Die, Mug, Silence

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The waitress eyed his mug like a Black Friday shopper eyeing the father who just grabbed the last Tickle-Me-Elmo. His knuckles white from keeping a tight grip through the handle around the sphere of the terracotta cup. His eyes glancing at the waitress and back at the coffee, half full and still steaming in his hand. The waitresses grip on the coffee pot equally as tight, a white band appearing where her choke hold on the handle, pressed against her wedding band and drained the blood around that finger.

He watched as she delivered a plate of egg whites to an older man two tables away. Then she walked over to his table.

“How is everything?” her question a distraction to her real intention. A rope-a-dope as her coffee pot hand darted forward across the table toward his mug.

“Everything is great, thank you.” He said, taking a sip from his coffee and bringing closer to his being, away from the hovering mother ship of coffee.

“Great, I’ll be back to check on you.” She wavered eyeing the mug, her hand beginning to shake from the extension of the nearly full pot in her hand. The moment passed and she retreated, moving on to the next table, where their mugs were exposed, and she filled to the brim each one with steaming coffee.

His mind was quiet. Eating alone, he’d become accustomed to the silence in his immediate vicinity. The conversations and cacophony of forks, knives and cups clattering spilled over into his space, but that was to be expected.

The waitress stopped at the coffee maker and began reloading her pot. She glanced back at his table; the mug still locked in his hand. She nearly spilled the coffee but there was more than enough in the chamber to cock back and fire more coffee into his cup, no matter how full it may have been.

She walked straight back to his table. “Refill?” The pot hovering inches from his mug-holding hand.

“No thank you,” he replied.

“Are you sure?” She insisted, pushing the pot closer to him until they nearly made a toast.

“Yes, I’m quite satisfied with the amount I have, one cup is enough.”

“Well, refills are free, sir, don’t be shy.” She was on the attack. He still stayed on the polite defense.

“That’s a great policy but I think I’ll have had my fill with just this one cup, thank you.”

“Okay, I’ll be back to make sure.” She fired back. This shot wiped out his front line and civility became the casualty.

“Ma’am, no need to come back. I only want one cup of coffee.” The smile on his face turned a few degrees to a thin line.

“Okay, we’ll I’ll be back in a few minutes to make sure. People change their minds.” She threatened to leave but her smile faded, and she stayed, her arm shaking from holding the full pot out in front of her.

“Do not come back. I have finished my meal and once I finish this very cup of coffee, this single cup of coffee, I will pay my bill and leave. Should you continue insisting, I will be forced to leave only a 10% gratuity.”

“Sir, are you not happy with our service?” Her brow furrowed and the line became a frown. His brow furrowed and the thin line became a frown.

“Your service is excellent, perhaps a bit too much. It could be said that there is too much service. And if there should be too much of something, it is still inadequate.”

“I will refill that mug.” She pushed the pot against his mug, threatening to tilt its spout into his mug.

“You will not.” He pulled the mug away.

“I will provide this service as per our policy.”

“Policy be damned, I would rather die than accept your refill.”

Feather, Sing, Cave

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“Check it out, dude. I found this fuckin’ sweet ass feather over here in this cave.”

“Why are you talking like that?”

“Like what?”

“Sweet ass feather?”

“It is a sweet ass feather.”

“Yeah, but in meetings your vocabulary is quite different. Your explaining the demographics and opportunities within the European market. Now your saying stuff like ‘fuckin’ sweet as feather.'”

“I’m not at work. Look forget that bullshit, man. That’s just the 9-to-5, you know?”

“Yeah, I know, it’s just weird is all.”

“Anyway, I was venturing out into the wilds of Canada one day and happened upon the opportunity for a spelunking adventure. So I told myself, Martin, you deserve a break from the rat race, treat yourself to exploration.”

“What is happening, now your talking like the beginning of a novel from the 1920’s. You’re all over the place.”

“You’re missing the forest for the trees, my dude–“

“–My dude.”

“Just listen. I took out my cellular phone–“


“I TOOK OUT MY CELLULAR PHONE and turned on the flash light. The first few feet into the cave I noticed a sharp turn to the right, it was hella dark.”

“Okay, you’ve never said hella in your life…”

“It was hecka dark in there, but like I mentioned earlier, I had turned on my flashlight. So I ventured to the right, following the natural slope downwards and twist of the rock.”


“Nothing special, just rocks, dirt and a few mice bones. Then I heard it, some sound. At first I thought it was wind but as I walked forward, I realized it was singing–oh hold on, I’m getting a call. Hello? Yes, um, well I already have a phone plan but what’s your offer?”


“Hold on. Well, I have a pretty good plan now and I don’t want to deal with the hassle of switching over, thank you for calling and have a lovely day. Okay man, where was I?”

“You heard singing.”

“Right. It was singing but it was the combination of a chortling bird and an opera singer. Like Andrea Bocelli Gargling mouthwash or Placido Domingo trying to belt out ‘O sole mio while being water boarded. It was bizarre.”


“So I kept going down and saw some light at the end. Then I saw them. These giant birds, about as big as a bulldog standing on it’s hind legs, like crows but with the heads of humans. Like those 16th/17th century paintings of strange birds with human heads, just like that.”

“No way.”

“They were hopping around, like birds do when they’re excited in a cage, just doing that chortling/singing thing.”

“What did their heads look like?”

“They all looked exactly like Dolph Lundgren, you know boxers nose, block chin, and blond feathers.”

“Good thing you had your phone out.”

“Yes, it is, because with the light of the flashlight I was able to pick up one of the feathers that had fallen.”

“You didn’t take a picture?”

“Well, I was grabbing the feather, see?”

“It just looks like a feather. That could be from any bird.”

“Well, even so, how many times to come across a fuckin’ sweet ass feather?”

Potato, Elephant, Rocket

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars. Let me see if…Shit what’s the rest of it? Something about Jupiter and Mars.

“Sir, the enemy is approaching.”

“Don’t charge the elements until you see the expressions on their faces.” I thought that sounded good, strong, confident.

“Sir, that’s pretty close sir.”

“Exactly.” More confidence and strength.

“Sir, we can use our new rockets to fire at them at their current distance, sir.”

“Yes, but we have nothing to fire at them but potatoes and cans of soup.”

“I think that would hurt, sir, especially at the speed and force with which we can fire them. Canned soup at that speed is basically a cannon ball.”

“I see your thinking private, but we need that food. If all we do is bruise a few of their men, we’ll also be feeding them. I don’t know about you, but if I’m starving, I’m not above digging a spud out of the orbital socket of a dead man’s skull. What about you private?”

“Excuse me, sir?”

“I said, would you dig a potato out of a dead man’s skull if you were hungry enough?”

“I suppose so, sir.”

“Well private, I suppose the enemy would not be above such behavior either.” I tapped a cigarette on my gloved wrist.


“Here you go, sir”


I took a thoughtful drag and let the smoke come out with my next words.

“What do you think about pancakes private.”

“Pancakes, sir?”

“PANCAKES! Pillow-y spheres dripping with melted butter and sweet maple syrup. What do you think of that.”

The private looked up at the sky, as if the clouds would fall down onto a plate and the heavens would rain down syrup.

“That sounds nice, sir.”

“Indeed, private, indeed.”


The elephant reared back, like the grand finale at a barnum and bailey’s circus act. I fell from my saddle to the rear of the elephant.

My cigarette fell, just a foot from me, I reached, pinching it between two fingers. My head, suddenly hot. Everything went dark and a smell, an ungodly smell. I could hear faint voices. Was my spirit leaving my body?

“huh, ooor eeeaaad tuck eeeefaant aaasss!”

What was he saying? It was getting hard to focus. I was getting sleepy. Time for those pancakes from the sky.

“I served with General Culos, he was a confident and strong man. I think about him everyday. So let this memorial be a reminder to all of us that the enemy is not always in front of you. It can come at any moment from behind–from a behind.”

There in the town square, where General Gustavos Peditos Culos was born and raised, was erected a statue of an elephant standing, trunk saluting the sky and the torso of a man, head lost in the anus of the pachyderm, with the uniform, patches and medals of the town hero.

An err on Rowan’s meaning

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman
574 words

“I wanted you to be the first to know,” Rowan confided in me. I think. Was Rowan his name? I’m not sure. I just walked into the break room and popped open a Fresca. Now this Rowan character, whom I’ve only ever seen in office meetings and the restroom is confiding in me. Was his name Jeremy?

He seems nervous. I sense he wants to tell me something weighty and I can’t even remember his name.

While sipping my soda, he continues. “The thing is, I’ve only ever wanted you to know.” I try not to let the bubbles tickle out a swampy belch as he continues. “But I know that eventually everyone will find out, so I’m telling you now,” Jeremy said? Was his name Jeremy Rowan? Or Rowan Jeremy?

Something like thirty cubicles span the space between me and this RJ character, so why is he unloading his life on me? His badge! I can glance at the name on his employee badge. I look down at the usual badge holding locations. Shirt pocket. Damn. Belt loop. Shit.

His eyes are staring blankly into mine. I’m only half paying attention to what he is saying but I understand from over thirty years of social cues that it is my turn to respond.

“That’s cool, man.” Balls. I think that was too casual. Maybe I don’t understand. I’ll nod a few times, press my lips together and blink slowly. That looks sincere, almost brotherly. Now he’s squinting and crossing his arms. Reremy Jowan is crossing his arms?

“I’m busting out of here.” Jowan Reremy laughs and lets his face relax into a smile.

Thank the gods of social situations, Wojarn Reemy is being facetious. This isn’t a serious conversation. I’m saved. I can call him ‘buddy’, or ‘chief’, maybe even ‘sport’. The point is, I’m free.

“Good for you, man.” I go with ‘man’, it’s utilitarian. 

“Excuse me?” Merry Najowe says, lifting his eyelids up and jutting his chin towards me. He presses a finger to his right ear and says, “No, sorry, someone in the break room is talking to me.”

Sipping from the can of Fresca in my right hand, I use my left to try waving Jarme Yerwo off with the old I-had-this-running-conversation-in-my-mind-and-at-the-same-time-I-was-trying-to-figure-out-your-name-while-trying-to-appear-sincere-because-you-sounded-serious-but-were-just-being-facetious-so-now-I’m-processing-all-that-and-casually-waving-you-off look.

I’m not pulling it off.

“I’ll call you back,” says Jeemy Roranw (maybe the “w” is silent?). Wanjo yemerr pulls his finger from his ear and focuses on me. Then the words that change my life forever, come forth from his mouth. “I’m sorry, I was on the phone. You probably thought I was talking to you. What’s your name again? I’ve seen you around, but I can’t remember it.”

So confident, straightforward and kind, he asked for my name with no excuses. Wenermy Jr. shows me a level of class my introverted mind has never fathomed before this moment. Aoeey Wjrrm blows my mind. He is a social genius. I take a loud sip of my Fresca trying to find the words.

With the bubbles still burning my throat, I force out a raspy whisper, “It’s Simon.”

“Well Simon, it’s nice to meet you. I’ll see you around.” He claps me on the shoulder and walks out of the room. Wanormy Reej leaves me with a foundational building block for constructing my retarded-above-average social IQ and my Grapefruit with Lime soda.

I think about how I’ll never forget Wanjo Yererm, or whatever his name is.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

Juicy, Cynical, Spit

The little bitch whined all night. A heavy sigh with a whimpering high c-note at the end. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had just quite smoking, the dog would still be alive. That incessant whimpering crawled into my ears, clamped down into my brain and roared into the area that inspires rage. You might call what happened next cynical.

“STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPPPPPPPPPP! SHUT THE FUCK UP!” Spit flew all over the kitchen. My vocal cords vibrated, and squeezed together, forcing me to cough. For two, maybe three seconds the dog lay quiet. Then started its whine again. With each breath a whimper, so soft and pathetic but each one built up a wave that lapped at my sub-consciousness. Until I whipped around and stood up, lifting my chair above my head and slamming it down next to the sad beast.

Now it shivered. I shivered as well, holding two splintered legs of my only kitchen table chair. I was blind with anger.

The fucking dog kept whining. I picked it up and shoved it outside, into the snow. Then I grabbed the lighter and began touching the flame to everything that would catch. All around the house, I danced and paused, kissing the lighter to the corners of paintings, books, magazines, towels, jackets, shirts, anything reaching out its pursed lips to make out with my lighter.

I no longer shivered as the house glowed with oranges and reds. I tossed the lighter into the dirty clothes hamper and grabbed an un-kissed jacket from my bedroom chair. I threw it on and went outside to keep my dog company. It’s whimpering no longer affecting my mood but reflecting them. Its whimpering echoing the same hopeless sadness and anger I felt every waking moment of my life.

Now that life was burning 10 feet from where I stood in the snow, keeping me warm and melting the billions of frozen flakes around my feet.

I patted the dog on the head, who seemed to stop whining when I joined it outside, and watched that little bitch of a life filled with empty things burn. I patted my dog and we stayed warm.

Through the sliding glass door, I heard something hiss and gush, something that sounded juicy. Then I heard a shriek, followed by a pop. Shit, I forgot about the cat.

Pushy, Collect, Hulking

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

She kept insisting that I should purchase a red handkerchief, “handmade and lasts forever.”

Great but I don’t want a handkerchief. I told her this over and again.

I was only in the shop to send a package. In the back of the shop someone, her son I think, was getting the labels and everything.

For waiting customers, the owners had items for purchase on display. There were a number of Nascar hats, greeting cards, various candy bars and energy pills. There were also scarves and handkerchiefs.

A combination of items that I imagined slipped out of the trailers of various trucks.

I had made the mistake of sniffer. The lady jumped at the chance.

“You need this handkerchief, it’s only five dollars.” Then began our dance of the Pushy’s and No’s.

No thank you.

It’s a great deal.

I don’t need a handkerchief. I have Kleenex in the car.

Two for five dollars.

Is he almost done with my package?

Two for five dollars and any candy bar of your choice.

I turned at this point to look at the TV behind me in the upper right corner of the room. It had turned on during our banter.

It was the news. The anchor had on an ill-fitting suit. The studio behind him looked like some back room somewhere. He was finishing coverage on a story about the phenomenal cultural shift towards buying greetings cards for every occasion. The next story was a news break:

“This just in, a new law was passed in California banning the use of tissue. Lobbyists for Kleenex are pushing back. The move toward banning Tissue was inspired by the discontinued use of plastic bags by retail stores across the country. Authorities say that using tissue could result in fines of up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison.”

I looked at the lady, frowning.

The guy from the back came out holding my package. In his hulking frame the golf clubs I was shipping looked like a box of toothpicks.

“Handkerchief is now $50.”

“I don[t want the handkerchief, just the package shipped please.”

The two of them spoke in a language I didn’t understand and realized I was getting squeezed no matter what.

If I wasn’t going to fall for their news story, the package carrying hulk would collect.

I paid for my shipping and purchased a nice handkerchief for $200 U.S. A steal, what with the current tissue ban and all.

Dangerous, Adjustment, Ache

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by https://wordcounter.net/random-word-generator

A limp. A fucking limp. That’s what I’m left with now. I was carrying groceries from the car to my house, maybe 20 steps away and I misremembered the step leading from the front door into the living room.

Like collapsing a tent pole, all the bones in my leg broke in a chain reaction; the ankle popped, pushing up my tibia and fibula up into my knee cap with a crunch, bruising my femur and dislocating my hip. Or at least that was the doctors best guess according to my account and the x-ray.

The good news is, I no longer have to carry the groceries. I think I’ve already mentioned the bad news.

Of all the things in the world that are constantly trying to injure, maim and kill us, it was my memory and pride that landed me here.

“Take one bag of groceries at a time,” my mom used to say.

“Take one bag of groceries at a time,” my wife used to say.

“Why make 3, 4, or 5 trips when I can make one.” I used to say.

Who knew it would be so dangerous? Not I. Who knows it can be dangerous? I do, now.

I’m getting nearly recovered, or at least to the closest recovery I’ll be able to get to. I can walk with a limp but I can walk. When it rains or is about to rain, my bones ache but I can walk.

My buddy helps with the groceries. He’s the neighbor across the street. He carries them in, two at a time (show-off) and leaves them for me on the counter. I can manage putting them away.

Except for today, I don’t always need to buy flour, so I keep it on the top shelf, just out of reach.

Well, I’m not an invalid, I can still do things. So I lift up my good leg onto the counter below, then I pull up the bad one, so I’m kneeling next to the salt, olive oil and cook books.

I grab the flour and just edge it over the lip of the shelf. It’s sticking out, so I reach and feel everything stretching, from finger to shoulder to back to hips to toes.

Losing my balance, I fall backwards. My neck slams down on an open cabinet door below, which snaps my head one way and my body the other.

A wheelchair. A fucking wheel chair. That’s what I’m left with now. I’ll have to make another minor adjustment to my routine but at least I don’t have to carry in my groceries or put them away.


Ocean, Ketchup, Shoe

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320

The ketchup bottle was nearly empty. It was plastic and so every squeeze became a foreshadowing of the private storms I would experience after the meal.

It wasn’t the food that was bad. No, in fact it was quite good, albeit unhealthy. It was the motion of the boat rocking along in the chop of the Northern Atlantic. It would be a wonder if I could finish the meal without a brisk walk to the room while tightening my sphincter, out of necessity rather than for pleasure.

So far, the walks had looked like I was holding a water balloon filled with undercooked chili between my legs. My shoes shuffling from deck to carpet. Toes extending, reaching down to each step with speed and agility, always mindful of the thin bladder full of steamy soup.

It was the cheeseburger and fries that finally poked through the stretched skin of the bladder. Of all the exotic foods I’d eaten, it was to be the most familiar to me that would burst me open too soon and spill my pride out in front of everyone in the over crowded buffet.

In the moment, my heart stopped and I felt my tight grip on that ‘oh so under appreciated nether cavity’ loosen. The room slowed and just before the dam burst, I scanned the room in slow motion, taking in all of the meals I’d had during the two weeks on board.

Wisps of steam curled away from the beef stroganoff, a heaping pile of chicken and potato curry falling into a bed of rice, barbecue braised short ribs dripping onto the plate of a man with sweat glistening from his jiggling turkey neck, bread pudding slopping onto a plate, ice cream swirling, lobster cracking, egg yolks spilling, then my eyes turned down to my own plate. I had thought the burger my safest choice.

As my pants filled, my head began shaking feverishly and I thought, “Et tu, burger?”

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Instant, Moose, Pyramid

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ciao.katia

“Just come to a meeting, we can give you more details there.”

“Why can’t you just tell me what it is?”

“I could but Simon is much better at explaining this than I am. Also, I want to make sure you’re the right fit and that you feel comfortable with the rest of us.”

“This sounds like some sort of cult or pyramid scheme,” I said.

Ralphie chuckled before answering.

“Simon said people would respond like that. He said most people were afraid to really step out of their comfort zones.”

“Simon said that?”

“Yeah, he’s inspiring and just great. I can’t wait for you to meet him.”

I took a deep breath. I’ve known Ralphie for 20 years and I can’t believe how he isn’t able to hear himself talk. I mean ‘Simon says’? Am I in the Matrix?

“Can you at least tell me the name of the company and what it is you sell or do?”

Now Ralphie took a deep breath, as if secret business was a good idea. Well, drugs, guns, porn, buying and selling sub-prime mortgages, I suppose there aren’t billboards for those businesses and they’ll never file for bankruptcy. But I doubt sweet Ralphie was involved in anything like that.

Ralphie finally answered. “Okay, I’ll tell you the name of the business if you promise to come to one meeting. Deal?”


“Deal, what’s the name of the business?”

“Der Moose.”

“Der Moose?”

“Der Moose.”

“Is it German, like ‘the Moose’?”

“Come to a meeting and you’ll find out.”

Well now I was actually intrigued, not suckered in but intrigued by the suckers and how they could be suckered.

Fast forward to the meeting. It was as expected. The meeting was in a strip mall room, between a dollar store and a “wireless provider.”

The room had a podium at the front, a few folding chairs facing it and a table with powdered doughnuts from a box and coffee.

Behind the podium, against the wall were large wooden crates. The kind that reminded me of Archeologists or the Cartel. The ones you pry open with a crowbar and then immediately zoom into the face of the opener to see their reaction.

The meeting went exactly as expected. A guy with too much gel and an overly large suit clapped and jumped around talking about “instant cash”, “residual income”, “let your money work for you!”

Blah Blah
Blah Blah Blah
Pyramid Scheme

Finally, with much sweat and grunting, Simon shifted a crate toward us. The name on the side was “Dermmoose.”

Not German but now more intriguing.

He pried open the box to reveal a dead moose carcass and, as he explained, all the tools and materials necessary to taxidermy your own Moose at home.

And at that moment, I thought, this might be something they go for in Canada.