Extreme Writing Challenge #55: “Swamp Water”

For tonight’s story, the challenge was to use at least 20 unique words beginning with “sw.”  And you know, I severely overestimated the number of these words in the English language.  Sure, there were quite a few on the list that didn’t get incorporated into this story.  But I wrote this sober and I think using the words swastika, Swahili, swagger, switchblade, and swashbuckler in a flash fiction story requires at least two decently-sized cocktails.

So, enjoy this not-as-weird-as-it-could-have-been story.

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“This is a swamp,” I declare.

“It’s a pond,” Keith contests.

I’ve been swindled. Lured here by a dolt who doesn’t know the difference between a swan and a duck or a swamp and a pond. I turn my head away and mouth a string of swear words. When I turn back, Keith is swatting at the bugs dancing around his head like confetti.

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” he asks. “You look disappointed.”

I swallow my words before they have a chance to escape my mouth. At least he’s trying. My sister told me I should remind myself of that every time I start to swell up with defeat.

For the truthful half of my response I say, “Just a little uncomfortable.” For the dishonest half, I tell him, “Sweaty and a bit sticky, is all.” The summer heat, sweltering as it is, bothers me very little.

Keith nods his head toward the swamp. “A swim will fix that,” he chuckles.

Beside us, a swarm of mosquitos floats through the trees, swerving around the old, fissured trunks. They come to a steady swirl around my face, creating a veil that softens the anger in my eyes. I try to remember the old Keith. I yearn for the days before the switch was flipped and our marriage faded to black.

I’d begged him for a trip to Sweden. I swore to myself if Sweden didn’t happen, neither would the rest of our lives together. For the weeks leading up to our anniversary, he was a gentleman. Sweeter than I’d ever known. He took me ballroom dancing. I’d always wanted to go, to entwine our bodies and sway, carefree, through the openness together.

What I thought would be Sweden turned out to be a cabin at Swordfish Pond. For our 25th wedding anniversary, we’re trapped in a net of insects next to a swamp.

Keith sweeps a strange blue fly off of my tank top. It’s the tank top I spent hours choosing. I spent an entire afternoon at the mall. Finding it was like winning a sweepstakes. It was a prize. It was perfect for this day.

“I think I’d like to lie down for a while. You know, relax,” I tell Keith. He doesn’t follow me to the cabin; he knows better. As I rest my head on a thin, musty pillow, I wonder if Keith is actually the same old Keith, and I’ve simply forgotten the old me.

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Weekly Prompts for September 1

Here we are–September.  SEPTEMBER.  Can someone please tell me what happened to August, or even the first seven months of the year?

September is going to be a big month for me.  About a zillion people I know are getting married (just a rough estimate, don’t quote me on that number).  My puppy is getting spayed.  Oh, and my new book is going to become available.  [Insert ear-piercing squeal here.]  This will be my second book and it is absolutely nothing like my first; while my first was based on this here blog you’re reading, the one coming out this month is a memoir.  I’ll save all the dirty details for a blog post when the book hits the shelves, but I had to take a moment to document the reality of it.  Eeeeee!

Annnnywho.  I hope many of you are enjoying this extra day off of work.  Working or not, here’s this week’s set of prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

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Extreme Writing Challenge #54: “Admission”

Happy Tuesday!  We’re one day closer to the weekend, which is always great news.

The challenge for today’s story is that each sentence contains at least five instances of the letter that ended the previous sentence.  I’m feeling quite thankful there are no common words that end in Q!

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I walk up onto the stage and I’m prepared to admit everything. Mr. Green gives me a pat on the shoulder as the whole school nervously giggles at the word etched in Sharpie on my forehead. To say I’ve dreaded this day is an understatement. It’s worse than the incident with the super glue, far more humiliating than prom night, and dumber than the prank I pulled on the school security officer.

The students’ faces disappear under the barrage of overhead lights. I know they are all still there from the hiss of their whispers. If they think this scribble on my skin is bad, they’ll be shocked to hear why it is there.

I can’t tell them anything unless I look down at my feet. Even though the lights have blurred their faces together, my dignity pulls my head downward. “Yesterday I did something bad…like, really bad,” I begin.

Now I close my eyes and pretend my friends aren’t out there watching me. “I can guarantee I won’t be allowed to come back to this school. It’s all good, because most of you treat me like a real loser anyhow.”

It’s weird that this whole time, I got to know only a few of the kids at Whitmore High. The faces hiding in the lights belong to the most familiar strangers I’ve ever known. Now I’m confessing to them as though they matter—as if I can salvage any of the twisted life I’ve spent with them.

“So, um, many of you might have seen the stories on the news about Mrs. Mulligan’s horses.” The whispers grow like a soft breeze that morphs into a sudden gust of wind. The stories had spread like wildfire and everyone was dying to know which student was so sinister. It won’t be long now that I’m on this stage with this ink on my face.

“The police think the kid that did it was messed up on drugs or drunk or something. But I’ve never done drugs and the only thing I drank that night was Gatorade, so they were wrong about that.”

The whispers erupt into gasps that shake the room. My admission blows them away, but it explains the word “MURDERER” my father made me write on my own forehead.

“Yeah, I did it, but do you know why I did it?” The students have traded their whispers for full, hearty cries of protest and disgust. To them I’m the same monster I was to the detectives when they found me out.

As loudly as I can I shout, “I was dared by some punks at this school who threatened to beat me to a pulp if I didn’t kill Mrs. Mulligan’s horses.”

Voices fall silent, one by one, until the room is still enough to hear each breath, each blink, each slight shuffle of a foot on the floor. I step back from the microphone and cover up the accusation on my forehead with my left hand. I suffered the hatred, the disrespect, and the loneliness, and now I am nothing more than a murderer.

Weekly Prompts for August 25

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” -Beatrix Potter

Happy Monday, fellow writers!  Here’s to a week of fresh ideas and vivid stories.  😀

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Extreme Writing Challenge #53: “Endgame”

It’s Hump Day, although it feels more like a mountain!  Don’t you just HATE slow work weeks?

In today’s story, the challenge was: every sentence contains a unique word that begins and ends with the letter E.  This story may have been subconsciously influenced by my feeling like I deserve an Employee of the Year award for making such a smooth transition back to work after a two-week vacation.  Just a slight possibility.  😉

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I’ve been on the edge of my seat all morning. When I start to feel antsy I do that inhale exhale routine my friend Manny taught me. Any minute now they should be sending out an e-mail about the Employee of the Year. The excitement causes my nerves to explode one by one.

No one else in the office seems to have reached my level of anticipation. It must be that everyone already knows I’m going to get the award and they don’t stand a chance. I can’t stop staring at my screen, willing that little envelope icon to materialize. Then the celebration will ensue. The whole office will file into the break room for cake, and I’ll stay behind so I can make a grand entrance with all eyes on me. The CEO will probably give me a certificate and if I’m lucky, even one of those expensive pens all the executives have. I’ll practically become office royalty within the blink of an eye.

After the cake and the cheering, Mr. Earle will discretely tell me about my raise. I’ll stop by the travel agency on the way home and plan my trip to Europe. When I pull into my driveway, little old Eve next door will be weeding her garden and I’ll tell her I’m finally someone important. I’ve always liked Eve so I might even buy her an expensive flower pot with my next paycheck. My other neighbors enrage me with their loud backyard get-togethers and animals that poop on my lawn, but not Eve.

The IT man comes by to examine my computer after I reported a glitch two weeks ago. I make up the excuse that I’m in the middle of running a report and I’ll need him to come back later. I even show him one of my reports as an example so it’s more believable. By now my blood pressure can’t elevate any further than it already has.

Just a minute or two more; I won’t have to endure the wait much longer. The HR executive said she’d send out the e-mail by three o’clock. I’m finally going to emerge as a real somebody. I’ll be enviable by all of these other losers who think I’m just the reports guy. Yes, today is my endgame.

Weekly Prompts for August 18

Although the challenges for my stories are a little different than traditional writing prompts, I do have an appreciation for the good ol’ fashioned method.  Every Monday, I’m going to start posting five writing prompts for my fellow writers who might need a less aggressive jump start to their writing for the work week.  Here is the first set!

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Extreme Writing Challenge #52: “Flat Tire”

Returning home from a two-week vacation equals a loss of motivation for a lot of things: going to work, cleaning, cooking, and eating anything that’s actually good for me.  Luckily, writing isn’t on this list!

For this challenge, I wrote a story that doesn’t contain any five-letter words and also doesn’t contain the letter C.  This is the first time I’ve combined the idea of not using any words of a certain length and also eliminating a letter of the alphabet.  Honestly, it was pretty fun!

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Today’s the day the bastard gets out of prison. I shouldn’t be driving all day to take his pitiful ass home. Somehow I’m on the interstate with Joan Jett rivaling the whoosh of the wind rushing through the open windows. I’m the only person on the road, as if the universe is emphasizing that no one supports this boneheaded mission.

The last time I saw him was the day he got arrested. For eleven months I pretended he’d been hurled off the planet. If I wouldn’t have opened that letter he sent last week, I’d be at breakfast now with Mama. I’d have an omelet and an espresso. He wouldn’t wriggle his way into my thoughts, not one time. Instead I’m driving 75 in a 65 zone and the bastard is the only thought floating around in my head.

I keep on thinking it’s a good time to get a flat tire. Out here in the middle of nowhere. It’d take all afternoon to fix it. By then I’m sure he’d find another way home. I’d apologize tomorrow and he’d understand that it was unavoidable. He’d get home another way and then I wouldn’t feel guilty. I’d burn that letter, move on with my life.

Grandpa threatened to kill the bastard on my 19th birthday. Sometimes I wish he would’ve done it. The only reason he refrained was that the next day I told him I was pregnant. When I lost the baby, the bastard was already in jail. Grandpa was the one to tell him so I wouldn’t have to talk to him. It was all that had kept me tied to him, and that was when I let go for good.

So what I’m thinking driving to the prison, I don’t know. Part of me wonders if he’s a different man now. Fooled by memories of dipping powdered donuts in vanilla pudding, and playing Battleship in the nude in a tent in the forest.

Down the road is the sign that says the turn for the prison is in one mile on the left. My nerves turn into guitar strings breaking one by one. I slam on the brakes. I’m not driving even one more foot forward.

I got a flat tire.

Or, that will be what I tell him when he phones me tomorrow.