Extreme Writing Challenge #39: “The Countdown”

Fact:  there is only a week left in April.  April’s been a pretty eventful month.  I ran my first 10k, my dad had surgery, I got a new phone, Raising Hope ended (sob), I taught my cat how to properly walk on a leash, and I made some serious progress on the memoir I’m writing.  And the best is still to come…this weekend, the husband and I are getting a puppy!  *squealsquealsquealsqueal*  You have been warned–there will be some puppy pics on this blog soon.  😀

So I’ve gots a new story.  If you figure out the challenge before the end, you deserve a dollar.


I sat in the only clean booth, in the corner near the restroom, and filled out a job application. The waitress waddled to my table with a slice of apple pie and a cappuccino. “I hope you’re not applying to work here,” she scoffed, and with a whisper added, “Terrible place.” I sipped at my coffee, the foam tickling my lips, and looked away from her.

On the opposite side of the diner, an elderly man sat across from a young boy, maybe six years old. The boy spun a top on the table, which ricocheted between plates of pancakes and glasses of orange juice. I wondered if their lives were really as mundane as they appeared. Mine certainly wasn’t.

I took a bite of pie and a chunk of gooey apple dove from my fork and landed on the application. I wiped it away, but the paper was stained the color of Dijon mustard, shimmery from the specks of cinnamon. I should have asked for a new application, but I’d completed the upper half already and my hand was cramping up. Think. I drew an arrow toward the stain and wrote, The apple pie is superb!

I glanced at my watch and then at the diner entrance. Deborah was supposed to arrive any minute with Ellis. I wanted her to be impressed that I was looking for work. I was finished moping now. Last night, I’d sold my last bong and my two pipes, and I’d deleted my dealer’s number from my phone. Empowered by my son’s love.

I’d wept every day since the divorce. Not for Deborah—I’d stopped loving her long ago. It was the struggle to stay happy without my son to share oatmeal with me in the mornings, to make me kiss his plush puppy goodnight, or to run to me in his cape and ask me to play superheroes with him.

A bell jingled at the front of the diner. From my seat, I saw only Ellis’s lopsided mop of curly brown hair as he bounced toward the aisle. Behind him, Deborah bit her lip. Everything depended on this day—this visit. A two-hour slot to show her I would do anything—stop anything—for my son.

Ellis threw his arms around me, better than being wrapped in gold. I was unprepared for my heart trying to leap out of my chest. The hug was painful yet dreamlike, gentle yet powerful.

Deborah handed Ellis his puppy and crossed her arms. How did this happen? How had I let him go?

Deborah said, “I’ll pick him up in two hours.” The countdown began.


The challenge for this story was:  At least 25 unique words whose third letter is a “P” appear in a story less than 500 words in length.



One response to “Extreme Writing Challenge #39: “The Countdown”

  1. Oh that’s an awesome story… I loved it!!!

    I recently came across an International Short story contest on Tallenge with $100 prize money & a chance to win Annual contest with $10000 prize.

    You can Sign up & participate for free. For further details about the contest please visit http://www.tallenge.com/contest/literaturestorycontest.html

    Tallenge has lot of active readers who will definitely love your story.

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