Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #176

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. Justify
  2. Return
  3. Request
  4. Pay
  5. Don’t
  6. Stop
  7. Deck
  8. Lock
  9. Never
  10. Away

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

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

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104 Comments on “Writing Prompts – Creative Copy Challenge #176”

  1. Martha says:

    “You can’t justify my love, uh huh, uh huh …”  Samantha hummed offkey as she processed the returns. It was not the most boring job in the world but it gave her decent pay and benefits. You couldn’t argue with that but there were days when she wondered if she had made the right choice. “Don’t stop believing’ …” Samantha switched gears as she eyeballed the stack of requests. She sighed — she would never get through to the end of the week. All she wanted was an ice cold beer, a book, and her favorite chair on the deck. Instead she was locked in this airless office having to listen to her own tuneless ramblings. This had been the longest stretch ever at one job and she knew it was important that she stick it out for another six months before trying something new. Or at least that was how the recruiter at the employment office worded it. Oh who was she trying to kid, Samantha thought to herself. Try something new? That was a joke. Unbidden, Bob Marley crept in and whispered in her ear “Ya running and ya running, But ya can’t run away from yourself Can’t run away from yourself.” Samantha sighed. All she did was run, as far and as fast as she could, away from all the memories that crowded her in her sleep like commuters in the subway at rush hour. Except these memories couldn’t be brushed off as easily. One of these days she promised herself, she’d stop the running, but not this time.

  2. Jeanette R. says:

    Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a high-rise tower not so far away from here.  Her penthouse apartment was kept dark with ceiling to floor curtains and only opened to allow her to pluck fresh vegetables from her garden growing on the windowsill. It had been years since she moved her garden from her outside deck, ensuring no contamination.

    Although her home was spotless, she kept stacks and stacks of newspapers in every available crevice. She would request that the doorman collect her papers and periodicals and deliver them at the end of day. Eventually he had stopped knocking on the door and left them in a box in the hallway on which she had scribbled, “Don’t throw away” in thick, black marker.

    She preferred working on her bulletin board at night. It was displayed directly above her bed.  Although no one ever asked her to justify its placement, she would happily offer up it. “This is my Board of Preparation.  I cut out the most important news of the day, highlight the details and thumb tack it on.  While I sleep, if that’s what you call it,  my thoughts return to the horrific events and I allow my subconscious to plot a method of correction. People pay top dollar to never have to worry about what may happen.”

    She kept a notepad by her bed to jot down the flood of ideas that came rushing to her mind each morning. From her epiphanies, she had invented customized locks on her doors to keep away crafty intruders, handheld weather vanes that detect harmful pollutants in the air and specialized hearing aides which deliver police reports of criminal activity, instantaneously. 

    For those rare in-home devices she created, she experienced the benefits of security it brought her customers.  For those who ventured out of their homes and used her products, she would have to read the reviews online to get feedback.  She knew all too well the dangers that may be found outside her triple bolted doors.  She had made fear her business because it consumed her. She worried enough for everyone’s safety so others could sleep well at night.

    • KathleenL says:

      Jeanette — ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh this gal has serious issues…. I hope and pray it is made up not self analysing. But I enjoyed the read, it moved and shows promise.

      “She kept a notepad by her bed to jot down the flood of ideas that came rushing to her mind each morning…”

      This made me think … maybe I am not so ‘out there’ because I like to have my note book beside the bed too

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Jeanette: You could write anything and I’ll be smilin’ afterward. Write on.

  3. Jeanette R. says:

    Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a high-rise tower not so far away from here.  Her penthouse apartment was kept dark with ceiling to floor curtains and only opened to allow her to pluck fresh vegetables from her garden growing on the windowsill. It had been years since she moved her garden from her outside deck, ensuring no contamination.

    Although her home was spotless, she kept stacks and stacks of newspapers in every available crevice. She would request that the doorman collect her periodicals and deliver them at the end of day. Eventually he had stopped knocking on the door and left them in a box in the hallway on which she had scribbled, “Don’t throw away” in thick, black marker.

    She preferred working on her bulletin board at night. It was displayed directly above her bed.  Although no one ever asked her to justify its placement, she would happily offer up it. “This is my Board of Preparation.  I cut out the most important news of the day, highlight the details and thumb tack it on.  While I sleep, if that’s what you call it,  my thoughts return to the horrific events and I allow my subconscious to plot a method of correction. People pay top dollar to never have to worry about what may happen.”

    She kept a notepad by her bed to jot down the flood of ideas that came rushing to her mind each morning. From her epiphanies, she had invented customized locks on her doors to keep away crafty intruders, handheld weather vanes that detect harmful pollutants in the air and specialized hearing aides which deliver police reporting of criminal activity, instantaneously. 

    For those rare in-home devices she created, she experienced the benefits of security it brought her customers.  For those who ventured out of their homes and used her products, she would have to read the reviews online to get feedback.  She knew all too well the dangers that may be found outside her triple bolted doors.  She had made fear her business because it consumed her. She worried enough for everyone’s safety so others could sleep well at night.

    • Frank Ruiz says:

      Wow, this is an awesome character study!  What an irony that her help in keeping the fears of others at bay to have them feel safe enough to leave their houses doesn’t work on her.  The world outside is indeed scary, but dying out there might be better than dying in our own self-designed cages, even those with triple-bolt locks 🙂

    • “She kept a notepad by her bed to jot down the flood of ideas that came rushing to her mind each morning. From her epiphanies, she had invented customized locks on her doors to keep away crafty intruders, handheld weather vanes that detect harmful pollutants in the air and specialized hearing aides which deliver police reporting of criminal activity, instantaneously. ”
      This almost makes her sound like a superhero or comic-book detective. Instead of fighting crime out on the streets, she fights it from her personally designed Bat-Cave.

    • Jeanette, I’m digging this anti-hero. She  and Tony Stark would complement each other well.
      The commodity of fear certainly is in vogue these days. That makes your story even more compelling.
      I’d love to read more about her inventions, her “preparations” and why it all came to be.
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

      • KathleenL says:

        Jeanette — this piece gave me the anxiety just reading it. BRAVO. Made me glad I was not like here too. I too would be interested if she has more in you to be presented.

    • Sara Robin says:

      Very inventive image — the bulletin board over her age with the day’s horrors tacked to it, to seep into the protagonist’s brain and feed her business.  Bravo!

  4. Frank Ruiz says:

    How do we stay the “good guy” in our own life story, even when faced with the prospect of being at fault?  Through the magic of being able to justify our actions.  The reason I refer to our powers of justification as “magic,” is because we can literally rewrite our life stories, returning to our past experiences in order to avoid the discomfort of being responsible for anything but the best of intentions (in our own minds, at least).

    Here is where our power as storytellers can truly be illustrated.  The inner-monologue mental-request-and-fulfillment-payment procedure in such cases works like this:

    “Shit!  I just swung my coat around and now the lamp is broken!”

    “Well, it’s kind of obvious then, but I might as well ask.  Whose fault is this?”

    “Don’t make it my fault!”

    “But it looks like it’s my fault.”

    “Stop that line of thinking!  If I’m to remain the ‘good guy,’ it has to be someone else’s fault.”

    “Okay, who else do I have on deck that I can blame?”

    “Well, it’s just me and the dog in here. Hmm, the dog.”

    “How could it be the dog?  Well… when I swung the coat around, I was looking away from where the lamp was.  I, uh, I bet that the dog ran and jumped for my coat while it was swinging, and the dog then hit the lamp, knocking it off the end-table!”

    “Yeah!  That had to be how it went!”

    “Now it’s time to deal with this situation, as the ‘good guy’ that I am.”

    “SPRINKLES!  BAD DOG!  NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!  DON’T MAKE ME LOCK YOU IN YOUR TRAVEL CARRIER!”

    And that (aside from Sprinkles’ confused and angry looks) is how we keep the grime of responsibility off of ourselves through the magic of our self-justifying (and sometimes self-deluding) storytelling!

    • Jeanette R. says:

      Hmm, this is a thinking man’s piece.  Either we omit the details that make us look bad or we create another reality to make us shine.  Or you have those folks that tell stories and are obviously the ‘bad guy’ but they see your reaction and then try to put a positive spin on it.
      I guess if we realized that none of us are perfect and we all make mistakes, we wouldn’t need to feel the pressure of good vs. bad in our stories.  It would just simply be the way it happened.
      Although I am guilty of amping up the bad guys in my stories 😉

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        That’s the key, Jeanette.  If we’re okay with being imperfect and screwing up sometimes, then we can all stay right where we are in our shared reality, without having to retreat into our mind’s remixed versions 🙂

    • I don’t know if this was what you were going for, but I read it like it was a funny “informative” how-to video short on youtube. Actually, I saw it play out in my mind’s eye.

    • Frank, the scary truth in your writing is that you simultaneously described childish behavior and political grandstanding.
       
      Only one of these is natural.
       
      You really nailed the point with the magic of justification. That says it all.
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Thanks, Mitch!

        You’re definitely right about our lifelong politicians illustrating the “good guy” ethos at the cost of responsibility at every chance they get!

    • Sara Robin says:

      This caused a little bit of uncomfortable self-reflection for me!  Next, I got to Mitch’s comment, and thought the political angle was really interesting — but then, it occurred to me that by embracing that interpretation, I was escaping the uncomfortable self-reflection — in other words, I was enacting the pattern you described, in my reaction to the story…. oh boy, this is getting too “meta”!  haha

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Frank: I read this exactly as Matt did. Super funny.

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Thanks for the comments, Sara and Mitch!
         
        Yeah, I often feel guilty when looking back at my own history rewriting to stay the “good guy!”  When I can’t pull that off, I seem to conveniently forget the incidents altogether (despite my pals bringing up such episodes repeatedly!).

  5. 1:08 PM

    Guy was excited.  Late but excited as he was on his way to meet his girlfriend at their favorite downtown restaurant.  Hurriedly he maneuvered through oncoming pedestrians. Some would give him dirty looks and make comments under their breaths as he passed.  He didn’t care, he had something he wanted to tell Emily and nothing was going to prevent this high.

    He was at the corner of 8th and Austen, two blocks away from the restaurant, waiting for the crosswalk to grant permission to cross.  Even though he was lost in his thoughts, he could still hear the sounds of the outside world.  Street vendors, the chatter of the masses, squeaking breaks filled the air between the buildings.  He even thought he heard someone yell his name.  He stood on his tip toes to try and look over the crowd, just to see if he could see someone he knew.

    Nothing.

    Oh well.

    The signal changed and the mass he was part of moved. A few seconds later there were squealing of brakes and the sound of glass shattering.  He looked back.  A large crowd had gathered around the accident but he keeps walking away.  Not that he didn’t care, but he wasn’t a doctor or paramedic.  That’s how he could justify his current non-involvement actions.  He’ll have to remember it for later.  Hopefully he can help out somehow.

    Down the block, Guy could see Emily waiting by the front of the restaurant.  He rushed to her and apologized.

    “I’m sorry, Sweetie.  My watch stopped working.”

    “It’s okay, I haven’t been here that long.  You can make it up to me with a glass of wine.”

    “Of course.” he said with a smile.

    He grinned as he held the door for her and entered the foyer.  Guy put a request for two guests to the hostess and she took them to a prepared table.

    “Your waiter will be here momentarily to get your drink orders.”

    They acknowledged and sat across from each other.  There was a short silence before Emily spoke first.

    “So, what’s this big announcement you want to tell me?”

    “You’ll never believe me, but something happened to me yesterday.”

    “What is it?”

    “It’s difficult to explain, but it’s still new to me and I don’t know exactly how it happened.  But….”

    “Here’s your water..” The waiter interrupted.

    “Thanks.” Guy said, still looking at Emily.

    “May I take your order?”

    “We’re not ready yet, thank you.”

    “Oh okay, just let me know.”

    The waiter places Emily’s water down, but cold water and ice spills into her lap.

    “OH MY GOODNESS!!!!”

    “Dude, watch what you’re doing!!!”

    “I’m sorry.”  He said holding his head down.

    Emily doesn’t say anything, but gets up and rushes to the bathroom.

    “Emily?!?!”

    “She’ll be fine”, the waiter says as he sits down at the table.

    “What are you doing?!”  Guy looks at the waiter really for the first time and is surprised at what he sees.

    “Hey Guy, it’s me… errr.. you… Guy.”

    He was right, Guy was looking across the table at himself.  An exact copy of himself down to what he was wearing today.

    Don’t freak out.  It’s okay.  Everything is fine.”

    “What’s going on here?”

    “As you can tell, I am you.  Actually I am you about two hours from now.”

    “What?”

    “I’m you two hours from now.  You are me two hours ago.  Well you’re me now, and I’m you now and we’re here together.”

    “I’m confused.”

    “Dude, did we, or did we not find out we have the ability to time travel yesterday?”

    “Yeah.”

    “And that’s what you, we, were going to tell Emily today this afternoon correct?”

    “How did you know that?”

    “Dude, we are the same persib, we have the same mind.  Even though we’re a novice time traveler, we should understand the basic principles of it.”

    “…………………”

    “I can’t believe I was this clueless two hours ago.”

    “So why are you here now?”

    “Because we can’t tell Emily about the time travel thing.  Not yet.  She’s not ready.  I’m here to stop you.”

    “Like Terminator stop me?”

    “No dude.  I’m just here to tell you to just don’t tell her about it.  She’s going to freak out and leave you… Me… Us…”

    “Okay.  What should I tell her?”

    “Tell her you fell in love with her again or something.  I don’t have enough time, she’ll be back any second.”

    “How do you know?”

    Guy from two hours from now sighs, “Because I was you two hours ago, and she comes her any second.  She’s going to know something is up.”

    “What is going on here?!?!”  A shocked Emily bursts out when she sees two of her boyfriend having a conversation.  “There’s two of you at the table, I don’t know what’s going.”

    “Sweetie..”  Guy starts.

    “Don’t do it”  Guy from two hours from now tries to interrupt.

    “Emily… I’m a..”

    “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”

    “Who is that? Why does he look like you and what does he not want you to tell me?”

    “You’ll want to lock me up if I tell you, but…”

    “Don’t do it man!!!”

    “YesterdayIdiscoveredtimetravelandIwasgoingtotellyoutodayandthisismefromtwohours
    fromnowinanattempttostopmefromtellingyouaboutmydiscoverybecausether’sachanceyou
    willleaveme.”

    “Crap.  I was hoping I could have stopped myself this time unlike when I was sitting there two hours ago  and the Guy from two hours from now for you then tried to stop me.  I guess whatever happened happens.”

    “What?”

    “The Guy from two hours from now two hours ago when I was here the first time tried to stop me just like I tried to stop you.  And this is the biggest case of Déjà Vu from another point of view because I’m saying word for word what he was saying two hours ago.  Well, two hours ago to me, not to you.”

    “That’s it.  I’m out of here!!!”  Emily storms off.

    “Emily wait!!!”

    “Hold up.  It’s no use.  She’s gone.  She’s flipped.  The best thing to do is go home.  And in a couple hours come back to now and do a better job of talking yourself out of telling Emily than I or the us from two hours from now two hours ago did for me.”

    “Why two hours?”

    “Because that’s how long it takes for all this to make sense.”

    “Ahh.”

    “Yeah, that’s just what I said two hours ago.”

    “What are you going to do?”

    “There’s something that I need to do.  It’s what the Guy from two hours from now two hours ago told me to do if I was not able to talk the Guy from two hours ago (which is you) out of telling Emily our finding.  Go back and try to tell us before we get here.”

    “What do I do?”

    “You need to return to this time and try to talk the you two hours from now, two hours before out of the same things I tried to do to you, got it?”

    “No.”

    “Well you will.  Two hours from now.”

    “Who’s going to pay the bill?”

    “You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally.  Plus, we haven’t ordered anything yet.”

    “What if the us two hours before now does not listen to you when you tell them what happens?”

    “I’m just going to deck him and take his place and act like him for a while.”

    “Ahh.. Cool.  Well good luck and stuff.”

    “I can’t believe I was such a dork two hours ago.”

    1:06 PM

    Guy is standing at the corner of Austen and 8th, waiting for the Guy from two hours and 20 minutes ago to get there.

    Where the stink am I??

    Guy thinks for a moment.  Looks at his watch.  Not that it makes any difference, he’s looking at his watch at what it would be  in his time if he never time travelled in the first place.

    Crap!!! If it didn’t stop on me earlier in the day!!!!  That’s why I’m late and not here yet.  If this doesn’t work, I’m
    just going to go back and replace the watch battery.

    Guy sees a crowd of people waiting for the signal to change.  He looks deep in the crowd and he sees himself from two hours and twenty minutes ago on the way to meet Emily.  Oblivious to everything with a retarded smile on his face.

    Man, time travel can make you cynical.

    “GUY!!!!””

    Nothing.

    “GUY!!!”

    Nothing.

    Crap.

    Guy rushes across the street to stop himself when the squealing of brakes is heard followed by Guy’s body smashing the glass of a taxi.  He rolls off the hood and slides on the pavement.  A crowd of people gather around him as he tries to focus on Guy walking away from the accident.

    I was such a self absorbed jerk.

    Guy’s vision goes to black.

    • Frank Ruiz says:

      Whoa, awesome and well-structured time-travel story!  Poor guy went from discovering an amazing power, to losing his girl, to potentially being stuck in a loop of trying to stop himself from losing his girl, to being “stopped” in every sense altogether!  Loved it!

    • Eric, this rocked. I loved the execution (um, delivery, LOL).
      How did you keep all that straight?
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

      • Mitch, I’ve always enjoyed the theory (and many variances of) time travel.  Whatever Happened, Happened is just one I can subscribe to.  The fact that there’s only one time line and it’s unchanged no matter how much you travel back and forth through it.  That’s what I was going for here.  To make sure I had it down right, I had to draw the “time line” of Guy.  Then i just tried to get silly and confusing when I started talking about the the present Guy soon becoming the future Guy and interacting with his Past Guy during the present.

        • Cool. My wife and I debate time travel and parallel worlds whenever they are presented on video. I usually end up with a headache. LOL
           
          Thanks for sharing your process.
           
          Cheers,
           
          Mitch
           

          • KathleenL says:

            Eric — I found this a bit trying to read, but not for the writing of it, as the writing only has a few technical edits to be done… I think that my mind was not set for a time travel piece and so… it was me.
            I liked how you ran everything present day Guy wanted to say together after the girlfriend got back to the table. It made it so real.
            I liked how you wrapped it back around… the yelling “Guy” on the street — again — and then the success of the 2nd Guy as the lights go out.

    • Sara Robin says:

      Well done!!  Poor guy… stuck in an endless loop… and I felt sorry for Emily too!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Eric: That probably the coolest, funniest time travel story I’ve ever read. Bravo.

  6. Jeff knew he couldn’t justify what he was about to do. It was something that just had to be done. Never in his life’s history would he regret anything more. In all the years of wanting to just get away from there, he came back to his hometown in a return not even his worst nightmares could fathom.
    It all began with a job request he found in an e-mail. In those days, employment was hard to find and being unemployed was not a fad which many took part in voluntarily. He had applied for so many jobs that he had nearly lost count of all the employers who wouldn’t call him back. By the time he saw this e-mail, he’d become desperate, thinking he should take any job that would pay.
    Whoever had sent it titled the heading with capital letters: DON’T WAIT! ACT NOW! STOP WORRYING ABOUT GETTING A JOB AND GET ONE ALREADY!
    He knew he probably should have thrown it out over the deck, but desperation led him to reply. It was in his hometown after all. “How bad could it be?” he thought to himself. He had turned the lock on his most horrific memories of the town into a vacant corner of his mind. Never would he have accepted the job if he could only recall being so ridiculed by those people. That was years ago and so far away. But once he came back, the memories began to flood out, the dam unable to hold back the emotional waters.

  7. Dark one today.
     
    Trapped
     

    Justify the means
    It’s only for the pay
    Don’t invest any feelings
    Lock your heart away


     
    Tell yourself you will stop
    The vile things they request
    Lying prone on some deck
    Yet another morality test
     
     
    As if things weren’t hard enough
    Will you really never learn?
    How many times black and bruised
    Is there any chance hope will return?
     

  8. sefcug says:

    Characters:
     
    Bleu – The Blue Heron 
    Hamza – The Male Hippopotamus 
    Hazel – The Female Hippopotamus
     
    Bleu perched upon Hamza’s broad back as they moved downriver, and saw a small school of fish near the bank.
     
    He decided to <B>request </B>a detour to the area from his friend, but couldn’t think of a way to <B>justify </B>the move. He decided to just ask and see what happened, so then got Hamza’s attention.
     
    Hamza listened and agreed with the stipulation that the <B>stop </B>would be very short as he was <B>lock</B>ed in to making the <B>return </B>to his wife before she realized he was gone.
     
    As they approached the bank, Hamza opened his mouth wide to offer a <B>deck </B>for Bleu to hunt from.
     
    Hazel noticed they were gone and let out a loud snort. Startled, Hamza clamped his mouth shut reflexively, crushing Bleu’s legs, and turned towards her.
     
    <I>Moral:</I>
     
    <B>Never </B>look <B>away </B>from a hippo, because they have a real short attention span, so if you <B>don’t </B><B>pay </B>attention you can get seriously hurt.

  9. sefcug says:

    “The Blue Heron And The Hippos”

    Characters:
    Bleu – The Blue Heron
    Hamza – The Male Hippopotamus
    Hazel – The Female Hippopotamus
     
    Bleu perched upon Hamza’s broad back as they moved downriver, and saw a small school of fish near the bank. He decided to request a detour to the area from his friend, but couldn’t think of a way to justify the move. He decided to just ask and see what happened, so then got Hamza’s attention.
     
    Hamza listened and agreed, with the stipulation that the stop would be very short, as he was locked in to making the return to his wife, before she realized he was gone.
     
    As they approached the bank, Hamza opened his mouth wide to offer a deck for Bleu to hunt from. Hazel noticed they were gone and let out a loud snort. Startled, Hamza clamped his mouth shut reflexively, crushing Bleu’s legs, and turned towards her.
     
    Moral:
     
    Never look away from a hippo, because they have a real short attention span, so if you don’t pay attention you can get seriously hurt.

  10. margaret says:

    NOTE TO ALL DOOR TO DOOR SOLICITORS AND TELEMARKETERS:

    Please go away, I’ll never pay, I have no other words to say.
    Stop calling me, don’t send me mail…just lock your jaws and move your tail!
    I will not justify my ire, at your request I be a buyer
    of all your crap I’d just return….I hope to God in hell you burn!
    Your flyers litter yard and deck ; to me you matter not one speck!!

  11. Jody pulled out the instructions to the new card game, Locked Away. Initially, he was disappointed because he’d bought the game online, thinking it was about prisons or dungeons. As he scanned the flimsy, single sheet, he could tell that it was neither. Let-down gave way to natural inquisitive anticipation as key words jumped off the page. By the time he’d reached the bottom, Jody was speed-dialing his friend, Herc.

    “Yo, Herc. You gotta drop everything and get over here.”

    “Dude, I’m about to go on a real date.” Herc sounded put off.

    Don’t bother – it ends like this, she rebuffs your advances and says, ‘Let’s just be friends.’ I just got Locked Away and I want to try it.”

    Herc muttered a choice obscenity, and then offered a compromise. “Why don’t I just bring her over after the movie?”

    “Fine! Whatever. When is it over?”

    “Ten. You want me to stop at Dairy Queen?”

    “That’s okay. They never have my flavor, anyway. Smuggle some jujubes. See you!”

    Jody clicked off. He set the phone down and returned his attention to the deck of cards that had spilled out onto the coffee table. A hideous grinning goblin graced one up-turned card. Its caption, in equally garish orange gothic letters, read “PAY“. Jody picked it up, fascinated by the artwork. He noticed that the goblin’s nose mole had thick, brown hairs sticking up like dirty straws in a hellish ice-cream float. The bloodshot eyes seemed to reflect the intense orange glow from the letters. A thin line of spittle connected the teeth on its upper and lower jaw.

    As he stared into the eyes of the goblin, Jody started hearing a voice. It sounded like Herc, only hollow and muffled. He shook his head and dropped the card onto the pile. Absently, he grabbed another one. A rusty knife. Jody was amazed by the detail. Was that blood dripping from the tip? Peering closely, he could make out flecks of matter, draped along the sharp edge. It looked for all the world like a filleted worm. The caption, in black gothic, screamed “REQUEST“. Jody shuddered and threw down the card.

    Suddenly feeling unsure of his decision to explore this game, Jody timidly grabbed a third card. This was ominous: a granite gravestone leaned slightly to the left. He could make out every crack, muddy splatter and dried moss decorating the face of the stone. The engraving was illegible but the caption, in black copperplate gothic was a cryptic “JUSTIFY“. Herc’s hollow voice came back, sounding more urgent. Jody had no idea what the voice was saying. He dropped the card.
     
    ***
     
    The real estate agent launched into a tired, well-rehearsed litany: “You are not required to disclose anything to the buyers. Some states have laws that say you do, but not here. But, and this is a big one, you are not allowed to deny it, if asked.”

    Beatrice nodded morosely. Her son’s property had languished for ten years. The rumors – ugly, nasty lies – had persisted for over a decade. They ranged from love triangle to satanic ritual sacrifice. She was ready to burn the damned place down for the insurance money. The agent was clearly fed up with her.

    “Alright. Maybe we should have another open house?”

    “Sure, why not. In the mean time, will you at least consider renting it out? The dormitories are over-crowded and you could get four or maybe even five kids in here for the semester.”

    “No!” Beatrice was horrified. “I can’t bear to think of young innocents in this, this house! Just keep trying, okay?”

    Sighing very loudly, the agent shrugged and walked away, leaving Beatrice to stare up at the 3-story monstrosity.

    • Martha says:

      OMG — this just blew my mind. Creepy, and the ending with that exchange between the agent and the mom. I still have chills.

    • Sara Robin says:

      Wow!!!  Super creepy, gave me chills!  Very efficient story-telling — I was completely caught up short by the jump to the mother’s conversation in present day.  The effect was jarring which added to the shock of the revelation. Nicely done!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Mitch: As you can tell from the comments, this looks like the first chapter of one of your upcoming horror books. Once they read that first chapter, no way in bleep they’ll be able to resist reading more.

  12. siggiofmaine says:

    Justify your need to build a  new deck ” here.
    Never in my life have I heard of such a thing !”
    I screamed,  as he requested to pay me with a new deck
    for helping him when he was locked out of the house …
    “Take everything away return everything
    and don’t stop until you have !”

    • This is quite interesting! I am imagining an ungrateful recipient. LOL
      Perhaps the other person just assumed a new deck would be appreciated and unloaded a pile of building materials without asking? I guess I would be a bit peeved, too!
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Siggi: Welcome to the CCC. Love what you did with this first submission. Left me guessing and wanting to know more. Well done. What did you think of the challenge?
       
      Everyone welcome Siggi to the addiction. Adding your name and url to the CCC community Links page next.

      • Cathy Miller says:

        @Aslam @Siggi @ Sandy – Welcome to CCC!

        No need to justify your return to CCC, even if you request the time off from the job that delivers your pay. Some things in life just don’t need any explanation and we know that once you are hooked by the CCC addiction, you simply cannot stop.

        So, come on by and deck out your words in all your hopes and dream. Break through the lock to your inner soul where creativity is found and inspiration is never far behind as you wash away the stinging slap of doubt.

        Welcome to CCC!

  13. Aslam Yaqoob says:

    He remained tensed throughout his life.
    He could not justify his somber feelings. He always felt that he did not get due return for his dedicated efforts. He also had a feeling that whenever he was away from his desk, people start
    back biting him. He used to lock himself up in a room and stay secluded for hours wondering who he should request to pay heed to his problems. Who would be his redeemer? Who would help him stop this thinking? Listening to deck with full volume also failed him in his quest to find a solution. Despite all this odd, inside him he could listen to a voice who said ‘Don’t stop thinking; the solution is not far off”.
    Then suddenly one day he realized that root cause of his negativity lied in his pursuit for more power and money. Instead of looking down to people who barely managed their households but remained happy, for they care for one another, he remained hungry for his zenith. He never thought beyond his own self and sacrificed true feelings of his loved ones who could not stay longer in this world so that one day he would return and celebrate his accomplishments with them.
    He never knew during his pursuit for glory, but now he realized, why he was so tensed.

    • Aslam, I loved this introspective piece. My favorite phrase is  he remained hungry for his zenith. That’s a powerful sentiment!
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Aslam: That was awesome! Deep, and forceful.
      Welcome to the CCC. Hope to see you each Monday and Thursday. What did you think of the challenge?
       
      Everyone welcome Aslam to our club.

  14. Shane Arthur says:

    programming note: Hey CCC fam! Just got back from vacation. I’m SO far behind on everything it’s not even funny (no wonder I have not taken vacation in 3 years). I’ll catch up on comments and my own submissions when I can. I noticed a few new folks too. I’ll get to you guys as well. Just know, you’ve come to a great place and you’ll love it here. I’ll get to everything this weekend.
     

  15. Rebecca says:

    Madonna’s Justify My Love played on the radio as Sasha hit the return key. She loved writing and surfing the internet outside on her brand new deck. Sasha signed up for a dating service because her new ‘undercover’ assignment was to find out how far men would go to stretch the truth. Landing her new job in television was everything she ever hoped for. She didn’t have to worry about if she could pay the rent or not. She didn’t have to lock herself away night after night in her apartment because she had money to go out – Sasha never had money to go out. Nothing would stop her career in television, not even the request from her mother to come back home. Remember what Steve Perry sang, “Don’t stop believing!’

  16. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … That was awesome! I didn’t see the ending coming … can’t wait to read more.

  17. Aslam Yaqoob says:

    He remained tensed and unsatified throughout his life.
    He could not justify his somber feelings. He always felt that his efforts did not bring him his desired results. He used to lock himself up in a room and stay secluded for hours wondering who he should request to pay heed to his problems. Who would be his redeemer? Who would help him stop this thinking? Listening to deck with full volume also failed him in his quest finding serenity. Sometimes he wondered, away from his home, may be searching for own self. Nothing came out. Despite all this odd, inside him he could listen to a voice which would say “Don’t stop thinking; you know the reason”.
    Then suddenly one day he realized that root cause of his negativity lied in his pursuit for more power and money. Instead of looking down to people who barely managed their households but remained happy, for they care for one another, he always longed for his zenith. He never thought beyond his own self and sacrificed true feelings of his loved ones who could not stay longer in this world so that one day he would return and celebrate his accomplishments with them.
    He never knew why he had been so tensed until that moment when he felt as if he would not breathe again. Now He knew. He had been missing his loved ones.

  18. Sandy says:

    Don’t think all employees are doing their jobs…some may be better left sweeping the proverbial deck!  Just yesterday, I went to return a lock I hadn’t used to the old hardware store downtown, and I never imagined I would have to justify my request so vehemently to some clueless teenaged clerk who could barely stop texting his friends to pay attention to any customers.  I can’t believe they let those kids get away with ignoring people. Thirty-five minutes and two demands to see the manager later, I finally got my $9.42 refund. Never again, will I go to that store!

    • Sandy, that kid probably made five dollars less than your refund for that half hour of shoddy service. Shame on him!
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

      • Sandy says:

        LOL!!  Good point =)  I only just discovered this site and found the idea of the 10 word challenge very cool…thanks for your reply…looking forward to trying another one as well as reading everyone else’s attempts!

        • Welcome to CCC, Sandy. If you don’t feel like waiting, do what a lot of folks do – go back to the earlier challenges and write away!
           
          Folks who are subscribed to comments will likely come by and read your entries.
           
          Cheers,
           
          Mitch
           

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Sandy: A late, but nevertheless heartfelt, welcome to you for stopping by. I love what you wrote, and it’s so true. The gum chewing to go with the un-enthusiasm on their faces is the best. I remember working at Arby’s before we have minimum wage. I made 2.35/hour, but I wasn’t anything like that. And I think the reason was I always remember my father telling me that it didn’t matter if I was a trash man… be the best bleepin’ trash man there that stuck with me. I considered it a dishonor to myself and my father to not do the most menial job with top effort.
      Everyone welcome Sandy to the fun. I’ll add your name to our CCC Community Links page. Let me know if you have a website and I’ll link to that too.

  19. Shane Arthur says:

    “Hey Billy. My brain might be locked away without a key, but I don’t never remember hearin’ no GED for cookin’. Matter fact, da other brothers is requestin’ Bubba-Ray return all the money you paid him on account of they’s still not stopped throwin’ up from da food poisoning they done got from da meat stars. They also says you can’t justify da $1000 you paid him for da two meals he cooked. So, since they elected me da new Cooking Czar, I got da brothers to hire my cousin Rachael-Ray Gullet to do da cookin from nows on. She’s got more recipes den a deck of cards got jokers.”

  20. Sara Robin says:

    I don’t think I could justify returning to this restaurant.  Why should I pay for the privilege of being served undercooked meat and overcooked vegetables?  My request to be seated on the deck was ignored, and I had to crane my neck for fifteen minutes before locking eyes with the waiter — just to get a menu.  I wanted to stop the people arriving as I departed, and warn them that their best option would be to run away as fast as possible.  Never again!

    • Sara, sounds like you were a guest on Chef Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen. Those contestants are always screwing up somebody’s ticket. LOL
       
      Cheers,
       
      Mitch
       

      • Frank Ruiz says:

        Sara, you capture the frustration of being disappointed at a restaurant excellently with this piece.  I’ll take leftovers from a good place over new food from one with crappy service!

    • Shane Arthur says:

      @Sara: This submission should be training material for all restaurant employees! 😉

  21. Rebecca says:

    @ Mitch … Thanks! I may develop this short story into a ‘mystery’ novel or screenplay.

  22. Rebecca says:

    @ Shane … Thank you! I would like to sell my ‘story ideas’ but haven’t figured out how to do so. 🙂

  23. Kelly says:

    LAST DAY OFF

    Every time I take a day off, I wish I had a week.

    Every time I take a week off… whoo-ee.

    Even though they don’t pay me for days when I’m away, I find ways to justify my time off to myself.

    “I never make trouble on the job.” “Work won’t stop without me.” “I’ll return tomorrow fresher.” “There are plenty of guys on-deck, they can request one of them.”

    Let’s face it, I hate my job. But I never let the jerks up top know, no-sirree I don’t.

    Well, I guess I did it one time too many. I woke up this morning, ready to go through the motions as usual, and discovered my access door had a new lock on it.

    From inside I could hear one of the other guys, huffing and puffing away. “Jerry, is that you?” I squeaked out, still in shock.

    “Shut up, Bob. You’ll get me in trouble,” he whispered back. The walls were thin as cardboard.

    “Jerry, what’s going on?”

    “Look, Bob. They’ve had enough of you playing sick. The rest of us do what we’re told every day. You do it when you feel like it. I gotta run now,” he said, and I could hear him racing as far as he could—away from me.

    That was cold.

    So now? A rat who doesn’t have to run the ratrace is… what?

    I didn’t know what was next, but I saw a white-gloved hand reaching into my box from above, and I decided fast.

    Bite, drop, and RUN!

  24. KathleenL says:

    Standing Up — Continued

    “He’s returned. How’s that?” more than one asked. As a matter of fact, Isabelle had lost count.

    “It seems the ICE and Homeland Security Department is not … how did they justify their actions…” Isabelle’s hesitation was in hopes of accuracy, “‘we are not a penal institution so we cannot keep him incarcerated more than six months.’ They are awaiting his travel papers from his home country.” She wondered if even those on the other side of the phone, some on the other side of her keyboard, could see the rolling of her eyes.

    “Do you think you can request him to pay rent?” the laughter was heard on the both sides of the keyboard this time.

    “Do you think a squatter will pay rent?” there was not even a hint of hopefulness as Isabelle allowed this rhetorical question to fall from her lips and fingers at the same time. “Request all I want, ‘til I am blue in the face, but I don’t think it will stop him.”

    “I can see see him,” #4 said sipping her whisky, albeit as nonchalantly as can be, as if his presence did not unsettle her. She perched herself as casually as she could on the west facing deck. She looked out toward the pasture, trying to enjoy her nightly sight — grazing horses back dropped by the sky-blue-pink sunset. But out of the corner of her eye the movement was noticed. “He is peering out of from behind the drapes in the R.V.,” the laughter that followed was born of uncertainty, hesitantly released from her lungs. The clank of the ice cubes could be heard by wife #3, the 900 miles almost disappeared, thanks to Verizon. “I wish he was still locked up,” the admittance was filled with tear-abated sadness. Number 4’s unsteady words were followed by a nearly defeated sigh, all too well understood by #3. “He’ll never go away… will he?”

    “I don’t know dear,” Isabelle wished she could hug her friend, but Verizon could not help with that. She did the best next thing, prepared her. “You will need to keep your eyes peeled now. He will be looking to retaliate,” she tried to sound confident, hoping the concern for #4’s and the stepson’s safety did not scare #4.


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