What it’s like to meet a wonderful woman in the midst of divorce.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s like washing up on shore after shipwreck and a two-day storm. You need time to figure out what happened, where you are but you still get down on your knees and kiss the sand.

It’s like wandering through the desert for 28 days. You’re thirsty, hungry, lips cracked, skin red and aching but you’re grateful for the water at the oasis. However, you’re still wondering what happened, where you are.

It’s like crawling for hundreds of miles on your elbows and knees and someone, suddenly, helps you to stand. You are grateful and relieved but also feeling tired and looking down at your bloody joints.

It’s like buying a plot of land, planting one thousand seeds, watering, weeding and watching the plants grow, for years, until at the point of harvest, they bear fruit and someone comes at gun point to take it from you. You wander off the property and are suddenly given land that is double the size with fruit ready to be picked. You wonder how, why, where you are and what happened but you’re all at once grateful, excited and ready to move on. At the same time, you’re wondering what happened, always wondering what happened.

It is getting divorced and finding, on the same day, a girl, a woman, who touches your arm and says, “hi.” Six months later, you’re in love but, you’re wondering where you are and what happened. You’re grateful, excited and ready to move on but at the same time you’re wondering what happened, always wondering what happened, so that you’re not doomed to repeat your mistakes with the unicorn who touched your arm and said hello.

April 28, 2020

Evening on the patio.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Living alone is survival. Life is being in a relationship. Life is a relationship. it’s strapping into a roller coaster with someone else and taking the ride. It’s seeing that person as the moment.

I wish I had taken more photos and videos of our time together. There is no poetry in that last sentence, only a cold realization. I have only memories and those fade and morph into abstract shapes. Blurry lines that only just begin to provoke a feeling. A photograph shakes the rest of the memory awake, giving that moment a life in the mind.

I was mistaken. The moment to be lived was not the place where we were or the thing we were doing. The moment was her. It was her reaction to the view, her laughter during the show, her smile after dessert. That was the moment and I missed it. I missed them and now they’re fading, leaving me with only lines and abstract shapes.

I came outside, after sobbing in bed, to write. Pincher pugs crawl everywhere and, though I don’t see them, crickets chirp.

I happened to pause and look up at the night sky, exactly at the moment that a shooting star entered the atmosphere and disappeared milliseconds later. That has happened to me more times than I can remember.

It was told to me, or maybe I read it somewhere, that to see a shooting star is an extremely rare occurrence. Not for me.

My instinct is to ask what it means. What everything means. What does it mean that I seem to see an unusual amount of shooting stars? If it is, in fact, unusual.

I’ve learned to stop myself, however, from asking those unanswerable questions of meaning. Rather than appreciate a thing for what it is, my mind moves to construct some larger, overarching truth that must apply to me. A virus that attaches to my brain and distracts me from what is, by pushing my mind to think about what must be. It manifests itself in religion, ideologies, and philosophies by feeding me thoughts that reaffirm or justify my actions. A virus that blinds me to the simple truths directly in front of me by forcing my mind to interpret instead what I wish to see.

The first step is admitting to myself that I am infected by the virus of meaning. I must admit to myself that everything I see, hear, smell, taste or touch does not necessarily bare itself into some greater truth. the virus, like a giant rolling ball of tar, picks up those things and tells me they are all related to the never-ending monologue in my mind.

That everything has meaning to me or that there lies somewhere in the depths of the ocean a cosmic truth that is false.

The next step I take will be in the wrong direction. I’m flickering. I’m not receiving any signals. The channels are fuzzy and the batteries in the remote are dead. I have nothing but the buzz of static to keep me company. No regularly scheduled programs, no advertisements, just a fork in the road and no information in my head. The glow of my screen the only source of light. A television with nothing to show. A television with no shows.

Then I met the girl that showed me the stars, that showed me her scars and the channel switched and the show changed. I changed. I can see something new, something new. Something better.

Race, Cry, Item

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Starter pistols tuned
to octaves heard by few
rabbits sprint ahead
tortoise’ lumber through

furs blur
cotton tails fly
shells drag
Heads stir

Cataloging status
caterwauling malice
hare dares to stop
tortoise keeps his clop

quickly darting all positions
Slowly, slowly moving on
rabbit rests
tortoise tests

tortoise never rests
rabbit seems to test
finish line in view
rabbit stops for stew

cracking feet
steady beat
tortoise seize
the rat-race cheese

springing feet
halting beat
rabbit freeze
its cocky knees

line is crossed
rabbit lost
rabbit cries
tortoise never stops

Presence, Genuine, Recommendation

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Haunting impressions of weight all around
Hairs raise, spine tingles, eyes dart
Feelings unnoticed when presence is visible

Not seen, indescribable
Not truly what something is said to be

Authority proposes, recommends, imposes
Impotent listen
all are blind

All have a key, a few have influence
Some listen, some give orders

Chaos, agent of too many free thinkers
Order, agent of few thinkers
chaos is order with none of the rules and all of the consequences

I think
I drink
I think
I drink

Sex, Win, Deposit

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

Nose lost in cascading curls of hair
tongue tapping ear drums
flesh taught with bumps

Torso writhing
slipping on sweat beaded skin
sweet sweat

Adventurous fingers
traversing dunes, peaks and valleys
pushing in territorial flags

Allied conquistadors
Friendly foe
Choreographed wrestling

Negotiating deposits
Salivary transactions
biting lips, grabbing hips

Incan, Aztec, Roman, Egyptian
Games played ancient
always two winners

Topple, Rebellion, Penny

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The Penny Rebellion started with an Instagram user, @toppletopkym. He was wearing a mask, as was the necessary trend of the time, to decrease the spread of the virus. Short videos of the rich and famous had spread of them showing mountains of paper money. So user, ToppleTopKYM, filmed a short video of his own. Up to that video, his account was frequented by family and friends, mostly concerned family and curious acquaintances, not so much friends.

ToppleTopKYM mimicked the other videos. Where as they would lay on their beds on top of piles of paper money, or hold stacks in their hands and swipe single sheets into the air until they floated down in a confetti of money, he converted his meager income into pennies. Using the camera on his phone, ToppleTopKYM made a series of split-screen videos where he mimicked the celebrities and their braggadocios content but with pennies. He laid on his bed making a snow angel out of copper, while next to him a clean-cut A-lister pretended to do the breast stroke through a pile of 100 dollar bills. He through pennies in the air and let them clank to the ground while next to that video played a man with sunglasses indoors and a gold chain making it rain 100 dollar bills.

He made these videos for quite a while, not really gaining any notice, until he made a post simply titled Penny Rebellion. This video began with the screen split. A chubby man was tied up in a throne on one side with stacks and loose piles of cash around him. On the other side of the screen sat ToppleTopKYM in a metal folding chair with towers of pennies. On his side of the screen, he began striking matches and throwing them at the pennies. He did this a few times before shrugging, then turning towards the other screen. He struck a match and began tossing it towards the stacks and piles of paper money. The man in the throne widened his eyes.

ToppleTopKYM, after unsuccessfully lighting either of the piles, metal or paper, walked to the throne side, revealing they were in the same room. Then he struck a match and held it to a pile at the foot of the throne. Smoke slowly rose, then a small flame and then the whole pile was alight. ToppleTopKYM walked back to his metal chair and sat down, scratching his head comically. He lit a match and held it to the pennies until the flame burned his fingers. He tried again and again.

By this time the tied up man was screaming but they were muffled by the gag in his mouth. Then ToppleTopKYM walked towards the camera and said, “Fire licks Metal until it’s black but it eats paper until it becomes ash.”

Then ToppleTopKYM turned and began kicking the towers of pennies. When they were flattened, he turned to the burning paper and began kicking them onto the throne while the king on the throne tried to scream. The video ended mid kick and scream.

This video went viral. People started making their videos showing their wealth in pennies. People began paying for everything in pennies, and it was legal tender, businesses lost countless hours counting. Then the videos took on a life of their own. There were videos of how to make bullets, knives and even guns out of pennies. People got tattoos of pennies and graffiti-ed images of pennies all over the buildings where they lived.

Then it became a movement. “Show us your pennies.” Meaning, show us you’re one of us.

Politicians, terrified, always terrified of losing their image began making speeches about how their fathers and grandfathers came to this country with nothing but two pennies in their pockets. To that the people replied, “show us your pennies.”

After much violence, spectacle and shifting of power the people grew tired of using so many papers. They eventually went back to paper and its practicality; it could be folded, you could carry a lot and ultimately it wasn’t about the currency, but really more about the pricks who flaunted it, or pretended not to.

And that, was the Penny Rebellion.

Trace, Estimate, Satisfaction

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

His fingers traced the groove that ran down the center of the barrel of the gun. The pointer finger taking a sharp right turn down to the end of the handle.

“And you know how to use that sweaty?” He licked his lips after he said it.

Her thumb clicked the safety off and moved up to the hammer, cocking it back. She double squeezed the trigger as if clicking a computer mouse. One, two shots went into his chest. The second bullet assisted the first through his chest cavity, and past T5 and T6 of the thoracic vertebrae. Her employers required such details so they could verify them with the coroners office and newspapers.

He was wide eyed and taking short halting breaths.

“To answer your question, yes, I do know how to use this thing.” She let it flop back and forth in her hand. “It’s pretty easy really, just squeeze. It’s like using a weed whacker or hand blender. Pretty straight forward.” She holstered the gun in her bra and put her white gloves back on.

“If I had to guess, you have about 10 to 15 minutes of living left to do. That’s a gift in my book, not many people are given the satisfaction of knowing how much time they have before, well you know.” She sat with her legs crossed, bouncing her right foot over her left and her hands stacked on her right knee.

“You…” he tried to say something but the effort produced bloody spittle on his lips.

“If I were you I would take time to review your surroundings. Start with this beautiful hard wood floor and work your way over the Persian rugs, carefully laid over one another as if haphazard, follow them to the base boards and their precision cuts all the way around the room. Take in the eggplant colored walls and up to the crown molding with its striking bevels, curves and lines so elegantly dividing the wall from the ceiling. Take in the Spanish style texture of the white ceiling and follow that to the center piece of the room, the French empire crystal chandelier. Note how it’s trimmed by Swarovski crystals. I bet you never bothered before today, huh?” She winked at him.

His eyes were glazing over but he laid back and stared straight up at the bell shaped light fixture dangling above him.

“If you don’t mind, I’m in a bit of a hurry, so as you pass I’m going to search your pockets for the information I am required to find. I’ll do that now.” She paused, as if waiting for permission, seeing him blink she proceeded.

Bus, Defeat, Miracle

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

He hopped on, paid the fair and took an open bench seat towards the back. Someone had vomited in the seat across the aisle from him. Gripping the handle above him, swaying with the bus, he lifted himself into the window seat and stared out.

The rain drops on the window made all the head lights look like shooting stars passing him. No one was walking the streets. Homeless were huddled at bus shelters, doorways and underneath shop overhangs.

Then, once again, he thought about her, a new her, a more recent her. As quickly as it had begun it had ended and instead of the hurt subsiding, it was rising again.

He lowered his sleeve by raising his arm and twisting his wrist to check the time. 40 minutes to get home, review what he had written so far, think about the new direction for the project and then call Larry. The new project was about his divorce but he couldn’t stop thinking about the girl friend he had had shortly after signing all the paperwork. He had lost her too.

Maybe lost wasn’t the right word, she had come and gone. He had to sit with that. Accept it and not hold onto it. It was too easy, with everything that had happened over the past year and a half, to not view things as defeats stacking up. He was winning in defeats. He snorted and smiled to himself, checking the neighborhood they were in. Two more stops.

No one saw the smile because of the mask he wore, everyone wore. The pandemic was still raging and he thought about how much social distancing he had already lost, now this “act of god.” It would be nice to experience a miracle some time soon rather than disaster after disaster.

One more stop. The bus pulled away from the curb and he watched the red and blue lights of a cop car across the street. They bounced all inside the bus when they passed.

He had to force himself to think about the story. At first a good idea. Taking his recent experience with divorce and creating a fictional horror out of it, exaggerating the feeling of loneliness, strangeness of the once familiar and the questions of what he had done wrong.

The bus stopped, he grabbed his bag and jogged around the corner to his building. Someone was exiting and held the door for him.

“Thank you.” he said passing.

“No problem, it’s nice to catch a brake sometimes.” The old woman laughed and let the door slip from her hand.

He kept going, trying to force himself to think of the story, to write what he knew but be separate enough from it to tell it coherently. Unlocking the door, he nearly tripped over his dog, Marty who was nearly seizing from excitement.

“Marty! Not now. I got work to do, bud.”

Setting his bag on his desk, he pulled out the notes he had begun taking. Reviewing all the acts and asking himself, what small details can I add that provide some relief to the heaviness of the story?

Ladder, Boat, Housewife

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

She came out of the water dripping. A scene of a movie during a time when movies objectified women. Could have been last Summer’s blockbuster. I digress. She paused at the aluminum ladder dipping into the water from the dock. She pulled herself up a rung to get her mouth and nose out of reach of the wake washing over her. A speed boat passed a few meters away, probably not seeing her. I’m sure it wouldn’t have passed so fast had she been standing on the dock, her full person visible.

After a few minutes she came the rest of the way out of the water and grabbed her towel resting next to a coil of rope. Drying her hair, she laid out the towel and sat down. Another boat passed, this one slowing its engine to a low growl when passing the dock. The men in the vessel, a cigarette boat, hooted, whistled and hollered at her. She laughed to herself, not out of flattery but because her 31 years of life had taught her a new law of nature, when she appeared, men gawked.

Now she was a housewife. Married to a man who had at one time had dreams. He had since achieved them but still rarely came home. He cheated. She wasn’t stupid. But she still knew, at one time, there love was true. She hadn’t sacrificed most of her 20’s waiting for him to finish medical school, then residency, then research, trials and awards. His ambition seemed to know no bounds and his cock didn’t either.

She stood up, grabbed her towel and walked up the dock toward their lake house. She passed through the tennis courts, pool, fountains and eventually made it to the open french doors leading into the back of the kitchen. Her bare feet slapped against the polished concrete floors, wet from the grass leading back to the house. She stopped at the fridge to grab a beer. Propping the cap against the counter and tilting the bottle at an angle, she slammed down her right hand, sending the cap spinning somewhere around the marble counters and tink-tink tinking down onto the concrete.

She had all the things her mother and father, church, school, friends and acquaintances told her she would want. But she didn’t. They told her she could live to a ripe old age, keep her looks up to her sixties and never want for anything. She would have rather lived 3-5 short years with a convict, running from the law, staying in cheap hotels with single digits in their names than to sit in luxuries lap, just waiting for something to move.

She took the winding staircase one step at a time into the master bedroom. She stepped into the shower and rinsed off. Another day to kill. Too much time and no life.

Crystal, Axis, Angst

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

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

There is an angst that comes with the threat of suicide. Not one’s own, but that of one someone loves. It’s jarring. I love you so much so why would you not love yourself? That’s the question I find myself asking. Where will you go? If you are away from me, what will I do? Where will I be? How much time will it take me to get back on the path of “being okay”?

If I allow anyone to rotate around my axis, to be my moon and stars, how long will it be before they leave me? What have I been doing or not doing that removes them from my orbit? I am not the center of the universe but I like to gaze at the other stars, moons, planets and suns that grace me with their presence.

Don’t leave me. You’re light refracts from me. It reflects from me. I enjoy it’s rays coming to and through me. If your light is not there I am afraid of the darkness that will take over. I may find a new light but it will never uncover the shadows you have left.

A few have left me. A few leave everyone. Confused and contemplative of where we are left when those we love go away, whether from time or death, we stay and think. So I am here thinking.

I do not know where my crystals have gone. What will guide the light towards me when they are gone? When you are gone?

To punch the truth in the nose, why do some of my friends message me via text and never respond? “Hey, let’s hang out!” “Okay, what days and times work best for you?” I reply. But there is never a reply to mine.

Where will you go if you are not with me? Am I not adequate enough? because I feel that you are adequate enough for me, more than adequate. I love you but you leave me. So what do your words mean when they don’t match your actions?

A kitchen knife down the veins of a forearm. A car sitting idle in the garage. A man swimming out as far as he can to make sure he can’t swim back to the sand that grounds him.

Beast, River, Turbulent

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

It’s a gorgeous creature. I can see it from the burbling banks. I’m sitting behind a tree. The low leaves and uncut foliage provide enough cover for me, but not for… whatever I’m looking at.

The silky white skin pops out from the greens and browns of the forest. It approaches the water one step at a time, looking around with every gentle paw print.

Then the thunder clapped. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a flash of lightening. I didn’t flinch, my gaze fixed on the creature. I forgot about my hunger. I forgot I about my thirst. Maybe I just ignored my basic needs. The creature moved so elegantly on the other side of Sacramento. In between us the sound of rushing water. I was able to ignore that too.

I stubbed out my cigarette. The smoke would be a signal. The burning cherry a red eye in the middle of the forest. Looking through the scope, the creature looked around one more time before bending over to lap up the river water.

The creatures pause gave me a chance to look at it through the cross hairs of the scope. An elegant white skin with bright orange dots all over. Something I’ve never seen before.

Long arms that bent like a bulldogs. Legs that rippled with muscle. Hair that ran from it’s head down to where I imagined some sort of sexual organ. I was attracted but not sure what sort of creature I was looking at.

My knees shook from sitting for so long. The rifle dipped and I gripped it with a “Click.” The creature looked up, seemingly straight at me, through the scope and into whatever part of me people call the soul.

I was terrified to breathe. What I had considered a burbling brook a few minutes ago seemed now like a turbulent vortex. It started to rain.

The creature looked up to the sky and roared.

I watched, now with my rifle lowered. Across the banks, I realized it was twice as big as me. It pawed at the dirt, backing up a few paces and began to charge the river bank. Just before touching the water, it leapt.

It seemed to hang in the air for an hour. I stayed in my position with the rifle’s barrel digging into the dirt. I was too enamored with the creature.

Just before it landed in front of me and roared I thought how I would do everything to make sure the creature would exist, forever.

Right in front of me, the creature opened it’s mouth, revealing yellow piles of teeth. Sharp and dripping with saliva.

Before the beast took its bite, I wiped away a bit of saliva so I could watch. It grabbed my throat and shook. I didn’t put up a fight.

If I could nourish such a magnificent creature, then I was doing the lord’s work, as grandpa would say.

Preference, Suffer, Acquaintance

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

The drums beat a steady rhythm like a soldiers march, like a heartbeat like the rhythms of men and women making life and love. The wailing song that emerged was born of terror, rage and sadness from the men lured into the ocean by mermaids.

Fishermen and hunters, beards long, skin rough and muscles taught, they would wander too close to the crags jutting like teeth from the mouth of the bay. Mermaids would sing their sweet songs and bare their full bosoms. The men didn’t stand a chance. As they waded in the water, eyes fixed to the breasts above them, they didn’t see or feel the mermaids pulling them below the surface. No suffering, just a gurgled sigh as they drowned in delight.

The women, looking for their men would kneel in front of the waters edge and submerge their heads under the waves. This is where they heard the steady beat of their loved ones hearts.

The Mermaids of since gone. Living deep below the waves as men became more beastly and developed tools that helped them get what they want without the sacrifice of death. After the ages of machines and convenience, the mermaids traded souls for legs of their own.

Sometimes, when men wander by themselves, walking along the beach, pier or harbor, they meet a mysterious woman with an ancient familiarity, an acquaintance to the DNA swimming around in all men. They’ll fall on their knees and beg to be held, their beards hitting the ground. The mermaids, mute, place their own hands on top of the kneeling men, smothering them in between their bosoms, stomachs or thighs.

No screams or tortured cries, just a soft sigh as the men pass from this world with awe and delight. A much preferred death to the violence of battle, tangles with machinery and the 1000 little cuts other women sometimes inflict on their victims without the pleasure.

Stick your head beneath the waves and you’ll hear Poseidon’s hymn, the heartbeats of satisfied men, tortured by delight.

Bake, Defenestration, Plaza

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

“It’s one quarter for the defenestration, a dollar for fenestration and an extra two bucks to choose the vehicle.” I fingered the two dimes and nickel in my pocket, wondering if I was attractive enough to talk to the lady working the front desk of the “Crimes and Felonies Simulation Center” into letting me choose the vehicle with out the extra two clams.

I took a step back, looking through the window across the plaza at the “Misdemeanors and Minor Offenses Simulation Center,” tucked between the dollar store and the empty one forever hanging a lease sign. I could get more thrills at “Minor Offenses” but the quality, you can’t skimp on quality.

Slapping my three coins on the counter, I said, “I’ll get defenestrated today.” I grabbed some copper from the “take a penny, leave a penny” tray and said, “which vehicles can I select with this.”

Without changing her expression, or tone, she said, “Tell you what, I’ll run the simulation myself. Follow me, sir.”

We walked through the shop, I could hear screaming, thuds, cracks, shattering glass, grunts, wet gurgling and all the sounds a comfortable middle class boy like myself doesn’t often get to hear or experience outside of movies and video games.

We stepped outside to the back of the shop. Parked net to a dumpster was a Ford Taurus, somewhere from the early 90’s.

“Get in.” she said, already shutting the door behind her. I knew where this was going, she would tell me not to wear my seat belt, hit top speed and send me flying through the windshield, but she was hot so I ignored my brain.

She drove, her hands ten and two, no radio, stopping at every light, keeping two car lengths between the vehicles in front. Textbook safe driving. We pulled up to a bakery and she said, “get out.”

Together, we went into the shop. I smelled cinnamon, pastries and apple pie. It was like walking into grandma’s house on Christmas. “One croissant for me and whatever he’s having.” I looked at all the deliciousness on display and selected a cream-filled pastry, “That one.” I pointed.

With pastries in hand we got back in the car. I closed the door behind me and bit into my baked good. The outside was flaky and crumbled in my mouth. Then my tongue hit the warm cheesy filling and I closed my eyes.

My eyes were nailed shut with shards of glass. I felt warm liquid trickling down my head and neck. My face grated against the gravel leaving skin, muscle and tissue on the asphalt behind me as I slid forward. Like soft Gouda between the holes of a grater. My veins and arteries snapping and popping as I traveled forward. The blood vessels twisting and shriveling as they came in contact with the air.

I felt my legs and waist folding over the back of my head as my momentum carried me forward. My face, the sole of a 12-year-olds Vans as she skids her foot on the ground to slow her bike.

My back snapped. My shoulders popped out of socket. My face skin worn away, my skull chipping off and my teeth flying out like corks around the world on New Years Eve. My body stopped and everything was black.

The next voice I heard was gods.

“Thank you for choosing Crimes and Felonies Simulation Center for your real life experiences. Be sure to get out of your chair slowly as your mind may still be adjusting to reality. The light will fade up slowly and then it will be safe to exit.”

25 cents well spent.

Rugby, Shy, Shine

Flat-nosed. Ears like used tinfoil. Arms, legs and a neck like chiseled stone from a sculpture still in progress.

Ashley stood on the sideline of his final game, waiting for the coach to put him in. His knees and spine had only enough thread for 3 or 4 more scrums. Only the adrenaline from the roar of the crowd and the knowledge that millions of viewers around the world were watching at home. He just waited for the clock to stop before entering the game.

In an interview the day before, the reporter had asked why Ashley had not opted for the Rejuv. Procedures. Athletes at the age of retirement were extending their careers, and their 7 figure contracts, by the 10’s, 20’s and 30’s. Why had Ashley decided against it.

Whistles blew and the clock stopped. The coach twirled his hands around indicating a switch, when the line referee lifted up the placard with his number, the stadium came alive. They chanted his name and stomped their feet.

“Ashley, Ashley, Ashley…”

Ashley put up a hand, waving as he approached the young teammate whom he was replacing. They hugged and Ashley tussled his hair, playing up his image of the older player.

The whistle blew again, but the crowd still chanted his name. Ashley barely realized that he had already locked into the pile of the scrum. His muscles taking over for memory, they began pushing the pile toward the goal line. The rock came loose and the younger players ran, lateraled and jumped until the next scrum.

Ashley’s neck was sending images to his brain. Images of frayed wires barely connected, a rope swinging in the middle of an old, rickety mine shaft, scissors hovering over the last wire connecting a bomb. Before the impact, Ashley knew this would be the last hit his body would withstand.

As a kid watching his idols play on TV, Ashley realized all his favorites eventually had to stop playing. his eyes would shine with sadness but there was the anticipation of new players with different styles and personalities.

Then Ashely started playing professionally and many of his idols had returned, thanks to the Rejuv. procedures. New players were rarer everyday, until the league was filled with players able to continue their careers. But Ashley noticed that no one player really stood out anymore.

Ashley blinked. His eyes watered and his nose curled. Smelling salts.

This was it. He couldn’t move, yet, his legs tingled, his back ached and the crowd was silent. He had earned this without enhancement and would be forever remembered because of it. This was an ending.

Nonstop, Shine, Beggar

He was back again at the dinner table. His mother, father and sister were sitting around him, eating. The sound of the TV in the other room droning at a low volume. Looking at the faces of his family around him, he reached for a bowl of mashed potatoes but they were just out of his grasp. Then his mother turned to him and said, “Look at this mother fucker, just shining.”

His eyes popped open. A few yards from him, walking away, two people looked back at him, one of them laughing. He sat up, pushing himself against the stone entryway of Citizens bank downtown. The same dream, still haunting him nonstop. No matter what he did to his mind or body, that dream always came back.

He grabbed his bag and threw on a jacket before wandering to his spot where he’d hold out a cup and shake it for spare change. In the tourist spots, he always made enough to at least buy a sandwich from McDonalds but he was out of his potions and elixirs that helped him forget. Not even a beer in his possession.

“Look at this mother fucker, just shining.” The comment played back in his mind. Someone returning home from a long night of partying must have seen the print on his shirt. A black t-shirt with silver glittery print that read Shine. It was just a shirt. He grabbed it from a donated bag of clothes behind the Salvation Army store. He never liked going into the store because it was usually filled with kids in their teens and twenties laughing and trying on old clothes for fun.

Elderly, Party, Month

Looking up at the stars, Henry got the impression of being in a box. Like breathing holes in cardboard, the little pokes of light taunted him. Later that morning, when the sun covered up the sky, he would be at a meeting of his entire company. At some point, he would be asked to present the progress of his project: a review of competitors and their presence in the marketplace compared to the company for which he worked.

More than the presentation he had to give, Henry dreaded the party that would come after. A forced affair in which those at the top would goad those under them to drink. Those in the middle, feeling the tension of normal workplace decor become loosened, would oblige. Those who left were usually not at the company the next month.

Thinking about these things, he wondered what his thoughts about the stars being breathing holes had to do with anything at his job. Perhaps he felt trapped, but that seemed obvious, something that his star analogy didn’t need to explain. Perhaps he was wondering if he had reached his peak. The highest level of success in the workplace of which he was capable, and from that level you could see the light poking through the holes in the whole thing.

Henry snuffed out his cigarette in the little square patch of dirt in his backyard and went inside. He patted his cat on the head and got ready for the day, laying out his suit and tie before showering.

Henry groaned as he got out of bed. His back popping and snapping as he stretched. It was still dark out. He grabbed a cigarette from the night stand and went to his back patio. The dew from the grass and the absence of sun sent a cold shiver through his body.

Ever since retiring, Henry had woken up before dawn with no alarm. As a young man he’d imagined all of the creative projects on which he would have time to work. Lighting his cigarette, he thought about all the energy of youth he had spent on getting to this point and now, with all the time in the world, he found his energy depleted.

Looking up at the stars, Henry got the impression of being in a box. Like breathing holes in cardboard, the little pokes of light taunted him.

Ring, Bitter, Detach

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

The duplex shook from the beats and the dancing. No conversations were really had. A few people mouthed words at each other but no one could tell if they were actually speaking.

Standing on the weaker spots of the hard wood floor, your eyes couldn’t adjust because of the vibrations.

For days after, attendees complained about the constant ringing echoing in their heads. When they compared notes they realized the ring was pulling their attention from anything else.

The part was one of those events that you can recall in slow motion in your head. I wonder if that has always happened or if movies created that phenomena?

Wrists hanging in the air and flopping in time to music. The guy walking sideways through everyone, looking pale, trying to make it to the bathroom or at least outside. The girl with her eyes closed, detached from everyone around her, just dancing.

The memory stays long in the mind, perhaps fuzzy around the edges but still pulled into sharp focus. An experience of many bodies becoming one body of positive energy.

A good party is the euphoria preachers attribute to heavenly things. Their tone beginning to sound bitter about putting off instant pleasure when they elaborate and expound for hours on how great the rewards after death will be.

A good party and the memory of having been there, swaying with the rest. god’s breath moving all the blades of grass to and fro in unison. but a god isn’t necessary to the partiers.

Or perhaps I was drunk and it wasn’t so great. The memory, though is still a good one.

Here’s to party’s and the glimpse of memory you may be lucky enough to have of them.

Heave, Obey, Moult

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

Nigel lifted the tablets. As he did, more hair fell from his head onto the faces of the rock slab he held. He’d been moulting more frequently, now that he was closer to the truth.

Above his head he held the words which were meant to give his life purpose, the words he was meant to obey.

Although his eyes were turned down, away from the sun he was forced to squint. The muscles of his arms were beginning to feel less like stone pillars and more like ropes. Sweat stung his eyes and his hair–it still fell. Now that he held the answers in his hands, tangible and cold, he felt more anxious than ever. He’d begged and pleaded with the sky, against the protestations of his friends and family.

“I need to find the truth!” He told them so while they ate, lounged, partied and laughed, he sought the truth.

Through valleys and deserts, jungles and mountains, Nigel looked for the truth. Every where he went the people asked him to stop and rest but Nigel kept on searching for that something.

The walking and climbing made his muscles strong. The obsession with truth, weakened him. So distracted by finding a clear obvious truth was he that he missed out on everything. It was not all a waste, however, when one day Nigel came across the tablets.

On stones shaped like markers for the dead was a list. On that list Nigel read things which he had to admit to himself were underwhelming and somewhat obvious.

He held them over his head, now nearly bald and standing at the edge of a cliff, heaving the stones over the side with the echo of a crash.

“I’ve wasted my life,” he said, then followed the sound of the crash.

Word, Square, Nice

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

words/phrase provided by @justninajo

In Cincinnati lived Samual Meeks. His old colleagues and friends used to call him “Smee”. Now the name felt detached from him, something of myth or legend, just another word that conjured up an old image.

He sat, sipping at his Irish coffee. Really, he had argued, it was the coffee of the working man. Each country had their slight variation on liquor and coffee. Caffeine to wake the body and whiskey to have a nice day, nothing spectacular, just a nice one.

Samuel read the newspaper, something he’d started to do after publishing his memoirs. The publicist he’d been assigned at Hukster & Simple’s Publishing told him he’d be asked about his thought on many topics, not just his book. The publicist said that would make him appear more approachable and position his persona for a much better second book launch.

So he made it a habit of scanning the news. He didn’t need to be an expert, “just care enough to look intelligent but not so much where you become a martyr. Media martyr’s don’t stay long in the public eye,” the publicist had said. He felt more like a square than someone intelligent.

The whiskey in his coffee began changing his mood. On page 6 or 7 of the paper, there was a short human interest piece about a man who claimed to have seen Peter Pan as an adult. The journalist covering the story made the angle more about an otherwise rational adult making an irrational claim. Samuel was curious about the claim itself, in the same way his intrigue was peaked when hearing about UFO or ghost sitings. He didn’t believe it but the possibility was always interesting.

What would make someone ruin their reputation and credibility by claiming to have seen a grown-up that was Peter Pan? That was crazier then Yeti’s or chupacabras.

Samuel finished his coffee, nearly half of it, before finished the article. He squeezed his eyes tight and stretched his throat, realizing how much “a little bit of whiskey” he had actually poured.

The man claiming to have seen Peter Pan was on his way to work at a construction job somewhere in the California Desert. He’d stopped at a McDonald’s for breakfast and said “Peter Pan grew up! He was taking handfuls of salt packets and shoving them in his pockets. He looked homeless.”

That was it. The journalist had not provided any context for which to allow the reader to decide if the man was making a reasonable claim or not.

What ere the man’s religious beliefs? Did he believe in Bigfoot? Had he also seen ghosts and/or UFO’s? A ‘No’ to these questions would make the claim more intriguing, thought Samuel.

Parallel, Adjust, Water

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

It was right there next to me, the entire time. I never realized it was there until it was gone. And not just the good stuff, but the bad as well, I realized it all.

I saw a kid kick the cane an older man was leaning on. The old man stumbled, did his best to catch himself but lost his balance and fell. That’s almost what it feels like, except the kid would have had to take a step further and snap the cane over her knee.

It’s like losing a leg. No, it’s not. That’s probably worse and better left to those who have that experience. But I can imagine that losing a leg is a lot like suddenly realizing your life was in parallel. Each walk was left, right, left, right, left. Now you’re left with right and have to find a way to adjust.

Another thing that’s confusing is all the racing your mind does in moments like these. It can’t stop, won’t stop thinking. It only takes a small crack for all the fissures to splinter off in all directions. Eventually consuming the mind with all sorts of nonsense that I think holds water.

It usually doesn’t, the thoughts usually don’t. The simplest answer is usually indeed true. But something about us, something about me is still drawn to conflict, still finds its way to war. What they call that necessary evil. Would it be necessary if there were evil? Well how do you get rid of evil?

And that’s what I mean, my mind need only focus on my immediate, personal problem but it wants to find the underlying issue. That single unifying, unavoidable trait in humans that causes pain. What theists call sin and atheists call human nature. Beyond all of their bloviating over “ifs” and “whens” and “proof” there is still our existence. There is still us, our experience.

I think therefore I am tortured.

And again, I’m wandering away from the practical, wandering away from solutions and diving deep, deep into that hole of self.

It’s a bottomless pit, self, a never-ending chasm of self-doubt, self-loathing, self-harm, self-pity, self-denial, me, me, me, I, I, I.

It’s a trap. When I stand parallel to myself and look in the mirror, I see a different man. Sometimes he’s more handsome than yesterday. Sometimes he’s uglier than yesterday. Self-esteem.

Back to the problem at hand, how does one trust when there is nothing concrete on which to rest trust. Reason for no reason.

Accept, Salt, Noiseless

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

Peter woke up. It had been raining and water was running down through his spot on the middle of the hill.

He heard birds chirping and could see some light peaking through a slit in the tarp. He knew it was about 6 AM because the sound of passing cars on the freeway was intermittent.

The clock ticking next to him, he never se to the correct time. The ticking sound was all he needed. He wasn’t sure why but he couldn’t sleep in a noiseless environment.

Peter grabbed his hat and bent to step out of the tent. His breath was visible in the air and he pulled his hunting cap down over his ears.

Peter walked under the freeway and up around to the other side. Following the road for about a mile until he came to a McDonalds.

Peter ordered from the dollar menu. While he waited, he filled his pockets with as many salt packets as he could before the manager chased him off.

Peter walked back to his tent. Before stepping inside, he held the bag in his teeth to free his hands for tearing open salt packets.

One packet at a time he sprinkled the salt in a circle around his tent. Satisfied, he took the bag from his mouth and stepped inside the tent.

Sitting back on his pile of rags, he started a small fire and opened up the McDonalds bag. Once again he threw everything in the middle of the burger out of the tent, keeping only the bread, which he toasted in his hands over the fire.

After having eaten, Peter pulled out a crumpled spiral bound notebook.

On the open page was a drawing of a flag, black with a skull and cross bones. Taking a pen from his pocket, Peter continued coloring in the black of the flag. As he did so, a shudder ran through his body, jolting the pen through one of the crossing bones.

Fire, Water, Plant

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

The scene was hazy, so I tried to determine which elements were present.

I looked down but could only see, well, I couldn’t see past my belly. I shifted my weight just enough to feel something solid.


My lungs weren’t burning and I could feel that familiar habit of inhalation and exhalation. It was automatic. I couldn’t remember a thing but I was breathing. Air was present.

I looked down at my belly again, focusing on something dancing, a shadow bouncing around the rim of my umbilical cord. The shadow was orange and red.

I looked up and saw the source of the orange on my belly. I curled my hands around the cord protruding from my stomach and used it to pull myself toward the slit.

A deep red, orange, yellow wind brushed past my face.

I started to panic as the safety of my darkness was slowly eaten away by the colors.

Now I could see greens and browns leaping out behind the reds, oranges and yellows. I tried to retreat to the safety of the darkness but a weight pressed down on my existence. An apocalypse of my cocoon.

My hands suddenly forced to my sides my nose smashed against the walls of my home. My head bubbling in different directions.

Suddenly my being floated and my world of black exploded into a million pieces of light and color. I floated, my lungs burning. My eyes squeezed tight but the light still stabbing through.

The force accelerated my floating and I burst into an alien atmosphere. My face and body melting, my hands tried to curl around the cord at my belly button but nothing was left.

In shock my mouth sent a scream and all my senses came to life.

I was born.

Pale, Review, Expansion

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

Peter sat on the dock, his big right tow the anchor for some fishing line. Although nothing was nibbling, the skin around his big toe was whiter than the rest of his body.

He dangled his feet and looked up at the sky feeling a sense of nostalgia. The smell of the ocean, sound of seagulls and feel of the hot sun seemed to be trying to pull out some distant memory.

Peter had seen something on TV where a guy used one magnet to move around another magnet that was on the other side of a wall. That feeling of nostalgia was like that, a pulling of something that felt familiar but wasn’t seen.

Peter pulled up his feet on the dock suddenly. He cut the dangling fishing line from his toe with a switchblade and stood up. He looked at the sky. Now black clouds were moving to block the sun.

The nostalgia remained but it was blending with a sense of dread. He tried to review the expansion of feeling inside him.

How could he feel so many things? What was that nagging sense of nostalgia bordering on deja vu really about?

Peter walked to where the dock met the sand and picked up a half empty 12-pack of beer. Every time these feelings began to wash over him, he would take a drink. Such a simple, effective cliche. Another thing he had learned on TV.

This time, however, the feelings remained. This time, Peter thought he heard the muffled ticking of a clock and the distant sounds of raucous, drunken singing; chanting following the low rumble of drums.

Peter turned his head to look at the spot where the water met the sky. He finished his can of beer and grabbed another.

The sky above was beginning to thunder. Peter stumbled toward a nearby outcropping of trees and crawled under the tarp he had hung between branches. Before he passed out, he winced at what he thought was the sound of jingling bells.

Yes, No, Maybe

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ladychap84

And those are my only choices?


I can only agree or decline, correct?


Oh yea, I can say maybe but that doesn’t really mean anything. Which reminds me, why do we say maybe not? Isn’t maybe both the possibility of something and nothing all at once? So maybe is possibility, yes is the affirmative and no is denunciation.


Too simplistic?




So the maybe is both yes and no. Some may be satisfied with my answers above and some may not but did everyone understand? Maybe. I get it.


This all seems a bit binary, or I suppose tri-nary, if that is a thing.




So I can only answer three ways.


Yes is not no and no is not yes and both are maybe. So I’m always in a state of maybe. Maybe is Schrodinger’s cat.


Maybe is the moment between having asked a question and having an answer. And if that answer were also maybe, then maybe would be like standing in between two large mirrors, trying to peer past your own reflection to see the something, but only only staring into possibility, the maybe.




Yes to maybe?










So yes to no and maybe but not yes to yes, is that because the answer is both possibility and definition?


So you mean to say it’s more than that?


So you’re maybe has a meaning beyond the question asked. In order to become a yes or no, other questions must poke and prod the maybe into a definite yes or no shape.


Maybe, you say maybe because I am close to the true answer but not close enough to a yes or a no.


Oh my god, I am something brilliant.


Am I yes?


Am I no?


Am I maybe?


I am?


Remake, Iron, Easy

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

At first it annoyed Henry. All the reports of micro aggressions that were making their way into the news cycle. Little things like a man or woman assuming the boss or doctor being referred to in conversation was a male. Or things like internet celebrities making videos of themselves destroying property and stealing while critics praised their “courage to take comedy to the next level.”

Frankly, Henry had no clue what a micro aggression really was but like a pressure cooker, we decided to let out a puff of steam once in a while so as not to blow up one day.

He started at the movie theater. The film was a remake of a movie that had already been made and remade five times.

During the movie, Henry would shout things out:


“Come on, that’s ridiculous.”

“Why not film a turd in the toilet, it would be cheaper and more original than this crap.”

That’s as far as he got. The ushers escorted him out but in a sense, Henry fell liberated, a little steam had puffed out.

When he arrived home, the mailbox was stuffed with what to Henry amounted to a big wad of garbage. So, he kicked the mailbox off its post and threw it into the garbage, where he felt the whole thing belonged.

After a couple of days, he received a notice from the United States Postal Service stating that he would need to put up a mailbox or else the mail would no longer be delivered to him.

Perfect, Henry thought. It was easier than I imagined. Then he tossed the USPS notice in the garbage as well.

Then it was his cell phone. He stepped inside his house and heard his phone ringing, without looking to see who was calling, Henry threw the phone in the trashcan outside.

Henry began looking through all of his possessions, realizing that they annoyed rather than brought him joy. He deflated his basketball and football throwing them away. He snapped his golf clubs over his knees and threw them away. He did keep his 5-iron because he liked to hit golf balls at the top of the hill overlooking the freeway. Which, he decided, is exactly what he would do after his material purge.

After the golf session, about 15 minutes of screeching tires, broken glass and honking cars, he drove down to the nicest restaurant in town.

Upon arrival, he waited for a table, noticing the sign that said “no shirt, no shoes, no service.” After being seated, ordering and eating, he removed his shirt and his shoes. When the waiter came by again, he ordered dessert and got away with it.

Henry learned that if you’re already in the restaurant, you can break the rules, not a moment before.

Knowledge, Belief, Motivation

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

Around the ages of 11-13, you receive a beach ball. The ball is fully inflated and you’re instructed to keep the ball in the air while you do all the other things necessary during your day.

When brushing your teeth, you keep hitting the ball in the air. When eating, studying, working, playing, sitting, driving, ordering, shopping, running, walking, waiting, rushing, etc. You keep the ball in the air.

You’re told that the ball is to remind you that you are not in control and that you must rely on an unseen power. They tell you this because then they tell you it’s okay if you drop the ball as long as you pick it up again. That the most motivation they give you, that if you drop it, as long as you pick it up again, you’ll be fine.

You do your best to keep the ball in the air. You drop it a few times while doing your hygiene routine but pretty soon it becomes second nature to keep the beach ball in the air.

The only time the keeping up becomes a problem is when you study. Your mind focuses deeply on the books you’re reading and for those moments you completely forget about the ball and everything said about it. Then you close the book, see the ball and pick it right back up again, tossing it into the air and keeping it up.

Pretty soon you start to think deeply outside of the books. You find yourself detaching the symbolism of the ball from the action you’re observing. You realize it’s becoming a nuisance, maybe even an unnecessary distraction. But you keep it up because they told you all sorts of things to scare you: “Without that constant reminder that you are nothing without the unseen power, you’ll shrivel up and die.”

Then you become angry, realizing that many people do not keep beach balls in the air and they do not look shriveled in the slightest. In fact, they seem more capable of engaging with and participating in the world around them.

You walk up to one of them and ask, “What happened to your beach ball?”

They say, “I dropped it a long time ago and never picked it up again.”

“Why?” You ask.

“I found that when I focused on what I knew, the world became less abstract. I found that the beach ball had really become a reminder that I don’t know as opposed to what it was intended to be, a reminder that an unseen is in control.”

You think, then ask, “So how do you answer those questions the beach ball answers?”

“I don’t. I’ve found that one of the phrases rarely stated confidently is ‘I don’t know’ yet when it is given as an answer, I feel closer to others than any sort of beach ball brotherhood because it reaffirms that we all don’t know, together.”

Imbricate, Pongee, Zucchetto

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

In the museum I was mostly bored save for a few minor details that caught my attention. Supposedly, at one time there were these organizations, run mostly like clubs with memberships, that had the benefit of being tax exempt. Religious organizations.

Each one claimed to be different but after millions of years of doubt, questioning, corruption, and frivolous rules, the obvious simply became too obvious to ignore.

There was no catastrophic event, it was only a “last straw” sort of situation.

Now I was passing an exhibit that was part of the Catholic section (one of the largest section of the museum). The guide pointed at an old pink colored hat, just large enough to fit on the back of a skull, and said “Notice the pongee on this Zucchetto. Pongee the Chinese silk fabric on a cap traditionally worn by Catholic clergy. Quite the contrast of cultures and beliefs in one little cap.”

Indeed, the irony was right in front of their faces (or on their heads) the entire time.

We passed a display with all sorts of symbols. The Christian cross was pointed out as another symbol of irony; a torture device used by the Roman Empire became the symbol of a supposedly peaceful belief system.

The Jewish star, a symbol of the merging of heaven and earth, or to others, the merging of male and female. It turns out a symbol of tangled confusion. Most, if not all the symbols had more than one meaning, which, the tour guide pointed out, should have been another clue into the ambiguous nature of religious truths, if it could be called natural.

We passed by books that had been called holy but were now simply considered old and outdated.

We passed miniature cathedrals, temples, churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. All destroyed now and replaced with museums, art installations, libraries or public parks.

When the tour ended, I walked back to the section with miniature versions of the once erected places of worship. They must have been truly magnificent works of architecture and they were inspired by awe, wonder and a deep reverence for something they believed to be as real as the stones, wood and stained glass used to build them.

I stared at one rooftop in particular, the plaque read “This rooftop was built to mimic the imbrication often found in nature. Notice the uneven staggering of tiles, not like a snake or fish but more like that of a pine cone or blossomed flower.”

What was it all about? Who was it really for?

Exciting, Chocolate, Clock

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ladychap84

I can feel that bubble welling up in my chest. No, it’s not a literal bubble it’s that feeling of pressure that rises up and sometimes forces your cheeks into a smile or occasionally causes you to shake. when you’re about to get something you’ve been wanting for a long time. The anticipation of receiving that thing you’ve wanted for a while.

I sat on the edge of the check-up bed, my bare ass sticking to the thin paper they pull over the top to stop cross-contamination. I could feel the paper sticking in my crack and start to curl up my thighs. This part was not exciting.

I was waiting for the news about my cancer. The nurses and doctors had been treating me like I beat it. They were slapping my back and saying things like ” I shouldn’t be saying anything like this but I’m 90% sure you’ll be cancer free. Let’s just wait for the tests.”

That was the excitement. Now I was staring at the clock, begging its hands to speed up. I needed to know.

I heard a soft knock on the door and the doctor came in. He didn’t look like a man about to tell another man that they were cancer free. In fact, the doctor looked the opposite.

He came over next to me and said, “Sam, I’m sorry but I spoke too soon. Your tests came back positive and the cancer has spread.”

I could only muster an “oh.”

“I’m afraid you only have another two or three months to live.”

I looked up at the clock, the hands now looked like they were zipping around its face. I wanted everything to stop for a minute so I could wrap my head around it all.

“Can I put my pants back on?” I asked, not really waiting for his reply.

The doctor was talking but I wasn’t listening as I walked out. I still had on the gown over my pants. Passing the reception desk, I reached into the bowl of mini-candy bars.

“Sir,” said the lady at the desk, “we ask that you only take one at a time. We want everyone to have the opportunity to get some.”

“One at a time.” I grunted, then stopped and pulled out a mini-mars bar and stuck it in my mouth. I reached into the bowl and pulled out a mini-reeses pieces. In between chewing the mars bar, I stuck the Reeses in my mouth.

One at a time, as per the lady’s instructions, I unwrapped and ate chocolate covered candy bars, until they were all gone.

It was too much. I started to gag. The lady pulled a trashcan from under her desk and gave it to me. I threw up all the chocolate, a lot of it still intact.

I wondered if it was my gluttony or my cancer that made me sick but then I thought, with two or three months to live is that really what I’m going to think about?

Account, Arm, Sniff

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

The file had been on my desk since my first week at Lav, Slav and Tony investments. It had been put there by an old man, the founder, who wore a tux and stuffed cotton balls into his cheeks like Marlon Brando in the Godfather. He had dreams of going legit but to everyone’s knowledge he had never actually had any illegitimate business.

So I opened the file and started reading the paper. It was a MEMO, a short paragraph that read:

“ATTENTION: All account managers, please do not keep arms at the office.”

At first I wanted to make a joke about how we would do our typing without arms but then I remembered that the MEMO was nearly four years old.

I grabbed the MEMO and slid it into the waste bin. Now I was all caught up with work. I headed out of the office but before I could go Lav and Slav stopped me (Tony was the cotton ball guy, dead now). They invited me out for a drink. As their employee, I said yes.

They took me to this club in the part of town where they store meat, fish, furniture and other wares. A club with a pink sign in Miami vice style writing that said “Lazerbeam” only the “m” was going in and out so every few seconds it was club “Lazerbea”, which I thought sounded cooler.

We went inside and Slav motioned to a waiter who took us to a booth. We ordered drinks, then Lav took out a little baggie of white powder.

“Time to put on my dancing shoes,” he said.

Then he chopped up an impressively straight rail, a real mathematical wonder. He dragged his nostril across the table, which stood out to me because the table wasn’t so clean. I could see bits of lint, dust and Saltene crackers being pulled into his nose. Lav dabbed at the residue left on the table and rubbed his gums with it. Then he jumped up and ran to the dance floor.

Our drinks arrived and as I reached for my Whiskey/Coke, Slav said, “Ah, I notice you didn’t read our MEMO.”

Resonant, Rich, Testy

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

I imagined one day that I would have money. Not that I definitely would but I imagined what it would be like to have money.

I remember the movie Richie Rich, Macaulay Culkin living in a mansion with a roller coaster and being transported by helicopter. I remember Scrooge McDuck diving into a vault filled with gold coins. He would do the back stroke and spit out coins like water.

Now I’m older, fortunate to have as much as I do. Now because I’m able to get my car’s oil changed or buy all the groceries I want I feel rich.

It’s an appreciation of wealth. I don’t mean me saying “I’m grateful” I mean since I’ve been able to work and earn money, I understand the value of money.

The realities of having a rollercoaster in the house would be a nightmare; all the maintenance, security, city permits (of which there would be a plethora for safety, zoning, expansion, etc.) not to mention that riding the same ride would get old. Not that I could afford to have a roller coaster but even if I could I would not choose to afford one.

I think that’s what being wealthy means to me, being able to make decisions on what I will choose to afford so that what I need to afford won’t make me broke.

There are a lot of reasons I’m at the point I’m at now. Yes, I have worked hard but really I had a lot of opportunities and help from people who cared, (or at least I think they did). I think that makes me rich as well.

I have a friend who talks about not having much money but their personality is such that they have a wealth of friends, acquaintances, people they’ve met who would provide opportunities at the mere mention of needing help. Not that this friend likes asking for help but people feel like helping.

I know that when it comes to topics of money, wealth and privilege, people can get a bit testy. I can get a bit testy. Privilege is often loaded with politics. No one likes to feel like the things they have are not deserved or even earned.

I used to think about the idea of a “self-made man”, perhaps an out-dated term but it applies to anyone who claims to make “it” on their own.

I don’t know that I believe such a thing really exists. There are people who work hard and look for opportunities, then get them. There are people who work hard, look for opportunities and don’t get them. There are people that don’t work hard, know people and get opportunities.

You see where I’m going. There’s any number of scenarios in which people receive or do not receive opportunities.

Something that resonated with me recently was an exercise that Mr. Rogers used to do on his who and with his crew. It was to take one minute and think of one person who has helped you get to where you are, even if it’s not all the way to where you want to be.

That resonated with me because while I don’t believe in a god, I do believe that other people are as important as myself, and Mr. Rogers’ exercise is a good reminder that we all get a boost from time to time.

Delirious, Jaded, Glitter

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

A lonely traveler trudged through the steps of the rice paddy’s. She was approaching the temple delirious with hunger and exhaustion.

The journey had begun in high spirits, now, nearly at its end, she was feeling jaded.

What was so special about this temple? There were many temples in her own prefecture, what drove her to this? Enlightenment?

She reached the steps of the temple and started to climb. At the top, a figure dressed in yellow robes appeared. She hoped he would have a bowl of rice and maybe some sake.

At the top the monk gestured for her to sit at the top of the step. From inside the temple, another monk brought her dumplings, rice and water. She ate until her hunger was gone. She also realized that her mood had improved as well, but her exhaustion was making her annoyed at the monks, that they couldn’t say anything to someone who had journeyed so far and so long to reach them.

One monk beckoned her to a corner where there was a mat with bedding, just what she needed.

She didn’t remember falling asleep but she awoke and found herself in high spirits. She had completed the journey she had set out to finish and after food and a good nap, she could appreciate her achievement.

A monk came and motioned for her to follow. They walked through the temple until they arrived at a statue of the Buddha, a fat, smiling Buddha.

The woman sat and stared, closing her eyes, holding out her low but audible “ooohhhmmmm’s”, opening her eyes, fidgeting. She looked around at the other monks all sitting, eyes closed, facing the Buddha with a collective low hum of deep meditation.

She couldn’t focus. The deep satisfaction she had felt upon reaching the temple and then receiving her humble reward of food and sleep, was not matched by this, whatever this ritual was to a glittering Buddha.

At that moment, she became enlightened. The rest and food, normal and often under-appreciated necessities of life, became her deepest rewards after her journey. She could not fathom a satisfying life of stagnation at the top of a mountain simply staying put.

The woman grabbed her things and began the journey back down the mountain to her home. She looked forward to the hunger and exhaustion that would bring so much meaning to whatever food and rest she would find at the end of her journey.

Nutritious, Cap, Measure

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

“Take a swig,” said the Cap. “It’s nutritious and besides that it’ll cure your alopecia. You’ll be as hairy as a Himalayan Yak again in no time.”

I looked at the mixture the Cap had poured. Supposedly, besides being Captain of the Jelly Dodger, he had once also been an herbalist.

I’d gotten alopecia suddenly after seeing a ghost. I was shaving and in the mirror, behind me, I saw a tailor. He was holding up a measuring tape with pins in his mouth.

When I saw him, all the hair on my body instantly fell off. From head to eyebrows, balls to toes. All gone. Then to add insult to injury, the first mate kicked open the bathroom door, followed by a gust of wind behind him. The first mate took a piss and the wind blew all my hair into the urinals at the far wall. I wasn’t even left enough hair to gather and glue onto my chin.

The Cap being the good leader he is, said he had just the remedy: the shit of a seagull, the ink of a squid, coconut water, algae, rat fur and the piss of the hairiest man or woman onboard.

The seagull shit was the easiest to get. All we had to do was climb up the masts and scrape the white chips into a cup. The job could even be done without looking.

The squid ink just took some fishing but eventually we put a squid in a bucket and it inked right away. Two ingredients down.

The coconut water, algae and rat fur were almost simultaneous. We were drifting just off shore and someone noticed coconuts off the port bow, that’s also when we remembered all the algae under the boat, which reminded us of all the rats on the boat.

So we cracked the coconuts, scraped up algae and shaved rats. That was the funnest part, watching the crew shave rats with their razors.

The next part was not so fun. We had to find the hairiest man or woman on board to piss into the soup of ingredients we had collected.

Before my scare, I was the hairiest man. So all the men lined up and we judged who was the hairiest. It was the first mate.

The timing of all this was unfortunate. Our rations were thinning and the only food we had in abundance was asparagus.

Now I held a fowl smelling concoction that was to supposedly cure my alopecia and bring back all my hair.

The color was black. It was thick like paste from the seagulls and covered in millions of tiny hairs. It smelled like asparagus urine.

What would you do?

Master, Grim, Bate

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

She was in a foul bate sitting in traffic. Her knuckles were white, gripped around the steering wheel and she was gritting her teeth. She refused to look at the drivers or passengers in the cars all around her.

“This,” said Master Tempo, “is traffic. People all over the world would travel to places like this.”

“I feel so angry, Master, why do I feel so angry?”

“Because you are human and when you are sitting in your car, surrounded by moving cages, you are directly facing your limitations in that moment.”

“And people did this everyday?”

“Sometimes twice a day.”

“And that’s what stress was?”

“That was one way to feel stressed, one of many. People realized that to eliminate stress, you eliminate options or choices.”

“But doesn’t that go against what you just said about traffic? That the anger of sitting in traffic is an anger at realizing your own limitations?”

“Yes. Excellent, but that is only because of their choice to drive. If you remove that choice then you are a passenger, simply riding along.”

“But someone has to drive.”

“Excellent again. Yes, so long ago they decided that a few would drive, a few voted and elected to drive. Everyone else would just be along for the ride.”

“You’re not talking about traffic anymore are you?”

“No, I’m talking about our new ways. We all have the same jobs, we all live in the same houses, we all have Master’s and eventually we all become Master’s. And we never have to leave the house. Everything is automated and you learn through the audio/visual headset.”

“But what if I want something, something else?”

“You don’t need to want for anything and the best part is you won’t have to deal with anything you don’t want.”

“What about the garbage, human waste? What about sex and human relationships?”

“You’re experiencing that now.”

Sheryl removed the headset and blinked, letting her eyes adjust to the California sun. A car honked behind her setting off a chain of honks. She put the VR set on the passenger seat next to her.

I’d rather have the choice of getting stuck in traffic than that bullshit, she thought, looking at the VR set.

She took her Tesla out of autopilot and stared at the bumper of the proud parent of a child at McKinley Elementary School.

Curdle, Debauchery, Feckless

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

I was at the office. It was 3:20 PM and I was in my cubicle picking staples out of my arm.

Jerry had come by and “filed a couple of reports” which I guess meant put as many staples in my arm as possible before I was able to wrest the stapler away from him.

It’s okay, Jerry’s dead now. Susan came by with a carton of milk that had been in the fridge for two years. She doused him with it. While he was trying to rub away the milk from his eyes, she asked him if he wanted a towel and instead handed him a plugged in toaster.

It was like watching a reverse Frankenstein story. Where the living creature gets jolted, jumped and jostled around until it’s NOT alive.

So that’s how Jerry went. I don’t have to worry about him but Susan, my god what a psychopath.

I need to get out of here by 5 PM but I have to pass the conference room on my way out. There’s supposed to be a meeting in there until 5:30, which I suspect will be a bloodbath. Ever since the former owners son took over, we’ve all been working ourselves to death.

It was now company policy that only combat wounds received in the workplace were covered by insurance, couple that with the totality of anarchy outside the workplace and you were always on high alert, high strung and needing to keep the adrenaline high.

Kristen came around the corner. A trash can on her head, a two-fanged stapler remover in one hand and a long gel-filled wrist rest for the computer in the other. That thing could leave serious bruises if wielded correctly.

I pulled out the last staple and grabbed my keyboard for a shield. Kristen stopped at my cubicle.

“I have no quarrel with you, where is Jerry?” she asked.

“He’s dead.”

“Well, have you filled out his death report? Called human resources? Put out a casualty memo?”


“Well, dammit Stan, what are you waiting for?”

“Yeah, no problem. I got it.” I started looking through papers for the right forms, blood was drying and sticking sheets together.

“Have you seen Susan?” Kristen asked.

“Yeah, she’s the one who ‘filed a couple of reports’ on Jerry.” I said.

“What the hell are you talking about, reports? I told Susan to toast Jerry right after he stapled your arm.” said Kristen.

“Oh, okay, I must have misunderstood what he meant, because he walked in talking about reports…” I was getting nervous and starting to drone on. “…but he did staple my arm, he did do that very well, I only just finished taking them out.”

Ridiculous, Sleep, Honk

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ladychap84

The medicine man came to town, this time in a new fangled contraption. A wagon pulled not by horses, but by witchcraft or engineering (depending who you are).

We heard him before we saw him coming. He blared his horn and we all ran to our windows. It was nearing sunset and through the dust we saw the shape of his ride; one of those Ford vehicles with a cart hitched to the back that looked more like a fortune teller’s or circus sideshow cart.

we knew it was the medicine man because in between honks he’d shout out our problems then give the answer in the form of a powder, tonic or magic elixir.

“Warts? Cysts? Boils? Scrapes? Bumps or Bruises? I’ve got a tonic that’ll smooth your skin back to its newborn state!”


“Having trouble sleeping? Do you suffer from the terrors of the night? I’ve got an elixir as old as time. A few swigs and you’ll be sleeping like a baby.”


“Can’t seem to muster up the courage to ask out that pretty gal? Trouble speaking up in public? I’ve got the cure! You’ll be gabbing like a child telling Santa what they want for Christmas.”


It seemed everything he was selling would turn us back into some sort of child. I didn’t understand at the time why that was so appealing. Then again, back then I had to stand on my tiptoes and pull on the sill just to look out the window.

The man parked in the center of our town square and opened up the cart he hauled. My mother took me and my two sisters to see him.

When we approached, the four of us gals were already a little late. We watched and waited as our neighbors, acquaintances and other town folk shouted their ailments and he miraculously provided the cure.

“What do yer got fer balding, kind sir?” asked the town cobbler.

“For the follicular-ly challenged I have this hair powder. Mix with raw egg, a splash of gin and leave it on your head for two days.” said the medicine man.

“How much?” asked the cobbler.

“Two dollars fifty.” said the medicine man.

He probably could have named his price, with the cure for baldness on the table.

“Step right up and let me know your weaknesses, I’ll give you the cure. I’m only in town for a day, business calls me elsewhere.”

“Ridiculous.” my mother muttered to herself.

“What is?” I asked.

“That poor cobbler drinks enough gin to put enough hair on fifty men. He eats only eggs because he only owns one hen.”

“Yeah but he doesn’t put them on his head, maybe that’s the trick.” I offered.

“That’s the trick alright. If he’s dumb enough to put that awful smelling mix on his head and pay good money for it, then he deserves it. But by the time he finds out that medicine man’ll be long gone.”

She grabbed our hands and shooed us back to the house, muttering all the way.

“Two days to leave it on but he’ll be gone tomorrow. Ridiculous.”

Regular, Tiresome, Popcorn

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

A helicopter flew above them, its blades chopping at the air. Below the canopy of the jungle the two of them sat in their foxhole.

Jerry smoked a cigarette and looked at Miles who was alert and canning the jungle in front of them. The sounds of the helicopter faded leaving only the occasional rustling, lonely sqwuak and, thank god (or whatever was up there) nothing else.

Jerry broke the silence. “Why do they call the enemy Jerry?”

Miles ignored him, so Jerry continued.

“I mean, that’s my name and I’m already out here in the shit taking fire for some rich politicians spoiled son and they have the nerve to call the enemy Jerry.”

“What are you talking about?” Said Miles. “That’s what they allies called the German’s in World War 2. Nobody’s saying that now. Relax, man. And put out that cigarette, Jerry will smell it and be on us like green on leaves.”

“They can’t smell shit. They probably in the same position, scared out of their minds–wait, did you just call them Jerry?

Miles laughed. “But seriously, put it out man, they’re sneaky.”

Jerry put out his cigarette and grabbed his rifle, taking a position next to Miles.

“Do you know how out of my mind I am right now?” Said Jerry.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m sitting out here in the middle of a country I hadn’t even heard of until a few months ago, with a guy I hadn’t met until a few months ago with my face painted in black and green sitting in a deep mud puddle. That’s far out, man.”

“Ditto,” Said Miles.

“Is that normal? Just two regular guys sitting out here aiming loaded weapons at nothing?”

“I know man.” Said Miles. “But you better keep that talk between us, it’s tiresome to everyone else.”

Jerry smacked at a mosquito on his arm.

“If Jerry doesn’t kill us, these fuckin’ mosquitos will. God damn!”

“Hey watch my back,” said Miles. “I gotta take a shit, right on schedule.”

Miles hopped out of the hole and crouched behind a tree, still holding his rifle.

“You been going pretty regular, that’s great,” said Jerry. “I’m still at the mercy of the soup inside.”

“Hey,” said Jerry. “what do you miss most about home?”

“Toilet paper,” said Miles. “As many plies as I want plus folded. Toilet paper.”

“I miss the movies,” said Jerry. “You could feel terrified one minute, then walk out of the theater and head home the next. It was just an experience.”

“well this out here is an experience too.” Said Miles, pulling up his pants.

“Movies and a big tub of popcorn. That’s what I miss,” said Jerry.

Flame, Famous, Shy

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

She went on to do great things. Invited to universities she had never attended to give graduation speeches. Invited to television talk shows so her admirers could see she was really like everyone else but in the most glamorous way. Her name was leant to movies, books and T.V. shows as a way to further promote them. She made trips to congress to speak bout issues in which she was passionate. She was loved and adored. Her personal life, however, did not exist.

Her name meant many things to those who followed her but to herself it had lost all meaning. her quiet demeanor was misattributed as humbleness and her few choices of words marked as the attribute of a great speaker, rather than to her shyness.

Long after her body existed, she would live on in the memories of the collective conscience. They would make meme’s of her on social media platforms that generations after would look at and attribute new meaning.

And, of course, she was heralded as a great voice for women all over the world. Though she never directly spoke of women’s rights, her image was used as an example to all women.

To this, she had her doubts. Am I a tool for another’s agenda? Do I belong here for my ideas? Or will I always be a female body with ideas, doomed never to be separated from my anatomy.

These questions would arise in her mind but to them she also rebutted, as long as my ideas are sound they will rise above all superficialities, in time.

She got older and wiser, the political climate changed and issues came, went and came back again. Her image came and went with them.

Now as she neared the end of her life, with only a handful of years to walk this earth, she noticed the same things.

“Here is an example of a woman who has risen above it all to achieve great things, despite.”

“This woman has to rub it in everyone’s faces that she is a woman, just focus on the ideas, lady.”

She had heard the same criticisms all her life, on both sides, calling her woman. They were not wrong but they were miles away from the truth.

As she spent her final days in a house of a quiet neighborhood in some lazy suburb, she would look out the window and watch the world go by, still with that same flame, passion and will. To all of you, she thought, that say I am more than a woman or just a woman, I only ever wished to live as I am.

Yearn, Rasp, Grit

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

“Follow me.” The guy said. He was wearing a wide brimmed safari hat and an all Khaki outfit with zippers zig zagging everywhere. It looked as if the designer had made it their mission to challenge the pre-existing record of zippers on clothes.

From the looks of the outfit, he holds the record.

The guy who said “follow me” was our tour guide. His outfit would have been fine in the jungle but we were in downtown Los Angeles in July. This jungle required less clothing.

Why I was with this gentleman? Well, I wasn’t in my right mind. The Dodgers had just lost to the Brewers and I honored the visiting team by drinking copious amounts of brew. Then I stumbled out of the ball park, took a taxi downtown and realized I was thirsty.

The concrete-Dr. Livingston beckoned to me and now I’m following him, hoping he can lead me to the fountain of youth, or any working water fountain. I was yearning for some H2O.

I was slowing down, however, because of some sand in my shoes. A couple of bigger pebbles were stabbing straight into my foot bones by the toes then shifting down to my heal.

I sat down to take off my shoes and dump out the rocks. The guy came lumbering back, saying, “aren’t you coming? What’s wrong?”

I told him and his answer was, “No grit, no glory. Get up and get on. Tomorrow waits for no man so let’s get on it today. Work–“

His voice trailed off as he stomped away. Where the hell am I? Is this guy Jesus? Is he taking me to heaven? I hope there’s either water there or no thirst.

I stood up and ran after him. My running line zig zagging all over the side walk (like the zippers on his khaki suit) and then all over the asphalt. Then suddenly I stopped running. I was at eye-level with all the car tires and pedestrians feet. A incredibly loud and intense grating noise was in my left ear.

Then I was air-born, looking down at my body being dragged under a Semi truck. A teeth-gritting rasp emitted from the sound of my skull scraping against the asphalt.

I looked up, floating closer to the clouds. I looked over to the sun, feeling its heat and realizing that I was still thirsty.

Constitute, Vernacular, “Sea Foam”

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
These three movie titles provided by @audreyfankhanel

Something comes over me when I watch an episode of Seinfeld. It’s a familiarity, a closeness with humanity. The characters and scenarios make me feel that I’m part of the whole, that I’m not the only one concerned (perhaps overly so) with superficial things. Besides that, and more to the point, it makes me laugh.

If I were a character in Seinfeld, I’d more than likely be George Costanza. Maybe George on the inside and Jerry on the outside. George speaks a language I can understand. he exudes a pettiness and unchecked passion for the principles of things. I understand him, as despicable as he may be to some.

Jerry has a laissez-faire attitude. Things happen to him but he stays at the same level of comfort, neither better or worse off than the beginning of each episode.

Kramer’s character, as I heard Michael Richards describe him, isn’t dumb or crazy, he’s actually one level above everyone. Unconcerned with what others think, the world is his playground. And so he finds himself in situations like golfing with pro’s, being serenaded by legendary crooner’s, finding and living with the discarded set of the Merv Griffin show.

Kramer lives, I believe, as most of us wish to live. His careless abandon allows him to be exactly Kramer, Cosmo Kramer.

Elaine Benes is the more functional Kramer. Maybe I’m wrong, but her confidence and charm give her the opportunities Kramer is unable to receive, simply because he stands out for the wrong reasons, according to societies rules and expectations.

Elaine expresses all emotions without shame but is also able to pull it together when it matters. Because of this, she often comes out on top, fairing better than her three companions.

All four main characters represent different aspects of humanity. George is primarily emotion and passion. Jerry is mostly logic and reason. Kramer is pure joy. Elaine is responsible yet mischievous.

I think one of the scenes that captures this dynamic is this: The four are sitting at a booth in the diner. Jerry is next to Kramer and Elaine is next to George who is telling his adventures as a Marine biologist.

“The sea was angry that day, my friends.” He begins and the scene cuts to a beach, sea foam rolling up on shore.

So that’s 20 minutes of straight writing. I must of just been watching Seinfeld.

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.


Tearful, Daffy, Quicksand

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

The first thing I noticed when I met her was the Daffy duck tattoo on her calf. She was wearing a mustard colored t-shirt and black jeans with black timberland boots. I walked up to her at the bar and said somtheing stupid.

“Suffering succotash!” She looked at me with a grin that I eventually discovered was her attempt at holding back a laugh, because then she laughed.

I tried to keep going, using Daffy’s speech.

“Whath are you drinking?”

Then she answered back in Daffy’s voice, “Theven and Theven.” She said.

I didn’t expect that either, how quickly we could get on the same page.

It carried on like that for five years. Parties, concerts, trips, moving in together, family gatherings, movies, books, tv shows; all the funner things in life.

Now I’m sitting here, trying to comprehend why she’s crying on the bed and me, the constant stoic, can’t seem to muster anything up but tearful words.

Maybe we had forgotten the other side of life, the parts that aren’t fun. The parts where I drink too much, maybe she’s a little too flirty, maybe I look for too long when we go out, the constant barrage of comments from strangers and familiars about her weight (no matter what it is).

Maybe we never addressed those things, paid enough attention to those so we didn’t find ourselves here, dealing with a life we built while not being able to take a break from reality (work, bills, pets, prior engagements; those other things of life).

How do we get back to being on the same page? That’s what we keep asking ourselves.

Now she’s packing a bag, headed to a friends house while we “work on things.” It’s normal, it’s valid and maybe even healthy, but honestly, it doesn’t feel right.

Can’t there be a place on earth where nonsense is the only thing that makes sense? A wonderland where we live and anyone looking in feels like Alice looking through the glass.

Right now, we’re in quicksand. The more we force things, the faster we sink.

It seems time is the only rope to pull us out of this. Just like five years went by in the span of a laugh, maybe this will go by in the span of a cry.

That’s scary because a cry feels a lot longer than a laugh, especially when I can still hear it’s echoes reverberating off the walls of our life.

All I can think about now is her coming back home and me opening the door and greeting her with an exaggerated “suffering succotash” just so I can hear her laugh.

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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Sandwich, Nose ring, Broken

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

My eyes watered as the needle entered my septum, pushing through the barbel that would need to reside there for at least nine months before the intentional wound healed.

I paid the woman and left to grab lunch before returning to work. A sandwich.

The new hole in my nose felt foreign as I opened and closed my mouth around the BLT. Chewing seemed to shift the barbell around the recently punctured cartilage.

I kept wanting to pull at the flesh of my nose between each nostril. Each touch, however, sent me into an eye-watering, blink frenzy.

Although my nose wasn’t broken, I thought about the long nine month journey of sanitizing the piercing and staving off infection.

If eating this sandwich was a pain in the nose what would everything else be like? God forbid I’d need to pick my nose with or without a middle man i.e. tissue.

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The sound of music; The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe; The inn of the sixth happiness

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
These three movie titles provided by @yvonnefankhanel

The hills were alive the the sounds of clanging metal and crashing wood. Their cacophony was carried through the valleys below.

In a small cottage carved into one of the hillsides, a witch worked, dancing around her cauldron, throwing in many different ingredients. Carrots, leaks, cabbage, potatoes, celery, onions, beats, garlic, beef, venison, and chicken. Using a big spoon she stirred the stew while thinking of the dinner she had been unexpectedly invited to serve at the Inn of the 7th happiness. Or was it the 6th? No time to waste on meaningless details.

As the stew boiled, the witch prepared a basket with breads, butter and jams. Outside she hitched up a scraggly donkey to a cart twice its size. She changed robes, an identical long dark green robe with a hood, and brushed her hair.

The cauldron would be impossibly heavy and hot to carry but she had placed the fire under a steel cart with wheels that could be locked. Unlocking the wheels, she rolled the hot cart with steaming stew out to the donkey cart.

It was dusk, so she’d need to hurry and get down by night fall.

She pulled off a wrench from the back of the donkey cart. By the handle of the smaller stew cart, she clasped the wrench and began turning it, slowly lifting the pot to the level of the donkey cart.

Once at the right height, she pulled herself up to the donkey cart and attached the wrench to another lever, twisting it. This time, two boards extended out from the donkey cart underneath the cauldron, like the tines of a fork gently cradling a pea or shallot.

Shimmying the stew cart under the extended wood planks, she ensured the pot was secure, then she pulled the pot into the back of the donkey cart by reversing the twists with the wrench.

She lifted the stew cart, now cooler, behind the pot and secured the back gate of the donkey cart.

The distance down to the inn was short. Had she walked it would have taken a few minutes but with the full pot of stew, it took her nearly half of an hour.

When she arrived at the inn, the guests and innkeepers were waiting.

“I’ve brought the stew, now we can all eat!”

A few villagers ran around the back of the cart, pointing.

“As we suspected! That cauldron must be 10,000 pounds at least!” said a villager.

“Not quite, but it is heavy.” replied the witch, but nobody noticed.

“She must have had to use witchcraft to lift such a heavy object herself!”

“No, I built this–” started the witch but she didn’t finish because the villagers had grabbed her.

“She’s a witch, trying to poison us with her magic brew! Burn her!”

And so it would be an incredibly long and unnecessary time before machinery was introduced to humans as they burned her, the cart, the donkey and of course, the stew was ruined.

The Chef, Braveheart, Nacho Libre

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
These three movie titles provided by @refinedcravings

“You may take our lives but you will never take our freedom!” He said, staring at me, breathing hard through his teeth. Saliva was being pushed through his teeth with the ebb and flow of his breath. A snot bubble was beginning to form. He wiped his nose with a hand and wiped his hand on his apron. His other hand rested on a cutting board next to a large knife and some minced garlic.

I chose my words carefully.

“Listen, all I’m saying is that if you use that cutting board for garlic, then you can’t also use it to make the pastries. They’ll all taste like garlic.”

He nodded but the saliva-breath-snot show went on.

“Also,” I continued, “did you watch anything last night? Any movies?”

“Yes.” He seethed.

“Was it a film based in Scotland, by any chance?”

“Yes, why?”

“No reason. Look, why don’t you take the rest of the night off, I’ll cover your shift. Go home, rest, watch something funny.”

“Yes chef!” He grabbed the knife and stabbed it into the cutting board. I flinched and peed a little but nobody noticed. He pushed through the double doors and was gone.

The rest of the kitchen staff came back to life and the hum of the kitchen resumed.

Every chef from line cook to sous chef wants to be set apart, nobody likes their creativity stifled but when you work for a restaurant, you work for the head chef.

He’ll just need to learn to control his nerves and work as a team member.

The next day he walked in calm and collected, but still a little cocky.

The dinner service began and we all worked like a machine; orders were brought in and called out, cooking times were shouted, and the kitchen was a choreographed ballet of fire, food and moving feet.

Then someone ordered dessert. I glanced over at Chef “William Wallace” and saw him shyly peeling garlic. I walked over and he began chopping quickly, too quickly.

“What the hell are you doing, chef? Do you think garlic belongs in every dessert?”

He chopped his pinky tip and it rolled next to the other pieces of garlic.

With a snarl he said, “I am the gatekeeper of my own destiny and I will have my glory day in the hot sun.”

Surface, Sandals, Nail polish

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
words/phrase provided by @ninajo47

He picked at his finger nails, chipping off the black and red polish. On the surface of thee white linoleum floor, flecks were starting to become noticeable.

Usually, these appointments were nothing to worry about but since his last visit he’d been exposed to music.

Every month he was to meet with his Selector, the person managing his life experience as a clone. His original had long since died, and now he was allowed to live a sorta life of his own.

At first he was confined to the compound. As he learned to socialize, comprehend and maneuver complicated social situations, he progressed to excursions. These were day trips with his selector beyond the compound.

He went out to eat, had a drink, watched a movie and went bowling. Then returned home and processed everything through the machine covered in buttons labeled with letters.

He was allowed to leave longer and more often until he reached maximum liberty, as it was called. He could live outside of the compound if he was able to sustain himself with some sort of job and checked in with his selector once a month.

It had been two years, and although he had lived outside of the compound, he stayed within the confines of the life experiences he’d been taught at the cloning facility.

Once, he had caught a glimpse of the manual the selectors used to manage clones.

“Managing the Living Experiences of Like-Humans: A Manual and Practical Application of Puritanical Mores”

None of that meant anything to him but he liked the words.

Now, waiting for his next meeting he was beginning to feel just a hint of an inclination of what the Manual’s title was supposed to mean.

He had been invited to a concert, “the Trashy Cans” was the name of the band, an all female group. The experience changed his life. For two hours it was as if the “application of puritanical mores” were stripped from his being like slow-motion footage of a bomb blast: First burning off the clothes, then melting the skin, peeling back the muscles and tendons and finally disintegrating the bones.

That was rock ‘n’ roll.

Now he was in that all white building of his origins, feeling bad but uncertain as to why. Though he had a hunch that the nail polish, flip flops and beard wouldn’t go over well.

Silhouetto, Galileo, Beelzebub

3 things to inspire 1 story written in 20 minutes. #story320
These three words taken from the song provided by @yvonnefankhanel

With a heavy metallic buzz in the air, Galileo invented the telescope. The sound of one-thousand electric guitars screamed a single distorted note over and over and over again.

Galileo stroked his beard and stared down at his new piece of glass. he turned it over in his hands in wonder of his own work. On one end a large piece of bulging glass, on the other a small hole with which to put one’s eye.

The weight of his creation lay heavy in the air with the fuzz of the metal twangs. To see far and see clearly is the first step to true understanding, true enlightenment.

Galileo hid the object in his robes and walked out into the dusk, just as the sun set behind the hills of his house. He was tempted to make the inaugural viewing through his telescope aimed at the setting sun but a flash of white light distracted him.

The dome of the sun disappeared and the hot white light glowed red, staying at the top of the hill. Galileo felt the weight of his new device pulling down one side of his robes. He grabbed the telescope and looked at the ting on the hill, seemingly left by the sun.

What he saw echoed deep in a place within his heart and mind. An echo started by the things he was told to fear as a child. This was baal, the devil, satan, on the of the seven princes of hell, beelzebub, who was getting larger by the moment. A majestic, beautiful creature with wings.

Galileo could now feel the distortion from the electric chords furiously being strung by a band of invisible metal disturbers.

The lord of flies gently took the piece of metal and glass from Galileo and smiled. With a sharpened pinky, he seared two holes, one larger near the bulging glass but still on the side of the piece and another where Galileo placed his eye.

Then the morning star sprinkled what looked like moss into the larger hole. He blew a kiss and the moss caught fire.

Beelzebub put the glass to his mouth and sucked. He blew out a large cloud of smoke, sweat and heavy smoke. Galileo for an instant felt a warm hug between the smoke and the electric buzzing.

The devil extended the pipe to Galileo and sang.

“I see a little silhouetto of a man
Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the Fandango
Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me”

The devil took off and as he flew away into the night, he continued singing.

“Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, Gallileo, figaro, magnifico

Sweatshirt, Band, Ponytail

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

He was interesting to say the least. I won’t, however, say the least because saying the least is not as interesting as he was.

The first thing I remember about him was his hair; slicked back, tight against his head and all gathered up in the back and tied together like a bundle of wheat. He was balding, but his pattern consisted of two valley’s being forged on either side of his widows peak. The back was fine, which allowed him his loose, long brush of hair.

When I first saw him, he was playing drums for the band that was opening for the band everyone had come to see. His band had some non-conformist dada-esque name like “band” or “music group”, I can’t remember.

He was whipping that mop of hair around in a tank top which showed his all red tattoos. I’m not entirely sure, but guessing by his skin tone he was of nordic, European descent.

The other thing I noticed was the amount of sweat that dripped from him. It poured from his body like he had just been doused with a bucket full of water, striptease style. Every pound of the snare, Tom-Tom’s and cymbals looked like the grand finale of those killer whale shows. If not for the rest of the band in front of him, everyone in the mosh pit would have splash-zone seats.

That was the first time I saw him and it sparked an idea, that I wouldn’t realize until 10 years later.

Fast forward.

I see on the news one of my favorite bands, “the Holysteens”, had a falling out with their drummer just before going on tour. I’m a little concerned only because I have tickets to a concert for one of their Los Angeles dates.

The replacement drummer is none other than sweaty McGee with the pony tail. His name was Tommy “Salt” Waters, go figure.

That’s when all my thoughts from that evening of watching him play come back to me. Sweat flying all over the drums, sweat pouring down his forearms and loosening his grip on the sticks, sweat forcing Tommy to blink and dab at his face every 2-3 seconds. The shear distraction of this human waterfall splashing in the middle of a concert.

I remember thinking, if he wore a thick, long sleeve shirt with a hood, the shirt would soak up the sweat and Tommy Waters could play without stopping.

I called it the Sweatshirt.

At the concert, I had a backstage pass and gave the sweatshirt to him, telling him the story. I had even sewed on the name of the band, The Holysteens, with their favorite art, a middle finger with a halo around it.

Long story short, I left the concert early. Tommy “Salt” Waters overheated, passed out and later died of exhaustion.

I came up with the sweatshirt but I could never reveal this while I lived. So if you’re reading this, it means I’m dead, somewhere with Tommy, or not, but that bastard took my job, so fuck him.

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Coffin, Wave, Flight

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

On a cold and windy night in a cemetery of Edinburgh, Scotland a coffin opened from the inside.

I saw thin fingers curl around the lid and slide the top aside. In the distance I could see the two gravediggers taking a break behind a tree. The cherries of their cigarettes marking the end of their occasional laughter.

The gravediggers job tonight was to move around old bodies to make way for the new. I saw all of this because I had started to sleep in the cemetery near the church. People fear the homeless at a cemetery but a homeless man at a cemetery is unthinkable. I felt safe, except for tonight.

While the gravediggers smoked, I watched the partially decomposed body of an Edinburgh resident from the 1800’s escape. I can’t explain the why or how, all I can tell you is what I saw; the who, what, when and where.

As if aware that his liberators would soon return and become his captors, the skeleton tip-toed through the grass toward a wall that led to the train tracks below. On his way he grabbed one of the fluorescent vests with reflectors sown in. he flung an arm through the vest and swung it around to pop the other arm through.

He reached the wall and hopped over without hesitation. I was dragged from my spot in the shadows and ran after, pausing to look at the tomb from which he, or she, escaped.

“Gavin Alexander, Esquire. Honorable Captain of the East India Trading Company.”

I reached the wall and peered over. Captain Alexander had used his remaining muscle (more like loose yarn and tattered rope) to pull himself up to stand at the back of a train car. The train began slowly to move.

I hopped over the wall, hearing my ankle crack and pop. I wiggled it while looking at the captains foot, as if attempting to understand what lay beneath my skin. Perhaps it was the adrenaline but my foot felt fine. I ran to a train car three from Captain Alexander and hung on as it picked up speed.

In the direction we were heading, we’d soon be at the mouth of the river Edin, leading out to the ocean.

The wind picked up and grew colder as we exited the hole of the city. The fine spray that fell soon became needles as we moved faster. I looked up at the moon, nearly full and illuminating the farms peeking through the density of trees near the tracks.

Captain Alexander leaned away from the train with his head turned up to the moon, taking in the evening like a man entombed over one hundred years.

The train began to slow as it neared the Queensferry stop, a port town.

I watched Captain Alexander climb down from the train car and rest his hands on his hips. I slowly clambered down and lay in the grass, still about three train car lengths away. The train started up again and Captain Alexander turned in my direction and walked slowly toward me.

I could see bits of his former self clinging to his structural anatomy like the scraps of a Spanish Jamon. His bottom jaw slightly opening and closing as if breathing, not from necessity but out of habit. His clothes were merely strips of cloth hanging from his sharper bits of bone.

As he got closer I began anticipating my escape but as soon as the last car passed him, Captain Alexander turned toward the tracks and crossed. I peered over the mound with metal ties and saw he was making his way down to the port.

When he reached an alley way that led to the Firth of Forth, Queensbury’s bridge across the river Edin, I followed.

When I reached the alley, Captain Alexander had reached the Firth of Forth and began to climb. his yellow vest reflecting brightly from the light of the moon and contrasting against the deep red painted structure of the bridge.

With his back to me, I made my way to a dock just East of where he climbed. I could occasionally hear the clank of his bones against the metal as he neared the top. Pulling himself over the top-most arch of the bridge he lay on top and wrapped his arms and legs around the frame as a train passed on the bridge below.

When the train was gone, he stood up on the top bar and waved, at me.

He kept waving until my fear of this strange creature was out done by my awkwardness of the situation. I stood up and waved.

Then Captain Alexander placed his hands perfectly by his sides, bent his knees and lifted his hands back up, making prayer hands above his head. Then he jumped straight out from the bridge. The vest pulled in air and for a minute I thought he took flight, then the vest flew off and the skeleton jackknifed under the waves.

I watched as the vest floated on to the surface of the water. I did not see Captain Alexander resurface. he simply waved and disappeared beneath the waves, which I assumed, if I’m to make sense of the evening, was where he wished his final resting place to be.

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Pineapple, Phones, Ferns

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

The piña colada had already melted. What sat in front of me now was a yellowish soup with foam quickly coagulating into slime.

In the shade it must have been 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I was the only one on the beach. The only person even outside, even in the shade.

Sweat kept trickling into my eye and leaving salt to sting. I blinked the drops away but once a trail of sweat is formed it keeps its integrity, sending my own coolant in thicker streams.

I wiped my head with one of the rags left on the counter. It smelled like beer and stuck to my forehead but served its purpose.

The bartender had stepped away to get more ice. She hadn’t anticipated many people that day. A few of us had trickled in from the afternoon train. I was the only one left now. I had no one waiting and no ride to pick me up.

I grabbed the stem of my glass and stared down at my pineapple gazpacho. The phone at the bar rang. Its sound almost sent ripples of heat waves from its spot by the glasses all the way to where I sat.

The bartender had not returned.

I imagined an ice shortage. Local news covering the story first, then national interest in the story gaining as New Yorkers couldn’t drink their libations on the rocks.

The phone kept ringing and I kept ignoring it, entranced by my day dream.

Pretty soon Londoners, Parisians, Moscowans, Bogotans, etc. all the peoples of major cities didn’t have ice. How could this be if there was water?

The answer, according to scientists was that something odd was happening at the molecular level of all H2O. It was heating all by itself, no matter how cold the external temperatures.

The phone blared, it hadn’t taken a break and was no sounding quite aggressive in its insistence.

Perhaps there was an ice emergency. The idea was ridiculous but the heat coupled with my boredom entertained the thought.

The water seemed to be fermenting. Somehow, a type of alcohol, it couldn’t be frozen in most freezers and refrigerators with freezers. Water started taking on the sharp smell of alcohol.

The phone kept ringing. My mind kept racing.

It wasn’t just the water from the tap or in bottles that was changing, it was all water. Water in soft drinks, water in juice, water in fruits and vegetables themselves, water that collected from dew in the mornings, the waves of the ocean crashing with a 100 proof spray, the water in beer and liquor, raising the level of alcohol in all drinks.

A fascinating scientific quandary but with no ability to comprehend. If all water were turning to alcohol, there would be nothing to drink. That would also mean that all water in our blood streams would turn us drunk, blackout drunk, wake up in the drunk tank drunk. If our blood turned to alcohol, there would be no waking up.

The phone was now an air raid siren in the background of my daydream. Every man, woman, child, animal and plant would dry up, dehydrate and die.

With a fit of the giggles, some loud snoring, a few fights, we’d all slip from deep sleep into nothingness.

My mind distracted, I took an absent-minded sip of the warm piña colada. The sensation brought me out of my daze and back to the bar, where I realized I was surrounded by alcohol.

The phone still rang and now all of my attention focused on it. There had been no sign of the bartender. I also realized I was quite thirsty, I needed some water.

I remembered a short clip from a movie I’d seen where a drop of fresh dew ran down the spine of a fern branch, wavered at the tip and plopped onto the parched tongue of a cartoon dinosaur.

I don’t remember the movie, but my brain was trying to tell me from its deepest darkest recesses that I needed water. Whoever was on the other side of the phone needed something as well.

Me first, buddy!

I tried the faucet, nothing. I walked around behind the bar, opening the ice chest, hoping the bartender was only being proactive. Nope. I tried the gas water and tonic hoses, nothing.

I grabbed a beer from the fridge and slammed the cap next to my piña colada to remember it on my tab. I sucked that beer down and let out a wet belch. I grabbed another two beers from the fridge and put their caps on the counter.

I approached the phone after draining the second beer, still quite thirsty.

“Hello?” The voice on the other side was non-existent. I hung up, starting on the third beer.

The phone rang again and I picked up. Before I could say anything, a smacking noise preluded a question, “Do you have any ice?”

“No, the bartender went to go find come.”

“Oh, do you know where he went?”

“No, I don’t know where she went. I’m just a customer at this bar. Are you guys out of ice?”

“It’s been so hot.”


He sounded like a smoker, his throat vibrating at a low frequency. He cleared his through before continuing.

“Thanks, I gotta go.”

He hung up and I finished my third beer, thinking about leaving. I should find a room and just let myself pass out.

“Sir, sir, wake up sir, you are in the hospital. You passed out from heat stroke and are severely dehydrated. You were found by the bartender behind the bar. You’re stable but you’ll need to spend the night. Sir, sir, do you remember your name sir?