Category Archives: Write the Story

Lynn Miclea: Endless Connection

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! 

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

Endless Connection

by Lynn Miclea

Jenna stood there, staring into the open grave. A layer of dirt, thrown on there by the shovelful, now lay on top of the casket. How could her brother Jake have died so young? It wasn’t fair. Glancing away and focusing on a nearby tree, she sucked in a breath and shuddered. Then she looked back into the grave as tears ran down her face. Anguish, regret, and grief overwhelmed her, and she covered her face with her hands. How could she live without him? Jake was more than her brother — he was her twin and her best friend. They were bonded together. He should still be here. She shook her head as grief engulfed her. It made no sense.

Choking, her breath ragged, she left the cemetery and drove to a nearby park. After parking the car, she walked along the dirt path that circled the lake. At one end, a red bench sat nestled in the trees. Exhausted and overwhelmed, she settled on the bench and gazed out over the clear, blue lake.

“Why, God? Why?” She looked up at the sky, but she knew there was no answer.

Her thoughts drifted back to the last time she had seen him, just a few short days ago. He was wearing that red and black flannel shirt that he loved, a silly, goofy smile on his face, his light brown hair hanging over his forehead. The image brought a sad smile to her face. She loved his goofiness — he could make her laugh no matter what. And she loved him in that shirt. In fact, she insisted that he be buried in that shirt. It suited him and was the way she would always remember him.

He was her twin in many ways. They were like one person so much of the time. They could read each other’s thoughts, finish each other’s sentences, and just look at each other and know what the other was thinking. It was like they had a psychic connection. And now … now her soul yearned for that connection, but he wasn’t there. Her heart felt crushed. Empty. He was her other half, and she kept expecting him to be right there. How was she supposed to survive without him?

She took a deep breath, listening to the sounds of the gentle waves on the lake and the leaves rustling above her in the trees. Something drifted down in her line of vision — two beautiful, soft feathers. She held out her cupped hand and caught one of them, while the other fluttered to the ground. She looked at the feather in her hand — it was silky and red and black. “Jake? Is that you? Did you send this to me?” Silence answered her. She could only hear the soft rippling of the lake and the rustling of leaves.

Looking down at the dirt near her feet, she saw the other red and black feather. She smiled. It had to be Jake. Two feathers for the two of them. Bending forward, as she reached for the feather, a spot of color caught her attention. Immediately under the feather was a small, torn corner of a blanket. Soft fleece in red and black. Too much to be a coincidence.

She picked up the second feather and the fleece. “Jake? I know it’s you. But what are you telling me?” The corner of the blanket felt soft and comforting. It felt like peace. Her smile widened. Was he telling her he made it and he’s now comfortable and at peace? She hoped so, and it felt right.

Letting out a long breath, she whispered to the air, “Thank you, Jake. I hope you’re okay.”

A soft whisper of wind gently caressed her hand, causing the two feathers to dance in her palm and then settle down.

She shook her head. The yearning for Jake was too strong — she must be imagining things. Her gaze drifted out over the lake one last time as she started to get up. Pushing herself up from the red bench, she stood and gazed at the two feathers and the piece of fleece in her hand. Something fluttered under the fleece — what was that? A thin piece of paper peeked out.

She picked up the small piece of paper and read the words printed on it.

I am home. I am at peace. I am with you.

She convulsed into sobs and then stuffed the feathers, the fleece, and the note into her pocket. There was no mistaking the message or who it was from. But how was that possible? She knew they had a strong, psychic connection, but could he do this?

“Thank you, Jake. I love you,” she whispered to the air.

She started down the path toward her car. As she walked, a sweet woman’s voice, singing a lullaby, drifted through the air and grew louder. As she walked farther down the path and got closer to the sweet voice, a young woman pushing a baby stroller came into view, and the young woman was gently singing to her baby.

Suddenly embarrassed, the lady blushed and stopped singing. Then she smiled at Jenna. “It’s a beautiful, magical day, isn’t it?”

Jenna stared at her for a moment, then quickly collected herself. “Yes, yes, absolutely. Beautiful and magical. Definitely.”

She smiled at the lady and then walked by, hearing the woman begin singing the lullaby again. Jenna turned around to glance at the woman, but no one was there. The path was empty.

It made no sense. None of it made sense.

But Jake had sent her a clear message. The scent of his aftershave washed over her, and she could feel his warmth.

Yes, a beautiful and magical day indeed.

He was still with her. A connection that was truly endless.


Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.

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Paula Shablo: The First Riverview Avenue Bench

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! 

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

The First Riverview Avenue Bench

By Paula Shablo

It was really nothing more than a footpath, wide enough for two people to walk side by side in most spots, and in the few wider areas, possibly a third person could squeeze in without straddling the edge.

As far as Meredith was concerned, the path had always been there. Her parents had walked that path, Meredith leading the way in her stroller at first, then on her tricycle. When she outgrew those, she walked too, always ahead of her mother and dad, always on the lookout for friends and neighbors doing the same.

Meredith was about to go into second grade the first time she heard someone discussing the possibility of paving Riverview Avenue.

No one living had any recollection of the path being named; even Great-Grandpa Billy Dodge said it was already so-called when he was a little boy, and he didn’t know who was responsible for that. Billy Dodge was ninety-six the summer Meredith was seven, and she had a hard time picturing her dad’s grandfather as a little boy, but surely he had been one. No one was born old.

The great paving debate of 1967 was brief, hot, and quickly squashed by the locals.

Of course, it had been proposed by a transplanted resident who simply couldn’t comprehend the history of Riverview Avenue, and taken up by other transplants who didn’t like to get mud on their shoes when they walked after a rainstorm or during spring runoff.

Great-Grandpa Billy Dodge ended that city council meeting by suggesting that anyone afraid of banging mud off their shoes ought to go back to wherever they came from, and all the locals cheered.

Meredith thought the whole idea had been a silly one. There were tons of trees along the path, and they helped keep things relatively dry. The Parks and Recreation people spread pine needles and leaves after heavy rains or runoffs. It wasn’t all that muddy in the first place; certainly no one had ever lost a shoe. That happened to her all the time taking the shortcut to school through the empty lot where the new library would eventually go up, and no one ever brought up paving there.

Riverview Avenue had been a footpath along the scenic Riverside since the town had been established back in the early days of the 19th century. Over two hundred years’ worth of walking feet had worn the path down into the well-defined rut that the locals filled with fresh soil periodically so it wouldn’t end up being feet-deep and impassable. Sprinklings of pine needles and mulched leaves and twigs gave it a springy surface. No one came home from a walk with aching feet.

Pavement? No way!

“Dat path? ’Twas a deer trail, I reckon,” Great-Grandpa told Meredith. “My pappy tole me it was dere when he was just a sprat, an’ dat was long ago.”

“Was it Riverview Avenue then, Grampy?” Meredith asked.

“Yup, always was, I reckon. Started as a joke, Pap said. Folks’d agree ta meet on the avenue, have a walk, share a picnic. Couples fell in love dere. Like your own mama and daddy.”

Meredith loved the stories of couples falling in love while walking the avenue. She especially loved her parents’ story, since they were the first couple to put a bench beside the path in the place where they shared their first kiss.

Dad had gone to work for Parks and Recreation while he was still in high school, and he’d gone on with them until his retirement in 1999. When he married Mom in 1958, part of his job was building park benches for the county parks and the various bus stops around the towns in the county.

He devised a little plan that summer. Newly wedded and happy as a lark, he used some of his own money to purchase materials and assemble a park bench. Getting permission to place it on the path was easier than he’d expected; his supervisor was deeply romantic and loved the idea. Dad built the bench and painted it, and placed it when the time came.

On their first wedding anniversary, Dad took Mom for a walk along Riverview Avenue. They slowed their pace as they approached the place where they had shared their first kiss. It was also the place where Dad had proposed.

“Why, Alan!” Mom exclaimed. “There’s a bench here!”

“Well, let’s have a look,” Dad said.

A plaque on the bright red bench read: “First Kiss—May 3, 1955. Proposal—May 3, 1957. Wedding—May 3, 1958. What a Lucky Day!”

Of course, Mom had cried some happy tears that May 3rd of 1959. No one had ever gotten their own park bench as an anniversary gift before!

Meredith was born May 3, 1960.

No one ever believed that was a coincidence. It was their lucky day, after all.


On May 3, 1978, Meredith and her parents took a walk on Riverview Avenue, and stopped to sit on the Anniversary bench. It was still bright red; Dad painted it every spring, and it had recently gotten its annual touch up.

They spoke of memories and plans for the future. Meredith would soon graduate and be off to college in the fall. “I have celebrated every birthday on this bench,” Meredith said. “I hope next year, I will be able to be here.”

When next year came, her parents were there, but Meredith was not. Spring break hadn’t had the consideration to fall during that week. But when she checked her mail that morning, she found a birthday card from her parents. Inside were a generous check and a photograph of the Anniversary bench.

On May 3, 1980, Meredith was home for the weekend. It had been planned in advance; school was going well, and she didn’t have a Friday afternoon class, so she’d flown in the night before.

What hadn’t been part of the plan was Dad’s sudden gallbladder attack and surgery the night before. Mom and Dad were spending their 22nd anniversary in the hospital, and Meredith had been sent home to take their walk on Riverview Avenue without them. “Take a picture of our bench!” Dad instructed. “I didn’t take one this year, because I knew you would be here.”

It’s my birthday, Meredith thought as she neared the curve on the avenue, the one where she’d be able to see the bench on the path ahead as soon as she cleared it. I’m alone on my birthday. My parents are sitting in a hospital on their anniversary. It doesn’t feel like a very lucky day today.

Ahead of her now: the bench. Someone was sitting there. A man.

As she got nearer, she thought the man looked familiar to her; but she was sure she didn’t know him. Should she stop? Keep walking?

Why should she? It wasn’t his bench. Who was this guy, and why was he sitting on her parents’ bench?

That was silly. Anyone could sit anywhere. Yes, there was a plaque, but it didn’t actually have their name on it. None of the other benches along the avenue had names; it had happened gradually, over time, that other people had placed benches with important dates all along the riverfront path. Some marked wedding anniversaries. Some marked birthdates. Some celebrated a graduation date, and some even marked memorials of long lives lived.

It was traditional these days to walk the avenue and read the plaques and try to guess the names behind the dates and celebrations.

The man looked up at Meredith as she paused. “Hi,” he said. He frowned thoughtfully. “Meredith?”

“Yes.” Meredith frowned, too. “Do I know you?”

He grinned. “Roger Burke,” he said, extending his hand for a shake. “I think I was a senior the year you started high school. I liked hearing you sing in the musicals.”

Meredith blushed. She remembered the days of hoping to run off and sing on Broadway when she grew up. Now she was working on her teaching degree. Dreams die hard sometimes.

“I like this bench,” Roger went on. “I think it has the best location of any on the avenue.”

“It was the first,” Meredith commented.

“Do you know whose it is?” Roger asked. “I was hoping I would run into the Anniversary couple today. I haven’t managed to be here on the right day, ever, since I started being curious about the benches.”

Meredith made up her mind, and sat down.

On that day, her 20th birthday, she shared the story of the first Riverview Avenue bench.

It turned out to be a lucky day, after all.

A year later, Roger proposed to her there. Her parents, healthy and happy, were there with them, celebrating twenty-three years together. They cheered.

A year after that, Meredith and Roger gathered on Riverview Avenue with all their family and friends, took their vows and celebrated with the biggest picnic supper the path had ever hosted.

Late in the day, it started to rain. Shoes got muddy. No one cared.

A little rain can’t compete with a lucky day.


May 3, 2022

Mom and Dad led the way on the walk this morning, each seated in a wheelchair, pushed along by Meredith and Roger.

The bench, now a ripe old sixty-three years old, was waiting for them, freshly painted bright red. Riverview Avenue had recently been built up with fresh soil, and the ground under the bench had been renewed as well. It would never do to let it sink into the earth.

Meredith and Roger, both only children, had let the admonition to be fruitful and multiply go to their head. Their five children, along with their spouses and a dozen grandchildren, followed along, swinging picnic baskets and toting blankets and coolers with soft drinks.

Mom and Dad were helped out of their chairs and seated on the bench. Picnic goodies were spread all around, just off the path, and when everyone was supplied with a soft drink, aluminum cans were raised in a celebratory toast. “Happy Anniversary!”

Dad smiled and raised his soda can. “Here’s to the luckiest!” he cried. “That would be us.”

“Yes,” Meredith agreed. “That would be us.” She raised her own can and sent a silent cheer to Great-Grandpa Billy Dodge, who had passed at the age of 102. He had shared the story of the benches with her, and she had no doubt he was with them still, in his own way.

Happy tears were shed, but were soon interrupted when little Mikey cried, “Okay, okay. Let’s eat.”

After some good-natured laughter, that’s exactly what they did.

What a lucky day, indeed.

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Sonia Beltz: Hell by the Water

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! 

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

Hell by the Water

by Sonia Beltz

When Harrison woke up on that red bench, he was certain that he must have been dreaming. He slid his hand across the boards, which had the same smooth, lacquered texture as they had once upon a time, feeling the tiny imperfections in the paint on the right side, where his mother had allowed him to use his goofily large child’s paintbrush to coat the wood while she dutifully coated the rest. His eyes lifted from the seat, climbing the twisted iron bars that held the back erect. A leaf of golden rust flaked from the surface, drifting easily to the snakepit of roots beneath. Then there was the back itself, lacquered the same brilliant red as the seat, but less for wear, save for the tiny strip where two pairs of initials had been carved into it by soft hands. 

This couldn’t be. He couldn’t be… Rippling waves splashed gently against a dirt shore, and his head snapped to the left where, sure enough, the lake sat, its dark waters chuckling maniacally in the wind. He shot to his feet, almost tripping on the knotty roots that swirled beneath his feet. 

This was a dream; he was certain now. He closed his eyes and pinched himself, at first lightly, then harder, more vigorously. This would turn to a nightmare if he couldn’t get — pinch — out — pinch — of — pinch — here. 

He opened his eyes slowly, carefully, but only saw the face of those waters leering at him from between the trees. A cool panic poured icy sweat over his back as the lake swelled, then, slowly, receded. He couldn’t stay here. He glanced down at the bench again, shook his head violently, then proceeded to take one step away from the lake.

As he did, the roots snaked up, wrapping tightly around his ankles, and pulled him back into place. With a furrowed brow and a frown, he stared at their now still forms, then attempted to take another step. This time, they were nowhere near as gentle, practically hissing as they leaped at his legs, constricting him with their sinuous, hard bodies. He tugged his legs upward, but the roots pulled back, causing him to fall futilely onto the bench.

Rubbing his head, he got to his feet again. A light wind brushed through the trees, but all he could hear was the ebb and flow of the waves as they watched and waited. This couldn’t be happening. Why was he stuck here? What had he done to deserve this? Something like nausea bubbled in his throat, but he stuffed it back down, steadying his head as he gazed from tree to tree, trying to avoid the waters that now sounded louder than ever inside of his head. 

The trees! He was surrounded! He spun around, taking comfort in the prison-bar birches he had once been so certain held ghosts between their narrow trunks. His mother had laughed, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder, and assured him that ghosts weren’t real. That hand was tender and warm and… was that a memory on his shoulder now? He turned to his right almost expecting to see her in her yellow sundress and her bright, warm smile. She was nowhere to be found, but there seemed to be a breath of air that smelled like her. 

His stomach ached as tears pooled in his eyes, remembering her tall, limber form, the hot cocoa eyes and jingle-bell laugh that warmed his insides. Why was the world so cruel a place to take her? Tears poured down her face. He was sad, he was… he felt his fists clench at his sides, and as his knuckles bared like the teeth of a chainsaw, he remembered. The blood on his stinging fists, the sirens in the distance, the satisfied smile that crept across his face, the cuffs that chafed comfortably around his wrists, the emptiness as he stared at a woman who had looked remarkably like his own mother sobbing at the witness stand as she called him every name in the book. Had he smiled? The nausea reappeared, a sickness that felt like regret, but how could that be? He had no regret, even as they pressed that fluid into his arm, they couldn’t steal his spirits from him. So why now?

He blinked, and suddenly he saw the witness woman’s face again, the blonde hair and blue eyes and pantsuit that faded slowly as the light reentered his irises, and for just a moment, she was a simulacrum of his mother, sobbing as she stared disappointedly at her son in the defendant’s chair. 

“Harry, how could you?” she whispered in a voice like too much candy on Halloween night. 

His stomach ached as his eyes fluttered open to see the lake once again. How…? He tried to turn back around, but the roots beneath his feet wrenched him back into place. He tried to close his eyes and cover his ears, but somehow the roots got to those too, prying his eyelids open and clamping his arms to his sides. He thrashed around. This was worse than handcuffs, worse than a prison cell. He screamed, but it seemed that no one but the lake was there to hear him. 

He knew what happened next. This memory was too close to his heart to ever be forgotten. She would walk along the shoreline in her yellow sundress and smile, a little boy trailing too far behind. She would dance to the edge of the lake, whose waters wore a grin unmistakably regretless, and she would stare at her own reflection as it darkened, as it merged with her form, as it disappeared beneath the surface. 

Harrison thrashed in the roots, but he was stuck. And when this was all over, when he had watched her disappear beneath those dark, evil waters all over again, what would happen then? A small part of him knew the answer. A small part of him could already imagine waking up on the red bench again, running his fingers over the lacquered seat…

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Enzo Stephens: In It

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! 

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


By Enzo Stephens

Gary Diggs struggled to open his eyes, working quite hard to push back the gray fog of a drug-induced sleep. His eyes cooperated, albeit grudgingly, revealing a very dark room that felt close; small.

A flickering video was running just off to Diggs’ right; about a two-o’clock position, though it was somewhat distorted, whether that was due to a large pane of glass that separated Diggs from the video screen, or residual effects of his dope haze, it was pretty much irrelevant to Diggs at the moment. 

He reasoned that he’d deal with the headache-inducing video later; there were more pressing matters at hand demanding his attention.

He began moving body parts just to make sure everything was in working order. Fingers, toes, hands, feet, arms and legs; everything functioned; ascertaining functionality was a pretty massive challenge. Grogginess was firmly clamped over Gary, despite his efforts.

He dimly recognized that he was in a lounging position, as if fully reclined in a Barcalounger, though it felt much firmer, like a dentist’s chair with lightly padded arms. Diggs squinted his bright blue eyes to focus in on the running video. And gasped.

There on the screen was Gary Diggs in all his big-assed glory, huddling up with two men of smaller stature in the parking lot of the Ohiopyle Savings Time Supermarket.

As Diggs watched, somewhat shell-shocked that he’d been caught on video and sort of remembering the moment of his video-infamy, the three men on the video shook hands and parted, and yes, Diggs saw quite clearly that the two men were with federal law enforcement.

Specifically, the Drug Enforcement Agency. Nice huge DEA letters emblazoned the back of their matching jackets.

And shit started connecting for Gary Diggs. This dark room, the incriminating video, his drugged state and his current occupation of some sort of dentist’s chair. “Oh, fuck…” slipped from his mouth, sounding like a bullhorn in the small space.

A bright LED light snapped on, directly in front of Diggs, beaming down in a single ray to bathe a thin, swarthy man in harsh, white light. His eyes were pools of black and upon seeing the thin man, Diggs knew he was now officially, In The Shit.

“I see you’re awake.” There was a French-Canadian affect that added a little extra twang to the deep baritone. Diggs recognized Pierre Dupuis while simultaneously struggling to control both his bladder and his bowels. Because Dupuis was all kinds of nasty. “Why am I here, Pierre?”

“Are you stupid?”

Diggs held his tongue.

“How long have you been a CI, Diggs?”

“I’m not—”

“—Save it, shit heel. It’s on the video right in front of you.”


Gary Diggs, latest (and greatest) Mayor of Ohiopyle, home of the Youghiogheny River (aka the ‘Yo’), grew up on the Yo and loved the Yo more than any other place on earth (from his perspective).

He grew up a stone’s throw from the river; spent more than half his childhood running the whitewater just as far as his Paps would let him go. And every night during those long, blissful spring and summer months and years, Paps would preach to Gary over their usual dinner of some kind of canned food about the River.

“She’s a mean bitch, boy.”

“She ain’t got no reason to care about little pissants like you.”

“She’ll slap you around like you’re a prison-fish boy.”

At least the food was hot. 

The Yo was his home; his first and only love. And even though Gary’s happiest dreams contained the audio backdrop of roaring whitewater, well there was one part of this magnificent bitch that tickled Gary’s fancy more than anything else.

The Double Hydraulic. That mother dumped countless rafters and kayakers into the drink without mercy. Navigating the Double Hydraulic was not a thing for amateurs, no siree. 

Gary spent many an afternoon perched on the bank of a bend in the Yo about fifty yards past the Double Hydro, armed with several fishnets, snagging more than his share of wallets and purses and all sorts of shit that got tossed from amateurs taking unplanned river dips. 

He’d seen some girls too. Like girl ‘parts,’ and Gary long remembered those images as they were seared on his youthful brain.

And so Mayor Diggs worked with state and county do-gooders and jumped with both feet into the Rails-to-Trails program, ponying up a buttload of cash to make sure the Great Allegheny Passage ran right through Ohiopyle before veering sharply north to connect up with another trail in Pittsburgh.

Yep. Cash. His own personal money. A ‘donation’ if you will. With one stipulation.

That there would be a bench permanently placed right at the river-bend just past the Double Hydro. The county official who heard Gary’s request, responded with, “Yeah, put whatever you want there. You can put a statue of a penis there if you want, just so long as your money’s good.”

Said official was also rumored to mumble shortly thereafter, “fucking hillbilly.”

The bench was long and beautiful and Gary painted that thing every spring, just after the spring rains; sometimes bright green, sometimes fire-engine red, and it was Gary’s favorite spot in the entire world. 

He had a professional landscaper plant a few nice oaks and an elm and a dogwood and a locust tree, making a little copse, and life was damned good.


Another LED ceiling light snapped on to the left of Dupuis, illuminating a tall, elderly gentleman clad in a crisp pinstriped suit, white shirt and colorful tie. The man stood motionless beneath the light, which bounced off a magnificent head of silver hair.

“Damn, dude. That’s some awesome hair you got there.”

The man said nothing; merely turned his head slowly to gaze at Pierre. “Screw his hair, idiot. I asked you a question.”

“C’mon Pierre, I ain’t a CI. You KNOW me man! We been working together for what, seven or eight years now?” Diggs hated the ugly whine he heard in his voice, but Diggs was also scared shitless.

Dupuis said nothing; just kept staring at Diggs out of ebon pools, and Diggs remembered an exchange he’d had with Pierre ages ago; something along the lines of ‘let a man yak long enough and he’ll hang himself.’

Diggs clamped his mouth shut.

Another ceiling light snapped on behind Dupuis, illuminating a wall-clock with a digital calendar beneath the clock.

“You’re a fucking liar, Diggs. A liar and a rat. And you’ve been caught. What did they offer you, huh? Reduced sentence? Witness protection?”

Diggs held his tongue, but panic was flaring big-time. Then, “Let me outta here Pierre. This is bullshit.”

Pierre chuckled, and it sounded glutinous in the dark closeness of the chamber the men occupied. “You can go any time you want, rat.”


Gary watched an eight-man raft meander up river a bit; they were pausing while trying to figure out how to push through the Double Hydro without dumping their shit. Gary had seen it countless times before, and not a single one of those deep-thinkers ever made it out of there unscathed.

Not a one. Gary chuckled and snapped open the tab on his Iron City beer as he lounged on his bench in the fresh May breeze. Distant voices echoed downstream, snagging Gary’s attention and he gazed upstream at the eight-man raft, which was now beginning to move into the fast water; all occupants paddling.

Then, sure as shit, the inflatable was snared by the quick water and it picked up speed immediately, maybe surprising some of the paddlers a bit. And as Gary watched, the river funneled the raft straight toward the Double Hydro.

Secretly Gary hoped the raft would make it through unscathed. Secretly. The reality of the situation is that they’d be dumped into the drink.

One or more of the thrill seekers would find a bit more thrill than they bargained for and maybe have their lives changed forever thanks to heavenly intervention, and they’d be damned sure to tell everyone about it over their campfire tonight while soaking their bumps and bruises with booze.

The inflatable was thrown straight at the first massive boulder — the upper end of the Double Hydro, and the fools made a typical-if-disastrous mistake. They leaned away from the rock their raft collided into.

Gary shook his head as they leaned away from the rock, their weight causing the back end of the raft to sink while raising the front. The surging, turbulent river caught the lower end of the raft and promptly upended it, tossing everything into the river. Hard. 

Gary chuckled as both people and stuff flew into the river. But the paddlers collected themselves rapidly, which was a bit of a surprise to Gary, and all began searching in the water past the Double Hydraulic. Shouts of “Where’s Dupuis?” and calls for “Pierre” rang out. There was no reply.

Gary had a good idea of where he’d be though, and so he kicked off his Ecco sandals and bolted down the bank to a small pool set away from the calm post-Hydro pool where the search was in progress. There, partially washed up on a bed of worn, smooth rocks lay the object of the search, and he wasn’t moving.

Gary jumped in, assessing the situation. There was a good sized dent in the man’s head that was leaking blood into the river, and his arm was bent in a way it wasn’t meant to be bent. But he was breathing.

Gary shouted his discovery, the searchers came in a hurry, and Pierre Dupuis was dragged from the clutch of the mighty Yo.


“But before you take your leave, rat, I’ve got a few little factoids you should know.”

Diggs was struggling to sit upright in the reclined chair. “What did you do to me? Why was I drugged?”

“Now, now, Mister Diggs, take it easy there. You’ll pull your stitches.”


“See if you can stop being self-centered for a bit, Mister Rat, and take a look at this gentleman to my left. Do you know who he is?”

“What stitches? What the f—”

“—He is a doctor. Doctor Bacardi Sanders, in case you want to know. It’s an unusual name, I know, but he’ll be very easy to find among the millions of Doctor Sanders out there. Maybe you’d like to check his licensure in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or something. Set your mind at ease that it was a real medical doctor that worked on you.”

“Asshole! What did you do to me?”

Dupuis gestured toward Doctor Sanders. “Doctor Sanders is a surgeon; a very good one at that. But he also has a very fascinating area of personal interest. Do you want to know what that is, Mister Rat?”

“Fuck you!” Diggs snarled.

“Our good Doctor Sanders has more than a passing interest in micro-electronics and — this is the good part so pay attention, micro-explosives.”

Diggs froze in his efforts to sit upright, staring at the two men. He whispered, “What did you do…?”


Gary was concerned.

Dupuis’ crew managed to get him out of the boiling, ravenous river and flat on his back on solid terra firma. 

A young woman was barking rapid-fire instructions to someone on her mobile phone, while another of their party was on another call. Gary looked around; no one was paying attention to either him or Dupuis.

“Did anyone call 9-1-1?”

Two men set off on foot up the embankment; Gary surmised they were going after their vehicle, while the remaining three were chasing and snagging stuff from the overturned raft out of the river.

Apparently all that shit was more important than their partner. So Gary plucked his mobile from his pocket and did the needful.

By the time the EMTs arrived, Dupuis was awake. Drenched but calm and likely with a blistering headache. The technicians worked on him, setting his arm, then prepared to transport, which was when Dupuis spoke up for the first time with his musical French-Canadian lilt. “I won’t be going to your hospital, gentlemen.”

They protested, as responders of that ilk are want to do, but Dupuis was adamant, and so the EMTs relented and had Dupuis sign waiver forms and off they went.

Gary was terrified the man had a busted head. But head wounds always looked far worse than they actually were, unless there was a concussion involved.

Still, Gary kept close watch of the man’s eyes. 

Dupuis’ crew returned to his side in dribs and drabs; they began packing their dripping gear and loading it into their SUV, leaving Pierre Dupuis to rest propped against a tree. 

Gary crouched down before the man. “How ya doin’?”

“I’ve had better days, my friend.”

“No doubt.”

“Did you see the whole thing? When we flipped?”

“Sure as shit I did. I ain’t seen nobody come through that Double Hydro intact.”

“Where were you?”

“Right up there on that bench. I’m glad I was there too—”

“You saved my life.” And it was true; Gary did indeed save this man’s life. He shrugged in response. Dupuis grimaced. “Damned wing is hurtin’ like a bitch.”

Gary stood up. “EMTs didn’t give you nuthin’ for the pain?”

“Nope. Told me to take some Tylenol. That’s what they always say. Fuckers.”

Gary smiled. “Maybe I can help.” He extracted a small white plastic bottle from his pocket. It looked like something from a pharmacy.

“What is it?”


“You don’t have to ask me twice.”


And so Gary’s little network of illegally obtained and distributed Oxycontin quite literally exploded, with Gary serving as ‘a facilitator,’ and boy-oh-boy did that Great Allegheny Passage bicycle trail pay off big time.

Our good friend, Pierre Dupuis owned and operated a number of Canadian pharmacies through Montreal and Toronto that also produced pharmacy-grade Oxycontin, including a wonderful extended-release version of the opioid.

The pipeline to the eastern seaboard was a crushed limestone bicycle trail, and Gary Diggs had himself a sweet little setup of distributors along that Passage. Bicyclers, kayakers, rafters; apparent white-water thrill-seekers out for a good time and making a little extra jake for running a little crate of pharmaceuticals. It was a win-win-win bay-bee!

The Oxy came in from Canada and went out to Washington DC for distribution, and the cash rolled in by the truckload.

Until someone in the DEA sniffed it out, then set Gary up on what Gary called “bullshit.” But bullshit was all the feds needed. Two hookers, an alleged pimp and a whole lotta booze outside the Bootleg Shack (founded and so named during the Prohibition in which the Yo was a significant rum-running route) titty bar that ended up in a fight, a pulled knife and State Troopers. Fuckers.

The incentive was to avoid doing time. Major time in a Fed Pen. Then there would be Witness Security & Protection and a whole new life with all the cash Gary had managed to stuff in hidey-holes all across the country. All that goodness for doing a stint as a CI. 

A rat.

Gary took the deal from the DEA, and everyone set to stopping the flood of Oxy from coming into the US of A, where cash is king and Oxy the designer-high for the affluent.


“First, let me tell you what’s going to happen…”

Diggs sagged back into a reclined position, his head literally spinning. Something felt… off, south-of-the-border, so to speak. He began exploring his anatomy gingerly as Dupuis continued.

“You’ve got a tiny digital circuit surgically implanted — and this is the really cool diabolical part. Guess where it is?” He clapped his hands together with glee.

“Nothing, Diggs? Dick got your tongue?” Pierre and the inestimable Doctor Sanders shared a smile at the coarse one-liner.

“It’s in your colon! Tell me that’s not fucking genius!”


But here’s the great part of this, as if it couldn’t get any better, douche-nozzle. That digital circuit is hooked to a trigger. If the circuit is broken at all…”

The good doctor Sanders added, “Boom!” 

“That’s right! Isn’t that the shit?”

Diggs reeled. “My ass will explode?”

“Yes!” exclaimed both Sanders and Dupuis.

“I don’t understand. Circuit?”

“Right. You know what a circuit is, dontcha?” He didn’t wait for Gary’s response, but pushed on excitedly. “This is a digital circuit, meaning that the circuit is established using light. A tiny little laser! Embedded in your ass! One end sends the beam of light; the other end receives it.”

Sanders intoned, “Ergo, if the receiver doesn’t sense the beam, the circuit is broken.”

Realization began to dawn on Diggs. “What would break the circuit?”

Dupuis clapped his hands together again, sounding like a gunshot. “Shit! If anything passes through your colon, it’ll break the circuit and poof! You’re a bug-splat. Also, and this is for your butt-banging boyfriends, the device works for output and input.

“Anybody tampers with the circuit and boom. So don’t be calling your DEA rump-rangers for help, though I kinda wish you would so we could take at least one of them out.

“Now pay attention Mister Rat. This is really super-duper important and you’re not gonna want to miss this little detail. No sir, not in the least. 

“Fix your attention on the wall clock and calendar behind me. Take note of both date and time, and also note that the clock is not ticking. Shake your stupid, hillbilly-assed head if you understand me.”

Diggs nodded slowly, as if in a trance.

“Good! Ten days from now, you’ll be free. Meaning all the electronics will fall right out of your ass.”

“No boom?”

“Free as a bird.”

“All I have to do is not shit for ten days?”

“Right on.”

“How do I know you’re telling the truth?”

“Seriously? Well, Mister Rat, what difference does it make? I could have wiped you off the face of the earth fifty times by now.”

Doctor Sanders touched a button on the desk before him, and the chair Gary Diggs was hanging out in returned to an upright position. “Time for you to leave, Mister Rat.”


Gary lay on his sparkling, cheerful red bench, listening to the thunderous roar of the Yo. Trees rustled overhead; Gary watched a couple squirrels bounding from limb to limb and he smiled.

Smiled despite the gawd-awful cramping pains that clenched him from the inside-out with a vise-like twisting, gut-wrenching grip.

It had been six days and some change and Gary knew he wasn’t going to make it. He screamed and cried out for release; his prayers were increasingly colorful, yet just as unanswered as before.

All he wanted to do was… well. 

A new pain tore through him, this one sharp, stabbing, causing Gary to cry out and the pressure south-of-the-border threatened to overwhelm him.

But if Gary was gonna go, he was gonna go at the place he loved. On his bench with the Great Allegheny Passage mere meters behind him and the ageless and timeless and turbulent Yo calling to him in a language only Gary Diggs could understand.

Gary sighed as he lay on his back. He resolved to let it go. No commode, no reading material, no nothing. Nada empanada. 

He would know blessed relief before the End. He inhaled deeply, smiled, closed his eyes, and he. Let. Go.

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Cheryl Ann Guido: The Red Bench

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 Red Bench

By Cheryl Ann Guido

I have always loved this place, so quiet and serene. I could spend hours just gazing across the peaceful lake, its calm, crystal clear waters only broken by the occasional family of ducks creating gentle ripples as they swim across to the other side, or a bird diving under the surface in hopes of catching one of the plentiful fish living in its depths. In all the years that I have visited, I never saw another human soul either on the lake or enjoying the natural amenities offshore. I myself only stumbled across this place as a child exploring the vast conservation behind my rural home. I was an only child with friends who lived too far away to play with every day, so I often had to create my own entertainment, and on many days that meant an adventure into the woods with my dog.

When my folks passed away, the old farmhouse became mine and I moved back from the city in order to reclaim my roots. My divorce had been finalized the year before and my children were grown and living on their own, so it only seemed natural for me to return to the rural area I loved so much growing up. Besides, since my own golden years loomed before me, it seemed like the perfect place to live in retirement. After selling off the remaining acres of farmland to a few urban farmers who wanted to build their own charming country retreats, all that was left was the two-acre plot on which our almost one-hundred-and-fifty-year-old three-story farmhouse sat. It was a picture-postcard home, painted white with a classic styled peaked roof and a wrap-around porch. The government-owned wooded area behind it had been designated a park before I was born, thereby remaining untouched by commercial or residential development. I liked that. It meant that my secret place would always be there, pristine and perfect.

Each afternoon, I strolled down the tree-lined dirt path that led to the edge of the lake. There, I would sit on the same big boulder I had perched on all my life while I dangled my bare feet into the cold waters below. Sometimes I would bring a book and sometimes I would just spend my time staring off into the distance, drinking in the sheer beauty of this hidden gem. I never felt threatened or afraid I would be attacked by a wild animal, even though I often saw deer nibbling on low hanging tree leaves and heard wolves howling somewhere deep inside the forest. Once I even saw a black bear emerge from the thicket not too far from my viewing point. It saw me too. For a moment, we locked eyes and then, as if it agreed that we would respect each other’s right to be there, it turned and disappeared back into the dense underbrush.

One day, as I neared my destination, I saw something odd and quite out of place. A red park bench had been placed underneath an old, tall oak only a few feet behind my boulder. I rolled my eyes and grunted. Obviously, someone else had discovered my getaway. That did not sit well with me. I had no wish to share this little piece of heaven with anyone.

I scanned the area in search of the culprit, but I was alone. When I reached the bench, I absentmindedly traced my fingers along its ornate wrought-iron arm rests as I wondered who had put it there. At least it was alone. There were no others, nor was there a picnic table or any kind of camping equipment anywhere in sight. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the bench appeared to be of antique design and sported a shiny new coat of paint. The red pigment glistened in the sunlight that streamed through the tree branches. I resisted the urge to sit on it. In fact, I refused to. It had invaded my space. There was no way that I would patronize it. Annoyed by the presence of the new intruder, I climbed onto my rock. But instead of facing the lake, my narrowed eyes focused on the enemy in red.

My mind created impossible scenarios. It was too far from civilization to drag it out of the park. I thought about setting it on fire but ruled out that idea since I did not want to risk any errant embers setting the trees or surrounding woods ablaze. I considered returning home to get an axe, then come back and chop it to pieces. But the bench was constructed of both wood and metal and I would have to dispose of the wrought-iron arm rests and legs. A few trips back and forth to the lake would have effectively made the bench disappear, however, I had no wish to pollute the lake with trash. Besides, I wasn’t young anymore. Lifting those heavy pieces and tossing them in would have definitely been an ordeal. I closed my eyes in frustration. Apparently, I had no choice but to share my little Shangri-La with some unknown person. Now the only question was, with whom?


My eyes snapped open. Either I had dozed off or the stranger had appeared from virtually nowhere. I cocked my head to the side in surprise. He stood with both hands gripping the plain wooden handle of a cane burrowed partially into the dirt in front of his feet. His blue jeans were well worn, but clean with a red checkered shirt neatly tucked inside. The straw hat that sat on top of thick black hair was a bit frayed but still had enough of a brim to shade him from the sun.


“You must be Lena Hart.”

My brows arched. “Yes. How do you know my name?”

He ignored my question and gazed up at the sky. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

I lifted my chin. “I’m sorry. You appear to have me at a disadvantage, Mister …”

“Sorry ma’am, I seem to have misplaced my manners.” His laugh was deep and hearty as he extended his hand. “I’m Mike, Mike McMasters. I own this land …”

I pulled back my palm in surprise. “Wait a minute Mister McMasters, this land is a federal park. How could you have purchased it?”

“I bought it from the government. When I first saw this spot, I knew that it should never be spoiled or desecrated. It’s beautiful, possibly one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen, so I bought it.”

“Yes, it is beautiful. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. I didn’t know that parcels were being sold. If I had, I would have bought it myself.”

Mike started to sit down on the bench but stopped mid-way. “May I?”

I laughed. “It’s your bench. You don’t need to ask me.”

“Well, I always try to be a gentleman when there’s a lady around.” He winked.

I rubbed my chin. How could I have missed hearing about the park being sold? Mike McMasters perched on the edge of the seat, shifting his weight from side to side. Although grinning, he seemed a bit uncomfortable leaning on the cane between his feet. I smiled back, waiting for him to continue our conversation, however, he simply sat there, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I shook my head in an attempt to focus.

“Mister McMasters …”

“Call me Mike.”

I nodded. “Okay, Mike then. Are you planning on building a home nearby?”

“Ayup, also bought a big piece of land. Gonna build a house and hope to raise a passel of kids. Gonna plant some wheat and corn. Already ordered some hens, a rooster, and two cows.”

“Oh, that sounds nice. Most of the farms in this area sold their land for housing developments. It’s good to hear that there will still be at least one. Where is your land?”

He turned and pointed behind him. “Right over yonder.”

His finger wiggled in the direction of my own home. Could he be one of the people who purchased the land I had sold? The sales had all been conducted online since at the time I lived half a country away. I racked my brain trying to remember if Mike McMasters was one of the buyers but I could not place him.

“Well, Mister … um … Mike, it seems that we are going to be neighbors.”

He stood up slowly, pushing the cane further into the ground as though to help steady himself. As he advanced toward me, his right leg dragged a little, causing his gate to be a bit lopsided. I wondered if he would have help with his farm since his bad leg would obviously be a bit of a hindrance. Finally, he reached the edge of the water, bent down, scooped up a flat rock and sent it skipping across the glassy surface of the lake. I laughed.

“Hey, I used to do that too when I was a kid.”

He turned and faced me. “Ain’t no reason you can’t do it now.”

Jumping to my feet, I picked up a flat stone and sent it skidding across the water. It was not the best shot I ever made. In fact, I was amazed that I could even make it at all, but for some odd reason, the act gave me great pleasure. The smile faded from his face as he grew serious.

“You know, Lena, nothing is forever. One day, someone will clear this land and build houses all around the lake. People just can’t leave nature alone.”

I nodded my head. “I hope not. But at least it won’t happen for a while since this land belongs to you now.”

His eyes bored into my own. Then he inhaled deeply. “Well, I best be goin’. The sun will be settin’ soon enough.”

“I probably should go too. It was nice meeting you, Mike. Maybe once you get settled, you and your wife can come over to my place for a nice country dinner.”


My cell phone rang. Startled by the sudden sharp tone, I removed it from my pocket and looked at the screen. It was Tom Harding, one of the few friends I had grown up with. Tom had never left our small town and now owned and operated the local hardware store. He also ran a realty business as a side line and had handled the sale of my land. As I brought the phone to my ear I looked up. Mike was gone. Shaking my head, I wondered how he could have disappeared so quickly considering the difficulty he had walking.

“Hey Tom, what’s up?”

“Lena, just thought you’d want to know that the government is selling off the conservation behind your house. I hear a big developer has his eye on it. He wants to build a subdivision around the lake.”

“What?” I was dumbfounded. How could that be possible if Mike McMasters owned it?

“Tom, I just met the guy who owns that land. It’s not government land anymore.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lena. I thought you knew the history. Years ago, a big fire destroyed the courthouse where all the land records were kept. Without written records, the owner could not be located and when nobody came forward to claim it, the property was designated abandoned. The government then took it over and turned it into a park but it’s not protected. I guess they decided they wanted to get rid of it and make some money too. So, unless someone produces a deed, you’re going to be looking at a nice little suburban community in your backyard.”

“I … uh … okay Tom. Thanks for the heads-up.”

When I got home, I poured myself a glass of wine and settled into the old comfortable armchair next to the fireplace. As I put my glass down on the small table beside me, I spied the bible that sat on top of it. The holy book had belonged to my parents. Not being a religious person, I had never touched it except when dusting, so had never opened it. Something compelled me to look inside. As I pulled back the well-worn leather cover, I saw that the first page consisted of a long list of the handwritten names of my ancestors along with their birth dates. But it was the two at the top that made my jaw drop. The date was 1850 and next to it, recorded into family history, were the names of Michael McMasters and his wife, Laura. An entry under their names revealed that Michael McMasters had suffered an unfortunate industrial accident in 1877 which left him with a severely injured leg. The paragraph went on to say that in spite of his handicap, he had built my home in 1879 and successfully operated a small farm. My finger followed the list of names, each containing a tiny bit of their individual history. The last name at the bottom of the page was my own. There was nothing underneath it. Apparently, my history had not yet been written. More astonishingly though was the fact that a man named Michael McMasters was my great-great grandfather. Their only daughter Emma had married Joshua Hart, and from that time forward, the McMasters’ property had belonged to the Harts.

The information, though interesting, was hard to process. The fact that someone named Mike McMasters had been my ancestor was too coincidental. As my fingers slid under the parchment to turn the page, I felt something and pulled out a small envelope. Hart House was written on the front. My hands shook with anticipation as I carefully opened it. After removing a small key, I unfolded a tattered, yellowed piece of paper. The crude drawing of the slatted bench under the tall tree seemed familiar. Turning the key over in my hand, I wondered what it all meant.

A light bulb went off in my mind. In the olden days, people often buried their valuables. Perhaps the tiny skeleton key opened a treasure box. A quick glance outside the window told me that the sun had not yet set. After shoving the key inside my pocket, I grabbed a shovel and raced back to the lake. Upon reaching the tree, I saw that the bench was gone. The earth was undisturbed. It was as if it had never been there. I shook off the impossibility of how and why the bench had vanished. My fingers touched the key in my pocket and I whispered a plea to the wind. Now ready for any possible reveal, I positioned the shovel on the ground and used my foot to push it deeper down into the dirt. After I managed to get through the top grassy layer, my labor became a little easier. I shoveled for the better part of an hour, making a neat pile of earth that I could replace easily. The sun was beginning to set. I had to either work faster or come back in the morning. Finally, the metal tip thudded against a hard surface.

I got down on my hands and knees and brushed the soil off of whatever was down there. My fingers felt a vertical metal band and I squealed with glee. It took a few more moments to remove enough dirt from the sides of the object to loosen it a bit and finally, I was able to lift it out. The chest was only about twelve inches wide and ten inches high. It was constructed of wood with a metal clasp. I inserted the key and turned. It worked. I took a deep breath and opened the lid. Inside, a gold locket rested upon some paper documents. With trembling hands, I opened the locket. A tiny image of a stoic Mike McMasters looked back at me. He was formally posed beside a woman I guessed to be his wife Laura. Exhaling with amazement, I clutched the locket to my chest.

Next, I removed one of the documents. It was a birth certificate for Michael McMasters. Another for Laura McMasters lay underneath. The last piece of paper was folded three times. As I unfurled the one-page document, my heart leapt with joy. The deed was dated March 12, 1879, and it detailed the acquisition of all of the land purchased by Michael McMasters including the original farm my house sat on, the lake, and all of the surrounding acres of forest. Since I was a direct descendant of Michael McMasters, the property belonged to me.

Tilting my head toward the sky, I closed my eyes and whispered, “Thank you,” and decided that the addition of a red bench overlooking the scenic perfection of nature would be just the thing.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although entirely a work of fiction, this story reflects my own belief that we should protect and preserve what little wilderness we have left. Every day more and more natural areas are being bulldozed for expensive new housing developments. Trees, our natural protection against wind and erosion, are being cut down at an alarming rate. Wild animals are being driven from their natural habitats then invading the neighborhoods that were once their home. It needs to stop. Because once nature is gone, we will be too.

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Kelli J Gavin: Meet Me

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! 

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

Meet Me 

By Kelli J Gavin 

Fondly I remember

When you and I would meet

Both walking from our homes

To somewhere in between

The woods always provided shelter

From the hot summer sun

And from the wind that howled 

But I knew we would always have fun

Fondly I remember

When you and I would meet

Face to face each morning

That bench providing a seat

The hours quickly passed us by

As we spoke of everything 

And then of nothing at all

Once our lips would meet

Fondly I remember

When you and I would meet

You told me of your dreams

And I told you everything 

About joy and hurt and love gone dim

You only smiled and pulled me near

I still love that you were the one

Who could chase away my fear

Fondly I remember

When you and I would meet

Those days that I treasured

Still seem to be so sweet

You moved away yet here I am

Still waiting for you to take a seat

I will always miss you

And wish that we could meet
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Write the Story! May 2020

April’s Write the Story! entries, from fantasy to the paranormal along with beautiful poetry were amazing. If you missed any of the terrific WTS! stories last month, check out the April 2020 archives.

Writers Unite! started this project to assist all of us to gain followers to our blogs, websites, and author pages and to gain experience as writers. We didn’t do this for accolades or critique but for enjoyment and to share our work with others. Now in the second year of WTS!, we thank all writers who have participated and all who have read and supported the authors. The admins appreciate the positive support you have given the authors.

The MAY 2020 Prompt!

Here’s the plan:

Based on the image provided, write a story of 3000 words or less (doesn’t matter, can be 50 words or a poem) and post it on the author site that you wish to promote. Please edit these stories. We will do minor editing but if the story is not written well WU! reserves the right to reject publishing it.

Send the story and link to the site via Facebook Messenger to Deborah Ratliff. Put “Write the Story” in the first line of the message. You may also email your story to writersunite16@gmail.comWU! will post your story on our blog and share across our platforms, FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. We do ask that you share the link to your WU! Write the Story! post so that your followers can also read the works of your fellow writers. The idea is to generate increased traffic for all. It may take some time but it will happen if you participate. The other perk of this exercise is that you will also have a blog publishing credit for your work.

Periodically throughout the month, we will post the current prompt as a reminder. DO NOT post your story to this prompt. The idea is to have your STORY or poem published on your site, the WU! blog and shared to gain followers for your writing. We will not accept a one- or two-line caption. For the most part, we are fiction writers and poets…. please write a story or poem, not a caption. If you have any questions regarding this, you may ask the question in the comments. Thank you.

(Please note: the images we will use as prompts are free-use images)

Jill Richter: A Poem

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! 

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

A Poem

By Jill Richter

You admire the landscape, breathe in the beauty, and exhale in gratitude.
As you get closer to the unknown, fear creeps in and the beauty and gratitude are defeated by worry.
You wonder what lurks inside. You wonder if something or someone is watching you, waiting for you, or is going to get you.
You want to turn around. Everything inside screams go back, leave, get away. You are not safe. Something bad could happen.
But just this once you are not going to listen. You can’t go back. Deep down you do not want to go back.
You tell yourself the odds are forever in your favor and you inch your way forward.
The closer you get the darkness fades.
Now you are more curious than you ever were afraid, so you enter.
You let the light behind you guide you forward until that light is gone.
You rely on your intuition and hands, knees, and feet as you crawl through the darkness. Unsure, unable to see, not knowing what is ahead you keep moving.
And then light appears again.
You have to squeeze through one more jagged spot.
You step out on the other side and face the most beautiful site you have ever seen.
You admire the landscape, breathe in the beauty, and exhale in gratitude once again.
You look back and smile. Proud to have overcome. Proud to have faced the unknown, faced your fear, and happy to have made the choice to move forward.
Now you know where you came from, where you have gone, what you have overcome, and you are excited to go explore the unknown.

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Lisa Criss Griffin: Choosing Freedom

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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Choosing Freedom

by Lisa Criss Griffin

The ever-present call of the beloved mountains of his childhood finally brought Jackson home. Home to the farm he grew up on, loved, and left for a greater opportunity. He had been reasonably successful in his white-collar job in the city. But it was all over now. His job was considered nonessential during the seemingly never-ending pandemic. He not only lost his source of income but his lease to his lavish downtown apartment. 

His neighborhood was almost empty now, except for the criminal gangs of looters that roamed the streets and buildings for anything left of value. Other people who inhabited his building were only vague acquaintances except for a couple of tenants on his floor. He had always found the anonymity depressing since he had grown up in a small community where everyone knew everybody else. There were no secrets in his hometown, at least not for long. Here in the city, nobody cared what he did, as long as it wasn’t newsworthy. 

That afternoon, Jackson packed up everything he could fit into his large SUV that was truly important to him. He hit the road for home the next morning before the sun came up. He was excited to see his parents. They had always been a close family. His mother usually kept Jackson’s room in the rambling old farmhouse ready for him in case he found an unexpected opportunity to visit. He enjoyed his visits immensely, unless his brother Grant was there. 

He and Grant had been close until Grant fell head over heels in love with Andrea. Unfortunately, Andrea was Jackson’s fiancé at the time. Andrea eventually called off the wedding because of the growing turmoil between the two brothers. Jackson left the mountains, his heart crushed and bitter. He decided he would do something entirely different with his life. Only a few months after Jackson began his freshman year at the university, Andrea disappeared. Search parties scoured the mountainous area for Andrea for over a month, but never found any signs of her. 

Folks eventually decided she either successfully left the region or had been murdered. Then there were stories of possible alien abductions inevitably spun around campfires at night. Even Bigfoot became a suspect in Andrea’s mysterious disappearance. Jackson had grieved for her deeply, alone in the city. But that had been seven years ago, and it was now a closed chapter in his life.

The road began winding through the familiar wooded mountains. It was late spring and the forests were dotted with splashes of color from the dogwoods, redbuds and other flowering trees. Patches of wild purple phlox sprinkled the rocks bordering the roadway. Jackson lowered his window, enjoying the sweet smell of the fresh mountain air blowing across his face. The air here was different somehow. He always imagined there was a unique healing quality deep in the forests. It was in the air, the dirt, the water and in the whole of God’s natural creation. He suddenly realized he had missed this, way more than he remembered.

Intense orange, maroon and purple striated clouds painted the evening sky as Jackson made the turn onto the freshly graveled drive traversing his family’s land. The 600-acre farmstead was mostly covered with rolling forestland, but there were over 200 tillable acres in the wide valley that housed the barns and the family home place. 

Home was a large white farmhouse with dark green shutters and spacious rooms. The ceilings were high and there were working fireplaces in almost every room. His family had taken great care with the upkeep of the entire farm over the years, and the big house was comfortable, yet immaculate. He used to love to curl up in one of the numerous rocking chairs on the wide, covered porch and listen to the sound of the rain drumming loudly on the metal roof overhead.

The SUV angled around a bend in the road and revealed the home Jackson had been picturing in his mind ever since he entered the mountains he loved. A shimmering silver fog was slowly rolling in, swirling gracefully around the house and the colorful landscaping his mother had already planted with welcoming flowers. Buttery yellow lights poured from the numerous windows of the home, beckoning him to return to the warm embrace of his loving family.

Jackson stepped out of his SUV into the cool evening air and was greeted by the sound of hundreds of tiny, croaking peepers. A light breeze played across the yard, bearing the intensely sweet scent of the tiny trumpet-shaped flowers of a nearby autumn olive.

The front door flew open as Jackson stepped onto the front porch.

“Jackson! Oh, honey. We are so glad you decided to come home!”

“It feels good to be home, Mama.”

“Well, come on in, son. Are you hungry? I have some fresh biscuits and stew still on the stove. And there is cold lemonade too.”

“Well Mama, any feller in his right mind wouldn’t mind driving all day long just for the opportunity to enjoy your fine home cooking. I sure have missed your cooking! Hey, where is Pop?”

“He fell asleep in the recliner waiting for you. Here, eat your supper before we wake him. He has never quite bounced back since we all had that horrible virus. Funny how it made some people so much sicker than others. It killed off both Amos and Janie Blount. Poor ole things died within minutes of each other, while holding hands in his hospital room. I think losing him just broke her heart and she didn’t want to live without him. The doctors said she died of a heart attack. I say she died of a broken heart.”

Evi Abraham sighed softly as she poured cold lemonade into a tall glass and placed it on the table for her son. She was terribly glad he had come home. A piece of her heart had left with him seven years ago when he fled the mountains with his life in tatters. He had done very well for himself, and maybe now he could free himself of the emotional misery he hid so well. She could still sense it, whether he could or not. She sensed it in the way he contemplated his biscuit before breaking it open to slather it with fresh butter. Andrea used to come over and cook with Evi for the family after she and Jackson were engaged. Andrea made the best cathead biscuits Evi had ever eaten. She was also one of the most truly kind girls Evi had ever known. Evi had been devastated when the boys had their falling out over Andrea. She still couldn’t understand what possessed Grant to obsess over Andrea, knowing she was engaged to his brother. She knew for a fact Andrea never encouraged Grant’s affection. 

She still didn’t understand Grant. He had been in and out of trouble for ages, unable to overcome his ongoing drug addiction. She finally joined Al Anon in a desperate attempt to salvage what was left of her sanity after Jackson left. It had been a godsend and an eye opener. She loved both her sons with every fiber of her being, but she could not fix their lives. Only they could do that. Grant was nearing the end of his latest court-ordered treatment program. She hoped it would help him choose to stay sober this time, but it would surprise her if he did. Evi was truly amazed Grant had survived this long. Addiction was a cruel taskmaster.

Jackson finished his meal and thanked her. He walked to the living room, finding his father sound asleep in his recliner. An old episode of the Andy Griffith Show was playing softly in the background on the old TV. Jackson placed a hand on his father’s arm gently.

“Pop. Hey, Pop.”

Duke Abraham’s eyes fluttered open. A grin spread across his grizzled face as he recognized his eldest son.

“Welcome home, son. I am so glad you are here. Hmmmmm. You look awfully tired, boy. Maybe we both should get some sleep and visit tomorrow.”

“Sure, Pop. I am really tired from the drive. We will visit in the morning.”

Duke nodded and patted Jackson’s hand resting on his arm. Jackson finished unloading his car and parked it beside the house under the carport. He fell exhausted into his comfortable bed, noting his mother had opened the window in his room. The fresh air had cleared out the stuffiness of the closed-off room. Jackson fell asleep listening to the familiar songs of nocturnal frogs and birds from his childhood.

She stood at the foot of his bed, glowing softly in the moonlight. Her light blue eyes were filled with despair. Tears slid down her luminescent cheeks as she called to him softly.

“Jackson. Hear me. Find me. Free me. Come, find me and free me, Jackson….” 

Andrea’s familiar voice stirred his soul, and he tossed fitfully in his sleep.

“Jackson, please. Come find me and free me. Help me! I’ve been waiting so long….”

Jackson sat straight up in bed, shocked by the reality of the dream. Was it a dream? A scent of lavender lingered by his bed. Andrea had always spritzed herself lightly with a lavender perfume. He ran his hands through his thick black hair in consternation before he lay back down in his bed. He couldn’t get her lilting voice out of his head. How could he find her after seven years? How could he free her? Free her from what? He hoped he wasn’t losing his mind. No. He was just tired and hadn’t been home for a long time. He turned over and drifted back to sleep.

Morning found the family gathered around the breakfast table, sharing a good, old-fashioned country breakfast and old memories of happier times. It was over too soon, but there were chores to be done. Jackson noticed his father beginning to lose steam by mid-morning and offered to finish up so his Dad could rest. It was obvious Pop had not yet fully recovered from his battle with the COVID-19 virus. Pop thanked him and slowly headed for the house. 

Jackson finished caring for the various animals on the farm and found a couple of areas of fencing to repair. He had the repairs done by lunchtime, then headed out to the large garden to see what needed to be done. It was supper time before he finished weeding and watering. He went straight to bed after a shower and supper. A full belly and a productive day’s work had done wonders for his attitude. 

Jackson stepped back into his role on the farm with ease, and several weeks passed before he knew it. He decided he would take an afternoon off and hike some of the old trails in the forest he and Grant used to explore together as kids. He had always loved the forest and considered it an old friend.

He packed a small backpack, his knife and his old familiar rifle. Bears were starting to come out of hibernation and were hungry. He wasn’t interested in being dinner for an aggressive predator. He took an old trail that had been forged long before he was born. It went past a lovely lake towards the edge of their farm. The lake was one of his favorite places to visit. The thought that he and Andrea spent many hours there flitted quietly in the back of his mind. He quickly dismissed it. Truth be told, Jackson was still a little freaked out by Andrea’s ethereal visitation his first night back, and he deliberately chose not to focus on it during today’s hike.

The emerald lake was as serene and beautiful as Jackson remembered. He sat on a rock and enjoyed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and an apple. He sipped his bottle of water pensively as he allowed the serenity of the place to soothe his soul. He noticed several trees had fallen around the perimeter of the lake. Storms could be wild up here, and no doubt the trees were casualties of Mother Nature. 

One of the fallen trees caught his eye. It was hollow, and at least ten feet in circumference. Moss had covered the outer bark, so it must have fallen years ago. Jackson was intrigued. He packed up his gear and made his way around the edge of the lake to the huge fallen giant. The opening smelled seductively of lavender. A subtle breeze seemed to caress his cheek momentarily as he peered into the dark opening. 

He pulled a bright flashlight out of his pack and flicked it on. He stepped inside the log, amazed that at 6’2”, he still had plenty of headroom. Wary of predators, he explored the interior with his light before proceeding farther into the interior of the fallen tree. Each step brought him closer to a subtle glow towards the back of the ancient hollow log. His breathing accelerated and he felt his heart begin to race as he drew closer. He was quite surprised he wasn’t afraid. He was more excited than anything. Whatever was about to happen felt like destiny. He stopped dead in his tracks and gasped out loud as the glow suddenly rose up from behind a large knot in the tree. It slowly transformed into a vision of the most beautiful girl he had ever seen in his life!

“Andrea…” he whispered in awe.

“Yes. You finally came! I knew you would if you ever came home.”

“I don’t understand. What has happened to you? How can I help you?”

“I need you to free me, Jackson.”

“How can I free you, Andrea?”

“There is only one way. You must forgive your brother. And forgive me.”

“Well, that is a tall order where Grant is concerned. But you, I don’t resent you, Andrea.”

“Don’t you, Jackson? I tried not to hurt your family by stepping out of an impossible situation. By doing so, I hurt your heart most of all. I am so sorry, Jackson. My actions broke both our hearts. And I made a fateful decision when I realized you were never coming back. Please forgive me, Jackson. Please.”

The ice encasing Jackson’s heart began to melt. He loved Andrea. From the first moment he saw her, he wanted her for his own. Nothing had changed. He still loved her, and was willing to forgive her anything if it would help her somehow.

“Yes, I choose to forgive you, Andrea. But I don’t understand. What could you have possibly done to disappear without a trace for seven years? You don’t even look any older. Tell me what is going on!”

Andrea sighed. Her troubled blue eyes captured his full attention as she shared her fateful secret with him.

“After you left, I was devastated. A few weeks later, in desperation, I paid a visit to old Granny Moffet up on Witch Mountain. To make a long story short, she cast a spell to heal us all. So far, it has not worked out well for any of us.”

Andrea wiped an errant tear from her pale cheek.

“The only way you can free me, Jackson, is to forgive me. And you have to be willing to forgive Grant for all his shortcomings too. If you choose not to do these things, I will never be free. And honestly, my beloved, neither will you.”

Andrea began to fade before Jackson’s eyes. He grabbed for her, but only came up with a handful of lavender scented mist. He backed out of the gigantic, overturned tree, with a mission he wasn’t sure he could complete. He made his way home, relieved when he reached the edge of the farmhouse yard. A storm was rumbling in the distance as he stepped onto the porch. Pop was sitting on the porch with somebody. Jackson locked eyes with the unexpected visitor.

“Well, hello there, Grant. Long time, no see.”

Grant looked much older than his actual age, and his body slumped with regret. 

“Hi, Jackson. You look well, brother.”

“Pull up a chair, Jackson. Grant has something he wants to say to you.”

Jackson sighed and mentally rolled his eyes as he pulled up a rocker next to his brother. Grant looked at Jackson with a sincerity Jackson had not seen in his eyes since they were young.

“I’d like to try to make amends for all the horrible things I’ve put you through over the years. And especially for my foolishness over Andrea. I had no right to pursue her, and believe me, she had no interest in an addict like me. I am so sorry for what I did. I have no excuses other than I was not in my right mind at the time. But I am still responsible for my bad behavior. I would treasure your forgiveness Jackson, if you can ever choose to forgive me. I have one year of sobriety now, and I am doing what I have to do to stay sober every day. I hope you will forgive your foolish little brother.”

Rain began to thump on the metal roof of the porch, triggering memories of the two brothers huddled in a rocker under a quilt to watch the storms over the years. Jackson stood up and gazed into the fading light.

“I forgive you, Grant. You are my brother. You were lost to us all, and now you are back.”

Jackson turned and met Grant’s surprised gaze.

“I forgive you.”

A blinding crack of lightning accompanied a booming roll of thunder that shook the old farmhouse. Andrea stepped out of the shadows and ran into Jackson’s waiting arms. The spell was broken. Forgiveness had freed them from their shackles of despair. Life was beginning anew, for all of them.


Copyright © 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin

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