Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #126

Our own Cathy Miller chose today’s words. Show her some love.

Writing prompts cure writer’s block. Take the 10 random words below and, in the comments, crush writer’s block by creating a cohesive, creative short story tying 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, do those too.)

  1. Exhausting
  2. Thankful
  3. Koala Bear
  4. Speaker
  5. Positive
  6. Flashlight
  7. Cactus
  8. Squeeze Ball
  9. California Raisin
  10. Lighthouse

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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122 Comments on “Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #126”

  1. Cathy Miller says:

    And show it to Cathy with a ‘C’ 😀 LOL!

  2. Shane Arthur says:

    “Billy, I’m positive you gotta get outta there fast. Some assassin feller is coming to get you.”

    “Bobby, why yous all out of breath?”

    “Long story, but that assassin feller done hung me from a tree by my mountain oysters. I told him my squeeze balls ain’t no California raisins anymore and they’d stretch to the ground and I’d escape, but he hung me up anyway for fun. I looked like a damnd Koala Bear up in that there tree. Anyhows, I ran nonstop dragging my oysters through the cactus field, past the lighthouse, up to our house, over the speaker we done turned on its side and be using as a kitchen table, and called you up. It was exhausting.”

    “Bobby, you think that’s tough? Try shooting gaters at night with a cheap flashlight while eyeing Billy’s gumbo. And don’t worry bout that James feller. We done caught a gater, split him open and found ol’ James inside. Gaters be the true assassins down these parts, Bobby.”

    “Oh, I’m so thankful for Gaters, Billy. How’s the gumbo?”

    “I asked three or two times to try it, but Billy ain’t budgin’.”

  3. margaret says:

    I am so thankful that I took the time to make a protein shake this morning
    from California Raisins and Cactus. I am scheduled to be a speaker today at the
    Old Lighthouse and it is positively exhusting to climb all of those stairs while
    balancing a Koala bear on my back and carrying a flashlight and a squeeze ball.

    I wish they weren’t so damn cheap and would furnish their own damn props and lighting!

  4. Anne Wayman says:

    good list Cathy – try this… in order backwards (bragging):
     

    Behind the lighthouse, the grapes slowly turned into California raisins while the keeper worked his squeeze ball watching the light turn and turn and turn. The cactus could have been avoided that night with a flashlight, always assuming the positive and negative poles were aligned properly. The speaker, from Oz, yearned to hear a Koala Bear, but was thankful the exhausting sailing trip to San Diego was finally over.

  5. sefcug says:

    Kay, the koala bear, was an excellent speaker for a creature normally so sleepy during the day. The lecture was exhausting for the little one, who was thankful that it was very short, and she was able to get enough eucalypt leaves, before being able to sleep once again.

    The fact that the lecture took place at the lighthouse not far from home was a positive. The subject (the relationship between a cactus and a squeeze ball) was a tough one due to there not being too many cacti or squeeze balls available in her forest. But, by shining a flashlight on a California raisin she was able to show that like a deflated ball the raisin has many points. It all depends upon how the light is shown.

    Moral:

    Just because something is unfamiliar to you does not mean you can’t speak about it, if you just do some research, and have a good imagination.

  6. Tiffany Hudson says:

    It was weird walking to school just the two of us. No Marla, no Alfie. It was a positive thing though, I was thankful.
    “You okay Coral you look… I don’t know, different.” Sam struggled for words.
    “Why is this so awkward? It never has been before.” I stopped. Froze without no warning. Sam stopped too, turning back to look at me.
    “Because we have no noisy friends with us. We normaly do. It’s not to weird. Trying to think up something to say to you is exhausting I admit but it’ll change. We’ve had days before where we just couldn’t think of anything to say.” He bent down slightly and kissed me. “It doesn’t matter, doesn’t change a thing. Ever.”
    I nodded knowing he was right. Then kissed him back and slid my hand into his, urging him to carry on walking.
    “I want a koala Bear.” I blurted. He already knew that. I told him once when we use to play in the abandoned light house as kids.
    “And a lion, parrot, monkey and huskey. You always have. The list just keeps growing with you.” He laughed.
    “You promised to buy me one. Then I hit you on the head with your flashlight.” I laughed with him, exsploring our memory has always been fun.
    “Because you didn’t want yours getting hurt.”
    We were in fits of laughter, still trying to walk.
    “Same day Alfie threw a cactus at me and called me a californian raisin over the speakers.” I giggled at the name he called me.
    “You threw your squeeze ball at him then wouldn’t take it back ’cause of his germs. I’ve still got that at home.” He stopped. Blushed bright red when I looked at him in surprise.
    “Damn, you realy must love me.” I laughed and hugged him happily.
    “Hell yeah little one.”
    “Giant.” I threw back at him, hitting him on the arm lightly.
    We reached the school gates and both looked at each other in surprise. The grounds were full of students as normal and Rachel and Marla were running torwards me.
    “New suplie teacher. Mrs Clemintin is off sick. He’s so cute.” Marla gushed as she hugged me.

  7. Cathy Miller says:

    CCC-My Inspiration

    Balancing taking care of Mom after surgery and running my business is exhausting. It’s kept me from my usual trips to CCC. But, I am extremely thankful that on Friday my Mom turned a healthy 88 and her knee replacement has not slowed her down much.

    I take a deep breath to catch up on my work and smile at my koala bear beanie sentry guarding my work. I adjust the speaker for a soothing CD and grab a page from my book of Positive Quotations –

    “We see the brightness of a new page where everything yet can happen.” Rainer Maria Rilke.

    I’m distracted by the flashlight left on my desk from yesterday’s power outage. It doesn’t take much to distract me. My cactus needs water and my smiley squeeze ball sits waiting to relieve any stress. With a last look at my koala’s friend and neighbor, a California Raisin, I jot down a note on my lighthouse note pad –

    Today is going to be a great day.

  8. Tanja Cilia says:

    It was an exhausting process, distilling cactus juice. Calling it California Raisin had been a public relations coup.  Koala Bear was thankful that Squeeze Ball had agreed to let him set up the equipment in the Flashlight Lighthouse. At least, the reaction he got from the Union’s Speaker was positive.

  9. Anne Maybus says:

    No matter how often you tell these damned tourists that a koala is not a bear they just don’t believe it.  A koala is as close to being a bear as an Aussie grape is to being a California raisin.  But try telling them that!  The cute little bugger seems to make everyone lose their capacity to reason.  Tourists just stand there with open arms, waiting to give them a cuddle.

    I toss my poor, tortured squeeze ball onto the bed and peel my boots off, shaking out the pointed gum leaf shrapnel left from a days walk through the Aussie bush.
     
    Another exhausting day of carting tourists around the sanctuary was finally over and the season coming to a close. For the whole summer I’ve been flat out like a lizard drinking.  While I’m thankful for my job, I could do without the inevitable know-all speaker in every group.  Always positive they know everything there is to know about the world, they dominate the conversation. 

    Some days I’d love to sit them firmly on a cactus the size of a lighthouse and let them spend their days guiding ships through the Heads by flashlight.  Pity Oz doesn’t have any native cacti to use.  I quite fancy one of those big US ones – tall and full of needles.  That would do the job perfectly.

    Ah well, tomorrow’s a new day.  Tourists,  koalas and sunburnt skies await me again. Good night everyone.
     
     

  10. Anne Maybus says:

    Haha.  Thanks Cathy.  I loved the choice of words this time but I admit that I looked at them and wondered how on earth i could connect them all together.  I just let the words sort themselves out for me.  🙂  Thanks for a great challenge.

  11. The full moon was high in the sky – God’s little squeeze ball. I know he was nervous for our safety. Our footsteps left bloody dents in the shadow of the cactus. The trek was exhausting, but we were thankful to be on the U.S. side of the border, at last. In the distance, a flashlight blinked once, twice and followed with a slow sweep, side to side. Our desert lighthouse, guiding us to the American Dream.

    We approached the panel van slowly. It was difficult to restrain the more positive members of our rag-tag group. They surged toward the white symbol of freedom until the sudden appearance of a semi-automatic rifle brought them up short. “What’s the password?” The speaker was a gruff little fireplug, with moonlit eyes as black as California raisins.

    I laughed. “Stop playing, Ramón. None of these people even understands you.” I handed him a toy Koala bear and $30,000 dollars, U.S. “Two for each passenger and a gift from Señor Martínez. He says to step on it.”

    Now it was Ramón’s turn to laugh. “The gas or the coke, amigo?”

    “Both,” I implored.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Mitchell: Great short form here. Our footsteps left bloody dents in the shadow of the cactus – excellent line. Oddly, this scene reminded me of the scene in Men In Black. Remember that?

      • Thanks, Shane. I do remember the MIB scene! I was actually being quite cliched, so I’m not surprised that it reminded you of such scenes. Did you see Heroes, when Maya and her brother tried to cross the border?
         
        Cheers,
         
        Mitch
         

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Mitch – who would of thunk it – that you could come up with such a creative and vivid story from those words. Well done, indeed! 🙂

      • Thanks, Cathy!
         
        I left a few drafts on the cutting floor – saving random lines for this one. For some reason, I fixated on the Immigration Law – probably a result of Speaker, California raisin and cactus (Arizona) 🙂
         
        Cheers,
         
        Mitch
         

    • Chris F. says:

      Oh wow — excellent, Mitch!!!  I really like this!
       
      Great scene, solid and intriguing characters, and very solid planting of story questions.  Well done!

  12. Anne Maybus says:

    Love it!  “gruff little fireplug’ – wow, I can see him. Well done, Mitchell.

  13. Patsi Sota says:

    This tour has been absoluting exhausting. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that I have been asked to tour as a guest speaker on positive attitudes but I feel I am failing miserably in my own head. I have pulled out that damn squeeze ball 5 times before I was able to sleep last night. Trip to Australia, huh? Well my expectations turned into resentments. I thought I would be seeing Koala Bears and a possible cactus in the bush. Instead our bus broke down, God only knows where. They should have a lighthouse out here. This must be the middle of nowhere. I would be happy for a flashlight. I can hear growling nearby, those Dingos are dangerously vicious. After walking all day in this heat I feel like a Californis Raisin. I fear my resentments will turn on me and I will die here. The sooner the better. It has been 4 days and I am the only one left with the bus, alive anyway. Some went off to find help. I had read to stay put, if lost in the outback, because it is easier for someone to find you. There is still hope. Russell Crowe may come and save me. We can ride off towards his ranch. Okay, now I am fantasizing, but what a way to go. Find me Gladiator!

  14. Shane Arthur says:

    programming note: Hey all. I just realized that I never say, “I wonder if I’ll be able to work these words into a submission,” anymore. When the CCC started, I said it for every challenge.
    What’s your take on this? I’m hoping you all are experiencing the same thing.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Shane-I’ve thought it, but my success in the past has me telling that inner voice to “Shut up!” 😉
      =================
      Hey, CCCers – I just found out that yesterday was Shane’s birthday-I am honored to have picked the words on his birthday…so….
      ==================
      Happy birthday to Shane. ♫

      It’s exhausting to watch as Shane answers each and EVERY comment and submission. We are all so thankful for our koala bear leader of fun and creativity. Shane is the speaker in our CCC player of words. His positive outlook on life, people and all that is good is like a flashlight of hope in a cactus-strewn path.

      So, when your squeeze ball world twists your nerves to California Raisin size, think of CCC, the lighthouse in stormy times, and Shane, its eternal keeper.

      Happy birthday to Shane. ♫

    • Patsi Sota says:

      Not at all. I had problems writing short stories and these just give me the jump start. I want someone to say to me write about… Hard to get my own ideas out of the blue-this helps big time because you have no idea where it will lead to.

  15. Traveling Australia’s outback can be exhausting. I was sure that after 3 days of hiking I would be able to snap a picture of a Koala Bear for my portfolio, but I could not find one in the cactus infested desert we were navigating. As our third day was coming to a close my tour group was making its way back to the bus. We had obviously went overtime as I had to use my iPhone flashlight to navigate my portion of the group back. I was getting hungry and I rummaged through my fanny pack to find my last bag of California Raisins which were tucked away between my squeeze ball and my advil. Once we were all able to board the bus and find our seats the tour guide spoke over the speaker system. He gave positive praise to the group and was thankful that after three days of hiking that no one had gotten lost or snake bitten. He finished his speech, sat down and fell asleep as the driver set course to our hotel, the Lighthouse Inn at Bunbury.

  16. TuxGirl says:

    Some people say I’m not THANKFUL enough, but the truth of the matter is, it’s EXHAUSTING being a KOALA BEAR at a zoo. I mean, yeah, we should all think POSITIVE and remember the good things in life, but this just sucks.
    Every night, the zookeeper comes around to all the pens, and checks to make sure we’re all where we’re supposed to be. That wouldn’t be so bad, but for some reason, he feels like he has to shine his FLASHLIGHT right in my eyes every time! I’m tryin’ to sleep here buddy. You don’t need to go all LIGHTHOUSE on me. I’m perfectly content not knowing that you’re there checking on me.
    Anyway, if that wasn’t enough, somebody here really doesn’t know what they’re doing. Someone stuck a CACTUS in the koala pen. A cactus? Really? This isn’t New Mexico, buddy. Eucalyptus is good stuff, but if you try gnawing on some cactus, you’re gonna be in a world of hurt real quick.
    Still, the worst part of being in this zoo is when they have a school group come. Apparently, we koalas are considered “cute” or something. So, the SPEAKER assigned to talk to the school groups always comes into the pen, wakes me from my nap, and takes me with him to meet with all the noisy human kids. He expects me to sit there with him, play with a SQUEEZE BALL, and look cute for the kids for an hour. It’s complete torture, and the only compensation I get afterwards is a handful of CALIFORNIA RAISINS.

  17. Okay I wrote this poem without reading any of the comments on this challenge, I don’t like reading other submissions before writing my own as it could influence what my mind would come up with when just seeing the words.
     

    The Right Gift
    Shopping for the right gift; exhausting
    thankful for the speaker declaring closing time
    pressure to choose a Squeeze ball or Koala Bear
    before requiring a flashlight in this lighthouse
    decision pricking like a mental cactus
    positive this experience is the words
    emotionally shriveled like a California Raisin
    as you hope this gift will make her happy

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Justin: Haha! We can only hope for this character. 🙂

    • Chris F. says:

      EXcellent as always, Justin — I love how deftly you can weave the words into a piece that resonates with emotion and impact.
       
      ..and while I’ll like to say that I’m not the forgetful guy, I have to say I could relate to the panic of the last-minute-gift-scramble more than I’d like to admit.  😉
       
      Great job, Justin!
       
       
       

  18. Chris F. says:

    As I work backwards to catch up, here’s a belated entry for Cathy’s words:
     
    “Treasure”

    Rupert squatted next to a large, damp boulder, listening intently for any sound that might mean someone was coming.  He heard only the steady wash of the waves crashing against the ragged shore.  No whispered voices, no shuffle of shoes sliding along the cliff face, no puffing exhales of someone climbing down behind him; nothing but the surf.  Relieved, Rupert took some deep gasps of the moist ocean air, thankful for a brief moment of rest; the climb down the cliff had been exhausting

    When his pounding heart calmed to just an adrenaline-fueled race, Rupert stood and squinted into the mist.  He could barely make out where the short strip of sand shown in between the jagged rocks.  It was too dark in this cove.  He could see the flash from lighthouse on the point reflected far out into the bay, but no light penetrated here.  He needed to see if he was going to find the entrance to the tiny cave; he flicked on his flashlight and risked a scan of the base of the cliff.

    Rupert swept the light along the bottom of the cliff, but saw only rock and shadow.  It had to be here.  Johnson was crazy, but Rupert firmly believed that the box existed.  Johnson had been so detailed when he finally confided in Rupert about where it was hidden.  Rupert was positive that it was here.
    Rupert moved to the side, being careful not to slip on the rocks, and swung the flashlight wider.  The area was just as Johnson had described — a rock-strewn section at the bottom of the cliff alongside the old coast highway.  Right under mile marker 43, and uncovered only at low tide.  Rupert had heard a lot of wild talk in prison, and most of it was pure bullshit.  But Johnson had been different.  For one thing, he was huge; a muscled giant of a man.  For another, he rarely spoke.  He’d usually just sit and glare at most men with a wild-eyed look that warned off casual conversation. 

    When Rupert had been thrown in to share a cell with Johnson, Rupert had feared for his life, certain that he’d get a shiv jabbed between his ribs while he was sleeping.  But Johnson had left Rupert alone, and a mutual sense of quiet tolerance had slowly developed.  It had taken months, but Johnson had even started talking to Rupert.  Just a few words here and there at first, but over time Johnson became more and more open with Rupert.  And in prison, time was all either of them had.

    In some ways, Rupert preferred the quiet.  Some of Johnson’s stories scared Rupert to death.  Johnson would talk about witnessing things of such outrageous violence that Rupert had a hard time even visualizing them, let alone believing them.  Still, when Johnson was the speaker, Rupert could believe almost anything.

    Eventually, late one night, Johnson calmly claimed to have killed ten people.  With his bare hands.  He said he’d eliminated every trace of the bodies, and had built up a ‘treasure’ from their ‘most precious things,’ as he called them.  Rupert was terrified and couldn’t sleep for days.  But over time, Johnson kept talking about how huge the treasure was, and how it was enough to last for the rest of Johnson’s life, and eventually Rupert’s terror turned to interest, and then finally to avarice.  Johnson would never say exactly how much the treasure was worth, or even what it was.  Gold? Cash? Jewlery?  Johnson wouldn’t say.  He’d only smile and claim it was, ‘more than you’d even need.’

    Rupert moved the flashlight quicker, getting frustrated that he couldn’t find anything like the entrance of a small cave.  Johnson had been transferred almost a year before Rupert was paroled; maybe Johnson had already gotten out and come here long ago to reclaim his treasure and had hidden the entrance.  Or maybe the whole story had been bullshit after all.

    Then Rupert raised the beam off the ground, and there it was.  About six feet up, it was more a dark recess than a real cave, but Rupert knew the box was there.  He scrambled over the rocks, almost breaking an ankle as he slipped on the damp stones, and reached the base of the cliff.  The he stood underneath the opening.  His eyes could just see in, and when he raised the flashlight, he saw a flicker of reflection off the box.  Damn!  It was there!

    Rupert dropped the flashlight and reached up to pull the heavy box out, struggling to free it from the tight rock opening.  It was a metal and plastic cooler, with faded green and white sides, about two feet long, sealed with stretched bungee cords, and it had to be nearly full to weigh so much. With one final gasp, Rupert pulled it free and it slipped out of his hands and landed on the rocks with a thud.  He scrambled for the flashlight to shine it on his prize, then tucked the flashlight under his arm and used his hands to pull off the bungee cords.  He held his breath as he released the metal clasp and opened the lid.

    Inside was a jumble of…junk.  A stuffed Koala Bear that had a T-shirt with “Come Down Under” printed on it; a small plastic California Raisin with a guitar in his hand and a big stupid grin; a squeeze ball with a face on it with eyes that bulged out when Rupert squeezed it; a plastic cactus in a pot shaped like a Cadillac; it went on and on, and it was all just useless junk.  Rupert couldn’t believe it.  He dug deeper through the contents looking for anything of value — cash, jewels, anything that he could even get a dollar for if he pawned it.  There was nothing.

    Then he heard a sound; heavy boots stepping up onto the rock behind him.  He spun and Johnson was in front of him, a huge towering presence. Before Rupert could move, Johnson grabbed the flashlight and pulled it out of Rupert’s hands.  Then Rupert felt a sudden sharp, piercing pain between his ribs.  It sucked the wind out of him before he could even speak.  Then there was another, and another, and another, as Johnson held him pressed against the cliff.  Then it stopped, and Johnson let go, and Rupert collapsed to the rocks.

    He could feel the blood seeping out across his chest and sides and onto the damp rocks, and he couldn’t pull any air into his lungs.  Through blurry eyes he saw the beam of the flashlight pass over him, fading, dwindling to a point. He heard Johnson’s voice booming above him. 

    “Now I get to add a flashlight to my collection.”

    The darkness began to close in around Rupert, and Johnson spoke again, his deep voice sounding far, far away, and fading with each word.

    “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

  19. Anne Maybus says:

    That was a great story. I loved it.  Well done.

  20. Kelly says:

    EVERY PARENT’S NIGHTMARE

    I got a call from the school. The one we all dread.

    “Mrs. Trembelara? It’s Mr. Maral. I need to talk to you about your daughter’s behavior in class today. Can you two meet me at the school this afternoon? I’ll be downstairs in the basement, in the old open classroom. All the way past the gym and the dressing rooms, she’ll know the way.”

    You don’t say no to your daughter’s new homeroom teacher when something’s gone wrong enough for a face-to-face meeting, and it’s only three weeks into the school year. I apologized. For what, I didn’t yet know… at least for meeting him for the first time under such circumstances. He took it pretty smoothly. Minutes later, though she’d just stepped off the bus, we got right into the car and drove downtown to the school, with me quizzing all the way.

    “What’d you do?”

    “Nothing.”

    My baby girl—once my squishy little koala bear, so eager to please—entered her teens and became as prickly as a cactus. It was exhausting for me as a single mom, and deep down I knew it was painful for her as well because she missed our easy closeness, but I didn’t have a lot of time for reflection right then. I’m about to be called out as a bad parent and we’re going ‘round in verbal circles.

    “You’re positive? He wants to see us right away for nothing?”

    “I guess.”

    “Hard to believe…”

    “Mom! I didn’t do anything! Not today and not any other day! I don’t know what he’s talking about, okay!”

    It wasn’t really okay, but we both knew we’d find out what it was, soon enough.

    We got to the school and made our way down the wide cement staircase to the basement. Acreage was at a premium in this city, so rather than build out when they wanted to expand, the school had simply dug deeper. In the fifties when they started expanding, it probably made sense as an emergency bomb shelter, as well; in the sixties when they finished it, that threat was nearly ignored, but the school had the nicest walk-out basement classrooms, ice rink, and gymnasium you can imagine, and a bill for all the digging that they were still paying off when the Soviet Union crumbled.

    All the way past the gym and the dressing rooms. Teenage boys fresh from hockey practice, some carrying their pads on their still-fragile shoulders, some using squeeze balls to strengthen their muscles with hands wrinkled like California raisins from too-long showers, spilled out of the locker rooms as the two of us marched unhappily down the hall. At the end of the hall the old hippie dream, a huge “open” classroom for kids to wander and drink at the fountain of knowledge as they pleased, beckoned. Partitions had been put up in a couple of the corners, a tired acknowledgment that kids don’t really learn best that way. Over the partition walls we could hear drama practice and yearbook planning, competing for our auditory attention; since most of the room was still open, the visuals thankfully won out and we ignored the high-volume battling of teen voices behind the walls.

    “It looks like Science Club over there,” my daughter whispered to me, pointing to a group trying to use a flashlight to illuminate a four-foot-tall lighthouse, “and over there, maybe homework help. Over there—there’s a bunch of people at that table by the door—maybe Mr. Maral is there?”

    She couldn’t spot him, so with all the initiative of her age, she did nothing. She stood helplessly, claiming she’d keep a lookout. I went over to the table to ask if anyone had seen Mr. Maral. One boy volunteered helpfully that Mr. Maral is never there, and maybe we got it confused where we were supposed to meet.

    “I think we’ll just wait a while for him,” I said in response, and the kids and their two unhelpful teachers gave a collective shrug of indifference.

    We paused awkwardly in the center of the room, my daughter and I, for about five minutes. I mumbled something about how it couldn’t be that big a deal if he couldn’t remember to show up… and found myself in the middle of “I told you, I didn’t do anything” again, when a familiar face popped up in front of us.

    “Mrs. Trembelara! How are you? What can I do for you two?” asked Mrs. Gerdan, the ninth grade History teacher and everybody’s favorite at the school.

    “We were supposed to meet Mr. Maral here,” I said. “It’s my first…conference… with him.” My daughter glared at me, a warning not to mention her alleged bad behavior, and wandered reluctantly away to the homework help table. We don’t take a break from each other often enough. That’s why I get the rolling eyeballs all the time. Maybe she’ll catch a few pointers while I talk to someone I recognize, I thought.

    “Are you sure it was Mr. Maral?” (Another person questioning me about this call. What gives?) “He left about noon. Had a funeral to go to. I’m surprised he’d come back today,” Mrs. Gerdan said. She kept me company while we waited a little longer, talking about her history students this year, how much she missed my daughter now that she was a tenth grader, remembering back with incredible clarity to a couple of projects she’d done the year before…. It’s amazing what teachers can remember about the good kids. I didn’t even remember the details of those projects like she did, and I was there while she sweated them out (‘til midnight, usually, unless it was ‘til 3a.m….).

    “Yeah. She’s a good kid,” I heard myself say out loud. At that moment I knew that whatever Mr. Maral wanted to say to me could wait. It was time for the two of us to go home.

    “Did you see where she went?” I asked Mrs. Gerdan. We both looked around. I called out for her (in the I-don’t-want-to-embarrass-my-teen way that we all learn), but no annoyed head popped up. Mrs. Gerdan looked into the drama practice and yearbook areas; I moved from Science Club to homework, where she was headed when Mrs. Gardan and I started talking. The teacher at the homework table finally took an interest. “Hey, people. Listen up. Has anybody seen her daughter?” he yelled across the cavernous classroom, his booming voice adding to my anxiety. There was a small buzz of mumbling and looking around uselessly as if she might be under a notebook or attached to a neighbor’s back from the groups of usually-disinterested teens, followed by a low chorus of No, don’t think sos.

    A small kid sitting near where I was standing at the homework table looked up at the teacher with steady blue eyes. With a raise of her delicate eyebrows, she tipped her head, ever so slightly, toward the exit next to their table.

    A stream of light was shooting across their worn carpeting. The door was slightly ajar.

    “I didn’t see her. But there was that guy…” Her voice trailed off.

    “What guy?” asked the teacher.

    “He tried to help me with my math. But he was worse at geometry than I am,” she said in a voice that sent chills through me

    “The other man at this table… who was he?”

    Was I screeching externally or only in my guts? I don’t know. The teacher gave me a shrug, saying something about how it’s nice when they don’t leave him alone to do this job, but I was already at the door. I ripped it open and scanned the schoolyard as the kids at the homework table pressed me from behind.

    Nothing.

    No one. I called her name louder; I cried her name softly; but I could not move my feet from that horrible doorway.

    The kids rushed out around my disintegrating body, to examine the obvious emptiness of the yard. I could see that they wanted to help.

    I could see that they didn’t want to go too far, either. Some of them would probably have liked to call their mothers right then, big bold teens though they were.

    I heard someone bark to call up to the office and call for her on the loudspeaker. Mrs. Gerdan put a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s not jump to conclusions,” she whispered. When she tried to direct me back inside, I felt razors cutting into my organs from every direction. I would not leave that spot! I would scream until I died of it! I would never blink again, so I could keep looking out there for her! I would…

    “But I watch her like a hawk! She’s my baby! Where ARE you, baby?”

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Kelly: You are correct. This is the #1 worst nightmare scenario, and you made me not want to finish reading. Great job. I wish schools taught students how to fight back. My kids shall carry mace, and I’ll remind them that their pens, pencils, and bookbag can be used as weapons against crazy bleeps like that.

    • Chris Fries says:

      Oops — see my misplaced orphan comment below…
       

  21. Chris Fries says:

    Wow!
     
    Great job, Kelly!  A light, casual opening, with very smooth insertion of humor (I laughed out loud at the, “so with all the initiative of her age, she did nothing“), and so easy to relate to, you pulled me in and completely lowered my defenses at the beginning.  So my emotions were able to grow from agitation to concern to down-right fear right along with the mother as the story morphed into something terrifing.
     
    Excellent work!
     

  22. […] him of the story of Kay the koala, he had read the other day on Creative Copy Challenge. (see https://creativecopychallenge.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/writing-prompts-creative-copy-challenge-126/ for the […]


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