how do you gently caress up giving flash rules lol
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|# ? Apr 24, 2018 02:48|
|# ? Feb 16, 2019 23:23|
Hook: It’s alright. It’s not bad. It’s not awful. It’s alright. I think you would have been better off, though, cutting everything before plexiglass/not safe bit. That’s a much better opening imho and it gets across the same point quicker, smoother, and in a more interesting manner than using a common saying trope
Story: Very readable. Very relatable. But it doesn’t fully scratch my itch. Like, you use a thousand words on this scene but I wish you could have condensed it down to a tenth of that and really, really expanded these characters and this relationship. Too much time is spent on the extended, flowery metaphors and they don’t do for me what you want them to do for me. I’m torn between… well… I like that the scene is in this very short visitation window (though, for space, you probably could cut the guard saying time’s up and just jump to the hand at the emotional pinnacle). But I want to see more of their past relationship. Either through a flashback or internal monologue or something. I need to care more about your protagonist. I need to understand why he did what he did other than this vague… idk… idea of rebellion?
Closer: Love some good heartwarming poo poo. Good, solid, subtle demonstration of that. Love being shown love without ever dropping the “l” word.
Dat Idris, baby: Oh yah, great actor like Idris? He could totally do this role. Nice.
Hook: I’m gonna spitball some weird stuff here so bear with me… So… Sometimes titles are just, idk, artistic expressions or cool words strung together or whatever. And, sometimes, titles are used to pass along important, pertinent information about the story. Clearly you know this because you utilize it here. “I Met my Father During the Zombie Apocalypse.” That is a hook. And it potentially saves you quite a bit of words because I, your reader, already know quite a bit before I even get to word one of the story itself. I know that there’s going to be a “not great” father-child relationship, I know that it’s going to get gets resolved in some manner, and I know that there’s also going to be zombies. So take a knife to your opening. What is important in the first… idk 200 words that you haven’t already explained just with your title? Word efficiency, aight? In flash fiction, we need to always strive for super sleek word efficiency. I think you could probably cut everything before “For as long as I could remember my father had been absent.” The drive to the beach, the radio transmission, even the existence of the little brother Jack, all of it could be sacrificed so that we could get to the real meat and potatoes of this story-- the relationship between the protagonist and his/her father and why that relationship sucks.
Story: First problem: I have no idea what the pills are for. Do they treat schizophrenia? Are they antidepressants? Do they help with Dad’s PTSD? Second problem: why is he taking them if he’s clearly a better person without them? He never finishes anything and then, boom, no pills, kills a bunch of zombies, lays out a garden, plans an irrigation system, plays the loving violin. That’s all awesome stuff. But your story could-- not necessarily is but could-- be interpreted as an anti-medication piece. And I don’t think that’s what your going for.
Prompt: You used it yeah
Closer: Fuuuck bad ending. Bad ending. So you have one, weird night together out at the beach and now the apocalypse is over? And no real resolution? Maaaan disappointing. Yoruichi you’re bumping your head against a ceiling right now. One day, one day soon, you’re going to burst through it and begin nabbing wins.
Dat Idris, baby: oof, the utterly fantastic Idris Elba? Yeah, he could do this role no problems
Hook: Good. I’m on board (hyuck hyuck).
Story: Not a lot of complaints. Nice entry overall. Easy to read. Good dialogue. So.. my only criticism is some real nitpicky stuff-- I think you foreshadowed Lena being the daughter just a fuckin smidge too early. “Her daughter’s spirit creaked the ship’s floorboards” is a cool line but I think it’s better if you put right after “She hadn’t leaped in, she hadn’t risked.”
Prompt: Good use of prompt. Interesting self-imposed flash rule.
Closer: Not quite clear if it’s actually happening or if it’s some kind of Cthulu-esque madness.
Dat Idris, baby: haha yeah I don’t think spooky’s gonna be a problem for the powerful acting chops of Mr. Elba.
Hook: You need to go back to your stories before you submit with a knife. There is a difference between what you need to write in order to get started with your story and what your reader needs to read. If you're going to give me background information then it needs to be succinct and it needs to very quickly get to the point. By which I mean it needs to give me either foreshadowing of the conflict of the story or just outright tell me the conflict. I think all of your neat descriptions could have been cut out and put back in with dialogue and action and that would have kept everything moving.
Story: Very big idea. I respect the shot. It's too big though. Maybe try and focus on something smaller. More personal. Use the apocalypse as a backdrop rather than a spectacle.
Prompt: I can see the tie in yes
Closer: Yeah dogfood picky eater made me laugh
Dat Idris, baby: Literally of course. Very strong The Dark Tower vibes.
Hook: You double use words (such as own twice in as many sentences) and then throw out strange combinations (mungoid, iddy, fleshrender, etc etc) with such wild abandon that at first I can’t tell if you’re careening me towards a shitstorm or just writing with style. Well, lemme tell you how I feel about that: I loving love it. Risky tho
Story: You know, this is weird as poo poo. But I like it. Iddy is a great little character. Use of language is rad. Your biggest problem is that this feels like the kinda story that is setting up the real story, a prologue or a first chapter for a novel, rather than a succinct self-contained thing. Good world building. Good story building. But not enough, you know, storytelling.
Prompt: Bizarre but appropriate!
Closer: Hmm. So the big twist is that the girl has/used to have a dick? That doesn’t feel tremendously creative. And the lack of creativity is a bit of a let down given how inventive you’ve been everywhere else. Feels like a very cheap payoff and it cheapens the rest of your story by its presence.
Dat Idris, baby: A brooding, mysterious badass? C’mon man Idris could do this in his sleep
Hook: oh yeah you got me good
Story: I love it and then I stop loving it. It’s very beautifully written. Not just your word choice but the way you choose to lay your words out on the page. Yet you never find a place to moor this ship and I feel lost at sea by the end. You get sloppy in the end and I can feel it and it bugs me.
Prompt: Best use of prompt so far. Unexpected and creative. Nice.
Closer: lol i guess we forgot to do that?? Yeah yeah I know I know character study blah blah I get it I get it. I liked this submission. I Hm’d it. But you know you didn’t end this.
Dat Idris, baby: Great role. Great role.
Hook: I don’t believe it. I don’t believe you. Duane just kinda blanking out while dangerous stuff is going on just isn’t that believable to me. I don’t know why you made the choice to make him so dopey. It feels weak. I don’t like it.
Story: There were a lot of stories this week that veered towards crime. Your prompt was the only one that kind of shoehorned you into the genre and I do feel a little bad about that. It was easy in that it gave you a pretty simple start. It was difficult in that it kinda locked you in. Oh well. Moving on. Uh… yeah, right, this never really gets going for me. I end up identifying with Duane’s inability to focus more than anything else. Not a ton of character agency or decision making (until the end). And then the whole thing has a whiff of unbelievability I can’t get past. I never suspend my disbelief. Nothing seems reasonable or realistic when I think it most certainly should
Prompt: -- see above --
Closer: The best of this story was the ending. Because that’s where Duane actually did something. I get that that’s kinda the point but… you gotta figure out a way to have more. Have reasons for going along or regrets about doing so or something.
Dat Idris, baby: Dare I say unchallenging for a man of such fine acting caliber as Idris Elba
Hook: I had to reread it a couple times to figure out what you meant
Story: Great concept. Lackluster execution. I don’t know if you ran out of time or if you simply realized that the ideas you had were to big to fit into the word count
Prompt: I love reading a story like this because it isn’t how I would have used the prompt at all but looking back I can’t see how I would have done it any differently because it’s on point af
Closer: AHHHH THIS COULD BE A loving BOOK
Dat Idris, baby: YES BOOK -> MOVIE -> $$$
Hook: Surprisingly subpar. Maybe there was too much crime this week but it left me going ok aight and...
Story: Cool, man. Cool poo poo. I really like it. I mean, you only used like 700 words and you submitted at the last second so I know that you know that this wasn’t 100% you best most completed work but I liked what I read. The flashbacks were a nice mechanic and well done. With a little more time, I think you would have built this up into a winner. As is, it's just too thin.
Prompt: Not how I thought this was going to go but I’m not disappointed by the surprise either
Closer: Like I said, this is thin. It’s good. But it’s too thin.
Dat Idris, baby: This would be a real fun thing to watch him do
Flesnolk deleted his story from both the thread and the archives which makes it impossible to follow my crit structure. I remember it rather positively though. It started off strong. Strong enough to worry me that I might have to consider a DQ for the throne but it, as you know, fell apart at the end when you ran out of time. Still. The best kind of story is the one that you actually wrote instead of the one you keep locked up in your mind forever until you forget it.
|# ? Apr 24, 2018 02:52|
how do you gently caress up giving flash rules lol
Your protagonist is, at least at one point, GROUNDED!
|# ? Apr 24, 2018 03:24|
|# ? Apr 24, 2018 15:11|
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|# ? Apr 24, 2018 16:04|
|# ? Apr 24, 2018 16:18|
how do you gently caress up giving flash rules lol
Exmond fucked around with this message at Sep 28, 2018 around 19:16
|# ? Apr 24, 2018 17:44|
Week 287 Badder Romance BONUS CRITS Part 2 of 2
Two judges are *STILL* missing crits from this week (more shame, etc.) and having multiple perspectives on stories is helpful so I’m doin’ crits. I read like pretty much no romance at all, so my insight into your stories about romance is “valuable.”
Holloway Road by Yoruichi
Another nice setting, I get the idea of a town lush with bright growth around and through it. I guess the girl is a dryad/nature spirit thing of the area. It’s a story about a boy who is outcast and thrown away. The reasons for his exile are vague, other than allusions to small town problems of drugs, abuse. The boy is very symbolic, as is the way he is cut off. I certainly know the world does that to people, but as a reader I want to see more about the specifics of his life. It can still be through the eyes of the nature spirit, but too much is left unsaid about his circumstance and life, and also the pieces that would make him pop, like snippets from the stories he told the spirit. I don’t think it works for him to be as symbolic as the nature spirit. I do like her embrace at his end. Your descriptions are also on point throughout.
Little Gray Daisies by Jay W. Friks
Some good details here establish your setting (I picture it as cramped, stuffed, gross, but feeling empty) and a few nice details for your characters. The man has to detail with a sudden death, and isn’t doing very well. We get his history, but as I’ve said about a few other stories this week, I think a strong single scene does better than a recap that covers more time in establishing character. There’s a dangerous pitfall with a story like this, where it’s easy to get caught with the character so down they just don’t do anything, which has a sense of realism, but also takes away from the shape of the story. You walk a line here, having him do small things like drink a glass of water, so I think you get away with it. The first half of the story hobbles along. The second half of the story is much sharper. I like the surrealism of Olan visiting Lee in a sort of trance, accessed through her old things, in a sort of purgatory. I think this part of your story should be the whole thing, because it’s much more interesting. Does he visit again and keep her updated? Does the currency of old possessions stuffed with memories run out? As it is, it’s an okay resolution, her telling him to move on. But there’s a lack of agency for Lee; I feel like she needs to be her own person too, and maybe wants more than just for him to move on. You could also have Orlan explore the nature of afterlife, since that’s hinted at here. Either way, the surreal world in the second half of your story is a strong point that needs to be expanded, and the first half of your story contracted into only the part that’s strictly necessary (e.g. cut the person who chased her, move the memories of them meeting to the surreal world, cut to the minimum the depressed drinking etc.).
Warmth by Bad Seafood
I remember reading this one back during the week too. This delivers a forlorn mood, two people running from a world turned criminal. The relationship of the two characters (though its nature and history is never fully explored, only hinted at) is delivered through the escape. The escape itself is sparse, and again, a larger story is alluded to but not delved into. I think there’s room to explore the past a bit more and give some context to this escape, sacrifice, and their lives. I guess (after looking up “Dvoryane”) the woman is nobility, and this is after the Russian Revolution, but if that’s the context then you might make references to it a bit less obscure. Their tea ritual is a nice touch to deepen the characters, but I wanted a bit more so that the tragedy could really hit a final emotional note. A bit more of the world around them, too, either to emphasize or contrast their lives.
Across by Unfunny Poster
The story doesn’t quite pull off the archaic voice it’s shooting for; the ferryman’s dialogue, for example, feels stilted. The relationship of the couple also focuses strongly on physical appearance, which is superficial and doesn’t sell the characters. The gifts of flowers are better, but I’d like to see their first impressions and later sneaky game of leaving tokens expanded in full scenes, not breezed over in retrospect of an in medias res intro. The mythology incorporated here is pretty shallow. People can attempt to rescue souls from Hades. That would be a much more interesting journey, rather than just having her join in through suicide. The afterlife in Greek myths is an awful place for pretty much everyone, which makes the ending unsatisfying. Next, the story needs a unified voice: is it goes for a more modern tone, or is it trying to replicate a more ancient style? It seems to bounce back and forth. Finally, most importantly, you need to make the relationship between the two characters much stronger; as it is, I’ve got no emotional buy-in to them, so the beats the story attempts just don’t work. Mostly, everything is too vague. What do the two sell? What do they talk about? Why do they love each other so much? Too much is missing, so the characters don’t feel like people, and they need to for any of this to work.
Second Chances (To Make First Impressions) by Nethilia
The first two scenes get at how a single incident can stick with a person, helping define them. It also makes clear the relative socio-economic positions and social status of the characters. The richer students, even the kind ones, either forget their privilege or lord it over (Jessica is nicely despicable). I think you did well in picking scenes to focus on; even though years are passing, it doesn’t feel rushed (one exception is I think a few other key details or interests they discuss at the café would help deepen their characters and growing relationship). The narrative arcs nicely and the story feels complete. I also like how Mary-Jo keeps shoes as part of her identity, but shifts them from an embarrassment to a pride. This story also did well with the flash rule, translating aspects of Pride and Prejudice to a modern setting. Solid story; I think the only reason it didn’t HM is the relative strength of the stories it went up against this week.
Faith by Tyrannosaurus
I really liked this story. There’s little details that make the characters feel solid, both of their perspectives make sense, and their differences make for a conflict where the reader feels nervous for them. The narrative arc is clear and tight. The fantastical premise also feels analogous to the ins and outs of real relationships, and it made me think about the importance of communication and accepting people’s own identities (not the ones imposed on them). The descriptions are also solid, and I get a good sense of the place, a house that is full but feels empty. This was probably my favorite story this week; sadly, I don’t have much to suggest in ways of improvements.
Magpies in the Black by Antivehicular
The conflict is clearly established to be Fengxia and Tsung-Dao’s relationship. The prose is fairly dense, and the circumstances of the couple’s initial meeting and which planets exactly they’re on are not clear. I thought Fengxia was on Epsilon, and just has so many memories of Tsung-Dao that he almost has a presence by her as she works, but then thought it was the wife on Midpoint and husband on Epsilon, which the wife used to work on? It’s hard to tell if Midpoint is a planet, orbital, or a place on a planet for awhile; the characters locations in the present and past, I think, need some clarification because it distracted me from an otherwise well-flowing story, and the nature of this gulf is of some symbolic and literal importance. I get a sense of a setting where futuristic tech is blended with older, traditional styles, but I think the exact aesthetics of the design could use a few specific details to bring the setting more to life, and that would also help clarify the setting. I also wanted to know why they couldn’t just work on the same planet/station. Since this is shooting for realistic sci-fi, I understand the station vs planet gravity well problem makes travel energy intensive, but what has prevented them from seeing each other for seven years? I think the word count forced the story to be overly narrow in focus, but if you revise it I’d give it a bit more breathing room and elaborate on the setting and circumstances around the gulf separating them.
|# ? Apr 25, 2018 03:53|
|# ? Apr 25, 2018 04:48|
Thanks for the crits!
In and cos I want the bonus words
|# ? Apr 25, 2018 07:05|
OK, everyone, as a thanks for rolling with my prompt shift, I'm gonna throw a prize into the pot!
There's a quarterly contest called Fiction War that many domers have submitted to before, and some have even placed and won money in!
It's a fun little contest where you get a prompt, and have just the weekend to put together a piece of flash fiction. The next one that a person could join will happen the weekend of July 20th. But, signups are open now.
The winner this week will receive an entry ticket, from me, into the contest! A real prize valued at $25.00 with the potential to go on and win $1,000
Get fightin word nerds. There's a bounty to pursue!
Chili fucked around with this message at Apr 27, 2018 around 04:44
|# ? Apr 25, 2018 17:18|
oh and I for the extra words
|# ? Apr 26, 2018 01:03|
|# ? Apr 26, 2018 16:02|
|# ? Apr 28, 2018 00:50|
Just a quick shout out, we still have loads of stories that need crits! They don't have to be line crits (some of them would be impossible to do since there's so much... wrong with them) Won't you think of the children!
|# ? Apr 28, 2018 02:45|
Pushing the entry signup deadline to 4/28 Noon EDT.
Come and write words.
|# ? Apr 28, 2018 03:02|
ENTRY IS CLOSED
|# ? Apr 28, 2018 17:29|
+200 words for the
There’s a group of girls summoning ghosts in a dark basement.
Lori is the top bitch, the queen of the weirdos. She’s got a whole posse of Ashleys in attendance, the sort of girls who you forget as soon as you change homerooms or graduate.
Gemma is the new girl at school, and it’s her family’s dark basement presently hosting the séance. Her parents won’t be home for a while, which was a key bargaining chip when Gemma haltingly asked Lori if maybe she and her friends would, like, possibly want to come over and hang out.
So you’ve got Lori, Gemma, and a bunch of high school whoevers sitting in a circle around a red candle. Lori is doing this chant, all like, “Spirits of the past, free yourself at last, heed my call, to us reveal all.” Except sometimes the rhyme scheme changes, or the couplets bump into each other and accordion up into awkward phrases. She looks the part of a teen psychic though, with her black eyeshadow and rip-knee jeans.
Gemma’s heart is racing, not because of the prospect of ghosts, but because there is always the outside chance that her parents will come home early and find her doing something deeply un-Christian and very occult. As Lori chants, Gemma readies herself to leap up at the first rasp of tires in the driveway.
Lori stops chanting abruptly and looks into the dim, open space behind one of the Ashleys. Her eyes widen, and she whispers, “He’s here.”
Gemma looks around. “A ghost?” she asks, matching Lori’s whisper.
“His name is Johnny Smith,” Lori says, her voice edging up into ragged hysteria. “He killed people!"
The Ashleys let out a collective squeal and bolt for the basement stairs. Lori is next, having spent an extra beat staring in horror at the space occupied by the supposed killer ghost.
Gemma spends a moment trying to extinguish the red candle, but it won’t go out, and now the adrenaline of the whole situation is carrying her up the stairs too, into the kitchen with the rest of the girls.
“We have to get all the knives out of the house,” Lori instructs her posse. “If this is a powerful ghost, it’ll be able to throw things with telekinesis.”
Without hesitation, the Ashleys start emptying the Ginsu knife rack, the dishwasher, and drawers of anything with a point or edge.
Gemma looks on for a moment, wanting to intervene but reluctant to undermine Lori’s apparent control of the situation.
You defied god, taunts a little voice in her mind. You brought demonic forces into your home.
It’s fake, she retorts to herself. Lori just likes drama.
Are you sure..?
By now the other girls are outside on the back deck. They’ve secured all the household pointy things under a milk crate, which is weighed down by several rocks. Gemma can see all her parents’ knives, skewers, and serving forks piled up on the mud-spattered boards beneath the overturned crate. She feels the still-lit candle down in the basement, the unchaperoned flame at the heart of this whole situation.
Lori is telling the Ashleys, “Yeah and Johnny always liked to eat his victims alive. Starting with their pussies. Just like--” she makes a slobbery gnawing sound.
“Send him ba-a-a-ack,” whines one of the Ashleys.
“We have to blow that candle out,” Lori says. She looks at Gemma as if to say, your house, your ghost problem.
“I’ll do it,” Gemma hears herself say.
She turns around to go back through the sliding glass door, finds the latch has slipped into the ‘locked’ position. She rests her forehead against the glass. This isn’t a ghost. This is punishment for trying to summon ghosts. This is god waggling a paternal finger at her and going, nuh-uh-uh, you shouldn’ta done that.
“The side window!” she says. She leaps off the deck and bolts around the side of the house before anyone can say anything.
There’s a small window right at ground level that allows a narrow glimpse into the basement. Normally this window is locked, but Gemma happens to know it’s unlocked because she used it to sneak out and stargaze the night before. She presses her face against the glass and cups her hands around her eyes. The candle is in the far corner of the basement, a luminous, blood-red eye in the darkness.
The window swings smoothly inward, allowing just enough space for a young lady to wriggle through, at the cost of smearing mud all over the front of her shirt and jeans. Gemma slithers into the basement on her belly and crawls over to the candle.
She exhales. The flame whiffs out unceremoniously, fills the air with the scent of burnt wick. Gemma blinks away the afterimage, lets her eyes adjust to the darkness of the basement. This is a banal sort of darkness, free of any intimations of a murder ghost.
The other girls are crouched just outside of the basement window. “She did it!” exclaims one of the Ashleys.
“She just blew out a dumb candle,” Lori says. Their voices are muffled by the window, but Gemma can’t help but wince at the bored malice in Lori’s tone.
“I think it was pretty brave,” another Ashley says meekly.
From the front of the house comes the crackle of tires on gravel. Without thinking, Gemma snatches up the candle and goes to the musty closet under the basement stairs. She crams the candle in a pile of miscellaneous stuff, then looks down at the greenish-brown streak on the front of her shirt and pants. It practically screams hey Mom and Dad, we were breaking the rules, please never let me have friends over again!
Today was supposed to be laundry day, after the other girls left. That was a key bargaining chip when Gemma haltingly asked her mom if she could, like, maybe have some friends over unsupervised. All of her clothes are in a caustic-smelling heap in the laundry room.
But there, in the musty closet, is her great grandma’s old nightgown. It has the texture of a quilt and is a deep maroon except for the frilly white neckline. Gemma throws it over her dirty clothes just as the front door opens, just as her mother lets out an exclamation when she discovers the gaggle of girls and pile of knives on the back deck.
Gemma bounds up the basement stairs and arrives in the kitchen in time to find Mom doing an inquisition on the girls. Dad is sort of just lurking in the background, grinning like he’s about to enjoy a good show.
“What were you doing with--” Mom gestures toward the cutlery out on the deck. “--all that?”
Lori gets a defiant look on her face and says, “We summoned a murderer!” right as Gemma blurts out, “I got my first period!”
Mom looks between Gemma and Lori and the Ashleys and Dad. Her mouth moves like she wants to launch into two different tirades at once, but finally she says to Dad, “Take the girls into the living room and--and just talk to them. I need to speak with Gem.”
Lori makes a tch sound, but ultimately follows Dad and the Ashleys into the living room for some sort of half-hearted lecture about the dangers of occult practices.
Without a word, Mom marches Gemma into the bathroom, opens one of the cabinets, withdraws a pack of panty liners, and presses a fist-full of them into Gemma’s hands.
“I’m sure you can look up how to use them online,” Mom hisses. In the other room, the Lori and the Ashleys are laughing at something Dad is saying.
Of course, Gemma started her period months ago. She has a hidden stockpile of pads under her bed, courtesy of the yearly sex ed classes provided by the school district. But she’s not about to disabuse Mom of the notion that something extremely awkward and unprecedented is happening.
Once she’s alone in the bathroom, Gemma makes a point of loudly unwrapping a panty liner and generally making all the requisite putting-on-a-pad sounds. She stuffs the pad into the waist of her jeans, then tugs the robe back into place, and now all her misdeeds are safely tucked away where only god can see them, under the quilted maroon drapery.
|# ? Apr 28, 2018 18:00|
Pupa Rise (#993)
The playground was being remodeled again. The elementary school kids had gotten tired of swings and monkey bars; somewhere they’d heard about merry-go-rounds and the grown-ups were happy to oblige their interests. Emmet felt too anxious to play with the younger kids nowadays. He was fifteen as of yesterday. Fine stubble irritated his neck, his voice cracked when he spoke too fast, and his arms and legs became lanky and uncoordinated.
It was almost time for him to grow up. Alyssa’s sister, Melanie sat down next to him on the park bench. She had a huge waffle cone filled with rocky road and crushed brownie bits, she offered him a lick but he didn’t feel hungry.
He asked her, “So. Is Alyssa done yet?”
“Nah. She’s still in the pupa. Grown-ups said that she’s gonna be a big one so she needs to, uh, what’s the word...geestat?”
Emmet had a memory of an old newspaper that contained the word Melanie was trying to remember,
“Gestate. That’s the word.”
“Yeah! That’s right! I can never understand what they’re talking about.”
He found the clipping in a dried out ditch outside the nursery when he was nine. He’d been out of his room past curfew and wanted to explore the woods. He’d never seen a newspaper before. All the books he was given in the home were fantasies like “Harry Potter” and “Narnia.” There were no history books to read even though they existed in the fictional universes the children were given.
One of the grown-ups had stood outside his room after he was punished for leaving. It pressed its segmented eyes against the glass walls and silently opened and closed its mouth.
Emmet said, “I don’t think they’re used to talking anymore. That’s why they didn’t explain things so well to you. When you become a grown-up, you can send words to other grown-ups without making words.”
“Will Alyssa still be able to talk to me?”
Melanie stopped eating her ice cream. She focused in on Emmet as if she’d caught his anxiety.
Emmet didn’t want her to be afraid so he lied, “No. No. You’re her sister. I’m sure she’ll be able to talk to you. They can still talk to you if you’re family.”
It seemed to work. Melanie hmmed and hawed and kicked her legs back and forth on the bench, slurping up the last of the Rocky Road.
Emmet knew it was time soon. His room at the Nursery was being emptied out to make way for a large ceramic tub. He would lay in as his father and mother poured webbing onto him from their pincered mouths. He hadn’t seen either of them in the span of his entire life, but now that he’d reached puberty they would return from a faraway place known as Leng.
All grown-ups live in Leng. He would too. He’d seen pictures of it, they were routinely handed out by the grown-ups who ran the Nurseries, but even after seeing them every day, he couldn’t describe what was going on in the pictures. It made his head hurt just to try and remember them.
Melanie rubbed chocolate on her dress. She was filthy. All the kids were. Emmet had been ordered by the Nursery staff to shower for his fifteenth birthday. It felt like coming out of a shell when he got rinsed off by his caretakers. The newspaper had talked about the grown-ups, they were called something else on the front page. It was a word Emmet didn’t recognize. Something missing from the books he’d read. The paper said they meticulously cleaned anyone they captured.
It must be something required before the Pupa forms, a cleansed body. Was he captured?
“Do you want anything from my room. Like my books?”
She was the only one he knew in this place now. It felt like he should leave something behind before tomorrow.
“What? Can’t you ask for them back after you grow up? Just let me borrow them after you get out of the pupa.”
Emmet knew he wouldn’t. All his older friends never showed an interest in their things or Emmet for that matter after growing up. In a way, if he really thought about it, it was like he was dying tomorrow.
Maybe he could run. Maybe he could disappear into the woods that surrounded the nursery and the playground. The one time he’d slipped past curfew, he climbed to the top of a tree to look around and there was nothing but trees and mountains for as far as he could see.
“Melanie. I think I might take a hike tonight. Do you want to come with?”
“What! Tonight’s movie night and it's my turn to pick. You gotta stick around. Since sis isn’t here, I want someone I know to be there with me.”
“Can’t you pick a movie without me or your sister?”
“No. I don’t know any of these kids. They’re all new. Please stay Em. Please.”
She grabbed his sleeve and suddenly Emmet lost all his will to run. This was the only home he knew and she was his last friend as he was hers. If it really was a form of death he was entering, he wanted to spend his last night with the only family he had left.
“Sure thing. What were you thinking about watching?”
“YES! Something with dinosaurs and-”
She chattered and Emmet felt a shiver run down his back. Standing in front of the glass doors of the Nursery was one of the grown-ups. It clicked its mandibles together and stared into Emmet. Emmet could feel it trying to force its way into his head. In a few weeks, his mind would be a tunnel for strangers to crawl through. Emmett would become part of a different family. One that would live inside him just as it lived with him.
|# ? Apr 28, 2018 18:25|
“But why do we drain so much blood that they die?” Kent asked on his first day in hunt class. His new spear-harness - a traditional sixteenth birthday gift - was chafing his neck. Keiryn Longfang sniggered.
“It’s kill or starve to death Kent. That’s just the way the world works.” Keiryn’s eyes were on Sheridyn’s porcelain skin and drifting tendrils of silver hair, waiting for her to laugh. The scorn in his voice hit Kent like a punch to the solar plexus, and he stared down at his tail fins while the other merpires’ laughter shoaled around him.
After that Kent stuck to swimming at the back of the class. He filled his notebook with pictures of merpeople, their blood leaking from them like tears.
gently caress gently caress gently caress, thought Kent. Black clouds were escaping from his carefully cupped hands as he massaged squid ink into his white-blonde hair, threatening to stain the pieces of abalone shell he’d carefully sewn onto his stingray-leather jacket. Him and Keiryn used to collect abalones together, until Keiryn had suddenly decided that shell collections were for losers.
“Oh for sweet-mermaid-blood’s sake, Kent,” his mother said when he finally swam downstairs. “You’re not going out on your first hunt looking like that are you? Why can’t you be more like the Longfangs’ boy? He always looks so nice.”
“Everything’s always about stupid Keiryn Longfang!” Kent shouted. “Well I hate him, and I hate you too!” He slammed the door with a satisfying bang.
“Gross! Kent smells like squid!” Keiryn made his arms into tentacles waving from his head. Sheridyn burst into giggles.
“You’re such a jerk Keiryn,” Kent muttered, fingernails biting his palms inside the cuffs of his jacket.
“Look!” Sheridyn pointed across the reef to where the scales of a lone merman glittered in the dim light. It was carefully picking seaweed from between pink and yellow fingers of coral.
With a flick of his muscular tail Keiryn launched himself through the concealing fronds of kelp. His spear caught the merman though the fin and without stopping to even stun the screaming creature Keiryn rammed his fangs deep into its neck. Blood pumped out into the water and the rest of the merpires rushed forward, fighting for the best positions.
“C’mon Kent or there’ll be nothing left!” Sheridyn called as she raced past him.
Kent covered his ears but the merman’s dying screams clawed into his head and his stomach heaved, again and again, until there was nothing left. Sheridyn’s silver hair rippled within the billowing red cloud, beckoning. But he couldn’t join them. Kent pushed off from the reef and turning towards the deep blue of the open ocean he let the current carry him away.
The girl drifted through the sea on a beam of dawn light. Little bubbles escaped from between her gently smiling lips. She looked so peaceful. Kent swam close and let her thick brown hair curl across his fingers.
Her eyes snapped open and she screamed out the rest of her breath, then inhaled a lungful of seawater. Face contorted with panic she thrashed towards the surface. Kent grabbed her around the waist and propelled them both up through the surf. He dragged her over to the rocks as she coughed and gasped for breath.
“What are you?” she said.
“Umm, I’m Kent.”
Her hands touched his head, felt the tips of his pointed ears. She was wearing a bracelet made of seashells. Kent’s face reddened.
“Ow!” he said, as she poked him in the gills.
“Sorry! My name’s Leigh,” she said. “Oh my god no one’s ever going to believe me when I tell them I met one of the merfolk!”
“No!” Kent said. “You can’t, I’ll get in trouble! We’re not supposed to come out here in case we meet land-dwellers, but I just had to get away from Keiryn and the others, and then I swam all night and… I’m sorry I scared you.”
“That’s ok.” Leigh pulled herself up to where the rising sun was warming the rocks. “I feel like running away sometimes too. I wish I could just ride the currents to the edge of the world, just to see what’s out there, you know?” She squinted through her outstretched fingers at the molten orange horizon.
“There’s nothing out there but cruelty. Kill or starve. I hate it.”
“I thought merfolk ate seaweed?” Leigh said.
“Umm, yeah,” Kent replied. “They do.”
“I’m vegan too. My parents threw a fit when I stopped eating meat, but I just think, people don’t have to kill to live, so we shouldn’t, you know?”
“You’re right!” Kent swept his tail back and forth, pushing his upper body out of the water, close to hers. “You’re absolutely right!”
Leigh grinned. “Those shells are beautiful,” she said, her fingers following the the dawn light where it danced across his jacket.
The sun on Kent’s face was sharp and burning, like a man o’ war sting. He dropped back into the sea, teeth clenched.
“I have to go,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
“Will I see you again?”
“Yes!” With his fang he sliced one of the shells from his sleeve. “Here!,” he said, pressing it into her palm. It was all he could manage before the burning became unbearable and he dove back under the water, down and down out of the sun’s reach.
When he turned to look back he could just make out the shape of her on the rocks through the shimmering blue, waving.
“There he is!” Keiryn’s voice rang out as Kent swam into view of the merpires’ caves. gently caress, thought Kent. So much for sneaking home quietly. Kent took another bite of seaweed. It was salty and bitter, but it tasted right.
“Where have you been? Are you eating loving seaweed?”
“Yes I’m eating seaweed, and I’m never drinking mer-blood again! I can’t believe you did that Keiryn. You’d only finned that merman, you should’ve stunned it properly! You’re not just some dumb shark!”
“gently caress you Kent, you always think you’re so much better than everyone!” Keiryn shoved him in the chest, so Kent shoved him back, and then Keiryn’s fist and the taste of blood was in Kent’s mouth. Reeling, Kent smacked Keiryn in the ribs with his tail and then ducked as the other boy came at him with his fangs.
“Stop it!” Sheridyn dived between them. “I thought you two were friends!”
“I’m not friends with some seaweed-muncher,” said Keiryn, rubbing his ribs.
Sheridyn held her hand out towards the seaweed that was still clenched in Kent’s fist. “Let me try some?”
“It’s the same type that the merpeople harvest,” Kent said, handing her the crinkled green fronds.
“Here,” Sheridyn said, pushing half into Keiryn’s hand.
Keiryn stared from the seaweed to Sheridyn to Kent and back again. He tore off a small green corner with his teeth.
“Sorry about that.” Keiryn nodded towards Kent’s bleeding lip, face puckered at the seaweed’s bitter taste. He swallowed. “But those shells look dumb.”
Kent held out his arms and admired the way the light played across the abalones' iridescent blues and greens.
“Nah Keiryn, you’re wrong. They look beautiful,” he said.
Kent’s mother swam around and around his room above his head as he did up the last straps on his rucksack. His graduation robe hung inside his closet door.
“I just don’t understand why you think you should just go off alone. Who’s going to help you hunt? If you want to roam so badly why don’t you just join the patrol like your friend Keiryn?”
Kent shouldered his rucksack and kissed his mother’s forehead.
“Mum for the millionth time, I’m vegan, I’ll be fine. Keiryn and I have each got our own currents to swim.”
First, Kent was going to find Leigh. Then, he didn’t know. Maybe he would swim out to the horizon, just to see what was out there.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 07:04|
Thanks everyone for your crits on recent pages!
Crits for Week 296:
Yoruichi - Fragments
I'm confused - why is this an image?
eh. I don't really get why the chatbots are finishing each others' sentences in the beginning and the end
What was the purpose of that story?
Chainmail Onesie - No Left-handed Swordsmen (1873 Words)
this is just a dull setup and not much interesting is going on
All the transliterated foreign words don't help. If your reader needs a translation dictionary beside them to read your short story it's probably too much.
This seems better on a reread. I probably didn't have the patience on my first read-through. Still, something about the prose is kind of droning and monotonous. It's hard to concentrate on the action between the dialog.
Bubble Bobby - I'm Gonna Git You Hitler!
Fun premise, good prose and construction so far. Hand-waving away paradoxes is a little annoying but not important
Keeps things moving at a good pace
ending's a bit goofy but it doesn't really ruin it
Captain_Person - Running Free
That opening line does not inspire much interest
all this back and forth arguing about whether to race could probably be cut
What a weird awkward ending. This whole thing just feels... off. It just moots everything that came before, epitomized in the very last word.
Thranguy - Knight Takes Bumblebee
So far you're mananging to keep my interest through what could be a boring subject.
Cool. I don't have much to complain about. This is well-crafted.
Deltasquid - Strada Chiusa
OK it started out meh but got more interesting as it wore on.
Not sure I could keep my interest over a whole story of this, or even a short story, but I feel the story fit the parameters of flash fiction very well.
Exmond - The Bandit and The Lady
punctuation/sentence structure are kinda lacking
The others had more explanation about what went wrong here. I think you might spend too much energy crafting scenes and descriptions and not enough defining characters and their humanity and connections to the reader.
Djeser - ~The Persistence of Memory~
OK, yeah, this is an interesting play on the last hitler one. Using paradoxes as unexplained deus ex/macguffin is kinda meh, but not a big deal, just a personal bugaboo.
Um. I liked that. Probably too much. The short length is to its benefit.
Crain - County Bylaws
A semi-interesting idea, poorly executed. Like, at every step where the characters were in a potentially interesting situation, you took the most boring or cliched turn possible.
There's a high density of editing mistakes: capitalization, punctuation, etc. It really gets distracting.
boy howdy that ending did not do you any favors
Ironic Twist - Can You Hear Me
Four paragraphs in and I still don't know what this contest is...
What is going on
Um. I don't... get it. It's like you took two stories and put them in a blender together and lost the section where you explained what this contest was, or really any context.
Reading the prompt you picked didn't help to explain things
cptn_dr - House Special
Not a very arresting intro but it's not too boring going forward
Eh. I don't know. Didn't really escape any of the obvious paths and stereotypes of this sort of story; kind of a pulp horror, Steven King short story kind of vibe. I feel like it needed something more to make it notable.
Sitting Here - Freeroot Climbs Toward the Celestial Branches
That's a, uh, title. I guess it's good at telling you this is going to be basically a Ferngully story though
OK that was fairly more interesting than I expected. Not by much, though; you could cut a lot of dull pointless exposition/non-conversation out of the middle.
Jay W. Friks - Truth and Courage
"Him... wears"? Things "decorates the face of it"? There's some bizarre grammatical mismatches going on here at the top that I hope were just editing oversights. Lots of punctuation errors throughout.
Ecch. Man. There are some interesting ideas in here weighted down by some bad word choices, bad punctuation, and bad editing. Also way too much pee.
Aaaaand after picking up some in the middle, it devolves into one of the worst endings I've read in Thunderdome.
Schneider Heim - Together, Their Best Shot
Interesting intro scene, but woof, that first flashback paragraph. When you're writing a parenthetical aside in a expository paragraph of an extended backstory flashback it may be time to reconsider your life choices
OK, recasting computer science as magery is cute. Not terribly original, but at least it's played straight so it doesn't grate.
Eh. That ending feels like a letdown after what came before.
Tyrannosaurus - Tyger tyger
I thought it was going to go somewhere interesting, and... it didn't. It's just Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf without the teeth. It feels like something that you need to be immersed in academia yourself, or professorial rivalry fiction, to really understand, and then it doesn't do anything new with it even if you are.
Kaishai - The Essence of Good Barbecue
Well, so far you've managed to make a potentially boring topic interesting.
That ending was a bit of a letdown, though. Just a deadened, deafened ending after the drama of the competition. It felt like a tone mismatch.
CascadeBeta - Eclipse the Sun
Eh. A lot happened, technically, but I didn't really care about any of it. Nothing wrong with the story at the sentence construction level, at least, and it's easy to figure out what's going on.
Except for the antagonist's motivation. Jacob seemed to have broken kayfabe and was seriously trying to hurt the narrator -- then doesn't and gives him the win, the end? There needs to be much better explanation of what's expected, or why the protagonist believes things are what they're not, or something. As is, it's just a bizarre left-field ending.
Uranium Phoenix - The Finite Possibilities Resulting From Two Warships Confronting Each Other With Lasers
OK, nice title.
A fun little story. Nothing really to complain about. Kind of like Douglas Adams if he wrote an Asimov short story, maybe?
BeefSupreme - Hearts in Two
A pregnant silence... emanated? A squeal... wiggled out? There's a few of these awkward constructions.
Meh. I didn't have enough reason to care about the father relationship or the mother relationship or the sister relationship. Without enough context to explain why it was going to carry weight, the ending decision fell flat.
QuoProQuid - Are You the One?
Goofy, but probably good enough to place decently this week. Too bad you submitted late.
It's pretty obvious what's going on, no real mystery in the story, but it's fun enough to read. Pleasantly weird, though I think it could stand doing a lot more in that direction.
No glaring problems, but it feels kind of half-baked, like it was a rough draft that you hammered out to have something in after the deadline.
Fuschia tude fucked around with this message at Apr 29, 2018 around 13:25
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 07:47|
Thanks for the crits Fuschia_tude. Also, I would really appreciate it if you wouldn't call me a dumbass.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 08:07|
It's supposed to be the smiley, not a personal insult.
Thanks for the crits Fuschia_tude. Also, I would really appreciate it if you wouldn't call me a dumbass.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 08:51|
Thanks for the crit, fuschia tude
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 12:56|
It's supposed to be the smiley, not a personal insult.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 13:26|
Please don't call me names, and also please don't call me names via emoticons, I had enough of that when I was a kid. I don't need it as an adult.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 18:11|
May not be around till 1AM to close things up. Take till then, if you need.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 21:54|
Please don't call me names, and also please don't call me names via emoticons, I had enough of that when I was a kid. I don't need it as an adult.
So punch them in the face with your word fists, don't whine about it.
I'll judge. 800 words, bully smackdown, 7 May 2359 pst
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 22:24|
Flash rule: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ju8Wxmrk3s
The Tale of Howe three Youthes have greatly mysordered Theymself in Gloucester (1317) (1400 words)
Alice and I were hollowing apples and placing beetles inside of them when John barged into the cottage, face red with excitement, waving a piece of parchment around.
“I got my writ,” he yelled. “Official journeyman, and Mr. Mercer will start paying me for my work starting Monday!”
We dropped our apples at once, and Alice gave him a congratulatory embrace at the doorstep. Patting him on the back, I asked to inspect his writ, and John happily obliged.
“Wow,” I said.
“Aren’t I just the best?” he laughed at Alice. She laughed back.
“Verily,” I said. “Wanna help us with the apples?”
He glanced at the table, filled with apples placed between baskets crawling with bugs, and gave an intrigued smile. “What are you two planning?”
“Just… Livening up the Easter festival,” Alice said innocently.
“Today just keeps getting better and better.” John rubbed between his hands. “Alice, Geoffrey, I think this will be a night to remember.”
We finished prepping the apples and made our way to the town centre, baskets in hand. Every street, every alleyway, was decorated in flowers and banners, and the towns’ guilds had collaborated to erect a stage for the play besides the feast. April had been kind on Gloucester this year; the mild evenings invited the townsfolk to celebrate outside, and the gentle fragrance of blooming roses wafted between the houses. It was a nice change from the usual pungent odour of horse droppings, we joked.
Father Houghton, decorating a table for the banquet, waved when he saw us, and met us halfway the square.
“My, my,” he said, “if it isn’t the dynamic trio.” He looked at our baskets and opened a hand to accept them. “I hope you’re looking forward to the feast.”
“Oh, we sure are,” I said. John and Alice nodded enthusiastically.
“Well, isn’t that wonderful. I certainly hope, ah, today will remain as pleasant is it is.” He gave us a knowing frown.
“Are you singling us out, father?” Alice said.
“Not at all. I’m just saying, apropos nothing, that I hope nothing sudden and unexpected ruins the celebrations. Such as, I don’t know, an abrupt rampage of scared pigs who escaped their pens?”
We glanced at each other, and I suppressed a smile with every fibre of my body. Good times.
“Or, say, two boys making inappropriate advances on the baron’s daughter?”
“She’s coming to the feast?” John said, a bit too excited.
Father Houghton put the baskets on the table behind him, and shook his head. Behind him, a hollowed-out apple wiggled on the stack, rocked by the beetle inside until it fell off the table. The confused father picked it up again and placed it on the pile. From the corner of my eye, I saw Alice bite her lower lip until it whitened.
“I doubt anything like that will happen, Father,” I reassured him.
“I certainly hope so. Might I remind you that Baron Colville’s daughter is betrothed, and that inciting a pious woman to adultery is a sin?”
“Oh, we hate sinning,” John said. “We hate it so much, in fact, that we would rather deflower ten virgins than to incite one betrothed woman to adultery.”
Alice rolled her eyes, and Houghton looked down on us with his hands on his hips. “Yes,” he sighed, “I am sure you would.”
With much fanfare, the noble carriage dropped baron Colville and his entourage at Gloucester Square. Seated at the head of the feast, they opened the celebrations with a toast, and I saw John gape at Miss Colville with open mouth as the young noblewoman placed a cup of red wine at her lips. A trickle rolled down her snow-white chin, which she quickly wiped with her napkin before checking to make sure nobody had seen her faux pas. Making eye contact with me, she hastily averted her gaze back to her plate and fidgeted with her brown curls.
“I can see how she would incite to adultery,” I said, playfully jabbing John in the ribs.
“Whatever,” he said.
Alice gave a disinterested “hmm.”
“Well, no point thinking about a girl out of my station,” I joked.
“Yeah, she’s way out of your league,” John said. I was shocked to hear some bite in his voice.
“Mate,” I said, “What do you mean with that?”
“Tell him what I mean, Alice.”
Alice looked at us in confusion. “She’s not that pretty,” she deflected.
With a loud thud, I put my cutlery on the table, and crossed my arms. “John, you always do this,” I said.
“Every time a girl… –”
Behind us, a servant of the Baron excused himself for interrupting, and the young Lady Colville stood beside him, holding a length of embroidered lace between her fair hands. Mister Mercer, all smiles under his beard, introduced John as his apprentice, who stammered out something between “hello” and “pleased to meet you.” Mercer grimaced, but Lady Colville laughed.
“I have it on good authority that you are the artisan who fashioned this cloth?” she said.
“Excuse me? Oh, um, yes. I made that.”
“Lady Colville wanted to express her gratitude for this gift to me, but it was mostly your handiwork,” Mercer said.
Lady Colville gave a small curtesy and said, “I adore it. May I join your table?”
We straightened our backs in alarm. Sitting stiffly upright at the table, we exchanged polite trivialities with her, conscious that half of the guests at the banquet were watching us like eagles at any given time. When Colville reached for the basket of fruit on the table, my blood froze.
The lady produced a pear from the basket, and I heard Alice sigh in relief next to me.
“Are you an apprentice of Mister Mercer as well?” Lady Colville said to me.
Before I could answer, John laughed, “Oh no, Geoffrey shovels dung at a farm outside Gloucester.” Lady Colville laughed with him, to her retainers’ dismay, and I could see Mercer hesitate to reprimand anybody in her presence.
“Yes,” I said. “I work at a farm. Somebody needs to put food on the table, right?”
“Well, anybody could do that,” John said.
“John, I think… –” Mercer began, but Lady Colville interrupted him and agreed, “You have to admit it is a bit… Ordinary.”
I looked at Alice, hoping for some back-up, but she merely stared at her plate. Behind her, I saw townsfolk roasting a pig, and I watched the flames dance for a few seconds before deciding on scorched earth tactics.
“My fairest Lady,” I said while forcing a smile, “have you tried the apples yet? They’re absolutely delectable.”
Alice clenched my wrist under the table, digging her nails painfully deep into my skin. “Geoffrey, don’t,” she said, but I wrested free from her grip and passed the basket. John, realizing my intent to drag everyone down with me, mustered a weak “Oh no, Lady, they are overly ripe,” but her interest was piqued beyond the point of no return.
“I have not! Thank you kindly,” she said, and she accepted an apple which she closely inspected with her beautiful eyes for a suitable piece to bite.
Alice bit her nails.
John closed his eyes.
I grinned anxiously, perhaps too anxiously, and Lady Colville must have thought something was amiss. But with her retainers shooting daggers at her back, she would not risk another faux pas.
She chomped down, and the apple crunched deliciously. At the second crunch, her eyes widened, and she stared blankly into the distance, before turning to her servant whose face implored her not to make a scene.
I gasped in amazement as Lady Colville doubled down, bravely powering through her mouthful until she swallowed everything. Then, she excused herself and left with her retinue, leaving the apple on the table.
“Holy poo poo!” Alice yelled. “Holy poo poo, I totally thought we were going to die.” I laughed nervously with her, stopping only when I saw John’s pained expression.
“Why?” he said.
“You always do this,” I sighed. “When a girl even shows a hint of interest in me, you drag me down. Why do you do that?” Alice nodded. “It hurts,” I added.
Looking away, he said, “Dunno.”
After a few minutes of silence, John finally cracked a smile.
“What?” I said.
“Did you see her God-damned face?”
We roared in laughter again.
|# ? Apr 29, 2018 23:19|
Flash: At least one of your characters is in a garage band! +
cptn_dr fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2018 around 06:14
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 00:50|
At least a portion of your story takes place on prom night!
The Most Magical Night Of Your Life
The first thing you should do when you suspect your prom has been cursed is confirm those suspicions.
After all, the captain of the football team doesn’t normally crash his beloved ‘74 Mustang right outside school, but accidents do sometimes happen. An accident seems less likely when there’s nothing wrong with the car or the driver and, as several people would later point out, even the road had recently been resurfaced. It hadn’t been raining, he didn’t swerve to avoid hitting a ball bouncing across the road, and nobody saw anything unusual or different. On an otherwise ordinary Tuesday morning Johnny Williams simply drove at speed into the brick wall out front, crushing the front of his car, breaking his left arm, and badly scratching his chin.
An isolated incident, no matter how strange, isn’t much cause for alarm and school gossip had already moved on to juicer topics when Timothy Walker drove his car into the exact same wall the next day, giving himself a matching set of injuries (although his car came off much worse. Nobody bothered to check on the wall).
Two events are strange, but no matter how improbable it simply isn’t enough to suggest any kind of pattern. Luckily it didn’t take much to convince Samantha to help me test out the idea I had ticking away.
“To be clear, you want me to do what tomorrow?” she hissed from the desk next to me.
I peered around to make sure nobody was listening, although everybody seemed more preoccupied in the very explicit health video being shown. “Just, drive past the school gates. At exactly 7.45.”
“To see if I crash.”
“Like Johnny and Timothy did.”
She crossed her arms, leaning back to kick the front legs of her chair off the ground. “Ten dollars,” she said.
“Deal,” I replied with a grin.
The next morning came around and I was waiting out front by 7.30. We’d already checked over her car and Samantha had driven up and down the block to be sure everything was working as expected. With no obvious problems we were set, and at exactly 7.45 Samantha drove past the wall without incident and made it halfway down the block again before all four of her tires burst.
This was good enough for me, although Samantha was obviously quite irate. Sporting a few new bruises, she managed to yell at me the entire half hour we waited for the tow truck to arrive, finally leaving after securing a promise to cover any and all costs involved in repairing her car (which I was sure she’d use to gouge me for more than just the cost of new tires).
Step one was complete. Curse confirmed. I could check that off, but suggesting something more sinister was going on at the prom committee meeting later that afternoon was met with confused laughter and a reminder to check that payments were up to date instead of, “going on a ghost hunt or whatever.”
That’s where I started. Vengeful spirit out for blood makes sense when you’re still awake at midnight skimming articles on black magic, but I quickly found out our school had an unfortunate dearth of exciting murders - as far as I could tell, the three students that had died all went out in exceedingly ordinary ways.
Branching out, I spent more free time than I care to admit researching witchcraft, voodoo, demon summoning - you name it, I probably at least skimmed the Wikipedia page. Things continued to go wrong at school, with no discernible pattern. Dresses tore as they were taken out of wardrobes to be admired or fitted, while the sparkling grape juice that had been ordered was misdirected and we received several crates of some kind of industrial solvent instead.
I got lost amongst the incense and crystals sold at the New Age store tucked off our town’s woefully inadequate high street even as half the planning committee came down with a rash. Samantha bought a tarot deck and tried to do a reading, but as far as she could tell, “a new or rekindled love affair was at hand.” Sounded like wishful thinking on her part.
The band we’d booked pulled out due to a triple booking, and since I didn’t have time to find a backup band we were forced to let some kid in 10th grade DJ on his dad’s kit for us instead. It did finally get them to stop pestering us every day so I count that as a success personally. Check!
Back to the ghost hunt then. Couldn’t convince Samantha to join me on that one, so I broke in to school alone and spent a restless night creeping through the corridors, jumping every time a car drove past. The next morning, slapping myself to stay awake, I heard that somebody had sliced off their finger in home ec.
Got fired from the planning committee a week before prom itself. Something about not doing what I was asked, wasn’t paying attention really. Only a matter of days before somebody was severely injured. Or maybe the school would burn down. I’d taken to eyeing everybody suspiciously, as if staring from bleary eyes would force them to confess. Mostly I was just left alone.
Samantha bailed on me too. Stopped answering my texts and wouldn’t even look at me when I threw a pen at her in class. If she was next that wouldn’t be on me.
Nearly a week of late nights and garbled days flew. Prom night. My backup backup dress was undamaged. Check. I arrived hours early, prowling the school hall looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything strange, something unusual, that didn’t fit, didn’t belong, something I could act on.
All the lightbulbs had been replaced the night before, a box of spare fuses left by the fusebox. Oiled the doors, cleared any potential obstruction. Banners and the few hanging decorations remaining secured meticulously. Check check check.
Sidled up to the door and tried to search everybody as they arrived, was promptly kicked out. I’d have to let that slide for now. Luckily several backdoors had been left open. I got back in just in time for the kid DJ to start playing and the power didn’t fail. Good. Check check. The kid wasn’t terrible either. Check for them.
Watched as everybody began to dance, and nobody tripped up or slipped or stamped on a rusty nail. Check. Tried the punch and didn’t immediately choke, but at some point it had clearly been spiked. This is why I should have been allowed to search everybody, but trying to make that point clear got me kicked out again. First backdoor was closed now, but the window into the changing rooms had been left untouched. Good, check, well done.
Window was tricky to squeeze through. Not as much room to move, should have practiced with all four dresses. Tumbling through I nearly hit my head as I fell to the floor. Not good. Dress was intact and I was uninjured though. Carefully pulled myself up, leaning against the wall for support. Took a step forward and lost my balance, grabbing the shower handle on the way down.
Sitting on the wet tiles, I realise what’s happening and begin to laugh. I try to stand up again, slow and careful, and slip before getting anywhere. Got it. It’s my turn.
Start laughing quietly before remembering how much danger I was in. Last accident I’d heard of was that finger food one, so if I tried to stand I’d probably snap my neck. Sloped floor would pull me back towards the drain if I tried to shimmy away too.
The muted thud of music reaches all the way through to here. Nobody can hear me, and why would they bother to come looking? No choice but to wait until the end of the night. Until the end of prom.
A successful prom.
No more accidents. If I just sit here, nothing else will happen. Everyone will be safe. I’ll have a whole year to figure this out. I laugh again, loud and long this time as I make myself comfortable beneath the shower and settle in to wait.
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 00:55|
I know as soon as Danny kisses me that Phase II of my life has begun. No longer am I insignificant, awkward Gary Kellerman. This moment is proof that I am a real person. Someone wants to put their mouth on mine, at great risk to their own social standing. I’m barely in my body as Danny probes around my mouth with his tongue. I am ascended.
Danny breaks the kiss and inhales sharply. He’s silent for a moment. Listening. We decided to meet up in our high school’s storage area, which everyone calls the Underground. It’s usually pretty deserted in the morning, but we still aren’t taken any chances. We’ve buried ourselves under a rack of band tuxedos. It smells like stale sweat, but it’s better than Danny’s suggestion, which was a bathroom stall.
“So,” he says, his voice a little hoarse.
“So,” I agree. I can’t think of anything more eloquent to say. Before he started sending me, like, a million horny text messages, I was a little afraid of Danny. He never did anything awful to me. Mostly it was just his friends that sucked poo poo. They weren’t violent or anything. More like casual assholes. The kind of people who called their friends fags when the got too familiar, told their Jewish friends to stop being so Jewish.
“Gary,” he says, taking a step back, “we should stop.”
He’s waiting for me to undermine him. Otherwise, he’d just walk away. I take another step forward, and he takes another step back, which causes the rack of tuxedos to move. The wheels squeak and we both freeze.
After a long silence, I lean in to kiss him again, and that’s when he bolts.
The whole day I carry that charged feeling of being fundamentally changed. It doesn’t matter that Danny ran away. I am so sure that we’ve shared something special that I know he’ll be drawn back to me, no matter how long it takes.
Through all of my classes, I keep replaying the look in his eyes, before he kissed me; that sense of desire, mingled with fear, the sense of being witnessed as a being of flesh and blood. It’s so different from the look everyone else gives me. It’s a look of pity if it’s even a look at all. The fact that someone saw me -- really saw me, saw me so close that it scared him -- makes me aware that I am capable of being seen.
When I walk through the hallways, I try to recapture that with acquaintances, people I’ve sat next to, but never talked to. Usually their gaze slips away. Some of the girls look back with a pained smile. A stitch of sympathy. I don’t let it discourage me, though. I am newly corporeal. It rules.
And then, right before my last period, I see Danny approaching, laughing from his chest at something his buddy said. Since today I’m being brave, I look up to meet his eye, even with his rear end in a top hat friend right there. And this time, all I see is fear.
“What the gently caress are you looking at, enjoyable human being?” he says. And as he walks on, the glow dissolves, and I feel like a piece of furniture again.
He texts me that night.
I’m sorry for what happened in the hallway but I can’t just let another dude look at me like that, people are going to get ideas. You have to give me time.
I don’t know what to say to an I’m sorry but. I want to give him the silent treatment. I want him to feel, even in miniature, what it’s like to not be seen. But I’m not that strong.
Why did you run away?
Did you want me to stay? he responds. And something breaks inside of me. A well of sympathy bursts forth for this thirsty-as-gently caress aider-and-abetter of douchebags.
Of course, I tell him. I see you. I think I know you better than most people. Better than your friends. I want to get to know you even better. I realize it’s too sentimental, so I send him a follow-up text. Are you scared?
I’m scrunched up in bed under a mound of blankets, waiting for his response, wondering if I’ve pushed too far, when he responds:
You seem so… I don’t know, innocent, I guess. I don’t want to gently caress you up or get your hopes up, haha.
I’m not sure what’s supposed to be funny about that. I can take care of myself.
He doesn’t respond for thirty minutes or so, and I figure he probably jerked off and forgot about me. But then he sends me the last message of the night:
Meet me in the Underground. Same time tomorrow.
He doesn’t show. I wait in the loving Underground for an hour, checking all the hiding places, and there’s no sign of Danny. There’s no reception in the Underground, so I hope that he’s texted me something -- maybe his mom got E. Coli, or a tree fell on his car -- but when I eventually give up and head over late to my first class, he’s sent nothing at all.
The wave of resentment builds up all day long, and it comes to a head when I’m sitting in U.S. History and I get the feeling people are looking at me. I turn around and it’s a couple of Danny’s friends, snickering and showing each other something on their phones. I try to focus on the lesson, but it’s hard to focus through a wave of mounting dread.
As the bell rings, one of Danny’s friends rests his hand hard on my shoulder and says, in a tone of mock-sincerity, “Hey, Gary, I just want to let you know that we all see you.”
They guffaw so loud and I wonder how much they’ve seen, and for the first time, I miss being invisible.
But if Danny thinks I’m just going to slink back in the shadows, he’s not just a coward, he’s a loving moron. After the final bell rings, I rush to cut him off in the parking lot. He’s surrounded by a bunch of his chuckling rear end in a top hat friends, but that doesn’t stop me. Maybe it would have before, but you can’t stop Phase II once it’s begun. I have been forever altered.
“Hey, honey,” I call out.
They turn around to face me. Everyone but Danny.
“Hey, you missed our appointment,” I told him. “We were going to make out in the Underground. Maybe more, right?” My voice cracks on that last part.
“I told you he was obsessed with me,” Danny mutters to his group of friends.
“‘Spent all last night thinking about your rear end,’” I say, pulling up my phone. People are staring, so I clarify. “That’s a quote. From you.”
And now people are snickering and walking away. “I’ll send anyone who wants them the screenshots,” I call out. “Proof.”
No one is paying attention, and only Danny and his group of friends are lingering. I get the distinct impression that I am embarrassing myself, and not setting the record straight. “You kissed me,” I said to Danny, my voice cracking. I try to meet his eye, entreating him to give some sort of tell. But he zips up his fear behind a sneer of contempt. “Keep dreaming, you crazy fag,” he says. He and his friends pile in Danny’s car, and he drives away.
A few minutes later, I notice that I’ve missed a text message from him:
I’M SORRY I’M SORRY I’m sorry Brandon saw my phone and I deleted a bunch of messages I didn’t mean to hurt you but you have to understand these guys are set in their ways they’ve been my friends from kindergarden. I’m not a bad guy
I wonder what it’s like for Danny, who’s so practiced at being seen, who can be whoever he wants to anyone. Me, I only know how to be a piece of furniture or a crazy fag. But even now, I think I prefer the latter. More possibility, you know.
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 02:25|
Ya know, it got really awkward when the ghost of my dead parents would conjure up and explain puberty to me.
Not Enough Voices
Solitair fucked around with this message at Dec 31, 2018 around 17:24
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 02:29|
So punch them in the face with your word fists, don't whine about it.
I'll if you're similarly willing to use your account as collateral to ensure that you will submit a story for this, Jay
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 02:54|
The Things We Do For Hardware
THE WORST JOKE YOU KNOW, read the first slip of paper in Kelly Maartens's hand. Next to it, another reading THE CAFETERIA AND I: A LOVE STORY didn't look much more promising, and THE CARE AND FEEDING OF YOUR PET PEEVE was somehow worst of all. Kelly felt her gorge rising. Her first time in an Impromptu Speaking final -- in a speech final, full stop -- and these were the topics she drew?
Kelly plucked out THE WORST JOKE YOU KNOW, mostly on impulse, and dropped the others back into the topic bag before heading outside for her prep time. God, and she'd been so excited! A season's worth of tournaments with no luck, one heart-stopping moment of seeing her name on the finals poster, a half-round of fading hopes as the three speakers before her knocked it out of the park, and now five minutes to figure out something to say about THE WORST JOKE YOU KNOW that wouldn't completely humiliate her. What a way to end her freshman year in forensics.
Kelly paced down the hallway and tried to focus on bad jokes. Shaggy dog stories? No, they didn't fit the speech format. What about jokes she hated? She thought of the second speaker in the round, the guy from Allston Regional who'd fallen to the floor and fried like bacon. Physical humor. Lowbrow, even by Impromptu standards. Something about lowbrow jokes she hated... couldn't go with physical stuff, couldn't insult another finalist... and then it came to her. Fart jokes? Fart jokes. Channel every lecture she'd heard from her coaches about dumb inappropriate garbage into... something.
Okay, three points about what was bad about fart jokes. Grossness, check. Repetitiveness? Maybe, but did she want to make the judges think about being repetitive when she was fumbling through however many jokes she could come up with? Start with gross. Fundamental taboo of farts. "Guys, c'mon, nobody smells a fart and thinks 'this is hilarious!'" She could riff on that for a minute, sure. The coaches kept telling her she was witty. It was time to test that. After grossness... no, go with repetitiveness. There was only one fart joke, just like there was only ever really one fart. After that...
A judge at the door. Oh, God. Kelly nodded, smoothed out the hem of her sweater, and stepped back inside the cinderblock-walled "resource room" that hosted the Impromptu final. The room's spattering of spectators looked bored, and even the judges had hardened eyes. Fourth in the round of six wasn't a good position. Everyone was ready to be done with this -- at least Kelly wasn't alone.
"AF135, Maartens," she said. "M-A-A-R-T-E-N-S." The judges filled out the top of their score sheets, and the timer judge gave Kelly a nod. Three, two, one... and go.
"As impromptu speakers," Kelly began, "we're expected to know a lot about humor, and as representatives of the National Forensics League and the Nebraska state academics activities... something?..." Kelly wasn't sure the smile sold that as a joke. "We're expected to know some things about decorum. Today I'd like to talk to you about a topic at the intersection of these two: the worst jokes I know. Namely, fart jokes, and why we shouldn't make them. First, I'm going to talk about how fart jokes are gross, because, like, obviously." She pulled a grimace, hoping for a laugh, and didn't get it. "Then we'll move on to how repetitive they are, and then finally..." Oh, crap. "... How fart jokes distract us from true self-actualization." That got a chuckle from one of the judges. Welp, now she was committed.
"First off, let's get started with my main problem with fart jokes," sald Kelly. "Namely, that they're gross. This is, like, instinct, you guys. Have you really ever farted and been like 'wow, this is really wholesome and funny, I definitely want to keep talking about this for the rest of my life?'" Someone in the back laughed, but the expressions on most of the room suggested that, yes, they had done that, and she hadn't? Really? "I know human nature is to always make jokes out of the things we find most disgusting, but at some point we have to draw a line in the sand, and to me that line is farts. Not drawn with farts, though. You know what I mean." Kelly could feel a rivulet of cold sweat drip down the back of her head. She couldn't be living the cliche any harder if she'd started talking about airline food.
"Moving on, there's maybe a bigger obstacle to humor in farts than their grossness, and that's their repetitiveness. Basically every fart joke on Earth is 'someone farted, and it was awful!' That's the one joke! Sometimes you dress it up with stuff about someone's mother-in-law, or the Pope, but still, that's it. Comedy is about surprises, and what kind of surprise does a fart have?" Kelly paused for a beat, the next joke half-formed in her mind, and then she went for it. Better to be a fiasco than a failure. "Well, okay, there's one way you can surprise people with fart jokes, and that's if you can deliver on command. But we can't all be that lucky. For the rest of us, it's like..." She thrust her butt back behind her and craned her head to look at it, trying to frown accusingly. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon!" She tried for a desperate wiggle, then sighed. "See? No dice."
People laughed. God help her, she was selling her soul and breaking every rule she'd been taught, but people laughed.
"So you see the problem there, right? Which brings to my third point, that fart jokes can't bring you self-actualization. Maybe more specifically, they can't bring me self-actualization. All I want to do when I'm up here is entertain you, come up with really good material, like Grandma used to make when Mom and Dad would lock her in the Joke Chamber in the basement. Just good family entertainment. The problem is that, if you ask me to tell fart jokes, I turn into... well, the person you're seeing up here right now. A weirdo. A wreck. And I'm a novice, guys -- I've got three more years on the circuit. Do you want to see this in every tournament for the next three years? Me, trying to tell fart jokes?" A pause; someone in the front row returned her eye contact, and a few others were chuckling. "See? Q.E.D.! That's Latin for 'seriously, guys.'"
"In summary," said Kelly, "fart jokes are the worst kind of jokes I know, and I'm the worst kind of comedian when I have to tell them. I've first explained to you why fart jokes are gross, then reiterated that they're repetitive, and finally bared my soul about my own self-actualization in the medium and why you might care. In future, just remember this: if you ask an impromptu speaker for the worst jokes they know, they might just try to tell them."
The room applauded, at a volume that almost sounded like they meant it. Mostly, though, Kelly was done, and that was what mattered.
That night, in the bus heading home, Kelly turned her trophy over in her hands and tried to wrap her head around the day. How had she possibly taken third place? The award ceremony itself had been a blur, and the fact that she hadn't placed in the lower half of the Impromptu final seemed like it had to be a clerical error. The third-place trophy wasn't much -- a little brass cup and marble base, separated by a wooden pedestal so short that it was almost insulting -- but it was hers. She'd been in the finals, she'd delivered that belly flop of a speech, and she'd somehow gotten hardware for it. Which saint did she thank for this? St. Jude?
She'd threatened the judges with three more years of her on the circuit. Was that actually going to happen? Yeah, Kelly decided, it probably was. She wasn't sure whether it was a promise or a threat, and whether it was a threat to her audience or herself, but she'd be back. Maybe next time, she'd actually prep some jokes.
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 03:04|
I'll if you're similarly willing to use your account as collateral to ensure that you will submit a story for this, Jay
No matter the landscape, insulting people who've never done anything to you is not okay. I think your critique is spot on but I will never accept insulting someone without just cause. I will as well because I want to get better at writing, it's a small joy in a life I rarely enjoy. That said, why do people stand for this? Why did you need to call me names?
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 03:22|
We all make mistakes
People look back on the stunts of their youth and wonder how they lived to old age, while the young look forward and wonder how boring people managed to live so long.
Ray pumped his brakes of his single-speed BMX bike at the top of the hill and skidded to a stop. He put his untied shoes down on the hot pavement and held his hand up to his unhelmeted head to shield his eyes from the sun. His friends gathered around the bottom of hill, most on the other side of the gulch, but a few standing near the dirt ramp. If he concentrated he could just make out their cheers above the noise of the birds.
The dare started in an argument with his physics tutor.
“... and that’s why nobody has managed to jump Cooper’s Gulch. Even a small child would need a velocity far greater than the approach vector--in this case the hill--provides,” said Danny, the nerdiest kid in school.
“They just need go go faster,” said Ray.
“Yes, that’s what I just said.”
Ray shrugged. “So pedal harder.”
Danny ran his hands through his hair. “The acceleration required to reach minimum viable velocity--”
“I could do it.”
Silence hit the rest of the study hall as people turned their heads.
Ray looked around. “I got the fastest bike in school. I could jump Cooper’s Gulch if I wanted.”
Danny laughed. “Everybody knows you’re fast, Ray, but it’s simply mathematically impossible. They say Chuck’s bike was in 21st gear when they dragged his bike out of the gulch. He couldn’t have been going any faster.”
“His mountain bike was too heavy. Mine’s made for jumps. Didn’t you say something about mass earlier?”
Danny shifted his glasses. “Well, yes, but we’re talking small percentages here.”
“Maybe you forgot a decimal or something.”
Danny looked at his notes. “Look, I don’t come out to the football field and tell you how to get in a line or whatever, don’t come into my study hall and tell me how to calculate trajectory.”
“Ok fine, all I’m saying is I could do it. What’ll give me if I do it?”
“I don’t have anything--” Danny stopped. “No, stay away from Becky.”
Ray smiled. “Look man, your sister is cute, and the only reason she says no is cause you tell her to. I see the way she glances at me. I make the jump, you let me take her to prom.”
“I can’t make those decisions for her.”
“Well at least let me ask her without you warning her away from me.”
“You’ll never make the jump.”
“Then you agree?”
Danny looked around at the silent room. “Ugh fine, if you don’t die you can ask her, but if she says no then stay away from her.”
Ray slapped Danny on the back and laughed. “It’s 2018 man, I’m not gonna creep on her if she says no.”
The wind whipped at Ray’s surfer-length hair as he lined up for the jump. He could just make out Danny shaking his head, standing next to his sister. She had to have heard the rumors, thought Ray. And there she stood with a decision already in her mind. All he had to do is ride down the hill and find out what it was.
He thought about Chuck, sitting on the sidelines of the games with his two broken legs. Maybe his problem wasn’t that clunker of a bike, maybe it was that he had nothing to ride toward.
Ray pushed off and pedaled down the hill. His front tire vibrated as he flew over the asphalt, picking up more and more speed. Tears streaked back the corners of his eyes, wetting the peach fuzz of his unkempt sideburns.
His legs burned as he pedaled. Even drills during the first week of practice didn’t hurt as bad as his legs hurt only half-way down the hill. He coudn’t stop pedaling. He needed the speed.
Ray’s bike didn’t have all the shocks of Chuck’s mountain bike, so there was nothing to absorb the impact of the dirt ramp at the bottom of the hill. He didn’t so much jump as he was thrown into the air by an uncaring earth.
He stared straight ahead, afraid to look down. He’d stood at the edge of the gulch a million times. Hell, it was probably a little less deep because of all the dirt clods he’d thrown in over the years. He didn’t need to look down to know how high he was.
Danny covered his eyes as Ray neared the other side.
Ray wondered midflight if he should attempt something cool, like a little wave. Mostly he was amazed at how long it seemed to take. As soon as he was airborne time slowed down. He hit the peak of his jump and started to fall, and time sped back up as he got closer to the other cliff. He took one hand off the handlebar and waved to Becky.
His front tire hit the dirt with plenty of clearance, but his back tire caught the edge of the ravine. He might have stuck the landing if he’d had both of his hands on the handlebars, but with only half the grip his bike tore from his grasp.
Ray considered how long the time in the air seemed compared to the speed with which he smashed into the ground. He didn’t even have time to flinch before he belly flopped into the grass.
It was quiet again, like at the top of the hill. Ray could see Danny and Becky’s horrified reactions, but he couldn’t hear their gasps. He rolled over onto his back and looked at the sky, struggling to breathe.
He choked on air for a few moments before air finally rushed back into his lungs, and sound returned to the world. It was a mix of gasps, cheers, and applause.
Danny helped Ray sit up.
“Told you I could do it.”
“I don’t know if that counts.”
Danny stood up and brushed the dirt off of his jeans, though the grass stains were more permanent.
“It counts enough. Hey Becky--” Ray stopped to catch his breath. “Prom?”
Becky smiled. She pointed to his mangled bike. “Sure, but we better take my car. I’ll pick you up.”
Ray smiled. “Yeah, good idea.” He turned to Danny to gloat.
Danny looked up from a scrap of paper he’d pulled from his pocket. “Oh, yup, there’s that’s supposed to be a 10, not 100.”
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 03:41|
The boy came into the thrift shop on a Thursday, all floppy hair and dark eyes like Dove chocolates. He carried a garbage bag full of donations, and he gave Robin a lopsided smile that she immediately returned. She might have stood there grinning at him for the whole afternoon if he hadn't broken the spell with words. "Hi. Is this where I should bring old clothes?"
"There's a side door, technically," Robin said. "Doesn't make any difference when I'm the only one here, though. Wow, you're tall. Do you play basketball?"
He folded his long arms and shook his head. "No. I'm the despair of every gym teacher I've had these past three years. So you don't have to worry about sports sweat all over this stuff, I promise."
Robin dug into the bag, imagining torn jeans. Instead she pulled out denim so fresh from the rack that it still smelled new, a lovely turquoise-and-black patterned scarf, a chenille sweater with all its plush-- "You have the strangest idea of old."
The boy shifted his weight. "My sister's cleaning out her closets."
"I'd love to see what she's keeping. Want a receipt?"
"That's okay," he said, but she'd already grabbed a form. It was an excuse to keep him there and breathe in his cologne. Why oh why couldn't any of her classmates smell so good? The boy craned his head to watch her write; she flashed him another grin. "Hey," he said. "There's no one else in the shop?"
"My uncle's stepped out. He'll be back any minute. Until then it's just me and the panic button."
He winced. "Yeah, that came out creepy, didn't it. Sorry. I was just wondering if you're hiring, since I need a job and thrift stores are so interesting."
"I could use more help," Robin said, though the thought had never crossed her mind before. "I could talk to my uncle if you want to leave your name and number."
His scrawl on a Post-It told her his name was Michael Somethingorother and that his handwriting was adorably atrocious. She broached the subject with her uncle as soon as she could, and she kept nudging until he gave in. Michael worked his first shift on Tuesday. He drank in Robin's instructions on pricing items while she drank in his smiles.
Watching Michael loft things up onto the highest shelves without effort became her new favorite hobby, and Robin took to wearing her best outfits in order to collect his compliments. On the day she asked him out, she wore the scarf he'd donated. She could tell he recognized it. His eyes were on it as he turned her down.
"Does this remind you too much of your sister or something?" she asked.
"No. No," he said, looking away. "Just--too much homework tonight. I'll see you this weekend."
Robin and her uncle still had Fridays to themselves. Robin stood alone behind the register when the cop arrived, a uniformed woman who browsed the merchandise and then asked many questions, holding up a chenille sweater with all its plush as if in accusation.
Seven rings brrrred in Robin's ear that night before Michael picked up his phone. "Did you steal those clothes?" Robin demanded.
"Someone has been shoplifting from the best stores in town. That's what the cop said. Someone who might use a thrift store to get rid of the stuff if he's stealing for fun. Funny thing was, she asked about everything we still had from your bag. So now I'm wondering--"
"Maybe getting a job at a thrift store would be even better, right? You could hide things on the racks, figure we wouldn't recognize a shirt or two, though I'm telling you, Michael, if you think we're that dumb then you're loving dumb yourself."
"I didn't steal anything. Katie did."
Robin sat silent, trying to get air past her tightened throat.
"She... do you want to hear this?" Robin didn't answer; Michael sighed. "You'd better, anyway. Katie's dad's got cancer. No insurance. She took the clothes to sell on eBay, she said, like she could ever steal enough to pay the hospital. It was so stupid--I got her to give it all to me and I gave it to the shop so she wouldn't get caught."
"Involving us in crime. Great. And asking for a job, too! That's ballsy."
"I told her I'd get work and help her out if she'd stop stealing. Is the store in trouble? I'll confess. I never meant to hurt your uncle, or you."
Robin slammed her thumb onto the screen to terminate the call.
A few taps and swipes gave her the number of the police department. She stared at the digits, her other hand fiddling with the turquoise-and-black scarf. He'd never liked her. He'd lied to her. He'd smiled and smiled and it had meant nothing.
That particular pain wasn't really his fault, though, was it?
Robin flung her phone aside.
Bright and early Saturday morning, a girl raced into the shop. "It was me. Me! I stole, not Michael. He wouldn't tell me what he did with the clothes until last night, but now I know." She took a breath. "Here I am. Don't be mad at him, please."
"You're Katie, I guess," Robin said.
"Yeah. Call the police if you need to. I won't go anywhere."
It didn't surprise Robin when Michael shoved his way through the door next, though he wasn't due for another hour. "Robin!" He stopped. "Katie. Dammit, go home."
"Nope," Katie said. "You go home. I've 'fessed up. You're safe."
Robin said, "Unless I call the cops on both of you."
Michael put an arm around Katie; the girl didn't come to his shoulder, but she sidestepped so that she stood guard between him and the counter. And the look on Michael's face was just as resolute, even as he folded his other arm around his girlfriend as though he could turn himself into armor for her.
"Not that I have a reason to," Robin said. "That stuff was left at the side door by an anonymous donor, you know? I don't have any idea who brought it here. That's what I told the cop and my uncle. No case, unless more bags show up."
"Not on your life," Katie said.
"I'll hold her to that," Michael said.
He guided Katie out the door. After she'd gone, he hesitated, looking at Robin with Dove-chocolate eyes. "Should I find another job?"
Robin nodded but said, "In a few weeks, so no one gets suspicious. Here." She picked the folded scarf up from the counter and handed it to him. "Maybe Katie can put this back where she got it, or you can find another thrift store for it."
"It did look good on you."
"Thanks, but it doesn't belong with me."
The door chimed as Michael left. Robin thought about crying, but it didn't feel right somehow. Neither did smiling. So she sat on someone's donated easy chair and tried out a combination of both, remembering cologne.
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 04:00|
That's it! That's all! Judgement shall come tomorrow night. Until then, if the showrunners for our special upcoming week would like to get things underway, feel free to do so!
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 05:09|
|# ? Feb 16, 2019 23:23|
Interprompt: "300", 300 words
|# ? Apr 30, 2018 12:08|