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 #35: “Kristina”

Source: funcatpictures.com

Let me set the scene right now:  troops of raindrops marching across the roof, homemade pizza in the oven, and an “it’s-almost-Friday” electricity in the air.  It’s also worth mentioning that my pizza is topped with some of the bacon cheddar cheese I recently purchased at the Trader Joe’s that just opened up in my city.  Top this off with the fact that a new episode of The Big Bang Theory is on tonight, and you have one crazy happy woman right here.  (Minus the big, fat spider my cats just found.  Nothing happy about that.)

Okay, let’s dive into this story business.  You’ll find the challenge at the end of the post!


Kristina was pretty, but not the kind of pretty like on the covers of the magazines she got when she went into town.  The warm, fetid smell of cow dung clung to her skin like a parasite, and her nose was always just a shade lighter than the fresh-picked red apples her mom served for dessert.  Yet it surprised no one when I admitted I’d fallen hard for her.

I met Kristina purely by accident, but not the kind of accident like the both of us grabbing the same eggplant at the grocery store and my walking away with her phone number.  It was May and I was on my way to talk to Barry Bowers, who was selling a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette.  On a sprawl of farmland that grew a meter for every inch I advanced into it, none of the dwellings was marked with an address.  Barry had told me he was two miles past the Blacksmith Ranch.  By now I was sure I’d gone two miles or more, so I pulled over at a split-level with a tattered American flag softly swaying on a short pole next to the front window.

In the front yard, Kristina was hunched over a muscular black lab, clutching his collar in one hand and a garden hose in the other.  The dog began to whine as I drew closer.  Kristina tossed the hose into the grass and rose halfway, still holding the dog back.  Her bangs were matted to her face and a smudge of dirt sat on the very center of her chin.  She was plump, but not the kind of plump that suggests she didn’t care for herself.

“Howdy,” I called.  “Is this where I can find Barry Bowers?”

“Stay,” she told the dog.  Drawing closer, she dabbed her palms with her shirt.  “He’s still, oh, half a mile down that way.”  She waved her hand to the north.  For the first time since I’d exited my car, Kristina glanced at my face rather than some abstract spot below my neck.  The enlargement of her eyes told me she knew exactly who I was.  She didn’t say that she did, but she knew.

Behind me, a bird whistled a disarranged song.  I willed my eyes to part from hers, but they resisted.  Her small eyes–no mascara and no eye shadow—were just chocolate gems as pure as a newborn’s.  It was love at first sight, but not the kind of love that hits so hard and so fast it crashes and burns.

“I…have to go,” I muttered, somehow knowing this wasn’t the last involvement I’d have with her.

We eloped in Vegas ten months later. Kristina was stunning, baring her slightly yellowed smile and her clusters of freckles. I sent the photos to a celebrity columnist for The Los Angeles Times.  They all expected my wife to be thin.  Tan.  Blonde.  Dazzling.  Kristina was nothing like that, and that’s why I loved her.

We lived happily ever after, but not the kind of happily ever after I have to describe.  All that matters is that it happened, and it happened with Kristina.


The challenge for this story was:  There are no words containing two or more consecutive vowels.

Hope everyone has a great Friday and an even greater weekend!

Extreme Writing Challenge #19: Up All Night

If you noticed my slightly-longer-than-usual absence, a recent business trip is to blame.  However, during my trip I made an impromptu visit to Hollywood (my first time), and I have never had such prime seating for people-watching.  Holy inspiration, Batman!

Anywhooo……here is a new story.  This challenge might be easy for some of you to identify.  Happy reading, and I’ll reveal the challenge at the end!


Drained of motivation after a rough night, Edith tried to smooth the flyaway hairs of her frizzy mane.  The old Russian stylist who lived down the hall would tell Edith it was time for a new look.  Though Edith never gave it serious thought, she always promised that nosy Elena she’d consider some highlights.

Even with an early start, Edith arrived late to brunch.  Her mother, father, and sister were seated at a table against the wall and, as if they knew she had been up crying half the night, they had already ordered coffee for Edith.  Her mother pulled out the empty chair so Edith could sit, and her big, baby-like eyes were so full of zeal that Edith dreaded delivering the news.

As Edith removed her coat, her sister said, “Well don’t take all day, Edith, give us the good news!”

Edith swallowed a hard lump of shame as she realized this wouldn’t be as easy as she had hoped.  They stared at her together, their expectant expressions identical, and Edith’s confidence began to fall apart.  She said, “We were wrong; right after I arrived, he broke up with me.”

None of them spoke, but they all began to stir their coffee as if extra creamer had magically materialized inside of their cups.  Edith carried on and browsed the menu, hoping to ward off an awkward interrogation.

At last, her father set down his spoon and stared at Edith until she looked up and locked eyes with him.  “I know you loved him,” he told his daughter, “but I don’t have to hide it any longer:  I hated that man.”

Edith and her father were close, but they’d always kept the topic of love distant from their conversations.  When the subject did sneak its way in during their discussions, they tossed them right back out.

“I was the first to say it wouldn’t last,” he continued.

Edith thought it best not to tell him that she had actually been the first to say it—after all, the end of her relationship wasn’t the worst thing her father was going to hear that morning.


Didja get it?  Didja?  If you didn’t (or if you did and you just want to confirm your awesomeness), the challenge was:  Every sentence contains a pair of opposites.  For example:  rough/smooth, close/distant, best/worst.  For some extra fun, read it again and see if you can pick out all the pairs.  😀