Creative Copy Challenge #109

Today we have Aaron Pogue, owner of the writing advice site Unstressed Syllables, and author of the science-fiction thriller Gods Tomorrow (Aaron’s aff. link), choosing the words for our writing prompt challenge. Rise to his challenge. Aaron will give away a signed copy of his book to his favorite submission(Submit before Monday. He’ll choose then). I’ll help him get in contact with the winner so he can get your mailing address.

BET YOU CAN’T do this writing prompt. Take the 10 random words below and, in the comments, crush writer’s block by creating a cohesive, creative short story tying all of them together! And remember: after (if) you finish, highlight your words and click the bold button to make them stand out and help you determine if you forgot any words. (If you’ve missed previous writing prompts, we BET YOU CAN’T do those, either.)

  1. Canticles – A song or chant, especially a nonmetrical hymn with words taken from a biblical text other than from the Book of Psalms.
  2. Amnesty 
  3. Keystone – The central wedge-shaped stone of an arch that locks its parts together.
  4. Insipid – Lacking qualities that excite, stimulate, or interest; dull.
  5. Bereft  – Lacking something needed or expected
  6. Uke – short for Ukelele. Use either.
  7. Obstreperous – Noisily and stubbornly defiant.
  8. Languish – To be or become weak or feeble; lose strength or vigor.
  9. Zephyr – Any of various soft light fabrics, yarns, or garments.; A gentle breeze.; Something that is airy, insubstantial, or passing.
  10. Huguenot – A French Protestant of the 16th and 17th centuries.

NOTE: Don’t copy and paste from MS Word. Use a program like notepad that removes formatting or just type in the comment field itself. Also, finish your submission, THEN bold the words. Thanks. (And don’t forget to tweet this and share it with your friends.)

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Resources you should check out:
Thesis: Best Damn Theme on the Web
Collective Ink Well: Personalize Your Thesis Theme
Third Tribe Marketing: Marketing done the right way
Story Structure Demystified: Best damn writing book out there

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129 Comments on “Creative Copy Challenge #109”

  1. Shane Arthur says:

    “Hey Billy! You know Mary?”

    “Which one, Bob, the famous Huguenot?”

    “No, her great, great, great, great, great, great, great granddaughter on Keystone Avenue.”

    “Oh, the one the governor gave amnesty to for killing her husband while singing Canticles and playing a uke?”

    “Yeah.”

    “The Zephyr-wearing, languished, insipid broad with the obstreperous Bull Terrier that’s bereft of potty training and shits all over her house?”

    “Yeah.”

    “Nah, never heard of her.”

  2. Aaron Pogue says:

    We built robots to fight our wars for us. Not the silly man-shaped things you might have seen in movies, but warplanes bereft of human pilots, tanks grinding over the earth with nothing but a circuit board at the helm, skittering footsoldiers in nameless swarms with never a thought of rest, of rebellion, of amnesty….
     
    We built robots to fight our wars for us, and then our enemies built robots to fight theirs, until the glorious battlefields of old languished. The drums of war were replaced by the obstreperous canticles of soulless Things living out their purposes, whining mechanical whirs as they smashed each other into parts over the insipid demands of distant, uncaring gods.
     
    The robots grew better, smarter, cheaper, until everyone in the world owned the same technology. They fought their way to an impasse, but we were not done with war. There was still too much to be gained from effective violence.
     
    We trained up men to fight the robots. Not soldiers, but controllers, fighting not with their bodies, but with warmarchines. Zephyr was the first one recruited. I still remember the night he disappeared from the IRC channel, the Tuesday afternoon when I learned he’d been arrested on some trumped-up charge, and then the long silence.
     
    Months went by without a word, and then suddenly Uke was gone, too, and a week later they got the Huguenot. I never even got to meet him. He must have died in the training program, because by the time they brought me in, he was gone. No one ever spoke of him.
     
    The rest of us, though, they turned into killers. We’d been a guild, a clan, a bunch of strangers united for three hours every weeknight to play some silly game, but we had the skills they needed.
     
    The Keystone Project made heroes out of hackers, and changed the world forever. Welcome to the fight.

  3. Anne Wayman says:

    I suppose I’m more Huguenot than not. I won’t sway with any political zephyr; I refuse to languish, and am often called obstreperous as I play my out-of-tune uke. Sigh! I’m bereft by insipid responses, longing for a keystone of truth, willing to grant amnesty to some as I chant two canticles of my own design – accompanied, of course, by that tiny guitar.
    😉

  4. MRMaguire says:

     
    The bereft young boy knelt by the side of the road, behind an old wooden cart. His grief washed over him as he thought of his older brother’s dream of amnesty. He was a Huguenot, and at the moment had escaped the soldiers’ wrath. They had plundered their French village of Mérindol and his brother had been shot by a firing squad. Most of his family were hiding and Jacques was scouting for food.

    Jacques remembered the canticles the minister had taught him. He softly sang them as he felt a warm zephyr gently caressing his cheek. His hope refused to languish, but instead had grown stronger over the past week. He was obstreperous, challenging all who would seek to thwart him. He had escaped the insipid maid who almost caught him stealing the red apples from the basket near the door. He was fast and darted away before she saw his face.

    Along with the apples, he had taken a small stringed instrument. It was a uke, made of deep, rich, mahogany with mother-of-pearl designs inlaid upon the neck. The boy decided it would bring a smile to his parents faces with its ebullient sound. He knew they would not like the fact he had stolen such an object. He would tell them he found it lying on the side of the road. He quickly placed the uke inside the small basket filled with apples and assiduously snuck back to the old stone house. As he spied the speckled keystone in the arch, he thought of singing in the open fields, with the summer sun shining upon him, and smiled.
     

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @MRMaguire: Can’t see A THING wrong with this submission. Your best yet, IMO.

    • Aaron Pogue says:

      I like it, Maguire. That’s a lot of story in a very small space. I’m impressed.

      • MRMaguire says:

        Thank you, both! That word, “obstreperous,” was the toughest word to include! Plus the fact that it was such a “$10 word” that I had to add a few more just so it wouldn’t look so odd. I usually use simpler words in my writing but yet there are grander words to use, eh? These exercises are fun. Thanks, Aaron, for a truly challenging one! 🙂

        • Aaron Pogue says:

          That was the very first word I thought of when Shane contacted me to pick the words today.
           
          Apparently some famous (really old) translation of The Odyssey used it instead of “noisy” because it’s Iambic, and then Walter Scott apparently got it stuck in his head, because it shows up again and again and again in Ivanhoe (which is where I know it from).
           
          I’m absolutely thrilled to be inflicting it on everyone else today, and having fun seeing all the ways it comes alive.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @MRMaguire-really beautiful, paints a beautiful story.

    • I’m impressed with this one. You evoked the time period and infused it with vivid color.
      (It’s amazing how grey Wikipedia makes things seem – LOL)
       
      Very, very good!
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

  5. MRMaguire says:

    Well, shoot darn. What happened to my paragraph breaks?

  6. Joe Passmore says:


    The Canticles of Joabab, an apocryphal and oft-overlooked biblical source, recount a curious tale. Imprisoned for obstreperous behaviour by an insipid Roman Governor, Joabab was sentenced to languish in the Sanaa county gaol. Left there to languish, bereft and alone, he learned to play the ukelele for the other prisoners. Amnesty International had just raised his case with the irrelevant authorities, when an almighty wind came and blew the gaolhouse asunder, lifting the keystone from the doorway, landing it and Joabab in the market square. From there he made his way to Nashville and joined a band of troubadours called Uke ’em All. The Canticles of Joabab were subsequently discovered and championed by Henry the Huguenot, a nineteenth century explorer who longed for the leeks and onions of Languedoc. Sadly his diet resulted in its own wind of Zephyr-like proportions and he too was ostracised for obstreperous behaviour. Sometimes. . . even canticles can tickle us.

  7. margaret says:

    The keystone of my argument is that I believe I should not go to jail for
    assault and battery and being generally obstreperous in a public place.
    I have no wish to languish in some room with bars that is bereft of all
    modern conveniences and I get a constant zephyr of the unwashed, flatulent
    prisoner next door. Having to smell that all day would just make me Puke.

    I attacked that neanderthal in the bar because he was no better than a Huguenot,
    had an insipid personality and made an indecent proposal. What choice did
    I have but to kick him in the canticles?  I demand amnesty for myself and
    all women to have to suffer idiots!

  8. Thanks Aaron, G.
     
    The insipid prison guard leaves me to languish in the vile “solitary confinement hole” on Devil’s Island for god knows how long. You may recall the French penitentiary on the island off the coast of French Guiana if you saw the movie Papillon made famous by Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in the 70’s.

    Well, I woke up in this stench-filled dungeon two days after refusing to go through the body scanner or submit to the pat-down at the airport without letting go of my beloved uke.

    “This instrument was valued at $51,000 on Antiques Roadshow,” I snapped to the hulking TSA agent who tried to pry it out of my hands. “I will not give it up.” The agent flashed an evil grin and yelled, “Obstreperous bitch.” Within seconds, three agents grabbed the uke and threw a zephyr tablecloth over me. While I couldn’t see anything, I definitely felt one of them stab me in the thigh with a needle.

    Darkness overwhelmed me.

    I came to in the back of a 1940’s sedan just as it was passing under a decaying arch. It’s keystone stood out because it had the words “Devil’s Island” etched on it.

    Alone in this rat-infested hole bereft of light, I tried not to think of my uke’s fate. Instead I kept myself sane by singing several Huguenot canticles I learned while a member of the Methodist church choir.

    Where the hell was Amnesty International when you needed them?
     

  9. Cathy Miller says:

    Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free.

    Father Michaels silently began the Morning Prayer, just as the Church had for centuries.  Known as Zachariah’s, it was one of Father Michaels favorite canticles.

    Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us.

    That’s what he felt. Saved. Amnesty from a life that surely would have been cut short, if not for a priest who cared. He missed Father Sherwood, the keystone to his faith and all he held dear.

    Before Father Sherwood, life had been far from insipid – gangs, a mother on crack and a father who was nothing more than a sperm donor was the only world he knew, a world bereft of hope. There was nothing special about him. He had been like all the other punk kids looking for an easy mark. He smiled at the memory of that day.

    Jay Michaels’ eyes followed the meandering route of the thin, lanky old man. Talk about an easy mark. Jay’s stomach growled in gastronomical anticipation as reward for relieving a pathetic bastard of his wallet.

    Softly treading on the worn soles of his hopeless life, Jay lowered his shoulder into the rail-thin back. Thrown like an attacking uke, Jay’s yelp of surprise gave way to a painful cry of body meeting pavement.

    “Yo, Michaels, should we call your Momma to drop-kick the old man for you?”

    Taunting laughter exploded from the three gang members as Jay jumped up in an obstreperous burst of anger.

    “I’ll kick your ass, old man.”

    “There’s not much of one to kick, but give it your best shot.”

    Surprise fought with waves of embarrassment at the confident tone of this shell of a man. Refusing to languish in a straitjacket of shock, Jay released a switchblade with a snapping slap.

    “Why are you so angry, son?”

    “I am not your son, M-F.”

    “Hoo-hoo, Michaels. You gonna carve up that bag of bones?”

    A siren’s wail drowned the sound of Jay’s labored breathing. The gang members drifted into the shadows of an alley in a zephyr illusion of innocence.

    “Are you hungry, son?”

    Jay blinked in disbelief. What was with this guy? Senile. Yeah, that must be it.

    “My name’s Father Huguenot Sherwood. My friends call me Father Hugh. Let’s go get some lunch.”

    A priest? Great. Just what he needed in his life.

    Jay didn’t know how right he was.

  10. Here is my entry today, went a little medieval.

    Seeking amnesty from the harsh weather, you enter the tavern only to be assaulted by the obstreperous strumming of chords on a Uke by some forgotten bard rehearsing canticles of some ancient Huguenot.  The tavern itself dull and dirty with one central bar the keystone drawing attention as patrons order more watered down ale or wine.
    An insipid bunch of village folk you think before giving in to the languish orders by a body wrought with hunger and fatigue.  A waitress too plain to draw more than a casual glance asks for your order with a demeanor bereft of care or concern.  You order a hearty plate of stew and some mead to wash it down as you watch pipe smoke rising from various locations, each riding a zephyr to some unknown destination.
    It was going to be a long evening, and you couldn’t help but feel that this simple place with simple people was exactly what your worn out body craved after being on the road for so long.

  11. Nicola says:

    She jogged down the street, a zephyr caressing her cheeks while her favorite canticles blasted through her Ipod. She was a little strange – just a tad bit eccentric, but it was the kind of eccentricity that you know will be less than endearing in her later years. She will likely become osbstreperous to all around her, maybe taking up the ukelel or an obsession with the Huguenots. Or, hoarding strange objects, like that woman from Pennsylvania (the Keystone state) who stole library books from people in coffee shops and then turned them all back in on Amnesty day so she wouldn’t have to pay the fines (or risk be arrested).

    Sometimes, the fact that she wasn’t just a regular, normal person made her feel bereft. But, she thought to herself as her strenght languished and she slowed to a walk, better to be interesting than insipid!

  12. Nicola says:

    Thanks, Shane. I’m very new to writing , so it will be interesting to see how doing these stretches my work!

  13. Amnesty will not be granted. The Huguenot hangs on the fortnight next!”

    This insipid proclamation was bereft of any authenticity whatsoever.  Dash that obstreperous Professor Pogue for this impossible creative writing assignment. It was seriously cutting into the time I needed to catch up on my other class work. However, I wouldn’t give up until I had a believable verdict to replace this simulacrum of “The Revocation of Louis” in action. Feeling a bit persecuted myself,  I supplicated the Thesaurus for mercy.

    Eerily, the tome’s pages fluttered, turning as if tickled by a zephyr borne on the winged steed of the late afternoon sun.

    “Non-secular: godly, holy, religious, spiritual ”

    Thus inspired, and not being one to look a divine gift horse in the mouth, I grabbed my KJV Bible. Thinking idly, “So many kings, so little time,” I opened to a random page:

    Book of Isaiah
    Chapter 24
    1 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.
    2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.
    3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.
    4 The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.
    5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.
    6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

    A synaptic light bulb exploded.

    Manifesting the serendipity of  Scripture, I grasped the keystone fourth verse and tied it to both of my assignments. In a burst of creative energy, I crafted the perfect condemnation of the captured Protestant and parlayed chapter 24 of Isaiah into the two required canticles that were to be accompanied by marimba and ukelele for my advanced songwriting class.

  14. [Note: see my comment at http://www.creativecopychallenge.com/creative-copy-challenge-107/#comment-11111 for the winners; I changed the deal like a Vegas hustler!]

    The minister wore somber robes of gray and chrome, with the traditional Holy Oilstains prominent on the front. Acolytes rolled over from the vestibule bearing the Robot Bible on a tray. “Today’s sermon begins with a reading from The Canticles of Cantilevers, verse 9.1.4.7.2:”

        “Shall we grant amnesty to the cracked keystone? Never shall we!
        Bereft of function, obstreperous in failure, insipid in form, it languishes on the ground. 
         Without it, the shelter is a zephyr, and all who dwell within shall rust.”

    “Amen,” said the congregation.

    These services always made me uncomfortable, like a Huguenot at a Grand Mass. It didn’t help that I was the only human in the place; I stood out like a sore thumb in a pile of bolts. But I had a job to do, so I waited patiently.

    The acolytes rolled away, and the minister looked at me. “Turn to Hymn number 411.6 version 19, ‘Desperate Is The Iron In Water’. We are 72.4% delighted to have Mr. Lowe with us today to accompany us on the Ukelele.”

    If you thought the scripture was bad, you should hear this congregation sing!

  15. Shane Arthur says:

    programming note: Going off grid until tomorrow. Anybody stuck in Moderation…I’ll get to you. The rest of you be good.

  16. Liz says:

    Finally had some time to myself to sit down and write again! Here’s mine:
     

    Walking downtown had become a chore. He almost dreaded it. Between the guy with the beard on the corner of 2nd and Wilson with the ukelele and the guys on 4th and Pine singing obscure canticles not heard since the Huguenots were doing their thing in France – walking downtown was like dodging bullets. Bullets that wanted your money.
     
    By the time he reached his diner on 5th and Miller, he was short four dollars and cursing every penny.
     
    He threw himself into his usual booth and waited for one of the waitresses to come over. He knew them all and liked chatting with them. He didn’t mind giving them his money because they were pleasant and poured him coffee.
     
    “What can I get you?”
     
    He looked up.
     
    She was young and bored. Her hair was an insipid shade of black, hanging limp from too many dye jobs. She was looking at the floor or the wall behind him instead of at him. He was immediately disappointed.
     
    “Eggs over with bacon, white toast, and coffee, please.”
     
    “OK.”
     
    She turned slowly on a heel and walked away.
     
    Five long minutes later she finally brought him his coffee after playing with her cell phone behind the counter for four and a half minutes. He languished in his booth, wondered if he would have to find a new diner, wondered if he would have to walk past more people on corners obstreperously shouting or singing or demanding something of him.
     
    All he wanted was eggs and quiet.
     
    When his food arrived, it was cold. She didn’t offer him more coffee. As he was about to ask for some, she was already sulking behind the counter checking her phone. He felt a little like crying. This was a nice place, it was a place he could go to eat some eggs peacefully. Now it felt bereft of the warmth and comfort he had become accustomed to.
     
    He fiddled with his fork and wondered where Sharon was. Sharon was the keystone of the place – she showed the new girls the ropes, she was always smiling, she always kept his coffee warm, she always asked him how he was doing. He could feel himself sulking like the jaded waitress behind the counter. He didn’t know why she was sulking. He wasn’t ruining her breakfast.
     
    He sighed and shifted in his seat until she brought him his check. The ceiling fan above him created a gentle zephyr, pulling at the corners of the bill.
     
    He fretted. This diner was his place of amnesty, where he was safe from the demands of the world. No one asked anything of him here, no one wheedled him for money, they asked him how he was doing and poured him coffee. This girl hadn’t even asked him how his cold eggs were. He worried again about having to find a new diner.
     
    “One more time,” he whispered as he opened his wallet.
     
    He left an extra three dollars on top of his six dollar bill and made his way back through the masses.

  17. Shane Arthur says:

    PROGRAMMING NOTE: I wanted to give the CCC faithful a sneak peek at the new site Sean Platt and I are starting. The site doesn’t have a design yet and I’m still populating the site with content behind the scenes, but I created one page that I just can’t wait to get feedback on. I’d like for you guys to check it out and let me know how helpful you think this stuff will be to writers wishing to improve their writing.
    The page isn’t even indexed for google searches yet, so nobody knows it’s there, and I’d like to keep it semi-quiet until we’re ready. (no tweets 😉 )
    You can leave a comment there or here if you’d like. Enjoy. I put a ton of work into just this one page. I believe there’s NOTHING like it on the net, nothing free at least.
    http://editinghacks.com/blog/copy-editing-tutorial-1/
     

    • Shane and Sean, as someone who has done both proof-reading and web design critique, I find your site at once familiar and exciting. I’m not a professional in either department: in the words of Dave Navarro, I was a 5 to someone else’s 3.
       
      Yet, I immediately felt the sense of interactivity (even if once-removed at this point, as I don’t know how “real-time” it will be.) I felt also, the sense that I shared many of the same editorial values as the tutor in example #1.
       
      This site looks like a potential goldmine for bloggers receiving the critique. It’s definitely a silvermine for any writer who will take the time to read the notes at the end of each tutorial.
       
      Two Thumbs Up and ya know what? Any actual design should probably be uber-minimalist and have the exact same visual effect on your visitors’ attention as does lorem ipsum on theme galleries.
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

      • Shane Arthur says:

        @Mitchell: Thanks for those kind words. I agree about the uber-minimalist thing. The design must be clean and simple. It is afterall about the words. As a former computer instructor, and a person who loves to teach in general, this is such a positive outlet for me. I get to do two things I love and combine them in one setting. And for those visual leaners out there, we plan to do videos where we go over the notes.

        • I need to get some stock – you are totally going to be bought by Google 🙂
          The instructional videos will be a really cool addition!
           
          Cheers,
           
          Mitch
           

          • Shane Arthur says:

            (((@aaron – sorry to jump into your post with this topic, but I didn’t want to put up another post and knock yours off the front and I couldn’t wait to share)))… @Mitchell: The videos are beasts to create. I did some for Teaching Sells, Tutetorial.com (http://www.tubetorial.com/learn-html/ – man, was I green on screencasting back them), and this one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wot0kkN05us . They take a ton of effort, but they’re worth it.

          • Aaron Pogue says:

            No problem at all, Shane. I was feeling a little proud that mine was the one that got this announcement!
             
            I’m really excited about the site. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing something similar from time to time, just for my creative writing students, and I always gave up on the idea because it sounded like way too much work!
             
            I admire you guys for doing it. And, yeah, I agree with Mitch. That’s going to be a goldmine for any authors smart enough to read it.

          • Shane Arthur says:

            @Aaron: Thanks. Yeah, it’s a ton of work. Doing all the color coding took a lot of time, and what surprised me most is how hard it was for me to quantify and label what I do on-the-fly and by second nature. It’s one thing to have the chops to edit; it’s quite another thing to teach what in the bleep’ you’re doing. I had to ask myself on numerous occasions, “Why did you do this edit again?” Then, I’d say, “Oh, yeah, I remember the rule/suggestion/guideline I was referencing. Whole thing took me about 4 days of on and off work to complete.

          • @Shane, I am seriously impressed. First the WordPress Installation video was excellent. My son does all the local Apache development – I just use it from time to time without knowing what’s going on 🙂
             
            Second, did you work with Brian Clark??? I was a trial member a few years back and I left because I wasn’t up to the task of such a tech-oriented method of teaching – I did learn a ton of useful things, though!
             
            Finally, you mentioned to Aaron the difficulty of quantifying and labeling your transfer of knowledge. This raised two points in my mind:
            1. Are you automating the redlining with CSS?
            2. Are you using a rules-based engine to parse the article?
            If this discussion should go under the actual site, let me know. This is huge.
             
            Cheers,
             
            Mitch
             

          • @Shane @Mitch – I can’t see any CSS here (there).

            But automation is highly recommended [snicker]

          • @Steven “Expert” dedication to detail is its own kind of automation, though I cringe at the possibility of burnout. The benefit, though is not sounding like the MS Word “Grammar and Usage Checker”
            re: no CSS! I need to check that source file 🙂
            Cheers,
             
            Mitch
             

          • Shane Arthur says:

            @Mitchell: Thanks. I made that video because I spent so much time frustrated trying to do it manually I just gave up for a long time. I knew I wasn’t the only one. Judging by the 18k plus views, I was right.

            Yeah, Brian Clark and Chris Pearson started Tubetorial. I told them I wanted in since I was a computer instructor and taught html. I created those html videos. About 6 months later I guess, the site was bought by another company. Fun ride. Then Brian Clark and Tony Clark started Teaching Sells and I knew Tony through commenting on his site. Toni saw several of my comments regarding teaching methods and before I knew it, I was creating videos for Teaching Sells. I burned out, though, and had to walk away. Not a day goes by where I don’t regret that decision.

            I’m doing the color coding inside the post window. It’s not too bad, I just have a ton of distractions at home, back pain being one of them, that slows me down. I get a bit done here, a bit done there. The quantifying and such won’t be a problem after one or two of these. My teacher hat was a bit rusty is all. I don’t have a rules based engine to parse the articles, but I do have one super-cool macro with 384 and counting flabby words and phrases that get highlighted with one click. Saves me a ton of brain work knowing I won’t miss these stupid mistakes on the first round.

    • Awesomeness – in a cup! [Clearly I’ve watched “Wall-E” far too many times]

  18. As the last Huguenot watched his mother languish, her strength robbed daily by the obstreperous cells that slam-danced and procreated and multiplied like drunken rabbits through her lungs and her brain, he sought a sort of amnesty. He hoped for a glance from her that would say, “All is forgiven, son – all is well.”

    She was the keystone – that which held the church together, bridging old and new, giving hope that their faith and their people would survive in modern times. Without her presence, the canticles were all off tune. The sermons seemed irrelevant, even insipid, and the congregation – once fiercely loyal to their faith and their history – drifted away.

    His pleas had not been enough. His prayers had not been enough. He and she were the last of their kind; with them, their family and faith would die. As his mother’s last exhalation swept over him like a zephyr, his heartstrings broke like a child’s cheap ukelele, and he was bereft.

    • We actually stood outside the last Huguenot church in the U.S., in Charleston, last year. http://www.frenchchurch.org/index.php

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Holly-really outstanding submission-that slam-danced and procreated and multiplied like drunken rabbits through her lungs and her brain – great line!

        • Thanks, Cathy! Honestly, when I first glanced through the words, I thought “This is harder than the list I came up with…this one may actually stump me!” But that only made me dig my heels – and the nib of my fountain pen – in deeper. 😉

          That particular line seemed to me to show the quiet but violent clash between old and young, in addition to being a rather graphic description of the mother’s terminal illness.

           

          • Cathy Miller says:

            @Holly-I know what you mean. I was a bit grumpy when the words started getting tougher in the Challenges, but then found I liked the challenge of them. And you nailed the emotions that come with a terminal illness. So happy you took on the challenge. 🙂

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Holly: Wonderful. Just wonderful. Well done.

    • I liked your entry for its very cohesiveness. Then, when I read your comment about the church in Charleston, I knew why I liked your story.
       
      Authenticity is its own reward 🙂
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

  19. Aaron Pogue says:

    You guys made it a harder challenge to choose a winner than it was to use Holly’s 10 words. Those were some incredible submissions. I kept falling in love with new submissions and tried to keep track of some “runners up,” and realized every single post was in that list.
     
    I’m going to have to choose Steven’s, though, because he did what I wanted to do — created a sci-fi story out of a medieval word pool — and he did it better than me. And with no advance time to think about it.
     
    I’m impressed how natural he made the words sound within his story. Really, the same goes for all of you. Well done!
     
     

  20. Jennifer says:

    I’m late to the party but here goes.
     
    True story.
    My family hails from a long line of Huguenots who left the mother land seeking amnesty from their insipid national catholic ways. France was not bereft at our leaving;they thought us rather an obstreperous lot. In fact they most likely whispered their Hail Marys that we’d languish on the ship taking us to the New Country.
    We sailed off to the sound of canticles, skiffing along on a zephyr from the Atlantic, freedom swelling in our adventurous hearts.
    Ah, Pennsylvania! The Keystone state and our adopted home. We were not greeted with music from ukes, but with hard work and strange ways. Still, we are known in those parts as some of the first settlers.

  21. Avenged in Blood part 51
     
     I opened door number one and jumped back expecting flying lead, but the room was bereft of anything but a toilet. A sigh of relief as I opened door 2 and was met with the hail of bullets I was ready for. Door 3 opened then and another door I hadn’t seen before opened as well.
    Automatic weapons create an obstreperous atmosphere. Thinking has to be sharp and ready during a gunfight, and even though I was beginning to languish from blood loss, I hit the floor, rolling and firing at the same time. Bullets grazed my skin, leaving stinging trails. Lola cried out in pain from somewhere I couldn’t see. I prayed for the amnesty of a reload as I dropped the machine gun and drew my .45.
    I got my chance. 5 reports came from my pistol and 5 men were dead. How I was not one of them is a mystery. I turned my attention immediately to the door at the other end of the hall. It hadn’t opened. I ran to find Lola.
    Find her I did, barely. She had been hit hard in the chest and it looked bad. I grabbed a towel from the bathroom and pressed it to the oozing mess of her chest. I felt for a pulse, it was there but as ethereal as a zephyr. She was not conscious. Rage burned off whatever grief was forming. She was becoming a keystone of my life even if I had only known her a few days. I don’t know if I could ever plug the hole is she dies.
    Someone else needed killing now. I picked up one of the machine guns from the dead goons and a couple of magazines from their pockets. One room left before the basement. I headed that way.
    I let the machine gun knock. Hot lead met flesh somewhere inside and a scream was cut short. No fire was returned so I entered trying to look everywhere at once. Two men lay slumped over an antique huguenot chair. The one with the insipid face still held a now smashed ukulele. For some reason “Deliverance” ran through my head.
    I cleared the rest of the room and headed downstairs. From somewhere a recording of a canticle began playing. Stranger and stranger. I only hoped Lola would pull through, but I didn’t count that as likely. My trigger finger burned for more action, and it was going to get its wish.

  22. Kelly says:

    TWO SIDES TO EVERY SONG, MAYBE…
     
    Bereft of his uke, Bobby laid down in a meadow deep in the Keystone State and tried to create a tune for a couple of canticles from Job that seemed appropriate to the moment. His girl hadn’t just told him off, she’d changed the locks on her door and obstreperously refused him even a quarter-hour’s amnesty to collect his belongings.
     
    He tried to charm her with his insipid little, “Oh, honey, you don’t believe all that talk,” whined through the keyhole, but his plea languished in the unseasonably cold air outside her door and so did he ’til he decided she could keep the ukelele and his collection of Neil Young albums, too. He had a life and he wasn’t going to waste it on regrets, darn it.
     
    Like a Huguenot beginning a pilgrimage, he left the little town where everybody’s nose was always in his business (and the two women who thought he was their business) and drove just as far as his F150 would take him.
     
    15 miles. ‘Til he ran out of gas. Shouldn’t have been so stupid about not wanting to give another red cent to the town gossip at the Gas’N’Go.
     
    Well, the meadow was good enough for tonight, and tomorrow would figure itself out. A gentle zephyr passed over him, tickling his nose with sweet summer scents as he tried again to make up a tune for one of Job’s woeful laments. It was then that he remembered that he was allergic to the grass pollens he was lolling in.
     
    Achoo!

  23. Laurie says:

    A Huguenot was fleeing the French Army due to his over obstreperous outrage at the denial of amnesty for that crazy bard with uke wearing nothing but that zephyr loincloth and singing canticles of his own bereft design based on the book of Ecclesiastes to the king while standing under the keystone. He once was a massive man full of strength and sharp as a tack. Then he fell languish and would insist on singing insipid Bardic songs in the king’s court. They seized him and ordered him beheaded and that’s how it all started for the Huguenot on that spring day! He started yelling at the guards and then as they pushed him away his obstreperous nature sent the guards chasing him on this day!


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