Creative Writing Submissions

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

by Andrea Heingarten
Prompt: You head into the bathroom at work, walk into a stall and close the door. Moments later, as you leave the stall, you notice two people standing there and there’s one major problem: They are of the opposite sex. On the spot, you make up an excuse as to why you are in their bathroom.
            Shitake mushrooms! I’m cutting it close again.”, thought Charlotte, shrieking into the parking lot. She tried her best to get there for 8:20, but never quite got there until 8:27.  She and her supervisor both began work at 8:30.  He usually came in 5 minutes after she arrived, but she didn’t want to stroll into the office 2 minutes later than the person who evaluated her. 
            Once inside, Charlotte sprinted for the restroom.  She burst through the door, throwing herself into a stall, narrowly avoiding wetting herself.  After she finished, Charlotte stepped toward the sink, then froze; Jeremy from Tech Services and some guy from Accounting were staring directly at her. She scanned the room: stalls, sinks …urinals???  Dear Heaven, it’s the Men’s Room!” she realized, embarrassment setting in.  How do I get out of here?”
           Choosing the “I did this on purpose” route, she pulled her gold compact out of her purse, holding it to make it look like a badge. “Health Inspector. Bathroom Division.  There’s adequate toilet paper in the stalls, but I need to check the soap dispensers.”    Walking toward the sinks, she pretended to inspect the urinals.  “What’s that round thing in the urinal – Jeremy?” “Its air freshener.,” quipped Jeremy.  “Shouldn’t you know that, ‘Bathroom Inspector’?” “ I just got the position.  It’s like a ‘Secret Shopper’ thing., “ explained Charlotte, washing her hands while avoiding eye contact. 
          Jeremy stared at Charlotte as if she had grown antlers.  “Did you drink the 32oz. black coffee?  What’s wrong with …hold it.  You ran into the wrong bathroom, didn’t you?,” he laughed.  “Damn. Just say ‘excuse me.’”  Charlotte turned dark crimson as she tried to reply.  “It was not…I wasn’t…This goes on my report! There is gray film in this sink. There could be mold we can’t even see!”  “Riiight.,” said Jeremy. “The Ladies Room is totally germ free.”  “Its fancier.,” said Accounting Guy suddenly, causing Charlotte and Jeremy to whip their heads around.  “My mom took me to the Ladies’ Room with her when I was 4.”, he said, suddenly bashful.  “ Before the toilets, there was a room with a couch, a mirror, a coffee table with flowers.   It was like a little living room.”  “O.K., Vance.  That was educational.  Let Charlotte finish inspection.,” snorted Jeremy as they left.
          Charlotte relaxed for ½ second before hearing a stall door click. Her supervisor, Mr. Bancroft, appeared, expression unreadable.  “Ms. Cantrell, It is now 8:38. This makes you late for work.” She inhaled sharply, wondering if she would get a bad evaluation or a dock in pay.  “I disapprove of your tardiness, but approve of your creativity in handling the situation.  If you get to your desk in 5 minutes, you can avoid being marked tardy.  Pretend this episode never happened.”  Charlotte whispered a thank you and briskly stepped to her desk in 3 minutes.”I’m setting the alarm half an hour earlier,” she vowed, slumping into her chair with relief. 

The GOLDEN SHOVEL POEM was invented by Terrance Hayes.  
Here are the rules for the Golden Shovel:
  • Take a line (or lines) from a poem you admire.
  • Use each word in the line (or lines) as an end word in your poem.
  • Keep the end words in order.

Two Golden Shovel Poems

by Christopher Maher


He took the covered pistol and

When brothers slept, all freshly drunk,

Shot jealous rounds into the

Heads of charismatic men who'd milk

The closely guarded fortune of

A lonely man in Paradise.


What nights I'm robbed of sleep! Oh!

To grapple with such restless ghosts as I

See nightly, no man should be so burdened. For I have

Forfeited my youth to love affairs and slipped

Under the curse of age I'd fled, while the

Lofty hope that life, so formless, surly,

And short, would fold beneath the steely bonds

Of love collapsed as fortress-castles wrought of

Stone one day must crumble down to lifeless Earth.

 Zhongs  (a six word micro-story)

by Christopher Maher

-World peace tomorrow; now, the weather.

-Vines around old pylons. No house.

-Coat hanger wearing sock and bra.

-Wine stains on a love letter.

-Cocaine next to desperate, praying man.

-Ragged girl eyes dress on mannikin.

-Fire eats dead father's last photo.


You see a nicely dressed man walking on the side of the highway carrying what looks like a brief case in his hand.  It’s starting to rain and although you’ve never picked up a hitchhiker before, he’s actually not asking for a ride and seems resigned to having to walk.  You decide to pull over and give him a ride but half a mile down the road he begins to tell you why he was really out there…continue the story.

By Paul Heingarten

Raindrops dot the windshield as I drive along highway 90 from New Orleans toward Houma.  I was all set for a nice leisurely drive to Houston until my passenger happened along.  He shifts in his seat periodically, like he’s trying to scratch an itch in some unreachable place.  His knees knock the briefcase wedged between them.

“Sure you don’t want to take that suit coat off?”  I ask.  “Even with a little summer rain I’m sure that thing has to make you pretty toasty.”

“I’m fine,” he replies, managing a polite smile.

“So, you want me to drop you off in Lafayette, right?”

“That’ll do, yes.  Thanks.”

I glance at him.  His eyes are fixed on the road ahead.  “Well unless you want to hear my karaoke version of the best or worst that top 40 radio stations have to offer, how about we chat a little to pass the time?”

“I guess that’s ok.”  He sighed.

“What’s your name?”  I ask.

“Kyle,” he replied.

“Hi Kyle, I’m Mike.  So, what’s a guy like you doing all dressed up walking along the highway?  You got a thing against driving or something?”

He manages a chuckle.  “Well if you must know, yeah, I do have an aversion to things like that.”

“But accepting a ride in a car is okay.”

“Sometimes you need to bend a little.  But, well, I’ve joined up with a sort of movement.”

Movement?  Oh hell.  Gripping the steering wheel, I’m suddenly filled with visions of Kyle being some kind of Amway rep and me a sudden captive audience to his spiel from hell about the greatest business opportunity I will ever have.  Please no, anything but that.

“What kind of movement?”  I ask cautiously.

“Anti technology.  Think about the world as you know it.  Now, think of how much technology is in it.  The car we’re riding in now, your smart phone, your computer at home, hell, even the credit cards in your wallet are tethers to the bosom of technology this world has become.”

Did he just say, ‘bosom of technology?’  I’m half listening to him and half keeping an eye for the nearest gas station I can hopefully ditch him at.  Measuring my response, I say, “Sure, technology is big in the world and will continue to be, but it does a lot of good, you know?”

“Ok, I’ll give you that, medical uses and such.  But what The Movement is about is reducing and eliminating the useless forms of technology.”

“Useless technology?”  I ask.

“Take the internet for example.  It started as a government communications tool.  Now it’s overrun with garbage.  Websites that just pander to someone’s ego.  Social Networks that just cultivate the need for attention in all of us.  Technology, at least this kind, just is about self.”

Had to admit, he may be onto something there.

He continued, “The Movement fosters the belief that the world needs a paradigm shift.  That technology has gone from being our slave to being our master, and unless we make a change soon we’re in great danger.”

“Don’t you think that’s a little dramatic?”  I say.  “I mean I don’t think my smart phone is going to rule my destiny.”

“Not right now, not next week or maybe not next year.  But it’s heading there.  Your information is out on public display.  Think about all the times you bought something with a credit card.  The phone calls you made over public wireless frequencies.  Text messages, emails, tweets--”

“--Ok, I get you,” I interrupt.  “Yeah, ever since that Snowden guy did his deal, I’ve been wondering about how safe I really am.  How safe we all really are.”

Patting my shoulder, my passenger remarked, “Now you’re thinking smart.  It’s not unlike we’re in a war.  There are no guns, no bombs, and no legions of troops visible.  But in cyberspace, in technology, there are countless enemies around.”

The gas gauge was getting close to empty so I pulled into a convenience store to fill up.  Before I got out of the car, Kyle retrieved a pamphlet from his briefcase, handing it to me.  “We’re small, but growing.  Take a look at this and if you’re interested in coming in for a meeting, there’s a contact number.”

With that he got out to use the restroom.  As the pump filled my car up, I read through his brochure.  It seemed legit but it was just a bit too much of scare tactics for me.  I thought about technology.  Maybe it was something a little too present in our lives, but it’s difficult to know where or when to cut back.  

Maybe smart phones can go over the line from being useful but I’m sure anyone in an accident having to call 911 wouldn’t give their phone back for anything.

My throat was itching so I headed inside to grab a coke or something before we left.  I opened the door to hear yelling and had two people bum rush past me out the door.  That’s when I saw Kyle, facing the cashier, pointing a pistol at them.  

Scowling, beads of sweat dripped off his face.  “You’re a slave, that’s all you are!”  He yelled at the cashier.  She held her hands up and trembled.
I said, “Kyle, what--”

“It’s the enemy, Mike.  This is part of The Movement.  Remember, I told you about a war?  Well sometimes wars get bloody.”

“Kyle, you can’t do this.  Killing someone is not going to help you or any Movement.”

I inch toward him, resting my hand on a coffee station.  The scent of hot coffee was nice, and under another circumstance, most tempting.  Pausing for a moment, he turned back to the cashier.  I grabbed one pot, hurling the hot liquid at him.  Kyle screamed and clutched his face with one hand, as I smashed the pot over his head, dropping him to the ground. 



By Lisa Herrington

You see a nicely dressed man walking on the side of the highway carrying what looks like a brief case in his hand.  It’s starting to rain and although you’ve never picked up a hitchhiker before, he’s actually not asking for a ride and seems resigned to having to walk.  You decide to pull over and give him a ride but half a mile down the road he begins to tell you why he was really out there…continue the story.

“It was a dark and stormy night.”  Trey said as he barreled down Hwy 22 toward his home in Madisonville.   He’d watched an incredible lightening show for the past half hour but now thunder shook his company car and the rain would soon follow.  In fact, he looked forward to the rain, hoping it would ease his chronic insomnia.  Since his wife Claire left him two months ago, he hadn’t slept well, but enjoyed his new apartment without the honey-do list waiting for him.  He was living the dream, traveling during the week and returning home where he could fish all weekend if he wanted.

It was a straight shot, about ten miles from home, when Trey saw a man walking down the old highway.  He never picked up hitchhikers but this man was different.  He had his head down with one hand on his hat and the other on his leather briefcase.  Just last month, Trey had car trouble, no cellular service, and walked two miles to get help.  He’d walked in his suit and brought his brief case along, too. If someone had broken into his abandoned car, he couldn’t chance losing his signed contracts. 

Trey pulled over and waited as the man climbed into the front seat.  Just as he stepped into the car, the rain broke loose from the sky. 

“Thanks.  That was awfully close.”  The man said removing his hat.  It reminded Trey of the hat his wife had given him last Christmas.  It was supposed to be back in style but he’d never worn it.

Up close, Trey could see the man was thirty years older and his dress clothes were worn.  “No problem.  I heard we’d get a big storm this weekend.”  Trey commented as he turned on his hazard lights and slowed down. 

“Is that so?  Well thanks for pulling over.  My house is just a few miles down.”

“We’re practically neighbors.”  Trey grinned.  “Long week outta town.  I’m in sales.”

The man smiled.  “Me, too.  I travel Monday through Friday.”

Trey nodded.  “Just like me.  I sell automatic glass doors for commercial use.  I just got the contract for three new stores in Shreveport and got my quota for the month!”

“You and the Misses have a lot to celebrate this weekend.  Congratulations.” 

Trey nodded and then shook his head.  “Nah.  I’m not married anymore.”

Trey’s shining gold wedding ring that he still hadn’t removed was glowing in the dark and he saw the man looking at it. 

“Well, she isn’t married anymore, but I’m still warming up to the idea.”

The man frowned and looked out the window at the storm.  His voice was low and Trey had to lean in to understand what he was saying.  “Sorry to hear that.  Being a traveling salesman isn’t easy.  Long hours away and weekends dedicated to paperwork.  It’s easy to lose sight of the most important things.”

The man seemed lost in his thoughts and coupled with the storm that was crashing outside; Trey had a strange feeling and felt the need to explain his choices.  “I used to work with my brother.  We had a lawn care and landscape service.  Lots of time at home with family and friends but when I got married I needed a grown up career.  Sometimes, it’s tough but that makes the reward so much sweeter.”

“Reward?”  The man asked.

“Hell yeah!”  Trey confirmed.  “I just made thirty last week, and I’m number one in my division at work with a huge commission coming this quarter.  The ladies are going to love me.”  Trey nudged the man with his elbow and gave him a wink.  “Besides, I can go fishing whenever I want and when hunting season comes around, I’m gonna dust off my guns for the first time in three years!”

“The only problem is you never do go fishing anymore, do you?  And you haven’t met any Ladies?”

“Uh, well, not yet, but I will!  It took longer to move and was a lot of work to close this deal in Shreveport.”  Trey concentrated on his driving not looking over at the man.

“The truth is, those friends that you used to hunt with, also got married.  They stopped calling about the same time you settled down.”

Trey swallowed hard.  He glanced at the older man and frowned.  “How do you know?”

“I know what it’s like.  You lose your wife, then your friends, younger sales reps get the territory you’ve built up and suddenly you aren’t The It Man anymore.”  The man pointed giving Trey directions to turn.

Trey stared ahead.  “My house, well, our house, used to be down here.  She’s living there now but says she wants me to take it after the divorce.  Claire Goins, do ya know her?”

The man motions for Trey to stop, but before he gets out he whispers, “Yeah, Trey.  I used to know her, real well.”

Trey realizes he never gave the man his name as he watches him walk straight into the house that he and Claire used to share.  Even in the dark, it looks worn down and the yard hasn’t been mowed in weeks.  At first he’s furious that Claire allowed it to get in such disrepair in two months but then freaks out that the man’s inside.

Trey jumps out of the car and runs up the drive.  The screen door comes off in his hand when he jerks it open.  He throws it down and pushes through the wooden front door without knocking.  He sees all of his new furniture scattered around the room but it looks filthy.

“Claire!  Claire!”  He yells but she isn’t there.  He hears noises from the kitchen and slowly walks inside the room where he sees the older man, still in his suit, hanging from a rope in the doorway.  A chair is knocked over and he looks like he’s been there for a while, stiff and unmoving.

Trey looks closely at the suit the man is wearing and it has the same gold monogramed buttons as the jacket Trey has on now.  He bolts out the front door and makes it back to his car in seconds.  He’s shivering, not from the rain but from the horror of his future.   

 He speeds away without looking back and doesn’t stop shaking until he’s in his shower and scalding his skin in hot water.

The next morning he makes a deal to buy two new mowers and rejoin the family business with his brother and then he calls Claire. 

Creative Writing Prompt: You wake up in a darkened circus tent, wearing a bright blue and yellow clown costume and a fluffy red wig.  There is a dwarf standing over you with a bucket of water.  “You okay?” he asks.

Sunshine and Shmuey

by Andrea Heingarten

                I felt a splash of icy cold water hit me in the face, shocking me awake. “ Where am I?  What’s going on?”  I looked down at my outfit, a bright blue and yellow clown costume.  A red wig sagged down over my forehead as I sat up.  This was not my day to day work outfit.  It’s not fall, so this wasn’t for a Halloween party.  Is it Mardi Gras?   Did I volunteer to hand out balloon animals at
the school fair? There was absolutely no recollection of how I got into this situation.

As I struggled to get a sense of where I was, I heard a voice like sandpaper. “Kid! Kid! Wake up!” I looked to my left and saw a dwarf standing over me with a bucket of water.  “Good. You’re awake.  You okay, kid?”

“I’m not sure. Oh, thanks for waking me up, I think.  What happened?”

“The boss showed you his new prop for the act.  You passed out on the spot, so I guess

you’re not crazy about the idea.”


I looked straight ahead about 50 feet and saw the largest cannon I had ever seen pointing toward the roof of the tent.  It was painted a patriotic red, white, and blue with the words “Capucelli Circus” emblazoned on side.  The dwarf helped me up and led me out of the tent.  He had a friendly, if craggy looking, face, so I took a chance that he might be willing to help me figure out what was going on.

“Listen, uh…”


“Shmuey.  I do not work at a circus.  My name is Lynn Gazetic.  I am a happily married,
part -time accountant, full-time mother of 2 girls under the age of 5.  The most exciting
part of my accounting job is when I get to change the ink cartridge in the printer.
Motherhood has a little more excitement, especially with my oldest, but still not the
level of being shot out of that thing!”

“Boy, you must’ve really got hit hard. C’mon, we’re going to see the doc.”

I was led to a first aid trailer, where I was given a brief exam and x-ray.  The doctor found no concussion, but gave instructions to stay off my feet for the rest of the day.  He also said my memory loss should go away by the next day, which was nice, except I didn’t have memory loss.  I had a perfectly fine memory of where I should be, which was at home with my family, not in a clown outfit about to be shot out of a cannon.  I started to explain this once again to Shmuey, when the stomping of boots and a booming voice came from the next room “How is she? When can she rehearse?” Shmuey leaned over and informed me of our situation in an excited whisper. “Ok,” Lynn Gazetic.”  You may be an accountant with 2 kids, but Cosimo Capucelli, owner and ringmaster of this circus is about to walk in here.  He is a very demanding man who expects things to go a certain way. So for now, you’re going to fake your way through being one half of the team of Sunshine and Shmuey, an acrobatic clown act. Here he comes! Follow my lead!”

Capucelli, the most intimidating ringmaster I ever saw, strode into the room with purpose. “How’s my favorite acrobatic clowns?”  “We’re your only acrobatic clowns.,” Shmuey muttered under his breath.  Capucelli pumped my hand up and down in greeting. “Sunshine! Glad to see you back up and alert! I know the cannon must seem daunting, but it’s the best way to up the stakes in your act.  The crowd goes insane for Sunshine and Shmuey’s death defying flips through the flaming hoop.  Stakes need to keep rising or the interest fades.”  Please tell me this man isn’t going to make me jump through a flaming hoop right now, I silently begged Shmuey.  “Don’t worry, Boss.,” Shmuey  piped up. “She just needs a little rest, and she’ll be ready to try that cannon bright and early tomorrow morning, right?” “Uh huh.,” I responded, trying to project enthusiasm I didn’t feel at all. 

I spent a restless night trying not to picture myself being shot through the air at 100 miles per hour.  The next morning, Shmuey gave me a crash course in the basics of circus cannons as we made our way to the big top.

“Cartoons always show a fuse being lit before a cannon goes off.  We have one, but it’s just
for show.  It’s a rope with a sparkler at the end.”

“No gunpowder?”

“Nah.  We just use compressed air and a few bungee cords.   You’re going to open the hatch and
squeeze yourself into the sled.  Once I close the hatch, make sure you’re in there tight, because
3,000 pounds of weight is gonna come shoot you into the next galaxy.  The sled stops at the
mouth of the cannon, you don’t.”
I tightened my helmet and prayed that I would be able to survive the blast off.  “Don’t worry.,” Shmuey laughed with a rasp. “There’s a lot in your favor.  The wind speed is good, there’s no obstacles like guy lines or tree branches.  Best of all, you’re a lightweight.  Easier to accelerate and deaccelerate.”

“About the deacceleration.  What am I deaccelerating into? Am I deaccelerating into something?”

“There’s a 50 by 25 feet, 25 foot thick airbag at the end of the field.  Should be plenty of padding.  C’mon! Let’s show the boss a trial run!”

Capucelli watched as I climbed into the cannon.  Shmuey whispered one last “Break a leg, Kid.,”
then shut the hatch door.  I felt the chamber begin to shake as I counted backwards from ten.  7…6…5…4…3…2…1…  There was an earsplitting explosion as I felt myself thrust upward at what must have been 1000 miles per hour.  As I hurled toward what I hoped was the airbag, I yelled out what sounded like “AAAAARGAGAHELPMELORD!” I started my downward plummet when….

I gasped for air and shot straight up in my bed to hear the sound of my Maria, my 18 month old, half sobbing, half shrieking. 

Oz, my husband, sat up and rubbed my back.  “Hey.  That must’ve been some nightmare.  You’re shaking.” He nodded toward the baby’s room.  “Want me to get her?”  “That’s ok. I’ll take care of it.”  Maria greeted me with a soft “Mamamamama.,”   “It’s ok, sweetheart. Daddy is taking you and me and Carrie to the circus tomorrow, and we’re going to see elephants, and acrobats, and funny clowns, and have so much fun.” Helping her calm down helped to calm me down as my shaking finally started to decrease.

Oz had arranged to meet a special friend at the circus’ pre-show meet and greet the next day.  We walked past elephants, jugglers, and face painters as we tried to locate Samuel, an old friend of Oz’s side of the family that I’d heard about but had never met “Do you really have an uncle in the circus, Daddy?,” asked Carrie, my very excited 4 year old.  “Sort of.  He’s not my real uncle, but he’s a very good friend who helped Grandma and Grandpa when they moved to this country from Croatia.  He’s known me since I was tinier than Maria.”  I was about to ask who we should be looking for when we heard a hoarse “Hey! Oz! Oz! Ozvald! Over here!”   I saw Oz bend over to hug what I thought was I child when I heard him say “Uncle Shmuey! You look great!”  No.  It couldn’t be. I pinched my arm – I was awake.  The circus is Ringling Bros., not Capucelli.   No cannon in sight, so that was a relief.  It couldn’t be him.  As Oz moved aside so he could introduce the girls, I saw a familiar, friendly, craggy face.  “Uncle Shmuey, these are my girls, Carrie and Maria, and my wife, Lynn.  Ladies, this is circus performer extraordinaire Samuel Drake.  Otherwise known as Uncle Shmuey.  “It was my dream. It’s a first meeting.   We’ve never met.  Weird conincidence.,”  I said to myself as I smiled and held out my hand.  “It’s nice to finally meet you Uncle Shmuey.” In return, I received a slow smile. “Nice to meet you too, Sunshine.”

Self realization – your character thinks he is good at something, but he isn’t.  Something happens that makes your character realize this.  What?  What does your character do about it?  Write the story.     

By Paul Heingarten
 Richard Bagson sat at the desk in his palatial office, staring at the tablet screen on the desk.  On screen at the moment was a weather website, displaying forecast conditions for the New Orleans area.  He was checking to see if the storms predicted for the day would cause any issues over Lake Pontchartrain. As he checked the various maps and outlooks, he heard a familiar voice from the next room.  “R.M.?  I have some checks for you to sign.”  It was Gina, his secretary and personal assistant.  Richard was the biggest real estate developer in the Greater New Orleans Area, as well as one of the more prominent land owners there.  His income from rent alone allowed him a fairly luxurious lifestyle, including a boathouse down in the West End area and a decent sized boat perfect for impressing any number of friends he could entice to take a trip on it.
“Bring them in now,” he barked.  “I’m taking off early today and I need to be done here right after lunch.”

Gina strode into his office.  She was dressed casually but somewhat conservative.  Richard didn’t get too picky about dress code, since the office was typically only populated by him and Gina.  And Gina had worked with him for so long, they had a familiar rapport.  Not always friendly, but definitely familiar.  She was the only person who could call him “R.M.”, his first two initials, and get away with it.

Gina stood by Richard’s desk.  His eyes had yet to leave the screen.  She glanced over to see what he was looking at.  “Weather conditions?  It’s just early June.  Don’t tell me there is a hurricane already out there.”
Richard glanced sharply at her.  “No, this isn’t for hurricanes.  What are these checks for?”

Gina laid the checks on his desk.  “Installing new flooring in your French Quarter condos.  Remember?  The old flooring warped when the water main burst?”
He scoffed.  “Damn city should be paying me for owning a house with all the crap city taxes and crime that goes with it.”  He glanced at the figures on the checks.  Seeing the amounts he looked up at Gina.  “Whoa!  Who the hell said it would cost this much?”
“RM, that’s what Phil, the flooring contractor said.  Things ran into more money, they had some issues with the install.”
He slid back into his chair, and raised his hand, pointing his finger at Gina.  “That is bullshit.  I’m not paying that man more than what he quoted me.  Get him on the phone now.  I’m not signing a damn thing until I talk with him.”

Gina grabbed the checks.  “R.M., he did tell you about this.  You’re just forgetting.”

Richard raised his eyebrows.  “Hey, whose side are you on?  Look, you get him on the phone and I will straighten this all out.  You know I’m not the biggest developer in town because I don’t know how to handle my people.  I am great at pushing buttons.  No one is going to get one over on me, not even this Phil.  Get him on the phone, now!”
Gina grasped the checks in her hand, and thrust her hand to her side in a fist.  “You just watch it, R.M. You’ve already been through two other flooring contractors on this same project because you ran them off.  And you’re not done with these repairs yet, you know these contractors all talk with each other.”
With that, Gina turned and exited his office.  Richard shook his head at her admonishment.  He knew he was in the right on this issue with the flooring contractor.  He figured he just needed to put this guy in his place, and he relished an opportunity like this.
Richard pushed back from the desk in his chair, leaning back to stretch a bit.  He glanced around his office.  It was big enough to be a small efficiency apartment and was decorated with various civic awards, and keepsakes from various people.  A medium sized bearskin rug lay to the right of his desk.
The phone on his desk beeped and over the intercom he heard Gina’s voice, “R.M., Phil on line 1.”
Richard sat up and slid his chair to the desk again.  Squaring his shoulders, he pressed the speakerphone button.  “Hello?”
“Uh, this is Phil from Floor World.  Is this Richard Bagson?”
“Yes it is.  Phil, my girl here tells me you had some extra costs on that flooring job you did for me.  What happened?”
“Well, there was a pricing issue at the manufacturer.  They undercharged us and we had to settle up with them.  That in turn affects the price we charged you.”
“Phil, why is it MY problem if YOUR supplier doesn’t have their act together?”
“Hold on a minute.  I sent notice to you that you signed and we received back on this.  This was covered two weeks ago.”
“Oh I don’t recall signing anything.  Phil, what are you trying to do here?  I’m not here for you to just jack over, you know.”
“Nobody is jacking anyone over, Richard.  I have the paperwork.”  Phil then spoke softly to someone on his end of the phone, saying, “Did you get that copy?  Good, send it over.”  He then addressed Richard, “Ok, we have the signed copy from you; I’m faxing it over now.”
A few seconds later, the fax machine just outside of Richard’s office began to ring.  Richard glanced in its direction, and then looked back at the phone.  “I don’t know what you are trying to prove, Phil. I’m going to see what this is all about.”
Calling out to Gina, Richard bellowed, “That fax is for me, I need it right away!”
A minute or two later, Gina strode into the office, a triumphant look on her face.  She held the fax in her hands as a victory banner.  “Fax for you,” she said as she handed it to Richard.
Richard glanced at the fax, seeing a copy of a statement about the price increase with his signature at the bottom to authorize it.  He paused for a few moments.  Still looking at the fax, he spoke out to the phone, “Hey Phil, the checks are going in the mail this afternoon.”
“Ok, thanks a lot Richard,” Phil said and hung up.
Richard hung his phone up and glanced at Gina.  She was trying hard to mask her smile. 
“What?”  Richard quipped. 
“Oh, nothing,” Gina replied.
“The amount of things I have to sign every week here, how should I be expected to remember every damn piece of paper?  What are we doing for lunch, I’m starving.  How about you pick us up something at the mall next door?
Gina went to her desk to retrieve the menu, giggling as soon as Richard was out of earshot.  Even the biggest business giants have their slip ups at times too, she mused.

Sugar & Spice and Surgical Procedures, Pt. 1
                                              by Andrea Heingarten

            I stopped by my sister and brother-in-law’s house to find my four-year-old niece, Caroline Angelle Gazetic, Carrie for short, relaxing on the couch after a long day at Pre-Kindergarten.  She was wearing the lavender leotard and tutu that she only took off when she had to wear a school uniform or bathe.  On her right was her beloved Chihuahua, Smoochy; on her left, her favorite stuffed animal, Ballerina Bear.  All three were engrossed in whatever was on the television screen. 
            “Hey, Carrie.”
“Hi, Nabbie,” she replied, barely looking up. 
“What’re you watching?”
“Emergency appendectomy,” she said without as much as a blink.
“WHAT???” I thought I had misheard her, but on the screen a surgeon was poking someone’s insides with a metal instrument.  I glanced over to see how Carrie was reacting to the blood and guts. There were no signs of being grossed out, no signs of fear.  She was actually eating a pouch of fruit snacks while watching. 
As the announcer intoned “Next on ‘ER Stories,’ doctors come up with an unusual way to remove an infected gall bladder,” I thought of an escape plan. “Where’s your mom?”
“Baby’s room.  Maria needed a diaper.”
            I found my sister buttoning 1 year old Maria into a fresh outfit.  “Lynn, did you know your four year old is watching surgeries?” 
“Hello to you too, Abbie.” 
“No, seriously.  Does she do this sort of thing often?” 
“She’s been doing it for about a week and a half.  She’s only allowed to watch 1 hour of educational TV a day.  Educational doesn’t always mean PBS.” 
It took a minute to digest this. If a 4 year old, girly girl, future ballerina like Carrie was comfortable watching people get cut open, society and our culture are moving faster than ever. “Boy, what happened to the days of ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mr. Rogers?’”
            Lynn shrugged, handing me Maria as we walked to the kitchen.  “I’m not worried.  No nightmares, no phone calls from the teacher.  She’s learning stuff.  Oz cut his hand changing a blade on the lawnmower Saturday; as we’re driving to the hospital, Carrie blurts out ‘Daddy needs sutures!’ Sutures!  Thank God the ER staff was patient with all the questions.  She never stopped.  Every few minutes it was ‘Are you going to take his blood pressure? Is Daddy getting an IV drip?’  She got very disappointed when they used Dermabond instead of stitches.”
Dermabond? I’ve been going to doctors for thirty three years and had never heard of it.  “What the heck is Dermabond?”
“Skin adhesive.  The crazy thing is she knew that.  She had to tell me what it was. ‘It’s skin glue, Mommy!’” Lynn shook her head with an amused, slightly resigned grin.  “She’s obviously not squeamish and she loves animals.  Maybe she’ll grow up to be a vet.”
            We joined the future veterinarian/ballerina/med student on the couch. “The patient is in recovery. Heart surgery is next,” she informed.  “Great.” I moaned, hoping my stomach wouldn’t lurch.
Sugar & Spice and Surgical Procedures, Pt. 2
by Andrea Heingarten

    For about two weeks, 4 year old Carrie had picked up a habit of watching surgical documentaries on the Health Channel when she got home from Pre-Kindergarten.  Her mom, Lynn, was fine with this, since it was educational and not causing nightmares or problems at school.  She stopped being fine with it when she got a call from Carrie’s teacher.  “Yes, we’ll take care of this.  I’m so sorry.  I hope this phase passes soon. Please tell Allegra’s mother we hope she feels better.  Thank you.”
            Lynn walked into the den to find her lavender leotard and ballet shoe clad daughter practicing 3rd – 5th ballet positions while, of course, watching “ER Stories.”  Lynn picked up the remote and clicked off the TV.
                        “Mommy!  I’m gonna miss the finger amputation!” came the impatient protest.
“We need to talk, Carrie. Daddy and I said you could watch this if it didn’t cause problems at school.  I just got off the phone with Ms. Johnnie.  She said she had to put you in time out this afternoon.  Is that true?”  Carrie looked away, suddenly interested in where her Ballerina Bear was.
“And why did Ms. Johnnie put you in time out?”
“Because I was talking about the kidney operation on ‘ER Stories.’”
“At lunchtime.” Lynn added.
“At lunchtime.”
“Uh huh.  She said the other kids came to her because you were grossing them
out. “
“They were not grossed out!” Carrie responded, indignant. “The boys weren’t grossed out.  They liked it!’
“Four year old boys like snail ooze. The girls didn’t like it as much.” Lynn said evenly, keeping her calm for the moment. “Allegra Murch went home sick.”
“Allegra’s stupid.”
“She tippy-toes all the time just ‘cause she’s the princess in the dance recital.  She hid my fairy wand at practice yesterday.  Yay! She’s sick.”
Lynn stared at her child in disbelief. “No! Not yay! You don’t yay somebody being sick.  When Daddy gets back from the store, we’ll discuss this.  Go to your room.”
“Am I in time out?”
Lynn counted slowly to herself - 1001, 1002…”The only reason you’re not punished yet is because I can’t think of exactly how to punish you for what you did.  I don’t get this.  You watch operations, but act like you’re going to barf every time I change your sister’s diaper.”
“Operations don’t have stinky baby poop.” Carrie supplied.
“Go. To. Your. Room. NOW!”
Carrie was stripped of her hour of after-school TV privileges and sentenced to 20 minutes of time out plus having to make a get well drawing for Allegra Murch.   On the day her sentence was over, Carrie was allowed to watch anything educational, but not on the Health Channel.  Her dad, Oz, made sure of this on his way to his office in the next room. 
“OK.  No surgeries, right?”
“Right!” chimed in Carrie.  “Just ‘Animal World.’”
            Oz walked out just in time to miss hearing the announcer say “Next on ‘Pet Vets,’ find out what happens when Percy the Pug swallows a small rubber ball.”
            “If the laxatives we gave him don’t work, we may have to operate.” said the veterinarian.
                        “Cool!” smiled Carrie.

Self-realization-Your character thinks he/she is good at something, but he/she isn't. Something happens that makes your character realize this. What? What does your character do about it? Write the story.

The Ultimate Salesman
By Lisa Herrington

Greer uses a healthy amount of hair product and runs his hands through his thick mane in order to move it into shape.  He spends a lot of time on his look trying to make a good impression. 
“Looking Great!”  He says out-loud and points his finger at the mirror as he nods his head with approval.  He then turns and grabs his client list as he starts another work week.

Greer travels extensively as he covers the southern territory for his boss.  He only sees his co-workers, from the North, East, and West Regions whenever he’s summoned to corporate and therefore on his own for long stretches of time. 
Lately, he’s tried to revamp his image and although it hasn’t worked yet, he’s certain he’ll see a turn around with clients soon. 
“They’re going to love you today, Greer.  New Suit, close shave, and a good attitude.”  He gives himself a pep talk and as usual, refers to himself in third-person. 
“You’re going to knock them dead!” He stops and frowns.  “Nope, not going there.”  He says under his breath.
He walks to Starbucks and grabs a dark roast coffee with a splash of half and half.  He winks at the barista who is smiling at him and reminds himself that he cannot date women in his neighborhood. 
“Greer Rampi you don’t wanna go to a new place for coffee or worse, have to move again!”  He scolds himself outside.
The truth is, it always starts fine.  Greer is abnormally handsome and draws people in but once they get to know him, well, he scares them the hell off- fast. 
Greer plots out his day to make sure he can make it to all thirteen appointments scheduled by his home office. 
“Busy Monday.”  He states as he walks into the hospital ER and requests to see Dr. James.
The receptionist admires Greer and he gives her his coolest grin.  “How you doing?” He says to her almost privately.
She giggles.  “Great.  Just great.” 
The nurse behind her clears her throat and then smiles too.  “Was Dr. James expecting you?  He’s late but should make an appearance within the hour.” 
Greer has a full schedule and decides to swing back by for Dr. James later.  He leaves his card for the receptionist and hand-writes his cell phone number for her.

The next appointment is at a retirement community that he’s frequented five times already.  “Tough month.”

As he nears the townhouse door he sees a little girl pointing at him, “L-L-Look Mommy.”
The mom is embarrassed and nods at Greer. 
“Morning Ladies.”  He says leery of making contact with the little girl.
“Good Morning.”  The lady says but the girl hides behind her.
The mom shakes her head.  “Not usually but I guess she’s about that age.  Sorry.”  She scoops up the girl and tries to console her.
Greer’s feelings are hurt because little kids really don’t like him.  He’s tried everything but nothing works.  He watched Barney, the Dinosaur and learned all of the songs but still he hasn’t met one child that doesn’t run away once he says Hello.
“You’re just too good-looking,” he chides himself and knocks on the door.
It takes a minute and finally Mr. Lancaster pulls the door open to speak past the golden chain.  “Yes, what can I do for you?” 
“Mr. Dell Lancaster?” 
“Yes, Do I know you?”  He says opening his door and looking wide-eyed at Greer.
“Well sir, I think you’ve been expecting me.”  Greer says with a warm smile.
Mr. Lancaster stares for a minute and then nods his head whispering, “Hell.”  He steps back, “You better come inside.”
Greer is happy.  His new look must be working.  “Thank you sir.  I appreciate the hospitality.”
They walk into the living room and it takes less than three minutes for Greer to tell his joke and then see himself out. 
He rushes to his next appointment under a large tree precisely two-thirds of a mile from exit fifty on highway 10. 
He sees he missed a call from the East-Coast Rep and quickly returns it.  “YO EAST, how’s it going?”
“What the hell G.R.”  He says under his breath.  “I’m walking in with a client right now.”
Greer laughs.  “Why did you answer?”
“Because I want to warn you that you better knock off the funny stuff or you’re going to feel boss’s wrath.”
East hangs up before Greer can respond.  “Can’t a man have fun with his job?”
Right on schedule, a red compact car comes to a halt in the tree next to him and a seventeen year old boy comes staggering out. 
“Dad’s gonna be pissed.” 
Greer smiles, “Nah.”
“What? Where did you come from?” 
Greer clears his throat.  “Do you know why there are gates on a cemetery?”
The teenager shakes his head.
“People are dying to get in.  Get it?”  Greer laughs at his own joke and the boy simply stares.
“Dude, am I dead?”
“Yes.  Thanks to texting and driving my quota has doubled the past few years.”  He shows him to the next realm and then starts towards the hospital but is interrupted by a summons to corporate.
When Greer walks in and sees the other reps, he knows he’s in big trouble.
“It’s time for an intervention, South!” says a booming voice from behind him.
“The name is Greer.”  Greer whispers.
“That’s right, what is it this week?  Greer Rampi?  Give us a break.  You can rearrange the letters but you’ll still be the Grim Reaper- Southern Division! Now South, about those jokes...”
“My jokes are funny.” 
 “How would you know?  You’re telling them to the dead when they cannot get away from you.”
Disappointed, Greer is sent back and decides to change his strategy. But as soon as Dr. James walks in, Greer says, “Why didn’t the skeleton cross the road?  He didn’t’ have any guts!”
Dr. James laughs hysterically, and immediately, Greer is zapped back to corporate.   
The End

Office Circus
  by Dawn Lavoie 
Babette teetered into my office Monday morning wearing new Jimmy Choo’s, a low-cut silk blouse that showed more cleavage than I would ever have, and a tight pencil skirt that stopped six inches above her knees.  I could see her knee dimples with every step. God, I hope she doesn’t bend over.
“Morning boss,”  her voice came out low and gravelly.
“What’s with you?  You been smoking all weekend?”
“No, I’m practicing for my promotion.  My self-help teacher said a deep voice is authoritative.”
“Oh, right.  Never mind that right now.  We’ve got a gazillion samples to finish before lunch and I need to call Lonnie to tell him why he’s going to get the results late.  Oh, and I think the vacuum lines need to be purged. I saw air bubbling in them when I came in.”

“I’ll get right on it.”  Babette swayed out of my office. and into the outer secretary pool office.  All conversation stopped as she passed through, resuming only when the outer door banged shut.  Thank God she’s going to be in the lab all day where no one will see her.  I sighed.  It is my job to see that the work gets done.

I  sat at my desk for the next hour doing all the things that bosses in the government do to keep the labs in business.  My coffee got cold.  I brushed the crumbs off my jeans and walked into the outer office.  Empty.  Where was everyone?

I poked my head into the hallway where I could hear laughing, quickly stifled. A clump of lab techs and secretaries clustered around my laboratory doorway, giggling.  I walked down the hall.  “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Shush!”  My secretary, Jean, put her finger in front of her lips and swiveled her head towards the lab door. 

The crowd parted as I got close enough to see that they were looking at Babette’s large, girdled rear sticking out from under the lab bench.  Babette was trying to reach the vacuum lines but her skirt was keeping her from crawling far enough under.  She  reached for the valve with one hand, tugged a her skirt with the other, all the while keeping her body delicately balanced as if poised for a portrait.

“Okay guys, that’s it for now.  Babette, do you need help?”

“Oh, boss.  Yeah, I’m can’t quite reach the valve.  I’m afraid I’m going to split my skirt.”  She backed out from under the lab bench tucking herself into her blouse as I closed my eyes for a minute, shaking my head.  “What’s everyone doing in the hall?”  She had noticed the stragglers ambling back to their desks.

I crawled under the bench and turned the valve for her.  I brushed the dust off my jeans.  “Babette, we’ve talked about dressing in clothes you can work in.”

“I know, but my self-help class said we need to dress for the job we want to have, not the one we have.”

“What job do you want?”

“Well, I’d like to be the boss.”

I looked at my jeans and pullover and then at her outfit.  It wasn’t that Babette was fat exactly; it was more that she was too short for her weight.  Or maybe there wasn’t enough fabric to cover her. 

“Yeah,  Do you ever wonder how I got my position?”

Babette looked thoughtful,  “You must of really dressed up on interview day.”

I mentally rolled my eyes and ignored her comment.  “I think you might have a better chance of promotion if  you can demonstrate how well you can do the job.”

“Well duh, that’s what I’m doing.”

“Good!  So you’ve finished the samples?”

“Well, no... but I’m sure I will once the lines are cleaned out.”

“OK, I’ll leave you to it.”  I checked my large Mickey Mouse watch, “ Fed Ex will be here in two and a half hours to pick them up.”

I was talking to my secretary, Jean, an hour later when the phone rang.  I looked at Jean.  Jean looked back at me.  We engaged in our usual good-natured “who’s going to blink first” game. 

Jean said, “It’s for you.”

“You’re my secretary.”

I’m sure Jean made an obscene gesture as I turned my back but she did answer the phone.  “It’s for you.”

Lonnie was on the other end.  “Can you give me a hint what the samples are going to say.  I’ve got to be in court earlier than I thought.  Old Judge Blake must be going fishing tomorrow and he’s called both sides in for a conference after lunch.”

I sighed.  “Right, I’ll see what I can do.” 

I knew what the samples were going to show but could I tell him without the analyses to back me up?  I pushed the intercom button.  “Babette, I need you right now.”

“Be right there boss.”

I could tell when she got close because the outer office went quiet.  No keys, no rustling papers.

She came in, hips swaying with each step.

“Are the samples done?”

“No boss, but I’m working on them.”

“I’m going to put Charlie on them.  We need to send the results to Lonnie right away.”

Babette looked at me, “Well, if that’s what you want to do. I’ll just twiddle my thumbs.”

“I’d like you to label all the sample bags and get the mailing packages ready.”

“But Jean does that.” 

“Yes she usually does.  Now I want you to do it.”

“But I’m a lab tech, not a secretary.”

“I’m trying to find something you can do.”

“What do you mean boss.”

“This lab tech thing just isn’t working out.”

“If you didn’t ask me to do things to ruin my clothes it would be a lot easier.”

“If you would dress for he job, it would be a lot easier,” I said.  “ You need to wear clothes you can get dirty.  Lab work isn’t glamorous.”

Babette looked puzzled for a moment and then turned around.

Someone in the outer office whistled softly as she walked out.  I sighed again.

Blind Date by Dennis Lavoie
“Are you trying that dating site again? Didn’t work out so hot last time, did it?” Her roommate looked over her shoulder at the screen. “Ooo! That one looks like a hunk, though. You gonna reply to him?”
“I thought I would, yes. I mean, you can’t give up just because one guy didn’t work out.”

“Well, just be sure to check him out before you actually sit down at the table this time and make sure he looks like his picture. That last guy was a real monster.”
She did check him out, discretely from the hostess station. Looks like picture, check: conservatively
cut blond hair, chiseled features reminiscent of a Macy’s mannequin, sports jacket but no tie. So far so good.
He rose to greet her as she approached. Courteous, check. A definite plus in her book. They made their introductions, ordered, and made small talk as they waited for the food, and continued after the soup was served. The conversation mostly consisted of questions and answers as they got to know each other. He seemed to be particularly interested in her wide-ranging travels, which she had described in her profile.

He asked, “So I guess you got to see a lot of different customs, huh? Anything gross you out?”

“No, I have to say, it takes a lot to gross me out. I mean, I say just go with the flow, y’know? Say, are you all right?” He hadn’t tasted his soup and she noticed his forehead had broken out in a heavy sweat.

He said, “Sorry. I’m not feeling too well. I had wanted to wait until later, but, well, I have a confession to make.”

She stopped her spoon halfway to her mouth, calmly set it down again, sat back with her hands on each side of her plate.

“So what is it,” she asked flatly, “Are you married?”

“No, no, it’s not like that. It’s just that, well, I wasn’t completely truthful on my profile.”

He licked his lips.

She froze. She could have sworn she saw…. “Did I just see… a lizard tongue?” she asked.

“Oh!” he said. “Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to do that. It’s just that I’m terribly stressed just now…” A bead of sweat formed on the tip of his nose, quivered for a second, then dropped onto the table cloth. Smoke rose from the spot as the cloth dissolved. Her eyes widened as she coiled to spring up from her chair. “Ooops,” he said.

“Here, just...” He reached into a jacket pocket, pulled out what looked like a cigarette lighter, and held it discretely in front of him. “Don’t look at this,” he said, so of course she did. She saw a blue flash, then felt a surge of wide-eyed panic when she realized she could not move. She tried to scream, but could not muster more than a faint croak.

“I’m sorry I had to do that,” he said, “but I can’t have you melting down here in front of everyone. You’re perfectly OK, you just can’t use your limbs or voice, though maybe I should have done something about your eyes too. I’m sorry, I really am. You’ll be all right. I had wanted us to get to know each other so I could tell you all this at length, to give you a chance to… What? What are you staring at? Oh.”

She was staring at his right eye, where the lower lid had drooped to reveal green scales beneath the skin.

At the next occupied table, four over, the husband said to his wife, “Mabel, it’s not polite to stare at the other customers.”

“But Walter, that good looking young couple over there seems to be having a tiff.”

“Well, it’s none of your business, so just turn around.”

“But look at her, Walter. She looks stiffer than your drawers on a January clothesline and she’s just as white. This is going to be a doozy.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, just turn around, will you?”

Meanwhile, back at the table, he was trying to push the skin under his eye back into place. He must have pushed a bit too hard, though, because his eyeball popped out. He bobbled the catch, and it plopped into his soup. “Oh, dear!” he said. He fished around his Minestrone with a spoon, found his eyeball, licked it off, and reinserted it into the empty socket. If her eyes had gotten any wider, they would have taken a soup bath too.
Her nostrils flared and the strangled croak in her throat rose in pitch. Her right hand crumpled the tablecloth in a death grip.

“Again, I’m so sorry. I guess I may as well tell you. I’m a bit desperate, you see. I’ve been on this planet for five years, studying humans and, well, yes, conducting some experiments too. But nothing fatal!” he added quickly. “Then my mothership… well, there’s been no communication for two months now, or with the other researchers, and my biosuit requires maintenance, as you’ve seen… Are you understanding any of this?

Blink once for yes, twice for no.” She managed to close her bulging peepers once.

“Good, good. I need help, you see. There will be things I can’t do for myself. I was hoping to persuade you… There are some really valuable things I can do for you if you can just help me out. Oh, I know this is all going wrong, but do you think you could, you know, help me just a little bit?”

She blinked once. Then twice. Then she kept on blinking like a strobe light.

“OK, OK. I understand. I’d better go. Here, don’t look at this.” She looked again. It was a pink light this time. “You’ll be normal in a minute. I’m really sorry if I’ve frightened you.” He stood and put some money on the table. He paused, then frowned, noticing his left pinkie finger had fallen off next to the salad fork. He retrieved it and put it in his pocket. “Good bye. Have a good day.”

Mabel said, “Walter, he’s getting up and leaving!”

“Probably going to the men’s room.”

“No, he went right out the door and left that poor girl. She’s just sitting there swiveling her eyes around like Barney Google.”

“Probably embarrassed about being stood up, and she’s checking to see if any busybodies are noticing. Now turn around will you!”

The girl’s scream exploded in the room like a bursting high pressure steam pipe.  One waiter dropped a pitcher of ice water onto the glass he was refilling; another flipped a tray of fried calamari into the salad bar; a lady in a booth fainted into her pasta arrabiata; a cook in the kitchen dicing an onion almost cut off his thumb.
The girl screamed longer than some people can hold their breath, gulped air, and went at it again at a slightly higher pitch. She staggered to her feet, flailing with one hand while crunching the tablecloth in the other, spilling cutlery, dishes, and food to the floor. She bolted for the door, still gripping the tablecloth, which billowed out behind her like a pursuing ghost, and ran screaming into the night.

Mabel said, “Well, I never!”

Walter said, “Probably won’t be a second date.”
Slow Dance! by Dennis Lavoie
BWC Character Development Exercise
Dear Katie
Thank you for responding to my ‘E-Hearts’ posting.  I was really excited to read that we have a lot of interests in common, like dogs and dancing. ‘Damn,’ he thought, ‘should I be lying right off the bat? Well, why not? It’ll be easier to apologize after I get to know her than to explain everything up front. I’ve sure learned that the hard way. Might even work this time.  No, unfortunately, I don’t have a better photo of me than the side profile shot. I’ve been out of the country in the Peace Corps for awhile. (‘God, lay it on why don’t you!’) Would you like to meet sometime?
Dear Nathaniel:
I understand the dating problems; I’ve been out of circulation myself for a few months now, but I’d like to start seeing someone again. How about a pizza at Bosco’s ? Is tomorrow night at 5 good?
He walked in ten minutes early, and the familiar warm odors of savory sauce and warm bread were a balm, if only momentarily, for his nerves. He felt a quick stab of panic when the hostess asked if he was Nathaniel and told him his party was already seated; he had wanted to choose a table himself, away from the crowds of staring people. He was relieved when she led him to the quiet back section, a darkened, narrow aisle lined with high-backed booths along both sides. He put one hand against the long hair covering one side of his face to keep it in place as he turned to the young brunette sitting at the table.
“Hi, Katie. I’m Nathaniel.” He awkwardly offered his hand and slipped onto the bench opposite. “I would have recognized you with no problem. You’re as pretty as your picture.” ‘Ow! Lame, lame, lame! You idiot!’ He dropped his eyes and grabbed a menu, trying to think how to recover.
“And I would have recognized you too, even though I can only see half your face”, she said with a small smile. Was she mocking him?.”Do you always wear your hair that way?”
“Uhh, yeah, well, for a few years now.”
“Why?” Are you disfigured or something? ... Oh… Oh my God... Nathaniel, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
“It’s all right,” he shrugged, “It was going to come up sooner or later.” The shame was all too familiar.
“Can you show me? She asked.
“What? No! I mean, you really don’t want to see it. It’s pretty gross…”
“No, please. Show me. I want to see,” she said.
He looked at her with his exposed eye for a moment, then set his mouth in a tight line and pulled the curtain of hair away from his hidden face, revealing the slashing scar, the drooping eyelid, the clouded eye.
“Oh dear,” she said, and he thought he could hear sympathy rather than disgust in her voice.
“How did it happen?”
“It was a dog, when I was 12. They couldn’t save my eye.”
“It must have been hard for you.”
“Yeah, well it’s not easy to get a date looking like a freak show, I can tell you that. That’s why I thought I’d try the dating site.”
“You know, you’re not bad looking,” she said.
He snorted.
“No, I mean it. You ought to wear a patch instead of hiding it. Guys can do that. You’ll seem macho and mysterious to the ladies. I mean, if you were a girl, you couldn’t do anything like that. We’re all about being pretty. Any little thing wrong and nobody wants to look at us. Whenever you get a compliment, you can hear the pity: ‘Too bad, she could be such a pretty girl.’ Well… Anyway… Say, I bet you were lying about liking dogs, right?”
“Yeah, well, obviously. Dancing too,” he admitted, adding quickly, “But I think I could learn.”
“I love to dance.” she said. He wasn’t sure, but she might have said, ‘I loved to dance.’
He said, “Listen, I’m sorry. We don’t have to do this. It’s just that I was kinda hoping we could talk and get to know each other before, you know…”
“No, it’s all right. Please stay. Just… just promise you won’t play footsie with me, OK?”
“Oh, never mind. Might as well get this over with too. Go ahead. Try playing footsie.”
He sat for a moment, confused, then, instead, he ducked his head to look under the table, holding his hair against his face out of long habit. When he came up, he had forgotten his hair, and his good eye and mouth were both wide.
“I was at the Boston Marathon,” she said quietly, “at the finish line. I’m pretty good at walking on these things now. Pretty soon I’ll be tap dancing again, and I won’t even need tap shoes! … Sorry, it’s… it’s a joke. All I really want to do is to slow dance again, feel someone’s arms around me. ‘Course, he’d have to have his arms around me to hold me up! … Please stay, Nathaniel.”
This time he took her hand. It was warm and soft with promise.
He wondered how he would look in an eye patch.



These submissions were from the September 12th BWC meeting.  Enjoy!

I Hate Shots
D.M. LaVoy 6 Sep13

The doctor pulled the stethoscope out of his ears and said, “OK, Mr. Smith, everything sounds good up there. Let’s lie back on the table and I’ll palpate your abdomen, check your liver, spleen, things like that. That’s it. Let’s just hike up your shirt here… Whoa! That’s some scar you have there. Appendix?”

“Uhhh… Yeah. I was about three, I think. Guy must’ve been a real butcher.”

“I’ll say! Well, let’s go ahead and check you now… I have to say, an abdominal palpation is so much easier on someone with so little body fat like you. What is it you do anyway?”

Smith grunted as the doc probed his spleen with stiff fingers. God he hated doctors. “Ungh…used to be military.”

“Ah, that explains it then. And the other scars too I guess? ….. OK. All set. You’re in great shape! One final thing. You need a flu shot.”

“Ummmm…. No.”

“Oh, I really think you should. This year’s strain is extremely virulent. You really need a flu shot.”

“I hate shots. I mean, I really hate shots.”

“Oh, come, come Mr. Smith. It’s just a quick prick on the arm. Why wouldn’t you want to protect yourself?”

I stared at the doctor for a couple beats, then said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I was part of a secret bio warfare experiment. I had a lot of shots, I mean hundreds of shots. And something went wrong, really wrong. Instead of fighting off the bugs, my body just made them stronger. Oh, they wouldn’t hurt me, but if somebody else caught that superbug, they were goners. You’re using a live vaccine, right? Yeah, well, you see, if you inject me with it, you could have a super-flu epidemic on your hands.”

His expression registered skepticism. Close-cropped greying hair over a round face, watery blue eyes amused behind steel-rimmed glasses, and one corner of his mouth ticked up in a slight smirk: “Well, that’s a new one, but…”

“But the worst part is that, if they find out– and believe me, they will find out–they will be forced to… shall we say ‘suppress’ any linkage back to them. Any linkage. And that is why I cannot get a flu shot today.”

Smith held him in an unblinking gaze. The moment stretched out uncomfortably. The doctor’s smile slowly melted into a thoughtful pout, while the gray eyes slowly went from a bemused crinkle to a slight frown. He blinked, once, then again twice more before he cleared his throat and looked to his clipboard. He stood and walked stiffly to the door. “Well, then. I guess we’re all done. See the nurse at the desk on your way out. Good bye, Mr… ahh… Smith.”

Works every time. I really hate shots.

Follow That Man
By Lisa Herrington
I arrive at the parish library to pick up my passenger and quickly swallow my beer.  A young girl about thirteen jumps into the back of my taxi and says, "You see that Mexican restaurant across the street? In about five minutes, a man is going to come out of there, and I want you to follow him."

“Aren’t you Joe Thibodaux’s daughter and isn’t it past your bedtime?”  I say condescendingly.  

She smirks.  “Aren’t you the one that reported a pack of giant dogs roaming parish-line road to Sheriff Bergeron?”

I am about to kick her out of my cab when she shoves fifty crumpled one dollar bills into my hand.  My mouth waters, beer money, as I stuff it into my pocket.  She nods towards a man scurrying down the sidewalk.  He looks normal enough, and I watch, as he climbs onto a bicycle and pedals away.

He cycles down parish-line road and straight towards the carny trailers that recently pulled into town.  He turns onto an unpaved path and the girl mutters, “Keep going.”

Struggling to ride, he is still a good distance from the trailers, but dismounts and throws it to the ground.  As he stalks off, he turns and gives us a bone-chilling grin.  We weren’t hidden, but I figured he drank too much at Maria’s Taqueria and hadn’t noticed.
Suddenly, his clothes hit the ground.  He’s seven feet tall, standing on large hind legs, covered in black nappy fur, his dark eyes are red, and he smiles showing large pointed teeth.  The girl has a camera and is snapping pictures as I press the accelerator to the floor.  
I throw the cash back at her as I reach the Thibodaux’s property.  Exiting the car, she walks directly to my window, motioning me to roll it down.  She hands me the money.  “Papa would be mad if I didn’t pay you.”
“What was that th-th-thing?”
“A Rougarou, of course.  I heard you’d seen him and I have been watching that restaurant.”  She laughs, “I knew my uncle couldn’t resist Maria’s.  He loves tacos and can smell them from miles away.   I figured if I took a few pictures, Daddy would realize how much he misses him, and let bygones be bygones.   I’ll put in a good word for you, too.”  She narrows her eyes and whispers, “Daddy has a pretty bad temper, though, so I wouldn’t talk to the Sherriff.”
My mouth goes dry as I see four sets of red eyes staring at me from the woods, between her house and the swamp.  
Slowly, I head back to town.  While stopped at our only traffic light, I see the lazy Sherriff sitting on the hood of his car, parked underneath a large oak tree.   “Hey, Scottie.  Seen anything interesting tonight?”  He sneers.  He has a sack of Maria’s tacos sitting beside him and is gorging on one as red eyes are watching.
I speed off as the light turns green.

Bingo Mania
D.M. LaVoy 6 Sep13

“But, Gran, I can’t do that.”

“Of course you can, Amy Dear. There’ll be plenty of other young women there. Nobody’ll notice.”

“Yes, but they’re mostly there helping their moms or grandmoms, not playing.”

“Some play too. They do! I just want you to get as close to her as you can to watch how she’s doing it.”

“How do you know Miss Edna’s cheating at all, Gran? Maybe she’s just plain lucky at bingo.”

“Oh, she’s cheating alright! I know it in my bones! And she’s not going to get away with it no more! I’ve tried to catch her at it, but you can’t stare at someone very long without getting obvious about it. I want you there because your young eyes may be able to see something I missed.”

“But where will you be?”

Gran leaned in conspiratorially and looked sly. “I’m gonna be outside the window with your Gran’pa’s old binoculars watching that biddy like a hawk.”

“Oh, all right, but I don’t feel right about this. And the VHF hall is a double wide set upon piers. How are you goin’ to get high enough to see in the window?”

“Oh... Well…. Well I’ll just use a stepladder. Yes, I’ll use a stepladder.”

Bingo night. The hall held about 25 comfortably plump women, mostly older, each with multiple bingo cards spread out on the tables in front of them, each with an ink stamp ready to mark the number being called by old Mr. Middendorf, the VFW Treasurer, sitting at the front of the room.

Amy had taken a seat one row behind and two seats over from Miss Edna, who had, indeed, won two of the first five rounds, but so far, Amy hadn’t seen any signs of her cheating. Amy checked the windows nervously. She hadn’t seen any sign of her grandmother yet, and she hoped Gran was smart enough to stay back from the room
light streaming out into the dark. Amy was getting nervous.

Suddenly, she saw the ghostly top of a step ladder appear outside one of the windows,
followed by a wobbly grey head. Gran raised the binoculars to her eyes and peered into the room. Amy stiffened and looked around the room furtively. No one had noticed yet.
She rose from her seat. She had to get outside to get Gran out of there.

Outside, Gran was realizing that one of the ladder’s legs wasn’t firmly planted. At that moment, Charley Ferguson came around the corner. Now, Charley was Edna’s
husband, and you might ask what he was doing sneaking around the back of the VFW hall that time of night, but we’ll never know because he saw a shadowy figure on a stepladder where it shouldn’t have been and yelled out,“Hey! What d’ya think you’re doin’!”

It is never a good idea to startle an old lady on top of a wobbly step ladder. Gran dropped the binoculars like a kid caught reading a racy magazine, reached out to steady herself, and what she grabbed as she went down was the shutoff lever for the main electrical panel.
Inside, all went silent dark for a few heartbeats. Heart rates increased. Mr. Middendorf called out, “Don’t panic!”, but the uncertain waver in his voice was like a match lighting a slow fuse in a fireworks factory. There was a murmur or two, the sound of a folding chair being scraped back over the linoleum floor, then the metallic clatter of another being overturned, then a muttered, “I’m getting out a’here”, then three thousand five hundred and twenty seven pounds of panicked humanity was rushing for the exit, scattering tables and bingo cards, all trying to squeeze through the single door at one time.

Through the grunts and screams a voice rang out, “The back door!” and half the thrashing mass detached itself and headed in the opposite direction, crashing through what remained standing of the furniture.

For some reason, Charley Ferguson never mentioned the mysterious figure on the ladder. In the confusion, Gran got away without anyone figuring out she had been there at all. But neither she nor Edna Ferguson every played bingo again.

Classic James Bond movie snippets filled with covert espionage theories filled my thoughts. Questions flickered through my mind so quickly I could barely organize them enough to ask this young child the inevitable. “Why is a 13-year old girl chasing a man?”

She barely had breath left to speak. Her chest heaved in and out heavy with the adrenaline running through her body.  She tried to choke out the words, “I think he’s a terrorist.” 

Alarmed, and one brow raised I responded in a confused chaotic blundering, “A terrorist? Why? How?” 

Her words were scattered and feverish, “I-saw-him.” 

I wanted to understand why she thought this man was a terrorist, so I urged her. “Whoa. Slow your roll, Girl.  Breathe.  Take a minute and suck in some air so you can tell me.” 

She did as I asked, then she sputtered quickly, “Me and my friend Kat were in this coffee shop over there.” She held out her arm and pointed in the direction behind the car from where she came.  She turned back around and faced me.  “The guy that’s in that house was on his computer and my friend and I saw the website he was on. It was horrible. There were all kinds of pictures of people hurting each other.” 

Her breath labored again, but before I could say anything she said, “Then he slammed the laptop down and shouted that he was going to kill someone and he left!” 

The crinkles on my forehead and the slits my eyes made seemed to trigger anger in her. It was evident she didn’t think I believed her, because she said, “It’s true. Kat was so scared she went home. I followed him to this restaurant.” 

The 13-year old sat back in the seat and crossed her arms defensively.  

To reassure her that I was merely trying to gather facts to assist her, I said, “I believe you. I wonder though, if his tone was because he was angry at who made that web site or the people in it? What’s your name?” 

Her demeanor softened, and she sighed heavily as if she contemplated my words.  “My name is Jackie.”

“Well, Jackie, do you think the man could have been mad at the web designer or do you really believe that he’s going to kill one of the people you saw being victimized?” I asked.

“Now I’m not really sure.” She confessed. “Either way don’t you think we should find out?”

“You want to be a detective someday, don’t you. Do you watch many cop shows on TV?” I questioned. 

“Yes, how did you know that?” She responded.

“Oh I just thought you seemed like an imaginative girl.”  I smiled when I said it. “I think you’re right. Let’s find out what’s goin on.” 

Just then the an enormously tall man came out of the restaurant. He was with a young boy equally as stout.  They stopped at the curb.  When they faced each other the look on their faces turned serious. 
(To be continued)

Flu Shot Avoidance
By Dawn LaVoy

“If you give me a flu shot the nanobots will take over,” I said warningly.
The nurse looked at me skeptically, the hypodermic poised in midair.  “Nanobots?”

“Yes, you may not realize it but the government embedded nanobots into this year’s flue shots.  They want everyone to get a shot so they can read our minds. The NSA didn’t get enough information from our telephone calls so they came up with this.  Big Pharma was given a lot of money to cooperate.”

The nurse gently lowered the hypodermic to the counter and picked up the phone.  I repeated my story to the doctor when he came in.  He shook his head sagely and beckoned the nurse out for a minute.  

When the nurse came back, she smiled gently. “Perhaps you’re right.  The doctor has ordered a different shot that might be more effective than the flu vaccine.  Before I could object, she had lifted my arm and injected me.  

I looked at her, confused, my head fuzzy with cobwebs. Another nurse joined her and the two of them laid me down on the gurney.

Much later, I woke, confused.  Before I could panic, a male orderly entered the room.  “Don’t worry, we got you in time.  You’re in the psychiatric ward.”

“What?  I want to go home.  I just went into the doctor’s office for a check up.  I told the nurse a crazy story because I didn’t want a flu shot.  I’m not really crazy.”

“We know,” he said soothingly.  “However, we can’t have you spreading the word that that the government put nanobots in the flu vaccine.  It worked so well last  year that we put a booster in this year’s batch of vaccine.

I Hate Shots
By Andrea Heingarten
Well, Dr. Reardon, I don’t think it’s in my best interest to get that flu shot.  You’re not going to believe this, but for the past three months I have been having weekly sessions with my therapist to overcome a fear of sharp objects that I started having earlier this year.
It started after I stabbed myself in the thumb with a needle while sewing a loose button onto my shirt.  Two days later, I sliced my finger with the serrated edge of the aluminum foil box.  By the end of the week, I had come close to jabbing myself in the eye with nail clippers while trying to trim a stray eyebrow; nearly cut off my left index finger with an electric knife while slicing a brisket; and was inches away from amputating my foot with an electric hedge trimmer after a squirrel startled me by jumping out of a bush.
I began having strange dreams of being forced to work as a sharpness level tester in a needle factory.  Less sharp than a porcupine quill meant the needle was faulty and had to be restructured.  Those sharper than the quill got shipped to merchants.  At times I was the tester who stuck people with the needles; other times, I was the stickee.  The worst of these was when I was about to be promoted from being stuck with regular needles to the kind that dentists use when giving root canals.  These nightmares would wake me up, leaving me shaking and in a cold sweat.  The only thing that calmed me down was to surround myself with pillows, towels, and any other soft object I could find.
My anxiety reached its highest level when my husband and I went to Wal-Mart to pick up some gardening supplies.  After walking through row after row of nails, screws, hand saws, radial saws, drill bits, copper wire, and hunting and fishing knives, I was in a complete nervous mental collapse.  I threw myself onto a display of bean bag chairs, sobbing loudly and screaming “Make the pointy people go away!  Make the pointy people go away!”  I grabbed two hot glue guns as if they were a pair of six-shooters, and stood atop the pile of bean bags, yelling to the other shoppers “Back off!  These babies are loaded and I’m not afraid to use ‘em!  That goes for you too, Father Time!  Now get these gnomes and their sharp stuff away from me before I glue everybody to death!!!”  After sneaking up and tackling me from behind, my husband and the security guards were able to subdue me with several boxes of Reese’s Pieces and a bottle of Hawaiian Punch until the ambulance arrived.
I stayed at the crisis center for 2 weeks while I was reintroduced to sharp objects, beginning with plastic utensils.  I graduated to using regular silverware, but currently only have a learners’ permit for needles.
And that’s why I can’t get a flu shot today.

I Hate Shots    

By Paul Heingarten

“You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve long been a member of the school of thought that believes excess needle usage will destroy the world.”

I uttered those words in the chair of the doctor’s office with the nurse sitting next to me, a syringe filled with flu vaccination was poised in her hand as if to stab me to health.  I turned to look at her face, gauging her reaction.  She was still holding my shoulder to steady herself to inject my arm.  “What does this have to do with you getting a shot right now?”

“It means I’m changing my mind.  I don’t want to be a part of the continued misuse of needles.  I don’t want the shot.”
She sat stone faced for a moment, then replied, “Are you kidding me?”
I shifted up in my seat.  “No, not at all.  I’ve done research on the matter.  I’m sure someone such as you in the medical community is familiar with the rampant abuse of needles throughout this country.  Derelicts from sea to shining sea are probably getting some random cheap fix from ill gotten needles from who knows where.”
The nurse lowered her needle.  Her face registered mild exasperation.  “Aren’t you the one who CAME TO the doctor’s office to get a flu shot?”
She had a point there.  “Well you’re correct.  But I arrived at a moment of clarity shortly before I sat down.  Needles of all kinds are used for random things.  Sewing, knitting, stitching, injections, illicit or otherwise.  Where is it all going to end?”
“Mister, are you for real?  You’re going on about needles like you’re some kind of loony or something.  Why the hell did you bother coming in for a flu shot if you don’t like needles?  Care to tell me that?”
“I don’t know.  The media, maybe.  Always going on about getting your flu shot.  I guess I fell into the pack.  Well damn it, I’m sick of being needled by people.  You can save your little stick of pain for some other person.”  I stood up, rolling the sleeve of my shirt back down.
The nurse followed me with her eyes as I stood up.  She glanced at her needle, and with a somewhat disgusted look, reached over to the nearest medical disposal bin and discarded the needle.  “You’re gonna have to pay for that, mister.  These vaccinations usually are in short supply and we can’t just toss one out because you have some weird needle thing.”
I regarded her as she stood up, protruding her belly a bit, feeling confrontational.  “Well I think of it as striking a blow to the needlemakers of the world.  Why should I have to pay for that?”
“Because it is a service rendered that YOU originally requested.  Who do you think you are?”
“I’m someone who doesn’t think needles are good for this world.  I won’t abide for them at all, and that’s why I can’t get a flu shot today.”
Undercover at Bingo
By Brenda Brasuel
“You can’t possibly be serious.” I say as I look at my seventy four year old grandmother as she sulks back to the couch with an old John Wayne movie and her favorite Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream.
“You have to, it’s the only way I can win again. It’s the only way I will ever be happy again.” She stops and looks at me, her eyes old and wrinkled with age but sharp and serious, a woman convinced she is being had and is bound and determined to do (or make me do) whatever it takes to get to the bottom of it.
I give up, “ok grandma, what’s the plan?” I sigh.
She throws her movie and sits on the couch patting the cushion in front of her, her eyes dancing now, two emeralds ten years younger in an instant.
I sit next to her weary of what’s to come.
It’s warm as I enter, I hear the large fans blowing the musky air around as the smell of stale cigarette smoke wafts past me into the cooler night that still tries to cling to the back of my jean jacket. I look around at the people I am here to study and still wonder how I was talked into this crazy plan.
I find my target, he looks innocent enough, but I have always been good at seeing the best and ignoring the rest. He was a tall man with dark brown hair that rested softly above his ears. He looked clean cut with nice dark jeans and a sky blue striped shirt.
He was preparing for the nights events when I came in, he looked up and flashed a smile that was clearly meant for someone behind me, I smiled anyway, I couldn’t help it. He had one of those smiles you couldn’t help but smile back at.
“Focus,” I told myself “he may be the enemy.”
I put on my best game face and found a seat in the middle of the room so I could see everything that was going on around me, you see he’s not working alone, someone here is his partner and I had to know who.
I looked around the room, recognizing some faces from the photos in grandma’s house from her big wins, some were young and some were closer to her age. There was one man who caught my eye, he didn’t seem to fit in.
He was fidgety and a few times I caught the man with the smile looking at him worriedly when he dropped his dotter or fidgeted uncomfortably as he listened to the older man next to him tell him an elaborate story about something that obviously took a lot of arm movement and gestures to explain properly.
The man with the smile started to speak, thanking us all for coming as the room hushed and everyone looked down at the table, while I focused on the man with the smile.
The first one was pulled, it’s… N… N something, I couldn’t tell.
I watched him look at his nervous friend with confidence as he called out… “B-3”



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  2. Dennis here again...
    A note on accessing files from Dropbox.
    Sometimes clicking on the file name brings up a "quick view" box that shows you a version of the file in which the text seems to run together. If this happens, click on the icon in the upper right of the box that is an underlined arrow pointing down. This is the "download" button, and a more readable version will be downloaded to your computer forthwith.

  3. Hey Dennis,
    We are sharing our 500 words or less essays at the meeting first. Then after the meeting, we will post them here on the blog since there are word restrictions on Meet Up.
    Hope this helps and I cannot wait to read your posts!

  4. WOW. A real chance to sit and read and am I IMPRESSED! We have some truly amazing writing talents here. Great imagination. I am so blessed to be part of this group. Thank you Lisa for doing such an incredible job setting this web site up. You rock. Truly. The great thing about this site is everything is copywritten that we post in regard to our work under Bayou Writer's Club and cannot be sold or copied legally. Under Meetup, I believe it's harder to secure the privacy so keep that in mind when you post. Meetup is a paid for meeting place. Again, I am so very honored you shared your stories with me and that I had opportunity to truly emerge myself in the creativity. Thank you guys!