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.

 

Extreme Writing Challenge #51: “Options”

I’m going to mix things up a bit and tell you what today’s challenge is before you read the story.  Why?  Eh, why not?  Sometimes you’ve got to shake things up…keeps life interesting.

In this piece, the third word of every sentence is exactly three letters long, and is not used as the third word of every sentence more than once.

And this challenge was a headache.  I won’t sugarcoat it.  It seemed so simple.  I was so very wrong.

So I hope you enjoy.  🙂

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In my new Armani suit, I was a caviar-eating, country club-loving, self-centered sonofabitch. All I had to do was drop a couple G’s and suddenly I was someone important. Elegance wasn’t the kind of life I was used to. No, a guy like me thinks he’s being fancy when he drinks beer out of a glass.

For a few days I was that bastard I always envied. There I was, eating hundred-dollar plates of food with 92 pieces of silverware and European linen napkins. At home, Sue was cooking Top Ramen and watching the news on the tube TV that only got one channel. That was our life—my real life.

It was all a big scheme. I planned for months, down to the nitty-gritty detail. I had one shot and I sure as hell couldn’t blow it. Once I met Don Adinolfi in person, I needed everything to fall right into place like that Tetris shit Sue’s always playing.

I had Don fooled from the first handshake, but that was only the beginning. Everything I did from that moment on was crucial with a capital C. Every head nod, every phony grin, every big word I memorized out of the dictionary. When we sat down to talk business, my heart was punching the inside of my chest. You know how your blood kind of tingles just before you ride a giant roller coaster or after you barely miss a horrible car crash? That’s a bit like how it feels to be a con man.

I put gel in my hair. My only tie spent more time around my neck in three days than it had in five years. I actually got a damn manicure to get the chunks of dirt from under my nails. Men don’t get manicures. So now you know, this was some real dedication.

I wasn’t out to get anybody. It wasn’t bad, what I was doing. It was die or steal. Sometimes those are a poor man’s only options.  I can say I chose the right one.

In my old, frayed jeans and a thrift store T-shirt from some 5K in 1999, I study my reflection in the mirror.  I am not the man I’m staring at–not anymore.  Then I bid farewell to my past life, and I slip out of my clothes and throw them in the trash.

Extreme Writing Challenge #50: “Traffic Jam”

Guess what?  (And despite what my husband says, the answer is NOT “chicken butt.”)  But really, GUESS WHAT.  It’s my:

balloons

When I started this blog, I wouldn’t have imagined I could possibly keep this up for 50 stories.  But here I am, and I’m loving every minute of it!

Tonight’s story strays a little from my “usual” challenges, but it was just as tough!  Give it a read and I’ll reveal the challenge at the end!

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Not again. The thought hiccuped like a broken record. The traffic gods were against Harvey. Horns cried out from every direction.

Harvey tried not to check the time. It only fueled his frustration. He looked anyway. His interview would start in seven minutes.

Oh, the strings Harvey had to pull to secure this interview. It was his second and, he knew, last chance. Traffic began to move.

Harvey missed his first interview thanks to a six car pileup. He’d practically had to beg Mr. Lin to reschedule. Harvey had six minutes and no more chances. He grew unbearably fidgety.

This job was Harvey’s lifeline. He’d finally hit rock bottom. It wasn’t all his fault, really. He blamed himself for some things, like the theater investment. He could’ve come back from that, though. Yes, that was one thing he controlled.

Five minutes left. Harvey was ten blocks away. Approaching the green light, he squirmed.

Joey, Jasmine, and Juniper. These were Harvey’s children—his triplets. He’d known for only two weeks that they existed. The phone call from Maria left him trembling terribly. Suddenly he was a worthless, unemployed daddy.

The triplets were six weeks old, Maria said. All comically chunky. Harvey gave Maria the silent treatment for days. She shouldn’t have kept it from him. Wrongdoings aside, an instant, overwhelming love for his children seized Harvey.

Brakes screeched and movement ceased. The traffic light showed no mercy for Harvey. Harvey’s death grip on the steering wheel loosened. He blew out a sigh of surrender—to failure, change, lost chances. When his phone rang, Harvey almost didn’t answer it.

“Hello?” he muttered, massaging his temple.

“Harvey Barnum, this is Angela Coolidge. I am Eric Yin’s executive assistant.”

Harvey swallowed, enduring the tang of bad news. With four minutes left, he had cut it too close.

“Mr. Yin encountered an emergency,” Angela told Harvey. “He’s asked to reschedule your interview this morning.”

Harvey’s cloak of stress unraveled. “Absolutely,” he mumbled in a daze.

Angela quickly scheduled a new interview. Harvey sobbed after he hung up. Grateful tears. He couldn’t—wouldn’t—let his babies down. The light turned green. Harvey laughed. He wouldn’t be late. He’d be two hours early.

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The challenge in this post was:  The number of words in each sentence was determined by the roll of two six-sided dice.

Extreme Writing Challenge #49: “Imperfection”

My life is all about countdowns right now.  Things I’m counting down to:

1.  The Dirty Dash next month.  Time to get muddy!
2.  My two-week vacation to Maryland-New York-Massachusetts right after the Dirty Dash.  I’ve never been farther east than South Dakota.  I need to get out more.
3.  My best friend’s wedding.  I’ve known her for 20 years and I’m only 29 years old.  I’m so proud.
4.  My 50th story on the IW blog!  I’m surprised I’m not an alcoholic by now!  (Kidding.  Sort of.)

(Source: studentblogs.le.ac.uk)

So yes, I have lots to look forward to in the next couple of months.  But for right now, I’ve got a story for you all, and I hope that some of you were looking forward to it.  Read on and see what the challenge was at the end!

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There were blemishes on the floor she’d never seen. Stains, cracks, and nicks, bumps and rot. All along, they’d been as undetectable to Kat as her own slow decay. Kat cringed as she knelt and examined the flawed cherry slats. This was her life, a collection of overlooked imperfections.

The doorbell tinkled, followed by muffled voices. “Kat, it’s Laura and Tom. Are you home?”

Kat lifted herself up and willed a smile. At the door were two familiar faces, soft and drooping in their old age. They both held out bowls, filled with fresh-picked berries. “Hi Kat,” Laura said dotingly. Tom and Laura came by every day to check on Kat—a request of her mother’s. There were days Kat liked seeing them and days she didn’t. Today was a day she didn’t.

“These look delicious,” she muttered, licking her lips while she took the bowls from her visitors. “I’d ask you to stay, but I was just about to run a bath.”

“Dear, have you talked to your mother lately?” Laura asked as Kat walked away from the open door.

“Yes,” Kat lied. She sat at the bar in the kitchen and dipped her hands into the berries. Some of them burst open, filling the room with their cool, energetic scent. It was as calming as a hit of marijuana.

Tom and Laura watched Kat wordlessly from the doorway. Finally, Laura stepped inside and whispered Kat’s name. Kat allowed her eyelids to fall, immersing herself in her private moment. She didn’t need to be monitored by these people. Just go away, Kat thought.

“Kat, your mom…” Laura began as she crept closer to the desperate woman. Kat’s mental escape ceased and she pleaded with Laura with her eyes. “Kat, she’s in the hospital.”

Now they were everywhere. Stains, cracks, and nicks. All over the walls, the counters, and the doors. Kat pushed her fingers further under the amassed berries. She was digging for relief. “Why?” she whispered.

“I don’t know,” Laura told Kat. “But she wants you to come and see her.”

The last time Kat saw her was at her father’s funeral. It was months ago—Kat was still dating and almost done with her sociology degree. She’d hoped to work with children somehow. It was May. She’d asked her mother once more to tell her the truth about her father’s death. Her reply had been, “I just can’t.”

Tom’s voice broke into her memory and said, “Kat, please come to the hospital.” He lightly rubbed her shoulders, soliciting her promise.

It was a hard thing to do, but all Kat could say was, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t.”

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The challenge was:  The first sentence does not contain the letter A.  Each sentence that follows is absent of the next consecutive vowel in the familiar “A,E,I,O,U” string.  More simply put:

Sentence #1 = no A
Sentence #2 = no E
Sentence #3 = no I
Sentence #4 = no O
Sentence #5 = no U
Sentence #6 = no A

and so on…….  🙂

Writing with Siri

A few months ago, I got my first iPhone.  So far I’m rather pleased with it and I’ve found it’s a lot more reliable than my old pee-oh-ess Samsung.

What I haven’t found a use for yet is Siri.

Siri bothers me for a number of reasons.  One, I don’t like her/his voice.  If Siri sounded like Marvin the Martian or had a Boston accent, I’d be more inclined to use her/him.  Two, Siri tried to sabotage my marriage.  My husband was trying to program Siri to know “Hope” is his wife so she would dial my number when he said the words, “Call my wife.” Driving home one night, he tried to demonstrate in the hopes of impressing me.  The conversation went like this:

Husband:  “Siri, call my wife.”
Siri:  “Which wife?”

Turns out he’d manually entered my info into his phone after syncing it from his previous contacts, so Siri didn’t know which “Hope” to call.  Still, I blame her.

Now that I have a Siri of my very own, I figured I’d give her a second chance.  A shot at redemption, if you will.  So I enlisted her help with my writing.

The result?  I still have no use for Siri.  And the only writing I got out of it all was this damn blog post.

Conversations with Siri About Writing

Me:  Siri, give me a writing prompt.
Siri:  That may be beyond my abilities at the moment.

Me:  Tell me what my story should be about.
Siri:  I’m certain you’ve heard it before.

Me:  (Again)  Tell…me…what…my…story…should…be…about.
Siri:  (See below)

Note:  Not the full story.  It went on for a few screen shots.
Note: Not the full story. It went on for a few screen shots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:  Siri, tell me a writing tip.
Siri:  Why don’t you tell me something instead?

Me:  Siri, do you like to read books?
Siri:  Oh, that would be cheating.

Me:  Siri, do you like stories?
Siri:  I really have no opinion.

Me:  Siri, what is your favorite word?
Siri:  I’d rather not say.

Me:  Siri, what is your favorite story?
Siri:  I don’t really like talking about myself.

Me:  Siri, do you have a favorite author?
Siri:  My name is Siri, and I was designed by Apple in California. That’s all I’m prepared to say.

Me:  Siri, can I be your favorite author?
Siri:  I don’t really like these arbitrary categories.

Me:  Siri, do you think I’m a good writer?
Siri:  I’m sorry, I’m afraid I can’t answer that.

Me:  Siri, did you know you’re not a good writing coach?
Siri:  This is about you, not me.

Me:  Siri, can we write a story together?
Siri:  Interesting question.

Me:  I’ll start.  Once upon a time…
Siri:  I don’t know what that means.

If Siri can’t help me with my writing, she’s no good to me at all.  Just to be sure, I also asked her where in the vicinity I could purchase a real fruit smoothie, and she suggested McDonald’s.  The nerve.

Extreme Writing Challenge #48: “Amnesia”

It’s official.  I’ve lost count of how many days in a row it’s been over 100 degrees where I live.  Walking outside is comparable to stuffing myself inside my oven, only it doesn’t smell like delicious food.  On the bright side, I’ve never been more motivated to lounge around in my air-conditioned house and get some serious writing done.  Considering the five-day forecast, I should be able to write a novel by the end of the weekend.

weather

If you are also inside escaping the wretched heat, you have my deepest sympathies.  Here’s a new story to keep you entertained.  (Tip: summer reading is best accompanied by an ice cream cone or a fudgesicle).  I’ll tell you at the end what the challenge is!

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This guy is grinning at me. He stinks like dried milk and he has holes in his shoes. I look out the window, hoping he’ll get bored with me and creep on someone else. He doesn’t.

The bus crawls along the city streets more slowly than the people walking beside it. Traffic is harsh this time of day, so the bus stops every 50 feet. It’s a tight squeeze and I’m sandwiched between the milk man and a plump old woman who’s elbowing me as she knits a pair of socks.

Having amnesia is an odd thing. I remember my name and that I’m deathly afraid of spiders, and I’m almost certain I work at a museum. I’m only guessing that because I found a name badge on my kitchen counter. The last thing I can recall is standing on the edge of the roof and trying to reach a dead tree branch. It feels like I just dreamed that, but I woke up in a heap on the patio, so it all adds up.

I’m going to the hospital and I’m on the bus because I couldn’t find the keys to the Cadillac that was in my garage. I don’t know if people with amnesia should be driving, anyway.

I try not to think about my life too much. Like about my mom and dad, or whether I’m married or have kids, or what kind of a person I am. I’m scared I might turn out to be a piece of shit who shoots up five times a day. Or maybe I’m part of a gang and I’ve killed people and stolen from them. I start to stress and then I notice that another guy is staring at me, smiling.

“Excuse me?” I ask him, and sort of ask the milk guy, too. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“So sorry,” the man says. “It’s just that, wow, I didn’t think I’d ever run into you on a city bus like this.”

I follow his eyes as they dart around like they’re doing a connect-the-dots with the other passengers’ faces. If I thought only these two guys had a weird fascination with me, I was wrong. Almost everyone on the bus is watching me.

“Ma’am?” I ask, turning to the woman knitting the socks. She seems to be the only one not paying me any attention. “Ma’am, do you have any idea why all of these people are looking at me like I’ve got snakes coming out of my ears?”

Her response is delayed as she studies my face. She squints as she looks closely at my eyes, nose, and chin like a doctor might during a physical. Finally she says, “I have no idea,” and returns to her knitting.

At my stop, I sprint toward the hospital at full speed. I’ve never wanted so badly to know exactly who I am.

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The challenge for this story is:  A story less than 500 words in length contains at least 30 unique words that start and end with the same letter.