short story

Priming the pump with prompts

I have a resume workshop this morning and a PowerPoint class this afternoon. Yesterday was a church picnic in the park. Very few people showed – which was expected. Still, it was an enjoyable experience after the stress and activity of Saturday. Long story with little purpose. Short version? I helped my ex shop for a mattress for our daughter to have at his place, then helped him to assemble the loft bed he’d ordered for her off of Amazon. Fun times.

Anyway, I’m short on ideas and there wasn’t anything of import to report about Sunday. Also, for some reason, I don’t receive the prompt emails sent out to the participants of The Ultimate Blog Challenge, despite having gone through the website to sign up more than once. So, I turned to the social writing app I’ve gotten prompts from before and saw this “Finish the Story” prompt. Don’t know where I’m going with it. Join me?


I’m afraid you might not like me, when you meet me, she texted him. Three dots appeared on her screen, indicating he was typing. But, then they suddenly disappeared.

“Well, that’s that, I guess.”

She sighed fatalistically and reflected, I’m not any good at this whole dating game thing. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the market. Gah! “On the market.” What a horrible idiom. I’m not for sale . . . except maybe I am marketing myself as “damaged goods” when I tell men what I told him. WHY did I say that to him?

“Well. I don’t want to be accused of false advertising . . .”

There it was again, this language of sales, as if I’m a consumable commodity. Where on earth was this idea that women, even if they weren’t in the sex industry, were for sale?

Even as she asked herself that question, she knew the answer. It’s from the old patriarchal roots when women were considered possessions to be sold or traded in marriage for a bride price paid by the man who became her new owner, her husband.

“Well. I’m no one’s possession. I’m not for sale. I’m not a consumable commodity,” she declared to herself.”

Wow! I use “well” a lot! She chuckled to herself. Just then her phone buzzed.

What do you mean?
Sorry, I got a phone call.

Oh . . . he texted me back.

My selfies don’t really show all of me
and I’m much bigger than they make me look.

That doesn’t matter to me.
Skinny chicks don’t do it for me.

Ugh! Do I REALLY want to go any further with a guy who thinks like that,
“Skinny chicks don’t do it for me.” Seriously?!?!?

Listen. I’m sorry. I just realized, I’m not really ready for this whole dating thing.

What do you mean?
Whatever. You’re too much.

Bye.

Pretty sure I dodged a bullet there. Obviously I have some more work to do with my therapist.

She walked to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, knowing the answers she sought weren’t going to be found there.


Ah the joys of middle aged dating. It’s not like I’m writing from life experience or anything. 😉

Seriously, though. I’ve been dabbling in the online dating thing off and on for over a year. It’s kind of a nightmare. Especially for a woman of a certain age with low self-esteem and mental illnesses, including Binge Eating Disorder. I have more work to do before I want to deal with taking on the search for a new relationship.

But first, a job. I mean, some of the insecurities I have around dating, aren’t just about dating and trying to be in that kind of relationship with a man.

I’m not comfortable in my own skin and only part of it is the sizist/fatphobic discrimination that’s both insidious and overt in our society. I mean, it is a significant part, this internalized sense of being “less than” because I’m physically “more than.” There’s actual physical discomfort and difficulty with me being as overweight as I am. And still I overeat, choosing the foods that perpetuate the problem. BED is a bitch.

I’m working on it. I’m doing the difficult things of being seen in clothes that are physically comfortable, though not necessarily society approved for someone my size. I’m putting myself “out there” in ways that are uncomfortable because they call attention to me on a larger scale than one on one or in a smaller group . . . or at least I’m willing myself to do that. That’s part of the reasoning behind volunteering to speak and share my story in schools and in the community.

I am not my body. My body is only part of me. I am not the excess fat stored in the body I live in. Just like I am not my diagnoses. I have a bipolar brain that has been structurally altered by trauma and chronic stress. Genetics and hormones play a part in both my brain structure, as well as how my body reacts and is affected by environment, circumstances, and food choices. There is so much more to me than these things.

Factually, I know these things and I’m trying to live and make choices based on these facts, despite how scary it feels and the internal voices leftover from voices from childhood and beyond:

🎶Watch that wiggle, see that jiggle.🎶 Thank you Jell-O for that advertising jingle, twisted by middle school classmates.

“Fatty, fatty 2×4! Can’t fit through the bathroom door.” called out in singsong by kids on the playground. “Whale on the beach!” by the boys at the public pool. Lovely expressions of contempt by my elementary school peers.

“Fat ass!” A verbal gift from a former neighbor in denial about some legitimately serious mental health issues of her own.

That childhood rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” just ain’t true. Words have the power to hurt or heal. Even with the healing, the underlying hurt doesn’t go away, it just isn’t allowed to dictate and define anymore.

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Lettrs Prompt: Finish the Story – Love’s Calling

“His work never really interested him. And so, once again, he found himself staring out of the window. It was in that moment that he felt something he had never experienced before. He saw her in her yellow dress. The wind played with her dress as she turned around and they locked eyes…”

She shyly turned away. She had the homespun beauty and fresh faced look of someone not yet changed by the city. Everything about her was natural and without artifice: her fingernails were short and squared off, lacking any unnatural shine or color; her long, straight hair was earth brown – a shade he’d never seen amidst the frosted tips, highlighted/low-lighted, multi-hued heads of his fellow city dwellers; her face was shiny clean, free of exotic palettes of color, with unthreaded brows and unlengthened lashes; her eyes were deep dark brown, and had been mesmerizing, leaving him breathless once she’d broken eye contact.

She began walking away. He quickly arose from his desk, pulling off his headset in one motion…leaving his caller hanging. He rushed to the window, his eyes frantically hunting to see which way she’d gone. He was relieved to note that she’d entered the front of the building where his call center was located.

He reluctantly returned to his desk, moving past the astonished, amused, and frowning looks of his fellow employees. Picking up his headset, he returned to the call. “Sir, I’m very sorry about that interruption. It was all my fault. I sincerely apologize. Now, how may I resolve the problem?” His mind still on the woman, replaying their brief, non-existent encounter.

“Wow,” she thought to herself. “I can hardly even think straight, at the moment. I need a sit down.” She looked around and saw a fountain, with a stone angel pouring water from a stone vessel. On either side were semicircles of cultivated evergreen bushes, interspersed with black, wrought iron benches. She decided it was too windy and chilly to sit outside.

Going through the revolving door, she entered a grand lobby, circular in shape. Everything was circular: the Information/Concierge/Security desk, the chairs and settees dispersed throughout the area, as well as the accompanying glass side and low coffee tables.

“May I assist you?” inquired the stern-faced woman behind the desk. Then she smiled and Lucy felt much less intimidated.

“No…um…well, yes. I suppose,” she stammered a little. “I’m a bit early, I’m afraid. I’m meeting with Mr. Robertson for a job interview at 1:30 today.” They both glanced at the clock above the lobby’s entrance and noted that it was currently 12:46.

“Mr. Robertson just left for lunch and won’t return until shortly before your interview time. Feel free to sit wherever you’re comfortable. The beverage bar is off to your right, if you’d care for water, coffee, or tea.”

“Thank you. I’m sorry to have showed up so early. I don’t mean to be a bother. I’m just new here and am unfamiliar with the area. I gave myself extra time, in case I got lost,” Lucy profusely apologized.

“It’s no bother, at all. Mr. Robertson values punctuality and would prefer one to arrive too early than just a smidge late.”

Lucy sent the receptionist a beaming smile as she walked over to the beverage bar, where she opted for a bottle of cold water.

She found a chair facing the window where she could gaze on the fountain and think about the brief, non-existent encounter with the most electrifying man she’d ever seen.

There wasn’t any one thing, in particular that stood out. Since he’d been seated, it was difficult to judge his height. Overall, he appeared to be on the slightly larger side of average. His hair was a roughly textured sandy blond. His lips were like an elongated Cupid’s bow…not too thin, not too full. On either end of his mouth were faint creases, an indicator that he smiles easily. Another indicator were the lines at the corners of his golden hazel eyes.

“Ahem!”

Suddenly, her wandering thoughts were interrupted and her attention fell back to the present moment.

She glanced up as she began to stand and turn towards the disruptor of her daydreaming.

“Oh, you must be Mr. Robertson. I’m Lucy Hayes. Thank you for meeting with me today.”

“The pleasure is mine. I’m actually glad you’re here early. I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit of a non-traditional interview.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. First I want to briefly discuss your resume and experience. But, I’m really interested in seeing you in action. So, it’s to be a working interview. Assuming you don’t have anything you need to rush off for?”

Remembering the old adage, “Never let them see you sweat” and considering her rent was due in three weeks, she replied, “I made sure my afternoon was clear, in case the interview went long. So, I’m ready and willing to do a working interview.”

“Wonderful! Let’s head over this way.”

20 minutes later…

Nodding his head in approval regarding the first stage of the interview, Mr. Robertson advised Lucy, “Thank you for being so detailed and thorough with your resume and addressing the interview questions. You did marvelously. Now, for the next part. Follow me.”

He walked out of the room and began walking rapidly down the hall. She had to jog a few steps to catch up.

“I’m going to have you sit and listen in on one of our best customer service reps. You’ll be given a “cheat sheet” flow chart on how to handle our callers’ needs. After you’ve listened in for a half-hour to 45 minutes, then it will be your turn to take calls.”

Feeling slightly overwhelmed, Lucy nodded her head in agreement, nevertheless.

Walking into the call center’s main hub, they stopped at the control center and picked up a headset and a package of unused ear pads. He also grabbed a thin binder and handed that to her.

She smiled, confidently, as she followed him in navigating through the maze of workstations. Meanwhile silently repeating to herself, “I’ve got this. I can do this. Remember: listen, repeat, clarify, resolve.”

“Here we are,” he announced. “Tony,” he addressed a head of a familiar shade of sandy blond hair.

“Yes, sir?” Tony questioned as he turned his chair around, then stopped cold, his eyes locking with hers, once again.

Together, they smiled, each glad to have an opportunity to meet for real.

Writing Prompt: lettrs Three in One – Skylark Challenge 152, Word of the Week, Finish the Story

The sky turned darker and darker as she walked toward the beach. “This can’t be a good sign,” she thought to herself as she watched the flotsam and jetsam of the tideline being washed back into the ocean. Crest ravaged crest as the waves rose higher and higher, each one violently crashing into the next.

Conscious of the increasing danger in the charged atmosphere, still she persisted in wading through the lacy, white edges of the ocean’s skirt where it brushed the sandy shore. Inhaling deeply, she felt calmer, even as the storm heightened around her.

Turning to face the vast, explosive power of the swelling tide, with hair blowing in the gusting wind, her eyes closed against the mist, she threw her hands in the air, and let out a howling scream, venting her ire and frustration about the painful events and circumstances she’d been experiencing, which were out of her control. It felt as though the elements were speaking through her, for her.

Finally, as the skies opened and heaven poured out it’s laments, she turned and slowly made her way back to the gray and brown weathered beach house. Step by weary step, she steadily paced herself as she sought refuge from both the actual storm and the storm her life had become.

As she closed the door behind her, she was filled with a calm resolve. She felt centered and at peace with vagaries of her life. With the storm raging around her, she slept soundly, for the first time in what felt like decades.

Upon waking, she saw the morning light coming through the window and meandered outside to the porch. Feeling the warmth of the sun contrasting with the cooling breeze, she finally felt content and knew the course she would take upon returning home.

After packing the car and leaving the house key in the lockbox, she cast a final glance towards the calm ocean, whispered a prayer of gratitude, and drove away.

Skylark Challenge 152:
Wading, Washed, Tideline, Crest

Word of the week: Packing

Finish the Story: The sky turned darker and darker as she walked toward the beach. “This can’t be a good sign,” she thought to herself…

Writing Prompt: Skylark Challenge 151, 2nd Entry


Poison, Scent, Fluid, Shattered, Pale


The fluid had a pleasant scent, obfuscating the poison. He turned pale, as it went to work. The cup shattered as it hit the floor.

She came into the room, horror evident in her eyes. Right then she knew. He had framed her for his murder which was a suicide.

Cold fear gripped her heart. Squeezing her chest, it made her forget to breathe. Pain shooting up her arm, she collapsed to the floor, beside the one who had made her life misery. She gave up on her life, knowing he’d achieved his goal.

“Mom! Dad! I’m home and I’ve got a surprise,” their son announced later that day, as he unlocked the front door and entered with his fiancé…never imagining their life together was over before it had begun.

They could never get past the vision of a marriage of such hidden unhappiness, ending in in such horrific and tragic darkness.

His death certificate read: Death by poison, suspicious circumstances. Hers: Death by heart attack, natural. The headline read: Wife poisons husband, dies of a broken heart.

Writing Prompts: Skylark Challenge & August Scrawls

I struggled with yesterday’s August scrawls word. So, I decided to try my hand at this week’s Skylark Challenge. That wasn’t any easier. Please, be gentle in your critiques.


“Get OFF of me!” Harlow angrily shook off the hands of her captors. “I’m coming, I’m coming.” With her hands cuffed behind her back, the officer firmly placed his hand on the crown of her head, in order to protect her from hitting her head as she was being placed in the car. The car pulled away from the curb on its way back to The East Portland Precinct.

Detective Ameen walked up, rummaging through Harlow’s knapsack. He pulled out a small, labelless jar, containing a deep purple fluid. Unscrewing the lid, he sniffed. The color drained from his face, leaving it pale from the acrid scent, wafting from the jar.

“This smells like poison! What is it?” He demande in a strained voice, still reacting to the sharp, pungent smell of the liquid, as he forcefully placed it on the table, just out of her reach.

“Be CAREFUL with that!” she commanded. “I don’t want the jar shattered. It’s Gouache paint and expensive to replace.”

“You’re in no position to tell me what to do,” Detective Ameen reminded. “Now, what else do we have here?” He wondered aloud as he continued to rifle through her bag. He pulled out a heavy paper notebook with sketches and paintings. There were also some posters with a Guy Fawkes silhouette, the emblem of Anonymous.

“So, we have an antisocial anarchist on our hands here,” Ameen erroneously concluded.

With an angrily defensive tone in her voice, Harlow replied, “I’m not antisocial. I’m not mentally ill! I am anti-government. It’s all corrupt. That’s just my opinion. I haven’t actually broken the law. Those posters were commissioned…anonymously.”

“Haven’t broken the law? Are you serious? You were picked up because you matched the description we received about someone who vandalized a new construction site with graffiti,” Ameen contemptuously explained. “Then, lo and behold, here you come with tagging supplies in your backpack.”

“Are you KIDDING me!?!? You’re kidding me, right?” NONE of the ART supplies in my bag are used for street art. Your forensics people should be able to tell you that, just by looking. Besides, do you see any spray cans or evidence of spray paint?” She paused for a breath and was confronted with his silence. “I didn’t think so. Now, let me go or charge me. If you charge me, let me make my phone call and get me my juvie public defender, because, I’m not saying another word.”

Quietly, Ameen turned and left the room, bag in hand. Calling over the officer who had brought her in, he handed the bag over, with instructions to log the bag and all its contents into evidence.

He entered the room behind the one way glass, with a grin.

“What are you grinning about?” his partner inquired.

“I’m grinning because this is a colossal waste of time…and we all know it, even her. I’m grinning because she’s smart, spunky, AND very talented. I’m grinning because I’m going to make sure she chooses the right path.”

At that moment, an Attorney from the the Youth, Rights, & Justice office arrived. “Hello. I’m Genice Abrams. I’m here on behalf of Harlow Belgarde. May I please see her?”

“Wait. How did you know she was here?” Ameen incredulously asked.

“My office got a call from the group home she resides at. Apparently, she had been waiting outside the store for her cohort. The store has a policy against bags and backpacks being brought in. Her friend saw her being put in a squad car and rushed to the home and tell the house mother.”

“I see. So, her friend can vouch for her and verify her location just before she was picked up?”

“Absolutely! He’s out there, giving his statement, now.”

“Ok. This way.” Ameen escorted Genice to the interrogation room, trying not to notice how attractive she was. Opening the door, he allowed Genice to enter the room first.

“Who are you?” Harlow inquired, suspicion evident in her voice.

“Hello, Harlow. I’m Genice Abrams from the Youth Rights & Justice Attorneys office. We’re going to get you out of here and on your way, in no time.”

“Huh,” Harlow huffed with skepticism, “I’ll believe that when I see it. Hey! I also want my bag and art supplies back.”

“All in good time. I promise.” Genice turned, looking expectantly at Detective Ameen. Caught staring, his face flushed a little darkly. “Ahem. Right this way.”

The three of them filed out of the room and went through the process of getting Harlow released and her possessions returned.

“Hey. Kid.” Ameen called Harlow over. “I want you to know I think you’re very talented. I have a friend in the art community, I want to introduce you to. Here’s my card. Call me tomorrow and we’ll set it up.”

He turned to Genice, “Please take my card, if you need to follow up or have any questions.”

“Oh. I will.”

She turned, placed her hand on Harlow’s shoulder and walked out.

Ameen wondered if he’d ever see either of them again.


Skylark Challenge 151: Poison, Scent, Fluid, Shattered, Pale
August Scrawls Day 8: antisocial

Writing Prompt: Finish the story

Idyllic Retreat

“She holds his hand and smiles. No words, just a big, happy smile. He smiles back and they walk on, without a word. As the sun is going down…”

They sigh as one, turn around, and take their first steps back toward their mundane lives, their frantically busy realities.

She, back to spinning her wheels in the roller coaster life of parenting, grandparenting, and navigating the twisting paths and pitfalls of accessing services to meet the needs of her youngest child. Mothering a pre-pubescent child who interfaces with the world through the Autism Spectrum and experiences ADHD, is challenging on the best of days. Doing so while battling the intermittent symptoms of chronic physical and mental health disorders of her own requires Herculean strength and effort – strength and effort she feels are sorely lacking. Back to her life of desperate inspiration for thwarted writing of prose and poetry.

He’s heading back to his creativity draining job as a brand copy writer, which is meant to support his ex-wife, their three children, and his aspirations of being a published novelist. A life where he juggles the responsibilities and desires of a part-time father of two teenagers and a younger child who also travels life on the Autism Spectrum. A life where the characters of his unwritten novel scream and cry, rant and rave to be let out.

They stop and stare intently into each other’s eyes…neither one wanting to be the first to say, “goodbye.” Neither one wants their shared, idyllic respite to come to an end, as it must. The retreat hosted by The Autism Society and sponsored by a dozen local charities and businesses has come to its end.

They lean into each other and share a bittersweet, lingering kiss, holding each other tight. Slowly, reluctantly, they step back. His phone rings. Her phone buzzes. Their lives are calling.

They drift apart without exchanging contact information, both knowing there’s no room for the other in either of their lives.

Every once in a while they revisit that time together in their minds’ eyes and reflect on their epic love that never was.