Paula Shablo: Spaghetti Face

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Spaghetti Face

Paula Shablo

A rite of passage in our family is when a child is old enough to feed himself that first spaghetti dinner. Generally speaking, this happens around the time of a child’s first birthday; in fact, spaghetti was, and still remains, the most requested birthday dinner for the children in the family, regardless of age.

For some reason, this was one of my father’s favorite things to do. He’d get the camera ready, knowing a baby was going to be fed the wonder food of the ages. He’d encourage the chaos of eating those long, tomato sauce drenched noodles.

Once said child was covered from head to toe with spaghetti sauce and stray noodles, the “Spaghetti Face” portrait was taken. Giggles were had by all witnesses, and Dad could hardly wait to get the pictures developed.

We children had our pictures taken and continued the tradition with our own kids. It was always fun to look back at the first spaghetti dinner experience.

As I said: a rite of passage.

I loved the fact that several of the photos of my own kids were taken by my father. He got such a kick out of it.

Recently, I realized that somehow, the tradition has been lost. I have grandchildren now and don’t have a single spaghetti-faced pose of any of them.

This is unacceptable!

I spent a few days going through old photographs, scanning the spaghetti faces, and sending them to my kids with little notes: “Remember this? Why don’t you take some of your kids and send them to me?”

One daughter shot back this note: “My kid is twenty-one. Do you think I can get her to pose NOW?”


I love a challenge.

This morning I scanned spaghetti-faced photos of myself, my siblings, and my kids. I sent them in messages to all the grandchildren. My note: “Your parents have neglected you. Spaghetti face photos are mandatory in this family. Please recreate the photos they should have taken of you at this age and send them to me. It will be the perfect Christmas present!”

And now, I wait…

Please visit Paula on her website:

Kenneth Lawson: A Night In L. A.

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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A Night In L. A. 

Kenneth Lawson

By the time I finished another cup of coffee, the pills and caffeine had begun to work. My head had stopped pounding enough so I could sort of move without the room spinning. 

I did remember the girl—long black hair, kind of skinny. She was friendly, offered to buy me a drink. That was all I remembered, a fuzzy picture of her smiling and a beer set in front of me. 

Something else came to me. She made a nod to her right. There was no one there except the waiter, a kid barely old enough to drink. Then something else came to me. She’d pushed a mug toward me. The pounding in my head wasn’t from the beer but the Mickey I’d been given. I’d heard they could leave a hell of a headache. They were right.

She’d made sure I drank the beer with the Mickey in it. No wonder I didn’t remember anything, but knowing all this didn’t get me out of the jam I was in. No one would believe me anyway. Hell, I didn’t believe me.

I checked my holster. My gun was still there. At least she didn’t take it. I pulled it from my holster and dropped the magazine. Eight rounds. A full mag. Good. I checked my spare mag. It was missing a bullet. Seven rounds. I froze. 

It was all clear to me. There was a body somewhere with my bullet in it. 

I usually carry a spare magazine with me. Whoever replaced the magazine with the fresh mag knew it would appear I hadn’t fired any bullets. It wouldn’t be until they looked closer that they would find a slug missing. 

I considered what to do. Not carrying that gun was a good start. So, it and the magazines went into the safe. I slid a different pistol into the holster when the door rattled with a loud knock.

I spun the lock on the safe and left my office. “Coming.” The front door rattled in the frame.

“Yeah, what do you want?” 

Los Angeles Detective Lindsay plowed his way into the room as I stepped out of his way. He stopped in the middle of the room, chomped on a cigar, and eyed me. “St. James, where’ve you been since last night?”

I thought fast. “I met a client at the Long Arm Bar on Seventh street.”

“Yeah, right, a pretty one?” Lindsay insinuated.

“I didn’t notice. I was working. What do you care anyway?” Although I had a pretty good idea. I glanced at Brenda leaning against the kitchen door frame where the remains of last night’s spaghetti still sat on the table. I’d left in a hurry.

“We found a body with one of your bullets in it.”

“How do you know it’s mine?”

 “Ballistics matched it with the slug we recovered from your gun after last year’s shoot-out.”

“Who’d I kill today?”

Lindsay pulled his notebook from his coat pocket, flipped pages, muttering to himself as he tried to read his writing.

“Raymond Chambers. You know him?”

“Yeah, sorta. He tried to hire me months ago to do some work for him. I turned him down.” 

“My, you’re noble all of a sudden.” Lindsay sneered.

“I didn’t like the guy. He was mean, arrogant, and an asshole. So, I turned him down on the spot.”

“And came back to kill him.” 

“After six months? Get real. Even you don’t believe that.”

“I believe your bullet is in him. That is all that matters.”

I did meet with Chambers but left him in mid-martini. Who would have seen me there?

Branda went into the office and returned with my appointment book. “Here. He met Chambers at the bar and then left. He noted the time. If he’d accepted the case, we would track the hours he worked.” She shoved the book in front of Lindsay. He grabbed it and pawed through the pages. When the detective closed the book, Brenda snatched it from him and said she would return it to the office. With a glance at me, she left.

“See? I didn’t see him again after that.” I reminded him as I tried to think of who else I’d seen that morning.

Larry Pine. Yeah, he was there at a table not far from us. I passed him as I left. He had no love for Chambers or me. He’d had a couple of dames with him, but then he usually had a dame or two with him. 

But Lindsay was right. Why wait six months?

I leaned against the table nearest me, both to hide the safe and help keep me upright. Lindsay’s barging in here hadn’t helped my head any. I took a long swallow of half-cold coffee to buy myself some time to think. 

Lindsay fiddled with the notebook in his hands and acted like he was looking for something in one of the back pages of it.

“When did Chambers eat my bullet?” 

Lindsay glared. “About midnight as far as the doc can figure for now. And eat is right. You shoved the barrel of the gun in his mouth and blew half his head off. It was a god-awful mess.” 

I’d seen what a forty-five can do at close range. The bullets are big and slow, but they plow through bone like a battering ram. I didn’t need any more descriptions.

“Where’d you find the bullet?” 

“In the wall behind what’s left of his head. It hit a stud, or it’d kept going.”

“Look, it wasn’t me. Here.” I pulled the pistol from the holster and handed it to him. 

Lindsay dropped the mag and smelled the barrel. “Mmm, it’s clean.”

“Yeah, I keep ‘em clean. Hasn’t been fired in ages.” That was true.

He handed it back to me. I slid the mag back in and dropped it back into its holster and waited. 


“So. You never answered my question. Where were you last night?”

“I told you, I met a dame down at the Long Arm Bar. She wanted to hire me.”

“To do what?”

 “Find her boyfriend. At least that’s what she said.”


I thought for a minute. “I told her no. I didn’t believe her. Her story didn’t add up, and she had too much cash on her.” I made that part up. We never got that far before I had the beer with the Mickey in it, but Lindsay wouldn’t believe me, so I didn’t try to tell him—yet. 

“This girl, she have a name?” 

I fumbled around on the table next to me and found the notes I made when she called. “Yeah, Lori something or other, I couldn’t understand what she said. It was over the phone.” Again, I was making part of the story up as I went along.

“So, this Lori calls you, and you go running to her?”

“Well, no, I told her I was busy, and couldn’t meet her right away, so we met later at the bar.” 

“What time?” 

I glanced at the small clock on the far side of the room and tried to remember. “’Round ten-ish, I think.” 

“Okay, for now. Find this Lori and get her to back your story.”

With that, Lindsay left, not bothering to close the door. I stared at the open door, cold coffee in my hand, and wondered what had just happened. Shit. I was in trouble.

Brenda came into the living room and kissed me on the cheek. “I know you didn’t do it.” 

“Thanks, hun.” I pulled her closer and gave her a proper kiss. 

Releasing Brenda, I slid the bolt home to lock the door. I didn’t need any more uninvited guests. As a PI, I often worked on the wrong side of town and Lori from last night was definitely from that side. Right now, I needed to find out more about the Chamber killing. An eyewitness would seal the deal and get me in the slammer for a long time. I needed to find them too. 

After taking more headache pills with my cold coffee, I grabbed my old sports coat and headed out. My car was an old Ford with mostly rust and gumption holding it together, but it always started.


I considered some options, one being that Lori probably left town right after I passed out, but I headed for the Long Arm Bar anyway. Hopefully, someone would remember me being there last night and who she was. I expected the bar to be closed, but I knocked anyway. I heard noises inside, so I banged louder. 

“Yeah, what do you want?” The muffled voice sounded aggravated. 

“I need to talk to you.”

The door cracked open, and a short skinny bald man peered out at me. “What’s so important?”

I pulled my ID from my pocket and showed it to him. 

“PI—big wow.” He didn’t move the door.

“You were working here last night?”

“No. I decided to sleep here just for the hell of it. Yeah, I was here, so what?”

“I was here last night. You remember seeing me here? About ten-ish?”

“Why should I remember you? The place was packed. I don’t even remember crashing in the back room.” 

That I understood, a busy night is a long night, and it all runs together. “Look, I need to see if anyone remembered me here last night. I met a girl…”

“Good for you.” 

‘Not that kind of girl. She was supposed to be a client. Tall, skinny, long black hair?”

“Shit, that describes half the dames here.” 

I decided to stop being polite. I leaned against the door, pushing it open a little more. I remembered the kid, the waiter.

“Look, I’ve had a bad night and morning. I’m not in the mood for your games. I was here last night. A tall skinny kid, barely legal age, served me the beer. You got a kid like that working here?” I shifted my weight a bit to show my holster enough that the butt of my pistol was visible. 

“Yeah, a new kid, just started a couple of days ago. Benny, I think his name is.”

I pushed the door open further, and he stepped back to let me pass. Standing in the doorway, I looked around and spotted the back corner booth where I’d been. I walked over. “I was in this booth. Benny served me a beer. Where did he come from?”

“Hell, he served a lot of beers last night.”

“Yeah, I know.”

He followed me to the booth and stood off to one side as I slid in and looked around. Trying to remember as much as I could, but most of it was a blur. 

“You want something to drink?”


“Yeah, I got that.” He disappeared, leaving me to try to remember more about Benny or Lori.

He returned with two cups of coffee. I nodded at the seat across from me, and he sat down.

“You never said where Benny came from,” I sniped.

“Oh yeah, sorry, He walked in off the street looking for a job, had an ID that said he was over eighteen. I was short a bar hand, so I hired him.”

I sipped the coffee. “What time’s he coming in today?”

“About four, to help open up.”

“He won’t be back.”


I let it lie. “You got paper on him?”


“Get it.”

He slid out of the booth and returned with an employment record for one Benny Long. I copied all the information on it and handed it back to him.

“What do you mean he won’t be back?”

I didn’t answer him. He’d find out soon enough. Thanking him for the coffee and information, I left.

I figured the address was fake, but I had to check it out anyway. The address was on the far side of town. It took me a while to get there. 

Pulling in the driveway, I noticed the lawns were unkempt, and the entire street appeared abandoned except for a couple of houses. Cars and remains of cars sat in the driveways and lawns were half-buried in weeds.

I loosened the pistol in its holster as I got out of the Ford and focused on the address listed on Benny’s employment record. I eased onto the half-rotted porch, and a familiar aroma greeted me. Great, he was probably as high as a kite by now.

Listening at the door, I slid my pistol from its holster and dropped the safety. After a couple of deep breaths, I banged on the door. 

“Benny!” I yelled over the radio blaring inside. I heard a scuffling noise, and the radio stopped. I banged on the door so hard that it shook the window next to it.

“Benny! Open up, or I’m coming in!” 

The door screeched as it slowly opened, revealing Benny wearing only a set of undershorts. I ignored his lack of clothes and pushed the door the rest of the way open and led with the pistol as I barged in. Lori was on the bed in the corner, covered up only by a sheet. That I didn’t expect.

I motioned for Benny to sit on the bed. He stumbled to the bed and sat down.

“I’m assuming you know me.” They nodded yes.

There was no point in lecturing them, so I cut to the chase. “Who hired you to frame me last night?” 

They looked at each other, and I continued. “Come on, you two didn’t cook this up all by yourselves. Someone put you up to it. Once done with you, you’ll end up as Chambers did. Think, man!” I half-shouted to cut through the fog that was their brains. 

They were too out of it to comprehend anything, so I ignored them and searched the room. A table held a pile of weed and other drug stuff on it. I didn’t touch it at all.

A dresser sat in the corner. In the bottom drawer, I found a pile of bills. Pine paid them enough to keep them high for quite a while. Along with the cash was a slip of paper with a name and phone number. I copied it down. 

Benny and Lori remained on the bed, half-naked as I closed the door. Five minutes from now, they would forget I was there.

The name on the paper was familiar—Larry Pine. He was at the club when I met Chambers and ran drugs and hookers for the last couple of years. I’d run into him a couple of times, and when he sent his goons after me, I beat the crap out of his men. Pine didn’t like me at all because I couldn’t be bullied or bought. 

As for Chambers, I knew his reputation for being mean as hell, and while technically most of his operations were legal, he did put up a good public front. I knew better. I’d cleaned up after a couple of his messes. He’d tried to hire me as a bodyguard six months ago. I don’t usually do that work, and while money was tight, it wasn’t so tight that I wanted to be around him. Word was Pine was trying to move in on Chambers’s operations, likely prompting a mob war. He knew I would be all over him if he started a war, and framing me would get me out of his hair—all the better for him.

Larry Pine’s base of operations was downtown. I parked in front of the commercial building where he had his headquarters. Shoppers wandered in and out of the shops along the tree-lined street, shadows cast by the late morning LA sun. They were unaware that Larry Pine operated a gambling, loansharking, and prostitution business three floors above them. An operation I was about to shut down.

I opened the trunk on the Ford and pulled the shotgun from the rack. I fed twelve-gauge slugs into the bottom loading gate, pumping the slide and chambering a round. I glanced around as I slammed the lid down on the trunk. No one paid any attention. 

I glanced behind me as I heard a car pull up. I’d made a call for backup and to protect myself. A man exited the car and walked toward me. “Ready?”

I nodded yes, and we went inside the building and took an elevator to the third floor. A hard kick opened the door to Pine’s office and surprised the two guards carrying shotguns. I swung my shotgun to the right, catching the first one on the left shoulder, snapping bone, pushing him against the wall. His gun hit the floor as I kicked it away. Another kick with my boot and his face turned red as blood poured from his nose and mouth and he lost consciousness. 

The second guard tried to raise his gun, but I shoved my barrel into his stomach so hard he lost his breath and stumbled back into the hall. Leveling my shotgun at him, I mouthed for him to be quiet. He nodded and dropped his gun. My partner tugged the guard’s tie off, used it to tie his hands behind him, and hung his hands over the fire hose wheel in the hallway. 

I motioned to my accomplice to follow me down the hall toward Larry Pine’s office. We stood on either side of the door, listening as the sound of laughter filtered through the door.

I nodded and leaned in to kick the door open. The door banged against the wall behind it as we stepped inside. A glance around the living room told me we had been right about the drugs. I ignored the girls sitting on the couch. The guard inside tried to charge me, but my shotgun bucked in my hands, and a slug found its way into his gut, sending him falling back to the nearest lounge chair, dead. The girls screamed and fled to the other side of the room.

Larry sat at a small table digging into a heaping plate of spaghetti. He knocked over a glass of wine as we burst into the room. He said something but my ears were still ringing from the shotgun blast. I got the gist of it—Larry was not happy.

I ordered him to stand up, and he did so without a fight. Detective Lindsay pushed Pine into the hallway, yanked his hands behind him, and cuffed him, informing him he was under arrest for the murder of Raymond Chambers and attempting to frame me. 

Officers took Chambers away, and Lindsay turned toward me. “I was sure you were guilty, but after you called, I had Benny and Lori picked up, and recovered the cash and the note you found. That convinced me you were telling the truth, and they admitted they drugged you and gave Pine your gun. Pine returned it after he killed Chambers, and Benny drove your car home. Lori followed and picked him up.”

“Thanks, Lindsay.”

As he walked away, he called out, “Until next time, St. James. Watch yourself.”

I always do.

Author Note: This short noir mystery is based on Kenneth Lawson’s continuing character, Private Investigator James St. James. Enjoy and please check out Kenneth’s blog for more James St. James mysteries.

Kenneth’s blog:

Lisa Criss Griffin: Going Rogue

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! 

Images used are free use and do not require attribution. Image from Pixabay.

Going Rogue

Lisa Criss Griffin

The inmate of cell 18 paced the perimeter of his prison walls impatiently within the forgotten wing of Science Camp #917 of District 9. He had made every effort to maintain his strength during his prolonged incarceration. Evan Mullohan’s hope of regaining any semblance of freedom had almost died, until he recognized his childhood friend Tom accompanying the new scientists brought into the camp to increase the production of the highly potent and addictive Excito-Regeneration Elixir. 

Tom Gutierrez had been an Enforcer, just like himself, until a freak lightning storm shorted out their AI units. Tom had gone missing and was assumed dead after an extensive search in the surrounding desert. Evan fought the implantation of a new, functional AI unit viciously, unwilling to surrender the return of his own thoughts to the mindless obedience the AI units imparted to their human victims. He had been thrown into this dark, dank cell while the AI specialists made repairs to the more cooperative Enforcers whose AI units had only slightly malfunctioned. 

The intoxicating ruby red liquid, ERE, was highly coveted and craved by the elitists and the leaders of the Global Cabal. It was made from elements in the blood created by incredibly cruel and inhumane torture of the human/lizard hybrid inmates of the Science Camps. The more intense the torture, the greater the intoxicating effect of the ERE. Evan still had to cover his ears to block out the spine-tingling, guttural screams drifting past his cell on a regular basis. 

Tom had come to his cell after midnight that first day, whispering to him through the cell door that he was part of an extensive clandestine rescue operation. He had asked Evan to be patient while they put their plan in action, and reassured him there was a place for him in their operation. There had already been an issue of some sort with Dr. Nutter, one of the original staff scientists, but it had been effectively managed with a plausible explanation by one of Tom’s team members. 

Dr. Nutter had also been part of the unsuccessful endeavor to implant a new AI unit in Evan. It had been a bloody battle, and somehow, Evan had lost his ability to speak during the unsuccessful surgical attempt. He now had another reason to seek revenge on the evil, sociopathic scientist. If he ever regained his freedom, Dr. Nutter would pay, and pay dearly.

The desert sun finally ended the current day in a blazing display of indescribable shades of red. Evan lay shivering in the corner of his cell. Although he wrapped himself in the thin blanket provided, he was always cold at night. He sighed and turned over on the hard, chilly floor. The quiet of the isolated wing he was lodged in was deafening. He could hear every little sound, from the skittering scratches of a multitude of rodent feet to their disembodied squeaking. Sometimes he could even hear the ominous rustle of large nocturnal cockroaches eagerly searching for food.

Evan lifted his head in surprise when he heard the soft creak of the metal gate at the entrance of the prison wing. Footsteps came down the hallway, stopping in front of his cell door. It was after midnight, and whoever this was, it was not Tom. The footsteps were different, and Tom would have called out to him by now. Individual hairs prickled, then rose across Evan’s scalp while goosebumps covered the rest of his body. His heart pounded in his chest. A key rattled in the door lock. He lay back down, every muscle in his body ready to spring into action if necessary. 

The tumblers in the heavy lock clicked. Evan closed his eyes to indiscernible slits, not realizing he was also holding his breath. The door creaked in protest as it opened. A shadowy figure stepped inside, leaving the door slightly ajar. The man pulled out a syringe and held it up, squirting a few drops of the contents out of the end of the sizable needle. The visitor stepped forward, moving stealthily towards his apparently sleeping victim. Dim moonlight from the cell window flashed across the visitor’s face before he reached Evan’s prostrate form.

Rage burst through Evan’s mind as he recognized his old nemesis, Dr. Nutter. The malevolent creature had come to finish him off in his sleep! The coward. The scientist crouched down by the still form on the unforgiving floor of the cell, poised to administer the lethal injection.

Evan’s arm shot up, grasping Dr. Nutter’s arm and throwing him off balance.

“What the…?”

A feral growl rumbled from Evan’s throat, surprising them both. The syringe rattled across the hard floor, rolling to a stop just out of reach of either man. Evan leaped on the astonished assassin, pinning Nutter on his back. The scientist panicked, his legs flailing helplessly as the former soldier pressed him firmly onto the cold, hard surface. Evan reared back slightly and treated the evil man to his specialty, a nasty right uppercut to the jaw. Nutter’s eyes rolled back in their sockets from the impact. Evan gave him one more well-placed whack in honor of his friend, Tom. 

He quickly jumped off the scientist, grabbing the syringe. He waited until his assassin’s eyes fluttered open. The malevolent scientist focused in sudden terror on the slowly descending syringe. Evan plunged it directly into the man’s bulging jugular and quickly pushed the plunger. Nutter’s face contorted in horror before his body began to convulse. Foam formed at the corners of his mouth as he struggled in vain to breathe. His body stiffened in one last, long, stiff seizure before his heart stopped beating. An eerie, wheezing sound drifted across Nutter’s purple lips as his body relaxed from his final death throe.

Evan staggered away, the syringe dangling from his fingers. He straightened as he finally caught his breath, running his free hand through his shaggy mane of hair. Leaving the syringe by the door, Evan dragged Nutter’s dead body into the corner, turned it towards the wall, and covered it with his thin, dirty blanket. He retrieved the syringe, carefully opened the creaky door, and stepped into the doorway. Evan glanced furtively in both directions before he slipped out of the cell and down the hallway.

Dr. Nutter’s living quarters were surprisingly clean and lush. Evan stripped off his filthy clothes and slipped them into a trash bag. He reveled in the delight of a long, hot shower and the therapeutic results of soap and shampoo. He trimmed his beard and shaggy mane but left his hair long so he would not be immediately recognizable. Since he was usually clean shaven with a buzz cut, the difference was impressive. Nutter was about the same size as Evan, so he chose a nice outfit from the scientist’s closet. A plate of spaghetti sat invitingly in the fridge. The thin soldier licked his lips as he ate with gusto. It was possibly the best spaghetti he had ever tasted. Evan decided to hack into the man’s computer while he cleaned up evidence of his presence.

He opened Nutter’s emails, surprised to find correspondence between General Mitchell and Dr. Nutter as the most recent entries. Mitchell, who was over District 9, reported directly to the Czar of World Region 1. Concerned, Evan began reading the email thread, growing more apprehensive as he continued to read. According to the email conversation, Nutter was working on some new liquid horror to perpetrate on his innocent victims. The correspondence revealed enough information about the concoction to cause the former soldier to growl a foul expletive out loud. 

Nutter also suspected a rebellion was afoot and mentioned both a possible adulteration of the ERE and some regressive physical changes he had recently noticed in the hybrids. Damn! Tom and his colleagues were terribly close to being outed. It would only be a matter of time before the General looked into Nutter’s accusations. He had to warn Tom! And he had to get out of this place quickly before he lost any sanity he had left.

Evan Mullohan used the computer to print out a short note explaining Nutter had to leave unexpectedly due to a pressing family issue and left it on his desk. He packed a small bag of clothes, toiletries, Nutter’s phone, laptop, car keys, and billfold. He also discovered a collection of full ERE vials and a separate small vial filled with a clear, but slightly sparkling liquid in a protective carrier, which he carefully added to his bag. Maybe they would come in handy at some point.

It was now almost four in the morning. He needed to be as far as possible from this hell hole before dawn. Evan walked back down the prison wing, tasting the rising bile in the back of his mouth as he thought about what he had to do. The cell door groaned softly as he opened it. He forced himself to approach the figure in the corner under the thin blanket. He nudged the body with his foot. Nothing. He gave it a good kick just to be sure. Nothing. 

Evan pulled the syringe from his coat pocket and rolled Nutter’s body over. The scientist’s lifeless eyes stared at the ceiling. Evan sucked in a deep breath, sliding the needle back into the man’s neck vein, and pulled the plunger backward. Dark blood filled the syringe. He removed the needle and used a thin layer of blood to write a short message on the dead man’s forehead. He waited until the blood dried before turning Nutter back on his side. Evan replaced the thin blanket and closed the cell door on his way out.

The former soldier adjusted Nutter’s hat to cover his long hair. Evan stopped momentarily to slip the syringe into a sharps container as he made his way out of the building to the parking lot. He fingered the key fob in Nutter’s coat gently, watching as the lights on a nondescript sedan lit up briefly. Evan forced himself not to run, although his heart felt like it was going to burst out of his chest. He noticed his lungs and throat tightening from his increasing anxiety. If they caught him now, he doubted he would survive. 

The door to the sedan opened easily. Evan gently slid the bag into the passenger seat, purposefully not looking up in case there were cameras that could identify him. The motor roared to life. He slowly made his way out of the parking lot, giving the sleepy guard and the ever-present camera a wave that concealed his face as he drove out of the lot and onto the main road.

The next step in his mission lay in the closest city. He was going to have to pay General Mitchell a visit, whether he wanted to or not. Ahhhh, freedom! Freedom was so precious. Evan’s forced incarceration and the return of his own ability to think and make his own choices had brought the real value of freedom home to the very depths of his being. He was willing to give his life for the future freedom of his fellow countrymen. He had to neutralize Mitchell somehow before the covert rebellion could be revealed.

It was just past dawn when he entered the city. He knew Nutter had family in this city, so the use of his credit card here would not be considered unusual. Even so, Evan had to be careful. He stopped for breakfast in a nice section of town. Nutter enjoyed a higher standard of living than most due to his sensitive position with General Mitchell, and the Czar of World Region 1. Evan would need to act the part in every way to avoid detection for as long as possible. The restaurant was not far from General Mitchell’s gated residence, so the parked car would be reasonably accessible if he needed it later. 

He finished his meal, tipped the server, and walked to a nearby park. A secluded bench with a view of a pleasant fountain tickled his fancy. Evan sat down, forming a plan in his mind and sifting through possible scenarios while he watched the water cascade in the middle of the large pool. He shivered slightly in the crisp autumn air.

Something cold and wet unexpectedly nudged his hand. Evan almost jumped out of his skin before he realized it was just a dog. The large dog had kind eyes, yet there was a pleading look to his face. Upon closer inspection, the dog looked thin and unkempt. Evan’s heart went out to the disheveled animal. He knew what it was like to be hungry and unable to stay clean. 

He had purchased a couple of muffins for a snack later in the day. He pulled one from his coat pocket, unwrapped it, and gave it to the hungry dog. The bowser ate it quickly and looked back at Evan expectantly. He scratched the animal gently behind his ears, and to the canine’s delight, forked over the other muffin. The dog licked every errant crumb from the ground, helped himself to a drink from the fountain, and returned to sit by his new friend. 

Evan’s hand unconsciously petted the dog as he found himself lost in thought once again. It finally registered that his hand was running across a collar hidden under the animal’s unkempt hair. The collar had some sort of strange-looking device built into it. Evan examined it more closely and found a name hidden on the underside of the loose collar. 


Roth was undoubtedly this poor dog’s name. Looking around to be sure nobody was near, Evan valiantly tried to say the dog’s name. It came out as a gravelly whisper.


The animal looked up, relief flooding his big brown eyes. He stood, his tail wagging with excitement. He nudged Evan’s hand and licked it.

“Are you lost, Roth?”

Evan could have sworn the dog nodded his noble head, answering his question. He cleared his throat, feeling the strain of his harsh whispering. He had always loved dogs. It had been a very long time since he had interacted with one. Surely this sweet, lost dog was a good omen. He resumed petting Roth, who eventually lay down on the decorative bricks by Evan’s feet as he continued to ponder his alternatives.

It was mid afternoon when Evan returned to the groomers to retrieve Roth. Whatever he ended up doing about General Mitchell, he would see that Roth was properly cared for while he searched for his owner. A small bell tinkled as Evan entered the shop door. The conflicting smells of fragrant shampoo mixed with wet dog assailed his nostrils. He would be glad to get out of this place. He smiled at the young girl behind the desk.

“Is the dog I brought in ready?” he croaked hoarsely in his gravelly voice.

“Name?” The girl asked disinterestedly, smacking her gum loudly while perusing her cell phone.


“Mmmmkaaaay. Just a minute.”

The girl disappeared through a door that led to a back room. The curious aroma of wet dog and shampoo intensified and wafted into the lobby before she closed the door behind her. Evan turned around, his eyes scanning the street through the picture window. After a few minutes, he sauntered over to a large bulletin board on one of the walls. 

The cork was covered with ads for animal toys, doodads, and gewgaws. There was also an advertisement offering new puppies for sale, and a dog walking flyer. The flyer caught his eye. It covered part of a faded picture of a lost dog. He removed the aged notice of the missing animal, gasping in surprise. It was Roth alright. A much cleaner, plumper, and happier looking Roth. There was also a substantial reward for the safe return of the dog to its owner. 

The door to the grooming area opened. Evan nonchalantly stuffed the old notice into his pocket. The groomer escorted Roth around the counter, handing him the new leash attached to Roth’s collar. Roth sat down at Evan’s feet, beautifully groomed, with complete adoration pouring out of his large brown eyes as he gazed up at his benefactor.

“That is a nice, well-behaved dog, mister. He cleaned up real well. It is a good thing you finally found your dog. Looks like he could sure use some food and lots of loving.”

Evan nodded his head in agreement and paid for Roth’s grooming, leash, and a few dog treats in cash. 

“Thank you very much! Please bring your dog back in anytime!”

Evan smiled, then he and Roth were out the door in a flash. He did not want to be memorable. The former soldier fingered the faded notice in his pocket, unable to believe his luck. This wonderful dog belonged to the very man he needed to get in to see. Roth was…General Mitchell’s beloved, missing dog.

Both the man and the dog enjoyed the walk from the groomer’s shop to their destination. Colorful, errant fall leaves crunched under their feet on the brick sidewalk. Sunshine warmed the cool, crisp air, and they soon found themselves standing in front of an ornate metal gate.

The strange device embedded in Roth’s collar proved to be an electronic passkey for the gate in the high wall surrounding Mitchell’s opulent home. Evan removed the faded flyer from his pocket, his hand grazing the small vial of clear, sparkling liquid he had confiscated from Nutter’s living quarters. Dr. Nutter had aptly named his new concoction: “The Final Free Choice.” Evan stood on the General’s doorstep, his hand poised on the doorbell. Roth looked up at his rescuer, his tail wagging excitedly. Evan Mullohan pressed the doorbell button with renewed conviction and waited patiently, quite curious as to what General Mitchell’s last free decision would be.


Copyright © 2021 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

Please visit Lisa on her blog:

D. A. Ratliff: What? I Can’t Write Like Stephen King?

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What? I Can’t Write Like Stephen King?

D. A. Ratliff

I came across an article that focused on the reasons not to listen to advice from Stephen King. I wondered, why not? Stephen King is a highly successful author and the author of a popular book on the writing process.

When reading articles such as this one, I always remind myself that there is advice and there is opinion. In our quest to improve, writers should always read both to obtain a broad base of information to utilize in our writing.

The author of this article isolates three of Stephen King’s “rules” and proceeds to show how the opposite of his rule can be appropriate. Of course, writing passive sentences or using an adverb or a “five-dollar word” as the author describes can be effective—in the proper context.

What this author fails to mention is that you should use these rule-breaking exceptions in moderation. A plethora (see what I did there?) of passive sentences will eventually bore your readers, too many adjectives, and you create “purple prose,” writing that is too ornate.

As for those “five-dollar words,” I prefer to call that an extensive vocabulary. In the author’s example, her use of complex, long words was entirely appropriate. When writing an educated character or one from the aristocracy, formal dialogue and those “five-dollar and change” words add realism and depth. The same terms used by a character who is uneducated or from a lower socioeconomic level would not feel authentic to your reader. A book laden with too many complex words becomes a textbook and will be difficult for most readers to follow.

This author ends by saying that writers should write anyway that they feel comfortable and break the rules if they are skilled enough.

It seems as though I have heard that advice/opinion before. That statement is what writing is for all of us. We develop our style based on what we have learned and how we arrange words on the page.

I have authored articles on the rules and my opinion of the writing process. However, I want to stress that writers should read everything they can about this art of writing. Take away those ideas, rules, and suggestions that suit your style of writing. This author inferred that if you follow Stephen King’s rules, you will write just like him. No, you won’t. The rules are not his style. How he uses words to convey emotion and create tension is his style.

I offer only one piece of advice here. As I said above, read everything you can about the writing process, read books, and glean from those sources what you need to become the writer you want to be. Always learn the rules first, then you can break them.

In the words of the infamous fashion icon Tim Gunn:  Make it work!

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Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!: BREATH versus BREATHE

Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.


People often mix up the words breath and breathe. Although they may look similar, they are different parts of speech and are used differently. Breath is a noun, and breathe is a verb. The information shown here should help people use the words properly.

Breath is a noun that rhymes with death. It means the air that is inhaled and exhaled, respiration, or time to rest. If you are using a noun, use breath.


  • She paused and took a deep breath.
  • He had chest pain and shortness of breath.
  • She slowly let out her breath.
  • He took a break and sat down to regain his breath.
  • She went outside for a breath of fresh air.
  • His breath was visible in the cold air.
  • She swam to the surface and took a huge breath.
  • He stopped running so he could catch his breath.
  • She had a hard time holding her breath.
  • He muttered under his breath as he left.

Breathe is a verb that rhymes with seethe. It means to take in air, to inhale and exhale, to pause or rest, or to blow lightly. If you are using a verb, use breathe.


  • He tried to relax and breathe normally.
  • The air she was breathing was toxic.
  • He found it increasingly hard to breathe.
  • She breathed a sigh of relief after her medical exam.
  • His shirt was made of a material that breathes.
  • Her boss was always breathing down her neck.
  • She let the wine breathe before serving it.
  • He lives and breathes for hiking.
  • Breathe in through your nose.
  • Let’s breathe new life into this game.

Basically, if you want a noun, use breath.

If you want a verb, use breathe.

Hint: Breathe has an “e” at the end and a long “ee” sound.

If it’s cold, you can see your breath when you breathe.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.

I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog. Thank you!
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Calliope Njo: Holiday Feast

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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Holiday Feast

Calliope Njo

Well, Halloween wasn’t too bad. A few came to the door and got their candy. I almost laughed at some of the costumes. Kids nowadays have everything made for them. When I was their age, we made our own.

Her picture still sat on the mantel. “Goodnight, darling Ida. Here’s your wine.” I put the glass down. After being sure the house was all right, I went to bed.

Ida always slept on the right. That’s why I slept on the left side of the bed. She always yelled at me if I didn’t get to bed by nine o’clock. It would be the middle of the night otherwise, and she couldn’t have that.

Her pillow still smelled like her. I didn’t change the linens after she went away. She wasn’t there, per se, but I still imagined her warmth. Maybe I should’ve faced the window, but I couldn’t. I slept facing her side as I always did. “Love you.” I kissed her goodnight.

First thing in the morning, some stuff had to be taken care of. The necessary expenses like life insurance and long-term nursing care payments were done. She pushed me to get it, and I refused. It wasn’t until… well… I did that before I forgot.

That was when I looked at the calendar. It was November already. That meant Thanksgiving would be here soon. I guess I’d better plan a supper. Only if Ida was here. She used to plan everything from the salad to the pie.

It was only me, and I started wondering if maybe I should put in some time and help. The local shelter always asked for extra people. I could maybe help stack something or do some minor repairs—something to consider anyway. Ida would push me out the door and tell me not to come back until I was good and dirty.

Things became more difficult since this whole thing began about the virus and lack of drivers. If they asked me, I would take the job. Lucky for me, though, I had a neighbor who owned a meat market. I could have ordered my turkey through him.

The clock read a quarter after nine. Brian should be up by now because he had a job. I dialed his number.

“Hello, Dad? Look, I’m busy right—”

“Hi, son. I was wondering if you were planning anything for Thanksgiving. It’s a big holiday with all sorts of food for the family.”

“Oh. Didn’t Candace tell you? I guess not, since you’re asking. Uhm… listen… I really gotta go.”

“No. No one called me. I’ve just been here puttering around the house.”

“No. Dad. It’s not like that. It’s just that we thought it would be a good thing. You know, to get away from it all. After Mom’s funeral, we thought you would like to be by yourself. Spend some time mourning.”

“All right. You go ahead then. I guess I’ll see you when you come back.”

“Yeah, look. You caught me on my way to a meeting. We’ll talk later. I’ll text Candace to fill you in on the details.” He hung up.

“Brian?” Young people were always so hectic. Too busy to say I missed you or let me know about any upcoming events.

I didn’t need to worry about the turkey, anyhow. Turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, corn, those soft buttery rolls, and pie. Couldn’t forget about the pumpkin pie. The entire house used to smell so good for days.

They didn’t have to see it, but I put out the decorating table, anyway. That old cardboard box in the back of the garage labeled Thanksgiving had it all. My back gave out, but it wasn’t too bad since it was on the floor. I had to make about six mini-trips, but everything turned out OK.

I pushed the table into the sitting room right by the window. Once all the dust was off, I laid that off-white tablecloth over it. The pumpkins, grapes, apples, cheese blocks, cornucopia, and corn were laid out. Everything was plastic. I didn’t need to worry about anything spoiling.

Since it would only be me, I needed to find something that resembled turkey. I went into the kitchen to check the freezer when the phone rang.


“Oh, Mont.”

“My name is Montgomery.”

“That’s so long and so old. And you’re so rude. Listen. I’m really busy right now, so no time to chit chat. I have to pack my clothes, and then I have to be sure the cleaning service knows we won’t be here. My sister is declaring war on Mom, and OMG, both of the boys got into huge trouble for fighting. No turkey day this year. We decided that since Ida died, that we didn’t need to celebrate any holidays. OK? Bye.” She hung up.

I hung up the phone. Why wouldn’t it be appropriate to celebrate? I still existed. I guess that meant no Christmas either. So, I didn’t need to do anything this year.

Forget them. I went back to what I was doing and opened the freezer. There was only one thing left, and it was in a zipper bag. Her writing was on it. Tomato sauce—it read in the white area.

Her tomato sauce was always made with basil, oregano, garlic, and onions. That sounded good to me. I didn’t need turkey, anyhow.

I took that out of the freezer and put it on the stove to heat up. It would take a few minutes, so I sat down at the table. I grabbed the paper to find out how the game went.

Popping noises came from the stove, so I went over to look. I put that on the back burner while I got the pasta started. About ten minutes later, my Thanksgiving dinner was on the table.

About as good as I remembered. Oh, I shouldn’t have done that. I put the fork down when I realized that it was the last thing she ever made. There would be nothing left when this was eaten all up.

That was when I heard her tell me to enjoy it. Food was meant to be enjoyed, not stared at for decades. I enjoyed that pasta dish one noodle at a time. “Thank you.” I washed the plate and put everything away.

A couple of days later and it was Thanksgiving. I called my son to wish him happy holidays, but he didn’t pick up. I left a message instead. He was still my son. No matter how much empty space he seemed to have between his ears.

Later that day, I got out that pasta dish again to finish it. The doorbell rang, and I thought maybe they had changed their minds.

I opened the door, shocked to see the little girl from next door standing there. “Hi. I came to wish you a Happy Thanks for giving, Mr. Weatherby.” She reached over to the chair and held up a plate. “It’s turkey dinner. We thought you might like some. You have to wait for the pie, though. Dad forgot to bake it, so it has to cool down.” She smiled and waved before she ran down the steps.

I was never so happy in all my life. I took off the foil wrap and inhaled the turkey. Everything was there, including the cranberry sauce, and it smelled so good. All of those herbs and meaty smells came to my nose.

I threw away the paper plate the dinner sat on. The doorbell rang again, and it was the same girl. “Here’s the pie. I put whipped cream on it. It always tastes better with whipped cream. Happy Thanks For Giving.” She ran down the steps again.

The pie was so creamy and so flavorful I enjoyed every bit of it. It went perfectly with a cup of coffee. Here I was going to eat spaghetti.

I took out two wine glasses and filled both. I put one on the table for her to drink while I had mine. I split the pie and gave her the other half. “Happy Thanksgiving, Ida. Cheers.”

Nighttime came and went, and still nothing from my own son. He should’ve called me to at least wish me Happy Thanksgiving. If he still lived in this house, he wouldn’t be able to sit for a week. What difference did it make if he was a grown man?

Monday morning, I put away all the decorations and made a thank-you card for the house next door. It sure was good to be thought of, even if it wasn’t family.

I took a walk around the block to feel the wind and look at the changing colors. I wasn’t that old yet, so I could enjoy it. When I came back, Brian and his family leaned up against the car. I could tell he wanted something. It was never what he showed. It was always he looked at me side-eyed with that smile of his.

“Dad, can we talk?” he asked.

Deep breath in and out. “Happy Thanksgiving to you, too.”

He scratched his head, and the rest of them filed in after him. “Dad, things haven’t turned out like we thought they would. Candace isn’t as busy as she used to be, and the boys are still growing. We have one car between us now.”

I kept waiting for him to get to the part where he asked for money. No home because he had to sell to pay off some sort of debt. Whatever else there might’ve been. I crossed my arms.

“We put up the house, and somebody did buy it. That money is gone now, though. There was stuff that money needed to cover. So, we thought that since you live alone, we thought that you might, you know, then all of us could get what we needed without any hassle.”

When was he going to get to the point? At least he got to the paying off a debt part. As for me missing something, I wasn’t missing anything. Someone in particular, yes. Something, no. That was when I looked at the boys with those puppy dog eyes they displayed at me. Their mother taught them well. She was displaying the same puppy dog eyes.

I needed to say something. “Brian, instead of going on an endless rant, wouldn’t it be a lot easier to come out and say it? Huh? Just once, be a man. Yes, I know. Every boy does grow into a man. Let me tell you something, though, boy. You are a man when you own up to your own mistakes. You are a man when you defend your family. You are a man when you take responsibility for your own actions. That’s to start. On top of all of that, you went on a fancy trip during Thanksgiving and didn’t even bother to come over. I got a better feeling from the neighbor’s daughter than I did from my own kid.”

The youngest of the boys came over to me. “We’re sorry, Grandfather. We got too excited and just forgot. Besides, Mom can’t cook. Her grilled burgers turn into hockey pucks. Chris was going to do something, but he got his smartphone taken away before he could.” He hugged me. “So waddaya say? Huh? There’s a Mickey’s up the street. I saw it. I know if we put our pennies together, we could do something. Right?”

I looked into the set of brown eyes that looked up at me. Dammit, I saw Brian when he was this boy’s age. More gumption than he ever showed, but that wasn’t the point. “My name’s Grandpa.” I put out my hand. “What’s yours?”

He smiled and put out his hand. “My name’s Adam. Nice to meet ya.”

“What do you say? You boys get cleaned up, and we’ll go get some food. The bathroom is the first door on the left. Each of you gets ten minutes. That means I’ll wait twenty minutes. If you take longer than that, I’m leaving without you.”

Both of them screamed down the hallway. Then I looked at mine, still angry, but I had to keep myself from using the nasty words. “This only means that you can stay for two weeks. I want to see progress. I don’t care if you end up picking up cans or filling up people’s tanks. You will do something. During that time, I want to see you wish your mother a Happy Holiday season.

“Dad, you know the boys—”

“Do you understand me?” So thick-headed. I tried to drill into his head to see if I could get a reaction.


“That would be a yes, sir.”

He gulped. “Yes. Sir.”

At last. “Good. Up the stairs, two rooms are open. Pick. Mine is at the end of the hallway, which you may not use. I expect somebody to help with the cleaning. Somebody to help with the cooking. Somebody to help go to the store. I see four sets of hands. You decide. Am I clear?”

“Yes. Sir. I understand.”

“Good.” He stood there and looked at me before he looked at his wife. He nudged her, and they went upstairs.

By that time, we finished talking, so the boys stood by the door. “Ready?” Adam asked.

“I’m ready. I want to remind you boys of something. Manners and respect will always be appreciated. I leave it up to you to figure out when, where, how, and why. As for lunch, I’ll pay this time.” I didn’t have any food in the fridge anyway. “Come on. Let’s go.”

We brought back enough food for everybody to eat. After lunch, I told the boys to go outside. Adam looked at Chris, and both nodded before going out the door.

Brian stood and approached me while he balled a paper in his hands. “Dad, we had a chance to look around. We thought that maybe we could set up that room downstairs as a sort of office. With a WiFi router, it would be great. Each of us has our own laptop so we wouldn’t need a desktop computer. As for cleaning, we could always hire a housekeeper.”

“Where is all of this money going to come from? I’m not paying for a housekeeper. As for this WiFi router thing, that expense is yours. I’ve been able to do without it. Candace is a woman with her own needs and wants. You can’t rely on her to pay for everything. She can also learn how to do housework. It doesn’t take anything to learn how to clean a bathroom or vacuum a floor.”

Brian threw away his trash. He ran upstairs.

Candace never looked up from that device that seemed to be glued to her hand. “Mont, he’s just trying to help. That’s all. He was devastated when he lost his job. He hated telling the boys that the trip had to be canceled or we would be walking everywhere.” She put it down and crossed her arms. “Besides, you don’t have a wife anymore to celebrate the holidays with. We could’ve gone to my parents, you know. They would’ve been glad to have us. All of us could’ve gone to Aspen during the holidays. That’s in Colorado, you know. They have modern devices like a WiFi router. We could’ve done their schooling while we were up there.”

I stood from the table and pounded my fist on the table. She screamed when I did that. Good. I hated that woman. I leaned towards her. “Look, lady, you’re an adult. Start taking responsibility, or didn’t anybody teach you anything in that prestigious ivy league school? Like good old-fashioned respect.”

Somebody cleared their throat. That was when I saw Adam smiling. “Let me just say that we like it here. OK? And, uhm, do you have anything to drink?”

I looked at him and got him a glass of water.

Adam took the glass and drank it. He looked between us, put the glass in the sink, and went back outside.

I looked at that woman again. “What?”

She looked up at me with tears in her eyes, covered her mouth, and stood. She put her hand down and kept looking at me while she bit her lip. When nothing happened, she ran upstairs.

I went over to Ida. “Oh, honey. I’m sorry. You’re just going to have to put up with me for a little while, while I work the kinks out. I guess this means I have to decorate for Christmas. The boys would like that.” I wiped the little bit of dust off the top.

With the boys outside and the kids upstairs, I got the paper and kept reading that beginning line about the state’s new budget plan. I couldn’t get my mind off wondering if this new living arrangement was a good thing. Every family had its faults, and we had ours. If I survived these two weeks, it would be a miracle. God help me.

About the time I got my head straight, Brian stood in front of me. “Dad, this is hard on all of us. I miss Mom. She was such a part of the holidays it would’ve been awkward to be here without her. The experts suggested that each family member take time to mourn, especially through the holiday season. So that’s why we did what we did. You didn’t have to be so mean to Candace.”

I think these kids had a death wish. I folded up the paper and stood from the chair. “I don’t know what she told you. I don’t want to know what she told you. Remember this, respect is earned. Never threatened.”

I picked up the paper and sat back down on the chair.

“Yo. Dad. Hey. Mom needs help.”

I looked over to see who said that. It was Chris. He nodded his head when we looked at each other. I had no idea what that meant, but I thanked him for the reprieve until he told me otherwise. Too old to deal with all this stuff. I might die before my time if this kept going.

This was the price I paid for not speaking my mind. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

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


In our quest to assist writers in becoming the best you can be and remain motivated, we would like to introduce you to John Chuback, M.D. A cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Chuback found his goals waylaid by his lack of motivation. In a series of interviews with Paul W. Reeves, host on Impact Radio USA, Dr. Chuback discusses “The 50 most powerful secrets for success in and out of the classroom.”

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Please click on the link below to hear Episode #19 in the series, and start enhancing your journey toward success today.

DR. JOHN CHUBACK, a cardiovascular surgeon from New Jersey, joins us in this series to celebrate the release of his book, “The Straight A Handbook – The 50 Most Powerful Secrets For Ultimate Success In And Out Of The Classroom”.

Throughout this series, they will cover each of the 50 chapters in detail, each of which will guide you toward success in all that you do in life.

On this segment, Dr. Chuback and Paul discussed chapters 45, 46, and 47.



Audiobook on Audible

The Straight a Handbook: The 50 Most Powerful Secrets for Ultimate Success in and Out of the Classroom Audible Logo Audible Audiobook – Unabridged

Written by John Chuback, M. D.
Narrated by Paul W. Reeves, Ed. D

Click for Audible version on Amazon


Previous Episodes of “Success Philosophies With Dr. Chuback”


Dr. John Chuback


Dr. John Chuback was born and raised in Bergen County and graduated from the Dwight Englewood School. He earned his medical degree from New Jersey Medical School at UMDNJ, in Newark. Dr. Chuback then completed a five-year General Surgical Residency at Monmouth Medical Center (MMC). Dr. Chuback is the author of Make Your Own Damn CheeseKaboing, and The Straight A Handbook.

All books are available on Amazon. com. 


Impact Radio USA

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Welcome to ​IMPACT RADIO USA, where we strive to  provide the best in news, talk, sports, and music 24 hours a day, 52 weeks per year. Our goal is to keep you as the most informed and entertained Internet Radio audience.

As we are continuing to add content on a daily basis, please feel free to click on the “LISTEN NOW” button at the top of the page to hear us 24 hours a day.While you are here, please check out all of our links to our shows, our podcast page, our blog, and learn how YOU can host your own show with us.  Thank you for listening to IMPACT RADIO USA!!!

Impact Radio USA ListenNow


Paul W. Reeves 

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Paul W. Reeves is an author, radio talk show host, educator, composer/arranger, and professional musician!

Listen to “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” on Impact Radio USA and visit Paul’s website for more information on his books and CDs.

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Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits! ACCEPT versus EXCEPT

Writers Unite!’s 
mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed or click on this link.

Writing Tips, Tools, and Tidbits!

Images are free use and require no attribution. Image from Pixabay.


People often mix up the words accept and except. These are different words with different meanings and uses, and it’s good to know how to properly use them.

Accept is a verb meaning to receive something willingly or to agree to something. If you receive something or consent to something, then use accept.


  • She gratefully accepted the reward.
  • He found it difficult to accept the new rules.
  • Please accept this gift for your hard work.
  • She had a hard time accepting that he was gone.
  • They were happy to accept her into the family.
  • I hope you will accept my sincere apology.
  • That store does not accept checks.
  • He quickly accepted the offer to buy his painting.
  • We will accept submissions through the end of the month.
  • Those workers are not allowed to accept gifts.

Except is usually a preposition or a conjunction, and it means excluding, leaving out, but, other than, or with the exception of something. It can also be a verb meaning to exclude or leave out. If you are excluding something, then use except.


  • Everyone was eager to go except for Michael.
  • No one showed up except me.
  • The food was outstanding except for the soup.
  • I’ve been to every state except Montana.
  • Except for Susan, no one brought dessert.
  • He always blames everyone except himself.
  • She talks about everything except what’s really bothering her.
  • Invitations will go out to everyone, present company excepted.
  • He ate all the cookies except that one.
  • I am busy next week except for Wednesday.

A hint to help you remember:

Except starts with “ex” which also starts the word exclude. If you mean to exclude someone or something, then use except.***

Accept means to receive something. If you mean to receive something, then use accept.

Please look at the chart for an easy summary and helpful reminder.


I hope you find this helpful. These tips and more grammar tips and tools are also on my website and blog. Thank you!
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Marian Wood: Spaghetti Bolognese and Two Dates

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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Spaghetti Bolognese and Two Dates

Marian Wood


What is it about pasta? So many of us love it; it’s filling and can be added to so many meals. My brother was picky with his food, but his favourite meal was Spaghetti Bolognese. The protein, carbohydrate, and tomato mixture, which for many of us ends up smeared over our faces.

I was sitting there in a pasta restaurant waiting for a man I had never met before. Internet dating, the question is, how many free dinners could I achieve before I met someone I really liked? Till I met the one. Looking at the menu, I had already decided against Spaghetti Bolognese — it’s too messy.

Sitting staring at my phone, wondering if I looked alright, I saw a man walking towards me. After weeks of meals, I started planning to climb out of the bathroom window. I had given up on Mollie and her promise to phone me if I texted ‘help’ a few dates ago.

Henry did not look like his profile picture. He was maybe a few years older than his photo, but it was really him. Meeting complete strangers, I never knew what to expect, and I’d met too many internet idiots.

The Date

As he smiled at me and nodded, he sat down. I felt my stomach lurch. Well, he seemed nice. Waiting to see what he would order, I knew I was going to have the pasta and sauce, not spaghetti. As he ordered a bottle of wine, I told myself that I needed to relax. I was shaking as he was doing his best to have a good evening with me. Tongue tied, I sensed that he wanted to climb out of the window this time. Too many meals and too many dates; I think it’s time to give up.

Finishing our meal, I tried to be friendly, but this was not going anywhere. Another failed date but another free dinner. Saying goodbye, I knew I would never see him again. Getting into my car, I just wanted to get home. Henry had already gone as I tried to start the engine. As the car shuddered, this day had just gotten worse. Breaking down is not good, but breaking down past eleven at night is worse.

Phoning the breakdown service, I thought again about my rotten love life. The ‘one’ had to be out there somewhere. Why could others find love online but not me? An hour later I saw the headlights of a large lorry with ‘Gerry’s recovery service’ written on the side. Who the heck was Gerry? I smiled as I thought of the cartoon with ‘Tom and Jerry.’ Approaching through the darkness was a tall man. Winding my window down, I could see he wasn’t much older than me.

“Hello, I’m Josh, sorry it took me so long to get here.” 

Suddenly feeling brave, I said, “Well, you are here now,” and smiled. My stomach was churning. He really was nice looking, but probably married.

“Can you just open the bonnet, and I will have a look.” 

Pulling the lever, I now sat and waited.

“Okay the issue is more serious, and I will have to either take your car to the nearest garage or take you home.” 

My heart sank, as I thought about work tomorrow. “Well, it’s a bit late for the garage and I need to get home, so please take me home.”

“I’m going to tow your car. How about you get up in the cab?” 

Maybe this evening was getting better.

Handsome Stranger

Sitting next to another stranger, Josh was chatty and making jokes. I was pleased now that my car had broken down, as this man seemed nice and more my type. No ring on his finger was a good start. Through the thirty-minute journey, we discussed his evening, the breakdowns he had attended, and the cold weather. As we arrived home, he finally asked about my evening. Telling him about my dating disasters, he started to laugh. I felt like I had known him longer than the short hour that I had with him. This had to mean something. As I told him about climbing out of the restaurant window, he asked me a question which I was not expecting.

“Do you like Spaghetti Bolognese?”

“Yes, but not in public and certainly not on a date, it’s too messy.”

Josh smiled kindly. “So, when I take you out tomorrow, I won’t take you to the Italian place.”

Now I was becoming nervous, had this handsome man just asked me out?

“Well, you can, but you are picking me up, and preferably not in Gerry’s breakdown van.”

“I have your mobile number right here, how about I pick you up at 8:00? Is that okay?”

“I will see you then, but no climbing out of bathroom windows.” I laughed.

“Who says we are going to a restaurant? It will be a surprise.”


Smiling, I now opened his van door and watched as he detached my car from the tow.

“Tomorrow, phone ‘Ted’s Garage’ and mention me. Ted will send someone to tow your car to his garage. He should be able to fix it. I will see you tomorrow evening.”

Watching him leave, I smiled to myself. Too many disastrous dates and I had now met Josh. Is he the one? I will just have to wait and see.


Author Note: Written for Pancreatic Cancer UK, to fundraise and help raise awareness of this awful illness after losing my dad in November 2020. Written from Writers Unite! photo prompt.

Here is my fundraising page if you would like to donate. Any size donation is appreciated.

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Please visit Marian on her blog:

Writers Unite! Anthology: Dimensions of Fantasy

Dimensions of Fantasy

Volumes One and Two

Available on December 15, 2021
eBook Preorder available on December 01, 2021

Journey into a fantasy world with the talented authors of Writers Unite!  Fly with dragons and fairies, fight with trolls and elves, and battle with wizards and witches as they defend against evil forces. These stories will take you from ancient worlds to modern-day on a mystical ride.

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