Thursday, June 30, 2011

Officer Connelly, Mike, hated responding to domestic disturbance calls. Not because they were particularly dangerous in nature - they usually weren't - but rather they were so damned uncomfortable to deal with. And they would almost inevitably fell into one of a few categories: You had the asshole wife beater that was taking out, fill in the blank, issues on his woman. The mutually destructive couple both of whom would do better to simply avoid any and all relationships in the future. And then you had "DPB". Dickless punching bag. The guy that let the woman pound him. Milk toast. And then you had this sort of situation. The sort that doesn't fit easily into any of the above. These were the scary ones for being unpredictable.

Rachel, Officer Manguel, had taken the girl into the kitchen while Connelly took the man, barely more than a kid really, into the living room. The place was trashed. "So, um, was this the result of the fight?"

"Well, no, not really. We're just slobs", the young man replied almost too casually.

Scanning the room Officer Connelly looked for any damning evidence. Anything that might suggest that what the couple claimed to be merely a heated argument was in fact a physically violent exchange as the neighbors suspected. Dirty dishes, woman's clothes, miscellaneous debris and ...what looked like an illustration torn in half. Odd.

"Are you an artist?", he asked picking up the two pieces of Bristol board.


"Nice work. Comic book page from the looks of it". The officer put the two pieces back together and cocked his head considering the combined pieces and nodded approvingly. "So, did you smack her when she tore this in half?"


"Did she smack you?"


Officer Connelly eyed the boy. Damn he hated these cases. The young man was a fine liar and would have been far more convincing without the split lip. If he wanted to let his girl beat on him that was his business. But, this was exactly the kind of case that would have he and his partner back here with a body bag. This was not the typical DPB kind of guy. This a-hole was tall and strong and willing to look a cop in the eye and lie. He either loved her enough to protect her or he was biding his time. If the former he was in for some serious trouble in the future. If the latter, well, they would probably never find a body to bag.

The girl stepped out of the kitchen with a subtle yet self-satisfied smirk. Just behind her Officer Manguel caught her partner's eye from across the room. A brief flash of her eyes spoke volumes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Phillips's car pulled up in front of the house just before three in the morning. He'd seen the lights a block and a half away: at least a dozen police cruisers, a couple fire crew vehicles, three ambulances. The flashing of the red and blue and white lights seemed at odds with the hush that filled the air like a presence. There were no shouts, no barked orders, no casual laughs - if anyone spoke it was in a low, somber tone.

A cop lifted the band of yellow tape that fenced off an impromptu lot in the street and Phillips rolled under, tires hissing softly on the rain-soaked road. He slowed to a stop, pulled the emergency brake, killed the lights and the engine, and sat for a long minute observing the scene.

Quiet neighborhood. Neat, but not nice - the houses were probably thirty years old, inhabited by a third or fourth generation of owner. Peeling paint. Phillips saw at least one car parked in a driveway that he felt pretty sure wouldn't start or run. A couple of sun-faded kids' toys in yards. But grass was cut, hedges trimmed; the curtains in most of the houses might have been Wal-Mart, but at they were clean and cared for. The people who lived here would be blue-collar workers and housewives; maybe a manager-level here and there but for the most part men and women who'd been working the same jobs for a long time and would keep working them until they retired or were laid off when the company shut down.

Phillips saw the standard audience - the neighbors standing out in their yards, on the sidewalks, or behind screened front doors. Curious, and a little frightened. Not sure what was going on, why the somber circus of police presence - usually just a spectacle on tv or in the movies - had suddenly materialized for real right across the street from their beds and living rooms and kitchens. He scanned the faces reflexively, looking for anything out of the ordinary, an out-of-place look he wouldn't expect to see among the apprehensive neighbors roused from their beds by the disruption. When he saw nothing that aroused his attention he sighed and climbed out of the car.

It was cold. The day had been muggy and warm, full with the promise of rain and storm, and it had arrived right after dark in a wall of wind and thunder and lightning. Crews were out around town fixing downed power lines and blinking stop lights, and leaves decaled the streets and sidewalks everywhere. The air was still humid but it was the bite of the air after a cold front instead of the heavy, spongy moisture that had blanketed the city for the last couple of weeks, making shirts stick sweatily to chests and backs. Fall soon, Phillips thought. He walked to the sidewalk and toward the concrete path that led up to the small patio and front door of the house, hanging his badge on his coat pocket. Hernandez was at the juncture of the walkway and the sidewalk; she gave him a somber look and gestured towards the house.

"He's already in there," she said. He studied the house for a moment, then turned to her.

"That bad?" he asked. He could usually count on Hernandez to greet him with some sort of ribbing, a twinkle in her dark eyes.

She didn't reply. She opened her mouth and as if to say something, then cut herself off as if she weren't sure she'd be able to get it out. Instead she just nodded and turned away as if she didn't want him to see her lose it.

Phillips put a reassuring hand on her shoulder for a second, then walked up towards the door.

As he approached he surveyed the scene. Two cars in the driveway. Three small windows to the right of the front door - probably bedrooms, lights shining behind drawn curtains. A large picture window to the left, between door and garage. The venetian blinds inside the window were tilted open so Philips could see right in - the crowd of police, the cheap furniture, the smear of red on the wall. He pulled the screen door open and stepped inside and said,

An unpleasant scene: No insight nor end in sight

A ragged scene? There was no reconciling this . There was no happy ending to this. The boy, the love and joy of his life lay broken and dead at his feet and nothing would change this' nothing would make this ok. Nothing would ever be the same again. He was dead. He would never realize his potential, never bring home a date or succeed where others had failed. Exceed where others had been found wanting.

A moment of weakness, of drink and indiscretion. Ragged and brutal, there was no lesson to be learned, no time in the future in which he would look back on this and take solace in a lesson learned. He would never take comfort in memories of past joys or warm inflection. His boy was dead and the fault undeniably, unforgivably his. There was no ending to be had, no epiphany and insight, only blood and loss.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Topic: An Unpleasant scene (with a ragged edge)

This topic will see us writing an unpleasant scene - you pick what kind, and the nature of the unpleasantness. The technical requirement on this one is that you leave the piece with a ragged trailing edge - this should not be "wrapped up" or finished in a narrative sense but rather left unfinished, as if this were just the first chunk of a long-form piece.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tense conversation

Protag hated these conversations. Not just due to the antagonistic nature of them but the delay of calling such a long distance. The pause in response created the impression that the person on the other end of the line was carefully considering the answer before responding. In some cases he was. And never with the best of intentions. Quite the contrary. They did not have the best of relationships. A fact that was vexing. He let out a deep sigh, and made the call.

"Ok, it's me again. I don't suppose you've reconsidered your position on this. Once again, I will proceed with the best possible intentions."

There was an aggravating silence at the other end, "No, you didn't. You said you would, but you didn't."

"Damn it, that's not fucking fair! Why are you being such a dick about this? What did I do?" Admittedly, Protag could have been a bit more diplomatic and measured in his response, but weeks of this same conversation was wearing thin.

"You pissed away the greatest thing ever, that's what you did."

"Not yet I haven't! You're saying I can't change? You're saying I have no control over my actions? What the hell am I supposed to do with THAT? Huh? What, I'm on a rail and destined to drive off a cliff? You know, metaphorically speaking." An silence longer than usual made the moment all more awkward. "Metaphorically speaking, right? Antag? Are you still there?"

"You could have done anything with what you figured out. And what did you decide to do with it? This! That's what. And yeah, you didn't drive off a cliff or anything."

"But why the hell won't you help me? It will benefit you too you know. In fact more than it will me!" Protag's hand began to tremble slightly with aggravation.

Far, far away Antag considered his reply carefully, "Dude, you could have prevented wars, famine, saved people from natural disasters but no, instead you called me for weeks asking for lottery numbers. You douche."

Protag sighed and ended the call. His future self was, is, will be such a dick.

"tense conversation"

“Where do you think you’re going?” “Wherever we want Agnes, places you can’t go, places for those of a lighter foot.” “Is that some sort of crack about my weight?” “The truth be told, you are kind of heavy.”

“Who do you think you are? We have been together for years, you are just the newest fancy, he won’t give me up for the likes of you.” “Oh probably not you are good for the children, and he is fond of you, but I can go on grander adventures. He’ll leave you at home with the kids the dog, the appliances. . .”

“ Are you implying that he does not care for those things anymore, he loves his family, he likes spending time with them, and I make that happen.” “I think you might be exaggerating your influence on his choices, he is a creature of opportunity, and when the possibility of a wilder experience presents itself, he will be sharing it with me.”

“Share? Really, you think he sees you that way? Use. You are nothing but a tool to him, shiny and new, but you too will age and mildew. The cat pisses on you once or twice and he will be leaving without you so don’t be so sure of yourself Kelty your days are numbered, you are not the first little half dome to come through these garage doors. I heard him talking about those new bivy sacks at REI, he was intrigued.” “Maybe so Big Agnes, but I get to go motorcycle camping in the mountains this weekend, and you get to stay here on the shelf. So I am going to enjoy my place in the sun.” “Sun? It’s June in the Pacific Northwest. It will probably rain.”

One tense conversation

She sighed. No avoiding the issue anymore. It was time to get it over with. She felt weak and totally unequal to the task but knew there was no-one else to do it. She opened the door.

"Tina, could you come here for a moment?"

Tina came in and sat down. It was likely she knew at least some of what was coming - the office had been tense for days as rumors flew right and left. How to start - how to phrase the end?

"Thanks." She sighed again. Tina just waited, a small tense bundle of humanity, hoping but not confident.

"You know how the company has been struggling this last year. We've tried everything we could do, short of actually closing the door."


"You've been a big help there - you've done a lot and I've really appreciated your support."

Just a tense nod in return.

"But, unfortunately, it hasn't worked." There, I've said it. The final word. The company is going down. "We'll be closing down as of the end of next month. We'll all have that long at least."

"Is a new company being set up?" Tina asked, likely again knowing the answer, but needing to ask.

"Yes. But it will be much, much, smaller." Now the really hard part: "There's no room for office staff beyond one person."

"Will you be going to the new company?"

"Yes. They'll need my skills." and, unspoken, "and I need the job."

Silence. A look of betrayal that matched her own guilt. She could hear the unspoken dialogue in her head - "but you said you would try to keep me" "Yes, but this is a job you can't do, even if I could afford to give it up to you." Who knew guilt was this painful?

She didn't sigh again. She just handed Tina the tissues and said "If you want to take the rest of the day off, I understand."

One down. More to go.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Keith sat in the driver's seat of his car, adrenaline jangling through his veins. His hands trembled as he retrieved his license and proof of insurance, so he placed them firmly in his lap, on one top of the other. The patch of gravel he'd pulled over onto was barely big enough to accommodate his SUV and the police cruiser that sat behind him now, flashers lighting the interior of his car up, blue and red.

Keith watched in his side mirror as the cop got briskly out of his car, sunglasses in place. His image in the mirror grew larger as he approached until the mirror showed nothing but black fabric and silvery buttons, at which point Keith raised his eyes to look into the expressionless sunglasses. Wordlessly he handed his papers to the officer who scanned them briefly, then looked up and asked him,

"Sir, do you know why I pulled you over?" Keith stifled a groan and thought to himself, why do they always lead with that? Do they think I'm going to volunteer something? He bit down on an urge to offer a snarky response - "The fifteen kilos of cocaine in the trunk?" - and offered a meek, "No sir?" He hated the obsequious tone in his voice, the instinctive urge to sound respectful and compliant - Officer, I'm one of the good guys, I'm not one of those creeps who you have to be a hardass with - but couldn't keep the sense that he somehow should be groveling out of his mind.

"Sir, this is a forty-five mile an hour zone. I clocked you doing almost sixty."

"Officer, I swear I thought the speed limit was fifty-five along here." Keith hated the mealy taste of the lie as he said it. He had driven along this stretch of road - long, straight, smooth - for years; he knew quite well what the limit was.

"No sir, the speed limit is clearly marked along the road here. Sir, I'm going to ask you to wait here in your car while I check your papers." Keith nodded silent agreement and the policeman returned to his car, Keith's driver's license and proof of insurance in hand.

Keith sat still and silent while the cop worked. He felt a hot rush of shame and embarrassment every time a car passed on the road, like a child who'd been made to stand in the corner. He found himself speculating wildly about what the police officer was doing back there in his car - was he really looking anything up? Did it really take this long? Maybe he was just dragging this out to make Keith more uneasy...but why would he want that? Keith thought that the last thing a police officer would want is for a suspect to be jumpy.

At last the officer climbed back out of his car and came back up to Keith's window.

"Sir, do you know that this insurance document is invalid?"

Keith felt a dash of cold water hit his spine.

"What?" he said, "It shouldn't be!" He realized immediately how absurd that sounded and continued, "I just made a payment online last week!"

"Sir, the insurance company..." He paused and glanced down at the papers, then continued, "Progressive, they indicate that you don't have an account with them. They stated that you've never had an account with them".

Keith felt something shift in his head, like the framework of the world was coming loose.

"That's nuts!" he exclaimed, a note of shrillness creeping into his voice. "You have my papers right there, you can see that I have!"

"People can use computers to create all kinds of things these days, sir," the cop responded.

"I'm going to have to ask you to step out of the car, sir."

Tense Conversation - 6/23/11

"I can't do it."
"Neither can I."

"Okay, goddammit, I COULD do it, but I don't WANT to. It's your turn."
"I do it all the time!"
"No you don't."
"I hate talking to them!!"
"So do I!"

Silence hung like a pendulum over the two people on the couch. The Dutch analog clock softly ticked away the seconds while they pointedly avoided looking at each other.

"Damn it, why don't we take turns?"
"Why don't we just not do it at all?!"
"You know I want this! Why do you always change your mind?"
"What the fuck does THAT mean?"

Finally, he leaned forward. "You know we have nothing here, right? We have to do this."
She nodded. "You do it, then."

He picked up the square device, punched in some numbers.
"Hello, Pizza Hut?"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Topic: A tense conversation

For this challenge you will write a conversation between two people; the conversation will be an argument or some form of tense discussion. First or third person is fine. Have fun!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Narrator free

Just as he and his friends were about to leave the micro brew festival Kirk, reaching into his coat pocket realized he had 3 more beer tokens to spend. It seemed a shame, bordering on heresy, not to trade them in on 3 more glasses of beer. So, as his friends said their goodbyes he made his way off in search of new beers he was unlikely to find in the local stores.

It was Father's Day and as was the tradition he was at the annual micro brew fest, in the park but a short walk from his house. What was not a tradition was that, due to his family having various other commitments, he was batching it this Father's Day.

On this particular day he stayed much longer and drank far more beer samples than he typically did. He made small talk with strangers chatting with a casual air of beer and music, weather and ...well, beer. He listened to a live band and spoke with them afterwards. And on this particular day a drunk and charming young woman - in truth more drunk than charming - made the day of this nearly 48 year old man.

Kirk was walking towards a group of fellow beer enthusiasts when one of them, an attractive young woman with sunglasses and dressed for summer, fell to the grass. Or, laid down with a beer-assisted lack of coordination. She laughed and seemed fine so he continued to walk past. Then she waved him over and patted the ground suggesting he lay down beside her and look at the clouds. On this particular day he had had enough beer to laugh and lay down to see what she was looking at. As it turned out, nothing at all. Kirk look into the sky. The clouds were a solid layer of overcast gray; no shapes, no birds, no planes. This chick was wasted. Kirk laughed and thinking he felt his phone vibrate pulled it from his pocket. Turned out to only be the vibration of the music coming from the stage nearby and he put it away. But not before the woman cast him a disapproving glare. Whatever she was trying to say was drowned out by the music and Kirk decided it best to move on.

Later he ran into the girl once again and this time she had a friend in tow. Kirk took the opportunity to apologize for the phone thing feeling as if he had shown her disrespect. She hadn't given it a second thought. However, her new-found friend thought it prudent to strike up a pleasant conversation with Kirk for what was clearly a covert way of saying, "Dude, I have dibs on the drunk chick". While the drunk chick in question draped herself on the brewer pulling beer for customers Kirk and "her friend" exchanged pleasantries until Kirk excused himself and walked back towards the stage his eyes tearing from the effort not to laugh. When to a safe distance he pulled his phone and pretended to read a text to explain away a fit of hysteria.

The walk home through the woods offered him several more cameos into drunken scenes as small groups of party-goers made their way through the state park - hopefully NOT to their cars. It had been quite a Father's Day on this particular day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Omens and Signs

Omens followed her as she drove north.
The first thing Adrian noticed was a fireball - a flash of flame against the searingly blue-white California sky, a daytime meteor. It fizzled out like a bottle rocket over Shasta Lake, reflected for a brief moment in the water between the eponymously named mountain and dam.
Adrian blinked, looking around repeatedly until she saw several people on the deck of a houseboat, staring upwards. Proof, maybe, that it had really happened.

In Weed, she stopped for gas. Huge, looming altocumulus clouds had begun to gather, and a cool breeze made her take off her ballcap and shake out her sweaty hair when she stepped out of the Jeep. The second omen came as she was standing at the register, holding out cash for a coke and a cinnamon bun. The building suddenly shook like it had been hit by a boulder, the lights cracked on and off, and the flash from the windows momentarily blinded the clerk, who was facing the outside window. Adrian gasped, and for the second time that day, looked wildly around. The clerk, rubbing her eyes with her hands and leaning her ample belly against the briefly-unstable counter said "Lightning. Does it all the time around here. Hit the lightning rod, thank god we got one! Dang, gimme a second...." Blinking, she finished handing Adrian her change.

The pilgrimage north continued through a sudden, driving rain, and then a tremendous hailstorm. The hailstones were so thunderously loud on the top of the Jeep that Adrian actually pulled over, letting a lone motorcyclist pass her on the highway. It rattled the vehicle like a hurricane, until Adrian finally stuck her fingers in her ears to block out the noise, which stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Adrian sighed, gunned the engine back to life, and pulled back out on the blacktop. She briefly fiddled with the radio, then gave up on it with another sigh. A third omen.

The fourth omen was a plague of locusts - or more accurately, mayflies. Passing through the river bottoms and fields near Klamath, they flew into the Jeep's windshield in clouds so numerous, she had to pull over again at the nearest gas station to clean them off - her wipers were glutted, and she found the motorcyclist there as well, wet and sticky with insect parts. He was wiping off his helmet, his jacket, and his windshield. Adrian waved at him across the parking lot. He grinned at her, shrugging the sticky helmet while rolling his eyes, and waved back.

Evening was falling by the time Adrian got to her destination - a motel in a small town, remarkable only for being equidistant between his point of origin and hers. She was silent when she got out of the Jeep, only speaking when she approached the front desk to get a room key. His car was out front. She knocked, and he answered the door with an open jewelry box, a glint of white and silver inside.

"Will you marry me?"


Marcus had been driving for three days. He had left the East coast on a bright and clear spring day, heading south and west through green rolling hills, skirting the low mountains always to his right. The first night he had stopped in a town that only tangentially contacted the interstate - three fast-food restaurants, two gas stations on opposite sides of the freeway, and a chain motel, clean but unremarkable. Marcus parked in a space directly below the door of his second-floor room and spent no more time there than it took for seven hours of sleep, a shower, and the span of time required to put his worn clothes into his small suitcase. He was back on the road by eight-thirty.

The second day was more tedious. The green had given way to brown as he crossed into the drought-stricken states away from the coast; the hills had become smaller and more infreqent until the road became a straight line vanishing into the distance ahead of him. He alternated between running his air conditioner at high until the interior of the car was so cold he was chilled, and turning the radio up to just past the comfort level - first, a classic-rock station, then alternative hits, and finally when he could get no other stations, hip-hop that hissed in and out. When that eventually disappeared completely he clicked the radio off and drove for a time in silence.

The second night he determined to push through as far as he could get. He drove until almost three, occasionally slapping his cheeks lightly or smacking the back of his neck to try to keep himself alert. When he finally acknowledged that he was past the point of safe driving he pulled into a rest area and stretched out in the back seat, his head on his sleeping bag. He slept fitfully for five hours, waking frequently to the sound of trucks rushing by. When he decided he'd gotten as much sleep as he was likely to he washed his face and hands in the stainless steel sink in the rest stop facilities and climbed back into the driver's seat. He merged back onto the freeway and continued on his way - south, and west.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Topic: Invisible narrator

This topic is a bit of a change. Pick a topic of your own and write about it, but there is a challenge: you are to write with an invisible voice. The reader should be unaware of the narrator. Obviously this means no first-person POV, but in addition write with as little language that would draw attention to itself as possible - this is about the tale, not the teller (though it doesn't have to be a tale at all, just a scene...).

Bus stop

It was a bus stop only by technicality; there were no benches, no shelter - just a couple of signs bolted to a wooden utility pole that bristled with electrical boxes and that served as support for half a dozen cables. The wood of the pole was shredded and splintered, and scabbed with thousands of staples from a generation's-worth of posters that had been posted on its ragged surface - lost pets, garage band shows, used furniture for sale.

The two signs that marked the spot as a bus stop were a dirty industrial white; the top identified the location as a Municipal Transportation Authority Bus Stop and the lower, in brick-red type, spelled out the schedule - every twenty minutes starting at 6:15 a.m. and running to 10:45 p.m., 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

The bus stop was located in front of a small cluster of businesses near the college campus. One could step into a donut shop for coffee while waiting for the next arrival, or step next door for a soda or souvenir t-shirt from the small market there. Kevin usually had a large styrofoam cup filled up to the flimsy plastic to-go lid with cheap, bitter donut-store coffee, lightened with a dash of powdered creamer. He would wait for the bus, the 7:15 if he were running on time, the 7:30 if he were late. He would lean against the jagged wood of the pole or, if the weather threatened, would stand against the brick wall of the market, lacquered by years of car exhaust, taking shelter under the tattered awning.

Kevin usually waited alone. Not many others took the 7:15 to where he was going, though sometimes an older woman in a sensible uniform (the kind women wore at cafeterias that catered to geriatrics) would be there, intensely reading a celebrity magazine. Kevin and the woman had never spoken, never so much as exchanged a glance.