BFM 2021: Third voting round

Writing convincing dialogue is not an easy task. Let alone having to stage the speech with specific requirements. This assignment was an extremely difficult challenge. We knew when we decided to set it for the writers,  at this point in the competition, that only those with stamina would rise to the occasion. Here is the specification of the third round task.

Third Round Assignment

Write a story where an argument is central, with the following conditions:

At least 50% of your text should be dialogue
The story should use proper punctuation
The length of your entry should be between 650-750 words
 Give your story a title of 2-4 words

Fifteen writers rose to the challenge and did amazingly well. The jury has already voted on the stories. In the previous two rounds – we presented all of the entries to you but as per the rules only the top 70% were available for the public vote. However, the scores for over half the stories in this third round were so close that we have decided the fairest thing is for the public to read and vote on ALL fifteen entries.

Readers, what should you do now?

Read all the third round entries, and vote for the stories you like the best. Try to keep the assignment in mind when you make your choices. You have to choose three stories, no less, no more.

The survey is at the bottom of the page after the last story. Don’t’ forget to click the ‘Finish Survey’ button when you’ve made your choices!

Also, the writers appreciate receiving feedback. Just a few things your liked about the entries or where you feel improvements could be made. Such advice may help them with their composition during the rest of the competition. This can be done in the comments section below after completing the survey. All feedback is held in moderation until the results of the round are ready to be revealed.

Please note:

  • Writers are not allowed to tell anyone which entry they have written!
  • You can only vote once. Votes will be monitored and double votes will be removed.
  • The voting round closes on 6 July 2021 (see the countdown in the sidebar).
  • Results of the voting round will be published on this site on 10 July 2021 and then the author of each story will be revealed.

 The Third Round Stories

1. The Last Walk

Park the car, slam the door, stuff the keys in the pocket of your tight, tatty faded jeans and you walk, almost ignoring me.

“What’s up? You’re so quiet!” I ask.

“Nothing, just walk, it’s nothing,” you reply.

“Your sweating, something’s wrong! The whole way here I could have cut atmosphere with my Mother’s bread knife.”

“Can’t we just walk? This is such a beautiful space and we are alone, you me and the trees, oh and the canal, can’t we just be quiet for an hour?”

“B, you’re looking down all the time, your face is like thunder, your ignoring me! Something tells me you’re angry with me. What have I done?”

Silence, brooding, dark silence on a bright, warm summer evening and you and I just walk, barely a word, till…

You grab me by the throat, your cold hand around my neck…

“Just don’t forget, this was always coming, the way you follow me around like a love sick child, a boy who hasn’t a clue about the real world and me. Just how well do you think you treat me? You never offer me any money, you don’t buy me things.”

“I thought there was more to you than that B? You don’t need my money! Is that what you saw in me? There was me thinking we shared a kink, you and I Master and submissive, Mistress and submissive, a couple of switches, perfect!”

“My house is falling down and you can’t fix it can you? My friends have offered me money but not you!” her hand loosens its grip and then I feel a slap on my cheek.“Owe, I told you to sell it! Cut your losses, now you’ve done it again! You’ve hit your lover, just like you said you’d hit him, your ex!”

B turns; her hands are on her face.

“You made me hit you, you’ve been so unfair, so unreasonable. All of the time you knew how much the house means to me, you know I want to sell it for its market value. Well, you had that coming.”

B walks away from me and I follow. We find a space, in the woods nearby. I want to walk on but you freeze.

“I don’t want to go that way.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I just want to go back.”

“Why, it’s a beautiful spot, let’s explore?”

“No!”

Turning to you, my arms in the air, I fly, “Well I guess this was too good to be true. When we met online, it all seemed so perfect. But you are as damaged as I am, hurt, angry and it’s time we stopped all of this.”

“You can’t leave me! What will you do? You will always be scraping around, trying to get your needs met. I’ve given you all you need but I know that’s not enough, is it?”

Silence, minutes of unbroken quiet pass while I think and she wrings her hands in barely contained anger.

“I can’t live with you B, I’m scared of you and now my thoughts are making this all worse. We are not good for one another.”

“So this is it is it? What will you do? See men to get your fix? Well if that’s what you want!”

“Of course that’s not what I want. But I can’t live with your moods and now this. You hit me. I just can’t do this anymore.”

“Before you knew me, you were seeing men and you will go back to it. Just wait and see! You are so selfish. You are the only person who has not offered me any money. I want to go back, back to the car.”

“What is it about this place? Why don’t you want to walk any further?”

I could sense her fear; like lead, cold, dark and a weight that held her, helplessly, to the ground.

“I killed him, he’s buried here,” pointing, her arm shaking, her head down, eyes closed, marking the place where he had fallen.


2. We’ve been over this

As Sam entered his apartment, he threw his keys onto the sideboard, grabbing the decanter of whiskey, and the chipped crystal glass in the same movement, before striding into his living room and stopping dead with a heavy sigh.

“Not today Arti, I don’t have the energy for an argument.”

“Nor do I Uncle, nor do I wish to have one, so let me go about my duty and I will be on my way.”

“Arti.” Sam warned darkly to his niece, shooting her a glance as he poured himself a drink, downing it and pouring another. “We’ve been over this. I don’t want your help, I don’t need your help, alright? So just drop it before you even start. Want a drink?”

“No, Uncle, I don’t want a drink. I want to do my job.” Arti replied, her usual monotone dropping several octaves, her blood-red tipped, white feathered wings quivering on her back. Her storm grey eyes, a mirror image of her mother’s (his twin) following him as he sat upon his couch and stared at her as she stood in the corner of the room by the window.

Sam rolled his eyes, resting his head on his hand as he stared at her, she was far too like his sister for his liking.

“I wouldn’t be here if I was not meant to be, a fact you seem to ‘conveniently’ forget. I have work to do, work I cannot complete when I am constantly being pulled here, to you. You don’t believe yourself worthy of my talents, but my heart has other ideas, and that is not biased because you’re kin, it is a pull I have no control over, which you well know.”

“I don’t believe that, and even if I did I have no intention of allowing you to perform your ‘talents’ upon me, robbing me of my grief. That is mine and mine alone, that is not for you to take.”

Wrong.” Artiya’il replied, her tone dangerously close to anger, something Sam knew wasn’t wise to invoke in his niece. “Am I not the Archangel of Grief? Is it not my duty to remove Grief from those who have been judged worthy? Do you think I waste my time being pulled here and there by you purely because we are kin? No, Uncle, I do not. I do not follow you willy nilly, I follow because I am drawn to you, time and time again. It is physically, and mentally, exhausting to ignore the call, and the longer you avoid this, the louder the ringing in my ears tells me that it is time for you to let her go!”

No!” Sam roared, throwing his glass across the room, a cascade of amber liquid flowing through the air as the crystal hit the wall and shattered in a tinkling of glittering shards. “I will choose, that is mine to control. I won’t let you, or anyone else tell me when to stop grieving the loss of my daughter.” He snarled, once dull blue eyes now bright and ringed by a golden halo. “Do you understand me?”

“That’s what this is about, just as it always is, your bloody feud with Father. Do you honestly believe that my call is at His whim?”

“Everything is.”

“Then even your own rebellion is dictated by Him, by your own logic.” She snarled. “I have served Demons, I have served Humans, I have served Angels, do you honestly believe that He would allow me to remove the Grief of the Demonic? Are you so stubborn that you cannot see the truth of the matter? You see it as His will, because you cannot let Him go, but this is no more His will than it is mine. Whatever the call is, whatever compels me to each being to remove their Grief, it is not of His doing, it is not dictated to me by God.”

“Arti, please, just go.” Sam sighed, sitting heavily into the couch, his head in his hands.

“This is the last time, Uncle. When the call drags me here next time, I will give you no choice in the matter.”

Sam heard the flutter of wings, and he looked up from his hands to the empty space left by his niece, two feathers floating to the floor, the only indication that she had been there at all.

“Until next time. Until next time.” He sighed, closing his eyes, dreading when that would be.


3. Wayward Son

At Haven’s prodding, Bill told his father about the festival his band had booked, then asked, “What do you think?”

“You’re not going to miss work for it, are you?” Charlie asked.

“No, I’m off that weekend.”

Charlie shrugged. “Well, you know you’ll never make a living playing music, and you’ve got a good job at the factory. So, what’s the point? Kinda seems like a waste of time to me.”

Bill looked at him, then nodded. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He stood and kissed Haven. “I’m gonna change Mom’s oil. It won’t take long.”

“Okay, babe.” Haven smiled, but when Bill left, so did her smile. She jerked her head at Charlie. “Can I see you in the kitchen, please?”

Charlie did a double-take, surprised by both the anger on her face and in her tone. He raised his eyebrows and stood, gesturing for her to go first. She stalked past him.

Charlie glanced at his wife, but she turned her head.

Shit, he thought, and followed his daughter-in-law into the kitchen.

Haven stood, hands planted on the island, ready to fight. “Could you just not?”

“Not what?” he asked, confused.

“Not cut down every little thing Bill gets excited about. Would it have killed you to say, ‘That sounds great, son. I hope it turns into something for you.’”

Charlie lifted his eyebrows. “He wanted to know what I thought, and I thought it sounded like a waste of time.”

Haven’s face reddened. Charlie liked her fire, just not being on the receiving end of it. She looked like she was about to let him have it.

“Have you even heard him play since he was a kid? He’s really good. And he was so excited about this opportunity, before you said that.”

Charlie waved her comment away. “Bill doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do.”

Haven laughed. “Bill cares what everyone thinks, especially you. Sometimes I wonder if you know him at all.”

“I’ve known him a lot longer than—”

She held up a hand, silencing him. Not many people dared challenge him like this, and he was more taken aback than angry.

“You should listen to him talk to other people. Everything is ‘My dad says this, or my dad says that…’ Hell, Charlie, even his wedding vows started with, ‘My dad always told me…’” She took Charlie’s hand. “Papi, I love you, but you need to cut Bill some slack. He’s a good man. A good husband. He’s always so wound up around you, because he feels like you’re waiting on him to screw up—”

“That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it? Charlie, he’s not that kid anymore.”

Charlie frowned. “You didn’t know that kid. I almost lost him. The drugs, the fighting. I had to be hard on him.”

Haven leaned against the fridge. “Do you know why he stopped?”

“Yeah. He nearly died on my bathroom floor, right down that hall there. You weren’t here then, either.”

She stared him down. “Bill didn’t quit because he almost died. He quit because that was the only time in his life he ever saw you cry. He said he couldn’t stand to think of his father crying because of him. Not his mother, not his brother, not anyone else. He couldn’t stand to hurt you.”

Charlie’s breath caught and he looked away. Memories of that night still wrecked him. Memories of finding his youngest son facedown on the floor, covered in vomit and seizing. Of racing to the hospital and praying they’d be on time, and of just losing it—in a way he never allowed himself to lose it-—when Bill opened his eyes and whispered, ‘Daddy.’”

She squeezed his hand. “All I’m saying is… you don’t have to be such a hardass toward him all the time. Bill has the biggest heart of any damn Johnston I know, and he’s smart. Trust him to make good decisions.”

Charlie sighed. “Well, he made one, for sure. When he told me he was going to propose, I asked if he was sure. He said, ‘Dad, if I’m wrong about her, I’m wrong about everything.’ He wasn’t. I gotta say, Bill picked a good woman.”

The corner of her mouth twitched. “Damn straight he did. Now, go out there and help your son. I know it goes against your basic personality, but be nice. Tell him when he plays that show you’ll be in the front row watching.”

Charlie saluted her. “Yes, Ma’am.”


4. We never argue

If he continues to sit there, graunching his way through that family pack of crisps in such an annoying, irritating way, she would scream. The sight of his fat belly repulsed her, all that flabby white skin partially exposed as he slouches in that horrid, saggy old armchair, it was ancient, threadbare and stained, but he refused to replace it. She hated it.

Jayne let out an irritated tut.

What’s up, love?” Simon replied.

Oh nothing, just wondered if maybe you’d had enough of those crisps now? You know what the doctor said about your diet.”

Ah, it’s fine, I’ve only had a few, anyway the size of that fat bastard, the cheeky fucker is twice my size.”

Jayne remembers when Simon would never have used such coarse language.

Doctor Harris is a fine man, he was very kind to me when I.. I mean, when we… well you know.”

Simon did know, there was hardly a day that went by when he didn’t think of his son, his beautiful little baby boy, life could be unbearably cruel.

He might have been kind to you, he’s done bugger all for me apart from lecture me on my fucking diet, going on and on about the booze. So sod Harris, the man is never out of the pub himself … talking of which, get me a couple of those lagers from the fridge, these crisps are making my throat drier than an old whores chuff.”

Simon!!! Please, there is no need for that horrible language.”

Well, it’s true, jeez what’s wrong with you woman, I’m only using a little colourful language. It’s called expressing yourself, you should try it sometime, you might just like it.”

Jayne left the fetid atmosphere of the lounge and retired to her neat, organized kitchen where everything was in its place. Slumping at the kitchen table she tried to compose herself…and no, she wouldn’t like expressing herself, she’d very much hate expressing how she felt.

Jayne couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt happy, or even relaxed in her own home, although she had the exact date when the happiness ended etched in her heart. She had been happy before that date, she just couldn’t remember what it felt like.

Simon remained in his seat, the telly on but not watching. He felt bad the way he spoke to his wife, but then he always felt bad. If only she’d show some bloody fight and argue back sometimes. He swore to get her attention, to try and provoke some emotion, at least get some sort of reaction.

Jayne, JAYNE, what’s keeping you? I’m gagging in here.”

Coming, love. I’m just siding a few things first.” Jayne shouted back from the kitchen. It felt good to raise her voice.

Can’t you do that later? For fucks sake woman, the footie is on soon and you know I can’t watch that without my beer, oh and if there is any of that takeout curry left, bring that in too would you.”

Do you need a glass?” Jayne already knew the answer to this, he’d drink straight from the can, burp and say ‘better out than in’. She’d be picking up the discarded cans from the floor before she went to bed, leaving her snoring husband to spend the night in his chair.

Nah, why give you anything else to wash up, eh” Simon laughed. “You can leave the curry in the tray, better give me a fork though, I’m not a complete philistine.”

Here you go, try not to spill any over yourself or the floor, it’ll stain.”

Jayne heads back to the kitchen to read her book.

Aren’t you going to stay? Maybe watch the football, it’s England against Macedonia in the Euro’s, if we win we’ll be in the knockout stages, probably against Italy. We could have some pasta when that game is on couldn’t we, maybe get a bottle of that Chianti rubbish you used to like?”

No, I won’t, you know I don’t like football, and I’ve not had any alcohol since… well, for a long time now, but you enjoy.”

Oh ok then, suit yourself.”

Both Jayne and Simon sigh, but neither can hear the other.


5. Celebrating New Beginnings

51 years ago they planted me here to watch over the landscape, commemorate the end of the war and celebrate new beginnings. I’ve seen my fair share of rambunctious youngsters trying their hand at climbing a tree, youths experimenting with first kisses and secret cigarettes. I’ve heard whispered longings and final farewells; even had wishes tied to my branches and tears water my roots. These youngsters grew up, made their way into the big, wide world. Sometimes returning years later, ready to start the cycle all over again. There’s one couple I remember clearly. She’d taken her first steps while holding on to my gnarly trunk. He would hide in my upper branches through skipped lessons. Many of their firsts were within my sights. Now married, they’re back, building a life together in their hometown. Late one night, I recognised their approaching voices.

“Stop it, just… stop! You can say that all you want but you still just assume you know.” It was her, loud and shrill.

“But I’ve always asked what you want…”

“Just because you ask, doesn’t mean you listen to the answer” her hissed interruption pierced the moonlit night. “I say ‘Feast on my cunt, rip orgasms from me until I gush’ and you…. You gently lay me down, lapping at me until my tummy flutters in pleasant appreciation. NOT the same thing!”

“OK. I’m all ears. Tell me. No-no. SHOW me…!”

“Now? Your timing is impeccable. As always.”

“Tell me now, while we walk home. Once I know I’ll try again, do better”

“Be careful what you wish for. You’ve not listened before. I imagine you’re in for a shock.” There was a wry smile in her words then.

“Try me” he said, aware it may be too little too late.

She paused, considering his words. “Stop.” His breath caught as she continued, “we’re going to try things now. Not ‘discuss as we walk and try when we’re home’. You’ll only forget. I don’t want that to happen. My needs should be etched on your soul. Shall I show you? I’ll go gentle. You can stop me at any time”.

He hesitated for just a moment, but in the sultry summer air it felt like an eternity “Ummm, ok. What do you want me to…?”

“These- off,” she shushed him, tugged at his jeans. “And this,” a finger flicked toward his shirt next as she guided him to his knees.

“Oh, and you’ll be needing these” she whipped off her knickers, laughed while stuffing his surprised mouth.

“Now you’re kneeling comfortably I’d like to use your belt to colour your cheeks. Nod if you’re happy.” He smiled around the underwear, nodding his consent. “Six on each cheek should give you a taster of what I want. Shake your head if it gets too much.”

He took each blow with a wincing breath, but never asked her to stop.

“Thank you, I certainly enjoyed that!” A quick glance showed his turgid shaft bouncing in the shadows. She smirked down at him “I see you did too. Lay down now, you’ve earnt the rest, and I want to make use of your excitement. Shall we continue?”

Actions speak louder than words. He rolled over, offered his straining cock for her use. Already close from delivering the spanking, pleasure pulsed through her within minutes. As she screamed her release at the stars he climaxed too. Unable to hold himself back.

“Did I say you could cum? I orgasm so you think you can too?? This was about my pleasure, not yours. I can’t be walking home with that sticky mess seeping from between my lips. Make it right!” Her panties pulled from his mouth she squat over it, his nimble tongue deftly erased their juices from her swollen cunt.

“That… Wow! I’m so sorry… I should have… attention… sooner…” The sentences wouldn’t form as he struggled into his clothing.

“Now you’ve started to listen, shall we keep it that way? What we just did, that’s what I want. And, unless I’m very much mistaken, you’ll be comfortable fulfilling my desires.”

“I’ve never seen you like that before. In control. Will you show me more?”

“Will I show you more…what?” She started walking away from me, him.

“Will you show me more please?” Jeans half-way up his legs, he hopped after her.

“Please is correct, and yes,” she looked back at him, smiled, “I’d love to.”

I watched them disappear into the night and silently celebrated another new chapter beginning.


6. Anima Rising

“You are not going out dressed like that!”

“Roberta! You sound exactly like my mother!”

At the thought of his mother, the fragility of Andy’s efforts to appear merry became obvious. Roberta, his housemate, had made it her mission to be the vanquisher of his wretched social anxiety and, until this point, she’d had high hopes that this was going to be the night that she finally succeeded in introducing Andy to her kaleidoscope of queer friends at ‘The House of Bridget’.

***

“Andrew, you are not going out dressed like that.”

“Mother, I’m only going down the road to Alison’s.”

“And what are Alison’s parents going to say when they open the door and see you standing there in a skirt?”

“It’s not a skirt, Mother…”

“Oh, I know, I know; you keep telling me that it’s a leather kilt but it looks an awful lot like a skirt to me, young man, and that looks very much like a blouse and your hair looks like a girl’s and… are you wearing make-up?”

***

“Aw, mate, I’m so sorry,” said Roberta, when Andy had finished explaining why hearing her say those words had so suddenly upset him. “But I’m saying to you, you can’t go to Bridget’s in jeans and a t-shirt, love; they’ll not let you in. What I’m saying to you is exactly the opposite of what your mam was telling you; I’m telling you that you have to dress up and express yourself! Whatever it was that was trying to show itself in 15-year-old Andy, it’s time to let it out… it’s time to let her out to play.”

His throat constricted by suppressed sobs, Andy stuttered, “It’s not that… I’m not…”

But Roberta hushed him: “You don’t have to explain yourself to me nor to anyone else, not even to yourself, Andy love. Come.”

And, taking him by the hand, she led him to her room and stood him before her open wardrobe.

“Choose. Take your time. Take pleasure. I think most of my things will fit you. Oh, and” – she pointed across the room – “top drawer.” She smiled and winked as she left the room.

Opening the large drawer, Andy was greeted by the sight of Roberta’s underwear collection, with piles of knickers in neat, colour-coordinated piles and, further back, an exotic array of bras, bustiers, waspies and suspender belts. In truth, he was already somewhat familiar with many of these items. They took turns to take their shared load of laundry to Lilly’s and Andy took great pleasure in the careful handling and folding of Roberta’s delicates before placing the fragrant pile on her bed. So he sought and found a favoured pair of full-cut knickers, sheer with a gold lamé shimmer.

Turning to the wardrobe, he ran his hand through the rows of soft fabrics until it settled on a sleeveless, caramel-coloured, silk slip-dress.

He hurried out of his old clothes and, with less hurry, had just pulled on Roberta’s knickers and let the dress fall over his body, like a whispered sigh, when he heard a tap on the door. Andy took a deep breath.

“You can come in, Roberta.” He turned, blushing, as Roberta slowly opened the door.

“Oh wow… I’m lost for words… You look fucking stunning, Andy!”

“Anima. I want you to call me Anima.”

“Anima, sweetheart, come and sit at the dressing table.”

As Roberta began to brush Anima’s long hair, softly and rhythmically, her gentle, melodic voice cast a spell.

“Anima, you are an alchemist; you take this feminine finery and transform into something more than woman, more than man, neither one yet somehow both. With these jewels, I anoint thee. Anima. Neither King nor Queen; not Princess nor Prince. Anima rising. Uprising in you tonight.”

She undid a string of pearls from around her own neck and laid them around Anima’s throat.

“I didn’t know it but I think I’ve been warming these for you for a long time.” She paused. “And you know what, mate? You are not going out dressed like that!”

“I’m not?”

“Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow.”

“Maybe not.”

“That will be for you to choose, Anima. But tonight, you’re all mine.”

NB: [‘Anima rising. Uprising in you tonight’ – this is an adaptation of a line from the song, ‘Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow’, by Joni Mitchell.]


7. A Tight Fit

There’s no way that’ll fit!” I say, eyeing its monumental size.

“Yeah, it will! I measured it.”

“It’s certainly bigger than I thought it was from your description. I can see why you didn’t ask your wife.”

“Oh, I did. She wanted nothing to do with it,” he grumbles.

“Honestly, I can’t say I blame her. Well, let’s get to it then.”

Assuming our positions, he pushes forward while I guide the way. I sense his aim is off, and try to pull back, attempt to adjust its course.

“No, no! Not that way. Up and down, not in and out,” he growls.

“What do you mean? It’ll never fit in there going up and down.”

“Oh, it’ll fit. I’ll make it fit.” Shuffling his bottom half, he pushes harder, adding force behind his thrust, ramming it directly into the side wall.

“Stop! Stop. You’re going to hurt something. Cause some permanent damage. Let’s try something else. I’ll go in front. You come from behind.”

He sighs heavily but nods his assent.

Changing positions, it presses firmly against my backside, and I tense before hollering, “I’m not ready yet. Wait, wait!”

Lowering to get to a preferred angle, I bend at the waist, nudging back against it.

“Careful! Watch what you’re doing! You don’t want to get it jammed in there,” he barks irritably.

Sighing, I mumble through closed lips, “this was a terrible idea.” But we’re already halfway through the process, so I can’t back out now. That will only irritate him further.

“Okay,” I start, trying to remain calm. “Let’s try it again. I’ll lift up, as you push forward. If we’re lucky, it’ll slide past this tight spot, and pop right in. On the count of three. One, two, thr…,” but before I’ve tallied the final number, he’s already bulldozing forward, although I haven’t readied myself yet. “Too soon! Would you just wait!”

“What’s your problem?” he asks, a scowl lining his face.

“Me? I’m trying to help you! Just have some patience and we’ll get it where you want it. Unless you want to find someone else?”

Before he has voiced his reply, flared nostrils and fisted hands tell me he thinks that’s a horrible suggestion. “Someone else? We’re already almost all the way through. No way am I starting this over again. We’ll just have to make it fit. Whatever it takes.”

“Well, it won’t go in this way. It’s too tight. Let me turn back around, approach it from a different direction.”

He makes a guttural grunting noise, like getting a better angle is a huge inconvenience and that just makes me want to give up, wipe my hands of it. Swallowing, I struggle to rein in my growing anger.

“Are you ready?” I ask.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” he replies with a non-committal shrug.

Manhandling it, he pushes while I pull, but it still won’t go into where he wants it.

“This is hopeless!”

“Let me get under it. Maybe that’ll help?” I suggest.

“I’m open to trying.”

Squirming underneath, I know immediately, it will not help. “Wow, it’s so much heavier than it looks, no wonder we’re having such difficulty.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard it referred to as a monster before. But it’s all I’ve got, so, what are you gonna do?”

“Better to be too big than much too small, no?”

“I guess that depends on what end you’re on. Usually, I’m okay with it, but today, I’m feeling like it’s more than I can handle.”

I can’t help but smile at this, but his resounding silent stare has me biting my tongue.

“Okay. Let’s try this again,” I say, wiping away my grin.

Facing each other, we make eye contact as he lifts, while I pull it back towards me. Before we know it, it’s moving through the small space, at a rapid rate.

“Careful, careful!” I shout as he slides through the tightest spot. “Go easy.”

With a sigh of relief, we both cheer once it settles into place.

“Hey, thanks for your help. I apologise for being so abrupt earlier,” he says, seemingly embarrassed.

“That’s okay. But next time, maybe you could hire a mover to help with the sofa.”


8. Late for Brunch

Slam!

As the noise reverberated through the house, Meg poked her head out into the hallway.

“What’s going on?” she called to Simon.

“We’re late for brunch with Mark and Sasha. Why didn’t you remind me that it was this morning? I was in the middle of washing the car when he called.”

“Don’t yell at me,” she countered. “How could I remind you when I didn’t know? It’s not on the calendar.”

“I told you about it two weeks ago. I told you that he asked when the two of you were in the bathroom. You said there wasn’t anything on the calendar as far as you knew and that it sounded good.” His face was red, whether from the heat or anger, and she wasn’t about to back down.

“I remember that. I also told you to check the calendar and put it on there when we got home. Is there anything written on the calendar?”

“I don’t know! I don’t check it!”

“Then don’t yell at me about it. You can go by yourself to brunch. I’m not really feeling like socializing with you right now.”

Meg walked past him in the hall as he was heading in the direction of their room. She had planned on making a romantic dinner for two tonight, but he had just freed up her afternoon with his tantrum. Time to grab a book and head to the backyard for some quiet time.

“You are seriously not going to make me go alone, are you? How am I supposed to explain that?” he fumed.

“Tell them that your irresponsible wife didn’t magically remember the date that you forgot to put on the calendar,” she called over her shoulder.

“Fuck you,” she heard him say under his breath. She heard the shower turn on as she grabbed a glass of wine and headed to the patio.

“Fuck you too,” she thought as she settled in with her book. Leave it to Simon to ruin a perfect summer day by picking a fight. If he’d just come in and told her that he had forgotten it, they both could have gone and had a wonderful time.

She really wanted to just sit there and enjoy her wine and book in the sunshine. The sky was dotted with puffy white clouds and there was just enough of a breeze to keep the temperature in check. She was still ticked off that he blamed her for his own forgetfulness. Nothing happened around this house if it wasn’t on the joint calendar.

Fifteen minutes later she heard his car pull out of the driveway. He left without even saying goodbye or giving her a kiss. They just never did that. Fine, then.

She ordered in her favorite salad from the place that Simon never liked. He said it was too hippy-dippy for him so she always just waited until he was out of town. It was good, but the taste of the argument was still in her mouth and it wasn’t quite as satisfying as it could have been.

Meg heard the car pull into the driveway about two hours after he left. She had been about to go refill her wine glass, but not while he was in the kitchen. She heard his footsteps behind her.

“Hey,” he said.

“Hey.” She didn’t turn around.

He walked to her side. “I’m really sorry,” he said, holding out a beautiful bouquet of flowers. “I was an asshole earlier. I got flustered and blamed you when it was my fault. I felt stupid for forgetting to write it down. And I heard about what an idiot I am all through brunch. Not that I was enjoying myself, anyway. It’s not fun if you aren’t there with me.”

Meg put down her book. “Are those for me?”

Simon laughed. “Well, I thought about giving them to Mark but you’re prettier.”

Meg stood up and kissed him. “I’m sorry that I didn’t remind you about it when we got home that night.”

“It’s not your responsibility to remind me. I made the date and should have followed through with the calendar. Will you forgive me and be my date tonight? I’d love to take you out to that new Chinese place we’ve wanted to try.”

She nodded. “It’s a date.”


9. Where are they?

The redhead, who couldn’t have been more than 20-years-old, stood stiffly in the middle of the room. She was obviously pregnant and August is a horrible time of year to be with child. She glared at the tall man as he walked through the front door.

“Glad you could make it home. Where the hell have you been?”

His face tightened and he looked like he wasn’t sure how he should respond, “I stopped in to The Pines and drank a couple beers with the guys. Why? What’s the matter?”

“I had an appointment at the OBGYN office an hour ago that you were supposed to take me to, so we could hear the baby’s heartbeat.”

“Oh Honey! I’m sorry, I forgot.”

“This appointment was for you, I’ve heard it several times. How the hell did you forget? I put a note in your damn lunch this morning. Hot pink sticky note attached to one of your sandwiches?”

“I never saw a note, sweetheart. If I had, then I would have been here to pick you up. Are you sure you put it in my lunch bag?”

“I’m positive. Do you think John was being a dick?”

“When isn’t he being one?”

“You better find out, because if I send a message that I’m in labor, I don’t imagine you will find it so cute when the baby and I are out cold on this floor.”

***

The next morning, when Michael arrived at work, John was waiting for him in the parking lot. “Good morning. How’s Kimberly feeling these days? She must be ready to pop.”

Michael’s face reddened as his blood pressure started to rise. “Yeah, she’d have been better if I’d made it home in time for her appointment yesterday.”

“She had an appointment? Well, why didn’t you leave?”

“Why didn’t I leave? Some asshole got into my lunch bag and somehow the note with the appointment time on it disappeared. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”

John looked flabbergasted, “No, why would you ask that?”

“Because you were the only asshole we could think of who might do such a thing.”

“Thanks a lot buddy. I thought we were friends. Come on or we’re going to be late.”

The rest of the morning passed uneventfully. Just before morning break, Michael passed his truck and impulsively opened John’s passenger side door. He accessed the glove compartment and that is when he saw the hot pink sticky note stack stuck to his owner’s manual. The top one read, OBGYN appt. 3 pm.

He flipped through the papers and was surprised to discover notes of all kinds that Kimberly had written to him. All of them were notes he had never seen before. She had written something and drawn him little pictures, just about every day since she got pregnant. He removed those notes and put them in his own glove box and locked it. That is the day when all of the tables turned.

***

Walking in the apartment that evening after work, he greeted Kimberly with a kiss and handed her a stack of sticky notes. “Sweetheart, these are all notes that, until today, I have never seen.”

“What the f***? Where did you get them?”

“They were in John’s glove compartment. What did you ever see in him? I have a plan, wanna help?”

“I don’t know what I saw in him. Of course I will help.”

That weekend they began making sticky notes, some with drawings, some with stupid little notes, then the last one they made was a note that said, I’m leaving you, Michael. I won’t be here when you get back.

For days, Michael would stick these notes into his lunch bag and before he had gone to lunch, the notes would be gone. Each note showed an escalation in disagreements until that last one.

When John got that last note, he left that note alone for Michael to see. The next morning however, John showed his stupidity and asked, “Was everything okay last night when you got home?”

“Wonderful!” Sarcasm dripped off his tongue. “You?”

“Guessing better than yours.”

“Really, why?”

“Cause my wife is at my house, yours can come stay with us too.”

Michael’s fist slammed into John’s face. “I always knew you were an asshole. You just proved it. What kind of friend does this to another friend?” He asked rhetorically, as the next punch knocked John out, and he fell to the ground.


10. The Inevitable Crescendo

NB: CONTENT NOTICE – Includes Domestic Violence

He walked into the kitchen behind me. His lunch sitting ready on the counter.

“Why didn’t you put the last of the smoked salmon in it?” he asked.

I answered without thinking. “I was saving it. One of the kids asked if they could have it later.”

The instant the words left my lips I knew my mistake. I heard his plate smash on the floor. The next moment, I felt him barrel into me, knocking me backwards onto the window seat.

I whispered silently to myself. “You knew this was coming. You sensed his dark mood when he arrived home from work on Friday. You have felt the tension growing all weekend. You know it is like an orchestra, building to that inevitable crescendo. And, as always, you knew it would be a tiny action or comment that triggers that crescendo. You knew this was coming, you always know.”

“How fucking dare you,” he hissed into my ear. “Everything is about you and the kids, never about me. You never put me first.”

“You know that is not true,” I whimpered.

He jumped onto me, his knees landing heavily on my chest, his full weight on top of me.

I felt my tears welling.

“Please stop,” I begged. “You’re hurting me. I can’t breathe properly.”

I don’t think he even heard my words through his fury.

“Always you, you, you,” he snarled. “Thursday night at my work drinks, you turn up in that low cut top. I could see other men looking at you. They were all staring at your tits. I bet you dressed like that deliberately, like a provocative little slut.”

He spat in my face.

“Please stop.” I said again, trying to keep my tone calm, trying to diffuse the situation. “I don’t want those other men. I wasn’t trying to lead them on.”

He grabbed at a banana on the kitchen counter. His palm closed against me, squashing the overripe fruit into my face, smearing it into my hair.

“I bet those men wouldn’t find you so attractive now, would they? I suspect some of them were jerking off after seeing you on Thursday. Not if they saw you now. What a complete mess you look.”

“Enough,” I exhaled. “I’m sorry.”

I knew I had nothing to be sorry for. I just wanted it to stop.

“Damn right you should be sorry. Sorry for always putting yourself and the kids first. Sorry for flaunting yourself for all those other men. Sorry for looking such a state now!”

I felt my own resentment swirling inside me.

“Get off me,” I raged. My anger fuelled my strength and I tried to push him off, my nails clawing at him.

“You bitch!”

He grabbed my wrists in one strong hand and pinned my arms above my head. “You stupid little bitch!”

His other hand tore at the front of my blouse, ripping it open. The now redundant buttons fell to the floor.

“You enjoyed displaying these big tits for those other men, didn’t you?”

He tugged my bra down. I felt horribly exposed before him.

“Let’s see how you like this.”

He sank his teeth cruelly into the soft flesh of my breast.

“See! I can mark you as mine. Show all those other men who you belong to. Show them that these tits are my property.”

“Stop! Don’t do this to me,” I cried.

He bit again, harder.

“Please,” I murmured, almost overwhelmed by the pain.

Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over. He climbed off me and just walked out of the room.

Cautiously, I sat up. I pulled my knees up against my chest and wrapped my arms around my legs.

I spoke to myself, almost silently, again. My own private way of soothing my hurt mind and my aching body.

“You’re going to be okay. It is over now.” I felt embarrassed by the sense of relief I experienced. The inevitable crescendo was over. “It is done for now. He has done what he needed to do to release his aggression.”

I rubbed at my throbbing chest. “Yes, there will be bruises and marks, but nothing that anyone else will be able to see. There never is.”

Inside, a part of me knew it was wrong. Wrong what he had done. Wrong that I was worried about others finding out and judging me for being weak.

“It will be okay,” I whispered, trying to convince myself.


11. The Shark Bait

Doc Martens, ripped jeans, strappy tank, hoop earrings, clear gloss. Jaz waits her turn with russet locks slicked into a ponytail, paperback tucked into her rear pocket, and a bourbon sour in hand.

She is working the tavern when the winner of the current game picks up the quarters she’d laid on the edge of the pool table earlier. He boisterously exclaims, “Ok, next victim?!”

That would be me,” Jaz replies. She plants a kiss on old Mrs. Perez’s forehead and deposits her book and cocktail onto my table.

“Go get ‘em, Tigress,” I say, as she chalks up her cue stick.

“Ooh, are you sure you want to play me?” Mr. Boisterous smirks. “What’s your name?”

Jaz is unamused.

“American style or straight pool?” she asks without answering.

Mr. Boisterous frowns. “What’s the difference? Just straight up eight ball.”

Jaz twirls the rack. “If you have to ask, then what you mean is American style. Sink my quarters and let’s see what you’ve got.”

“Heh, I’ll show you what I’ve got and then some,” he snickers.

I sip tequila, but drink her in generously as she stretches over the table arranging the resin globes. Her tank rises, exposing pale pink striations across her tummy. Left bicep flexing under a faded tattoo, she glides the rack across the green.

“Winner breaks,” she says, handing him the cue ball.

He positions it and steps back. “Yeah,” he responds. “Usually. But, I’m gonna let you break.”

It’s almost gallant until he adds, “Little ladies first,” grinning smugly to his companions.

Jaz doesn’t argue. She crouches, squints, then seesaws backward then forward.  The cue ball hurtles into the melee with a determined CRACK! Balls scatter quickly in all directions — except for the eight ball. That ball rolls leisurely towards, and sinks cleanly into, the corner pocket.

“Ha!” Mr. Boisterous exclaims. “Nice try, little lady. Let me rerack that for you. Or we can spot.”

“No need for either,” Jaz responds, swigging her cocktail. “Next victim!”

“Hold up there!” Mr. Boisterous spits back. “Rerack or spot the eight. Those are the options. Table’s still mine, so bring your sweet ass back over here and let’s do this right!”

Eye twitching, I begin to rise. But, Jaz shoots me that look and I desist.

“Hm, that may be true according to the outdated BCA rules, but not according to the APA guide,” Jaz lilts pointedly. “I shot from behind the head string, struck the head ball, and didn’t scratch. Damn clean win.”

Mr. Boisterous retorts, “Bullshit. Ain’t no APA here. I’m not giving up this table until we finish. Or, you quit and take the forfeit. So yeah, it’s still my table.”

Jaz’s ponytail sways with her laughter.

“Ok, if you insist on being such an asshole, there is one authority that trumps the APA. Bar rules. Shall we ask the owner and settle it? Because Mike over there’s got quarters on the table waiting for his turn to get smoked, too.”

Red-faced, Mr. Boisterous reads the room.

“Yeah, yeah, ok — let’s ask him. Where’s he at?”

Jaz grins. “She’s over there,” pointing to Mrs. Perez who still sports lip gloss on her wrinkly forehead.

Mrs. Perez drains her brandy, smacks her lips, and makes the call.

“The bar rules that a clean sink of the eight on break, without a scratch, means that the ‘little lady’ wins.”

Mr. Boisterous rolls his eyes.

“Thank you, Mrs. P.,” Jaz curtsies. “As for you,” turning to Mr. Boisterous, “there’s another bar rule that must be followed — your rude liberties about my very sweet ass aside. Winner always buys the loser a drink. Get whatever you like from the bar, on me, and make way for Mike, yeah?”

Mrs. Perez shuffles over.

“That’s our Jaz. And these bozos do it to themselves every time. She’ll be done with Mike in short order I’m sure.”

“No doubt, Mrs. P.,” I nod, imagining how I’ll linger over the shark tattooed on Jaz’s thigh once we get home to do whatever the fuck she wants.


12. I’ve made worse investments

“The park failed. People have died.”

“Do you know how many people die at Disney World every year?”

“Yes, actually. And I know that none of them died because the attractions broke out and killed them.”

“I find that hard to believe.”

“Sarcasm aside, I find it hard to believe anyone wants to open this park again after so much has gone wrong on this island.”

“Life finds a way.”

“You mean money finds a way?”

“We have investors lined up, literally billions ready for us to relaunch the park. People want to see living dinosaurs!”

“People also want to eat their weight in ice cream, but 5 out of 5 dentists say no.”

“Then we need to ask more dentists until one of them doesn’t.”

I’m saying it’s a bad idea. There’s too much blood in the soil already. The old systems failed entirely! You’d want to tear down everything and build from the ground up. Not to mention, there are still dinosaurs loose on the island. It would take years to get the whole mess sorted. So build it somewhere else.”

“We can’t.”

“Can’t? Or won’t?”

“We can’t. No other country in the world will allow it.”

“That sounds like a red flag to me.”

“It’s actually more an issue of red tape. The bureaucracy behind bringing back ancient lizards that haven’t been seen in millions of years is… complicated. At least in any country worth bringing them back to.”

“So because the island is in international waters-“

“And because it’s owned outright. Private property and all.”

“Right. Because of those… loopholes, you want to reopen a new murder dinosaur park in the exact same place as the last two failed murder dinosaur parks? Do I have that correct?”

“Murder park isn’t fair.”

“I’m failing to see how it’s unfair. Five people died the first time the fences failed. Another dozen died trying to reclaim the island and wrangle the dinosaurs. Dozens more died the next time the dinosaurs got out.”

“That’s looking at the-“

“And another thing! It’s always the dinosaurs that get out. Not one! Not two! Near-total failure across the board to keep the world’s biggest and deadliest zoo inhabitants secured. A few would just be bad luck, but it’s clear it’s more than just that.”

“You’re right, you’re right.”

“I’m right?”

“The failures of the past parks have been going too big. Too many dinosaurs. One gets out, and it’s a whole domino effect!”

“…I’m waiting for the ‘but’ you’re going to interject.”

“And the dinosaurs have been too smart. Too dangerous for captivity.”

“Still waiting for that interjection.”

“So we want to relaunch the park with less dinosaurs.”

Fewer dinosaurs isn’t exactly going to solve your problem-“

“And make them dumb as bricks.”

“Okay, I’m not not listening to what you’re saying.”

“Bigger dinosaurs-“

“You want to make them bigger?”

“-so they have to depend on humans to survive. Ever heard the term, ‘too big to reproduce before?”

“That is giving me awful mental images.”

“Too big, too dumb, too few! That’s the new business plan! We don’t need a whole island full of every one dinosaur that ever roamed! We just need a handful that look great from a distance. Keep the park simple, keep the lizards stupid, keep the investors happy. Everyone wins!”

“How big are we talking?”

“Fifty meters. Give or take. No more than 164 feet tall.”

“That’s still concerningly big.”

“Bigger than any living land animal that came before them!”

“Why not just genetically alter them to breathe fire while you’re at it?”

“…”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Some of the investors think we could… spice things up a bit with the dinosaurs.”

“Spice things up?”

“Yes.”

“With dinosaurs?”

“Yes.”

“You want to give them wings and golden scales and multiple heads while you’re at it?”

“Listen, we’re just trying to keep the investors happy and the people coming back. A rebranding is important to making this park profitable again.”

“Lord, you are creating a real island of monsters here, you know that, right?”

“Look, I’m just the messenger. We need your approval to start work on the island.”

“…Fuck it! Go nuclear! I don’t care. I’ll be far away in Tokyo while you do this. Mr. Tanaka, you have yourself a deal!”


13. Mistaken Identity

NB: Content Notice – mentions abortion

The flying coffee mug disintegrated against the doorframe, inches away from where Drew’s head had been a second ago when he opened the door to their apartment.

“You fucking ASSHOLE!”

“Whoa, whoa, easy babe! What’s going on?”

“What’s going on? Why don’t you tell me what’s going on, you fucking cheat!”

“Hang on a sec babe, what are you talking about?”

Vanessa was prepared for him to deny and try to run, just like he always did when cornered. He would start to scrunch his eyes shut whenever she confronted him, and he was doing that right now too.

“I knew it, this is exactly what you do,” she wailed. “My mom was right about you all along.”

“Wha—”

“Stop it. Just stop it. This was why you suggested getting rid of the baby wasn’t it?”

“Oh come on! You know—”

“No! No! Just.. no. This was your plan all along wasn’t it.”

“That’s not fair! We both decided having the abortion was for the best.. for both of us.”

“If it was then why do I still feel this way? Why am I here all torn up about the abortion you made me have, while you’re running around sticking your stupid dick into every pussy that you come across –”

“ENOUGH!” he bellowed, and she cowered, burying her face in her hands as she broke down in tears and slowly slumped into the chair by the dining table. Drew moved closer to console her but Vanessa shrieked.

“Okay, okay,” Drew said, stepping back towards the door. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have raised my voice. You know I’ve never hit you and I never will. You need to listen to me though, there is nothing going on.”

“No. We’re done. I’m not going to live in fear of you, and I’m definitely not going to let you gaslight me into believing that this is all my fault.”

“Vanessa, what are you talking about? This is insane..”

“There you go. I’m.. not.. FUCKING.. crazy! At least give me the respect of accepting that you got caught.”

“Van—”

“You need to collect your shit and then get out of here. I never want to see your face again.”

As he threw a couple of t-shirts into his duffel bag, Drew thought about how this was not how he had envisioned this evening going, at all. Surely, she was imagining things.

He heard her shuffling footsteps behind him as leaned down to grab his sneakers from the shoe rack in the closet.

“You slipped up. I saw the public chat logs in your stupid sniper game, and saw that you’ve been messaging with some Taylor there. No no… stop pretending like you don’t know what I’m talking about.”

“Baby, I don’t chat with anyone there.”

“Oh come on! Now you’ll tell me how your handle is not drewrobinson92.”

“It isn’t!”

“Well, fuck you then Drew Robinson ninety fucking two.”

“But it isn’t! Remember how I was pissed off because someone already had that handle so I had to add an underscore at the end? I’m drewrobinson92 underscore, not drewrobinson92!”

“Oh,” Vanessa said, suddenly wishing that she could curl up into a ball and hide in a corner of the closet they stood in.

Drew reached out and pulled her in for a tight hug.

“It’s okay baby, everything’s okay.”

Vanessa’s shoulders continued to heave, as they had often since they’d left the Planned Parenthood building, over four months ago.

Drew slowly led her to the couch where they snuggled together in the semi-darkness, tongues flicking between open lips and clashing teeth. He was especially aroused and she was equally amenable as they made love, both relieved that despite whatever underlying issues haunted their relationship, for now at least they were still together.

Over an hour later, with Vanessa gently snoring off an orgasm, Drew lay back and stared at the ceiling, wondering what Leroy was doing, and if he was thinking about Drew and what they would do tomorrow morning in the showers of the gym locker room.


14. The Creation

“It’s the seventh day, are they ready?” She poked her head in on her life partner.

“Well, it’s half done.” He waved over his shoulder for her to come closer. “The male is done. What do you think?”

“That’s it?” She stared, dumbfounded. “This is what you’ve been working on all week? Where’s his mate?”

“I haven’t figured her out, yet, but isn’t he wonderful? Look at his skin and hair and that chin. Breathtaking.”

“What’s that?”

“His penis.”

“Seriously?” She turned around and stomped away, sending shockwaves through the galaxy.

“What’s wrong, my love?” He cowered after her.

“I’ve been working on your ‘Earth’ all week. I’ve filled it just like you asked. And for the ONE THING you were supposed to do, you copied my ape? And badly?”

“What do you mean copied? My man looks nothing like your ape!” With a flick of his hands, he called forth the man and the ape. “They look absolutely nothing alike! Yours doesn’t even have a penis!”

“That’s the female, you imbecile!” She sent the female ape back and summoned the male ape. “Now do you see the penis?”

“Fine, you thought of the penis before I did, but they still look nothing alike.”

She leveled a glare at him and waved her hand over the two creatures. A comparison chart popped up between them with lines connecting and naming the similar parts.

“Nothing alike?”

He grunted and swept the chart away, bringing up a contrast chart, but cleared that away quickly.

She chuckled. “See? Way more alike than not.”

“Fine! Your creations inspired me!”

“I made the apes days ago! What have you been doing since then?”

He shrugged and looked at his feet.

“Is it going to take you another week to make the female?”

He shrugged again.

“Do I have to do everything around here?” She huffed, grabbed the man, and pulled a rib out of him. Spinning her hand around it, a torso formed, followed by legs, arms, and a head. Complete, she set the woman down next to the man.

“Why do you always have to one-up me?”

“One-up you?”

“Yes! She’s beautiful! Look at those breasts! And what do you call that?”

“Her vagina. The penis goes inside it for pleasure and procreation.”

“Pleasure and… genius. Why couldn’t I have thought of that.”

“Because you’re an idiot. And you’re lazy.”

“Well that’s hurtful.”

“Oh, don’t get butthurt. Let’s face it, you create the lump of rock and I fill it with life and beauty. I worked my ass off for the past week to complete Earth and you couldn’t even manage to make one species.”

“I was busy! I have more worlds to sustain than just Earth! And so do you! How many planets have you neglected as you finished this project?”

“You know I NEVER neglect my responsibilities- Wait-” She cut herself off, thought for a second and then barked a laugh. “You were playing video games, weren’t you?”

“Excuse me? What would give you that idea?”

“Those Centaurians. I know they just came out with a new gaming system. You just couldn’t help yourself, could you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

She marched back into his workshop and looked around. Narrowing her eyes, she passed her hand over a pile of junk shoved in the corner. A console flew out and into her hands. She turned and revealed the screen and the rest of the gaming paraphernalia.

“You were saying?” She threw it down, smashing it and sending pieces flying everywhere.

“Geez, you didn’t have to do that!” He held his hands out and the pieces came back together and jumped into his hands. He hugged the system to his chest. “So what if I was gaming? Am I not allowed to have fun?”

She took a deep breath. “Fine. No, it’s fine. Really fine.” Her eyes snapped to him. “But this is the last world we create. I’m done cleaning up your messes and taking care of the worlds YOU wanted to create.”

He looked at his hands.

“Do I make myself clear?” She came face-to-face with him and forced him to look her in the eyes.

“Fine.”

“Good. I’m going to oversee the dawn of Earth. You know how to reach me.” She disappeared in a dramatic puff of smoke.

He turned, reconnected his game, and sat back down to play.

“She’ll come around in a few millennia.”


15. Stop Digging

“Move left a bit, then circle.”

I know communication is key, and I’m trying, I really am. But I get anxious, and confused, and then I stop having fun. I’m worried that one time he’s going to realise I’m not enjoying this, and he’ll want to leave me.

He rolls his eyes. He thinks I can’t see, because I’m beside him, but he’s forgetting the rear view mirror. And I can hear it in his voice anyway, when he says, “Thank you, Dawn. That was very helpful. Did you mean, ‘Take the next left, then carry on to the roundabout?’”

When we started I thought we were partners, but he always knew who was in charge, and he needs me to know it too, so he condescends to me.

Lately, I’ve started to snap back. “I’m sorry my map reading isn’t up to your standards, Richard, but if you know what I meant, why not just do that?”

“Because I want to be certain. I believe it’s important to be precise and accurate, even if you are happy with carelessness.”

“The only thing that’s important is to get where we’re going. If you don’t like how I give directions, why don’t you get a satnav?”

“You know why we don’t use a satnav. I know that you know, because we had this exact conversation last time, and the time before. And each time I have had to remind you that you don’t think about the future.”

I try to lighten the mood with a joke. I realise that’s a mistake as soon as I open my mouth, but I go ahead and say it anyway. “I do consider the future! I planned ahead: I made sure to put lube in the bag.”

He actually takes his eyes off the road to scowl at me. “Why do you have to make everything filthy?”

One joke didn’t work, so of course I’ll try a second. “I don’t. I packed the overalls as well. See? I was thinking about the future and staying clean.”

He shakes his head. “Yes, I know what future you were thinking of. When we’ve finished planting you’ll want to take your overalls off and get filthy.”

“Hell yeah, I will! Watching you roll up your sleeves and dig makes me horny. You used to appreciate that.”

“Digging is hard work; I’m exhausted afterwards. Maybe if you picked up a spade one time…”

He leaves that hanging, the same way he often left me hanging when we fucked. In the silence, I remember what we used to have.

At the start, we were all about sex: we often did it beforehand, because my god the anticipation was so hot; we once fucked during, because the juxtaposition was kinky as hell; and we always fucked afterwards. Always.

But that was in the beginning. He doesn’t seem to need sex so much now. The last time we made love was four trips ago. It seems the more we plant, the less he needs sex; and the less he needs sex, the less he needs me. One day he won’t need sex at all, and he’ll leave me. That day is coming soon, I know it.

He fills the awkward silence with the only question that can make it more awkward. “What are we really arguing about, Dawn?”

I speak softly, and hesitantly. However hard it is for me to say, I know it will be harder for him to hear. “I don’t think I can do this any more.”

“But we’re fulfilling a noble cause! I thought you understood that. Our guerrilla reforestation makes the world a better place. We’re planting rowan and whitebeam today; they’re important native species.”

“I’m not talking about the saplings, Richard; I’m talking about what we leave under them. That’s the part I can’t do any more. It’s not noble, and eventually it’s going to take our futures away from us.”

He nods at the cargo space behind us; at the bodies. “The world is better off without those people. They’ll have more value as soil nutrients than they ever did alive. That’s why we kill them, and why we leave them: so they can become trees, become something useful. This is what I do, and I will not hear any criticism of my purpose!”

I’m worried now. We’re nearly there, and I’m sure he’s going to leave me this time.

I hope I become a rowan. I always liked rowans.


Header image adapted from Pixabay.

10 thoughts on “BFM 2021: Third voting round

  1. Feedback from Cousin Pons.
    1.I like the premise of the story but the dialogue did not convince me and there were too many typos and grammatical errors. 5 points
    2.An unusual story, which partially works though let down by slightly stilted dialogue. 6 points
    3.A well told story with good dialogue but a little predictable. 7 points
    4.I liked ‘graunching’ and ‘Both Jayne and Simon sigh but neither can hear the other.’ I think ‘heads back’ should have been ‘headed back’. 7 points
    5.An imaginative story told through the eyes of a tree. Good dialogue. 6 points
    6.A very good story. Well written with believable characters and dialogue. ‘Fifteen’ not ’15’. 6 points
    7.An intriguing story with good dialogue but I felt it needed something else in the story to hold my interest. 6 points
    8.A lively story with excellent dialogue. I liked ‘The taste of the argument was still in her mouth.’ 8 points
    9;An interesting story with an engaging twist. No need for asterisks. I found the punch up at the end contrived.’Twenty’ not ’20’. 7 points
    10. A brutal story written with feeling and good dialogue.7 points
    11.This story is outstanding. The opening paragraph grabbed my attention immediately.
    ‘Doc Martens, ripped jeans, strappy tank, hoop earrings, clear gloss. Jaz waits her turn with russet locks slicked into a ponytail, paperback tucked into her rear pocket, and a bourbon sour in hand.’ A tour de force of a story. 10 points
    12. Good dialogue and easy to imagine it being said in a movie. It moved the story along. 7 points
    13.An intriguing story with very spirited characters and believable dialogue. 7 points
    14An amusing story with very lively dialogue. 8 points
    15.A superbly dark dystopian story with a chilling last line.’I hope I become a rowan. I always liked rowans.’ 9 points

  2. I like arguments even less than a like pick-up lines, so this competition has been quite a struggle for me so far, both as writer and reader!

    This was a really challenging assignment; difficult to meet the two requirements of dialogue and theme. I doesn’t surprise me that quite a few writers dropped out. Even more challenging to create a likeable story based around an argument and unlikeable characters abound in these stories. One or two of the stories when further into the darkness of human relations and I think took on more than can be managed in a 750 wordcount limit. It’s no surprise that the three stories that I voted for (and my own) were the least argumentative!

    Feedback:

    1. The Last Walk
    I found this difficult to follow because the two characters had such similar voices, insufficiently differentiated. This made the plot confusing and made it hard for me to identify with the characters. Also, rather a lot of grammatical and punctuation errors (e.g. you’re/your).

    2. We’ve been over this
    I found this hard to engage with; so many relationships to get my head around! It feel as though Sam’s twinship with the mother of his niece should be too important to be thrown in as a two-word note in brackets. However, the development of the story suggests that it might have been better just to leave this detail out?

    3. Wayward Son
    This is well-written; the characters are clear and the dialogue is believable. But Haven’s diatribe felt somewhat exaggerated and overwrought and that gave the whole scene a sense of soap-opera.

    4. We never argue
    This is a grim and depressing little scene. You effectively conveyed the desolation of the relationship but it didn’t really have enough to it, for me, to be a complete story. Many of your sentences are actually two, or more, separate sentences run together.

    5. Celebrating New Beginnings
    I didn’t really understand why this sex scene was narrated by a tree. I was also confused by that fact that the couple both grew up around the tree (I assumed they must be brother and sister…) and now are married to each other (ok, not brother and sister!). It had potentially as an erotic scene but your adjectives were rather clichéd (turgid shaft, swollen cunt, nimble tongue, straining cock).

    6. Anima Rising
    (My own story)

    7. A Tight Fit (voted for)
    The punchline was obvious from the start but that only added to the humour. This is top quality comic dialogue! My only quibble with this is whether it really constitutes an argument. My favourite of this round by some distance.

    8. Late for Brunch
    It’s a credible argument but such a mundane one that it doesn’t make a very engaging story, despite well-written dialogue.

    9. Where are they? (voted for)
    The story is well told but it seems a bit far-fetched; taking the notes from Michael’s lunchbox seems a trivial and peculiar way for John to get revenge. And surely Kimberly would’ve said long ago, “Did you like the note I put in your lunchbox?”

    10. The Inevitable Crescendo
    This is such a difficult topic to address in fiction and to attempt to do so with a 750-word limit is ambitious indeed. I don’t imagine for one minute that it was intended this way but it came across as voyeuristic, lingering almost sadistically over the details of the assault. It needed more – probably much more – of the context or consequences of the scene to do justice to the subject.

    11. The Shark Bait (Good title, in a round of generally limp titles. Titles matter, folks!)
    I felt that I was insufficiently versed in the rules of pool to be able to fully appreciate this. I found the perspective from which the story was told rather disorientating. And sometimes one word can stop a reader in their tracks, and not in a good way – ‘tummy’ did that to me!

    12. I’ve made worse investments
    It’s not impossible to tell a story entirely in dialogue but this doesn’t do it; it is just a script, with no indication of who the characters are (until the mention of ‘Mr Tanaka’ at the very end).

    13. Mistaken Identity
    I found this a very uncomfortable mix of difficult subjects. It’s fair enough to attempt to tackle difficult subjects but very hard to do in such a restricted format and the lie at the heart of the story left a very bitter taste.

    14. The Creation (voted for)
    I enjoyed the conceit of the story, and the light-hearted improvisatory style, for the first half but I felt it rather collapsed, like a soufflé, towards the end.

    15. Stop Digging
    Of course, I don’t know how the evolution of this story came about; maybe you had the dark subtext in mind all along but it comes across a gratuitous hand-grenade thrown in to rescue a story that you were yourself tiring of. I’m sorry, it just didn’t work for me.

  3. I really enjoyed story 3. The characters gripped me, I enjoyed the revelation. The dialogue was really well used and I believed the scene. Good job mystery writer of number 3

  4. I also really enjoyed story 13. Gosh – what a terribly naughty twist to it!!! It felt very raw and again used the dialogue well. I just enjoyed reading it

    For me, 3 and 13 stood as because the story gripped me. Some others I did not enjoy as much because I did not believe the story or did not connect with the characters as well

    But it was a tricky challenge – nicely chosen Blogable Babes!

  5. Some wonderful short stories here with some exciting dialogue. I was particularly drawn to the scenario in Anima Rising and the way that Andy is transformed in such a positive way. Roberta brushes his hair and I find myself wanting to be Anima. I also adored ‘Celebrating New Beginnings.’ Oh to have my mouth stuffed with her knickers as the towering tree records this couples adventures.

  6. I love seeing the quality of the stories getting better and better with each round. Congratulations to all who sent in stories, and thank you for that too!

    1. The Last Walk
    It’s a challenge to write in the first and second person, and something you can easily get wrong. I had to read the first sentence a couple of times, then read the second and third and went back to start the story again. After the neck grabbing, I was confused as to who was speaking, and then you wrote this sentence: “B turns; her hands are on her face.” and switched to third person, only to switch back to first and second later. I’m sorry, but I find the story confusing, even though I do think it has a lot of potential to be strong, maybe if entirely written in the third person. And… who was killed and buried there?

    2. We’ve been over this
    As someone dealing with grief, I find it a consoling idea that there’s an Archangel of Grief that helps with grief. This story has a very convincing argument. Be careful of overusing the word ‘as’, like in the beginning of your story “As Sam entered…” and “as he poured…”. You can make your sentences more dynamic if you use this word sparingly.

    3. Wayward Son
    I love this story, the way Haven comes up for Bill and makes Charlie see that his son actually worships him. A story that might even be true for many stories, and I like when a story is so true to life. Well written too!

    4. We never argue
    This is such a sad story, and sadly I have known a couple like this, who totally fell apart after the passing of a child, and just never could connect with each other he way they did before it happened. You have written this very convincingly, and I would’ve liked to see Jayne indeed raise her voice and throw out her emotions.
    In this part “old armchair, it was ancient” I would’ve started a new sentence with “It was ancient…”
    The last sentence is very strong.

    5. Celebrating New Beginnings
    There is something about stories written from the perspective of an inanimate object, and I have just recently also published one written from the perspective of a tree. I love how this tree already knew this couple and enjoyed seeing this new beginning.
    In a couple of places you haven’t used punctuation.

    6. Anima Rising
    First thing: I really like this story. There is something sad in it, but also something hopeful. Thankfully more the latter. We should all be able to be who we are, and I like how you have addressed that in this story. Only one thing: where this story started out sounding like an argument, the rest of it wasn’t really an argument. That, however didn’t take away that this is a good one!

    7. A Tight Fit
    I knew I was going to laugh at the end of this argument, and I did! I love stories with a twist!

    8. Late for Brunch
    A great story to show that arguments can sometimes be so silly that when you look back on it, you wonder why you have argued in the first place.

    9. Where are they?
    That’s some friend! I like how you have worked more than one argument into your story.

    10. The Inevitable Crescendo
    It’s a good thing there’s a content warning on this story. Reading this, I repeated a mantra in my head: get out, get out. A well written story, and a good balance between his anger, and her talking herself down.

    11. The Shark Bait
    Oh I like arguments where ‘little ladies’ win it from loud men, or beat them at what they think are their game. Also like how the title and last sentence of the story makes it one whole.

    12. I’ve made worse investments
    This story is very Jurassic Park, and where I read with interest (what can I say, I loved Jurassic Park), I didn’t find enough tension in the story.

    13. Mistaken Identity
    This is another story where I feel the underlying sadness, more the fact that he is cheating on her after all, than the mentioned abortion.

    14. The Creation
    I love this tongue-in-the-cheek story of Earth, Adam and Eve. A great read, and well written too!

    15. Stop Digging
    As said earlier on, I love a story with a twist, and this one didn’t disappoint. I love this story from the clumsiness of her directions, to the chill of what the two of them are doing, to wondering what her fate will be. Great story!

  7. Awesome round! I always feel when the pieces get longer, we really get to see the prowess and skill of the writer. Short is hard, but so much of the really work of writing is submerged…behind the scenes. This time, I got a much better picture of ability.

    1. This one switches between 2nd and 3rd person, which confused me, and the “twist” felt haphazard…tacked onto the end like an afterthought.
    2. An interesting conversation and context, but the end left me wanting. It seemed more of a scene than a story.
    3. This one made me feel emotion and gave a good sense of backstory, which is hard to do in a short piece.
    4. The proofreading issues got in my way…tense shifts, run-ons…but the characters have personality and voice.
    5. Creative point of view.
    6. Interesting premise. I found myself pulled into the conflict, caring about the plight of the characters. And it felt complete.
    7. This reminded me of a Samuel Beckett play. Very tongue-in cheek. And though I caught on pretty quickly, it still made me giggle. The “It sounds dirty but isn’t” angle was pulled off smoothly and successfully.
    8. Well-written, but not a very memorable premise. There is nothing to help this piece stand out. We need something interesting: a unique character, an interesting conflict, or a twist…something.
    9. An attempt at a conflict, but it felt rushed.
    10. Realistic picture of the internal dialogue associated with domestic violence.
    11. Good detail/description…quickly builds character.
    12. Interesting piece of fan fiction with a little twist at the end.
    13. Jerk.
    14. I found myself a bit confused here.
    15. Interesting undercurrent. I like how the conversation grows darker and darker. And I love that last line.

    Numbers 7 and 15 were my favorite. Both used dialogue as the main momentum device for the story. And both had something unique to set them apart and make them memorable. One used humor and the other had a dark, and intriguing conflict twist. While 7 was still basically a scene, it was a complete moment that could easily be acted out as a skit, and 15 felt like the core of a novel or suspense thriller movie…I could envision where the story had been and where it was going…and I cared.

    Bravo, everyone! Now, onto the next round!

  8. This was an exceptionally difficult challenge, I think because it was so open to interpretation. It was hard to pick favorites, as I tried to stick to the ones that were actual arguments and seemed to be 50% dialogue.

    That being said, I shortlisted 2, 3, 7, 8, 13 and 15 and ended up voting for 3 and 15.

  9. Story 1 – The Last Walk

    The voices of the characters are too similar. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish. I do love to build-up of the story and the final sentence.

    Story 2 – We’ve been over this

    Very gripping, intense tale. I love how you got me to believe in the Archangel of Grief. I love the language and the entire flow of the story, especially the flow of emotions. Well done.

    Story 3 Wayward Son

    It’s a nice story. It’s well-written and I believe the characters. There’s just…not that much going on. I like the development, but there was no punch to the story, little surprise.

    Story 4 – We never argue

    It’s a sad story, definitely, and one that I’m afraid is all too real for many couples going through this. There’s not much of a story here, not really any progression, nothing gets solved.

    Story 5 Celebrating New Beginnings

    Great story. Argument at the beginning, a great resolution and an excellent ending too. I hope they’ll have many more adventures like these.

    Story 6 – Anima Rising

    Fun take on the ‘You’re not going out like that’ line. I love the anointment. I hope they had a fun night together.

    Story 7 A Tight Fit

    What a fun story! It kept a smile on my face as I was reading it. I was desperate to find out what was going on. But yeah, sofas can be tough to move. Very well done.

    Story 8 Late for Brunch

    Not much happening here. It’s a nice story, but little more than that. No surprises here. Two people screaming and then it’s over.

    Story 9 Where are they?

    I like the set-up of the story and the ultimate pay-back. The writing could have been tighter. The first sentence doesn’t match the rest of the story.

    Story 10 – The Inevitable Crescendo

    Phew, that’s an intense story. The build-up was very good, as was the ending with the release. It’s a sad story, but unfortunately one that happens too often. It is very well described. It’s brave of you to write a story like this. Well done.

    Story 11 – The Shark Bait

    Very well detailed story. I could totally picture being in this bar and watching the game. I could have done without the speaker. The speaker doesn’t add much to the story while Jaz is stealing the show.

    Story 12 – I’ve made worse investments

    It’s a fun story. I love how the investors once again ruin the plan. A bit more action might have enlivened the story instead of only dialogue, but I think the two characters do hold up.

    Story 13 – Mistaken Identity

    This story is messy. It doesn’t flow right. The final sentence makes little sense, even though I didn’t believe the taken username bit. I don’t like how they went from the middle of a fight to everything is okay in such a short time.

    Story 14 The Creation

    Perfect story. It made me laugh out loud. I can so see this happening. Everything is well described, the characters are well-formed, I love the little details like ‘stomped away, sending shockwaves through the galaxy’. Well done.

    Story 15 Stop Digging

    I like the premise. The story could have done with some more foreshadowing. Now the change from an argument between two people to what they’re actually going to do is very abrupt and not that credible.

Share your thoughts, suggestions or advice...

%d bloggers like this: