Three Hundred Seventy Two Words, and Not a Sequitur in Sight

[For our holiday party this year, my writing group engaged in a collaborative story exercise. In a scene reminiscent of The Lottery save for the ritual execution, all nine of us drew numbers from a box, and added a paragraph to our effort, which is reprinted in its entirety below. We reserve all North American publication rights; anyone interested in film rights can contact our agent, when we find one.]

As the sun broke through the clouds on this fall day, Katherine rode her bike to school. She met her friends in the hallway before the bell rang.

But as she looked up she saw the disapproving look of Susan. Susan never liked Katherine after the girl came between Susan and Katherine’s father, Fred. Susan had been Fred’s love for the past 3 years.

Susan apparently had never heard the rumors surrounding Fred, or she would never had become involved. Fred was also dating Joyce, a hottie he’d met at the zoo.

But Fred’s main rival for Joyce was Mark — a villainous beast of a man who loved to stalk older librarians, like Susan — who had no idea that Mark was stalking both her and her rival, Joyce.

Meanwhile, Tim had been quietly observing all this debauchery and thought to himself, “This is it… this is the material I need to to finally write my best-selling speculative fiction paranormal romance novel!” Tim locked himself in his closet with his laptop and a two liter of Diet Coke and didn’t come out until he had written 250,000 words — a target word count given to him by his writing critique group friend, Ken. Then he called Ken and asked, “Hey, what’s your best advice on writing a sex scene?”

Ken, who was somewhat of an expert on the subject, knew just what to tell him. First, he advised, don’t rush the scene; take plenty of time; give good descriptions; lots of emotion, tons of emotion, refer to your personal experiences and when in doubt check with your writing group friend Lisa who Joyce had confided in and had told her all about Fred and his best friend Mark.

Lisa came into the room and said, This is all so disgusting, you guys are in elementary school! She then pulled Tim out of his closet, and when Ken came to help him, she shot them both. Katherine then rode her bike to the house where she found the bodies.

Meanwhile, Marlene who is Lisa’s mother called Mark to meet and enjoy each other’s genitalia.

Shaking his head, Aaron put down the manuscript. “There’s two words I never wanted to see in the same sentence — Mark, and genitalia.”


Natural Conversation

When is she coming?

“As soon as she arrives,” I tell the seashells.

Will we control her again?

“Don’t be silly — we cannot control anything,” I remind the sponges.

Then how can we be sure she’ll do as we wish?

“Do you look at her as she manicures us?” I ask the driftwood. “There is joy in her face.”

But what makes her work so hard on our behalf?

I sigh at their lack of understanding. “Because it’s in her nature.”

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly flash fiction contest that’s a whole mess of fun

Friday Fictioneers: Dividendings

The top of the coffee table was clear on the the day I retired, and the detritus it’s collected represent the dividend of my new freedom. But the scotch is almost empty, my friends and their cigarettes have worn out their welcome, and the sight of candy now makes me nauseous. I’ve enjoyed these past couple of months, but I’m ready to get busy end, and say goodbye to the dividends of my retirement.

I don’t always participate in Friday Fictioneers, but I always enjoy the experience.

Innocent Elimination


When the elderly couple stepped out of their car into the dawn light of the parking lot, Harlan knew he should kill them.

He glanced at his watch. Nineteen minutes before his client’s arrival. Witnesses were a problem that needed to be eliminated. Like the joggers from last week.

“Excu-u-u-use me?” The woman’s voice warbled, like the bleating of a lamb addressing a butcher. “Do you-ou-ou-ou know, where-re-re dock 13 i-i-is?”

Harlan then heard the boat’s engine, as if it were calling him. He then lead the grateful couple to their boat, which pulled out of dock 13 as Harlan’s client arrived.

Friday Fictioneers is a weekly contest that’s just a whole lotta fun.

Friday Fictioneers: The Signifying Leg

My leg has become my identity. Hobbling down the street, passersby here the distinct clatter of my prosthetic, and look down.

“Thank you for your service,” one of them says on occasion without looking up, like slaves terrified of addressing their master.

I no longer spare them. “I slipped under a commuter train, getting to work,” I reply. Nobody ever apologizes.

I may as well be invisible, save for my leg. If I could power it remotely, I’d send it on its own, and shatter the illusion of normalcy.

[Friday Fictioneers is a weekly photo prompt challenge. Join the fun!]


[Today’s word of inspiration from The Daily Post: Mallet]

“Mind handing me that hammer?”

“What hammer?”

“The one in the tool box, to your right.”

“Sorry hon, there’s no — ”

“For crissakes, you blind? I can see it, laying right there!”

“Oh, you mean this tool, with the round head?”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean, the hammer!”

“Actually, what you mean is mallet. And just to be clear, it was lying on top of the toolbox.”


[Returning to the Writing Prompt Generator on The Story Shack for today’s inspiration]

Anne Droid sighed as the professor handed her the capsule. “After searching, all these years… my creator’s final gift.”

The professor responded in her typically aloof demeanor. “You’ve earned this, Anne. After two centuries of selfless service.”

Anne touched a square button on top of the box, and the locking mechanism recognized her electronic signature. The capsule opened.

The professor looked inside, and chuckled — “A pen?”

Anne lifted the capsule’s sole object. “But robots have been forbidden from writing, since before Dr. Power built me.”

“Maybe she believed, you would need to be mightier than even she had imagined.”

The Prompt

Word count: 100

Genre: Comedy

Character: A superhero

Material: A pen

Sentence: “Who needs friends?” [Well, five out of six ain’t bad]

Bonus: The story takes place two-hundred years from now

Where the Heart Leads, Part 3

“I apologize for being short with you on the phone,” Eddie said in a rasping voice, as if his throat had shriveled in the Arizona heat. “I didn’t know you were working for Clara.”

Micky cleared his throat again. “All she wants, is to know what happened to her husband.”

“Husband?” Eddie laughed wearily. “Well there’s your first problem, detective. Jonas Haart, was never her husband.”

Micky couldn’t help looking surprised, as he suddenly realized he hadn’t checked this basic fact.

“Jonas was a hit man. The electrical company he worked for was owned by the mob, his job an excuse to infiltrate homes and businesses, his ‘marriage’ to Clara a part of his cover.”

“But if Clara knew this — why’d she hire me, to find him?”

“Because she figured out what was going down. Jonas’ identity had been compromised, and the mob needed to relocate him. When he disappeared without a trace, Clara knew the mob didn’t trust her, and she’d eventually be removed. But if she could find him, that knowledge could be used to strike a bargain. You, detective, were her last hope.”

Micky felt his forehead perspiring. “I take it, you’re not going to tell me where Jonas is?”

Eddie waved a dismissive hand. “I called Clara right after I hung up with you, and told her not to worry. She was loyal to Jonas, and generous with me. I told her I’d take care of her — I even told her, ‘I love you.’ Because I do love her, detective. We’ll relocate her, to here. She’ll be my caretaker.”

Micky stood up. “That’s great, Mr. Clague. I think my work here is done, so if you don’t mind — ”

“Oh, I do mind,” said Eddie, as Micky felt a meaty hand slam down on his shoulder, pushing him back down on his chair. “You should have given up on this investigation when the trail grew cold — that would have been the intelligent move. But you couldn’t control your curiosity — you let yourself be led by the heart, not your mind. And that decision has taken you to a place you should never have gone. And can’t ever leave.”

End of “Where the Heart Leads”

Where the Heart Leads, Part 2

[Continuing my flash fiction story from yesterday]

Micky’s call to elderly man was greeted cooly, and when the private investigator mentioned Jonas Haart, his contact ended the call abruptly.

Going to the police was never a consideration — years of working with the authorities gave Micky confidence that it would take more than the sales receipt for a fuel can to re-open the investigation. Neither was dropping the case. Instead, Micky booked the next flight to Phoenix, and upon his arrival contacted Uber for a ride to his contact’s home.

The sedan pulled in to a retirement community, tiny one-floor homes with white paint and red clay stains. Micky’s expectations rose as he saw the interior lights were on at his destination. He rushed to the front door and rang the buzzer; a moment later, feet shuffled towards him, and the door opened.

From behind the screen door, Micky cleared his throat, already dry from the desert heat. “Mister Clague?”

Eyes that had seen enough of this world looked up at him. “You must be that detective.”

“I’m not with the police, sir. I’m just a private investigator, working on behalf of my client — ”

“Clara.” Energy blossomed in his tired eyes. The man pushed the screen door open, and beckoned Micky to enter. “She always treated me well, like she did everyone. She never deserved any of this.”

As soon as he entered the home, Micky blinked as a wave of ammonia fumes came over him. The elderly man shuffled towards a cushioned arm chair, and waved towards a sofa at the far end of the room.

“I don’t want take too much of your time, Mr. Clague — ”

“Eddie, please.” Reaching the arm chair, Eddie turned, and smiled. “If I’m going to tell you this story, we need to be on a first name basis.”

Where the Heart Leads, Part 1

[Something a little different and fun today, using the Writing Prompt Generator from The Story Shack to set the parameters for today’s flash fiction story. I’m going to cheat on the word count — the story is supposed to be no more than 300 words, but I’m going to write this in 300-word installments.]

Jonas Haart kissed his wife Clara, walked into his garage, reversed his car into his subdivision… and had not been seen since that morning three years ago.

A week after Clara notified the police, his car was found in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart 217 miles to the south. The vehicle was undamaged, and a forensic scan only uncovered DNA evidence from Jonas and his wife. There hadn’t been, and would not ever be, charges on any of his credit cards, or withdrawals from his sizable bank or investment accounts.

Frustrated by the police’s seeming disinterest in her husband’s disappearance, Clara hired Micky Waldenburg. The private investigator reviewed hours of security camera videos, and interviewed gas station attendants within a hundred mile radius (the car’s tank was nearly full), but when Micky became as befuddled as the police, he returned Clara’s money along with an apology.

But he never forgot the case.

And two years later, a lead had fallen into his lap.

A violent rainstorm unearthed debris from ditches along the interstate, and among the detritus was a five gallon metal fuel can, with a gallon of stale automobile gas at its bottom. A county worker picked it up and contacted the police, but when they showed no interest he called in a favor from a friend in the forensics lab.

When his lab friend told reported whose fingerprints were found on the can, the worker called his uncle Micky, who nearly dropped his phone when he heard his nephew say, “Jonas Haart.”

Using the can’s manufacturer and model, Micky traced its sale to a Home Depot a few miles from Haart’s home. It had been purchased not by Haart, but rather an elderly man who now lived in Mesa, Arizona.