Weekly Short Stories Contest and Company! discussion

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Weekly Short Story Contests > Week 62 - (December 10th-17th) Stories --- Topic: Food DONE!

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message 1: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments Can we get some more specific topics- the broadness of the topics is killing me. Too many directions to go... makes my head hurt

message 2: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments I think the moderators have an oral fixation. First it was pigging out, now it's food. How about something nice to suck on, like a cigarette? That's specific, not to mention that cigarettes satisfy, well, you know, a Freudian need. I wonder if anyone around here chews on pens or straws . . .

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

I liked how broad the previous subject was.... but food?! I know nothing about it! lol... ooh *lightbulb*
I might have an idea!!!!
*rushes off to write it down before her little head forgets*
Im excited now! hee hee

message 4: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments At the risk of sounding stupid, can someone give me a clearer idea of where that line between PG13 and R is. Appreciated.

message 5: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments I mean, can I have prostitutes and death and violence and all of that good stuff as long as its not vulgar our overly descriptive? Yes, I am being serious.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

hahaha I love how you say 'the younger ones' lol

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

hahaha i know
i hjave two little siblings (6 and 5) so i always think of younger ones as... young. hahaha
but im not even that young, and i wouldnt exactly want to read something really descriptive. but i like dark storylines. haha

message 8: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments If you like dark storylines, you should feel right at home here, Dawn! Speaking of which, we haven't seen anything in a while by that Mistress of Dark Storylines herself--well, I won't name any names, but she's reading a book and wearing sunglasses and looks as though she's in the middle of a passage in which somebody is saying, "Mwahahaha!"

message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

yeah i dont know why but i dont know... i really like dark, twisted story lines. like phantom of the opera. on top, its a drama/romance/musical. when you look at it, it's completely morbid and sick. but with 6 differing love stories between four people.

message 10: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments M wrote: "I think the moderators have an oral fixation. First it was pigging out, now it's food. How about something nice to suck on, like a cigarette? That's specific, not to mention that cigarettes satisfy..."

M, M, M, not cigarettes, don't you know those can kill you? And as for food, it not only gives you life and satisfaction, it also is that time of year when you eat way too much candy, ice cream, and other foods some of which might be healthy....

message 11: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Sure, I return from a four-day pig out for a friend's birthday and you come up with this topic.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

hahaha i still havent come up with anything :P

message 13: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Time travel, shaving, tigers, coke (the drink, the drug, or soft drinks in general, your choice), rip offs, demon possession, history ...

message 14: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Put them together and you get ... a very gruesome morning.

message 15: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments First time I cut myself shaving was this past week when my lips were dry and wrinkled up. Why am I talking about this?

message 16: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 199 comments Stephanie wrote: "M wrote: "I think the moderators have an oral fixation. First it was pigging out, now it's food. How about something nice to suck on, like a cigarette? That's specific, not to mention that cigarett..."
And food can't? Maybe you didn't see Supersize Me.

message 17: by Edward (new)

Edward (edwardtheresejr) | 2434 comments Supersize Me ... such a dumb documentry. Bad science, terrible ethic policies, unnecessarily crude humor ... I'm not sure what the point was. People don't go to McDonald's for their health, they go to McDonald's for speed - so why make an entire documentry stating the obvious?

Then there is the answer to Supersize Me, Fathead, which ennumerates all the logical errors of the first documentry and finds some surprising results (for certain people) concerning what is and isn't good for you.

Yeah, it stung a bit, but mostly I was annoyed that the blood kept running in to my mouth. Edward does not equal vampire!

message 18: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 12, 2010 08:52AM) (new)

hahaha. Alex sat on her cat :P lol, its alright, I've stepped on my dog more than once. hee hee

blllechhh I personally really dislike the Twilight series..... Seriously!?!?! Real MEN do NOT Sparkle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
*sigh.... real men....* ok im good now :P lol

Supersize Me? Never saw it, don't really want to. I agree with all of Edward's points - why state the obvious? We ALL know it's bad for us, but sometimes time is more important.

message 19: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments Hardly anything in life worth eating, drinking, reading, or doing isn't bad for you in some way. Do you want your epitaph to say, "I lived two extra years because I never did anything satisfying"?

I don't know what "Supersize me" references, but I was about to respond to it. You don't have to be much of a grammarian to figure out that in the sentence the object of the verb supersize is me. At my age, there's only one thing about me that I wouldn't mind having supersized, and I can just picture me cruizing up up to the drive-thru window to place my order. The problem is that there would be a line a mile long.

"Supersize me" is one of the stupid phrases by which the future will with justification judge the people of our time as mindless automatons programmed by the mass media. On the other hand, the future isn't likely to be any brighter than we are, or the media any less pervasive.

Supersize me! And my wife wants an apple pie for dessert.

message 20: by Bradley (last edited Dec 12, 2010 09:34PM) (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments This is what happens when I'm given no structure.
It's all your fault

Weighs in at a hefty 2,498 words. Be happy; whatever I usually write turns into a runaway train.

"To Don"

The blonde beauty hovering near the hostess stand offered a sweet smile when her eyes fell upon me, a genuine gesture that warmed an old man’s heart. I smiled back. Next to her stood a tall man with slicked back dark hair dressed in a severe black suit: Giuseppe Giletto, the son of the man (five years dead, now) who owned the restaurant when we first came, now over thirty years ago. He, too, offered a smile. “Mr. Clayton,” he said, “first as always. Follow me.” He turned smartly and led me through a maze of tables and wait staff towards the back of the restaurant, to a private room separated from the main dining room by a black curtain. He pulled the curtain back, allowing me entrance into the small room.

“I assume everything is in order, sir?” he asked from behind. I nodded, and he said, “Enjoy your meal. Miranda will be your waitress tonight. Just let her know when you are ready to order.” He then disappeared back to the front of the restaurant, leaving me alone.

The small room had been set up for our arrival the same as it had been every February 23 for the past thirty-two years: a large round table, on top of which rested a shrimp cocktail ring, an ice bucket cradling a chilled bottle of Gray Goose vodka, and a small pyramid of shot glasses. The only difference was the number of chairs; this year it was four, each with a glass of ice water balanced in front of it. Last year there were six, but Monty died of pancreatic cancer last May, and Jimbo drank himself to death two months later. The year before that, all eight of us had been alive, but Pete and Howie had succumbed to heart attacks not long after our annual dinner.
Time had a way of thinning the herd like that, and I had a feeling there wouldn’t be enough of us left in five years to continue with the tradition.
I took the seat farthest into the room which faced the door. I shed my heavy jacket, a necessity against the chill of a Chicago winter, poured myself a shot of the Goose, then sat down, and waited.

Over the course of the next ten minutes, the fabric divider parted three more times as the surviving members of our little cabal dribble in out of the cold.

First came Arnie, head still smooth as an egg shell (by choice, not genetics) and a significant spare tire around his belly. Next came Larry, the only African American in our group. Though the oldest, he looked closer to forty than sixty, and there was a youthful exuberance in his large eyes despite the occasion. Last was Carl, the only one of us who wasn’t clinically obese. Though lean, his face was perpetually haggard, and I think our shared past weighed on him the most.

Each man’s appearance was a somber moment. There were no handshakes, no smiles, no laughs or hugs between old friends as they filtered in; there would be time enough for that later. Instead, each of them picked a seat, tossed his jacket over the chair back as I had, and poured himself a tall shot of the vodka before sitting down. It was as we had done it for thirty- two years, and adhering to the tradition was as important as the tradition itself.

Finally we were all present, looking at each other across the table that had once seated eight but now seated only half that. One by one, we all removed our dog tags from our time in Vietnam (I kept mine curled up in a watch box, Larry kept his in a little black velvet bag, Carl and Arnie pulled them naked from deep pockets) and slipped them over our necks. More ritual, a symbol of the solider. What was said here would never leave this room. As we kept our secret while enlisted together, while slogging through the jungles and rice fields of East Asia, we would hold our secret now. The words would only be spoken while wearing those dog tags, while we were soldiers again, and we only wore them here in the bowels of La Famiglia once a year on the anniversary of Don Lundy’s death.

I lifted my shot glass, and the others followed suit. “To Don,” I said, and my toast was echoed by the three others. I threw back my head and tossed back the vodka, appreciating the smooth fire that curled down my throat. The others had done the same, and as one, we slammed our glasses down on the table. They weren’t empty mugs of mead, but our exuberance would have made the Vikings proud.

I looked to my left and caught Carl’s eye. He nodded, an almost imperceptible motion. “Don Lundy saved my life,” he said without preamble. “He intercepted a machete aimed at my neck with his bare hands. He lost two fingers.” Carl tried to curl down, although unsuccessfully, the pinky and ring finger on his left hand as a visual aid. “Said he didn’t regret it afterwards, and I know he meant it. Said a living, breathing soldier was worth more than two stinkin’ fingers.” Carl then reached towards the center of the table and snared a giant pink and white shrimp from the tidy ring. He tore the meat from the tail, chewed vigorously and swallowed.

Arnie, unprompted, spoke next. “Don Lundy saved my life. Took a bullet for me in his shoulder. Would have killed me. We all knew that his shoulder was never right again after that, but he could care less. He laughed it off, said knowing that I was still alive was worth a little pain.” Arnie took a shrimp from the center, popped the entire thing in his mouth, crunched the tail to dust with his teeth and swallowed it along with the rest.

“Don Lundy save my life,” Larry said. “We were under enemy fire and he pushed me into the river a moment before a bullet would have ended my life. I couldn’t swim, and he kept me afloat until it was safe to return to shore even though my thrashing could have drowned him.”

Another shrimp was sacrificed.

I said, “Don Lundy saved my life. I took a bullet in the leg in the middle of a killing field. He carried me half a mile to safety even though he could easily have taken a bullet in the back for his efforts.” I took a shrimp and slowly chewed it, savoring the taste.

The table fell silent for a minute. There were many more tales of Don’s selflessness, of his bravery, of his courage under fire. Monty and Jimbo, Pete and Howie, they had shared similar stories when they shared the table with us, and though we knew those stories well, their tales were buried along with them, and they would stay buried. They were not our stories to share.

Carl finally looked to me, and I gave a curt nod. We had just finished with the easy part of the tradition. What followed… well, what followed still gave me nightmares when I closed my eyes.

Carl grabbed a shrimp and tore it apart with a violence and frustration not displayed earlier. He had always had the hardest time with this part out of all of us. Don had been his hero.

“Don Lundy,” Carl said, his voice barely a whisper. “Don… I watched him kill a little old lady. For no reason. She was crying and holding a body in her arms and he went up to her and shot her through the head. And he laughed afterwards. I still hear that hideous laugh some nights.”

A moment passed before Arnie grabbed a shrimp. He ate it quickly, as if it left a sour taste in his mouth, then spoke. “I watched Don Lundy decapitate a two year old boy for absolutely no reason. He said he did it because he didn’t want the boy to grow up to become another Vietcong. Said the only way to prevent another Vietnam War was to make sure there were no children left to grow up and become soldiers.”

Larry was next. He took a shrimp and ate it with slow, delicate motions, as if trying to prolong speaking the next words as long as possible. But he was soon done, and when he finally spoke, all he said was, “I watched Don Lundy gut a baby. A newborn. And then step on it, grinding the corpse into the ground.”
I ate a shrimp from the ring. “I watched Don Lundy rape a girl,” I said. “She couldn’t have been older than fifteen. And when he was done, he shoved a knife through her heart and watched her bleed to death.”
We sat in silence, each of us sipping from our water glasses.

Just as there were more tales of valor left unspoken, so were there more tales of horror, of atrocities, of psychopathic behavior. But they too had died with the men who had witnessed them, never to be spoken aloud again.

I reached for the bottle of vodka, poured myself a second shot, then passed the liquor around the table. The other three each poured themselves a second glass, and as one we drank, though this time we offered no toast to our fallen comrade.

We sat for several moments, saying nothing, allowing the vodka to warm us. There tended to be as much silence during this yearly tradition as there were words spoken.

Now came the hardest part, and it fell on my shoulders, as it did every year, and would in perpetuity until I passed. I had been given this honor because I had been the first in the tent that night.

I opened my mouth to speak but found it dry. Even after all these years, I found myself choked up when the time came for the recounting of events. I licked my lips, took a sip of water, and spoke:
“It was 1972, a couple months before the Easter Offensive. We all had finally seen too much. We tried to get him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Or couldn’t. We knew the officers wouldn’t do anything; it was war after all and bad things, unspeakable things, happened during war. So it fell to us. But we just couldn’t shoot him like a dog. He deserved better than that. And I’d like to think we had more honor than that. If we were going to betray him, we didn’t want him to know it was us. And better to be betrayed in bed than on a battle field.

“We all knew Don’s weakness. His Achilles heel. We all saw first hand what happened when he accidentally ate that damn shrimp back in ‘70. Swelled up like a balloon. Grabbed his throat. Turned blue. Made those ghastly sounds. The medics saved him, of course, but his kryptonite was discovered. And we used it.

“We intercepted one of the camp’s Thai hookers as she was on the way to Don’s tent. She was her favorite. Her name was Jintana. We paid her ten dollars to eat a dozen shrimp before she visited him. He never suspected a thing, and three minutes after entering the tent she came running out hysterical. I went into the tent and found Don dead, naked as the day he was born, his face swollen and blue, his eyes wide to the sky. He died as he would have wanted to die, I think, naked and in the company of a pretty girl. I called the medic, but of course it was too late. It was ruled no fault; everyone just assumed a horrible accident. He was well loved by most and no one suspected a thing.

“Thinking she was responsible for his death, Jintana drowned herself the next day.”

I had felt bad about that. Still felt bad. But it was war, and casualties were to be expected. The irony was not lost on me.

Silence reigned again, not the awkward silence of two teens on their first date, but the commanding silence of men given over to contemplation and soul searching. For a minute no one spoke, no one looked at each other, each man at the table taking the time to reflect on their time in Vietnam and that day specifically as they saw fit.

(con't next post, seems to be too many characters, sorry)

message 21: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments "To Don" con't

I won’t speak for the other seven men, for their reasons for initially agreeing to this tradition and then honoring it for the past thirty two years. A man’s baggage is his own. For me, though, this ritual was a confession of sorts. Even after all these years, I didn’t know if what we had done was the right thing, and I needed these yearly sessions to remind me of why we did what we did and to re-cleanse my soul of the guilt that had built up over the year. Guilt was a funny thing; feeling it wasn’t necessarily a sign that you had made a wrong decision. Sometimes you felt it after being forced to choose between two equally distasteful outcomes.

Finally, when it seemed that restlessness was beginning to creep into the arthritic arms and legs of my friends, as evident by the tapping under and on top of the table (after thirty plus years, you learned to read the signs), I stood up, taking the vodka with me, and refilled the four shot glasses, allowing a little to slosh over the rim of each. I then took another glass from the now-decimated pyramid of glasses and turned it over, balancing it atop the other unused glasses. I poured a good measure into it, allowing a little to overflow onto the tablecloth, then returned to my seat where I continued to stand, my own glass suddenly in my hand.

The other three men likewise stood, and when everyone was comfortably upright, not an easy feat for a bunch of geriatrics, I raised my shot glass before me. I glanced at Carl and gave that nod I had become so good at giving and he had become so good at reading over the years. He returned the gesture, and then he and the other two raised their own vessels in salute.

“He was a brother,” Carl said, and we went around the table.

“And he was a beast.”

“He was a man.”

“And he was a monster.”

“He was an angel.”

“And he was a demon.”

“He was the best of us.”

“And he was the worst of us,” I concluded, tears in my eyes.

Standing, the four of us reached across the table and clinked our glasses together, and yelled: “To Don!”

And, as always, I offered my own little prayer right after, asking not to be judged too harshly when my time of judgment finally came.

Pandora's Children Book 1: In the Chair

message 22: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments Jan wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "M wrote: "I think the moderators have an oral fixation. First it was pigging out, now it's food. How about something nice to suck on, like a cigarette? That's specific, not to me..."

Hahaha, hense the elipses, I figured some one would bring up the harmful effects of food, which to me is kind of ironic...

message 23: by Mark (new)

Mark Mark Mackey

The very moment class ended for James Hartford, he

grabbed up his belongs, quickly zipping out. Where he

ended up following walking a few short blocks, a

commuter train, destination home.

Quickly claiming a seat, James wasted little

time getting to work on the latest assignment due

next week.

Joined up side by side with another passenger,

this in light of the majority of the seats occupied,

James hurriedly flipped open his notebook with little

effort, retrieved a pen, starting up with this task

placed before him. Double checking to make sure it

was the right one to use.

What caused him to be distracted from further

engaging in this, a sudden craving to whip up a

spaghetti dinner later that afternoon. So much so,

this pretty much was all his mind allowed him to

think about during the entire route home, hindering

his ability to get even a full notebook page filled

up with words. Yes, make a spaghetti dinner, that was

the way to go as far as dinner was concerned,

following getting a certain other thing done first.

Thankfully, he had been smart enough to take out a

pound of ground beef before taking off that morning.

His finally getting home for the evening began

the process of James beginning the process of

commencing getting this tasty task together. Making

sure a deep frying an, boiling pot, sauce pan, and

strainer were clean and readily available for the

task at hand, he started up with getting this

accomplished. The first step James engaged in placing

the now thawed ground beef into the frying pan,

browning within approximately twenty minutes. Next

step, removing it off the burner, draining it.

Finally came James boiling water, the stove on

high for the spaghetti. This took no longer then ten

minutes, allowing James to load it up with the

spaghetti noodles. Removing his attention off this

onto the jar of meat flavored spaghetti sauce, James

had little problem getting it twisted open.

Placing the sauce pan onto another burner, dumping

the entire contents of the spaghetti sauce jar into

it. From here on end, it was smooth sailing, get the

spaghetti dumped into the strainer, bowling it,

spooning ground beef and sauce to it. Enjoying it.

message 24: by M (last edited Dec 14, 2010 04:36PM) (new)

M | 11388 comments Mark, it's after five here. I've just finished your story, and I'm ready to eat. Spaghetti sounds just right!

Bradley, your story is a lot of things, but "a runaway train" isn't one of them. It's very well organized and does a good job of creating and maintaining a tension that pulls the reader (this reader, at least) right through it.

It seems to divide cleanly into parts: introductory exposition, dialog revealing Don's virtues, dialog revealing Don's beastly side, exposition and dialog explaining how Don was murdered, and dialog that shows the conflicting feelings of the murderers. The structure is very effective.

It isn't easy to write a story that shows in some way what it means to be human, if only because being human isn't easy but bewildering and at its most interesting when the tension is greatest. This story uses the darkness and light that opposes itself the commemorated character to create the torsion that drives the plot.

Great job!

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

I'm making spaghetti, and it smells DELICIOUS :D Thanks for the inspiration ;) hee hee

message 26: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 199 comments Mark, you must be the kind of person who can't work on an empty stomach!

Bradley, you obviously have a great talent for writing, but I took one look at your profile picture....you look like one very scary dentist! (I have a bit of a phobia of dentists) I know you have deliberately created a type of Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde character in your story, and I know it's a war setting, which can do strange things to people, but when I got to the bit about the baby, I thought....no, he wouldn't do that. I just found it hard to believe that someone so compassionate could also be so cruel. I know that was the whole point of the story, I'm just saying that for me, it wasn't convincing. But you certainly held my interest the whole way through, and the structure was superb. Funny that the characters considered themselves 'geriatrics' in their sixties! I'm coming up for 55 in a couple of months and still intend to be ice-skating and rollerblading and doing Zumba class for another quarter of a century!

message 27: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments Always appreciate criticism and critique. Thanks for the input. If I ever consider doing something more with this, I'll keep your comments in mind. Yeah, forgot that sixties is Not that old anymore. As for the picture, its the only one where I don't look fat. Facial hair makes me look scary, but out also thins out my face. My wife hates it.

message 28: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 199 comments It's more the facial expression...kind of dark and slightly foreboding?

message 29: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments Its the same look I give patients before I pull out a tooth. I feel it inspires confidence in my victims... patients, I mean

message 30: by [deleted user] (new)

*screams* *runs away*
*finds duct tape*
*tapes mouth shut*

my dentist is a still life painter and giggles a lot. his assistant is my aunt. They still scare the crap out of me. hahaha :P

message 31: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 199 comments I just thought of a possible new topic...Who's got the scariest dentist story...hmmm....why do I imagine Bradley might win it?

message 32: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments Your ex-neurologist is like Frank Putnam? That's truly scary, Alex!

message 33: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments We're only as scary as our patients make us be. And I've actually been told I ahve beautiful eyes.
Anyone ever see Marathon Man? I've always wanted to take a drill and just lay into someone's front tooth just for the fun of it. Gotta get my jollies somewhere, right?
And HEY! if you people flossed like you were told, maybe you woudn't get any cavities and need to be drilled!

message 34: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments My molars have been drilled so many times, they look like an aerial view of the Appalachians.

message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

I floss EVERY DAYY!!!!!!!! That's because after I had a root canal (which i had to bike home right afterwards, btw, naseous, frozen, drooling, and with a cold), i cannot.... *shudder*.... I can't swallow the idea of going back there.... EVER. AGAIN. So I floss!!!!!!!

message 36: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments How did we get onto the subject of cleaning our mouthes?

message 37: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments Dawn, you're not supposed to be putting up with things like root canals until you're old, in your late twenties. And you had to bike home in cold weather afterwards? You should write a story about that.

I should have known Alex has never had any cavities. People like that just make me sick. I keep expecting to see a story, by the way, something with a nice, dark plot, from none other than the Mistress of Dark Storylines . . .

message 38: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments I used to not ever have a cavity, then one day I did and my winning streak was destroyed.

message 39: by Bradley (new)

Bradley Convissar (bconvisdmd) | 12 comments Hell... I'm a dentist, and my father's a dentist (my mom is a hygientist), and I went from 2001 to 2010 without getting a cleaning or check-up. Had six cavities on the chewing surfaces of my teeth, but none between my teeth. The power of flossing

message 40: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie (chasmofbooks) | 2875 comments Interesting....this is actually starting to get a little gross guys, that is, if you ask me.

message 41: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 15, 2010 01:13PM) (new)

@M: yeah i know :P well, the thing is my parents are both self employed so we didnt have a dentist plan, then i went in for a check up. and they didnt know it was gonna be a root canal, they just thought it was a cavity..... until i was bawling in the chair and he was drilling...

Bradley: I'm not the only one! haha I didn't have any in between my teeth, only on the surface... i think. im pretty sure. :P

message 42: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments Good heavens, Alex! I didn't realize your computer was giving you so much trouble. What a nuisance! I had that happen with a nearly new laptop a couple of years ago, right after I had loaded gobs of information on it. I never got any of it back.

I came up with a story idea when I was doing laundry yesterday morning, but turning it into a story has proved to be a different matter. A good friend of mine says my characters write my stories. It's absolutely true, and this time they're doing an even worse job than usual.

message 43: by M (last edited Dec 16, 2010 06:03AM) (new)

M | 11388 comments For Today Will Soon Be Gone
(by M, about 1,900 words)

The message Rod pulled from the fortune cookie read: "Very soon you will meet the girl of your dreams." He and several of his friends were having lunch at Wong Chow, a disreputable Chinese buffet on the corner of Third and Locust, a couple of blocks from the courthouse. Glancing at the little message, Doug snorted. "Julie Anne may take a dim view of that!" Bryan picked up the message and laughed. "What if a woman had gotten this?" He shook his head. "How could the bakery have known a man would get it?" Handing it to Kevin, he drained what was left of his coffee. Kevin made a face. "And how did you come to know there was a woman in your future, Mrs. Johnson?" he quipped drily in a prosecutor's voice, handing the message back to Rod.

On the way out the door, Doug asked Rod about the Kersh case. Every lawyer wanted to make his first million by the time he was thirty-five, but Roderick Gordon was likely to do it by twenty-seven. Rod didn't have to tell Doug that cattle baron Ralph Kersh had been electrocuted on his ranch and that his wife Laverne had sued Midwest Power & Light for fifty million dollars. Everyone in town knew that. What few knew was that an odd circumstance at Barker, Low, & Minser, Attorneys, had left Rod to represent the bereaved widow. "It's the chance of a lifetime," he admitted to Doug as they crossed the narrow parking lot by the Antique Emporium in the autumn air. "Whatever the jury awards her, the firm's take will be a fourth of it."

They lowered their voices as they walked past a woman fumbling in the trunk of an old Corolla. The car had a flat tire. Inexplicably, Rod found himself unable to take his eyes off of her, as though she were someone he knew, or had known a long time ago. She appeared to be in her early twenties, medium height, busty, not svelte. She was wearing a black trench coat and had just set a lug wrench on the ground with an audible clink. Doug was asking him about Tate, the lawyer who would represent MP&L, when a twinge of sympathy and guilt stopped Rod in his tracks. Briefly, he thought, "What's wrong with me?" Gripping Doug's arm, he said, "I'll catch up with you." Eyeing the woman and the car, Doug gave him a perplexed glance.

Rod sensed the bemused attention of the others only for a moment as he turned and walked toward the dented Corolla. "Hi!" he greeted as he approached, so as not to startle the woman, who stopped digging through the trunk and looked to see who it was. He wouldn't have called her beautiful, though she was pretty enough. She had the jack crank in her hand and a harried expression on her face. Her mussed hair was done in a gelled, asymmetric style. She clearly hadn't expected to see someone who looked as though he had stepped from an ad in Gentleman's Quarterly. He smiled, "Can I help?"

She seemed relieved. "Yes, thank you." She had a slight Southern drawl, and something about it and the unassuming way her eyes looked at him made him forget for a moment who he was and what was going on in his life. "I'm Rod Gordon," he said, in what his associates referred to as his Robert Redford manner. "I'm Maureen Vought," he heard her reply a few moments later as he found the jack. The spare tire was filthy. "You're going to get that on your nice clothes," she said. Her voice was soothing, in a way that was distantly familiar, and on the periphery of his mind were autumn days of a suddenly ended childhood. As he removed the lug nuts and the rear wheel, he was strangely alert to the sensation of the brisk air, and of her standing near him.

When at last he loaded the flat tire in the trunk, she smiled gratefully. "Thank you." She took his hand. "I really appreciate your doing this." She seemed embarrassed. "I'm sorry you got this mess on you." She looked at his cuffs, that were smudged with black brake dust. He said something self-effacing that was unlike him and that afterward he no longer remembered, but that she seemed to think was funny and kind. What he remembered was how badly he wanted to kiss her, and that her hand was warm. She got in the car, waving thanks again as she backed out. What her eyes told him was that she wanted to be in his arms as much as he wanted them around her. It made him confused, no less than did the excitement that coursed through him like an electric current.

"It was as though I no longer had a will of my own," he later that day told Darren Morrell, a district judge and close friend of his." Morrell's curiosity was obvious as he leaned back in his leather chair. "What's her name?" Across the massive, glass-topped desk from him, Rod gave a long sigh. "Maureen Vought." Morrell's brow furrowed. "These things happen." Rod nodded, though not in agreement that such things were supposed to happen to him. Reaching meditatively into his shirt pocket, he felt the little slip of paper from the restaurant. "She said she works in data processing at Guarantee Bank."

The woman of his dreams was cooking pasta when he got home about six-thirty. Even in an apron, with her sleeves rolled up and her hair pinned, Julie Anne Gordon was gorgeous, with a fashion-model smile he could see from all the way down the hall as she glanced out from the kitchen. "Daddy!" A little boy came down the winding stairs, followed by a little girl. Both had honey-blond hair. "Ryan," she said levelly, "you tell me right now where you put my Madame Alexander doll!" Rod found his daughter's blue eyes looking into his own as she stopped on the stairs. "Ryan abducted my doll," she reported matter-of-factly, if angrily. "He's demanding a ransom in Snickers bars." Rod raised an eyebrow magisterially. "Ryan, give Ashley her doll." Scowling, the little boy turned reluctantly and went back up the steps. Ashley smiled her approval of the judgment and came down to greet her father.

"How was your day?" came a voice from a nightgown that looked as though it were made of spun gold. After a dinner even a gourmet might have appreciated, Julie Anne had come to bed, having reprimanded Ryan and told Ashley for a last time to put away her Nancy Drew book and go to sleep. Now Rod found his wife in his arms. "Well," he said, "I got a call from Minser, who's on vacation and expressed his confidence that I could handle the suit." Julie Anne made an approving sound. "Uhmmm," she said, kissing him, "I could have told him that." She had let her hair down, and it fell luxuriantly onto his face as she made more sounds and began to get aggressive.

Late in the night Rod lay awake, listening to his wife's quiet breathing, his mind filled with the case at hand, but especially with the woman he had encountered after lunch at Wong Chow. He couldn't imagine loving anyone other than Julie Anne, and there was no doubt that she utterly adored him. He had everything he could ever have wanted: a faithful and understanding wife, intelligent and upstanding children, a job he enjoyed and was good at, a fine house on a golf course. But Maureen haunted him. A sense of things left undone from a past he only vaguely remembered returned, as though summoned by the strangely blue sky over the Antique Emporium, and a woman in a black trench coat, who looked at him as someone once had in a world that was lost.

In the following weeks, Rod spent long days at the office preparing for the Kersh trial and a federal case that had come up. One evening, on the way home, he stopped at the supermarket for olives and lime juice Julie Anne had forgotten. As he was paying, he became aware, even before he saw her, of Maureen's presence. She stood in a check-out line. He waited for her and met her as she was on her way to the doors, then walked with her and the clerk who pushed the cart. At her car, the clerk unloaded sacks of groceries, then pushed the cart back toward the store.

Maureen looked at Rod as though she had known him all her life. "You have a beautiful wife and children," she said. "I saw them not long ago, when they came in the bank." Her smoky voice, with it's soft drawl, had a nostalgic effect on him, as though it were something out of his childhood that he had forgotten. "Thank you," was all he could think to stammer. He wished that time would stop and he could stand there with her forever, looking into her eyes. "I got a promotion," she said quietly, hesitantly, "and I'm being transferred at the end of the quarter." With her words, a cold blackness settled over his heart. Muttering something in the way of congratulations, as though he had been reduced to a robot, he opened the door for her, and she climbed into her little car.

In court, Rod Gordon was suave, with a solemnity and effortless humor that made him eminently credible. The power company lost the case and Mrs. Kersh was awarded most of the damages she sought. Sometime in November, in a noon hour cold, blustery and rainy, Rod, Kevin, and Bryan had escaped the perpetual high tension of the office for lunch at a crowded Wong Chow. As predicted, the Kersh verdict had been appealed, and their talk was of the technicalities. As always, Gordon had been meticulous in his preparations, so the appeal was a complex one. "Aren't you going to open your fortune cookie?" Kevin smirked, wiping his hands on a paper napkin as they got up to leave. Rod had left his fortune cookie the table, untouched. Umbrella in one hand, with a raised eyebrow and an arch glance at his friends, he picked it up and put it in his jacket pocket.

At closing, alone finally in his office, Rod broke open the fortune cookie. The message read: "Do your heart's bidding, for today will soon be gone." He tried to put it out of his mind. Unable to concentrate, he went for a walk. The square was busy with traffic of people going home, many of them staff at the county courthouse and neighboring businesses, law firms, title offices. It was still raining, and in the gray light umbrellas closed as people got in cars or opened as they emerged from doorways. One in particular caught his attention, half a block away. Coming out of the bank was a woman in a black trench coat. As though she could feel his gaze even at that distance, she stopped, her eyes meeting his, then a moment later she waved. He waved back. Opening her umbrella, she descended the steps and walked to her car at the curb. She waved again before she got in, and as she did he felt as though something deep inside him were waving good-bye forever. Then she pulled out into the traffic and drove away in the rain.

message 44: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 199 comments M, your stories are getting better and better!

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)

*whistles, applauds*
wow Alex - impressive. I love it!

message 46: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 199 comments Part way down you said 'he then stood from he sat'...you might want to change that. Great story! Will Harris ever learn? Somehow I don't think so. I have a feeling he'll be back!

message 47: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments Thank you, Jan and Alex! I appreciate your encouragement more than you can imagine. I made a few corrections and minor adjustments to it this morning. When you're some old guy living by himself in the middle of the woods with nothing for company but a pet squirrel, you just do the best you can.

Fast-paced story, Al! I can see you writing thrillers, which is essentially what we have with Nigel Remington drilling blood-red Winesaps, or with Harris, who has plans for a strawberry blonde. You're good at building tension. The ending surprised me. I expected Harris to get away with the girl and leave the reader hanging.

message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

Food (ah-maze-ing title ain't it? lol)
By Dawn :P

The cold shower water hit my head and made me jump. I shivered for a minute before I let the water warm me up. Please, this morning. Make it this morning. I looked down at my naked body and shut my eyes, trying to not see what I was. I quickly finished my morning routine, and grabbed my towel. I wrapped it around myself. Squeezing my eyes tight, I reached into the cupboard and grabbed my scale. Please, please, please…. This morning. Let it be this morning. I set it down on the ground and tapped it, waiting for the 888.8 display to turn to 000.0. I let my towel drop, and took a deep breath in. I quickly stepped on the scale, and shut my eyes tight again. I waited a moment, then peeked open. I let my eyes wander down slowly, half of me desperate to know, the other half dreading whatever awaited me. My eyes wandered down…. To see the display stay at that horrible number – 103.3. I swore under my breath. No, no, no, no! This can’t be happening! This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work! That blog said that if you didn’t eat or drink anything but water for a week, you were sure to lose over ten pounds. Well, as it stood, I had only lost nine. I stepped off the scale, and shaking, I put the scaled away. I slowly stood up, wrapped the towel around me, and walked out of the bathroom and into my room. Numb, I put on my underwear, no need for a bra. Whilst rummaging through my closet, trying to find a shirt I could wear with my skinny jeans, I caught a glimpse of myself in my mirror. You could see every single one of my ribs; my thighs and calves were almost the same width; my boobs were almost non-existent. I had hardly any womanly body definition, due to not having any – I mean any – excess fat. At that moment, I hated myself more than anything. I was an idiot. I slipped on my jeans and a hoodie, and snuck down the stairs, trying not to wake anyone. I went into the kitchen and rummaged through the back of the cupboard until I found what I was looking for. Ah, perfect. My hands enclosed around the jar of what I was looking for. I set it on the counter and kept looking for the other half of the equation. I found the container of chocolate chips and set them out too. I then grabbed the loaf of bread and took three slices out. My heart was pounding. I spread the peanut butter on the bottom of two of the pieces of bread thickly. I poured a cup of chocolate chips into a bowl and threw them in the microwave. Stopping it before it beeped, I stirred them and poured them on top of the peanut butter, spreading it around. I stacked the pieces of bread on top of each other, and added the third one to the top, making it a sort of double-decker. I took a large glass and filled it up with whole milk –thick, disgusting, fatty white liquid. I put the lid back on the jug of milk and threw it back in the fridge. Taking the sandwich and the glass of milk, I snuck back upstairs and into my room. I sat on the opposite side of my bed, concealed from anyone entering. Still shaking, I took a bite of the sandwich, savoring every morsel. It was too much. I kept eating, and eating until the sandwich was gone. It was like someone else had taken over my body – a pig. A disgusting, fat, ugly, stupid, starving person. I swallowed the entire glass of milk. Closing my eyes, I enjoyed the feeling of the thick, cool liquid running down into my stomach. Then, the overwhelming desire to puke came through me like a wave.. I stood up and ran into my bathroom, grabbed my toothbrush, and leaned over the toilet. I looked at the toothbrush. Is this what I wanted? To be a boob-less, skinny, bulimic, anorexic freak? I put my toothbrush back in its cup. I leaned against the wall and slide down, with my legs curled up in front of me. I felt the tears well up, and only fought them momentarily. Today, I thought, today, would be the day. I wiped my eyes, and stood up. I walked out, and grabbed my sharpie. I ran my finger over the calendar, circled the date. Let’s see, food, how long you think you can scare me. Well, you know what, food? I’m fearless.

message 49: by M (new)

M | 11388 comments Dawn, you have a talent for description!

message 50: by [deleted user] (last edited Dec 17, 2010 08:21AM) (new)

Why thank you, M :)
I've never considered it one of my strong suits... but I guess practice makes perfect :P Or at least helps you improve haha

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