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Archive for the category “Promptly Penned”

Promptly Penned: Rock Bottom

promptlypenned

Prompt: Well, apparently, Rock Bottom has a basement. 

I looked around the crowded bar. There wasn’t another server free. “Motherfucker,” I muttered under my breath. I’d have to take his table.

Sighing in resignation, I pulled the hairtie off my wrist and quickly pulled my hair up into a sloppy bun. I turned toward the bar where Veronica, one of my fellow waitresses, was loading up a tray with drinks and plucked the hot pink, prescriptionless glasses off the top of her head and shoved them on my face.

She glanced at me as she lifted the heavy tray off the scarred bar. “Got a creeper?”

“Something like that.” I grimaced and adjusted the glasses as I walked to his table.

He glanced at me then back at his menu. There didn’t appear to be any glimmer of recognition. Sometimes, a different hairstyle and ugly glasses were all it took.

“Are you ready to order?”

He did a doubletake. “Samantha?”

I didn’t respond. Unless glaring at him balefully could be considered a response.

“I haven’t seen you in class lately.”

I tilted my head to the side and just stared at him. The sheer magnitude of his douchery exerted a force too great for me to keep my head upright.

“No,” I finally answered. “I don’t suppose you would have. I dropped out.”

He sighed in seeming disgust. “Well, that was stupid.”

It was then that I noticed the hot, young blonde in the booth with him. I’d been so distracted by my dread of having to interact with this man, I hadn’t even seen her. She was a beacon of golden perfection, I honestly can’t understand how I’d missed her in the first place.

Something inside me snapped. I turned to address her. “Look, I know he’s hot. Smart is sexy and all that. But take it from someone who knows, he’s completely void of any kind of moral compass and has no business being an educator.”

I could hear my voice getting louder, but I couldn’t quite manage to quiet myself. Conversations around me in the capacity-packed restaurant sputtered to a halt. Too bad I couldn’t make myself do the same.

“He doesn’t give a shit about you,” I continued as the girl stared at me, eyes wide and lips parted. “He’ll fuck you, and then he’ll steal your research, slap his name on it, and when it comes time to defend your dissertation, you’ll have nothing. And you know what? The sex wasn’t even all that good.”

He blinked at me as I saw the night manager barreling my way from the corner of my eye. She looked pissed. 

I glanced back at my former advisor.

He cleared his throat and turned to the blonde. “Chloë, this is my former student, Samantha.” Then he looked at me. “Samantha, this is my daughter, Chloë.”

Well…apparently rock bottom had a basement. Fucking fantastic.

That’s it for me today, be sure to read Jess, Gwen, and Kris‘ stories!

Promptly Penned: Nancy Drew Shenanigans

promptlypenned

Prompt:  “Just call the police. No one has time for your Nancy Drew shenanigans.”

It was only day one of an entire month with my Uncle Joe, Aunt Tami. Hell, I hadn’t even seen my cousins, Joey and Tiffany yet, and I already wanted to scream. I understood that my mom wanted me to have the same kind of close relationship she’d had with her cousins growing up. In theory, it was a great idea. However, reality left much to be desired.

Maybe her aunts and uncles had made better choices than my mom’s only brother had. Even seeing my Aunt Tami for the occasional family dinner made me want to grind my teeth, but an entire month? I hoped my mom was prepared for the dental bills. Or to pay bail money when Aunt Tami had me arrested for throat punching her obnoxious children. I wondered if I’d still be allowed to start tenth grade if I had a record.

We pulled into the drive of their summer home. It was nice enough. And big enough that I had my own room when I was here. And I did like being on the lake. Though, I’d like it better if I didn’t have to constantly babysit Tiffany. She was awfully whiny for an 11-year-old.

We got out of the car and I followed Tami and Tiffany into the house, stopping short when my aunt gasped. It was trashed. There was broken glass and red plastic cups everywhere. Not to mention puke and the occasional candy wrapper and passed out teenager. In fact, Joey was lying on the couch, clutching a mostly empty bottle of booze.

“We’ve been robbed!”

I looked at Aunt Tami, and my mouth hung open for a second or two. “I don’t think so.”

“There’s broken glass everywhere and the whole place has been ransacked!”

I glanced around the room. “There’s empty bottles and puke everywhere. It looks like Joey had a party.”

She glared at me. “He would never!”

Shrugging, I said, “The red plastic cups and and the fact that he’s sleeping with a bottle of whiskey would suggest otherwise.”

“If he’s drunk, it’s because the robbers made him drink it.”

“I don’t–”

“Just call the police. No one has time for your Nancy Drew shenanigans.”

I pulled out my phone and stifled a smile. No cop in their right mind would believe the house had been robbed and Joey was a victim. This month of forced family togetherness just got a lot more interesting.

Okay, that’s it for me. Be sure to see what Deelylah, Jess, and Kris wrote!

Promptly Penned: Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

 

promptlypenned

Heads up, guys. This promptly penned is probably going to to be super short. I’m heartsick (and terrified) at the latest (continued?) political shitstorm facing this country. But I’m going to give this a go anyway.

Prompt: Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. For example, there are 20 spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff.

I stood in the richly appointed penthouse office, my feet sinking into carpet so plush, I wasn’t sure it wasn’t the entrails of enemies or something, and forced myself to maintain eye contact with this guy.

He laced his fingers together beneath his chin and stared up at me–charming smile firmly in place. “I’m surprised to see you. Our business has been satisfactorily concluded.”

“Maybe for you. I want it back,” I choked out.

He leaned back in his chair. “You know the rules: no refunds or exchanges. All sales are final.”

“You misrepresented the product.”

He smiled. “That’s called advertising.”

“There’s a difference between advertising and lying.”

“Tomato. To-mah-to.”

I sighed. Magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. “There are twenty spells for making tea but none to save yourself from falling off a cliff.”

“So, stay away from cliffs.”

“Funny.” I glared at him. “That was just an example.”

“Look, you sold your soul. You got the ability to do magic. I don’t know what else you’re expecting.”

“I expected to be able to fix the government. I thought I could make all this,” I gestured toward the morning’s newspapers spread across his desk, “go away. I thought I could make things better for people.”

He was laughing before I’d even finished speaking. Asshole. “There’s not enough magic in the world for that.” He made a shooing motion with his hand. “Off you go.  Why don’t you go make yourself a spot of tea.”

He burst into another fit of laughter as I stalked from the  room, stepping aside as his assistant headed toward him carrying a cup of coffee. I muttered a spell under my breath as she passed. I may not have been able to save the world from certain destruction, but I’d managed to manipulate a couple of the tea spells to include coffee. I hoped he had a padded toilet seat. He was going to be there for a while.

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out Jess, Siobhan, Deelylah, Kris, and Gwen’s stories, too.

Promptly Penned: Complete Douchebag

promptlypenned

Prompt: “Wow. Can we just pretend, for one second, that you’re not a complete douchebag?”

So this prompt fits a story that I’m working on really well, so I’m just going to  throw it at these characters and see what happens.

 

Eliza spotted her charge in one of the glass elevators, descending from the twenty-seventh floor, looking for all the world like he was still half asleep. Though, when the doors opened and he stalked into the lobby, he looked less sleepy and more surly.

Oh, good. The diva behavior continues. This is shaping up to be a banner fucking day. “The driver’s out front.”

Angus grunted in response as he walked past her toward the revolving door. At least, she assumed it was in response. For all she knew, that could be his way of saying “good morning”. Or “fuck off”. She knew which was more likely.

Whoever said “never meet your heroes” must have been talking about Angus. And it was just her damn luck she’d been assigned to babysit him.

Following him outside, she pointed out the black SUV the publishing house had hired. He got in and immediately shut the door, leaving her to go around the other side of the vehicle. And of course, it had to be the kind she was too short to climb into comfortably. Or gracefully.

Once she was seated, the driver pulled through the half circle drive and onto the street past hordes of convention-goers, many, if not most, cosplaying their favorite characters and waiting in line for the doors to open.

Angus blinked blearily at the lines of people then sat up and turned toward her, his expression equal parts confused and accusatory. “Where are we going? I thought the whole point of staying at that particular hotel was because the con was being held there.

Eliza took a deep, slow breath, held it for a couple seconds, then slowly let it go, trying to release the sudden stress spike with it. “That is why we’re staying there. But, with all the other con guests, the hotel couldn’t accommodate your reader breakfast, so we had to book the—”

“My what, now?”

She stared at him, growing sense of dread curdling her stomach. “Your reader breakfast.”

His dark brows drew together, and annoyance gave way to confusion. He was still ridiculously gorgeous. But every time he opened his mouth, that fact was getting easier to ignore by the second.

She crossed her arms over her chest. It was either that or strangle him. “Just out of morbid curiosity, when’s the last time you actually read a message from your editor? Or your publisher?” When he didn’t respond, she continued. “The breakfast was also listed on the schedule I gave you last night…which obviously, you couldn’t be bothered to read.”

“Nope. It’s still laying on my desk with my room key.”

“Wow. Can we just pretend, for one second, that you’re not a complete douchebag?”

He glared at her. “I don’t know. Can we also pretend that you’re not a ball-busting bitch?”

She stared at him, biting back every last thing she wanted to say. Things that would likely get her fired before the end of the day.

“No?” he continued. “Didn’t think so.”

Fuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyoufuckyou!

Swallowing her internal scream, she maintained eye contact. “Eight a.m.: reader breakfast. 11 a.m.:panel: Near Future Sci-Fi — Genre of the Future or Too Close to Reality?” 

“Wait…I’m on that panel? I don’t even write Near Future Sci-Fi.

Eliza smiled sweetly. “Huh. Guess maybe you should read your email more often.”

That’s it for me this week. Now, I’m off to see what the other bloggers came up with for this prompt. Jess, Gwen, Kris, and Deelylah.

Promptly Penned: Three More Days

promptlypenned

Prompt: Three more days of this.

I looked at the calendar.

January 17th, 2021. 

Three more days of this. Just three more days, and the nightmare would be over.

That’s it for me this time–short and sweet. Be sure sure read the other bloggers stories. Jess, Deelylah, Jessica, and Kris.

Promptly Penned: Reliable Wi-Fi

promptlypenned

Prompt: “That’s what happens when you don’t have reliable Wi-Fi.”

 

Caleb squinted at the phone then looked up and did the same at our surroundings. He gestured toward a particularly dense area of forest. “It should be right through there.”

“We’ve been walking for hours. Are you sure you put in the right coordinates.”

He glared at me. “Yes. I’m sure. The Wi-Fi at the diner was shitty, but I’m sure these are the right coordinates.”

I glanced around. “I know the resort is supposed to be super exclusive and remote and accessible only by hiking, but this is ridiculous. What happens if one of their guests has a medical emergency? They can’t possibly be this far out in the middle of nowhere.”

“They have Wi-Fi–I’m sure they can get help if they need it.” Caleb hit refresh on his phone, then frowned, holding the device up in the air, clearly trying to get a signal.

“C’mon. Let’s just go back to the main road and head back toward that last little town we passed.

Still holding his phone up in the air, he ignored me and marched into the thick stand of trees.

“I don’t know why you’re bothering,” I muttered, following him. “It’s not like you’re going to get a signal now.”

He didn’t answer, but I really didn’t expect him to. My brother was nothing if not stubborn.

Another hour had passed by the time we stumbled across the log cabin that looked more like a large hunting shack than resort. I was pretty sure the blisters on my feet were bleeding, and I had to pee. At this point, I didn’t care what the place looked like.

Caleb pushed open the door and swept his arm to the side, motioning me in. Laughing in relief, I elbowed him as  I crossed the threshold, my brother close behind me. Turning, I glanced around the room, searching for a bathroom and stopped dead unable to take another step forward.

Every inch of wall space was covered in antlers. Antlers everywhere. Behind me, Caleb started humming the tune to Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. They cast long, grasping shadows wherever I looked. It was like we’d wandered onto a set for Hannibal

Peering more closely at the nearest wall, I swallowed hard. They weren’t all antlers. There were bones. So many bones. An icy chill ran down my spine as I continued to stare at them. Far too many of them looked human.

I grabbed Caleb’s arm and dragged him toward the door. “This,” I hissed. “This is what happens when you don’t have reliable Wi-Fi!”

That’s it for me this week. Be sure to check out Jess and Deelylah‘s stories, too!

Promptly Penned: Bruises and Glitter

promptlypenned

Prompt: S/he showed up at his/her door, soaking wet, bruised and covered in glitter.

Alex stood in line of the grocery store clutching the last bouquet of slightly wilted roses they had and red plastic shopping basket filled to the brim with all of Izzy’s favorites. He set the flowers and everything else on the conveyor and grabbed one of those reusable cloth shopping bags. She was always bitching about plastic bags. She’d probably appreciate the cloth bag. Hopefully.

“What’d you do?” the cashier asked.

“Huh?”

“Fancy wine, three different kinds of chocolate, and flowers.” He nodded knowingly. “You fucked up, bro.”

Alex pulled his debit card out of his wallet and as he finished swiping it, the other guy grabbed his wrist. Alex yanked his arm away. “What the hell?”

“Dude. Look at all that glitter on your arm. You can not go from the strip club straight into apology mode. Chicks hate that. Trust me, on this. Personal experience talking, here.” He nodded sagely as he handed Alex the bag. “Personal experience.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Alex squelched quietly to the car. Well, he tried, anyway. It was hard to be unobtrusive when his clothes were so wet he could probably wring out enough water to fill a kiddie pool. And how was it the cashier noticed the glitter but not the fact Alex had created a puddle in front of the register? Douche. 

With a sigh, he sat on the grungy beach towel he’d found on the floor in the backseat, hoping against hope it would protect his seat from the worst of the water and glitter. Putting the car into gear, he drove the few short miles to Izzy’s and forced himself to march up the steps and ring the bell.

The porchlight switched on, and he squinted in the glare.

“Alex! What happened?” She ushered him into the foyer. “You’re soaking wet! Are you okay.”

“I’m stupid. And I was so, so wrong.”

She brushed at his cheek. “Is that…glitter?”

He sighed. “Yeah.”

She lifted his hair off his forehead. “And a bruise?”

He shoved up his sleeve and showed her his arm. “Bruises.”

“What–”

“I promise, I’ll tell you all about it. But first I owe you a huge apology.”

Izzy’s eyebrow rose. “Oh?”

He shoved the flowers and goodies at her, waiting until she took them before he spoke. “I am so, soso sorry I ever said your job was a piece of cake.”

Her lips twitched. “Actually, I believe you said my job was a cakewalk.”

“Oh, it’s a cakewalk, all right. A cakewalk in the seventh circle of hell filled with tiny, demonic, soul-sucking monsters with voices so shrill I’m pretty sure my eardrums are still bleeding.”

“You don’t say.”

“I’m the worst little brother in the world for not believing you. Please say you’ll forgive me.”

She stared at him for a long, uncomfortable moment, until all at once, an evil smile lit her face. “You got assigned to a preschool room for student teaching, didn’t you?”

He nodded miserably as she laughed so hard, tears slid down her cheeks.

“Help?”

The only answer he got was more laughter.

That’s it for me this, week. Be sure to check out Deelylah, Jess, Gwen, KellieKris, and Paige‘s stories.

Promptly Penned: Too Late

Promptly Penned

It’s the last Promptly Penned of the year – yeah, I don’t know how that’s possible, either. Here’s the prompt, and my story’s down below.

It’s odd how life is rarely about those big important choices, but hinges on the small stupid choices you didn’t even realize were choices until it was too late.

 

Pink or blue?

Chocolate or vanilla?

Wheat or white?

Cake or pie?

Apple or cherry?

The waitress stopped at my table and pulled a handful of those little non-dairy creamer containers from the stained pocket of her apron and dropped them on the table–the plastic and liquid rattling strangely against the formica.

“I’ll be back with your pie, hon.”

I forced a smile. “Thanks.”

Coffee or tea?

Cream or sugar?

Dumping five of the little creamers into my coffee, I watched as the clouds billowed upward, swallowing the inky darkness.

Paper or plastic?

Pencil or pen?

Right or left?

Diet or regular?

I reached for the Sweet ‘n Low then changed course and grabbed the sugar container instead.

As she walked away, my dad came in from outside, his rig parked at the far end of the diner’s parking lot. He leaned over and kissed the top of my head before sliding into the molded plastic bench across from me.

Top or bottom?

Up or down?

Happy or sad?

It’s odd how life is rarely about those big important choices, but hinges on the small stupid choices you didn’t even realize were choices until it was too late.

“What’s so important that you wanted to talk to me in the middle of a haul, Abby-girl?” he asked as he glanced over a plastic laminated menu that had a sticky-looking jam smear across the front.

I shrugged. “Can’t a girl just want to spend some time with her dad?”

His eyebrows rose ,and he looked at me over the top of his menu.

Cash or credit?

Good or bad?

Boys or girls?

I took a sip of my still too-hot coffee and scalded my tongue. Quickly gulping the metallic-tasting tap water, I tried to cool the burn and figure out how to approach it.

“Abs?” he asked. “You okay?”

I closed my eyes. “Kevin and I broke up. I’m pregnant, and Katie and I are getting married. We don’t want anything from you, except for you to be there.” My words left me in a rush, and I cracked open my eyes.

He nodded once then turned to the waitress who was wiping down the counter. “When you get a second, hon, I’m gonna need a lotta  coffee–black. Oh, and all the coconut cream pie you got.”

She nodded, and he turned back to me. “Okay, how about you start at the beginning.”

That’s it for me this week, but please be sure to check out Jessica and Kris‘ stories.

Promptly Penned: Outcome Engineer

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

Person A: She smiled a little. “You’re a manipulator.”
Person B: “I like to think of myself as an outcome engineer.”

This is going to be a short one this week. I’m too far behind with everything I need to finish by the end of the week.

 

Byron sighed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk. “I don’t know… It just seems like you don’t care.”

“I’m confused.” Candice uncrossed and recrossed her legs. She didn’t want her boss to think she was fidgeting, but she had no idea what he was talking about, and she was tired of being called in there to discuss vagaries.  “What does it seem like I don’t care about?”

He shook his head, mouth turned down. “Your job. Your co-workers. The company. Me.”

Her mouth dropped open. “I’ve been here past midnight every night this week trying to get this project finished. Everyone else is out of here by six-thirty at the latest. And I’m back in by seven am. How does that seem like I don’t care?”

He folded his hands in front of him. “Look, you’re still relatively new here.”

Addie nodded and waited for him to continue while anxiety dampened her palms.

“And I know you want to make a good impression, but there are some people on the team who are feeling a little threatened by the number of hours you’re putting in and how much of the work is being logged from your account.”

Her brow furrowed. “Sooooo…you want me to put in fewer hours and just not worry about whether or not the project is complete by the deadline?”

“You’re not listening.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I–”

He cut her off. “Look, I know you don’t intend to come off like you are.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what you mean.”

“Glory hound. Brown noser.” He ticked off the jabs on his fingers. “You have a savior complex.”

She just stared at him. Did people even use brown noser any more?

“I know this sort of thing is hard to hear–which is why I wanted to pull you aside and discuss it with you privately.”

“If I’m not supposed to put in extra work, I’m not sure the project will be finished in time for the client.”

“I want to help you, Addie. I want to see you do well here.”

Unease slithered through her, but she waited for him to say more.

“I’d like to propose an idea that might help.”

She continued to wait, muscles tensed.

“You continue to keep whatever hours you need to keep to finish on schedule.”

“Okaaaay.”

“But use my login profile.”

A quiet alarm bell began clanging in the back of her mind. “So, then all my work will be attributed to you, then?”

For the briefest moment, his mask of concern slipped and she glimpsed the flat, hard anger in his eyes. And just as quickly, it vanished and he was smiling. “You don’t need to worry about that. I’ll attribute credit where it’s due.”

The tension seeped out of her limbs and she settled back in her chair. “Then why not just let me continue as I have been?”

“I’m not sure why you can’t understand how much this will lower tension in the office.”

“You mean lower your tension because you’ll be getting credit for my work.” She smiled a little. “You’re a manipulator.”

He was quiet for a minute, then finally said, “I like to think of myself as an outcome engineer.”

“I see.” She stood up. “Well, good luck with your outcome.”

He looked puzzled. “Where are you going?”

“It’s wine o’clock. I’m going home.”

 

That’s it from me, today. Be sure to check out Deelylah, Paige, and Kris‘ stories.

Promptly Penned: The First Line

Promptly Penned

Prompt:

Use the first line of a nursery rhyme as the first line of a dark narrative.

Side note before I begin this prompt. I was researching nursery rhymes and realized that most of them are plenty dark on their own without my help. Like Goosey, Goosey Gander is apparently about killing Catholic priests who were in hiding when they refused to convert, at Henry VIII’s insistence, to the Church of England.  Also, I recognized a vast majority of the nursery rhymes (including Goosey, Goosey Gander) from my own childhood. And my mom wonders why my short fiction tends to be on the darker side. Gee, mom…I can’t imagine why. I wonder why on earth that would be. *gives her the side-eye*

Okay, so here’s the story. (You’re welcome, mom.)

“Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,”

The sounds of children’s voices echoed through the valley–high and sweet, lilting through the chilly autumn air. Girls and boys rose from their beds or left their evening chores, shambling dazedly out into the dusty road, and turned toward the emerald green hill rising in the distance. They dragged hobbyhorses and poppets behind them as their song carried hauntingly across the land.

“To see a fine lady upon a white horse.”

The children plodded forward, eyes fixed unseeingly on some the middle distance, unaware or uncaring as their parents called to them, their cries becoming increasingly more desperate. Pitious. Attempts to tug or carry the young back into the houses failed. Even the smallest of the small were able to pull free of their parents’ frenzied grasp. They stood watching, shivering in the cold, their breath puffs of steam. The children didn’t shiver. Nor did their breath cloud the air.

“With rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,”

Every house in the village stood empty of children, save those too young to climb from their cradles. But they sang their own mournful song, longing to join their sisters and brothers as they marched onward toward the green hill in the distance. The hill they’d been warned away from time and time again. The hill where none of the village folk would tread. The hill, it was whispered, would swallow a person whole. Perhaps none in recent memory, but it had happened, and so the warning remained.

“She shall have music wherever she goes.”

Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles followed behind, weeping  and helpless beneath the purple dusk that crept across the sky. At the head of the procession, I looked back at my new charges from atop my snow colored steed and smiled. Turning in my saddle, accompanied by the delicate jingling of bells, I led the children forward as twilight cloaked the land drawn toward the hill by the scent of sweetmeats and warm puddings, fruits and ale cakes.

Whispering the spell to lift the glamour, the side of the hill opened, spilling golden light on the ground, forming a pathway to lead the children forward.  Raucous music drifted out into the gloaming, the rhythm twining around the procession and urging it closer. As the music took hold, the lethargy that had claimed the children lifted and they began to dance as they made their way into realm beneath the hill, heedless of the cries of their parents. Centuries have passed since we’ve had fresh blood.

Be sure you check out the other bloggers’ stories. Deelylah and Jessica.

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