May 2013

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04 May 2013

May is upon us and this month is another where we are going to mix it up a bit.  We are going to once again continue the story through the entirety of May.  This will be fun.  In addition to this we are only getting a single prompt each week.  This prompt will be a “picture prompt”.

The prompt is:


Begin writing
I had her cornered.  The monkeys and my bodyguards had her trapped on the balcony by the cleaning supplies.  Carrying my broom, wearing my Givenchy pointed hat and my ruby colored Converse sneakers, I walked up to Dorthy cackling.  “Well my pretty, you and your little dog are going to pay for killing my sister now.”

I could see the panic in her face as she clutched her tremoring mutt and began stammering.  “Your excuses and explanations mean nothing to me.” I snapped at her.  “You can tell them to the police.”  She was droning on about tornadoes, and Kansas, and snake oil salesmen.  Then she mentioned her Aunt Em and a whole string of others with only code names:  The Wizard, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Toto and on and on and on.  “Stop,” I yelled “I saw you drop that house on my sister.  There was no one else.  It was you.”  I reached into the top of my little black dress and retrieved my cell phone.  I dialed ‘911’ but as I moved my finger to press ‘SEND’ Dorothy grabbed a bucket of soapy water and threw it at me.

Apparently, I melted.  Nothing left but my ruby sneakers and a reflection in the puddle of the me that was no longer there.  My minders seemed almost pleased about this.  They shook Dorthy’s hand and began singing as they turned and went back inside the Condo.  No one seemed to notice me.  I looked at my hand.  I could see it but apparently none of the others could see me at all.  I looked at the puddle – there was my reflection; muddled and dark but recognizable, at least to me.  If any of the others on that balcony saw it they did not let on.  Carefully, I leaned down and pulled my feet from the sneakers, watching my reflection and being careful not to bump into anyone.  I moved slowly to the corner of the balcony and waited.  After everyone left I pulled open the sliding glass door and went inside.  In the hallway I moved towards the stairs and started when I caught a movement in my periphery as I passed the upstairs bath.  It was my reflection in the mirror there.  Well, it was but it wasn’t.  I was a dark, murky shadow that sort of resembled what I had once looked like.

I went downstairs.  The monkeys were ransacking the kitchen and the bodyguards were trying to get hold of anything of value.  They were robbing me blind.  “Stop it” I screamed and they all paused briefly.  Some of them shrugged before resuming their pillaging but most just went right back to it.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

11 May 2013

Part II of the continuing story of May.

The prompt is:


Begin writing
The monkeys were flinging food and poop from the kitchen.  The guards were ransacking files and looking for a safe.  I was not visible and barely audible, apparently, so I opted to leave.  Making a hasty exit out the front door I noticed that I cast no shadow.  I hurried down the street where an open house was underway.  It was a large Victorian gingerbread looking abode.  Not my style but perfect for what I needed now.

The front door was open so I slipped in and waited.  I crouched low in the corner of the front room and no one noticed me all day, despite a heroic and well attended showing by Mindy Charleston, who wants to be YOUR realtor.  When Mindy finally closed the open house and made her way down the walk, I got up.  I peered out the window, watched her pull her “open house” signs from the lawn and back down the drive.  I needed to understand what had happened to me.  My reflection remained murky, dark, and indistinct.  I had suffered no degradation in my senses of touch, sight or smell.  I was simply invisible and heard only faintly, as if from far away.

Food and water and probably other sustenance was still required, and relished, as I discovered when my stomach growled and I found some cookies that Mindy had left.  Apparently for another showing of this horrendously ostentatious house tomorrow.  This is weird but at the same time it is fantastic.  It’s like having a superpower.  I can use it for good or for evil.  I needed to get some place to experiment.  As I went to the back door I stumped my toe on the sill.  That hurts – I am probably not immortal or invincible then.  Just invisible but, that may be enough.

I wandered aimlessly through the streets.  I helped myself to food from a Deli.  I discovered that when I touched something it too disappeared from sight.  When I picked up the cookie to bite it, it disappeared.  When I sat it down it reappeared sans the bite that I had taken.  I took a shopping bag and snacks from Trader Joe’s and topped it off with money from the First National Bank.  Then I headed West, out of town to the house where my sister had lived before Dorothy had murdered her.  As I crossed the bridge over the moat surrounding her house, I looked over the edge – there was my reflection, shadowy and indistinct but noticeable.  I couldn’t pass through walls or locked doors but an unlocked window was no match for me and I quickly gained entrance to my dead sister’s home.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

25 May 2013

Part III of the continuing story of May.  Note that I missed last week.  I got a copy of last week’s prompt today.  This means that Part III is made with the 4th prompt and Part IV will be made with the 3rd prompt.  Pretty confusing huh?

The prompt is:


Begin writing
I looked around my sister’s house.  She had been dead for more than a month but everything seemed intact.  There were no close neighbors and it appeared no one had noticed her demise.  No one missed her.  Her leopard skin stilettos, slightly dusty, stood on the floor by the window I had come in through.  All the fruit in the fruit bowl had shriveled up and the inside of the fridge was beginning to look like a science project but, the foods in the pantry and the freezer were still good.  From the look of things I should be able to hole up here for a month, maybe more.

I needed to learn more about my new “superpower” of invisibility.  I raised my hands and crooked two fingers on each when I thought “superpower”.  I am not yet sure how super it will be.  I headed to the back of the house.  Perhaps there were some books in the library that would help.  I needed to understand and experiment.

Grabbing the first book I saw, I looked at myself in the mirror.  My reflection was murky still but not as dark as it had been.  Kind of like a wisp of grey smoke vaguely shaped like me.  “I looked pretty good for a puff of smoke.” I thought but I could not see the accompanying grin.

The book I had in my hand was not visible in the mirror at all.  I looked down at the book and opened it.  I could see it just fine.  I could read it no problem.  I sat it down and when I released it the reflection reappeared.  This could get interesting I thought.

That night I ate ice cream and crackers for dinner.  I retired early so that I could get an early start in the morning.  I was going hunting.  Hunting for Dorothy. But first, I needed to practice in public.  I quickly learned that driving was not a good idea.  When I grasped the steering wheel the car disappeared.  I decided that driving an invisible car in traffic was probably not a good idea.  It seemed that the act of holding something was the trigger that rendered it invisible.  I could not explain why the little black dress I still wore was invisible or why my ruby red sneakers had remained visible. There was still a lot I did not understand.

I left the house and headed barefoot into town.  I still had all the money I had taken from the bank but I didn’t really need it.  At the produce stand I picked an apple off the pile; as soon as I grabbed it – it vanished.  No one would see an apple vanish as long as I was careful.  I was tangible though.  I tested this by bumping a few passersby.  I slapped Eileen Maple on the back of her head.  I never did like her.  Her reaction was clear, she felt it all right.  The sporting goods store had a handgun on display.  I grabbed it and some hollow points.  I headed towards Dorothy’s house.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

Still 25 May 2013 (later in the day though)

Part IV of the continuing story of May.  Note – this was actually the 3rd picture in the series.  I had to use it out of turn.  See above for more details (if you care).

The prompt is:


Begin writing
Walking was too slow so I hopped in the back of a pickup to facilitate a speedier trip across town.  I experimented with my “superpower” all the way over there.  I could only crook the fingers of one hand to simulate the quotation marks now because I was reluctant to release my grasp on the gun.  If I grabbed on to the side of the truck bed the truck would disappear along with all inanimate objects in or on the truck.  The driver remained visible.  I did this only once, at a stop sign when he was busy singing along with the bad country music blaring out of his radio.  He never noticed but, his dog did.  The dog was riding shotgun in the cab and when the truck disappeared around her – she freaked.  She could also hear me even though the driver could not.  Maybe the frequency of my voice had risen to that range that dogs can hear but people cannot.

He calmed her down and we continued but I had to make a quick exit from the truck when the driver turned to get onto the interstate.  I still had about two miles to go before I got to Dorothy’s.  I loaded and checked out the pistol as I walked.  It was a 9mm Glock.  Nice weight and great balance.  I popped a couple of shots at a speed limit sign.  Yep, the gun worked fine even if it was invisible in my hand.  The reports from my practice shots were noticed and someone must have called the cops.  A prowl car with two patrolmen got there in no time.  I stepped back, out of their way and stayed still.  I could not risk bumping into anyone at this point.  I was too close.

Dorothy’s house backed up to a green belt.  The wildflowers were blooming and there was a field about 100 yds wide before the wood started.  When I got there I grabbed the front doorknob.  Immediately the whole house became transparent.  I could see fish in what must have been her aquarium but, Dorothy was not inside.  I spotted her though; through the house, by the field, looking out towards the wood.  Her back was to me and she had not noticed the brief disappearance of the structure.

I walked around to the back with gun in hand.  I planned to sneak close to her, blow on her ear to get her attention and look into her eyes when I shot her in the neck.  I expected this to get messy.  I was about ten feet from Dorothy when she turned and looked right at me, “What took you so long?  I thought you would never get here.”

“You can see me?” I asked.

“Of course I can.  I can hear you too.  I created you.  I gave you the power to disappear when I tossed that wash water on you.”  Then she raised her right hand and I saw she was armed too.  Her 44 looked like a cannon.  The barrel was huge. Or maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe a gun just looks bigger when you are looking at it from the wrong end.

I fired my Glock.  It was louder this time than my practice shots had been.  Dorothy went down.  A neat red hole appeared on her forehead but otherwise she looked still, at peace.  Then I saw the smoke curling out of the barrel of the piece she still clutched in her hand.  That explained why the report had been so loud.  We had fired simultaneously.  I realized that as I dropped to my knees.  I looked down and saw the front of my little black dress was wet.  I tasted the coppery flavor of my own blood and I could smell death.  I wondered if my blood on my dress was visible.  I wondered if my blood on the ground was visible, I assumed it must be.  I pitched face forward into the grass.  Shit, Dorothy was dead but I wasn’t going anywhere either.  Had I won?
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


April 2013

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06 April 2013

The prompts were:
1. The welcoming committee
2. Wicked attraction
3. Rainbow, X-Ray Glasses, Stapler

Begin writing
It was a clear day but the air I was breathing belied that.  Cars and trucks rushed by, mere inches from the toes of my boots.  Bus stops are places where I hang out a lot these days.  Not really by choice, more a matter of necessity.  When the bus is your primary mode of transportation you tend to spend a lot of time in bus stops.  It was beginning to grow on me however.  I found it fascinating to study my fellow passengers.
Today there was one other gentleman hunkered down in the shelter that covered the bench.  He was wearing bunny slippers and a large, hairy thrift store coat with a fur lined hood pulled over his head.  I thought he was talking on the phone but, it turns out, he was just talking to himself and chuckling.  Hmm, maybe telling himself jokes he had never heard before.   I approached the bench when I arrived at the stop.  He jumped up and pulled a stapler from his greatcoat pocket.  Brandishing the stapler like a weapon he screamed unintelligibly at me.  I put up my hands and backed away a couple of steps.Returning the stapler to his pocket he sat back down and watched me from the corner of his eye.
“This guy has a larger than average personal space,” I thought but, he seemed calm now.  My grandfather had taught me that discretion was the better part of valor so, I determined to respect this man’s foibles and give him his space.
The number 6 bus chose that moment to arrive.  I noticed that overnight new ads had been placed on the side.  The dark and foreboding illustrations of vampires and seductive young people had been replaced by a sickening tableau of pink and yellow teddy bears, rainbows, unicorns and princesses.  I almost decided to wait for the next bus.  What if someone I knew spotted me on this conveyance.  I would be the laughing stock for weeks.
I looked around furtively and the coast was clear so I hurried on to the bus anyway.  The risky times would only be boarding and exiting.  If it looked like I would be spotted getting off, I would simply stay on for one more stop.  Nobody but other riders notice who’s aboard when the bus is moving.
I dropped my token into the thing that you drop your tokens into and turned toward the back of the coach.  I began walking slowly aft, making sure everyone got a good look at me.  I was strutting and swaggering, looking left and right.  The people I looked at all began to fidget.  They would turn slightly or lift their packages to their laps, clutch books and bags closer to their chests, cover up.  I tried to look tough and menacing but had to smile.  This always happens when I wear my X-Ray glasses on the bus.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

That was fun.  There were only 5 of us at the meeting today so we decided to have another go at it.  This time we all wrote from a single prompt – time was limited to 15 minutes.

The prompt was:
1. What he/she left behind was indescribable

Begin writing
It seemed like yesterday.  Maybe because it was yesterday.  Today was Boxing Day.  Yesterday had been Christmas.  The family was all coming to our house for a proper Christmas feast.  Annabelle, my new bride, was nervous.  Her mother was coming and so was my new deadbeat brother in law, Andrew.  My Aunt Sally and her husband would be there but they would be late.  They were always late.
The decorations had been fussed with until everything was perfect.  Santa had come the night before and what he had left behind was indescribable.  Not because it was either horrible, or spectacular but, because I could not, for the life of me, figure out what it was.
I mean, I could describe it up to a point.  I could identify that it was large, rectangular, red and blue.  I could tell you that it was covered with a symphony of switches, buttons dials, levers and flashing lights but, that only works up to a point.  I could not describe it’s purpose.  I could not describe it’s use.  I could not understand it.
Andrew knew what it was though.  Or, at least he pretended to know.  He said something about the new ionizing proactive spectrum generator and asked how I liked it.  Before I could answer he lifted a panel at one end and slipped inside.  Quickly Annabelle reached over, flipped a latch on the panel, toggled two switches and pulled a lever.  A small puff of smoke came from around the panel through which Andrew had entered and the thing was silent.
I looked inquiringly at Annabelle.  “Yep,” she said, “and unlike Andrew, it works.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

13 April 2013
The prompts were:
1. The person in the mirror was not who I expected
2. Grandma’s Cottage
3. Being human

Begin writing
I sat down at the long wooden bar and waved at the bartender for a beer.  He nodded and I watched him in the mirror as he made his way down to the taps to draw me a cool one.  What the hell was I doing?  Why was I here?  This is the act of a desperate man wasn’t it?  Was I a desperate man?
Being human is confusing.  Internet dating is frightening.  In strict adherence to the couples.com policy no photos had been exchanged.  I had no idea what Ms. X was going to look like or how old she was.  Nothing.  But, she was in the same boat.  She knew nothing of me either.  The computer had analyzed the data we had submitted and determined we would be compatible.  I had received an email from couples.com counselor, Pat Greenly advising me to be at this bar, Grandma’s Cottage, of April 13th at 7:00pm.  I was to wear a navy blue blazer with a green handkerchief tucked in the breast pocket.  I was to meet Ms. X here.  I would recognize her by the flower she would be wearing.  A red hyacinth would be tucked behind her ear.
Grandma’s Cottage was decorated like a Marie Callendars or a Mimi’s Cafe. Strange motif for a bar.  I had already scoped out the patrons when I arrived.  Not a red flower to be seen so I kept my eye on the mirror where I could watch the door.  The door opened and I found I was holding my breath anxiously waiting to see who came in.  It was a tall man in a red cardigan.  I breathed a bit easier when I saw he was not wearing any red flowers.
“This is crazy,” I thought and stood to leave.  “What was I thinking when I agreed to this?”  Just then, light flooded the bar and I looked at the long mirror again.  The person in the mirror was not who I expected.  It was Elizabeth, my ex-wife.  She still looked good.  I hadn’t seen her in years.  There had always been a strong physical attraction between us, but emotional and intellectual conflict had proven stronger than lust and we had agreed to separate.  No kids, no communal property, no complications.  It had been easy to do.
Then I noticed the flower she pulled from her bag and tucked quickly behind her ear.  I tucked my handkerchief deeper into my breast poked and ducked my head.  I headed to the back
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

20 April 2013

No meeting today.  I thought I would give it a try on my own.  I made up a prompt and gave myself 25 minutes.

The prompt was:
1.The devil dances in empty pockets

Begin writing
My name is William Potts.  They are going to kill me today.
I was a poor farmer with a few acres just outside of Spotsville when I met Lucinda.  She was a young girl with a slender waist, firm breasts and pale alabaster skin. Her hair was as black as tar and her eyes were blinding, like looking at the sun.  Her smile? … well when she looked up and smiled at me I was done for.

They will hang me tonight when the sun drops behind those mountains and the shadows are long.  They should be hanging Lucinda as well.

I wasn’t enough for Lucinda.  She could never be a farmer’s wife but, I had to have her.  The devil dances in empty pockets and my desire was strong.  I had no money but I had my land.  I sold my land in a futile attempt to buy her favor.  I learned too late that she was not the kind of girl who coveted money or jewels.  She craved adventure, she craved danger.  I craved Lucinda – so we took the money I got for the farm and headed west in search of our destiny.  California, San Francisco, and we were down to our last.  Lucinda could not be kept by a pauper and I could sense her slipping away.  Desperation helped me to recognize that the old man was a target of opportunity.  As luck would have it, he died easily and yielded a saddlebag of gold.  I learned that there were lots of miners in San Francisco, ripe for the pickin’.  Lucinda and I were a good team.  She would bat her eyes and I would bash their heads.  For her, the accumulation of wealth was secondary to the thrill of the kill.  After a successful night Lucinda’s passion was unbridled and my lust would be stilled.  But, she preferred the hunt, the action, the murder.  I however, had a single goal.  Keep Lucinda happy.

Seeking further adventure we kept moving.  I acquired a clipper ship from an out of luck captain in a gambling den.  At Lucinda’s urging we took our gold, hired a crew, and sailed to China.  We found an unlimited supply of Chinese business men who were willing to trade opium, fireworks, silk and tea for the gold we had brought.  We also learned that those same Chinese businessmen wanted whiskey, women and guns even more than they wanted gold.  A red haired whore would fetch a good price on the waterfront in Shanghai.  We were in the trading business.  We had found a demand that we could fill and I had found a way to keep Lucinda excited and happy.  She was transported to another level when there was a storm.  Or when someone needed killing.  A bit of piracy came easily and we
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


27 April 2013

The prompts were:
1. Timing was everything
2. A different world
3. Then the man next to me on the train…

Begin writing
The platform was crowded but then, Shinjuku always is, and when the platform is crowded the train will be as well.  The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Matsumoto was about a three hour trip and the trains are always on time.  Timing is everything in Japan – Schedules are important.  I had landed at Narita last night.  Too late to get to Nagano, I spent the night in Tokyo. I’ll take the train today.  What a trip.  I drove to the KC airport and parked.  Flew to San Francisco to catch a connection to Narita.  The Limousine Bus took me from the airport to the City Center and I walked to the hotel.  All I need to do now is work in a bike ride.

The train arrived and passengers exited out the other side.  I looked around me and thought about where I was.  This sure isn’t Kansas Toto, this is a different world.  Everything is different.  Not better, not worse, just different.  The doors opened and we began filing onto the cars.  I had an assigned seat and I made my way to it.

Matsumoto is in Nagano Prefecture, high in the mountains.  My fellow passengers represented a good cross section of Japanese society.  There were old people, young people, men, women, businessmen and holiday merry makers.  I always see mountain climbers on this train.  Dressed for hiking with sturdy boots and walking sticks.  Matsumoto is a special city. The Jo is a popular attraction and short side trips can take a sightseer to Lake Suwa or to any number of ski lodges, resorts, museums, or restaurants.  Plenty to do for a short getaway.  The businessmen probably worked for or with Epson or Sankyo.  Both companies have major production facilities in the area.

We had been traveling about an hour when the man next to me on the train first spoke.  He spoke in Japanese so I was unable to understand and indicated as much.  I apologized and said, “I’m sorry but I do not speak Japanese.  Do you speak English?”

“A little bit” he answered and pointed out the train window.  “It is a clear day.  Look, you can see Fujiyama.”  He was right.  It was a postcard view.  The peak seemed to float as it rose out of the mist in the distance.

“It is beautiful” I said.  He nodded and told me, “In two days I will go to Fujiyama to climb.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


March 2013

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02 March 2013

The prompts were:
1. Cupcakes, Punk Rocker, Chopsticks
2. Cold Case
3. Crystal Ball, Geisha Girl, Dive Bar

Begin writing
The dog sat on the roof, hunched over his typewriter.

“It was a drak and smarmy night” he wrote, cursed, pulled the paper from the platen, crumbled it and tossed it into the trash can.

“It was a drink and sloppy night” he pecked out before repeating the ritual of the tossed page.

He was getting good at that ritual.  He had been trying to start this novel for years.  Once or twice he had even gotten the first sentence right and begun the second.  “Suddenly a snot ran out” had condemned more than one ‘2 line short story’ to the landfill though.

Pushing away from the typewriter, he considered how much easier it must be to type if you had hands instead of paws.  Faster too.  Heck, everything would be easier.  People with hands don’t appreciate how difficult it is to maneuver chopsticks without thumbs or that you have to use your mouth to take the wrapper off your cupcakes and muffins.

You are effectively blocked/banned from a multitude of professions too.  You can’t be a carpenter if you can’t hold a hammer.  You can’t be a punk rocker if you can’t reach across the neck of your guitar.  That’s why he took up writing.  Although he was unable to grasp a pen or pencil he had thought that a typewriter would allow him to flourish as an author.  How many years had he invested in the pursuit of this dream and never gotten more than two sentences on the paper?

Lucky for him that round headed kid kept bringing him food.  Lucky for him that round headed kid always brought dog food and not Kung Pao Chicken.  That kid understood the problems that dog’s had with chopsticks.  That round headed kid was a great friend, they could eat together, play baseball together and go on walks together.  Maybe he should give up writing and just hang with that kid until he could break into the theatre.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

09 March 2013
The prompts were:
1. It was mind blowingly amazing
2. It didn’t impress me much
3. All right you smart ass
4. Three thousand miles to Graceland

Begin writing

Ricky and I stood on the rim of the canyon gazing below.  It was mind blowingly amazing.  The colors, the rock formations, the sheer depth of the gorge took your breath away.  I said as much to Ricky and he shrugged his shoulders, “It doesn’t impress me much” he said, “it’s nowhere near as impressive as Waimea Canyon.”
I carefully considered his opinion and then promptly dismissed it.  I told him “Waimea is awesome, I’ll grant you that but this is the Grand Canyon.  The GRAND CANYON! And, I think it lives up to it’s name.”
Ricky shrugged his shoulders and tried to look bored, “Let’s get back on the road, vato.  We still got 3000 miles to Graceland.  If we keep moving we can make it to Oklahoma by tonight.  Unless you make us stop in Roswell to visit the ‘Area 51 Museum.’”
What?” I was dumbstruck, “There’s an Area 51 Museum in Roswell?  We gotta go!”  I hadn’t even known about that.  I had hoped to convince Ricky that the petrified forest outside Shiprock was worth a stop.   Maybe the reservation at Silver City or the galleries in Carrizozo but I could forego those attractions for a chance to see an ‘Area 51 Museum’.

“No, there’s no ‘Area 51 Museum’” Ricky grinned, “I’m just fuckin’ with ya!”
“All right you smart ass,” I was pissed off now, “then we are going to drive the Southern route.  We’ll stop in Deming and take in the Rubber Duck Races.  Going East from there is nothing but desert.  I know we are going to Graceland but we gotta enjoy the journey, not just the destination.”
I realized we had somehow made it back to the car park and were standing next to my dusty, rusty old car.  A 1992 Buick Roadmaster – The Ride – !  I got behind the wheel and fired up the car,  Ricky fired up a J and I pointed The Ride towards Truth or Consequences.  From there it was an easy, albeit roundabout trip to to Pie Town and then the SETI site not far from Socorro.  Oh, we were going to drive all day, all right but, we weren’t gonna be very close to OKC by nightfall.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

Have you noticed just how little you write in 25 minutes?


16 March 2013

The prompts were

1. Erotic Karma
2. Chicken bones, a fake ID, a book of matches
3. Halftime

Some background before I share my story –

Wow! Quite a collection of prompts.  I had no preconceived ideas or inspiration and then I got hit with these prompts which only served to further confound me.  My fellow “Book Bandit” Frank was sitting next to me today.  Frank is a very talented writer and, about the same time as I wrote the root beer story Frank had written about a Doctor who grew orchids, killed his wife, went on the lam, had “the operation” and returned years later, as a woman, to re-buy his house.  The house where he had killed his wife.  So, apologies to you Frank.  I think this story came out simply because you had the unfortunate luck of sitting next to me today.

Begin Writing

Frank had gotten out of prison on a “compassionate” parole.  He was 92 years old and the judge had deemed that he was no longer a danger to others.  There were conditions though.  Cross dressing was strictly prohibited, horticulture was allowed but no orchid cultivation would be tolerated, vegetables were encouraged.  He was not allowed on the west side of the city.  Could not get closer than a 5 mile radius of his old house.  The ankle bracelet monitoring system was designed to ensure compliance with that restriction.  His parole officer would monitor the others.

Immediately after his release Frank planted some tomatoes in the yard and began plotting how to grow orchids again.  God, he loved orchids.  He figured he would need a fake ID and procured one from an independent businessman he had met on the street.  His new friend Spike was only too happy to sell Frank a stolen drivers license in the name of Beatrice Jones.  Beatrice was only 67 years old but Frank had kept a trim figure in prison and looked younger than his 92 years.  There was even a passing resemblance if no one studied the photo too closely.

Using his new identity Frank had rented greenhouse space from a farmer about 2 miles east of town.  He had been forced to turn on the charm a bit to get Farmer Perkins to lower the rent but, Frank had impersonated his dead wife for years undetected and he was able to fool the farmer easily.  It didn’t hurt that he had looked quite striking in the flowered frock he had worn out there that day.  Frank had surmised, rightly so, that farmers retired early and rose early – so Frank would dress carefully, just in case, and visit the greenhouse only after 8:30 at night.  He seldom ever saw the farmer.

While in prison Frank, with his exceptional intelligence and his background in horticulture had secretly developed a formula for a “miraculous” plant food.  He got the idea for his discovery while spreading bone meal in the prison garden.  Frank had begun experimenting with different types of bones to try and develop a “super food” for orchids.  He knew that his wife’s bones would work well but he no longer had access to them.  Ground chicken bones turned out to be the ticket.  Ground fine enough the bones could permeate the mulch and release the nutrients that they carried for the orchid.  As orchids do not require soil and will shoot roots from above ground it was important that the bones be ground fine enough to suspend in a solution and spray onto the plants as well.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

23 March 2013

The prompts were:
1. Mustache, tube of lipstick, ray-gun
2. Total recall
3. The finish line was in sight

Begin writing

She surveyed the faces around the table and intoned mildly, “I like killing people.”  Her expression and tone belied the context of what she had just said.  I wasn’t sure I had heard correctly.  I was about to ask when she looked up and repeated, “yes, I like to kill people.”  She didn’t appear to be overtly dangerous.  I couldn’t see any weapons so I started to wonder how she killed people.  Was she a sniper who killed from a distance?  Was she a ninja who killed and then disappeared, undetected, under cover of darkness?  Did she kill with a knife or a bomb?  Poison?  Maybe she killed with kindness?  Maybe she knocked ‘em dead from a stage?  I studied her from across the table but her countenance yielded no clues.

I looked closely at her and did not sense any particular malice in her behaviour or any hint of jucularity either. I believe what she says but I am skeptical.  I mean this was so random.  Maybe I need to approach this from another angle.  I thought about what she had told us.  She had said, “I like to kill people.” I need to analyze that statement.  It is quite bold.  She spoke without remorse or fear.  She spoke openly, not like it was a confidence or a secret.  She might as well have said, “I like going to the beach” or “I like bacon.”  She was unconcerned about any consequences or punishment.

My thought process was suddenly interrupted when she pushed back from the table and stood.  She raised her arms to those of us around the table as though she was presenting us with a gift.  She raised her wings and spread them.  Where did those come from?  How had I overlooked them before?  They were magnificent.

“I am Loki” she said, “I am Yama, I am Azrael, I am the angel of death.  I am going to rain destruction from the sky on all your sorry asses.”  Passive was no longer the appropriate description here.  She now commanded the room.

“Oh, lighten up lady” muttered the kid sitting next to me. It was the last thing he said before he burst into flames and collapsed on his chair – nothing more than a pile of ash and floating bits of carbon.  The heat that had immolated the kid had been intense but, aside from the damage it had done to him there had been little effect.  Some smoke curled up from his seat and my eyebrows were a bit singed.  I noticed a faint aroma not unlike a burned electronic component.

No one had moved so I slid down in my chair and then under the table.  I heard a roar and a laugh.  The room began to get dark and then it got loud.  Real loud.  It sounded like a freight train had run into the building.  Lights were flashing and chaos was everywhere.

Then suddenly – silence.  The sprinklers came on and it was akin to rain.  I stayed put for a while and then stuck my head out from under the table.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

30 March 2013

I missed this meeting – see ya next week


February 2013

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02 February 2013
It’s the first week of February.  The group has decided to try an experiment.  Here is how it worked…

  1. Everyone has a single prompt which they write at the top of the page.
  2. This page is passed to the person on your left.  That person has two minutes to write to your prompt.
  3. When two minutes have elapsed everyone ceases to write and passes the paper they are working on to the person on their left.  Instructions were to read the last few lines and then continue with the story.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until such time as you have the paper with your own prompt back in front of you.
  5. Take two minutes to finish the paper that has gone all around the room.

 Here is what resulted with my paper.  Note that I will indicate when the writer changed with {*}


The prompt was:

The wasted shavings of a misspent youth
Begin writing

The wasted shavings of a misspent youth

{*} Is a waste of time, looking forward is exciting and planning something more

{*} Much more, galore, not a chore, nor chore, nothing to abhor, what’s in store?  Future is yet to see, something to be, full of glee, wonderful for you and me! Confined or free…

{*} The past is sawdust, flaky and the future is a polished rocker.

{*} Not the kind of rocker with long graying hair and faded black T’s.  But the kind that rests stoically on the creaky front porch, a kind face of 80 hovering above, wondering about where the time has gone.

{*} Times past are not always better than the present, but are invariably different.  Time future probably will be different again despite any inclination on my part to secure the status quo.  Oh, well the

{*} truth is that I had to shave my beard and what was once on my face is now in the sink.  And, that sink is where I am with my shavings and going down fast.  I don’t care what people say –

{*} I have a great misshapen face.  I am good looking. As his bulgy eyes widened, he looked more closely at his cheeks which hollowed down to his sharp chin.  Yes, yes, yes, it was time to shave off that beard!

{*} He really wanted to shave off the beard however, he had cut himself several times before and he had a low tolerance to pain so he called his doctor up to order a case of morphine and several tranquilizers, all charged to his HMO.

{*} He lay back on the bed and waited for the drugs to arrive.  There wasn’t much to distract him from the thought of the procedure and would the drugs be enough to numb the pain.  There was a window on the opposite side of the room

{*}, and a Muppet staring at him from outside. “Wakka, wakka, wakka!” it said.  He placed his hands on his ears and pulled at his hair.  Surely he was imagining this.  Muppets couldn’t really hang out outside windows like stalkers, could they?

{*} The Muppet leaned in looking directly at me with a ridiculous, mischievous grin… I thought he was going to tell me something like, “they all float down here Georgie!” But he whispered. “The wasted shavings of misspent youth.”

{*} Can Muppets really feel regret? I mean really, what is a Muppet but cloth and some felt and buttons stitched together? And yet, here it was deep in reflection, philosophy about

{*} shavings.  The Muppet’s face turned ugly with a scowl.  He removed a glass cutter and made a clean entry circle through the hospital glass, and stepped inside.

{*} Now he would be safe.  No more shavings, only solitaire – this made him uneasy but he felt he had no choice.

{*} This was the last chapter of my novel I wrote three years ago.  I was forty-eight, a retired policeman, shot in the leg, forced out of the department.  I called the book, One Day In Tibet.  The book did not get picked up.  Alas, I was a crippled police officer, a failed

{*} public servant.  Nothing left for me now except politics.  This is the story I told the reporter and by God, I’m sticking to it!

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

The exercise was interesting.  I found it required a conscious effort to write something that picked up where I though the story was going and carry on with it.  It was not always easy to pick up  the story line though, (see evidence above) as we were only reading the last few lines before adding to the narrative.  

Listening to the readings I understood a couple of things

1. Some people went back to the original prompt to try to keep the story on track while others more strictly followed the directions and read only the last few lines.  Still others did their own thing. Bravo!

2. At the end of the day no one really was sure who had written what.  This anonymity encouraged people to write things, which I do not believe they would have written if they could have been more easily identified.

3. This was fun but could be “funner” with some refinements to the process.


09 February 2013
The prompts were:
1. Shadow-men
2. Mystery diners
3. I would never think of ___ the same way again.

Begin writing
The shadow-men moved furtively down the alley, vigilant and alert.  The night was dark.  Overcast and a new moon.  The damp softened their footsteps.  They were impossible to hear and difficult to see.
I knew they were there but you sensed their presence only if you were attuned to the changing textures of the night.  You had to study the contrasts of the black on black.
At the end of the alley they regrouped.  There were a dozen of them that I counted when they rounded the corner and were briefly exposed to the faint glow of the street light on the corner.  There may be more but the light suddenly blinked out and I lost count as they moved to and fro.  Making their way down the street.
I realized that they had stopped again and that would make thing more interesting.  Their interest seemed to be focused on the diner down the block.  The diner where Carmine was having dinner.  Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy.  I knew what he was eating because it was what he ate every night.  Carmine was a creature of habit.
The glow from the window did not reach the stalkers who remained just out of it’s reach.  It looked like the party was getting ready to begin.
In mass they rushed the door of the diner and burst in yelling.
“Surprise!” the bellowed in unison as Carmine leapt to his feet in fear, frantically searching for something to use as a weapon against the swarm of intruders who had interrupted his dinner.
I watched him sink weakly back into his seat when they yelled “Happy Birthday Carmine!”  He cursed us all softly as he smiled and shook his head.  “Got me”

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

16 February 2013

The prompts were:
1. The headline read…
2. Time traveling food truck
3. Criminal intent

Begin writing
Seems like “when it rains it pours” I thought.  A week ago, after a windy night, I didn’t think much of the fact that I had to relight the water heater.  The side door had been left open to the garage and the wind had been, not quite strong enough to be called fierce but ‘substantial’.  I thought the pilot had simply blown out.
Two days later, when I had to light it again, it was one of those things that make you say “Hmmm…”  I couldn’t use a windy night to explain this one away.  But, it lit, after a few attempts and the water got hot.  All may be right in the universe after all!
The third time I woke to a cold shower I knew repairs were in order.  It took three days for a plumber and the parts to rendezvous with the water heater but, finally it seemed to be fixed.  Wasn’t cheap but was fixed.
Last night I went out to run some errands and grab a bite to eat.  The market, the drug store, the hardware store and the In and Out Burger.  Parked in one of those lots the car got sideswiped.  Red paint on both passenger side doors and the right rear quarter panel.  Damage looks bad enough to warrant a trip to the body shop.  I don’t really have the time or the bank account for this.
This morning the post came and I received a letter from the IRS.  They want to audit my returns for the last 10 years.  But, the fire last year destroyed all my financial records, not to mention the house.  How does the line go in the song?  “If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all”?  Guess that about sums it up for me these last couple of years.  But putting aside the car damage and the water heater and the audit it hadn’t been toooo bad recently.  I mean after my boat burned and the dog died.  I had really had a reasonably easy time of it, until now.  Before that it had been pretty bad though!  We went a long time before Mom finally got Billy the help he needed from the VA.  He hadn’t been right since he got back from Vietnam.  The drought had wiped out the crops for two years in a row and the bank took the farm.  Dad was defiant up until the end though.  With criminal intent he burned the farm house down, then got arrested, tried, and convicted of arson when the bank pressed charges.  Dad passed away under the care of the state.  I don’t think they had been taking very good care of him after all.  After dad died mom had sorta given up.  She wandered away and

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

23February 2013

The prompts were:
1. Family guy
2. Collateral damage
3. In dreams of trees
4. I opened the Sunday paper and there was my picture.

Begin writing

Penny reached for the cup and took a sip of coffee.  Black, no sugar.  She was sitting at the kitchen table looking out the window at the sunrise.  The house was quiet but Mr. Stitches was winding against her leg purring.  “I better get used to a quiet house,” she thought.  “No one here now but me.”

The headlights came down the street and slowed at the driveway.  There was a soft ‘thunk’ as the paper landed behind her rental car and Tommy backed his car around to deliver more papers in the next block.  Tommy had been delivering papers to her parents for almost 10 years. He and  Penny had gone to the same school, although he was a year ahead of her.  “He had turned his first job into a career,” she thought and smiled to herself.

Pulling her dad’s oversized terrycloth robe tighter around her waist she slipped outside to collect the news and came back to the kitchen.  She topped up her cup of coffee and opened the Sunday paper.  There she was, above the fold, staring back up at herself.  The photo was a school yearbook picture from her Junior year at Wesley.  She was smiling at the camera and wearing her team uniform.  She had captained the Ultimate Frisbee team that season.  Seemed like a long time ago.  She felt a lot older now and a lot less carefree.  She looked at the headline. Large type but she couldn’t focus on it.  Her eyes were filling with tears.  “Must be allergies,” she thought as she blinked over and over.

It had been less than a week ago that Dean Wilson had presented her with her diploma and shook her hand.  She had then turned and scanned the audience but couldn’t spot her mother or father in the crowd.  The must have been delayed.  She was surprised though.  The plans had been carefully laid and although they were cutting it close the train should have been here in plenty of time for them to get to the stadium from the station.  Never mind, they would still rendezvous at the statue of Coronado and go out to celebrate.  Dad’s favorite restaurant in Santa Fe was ‘La Posta’ and he had promised a big plate of tamales to celebrate her graduation.

At the conclusion of the presentation ceremony they all tossed their caps into the air.  Clutching her hard earned diploma tightly Penny headed for the quad.  Coronado’s statue had been placed there to commemorate the ‘Cuarto Centenario’ (400th Anniversary) of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado’s entry into New Mexico. 
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 


January 2013

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05 January 2013

The prompts were:
1. My superhero’s special power is…
2. Doughnut shop.  Pig.  Jet Pack
3. I turned the corner and saw it all over the road

Begin writing
I went into the doughnut shop and tried to look inconspicuous.  It’s hard to look inconspicuous when you have several thousand dollars stuffed into your shirt.   I realized that the shop assistant was waiting for me to order so I blurted out, “Can I have one of those chocolate ones with the Bavarian Creme?” She nodded her head and moved down the counter.  I looked around.
Damn.   There was a cop making a pig of himself.  He had half a dozen cake donuts spread in front of him. They all had white icing and rainbow sprinkles.  Gotta stay cool, I thought as I grinned wide and considered again that the cop was making a pig of himself.
I needed to lay low for a while so when my doughnut arrived I asked for a large coffee as well.  “Room for cream, honey?” the doughnut lady asked.  I looked at her name tag. ‘Irene’.
“No thanks, Irene, I’ll just have it black.”  She turned to pour me some coffee and I glanced at the peace officer.  He was occupied with the third doughnut and paying no attention to me.  I reached down the neck of my t-shirt and grabbed a bill.  Fortunately it was only a 10, not something bigger.
Irene came back and put my coffee next to the bag with my donut, “three dollars” she said.  I handed her the 10, got my change , put a buck in the tip jar and took a seat as far away from the cop as possible.  I tried to look nonchalant.
Did I break the law? Not sure.  I was minding my own business, looking at new jet packs in the window at Sears.  They were Craftsman brand so they would be top quality I knew.  Little pricy though.  I was distracted by a loud crash and a commotion in the street.  There had been an accident.  I hurried around the corner and saw it all over the road.  Money, lots and lots of money.  All denominations seemed to be well represented.  The armored car had rolled and the doors had apparently popped open.  The drivers were already out and chasing their precious cargo down the street.  The pile of money at my feet seemed to be singing to me:
“No one’s been harmed
No one’s been hurt
Please pick us up
And put us in your shirt”
So I did.
As soon as I did, I felt guilty.  Not too guilty though.  I made my way down the block with full intentions of making myself scarce.  I couldn’t wait to see how many dead presidents I had just liberated.  The doughnut shop was a port of opportunity.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

12 January 2013

The prompts were:
1. He tried to look like he had a little money
2. The sharp report pierced the air
3. But hey, I’m big in Japan

Begin writing
Don’t know what came over me this morning.  I woke up about three minutes before the alarm went off and didn’t have to endure that sudden and raucous ringing that never failed to leave me hanging from the ceiling by my fingernails.  The coffee was done brewing so, no waiting for caffeine.  The pilot on the water heater did not go out last night so there was hot water for my shower.  I found a clean shirt in the closet so I did not have to rummage through the hamper for my wardrobe.
Maybe, now that I think about it, all of these good omens WERE what came over me this morning.  All signs are pointing towards a good day.  Still have to go to work though… Still have to spend at least 8 hours cold calling people I have never met and try to sell them something.  Wonder what we are selling today?
I’m a good salesman and a better telemarketer.  Over the course of my career I have sold strangers everything from bibles to cologne.  Time shares, insurance, investment opportunities, flooring and new roofs.  I guess it’s true what they say, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” “You just happened to answer the phone at the right time.” “Once in a life time opportunity.” And so on and so on.
I never aspired to be a telemarketer when I was growing up.  Like most kids I wanted to be a rock star or a sports hero.  Telemarketing was something I just fell into and found I had a talent for.
I answered a blind ad in the newspaper’s “Help Wanted” section of the Classifieds.  This was back when newspapers had Classified Sections.  Hell, this was back when they had newspapers. I had tried to look like I didn’t need a job.  I had tried to look like I had a little money so I had spent my last three bucks to get a new haircut for the interview.  The interview was downtown at 2133 Piedras Blvd.  2133 Piedras turned out to be a staircase between a dive bar and a thrift store.  It did not look promising at all but, I had come this far, so I went up the stairs.
The door on the landing was propped open so I peeked in first.  There were probably thirty people; men and women, old and young, and all of them were speaking on the phones.  They all had reams of paper in front of them and they were scribbling furiously as the spoke.  This was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and before computers roamed the office.
A big guy with thin hair, long jowls and a red face looked up and motioned for me to come over.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

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19 January 2013

The prompts were:
1. The drag queen walked into the dairy queen
2. The nanny
3. Before night falls

Begin writing
The drag queen walked into the Dairy Queen.  He wasn’t moving very fast so the building was undamaged.  His nose might have been broken though.  I had hoped to not have to worry about shit like this.  My shift at the hospital was over and all I wanted was a chocolate dipped cone and to be left alone.  But, I was bound to go and offer assistance else my Hippocratic oath would be reduced to a hypocritic oath.
I got out of my car and approached the drag queen.  “Are you OK?” I asked, “That looked like it might have hurt.”  As drag queens go, this one was singularly unattractive.  His 5 o’clock shadow was a bit too predominate. So was his eye makeup.
“I’ll be OK” he sniveled and looked up at me, “I guess my Karma is catching up to me today.”  His eyes were tearing up and his nose was flattened to the right side of his face.
“I can call you an ambulance so that you can have that looked at.” I pointed to his nose. “Wait, what do you mean your karma is catching up to you?”
“I’ve been a jerk all day.  I probably deserve this” he looked down and continued, “when I left the house this morning the first thing I saw was that my neighbors dog had pooped on my lawn again.  That started it. I scooped it up with a shovel and deposited it on his car.”
I laughed, “that’s not so bad” I said.
“There’s more though.  When I got to work I was immediately told to go the boss’s office.  The found out that I had plagiarized all the collateral for the MacArthur account.  I got fired.”
“OK, that’s a bit worse but I don’t think you deserve a broken nose for it.”
“There’s more though. The landscapers were at the building when I was escorted out.  I grabbed a chainsaw off their truck and took out two trees in front of the building before I had to run for it.  Security was running after me and I could hear sirens approaching.”
“I got away by running into a residential neighborhood and through back yards.  I found this yellow sundress on someone’s clothes line and took it.  I thought a disguise might help me get away.  I can’t go home because the cop’s will be there.  My frock did not match my shoes or black socks so I had to steal these pumps from Payless and some makeup from the CVS”
“You should have stolen a bottle of foundation to cover your beard,” I quipped.
“It’s not funny,” he sobbed, “I have been wandering around the city all day doing terrible things.  I filled all the handicapped parking spots with shopping carts at the super market.  I pushed the buttons for a walk signal to cross busy streets just so the traffic would have to stop.  I didn’t even want to cross the street.  I stole apples from the farmer’s market,
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

26 January 2013

The prompts were:
1.  When I dug up the box I found…
2.  Varsity blues
3.  This is quite a performance you’re putting on

Begin writing

This is quite the performance you’re putting on she thought to herself as she pushed her curly red hair back behind her ears again and peered down from the parapet at the crowd below.  She wondered if insanity was hereditary or if it was the result of outside stimuli.  Maybe it was a disease. Maybe it was contagious.  Maybe she had caught it from her mother years ago.  Maybe she had caught it from Saul.  Her mother had been a crazy bitch, for sure.  Saul had just been… deficient.

They had both helped her to make a lot of money but she had sacrificed so much, so much more than she realized at the time.  She turned her head a bit and averted her eyes when the angle of the spotlight made her squint.  She wished that the crowd would quiet down some.  She couldn’t quite make out what the policeman with the bullhorn was yelling at her.  Didn’t really matter though.  She was going to leave as soon as she finished this bottle of bourbon.  It was already more than half gone and it wasn’t a big bottle.  That was another amusing thing about her current situation…bourbon, she didn’t even like bourbon.  She was a white wine and barbiturates kinda gal.  Meth was nirvana when she could get it.  What the hell was she doing with bourbon?  She couldn’t remember.

When she had been on TV everyone loved her, or at least it had seemed that way at the time.  She thought her mom had loved her but if that had been true why did Mom call her, Baby BooBoo?  What a stupid name.  She thought Saul had loved her and she had certainly loved him.  She had loved him so much she had given herself to him when she was only 9 years old.  He had accepted the gift – serious character flaw.  Billy, her bodyguard in those days, must have suspected something because she had never been allowed to be alone with Saul again after that one night.  Saul had come to work a few days later with his nose bandaged and two black eyes.  He had told everyone that he had had some work done. What did she know? She accepted that BS at face value and Saul had died of a heroin overdose less than a year later.  Seriously flawed, for sure.

Mom had told her that Baby BooBoo was a name that Saul and the producers had insisted she use for the sake of the show but, when she had confronted the staff they told her that it was mom who had insisted.  Not that it made any difference now, the damage was done.

Another long pull on the bottle and another glance below.  The cop with the bullhorn was still trying to tell her something, she thought, but she still couldn’t make it out through the noise of the crowd.  There were a lot more news vans now than there had been and a helicopter was circling above.  It had spotlights too.  Lord knows this was not the first time she had been in a spotlight but, it had been years.  And, the years had not been kind.  She was only 26 but when she looked in the mirror it was an old wrinkled toothless hag who peered back.  The hard living had taken its toll.  Although she had amassed millions before she was a teenager it was all gone.  Gone to unscrupulous agents and show business characters, gone to meth dealers, race tracks, and casinos.  Gone to finance speak easys and saloons.  Drinking establishments that had started out as the Ritz and somehow now all seemed to be the type with grime on the bar tops and three or more TV sets showing sporting events of one type or another.  She was a drinker now.  A serious drinker when she could afford it.  Methamphetamines were cheaper than booze though and the haze came quicker.  Ahh, the haze!  When she was in the haze she could forget that she had been Baby BooBoo.  She could forget everything and just drift.

Another pull on the bottle, damn, it’s empty.  Time to go.  She balanced on the edge and looked down.  Only eight stories but that should be enough.  Gonna find a haze that lasts forever.  

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 


December 2012

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08 December 2012

The prompts were:
1. Wait, who is in…
2. Where am I?
3. I forgot it at my…

Begin writing
Wait, What does it say about a man who is in pursuit of stuff for the bulk of his adult live?
Perhaps not tangible but, stuff nonetheless.

Wait, What does it say about a woman who is in servitude for the bulk of her adult life?
Perhaps not in chains, but in servitude nonetheless.

Wait, What does it say about a man who prides himself on his ability to communicate but, cannot tell his children that he loves them?

Wait, What does it say aobut a woman who knows what is right, who knows what is true but, cannot convey it to her family?

Wait, What does it say about a man and a woman; a couple, if you will, who fall in love, endure one another for years, and then fall in love again … and again?

Is it possible to reduce all things profound to the skeletal and still have them be understood?  Does the paring of words make what remains stronger? cleaner? more direct?

I do not research my poems. So, where do they come from? They come from life… They come from living… They come from love… They come from loving….
They come from you!

japanese wispy1 inverted

 Where am I?  I am in the auditorium of Santa Cruz High School.  The room is darkened but a spotlight illuminates the reader, standing at the lectern on the stage.  She is a reader, not a speaker.  She is but one in a long line of readers interpreting the words penned by the one we are remembering tonight.  There are speakers too.  Family members.  Michelle and Pablo dusting off a few memories to share.
I thought about how Pablo, Jacob and Ann were insistent that Bradly attend tonight.  Adrienne was especially fond of Bradly and loved to watch him get on the bus in the morning.  She loved to ask him, what was new… What he had been up to and he loved to answer her questions because she truly listened.
“I didn’t even know she was famous until after she died,” he confided to us on the way out to the car after the event.  “She was just my friend.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

15 December 2012

The prompts were:
1. To whom it may concern.  I think I’ve lost my way.
2. Only worry in the world… Is the tide gonna reach my chair?
3. I won’t dance – don’t ask me.

Begin writing
Picking my way carefully down the cliff I arrived, unscathed on the beach.  A narrow spit of sand and rock that would not be there at high tide.  I made my way to the rocks and started looking in the tide pools to investigate the creatures that might be stranded and look for treasures that might be found.  There was the usual assortment of anemones and star fish.  One of the larger steep sided bowls contained an assortment of finned creatures.  Not being a fisherman I was unable to name a single one and none of them looked large enough to eat, so I let them be.  There was a good sized sea cucumber in the next pool but it did not look very appetizing either.  I kept looking.
After  a little less than an hour I had studied all the pools and found no treasures or anything out of the ordinary.  “Oh well, guess I’ll move on then.”  I headed back to the cliff to start my ascent.  Something shiny was rolling up and down on the sand – moving to and fro with the water and it rolled onto the beach.  “Gotta go check this out then.”
There it was,  the beachcomber’s holy grail.  A clear bottle with a cork stopper – rolled inside, I could see there was a note.
Rescuing my treasure, I plopped down on the sand.  Careful not to break the bottle, I uncorked it and used a small twig of driftwood to fish out the note and unrolled it.  To Whom it May Concern,” it read, ” I think I’ve lost my way. I was not expecting to see ice this thick.  I must have drifted further north than I thought was possible.”
There was more writing, or at least there had been, but a some point saltwater must have entered the bottle and all that remained were smudges and smears.
Who was the note from? When was the note written? Where was the bottle set adrift? How far had it traveled? Ice?  Probably was not tossed in the vicinity of the central California coastline where I now stood.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

29 December 2012

The prompts were:
1. On the drop of a snot
2. I told you, never come in here any more
3. Old man take a look at my life
4. But times make you bolder

Begin writing
It was dark, very dark.  My mouth was so dry it was stuck shut.  There was a loud ringing permeating everything.  The ringing was omnipresent.  It was tangible.  I peeled my eyes open and suddenly it wasn’t dark anymore.  Time sped up to warp speed.  The lights were blazing – the sun was blazing – the ringing was not really ringing at all.  But, the phone was off the hook and making that noise.  You know that noise.  That sharp stacatto, drone designed by Alexander Graham Bell to be so obnoxious that no one will ever leave their phone off the hook.
I hung up the phone and started the long crawl to the kitchen – Root Beer would be great.
My stomach hurts.  I look down, is that a napkin taped to my belly?”  Peel it off. “Is that a tattoo?  How did that happen? She is a cutie though; and almost life size, I gotta lose some weight.”
“What a night.  I hope I had fun.” Copious amounts of coffee, a shower, and about a dozen aspirin help.  “What time is it? Four PM. God, I need breakfast.” Good thing the diner is just downstairs.
Taking a seat at my normal booth I wave at Naomi. She glares at me and picks up a knife.  Pointing it a me she starts moving slowly in my direction, “I told you never to come in here again.  Stand up, back slowly towards the door and leave!  Keep your hands where I can see them.”
“Naomi, what’s wrong?”
“What’s  wrong? WHAT’S WRONG? Artie,” she yells back to the kitchen, “call the cops… now.”
Discretion is the better part of valor. At least that’s what I’ve always been told.  I stand, put my hands in the air and head for the door.  Maybe I didn’t have as much fun as I had hoped.  I gotta find out who gave me this tattoo.  I don’t remember being in a tattoo parlor since I was a sailor and went to Hong Kong.  I think this cutie was newer than that though.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


November 2012

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03 November 2012

The prompts were:
1. Time stopped when the clock broke
2. A little yellow birdie with a little yellow bill
3. The wind howled and silence reigned
4. That was the sound of awesomeness exploding

Begin writing
The day had been rife with colour.  More so than normal.  The green of the sage was greener than I had ever seen before.  The sky was not only big, but it had taken on an azure hue that was a color only women know the name of, at least that was where I filed colours like this. Chartreuse and fuchsia had been there before I learned their true names.  A small yellow billed bird lit on the barbed wire fence at the property line.  His lemon coloured feathers paled in comparison to the colour of his beak and the contrast of that bird against the sienna earth was striking.  Something about that bird on that wire fence made me wish I could draw and paint.  I did a double take.  The bird was staring at me.  I could sense that he wanted to tell me something.  His beak parted and I waited for him to speak.  He didn’t though.  He did treat me to a short melody before spreading his wings and heading south.  I watched him grow smaller and smaller until he disappeared from sight.  I wonder what he wanted to say.  I could never work for Pixar or Disney as I am not one of those people who expects animals to speak or dance.  I am not one of those people who can assign human characteristics to inantimate objects but damn, that bird wanted to tell me something.  I will probably never know what though.
I turned, sighed and got back to work.  There was still a lot of fence to ride.  Maybe it was the day,  maybe it was the bird, maybe it was something else but the fence became unimportant to me.  The colours, shapes, and textures of the land were everything and all I could do was revel in the day.
Daydreams?  Maybe…
Attention Deficit Disorder? Probably…
The soul of an artist? … Doubtful, but I found that I had been engrossed in the study of brown on brown and the different lines and textures revealed
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

10 November 2012

The prompts were:
1. Regrets and mistakes, they’re memories made
2. Your lips move but I cannot hear what you are saying
3. We traded in our innocence and sacrificed our youth

Begin writing
I closed the menu and looked a the waiter hovering at my shoulder, pencil and paper at the ready, his face twisted up like a constipated pretzel. “I’ll have a bleu cheeseburger with green chili and avocado please.”
“Very good sir,” he intoned as if by rote, while the pencil scratched furiously on his pad.  It looked to me like he was drawing squiggles and squares on the paper but, as long as he got the order right, what did I care.
“Honestly, Thom” Nancy said, ” It took you that long to order that?”
“Sorry darling, I don’t want to order the wrong thing. I would regret it all night.  The last time I made that mistake I was reminded of the error of my ways all night long.  Don’t want to do that again. Especially with my delicate digestive system.”
The waiter finished his doodling and headed off to the kitchen.  Nancy smiled, “Delicate digestive system, my ass,” she said, “You can eat anything you’ve ever wanted.  You’ve always been able to do that and probably always will.”
“Yeah, I’m cursed that way” I said, ” but it really can be a problem.  Sometimes things sound great and look even better but the taste doesn’t live up to the promise.  Nothin’ worse than expecting gastronomical ecstasy and getting some gut bomb instead.  I still believe though that if I ordered it or cooked it then, by God, I’m gonna eat it.  I will search every morsel for some scrap of social redeeming value.”
Nancy grinned and shook her head, “Only you would order a cheeseburger in a seafood restaurant!  How long do you think it will take?”
“Not long, here comes Alfred now,” I pointed at our waiter who was making his way across the crowded restaurant back to our table. “He did say his name was Alfred , didn’t he?” I whispered to Nancy.
“Alfred is Batman’s butler our waiter told us his name is Seth.  Don’t you dare call him Alfred!”
Seth stopped his journey at our table, as I knew he would, “I’m sorry sir, the chef advises that the green chili’s did not arrive today.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

japan floral single inverted

17 November 2012

The prompts were:
1. She dropped the basket and began to march
2. They spoke softly and without clarity
3. Who will guide you in the ways of wisdom and lead you along straight paths?

Begin writing
There was an almost palatable sense of expectation in the air when we arrived.  The small crowd was seated in the “stadium” seating in the theater.  Two groups of spectators, physically divided by a center aisle. On the low stage sat and empty table with two chairs facing the audience.  A smaller desk was positioned in front of it for the moderator’s use.
There was a low buzz of conversation in the room; people murmuring and whispering to one another.  They spoke softly: so softly, in fact, that the words were unclear to me as I stood at the door.  Handing our tickets to the usher, I tried to pick up scraps of conversation around me.  Picking our way to the seats all I could hear was a completely unintelligible language; modulated on a carrier resembling the low hum of a large electric motor.
As we sat, a hush came over the room and the candidates stepped onto the dais.  There was a tall, well dressed dark woman standing next to the desk.  She spoke softly to the candidates and then turned to the audience, “Senbility anos exultabum” she said the she gestured to the candidate on her right “Elvecchio arientel.” She turned and smiled to the left, “Aristone Lomeli.” A small and polite smattering of applause ensued.
The candidates turned and retired to the chairs, obviously there for their benefit.
The dark lady leaned against the desk and studied the small crowd, ” Ariste ignobum alcatel, deringo versalla.” she summed up, turned and took her chair.
“Elvecchie, que wala estuaium hi?” she asked.
The first candidate began to speak earnestly. I did not understand a word he said. Apparently, no one else in the crowd did either, as the buzz of conversation began to grow from the audience again.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


October 2012

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October 2012
The prompts were:
1. If I had my way
2. The silence was deafening
3. It was the last thing I expected to find in a pumpkin patch

Begin writing
The silence was deafening. I could see people moving, moving fast.  There was a sense of urgency apparent in everything they were doing.  I could see them speaking to each other. I could see them rolling carts and moving equipment around.  I could see a cop at the edge of the crowd talking into a walkie-talkie.  Logically, I knew they were making noises, too many people doing too many things not to to be.  My head was a little foggy and thick when I moved it.  It felt a bit like a water balloon about 3/4 full of water.  I would stop moving but the inertia would try to carry the liquid forward.  The immovable wall, the balloon, or in my case – my skull would stop it; but then it would roll back.  The effect was similar to that of waves against a cliff.  I couldn’t hear that either.  I held my head still and watched what was going on in front of me.  That’s when I noticed something was wrong with my peripheral vision.  The edges of my field of vision were broken and disjointed. Like a mosaic.  Like a mosaic done by an artist who had a short attention span.  ADD.  Grey at the extremes.
Why couldn’t I hear them?
There was, oddly, no panic in my mind.  Curiosity was the primary motivator here.  I was calmly taking in what I could see and feel.  Where was the sound? – I don’t ever remember such quiet.
I realized I was sitting, not standing.  When did that happen?  My back was resting against something but the way my head felt I determined that it was unimportant what I was leaning against.  I did not want to turn my head to check.  Avoid those oscillations at all costs.
Turning my attention to the people working around me, I tried to ascertain what was up.  They obviously had a singular purpose.  They were all quite intent on what they were doing.  What exactly were the doing?
Two people with a stainless steel rolling cart passed in front of me.  A tall slender woman and a dark haired man.  They passed, stopped, appeared to study me, spoke briefly to one another and then moved on.  They broke into pieces and scattered as they moved into my periphery.  Then, I realized they had been dressed alike.  Must have been uniforms.  I should have spoken to them.  I should have asked them for an explanation.  Shit.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

Still October 2012
The prompts were:
1. Huge, zombie, alien planet rises from the dead
2. Whale tried to speak in human voice
3. Nazi Buddah from space might be fake

Begin writing
I wheeled my car into the lot and looked for a space to park.  There, at the back of the lot! Damn, a motorcycle, not my day.  Giving up, I pulled back into traffic and headed for the multi-story 3 and a half blocks away.  I did find a spot there on the 4th floor.  Walking to the building I glanced up at the sun.  At least the rain had quit, I headed on.  I did see the approaching bus, I did not see the large puddle at the curb.  The tsunami created by the collision between the bus and the puddle washed over me in an instant.  It’s gonna be one of those days.  No time for a cup of coffee, the traffic on the motorway and the shortage of parking ensured that I was 15 minutes late to the staff meeting.
“Apologies all, sorry I am late” I muttered as I made my way to a seat at the conference table.  Mr. Ward had ceased speaking the moment I opened the door, remained silent and staring while I picked my way to the only chair.  Paused a bit longer and watched me sit down, looking like a drowned rat.  “Nice of you to join us,” he said, “now where were we?”  Amy, the brown nose spoke up with a smile, “We were discussing the lead stories for this weeks edition” she said smugly.  “Yes, thank you you Amy.  I am glad someone’s been paying attention.”  After patting Amy on the head, figuratively speaking, of course; Mr Ward continued to drone on like the blatherskite he is prone to be.  I drifted off.  Motorcycles, rock music, and groupies were all that I was thinking about when I realized everyone was looking at me in anticipation.  I quickly studied the white board and tried to discern the topic of the conversation I was obviously expected to contribute to.  The white board was blank – no help there.  Amy, the brown nose was beaming at my pending embarrassment and Mr. Ward was scowling in my direction.  “Well,” I spoke up, “the Nazi Buddha from space might be fake.  I think we should lead with coverage from the debate.”  Mr. Ward nodded his head, “I think so too” he said thoughtfully.  Damn, I pulled it off again.  I’ll take blind luck any day.  Amy, the brown nose looked crestfallen.
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.


September 2012

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Early Sep 2012
The prompts were:
1. That’s what happens when you ___ …
2. What is that smell?
3.  It was her favorite ___ until…

Begin writing
It was her favorite drink until the accident.  It was a Tuesday about three or four weeks ago.  She was driving east on the boulevard.  The day was clear and warm, not a cloud in the sky.  Traffic was almost non-existent.  A beige Buick station wagon was moving west on the other side of the divider. A delivery truck was about half a block in front of her.  There had been quite a few cars parked along the curb back by the high school where people were enjoying the tennis courts and running track.  The baseball field is on the other side of the school and there were probably people there too but she couldn’t see them when she drove by.
The truck in front of her had the back open and she could see some barrels and canisters loaded inside.  There was a bit of bluish smoke coming from the tailpipe of the Buick.  “Probably burning a little oil” she thought to herself as she passed the firestation.
Looking ahead she saw the delivery truck pulling away from the stop sign at Main Street and head into the dip on the other side.  She did not see the strap come loose, perhaps it had been loose all along.  Maybe the loader had carelessly not even fixed the strap but, as the truck began to climb out of the dip she definitely saw the barrels and canisters slide to the back and fall onto the boulevard in front of her.  She heard the noise as they clattered to the asphalt and split open.  She could smell the sweet aroma of the liquid pooled into the dip just in front of where she stopped behind the mess.
The truck driver has also heard the crash and pulled quickly to the side of the boulevard to assess the situation.  Five hundred gallons of root beer syrup lay pooled at the bottom of the dip.
Time passed, police came, streets were closed and traffic diverted.  Decisions were made and the Fire Department was called to clean up the mess.  They were just down the street after all.
High pressure hoses directed a stream of water on the mess and the root beer foamed up, and foamed up more, and foamed up more.  The ensuing tsunami of foam engulfed her car, still parked behind the dip and filled the windows.

Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

15 September 2012

Root Beer II

I was unable to attend on the 8th of September but made it on the 15th.  Much to my dismay I learned that we were going to try something completely different.  The idea was that for the month of September we should attempt to continue to story we had started earlier.  I had to keep going with the root beer story.

The prompts were:
1. This time she had gone too far
2. The garden was overgrown now
3. It’s my favorite place to be
4. A flourish of hate

Begin writing
Months later life had almost gotten back to normal, sans root beer. Her insurance company had made arrangements to clean the car although occasionally the faint, sweet smell of sarsaparilla would waft from the air conditioning vent.
She suffered through all the jokes and teasing that she had anticipated.  Most of it came from her sister Cindy.  Most had been good natured, coming from friends and family.  Occasionally an anonymous can of Bargs would appear in the mail box.
Last night she had loaned the sedan to Cindy.  PTA meetings waited for no man or woman and Cindy’s car was in the shop.  About noon, she heard her car pulling into the drive and knew Cindy was here.
Glancing out the front window she froze. This time Cindy had gone too far.  From all appearances Cindy had gotten her car painted.  The candy apple red was now a red umber metal flake.  It looked just like root beer.
The front door flew open and Cindy burst in, she was beaming and laughing so hard that tears were running from her eyes. “Do you love it?” she asked.  “Doesn’t it make you thirsty just to look at it?” Cindy kept talking but most of what she said was not registering.  A closer inspection was warranted.
It was a wonderful paint job. Very well done. Good quality paint.  This seemed like the ultimate practical joke.
“Cindy,” she said “don’t you have anything else to spend your money on?  Let’s go for a drive!”
The got in the car and headed east on the boulevard. Past the fire station, through the dip in the road, where she still fancied that she could hear the rubber of the tires sticking just a bit more to the asphalt than they had a block back.
Wheeling into the strip mall she guided the freshly painted vehicle into a parking spot in front of the market.  “Wait here Cindy,” she ordered her sister and she ran into the store.
When she returned she placed a bag in the back seat, slid behind the wheel and started the car.  Back on the boulevard she continued east, ignoring the flourish of questions about “What’s in the bag?” from her sister
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper. 

22 September 2012

Root Beer III

The prompts were:
1. The old room reminded me of ___
2. I wish someone had told me
3. It was a tempting offer, but…

Begin Writing
“What bag?” she came back. “The bag from the market.” Cindy said. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
They drove for about an hour into the countryside.  Cindy had given up trying to learn more about their destination, or the bag.  They rode in silence for most of that time. Smooth jazz emanated softly from the door speakers of the root beer car and it was a pleasant day.  The silence between the two was not awkard or pensive.  It was natural.  She and Cindy were sisters after all, often they could intuit what each other were thinking.  Often they did not even bother to try.
That is the thing about siblings.  Familiarity and love could replace a need to entertain or fill silence with blather.
Just about the time that Cindy was going to demand a pit stop she pulled into a narrow lane that disappeared into the trees.  She put the car in park and set the brake, got out and went to open the gate.  Too late Cindy realized she had missed her chance to peek into the mystery bag.
They left the gate open and drove about 1/4 mile further up the lane.  As they crested a rise there appeared a ramshackle old cabin with a couple of small outbuildings.
“What is this place?” asked Cindy, previous urges for a rest stop now completely given over to curiosity.
“This is Mr. Wilson’s hunting cabin,” she answered.  “He doesn’t hunt much anymore and he loaned it to me for a few days.  Hope you don’t have any pressing appointments.  Mom agreed to take care of the kids.  You and I are going to spend two days in the country, no TV, no newspaper and no distractions beyond what is already here.”
“What is already here?” Cindy asked.
“A forest, a stream, fresh air, sunshine and quiet.” she replied. “What more do we need?”
“Maybe a root beer colored car and some ice cream” Cindy quipped.  “We have the car but, if that was ice cream in the bag it is undoubtedly liquid by now.  We’ve been driving forever.”
“Not ice cream, something better.” She reached for the bag and smiled.  ” Come on, I’ll show you the cabin.”  They went into the cabin and it was a single room shack.  The old room reminded her of one of those western themed restaurants with all the old stuff nailed up on the walls.  These things
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.

29 September 2012

Root Beer IV

The prompts were:
1. I’d give anything for the chance to …
2. It didn’t seem right to anyone to be so…
3. The sound of footsteps behind him/her caused him/her to shudder

Begin Writing
After a quick tour of the hunting cabin, Cindy looked in the fridge and grabbed a couple of root beers.  Opening hers she took a long draught and wiped the back of her sleeve across her mouth.  She handed the other to her sister who politely declined.  “Sorry Cindy, I still can’t imagine drinking root beer ever again.”
They sat at the table and Cindy said, “As excited as I am to spend the rest of the weekend with you it is now time to show me what’s in the bag sis.”  Cindy reached for the bag and peeked in the top.  Her eyes widened and she turned the bag over, spilling the contents on the table.  Lots of green banknotes piled up.  Mostly 20 dollar bills although she could see several 50’s and quite a few 100’s as well.
Also clattering onto the table was a large butcher knife.  Looked brand new, not even scratched. Cindy looked her sister in the eye, “Tell me you didn’t rob the grocery store” she admonished.
“I can’t tell you that, I did rob the grocery store.  Lets see how much money we got.” she smiled.  It didn’t seem right to either of them that it would be so easy to rob a grocery.  “The beauty of hitting a market is that you don’t need to bring anything with you to succeed.  The butcher knives are on the rack in the kitchenware department.  You can just help yourself and there are bags at every check stand.  “I meant to get some cookies too.  Must have forgotten them.  I was so excited.”
They counted almost 9000 dollars on the table.  Most of it in small bills, easy to pass. The butcher knife went into Mr. Wilson’s cutlery drawer.  She looked at Cindy, “I haven’t had that much fun in years” she said. “It reminded me of when we used to hit the photomat on 17th Street.  Those guys never realized that all we had was a water pistol and the thrill just got better each time.  Sometimes I am amazed that we actually robbed the same photomat 5 times in two weeks.  Lets stop at the grocery store again on our way home.”
Time is up. Put down your writing implements and step away from the paper.