Flash fiction challenges such as Five Sentence Fiction has kept me writing and improved my craft, so I serve up some here every Tuesday. Since every one likes choices I’m providing you with two weekly writing prompts. You can participate in either one, or double your pleasure by trying your hand at both. Submit your efforts any time between now and next Tuesday.
The Standard Prompt will always consist of a two-word prompt to be used as inspiration. The Non-Standard Prompt will change from week to week. Sometimes it will be a visual prompt, sometimes a first sentence or phrase, sometimes a scenario, etc. The limit for the Two for Tuesday Standard Prompts is 200 words and the Non Standard Prompt has a minimum of 200 words but no limit allowing for more in depth explorations. Use the little blue link thing below to submit your link or leave an entry in the comments section.
Here is this week’s two-fer:
You have lots of creative leeway. The limit is 200 words. The words can be used:
- simply as a point of inspiration and do not have to be used directly
- they can be included exactly as provided
- or each word can be used independently of each other (for example if Death Row was the prompt instead of crafting a story about an inmate on the way to the gallows, you might write something like: Despite feeling like death from an excess of cheap vodka consumed the night before, Evelyn moved on to planting her next row of spinach).
For this week’s alternative prompt write a story about a married man looking for an extramarital relationship through an online dating service. As per usual with the Non-Standard Prompt there is no word limit (to allow for more in depth explorations) but there is a minimum of 200 words.
For those of you who prefer to write first and read later, be forewarned that my personal effort follows.
This week I tackle only the Non-Standard prompt.
Duane Taylor noticed that Nina was breathing more evenly. She was in bed but not quite asleep when he came up, so he waited until she was snoring—actually it was more of a soft, rhythmic, little moan—before he slipped back out from between the sheets around 1:00 AM. Artfully avoiding the soft spot in the hallway that always creaks under foot, he tiptoed downstairs to his laptop.
He and Nina married right out of school. They had just recently marked their sixth anniversary. Before the pomp and ceremony of a lavish wedding, the couple had dated in college during their third and fourth years.
Nina works at a dental office and is technically the bread winner bringing home the higher salary and it’s her job that provides them with all the benefits: dental, health and life insurance. Duane works as a clerk at Kohl’s and had hopes of getting promoted to manager but that dream evaporated when they cut his hours back to 30 hours a week, dumping him into part-time status without benefits.
It was imperceptible at first, but Nina, however unintentional, began putting on airs of superiority. It was insignificant (and possibly even justified) at first, but the gap between them began to widen. Lately it seemed everything Duane did was an affront to Nina. Conversations have become more strained and less frequent. The kinds of things they both used to laugh at are now humorous to only one party or the other. They used to head up to bed together but bedtimes no longer mesh. Nina often disappears without comment leaving Duane watching TV alone until it eventually becomes clear that she isn’t coming back down. Sex has become a thing of the past. Duane no longer even tries to initiate anything knowing that Nina will just roll away plucking his hand from her breast or hip leaving him feeling frustrated and tawdry.
The glow from the screen was the only illumination in the kitchen as he browsed through the conditions and admission fees of several online dating services. He didn’t like the idea of being unfaithful but he was craving honest conversation and intimacy, neither of which he was getting at home.
Duane finally bit the bullet, choosing a service. He hesitated for about 15 seconds, took a deep breath and finally clicked on the big orange “Create a Profile” button. The site was awash with photos of unabashedly happy couples doing things such as holding hands like high schoolers, kissing one another on the cheek, getting piggy back rides at sunset, laughing exuberantly over a glass of wine or gazing intently into each other’s eyes with foreheads tipped together as if docked for exchanging thoughts through mental telepathy. He suspected all of these shots were thoughtfully art directed.
Duane entered all his pertinent information without too much thought: name, age, gender, height, weight, eye color, hair color, religious preference, occupation. Much of the information supplied, however, was not entirely accurate and tended towards the flattering. An inch added to his height. A few pounds shaved from his weight. Eye color entered as greenish-gray instead of plain gray. He even listed his occupation as Customer Liaison. His justification was that those kinds of white lies were certainly common practice on dating sites.
The hard part was describing himself in terms of likes and dislikes and putting into words the kind of person that he was looking for. Everything sounded so superficial and cliched. He shied away from pinpointing any physical attributes in his dream date because that felt a little like shopping for art work based on the size of the sofa and the room’s color scheme or, much worse, something akin to slave trading.
After much editing and revising Duane pulled the trigger, clicking on the submit button, and waited for what seemed like an eternity before he got a page of results. This particular site gave him the top five recommendations in reverse order with no way to reshuffle the results. The profiles were displayed one at a time and forced you go through choice 5 before you could click on choice 4 and so on. Each candidate’s descriptions, likes and dislikes were all displayed first and it was an extra click to get to their picture.
Potential Match number Five (the site referred to them as “Soul Mates”) was someone apparently named Grace who was three years his junior, divorced and lived one county over. She was attractive but her make-up was a little heavy handed and she wore her hair teased up in a way that didn’t appeal to him. Again, it felt a little bit like shopping for cars. Does this model come in blue and how much is it for the chrome package?
Match Four—sorry, Soul Mate Four—was closer in age and driving distance but she sounded a little too conservative for him and her eyes were too widely spaced giving her face a somewhat flattened appearance. Number Three was very attractive but had a convoluted work schedule that would make it hard to get together without raising suspicion at home. She was also over an hour’s drive away which was both good and bad. Meeting too close to home increased the probability of being seen but too far away meant accounting for greater chunks of time away.
Soul Mate Two was definitely in the running but Duane was a bit old-fashioned when it came to piercings and tattoos which she had an abundance of. She did, however, check off many of his boxes. No kids to complicate things. Wants a casual relationship, not ready for a serious commitment. Dark brown eyes, shapely figure, close to his height. Maybe he could talk her out of wearing the eyebrow ring and tongue stud. The tats, truth be known, sort of intrigued him. He wondered if one could feel them or if her skin was smooth. He blushed at the though of caressing another woman’s skin and almost shut the laptop down.
A quick glance through gravely eyes towards the clock on the microwave confirmed that it was after 3:30 AM. He maneuvered the cursor to the “Next Profile” button and waited a beat before clicking to reveal who this company had found to be his most perfect match, his number one Soul Mate.
The woman, named Nancy, was looking for an uncomplicated relationship that included coherent conversation but was not all serious. She was looking for someone who could make her laugh and could laugh at themselves. She wanted to be appreciated but not pampered and while she admitted to having very particular ideas at times, she also welcomed someone who could make decisions and take command. She liked a bit of romance but a little could go a long way and was not someone who reveled in all that schmaltzy, saccharine wooing. And while she admitted that sex was a consideration, it wasn’t a deal breaker or at the top of her list.
Duane was actually amazed at how well whatever algorithms they used to pair people up worked. This was very close to what he had asked for. He read over all the particulars three times before clicking on the profile photo.
The page went white while a progress bar indicated that it was loading. The portrait soon filled the screen and Duane almost jumped from his chair. “Son of a bitch…” he whispered as a photo of his wife, Nina, smiled unblinkingly back to him.
Duane closed the laptop and made his way upstairs through the dark. Once back in bed he spooned up next to his wife draping an arm over top of her giving her a gentle hug. She pushed tightly back against him and stirred.
“What are you doing?” she asked in a voice thick with sleep but without rancor.
“Just snuggling,” he whispered back. “Seems we’re a perfect fit. Maybe even Soul Mates.”