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The Spot Writers – “The Unpopular Prompt” by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. The September prompt is to use these five words in a writing: carrot, lily, moustache, esophagus, pigeon.

This week’s story comes from Phil Yeats. Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) recently published his first novel. A Body in the Sacristy, the first in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Body-Sacristy-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07CK94SKV/

***

The Unpopular Prompt by Phil Yeats

After their monthly writing group meeting, two women stopped on the library steps.

“What’s up with Colonel Mustard?” Susan asked.

Beth laughed. “Is that what you’re calling Maurice Moutarde? And I presume your question refers to his angelic smile when Claire announced this month’s prompt.”

“Yeah, really. Have you ever seen him smile?”

“Not part of his persona. And everyone knows he hates prompts based on five disconnected words.”

Susan shook her head. “We’ll find out what he’s up to next month.”

 

One month later, the dozen writing group members reassembled in the library’s meeting room.

“Time to start,” Claire announced before everyone had taken their seats. “No newcomers, so we should commence our readings. Who wants to start? And remember, no more than five hundred words.”

Susan rolled her eyes. Everyone knew the five hundred word maximum. She snapped to attention when Maurice cleared his throat.

He stood, theatrically displaying an opened three-by-eleven-inch Power Corporation envelope before spreading it face down on the table. Maurice paused, staring at Claire. When she looked up from her agenda, he began reading.

“A pigeon with moustache-like marking above its beak scarfed a carrot-coloured encrustation from the pavement, staggered to Claire’s prized lily and dislodged the disgusting mess from its esophagus.”

Beth whispered to Susan. “Would you conclude he hasn’t changed his opinion of those prompts?”

“Or abandoned his ongoing feud with Claire over the preferred direction for our group,” Susan added.

Their mirthful eyes and suppressed chuckles contrasted with the evil eye Claire cast toward Maurice. He ignored her malevolent glare as he bowed to his audience before sitting. Mark one up for Maurice in their little battle to become top dog in an insignificant writing group.

***

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

+++
C.A. MacKenzie is the author of (among other books) the novel WOLVES DON’T KNOCK, a psychological drama/thriller, available from the author or at various retailers including Amazon [https://www.amazon.com/Wolves-Dont-Knock-C-MacKenzie/dp/1927529387/].
+++

 

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The Spot Writers – “Monster” by Val Muller

This month’s theme is “monster,” to be interpreted in any way. This week’s story comes to us from Val Muller, YA author of The Scarred Letter and The Girl Who Flew Away, both discounted to $2.99 for the rest of the month.

***

Monster by Val Muller

The end of the fiscal year coincided with the chill in the air, even in the streets of Washington. It was almost like the decaying leaves piling in the country out west sent their ghostly miasma in with the commuters. That chill, that scent of decay spoke of the thinning line between living and dead, that boundary that would continue to thin as department stores threw up Jack-o-Lantern decorations and trees threw off the last of their leaves.

Something about that thinning line sent a chill into Daniella’s spine, and it froze and hardened a piece of her soul. On September 1, she’d been all smiles when Timothy asked to telework because his daughter had a sudden case of strep. On September 2, she let Marie go an hour early to check on a sick puppy. That Friday, the one before Labor Day, she told everyone to go home an hour early.

“Happy Labor Day,” coworkers chanted as they hurried down the hallway toward weekend plans.

“Happy closeout month,” she responded, her fingers tapping behind her back. “The fun begins Tuesday.”

At barbeques that weekend, employees joked with family and friends about Daniella’s demands for year-end closeout.

“At our staff meetings, she said we may have to work twelve-hour days.”

“She’s threatening to make us come in on Saturdays.”

“And Sundays.”

It was met with laughter, then forgotten as fathers played catch with sons and mothers went with daughters for a last dip in the pool.

But in a lone apartment, not a mile from the office, sat a husbandless, childless soul. Her fingers folded in a tent in front of her as she thought about the month ahead. Everyone would be working late. In her mind, there were already parades of memos, lists of funding documents, and hourly meetings. They would all have to check in with her before they left, and only at quitting time would she tell them that they had to work late.

They’d have to arrange last-minute babysitters. They’d have to miss soccer games and youth football. Mommies would have to explain to children that there were just some things more important than storytime with daddy. And daddies would have to explain to neglected children why mommy wouldn’t be there for birthday parties.

In the corner of Daniella’s darkened apartment, a blue screen glowed. It was still open from the atrocity she saw this morning on Facebook.

Jerry.

They’d had a brief fling in college, but he left her to seek “more fun, less serious.” Somehow, she always thought he’d be back. How could he choose some floozy over her rigidly-straight GPA, her list of extracurriculars, her reputation as drill sergeant of the women’s cross country team? He had made a terrible mistake. In every country music song—like the one playing on repeat from the computer, the one preventing the screen from dimming—she heard the hope and sorrow of their relationship. She knew he’d be back for her one day. His breakup had been a mistake he’d yet to realize. His marriage was something he’d been coerced into. It had always been only a matter of time. She’d waited years already and was prepared to wait more.

But now, this.

Jerry was a father.

His baby’s newborn eyes plastered all over her Facebook feed. The infant’s smile was a punch in the gut. Why, he hadn’t even posted that his wife had been pregnant! So smug, keeping that their private little secret like they were in some kind of exclusive club. And there went that. With an infant’s smile, there went her excuse, her reason to ignore the dating scene. There went her nightly fantasies, her frequent hopes that his status would turn to “single” and she’d be welcomed back into his life.

Gone.

The cold front seeped into her soul. She thought of the office, of Brittany’s baby shower and Harold’s office bachelor party. They were smug too, weren’t they? Making their plans. Having their weddings. Prioritizing their families. Not even thinking of the office, were they? Of the cold, beautiful symmetry of it all. The same 72 degrees all year. The same lighting. The same sterility. She’d bet none of them were even giving the office a second thought.

Let them all enjoy their weekend.

On Tuesday she would have them.

That Saturday she tried three new hairstyles. She went jogging and shot disgusted looks at the family of five taking up the entire sidewalk with training wheels and strollers. On Sunday she went to the salon for an impromptu haircut, but a wailing toddler and his obnoxious brother ruined the mood, and she went home with her outdated coif. On Monday she tried a new makeup regime and went shopping, but a gaggle of mothers was standing near the clearance rack, comparing toddler bedtime routines and little league scores.

With each foiled attempt, the monster grew in her soul. Her heart hardened and chilled, and she couldn’t wait for the memos that would come. She couldn’t wait to tell them about their mandatory one-hour lunches. That way, they’d be able to stay for the daily 5:00 meeting and still have half an hour to spend at her command. She’d string them along like fish, luring them with the hope of an on-time departure from the office. And she’d come in for the kill. She’d already planned the dates they’d stay late: she’d know, from the very second they set foot in the office. She couldn’t wait to walk through the cubicles, her monster feeding the anticipation that would be nearly tangible in the air. They would have no idea until her evening meeting, no idea whether they’d be dining with their families or eating out of the vending machine again. Their suffering fed her monster.

The monster’s claws emerged that week, and each memory of Jerry grew into a hardened bone, a serrated tooth, a beastly horn. During the third week, John shuffled into her office, a folded note in his hand. It was a letter from his wife, one he promised her he’d deliver. It stank of desperation, and she chewed her smile as John watched her read the list of complaints. He was like a sheepish child delivering a note to a teacher. What, did his wife own him? It was written in bubbly handwriting: Couldn’t John please come home on time? The children missed him and she was losing her mind, living like a single mother of three. Couldn’t Daniella see her way to letting him telework, from home, after the kids were in bed?

“We’re all in this together,” she said to John, her lips pouting for him. “And I’m afraid tonight is going to be a late one.”

* * *

The second Saturday in October, Daniella walked to the base of the Washington Monument. Fiscal close-out was done, and with all the free time afforded by the on-time departures from the office, she had joined an online dating service. Jerry would have to be replaced. And she had so much to offer. If only she were given the chance, she could run a household with the iron fist with which she ruled her office.

The man waiting there looked every bit as good as he did in his picture. He smiled at her, but when she smiled back something faded on his face. She knew in an instant he wouldn’t contact her for a second date.

What was it that chilled him to the prospect of a life with Daniella? Perhaps he feared her ramrod-straight work ethic, or her love of her job. Perhaps her role as Boss intimidated him. As she walked home alone and scowled at two kids screaming in a pile of leaves at the edge of a park, the chill of autumn bit under her jacket, and she shuddered. She couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he feared the monster, the one that had taken residence in her soul.

* * *

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Dorothy Colinco: http://www.dorothycolinco.com

CaraMarie Christy: https://calamariwriting.wordpress.com/

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The Spot Writers – “Ghost” by Val Muller

Today’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series (check it out at http://www.CorgiCapers.com). The prompt was to write a story using the following words: shadow, mountain, shell, sunlight, hammock, bottle, chain, wheel.

Ghost

By Val Muller

The day had come, and those without the implants were labeled rogues. With no chip, one could not be scanned, nor one’s account credited for groceries or medical care or rent or energy. One could not enter the gyms or travel the subway, utilize the network, or sign in and out for work. With no chip, one became a ghost.

“You’ll be arrested, Bill.”

“Fined.”

“Jailed.”

“Implanted.”

His parents tried to warn him.

His girlfriend pouted. “We won’t be able to get married. The government’s very strict about registr—”

Bill sighed, and he avoided eye contact. He looked down, glimpsing the fresh wound on his girlfriend’s wrist. How could she be so selfish? It was disgusting.

“Bill?” Mom asked.

He shook his head. His parents had caved in first. At their age, who would forego the possibility of medical care?

“What about standing alone?” Bill asked. “You always taught me to be independent.”

Mom frowned. “I also told you when to know the right thing to do.”

“Implanting myself is not the right thing.”

His father looked down at the scar on his own wrist, scratching the implant that rested just below the skin. “You can be independent all the way to the grave,” he said. “Age changes a man. When death sneaks up on you, there’s no telling what you’ll do for just a little more time. Could be that you’ll be sorry before the end.”

Bill turned toward the mountain. He didn’t want to remember his family this way: they were shells of their former selves. Lilly had lost all her fighting spirit. Dad lost his spark. Mom was more complacent than ever. Bill cleared his throat and turned toward the load in the trunk.

Mom spoke behind his back. “You know we could get in trouble just for being here with you today. They might be tracking us.”

“They are tracking you.” Bill pulled out a heavy hiking pack. “That’s the whole point. They’re probably tracking you right now.”

“We have our cover story.” Dad stepped away, giving Bill room to adjust the pack. He looked like if he touched the pack himself, he might melt. “We drove out to the woods to look for you. If we found you, we were gonna turn you in. Isn’t that right, Lilly?”

Lilly frowned. “And I was gonna take you to get married after you were labeled.”

“And after you served your jail time for running,” Mom added.

“It’ll never happen.” Bill adjusted the straps of his pack. He opened the trunk’s spare tire compartment and took out the winter chains. Never know what might come in handy up in the mountains. Then he grabbed the tire iron and took out a large plastic water bottle. He closed the trunk and took one last look at his family. “I can cut those out, you know. The scar won’t look much different from the one that’s already there. There’s plenty of room in these mountains for four.”

Lilly shook her head. “We’re only in our thirties. We’ve got decades more to live. Do you know how long that is when you’re on your own?”

“Do you know how long that is when someone’s telling you what to do all the time?” Bill bit his lip.

His dad cleared his throat. “It’s dangerous in those mountains. All kinds of wildlife. Read stories all the time about people dying from a simple infection. Don’t want that to happen to you.”

He turned to his father. “A wise man once told me: a coward dies a thousand deaths. A brave man dies but once.”

Dad frowned. “The man who told you that must have grown up. That’s a crazy man’s maxim.”

“Then call me crazy. Men weren’t born to live restricted. Someone’s got to take a stand.”

Lilly crossed her arms. “But it won’t mean anything. No one will even know you’re taking a stand. No one will even know you’re alive. You’ll be a ghost.”

“You’ll know I’m alive. You’ll know where I am, that I’m taking a stand. And if I do become a ghost, let me be one that won’t let you rest until you pick up where I left off.”

His parents were quiet.

He turned to his father. “And one day, before the end, you’ll think of me, and you’ll realize I did the right thing, and somewhere in there, you’ll feel a mix of pride and regret, knowing that your son did the thing you should have done yourself, the very thing you taught him to do. I’m Tom Joad—”

“Who?” But Lilly’s wrist scanner beeped under her skin. She had used her allotted time on the vehicle, and she had a half hour to return to her home. Mom looked away, fighting tears.

Bill didn’t speak as he turned around, and he didn’t look back. Instead, he hiked up the mountains into the sunlight. He wouldn’t reach his planned campsite for another day and a half. A rough, portable hammock awaited him for a bed that night, his medical care was contained in his pack, and his evening meal still roamed wild in the forest. It would be a rough life, but it would be his all the way. And he knew that at the end, whether tomorrow or ten decades away, he would have no regrets.

The Spot Writers- our members.
 RC Bonitz

http://www.rcbonitz.com

 Val Muller

http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

 Catherine A. MacKenzie

https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

 Melinda Elmore

http://www.authormelindaelmore.blogspot.com/

 

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Sky’sFantasy

This is a little essay called “Sky’s Fantasy” written from a prompt of eight words (sky, celebrate, wright, waterfall, indoctrination, mystery, library, fantasy) for my local writers’ group:

Sky’s Fantasy

Your indoctrination into life comes quickly after you are born. Birth is like that. Once you take your first breath, your life has begun. No going back then, unless you commit suicide, contract a fatal disease, or die accidently or by someone’s hand. Those circumstances don’t usually happen that early in life, not at that premature age, not before you know—and understand.

So, your life before you, you celebrate. You look to the sky and ponder the mystery, in awe of the library of knowledge. You pray you succeed. When the waterfall cascades, you persevere and dry your tears. Or you laugh and let your tears flow to nurture that at your feet. People celebrate with you, during those many days before your first candle—and even through your many candles afterward—until your breath is frail and you reach your last flame.

Perhaps you’ll leave your mark upon life, like a Frank Lloyd Wright who constructed buildings in harmony with humanity and environment. Or maybe you’ll be that obscure star shining from the sky—seeing everything, but understanding nothing. Yet, through it all, your star beams. Your warmth enfolds those around you. And you are loved.

And when that last flame flares, ready to be extinguished—after you’ve discovered those mysteries of life—you know your fate. But then it is too late for fantasy. You’ve wasted too long worrying and hating and procrastinating, and not enough time living and loving. The flame rises, fervid and frightening. There’s no more. That last candle looms. Your life flashes—one elongated scene encompassing many—and, as in birth, there’s no turning back. The sands have thickened and clumped. The hands of time have stopped.

Forever is forever. Nevermore, quoth the raven.

God calls. It is time. With your last breath, you extinguish the flickering flame. Those that have been warmed by your candles will be there to send you off. You wave goodbye. “I’ll see you up in Heaven,” you say, “where candles burn forever.”

 

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Thursday Spot Writers Group – prompt: Teeth

Welcome to the Spot Writers. The prompt for this month’s project was “teeth.”

This week’s contribution comes from Deborah Dera. She actually cringed at the prompt this month. It came through right after she had finished procrastinating about making a dentist appointment; and it hammered her recurring nightmares about her teeth falling out home. She still hasn’t quite figured out the meaning her dreams really hold. That said, she offers this chilling description of a character not being able to get away from her dreams.

Next week’s prompt will come from RC Bonitz, author of A LITTLE BIT OF BLACKMAIL, A LITTLE BIT OF BABY, and A BLANKET FOR HER HEART.

***

Teeth

They’re usually everywhere, scattered throughout my dreams.

I find them in my food. I find them on the pillow next to me when I wake from the dream within the dream. Sometimes I dream I’m brushing and spit a bloody mouthful into the sink, panicking as they spiral down the drain – out of grasp and gone forever.

It’s worse each time – the fear I feel when I can’t tell if I’m awake or asleep, if the blood is real or a figment of my imagination. I try to remember if it’s normal to dream in color as I wipe my mouth and see the crimson smear across the back of my hands.

Sometimes I beg for help, but they laugh at me.

I try to call the dentist and beg them to put them back in – to make it all better.

Sometimes I can literally feel the pain ripping through my jaw.

Sometimes I dream of a slow, painful process – of rotting, of decay, of purple, swollen tissue.

I’ve asked everyone what they think it means. I get all sorts of answers.

You need to nurture yourself more!

You’re repressing feelings of loss.

It’s a time of renewal! You’re experiencing a rebirth!

You’re making a compromise you shouldn’t!

You’re anxious about sex.

Right now, all I’m anxious about is the increasing sense of doom. I fear closing my eyes at night. And now, so close to Halloween, all I see are images of bones and bloody vampire teeth. At least I’m not turning into a vampire.

Still, I know each night will be more intense and I am anxious about closing my eyes.

I brush my teeth five times each day, thinking perhaps I can counter what’s happening in my dreams by keeping my mouth as clean as possible.

Last night’s dream was the worst, though. I woke up this morning with the taste of blood on my lip and a small sore spot behind my lower front teeth.

This is it. Is this really happening?

How will I explain to my husband and children? They don’t believe me. They think my fear is in my head. How will I tell them my teeth simply fell out in my dreams?

***

The Spot Writers- our members:

RC Bonitz
http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller
http://www.valmuller.com/blog

Catherine A. MacKenzie
https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Deborah Dera
http://www.deborahdera.com

 

 

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The Spot Writers

Welcome to the Spot Writers. This week the prompt is based on the following opening sentence, which every member of the Spot Writers used to begin their piece:   Every day of the week I…, but Sundays are different. On Sundays, I…

This week’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers mystery series for kids, For Whom My Heart Beats Eternal, a sci-fi romance, and Faulkner’s Apprentice, a supernatural chiller for grown-ups. Find out more at www.valmuller.com

Magic

Every day of the week I toe the mark, but Sundays are different. On Sundays, I throw the book away and do my thing. A magician’s blood always flowed through my veins, after all; it took but several decades of frustration for me to admit that.

When I first started working for the government, I told myself it was just a temporary setback—something to keep my bank account afloat until the economy picked up and I could go into business for myself. Besides, my parents would have killed me—going to college, racking up four years of debt, all to become a magician? It wasn’t steady income. It wasn’t steady work. It involved travel and auditions, constant mental focus and worrying about the next gig, and did I want to live in my parents’ basement forever? Didn’t I ever want to get married? Have children of my own?

That’s what my parents asked me, anyway. Threatened, more like it. They just never understood the thrill of it—standing in front of an audience, heart pounding in anticipation, eyes remaining calm lest they reveal the foil. The look of wonder on the audience’s faces, the applause, the accolades, all for me. Mom and Dad never understood what it was like to float on top of the world.

My parents had always been bean counters. The office each day equals nice, steady pay, Dad used to sing as he went out the door. I never could imagine how he would enjoy himself sitting in an office all day, doing paperwork. As a kid, I asked him what he did, and he never could articulate it quite. I’d come to understand he shuffled paper. I’d come to understand he was replaceable.

But a magician is hard to replace. A magician is unique.

Life happens, though, and to avoid living in my parents’ basement, I became a paper pusher, too. Each day spent within the cubicle, each day a bean counter. The paperwork. The reports. I could go a whole day without having to use my brain. I was just a warm body. The dull conversations. The fundraisers in the breakroom for the co-workers’ kids. Talk of weekend gardening or vacationing at the shore. So mundane. Talk of the way the new markers bled all over the file folders, or why the copy machine jammed on rainy days. Nothing like standing in front of the spotlight with every eye scrutinizing your every being, trying to figure out secrets they would never see.

I never did find a wife. I couldn’t settle for someone so content with the mundane as my parents were. I promised myself never to settle for anyone who didn’t share my sense of adventure, even if only on the inside. Mom and Dad died without grandchildren, and I grew old without a child.

It was after Dad’s funeral that I started spending Sundays in the park. At first it was just a deck of cards I used, sitting at the chess table there under the oak. I attracted spectator after spectator. Then I started with the tricks. The guessing games, the magic balls, the rabbit-from-the hat. From dawn ‘til dusk I spent Sundays entertaining spectators, most of them children. I watched their eyes, imagining what my own children might have looked like. Imagining where I might have met the love of my life had I followed my dreams instead of taking my parent’s path to safety. Would it have been on a tour? Perhaps in Europe? Maybe on a Vegas stage?

Last Sunday I saw her.

There was a little girl, but I swear in her eyes I could have been looking at myself as a six-year-old. She could have been my daughter, or my granddaughter. I plucked a pink rose from behind her ear and presented it to her. I looked up, then, and made eye contact with a woman around the same age as me. She smiled at me, a hand on the little girl’s shoulder protectively and proudly.

“My granddaughter loves pink,” she said. She smirked—almost as if to hide a blush. “I always did love magicians,” she said. “I had a dream when I was young to join the circus.” She giggled. “But we all have those silly dreams, don’t we. Still…” Her eyes glazed over for a moment. She was far away. Then she came back to reality. “I’m sorry, Mister…”

“Kramer,” I said, using my middle name, the stage name I made up for myself when I was seven. “Kramer the Bold,” I said.

“Kramer,” she said, offering a hand. “Thank you for the flower. Maybe we’ll see you around. Are you here often?”

I smiled and pulled a purple rose from behind her. “Sundays,” I said, presenting her the flower. “I do my thing on Sundays.”

The Spot Writers- our members:

RC Bonitz
http://www.rcbonitz.com

Val Muller
http://www.valmuller.com/blog

Catherine A. MacKenzie
https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

 

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