A CAUTIONARY TALE
Cook County General… Chicago, Illinois… Room 317… 11:30p.m.
Everything hurt. Cheryl looked at her friend and that’s what she saw. And that is what she would probably say when she awoke.
It had all started with that damn PennySaver ad. “Why waste money on a repairman when You can fix it?” “Let us show you the easy way to Do-It-Yourself!” She had told Ethel there was no easy way, and that a few online classes wouldn’t make her an expert on fixing things. But Ethel had replaced the cord on her window shade and fixed her blender, though she was out of her protein shake phase, so she had to give her credit for that.
Earlier that day, Cheryl had just fixed lunch and was going to watch the Big Brother episode she had recorded when the phone rang.
“Is this Miss Cheryl?”
“Hi Dominic, why are you calling me?”
“It’s Miss Ethel. She is going to hospital and you should know.”
Cheryl shifted in her chair and continued filling out the crossword in the Trib. ‘What the hell was Ethel thinking? Well this should teach that do-gooder a lesson. Let the landlord fix the damn dryer.’ Cheryl immediately felt sorry for that thought. ‘But really, any damn fool knows you unplug something before working on it. It says so on the back of the machine. Maybe they didn’t teach that in their fix-it class.’
The nurse had looked grave when Cheryl got to the hospital. Nurse Betty explained that her friend had received a serious electrical shock, but was expected to live. She was sedated and would sleep for sometime, they would call when she was awake. The doctor hoped there would be no lasting effects, but you never know. Cheryl thanked her, and said she would wait with Ethel, if that was okay. ‘It would serve her right if she got one of those white streaks in her hair like Angela Lansbury had in that movie.’
Cheryl was wishing there was another bed in the room when Ethel moaned, stirred and her eyes popped open.
“Where am I? What are you doing here?”
“I’m doing my crossword while I wait for you to wake up. Your dryer repair job didn’t go so well. Do you remember what happened? How do you feel?”
“Ooh, everything hurts.”
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The Speakeasy is back from summer vacation!
- Submissions must be 750 words or fewer.
- Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
- The following sentence must be the FIRST line in your submission: “Everything hurt.”
- You must also include a reference to the media prompt.
HOT STUFF… A Drabble for FriFic
In a brownstone three flights up… the sound of food being spit out.
“Good God, Ethel, what the hell is this?”
“It’s my new ‘culinary de force’, Cheryl. I’m bringing excitement to my cooking.”
“Excitement! Inedible, it’s so damn hot. I hope you meant ‘du jour’, because I don’t want to taste that again. And, don’t pull that pouty face with me! What did you put in that soup?”
“It’s my new thing. ‘Rooster Sauce!'”
Ethel proudly displays a bottle of Sriracha.
“Rooster sauce my ass, Ethel. There should be a Dragon on that label. One word… ‘Moderation'”
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The Speakeasy #159… THE LEPIDOPTERIST
Somewhere in Chicago a telephone rings…
“Hi, Ethel. Let me guess, we’re eating Mexican food today.”
“Si, mi hermana. Arturo’s is having a burrito sale. It’s on me.”
‘On me’ coming from Ethel meant she wanted something. Cheryl was proud of her friend for sticking with the Spanish class she had found in the PennySaver, but she was not about to tell her. Most of Ethel’s ‘projects’ lasted a week at best, and it had been a while since the ceramics fiasco.
“Let me guess. You have a new hobby.”
“You know how I’ve always been interested in Entomology, I’m going to be a Lepidopterist!”
“So now you’re taking Latin? What the hell are you talking about, Ethel, some English please?”
“A butterfly collector, Cheryl. I’m going to be a Butterfly Collector!”
“Okay, first of all, where are you going to find a butterfly in the city? Second, how does this involve me?”
“I’ve already collected one. You know how I can’t harm animals, I need you to stick the pin in when I mount it.”
“Oh right, the PETA thing. All right, I’ll do it, but only after Arturo’s.”
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Western & Armitage…
“Uno burrito pollo con extra salsa y beanos, por favor.”
“I’ll have a number seven, Arturo, thanks.”
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Later on the third floor of a brownstone in Wicker Park…
“It’s kind of drab and not very pretty, Ethel. I didn’t know you had a net, where did you find it?”
“I used a jar, Cheryl. It was on the back porch by the light. I don’t want to hurt it and besides those beady little eyes give me the creeps. That’s why you have to do it”
‘All right, give me the pin. Where do you want it?”
It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still.
“One thing, Ethel. I hate to break your butterfly bubble, but I’m pretty sure that’s a moth.”
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Speakeasy Managing Editor Suzanne Purkis has issued these instructions for this week’s entry in the writing contest:
- Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
- You must include the following sentence ANYWHERE in your submission: “It fluttered for a moment, magnificent in its struggle, then wilted and lay still.”
- You must also include a reference to the media prompt. An American Silver Fox by John James Audubon
The sentence is courtesy of last week’s winner… A Z Gringa in the Bleached Bone Valley. Her story is called No Time For Patience… I loved it, and you will too.
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Incidentally, if ever in Chicago… Check out Arturo’s Tacos in Bucktown. Fond memories of fabulous burritos after closing the bars…
“This news does not satisfy me, Cheryl.”
“What’s that, Ethel?”
“Trifecta Writing Challenge is folding their tent. I loved the writers and their stories.”
“Me too. They won’t stop writing, we’ll find them.”
Here is this week’s prompt… Using the third definition, your piece must be exactly 33 words.
SATISFY (transitive verb)
1a : to carry out the terms of (as a contract) : discharge
b : to meet a financial obligation to
2: to make reparation to (an injured party) : indemnify
3a : to make happy : please
4a : convince
b : to put an end to (doubt or uncertainty) : dispel
5a : to conform to (as specifications) : be adequate to (an end in view)
This news does not satisfy me either. After three years, The Trifecta Writing Challenge comes to an end this month. The Brainchild of Lisa Harvey, TWC has been a solid weekly platform for writers to strut their stuff. Prompts always challenging and never boring, the number of writers submitting entries swelled, sometimes reaching 100. That’s a lot of stories. I don’t remember how I found TWC, but I’m glad I did. I had been writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt for Friday Fictioneers, many of who write stories here, and I got up my courage to submit a story to TWC… the cruciverbalist… was my first. I learned so much about writing and gained new confidence by reading and writing at The Trifecta Challenge. And, not only that, but I’ve made some good friends. I’ve started submitting some stories at yeah write and still take part in FF. I have fond memories of my time at TWC and thank the editors for all their hard work. I’m sure we’ll meet again. When I told Ethel and Cheryl they were not happy.
THE MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT
Spencer listened for Sir David to descend the spiral staircase. He could follow his progress by which tread was creaking. This was helpful information, in case Spencer was doing something that Sir David would not approve. Like looking at his Book of Words.
David Wighton is the only magician to have been granted knighthood in the history of the British Empire, and he did not let one forget. He received this honor from the Queen for his service during the Boer War. He had developed Hypotyposis, and her military advisors were convinced it could be used to good advantage against the enemy. David Wighton was made a Colonel and put in charge of a brigade of magicians and sent to Swaziland. It had come to naught, but he did amuse the Queen with his wonders, and was awarded for that.
Spencer had been in Sir David’s employ for three years. Working with the great man, he was the envy of every member of the BMAU. But, Spencer had become tired of cleaning capes and hats of guano, polishing canes and shuffling cards. He had learned the ins and outs of many illusions, but never the big ones. He longed to make a name for himself. In short, he was tired of being the assistant.
One of the great man’s many achievements was his use of magic words. He did not rely on the likes of ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Presto’, ‘Hocus Pocus’, and certainly not ‘Bippity, Boppity, Boo’. Many thought he made them up, but not Spencer. One day in the library, while re-shelving Sir David’s books, he discovered an heretofore unseen button in the wainscoting. After a push and a click, a panel slid back, and there inside was a notebook and a fragile looking volume that appeared quite old. Spencer knew he had found the Holy Grail of Magic. With shaking hands he removed them and began to read. The notebook contained a history of the Boer War experiment to make the enemy vanish, and curiously the last entry was three weeks ago. Spencer knew the old man was crushed when he had not been asked to help during the ‘War to End All Wars’, and it appeared he was still working on a solution. Upon opening the old book, he felt he was descending through time as words leapt from the page and assaulted his mind. Some words he had heard Sir David use, so he knew he was on the right track.
Many months passed, and the lad practiced his craft, often returning to the book for guidance. It was on this day, with the sun streaming into the library, causing dust motes to dance in the air, that Spencer returned to the book. The panel slid back, but the books were not inside. A sound behind froze Spencer.
“Looking for something?”, Sir David intoned.
“I did not hear you come down, sir”, Spencer was flummoxed.
The magician had descended the stairs by Hypotyposis. “Obviously not, boy, or you would not have been sneaking about. I knew you were up to something. What have you been looking for in my books?”
“A magic word, sir. Something I can use to be great like you.”
The great magician pondered, “I see. Well, I will give you a word I have just discovered that would have won the Boer War.” He whispered in Spencer’s ear. “You only have to repeat it three times. Now please go fetch me some tea.”
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Some weeks passed. Spencer had not been home and his mother was alarmed. His friends in the BMAU had not seen him, and that was not like Spencer. He loved a pint or two, and the chance to brag about Sir David’s latest success. In fact, he had been hinting at his own act soon to come. She suspected foul play.
Sir David’s assistant answered the door, admitting the police. They were ushered to the conservatory, and stood humbly before the great one.
“We have come to ask if you know the whereabouts of a Mr. Spencer Milburn, Sir David. He has turned up missing. Since March 27th, we believe.”
“Yes, most distressing. I had to hire a new assistant. Do you know how much work it is to train a new assistant? I was in the library, and sent Spencer to make tea. I sat there and waited, but he never came back.”
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Submissions must be 750 words or fewer. Fiction or Poetry. Your piece must included the following sentence as the LAST line: “I sat there and waited, but he never came back.” And must include a reference to this video:
The photo is of the famous British magician David Devant, performing his astonishing illusion, Hypotyposis… Spencer is on the far left, I think.
RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH A BANG!
Somewhere along the Brown Line, an iPhone sounds, startling nearby riders.
Quack!… Quack!… Quack!… Quack! “Hello?”
“Ethel, where the hell are you? Our show’s about to start!”
“Well Ralph is going to have to send Alice to the moon without me, Cheryl. I’m almost to Armitage now, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“You’re on the Ravenswood L? Do not tell me you’ve been to Jeremy’s!”
“We can’t ring in the New Year without fireworks, Cheryl, and he has the best.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. You do remember the school playground last year, Ethel?”
“He says these are much safer ones. Record ‘TV Land’ and we can watch when I get there.”
“If you get here, Ethel. Remember, there is bomb sniffing dogs at Lake Transfer Station.”
“This week’ sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, Jeremy, can be used ANYWHERE in your piece.” “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“And the media prompt is a picture, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the picture, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission.”
To read J. Milburn’s award-winning story, go to Writing To Be Noticed
ETHEL & CHERYL WRITE A STORY
“‘I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.’ Okay, that has to be the first line to start our story. Not over 750 words, okay Ethel?”
“Wait a minute! What are you talking about, Cheryl? The first line has to be ‘Pass the basil, would you?’. You were late and I’ve already started the story. It takes place on a TV cooking show. Here, take a look.”
“Pass the basil, would you?” “Basil! What are you a @#☠%^#✴︎& Idiot!!!” “I think it goes in spaghetti, Chef.” “But you are not making @#☠%^#✴︎& Spaghetti!!! I asked for @#☠%^#✴︎& Lo Mein!!!” “Sorry, Chef!!! All noodles look the same to me.”
“For crying out loud, Ethel, you misread the instructions! They are introducing the prompt painting with the ‘basil thing’. It has something to with the story in the painting.”
“What story? They aren’t cooking in the painting. I don’t see any basil anywhere, just a skinny-ass dog and some people having a meal. Okay, let’s figure out how they’re using basil, and I’ll save my cooking show story for later, I think it’s hilarious.”
“To each his own, Ethel, but it’s not about cooking. If we want to be writers we need to focus, especially since we’re going to win a prize, we want it to be good.”
“Okay, let’s think outside the box here. We can have ‘the tracks found deep in the snow between the trees’ be the dog’s. And, we can have the cook find them!”
While surfing the web, Ethel came across a writing challenge called The Speakeasy #140, always on the hunt for something new, she enlisted Cheryl to help her. Here are the instructions she came across:
This week our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, EA Wicklund, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece. And the media prompt is a painting.
Pass the basil, would you?
The painting this week is Isabella by John Everett Millais. It’s the first painting he did in the Pre-Raphaelite style and it was inspired by John Keat’s poem Isabella, or the Pot of Basil. Be sure to click on the image to see this painting in its large format because there is a lot going on in it.
- Submissions must be 750 words or fewer.
- Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
- Your piece must include the following sentence as the FIRST line: “I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.”
Incidentally, to read some damn fine Sci-Fi, check out Wicklund’s Fairy Tales.
Suzanne Purkis runs the speakeasy, and can be found at Apoplectic Apostrophes.
IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
The Detroit Auto Show was always a basin of opportunity.
But, the myopic choice of a name by Mister Ford failed to dazzle.
Both for the new model line-up and the child.
The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.
“Grandma’s going to kill me! First her marble slab, now her favorite mixing bowl. HELP ME!!!!!!
“Wake up! Wake up, what’s wrong?”
Twisted up in a sheet and drenched in a cold sweat, I fight to get back into reality, trying to explain the delicious pinks and reds.
“You’ve been playing way too much Candy Crush on facebook!” my friend says.
THE SPEAKEASY #138… This week our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner Kianwi, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece. And the media prompt is a picture, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the picture, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission. “The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.”
This story kind of came to me in a dream. I had gone to sleep thinking of the prompt line, and I had bought some homemade caramels from a friend at a craft fair, who sells them under the name GrandmaFreysCaramels. And, I have a friend on facebook who plays Candy Crush all the time, it’s one of those games like FarmVille that have people hooked. She’s always trying to get me to play. I’m not sure it was me in the dream, I think I was writing the story in the dream. Those might be clues to how the dream came about… so, I thought I’d use it for my story.
p.s. If you like good caramel candy, order some from Paul. He’s a good guy and coach of the Friday Harbor High School Girls Soccer Team… Division Champs this year… my granddaughter Isabel is a star midfielder.
“I still can’t believe you talked me into this, Ethel.”
“It’ll get warmer when the sun comes up,Cheryl.”
“That’s at seven-thirty, the store opens at five.”
“I know, and I want that big-ass-flatscreen!”
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The Editors of The Trifextra Writing Challenge are busy with their families this week, so they said: “This weekend we are assuming that many of you are slogging your way through leftovers and family bickering (or is that just us?) and thus we’re going way easy on you. We are asking for a 33-word free write. Give us whatever you’ve got.”