Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #174

Today we have our own Jennifer Luitwieler picking the words. Her first book, “Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo,” was released on September 1st, by Civitas Press. The book hit several bestselling lists that day and details how she became a runner to stop the dog from pooping under her sewing table. Instead of training The Dog, she trained herself. She can be found on twitter: @jenluit and on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jenluitwieler.

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. Malodorous – having a bad odor
  2. Cogent – Appealing to the intellect or powers of reasoning; convincing
  3. Ship
  4. Stylist
  5. Choice
  6. Digits
  7. Shortsighted
  8. Pudding
  9. Sack
  10. Slacks

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


112 Comments on “Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #174”

  1. Shane Arthur says:

    Programming note: The last two weeks have been crazy for me. I’ll catch up on past comments and comments for this challenge when I can. Also, I’m going on vacation next week so I’ll schedule next weeks’s post to post automatically. I’ll see of the other guys can watch the admin for me in case your comments end up in moderation. Write on!

  2. Oh, malodourous Life! I am ensconced on this,
    Your cogent ship with no lifeboats, captained by a
    Gonzo stylist. Do I have no choice? Can I not raise
    A digit and say, ‘Stop! Stop dear pilot! Your
    Shortsighted sextant has left me here mired
    In pudding. Give me leave on some island with a sack
    Of butterflies to beat with their wings upon my cheeks
    Happiness that never slacks!’


    • Well done, Graham! Love it: life as a ship with no lifeboats! Ain’t that the truth.

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Graham.  This poem is so fitting for my life right now.  I want “butterflies to beat their wings upon my cheeks.” Loved this!

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Excellent poem, Graham, and I too wish I could raise a finger to have the gonzo stylist change my life’s course at times!

        • Thanks all — it seemed kind of dark to me (I think starting with the word “malodourous” might have had something to do with it — I was in a fairly good mood this morning… lol) and I went out of my way to cheer it up there at the end. Hey, who wouldn’t want to feel 1,000 butterfly wings fluttering around you?
          Glad it rung true with you all.

  3. margaret says:

    We all make cogent choices….listen to our inner voices;
    but I always have to wonder, what spell some chicks are under
    when they allow shortsighted stylists to put weird stuff on their “buy list”.

    The “sack of pudding” dress is not charming, and camel-toe slacks ,most alarming,
    and malodorous new colognes can have you running for fresh air zones!
    And what about bizzare, tight shoes that turn your digits blacks and blues?

    So I suggest those girls think twice, ’bout what is strange or really nice…
    and when through fashion magazines they flip, question what to buy and ship!

    • Oh, my. How true. That’s the second time I wrote that. LOL, must be the ten words of wisdom.
      Should guys shoulder some of the blame for encouraging “the look”?

      • margaret says:

        Yeah, Mitch…I think so! Fashion should be a personal choice dictated by what is comfortable and attractive to the wearer’s aesthetic…not some bizarre fabrication by a “designer” who thinks they are being avant garde or what guys think is sexy. I watch fashion week runway shows and laugh my ass off, thinking of “the emperor’s new clothes”!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Margaret. You’ve done it again. I can’t believe you were able to weave the words into a compelling plea for individuality.  I for one buck the trends…although I wonder if its cause I can’t afford them 😉

      • margaret says:

        I guess it’s the artist in me, Jeannette, but I’ve always dressed bohemian, out of the box with a couple of quality pieces, and lots of thrift store and vintage finds. I do not have any mainstream jewelry, but rather one-of-a-kind artist jewelry from art faires or vintage estate pieces. I get lots of compliments, so I must be doing something right! 😉

        • Frank Ruiz says:

          Margaret, I love how you rhymed “stylist” with “buy list”!  Very cool!
          Great piece, and guys have to be taken to task for some of their blind-adherence to fashion choices too!

    • Sara Robin says:

      Witty and wise as always, Margaret!

  4. The teams were assembled face to face: Cool vs. Nerd. The line separating them was invisible, the distance minuscule, but the wall insurmountable. Team Cool, brave in numbers, lobbed the first volley:


    Startled, Team Nerd quivered as if they’d discovered hot pudding in their slacks. Ignoring the physical discomfort of intimidation, they squeaked in unison:


    The audience of normal people sneered. Cool: 1, Nerds: 0.

    Team Cool was quick to press the advantage. They hurled sophomoric epithets, insulting the collective parentage, genetic origin and dismal prospects of propagating the species.

    The audience of normal people cheered wildly. Cool: 7, Nerds: 0.

    Team Nerd slowly became inured to this shortsighted, one-dimensional ad hominem attack. As the digits mounted ever higher, Team Nerd made a choice. It went into sniper mode:

    “You, there, Joe Montana wannabe. That C average may keep you on the team but it won’t do you any good in remedial English at Cal State! For the record, we all know that the only sack time you’re really getting is on the 50-yard line.”

    “Hey, perky! Your squad hates you, you know. They just tolerate you because you lead them, for now.”

    “Yo, Stretch. You’re only taller than average for awhile. You’ll be just average in the NCAA – if your skinny legs don’t snap, first!”

    “Silly halfback. Sue your stylist and get the other half of your hair back. Vanilla Ice is so played out!”

    The audience of normal people was bewildered, as if waking up from a booze-induced fog. The damned Nerds had played the cogent card – and the dumb Cool people didn’t even get it. Cool: 17, Nerds: 20.

    Team Cool had misjudged the scent of the hunt. That initial squirt of fear was the field pheromone of victory. This was no playing field however, but a battlefield. A killing zone that was about to be littered with the malodorous carcasses of clueless bullies.

    Yet, in the end, both teams lost. The Good Ship Compromise had sailed an hour earlier, taking all the normal people. Neither team realized that the invisible line had departed. Maybe, in hindsight, they would get it.

    Team Cool: 20, Team Nerds: 20.

    • Very Nice Mitch.  Still cheering for Team “Not As Cool”.

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Mitch, this story hooked me from the first line!  I was going to quote my favorite lines, but you kept outdoing the lines before as I read through it!
        I love how both factions were just putting on a show for the “normal” people.  Your story shows that the “normals” usually sit and watch while the non-normals are the ones that act in this universe!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Mitch.  This was a thoughtful piece.  As the score at the end shows, no one is a winner when judgments and misconceptions are at play.l

    • @Eric, thanks. Yeah, me too. I was considered cool … by my teachers. So you know that’s a cross between the teams 🙂
      @Frank, I like your perspective, here! The Normals are the world’s conformists so, yes! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
      @Jeanette, thank you. You got the point I was going for. I kept thinking about the movie, Revenge of the Nerds, as I wrote this. By the end, the nerds were the new cool…

      • KathleenL says:

        Mitch — I like that you give hope for Nerds! Making me smile in retrospect to my perception of self.

        • Thanks, Kathleen. Luckily, I went to a “Nerd” school, so we never had a negative image of ourselves – except maybe on the public transportation system, where the “cool” kids heckled us.
          Fortunately for this planet, Normals keep the systems running, while the nerds are off creating stuff. By the time we grow up, Cool really has been absorbed into Normal, in my opinion.

    • Sara Robin says:

      Keeping score doesn’t mean there will be a winner!

  5. Sean Murphy says:

    // Hi all! No zombies today – I decided to turn the story into a sort of practice novel, and having story-boarded the plot now, I’m working on it outside the CCC. I’ll still post Grant and Dave related stuff when the words fit, otherwise you get other random tidbits 🙂 //
    “Are you bored?”
    I hate it when people ask me that. I am bored of course, but given the choice, I’d prefer not to advertise it. It annoys me that my lack of interest shows so freely on my face, and I try to do a better job hiding the annoyance than I did the boredom.
    “Of course not!” I yell to my cousin across the few inches that separate us.
    I don’t know how anyone could fail to be bored in my position. I’m sitting in the corner of the Hive nightclub, wedged between two conversations about ex-boyfriends and past clubbing experiences that I can’t hear well enough to follow, even if I did have something interesting to contribute. Still, I put on a reassuring smile and try not to look like there’s something malodorous under my nose.
    As Ashley turns back to her conversation, apparently satisfied with my lack of boredom, I’m forced to admit that my decision to join my cousins after the show may have been shortsighted. I feel out of place, and it’s not just that I’m probably the only one here not drinking. Every guy in the place looks like he goes to the same stylist – brutally short hair, fake tan, and muscle t-shirts. I’m more comfortable in slacks and something with a collar.
    Sitting here makes me wonder why we’re so different, my cousins and I. It’s not like there’s an age gap, and aren’t 21-year-olds supposed to like loud music, dancing, and flashing lights? To me it feels more like being stuck in a sack of drowning kittens, unable to properly move, breathe or think cogently.
    “You want to get a drink?”
    I can almost feel her breath on my ear, she has to lean in so close to be heard over the music. My senses snap back to attention as I turn to nod. It’s the most sober of my cousin’s posse, the brunette I spoke to earlier at the concert. As we make our way to the bar, I smile internally. Maybe the ship hasn’t sailed on this evening after all.
    “Why don’t you order something interesting?” She smiles, bubbly, resting her digits on the bar.
    I return the smile, leaning forward over the bar, “Two pudding smashers.”
    “A pudding smasher? there’s no way that’s a real drink!” She lets out a small laugh, and I answer with a raised eyebrow.
    “Oh really? then I guess those are two imaginary drinks getting made right now” I gesture to where the bartender has begun mixing colorful liqueurs together. I’ve always been a fan of obscure drinks – especially when they get a pretty girl’s interest.
    As the impressive drinks are placed on the bar, she bows her head slightly in a mock gesture of defeat, then smiles at me with interest.
    I’m definitely not bored anymore.

    • Frank Ruiz says:

      Sean, this story was so fun to read!  You’ve definitely got range, going from the grim zombie chapters to this piece!  It was a blast, and I love how you book-ended it with the “boring” lines.  Great stuff!

      • Sean Murphy says:

        Hey Frank, Thanks! I was trying to express some range (to myself as well). I actually envisioned this much more gritty and noir, but the words made a happy ending I think turned out a lot better. Starting to learn by doing, so hopefully the submissions will continue to improve.

    • Well done, Sean! I remember those long-ago club scenes. I was never as lucky as the protagonist, though! (I did meet my wife at a club, so, I take that back!) Pudding smashers – what a name!
      Good luck with your novel! I am hoping we’ll get a taste of sophisticated zombie humor occasionally, though.

      • Sean Murphy says:

        Hey Mitch!
        Thanks, and no worries, you’ll get plenty of zombies. I’m just working through a difficult part at the moment – how the big reveal should go down after all that suspense, where the characters are relative to each other, and how they make it to where they need to be. Stuff I haven’t really had to deal with before. But once I sort it out, it’ll find its way here 🙂

        • Yay. LOL
          If I understand you, the story started here on CCC? Then, when it took on a life of its own, you felt a need to flesh it out?
          That happened to me with the Sisterhood series. It kind of proves Larry Brooks’ point about pantsing. 🙂

          • KathleenL says:

            Sean… if this is how you take a break… then so be it.
            Fun read… felt the boredom
            Love the Pudding Smashers
            And I too met my hubby in a Eatery and he did take my suggestion and meet on the other side … where the band was a playin’.

          • Sean Murphy says:

            Hey Mitch,
            Yeah, the story started on CCC with a single scene, and grew outwards. I haven’t had a chance to read Larry’s book yet, but I’m definitely a planner rather than a pantser usually, so as soon as I had the characters sorted out I mapped out the plot of the story forwards and backwards.

          • Sean, that’s interesting. When my story started growing, I only focused forward, planning-wise.
            However, during each week, I filled in a sort-of backstory that didn’t really emerge until First Mother had her “revelation”.
            Now that it’s done, I’m waiting for some free time to write a second draft. The biggest complaint came from my son, who said the names were hard to remember. Guess what? Over on storyfix.com, Larry Brooks wrote:
            There are two common mistakes that rookies make when bestowing names upon their characters.

            First, they use names that sound too much alike.  That alliterate like names of twins.  Bob and Bill.  Mary and Carrie.  Andy and Amy. …

            Obvious, perhaps, but you’d be surprised how often it happens.  Anything you do that makes the reading experience confusing or frustrating will always work against you.

            This problem extends to the other common mistake in this name game, usually in science fiction, fantasy or even historical genres:
            your names are gobbledygook, unpronounceable, unfamiliar and difficult to remember from one page to the next.

            Notice that J.K. Rowling used made-up names that still held some semblance of a connection to the human experience: Dumbledore, Bellatrix, Sirius… just a twist of the tongue away from familiar.  Notice, too, that the main characters are named Harry, Ron and Hermione, rather than something like Dysteronius, Anaconsiskboomhah and Xphenetieria, or the like.
            After laughing myself silly at Anaconsiskboomhah, I reminded myself to rename most of the Sisters.

    • Sara Robin says:

      I was charmed….found myself smiling big and really rooting for your hero!!

  6. Alison West says:

    The man didn’t look malodorous, but he was. She looked away, trying to breathe deeply. He was homeless, she knew through her cogent thinking. He tried to get her attention, but that ship had sailed. She looked past him at the trim and fit stylist walking by the window. She had a choice, it was time. The digits on the clock aligned perfectly, and she took her apron off and stepped aside. It was a shortsighted move. He was still in line. He asked her for pudding. She begrudgingly put some in a cup, then into a plastic sack. He couldn’t pay. He nervously reached into his slacks pockets, but came up empty handed. She stopped. Here was her chance to do something good, something right. She smiled. “It’s alright,” she said. “It’s on me.”

  7. Jeanette R. says:

    She stared at them as she put her hand inside her slacks to rub her aching back. The bus was late again and people stood in clusters lost behind their cell phones. The plethora of crumpled fast food bags swirled around the bench adding decoration to the malodorous bus stop, as if a crazed food stylist were present.

    She tried to make eye contact with those sitting on the bench.  If she had her choice, she would prefer to ask the teenage boy for his seat but she didn’t dare.  Her last experience had been emotionally draining and she couldn’t afford another trip to the hospital.

    The clouds were thick and black like chocolate pudding, cogent evidence of impending storms. A bus approached.   People stood up and gathered their belongings only to notice the ‘Out of Service’ sign taped to the windshield. The bus zoomed past leaving a hot breeze and frustrated sighs in its wake.

    The girl took the opportunity to grab a seat, laying her knapsack on her thighs to hide her swelling belly. She sat at the very edge of the bench, not to take up too much space. The boy stared at her and cursed under his breath. She could make out the music blasting from his headphones. His head jerked back and forth in sync with the baseline.  The tattoos on his neck told a story of a pirate who had found treasures on a sunken ship.

    She pulled her cell phone from her pocket and stared at the fading digits. The phone no longer had service, but she kept it to ward off anyone who might due her harm.  Her step-mother had told her to pretend to use it when she felt she was in danger.  She laughed at her shortsighted thinking, but kept the phone anyway.

    Thick raindrops began to fall. The plastic sheets that were supposed to offer shelter were long gone. All that stood was a rusted metal frame.   The women next to her opened her umbrella and offered to share. Huddled together with barely an inch separating them, they sat in silence, waiting.

    • Frank Ruiz says:

      Jeanette, your talent at painting a detailed scene brings everything you write to life!  I loved the details about the plastic bags under the bus-stop bench!
      My wife’s pregnant right now, and she has to deal with the lack of consideration on her subway trips these days.  She could be the girl in your story!

      • Jeanette R. says:

        @Frank. That’s really sad.  I would like to believe that people are better than that.  When did selfishness become acceptable?

        • Frank Ruiz says:

          Yeah, this world is definitely adding the pressure to us all, and the results are that folks are more and more worried about taking care of themselves first (and exclusively).  Sad indeed.

    • Jeanette, as a lifelong strap-hanger, I really appreciated the realism of this bus stop. In fact, you teleported me all the way back to Cheltenham and Ogontz Avenues in Philadelphia…
      You knocked this one out of the park!

      • KathleenL says:

        Jeanette — I was wondering if the aching back was foretelling… it was, mostly because I have been there a handful of times myself… not due to predictability.  Loved the descriptions as you bright to the screen… the scene came alive.

      • Jeanette R. says:

        @Mitchell. It’s been along time since I’ve had to take a bus but driving home I see those waiting in all types of weather and I feel for them.  I love how people claim we don’t need upgraded infrastructures because I see tons of government structures that need repair.

    • Sara Robin says:

      I loved how you built it up on layers for the reader…. first the memory of “last time she had asked” and then the reveal of her pregnancy.

      • Sara Robin says:

        This was also giving me flashbacks to the weeks I spent on public transportation after ankle surgery.  The crutches usually got me a seat, to be fair, but when I graduated to a cane I was surprised how often I was left standing.  One guy had the nerve to hit on me, after ogling me for 20 minutes from his seat!  I told him in no uncertain terms he had lost his chance when he left me standing.  He’s lucky I didn’t just whack him with the cane.

        • Jeanette R. says:

          @Sara LOL!  You should have whacked him 😉  I’m amazed at the lack of courtesy nowadays. And the lack of those willing to speak up for what’s right.  I can’t just say “that’s how things are now.” I refuse.

  8. Rebecca says:

    Marissa admired her new wool tweed Chanel slacks; they were a deep chocolate pudding color. She was a clear and cogent woman who wasn’t shortsighted like most 25-year-old women. For example, she never gave out her digits when she went out. But her friends did. And they wonder why they’re still single. Their choice in men was questionable. Desperation is malodorous and tends to linger. Marissa was content to wait until her ‘ship’ came in. Her hair stylist couldn’t believe Marissa wasn’t dating. She’d always say, “What are you waiting for?” I’m waiting for a man who doesn’t sit on the couch like a sack of potatoes. A man who understands there’s more to life than sitting in front of the TV watching football. She would just smile and nod.

  9. Rebecca hated what she had become, but this “occupation” if you can call it that certainly has its perks.  The money was great, even if it was considered illegal,  Because she was good at what she does, her name was passed around for clients to enlist her “services”.  Back home in Texas, the family thinks she’s a “consultant”.  The evasiveness and non-descript company she tells them she works for keeps them off her back as long as she sends them money to help pay the farms mortgage.

    The truth is, she dropped out of college freshman year.  She needed money and was desperate, so she made the choice to answer an online posting and the rest was history.

    Rebecca approached the revolving doors of the five star hotel close to midnight.  She looked at her reflection and wondered if they’d even let her in with the way she was dressed.  She felt like vomiting in her mouth knowing what was about to happen.  She couldn’t not do this.  This is all she knows.  It will all be over in a couple of hours.

    Only to be in the same situation soon enough.

    She wanted to be shortsighted, thinking of longevity in this profession is never what you think about when you start.  Each time you tell yourself “this will be the last one.”  You always think this is going to be the last one because each “job” you lose yourself more and more.

    But when you compare your morals to the money you’re making, you lock those morals up when you have bills creeping in on you.

    She walked to the bar past the lobby turning heads all the way inside.  Rebecca was pleased with herself, she had become her own stylist.  She’s perfected it practically.  When she started she would make appointments to have her hair colored or make up done for the high end clients, but they asked too many questions.  It was easier to have less people know about her the better.

    “Miss Draper?” asked a well dressed man in a well tailored suit.


    “The ambassador is ready for you, please follow me.”

    Well dressed man led Rebecca to a dark corner of the bar.  Rebecca smiled when her eyes met the Ambassador’s.

    “Good evening, Ambassador.  It’s a pleasure to see you again.”

    “Come. Sit.”

    Rebecca obeyed and sat on his side of the booth. The Ambassador put his hand on her exposed thigh.

    Get your hand off me you fat sack of pudding.

    “Mister Ambassador, you don’t even wait to buy your date a drink.”

    “Henri!” The Ambassador called to the well dressed man, “get Miss Draper a drink.”

    “Right away sir.”

    Henri left and the Ambassador leaned closer to Rebecca, he ran his fat chubby digits through her red hair.  Alcohol consumed his breath and calling it malodorous would have been an insult to foul smelling odors.

    Think of the money. Think of the money.

    “Mister Ambassador, I’m not real thirsty. Let’s skip the drinks and head to your room.  Get to the point of this rendezvous.”

    “You sly vixen!  Just let me inform Henri of our intentions…”

    “Don’t bother Henri.  He’s a smart man, he knows where you’ll be.”

    In his condition she didn’t have to make a clear cogent argument.

    “No wonder you’re so highly recommended.  You get right to the point.”

    They snuck out the back of the bar and made their way to elevator and his presidential suite.  The entire time his hands longing to touch every inch of her body.

    “Wait until the room, sir.  We don’t want to call any unwarranted attention to ourselves.”

    They got to the room and and his slacks were around his ankles before the door even latched shut.

    “You’re not wasting time are you Mister Ambassador?  Go over to the bed.”

    The ambassador complied as Rebecca opened her purse.

    “There’s just one more thing you bulbous ass..”


    Rebecca’s arm remained outstretched as smoke left her pistol.  The Ambassador fell to the bed with two fresh bullet holes in his face.  She put the gun back in her purse and took out her cell phone.

    “It’s done.  The Ambassador of Latvaria is dead.”

    “Excellent work, Rebecca.  We will ship the money through the normal channels. We’ll be in contact for your next assignment.”

    She hung up her phone and started walking to the door.  She passed a mirror, took a long look at herself and wanted to throw up in her mouth.

    • Frank Ruiz says:

      This was INCREDIBLE, Eric!  It was awesome to begin with, and the twist at the end made it all the more delicious!  I love how you wrote her inner thoughts in italics too.  Bravo!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Eric. A girl’s got to do what a a girl has to do…Great imagery here.  You kept me interested the entire time.

    • Excellent plot twist. I knew you were going for something other than the obvious but I didn’t expect that!
      Isn’t it interesting how similar are the words to describe disagreeable, compulsory acts?

    • Sara Robin says:

      Eric, awesome — what a twist!!!  I was definitely following each word and did NOT see her assassin skills coming!!
      Looks like “plot twist with an implied sex worker set-up” was in our shared CCC zeitgeist this week!  LOL it’s a very particular sub-genre of literature 😉
      What sparked this tale of intrigue for you?  For me, I have been admiring the impressive CCC plot twist submissions, so I set that as a goal even before reading the words.  Then the words theater & stylist gave me the idea of using a dressing room as an ambiguous setting for the story to unfold.
      I’d love to “meet” this heroine Rebecca again in the future!  (although not in a dark alley)

  10. Here is my entry for today, little bit of a horror poem I would say.


    Cogent malodorous creature lurks
    pudding eyes and black heart
    gremlin on a long lost ship

    Shortsighted sailors without choice
    now bodies numbering double digits
    too many limbs stuffed in a sack

    Like a macabre stylist roaming abroad
    mismatched slacks and blouse don’t fit
    the gremlin invites more to come

  11. Shane Arthur says:

    “Hey Billy! My nose is a bit shortsighted on account of dat deviated septum I got when dat linebacker sacked me for makin’ dat choice of runnin’ on da field wit’ no clothes on, yellin’ dat I got his momma’s digits, and delayin’ da game, but I believes after a week of not showerin’, I’m cogently malodorous, like curdled mountain oyster pudding in da back of my slacks right before laundry month.”

    “Bobby, we’s almost fraternity brothers, and when we are, we’s gonna be in charge of da finances, and da first thing we’s gonna do is pay to have a stylist shipped in to powerwash our bodies and trim and perm our nether region hairs.”

  12. Frank Ruiz says:

    “What I wouldn’t give to get off this ship and return to my life back on the mainland!”

    “Hey, don’t start that shortsighted ‘Are we there yet?’ talk already, Victus.  We’ve got two more weeks until we hit Mars.”

    “I know, but I swear I can already smell you through these damned space suits!  That Nelson-funk is thick!  Malodorous, even!”

    “Ugh, not only do I have to listen to two weeks of whining, but your amateur jokes too?  Victus, you’ve got about a minute to get better, or else.  Your choice.”

    “What’s that supposed to mean?  Don’t make threats you can’t back up, Nelson!”

    “Never test the guy with his hand on the ‘hibernate’ button.  I’ll wake you up when we get there, Victus.”

    “Wait, Nelson!  I was just – -”

    Too late.  The HISSSS of sleeping gas filling Nelson’s helmet was the sweetest sound I’d heard on this trip… until the sound of his head slapping the side of his helmet once Nelson was out cold.

    But then I heard another sound.  The BLIPS of my proximity beacon signaling an impending collision.

    “Shit!  Victus!  VICTUS!”

    I shook him, but that gas was supposed to last for days.  He’s not getting up anytime soon.

    I don’t have time to put this ship back on auto-pilot.  How did that thing get here so fast?

    “Houston, have you seen this?  An object’s appeared on our flight path.  I’m going to have to take emergency manual maneuvers to veer and avoid a collision.”


    “Houston?  Anyone copy?”

    I start rapid-fire tapping on the COM link.  Still nothing.  Of course everything has to go to shit at the same time.

    …except for that damned proximity sensor.  It’s getting faster!

    I grab the controls to dive out of way of whatever’s coming for us.  I lean on the steering mechanism, but my ship doesn’t give!

    “God damn it!”

    With all my options gone, the only course I have left is to brace for impact.  My life flashes before my eyes, and I wish it was a better movie.


    I slowly unclench.  I’m still here!  I look around and everything seems intact.  I then muster the nerve to look out at what hit us.

    Is that a ship?!?


    The hull’s being breached!  Liquid metal drips from the incision being made.  A slow, glowing circle draws its way into our inner sanctum.

    With nothing but a fire extinguisher as a weapon, I take it and stand in front of Victus.  I face the growing opening, ready to take on whatever creatures await behind it.

    It’s a shame my dream to find alien life came true like this.  Poor Victus never even got to see them.

    The molten circle is complete.  Our hull wall falls in with a CRASH!

    I tense up as the smoke settles.

    When it clears, I see them.  Humans!

    “Greetings, astronauts.”

    I can’t believe it.  Whoever these guys are, their tech is better and flashier than ours.

    “Uh, greetings, I guess.  Are you with NASA?”

    “No, but you are, and that’s the problem.”

    “What?  Who are you guys?”

    “Virgin Air.  Well, Virgin Air and Space, to be exact.”

    “What the Hell?  You just ruined our ship!  What for?”

    “First things first, astronaut.  What’s up with your friend?”

    “He just took a dose of the hibernation gas.”

    The Virgin guy smiles.

    “Excellent.  This is going to work out better than I thought.”

    I don’t like his tone.  I move toward him, extinguisher in hand.

    “Stop where you are, astronaut!”

    The guy who melted his way in points the laser right at me.  I consider trying to rush him, but their outfits are much thinner than our bulky suits, so I’d never beat him to the punch.  Virgin must have a fucking stylist on their space staff.  They look like they have on jackets and slacks compared to our overgrown “onesies.”

    Their lead guy starts yapping again.

    “Looks like you’re starting to get it, astronaut.  We don’t care that we ruined your ship.  In fact, it’s our mission.”

    “Why would you do this?  We’re supposed to be on the same side!”

    The guy with the laser steps closer.

    “Sit your ass down and stop with your questions.  Drop that fire extinguisher while you’re at it.”

    I have no choice but to do as he says.

    His leader watches it all go down before he continues.

    “We’re not on the same side at all.  We’re in the business of space travel.  You NASA boys are trying to stay the only space game in town.  A successful manned trip to Mars would guarantee your dominance for decades to come.  That wouldn’t be a good business move for Virgin now, would it?”

    He looks to laser boy.

    “Grab his comatose friend.”

    “Get off him!”

    I try to rush out of my seat, but I’m back on my ass just as quickly.  The butt end of laser boy’s weapon left a scuff mark on my helmet.

    “Don’t try that again.”

    The lackey slings Victus over his shoulder and walks back to the talker.  He dumps my partner on the floor and points his laser back at me.

    I’m a captive audience once again.

    “Not only are we going to beat NASA to the punch on the manned Mars mission, but we’ll also be ‘heroes’ for ‘saving’ your sleeping buddy here from a ‘malfunction’ that caused your ship to be destroyed.”

    I’m fucked.

    “You’ll never get away with it!  Victus’ll never go through with that story!”

    “How’s he going to know any different?  He’s slept through any chance to know differently.  We’ll just tell him our story when he wakes up.”

    I play my last card.


    Laser boy laughs.

    “That’s one of the benefits of Virgin having a secret R&D Department for the last 30 years.  We can jam your communications and controls without anyone realizing we have the tech to do it.  No realization, no suspicion it was our doing.”

    These fuckers were cold and calculated, but cogent.  I didn’t have shit to say in response.

    The talker turns to laser boy again.

    “Grab all the NASA rations.  Even though it’s all just different colors of pudding, at least we’ll have something to feed ‘Sleeping Beauty’ when he wakes up.”

    Laser boy rifles through our provisions, throwing all my food into a sack before returning with it to their entranceway.

    I receive a parting shot from the Virgins.

    “Don’t take this personal, astronaut.  It’s just business.  You would have done the same thing in our shoes.”

    “Whatever, you bastards.  Just get it over with.”

    They retreat back through their airlock and detach from my hull.  I’ve got nothing between me and empty space as I see their ship back away slowly.

    I contemplate how much air is left in my suit for a moment, but then realize I don’t have to worry.

    They fire a missile from their ship right for me.

    My ship’s proximity sensor, the only thing they didn’t jam, screams as the missile quickly approaches.  I give a last look toward my console and see the digits from its readout race toward zero before the missile impacts.

    I see my life flash before my eyes again, but this time, at least the final scenes were a lot more interesting.

    • Sean Murphy says:

      Love it! I’ve been playing the latest Deus Ex game recently, so the whole corporate science overtaking government science angle gels really well. I feel bad for poor Nelson though.

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Thanks, Eric and Sean!
        Oh yeah, that new Deus Ex game is incredible!  I’ve been captivated by the trailers and the design of the world (I’m hoping the new Blade Runner they’re talking about doing will be like this!).
        Now all I need is someone to beat it for me so I can see the whole story, heheh!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Frank. The “business” of space travel…What a unique angle!  We have nothing to fear from aliens, we need to fear ourselves 😉

    • Awesome. “Humans!”
      That was a riot, as was the fast-paced interchange, witty dialog and the whole premise of up-onemanship! (Ha-ha I said One up man ship)
      After seeing Eric and Sean’s comments, I can see this a a fan fiction piece for a software game.

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Thanks, Jeanette and Mitch!
        @Jeanette: So true!  I’m sure aliens are just fine not introducing themselves to us until we stop fighting each other!
        @Mitch: Damn, I wish I thought of “one up man ship” before writing this story! 🙂

    • Sara Robin says:

      Oh, man.  You covered all the angles.  The story never lost its energy or momentum.  Heaven help us when the cosmos is carved up by corporate interests!

  13. sefcug says:

    Call her shortsighted, but Jennifer was only cogent of the string of digits being promised for just performing her job of hair stylist. The appointment was for one in the morning (ship‘s time), with Jen being the only one except the client there. Though the request was unusual, Jen was ready and waiting.

    The client arrived for the private session dressed in a very nice pair of slacks and blouse. Jen complimented her outfit, determined the kind of styling she wanted, and started making her look even better.

    As the client’s hair was drying she pulled a sack from her pocket. Once the contents were exposed to the atmosphere Jen immediately understood why none of her co-workers had stepped up.

    The off-planet passenger was snacking on a malodorous pudding of very questionable origin, with a very unappetizing look to it.

    Do not let a large amount of money influence your  choice, especially when all your co-workers have turned down the opportunity.

  14. Rebecca says:

    @ Frank … I agree 🙂

  15. Sara Robin says:


    The dressing room door swung open with a bang, and Tiffany came flying into the room.

    Actually, Tiffany’s Lucite high heels came flying into the room.  Quickly followed by Tiffany herself, barefoot and steaming.  Last of all came a trail of supersweet perfume, slowly spreading until it melted into the malodorous atmosphere of mildewed carpet and pancake makeup.

    Tiffany stomped across the room toward the window, then turned on her heel, marching back to the doorway.  It was like her body didn’t know what to do first.

    “Somebody tell Joe to get his ass in here, NOW!” she hollered down the hallway.  Another spin, another door slam, and she was back across the room, cracking the window.

    Jessica looked up from the makeup table.  “Rough show?”

    Tiffany shot her a look.  “You have no idea.  I swear, they’re animals!”  She pulled a pack of cigarettes from her makeup bag, tapped one out, and lit it. 

    “Tiffany!  You know you can’t do that in here!”  Jenny hissed.  Benny ran a tight ship.  “He gets one whiff of that, he’ll fire you for sure!”

    “Well, trust me, honey, Benny really doesn’t want me doing this out there” – she jutted her jaw at the doorway – “wearing this!”  She waved a hand at herself, every digit flashing with gaudy faux jewels.  She threw her head back dramatically over one shoulder and exhaled a stream of smoke through the window gap, then turned back, smiling for the first time since she’d stepped off the stage.

    There was a tap at the door.  “It’s Joe.”

    “Get in here!” Tiffany called back, her fury instantly aflame. 

    Joe pushed the door open cautiously.

    “Where the HELL were you during my second number?”

    “I, uh… well I was up front, is all…” 

    Tiffany took a deep breath and allowed her rattled mind to calm and form a cogent reply to this.  “Your JOB isn’t to be up front.  Your JOB is to be there when I come down from the stage during my second number.  They had their grubby hands all over me!”

    Big Joe nodded.  “It won’t happen again.”  He wiped a palm against his slacks and offered it in a gesture of conciliation, but Tiffany was already lost in her own eyes, peeling off her fake lashes with her face about an inch from the mirror.  She’d always been – what was it, nearsighted, farsighted, shortsighted?  Joe and Jessica exchanged a glance, and he backed out of the room, closing the door gently.

    “I swear, they were grabbing and – what is this?!” Tiffany found a mushy brown stain on her hip.  “What the –“

    Jessica leaned over and touched it – tentatively, then with more assurance.  “It’s pudding!”

    “Pudding! Good Lord.  The idea that anyone would actually EAT in this place…” Tiffany disdainfully peeled off the stained garment, flung it into the dry cleaning sack, and pulled on a robe.  “Now what am I going to wear tomorrow?  I was going to use that one all week.” 

    “I’ll page your stylist,” Jessica quipped, trying to lighten the mood.  Tiffany snorted a laugh despite herself, and returned to peeling off her lashes in the mirror. 

    Nearsighted.  She was nearsighted.  That’s when you can see close up, but you can’t see far away.  She was also shortsighted, or so her mother told her when she’d decided to take this job.  It had been her choice at the time – better to make money onstage than anywhere else, right? — but it wasn’t what you’d call a stepping stone to a glamorous career in the theater. 

    Another knock at the door.  “Go away, Joe!” Tiffany yelled. 

    “It’s Benny,” the voice boomed from the other side.

    Tiffany and Jessica stared at each other.  They each grabbed a perfume bottle and started spraying madly, Tiffany spritzing with one hand and desperately fanning air out the window with the other.  “Just a mooooooment…” 

    Jessica waited a second longer, then opened the door, her body inserted diagonally across the door frame to keep him from entering, all smiles. “Yes, Benny?”

    He looked past her to Tiffany.  “I need you to work a private party.”

    “Ah, I’ll have to check my schedule… when?”

    “20 minutes.”

    “What! Benny, that is totally unfair.  I….”

    “Listen, sweetheart.  Either work the party now, or don’t bother coming in tomorrow.”  He turned to walk away.

    “But Benny, I…why can’t Jessica do it?”

    “Hey, thanks a lot!” piped up Jessica indignantly, stepping back from the doorway to glare at her.

    “She’s on the main stage next.  You’re doing the party.  End of story.”  He pulled the door closed on “story” for emphasis.  Then it popped open.  “Birthday boy’s a Jimmy.  Went for the deluxe package.  Give him a little something special.”

    “And how old is Jimmy the birthday boy today?” Tiffany said in a tone as scathing and saccharine as hot tea with too much sugar. 

    Benny checked his clipboard.  “He’s five.”  The door closed. 

    “Those are the worst.”  Tiffany sighed and scooped up her Lucite “glass slippers,” selected a clean satin ballgown and petticoat from the rack, straightened her tiara, and began reapplying her eyelashes.  She held her farsighted, shortsighted self so close to the mirror that it steamed gently as she murmured, “Better hurry, Cinderella.  You’ll be late for the ball.” 

    • Sara Robin says:

      *oops — should end with “nearsighted, shortsighted self”!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      @Sara R. I L-O-V-E-D this story. What imagery! What a twist! This was super creative.

    • This challenge was full of twisted, surprise endings. Here, I’m thinking this is an exclusive peek into the world of a concert rock artist…
      Pudding was the clue, wasn’t it. I just never pay attention. LOL
      Well done!

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Wonderful story, Sara!  This story shows me how reading can sometimes be more immersive than the movies, as you had me seeing, feeling, and even smelling the scene as it unfolded.  I love how you incorporated “shortsighted” and “pudding” too!

  16. Sean Murphy says:

    I love the twist that takes it from strip club to Disneyland – very nice 🙂

  17. Anne Wayman says:

    Power’s back on in socal

    My mood is malodorous, I’m less than cogent.
    My ship’s on the way and all I want is a nap.
    I’m not a stylist, by choice I feel
    Counting by digits is shortsighted; the pudding almost good.
    I’m sacking myself for the rest of the day and declaring myself a slackster.

  18. Rebecca says:

    @ Jeanette … Lol! I couldn’t imagine Coco Chanel settling. 🙂

  19. TuxGirl says:

    I glared at the stylist as he added yet another coat of hair gel. It looked like vanilla pudding just sitting there in the tub on the counter, thick and gooey.
    I wrinkled my nose as the smell hit me. “Do you want me to smell like a pig?” I didn’t want to be here, and the smell was starting to make my stomach clench.
    “Don’t worry,” the stylist exclaimed, frustrated with my attitude. “Photographers are used to the, uh… malodorous hair products.” He smiled broadly, enjoying his quick wit. I glared at the mirror again, trying to remember what shortsighted reasoning had convinced me to show up for this. I didn’t have much choice, but… I just needed to survive the photo-op, then I would be free.
    “All done,” the stylist announced, a hint of wounded pride in his voice. I looked at my reflection with a grimace. It would have to do.
    I opened the sack that had been shipped to me the previous week. I rummaged around, digging past the slacks that I had worn that morning, and finally pulled out the note. I skipped quickly past the attempt at a cogent request for my presence. There it was, the digits squashed together to make it nearly unreadable.
    Room 172
    I sighed, then headed for the door.

  20. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … Lol! Idk … Red potatoes with garlic, parsley flakes, dill, salt, pepper and paprika are delicious. Toss in olive oil and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. 🙂

    • Rebecca, that sounds yummy! Next time I throw potatoes on the grill, I’ll try some of those spices.
      I tried a roasted beet recipe that I found on the web. My youngest son tore them up! All it was was olive oil and sea salt – and fresh, unpeeled beets. The skins were tasty, like potato skins! (The recipe said throw them out – horrors!)

  21. mimi says:

    Captain Sparrow squinched up his face.  A malodorous smell was emanating from the galley of the ship.  The shortsighted cook had once again run out of food and the crew was forced to eat pudding for dinner.  The worst part, however, was that the cook had somehow managed to burn it!  This was the last straw and there would be consequences.  The crew agreed to chop off the digits of his hands before throwing him into a sack and dumping his body.  The cook was unable to form a cogent defense because he knew he was guilty.  He had no choice.  The angry crew beat him until his slacks were bloodied.  Before he was kicked off the plank, the jury allowed him to speak.  His last words:  “I should’ve listened to Mom and become a hair stylist instead!”

  22. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … I forgot about sea salt. Thanks for the reminder. I never had a beet before. Perhaps, I’ll try a roasted beet. 🙂

  23. Rebecca says:

    @ Sara Robin … Thank you! 🙂

  24. Kelly says:


    Shortsighted Sally
    never saw it coming
    coming as it did down the dark side of the city
    Man, it was malodorous
    stinking like a shipment
    of ship-shape fish sixteen days off the ship
    His choice of slacks, sad sacks
    his dresser wails, a failed stylist
    could produce more cogent pudding from the back of any van
    Sally sat in wait
    digits drumming for her date
    She never saw him coming
    just as well;
    he never came

  25. Rebecca says:

    @ Shane … Thanks! I draw from my own life and the life of those around me. Needless to say, I have a lot of material to work with.

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