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June 2018 Writing Challenge

  • 01 Jun 2018 6:55 AM
    Message # 6279269
    Jim Keen (Administrator)

    The lights illuminate the darkened night. Is it a neighborhood aglow in joyful homecoming or some catastrophe that has the quiet street so brightly lit? We challenge you to write a 1000 word story interpreting this picture.

  • 03 Jun 2018 7:03 PM
    Reply # 6283883 on 6279269

    Another Typical Night

    We woke to loud banging on the front door, so I fumbled in the nightstand for the pistol and pulled a robe over my PJs. My wife crept up behind me as I bent down to look through the peephole at a disheveled blonde in sweats. She didn’t seem threatening, so with my wife peering over my shoulder, I cracked open the door. The woman pushed her way inside, grabbed my wife’s hands, and started crying hysterically—leaving in her wake a faint scent of ‘perfume de Budweiser’. After a look from my wife, I went outside to let her deal with the craziness.

    Luckily, I had stashed a pack in my robe, so I fired up a Marlboro and sat in a rocking chair. Lately I’ve been trying to cut back, but my wife had quit months ago so I wasn’t allowed to smoke inside my own home. My nerves settled down as I pulled the smoke deep inside my lungs.

    Street lights softly illuminated the residential lane. But the porch roof cast a shadow so the only thing anyone could see of me was the glow when I puffed on the cigarette.

    Down the street I could see some idiot running from house to house, banging on doors. One by one, porch lights turned on as people briefly spoke to the person. Then he would cross the street, wake up some more people at a couple of houses, and then go back to the other side of the street. One by one, porch lights lit in a steady progression towards my house.

    He came running across my yard but slid to a stop when he realized I was sitting there.

    I shifted the pistol onto my lap and loudly asked, “Whatta you want?”

    Startled by my presence, he stood stock-still. Sweat dripped down his bare chest and his beer-belly bulged over the waistband of his jeans.

    “Have you seen my wife?” he asked.

    “Don’t know,” I answered. “What’s she look like?”

    “Blond hair, tall, wearing blue sweats.”

    I cut him off, “I saw a woman like that in Walmart yesterday. Was that her?”

    He just stood there, befuddled by my answer. The sour smell of the alcohol wafted from his body as he took a few seconds to figure out what to say.

    “Nah man, she came running down this way from my house the next street over. Have you seen her?”

    “I’m just sitting here peaceful-like having a smoke, and I ain’t seen nobody but you,” I lied. “But you’re starting to git on my nerves, so you’d better leave. Maybe you’ll find her down the street, so just git outta my yard.”

    Reluctantly he backed away, crossed the street and banged on another door. I didn’t have to show him my pistol, but he probably suspected I was armed. Most of my neighbors had guns of some sort in the house, so it was likely he’d already stared down the barrel of a gun.

    After he had gone to a few more doors, blue lights came down the street. He stood right in the middle of the road and flagged down the deputy. Briefly he spoke to the officer through the driver-side window, and then voluntarily got into the back seat. Two more cruisers arrived, and the three officers huddled on the sidewalk.

    The multiple rotating blue lights cast a surreal quality over the scene. Other people came out on their porches to see what was going on.

    Two of the officers walked towards my house, so I stuffed the pistol out of sight under the seat cushion and rubbed the butt out in the ashtray. As they came up the walkway, one of them shined a flashlight at my house.

    “Get that damn light out of my eyes!” I snapped.

    “Sorry,” he said. “I was just trying to read the numbers on your porch post. Somebody at this house called 911 to report a domestic disturbance.”

    That sounded like something my wife would do, so I said, “Go right inside; they’re in the living room.”

    I lit another cigarette as the older of the two stepped inside; the younger one stood in the yard and just stared at me. Then I heard the backdoor slam and the blonde came running around the side of the house. The cop standing in the yard darted over to intercept her. She tried to change direction and tripped over her own feet. Quick as a cat, he put a hand on her back to keep her down and cuffed her. The older deputy came back out the front door with my wife right behind him, and he explained the deal to us.

    “These two are separated and she has been staying with her new boyfriend. Tonight she keyed her husband’s car, and he woke up when she started to bust the windows. He came out in his undershorts to stop her, and she had to run off because she'd dropped the keys to her car. She got a head start because he had to put pants on before he could chase after her. We’re gonna carry them both in and let the magistrate sort it out.”

    I said, “At least you had a little excitement to make time go by.”

    “Nah,” he said. “It’s just another typical night.”

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

    Art often imitates life. Several years ago, a neighbor rang our doorbell late at night. She had stormed out after an argument with her hubby, but then she didn’t know what to do. My wife talked to her awhile until she calmed down and went home.

    Another time, a teenager knocked on our door, claiming that his father was chasing him to beat his butt. I wouldn’t even let him in the house because he was so hyper, so we sat on the porch while my wife called the cops. His father never showed up, and the deputies carried him home to resolve the issue.


    Last modified: 04 Jun 2018 7:26 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 11 Jul 2018 3:38 PM
    Reply # 6376791 on 6279269
    Gloria A. Gould-Loftin

    Lights

    My name is Hagan Brandt and this is my story.

    It had been six months since the world had gone dark. A meteor had crashed into the earth in Africa, taking out the whole continent in one blast.

    The resulting tsunami’s’ and earthquakes had wiped out most of the eastern seaboard of the U.S. and west coasts of all other countries.

    Lights appeared in most of the skies around the world; and just like that we were in the dark from the EMP blast.

    Nations trembled and the religious said that it was the end of the world. People went to their churches looking for salvation, but there was none to be found. Mass suicides occurred each day.

    We were down to about one billion left alive. Just like me.

    Before the blast I was a stock broker in N.Y.  I was one of the lucky (or unlucky) left alive.

    My wife and children had been in the Midwest visiting our relatives in Kansas, one of the few places with the lights still on due to gas generators on the family farms.   

    Cars still worked with what little gas anyone could find.  The police tried to calm everyone, but they had families of their own and chaos soon took over.

    My neighbors and myself in our small community, in western N.Y. banned together, pooled our resources and made the best of a horrible situation.

    As our supplies dwindled it seemed that mankind was on its last gasp; it was every man for themselves.

    I decided to head as far west as my gas would take me and walk from there. I was desperate to find my family.

    The day I headed out my neighbor John asked me. “Do you have room for one more? My son lives in Kansas City and I need to find him. He is the only family I have left.”

    “Sure. Is there anyone else that wants to go? I can take three more in the SUV.”

    “I’ll go with you.” said Ryan. A young boy who we had been looking after since his parents had been killed in the blast. “Let me get my dog and we will be right back.”

    “Ryan, I don’t know if we have room for Princess.” Ryan looked at me with a heartbroken look. Princess was the only family he had left.

    “Go get her we will make room.” I said with a shrug of my shoulders. I guess the more the merrier I thought me myself.

    “I can take one more.”

    No one spoke up and as soon as we have loaded what food and water we had, and we the small band of survivors and Princess headed west.

    We stopped in W.V. for the night at an abandoned hotel on the outskirts of Charleston. 

    We passed bands of people all huddled around campfires. We moved off as fast as we could. We saw no other cars on the road.

    “Surely we cannot have the only running car left in America.” Ryan exclaimed.

    I did not want to worry him that we running low on fuel. We stopped at a convenience store that was still open.  We went inside and asked the man behind the counter if the gas pumps worked. He looked us over and said.

    “They still work for the right person.”

    “What does that mean?” I asked.

    “Do you have room for one more in your car?” he asked.

                “All my family is gone and I had asked everyone who has stopped here if they could take me with them and they said no.” the old man replied.

                “As it happens we have room for just one more old-timer.” I replied.

                “Well son, pull your car up to the gas pumps and let’s get this show on the road.”

                The old man told me after the SUV was filled up to being it around the back.  There sat a trailer filled up with food, water and gas.

                “I have been saving this up for the right people to come along and you are it.” the man said.

                “How long have you hidden all this?” John asked.

                “Since the first day of darkness.” he replied

                “As we are to be traveling companions, my name is Horace West.”

                            We headed out and with the worry of gas stops made good time into western Tennessee.

                It looked like the state had been abandoned. I was surprised that more of the people had not survived in the mid-west. 

                As we traveled on we ran into bands of people heading west. We dared not stop. We were afraid that they would try to take the car and supplies.

                On the 10th day of our travels we headed down the road to my wife’s family home.  As we got closer we could see several people in the front yard.

                 A voice I never thought to hear yelled,

    “Daddy.” my youngest daughter cried.

                “Mommy told us you would come, but we were so afraid when we couldn’t call you.”

                “Dad,” said a voice from the porch. Is it really you? Mrs. Brandt said you would come since we had been neighbors since I was small, but I never thought to see you again.” John’s son Randy said with tears running down his face.

                Father and son greeted each other with much crying and back slapping.  Randy introduced his father to all the neighbors and strays that Mrs. Brandt’s family had taken in.

                “I afraid I can’t offer you much in the way of food. We are just waiting to harvest the last of the summer stock.” Mrs. Brandt’s father said.

                Hagen told him. “We come bearing gifts. We have a whole trailer filled with food and water.”

                It will be a long time before any lights come back on. But lights are not always found in the sky.  There are lights that come into your life unexpectedly.  Ryan, Princess, John and Horace came into my life when I was afraid. We helped each other to see that when it is the darkest there is always light to be found.


  • 14 Jul 2018 9:13 AM
    Reply # 6381032 on 6279269

    Gloria,

    I really liked the ending. It left the reader hanging instead of just artificially resolving the plot. The dialogue is good -- more dialogue would be a good way to tell the story instead of using narrative. 

    I learn from reading good authors, and one of the best at writing convincing dialogue is Harry Turtledove, who mainly writes fantasy or alternative history books. You might enjoy his Guns of the South or Ruled Britannia. The latter novel is an alternative fiction in which the Spanish Armada successfully conquers England and Shakespeare joins the resistance. Turtledove manages to incorporate lines from Shakespearean plays into the dialogue without them seeming contrived. 

    Great Job! 

    Last modified: 14 Jul 2018 9:31 AM | Michael Worthington
  • 17 Jul 2018 4:37 PM
    Reply # 6386119 on 6279269
    Sherri Hollister (Administrator)

    Michael, as always you charm me with your stories. They're so real but you always have a little twist. Love it!


    Gloria, you have a fantastic mind. I love this story, especially the ending. Have you read Nora Roberts "Year One?" This reminds me of it a little. 

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