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Two for Tuesday Challenge #22 — August 20 – 26

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.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries.

Here is this week’s two-fer:

Standard Prompt:
buried details

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).

Non-Standard Prompt:

For this week’s alternative prompt choose at least two of the four quotes (taken from different popular movies) and write a story that uses the chosen unrelated quotes:

“Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.” (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)

“Any man who falls behind is left behind.” (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl)

“I said, ‘I had a bad experience.’” (The Italian Job)

“We thought you was a toad.” (Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?) 

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.

Write on!

For those who prefer to write first and read later, be forewarned that my personal effort follows.

This week I follow the alternative prompt in a light, coming of age story of sorts…

forest path
Passage
(approx. 950 words)

The group of five wandered through the woods effortlessly picking their way through the bracken and undergrowth.  A thin path could be ascertained if one studied the landscape closely but it had become overgrown without the benefit of consistent foot traffic. The boys knew, almost instinctively, where they were going, though, because just like the undergrowth they had grown up here too.

“You scairt the shit outta us,” said Gabe as he held the arm of nasty pricker bush aside letting the other four march past.

“Me? What was you scared for?” Percy bent and picked up a small rock and chucked it at a tree. It was about 20 yards off and he nailed it. The rock bounced off the tree with a satisfying hollow knock before dropping into the collected leaves scattered around the floor of the woods.

“Black magic or some sort. Thought creepy Old Man Horowitz had cast a spell on you for stealin’ a swim in his pond.”

“Yeah,” piped up Newt, the youngest of the bunch. “We thought you was a toad.”

“A toad?!”

“Shut up, Newt. I’m tellin’ this.” Gabe punched at the shoulder of his younger brother.  “Last Tuesday, Buzz said you had headed for the bluff and we figured you had cut through Horror-witz’s back field.”

“Horror-witz!” said Carl barking a short laugh. “Good one Gabe.”

Gabe shifted an annoyed look at Carl and continued. “As we broke cover at the edge of the old fart’s back field we saw your clothes laid out under a tree next to that scummy pond a his. You was no place to be seen but for a big fat toad peekin’ outta one of yer boots like he owned it.”

“Yeah,” contributed Pete, “an’ he even burped.  Sounded just like you.”

“Croaked,” Gabe clarified. “Carl said it kinda looked like you too, an’ we all agreed. So I says, ‘maybe that troll Horowitz turned Percy into a toad.’”

“I ain’t fond a toads,” admitted Percy. “Had sumpthin’ bad happen once.”

“What, Percy? Tell us.” Newt asked. “A toad crawl down your shorts an’ leave warts on your wang?”

Carl barked another laugh, “Good one, Newt. Wang warts.” Percy shoved Carl who stumbled backwards and went down as his feet tangled in the vines.

“Hey, asshole, there’s poison ivy in these woods.” Carl stood up and brushed himself off.

“I said, ‘I had a bad experience.’” And that was all the explanation they were going to get. Carl was checking the area to make sure he hadn’t landed in any poison ivy. “What’s amatter, Carl? ‘Fraid you got poison ivy on your pecker?”

This time it was Newt’s turn to laugh. “Good one, Percy. Poison Pecker! Carl’s got a poisoned pecker.”

“Anyways,” said Gabe pulling everyone back to the original narrative, “that big ol’ toad looked straight at us, gave another croak, hopped around that tree an’ then you came swingin’ down offa that branch nekid as a jaybird, like you had transformed back”.

“You bein’ nekid,” said Pete, “was the scary part!” Everyone laughed seeing as it was rare for Pete to make a decent joke.  “What was you doin’ up in that tree all nekid anyways?”

“Okay,” confided Percy in a whisper, “You can’t tell no one. You have to swear.” Percy looked each one in the eye—one by one—and then spat in the palm of his hand. The other’s followed suit and they stacked their hands one on top of the other like a football team about to break huddle. In unison they all chanted, “Swear on my ass, swear on my head, I’ll stay true to my oath or wish I was dead.” They all looked at Percy waiting for the juicy details. Percy let out a big sigh and continued.

“I stripped down and were about to slip in the pond. Tuesday was hotter than a sonuvabitch.” Newt giggled. “But just as I were ‘bout to wade in I hear a bunch a hollerin’. You know Horowitz’s border shed, the one by the fence just beyond that tree?” All of them nodded. “The shed was shakin’ and there was a bunch of gruntin’ like a serious wrestling match was takin’ place inside.

“All a sudden like, it went quiet.” Percy paused for dramitic effect. “I was like thinkin,’ shit, musta been some sorta death match and I was about to climb down when the door banged open. Out struts Leslie Hardigan yankin’ at her dress followed by Jacob Talbach. In one hand he’s carryin’ his shirt and his other hand’s reachin’ inside her dress grabbing at her titty. She slapped at his arm and pulled away but she was still smilin’ like she liked it.”

“No way!” said Pete. “Hot Hardigan and the Toolbox?

“Way’” replied Percy. “They passed right under the tree. If they had looked up at the right time they woulda had a clear view of my nads. I waited a good five minutes after they left  ‘fore I even dared ta move, an’ three minutes after that I hear you lot come tromping up. I thought for sure Talbach woulda seen my clothes and I’da been a goner, but they were too busy stickin’ their tongues down each other’s throats.”

“Aw jeez, Percy! Gross!” Young Newt was not quite as engrossed in the conversation as the others. “Where we going anyways?”

“Aw, I don’t know…” Percy’s voice trailed off but then he snapped his fingers and his eyes sparkled. “Hey. I know a good climbin’ tree. It’s over near Horowitz’s scummy pond on the edge of his back field.”  The five of them took off through the woods with Percy in the lead.

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Five Sentence Fiction — Fabric

Monday is when I tackle some Five Sentence Fiction. Feel free to take Lillie McFerrin’s challenge to write a five sentence story based on a single word prompt. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just used for direction. This week’s word is Fabric.

baby blanket
Here’s my offering:

It was once rose pink and part of a larger whole. Faded, dingy and threadbare after so much handling, the small square, however, still felt silky smooth and cool to the touch. It was her talisman, providing comfort like a worry stone or lucky charm often rubbing it with her thumb or raising it to her face. She now ran it in small circles against her ash-soft cheek, then back and forth across her mouth, noticing how it caught briefly on her chapped lips. Then quietly and without fanfare the small bit of fabric—edging from her baby blanket—slipped from her grasp along with 86 years of life.

Got five sentences? Share them!

If you enjoy flash fiction challenges stop by each week to participate in my writing challenge offered every Tuesday. Take your pick from two, yes that’s right, two different prompts that I will be providing right here weekly.

4 Comments

Two for Tuesday Challenge #21 Aug 14 – Aug 20

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.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries.

Sorry about my tardiness.  This week I seem to be a day late and a story short. Life got in the way a little bit.  Here is this week’s two-fer:

Standard Prompt:
wax museum

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).

Non-Standard Prompt:
For this week’s alternative prompt I’m suggesting that you begin a story with the climax and use flashbacks to lead the reader through how the story got there.

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.

Write on!

I didn’t get to writing something my self but check back I might get something up a little later.  Anyway I hope you enjoy the prompts. And since I posted this a day late I’ll give you an extra day on the other end.  Pretty generous, huh?

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Five Sentence Fiction — Learning

Monday is when I tackle some Five Sentence Fiction. Feel free to take Lillie McFerrin’s challenge to write a five sentence story based on a single word prompt. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just used for direction. This week’s word is Learning.

Here’s my offering:

Today I learned to look before you leap; that there might be rocks below the surface. I learned that sometimes lightening does strike the same spot twice.  I learned what poison ivy looks like and, thankfully, not what it tastes like.  I learned that even Jell-o is not always a reliably edible food. God, I love summer camp.

Got five sentences? Share them!

If you enjoy flash fiction challenges stop by each week to participate in my writing challenge offered every Tuesday. Take your pick from two, yes that’s right, two different prompts that I will be providing right here weekly.

5 Comments

Two for Tuesday Challenge # 20 — August 6 – 12

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.

Don’t forget to check out the other entries.

Here is this week’s two-fer:

Standard Prompt:
black velvet

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).

Non-Standard Prompt:
For week 17, I provided an opening phrase. For this week’s alternative prompt I’m offering the opposite. Write a story that ends with the words: “…your taste is all in your mouth.” or at least words to that effect. 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.

Write on!

For those of you who prefer to write first and read later, be forewarned that my personal effort follows below.

I am working with both prompts today and I hope you enjoy the lighthearted story.

Dogs Playing Poker

Royal Flush (approx. 585 words)

Greta smiled.  She loved her apartment. She wiggled her toes digging them deep into the furry nap of the olive green shag rug and pondered how to get at the burrowing crumbs that were becoming more noticeable to her bare feet with the passing of each day. She had stopped trying to vacuum it since the luxuriously long nap of the rug consistently got caught in the Hoover’s beater brush each time she tried, provoking horrible groaning noises as it chewed at the rug.  The infernal machine had already torn out a number of swaths leaving behind a scattering of irregular bald spots; there was a bit of mange about the rug now.

The black velvet painting of dogs playing poker was a prized possession inherited from her late father and hung in a place of honor over the powder blue sofa.  She had gone practically apocalyptic when her long time boyfriend, Harlan, had accidentally splattered the painting with an airborne bit of Velveeta Cheese off a natcho during a celebratory moment while watching a 2006 playoff game between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati when Roethlisberger connected on a 43-yard pass to Cedrick Wilson for a touchdown widening the Steelers’ second half lead to 11 points. It was a good thing that at least the sofa had been protected by the clear plastic slip covers because the paper plate of nachos toppled from Harlan’s other hand landing face down in the middle of the center cushion. Without blinking an eye, he had righted the plate and finished off the cheese covered snack before asking for another beer.

Greta had tried to wipe the painting clean the following day but the damage had been done and scrubbing at the offending spot with a wet sponge tended to mat down the velvet making matters worse.  She had been able to scrape the crusty bits free of the black surface with a maroon-enameled thumbnail but a ghostly orange mark that looked a lot like a silhouette profile of Abraham Lincoln was left behind. She eventually employed a permanent black marker to cover the stain.

The orange, brown, cream and avocado polka-dot drapes flanked the picture window that offered a direct view of the parking lot and beyond that to the loading dock behind the local Food Lion.  A large beeping truck was currently backing down the access lane to swap out dumpsters. To the left of the window was a stand of shelves that housed her collection of cat figurines.  At last count she had 107 cat statues.  That didn’t include the cat clock that hung on the other side of the picture window near the front door, which marked time with a perpetually swinging tail and shifting eyes that looked left and right, left and right.  She loved the clock because it reminded her of the cartoon character Felix the Cat, or was that Fritz the Cat. She always got those two mixed up. She also had three bubblegum pink accent pillows emblazoned with Hello Kitty graphics that sat on the blue sofa.  They were thankfully Velveeta-free as she had purchased them several years after Harlan’s nacho-cheese fracas.

Greta plopped down into her dinghy, ivory, naugahyde recliner and surveyed her private domain like a Queen from her throne.  “Just like my mama always told me,” she said with a broad self-satisfied smile obviously clueless to the true meaning of the oft-spoken phrase, “ ‘Greta, darling, your taste is all in your mouth.’ ”

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Five Sentence Fiction — Bliss

Monday is when I tackle some Five Sentence Fiction. Feel free to take Lillie McFerrin’s challenge to write a five sentence story based on a single word prompt. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just used for direction. This week’s word is Bliss.

Here’s my offering:

Bliss by definition means Heaven or heavenly but Franklin knew nothing of that; his life had become the antithesis. He knew all about aching, a pervasive hollowness, perpetual nausea that roiled inside of him, of a constant white noise inside his head and heart that robbed him of peace and pleasure. He knew all about pain and loss and grief and guilt and blame. Franklin knew how quickly and cruelly life can spin on a dime, turning everything inside out. And he is forever haunted by the bump of the left rear tire, cutting short both a scream and a life as he backed the car out over his four year-old daughter.

Car Wheel

Got five sentences? Share them!

If you enjoy flash fiction challenges stop by each week to participate in my writing challenge offered every Tuesday. Take your pick from two, yes that’s right, two different prompts that I will be providing right here weekly.

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Two For Tuesday # 19 — July 30 – August 5

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:

Standard Prompt:
close shave

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).

Non-Standard Prompt:
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.

Write on!

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.

dating
Soul Mates
(1,337 words)

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.”