D. A. RAtliff: Flight of Fancy

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Flight of Fancy

By D. A. Ratliff

Aristotle Elena Rossi stepped off the bus and promptly sat down on the bus shelter bench. She was half a block from home, an apartment above her family’s restaurant, but was reluctant to face them. No one would be happy about her news. Not anyone alive anyway.

She leaned back against the glass shelter wall and gazed toward the sky in time to see a commercial jet appear in the space between the giant skyscrapers. Seeing a plane always tore at her heart as it represented both tragedy and hope.

How was she going to tell them? She uttered a nervous laugh. It wasn’t certain, but it was possible, and she had to tell them. As the plane passed beyond her view, she closed her eyes as her thoughts drifted to the meeting with Dr. Bryant, her advisor, who messaged her to see him after her last class.

“Sit down, Aris. I have some news.” 

He handed her a document, and upon reading the heading, she gasped. The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, School of Philosophy. She raised her eyes to Dr. Bryant, afraid to read further.

“Yes, you are a finalist for one of the fifty positions in the program. Congratulations.”

Aris sucked in a breath. “I never thought I would get this far.”

“I know the odds were long, but your grades are excellent, your knowledge of the Greek philosophers as strong as any faculty member at CUNY, and your submissions essay outstanding. I’m not surprised.”

“I couldn’t have gotten this far without you. Thanks.”

“My pleasure. It’s my understanding the committee will meet shortly after the semester ends, and the finalists’ grades along with a recommendation from faculty will count toward the final selection, which should be announced by July 1st.”

As she rose, Dr. Bryant added, “Aris, I hope your family realizes how important this is to your future.”

“I hope so, too.”

Looking again at the now-empty sky, she dreaded what awaited her. No time to linger, she headed down the block to her fate.

Papa Nico’s Greek Restaurant, known as one of the best Greek eateries in Manhattan, was preparing for dinner. She shoved open the door and stepped inside, the spicy aroma of tonight’s special wafting toward her.

Her ya-ya Sofia sat behind the cash register. “Ah, Aris, my favorite granddaughter.”

She kissed her ya-ya on the cheek. “I’m your only granddaughter, but I love it when you say that. Where’s Mama?”

“She’s in the office with Dorothea, tallying up the lunch receipts.”

“Thanks. I need to talk to her, and then I’ll be back to take the phone orders.”

Walking along the corridor past the restrooms, she faltered and nearly ran but remembered her father’s final words, which gave her strength. She rapped on the office door.

Her mother, Medina, beckoned her in. “How was school? Hard to believe you almost finished with your freshman year.”

“Good.” She paused. “Mama, I need to talk to you.”

She glanced at Dorothea. She wanted to talk to her mother alone and hoped her aunt would catch on. Her aunt did, but her mother shook her head. “No, stay. We are family.”

“Mom, last semester, Dr. Bryant talked to me about a program that offered a semester of study in philosophy. I decided to pursue it and filled out the application and submitted the required essay. Dr. Bryant informed me this morning that I’m among the finalists for one of the fifty slots in the program. I’ll know in July if they select me.”

“Darling, that’s wonderful! Why didn’t you tell us?”

Here it comes. The moment she feared. “The program is at the University of Athens, in Greece.”

The color drained from her mother’s face. “In Greece? You would have to fly there. No, no — you’re not getting on a plane. That’s final.” Her mother fled the office.

Tears spilled from Aris’s eyes, and Dorothea rushed to hug her. “My little one, I know it’s difficult, but your mother has never gotten over your father’s death. You know that planes frighten her, and she is only trying to protect you.”

“She has to stop. All of you have to stop keeping me trapped because of what happened to my dad. It’s not fair.”

“You’re still a child and…”

“I am eighteen and old enough to make my mind up.”

“My precious Aris, they only want what’s best for you.”

“No, all of you want what’s best for yourselves. That’s to keep me here, in the restaurant. Pappouli only agreed to pay my tuition if I studied business and forgot philosophy.”

“You are studying both. Papa allowed you to follow your whim.”

“He only wants the family’s dream for me, not my own. No more.” She spun and stormed out. They were not going to defeat her dreams. Her father’s dreams.

Her shift ended at eleven p.m., and after she helped clean the dining room, all Aris wanted was to escape upstairs to her room. She was gathering her coat and books from behind the counter when her grandfather called to her.

“Aris, come here.”

She followed him into the dining room, where her family waited. The rattling of pans and the sound of the industrial dishwasher told her that her uncle Zander, Dorothea’s husband, and their son Alex, who was still in high school, remained in the kitchen cleaning up. Zander rarely involved himself in family squabbles. Her mother, grandmother, and aunt sat together at a table.

Nico Persopoulos stood before an empty chair and motioned for her to sit down. Years of habit spurred her to obey.

“Aris, your mother tells me you have applied for some study program at the University of Athens. As you know, I willingly pay for your education in business so that you’ll take over the restaurant when I am gone. This foolish wish to study philosophy will get you nothing in life. I am only looking out for your best interest. And for your mother. She suffered a great loss. While I never thought your father was good enough for her, he was a successful restaurant equipment salesman and helped in here in our restaurant when he could.”

Her chest hurt as if her grandfather had punched her. “I lost something too. I lost my father. All I ever had of him are the philosophy books he left me. He was going to take me to Greece to see where Aristotle, Thales, and Zeno lived. He wanted us to walk where they walked. He told me how much fun we would have…”

Her grandfather interrupted, his voice agitated. “Your father was a dreamer. Always had his head in the clouds and his face in those books. Your mother was foolish for naming you what he wanted, and now every day, you’re reminded of his obsession. This foolishness is not practical, and I forbid you to go on this flight of fancy.”

Her heart shattered, and she clenched her fists until her nails pierced her palms. “I’m over eighteen. You cannot stop me.”

She rose and picked up her books. Running toward the back staircase, all she could hear was her mother’s sobs.

~ooOoo~

Spring semester exams were a week away, and mid-morning, Aris grabbed a coffee and pastry for breakfast and sat at a bare wood table in the dining room. She was reading from a textbook on ancient philosophies.

The doors from the kitchen opened, and she raised her eyes to see her mother entering with fresh tablecloths. She had avoided her family as much as possible since she told them about the program, citing a need to concentrate on her studies. Being alone with her mother was the last thing she wanted.

Dropping the tablecloths onto a nearby table, her mother sighed. “I thought you would be at school by now. You’ve been hurrying out of here every morning for a month.”

“You know I have an early morning class, Mama, but canceled today because of exams.” She got up to get more coffee. The kitchen was busy prepping for lunch, and the smell of cinnamon and Greek oregano was filling the dining room. A wave of nostalgia swept over her. This restaurant had always been her home, but it was time for more.

As her mother busied herself spreading the tablecloths, Aris continued to read, waiting for the shoe to drop. Her mother would say something. She knew it. She did.

“Aris, you owe your grandfather an apology and an explanation of your behavior.”

“I did nothing wrong. All of you knew what I wanted to study since I was a child.” She took a breath. “For your information. I spoke to the scholarship department. There is a good chance I can secure an academic scholarship. If so, I’ll be changing my major to philosophy only. If the University of Athens program chooses me, the scholarship will remain mine for when I return.”

“I forbid you to go to Greece.”

“It’s one semester, Mama. Then I’ll be back.”

“No, I won’t let you travel that far.”

“You can’t stop me. I am old enough to do what I want.”

“No.”

“You remember what my father said. You played it for me when I was little. I memorized every word. But when you realized that I shared his passion for Greek philosophers, you hid the tape. Never let me hear his voice again.” She was shaking so hard that she gripped the edge of the table. “You kept the only thing I had of my dad from me. He died one month before I was born, and all I had was a recording of his voice and his books. And you hid the answering machine from me.” She picked up her book, plate, and coffee cup. “I’m going. If I get the opportunity, I am going.” Turning toward the kitchen to take her dishes, once again, she heard her mother sobbing.

~ooOoo~

Aris was covering as cashier while her aunt took a break. With their relationship strained, the family spoke only when necessary regarding the restaurant. Only her grandmother had asked her how her exams had gone. Thankfully, they had gone well.

Dr. Bryant had called with news that he had sent her grades and recommendation letters from three of her professors to the selection committee. His contact assured him the committee would decide by July 1st so that the students could deal with personal issues and make travel arrangements. Now they waited.

Daydreaming about Greece, Dorothea startled her when she returned. “Sorry, and sorry, I’m late. I had something to do. Listen, when you get off tonight, come to my apartment. I have something to show you.”

It was nearing midnight when Aris knocked at her aunt’s third-floor apartment. Opening the door, Dorothea grabbed her by the arm and pulled her in.

“I don’t want anyone in the family to know you’re here. I have done something that will get me into a lot of trouble with my parents and your mother.” She smiled. “To be honest, I don’t care if they know but not until you know everything. Sit.”

They sat on the couch, and Aris noticed her aunt sneak a nervous glance at a small cardboard box sitting on the coffee table.

“First, I want to tell you about your mother. When your father died on that terrible day, your mother lost part of her soul. Papa didn’t like Theo because he didn’t want to work in the restaurant. His grandparents owned one, and he grew up working for them. He took his skills and began working for a company that sold equipment to restaurants. It was how he met your mother. Papa bought a new oven from him.

“Then 9-11 happened, and our world came to a standstill. Aris, your birth five weeks later was the joy we all needed but short lived because of your mother’s illness. Medina was already in a deep depression from losing Theo, and it only became worse after you were born. You don’t remember, and we never told you, but she spent eight months in a private hospital. Mama and I used to take you on the train to Queens to the hospital, hoping she would react. She developed such a phobia to planes that they installed blackout curtains in her room so she couldn’t see the planes from LaGuardia.”

“Why didn’t anyone ever tell me this?” Aris hoped her voice didn’t sound as shaken to her aunt as it did to her.

“Because Papa wouldn’t let us. She was his baby, and I never faulted him for protecting her more than any of us. The love between your parents was deeper than any I have ever seen, and as much as I love Zander, our love couldn’t compare. Your mother lost part of her soul that morning and never recovered. Her fear of planes and flying is deep seated now and why she is fighting you, but I also think that she feels that she is losing you to the same things that Theo loved. She is losing him again through you.”

Her aunt took a deep breath. “I heard you tell your mother that she had taken your father’s voice away from you. I knew you needed to have this with you and that we all need to face the fact that you are also Theo Rossi’s daughter, and his passion lives on in you.”

“I will not forgive her for that.”

Dorothea picked up the box and handed it to her. “I knew where Papa hid the answering machine.” As Aris opened the box, she continued. “I thought you should have the message from your father. I checked. It works.”

“I can hear him again?”

Dorothea nodded, and Aris threw her arms around her aunt. “Thank you.”

Leaving her aunt’s, she snuck into her apartment and quickly got ready for bed. Plugging the machine in, she slipped under the covers, pulling them over her head. She turned the volume down as low as possible and listened to her father’s final words. She was crying in her pillow as she heard her mother come in.

~ooOoo~

The next night after closing, she summoned the family to the dining room. After wrestling with her emotions, she had decided what to do.

“What did you want to say to us?” Her grandfather stood defiantly with his arms crossed.

She reached into her school bag and removed the answering machine. She heard her mother gasp but calmly plugged the machine in.

“Mama, I know this will be difficult, but all of you need to listen.” She pressed play. The tape was old with a bit of static, and her father’s deep voice was raspy and labored.

“Medina, by now, you may know what has happened, but my love, I won’t be coming home. A plane struck the Tower, and there is no way out of the restaurant. I need you to tell my parents that I love them. Nico, Sofia, Dorothea, Zander, thank you for bringing me into your lives. I beg you to take care of my Medina and our daughter.

Please, Medina, know I will love you for eternity. You are the love I wanted, and you have given me joy. I am sorry I will not be there to raise our daughter. Please give her the name we discussed. Aristotle Elena and call her Aris and play this message for her when she is older.

Aris, this is your father. I am so sorry I am not with you, but my love is with you always. Your mother will tell you of my passion for the ancient Greek philosophers. I want you to share that love. I have many books for you to read and had hoped one day to take you to Greece, where we could walk where Aristotle and the others walked. You must do that someday and know that I walk with you. I love you.

Medina, live your life and make our daughter happy, I will always lov…”

Silence met the end of the message. Aris paused before she spoke.

“This is why, if I am accepted, I will go to Greece — for my father.”

Aris took the answering machine and left hearing not only the tears of her mother but the tears of all.

~ooOoo~

Summer school started as Aris nervously awaited the committee’s decision. Two weeks had passed since she played the tape for her family, and tensions remained strained, but she was resolute. Her decision was made.

It was July 3rd and no word. Riding home on the bus after class, the lack of news discouraged her. As the bus rolled to a stop, she vowed that she would go to Greece regardless. Lost in her thoughts, she stepped off the bus, shocked to find her family waiting for her.

Her grandfather stepped forward, handing her a letter. “Dr. Bryant is a kind man. He allowed me to bring the news to you. Go ahead. Read it.”

Aris ripped open the letter to read the words. Congratulations, you are among the students selected for the program. Tears welling, she raised her eyes to her smiling grandfather.

“You were right all along. We were trying to protect you and your mother and failed you both. Your mother is going to see a psychologist so she can come to terms with what happened.” He handed her another envelope with an airline logo. “You are going to Greece.”

Medina hugged her. “I’m frightened for you to go, but it’s what you should do.”

Ya-Ya Sofia clapped her hands. “We made your favorite cake, yiaourtopita, to celebrate. Let’s go home.”

They walked toward the restaurant, her arm linked in her grandfather’s, as her mother, grandmother, and aunt excitedly discussed buying new clothes for her trip. Aris glanced up to see a plane passing above her.

She smiled. She was going to Greece to walk among the philosophers with her dad.

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Author’s Note:

When I first saw this prompt, the events of 9-11 didn’t resonate until other authors mentioned it. Their comments triggered a memory, and once that memory surfaced, I needed to honor it.

A friend was a union organizer for the restaurant workers union and shortly before that day, had organized the workers at the Windows On the World restaurants atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center. After the attack, she spent the day with friends as no one wanted to be alone. When she returned to her apartment that evening, there was a message waiting for her on her answering machine.

The restaurant worker she had worked closely with during organizing had left her a message. He told her he called his wife to say goodbye. His message to my friend was to say thanks for her friendship, dedication, and hard work for their organizing effort. He wanted her to keep up the good work.

I have never forgotten his story and thought this was a way to honor all the victims of 9-11.

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Please visit D. A. on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Enzo Stephens: Have a Groundhog or Something

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Have a Groundhog or Something

By Enzo Stephens

My stomach rumbled and I felt the urgency of the bathroom demand, but maybe it wasn’t my belly, maybe it was the jumbo jet overhead. 

This was a normal occurrence since I lived so close to the new airport. Like, hey dude, thanks for the devaluation of my house. Jagoff.

Lyrics from Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’ zipped through my head, but the funniest line of the whole song was this one: “… feet flying up in the air. Sing hey diddle diddle put your titty in the middle and swing like I didn’t care.”

See? Funny.

I married my mom.

Not literally, ya doofus. That would be el-sick-o. The sex would be… blech.

I married a woman 30 years younger than mom, but just like her. And to her, size DOES matter. Maybe that’s why she really digs jumbo jets.

I’ve always dreamed of flying in a SST. The SuperSonic Transport; you know, the plane that could get you from New York City to Minsk or some such place in like an hour. But then it went away and I’m left once again sucking on an empty dream.

I’m having a bitch of a time with this irritable bowel junk, and I hate airports.

And groundhogs.

Yeah, they look all fat and cute and roly-poly, but those little buggers… They crap everywhere! They’re too fat to be owl food. Never had sex with one, and I can’t imagine that ever happening.

Sometimes I think of plumbing systems in skyscrapers. Just thought you’d wanna know that. Like, is there any vacuum action involved or is it an entirely gravity-based system?

One of life’s great mysteries. Like what is the true nutritional content of a Hostess Ho-Ho? And really, let’s talk about strip clubs! Seriously, you can look but you can’t touch?!?! Not like I’d wanna touch, but it’s all about having options, ya know?

But then in March of Y2K, my dad ripped a paint-peeling special that he still laughs about to this day. Snarf a bunch of fiber bars, apples, oat bran, chili, baked beans, cheese, onions and garlic and see what kind of explosive fermentation happens to you. And there you have it. The dude rattled windows… next door!

I aspire to that.

“Uh, Mr. Holmes, all this is moving a little too fast for me to keep up. I have some question—”

How many stupid initials are behind your name, dear doctor therapist, Keeper of the Rubber Room? How many times do I gotta tell ya, it’s time to perch on the pot, know what I’m saying?

Now, which is worse, groundhogs or raccoons? Groundhogs poop everywhere, and they’re such plumpers that they’re not very hygienic about how they handle their mess.

But raccoons, now that’s a whole nutha level. Trash pickers. And they can get downright nasty when they’re booted out of their anticipated bounty.

There’s the rumbling bum again; feels like a pressure cooker.

My house sucks and there’s an evil horde of moles that live in my backyard; little bastards burrowing minefields all over the place, and then when they move out, well that’s when the nasty little ground wasps move in and sting the utter bejeebers out of a poor dude simply mowing his lawn.

I think about all the things I’ve accomplished in my life. Sixty years roaming this globe, never enjoying the color red whatsoever, and struggling for all my life to catch fish.

It’s like every line and bait I throw in the drink has a fish repellant.

All I can do is ask, WHY?

Just bite the damned hook, jagoff!

Then there’s that whole toenail thingie.

So one time I had an ingrown hair on the back of my neck. I think it cropped up when I was 18 or something, but I pretty much ignored it. Years rolled by and it would crop up now and again, but then it would recede and it was no biggy.

But a couple years ago I had this really weird pain in my butt that had nothing to do with IBS. So I had it looked at by our wondrous medical profession and he said there was a ‘growth’ in there. I told ’em to get it outta me damnit, like whatcha waitin’ for already? It’s a friggin’ GROWTH!

So they took pictures of my spine and then we had us a little chat. Doc said there was a hair (a hair?!?!?) that had grown down the length of my spine and wrapped itself around it.

What the hell was that?

The sky is blue, most skyscrapers in the US are pretty damned ugly, there’s no more SSTs and I married my mom.

Monkey-coffee rules!

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Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

Jenny Booker: The Future

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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The Future

By Jenny Booker

“That’s the fifth one in fifteen minutes, mummy!” Molly said.

“I wonder where that one is going to? Somewhere exotic like Japan or Africa? Maybe the UK or somewhere fancy like France?” She beamed, still looking up.

“I want to be a pilot one day — Queen of the sky they will call me,” she said, now looking down at her melting ice cream.

“Of course you will, sweetheart, anything is possible if you work hard and put your mind to it,” she said hoping she might change her mind.

“But then again I want to be like you, mummy, and be a nurse as I like helping people.”

“Well you will know what you want to do soon enough, but now finish your ice cream as we need to head to a few more places — it’s the last day of our holiday,” she said, pulling her daughter in for a quick squeeze.

Time was going by so quickly these days, and not much of it was now spent together due to conditions.

“Thank you, mummy, for this trip. I really enjoyed it!” She smiled.

Did she want to go back though? I mean heaven is lovely and everything, but she misses her daughter so much and every moment she could she will always watch over her. It’s nice that she is allowed to come down and be like everyone else for a short while. After all, that’s what angels’ jobs are for, but seeing her go back to her stepmother breaks her every time.

If only she hadn’t gotten on that plane.

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Please visit Jenny on her blog: https://itsjennythewren.wordpress.com/

Marian Wood: Two Planes and a Country Brought Together

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Two Planes and a Country Brought Together

By Marian Wood

Watching the sky for planes

Do you ever stare at the sky and watch planes flying overhead? Wondering where they are going? Holiday makers or business people?

Some people know the flight paths, times they left the airport, plane spotters taking photos and recording the times they land.

The sun worshippers that love to sit by a swimming pool or lie on a faraway beach. The people that save all their money for that one sunny holiday every year. Lying here now, watching the smoke trails in the blue sky, I’m glad that I’m not up there. They say flying is the safest way to travel, I’m not so sure.

Flight 11 — to Los Angeles

It was about eighteen years ago that my world fell apart. The most important man in my life had gone. Our last goodbye had been the evening of 10th September 2001. No thought that I would never see him again alive. Kissing me on the head and giving me a hug he had said,

“Goodnight, I will see you in a few days, Cutems.”

The next day I had skipped off to school with mum, preoccupied with thoughts of my friend, Hannah, and her new puppy. I was never allowed a puppy. Unaware that my world was about to change dramatically.

School

School had just started and I was doing my timetables when the head teacher, Mrs. Clark, put an announcement over the school radio system.

“Can the whole school please come to the Cafeteria.”

We all lined up excited. I was relieved to get out of math. As we filed into the Cafeteria the teachers were standing, hugging and crying. What had happened?

I remember it like it was yesterday. Mrs. Clark was sobbing, and her words still reverberate around my head.

“Two planes, one bound for Los Angeles, have been hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Centre. All passengers are dead.”

I had a stabbing feeling in my chest — my dad was going to Los Angeles today. He departed this morning. I need my dad. Looking around me, I felt anger as others were crying. They hadn’t just lost their dad. It’s now just me and mum.

Pain

I saw my teacher, Mrs. Wells, her face buried in her white hanky. Hannah sitting next to me, reached out her hand and touched mine.

“Lucy,” she said.

I looked at her shaking. “My dad, I want my dad, dad.”

Mrs. Wells heard my distress. She walked over and put her arms around me and now started crying harder.

“Lucy, my sister worked at the centre, those planes,” she stammered.

I couldn’t say anything. The pain was too much and I cuddled into her. Feeling her warmth as we sat shaking. Around me I could feel the torment. I wasn’t the only one to lose someone that I loved that day.

The television was on in the corner of the room, with the news showing the moment that the planes hit. I couldn’t watch it then, and I still can’t.

Present day

I have never forgotten that morning. Hannah has remained my friend. She helped me through the days that followed. Mum went to pieces for a while, and she and Mrs. Wells became friends. Alliances were made as the country came together. Mum tried to appear strong but I knew she was dying inside. Our lives changed forever; it was now just me and mum.

I was just ten years old when it happened. I’m now twenty-eight. Lying on the grass, my three-year-old, Sophie, is next to me. Pretending to be an angel, I can hear her laughing. Mum is sitting on a bench nearby. Time has moved on but we will never forget dad and the others who lost their lives that day.

Sophie knows all about her grandfather and what a great man he was. She knows how much we love him and will always visit his grave with me.

My dad phoned my mum before he died. Telling her that his plane had been hijacked and he would never see us again. He told her to move on with her life and forget him. Mum didn’t, she’s never had anyone else. I think there have been admirers, but she’s never been interested.

Mum and time

Her sadness did eventually lift, but I rarely hear her laughing happily. Losing a partner must be terrible. I lost my dad but I now have Greg. Mum has me and Greg but that’s not the same as being with dad. I now hear a quiet voice through my thoughts.

“Mummy, will you push me on the swing?”

“Yes, in a moment.” Taking her hand, I pull her towards me and give her a hug.

Moments like this and time are precious. Dad was often travelling for business and we didn’t have enough time together. All I have left are photos and memories.

So, please make the most of the time you have. Look after each other as none of us knows what will happen tomorrow. That morning in the school cafeteria I knew that I needed to make the most of what I have. I try and spend as much time as I can with those that I love. I’m not travelling across the country without them any time soon.

~~~~~

Please note, I live in the UK so this is not based on my own personal experience.

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Please visit Marian on her blog: https://justmuddlingthroughlife.co.uk/

Chiman Salih: Paris

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Paris 

By Chiman Salih

One month into my admission into the university, the college administration held a special reception full of fun for the newcomers in one of the pavilions. A game of luck try was happening. I got in, removed a folded paper and opened it to reveal two sentences sounding as if they were a part of great literature. They caught my imagination and mind and touched my heart.

Take a scarf to be a Parisian. Go on the Nile to be Nefertiti.

I felt astonished by how those words related to me.

I was on my first trip to Paris. The scarf mattered.

Finally, the airplane started to go down through clouds and land in the city of light. I arrived in the city through Charles de Gaulle airport, to reach the heart of the beautiful, breathtaking city. Petrichor emanated from the wet ground and maple trees. After taking some rest, I surveyed the luxurious shops beside me and spotted beautifully colored scarves in one of them. I entered the shop and purchased several varicolored scarves. I folded the purple one around my forehead to embark on the dream tour in the dream city.

I sensed Baudelaire walking right beside me. He had described me as aflâneuse in Paris. He recounted how he had materialized the beauty and modernity and fashion in an outstanding masterpiece and authored flâneur. 

I sensed the raindrops hitting my cheeks. At the corner, a lanky young boy gave me an umbrella with a transparent canopy.

After walking for a while and viewing amazing sceneries on both sides of the way, the rain grew heavier. I had to enter a café shop to escape the torrential rain and rest. I ate a brunch meal of a tasty pancake with Nutella chocolate as the weather brightened, then I prepared for the next part of my sweet journey.

I passed amazing architectures, happy lovers, tourists from around the world conveying different visages, fallen leaves, musicians, painters, vendors, and views from the Seine River and Eiffel Tower. I reached the historical site of the Cathedral Notre Dame. I knew the crowd, chatting and laughing, were queues waiting their turn to enter the cathedral.

Everybody in the crowd stood under umbrellas just like mine, and the vendors sold different colored berets. Every woman donned a beret or was purchasing one. Most of them selected berets matching their own scarf colors. Men focused more on holding the umbrellas and using their cameras.

I took a purple beret too.

I beheld the crowd’s beauty, resembling a garden of colorful tulips—a row of different beret colors on the head and bright scarves around the neck or folded to handbags, transparent umbrellas protecting against the rain but the raindrops still viewed when they bounced from the top. The most magical part was the blue sky, making the upper ground of the live encaustic and integrated the beauty of the set. The cathedral also towered over the colorful, happy mob.

I fell into meditation, imagining the stunning spectacle around me.

I wondered about weather—if nature lent its beauty to human beings in this place or vice versa?

I indulged in a secret heart-to-heart interview with Victor Hugo.

“Salute, Mr. Hugo.”

“Bienvenue, a Paris madame,” he answered in a soft voice and Parisian classy style.

“If you came back to life, would you write The Hunchback of Notre Dame again?”

“Oui, bien sûr. But this time, I will give a different role to Quasimodo. It’s the role of the scarf and beret vendor in front of the cathedral.” It sounded like he had marveled at the scene too.

“Might that soften La Esmerelda’s heart too?”

“Undoubtedly,” he answered.

“Merci beaucoup, M. Hugo.”

“Come back again, madame.”

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Lynn Miclea: Turning Point

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Turning Point

by Lynn Miclea

Trigger Warning: Spousal Abuse

Andrea trembled with fear. She knew John would be angry again. Lately he seemed to always be angry. Things needed to be perfect for him to be happy, and this was an imperfect world. And people weren’t perfect either. But he somehow couldn’t understand that.

And now dinner was going to be late, and the potatoes would not be ready at the same time as the chicken. She knew he would scream and yell at her, and she was so tired of his anger.

Here it comes, she thought as he entered the kitchen.

John glared at her, his face red and contorted with rage. “You bitch!” he bellowed, his eyes cutting into her. “You know I want dinner on time!”

Andrea simply watched him, saying nothing. Let him yell, and it will be over soon, she thought.

He took a menacing step toward her, his eyes fuming. Her skin prickled as she took in the fury radiating from the man in front of her. In a quick motion, his hand drew back and then came forward, slapping her across the face so hard her head snapped back. Then he punched her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of her. In shock, unable to breathe, with pain radiating throughout her body, she collapsed to the floor. Struggling to breathe and make sense out of what just happened, she barely heard his furious rant as he continued to yell at her. She clutched her belly and took small breaths as tears stung her eyes. Another jolt of intense pain hit her as his hard shoe rammed into her side. Shock and pain overwhelmed her. She stayed crumpled in a tight ball, waiting for another impact. But instead of another blow, his angry voice assaulted her. “When I come back, dinner better be on the table!” He stormed out, slamming the door behind him.

She remained in a fetal position for a long time. When she could finally breathe normally again, sobs took over. What happened? He had never hit her before.

And he never would again. This was it. She was through.

She stood up, one hand on her aching belly, and scribbled a quick note asking him to leave and be gone by morning. Then she grabbed a few belongings and went out to her car. As she reached it, John walked over to her and glared at her.

“Where are you going?” he demanded, venom in his voice. “I want dinner.”

“I’m going out. And I’m through with you. I want you gone before morning. I never want to see you again.” Her voice shook, but she meant every word.

“What?” he bellowed. “You deserved it. It was all your fault. You—”

“No.” Her voice was stronger now. “I’m done. I want you gone.” She got in her car, pulled out, and drove off, not even glancing back.

Pulling in at a nearby motel, she checked in, went to her assigned room, and collapsed on the bed. What happened? What had gotten into him? When had things changed? She could not understand any of it. Numb at first, she finally broke down and sobbed for hours.

The tears slowly subsided, and Andrea let out a long sigh. Maybe this was a good thing. It finally propelled her to leave him. She should have left him long ago. She was sick of his constant criticism and complaints. Nothing she did was ever good enough. And after hearing his put-downs day after day, she had started believing his words. She felt unimportant and worthless. This was not the life she wanted.

Did other couples fight and yell all the time? Did they cry every day too? Was this what life was like for all couples? Was romantic love and real happiness just in the movies? She wasn’t sure. She just knew she couldn’t live like that anymore. She couldn’t even remember the last time she really felt happy. Or laughed.

There was a time she liked who she was. She needed to get that back. He had destroyed her self-esteem and her happiness. There was never any peace anymore. She never wanted to see him again. She hoped he would be gone when she returned home the next day.

After a night of not sleeping, she rubbed her swollen and burning eyes. Looking in the mirror, she saw her red, puffy eyes and the bruises on her face and her side. If he wasn’t gone, she would go straight to the police and file charges.

Shaking, she drove home slowly, not knowing what to expect. Would he be gone? Or would he be even angrier? Would he try to kill her? As she pulled into the parking garage, she noticed his car was gone. Did he leave for a while to get something? Or was he gone for good?

She slowly went up to their apartment. Her hand shook as she put the key in the lock and opened the door. Silence greeted her.

A note was left on the counter, and she picked it up with trembling fingers. Tears filled her eyes as she read it.

I’m leaving you. But not because you asked me to. I’m leaving because I deserve someone much better than you. You are worthless, and you don’t deserve someone as good as me. I should never have wasted my time with you. I’m taking the first flight out and I never want to see you again. John

Her eyes burned with tears, and she swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. He always had to have the last dig. But she didn’t care. She just wanted him gone.

Had he really left? She quickly ran into their bedroom. His clothes were gone. His dresser drawers were empty. She bit her lower lip as a small smile started forming and tears trailed down her cheeks.

The apartment was quiet. It felt strange. No yelling, no criticism, no complaints. She ran downstairs and went outside in flip-flops and no one yelled at her for that.

She looked up at the clear blue sky and saw a plane pass overhead. Was he on that flight? It didn’t matter. As long as he was gone.

She went back in and looked around the apartment. Her dirty coffee mug sat on the counter and no one screamed at her about it. A rush of fear ran through her, but then she decided to leave it there for another hour, and a strangled giggle came out.

Quickly glancing around to make sure no one was there to yell at her, she let out a long breath. Her body began to relax in the empty silence. She felt warmth settle around her. Was this what peace was like?

She felt good that she had taken the first step toward a better life, and she was determined to learn to love herself again. And maybe one day someone else would love her too, exactly as she was.

But for now, she was finally at peace. She felt her lips curl up in a small, shaky, timid smile, and it began settling in that life was becoming good again. She washed her coffee mug and defiantly placed it crooked on the drying tray, smiling wider, as a deep sense of peace permeated the room.

Then she settled in on the recliner and started humming, something she had not done in years, and she knew she would be okay.

—————————

Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Please also visit Lynn’s blog, like the story there, and follow her at – https://wp.me/p4htbd-rA
Please also visit Lynn’s website for more information on her books – https://www.lynnmiclea.com/

Enzo Stephens: Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

Part “Isa” and Part “Dalawa” are Tagalog for 1 & 2 respectively.

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Isa

Planning Vs. Pantsing, Part Dalawa

By Enzo Stephens

When we go on vacation to some warm locale with swaying palm trees and soft, gentle ocean breezes and sand that likes to mysteriously work its way into surprising anatomical crevices, one of the first things I say — usually with a huge sigh, is “Ahhhh, how wonderful it is to not have to wear pants.”

Kind of crazy for a dude to say, but there it is.

The fact is that for a guy (and maybe for the ladies too), pants are binding.  We have to loosen our belts (that hold our pants up) after chowing down that four chili-cheese dogs (topped with fresh onions and cayenne pepper — do it right!), because those damned pants are like a noose around the waist.

So, do you feel me when I breathe that sigh of relief upon arrival at some tropical locale?

As my well-traveled friend would say, “You and your first-world problems.”

So all that said, in the writing community, the inverse of that diatribe is the truth; pantsing is liberating.

“Pantsing” is a term used to describe unplanned writing.  In short, the writer gets an idea or a scene in their mind and then they just… let it fly.

At one time this method used to bug the bejeebers out of me.  Why? Because every time I’d sit down with a fabulous idea and crank it out, it would pretty much just die on the vine.  Ten, fifteen pages of outstanding prose that just peters out.

To me, that was a fail in my quest to write the Great American Novel and supplant Mr. King as the Great American Novelist.  It slew my dream.

It’s a tenuous connection, but then my writing technique was pretty immature back then.  To me, it was all about causality, and if I was going to succeed in my writing career, I needed a different approach.

Ergo the planning method, and I totally embraced that method, and it was a huge success for me.  Again, causality. The more I crafted full-scale novels, the more I embraced planning.

But here’s the thing…

Writing stopped being fun.  It became a job.

And that just took the wind out of my sails, big-time.  I didn’t talk about these fantastic stories at parties anymore; I wasn’t driven by inspiration anymore.  

Over 60 books later and I was feeling pretty burnt out, although the process I’d developed for myself was a significant success, I was — dare I say, bored.  

For a fiction author to get bored?  Well, that just sucks.

Well, then the host of this blog site flashed a picture on Facebook that I saw for the first time last February, along with the words ‘Write The Story,’ and I thought, ‘well, that’s a cool idea.’  Three thousand words? I can do that in my sleep (which was truer than I care to admit).

So what’s the first thing I did?  I pulled out my planning tools.

UGH.

I wrote some ridiculous drivel about the wonders of paint or some such nonsense; read it and promptly threw it in the crapper.  Now, all of a sudden, this little exercise became difficult.

I kvetched about it to my closet confidant, and after she let me blather on for gawd-knows-how-long (and several gin & tonics), she kicked back in her chair and laughed at me.  That kind of got my dander up a bit, but then she ’splained…

“Remember all those times when I’d ask you to tell me a story to help me fall asleep?”

“Yeah, but they put you to sleep, so they must have sucked.”

“No, doofus!  You came up with that stuff on the fly!”

DING

My goodness, that is One.  Wise. Woman.

In other words, I was pantsing, even when I didn’t know the term.  And I dare say that all of us writers do it. It’s inspiration!

That said, I tackled that Write The Story exercise again with gusto and cranked out a strange, rambling dissertation on the possible sinister history of the room in the picture prompt, and I never looked back.

I have re-discovered the JOY in writing, and have since put together some really weird and fun short stories that have helped me to truly express myself; to build a level of depth and humanity in my characters that seemed to have disappeared over the years, and so on and so on.

Pantsing has helped my writing skills evolve to the Next Level (well, in my mind anyway).  I have no idea if I’ll ever supplant Mr. King as the next Great American Novelist, and frankly, I really don’t care.

Because writing is fun again!

Now I am able to combine the best of both and that’s where my path to creation of inspired novels lie, and I’m thrilled to share here that I’ve got a series well underway.  Yes, it’s well planned and meticulous using the tools I described in Part Isa, but the specific scenes, now that’s a different story.

Those scenes are ‘pantsed,’ and by Slocum, they have been an absolute blast to write!

Planning AND Pantsing.  Try them together, and watch your writing take off!

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Next: Ghostwriting.

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Author Bio:

Enzo Stephens has a serious case of professional ADHD.  He’s a professional writer with over 60 novels ghosted and several under his own name.  He’s an active blogger and has fallen in love with knocking out short stories.
Enzo is a retired Marine and a martial arts instructor for longer than most people have been alive, and his cats, wife and kids merely tolerate his nonsense.

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For more of Enzo’s writing visit him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011 or check out the monthly archives here on the WU! blog.

( Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.)  

Calliope Njo: The Road of Time

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

The Road of Time

By Calliope Njo

I looked up and saw tall buildings, at least tall enough to reach the sky. An airplane dead center of the surrounding buildings turned into a bulls-eye.

These routes, or barren roads, lead to different places and time periods. Confusing and dismal always seemed to be the impression when traveling. Someone stood on the corner, this time a girl. They existed without a name or a way of identifying themselves, but I always called them on-lookers. “The road has changed. It will be confusing. Do not worry, for your actions will set the road straight.”

“Right. Thanks.” I urged my pace and kept looking back to be sure she didn’t follow me.

When I left the road, I looked forward to seeing those buildings and that airplane in real life. Instead, I ended up at a storefront. I glanced up to read Starbucks at the top. The aroma of coffee wafted my way. The smell of coffee never changed. Some stronger than others, but it always existed. Too bad the money I had wouldn’t work in this time period. I guessed not since I didn’t see any horses.

A young woman came out jiggling something in her hand. As good as any person to ask. “Excuse me, but where am I?”

“Oh, hi. That’s easy.” She giggled. “You’re in Las Vegas on Charleston and Decatur.”

Las Vegas? Charleston and Decatur? Huh? “Thank you.”

“That’s probably more info than what you want. My Mom tells me that all the time. Looking for the strip?”

“The strip?”

“Las Vegas strip where all the big casinos are at. It’s the place to go.”

“I guess.” I shrugged without any idea. The road led me here for some reason and a tourist hot spot was a good place to start looking.

“That’s down on Las Vegas Boulevard.” Something buzzed and she brought out an electronic device from her pocket. “Oh. I gotta go. Good luck.” She ran to her automobile.

I remember them when they were first invented. They had transformed over the years, no longer awkward, but sleek and stylish with more power. Somebody named Hyundai came out with one so they must be popular.

Anyway, I had to get going. That Las Vegas Boulevard might be the place to be and to start looking. 

The sun changed while I walked. My feet couldn’t go anymore so I sat on an enclosed seat. A large automobile came up and opened its doors. People left and boarded before it closed its doors and moved. The numbers on it indicated nothing and only added to an already long list of items I would need to know.

It had been a while, and it didn’t look like any visitor area I’ve been in. Tourist areas always had people dressed in clothes from the local shops, with or without something to record their experience and I didn’t see any of that.

A glance to my left revealed a green sign that said Shadow Lane. Without a clue to start me where I wanted to go, someone left a big building. I didn’t see the sign but the tag on the shirt read University Medical Center with David S. underneath. Maybe this time I wouldn’t sound so bad.

“Excuse me,” I said, as I waved in his direction. “But I’m looking for Las Vegas Boulevard. Could you tell me how to get here?”

“Just straight down the street. You still have a little bit to go. If you show me your phone, I can help to locate it.”

“I don’t have one.”

“Oh. Well… I think there’s a bus that goes down there. Good luck.” He got into an automobile and left.

Maybe that’s what those big things were, but some people dropped money into a box and I didn’t have any. Not from this era. Someone had to be willing to trade.

After a number of questions to a lot of different people, all of them told me to go to a pawnshop. Trade whatever it was for cash. I could do that. I searched around for one and found it.

A search in my pocket revealed a one dollar bank note, a fifty-cent piece, and a half-dime piece from the 1830s. I didn’t expect to get anything for them.

The man behind the counter took a long time to look at them. He even got out a special eye piece. After that, he told me it wasn’t often he would get things like this in such good condition before leaving me to come back with more money than I expected.

With the means to board a bus, I found another covered bench and one pulled up. After a brief conversation with the driver, I found out the bus I needed would be on its way and stopped at that location.

That bus disappeared, and another one came up with Las Vegas Strip on the front. I boarded when everyone left and found a seat. It wasn’t comfortable but it would take me where I needed to go.

At last, I achieved my destination and felt excited. All I had to do was find the overpass to get back on the road of time.

Lots of people from various places walked around. Energy surged around me so it had to be it. All of these buildings had different ways to attract individuals. One even had a pirate show or the promise of one.

I didn’t feel exhausted anymore. The surrounding energy gave me the extra life I needed. Still hungry though when my stomach growled.

There were the forgotten ones that dug around in large bins, trash containers by the smell of it. I did what they did when a man tapped my shoulder.

“Hey, don’t do that. If you come with me, I can get you a cheeseburger if you help me clean up.”

There wasn’t a reason for me to doubt him so I followed him to a shop. “My… associate or coworker, whatever, left me with all of this mess to clean up before closing. So if you give me a hand I’d appreciate it. Deal?”

“Sure.” It didn’t look hard.

It was a lot of sorting and stacking shelves. Nothing that I hadn’t done before. This was better than the stalls I used to clean. At least this was cleaner.

“Oh man. Thanks. While you were clearing the floor, I left to get the food.” He held up a white McDonald’s bag. “Your Big Mac meal.”

I took it from him and smelled the inside of the sack. The aroma of onions made it smell so good. “Thank you for your generosity. Do I pay you something?”

“Not a problem.” He shrugged. “Have a great night.” He locked up.

I walked as I ate. The bubbly drink had a lot of sugar and flavored with something I couldn’t identify, but everything was so tasty. It didn’t take any time for me to finish it.

Night fell and everything came to life. That was when I realized why the elaborate decorations were on the front. Pure and simple entertainment for the masses.

I kept walking as I watched. The night came the longer one lingered in it. It didn’t used to as thieves struck at night in the olden days. It gave rise to the many scary stories of the time.

I climbed the passenger bridge over the street when I saw a road of time open. I could always tell by the surrounding yellow glow of the doorway. Down the bridge and onto the sidewalk by a shiny green MGM building. I did as the others did and crossed the street as they did.

The road opened up as I walked through and it closed after I passed through. I took a brief glimpse behind me as the doorway closed. These travels were done alone and one had to realize that before taking the position. It didn’t get any easier though.

A big sigh later, I turned around and continued my journey to my next stop.

That girl again. “One journey done. One fulfillment finished. Now would be the time to go the straight and narrow. Be careful of those who linger.”

I waved and kept walking. If somebody told me who these people were I would feel much better. They always left me with the shivers.

I still had the money in my pocket and should have left it to the man who let me work for him. The more forward one goes the clearer hindsight becomes.

The final door opened and I walked through. I looked up to see those tall buildings and that airplane. This had to be where I was meant to be. The only thing left for me to do was to get acquainted.

Lots of people walked around with yellow painted cars with numbers on top in the streets. The energy was not as full here as it was in Las Vegas. With so many people, there had to be as much if not more than that.

All of these buildings stretched up to the sky. I had been paying so much attention to them I didn’t notice the woman I bumped into.

“I am sorry. I wasn’t paying attention.”

She smiled. “That’s OK. I wasn’t either. The name’s Lisa. Yours?”

“My what?”

“Your name. What’s your name?”

“Oh. I’m sorry. It’s Ephraim.”

“Ephraim. I like it. See ya.” She left.

An interesting smell lingered in the air. A mix of two aromas I couldn’t identify. The air turned rancid with other odors the more I walked. I found out why as I kept walking. All of these forgotten ones in the alleyways.

A man walked in my direction. His body language told me he was ready for a confrontation with his stiff shoulders and his step stomping as he walked towards me. No sign of kindness on his face as his lips curved up without touching his eyes.

Two others behind him. I had been in these situations before. No amount of compromise would get me out of these situations. The only answer would be to see who was left standing.

He stopped in front of me. Instead of saying something, the two behind him came around me. He pushed me. I didn’t do anything because I wanted to see what he had in mind. I had an idea but that’s all it was.

One of them held me as the other searched my pockets. They found the change I had and screamed at the result.

The one in front of me threw a punch. I ducked to come back up and kick his legs from underneath him. One of the two brought out a knife and swiped it in my direction.

All I needed was something to throw in their direction. Then was the time a good dirt road would’ve come in handy. I turned my head around enough to see the other one charging at me. I dropped and rolled out of the way while he ran into his partner’s knife. The one that stood in front of me ran away.

The one with the knife stood there with his mouth open. That was my chance to get away and I did.

I found an empty set of steps and sat there until the sun rose. Loud noises came in my direction. Automobiles with bright flashing lights going in the direction I came from.

That was the point I started to question if I took a wrong turn. Nothing like this was supposed to happen. Nobody promised a good beginning but to go through this? Someone had plans for me and it was going to take a while to understand what it was.

The sun came up and I left the stairs. Buildings opened, people massed the sidewalks, and automobiles filled the road. It seemed another day started.

An old man stood outside with an apron on and a broom in his left hand. “Well it’s about time you showed up. Come in. Come in. There’s a lot of work to do.”

I stood there and looked at him. “I think you have me confused with somebody else.”

“You are Ephraim. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“You somehow took a wrong turn and ended up in Las Vegas. Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Then you are the one. Come on in. We have some things to do and it is going to take a while. I am Gable and you will stay here for the time being.”

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Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/

Cheryl Anne Guido: September Morning

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Author’s Note: Although I wasn’t there, I watched it all on TV. I can only imagine what it was like on that day.

SEPTEMBER MORNING

By Cheryl Anne Guido 

A beautiful day
In the city
People bustling about
On the way
To their destinations
So many
Yet no one speaks
Heads down
Immersed
In their own worlds
Me too
Lost in thought
Amid towering skyscrapers
Marching 
Toward my own purpose
A low roar overhead
Captures my attention
I look up and smile
A silver bird
Carrying its passengers
To their own objective
But wait
The plane
It's too low
The tower
Pull up, pull up
Too late
Smoke and flames
Pouring from broken glass
People running
In all directions
But I can't move
Eyes transfixed on the sky
Watching another
As it flies overhead
Oh my God
Please, not again
The second tower 
Bursts into flame
Someone grabs my arm
Run, they say
I try
But my legs won't move
Frozen in place
As the mighty crumble
And slowly fall to the ground
Nothing left, nothing
Sirens wailing
As men and women
Struggle in the dense fog
The taste of ash
On my own lips
Eyes stinging
I cough 
As my throat fills with smoke
This can't be happening
This isn't happening
But, it is
Surreal yet real
Somehow, I make my way
Out of the grey cloud
Someone shoves a mask
Over my face
Breathe, breathe, they say
I hang my head
As an acrid tear
Slides down my cheek
Then another
And another
I openly weep 
For my city
A hand touches my shoulder
You're safe now, he says
But I'm not
And I'll never feel safe again
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Visit Cheryl on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherylann.guido

D. A. Ratliff: Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

Writers Unite!’s Featured Blog Series!

Writers Unite! is fortunate to have among its members, many bloggers, and essayists who write content about the writing process or their author’s journey or both. We will be posting their articles for your information and enjoyment. Please read and comment, visit the author’s website, blog, or Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and share!

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Confessions of an Obsessed Writer

By D. A. Ratliff

Every so often, in a writing group that I am a member of, someone will ask this question. What is your favorite writing spot? I invariably and blithely answer: Have laptop, will travel. Then it dawned on me that my laptop does indeed travel where I do. 

I am an obsessed writer.

I began reading at an early age, and in elementary school, I discovered writing. My efforts were admittedly short stories about my Chihuahua, Henry, but I was writing. I was that rare student who loved having essays and term paper assignments, relishing in the research as well as the composing. My lust for writing had begun. 

Then I graduated college and well, had to act like an adult. I continued to read, but my writing efforts were work related and, while important, certainly not imaginative. Difficult to make a policy-and-procedures or a training manual fun, but I did love writing newsletters where I could be a bit more creative.

During these years, a gnawing urge began to develop. I wanted to write fiction. As a child, I had a vivid imagination that followed me to adulthood. However, I had doubts as to whether I could write a story good enough to attract readers. I had taken creative writing courses, but college was behind me, and I was unsure I had the skills. I needed practice, but how?

I started writing fanfiction.

I know – it’s fanfiction, but I deduced that with developed characters and show canon already in place, I could concentrate on how to construct a story and write dialog. It was fanfiction, easy, and all the fans of the show would love all the stories. Wrong. Critique in the world of fanfic can be brutal. Fortunately, most were kind to me.

But it worked, I gained confidence and discovered the weaknesses I needed to address by writing over eighty stories about a canceled science fiction show. Yes, eighty. You see, I couldn’t stop writing. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. And once I began to believe I could write, I left fanfic behind and started writing my first novel, a science fiction story. I haven’t stopped since.

Writers understand the call of the keyboard. I do take my laptop with me practically everywhere. No, not to the grocery store but the doctor’s office, or on a plane, any place where I have downtime with nothing else to do. Okay, maybe when I did have other things to do as well.  I only know that I need to create.

Writing every day is not a challenge for me. I hesitate to think of how many words I do write per day as an administrator for a large writing group, or on Facebook Messenger and email, and when I can, my fiction works in progress. (Yes, works. Okay, I have a few going at the same time.) I have worn out a few keyboards in the last few years. It’s when I’m not writing that the need to write manifests itself. I have a sense that I forgot something, that nagging urgency that I should be doing something. It is as if a part of me is incomplete.

If you write, you know that feeling. You have a new idea, the plot, the title, and the characters start to develop in your head. How it begins and ends. I am a pantser style writer, meaning that I don’t plan my stories before writing them. I start writing, and then the fun begins.

One of my favorite quotes about writing is from British author, Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

If that opening line falls into place, then so does everything else. There is such a feeling of satisfaction to watch letters appear on the screen as fingers move about the keys. Hours pass like minutes as the story unfolds and, when I finally stop, there is a sense of accomplishment that today I created something. That feeling is what makes writing so obsessive for me.

Not all days are so satisfying. All writers have those days when the words won’t come, or the plot stalls or transition between scenes is elusive. When this happens, doubt begins to creep in. Is this story good enough, will anyone like it? Why am I writing? I have learned never to force the words, for those are never the right words. Taking a step back, working on another project, taking a walk, or cleaning the house (the last resort) always helps me to find my muse again, because I have to write.

I write to tell myself the story.

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D. A. (Deborah) Ratliff is a Southerner with saltwater in her veins and a love of writing. A career in science and human resources provided the opportunity to write policies/procedures and training manuals, articles, and newsletters, but her lifelong love of mystery and science fiction novels beckoned. Deborah began writing mysteries and her first novel, Crescent City Lies, will be published in late spring 2020 with a second novel, One of Those Days, to follow. Deborah regularly contributes articles on writing to the blog, Writers Unite! and serves as an administrator on the Facebook writing site, Writers Unite! which has 57,000+ members from around the globe.
www.thecoastalquill.wordpress.com
www.writersuniteweb.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/groups/145324212487752

Resources:
https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/644139-the-first-draft-is-just-you-telling-yourself-the-story