Tag Archives: fiction

Extreme Writing Challenge #59: “www [dot] com”

One quick word before we get into today’s challenge and story:  please take a second to check out my recently-launched author website, www.hopemccain.com.  I have an additional blog there I will use for all of my non-challenge posts–meaning Impossible Words will now strictly be my stories and challenges, and all other writing/reading-related content will be posted on my other site.  🙂

Today’s challenge is tied in to the theme of the story:  Every sentence contains at least three W‘s, and the story contains at least ten unique words beginning with com


Wendy was sure she couldn’t handle one more day of teaching old geezers how to use the computers their kids forced them to purchase. Admittedly, it was comical to watch their bony fingers hover over the keyboard while they searched for the letters they needed. Greta was the worst, scanning the keys once for twenty minutes looking for one labeled Enter.

Every day Wendy heard a new complaint she could add to her ever-growing list. These windows are too small, these keys aren’t wide enough, the click of the mouse is too loud. It wouldn’t be unreasonable for her to show up at work dressed for combat. These old wrinklies were whinier than a room full of toddlers.

And yet, all Wendy had to do was say the magic word. She’d tell them, “Now I’m going to demonstrate what you can do when you log on to the internet.” The complexities of technology that so far baffled them were nothing compared to the World Wide Web. Wendy opened a website, always a different one, and chuckled at the reactions. Jaws dropped and eyes widened during the ooh-ing and ahh-ing from a titillated crowd. They might as well be witnessing Halley’s Comet, they were so awestruck.

The web always stirred up the room until it felt ready to explode with commotion. The women wanted to shop and the men checked sports statistics and read the news and then griped about it. Wendy was proud to awaken them, no longer comatose in their dusty recliners and shouting numbers at the television while watching The Price is Right.

That’s why Wendy kept coming back when she longed to run for the hills. To share with these seniors the best part of life they’d been missing—where else would she find such satisfaction? With the few years they had left on the earth, they deserved the chance to enjoy the magical, wonderful internet.

Extreme Writing Challenge #58: “A Gift”

I can tell it’s fall by the fact that my fingers nearly froze as I was typing today’s story.  Brrrrr!  It’s almost the time of year where all of my free time will be spent curled up in a blanket with a book and a mug of hot chocolate.

The challenge today is: A story that contains at least 20 unique words containing all five vowels (a, e, i, o, u).  Hope you enjoy, and happy Monday!

__________

Maddie’s education ceased when she was 12 years old, the same year she became possessed by the beast called menstruation. That’s what her father called it—possessed—and every month he disappeared the day her cramps began, returning two days later when the hormonal pandemonium had settled down.

Maddie’s father had never been prepared for her mother to pass away. He read the obituaries in the newspaper every morning, like they were no different than the stories on the front page. The morning he read his wife’s, he vomited up his breakfast.

Maddie was homeschooled, her mother the teacher. She learned phonics, geography, and equations. Her favorite lessons were in writing: weaving together imagery and metaphors and dialogue to create a parallel universe. Maddie was ambidextrous and grateful for it, for when one hand got tired of writing she could give it a break and write with the other. She never wanted to stop.

When her mother died, Maddie’s father didn’t resume the lessons. He was unorganized and impatient, a man with a reputation as the person who never should have had children. Maddie approached the subject of her education often, always with precaution. But her father’s tenaciousness never faltered.

Maddie dreamed of writing for a newspaper one day, or possibly even a magazine. It was a revolutionary time for women. Maddie knew that, even at her age. Precarious as her ambitions were, they would not be stopped by her father’s stubbornness. She would not grow up to be a housemaid or a secretary. That was simply a facetious notion.

Every day Maddie wrote down a new thing she would like to write about. The Zodiac. Automobiles. Dentistry. Sequoias. When her father read her list and chuckled, she was not discouraged. He would never understand the euphoria of combining single letters to paint a beautiful portrait.

After her father perished in a car wreck when she was 18, Maddie auctioned off every item in his home. He wasn’t worth much, but it was just enough for her to enroll in the university. What he didn’t give to her in life, she took from him in death. With a small amount of change to spare, she purchased flowers for her mother’s grave. She placed them in front of the tombstone and uttered her appreciation for the gift of knowledge she’d always taken for granted.

Extreme Writing Challenge #57: “Of Gin and Bravery”

I swear, the first and last sentences of a story are the WORST to write.  To make matters worse, I put off writing the last sentence of today’s story until returning home from running a 10K–plus walking two or three extra miles.  My brain is a little unhappy with me.

Today’s challenge is that one word in every sentence contains two sets of double letters, and none of these words are duplicated.

Now, did someone say “nap time”?

__________

Tom tried desperately not to embarrass his new lover. He saw himself as another of her dazzling accessories. A man of success, Tom was as well-dressed as the president and didn’t look a day over 40. Yet his thirst for gin appalled even the thirstiest of the town’s drunks.

Tom’s motto was, “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy gin.” Raised in Tennessee by two redneck uncles, Tom believed the answers to any of life’s questions rested at the bottom of a gin and tonic. He and his uncles would drink until one of them passed out in a wheelbarrow in the middle of singing a television jingle.

Lucky for Tom, Melinda had no access to the details of Tom’s past. His uncles were both long dead, one from cancer and the other from a woodchipper incident. As long as he controlled his sloppiness, Melinda saw him only as a businessman who unwound at the end of the day with a few drinks.

Tom was thankful that the pizzazz of their lifestyle served as the perfect distraction. He accommodated Melinda’s every desire, from their monthly cruises to their reserved seats at the opera. Tom pitied the penniless drunks who couldn’t compensate for their nature. Before Melinda, he was plagued by aggression and self-loathing. He could snap like a frightened raccoon, mope like a disappointed toddler. He was on his way to becoming his own assassin, before Melinda.

As they lie on his four thousand dollar mattress, looking out over the mountains, Tom feared it was only a matter of time before Melinda opened her eyes. He sipped at his homemade cappuccino and stroked her hair as she slept. The moment was bittersweet.

Tom had always assumed it was the gin that made him bulletproof. Now the blurriness of reality was sharpening, and he knew it was not the liquor, but Melinda. In the stillness of the morning, he whispered for the first time that he loved her. A buffoon he was, for she didn’t hear it, and he would drive her away before he was brave enough to say it again.

Extreme Writing Challenge #46: “Homecoming”

Earlier this week, I was working on a writing challenge when I was struck by this horrific realization:

I stared blankly at the last sentence I’d written, my thoughts bouncing back and forth between How the hell did I get here? and Where on earth did I expect this was headed?  I was about halfway finished with the story, but it was clear the second half was just not going to happen.  Sadly, this happens all the time with my writing challenges.  Just when I think it’s all going well, I discover the story makes about as much sense as combining the Declaration of Independence with Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.”

Luckily, I started a new story and it makes a LOT more sense.  Enjoy!  Don’t forget, the challenge is revealed at the end.

__________

I placed one last X on the calendar the day Ben returned home from Tokyo. George tried to convince me to give him a night to rest and recover from his jet lag, but it would have been silly not to celebrate. I baked pies in the morning and decorated the house with streamers and balloons, and I fidgeted restlessly on the sofa all afternoon. For two years, the only thing I’d looked forward to was Ben’s homecoming.

Ben was my only child, and I never told him about my depression. I’m sure he knew, as often as he found me on the couch eating ice cream from a gallon tub while curled up in the fetal position. It only grew worse when he moved to Japan for an advertising internship. I had been falling for a long time, and losing Ben meant I had lost my parachute.

At the airport, I sat on my hands to tame my edginess. George rubbed my thigh while I became immersed in the hollow growl of rolling luggage and the muffled echo of a voice on the intercom. The first glimpse of Ben’s face offered me instant protection. My son had returned, and with him came relief and harmony.

Ben’s hug erased my anxiety, like a silent lullaby. It wasn’t until we separated that I noticed the woman behind him, lingering.

“Mom, dad,” Ben said, “I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Alyssa.”

I’d been high on my own bliss and Ben’s announcement was sobering. My son and I were being robbed of our time together! Alyssa smiled and shook our hands, her soft touch emanating practiced innocence.

I was silent as we rode home in George’s new Cadillac. His cars gave him his happiness. Ben had given me mine, a happiness that was now infected.

In the evening, I sat on the back porch and burned through a pack of cigarettes. The sky was dark by six o’clock, giving me another reason to detest this awful first day of December. Eventually Ben joined me, offering me a handful of blueberries. He would never forget they were my favorite.

Ben said, “You’re not thrilled about Alyssa, I imagine?”

He pulled up a chair beside me as I said, “I’m terrified.”

“That you’ll be forgotten?”

I nodded as I stared out at the horizon. Ben reached out and massaged my shoulder, offering a secret assurance. Alyssa appeared in the doorway—a distraction.

“Mrs. Tolman?” she asked warily. “I was wondering if you would allow me to read some of your poetry. Ben says you’re very talented.”

I’d written poetry for years and Ben was the only person to ever show any interest. I told Alyssa, “Well, sure, I suppose I could show you some of my collections.”

Ben smiled at me as Alyssa and I retreated inside, leaving him alone on the patio. He knew as well as I did that my life was a constant process of acceptance.

__________

The challenge for this story was:  Every sentence ends with a unique three-syllable word.

Extreme Writing Challenge #41: “Invasion”

The story I wrote for today’s post involves bugs.  Lots of them.  I’m not a big fan of bugs, but I can tolerate them.  The exception is spiders.  Just an image of a spider will give me an anxiety attack.

I’m not sure where the inspiration for today’s story came from.  Maybe Spring is to blame, what with its delivery of an influx of bugs ranging from crumb-sized to walnut-sized.  Or possibly it is this video I stumbled upon that shows some of the 50,000 spiders “raining” down on Brazil.  (Also known as “hell.”)

“WTF” doesn’t quite cut it here.  (Source: http://www.iflscience.com)

Disclaimer:  I didn’t watch the whole video.  At 20 seconds I was covering my eyes, shrieking, and trying not to vomit.

So…I wrote a story about bugs.  Blech.

__________

Mallory used an old hairbrush as a broom to sweep up the dead beetles on the floor. The real broom stood out on the front stoop, its aged bristles full of black and brown carcasses that wouldn’t shake out. Mallory glanced at the clock every ten minutes. Samuel would be home for lunch at noon. He would know what to do.

Mallory avoided the living room as she tidied up the remainder of the house. Once every surface had been dusted and every speck of lint lifted off the hardwood, she settled in with a book at the kitchen table. There would be no lounging on the sofa today.

It was hard for Mallory to get comfortable, dressed in tight-fitted clothing and Samuel’s clunky hunting boots. The first time she was tickled by a beetle that was crawling up her back under her shirt, she tore right through the wool. She leaned against the wall, panting, in only her bra.

She’d researched ways to bug-proof a house. Samuel installed screens on all of the doors and the windows. They covered the vents with mesh, removed the shrubs that bordered the old home. The beetles continued to flood the living room. A crunchy carpet on the oak floor. Mallory couldn’t look at them at first. Samuel scooped them into a bucket and drove them down the road, where he dumped them in a field. Soon they reappeared, but with reinforcements.

Mallory thought about calling the school and asking Samuel to come home early. The crinkling sound of the beetles scuttling across the floor caused her nerves to come loose. She took half of a Xanax still left over from a past life. It was a darker life, and they’d moved here to escape it. Some good that did.

Mallory wondered what kept bringing the beetles back. She couldn’t be cooped up here with them, day in and day out. Yet again, she would have to choose between reality and sanity.

Her hands shook as she picked up the phone. Mallory carried it into the living room and began counting the beetles. If there were more than 20, she would call Samuel. There were 31.

Ms. Boone, the secretary, answered the phone. Mallory asked for Samuel. “Tell him it’s an emergency,” she said.

“Hi, love,” Samuel cooed. “What’s the matter? Everything okay?”

“They’re back,” Mallory sobbed. “It’s like they never left. I can’t take it anymore!”

Mallory heaved onto the floor, hardly hearing what her husband had to say. By now the beetles had doubled. Sweating, she leaned against the cool wall and wondered, was it really just the bugs she couldn’t take anymore?

__________

If only Mallory knew, it could be worse.  She could live in Brazil.

Today’s challenge was:  A story less than 500 words in length contains at least 20 unique words with a double O.

Extreme Writing Challenge #29: “Cheyenne”

Before I say anything more in this post, let’s get this important detail out of the way:

Right?  RIGHT?!

Now, who’s ready for a story?  I’m curious to see if anyone catches on to the challenge.  See you at the end, where I’ll reveal what it is!

__________

I didn’t know what to expect when I met my brother at the airport.  Whatever had happened while he was away, it was clear from our phone conversations that he’d been brainwashed.   From what I could tell, everything that was once important to him—horseback riding, football, volunteering at the animal shelter—had become as meaningless as rollerblades to a paraplegic.

I hardly recognized the man who sauntered toward me wearing designer sunglasses, a crisp necktie, and shoes as black and shiny as obsidian.

“Little sis,” he said, setting down his suitcase so he could scoop me up in a hug.

“Come on,” I said.  “Mom made a big dinner for you.  We’re having Oreo milkshakes for dessert.”

On the way home, my brother said, “I have to tell you something.”  I wished he would have waited until we were off the highway.

“Okay,” I said.  “Let’s hear it.”

“When I was in New York, I didn’t really go to a retreat for aspiring screenwriters.”

I nodded and pretended to be concerned with something in the rearview mirror.  Really, I wondered if my heartbeat could possibly get any faster.  We all knew he hadn’t been forthcoming about his trip, but I hadn’t guessed that he would tell the truth to me.

“Okay,” I said, trying to keep the butterflies in my stomach from flying out of my mouth.  “So what did you do?”

“You can’t tell anyone,” he said.

“Okay,” I said.

“Not even mom and dad.”

“Okay.”

“I mean, I’ll tell them.  Just…in my own time.”

My brother takes a deep breath.  He tells me he’d reconnected with an ex-girlfriend.  Found her online.  Cheyenne.  She’s a newscaster in New York.

“Oh, so you went to New York to rekindle your romance?” I asked.

No, no, he told me.  They didn’t feel that way about each other anymore.  But the more they talked, the more they realized how much they had in common.

By now we were only a mile from home.  I would have no time to recover from his secret before we pulled up to mom and dad waiting on the doorstep.

There is a pause, and then he says, “She wanted to have a baby.”

“So?” I asked.

“More than anything,” he said.  “She wanted to have a baby.”  Another pause.  “And you know, I’m not getting any younger.”

I nearly swerve the car off the pavement.

“I was there to interview for a job.”

I did not foresee this.

“And I got it,” he said.  “It’s in finance, and the pay is phenomenal.”

The thought of Oreo milkshakes makes me want to vomit.

“And in nine months, I’m going to be a dad.”

__________

The challenge was:  I used at least 25 unique compound words in a story less than 500 words in length.

Extreme Writing Challenge #28: “Empty”

Happy SATURDAY!  Here’s a new story for everyone who, like me, is putting off cleaning and running errands.  It’s so hard to be responsible when I’ve got a novel to write and a new set of Candy Crush levels to conquer…….   The challenge for this story will be revealed at the end!

__________

I’ve forgotten how it feels to be hungry.  Or thirsty.  It’s funny how much I’ve changed after being dead for only a day.  I’m light as a feather, what with no bones or muscle to weigh down my body.

I can’t tell if I’m in heaven or hell, leading me to believe I’m in purgatory.  When I came to, I was lying on my back on a bed of dry grass under a slate-colored sky.  No one else is around that I can see; this place is desolate, empty.  Not that I mind it, since it’s a nice change from all the morons I dealt with every day.

My last memory is of sitting on Uncle Jed’s porch, tossing pumpkin seeds at a wild turkey.  Uncle Jed was telling me about the first time he played the harmonica, but I was only half listening to his story.  I wonder now if, when I died, there was some sort of karma at play.  It wasn’t that I was a bad person, but I never went out of my way to do anything good for anybody.  For Uncle Jed, especially.

I walk for—six, seven miles or so—and plan to sit down again when my feet start to hurt, but I forgot that my ability to feel has gone away.  The terrain doesn’t change one bit along the way.  Still a cloudless, bleak sky, still grass that’s yellow-brown and bone dry.

I wonder if this is my final resting place—if moving on to heaven or hell is even a real possibility.  Solitude for eternity.  It would be a blessing and a curse, truthfully.

I’ve never been one to feel lonely.  People make me batty.  Worst case scenario, if I never leave this barren new world, I think I’ll be okay.

The wounds from my death have faded away.  I was only aware Uncle Jed stabbing me a few times, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he kept going past twenty or thirty.

At least here, I’m safe from the hands of the crazy.

__________

The challenge:  Every sentence ends with the letter Y.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!