Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #147

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. Mechanical
  2. Close
  3. Breathe
  4. Tend
  5. Fuss
  6. Enlarge
  7. Scream
  8. Mix
  9. Drain
  10. Grab

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.)

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


195 Comments on “Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #147”

  1. Shane Arthur says:

    “Billy, dat was quite a fuss weren’t it? I’s all drained from screamin’ and runnin’ from dat enlarged man-whale. I ain’t breathed dis hard since puberty.”

    “Bobby, I don’t think dis position is workin’ out for you. We’s gonna’ have to mix it up a bit and place you in car repair. Go grab one of them blue work outfits and talk to Beuford. He’s da head mechanical of the department. But, close your mouth and go easy on da questions. He used to be a sherrif of da justice and he done tends to wanna slap your momma in da mouth after stupid questions.”

  2. Got in early on this one since I still had site left open from last night, here is my poem for this CCC

    Seize Life
    Scream a mechanical breath
    grab essence of life
    drain fuss and fear
    enlarge happiness
    mix love and hate
    tend to hope
    grab opportunity
    close the past
    seize life!

  3. Cathy Miller says:

    His movements were mechanical – cold, calculating, devoid of all feeling. He knew she was close. He could breathe in her scent and taste the hint of fear. A smile crossed his lips as he began to tend to the deed at hand.

    With little fuss, he started his climb, searching for his prey. He cared not that he had to enlarge his playground to the great outdoors. After all, he was a hunter, and destiny was his home.

    His body trembled with the memory of her sweet scream. The mix of softness and savagery excited him beyond all else. It was the drain that followed that urged him on. A relentless search to fill the void that only violence left behind. Once more, he would grab the power by the throat and make it his own.

    He tumbled the coins in the rhythmic beat of the hunter. He was home.

  4. Cathy Miller says:

    @Justin @Shane-thank you, gentlemen. *bows* 🙂

    • Cathy Miller says:

      Community nagging-I love it-maybe that will help me put my novel writing 1st. 🙂
      @Chris-thank you for the kind words-fiction writing is the dream
      @Matt -LOL!! I want to know how that cat is jiggling those coins-and just what is coins a euphemism for on a cat 😉

  5. Tanja Cilia says:

    After a while, the way you breathe does tend to become mechanical. Gulp spit, gulp, spit. You tend to close your nostrils with your fingers and grab as much air as you can through your mouth, hoping your lung capacity will enlarge itself enough to give you your quota of clean air molecules. At least you won’t be smelling the blocked drain and the mix of chemicals from the laboratory.  It’s useless to scream or make a fuss. Nobody cares.

  6. Anne Wayman says:

    The universe isn’t mechanical, it’s as close as me and you. We breathe together and, if wise, will tend this hologram without fuss, reducing our impact while we enlarge our understanding. Sure it’s tempting to scream as we see the mix of greed fueled by a false sense separation threaten to send it down the drain. Instead grab every opportunity to make the world a better place ‘cause you’re in it.

  7. Lydia says:

    A few notes: I’m going to have spotty Internet service next week so I’ll probably be a few days late on CCC #148 and maybe #149.

    The idea for this story came from a family mystery. One of my ancestors emigrated from Germany to the US and spent the rest of his life refusing to talk about where he came from or why he decided to move to another country. According to family legend even asking about it made him incredibly angry. (He was a loving spouse and parent otherwise.) When later generations went back to Germany for genealogical research they weren’t able to find any information on him.

    We assume the name he died under was not the name he was given at birth. I’ve always wondered what his story was and why he reacted with so much anger to questions, though.

    E I E I O
    E I E I O…”
    “Stop screaming, Liam,” Ed warned.
    “Ok. What sound do mooses make, grandpa?”
    “I don’t know. I’ve never seen a moose. ”
    “Do they moo?”
    “Probably not. Grab your backpack. I see your dad’s car at the end of the street. ”
    When the house grew quiet again Ed hummed as he stacked dishes in the sink, drained the cold, greasy water from it and scrubbed a congealed patch of blueberry jam off of the dining room table.
    In the living room he scooped up an abandoned lincoln log cabin and threw stuffed animals back into the toy bin.  When he picked up a a stack of pillows in the corner of the room a handful of legos tinkled to the floor.
    “How is it that I find as many hidden pieces after two hours of babysitting as we did when we had three kids living here?” he wondered. The cellphone in his pocket vibrated.
    “I’ve just finished my shift and I have the release forms. I should be home in five minutes,” Marlene said. “Are you ready to go?”
    “Yes, I’ll meet you outside.”
    Shady Acres was unusually busy for a Saturday afternoon. Weekends always meant more visitors, of course, but Ed couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen so many young, well-dressed people in the parking lot. A sign in the lobby confirmed his suspicions – two residents had died recently and their viewings were scheduled on the same day. He didn’t recognize the names, though.
    “Uncle Eugene!” Marlene said brightly as they entered his room. “How are we feeling today?” The man on the bed looked up at them in surprise.
    “I wasn’t expecting any visitors today,” he said. “Is everyone alright?”
    “Yes, of course,” she replied. “We just thought you’d like some company today. It must be lonely staring these four walls every day.”
    “Actually I was almost ready to call an aide to take me to the chapel to pay my last respects. I used to play chess with one of the people who died recently.”
    “The viewing doesn’t end until 7. We have oodles of time. I’d like to talk to you about something. Ed and I have been researching what happened to Grandma Adela and we keep running into brick walls. I know you don’t remember much about her life but can you tell me about what happened after she passed?”
    “We moved away,” Eugene said. “Aunt Maude and Uncle John bought a farm and fussed over your Grandma Iris and me like we were their own. I think they were lonely when it was just the two of them.  Iris was so good in school that they sent her to live in town and go to high school when the time came. That didn’t happen as often back then, especially for orphans.”
    “What did they tell you about your mother, though?”
    Suddenly his voice grew mechanical. “They did more than their duty toward us but there were certain questions we learned not to entertain.”
    “Did he beat you?”
    “Marlene!” Ed breathed out exasperation. “I don’t like to interfere with your side of the family but couldn’t you ask more tactful questions?” She wasn’t accustomed to her normally taciturn husband speaking out like this.
    “No,” Eugene winced. “They’d simply close down their side of the conversation. Dwelling on the past doesn’t change what happened and it wasn’t as if we were the only orphans in the world. Parents die every day.”
    “Oh,” she said. “What about when you grew up? Did you look for answers then? Do you know anything about why she was buried on the other side of town or why her gravestone wasn’t replaced?”
    “We visited once,” he replied. “Iris wasn’t very interested but I wanted to see where she was buried. The Methodists didn’t have any information on her but the Presbyterian minister was very helpful.”
    “Was his name Pritchett, by any chance?”
    “Yes,” Eugene’s eyes enlarged. ” How did you know his name?”
    “He buried your mother. What else can you tell us about him?”
    “He spent a great deal of time tending the graves and he thought Iris was the spitting image of our mother and that I was the perfect mixture of both parents. He must have forgotten some details, though, because he thought our father’s name was Albert, not Alfred. Why are you asking so many questions about this?”
    “Since you asked,” Marlene said as she produced the release form with a flourish, “I’d like to exhume Adela’s body to see if any more clues were buried with her. Would you sign here?”

  8. Jen says:

    Darla breathed herself into a sticky, scratched-up booth, felt the gush of air float out of it as she sat, expressing cool air onto her warm skin. She did not hate that.
    The close heat of the bathroom gave rise to a burst of panic, a small stone of fear in her larynx, enlarging to a silent frenzy in her throat and mouth. It banged through her brain and was made worse by the mechanical whirl of kitchen machinery and cooling units spinning adjacent to this small room. She forced herself to inhale, counting to seven. She held her breath for a beat and exhaled. Again and again she practiced the pattern, struggling against the clanging in her head, the distant screams she carried with her from The Community, even though she’d left that awful place miles behind her.
    When she had first arrived, The Community was her oasis; they fussed over her like a new pet. The Community had groups of people to tend to her every need. The Kitcheners prepared fresh meals for her, using foods gathered by The Gardeners. Kitcheners had soft, fleshy bodies, their arms, as they extended to offer meals showed white underarms, flecked with flour or sprigs of spice. The Gardeners never met her eye. Instead, they shuffled outside, always outside, in their dung-colored clogs and workpants. Hats shaded their brows. Even from the beginning the Gardeners rung a tiny bell of suspicion; but at the beginning, with all this food, she ignored it. Other groups braided her chestnut hair, shod her feet with custom shoes, sewed the softest linen dresses for her to wear. She was a queen. For a time.
    Remembering the linen dresses calmed her. Despite their function, she found it hard to resist the tactile pleasure of the slubs under her fingers. Standing over the sink in the tiny bathroom, watching dirt slur from her hands and face, swirling down the drain, she smiled. The smile, a simple act of a few small muscles, it wrenched her back. Back to this stinking bathroom, away from her custom shoes and clothes and meals. What had she done? Again, she forced herself. Forced herself out of the closeted bathroom, into the open space of the diner, forced her feet to trod across the splattered floor, forced herself into the cracked booth.
    When the waitress plunked a meager glass of tea on the table in front of Darla, grunting with the effort of service, Darla mixed packet after packet of sugar into the glass, watching the ice dance and shimmy, mesmerized and without thought. She grabbed the glass and drank.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Jen-what a visual you painted with your words-loved it!

    • Chris Fries says:

      Fabulous imagry in this, Jen!
      I’m really wondering what “The Community” is — it sounds like a cult where she was held captive.  And I wonder if there might not be those who don’t want her to leave and are following her!  This is really getting to be a great read.
      Plus — I learned a new word: “slub”.  After looking it up, it’s either an imperfection in the spinning of yarn, like a bump, as in the narrator’s remembered dresses; or its a slang term formed from blending “slob” and “slut”, used to describe an unkempt woman of low virtue.  I’m guessing you meant it in the first sense, right.  ;^)
      I look forward to the next episode!!!

    • Nice story, Jen. I love your arrangement of words. The way you describe things is incredible. A smile being “a simple act of a few small muscles.” Amazing stuff. I really enjoyed this. Thank you!

    • Jen, this is really rocking the house. “The Community” is coming to life, chapter by chapter, with each of use wondering and guessing.
      Carry on!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Jen: So Jen. I guess you’ve seen the other four comments stating how bleepin’ cool this write is right? Add another to the list. Well done. This should be your first book. Please make it so.

      • Jen says:

        Ya’ll are smooth talkers. Shane, it will delight you, no doubt, to know that I have just begun to think through my core competencies as they relate to this potential “idea.” (Drank that kool-aid, a whole vat of it, I did.) However, my first book is non-fiction and will be out in September. That said, thanks to this website and the book you suggested, I feel like I finally know how to follow through on the stories in my brain. I will continue to work on this.
        And on a serious note, thanks to all of you. This is a fun, supportive place to come. I feel like Sally Field. 😉

  9. Jake says:

    Howard stepped out of his front door to breathe in the morning air. The scream of mechanical neighbors made his neck tense just a bit. “Why do I live in this industrial wasteland?” he wondered. The air surrounded him with a mix of oil and sulfur. He bent down to grab the paper and turned to close the door. Without fuss, he made his way to work, the sun pale and covered by steam and progress. In his office, he washed his face, staring at the drain below him. “I tend industry, just to enlarge my paycheck”, he muttered to himself, and poured his first shot of vodka into his coffee cup. Another typical day.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Jake-that man needs rescuing. 🙂 well done

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Jake: Excellent 1st submission Jake. You held back just enought to make me want more of this story. Hope you come back each Monday and Thursday. (you’re the 2nd Jake to join our ranks). Everyone welcome this Jake to the addiction.
      Adding your name and url to the CCC Community Links page now.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Jake – Welcome to CCC!

        Here the writing is never mechanical as we close the door on mediocrity and breathe life into the infant joy of words. If we tend to fuss over a submission or two because it is brilliance online, we know you will soon understand as you enlarge your life with what you will find.

        We scream with laughter and shiver at the villains of our minds as we mix the talent of all who visit. The drain of words never runs dry as we grab on to the writer inside.


        • Shane Arthur says:

          @Cathy; That Cathy is mechanical in her precision. She must have fiction for blood and close-to-perfect creative breathe. Look how she tends to the new members too. How we fuss over her welcomes. She enlarges each one’s happiness. I want to scream how cool her writing is, but I want to mix in some pleas for her to write fiction books too. I’m drained thinking she won’t. I grab at hope.

    • Jen says:

      Poor Howard. Nice work.

    • Chris Fries says:

      Great scene-setting!  You definitely brought out the empathy for Howard.
      Well done.

    • @Jake: This kind of reminds me of Office Space. Just trudging through life to make a living. But at least Howard is asking questions. That’s the first step in stepping out.

    • Jake, The scream of mechanical neighbors is a wonderful phrase. With it, you set the tone for the entire piece. Excellent writing!

    • Great Scene, can’t wait to see which direction this will head to, there are so many possibilities!

  10. Luke Tenpenny sat on a park bench.  Elation filled his face as he looked upon the playground’s festivities.  Boys and girls off all ages were running to and fro, laughing and carrying on.  He feels incredible and enjoys being there, but one thing bothers him:

    How the heck did I get here?

    Luke had no idea why he was at this playground and why he was just sitting there watching the kids play.  He noticed other parents on the perimeter of the playground doing the same, but they were having more interaction with what he assumed were their children.  No one was making a fuss or even paid attention to the single guy hanging out at the playground.

    As long as no one cared he was there, he didn’t either.  It felt right just to be in this place.  Wherever it was.

    “Hey Daddy!”

    Luke noticed a girl about five years old in a green and white flower dress waving in his direction from the top of the slide.  He smiled as she came down the curved slide.  She started running in his direction.  This little girl was beautiful.  Her dark hair flowed as she ran.  He smiled as he watched her run.  One arm wouldn’t bend as much as the other the faster she tried to run.  Luke looked around for the father of this lovely child and didn’t see anyone close to him.

    That’s weird.

    Luke turned back to the girl, who was now standing in front of him with the most beautiful smile he’s ever seen.  It reminded him of when his wife would smile.  She stood there and looked in his eyes and he was transfixed.

    “Daddy, did you see how fast I ran?”

    “Yeah baby, you’re really fast.”

    “It’s not time to go, Daddy.”

    “Ok, baby.  We don’t have to go.”

    “Good.  I love you, Daddy.”

    “I love you too, Genesis!”


    How the hell is that Genesis!?  Genesis died when ‘Licia miscarried was pregnant with her.

    Where am I?  How did I get here?

    Luke searched his mind to clinch on to some sort of revelation how he came to be here.

    “Daddy, watch me!!!”

    He heard her sweet voice over the laughter and voices echoing through the playground.  Genesis was at the top of the slide again waving to him.  He was a mix of emotions at right.  Happiness.  Confusion.  Joy.  Concern. Rapture.  Dread.  He wasn’t surprised much and he didn’t understand what was going on, but he didn’t want to leave.

    “It’s not time to go, Daddy!!!”  She called out from the top of the slide.

    “I know, baby.  We’re not going anywhere.”  He encouraged her as she sat on the top of the slide.

    Genesis pushed off and started her way down the slide.  She would leave Luke’s eyesight for a fraction of second with the curve of the slide.  He advanced his eyes to the end of the slide to cheer her successful landing.

    Only she never came back into view.


    He still sat there unable to move.


    Don’t just think it, call for her, idiot!

    But Luke couldn’t open his mouth.  Nothing would come out.  He couldn’t get out of his bench either.  Just then what appears to be an 18 year old girl runs past him holding a dolphin folder.  She appears to be running for her life


    As Luke is watching her run, a gunshot is heard and dolphin folder girl falls to the ground.  The sky turns dark blue and instead of laughing and playing, the children scream and hide.

    Where’s Genesis?!?  Where the hell is Genesis?!?

    Luke can not move from his bench.  He struggles and fights, but the bench is not letting go of him.  More and more teenagers and what appear to be students from where he teaches at Meadow Brook University.  Each one that passes him is shot down in front of him.

    Amanda.  Lance.  Kailyn.

    Blam! Blam! Blam!

    Jacob.  Martha. Phil from Administration.  Jim.

    Blam! Blam! Blam! Blam!

    Luke can not take it anymore.  His  world is collapsing around him.  People are running and screaming.  Shots are being fired.  People are dying.  The sky is closed off and walls come up from the ground and enclose the playground with deathly mechanical sounds.  His joys drain to uncertainty as he is pinned against the bench as a kid in a trench coat and a creepy smile stops in front of him.

    Creepy Kid?!?

    Luke remembers now.  He was at Meadow Brook University, he had just got to class when some whacko pulled a fire alarm and started shooting people as they exited their classes.

    Am I dead?!

    “Not yet, but soon you will be.”  Creepy Kid said as he raised a gun at Luke and pulled the trigger.


    He felt someone grab him and he fell from the bench.  He was now laying on the ground struggling to breathe. Beneath his head he felt someone holding him.

    Is it to tend to my wound?  Where is Genesis?

    Luke tries to increase his strength by enlarge to find her.

    Was she shot?  Even if she isn’t supposed to be here.

    “Daddy, it’s time to go now.”  came the new familiar voice of the angel.

    “Okay, baby.  It’s time to go.”

    Luke awoke confused in a hospital room on the floor with someone holding his head.


    “Shut up you!  You killed my daughter.  Now you will die too you bastard.”

    A Hispanic woman’s voice.  He couldn’t see what she was doing but he was scared.  He felt something sharp against his neck.


    A man in a suit and tie tears open the curtain pointing a gun at the Hispanic Lady.

    ““Stay Back!”, the Lady cries out.  “I will kill him!!!”

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Eric-OMG-what a ride-you got me from the very 1st sentence-this is movie-making material. Love it, Eric.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @ERIC: HOLY BLEEPITY BLEEP! OUTSTANDING! I did not want to leave this story and continue with my day. That was powerful stuff. Love the POV switch. More!

    • Chris Fries says:

      Completely pulled me in and never let me go.  I loved the evolution from a sweet park scene to something creepy and then terrifying — the intesity and drama just kept building and building.
      Great job, Sir Eric!

    • @Eric: Yikes! Jumping between heaven and hell on Earth. You pulled it off quite smoothly. Good job!!!

    • Fantastic playing out of this segment, Eric. I love the delicious combination of internal confusion with the nurse’s ignorance of who she’s seeking to kill.
      You got a lot going on here and you’re juggling it all beautifully.

      • @everyone, thank you for all the kind and encouraging comments. Actually writing and not just keeping my ideas in my head is generally a newer thing for me.  I appreciate the support.

    • What a turn about of a turn about!  You just think you are figuring something out but the story zigs when your brain has zagged!  Excellent story!  I want more!

  11. Shane Arthur says:

    programming note: Writer’s Digest is choosing the words for Monday’s Challenge. They already tweeted me the words, so I’m listing them here to give you a jump on the post date. Kick butt people!
    1. Piano
    2. archetype
    3. cocktail
    4. Merlot
    5. slide
    6. pinprick
    7. ribbon
    8. villain
    9. scent
    10. nine.

  12. Rebecca says:

    The Key
    Abigail Van Tussel heard a scream and couldn’t figure out where it came from. She wanted to enlarge the view but it fought her. She couldn’t breathe and felt her life drain from her body. Abigail wanted to grab on to something but didn’t have the strength. She began to fuss in her bed and was close to the edge, although she didn’t realize it. Thump! She hit the floor hard. Luckily, she was 16-years-old and would bounce back. “Ouch!” said Abigail. She grabbed onto the side of her desk to pull herself up; the mechanical pencil fell to the floor. She looked in the mirror and noticed a long scratch on her arm. “Great, another scratch,” said Abigail. She walked into her bathroom and took out her mortar and pestle to mix a homemade remedy of oatmeal, honey, and scarlet oil. Grandmother Sophia taught her how to do this. She needed to speak to someone about her dreams. Grandmother was in spirit and couldn’t tend to her. Or, could she?

    • Chris Fries says:

      Very intriguing intro, Rebecca!  I’m curious to know about the dreams, and Grandmother,
      Nice work!

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Rebecca – Or, could she? Love that!

    • @Rebecca: Nice flow! I was really intrigued. I hope her Grandmother can help her. I like to think my grandparents are still looking after me from time to time. It helps to know they’re watching. It limits the stupid things I can do. 😀

    • With a name like Abigail Van Tussel, I suspect we’d be treated to someone way more substantial than Nancy Drew. I’d love to know what happens next.
      I like the incongruous “Ouch”. It relieves the tension at just the right spot. LOL

      • A little off subject but did you guys know that the Nancy Drew books were written by no less than 15 different people?  They were contracted to secrecy and all put under the Nom De Plume of “Carolyn Keene”, a name that the publishers came up with.  The writers were paid $125 per story and gave up all rights to the stories that they produced.  Sounds like a crappy contract to me, but right now I could use $125, or if I wanted to do the math and get today’s equivilant it would be $2013.
        Just some interesting writing trivia for you all.  Thanks for the Nancy Drew reference Mitch!

        • Interesting tidbit, Justin. That contract does sound bad; I’m not sure of the rate per word, but I’m curious how that compared to what Asimov received for his submissions to the pulp magazines around that same time period.  Certainly, one advantage he had over the ghostwriters is that he retained the rights to his creations.

          • The rights are what becomes important in the long run.  There are a bunch of L. Ron Hubbard books that are from that pulp era that are coming out now, I wonder what those rates were back in the 30’s.  Now, they would be superstars with million dollar contracts, see Stephen King or JK Rowling.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Rebecca: YOu have a knack for the paranormal stuff. You always make me think about this stuff right before I go to bed. 😉  Love it.

  13. Chris Fries says:

    Hey all!

    First off, some personal writing news:  I’ve taken the Write 1, Sub 1 weekly challenge — Check out my BLOG to learn more and to track my progress!

    Next, here’s today entry in my on-going series (only four more to go!!!).  Enjoy:

    The Look of Murder — Part 20

    I drove past Warren Powell’s bungalow in East Detroit.  There were no signs of life.  The garage was closed, the drapes were pulled, and a rolled-up paper was sitting to the side of the front step, probably left right where it had been thrown by the paperboy this morning.  I didn’t pull up to the house though; I’d seen a dark sedan parked in a line of cars at the end of the block with a guy hunched down in the seat, pretending to read a newspaper.  The cop had been nice enough to have brought his own paper instead of stealing Powell’s, but I had no doubt the flatfoot would still try to grab me if I got too close to the house.  Or tail me, and either way, I didn’t need the fuss of dealing with more cops at the moment.

    It looked like Powell’s residence wasn’t going to be much use.  I doubted if I’d get much help at Thurston Motors, either, and odds were the cops had already been all over Powell’s office and the secretarial staff.  I needed to enlarge my list of options if I didn’t want my hopes of finding Powell to go swirling down the drain.

    So I paid another visit to Joan Dawkins at the Detroit Library.  I didn’t take much of her time; I only wanted one address and she was able to quickly find it in the city registry.  I also let her know that the reservations were all set for the London Chop House, and assured her again that, while it might seem that I tend to take her for granted, I was going to make good on this promise, and she was going to scream for joy when she saw what a fancy night on the town I had planned.

    I just needed to plan something first.

    But in the meantime, I had a murder suspect to find.  I left with the address for James Anderson — the guy who’d shown up at Powell’s when I had been there.  It was a long shot, but at least it might be an avenue the cops hadn’t already gone down.

    Anderson lived in a small two-story house off of Van Dyke, in a neighborhood that had a mix of small homes, neighborhood stores, and a local tavern or two.  It wasn’t upscale, but it had enough room between the houses that people could still breathe.

    There was no garage, although several cars were parked in the street in front of Anderson’s place.  I parked a few doors down and began walking back towards the house, a well-maintained yellow home with a hedgerow along the walk.  As I neared the home, I heard the mechanical grind of a rusty hinge as a car door swung open across the street and behind me.  Then a gun shot.

    I immediately dove for the deck, barely noticing the eruption of shredded leaves from the hedges in front of me from where the bullet tore through them.  There were two more quick shots as I rolled to the curb next to a car, hopefully on the other side from where the gunfire were coming from.

    I hadn’t brought a gun with me.  Despite what the radio serials make detective work out to be, no-one had taken a pot shot at me since I’d gotten hit in Salerno, and I’d never needed to fire a gun since getting out of the army.  As I hunkered down behind the car, making sure I hadn’t been plugged, I heard a car-door slam and a motor rev and tires squeal as a car raced off.

    I peered up through the glass of the car I was behind and saw the tail end of a dark sedan swing around the corner at the end of the street.  Maybe it had been Powell.  Or maybe someone else had thought I was worth some target practice.

    I was just glad they evidently needed more practice.

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Chris-I don’t want this story to end-you know it’s a great story when you are sad it is over-so take your time. 🙂 Good luck on your challenge. We’ll be watching. 🙂

    • Chris, I echo Cathy’s sentiments regarding the pending end of this excellent story. Torn between wanting to know whodunit and wanting to have a salient piece of literature to which to look forward, I just don’t know what I’d prefer. 🙂
      Also, it’s cool what you’re doing over on your blog! Go for it!

      • Chris Fries says:

        Thank you, Mitch — You’re very kind to offer your support, both here and at my blog — I really, really appreciate it!
        But don’t worry too much — While Sharpe may be close to cracking this case, I think there may still be future escapades in store for him at some point.  😉

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Chris: I love trying to guess where your story is going. I sure hope that the story crests right when Sharpe is having his meal with his librarian friend. 😉

      • Chris Fries says:

        Thanks Shane!  Glad to keep you guessing… I mean in a good way, not like, “I can’t even guess what the Hell this mess o’ words is supposed to be about!”

        • Shane Arthur says:

          @Chris: guessing in the good sense. 🙂 I’m like Columbo when I read mystery novels. I always want to guess what happens before it happens. My wife hates it (because I’m right 99% of the time). I remember when we watched the X-Files movie and Moulder and Scully are driving after the train. They come to a left or right turn. My wife asked me which way they would go, either right or left. She guessed right. I said straight. She rolled her eyes, saw them go straight, and looked at me with those eyes of wonder that I love seeing. 🙂

          • Chris Fries says:

            Ah yes — the wife’s “eyes of wonder”  A beautiful and special look.
            Much better than the “eyes of ‘I wonder why the Hell I married you’?!?”
            BTW — Whaddya think of the Write1Sub1 challenge?  Think I’m up to it, or am I setting myself up for a massive flame-out, crash, and burn?

          • Shane Arthur says:

            @Chris: I think it’s great. Time ticks. Get those stories on paper sir. Just don’t leave the CCC! 🙂

          • Chris Fries says:

            Fear not, my friend.  You’re stuck with me…

    • As most of you know on here I am a sucker for a good detective story.  I like your radio serials reference.  I have a pile of those on my MP3 player right now.
      I still want to keep reading this story, maybe we can have our characters meet briefly and do some damage!
      Nice story, keep it up!

  14. Roger could hear the mechanical whiz originating from the other side of the door. He wanted to touch it. He wanted to play with it. His shiny little toy. It finally opened. But he couldn’t He had things to do. Meetings and the like. Poor guy. He was so close, yet so very, very far away. He put it out of mind.
    “Roger! Come on! We’ve got to go!” Katie yelled, softly. Her frustration was beginning to manifest itself in her face.
    “Katie. Relax. Breathe. It’ll all going to be alright,” Roger said, trying to comfort his colleague.
    “But you’re not even ready yet. Didn’t I tell you to change your clothes?”
    “I’ll get to it,” Roger tried to reassure her. Then he got an idea. “You know, I need to go to the storage closet.”
    “What?! Why?”
    Roger tried to summon up what little confidence he had. “I tend to keep a change of clothes in there in case of an occasion just like this.”
    This seemed to please Katie. Roger could see her frustration ebb away like a waning tide.
    “Katie, don’t fuss anymore about it. I’ll be right back.”
    “Ok, but hurry up. We’re late.”
    Roger walked to the closet and opened the door. On the floor stood his box. He was shocked. The fact that the box could enlarge like that was lost to him. It was now double the previous size. He ran to it and picked it up.
    “My shiny! My shiny little toy! You’ve grown up for me!” Roger said, but not too loud.
    The box replied with an electronic scream.
    Roger hugged it tight. “You understand me, too!”
    There was a knock at the door. “Hurry up in there! If you don’t, we might miss this mix-and-mingle. And that’s hard to accomplish.”
    “Ok, I’ll be right there!” yelled Roger from inside the dark room. He then turned back to the box, “Ok Mr. Shiny, don’t let any of this energy drain away. I’ll be back for you later.” He set the box down, gave it a kiss, turned, and walked out of the closet. He looked directly at Katie with a new set of eyes, “Grab your stuff. We’re late!”
    “But…” Katie began, but Roger was already out of earshot range.

  15. Shane Arthur says:

    After reading these awesome submissions today, I’m feeling I’m wasting my time on Bobby and Billy. Your thoughts? I’ve yet to try a series other than them.

    • Chris Fries says:

      Write whatever you’re feeling, Shane.
      Try something else if you want.  If you get bored with it, don’t worry:  I’m sure Billy ‘n Bobby will still be waiting in your brain, like annoying, stinky houseguests you’ll never be able to get rid of, never, ever again…

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Shane-your stories are never wasted-bringing smiles is a gift-but you should know better than anyone, CCC is all about doing what pleases you-whatever form that takes!
      We’ll be here waiting. 🙂

    • Have you ever thought about doing a Bobby and Billy story from another character’s point of view? I’d be really interested in hearing what Beuford has to think of them. 😉 Or even another adventure where they encounter someone who can’t wrap their minds around the two of them. That way you’re not abandoning the series, just testing something new. 😀

      • Shane Arthur says:

        @Matt: I just went through a momentary episode of weakness in mind. My goal is to write at least 50 episodes of these guys and put it into a book, just so I can go through the ringer of formatting and outputting a book to the various digital outlets. Once I’m satisfied I have something that is worth at least 99 cents, I’ll jump on something else. But, thank you for the idea. I’m wondering how many people got my Beuford reference.

      • Lydia says:

        I agree with Matt! Surely Bobby and Billy have interesting friends or family members if you wanted to keep that series going with a twist! 🙂

    • Shane, Billy and Bobby are part of the CCC family. We’ll understand if they go off for a while to do weird stuff with farm emplements. LOL
      I think I know how you feel about serials, though. I really got a kick out of Anubis and Co., yet the story died on the vine. When you feel the story that you were meant to tell, you won’t be asking any of us for permission 😉

    • Shane Hudson says:

      There is nothing (apart from time) stopping you from submitting multiple submissions!
      Perhaps get B&B ready for publishing and then move on until you want to write a sequel? 😀

  16. Rebecca says:

    @ Chris … Thanks and me too! This story came to me after I finished my run and sat in nature yesterday 🙂

  17. Sisterhood of the Void – 7th Point

    Silence could barely breathe. It needed to grab more stuff from this place in the void. Its mechanical underpinnings began to scream in protest as sustenance began to drain from its core. Normally, its rudimentary sensors had no trouble locating the right mix of matter and gravitons needed to enlarge and expand into its chosen position. However, the coordinated alien attack was suffocating it!

    Silence felt crushed by the idiotic fuss and chatter of these alien predators. How could it tend to the business of consumption while millions of percussive waves attacked its disintegrator? Desperate to continue its objective, silence searched its library for countermeasures.

    Three, equally weighted nodes resolved the query. Silence immediately discarded node one, as it only worked efficiently at neutralizing mass-level emissions.  The aliens were higher forms of existence whose emissions were orders of magnitude greater than all the combined bodies detected. Likewise, node zero was rejected, due to its limited ability to destabilize metallic cores. Finally, node two was considered briefly and found wanting; silence had no desire to communicate with these backward creatures. Having exhausted all options, silence improvised.

    The hulking structure initiated a massive staccato pinging along its central viaduct. The effects immediately resonated throughout its cone of influence. Wave after wave of conscious thought were caught in a riptide of transverse oscillation, disrupting their incidental pounding upon the disintegrator. Minuscule shreds in the conscious sheet propagated outward from the space controlled by silence. Their jagged wake following close behind, only to be replaced by new ripples as the pinging intensified.

    In a matter of cycles, silence sneered with satisfaction, its mission accomplished. A juicy morsel lay waiting nearby.

    • Chris Fries says:

      Excellent!  I love this revelation of Silence — our anomaly, I assume.  Great name, by the way, and a wonderful opening sentence!
      Intriguing and fascinating!  Except, now I don’t know which side I’m rooting for — the sisters can get a bit haughty and snooty, and I kind of like the perspective of Silence.  Well, besides the whole planet-destruction thing, but then I guess a body’s gotta eat…
      Wonderful stuff, Mitch.

      • Thanks, Chris. Dang. I didn’t make Silence evil enough, huh? 🙂
        Wait til Monday. I’ve already written the next episode.

        • Having extraordinarily acute hearing, myself, I will always root for Silence.
          I have no idea what this story’s about, but if Silence is evil, well…so be it.

          • @Holly, ironically, I’m hearing-impaired. You may have uncovered a deep unconscious animosity in me. For silence truly is evil, in my life. I hear just well enough to know that I’m missing a lot.
            As for the story, it starts back on CCC 140. It’s about some creators who build universes, encounter weirdness in their sphere of reality – the Void – and attempt to deal with them.

          • @Mitch, I get that – although there are times I feel like superhuman hearing’s a bit of a curse, I’m also quick to add to my prayers for silence, “Please understand I don’t want hearing IMPAIRMENT – I just want everything else to stop making NOISE.” There’s sound, and there’s noise. Too few people appreciate the difference.

            Same with light. When I was a kid, I didn’t understand terms like “noise and light pollution.” The older I get, the more I wish for less of both – I miss the stars in the sky, and I miss the sound of crickets and the ability to distinguish the sound of a train on the rails 3-4 miles away.

            I can appreciate what a LOSS hearing loss is – on many movies, the background track is too loud, drowning out the dialogue a bit. I’ll turn on closed captioning, because it’s an effort to make out the words over the din. I’m pretty sure it IS a flaw in the soundtracks, because I don’t have this problem in ordinary conversations – but it happens often enough that I do wonder if I’m starting to lose some of my extraordinary hearing. (It’s weird that I have decent hearing at all – I had chronic ear infections up to the age of about 21. Haven’t had tubes; haven’t had a major infection in over 25 years. But it’s a wonder I can hear, let alone so well it gets on my nerves, sometimes.)
            I’m very nearsighted. Maybe my hearing really has compensated, to a degree, for the vision impairment. (Fortunately, it’s still correctable – but last time anyone bothered to venture a guess on the old 20/20 scale, it was something like 20/800 – in my good eye!) Without glasses, I can’t see facial expressions across the dinner table. I miss body language cues. I’d walk into walls and fall off curb cuts. If it weren’t correctable, I’d be legally blind, several times over. It’s odd to me that that’s the case, and yet, I can SEE – quite a bit, actually, just not in great detail. 😉

          • @Holly, I had to chuckle at the curse of super-human hearing. Isn’t if interesting how the “monkey’s paw” impacts every wish?
            My wife has super-human hearing. I have better eyesight than she does. Together, we rock! LOL
            So, what’s this about the “old” 20/20 system? Did it go the way of pints and quarts in France? What system is used now?

          • I had an optometrist who told me that, nearsighted as I was, the “20/20” thing was irrelevant and a guesstimate, at best. 😉 There’s much more to vision and vision correction than that – see http://www.aoa.org/x4695.xml
            The Snellen eye chart was developed in the 1860s.

            Eye Chart Limitations

            Eye charts measure visual acuity only, so they are just one part of a complete eye exam. They do help your eye doctor figure out whether you need prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses for your distance vision.

            But eye charts don’t measure your peripheral vision, depth perception, color perception or ability to perceive contrast.

            Also, they don’t measure items related to the health of your eyes, such as your eye fluid pressure, how dry your eyes are or whether your retinas are in good shape.

            Read more: http://www.allaboutvision.com/eye-test/#ixzz1NtoTNoQy

          • Holly, this is good information. Thanks for the links!
            P.S. I am one of those folks who prefer a trip to the dentist over a visit to an ophthalmologist. I hate anything about being poked in the eye. (or that awful “puff”) I’m grateful for both doctors, though!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Mitchell: I love how your mind works. Love how you started with node one followed by node zero (instead of using 1-3). I’ve love to see picture of these things as you envision them in your head.

      • Thank you, Shane! Think of a squirt of indigo ink in a beaker of corn syrup. If you can do that, you have a picture of my left mind struggling to clarify the weirdness leaking from the right mind.
        The nodes are an example: without giving away the story, I’m trying to develop the alien intelligence of the anomaly. Presumably, it operates on the principles of what we humans recognize as logic. The 1-0-2 sequence has no hidden significance. As a programmer, I deal with zero-based arrays all day long. I guess the anomaly simply saw that node one was the least useful suggestion and so discarded it first. (You can sort of infer its pondering by the fact that it “briefly considered” node three.) Then again, maybe the anomaly prefers to look at the middle suggestion first. LOL

    • Dude, I love how the CCC has so many different stories to tell.  This was great, awesome use of language emphasizing the sci fi quality.  Keep going!

  18. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … Thanks! I haven’t sorted out the details yet, but I can see the ‘big picture’ for Abigail. Stay tuned…

  19. meek willed says:

    Sue sneaked up to the door and fussed with the drain pipe to get spare key and taking tender care not to make much noise she opened the door.
    After she opened the door she listen closely for a bit before she screamed dad then without hearing any reply sue grabbed my wrist and pulled me in and I barely closed the door before she drag me up the stars and in to her mid sized pink room with posters and enlarged photos upon the walls where I stood felling a mix of exhilaration and breathe taking panic hearing nothing but the light buzz of the mechanical objects around the house and my racing pulse she push on to her bed and closed the door.
    (What happens behind that door will stay behind that door) ;P

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Meek: Haha! Meek, you can’t keep all that goodness behind closed doors at the CCC! We’re your buddies man! Come on! 😉

      • meek willed says:

        @shane: i sead im not going to put any thing to rude on the CCC! even thow you did give the pefect words to make a sex seen lol.

    • What a class act, Meek. Just like the movies from the 1930’s, you leave us something to the imagination. Good job!

  20. Rebecca says:

    @ Shane … Sweet dreams … Lol! I do love paranormal and supernatural topics. I often question”Why are we here? Is there life after death? How can we harness the power of our minds? Are witches really like what’s portrayed in the movies? What’s on the other side? Do vampires and werewolves really exist? Where are the aliens?” Fun stuff…

  21. Michele says:

    I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. I told myself to just breathe. We’d been having mechanical problems for weeks — you name it, it was broken. The drain, the laptop, the doorbell — all of it on the brink of extinction. I tend to grab a wrench and a hammer to tinker with it myself, but my husband would fuss at me to close the toolbox and call a professional. While I know that my mechanical skills and a busted drain pipe don’t mix, I’d rather do it myself than enlarge the pockets of some sleezy plumber.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Michele: Welcome to the CCC. You are the 250th person to give the CCC a go. What did you think of the process? I hope you make it each Monday and Friday from this point on. Everyone welcome Michele to the addiction.
      I’ll add your name and url to the CCC Community Links page now. #linklove

      • Michele says:

        Thank you! I had no idea that people wrote “real” stories to the challenge. After I had already made my submission, I read what others wrote — I wanted to delete mine. ha! Nonetheless, thank you for welcoming me to the addiction. The process was easy and quite fun. I loved reading all of the other stories and comments.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Michele-Welcome to CCC!
        When life gets too mechanical and boredom is close at hand, breathe some life back into your day with a visit to CCC.

        CCC will tend to your every need without ever putting up a fuss. So, enlarge your world to the wonders of CCC where talent is known to scream from every word. You’ll find the mix is simply divine, as we drain the worries of the day and grab on to the goodness inside.

    • Hi Michele, welcome to the CCC! You got right into the spirit of things, huh? I feel that way about DIY before calling a pro to fix my mess 🙂
      I look forward to seeing your entries each week!

    • Great job, Michele! Welcome to CCC. (She says, slinking in the back door, hoping no one notices she hasn’t just been here all along…)

    • Lydia says:

      Welcome, Michele!

  22. Gina says:

    The four cowboys snickered at Patty, their condescending stares piercing right through her.
    “Little lady, you couldn’t ride that damn bull if yer life depended on it. Yer too pretty fer that!”

    She’d been tending bar there for 2 years, stupidly fussing over the men who admired the “pretty little lady” behind the bar who mixed the best drinks this side of Texas. She put up with them ’cause the tips were pretty good. But tonight she was tired and wanted to tell them all to go to hell.

    “Oh, I can’t ride that bull?” she asked them with her hands on her hips. “We’ll see about that!”

    Buck, a burly guy with a weathered face and a giant black Stetson, gave a hearty laugh. “Little lady, you ain’t ever rode that thang before. You gonna git yerself killed!” he roared as his friends laughed with him.

    She was close to hitting him. She slammed four drinks in front of them, spilling the contents on the bar. Stepping out from behind the bar she mounted that mechanical bull with confidence they didn’t expect.

    She nodded to Clint to start it up.

    The bull twisted, turned and bucked, determined to throw Patty off in one swift move. With each thrust of the beast, Patty wanted to scream, but she closed her eyes, breathed deeply and hung on, her lungs feeling enlarged with every gulp of stale bar air. She grabbed that rope with her right hand and could feel it burning into her palm.  Her left hand waved wildly in the air as she held on.

    It was only seconds but felt like forever. Just as she felt so drained she thought she’d be thrown off, it was over. She’d done it!

    Amidst whoops and hollars from the crowd, she hopped off the bull, and brushed herself off. Smiling, she returned behind the bar to face four faces staring at her with mouths wide open in disbelief.

    “Well little lady,” said Buck, “You done impressed us! I cain’t believe that! Hooooo-eeee!”

    With that, they left her the biggest tip she’d ever seen and sauntered out of the bar.

    At the end of the night, Clint came up to her as she was wiping down the bar and patted her back.

    “Well Patty, you sure showed ’em!”

    “I did! Thanks for letting me practice on that thing after hours, Clint. I knew it would come in handy one day!”

  23. Euthanasia

    The mechanical, rhythmic breathing from the next room used to get on her nerves; nowadays, it lulled her to sleep. It blended with the symphony of crickets and bullfrogs outside the window. It drowned out the distant scream of tires on wet pavement, the growl of a motorcycle, the distant clattering of a train hauling freight across the country. Eliana closed her eyes and let the sounds mix and mingle as she imagined the world opening around her, enlarging her view until she could see earth’s blue marble from a distant point in space. During the day, she tended to worry and fuss; now, she focused on letting it all drain away.

    In the next room, wild eyes flew open and a hand grabbed the sheets, white knuckled, as the poison kicked in.

  24. Andy says:

    Can’t compete with you guys, but here is my attempt.
    It was a mechanical world full of the clanks and bangs of a thousand factories. Steam shot out from fractured pipes as hot as dragon’s breath. All around a mix of fear and failure. His pupils enlarged at the sound of a scream that felt so close and yet could have been a world away. You don’t tend the sick or fuss over the poor in this place, you grab what you can and run. Outside the rain teemed down and rivelets of dirty water raced each other to the drains.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Andy: Welcome to the fun. Hell, you don’t have to preface your submissions. That was awesome indeed. Hope to see you around each Monday and Thursday for more challenges. Everyone welcome Andy to the fun.
      Adding your name and url to the CCC Community Links page now.

    • Shane Hudson says:

      Impressive! A very unique world and a great submission. Welcome to CCC and I look forward to seeing more from you!

  25. kerri twigg says:

    Government officials have just released a report stating basically that the end of life as we know it is close. There is a mix of response. Some people are making a big fuss, but those are the kind of people who tend to enlarge simple problems into huge screaming catastrophies that drain their spirits and momentum. Others are taking a more simple or mechanical response. They simply grab all necessary belongings to hold tight, say goodbye to loved ones in order of importance and remembering to breathe.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Kerri: Ha. That was great. I’m with the breathe camp. 🙂

    • LOL!! Yeah. I wish some people would just be Raptured already…
      The rest of us will stock up on water and Pop-Tarts, flashlights and batteries, as we prepare to ride out this season’s hurricanes later in the year.

  26. Cathy Miller says:

    @Chris @ Andy-Welcome to CCC!

    When writing is too mechanical and you are close to cashing it in, just breathe in an air of relief with a trip to CCC. You will tend to return to the addiction where the only fuss made is over the brilliance of words. So, enlarge your world to include CCC where we scream with laughter and cringe at evil as we welcome the mix of both and replace the drain of thought with a grab onto creativity.


  27. Lauren Bain says:

    Max was a mechanical robot; although he could not breathe he was like a child to the Smiths. In the year 2040 mechanical children had become the norm and for the Smiths, Max was perfect. He did not scream and apart from the odd mechanical fix he was not a drain on the finances either.

    Although Max was robotic, due to the compulsory education act; max had to endure education. Max had loved his first day of school, he came home and told his mother all the amazing things that he had done. However as time progressed  Max changed, he started to cry every morning. It was nothing but a great fuss to get him to school.

    Now Max like many other robots was not emotional, and so Mrs Smith was highly suprised when Max returned home from school crying oil. Mrs Smith tended to Max, he had become the laughing stock at school. At the end of the week Mrs Mills had brought in an enlarged spider and Max had screamed. Ever since he was little Max had had a great fear of spiders. Incy Wincy Spider – the rhyme had started off the phobia. Ever since Max was told there was the posibility of a spider going down the drain he refused to drink from the tap, and had to leave the bathroom before the plug was pulled out the bath. Fearing that the spider was grab him and pull him down the drain or up the tap.

    Mrs Smith was so glad Max had come to him, and for his braveness took him out to a theme park. At the theme park he played on many rides and mixed his own ice cream. The incedent at school had made Max and Mrs Smith close and were inseperable. Well at least until he was a teenager and then like all the  other teenagers he hated her!.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Lauran: Welcome to the CCC. You have a cool writing style. I likey. And I enjoyed this piece. I’m sure when we design robots to think like us, they will indeed think like us, huh. I hope you do the challenges each Monday and Thursday from this point forward. I know the CCC folks will like you. Everyone welcome Lauran to the addiction.
      Adding your name to the CCC Community Links page now.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Lauran-Welcome to CCC!
        Our welcome is sincere, never mechanical, as the best thing about CCC is our close-knit community who always has room for one more. We breathe in success to all who arrive and tend to fuss over each submission. So, enlarge your circle of friends as you are now one of us and can finally let loose the scream of words hiding inside. Add them to the mix and know the drain will be filled once again when you come to grab the latest 10.


  28. Better late than never eh?
    Detective Reynolds, Part 4

    Detective Reynolds had been a cop for a long time. He knew how far the law would let him “push” a subject. He knew the differences between the old style police tactics and the newer, softer ones.
    Peoples rights. Miranda warnings. The powers that be took away the rubber hoses and bare light bulbs that elicited so many confessions. Reynolds knew his hands were effectively tied when it came to that sort of interrogation.
    But if the suspect were to “trip”, or “resist arrest” or “strike out” at an officer, well then all bets were off. Mal leaned in towards Brubaker’s face. He could smell stale cigarette smoke and cheap alcohol this close to the frightened man. He tried not to breathe through his nose as he just stood, intimidating the subject.
    He knew that sooner or later Brubaker would crack. People with the weak constitution and illusion of power always tend to fuss and break like the kid who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
    “Well you worthless piece of scum? What do you have to tell me about next door?” Brubaker began to shake his head, a small glint of defiance in his eyes. “I ain’t tellin’ you nothin’ until my lawyer gets here.” He said. “You aren’t under arrest yet.” Mal said and stepped away, turning his back to Brubaker, and pulling on his gloves.
    The spinning backhand caught Brubaker directly in front of his left ear, knocking the chair over and sending him sprawling on the dirty floor. Detective Reynolds had never given up his custom made gloves, the backsides filled with lead powder that added a good pound to the swinging fist.
    They were illegal but unobtrusive, and they worked. Brubaker was out cold. Mal righted the chair before reaching down to grab the cheap black security uniform andhaul Brubaker back into it. He slapped the security guard across the face to wake him, a large bruise already forming on Brubaker’s left cheek.
    He came around slowly, eyes glazed and unfocusing. “You must have tripped.” Mal told him. “Now, what happened in the other room?” Brubaker shook his head again and Mal leaned in, death in his eyes and hatred on his face. Slowly, he said through clenched teeth, “Tell me what happened.” He began to adjust his gloves.
    Brubaker’s eyes noticed the motion and seemed to drain of the defiance that was building. “I don’t…….don’t…..I don’t” he blubbered and Mal raised his right fist, clenching it until his knuckles popped. “ I haven’t beat a confession out of anyone for a long time.” He said.
    Brubaker screamed as Detective Reynolds’ left fist landed a solid uppercut to his chin, overturning the chair once again. “He is still awake” Mal thought to himself. “Must be getting rusty.” He stepped over the chair and said, “Last chance Brubaker. What do you know?” The bruise on the side of the security guards face had enlarged. “Nothing I’m telling you!” He spat at Mal. The mix of fear and defiance made the detective smile.
    “Good.” He said and began mechanically alternating punches to Brubaker’s midsection. “We will find out what you know soon enough.” He said between grunts of effort as each blow landed. “Just like when I was a rookie.” He thought to himself and smiled at the memory.

  29. Kelly says:


    “I can’t breathe,” he said.

    I knew what he really meant, though. Sometimes the closeness made me feel like I wanted to scream, but I had no air to manage it. I was the one who was raised not to make a fuss—one’s always got to be the peacemaker, right? –so he’d never heard it from me.

    Everything about our life together was cozy, smiling, and neatly arranged. Our friends envied us, having it so “together” just a few years after college. Everybody wanted to hang out with us. Everybody wanted to be us. I envied us, too… the “us” that they saw. The “us” that we were, was something mechanical. Sterile. Like my desire not to have children.

    I tended to overthink, in those days, or so he told me. I wanted things to be perfect before we invited a new human being into our precious world.

    But something was stinking—nowhere near perfect—just under the precious surface, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. He had always said that he thought I enlarged problems that weren’t there until I had something big enough to work on. I had always tried to come closer to his ideal mix of intelligently examining things, then relaxing about them, but relaxing seemed to drain me.

    Now I know it was because of that sub-surface stinking. It took me years to accept that I’d been right all along, after years of trying to convince myself to see things his way—a baby wouldn’t have fixed the fact that he loved our life, but he didn’t love me.

    In the end, he used my unwillingness to “move forward” to tell me that he couldn’t breathe in our relationship.

    I grabbed at the break, maybe with a little too much joy. He seemed stunned by my readiness to split with him.

    I told him he was absolutely right. That I was sorry about the suffocation. That I felt it too, every day, but that I didn’t like to make waves.

    You’re suffocating?” he asked, his voice an unsteady creak. He had obviously built this up to be the moment when he dumped me and made me cry, and instead it was the moment when he set me free from our lies.

    When I left, I guess he was still crying, but I never looked back.

    • Lydia says:

      How sad! But at least they’ve acknowledged the truth now.

      • Kelly says:

        Lydia—Glad it touched you. When one thinks they’re unhappy, how often the other must be at least equally unhappy! I think they’ll come out of it okay. (Looks like she will, anyhow.) I imagine it happens like this kind of frequently.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Kelly: I’d love for you to do a deconstruction of this. Which word you thought of first, how you planned it out. Awesome.

      • Kelly says:

        Shane—With this one, I looked at the words until I saw the “him” character in front of me, sort of like looking at a scene in a movie, and I heard him say “I can’t breathe.” Then all I had to do was figure out why he just said that line. Does that make sense? I fuss most over first and last lines, so if the first line comes easy, I’m thrilled.
        The middle, enviable-life part, well, I lived that with an ex back when I was a young’un. (There’s a couple like that in every circle of 20-somethings, I expect.)
        When I added in the mechanical, sterile part right after that… then I knew how it was going to end.
        It’s not that she doesn’t want children, it’s just that she doesn’t want them with him. And with that first line of the story, he offered her a way out. He thought he was going to be the dumper—had her teary begging all planned out in his head, I imagine—and instead he winds up the dumpee. You know how I love a good twist—to the plot, to the heart, or both if possible. So I guess I tried for both here.   🙂

  30. margaret says:

    I tend to fuss and scream
    at people who are mean
    or have emotions quite mechanical
    or behave in ways satanical.

    I breathe and close the door
    because I really hate to roar.
    And would rather grab some calm
    and mix a drink as balm.

    A fortune I would charge
    To allow them to enlarge
    the noise inside my brain
    cuz folks like that are such a drain!

    Instead I’ll grab some peace
    and hang with friends with whom there’s ease.
    So if you’re nice please come on by
    If you’re an asshole, just don’t try!  😉

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Ma: You need one of them no asshole signs with the red line through it. I’m glad your catching up.

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