Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #149

Today we have author Evelyn Lafont picking the words. Show her you can growl just as good as she does in her twitter picture. 😉

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. Fang
  2. Chair
  3. Pirate
  4. Tree
  5. Child
  6. Pedantic – overly concerned with minute details or formalisms, especially in teaching
  7. Hotel
  8. Pipe
  9. Sun
  10. Walk

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


134 Comments on “Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #149”

  1. Shane Arthur says:

    “Well, at least they done didn’t fire us, hey Bobby?”

    “Might as well had, Billy. They’s makin’ us snake all da sewer drain pipes in all da Walmart stores nationwide … with toothbrushes. My fangs is comin’ out I’s so mad.”

    “You squintin’ your bad eye though, Bobby. And you only have one tooth, so you look more like a silly pirate at a child’s birthday party instead of a vampirah.”

    “God, let a tree fall down right now and squish Billy here. God, let a chair appear in my hand so’s I can smash it on him after da tree. And while you’s at it, please turn off da sun dat’s givin’ me the burn.”

    “Bobby, I don’t meant to be all pedantic like the dictionary done said, but we gets to stay at all da best no-star hotels, though, so we’s doin’ alright.”

    “Billy, they’s making us pay for ‘um. And, they’s makin’ us walk.”

  2. Tanja Cilia says:

    The hotel looked seedy, but at least it would be a roof over our heads after that long walk in the sun.   The child-man opened the door. He had a pedantic, splayed-feet walk, and what appeared to be a sabre-tooth tiger fang hanging on a pendant around his neck.  He motioned with the stem of his pipe, pointing vaguely behind us. It was then that we noticed the dead pirate swaying in the wind, hanging from the oak tree, an overturned chair telling the rest of the story.

  3. Lydia says:

    “I’m still not going to help you dig her up,” Ed insisted pedantically. “It just isn’t safe for only one person to be running around a graveyard this late at night. I’ll make a chair out of this tree stump, hold your shovel and keep an eye out for coyotes and police cars but other than that you’re on your own.”
    Marlene’s shovel thudded into half-dead grass. As it reluctantly peeled away from the land she began stacking the pieces into a neat pile in the space where Adela’s gravestone should have been. A small indent began to form in the sleepy ground.
    “We’ve seen too many early deaths,” Marlene said quietly to the night air. “Grandma Adela and her baby, Aunt Shirley, our Isaac. The least folks could do is keep everyone together.” Deeper and deeper she dug until the hole was so large that Ed walked over and began not-helping her move the soil farther away from where she was working.
    “It wouldn’t do any good for you to be buried under a sudden collapse while playing pirate,” he explained. “I don’t have the claws to dig you up or the fangs to drag you out. Keeping things safe doesn’t count as helping!” Suddenly Marlene’s shovel smacked into something that didn’t feel like dirt at all.
    “I think I have something,” she whispered, bending over to pick it up. A tarnished brass object.  “The casket might not have survived all these years but something sure has!”
    “It looks like a pipe,” she continued.
    “The kind you smoke or a tube?” Ed asked, still not-helping her avoid certain death-by-graveyard-dirt.
    “Smoke.” She stuffed it into her pocket and continued to dig. Flecks of almost-unrecognizable wood and metal began to churn to the surface. And then she saw the dull gleam of a skull peeking out at her. Time had erased most of the evidence for Adela’s existence but she hadn’t completely disappeared yet.
    The final count: one skull, several loose teeth, three ribs (one of which was broken in two), and several small metal buttons.  Marlene arranged the pieces near the lamps. Ed emerged from the grave cradling something in his hands. Make that two skulls – one adult, more or less complete. One just a little too tiny to even belong to a child.
    “Well, we have them,” Ed said. “What are you going to do with them?” The first rays of the sun had begun to caress the wee hours of the morning.
    “Let’s go back to the hotel and see what we can learn.”

  4. Thanks for the words today Evelyn, here is my creation:

    The Storyteller
    Sun dancing over tree branches
    chair creaking in the old hotel
    all the menace of a pirate fang
    people walk closer to the man
    as he sets into pedantic prologue
    smoke wafting from a lit pipe
    gray hair and beard as one
    attention fixed from every child
    as the storyteller is about to begin

  5. margaret says:

    I don’t want to be a pirate
    who’s always cross and irate
    or a stuffy old pedantic
    who never learned to be romantic.
    Or a vampire with sharp fang?
    I could give a dang!!

    I want my spirit to be free
    like a bird up in the tree.
    Don’t want nine-to-five in a chair
    just want to always let down my hair.

    My inner child does well
    and her dreams she will not sell
    so as with society to conform
    I am sorry to inform!

    Don’t want to retire in a hotel
    with that “old people” smell.
    My mind stays young and ripe
    always smoking a “peace pipe“.

    My spirit’s always full of fun
    and will walk only in the sun.
    That’s how it’s meant to be
    so I can always be true to me.

  6. Kelly says:

    Once upon a time there was a pirate in a tree
    He couldn’t see beyond his nose but he always saw me
    He tried to fly up to the sun, when it didn’t work he walked
    In lessons most pedantic, he taught me not to balk
    and to listen for applause
    in every pause

    Can you write away your problems? Can you paint away your tears? Can you jump into seventh bar, and sing out all your fears?
    What is Art for, anyway, if those “pure” Artists sink,
    and those on high are fakers who’ve traded Art for drink?
    Can I write my love a sonnet? Can I sculpt his inner truth? Can I swirl and soar and shout his name—is warbling lust uncouth?

    Once I loved a crocodile, he loved me, too, most sore
    His pipes were not a problem like the fangs I knew he wore
    I held him off behind a chair, but sometimes I craved touch
    His arms were soft as whispers, though his claws were a bit much
    I needed the applause
    from those big paws

    Sometimes you have to write like this, if only for a while
    It helps to get self-pity out, although the poem’s vile
    Don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t frame your own sweet smile
    Your genius is in disappearing, as ego-free words beguile

    A writer, an artist, a singer’s no saint; try though they might they crave love
    We all wish our Art would make viewers faint, then spend lifetimes rising above
    the pornography of wishing for 3 squares,
    and listening for applause

    My child, you know I want the best for you, I work so hard
    Manipulating words and facts and visuals on cards
    Hotels and fancy meals you crave, while I can only see
    Beyond my nose, so many roses, dancing on our tree
    Remember, there’s applause
    in every pause

    • Shane Arthur says:

      programming note:
      Guys, I’m so far behind on my comments. The power company was clearing lines last week and they knocked out our phone (ie or bleepin’ internet). I’ve been out of service for 3 days(felt like 5). I’ll catch up later tonight though.
      Also, for some reason, I can’t click in the regular comment field. Anybody experiences weirdness like this?  The only way I can comment is by using my admin window or replying to someone’s post.

      • Kelly says:

        Shane–Aw, I bet you say that to all the girls. And the guys…


        (& no, for once I don’t have any weirdness to report when you’re having weirdness. Holy cow, sorry about your Internet etc! I hate when that happens to me!!

      • Lydia says:

        I agree – this is your best yet!
        Shane, I haven’t noticed any comment strangeness.

    • Jen says:

      love love love love love love love. get it? love it!

    • margaret says:

      Awesome, Kelly…. love it!

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Kelly-your talent simply blows me away. You handle so many forms flawlessly. Love it!

    • Kelly, continuity adds power to an already enormous offering. Knowing what you’re capable of, we are treated to an awesome light-hearted introspection (I suspect).
      This is simply marvelous. Playful, yet mindful of the message it must impart.

      • Kelly says:

        Cathy, Mitch—I aim to please! This is what happens when a rant I was working myself into (for another purpose) runs smack into my Irish. Silly ensues, rant is (somewhat) deflated. Maybe.

        Anyway… thanks, you guys.   😀

    • Chris Fries says:

      Beautiful, Kelly!!!
      Those spaces above?  That was a pause — filled with applause.  You warble and chortle as much as you want, and mostly — long may you write!
      Your words are so deliciously divine;

      Pure truth delivered from your heart to mine.

      Ripe like sweet berries on the vine,

      I relish each wondrous word of thine!


      • Kelly says:

        Chris—*huge grin* Most unique CCC-praise I’ve ever gotten. “Deliciously divine” is exactly what everybody hopes to deliver!

  7. Rebecca says:

    Children of Utopia
    Another child was born at Lakeland Hospital and would be quickly whisked away to the SPE Group’s underground compound; it resembled a posh hotel. The sun was bright on this Friday afternoon, and the nurse from the SPE Group had to walk as quickly as possible. No one saw her with the child. Lakeland’s security wasn’t that secure – they weren’t overly pedantic. It made the transport easier. The nurse got into the black Mercedes. “Go, quickly,” said the nurse. “Relax,” said the driver as he put down his pipe. The car smelled like cherry tobacco. “You know you’re not allowed to smoke. It’s not healthy for the children,” said the nurse. “Yes, ma’am,” said the driver. He put the car in drive and floored it, almost hitting a tree. “Not so fast you moron. Do you want to cause a scene?” asked the nurse. Idiot. She looked at the baby boy and felt like a pirate who stole a precious gem. They arrived at the compound and were greeted by a security guard who was sitting in his chair and Fang, the German Shepherd. The nurse rolled down the window. “Easy Fang,” said the nurse. The dog immediately calmed down. She flashed her badge, and they drove forward.

  8. sefcug says:


    Little Cindy left the hotel to take a walk in the sun. The child stopped to sit in a chair under a tree in the park. There she reflected on her creative writing project, which her pedantic English teacher had given a failing grade.

    The main character was a vampire pirate clenching a pipe in his fangs. The teacher said this would be impossible, because the fangs would not let a pipe be clenched between them.

    Cindy decided to resubmit the story after vacation, changing the main character to a parrot clenching a corn cob pipe in his beak. Again the teacher gave the story a failing grade. Cindy never again submitted any creative writing projects to that teacher.

    Note: Cindy went on to become an author of children’s books. All of her books had a main character with a pipe.

    Moral: Encourage creativity, instead of stifling it.

  9. Jen says:

    This was no ordinary babysitter. I knew it the minute she walked in the door of our hotel room. She jumped through inwith an “Arrgh!” a patch over her eye and a stuffed parrot perched on her shoulder. The costume was complete; she wore a red silk scarf on her head and had fashioned a coat hanger into a hook for her right arm. My babysitter was a pirate?
    I was but a wee child, hiding behind the overstuffed chair, afraid of everything. I shrunk further back into the shadows of the room, but I could not conceal my interest. She jabbered with my parents for what seemed like hours. I teetered on the tip of emotions. Anxiety rushed through me like too much kool-aid but my heart pounded, waiting for them to leave so I could inspect this crazy lady. Finally. The door clicked closed behind my parents and I heard their feet softly padding toward the elevator.
    She stood over the chair and whispered. “Halloo?” I stuck up my head, into a patch of sun. I peered at her. She seemed normal enough, if pirates made good babysitters.
    “Well” She said, putting her hands on her hips. “What shall we do today, eh?” She met my gaze and something flashed in her eyes. Something I wanted to see again. Her pedantic tone did not match the mischief in her eyes.
    I didn’t answer her. I poked my head up a tiny bit higher. She reached into her pocket, fumbling around. My head poked out higher and higher. The longer she fumbled, the more interested I became until I was standing right in front of her, tantalized by the pocket promise.
    She brought out her hand, concealing something. She put her hands behind my back. The oldest trick in the book. I didn’t roll my eyes because the trick worked. I guessed. “Right hand.”
    Slowly her right hand extended. She uncurled her fingers one at at time. Resting in her white palm, a set of wax fangs. They rested there as I watched her left hand appear, fingers unfurling, revealing another set, identical. This pirate lady popped one set into her mouth and gestured for me to do the same. What could I do? How could I resist?
    When we were both properly fanged, we grinned conspiratorially. She said, “Let’s go for a walk. We can look for other pirates in the trees.” Then she put a corn cob pipe in her mouth, grabbed my hand, and off we went. Looking for adventure.

  10. Jake says:

    Just outside his window, the heat of the sun burned with intensity as it continued to beat down upon the industrial wasteland that Howard called home.  Row after row of company housing kept the dedicated minions close by.  The walk from his home would often produce a thin layer of perspiration on his forehead and became a path to the monotony that was his life.  The greenish smog had formed a cloak over the neighbor that covered enveloped the once beautiful horizon of the city and neighboring towns.

    Unit 1462 on Vernon Street had been Howard’s assigned place of residence for the last 15 years.  Just north of the corporate hotel, he moved in when DenonCorp first opened the factory.  Once a thriving neighborhood, brimming with life and dreams, now sprawled baron from years of unregulated production.  The air dancing above and toxicity lurking below had destroyed most of his lawn, as well as the only oak tree that stood just outside his bedroom window.  He planted it with his son, who moved to the west coast a few years earlier.  It had served as a symbol of growth for a new family, with hopes and aspirations like all who joined the new and thriving company.
    Howard reclined in his chair just a bit and thought longingly about his only child. Nostalgia came over him as he sipped again from his alcoholic coffee cup and remembered days that seemed to be only memories in the recesses of his mind.  He remembered the dreams he and Carol once had when Paul was born.  Carol stayed home and took care of Carl, when he was young .  Her pedantic raising of him had made Carl somewhat compulsive, but his intelligence proved to exceed the norm.  He still played sports enthusiastically, although not very well, and ran about with the other kids from other factory families.
    Halloween was always the favorite for children living in the shadow of DenonCorp’s hulking facility.  Empty holding tanks, piles of slag, and scrapes of piping created a scary atmosphere, as eerie lights from the plant birthed a subtle glow of orange.  Ghosts, monsters, superheroes and the occasional pirate, ran through the scrap yards as parents watched from across the street.  “So long ago”, Howard thought to himself.  “So long ago.”
    Grass soon turned to dirt, puddles eventually became sludge, and the trees that once held the elementary future soon became weak and sickly.  It became that every young man with an ounce of determination eventually moved away, in search of a better life and renewed hope.  As his eighteenth birthday came and went, so did Carl; taking a job with a fledgling pipe company.  He became quite successful and quickly advanced himself through the ranks.  Working for the famous industrial entrepreneur, David Fang, Carl had found himself in the same whirlwind of recognition as Howard once did.  Fang instantly took Care under his wing and made him maintenance manager of the company’s factory.  He was well on his way to being what his father most dreaded.

  11. Cathy Miller says:

    Holding the stuffed tiger by its worn fang, Dylan slid behind the chair where his sister lounged with a book. She was 10 years older than Dylan, who surprised everyone with his arrival.

    Inching along on his belly, he could barely contain his giggles. Last week, he had been a pirate and hid in the backyard maple tree – its largest branch, his ship’s plank. To a child of five, the world was a fantasy and innocence buffered the difficult times, dismissing the pedantic realities of life.

    Across town at a squalid hotel, Dylan’s mother counted out the bills, a freshly-lit cigarette dangling between lost promises. The pipe from the rusting heater rattled with a haunting tune as the sun-slapped carpet revealed its dying pattern. Shoving the bills into her tattered raincoat, she made her way down the stained hallway she no longer saw. She began the shadowed walk to the subway.
    Suddenly, there was a blood-curdling scream.

    “Dylan, I am going to kill you.” 

    • Holy Moly, Cathy. You got me all caught up in the delightfully obscure ending. Mercy, but could this be a unique way of implying that, with equal validity, either woman could have uttered that statement?

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Cathy: a freshly-lit cigarette dangling between lost promises – WHAT!!!!!!! That’s writin’.
      And I agree with Mitch. You took my mind and abused it ever so awesomely. I don’t know what to think about the ending, but I do know I want more. So, will you be finishing your first fiction book before or after Kelly?  😉

    • Chris Fries says:

      Captivating, Cathy!  Really makes me wonder what Dylan did!!!
      Fabulous scene-setting!

  12. Sisterhood of the Void – 9th Point

    During the few beats that transpired as Afetar and Neva hurtled toward Miasma del Merlot, Afetar brooded over the puzzle of the anomaly. She echoed her conscious waves into the mitochondrial library; a rather pedantic walk along this new branch of the tree of knowledge. She poked and prodded the child node that was now called silence, examining the gaps in their collective understanding:

    “Silence appeared without warning. Because it is neither matter nor energy, neither plasma nor consciousness, it went undetected. Why? More importantly, how did First Mother notice it? Perhaps the answers can be found in the pillars of creation.”

    The sisterhood paused to concentrate on Afetar’s ruminations. Hers was a fascinating rhythm – a confident performance of logical progressions that considered and discarded information with the skill and nuances of a first-chair ensemble. With the brilliance of the sun, Afetar’s arrangement flashed a simple yet powerful cadence, exploding with revelations.  Short of creating consciousness itself, the Daughters of Bet were unsurpassed at interpretation.

    “That the anomaly appeared in a Bek realm might imply an affinity for the energy of amplification. Why this particular Bek realm? Let’s ignore inexperience of creators, for to entertain such a requirement would infuse this anomaly with randomness. Chaos can not be studied, only observed. We need answers.”

    “Perhaps a daughter of Bef has some quality that marks her creations. Indeed, we all see similarities within a daughter line, despite Bef’s assertion of disorganization. Yet, these similarities are an aggregate of energy features, not a single, distinguishing characteristic. It’s not as if we’re creating from a pre-coded map of instructions.”

    Many of the sisters struggled to follow Afetar’s reasoning. In a sense, they were hearing these echoes in a big dark pipe of sentient ignorance; like blind pirates in a hotel during a Royal Navy convention. They couldn’t understand that Afetar was brainstorming – looking to sink her fangs into a solid vein of truth. Mostly, they simply relaxed and let the performance play out over the conscious sheet:

    “Perhaps it is significant that the anomaly chose a daughter of one lost in the void. If so, why? Is Atefa the recipient of a message from her second-generation mother? This is certainly less random, yet still tenuous. Why only one message? Why no message to Fezizza or even Feta? Is four more important than either six or three?” Why no message for the descendants of Bel?”

    “Hmm, four is one of the elastic beats. That’s symbolic. We must look for concrete paths. What is silence? We have conferred this name upon an unknown, yet a name, too, is merely symbolic. It conveys no more meaning than the first beat of a conscious wave. Silence, rather, the anomaly that silence represents, is neither the sum of nor the absence of the four elements. Logically, then, it is a new element. With all respect due to First Mother, my dear fourth-generation forebear, it is a mistake to define something new in terms of existing truth. To do so not only limits our perceptions, it also blinds us to the possibility of fallacy. Yet, into this breach of logic, we must fly…”

    Miasma del Merlot came into view. With a crescendo, Afetar’s creative lift concluded:

    “Silence must be another form of consciousness, one that we have not experienced. The elemental interactions point to the existence of a counterpoint to consciousness. We have no other explanation, if we are to honor the conservation exemplified by Bes. Exemplified by Bes, the destroyer. Anomaly the destroyer.”

    As simply as that, the sisterhood knew with certainty that Afetar had defined silence.

    Jebubba recalled her speckled universe. Of course! Bes energies reacted with the conscious waves, its sheets born of annihilated elements. Exhibiting her own flash of brilliance, Jebubba added to the echoes:

    “What if we stacked Bes sheets, one on top of the other? Could we actually create an anomaly?”

    Neva hammered the real point home. “Did we, in fact create this anomaly?”

    The thrumming began, anew. Startled by the reaction to her echoes, Afetar began booming, “No, Jebubba! We are creators! Bes energies only consume surrounding matter, energy and plasma. The sheets become part of the conscious wave, not voracious, planet-guzzling monsters! Think for a beat! What universe could survive such an entity?”

    It took a few beats for the logic of Afetar’s thoughts to overcome the babble of the excitable sisters. Jebubba herself was the first to acknowledge that she had not considered the invalidity of her conclusion. “This is why you are with us, Afetar. I fear my imagination was unbridled. I submit to your reasoning.”

    “Indeed,” whispered Afetar soothingly. “Your imagination will lead us to the answer, as long as it is not preoccupied with building silence out of slices.”

    The sisterhood laughed with relief.

    “Very well,” Neva harrumphed. “I need to get started on these harmonic dampers. We’re wasting beats, here!” She flitted off to find a quasar or two.

    Afetar watched her for a beat then turned to survey her creation. Of the dozens of plasma beacons nearby, she marked eight of the largest. “Hopefully, these will be sufficient.”

    • Cathy Miller says:

      @Mitch-defining silence-I love that! Keeps getting better and better. 🙂

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Mitch: I simply don’t know how you can come up with all these terms and interactions. most excellent.
      ps. Have you seen this yet? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJt0LJZG2k

      • Thanks, Shane. I got the whole story in one document and I scroll back and forth, cross-checking and rewriting to eliminate inconsistencies. Plus, the anomaly is a pretty cool thing to hint around 🙂
        That video was intriguing. It really brought out the conspiracy theorists, too! http://bit.ly/mdG9oJ

    • Chris Fries says:

      Wow — for an old guy, you write pretty good!  ;^)
      Excellent work, Mitch.  I wondered how you were going to get ‘pirate’ and ‘hotel’ into such a surreal other-worldly and ethereal story.  Great job!
      So creative!

      • LOL, thanks, Chris. I nearly gave in but, I told myself that this is the Challenge in CCC. After reviewing the earlier chapters, I figured that at least some of the narrative was from the perspective of an Earthling (e.g., strings popping from a burning piano), so I just took advantage of the opportunity to paint the Sisters. It was a bit mean, though. Those are some smart sisters, by Earth standards – even if they can only add numbers. LOL

  13. Rebecca says:

    @ Cathy & Mitch … OMG! This idea ‘popped’ into my head at about 1 am this morning. I got out of bed and sketched out the plot. I’m thinking the novel could be a trilogy and then turned into three films. Stay tuned! I also had ideas for blog posts. Needless to say, I did not get much sleep yesterday.

  14. Chris Fries says:

    Hey all CCC-ers!  Crazy day, and a little longer episode pushed the posting of this one late.  Just a few more episodes to go…
    The Look of Murder — Part 22

    As usual, Johnny Mangano’s voice on the phone had been hard to read.  But I was pretty sure he was joking when he told me that my girlfriend was officially off the hook. 

    “She’s not going to the chair,” Johnny had said. “She don’t even need to worry about spending time in the joint.  She’s going to walk away without a hint of suspicion.”

    He meant Margaret Thurston. 

    But she wasn’t my girlfriend.  Not by a long shot.

    Still, I was relieved when Johnny said that both the Detroit and the Michigan State police had cleared Margaret.  They had determined that Warren Powell was solely responsible for killing his wife Vivian and Margaret’s husband Charles Thurston.  It made sense.  It was clear that Vivian and Thurston had been fooling around for quite a while, so why wouldn’t Powell have wanted to rub out both of them?  Powell had been seen in Thurston’s office the day Thurston went to his cabin north of Flint, and then no-one had seen him for several days.  That fit the timeframe of the murders.  He was big enough to have used the camera to kill Thurston. More importantly, Powell had a gun when police arrived, and Johnny said that ballistics had matched that gun to Vivian’s shooting.

    Pretty cut and dried.  Any child could figure it out.

    I should have been happy that Margaret was in the clear; thrilled that everything had been solved, and truth and justice had once again won the day.

    But I wasn’t.  Two things were still bothering me.

    The first was that neither Margaret nor Sam Dotson, the lawyer who’d first sent her to me to help her find her missing husband Charles, would take my calls.  They were avoiding me like I was some sort of pipe-wielding thug in a dark back alley, looking to smash them on their noggins and pirate away every red cent they had.  I’d even gone to Margaret’s place looking to talk to her, but the maid had said Margaret was staying at a hotel downtown and had refused to let the cat out of the bag as to which hotel it was.  Dotson’s secretary was just as useless.  She wouldn’t tell me a thing, but with her it wasn’t surprising. She was downright pedantic when it came to following Dotson’s rules; because he’d told her to say he was unavailable, that’s what she said and she wasn’t going to give an inch.

    But I didn’t like getting the brush off.  Not one bit.

    While the sudden silent treatment was pretty blatant, the second thing bothering me was much more subtle.  Like a tiny spider stuck inside my shirt, it kept biting at me — a little persistent pest that kept sinking a sharpened fang of doubt into my subconscious. 

    What if Powell hadn’t done it?

    He’d seemed almost off his rocker with panic before the cops had plugged him, and I’d been around the block enough times to know that there no such thing as a guilty man in any prison cell, at least according to them, but maybe there really was something to his denials. 


    Of course, he’d never be able to tell me anything more about it now, because he was on ice in the morgue on his way to taking a long dirt nap and maybe fertilizing some daisies or a nice maple tree or two in the process.

    I wondered about James Anderson, though.  He and Powell had clearly been close friends.  Powell had even been hiding in Anderson’s house.  But Johnny said the cops had taken in Anderson and grilled him pretty hard.  He hadn’t seen the light of the sun for a couple of days, but all he would say was that he didn’t know anything, although he was certain that Powell wouldn’t have done it.  He didn’t know where the gun had come from, and he couldn’t give Powell an alibi for the time Thurston and Vivian Powell had been rubbed out, but he just knew Powell couldn’t have been a killer.

    Not much help. 

    Maybe I could get more out of him.

    I drove back to his place and knocked on the door.  It was late evening, just after sunset.  Anderson’s neighborhood was quiet in the growing dusk; a barking dog several yards away and light traffic noise were the only sounds.

    It took several minutes of knocking, but Anderson finally opened the door.  He cracked the door and gave me a scowl.

    “You another police officer?” he said.  “I’m afraid there’s nothing more I can tell you.”

    “No, Mr. Anderson,” I said.  “The name’s Nick Sharpe.  I’m a private investigator.  I met you at Warren Powell’s home, remember?”

    He paused and then nodded.  There was no smile of recognition.  “Ah yes, indeed, Mr. Sharpe.  I do recall.  You were also here when the police killed Warren, weren’t you?”  His eyes were stony as they stared at me. 

    “Yes I was.  May I ask you a few questions about the Powells?”

    He opened the door wider and stepped into the opening.  He was wearing a loose pair of pants and an undershirt.  He crossed his arms, accentuating the heft of his muscles in the process.  His frown deepened.

    “To what end?” he said.  “There’s nothing I could tell you that I haven’t already told the police, and they didn’t believe me.  In any event, Warren is dead.  Nothing we discuss will change that.”

    “That’s true, Mr. Anderson.  And the cops are satisfied with the way things turned out.  They have a suspect who was found in hiding, with clear motive and without any alibi, in possession of one of the murder weapons, who made motions as if to use it on them when they arrived, and so now that suspect is deceased and the cops have closed two murder cases in one neat little package.”

    “So again — what purpose would any discussion between us have?  Are you working for someone in your investigation and simply looking to accumulate a few more hours of billable time?”

    I smiled.  Everyone’s a comedian.

    “I’m not billing anyone,” I said.  “I simply want to know the truth.  Before the cops barged in, Warren insinuated that he had no reason to kill either of them.”

    “And you believe what he said?”

    “Let’s say that I think there are some pieces missing.  For instance, when I first arrived at your house, someone took a couple of shots at me before taking it on the lam in a dark sedan.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

    He smirked.  “Not at all, Mr. Sharpe.  I wasn’t here.  But I will tell you that I loathe weapons. I wouldn’t have allowed Warren to stay here if I’d known he had a gun with him.”

    “Yet, in spite of the gun, you believe that he didn’t do it, right?  Why?”

    His expression softened but he didn’t respond or move.  I spoke again.  “I’m not convinced he did it either, Mr. Anderson,” I said.  “Perhaps you can help me understand.”

    He sighed.  “Why don’t you come in and we’ll speak for a few minutes.”  He opened the door wider and stepped aside.  “Off the record and only in memory of Warren.”

    I followed him in to the house.  He shut the door but didn’t offer me a seat.  He faced me, his jaw set.

    “Mr. Sharp, you seem like you’re more interested in the truth than in the easy solutions.  But I have much to risk by sharing the truth with you.”

    I started to speak but he cut me off.

    “No.  It’s not what you think.  The truth is that Warren did not kill his wife or his boss.  I can’t prove it, but I know it in my heart.  The police are all wrong as to the motive.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Warren and Vivian were very close, but it wasn’t the marriage you would probably imagine, Mr. Sharpe.  He…  We…”  He paused and looked away.  I didn’t press him.  He swung his face back to me.  His eyes glared. “It’s not easy to live in fear because you could lose your job, your freedom, and everything you’ve worked to build up, simply because of who you are.  You don’t know what it’s like to be hated and judged a sick deviant.”

    A deviant. 

    Suddenly it all clicked.

    Anderson went on.  “Warren wasn’t happy that Vivian had chosen to satisfy her needs with his boss, but Warren knew it would be a short affair.  All her others had been, and she had always returned to Warren.  The marriage worked for both of them.  It gave him public respectability and it gave her stability, offsetting her wild nature.  Warren and I…  Well, we’ve known each other a long time.  And while I couldn’t tell the police why, I know that Warren would never kill Vivian or his boss.”

    “I see,” I said.  “Thank you for your honesty, Mr. Anderson.  And I think you’ve given me the missing pieces I needed.”

    Anderson’s face lightened.  “You think you’ll be able to clear Warren’s name?  Without having to drag it through the mud?”

    I looked at him.  “You prefer for people to think he was a crazed murderer than to know the truth?”

    He looked away for a moment and then met my gaze again.  “No, Mr. Sharpe.  I don’t.”

    I nodded, then thanked him again and left.

    There was another defended of the truth I wanted to speak with.


    • Chris, this is brilliant! I love how this is building up to a climax!
      I’ve always gotten a kick out of the phrase “on ice”. I’ve had the displeasure of working in the Philly morgue – never saw a block of ice in the place. LOL
      The other phrase “on a slab in the morgue” is a bit more gruesome. And sooo impersonal.
      Anyway, I’m sorry to see this coming to an end, but it’s been a great ride so far!

      • Chris Fries says:

        Thanks, Mitch!  Glad you’re enjoying it!
        It must have been kinda creepy, but still fascinating to work in the morgue.  I hear it’s a pretty popular place…  [Insert standard punchline here] And at least the guests never complain…  ;^)

        • [standard punch line] Yep, everyone’s dying to get in! [/standard punch line]
          It was creepy, for sure and as fascinating as driving by a three-car pile-up.
          I learned three things at the morgue:
          1. How to fingerprint the dead
          2. How a Stryker saw sounds on a skull bone
          3. How varied are the ways in which we depart this plane
          My first visit, between the smell and the saw through the ribs, I couldn’t eat meat for two weeks! It turned out that the employee teaching me to fingerprint deceased people was a ghoul. Normally, morgue attendants present a case by wheeling out a covered gurney, post-autopsy. This employee, who worked at the Police Department as a fingerprint technician, like to “get done” more quickly. So he would ask them if he could work on the bodies as soon as the toe tags went on.
          This meant that you had to see the entire body. Depending on the manner of departure, that was quite disturbing. But what can you expect from a guy named Frank Hand? (I swear I’m not making this up!)

          • Chris Fries says:

            You know, intellectually, I realize that when someone has died, the inner essence that makes us human has departed and what is left is only just an organic shell, but it’s still hard to get past the wild-willies when dealing with that shell up close and personal.
            I’ve seen graphic forensic pictures, and some autopsy footage, and those were enough, I think.  Creepy and disturbing, but can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it fascinating.  So I know I could handle the visuals in a morgue.  What I  think would be the hardest would be the smell — that just seems so much more visceral.  Add in the smell AND the visual, and you’ve got a faint-inducing sens-o-rama!
            But you’re right — there are sure a lot more ways to get out of life than there are to get into it…

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Chris: This story is in 5th gear now! Yeah buddy! More.

  15. (Apologies for the tardiness. Started yesterday, but got distracted and last what I had written. Just wrote up a new one in the last few minutes.)
    Roger’s stoic face couldn’t conceal his glee. He was stunned stupid with a smile on his face just as if venom had been injected straight into his blood stream from a snake fang. He took a seat beside the nearest table for the euphoria made his head light.
    “Two boxes” What am I going to do with two boxes?” thought Roger to himself. He leaned back in his chair when he felt slightly more grounded to the earth. Only after leaning back in his chair did Roger notice that Katie had been watching him the entire time. She had a questioned look in her face.
    “What are you smiling about?” she asked him, with a hint of knowing in her voice.
    Roger wept the smile away from his face and hoped she really didn’t know what he had been up to.
    “Nothing,” answered Roger, while thinking to himself, “I’m the mechanical box pirate, you fool!”
    “No, I am sure something is going on and I want the truth. You tell me now, or I’ll figure it out for myself later.”
    Roger was quiet for a blink of an eye. Then he grabbed Katie by the hand and dragged her to the balcony. He pointed to a large oak not far off in the distance. “Do you see that tree over there? The big one that stands out? Meet me there in half an hour and I’ll explain everything. I promise.”
    He left her standing there and exited the building. A child of one of the guests was walking around in the parking lot, and Roger could only imagine what it would be like to have that innocence once again. His hand pulled a cigarette from his pocket. He thought of how he should tell Katie of the events. In a pedantic manner, spilling detail after detail? Or in a more elaborate way of making her ask questions and trying to dodge the truth as much as possible? He decided on something in the middle, where he could lie with certain details, but be honest with others. Hopefully she would believe him.
    Katie arrived a minute earlier than she should have, but that was just her. Always prompt.
    “Ok, spill it,” she said, not even giving him a greeting.
    “Do you remember when we last had a conference here?” Roger began. Katie only nodded, with eyes telling him to continue. “We stayed in that hotel because we were here so late. Well, not just because we were here late, but also because we were in no condition to go home. We’d been drinking at the open bar the whole day. And when the conference was over, I think I found a pipe sometime after the sun went down and started to do something really stupid.”
    Rachel lifted her palm to her forehead. “What did you do?”
    “It might be better if we take a little walk first.”

  16. Rebecca says:

    @ Shane … Thank you! My story will be controversial and raise a few eyebrows which is my goal. All I can say is, “There is more here than meets the eye.”

  17. Shane Arthur says:

    programming note:
    As you guys already know, I’m a huge fan of Larry Brooks over at storyfix.com.
    Even thought most of you probably have not read the latest book he’s deconstructing, I’d like you to read his latest blog post to see what I’m talking about and how cool these deconstructions are—and how much they would benefit our own stories.

    • Shane, I’m actually going to get the book later today. I’ve been holding off reading his last few emails until I can read the whole thing. Is that going to leave me in the dust? Will I miss out on the conversation?

  18. Rebecca says:

    @ Chris … Thank you! The good news is I know “Why” the nurse is doing what she’s doing and “What” the compound is. How will it unfold? That’s another story 🙂

  19. Brad says:

    She was the worst home decorator in the world. How she got a gallery showing at the best hotel in town beats the hell out of me. A walk through her gallery was like having a seizure and food poisoning at the same time. Who nails a pink chair to the ceiling and calls it a chandelier? It didn’t even have lights.

    One of her jobs was so bad, that she was arrested for assault and battery of a pipe dream.

    Her style was like a small child who had ravaged a plate of waffles, puked on the walls and called it paradise. No amount of sun kissed Corona beers could change the fact that she was terrible at her job and yet so many hung on every word of her pedantic musings.

    My decorating is far superior and I can’t even get a showing at Motel 6. Why do I loathe her and dismiss her creativity? Maybe if I pirate her form i’ll be the one sitting on the top branch of the oak tree for all to applaud and gawk over.

    The fang of jealousy punctured my usual confident self and spread obnoxious thoughts like venom. I decided to just let it go, be happy for her and handle my own business. It’s the only way to succeed.

  20. Casper says:

    After the sun had dipped into the darkness of the night,she let her feet sink into the cold sand as she walked through the trees, towards the beach away from the boisterous crowd in the hotel.

    Lost in her own thoughts she hardly heard the old man in the rocking chair , on the porch of an isolated house.He had mumbled something ,but with a pipe in his mouth it sounded all gibberish.

    She had not gone far from the house when she turned around, startled by the shrieks of a child.After all the compliments she got about her pedantic efforts to make her pirate costume look authentic ,for the first time that evening she regretted her decisions, when she saw a dog with huge fangs racing towards her.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Casper: I remember this happened to me as a teenager when I was delivering fliers door to door for a pizza shop. A huge German Shephard came at me. I knew I couldn’t run, so I braced for it. At the last second his owner yelled at him, and he backed off. Never forget that.

    • Lydia says:

      This is one of my biggest fears. Bites hurt!

  21. Anne Wayman says:

    I’m late, I’m late, but…

    He walked into the hotel, pipe in hand, grateful to get out of the sun. The pedantic bellhop spoke to him like child, insisting the great old fashioned lobby was smoke free. Tucking the smoking device in his pocket, he sat under the huge live tree. It was a pirate’s chair fortunately de-fanged.

  22. She sucked the pipe like a greedy child on a tit.
    Fucking loser.
    No.  A pirate.
    “You’re a pirate.  A swaggering, mean-as-hell, pirate.”
    “Say it again, Lori. You can do this. You’re a pirate.”

    The tree branch blocked the lower portion of the window and the sun was inching over the top of the hotel.
    Lori couldn’t get a clear shot.

    She would walk around the block.  Kill some time.  Kill some jitters.  Make some courage. Wait for an opening. 
    He stood up, out of his chair.

    His head bobbed over the limb.  A cloud slid in front of the sun.
    Wok-wok-wok.  Three shots.

    Dead daddy.
    Head porridge all over the floor.

    Some pedantic criminalist would connect the dots, create the narrative. 
    A sad girl gets the short end and comes back a bloodthirsty Bluebeard.
    She multiplies the fang bites into three hollow points twenty years later.

    She was a pirate.
    And she–wok–sailed away.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Carson: THIS IS INSANE AWESOME! You must tell me more about this? How you thought of it. What you see in the minds of these characters. Will there be more of this?

      • Hi Shane–
        How I thought of it?  Isn’t it obvious?
        Who doesn’t immediately associate sun, trees and children with crack-smoking adult progeny of abusers hellbent on bloody vengeance?
        It’s a no-brainer!
        Seriously, I don’t over-think these prompts.  That’s why I like doing them (though I’ve been off tending to various top secret projects for several months).  I just dive in and find out where it all goes.
        I think the last wok may have occurred while our protagonist sucked a gun barrel and daddy’s head is in shreds, so I don’t think I’ll be revisiting Lori and her Pops any time soon, but who knows?
        Thanks for keeping this gem of a site up and running.  It’s a real blast!

  23. Shane Arthur says:

    @Carson: Some times it’s like the CCC unlocks hidden rooms inside our heads or our creativity. And you’re right; sometimes it’s better not knowing how these things form. Write on.

  24. meek willed says:

    I walked in to the front room the sun gust setting on the Harrison the light out expecting my mum to be around the corner in a chair like an animal fangs bared in anger .
    I was right she was there and boy did she have some pipe‘s on her to rant with, it was all “meek i raised you to be a good child a nice boy and you run off in some puppy love” at witch point I lost it shouting  out “well to be pedantic I am not a child anymore and yet you baby me”  and a I stared to walk out the door as she cry “shes pireated you away from me” and that was it, I opened the front door an gust ran for it.
    As I ran a mix of my mother words floating in my head and anger at how easily I was enraged by them and then i try to forces on were i would stay for the night there were no hotel‘s in town or close by and then it clicked I was already running in the right direction so push on running as fast as I could, an before I knew it i was there hidden among the tree‘s I collapsed agenst my  hidden fort opening the door in execution as my stung with the craving of air and my stung from the tear’s that had been wiped from my face as I had ran.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Meek: I love how this story picked up steam at the end. I found myself reading faster and faster. Love when that happens. Thanks.

      • meek willed says:

        @shane:thanks im am glad you liked it as i only hafe remeber wrighting this little dramatic pice 🙂

  25. Himanshu says:

    “Whoa! I’m not gonna tango with a pirate in the crowed hotel ball room”, said Rita scornfully.
    “If anything I look like putting on my father’s cap would be a cowboy, not a pirate.” Ryan said tongue-in-cheek.
    Narrowing her eyes Rita said, “Look at yourself. I’d be damned if you can pass the Alzheimer’s test.”
    “Would you be so kind enough to share your pedantic outlook towards fashion Miss Kat Von D,” smarmily said Ryan.
    “Ha ha ha! Very funny.” Rita places herself firmly on the chair. “You look like you’re on your way for an audition the Guinness as the World’s Oldest Child.”
    “Listen, I am not walking under that scorching sun without this relieving weathered leather hat”, announced Ryan while jumping his way towards the bed trying to pull up his socks.
    “I’d be better off married with that fanged snake of a man, Kurt. At least he would have respected my opinions,” said Rita while straightening her frills.
    “Yeah, a whole lot of respect while standing by the window of the tree house and smoking those pipes,” said Ryan, finally managing to tie his shoe laces.
    “Blabber all you want. I don’t wanna be seen anywhere near that stupid hat,” said Rita, with a tone of finality in her voice.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Himanshu: Such great dialog there! And I love how you held back just enough that I had to fill in the details with my imagination. Write on.

      • Himanshu says:

        Thanks! I am a young, burgeoning copywriter in an advertisement agency. I would appreciate if you guys be critical on my submissions. I am here to learn, not to flaunt. Cheers! 🙂

        • Shane Arthur says:

          @Himanshu: I understand what you mean about critical feedback. But, what you did was good so I can’t offer any criticism. We try to shy away from critiques, though, since this site is mainly for busting through writer’s block. 🙂

  26. Martha says:

    The sun was well past the barn roof when the stranger rode up the lane. The dog stirred uneasily as the pipe smoke drifted on the still air. The rocking chair slowed, and Sarah rose to carry her sleeping child, to the cot. She bent and picked up the fang-tipped gaff and held it in her arms, looking as stiff and straight as the lone pine tree on the ridge. The man, more heavily bearded and scarred than the picture of the pirate in her dictionary, stopped in mid-step, rethinking his approach up the walk to the summer porch. She could see him process the scene; his pedantic mind refusing to acknowledge the truth. “Why do you always think you can come in and out of my heart like it was a room for rent in a cheap hotel?” she hissed.

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Martha: Wonderful job here. Great visuals I’m left with after reading this submission. You should continue this.

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