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Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 200 (February 5-12). Stories. Topic: Free-For-All

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message 1: by M (new)

M | 11261 comments I’ll merely add that Week 199 is not over until tomorrow. You still have today to finish whatever you may have been working on.

message 2: by M (last edited Feb 05, 2014 10:41AM) (new)

M | 11261 comments A free-for-all is a brawl, a no-holds-barred fight open to all comers. It’s an ideal contest topic for Week 200 in a group whose home is an imaginary pirate ship! Which pirate will land the first blow? Who will get thrown overboard or fall down a hatch? Roll up your sleeves and bloody your fists! Grab a bottle or a belaying pin.

message 3: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments [In Super Smash Bros. Narrator's Voice]: FREE FOR ALL!

message 4: by Jay (last edited Feb 05, 2014 11:07AM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments First blood to me?

Polly Polo

From: Julie
Sent: Tue 02/12/2005 07:40
To: Mum and Dad
Subj: It may be p*****g down but I had to laugh

Hi Mum and Dad

Had to grab a few minutes to email you before I start work - give you a laugh to start the day. You’ll not be surprised to learn that there is now one more person in the world convinced that your daughter is a total nutter. In fact, this morning I felt quite blonde. OK, I am blonde, but that’s neither here nor there.

At 6:45, as I left for work, it was still hammering down and most of Chetmere Road was flooded. I drove along the middle of the road, grateful it’s such a quiet, rural road, and praying that there wouldn’t be anyone coming the other way. Well, I was lucky – only one car to avoid at a point where it was only a minor wall of water whooshing up the side of Polly Polo. Such an elderly lady really shouldn’t be taken out on a day like this, it’s just not fair on her.

Anyway, for better or worse we were on our way.

Other parts of the road were totally flooded and there was no option but to go through them. You’ve guessed it – the inevitable happened and Polly started struggling. She’d been very brave up to that point, gallant, even, in her in her efforts to get me to work, but there is a limit to what you can ask an elderly car to cope with.

At first it was just fourth gear that didn’t seem to be a very good idea. Then there was a bit of asthmatic wheezing on the hilly bits, a little bit of hesitation… She finally gasped to a halt at the main traffic lights at the bottom of Well Street, but we’re used to that happening (that’s the third time now) and good as gold she restarted. With a few extra revs we got across.

I’m now on Mount Street at the back of the shopping centre and had to stop for someone to cross at the lights. Oh dear…

So, anyway, I now need my hazard warning lights on while I sort out this little problem of not restarting when I’m stuck at the pedestrian crossing. I know I must have hazard warning lights and I haven’t got many buttons to choose from (two, actually) but it’s still dark and I’ve never had to use them before. I got my torch out to thoroughly check the dash and eventually I located it. What a silly place to put a big button like that, right in the middle of the steering wheel where you’re going to see it every day. I mean, it just becomes part of the furniture, doesn’t it?

I’m now in a position to find the WD40 and give the fixing part of the plan a whirl. Good, found that. Even better I found the little levery thingy to release the bonnet. Now all I have to do is suss out how I opened the bonnet catch all those many months ago when Chris was showing me Polly’s guts (not a very nice thing to do to a lady really, but she seems to appreciate having her guts looked at occasionally).

Wow – I did well there – only a few minutes and the bonnet is standing up proud! Here we go with the spray – no, turn the can round so the spray sprays over Polly’s electrics, not my hand.

Back in the car it’s time to try again. Mmmmm…. Loads of life in the battery but no hint of the engine firing. OK, give it a few minutes then try again. Still no sign of life. Try a few more times – still nothing. Now, I’m quite enjoying listening to Sarah Kennedy but I’m not clocked in to work yet and the minutes are ticking away. There’s also a growing volume of traffic and I’m feeling decidedly in the way. Time for the breakdown call. The conversation went something like this…

“Good morning, how can I help you?”

“Good morning – I’m afraid my car doesn’t like the rain, or rather she’s had enough of going through flooded sections of road, and she’s died.”

“That’s understandable on a day like this. Now, can I have your policy number?”

OK, so I got through the policy number and my name bit as it was written down on the card with the phone number (no, silly, the policy number, not my name) but then he asked for the number I was calling from. Now, I don’t use my mobile very often. It took me two years to use the £20 pay as you go wotsit I put on it. How am I supposed to know my own number? I know I can get the phone to tell me what its number is, but not in the middle of a call.

“Don’t worry,” the very nice man said. He’s one of those lovely people who manage to sound cheerful and helpful even when dealing with a hopeless case at that time in the morning. “I have caller display,” he says. “Can you confirm your number?”

So he read it out to me, and it sounded sort of familiar, so we agreed that was my number.

“And what sort of car do you have?”

“A Vauxhall Polo.”

“A Vauxhall Polo Madam?”

“Yes, a blue one.”

“Ermm… I realise the colour is important, but it doesn’t really help at the moment. Is it a Vauxhall or is it a Polo?”

“Oh it’s definitely a Polo – that’s why her name is Polly – so that would make her… a, er… Volkswagen? Yes! That’s it! A Volkswagen!”

Phew! Got past the hard part.

“Right, a VW Polo. And your registration?”

“I think it’s J742 PPP. Do you want me to get out and check?”

“No, that’s OK.”

I think he was starting to lose the will to live at this stage but was still very cheerful. Was that suppressed chuckling I heard?

“And is it diesel or petrol?”

“Oh yes, it is.”

“No, Madam, I need to know which it is – diesel or petrol?”

“Oh, sorry, it’s petrol,” I admitted sheepishly. “I’m afraid my mind’s not really on what we’re doing, is it? I’m not very good with cars.”

Mmmm – that was definitely chuckling I heard.

“That’s quite all right.”

We finally got through the bit about where I was (my mind momentarily went blank but luckily there’s a street name sign right by that pedestrian crossing) and he advised me to give it 10 minutes to dry out, then try again. If there was still no joy he’d get someone straight out to me.

As you know I’m a bit of an impatient soul at times and only managed to wait for the time it took to eat a Werther’s Original (and you know I can never just suck them). Joy of joys, she fired immediately! What a girl! So I phoned the nice man back.

“Thank you so much for your advice,” says I. “Listen – she’s running again!”

“Mmm, not quite there though,” he tells me. “You need to rev the engine for a bit to dry it right out before you try and drive or it’ll just die on you again.”

So I put my foot down a bit. I wince when I put a strain on Polly, it doesn’t seem a nice thing to do.

“A bit more, Madam, just put your foot down a bit further for a while.”

So I gritted my teeth and did as I was told. Sorry, Polly, I don’t want to hurt you…

“That’s better,” the nice man said. “Just hold it there for a while then check everything’s ticking over before trying driving.”

“OK,” I whimpered, “thank you for your advice.”

“No problem. You shouldn’t need to, but if there are any more problems just call

He was right. I got into work OK, although I did panic a bit when I had to slow down and stop for a big artic in front of me that was inconsiderate enough to stop because he wanted to turn right.

I wonder...
will it be the same nice man on duty when I drive home?

Hope to see you Sunday
Lots of love
Julie xx

message 5: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments Hey there, everybody! It's synopsis time again! This week's story will be called "Guns, Drugs, and Misogyny" and it goes like this:


Norman Bryan, Dwarf Mercenary
Edgar Rinehart, Elf Mercenary
Valerie John, Human Mercenary
Gannon Mitchell, Orc Pimp

PROMPT CONFORMITY: The operation turns into an all-out brawl to free the sex slaves.

SYNOPSIS: Against a Shadowrun background, Norman, Edgar, and Valerie are on a mission to stop a human trafficking train, engineered by Gannon, from crossing the city border. The true challenge in this story is for Valerie, who must keep her emotions in check despite prostitution being one of her berserk buttons.

message 6: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Ha, Garrison, the topic isn't "Free-for-all." It's a free-for-all topic. As in, you can write about anything whatsoever, therefore no "PROMPT CONFORMITY" required.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Ooooooooooh. Cool!

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Jay,
Your story was so cute and reminded me of a stint I had in Scotland many years ago. The persona in your story has a cute, distinct voice that comes through. She almost doesn't sound American. I'm not quite sure who the heroine is though, the lady or the car! :)

message 9: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments Catherine wrote: "Hi Jay,
She almost doesn't sound American..."

To my mind, the heroine is definitely the car. The inept (English) woman, Julie, has the privilege of being looked after by Polly.

message 10: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments Edward wrote: "Ha, Garrison, the topic isn't "Free-for-all." It's a free-for-all topic. As in, you can write about anything whatsoever, therefore no "PROMPT CONFORMITY" required."

Ooooooooohhhhhhh, okay.

message 11: by Angie (new)

Angie Pangan | 4795 comments It's ok, Garrison. :) I misunderstood that too. I was under the impression that this week's contest was ABOUT a free-for-all.

Thanks for clearing that up Edward! :)

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

M wrote: "A free-for-all is a brawl, a no-holds-barred fight open to all comers. It’s an ideal contest topic for Week 200 in a group whose home is an imaginary pirate ship! Which pirate will land the first b..."

Are the mice going to join as well?

message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Alex (Al) wrote: "It's not?

OH! Sorry! I kept thinking today was the sixth! Ok, finish your stories and your poems and I'll add them to the poll."

Hi Alex! I wrote a story called "The Ghost Town" (creative, I know). I was just wondering if you could add it to the poll? Thanks!

message 14: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments Jay, that was a great glimpse into someone's rough morning. A very fun read that flowed very naturally, I really enjoyed reading it.

message 15: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments Thanks, Mandy. I'm afraid I have to admit that there's been more than one day when my brain just hasn't been in gear, just like Julie ;)

message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Jay, your story was funny and easy to read. I loved it!

message 17: by Saira (new)

Saira (herumouni) | 667 comments I think mine's going to have mythological themes...or you know, the gods...

message 18: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments Thanks, Sofia :) Work's been terribly hectic and stressful so a little lighthearted piece seemed a good tonic.

message 19: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 13, 2014 08:56AM) (new)

The Party: 1809 words, critique appreciated

I wake up and see blinding lights. I squint, putting my hand over my eyes. Then my others senses awaken. I can smell sterility and hear a beeping noise. And I feel a soft bed under me. I’m probably in my room, but what is that noise? And why does it smell so clean?
Slowly my sight adjusts, and as I sit up, I realize I’m not in my room. My ceiling is blue, not white. And I’m not wearing pajamas, either. I’m wearing a thin hospital gown.
A hospital gown, why would I be wearing a…
I’m in the hospital. Machines are connected all over me. A beep measures the steady beat of my heart. My legs are bare and I suddenly wonder when I’ve recently shaved. I feel so self-conscious with my legs so out and hairy. But then I shake my head.
Why am I here, with bare legs and hospital gowns and beeping machines? Why am I here, seemingly alone, in a hospital room?
Who got me in here?
Was I attacked? Raped? Hurt? What happened?
I see a short person walk around the corner dressed in a nurse’s outfit. Duh, a nurse, I think, about to smack myself for my stupidity. The nurse—a slim brunette—smiles at me and says, “Oh, you’re up! You were only half-conscious before.”
I shake my head. “Where…where am I?”
The nurse smiles. “You’re in the hospital, Emma.”
“Why?” I croak.
“Too much alcohol. It’s a wonder you survived,” the nurse says cheerfully. “And you got some nasty little cuts and bruises from a fight, apparently. I don’t really know the details.”
My eyes slowly begin to adjust to the light. “I don’t remember, either.”
“Common,” says the nurse. “Side effect of drinking too much alcohol. It was a horrible experience you went through, but at least you learned. And it wasn’t as bad as your friends, either.”
I almost stand up. “What?”
“Your friends. Liz and her boyfriend Garrison…I don’t remember the other one. Oh, right! Tess. Liz, Tess, and Garrison. They have it worse,” the nurse says.
I’m overwhelmed. “Do you remember anything?” the nurse asks softly.
“Only fragments,” I respond weakly. I try to remember what’s happened, but all I remember there was a party at Garrison’s house, but that’s all I remember.
“I went to a party,” I say, choking on my own words. “Garrison’s.”
The nurse nods. “Mmm-hmm. Okay. Well, for now you should stay in bed. When you recuperate, you’ll be able to see your family, and maybe your friends.”
“My family’s here?” Now I’ve definitely gone used to the light.
“Been sleeping over since you came,” the nurse says.
“When did I come?” I ask.
“About two to three days ago. You were mostly out for those days,” says the nurse.
I shake my head. “This is all so much.”
“It’s overwhelming,” agrees the nurse. “But it’ll get better. It’ll be fine.”
I put my head in my hands and let it sink in.
When I start to heal, the nurse finally lets me up. My family visits. They’ve been living in the west wing of the hospital, where a couple rooms are. I see my little sister, Sara, and my older brother, Caleb, and Mom and Dad. And Uncle Beck and Aunt Sally and Uncle Will and Aunt Emily and my grandparents from both sides. I hug them all, they all say prayers to the Lord, thanking Him for restoring me, and warn me to never to drink ever again.
But they don’t tell me what happened.
I know Caleb knows by his pale expression. He looks as if he’s about to be sick. His face is ridden with…with guilt.
I approach him alone when the celebration’s subsided. “What happened?” I whispered.
He turns away. “I can’t talk about it, Emma.”
“You have to tell me,” I say. “I can’t go on living like this without knowing.”
“You’ll find out. From Liz and Garrison and Tess.” Caleb starts to walk away.
“You have to tell me!” I scream. “You have to tell me!”
Caleb looks back sadly. “I don’t have to do anything, Emma.”
“Why was I here?” I yell. “Why? I just wanna know.”
Caleb turns. “This is my fault,” he whispers hoarsely. “This is my fault. I got drunk. I made you drink. This is my fault. My fault.”
“Caleb,” I say, calmer now. “Please, I won’t lay blame on anyone yet. Just tell me what happened.”
Caleb shakes his head, but he says, “Garrison was having a party.”
I know, I want to say, but all I manage is a nod.
“We both got ready. I took a couple shots beforehand but you didn’t. I was used to alcohol. You weren’t.” Caleb looks away. “We drove over to Liz’s, and picked her up. She was very, very drunk. She wanted to be, before we got there.”
I’m frozen. Caleb, used to alcohol? Caleb, drinking?
Caleb continues without permission. “Tess was already there, and she was drunk too. So was Garrison. Practically everyone was. Except you.”
I nod.
“We started playing drinking games. It was Garrison’s idea. You didn’t wanna play. And I…I…I…”
His voice is choking. He’s about to cry.
“I told you—I told that you were a coward. I said you were too afraid. You were too pathetic. And you said, fine. I’ll do it.”
He’s crying now. Tears are running silently down his face.
“You’d never had alcohol before. You weren’t used to it. But you drank a lot. We all did. And then, and then…Garrison and Liz got so drunk, they suggested we have a fight. A fun party fight. But it wasn’t fun. They started throwing…throwing the empty bottles. It was a goddamned free-for-all.”
I’m picturing it now. Glass scraping my skin. Me, drinking alcohol. But it all feels like a dream.
“You got cut. All of us did. Tess was the worst. I don’t know why she got hit the most. But she did. She was an easy target.”
Caleb puts his head in his hands. “We got busted by some officers. They took a lot of us to the hospital. They took me, too. But I hadn’t been affected, not really. I only stayed for a night. Then I came back. When I heard you were still…” He doesn’t finish. He doesn’t have to.
Caleb starts to sob uncontrollably. “Now, because of a goddamn party, Liz, Tess, and Garrison are all in the hospital. My friends are in the hospital! And you—you—you have no idea how I felt. I felt awful. I was awful, for a minute, during that party.”
And then he says no more. He turns away and starts to walk. I’m left there, frozen in my spot, unable to move, shocked.
There was so much of Caleb I didn’t know.

When we’re allowed to see Liz, it takes a lot for me not to cry. She’s banged-up badly. Cuts and bruises. She’s conscious, but only barely. “Am I gonna die…” she croaks.
“No,” I whisper. “You’re not. I promise.”
Liz shakes her head. “Don’t promise, Emma. You were never good at keeping promises.”
I’m about to cry. “Liz, you’re not gonna die.”
Liz closes her eyes. “You don’t know that for certain.”
“Liz—,” I say. But she’s fallen sleep.
“She’s not dead,” the nurse explains, as I look at her unconscious body. “Just sleepy. Very tired. Let her rest.”
We move on to Tess. She’s more conscious than Liz, but there are so many cuts on her body it scares me. “Emma,” she smiles. “Emma, I remember. I remember everything.”
I look at her. “I didn’t,” I say. “Caleb told me.”
“There was blood,” Tess whispers, the smile gone. “I remember it vividly. The glass shattering. The blood spilling on the wood. Me getting hit, again and again.” She closes her eyes. “It hurt.” She winces, as if she can feel it.
“Okay,” I say, and even though Tess is still awake, I can’t stand it, so finally, I move on to Garrison.
He’s big—a senior, whereas the rest of us are juniors, even Caleb, who missed the cutoff by a little so while technically he’s a senior he’s in the same grade. He’s big and bulky, but he looks so broken.
“Hey, Em,” he says, in a quietly cheerful voice. “Hey, Cay.”
“Hi, Gar,” I say, smiling a little.
“Hey, Em,” he says. “Tell Liz I love her. She was the best damn girlfriend I ever had and now because of me, she’s dead.”
“She’s not dead,” I say forcefully.
“She’s gonna be,” Garrison counters. “Do you really think we’ll all live?”
“Yes,” I say adamantly. “You’re going to live.”
“I don’t know,” Garrison croaks. “But…but tell her, anyway. Just in case.” He smiles mischievously, but it disappears just as quickly. “I hit Tess,” he says.
“What?” Caleb asks, startled.
“I hit Tess,” Garrison says. “In the thigh, with a bottle. I hope she’s okay. Tell her I’m sorry.”
I hug him. “Oh, gosh, Garrison, I will. I will, I will, I will—,” And then I start crying. Unfiltered tears that just run down my face unashamedly. I’m crying, and not the movie-star-graceful crying, but snot and tears and sniffles. Caleb holds me, and Garrison reaches out his arm, and I’m just crying.
“C’mon, Em,” Caleb says. “Let’s go.”
I take his arm and let him escort me out.

Three days later, Tess dies. Two days after that, Liz does. Garrison is the only one who lives.
The police don’t charge us because we’re underage, but all of us are forced to go a rehab center—Garrison, Caleb, and me included, as well as a lot of other party-goers. We decide to heal—in the name of Liz and Tess. We decide to heal in their name.
It’s easiest for me to heal because, as Caleb says, I never drank any alcohol before the party. It’s hardest for Garrison. I guess he always drank a lot. Caleb has trouble, too, but not as much.
Sometimes, when I’m lying in the bed at the rehab center, I see those first blinding lights when I first woke up at the hospital. I remember what it was like to not know. To not know that Liz and Tess were dying. To not know what I had done. What Caleb had done. What Garrison had done.
I can’t look at them the same now. I can’t look at me the same too. All I fear is anger and depression and fear welling up inside me.
But sometimes I look in the mirror and I can forget all of this, and I can joke with Garrison and Caleb, joke and laugh and pretend I’m normal.
The truth is, though, I’m not. And I never will be.

message 20: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Guns, Drugs, and Misogyny
GENRE: Shadowrun
RATING: PG-13 for action violence, brief langauge, and prostitution themes

The Thunder Blade Mercenaries always got the job done in vicious fashion and this evening was going to be no different. The steel-armored dwarf of this three-piece team, Norman Bryan, was busy pouring a sticky black substance out of a metal barrel over the railroad tracks. The tall trench coat-wearing elf of the team, Edgar Rinehart, was watching Norman’s handiwork off to the side with the femme fatal and final member Valerie John standing next to him.

Edgar thought this would be a good time to remind Valerie of the most important part of this mission: “Gannon Mitchell must be taken alive. Otherwise, we don’t get paid.” Valerie asked, “Why should this bastard be allowed to live after what he’s doing to these girls?”

Norman said, “I’d like to get my hands on him myself, but it is what it is. We never really bothered to ask the boss man why he wants Gannon Mitchell alive. You know why? Because we’re mercenaries first and humanitarians second. That’s the way it’s been since we came together.”

Edgar said, “The good news, Valerie, is the boss man didn’t say anything about roughing him up beforehand. You can break a leg, break a few ribs, twist a few necks, but Gannon Mitchell must be alive, period.”

Valerie said, “I plan on taking full advantage of that little loophole.” The barrel of sticky black goop was empty and the track resembled a drenched ocean of slop. Norman got back a few steps as Edgar warned his comrades, “Here it comes, get ready!”

The massive “Ho Train” as Gannon Mitchell loved to call it was thundering down the tracks at blinding speed. It was spewing so much exhaust into the skies that it was hard to tell there were stars out at this time of night. When the train ran right over the puddle of gunk, the pace was slowed down considerably. One of the wheels of the train even fell off and rolled down a nearby hill.

The black soup did its job of bringing the Ho Train to a complete stop. Orcish warriors dressed in furs and steel while carrying massive blades got out of the train to see what was going on. Norman, Edgar, and Valerie were already out of sight by the time the orcs reached the sloppy puddle. The monstrous minions were cursing loudly and slapping each other upside the head, as if their barbaric rage alone would actually bring a solution to this problem.

From out of the shadows, Edgar flew onto the scene and kicked one of the orcs so hard in the head the devilish creature created a huge dent in the train after sailing backwards. The other orcs tried to attack him, but Edgar was ready. He pulled out an electrically-charged weapon called the Lightning Bat and swung at random orcs with extreme prejudice.

A few shots to the ribs and skulls sent a wave of electricity through the bodies of most of the orc warriors they would never recover from. Many blackened bodies later, one of the creatures grabbed Edgar around the neck and squeezed tightly enough to expand his eyeballs and blood veins.

Norman Bryan to the rescue with a pair of Lightning Nunchucks. He twirled the weapon and generated a massive amount of electricity before smashing the offending orc in the back of the head and deep frying him into ashes. Edgar bent over and wheezed hard in an attempt to get some oxygen back into his system. “Not a moment too soon, Norman. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” said the slick elf.

They had no time to pat each other on the backs just yet as more orcish warriors were coming their way with axes and swords raised high in the air. There must have been five of them in one group, but they were much larger than their original crispy comrades.

Valerie John came to save the day when she swung in on a harpoon rope and planted a boot each on the back of two orcish warrior’s heads. They were dizzy at best, but it wasn’t enough to deter them completely. Valerie let go of the rope and tucked and rolled her way into battle with a Lightning Staff handy.

All three mercenaries twirled their weapons to generate electricity while the three clearheaded orcs rushed into battle. Edgar dodged and flipped his way out of every slash his opponent threw. He had the grace of an acrobat and the strength of an ogre, as evidenced when he whacked the orc in the back of the head and sent him whirling into ashes.

Norman was actually running away from his opponent and climbing the train. The orc was foolish enough to follow him and jumped from platform to platform in an attempt to hunt down his prey. Norman appeared to be losing his grip and was hanging on with one hand when his opponent was ready to strike. It turned out to be a complete come-on as the orc flew to his doom when the dwarfish warrior flipped up and whacked him in the groin with the Lightning Nunchucks. The orc plummeted to the ground and crunched into ashes upon harsh impact.

Valerie was left to fight two dizzy orcs and a clearheaded orc on her own. They were swinging wildly and putting dents into whatever they touched from the train itself to the buildings and posts nearby. Valerie was dodging each of these shots with athletic grace. She even allowed one of the posts to fall over after the orcs stupidly struck it. Before it landed, Valerie whacked it with the Lightning Staff and turned it into a blizzard of ashes to get into the eyes and throats of the three orcs. From there, she was free to kick, punch, and elbow her way to a bone-breaking victory as the orcs plopped over after each blow and bled out.

With nobody else to fight, Norman, Edgar, and Valerie smashed a hole in the side of the train before flipping inside acrobatically and heading toward their eventual target, Gannon Mitchell. Before getting to him, what they saw was cell block after cell block of elfish women in their underwear with chains around their necks and huddling positions on the floor.

Edgar reminded Valerie, “Remember, Gannon Mitchell must be taken alive.” She didn’t respond. In fact, walking past these prisoners seemed to tighten her fists and expand her blood veins even with each step. Norman asked, “Valerie, you’re not going to do anything stupid, are you?” Again, she didn’t give an answer. She appeared to have complete tunnel vision on her way to the back of the train. No matter how many times Norman and Edgar tried to talk sense into her, Valerie’s nausea for prostitution seemed to overtake her.

The back of the train was where the humanoid pig (literally and figuratively) Gannon Mitchell was sleeping comfortably in bed with a frightened prostitute in a golden bikini. She had tears streaming down her face and a shaky body. Valerie saw this scene and did some shaking herself, but this time in furious anger. Gannon woke up and saw this feminist warrior at his door.

“Oh, shit!” he said. Valerie gave a villainous smile as she raised her staff in the air and charged toward the curling up Gannon. Before she could put him to death, Norman and Edgar were there to grab her arms and legs to keep her from doing something foolish.

“Are you insane, Valerie?! We’re going to lose our paychecks!” pleaded Edgar. Norman was equally concerned when he said, “Let’s just take him to the boss man and we’ll work this out!” The female warrior’s strength allowed her to chuck Norman and Edgar right into Gannon and almost crush him underneath their collective weight.

“Time to die, Gannon Mitchell!” yelled Valerie as she leaped into the air and attempted to bring down her Lightning Staff upon her victim’s skull. She became a victim herself when at the last moment Gannon threw Norman and Edgar out of the way, pulled out a hidden knife from underneath the mattress, and stabbed Valerie in the stomach.

“No!” yelled Norman as his sister in arms sputtered backwards and fell to her death with blood staining the silky carpet only Gannon’s room had. Gannon smiled at Norman and Edgar and said, “She actually would have lived longer if she became part of my Ho Train.”

And then it was Norman Bryan who was sent into a blind rage. He pushed a pleading Edgar off to the side and started whacking Gannon over the head repeatedly with his Lightning Nunchucks. One shot was enough to send Gannon’s black heart into cardiac arrest. Two shots turned his skin crispy black. Three shots and every shot after that just turned him into a pile of human waste.

The prostitute in bed with Gannon screamed loudly before getting up and running out of harm’s way. Edgar got up himself, spun Norman around, and punched him in the jaw to knock him out of his rage. Edgar said, “Do you realize what the hell you’ve done?! That was going to cover our rent for the month!”

Norman yelled through a bloody mouth, “Our sister in arms just died and all you can think about is money?! Is this what being a mercenary does to people?! It makes them forget about friendship too?!”

Edgar said, “I’m trying to be reasonable here, Norman!” The dwarf responded with, “If you were reasonable, we would have killed this Gannon Mitchell bastard a lot sooner! I know it wasn’t part of the mission to free these sex slaves, but I’m going to do it anyways! Sometimes, Edgar, the boss is wrong!”

Norman made good on his promise and went to the other cars to set the caged and chained women free. Edgar chose to stay behind and kneel beside Valerie for one last moment of comfort. He held her hand very gently and said, “I’m so sorry. I let you die. It should be me instead.” He kissed her on the forehead as a final gesture of goodwill to the woman who was right all along. Sometimes, friendship was what’s best for business, not paychecks.

message 21: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments Maybe a little bit beyond PG-13, I'm not really sure how the rating works, so keep that in mind before reading.


The warm early morning sunlight peeking through the curtains and falling across Avery’s face woke her from a blissful sleep. She laid on her side for a moment, staring at the veiled glass of the french doors that lead to the balcony, able to tell there was a bright clear sky behind its shroud. Colin laid with his body close behind her’s, one arm wrapped around her slim waist; he was still asleep. Avery took his hand in her’s and pulled it up to her lips where she softly kissed his fingers; the two had only been in Paris for a few days, and there was still a dark line of grease under his nails from the years he had spent working as a mechanic in the shop across the street from the diner where she worked as a waitress.

Avery slid out from under Colin’s arm and slipped out of bed, she pulled the sheet away from her sleeping lover as she tip-toed across the cold marble floor of their penthouse hotel room, wrapping it around her naked body as she went. Colin grunted behind her; uncovered and no longer with the warmth from her body next to him he slowly began to wake up as well, blinking the sleep from his eyes and entranced by her every step until she arrived at the double doors. Avery pulled both doors open fully at the same time, a corner of the sheet in each outstretched hand, the bedroom behind her flooded with light as a warm gentle breeze blew past her causing the sheet to ripple. Colin could not take his eyes off her body as she stood there, silhouetted from him by the sheet, and completely revealed to the outside world on the other side of it.

Avery let her exposed body bask in the warmth of the sun as it rose up into a cloudless sky, she heard the faint sounds of traffic forty stories below, and looked at the Eiffel Tower in the distance, glad that the rain from the previous few days seemed to be over, the world now smelling fresh and clean. As if she could feel Colin’s thoughts behind her, Avery allowed the sheet to fall down her back to just above her waist before wrapping it around herself once more and turning to face him. Avery looked at Colin laying on the bed, he was still naked from the night before; she didn’t need to ask what he was thinking, his body told her exactly what he wanted.

She smiled at him playfully as he watched her cross the room; Avery’s movements graceful, as she passed the bed Colin continued watching, her hips gently swayed with each step. Avery placed one hand on the doorway and let it trail behind her, the sheet falling to the floor just as she disappeared into the bathroom, “Get dressed.” Avery called out to him as the sound of the shower spit to life, “I want to go see the city.”

Colin ignored what she said; instead he joined her in the shower where Avery acquiesced to his desire once more before they both dressed and headed out to explore their new surroundings.

It was hard to believe that it had been just one week since that man with a northern accent broke into the house Avery’s grandmother had left her, he had tied her up as he searched under the floorboards for hidden riches. Colin had stopped by unexpectedly that night to surprise Avery, and nearly had his head bashed in with a crowbar for his efforts. Avery had barely been able to free her hands in time to pick up the man’s gun from where it had been dropped during his fight with Colin, and shoot the maniac through the back. With his dyeing breath the man issued an ominous warning, that he was not alone, that there are others looking for the same thing he was.

The man died in Avery’s foyer, after which she took Colin upstairs to the bedroom and showed him the money he had pulled from the floor as she sat tied up in the corner. Colin went over to inspect the opening, and when he did he found that there were still more bundles of the money left inside. The two removed more of the floorboards and continued to pull out more and more money, when they finally finished in the early hours of the morning they had found nearly a million dollars, but as Colin pulled the last of the bundles out of the floor he found something else underneath it.

The luster of the silver necklace that Colin pulled from its resting place below the final bundle of one hundred dollars bills had been faded by tarnish for quite some time. The necklace’s chain seemed impossibly thin, and at its end hung an intricately woven Celtic cross not much bigger than his thumb. “There’s something written on the back.”, he told Avery as he passed her the necklace, it was so delicate it felt nearly weightless in her hand.

Avery furrowed her brow as she examined the tiny inscription on the back. She could tell that there were two words, but there was too much tarnish covering the second word to tell what it was. “The first word’s Dues, that’s Spanish for two right?”


“I can’t tell what the second word is though, it looks like it starts with a ‘C’…maybe cats.” She offered jokingly.

“Two cats.” Colin replied thoughtfully. “And here I always pictured Jesus as more of a dog person.” The two shared a laugh as they sat among the torn up floor boards and looked around at the small stacks of money piled up throughout the room.

“Now what?” Avery asked, there was a hint of desperation in her voice not to be the one to have to answer her own question. In just one night her entire life had been turned upside down. She wasn’t sure why she trusted Colin so much, or why she felt so comfortable with him. Maybe it was all the afternoons they had spent flirting as she served him grilled cheese sandwiches and french fries at the diner where she worked the counter. Colin had asked her out several times during the years that she spent caring for her ailing grandmother, but Avery denied him every time. She worked at the diner six days a week and barely made enough to keep the lights on at home and afford the many medications that were helping her sick grandmother cling to life. Now she sat amongst more money than she knew what to do with.

“Is this the only room your grandmother used to rent out?” Colin asked as he fanned through a stack of the hundred-dollar bills before tossing it into one of the piles with the others.

“No.” Avery answered him, “She told me she used to rent out the room across the hall too.”

Colin looked through the doorway and into the smaller bedroom across the hall. “Do you think we should check it?”

Avery looked around herself and then shook her head, “I don’t think I could handle uncovering anymore secrets tonight.”

Colin wasn’t sure why he felt so strongly about Avery, but he knew there was something special about her the first time they met at the diner across from the auto shop where he worked. Her eyes spoke a language that his heart understood, even if the rest of him didn’t; and every time that Colin asked her out and Avery told him no, he would simply tell her that it was okay, that eventually she would change her mind, and that he was willing to wait until she did.

Colin wasn’t supposed to be at Avery’s that night. It was only Thursday, and their first date was still another night away; but Colin was excited that Avery had finally agreed to go out with him, and he had stopped by to give her the bouquet of supermarket wildflowers he had impulsively picked out when he got off work earlier that day. As he stood on her front porch waiting for her to answer the door he thought about how corny he must look, and contemplated leaving before she could open the door. He would have had plenty of time. As Colin continued to wait he began to feel a bit uneasy; he looked through the window next to door to try to discern if there was any movement coming from inside, and wondered if Avery might be in the back of the house and unable to hear his knock.

As Colin looked into the foyer he noticed a briefcase setting in the floor, the rug by the front door was bunched up as if it had been kicked, and a small table that had been holding a potted fern of some sort was knocked over on its side. Colin tried the door, and found it unlocked, he stepped inside and called out for Avery. Avery’s reply came from upstairs, she had shouted something about a man that Colin couldn’t quite make out, but the fear mixed with anger in her voice was easily recognizable. Then out of no where the stranger appeared, rushing down the stairs with a crowbar in one hand. In that instant Colin was ready to sacrifice his life to keep Avery safe, and he did his best to fight off the intruder, but it was Avery that killed the man and saved his life instead.

message 22: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments -- continued --

"What about the guy downstairs?" Colin asked.

Avery had let herself forget about the dead man down stairs, but Colin was right, it was an issue that had to be addressed. Avery answered, "I guess it's time to call the police.", as she sat there gazing into his steel-blue eyes and silently thanking God that Colin was there with her, and that she wasn't having to face this ordeal on her own.

"You know they're going to take everything when they come, right?" He sat there looking back at her, and into the warmness of her chestnut eyes.

"Of course they are, but what other option is there. It's not like we can hide all of this and hope they don't find it."

Colin sat quietly for a minute before offering his suggestion, "We could do what you said before, we could just leave."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes. You heard what that guy said. He's got friends that are looking for this money too, and it won't be long before they end up here, and what then?" Colin waited for Avery to answer, but she had no response for him. "Instead of calling the police we should bury that guy deep, somewhere in the trees out back, clean all this up, leave town and never come back. We could start in Paris, and when we get tired of that we could go somewhere else, anywhere else we wanted."

"You are serious." Avery said, she carefully crossed the room full of missing floor boards and sat beside him. "You would do that? Leave with me and never come back."

"With you, yes." Colin answered her, and then cupped Avery's face in his hands and pulled it in close to his own, their lips met and they shared a long passion filled kiss. When their embrace parted Colin said to her, almost breathlessly, "I brought you flowers." referring to the flowers that now laid strewn about the floor downstairs.

"I saw them." Avery replied, her voice shared the same anticipation that Colin's did, and her lips trembled slightly as they longed to be locked with his once again, "They're pretty, but I'm not going to have much time to enjoy them. I'm leaving town soon."

They left the room and went downstairs; Colin drug the dead man's body out into the woods, and Avery began scrubbing the floor of the foyer where the blood had pooled. It was hours later when she finally finished, and when Colin came back inside he was covered from head to toe in dirt. "How deep did you bury him?" Avery asked as she watched Colin, leaning exhausted against the wall.

"Lets just say you won't have to worry about any stray dogs diggin' him up."

It took the two of them most of the rest of the day to replace all the floor boards, and to put the furniture back in place. The sun was starting to go down Friday evening when they finally packed the last of the money into the back of Avery's old Jeep Cherokee and headed out-of-town. They didn't stop driving until they reached Cincinnati where they holed up for the weekend in a motel on the outskirts of town. First thing Monday morning they went from bank to bank, renting deposit boxes and stuffing them full of money until they had it all stashed away. On Tuesday they boarded a flight with a small bag full of money, and flew first class to Paris.

The first two days they were in the City of Love the rain never stopped. Avery had spent hours staring out from the balcony at the Eiffel Tower in the distance. She had also bought a tourism book at the airport as they waited for their flight, and now as they sat in their room at the top of the Napoleon Hotel and the rain continued to fall; Avery told Colin about all the things she wanted to see as soon as the weather cleared. Colin promised to take her to see them all; The Mona Lisa at the Louvre, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and anywhere else she wanted to go. They spent their days wrapped in each others' arms and talking about the future, and they spent their nights passionately making love.

When the weather finally cleared on the third day, and they stepped out of the hotel, hand-in-hand heading for the Eiffel Tower, they never even noticed the man dressed in a black suit and trench coat that followed them.

message 23: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments Sofia, The Party was such an amazing story, it was powerful, and tragic, and showed just how quickly one night of drinking can go horribly wrong.

message 24: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments Garrison, your story was a really fun read packed full of action. I really liked the lightining weapons, the moral of the story, that there is more to life than money.

message 25: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments Thank you so much, Mandy. It's good to know my efforts paid off. :)

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Mandy, thanks for reading! Your story was amazing too. I loved it.

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

Mandy, your story is superb. I was thoroughly engrossed. :)

message 28: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments Thanks Sofia and Catherine, I'm really glad you liked it.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Garrison wrote: "AUTHOR: Garrison Kelly
TITLE: Guns, Drugs, and Misogyny
GENRE: Shadowrun
RATING: PG-13 for action violence, brief langauge, and prostitution themes

Garrison, what a creative, action packed story! I need to take some lessons from you in how to move a story and plot along through action. I am more an emotional, descriptive writer. Or maybe I am just figuring out how to round out characters. Well, enough about me. Good job!

The Thunder Blade Mercenari..."

message 30: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments Sofia - how right you are about that horrible moment of dislocation when you wake in hospital and don't know how you got there. A chilling reminder of how fun can become deadly serious, handled well.

Garrison - a good rollicking tale. I'd like to have got to know the characters more before the action kicked off.

Mandy - this is a good story overall, but I don't think splitting it up into chunks like this is doing you any favours. I'd really like to see it all in one piece so you don't have to repeat bits.

message 31: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments Thanks, Jay and Catherine! I'm glad you both enjoyed my piece this week! :)

message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Jay! Your story was fun as well, I loved it.

message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Garrison wrote: "Thanks, Jay and Catherine! I'm glad you both enjoyed my piece this week! :)"
You are welcome! I read stories by you and Ryan and Mandy and others, and I think, "What rich imaginations! The writing is so fluid. I can only imagine what your daily lives must be like.:)"

message 34: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments My daily life consists of waiting for a ride to McDonald's, Subway, or any other restaurant. I do most of my living inside my own head. Again, thanks, Catherine. I'm pleased you appreciate what I've done this week. :)

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Sofia (That Book Addict) wrote: " The Party, 1809 words, critique appreciated
I wake up and see blinding lights. I squint, putting my hand over my eyes. Then my others senses awaken. I can smell sterility and hear a beeping nois..."

Sofia, what a story! I can just imagine how listless and melancholy your characters must be feeling. Sounds like a bout of MORAL INSANITY. A word I just discovered! It means: Mental deficiency amounting to the incapacity to distinguish between right and wrong, or characterized by compulsions to perform unsocial, irresponsible, or criminal acts: a legal term variously interpreted in different statues. -Funk and Wagnalls New Practical Standard Dictionary. You could use that word in your story! :)

message 36: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments Jay, I love the joyful overtones you put in your piece this week. Having a broken down car is frustrating, especially in the middle of traffic. But you managed to make the whole situation seem giggly and playful. I like writing with a positive attitude!

Sofia, you’ve shown us what the power of too much alcohol can do to somebody. Just one mistake can be the difference between a night of “partying” and a downward spiral that never seems to end. This story is the perfect cautionary tale.

Mandy, the beginning of your story with the naked couple was very enticing. The end of your story when that same couple fails to notice the black trench-coat wearing man following them leaves the door open for more exciting adventures. If you want to continue this series, go right ahead. I’d enjoy reading it!

Garrison, did you notice that your name was used in Sofia’s story this week? Do you think it could be a coincidence? It probably is. Do you also think it’s a coincidence that I’m talking to myself once again? Then again, I do love good conversation.

message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Garrison wrote: "Jay, I love the joyful overtones you put in your piece this week. Having a broken down car is frustrating, especially in the middle of traffic. But you managed to make the whole situation seem gigg..."
Ha Ha! I was like...!?

message 38: by Mandy (new)

Mandy Blake | 1231 comments Garrisoin, thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I have more ideas for this story so hopefully you'll enjoy them too.

Jay, thanks for your comments. I think you're right, this might be one of those stories that can't be broken up easily into weekly segments. I did feel like I was repeating a little to much from the story a couple of weeks ago. I think I might hold on to this story for this years NaNo unless I can't keep from working on it until then.

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

YES! When I saw your name in last week's short story competition, I was like, "I LOVE THAT NAME!" I just had to use it.

message 40: by Garrison (new)

Garrison Kelly (cybador) | 9317 comments I feel honored! :)

message 41: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments Mandy wrote: "Garrisoin, thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it, and I have more ideas for this story so hopefully you'll enjoy them too.

Jay, thanks for your comments. I think you're right, this might be one of thos..."

Please let us have the link when you publish the full story - bet it will be a corker!

message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

Garrison isn't in my handy duty name dictionary, but GARSON is. It means Son of Gar - ENGLISH - SPEAR.

message 43: by Jay (last edited Feb 07, 2014 03:52PM) (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments Just watching Everly Brothers on TV - feels like their music has been with me throughout my life...

message 44: by Melanie (last edited Feb 07, 2014 04:39PM) (new)

Melanie (melanienmo) | 34 comments Sofia (That Book Addict) wrote: " The Party, 1809 words, critique appreciated
I wake up and see blinding lights. I squint, putting my hand over my eyes. Then my others senses awaken. I can smell sterility and hear a beeping nois..."

What a good topic you've chosen to write this week, Sofia! I just finished a chapter in Biology that detailed the damages of underage drinking, so this was something that I could apply to my life right now.

You chose to write in the very-challenging present tense (something that I'm working on myself). Overall, I think that you did a good job. There are only two specific critiques I can give:

1) Try to limit your use of helping verbs (am/is/are) because they take away some of the power of the actual verb.
ex.) "Tears are running down his face."
"Tears run down his face."

2)There are some weird things at the beginning of the third-to-last paragraph that do maintain the continuity of the piece (in present tense), but I think could be worded a little bit better. (Three days later, Tess dies...ect.)

But despite the critiques, the things you did with this piece were very good. I think that it was written with a purpose without being cheesy, the combination of which makes the best stories, in my opinion. <3

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you for the critiques! I'll think of these when I write further. Thank you!! :D

message 46: by Jay (new)

Jay Howard (jay_howard) | 128 comments I concur with Melanie's comments about 1st person present tense - very difficult. I've done it once for dramatic effect and that's the most work I've ever had to put into a story to get it right. Kudos to you, Sofia, for that. Something else you also do well here is the little human touches that keep it real and believable, for instance her worry about having hairy legs. I've actually had a nightmare about ending up in hospital with hairy legs so that really resonated lol!

message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Jay!

message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Startle Me There by Catherine Niedzwiecki

The Pretty Lawn cemetery I have passed often on my way home from the store to my grandmother’s nursing home, Cedar Manor. I bring things. The owner of the greensward keeps cows and ewes outside the park in a field of grassy grub: cows without horns, Mulley – cows with horns broken off somehow, Hummel. Only know what they are called because I read the Sunday Paper. I live in West Texas so I feel like I should know. San Angelo is now the Sheep Capital of the entire country; sheep statues grace every other corner in town.
Nanna’s real name is Ioannina, Ioannina means grace in Hebrew, but we call her Nanna for short. She and I used to drive this stretch of road afternoons on our way home from school. She always had a block of grape bubble gum waiting for us, or oaten bread with strawberry jam on days we took tests, or an ICEE Slurpee on Fridays, and as we blew bubbles that zapped our cheeks and stickied our hands, Nanna would not mind trifling away an hour with Christopher and I on a jaunt in the car, pointing with a crooked finger that was gnarled from arthritis and knitting the old goat in the mesquite tree in back of Marve Kantros old place; the literal yellow brick road past the train tracks downtown off of Oakes that leads to a run-down rolling mill; a banana peel a man tossed out of his car window. When we passed the cemetery, Nanna used to say with a jargonizing whim, “Wherever Cemetery!” – shaking her head. Pointing with a jaunty finger at the Janus-faced statue by the cordate iron gateway entrance in front that was overrun with asiatic jasmine, “Here or there, in heaven or hell, wherever the good Lord wants me, *startle me there.” She told me later when I was in college that my mother used to make batches of wine when she was married to my Dad, and when June’s son died with an aneurism in ’75, they headed to the Park with “Cobblers,” a summer drink made of ice wine, sugar, and fruit juices, in thermos containers – to celebrate a good life that was. “Startle me there,” happens sometimes, she’d say “Quickly. It’s how we live while alive that matters.” “Besides,” she added, “getting too old and wasting away is for the birds.”
Spring fever. Harvest flies swarm. Pear trees stand with hard young fruit. Star thistles, mums, and daisies alight the ground by grave stones I can see from the road. I remember with a wave of grief, the good old days of my youth, and think of Nanna, alone in her wheelchair now by the window in the dining room, waiting for a pureed lunch, spying cardinals by a hose and feeder, or reading a Texas Monthly that her younger sister June brings her on Sundays. “Roses are too expensive for cemeteries most times,” Nanna used to tell us, “but the world around us is so full of roses, if we would only take the time to notice.” Nanna wears June’s crochet sweaters in layers, threadbare these days, all year round in layers, even in the Summer, “I am so cold,” she tells me with a lurch when I visit. “So cold.” And then she gets really quiet, hugging herself and closing her eyes, and just when I think dementia has finally rowed her out to twilight’s lurid abyss, she jolts out of her stupor with a cock crow clarity and says with a brightness that calms my soul, “But I am warm in these sweaters, my life preservers. I’d sink without them.”
San An. is unique. Heading south from the hill country you will notice the streets are all named by a letter of the alphabet, beginning with Z. On the West side, the streets are named by the last names of the first ten presidents, and the streets in the center of town are named after War Generals.
Nanna’s mother, Ma Bea, died at 97. She worked as a laundress and ironed clothes for a living. She made mulligan stew for hobos who passed through on the famed railroad cars during the depression, and was paid in hobo art made out of matchsticks that are on display in an Angelo Museum. Ma Bea dipped snuff and wore a grey curly wig, even in her youth; this puzzled her family because her real hair was waist long, romantic and fabulous, albeit thin. I watched her once unfasten hair knobs held by bobby pins, her silky cloud mane raining loose; I was 10 before the mystery hiding under the surface of those grey locks was revealed; she was just about to get a haircut. I could not help but stare. “Too thin.” she told me, combing her wig, answering the question in my eyes I would not ask out loud.
One picture of Ma Bea and me exists, and in that picture I am sitting on her lap picking my nose. The rancor of my parents’ divorce distracted me from pleasures I deemed idle or for “whole families,” like knitting, crocheting, the life buoys. Pleasures of that caliber were for the likes of June’s grandchildren whose parents were swimming on 20 acres of land past Eden. Consequently, I feel now I was always picking my nose around Ma Bea.
Bea wore black slacks and a white shirt, always. She liked to poke holes in her cake when she ate, as she did most days, in the manor dining hall, pouring half and half through to moisten up the stiffness. God startled her there unexpectedly as she slept in the middle of a Summer’s night– room 2 at the manor, two doors down from where my mom is living now; I was 23.
Nanna was an oil painter. She painted ruby throated hummingbirds, and porcelain vases full of flowerage: Rubicund Roses and stately irisis, and Indian children in anemone colored ponchos around colorful Rancherias in the style of a southwest artists she saw in a magazines. Thickset, she had a rollicking gait and ambled to and fro her errands and appointments in her homemade violet polyester jackets and floral or plaid cotton blouses, with an aloofness that defied circumstance, like she never hurt my Dad with slander during the divorce, or ignored her other grandchildren, or had a son who died of alcoholism, or had a husband who left her for another woman in town. In addition, Nanna had a sister die at age 3 of dyptheria, and another sister who shot herself under the chin, and another sister who would have shock treatments in her 20’s. These experiences were like light winds that barely ruffled the waters. Her ruffling defiance irked many on my dad’s side of the family who blamed her for the divorce, but garnered my respect and admiration. She kind of sailed into the winds of experience, wearing an expression of someone who was inhaling a beautiful bouquet. Nanna kept silver her hair cropped short with a permanent until she turned 80. Now her hair is white and long and thin and white past her shoulders; she wears it in a braid.
Today is Friday, the first of June. I bring Nanna Rollos and a newspaper; she consumes both with voraciousness, rubbernecking each article, licking her chops over each word, and I clear my throat often to remind her I am there. Suddenly there is a loud rancor in the room next door. Gun’s & Rose’s “Paradise City” blares through on a boom box. Inside the room a blue eyed overweight man in his 40’s is headbanging in a wheelchair. “Excuse me, I say. Can you turn the music down. My grandmother is trying to read.” “Sh-sh-sh-ure,” he stammered, squirming in his chair. I returned to Nanna’s room.
“That man is an alcoholic. He has multiple sclerosis, like your mother.” Nana tells me. “I loved him when I saw him, because he reminds me of Steve. By the way, you can call me Guissepe today.” I what? I ask. “You can call me Guissepe today. I have been watching the Christian station and learned that name is another name for Joseph. Joseph was a good man.” Would you get me some ice?”
“Sure,” I say, and reach for her cup. Just as I reached the door Nanna says, “Oh, Catherine.” “Yes?” Why are you wearing a wickerbasket flower pot on your head? “
“Thought you’d never notice. Well, I’m pissed off at Dad, and I er..em...I’m trying to *startle myself into seeing the bright side of things. Stop and smell the roses, and if there aren’t any, plant a garden. Well, I don’t have a home now since I am living with mom – to plant a garden – so I am trying to…”
“Hmmm. Get in touch with your inner garden?”
“Or grow a brain, according to dad. Got any potting soil?”
Nanna just looks at me with a faint smile for a few moments and says, “The ice dear.” My father who is a pianist would say Nanna was giving me a *tacet order; that is, a musical direction for silence. But he never used his big words on me; he saved those for the crossword puzzles.
I exit Nanna’s room and venture to the dining hall wishing Dad gave *tacet orders. He compels me into mania. I called my father when I was in the mental hospital and one would think he would – on the phone talking to a crazy person – talk nice and soothing, instead he yells as though he were driving nails into palms. Apple practice. I stumble over a shoe lace and hear the ice clink in the small plastic cup I am grappling with. I feel the wooden twill sink into my forehead a bit and thank God I am *startled bit by bit into feeling and smelling – Despite the free fold odor of urine and diapers – scents wafting from the dining hall. Food cooked in pans: burnt sausage and onions; Bleached cotton fabric roaming from the next hallway over. Antiseptics. Ah, The present moment. I look up and I am in the the octagon room where the nurses station is located.
There are 6 resident halls at Cedar Manor that branch out from this spot. Each are named after a historically important place in Texas. There is the Abilene hall, the Balinger hall, the Carlsbad hall, the Del Rio hall, the El Dorado hall, and the Fort MacKavett hall, where my grandmother’s room is located. Fort McKavett has been hailed for the countryside’s beauty, and was established as protection against Indian invaders.
BOYFRIENDS are RAIDERS, I think, and so are Dads. I have known a few neighbor women who like to invade as well. I wonder briefly about the cemeteries at Fort McKavett: wonder if you have to be a general or soldier to get buried there; I have been out of the hospital 2 weeks and want to kink into a violent, rolling, laughing fit like the woman in the wheel chair next to the dining entrance. “Knaggy–ness.” Nanna calls that state of strangeness. “When you’re skittish and ticklish at the same time. Makes for some nice knot rolling.” Well, I learned at the hospital that even 30 something year olds act like that. Dad can accuse me of many things: Selfishness, lying, being unresponsive, but no one can accuse me of Ageism.
The woman by the entrance suddenly stops and stares at the basket pot on my head, and in a timid voice she says, “Time immemorial.”
Inside the dining I see a group playing a card game. A couple men are hooting and hollering about a blue streak. There is a line to the ice machine so I grab a mercy seat; there are only so many moments a person can have in the hallway.
“Pssst. Hey gal.”
“Huh,” I say, and turn to the group behind me playing the game.
“You like money? Wanna see my dollar bill?”
“Uh, Okay.” The man is tall and heavy, and has bumps on his face like troll. His hair is thinning and a veil of sweat covers his face. He folds his dollar bill and makes a mushroom out of George Washington’s head. “Hungry?” He says with an indelicate laugh, swatting the chest of a fellow player. “Or look I can make the twin towers.”
“What are y’all playing I ask?”
“It’s called Ober,” he says straight faced and serious.
“Oberek?” I interrupt, proud of my Polish heritage on my father’s side. You mean this? And I spin a quick jig, cheerily.
“What? No,” he said, still serious. “A game of 40 cards played in the 18th century. We are old school, arnt’ we Chuck?” He says again with a swat. Chatter ensues and I wonder over to the hutch cabinet, looking for a checker board. Instead I find a basket full of plastic vegetables and fruit. (CONT)

message 49: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 07, 2014 09:04PM) (new)

(CONT) I put the pepper in my pocket, a souvenir I can practice drawing at Mothers. Plastic peppers are like roses. I hope this isn’t finable like it was in Austin.
“Well Ober is German,” he calls as I am exiting. Your Nanna is German, ain’t she? I’ve seen you with her in the hall.”
“Yeah, I say, she’s German. Well, her husband was. He liked a fine-cut.”
“Oh? Well, so do I.” And patted his plaid shirt pocket.
I chuckle. “Good seeing you.”
I did not tell Mrs. Guissepe that the hospital nurses put me on 3 medications. That everything has a filmy, gauzy haze to it. Like the indirect sunlight coming through Nanna’s curtains that seems half, and the unsubstantial gloss of everyone’s faces. There is, however, a community feel to the place. I set Nanna’s drink on the rolling tray. “So you’ve heard of Ober?” she asks, her voice reminiscent of my fathers.
“Is that conjecture?”
“News travels fast among these hobbly-wobblies.”
“I thought you were being intuitive.”
“Shhh, she said.” “Folks around here call that occult.”
“That’s San Angelo. “
“Well,” she said with a half note. “You are smelling the roses. I’m glad.”
I do not show Nanna the pepper I put under my wickerbasket flower pot hat in the hall. I am sure she would say I was just being sassy.
I look at my watch. Well, I am fixing mom dinner tonight and will need to get going although I feel satiated now.
“Bye,” she says abruptly. And as I get to the door she says, “By the way kid, you are satin flower honesty. Draw me a rose tonight.”
I walk down Greenwood street a few blocks from the house my mother shares with her estranged husband, kicking up gravel. The nursing home is a bitter water, but after being homeless for 10 months, the place feels like home. There is nothing “mare’s nestish” about life in there, or out there, or in here. There may be something “mare’s nestish” about a younger woman with a flower pot on her head, at least for the likes of my grandmother, but every instant seems marcescent. Withering, perhaps, but without falling off. Even dead we don’t fall off,” at least to the occultist in the Manor who plays with the ojibwe boards. One man and wife do I am told.
I walk through the doors and see my mother getting ice in the kitchen. “Got a rabbit in yer hat do ye?” She says.
“News travels fast with those oldy goldies.”
“Nah,” she said. “Intuition.”
“It’s a pepper. I am going to put it back.”
“Honey, ristras around the house, garlic bulbs, mazzard skulls. Honey, Roger. You do not have to steal.”
“Hiding power.” I say.
Someone needs to get those people at the home up out of their seats. It’s called Shuffle board people. Maybe I could be the activities director or something.”
“They have one. Mrs. Guissepe already inquired.”
“Well, I think I’ll go to the backyard and paint a self portrait with a flower pot on my head.”
“Inadvisable. Paint a rose in your hair, Catherine. Paint your grandmother.”
In the back I prepare a space for my stuff, and bring the living room mirror to the side of the house where the half-light improves my impotent reflection. My dad will be calling soon and I will be screaming “IMPUNITY, Raider!” Like I did last night.
Before I paint I write a sonnet about painting.
This morning in nightclothes I prattle not
with my reflection in an old mirror
but rush headlong toward blue islands caught
in the humdrum winter light of a clear

gaze that is nicked by stupors of beauty.
I have painted my portrait several times.
The flower of visions' acuity
is the Elysium where color rhymes.
Embassies of epicene expressions
Stir the winds that move the waters placidly.
To envisage harbors the ego shuns
on a canvas as wide as the white sea.
My paintbrush salutes with a petaled flag
the lilt of Narcissus; a kind of jag.

I drove past that old cemetery many times, and I heard Nanna say *startle me there, my whole life. But those mounds always seemed beyond the moon to me. Nanna does not seem like she is going to die, but like Ma Bea, death could come – well, for any of us, - in the blink of an eye. I have painted my portrait. My brush went pit-a-pat on the canvas. I felt like a cow with broken horns so I painted myself hummel in the portrait, accenting the black ground with black balloons. I will read the paper tomorrow. And paint a rose for Nanna, tomorrow. It’s the thought that counts, right? Tomorrow is my rose, now. Tomorrow. ---THE END CNiedzwiecki

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Garrison wrote: "I feel honored! :)"

Haha you should be!! :D

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