Teachers Write 7/8/14 – Tuesday Quick-Write

On Tuesdays & Thursdays during Teachers Write! Virtual Summer Writing Camp, we’ll be sharing quick-write prompts, designed to get you free-writing for a few minutes in response to a question or idea. Some of these will feel like writing memoir, some will focus more on fiction or nonfiction or poetry. Some of them will just be hard to categorize. Many will be prompts that you can bookmark and share with your student writers later on.

Our Tuesday-Thursday quick-writes can be used as a simple free-write, brainstorming, warm-up activity OR as a way to deepen your thinking about a work-in-progress.  So feel free to approach the prompt in whatever way works best for you, even if that means ignoring it and writing about the other thing that sprouted in your head when you sat down to do the quick-write. Okay… got your keyboard or pencil ready?

Today’s Quick-Write is courtesy of Nora Raleigh Baskin, who’s written a whole bunch of wonderful books, including RUNT and the Schneider Family Book Award winner ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL.

Tuesday Quick-Write: Taking a Risk

The most important skill to have when writing books for children is to be able to get into the mind of a child, not an adult looking back. However, being able to “mine” the memories of your own childhood is key.

Today, choose a memory from your own life, preferably of a deeply felt emotion (i.e. fear, joy, embarrassment, anger, sadness). Now write the experience as fiction, as if it happened or is happening to your character. It can be either in first or third person, past or present tense. It can as close to the facts or as far as you wish, retaining the “truth” of the emotional experience while creating “fiction.”

Note from Kate: If you’d like to share a few lines of what you wrote today in the comments, we’d love that – and promise that all our comments will be friendly and supportive. (We’ll talk about more constructive critiques later on. Let’s just get our feet wet with compliments today!)  If you’d rather keep your writing to yourself today, in your notebook or on your hard drive, that’s fine, too.

Please feel free to TALK to one another in those comments, too! Some things you read there will resonate with you or spark memories or simply make you sigh. Writers will appreciate hearing about that. Nora and I are actually both on a writing retreat this week and probably won’t be able to comment on every single post, but we’ll pop in and read, and you know that cheering one another on is part of this community, too!

Please note: If you’re a first-time commenter, I’ll have to approve your comment before it appears. This may take a while if I’m not at my computer, but don’t worry – I’ll get to it and it will show up later on!

304 Replies on “Teachers Write 7/8/14 – Tuesday Quick-Write

  1. Joey enjoyed playing with his friends. Each day, when the sun came up, Joey would wander down to Marty’s house and wait for him to come out. Sometimes, Marty would be doing chores or eating breakfast, so Joey just played in Marty’s yard, pretending to be Babe Ruth or Willie Mays.
    On this day, Marty was still inside when Joey arrived. Joey began his morning routine, wandering around the yard, sliding down the slide and waiting. When Marty still didn’t come out, Joey pick up the wiffle ball bat and stepped into the batter’s box, pretending to be “The Babe”. Joey held the bat high, then pointed to the outfield fence, mirroring what he had seen The Babe do. In came the pitch and he took a mighty swing. The ball exploded off of the bat and left the ballpark quickly. Joey started to circle the bases in the sideways fashion that The Babe always used. That’s when it happened. He felt something come through his shoe. “Ouch! That really hurt, what the …..?,” though Joey. Joey stopped to sit in the wet morning grass to examine his foot. That’s when saw it…a three inch nail sticking out of his foot.

    1. Ouch! I winced in pain as I read your last line. What happened to Marty? What happens to Joey now? You have me wanting to read more. Thanks for sharing!

    2. I like how your writing really gets us into the rhythm until the very last line, which pulls us back to reality.

  2. In a school year, where fashion should not have mattered, my grade 4 size 12 body wore a wardrobe of elastic pants, bright colored tops-same style, every color off the rack, and whatever else my Mom had picked up in the King of Prussia mall. It was the late 80s and some girls, the cool girls, were wearing ESPRIT and Guess. My arch nemesis and neighbor Heather was leader of the pack and after years of being her playmate, she had started to pull away as 9 year old girls sometimes do. Our days of Cabbage Patch kids, Barbies, and bikes had been replaced (for her) with bubble gum lip gloss and Bop magazine with its’ glossy pull-out posters of stars I had not heard of. My chubbiness and bad perm were too much for Heather and I knew it and so when I learned that we were in the same homeroom, I felt a pit in my stomach.

    Moments from that year hang like over-ripe fruit on a tree, ready to drop, and I remember the angst of that year…

    First day of school, our bus was late and the dreaded walk into our room on the first day, of all days was to be terrible. The awkwardness of being escorted down the hall together in a new school building we did not know, it was just Heather and I, all eyes looking up at us, a few girls waving frantically at her as I kept my head sheepishly pointed down. If it weren’t for Mr. T I probably would have kept my head down the whole year.

    Height and Weight check day…the worst day of the school year. The constant comparison of myself to the rest, always fatter. And there stands Heather with her cute outfit, giggling and whispering with the cool girls, probably discussing my chubbiness and bad perm. We stand in line waiting to get on the scale. I do the only thing I can think of, “May I go to the bathroom?” But I don’t go to the bathroom, well I go inside, but I don’t go. I try to hold back the tears, but I can’t. They just come and before I know it, I am speed walking to the guidance office and as I sit on her couch in her familiar office, I sob about being fat and not wanting to get weighed in front of all those kids where they can all see the scale and the number and my worst nightmare coming true.

    The sweater was in a plastic bag and left on the floor by the cluster of desks that Heather and I happened to share. It was mine and must have fallen to the ground, but when Mr. T asked Heather to pick it up and take it out to see whose it was, she did so with disgust and disdain, and I wasn’t going to claim it. I watched from the book shelf as she picked up the bag with two pinched fingers and with scrunched up face, her other hand reached inside. Using one finger to hook around the tag, as if using two would be too gross, she lifted the sweater. Reading the label, now hanging off her index finger she proclaimed, “Ugh. [insert lame no-name clothing brand here]” and dropped it back down to the floor, like an over-ripe fruit hanging from a tree, unpicked, on the cusp of rotting, as girls around her giggled and whispered.

    1. Dana- First, this line: “Reading the label, now hanging off her index finger she proclaimed, “Ugh. [insert lame no-name clothing brand here]” and dropped it back down to the floor, like an over-ripe fruit hanging from a tree, unpicked, on the cusp of rotting, as girls around her giggled and whispered.” is gorgeous. Beautifully written and evocative. Secondly, I must be in your age cluster because my memories are very similar, and reading yours is a flashback to the years I try hard to forget, years in which I was afraid of reaching out to others like me, for fear of undermining any camouflage still remaining to me. I’m going to have to work past that uncomfortable feeling now. Well done, you.

    2. Oh, Dana these snapshots were so painful to read and yet so powerful because they felt real. You captured that feeling of dread perfectly. It also reminded me of how aware and proactive we teachers need to be. For one thing, how easy it would have been to do a weight check more privately. . .

    3. Dana,
      Not only does your piece fit well with today’s prompt, but it also ties in with yesterday’s. With just your first sentence, I’m right back in high school, wearing my boy’s pants (because even XL in girls didn’t fit right) and over sized shirts and sweaters to hide my body. I wish I had thought to escape the public weigh-in rather than face that humiliation. You did so well with this it makes me cry.

    4. This was so vividly written I felt like I was back in 7th grade. (Please, no!) It would be interesting to have Heather’s take on the same events.

    5. Dana, you did it for me. I felt the emotion, the pain and the suspense. You made me recognize myself in the story, thus creating kinship. Wish we could have been friends in elementary school. GREAT WRITING!!!

    6. This character\’s pain really shows through in the details: elastic waistbands, the panic of standing in line for the scale. I had a lump in my throat reading it. Thanks for being brave enough to share.

    7. Ouch! My heart aches for the girl in this story. I was always clueless to the “coming-of-age” turmoil that girls go through in school. That is probably why I am the lucky (and still often clueless) father of two girls. Thank you for a peek into a world I have never traversed. It reminds me to be especially kind to others, knowing that we each walk in our own shoes.

    8. I did feel for this girl. But your piece did make my heart smile. It brought back memories for me…good and bad. Thanks for this.

    9. Dana, I love it when I read and am able to make connections. Your depiction of the sweater “incident” evokes memories of a similar selection by Sandra Cisneros, I think. Yours, just like hers, causes me to inwardly cringe at cruelty inflicted by others. Thank your stirring up such emotions for me.

    10. very brave..very beautiful..the details make the story come to life. It’s all in the details. thank you for sharing this.

    11. The way you describe the scene with Hannah picking up the sweater reminds me a lot of The red sweater by Sandra Cisneros. And that’s a compliment!

      1. Andrea, I was going to say the same thing, that the story reminded me of Cisneros’ Red Sweater. Your story was vividly told and brought back so many memories of elementary school. Why, oh why, did they put us through that humiliation of public weigh ins?! Keep up the good work.

    12. Oh Dana. I get this and feel every bit of angst and bitterness. Many of my clothes were hand made thus having no label. My two sisters are skinny and me, not so much. This piece is so real to me. Well done.

    13. Thank you thank you thank you for the kind words…feedback in the form of words is the best and I appreciate it so much! Off to pay it forward and read the marvelous writing from today!

      -Dana 🙂

    14. That was written with such emotion. I am about the same age as you, I imagine, and I felt such empathy for your character.You captured the age perfectly, as whether in 1980 or 2014, I can still imagine that scenario happening.

    15. Wow! Fantastic writing! Now I want to know how the character rises above the bullies and believes in herself.

  3. Thank you Nora (and Kate). What a great prompt to get us thinking. Here’s mine, based on my childhood experience of finding out my grandfather had died while I was staying with my grandparents during a break from school. My character in my WIP is about the same age as I was, but she finds out her father has been killed. This will not likely appear in my novel.

    I wake to voices. At first I think it’s my parents. But they don’t sound like my parents’ voices. Well, I hear Mama’s, but who are those men?

    I listen quietly, holding my breath. Why is Mama crying? My stomach hurts.

    I hear, “…tracks…didn’t see…sorry…”

    Throwing the covers back, I slide out of bed and step onto the cold floor. I walk slowly toward the door. Mama is still crying, and a man speaks quietly to her. I peek around the edge of the door. Two strange men…policemen…are sitting with Mama. One looks up at me. My mouth is dry, and I stop breathing, terrified. Mama sees him looking and turns toward me.

    The policeman, the one who looked at me, stands and says to Mama, “I’m sorry Mrs. Allen. We’ll be on our way.” He nods in my direction.

    They leave. Mama stands up and I go to her, and she hugs me. Her body shakes with her crying, but I don’t move. I just hold on, my eyes wide open and dry. It hurts to breath, and I think my heart stopped beating. But I can’t cry, even though I know my Daddy is not coming home anymore.

    1. I love how you add in the details about how the girl felt – mouth dry, difficult to breath. It really breaks up the action and shows the reader what the girl was feeling as she experienced this horrible revelation.

    2. This brings back painful memories of finding out a relative has died. Very vivid writing!

  4. Six Years Old: 1975, New York City, NY
    When we head out for the day I am in a handmade smocked dress, white tights, and black patent leather Mary Janes. My custom made coat is dark blue velvet and wool. My dark shining hair is chin length with a felt hot pink flower barrette holding back the lock of hair that will soon fall again in my eyes as I pull the barrette out and stuff it in my pocket. I feel beautiful and it isn’t because of my clothes which my mother painstakingly purchased to ensure I would look exactly as she intended. It is because my mother has let me stay home from first grade. She has sent my brothers off to school, but she has let me stay home. She is taking me to the place she gets her manicures and hair done. She is letting me get my hair washed and blown out, though it doesn’t need it. She is letting me get my nails done. She will require that I paint them pale pink so I won’t look tacky, but it will be thrilling none the less. I love this beautiful women so much my heart pounds as I hold her soft hand with the diamond ring on her little finger. I rub my fingers back and forth over that ring. I cannot think of my mother and not think about this ring. I have studied everything about my mother. From her straight blonde hair to her Hermes scarf and Kelly bag. She looks better than everyone else we see as we walk down Park Avenue and I am hers. She is telling me funny stories about my brothers and we are laughing together and it is as if the whole world has disappeared and we are the only two people on the island of Manhattan.

    1. Kimberley, you captured the intimacy of a magical moment that many of us wish we had more of, time with someone we love. My favorite line: “She is telling me funny stories about my brothers and we are laughing together and it is as if the whole world has disappeared and we are the only two people on the island of Manhattan.” is fabulous.

  5. Thank you for this prompt. I struggled a bit in starting but I’m happy with what I came out…

    My eyes fly open and my breath gets caught in my throat. It’s the first day of school. It’s the first day at a new school. UGH! Why did we have to move? Stupid moving. My old school was just fine. I knew everyone and they knew me and now I don’t know anyone. If I skooch way down to the bottom of my bed and lie perfectly still maybe mom won’t…”Ellie! Ellie, are you awake?” mom yells from down the hall. I hold my breath, hoping she’ll be distracted by my stinky little brother. “Ellie? Ellie! ELLIE! Get up! I don’t have time…” she continues as she leaves my bedroom. There’s no point in trying anything when mom’s in this kind of mood.

    I’m all tangled up in my sheets when Michael comes barrelling in and leaps onto my bed. “GOOD MORNING! SMELLY ELLIE!” We both fall onto the floor and are laughing when mom appears in the doorway. Arms crossed she smirks, just a bit as she commands, “Get dressed and downstairs in six minutes.” She looks at her watch and announces, “GO!” We scramble around trying to beat each other and for a moment I forget what’s waiting ahead of me.

    1. Absolutely the voice of a kid..and the best part is that this could be history (yours I assume) or present day. Delightful…you really captured the feelings. (I remember trying to hide in my own bed)

    2. Michelle, Great start! I thought the connection between sibling resonated. That returns to me so much in memory – how a sibling’s laugh and play could get through to you when nothing else could.

    3. You did just what Nora said to do – write from a child\’s perspective instead of an adult looking back. This is definitely a child\’s voice! Love it!

  6. “Hey, Daddy. Daddy.” I am reaching out to tap my father’s fuzzy arm just level with my head, eyes pinned down on the shiny new book clutched in my hands. On the slick cover, the boys and girls are clustered at the mouth of a cave, flashlights at the ready, the black and white dog keeping a look-out by a boulder like he’s watching for someone who’s chasing them. “Can I get this one? I don’t have it, yet. Look, it’s. . .” I freeze as the arm steps slightly away and I think to look up and away from my find. Dark hair, black mustache, no glasses, no beard, no familiar smile. My words stop in my throat and my lips stay round in a little ‘o’ of surprise. My face turns hot and I snatch my hand away quickly like I can erase my touch, my babyish request ringing in my ears. My stomach flip-flops with surprise, then embarrassment, then fear and I spin and walk away with my face down, book tight to my chest, too horrified to say anything else. Magazine covers blur one after another out of the corner of my eyes as I zip past the long racks and I hear the strange and startled laugh of the man behind me. I have to pause and let my heart slow down behind the carousel of bookmarks before I can venture out again to find my father.

    1. Jen, your post reminded me of a similar experience I had getting lost at a parade, reaching for the hand of a stranger I thought was my father. I hadn’t thought of that in ages, but I think I will explore writing about it today. Your use of dialogue – just enough – is something I will try out. I also think the compare/contrast line was very effective – dark hair, black mustache, no glasses, no beard, no familiar smile. Thanks!

    2. Wow! From exuberant innocence to panic-stricken terror in the blink of an eye! I remember this feeling as a child losing sight of my mother in a mall. You captured the raw emotions in a spine-tingling way! Awesome!

    3. That was wonderful..I bet everyone can relate. You brought me back to my very similar experience and the exact feeling of shame. You nailed that completely horrified feeling that is so completely humorous to the adult. I loved the fuzzy arm line.

  7. Dana, this line got me: “Our days of Cabbage Patch kids, Barbies, and bikes had been replaced (for her) with bubble gum lip gloss and Bop magazine with its’ glossy pull-out posters of stars I had not heard of.” The *for her* part is what stood out to me. It brought me back to a time when all my friends had outgrown babies and Barbies, but all I wanted to do was play with them in their imaginary world because in their (babies’ and Barbies’) world everything was bliss and sunshine and I could forget the pain and loneliness I felt.

  8. She held Mommy’s hand as they walked across the bumpy pavement, careful not to catch the toe of her shoe on a loose pebble. The walls of the hospital stretched taller and taller the closer they got to the door, but Mommy didn’t talk or look down at her, didn’t swing her arm or remind her to be quiet when they got inside. They just walked. Straight across the parking lot from the car to the door. Lily’s tummy felt full of wigglers, but she didn’t talk, either. Today was a day to keep quiet, although Lily wasn’t really sure why.

      1. I like the imagery, but not the experience so much when it’s MY tummy they’re in! Thanks!

  9. “Betsy,” Mandy called ahead, “I’m going. I can’t wait.”

    She quickly ducked behind a tree, pulling down her shorts and underwear, squatting as she moved them out of the way. Ah, sweet release! A steady stream of liquid splattered against the leafy ground and Mandy leaned back against the tree, feeling it’s rough bark pressing into her spine. Finally comfortable, she sighed and relaxed.

    Betsy’s head popped around the tree, “I see you!” she crowed.

    Mandy, startled, jerked, and felt the warm stream of urine run down her leg and soak into her white sock.

    “You peed on yourself!” Betsy laughed. Her face glowed with malicious delight.

    “No, I didn’t!” Mandy cried.

    Betsy turned away. “Yes, you did,” she said smugly. “And, I’m going to tell everyone you peed in the woods and you peed on yourself.”

    Mandy’s face flooded with shame. She pulled up her shorts and underwear quickly, yanking as the cotton twisted and dragged on her damp thighs. Panicked, she rushed after Betsy. “Betsy, wait, don’t tell!” she cried desperately. She knew the others would tease her mercilessly if they found out.

    Betsy strode ahead, ignoring her pleas, her blond head shimmering through the veil of tears in Mandy’s eyes.

    1. “Betsy strode ahead, ignoring her pleas, her blond head shimmering through the veil of tears in Mandy’s eyes.” We all have memories branded into us so deeply they become part of us forever. This line captures the emergence of a horrific memory for Mandy so well. I wanted to reach my hands through the computer, reach for Betsy and hold her back. Great writing.

    2. The beginning of this made me chuckle because I was right there with Mandy. I’ve known the feeling. hee hee. Then I was thinking, “oh no!” I want to know what happens next…

    3. I can just picture it! I have felt that relief, and then to immediately be put on the defence…poor girl! You really captured a lot of emotion here.

  10. Jenna was excited that her mom was going to be a part of the 4H meeting. She was coming in to bake cookies with the girls. Other activities were going on with Mrs. Struckman. The girls assembled and Mrs. Struckman gave them an overview of the meeting. Jenna’s mom was not there when the meeting began. Mrs. Struckman asked Jenna if her mom was coming and she responded, “Yes as far as I know.” Mrs. Struckman pursed her lips and instructed Jenna to go upstairs and call her mom. Jenna’s head hung as she trudged upstairs, the girls watching her leave. The phone was in a room with a huge floor to ceiling window. Jenna called her mom. Her dad answered. She asked, “Is mom coming?” Dad said, “No, she’s “sick”. Jenna hung up the phone and stared out the window thinking she couldn’t bear to tell Mrs. Struckman and the girls that her mom was not coming. She stared out the window contemplating jumping out the window and running away. Jenna did not want to face the disapproving looks of the girls and Mrs. Struckman. With a sinking feeling Jenna realized once again it was another example of when her mom had not come through.

    1. This makes me want to read more, to find out what the rest of the story is!

    2. Thanks for sharing, Meg. Such a hard account for the character. I wonder what happens next? How does she decide to handle the absence of her mom? You have me wanting to read more!

  11. By connecting a garden hose to the laundry tub and snaking it through the basement window, Dad flooded our backyard to make an ice rink.
    As soon as it was frozen solid, I was out there on my skates, spinning around the tree, snagging my mittens on the rough bark to prevent a fall. Kate and Anna grabbed my hands for a quick turn at Crack the Whip. The speed of being pulled along as the tail end made me giddy with joy.
    With the stars above and the smooth ice below, all the troubling events of the school day began to fall away with every turn around the rink. I began to hum, and then felt happy enough to sing: “Tomorrow there’ll be snow in Minnesota, but I won’t be around to watch it fall. I’ll be heading for that old familiar station, hoping you still love me most of all…”
    Before we knew it, Mom was knocking on the kitchen window from inside. “Time to come in girls. It’s getting late.”

    1. Wonderful mix of specific sights and sounds, Kristina, showing how the ice is this character’s oasis.

    2. You captured such a lovely moment and sent me back to those magical childhood evenings that ended as darkness fell, with a rap on the window or, in my case, a ring of the bell. Thanks for sharing!

  12. My sister Mona says that Ma is in love with Dad’s partner, Mr. Hammond. “In love, like get married?” I ask, panicking.
    Mona rolls her eyes like I’m too stupid to be believed. “No, dummy. I didn’t sat he loved her back.”
    Twice a week, our parents have dinner with the Hammonds. Mrs. Hammond sis short and plump, what my mother calls “frumpy,” but Mr. Hammond is tall, his dark hair slicked back. He’s tan even in the summer and his teeth are toothpaste-commercial white. They stop by our house for cocktails first. Ma is wearing her good dress. She has two glasses of wine and that’s too many; you can tell because she laughs too loud, like someone is clapping her on the back. I watch her carefully for signs of love, but she just kisses us goodnight like always, tells us not to wait up.
    “Yeah, yeah,” Mona says, dodging the kiss.
    That night, in the dark where I’m braver, where I can say anything, I tell Mona, “You’re wrong about Ma and Mr. Hammond. You’re wrong about everything.”
    But that winter, when Mr. Hammond dies from getting locked in the oven, Ma goes to bed and won’t get up for three days. “Not an oven,” my father explains again, his eyes tired but dry. “A sauna. It’s like a hot place where grown-ups go sometimes to sweat.”
    “Why do they want to sweat?”
    “I don’t know, baby. I guess it’s supposed to be good for the body.”
    “But he died.”
    “Yes, baby.” He rubs his temples. “Because the door handle broke off when he tried to open it, and he couldn’t get out.”
    Mona has more details, from listening at our parents’ bedroom door at night. “He swelled up like a balloon,” she whispers, reporting back to me. “He tried so hard to get out that all of his fingernails broke off. They could see his scratch marks on the wood.”
    I don’t argue. Three days since my mother went to bed, three days since she’s spoken to us or showered: it’s beginning to look like Mona was right about lots of things.

    1. That was incredible..not only well written and so completely in the voice of the child..but poignant and meaningful. What an incredible story. bravely told..

    2. Wonderful job with the dialogue between sisters. Makes me want to call my sister and hear what she has to say.

    3. Wow! What a wonderful piece of writing! You captured the voice of your character and her sister so well. I love the line, “I watch her carefully for signs of love, but she just kisses us goodnight like always…” Your characters are living and breathing and I’d love to know what happens next!

  13. Inching down on the corner of her bed and slighting tugging at the Strawberry Shortcake sheets, I have trouble finding her face. Soon the moonlight creeps in around the edges of the window shade, so I can just barely make out the blonde corkscrew curls shielding her face from the abuse she suffered earlier in the day. In the quiet of the night I hear my heart beating in my throat. Fear.The last thing I want to do is explain what I am doing crouched on the edge of my 9- year-old sister’s bed a little after midnight.

    Looking down at her, my heart yearns and my arms fight the urge to wrap around her in a tight hug. I delicately whisper into the night air aiming for her ear, “Sorry, I love you. I didn’t mean to hurt you.” Hoping those words float through her body and into her heart, my mind sweeps back to the hours of daylight. “God, I’m such a moody bitch,” grips my guilty conscience.

    “Kara, Kara, bam-bara,
    You’re so fat you could eat a Pharaoh.

    Fie-fie fo fara
    you eat so much you’ll kill a beara

    me-mi-mo-mara, Fat Kara!”

    I sing so loudly all of Wilson Street can hear. “Who gives a shit,” I think. The main person I want to hear rocks back and forth on the creaky porch swing gripping her knees with a turned down smile and a single tear leaking from her right eye. I am enjoying this. Obviously, she’s not. “Moooooommmmm,” she loudly wines. Hearing the honking outside on the curb, I run by slapping her on the side of the head for good measure. Jumping into the boyfriend’s car for a fast getaway, I inundate her with one last insult, “See ya, Fatty!”

    1. I’m speechless here. The mean, evil intent is thick, as well as the struggling layer of love underneath. I wanted more and less simultaneously. Scary good writing.

  14. A light sprinkling of snow settled on the ground. Bit by bit a white blanked covered my cold, barren and morbid world. One more ride. If I hurry, I will get in one more ride.
    I scanned the fridge for a carrot and ran to the barn, slipping once. Pulling the frozen metal latch to the gate, my ears thumped in tandem with my heart. Silence. Lacey snow flakes melted on my lashes. I pulled with all the strength my nine year old arms could muster and throw open the metal gate. “Casper? Casper!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. Knowing Armed with a carrot, I heard thundering hooves coming nearer and nearer. Joy, fear and determination. “I can do this. After all, the cowboys do it all the time, right?” I thought to myself. Frozen whiskers and a slimy muzzle scoured my hand for any remnants of the carrot. I placed the steel bit into his mouth and bent his fuzzy ears as I positioned the bridled. Knotting the rains and resting them on his withers, I backed into position. I counted. “1…2…3.. wait, not yet. Okay. Here we go. 1…2…3..” I ran as fast as I could. The horses rear was my target.
    My intent was to plant my palms firmly on his rump, swiftly sail over his ass and land on his back and ride off into the field for one last joyride. “1…2..3” Thant’s all I remember. When I came to, he was almost a half mile on the knoll munching the remaining dead grass under the snow.
    “What? Stupid horse” I muttered and dragged my dazed and exhausted body back to the frozen gate. It creaked open. No muscle need this time. “Stupid gate!” When I latched it, blood dripped from the handle. “What?” I rubbed my numb, lower lip and discovered what my brilliantly executed plan gave me… a bloody lip complete with horse manure from my horse’s hind hooves smeared on my chin.
    Ten stitches and a lip swollen and throbbing I realized the cowboys have got it all wrong.

    1. I love the last sentence. I felt like I was right there with her as she prepped the horse and jumped!

    2. I love the first line – the setting is created in a poetic and realistic way. I also thing the tension that is created by “one last ride” works well – it made me curious why this was so.

  15. Uncle Rob passes back a large bag of peanut m&m’s for my cousin and I to share. I don’t even like them, but we munch on them heartily, trying to distract the pain. An awkward silence fills the car as my uncle drives us away from the cemetery. Tears stream down my face as I sort through my feelings. I’m the only kid I know in third grade who lost a sibling. A twin. No more late night pillow fights. No more races to prove I was faster. No more pranks on our teachers, tricking them into believing that I was Aidan, and that he was me. We’ll never play on the same team again. We’ll never share a seat on the bus again. Did he know that all my playing around was just joking, or did my words ever hurt him? Did I always have to win the races, or could I have let him cross the finish line first, just one time? That’s what I want – just one time more. One time more to laugh with him. One time more to tell him all that he means to me. One time more, to look in his eyes; to hear him call my name; to remember him fully.

    1. Greg, thank you so much for sharing. Your piece grabbed me. I especially appreciate your last lines: “One time more to tell him all that he means to me. One time more, to look in his eyes; to hear him call my name; to remember him fully.” Such painful, real, emotion. The fear of losing memories is quite present in those last lines. Thank you again for sharing.

    2. I’m nearly in tears. I can feel the loss the character feels knowing there will never be an opportunity to let him know exactly how he feels. You’ve certainly made me feel his loss. It is so real. Thank you for sharing.

    3. Wow! I have twin daughters and this captures beautifully how they just take for granted that the other one will always be present. Powerful words!

    4. Greg, this is really powerful. There is a great balance of concrete details (the M&Ms) and outside action, with internal thoughts, and the repetition of one more time at the end brings home the emotion of loss.

    5. I remember this feeling…the “never again” and the “just one more” moments I had after my Dad died. Well done.

      1. Leigh, the actual memory was from my dad’s funeral. I was 10 and it left a profound impact on my life, in so many ways. I was trying to take the emotions from that day and make them fictional. So I used the memory and went in a slightly different direction. Thank you for sharing and I’m sorry you experienced similar trauma with your own dad.

    6. Greg-
      this was so good, so raw, I wasn’t going to comment, because I was sure you knew how earth shakingly gripping it is. But I just saw a comment of yours on fb about comparison as a thief of joy, so I better tell you. You’re bringing me to tears with your writing. I can’t call it beautiful. It’s awful. And we’re seeing the reflection of it through your eyes. Thank you.

      1. Terry, thank you for the comments. I have no clue how my writing is perceived by others, so the feedback is welcome! That quote guides me, because by nature I try to measure myself to others, and to be honest, I really suck at trying to be anyone else but myself. That is challennging enough for me to manage 😉

        1. Hi Greg — I don’t want to assume anything, but it feels like this could be a part of a longer piece? If so, might I recommend Jody Casella’s YA novel “Thin Space”? I didn’t love the sci-fi aspects of it so much, but her portrait of a boy who has lost his twin brother — part of himself, really — was unforgettable. You might find it helpful if this is a storyline you choose to continue — and I hope you do! 🙂

    7. Greg,
      You used a powerful strategy that Kylene Beers and Bob Probst (Notice and Note) encourage readers to look for in stories: Tough Questions. Very powerful!

    8. This brought tears to my eyes and I had to read it a second time. Tears then too. Powerful.

      1. Thank you so much for your encouragement. It is so affirming when oaths take the time to note what they enjoyed in your writing. I’m grateful for your feedback.

  16. She sat in the church and still couldn’t believe he was no longer here. She was having a very difficult time keeping it together. Her grandmother, mother, and aunt all seemed composed. She couldn’t do it. She tried so hard not to cry but the memories – they just kept coming. He really was her favorite person in the world. She had a special bond with this lovely intelligent kind-hearted soul, her grandfather, Roger. The best memory that kept replaying in her mind took place each summer when her family went to visit her grandparents in their cabin in the Poconos. She would climb into his lap as he rocked in the old rocking chair in the living room. She would snuggle into him, sucking her thumb, while he would be loving on her favorite dog, the yellow lab, JayJay. He would massage her back from head to toe and turn to ask her, “What flavor is it today? Vanilla?”
    “Nope,” she would say, with a giggle.
    “It must be strawberry!”
    “No,” she’d reply.
    “Well, it must be chocolate,” he say.
    “Of course, my favorite!” she’d squeal, and with that he’d give her a squeeze.
    She loved this man. Her heart was broken to know she’d not be able to see him ever again. She tried to remember how lucky she was to be able to spend the first 16 years of her life with her grandfather, after all so many weren’t that lucky.

  17. Stacy thought she had two weeks of food and fun in store for all her food blog fans. She had promised to cook and bake more recipes while she was on spring break from teaching. She didn’t get a chance to do that…
    She filled her days and nights caring for her beloved, almost 8 years old Golden Retriever, Coco. Over the past month and half, Stacy’s intuition told her there was something really wrong with Coco, but with each weekly visit to the vet and multiple rounds of blood work all came up normal even though Coco was not herself. Stacy began to notice Coco’s toasted coconut color began to fade like her sassy and beautiful spirit and Stacy’s hope began to dwindle.
    Then, on Friday afternoon (March 23rd, 2012), Stacy took Coco for an ultrasound and biopsies after having more x-rays and blood work done in the morning. From the ultrasound the vet suspected lymphoma cancer even though Coco’s blood work came back normal. On Monday Stacy got the devastating news that Coco indeed had lymphoma cancer. In order to preserve Coco’s dignity and the spirit Coco had left, and to prevent her from any further suffering Stacy and her husband put her down on the next Friday. Who knew that doing the right thing could make one’s heart hurt with such intensity?
    And on that very same day, Stacy got the news that she had miscarried. It hit her all once. This was the worst spring break ever!
    Stacy does believe that being on spring break was a true gift. She was able to spend every moment with her Coco Girl and her Coco Girl gave her the extra comfort she needed before Stacy had to say goodbye.
    From morning until night and all over again as they snuggled on the tile floor for a week straight, Stacy saw the worst of Coco and she saw the best of her and all of it mattered because Stacy was able to just be with her and next to her. Stacy cooked for her and Coco LOVED it. On Saturday, March 24th 2012, when Stacy was baking that pumpkin cheesecake, the one that stunk (yuck) to the palate, Stacy noticed her furry friend perked up. *Stacy thought to herself that thank goodness it smelled good. It surely didn’t taste all that good. LOL
    That afternoon Stacy began to notice something… Hmm…Coco found comfort in Stacy’s favorite pastime. Coco found comfort in THEIR favorite pastime. So, from that point on Stacy would boil cinnamon sticks or cook with curry to wake up Coco’s senses and to perk up her spirit and it worked. During her last days she dined like a DIVA on….Steak, sweet potatoes, chicken, rice and she even noshed on take out pizza. Cooking steak at 10 o’clock in the morning…didn’t matter to Stacy at all. It made Coco’s tail wag and her golden girl ate. Stacy was happy, too.

    And..all these years Stacy thought she rescued Coco….when in fact, Coco rescued her. She rescued Stacy’s heart. She changed her life. She touched her soul and Stacy will forever love her Coco Girl. Coco passed peacefully with both Stacy and her husband at her side. The endless kisses she gave Stacy’s husband as they sat with her will forever be running through Stacy’s mind and Coco’s unforgettable paw prints will forever be embedded in both their hearts.
    Now, Stacy continues to reach and look for Coco each morning. It’s beginning to sink in how far away she is from both of them. Over the first weekend after putting her down, Stacy still poured two cups of coffee and told Coco all about her dreams as she watched the clouds in the sky out the window from the couch. Now Stacy’s kitchen is way too quiet and she thinks Coco should still be there with them. But now whenever Stacy sets a foot onto that cold tile floor where Coco used to sleep, she can still feel the warmth of Coco’s loving soul at her feet.
    Princess Coconut…we love you. Xoxo
    In July 2012, we adopted a rescue, we named Guinness, who has rescued my heart. We are still childfree, but we have love, hope and faith and each other.

    1. The human/animal connections are indescribable pleasures — you almost have to experience the process. I have read your submission twice, however, and have cried both times. I just LOVE the memory of Coco. After reading your words, I have such a vivid picture of spring break 2012 – love the summer with the rescue performing a rescue!

      1. I appreciate your time and feedback. She was love on four legs and sunshine when she walked into a room. Our new pup, Guinness, is sweet & sassy just like her. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Thank you for telling me that I created a vivid picture. I was never a writer as a kid, but I have learned to let me fear go and write from my heart. Thanks, Kathleen!

    2. This is a nice way to honour a hard memory. What a horrible week for you! But comforting a friend in her last days is what friendship is all about!

      1. True friendships and true love. I comforted her and she comforted me. Yes, it was a most horrible spring break. The worst ever in my book, but I will always have her love. Thanks, Lisa C.

  18. The afternoon sun glistens through the native oak in Malibu Canyon Park. It was a magical day playing in the stream and climbing up the hill at the base of our picnic with my sister. The day was filled with joy, laughter and music. We were the only kids there except little PK who tagged along. We enjoy the bit of unbridled freedom as the adults occupy themselves with stories of life on the road- rolicking more and more as the wine flowed and pungent circles of smoke rose above their heads.

    Too soon it is time to go. I huddle down between the black vinyl seat in the back of our family’s new silver Camero and pulled my jacket over my head. The canyon roads are narrow and winding. The car is fast, and I am old enough to understand that Dad is way to drunk and way too high to be driving us home. “Though I walk through the valley of death…” I recited this prayer over and over and added a few Hail Marys knowing full well I needed her to be praying for me at this hour of my death.

    1. What a helpless feeling for her in the backseat of that car! I liked that the danger is not in-your-face; it’s subtle until the end, and because of that, it is heightened at the end. Well done! *I hope that makes sense 🙂

      1. Thanks, Jen! I was trying to be mindful of Jo’s Monday Warm Up and finding beauty. She (I) doesn’t die- just deals with mortality at too young an age.

  19. Walking home from school, Danny kept his head down, blocking out the world around him, focusing instead on his own crazy, mixed-up thoughts. Maybe that was why he didn’t sense danger approaching until it was too late.
    A hard yet wet and sticky mass slammed against the back of his head before landing with a splat on the sidewalk behind him.
    The air filled with raucous laughter and the clomping of designer sneaker-clad feet running down the street. Danny didn’t need to turn around to see who it was. He knew. It was unmistakably the same group of guys who seemed to find great pleasure in inventing new ways to make his life miserable at school. As if life at home wasn’t miserable enough. Couldn’t he have a little peace? Was that really asking too much?
    Danny’s hand found the spot on his head that had been their target and wiped away the foul-smelling goo left there. Looking down, he saw the squished guts of a rotten orange oozing from its cracked skin. Danny’s throat tightened and his eyes burned. Not for the first time, he wished he was his brother’s age so he could cry and kick and scream, the things he really felt like doing. According to his mom, though, he was a “big boy” who “knew better” than to stand crying helplessly on the side of the road, so he turned back around and walked silently toward home instead.

    1. How heartbreaking, I want to reach into your story and hug Danny. “Danny’s throat tightened and his eyes burned. Not for the first time, he wished he was his brother’s age so he could cry and kick and scream, the things he really felt like doing.” This captures so many of the feelings that victims of bullying experience. Beautifully written.

    2. Wow! Your sensory imagery is so vivid! My heart went out to Danny and his crummy life at home and in public.

    3. I really love the way that you show Danny’s feelings in the outside, physical world and the emotional, inside world. Your specific details complete the picture.

  20. The room smelled musty despite the thorough cleaning the church ladies had given it. Anna curled up tightly on the bare mattress, wrapping the thin blue blanket around her small frame. If she closed her eyes tightly and listened only to the sound of her breathing, the panic would loosen its death grip that threatened to swallow her up. In the other room, adults spoke in quiet voices, pausing here and there in awkward silence.
    As Anna continued breathing slowly in and out, she wondered what would become of her. Her life, up until this point, had been filled with a series of homes filled with misplaced children with sad eyes and beaten down, angry men and women who looked at each child with simply a dollar sign attached to their coat.

  21. As she stood behind the garage looking at what she and her friends had accomplished over the past hour, she felt a sense of pride. They had worked hard to complete this masterpiece.

    They had discovered that handheld paintbrushes would not allow them to get high enough on the wall and that the driveway brooms could reach much further up.

    They had run out of mud and one of the boys had come up with the idea of pooping and using that instead-it had worked perfectly.

    They were done, and it looked phenomenal! The entire back of the separate, white garage was covered in dark brown. The entire thing! The mud, and poop, clung to the white boards, the off-white cask of the paint coming through, but pretty much the back of the garage was brown.

    Melissa stood back and looked at her friends with such a sense of accomplishment. They had worked as a team, critiquing areas and making sure every inch was covered. They had plotted and schemed and overcome problems. And finally, an hour later-an entire eternity if you think of it from a 4 year old’s point of view-they were done.

    Her little brother, Jeremy, came toddling back where they stood and looked at her project. In his quiet little 2 year old voice he said, “Mom’s coming and she be mad.”

    “No she won’t,” she insisted. “We made this.”

    “OH MY GOD!” and then a screamed exploded from her typically calm mom. And then the SWAAP of her hand hitting Melissa’s rear end. The sting that followed wasn’t that bad because she was wet and clothed in the backyard, but it was the prelude to what was to come and it didn’t bode well for her ability to sit later. Her friends scattered, all four of them, and left her alone with her mom. She couldn’t blame them, but this was going to go South quickly.

    Melissa’s mom grabbed her upper arm in a vise and dragged her into the house. The shower was cold, but went quickly, and Melissa was tossed in her room to wait for her dad. She sat quietly and still, very very still, on her bed waiting for her dad. Maybe if I don’t make a sound, they will forget I am here.

    What Melissa didn’t understand is why her mom was so mad. They had gotten all of it covered?

  22. At the first driveway, I felt like a tiny mouse as I peeked around the ice wall to see. “Good. No one was coming!” I raced across the driveway and continued on. I did the same at the next house and the next. “So far, so good! This isn’t so bad!”, I thought. I smiled as I swung my metal Mary Poppins lunchbox back and forth to the rhythm of marching up the hill. Left! Right! Left! Right! I glanced up at the grayish blue sky and began my climb again listening to the swishing sound my ski pants made as I walked. Swish! Swish! Swish! Swish! The afternoon sun was turning the snow into big puddles of slush. I looked down as my boots splashed into one puddle after another. Splish! Splash! Splish! Splash! ….SPLASH! While I had been distracted, a car had driven up behind me, hit a giant puddle that was filling the pot hole and completely drenched me! Cold, dirty ice water hit me like a wave and trickled down inside the collar of my coat and dress, chilling me to the bone. The entire back of my wool coat was soaked and my braids were too!
    There was nothing to do but keep heading for home. I began my trek again, a little bit faster, not taking as much time to check the driveways. I was uncomfortable and just wanted to get home. Swish! Swish! Splish! Splash! When I saw a station wagon coming down the hill. There was no driveway to step into….nowhere to hide….when SPLASH! The tires hit a giant slush puddle and I was hit once again from head to toe with cold dirty slush. This time it was directly in my face! I had only had enough time to squeeze my eyes shut before the impact. The tiny bits of gravel stung my face. I even had to spit little bits of gravel out of my mouth! YUCK! I started to run. I didn’t think about being careful any more. I just wanted to get home! Home to my warm house and my mother. I raced the entire way, slipping once and falling, but that didn’t matter because I couldn’t get any wetter at that point!

    1. So descriptive. I felt the icy chill. Reminded me of walking home from kindergarten in pouring rain and the streets flooded enough that everytime a car passed I got sprayed and drenched.

  23. Waiting is never fun. Especially when I’m waiting on Mom. But I am five years old, and I do a lot of waiting on her.

    My big brother Z is in second grade. He gets to do fun homework and math problems. When Mom and Dad quiz him, I always try to answer. But he gets really mad at me when I get it right. Mom says he’s just jealous.

    Today, I had morning kindergarten, and now my mom has gone to drop something off for Z in his classroom. She left me staring at my toes and picking my nose in the lobby of the school.

    I looked around at all of the hard, cold tiles, but I couldn’t find any interesting shapes in them. I am always looking for interesting shapes. One time I found Santa Clause in a piece of wood. Mom said I should paint it. So I did, and now it sits by our fireplace at Christmastime.

    Just as I dig deep in my nose for a dry one, I glance up and see a big kid staring back at me with a dirty look on her face.

    “Eww. You still pick your nose? That’s disgusting,” she says, before turning sharply on her heel and clicking off in the other direction.

    I don’t even know what “disgusting” means, but I know it’s not good. At this moment, I’m pretty sure my face wants to turn Crayola red. But I don’t know how blushing works, and it just gets hot.

    1. I love the last paragraph. I shows that children are very good at picking up on context clues.

  24. Sometimes finding out something your aren\’t not prepared for can be traumatizing.
    Tammy sat in the swing, tears flowing down her cheeks. It was more than she could handle. She knew how baby pigs were made and born. How could she have been so stupid? When her cousin showed her the book she had sneaked from her mom and dad’s room, Tammy was sure her cousin was lying. That is why she told her mommy about the book. “I know that you would never let daddy do something like that to you.” Mommy giggled at her. “Honey, that’s how mommies and daddies make babies.”
    “No”, Tammy screamed, “not like the pigs”. She ran out the door to her swing. She sat twisting around and around letting herself unwind, trying to unwind the knot in her stomach. She didn’t know what was worse, finding out the way she had, or knowing she would have to talk to her mommy to find out the rest of the truth.

    1. Oh no! What a horrific experience for a kiddo told beautifully through her inner thoughts!

      1. This was actually my experience. My mom and I laughed about it after I wrote about it today. I took a much different approach with my own children.

  25. I could feel my father’s presence the moment I opened his closet door. Aqua Velva, Dial soap and Baker’s Shoe Store scents mixed together to create “Da.” I looked through the closet jammed packed with dark brown and grey suits, winter hats and gloves, polished dress shoes, and on the door ties of every conceivable color and design. Looking through them and feeling their silkiness took me through all the birthdays and Christmases that he was invariably surprised by a gift of a tie. As I let my mind wander though these happier times, my fingers found the tie I most identify my father by. The first tie I bought him with my own money that I earned with my paper route and babysitting jobs: the purple and white spotted one that he wore often to work and other formal occasions. I grabbed it quickly and covertly, hid it under my shirt, quietly closed the closet door and ran to my room, grateful that my sister had already left to play outside. Once alone, I closed my bedroom door, and rolled my unmade bed over the threshold for added privacy. I pulled out my prize and quietly cried as if my entire insides would fall out. Da left and this is all I would ever have left of him. Suddenly I hear Mom’s voice asking if everything is alright. I take a few deep breaths, wipe my eyes, and tuck Da deep between my mattress and box spring where he remained forever.

    1. It’s interesting how we connect the sense of smell or certain objects to a person. Everyone in the family says that my dad’s scent was a mixture of Brut and black coffee. After he died, my sister gave one of my daughters the unfinished bottle of Brut and she keeps it on her bureau to remind her of her grandfather. Your piece really conveys this!

    2. I like the idea of Da infusing the tie and her hiding it safely and close to her.

  26. Mrs. Henderson looked out the window of the kindergarten classroom, and then looked back into her class. She knew Cresa’s mom would be coming to pick her up today and she knew the news she would be bringing with her. The principal had alerted the teacher that Mrs. Vanzandt might be somewhat upset, given the circumstances.
    As she looked at her teacher, Cresa had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Mrs. Henderson’s forehead was squishy. And, even though she was smiling, there was pain in that smile. She walked closer to her beloved teacher. As Cresa reached up to invite Mrs. Henderson into a hug, her mom walked through the door.
    Cresa could tell her mom had been crying. Her pale smooth skin was now splotchy with big red patches. Mrs. Henderson left her and walked to her mother to give her a hug. Okay, Cresa thought to herself, that’s not normal. Her mom and her teacher were friends, but at school, hugging would be just weird.

    1. I could really feel the tension of the moment! Love the details of Mrs. Hernderson’s forehead and the out-of-place hug.

  27. Here goes nothing!

    It’s hot out. And there’s nothing to do. Summer vacation sucks. There’s no air conditioning here. Why aren’t my friends calling me with exciting things to do? Why is it so hot? I just want to sit on a chair and sweat. But it’s too hot to sit anywhere. I can walk around the house. What’s in the fridge? Cool air. I’ll just hang my head in here for the rest of the day.
    “Shut the fridge! You are letting all the cold air out and all the food will go bad.” Where did dad come from? Wasn’t he just sleeping in the living room? I jump back from the refrigerator and close the door. I cringe as I wait for the smack I won’t see coming. The air in the kitchen feels stickier.
    “God damn kids.” He mutters as he walks out of the kitchen back through the dining room.
    It’s still hot. And I’ve got no where else to go.

    1. Yikes! Sadly, this connects to the home I grew up in. Dad was mad. Always. Unless he wasn’t home. I cringed while reading this, because your details struck a chord with me. Well done!

  28. The youngest member of a family of six is often chosen to lead the group upon entering a room, restaurant or church service. On a glorious Sunday morning in the Colorado mountains, the Noel family followed Alexandra down the center aisle of the tiny church. Alexandra did not want to sit in front, but the open spaces were limited since the Noel family arrived at the last minute. Alexandra moved as quickly as her short legs could propel her. The kneeler was already in place, so there was very little foot room to scurry to the second section of the pew. In less than an instant, Alexandra tripped, disappeared, and scrambled in order to command her feet to keep moving. Her moment of excruciating embarrassment turned into uncontrollably silent, hysterical giggling. No thought could transfer the funny feelings to serious, church worthy thoughts. Every time she successfully squelched the instant replay in her mind; the snigger would well up again. Alexandra’s mom gave her the “look” — the eyes and the index finger to the lips gesture, but within seconds the parental unit “look” melted into a similar bubble of laughter. The exchange continued back and forth until Alexandra’s sister became part of the outlandish scenario. The church service could not end fast enough for Alexandra. The frenzy began to feel like a crying session might be next. Her lack of self-control was physically and emotionally exhausting. Should she leave the sanctuary?

    1. I love the exchange between the mother and daughter – a bubble of laughter they trade. Great image.

    2. The end of the experience…
      Somehow the mass ended and Alex’s family filed out to regroup a short distance from the church steps. Half of the family was so disgusted with the giggling group. As Alexandra began the explanation, her sister interrupted with a question that ended the whole experience with a total family cackle. “What were we laughing at?”, the older but wiser sister inquired. I could not stop laughing, but I had no clue what had happened!

  29. I tie the laces on my Rainbow Brite tennis shoes, and run into the living room, ready to go. I’m so excited that I get to go with Daddy to his softball game tonight since I’m usually not allowed to stay up late on a school night, and the game will run well past 9:00. Daddy and Mommy are in their room again, and I can hear the low rumble of voices that so often comes from their room these days. I wait. My little brother, John, sits cross legged on the floor playing with his He-Man toys, completely oblivious to the storm brewing in the other room. At one point he wants Mommy, tries to go in there, but I grab him by the arm because even at five years old, I know that something is coming. I draw in my Lisa Frank notebook, angry dark lines over and over in black pen. I’m not writing any words in particular, just lines-over and over until I tear through the paper with my angry strokes and start on another one. After five pages of my destruction, Daddy emerges from the room dressed in his softball gear and his eyes rimmed red. He walks quickly past us, smiles, and motions for us to get in the car. John is up in a flash of lightening, but I am slower, taking time to pack up my pens- knowing he won’t leave me. I hear crying from my parents’ room, but think better of going in and checking on her. Daddy says she has an overactive imagination. He sometimes tells me that too, but when he says it to mommy, it sounds mean, and I think that maybe it’s not the compliment I once thought it was. I turn to leave, and her hand is suddenly on my arm. Her face is a mess. Mascara running down her cheeks and her lipstick smeared across her mouth. I look at her for a second then look away. The intensity of her piercing blue eyes scares me, and then she begins to speak. I sit still and listen, and when she is done my head is spinning. She has asked me to keep an eye on Daddy and Deaton, the name of one of the other officer’s on Daddy’s team. Deaton is young and new to the force, and I like her because she plays with me between innings when I sit in the dugout, her blonde hair tied in the most perfect french braid. Deaton’s fun, and Mommy is sad and mad all the time anyway. I don’t want Daddy and Deaton to be mad at me, so even when I see them hug and kiss in the way that he used to kiss Mommy, I don’t tell. I look down and re-tie the laces on my Rainbow Brite tennis shoes wishing the sad blue eyes in my mind to just go away.

    1. What a burden to place on a child. A friend of mine had two parents always asking her “favours” like this. Unfair. You really captured the emotion well.

    2. Know those feelings from the wife’s perspective, Know those feelings from my son constantly being in the know and not wanting to hurt me. You did an excellent job of describing all sides of the situation. You can feel the heaviness and the heartbreak. You can see the protectiveness in the older sister for the younger brother. Nicely done!

  30. I took a vague memory of an elementary school event and embellished, a lot!
    “I don’t care!” I stared at the ugly, old teacher who had her face right in mine.
    “Excuse me young lady, you better care. Who’s going to pay for all this paint you wasted. No one will want to use this ugly color.”
    “Yeah Susan, that is real-ly ugly,” taunted Mary Beth.
    “Go back to your table Mary Beth and get back to work.”
    Mary Beth smirked at me and then sauntered back to the table with all the cool kids. Or at least those who thought they were.
    “I will use it and it will be the prettiest painting you ever saw.” I grabbed the container with the ugliest gray and went back to my table with the totally un-cool kids.
    “What are you going to do with that mess?” Carl asked sympathetically.
    “I have no idea, but I better come up with something fast before wart-face tells my mom.”

  31. *Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent*

    “But why?”
    “Because I said so”
    “But that’s not fair!”
    “I don’t have to be fair, I’m your mother.”
    Penelope stormed up the stairs and slammed her door so hard her favorite poster fell down off her wall. Stupid poster, it was always falling. Penelope kicked her door and flopped on her bed. It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t. It was Saturday, the first nice Saturday in forever. The mounds of snow dirty and gray in March were gone now. It was April and Penelope wanted to go to the center of town, get a soda, go to the music store, and maybe the bookstore.
    Just because her mother didn’t like Jessie, she said no. Jessie with her long brown hair, a gap between her two front teeth, who always asked anyone and everyone a million questions. Jessie was fun and different, and could do whatever she wanted, mostly because she never asked, but also because her mom never noticed.
    Penelope’s whole life was rules. Dinner time, homework time, an earlier than all her friends curfew, and no going into town on a beautiful spring day with Jessie. She was thirteen, a full-fledged teenager, old enough to pick her own friends.
    “She’s wild, runs all over town” “Why can’t you find someone nice to play with?” her mother would argue.
    Penelope tried to explain thirteen year olds don’t play. Truth was Penelope’s other best friends were characters in books. But Jessie, who went on the T by herself, went bridge jumping in the Charles, who was very much real, wanted to be her best friend.
    Her older brother Simon barreled out of his bedroom door. Tall, skinny, and dressed in his regiment black and Doc Martens, he clumped down the stairs to the front door. Penelope opened her door to hear them fight. Simon and her mom were always fighting.
    “Where are you going?”
    “Out where?”
    “Out the door.”
    Why didn’t I just do that? Penelope wondered. She knew why. She was a chicken, a bookworm.
    Flopping back on her bed Penelope looked out her window. Simon was smoking. Penelope knew he had a tattoo too, he showed it to her and swore her to secrecy. Her mom pretended not to know about the smoking, but you could smell it. Their dad really didn’t know, he was never around to know. Penelope counted back, it had been three, almost four months since they had last seen him. But she didn’t care. At least that’s what she told Jessie.
    Penelope heard a rattle by her window, and peered out over the roof of the garage. She saw Simon, with a ladder, motioning to Penelope. Was he crazy? Sneak out? Simon looked toward the house and waved again.
    Not even thinking twice, Penelope grabbed her wallet, opened her window, threw her leg over the ledge, crawled across the roof and down the ladder. Looking up at Simon she could only manage, “Why?”
    “Why not? She’ll just yell. Might as well earn it.”
    And with that, Penelope ran down the sidewalk to the drugstore to meet Jessie.

  32. To the rest of the world, it was a crumbling, cement stoop in the backyard, a single squared step connecting the kitchen door with the outdoors. To her, it was a stage, a raised platform with a backstage entrance in a theater without walls.

    In the thick of those thick August days, when you can nearly wring the sweat out of the air in warm, salty droplets, she readied for her performance. The cicadas buzzed a one-note symphony. The sun punched its rays through her bedroom window, on a mission to drum out every shadow and patch of shade. The air conditioner rattled to attention, humming a tune that turned slick, summer skin into cooled goosebumps.

    Sliding her tanned, skinny arms into the brown, floral-patterned cotton dress her mother had discarded to the girl’s own “dress up” collection, she fastened the trail of buttons down the front of the outfit, leaving one undone at the top. She tied the thin cloth belt into a floppy bow around her waist, letting the ends tumble down to hang at her knees. Selecting a pair of patent leather mary janes, with the slightest of heels, she buckled them across her bare feet, and ran on her toes to the kitchen, her pigtail braids and belt tassels riding the wind behind her like streamers.

    She yanked opened the wooden kitchen door, sucking a rolling wave of humid air through the screen door, melting her goosebumps. Peeking through the wire screen, she saw a sold-out audience in thousands of blades of grass. As if cued by an invisible conductor, the cicadas ramped up their drone, other insects trilled their wings, twitched their antennae, and rubbed their legs like a horsehair bow across the strings of a violin. Without the usual quiet breath that signals the beginning, she unlatched and pushed open the screen door. The backstage curtain.

    She stepped out onto her cement stage, lightly, confidently, scanning the crowd, sweeping her eyes slowly from left to right, taking the moment to bask in the sun’s center stage spotlight. Taking a somber, dramatic stance, with her eyes gazing past her audience onto an imagined other, and her hands overlapping across her heart, she filled her lungs with August’s heavy air, and began quietly singing. She sang the song that made her feel both safe and lost all at once. The song first sung by a tiny movie mouse, but now sung on the girl’s stage for thousands. Millions. The world leaned in to hear the soft, sweet words through the overwhelming insect orchestra…

    “Somewhere, out there
    Beneath the pale moon light
    Someone’s thinking of me,
    And loving me tonight.
    Somewhere out there
    If love can see us through
    Then we’ll be together
    Somewhere out there
    Out where dreams come true.”

    Her audience swayed, chirped, and murmured their appreciation. She lowered her head in a humble bow, then glanced up with misty eyes, placed a hand over her heart, smiled, and exited through the backstage curtain into the kitchen.

  33. The little girl sat in the classroom alone as the rest of the kindergarteners and their teacher gathered in an anteroom for music class. She was a talkative child and had spoken out of turn. This was her punishment. Singled out and ostracized, she sat at her desk straining to hear the tinkling of the triangle, the bells ringing, and children singing.

    At first, she felt embarrassed, a rush of heat rising from her chest to the tips of her red hot ears when the teacher announced, “Lynnie, you may sit right here until you can behave like a proper young lady.” As she continued to sit in the cold and empty classroom, her embarrassment slowly transformed first to indignation, then finally to rebellious anger. What exactly had she done that was so bad? Why was she being excluded? What were her classmates thinking about her? Would she forever be marked as a bad girl?

    “Well, if this is the way it’s going to be, then I just want to go home!” Lynnie silently fumed, seething with righteousness. So, Lynnie reached back where her prized hand-stitched leopard print coat hung on the back of her chair and shrugged it on.

    “Lynnie! Are you ready to join the class for music now?” Mrs. Hankins demanded peering through the doorway into the classroom. “Lynnie, why do you have your coat on?”

    “Uh, oh!” panicked Lynnie. “I’m going home!” she declared. After all, it was too late to back down now.

    “We’ll see what Principal Robinson has to say about that!”

    As Lynnie stared up at a towering Principal Robinson, she felt no fear, embarrassment or anger. It had all melted away. Even at a mere five years old, she recognized a teacher’s over-reaction when she saw it.

    1. Oh that power struggle I know all too well! You really brought that moment to life, and my heart hurt for Lynnie as she was singled out alone in punishment.

    2. This made me think twice – as a parent and a teacher I am always trying to pick “the right battles” because kids need to know that their choices have consequences but they should not be hurt by corrected all the time.

    3. Loved Lynnie. She reminded me of my granddaughter who was always in trouble for talking. What was she talking about? She was helping those at her table who didn’t get it as quickly as she did and the teacher was too busy. She spent a lot of time eating lunch by herself. Ostracized like Lynnie.

  34. Riding the in backseat – on the way to my Grandfather’s funeral – passing through the Midwest and everlasting Pennsylvania. I was 10 years old, old enough to sense my Mother’s grief but too young to fully grasp the depth of her loss. This was my first ‘big’ death. As we flew through New Hampshire, the windows finally down, the scent of pine filled the car. My Mother’s New England accent grew thicker with each mile. “At least you get a trip home” I said to my Mum, attempting to comfort her but immediately realizing the absoluteness wrongness of my words. I felt shame crawl up me like a serpent. I remember my Mother and Father exchanging a look across the front seat but if they responded, my ears were numb to it. In trying to make her feel better, I had made things worse and I hadn’t the words to fix it. It embarrasses me even now. Years later, decades later, I asked my Mother if she remembered this. She did not, but forgave me anyway.

    1. You captured that moment when you blurt something out and as soon as it leaves your mouth,
      you wish you could take it back. Love that! Also, I love how the mom’s accent gets stronger as
      she gets closer to home!

    2. “My Mother’s New England accent grew thicker with each mile.” and “I felt shame crawl up me like a serpent.” These are powerful images that help frame the story.

  35. The open-air seating was on the roof of the restaurant, shaded by umbrellas, and cooled by the summer breeze. We had broken one of the unknowable rules of West Germany, and not a single other customer was present at our American lunch hour. At sixteen, I was acutely aware that not a single other teenager in Europe was tied to their parents’ apron strings, a stereotype of Americans everywhere with my sneakers and excess weight.

    Only my father spoke German. Removing his rimless glasses, he attempted to translate the menu. “Apple sauce!” he announced, gleefully, as if decoding the Rosetta Stone. “And let’s see,” he muttered, “soup. I think this is onion soup.”

    “Fine,” I said. No time to be picky. Get something edible.

    His forehead furrowed as he worked his way through words. “This looks like the specialty here. I think that it translates as rice pudding? Or rice milk cereal?” He looked up at my mother. “That’s got to be wrong.”

    She gestured resignedly. In the past week of traveling, the two of us had become helpless, unable to manage basic tasks of life without his meager language skills. I fought waves of rage at the humiliations I suffered. At one rest stop I had stood paralyzed by a bathroom sign, unable to determine whether Damen was from the same base word as Dame. As I reached for the door, a burly man emerged and redirected me to a door marked Frauen.

    “It should be good, whatever it is, if it’s their specialty,” he mused. “Let’s get that, Sherry.”

    My mother acquiesced and I ordered the onion soup with a minimum of menu gesticulating.

    It arrived, beautiful in its familiarity. Cheese melted on top of bread over a basic onion broth. I sighed with relief and looked up at my parents.

    They were stirring their own entrees, creamy and mysterious. Cautiously they lifted their spoons to taste it. “Hot rice milk cereal,” my father began a chuckle that lead to his trademark barking laugh. Wiping his eyes he grinned at my mother, “I guess my German isn’t as bad as I thought.”

    1. The awkwardness and annoyance at being both a teenager and a stranger in a foreign country comes across beautifully!

    2. Her annoyance is so well written. Also, the memory of standing in front of the bathrooms, not knowing which to enter was perfect!

  36. I laid on the stretcher, the inside of my four year old forearm exposed for the ICU nurse. I whimpered for my mother in anticipation of the enormous IV needle. Look at me, Erin, she coaxed, There you go. It will only hurt for a minute. The pain that came next rolled through my body in waves. It crested in sharp pinpricks, and ebbed in dull aches. I thrashed. Please don’t do that bud, it will only make it worse, my mother pleaded with me. I screamed at the second nurse who stepped over and tried again, as my father moved to the other side of the stretcher. I sobbed. NO, I screamed. I wanted them to stop. PLEASE. I heard the nurse say something to my mother. Okay honey, she said quietly into my ear, I know this hurts really badly, but it will be over soon. Remember those monster slippers in the gift shop? The ones with the furry brown feet and the claw toes that stick out? I had seen them as they wheeled me past the gift shop, into the elevator, when my swollen limbs prevented me from walking or lifting my arm to point them out. I stopped thrashing. If you let the nice nurse do this quickly, Daddy will go downstairs and get them for you. Okay? Can we do that? The four adults towered over me on the stretcher with hopeful expressions on their faces and waited for me to speak.

    1. I cringed as the pain came from the IV needle being plunged into the arm! It made me squeamish to imagine the pain that, “rolled through my body in waves.” As a parent, I can also relate to the bribery of the slippers as a last-ditch effort to get the kiddo to comply.

    2. I had a horrible night with my daughter in the ER that this vividly reminded me of. Her simple understanding that she hated what we were doing to her and could not be soothed. A horrible, horrible night. I love that you give the child back some power in this piece. Vivid!

    3. I can handle my own pain, but I cannot bear to watch my daughters in pain. I winced throughout this, as if hearing the screams of my own little girls, and feeling helpless to comfort her. Bravo Erin.

  37. She felt the courage well up in her as she stared down those obnoxious, neighbor boys. Of course, she could do it. Why would they even question her? She was tall, slim, athletic. It was like she’d been training for this her whole life. She glanced down at her tanned arms, judging their strength. Flipping them over to view her palms, she could see the callouses already there. Yes, she could do it. With that thought, she quickly wrapped her long fingers around the first railing of the fence. Her concentration completely focused on the task ahead, but she couldn’t help overhearing a few snickers and snide remarks from those bratty boys. They just fueled her desire. Her other hand reached for the second fence railing. Instinctually she pulled herself up so that she was now completely off the ground, both feet standing on that first railing, where her other hand had just been. With her feet stable, both hands now reached up to the third and final rung. All she’d have to do now was pull herself up to that top railing, and gain enough courage for this daring act. Again, the boys chuckled in the background as she paused to plan her next action. With more determination, she heaved her entire body up with her tough, tan arms as she took a giant step up to the next railing. She briefly wobbled trying to gain her balance. All those dance classes practicing balance were now actually coming in handy. Now was the moment of truth. Could she do it? Yes, of course, she knew she could, but that knowledge didn’t seem to be taming the butterflies swirling in her stomach. Her final, daring feat would require a swift, accurate movement. She had never stood alone atop the tall fence. Of course those insufferable boys knew this too. With a deep breath and an even deeper willpower, she made her fateful move. Her lean arms contracted raising her entire body up. Both of her feet left the comfortable safety of the second fence railing, scrambling to find the third and final rung. As her body lurched up, both feet landed on the top of the highest fence railing in unison. A slight smile whispered across her lips, giving her the confidence to find her balance way up high. As her hands loosened their death grip on the top rung of the fence, she gradually, slowly, cautiously started to let go. Wobbling all the way, eyes steady on the wooden plank upon which she was now standing, she gradually, slowly, cautiously unfolded her body, inch by inch, to a standing position. As she finally stood upright, arms out like an airplane for balance, she took a quick peek over at the pack of obnoxious boys, who were now walking away, uninterested in her victory because it was their defeat. She raised her head slightly higher and took one deep breath, feeling her body teeter, enjoying this moment of triumph.

  38. Sadly, these events are true, but I have changed the names. I want to write our story, partly because it will serve as therapy for my mind and soul. Mental health is so misunderstood.

    Standing barefoot, legs planted firmly, Peter twirled the open bottle of Spic and Span cleaner, daring his mother to take another step.
    “I’m going to drink it!” he screamed. “I hate you! I’m gonna do it!”

    Moments moved in slow succession as Peter continued to cry out.

    “Come on Peter. Put that down. We just need to talk this out.”

    Sarah pressed the phone to her ear, speaking in some sort of chaotic code, hoping the crisis operator understood the insanity of the situation. Her son was beyond limits. He was hopeless, helpless and she wondered if he would really do it this time.

    “Ma’am, Ma’am? Call 911!” the crisis operator calmly relayed. “You need to get help now.”

  39. I stood as still as I could. Sweat plastered down my fuzzy blonde curls to my neck. I cradled my Pekin duck in the crook of my arm just right – just how I learned, with my fingers threading through her legs, webbed feet dangling contentedly. She was making that crooning quacking noise. Not the full out quack of distress or happiness. Just little sweet noises, her beak barely open. She was cooperating. The judge made one more pass down the line, looking us each over. The taller boy just to my left, his Adam\’s apple sticking out prominently from his skinny neck, jeans and boots dusty. A girl about my height to my right, her ponytail looking perfect and her smile radiant. She was holding a Rhode Island Red, and it was looking majestic. I sighed. Would she win? The boy to my left was having a little trouble. His rooster was getting a little restless, so he was shifting his arms, subtly, but unfortunately for him, noticeably. My hands were starting to tremble. It was taking this judge a long time to make a decision on Champion Showmanship. The trophy with the chicken on top was something I coveted for a long time. For this particular show, we had to demonstrate that we could hold any type of poultry effectively, without feathers flying and loud protesting from the chicken, duck, or goose. I had done the best I ever had before. I got this! I had years of experience, and I was tired of coming in 2nd or 3rd and just getting a ribbon. I wanted that trophy! The judge stepped back, took one last look up and down the line, and nodded to the announcer. She came up with the gleaming gold trophy, and he wrote down his choices and handed them to her. I was in a full out sweat now. Surely, at 12 years old, I deserved this. I worked hard. But…that girl and her perfect poultry beside me….\”Congratulations! The Champion Showmanship trophy goes to…\”

    1. Great images of animals I rarely see handled. I love the “perfect poultry” at the end.

    2. I so loved both this and yesterday’s posts by you! I’m reflecting before I share, but I can’t get the image of a young Holly, carefully holding live poultry in a contest, out of my head! Well done!

    3. I began following your blog when you were writing the “Slice of Life” memoirs, and have been a fan since. Your writing feels like a warm movie, as if you’ve broken out the grainy reels of home movies and chosen some of your favorite selections. I’m welcomed into your family videos, mesmerized by the images on the screen. I want to see more of these reels – they are delightful! Also,
      I’ve never heard of this type of competition! How unique, and the opportunity for readers to learn something new!

      1. Thank you SO much, Greg. I’ve been so humbled by your support and friendship! I don’t know where these writings will ultimately take me. I need a writer’s group, I think, with mentors like you who have crafted a whole story. I guess this is what Teachers Write! is! 🙂 I just wish it could be in person. Ha.

        1. I joined a few local writers groups, and had varying levels of beneficial feedback. Perhaps through #TeachersWrite you can identify a small network to mutually help one another towards whatever vision you have for your work. I would be more than willing to offer and assistance if you choose, and I’m sure that there are others here who would as well. Your memoir slices are honestly pieces that I could soak up while sitting in a recliner at the cottage. They are inviting, warm, and delightful.

  40. I was scared as I knelt on the gravel, but also very excited. Finally, I’d get to try the bottle rockets that everybody said I was too young to use! I carefully set the tall Coke bottle upright and dropped the two bottle rockets inside. They poked out the top, and I pulled out their fuses. A quick glance over my should told me no one was looking. It was time to light them. I caught a slight whiff of gunpowder as I held the burning punk to the first fuse, and I jumped a little when it sizzled and lit. I bent over the glass bottle to light the second fuse, but it was being stubborn and didn’t light. I was still patiently holding the punk to the second fuse, when suddenly my face exploded with pain. The hot summer day was blocked out. I could no longer hear the laughter of my family. I coudn’t see the bright summer countryside. I reeled and fell from the horrible, unexpected pain in my face and the horrible, overpowering stench of gunpowder. Ringing…ringing ears, awful smell, and pain in my eyes.

  41. The continual rebuttal of her father’s attention during the extended family outing sparked an internal desire, no, visceral demand, to get what she wanted. And really, rationally thinking, it wasn’t as if her request was overly demanding. Considering the events of the day- lunch out with her siblings and grandparents, idle wanderings in and out of quaint family-owned stores and boutiques downtown- this was a miniscule request. A mere token- a trifle, really. Ingrained expectations for behavior and conduct demanded she forget about it and not make a fuss over such a small item, but today was different. Was it the flicker of burgeoning independence and desire to obtain autonomy when addressing personal decisions and choices? Or was there a deeper meaning behind this blatant refusal to conform to the established family protocol? At any rate, the array of colors blooming before her in the old wooden keg dazzled her and the feeling in her heart combined with the stabbing pain of a wounded ego propelled her forward until her hip was level with the top of the barrel. Making a swift assessment of her father’s attentions as well as the storekeeper she slowly and almost imperceptibly passed her hand over the contents of the keg, lightly fingering a few on top. They were haphazardly scattered. It was as if she ran a magnet over a jar of nails; that is how easily she gathered a few to her. The initial fury in her heart was replaced by a pounding she was sure her sister could hear as she audibly gulped and stuffed her hand in her pocket. Roaring in her ears and and lightheadedness threatened mobility as she blindly stumbled to the door. Guilt followed her as she exited the building and remained her constant companion as she followed her family to their next destination. She fingered the contents of her pocket and was puzzled that she did not feel vindicated. Simply, miserable.

  42. Denis loved visiting his grandparents’ small, two bedroom cottage by the lake. Grandma’s kitchen, although no bigger than a postage stamp was always warm, aromatic, and inviting. As if that weren’t enough of a reason to not want to leave the room, it appeared to him that she had an inexhaustible supply of the softest, most delectable cookies and tall glasses of ice cold milk just waiting to be devoured. While she held court in the kitchen, Grandpa would sit in his recliner at the far end of the dark, wood-paneled living room which ran the length of the front of the house. As they visited, the younger grandchildren would sit upon his lap, basking in the love they felt while firmly encased in arms the size of California redwoods.

    Denis, having seen the twinkle in Grandpa’s eye many times before, knew that he just loved to joke around whenever possible. So, he should have been wary the day he asked Grandpa what that silver ball was on the lawn by the driveway. Grandpa’s response was that he should kick it. So, Denis walked over to it and tapped it lightly with his foot, whereupon Grandpa said, “No, KICK IT.”

    So, still not expecting anything out of the ordinary, Denis backed up about 10 feet and with all the speed and energy his little 10 year old body could muster ran up to the ball and kicked it as hard as he possibly could. The shock which coursed through him was greater than anything he had ever experienced in his relatively short life. The reactions were immediate. Denis, holding one foot, was hopping around the yard nearly writhing in pain, convinced that he had certainly broken at least one toe. Grandpa’s and Denis’ dad’s reaction, although as immediate as was Denis’ were not Denis would have expected nor hoped for. Rather than being concerned for his welfare and asking if he was okay, they let loose with peals of laughter which would certainly have awoken anyone who was sleeping on such a lazy summer afternoon.

    To make matters worse Denis’ siblings were laughing as well, surprised that he was so gullible as to fall for such a trick. For Denis, this was a watershed moment in his life. Never again would he be so trusting. Although his love for his grandfather had not waned, from that day forward he was always very skeptical, and cautious about anything and everything Grandpa told him.

  43. Titled: To Those Who Have Been There Too
    I sat on my bed that morning waiting for the phone to ring. When I answered the phone I knew just what he would say because it’s what he always said, “I love you. I am sorry. I was wrong. I never meant to hurt you. I am this way because of my family. You know it’s not you, its me.” There was a long silence as he waited to hear my response. The same thing that I had said for the past two years. “ I love you too but this time has to be different you can’t keep treating me this way. I deserve better you know I do and I know I do.” For those of you have been in an abusive situation where the one you love lies, steals, cheats and screams the most hurtful words you’ve ever heard, you know how this conversations ends: with just one more last chance.
    But some stories do have happy endings and last night was the last time I ever let him hurt me. It was the same fight and it ended the same way it always did but last night I let go for good. The moment that I chose me and my integrity, I could literally feel the memories, the weight and the pain of the last two years lift of my shoulders and I knew deep in my heart that this relationship was officially a part of my past.
    So when the phone rang I was not only ready but overjoyed to say “No More!” Of course he did not believe me nor did my friends or family but as time wore on they all began to see how strong I really was on my own. And yes he spread rumors but to each lie I proudly looked people straight in the eye and replied “you know me better than that.”
    As for me, I now listen to my father who would patiently ask, “What does he do for you?” because I finally understand if you do not have an answer he’s not the one.

    1. I was hooked right from the start and found myself rooting for your protagonist, hoping that she could muster up the strength and courage to move on.

  44. I am working on a longer piece of fiction, and I decided to work on the scene where my character, Mia, discovers a trap door in the guest closet. I’m only including an excerpt because I managed to churn out the whole chapter today. Thanks for the inspiration!

    When I pried open the coats, shifted the boxes and tracked through the dust, I had no idea I would find a door. But as soon as I discovered it, my sense of time and place warped and I lost track of everything except the hole.
    Considering the number of books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen, it still surprises me that nothing ran through my head when I tugged the strap. I did it matter-of-factly, quickly, without wasting a single moment anticipating what could be below. I forgot about whatever my mom requested in the kitchen. And I managed to abandon the cup of water I set on the floor.
    As soon as I pulled the strap upward, the air clouded with flakes of dried flesh or particles of lint or whatever makes up dust. I swallowed hard, attempting to save my tongue from the tang of mildew, and my lungs from the grip of cluttered air. As I gazed into the hole beneath me, a flurry of bats swarmed in my stomach. I could hardly see a thing; the dim light extended just beyond the stairs and the buzz of possibility hummed beneath my feet.
    I snagged the flashlight prominently displayed on the shelf beside the door, a remnant from a power outage two years ago. And bracing myself, I clipped its string between my teeth. Gripping the edge of the frame with my hands, I lowered my body, touching my toes to the descending wooden planks. Once I turned to face the retractable ladder, I sank into the earth.

  45. It\’s long – and a flash write – I wasn\’t sure where to cut it off. I want to add more about the setting.

    “Race you to the big tree,” Leslie shouted.

    “Your’re on!” I retorted as I gently kicked my horse Bachaus who eagerly lunged forward toward the brush jumps. We both cantered away from the other riders who had dismounted and were resting as their horses munched on fragrant grass.
    Galloping neck and neck Bachaus and Airborne, Leslies horse, reached the big tree at the same time. Panting, I stroked Bachaus’s neck and cooled off under the big tree.

    “I tricked you into coming here alone.” Leslie blurted.

    “What are you talking about?” I said. I took a deep breath and smelled the horses sweat and the hay baking in the sun.

    “I need to tell you something,” stated Leslie as she slackened her reins and let Airborne nibble on some grass.
    “I’m not supposed to tell anyone yet.”

    “You started – you can’t stop now!”

    “I’m moving back to the States this summer.”

    My stomach tightened and I felt hot and prickly all over. Tears tipped over my lids. Quickly I smothered my face into Bachaus’s neck, hiding, wispering, “Now you are my best friend, you aren’t going anywhere.” Then, putting my head up I said loudly, “Good boy Bachaus. You almost won.” Leslie smile and pat Airborne too.

    We walked our horses back to the others. Images kept popping up in my head. Leslie’s welcoming smile when I met her on the first day of school. She showed me how to roll my skirt up at the waist so it would no longer be regulation and nerdy length below my knee. Pretending we were the Beatles in the privacy of her room; Leslie was always John with a pair of lenseless wire rim glasses and I, complete with a shaggy moustache under my nose would be Ringo. One Halloween we dressed as baby twins, complete with big diapers made out of sheets. During the parade we were laughing so hard we forgot to be embarrassed. And then Leslies home became mine for a week at a time whenever my parents went to Indonesia for a business trip.
    Everyone called us the twins despite the fact that Leslie had blonde fluffy hair and I had straight thin black hair. She had an atheletic build and I was more slight. Twin souls.

    After cooling our horses and brushing them down we walked to meet our rides home.
    “I can’t wait to get back to the States and eat my first Big Mac and wear real blue jeans, not ones sewn by a local tailor.

    Leslie turned and noticed the tears that had escaped.
    “Gina, it’s no big deal. You’ll make new friends. And we can always write.”
    Write. My best friend in fourth grade said the same thing. After two thin aerogram letter – nothing.

    My driver arrived.

    “See you,” I waved.

    I turned around as we drove off, I saw Leslie wave, then she looked way up at the puffy clouds slowly floating in the blue sky. She grew smaller and smaller in the distance.

    1. 1.What works for me: the emotion of anticipated loss….a universal experience for us all at some point. The senses —I really love the line about horse sweat and baking hay. I’m not a horse person….but that summer smell is wonderful and distinct. And, I love the last line….my driver arrived. that’s a clear bump in what I expected. This setting is NOT Kansas….lol….but somewhere I want to know about.
      What didn’t work? It worked. I do wonder why the friend is so easily letting go… yeah, big macs are great….but this friendship sounds stronger than that. Is Leslie one that is very used to moving on? clearly that is a part of her character that will be important in the story….and Gina…even if she is one that moves a lot….this isn’t “her”. She longs for lasting friendship. This is what she wants….how will she get it in your story?
      If a beginning, hook? compel? Yes, I want to know more! Please keep this one close to the top of your pile.

    2. What a powerful memory to focus on! I have similar memories from my childhood, and you hit the nail on the head with how it feels when a friend moves far away. Your details are wonderful too–I felt like this was my friendship!

  46. Ok – I am confused I can tell – I posted todays piece on yesterdays post. So I am re posting here so it make sense with the prompt from Nora. Sorry about that.

    Walking home in the dripping cold of a spring thaw I thought I am finally safe from those kids. The snow is melting and the sun feels great even though I know it will freeze again tonight. For now I can walk with my shoulders down and watch for robins. I know it is early but it is my hope that if I see a robin this snow will have to leave.

    I am taking my sweet time when I hear them from behind. There are too many voices and feet moving to fast. I know who they are. I hear the familiar call. “Hey Boney Joanie still on this street. You know this street belongs to us Boney Joanie!”
    “Why you walking on our street?” they yell.

    Boney Joanie is chanted as they come closer. I am moving faster. Don’t look I tell myself, don’t look. Walk away, that is what my Mom said to me. Walk away!

    My eyes burn. I know the tears are there but I can’t let them see them. I move faster and then the whizzing sound comes and I turn to look. Bam! The hard packed ice ball finds it mark just to the edge of my left eye. As I stumble to stay up right I hear their laughter fading off in the other direction.

    I stagger home knowing tomorrow they will laugh again now at the black eye and I will have to listen to a new name for me. Maybe Boney Joanie will fade.

    1. Know that feeling. Kindergarten and being called Bag-of Bones Bagley running backwards so I could see how close the kids were getting with the rocks they kept tossing at me. Turned around right into a tree. All I remember is some high school kid picking me up and taking me home. That kind of taunting is never forgotten.

  47. Here is my quick write. It is based on a real event that happened when I was 15.

    My puppy woke me. She was barking furiously as she stood beside me on my bed. Disoriented, I strained to see into the darkness as I reached to calm my trembling pet. “What is it?” I asked, even as I spotted the figure of a man in my doorway.
    I sat up, my heart beating furiously as I demanded, “Who are you? What are you doing in my house?”
    “Shhh, shhh,” a voice replied. I scooted back on the bed, clutching my dog as the stranger moved closer, repeating over and over, “Shhh, shhh.”
    Was he talking to me? Anger flooded through me. “Get out!” I cried, “Get out of my room! I’ll scream!” My dog growled in agreement and snapped at the stranger’s outstretched hand.
    In disbelief, I watched as the man turned and stumbled out of the room. I hugged my puppy close as I frantically considered, “Where did he go?” And more importantly, “Was he coming back?”

    1. My stomach was in knots reading this, Theresa – a sure sign that you captured the emotions of this memory well. How scary! You described it so vividly that I’m wishing I hadn’t read this post quite so close to bedtime. 🙂

  48. It was the dance of the birds. In Danny’s ten years he had never seen anything like it. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of black birds darting in and out across the threatening sky. No rhyme or reason, just complete utter chaos, as if a dark secret was tearing them apart wing by wing. No sense of direction, fluttering aimlessly, as the last day of school kickball game continued on the dirt field below.

    “Danny, that’s three outs. We’re in the field and it’s your turn to pitch.” Billy threw the red ball in his direction.

    Danny watched it skip a couple of times across the dirt field before pulling it in toward his chest. He took three steps toward the mound then stopped once again turning his attention to the sky. The air was still, sickeningly calm, a direct contrast to the black clouds hovering above. Had no one else noticed? The stupid kickball game could wait; something much more powerful was going on. A force much greater than anything he had ever witnessed was closing in and no one else even seemed to care.

    Without warning, screams and shrills coming from the distant school building erupted like thunder. Shouts echoing across the parking lot toward the field. Figures running toward them, motioning for them, waving them in the direction of the building . “Run…get in the school. Go to your safety spots right now!” The red ball dropped from his hand. The birds were no more. Calm, still air now replaced by a howling wind. A tornado was barreling forward.

    1. From calm to chaos in a matter of words. I could feel my heart racing as your writing was coming to a close. *I enjoy watching the birds fly like that….always have an always will. Just fascinates me.

    2. what works: the movement….birds, ball bouncing, looking at the sky, running. the color: black birds, dark clouds, red ball, dirt. a rich palette. A sense of foreboding….we know something big and bad is coming. Great build up.
      2. What doesn’t and why? This works! somebody is gonna get hurt and Danny is going to tell that story.
      If a beginning, hook? compel to read more? Yes! Are the birds paranormal? are they part of some weather event? Why do the other kids not see what Danny sees? Danny is a special observer in some way…..why? can he take the readers on that journey with him?

    3. I love the way you built the tension in this piece. The calmness of the day, the ordinary events shadowed by a sense of foreboding. Really well done.

  49. Susie and Kelly run down the worn path past the big cabin, rubber thongs flip-flopping on their feet as they each hold a cheap air mattress close. Slowing down just enough to hold onto the railing as they ran down the familiar stairs feet barely touching the steps until they hit the beach. Thongs quickly kicked off landing amid sand, rocks, and driftwood are left behind as the girls now carefully balanced themselves while quick stepping over warm rocks and verdant seaweed trying not to touch those pesky barnacles. Once in they shriek at the sudden cold even though the salty air is upwards in the 80’s, the water now swirling around their knees is not. They look at each other daring with their deep brown eyes for the other to go first. Together counting out loud, “1, 2, 3, go!” Susie, only 7, sits quickly on her blue mattress as the front and back flips up. Kelly, older by 3 years, pulls in her tummy noting the cold making her rib cage push out as she bravely wades step by step in the canal.

    “Come on!” Susie says as if impatient when they all the time in the world, “Get on!”

    “I am, I am, almost!” Kelly says breathlessly, the water now up to her thighs causes her to gasp. Holding the air mattress bought for 79 cents at the marina store, with both hands, she propels herself up on one side of the slick rubber raft only to slide off the other.

    Susie is laughing at the hilarious sight of Kelly popping her head up out of the water, hair plastered to her head now sporting a fancy of rippled seaweed, a surprised look on her face! Seeing Susie so full of what we call joy or happiness makes Kelly laugh too as a wave lifts them both up and then down.
    The day is perfect, the sun is perfect, and the girls are too. There is joy as they lay faces sideways on the air mattresses arms out locking fingers. With the innocence of life, naiveté enjoys this day, this moment when two sisters, one blonde, the other with black hair, touch carefully holding on so one doesn’t float away.

    What they don’t know is time. Time will come when reaching out may not be in moments of youthful joy, but in the needs of life, come as it will.

    1. You had me wanting to read more. I was so sucked in by writing as my mind created the visual imagery and I could see all of the colors, too.

  50. A dollar short….this is from yesterday’s prompt….the rest of the WIP is on my blogpage.

    I’m going out back
    with the dog to the swing
    I have coffee and my notebook
    I’ll just write to morning
    seeing as she’s new.
    I won’t be long.
    You come too……

  51. day late and a dollar short! From yesterday:

    I’m going out back
    with the dog to the swing
    I have coffee and my notebook.
    I’ll only write a note to morning
    seeing how she’s new.
    I won’t be long….you come too…..

  52. Seth meandered into the woods with the teenagers. The boys he admired and looked up to for so long. He could not believe they had invited him on this wonderful adventure. As they strolled deeper into the forest. Seth noticed the green moss creeping all over the rocks, the sun beginning to play hide-n-seek as the leaf-filled branches began to canopy the path. His little seven year old heart began to beat faster and his legs felt like they were in quick sand as he forced himself deeper into the woods.They turned right then left and walked a ways ant turned right again.

    “I am alright,” he told himself as he took another cautious step. “Joe and Mike are here…I am alright.” he repeated as he looked back and saw nothing but the dark path. He turned to ask Joe and Mike how far they were going to go. “What?” “Where did they go?” They were gone. Seth called for them. He listened for their footsteps. Nothing.

    As Seth looked around in the deep, dark, damp forest, he began to cry slowly. It did not start because of fear. It started because Joe and Mike just left him. They had told him they were his friends. They had told him they were going to go to a fun fort in the woods. They had told him he was cool.

    He tried to compose himself and thought, “I can get out of here.” He began to walk the trail out of the woods. As he tried to find the exit, he noticed that their were many trails in the woods. He had not seen them when he was following his ‘friends,” but now he could not remember whether to turn right or left, or go straight as he wondered upon the paths that diverged in the woods. He took a left, then a right, and followed the path for a few minutes. He stopped and thought, “Wait I was here ten minutes ago.” He sat down in the center of the path and began to sob. This time it was not disappointment but fear.

    1. You did a great job showing the emotions of your character. I could easily feel the beginnings of fear, the sense of betrayal, and the panic of realizing that you are lost. You did a great job with this.

  53. I slowly approached the piano. There are so many people in the recital hall. Do I know my piece well enough? Will I be able to play it straight through from memory? I am so nervous, my hands are shaking. You can do it! I sit down at the piano, adjusting the bench to just the right place. I love to play the piano. This is a piece of cake. I have practiced hard. I look up and see my family waiting for me to start playing. I place my hands on the keys, take a deep breath, and start. The song plays in my head; I can hear the song in my head as my fingers soar over the keys. My confidence grows. Oh no! Didn’t I already play that part? Just keep going. Don’t stop. I continue on, repeating the part I already played. Nobody will know…they don’t really know the piece. Just keep going! I continue to play until I find where I made my mistake. OK, here we go again! This seems right. I make it to the end of the piece. I wonder if anyone noticed? I am sure Mrs. Furholmen did. Will she be disappointed with my mistake or proud that I kept going? I stand up, take my bow, and head back to my seat – feeling proud, relieved and a tad embarrassed. How I am supposed to feel?

    1. 1. what works: the narrator heard the song playing in his/her head….turning a mistake into a triumph. Seeing people in the audience who support you and yet the pressure of not wanting to let them down….a universal conflict…especially for youngsters
      2. what doesn’t work/why? — it works…especially as a quick write. I wonder about more senses….was there color or temperature associated with this scene? If I were to illustrate it….what tones would I start with?
      3. I want to know what the parents think….and the piano teacher thinks? Is there a difference between the performer’s perception and theirs? Is that any kind of conflict to resolve? Keep going on this one.

  54. Matt loves summers at Grandma’s. The sun seems brighter, the skies bluer, the locust louder…it is as if grandma’s house grows closer to life’s own wellspring than any place else. Matt spent all of his day wondering the woods and hills, spinning adventure and intrigue from every creature and circumstance in his path. Any variation to the expected is a occasion for investigation. Any occasion of the expected is cause for variation. It is a 6-year-old’s dream of what a dream night be if he could, for one night, be head weaver and take over the loom.

    On this particular day, the variation that became an occasion for investigation sprang fully formed from the earth within mere feet of grandma’s front door. A busy highway – in fact, a veritable metropolis – gathered itself in 6-legged industry. Matt’s eyes beheld a marvel that must rival anything the Mayan’s constructed on their best day – an ant city of such magnitude and grandeur as to dwarf the surrounding landscape.

    Matt was intrigued. More than that, in fact. Matt wondered if he could actually LIVE in such a city. Matt could be the god, the reigning deity to be served by all of theseindustrious, 6-legged subjects. He could reign supreme, and become a permanent, celebrated event in ant history.

    With little if any forethought – for what is the merit of forethought in the presence of such opportunity? – Matt bestrode the burgeoning mounds of sandy, pulchritudinous ant-constructed urbanity, and planted his be-shorted backside firmly therein.

    For Matt, the effect was as immediate as it was unexpected. Ants by the score, outraged at the intrusion of this thoughtless being, laid aside their grains of sand to mount a coordinated attack. Matt felt his orangy brown subjects marching up his legs, into his breeches, over his shirt and into his face. Matt wailed with alarm. Why were his subjects acting in such an unreasonable manner? The more he tried to rake them off of his body, the more they came, in waves and waves of antian rage.

    Suddenly, the front door of grandma’s house flies open, and out rumbles grandma, a big, orange-topped can poised in her right mitt. Grandma’s pink-flowered sun dress billowed behind her as she converged on the scene of Matt’s woes. “Hold still, Honey!” Grandma instructed the wailing boy as she shook the can and prepared her counter-assault at the unexpecting ant assailants. In between the tears, Matt studied grandma’s weapon of choice. The can, orange on top and with blue and white label, bore a single word, “Off!”. Indeed, this was exactly what his 6-year-old self craved at this very moment, that these creatures, his erstwhile subjects, would get OFF. When grandma pointed the cylinder’s muzzle at him, Matt welcomed its assistance. Grandma’s index finger mashed the button, and in an instant, Matt was engulfed in a misty, chemical coccoon that smelled vaguely like Dad’s deodorant. Again and again grandma fired the bug-killing cannon, as ants dropped and writhed around Matt’s perch. Soon, nothing was left standing. The entire ant community had been wiped off the face of the earth.

    After Matt got over all fear and panic, he began to feel quite badly about the entire event. He realized, not for the first time and certainly not for the last, that he was not the center of everything. The wonders of this world only retained their wonder if they were allowed to do so. The mounds of barren sands in grandma’s front yard that summer never let him forget.

  55. This one is very hard, but this is probably one of my worst memories, as well as one of the most clear:

    “It’s the librarian, isn’t it?”
    “How in the world did you know that?”
    “She’s the only co-worker you have ever introduced us to, Dad.”

    It’s summer in 1995. I am newly 15 and my father has just announced he wants to divorce my mother. He says he has met another woman and wants to marry her. Unfortunately for me, this is not a surprise or a shocking revelation, as we share our Compuserve account, and sometimes I am too nosy. I am an avid reader, and sometimes run out of other things to read, or just have time to kill while waiting for AIM to load up. I have read multiple emails from this librarian and ick. They call each other Raja and Rani (King and Queen), and discuss their next meetings. They discuss rendezvous in Paris or Bombay (I only learned the word rendezvous from these emails, I had to look it up in our Webster’s Dictionary).
    Rani (the evil Queen?) often tells my dad that he should tell us the truth and that she should meet us. She wants us to be a family. She wants to be a friend, not a mother, more like a fun auntie. She tells him that it will be easier out in the open and with open communication. That is not the way my dad works, his idea of a communication is to spring something on you 4 months later (why didn’t you close the door in the winter?!). I can smell my Dad’s Old Spice as he looks at me, my sister, my brother, and my mother. My mother is not sure what to do or say, I have shown her the emails, but she was taught to be a good Indian housewife. Indian housewives don’t argue or raise their voice, they just defer to do “what your father says” or “wait until your father gets home”. My grandparents are surprisingly absent, as they live with us, did Dad plan for them to be out when he announced this? One thing is for sure, I am never becoming a librarian.

  56. Sharing my Tuesday Quick-Write for the prompt, Taking a Risk. Thank you Kate, for hosting Teachers Write! Thank you, Nora for the prompt. The heavy metal latch on the back door clicked shut securing both doors, as Dad closed the solid, hinged doors, using as much strength as he could muster up. The combination pad lock was attached and it too, made a loud clicking sound. There was no more room in the moving van for anything else. No more memories would fit inside the U Haul truck. It was time to head down the road. Time for family to depart on a new adventure. Time for a new beginning in a new chapter of life.

    The moving van moved slowly down the driveway as Dad struggled with the gears of the large truck. Jill waved from the rolled down window.

    “Are you ready? Let’s go, Sue!” Mom demanded. “We need to stay together. We need to follow Dad and Jill!”

    Sulking, Sue grabbed her satchel and opened the passenger car door. Mom needed Sue to navigate the family travels. Several folded maps would guide the family during the two day moving adventure.

    Somehow this winter day, in January of 1973, seemed surreal. It did not seem quite right for Sue. The caravan of one moving van and the family station wagon headed south, out of town and out of the city. Before long, the travelers would cross over the state border and into Iowa. Looking behind, out of the back window, of the Ford station wagon, Sue waved good bye to family and friends [who remained in her mind and dear to her heart], to the land that she loved, and to the home that she was leaving. Vowing to return, she silently made a wish, that she would one day return to the Midwest.

    “Check the map,” Mom ordered. “Hurry! Are we headed in the right direction?” Mom questioned with great uncertainty.

    With a sassy attitude, Sue replied, “No, Mom. We are headed south. We need to turn around and go back!”

    1. 1. what works: love the line: “no more memories would fit inside” That needs to be a whole scene!
      folded maps = time/setting before gps. There is a tremendous sense of longing.
      2. What doesn’t work/why? –it works. I do want to know more details about Sue that show her mood….was she drawing in the dirt/snow with her toe? Was there a special fragrance of home in the winter time that she was trying to hold onto?
      3. if it’s a beginning does it hook?/compel to read more? I want to know why the move during a school year? Mom and Sue have very different views of moving….why? tell us more!

  57. I\’ve literally never written fiction before (except in 4th grade). Not sure this is on the right track:

    I came rushing in through the door. It was March, cold, but it wasn’t the weather that had me rushed. I had received a phone call the day before.
    “Are you headed home soon?” asked Mom.
    “Why? Is everything ok?” I responded.
    “I just think you might want to get here sooner than later,” she said, pleading in her voice.

    He was sitting in his chair, smiling and happy to see me, but unable to talk. My attention was only on him – the rest of the family in the room could wait. I hugged him and made a joke. “Couldn’t wait to see me, huh?” We always joked. But in this moment, I could only make a joke to mask my fear.
    “Can you feed him?” Mom asked. “I have a quick errand to run to Wal-Mart and will be right back.”
    “Of course,” was my reply, as I turned to face my Dad, “But he’d better not make a mess.” Success! I had made him smile again.
    She started to cry and he managed to utter something that we translated as, you’ll be right back. I’ll still be here.

    And he was. He ate; I told him about my trip. He made a mess and I loved him for it because I could help him. He was my hero – I wanted to say thank you with all of my words and actions. This was easy compared to all he had suffered raising me through my teen years.
    “I love you, Dad. You’re going to be ok.” We both knew it was a lie, but we both accepted it because we wanted it to be the truth.

    Later that night the phone rang. “Is everything ok?”
    “Can you come back over?”
    “Should I bring everyone?”
    “No. Just you.”
    Oh, no.

    When I got there, Dad was on his hospital bed, hooked up to his BiPAP machine. It helped him expel the CO2 from his lungs as he was not able to move enough air in and out on his own anymore. My mom shared that he asked to be moved into his bedroom just after I had left. He fell asleep and hadn’t woken up since. “This might be a long night,” she shared.
    “I’m here,” I told her, and him.

    I sat holding his hand for about an hour. I told him things that he knew and tried to muster up the courage to tell him a few things he might not have. I was a coward through it all. I never said what I really wanted to. I didn’t know if he could hear me. I preferred to remember him from earlier that morning. From my wedding day. From when I was ten. This wasn’t what I wanted to remember about this man who took on the role of being my Dad when no one else would.

    What happened after is a blur. Not because it moved quickly, but because I don’t want to dwell on the agony of the events. What I do know is that I was there, for my Mom, with my Dad, when it was important. He waited to say good-bye. He stayed until I could see him one last time and hug him. Right up to the very end, he was my Dad. The best Dad a girl could ever have.

  58. Collin had graduated high school and Darcy was halfway through her senior year. Collin had started Macoun Community College that fall but was commuting from home and still able to see Darcy almost every day. When they rode in the car together, she sat in the middle so they could be side by side. Sitting in the passenger seat was too far away to hold his hand, and she liked being next to him. As the movie ended they went to their spot across from the shipyard to be alone in the back of Collin’s car.

    Darcy liked the way Collin looked at her. He made her feel like she was only person who mattered in the world. He told her that he loved her after six months, but she had already known. They’d playfully argue over who loved the other more. As far as Darcy was concerned, the sun rose and set each day with his name on it. She was not prepared at all for what he said once he parked the car.

    “I think we should see other people.”

    Darcy’s mind went blank and her legs went numb. Everything in her body froze. She couldn’t breathe. The shock was so great that it took her a few minutes to speak. She opened her mouth to say something but no sound came out.

    Finally after what seemed an eternity, she found her voice. “What? But why?” she asked softly.

    “I don’t want to hurt you, and I feel really bad about this. I’m confused and really don’t know what to do. I just think we should try seeing other people for awhile.” Collin stared at the dashboard, avoiding eye contact.

    “But I don’t want to see other people. I love YOU. And you said that you loved ME. How can you possibly think this is a good idea?” Tears welled in Darcy’s eyes, spilling down her face. She reached for Collin’s hand, but he drew it away.

    “God, this is so hard. We can still be friends… I still care about you.” Collin tried.

    By now Darcy was shouting. “We CANNOT be friends! I’m in love with you. Why are you doing this? We were supposed to be together forever. We’re supposed to get married someday. You are my one true love.”

    Collin started crying. “I’m sorry Darce. I’m really, really, sorry. I just don’t know what else to do. I’m confused and I don’t know what I want. And since I don’t know what I want it’s not fair to you to keep going out with you.”

    Darcy had never seen Collin cry before. He never cried during the two years they dated. Not even that time during April vacation when he fell off his dirt bike and broke two of his fingers. Nothing he was saying made sense. There had to be someone else and Darcy had a feeling she knew who it was. Collin had been mentioning a girl named Christina a lot lately. She was a freshman at Macoun College and in all five of Collin’s classes. Anger surged through Darcy.

    “It’s Christina isn’t it? I knew letting you be friends with her was a bad idea. I can’t believe that I let you work on that school project you had with her. I don’t understand why you want to be with her instead of me. There’s nothing that she has that I don’t.”

    Collin was silent. “I’m sorry, Darcy. I really am.

    1. Wendy, I think you really captured the overwhelming nature of a first love and the blindsiding first crack in that perfect love. The sentence “Nothing he was saying made sense” rings out for me.

  59. Race to Safety
    Her stomach felt like it was about to burst. She looked at her brother, Danny, and could tell he was feeling the same thing.
    “Race you,” he said, and then started running down the block.
    “Nooo…” Aime said, but she couldn’t NOT join in, so she ran after him. “No fair, “ she shouted at his back.
    Their parents just laughed as they kept up their walking pace behind them.
    Some kid with a hoodie ran out of nowhere across their race path. Aime dodged out of his way without slowing down. Danny arrived at their front door a full six seconds before Aime did. “That was not fair,” she said, out of breath.
    “I win!” he danced around his sister.
    A second guy, wearing no shirt, with bright tattoos, came racing by, almost knocking Danny down, gun in hand, shouting, “Out the way!”
    The dance is dead.
    “Mijo, inside,” yells Aime’s Ma, rushing to her children.
    “Mija, get inside!” yells Aime’s Pa, who has somehow managed to be immediately at the door.
    They all run into the crowded little alcove as Pa takes out the keys. He’s shaken though, and the keys fall to the floor. Ma has to step back outside to provide some room for Danny to bend down, then hand the keys to dad. The inner door is finally opened, the family pushes through, Ma closes the door as three more shouting guys run past.
    “Who are they chasing? Where are they headed? Are we safe?” wonders Aime, her heart still racing.

      1. Thanks, Jane! The contrast is actually what made the memory come to mind, so I’m glad I could get it on the page! Thanks for reading and commenting!

    1. The keys dropping are a wonderful detail. I can almost taste the panicked fear of the adults – almost as though time slowed down.

      1. Thanks, Terry! That was actually a detail that didn’t happen. I was apprehensive about adding it in and wondering if it would still feel true to the memory. Your comment helps me feel ok with the addition!

  60. I take a long, yoga-style breath and Dad’s face crumples with worry. It’s happening again. The sick-to-my-stomach feeling. My chest squeezing tight. I have to make it stop. Everyone in the art class is going to think I’m weird if I lose it right here. I hate being the kid everyone whispers about.
    I can’t stop my fingers from shaking.
    “Breathe, Ayla,” Dad says. “Talk it through.”
    I try. I really do. But what if I have a heart attack in there while they’re all watching? No one wants to spend their summer hanging out with a freak.
    My breaths go in and out, in and out. Too fast.
    “Ayla, you love art,” Dad says. “You’ll do great. Everyone else is here to learn, just like you.”
    The pain in my stomach spreads into my chest. If I have a heart attack, the paramedics will have to get by all the people in the community centre lobby. They might not get here in time.
    A girl with swingy hair in jean shorts comes towards us down the hall. Her eyebrows pinch together, like she wants to know what we’re doing.
    I grab Dad’s arm. “I can’t.”

    1. So vivid and realistic Andrea. Reminds me of my shy daughter and we’re a military family so you can imagine her frequent anguish. It was painful for all of us!

    2. I guess it’s only fair that your writing left me with a lot of questions! I want to know what happens next and I’m rooting for Ayla to push through these vivid account of anxiety.

  61. The handle of the red metal wagon bounced up and down as the wagon lurched over tufts of grass and clumps of dirt. I lifted my knees high so my sneakers cleared the field’s tangled grass. It was slow going on a hot July day, but the anticipation of a picnic was worth the work. In the wagon was Mum’s red checked picnic cloth, a thermos of cool juice, a packet of sugar and butter sandwiches, and two baggies of cookies. Enough for both Freddie and I to feast like royalty in the middle of the field.

    “Hurry up, Freddie!” I hollered over my shoulder.

    “I’m coming!” he yelled back. “I can’t walk as fast as you. Slow down.” His round face was red in the heat and his three year-old legs pumped up and down.

    I felt bad and slowed down, but the wagon lost momentum and became even harder to pull. I was getting sweaty.

    “This is good enough,” I said, judging how far we were away from our little house, as Freddie caught up. “We can have our picnic right here.”

    I unfurled the tablecloth, trying to make it stay flat on the tall grass. Little gusts of wind teased the edges, flipping the corners over so I couldn’t get it to lie square. I stuck my tongue out of the corner of my mouth to concentrate, and decided the only solution was to roll over the tablecloth to crush the grass beneath.

    I lay down on the cloth. The red and white fabric was sun-warm, a scent of soap and home embedded in its fibres. Straw-like bits of grass poked me as I rolled and rolled, flattening the fluttering fabric to the ground. Freddie followed behind me, setting out the food.

    I raised my head just as I reached the end of the cloth. A curious thing was just in front of my face, a coiled green shape I could not process for a moment.


    Freddie froze, thermos in one pudgy hand. “Huh?”

    “Snake! RUN!!”

    Freddie’s feet started running before the rest of him did, circling in place like a character from a cartoon. He snapped into motion, charging off through the field, thermos held overhead.

    I slammed the snacks back in the wagon and grabbed one corner of the tablecloth. I ran for my life, back to the safety of our yard. The red wagon bounced behind me, now on four wheels, now on two, now airborne, as sandwiches and cookies flew to the left and right. The red checked tablecloth floated behind me as a banner, signaling our terrified retreat.

    1. I love your image of the red checked tablecloth waving behind the narrator like a banner. Great visual details!

  62. She didn’t believe most of what adults said about children (how could they know, they hadn’t been kids for such a long time?), but now she did believe this: that they often thought of themselves as invincible. She did, in that moment, bare feet and gangly legs slick with the recent raindrops collected from running through the grass, shrieks from her brother as he tumbled down the slide, ending up in a heap on the grass and jumping right back up to take another go. She sprinted up the ladder to the top, but being uncharacteristically cautious of her new, pink-sparkled denim shorts, she decided to go down on her feet, crouched in an awkward position that nonetheless made her feel like she was flying as she slid down the plastic ramp. And for a moment, a brief moment, she realized she encompassed the feeling of indestructability; she was a kid, and she could do whatever she wanted and it wouldn’t matter a bit. Her sensibilities were shaken, however, when she pitched forward and caught herself with her arms, hearing that unmistakable crack and lying still while she contemplated what to do and how to react. When she did manage to summon the courage to pick herself up, she knew something was wrong when her left arm hung twisted and mangled from her side, the middle drooping like an arm with a bone in it should clearly not be doing.
    “Moooom!” her brother shrieked, running in and throwing the flimsy screen door aside, panicked from looking at her arm, but more so at the wild terror in her eyes. She stumbled through the door and looked pleadingly at her mother, who took one look at her and dropped her laundry basket to the floor with the sickening thud.

    1. what works: Oh, my. the broken arm. I remember my sister’s fall from the apple tree when reading this. Yep, that’s a good description. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. No arm should look like that. And, what girl doesn’t sacrifice for pink spangled denim shorts?! lol. love that. I already have a picture in my head of this kid….intrepidly girly. love it.
      What doesn’t work and why? –it works. it works. the piece makes me wonder why the character thought about her thinking….(if I remember my methods class….that’s metacognition….yes?) she was thinking that adults don’t know anything about kids….but they did know about invincibility …. which she felt at the moment. This works….if it’s a key part of the character telling her story. It makes me wonder what the character wants that she cannot get? Is it simply the feeling of invincibility at that moment? is this scene setting the stage for something more? I wonder….and will love to know more.
      if it’s a beginning hook? compel? I think this works great as a flashback….is the character a mom looking out at her kids remembering when she was a kid? That makes that whole thinking about thinking thing really work. What are you up to here, writer? Let us know.

    2. I love the contrast between her feeling of invincibility and the ‘wild terror’.

    3. Love how your character feels invincible yet doesn’t want to mess up her sparkly pink pants. The ending is really strong – it feels immediate and real.

  63. It was the moment I had been waiting for. Being born with two fingers “stuck together” had always made me feel insecure about myself. It wasn’t until second grade that I had really begun to feel different. My teacher had always asked me to hold my pencil “correctly.” I tried, I really did, but my fingers just couldn’t fit around the pencil the way my teacher had wanted them to. I couldn’t do the nine’s multiplication trick or count by tens using my fingers as my friends could. But this was all about to change. The nurses wheeled me into surgery. Finally, my parents had found a doctor who would separate the two fingers and I would have ten, YES TEN, wonderful fingers just like everyone else! Ten fingers to paint with fingernail polish, ten fingers to do my math facts with, ten fingers to put into gloves rather than mittens, and finally, I would have the courage to go out for cheerleading because I would have ten fingers. They wheeled me into surgery and even at eight years old, I wasn’t scared. Rather, I was giddy with anticipation. I came out of anesthesia groggy and disoriented. When I finally gathered my wits about me, I hugged my parents and they greeted me with smiles, hugs, and a Baby Tenderlove doll. I almost forgot why I was there and then it hit me. I should have ten fingers. But wait… I was supposed to have a cast. Why didn’t I have a cast? Somehow, without anyone saying a word, I knew. I stared at my bandaged finger for what seemed to be an eternity. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks. I looked up at my parents and the doctor interrupted my thoughts. “I’m sorry Michele, he said. We ran into some complications during the surgery. We did the best we could to make your finger as usable as possible. I made a life-changing decision that day. With the help of my parents, I knew I had two choices… to feel sorry for myself and let go of my dreams or tackle my dreams head on, accepting any challenges along the way. That day was a gift and changed my life forever. Not only did I end up cheering, but I ended up becoming the captain of my cheerleading squad. I decided to take piano for five years as well. I went on to tackle many challenges and look at my situation as the gift it truly was. Oh, and by the way, I even had the guts to get a professional manicure for my wedding. No regrets!

    1. 1. what works: wow. powerful memoir piece here. you know, this week my son had an extra tooth removed. I had called it his “dragon tooth” and he was kinda sad to lose it because it made him different in a cool kinda way (when he wasn’t biting his tongue during meals. ugh!) I really like the determination in this piece…the no regrets. what a strong and lovely character. I like that the writer gives us a peek into the insecurities of this character that she determines to overcome.
      What doesn’t work and why? I think it works…it comes across as a very strong and powerful memory. Because the reader wasn’t there in the memory…I wonder what additional senses can support the story? color is one of my favorites to read about and texture….what about the feel of the skin where the fingers are fused? I also wonder about the complications. This character sounds like a teen? It would be cool to include some medical details in terms that teens could understand. Have you read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper? Your piece reminds me of the strength of that character.
      If it’s a beginning: hook? compel? I definitely want to know more about no regrets..that kind of strong phrase could have multiple layers in a story.

    2. I love the repetition of tens sentence and the inclusion of the teacher defying common sense to demand a ‘correct’ grip.

  64. I’ve been at a writing retreat all day so have just had a chance to read your responses to Nora’s prompts today. They are amazing – and I don’t know how many of you made it a point to do this, but the sensory language we talked about in yesterday’s mini-lesson paints vivid pictures in these truth-inspired fictional pieces, too.

  65. “What do you want for lunch?”

    I was too old for a babysitter, but I didn’t mind staying with my cousin Candy. The rest of us were all around the same age but Candy was five years older than us. When you’re ten, fifteen seems unattainable.

    “What is there?” I asked.

    “How about a peanut butter sandwich?” she asked while pulling the bread out of the old wooden roll-top breadbox that sat atop the counter.

    “Sure, but I can make it; I’ve done it before.” I really had, but more than that I wanted her to know that I knew how to take care of myself.

    As she pulled the peanut butter out of the cupboard she said, “Why don’t you let me show you how to make a real peanut sandwich.”

    Before I knew it she was layering the peanut but on thick slices of wonder white; no one ate whole wheat bread in the eighties.

    “Don’t ya think you’ve got enough peanut butter on there?” The peanut butter was as thick as the slices of bread.

    “You want it nice and thick like this so it sticks to the roof of your mouth each time you bite into it and you have use your milk to help wash it down.”

    She was right, that peanut butter sandwich was the best one of my entire life and my cousin Candy is still the cool one.

  66. Andrea, I was going to say the same thing, that the story reminded me of Cisneros’ Red Sweater. Your story was vividly told and brought back so many memories of elementary school. Why, oh why, did they put us through that humiliation of public weigh ins?! Keep up the good work.

  67. “You’re gonna do it too, right Mrs. Lawyer?” inquired a student too excited for words. He looked at me anxiously, waiting for my answer like a dog waiting for a treat.
    Me? High ropes course? Zip line? Even conjuring the images of the place gave me the chills. I searched my brain for a quick response willing myself to come up with a good excuse for why I shouldn’t participate. The students who made honor roll for the entire year were surprised with a trip to another state for a ropes course and zipline canopy tour.
    “Someone’s going to have to take pictures of everything or no one will ever believe you did it!” I offered. Lame, I know. His face fell as I finished my sentence.
    “You HAVE to, Mrs. Lawyer.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “Don’t tell anyone, but I am scared of heights. I can’t do it if you don’t do it. Please?” he implored. His eyes pleaded his case. “Please?” he repeated.
    Well, after a couple of days, I decided to bite the bullet and agreed to participate rather than just photograph the event. The night before the trip, I woke at least hourly, afraid that if I closed my eyes, nightmares of snapped zip lines, raw skin, and me being rescued would plague me.
    Although the bus ride to New York was filled with nervous and excited chatter, I was probably the quietest I had ever been in my life (unless I was sleeping.) I felt physically ill with nerves. I was worried I could not handle the physical challenge because although harnesses are worn, it still is an exercise in balance and strength. I was in poor physical shape with the added fear of being terrified of heights. I was scared of climbing a ladder in my classroom to hang word wall words on the wall! How was I ever going to progress through six different ropes courses? Seriously, what if I had a heart attack out there on the course?
    When it came time to sign ourselves in, I was sweaty, weak in the knees, and I thought I might be sick. I visited the bathroom three times while waiting in line to get fitted for a harness. When it came time for my turn to get tied into the harness, the guide asked me if I was sure I wanted to participate. He acknowledged that I looked pale and I was visibly shaky from fear.
    A student came over and locked her arm in mine. “This is going to be so awesome. I’m scared too, but just keep telling yourself that you can do it, okay? Let’s just try to make it through the first one and keep going if we can.” We made our way over to the training area. It took a lot of positive self talk, but then I heard the excited whoops from my students and colleagues ahead of me on the real course.
    There is a reason each of the courses is named something like “Adrenaline” or “Emotion.” I certainly experienced both of those things. There was a moment when I thought, “Oh my God. I should have woken my kids up to kiss them goodbye this morning because I am going to die out here.” It was surprisingly invigorating and freeing to ride on the zipline. All you had to do was hang on, lean back, and keep your feet up and out. The other obstacles were soooooo hard. Coordination is not my middle name. Balance is key and I tried to become one with the rope or chain or whatever support I could. The term “held on for dear life” is an understatement. I wish I had photographed the damage done to my body!
    I am not a risk taker. I am one of the most cautious people around. But as I watched my students scramble ahead of me and drop out when it got too physically challenging, I felt motivated to just try one more…and then another and another. The students that dropped out of the challenge watched from a safe distance and cheered me on, clearly surprised that the lady who did not want to participate at all made it farther along in the course than they did. When it got too hard and I felt too weak to continue safely, I dropped out and encouraged other colleagues and students to push on.
    Let me tell you, it was extremely challenging for me, but I made it through 4 out of the 6 courses-wobbly bridges, zip lines, Tarzan swings, swinging obstacles, and hanging nets. I had to be rescued on the last obstacle of course four, but in the end, I made it through more than I set out to accomplish.
    My poor body was so black and blue I could not comfortably move for a week. It took a month for my bruises to fade enough that I didn’t get stares everywhere I went. Wearing a harness is comparable to wearing a diaper made of chains if you fall and it has to support you. No, I did not fall to the ground, but hanging, supported only by a harness while suspended leaves you with some pretty nasty war wounds. My inner arms were bruised from the arm pits to the crook of my arm. You could see the imprint of chains from my grasping at them so hard hanging on for dear life.
    It was a risk I was glad I took, not only because it was my personal fear of heights that I dealt with, but because my students were inspired to challenge themselves when they saw me face my fears.
    -Destiny Love Lawyer

  68. Wow…this was a lot harder than I thought it would be! I have a couple of paragraphs written, but then I got stuck. I might just get out some of the graphic organizers I have my students use! I have a lot more empathy for them after only two days of writing camp! This process is definitely going to help me become a better writing teacher as I figure out my own writing process 🙂

    1. I feel the same way, Kris! I don’t have many very vivid memories of my childhood for some reason, so I sat for quite some time, staring into space and being distracted by absolutely everything before an idea came to me! I really am beginning to understand how my students feel. I am loving what I am learning!

    2. Kris, thanks for sharing your struggle and realization! I’m curious if you were able to get un-stuck, and what worked to help? I’m sure we all have those moments; I know I do! Did a graphic organizer help? Do you know what was holding you up? 🙂

    3. Kris, what you said is fabulous — it’s so true that, no matter how much anyone might or might not like writing — facing the task of responding to a prompt and posting within a timeframe definitely gives us empathy for our student writers. I loved this prompt but, even then, couldn’t get my thoughts together to post until Wednesday morning. Which means I owe a nod of appreciation to all my students who’ve had blank-stare moments when given a writing assignment. Yay for us, to have this experience. 🙂

  69. Okay, my freewrite turned fictional rewrite turned into a full-fledged story. I can’t share it all here, but here is the last paragraph:
    Annie walked back and forth on the beach for what seemed like an eternity, her treasured shells forgotten. Where was Mama? Was she looking for her?Was she worried? Would she ever find her? A lump began to rise in her throat, growing larger with each lonely step. The hot sun beat down on Annie’s braided head and tears filled her eyes. She walked up to a kind looking lady toting a chubby-cheeked crabby baby on her hip and quietly choked out, “I think I am lost,” as the tears spilled down her freckeled and sunburned cheeks.
    Read the whole story at iwritekirby.blogspot.com if you are interested!

      1. My writing blog is brand new! Started just for Teachers Write! Thanks for checking it out!

  70. My head pounds. My body aches. Even my toenails hurt. My throat feels hot and itchy. I can barely keep my eyes open. I push my eyebrows up with my left hand while jamming a pencil into my right thigh, all in hope I will stay awake. I feel the eyes on me, piercing the back of my head. I hear the not-so-quiet whispers all around me. Why is she always sleeping? She dresses like an old rag doll. She smells like sausage. The Room is pushing in all around me. I can’t breathe. Then, the loud cruel voice comes from across the room. “Allie, you have to stay here. I still don’t have the math worksheets from last week or this week. Are you lazy or what? Maybe you should sleep at home instead of in class. The rest of you, line up for recess. Quickly now. Let’s go!” Snickers surround me as tears fill my eyes and a building sob threatens to erupt. As soon as they leave, I bolt down the hall and around the corner to the nurse’s office. She believes me. She knows how sick I have been since coming at this awful place. Oh, no! The door is shut and the light is dark! What am I going to do now? The nice lady at the desk smiles at me. “Allie. The nurse is gone but your mom called and said that if you aren’t feeling well, you can walk home. Go grab your coat and work. Then, you can go.” I can barely squeak out “Thank you” without crying. I quickly return to The Room, gather my things, wave to the nice desk lady as I walk past her, and go out the front door. My house is next to the school, but SHE is at recess with the rest of THEM on the playground I need to pass. I see my mom standing in the window watching for me to come home. I manage to walk fast enough that I get all the way to the last opening of the fence, but then, as I scurry past, I feel a hand on my coat. I am forced through the opening and whirled around to face HER. Her mouth is moving fast. Her eyes are squinched up. Her face is bright red. I think she is yelling, but I can’t tell. I seem to hear nothing but my own voice scream, “MOOOOOMMMMMMMM!” Suddenly, a gloved hand covers my mouth. I am so scared that I bite down…on HER hand.

    1. Wendy, you do a great job of capturing your characters feelings of being overwhelmed. It seems like she is new to this school? I’m also wondering about the end of the story. I can feel the fear! I’m wondering what will happen next… will this girl’s mother be able to save her from this bully?

    2. As a reader, (and a person with a heartbeat) I want to don a cape and go rescue this girl! As a writer, I enjoyed the build-up of anxiety, and the just-out-of-reach sensation you created for the girl, her home, and an understanding heart. Bravo!

  71. August 1988

    The clock radio blares from across the room. “Good morning, Sacramento! It’s going to be a scorching 105 degrees in the valley today!” I threw my pillow across the room in an attempt to hit the snooze button. No luck.
    I drag myself out of bed, shower, and put on my cheerleading uniform. Polyester. 105 degrees. Awesome.
    I fluff my ponytail and add one last one spritz of Aqua Net. This girl is ready for freshman orientation. It’s my senior year.
    “Let’s go, Dad!” I head out to the driveway and hop in his 1972 VW Beetle, which used to be cool but is now oxidized to a dull rust and super embarrassing to ride in. Twenty minutes later, he drops me in the circle at my highschool, I run to meet my best friend Kyleen. We look like twins with the word BRUINS emblazoned across our chest. This year was shaping up to be perfect. We were seniors, and cheerleaders, and we got to show the freshmen around today. If that weren’t enough, we had scheduled a REAL photo shoot together to celebrate our senior year. If only we could survive the day of short, awkward boys and the squelching summer sun.
    Surprisingly, the morning flew by and I realized that I had to stay for a student council meeting before we could head to our glamour shoot. “I’ll be back to pick you up at 2:00,” Kyleen yelled from across the parking lot. “See you later!”
    My meeting ended and I headed to the same circle where I had been dropped off by my dad that morning. I waited. 2:00. Then 2:30. Then 3:00. Where was she? I called her house. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. Finally, on the third try, a deep voice picked up the phone.
    “Hello? Is Kyleen there?” Silence on the other end. “I’m sorry to have to tell you…” was the last thing I remembered hearing as I dropped the phone to the floor.

    1. I felt like I got hit by a car – I totally didn’t see that coming. I’m really hoping this is more fiction than reality. From a writing standpoint, I was totally engrossed in the story. I just want it to be a bad dream though. Wow.

  72. Splashing in the pool, Kayla and her sister heard something that they rarely heard—Dad yelling. He was really yelling! As the girls scrambled out of the pool to investigate, Kayla saw it—huge billows of black smoke rising from the house behind hers. Now she heard loud crackling and distant sirens. Feeling confused and suddenly afraid, she glanced at Sally. Sally’s furrowed brow and tense posture told Kayla that her sister was feeling the same way. The girls ran from the backyard to the front of the house where Dad was shouting orders at John and Michael to hurry, while scooping up the two family dogs. The air was raining down ash and the acrid smell burned Kayla’s nose. John ran from the garage dragging a 10-foot ladder and Michael met him at the side of the house with the garden hose turned on full force. The sirens were getting louder with each passing minute. Dad threw the dogs into Kayla and Sally’s arms and held the ladder as John scrambled up the metal rungs, water spouting from the hose in tow. Just as John straddled the lowest gable, a place where he loved to be (which had always caused problems), a large glowing piece of ash landed on the shake-cedar roof. The dry wood ignited into a small flame and John immediately doused it with the hose. The air was silent now except for the crackling of the burning house and the water pouring off the roof and splashing on the patio below. Within minutes the black smoke stopped and the air smelled fresher. Debris was no longer flying through the air—the worst was over. Kayla walked around the block with Sally, her dad, and brothers. The neighbor’s garage was no longer there—a blackened, smoldering skeleton stood in its place.

  73. Thus, Michelle and Patrice became pawns in the grown up world of who’s the boss. They bounced between the adults like ping-pong balls: Father’s home, Mother’s home, Teresa’s & Richard’s. Yes, they were young, but they soon learned that there were only two people in the world who they could rely on – each other.

    The only safety and constant in Michelle’s life was Patrice.

    The only safety and constant in Patrice’s life was Michelle.

    Every time they were shifted from one home to another, they clung to each other. Michelle, being the older of the two, would often reassure Patrice that everything would be ok. At the tender ages of three and four, they really were powerless to the direction of their lives. Who, in fact, is mommy and daddy?

    It all stopped one day, Michelle and Patrice found themselves in a room with big leather chairs and a giant table. There was a guy in a robe looking down at them while the adults in the room talked at him.

    Michelle and Patrice clutched each other’s hands tightly.

    “Do you want Teresa and Richard to be your mommy and daddy?” the guy in the robe asked. Later the girls learned he was a judge.

    Both girls nodded silently. They were too scared to say anything.

    After more discussion between the adults, they all started signing papers with pens, while the girls looked on. When it was time to leave, the girls left with Teresa and Richard. They left holding hands. The left holding the hands of each other and of the hands of their mommy and daddy.

  74. “Brrriiiiing!!!” Who is calling this early? She decided to ignore it. Chrissy rolled over in her small college apartment bed, forcefully tugging a pillow over her face. It’s just too early for a phone call. Then, it came again.
    “Brrriiiiing!!!” Are you kidding me? Who on earth would call this early, on a Saturday of all days? “Brrriiiiing!!!” It rang again. And, again.
    Finally, Chrissy gave in. She lifted her head and glanced at the bedside clock while lying stomach down on the mattress, barely covered by sheets. The clock read 9:24AM. She quickly grabbed the phone, then dropped it. It stumbled out of her hands, but she caught it by the coiled cord, pulled the cord up until the phone was in her hand, placed the receiver to her ear.
    Groggily, she was able to mutter a weak, “Hello. This better be…”
    “Chris, it’s Kate,” a cracking voice slowly uttered. Oh my god, Katie’s crying. What’s wrong? What happened? Fear struck Chrissy as she realized it was her best friend, calling from back home in San Jose, 500 miles north of Chrissy’s place down at San Diego State.
    “What’s going on? Are you ok? What happened?” The words rushed out of Chrissy’s mouth faster than she could think.
    “Mike’s dead.”
    “No. No he’s not” The words again rushed out of Chrissy’s mouth. It just came out. She wasn’t thinking. Then, it hit her. She actually processed Katie’s words. Wait. What was Katie talking about?
    “Chris, listen to me.” Katie sobbed.
    “No!” Chrissy yelled into the phone. This can’t be. No. Not Mike. “What? Wait. Kate, what are you talking about… no… no…” Chrissy’s hand started shaking. The phone wobbled against her face. Tears were suddenly streaming down her cheeks.
    Then, slowly, Katie started talking. Through giant sobs, Chrissy heard the words, “cliff… jump… tore… lake… accident…”
    Suddenly, Chrissy threw off the sheets, jumped out of bed while still clutching the phone, and quickly uttered, “I’m coming home.”

    1. Hi Christina,
      Thank you for sharing. It’s hard to find words to describe how you must have felt. I’ve never written about my experience before. More truth than fiction. I’m so glad to be writing with you this summer. Jennifer

    2. Oh, how awful! You really captured how slowly time moves in these awful movement with your detailed description. I only hope this one is truly fiction!

  75. I’m late with my quick-write, but it was a long time before an idea formed.

    Six forty-five, I need to leave now to be there by seven. Ok, I can do this; it’s just a biology club meeting; nothing hard; I need to meet people right? I checked myself in the mirror before leaving my dorm room. I guess I look ok..why am I always second-guessing myself? Time to go NOW! I decide to skip the elevator and take the stairs from the 13th floor of Scranton Hall. I know I’m just trying to waste time, but I trudge forward, across the street and up “Cardiac Hill” to the upper part of campus. I notice that it’s a beautiful evening and wonder if I should just grab a bench in the Oak Grove and revel in nature. But as the thought enters my mind, I harshly push it back. I really need to do this. I have to overcome my shyness, my fear and meet some people! I’ve been on campus two weeks and only know a few girls on my floor. My roommate’s a P.E. major for God’s sake, we have NOTHING in common! I belong with science people-bio club is perfect!

    Too soon I reach Wyandt Hall and head to room 101 where the biology club is meeting. I hear a buzz of voices as a walk down the hall, increasing in volume as I close in on the room. I glance at the hallway clock-6:56, I need to go in now. Abruptly, I cross through the doorway and shock registers because the room is full, standing room only. I almost back out, but reluctantly slide in through the tight circle of doorway huggers and make a beeline for the opposite corner. There’s a small opening by the wall and I claim it, taking a minute to breathe slowly and calm down, as I allow my eyes to casually survey the room.

    It’s amazing how many people are here for the meeting. As I scan, I recognize a few faces from my cell bio and chemistry classes. Then, my eyes do a double-take. I check again to be sure. Yes, it’s him! He’s here! Almost directly across the room from me is the cute guy from my cell bio class. As I get a chance to secretly check him out, I realize he’s even cuter than I thought. Usually in class he sits behind me and I only see him from an angle, but he’s gorgeous! Tall, blond wavy hair, a little on the long side, with big brown eyes, and a kind smile. Big shoulders and leg muscles too I note and wonder if he’s an athlete or likes to lift weights. Suddenly, his eyes meet mine and he catches me staring at him. I know my face must be one hundred shades of red right now, but his eyes don’t leave mine. He slowly smiles and his eyes invisibly lock with mine. It’s like we’re the only two people in the room.

    Our spell breaks when the club president begins the meeting. I try to drag my attention from him to the club officers as they talk, but I can’t. My mind is focused on him and while he does turn slightly to face speakers, he turns his head regularly, as if he’s checking to be sure I’m still there. I have no idea what is being discussed, all I know is I hope somehow I get to meet him when this meeting ends. Our eyes continue to meet as the officers drone on and on….will this meeting ever end?

  76. I know I’m wicked late to the game, but if anyone is still reading these, here’s my first published quick-write…ever. Thanks for reading/commenting.

    I had always looked up to him as a man; at least the man I wanted to be like. But on this day none of his qualities mattered. I didn’t matter how much I wanted to be like him. It didn’t matter that he was my dad.
    Coach Norris rallied us along the dugout fence for an announcement. He was lifelong friends with Dad and had coached our baseball team for a few years. I looked at Ryan, Coach Norris’ son and my close friend, with a quizzical look. The look on his face reflected the very same confusion that I’m sure mine showed. We were both in the dark on this one.
    Coach started talking about my Dad like he was giving a wedding toast– you know, where they tell a funny/embarrassing story, talk about how great a human being they are, and ultimately end up crying. I had a strange feeling in my stomach though, like I could throw up, so I knew it wasn’t a true celebration.
    After sharing a laundry-list of awesome things about my dad, the mood changed. Coach sounded like he swallowed a frog for a second, then he continued. Dad would no longer be coaching the team. He wouldn’t be close enough. Coach Norris’ pep rally was getting a little weird. He started crying, but, like, a man-cry. Then he dropped the bomb– Dad was joining the military and moving to Virginia. Why hadn’t I heard this earlier?
    I don’t remember another word after that. There might have been a dude group-hug, or some sincere high-fives. I just remember adding to the crying. I felt the tears well up, so I buried my face in my glove. Being 12 was already hard enough. A huge piece of me died on that field.

    1. Oh my gosh! What a shocking way to learn such news! I can really picture the “man-cry” and “dude group hug” and these terms helped to lighten the mood just a little. I’m wondering what the son’s relationship with the father is. Does this mean he is also moving and didn’t know it? Or is the Dad not living with the son? Congrats on your first public quick write!

  77. I’m posting this a day late, but Tuesday’s Quick Write assignment stayed with me all yesterday, as there is a child’s pov that I’ve needed to see more clearly throughout novel revisions I was working on all winter. As the “fly on the wall” throughout the novel’s conflict I realized I need to see things from his view, even if the voice does not end up part of the final draft. One thing I realized from my own childhood plus watching my sons witness adult emotions, is that this child would likely find his mother’s sadness over a death scary. Here is a little piece from what came from that.
    Without knowing it to be unusual, Liam was used to absence. His family was peopled with it. Plasmatic stories of people no longer there, he watched roam the rooms of his grandparents’ house. He knew their names from the pictures his grandparents or his mother pointed to, saying things like, “That’s your Uncle Daniel. You really would have liked him…”
    The man in sand gear he had seen in a frame in his mother’s house, he saw in a million different transformations at his grandparents’ house. Lacrosse game. College graduation. Knee to a camera beside a Humvee, laughing behind sunglasses. Laughing the same in a picture with an absent red dog. Arm around an absent grandparent. Arm around his mother at her college graduation. Raising a crystal glass in a polished black suit, at Liam’s mother’s wedding. The pictures were portals, although he didn’t know that word. The flat icons of memory through which they called the absent man back into memory. Froze him. Grabbed at him. Retrieved him with their words as if grappling hooks could pull him into Liam’s familiarity. Liam ignored them into silence: colored more ferociously, stared harder at the decal on his car or just walked from the room. Air sparked around the memories, acrid as when one struck a match, the same hiss of energy. He hated his mother, sometimes, even this young, for the fear she stirred. Wandering around a corner, out of their sight, he’d speak to the empty hallway as to a dog: “Go away, now. You’ll make them fight.”

    1. I’m posting this morning, too! I enjoyed this piece. Your use of the family photos on display to characterize Uncle Daniel really works here. And, poor Liam. I want to know his story…

      1. Thanks, Jen. Wanting to know his story is all I could ask, right? It’s funny how different scenes are when I write them from his perspective, rather than the adults the story is about. Children have such different filters, and somehow make me go deeper to those mortal feelings that motivate a character. Thanks for commenting.

  78. “Jennifer, come here,” Mrs. Gean commands from her duty station in the south hallway. She is 4’9″ of bossy, topped with the remnants of her 1950s pin curls, so naturally I comply. “Come here and show them where you’ve been pulling your hair out.” I slowly walk toward the trio, already ducking my head, revealing an almost two inch circle of scalp on the crown of my head. “Look at that!” she says too loudly as she motions for me to step closer. “Why would you pull your hair out, Jennifer?” she asks without any intention of hearing my answer. It didn’t matter. It’s not like she, my fourth grade science teacher, will understand how I’ve become incredibly fascinated with that little bulb at the end of each strand of hair, how it can actually be slid off the shaft if I’m careful, how I’d read in a magazine that those little bulbs are a sign of healthy hair. It was never enough to pull just one or two. What if the next strand was bulb-less? Unhealthy? I don’t guess Mrs. Adams and Mrs. Brown are too concerned. Their reaction is to quickly dismiss me with a curt, “Go back to class.” As I walk that long twelve feet to the door, I can hear Mrs. Gean continue to talk about my bald spot. I hope this doesn’t mean a note home to Mom or a mention of it at church on Sunday. Gosh, I’m so weird.

    1. This is really fascinating. I had a student who pulled hair, and it’s fascinating to see inside that motivation. It’s such a specific action, and yet there is something universal in the need to know, to see, to experience that all kids go through. Really fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  79. Oh my gosh, this lesson was like therapy! I wish I could have finished this quick write yesterday while everybody was still active here, but it just felt good to get it out and put it out in the world. My quick write ended up being a little long, so here is an excerpt:

    In the last three weeks of band camp, Cora had been reprimanded and “corrected” by Coach Nelson constantly. She had been given a bloody nose by an “accidental” bad toss. She was out of the loop when the rest of the squad wore matching outfits or did their hair the same way. She was never invited to sit with the rest of the girls at lunch, and there was no room for her at the table (she preferred the hour break from them anyway, sitting and laughing with the friends she had gone to elementary school with. The final blow was when Coach Nelson had told her that she “just wasn’t getting it” and would have to let the alternate – another girl fresh out of sixth grade who was frequently confused and had trouble remembering the routines – take her place for the first football game of the season. Cora had cast her eyes down, defeated and ashamed, when she told her mother this news after yesterday’s practice.

    Cora caught the final full-turn toss and held the finishing pose until the final notes of the song faded, and the drum major gave the “and down” cue. Mr. Dries, the band director, thanked the group for their hard work and dismissed them for the day. In the car, Cora’s mom informed her that she would indeed be performing on Friday night. Cora’s eyes widened with surprise, and a smile played at the corners of her mouth. “Really? How? Why?”

    Cora’s mother smiled and explained that she asked Coach Nelson to show her what exactly Cora “wasn’t getting.” Coach Nelson took her to the field to watch the performance, and could only sputter, “Well, she’s not doing it now. It looks good to me. I guess she figured it out.” Cora felt a shred of confidence begin to shine inside of her. Without Cora realizing it, her mother had just planted a seed that would take years to mature and bloom – the seed of a confident, independent young woman.

  80. “Stop! Come back!” I strained to scream the words, but only whispers came out. Laryngitis muted my plea. Somewhere near me was my right ski, wrenched off by the weight of knee-high snow. All I could see in the blowing flakes was the shadows of the others as they continued their trek across the glacier and away from me.
    This day had been a series of experiences that caused my heart to pound and my mind to race in fear. It had begun with two half-hour trips in huge, packed aerial tramcars, where I tried not to think of how far the fall would be if something went wrong. At the top of the mountain (a REAL mountain), we had a few minutes to take pictures of the incredible view around us. Then we had roped ourselves together and to our guide, Guy, listening as he gave us instructions.
    “Go slow. Hold the rope tightly. If anyone slips, sit down, lean back and dig your heels into the ice.” That was easy for him to say, since he had crampons on his boots.
    We walked through a tunnel and across a narrow ice bridge, holding a guide rope in one hand and our skis in the other. Once over the ice bridge, we found ourselves struggling to ski in thigh high powder, while Guy yelled at us to stay behind him, that there were crevasses beneath the snow.
    That was only an hour ago. Since then we had skied down a steep and deep slope and entered the cloud that now surrounded me.
    Afraid to move for fear that I would not find my ski, I squatted and felt frantically around in front and in back of my feet. There it was! I pulled it under me, reset the binding, and managed to reattach it to my boot. Now what? I didn’t know where I was, I couldn’t see more than six feet ahead, and I was alone. I started to shuffle forward, worrying about losing the ski again and wondering if I was going to make it.
    Then the miracle happened. A shadowy figure appeared ahead in the blowing snow, then another and another. They were coming back for me! It wasn’t my day to die after all.

  81. “Come on kids, lets get going, before the roads get to slippery,”Mom shouted. Today had been a super fun day sledding down hills and building a snowman with our friends. My brother, Brian turned and pleaded, “Not yet!” I’ll be honest with you, I was tired, wet, and freezing cold, so being the older sister who always knows what’s best I responded to him before mom got a chance, “Mom said now or we’re going to leave you!” He mumbled something an started towards the car with his two friends. Everyone tossed their wet gloves, hats, sleds and saucers into the back of our station wagon and the three sneaky boys ran around and got into the back seat and locked the door. Once again the boys were ganging up on me and my perfect older sister the princess was already in the middle of the front seat with my mom’s friend. That left me in the far back of the car, with all the wet stuff! “Mom, why do I always have to be in the back?” I moaned. She shrugged and closed the back window.

    Not long after we left, the snow started coming down heavy, blanketing the road. It wasn’t long before mom had to pull over. She got out and came around to the back and opened the window. “Brrr!” I whined. She smiled and reached in for the chains while the snow rushed in swirling around the back. Irritated, freezing, and sick of this trip, I shouted, ‘I think I have frostbite on my hands and feet.” She just gave me a “poor baby look” and continued putting the rest of the chains on.

    By the time she got back into the car I wasn’t doing all the complaining. The boys and the princess were piping up with some of my same lines. Being an optimist my mom told us to close our eyes and pretend your laying on a warm sunny beach in Hawaii. We moaned a little more, but not long after the conversation changed. We spent the rest of the ride home not just pretending to be lying on a warm beach in Hawaii, but fantasizing what it would be like. Mom said lets just pack up and move to Hawaii. “Really?” “When?” “Are you kidding?” were just some of the responses from people in the car.

    Finally we pulled up to our friends house to drop them off and they invited us in for some hot chocolate. While Carleen our friend’s mom was making hot chocolate my mom was looking up the airport number in the phone book. I wasn’t cold anymore I think I’m moving to Hawaii! Mom called and found out how much it would cost for seven tickets to Hawaii. So that my friends is how the idea of moving to Hawaii was born.

  82. Catching up… Day 2 – Facing Fear:

    They said it was just a ride. “C’mon! What’s the big deal? It’s a water ride for heaven’s sake. All you have to do is get on and get wet. Simple.” I watched as my dad got in line, impatiently tapping his foot, arms crossed, eyebrows tight with frustration, glaring at my indecision. How can I explain my fear? It wasn’t just a water ride to me. Even the name of the ride, Haunted River, spoke of whispered frights hidden in the crevices of my imagination. What if something jumped out at me? What if something touched me? What if I flipped the boat?

    Ten year olds are not supposed to be afraid of water rides. I wasn’t afraid of roller coasters… didn’t that count for something? I even held my hands up in the air on the first hill! But there was something about this ride that creeped me out worse than any ghost story I had ever heard. What made it haunted? Was it really a river? How long was the ride? If I screamed, would I be the only one?

    I had more questions than answers. I chewed on my bottom lip as I contemplated my choices. I could run back to the car. No, no that wouldn’t work. I didn’t have the car keys anyway. I could beg and plead not to go. I could even cry if I had to. Ugh, that would be a bit embarrassing for sure, but always an option. Maybe… I could distract my dad by talking about another ride we could enjoy. Now that might work! Distraction is a good thing, right?

    I walked towards my dad, fully determined to change the subject when my attention was interrupted by the loud crash of the wooden boat as it flew from the top of the cave and down the hill, splashing all the onlookers nearby. The riders’ faces weren’t frozen in fear; rather, their smiles and spontaneous laughter echoed to my eyes and ears.

    I looked back at my dad and saw his smile, too. “C’mon,” he said, reaching his hand towards mine. “You won’t know what’s it’s like unless you try.” I allowed my tiny hand to be swallowed in his as I took a deep breath and joined him in line.

    1. To be honest, while I consider myself a child at heart, my writing voice sounds more like adult reflections back on childhood. Your story, however, totally captured the child’s voice. I. Loved. Every. Word. Splash away Tamara!

  83. Three weeks later when they returned from the ranch. Christy didn’t know what to think as she opened up the garage door to unload her stuff. The garage was empty. First Christy thought she opened the wrong garage door. “Nope, this is my house. Where is everything?” She turned around in both directions thinking there had to be a mistake. George and Maude had already pulled into their driveway and were unloading their stuff. Christy decided to go inside and see what was going on. Surely her mom would have some explanation. She opened the door into the dining room that was attached to the garage. The dining room table was gone. An erie feeling crossed over Christy’s mind. What was going on here?

    “Mom? Jenny? Dennis?” No one answered. Christy turned toward the living room. The sofa, chairs and tv were gone. Christy felt her face get warm. Tears began to well up in her eyes. Her knees felt weak. Her head foggy. She ran to the bedroom with the thought of flopping down on her bed to cry. It was empty. No bed. Her heart was racing. She didn’t know what to do, where to go, what had happened. My clothes she thought they wouldn’t have taken my clothes. She opened up the closet door. Gone! Everything gone! Christy finally realized that the house was not only empty but dark. None of the lights worked. Christy was scared, alone and didn’t know what to do.

  84. The little girl slipped her petticoat over her cotton play clothes
    and twirled into the living room. She had already accessorized her
    costume with every shining bit of jewelry that could be retrieved
    from the bureau. The rhinestone diamonds’ sparkle paled in the light
    of the girl’s enthusiasm. Bounding across the room with a five year old’s grace,
    she sang and danced story after story across the sofa stage.
    Her performance provided an interlude for her audience of one.
    Mother smiled, then sprayed another layer of mist across the laundry
    and rolled it into the stack of clothing waiting to be pressed.
    The ironing never ended.
    The two of them would spend another morning of fine arts together.
    The little actress and the homemaker practicing their individual talents
    as a gift to one another in the security of their love and home.