Awesome job guys, you should all count yourselves lucky you didn't have to see this week's picture prompt.
Live long and Prosper? Gee Mr. Burgess...that sounds like something I've heard before...can't quite put my finger on in...
Before we were writers, we read, right?
Well, maybe not all of us. Before Drake could read he had already written the epic fantasy "The Witch and the Letter H". He used his Dad's 'to-do' notepad and made many squiggles surrounding a stick figure with a triangle that floated about a foot above her head. He then 'read' this to me and it sounded a lot like hansel and gretel. I told him it was brilliant but...between us...if I didnt know him and I was writing a review for Goodreads...I would have told him that his attempt to 'write' a book without words was unique, but still failed, because I had no idea what the hell was going on and that the letter H was purely a one dimensional character and that it read like fan fic and uhhhh...sorry but one star, and also, you should burn your crayons.(Of course it would only be because I was so insanely jealous that I hadn't thought of writing a book without words myself...)
Anywhoooo...the gist of what I'm saying is that there was a point where you were reading and you thought, 'damn dude, I want to do this, I should do this, I could do this, I need to do this.' Who inspired you then? Or maybe who inspires you now? What author stands out above all others to you?
For me it's Burgess or Bulgakov, and really it's Burgess who inspires this prompt. He, in turn, was inspired by quite a few people. He wrote '1985' as a tribute to George Orwell. His novel Nothing Like the Sun was a fictional retelling of part of Shakespeare's life, and there was Re Joyce, which is basically an intro to Joyce for people that just don't get it. (cough*still dont get it *cough cough),
So, your challenge: pick the author who most inspires you. Steal...I mean borrow... one of their characters and put them in a short story. This one should be fun.
Bilbo’s aging Aunt Camellia had been at Bag End for one whole week and Bilbo was nearly beside himself with that nervousy feeling that she brought into his comfortable hobbit hole with her. He was already nervous enough having only been back in the Shire for a month or so, his toes itching to return to the road the entire time. He missed Gandalf. He missed Elrond. He missed the dwarves and he mourned Thorin Oakenshield, who had been slain in the Battle of the Five Armies.
Aunt Camellia, one of those terribly annoying Sackville-Bagginses that Bilbo tried so hard to avoid, had arrived promptly at tea time dragging a large, black, traveling bag along behind her. It looked like the sort of bag that might contain enough clothing to tide one over for a very long visit.
Being a polite nephew, Bilbo answered the door with a ‘welcome’ and an ‘at your service’, though serving Aunt Camellia, or any of the Sackville-Bagginses was the last thing he truly wanted to do on that particular afternoon. He’d planned to while away the day in his lovely and peaceful garden and perhaps even do a little fishing with his nephew Frodo.
He needn’t have worried about serving her though as she pushed inside and announced that she’d come to take care of him!
“Longo and I have been so worried about you,” she explained. “Honestly, Bilbo, what’s gotten into you—going off on adventures and all? Keeping company with wizards and dwarves and who knows what other sorts of creatures! What would your poor father have thought? He was such a respectable hobbit. There always was something queer about you. I warned Balbo about marrying into the Took family!”
And take care of him she did. It was as if Camellia Sackville thought that being adventuresome was a disease that one could recover from if one were fed enough chicken soup. From the moment she entered Bag End she’d cooked and cleaned with an energy that Bilbo found remarkable for a hobbit of her advanced age. She’d rearranged his pantries and larders, dusted and sorted all of the many volumes in his library to the point that he could no longer find so much as one of his favorite books, beat the carpets, polished the silver, and starched his shirts. And she fed him.
Before the long journey to the Lonely Mountain, Bilbo had enjoyed six meals a day but he’d learned to live on a considerable amount less since then. It seemed that Aunt Camellia was determined to feed the Took out of him. There were meat pies and seedcakes, breads and pastries, crumpets and scones with honey. There were roasts and stews, and rashers of bacon and eggs. There were potatoes—boiled and mashed, fried, re-fried and home-fried. There were potatoes in soups, potato toppings and potato pancakes. Bilbo, who once loved food and feasting as much as anything else in life, had begun to miss being hungry and he felt even more Tookish than ever. He’d rather a hundred giant spiders than one Aunt Camellia Sackville! Plus, at her age, and impossibly thin with a decided limp, she looked rather like Gollum into the bargain.
He’d only just managed to sneak past her this morning with the help of the ring, disappearing before she could force a third breakfast on him, no doubt followed by hot tea and cakes. He could hear her calling out for him in her raspy Gollum voice from the dining hall.
“Bilbo! Oh, Bilbo! I’ve made a nice meal for you! Raspberry muffins, and ham and potato puffs!”
Bilbo thought longingly of Elrond and elvish bread and the strange warmth that spread through one’s limbs upon consuming the stuff. There wasn’t a potato in the whole of the Shire that could come close to giving the feeling of elvish bread when laid on a stomach hungry from a long day’s march.
It was quiet here in the library and Bilbo sighed as he pulled a sheet of parchment out of the cubby hole in his desk. Removing his quill, he dipped the tip into his inkwell and began to scratch letters onto the paper.
There and Back Again
In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole and that means comfort…
Well, here we go- I just read an awful book. No, I'm lying, I didn't finish it, so I can't really claim to have read it. To be fair it's only an MS, one that was never published because the author had written it long ago and never really felt confident that it was good enough. The author showed a lot of talent for plotting and uses wonderfully descriptive language. It's just that the dialogue is so unbearably awful. Tragically bad, (Yes I'm being a bastard, but really the kind that makes you physically cringe, there's one character who even makes an attempt at displaying an accent which is just...just...ohhhhh, again so tragic.)
Anyhow, guess what your challenge is this week friends? hahahaha. yup.
Here's the prompt, take a look at the picture below. What are these two people talking about? I want you to write a dialogue, and I would like to see it screenplay style. If you want to include movement or character actions, do it sparingly and in italics. Focus on the words, what's coming out of their mouths? Can't wait to see what you guys come up
Entry/Winner: Peazy Monellon
Location: Purgatory—the scrubber’s lab. A scrubber’s job is to delve inside newly received souls, inventory the contents and scrub it clean, effectively decommissioning it so that it can be put back on the shelf and used again. Bodyn and Jik have been hard at work inside this soul and have just popped out for a breath of air before continuing.
Bodyn: Bloody hell, it stinks down there! Last one that smelled this bad was that fellow… what was his name—Mitchell? Remember? The crooked cop?
Jik: Right! I remember that guy. He was a nasty bit. I couldn’t eat for days after, I was so sick. Every time I’d go to take a bite, I’d remember…(gags)
Bodyn: Dirty cop—that’s a courtesy sniff, for sure. Probably the worst assignment you can get.
Jik: I don’t know, bill collectors are bad too. I hate doing the bill collectors.
Bodyn: Telemarketers! Telemarketers stink to the high heavens!
Jik: Nah, I think bill collectors are worse. Bill collectors and insurance salesmen. Last time I scrubbed one of those I had to burn my clothes! Must’ve showered a dozen times before I got the smell out of my hair!
Bodyn: Well I don’t know what’s going on down there, but there’s more and more of these nasty ones every day. It didn’t used to be like this. Where are all the sweet, old grannies that smell like roses and lavender? Do you think that bugger Austy is just giving us the business? Sending us all the bad ones?
Jik: Austy! What a prick! Hope I don’t have to scrub him when his time comes.
Bodyn: (sighing) Back to it then. Might as well get it done and over with. One more and we can knock off for the day.
Jik: Yeah. Wonder what they’ll send us next? With our luck it’ll probably be a child molester or some serial killer.
Bodyn: Or some creepy rock star that bites the heads off bats!
Jik: Eewwwwwwwww! I need a vacation.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
These were taken from a fun quiz I was wasting time on...can you identify the opening lines from some of the greatest works in western literature? Which makes me think. Over the past couple of years, I tend to read up on the subject of what sells in today's publishing climate. You will get a general consensus that with the public's short attention span, a writer must deliver a bang opening line, and quickly follow it up with conflict, action, etc. This is the theory behind the basis for many 'first 250' type contests. It has even been postulated by a few in the publishing industry that description heavy openings, like you'd read in classics such as A Tale of Two Cities or Gone With the Wind, would be a dealbreaker with most editors. Going so far as to say that these books might never have been published if they were shopped in today's market. It's also generally accepted that authors should never, never open a book with a character being deeply introspective or by being alone 'thinking things over'
So if you haven't already guessed, this prompt will be a first 250. Specifically, an exercise in the art of attention-grabbing. You must come up with the greatest opening line you possibly can, because your opening line is what you will be judged on, but remember, it's being judged in the context of the beginning of a novel, so your following words have got to back it up. No fair opening with an exploding turkey on rye sandwich and then musing on the state of politics on the planet Horsen 4-unless you can definitively link them in 250 words.
Entries:Winner: Heather Bserani
A scream pierced the dark, sending birds into spontaneous flight. The crickets ceased their night song and Dori’s eyes dilated. She knew that voice, it was her daughter, Layla. Her heart dropped into her stomach as the adrenaline hit her blood.
Ducking under branches and leaping over bushes, Dori’s feet couldn’t move fast enough. She all but disappeared with speed, exploding into action at the first sound of her daughter’s distress. How could she have been so far away while her child lay vulnerable?
The house grew larger as she approached, a thin layer of wood separating her from her endangered child. It would be nothing to break through the wall, it wouldn’t even slow her down, but despite being cloaked in the dark of night, she drew up short. She stood feet from her screaming child, incapable of rescuing her, all because the world believed she was dead. In every aspect of the word she was, but here she stood, debating the trauma it would cause her three year old if she burst through the wall to rescue her.
Seconds ticked by while Dori dithered outside, paralyzed with indecision. Could a member of Percy’s coven have followed her here, determined to take revenge? Her hands clenched into tight fists. She drew her arm back to strike when Layla’s shrieks cut off abruptly. The child’s slight heart fluttered like a butterfly caught in a tornado. Despite her astute hearing, Dori could only hear muffled whispering. Gritting her teeth she struck.
Runner Up: Peazy Monellon
Aila had sent the devil himself back to hell with barely a fanfare but it would not go so easily with the daemon Inari.
“Who is Inari?” Mikko called, his question lost on the wind.
They rode with the urgency of Gods across the wide plain, keeping Mt. Ennor to the East of them. Mikko was chilled through though he suspected the cold came not from the snowy peaks but from Aila herself as she rode the wave of icy determination.
“Hoah,” she cried, pulling hard on the reins. “What nonsense this?”
“My Queen,” Mikko answered. “Where is the need that we might not stop for a breath or a bed? It’s been three days hard ride--”
“We rest when it’s over,” She said. There was no give in her voice, nor any in her steely eyes. “We rest when he rests. Indeed, when the whole of his children rest beside him in a fiery grave. It’s the only way.”
“But why us, Aila? Why not send the guards?”
“There is not a man to spare. You know very well that the guards are needed in the battles at Trefusis and Penrice. ”
“Must we murder them all then? Down to every child?”
“To the last,” she answered coldly.
“But who is Inari?”
“Inari is the filthy bastard who planted his terrible, cold seed in my own mother’s womb.”
“But!” Mikko cried in protest, “doesn’t that mean—“
“Hae!” The white Queen cried, and spurred her horse onward. “Away!”
It was a dark and stormy night. Seriously. The sky was as black as the Devil's asshole and the rain was coming down in chunks. Miranda, being Miranda, slept through the whole thing like the universe was rocking her to sleep while I, being me, bounced around like a chimp in a monkey whorehouse with a bag of bananas. There was no way I was going to pull off a 200 yard shot like the trained sniper I advertised myself to be on Craigslist. Sleeping beauty, after gently coasting down the river drool on a goose down raft, was going to have to pull one of her sometimes-cars-just-explode magic tricks if we were get gonna paid. And we had to get paid. Private school doesn't come cheap and I refuse to spend the night anywhere that doesn't have enough stars in its ranking to make a decent constellation. Miranda would be happy running through the woods with a knife between her teeth, killing her supper with her own two hands, but she was raised by savages. I loved her, but she was never going to understand that hair metal didn't qualify as real music or appreciate the subtlety of a foreign film. That meant that little Arelia's only hope of having a cultured childhood was to stay at the Chapin School for Gifted Youngsters. That also meant we had to get paid. I pulled the covers over her shoulder and fluffed her soggy pillow; one of us should be rested.
The first words are ever the most difficult to put down and this tale is no exception. As the story draws on, my sentiments will inevitably take on a feverish quality as my fingers do battle with the rush of my mind. I can only hope that these lines will continue to make sense to you as they do me, for my urge to communicate has grown to a paramount these past few months.
Yet in order to see these developments, we- that is, you, the reader, and I- must review the rut to which I had condemned myself at an early age. Glancing over a childhood filled with angst and emotional neglect (as few are without), I find that my thoughts stray to the sultry afternoon of July the twelfth, interim of junior and senior years.
I was not alone. The subsequent head trauma had not hazed that aspect of my day. His name was Zach Armstrong, the boy whose head was forever turned in my direction. He wasn’t much of a heartthrob. Zach had hair that he called light brown, that I called grey, but we both knew was essentially colorless. He was laughably slender, a vision enhanced all the more by the foolishly oversized tee shirts he sported in this heat. And yet, this was my casual love interest.
All our movements slow, dignified, we dug our bare feet into the earth below us, kicking at pebbles in our hormonal urge to be close to one another.
Okay, here's a picture prompt for you guys. Nothing sneaky or work-ish about it. Just tell me, what the F- happened , on a beautiful May morning that could have possibly led to this...
I've never met anybody that's been to a tea party rally...I think I might have just discovered why...
Winner: Peazy Monellon
Yeah, yeah, we lost the bet. This is a shot of the Loyal Order of the Moose, lodge number 384 doing the walk of shame all over Panama City Beach. Hear me out first though, and then judge if you want to. I wonder if you’d have fared any better.
It was all Tony’s fault to begin with. That would be our Tony Paretti, who’s been a member for years now. Tony’s a great guy but he’s got more machismo coursing through his 5’4” frame than the whole of Latin America. Well, he did have, anyways, before the bet.
It’s always the little guys that have the big mouths, isn’t it?
So we were out at a local pub, having a great time and Tony’s trying to hit on a couple of blond chicks at the bar, which admittedly he shouldn’t have been doing since he’s married but we all knew he wasn’t prepared to carry any of it through, so it was no big deal. Call it a mid-life crisis if you want—he just likes to see if he’s still got ‘it’. No one was paying much attention really, until the discussion started to get loud. Next thing I know, Tony is preening like a cock rooster and swearing up hill and down to these women that anything they can do, he can do better. Which is pretty goofy, right? Because it’s not like they asked him to arm wrestle or something crazy like that.
“Oh really?” Blond number one answers. “I had a baby and never asked for pain medication. Could you do that?”
“Phhhfffffffffff,” Tony answers. “What are you kiddin’ me here? No problem.” Tony has that thick New York, Italian accent, you know.
I should mention here that we’d all been in the bar for some time and our judgment was probably impaired. Plus, this is a challenge that bears little threat for us since there’s no way it can be brought to fruition. Or that’s what we thought, anyway, when we went ahead and bet the farm on it. Long story short, we made our wagers and agreed to meet these two at a location downtown two days later wherein they promised that Tony Paretti, was in fact, going to be having a baby.
It was to be Tony’s fourth, as he’d had three children vicariously through his wife Maria, who is apparently a real trouper when it comes to child birthing because he said it was no big deal. We had no worries going in as we tried to imagine how this would all be pulled off. Would they make him wear one of those phony pregnancy suits and walk around in spike heels for a bit? Show him a gory video perhaps? We laughed all the way downtown! Tony’s a tough one. Korean vet who worked in construction for thirty years. Surely these two dumb blonds couldn’t dish out anything that he wouldn’t be able to take. We were like a bunch of high school guys again walking up the sidewalk together, punching and poking one another as we teased Tony about his swollen ankles and his weird food cravings. I’ve never been more sure of a bet in my life!
But that was before we saw the nameplate on the office door:
Elizabeth W. Hurley, Licensed Hypnotherapist
Damn the Suffragists and the whole feminist movement! Never mind the right to vote—we never should have given them access to books!
Tony looked nervous for all of ten seconds and then the machismo kicked in.
“Listen, yous guys,” he said. “This hypnosis stuff—it ain’t real. What a buncha garbage, eh? These broads got a big surprise comin’ to ‘em if they think they could pull this stuff on me!”
Fifteen minutes later at the hands of Ms. Hurley (henceforth known to us as the Marchioness De Sade) and a bewildered Tony Paretti was lying half-naked on a couch, covered by a sheet and one hundred percent convinced that he had a vagina.
Not only did he have a vagina, but he had a cervix that was dilated till five, his mountainous breasts were aching and he’d never been as hungry for a pepperoni pizza in his entire life!
The pains were mild at this stage and he was handling it nicely, though a thin sheen of sweat had broken out on his face and chest. I began to worry when he asked if he might have some ‘lovely ice chips’ to suck on. Apparently he was having no trouble getting in touch with his feminine side because right after that his ‘water broke’. He just lay there all proud and smiling at us like he’d laid a golden egg or something.
Blond number two, Barbara Dixon, or Nurse Ratchet as we’ve come to know her, assisted the Marchioness by displaying a tantalizing array of hypodermic needles on a tray, presumably filled with liquid pain relief—and an order of perfect happiness on the side.
“Any time you’re ready, Mr. Paretti,” she offered, her voice all friendly-like as she waved her hand in front of the tray like Vanna Friggin’ White. I wasn’t sure if I should be embarrassed or relieved when Tony said, “No thanks,” and explained to her that he wouldn’t take the chance that he’d hurt his baby that way.
“No problem,” Nurse Ratchet said and began to demonstrate Lamaze breathing techniques.
And then the Marchioness suggested that the pains were growing harder. In fact, she explained, “it feels as though a twelve inch butcher knife is being driven into your abdomen.”
Tony’s expression went from one of happy anticipation to complete and utter pain-wracked horror within seconds.
“driven straight in and twisted around,” the Marchioness added.
“Gakkkkk…” Tony cried gripping the edge of the nearby coffee table with white knuckles. “Ah ma mi, that friggin huuurrts!”
I think he might have been convinced to take the pain meds right then and there, baby be damned, if Ms. Hurley hadn’t interceded, but like the proverbial cat, she had her a mouse and she’d come to play.
“Very nice, Mr. Paretti,” she soothed. “You’re doing fine. This one’s over now.”
For the next half-hour or so, Dr. Hurley made a game of increasing the intensity of the pain until poor Tony was ready to crack and then backing it off for a bit. This she did with all the sensitivity and compassion of Dr. Mengele. Our manly man Tony was soon panting like a dog, legs spread wide open, with his package hanging out, the tears just streaming down his cheeks.
“Dilated till eight, Mr. Paretti,” Nurse Ratchet offered. “I can still get you that shot.”
But the pain was backing off again and though Tony looked hungrily at the needle, he once again declined the medicine.
I was starting to think we were going to make it through this but I hadn’t taken into account the devious nature of women. The pains started coming quicker now and Ms. Mengele added intense pressure to the pain as Tony’s imaginary baby began to squeeze its way down the birth canal.
“Oh my gosh!” She said excitedly. “Any time now, and it looks like it’s going to be a big one!”
“Yeah?” Tony said, through excited tears. “Soon?”
“Yeah, but the pains are getting worse now. They’re radiating through your back, every muscle in your body is tense and contracting and that knife? Twisting and pulling…tearing its way through your gut…”
“Oopsey,” Nurse Ratchet chimed in. “Let me just get that blood.” Tony was white as a sheet as she pretended to mop up blood with a white towel. “Sheesh,” she said, “there sure is a lot of it.”
“Pains are getting worse now,” Dr. Hurley added. “And closer together. So close, that there’s not really any time between them anymore. And the pressure! It feels like it’s going to tear you in half!”
Right about then Tony started praying. In between screams, he called out to Jesus and Mary and all the saints, begging for mercy and intercession. He begged St. Christopher and St. Theresa to take away the pain. He apologized for every sin he’d ever committed, and cursed every enemy he ever had. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
“Heavenly Father,” he begged, “Please come get me and take me the hell home!”
And then that sonofabitch begged for the needle like a junkie on his second day at a detox unit.
And there went the bet! That was bad enough but Dr. Mengele wasn’t finished with him yet. She looked at Nurse Ratchet and gave a firm head-shake, to which Nurse Ratchet responded by telling Tony that he was dilated till ten and it was too late for the shot.
“It’s crowning now,” the doctor said. “I can almost see the head! Oh Wow, that’s a big head! That head’s the size of Texas! Waaaaaaaaaayyyy too big to be coming out of that teeeeeennnnyyy tiny canal! This is going to be like pushing a watermelon through a keyhole. Oh boy, this is gonna hurt!”
Tough guy Tony was now crying like a little bitch!
“Make it stop,” he screamed, “I can’t take it anymore!”
“Uh oh,” Dr. Mengele added nervously, her eyes shifting from Tony’s ‘vagina’ to the amused gaze of Nurse Ratchet.
“What?” Tony whined. “Is something wrong with my baby?”
“This ain’t good.”
“Please,” Tony sobbed. “Please don’t let my baby die!”
“He’s going to need a little help, Nurse. Can I get those forceps?”
Tony’s eyes went dinner-plate large as Nurse Ratchet produced the instrument of torture along with a toothy, knowing grin.
“What the hell are you gonna do with that?” he cried, his face misshapen with terror.
What happened next had to be the cruelest thing I ever saw.
Dr. Mengele leaned in with a terrible leer on her face and said, “We’re going in!”
And then the bastard fainted.
Came to a minute or so later in a puddle of his own piss, and to a chorus of laughter. He was madder than hell when she brought him out of the hypnosis and he found out that after all he’d been through, he didn’t get a baby to bring home.
Still, like I said, a bet’s a bet. We showed up at the beach the following day dressed in top hats and the ridiculously skimpy suits just like we promised. Ten minutes—ten minutes and a quick walk on the pier was all we had to do. But as I was walking away from the pier, I saw a group of women gathered there watching. Something wasn’t quite right with them. They weren’t dressed for the beach, for one thing. They were just standing there dressed in suits and flats. I realized right away that they were all professional women—probably all worked in the same building as the docs—but it was the knowing look on their faces that annoyed me. Well, that, and the snickering behind their hands.
“What?” I sneered as we walked past them. “Never seen a man in a swimming suit before?”
“Love the purse,” Tony added, and then reddened in embarrassment.
“Au contraire,” a snooty-looking redhead added smartly, “Yours is the fifth group this season!”
“See ya on Youtube,” another one added.
As soon as I get back home and get outta this suit, I’m going to find Tony Paretti and kill him.
Runner up: Heather Bserani
“CHARLIE!” The word echoed through the church basement. A balding head popped up in the back of the room, Charlie’s face turned a strange shade of puce.
“WHAT DID YOU DO? CHARLIE!!!!” The poor fellow swallowed and attempted a response. Big Mike was already thumping his heavy feet in Charlie’s direction. The rest of the group was silent, unsure what to do.
“C-C-C-C’mon now Big Mike. It was a mistake, honest. You know I wouldn’t have done this on purpose. I-I-I thought I was getting a deal. I should have realized something was wrong when they were so cheap.” Charlie was backed up against the cinderblock wall. His vision eclipsed by a sweaty, red-faced Mike.
“Take it easy, Big Mike. It was just an accident. He didn’t mean nothing by it. We are supposed to stick together right? We’re a team right?”
The gargantuan whipped around and turned his anger on the man addressing him from the surrounding colony. It was just about all Big Mike could take. “What would you like me to do Ralph? Put on this ridiculous outfit and sashay around in front of the crowd out there? We are supposed to be representing an honorable, hardworking group of men. If we go out there in these we will be laughed out of town. No one will ever give us the respect we deserve. So yeah I’m mad, damn it!”
“Hey wait a minute. We’re Penguins right? Penguins stick together right? They survive the worst storms together. They depend on each other. They are strong and sensitive. They are intelligent and proud. Even facing tough challenges they stick together and get through. That’s why I’m proud to be a penguin. So if that’s what Charlie got us, then that’s what I’m wearing because he’s my colony-mate. You are all my colony-mates and if we do this together then nothing can bring us down. Squawk-Squawk!” A raucous chorus of squawks echoed through the cavernous space. Charlie began tossing the garments from a box to the cheering crowd. As sprightly as men of a certain age can move, they all donned the new uniforms for their men’s club. Again silence fell over the group as they looked at each other.
“It chafes a little, doesn’t it?”
A voice called down the stairs, “You guys ready? Five minutes until the big reveal. It was such a good idea to call the press for the first ever Penguin’s Club meeting.”
Big Mike ground his teeth, the vein in his forehead throbbing. “Well, let’s at least put on the goddamned hats! We might as well be somewhat presentable.”
The first of the men began climbing the stairs. In the back someone muttered, “I knew I should have joined the Polar Bears instead.”
This prompt is going to focus on good character building. Choose your favorite figure from history and place them in a thoroughly modern situation. You can take this prompt in any direction you want: maudlin, funny, romantic, whatever, but focus on developing a character which would be somewhat consistent with the values, description, and dialogue of the actual time period from which they come, make them believable! For the record, this prompt was in no way a reaction to discovering that a Bill and Ted III script has been completed and the movie is officially in pre-production...
WINNER- Steph KenificPondering weak and weary, oh yes! C’etait moi, verily growing more so with each intoning of the alarum grandfather clock. It was foretold, long ago when that spectacular creature was a comfort to her dear father’s panging heart, but never was I wont to listen. Caught up in the bulging eyes and vapid smiles and butterfly kisses, treasuring and measuring each, for certain. Oh yes, but there came a time when that creature, fruit of my now-barren loom, refused a kiss but for vile children her own age. She stayed out until all hours of the night, undoubtedly in the company of urchins, doing urchinly things, chilling and killing the lovely, baby-faced grin I had known from before.
On the –th of October, 20-, Annie slipped, ermine-like, from her bedroom window, scaling along the side of the establishment. From my study window, I could make out her slim and slender form, and cursed myself for the installation of that shameful floral lattice on the east wing of our abode, allowing the sneakiness of my darling. In vain, I gave chase, though arriving on the doorstep merely in time to see her throw herself into a vehicle, crimson as the Archangel’s lips.
And lo! Was that not my darkest hour. I wasted no time in appealing to the liquor cabinet, downing bottle after bottle, first of the bourbon, and then the inevitable cooking sherry (for I had long ago depleted any remaining Amontillado). In the deeps of that phantasmagoric evening, it seemed to me that Annie had returned from her night of debauchery, and sat beside me, though just out of my arms’ reach.
“Why, my Annie, why?” I begged of her, but she could only smile, that coy upturn of cheek so often directed at myself and the urchins her own age. “Have you no more love for Papa?”
Yet she would not respond, just continue to blur in and out of sight for moments at a time.
“Annie, Annie...” I chanted when I was more lucid. “So like your mother...”
Why Annie’s mother left, I could not say, but she had left in the silent watches of the night, when not even I could stop her...
Overhead, a door slammed shamelessly shut, calling my attention to matters at hand. Tears of fury rushed into Papa’s eyes...Stowing the sherry bottles into my robe pocket for later, I rushed up the stairs, intent on giving the lovely creature a stern face and a severe upbraiding. Though the clanking of bottle on bottle must have betrayed my own footsteps, and as I flung open her bedroom’s door, she was immediately rolling over in feigned sleep.
I heaved a sigh, made my way over to her bed, and laid a gentle hand on her shoulder.
“Goodnight, my Annabel Lee.”
And though my dear daughter remained silent, I was imagining all the while, two voices, bidding me a gentle sleep.
RUNNER UP J.C. Mogensen
His return wasn't shocking, at least not to half of the people in the U.S. and to almost no one in the south, but where he returned raised a few eyebrows. He came walking up to a fishing boat in the Sea of Japan that was bound for Kaminoseki and asked, in perfect Japanese, for a ride to the mainland. They balked, as the story goes, until he asked if they thought it was kinder to make him walk the entire way. By the time they arrived at their destination, already crawling with news teams, the small crew of the vessel was in perfect health. This is worth noting since the captain had left with a very piraty hook hand, the first mate had lung cancer and one of the deck crew suffered from an aggressive case of syphilis after years of taking a 'let me check if it's safe by sticking my dick in it' approach to relations with anyone, or anything, he wanted to learn more about. He had a bizarre sexual appetite is the point here.
Miracles, as one would expect, followed him wherever he went. But, this isn't the Stone Age – not on this half of the globe, at any rate (not counting the Appalachians). People could instantly have face to face conversations with someone on the other side of the world thanks to their pocket computers (and hefty data charges) and everyone had already suffered through the bitter disappointment that was the Star Wars prequels so it took more than the testimony of true believers who added an extra syllable to his name by sticking an "ah" at the end of it to convince the sweaty masses. That changed when Adam Savage and Jaime Hyneman declared a few of his acts "Plausible" on their show after a fair amount of scientific method scrutiny.
Reporters followed him around, but he didn't seem to have much trouble giving them the slip when he wanted to do things like duck out to go stroll around North Korea for a month or so. He didn't keep a low profile, but he didn't talk to the press either, which drove everyone crazy. On the plus side, crime dropped in every country with access to basic cable and even Bill Maher took a less militant atheist approach on his show. The downside? Idiots like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter couldn't shut the hell up about it. Eventually everyone knew it would happen. After all, a person can only get so famous before the laws of physics step in and say that they're going to have to have a sit-down with Barbara Walters or Oprah at some point.
Finally, almost a year after he cured the world's horniest Japanese fisherman, word came out that he would be appearing for his first interview on… The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? No, that couldn't be right. But it was and every promo for the next few weeks made a point of reminding viewers. They even took to running a crawl at the bottom of the screen during South Park so that every stoner and Liberal Arts major could be sure and set aside time to watch. The President issued an executive order that gave everyone the day and the day after off from work for "reflection."
When the big day came everyone expected The Daily Show to give their guest the entire half hour, but they went ahead and did the usual twenty minutes of comedy followed with a ten minute interview.
"Ladies and gentlemen, my guest tonight needs no introduction so, y'know, let's get to it," Jon announced after the second commercial break.
He came out dressed in jeans, a simple blue t-shirt and, for good measure, sandals. He gave Jon a hug and towered almost a foot over him. Jon whispered something into his ear then they both sat down. His hair was short and he sported a closely cropped beard. Even in the most homophobic hunting lodge in the manliest county in Texas, a deep voice could be heard saying, "That is a good looking fella."
"Before we get started, I, ahem, wanna say we're sorry about the execution thing. We didn't mean it. Things got out of hand. And also you look very nice this evening," Jon said, punctuating the second half of his statement by doing it in an exaggerated Woody Allen impersonation.
He looked directly at the camera and winked before responding. "Don't even worry about it. That whole business was put into motion long before any of the people involved were even a twinkle in our Father's eye. Besides, I'm Jewish, y'know, I'm not gonna go all Old Testament on my own people." He paused, then added, "At least I was Jewish last time. What would you say I am now?"
"Hmm. Maybe classically European with a hint of Asian, just for spice?" Jon answered.
He laughed, "I like that. I can see why you have a fake news show on basic cable. You're very funny."
"Hey now, don't get nasty," Jon adjusted his tie and looked at the camera. "So, what do I call you? Mr. 'The Light?' Your Highness? Maybe just 'The Way?' Or would you prefer the classic Je-"
"Let me stop you right there. First name basis is fine, but you gotta get it right. Where I was from the first 's' was pronounced with a hard sound with a little Yiddish phlegm for good measure. It ends up sounding more like a 'b.'"
"So, it's 'Jebus?' Are you messing with me know?"
"Oh, it gets worse. The 'st' on the second word should actually be more of a 'ps' after a long 'i.'"
Jon was writing it down and then looked up, incredulous. "Jebus Cripes? Really?"
"When you say it like that it sounds blasphemous. Look, I know it's dangerously close to sounding like 'Dueling Banjoes' should play after you say it, but if you wanna be historically accurate then, well, there you go."
"Okay, Jebus, let's get right to it. Should I have this looked at? No. I'm kidding." Jon leaned across and loudly whispered, "Seriously, should I?" Both he and Jebus laughed while the crowd roared their approval. After they settled down, Jon asked, "Are you here for the Rapture?"
"No, no, no. Nothing like that. I'm here to remind everyone to settle down. Dial it back a notch. Be good to each other, that's the main thing. There's a hell of a lot more of you this time around and you're going to have to do a little better at working together."
"So no fire and brimstone? Lake of fire, maybe?"
"Ugh, Revelations. John was a nice guy, but he was something of a Libertarian when it came to herbal entertainment, if you catch my drift. Revelations is a lot less scary if you read it like a junkie's fever dream."
"Can I just say, on behalf of all non-Cripestians, 'WHEW!'" Jebus mouthed the words 'it's okay' while he patted Jon on the head. Jon went on, "What about people who have trouble balancing the first part of the Bible – my people's part – with the second part, which," he pretended to be listening to information from an earpiece, "I'm being told is your part?"
"The Old Testament is all about how mankind, while fully evolved physically – not so much emotionally or mentally – was doing a bang up job of really pissing Him," Jebus pointed up, "off on a regular basis. He was dangerously close to saying 'Fuck it" and starting over but we talked Him out of it. So, to everyone out there, please quit taking everything in it so literally, people back then couldn't wrap their heads around the real glory of the universe so tall tales like the whole Noah's Ark thing kept them in line. The New Testament has more of a 'Don't be a dick' message."
"Are you allowed to say 'dick?' Or 'fuck' for that matter?"
"There are no bad words Jon, just bad intentions."
"You hear that, Comedy Central censors? Fuck off!" The crowd laughed and Jebus clapped.
"Listen, the Buddhists and the Secular Humanists have got it more right than anyone so far. Treat each other better and you guys will have a long time left, keep screwing the proverbial pooch and things are gonna get bad. The Earth is awesome, but it can only take so much."
"I want to go back to something you said a minute ago. About not everything in the Bible being on the level."
"I went to the Creation Museum in Kentucky a month ago and I thought it was great, until I realized that they were taking it seriously. All the scientific discoveries that you've made, those weren't secrets we were hiding from you, we wanted you to find them. What I'm getting at is this: build fewer mega churches and more space stations. All this is for you guys, go enjoy it."
After the crowd settled down, Jon asked, "So what's next for you? I recommend a trip to TCBY, but that's only because it's delicious."
"Well, I'm gonna finish my North American tour, maybe swing through Southern California and then Utah on my way so that I can smite the shit out of the Scientologists and Mormons – seriously, that crap is ridiculous, then head over to the Vatican and find out how 'feed the poor' became 'build a giant palace in Italy.'" Jebus winked at the audience and every person watching felt a powerful connection to him. He shook Jon's hand, whispered something in his ear and finished his first, and last, television appearance.
Two months later he completely disappeared, this time without the nasty public trial, flogging and resurrection. People all over the world got the message and everyone was better for it, for a while. People, being people, got back to killing and stealing after a couple hundred years, but it was good while it lasted.
#3 by Heather Bserani
Dana knew this was not going to work out. Why did the court always send the convicts here for their community service? Sure the soup kitchen was always in need of volunteers, but this was not exactly what she had in mind. Her pensive moment was interrupted when the newest member of the team swept in, reaching for the flour.
“Marie, is it? The flour is for cooking, it really isn’t sanitary to put it in your hair.”
The petite, spitfire in front of her tensed her mouth and set her jaw but didn’t utter a sound. Her eyes narrowed in disdain at being reprimanded by a peasant. Dana took a moment to really look at the woman in front of her. The dress she wore dripped with fabric and was cinched at the waist. There was no way she would be comfortable when the ovens were cranked to high.
“How much experience do you have in a kitchen, if you don’t mind my asking.”
Lifting her nose skyward she answered in a pinched tone, “Cooking is beneath me.”
With her head tilted like that, Dana couldn’t believe what she saw. “Is that a bird in your hair?”
“It’s in a cage,” then more quietly to herself, “Commoner.”
“You are going to have to remove that, it’s a health code violation. And while we are on that topic, you have to wear gloves in the kitchen.”
Marie pulled a pair of long white gloves from the folds of her gown. They were dainty, reminiscent of ages past. Sighing, Dana shook her head and tossed some latex gloves at Marie.
“You have no sense of taste! I don’t understand why we have to serve the impoverished anyway. Let them eat cake!”
This was going to be a long day.
Best 'file not found' image ever, right?
Okay, here's the deal for this week. It's a picture prompt. What picture? Well, that's up to you. They say a picture can paint a thousand words. You only get 300. So choose an image, any image, tell a story (or the beginning of a story anyway), and paint that scene so well that a judge could choose your image out of a line-up. Because that's exactly what's going to happen. Send me your entry and your image as a jpeg. The images will be mailed separately to the judges (I might even throw in a few extra images in to see if I can stump them). The judges will decide whose words paint the picture the best by trying to match the images to the entries! Go!
#1 by Steph Kenific WINNER!!!!
It’s his most favorite color, green like July, the clear ripple of water meets rock. The color that drew him to me in the deeps of our season, my verdant irises shining as I looked into his, our hair all tangled and our lips all sore, and our knees all stained. And when he took me by the hand, and led me past row after row of thrush and pine, and only the hush of wind between trees was heard, it all seemed green, and it all seemed clear to me.
#2 by Heather Bserani RUNNER UP!!!
I didn’t mean to do it. How was I supposed to know he would die?
It had started off like any other day. After class I got ready for practice, throwing my hair in a ponytail and knotting the belt around my gi. I spent some extra time on my make-up. When a girl’s in oversized, white pajamas she has to make sure to accentuate the positives if you know what I mean.
When I got to the dojo Mark was already there. I tiptoed up behind him and playfully jabbed him in the ribs.
He spun, immediately on the defensive, but we have trained together long enough that I knew what to expect. Before long we were sparring intensely. Sweat beaded along my brow. So much for my extra make-up.
Sensei came in and put a stop to our battle. Together we worked on our katas and different weaponry skills. After practice, Mark and I hurried through the park, eager to be together without throwing punches. We were headed toward the coffee shop when the first drops of rain began falling. The striped awning beckoned, but we never made it.
I didn’t see anyone approach, but suddenly three men shoved us toward a cluster of trees. Mark and I were a fury of fists and feet and one man lay unconscious when we heard the metallic click of a gun being cocked. The tallest man was pointing a pistol at Mark. There was no time to think, I simply acted on instinct. I lunged and threw the man holding me into the man holding the gun. I heard the pop of my shoulder dislocating at the same time the gun retorted. Thunder growled in the night, but Mark was silent as he fell.
#3 by Anthony Miller
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Alright AI pals...here's the deal. AI is currently home to many self-pubbed authors and we aim to add a couple more to the published ranks in the upcoming months. And what we've learned is that you don't get a lot of words to sell that book. The art of writing an enticing back cover copy or a short flashy description for the Amazon page doesn't always come easy. So, your challenge this week? I have chosen a list of the most boring (to me) books I can imagine being subjected to. You have to pick one and write the back cover copy that will draw in the readers. Remember, all you get is a couple of paragraphs and while hyperbole is fine, you CANNOT make up wild things that are not even alluded to in these books. You will be judged on which book description would cause our three readers to pick up the book and read it! Entries must be received by Thursday Feb. 9th at midnight. READY, SET....
1. Walden- Henry David Thoreau (sorry...I know its a classic, *snores*)
2. Ulysses- James Joyce (I tried everything, even Irishing up the reading experience with whiskey...nothing helped me get through this book.)
3. Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny - Suze Orman (basically I was hoping she'd just come out and admit that she hates men and thinks they should be dispatched of as soon as we make test tube breeding the norm...that would have been funny...alas, not so.)
4. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (I hope Masha doesn't browse this site ever...)
5. Fun with Dick and Jane- as far as I know, no author is willing to take credit for this atrocity. (See Dick, See Jane, See small Kris bang head on desk.)
6. Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal - (any of them, I have no idea how many there are but I'm guessing they all hover around the same level of great literary achievement)
7. The Lone Star Ranger - Zane Grey (I hate westerns--doesnt mean our judges do.)
WINNER!!!!! Ulysses by Steph Kenific
First serialized in the American journal, The Little Review, in December 1920, Ulysses has been both hailed and scrutinized by critics alike. Though the Modern Library ranked Ulysses first on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century, Ulysses has undoubtedly attracted controversy for its frankness in addressing adultery, criticizing the ever-prominent Catholic Church, and depicting gruesome hallucinations of grief-stricken Dubliners.
Ever tied to the Odyssey, Ulysses consists of a series of vignettes through the course of a single day: 16 June 1904. In this Modernist work, James Joyce introduces his reader to the reflective Stephen Dedalus, now wracked with images of his dead mother, and the half-Jewish Leopold Bloom, tormented at the thought of his wife’s rampant infidelity. All of Dublin surrounding Dedalus and Bloom try and fail to put life’s tragedies in perspective, resolving themselves to self-deprecation and immorality in a city lost in its own past.
Dedalus, in an early episode of Ulysses, summates the novel’s drive, saying that “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,” and that God is a mere “shout in the street.” Unforgettable, haunting, and wildly changing in its setting and stream of consciousness, the experimental prose of Ulysses has captivated readers for nearly a century since its round-about inception in 1920.
Runner Up: Fun With Dick and Jane by Peazy Monellon
In an already difficult world, Dick has a boatload of issues. He has a limited vocabulary and to make matters worse, he stutters. Instead of staying at home and helping Dick cope, like many modern and well-adjusted fathers might do-- making the necessary sacrifices such as going on welfare, food-stamps and Medicaid—Dick’s father goes off to work every day! Therefore the family cannot afford to provide Dick with the therapy he so richly deserves.
Dick’s mother, who obviously didn’t listen to her own parents when they advised her to stay in school, doesn’t help. In a bizarre, misogynistic twist, Mother, whose abilities seem severely limited, must be confined to the house where she cannot manage duties greater than simple laundry and cooking. Often she neglects the children, foregoing those all important play dates and trips to the zoo in favor of mindless domestic endeavors. Additionally, the poor woman has no idea how to get to the mall, and so dresses her children in yard sale hand-me-downs.
Poor, neglected Dick resorts to staying at home and playing with Jane, an obvious Barbie-wannabee and future anorexic, and Sally who also stutters and is functionally retarded. With virtually no outside socialization, an absentee father who fails to provide a proper male role model, and only female siblings to play with, it’s possible that Dick will develop a crippling sense of gender confusion. Add to that, a pet named Spot, who begins the series as a fluffy kitten, but apparently has trans-species issues and later turns into a dog! This family is a mess!
Is the stuttering a problem that can be overcome or is this a genetic deficiency passed down to him by his mentally challenged mother? Will these confused children ever get help or will Child Protective Services arrive too late? Will Mother ever get a driver’s license, the right to vote, and a map to the mall?
Be sure and follow this amazing series to find out the answers to these important questions and more!
Women an Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny by J.C. Mogensen
Listen up, ladies. Is your Virginia Slims fund running low? Are you tired of your entire financial strategy being based on lottery tickets? Are you, be honest, too old to score that sugar daddy? If you answered yes to any of these questions (you did) then you need to hear what Suze Orman has to say.
You know her from that obnoxious talk show where she yells at random callers and you may have even seen her on Oprah. Now it's time to put her opinions to work for you. As any good economist will tell you, the first step to financial security and independence is to find someone that makes you feel really shitty about yourself and the choices you've made. Well, no one does that quite like the Suze-ster.
Before long, you'll be hearing Suze's shrill voice in your head every time you make a purchase or deposit a child support check. Just imagine the decision making abilities you'll have when questions like, "Can I afford a trip to the Indian Casino this weekend?" are immediately answered by a deafening , "No!" that only you can hear. Sure, you may become infanticidal after finishing this book, but your money problems will be a thing of the past. And after all, if she's good enough for Oprah, she's good enough for you.
War and Peace - Anthony Miller