Tag Archives: shortstories

Alfred Warren Smith: A KISS WITHIN THE CUP

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 KISS WITHIN THE CUP

By Alfred Warren Smith

Drink to me only with thine eyes,

and I will pledge with mine.

Leave but a kiss within the cup

and I’ll not ask for wine.

The song was one of the smaller, basic, note-learning lessons as she began her piano lessons long ago, before the real beginning of her career taking root when the concert halls grew larger, and the itineraries more exotic.

But it was the words, not the music, that stuck with her.

Between concerts she’d find herself humming the melody, and at home, in her loneliness, she sang the words.

*************

Resigning herself to maiden solitude, she was surprised when love kicked in the door and a man who surrounded her with a whirlwind of love and solace entered into her life. She gladly, gratefully, let him sweep her off her feet until she found herself at the altar in a flowing white gown.

She couldn’t see the well-wishers, the priest, or even the veil for all the tears she couldn’t stop crying.

Her groom only smiled, lifted the veil, wiped them away, and sealed his vows to her lips with his own.

*************

As the day-to-day of marriage glazed over the passion of the wedding, she was sipping her tea one day when he said to her, “You always leave lipstick on the rim of your cups.”

“Do I?”

“Yes. You don’t need the lipstick, you know.”

“I suppose. I guess I’m just used to wearing it for the shows.”

“You’ve always done it, though. Champagne glasses, water bottles, everything bears the imprint of your lips.”

“Does it bother you that much?”

“It doesn’t bother me at all.”

“Then why bring it up?”

“I just find it odd, but endearing.”

She twirled the cup slowly with her fingers. “I suppose it goes back to my childhood. There was a song I used to play when I was just learning…”

She told him the lyrics.

“A kiss within the cup?” he said, teasing.

She smiled and blushed.

He took the cup from her hand and took her in his arms.

“Make me your cup tonight,” he said.

*************

As the concert halls got smaller, so did the money, and so did his ability to supplement them.

“No one needs me,” he said.

“I do.”

He shook his head, and she kissed him and held him as the weight of the world began its inexorable press.

************

In the polar opposite of his courting, his fading away was slow and torturous. As she cared for him she fought through her own pains as the phone stopped ringing, and time exacted its large toll in small change.

************

There were cracks in the walls that let the drafts in now.

The view of the wooded fields was dimmed by the clouds in the sky and the cataracts in her eyes.

She heard, more than saw, the rain as it hit and streaked the filmy windows. Aware of the warm water on her own cheeks, rolling over the flaked red lipstick she’d applied to dry lips, she took a sip of her tepid tea and pressed them to the rim to leave the common mark he found so oddly endearing.

Turning her back on the dismal day to spend it with bright memories at the piano, now in dire need of tuning that would never be, she left the cup on the windowsill for him to see, pulled her robe tighter, and shuffled on slippered feet back to her loneliness. The atonal pitches of her quavering voice filled the silence.

“….Leave but a kiss within the cup,

and I’ll not ask for wine.

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Please visit Alfred on his website: https://mywritemind.press/

Kenneth Lawson: The Healing Power of Coffee and Time

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

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The Healing Power of Coffee and Time

By Kenneth Lawson

He sat on the edge of the bed and pondered many things as he always did in the morning. Most were the same thoughts that always rattled in his head while other random thoughts came and went. The smell of coffee wafting from the kitchen brought him out of his reprieve. He had learned to set the pot on automatic for just this reason. He debated for a second whether to ignore the call of warm black coffee. 

Coffee won. 

It always did.

He got up and followed the aroma of coffee to the kitchen. Pouring himself a cup, he continued to ponder his life.

Damn, he still missed her. It had been many years since the car accident that killed his wife. He’d barely survived but soldiered on, doing what was necessary at the time. Funeral, car, insurance, hospital bills for him, and many of the other mundane tasks that life required of him. But his heart wasn’t in it and he only went through the motions. Doing what was expected of him when necessary and following all the rules.

At some point, he stopped caring. He wasn’t sure when it happened, but he was through pondering, and he decided to leave, just pick up and leave. He cashed out the bank, paid off the bills and closed accounts, and left. Driving as far as he could on a tank of gas, he stopped. He found a dump of a motel, but he didn’t care. It was a roof over his head for the night.

The next day he drove more.

The pattern continued day after day. He drove and ate in whatever cheap diners and restaurants he could find. Most nights he found a motel. Some nights he slept in the car, and on some nights he drove all night. He had no idea where he was going or what he was doing. He barely talked to anyone, preferring to stay away from people.

Every so often, a replay of the accident would float through his mind, nearly causing him to have another accident. Part of him didn’t care. A large part of him didn’t care. But at the same time, he didn’t want to inflict his pain on someone else.

There was a very brief thought of suicide. He quickly dismissed the thought as stupid and irrational. He knew she would want him to live and, hopefully, have a happy life. But it wasn’t happening. So, he drove. He knew he’d eventually run out of road or money, probably money first.

She was sitting at dinner on the twelfth day, drinking coffee and eating toast. He slid onto the stool next to her at the counter and ordered a coffee. The waitress brought him a fresh cup and poured coffee in it and held the pot up to her.

She nodded yes, and the waitress topped off her cup.

 He pointed to the containers of sugar and cream, which were closer to him. “You need sugar or cream?”

 “Eh, ah — no, I take it black. Thanks, all the same.” 

He played with his cup while it cooled off, uneasy because he wanted to talk to her. After a minute, he got the courage. “New around here?”

She glanced at him. He knew he looked like shit since he’d been living in his car for a week, saving money for food and gas.

He was surprised when she smiled. “Yep, just passing through, on my way to Beaver Dam.”

“Never heard of it.”

“Didn’t expect that you would. It’s a tiny spot on the map in the middle of nowhere.” She took a sip of her coffee. He tried his. It was barely cool enough to drink.

“So how long ago did you lose her?” 

He stopped with his cup in mid-air and looked over at her. “Excuse me?”

“I lost my Danny a little over a year ago. I’m still getting used to it.”

“It’s that obvious?”

“It is if you know what to look for, and I do. Your wife, how did she die?”

He drank some coffee as a stall. “Three years ago, in a car accident.” He didn’t elaborate. It was the first time he said anything about that night in over two years.

“Danny died of cancer.”

“Shit man, that’s a hell of a way to go.”

“It is. It was painful and slow, and there was almost nothing left of him in the end.”

“I’m sorry.” He paused. “Lois was quick. They said she died instantly when the car hit us.” This was the first time he’d said her name in so long that it felt foreign to him.

“You were there?”

“Eh, yes — I was driving. A car t-boned us on her side, and she died instantly. I barely managed to survive…” he let it tail off.

“Man, I’m sorry.”

 “At least it was quick and painless for her.”

 “Yeah, there’s that,” she conceded. “By the way, I’m Amy.” She held out her hand.

 “James.” He took it. It felt weird holding another woman’s hand. Weird, but nice.

They sat and talked for a while, finally moving to a booth in the back. More coffee ordered, then food. This time — real food. Not the crap he’d been eating at drive-throughs and the like. At some point, he glanced at his watch. It was noon. He’d been there for three hours.

One thing led to another. He decided to go with her to Beaver Dam, at least for a while.

One day became another day.

They spent many hours talking about their respective losses. He was finally able to describe the horrible feeling of loss and terror at realizing his Lois was no longer with him. The sense of uselessness and how his will to even try slowly gave way to thoughts of suicide. This was the first time he’d uttered those thoughts and tried to put his feelings into words.

Amy understood and said she’d gone through much of the same thing herself. She had never spoken a word about what was happening inside her. She had come to Beaver Dam because she needed to get away from everything and everyone she knew. To start over. Like him.

In the next few weeks, they found a small two-bedroom apartment to live as roommates, and new jobs. Beaver Dam was ripe with new places to explore and he felt himself coming back to life again. Slowly, a little at a time, but he was healing. The times he was away from Amy, he found himself thinking about her. Lois still popped into his head daily but now it didn’t hurt as much. 

Gradually, he realized that he was developing feelings for her. Feelings he hadn’t had since he’d first met Lois all those years ago. For the first time in three years, he wanted to get up in the morning. To see Amy. That realization that he was falling in love startled him. He never expected to feel anything about anyone ever again. Yet, there it was. 

Lois would also still be there in his mind and heart, but Amy was giving him a new reason to live again. Three months after they moved to Beaver Dam, while sitting at the local diner over their usual cups of coffee, he said it.

“I never thought I would say this again to anyone, but, Amy, I love you.” He couldn’t believe he’d said those words to another person. 

Amy put her fork down and looked at him. “James, I love you too. I didn’t think it was possible after Danny, but yeah, I’m in love with you too.”

They sat and talked for a while longer as was their habit when in a diner, but this time, not dwelling on the past but looking toward the future. They had helped each other through the pain of losing someone they both cared deeply about and came out on the other side in love.

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Please visit Kenneth on his website at http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Caroline Giammanco: Before and After

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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Before and After

By Caroline Giammanco

On a dreary October morning, Billie Henson sat in his favorite chair, drinking coffee and contemplating the years since his childhood. His life was bound to this place and he loved looking out the window into his familiar backyard as he daydreamed. Except for a short stint in the military, he’d lived here since he was born. He knew every nook and cranny in the old two-story farmhouse, and he was comfortable. 

 Looking out the window, he could picture his brother Larry and their friends sledding with him down the hill. He felt the crisp air on his cheeks and the numbness of his hands as his boyhood self steered his sled, slowly gliding to a stop next to the barn. Oh, how those were carefree days. Time went slower, or so it seemed, back then. Hours spent playing with his brother and friends lasted for what felt like days.

Sledding was a favorite winter pastime when he was a child. He was given his own sled when he was six, and he remembered how proud he’d been that he was finally “big.” Big was a relative term he would learn over the years. As a boy, he constantly played catch-up to his brother. Larry, being three years older, always got to do things ahead of him, and that was a source of jealousy for much of Billie’s youth. 

Billie winced at the thought. Larry was also drafted three years before Billie was at a time when the war was going strong. He never made it back from those fields made crimson by the blood of young farm boys like Larry. After that, Billie never looked at the passage of time the same. There was Before Larry’s Death and After. No other event so strictly defined his life than the loss of the only person who would ever know him that well.

The chiming clock in the background reminded him that time was still passing. He stirred his cup, and the scent of freshly brewed coffee filled the air around him. 

 Yes, those years with Larry were fun ones. They’d had their share of squabbles, but for the most part they were inseparable. Memories of ball games, double-dating the Crawford sisters, and milking cows in the early morning hours held special places in Billie’s heart. 

 The two brothers differed, however. Larry yearned to see the world and had even looked forward to being sent overseas by the Army. He was going to meet interesting people…and be killed by them. Billie never wanted to live anywhere other than the farmstead, and he hadn’t. The minute his plane touched ground on American soil, he made a beeline for home. Nothing separated him from the place he loved. 

In the years after his brother’s death, Billie cared for the farm and for his parents as they aged. There was always something to do whether it was feeding the livestock, mending the fence, or patching the roof of the house. Time with his parents, whom he adored, was treasured by Billie. Never once did he resent caring for them, and neither spent a day in a nursing home. When asked if he was ever lonely, the answer was no. He was a shy man and never bothered to marry. He wasn’t sure what to say to women and couldn’t fathom spending a lifetime trying to figure it out. That whole thing with the Crawford girl had only been to keep Larry happy. 

Over the years, the neighborhood changed. As a boy, it was a three-mile walk to the nearest neighbor’s place. Going the other direction, the Stiltmans had a large dairy operation about four miles away. Those were simpler times. On summer evenings, folks in the area would sometimes stop to visit for a while on front porches, and of course, everyone saw each other on Sundays—except for mean old Lester Parsons. That pinched-up heart of his wouldn’t even let the Gospel in. In the old days, people were self-sufficient and didn’t need the constant companionship of others. Each family worked hard and handled its own affairs. In Billie’s opinion, more people should try that. 

In time, the county paved the road going past the farm, and developers bought up farmland to create subdivisions. Multi-storied apartments now covered the Stiltman place. Why people wanted to live smack-dab on top of each other was a mystery to Billie. The influx meant new neighbors who had little respect for personal space. Gone were the days when a simple tip of your hat as you drove past was enough socialization for all involved. Now people even made friends on this thing called “social media.”

Carefully, Billie pored over all the changes he had seen in his time. New inventions and medical breakthroughs were almost daily occurrences now. Billie learned it was true that time sped by faster the older we became. Why, it had been eighty years since his parents passed away. True love kept them together even in death. His father died just three days after his sweet mother. Had it really been eighty years? Yes. Almost eighty-one come March. They both died the week before what would have been Larry’s seventieth birthday. 

New neighbors became the bane of Billie’s existence, and the latest ones were the worst yet. This new batch was constantly coming in and opening his cupboards and turning up the volume on that new-fangled flat-screen TV they put in his living room. These people had some real nerve. As best as he could, he just left them to their own devices. He stayed out of their way and tried to make his presence as unnoticeable as possible. 

Just then, a thunder of footsteps pounded down the stairwell. Two teenage boys jostled each other to reach the refrigerator first. Talking loudly and carrying on, they didn’t even notice Billie. He slowly set his coffee mug on the windowsill and faded quietly away. After all, he had an eternity to spend in his home, and these newcomers were just passing through. 

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Please visit Caroline on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009880805237

Fred Elder: The Window

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 Window

By Fred Elder 

There was complete silence from outside. Not a single creature made its presence known, though the trees were bursting with life. I’d been expecting this quiet, of course, because no one had been up to the old place in more than two years. The forest denizens, spoiled by a pleasing absence of humanity for all that time, showed their displeasure by muzzling what I knew would normally be a cacophony.

It hadn’t changed. Oh, it was dustier, to be sure. Perhaps a bit shabbier looking, but essentially it was the place I remembered. Two years without maintenance had done nothing to ruin the structure, though the windows were grimy and let in only a feeble light. From outside, I had noticed the roof was in good shape; inside, there was no sign of water damage or little critters.

Why was I surprised? My father built the place forty years ago, using only the best materials. He tapped the surrounding forest for the wood and neighbors for their skills. Oh, he might have considered building the cabin alone, but this was going to be the place he retired to, eventually, so he wanted the best craftsmanship to go into its construction.

As I wandered through the rooms, inspecting the condition of furniture under drop cloths, memories of long-past visits came to mind. My father envisioned this place as a retreat, a place to get away from the struggle and stress of everyday life, so he built it with family in mind. There were bedrooms for each of his three children and a much larger one for him and mom. A huge kitchen, large enough to hold all of us and company too, sitting around a long harvest table.

A large window dominated the main sitting area in front, overlooking a deep, pine-filled valley and, in the distance, fierce limestone cliffs. It was a million-dollar view that never failed to lift your heart. Here, in the wilderness of Maine, far from the madding crowds of our everyday home, we spent uncounted hours exploring, playing, relaxing, and simply staring at the majesty of nature.

Even with such an astonishing view out the front window, we would most often find my father at the small, kitchen window, watching for wildlife. He would stand there for hours, tin coffee cup in hand, just staring, waiting, hoping to see the smallest sign of life. His reward for unceasing vigilance included chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits, deer and, on several occasions, a bombastic old badger. He told us once that a black bear visited, but he might have been pulling our legs.

More than once, we suggested he find a comfortable seat in the front of the cabin and marvel at the valley view. With a pair of binoculars, we told him, he was sure to see many more forest denizens. He would only shake his head, lift the mug toward the small window, and tell us that everything he needed to see was right outside there. We weren’t sure exactly what he meant by that and we never did try to parse it out. We were content to leave him standing there, cup in hand.

In the face of inevitability, life changed over the past fifteen years. Mom passed away, leaving a void that my father could never fill. My brother wandered off to some career in Australia, my sister to California. While I started a career much closer to home, my father ventured alone on most of his visits to the cabin.

Oh, certainly, I made time to join him once or twice a year, but as he grew older and began to spend more time in the wilds, I saw less and less of him. He begged me more times than I can count to visit but juggling a career and a burgeoning relationship took up all my time.

In time, I married. When Dad showed up for the ceremony, we all realized how sick he was. He never let on that he was in pain, but his eyes were windows into his misery. Now it was my turn to beg, asking him to stay with my wife and I, where we could take care of him. He refused, of course, saying only that he would miss his window. When we asked him what was more important, that damn window or his health, he only smiled and shrugged, unable to explain.

He passed away two years ago, leaving the cabin in his children’s names. As the only sibling still living close, it fell upon me to keep up the place. Feelings of remorse kept me away, however. The cabin was important to him, especially his vantage point at the kitchen window, and yet I allowed it to become unimportant to me. Yes, life often gets in the way of your best intentions, but that didn’t make me feel any better.

Finally, I’d worked up the nerve to come back. My wife understood something on a level I didn’t fathom, because she stayed home, citing her advanced pregnancy. She was lying, of course, because she knew this was a journey I needed to make alone.

So, there I was, staring out that stupid, grimy, kitchen window. There was nothing to see. Nothing at all. Just an old, tin coffee cup sitting on the counter. I leaned forward and wiped some of the grime away. It came away grudgingly, but I still couldn’t see because the outside surface was even more filthy. Two years of Maine weather, eight seasons, had left the entire cabin coated with dust and pollen and dead leaves and more than a little bird shit.

What’s the point, anyway? I already knew there wasn’t anything special to see out that small window. The million-dollar view is at the front of the cabin. But I didn’t come up to do any spring cleaning. Not this time, anyways. I’ll soon have a child, which means I’m going to be busy back home. The purpose of this trip was simply to determine if the cabin was structurally sound, to see if there would be a place to bring my young family at some point. And there would be.

Just a couple hours after I arrived, I was locking up the front door and climbing into the car. I was leaving the place much like I found it. There was no need for repairs, and cleaning could wait for another time. Besides, the forest hush was beginning to bother me, knowing that I was damming up a torrent of life and sound with my presence.

My wife was surprised to see me so soon and wondered just what I had accomplished in so little time. There wasn’t much to do, I answered, except clean one window and an old coffee cup. She shook her head, not understanding. You cleaned one window, she asked? Yeah, I answered, I know how strange that sounds, but it’s something I just can’t explain.

But that was always the problem with that damn window.

The End

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Please visit Fred on his website: https://deathlyadventures.com/

D. A. Ratliff: Special Blend

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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Author’s Note: Silly little story written ages ago for a writing prompt and reworked a bit for WTS! Forgive me for the likely bad Czech translation… it was compliments of a translation program! –D. A.

Special Blend

By D. A. Ratliff

Colonel Jon Rivard, head of the military contingent on the ESS Argas Science Vessel, was in his office attempting to complete a tardy mission report, when Dr. Marek Stepanek came sprinting in, slamming the door shut. The doctor’s normally tousled hair was wilder than usual, his breathing coming in short labored breaths. He was clutching a coffee cup in his hand so tightly his knuckles were white.

“Doc, what’s wrong? You look like you’re running from some gal’s angry husband. What gives?”

“Je to blázen. Honil mě po celém Argas.”

“Whoa, whoa, Doc, English — my Czech is improving, but not when you are talking at warp speed.”

Stepanek took a deep breath, “He is crazy man. He is chasing everyone with a coffee cup in their hand around the ship.”

Rivard chuckled. “You’re talking about Wesley I take it.”

Stepanek frowned. “Who else is crazy man around here. Ever since his stash of that special blend of coffee he ordered disappeared, he has been nuts. He is not getting any work done. He’s just running around, sticking his nose in everyone’s coffee to see if it is his special blend.” Rivard stifled a laugh as Stepanek made air quotes. “If I hear those words one more time, I swear I will zabij toho blázen.”

“Somehow, Marek, I don’t think I want to know what that means. I’ll talk to him.”

“Colonel, talking will not help. He needs to stop. He made Miko cry, snatched the cup from her hand, spilling half of it. He took a drink, then shoved it back at her and stalked off. We have coffee since the Armstrong found us and is making regular supply runs. It’s not like he isn’t getting enough caffeine. He is coffee diva.” 

Rivard stifled a chuckle. “Unfortunately, Marek, we need him. I promise I’ll take care of this. We can’t have the crew hiding from him.”

Marek thanked him and left, looking warily in both directions before stepping out into the corridor. Rivard was still chuckling when his X-O, Major Daniel Davin, rapped on the doorframe. He jerked his head for Davin to enter.

“Don’t tell me, Wesley?”

“How’d you know, Colonel?”

“That coffee stain on your jacket’s a pretty big clue.”

“Yes, sir. Wesley grabbed my cup in the mess hall. I had just poured it, so the mug was full. Worse, he went after Sergeant Johnston’s thermos in the transport bay this morning. Johnston never leaves on a mission without his thermos of coffee. Sir, Dr. Wesley is out of control.”

“Major, I agree. Anyone who attempts to interfere with a six-foot-five, two-hundred-and seventy-five-pound Marine and his coffee, is out of control. Go get changed. Director Marin likes us neat and tidy. Don’t want her wrath down on us as well.”

Rivard watched as Davin departed and then glanced down at his feet. The entire time Stepanek and Davin were in his office, he had been sitting sideways of his desk, reclined back in his chair, laptop perched on his knees, and his boots resting — on a cardboard box. It wasn’t just any cardboard box. It was a box of specially blended coffee, the missing box of specially blended coffee.

Dr. Roger Wesley had been preening about the special coffee that he had ordered, but wouldn’t share with his staff or anyone else, even him. He had decided that the fussy scientist needed to suffer just a bit. He snuck in Wesley’s quarters and took the box. However, enough was enough. He didn’t like the fact that Miko had gotten upset, or that Wesley could have died, albeit, a justifiable death at the hands of Sergeant Johnston.

They had gone through a challenging time. For seven months, the enormous research vessel drifted in space, flung out of orbit when the planet, Portha 3, exploded. Out of touch with Earth, they drifted without the artificial intelligence computer core operating. Wesley, Stepanek, and the science-engineering team kept life support operational by jury-rigging the systems and managed to get the navigation back online. Long-range communication was another matter. Provisions ran quite low, and until Stepanek’s engineering team repaired the planetary propulsion, they couldn’t begin to look for food. The problem was coffee didn’t seem to exist in the Magellan galaxy, and that did not sit well with astrophysicist Dr. Roger Wesley. When the ESS Armstrong located them, he had raced to the galley for coffee.

Sighing, Rivard decided that he would figure out a way to distract Wesley long enough to sneak back into his quarters and place the box back in the closet, just a bit deeper than it had been when he removed it. Then he would confront Wesley, demand to search his room, because no one would have taken his precious coffee, and discover the box, deep in the closet.

This was going to be fun. He not only had the pleasure of watching Wesley’s angst over the loss of his special coffee, but he could rag him about accusing everyone of stealing his coffee when he simply didn’t look hard enough for the box. 

Rivard reached for his coffee cup, which was sitting on the porthole ledge. He had to admit that Wesley had great taste in coffee. He was enjoying the special blend. This was definitely going to be fun.

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

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields: 1942

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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1942

By Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

When Sylvia uttered, “Hail Mary full of Grace…,” she saw Sister Honorina. With her white veil, blue eyes and round face, she resembled the paintings of the Blessed Virgin with Baby Jesus hanging on the wall of the dormitory Sylvia shared with seven other girls. 

After praying the Rosary with Sylvia in her gentle Viennese-accented voice, Sister Honorina added the shema. “I promised to your father never to let you forget the words of your ancestors. We say them together now.” 

Sylvia recited the prayer in unison with Sister Honorina both in Hebrew and English exactly the way Papa did. “‘Shema yis’ra’el, Adonai Eloheynu, Adonai echad. Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.’” 

“Sehr gut. Your Papa, he would be so proud.” 

“When are he and Momma coming back for me?” 

Tears welled up in the nun’s eyes. She dabbed them with her sleeve. “We must leave it in God’s hands.” Tucking Sylvia’s teddy bear in beside her, Sister Honorina kissed the child’s forehead. “Sleep now, kleine schvester.”

Sylvia curled up on her side, hugging her bear. Frost formed intricate patterns on the window. The way the streetlight outside the convent illuminated them fascinated the eight-year-old. She remembered Papa’s stories about frost-faeries with icicle paint brushes. Closing her eyes, she heard Momma and Papa.

Momma sounded angry. “You’re filling her head with stuff and nonsense. How’s this equipping her to face a world filled with discord and oppression, Aaron? How?”

“Esther, she’s only six.”

“You don’t hear the news? Six-year-olds are being slaughtered in their beds. Babies murdered in their mothers’ arms. No synagogue is safe. No Jewish market. Just like my grandparents in Poland. How long before they throw rocks through our windows?” 

“We’re an enlightened society, Esther. Consider our technological advances. Never again. The pogroms aren’t going to happen here.”

“My Aaron, the scientist. My Prince Charming who still believes in fairytales. I love you, but you’re wrong. Dead wrong.”

Sylvia shivered and pulled the covers over her head. It happened a year ago. A year after her parents’ argument. Momma’s frightening predictions came true. Sylvia saw their beloved cantor beaten to death—right in the shul, the words of the Kaddish Shalem on his lips. She could still smell sulfur odor that hung in the air—hear the screams and moans of the dying. 

By some miracle, Sylvia and her parents escaped that Shabbos day, the day the Shoah began in earnest. Many of their neighbors had already gone into hiding. Momma and Papa decided it would be safer for Sylvia to place her with Christians. With her blonde hair and blue eyes, she might escape being pegged as a Jew. 

Papa carried her in his strong arms. He smelled of aftershave and chocolate. His heart thumped against her chest. “You will do what the sisters tell you, Silver Girl, do you understand? Even when you think it’s strange.” 

“We will take good care of her, Mr. and Mrs. Green.” Sister Honorina reached for Sylvia. “We’ll allow no harm to come to her.” 

“How can you say that?” Momma stroked Sylvia’s hair. “How can anyone in this godforsaken country make such a promise?” 

Tears streamed down Papa’s stubbled cheek. “Never forget who you are, my daughter.” He placed her in Sister Honorina’s arms. “We’ll be back soon, sweetheart.”

Momma covered her mouth with her gloved hand. “Oh, Aaron.” 

Sylvia reached for Papa. “Pinkie swear?” 

His lips trembled. He engulfed her pinkie finger in his. “As the frost-faeries are my witness.” 

March wind swooshed outside the convent. In the beds across the aisle, Elizabeth Nusbaum and Naomi Resnick who were both twelve spoke in stage whispers. 

“Naomi, do you think they took our parents to the death camps?”

“Probably.” 

“Girls, shh.” Sister Honorina shone her flashlight on them. “This is not the time to speak of such things.” 

“Seriously? When do we talk about it? After another six million have perished?” Elizabeth bolted upright. “It’s 1942 all over again. I saw it on CNN. There are camps in Colorado and Arizona and more being constructed in New Mexico.”

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Please visit Rochelle on her website: https://rochellewisoff.com/

Paula Shablo: His Room With a View

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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His Room With a View

By Paula Shablo

Daddy chose the smallest window in the house as his personal “spot.”

No amount of reasoning would change his mind. He insisted the best view of the yard and the street beyond was from that window, and that was where he wanted to be.

The window was in the small room we had used for storage for years. The walls were lined with Rubbermaid tubs of various sizes, filled with decades worth of photographs, decorations, tools and all the odds and ends that get stored away instead of discarded over a long lifetime.

I recruited my brother and sister, and together we began the process of cleaning out the room for Daddy to use.

“Jeez,” June cried. “How did he even get to the window to look out and assess the view?”

Joe laughed. “It’s not that crowded in here, Junie.”

I sneezed. I confess, I didn’t go into the room often, and certainly didn’t make dusting in there a priority. June and Joe looked at me and pointed to the door. “Face masks! Stat!” Joe ordered, and I went downstairs to get a few.

We are an allergy-prone bunch.

Mamma had given up trying to talk Daddy out of taking the room over as his own, and supervised us as we moved the many containers to a corner in the basement. They probably should have been there all along, but it seemed like a mistake this late in the game. Neither of our parents were any good at negotiating the stairs. They were in their eighties.

“I need a solemn promise from both of you,” I said, “that you will call one of us if you need anything out of the basement.” I used my most demanding tone and shook a finger at them to emphasize the seriousness of my command.

Mamma laughed at me. “Don’t be bossy, Jean.”

I sighed in exasperation. “Just promise me, Mamma.”

They both promised.

We called it a basement, but it was probably more accurate to call it a cellar. It housed the furnace and water heater. There was a finished bathroom down there, and a small spare bedroom, and not much else. Joe had used it as a little apartment during his college years, which was the only reason the bed and bath had been completed. There was plenty of room for the containers, well away from the furnace.

Once the room was cleared out, Daddy’s chair was placed beside the window, strategically angled for the best view. He refused to let us put either curtains or shades on it. Joe offered to replace the glass; it was scratched and old. “No, no,” Daddy said. “I like it. It has character.”

The house was old, and we always supposed the room’s original use was as a nursery, since it was right next to the master bedroom. It’s a tiny space, really, about six feet by eight feet, and has a little closet in one corner. Joe used that space to install a small television and stereo. We brought in a rocking chair for Mamma, so she could join him there at least part of the time.

Daddy’s plan was isolation, really. But we couldn’t allow him to just drift away from us. Yes, we enabled his move into the room, but we refused to let him spend all his time alone in there.

“I just want to look out the window,” he told us, his voice plaintive, almost too low to hear.

We gave him alone time in the morning. He would sit, sipping his first cup of coffee, watching the squirrels and birds in the trees outside. Mamma would join him for his second cup while I cooked breakfast, drinking her only cup while they watched the morning news together and remarked upon the sad state of the world.

As time progressed, it got harder and harder to coax Daddy out for breakfast, but I flat refused to serve him in that room, and I won that daily battle through bribery. “I have grapes,” I told him.

Daddy loved grapes. We never ran out of grapes.

After breakfast—which I worked hard to stretch into at least an hour of conversation and laughter—we all took a short walk with the little Yorkie, Fred. This, too, became a chore. Daddy wanted to go to his “spot.” Reminding him that Fred needed his exercise to stay healthy would eventually persuade him that getting out of the house for some fresh air was a good idea for all of us, but he often tried to get Mamma and I to go without him.

Daddy called it his room with a view. It was his refuge. He was relaxed there. When he was out and about, he was visibly agitated. “I want to go home,” he would whine, mere steps out the front gate. “Is it time to go home?”

“Almost,” I would tell him, and urge him on to the end of the street, where we turned and headed back. Daddy’s mood would shift then to anticipation, because he could see the house getting nearer with each step.

Fred was less enthusiastic, but soon learned that I would take him on a second, longer walk once Daddy was settled back into his chair.

Mamma started to crochet again, a hobby she had abandoned several years before. We would let Daddy sit and look out the window while his favorite music played, and she would fashion pretty doilies and afghans and try to engage him in conversation.

Over time, Daddy talked less and less. Mamma would chatter on and on, getting grunts in response. Finally, one day Mamma became completely exasperated with him and demanded, “What do you see out there, anyway?”

“The Johnsons are having a yard sale,” Daddy replied. “They have a purple sofa. It must be ten feet long.”

“What?” Mamma got up and peered through the little window. The Johnson’s house was on the other side of the street, not remotely visible from that angle. It was February; no one in their right mind would be having a yard sale. The day was gray and cold, and there was a light dusting of snow on the ground.

Mamma turned and looked at me.

I had just come in with a platter of crackers and cold cuts and mugs of green tea. I put them down on the little table between their chairs and went to look out the window as Mamma returned to her chair. “What else do they have, Daddy?”

“Well, the sofa is just ridiculous, Jean,” he replied. “But there’s a nice bookcase. Haven’t you been looking for one for your room?”

“Yes,” I agreed. “I’m about to go get the mail and take Freddie for a romp. I’ll check it out.” I gave Mamma a look, and she nodded understanding.

They say, “Don’t argue. Agree.” Well, what’s the harm in that? He could see what he could see, and there was no point in telling him it wasn’t really there.

Over the next few months we all came to agree that the room was good for him. He engaged with us, regaling us with stories of the scenes he viewed through this magical window.

The Millers had a spectacular fight one snowy afternoon. (It was July, but who cares?) They slid and fell in glorious slow motion, and Mrs. Miller impressed Daddy with her amazing triple-axel spin lead-in to the knockout punch that left Mr. Miller covered in three feet of freezing snow. Daddy invited us to call and report the abuse, and June faked a 911 call from the kitchen to save poor Mr. Miller from freezing to death.

The Andersons got a new puppy, one of Marmaduke proportions, sometime in May. The gigantic fellow made friends with tiny Yorkie Fred and visited often.

The Johnsons repeatedly tried to unload that ten-foot-long purple sofa. I bought the bookshelf. (I ordered one from a catalog and Joe put it together before I moved it to my room and showed it off to Daddy.) Then they added a pink-and-purple leopard-print easy chair that Daddy threatened to buy for Mamma. She laughed long and hard over that.

“I thought you liked purple,” Daddy teased.

“Not on easy chairs!”

“You’d look so cute sitting in that chair. I better go make an offer before it gets sold.”

“Jim, don’t you dare!” Mamma giggled.

Daddy looked at me. “Don’t you think your mother would look cute in that chair?”

“My mother looks cute in everything,” I agreed. “But that chair wouldn’t match anything in this house.”

“We could buy the purple sofa,” Daddy suggested, grinning.

“It’s too big,” I reasoned.

“Bummer.”

We never knew what we were going to get when we asked what Daddy was looking at. Sometimes there were scenes from the past: a wedding; a family reunion; a fishing trip.

Mostly it was our neighbors, acting silly.

It became my habit to sit with him for that first cup of coffee, and then go out to fix breakfast when Mamma joined him for the morning news. He was most “with” us during those early hours of the day, but drifting by the time we returned from our little walks.

His gait had begun to falter, and as summer faded into autumn, I was beginning to accept that he’d be unable to join us for walks once winter set in. He fell often. I called a home health service for physical therapy, hoping to build him up. I fed him numerous times a day, even breaking my own rule about breakfast in his sanctuary on those days when it became too much of a fight to get him to the kitchen.

He was losing weight, mostly muscle. My Daddy was shrinking.

He spent most of his time in the room now, and we no longer insisted it was too long. He was clearly most comfortable there. He had music and his magical window. He had company most of the day and evening. June and Joe and their families visited most days, and Mamma and I took turns sitting with him as well.

He didn’t make much eye contact with us anymore, but instead told us what was going on outside and shared anecdotes of the past in between. “Oh, look, Jill!” he cried one evening. “A Studebaker. Looks just like the one your grandpappy drove.”

Mamma obligingly looked out and exclaimed over the antique car. “Is it the same color?” she asked. “The light’s not good.”

Daddy squinted. “Nah, it looks like a lighter brown,” he said. “I wonder who it belongs to.”

“I don’t know.”

I was standing in the doorway, praying he wouldn’t see my mother’s grandfather get out of the car.

Luckily, the car drove away then, and Daddy never saw the driver.

One morning we saw the first flakes of snow. Winter had arrived, earlier than any of us cared to see it. Daddy remarked on it when I brought him his first cup of coffee. “Jeannie, it’s gonna be a rough one,” he said. “That’s a heavy snow, and the leaves haven’t dropped yet. Not a good sign.”

“Hmm,” I said, watching sadly as the snow piled on supple branches and caused them to sag under the weight. There would be no gradual turning of the leaves this fall; by morning they would be black and dead. Ugly. It was depressing. “I think I’ll make us some cinnamon rolls,” I announced. “That should cheer us up.”

“Sounds good to me,” Daddy said.

I could hear Mamma in the shower as I prepared the rolls and got them in the oven. She was getting dressed when I went back to Daddy’s room to ask if he was ready for a second cup of coffee.

At first, I thought he was sleeping, which was unusual for him at this time of day. His chin rested on his chest, his eyes were closed. His hands were neatly folded in his lap.

His coffee mug was on the window sill. The coffee in it was still warm enough to steam the windowpane into near opacity.

“Daddy?”

Nothing.

“Daddy?” I could feel my mother behind me. I could hear her sharp intake of breath. Still, I repeated for the third time: “Daddy?”

Daddy was gone.

He was right—the winter was a rough one, and in so many different ways. There were freakishly cold temperatures and much more than average snowfall.

We all go in the room from time to time, and sit in Daddy’s chair. We look out the window. We can see the trees in the yard and the road out front. We can barely see the Anderson’s front lawn where it meets the sidewalk. We can see a small patch of the Miller’s yard next door, and we can’t see the Johnson’s place at all.

But Daddy saw everything. A giant puppy. A purple sofa. A Studebaker. A triple-axel knockout snow fight. He saw it all from his room with a view, and all of us long to see it too, through his eyes and his storytelling.

Mamma wouldn’t let me move the coffee mug. It sat there for days, near the cold, cold glass. It sat there through the viewings and the services and the endless visits from friends and neighbors and family.

Finally, fearing a moldy mess, I snuck into the room after she was asleep one night and emptied the liquid from it, washed it and returned it to the spot Daddy had left it in.

It is still there.

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Please visit Paula on her blog: https://paulashablo.wordpress.com/

Rico Lamoureux: Window of Wonder

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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Window of Wonder

By Rico Lamoureux

I keep Grandma down in the basement, where she will forever remain. No, it’s not like that. I’m not a psycho, abuser, corpse collector. No, what I mean is her essence, her wisdom. Every weekend from as far back as I can remember, we’d come over to Grandma’s house, and with every visit she’d take me on down there to the bottom of the house, to the ‘window of wonder,’ as she would call it.

It was from here where she would gaze out and tell her stories. Everything from fairy tales she had committed to memory to her own personal journey through life, always over a mug of hot chocolate, always leaving me enthralled and with a want for more.

By the time I reached high school she needed my assisting shoulder to brace herself when we descended those creaky old steps, often telling me on the way down a piece of the old house’s one-hundred-and-fifty-year history. By the end of my last year of college, I started carrying her down in my arms, with her joking that I was now her Prince Charming, not only for having literally swept her off her feet but also due to the fact that I was leaving school with a Masters in Creative Writing.

“Seems like only yesterday when I was the one carrying you on down here to our window of wonder. Oh, how you’d marvel over the view as the wind tickled the grass and trees while I’d read you Charlotte’s Web, Willy Wonka, Freddie the Leaf.

“Remember getting in trouble with your folks for that one. Took you a long time before you could look at a fallen leaf and not cry, but it was a good teacher for you, was it not?”

Yes, Grandma, empathy is one of the most powerful tools we have as storytellers, I now understood.

Even on that last day, over that last mug of hot chocolate she had insisted on going on down to our window of wonder, our roles now reversed as I cradled her close, once again telling her the story of how I had landed my agent, sold my first book, signed my first contract.

How thrilled she had been to receive the first copy, those tears of joy falling down upon it when she had discovered the dedication page and her name right there in black ink.

A story she never tired of hearing, face as captivated as a child, soul as tickled as the prairie she looked out upon.

It was during this state of wonder, of peace when she closed her eyes for the last time, took her last breath and brought to an end this storybook life that made me into the man, the storyteller I am today.

I will never sell this house of inheritance and the rich history it continues to collect, never remove her mug from our window of wonder, never forget the priceless gift she has given me.

And thus Grandma will forever remain.

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Please visit Rico on his blog at https://theflashfictionponder.com/

Lisa Criss Griffin: Put Down The Coffee Cup!

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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Authors Note: A wake-up story for all my coffee-loving action/drama readers! Enjoy.

Put Down The Coffee Cup! 

By Lisa Criss Griffin

The steaming cup of coffee sat forgotten on the kitchen window sill as Mrs. Grant Barrington III expertly chambered a second shell into her double-barreled shotgun for good measure. She often wondered why criminals thought she was such an easy target. Lizzie Barrington was an elderly lady who lived alone, but she had never been helpless.

This was not her first experience with thieves who thought they could take advantage of an old widow. Lizzie had already called 911, and she hoped the police would arrive before the fools did something stupid. She felt no remorse as she watched the hooded men hiding in her landscaping stealthily advance on her home. She pressed her slim body against the wall next to the window in the darkened room, watching the intruders sneak up to her back door in the moonlight.

The doorknob on her back door slowly turned and rattled as someone attempted to discover if it was locked or not. She slipped quietly into position behind her kitchen island, the shotgun pointed directly toward the door. Her finger slid to the safety button on the weapon and it released with an inaudible click. She could hear the thugs talking and prayed they would make a wise choice and leave.

“It don’t matter if it’s locked! It’s a friggin’ wood door…just kick the sucker in!”

“Hey, screw you, man! You’re the one who wanted to mess up the old lady and sell her stuff. I thought we were going out to get high, not rob some ole widow.”

“And how the hell did you think we were going to get the money to pay Nick so we can get high? Now, kick in the damn door, Danno!”

“You kick it in, Lester, ’cause I ain’t doin’ it!”

Lester backed up and took a run at the door, ramming it with his hefty shoulder. The door shuddered and cracked, but the extra-long security wood screws in the lock plate refused to give way.

“What the…!” Lester muttered in surprise.

He placed a well aimed kick close to the doorknob. The screws ripped out of the wooden door jamb, ejecting small chunks of splintered wood into the air. Lester shoved the door in against the wall violently, the doorknob punching a hole into the painted drywall behind it. The bright moonlight silhouetted Lester’s tall stocky body as he stepped into what remained of the doorway.

“Get out right now mister, or I will blow your ass to kingdom come!” Lizzie said loudly in an icy cold voice.

She watched the other thief turn and scurry away toward the road. Lester wavered indecisively for a few seconds before he stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a cast iron skillet lying on the counter next to the battered doorway.

“Give it up, old lady, or I will whack you good!” Lester blustered angrily.

Irrational rage roared through damaged synapses of his pickled brain, spurring him into action. Lester surged into the kitchen, waving the heavy skillet threateningly as he strode toward the kitchen island.

BOOOOOOM!!!

Lizzie pulled the trigger on the shotgun and almost fell from the kick of the weapon. She reluctantly viewed the ensuing carnage as it unfolded before her eyes in slow motion.

The pellets tore through Lester’s body, causing a large red stain to instantly bloom across his dirty gray shirt. Droplets of bright red blood sprayed the doorway and part of the kitchen as he staggered from the power of the blast. The pellet-riddled skillet dropped to the floor with an ominous thud as Lester fell backward into the damaged doorway. Glistening rivulets of blood from his quivering torso began to creep across the linoleum as his horrified eyes stared up in shock at the red droplets lightly spattered across the white ceiling.

“I’m sorry…lady,” Lester gurgled. “You were right…to stop me…I was going…to kill you. I’m…really…….sorry.”

“I forgive you…Lester,” Lizzy whispered, completely aghast as she stood up and flipped on the kitchen lights.

The sound of sirens coming up the road snapped Lizzy back into real time. Suddenly, the place was swarming with law enforcement and first responders. The cacophonous shouting of orders blended with the intense strobing of multiple blue and red lights. She watched them remove Lester, unsure if he would live or not. Lizzy gave her statement to a solemn cop who understandably asked her for every minute detail she could recall. Officers crowded into her kitchen taking pictures and making notes.

Lizzy leaned back against her kitchen sink, watching the ordered chaos around her with jaded eyes. It seemed like the world had gone to hell in a handbasket since her husband Grant died unexpectedly four years ago. People had truly gone crazy, and she was getting tired of dealing with the deranged, the addicted and the lazy. Even worse were the chronically offended, entitled moochers living off the taxes she still had to pay every year to keep them housed, fed and provided with the medical care she could not begin to afford for herself until she finally qualified for Medicare.

Grant and Lizzie bought the small hobby farm when their children finished college, hoping for a more relaxed and wholesome lifestyle. They always planted a big organic vegetable garden and Lizzie planted an orchard the first year they moved in. They had apples, pears, peaches, cherries, blueberries and raspberries. It wasn’t too long before they had chickens, and honeybees too.

Their farm was pretty far out in the country and off the main road, so it surprised them both when the robberies started. They had not been the only ones targeted, and the sheriff told them it was mostly due to the ongoing meth problem. The thieves seemed content with stealing produce the first few years, then they began to take some of the smaller pieces of farm equipment from the barn.

Grant had suffered a massive heart attack when he surprised some thieves one morning before dawn. By the time Lizzy found him, he was lying in the yard semiconscious. He slipped into a coma and never recovered. Lizzie was a devastated widow less than a week later. As part of her plan to remain on their hobby farm, Lizzie bought several firearms and learned to shoot them proficiently. She had used them before to ward off thieves, but tonight was the first time she truly feared for her life. It had come down to either her or Lester tonight, and it wasn’t going to be her…this time.

~o0o~

Three months later, Lizzie walked into her freshly painted, refurbished kitchen. She poured herself a lovely cup of coffee and leaned against the wall as she gazed out the kitchen window pensively. She sipped her favorite brew slowly, enjoying the warmth and the fabulous flavor.

Lester miraculously survived the shotgun blast and seemed to be turning his life around. He had entered an extended-stay recovery program and by all accounts was doing well. His buddy Danno had been arrested shortly after the attempted robbery at Lizzie’s farm and confessed the entire story to the police. After a short stint in jail, he was placed in the same drug rehabilitation program Lester entered.

A furtive movement by the edge of the back yard caught Lizzie’s attention. A couple of figures dressed in dark clothing sneaked behind her Rose of Sharon bushes toward the house. Lizzie sighed and put her coffee cup down on the window sill. They were getting bolder…it wasn’t even dark yet. She pulled out her shotgun and loaded it, just like she had done multiple times before. She dialed 911, knowing the dispatcher would recognize her number.

This time might be different though. Lizzie had installed a new security feature. She made sure the safety was on her gun before she walked over to the metal back door. She flipped a switch and waited. She glanced up at the new monitor on her kitchen wall and watched the intruders make their way to the back entrance of her home.

The first figure pulled out a handgun, checked it and then reached for the doorknob. Lizzie smiled enigmatically in anticipation as his hand grasped the metal knob.

“Aaaauuuuuuugh, aaaauuuuuugh, aaauuuuuuuugh!!!” the first intruder screamed as searing volts of electricity coursed through his body! As his body jerked uncontrollably, he dropped his handgun on the cement, causing it to go off. The second intruder screamed along with his buddy, grabbed his leg and fell to the ground, writhing in pain.

Lizzie flipped the switch off and opened the back door. She trained her shotgun on the two men lying on the ground.

“Don’t move, or I will blow both your asses to kingdom come!” Lizzie said coldly.

She held them at bay until law enforcement and the first responders arrived. Once she had given her statement to the officer, she went back inside. She waited until everyone left before she switched the electrical part of her new security system back on. The video system encompassed all the yard areas, including the outside walls of her house. The switch activated the newly installed electrical security system integrated into all the points of entry into her home and the perimeter fencing around her property.

Lizzie brewed another cup of coffee and used it to make herself an Irish Coffee with whipped cream. She walked to the living room and eased back into her favorite recliner. She flipped on the Sirius classical music channel and lost herself in the beauty of Clair de Lune by Debussy as she slowly sipped the soothing cup of java.

She giggled and shook her head as she remembered something Grant used to say about her…and her extreme love for coffee.

“If you make my Lizzie put down her beloved cup of coffee, there will be hell to pay! She might even blast you into kingdom come!” he would say with all sincerity and a twinkle in his eye.

Boy, was he ever right!

Copyright 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin All rights reserved

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Enzo Stephens: Just Stay Home

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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Just Stay Home

By Enzo Stephens

The convenience store was an island of bright light in a sea of post-two-am darkness, with skies that were heavy with quick-moving clouds threatening to burst with torrential rains.

One lone late-model sedan populated one of many gasoline and diesel pumps. A pickup truck was perched in a parking slot along the front of the store. The only other motion evident on this quiet, still night was the fluttering mass of moths that were dive-bombing the lights over the fuel pumps.

A tall man entered the convenience store, pushing through the double-glass doors leaving a bell tinkling merrily in his wake. Inside was even more brightly lit than the outside, and the tension in the store was a living, breathing thing. The long, impeccably dressed man paid it no mind, stepping off to his immediate right to make his way back toward the banks of floor-to-ceiling coolers that comprised the back wall of the store. The heels of his crisp black Italian loafers clicked softly on the shiny tiled floor.

He spied his reflection in an overhead mirror; age indeterminate, salt-and-pepper hair carefully styled and arranged, body wrapped in a fine, dark blue suit, covered by a long, gray raincoat. A black Homburg hat rested on his head like it belonged there. He stepped past the mirror to the first of the bank of coolers which housed racks upon racks of various brands of beer. 

The man was not interested in beer, and so he moved on to examine the next cooler. He heard shouting; an angry man’s voice, coming from around the center of the store. The tall man registered the angry voice and the responding pleading voice, but single-mindedly continued on in his quest for a specific beverage, gliding past the second bank of coolers and then the third bank, which seemed entirely devoted to beer. 

He stepped up to the fourth bank of glass doors and stopped, finally landing on the treasure that he sought. And yet, there were so many different kinds? Monster—about ten different varieties and sizes of that one; Rockstar, NOS, Burn, Relentless, Street King, Lucozade, Full Throttle and Venom Energy to name a few. It was all very confusing, and the tall man sucked noisily at a tooth in annoyance at the prospect of having to read label after label just to get a refreshing drink with a kick.

He glanced at the next rack and frowned at the countless rows of mocha and coffee-flavored drinks. He turned back to the colorful array before him and selected the granddaddy of them all; Red Bull. He opted for sugar-free, as he read somewhere that sugar was addictive and Lord knows he did not need any of THAT in his life.

Decision made, he gazed longingly at the gleaming can with the little beads of sweat sliding down its sides. The tall man closed the door to the cooler and stepped back along an aisle with an unending volume of healthy protein and fiber bars. He shook his head at the seeming insanity of so many choices, set his jaw and moved along to the end of the aisle, stepping past a gleaming and brightly lit soda fountain with about a hundred different choices available. He saw six different kinds of Coke!

We live in a land of excess, he thought sadly as he moved toward the center of the store. He stopped to watch the tableau of the loud-voiced guy and the pleading guy. Seemed like he’d walked straight into a ‘situation’, as his father liked to call things like these.

The loud guy was actually pretty hyper, gesticulating wildly with a handgun; it appeared to be a Glock, yelling at a guy behind the counter a whole bevy of instructions that would confuse most people. “Get back! Keep you hands up! Gimme the money! Don’t do anything stupid. C’mon, c’mon, I ain’t got all night!”

The poor guy behind the counter looked like he didn’t have a clue. He’d reach for the cash register and the Glock-waving guy would scream at him again and he’d step back with his hands in the air. Spittle flew from the small, highly agitated Glock-waving guy. He kicked over a display of Cheetos, which actually looked pretty good to the well-dressed tall man. But only for a moment as he kept himself to a very strict diet and there would be no cheating on junk like Cheetos. He cleared his throat, which sounded deafening in the store.

Both men looked at him. He stepped up to the counter alongside the man waving the Glock and placed his sugar-free Red Bull on the counter. He nodded to the man with the Glock, who immediately went apoplectic. 

“Are you kiddin’ me, man! You see this?” he shouted, waving the weapon in the air over his head. The tall man stared at him.

He spoke calmly to the animated guy. “Well, sure I see it. Looks like a Glock. You’re going to want to be careful with that thing; I don’t think it has a safety on it.”

The clerk behind the counter shook his head at the tall man vigorously while the gunman stepped closer to him, screaming. “What’s wrong with you man? Get yo dumb gringo ass down on the floor NOW or I shoot you DEAD.”

The tall man looked at him, still calm. “I just want to buy my drink and I’ll be on my way.”

“What?! Piss on your drink!” he bellowed and then squeezed off a wild shot, punching a neat hole through the can of Red Bull and sending it spinning in a frothy spray off the counter. The tall man stepped back to avoid the foaming liquid. It splattered the clerk.

“That was my drink,” the tall man said.

“I said get yo ass down!” screamed the gunman, pointing the weapon sideways at the tall man; which was a very common mistake among thugs like this guy. It looked cool, but it was pretty stupid.

The tall man reached up slowly, lifting his Homburg, and ran a large hand over his speckled hair and then replaced his hat. “No, I don’t think so. This floor looks pretty clean but I don’t want anything on these pants.”

“WHA—” began the gunman.

The tall man moved the distance separating him from the gunman with inhuman speed. One moment he was in front of the counter, the next he had a vise-like hand clamped on the back of the gunman’s neck and the other wrapped around the shooter’s gun-hand, squeezing, squeezing, and crushing the guy’s hand against the hard, unyielding polycarbonate grip. Bones cracked and the guy screamed and the tall man could see his fouled teeth, which told him the guy was a meth-head who hit the pipe often; far too often.

In a blink of an eye, the tall man introduced the gunman’s head to the front of the convenience store’s main counter in a blur that ended in a loud crunch with splintering wood, and the gunman sagged to the floor, motionless, his head punched partially through the panel.

The tall man leaned over the downed gunman and wiped his gloves off on the man’s tee-shirt. He looked up at the clerk, who was both stunned and shocked at the sudden development, but then the ole wheels turned for the guy and he realized that a potentially very bad situation that could have been the end of his days had suddenly and happily reversed. He began to say “Thank y—”

The tall man glanced up over the clerk’s head toward the ceiling, then nodded to the clerk. “That thing working?”

“What?” he asked and then his eyes looked up to the ceiling behind him, spying a closed circuit-camera. There was no blinking red light, indicating that it was not recording. He turned to the tall man and said unnecessarily, “No.”

The tall man said, “Good. How much for another Red Bull.”

“Dude! It’s on the house, man.”

The tall man stepped up to the counter, beside the motionless gunman. The clerk stepped forward, hand outstretched to shake the hand of the man who’d likely just saved his life. The tall man accepted the handshake, then yanked forward suddenly and with tremendous force as the blade of his other hand swung in a blurred horizontal plane which ended with a dull, meaty thud at the clerk’s throat.

His head snapped back, eyes rolling up in his head and breath suddenly seemed to be stuck in the guy’s ravaged throat, and he dropped to the floor behind the counter, strangling on his crushed larynx. The tall man watched him struggle weakly, his face turning ashen and his lips turning blue. 

The tall man turned away and retreated to the fourth bank of coolers in the rear of the store and removed another sugar-free Red Bull. He stepped back up to the counter, dropped a five-dollar bill, and then stepped to the door of the convenience store, which was suddenly opened for him by a dark giant dressed in livery.

The tall man stepped past the giant, who rumbled, “Everything okay, sir?” as he opened the rear door of a gleaming Bentley Mulsanne. 

The tall man removed his Homburg. “No witnesses, Ernie. Nothing for you to have to clean up in there.”

“Yes, sir.” Ernie shut the door and compressed his heavily muscled six-foot-eight frame into the driver’s seat of the vehicle.

The Bentley slid away from the convenience store quietly, making its way out of Broken Arrow toward Tulsa.

All this could have been avoided had he just stayed home and enjoyed his customary coffee. But what fun would that have been?

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