on the truck key. She glanced at the lock as it popped up near her shoulder. I walked up and greeted her again.
    “Hi sweetie.” I opened the door and she sat and waited. “I need to put this leash on you to take you inside to see the doc, okay?” I showed her the leash and let her smell it. She gave it a good sniffing for about ten seconds and then looked up at me.
    I pulled the loop wide and showed it to her, “This needs to go around your neck, okay?”
    She stuck her nose into the loop and let me slide it down around her neck. It was a loose slip knot so I needed to take up some tension so the leash wouldn’t fall off. It fit right next to her blue nylon collar; I made sure it didn’t catch on the tag. I looked at the tag again, “I AM YOURS”. It gave me a warm feeling.

    • I loved the opening line! I was gripped from the beginning! I felt like I was right there with you.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I’ve read your entire story and I love it. You drew me completely in. That’s another way of saying, you did good! I’d love to hear about the rest of Marty’s day with I AM YOURS.

    • Your dog would have growled at *everyone* in my story! Nicely done. I especially liked the dialog with the dog, “This needs to go around your neck, okay?”. Of course, the “I AM YOURS” at the end is a wonderful hook sentence that compels the reader to continue. I sure would.

    • I loved this. I read the first part as well. Your dialogue with the dog kept me engaged. Will you be continuing this story? I’d love to read more.

      • Thanks Lisa… My plan is for this to be either a long short story, or novel size if I can get there. Track the blog and I’ll be updating chapters as I write. Critique is welcomed also, these still are first drafts…

    • It gave me a warm feeling as well. I found a stray cowering under my car in my yard last summer, and now it is my constant companion, riding everywhere in my truck with me. Its the dog licking me in my pic.

    • Good story. I was tempted to say that the pacing was a bit slow, but I sometimes think I get carried away with that need. It’s a personal preference. This story ambles along, much like your drive, and perhaps that’s exactly how it should move. I love the dog tag, and it makes the story for me.

    • liked it, wanted to read more I do like light reading. the dog has a personality that is grand. it knows what to do. I like this very much

  7. Pat, great descriptions of characters and place. Like the way you worked in the protagonist’s military service. Only suggestion I have is to let us see more description of this great dog!
    And of course we need the Rest of The Story…when you have more words to work with.. Nice read.

    • Pat – I went on your blog and read the whole story (I highly recommend it!) It was captivating and I truly enjoyed its feel good ending. Love the dog’s name. You have a winner here. It helped to see the pictures of your dogs to get a sense of what this dog looked like, so I agree with Gale – more description of her/him.

  8. Just a suggestion: It’s much easier for me, and probably for others, to read these posts if they are similar to Gary’s first post–short paragraphs and a space between the graphs. I have a tendencey to skip over long paragraphs. My bad, I know.

    • galelikethewind

      Gullie – my paragraph spacing was part of my revision process..to separate exposition and acts 2, 3, & 4. Therefore if I split te piece into many smaller paragraphs, I feel it would have a negative overall effect on the flow of my srory.
      Opininions of other writers on this issue?

      • I’m with Gully. Spacing like Gary used in the first post makes it easier to read. I don’t think many smaller paragraphs would be a problem for me in your story Gale.

      • It’s more about white space between paragraphs than the length of the paragraphs, Gale. Just makes it easier to read on PCs, iPads, etc. otherwise everthing runs together for me. I emphasize “me.”

    • I’ve found that posting word docs here with spacing between paragraphs as well paragraph indents dont take. Paragraph spaces must be hand entered after pasting. At least for me. (A post-posting editing tool would really be great here.) Jeff

  9. Frozen Grapes

    The heart attack, when it came, disguised itself in eccentric symptoms long
    enough to work undetected as it drained her of her zest for life. After it emptied that vast reservoir, the onslaught filled the void with despair and hopelessness.

    The woman and her husband, both well into their senior years, spoke with the local emergency medical technicians who aided the small population in their remote settlement. After much consultation, they deemed no emergency was occurring, so slyly did the attack shroud itself.

    But the husband was concerned. He called a friend in a distant city, who arrived in a small plane to take the woman to a hospital. Shortly after her arrival there, she was flown in a med-evac plane to a much larger city with a much larger hospital.

    The husband followed in his pickup truck, more than 500 miles over the winter roads of Alaska, through thousands of acres of tundra and muskeg, across mountain passes and into spruce forests, and, finally, along the six lane highway into the largest city in the state. There he waited to see if his wife would survive. He waited for three weeks. Then he and his wife left the hospital to return to their log cabin home.

    They passed Fairbanks, left the paved roads of cities, and drove farther into the rolling wilderness of birch and cottonwood and spruce. They headed for home and the woodstove and the familiar log walls of their cabin.

    It was there, at the end of the road, in the comfort of her own home, that the extent of the heart attack’s malevolence became known. Gone was her love of life. The numerous phone calls that once connected her to friends went unanswered. She had no interest in looking at the mail when her husband opened it.

    “Why,” she asked, “Why didn’t God take me?” She would not leave her cabin, would not step off the porch.

    Her husband was distraught and perplexed. His daily activities came to a halt as he tended to his wife. He would not chance leaving her alone. The snow machine sat silent. The chain saw was set aside. His daily wood cutting chores went undone.

    Temperatures fell to forty and fifty below zero. Snow covered the forest floor. The long dark hours of the Arctic winter wrapped them in seclusion. Overhead the Aurora Borealis shimmied and shot across the nighttime sky in miraculous choreography, but the woman stayed in her cabin.

    A neighbor arrived to spend the winter. He began visiting, talking, comforting, distracting. As her heart healed and her energy returned, so did her smile. Her small, compact body grew stronger. She began to feed the wood stove to keep the cabin warm.

    Her husband began venturing out to the post office on days the mail plane arrived. But though her zest for life began to revive and to replace the despair, she would not leave her porch.

    So it was when March arrived, almost five months after she had been felled. The sun was lengthening the daylight and the temperatures moderated. The neighbor had visitors from the far away city. He invited the woman and her husband to join them for dinner that night. Often a guest of theirs, he wanted them to be the first to dine in the new addition to his tiny cabin.

    “Oh, I don’t know…” said the woman. “I don’t go out. I don’t leave the porch. I’ll have to ask my husband. It sounds like fun, though.

    “Oh, no,” said her husband. “What if she falls on the ice and breaks her hip? Then where would we be? She hasn’t been off the porch all winter. I don’t know.”

    Suggestions were made, smiles appeared, eyes brightened.

    “I could drive her,” considered her husband, rubbing his jaw and glancing out the window at the few hundred feet to the neighbor’s cabin.

    At six that evening, she left her porch for the first time that winter. Her husband assisted her to the truck and drove to the neighbor’s. Five chairs circled the small round table in the new addition where the warmth from the oil drip stove chased all chill from the cabin. They ate appetizers of multi-grain crackers and Stilton cheese with mango and ginger, while in the tiny kitchen, the host prepared stir-fried chicken with vegetables and sticky rice on the propane stove.

    The woman’s spirit bubbled, her smile constant and contagious. After dinner, her husband leaned his lanky body back in his chair. He began to speak of snowmobile trips he and the neighbor could take during the warming days of late winter.

    I was there to see her leave her porch for the first time since mortality knocked on her door. A few days later, I stopped to say goodbye as I left their small enclave at the end of the road. Outside her sunny kitchen window, chickadees and juncos and nuthatches and redpolls frolicked in a flurry of black sunflower seeds at the feeder.

    I promised to send some stories I’d written; she promised to leave the porch more often. She reached into the freezer compartment of their refrigerator and withdrew a small bowl.

    “Have some,” she offered. I looked at the dark purplish-red orbs in the
    bowl. “They’re grapes,” she laughed. “Frozen grapes. Try some. They’re just like eating sherbet.” She was right. Just like eating sherbet

    I hugged her goodbye and walked out to my truck, munching on frozen seedless grapes. Her husband moved one of his vehicles to make it easier for me to turn around and drive straight out their winding driveway, thus avoiding the spruce trees that lay in wait for an unsuspecting fender.

    As I drove the narrow, winding, snow-covered road in four-wheel drive, dutifully taking my half out of the middle as advised, I thought about the boundaries we set for ourselves. I thought of how we become unwilling to tackle things for fear of failure. I thought about events that knock us to our knees, worries that etch lines on our faces, heartaches that build walls around our souls. I thought of how we become afraid to step off our porches.

    Then one day, perhaps heartened by the love of friends, we take that step and find wonder and adventure and surprises. Just like the sweetness of frozen grapes.

    • O0ps: Frozen Grapes (c) Jeanne Follett 2012 All rights reserved

    • A good story with good thoughts. Like Gale, I thought that the switch from 3rd to 1st is confusing. It felt like I missed something and I had to go back and read the beginning again to see. Feels like a disconnect.

      • Gullible, I wondered what your relationship was to the woman. I would like to know more about why she felt so depressed and afraid. What scary thoughts were in her head? Bring me closer to her. I really liked your analogy of “stepping off porches.” I also liked your philosophic thoughts at the end. I think you could even expand on them more. Nice work! I enjoyed reading this story.

      • I didn’t mind the first person coming in, but as a nitpicker I’d have to say that ‘I was there to see her leave her porch…’ might have worked better as ‘I was there, and saw her leave her porch…’. At the moment it could be understood as meaning being there to ensure that she left it.
        That said, I loved the idea of us becoming afraid to step off our porches.

      • Fig, thanks. You are absolutely correct and I will edit the story immediately. That will repair the problem that arose when cutting this down from 1300 words.

      • Hey, Gully, tell me about it. I cut 3,000 words down to 1,170 (sorry, Ann), and trashed what I considered to be the best and most brilliantest bits.

      • Fig…
        ” trashed what I considered to be the best and most brilliantest bits.” Sounds like you need some editor training… lol

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I love your words, “I thought about events that knock us to our knees, worries that etch lines on our faces, heartaches that build walls around our souls. I thought of how we become afraid to step off our porches.”

    • Nice job tying it all together in the last couple of paragraphs. I really thought it had a nice impact and enjoyed your thoughts. I especially liked many of your descriptions, “Arctic winter wrapped them in seclusion. Overhead the Aurora Borealis shimmied and shot across the nighttime sky in miraculous choreography.” I can’t believe the Aurora Borealis couldn’t coax her off her porch. FYI, the POV change didn’t bother me. Hope all is well with Pablo.

    • I’m dropping by after reading some short creative pieces about zombies and teen love. This is refreshing! The repetition of the porch scene and its way of drawing an inhibiting line works so well. I wonder if you could add a bit more of it. There is a fine generosity of spirit here. I also enjoyed learning more about life in rural Alaskan winters. I believe that one of the reasons we all love to read is to learn, and this fit that need. Frozen grapes in a frozen land full of surprises.

      • Glad I could divert you from zombies and teenage angst. Thanks for your comments, Ann.

    • enjoyed the story. What happens to our lives is up to us in a large part. Love the drive and the northern lights. It may take us time but we do recover from most things. Loved the use of the porch as a line in the sand or snow as it were. I’m not the best reader but one time I got lost but got back on track fast. thanks

  10. galelikethewind

    Gully
    The switch from 3rd person omniscient to 1st person (at: “I was there..”) confused me a bit. I think you need to explain relationship of 1st person narrator to the elderly lady to help clarify?
    I like the theme of taking that step as expressed throughout.

    • Parrot Writes

      Gully,
      I was immediately drawn into the story by the first paragraph. I witnessed my father struggle with depression and hopelessness after he experienced a heart attack at 62 and it brought that time back to mind for me.
      I too was a bit confused with the change in tense, but after rereading it made sense. I don’t know if giving people names would help. I wasn’t sure if you were the neighbor and the person that witnessed her stepping off the porch. I also wondered about the five chairs – who was at dinner.
      The only sentence I stumbled over was, “So it was when March arrived… I tried to run it all together and had to go back and rephrase it.
      Wonderful uplifting story with your usual fabulous descriptions of the scenery.

  11. FYI: I’ll be back to leave comments in a couple days. I have to let these things stew for a while. also, I’m freaking out about Pablo’ Parrot’s visit to the vet tomorrow to have a blood sample taken from his jugular vein! Ack! Ack! Ack!

  12. Ok, I’ll repost this with spacing. I just did a cut and paste before. I have the updated story (first part) and the rest so far on my blog: http://patwritesnow.wordpress.com/2013/04/30/the-dog-more-writing-please-comment/

    This is a continuation of a story I started off of a prompt here:
    https://annlinquist.wordpress.com/2013/02/04/standing/
    The word limit leaves me hanging, but I wanted comments.
    *****
    I climbed into the driver’s seat, shut the door and took a look at her. She gave me a glance and continued to look out the front windshield.

    “You look like you’re ready to travel,” I told her.

    Her small short whine told me she wanted to get moving.

    “I’d welcome another traveling companion, sweetie, but I should do my due diligence and check to see if someone is missing you. I wouldn’t feel right about just taking off with you.”

    No answer. She kept staring straight ahead.

    “Okay, let me talk to the Gypsy and find the nearest animal hospital, they usually know about lost dogs.”

    I pulled the GPS, my other traveling companion, out of the center console and showed it to her. She gave it a cursory sniff and turned her attention back out the windshield. I powered it on and waited.

    “I call this my Gypsy,” I told her, “G P S, gypsy. I figure that a gypsy never gets lost, get it?”

    She was not impressed, she ignored me.

    “Hey, if you’re done here, quit clogging up my pumps. Take yer mutt and git moving,” the greasy man had come back out of the office.

    I waved at him, resisting the urge to give him a different finger than before. The dog looked over at him and gave a low growl.

    “I guess you can figure people out pretty quickly eh?”

    I buckled my seat belt, turned the key and my trusty Toyota, Topper, fired right up. I’d bought him used four years ago but he hadn’t been driven much the last two years when I’d been serving in Afghanistan. I’d taken him in for a quick tune-up before hitting the road last week and he tested out great. He’s a little SR5 extended cab truck with a camper shell so I can sleep in the back when I want. I have a foam mattress back there along with my sleeping bag and a pillow.

    “Here we go,” I said. I shifted into first and drove out of the gas station.

    We were in a small town in southwest Washington, the state, so it shouldn’t be too far to find a vet. I pulled over on the side street as soon as I could. Grabbing Gypsy, I programmed her to look for a vet. The first result was a TLC Veterinary Hospital a little less than half a mile up the road.

    “Follow the highlighted route,” Gypsy said, followed by, “turn right.”

    I had stopped right before the intersection, so I started up again and took a right.

    “Proceed point four miles to destination, on right.”

    “Okay Gypsy, will do,” I said. The dog was looking at Gypsy like she’d never heard a talking map before.

    We took a right into the vet’s parking lot and parked a few spaces away from the door. It looked like a relatively new building. Built of light gray slate type bricks with a lot of windows, it had glass doors so you could see to avoid animal collisions. The doctor’s names were listed on a sign next to the doors. Everything looked clean, a good sign. I checked the hours listed on the door; good, they were open till six, another hour. I opened the truck windows about a third of the way down. I looked at the dog, she was looking right back at me.

    “You wait here while I check inside,” I told her, “I’ll be back real soon, be a good girl okay?”

    She yawned at me, then turned to look at an older couple walking their beagle out to their car. She didn’t make a sound. I got out, locked the truck and walked to the front door, where I paused and looked back to check on her. She was watching me. I waved at her and headed inside.

    The inside was just as clean as the outside. Pet merchandise hung from the side walls above the benches. The counter stood before a large wall, where the shelves were being used to house boxes of files. Bulletin boards on either side of the shelves held announcements of pet news, pet rescues and adoptions, and what I was looking for, lost pets.

    “May I help you?” A nice looking girl about my age, twenty-three, stood behind the counter, smiling at me.

    “Um, yeah, I have a dog.”

    She raised her eyebrows, “In your pocket?”

    Subconsciously I patted the side pockets on my light jacket. “Oh, no. She’s out in my truck. I was wondering if I could get her checked out?”

    “Checked out how? Is she hurt?”

    “No, she’s fine, but I just got her and I thought I should have her looked at.”

    “Okay,” she said, “have you been here before?”

    “No, I’m, um, we, we’re just passing through town,” I looked at her name tag, “Suzanne.”

    “That’s me. Here, fill out this info sheet and Dr. Taylor should be able to see you in a few minutes.” She handed me the paper attached to a clipboard with a pen on a chain.

    I took the clipboard and walked over to look at their lost pet board. I scanned it quickly and didn’t see any notices about dogs that fit the description of the dog. I let out a small sigh of relief and sat down to fill out the form.

    I filled out my name and address, only a P.O. box now, but when I got to the part about the dog, I couldn’t fill it all out. I wasn’t sure what kind of dog she was and I didn’t know her name yet. I took the form back to Suzanne.

    She quickly looked over the form. “Does your dog have a name?”

    “Um, no. I haven’t named her yet, I just got her.”

    “Okay,” she said with a quick smile, “do you want to bring her in now?”

    “Sure, but I don’t have a leash for her yet, do you have one I could borrow?”

    “Of course,” she said. She reached under the counter and pulled out a braided nylon cord with a large loop for a handle and a small loop at the other end. She pushed the handle through the small loop to create a noose. “Just put this around her neck and bring her in.”

    “Okay, thanks. I’ll be right back.” I smiled at her, she was very helpful.

    I walked out to my truck. The dog was still sitting in the same spot, watching me as I came out the door. I stuck my hand in my pocket and thumbed the unlock button on the truck key. She glanced at the lock as it popped up near her shoulder. I walked up and greeted her again.

    “Hi sweetie.” I opened the door and she sat and waited. “I need to put this leash on you to take you inside to see the doc, okay?” I showed her the leash and let her smell it. She gave it a good sniffing for about ten seconds and then looked up at me.

    I pulled the loop wide and showed it to her, “This needs to go around your neck, okay?”

    She stuck her nose into the loop and let me slide it down around her neck. It was a loose slip knot so I needed to take up some tension so the leash wouldn’t fall off. It fit right next to her blue nylon collar; I made sure it didn’t catch on the tag. I looked at the tag again, “I AM YOURS”. It gave me a warm feeling.

    • Pat, a cute heart warming story. I liked the way your protagonist used nicknames for everything. Gypsy and Topper the Toyota says a lot about this character.
      Nice use of dialogue with the dog as well, you made it natural and believable.

  13. This is an excerpt from the current romantic suspense novel I’m writing titled Counterfeit Kisses. It’s the story of a young divorced woman who suspects that a local pharmacy, owned by her mother’s current boyfriend, is not only purchasing drugs from the grey marked, but is selling them on the street, and when she sets out to prove it, finds her life and the lives of her mother and her six-year-old son in danger. Chapter 24 of 60.

    Jessie was beside herself with worry. She stood in the waiting room of the Intensive Care Unit, just as she had last Friday night, looking around at the clusters of somber people waiting to hear about their loved ones. One group prayed with a minister. An older couple sat silently holding hands and staring into space. She watched a young man dressed in scrubs push a cart full of medications into the side door of the unit. Odors of chlorine, vomit, and bowel movements wafted out of the open door and floated momentarily in the air. That and the smell of stale coffee along with questionable odors from discarded food trays made her stomach queasy.

    “They won’t leave me out here, will they?” she asked Dr. Englund, wringing her hands. She was afraid they would forget her again.

    “No, I’ll personally come out to get you shortly and give you an update. We’ve given her a charcoal slurry to bind up anything that might be left. I think she had vomited most of it out already. The head of Security will be coming to talk with you. We have to figure out how this happened.”

    “I’m calling Ryan, too,” Jessie said, taking her cell phone out of her purse.

    Jessie picked a chair as far away from the other people as she could get. She glanced at her watch. She needed to leave in an hour to pick Tyler up from school.

    Ryan answered on the second ring. “Ry..Ryan?” Her voice broke. “Ryan, mom’s been poisoned at the hospital; she’s back in the ICU.” She nodded her head. “Yes, and they think it was arsenic. Dr. Englund said mom told her she ate some cookies that had been left at her bedside and got sick right away.” She listened for a moment as tears began streaming down her face. “I don’t know, but I’m scared. This is getting serious and I’m afraid the next time she might die. Who’s doing this? You’re the detective; you have to figure it out.”

    She wiped her eyes with a wadded up Kleenex from her pocket. “Okay, I’ll see you in 15 minutes.” He was already on his way to the hospital.

    The hospital security guard came through the doors moments after Ryan arrived. “I’m Grant Lawrence, Director of Security, Ms. Jensen. Can we sit out here for a minute and talk?”

    “Yes, this is Detective Ryan Summers, a friend of the family.”

    “The nurses said your mom had several visitors this morning including you. Did she mention who all was there?”

    “Her boyfriend, James Martin was with her when I arrived this morning. She told me his daughter Lorna visited earlier, I think with her mother.”

    “Can you tell me how I’d reach them?” He opened a note pad and wrote the names down as she spoke.

    “Lorna Martin is in the Drug Rehab Unit next door and she could tell you how to get ahold of her mother,” Jessie replied. “You can find James at Martin’s Pharmacy downtown. He owns it.”

    “On behalf of the hospital, we are very sorry this has occurred. We’ll do whatever we can to figure out how it happened and prevent it from happening again.”

    Dr. Englund came into the waiting room and sat with them. “She’s going to be okay. We got to her quickly. Jessie, would you like to see her for a moment?”

    She stood, relief washing over her and followed Dr. Englund to the door.
    Jessie turned to look behind her as she entered the ICU. The Security Director and Ryan sat side-by-side, deep in conversation.

    Her mom looked pale and visibly shaken. Jessie grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. “Hi, Mom. Back in your favorite place?” she said trying to lighten the mood.

    Her mom grimaced. “Don’t know where the cookies came from. They were there on my end table. All wrapped up in plastic wrap. Made me so sick.” Tears slid down the side of her face into the pillow. Jessie pulled a tissue from the box beside the bed and gently wiped them away.

    “Mom, I don’t know who can be doing these things to you. But Ryan is here and I know he’ll figure it out. He and the Director of Security will be in to talk with you in a little bit. Just tell them anything you can remember.”

    “You’ll be here,” her mom said.

    “I need to go pick up Tyler−”

    “No, you have to stay with me.” Her mom grabbed her hand, more agitated. “Don’t leave me; I don’t trust anyone. You have to stay with me.”

    “Okay, I’ll stay.” She wracked her brain to come up with a solution to the problem with her six-year-old. She’d call Sarah first. “I’ll be right back.”

    She called Sarah’s phone, got no answer and left a message. Next she tried her ex-husband, Tom. His voice mailbox was full so she couldn’t even leave a message.

    She slipped the phone in her pocket, slumped onto the nearest chair and put her head in her hands. That’s where Ryan found her several minutes later. “Jess, I’m sorry you have to go through all of this. How’re you holding up?”

    “I don’t know. I just don’t know. Why is this all happening?”

    He put his arm around her. That comfortable feeling she remembered once before in his arms returned. She leaned against him to absorb all she could. She needed that infusion to get from scared mode back to fighting mode.

    “Mom doesn’t want me to go. She’s afraid to be alone without someone here to watch over her.”

    “I can understand that, but you need to get Tyler from school, right?”

    “Yeah, I’ve tried to get ahold of Sarah to pick him up. I’ve left her a message, but she hasn’t called back yet.”

    “If you’ll call the school to okay it, I’ll pick him up and take him to my house. When I get a hold of Sarah, I’ll take him to your place so you can stay here with your mom.”

    She hesitated. “You’d have time for that?”

    “I’ll make time, Jessie. I can do some of my work over the computer and the phone.”

    “Really? That would be great,” she sighed in relief. “Thank you.”

    She could finally breathe.

    • Oops – forgot copyright This should be at the bottom of the work:
      ©Linda McMann, All rights reserved.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      You hooked me, Linda. I’ve got to know who’s responsible. I look forward to reading your book. You get a thumbs up from me.

    • This story flows nicely. I had no pauses as I read; I didn’t need to stop and question anything. That’s good. Yes, this middle chapter makes me want to read more.

      • I’m sure its hard to pick up in the middle of the story, but I thought this chapter stood on its own. Thanks for your comments! I’m at the half-way point; might be awhile before its readable!

    • You succeeded in creating tension with your dialogue and descriptions. Then, of course, Ryan steps in to be the hero in the immediate crisis. Sounds like your romance suspense novel is coming along nicely. I’m hooked too.

      • Thanks, Lisa. This is at the quarter point of the story where bad stuff is happening and Jessie doesn’t have a clue why yet. It’s the second instance where her mom has been hurt and she isn’t sure who to trust. Ryan is an old flame, but she has reason not to trust him, too.

    • This moves along at a good pace. Lots of dialogue. Good! I was uncertain where Jessie is when she is making those phone calls, so you should clear that up. I assume you’ve already described how everyone looks, so this is mostly action. The dialogue is smooth. At no time did it think it got bogged down or was clunky. Watch for clichés. I found two: “besides herself with worry” and “relief washing over her.” They’re not terrible, but they’re phrases you’ve heard rather than your own words. Keep going with your novel!

      • Parrot Writes

        Thank you, Ann. Great suggestions. I now need to review the rest of the story for clichés. I’ll bet there are quite a few that need to be reworded! I appreciate your comments.

    • First off, I loved the title of your piece!!! Counterfeit Kisses says romance, mystery and intrigue! I would read this book. I think you did a great job with the dialogue which is something I feel I struggle with when I write.

      • Parrot Writes

        Thanks, Heather. I spent quite awhile working on the title and think it captures the story essence. One of the men who is “wooing her” isn’t being truthful about his identity and perhaps only using her. Glad you liked the dialogue. Thanks for your comments.

    • Parrot (Linda) I was very involved with this from the very start. Considering that this is well into your book, being able to keep your readers engaged seems to me to be quite a triumph. The descriptions of the many smells in the hospital, put me smack dab in the corridor, just outside the ICU room. I admire your story telling talent and am anxious to read the entire book. Good work here for sure.

    • Parrot, I finally got to read your excerpt. Like Peanut, I really felt like I was in the room when you described the smells and people outside the ICU. One minor suggestion, when she first talks with Ryan, you show us her voice breaking with the dialogue, and I think adding the “Her voice broke.” after the Ry-Ryan is redundant. Nit picking I know, but it caused me to stop for a sec. Good luck with this ..hope to see it on Amazon someday.

  14. © 2013 Jeff Switt, All Rights Reserved

    Cruisin’

    My phone rings. I love the ringtone. It’s Black Sabbath’s Paranoid. I have it set to play for sixty seconds before the message kicks in. I bounce my head up and down like Garth in “Wayne’s World.” God he’s so cool. I answer at around forty-five seconds. It’s my mother.

    “Ronnie, I got your text to call you at nine. What’s up darling?”

    I disconnect and start to talk. In a loud voice so the chicks around the bar can hear.

    “Hey baby, good to hear from you. Cabo? Tonight? Nah, can’t do it. Got things going here.

    I pause as if to listen.

    “Yea, it was fun. You tore me a new one. Gimme a call later, okay?”

    I hit disconnect, admire myself in the bar mirror, give my hair a finger comb. It’s receding a bit. Not bad. I take a sip of my scotch and soda, and look again as I take another sip. I’ve got the look, for sure.

    My phone rings. My head is bouncing. The girl standing next to me turns.

    “Your phone. Answer your phone Beavis.”

    “Name’s Barry, not Beavis. I extend my hand. She turns away.

    I answer my phone, cutting it close.
    “You got Barry, baby.”

    “Ronnie? What’s this Barry crap? Why did you text me to call you after nine?”

    It’s my sister. I click disconnect and talk loud.

    “Hey baby.”

    Pause.

    “How many grams? No way. That’s hard time if I get caught. You want a bump? I can meet you later.”

    I pause again.

    “Sure bring your sister. She’s hot. Not as hot as you though. Okay. At ten. Ciao.”

    I look at the chick next to me. She’s watching me in the bar mirror.

    “Looks like it’s going to be a good night.”

    “Piss off,” she tells me.

    I give her a smirk, that I-know-you-want-me smirk, and chug my scotch.

    “Bartender, gimme another. Put something in it this time.”

    I laugh. I hike my pants up to my waist and feel my gut. I need to lose a couple pounds. Thirty-eights are fitting a bit tight.

    Someone taps me on the shoulder. She’s young and hot, looks maybe eighteen. She leans into my ear.

    “Dad. Mom says it’s time to come home.”

    • Okay – I laughed out loud at the end! Poor, poor Ronnie! This post was perfect. I can’t think of anything I would change.

      • Thank you Parrot. “Perfect” is pretty good! This was prompted by a cutsie post I made to an Ann comment announcing this project in which she made reference to taking a “black sabbatical.” I carried the idea for a while and decided to expand it.

        I was torn between referencing Garth or Ozzy. I chose Garth because of the absurdity of the whole thing.

        Here is a YouTube link to a vid of the song/performance for any Sabbath fans, or for those that generations have gapped!

    • galelikethewind

      galelikethewind | May 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm | Reply- like I said before,,
      Jeff – you made this dickhead almost lovable. GREAT move having his “hot” daughter coming in at end. Hope u submit his to Flash Fiction.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Clever and very entertaining. I love it.

    • Good little story! I liked it. I think I’m going to try his technique next time I’m at a bar alone. Nice finishing twist.

    • How can you not like this? Back in the day, there was a PC game called Leisure Suit Larry. This is that only with the ending twist.

      Love the “It’s my sister…”

    • Jeff, I literally laughed out loud! Parrot’s right, don’t change anything! I’m curious to read more of your work! Love the Wayne’s World reference! Puts the ridiculousness of it all into perfect focus.

    • Pinch of descrition plus heaping tablespoons of dialogue is a recipe for sheer entertainment. Loved the ending. I’m still laughing and I read this two days ago.

    • What is so satisfying about observing a guy trying so hard to be cool (and convincing himself he is) while the world around him totally gets that he isn’t? Like everyone else I laughed at the final line. I liked the way she leans into him like she both is embarrassed and wants to spare him more embarrassment too. But my favorite character is the woman next to him who tells him to piss off. Then he smirks. Can’t keep this guy down! Bravo, Jeff.

    • I just checked with the editor of Flash Fiction World. My piece is ineligible for entry into their FF competition as it is now considered a published piece. Phooey.

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        Because you posted it here?? That’s so unfair. Don’t worry, you’ll find someone who’ll be happy to publish it.

      • Parrot Writes

        I beg to differ. I think you just shared it with your critique group for input.

    • loved the last line. the daughter gave her dad his respect even thought he did not deserve it. Good read. Read it till the end.

  15. Farewell Début
    © Allan Lloyd 2013

    My favorite soprano? Isobelle Cochére. And no, you’ve never heard of her.

    I was beginning my sojourn as Music Director with the Opéra Bastille, in April, 1985. That first afternoon in Paris, I was sitting on my balcony when I heard, coming through the open balcony doors of the next-door apartment, an extraordinarily beautiful soprano voice singing the ‘Casta Diva’ aria from Bellini’s ‘Norma’.

    Who could it be? I listened intently, trying to identify the singer, but eventually concluded that it was no established soprano I could recognize. Yet this was a voice of exquisite quality, far superior to anything I’d ever heard.

    I was so intrigued that I had to go and ring the bell of the apartment.

    The door was opened by a young woman of perhaps twenty wearing a seen-better-days smock. I assumed her to be some kind of au pair or housekeeper, so I explained in my stumbling French that I was new to the next-door apartment and wished to introduce myself to my neighbors.

    “Bonjour,” she said. “I speak English, M’sieur, perhaps more well than you speak French. And I am pleased to meet you.”

    “Bonjour, er, oui,” I responded. “What I was trying to say is that I am the new neighbor wishing to meet your… er… the lady who was singing just a few moments ago.”

    “Ah, oui, that is me. I am sorry, M’sieur. Pardon, because I do not know that someone is now living there. I will be more quiet.”

    “You? It was you singing?”

    “Oui. I have often the habit to sing when I do the working of my pieces for my diploma.”

    “Ah, so you’re a student.”

    “Oui. At the École des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.”

    “Art? And in Lyon? But that’s hundreds of kilometers away.”

    “Oui. I am here only to take the care of this apartment of my uncle while he is away until two more months.”

    “But your singing. I mean, you must be studying voice too, right?”

    “Non,” she said lightly. “I know already to sing from my mother when I am young.”

    “You have a beautiful voice. Have you ever thought of a career in music?”

    “Merci, but non, I wish always to be artist,” she said. “Ah, but I am not polite. You would like perhaps to come in and take some café?”

    That’s how I came to meet, and almost immediately fall in love with, Isabelle Cochére. We became lovers, and she’d sing for me either before or after – and one unforgettable night, actually during – our love-making.

    Time and time again, I tried to convince her to consider singing as a career. I offered to arrange a place for her in the chorus at the Opéra Bastille, but she wasn’t interested. When the Opéra-Comique announced its annual auditions, I begged her, virtually harangued her, to try out for them, but she just laughed and shrugged it off.

    “Why would I sing for others?” she asked. “I sing only for me, And also now for you. That is enough for me. Why is it not enough for you?”

    Why wasn’t it enough for me? It seemed to me almost criminal that she wasn’t exploiting her talent and sharing it with the world – and the fact was that I’d become obsessed with the idea.

    Which leads us to Act Two.

    Towards the end of May, I invited some of my colleagues, including the company’s rehearsal accompanist, Jean-Luc, to a soirée in my apartment.
    Late in the evening, I announced that I had a special treat in store – that Isobelle would sing. I was hoping that the acclaim I was anticipating from my colleagues would convince her that she had the potential, and in my mind an obligation, to sing professionally.

    She was standing across the room from me, and the stunned look she gave me should have warned me that I was making a serious mistake.

    Smiling warmly, I escorted her to the apartment’s baby grand where I’d already installed Jean-Luc along with the score of the ‘Castra Diva’ aria.

    “Non,” she hissed to me under her breath. “Non, chéri, I will not do this.”

    “But you must,” I whispered back. “They’re all waiting. Please. For me. I’ll be embarrassed in front of my new colleagues if you don’t.”

    She glowered at me as Jean-Luc began playing the introduction. Then, when she started singing, I didn’t need to see the anger her eyes were directing at me, because it was clearly audible in her voice.

    Around the room, my colleagues were looking embarrassed, staring at the floor, the walls, their drinks, anything to avoid eye contact with each other – and especially with me. And why not? As far as they were concerned, their new musical director was indulging some insane delusion that his amoureuse could sing.

    But then everything changed. Gradually, Isobelle gave herself to the music. I believe that it was simply impossible for her not to sing as beautifully as the music deserved.

    In my thirty-odd years of music, in my entire life, I’ve never experienced anything like those few minutes. By the time she’d finished, almost inaudibly moaning the song’s last lingering note as some kind of long drawn-out sigh of anguish, she had mascara-tinged tear streaks down her cheeks. There was a palpable exhalation of held breaths from my colleagues, but otherwise the room remained absolutely silent.

    After a moment that seemed to last forever, Jean-Luc raised his left hand to the hand Isobelle still had on his shoulder, and whispered “Brava.”

    She responded to him with a murmured “Merci”, opened her eyes and, without looking directly at anyone, nodded a tiny bow, walked away through my stunned colleagues and towards the door. Just before she reached it, the room erupted with wild applause, then she was gone.

    And yes, now we come to Act Three. Except that, in this particular opera, there’s no real resolution – just the obligatory tragedy.

    She was indeed gone. From her uncle’s apartment, from her école d’art, from my life. When her uncle eventually returned, he claimed not to know where she’d gone, and never admitted to having heard from her during the following two years until I moved on from the Opéra Bastille to Milan.

    Mind you, all operatic heroines resurrect themselves for at least one curtain call, no matter how tragic the ending of the story.

    In Quebec in 1997, twelve years later, touring the British National’s ‘Rigoletto’, I found myself in an otherwise deserted art gallery not far from the theater.

    And I heard her.

    I knew immediately that it was her – the voice couldn’t have belonged to anyone else. In a back room somewhere beyond the gallery display area, she was singing Carmen’s ‘Habanera’. I stood there, breathless, until she finished.

    “Brava,” I whispered.

    Then, because I knew that even though I’d always love her, there could never be an encore, I left.

    • I meant to include this: ‘Casta Diva’ by Cecilia Bartoli is on YouTube at

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Farewell Debut is excellent. Your writing is always rises to the top, like rich cream. I’m in awe of your talent. I believe this is your own personal experience; is it not?. If so, then you are musically gifted as well.

      • If only, Shaddy. Sadly, the only musical gift I have is a CD I got for Christmas one time.

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        Don’t be sad; I’m sure not. I appreciate your sense of humor much more than any musical gift you may have had.

    • You are as masterful in your writing as I am incompetent in critiquing. I’m sure you can edit away at that sentence and possibly this one too. I’m another fan in awe of your talent (in writing and in editing, I can’t shave 500 words from my piece. How did you shave 1800 from yours?). Love your sense of humor. And thank you for introducing me to Casta Diva.

    • Brilliant, brillianter, brilliantest. ( iPad did not want to allow such spelling.)

    • Bravo, indeed. Great content, but even better structure. The title was a superb oxymoron. The three acts were an inspired format. I hadn’t heart the Bertoli version of Casta Diva (just Callas), so that was delightful new territory too. Fig! You’re on a roll!

    • I read eagerly through this piece as it intrigued me from the beginning. I really felt like I was on that balcony in Paris listening to an exquisite voice. You are a great writer! I especially loved your description of her last moaning, drawn out lingering notes. Way to go! You really know how to capture a moment on paper.

  16. galelikethewind

    Fig – beautiful heartfelt story. Right after reading the first paragraph, I left story & searched YouTube for Casta Diva. Came up with an old black & white video of Maria Callas.. I imagine most us who haved lived a better part of our lives have come across a superb artist of one type or another that was inhibited by emotional doubtt, and failed to share their wondrous talent with the world. (For me it was a college-aged drummer who sat in for Joe Morello at a Dave Brubeck concert in 1960 when Joe had a flat tire driving to the gig)
    I have re-read this piece several times, including out loud to my wife, and cannot for the life of me find an iota of constructive criticism. Brava!

  17. Agree with Gale… Too bad people don’t always see people, who they are and why. Too bad. Good story.

  18. Allan, that was beautiful. The bitter-sweet ending was perfect. Loved it.

    • Parrot Writes

      FIg – I expect to see this in the theater soon. It would make a beautiful love story, even with the bittersweet ending. Your writing captivates me and I have no critique – your story doesn’t need any changes except to return it to its original length and repost it!

  19. I lack the patience and/or talent to produce long stories. I’ m more the “Hit and Run” kind of writer. These are all wonderful, truly, but I thought you might need a little piece as a break from brilliance. Hence, I offer the following commentary on the Editing Process, something you all can relate to I’m sure.

    There they lay on my floor, little bits of sentences and paragraphs that had fallen victim to the dreaded edit process. My darlings now turned into so much word confetti, never to be in a story again. War is hell, yes, but so is editing. Can’t something be done to salvage my jewels of prose so they can live to see another page?
    Suddenly, a burst of brilliance flashed in my head and I knew how to rescue my discarded work…..FORTUNE COOKIES ! I will re-arrange them, mix and match them and recycle them into snippets of wisdom such as:
    *Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.
    *We know the speed of light, so what is the speed of dark?
    *Sometimes it is necessary to add chlorine to the gene pool.
    *The fortune you seek is in another cookie.
    *That wasn’t really chicken.
    Even if I never write the great American novel or get an essay published in The Smithsonian Magazine, maybe my writing fortune lies in fortune writing

    • PB, this is cleverly brilliant. Jeez, if only i could write as well as you and the rest of this lot. I’m piecing together bits and pieces from previous prompts. If only I had gone the fortune cookie angle I wouldn’t be sitting here so frustrated. As always i love your wit and sense of humor.

    • You’re so clever. That’s right up there with brilliant!

    • I really like this idea, and I’m going to try it. Not the fortune cookie thing, but the re-use of edits. The word processor I currently use keeps track of all additions and deletions from the first work typed. I’m going to try taking something I’ve done and make something out of all the text I’ve deleted. It should stink. If it doesn’t, it says something about my editing now doesn’t it?

      #100 Cha-ching! 🙂

    • “That wasn’t really chicken.” That still has me laughing. Actually I think there is something to your fortune cookie fortune writing idea. Clearly those little slips of paper need some new blood. How happy I would be to get one of yours at the local Hoo Phlung Poo Take Out place. We all seek a bit of otherworldly intervention and tidbits of wisdom arriving from the Great Unknown. You might have found the road to riches, my friend.

    • i’m reading these stories piecemeal and just found yours. What a lighthearted and interesting piece! The speed of light line reminds me of droll comedian Steven Wright. I think my fave was “The fortune you seek is in another cookie!”

      • Parrot Writes

        Peanut – My granddaughter tells me to “turn on the dark” when I put her to bed, so I enjoyed your question about the speed of dark. Love your work – your tribute to your mom on FB is wonderful.

    • Word confetti!!! I love it! I think we all (writers) feel the same at times. I love how you conveyed your frustration and yet put it into perspective with humor. I wish my thoughts had as much “punch” on paper. Nice job!

    • Took my Grandson out to PF Chang’s for his 18th birthday. (his choice) at the end of the meal, they brought out the traditional fortune cookies. I opened mine and read aloud “The fortune you seek is in another cookie” It brought down the house. I credited you later, to avoid charges of plagiarism.
      Maybe Ann should come up with a Fortune Cookie Challenge on this blog?
      Thanks for the fun read.

  20. THAT SUMMER

    They went out West that summer,
    There were four of ’em.
    On the road, they were often mistaken
    For persons other than who they were.

    Some folks said they knew one was John Wayne,
    Others swore on the Bible
    That the second man
    Was Lonardo da Vinci.
    The third in the posse, a kindly woman,
    Could rustle up a meal so good
    That some mistook her for Martha Stewart.
    The last of the four, a not so kindly woman,
    Fit into her jeans and top so well
    That passersby took her for Marilyn Monroe.
    (In truth, a half-blind, half-wit was the only person
    Who saw any resemblance).

    But…they were just common folks from Wisconsin,
    Seeking adventure in the “romantic” West.

    There were only four, but at times it seemed like more.
    Dust and Dirt were their companions
    And Heat brought up the rear.
    Colorado bound…they were,
    Burning daylight or going down with the sun…
    They kept on keeping on.

    Two rode TrailBlazer,
    Two rode Silverado.

    The women were appreciated by their men,
    Seems the gals weren’t hard to please.
    With their women beside them at night
    The men asked for nothing more.

    They wore serious faces and looked straight ahead,
    Glancing neither to the left or the right.
    “Just point me to the mountains”
    Were the only words anyone heard them say.

    They were “time travelers,” every one of them,
    Time Eternal held their lives on the tip of her finger.
    Hurtling through space on this planet Earth,
    They knew their time was short,
    Their earthly lives but a blink in eternity.

    [I wrote this back in 2000, after a vacation during which my husband (Lon) and I and another couple pulled our camping trailers to Estes Park, Colorado. I’m not sure why, but I wrote of our trip as if we were riding horses. I was young and foolish at the time with no writing classes under my belt. :)]

    • Shaddy, this is wonderful. Takes me back to the ’90s road tripping with friends with no destination in mind until we got there. Amazing trip. I love your words and the interesting structure. Tell me, were you the kindly Martha Stewart or the unkindly Marilyn Monroe?

      • I portrayed myself as an unkindly Marilyn. Creative writing is so much fun, isn’t it?. We can say most anything and get away with it. Sadly, I don’t have Marilyn’s looks but, fortunately, I’m not unkindly either.

    • “Time eternal held their lives on the tip of her finger.” what a great line. I so enjoyed the ethereal tone of this. And also appreciated just the pinch of humor. Fine work, really fine Shaddy.

    • My favorite part is the last stanza too. There is something about leaving home and launching ourselves out into the unknown that shifts all known landmarks including gravity, clock time, and even the earth under our feet. You capture that here. A keeper!

      • Parrot Writes

        You painted a grand picture of the four warrior travelers and their goal to reach the mountains. I’m partial to the last stanza also – speaks of how fast our lives are speeding by. Good one, Shaddy! Keep writing, girl!

    • I could feel myself on the open road with these four people. fun read. I think the horse work at least for me it did.

    • Shaddy,
      I really enjoyed the mood of this piece, and how the various paragraphs sort of stood on their own.
      I liked “Dust and Dirt were their companions. And Heat brought up the rear.” ..what a wonderfully written description.

      • Shaddy,
        I agree with Gale those were my favorite lines too! You have a nice way with words. I could really see these four people riding off into the sunset on their Trailblazer and Silverado for untold adventures. Seems like this piece must bring back nice memories for you. I could tell you were writing about happy times! Sorry for getting to your story so late.
        Heather

  21. June scoured the beach. She picked up a postcard, started to throw it away then hesitated. Five women, wearing colored hats, stared at her from the postcard. June became uncomfortable. The women winked at her. She yelped casting the postcard from her. She closed her eyes, “I’m not crazy.”

    She hurried to the restroom, searched her bag for her pills then poured two into her palm. She didn’t notice the pale blue pill escaping the bottle and falling to the floor.

    *****

    Yanking CeCe into shallower water, Trudy yelled, “Dale, not too far.”

    “I knooow,” Dale whined.

    Trudy’s risk-taking two-year old and belligerent nine-year old tested her limits. CeCe ventured into deep waters playing games of “knock me down” with each approaching wave. Dale, ignoring Trudy’s pleas to stay close, searched for sea creatures to defeat.

    Trudy waved at Dale; CeCe pouted in her arms, “Dale, I need to go to the bathroom. Come to shore.”

    Dale splashed toward her, “Aww, Mom, I’m killing sharks.”

    “Just stay here ‘til I get back.” She turned to a couple next to them, “Would you mind watching my son for a moment?”

    “No problem,” said the teen rubbing lotion onto his girlfriend’s back.

    *****

    The blonde flung his magnificent body into the air. His muscles rippled as he raised his hand and smashed the ball toward Shae. She dropped, knees digging into the sand, forearms merging, “thwump”. The blonde’s smug smile turned to shocked gape as he watched Shae’s timely save.

    “Uugh.” The ball slung into Shae’s stomach.

    She came out of her reverie doubled over as her partner yelled, “What the hell, Shae? That was an easy dig.”

    “Oh, shut up,” Shae snarled.

    The blonde jogged to her, “Hey, you ok? I’m so sorry.”

    Feigning need for support, she clung to his bulging forearm, “I’m fine. Really.”

    I love beach volleyball Shae thought. If only I could do this for a living my parents might get off my back.

    *****

    Waves crashed over the side of the beached canoe slapping Peter’s gravelly face. He woke in a pool of water. He grasped the sides of the canoe and recalled the little girl’s words, “Mommy, scary man.” Strawberry blonde hair bounced round her blue-eyed, cherubic face. The mother brushed the toddler’s curls, “Honey, be nice. He’s having a bad day.” She reached into her beach bag, pulled out a sandwich and $5, and handed both to him. He hated tuna but he had thanked her anyway.

    He touched the pocket of the seat-worn slacks hanging inches above his ankles. Inside a wallet protected a photo of him, a pretty brunette and two strawberry-blonde children.

    *****

    CeCe swung her legs kicking the bowl, “I done.” She reached around her mom searching for skittles in the beach bag.

    Trudy grabbed CeCe’s hands, “Wash first.”

    As Trudy finished washing her own hands CeCe had fished out her skittles, “Mommy. Here.”

    Trudy popped a handful into her mouth along with the pale blue pill CeCe had found on the floor and added to her bag of candy.

    *****

    Peter caught sight of the kind woman and her daughter exiting the bathroom. The toddler shoveled candy into her mouth as the woman coaxed her along. His eyes misted. He stumbled toward the beach. The blue bikini-clad waif frustrating the veteran players would be a welcome diversion from painful memories.

    *****

    A strawberry-blonde toddler went after the ball, “Mine.”

    “No, CeCe. Give it to the nice lady.” The mother gave Shae a dopey smile.

    The little girl, lips trembling, hesitated before giving up the ball.

    Shae bent to the toddler, “I’ll come back later and we’ll play a game together. Ok?”

    The toddler nodded and grinned. The mother slurred, “Thank you.”

    Jeez, drunk at the beach with young children. Shae lost the next game distracted by the toddler playing in the surf.

    *****

    Dale was frantically shaking Trudy, “Mommy, wake up. Help, somebody, help.”

    Dale continued screaming as CeCe flailed in and out of view. The beach’s resident homeless man dashed toward the surf and dove in. A blue-bikinied girl sprinted to Dale. She knelt beside Trudy and tried to rouse her while Dale clutched her hand. The man reached CeCe just as her head went under for the fourth time. He seized her swimsuit, flung her onto his back and darted for shore.

    *****

    “Trudy Wilson was cleared of neglect when toxicity reports revealed levels of diazepam in her blood . . . Peter Toff, received praise for his heroic efforts . . .”

    June turned off the news and nudged her cactus, “Aggie, people should be more careful with their meds, eh.”

    *****

    Peter scanned the surf for distressed beach-goers. He spotted CeCe and Shae, “Hey, you two, how’re the volleyball lessons going?”

    “On hold. I enrolled at FIU – physical education and child psychology. My parents are ecstatic. Don’t worry, though, I guarantee CeCe will be the next Olympic volleyball medalist. Show him your spike, Champ.” CeCe lifted her chubby arm and gave a wobbly spike.

    “Wow, CeCe. You’re amazing.” She grinned..

    “How’s the guard shack?”

    “Great! Miss watching you play, though.”

    “We’d hang out but CeCe’s got an appointment.” CeCe bounced in her arms. “Dinner tonight? My place? I’ll invite Trudy and Dale.”

    Peter chuckled at Shae’s not-so-subtle efforts at match-making, “Sounds great. See you tonight. Bye, CeCe.”

    He texted Trudy, “Shae’s at it again. See you tonight at dinner.”

    *****

    Dale jumped onto Peter’s lap as he attempted to study for the EMT exam. “Can we go fishing?”

    Trudy glared at Dale, “Stop distracting Peter.”

    “No, it’s ok. You guys are worthy distractions.” He ruffled Dale’s hair, “Sure, we can.”

    Trudy went to him and tightly embraced him, “No wonder I love you — the man that saved my CeCe.”

    He touched his pocket. Inside was a wallet protecting two photos. In each he was grinning beside a pretty brunette and two strawberry blonde children. “No, Trudy, you, CeCe, Dale, Shae, you all, saved me.”

    • I liked this, Lisa. The episodic treatment reminded of European New Wave Cinema.

      • Fig, I was actually hoping you’d edit away and tell me how to really improve this piece. I like the idea better than the execution. I did learn to edit (this is exactly 1000 words) so I figured for all my efforts I’d post it even if I wasn’t totally satisfied with it. Thanks for the comment.

      • Lisa, when Ann announced this idea, I initially intended not to participate, because I’m very uncomfortable about presuming to review (aka criticise) other writers’ work beyond a general positive comment. But since you ask, here are a few finicky ‘craft’ issues I think are worth considering (or not):

        Section 2, para 4: ‘Trudy waved at Dale; CeCe pouted in her arms, “Dale…”‘. I wasn’t immediately sure who was saying the line of dialogue, Trudy or CeCe, and it slowed my reading down for a split second (I call these ‘speed bumps’.)

        Section 4, para 1: ‘Strawberry blonde hair bounced round her blue-eyed, cherubic face. The mother brushed the toddler’s curls, “Honey, be nice. He’s having a bad day.” She reached into her beach bag, pulled out a sandwich and $5, and handed both to him. He hated tuna but he had thanked her anyway.’ This would’ve worked better in past perfect tense (as indeed, you used it in the last sentence). As in: ‘Strawberry blonde hair had bounced round her blue-eyed, cherubic face. The mother had brushed, etc’.

        Para 2: ‘He touched the pocket of the seat-worn slacks hanging inches above his ankles.’ This confused me. I wondered if his pants were down. Another speed bump.

        Section 10, para 1: I wasn’t sure why Peter (I’d assumed he was some kind of bum) was scanning the surf for distressed beach-goers. And then with the next sentence I assumed that CeCe and Shae were in trouble.

        And really nitpicking, your last sentence might’ve been better (in my opinion) as: “No, Trudy. You, CeCe, Dale, Shae, you all saved me.” (Note the period, then the deleted comma.)

        I’m not an editor, Lisa, I’m a tragic old ex-copywriter who spent forty-odd years learning to step away and read his own work from the point of view of a reader who didn’t necessarily know or care what it was about. Here, I’ve addressed what I’d fiddle with if it were my writing. But ultimately it’s yours, and if you like it that’s all that matters. It either works for an individual reader or it doesn’t. And now I’m outa here.

      • Doh!! Depending on your country of education (like, in my case, Australia), I should’ve said the ‘pluperfect tense’, not the ‘past perfect’. Somebody find me an editor!

      • Exactly what I was looking for. I need to learn to step away and take the reader’s POV. I knew this didn’t work very well. I’ll try to salvage it using your edits. I struggled with the last line. Your edit is perfect. I don’t know why I couldn’t come up with it myself. Thanks, Fig. I appreciate the lesson. Please feel free to edit anything I post. I learn alot from your edits.

    • Parrot Writes

      Hi Lisa
      This is a good start to the story. I could see it expanding with more detail about the characters. I got a bit lost with all of them and had to read it a second time to understand who was who (maybe its just me being slow!) Once I put the vignettes it together, I thought the story line was great. I agree with Fig’s edits, altho I wouldn’t have been able to come up with them myself. Keep going with this story!

      • Thanks, Parrot, I was wondering how lost the reader gets in the story. I’m pretty sure it’s my lack of technique not your slowness that causes confusion. I expect the reader to read my mind much of the time. This causes much confusion in my conversations, as well. I appreciate your input.

    • It’s great of Fig to give you careful copywriter feedback. I’ll just say that the lines of asterisks kept me going even when I was confused about all the names. I reread some of it, and knowing the ending makes the beginning a lot clearer. Spend six weeks away from this and then go back. I’m sure you’ll see the things you want to fix for the sake of clarity. Creative format!

      • Thanks for the advice, Ann. I want to rewrite it right now with much more detail and dialogue. (I enjoy lots of dialogue). However, I’ll take your advice. Is six weeks a rule of thumb? I need more writing practice and I know your classes would help me do that. I may enroll in Writing Essentials. How similar is it to BWW?

    • Lisa, I concur with Fig’s edits, and the others who had trouble figuring out who was speaking, etc. I knew immediately that there was danger when that pill hit the floor, and you delivered the trouble at the end.
      I like the idea of having many different characters on a beach who somehow come together in a crisis, but you do need to somehow find a way to make this flow a little better. Transitions, perhaps?
      Best of luck with your editing.

      • Thanks, Gale, for the feedback. I’ll step away for awhile and come back to this to see if I can make it work. I want to maintain the structure but add much more detail and backstory. I think i focused so much on the word limit that I edited out necessary details. Good luck on your story.

    • Lisa: I enjoyed your story very much! I too was a bit lost with the dialogue but sometimes I think I read too fast! I liked how all the characters tied in together at the finish. I am a good descriptive writer but I stink at plot lines so I am impressed with how your story moved along and how you brought it together nicely in the end. When I began to read this I felt the story had drive and was heading in a very marked direction which made me want to keep reading. I think opening with the dropped pill was a great move. Nice job.

      • Thanks, Heather! I thought this was too confusing to be enjoyable. You do have a lovely way with words. I hope to develop that quality in my writing one day. As for my plots, I write “forward” and take forever to post my writing. Usually by the time I’m ready to post everyone is on to the next prompt. Most of the characters in my piece were developed from Ann’s previous prompts. Hence, the structure of my piece — developed by puzzling together bits and pieces from previous writings. Have fun reworking your piece. I’d love to read an ending.

    • Lisa,

      Interesting structure. Reminds me of some movies, the names of which I cannot recall, where the random stories dance around and end up all tied together.
      It’s a little hard to track with all the different names. Good idea. I find that reading out loud helps your efforts to tidy up the writing.

      Pat

      • Thanks for the advice, Pat. In the future I will definitely read my writing out loud. I’ve done it in the past and it has helped but usually I have someone else look at it. However, this time I failed to do that. One of the movies that came to mind while writing this was “Crash”. If you haven’t seen it it’s worth a look. Love your dog story.

  22. (I apologize for my tardiness reading everyone’s postings. I will work to catch up! Here’s mine. –Ann)

    The Beginning of the End

    Uncle Lars entered the kitchen with his muddy boots on, trailed by his collie. He caught Jana’s scowl and doubled back to leave his boots on the rug by the door. The dog trotted into the living room to curl up beside the wood heater.

    He padded across the kitchen in his dirty socks to the cook stove and lifted the lid off the pot holding Jana’s attempt at beef stew. He sniffed the pot. “Stew,” he said, then pulled a huge bowl from the cupboard, scooped out five watery ladles full of brown clumps, and grabbed a box of saltines. He turned on the TV in the living room and plopped down in his old grey recliner.

    Jana sank back into the cushions of the overstuffed horsehair sofa, gently bouncing the baby Alta against her shoulder in an attempt to suggest it was time to go to sleep. Was it okay for the infant to be awake so much? Alta’s eyes were always open, examining her mother–an odd sensation, being scrutinized by a two month old wearing green foot pajamas with a Green Bay Packers logos. For the millionth time, Jana wished her parents were alive. She willed that thought away.

    Basketball, Jana noted. Since it was only 5:30 PM, it was likely a rerun. Men and a ball, that was all it took to keep Uncle Lars occupied.

    So how did a person make a stew thick? It was one more lesson she’d not learned, carelessly thinking she had a lifetime to gain adult knowledge. But she was not an adult. She was a frigging teenager for god’s sake. And she didn’t frigging know how to make stew. It was one more thing she had to make up as she went along. Beef, carrots, potatoes, onion, celery. If it didn’t get thick after four hours, then the frigging world could shove her frigging stew up its ass. She wasn’t hungry anyway.

    “I’m going to put the baby down,” she called to Uncle Lars. He grunted.

    The worn wooden stairs made a nice creak as she went up. That noise soothed her as if she was in a rerun of The Waltons or something. Except that she didn’t have any parents or grandparents or brothers or sisters. She had dead parents. Accidentally killed parents. Senselessly killed parents who went off the road heading down the big curve into Fish Creek on a cold, rainy spring night when there shouldn’t have been ice on the curve, but there was. And that had been that. The end of everything.

    Oh, she’d finished high school and graduated, but it had been horrible since that’s when she’d done the bad thing. She was lucky Uncle Lars had taken her in because there was no money at all, and she was a minor. She’d had to face the fact that she now lived in an aging farmhouse that needed paint and was heated with wood. The man even cooked on an old wood stove. No broadband hookup, just dialup. But she didn’t frigging care about the Internet anymore. She had a baby, and that kept her busy. That and keeping enough wood in the house. She smiled with half her mouth. It was good to have two things to like: a baby and chopping wood.

    Now she was here, climbing creaking frigging stairs that led to nowhere, holding a two-month-old infant, father unknown, heading to one more night of…. She didn’t want to think.

    Her bedroom was okay. Lars and her father had shared it as boys, and it hadn’t changed much. Alta had to sleep in a drawer, but the baby didn’t care. It seemed senseless to ask Uncle Lars to buy a crib when the baby would outgrow it anyway. She hated to ask him for things. Not that he would say no, but he would look at her in confusion as if she had grown two heads. The drawer was fine. Anyway, she had a very fine rocking chair with curved arms, a carved back, and a long arcing roll that she found comforting.

    Jana arranged Alta at her breast. The infant made a small noise as she nursed. Jana smiled. Alta looked up at her mother with steady, serious eyes, and sucked as if it was an important task. Alta’s small hand crept up to hold the breast while she worked. That’s as much love as I’m going to get for a while, Jana thought, and gave a small huff. It was nice, she had to admit. She rocked. The baby nursed. The May evening darkened. Jana counted the rockings. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Ten. Fifteen. Twenty.

    She made herself stop counting. There was no end point, no goal, no destination. It was counting to fill the silence. Too depressing. Use your eyes, she thought. Pin them on something outside yourself. Get lost somewhere else besides this emptiness.

    On the long wall was her single bed with its annoyingly cheery bedspread and the drawer for Alta. A braided wool rug her mother had made her lay on the floor. This and her dresser were Jana’s possessions, brought from her home that had been sold to pay her parents’ debts. Normal debts, everyone said. A few too many credit cards, two mortgages, a car loan.

    The faded wallpaper showed intertwining branches. She often played with the patterns by half closing her eyes and imagining she saw faces in the swirls. Her favorite face was an old man with a beard. His face showed up in oddly random ways. Today, his face was off to her left, below the light switch. The worn floor boards also suggested faces, and the old man was often there too. I wish he were real, she thought. Come to me, old man. Be wise and all knowing. Tell me what to do.

    Jana laid baby Alta gently in the drawer and covered her with an old quilt. Now came the moment of most dread. Where could she go? Down to basketball reruns? Out into the cold, muddy yard? Back to the chair to rock and count?

    Jana crept to her bed and picked up the book her mother had given her just before she’d died. The author was Brian Greene, a physics professor at Columbia, who suggested that there were infinite universes. While Jana hadn’t been a great student at Sevastapol High, she’d liked the physics videos with Brian Greene talking about infinity. The reading was hard, but if she read slowly, she could almost understand what he was talking about. Infinity. A place where everything could be true.

    Jana looked at Brian Greene’s picture on the back of the book. Another man with a dick in his pants. Why had she done it–slept with three boys in one night? To see if she could completely wreck her life that was already destroyed by parents who had died? It had been stupid, but it was done, and Alta was the result. Fine. That old life was over–high school, giggling by lockers, dances–all done. She was a mother now as well as an orphan, and that was that.

    She gritted her teeth. She knew she had to figure out what to do next, scary as that might be. Uncle Lars was great to take her in, and she was grateful, but he didn’t talk much. It was time to kick herself in the pants. She needed to get a job. She needed to find a babysitter or a daycare. She wiped a hand down her mouth and chin. These thoughts made her feel sick. She would have to call up strangers and ask questions, exposing how ignorant she was of how the world operated. People would roll their eyes at the ignorant unwed teenage mother. She wasn’t ready. It was too hard. But then, of course, she could always sit in this room and rock, counting away the minutes. That was a choice too. She leaned her head back against the wall and listened to her racing heart. She had to be brave. Better to make a fool of herself than to spend the rest of her life lost in the faces in the wallpaper.

    End of Chapter One

    • Ah, “What Now?” the chapter. A person with seemingly no choices, living in a tiny wood fueled world, reads a book on the limitless universe. They make movies out of this sort of thing.

      BTW, “wearing green foot pajamas with a Green Bay Packers logos.”

      Should this be “wearing green foot pajamas with a Green Bay Packers logo.” or “wearing green foot pajamas with Green Bay Packers logos?”

      • Logo Packers sound like a gang of Ad Agency Escapees out to Brand the Universe.

      • Parrot Writes

        The title is intriguing and I hope we get to see how it fits in with the story line. There’s a dichotomy here – she seems so naive, yet she’s reading a book on infinity! Nice job piquing our interest in this young girl! I liked the faces in the wallpaper. I remember as a kid seeing faces in the shadows the tree branches outside my window made on my bedroom wall.

    • Best paragraph “She made herself stop counting. There was no end point, no goal, no destination. It was counting to fill the silence. Too depressing. Use your eyes, she thought. Pin them on something outside yourself. Get lost somewhere else besides this emptiness, ” So eloquent and so very hopeless.
      I love the way you write, but after reading this, and many of the other outstanding posts, I feel like such a shallow writer. I guess, I’m not observant enough to describe such depth of feelings. Maybe, I’m simply a “Flake.” .
      Really loved this first chapter. Thanks Teach.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I would change the following:

      1. Uncle Lars entered the kitchen with his muddy boots and his collie.
      2. Laddie trotted into the living room and curled up by the wood heater.
      3. Uncle Lars padded…and lifted the lid off Jana’s attempt at beef stew. He sniffed and said, “Stew.” He filled a huge bowl with five ladles of watery brown clumps, grabbed the saltine crackers and plopped down in front of the TV.
      ********
      I’m feeling weird editing this, Ann. I would change something in almost every paragraph from beginning to end. I’d even venture to say that you didn’t write this. I think you’re testing us to see if we have balls. And I do. Or else I’m just plain nuts. (Feel free to sit me in the corner if I’ve been bad).

      • Cheryl aka Shaddy

        I reread your chapter, Ann. I now realize that I was inconsiderate in my previous comments. I failed to compliment you on the many, many awesome facets of this piece of your writing. There are more positives than negatives and I didn’t take the time to express that.

        I’m knocking myself in the head like Dobby in the Harry Potter books.

    • I see how you build up our inner sight for words and how they open up some ones world to us. you put us in her place and her feelings. it makes us want to tell her what to so. Also to keep reading to see how she improves her life and that of her child. the choices she has have to be made by her and then carried through by her. Great read I enjoyed wanted it to go on.

    • I didn’t understand the narrators need for the word frigging. I don’t object to the word, or the real one. But why would a narrator be so incensed, especially in that one para with 4 of them thrown in, and two trailing? Then no more. If the MC were speaking in first person I can get it. Maybe its a case of one of those omnipotent points of view which I don’t get?

    • Your piece reached down into the depths of that girls soul and shared them with us. Like Marion wrote, I felt like I wanted to reach out and help her.
      I have so much to learn. Thanks for a great lesson.

    • Hi ann. Sorry for getting to this so late! I have to say, the imagery in your piece was great; I heard those creaky stairs, felt Jana’s despair and saw that face in the wallpaper. I think we’ve all “looked for faces in the wallpaper” at some point in our lives; some low point when there’s no one to help and conjuring up a magic friend is all we have. The last paragraph was my favorite. I thought it was very powerful that Jana admits she is afraid of people seeing her ignorance. I know I’m afraid of that sometimes! Especially here, posting my writing for everyone to see but…..better to make a fool of myself than spend the rest of my life “rocking” away the minutes in safety. Thanks for sharing your work. I really enjoyed your writing Ann!

    • Ann,
      Such an engaging story. The dangling possibilities…
      “The beginning of the End”. Is that the chapter title or the story title?
      Jana is beyond the ‘end of everything’, her parents accident. How do these tie together? Or do they?
      Brown clumps in the stew. This caught my eye. Did the carrots, potatoes, onion, and celery all turn brown?
      It seems that Jana would have more from her parents home. Beds, newer furniture, dishes. Yes the house would be sold, but the furnishing must have been better than what Uncle Lars had. It ‘seems’ that her parents were a little better off than Lars.
      Lars is not very bright. Was his brother? Does Jana have hidden brain power that helps her? Or just the determination to move on? To infinity and beyond…

      Ann, I like the possibilities. The above are my various thoughts that may all be answered later.

      Pat

  23. This is the first thing of yours I have read, Ann. What a treat. Simple scenes given so much depth. It will be something I save and study, a lot for a new writer to learn from.

  24. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    Dang, your writing tastes good! It’s as good as dark chocolate coated blueberries and I can never get enough of them.

  25. I really enjoyed the flow of thoughts and actions intermingling. You packed so much feeling in this piece. I have lots to learn.

  26. Apropos of none of the above, here’s a wonderful exchange from a superb British six-part romantic drama called ‘Last Tango In Halifax’ which just finished screening in Australia. I figured all you writers might enjoy it.

    Spurned guy: Why do you like him more than me?

    Ex-girlfriend: He’s erudite.

    Spurned guy: I could be that.

    Ex-girlfriend: You don’t even know the meaning of the word.

    Spurned guy: No, but if I did, I could be.

  27. ~Waking Up~~~ by Marion L. Ritcey©

    As I looked out the front window I could see the snow moving in an odd way.
    In a matter of minutes Chippy had dug his home clean. Then as if he was opening the door, he turned around and stretched up. All he could see was mounds of snow two feet tall. I could imagine his little voice saying.

    “Where did all this white stuff come from? When I went to sleep a while back the lawn was green and leaves had just finished falling”

    He looked and looked as if he could not believe the amount of snow was there. Climbing on the up the hill all he saw was more snow. Running back inside his warm house, he thought I must be dreaming . Out he came again, but the snow was still there, white, fluffy and cold.

    Hunger drove him back out into the snow a little while later. He spied the seed bell, with his friends the chickadees eating from it. He scampered over to the bell and started to enjoy the seeds that fell on the ground.

    “Fresh seed he said I’m in heaven”.

    He ate till he was full, and then went back into his home for a nap.

    When he woke later he could not get out of his hole. The snow had covered it completely. He would have to wait till the people shoveled the walkway. There had to be a few feet of snow out there since he could not borrow through it.

    He turned over and went back to sleep. It was his second favorite thing to do, the first was eating seeds and peanuts.

    When he woke later he heard a strange noise. It sounded like … shovels being dragged across the walk.

    I’ll soon be free to get to the seed bell, to enjoy the sunflower seeds that had fallen to the ground.

    Chippy watched and listened to see when we would uncover his hole. To his dismay discovered that the people had covered it with more snow. How he would have to find a new way out.

    Running through his tunnels he found the hole he wanted. It lead to the underside of the porch. He knew he would have to be quick since the birds also had this area as a hiding place. Most of the time they lived in harmony but maybe not this time.

    The snow is almost gone now so Chippy can run around the yard and look for seeds. He spies something on the back steps.

    “Wow he yells. “Grapes the people in the house know I’m awake. Every now and then they give me grapes”.

    As he sat eating his treat he looked up, and he saw standing in the doorway I could swear he smiled saying thank you. He does not want the treats to stop. He enjoys them ever so much.

    Nuts and berries are good but grapes and raisins are a treat. Chippy always said.

    Chippy sits wondering what the spring and summer will bring. Only time will tell. The grass is almost awake now. The tulips are above ground but not blooming. The pussy willows are in full bloom and lilacs will come soon. Then summer will be here in all her glory.

    As Chippy sat there, Mr. Hawk is watching from far above. All he sees is a tasty meal waiting to be had. Swooping down through the sky Mr. Hawk takes his dinner home for the family.

    I guess that is the circle of life in the back yard, sorry to say.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      You’ve taken the biggest step already; you’re writing. You already have an imagination, a necessity for creativity. You also have the courage to tell things as they are, that is, the good, the bad and the ugly.

      Keep writing.

    • Hi Marion, I was thinking how cute your story was then I came to the end. Caught me off guard. I enjoyed reading your post. Keep practicing and have someone read your work to help catch the typos. The change from first person POV to Chippy’s POV was a speed bump for me. Other than that I enjoyed it. I’m planning to retake BWW or Writing Essentials for more practice and grammar lessons. Come join me for more practice. It would be fun to know someone in the class.

    • Marion, I enjoyed your story so much because we too had a squirrel in residence named Stubbs. He had lost his tail. Hawks were always after him as well! This piece was so nice because it was so relatable. They say to write about what you know and I can see you did that here. It’s nice to read something and say, “Ya, I get it!! I know what she’s talking about! Good job!

    • You did a great job of creating the world from the view of a chipmunk (I believe Chippy meant that?) You have a great imagination, and if you clean up a few typos and tense issues, this would flow a bit better. (i.e., “Fresh seed he said I’m in heaven”…should be “Fresh seed,” he said, “I’m in heaven.”
      It would make a cut children’s story ..except for your tragic ending. You could illustrate the real danger by having the hawk swoop down, and have Chippy dive into his hole at the last second, and then close with the circle of life statement? I felt the ending was just a bit too abrupt as compared to the rest of your sweet tale.

  28. As I read all the other postings I see how far I have to go. baby steps are grand. but some times I feel I take two forward and three backward. everyone writes so forceful and with so much detail. I have a long way to go.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Don’t get discouraged. No matter how well a person may write, there’s always someone who they envy. If you enjoy what you’re doing and are observant, you will improve as you go.

      • Parrot Writes

        I agree with Shaddy! Just keep on writing and practicing! The shift in tenses caused me to stop reading in places and go back to figure out who was the narrator. I also thought the end was a bit abrupt – it started out so sweet! I could see it as a children’s story with a different – happy, or lessons-learned ending.

  29. Having watched chipmunks going through this myself (without the hawk part), I enjoyed imagining how it felt from his end. The human/chipmunk interaction comes across as both good and problematic, which is likely exactly right. I thought the ending added a lot. Why expand that part? In essence you have three characters here: the narrator watching, the chipmunk, and the hawk. He (she?) has a set of perceptions too that might be interesting to examine. Then you wouldn’t need the last sentence. Believe me, that’s a hard habit to break. We always want to say, “And this is what my story tells you.” But work at stopping yourself from doing that. Let the reader come up with that conclusion. It’s more fun for us that way. Good to see you here, Marion!

  30. Marion, a work in progress. This is a good start for your story. Take the critique and run with it. Go back and edit your work, now that you have some comments, and you may be amazed at the progress you make.

    Keep it up!

  31. I know I already submitted a piece for this thread, but…
    I wrote this essay for another class. It took off from my beginning to a place I hadn’t gone before and it touched me. I’d love to see some comments, but like I said, no obligations since I already posted once. Thanks!

    My Old Aardvark

    Today I walked out to the garage and saw my old aardvark sitting on a shelf. The years have not been kind to him. His tail was lost long ago, so long ago that I cannot recall any of the details. His tongue is also not what it used to be. I used to be able to see it, long, straight and pink, with a huge ant stuck on the end of it. Now there is just a hole at the end of his nose. His ears are not as perky as they used to be and they are flaking away. Three of his legs are broken and he stands in a peculiar way, like a dog sitting, offering one of his paws. His eyes are the only things that appear close to what they looked like all those years ago. They are still blue, but now they have a dusty, duller look.

    My aardvark came to be over 40 years ago when I was in eighth grade. Our class was assigned a project to create ‘something’ out of paper mache. I chose an aardvark. Two reasons: I really liked the word, and I liked the aardvark in the B.C. comic strip by Johnny Hart

    For the aardvark’s body I used an old bleach bottle cut off at the neck. Inside the neck hole I stuck a long balloon, inserted at an angle, for his nose. His legs were toilet paper rolls filled with newspaper and his tail was a piece of rope. A straightened wire coat hanger served as his tongue. Layer after layer of paper and paste connected and molded these mismatched pieces until my aardvark took shape. His ears were pasted newspaper, cut and glued so that they stood up with little folds at the tip. I painted him a dark reddish brown. I have to credit my friend Joe Miller who painted his eyes; big white ovals pointing down his nose with blue irises and black pupils, slightly crossed and bloodshot.

    My dad liked my aardvark enough to adopt him and keep him in his room. Not his bedroom, this was my dad’s game room, office, junk room and personal bar. I think my dad must have had my aardvark in his room for over thirty years. Thinking about it, I realize how much of my dad my aardvark saw that I never did.

    Of all my siblings, I was the closest one to my dad. Dad loved military history and so did I. He had a bookcase of World War One fighter models that he had built and other bookcases filled with military history books. He had stacks of war games and periodicals related to those games. These were board games with maps on which you moved the little cardboard pieces that represented your armies. Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Midway, and Waterloo were some of the first games I played. YOU had the power to change history.

    I lived at home until I was twenty-one and went away to college. When I graduated from college I came back to Los Angeles, but lived with my brother. His house was close to my dad’s and I visited a lot. The aardvark was still in my dad’s room, keeping watch over him. While there, I would talk to my dad about the new games and magazines he had collected since my last visit. We talked about other things, but the history/game connection was our strongest bond. I would return the games and magazines I had borrowed the last time and take the newest ones.

    Over the years I bought a house, got married, moved away, got divorced, remarried, bought another house, and moved further away. My dad’s hearing went away and other health problems contributed to his diminishing mental acuity. All of this led me to visit less and less as the years went by. When I did visit, I would still trade magazines, but we talked less and less. But I always got a chuckle out of my aardvark, still in dad’s room but moving around, switching observation stations.

    When my dad passed away, his room was left pretty much alone. Mom didn’t need it and everyone knew that Dad’s stuff meant the most to me. I still visited, but when I went to his room, I mostly browsed through the games, magazines and memories. My aardvark watched me now.

    My mom passed a few years later and we had to sell the house. Each of the siblings had a few favorite items they wanted. I was the only one interested in Dad’s room. I had favorite games, favorite books and magazines, and items that triggered favorite stories in my head. Then there was my aardvark. I looked at him, laughed, and brought him back home with me.

    Today, I walked out to the garage and saw my old aardvark sitting on a shelf. My first memories were of junior high and a paper mache project. I brought him in and set him on my desk and looked at him. Everything is broken except for his eyes. I looked at his eyes and wished I’d seen everything he had seen.

    • Galelikethewind

      What a sweet way for us to learn about your relationship with your dad through that little Aadvark. I can still visualize that character from the B.C. comic strip, right down to the floppy tips of its ears. A few tears welled up at the end. Your best story on this blog so far, Pat. Bravo.

    • Pat,
      This was really a lovely story. Your words had such a nice flow and were stated in a simple heartfelt manner. I could visualize your Dad’s special room and all the surroundings that spoke so much about his personality. That Aardvark was a special character. I think he was loved to bits kind of like the worn out Velveteen Rabbit. Truly, a great piece you’ve written here.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      It’s unbelievable how things from so long ago, things that didn’t have much value at the time, can through time and circumstance, become treasures of immeasurable value to us.

      You’ve proven that in your heartwarming and well-written story and I thank you for sharing it.

    • Pat It got me thinking of what I did with my Dad. I really saw the things you two did and lived them through the writing. good read

  32. Thanks Gale, means a lot that you commented.
    You too Heather, I appreciate it.

  33. Cheryl and Marion… thank you both for your thoughts.
    (this got left off the above post).

  34. In my class I was told to edit this piece down to 500 words. I didn’t think I could do that, cut off over 350 words. But, this is what I came up with. Do you think it has the same impact as the longer piece? Thanks!

    My Old Aardvark

    Today I walked out to the garage and saw my old aardvark. His tail is lost; his tongue and its attached ant is gone, leaving a hole at the end of his nose. His ears are drooping and flaking away. Three legs are broken and he stands like a dog sitting, offering a paw. His eyes are the same, but with a dusty, aged look.

    I created my aardvark years ago in the eighth grade. We were assigned a paper mache project and I chose to do an aardvark since I liked both the word and the aardvark in the B.C. comic strip.

    The aardvark’s body was a bleach bottle and his nose was a long inflated balloon. His legs were toilet paper rolls, his tail a piece of rope and a stiff wire served as his tongue. His ears stood up with little folds at the tips. Layers of paper and paste connected and molded these mismatched pieces until my aardvark took shape. I painted him reddish brown and his eyes were slightly crossed, bloodshot, big white ovals with blue irises and black pupils.

    Dad liked my aardvark enough to adopt him and keep him in his room. It was his personal game room, office, junk room and bar. My dad had my aardvark in his room for over thirty years. I realize now how much more my aardvark saw of Dad, that I never did.

    I was close to my dad. We both loved military history. He had a bookcase of model fighters and other bookcases filled with military history books. He had stacks of war games and magazines. Together we re-fought the battles of Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Midway, and Waterloo.

    I went away to college, returned and lived with my brother. His house was close to Dad’s and I visited often. My aardvark was still in Dad’s room, keeping watch over him. I would talk to Dad about the new games and magazines he had collected and about other things, but the history/game connection was our strongest bond.

    Over the years life moved me further from Dad. His hearing went away and health problems contributed to his diminishing mental acuity. When I did visit, we talked less and less. But I always got a chuckle out of my aardvark, still in dad’s room, still observing.

    When Dad passed away, his room was left pretty much alone. I still visited and browsed through the games, magazines and memories. My aardvark watched me now.

    Mom passed a few years later and we had to sell the house. I got my favorite games, books, magazines, and items that triggered good memories. And the aardvark; I looked at him, laughed, and brought him home with me.

    Today I walked out to the garage and saw my old aardvark. My first memories were of junior high and a paper mache project. Everything is broken except for his eyes. I looked at his eyes and wished I’d seen everything they had seen.

    • galelikethewind

      This 2nd,version has none of the “soul” of the 1st. It comes off like a series of facts to me. In my humble opinion.

      • Gale…. urk. Thanks for the honesty. If you had not read the longer piece, how would this stand on its own?

  35. With the right editing this has the makings of a fine piece of flash fiction. Jeff

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