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Monthly Short Story Contest > March 2016 Writer's contest. Never Lose Hope

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message 1: by Lynette (new)

Lynette White (lynettewhite) | 309 comments March 2016 Short Story Challenge (up to 1000 words)

Stories to be posted Here.

Highlights: A field or park, a single rose, a traumatic event

Theme: Finding hope in the darkest hours

Setting – any

Plot – your choice

March Variations and Options

• Rushing to the scene of an accident to find it is your loved one.
• You come home and find it ransacked.
• An unexpected death leaves unresolved issues.
• a long search for a lost family member results in finding them
• A cancer patient learns they are cancer free
• The daughter of a nobleman learns she will be wed to a man she doesn't love.
• An army detachment rushing to help their comrades to find??
• After a crop failure in the biosphere something happens to save the next crop

Length: 500 to 1,000 Words

Deadline: Sunday March 27 11:59 pm mst.

Voting will start 12:01 am March 28 and end 11:59 pm on March 31 Winners will be posted in this thread on April 1st. I promise no April fool's shenanigans.

Challenge Guidelines

Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Mystery, Crime, Comedy, Romance, or a mixture (BASICALLY, anything but erotica)

Purpose -
Some fiction writers are looking to win a short story contest, keeping in touch with making deadlines, and/or simply sharpening the skill of writing fiction. The main purpose of this contest is to sharpen plot and character skills, collect your own short stories, receive good feedback, make a good connection with other writers, and take a short break from your current novel to get a fresh view when you return to it.

Rules and Directions -
* Type in English - a minimum of 500 words; a maximum of 1,000 words; no erotica, no profanity.

* Post your title, by line, and word count total in the first line of your story posting.


* ONE entry per person, must be writer's original work, a final revision, and a new piece of writing. Please do not delete and repost since this becomes confusing to the readers. Try to post your final revision.

Judging: The story will be judged on creativity, proper grammar, good punctuation, and overall good quality for story.

Voting: Please vote for first, second, and third place. You are not allowed to vote for yourself. If posting this month, you MUST vote, in order for your story to remain eligible.

message 2: by Holly (new)

Holly Jones | 16 comments The Rose Balloon

By Holly Jones

Words: 834

Agnes and her grandfather walked along the cobblestone path through the trail at the park. It was a cold autumn day that made for a brisk walk.
Agnes wanted to see everything she could see. She was a curious and hyperactive 9 year old girl, and her pace was difficult for Cody, her grandfather, to keep up with.
When Agnes saw the beautiful oak trees all around her she didn’t know which one she wanted to climb first! She played eeny-meeny-miney-moe to see which tree she would climb, and her finger landed on a large tree with bright yellow leaves and an orange-colored trunk.
As she was about to ascend to the top she noticed halfway there that there was a carving in the tree trunk. It was a balloon with a single rose carved in the middle, and the names carved underneath were Cody B. And Maddie H.
“Hey Grandpa, you have to come see this!” Agnes shouted once she climbed down.
“Yes, what is it, sweetheart?” Her grandpa asked once he got there.
“Grandpa, I was up in the tree and I noticed a guy with the same last initial as you carved his name up there!” Agnes told him.
“Actually Agnes, I carved that a long time ago,” her grandpa explained, “It’s not really something I like to talk about.”
“But there’s a girl’s name up there and it isn’t Grandma!” Agnes pointed out, “Also, there’s a drawing of a balloon with a rose carved in the tree.”
“I know,” her grandpa affirmed, “That girl was Madeline Henderson. I knew her when I was just a little older than you. When I was in fifth grade her family moved to my old neighborhood. Her father was a wealthy businessman, but she never tried to show off her affluence…”

Cody remembered the first time he saw Madeline. She was short with black pigtails and pale skin. She shuffled when she walked and tended to keep to herself. She and Cody first spoke to each other when the teacher paired them as lab partners.
It turned out that they both had a lot in common. They both loved science and nature. They would collect seeds from the park and examine them. She came over to his house all the time to play monopoly and talk about plants and animals. Neither one had a lot of friends, and over time they came to rely a lot on each other.
For some reason though, Madeline would never let Cody come over to her house to play. He didn’t understand why. At first it didn’t bother him, but after a while he began to wonder if she was ashamed of him because he wasn’t rich like her.
Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. He had to know the truth!
“Maddie, do you hate me?” He asked.
“What?” Maddie asked; shocked.
“Do you hate me?” Cody asked again, “If not, then why don’t you ever let me come over to your house to play?”
Madeline’s mood shifted in that instant. A pall cast over her face, and she shifted on her heel uncomfortably.
“Can you keep a secret?” Maddie asked.
“Sure,” Cody replied.
He wished he hadn’t said that.
Madeline explained why she didn’t want to go home and why she didn't want her father to meet Cody. Her father beat her and would molest her when her mother was gone. She didn’t want Cody to tell anyone, because she was sure it would only make the situation worse.
Cody was horrified by what she said, but he had promised to not tell, so he didn’t.
Oh how he wished he did!

“So what happened to her, Grandpa?” Agnes asked when he went quiet.
“...Two months after she told me, there was a fire…” Her grandpa said solemnly, “She was killed. Her father was suspected of murdering her, but they never prosecuted him. There wasn’t even a body to bury. No tombstone. I knew the world wanted to forget, but I could never forget her, so I carved that rose balloon as her memorial when I was 12.”
Agnes nearly cried when he told her that story, but she also felt so grown up for being in her grandpa’s confidence. Still, there was something bothering her about that carving of the Rose balloon.
“Grandpa, I feel like I’ve seen that picture on the tree before,” Agnes said, “Where did you get the idea?”
“I came up with it myself,” her grandpa replied, “However, you’ve likely seen it on billboards and online. About 40 years ago I worked with Madeline’s brother Zayden to start the Henderson’s Home Foundation. It’s a nonprofit for children who are victims of abuse. I wanted a glimmer of hope to shine through, and for Madeline’s life to not be in vain.”
The pair walked home from the park hand in hand. The chill in the autumn air cut through to the bone as they hurried their pace to the safety of their home.

message 3: by Shae (new)

Shae Hamrick | 284 comments Wow. and we are of to a quick start.

message 4: by Shae (new)

Shae Hamrick | 284 comments story prompt ... Rushing to the scene of an accident to find it is your loved one.....

Been there, done that twice..... don't think I'll go there. :)

(how do you do that italics quoting thing here?)

message 5: by T.K. (last edited Mar 03, 2016 09:42AM) (new)

T.K. Naliaka Shae wrote: "story prompt ... Rushing to the scene of an accident to find it is your loved one..... Been there, done that twice..... don't think I'll go there. :)
(how do you do that italics quoting thing he..."

Hi Shae, What do you mean by quotes thingy? (Hint look at the above?)
(as in look at the draft on the reply and see what the first i at the beginning of the italic quote looks like, then look at what the closing i looks like)

message 6: by Glenda (last edited Mar 03, 2016 11:52AM) (new)

Glenda Reynolds (glendareynolds) | 922 comments Mod
@Shae if you know HTML, it can be used in your comments. That's how I get graphics to show up here (thumbs up or banners for new subjects. For example to italicize use i in the middle of < > and put it again, closing the italicize with /i in betweet the same symbols. If I did it here, it would turn into italics with out the instruction. I'll try it now:

31 Days of October anthology - calling for submissions NOW.

I bolded NOW by using b just as you use i inbetween the symbols.

message 7: by Lynette (new)

Lynette White (lynettewhite) | 309 comments Thank you,Glenda I was honestly wondering how to do that also, Shea.

I apologize for the prompt, Shea. I have witnessed it too many times when I was working ambulance. Bless you for enduring that.

Great way to start things off,Holly! Beautiful story.

message 8: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments THE RED ROSE OF SUNDAY – By Mirta Oliva – 1,000 words

"There he is, Loretta! You see... just as he does every Sunday afternoon - this young man is depositing one red rose on the park bench, a secluded seating arrangement surrounded by a tall hedge. He is pausing for a minute... now he is leaving the area, head down, possibly praying. Next Sunday, I will be there waiting for him, sitting on the other side of the bench... I have developed a feeling for this enigmatic soul, but I cannot explain what's inside of me."

"Sussie, let’s get away from the window, he might see us... Also, wouldn't it be imprudent to disrupt this gentleman's loving dedication? There must be a profound meaning to his weekly routine; otherwise, he would not be doing it," replied Loretta kind of perplexed.

“All right, cousin, it’s too late today, but you’ll see how I will start a conversation with him next Sunday, once he has laid the rose on the bench. All I ask is that you watch from the window.”

“So you are serious... You are willing to invade this man’s space in order to... Well, I do not know what you are trying to accomplish with this. Are you in love?”

“That’s for me to know and for you and “Mr. Sunday” to find out,” replied Sussie, followed by a melancholic sigh.

Sunday arrived and Sussie is showing her new dress to Loretta. “How do I look? I want to impress him. If I don’t, I may end up being an old maid. I do not think I can look at another man the way I see through Mr. Sunday.”

“You couldn’t look better, Sussie. Since I cannot stop you, go ahead before your grand love arrives. It is getting late... he must be already around the corner, but do not rush things.

Sussie looked at herself in the mirror one more time, and walked toward the door, after asking Loretta not to step away from the window - even for a second. Looking at either side of the street, the infatuated young woman began crossing toward the park when a speeding cyclist pushed her against the curb. As she tried to get up, Mr. Sunday, who was already headed for the bench, rushed to Sussie’s help.

“Are you hurt? Shall I call 911?” As the handsome man was saying that, he was softly caressing Sussie’s hands – tears rolling down his cheeks.

“No, I am all right, but I would like to sit on the bench for a minute. My name is Sussie, and I am glad you came to my rescue,” replied the composed woman, hiding her emotions.

“My name is Keith... Nice to meet you Sussie.” After wiping his tears with a handkerchief, the somber fellow placed his arm on Sussie’s shoulder, helping her all the way to the bench - avoiding the site where he always deposited a red rose. The beautiful girl knew better than to ask him to sit down, so she looked at him intensely, thanking him profusely while still holding his hand. Keith, standing by her side, did not let go of her hand either.

“Sussie, were you walking toward the bench?”

“I live across the street and I wanted to sit on this bench for a while. It’s such a beautiful day... But, weren’t you also headed this way?”

“Each Sunday afternoon I come here to place a red rose on the other side of the bench. You see, Sussie, a year ago, on a Sunday afternoon, my school sweetheart and I were walking around the park looking for a place to sit. As we sat right here, she lost consciousness. Despite being rushed to the hospital, she died of cardiac arrest an hour later. It was devastating for me and her family.”

“I am sorry to hear your sad story, Keith. Now I feel bad to have interrupted your loving gesture.”

“No, Sussie, I always knew that one day my life would take another turn, and that I would have to give the red rose to someone else. While saying that, Keith pulled a red rose from his pocket and handed it to Sussie in a ceremonious way. Do not get me wrong, Carly will always have a place in my heart. But I feel that the day has arrived for me to move on, to love again with a new passion – as though I had never loved before. Please keep the rose, dear Sussie... Destiny may have intervened by bringing you into my life.” Keith had blurted out every word while pressing her hand against his heart.

Sussie smiled at Keith, holding his other hand while pressing it against her heart as well. A second or two passed. The nervous man bent down and gave Sussie a kiss on each cheek. Neither one wanted to spoil the moment. Finally, she got up, leaning her head on Keith’s shoulder. A long embrace followed... not a word, just a soft caress. Sussie had loved her new acquaintance from the distance, now she was hoping that this interlude would end in a sweet romance.

“Keith, could I see you again?” Asked the blushing, determined young woman.

“Of course, Sussie, I hope that I can see you again and again. You are not a continuation of what I once had... instead, you are my new inspiration, someone I may love intensely. You may think that I helped you out today, but it was the opposite. I can now smile without tears. I can have renewed hope, I can see all clouds dissipate, opening the path to clear, blue skies... Let’s go out tonight to seal my new beginnings with you – if you so wish...”

“I would love to, Keith...”

From the window, Loretta had watched everything: Sussie had not been harmed by the fall, and she was still holding hands with Keith. All the while, Loretta knew that her cousin had succeeded in her quest.

message 9: by Shae (new)

Shae Hamrick | 284 comments Glenda wrote: 31 Days of October anthology - calling for submissions NOW.

TK wrote: Hi Shae, What do you mean by quotes thingy? (Hint look at the above?)

(as in look at the draft on the reply and see what the first i at the beginning of the italic quote looks like, then look at what the closing i looks like)

Man, this is taking me BACK a few years to when I hand wrote web pages... WHEW

message 10: by Shae (new)

Shae Hamrick | 284 comments :) It certainly works though... thanks....

Another story already... Yeah!

message 11: by T.K. (new)

T.K. Naliaka Highlights: A field or park, a single rose, a traumatic event
Theme: Finding hope in the darkest hours
Setting – any
Plot – your choice

It's only 4th March and already the creative juices are in full flow!

Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday

message 12: by Shae (new)

Shae Hamrick | 284 comments Still no like buttons... darn.... LOL

message 13: by Todd (new)

Todd Folstad | 22 comments GOLDEN ROSE by Todd Folstad (1067 words)

Her name was Rose Singleton, but everyone called her Single Rose here in Bodie, California. Rose was a spinster who chose that life as she actually had more than a few chances to remove that particular stigma.

She owned one of the last privately financed and operated tea import shops in the area with the next closest being a few days ride up in Carson City, Nevada, over a hundred miles north. Rose came out west in aught two and started the business up in aught three. She began importing very specialized teas from the east in aught four and by nineteen and five, she was doing better business than men of the territory did in the gold rush days. A shrewd one that Rose was, and also unfortunately, that shrewdness was her downfall and curse. Not that you needed to work your own bad magic in Bodie, it had a deep and dark past well documented long before Rose and her “special teas” arrived in this locale, called, “A sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion,” by the Reverend F.M. Warrington in 1881.

Here is where trouble for Rose enters the story, in the character of Long John Stephens, a supposed heir of the town’s founder Wakeman (or Waterman or William depending upon which history book you’ve read) S. Bodey. He was actually a small time con-man from Fresno known by his associates as Fast Freddy Fresno, no real name was ever discovered.

Long John became warm to the new shop owner and as he had been in Fresno, was a connoisseur of hot beverages, most notably teas and coffees. He had a very smooth way about him, a practiced countenance, especially around ladies, and had no problem taking this young lady into his confidence, albeit unknown to Rose.

LJ proposed a business arrangement to Rose on the import of teas and coffees where she would front the money and he would handle the actual transport and delivery of the products coming in from the San Francisco docks. With samples that he had brought with him for this con, he was able to gain her trust and the game was on.

As stated earlier, Rose was a shrewd business woman, but had never met the likes of a fellow like LJ before, so can be forgiven for being a bit off her game, but luckily for her, she did return to her senses in a nick of time.

See Bodie had been a huge boom town in the late nineteenth century with men making fortunes daily. A lifetime of bad decisions and bed luck could be cured with just one good day and the right vein of ore. LJ had the luck of playing an old card man back in San Fran and picking up the last of his claim deeds to land around Bodie. What he didn’t know was that the old man had played out just about every vein on his properties, so nuggets were scarce and the biggest strikes all but gone. Old Ben dropped almost every hand in working to make a few dollars while dropping his worthless land. His game worked that night as he put the stocks for Bodie up early in the game and dropped them to LJ. As the game continued, Ben won back a large amount of coin, but in the end, played on LJ’s con-man mind that he really wanted the land back, which made LJ hold on tighter.

With stakes in hand, LJ left for Bodie and found out the sad truth once he arrived. He really needed to check the land to be sure, so he came out as an importer to survey the town, the people and mostly, to see if there was anything left to be had in the mines.

Back to the Rose of Bodie, LJ brought out many exotic samples which he had procured in Chinatown and pawned them to Rose as examples of what he was importing to his buyers in San Fran. She quickly offered up four thousand dollars to get her hands on the rights to import many fragrant and intoxicating varieties, especially one made from the petals of flower bearing her name.

Long John greedily took her money, bought enough supplies for himself and one other less than savory prospector, Dirty Steve, and they set out to check Old Ben’s former claims. Days and weeks passed before they found even a sniff of any gold from those worthless claims, but they were driven to keep going. There just had to be something left.

The big hit came just under Bodey Park, named for the towns founder. LJ and Steve were digging about one hundred feet below the surface in an old tunnel made in the 1890’s, when they hit a short, but strong vein of gold. Chucks as big as grapefruit. In all, they excavated more than twenty nuggets of enormous size, knowing that was all they would need for the rest of their lives. The trouble for them, lay in transporting the ore out of the ground and then to Carson City, as they could never sell their ill-gotten booty in or around Bodie as they would be set upon by the remaining citizenry.

Misfortune would plague the pair as they were only able to remove about 5 of these giant nuggets before being caught in a massive cave-in, which sunk the ground several feet in the middle of Bodey Park. Most of the townsfolk were sure that it was W.S. Bodey himself who made the ground fall, and so they never disturbed it, no knowing that several ten to twenty pound nuggets were easily within reach.

Ghost stories abounded in the region of miners who had died, men who had killed their families and fellow workers in “Gold Fevers” and other such supernatural encounters. Any sunken ground around Bodie was thought to be “dead earth” and not to be disturbed. As time went on, most of the land around the old mines slowly sank into the earth and eventually the town was abandoned.

Rose never did find out what happened to LJ, but as I said, was shrewd enough to continue doing business for several years and left Bodie for Carson City in nineteen and twelve to run a very progressive brothel, named the Golden Rose for many years thereafter.

message 14: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments TK, I have added the new post to your list. It may help Lynette at the end if any one in the group continues the ritual as the stories get posted.

Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday
Todd, Golden Rose

message 15: by T.K. (new)

T.K. Naliaka Mirta wrote: "TK, I have added the new post to your list. It may help Lynette at the end if any one in the group continues the ritual as the stories get posted.

Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday
Todd, Golden Rose"

Hi Mirta!
That'd be fun if it was a rolling update for everyone - it seems to help keep the early posts in mind as the new ones come in. If anyone sees the need for a recap, go ahead! this is a group effort!

message 16: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments Right TK, let's do it! At the end, Lynette would double-check to see that the story count was right, Now, who will add their name next?

message 17: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments The Promise - by Rebecca Lacy - 961 words

Everyone pretended to be happy for Jeff and me when we got married, but we knew they secretly thought we were making a huge mistake. “Love,” my mother said, with a knowing wistfulness, “isn’t enough.”

However, Jeff and I had more than love: we had been best friends since we were four years old. We knew each others’ secrets, fears and dreams. We were so close, we were almost like twins.

Then came prom.

It was our senior year, and since neither of us had dates, we decided to go together. I’ll never forget the look on Jeffrey’s face when I came downstairs in my formal. I think it was the first time he realized I was a girl. From that night on, things were different between us. By the time graduation rolled around, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together.

We got married in July and left for college in September. We had a little, cramped apartment near campus were we spent hours planning our lives. We talked about where we would live and work, and when we would have kids - we even had their names picked out: Terrance and Elizabeth. No detail was too small for us to spend hours discussing.

Lying on a blanket in the park one afternoon, I said, “I read in People Magazine that Joe DiMaggio puts red roses on Marilyn Monroe’s grave every day. Isn’t that the most romantic thing?”

“I think it would be a lot more romantic if they hadn’t gotten divorced.”

“Don’t you see how grief-stricken he is over squandering the love they had? I bet he blames himself for her death. I think that’s beautiful.”

Jeff pulled me closer to him and kissed the top of my head. “I guess so.”

I propped up on one elbow so I could look him in the eye - this was very serious stuff for a 19-year-old. “If I die, will you put red roses on my grave every day?” I felt my throat close with emotion.


“No?” I blinked back the tears that threatened.

“Don’t be dumb. You don’t like red,” he said tickling me so I would collapse back on the blanket. “I would put a single pink rose on your grave because our love is one-of-a-kind.”

That made me happy and a little sad too, realizing how hard it would be on him if I died.

“But Cathy, you’re going to outlive me, so the point is moot,” he said using a term he had recently learned in his pre-law class. “But I promise before I die, I’ll make arrangements to have a pink rose delivered on our anniversary.” That year, Jeff brought me a single, perfect pink rose, a tradition he continued every year thereafter.

Our life together was almost as idyllic as we had envisioned. The one disappointment was that there never was a Terrance or Elizabeth in spite of how hard we tried. Yet, we had each other, and that was never not enough.

One October day, Jeff went fishing on a client’s new boat. He wasn’t much of a fisherman, but loved being on the water whenever he had the opportunity. I was invited, but frankly I’d rather have a root canal than go fishing. Consequently, I went to lunch and a movie with my best friend, and planned to meet Jeff at our usual place for a casual dinner at 7:00.

When I came out of the movie, I discovered the day had turned stormy: wind lashed rain against my face, and the glowering sky looked green as lightening streaked across it. I was finally able to hail a cab, and it crawled through traffic so that by the time I arrived at the restaurant, I was nearly half an hour late.

“You are dining alone tonight?” asked Dmitri, the owner, with a note of surprise. In ten years, I had never gone there by myself.

“No, Jeff should be along any minute,” I replied, trying to push soggy hair out of my face. I was cold, wet and miserable, and grew more and more irritable as the minutes ticked by. There was no way for me to get in touch with Jeff, but he knew the number of the restaurant. Why didn’t he call?

At 8:00, I was angry, and a little drunk, so I paid my tab and let Dmitri call a cab for me. By the time I got home, I was steamed. When the phone rang, I was certain it was Jeff calling with some lame excuse for standing me up.

Without saying hello, I launched into a tirade about courtesy only to be interrupted by an official-sounding voice saying, “Excuse me, ma’am. Is this Mrs. Jeffery Thomas?”

“Yes, it is.”

“I’m sorry to tell you, there has been an accident…” I don’t know what else the voice said; it just drifted away down a dark tunnel.
For some reason, the only thing my brain was able to process was that Jeff’s promise to have a pink rose delivered on our anniversary would be broken.

Several weeks after his death, I fell ill. My mother said it was stress. My doctor disagreed.

I didn’t know if I was happy or sad about the diagnosis. Sometimes, I wanted to give up and die so I could be with Jeff, at other times, hope pulled at my soul. Now, the decision was out my hands.

In the wee hours of July 7th, I gave birth to Rose - a tiny, perfect baby girl. It was our anniversary, and I felt as though Jeff was there with me to welcome our daughter into the world. It seems he had kept his promise after all.

message 18: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments Now I can begin the fun stuff: reading everyone else's stories.

message 19: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (furyanhound) | 89 comments This month's off to a promising start! And I am going to do my utmost to actually post a story this month. What a great theme and prompts!

message 20: by T.K. (last edited Mar 07, 2016 09:44AM) (new)

T.K. Naliaka This is going to be a four-tissue-box month!

message 21: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday
Todd, Golden Rose
Rebecca, The Promise

message 22: by Karen (new)

Karen (karhop) | 54 comments Sweet story Rebecca. Very nice!

message 23: by Shelly (new)

Shelly Heskett | 181 comments Beautiful story, Rebecca. Very fulfilling, the end could not have been better. You must have wanted to dance a jig when the baby Rose idea surfaced.

message 24: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments Thank you Karen and Shelly. Shelly, you know how it is...the story has a life of its own, and takes you to unexpected places. The reason I love to write.

message 25: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments I am waiting for the next story to be added to the list... Who is next?

Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday
Todd, Golden Rose
Rebecca, The Promise

message 26: by Lynette (new)

Lynette White (lynettewhite) | 309 comments Thank you so much, Mirta for being on top of the list. That is very kind of you to do.

The stories are looking great. Each grabbing the concept of hope. For those of you who have known me for awhile my writing often tugs on the emotions. However, I am still learning how to truly master it. As I have said many times, this group has taught me far more than I have offered. After four years and, 41 short stories later, my craft is far sharper because of this group.

To think how many people from this group have gone one to professional careers, some with multiple releases, is astounding. I am so glad to see it is still going strong. I doubt Heather Schuldt ever thought this group would have the impact it has on so many writers.

This group has proven time and time again how incredibly talented it is.

message 27: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments I agree with you totally, Lynette. Before signing up with Heather's 750 group, I had written a children's book, followed by a novel. I never dreamt that I would be writing about Halloween stuff, etc. I am so glad that with Heather's great motivational endeavors, and now with Glenda, Shae and others that lend their time to 750, I have come to like writing crime mysteries, astronauts and UFO stories, etc. I even loved writing the tale of the pipe and plums. So far, I have published four books, with more in the works, but I always leave room to post my monthly stories.

message 28: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments OK, I'm ready for more stories :-D

message 29: by T.K. (new)

T.K. Naliaka Rebecca wrote: "OK, I'm ready for more stories :-D"

Last month it was an initial flurry... wait wait, silence silence, then a finishing sprint to the deadline! Ah, the quirky pace of writing!

While we're waiting for the next stories to be posted, if it's all right to point out that down in the Author Websites folder is a link to read free blog posts of 1000-word short mystery detective series. Just for fun, to fill some idle time.

message 30: by Lynette (new)

Lynette White (lynettewhite) | 309 comments There always seems to be that last minute sprint at the end. It is hard to believe the month is almost half over again.

message 31: by Holly (new)

Holly Jones | 16 comments I'm sure that there will be more cool stories before the deadline. Everyone had to act quickly in February because the month was shorter. You know what they say: save the best for last :)

message 32: by Bijsmom (new)

Bijsmom | 18 comments Small Step Forward
By Mary Agrusa
Word count 1095


The locking deadbolt reverberated through the house now shrouded in an atmosphere of silence, a foreign environment for the past thirty plus years.

Hard soled dress shoes left audible footprints on the wood floor. A schoolhouse clock's calibrated tick, tick, tick, resounded loudly now that the cacophony of multiple radios, all tuned to different stations, was hushed. Collapsing onto a well loved sofa, Nancy sank into its folds and surrendered. The tension in her muscles dissolved. She closed her eyes and sighed. I'm so glad this day is over.

Today, a long chapter in her life closed. Now she stood, poised to write the rest of her story. After more than three decades, Nancy had no one to look after but herself. Life had consisted of being a single mother raising a severely disabled child. Tim's death four days ago changed everything. Her only concern now was for herself, but who was she and what did she need or want?

The mid-October weather was unseasonably summer-like. Still, the low hanging autumn sun's amber hue spoke differently. This respite would be short-lived. Need some fresh air. Opening the living room window, the pungent aroma of flame crisped leaves floated in on the warm breeze. Another new normal. Now she could open the windows at will. Tim's phobias of buzzing insects and the outdoors in general meant the house stayed buttoned up year round. Thank God for air-conditioning.

Outside, the unruly tendrils of an overgrown rose bush slapped the window screen with each wisp of wind. The bush had been a gift from Nancy's late husband Jack. The two young parents were totally overwhelmed with their son's incurable chronic condition. "When you see the pink roses," Jack told her as she stood admiring his thoughtful handiwork, "you'll know that better days are ahead."

That year the bush blossomed profusely. All the pink roses, however, couldn't keep Jack from caving under the pressure of his son's illnesses. One day, Nancy awoke and found him gone. A few months later Jack died in a accident. A generous insurance settlement made life a bit easier. Just a bit. Over the years, the rose bush suffered from neglect, and blooms, like good days, were rare.

Nancy folded her arms tightly across her chest to ward off the persistent feelings of overwhelming sadness and uncertainty. Now what do I do?

The funeral, followed by a small gathering of friends and co-workers left her depleted. Still she wondered, What does one do with free time on their hands? This incomprehensible luxury laid in her lap was perplexing. She'd heard stories of those who'd gone overboard in the pursuit of leisure. Where does one even start? How does one know what is too much?

Her thoughts surprised her. Taking a timid step of faith Nancy continued to dream. World travel - out. She was too young to retire and was no millionaire. On the other hand, there were places closer to home she was now free to explore without a disruptive individual in tow which produced hostile stares and cruel, cutting words. She could stroll a museum at her own pace in peace. What is it like to linger over a cup of coffee and a good book, without time restraints and guilt trips? How does it feel to drive back country roads with the windows down and the radio turned to the station of one's choice? Skip the elaborate and exotic. Why not start with the simple pleasures ordinary people regularly enjoy? What about, did she dare imagine, dinner and a show with an interesting man? That possibility made her heart race.

What are YOU doing? Her inner critical responsible voice protested. Is this how a grieving mother acts? Nancy retreated emotionally. Tim's situation had left her scant opportunities to mourn the death of her marriage and husband. Commanding her constant attention, Tim's endless needs left her no time for herself. Any moments of respite were to be enjoyed and not spent moping around feeling sorry for herself.

Grieve for Tim? Hadn't she spent his entire lifetime mourning the person he'd never be? Miss him? How do you not miss a vital component of your life that suddenly disappears? Instead of focusing on what never was, Nancy reviewed Tim's life and recalled the victories.

Told he would never live to see his first birthday, Tim was 35 when he died. He defied the naysayers and exceeded his so-called limitations. Tim was able to single-handedly care for all his basic needs. He would laugh so hard that his sides ached and his cheeks were flooded with tears of joy. When she was struggling, he knew. Without any prompting he's deliver a strong hug, sometimes a bit too strong. "I ruv you Ma," and a sloppy kiss on the cheek dispelled her gloom.

The room was dark, chilly. Outside the sun was almost set. How long have I been standing here? Closing the window, Nancy grabbed the afghan and laid down on the couch. Snuggling under a layer of crocheted wool, she fell asleep.

Sun streamed through the window danced on her face and warmed her skin. Glancing at the clock, she gasped. It was already past nine. "Ohhhh, I'm late!" Halfway across the living room it dawned on her. It's Saturday. What's the rush? She had not place to go.

Now she faced a new and pleasant dilemma. What do I do with a Saturday all to myself? Hmm. I do need groceries. The thought of expending this precious time on such a utilitarian pursuit seemed downright wasteful. After freshening up, Nancy grabbed her purse and headed out the door.

Whoosh. A blast of cold air hit her head on. Yesterday's warmth had evaporated overnight. The yard was coated with the silver sheen of frost. Brilliant sunbeams bouncing off the crystalline crust blinding her.

Brrr. Back inside, the sudden shift in temperature caused her fledgling sense of adventure to falter. The reality of winter's cold dark days laid siege to her spirit.

Tap. Tap. Tap. The rose bush's branch beat persistently on the window pane. It too had suffered and prevailed. The time for flowers was well past but the hearty shrub still had a message to deliver. "Never, ever, ever give up...there are better days ahead."

Sliding behind the wheel of her car Nancy made a decision. Easing out the driveway she voiced her resolution. "Saturday's are for fun!" Today it would be the bookstore for coffee and something new to read. Who knew where that would lead...but that was the point.

message 33: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments One more story posted. A few more to go. Who is next?

Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday
Todd, Golden Rose
Rebecca, The Promise
Mary, Small Step Forward

message 34: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments Nice job, Mary. I love the line "Over the years, the rose bush suffered from neglect, and blooms, like good days, were rare."

What a great group of writers!

message 35: by Bijsmom (new)

Bijsmom | 18 comments Thanks Rebecca.

message 36: by T.K. (new)

T.K. Naliaka Very creative stories!
While everyone is waiting - another story in the theme:

It can't be included in the voting, but that's okay. Enjoy!
Still almost two weeks left - lots of writing time for those who want to submit!

message 37: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments TK, that is a wonderful story. Love the ending and the way you used the poem.

message 38: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments A little motivation...
CHOOSING THE ROAD (From my book of poems)
~Following the beaten path or the road less chosen
We can follow the beaten path
For an easy walk on smooth terrain,
Or take the road less explored
Full of roses embraced with thorns
Pesky pebbles and pointed stones
Making our journey on this earth
Difficult for us to traverse.
The choice should be the byway
That hardly a soul has surveyed
Full of holes, pebbles and boulders
Plus bushes with spiny clusters...
--But… what's there to be gained…?
The pride of not having derailed
From life's troublesome journeys.

message 39: by Lynette (last edited Mar 18, 2016 09:45PM) (new)

Lynette White (lynettewhite) | 309 comments TEN DAY COUNT DOWN!!!!!

Can you believe we are down to 10 days before a another month of submissions closes for voting. Hopefully we get some last minute stories. There is still time to submit your story before the door closes and the poles open.

Thank you for that touching story Mary. Also, thank you for that poem. Mirta. Everyone has had such touching stories this month. I thought this was going to be a tough challenge but as usual this group has risen to the challenge.

message 40: by Lynette (last edited Mar 18, 2016 09:44PM) (new)

Lynette White (lynettewhite) | 309 comments In the spirit of the poem Mirta posted I want to share something that I wrote just days after I lost my beloved mother. This came to me with so much energy that I still cry when I read it. I have it posted in a couple places in my house and read it often.

I Control My Fate

As I stand on the edge of the cliff of destiny,
tears filled with my dreams shatter on the rocks of fate below.

I slowly lift my head and look out over the sea of hope
to behold a sunrise.

At that moment I am reminded a sunrise
bestows the hope to fulfill the dreams
dictating my destiny.

I control my fate.

message 41: by Mirta (new)

Mirta Oliva (mirtaoliva) | 166 comments Beautiful, Lynette. And yes, to some or a great degree, we control our fate.

message 42: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (rlacy) | 152 comments Mirta and Lynette - beautiful poems. Thank you for sharing.

message 43: by T.K. (new)

T.K. Naliaka Rebecca - thank you!

It was a bit uncertain last month as so much quiet time passed between stories, and this is a longer month, so it's nice to have some small (and keeping in the theme) 'interlude' as we wait.
Lynette, Mirta, the poems are very nice!

message 44: by Glenda (last edited Mar 19, 2016 12:43PM) (new)

Glenda Reynolds (glendareynolds) | 922 comments Mod
Indulging in Me Time
By Glenda Reynolds

In a quiet suburban Detroit neighborhood, I walked into my backyard to check on my little brother, Kurt. He was very young, still in diapers. He was known for escaping the house to run in the park naked. Note: there is nothing more embarrassing than trying to retrieve your nude sibling while the neighborhood kids laugh at you. I walked past the 3-foot pool and stood staring in horror. The back gate stood open that lead out into the alley. I frantically ran into the alley in my bare feet. I looked down each way and saw no child. Then it happened. I cut my foot on a broken mayonnaise jar. I went into a crying frenzy as only a young child of seven could as I smeared blood throughout the house. My mother wrapped a towel around my foot and carted both of us to the nearest doctor’s office. The doctor placed me on the examination table. After putting on his rubber gloves, he poked a finger inside of my cut to feel for broken glass. At the time, I thought that was just nuts; his finger seemed much larger than the wound. After it was said and done, I received some stitches in my foot. The traumatic experience was over: I WOULD walk again…

Having stitches in my foot didn’t prevent me from doing my childhood antics. I still swam in the 3-foot pool. I even ran and jumped in with a big splash as I landed on my back with my injured foot sticking straight in the air to prove I didn’t get it wet. This wasn’t very convincing to the adults who were watching though.

Later on, I decided more therapy was needed in the form of “me time”. I piled spoonfuls of vanilla ice-cream into a giant mug with a little bit of milk to make a thick shake. Then I tuned in to my favorite Saturday TV monster movie host, Sir Graves Ghastly. The graveyard gates opened with fog covering the ground. The classic scary sound bytes played ghostly moans, screams, and blowing wind. The camera went further into the set. A black coffin took center stage with a rubber bat hovering above it. The coffin lid opened. There laid Sir Graves holding a single red rose to his chest. He sat up in the casket sporting the ever present greasy curl on his forehead. He was dressed in a dark suit that was perfect to be buried in – during the nineteen seventies that is.

Greeting the audience he said, “Mah,ha,ha,ha,ha! Oh, good afternoon, dear hearts. Welcome to this ghastly program. I am your friendly neighborhood vampire, Sir Graves Ghastly. I bring you tales of the supernatural, ghost tales, and monster tales. Films that will make your hair stand on end. So my dears, turn off the lights and cuddle up to your favorite spot by the telly.”

I settled in to watch a monster flick that was as chilling as my chunky vanilla shake. This was almost as fun as watching the TV monster movie host The Ghoul. I had never seen a host stick his head out of a toilet seat as well as stick cigarettes in his nostrils. The only thing that would top the TV monster hour was shooting spit balls at my kissing cousin in the garage. Life was sweet…until I mashed my fingers in the car door as I slammed it shut.

My brother Stanley flippantly exclaimed, “Give her a medal!”

I would’ve knocked him upside his head if I hadn’t been nursing my crushed fingers. Alas, I was the recipient of smart alec treatment from siblings. I needed some more “me time”.

621 Words
This short story is dedicated to the late Lawson Deming, AKA Sir Graves Ghastly

message 45: by Glenda (new)

Glenda Reynolds (glendareynolds) | 922 comments Mod
Holly, The Rose Balloon
Mirta, The Red Rose of Sunday
Todd, Golden Rose
Rebecca, The Promise
Mary, Small Step Forward
Glenda, Indulging in Me Time

Touching poems, ladies. I hope everyone is having a good weekend.

message 46: by Holly (new)

Holly Jones | 16 comments Glenda: I really liked your story. I have to admit though, when you started talking about stitches that made me a little squeamish. I should be used to it though since I tend to write stuff like that, too. When you make someone feel what the character is feeling then you know you've done your job as a writer. Great work :)

message 47: by Glenda (new)

Glenda Reynolds (glendareynolds) | 922 comments Mod
(smiling broadly) Thank you!

message 48: by Bijsmom (new)

Bijsmom | 18 comments That's one show I never saw. Sorry I missed it. Great way to nurse an injury caused "in the line of duty." I think this was a 2 milkshake wound.

message 49: by Glenda (new)

Glenda Reynolds (glendareynolds) | 922 comments Mod
Bijsmom wrote: "That's one show I never saw. Sorry I missed it. Great way to nurse an injury caused "in the line of duty." I think this was a 2 milkshake wound."


message 50: by Shae (new)

Shae Hamrick | 284 comments A Gift of Roses by Shae Hamrick.
Word Count = 1000 words exactly.

Catherine Marie Hammond stared at the wilted and dried white roses, drooping over the vase on her dresser. For the last three years, Roger McAllen had brought a fresh bouquet every Sunday to replace the wilted one. She had insisted he didn’t need to bother. He would always smile and say that it was no trouble.

She leaned back against the pillow and squeezed her eyes closed, remembering the fragrance and beauty of them when he had first placed them there. How long ago was that? Weeks? Months? Now they were dead. Like everything else here. Dead or dying.

Grunting, she stared out the window at the dark, gloomy clouds. Even the sun refused to shine. A tear escaped down her cheek and she brushed it away. She wouldn't cry. She just wouldn't. What did she think? He had a family after all. Three lovely daughters and two strapping, young sons. And a new grandchild on the way even. He had only continued to visit because his pour wife had taken ill and had roomed with her until she died. Susan had been such a sweet thing.

Catherine had refused any one else to share her room since. It just hurt too much. Well, and that everyone else insisted on talking to her non-stop, trying to get her to get out of the room to do things, and just were not very neighborly. Why, Luanna had been just horrid, screaming suddenly for no reason, day and night. She liked her peace and quiet. Really. She did.

Brushing another tear away, she grimaced at the flowers that laughed back at her. Several nurses had tried to clear them for her. She had refused. One had even tried to sneak them out while she napped. Her squeaky rubber shoes had given her away. Catherine made her put them back. She liked them just right there. Staring back at her. Reminding her.

Oh! She didn't know why he stopped coming but it was really none of her business. She was just another old lady in a nursing home full of old crones. He probably just got tired of the people he visited with dying on him. Death did have a way of sobering up one's life. Her heart ached as she thought of Emma Townsend. They had spoken only the day before.

A knock startled her and she moved to sit up, wiping away another tear. "What is it? I don't want to be disturbed right now. No more pills I said."

The door creaked and a young fella with bright blond curls and wearing a lab coat walked in. “Mrs. Hammond?”

This wasn’t one of her doctors. “Yes, what.”

He grinned with warmth and sincerity as if he cared. A fine grin really. He walked closer, pulling a chart around in front of him.

Catherine grimaced and straightened the covers on her lap.

“I’m Doctor Steven Watson. You can call me Steve if you like.”

Not likely. Her son had been Steven. “Thank you, Doctor Watson.”

“I see here you have requested not to have any roommates,” he said, that fifty-thousand-watt smile beaming brightly again as he looked up from the lifted paper.

“Yes, and I haven’t changed my mind in the least, young man. Now, you can go.”

The smile remained, growing bolder if anything. “I understand. I see that Mr. McAllen has taken care of the additional cost in perpetuity.”

Catherine stared. What did he say?

“And I certainly wouldn’t be asking, except that we have a difficult situation that has arisen.” He looked down at the chart again. “You see, we have a new transfer.”

“No, I don’t see. There are plenty of rooms. Put her in Emma’s room.” Catherine cringed as she spoke but steeled her face. She would not bend.

The doctor looked up and sighed. “I was hoping you would at least meet him.”

Catherine sat bolt upright. “HIM! Doctor, I don’t know where you come from but we don’t put men in with the women here. This is a fine up-standing home. Where is my nurse? Thelma!”

The smile was gone from the man’s face now. He held up his hands, palms to her. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Hammond. I told him this wouldn’t work. He insisted. He has come all the way from Mercy General in Heatherford.”

“I don’t care where he came from.”

Thelma strode in. “Now, Mrs. Hammond. You know you aren’t to get worked up. Settle back down. I’m sure the nice doctor meant no harm. He’s only here with his patient and will be headed back to the hospital shortly.” She tucked the covers back around Catherine and tsked. She then turned back toward the door. “And let me take these for you. You have gnats in the room from these dead flowers.”

“NO!” Catherine raised her hand toward the roses. “Don’t take them. Don’t take my memories. Please.”

Thelma turned back with a surprised look. She then smiled. Catherine had forgotten how she loved seeing her smile so softly. “Why, Mrs. Hammond. You are mistaken. I’m not taking them away. I’m making room for new ones. Now, let Doctor Steve bring in his visitor and you can talk. I promise, you don’t want to turn him away. He brought you something.”

Catherine stared helplessly as Thelma walked out with the flowers, bending to grab petals as they floated to the floor. My roses.

The doctor had gone. He must have left with Thelma. The squeaking of rubber on tile and the thud thud of a wheel chair announced his return. A casted foot stretched out in front of the chair, covered in a hospital blanket. As the chair moved past the door, Catherine’s breath caught.

Roger sat in the chair, holding the largest vase of fresh white, red, and orange roses that she had ever seen.

“I thought you had decided not to come back.”

Roger smiled. “And miss my favorite girl? Never. I just …. had a little delay.”

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