Nathan Bransford, Author


Monday, May 19, 2008

The Preposterously Magnificent Dialogue Challenge

I am pleased to report that the battery of physicians and psychiatrists who monitor my well-being on a daily basis have at long last declared me fit to proceed with another contest!

You remember the last one? The one I'm not even linking to because clicking over to it may crash your computer?

Well. This one will be even more preposterously magnificent than all of the others combined, as it arises out of this imponderable question: what makes good dialogue... good?

I don't really know. I know it when I see it, but what does good dialogue have in common? Do we really know? I don't. Let's find out!

Here are the contest rules, which may be amended with zesty randomness and are subject to my own interpretations and opinions, which are known to be both feckless and strongly held. You've been warned.

The rules!

1. Please enter up-to-but-not-exceeding 250 words of dialogue and supporting description in an entry in the comments section of this blog post. The balance between dialogue and supporting description is up to your discretion, bearing in mind that this is a dialogue contest and not a supporting description contest.

b. You may enter once, and once you may enter.

*. Spreading the word about the contest is not only encouraged, it is strongly encouraged.

5. Snarky anonymous comments about entries, the weather, Barbaro the horse, Norman Mailer and/or any other subject will be deleted with relish. This is a free speech zone, or rather the opposite thereof.

f. Against strenuous doctors orders, I will be the sole judge of the contest this time.

T. The deadline for this contest is 5:00 PM Pacific Time on Wednesday May 21st. Finalists will be announced Thursday morning, and you will have the opportunity to vote on the winner, which will be announced on Friday.

PRIZES. The ultimate grand prize deluxe winner will receive the satisfaction of knowing they have written some seriously awesome dialogue, and will have a choice of a query critique, partial critique, or 10 minute phone conversation. Runners-up will receive a query critique or other agreed-upon prize.

Let the dialogue about dialogue begin!






592 comments:

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MRO said...

“Scat scat!” said Mother to the Rat as she leaned as far to the side of the couch as the pillows would let her.

“Not scatting,” said the Rat. “Am fed up with this Rat Rap and here to stay!”

“No no,” said Mother, “you cannot stay here. This is not a place for you. You are a RAT!”

“You can get as huffy as you want but it’s a matter of fact,” said the Rat,
“that I am here and that is that!”

“Well what are you doing here?” asked Claudia.

The Rat preened and paced. He screwed up his Rat face and hissed out loud. He was clearly getting agitated now.

“I am,” he said, indignantly, “most obviously, the Christmas Rat!”
“And I am here to set the story straight!”

“Oh cool!” said Henry.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You've gone and done it now, Nathan.

Conduit said...

Hmmmm, I have a better bit of dialogue, but it's got enough F- and C-words to make Ozzy Osbourne blush. Instead, here's a cleaner snippet:

A minute of quiet passed, both of them sipping their drinks, before Marie said, "Seeing as we're asking difficult questions, why did you come in here to hide?"

"Too many people here I used to know," he said. "I can't listen to them."

"You're a respected man around here," she said.

"They don't respect me. They're afraid of me."

"I'm not afraid of you."

Fegan plucked at the beer can's ring pull. "You know what I did?"

"I've heard things," she said. Her shoulder brushed against his and he shivered. "Listen, I've known men like you all my life. My uncle, my father, my brothers. I know the other side, too, the cops and the Loyalists. I've talked to them all in my job. Everyone has their piece of guilt to carry. You're not that special."

The last words were softened with kindness.

"No, I'm not," he said. Somehow, he liked that idea.

"Anyway, I don't think you're like that now," she said. "People can change. They have to, or there's no hope for this place. Are you sorry for what you did?"

"Yeah."

"It shows. On your face. In your eyes. You can't hide it."

Fegan wanted to look at her, but he couldn't. He ran his finger around the can's opening, feeling it bite at his fingertip. Words danced just beyond his grasp.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Linda said...

Ooo, I'm in! From a time-slip for children:


They stumbled and tripped their way down the three flights of old-timey manual stairs that led to the basement.

“It smells funny down here,” complained Mara.

"Flavinoids left over from lunch," chirruped Samm. "Lunch from the days of Thomas Goldberg. Soggy peanut butter and jelly, lukewarm beanie weenies, rubber jello—"

Mara bowed impatiently at Henry. “And what are you doing here, anyway? Aren’t you supposed to be at the Rock Pile rehabilitating? Does Drd. Arbuckle know you’re here?”

Henry paid no attention. He just palmed the keypad at the bottom of the stairs. The door toggled open. “Nobody’s been down this way since I left, otherwise they would’ve changed my ‘print entry. This is going slam.”

Mara yanked him back into the stairwell by the collar of his uniform. Mara was a small, knobbet-kneed, studious sort of girl, genetically tweaked for the common grey skin tone, unusually big blue eyes, and a feminine grip of iron.
Her brother’s eyes got wide and round as his face turned an unhealthy shade of pink. “Answer the question, Stupe.”

“You never heard of early work release?” Henry gasped. “Air? Little bit? Please?”

Mara nodded thoughtfully. “I think I’ll ping Drd. Arbuckle.”

“HallatellyaonlySTOP!”

“You promise?”

Henry looked positively bug-eyed. Mara took that for a yes and released him.

“Why are you so mean to me?” he whined. He rubbed his neck. “I’ll bet that left red marks.”

Mara hid her hands in her sleeves and squinted noncommittally.

“You’re such a girl,” grumbled Henry. “Always punching…”

Ruth said...

“Here it is.” Mac’s whole face was animated, as if the words on his tongue would push their own way out. “If you’re an adventurer, the greatest sin is boring yourself.”

I paused to consider. “That’s an unusual definition of sin. And sin is an unusual dinner subject.”

He grinned. “Then forget the sin part. Think about boredom. I’m an expert on the subject.”

“Tell me.” I toyed with the menu card, smiled at him, waited.

“Boredom is all in the mind,” he said. “That’s where the fences go up.”

“Fences make boredom?” The thumb on my left hand reached for the underside of my wedding rings. They were gone. I remembered taking them off. My fingers no longer felt puffy, but sleek and naked.

“Fences are limits. And boredom comes from staying inside limits.” He made fences with his hands. His fingers looked strong and capable, and I imagined them stroking me. “But here’s the thing.” He broke his hands apart, as if offering up a prayer. “If my life’s a cage, I made the cage in my mind.”

“It’s all illusion?” I laid down the menu card. “You sound like a Buddhist.”

“Do I? It’s what I learned from my hawk."

“How’s that? You keep her in a cage.”

“Exactly. She chooses to come back to the cage because of the reward. So it’s not a cage, it’s a choice.”

“So you’re saying Vanessa is never bored?”

“Not when she’s hunting, anyway. Not when she’s using her wings.”

Heidi said...

I take a long drag and exhale the puff into the night air. “How long have you known?”

“A while.”

“Do you smoke, too?” I try not to say it accusingly, but it is hard to reign in the motherly tone.

“God, no. Those things will kill you.”

“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” I say, then regret it.

We stand next to each other until the cigarette is gone. I drop it and crush it with my shoe.

“Is Ashley going to be okay?”

“Of course,”

“But you don’t know that.”

I think about asking for another cigarette but I’m not sure I want to piss off God.

“You know anyone with diabetes?” he asks.

“No.” I am dying for another puff. “Well, maybe a few. But I think they all have the second kind. They don’t shoot up. And they’re all fat.”

“Stop it, mom.”

“What?”

“The fat thing. You know how many times today you’ve said that?”

“It’s just a fact. If you can’t see your toes and none of the clothes at Wal-mart fit you, you’re fat. Like saying Mr. Rodriguez is Hispanic or Mr. Ruben is bald.”

“Mexican, mom.”

“What?”

“The Rodriguezes are Mexican.”

“Isn’t that what I said?”

“No.”

“Well, anyway, all the people I know who have diabetes can’t see their toes, and they still eat whatever they want and they don’t worry about how many carbohydrates are in the food and I’ve never seen any of them pass out.”

Eric said...

“What’s that?” I asked, as Heft pulled a paperback out of his backpack.

“This?”

“Nooo,” I said.

“This is what my people call a book. It’s a rather clever invention involving wood pulp that been processed into very thin sheets upon which text and images can be printed. It comes nicely bundled and bound by both a front and back cover for ease of conveyance. Pretty nifty, huh?”

I punched him in the arm. “Ha, ha. You’re so clever. Give it up. I’ve seen that movie a thousand times, smartass. What is it with you guys and all your stupid movie quoting?”

“Jesus, but you primitives sure rile easy.”

“Give it,” I said, and took the paperback from him without waiting. “Blood Hunt?”

“What? It’s spine-tingling,” Heft defended, pointing to the cover blurb that made the same claim.

“Great,” I said, tossing it back in his lap. “When you’re finished with it you can mail it back to my dad. He loves this sort of junk.”

He was staring at me for what seemed the longest, and I was starting to wonder if I had, like, a zit or something, when he said, “People are going to be falling in love with you your whole life, you know.”

It was one of those out-of-nowhere type things. For a boy who couldn’t get around to saying the three little words every girl supposedly wants to hear, Heft sure knew how to do one even better.

Anonymous said...

Entering as Anon for my own reasons, just wanted to throw mine into the hat:

Carol White said, “I’m sorry. I’m not going to say you had it coming, but . . . you did. I apologize if my reaction was extreme.”

Peter scratched at his beard. “Now that wasn’t so bad, was it?” He knew she didn’t trust him, was scared of him, and he took pleasure in pushing it.

She continued. “Listen, pal. You don’t have to like me, and I’m pretty sure I don’t have to give a damn about you, -”

Beside her, Jonathon blushed. “Mom!”

“- but I’m going along with this and as long as you’re under our roof . . . well, all I ask is that you be decent. Think you can handle that?”

He couldn’t help but to smile, to softly laugh. She was a bitch of a woman, he couldn’t deny that. But she was a whip. Used to be he’d have found that sort of trait attractive. “You got it, wonderful.”

Carol’s brow wrinkled, and in a barely audible voice, “Damn writer.” She paused, then asked, “You’re not crazy, right?”

“What?”

“Crazy. You’re not insane? I’m going to very blunt, you look a little insane. Don’t get me wrong, mostly it’s just your homeless-looking appearance. You look like the guy in the movies who stalks the girl and, to be honest, you’ve already been spending some of your time nosing through my windows.”

“What movies?” he asked.

“Movies. The ones horny teens go to.”

“You going to ask me this sort of shit the whole time?”

John Askins said...

“My mom’s missing.”

“I don’t have her,” Riley said.

“She reads your newspaper all the time.”

“Does she like it?”

“Yes.”

“How do you know?”

“She reads from it out loud sometimes. Things she really likes.”

“Reads them to you?”

“Yes.”

“You’re just a kid,” Riley said. “If she read them to another adult, I might be more impressed.”

“Well, my dad left.” The voice got quavery. “It’s just me and her now.”

“Is she attractive, your mother?”

“Kind of, I guess.” The boy sounded a bit suspicious. “Why?”

“Just trying to picture her,” Riley said. “If people are going to find her, they’ll have to have some idea what she looks like.”

Riley wondered about her breasts, for example. Breasts could be crucial in any search for a missing person. But it didn’t seem right to ask a young boy to talk about his mother’s breasts. There were places where he did draw the line, no matter what people thought.

“Will you help me find her?” the boy said.

“Why are you calling me? Why not the police?”

“They said you were Action Central. Aren’t you the one that helps people?”

He was. God help him, he was.

Kimberly Lynn said...

Hope it’s okay for a brief setup?

Thirteen year-old Caitlyn and her little brother have discovered a mysterious letter and necklace made of bone hidden in the backing of a Dutch painting. Because the letter is written in Dutch, Caitlyn is on the computer trying to find a site that will translate it, but like everything in life, there is a fee for this service.

Here is the dialogue scene:

Dennis Robert snatched a crocheted afghan off the floor and wrapped it around his shoulders. He crawled to his feet and flung the make-shift cape into the air twirling across the bedroom floor to his sister’s aid. Watching his dramatic performance made Caitlyn think of a scrawny Superman.

“Thanks, Dennis Robert.” she giggled. “But I don’t need a superhero, just a MasterCard or Visa. You got one?”

His performance crushed, he dropped the cape.

Caitlyn pointed to a random word in the letter. “Let’s just Google this and see what happens.”

Dennis Robert punched the keyboard buttons D-O-N-D-E-R-B-E-I-T-E-L-S.

“Donderbeitels!” he shouted, and clicked the enter button.

To both their amazement, a large website popped on the screen.

“Ancient Dutch Folklore.”

One particular icon caught Dennis Robert’s eye. “Look!” he said pointing to a picture. “Looks like that necklace, doesn’t it?”

Caitlyn clicked on the image. “Hhmm . . . there’s an article about it. It says that a donderbeitel, or thunderchisel, was a tool from the stone age made of oblong fossil. The Dutch people believed it to be chisel thrown to the Earth in the form of lightning by Donar, the god of thunder.” Looking further down another picture was posted. “Aha . . . here’s something else that’s weird!” she pointed. “Donderbezems, or thunderbrooms.”

Dennis Robert was finding it all very amusing. He shouted to the roof summoning the Gods. “Lightning, thunder, donderbeitels and donderbezems!”

“Ssh.” hushed Caitlyn finding her place again. “Listen to this . . .”


(Sorry. Ran out of word count. Sniff. 250 on the mark. Hee.)

Anonymous said...

DEATH BY BUNNY

“Only one murder every five years. That’s more than reasonable. And you agreed to it, you know. Last fall, in fact.” The visitor to my office opened his briefcase and pulled out a file folder, red-tabbed.

“I didn’t—”

“You did. It’s right here. Signed in blood.”

“That’s not my bl—”

“Notarized by Snufty, Demon of Demonstrable Allergic Reactions. He never lies. Well, almost never.”

I settled back in my chair and unclenched my fingers one by one. It wouldn’t do to be tense—this personage could probably smell fear like a rat smells grease.

Perhaps the friendly approach was worth a try. I stretched my cheeks into an approximation of a smile. “My dear sir. Perhaps this is a case of mistaken identity? Seriously, you have no real proof, you have no properly notarized documents, you have—in short—no case.”

He shrugged his slim shoulders, crossed his legs at the knee, and regarded me with amusement. “I have your soul. And your first-born child. Or will have, if you don’t deliver as promised.”

I glared at him. I hate these smug, urbane types. “If that’s my blood—and I’m not saying it is, you understand—then you’d better check the alcohol level. If I signed any such document, I can just about guarantee I was well over the legal limit. And, as such, the contract has no force. Selling one’s soul while impaired isn’t valid in any court of law, no matter how hellish.”

Scott said...

(Alexander and I) waited silently in the dark. It didn't take long before Miss Stern's voice blackened the gloom.

"What are they doing in the barn?" she said. "Nobody would hide anything in there."

I turned on the barn light and looked around. "Now where did I put that thing? Ah yes, here it is." I reached under a bale of hay and pretended to pull out the sheet of paper that I already held in my hand.

Outside, Horace gasped and coughed.

I glanced over my shoulder toward the door, then back at the paper. "See? This is the map I told you about. Is that my father's writing?"

"There's a map," Horace blurted.

Miss Stern turned and glared at him. "Shh."

"It's in his father's writing!"

"Shh!"

This was going to be fun. "It must lead to the gold," I said.

"Gold!"

"SHHH!"

Alexander slapped me on the shoulder. "Look at this big X. My boy, I think you're right. Let's go find us some booty."

"There's booty!" Horace clapped his hands.

"Will you shut your trap?"

"But it's booty!"

Mark Terry said...

My mind did a little sliding and slamming itself as she talked. I said, “You know Senator McGarrity, then?”

Her eyes narrowed. “He’s a swing vote on the committee. He’s got a lot of contacts in the defense industry and he really knows the stuff. Why?”

“Just thinking,” I said.

We were interrupted by a junior dipshit on Representative Lauren Levinson’s staff, who walked right up to us and said, “If you don’t mind my saying so, you’re the most beautiful creature I’ve seen in a long time.”

I smiled at him and said, “Why thanks, champ, but I don’t swing your way.”

Lily laughed. My new best buddy only tracked that he’d been dissed, not that he was also making a total ass of himself. He gave it another shot. “Lemme see, you’re Austin Davis, right? Spin doctor extraordinaire? Hatchet man to the rich and powerful, right? What’re you doing here, anyway?”

Before I could answer, Lily said, “Young man…”

That got his attention. Actually, it got mine. Dipshit was probably around thirty, although he looked younger and acted damn near infantile. That was a bit of a trademark of Levinson’s staff—the men were all young and good-looking and treated her like a goddess while she treated them like babies. It was an odd dynamic and I hadn’t figured out if she hired them that way or they became that way after a brief indoctrination.

“What?” He turned to her.

Lily adjusted her rectangular, dark-framed glasses and said, “Shoo! The grownups are talking.”

Adaora A. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nymeria87 said...

“You could at least have let me keep my first name,” I grumbled. “What kind of name is Raphael anyway? Not that I’m very fond of Ares, but Raphael? Sounds a little too celestial for my taste.”
Damian flashed me a savvy smile. “Hey, not all of us can be Damian Cain, the Empire’s most renowned contract killer. Besides, Jay picked the name. Blame her.”
I shook my head. “You honestly believe this is going to work, don’t you?”
“Of course it will. I’m far better off using my real name in case someone recognizes me from … way back when.” His gaze darkened in reminiscence. “Let’s just say having joined the Watch is a much better excuse for me disappearing for a while than...Well, you know. It’s the perfect cover, trust me.”
I nodded, still not entirely convinced.
“The moment your cover blows, we’re fucked.”
“Then it better not blow, right?”
I sighed. “Damian…”
“I’m serious, Ares. This is the safest way to do this. Nobody will think twice about me joining the Watch. Gods, do you know how many times they came and offered it to me? They always need good gunners and I’ve killed for them before…that’s about as good credentials as you can get with them.”

Tom Geller said...

FYI, I linked to this contest from here, on a journal where people post intriguing single sentences, without explanation.

Merry Monteleone said...

“What?” I mumble, hanging half off the bed, one arm braced against the floor, the other holding the receiver to my ear.

“Melanie, are you okay?” comes the panicky voice of my usually unflappable brother.

“Umn...no. At the moment, I’m caught in a bear trap with coyotes circling. Why?”

“Seriously, no time for humor, hon.”

Junior takes a deep breath and continues, “We’re at def-con one. This is not a drill. Get out of the house.”

“Okay, what are you babbling about?” I sit up, wiping my eyes and coming up with a palm full of crusty black mascara from the night before. Eck...

“Mom’s on her way over. Save yourself!”

A horror movie soundtrack runs through my head for a split second.

“Wait... that can’t be right... what about the stairs? I have stairs. Beautiful, muscle wrenching stairs. Those things are better than a mote and dragon and she thinks the building has roaches. She never comes here. What gives?” I don’t know whether I’m trying to convince Junior or myself, but I can’t seem to keep the girly shriek out of my voice.

“You haven’t been answering your phone. She’s all in a huff over Thanksgiving and she couldn’t get you at home, so she called your office... only you’ve apparently been fired and didn’t tell anyone, so now she thinks you’re dead in a ditch somewhere and she’s milking the melodrama.”

Great contest, Nathan, and already some fantastic entries... thanks for the fun bloggy distraction.

Josephine Damian said...

Conduit may be shy about foul language, but Josie is not.

*Warning: the following contains profanity, violence and adult content*

“I said, open it.”

The hit man screwed the .38’s barrel inside Dan Feola’s right ear.

Like a supplicant, Dan knelt facing a small steel safe embedded in his basement’s concrete floor.
At least the gun shoved in his ear meant the head cracking was over.

Globs of blood dangled from the tip of his nose, then dropped, anointing the safe’s numbered dial; it brought to mind an image of holy water. Only the man standing over him was no priest. Dan waited for the man’s heaving breaths to abate. It pleased him knowing he’d worn down his attacker.

“Open it. Now.”

Should I? Dan wondered.

If he opened it, maybe he’d be left alone.

Alone and alive?

But alive and penniless.

He knew the beating had addled his brain. The .38 in his ear was the only reality.

The man cocked the gun. The click echoed inside Dan’s head. Using the eye not yet swollen shut, he glared and barked his original reply: “Fuck you.”

Ray Rathburn, a hit man for twenty years, had seen tears, heard pleas for mercy, smelled shat-in pants, been promised some fine pussy, but never, not once had he heard the words, “fuck you,” and not from some fifty-three-year-old loan shark in his skivvies.

Elyssa Papa said...

Sam arched his eyebrows. “You’re scared and cowering. I bet you’ve been a coward your whole life. Have you ever fought for what you want, Kate? Or do you just give up?”

Her arm shot out toward the door, finger pointing to the exit. “Get out. I don’t want to see you again.”

“Then you might want to get rid of this…” He held up a magazine next to his face. “And this one and this one and…”

“Get out!”

He stared at her for a long moment and slowly got up. “It would have been tedious.”

“Tedious?”

You. To make over you would have been tedious.”

“Thankfully, I won’t have to bore you.”

“No, you won’t… you’ll bore yourself,” he drawled, walking toward her. “Everything about you is predictable.”

“You’re wrong,” Kate said, feeling her stomach roll in nauseous waves.

“You keep telling yourself that. It’s gotten you through twenty-nine years of your life… I’m sure it’ll get you through twenty-nine more.” He pulled away from her. “You’ll never see me again. You’re going to wake up tomorrow and know that you let this chance slip away. Just like all the other chances in your life that probably slipped away.”

She pushed Sam toward the door. Murphy jumped up then and growled. “I’m not going to let you make me into someone I’m not. I can’t lose who I am.”

Sam searched her face, his eyes intense. “Do you really think you’re someone worth saving?”

Anonymous said...

I want to read more, more more of John Askins. If the restof his manuscript is this good, he doesn't need a contest.

Sam Hranac said...

“No experience,” snapped Mr. Parks.

“Most of my experience is with the high school drama club,” replied Patrick. He had been ready for that one.

“Did they pay you?”

“It was high school.”

Mr. Parks narrowed his eyes. “Did any money change hands?”

“Well… no.”

Mr. Parks nodded. “No experience.”

Patrick stifled a sigh. This was not going well. And the smells were making him sick. He imagined filling Mr. Parks ashtray with orange soda and chewed corn dog. The butts would float.

“Ever do any electrical work?”

“I worked the lighting crew for several productions,” replied Patrick.

Mr. Parks put down Patrick’s application and folded his hands over it. “Can you rewire a lamp?” Patrick shook his head no. “How about carpentry? Are you good with your hands?”

“I helped build sets for…”

“Could you build a reliable platform for people to walk on?”

“I… I think so.”

Mr. Parks nodded. He almost smiled. He picked Patrick’s application back up. Patrick gave an inward sigh of relief. Mr. Parks barked, “Let me see you smile.”

Patrick showed him his teeth.

Jessie Verino said...

“In other words,” Ursula flipped through the file, “this Niko, caught their scent and rabbited. Figures, most of the testosterone infused mechs couldn’t find their dicks with both hands and a map.”

The commander snarled. “But you can find him?”

“Sure, but it’ll take time. We need to talk about compensation.”

Dex leaned back. “The usual—“

“This isn’t a usual situation,” she interrupted. “If you want me to go underground, I’ll need money, lots of it, on top of my fee.”

“Understood.”

“And Commander, I have four days left on the wall. I want release papers today, signed and loaded into the mainframe with clearance for checkpoints, plus I keep everything I take off the dealer.”

Dex’s face showed amusement at the demand, but the commander’s turned red. His eyes bulged. “You want it on a freaking silver platter? In case you missed the fine print, we’re sending you to kill this guy. What the hell makes you think we’d let you keep his stash?”

“Because I’m the best you’ve got. I need the pills, you need me. Otherwise, I go back to the wall for a few more days.”

Teeth clenched, the commander leaned forward. “I can make it so you stay on the wall a lot longer.” His voice held the heat of anger, but not the conviction.

“You could, but I won’t be so particular about who I shoot.”

Dex smiled. “She’s right, Commander. We need her. I’ve got no problem with her...unusual request for compensation.”

Michele said...

Malika is on her way to Nubia through Egypt, on a journey to regain her rightful place as the daughter of the black female Pharaoh Nikwala after years as a slave to the Greeks. Enroute, she meets Zuberi, a fellow countryman.

“How is the Princess this morning?” Zuberi asked, his face serious but his voice carrying a cheery lilt. She wondered if he overheard their argument.
“Quite well now, thank you Zuberi.”
“Perhaps you should sit.”
“It feels good to be up and about,” she said, a bit more sharply than she intended. He wasn’t going to tell her what to do too, was he?
“My mother used to have a cure for fevers. It was a special soup that made from sheep’s testicles—to give you strength.” His white teeth gleamed in the sun and she was surprised to see he had dimples just below each angular cheek. His eyebrows were raised innocently, but his smile was mischievous.
Malika grimaced, and Zuberi laughed. It was lovely sound, deep and resonant.
“--and a tea infused with hookworm larvae for the fever.”
“Oh, stop!” Malika laughed out loud. She noticed Alexandros glance at her and frown. She ignored him. “Are all the cures in Nubia so…unusual?”
“No, I am teasing just a little bit. Only the most simple farmers still use the hookworm cure. But the soup--” he grinned.
Malika held up her hand. “I’m not quite well enough to hear that again.”
“Ah,” he chuckled, “lucky for you your aunt has made you well again. She is a good and wise woman.”
“Yes, she is.”
“She is fine teacher, also.”
Malika nodded, wondering how much of their conversation he overheard.
“You are learning the power of our people, yes?”
“Yes, but not everyone approves.” She glanced sidelong at Alexandros, who was pacing nervously along the rail as the ship on the horizon grew closer.
“Ah, but he is not Nubian. He cannot understand.”

Tiffany Kenzie said...

“There are a number of ways we can go about this. So either answer my questions, or I’ll have you chained to the wall in the slave quarters where I will, in public, inspect you—most thoroughly.”

She turned so she could look him in the eye; he was about level with her face with one fist planted on the bench beside her bared thigh. “Four and twenty.”

“Old enough”—he pushed off the bench and walked away from her—“but not too old that this business will grow tiresome and wear your body down.” He said it so bluntly she almost didn’t believe the words she heard.

This business—she had a good estimation what this business entailed. And this business was not a safe place for her son.

“Why are you doing this to me?”

“I’m not doing anything, dear child. I’ve looked into your claims. You are whom you say. A surprise really—that wasn’t the first time I’d heard such a tale.”

“Then why am I still chained here like a wild dog?”

“Because you belong to the slave master.”

“I belong to no one.”

Oh God, what had happened to her family… her son.

His lip lifted in an arrogant smirk. What wasn’t he telling her?

Her blood pound in her ears so loud she almost didn’t hear his next words… she feared the worst.

“I’m sorry to inform you, madam, but your husband is dead and all his properties seized.”

Natalie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nancy Beck said...

This is from my current WIP. This scene takes place in 1942 Colma, which is just outside San Francisco - no, I'm not sucking up, lol. It's where San Franciscans bury their dead (still do). The three woman were staying at an old-fashioned motor court, with a cab waiting to take them to San Francisco.

"All right, let's get moving," Viv said, clapping, motioning Margaret and Rita to the door. "Time and money are wasting."

"You know," Margaret said in a haughty tone, "it's only because I pulled a few strings that we managed to find any hotel room in San Francisco."

"As you keep reminding us."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Just get in the damned cab, Margaret."

Margaret snorted, picked up her bag, marched out of the room.

"Rita? Are you going to do the snorting bull routine, or are you going to walk out in a zombie state?"

Rita opened her mouth, closed it. "What's with you? Why can't we have breakfast?"

"We will, once we get to San Francisco." How the hell can she think about eating? Viv's stomach twisted. Food is definitely off my list right now. "We need to get to the hotel while it's still light out, Rita."

"Okay, okay, sheesh." She glared at Viv. "Who died and left you queen?"

"I did, since neither of you two can do more than one thing at a time. And that includes thinking." If insults got Rita into the cab quicker, it was worth Rita's dirty look.

"Fine." Rita went to the bed, banged her bag shut, pulled it off the bed. Without a glance, Rita strode past Viv, into the courtyard.

"Finally." Why did girls endlessly yap while cleaning up and putting on make up?

She smirked. Maybe that was why she didn't have that many girlfriends over the years.

bca said...

“So, what do you need a kid for?”

The fish waggled its front fins. “Fingers. Smallish.”

Frank curled his hands and shoved them farther down into the pockets of his windbreaker.

“The . . . ah, sign,” Frank said, jerking his head toward the door. “It says —”

“‘Wanted: A Kid,’” the fish interrupted. “You’re a kid, right?”

“Yeah, but . . . there’s something funny going on here.”

“Do I look like a comedian, kid?”

“No, you look like a fish — how come you’re out of the water, anyway?”

The fish flipped its fins again. “In the water, out of the water — a-dap-ta-tion, kid — it’s a wonderful thing.”

“Oh, stop, Benny,” a small voice pleaded. “Tell him about Angie!”

“Who’s that?” Frank asked, scanning the aisle.

“Rufus. He gets worked up.”

The fish — Benny? — nodded toward the table beneath him where a turtle watched, sniffling, with tears in its eyes. Oh, swell, Frank thought: Benny “Fingers” the Fish and a crying turtle — what the heck kind of a pet shop was this?

“Tell him about Angie,” the turtle insisted. “Maybe he can help — ”

Ha!” Frank pulled one hand out of his pocket and slapped himself on the head. “Fish sticks! Fish sticks for lunch — it’s food poisoning.” He grinned, relieved to be merely delusional.

The turtle gazed sadly at Frank, and a big tear splashed onto the table. “Fish sticks? Oh, how rude!”

Anonymous said...

“There is something strange about me you should know; something very unusual,” Barry said.

“What are you talking about?” Mary asked.


“I really like you a lot, and I want to be honest,” He said.

“It’s okay, baby. Just tell me.” She sat on the edge of the bed and smiled.

Barry punched the wall hard and took a deep breath. “Damn, this is hard.”


“Just tell me,” she said.


“Ah well, I have a mutant penis disorder.”


She clenched her fists and her head jerked back. Mary began to imagine a bent, misshapen penis, with gnarled edges and warts; something so awful and grotesque you couldn’t help staring at it.

When she mentioned her thoughts, he insisted it wasn’t like that at all. “Hell, I’m not carrying a freak flag,” he said, “it looks just like any other penis, except it is, ah well…abnormally large, is all.”

She folded her hands and sighed. “How Large?”

He thought for a moment, unable to look her in the eye, and said, “Picture a beer can and a twelve inch ruler. Most women take one look and run out the door with their arms flying in the air.” He lowered his head and rubbed his eyes. “One even laughed and said, ‘What I’m I supposed to do with that? Put it over my shoulder and burp it?’”

Mary clenched her fists, took a deep breath, and said, “Why don’t you just show me the problem instead of trying to explain it?”

Steve Rush said...

“It’s on the outside!”

“Yeah. I thought that a little strange, myself.”

“He’s taunting us. I don’t see how it can be anything else.”

“I agree.”

“Well get this,” Streckler said, throwing his arm outward. “Ian called me from the lab this morning and said they identified the print from Kent’s house. We have a problem if the same person did this.” He tapped the window with a finger.

“How’s that a problem?” E.Z. asked with a puzzled look.

“According to what Ian told me, he’s dead.”

“Who’s dead?”

“Ned Pasquanelli!”

“Ned Pasquanelli was found dead five or six weeks ago,” E.Z. said. “What’s he got to do with this?”

“That’s what I’m telling you. It was Pasquanelli’s thumbprint on Kent’s mirror!”

E.Z. leaned against the porch rail. He sucked a deep breath and slowly exhaled.

“You said there’s something else?” Streckler crossed his arms. “Like we need another problem.”

“This was left at the office.” E.Z. pulled an envelope from between the pages of his pad. “The secretary at the front desk said she didn’t see who left it. She told me she turned around to run a copy of a report and when she turned back it was on the counter.”

Streckler opened the envelope, carefully removed the note and read it. “Image is everything. What image do you see?"

AmyB said...

After a strained supper with his sister and brother-in-law, Finneas was happy to retire to his room. When he arrived, he found Dalin already there, not in the servant’s alcove but lounging in a chair with a book propped on his knee.

"Having a holiday?" Finneas asked.

Dalin stood up and snapped the book shut. "Sir, can I get you anything?"

"Brandy," said Finneas.

Dalin looked surprised, but said, "Yes, sir," and moved towards the door.

"No, never mind." Finneas rubbed the back of his neck. "I don’t want anything. And you don’t need to keep up the act here. They’re not spying on us."

Dalin shrugged, sat back down and picked up his book.

"What are you reading?" asked Finneas. He plucked the book from Dalin’s hand and flipped through it. Some nonsense about a sea voyage and a Shifter-pirate who could turn into a sea serpent. "Tripe," he said, tossing the book back to Dalin.

Dalin bristled. "I like it."

"Aren’t you supposed to be gossiping with the servants? You were supposed to extract information from them, by the way, not tell them your life story."

"I told them about my circumstances to distract them from asking too much about you!"

"Well, did you learn anything?"

"No," admitted Dalin. "I tried. I couldn’t ask directly, you know. It was just the usual servant gossip." He paused for a moment and added, hesitantly, "They had a lot to say about you."

Finneas folded his arms. "I’m sure they did."

Serenissima said...

Eulie entered the kitchen, yawning with her arms stretched. “Why is the pancake mix out? Do I have another doctor’s appointment?”

“No, you’re staying at the Changs’. I’ve got to take a trip.”

Eulie’s arms slammed against her sides. “You’re gonna see him?”

Nissa sighed. “I have to.”

“He won’t help me.”

Nissa mixed the batter. “Maybe I can talk some sense into him.”

“Like when he broke your collar bone?”

“That was the drugs.” Nissa poured three perfect medallions onto the griddle.

“I saw a TV show where a guy said it was easier to get drugs inside prison than outside.”

“Where did you see that?”

“At the Changs’. Don’t worry, it was on PBS.”

“If he acts up, the guards’ll protect me.”

Eulie sat down, crossing her arms tightly. “Even if he’s off drugs, I don’t want part of his liver.”

“He’s the same blood type, maybe your best chance.”

Eulie sniffed. “It doesn’t matter. It’s my body and I won’t allow part of him to be put inside of me.”

“Half your DNA is his, what’s a little more?”

Eulie pounded the table. “How could you remind me? I try everyday not to be like him. What if this puts me over the edge? Like in those movies where someone gets a new heart and starts liking country music or something else they used to hate.”

“When you got part of my liver, did you start cleaning your room more often?”

Jenny Rappaport said...

Hey Nathan, am I allowed to enter too, for fun, or would that be against the spirit of the contest? =)

Gail said...

WICKED BEAST

Legion opened the back door and stepped into the kitchen. Cord glanced up but didn’t acknowledge him any more than that. Legion pulled a chair around and sat down. He spent a few minutes reading the information spread out on the table, and hissed in silent frustration.

“We need Harrison and his woman.” The earth dragon’s voice was barely more than a whisper but the low rumble held distinct menace.

“I know. It’s worse than I expected,” Cord agreed.

“They're amazing,” Legion continued. “How do they keep coming up with excellent ways to destroy their entire race? Even if there weren’t danger in the ice, melting icecaps will change the world as they know it.”

“I guess they have no idea that they’ve been here before. I mean at the brink of extinction.”

Legion shrugged, his usually impassive face twisted into a scowl as he glanced toward the west. “Not our job to tell them. Our pal has found him a human already, can you feel the change?”

“Wonder why he hasn’t gone silent.” Cord sat back and sipped his coffee.

“Probably thinks he’s the only one.” Legion held out his hand and a cup of coffee appeared in it. The coffee was pale with added cream and its sweet aroma told Cord there was perhaps a cup of sugar in it.

“There’s someone besides the idiot. Did you feel the birds last week?”

Legion nodded and glanced at Cord. “Wizard power was all over them.”

Amy said...

“Can’t a man come and visit a friend without needing a reason, Euan?”

“You’re practically twice my age, Tower,” the middle one said, rolling his eyes, and the other two guffawed as Sam protested gamely; he couldn’t have been more than ten years older, if she was right in her guess. “And besides,” the boy continued, “Tower folk never come down here except for two reasons. One, they’ve ‘lost’ something, and they think someone here might have ‘found’ it. Or two, they need something. You, you want something, Tower. So what is it?”

Sam scratched a hand back through his hair, then leant forward on his elbows, uncrossing his legs and face turning serious. “I was wondering if you’d heard something about something that this lady would like to know about.”

“She your lady?”

“Nah, this is my partner.”

Euan looked between the two of them, considering. “You mean your boss. You protect her from injury, she does her thing,” he wiggled his fingers, presumably meaning magic, “like Jacky and Leto, here, they keep me from having to deal with people I don’t want to deal with. She’s your boss.”

Halley shook her head. “He’s my partner. I don’t order him around, we work together.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it,” Euan said, but let it go. “What do you want to know? Tell me first, and then I’ll tell you what it’ll cost you to know it too, assuming that I know about it, which I probably do.”

Anonymous said...

At that moment the sun began to sink behind the trees. The splashes of pink, then orange, then purple spreading across the sky were breathtaking. Both girls stared in silence until the fiery orb dropped beyond the horizon. Suddenly the darkness closed in around them. Helen took a deep breath, trying to ingest the magic of the moment, and then tore herself away, walking toward her bike.

“We better go,” she sighed.

“Thanks for sharing that with me,” Mary said.

Helen squeezed Mary’s shoulder. “I’m glad to finally have found someone worthy of seeing it.” She laughed. “I found it right away, and I had to come back. And Baskie loves the area too—it’s like he belongs here.”

They started back on the curved road through the pines, immersed in deep darkness.

“You know that’s the quarry, right? Where people have died…”

“I know. I heard,” Helen frowned. “I probably wouldn’t go beyond the fence, well, not unless someone went with me, you know. I just can’t seem to get that spot out of my mind. It’s like something important is going to happen there.”

“Ok, that’s a little strange,” Mary laughed. “But I can see why you like it. It’s beautiful, and it’s a little dangerous.”

They had reached the hill and were silent, except for the huffing and puffing of their labored breath. Slowly they ascended until they reached the top, legs feeling like jelly and trying to catch their breath.

It was Mary who spoke first. “And you’d have to go later at night—you know, to avoid the police when they go on their rounds.”

“Hmm,” was Helen’s only response. Inside, though, her heart did a little flip.

Idea Man said...

In the middle of a call to a radio talk show:


"Hello? Dale? You there?" Rick felt the seconds tick by. Mentally prepared to vamp for time.

"Sorry. I’m back." Dale’s voice wavered again.

"Hey, no problem. Why don’t you let me help you? I can give you some--"

"I’m going to help myself, Rick."

Rick let out his breath, not aware he’d been holding it. "Excellent, Dale. I’m glad you’ve decided to seek help."

"Already got it. Right here in my hand. All the help I’ll need."

"What do you mean?"

"Right here. In my hand. It’s going to help me." Dale gurgled, and Rick guessed he was downing a little of the help he’d fetched. Alcohol, the great problem solver.

"Booze only helps in the short term, Dale. Let me give you some names of counselors you can call. They can help you--and your wife--get back on track."

"Told you. Got all the help I need. Two friends, rolled up into one." A loud rapping hurt Rick’s ears. "Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson."

Rick’s heart jumped, hammered in his chest. "Hold on, Dale. Don’t do anything you’ll regret." He pulled his keyboard close and banged out an instant message to J.T. Call cops! Trace call! Now!

"Already regret a few things. Embezzling. Drinking too much. Marrying that whore." The words ran together.

"Killing yourself isn’t the answer, Dale. Please, put the--"

"I’m not going to kill myself, you idiot." A harsh laugh burst from Dale’s mouth. "I’m going to kill my wife."

kyler said...

This is a dialogue between a therapist and his patient:

“Jennifer, why don’t you come sit down and tell me about it?”

“Do you really care, Davis?” she asked as she chose the chaise lounge for the day’s session. “Or is it just a front?”

“Why is it important for you to know that?”

“ ‘Why,’ he asks! ‘Why?’ I’ll tell you why. Because I would like to feel that somebody really cares about me, for once. Do you know what I mean? Do you really care about me, Davis? Or is it just my money you care about?”

“Now Jennifer—these questions don’t suit you and you know it. Let’s get to the bottom of them. Let’s try some free association. I’ll say a word and you say the first thing that comes into your mind, OK?”

“All right, but I’m very dubious.”

“Well, let’s try it….”

“OK,” she said, reluctantly.

“Now lean back, close your eyes, and say the first word that comes into your mind.”

“OK.”

“Care…”

“…Nurse.”

“Doctor…”

“…Penis.”

“Vagina…”

“…Love.”

“Love…”

“…Fuck.”

“Sex…”

“…Death.”

“Suicide…”

“…Cure.”

“Escape…”

“…Fuck me!”

“Professional…”

“…Turn-on.”

“Doctor…”

“…Penis.”

“Nurse…”

“…Wants it.”

“Why…”

“…Emptiness.”

“Fulfillment…”

“…THAT’S IT!!!” she cried. “I’ve just realized how I substitute my own feelings of inadequacy with the need for a man’s cock.”

“Very good, Jennifer. I think you were able to release some of your aggressions there. Do you feel better?”

“I do, Davis. You are so good!”

“Thank you.”

dramabird said...

Luthor ran his fingers underneath the ski mask and massaged the back of his neck. "Rocky, I don't particularly want your opinion. The important thing is getting this situation back under control."

"How?"

"By staying calm, to start. I'm not certain these missing girls are the threat we're making them out to be. The guys guarding the exits swear no one has gotten past them. Which means they must still be in the building."

"Okay, so if they're definitely here, why can't Conan and Neo find them?"

Luthor sighed. "Because those two, while well-meaning, are morons. Don't get me wrong – I can't imagine a pair I'd rather get drunk with and loan my porn to – but those two couldn't find their assholes with both hands, a flashlight, written directions and an electronic asshole-finder. So am I remotely surprised they might have overlooked some places big enough to hide two college girls? No."

cc said...

(This is a YA...)

I had to think around Kathleen. She liked knowing more. It annoyed me at first -- who thinks about trees? I gestured to the four story brick dorms. "Well, if I lived in this back part, I'd like to see a tree out my window."

She giggled. Like a girl. "Excellent! Let's plant four or five and make a whole section. We can bring in bark and mulch. We'll have to dig all this grass up and also dig the tree holes. We'll take out this forty foot section right in this corner. Like a small tree garden. We can outline it with rocks or maybe flagstone."

"And when you say 'we'?"

"I mean you," she clarified.

"Right... okay. A tree garden..."

"In addition to your mowing and watering duties you are now a landscape artist. How do you feel about that?"

"Tired."

"Then you better rest up for the backbreaking holes you're going to have to dig. That flagstone is going to be none too light, either."

"Great," I said, removing a grass clipping from my ear.

"Want to stick around for a while? I'll go fetch us some dinner and stop by my house to get those college brochures I promised you. And I have a surprise, too. I'll hurry."

"A surprise?" I said.

"See you in a bit," Kathleen said, and she was gone.

That was three hours ago.

Tabitha said...

Rose comes from a famous family - her mother, for her beauty, and her father, for owning the most successful cosmetics company in the country. And Rose has inexplicably gained fifty pounds over summer break.

“Rose, I have great news!” Mom flung the bedroom door open.

“Hey!” Rose grabbed her bathrobe, wrapping it around her. “Can’t you knock?”

Mom closed the door, her blue eyes sparkling. “Felix finally called me back, and he’s agreed to take you on.”

“Who?”

“Felix Vogel. The best personal trainer in Manhattan. He’s agreed to work with you every morning at five-thirty. Starting tomorrow.”

Rose’s mouth dropped open. “Five-thirty!”

“Don’t scrunch your forehead like that.” Mom pressed her hand against Rose’s forehead, as if to smooth away future wrinkles. “I’ve heard he’s a miracle worker. Better than Sylvia, anyway. She had three months with you, and you actually gained weight. But three months with him and you won’t need a girdle anymore.”

“Her name is Sarah.”

“Whatever. She’s useless.” Mom examined her cuticles, brow furrowed in concentration, yet, somehow, not wrinkling.

“Mom, I just can’t go to the gym at five-thirty. It’s too early. I’ll - I’ll fall off the treadmill or something.”

Mom brushed off her shiny red nails. “That reminds me. Did you tighten it?”

“Tighten what?”

“Your girdle.”

Rose closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. “Yes. It’s. Fine.”

“Let me see.” She pulled off Rose’s bathrobe.

“Mom!” She wrapped her arms around her chest, trying to cover exposed skin with her hands. “It’s fine!”

“No, it isn’t. It’s too loose.” Mom yanked the straps tighter.

Rose gasped. “I can’t breathe.”

“You’ll be fine.” Mom secured the straps. “The car will be downstairs in thirty minutes. Don’t forget your makeup.”

terryd said...

“Listen, baby: Imagine we’re on vacation, see? Not the usual tropical island crap. We’re on vacation wherever we go.”

“What will we do?” she asks.

“Ah. That’s the question, isn’t it? Ask it again.”

She bats her eyelashes. “So – what do you want to do?”

“Yeah. That’s the question. Because it’s no mystery, what I want to do. And listen, we’re free and we’re far away from here.”

“Now you’re talking, big daddy.”

“We’re high on life because there’s no glass between us. We don’t have to use these goddam phones. We can hold each other. God I want to kiss you.”

“Stick to the story, baby,” she says.

“Right. So we take a limo to the Ritz. The anticipation hurts like hell and our legs are touching and we’re squirming around because the waiting is almost over.”

“And do I laugh then?”

“Yeah. And I’m behind you. My hands are on your hips and the elevator stops. My heart is going like an AK-47 and you sigh in that horny way you used to have and it’s like a quiet cheer. The penthouse windows hold the city in them. We can see everything. We can go anywhere we want.”

“Aren’t you getting sick of this?”

“Not yet.”

“Then take me through it again,” she says. "Let’s start at the beginning.” She presses her hand to the glass. “Where’s the money, now?”

He hangs up the phone, blows her a kiss and shuffles back through his iron door.

Kimberly Lynn said...

OMG!

I just realized in my excitement to enter your prestigious contest, Nathan, that I misunderstood the rules. (I’m blonde.) Is it okay to delete my sub and repost without my dialogue setup?

I’m like Scarecrow in THE WIZARD OF OZ, “If I only had a brain . . .”

Please tell me that WAS Scarecrow?

heather said...

I happened to be on this part in my WIP when I took a break for some blog reading, so against my better judgment...

“I’ve been thinking.”
When Sonya begins this way, it can only mean one thing. Sure enough, her nostrils flare. Her nostrils always flare when she has something up her sleeve.
“Remember Matt?” she says.
Here it comes. “Matt?”
“From today.”
I do the push-up and work my hands back to my feet.
“Blue Oxford.”
“They all wore blue Oxfords.”
“You didn’t let me finish. Warrior.”
I triangulate my legs and bend at the waist into the Warrior position.
“Brown hair.”
Also applicable to all three guys at today’s luncheon.
“Tattoo of the infinity sign on his neck.”
“That guy.”
“Yeah, that guy.”
I still don’t remember him.
“Arms stretched out in front.”
I stretch.
“I think he’s interested in you.”
“You always think that.”
“Lift your back leg. This time he told me he is. I gave him your phone number.”
My lifted back leg tumbles. I snatch the couch before falling on my face. “You did what?”
“You need to borrow my car tomorrow?”
“You did what?” I try to resume the Stick position we’ve moved into, but equilibrium eludes me.
She gets up to steady my leg and torso. “He’s a nice guy, Marnie. Give me a little credit.”
“It’s not that. When exactly am I supposed to date?”
“Friday night, when the rest of us do.”
“The rest of us? Since when have you been out?” That sounds harsher than I mean it.
“Thanks a lot. I go out.”

not enough storage said...

Supporting description: Running into ex at Kinko's, midnight. Only customers there.

"My only regret is I didn't get to see you jump out a window of the World Trade Center on 9/11."

"That's a little harsh."

"You tell me." She slammed shut the bottom drawer of the copying machine, and stood up.

"I know it probably didn't seem like it at the time – but everything I did was for your own good."

"You hit me."

"Yeah, and I took you to the botanical gardens the next day. Remember how humid the butterfly house was? And those giant blue ones – for the life of me, I can't remember what they're called..."

"You hit me."

He chuckled. "No, I don't think that's what they're called." He smiled, exposing teeth chipped from years of chewing on ink pens and ice cubes.

She'd said it before she could stop herself: "Your mouth is ugly."

"What?"

"And now your beard's like a Civil War veteran's – on the Confederate side. You, the big liberal econ professor, terrorizing the right-wing fundamentalist freshmen. You look like Moses. They must love you, till you open that ugly mouth of yours."

He sighed. "It's always got to be a fight with you, doesn't it?"

"So who all knows this about you? Victoria's Secret: Hidden lingerie. Paul's secret: Hidden lady-hitter. No wonder you got bounced out of UMass. But why'd you have to end up at the same place I'm at?"

"Take a guess."

Deanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

A small shape cast its shadow on the ground beside her, “I didn’t do nothing wrong! I was just laughing,” an equally small voice answered. But there was nothing small about his confidence. He stood his ground in complete possession of himself.

‘Why, he couldn’t be more than five,’ Milly thought. Barely three feet tall, shoeless, shirtless, he stared back at her with the most beautiful, startling blue eyes she’d ever seen. They weren’t the light blue of a summer’s day, no, they were more the deep blue between day and night. That blue one so seldom takes the time to appreciate.

He swept a strand of wavy light brown hair back from his bronzed face, unconsciously giving her a better view. “I didn’t do nothing,” he repeated.

“I did nothing. That’s the way you say it,” Milly said, standing up.

“That’s what I just said,” the boy said, a small frown on his forehead.

“No. You said ‘didn’t do nothing’, you should have said ‘did nothing’ – see the difference?”

“Nope.”

“No ma’am.”

“What?”

“You are supposed to say, ‘No, Ma’am’.”

“Ye Gads, lady! Bonney said you wasn’t from around these parts. He didn’t say you couldn’t speak English.”

She couldn’t place it, but there was something ‘off’ in his accent. Some of his words had that distinctive Texas twang and some sounded almost refined.
“Who are you?” She asked.

“I’m Little Bit,” he answered.

“What does that mean?” she asked, perplexed.

“Means my names Little Bit. What you think?”

“I’m afraid I am not following you.”

“Course you ain’t following me. You’re standing right there in front of me.”

By now, Milly was having fits trying not to laugh. The boy looked so serious. “Let’s try another tack,” she said, warmth in her voice, “What’s your full name?”

“Little Bit,” he answered.

“No. What’s your given name?”

“Well, it’s the name people give me.”

Realizing she was getting nowhere, she asked one final question, “And, your last name?”

”Don’t got one.”

“You haven’t a last name?”

“Nope.”

“You’re just Little Bit?”

“What ya think I’ve been telling ya?”

Janet said...

I don't usually afflict you during your contests, but hey...

"You've come at a very good time."

The girl, about twelve, was obviously not bashful about talking to strangers, nor particularly eager to let them talk back. She continued before he had a chance to draw breath.

"We're having a very special celebration tonight. Jane Goodwin has just come home from her apprenticeship. And Mistress Rosemary, the witch who taught her, came too and we'll be consecrating her as a sorceress. Jane, I mean, not Rosemary. And the village is having a big feast for her because her parents died a few years ago so they can’t do it and Mistress Bronwyn said everybody else had to - she’s the village witch - and the WHOLE TOWN is going to turn out. Well, almost the whole town. And if there’s a magician here she'll be very pleased. And it's always good when Mistress Bronwyn is pleased because - "

He laid a finger on her lips and nodded gravely.

"That will do," he said, smiling just a little. "I do believe I have understood. You should save some words for later. Where can I find Mistress Bronwyn then?"

She twisted away from his hand, eyes dancing with mischief.

"Don't worry, I can always make new words later. I'm very good at it. And we're on the way to her place now, so you just have to keep walking with us. We'll be there very soon." She walked on, head erect and shoulders back, her skirt swinging triumphantly.

val said...

Thanks, Nathan, for your inimitable brand of insanity. Here's hoping my poor little dial-up can handle this...


Kaylee returned to the earlier subject, “Jaimie and I did tricks for Billy practically forever before Sara came to get us. Jaimie juggled little rocks and walked on his hands. I didn’t know people could do that. Did you? Then he’d hold out a stick and have me jump over it. I had to sit pretty, shake hands, roll over, chase my tail, dance, and count-bark. And, they didn’t have any treats for me.” He sighed and laid his head on his paws.
“Didn’t you say Sara brought you a biscuit?” Marmalade demanded.
“Yeah, my Sara’s the best. I’d rather have a bone, though,” Kaylee said, his head lifting at the thought. “I like bones.”
“You would. I prefer tuna,” Marmalade sniffed with disdain.
“O.K.” Kaylee replied agreeably, “I’ll try tuna.”
“Not MY tuna you won’t!”
“Then why did you offer it?”
“I did no such thing!”
“Yes, you did!”
“Did not!”
“Did too!”
“Did NOT!”
“Did TOO!”
“Hey, you two! Stop that racket! You’ll disturb the guests. Kaylee leave Marmalade alone,” Joe, the first mate, scolded. “Just ‘cause you saved that kid doesn’t mean you can start bothering the ship’s cat. Ship’s cat is cap’n’s cat so she outranks you. Show some respect.”
Kaylee dropped his ears. He dropped his head.
“That’s better,” Joe said. He walked away.
“Did too,” Kaylee rumbled softly. But Marmalade didn’t answer. Kaylee peeked at the cat. She was busy cleaning with one hind leg in the air.
“Hupff,” Kaylee hupffed. “Cats.”

Tom Burchfield said...

“Are you sure he’s ready for discharge?”

Sean waved the flimsy patient robe as if he were planting it on a mountaintop: “He was dressed when we got here! Did it himself!”

“I think Mr. Bartok knows if he’s well enough.” Carla deferentially tipped her head at the old man.

Klaus Bartok smiled. The words bounced from his mouth: “The air in this hospitable hovel chokes me. Breathing gas fumes exhausts me. They have done what they can. Mountain air is what cures.” Each word hit the air in the room like pebbles hitting a pond: the ripples set everyone moving.

Dave the Cop Doctor held up his hand: “Let’s consult with Dr. Knowland first.”

“About the gas fumes?” Carla said impishly.

“Nooo, about whether it’s—oh, hi, Ted.”

Ted Knowland stood at Dave’s elbow. Behind him, Jeannie waited with a wheelchair, her fingers impatiently fluttering on the back of the seat.

“You sure about this?”

Ted didn’t even shrug: “I can’t find much wrong with him. Not that he lets anyone look too closely.”

“Poke and prod!” laughed the old man. “Let the beating of my heart, the flow of my blood be secret! Tie me to your machines, short out my life! But as they rust, I will bloom, fly, and prosper! The mountains, my friends! Home to the mountains!”

Ted waved the clipboard as a warning: “But you’re going to sign this release, sir. We don’t want you coming back here. To sue us, that is.”

Lane said...

“Its times like these, man, that make me wanna be a Jesus freak like you.”
Zep chuckles, “Well you let me know when you come around and I’ll bring you to church with me.”
“It’s just, how can you believe in something that you can’t see, smell, feel, or hear? All you have to go on is a book and blind faith. Science is explaining more and more about the universe and how it works everyday-“
“They still haven’t proved how you can create a universe out of nothing.”
“You don’t think they will?”
“I can’t imagine how they could.”
“Me thinks you underestimate the power of human ingenuity.”
“Me thinks you overestimate our ability to make something out of nothing.”
“…Me thinks you’re a douche.”
“Me thinks you’re a fag.”
“Ass.”
“Whore.”
A shooting star flies across the sky as if to silence our bickering and bring its stagnant friends back to the center of attention.
“You wish for anything?” asks Zep.
“I wish you’d stop sucking and roll another joint,” I reply jokingly, at least about the former.
“Alright, alright, I’m rollin’ it. You don’t have to get all touchy!” he replies, laughing.

AstonWest said...

A long silence followed before he continued. “Now, we have a proposition.”

There was no way this would turn out well. I looked down at the dark blues and violets of the Traliquin rug under my feet. They were supposed to have a calming, soothing effect on anyone who laid eyes on them.

I was way beyond that point.

“And what is this proposition?”

“We’d like you to join us.”

I laughed. “I thought you said you only chose worthy individuals.”

“Oh, we definitely think you’re worthy enough.”

He only speaks for himself.

I glanced over at Lars and then back to Elijah. “I think you have some misconceptions about my talents.”

“You obviously have a criminal mind, based on our escape from Lycus IV.”

“Self-preservation isn’t the same as a criminal mind.”

“You just need the proper motivation, that’s all.”

I sat back in my seat. “I’m not pirate material.”

“Just imagine, Aston. No more worrying about finding odd jobs or abandoned cargo to tide you over.”

“I’m happy with my life the way it is.”

I told him you wouldn’t be interested.

Lars turned to his brother, who listened to a silent conversation and sighed.

“Yes, you told me so.”

A slow breath of relief passed over my lips as Elijah looked back at me.

“So, I guess it’s time to work on that motivation.”

calendula-witch said...

The Princess thought about it. If the evil had left some bit of itself in this spot, then it was a magical place, like the wardrobe with the winter coats in it, like the road to Mordor…
“What are you doing?” the fat girl asked, interrupting her train of thought.
The Princess turned slowly to face the annoying child. “I am looking for clues. I am solving the mystery.”
“It’s not a mystery,” Morning Star answered. “My dad says it was a bear, and then the dogs maybe even finished up the job. Maybe the bear just hurt the goats a little, and then the dogs came and ate them.”
“Not Galadriel and Sauron!” the Princess protested. The dogs looked up at their names, then returned to their nap. “They wouldn’t hurt a fly!”
“My dad said you never know with dogs. He gets a vibe.”
The Princess stood up to face her. “Well, my dad says your dad’s vibes are a bunch of bullshit.”
The stupid fat girl burst into tears yet again, and ran from the meadow back to her family’s tent. Good riddance.
The Princess returned her attention to the spot, again tracing the dried blood with her finger, avoiding a small spider web holding two blades of grass together. But now the magic was gone, and she felt nothing. Magic was like that. You had to believe really hard in it, and nothing could distract you or it would scatter. Stupid Morning Star anyway.

brimfire said...

“Can you break her again?” Bayis asked.

Again. There was no again here. He hadn’t broken her the first time.

“I doubt it, sir,” he replied evenly. “I meant what I said about her being the best I’ve trained. She might not be the strongest recruit, but she was the smartest and one of the quickest. Plus, she’s stubborn, sir. Unmovable when she sets her mind to something.”

“Do you think the Fachin bought her?”

Rykus clenched his teeth. He still didn’t want to believe that she had turned against the Federation. She’d always been loyal. He’d respected that even as he used it against her. Threatening her teammates was one of the most effective ways to get her to comply with his orders. He’d learned that early on.

“I’m not sure. Ash was always honest. If she had a problem with something, she’d tell you, no matter how much you might want her to keep her mouth shut. That’s why her betrayal makes no sense. She’s not talking, and that’s not like her.”

“You said she’s manipulative.”

“Yes, but I could always see through her charades. I know her, admiral. I trained her. I spent two years learning her strengths, her weaknesses, her little quirks. I don’t think she’s capable of doing what she’s accused of.”

Bayis faced him, one brow raised. “She’s pretty. You two weren’t-.”

“No,” Rykus said quickly. “No, sir.”

Mark C said...

“First, look at the scene,” said Chip. “Pretty girl here, pretty girl there. You go up and talk. Yadda yadda. Nice to meet you, looking good. But not cheesy. And so on. Now, of course it’s all about volume. Perseverance plus opportunity makes luck.”

“So, you got one?” said Stumpy.

“Understand the methodology first. So you find the one. Now. She’s cute, right? Well—maybe. You’ve got to add it up. One hour of talking, OK. Thirty dollars of drinks, plus a ten dollar cab ride, which takes you another 30 minutes.”

“You live 30 minutes from downtown?”

“Don’t forget the morning. You’ll be on duty come dawn. A little bit of cuddling, or worse: breakfast. She’s got to be somewhat interesting or breakfast is a trainwreck.”

“You could just say no.”

“Is she clingy? Or more importantly—know thyself—are you teflon? If you’re not the type that can just dump a girl on the street, then go ahead and factor in breakfast.”

“So, you met someone?”

“Every guy is doing the math, Stump. Scale of one to ten, how hot is she? Scale of one to ten, how good a story will this be? Maybe she’s foreign. Exotic? Look at the club Stumper. Every guy is an adding machine. Math, math, math. Inevitable.”

“Chip! Stop! Girl or no girl?”

“That’s beside the point. Look, I didn’t even go out Saturday. Watched movies. But the math is there, Stumps. Math and love. Universal languages.”

Miri said...

"Naomi," it said, "if we live through this, I’m going to kill you."

Naomi smiled her dazzlingly innocent smile, pointedly ignoring the renewed flash of pain that coursed back through her head.

"Nice to see you’re your usual chipper self, Evin dear," she said, though the good-humored effect was somewhat spoiled by a ragged cough, laced with reddish fluid. "I don’t suppose you’re in any shape to help me up?"

"What do you think?" the girl called Evin replied. Naomi noted that Ev’s usual sardonic manner had managed to stay attached, though it sounded quite a bit more peevish than usual at the moment. "If my leg makes it through this, it’ll be a miracle. Not to mention most of the bones in my left arm."

"Still got all your ribs?" asked Naomi, experimentally twitching her own left arm. An orange corona of pain erupted around her wrist. Probably a sprain. Nothing major.

"Most of them," said Ev between wheezing breaths. "I’ll be coughing up blood for the next week, though. You?"

"Right side’s completely gone," Naomi replied conversationally, as if Ev had inquired about the outcome of an anti-grav football game. "Haven’t checked out my right arm yet, the rib area’s kind of whiting it out. Left arm and both legs are still there."

"How sure are you of that?"

"’Bout eighty percent. What can you see that I can’t?"

"Nothing much. Just your left—-no, right foot pointing the wrong way."

"That’s okay, then. I think we’ll survive."

Joey said...

“Hi Eddy.”

He grabbed a chair, spun it around, and sat forcefully at my table.

“What’s up?” He seemed put off by my question and huffed.

“Where were you?” He demanded loudly, “I waited for you.” He spewed, the tone of his voice getting louder and uglier.

He was really getting himself worked up here. I hadn’t seen him lose it like this before and it made me edgy.

“What?”

Eddy leaned in closer, not uncomfortably close – he has his boundaries – usually, but it was close. I could almost see the agitation coming off his skin in ripples.

“The rehearsal?” He emphasized each syllable. His hairline crept into the purple color family and he raised his eyebrows, expectantly. “The reason you couldn’t go to the movie?” He blurted stronger – was he spitting?

“I couldn’t go to the movie because of my rehearsal.” I stated clearly so he would understand that it was never going to happen.

“Yes!” He practically yelled and pointed at me. If he was agreeing with me, what was the problem?

“Eddy…” I began.

“I waited for you at the rehearsal hall,” his voice was weaker now, recalling the memory, “but you weren’t there. Nobody was there.” His face was stricken. He appeared to be reliving the humiliation.

Ah, ha. It was finally clear what had happened. “Eddy,” I changed my tone to be firm and unwavering, “when I said rehearsal, that doesn’t mean I meant for the symphony. I play other places too.”

Kiersten said...

Just as Darah was finishing her second sandwich, Samuel came bustling in. “Did you save me anything, Dar? We have to remember to get here before her, eh, Josiah?”

Josiah grinned back. “I barely managed to salvage a few crumbs for myself.”

Darah primly stuck her tongue out, punching her dad affectionately in the arm.

“First she starves me, then she beats me! What did I do to deserve this? I told Emily we should have gotten a nice cat.”

“Dad! You don’t mean that!”

“Okay, you’re right. Cats are too prissy. We could have settled on a nice, calm fish.”

Darah laughed. “Oh, eat your lunch, you big lug, or I’ll quit helping you and take up shopping full-time like Mom.”

Feigning terror, Samuel began eating as quickly as possible. When he had finished, he leaned back in satisfaction. Turning to Josiah, he asked, “So, kiddo, what do you think? We’ve been running you around pretty hard these past few months. Are you sick of your crazy relatives yet?”

“No! Not even close.” No school, no hospitals, no bad memories—or at least, lots of distractions. He loved this life.

“There is the whole aspect of unpaid slave labor, but I’ll hold off on calling child services for a while yet. I’m keeping tabs, though,” Darah chimed in.

“You call exploring some of the most amazing sites on earth work?! Who raised you?”

“Wolves!” Darah laughed.

Dave F. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DeadlyAccurate said...

Ezekiel smiled. "Miss Fry, I'm glad to see you're awake. May I call you Dawn?"

"I insist on it, Zeke."

"You'll keep a respectful tongue in your mouth, harlot," Richard said.

"That'll be a first."

Ezekiel held up a hand. I noticed the burn mark was gone. "Why won't you tell us why you're here?"

"I have trust issues."

"Did Kenower hire you?"

I kept silent.

His lips pressed together. "Well, whoever it is won't be able to stop us. Have you read the Book of Revelations?"

I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. As if being beaten wasn't torture enough, now I was getting preached to.

"Chapter five, verse twelve. ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.'"

"Doesn't sound like a very good deal for the lamb."

"Do you know what it means?"

"Not a clue. A fifty says you don't either."

Natalie said...

Um, I just realized I posted the wrong draft and it was too long, whoops. Let's try this again...

From The Iron Queen

“I’m…dead, Leo,” I blurted out.

“You don’t look dead,” he said casually.

“So you don’t believe me?”

“You said I wouldn’t,” he replied defiantly, like he was trying to convince me I was wrong about my own state of being. “If you’re dead, prove it.”

“Fine,” I could feel the venom in my voice. This wasn’t how I wanted to tell him. He was supposed to be shocked, scared, something like that. Not this. Not this frustrated, angry child telling me to “prove it.” But, my reaction was equally childish. I pulled a sharp branch from the evergreen and thrust it into my stomach. The soft green fluid that filled my body started to ooze out.

Leo gasped. His eyes widened as he saw the green and knew I didn’t have blood. This was it, he knew. He would either run or stay. What happened after would be uncharted territory.

“Convinced?” I put my hands on my hips and let the branch sit there strung through my stomach. To my surprise he came closer, even touched the branch, as if to make sure it wasn’t an illusion.

“Does that hurt?” He asked, looking me straight in the eyes as if I was still just a normal quicken girl telling him something totally believable.

“No.”

“And so you are alive, but you’re really…”

“Dead, yes. I’m a…well, I’m a zombie,” I rolled my eyes. “It sounds so ridiculous when I say it out loud, but it’s true.”

Sarahlynn said...

“Red or white?”

“Blue!” said Tuxy, holding up a bottle of Bawls, her latest obsession. I smiled more at my friend’s unusual effervescence than at her joke.

“Red or white?” I asked, moving on to Tuxy’s girlfriend, Ginger.

“Oh, platinum, obviously. Unless you have a jet black or perhaps a green of some sort?” Evan, Tuxy's best friend interjected before Ginger could answer.

She shot Evan a nasty look but otherwise ignored his snipe about her hair color. “Actually, I hate wine. I’ll just stick with one of Tuxy’s energy drinks.”

Helpfully trying to cover the awkward silence left by this exchange, Greg asked the room at large, “Does that energy drink crap actually work?” He went on without waiting for an answer. “You could, you know, just try sleeping at night, eating real food, taking care of yourself.”

From anyone else, this might have been teasing, but it was obvious that Greg meant it. At least he was actually talking to Tuxy, sort of, which meant that he was trying to make nice. Usually, he left the room when she was around.

“Ah, you’re just jealous,” Leigh said, taking a hearty swallow of her wine. She was Greg’s ex-girlfriend and could be counted on to offer him verbal smackdowns at every opportunity. “Nobody’s waiting up all night to pay you for your hobbies. Ooooh, Greg, please hook another one into the trees for me. It’s sooooo sexy!” I winced; but she was right about him, as usual.

2readornot said...

“What now?” I whispered after a bit. My throat hurt, but at least I could speak.

Ben shrugged. “I don’t know.” He looked away from me, his expression bereft.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “Do – would it help to talk about it?”
A tear trickled down his cheek. Only then did I realize that the water must have washed the blood away. I could see a cut, about an inch long, above his right ear.

“He was my best friend. But…I couldn’t…I couldn’t get to both of you. He kept telling me to take care of you – he’d be fine. After all, he could teleport. But…he must have been too tired to….”

I tightened my grip on his hand. “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you so much for saving my life. I wish – I wish I’d been stronger, so you wouldn’t have to choose.”

“No!” He turned to me, and the desolation in his eyes sparked tears in my own. “You were both fighting. But – I heard someone say, ‘Get Darcy.’ Someone other than Kevin, I mean.”

“You heard…?”

He nodded. “Yes. I couldn’t see much of anything, but you’d grabbed the boat right by me, so I kicked out with my legs and felt your body. You were limp, and I just wrapped my legs around your waist and shoved upward. I still don’t know how it worked. By the time I’d gotten both of us in the boat, Kevin’s hand was gone from the rope.”

fas said...

“I think you must be a very good father,” she said, and though he smiled, his eyes got so sad that she ached for him.

“I have had much practice. Eleven sons my wife has gifted to me, and yet she ever hopes that the next little one will be another daughter.” Then he asked, “Do you have any memories of your father?”

“A few. My first memory is of him. I was only three. The memories I have of him are all good memories. The best,” she said with a smile. “It’s strange—I mean, I might just be imagining it, but my father used to call me jellybean. I’d eat pounds of them. And sometimes, I think I can remember how my father’s voice sounded when he called me jellybean. But I’m probably just imagining it.”

Smiling, too, he shook his head. “No, I think that it is a true memory. How did your father die? If I may ask.”

“It was an accident. I forgot my doll at his house and I wouldn’t stop crying,” she said faintly, unable to look at him. “He said he’d bring it to me, and it started snowing while he was driving. Coming, I mean. And he was killed.”

“Do you hold yourself culpable for this?”

“I was five years old.”

“Be assured of this one thing, lass, and never doubt it. You were your father’s last thought in life and his first prayer to God as he stood before Him.”

Kirsten said...

Convenience Mart make-out scene:

Finally it dawned on me after who-knows-how-many seconds that that was the bell for service clamoring away up there. I jogged up to counter, shouting “Can I help you?” as I went.

“I dunno, maybe you can.” It was Dale. “Maybe you can tell me how to get some f***ing service in this place!”

“Um.”

“Where the HECK have you two been?”

Again, I was smooth under pressure, “We were, I was, um, showing… Leon? The um…”

“You’re a bad liar, missy! And if I catch either of the two of ya goofing off again, you’re out on your pert little ass. And that goes for you, too.” He jerked his head toward Leon.

Leon replied brightly “I have a pert little ass?”

Dale bellowed, “I don’t like your attitude!!”

Leon said “I don’t like yours either.” Jeez, he didn’t know when to quit.

Dale’s head looked like his eyes were going to pop out like two buttons flying off an over-tight shirt. “YOU’RE FIRED.”

Leon was out the door without so much as a glance at Dale or I. Dale turned to me. I was at my post on the other side of counter, standing up straight, doing my best to appear the model of an attentive employee.

“And you,” Dale considered for a few seconds, “you better watch yourself.”

Arachne Jericho said...

Nathan, I worry about you.

That said, throwing hat in ring.

---

"So, how is Arcady doing?" asked Hestia.

They had retired to a corner table with a bottle of Crown Royal, the contents of which Zene was drinking with more cultured relish than the amateur wine-tasters hovering about.

He carefully considered his next words, which might make the difference between one Crown Royal or two.

"Chipper. A bit too chipper. I can't stand the man, he's so fucking happy."

Hestia held a glass of the whiskey in elegant fingers, but didn't drink it. "If you feel that way, why are you staying with him?"

"I've got my own place. And I'm not the least bit attracted to men," said Zene, his voice underlining the second part several times.

"Methinks thou doth protest too much. Arcady's vain enough to only hire someone who would complement him. And I must say you two seem to go well together." Her voice delicately leered at him.

Zene glared back, but she remained unafraid and, to him, viciously and unfairly amused. Suddenly she put down her glass and steepled her fingers, and her smile became friendlier, like a shark sensing blood in the water.

"Did he tell you about any of his cases?"

"Some," said Zene, keeping his face deadpan.

"Which ones?"

Zene continued cautiously. "Just here and there. He doesn't really tell me much."

"Surely you can give me a short description of just one."

Walter said...

He couldn’t see much in the dark, especially not the grenade she was sitting on. He pulled his gun around and set it on the ground, then he clicked on the light and aimed the beam at the deadly green pineapple. He put the tip of the pin into the hole.

“I’m putting it in the hole.”

“Seriously, Rick, I don’t need the play by play here. Just do it.”

“Wow, this is exactly how I imagined my first time would be. Me, on my hands and knees, fumbling around in the dark, being told to get it over with.”

He pushed it in, but it wouldn’t go. The spoon wasn’t down all the way and the holes didn’t line up.

“I’m gonna have to shove my finger up your butt to hold it down.”

“Now that’s more like it.”

“Shut uuuu-uup,” he sang. He slid his finger along the seam between her butt cheeks. Then he applied pressure to the spoon until the holes were in synch. The pin went right in. He clicked off his flashlight.

“Okay, you can stand up now.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Is my finger up your crack anymore?” he said.

“No.” She sat up. “Actually, I kinda liked that part.”

“You’re disturbed, you know that, right?”

Amy Kinzer said...

“Fame whore,” Jade grumbles under her breath.

“Shut it!” I flip my hair and pull my fly-bug sunglasses over my eyes as the TMZ guy heads our direction; maybe he’ll recognize me.

Maybe this is my lucky day?

“God, I hate photographers,” I say in my outside voice to Jade when the TMZ guy gets close. “They’re always putting the worst pictures of me on their websites.”

He stops. “Have you seen Gwen Stefani?” he asks, one eye on me, one on the crowds. “I heard she’s catching a flight to London.”

“Me? No I haven’t.”

But you can record me! I’m Farrah-Kate Ryan, I’ve been in a few things.

“OK, thanks. Here’s my card, call me if you see any big stars.”

“Uh…” What am I doing? “I was in a movie.”

He turns back to me and looks me over top to bottom. “Really? What? You don’t look familiar.”

“Night of the Nocturnal.”

“Never heard of it.”

“And that reality TV show, Real Life Las Vegas.”

“Never heard of it either.”

“And a few commercials--”

“Look, I’m sorry. People come to our site to see people they recognize, people who are famous.”

“I’m famous!”

“Look, lady, I don’t recognize you, so you’re not famous. That’s how it is in this industry, I know everyone worth knowing, and I don’t know you.”

“I’ll pay you to take my picture,” I rummage through my purse.

“Lady, you’re nuts. Hold on to your money, you need it more than I do.”

teennovelist said...

“I never wanted to be a hero, never wanted to deal with this. Yet, somehow, I got the cards where life prepared me for it perfectly.” He sighed and rolled over to face me, his chin propped up in the grass. “Now I’ve got no other choice, there’s no turning back for me now. It’s win against the Darkness or die trying. There’s no escape, no third option.”

He smiled strangely, looking at me. “I bet you didn’t know I had doubts about you. Sure, I thought we needed you, but after all you were just a silly girl. I didn’t think a girl could make much of a difference. But you have. The Darkness is after you, and it’s wrecked so much in its path in trying to find you. The Towers, Robin, Ben...we’re next. All this because of you.”

“I didn’t choose to be here.” I scowled at him. “It was all a stupid mistake. Forget your prophecies, your magic, your Darkness and suffocation. I never meant to be a hero any more than I meant to come here. It was a mistake. There’s no such thing as fate, and destiny, and souls. It’s the cheat sheets to magic tricks, it’s the trap doors in acts. It’s all illusions of what people want. It’s a way of saying, ‘I got stuck with this so there has to be a reason.’ There’s no reason. There’s nothing.”


Thanks for your time, Mr. Bransford.

Jessica said...

Both have been drinking. Anna doesn’t speak English.

********************************

“No, she hasn’t written. But, really, I didn’t expect her to.” He snorted. “Not after the way I left things. I walked out of the bathroom, Anna. She was sitting on the floor, vomiting, and what did I do? I walked out of the bathroom.”

“Batroom,” Anna agreed, nodding.

Emil swiped at his nose with his cuff. “Things hadn’t been good, but I thought they were better. That morning before I left, we…” His eyes dropped to his lap, where his prick leapt to attention again at the memory. “Well, I thought that everything was just fine. Beautiful. Do you know what she said, Anna?”

The older woman shook her head, eyes large.

“That I was just screwing her and leaving. ‘Screwing her’. Here I thought it meant something and she thought I was ‘screwing her’.”

Anna laid a hand on his arm. “Screwing her.”

“See, you can’t believe it either. What kind of a...” He laughed, suddenly and shortly. “Well, I guess that’s all we have, Ileana and I. Screws. When it comes down to it, that’s all I really know about her. How it feels to have her hate me after sex.” He snorted again, but his nose was wet. His eyes were wet too. “How it feels to have her hate me after sex. God.”

After the longest speech Emil had ever made in his life, he let his spinning head fall onto Anna’s bare breasts and cried.

freddie said...

Pete saw the sign first. “Mom!” he yelled out suddenly, startling Karen. She nearly dropped her coffee. Arkelus barked once, then was quiet.

“Jeez!” Karen said, trying to balance the cup before it spilled over.

“But Mom, that’s the place! See the sign? It says The Winthrop Place, CR 49. What does ‘CR’ mean?” Pete said, more to himself than to his mother.

“It stands for County Road.”

“Oh,” he said. “Duh.” He turned off his CD player.

“Don’t worry about it. You won’t be expected to know things like that ‘til you drive. And we both know that won’t be for a long time.”

“Right,” Pete said. “Only five years away.”

“Mmm.” Karen handed Pete her coffee and turned onto the road, yawning as she did so. “Man, I’m tired. How about you, kiddo?”

“Nope,” Pete said. And he wasn’t. When he first heard he and his mom were moving out to the country, he wasn’t happy about it. But then his friend Ronnie (who was a whole year older than Pete) said, “Are you crazy? A 110-year-old farmhouse out in the middle of nowhere? You know what that means?”

Anonymous said...

For once, Collin and I agreed. “Yes, I need to speak to Epoch, but I don’t...”

“Don’t what?”

“I don’t know how to find him.”

“Then today’s your lucky day, love.”

“How do you figure?”

“I know how to find Epoch.” Collin bowed. “And I’d be more than happy to escort you to the Eternal Father.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Why are you so eager to help me?”

“Because you’re cute.” Collin smirked.

I scowled and slapped his hand away. “The least you could do is show me a little respect. I did you save your life, you know.”

Collin winked and stood up straight. “I respect cute, love. In fact, I adore cute.”

I stepped forward and jabbed my finger into his chest. “Just because I’m a woman doesn’t give you the right to go around calling me “love” and telling me I’m cute! If I were a man you wouldn’t say those things. So from now on, just think of me as a man...or else.”

Collin arched an eyebrow. “Or else what?”

“Or else...I’ll torch you.” I thought the threat sounded good. Collin didn’t know I had virtually zero control over my powers, which meant the likelihood of me wanting to set him on fire and being able to do it was...well, not a chance in hell.

Collin stepped back and looked me up and down. “Well if you’re a man...” He grinned as if to say check and mate. “...then color me gay.”

Josh Everett Ryan said...

Evelyn's cold, small hand slides over mine. She says, “Adam?”

“Yeah?”

“Does cotton candy come from sheeps?”

I smile, think of the toy store we just left. Bags of cotton candy hanging from the wracks by the register.

“Sheep?” I say, “I think you're thinking of wool.”

“Oh,” she says. She looks down at her own swinging feet hanging off the edge of the bench. She seems disappointed. I try not to laugh, but I slide a little closer to her.

“But you know,” I tell her, “I don't know exactly where cotton candy comes from. Maybe it does come from a special kind of sheep.”

She looks up then, her eyes big with excitement and anticipation.

“Maybe there's a big special farm out there somewhere with a herd of magical sheep in all different colors. Maybe there's pink sheep and green sheep and blue sheep and red, and their fur is all different flavors and there's every one you can imagine. And these sheep, they're so special that they get fed ice cream and candy all the time, for breakfast, lunch and dinner! And maybe that's why their coats taste so sweet!”

“Magic sheeps!” she says excitedly.

For fifteen more minutes we sit together on the bench. I look up at the sky, blurry from all the city lights. From the corner of my eye, I see Eve looking down at the ground. Trying to picture in her mind, herds and herds of rainbow sheep.

jwhit said...

[this is an interview by Detective Franke of a person he knows as Mrs Sadhu Singh]

Franke pulled out his notebook. ‘I got the basics from Mrs Stewart and I read the report.'

'Yes,' she said. 'I helped her write it.'

'That's right, she called you to the station.'

She nodded. 'She needed help. When I picked her up, she was very distraught. But the policeman said it would be best if we wrote down the details while they were still fresh, so that's what we did.'

'Mrs Stewart said you tried to call Mr Stewart on his mobile. Do you have his number?’ Simple lack of communication can cause a lot of grief.

She rattled off the digits. ‘I rang it just after Julia called me. It went straight to voicemail.’

‘Great. I'll pull the logs and see what other calls may have been placed or received.' New note: check voicemail messages and calls.

'I also tried the city hospitals,' she said. 'But there was no one admitted fitting his description.'

Franke wrote city hospitals on his pad and ended with a question mark. Wouldn't hurt to have someone check later. 'What can you tell me about Julia and Michael’s relationship? Were they happy? Any problems you’re aware of?’

Mrs Singh turned her head away a moment before answering. ‘Julia never mentioned any problems. I assume things are fine between them.’

Why did she hesitate? That response was certainly carefully worded.

‘What is your relationship to the couple?’ This should be interesting.

‘I have known Julia and her family for many years. And of course I met Michael when they married.’

‘Do you live in?’

Steve Axelrod said...

"No wonder you didn't want me to come to the party," Cindy said. "You knew she'd be here. It's so trite. She's a home-wrecker straight out of Central Casting."
"She's a pretty girl, Cindy. Should she wear a Burkha so you won't feel threatened? Because that's going to be a tough dress code to enforce six months from now, when half the pretty girls between Coral Gables and Prince Edward Island show up here for the summer."
"They're not working for you every day."
"Some of them will be.. And my dress code is shorts and a t-shirt. What do you want me to say? That I have eyes only for you? Does our marriage really depend on that kind of bullshit? That's just too depressing for me tonight. "
"So what's the truth?"
"The truth? You want the truth? Fine. The truth is that I want just about every good looking woman I see every day, and so has every other man you've ever known, including the sainted Mark Toland -- ”
"You don't know anything about Mark Toland."
"But I'm supposed to believe he's the big exception. Well, we have one piece of evidence. He wasn't interested in you."
"I don't want to talk about Mark."
"Great, because I don't want to talk about Tanya Kriel. If there's anything else on your mind I'd be glad to hear it. "
Cindy looked away.
"I'm pregnant," she said.
"What?"
"I'm pregnant, Mike. I took the test three times."

A.J. said...

For your consideration, Mr. Bransford:

“I think I might have done something,” he said.

Arthur emerged from the shadows with his over-sized suit coat and unknotted tie. His dark eyes remained in the shadows, but his strange uneven smile reflected in the lamplight. “Is that right?” His dialect, a thick southern drawl, poured slowly and intelligently from his mouth like smoke.

“I don’t remember. I can’t remember.”

“And you think I can? All right, don’t fall apart on me now. We come too far for that.”

The deep chords of his voice seemed to soothe the other, for he pressed his knuckles to his eyes and said, “You have to tell me what to do.”

“Did you love her?” A pause. “David, did you love her? Was she your first thought?”

David looked at him. “I don’t know.”

“And what is it you think you’ve done?”

“I was angry. I was so angry––”

“Listen to me, boy. Listen to me very, very carefully. I can’t do it for you. I can only help you see straight. You know that, right?”

David put his face in his hands again. The hotel lamp flickered, and he felt a chill sweep through his guts. “How did I ever fuck up so badly, Arthur?”

“It’s starts small. Think it through. You loved her.”

“I did.”

“Enough to do anything?”

“Enough to do anything.”

Mo said...

"Turn that frown upside down!" Sara walked over to me. "What's with the grumpy face?" She acted as if our conversation never happened.

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "Besides flunking my midterms, and being stuck here until closing on a Friday night, everything's just fine." I gave her my best princess smile. "And my condition." I turned towards another rack, then back again. “Oh, yeah—and my sinful life.”

Sara put her hand on my shoulder. "God doesn't give us more than we can handle." Including you? I thought.

She looked around the store. "Liz, you have customers!" Sara whispered.

I left the clothes shoved to the side, and walked to the front of the store. "How are you folks doing this fine day?" I asked.

"Well," the woman looked at her daughter. "We're looking for an outfit for Amanda to wear to her first dance."

"Mom," the girl whined. "You don't have to tell everyone what it's for. Can't you just say we're looking and be done with it?" She rolled her eyes and walked away.

"I guess we'll just browse for a while."

Melanie Atkins said...

“I just ordered room service. It should be up any minute.”

He nodded. “I’ll join you.”

And without another word, he pushed past her into the room and made a beeline for the telephone.

She stared at his broad back in disbelief. “What are you doing?”

“Ordering breakfast.” He picked up the phone and dialed room service.

Her mouth dropped open when he added bacon, eggs, and coffee to her order of cereal and juice.

“I can’t believe you just did that,” she said when he hung up.

“What’s the problem? I’ll pay for it.”

“That’s not the point.”

“I’m keeping you safe,” he said, his flat gaze pinning her where she stood. “Don’t you want me to eat?”

“Of course I do,” she said. “But you have a lot of nerve barging in like this. I didn’t even know you were in the hall. Now, you’re just making yourself at home.”

“How do you know David Elliot?”

“What?” Shock jolted through her at the mention of David’s name. Her mind whirled in confusion. “I don’t understand.”

“David Elliot is an ex-con who was recently released from Angola.” Nick ambled around the bed. “I found your business card in his apartment.”

“I know who he is. H-he’s my patient.”

“Really.”

“Yes.” Totally unnerved, she swallowed. “In addition to filling in for Dr. Myers with NOPD, I also provide counseling services for recent parolees. Some are required to attend, and some come in voluntarily to finish what they started in prison.”

Marti said...

Then the noises came. Downstairs, in the store, bumps and shuffles, with an occasional thump thrown in for bad measure.

It’s an old building; it’s going to creak and rattle.

“What’s that racket?”

“Ack!” I gasped, and spooked Grace as she crept in to join me.

“I’m sorry Liz, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s OK, Grace, at least I know I’m not losing my mind. You heard noises too?”

“Yeah, what is it?”

“I’m not sure, this is my first night here. I guess we could go see.”

“Oh sure. Just let me go slip into a negligee and get a wobbly candle first.”

I laughed, and then we heard it again, louder.

“Oh shit.”

“No shit.”

“Well?”

“I don’t know. Go get...”

“What in God’s name is going on out here?” Kathy asked, as she wandered out of the bedroom, yawning.

THUMP.

Three pairs of eyes were glued to the loft entry door, as we huddled together on the futon, listening to more noises. Finally, after a few thumpless minutes, we exchanged looks, first apprehensive, then relieved.

Kathy said, ”Well, are we gonna go see? Do you have a gun, Liz?”

“No.”

“A knife, a screwdriver, a letter opener…anything?”

“No.”

“Great. Hang on.”

Kathy headed back into the bedroom, then returned with a can of pepper spray. “Always be prepared,” she said.

“What good is that going to do if it’s a ghost?” Grace asked.

Thanks Grace.

LisaH said...

“You say he’s older?” Sarah asked. “How much older… a few years, or has he already RSVP’d to his 20 year reunion?” (Keep in mind; Sarah has a healthy appetite for skepticism.) “Remember what happened the last time you dated an older guy?”

“Well, if I’d have known he had a wife; I wouldn’t have dated him, now would I?”

She went on, “And what kind of guy in his 30’s or 40’s lives alone in a big house on the lake anyway? I’ll tell you what kind of guy… a loser, or a guy with a lot of baggage, that’s who.”

Within moments, Sarah had slammed on the brakes of my inexistent love affair; although part of me knew she was right… maybe I had been acting a bit dreamy-eyed.

“I saw my cousin Anthony last weekend,” she continued, “at my Nanna Rose’s 75th birthday party.”

Oh no, I thought. Not this again.

“I hope you don’t mind, I gave him your number.”

I stopped walking and let out a big sigh.

“Nikki, Anthony’s been begging me for your number ever since you guys met at Angela’s First Communion.”

“Sarah,” I started, but before I could object, which she knew I would emphatically do, she added, “He’s really a funny guy, Nik.”

(Warning: beware of the “funny guy”.)

“Funny is an understatement, Sarah. Believe me, I know what kind of a guy Anthony is. In fact, I have several cousin Anthony’s in my family and there is definitely a reason none of them are married.”

LisaH said...

“You’re doing what?” Sarah’s voice raised an octave.

“I know, I know. It’s fast, isn’t it?” I added that obvious fact more for her benefit than for mine. I knew I was making a quick decision. -- I was looking for reassurance, that’s all. You may think it silly of me, calling Sarah Lorenzo, the greatest skeptic on earth, for reassurance, but what can I say… I guess the Catholic in me needed a little extra guilt.

“I honestly don’t know what to say, Nik,” Sarah said. “I hope you’re making the right decision. God knows I wouldn’t move in with a guy I’d known for, what? two weeks? three weeks?”

Guilt duly received.

* * *

“How did he ask you? I heard it was a complete surprise! When are you moving in? Have you told your parents yet?”

It was Christi calling.

“I can’t really talk now,” I said. “But I promise I’ll fill you in on all the details, later.” I paced up and down my parent’s driveway as Garry and my dad loaded boxes into the back of the Jeep. “Just tell me one thing, though; and be absolutely honest with me.” I turned toward the street and whispered, “Do you think I’m making the right decision?”

“Are you crazy, Nikki? You are so making the right decision.”

God bless friends like Christi.

mardott said...

"What were ye starin' at?" Edward asked, moving to the water barrel. "Were ye just thinkin'?"

Seamus smiled a bit and leaned against the wall. "Know anything about witchcraft, Edward?"

The boy swallowed his water and regarded Seamus warily. "No."

"I do. I was workin' on a spell for us."

Edward nodded and sat back down. Seamus had the feeling the boy was humoring him.

"If ye can do spells," Edward said in a reasoning tone, "why don't ye call down a bolt of lightening and kill all the bastards at once?"

Seamus felt real amusement for the first time in weeks. "That might damage the boat, lad. Ocean's pretty deep around here."

Edward rolled his eyes. "Do it in port, then. Put a curse on them so they can't move or somethin'. Give us a chance to escape."

Seamus shifted, trying to find a softer spot to lay down. He spoke seriously, hoping Edward would understand. "It doesn't work like that, Edward. I could weave a curse, but I'll tell ye, I'm afraid to try. I'm too weak, too bitter and angry. I could just as easily fall into the curse myself, and it might affect ye, too."

"No such thing as spells and witches, anyway, to my thinking," Edward said. He lay down, shaking his head. "Ye'll not get out of here with that nonsense."

Seamus said nothing.

"What spell were ye "weaving"?" Edward asked.

"Protection. Self-awareness."

"Huh? What's that mean?"

Karen Duvall said...

KNIGHT'S CURSE (urban fantasy)

Aydin stopped chewing mid crunch to stare at me. "What's wrong?"

I was horrified to feel a tear slide down my cheek. I flicked it away. "Not a thing. Why?"

He resumed chewing before shoving another chip into his mouth. "Oh, I don't know. From the look on your face, you seem ready to bite my head off. Here." He offered me the bag of chips. "Bite one of these instead."

I grabbed the bag and dug my hand in for a fistful. I sat on the bed to eat them. Potato chips never tasted so good.

He reached for the bag and I yanked it away. "Mine."

"Fine." He tugged a package of pretzels from a shopping bag. "You're craving the salt, you know."

I licked my fingers. "No, I'm craving food. I'm starving."

"Yeah, but your body also needs salt. The salt counteracts the curse working through you and it helps get your body back to normal."

How about that. I learned something new every day in my crazy world of curses and flying monkeys. "You know this from experience?"

"Yup." He snapped the end off a pretzel. "I don't remember the exact date, but it was sometime during the twelfth century. When the Vyantara first got their hooks into me."

This contradicted what I'd been told that morning. "But you're a member."

He blew out an exasperated sigh. "Not at first, and definitely not willingly. You shouldn't believe everything you hear."

Jean said...

Allie and Stephanie, while trying to find Allie a Mr. Brainy Right, take a break to play a game of ‘Guess the Stranger’.

“Name?” Stephanie asks while sizing up the man in question.

“Oswald.”

“You’re brutal.” She giggles “Okay, age?”

“Same as me: thirty-two.”

“Age of guesstimated baldness?”

I size up the man. “Never. He looks like a hairy beast. Do you think he’s ever shaved his back?”

“I’m asking the questions,” reminds Stephanie. “Has he ever shaved his back?”

“Hmmm…no. Too hard to reach. Waxed, maybe.”

Stephanie tries to look unimpressed, but I can see the corners of her lips curl into a smile.

“Married?”

“No.”

“Single?”

“Yes, recently.”

“Secret passion?”

“Hair razors.”

“Most embarrassing moment?” asks Stephanie taking a quick gulp from her soda.

“His mom,” I say without missing a beat, “walking in on him masturbating into a sock.”

Stephanie sprays a mouthful of Spite across the table and begins coughing, her face turning red in the process.

“I told you to behave,” I scold, taking a casual sip of my coffee, trying to hide my delight with my quick wit. “Besides, you should know by now not to take a drink after asking that question.”

“I suppose that could explain all the hair.”

“On his palms? You can see his palms all the way from here?” I joke as I crane my neck.

“No, I was just—never mind.” Stephanie straightens suddenly. “Oh my god! He’s coming over.”

dernjg said...

A spray of water hit Adam in the face, making him squint his eyes and twitch back.
“Flincher.”
Cale smacked him hard on the shoulder. Adam started to loose balance, but quickly jabbed both legs into the water to avoid falling over.
“You bugger,” Adam said. “Was that even called for?”
“Well, you flinched.”
“I had water in my eye.”
“Doesn’t matter, rules of flinching are ironclad.”
Adam took a moment to rub his arm.
“They rejected me.”
It took Cale a half moment to realize what he was talking about.
“Wait, what? Who rejected you?”
Again, Adam let his head sink low. “The Order. I went to the temple yesterday. They permitted me for the Tests. And then they turned me away. The Order of Leaf and Root will never want me, they said.”
“That’s bugged,” Cale said. “There’s no way. I mean, you’re the top student of our year. You mastered everything. That’s, that’s just bugged.”
Adam studied his friend for a second. “But you just said you don’t need the Orders and Universities.”
“Well, I said that, yeah,” Cale said. “But you, you’re supposed to do great stuff. You’re supposed to be the Head Monk, and save all the priestesses. Me, I’m supposed to be the slacker.”
“Yeah, well, even the Order won’t let you in when your potential is Black.”
“Wait, Black? That’s bugged beyond bugged. I mean, Black?”
“The Order of Leaf and Root doesn’t make mistakes.”

C.H. Scarlett said...

“Great Goddess, what do you think crawled up her skirts this evening?” Deseray shook her head.
“That’s her problem Deseray. Nothing crawled up them, nothing at all.” Samanthra turned around holding her head. The pain was back. If she didn’t know better, she would have thought Monique done this to her but that was impossible. Monique didn’t have enough power to raise her own skirts in a moment of passion much less harm Samanthra.
She thought Monique wore the crown of a whore or maybe whore was too decent of a word for her. After all whores gave a service and earned an honest wage. They worked for what they got and Monique didn’t. She seduced a man only to rob him of power and strength. She gave him nothing but took everything. No better than a succubus.
A succubus was one of many horrible names to call one of their bloodlines. Evil carried such a name. This was just another reason for Samanthra to dislike and mistrust Monique. Her family, the Marquis, was a cause for concern. They were one of the first to forget the old ways and it showed. Their hearts were turning even if Dias and the Elders told Samanthra she was crazy for believing so. Samanthra, like the Lycaons were seeing disturbing changes within their families. She couldn’t blame the Lycaons for distancing themselves from them. She would if she could.
“You think she will cause us trouble tonight?” Deseray asked.
“I am more concerned with what Dias wants.” Samanthra admitted.

Anonymous said...

TWIGS
I peeked around the corner of Aisle 7 in case lethal hair products began flying again. The woman had opened a bottle of hair dye and sat holding it over her head.
“No!” It just popped out. I wanted to stop her, but hoped to save myself a big mess to clean. She looked up at me, red-eyed and with the saddest face I’d ever seen besides my own in the mirror.
“Get away, little girl.” Her words were garbled, like she chewed on marbles.
I felt sorry for her, but “little girl” irked me. At 4’9” I’m not tall, but at eighteen—almost nineteen—I hate being called a girl, though it happens a lot.
“I said get away!” Drops of sweat or tears dripped into her cleavage and she pointed the dye at me as if holding a gun.
“Uh ma’am…just put that down, okay?” I inched closer, holding my arms and hands out in front of me, and wished I had something—even a broom—for protection. I could yell for old Mr. Franks, the pharmacist, but he would never hear me. He had a hard enough time hearing people shout for their prescriptions.
“Stay back or I’ll…” The hair dye woman paused, as if making a huge decision that would change both our lives forever. “I’ll dye you, little girl. I mean it. I’ll dye you with this—” She glanced at the bottle. “Clairol Born Blonde! You wanna look like me?”

spinneo@yahoo.com said...

A JOB INTERVIEW
"So, Miss…" he shuffled the papers on his desk. "Burns. Where are you from?"

Polly noticed that he had very white teeth. She decided that she would look only at his teeth for the rest of the interview, since his eyes were flinty and without empathy.

"I'm from Iowa," she told the teeth. "Where we follow grain futures, but not the stock market."

"Really," they said. "Tell me then, what is the sum of the numbers from 1 to 100?"

She was taken aback by the question. Relax, she coached herself. Those shiny bicuspids were either trying to throw her off guard, or just hoping to hear how she'd think. Or both.

"Well," she began. "Between, uh, one and a hundred there's… one hundred numbers. And I guess they have an average of… fifty. So the answer would be fifty multiplied by one hundred..." she trailed off, too tense to solve even this basic multiplication problem for fear she'd misplace a zero.

He nodded, and she relaxed. "So tell me about your senior thesis. The Economic Costs of US Sugar Market Subsidization. So what are they? Give me the drive-by analysis."

She was happy to move on to familiar territory. "Consumers pay 22% more for sugar than if there were no tariffs,” she said. “That's bad enough, but the subsidies flow into the hands of just a few corporations. The system does nothing to help small farms…"

He held up a hand to stop her. "Have you summed the numbers from one to a hundred yet?" he asked.

Kristin said...

“Hey, you know who that dude was you were sitting next to last night?”

“Where?”

“At the BitBang, man. That dude.”

“How do you know who I was sitting next to?”

“I know things, man.”

“What?”

“I was walking by.”

“You walk by and notice me, but don’t stop in? What are you, stalking me?”

“I couldn’t stop in—I was with a laaady, man.”

I picked up the squat-necked bottle of piss-colored beer in front of me and took a long swallow. I’d met this guy at a hostel in another part of the world a week before, and when he asked where I was heading and I told him this place, he had said him too.

“What are you doing here anyway?” I asked.

“He’s wild.”

“Who?”

“The man, man! The dude you were sitting next to.”

I stood up, pulling my sweater off the back of my chair and speaking over my shoulder. “My beer’s on your tab. You owe me from the last time.”

“My uncle lives here,” the guy whined.

I did not turn around.

“Yeah, I know. So you’ve said.”

“I don’t know what your problem is with me, man.”

“I don’t have a problem with you.” I started walking.

“He’s one of those, those, I don’t know what they’re called…”

This was how he and I always parted—with him talking and me walking.

“…those spirit fliers.”

Anonymous said...

It stretched and rolled in my palm like mercury. It was humming.

"Don’t touch it!" David yelled. He was running to catch up with me.

The hum turned to a whisper. The shiny orb said, "I am Pale Sparks, and I know who you are."

"I'm Ginny," I replied, though it just told me it knew that.

“What’s the matter with you? I know you’re Ginny. You’ve been Ginny since I met you,” David said. He arrived winded, confused, and annoyed.

"Are you the dead man? Pale?" I quizzed the mystery in my hand.

"Yes," it breathed, "Do you see?"

“What is going on? Did you touch him - it?” David’s voice drifted away.

The sphere was the size of a Lemonhead. I looked for my reflection, but there was no me, only color in racking waves. I went down hard. A red orange battle raged against my eyelids. Blue pin pricks, then yellow. Green grass, cool on my cheek. Sunlight winked on the water.

David was now straddling me and squeezing my shoulders with both hands. A Blow-Pop tucked tightly in his cheek gave my name a hollow quality, like he was shouting it into a coffee can.

“Ginny,” he spattered, “Look at me!”

"I hear you. I see you," I said, but I wasn’t talking to David.

“What is that thing?” he asked, pointing at it with his sucker.

The shimmering ball was sitting quietly on the ground beside me.

“More like, who is that thing,” I said.

Len said...

Panty-Lines and the Bush Doctrine

Quigley’s upset.

“How’s it going?” I ask.

Quig’s hand dwarfs his bacon-double-cheeseburger. “Couldn’t wait,” he says. “Here’s your salad.” Slides the plate over. “Shit’ll kill you.” He stares out the window. “Got email from Ralphie.”

Ralphie cruises the net for porn. Family man – no hardcore stuff. Likes large-breasted women. Last week a naked gal in a Beemer.

“Convertible gal?”

“No. Video.”

“Not that patriotic bullshit?” I ask. After 9-11, Ralphie went all red-state.

“Weather-girl video,” Quig says.

“Topless?”

He shakes his head. “Chick’s doing her weather-thing, hi-lows, five-day. When she’s done, news-anchor has her sit down for some happy-talk bullshit. Video zooms in.”

“Zooms?”

“Like instant replay.”

“Got it.”

“She sits down and I swear to god she’s not wearing panties. Un-fucking-believable.”

Quigley’s blushing.

“Think she forgot them?” he asks.

“Maybe the panty-line thing?”

“Exactly.” He slaps the table. “She figured, this dress makes my ass look great. Don’t want some panty-line ruining my look. Exactly what happened to Bush in Iraq.”

I stare at him.

“Bush had the right idea,” he says. “But he didn’t figure on those Sunnis and Shiites getting into it.”

He pauses.

“Weather-gal looked great, but she didn’t expect them to have a camera filming at pussy level.”

“You’re right,” I say. “Exactly like Bush.”

“Thousands of panty-wearing-weather-girls out there. How’s this girl get caught?”

“Unlucky?”

“Hah!” Gives me a look like I’m a salad-eating wienie. “They’re watching us.”

“They are?”
He points to the security camera. “Every move,” he whispers.

Timber Beast said...

Leonard, the retired circus strongman, thanked the firefighters for turning off the water main. The Idle Wheels Trailer Park’s water would return in an hour or two.

Lilith’s Escort GT ploughed up their lane trailing a wake. It tilted to the left as she got out and splashed toward him.

“Leonard, what on earth?” she said in a voice as sharp as a lion tamer’s whip.

“Beard look nice,” Leonard smiled. “Good corn rows Edna make.”

“What—”

“Funny story—”

“Leonard—”

“Lilith!”

Lilith shimmered like a gong.

“What?” she said in a low voice.

“Lilith, we fish out of water here.”

“I understand the fish part.” She tapped her toes and sent wavelets out. “Want to tell me about it?”

“I need go home.”

Lilith looked toward the trailer’s soggy remains and then into his eyes. “Home?”

“To circus. We freaks here. Me anyway. You, you make friends anywhere. Me? I can no touch anything, even pipe, without breaking it. Too strong.”

“Home.”

“Ling Ling Brothers. I miss road and people like us.”

Lilith held her cloth purse’s clasp with both hands.

“Do you not miss sound of people cheering?”

She nodded.

“Do you not miss smell of sawdust and doo-doo?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

Lilith took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Let’s go home.”

Leonard grinned like the ringmaster in front of a sold-out crowd and swung his sweetheart around. “We dance again!”

Sylvia said...

“I got to give it you, Robin Hood. You got balls.”
“My name is not Robin.”
T-Man cocked his head to one side and arched a brow. “Okay, I give up. Who are you?”
“I’m Leonardo--” his throat knotted. He coughed and tired again but could not say da Vinci. So, I’m to remain anonymous. What else to you have in store for me, Old One?
“Okay, Lenny, you claim to be a famous artist, let’s see what you got.” He shoved several pieces of paper and a couple of pencils in his hand. “If you sell anything, I get ten per cent.”
A famous artist? The words resonated in his mind. Do I really become so famous that this man recognizes my name? What place and time is this? “I agree to your terms. What should I sketch, and how much should I ask for my work?”
“Look around you, man. Sketch anything you want. I’d ask at least twenty-five dollars. Good luck.”
Leonardo wandered down the fence, this time looking at the people and surroundings rather than the paintings. After a while, he returned.
“What’d you do, lose your papers?”
“No, friend, I sold all four sketches. Ten percent of one hundred is ten, is it not?” Here’s a ten dollar bill.
“I’ll be damned. I’ve got to see what you can do.” He grabbed a sketch pad, more pencils and Leonardo’s arm. “Where’d you say you from?”
“I didn’t.”
T-Man shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Been there, too.

Ward said...

Tony sat beside Ricky, facing him. "I need to tell you something."

Ricky looked up at him with suspicion. Just when he thought the trouble was over, he heard it in his father's voice again. "What?"

"I have go stay at the lake cottage for a while, by myself."

"Why?"

"To take care of my problem."

Ricky's brows lowered. "How long?"

"I don't know. Until the problem is fixed."

"Daddy, I forgave you! Let's just forget about it now! Ain't that what they say you're supposed to do, forgive and forget?"

"Son ...."

"Don't you love us anymore?"

"More than anything."

"Then why?"

Tony stroked Ricky's cheek just below his black eye. "I have to make sure nothing like this ever happens again."

"I don't care! You didn't mean to! I don't want you to go!"

"You don't understand why I have to leave, I know. So I'm going to ask you to just trust me on this. Accept that I've made the right decision and things will be better when I come back. Will you do that? Will you trust me?"

Ricky's internal turmoil showed on his face. Impending separation from Tony was tearing him apart. But his daddy needed him to do something, so he could do nothing else, nothing less. Tears filled his eyes, but the didn't sob. "Okay."

“That's right. Dry up those tears. Hold them in and be strong." Tony took his son in his arms. "Be my big, strong boy."

Ulysses said...

Leo narrowed his eyes. “Aren't you supposed to incinerate intruders?”

The dragon shrugged, scales rattling. “I don't get a lot, so sometimes I talk first and flame later.”

Leo doused his torch in the sand on the floor, then shed his pack and rooted around in it for his tools. “Auditor,” he said. “I assure you, it's nothing personal and we realize it's an inconvenience. . .”

“Inconvenience? Do you have any idea how long it took me to have all those traps reset the last time? It cost me a fortune!” The dragon idly stroked a golden idol with one wing-tip. “Well, alright, a small percentage of a fortune. I've got receipts. But that's not the point. I had to hire a bunch of gnomes and they made me pay not just for travel, but for fatalities too.”

Leo set up his desk, then placed the ink bottle, papers and pen on it. “You can write all that stuff off, you know. But if it's the expense that's bothering you, go with Goblins this time. They can't tell the difference between lead and silver, and they hardly notice the fatalities.” He set his stool down and sat down hard, hoping to seat it firmly in the cave’s sandy floor. The wood cracked. “Ah, seven kinds of hell. Would you look at that? They can make a pendulum trap that lasts for centuries, but they can't make a simple folding stool that'll see me through the week.”

sweet morbid delight said...

Spinning and pushing past everyone, Karma bolted into the darkened woodland. She made it past the first trees into the forest when a warm hand clamped over hers - halting her from moving any further.

“You, my dear, have a very bad habit of interrupting feasts.”

Though Faunus’ voice was full of amusement, Karma did not turn to look at him. Instead, she held the crystal tightly in her other hand and willed herself to calm down.

“I-It’s n-not like I do it on purpose. I still don’t know how I’d gotten here but I’m sure Estrella knows so why don’t you ask her?” Karma muttered in defense, and faced him to present a defiant glare.

Faunus’ smile twisted into a confused frown, “Are you telling me that you’ve no idea who Estrella Eramentha is?”

Karma nodded her head in agreement. Feeling uncomfortable with the way he stared at her, she changed the subject by asking a question that had been irritating her since she’d first arrived at the orphanage. “Why do you think the lives of innocent orphaned children, who have already lived through hell only to be used and killed, are a fair trade for the extermination of werewolves?” Karma spat, keeping her voice firm and laced with disgust.

Faunus grabbed both of her arms and stared down at her with both mirth and guilt. “Werewolves have been a danger to everyone! Including their own race for the past two hundred years! I am sick of having to hear of innocent people dying, but everyone turns a blind eye on them saying they can’t help themselves. I’m finally going to do something about this problem that hasn’t been corrected for over two centuries. Mortals have had enough time to do something about this, but they refuse, and in doing so the killing continues!”

Faunus was livid, and it frightened Karma. Still not wanting him to think it was fine to sacrifice people even for a good cause, she thought back to the orphan girl Yatima. “So what’ve you done with Yatima?”

“Yatima–” Faunus’ enraged appearance changed from furious to enthusiasm in a flash, “So you do reside at the orphanage now?” He let one of her arms go, and grabbed part of her hair. After carefully studying the strands of her hair, he peered back up at her face. Faunus gave Karma the distinct impression of a predator ready to pounce on its’ prey. “Miss Fatin?”

Karma bit her lower lip and stepped back from him. Holding the crystal more tightly she wished she could leave and wake up in her bed. The crystal started to vibrate and glow. Karma raised it up so it was level with her and Faunus.

Nikki Duncan said...

Eden angled her mouth toward his, hoping to feel his lips brush hers again. She couldn’t ignore his insistence that she wasn’t safe, but she could take care of herself.

“No.” Andrew shook his head and stepped back.

She had two choices. Lean against the door until her legs would support her, or fall to the floor in a pathetic mass of boneless desperation. Andrew might have stopped what he started, and obviously he’d quickly recovered from their kiss, but she had to choose the door.

“You need to pack, and we need to get out of here.”

Controlling her breathing, Eden worked to slow her raging system to a quiet roar. “Why can’t we stay here? Why do you think it isn’t safe?”

“I can’t explain it all now, but I need you to trust me.”

A few years ago she would have followed without hesitation. The temptation to do so now, just for the sake of spending time with him, taunted her. “No.”

“Excuse me?”

“No.” Determined to be strong, Eden shook her head and pushed off the door. “I’m not going anywhere with you until I know where, why, for how long, and who’s put all this in play.”

“I can’t explain it right now.”

“Then I’m not going.” She shrugged past him and walked into the living room. Her legs wobbled, slightly enough that only she knew it, but the weakness irritated her.

“You aren’t safe!”

Dave F. said...

Here is my entry"

"You took MetalCrack again." Colby examined the metal computer connector forming over Skylar's solar plexus.
"No I didn't. This connector's an artifact, a dream." Skylar hid the metal with his hands and avoided eye contact.
"Dream my ass, Sky. Connectors mean active nanomachines." He grabbed Skylar's face and forced their eyes to meet. "You found a junky with a rig and spent the night outracing cops. Didn't you?" Skylar mumbled, began to invent a lie and stopped. He slumped into Colby's arms.
"Yeah, Bit-Boy rigged up a little tiny dirt bike and the track's out in the desert. No roads. No cops to chase me down and make me crash. Just trails and sand."
"Cops aren't only danger. Spending hours wired up to computer with nanomachines converting your nerves to metal is dangerous. You know how MetalCrank addiction ends." Colby held Skylar's head to his chest.
"Aw Col, it's not like the big motorcycles with millions of nanomachines or those interface spacesuits they create to control a city. It's just a little dirt bike, a thousand nanos. The metallization is controllable. It's just me and the machine and the metal."
"Maybe, but even with a dirt bike, you're losing your humanity." Colby poked his finger against the connector.
"No. You don’t understand. Come wit' me tomorrow an' ride. Feel it. Tonight I'm too tired." Skylar laid his head on the pillow and closed his eyes. Colby lay awake afraid he wouldn't be able to resist becoming addicted to MetalCrack.

Linda said...

“I hate when you and Dad snipe at each other.” Her forehead furrows. “Why can’t you be nice to him?”

“Why can’t I be nice to him? Jesus, Iz, he’s the asshole.” The silver-haired woman in front of us whips her head around, her mouth down-turned in a tight, red gash. I lower my voice. “He frigging cut me off!”

“What?”

“Yeah. I told you on the phone – don’t you understand?” Jealousy whips through me; of course, she’s naive, she’s only sixteen, and Mom and Dad love her. “He. Cut. Me. Off.” My hand slices across my throat. “I’m in debt, thousands and thousands of dollars, from tuition, fees. And Jesus, my rent. If it wasn’t for Nonna paying for this trip--”

“That’s why you sold your car to Kevin?”

“Yeah. They were gonna kick me out of school.”

“Are you okay now?”

“No, no, Kev’s check covered last Fall semester and part of Spring, but I still have Summer, because of my thesis.” I start to hyperventilate. “I got a new credit card, though. I’m using that to pay the rent. And food, books.”

Her eyes open wide. “Why would Dad do that?”

“Jesus, Iz, I don’t know. Because I’m not doing grunt work for his buddy on the Exchange this summer? Because I’m not doing the MBA or law bullshit? Because I’m not following in his mercenary footsteps? I don’t know.” The urge to scream rises again, like acid creeping up my throat. “Do you know?”

rosemary said...

“Well, Mr. Fairchild, busy as ever I see.”

“B-Girl!” Dave pulled out his earbuds and jumped up from his chair. “How the hell are ya?”

“Dave, I realize that name is your version of a term of affection, but it always makes me feel like a lady of dubious reputation, if you know what I mean.” I kissed his cheek, slightly overgrown with a fashionable blond stubble. “And I’m fine, thanks.”

Dave flipped his hair back in a gesture I once found irresistible, and plopped back into his chair without bothering to offer me one. I perched on his desk instead. He took my hand into his own. “What brings ya here, B-Girl? Ya miss me, dontcha?” He squeezed my hand and winked broadly. “It’s that old desire for Dave, right?”

“Please, David,” I said, pulling my hand away. “I hopped off that streetcar a long time ago.” I picked up a pair of scissors from his desk. “And call me ‘B-Girl’ again and I’ll do a job on those boyish bangs of yours.”

He laughed. “Same old Bea. What can I do for ya?” He drummed his palms on his desk, and I slapped my hands down over his.

“Stop the percussion for a minute and I’ll tell you. I need you to do a little research.”

He rubbed his stubbly chin. “I don’t know, Bea. That sounds suspiciously like work.”

“You can do it in your off-surfing hours or between Tetris games. You don’t even have to leave your desk.”

Dr. Dume said...

Okay, nothing ventured, nothing ridiculed...

Here's a snippet from 'Mirror man', in which an unlikely duo find they have less in common than one of them thought.

---

“I don’t mind being friendly, but this is a business arrangement. You show me the way to Caer-Colur, and from there I can find the treasure. It’s not like we’re lovers.” Nobby narrowed his eyes. It could be a trick of the firelight but he felt sure Ferret’s entire body had just tensed.

“No, I suppose not.” Her voice was tight. “I don’t suppose a mighty goblin would ever consider anything other than a business arrangement with an elf.”

Nobby stared into the fire. “Now you’re just being silly. We’re not even the same species.”

Ferret’s head swung around so fast that Nobby nearly jumped off the log. “What does that matter? Some say the dwarves are a cross between the humans and the gnomes. What fantastic new species might grow from elves and goblins?”

A cross between humans and gnomes. Nobby closed his eyes, tried to picture how such a thing might come about, and shuddered. “I don’t believe that. Besides, I don’t know anything about you. For all I know you might be the type to abandon a whole clutch of eggs.”

“Eggs?” Ferret’s eyes grew wide. “Oh…”

“Well, yes, eggs. How do you elves reproduce? Don’t you lay eggs?”

“No, we…” Ferret lapsed into silence.

Nobby tilted his head and stared at her. The skin of her face changed colour, from pink to scarlet. He pursed his lips. “You mean, you have young the way the humans do? Like the gnomes and the satyrs? That’s disgusting.”

Rose D. said...

My entry:

Doktor Nowinski cleared his throat. "So, you got away, then."

I nodded. Obviously. My eyes were on the white curtains, hanging hap shod over the single, hemmed-in window. A few geranium leaves peeked out behind it.

"But Sofia and Jozef—why are they still out?" he probed. "The Nazis want all of us."

"They're gathering the rest of our people." I didn't want to tell him about Jozef. I couldn't talk about it. The fuzzy geranium leaves gave me something to cling to, to anchor myself against the storm swirling in my mind.

“Fools.” The doctor slammed his open palm on the table. "Don’t you understand? At this rate they’ll find themselves in a concentration camp with their friends."

I whisked my eyes from the geranium to him, letting my mouth drop open. "C-concentration camp?" The wind went out of my stomach.

"I'm sorry." Doktor Nowinski sank his head into his hands. "I shouldn't have said that. They'll come back safe I'm sure." He patted my arm.

My head was swimming. The very stillness of the stem of green leaves seemed like a taunt now. Jozef, in a concentration camp! "Where is it?" Calm, calm, or he won’t tell you.

The doctor fixed his keen blue eyes on me, frowning.

"What are you talking about?" I wasn’t about to be intimidated.

"They’ve taken over a factory," he said finally. " Radogoszcz. In the textile district.”

My God. What had I gotten myself into?

Bobbie said...

“There will be no lecturing tonight, young lady,” Emily said, looping her arm in mine. “Except, of course, the part where I tell you that you are in no way dressed for your mother’s Pampered Chef party, let alone some hot guy’s college party.” She glanced at my knee-length khaki shorts and yellow t-shirt.

“I never said he was hot,” I mumbled, glad the night was covering the flush I felt rise in my face.

“Yes, I’m sure he’s hideous, which is why we’re going to this party. Y’know, if it weren’t for the fact that I can’t bear the thought of going back to our room right now, I’d drag you up there and force you into something a bit more presentable.”

“As in something of yours?” I asked. “Em, I haven’t been your height or size since I was 10. And even if I were, you and I would need to debate the definition of presentable.”

“I’m thinking ‘clothes Grandma didn’t consider buying for herself first’ would suffice.” Looking me up and down again, she sighed. “We have got to take you shopping someplace besides Gap and Ann Taylor.”

“Hey,” I said. “I like this outfit. It’s . . . comfortable.”

“Oh, child, that’s enough of a confession to make we want to cry. It’s okay, if anyone asks, we’ll just tell them you came straight from your Girl Scout troop meeting. It’ll be fine.”

Anonymous said...

The setup: Karrin (an old lady), is a holder of the King's Medallion and comes to Vermont to find Daniel (a 12 year old). He's to be the next medallion holder, though he doesn't know it yet. Karrin starts to describe how it come into her possession.

Setting: At a lake where Daniel has been fishing, Karrin sitting on the shore.

==============================
"Come, Daniel, and I'll tell you all about it."

On shore, he bent to grab his socks and shoes and carried them rather than put them on. He sat at some distance from Karrin.

"I was twelve years old when the medallion was given to me." Karrin paused, keeping her gaze on Daniel, then laughed. "I didn't want it, of course. At the time, I didn't think I was supposed to have it. Not me. Maybe my brother, Gavin, but not me. I was so afraid of it."

"All I wanted was to be just like my big brother. We were best friends, really ... at least he was my best friend. He had a way about him, and everyone who met him instantly liked him." Laughing, she added, "even the animals got along with him!"

"So, one night, he got it into his head that he wanted to serve his country and convinced our father to let him join the navy. Of course, it's unheard of these days, but a fourteen year-old joining up back then was very common."

Daniel stopped her and asked, "Is he still in the Navy?"

"No. No," Karrin whispered. "He never really got to serve."

Karrin paused and looked skyward at the clouds, their texture like cotton balls pulled and flattened. Mountain peaks, almost all capped with granite and void of trees, seemed to caress them as they passed silently by.

Daniel sat looking at her, waiting for her to continue.

=========================

SG

Jeffrey Selin said...

The Zodiac and Kirby's experience are legendary -- the motorboat for stalling and Kirby for captaining the craft under duress. Kirby doesn't have the best playthings. Not the kind bought with wealth. They leak oil. They need mending. They are just things he collected along the way.

"Tomorrow," he says. "I need it first thing." Kirby wipes sweat from his high forehead. He has a screwdriver in the other hand. "That one?" he points.

"Oh, yeah," says Braddah. "Dis one ac’ real funny kine."

They're in Kirby's driveway bent over the Zodiac's outboard. Braddah is a thick-skinned Samoan, part Portuguese, part Hawaiian, all local. Just Braddah. His big brown crack is exposed in baggy ass board shorts.

Alan, Kirby's son, circles the driveway on his skateboard. The urethane wheels hum on the blacktop. "Dad. Dad, watch this," he says.

"So I get a new injector?" says Kirby.

"Cool head main ting," says Braddah.

"Dad, watch!"

"Shit," says Kirby.

Alan attempts a daredevil board sport leap. There's air. It ends with a crash to the blacktop. Kirby waits, places a hand on Braddah's shoulder as if to say hold on. "You alright?" says Kirby.

Slowly the boy gets up. "Whatever." He returns to circle the boat and its captain with the Doppler effect of racing wheels.

Kirby watches. "Hey, how old was Mickey when he first tried the waves at Jaws?"

Braddah shrugs. "Oh, he go at it since small kid time," he says.

Amy said...

``I don`t know how I can go on like this!`` Deb had wailed.
``Then you have to stop going on like this. End it. I know it`s hard but he is not going to leave his wife. She`s never even going to find out.`` Hailey took a long puff on her sweet smelling blunt.
``You`re wrong.``
``Deb.``
``No. He chose me. I`m not the prettiest woman in law school. I`m definitely not the smartest. Why did he choose me?`` Deb took it from Hailey`s hand and inhaled.
``You`re the easiest.``
``Hailey!!!``
``I`m kidding. Why wouldn`t he choose you? You`re the coolest law girl. You have this confidence. This je nois cest quoi that the trust fund girls lack. So that`s why you turned his head. It does not mean you have to keep...powering his fountain.`` Hailey laughed her throaty weed laugh. Deb held onto her overstuffed chair to keep from leaping out.
By the next weekend, the tears not ceasing for long on any day, and fueled with a couple of Saturday night chocolate martinis, Deb showed up at his house.
He wasn`t there.
She was pretty with perfect teeth and titian hair and warm brown eyes. She wore a french stripe boatneck shirt, slim khakis and two toned ballet flats. She offered iced tea. If she didn't have to hate her, Deb would have found her absolutely human and warm and real.
Deb took a deep breath and accepted. And sitting on the leather Pottery Barn sectional where she`d first undressed this woman`s husband, she told her.
``I thought you deserved to know,`` she finished lamely.
``Well,`` Alex`s wife said waveringly. ``Now that you have that off your chest I trust you can show yourself out.``
``I`m sorry,`` Deb said, and something dreadful inside her made her twist the knife. ``I don`t think he wants a divorce or anything. I mean not yet anyway.``
``You unbelievable child!`` The woman said. ``You have no idea what you stumbled into. You sashayed into his office in your short skirt and your combat boots and said `look at me – I`m something new and different!` And he took it for a spin. That`s a problem, but nothing to negate a ten year marriage! He`s the dean – you could be expelled. You will be expelled if I have any influence. You just committed career suicide.``

Chro said...

Jak hesitated for a moment, then replied, “I know why I’m always so scared now. I know what happened – before I met you.”

Akira’s eyes widened. “You do?”

A familiar fear rose into Jak’s throat, but he swallowed it. Every time he went back to that time, the terror returned. The monsters still tormented him, years later. But he knew what they were now. He knew why they clawed at his insides – because he never let them out.

“I was on a ship.” Jak began.

“The ship that wrecked off the coast of Carwyt?”

Jak nodded, shivering. “I wasn’t a passenger. I stowed away after killing the man who murdered my father. To escape.”

Akira’s face paled, as it always did when he reminded her of his past sins. But she didn’t comment this time. They were past that now. “I… see. Go on.”

“I never saw what happened. But after two months, we still didn’t reach land. And then…”

A dozen voices hissed in Jak’s ears. He squeezed his eyes shut. It wasn’t real. They weren’t here.

Something wrapped its arms around him. No, not something – he smelled Akira’s hair, and felt her soft skin against his. He stopped shivering.

“Jak?”

He shook his head. “They didn’t find any other survivors, did they?”

“I’m sorry, Jak.” Akira stroked his hair. “You were the only survivor, as far as I know.”

Jak opened his eyes and met Akira’s gaze. “That’s because the rest of them were already dead.”

www.laurishaw.com said...

“This is one of the best combo amps you can buy,” he says, turning the knobs and letting the strings ring out a tuneless set of notes, too many to be a proper chord. “When you start learning how to use it, you’ll never want to play an acoustic guitar again.”

“Barry, I didn’t ask you to do this! What’s wrong with you? It’s not a gift if you steal the money from me to buy it!”

“You wouldn’t have bought it for yourself. It’s something you ought to have. It’s for your own good. Therefore, it’s a gift.”

“Take it back. I want my money.”

“I can’t. Do you know what it took to get the damned thing here on the subway? If you don’t want to keep it, then you can carry it back to midtown yourself.”

“And what are we supposed to eat this week?” I ask, rhetorically.

“Quit pretending you’re poor,” he says. “You’re working tomorrow night.”

“You’re missing the point! Do you know how ridiculous what you just did actually is?”

“Got your attention, didn’t it?”

“You are such an 4$$#073,” I mutter.

“What’s the matter, baby?” Barry taunts. “Can’t let anyone call your bluff?”

“What bluff? What are you even talking about?”

He looks at me with suppressed rage. “You think if you don’t try, you can’t fail? What is it, huh? What are you so afraid of, Little Miss Thing?”

“Your clichés,” I shoot back.

Suzanne said...

"Mr. Ambassador, this is Stuart Jackson. He is a NASCAR car driver and the current Cup Champion.” Lady Anne introduced her companion.

Bainsworth’s eyes lit up. “Ah, I love watching Formula One racing! It’s so exciting.”

Jackson cleared his throat. “I’m a stock car driver...in the NASCAR Cup Series.”

"Oh, yes, of course. The Indianapolis 500. Have you won that?”

Stuart’s eyes darted to Lady Anne.

Her eyes were bright with laughter, and she struggled to keep from laughing out loud.

"Noooo, however I have won the Brickyard 400, the NASCAR race at Indianapolis.”

"Ah, well, congratulations to you!” The words were barely out of his mouth before his gaze followed a woman who walked past them. He quickly excused himself and stepped away.

The instant Lady Anne’s eyes met Stuart’s, the laughter she had contained bubbled out. When she could finally speak, she said, “I may not be a big NASCAR fan, but even I know that the Indianapolis 500 isn’t a NASCAR race.”

Jackson chuckled, then nodded his head towards Bainsworth. “How’d you get stuck with a bumblehead like that?”

With a hand on one hip, she feigned indignation and stated in her best diplomatic manner, “Why, Ambassador Bainsworth is simply a harlequin showing his ignominious knowledge of your sport.”

Stuart stared at her. “I’m afraid I left my diplospeak dictionary at home, could you translate that please?”

Lady Anne smiled. “He is a fool and showed his ignorance of your sport.”

Kate said...

"Bzzt—hey."

What? Chloe's eyes darted around. No one there.

"HEY! Hey. You. Giant girl."

Oh. This time she peered upward. The pixie balanced precariously on the edge of the gutter that rimmed the garage roof, just above Chloe's head.

"So, you find them yet? Where you got them, huh?" Hands on hips, the pixie tilted her head and tapped one foot. "Been waiting for you to get back, slow girl."

Chloe stared. "I was at school. I have a life. I don't even know where your stupid little pixies are." She took a ragged breath. She didn't dare yell; she wasn't supposed to be there. Fists clenched in frustration, she hissed, "I've been thinking all day—"

"Thinking? Psssh." The pixie rolled her eyes and glared.

"Don't you roll your eyes at me! I can't help it if they're still lost. Why do you think I can find them if you can't?"

The pixie crossed her arms. "Because you be big, that's why."

"I'm not big, I'm just a kid. And I don't know what else to do. I snuck out in the middle of the night for you. I made a fool of myself at school. I lied to my dad—" Chloe had to take a deep breath and blink hot tears away before she could go on—"and I lied to my mom and my sister and my teacher and my best friend. I even lied to the dang trash guys."

Amy Atwell said...

Iris waited until her assistant left before speaking into the phone. "Iris Fortune."

"I hear the police visited you this morning. Guess your dad's really M-I-A, huh?"

"What do you want?" Her heart fluttered at the rich timbre of Mickey's voice.

"What did he say when he called you last night?"

"Who?"

"Don't play dumb. Cosmo called you on your cell at the party last night."

Squaring her shoulders, she perched on her stool. "You were spying on me."

He laughed. "Don't sound so outraged. Every guy in town would be spying on you if he had the chance. What did he tell you?"

"He didn't call. I've no idea where he is. And if you keep harassing me, I'll tell the police about our little conversation last night."

"No chance," he said. "If you were going to spill it about me, you would have done it already." He sounded too cocksure of himself for her taste.

"How do you know I haven't?"

"You wouldn't be threatening to if you'd already done it."

She pursed her lips, but said nothing.

"And you won't give me up because--" Mickey's voice dropped low. "--Because, Iris Fortune, deep down, you're worried about your dad. He may not be much, but he's all the family you've got. You want him back, but you're afraid he's gotten himself into something so bad, the police won't help him. You're already thinking you might need ol' Mickey here to help you out."

Just_Me said...

From the POV of another prisoner marching through hostile territory after being captured by an unknown third party- scif/fi:

“Hey, Sugar, want to play a game?”

“What game?” Sugar asked suspiciously.

“How about…” Kitten licked her rosy lips in thought. “How about we play Tryce?” she suggested.

“Tryce?” Sugar sounded alarmed.

Khal tilted his head, the name sounded familiar.
“We can’t play Tryce,” Sugar said firmly.

“Why not?” her friend protested. “This would be the perfect place to play Tryce!”

“We don’t have everything we need to play,” the blonde responded.

Again the immediate party began paying attention to the pair, allowing the Troians to distract them from their fears.

“What don’t we have?” Kitten demanded.

“Flares. I distinctly recall the flares. You had quite a few last time, I remember because two wound up under my cot.”

“That was you?” Kitten giggled and blushed. “I never knew who that was. Wow! Talk about a hot time eh?”

Sugar glared. “You don’t have flares.”

“I can make do without them. I’ll improvise.”

“You don’t have a weapon.” Sugar reached over and rattled Kitten’s empty weapons holster. “You can’t play Tryce unarmed.”

“I know I don’t have a weapon.” Kitten rattled the holster for emphasis. “That’s what makes it so fun! I am at a total disadvantage; it’ll make the game that much more interesting. Besides, Sugar, this is me, when have I ever been totally unarmed?”

“I don’t care about your arms. What I care about is that I am seriously against playing this game.” Sugar glared. “You can’t, and you won’t.”

Kitten looked crestfallen. “Please? Just a little?”

qugrainne.com said...

I started reading, and there were 55 posts. I blinked, and there were 100. Holy cow, Nathan, you really got yourself in trouble here!! My 2 cents worth:


I slip in the door and freeze right there. Down the hall, standing with her hands on her hips and her feet planted far apart, is Mamma. Kitchen light on behind her show her like a flat, black cutout.

“Hey Mamma, how you doin?”

She mock me, “How you doin? How you doin? I be doin fine ‘cept my boy ain’t home in bed where he suppose to be at night. Where you been, boy?”

“Just out walkin, Mama. I’m gonna do some homework and go to bed.”

“Is that a fact, boy? Well you be goin to bed when I say you goin to bed. Manny want to talk to you. Seems you been out with those punk ass boys, ridin around the hood smokin dope and acting the fool. Manny in the kitchen.” Mama glaring at me so I go in the kitchen. I know I can’t tell Mama I been in the cemetery, talkin to Gramma.

“Hey Manny, waz up?” Manny’s sittin at the kitchen table, drinkin the can of beer that was in the frig with the cockroach. I wonder if he ate the cockroach for a snack, he such a snake.

Manny don’t say hello, he just get up and before I can even think about it, he pull back his fist and punch me in the stomach. I’m so glad I didn’t eat no fries because they would be spewed all over the kitchen right now, and I would have to clean it up.

David said...

“Hello. I love you,” he said as she would speak it.
“Don’t speak so in front of my mother.” Harlan looked at the curtained doorway of the hut.
“This is my father’s house, and my mother is everywhere.”
“I know. But now I don’t care.” She cast infinite eyes at him. “You must care. Don’t be disrespectful.”
“I’m not disrespectful. I love your mother.” Then he added, “Through loving you.”
“You are disrespectful. Don’t continue this way.” It was a playful gambit. Harlan advanced boldly. “I will continue, but respectfully.”
“No,” she said. “There’s no respect in that.”
She eluded him. “You talk in riddles.” But she parried equal to his advance. “You’re the riddle.” Impatient of the game, Harlan pulled her to him.
“Stop it Harlan. We’ll waste the grain.”
“I’ll give you my grain.”
“See, how disrespectful you are? You’re incorrigible.”
“That’s not a Vietnamese word.”
“No. Incorrigible is a word only for Lieutenant Harlan Foerst of the United States Marine Corps, and you are the conqueror of the world.” Harlan was struck that she might truly think this. “We’re not conquerors. I am not.”
Ky gazed at him, and her eyes widened. “You my secret, impossible lover.” She hesitated losing her verbs, leaping over words that got in the way.
“Not impossible,” Harlan said.
“Of course, impossible you come from another world, and impossible you stay.” She continued as they turned in a dance, and her speaking was like the singing of the morning birds.

Jerico Aames said...

Tilly spread an old newspaper under the chair. She combed out a length of my hair.

“You ever cut hair before?” I said. "I don’t want to end up with a weed-eater do."

“Only my doll’s. Her name was Chloe, but now we call her Baldy.”

“Let me up.” I tried to stand.

She held me down. “I was teasing. No, I’ve never ‘cut hair,’ but I’ve been to the salon many times.”

“That don’t count. It’s like saying you know how to fish after seeing a bass fishing show on TV.”

“Trust me. I have never watched a bass fishing show." She winked. "Sit still before I lop off an ear.”

“Just don’t gut and scale me.”

“Darling,” she said, affecting a bad French accent, “you will look tres magnifique when Madame Tilly is finished.”

“My barber usually asks me how I’d like it cut.”

“What? I am ze lowly barber? C’est non. I am an artiste! An artiste never consults ze marble before she begins ze work.” She kissed my nose. “For luck.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m going to need it.”

She began in the back. She snipped the length of mullet and held it up like a trophy. I hunkered down, hoping it would be over soon, but also, hoping it would last. As she worked slow and careful, Tilly leaned against my back and touched my neck.

“You have nice hair,” she said, clenching a comb between her teeth.

“Thanks,” I said. “I got it from my momma.”

meliaka said...

Kevin forced a grin and stepped into the elevator. The fifth floor arrived and the door swished open. Head tucked, he rushed out of the elevator, instantly colliding with someone.

¿Qué está haciendo? What are you doing?” David yelled.

Kevin moved and saw a paper still creased with folds lay on the floor where he had fallen. It was a picture drawn by what appeared to be small hands in washable markers. The blues, reds, and brown ran together, forming more of a collage than its original drawing. He scooped up the paper and handed it to David.

“Do you know what this was? It was a picture from mi sobrina.”

His Sabrina? David had a girlfriend? Kevin shook his head, confused. “Your girlfriend draws you pictures that look like that? No wonder you have issues.”

Mi sobrina, my niece.” David’s face tightened. He yanked the wet paper from Kevin’s hand. “And you have just ruined Christobell’s picture to me.”

“Christobell?” It had to be the pain medication, because things were starting to sound loopy. “Does she have a brother named Tacobell? Cause ya know, living this far out, I miss Taco Bell. It’d be nice if they’d send us some nachos or maybe even a burrito supreme.”

Red emerged from beneath the chestnut color of David’s skin, mottling the colors and reminding Kevin of the ruined picture. With his free hand, David thrust his index finger in Kevin’s chest and shoved. “Don’t ever come near me again.”

mlh said...

Okay, Nathan. I'm game if you're game. I tried something a little bit different.
****

Doctor: "Why didn’t you come into the office sooner for treatment?"

Me, scratching bumps: "Because anytime I decide to see a doctor, the illness is almost gone and I end up paying a bill for nothing."

Doctor: "Hmm, you still should have come in."

Me: "Hmm, would you have waived the bill if I were almost well?"

Doctor: "You must have a fever. Jokes caused by delirium will cost extra."

Me, serious: "So what’s up, Doc?"

Doctor: "Chickenpox."

Me: "Huh?"

Doctor: "Patient is experiencing hearing problems. You brought your checkbook, right?"

Me: "But I already had the chickenpox when I was a kid?"

Doctor: "Did you come into my office back then?"

Me: "No, my mother said it was the chickenpox."

Doctor: "Misdiagnosis will cost extra. Compounded interest by yearly missed treatment. Just give me your bank card. I’ll mail it back after my trip to the Caribbean."

Me: "Ha. I must be on television. America’s Funniest Doctors. I’m about to kill over from laughter while you pick my pockets clean. Next time we meet it will be on a court show. Malpractice CSI. Guest starring you and me and the sympathetic judge who rules in my favor for ten million dollars."

Doctor, gulping: "Um, perhaps you have what is called shingles. It’s the reactivation of the chickenpox virus."

Me: "And the treatment for it is?"

Doctor: "Actually, you’re almost over the virus. Try to avoid scratching. Pay the nurse at the door."

Me, angry: "I should hurt you."

Doctor, smiling: "Hurting your doctor costs extra."

Unfocused Me said...

Set up: Jake is a lawyer, working on a case. Maggie is a reporter, covering the case for a major metropolitan newspaper. It's Friday night.

I had just drifted off when the phone rang. I grabbed it off my nightstand. “Hello?”

“Jake? It’s Maggie.”

“Maggie?” I sat up in bed and rubbed my face. “What’s up?”

“Just returning your call. I thought I’d see if you wanted to meet for another talk. On background, of course.”

I couldn’t hear any loud music this time. I wondered where she was. “Are you on another deadline?”

“Nothing like that. I thought our conversation the other night was very informative, that’s all.” I tried to stifle a yawn, but she heard me. “Oh, shit, Jake. Did I wake you up? What time is it?”

“No, no, sorry. I’m still getting over this bug, and I was just going to bed.”

“Sorry to interrupt. Do you want me to come over and tuck you in?”

I stared at the phone. Did she really say that, I wondered, or am I just so tired that I’m hallucinating? “Um, I don’t…“

“I was joking, Jake. Call me sometime when you’re feeling human.” She hung up; I didn’t know whether she was angry or not, and was too tired to care. I was asleep in seconds.

Vinnie Sorce said...

Ok here's another try to kill my self esteem again... I need help with my querey letter so maybe I'll get lucky.

This is from a work in progress and I really had to edit to come down to the 250 limit.

“Wow, who painted all this?” Alex asked in awe.

“My wife painted those many years ago,” he said slightly pained.

“Where is she now?” She asked innocently.

“She died ten years ago.”

Unable to think of anything else to say she said, “I’m sorry.”

He turned to her. “No need to be sorry little one.”

“What are you doing,” Alex asked with avid curiosity.

“Picking some things for dinner.”

“I thought we were having spaghetti?”

George chuckled. “Yes my dear we are having pasta but I’m going to use these tomatoes to make the sauce and I’ll add this basil and oregano as well,” he said.

“Make sauce? My mom gets it out of a jar.”

“Your mom doesn’t have as much time as I do little one. Something for you to keep in mind.” He pointed a finger at her for punctuation. “Smell.”

“Smells weird.” She scrunched her nose.

“Wait until you taste it,” he assured her.

Alex asked, “what was her name?”
“Whose name?”

“Your wife’s.”

“Her name was Beatrice.”

“Beatrice,” Alex repeated. “That’s a nice name.”

“I thought so,” George said as he opened the patio door. “Would you like to see a picture of her?”

“Oh yes I’d like that.”

George guided her into the great room and pointed to a large, framed, black and white photo above the fireplace. “That’s my Bea on our wedding day forty-eight years ago.”

“She’s pretty,” she said as she stepped forward for closer examination. “You look funny,” she giggled.

Laura said...

“What is this on your forehead?” Vincent questioned accusingly.

“It’s ashes, made of the palms from last Palm Sunday,” Veronica said. “They make the sign of the cross and say—”

“I know damned well what they say!” Vincent hissed. “Wash it off.”

“Vincent, it’s only ashes,” Veronica argued tearfully.

He rounded on her, his voice gravelly and dangerous. “It’s much more than ashes, Veronica. That shape on your head is not a symbol of salvation and love; it is a weapon of torture, a device designed by ignorant people specifically to cause suffering. Now wash it off!”

Lord Westhaven stepped toward him cautiously. “Vincent, she meant no harm.”

“Wash it off,” Vincent growled in response.

The lord withdrew a handkerchief from his breast pocket, dipped it in the font at the back of the church, and wiped it across Veronica’s forehead gently.

“Cain, you cannot use holy water,” Veronica said.

“Veronica, you know this water is not holy, not any more than any other water on Earth. And the cross…”

“There is nothing you should honor in a cross, Veronica. There is nothing beautiful about a crucifixion,” Vincent said quietly. His eyes were focused on the cross hanging above the altar, and they moved over the paths of Jesus’ dripping blood. “Furthermore, this church is nothing but lies and rituals designed to keep people from God. Do not let me catch you participating in those lies again. That is an order from your Master, do you understand?”

T.E. Wymer said...

"Mudball, get over here and give your mama a kiss," said the large woman in the rocking chair.

The girl moved toward the rocker and gave her mama a kiss on the cheek.

"Now give your granddaddy one, too," said Mama.

She leaned down and kissed the gray-bearded man in the rocker next to Mama.

"Where you been all this time?" said Mama. "Supper's on the table. We was hungry and just couldn't wait no longer."

"That's all right, Mama," said the girl. "I'll make do." She moved to open the front door.

"Wait just a minute," said Mama. "Ain't you gonna introduce me and your granddaddy to your friend there?"

The girl pushed Derby out in front, toward Mama and Granddaddy. "Dirty, this is Mama and Granddaddy. Mama and Granddaddy, this is my friend Dirty," said the girl.

Derby leaned into the conversation. "It's Derby, mam. Derby Shrewd."

The rain came down in a commotion. The drops pounded the tin awning that covered the porch, creating a production of dancing and tapping and twirling.

Mama perched herself on the edge of the rocker, staring hard and looking him up and down. "Did you say your last name is Shrewd?"

"Yes, mam." said Derby.

"Then you can just as well dismiss yourself from my porch before I come out of this chair and throw you off myself," said Mama.

"Mama?" said the girl.

The rain fell harder.

"Hush yourself," said Mama. She looked at Derby. "Now go ahead and step yourself down from this porch."

Derby walked to the steps and then looked at the girl, who was standing at the front door.

"Mama," said the girl. "Why you acting this way in front of company?"

Harder! The rain fell harder!

"You won't call this boy company on my porch," said Mama. "No Shrewd boy is ever gonna be considered company to you, me, or any of your brothers and sisters, and especially not your granddaddy neither."

"Mam?" said Derby. "Is there a problem with having me here?"

"Is there a problem?" said Mama. "You better believe there's a problem. The name Shrewd has haunted my dreams since before you was born."

"Because of my great, great grandpa?" said Derby, who practically had to yell over the production that was taking place on the awning.

"No," said Mama. "Cause of another boy named Shrewd. The same boy who talked my brother into jumping in that creek all by hisself. Now get off my porch, boy."

"Mama," said the girl. "Please."

Derby's legs and arms turned numb, like he had just caught one of the girl's fastballs. His father was the one. He was responsible for death.

He looked at the large woman in the chair and thought that if he said the wrong thing she would get up and whack him off the porch with one swing of her oversized hand.

"I'm sorry," he said. "If it makes a difference, your daughter here can throw a baseball like Nolan Ryan. We played catch in my backyard. And I didn't tell her to jump in any creek."

"Who's Nolan Ryan?" said Mama.

The rain let up, but just a little.

"The best pitcher my dad ever saw. He throws a ball that hums. Like she does," he said, looking at the girl.

Mama sat back in her chair. She rocked a few quiet rocks.

The production on the awning turned from a rip-roaring jive to a joyous tap dance, like something that would be performed in front of a queen.

Mama looked at the gray-bearded man next to her. He nodded, letting his opinion be known to everyone.

"All right," said Mama. "Get on with yourself then. But don't be goin' near any creeks."

V L Smith said...

“You wouldn’t believe what I’ve been through today,” Graham said.

I wondered if the shock showed on my face. “You? What a day you’ve had? Let me ask you…no, let me tell…no…just who in the world do you think you are?”

Graham straightened up and adjusted his tie. He looked puzzled. “What happened?”

“You don’t know? You really don’t know?”

He shook his head.

“Give me a break. I sent you on one tiny errand, one little interview! Ask a few questions, that’s all you had to do! And you screwed it up!”

“They called you?”

“Yes! And what’s this about you stripping down to your underwear?”

Graham pointed his finger. “They made me!”

“What?”

“I’m telling you, they made me!”

“I don’t believe it! Not for a minute!”

Graham clenched his fist and gritted his teeth.

“Not one minute, Graham!”

Graham shook his head. “All right! All right! They made me mad, okay? But I had to do it! I had to prove a point!”

“And what point was that, Graham? That you still look good in your Scooby-Doos?”

Graham chuckled. “That’s a good one, Al.”

I slammed my fist on the desk. “This isn’t a game!”

Graham flinched. “You’re right, Al. You’re right.” He leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees and stared at his shoes. “Man, what was I thinking?”

“That’s just it - you weren’t. You and your temper almost lost this story for us.”

“I’m sorry, Al. I’ll make it up to you."

rmac said...

“Are you hungry? I ordered sandwiches too.”
“You think of everything.”
“Uh, not quite,” he said holding up one condom.
“One?”
“Apparently the hotel thinks two is enough.” He mused. Devilment danced in his gorgeous green eyes.
“I don’t. How about you?”
“Not even close.” He bit into a sandwich and settled on top of the covers beside her.
“You’ve worked up quite an appetite.”
He shrugged. “You did it do me.”
She took a bite of his sandwich.
“Mum.” She felt relaxed and totally at home with this virtual stranger.
His eyes focused on her body a minute before he spoke again. “So have you done this before?”
“What? Steal bites of people’s sandwiches?”
He shook his head, a seriousness playing across his features. “This…” he waved his hand between them.
“Oh…no. I uh, mean not really. You?”
“No. Never. What do you mean, not really?”
“Well, okay.” This was crazy, but talking to this man was too easy. “So I’ve done this once, but I knew the man much longer than ten minutes.”
“Then how could it be the same?”
“Because I knew going in that it was a one night deal.”
“I guess I can see that.”
“Why me?” She questioned. He’d piqued her curiosity with this conversation.
“Chemistry, maybe?” He finished off the sandwich.
“You intrigued me from the first time I saw you.” He said, dragging the covers down the bed and maneuvering under them.
She laughed. “Me intriguing? That’s a new one.”

SideKick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
allycatophile said...

"...Now Jesse comes to me asking for help, and I want to give it. I’d like nothing more than to be here for you, but I get the feeling you’re not being straight with me.” He waited for her to respond, tossing a look back at Jesse, who stood politely out of earshot, awkwardly juggling their food.

“Isn’t it enough that I’m being ripped away from my dad, and my friends, and the only home I’ve ever known? Taken someplace where surfing will become a hobby? A weekends and holidays pastime, instead of the sport I’ve spent my life training for and competing at in order to go pro?” Aiden lowered her voice, aware she was attracting stares from bystanders. “That’ll never happen now. Daisy and Ian will make sure of it.”

“You sound like you think they’re out to destroy your life.” He spoke into the darkness. There was no skepticism in his tone, only the unasked question.

Aiden considered. “It’s like this. My happiness is… not a priority. It is… I am… incidental. Daisy knows what she wants, and she’s made up her mind. Nothing is going to stand in her way. Not me. Not Thad. No one.”

“And the step-dad? He just goes along with whatever Daisy says?”

“Ian has a different agenda.” Her throat tightened with the admission.

“And what’s that?” Jon Micah asked, guarded. He reached out to clasp Aiden’s fingers, whispered, “It’s okay, Aiden. You can tell me.”

“Me,” Aiden confessed in a choked voice. “I’m Ian’s agenda.”

anne S said...

What am I doing here, I wondered over and over again. I'd wanted adventure, and I’d sure found it. It just wasn't what I'd hoped for.
“Do you remember that time when we were children?” Ava said breaking the silence. “The time when your father got so mad at us?”
“Which one?” I asked, smiling in spite of myself.
“When you ran away?”
“How could I forget? I still have the scars from where I cut my hand.”
“Do you remember how he yelled? He was livid. I didn’t think he’d ever forgive us.”
“Neither did I.”
“But he did. In the end, that turned out okay.”
There was a silence as I thought about what she said.
“Do you really think this situation is the same?” I asked after a moment. “Ava, Fredrick lost his arm.”
“I know,” she whispered.
“It’s not the same thing. This won’t turn out alright.”
“I know.”
“Did you know this was going to happen?” I accused her, suddenly turning viscous. “Did you know that man would grab me?”
“No! Of course not.”
“But if it had been me, would you have tried to stop it?”
“Mila.” She said it like I was being unreasonable.
“Well, would you?”
“Of course I would have. I’d do anything for you.”
“Would you really do anything for me?” I asked. “Anything I asked?”
“Anything to keep you safe.”
“Well, that really isn’t the same thing, now is it?”

Rachel Brady said...

“This is about my boobs, isn’t it?” My sister dropped into a chair across the table from me and wrangled out of her jacket.

I wiped a smear of melted cheese from the corner of my mouth. “It has nothing to do with your breasts, Tara. Get over yourself.”

She eyed my basket of nachos. I knew she was estimating grams of saturated fat, but I didn’t care. I cheesed up another bite and pushed it into my mouth to spite her.

The waitress sidled up to the table, notepad open.

“Water and a house salad, please.” Tara’s order was the same no matter the restaurant. “Light Italian on the side.”

I took a sip of my vodka and Coke. Behind me, hockey fans groaned at the television. All I could think about was the insignificance of it all . . . my empty calories, the game, Tara’s boobs.

“You could show a little support,” Tara said. “It was a big deal to me and I never heard a word from you. Major surgery. They had to cut through my chest muscles to do it.”

“I don’t want to talk about your implants.”

“My breasts don’t define me as a person. But, surely you can appreciate the link between body image and self-esteem.”

“Why? Because I’m fat?”

“Because you’re unhappy.” She gave a dismissive wave over my chips and drink, then looked up with a self-indulgent smile. “I’m considering having my brow lifted next.”

“Nell’s dying.”

Lisa Dovichi said...

“What’s your name, since we’re getting all friendly and cozy?”

“Jace.”

“Nice to meet you,” she mocked. “Now what?”

He compounded her confusion by laughing. “What would you like to do?”

“I don’t understand you. You aren’t playing by the rules.”

“What rules?”

Aren stood up in exasperation. “The rules! Everyone knows the rules. The ones that clearly state that the captor is supposed to torture and kill the captive.”

“Ahh those rules.”

“Well?”

“Well what?”

“Why aren’t you following them?” She stomped her foot.

He smiled and she could tell he was obviously delighted with her show of temper. “You want me to torture and kill you?”

But knowing that wasn’t helping her control herself. “Well no.” She started pacing in front of him.

“Then I don’t see a problem.”

“I want to know why?” She stopped in front of him and stood with her hands on her hips, staring him down. He was toying with her, she knew it, and he was going to stop, she’d had enough.

“I don’t kill my allies.”

“You expect me to believe that?” Her arms dropped in surprise. That was the last answer she would’ve expected. He couldn’t possibly believe she’d be naïve enough to fall for it.

“No, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are.”

“That’s interesting. How do you figure? You’re a Drow Mage and I’m a Changeling -- a race, I might add, your uncle tried to have eliminated.”

julcree said...

**adult language**


“I’m serious, Gina,” Allie said. “I don’t want to lose you like we did after dad died.”

I gave a harsh, unhappy laugh. “You think this is about Dad?”

Allie shifted next to me. “Not entirely. It’s also about Eric.”

I mentally rolled my eyes. The butterfly drifted away from the zinnia.

“I don’t think you’ve ever really dealt with Eric and me.”

“Whatever.”

“I think that’s what this is really about.”

“Fuck that!” I sprung from the bench, gripping the rock by my side. “’This’ is not about anything. There is no ‘this.’”

“Gina…”

“Shut up.” Damn, I loved saying that to Allie. “You always talk so goddamn much. I’m so fucking fine. I’m having a bad day, just a bad day. It has nothing to do with Eric or you or your oh-so-happy existence in brainless land. Can’t I have a bad fucking day?”

“It’s more than that, Gina.” Allie looked at me imploringly. “And I can’t keep living with this fear that I’ll find you bleeding in a bathtub again.”

“You’re such a fucking liar. You pray I end up in a bathtub, you pray I cut through my skin with real blood lust. You need me to fail. How else could you know you were succeeding?” I said the last with my best sarcastic voice, perfected over decades with my Mom, Allie, Vi, and any other person who rubbed me the wrong way.

Dana said...

“What the hell are those?!” I exclaimed as we approached the town.

“I don’t know. They look like smoke stacks from some sort of factory.”

“It’s so ugly.” I was getting less and less amused by the second as we drove through what I imagined Compton to look like. “It really is an ugly city,” I repeated. “And it’s big. Ewwww, I don’t like it.” We finally found Yale and pulled into a parking spot in front of the admissions building. I stared up at all of the huge gothic fronts. Gargoyles, spires, the intricacies of all the architecture. I cringed as three girls walked by in capris, sweater sets, and matching bags. “I am NOT going here. It’s ugly!”

“You have to be kidding me.” My mother was not pleased.

“No, I’m not. It’s an ugly campus, and the city is ugly and it just seems pretentious. I don’t want to go here.”

“Well, tough shit. You’re at least taking a tour. Get out of the car.”

“But I don’t want to go.”

“I don’t care,” I could tell my mother was really trying to put her foot down, “we drove five hours to come down to visit this place for you. You are at least taking a look at it.”

“Ugh! Fine…”

“At least pretend like you’re enjoying this, too. Try not to look so pissy.” I glared at her as she collected all of our gear and scrounged for some change to feed the meter.

LisaH said...

Sorry Nathan. I was just checking the entries and noticed that I have two in a row. My mistake. I had two tabs open, unsure which to send... sent one, didn't think it went through and, well, you get my point. You didn't say we had to be computer saavy, did you?
LisaH

Artillery said...

“You are going to pay for that,” he said.

“If you don’t mind I am in the process of a mental breakdown here.” I was exaggerating, but not by much. It wasn’t everyday your best friend turned into man’s best friend before your eyes.

“Cough up some cash before you start having a seizure then.”

“You started this, Chewbacca. That vase was cheap, anyway. If you hadn’t scared me I wouldn’t have fell into the table.” I could feel my body shaking as I sat down.

“And don’t be slobbering on the couch.”

“Look who’s talking. Dude, you are a German Sheppard.”

“The term is werewolf.”

“Really? If I were to throw a stick…”

“Stop.”

“…would you not fetch?”

“You are not funny.”

“If I were to get in the car and drive….”

“Cut it out.”

“…would you not chase?

“That vase was an antique.”

You’d think the ceramic was his favorite chew toy. “Will you take payment in rawhides?”

He growled.

“What was that? I don’t speak beagle. What brand of dog food do you prefer?”

“Anything else?”

“Can I take you for walks?”

hannah said...

Brown nudges me. “She has AIDS. Go talk to her.”

“I have a respiratory infection, remember? Killing her is not the sweetest welcome.”

“She wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t healthy.”

I gesture up and down myself. “Um, hi?”

“Okay. Good point.”

I move through the crowd of gyrating people. They’re so composed in their khaki pants and dangly earrings and Christmas sweaters...I spin around and watch the slated ceiling, feeling dizzy in the best way ever.

This girl hands me a bottle of water and says, “You are frickin drenched.”

And I just know. “Are you Carolyn?”

She smiles.

“I...” I start, then swallow. “I have HIV....I almost have AIDS.”

She does this little headshake. "Everyone almost has AIDS," she says. "You’re just one step closer than the rest of them."

She leaves me in the crowd, and I put my arms around myself. The water bottle is cold against my back.

But then Brown’s touching me, telling me, “I think it’s time to go home, little one.”

I tell him, “I’m having so much fun.”

“Yeah, but I can hear you breathing and it’s really smoggy, man. And I’m under strict orders to bring you home before you die.”

“But I’m having so much fun.”

He hugs people goodbye. I watch, I touch, and I feel warm. Outside, the stars are so, so far away.

“I’m not dying,” I tell him.

“I know.”

I keep my head up. “I’m just one step closer than the rest of you.”

fabulousfrock said...

Leo is having dinner at his new girlfriend's house for the first time:


Darren poked up the volume on the TV a little. "So what does a guy like you do for fun?"

"Me, or a guy like me?"

Darren chuckled. "I knew you're a smartass. Come on. Can you bowl? You like bowling?"

"Uh, yeah, sure."

"You watch that show Grey's Anatomy?"

Leo wondered if this was some outer circle of hell he'd stumbled into. "No."

"Yeah, it's not a bad show. The wife got me into it, I was like, I ain't watchin' that, but it's a good show."

Lily came skipping out and poked her head between them. "Mommy says dinnertime."

Darren slowly eased up from the couch. "Allright, kiddo. You ready for this, Leo? Chicken kiev."

"Right. Yeah. Starving."

Darren and Lily went ahead, and Evelyn came up to Leo, smelling sort of like steamed broccoli.

"Are you okay?" she whispered.

"Oh, yeah, we're having a real meeting of the minds out here."

"You think he likes you?"

"I think about halfway through the conversation my existence ceased to matter, so I guess that's good."

She giggled. "The way you talk sometimes."

SuzanneYoung said...

“What’s it like?” I asked.

Riley looked at me, raising his eyebrow.

“Sleeping with other guys,” I said. “What’s it like?”

Through the windshield, the road stretched endlessly. I was sure that we would die out here if my car broke down. I was so tired of the desert.

“Interesting question, Elise.”

“And the answer is…” I looked sideways at him.

“Uh…super awesome? You should try it some time.”

I laughed. Riley didn’t sleep with guys. Neither did I. But it didn’t matter. When Brock called him gay in homeroom last year, the title stuck. It didn’t matter how many girls Riley screwed, which was up to an impressive number, he’d always be gay to the football team.

“Seriously,” he said, shifting in the passenger seat to stare directly at me. “Doesn’t your boyfriend even want you a little?”

I flipped him off. “Peter wants me,” I said, pretending to adjust the temperature in the car. It was my own fault that the conversation had gone this way. I’d brought up the gay factor to piss Riley off. He ate my Snickers bar.

“Sure,” Riley said shaking his head. “Peter wants you.”

“Screw you.”

“You want to?”

“Not with you.”

“And why not?” He sounded truly curious.

“Hm, let me think, Riley. Right. Probably because you carry diseases they haven’t even thought up names for yet.”

“Like vlerpies.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“I am,” he said, putting his head on my shoulder. “But you totally want to have sex with me.”

Nathan Bransford said...

Posted for Gail Goetz:

Mom’s face was gaunt and ghostly white. She reached down and took my hand. As she pulled me to my feet, the album slid to the floor. We walked to the couch and sat down side-by-side. Mom and I had always leaned on each other for support. We weren’t leaning now.
She fixed her eyes on the wall. “I’ve been . . . wanting to talk to you about Mary Ellen for a long time."
“She was married to my father," I said so softly I could hardly hear myself.
Mom nodded. She was weeping now. I was the one who was hurt, and she was the one who was weeping.
“Mary Ellen was my mother," I said. "When were you going to tell me?”
“It wasn’t up to me.”
“How intimidated do you have to be to keep quiet about something like that?”
“We hoped the timing would be better." Mom finally looked at me. "We hoped you’d be older. When Mister Lee called, I thought this house belonged to David’s mother’s. I knew she lived in Louisiana. I knew her health was failing.”
“Dad’s mother is alive, and you didn’t bother to tell me? I didn’t expect that.”
Mom pulled a tissue from the box on the bedside table and blew her nose.
“What about Dad’s father?” I asked, not giving an inch, not having an inch to give. “Is he still alive?”
“I honestly don’t know.”
“How can I believe anything you tell me ever again?”

Kate Buchanan said...

“Collingwood Funeral Home.” The voice was female and modulated with depth, warmth and compassion. Must be a job requirement.
“Shelby Munro speaking. I’m after Tanya Hollings.”
“One moment please.”
She put me on hold. “Tears in Heaven” was playing.
“Oh GOD, Shelby, thank GOD you called me.” Tanya’s sex-kitten voice was even huskier than usual. “Can you believe it? Can you believe this has happened to me?” The stress on the ‘me’ said it all.
“I’m so sorry, Tanya.” I waited for the pre-requisite pause. “I gather it was a quick passing.”
Sobs echoed down the line. “It happened yesterday. I’d left him in bed. After a bit of… you know. I went downstairs to make coffee. My illy beans had run out--the housekeeper will get hell for that--so I had to go get some more.” She broke off and sniffed. “When I came back, he was all blue and funny looking and had spit coming out of his mouth. I shook him, and he didn’t move. I tried to find a pulse but I’d no idea where to look. So I put my head on his chest and there was nothing.” The sobs rose to a climax. “I called the ambulance, but by the time they got there they said there was nothing they could do. Can you believe they had the cheek to ask if he was taking Viagra?”
“And was he?” I asked.
“He was 65, Shelby, what do you think?”

HK said...

“Grayson?” I ask for confirmation because his voice is not as I remember. Not as robust or vital.

A weary “Yes,” finally reaches my ears.

“I wish to ask something of you.”

“You refused my gift.” A light flickers in the corner, highlighting the small white box I’d refused when I’d last fled his club.

“Yes.” I wait. I make no apologies.

“Why should I do anything for you?”

I laugh. “Why should I accept your gift?”

A small pause, the hair raises on my arms and neck.

“What you want is impossible.”

I laugh once more. “You have no idea what I want.”

A small sound reaches my ears – a breath sucked in? - then the room plunges into darkness. Before I can formulate a thought or the presence of mind to move, I’m caged between iron bands of muscle and an equally solid chest. Moist heat hits my lips nanoseconds before his lips claim mine. He devastates my brain cells, overwhelming them with passion and tenderness like rain in a parched desert flooding them until they can’t take any more and they completely shut down.

As fast as I’m captured I’m let go. A little unsteady, but on my own feet, his warmth a mere memory.

Velvet softness surrounds me, “I have no answers to give.”

My temper ignites, eradicating the rest of the sensuous fog. Who am I kidding? He has no problems marking me. Using me for his own purposes.

Anonymous said...

Great contest. I'm enjoying reading the entries. Excuse the swearing!
It's a counselling session!
Tabitha.


“You have to set boundaries, Alice.”

I was paying two dollars a minute to hear this!

“Just because a man takes you for dinner, or asks you to dance,” Big Tits persisted, “…it doesn’t mean you have to sleep with him.”

Christ, what planted did she live on? She was stuck in 1950’s - in a world where a guy walked up and asked you to dance.

“You deserve more!” She insisted to my rigid face. Next she’d have him pinning orchids on my chest.

“Why should they expect to have sex with you?” Big Tits demanded. ‘Why would you let them?”

I hated this consultation – if I didn’t need the script so badly, I would have walked out. Instead, I had to sit and listen as on and on she went, telling me I should bestow my favors on men that were worthy, on men that would respect me. “You deserve better, Alice!”

“I know that now.’ I was having great trouble keeping my voice even. “Hugh’s not like that.”

“You’ve only been seeing him for two weeks! You slept with him the first night you met!”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Sorry,” She flicked through her notes as my face burnt with shame, as she reduced the one good thing in my life to meaningless shag. “The second night.”

Fuck You

I didn’t have the guts to say it though. I just stared at her sixty year old creped chest and how I hated her for not understanding.

RedDuck said...

"Jon," Edgar said. "Come on. Do we really need to freak them out?"

"Yeah, I think we do," I said, turning back to look at him. "Don't worry, I'm controlling it. It's not burning them."

"Jon!" Jared yelled. "Stop it, man! Come on!"

I pulled the fire back and saw them standing there, dripping wet. "Wow," I said, admiring Annie in her wet clothes. Her shorts clung to her hips in a very sexy way.

"You're a jerk," she said.

"Come on," I said, smiling and moving toward her. "Here, love," I said handing her a towel. "I didn't get your shirt wet." Man, I wanted to. That would've been something to see.

"How about a towel for me too?" Jared asked.

I flicked my hand and he held a towel too. Annie's magic enveloped me, causing my thoughts to tumble in my own head. I reached out and touched her arm. "Sorry. Really. Don’t be mad."

"Uh," she said and I smiled.

"Besides your protector needs to learn how to protect you," I said. "It's his job."

"I'm working on it," Jared said.

"Maybe you should concentrate on your magic instead of your body," I said, my voice taking on a distinct edge.

"What the hell does that mean?"

I finally tore my eyes away from Annie. "It means get your thoughts off girls and on magic, cowboy."

"Jon, I swear if you call me that again, I'm gonna punch you."

"Try it, cowboy."

He stood there, breathing heavily.

Anonymous said...

“There’s one more thing.” T. J. points to the bag in the back of the truck.
“What?” I get a funny feeling in my gut.
“First, let’s get the field house open.” He grabs a crowbar and a flashlight out of his truck. I follow, afraid to ask what happens next.
“Wait,” I tell him, as he jams the crowbar into the door facing. “Before you do that, check the windows.”
He does. “They’re locked tight.”
He wedges the crowbar into the door jam and begins to pry. Without thinking, I reach up and turn the doorknob. The door opens.
T. J. swears and laughs. “They made this way too easy. Hey, grab that bag out of the bed of my truck.”
Anything to finish and get out of here before someone sees us.
It’s not really a bag, but a pillowcase tied at the top. “God, what do you have in here? It stinks. It smells like…”
T. J. grins while I carry the bag into the field house.
“Open it,” he says.
“No, you open it.” I back away and stand in the doorway, shining the flashlight on it.
T. J. pulls a bandana out of his pocket and ties it around his face, then throws me one. This is a bad sign.
The pillowcase is really several pillowcases, one inside the other. T. J. slowly unties each one, peeling away the layers of cloth. Finally, he pulls apart the last pillowcase.

Moth said...

“Oh, just forget about me, buddy! Never mind you and your horse here tore my jeans, destroyed my mp3 player and ruined my freakin’ afternoon!”

He slowly turned an arrested look on his face. “Girl, can you see me?”

Freddy snorted. “I tend to notice when I’m almost run over by someone.”

He frowned. “Who are you, girl?”

As far as heartfelt and concerned apologies went- Freddy felt this one was somehow lacking. “I’m not part of the stupid country club if that’s what you’re getting at.”

The man smiled at her. “Forgive me. I am an arrogant fool. I should have apologized first, yes?” He was damned attractive, especially when he grinned at her.

Freddy blinked and then shook her head. “No thank you. Not interested.” She walked away.

“Where are you going?”

“Away from you.”

“Wait, do I know you?”

“Look, pal, I don’t have rape and murder on my agenda for today. Find some other kiddies to offer your candy.”

“May I not speak to you?”

Freddy narrowed her eyes, but she stopped walking. “Ok, who are you?

“Smith,” was his prompt reply.

“Smith?”

“Yes.” He beamed at her. “Guy Smith.”

“Right,” Freddy said. That is a made up name if I have ever heard one.

“And what are you called?”

Freddy hesitated and then she smiled wickedly back at the man. “Jane Jones.”

“A rather common name for someone so lovely.”

“If you don’t like my name then you can take it up with my parents.”

Gary Ponzo said...

She blinked her large, Bambi eyes and said, “So, have you ever killed anyone before?”
I shook my head.
“So you’re a virgin?”
I shrugged.
“How were you going to do it?”
“I . . . uh . . .have a gun.”
“Isn’t that kind of loud?”
“I guess I hadn’t thought it through. There wasn’t much time.”
“You had to kill me today?”
I nodded.
“You owe him money?”
I kept nodding.
“How much?”
“Eighty thousand.”
She blew a low whistle. “That’s an awful lot of bad bets.”
“I’m a compulsive gambler.”
“So he said he’d forgive everything you owe him if you killed me?”
“Yes.”
She glanced behind her and I reached for my gun.
“Relax,” she said. “I just wanted a last cup of coffee before I go. You know, usually the person gets a last cigarette, except I don’t smoke. Is that all right?”
I mulled it over.
“Listen,” she said, “I just push a button and the machine grinds the beans and brews a couple of cups in less than three minutes. Okay?”
“Okay. Just one cup, though.”
She examined my slump posture. “You really don’t want to do this do you?”
“I don’t have a choice. I have to do this or I get killed. It’s not much of an option.”
“We’ll get to our options later,” she said, getting two ceramic cups from the cabinet. “Right now I want to you to tell me all about yourself.”

Melody Ayres-Griffiths said...

“To Captain Francis Hawthorn,” his father declared proudly as he stood to toast his son, “the finest military man this family has ever had as a member.”

Francis blushed a deep shade of red, while his family resoundingly cheered the toast. As to if his father was truly aware of just how much those words meant to his son, or if he had any comprehension of the weight that they carried within the officer’s heart, the Captain was uncertain.

Regardless, it was, by far, the best Christmas present Francis could ever receive from the man, and was, perhaps, the greatest gift he had been given by anyone.

“To Mister Hawthorn,” Caroline, a moment later, whispered in his ear, “the finest husband this woman could ever have.” Francis became flush again, his cheeks soon turning to an odd hue of purple. He reconsidered; perhaps his father’s present was, in fact, the second best, having been knocked from its brief stint in top position by the praise of the one for whom he cared for the most.

He was urged to give a speech in response; Francis then rose, to deliver his reply. The tone in his voice was grave, and serious; “When I was ferried off to military school,” he began, “I was convinced that, to deserve such an terrible punishment, I must have committed a truly heinous act.”

He looked sternly at his father and, for a few tense moments, silence fell across the table; Francis then, promptly, broke his stern expression with a grin and, almost instantly, his teeth were displayed in a broad show of mirth. “I soon learned that I had been correct; I had made the appalling mistake of being born a Hawthorn.”

Tara said...

“I’m training for a half marathon next month. You should train with me.”
“Well as long as it’s only a half. No way I can fit a full one into my schedule.”
Johanna shot me a look of warning reserved for her children when they sassed her. “You shouldn’t ridicule fitness. You might actually enjoy it.”
I needed to divert the attention away from me—immediately. “Why doesn’t Ned run with you?”
“Ned can’t run to the mailbox he’s so out of shape.” A rare glance into the not-so-perfect suburban dream.
“What makes you think I could do it? I’m certainly not in shape.” I could picture Jo running ahead of me—her cute little bottom in a cute little pair of running shorts, with me huffing and puffing behind her, my breasts slapping against my stomach with every step.
“Because I know you can do anything you set your mind to.”
“Jo, I haven’t run since they made us do the mile in high school—and I nearly passed out from that.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll take it slow. Just meet me tomorrow at five.”
I needed an airtight excuse. “I have a conference call tomorrow afternoon. It will probably last until dinner.” There, that should get me through the last hour of daylight.
“Lacey, I meant five AM.”
Five AM? Do my friends not know me at all? “That’s going to be pretty hard to fit into my schedule—considering I’ll still be sleeping.”
I got the look again.

Renee Collins said...

Thanks for having this, Nathan. You are awesome.

“We should go right now,” Iloria said. “Maybe we can catch Garett at the crossroads.” She stood. “Come on.”

Filled with self-loathing, Tristan shook his head.
“I’m not going.”

She frowned. “What?”

“We have to bring him back, Iloria. We have to.”

“I know . . . so, we’ll go and—”

“No.”

She stared at him, confused, and yet aware of the tone in his voice.
“What are you saying, Tristan?”

“We’ve fallen behind. We still have to get to Woodmere in three days.”

“And Garett?”

Tristan couldn’t look at her as he spoke “You are going to get him.”

“Alone?”

“There is an outpost a mile from here. We’ll pay for an escort to—”

“That’s not what I meant.”

Tristan sighed. “It’s the only way.”

“No. It’s not. We could go together.”

“That would only make things worse. He has to have a reason to come back. It has to be just you.”

Iloria’s breath was tight. “What do you mean, reason?”

“You know.”

“I don’t,” she snapped. “Tell me what you meant.”

Tristan pushed his fingers into his temples, trying to somehow shut out the pain that coiling was inside him.
“Don’t make me say it.”

“Say it.”

“You know why.”

“Say it.” Her eyes were fierce, but glistening with tears. Tristan looked away.

“Iloria, the only reason he was willing to be a part of this in he first place was you. And . . . if he has you again, maybe he’ll come back.”

Reece said...

“What on earth is going on here?” Both girls jumped, tear stained and looking bedraggled. Teaghan’s braids were coming undone.
“Molly’s bad she threw my bunny down the hole! She pulled my hair too.” Teaghan accused pulling one frayed braid up to illustrate her sister’s misdeeds.
“Why are you girls behaving so? What could have caused your sister to act so bold?”
Still sniffling and leaking tears Teghan shrugged. “I think she’s just a bad egg, I do.” She wiped her nose with the back of her hand glaring at Molly.
“Tish tosh, don’t be saying such about your sister. She is just little. Come here babby, tell me why you threw your sister’s bunny down the privy hole.”
Molly shuffled reluctantly to her. Maddie would have knelt down but would not have been able to get back up without considerable trouble. “Well, what have you to say for yourself?”

J. M. Sabel said...

Dair wasn't prepared for the vision awaiting him on the steps of the dormitory. In fact, he would've walked past her had he not stopped to stare at the exquisite creature dressed in the translucent orange dress, his gaze fixed on her high round breasts.

His betrothed grinned in satisfaction, stepping closer to him. "Shall we be going?"

If Caitlyn wanted to play, he was a master at games of seduction. He linked his arm around her slim waist, drawing her so close they stood toe to toe. Their lips mere inches apart. Her soft breasts pressed into his solid chest.

Her smile faded.

"Be careful, Caitlyn, what you play at."

"I don't ken what you mean."

"Who do dress for tonight? If it's for me, then I'm willing and ready." He ground against her.

"And what if 'tis not for you, you arse?"

"Then you do it to make me jealous, and I'm flattered."

"You have an incredible ego. Let me go!" She tried to wriggle free of his embrace, but got nowhere.

"Not until you tell me why you're dressed so provocatively."

"Perhaps 'tis none of your affair." Even as he held her closely, she managed to lift her chin and appear nonchalant.

"You're my betrothed, so everything you do is my business."

"I thought you didn't want to wed me." She taunted him with a smile.

He did the only thing that came to mind. Lowering his head, he kissed her, wiping the grin off her face.

Tanja said...

The moon hung above Lila and Johnson, flat, pale as stone.  Wieland, his brother, her fiancée, had suffered the misfortune of crashing into a wrong way driver. He was now wheelchair bound as a quadriplegic.  It was terrible enough, without the accident happening the day Lila was about to break it off with Wieland.  It was Johnson who made her feel things Wieland never could.  She was non pulsed about pursuing Johnson before the accident, even if he was in the midst of a messy divorce, had a baby on the way.  It was Johnson who quoted Goethe to her, kissed her until her lips went numb, but it was all suspended now in some unknowable tomorrow. Theirs was an irretrievable love, sweetness cultivated in seclusion “It’s a blistering moon.”  Her voice came from somewhere else, too deep and arid to be her own. “Can it be that?”   “Sounds like an ominous forecast.”   “Wieland’s coming home Saturday, you’re mom’s throwing a big party.” “I know.  Lo’s going to be there.” “She seems unfazed by the fact your in the middle of an ugly divorce.” “My mother thought it would be good to keep communication lines open, the babies due in eight weeks.” “I can’t believe your going to be a father.”  “It feels more like a concept, like Weiland’s prognosis, some strange idea.” “I can’t break up with him.”          “I don’t want you to.” “This is just for me and you then.” “It was never for anyone else.”    

jane said...

"You never let me walk you home that night," Eric said.

"Because I knew you'd pass out on the way there." Tia threw her head back and laughed, knowing that Reid was still watching them from across the room.

"I wasn't that drunk," he retorted.

"You were still hungover the next night, remember?"

Eric blinked, trying to remember exactly which night or which party they were talking about.

Tia ran her fingers through his hair, grazing his neck. "You make me laugh," she smiled, knowing Eric was too drunk to catch the sarcasm.

He leaned over. "So, do you want to get out of here?"

She cupped the side of Eric's rough face, flirtatiously running her thumb along his lips. "Not in a million years."

Eric was confused, but too intoxicated to know why. He tried to plant a sloppy kiss on Tia's lips but missed the target, landing closer to her cheek. She held back the urge to slap him as she pulled away, repulsed.

"You're too drunk to remember this," she told him, smiling into his fuzzy eyes, "so I'm going to be blunt."

Eric licked his lips in anticipation.

"If you ever do that again," she whispered into his ear, "I will do things to you that will make it very painful for you to use one of your appendages--your smallest appendage--for a very long time." She smiled into his bewildered eyes. "Do you understand?"

Eric slowly nodded, still unsure of what had just happened.

Tanja said...

So sorry....forgot to preview. Couldn't figure out how to delete post.

SideKick said...

--Okay, let's try this again.--

Madison relaxed as she sat beside me, and leaned against my shoulder a little bit. She was warm, even through my jacket sleeve. We watched the girls playing, and laughed as Penny negotiated the jungle gym in her tutu.

“She said she wanted to spend time with me before I left to school again,” I said. “I’m beginning to think that was just an excuse for a ride here.”

“Yep,” Madison agreed. “It’s looking that way.”

“I feel so used.”

She chuckled. “So are you heading out tonight? Or tomorrow?”

“I’m going tomorrow. I don’t have any classes. Mondays always suck, so I try to not register for classes that meet Mondays.”

“Sound thinking,” she replied. “How is that working out for you?”

I shrugged. “Now Tuesdays suck.”

She laughed.

“What about you? You driving tonight?”

“Yep,” she said. “I have a nine o’clock class tomorrow morning.”

“Oof. That’s another one.”

“Huh?” she asked.

“I don’t do classes before eleven at the earliest. Sleeping is kind of a hobby of mine. I try to get as much time in on that as possible.”

“Wow. So, let me get this straight, you don’t do Mondays, you don’t do mornings—”

“Hey,” I replied. “I do mornings. I just have a different definition of morning.”

“Right.” She rolled her eyes. “So you take classes Tuesday through Friday in the after-eleven window.”

“Right.”

“And when you’re not sleeping – recreationally – what do you do with yourself?”

“Practice.”

Miss Java said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miss Java said...

(Sorry about that last one..)




A sucking gurgle accompanied her hand as she pulled it from the muck, revealing a dirty, brown lump in her palm.

“That’s it?” Emery said. Though from the way he felt her emotions soar, he knew it was most certainly the Stone of Healing.

Taryn sat down next to Megan to admire it with her. At that moment, both of them had no regard to their appearance or current location. Their whole world was wrapped around that single moment of triumph.

“What one might give for a painter right now,” Hakan teased. “Would love to remember this vision. It’d make a grand piece to put on my wall.”

Megan glanced over her shoulder to jab him with a sarcastic look. “And the next time you hurt yourself, you’d wish you didn’t insult us so.”

Hakan chuckled. “A very good threat, lass, but the temptation might be worth the risk. Once I get back I might try my hand at jotting it down. You know, for posterity’s sake.”

Megan scowled at him, though a smile was hidden beneath it. “It wasn’t your posterity I was threatening.”

“Come on, ladies.” Emery offered his hand. “Let’s get you both cleaned up before Hakan ingrains the vision in his mind.”

“Ah, but it’s too late for that.” Hakan pointed a thick finger to the side of his bushy mane. “It’s all up here.”

“Well,” Megan said, “let’s hope you are able to make it home alive.”

Hakan threw back his head and laughed. “Indeed.”

Whirlochre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leesmiley said...

Nathan, you obviously have way too much free time on your hands.

Anyway, to help fill that void, here's my entry:

“How long have we known each other?” Marcus asked as they walked.

“About three years, I guess.”

Marcus followed, pressing his advantage. “And do you consider yourself my friend?” He stopped walking, turning to look into her eyes.

“Yes, yours and Heather’s. And, as your friend, I’m telling you to go home.”

“Well, friend” Marcus said, mixing sarcasm and despair like a cocktail, “why didn’t you telling me I was screwing up the best thing in my life? Why didn’t you tell me, even if she couldn’t, that I was letting her slip away?”

Tanya stared back at him in silence for a full ten seconds before her voice returned. “I shouldn’t have had to tell you. If you were spending more time with her and less time selling people damn jock straps, you’d have known how she felt. She doesn’t care what a hot-shot manager you are, what kind of promise your career has, or any of that bullshit. She just wanted you to be there for her and you weren’t.”

She paused, waiting for his rebuttal, but when none came she continued the assault. “I know in some idiotic male way you’ve justified how much time you spend at work, convinced yourself that you had to do it so that you could provide a life for her and any kids that may come later, but all you’ve managed to do is prove that you’re a selfish bastard who doesn’t deserve a girl like her.”

SLC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rose Green said...

“You get along with your stepmother?” I asked.
“Yeah. Stephanie's great.”
“How often do you see your real mother?”
“Never.” She bit off the word with the finality of a crocodile crushing a dog in its jaws. I shifted back a few centimeters and cautiously tried more of the cinnamon roll, but it was hard to taste through the waves of animosity coming off of Kit.
“Sorry,” I said.
“Not your fault,” she said.
The silence stretched on over several chews.
“My mother,” I said finally, “scares me. She is more beautiful than lotus blossoms, and she can do everything. She could lift the Sphinx and set it down in a shopping mall if she wanted. She could change the weather if the mood struck her. She's the one who pulled my father back together after my uncle…” I coughed. “I mean, it's kind of relaxing living with my host family.”
"Do you miss them?" Kit asked. "Your parents, your brothers and sisters?"
"Just one brother. He was born after my father died."
"I'm sorry."
I shrugged, hoping to distract her with indifference, but she kept on. "At least you have your uncle."
The cinnamon roll tasted suddenly sour in my mouth. "My uncle. Yeah. There's always my uncle."

SLC said...

Me and Buzz raced for the rope swing. My long legs carried me quick, so I grabbed the rope and flew into the blue sky and let go. When I hit, the water yanked the suit straps off my shoulders. I swam where it was shallow enough to stand and tied knots in elastic that felt more like string—all out of stretch from last summer’s swimming.

Buzz strolled past me like we hadn’t been racing, and scaled The Giant, the oldest oak at Sugar Creek. “Is Nathan coming?”

I crossed my fingers. “Your guess is as good as mine.”

“He’s got to climb this tree.”

“What for?” Ushering Nathan fifty feet in the air was about forty-nine feet too far from me.

“You can see clear to D.C. from the top if you look hard enough,” Buzz said.

“All you can see is Old Lady Sampson’s place.”

“Her underwear is hanging on the line.”

“She doesn’t even have a clothesline, Buzz. You’ve got to learn to tell lies people will actually believe. Lies they want to believe.”

“I’m learning from the best,” he said.

I couldn’t squabble about that.

raine said...

My father is a tyrant.

If I remember nothing else, I shall always remember that.

Once again he keeps me before the hearth, reciting tedious verse. As if I hadn’t said the words every day. As if anyone still cared about them after all this time. I ached for a few moments outside, to feel the last of this day’s sun before the clouds sour to gray and bend to bruise the earth.

“Again.”

“Poppa—”

“Recite it again!”

“The rock roared, disemboweling itself upon the belly of its birth. The land spewed venom as the sky shed black tears for the multitudes lost. Even the clouds flamed, feverish for the lost light.”

“And?”

He had never been young, had never been anything but this old man in worn, sooty clothing. “The west is wasteland. But we must never forget that cities, libraries, and history are preserved beneath the ash.”

His eyes were desperate. Determined. “Tell me the name of the stone.”

I stubbornly held my tongue. In two years I could wed and erase these lessons from my mind, never inflict them on my children as he had.

His hand cut across my face. “The name of the stone. The sprawling beauty that became the beast. The name of the stone, that those to come may know where the volcano slumbered and be prepared!”

Shadows seeped across the floor and cooled my burning cheek. “Yellow. The rock was called Yellowstone.”

“Well enough,” he grunted. “Tomorrow we begin again.”

Jade said...

Laki sipped, and frowned.

“You killed three men tonight, Mark. If you hadn’t, they would have killed us, I know. But how do you sit there now with steady hands, and drink your coffee as if none of this had happened at all?”

Mark shrugged. “When they fired the first shot, they declared war. That changed everything.” He saw Laki’s uncomprehending face. “You never joined the army, did you? I was a soldier for the best part of a decade. It makes you think differently.”

Laki nodded slowly. “I am not a soldier, Mark. I have no army training. I joined the paramedics because I did not want to work in my father’s business and kiss the backsides of government fat cats.” He tapped the last packet of sugar into his mug. “This coffee is very bitter. Like my mood. Right now I am thinking I am soft and useless. What would I have done if I had been alone when those men arrived?”

“They weren’t after you. They were after me.”

“Will you teach me to shoot?”

Mark’s lips twitched. “I’m the wrong person to ask. I shouldn’t have missed any of those shots. The top marksmen in my old unit wouldn’t have wasted a single shell in a gunfight like that. I go to the practice range every few weeks. I’ll take you along next time, if you want. But I’m not sure the world needs any more people who know how to fire a gun.”

Polenth said...

"Davie, dearest? That's a very bad idea."

"Why?" asked Davie. He stopped the drill an inch from his head.

"Dying is terribly unpleasant."

"I won't die. My mind isn't bound to my physical form. This will prove my independence from mortal flesh!"

"I'm sure it will, dear," I said. "But you'll get blood on your clothes. What would your mother think?"

He lowered the drill. "She'd be angry."

"Exactly. Why don't we prove your independence from mortal flesh some other way?"

"There isn't another way."

I sighed. "You could go on a quest or sing about it, like a normal young man. You're making my job very hard."

He scowled. "You just don't understand."

"Of course I do, poppet. Come on, let's get some doughnuts. You'd miss doughnuts without a body, wouldn't you?"

"I suppose." Davie looked at the drill. "Fairy Godmother? Can I drill holes in the doughnuts?"

"Yes dear. If it stops you drilling holes in yourself, go right ahead."

Lenora Rose said...

Harry asked, "How do you know Finno, anyhow?"

"Should I tell the truth or lie to him, Dead Man?" she asked sweetly.

"Lie," Finno said.

Jen batted her eyelashes; only Dare actually laughed, alas. "I took him for a rich kid trying to sneak into a club, and tried to mug him for his wallet. Since then he's been bringing me food at my tin shack."

"Seriously," Harry said. "I just want to know why you're thinking about moving in."

"Seriously, I've been living with my uncle for the last few months, and it's not working out."

Finno added, smiling, "I met her the same night I ran off; She saw me get my face punched in, and she brought me back my jacket."

That seemed to satisfy Harry. But Dare said, "You mean when you got the tattoo?"

"Um," Finno said, and of all things, he blushed.

"Fair's fair," Jen said, in spite of a stirring of interest. She'd seen his back, and all she remembered was too-pale skin. "How did you guys meet?"

Harry's eyes crinkled.

For the first time since she'd met Finno, his whole face lit with his grin. He said, "Would you believe, Sunday School?"

"You?"

"I am half Irish," he said.

ChrisEldin said...

“I don’t need you for anything. I’m already outta here.”
“Sure about that?” Wink asked. He poofed into thin air then landed on Tony’s head. “Eww! It’s greasy up here. Haven’t you heard of shampoo?”
Tony tried to grab the mouse, but he disappeared again. This time he re-appeared on the top bookshelf, out of reach.
“Told you.” Wink snapped his fingers in a show of drama. “I’m magic.”
Tony snorted. “I thought the book was magic.”
“I wrote the book.” Wink puffed out his chest.
“Okay,” Tony said, wanting to humor the mouse. “I’ll give it a try. How’s it work?”
Wink smoothed his vest and twirled his cane. “Make a wish.”
“Any wish?” Tony asked, beginning to wonder if Wink really did have magical powers. “I wish I had some freedom. Lots of freedom and fun. I wish I could live without rotten rules and putrid parents and stupid sisters. I wish I didn’t have homework, could stay up late, and eat ice-cream for dinner every day. OO! I wish I could drive a car-“
“Wait!” Wink interrupted, rubbing the sides of his head. “First, you must sign this waiver.”
Tony looked down and saw Wink standing on the dining-room table waving a piece of paper.
“What’s a waiver?” Tony asked.
“It’s a paper that you wave, like I just did. It’s also for protection. For you.” Wink squinted his eyes and licked his lips.

linda sarah said...

Near the old ferry terminal there’s a candyfloss stall: La Reine des Etoiles. And the man running it’s sat straddle on a red stool playing an old accordion.

Over by the bolsters at the edge of the quay, there's a young woman and a boy. They're trying to balance on a coke can, taking it in turns, falling off, laughing.

The woman scrunches around in her pockets, takes out some money, then walks slowly up to the stall.

Hestor: Deux Barbe-a-Papa s'il vous plait.

The man stops playing his accordion.

Hestor: C’est tres bon, la musique.

Chief: English?

Hestor: We've come here for a few days, maybe three.

He turns on the candyfloss machine and nods towards the boy.

Chief: Your brother?

She laughs.

Hestor: No, he's my son - I had him very young.

He hands the candyfloss sticks to Hestor. She puts them clumsily in one hand and holds out two ten franc pieces.

Chief smiles, shakes his head.

Chief: No money, no money.

Then points to the boy.

Chief: Can he balance on two?

He puts a can on the counter

Hestor smiles, a bit flustered:

Hestor: Thanks!

Chief sits back, lights a cigarette, puts it in the ashtray and continues to play - now watching the woman and boy, smiling.

The Disgruntled Bear said...

(sorry if this is a repeat - after a half hour, the first post still hasn't shown up)

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

"Have I ever told you of my greatest triumph?” asked Triyuv the Pig. “It was…oh, nearly four millennia ago now. I was in Canaan,… oh, it was lovely then. They made this wonderful dish with phyllo dough and honey… delightful!” Triyuv paused, deep in gustatory nostalgia. “Anyway,” he snapped back into story-telling mode, “As you see, I prefer pig form - the best for enjoying the finer things in life! Great sense of smell, strong digestive system. Really, pigs are amazing.” There was no trace of modesty in his voice.

Triyuv continued. “So, I’m in Canaan, enjoying a nice meal, and some humans came and tried to kill me! They were going to eat me!” He nodded to the children. “Not that there is anything wrong with humans overall.”

“So,” continued Triyuv, “I’m in Canaan---“

“You already said that!” snapped Bear.

“Did I?” asked Triyuv.

“Twice.” she growled.

“My apologies,” said Triyuv smoothly, ignoring the rudeness. “I’m…there…and these humans try to eat me. Now, I changed to a nice-enough human form, since I didn’t want to be rude or kill them or anything, but the transformation really scared them. All I said was, ‘Do not eat me!’ Then I changed back and finished my dinner. Oh, they ran away so fast!"

“Now, the best part is,” he said, with a twinkle in his voice. “Those humans told everyone, the whole region, about me. Said an angel had told them not to eat pigs.” Triyuv smiled. “They never bothered me again!"

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Debbi said...

“Choose!” Diamond said evilly.
“Choose?” Anthony spat back.
“Choose which one dies. I know they both belong to you, and now you get to choose which one lives and which one doesn’t, who do you love Anthony? You have ten seconds, then I kill them both.” Diamond said meaning every word. Anthony stared at him in shock. He couldn’t choose. He wouldn’t choose.

“You want me, Diamond. Not them. I’m worth more than both of them together and you know it. You’ve always wanted me so take me, but let them go first.” Anthony told him. Diamond laughed.

“Yeah, I’ve always wanted a tasty piece of you; Tony, but you would never lower yourself to my level. You were always too good to dirty your pretty little hands on scum like me. But now you will willingly give yourself to me, huh? I don’t buy it. Tick tock. You have five seconds.”

“You hurt either of them and I will piss on your soul when I rip it from your lifeless corpse.” Anthony said through clenched teeth.

“Alright then,if he won’t choose between you, then I’ll just kill him.” Diamond said as he raised the gun towards Anthony. Christian and Matt both screamed, “No!” Diamond smirked.

“This is more like it. Alright the game won’t be about who he will save, but who will save him instead, by taking a bullet in the head. Now who will it be? Who is man enough to take a bullet for the little prince?”

Freya Croft said...

Trinity is an animal communicator, and this starts with her "talking" to Buster the dog.

- Buster. Tell me what’s going on.

- Bad, bad. Buster said, still growling softly at the sock. I made the sock do puppet talking.

- Bad, BAD, BAD

I took the sock off and put it behind my back. - Ok, Buster, all gone now. Safe.

“When Buster was a puppy, did you play sock puppets with him?” As usual, I had to squash the feeling I was asking a ridiculous question.

“Uhh, yeah…” Shock washed across Mike’s face. “I used to make growl-ly noises and make them jump at him.”

“Ok, well. He’s trying to protect you from the sock puppets. Because he was only little when he met them, he still thinks of them as large and scary. He recognises the socks and is stopping them before they come back.”

“So it’s his fault his dog’s eating all his socks?” Leo started laughing.

“Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up. He’s still going to eat your socks, too.” Mike looked really embarrassed.

“Don’t feel bad. A lot of my clients have bad habits that their people have inevitably caused.” I dug one of my cards out of my bag and handed it to him. “If you want, I can do some sessions to fix this. It may take a couple of goes though. It’s hard to change something he’s believed since he was a puppy.”

“Maybe you should just keep your socks locked up, mate. Sounds like it’d be less trouble.” Leo fed the last bit of his muffin to Buster.

A said...

"Murder? Perhaps," says the police captain. "I have only your word for it. Even if everything you say is true, it was twenty years ago and many worlds from here, Senor Jones."

"But still murder."

"Perhaps. But more important than the murder of a little girl two weeks from now in the town of Santa Maria, with the perpetrator certain to kill again unless he is stopped by my men? More pressing than the theft of Senor Heroto's cattle, upon whom his life - and the lives of his young family - depends?"

"I'm not asking you to devote your entire police force to this," says Jones. He is leaning forward in his chair now. His hands are open, imploring. "One man to read through the evidence. And then you'll be convinced, I'm sure. How much easier could it be?"

The police captain shakes his head.

"In this country, when you are pursuing vengeance, there is honour in doing the act yourself. If you know where this man lives, why are you here?"

"What are you trying to say to me?"

"Me? I am saying nothing. I only ask questions."

"Are you saying I should somehow get this man and bring him to you?"

"And what would I do with him? If the evidence is so strong, why are you intent on wasting the precious resources of this country's police force and judicial system in order to exact your revenge?"

“I see,” says Jones. “I see.”

Whirlochre said...

Nathan

Apols if I have the rules wrong but I’m going with Brief Intro + 250 Words — if it’s 250 total, mock me mercilessly. This is also a re-submission, clipping a mis-edit, for which I’m happy to be mocked on 2 counts.

The scene:
Phil (an obese ignoramus capable only of grunting) waddles into a porn shop owned by Clive. Clive makes small talk as Phil browses.

Taking care not to burst the free gift, Clive slipped his magazine back into its protective wallet, eyeing Phil suspiciously from under the bars of his thick eyelashes like an institutionalised prisoner making his first desperate bid not to be freed.

‘Ahh! Ahh! Mein Liebesaft spritzt heraus wie Piss!’

Under any other circumstance, the urgent panting of trussed midget triplets in police uniforms would have killed even the heartiest conversation stone dead, but the dozen dripping SWAT-Kugel just about got things moving.

‘Errrrrr...yeah,’ said Clive, his eyebrows finally descending to a level on his face where it didn’t look as if he was trying to juggle with them, ‘and you can get ‘em in loads of colours...’

‘Aah! Ich scheiße ein Bündel elektrische Pampelmusen!’

‘...comes in handy when you’re decorating ‘cos you can have a pair for each room. A couple of pairs if they come in two shades, like the rouge or the sienna. You’ll see in a minute. She takes about six out...’

Phil’s eyes bulged from his skull like frogspawn squeezed through a colander, and with each plurp of onscreen uninsertion, they pulsated ever wilder till his eyelids were stretched to bursting point by a throbbing crazy paving pattern of gorged blood vessels.

‘Yeissh! Meine Arschklappen prickeln mit Ekstase! Ich bin ein wahr babboon heißen wilden Geschlechts!’

‘...in actual fact there’s four different shades of rouge which is terrific...

Bernita said...

Similar build, similar hair on a similar elegant head, same color eyes, even vaguely similar features. Closer, the resemblance was much less remarkable, but no wonder I'd mistaken the bruised face and battered body on the gurney for Nathan's. We see what we expect to see.
But I had never seen him before in my life.
This man wasn't Nathan.
This ghost wasn't Nathan's ghost.
He picked his way out of the shadow of the red rock, past a few cellophane-wrapped floral tributes, and up the incline to where I stood frozen in the sunlight.
"What's your name?" His voice soft, with sweetness in it.
"Lillie," I said. "What's yours?"
"Phillip," he answered. "I don't understand, Lillie. They left me. I heard them. I did a favor for his friend and they left me. And I was so cold."
"Who left you, Phillip?"
"I like your hair, Lillie. I would like to paint you. Would you let it down for me?"
Slowly I undid the clasp holding my knot of hair in place. Sometimes, one negotiates with the dead.
"Ah, thank you," he said, touching a strand lightly. "Like rainshine."
He raised a perplexed brown gaze to my face. His eyes were larger than Nathan's and wider set and without the slightest touch of guile.
"I've been trying to understand, Lillie. He promised he would never leave me."
"Who left you, Phillip?"
"Kevin. Nathan. I don't understand."
I did and I shivered in understanding. Sometimes you learn too much about the living from the dead.

C. Ciciotte said...

“The thing is,” I tell Kenny while we carry a large card table across the floor of the Holiday Inn tennis courts, “if you actually can look at someone’s ear wax and not desire to vomit up the entire contents of your stomach, and still really want to kiss them, then I think it’s love.”

He wide eyes me. “Dude, that’s sick.”


“It’s true.”

“Dude. It’s sick and you just said, ‘desire to vomit up.’”

“Stop calling me ‘dude,’ Kenny. What year is it? ”

Kenny glares at me. We drop a round table on an x marked out in masking tape.

“Dude, chill,” Kenny adjusts his baseball hat on his not-there hair.

He surveys the crowd of volunteers all in their little, green fleece vests that say Merrimach Hospital on them.

He’s constantly telling me that I need to chill out. He speaks as if he’s stuck in some 1980s sitcom, which he watches all the time, whenever he’s not playing ball. Me? He informs me that my verbal patterns are similar to a college professor’s, except for when I’m drunk, which is entirely untrue.

Although, maybe that’s why Chloe left me. Maybe she got sick of my words. Maybe she got sick of my ears.

“Let’s go get another table,” Kenny says. “Dude, there are like absolutely no fly baberinas here.”

Translated out of Kennyism, this means, There is no woman worth lusting after. But that’s a lie, because over by the corner is a girl who never had wax in her ear.

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...

The opening 249 words (says my wordcounter) of 'Still Life With Grapefruit':

“How can I sketch a bowl of fruit when my bowl has no fruit?”

“Blame Dr. Hopewell, the man who remembers Etruscan lineages but forgets to buy food. Have a cookie.” From my perch on the countertop, I waved the package at Doug. “Leave it to the English to describe chocolate cookies as ‘digestive.’ No wonder they all look so glum.”

“They’re called ‘biscuits’ here.” Doug swiped another line on his sketchpad.

“The English are called biscuits? They’re weirder than I thought.” I swung my legs, beating my heels against the kitchen cupboards. “Seriously, do you want one? I think it contains oats.”

Doug’s fingers clenched around his drawing pencil. “Why does Dr. Hopewell keep a lawn tennis ball in his fruit bowl? Do English people still play lawn tennis?”

“One, *you’re* the expert on the English; two, it’s a grapefruit; three, I’m about to eat the second-to-last cookie.”

“Grapefruits are pinky-yellowy,” he muttered, lightly sweeping his pencil to darken the shadows. The table top and its contents were clearly outlined: his keys to the flat, a tourist brochure from the Royal Academy of Arts, four straw mats, the wooden bowl. “Not shriveled and white.”

“Oh! It’s an *English* grapefruit, so when the sun comes out, it hides. Last cookie!” I crinkled the package at him.

“I need grapes, bananas, bursting strawberries and ripe mangos. Not biscuits and squishy pale lawn tennis balls. Hmm, still life with lawn tennis balls.”

“Anyway, isn’t drawing fruit in a bowl a bit...simple?”

Nick Travers said...

Noise burst briefly into the dingy room from the bar below. Tarun closed the door on the dingy room, pushed past the sheet dividing it in two, and collapsed exhausted on one of the beds. Now he was really in trouble.

Mervyn watched his friend from the adjacent bed, ‘How’s the Casino business?’

‘It stinks. They’re going to sack me if I don’t rip-off the customers.’

Loren’s tired voice came from the girl’s side of the sheet, ‘Gambling’s a rip-off anyway.’

‘I know. If there’s big money on the table they like to make certain the punters lose. There’s this button under table... I refused to use it and someone won a load.’

‘Good for you,’ Mervyn said trying to cheer up his friend. ‘I wouldn’t cheat anyone either.’

Loren’s flaming hair appeared round the side of the sheet, ‘Since when, Mervyn.’ Her glare swivelled to his friend, ‘How much did you earn this week, Tarun?’

‘Er... well... I um...’

‘It is pay isn’t it?’

‘Yeah, but...’

Mervyn felt a surge of exasperation for his friend, ‘Tell me you didn’t?’

‘There was this dead-cert...’

Loren’s eyes frosted, ‘How much?’

‘The lot,’ he mumbled.

‘What? Everything? A whole week’s wages?’

There was no point in trying to defend himself, ‘I think….’

‘They used the button under the table?’ Loren and Mervyn chorused together.

‘Perhaps they were trying to teach me a lesson?’

Loren’s cheeks burned scarlet, ‘Well someone need to.’

Now they were really in trouble

Peter R said...

The first of these two ads really did appear in the personal columns of the Evening Standard in 2007. There's a whole novel in just that one ad. Here goes with the dialogue:

'Listen to this, ‘To the sexy brunette running down Wandsworth Road last Friday: I’m sorry I couldn’t catch you. Hope your foot is Ok. Call me.''

‘Catch you?’ Michelle scoffed, ‘he tripped you up, then practically dropped you on the pavement.’

I lowered my paper, ‘He did try to catch me.’

‘But he didn’t.’

‘I think it’s sweet,’ I said.

What, tripping you up or dropping you?’

I was losing sensation in my bum again so I shifted awkwardly to the other cheek ‘Putting something in the paper to say sorry. And he was kind of cute.’

‘You could tell that from your position on the pavement, could you?’

‘He had a cute bum.’

‘About all you could see from your angle,’ she glared at me. ‘You’re not going to phone him, are you?’

‘No,’ I said too quickly.

‘Do you think she should phone him, Barry?’ She addressed the hunk in whose arms she sprawled.

He thought about it for a bit, ‘Dunno,’ he said. Which for Barry is about as romantic it he gets.

I hid behind my paper again: she was going to get to it any moment now.

'Here’s another one,' Michelle shrieked, ‘To the brave knight who tried to catch me outside Starbucks, Wandsworth. Thanks. I think you’re cute. Phone me.’ Then the penny, and her jaw, dropped.

I jumped as the phone rang, ‘Whose that?’

Barry thought about it for a moment, ‘Dunno.’

I picked it up, ‘Hello…

SFWriter said...

The unshielded lurch into normal space made Lysandra feel as if she'd been turned wrong-side-in and back again. Panting, she tried to make her voice work.

The ship's A.I. anticipated her request for a status report.

"All sub-light systems at ninety-eight percent. Power cells failing at a rate of..."

"Cy --?"

"Captain?" The A.I. switched to the more human tone of military lieutenant.

"Where..."

"Twelve hours from XP-274-CZ."

"Uh?"

"Solar system with one inhabited planet known as Marudhanvan. Spaceport Marudhanvan Akbar. Recognizes Space Guild. Culture Code C-7."

"Can we make it?"

"Affirmative."

"Repairs?"

"..."

"Cyenna?"

The voice changed again to the softer, feminine personality of the A.I.'s core. "I'm not sure... I can't pinpoint the damage... But they have facilities."

Another long silence caused Lysandra's shoulders to tense.

"Cyenna?"

"Umm... Lyss? Prepare for an uncomfortable ride."

"What?"

"The gravity is failing."

"I can live in zero-G."

"Umm... Yes, but it's not failing all around."

Lysandra groaned, and then cursed as the random failures jolted her in the harness. "All right. Keep the harness on tight. Hook up the G-suit and life-support." At least her spacer uniform had independent circuits. "How's power?"

"Good. So far."

The pilot groaned again. Some days she wished whoever had created the A.I.'s program had made her capable of small white lies.

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...

Sigh, just when I thought I had beaten my contest addiction. Thanks for doing this, Nathan. I'll donate to the booze fund if anyone has started a collection.

This is from PALADIN'S PRIDE.



His son whispered an incantation. Blue light flickered and crackled from his fingertips just as Saerowyn’s wife walked into the room and directly into the magic's path.

“I hate it when you do that,” she grumbled, trying to smooth down the gray hair that stood out like a tired halo around her head.

“It will dissipate in a moment, Mother,” Thalmar said. "Sooner if someone gets close to the house."

As if on signal, someone yelped outside and fell into the side of the house. Melith’s hair dropped instantly to her shoulders, when the charge left over from the casting surged into the shield about the house. Saerowyn whispered a word over his wife’s tea and watched a young courtier, racing away from the house in the mists above the cup.

“How many times have I told you not to do that to something I'm drinking? It always leaves a bitter taste behind.” She stopped when she noticed his bleeding hand. “What have you done now?”

“I am a mighty wizard!" He waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. “Obey me, woman, and let me be.”

She rolled her eyes and continued bustling around, gathering up supplies to save him from his scratch.

“You have never in 54 years given me the respect I am due,” he complained.

“Of course I have,” she said, pouring out a basket of supplies on the table. “You’re just not due nearly as much as you think you are.”

Michelle said...

Astrid faced the forest again, dark and enclosing. The blue grey of the mountains had almost disappeared into the black grey of a threatening sky. She was rooted to the spot as she stood in the field, mud caked around her shoes, the cold catching her throat and making her eyes water.

“What is it?” Freja snapped, impatient. Eager to be within.

Was it Astrid’s imagination or had the forest stilled again?

“I don’t want to go.”

“You should have thought of that while you sat like a princess inside, neglecting your duties.” Her father slammed the hoe into the earth, and Astrid shivered.

“I told you . . .”

“And I told you. Fetch the mushrooms your mother needs for her stew. Now.”

She looked from her father’s closed face to her sister’s more forgiving one. But everyone was angry with her, even Tomas. They were tired and hungry, and there she’d been, huddling indoors, babbling about being watched. She was the youngest, but she had never been treated like a baby.

“We didn’t sell enough at market to buy meat,” Freja whispered. “There’s not much to put in the pot tonight.”

Astrid nodded. Looked at the forest again.

She was angry with herself.

It wasn’t as if she’d seen anything. It had just been a feeling.

“Are you still here, Astrid?”
Her father’s shout made her jerk, made her body tense for a blow.

Before he got round to it, she grabbed the basket from Freja.

“I’m going.”

Tammie said...

He had a wide-eyed look on his face as if he needed something to punch.

“What happened?” I asked.

“What happened? What happened? I’ll tell you what happened Ma. I met with Blaire. She called me last night. SHE called me.”

“Where has she been?”

“Where has she been? She’s been at her mothers empty house, not answering my phone calls that’s where she’s been.”

“I take it that it didn’t go well?” I asked.

“No. Not well at all Ma. She calls me last night, says ‘Will, we need to discuss some things.’ I said sure lets meet, let’s figure this out, let’s try to fix whatever is wrong.”

“And?”

“She sounded calm and sweet on the phone. She did, really. She asked how Bonnie was, I told her I thought she was teething. She just said ‘Oh’.”

“Okay, so you met her for breakfast, what happened that has you so hysterical?”

“Hysterical? I’m not hysterical. I’m livid. She gets me there, cause SHE called me and I’m wondering, okay maybe you and Dad were right, she just freaked and she wants to apologize and come back.”

“And she didn’t?"

“No. She said at her age, things were going way too fast and while she loves Bonnie, she thinks she is supposed to be doing something else.”

“I see,” I said.

“She said she can’t be in the same house as me and Bonnie while she tries to figure out what that SOMETHING is.”

J.D. said...

"Did you catch them, you know, having sex or something?"

Or something?

"Mrs. Carson, everything we found is in the report that we gave you.."

Her voice rose and I saw the tantrum coming. The cracks in her finely tuned makeup spidered out like shattered ice.

"I know what's in the goddamn report! I hired you to find my husband. I think that gives me the right to know what he was doing when you did!"

"As I said, he was in a hotel with-"

"Did you at least get her name?"

Through the sparse patch of trees outside, a line of cars, bumper to bumper, crawled up Piedmont Road.

"No, I didn't get her name."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because you hired us to find your husband. You didn't hire us to find her."

She stood up and walked over to the window.

"What did he say?"

I squirmed in my chair. Just a little. "It's all there in the-"

She abruptly turned from the window, walked to the desk, and grabbed the bound folder. Her face twisted as she ripped through the pages.

"The report? My life is in this, this report!"

My neck itched. I resisted the urge to scratch.

" 'Tell the bitch that I'm on vacation!' That's what's in your report! You're telling me that's what he said? A vacation?"

She stood, frozen, her question hanging in the air between us. Her right eye twitched like a faulty light bulb.

I shrugged and nodded. "I'm sorry."

dj can said...

"Yes, Miss Taylor. I’m just attending to another situation here," he coughed, imitating her stern tone, "and as soon as I have all of the variables stabilized, I will make my presence known at the Bugaboo Brewery."

"Gopi - Mr. Gopi. This is not a joke. A dead body has been found," Darlene hissed into the phone.

"With emphasis on the word dead, is that correct?"

"Yes. A worker, found dead inside a machine.”

"So not going anywhere then?"

"No,” she said with a sigh.

"Okay, good. So I’ll finish up what I am doing and head right over."

When she spoke again her voice was almost a whisper. "I happen to know that you live right next door to the Brewery. My guess is that you are probably puttering in your garden. Should I tell the officer in charge that you were too busy staking tomatoes to come immediately to the scene of a fatality?"

He laughed. "Look, here's the deal. I’ve got a dozen jars of tomatoes in the canner. They've still got, umm-" he picked up the egg timer. "They've still got 46 minutes left. So if you can come in 46 minutes and take the jars out, I'll go right away and see about that dead body next door, okay?"

"Do I get to take a jar home?"

"Only if you promise not to call me Mr. Gopi anymore."

"OK, promised. Leave the back door open," she said.

"Oh, I always do," he replied.

Kristi26 said...

“Excuse me. Mr. Price?” Dr. Wagner said.

Todd looked up, hoping for good news. The look on the doctor’s face told him more than he was prepared to hear. “How are they?”

“Your baby girl is going to be just fine,” Dr. Wagner began with a forced smile. “She’s in the neonatal intensive care unit for observation overnight, but we expect her to make a full recovery.”

Todd waited a moment for the doctor to tell him about his wife. When he said nothing further, Todd had to ask. “And my wife? How is she? Is she going to be okay?”

Dr. Wagner cleared his throat and looked down at the ground. “Unfortunately, your wife lost so much blood. We did all we could, but it was too late.” He paused and glanced at Todd. “We couldn’t save her. I’m sorry to tell you that she didn’t make it…”

Todd didn’t hear anything else the man said. His wife was gone. He swallowed the lump forming in his throat and felt his head begin to ache.

“It can’t be true,” Todd whispered, looking at the checkered pattern on the floor. “There must be some mistake, Dr. Wagner. Lori can’t be gone.”

“I’m sorry Todd. We did all we could. She was just-”

Todd stood up, cutting him off. “NOOOOOOO!” He hurled his chair across the room, sending it crashing against the wall. “LORI!” he yelled and collapsed to the ground. “Please, God. Let it be a mistake!”

crapshooter said...

Grieg’s smile didn’t change. “I only bet on known outcomes, Mr. Crane.”

Crane laughed. “Known outcomes? That’s not betting, Edward, that’s printing money.” Crane then took a long drag from his really foul smelling cigar and tapped the ash from its tip before replacing it between his teeth. He then hit a second ball. It too, found its mark in the center of the 150 Yard marker. “Not bad for an old man,” Crane said more to himself that he did to Richard Grieg. Crane then replaced the iron in the bag before sitting on one of the driving range’s stone benches.
Next, he patted the space beside him. “Please have a seat, Richard. You and I need to talk.” His tone was now all business. As Grieg sat, Crane tugged at his golf glove, got it free from his hand, and then tossed it several feet away into a trash basket, commenting, “The damn things don’t last any time at all anymore.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. Crane?” Grieg asked simply, wanting to get things moving.

“You are a smart man, Edward, a very smart man, perhaps, too smart,” Crane said. “Being too smart in the wrong way can sometimes lead to unfortunate circumstances.” Grieg immediately stiffened; it was a reaction Crane expected. Crane gripped Grieg’s shoulder. Grieg was surprised at the great strength he felt in the old man’s hand. “Hear me out before deciding on something that isn’t smart,” Crane ordered.

Grieg turned and held Crane’s gaze. “I’m listening,” he said, his mouth now a straight line.

“Good,” Crane said, approvingly. “See, you’ve again proven you’re smart.” Crane then paused to tap another ash from his cigar. “First, I need you to tell me what you’ve discovered. There's nothing in it for us for someone to be killed unnessarily.”

Steve said...

“Get him off of me!”
“Hold still and quit dancin’ ‘round!” Buzz bent over and grabbed the rattlesnake behind its head in one hand and its body with the other as Todd watched in horror. “Got him.” Buzz stood up, a firm grip on the snake in his hands.
Chest heaving, Todd stepped back.
Buzz took a few steps and tossed the snake into the brush.
Todd couldn’t believe his eyes. “Whatcha do that for?”
Buzz held up his hands. “I don’t kill nuthin’ if I don’t have to. Not no more.” He knelt and lifted up Todd’s pant leg. “Whoooooeeee!”
“How bad is it?” Todd said.
Buzz chuckled. “You’re gonna live to tell everyone back home ‘bout it.”
“You think it’s funny?”
Buzz stood up and put a hand on Todd’s shoulder. “He didn’t get ya.”
Todd’s voice was shaky. “What?”
“You was lucky. That rascal missed your leg by a hair and got his fang stuck in them boots of yours.”
“Lucky isn’t what I’m feelin’ right now.” Todd’s shoulders slumped and he gasped for air.
“You like to scare the bejeebees out of both of us.”
Todd let out a huge sigh and fell to the ground. Then he thought about snakes again and started to get up.
Buzz held Todd down by his shoulders. “No worry. I reckon you scared off every snake ‘tween here and the border.”
“I don’t think I’m cut out for this. The cactus, the scorpions, the bees and the snakes.”

John said...

I was reaching into my medic sack when Winkel spoke up.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“There’s nothing you can do for this gook. She probably got what she deserved anyway.”

I couldn’t believe my ears.

“You think somebody, anybody, actually deserves… this?”

“No, but all I know is that if it weren’t for these gooks fightin’ each other and us steppin’ in, I’d be home right now throwin’ back brews with my buddies.”

That’s what the worldwide politico-economic situation had devolved to: keeping this moron away from swilling beer in front of his pickup truck with his fellow morons. He continued.

“Listen, you fix her up, tomorrow she’s out settin’ a booby trap to kill us. I only been here a few days but I know that’s how it is. Anyway, look at her. She’s as good as dead right now.”

I couldn’t disagree with anything he’d just said.

“Look, I aim to do my job, keep my head low and nose clean so’s I can get out the second my tour ends.”

“But I know who did this. It was an American. A sergeant.”

“I don’t give a damn. I didn’t see nothin’ so it’ll be your word against this phantom sergeant. Good luck with that one. I’m gonna join the others and say we saw nothin’ so’s we can get back to camp. Join me or stay and have a touchin’ scene as she dies in your arms. I don’t care one way or the other.”

Mel said...

“I know you don’t like surprises.” Shelise hit me with our friendship-since-the-beginning-of-time wild card.

“Do you always have to bring that up?” I’d never live down my eighteenth birthday. “That was nine years ago.”

“Yes, I have to bring it up. I don’t know what it is. I just know it’s going to be bad. I know I’m involved with it somehow, but… it’s unclear.”

Which bothered the hell out of Shelise. I blew out a breath. “If your five senses say it doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t exist.”

I glanced at the clock on the wall. It was 8:30. Definitely too early to try to dance out of this snake pit, so I added, “You know how I feel about clowns. Being greeted with one singing happy birthday isn’t a happy birthday.”

“I can’t get the reading without you.”

The heifer never fought fair. “Can’t I just pull out a hair and give it to you? I’m up to pricking my finger to give you blood if that’s what you need.”

Shelise glanced heavenward. I tried to not tell her that wouldn’t work either. “I’m not into voodoo.” She spread her hands out as if to call a truce. “All you have to do is shuffle the deck.”

“See, now that’s like saying, ‘all I want to do is put the head in.’ Many babies have been made that way.”

“I’m being serious.”

“So am I. Statistics have shown—.”

“Phoenix.”

kitty said...

“Y’know where I seen you the first time, Rita? Up on the roof of this here building last summer. It gets hot down here in this stinking hole, so I go up to the roof to get me some air. That’s when I saw you. I could look across the street right into your windas. You was sitting atop of some guy, not your husband, going at it like a carnival ride. I go up there most nights and watch the show.”

Rita could feel the bile rise in her throat.

“I didn’t mean to scare you today, stopping you on the street like that. I could tell it bothered you seein’ as how I was a complete stranger to you. Course I knew who you were,” he added with a sneer.

“You is so purty, Rita -- little and delicate, that long, dark hair of yours -- makes a man just ache.” He took a drag on his cigarette and another swig of rotgut. “This is nice, ain’t it. Just two friends talking over drinks.”

“What do you want, Rigby?”

“I thought we could be, y’know, friends.”

“What do you want?”

He sidled up close, uncomfortably close, so close she was forced to inhale his stench and to feel the bristle on his face rub against her cheek, his chin kneading her shoulder as he whispered in her ear, “I want you t’climb on top of me and ride me just like you done with them others.”

...

Hannah said...

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Oh. Just the eternal debate. Trying to decide between Cherry and Diet.”

“Ah, yes,” I said gravely, “the Sophie’s Choice of beverage-drinking decisions.”

“Exactly.” Laney looked toward the door. “Why don’t you pay and wait in the van? I might be a minute.”

I shrugged. “Okay.”

As soon as I’d checked out and pushed through the door, I nearly barreled smack-dab into Jake. He had a coffee in one hand, a lit cigarette in his mouth, and two white plastic bags hanging off the other arm.

I faltered for a second before deciding that the best approach would be to adopt his: act totally normal. “Hey,” I said carefully. “What did you buy?”

“Stuff.” He didn’t elaborate.

“Thanks for the clarification,” I replied dryly. He raised an eyebrow but didn’t respond. Suddenly I blurted out, “Caleb and I-- we didn’t do anything.”

AHHHHHHH. Why, why, why did my mouth never listen to my brain? So much for playing it cool. So much for maintaining my dignity.

Jake tapped the ash off his cigarette and regarded me impassively. “Okay.”

“And even if we did, which we didn’t, it’s none of your business.”

“Okay.”

“I just wanted you to know.”

“Okay.”

“If you say ‘okay’ one more time, I’m going to punch you in the solar plexus.”

His eyebrows jumped. “The solar plexus, huh?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m not exactly sure where that is, but I will find out. And then I will punch you there. Hard.”

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
phrasefan said...

I pictured Gram at the door of our apartment, Sammy jumping with excitement in his baby bouncer, trying to grab the candy as she gave it out to the trick-or-treaters.

Across the universe from my hideout here under the bent-over trees.

My nose started to run from the damp cold.

"What do you want?" My voice came out high and squeaky, like a little kid's. I guess because I was so nervous.

"Don't you know?” he said. I just kept looking at him. “Don't you think I get sick of being stuck back there in that filth while you watch those stupid machines?”

His voice dropped lower, a hiss. “How long did you think I would wait until you came down there without your grandmother?" His eyes got blacker.

His voice dropped so low I could barely hear him. "Don't you realize how sick and tired I am of watching you go in and out of this hole with your little brat sister, over and over, day after day?"

I found my more normal voice. "But I'm only ten years old." He laughed, soft and sickening.

"What's that got to do with anything?" His eyes narrowed and he leaned into my face with sour cigarette breath. I swallowed.

"I don't know. I...just..." Tears choked my voice. He moved his hands in little circles, so that the chain slowly rotated around them. Random thoughts darted through my brain. Please get darker so I can't see his eyes. He called Peanut a brat.

Lupina said...

From a fantasy WIP:

Oskar pounded his walnut-sized fists on the rough pine door and howled as the wolf had taught him so many years past. His mind swam with memories of Hilde and their last talk, whispered hard through the brambly roses between her bound-folks’land and his. He could still see her eyes dark as lampblack in her moonlit face, and taste her words like soft dewmilk on his tongue.

“Oskar, be brave. The leaving time nears.”

He drew himself up to his full two-foot height.

“I am brave, oh love of all worlds, but I am bound. Bound to these cursed, gas-bag humans!”

“We are not bound forever, my sweetest .”

“No, only‘til their last gas-bag issue shall die.” Bitterness sharpened Oskar’s words until he had to spit blood from his tongue.

“Hush! The burrowers may hear.” The point of Hilde’s red cap flashed as she glanced side to side.

“Burrowers be damned! Our babe will be free-born or I shall spear their last ink-bearer to make it so.”

Hilde swallowed hard, trying mightily to contain her despair.

“You are brave, sweet husband, exceeding brave. The babe and I, we will wait. We are bound to you by stronger stuff than serving-spells.”

Oskar’s throat had gone dry as a harvest husk. He thrust his arm into the bramble and let it scratch his leathery skin as he strained to meet Hilde’s hand. Their fingers touched and blue sparks lit the roses.

“Find us,” Hilde whispered, and she was gone.

Ken Coffman said...

“Hello, Mike, how are things going?”
“I’m working on heat sinks--”
“Yes, that’s fine,” Madison interrupted. “Time flies, eh? It’s review time again. Did you bring your self-evaluation form this time?”
Mike nodded and handed over a few sheets of damp paper. She picked them up with a look of distaste. After a quick glance, she spread them across her desk.
“You don’t think very highly of yourself.”
“I try not to think about myself at all.”
“You circled all twos. You aware that ten, the best score, represents the category of ‘performs all tasks in an exemplary manner’ and that two indicates ‘well below standard’? I think you marked off all twos to get the self-evaluation requirement taken care of with the least possible effort. What do you say to that?”
“That it sounds exactly like something a ‘well below standard’ employee would do. Maybe it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“Clearly, you do not take this valuable exercise seriously.”
“Employee evaluation is a management job you’re paid to do. I don’t ask you to measure coating thicknesses on aluminum heat sinks. So, if you make me fill out a self-evaluation form, I will do it as quickly as possible and score myself with an undisputable grade that gets me out of your office and back to work as quickly as possible.”
“Mike, that is the longest string of words I’ve heard you say all at once. It makes me wonder how dumb you really are."

Anonymous said...

“I’ve become the greatest of fools,” he said against my temple before escorting me to my seat.

“How so?” I asked as we sat down.

John looked at me sideways, his grin still in place. Around us, the buzz and clatter of contented diners created a constant din and he leaned in on one elbow to be heard without being overheard. “My heart is where my mind should be.”

“Mmm…” Justin laid a napkin across his lap. “One usually calls that thinking with your co– Well, hello, darlin’.” He smiled up at the waitress who’d come over to our table.

We placed our orders in due haste and she thankfully went on her way.

John leaned back in his seat and toyed with the stem of his wine glass. The corners of his brown eyes crinkled. “I don’t have much choice in the matter. If I do not think of my cock,” his dimples pulled in, “my cock thinks for me.”

An ill-concealed gasp of shock came somewhere from behind my right shoulder. Mrs. Fuzzy Bun, no doubt. She’d been leaning to one side, practically keel hauling herself in an attempt to eavesdrop.

Ignoring her, John raised his glass to me and saluted before taking a long drink of wine.

“How very fortunate it is then,” I said tartly, “that you and your ‘cock’ have each other for comfort.”

John’s eyes met mine over the rim of his glass and I flushed. My words were patently untrue. They both had found more than enough comfort in me.

twizzle said...

The mocking began the second Camille stepped out of the changing room in the spandex costume.

“What’s wrong with that lady’s butt?” a little boy asked. “Why’s it so big?”

Camille ignored him and unclipped the North Pole sign. She held the chain in her hand.

He pointed to her chest. “Your boobies are puffing out. That’s illegal.”

“You're too young to know what boobies are,” Camille said, glaring.

“I’m not too young to see they’re puffing out everywhere.”

The pig-tailed girl nodded. “They are. Santa’s going to arrest you.”

At the word boobies all the children had crowded forward, snickers spread through the throng. Ignoring them wasn’t going to work.

Camille faced them down, her hands on her hips, her patience and pride long expired.

“What’s so funny?” she asked. “Never seen an elf before?”

“Never seen an elf before.” The freckled-faced boy fell over in giggles, rolling in the mounds of fake snow. “Not an elf like you. You need a sign on your butt, one that says wide load.”

The other children roared with laughter while Camille willed herself to disappear. It didn’t work, though.

“I am never having children. Ever,” she said. “You’re all hideous, snot-nosed creatures.”

“Are you sure you’re never having kids, cause your tummy looks like you’re having a baby,” the freckle-faced boy said, his face red from laughter.

She threw down the chain. That was it. Camille had died and gone to Hell, and it looked exactly like the North Pole.

MBS:-) said...

“Dear Prudence, is that you?” said Master Wentworth.
“No. It’s Agnes,” said Agnes rather sadly.
“Oh…” said Master Wentworth with some degree of annoyance.
“It’s always me,” said Agnes. “That is, since Prudence left you for the farrier, and you declared your love for me.”
“Oh, yes,” replied Master Wentworth with heavy disdain. “Is my tea ready?”
“Yes.” replied Agnes. She hoped the rat poison was undetectable.

John said...

Brad wasn’t smiling any more. “What’s the deal with your dad?”

“What do you mean?” Madeleine asked. She was quiet because they were still on the front porch. Someone inside might be listening.

“Hello? The sword strapped to his back? It was like Braveheart.”

“Oh, he did that to scare you so you’ll be gentlemanly to me.”

“Gentlemanly?”

“Like what I said before you came, ‘don’t wear a hat because if you wear it inside the house my dad won’t like it.’ He's old-fashioned about some things.”

Brad nodded slowly like he did when his mother told him what God had told her while she was at church. He didn’t believe Madeleine, either.

Madeleine said, “Dad thinks it’s an ‘effective deterrent.’”

“Against what?”

She smiled at him. “Against you getting any ideas with me.”

He gave another doubtful nod, and she added, “It could be worse.”

“Yeah?”

She pointed toward the side of the house.

“What’s that?” he asked.

"A howitzer. One of Dad's Army buddies got it."

"Like a cannon? I thought it would be bigger."

"Dad told me it fires a 155-millimeter round 14 miles. How much bigger does it need to be?”

“To do what?”

Brad was silent.

Madeleine asked, "So are you ready to go?"

Anonymous said...

“Rumor has it,” Riley says, “that I’m gay.”

I have nothing to say to that.

“Rumor has it,” Riley says, “that you are planning to plant bombs in the girls bathrooms and kill us all--at least those of us in the girls bathrooms. And then you are going to sweep down the halls in a yellow slicker slaughtering innocents.”

“A yellow slicker? The rodeo-jock kind that makes the guys look like rubber ducks. Oooo! Fierce. Really Fierce!”

“Well, you’re crazy. That’s the sort of thing that crazy people do.”

“And what kinds of gay things are you doing?”

“Less than I’d like.”

“So. You’re gay.”

“Gay as a tangerine. Gay as the Pillsbury Doughboy.”

“Gay as a rodeo cowboy?”

“Gay as Curious George.”

“Was the Man in the Yellow Hat a pederast?”

“He was a monkey molester--and gay as lemon ricotta ravioli.”

“I better start learning how to make pipe bombs.”

“You’ll be good at it.”

“You know I will.”

Albion said...

He heard the squeaking of his rubber-soiled shoes on the beige-tiled floor as he spotted Morinne and walked toward her.
“Sorry, the seat is taken,” she said as he sat at her table, not recognizing him with the beard and the glasses.
“It’s me,” James said and laid his hand next to hers.
“Jimmy!” Morinne gasped in surprise. “What’s this?” She took his hand and held it firmly.
“Sorry. It had to be,” he apologized, his gaze drifting over the café and through the windows to the sidewalk, still looking for any unusual movements.
“What’s going on?” Morinne leaned forward and James kissed her lipstick-less mouth.
“It’s a long story and we haven’t got much time.”
“I took the afternoon off. We have time.”
“No, we don’t. We can’t stay here long.”
“Then let’s go to my place,” Morinne suggested with worry in her voice. Her blue-green eyes narrowed.
“No, your place isn’t safe anymore. That’s why I wanted to see you. You’ve got to disappear for a while. You’re in danger.” He said it straight, without thinking of the reaction this could elicit.
Morinne’s eyes widened and fear spread across her face. “What? From whom?”
“Someone is after me and yesterday I found a list by one of the killers … your name and address were on it.”
“Why? … Where do they have my name from?”

Chris Lites said...

“Your problem is you’re trying to reunite the universe, but your language is all wrong,” says Molly.

Molly’s cosmology, Molly’s theory on the vagaries of the universe.

“Matter never should have franchised itself.”

Setting up little systems of particles, little systems of stars, little systems of planets, little systems of life.

“You’re just trying to get back to your original point..”

What I need is a well-fitted physics lab run by a Tibetan guru to get my particles back where they ought to be. Yeah, that will definitely work.

“Don’t laugh at me,” Molly says. “You don’t see me fornicating with strippers.”

“She was not a stripper.”

“Well, whatever.”

I fish out my laptop from the nest of clothes I call packing.

“Whatcha typing?”

A new screenplay, a novel, my confession, a suicide note.

“My to-do list for the new century, Moll.”

Metamorphoses imply a base state, a jumping off point, a referential center. I have none.

“My house didn’t burn down.”

“You make that sound like a tragedy.”

And I realize it isn’t supposed to be one. This is a miracle, this is a happy event, this is karmic return for deposits I know sure as hell I never made. Is that why it feels so bad?

“See, the universe isn’t out to get you.”

The problem with that is, of course, at least with the universe after me I was pretty sure it was there.

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