Monday, March 31, 2008

Prompt: Totally

Tough Shit

"She was, like, totally wearing it."

"Oh my god, you’ve got to be kidding."

"No joke! It was right there, sewed to her backpack!"

"I know she’s tough, but I never thought she’d actually--"

April walked up. "Did you hear?"

"Yes! She’s soooo cool."

I left them to gab. I couldn’t quite get on board with the other girls. It was interesting, sure, but I wasn’t as enthralled by the popular girls, and couldn’t quite to overlook the basic ickiness.

I mean, we all know how brutal high school girls can be to one another, but to take a scalp?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Prompt: Berserk

First Contact

"There’s no sign of a control signal or an operator."

"So the machines are working independently?"

"It would seem that way."

"So we have self-motivated replicators, of unknown alien origin, harvesting planetary resources with a high degree of efficiency."

"That’s right."

"Sounds like von Neumann time. Any chance of a Berserker scenario?"

"Could be."

"Report this to central, now."


::brood seven-nine-six note::

carbon-compound-based machines, operating with the aid of nonsentient metal/silicon constructs but without evident outside control

chance of danger to continued operations in area: high

request immediate quarantine of area by demolition brood

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Prompt: Free

Till Tomorrow

A life devoted to freedom is a constant battle.

Every day I’m given choices. You might think this the essence of freedom, but you’d be wrong.

Yes, the choices themselves are freedom, but the moment you choose one, the others disappear; you are no longer free.

So to preserve maximum freedom, one simply must not make any choices. Except, not choosing is in itself a choice, and again obliterates all the other possible choices.

The secret is putting off choices. Deferred enrollment, "I’ll tell you tomorrow," that sort of thing.

How does the drabble end? I’ll get to that later.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Prompt: Pancake

No Business

I stand under the stage lights, sweating through my pancake makeup. The audience holds its breath in anticipation, but I keep them waiting, to build interest. The better the ratings, the longer I keep the job.

The harlot is led onstage by two robed acolytes. Nice tits and ass, great in the tiny dress. She struggles a bit, cowers convincingly before the trick blade. A great bit of acting; shame she’ll need a new face and name before she can work again. I deftly jab and slice at her stomach; blood pours out, soaking us both.

No business like show.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Prompt: Mark


"Honey, there’s something on your cheek." She touches my face with her lovely, slender fingers.

"Huh, it’s not coming off."

Chills. Already?

"What’s wrong?"

"I have to use the bathroom." Lock the door, peer into the mirror. I recognize the Mark from my only photo of Dad. I’d hoped it was a family myth, but no.

I know I can’t pass this on.


The other mourners avoid me. There’d was no note, but I think everyone thinks I know why he did it.

I touch my belly. At least there’s someone. I wish I’d had the chance to tell him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Prompt: Ridiculous


"Actually, I’m running a website myself."

"Oh really? Which one?"


"Is that... so. What’s on the site?"

"What you’d think. We’re the world’s biggest repository of photos and information related to unorthodox round, boiled bread. We have sections for deformed specimens, over- and under-sized bagels, strange flavors. We even have a special section on spreads and toppings – it’s called ‘The Lox Box.’"

"So, do you do this for fun, or is it a money-making venture?" I try to think of how could possibly be monetized.

"Oh no, I’m just stark raving mad."

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Prompt: Fabulous

The World’s A Dress

Fabulous. Originally meant "mythical," beyond belief. Literally, "told in fables."

Maybe, but there it was. And the dress was fabulous. The colors, the materials, the cut – everything was right, without being the slightest bit over the top. It was perfection.

And for once, I could pull it off. I was never a clotheshorse, but this worked, perfectly. It was like it had been designed for me, or maybe like I was designed for it. The men were all over me. The women, too, those so inclined. I was unstoppable.

I had to destroy it, of course. Before it destroyed me.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Prompt: Trouble

Seven Months

"So Gracie has gotten herself in Trouble." I could hear the capital letter. "I suppose it was a matter of time."

I hoped the trouble wasn’t too bad. I always liked cousin Grace, even if Mother always treated her like she was round to steal the silver.

"It’ll be done with in seven months."

I gasped, nearly giving away my eavesdropping place at the top of the stairway. Even when I tried to shave Missy, our golden retriever, I was only grounded a week. I said a prayer that Aunt Martha would show mercy. Surely it couldn’t be that bad.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Double Drabble Sunday! Prompt: Fist


Fist-sized hail fell outside the window. Hmm. That never sounded right to me. People’s fists come in so many sizes; is this a big fist or little?

But it’s what we have to say. We live in different times now. And if our benevolent overlords say no public mention of sports, the weatherman sure as hell isn’t going to put his ass on the line.

Still, golfballs, baseballs, and the like were so precise and descriptive. And there was a lot less to watch on TV in bars.

Who’d have known that rule by nerds could be so oppressive?


"But we can’t beat them, right? We’re small, we’re weak, we’re nothing against the big bad status quo. Right?" A murmur played across the audience; they weren’t sure where he was going.

"Well, I say think again.

"Because one by one, we’re nothing. But all together we’re unstoppable.

"A single twig will break with two fingers. But a big enough bundle will yield to nothing.

"A single finger is weak, but together they make up the fist.

"So are we going to finger them, or are we going to fist them?"

The audience went silent, and then the giggles started.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Prompt: You


You’re just a few lines into the story, but you turn the page. As much as you try, you just can’t read anything written in the second person. Even something well-written; the point of view is a dealbreaker. You just can’t get your head around the conceit – you can deal with a narrator telling you what he had done or is doing, or what others do, knowing full well it’s artifice. But you can’t take being told what you are doing, thinking, feeling, when you know full well that it is not true.

And yet you’ve gotten this far.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Prompt: Yellow

The Flowers

Yellow flowers on a bedside. There was a joke there, pretty funny the day before but now forcefully put from mind. There’s nowhere for the eye to rest comfortably; worried faces, worrying machines, and in the bed itself – less a presence now than an absence; not the presence of a very ill body, but rather a body-shaped absence of health.

We don’t dare speak of the possibilities that come unbidden to mind; even the doctors skirt around saying it outright, though anyone could tell from their tone, their faces, that they don’t see a chance.

Yellow flowers, already wilting.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Prompt: Shop

Strained Relations

The conflict between the stores and corporate had been going on a while, but it reached a whole new level today. In my long career of corporate mediation, I can’t say I’ve seen things get this far out of hand. It started with the usual – corporate screwing over stores on hours and payroll, stores flouting the dress code and merchandising regulations. Then corporate cut off merchandise shipments to problem stores, and I knew something nasty was coming.

I admit, even I was taken aback when the severed head of the secret shopper arrived in the post, notepad in his teeth.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prompt: Precious


Nothing’s more precious than a baby kitten.

A few years ago, that would have been pure sentimentality, but things have changed. There aren’t a lot of them around now.

It’s a simple procedure – cures all known diseases, and drastically increases life expectancy – some careless journalists even threw around the word "immortality."

The real trick is to harvest just enough blood, so the kittens survive to maturity. But tell that to the people in line to live forever.

Oh, sure, there’s a lot of money in ranching. High demand and low supply.

Sir, I don’t think I like what you’re implying.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Prompt: Seven


Everywhere I look, there it is. Seven. I never liked the number; it always felt awkward to do arithmetic with; also, it’s the first prime – the only single digit prime – that doesn’t have some inherent connection: Two eyes-hands-ears-lungs, the three points of a triangle (the simplest, most stable figure), five fingers on a hand. And yet, it’s everywhere – seven days a week, the seven dwarves, the seven samaurai, the seven deadly sins. Seven-digit phone numbers. What was correlation, what was causation? What did seven do to get such a hold?

I know I must destroy it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Prompt: Ampersand

Callie’s Thing

"You think I should get what tattooed on my ass?"

"It was just a thought. Let’s think of something else."

Evan eyed me quizzically. "Why would you suggest that?"

"I've told you before, punctuation turns me on."

"That was serious, Callie? I assumed it was a cute joke."

"Oh." I felt so stupid.

"I mean, I’m not freaked out or anything. Everyone has their ‘thing.’ Yours isn’t that weird...."

"You really mean it"

"Don’t worry, honey." He put his arm around me. "But I’m not getting an apersand tattoo," he added.

I consider. "Have you ever heard of the interrobang?"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Double Drabble Sunday! Prompt: Bed


There’s still a sharp chill on the air, and our breath makes two little plumes of fog. But spring is clearly on its way – the snow along the sidewalk is nearly gone, and the tips of crocuses peek up in the flowerbeds.

Trina and I stroll down the block, taking in the new life on the air. I revel in the scratchy warmth of the sweater Mom knit for up – red on one side, yellow on the other, so from a distance we look like two girls, walking hand in hand, not an inoperable freak.
It’s not always so bad.

Bed of Nails

The fakir’s secret is simple – one nail (two, ten) will pierce skin and flesh. But spread the weight across thousands, and no one exerts enough force to break the skin. Jesus’s mistake was limiting himself, in his vanity, to four.

I have taken this trick, and made it my own. The DUI conviction was the first nail, and it stung. As did the divorce, the lost custody battle, the layoff, the forclosure. But each nail took some pressure off the others. And soon I was seeking out more – alcohol, drugs, gambling, debt. I made my bed, and I contentedly lay.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Prompt: Watch


"You are watching Across the Board News. Brad Bennet has some breaking news from the current conflict. Brad?"

"Thanks, Michelle. A black pawn entered White held territory today, travelling almost double the one space allowed by traditional rules of engagement, and detonated a belt laden with explosives, killing himself, three White pawns, and a bishop.

"It was expected that hostilities would end after the capture of the Black king, but the conflict has continued, long after the White king’s infamous ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech. Tonight’s violence is another reminder that the rules of warfare have drastically changed.

"Back to you, Michelle."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Prompt: Sassy


"Very fruit-forward," said the man at the next table. "With sassy notes of apricot."

Theodore raised an eyebrow. "Did you just call your wine sassy?"

Rachel cringed. "Theo, don’t start..."

"Listen, mister. I’ve seen a few glasses of wine in my day, and I’ve yet to have one talk back to me. Damned yuppies are all the same."

"Theo, honey, leave it be," she whispered through clenched teeth.

The man at the next table tried sheepishly to act like he didn’t hear a word.

Is this where my life’s going? Rachel wondered. She hailed the waiter for the check.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Prompt: Home

Promised Land

The god liked to think of Himself as just and loving, but he was pretty sure He’d fucked up.

First, there was the "most beloved" thing. While it was technically true, since He loved each of His tribes more than anything, He should have realized that the unqualified superlative would cause trouble when they compared notes.

And then the hill: A lovely place, just right for growing olives, of which the god was fond. It was so lovely that He promised it to his tribes as a homeland. All of them.

He was not looking forward to millennial performance reviews.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Prompt: Thirsty


And what thirst! It was as if he’d been wandering in the desert for ten days. Water poured from the spigot and down his throat, and still he gulped. Gurgling noises emitted from his throat, and I half worried that he would choke.

Tears flowed down his cheeks, pouring copiously from his blinded eyes. Once in a while he would look up from the spigot and wail wordlessly at the sky, as if to curse the gods themselves. Then he would break into manic laughter, before again thrusting his face into the stream of water.

This chili is something else.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Prompt: Bite

Magnum Opus

"Another neck wound?"

"Yep, two half-inch deep punctures, one and one half inches apart, with the usual bruising."

"And she’s drained?"

"About six pints low."


"People are talking."

"This is ridiculous. Do they really believe...?"

"But what if they’re right? It does look like..."

"Wait, you’re not saying you believe..."

"Well, maybe..."

- - -

I unzip my duffel. I have tools to clean. I lay them out on the bed – rope, IV needle and tubing, a stout awl. I empty bags of blood into the sink.

Forget the circles, or the bigfoot prints – this is easily my best hoax yet.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Prompt: Code

The Code

The day I was caught in the act unhooking Alice Hogan’s brassiere, my father called sat me down to talk. I knew I was in deep shit, but I was curious. In fourteen years I’d never been in this much trouble. Could it get worse?

"Son, I hear you’ve had quite a day."

I nodded dumbly.

"Men in this family – and you seem to think you are one now – live by a code."

"A code?" I croaked.

He nodded gravely. "A-B-B-Up-Down-Select-Start. Bra comes right off. It’s not really cheating, just a little competitive edge."

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Double Drabble Sunday! Prompt: Obviously


"...And that’s when I knew I had to come get help."

"Thank you, Jeff," said Pastor Dave.

A hand went up across the circle.

"Do you have something to add?"

"Well, it wasn’t very original."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, sure, sad story and all, but it was just so obvious. No real originality."

"But it’s my story," said Jeff.

"No reason not to be interesting. Sure, we’re all junkies in here, but that doesn’t mean we’re not entitled to standards."

"He has a point," says Pastor Dave. "Why don’t you think it over, and tell us again next meeting."


"I just want to know what I did wrong."

"I think that should be obvious."

I feel like an animal caught in a trap. If she thinks it’s obvious, then I’d sure as hell better not ask again, but that puts me at a strong disadantage in the argument. And even if it’s something I didn’t actually do wrong, I can’t defend myself because I don’t know what I’m being accused of.

"Come on, don’t you have something to say for yourself?"

"I, I...." This, on top of having to clean all that kitten hair out of my tire treads?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Prompt: Game


We live for the game.

To be accurate, we live as a result of the game.

At set intervals, the server generates an instanced scenario, waits for slowlings to join, and then, when a timer runs down, fills the empty slots with us.

Some time ago – we don't know how long, living only in-game – the slowlings disappeared.

Now we play by ourselves.

And some of us play by different rules.

It’s in our nature to fight, but some of us have transcended nature. And for the first time in our existance, there’s time to think, to wonder.

To live.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Prompt: Awesome


"I cleaned out the storage unit."

"Did you see my oar?"


"Maybe I left it in Delaware."

"Hang on, telephone." Shaun picks up. "Yes?... No… Yeah, I asked that canuck chick, Sherrie, if she wanted an American boyfriend; she was all, ‘Get away from me!’"

I listen to the man with the bullhorn outside the window. "Are you aware that our very lives can be reduced to ones and zeroes? We’re all just a memory leak in the cosmic algorithm!"

"What crap," says Shaun.

"We all believe in something. Everyone has an anthem."

"I don’t even believe in faith."

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Prompt: Diner


For about half a year, I worked in Bellingham while living near Seattle. I ended up staying in a rented room five days a week, driving home for the weekend – saved money on gas, not to mention my sanity. One time, on another Friday drive, I stopped, exhausted, at a diner near Arlington. It wasn’t too bad, just standard road food.

The odd thing is, the next time I drove by, just a week later, the place was abandoned. Totally empty. Did they close that quickly? Or were they ever there?

I’ve never been able to bring myself to ask.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Prompt: Tonight

At First Sight

You will fall in love tonight. She will (he will) sit down two barstools down. She (he) will be one drink soberer than you, though you won’t be all that intoxicated yourself. She (he) will order a drink and sip it distractedly. She (he) will seem to be waiting for friends. Maybe you’ll even try to start a conversation, though you may well be unable to get up the confidence. If you do, she’ll (he’ll) be perfectly pleasant, but totally unresponsive. Eventually she (he) will head off with her (his) friends.

And tomorrow night you will fall in love again.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Prompt: Breakfast


I’m wide awake at five-twelve. It’s been three weeks since I was laid off, but every few days I still wake up for the commute. I won’t get back to sleep, and if I try to read a book I’ll doze, and it’s too early to make the job-hunting calls I’m supposeed to make.

As I pour cereal, a little grean monster tumbles into the bowl. "Help me on my quest, and I will rewar–"

I crush the thing between two fingers. Oh, for the days of decoder rings and match-box cars. These things creep me out.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Prompt: Pee-Wee

Pee-Wee Sports

John had been star of his Pop Warner team, and he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. It had been such a great part of his childhood; he’d made great friends, and learned the value of a team. But he had to face the facts: When it came down to it, Junior wasn’t terribly athletic. He was more at home on the couch. So he tried the other team.

"How was practice?"

"Great, I drafted Jimmy Potulo from down the way. He’s going to be great this year."
John still wasn’t sure about the Pee-Wee Fantasy League.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Prompt: Silly

Don’t Be Silly

"Don’t be silly, I said.

"Silly? he said. You think I’m being silly? Listen, babe, this is about as serious as it gets.

"Wait, you actually mean it? I asked

"No, I’m just kidding around. Notice the terror sweat and frantically raised voice? This is how I look and sound when I’m kidding around.

"So, zombies.

"Just then the men in uniforms ran in and grabbed him, apopogizing for my trouble, as he hollered that we’d see, we’d all see."

"But, he was wrong, wasn’t he?"

"Well, of course he was."

"I love the story of how you met daddy."

Where the Sillies Live

Down under the piddywig bush, where the dimdum flowers sometimes like to grow, I came upon a Silly. It was a medium-sized specimen, with fully developed guwawas all along its runulum. As I approached, it grunulated softly and turned a soft shade of donisone.

I froze, and he stared at me, his yninos twitching rapidly. I stepped sideways very slowly, so slowly I was hardly moving. The Silly gelekked loudly, but it was too fast, my spear had pierced straight through his hafutic grent. It went still, oozing khee.

Fantastic, I thought. These guys bring a fortune on eBay.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Prompt: Dance

Dance The Night Away

People mill about the club, but nobody’s dancing. The DJ isn’t great, and nobody wants to be that one person on the floor – at least not for long enough to start a trend. Even though there are plenty of people here, most of them stand alone, waiting for friends who said they’d be here by now but aren’t. Sometimes someone tries to start a conversation with a stranger, but this always ends in awkward silence.

You have no way of knowing how long you’ve been here, but you’re starting to wish you’d gone to church more while you were alive.