Writing Prompts

These writing prompts are considered in the public domain. Feel free to use them however you need to, and get your story started!

Sale

Bruce cringed as he finally swung his car into an empty space at the edge of the parking lot. The line of shoppers was already wrapped around the huge building, and the store wouldn’t be open for another two hours. He slammed the car into park and wrenched the keys from the ignition. Soft flakes of snow fell from the clouds and melted onto the warm hood of his pickup. Bruce grabbed a crinkled piece of newsprint from his jacket pocket, placed it on his lap, and smoothed the creases. Probably everyone was here for the same thing he was: a shiny, new 50 inch television for just $199. He pulled on his gloves, wrapped his scarf around his face, and headed out into the storm. As he settled into his place at the back of the line behind a couple of teenagers, he sighed. Patience wasn’t his thing, and this two hour wait was going to kill him.

Just as the thought passed through his mind, a loud explosion from the front of the store echoed through the air.

Quit

Something inside her burst. Though her mind flashed rational statements such as, Stop and inhale, you’ve handled far worse, her voice screeched at a decibel that caused the neighbors to open their front doors. “I haven’t lost a single soul in all my years, and I’m not going to start with you! I don’t care if you have a death wish, I’m not going to let you risk your life by being an idiot anymore! If you don’t hand that over right now and let me do what I was hired to do, then…then I…I QUIT!”

Play

His long fingers thundered over the piano keyboard with an intensity that filled the grand theater. Not even the velvet drapes and lush carpeting could dampen the escalating crescendos. Every listener sat still as statues, in rapt attention. Even the younger children stopped their fidgeting and stared, glassy eyed, as if caught up in a trance or some sort of magic spell.

As he finished the piece and stood to bow to the crowd, the man smiled sadly. This would be his last performance. This would be his last audience. This would be his last standing ovation.

He hazarded a glance at the figure standing in the shadows and nodded.

It was time.

Post

Addy licked the last envelope and firmly sealed the flap.

“Done!” She flopped back onto the couch and kicked her shoes off, careful not to drop them on any one of the three hundred personal thank-yous she’d just penned and stamped. Whose idea was it to have a such a lavish wedding anyhow? Addy massaged her cramped hand and sighed. She had no one to blame for the extravagance but herself. For once in her life, she wanted to feel like a princess, to feel like someone special, to show her parents what she’d made of herself after her nightmare of an upbringing.

Addy dropped her hands into her lap and closed her eyes, determined to start her marriage off on a positive note after the three-week honeymoon trip, and not dwell on the past. She pushed out a smile and called down the hall to the bedroom.

“Honey, I’m finished with the thank-you cards. Do you want to order out for dinner tonight? I’m exhausted.”

When Hank didn’t answer, Addy raised her voice. “Honey? Want to order out?”

Still no response.

Addy pushed her tired body off the couch and walked down the hallway calling her husband’s name until she reached the closed bedroom door. Letting herself in and seeing Hank lying on the bed, Addy assumed her husband had fallen asleep after his first day back to work.

Then she saw the blood.

Sweat

Jessie pushed through the burning sensation in her calves and obeyed the barking fitness instructor. She dodged the flailing twin braids of the woman in front of her as she jogged in place and did jumping jacks. Her lunges squeezed out a few labored pants, then greedily sucked in the sauna-like air. Why do they have the thermostat set so high? Jessie’s speeding pulse slurred into indistinguishable beats through her temples as the instructor ordered them to find a partner. She took another swig of warm water and gagged. As the room became a violent carousel and her vision became blurry, Jessie only had time for a fleeting thought. Why didn’t I stay a couch potato?

Gig

Ernest wiped the sweat from his palms and focused his attention on tuning his guitar. He licked his lips and took a shaky breath as he forgot every song lyric he’d ever written.

“You’re on in five,” a man with a headset told him.

He couldn’t respond verbally, so he just lifted his thumb and tried to smile. Mr. Headset gave him a quick pat on the shoulder, then disappeared.

You were made for this.

At least that’s what his mother had said. And she ought to know.

Hearing his name announced to the roaring crowd made his heart stop beating.

The curtain opened. He took the stage. He adjusted the microphone. He closed his eyes.

Well, here goes nothing.

Cash

I signed the last check and moistened the envelope flap and the stamp. Done. Clicking a few buttons on the calculator brought my puny bank account balance into view. Twenty-four cents. A penny shy of a quarter. That was all. I couldn’t even buy a pack of gum with that. I looked at the pile of dirty clothes in my bedroom. I couldn’t afford to clean them at the laundromat this weekend. A spontaneous trip back home would be helpful. Mom would offer her washer and dryer at no charge. If only I could afford the gas to get back out there.

After sulking and wading through my options, I forced myself off my bed and down three flights of stairs to my friend’s apartment door. Looks like I’ll be needing that extra job she told me about after all. Even if it happens to be slightly illegal.

Stress

I scraped my nub of a fingernail on the floor while frantically wiggling my toes inside my sneakers. My mouth went dry and my throat muscles squeezed of their own accord. I wanted to scream, but fear paralyzed me from the shoulders up. The sound of my racing heartbeat and rapid breathing clogged my eardrums until I was sure I’d go deaf before I had the chance to faint. The only thought rattling around my mushy brain was that I should have cashed my paycheck yesterday like I’d planned. Then maybe I wouldn’t be sitting with my back against the teller counter while trying to avoid eye contact with the masked man waving a gun. If I get out of this alive, I promised myself, I will never procrastinate again.

Anxiety

Kate sat down in the kitchen chair and wrung her hands. She looked over her shoulder to the open glass doors while her knees occupied themselves by bouncing up and down repeatedly. She didn’t try to stop them. It was as useless as trying to stop the sweat from running down the sides of her face. When had it ever been this hot during the spring? She slid herself closer to the table and stared at the various foods being offered for dinner. The hostess smiled kindly at her and Kate tried to swallow the lump in her throat and smile back, but she couldn’t complete the task. After all, rumor had it that chocolate cake was for dessert. Kate resisted the urge to bolt out the glass doors and sat firmly on her hands instead. It’s okay. It’s going to be okay. Just get through this. The dinner party guests started to notice her odd behavior and cast sideways glances her way. Why did she have to be such a headcase all the time? Who else had to deal with such strange fears and risk embarrassing themselves over silly rituals? Kate released one of her hands to grab her freshly filled glass of water. At least one thing on the table was safe for her to consume. Maybe she’d tell the other women that she had a stomach ache and excuse herself with her water to the living room. The tension in her neck started to ease. Then she would save face without having to confront her irrational fear that the food on the table had somehow become contaminated. She cleared her throat and addressed the hostess, citing a physical ailment and retiring to the other side of the house before anyone threw her another quizzical look.

As she sat on the couch and took another sip of water, her stomach growled. She’d need to do something about this ridiculous anxiety problem before she starved to death– or worse– before her social standing as CEO became even more precarious than it already was.

Dirt

I clawed at the ground with my stubby fingernails, wishing I hadn’t felt the need to trim them a few days ago. Even though they were short, they each seemed to hold a pound of dirt as the gritty soil wedged closer and closer to my cuticles. I cringed, thinking about how many germs I’d have to scrub off later. I envisioned a long, steamy bubble bath in my future after this was all over– assuming that it would actually be over soon. I didn’t know many people who had survived a lunatic handcuffing their legs to a tree, but my chances had to be better than most since this particular lunatic stupidly buried the key within my reach. I kept digging as the sun inched below the horizon. A cold, metal object dropped into my palm. Bingo. I scooted closer to the tree and reached around the trunk to insert the key into its slot. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I made a chilling discovery.

He’d buried the wrong key.

Creep

I strained to listen as my parents went about their nightly routine and prepared for bed. I imagined their every movement with each familiar sound: faucet running, toothpaste spiting, door closing, bed frame squeaking– they would each settle into their respective sides of the mattress and read for an hour. Then they would turn out the light and be asleep within minutes. No one would be milling around until my father’s regular 2:00 bathroom visit. The man had a bladder as predictable as a German train station. I waited until the light under their door disappeared and I slid out from beneath my covers, fully dressed. I had packed my duffel bag earlier with everything I would need and I’d tucked it under the far side of my bed. Now, I wished I hadn’t shoved it so far back. After a few tugs, it emerged and I gripped it closely to my chest to keep the zippers from jingling. My movements were precise, avoiding every loose floorboard and opening the door as slowly as possible to avoid any complaints from the hinges. As I crept down the stairs, I hazarded a sideways glance to the pictures hanging on the wall. So may memories. Most of them bad. I shifted my weight to the third step from the bottom of the staircase and a loud sigh escaped from the wood beneath my sneaker. I froze, my other foot in mid-air as I waited to see if my parents had heard the ruckus and if they’d really mete out the punishment they’d promised if they caught me trying to run to the police station again.

Clunk

Karissa fiddled with the radio as she settled in for the long car ride. All her presets played only static as she crossed state lines, and she craved soulful country music almost as much as she’d craved that tub of chocolate marshmallow swirl ice cream last night. Breakups do strange things to college girls, and this breakup had been one of the messiest she’d experienced. There had been anger in his eyes as she told him how she’d discovered his unfaithfulness. That anger that frightened her and sent her on a last minute getaway to the security and seclusion of her parents’ home. She was only a half an hour into her drive when something in the engine made a clunking sound. Two minutes later, she was stranded on the side of the road in the dark with the hood up, staring at a mess of parts and wires and checking her phone to see if she had any signal yet. As a familiar set of headlights from a pickup truck shone into her eyes, a measure of understanding unlocked her mind. This mishap hadn’t come to her by chance, but by the deliberate calculations of an unstable man.

Grilled Cheese

I don’t know what it is about a grilled cheese sandwich, but it’s the only sandwich I will eat. Maybe it’s the crispy, buttery bread on the outside. Or maybe it’s the ooey-gooey cheese on the inside. Perhaps it’s just the warm, toasty feeling I get when I smell one cooking on the stove top. Reminds me of simpler times, I suppose. A side of ketchup on my plate doesn’t hurt the cause either. Anyway, I was just about to sit down to a delicious lunch of two grilled cheese sandwiches with a side of bacon when the phone gave out a shrill ring and rudely interrupted my plans. I didn’t know it then, but answering that lunchtime phone call sealed my fate, and I would be destined never to eat another grilled cheese sandwich for as long as I lived.

Bud

Bud lifted himself into his old pickup truck and slammed the door. The incessant dinging reminding him that he’d once again left his keys in the ignition finally ceased, giving his ears a bit of relief. He tipped back his styrofoam coffee mug and forced himself to swallow the last gulp– stone cold from its time in the winter breeze. Stretching the seat belt to accommodate his pudgy mid-section, he focused his eyes on the green rabbit’s foot dangling from the crooked rear-view mirror. He reached out to rub it again, but stopped short. If that stupid thing really worked, I wouldn’t be in this mess, would I?

Pour

The washed-out dirt path gave way underneath the man’s feet, and his once-shiny shoes became caked with mud. The rain had not let up for days, and the man had neglected to bring an umbrella or wear clothes appropriate for the dismal weather. Heavy raindrops ran off the tip of his nose and dripped from his chin. His shirt and pants were sopping wet, as was his thinning hair, but he didn’t notice any of those things as he marched onward through the driving rain. Even the feisty spring breeze did nothing to stir his thoughts away from their single-minded purpose: Find her today. And find her alive.

Farm

Ben awoke to the rooster’s call and dressed in the dark, as usual. He pulled on his heavy work boots and trudged out to the barn for the morning milking. When he was finished, a slice of sunlight peered promisingly over the horizon. The weather today would be gorgeous after a week’s worth of rain. Ben slipped in the back door and went upstairs to change into a cooler shirt, all the while smelling the hotcakes, eggs, and bacon cooking on the griddle. His stomach responded to the thick aroma with a loud protest. As he unhooked the clasps of his overalls, Ben neared the open window to enjoy the warm breeze filtering inside. When he caught sight of something laying on the ground by the corn field, his heart dropped into his toes and his fingers went limp. Who had done this, and how did they know his secret?

Broken

Nothing lasts forever.

That’s what I’ll tell her. They were going to get chipped and cracked and put away in the attic eventually. I did her a favor, really. She should be thanking me for my carelessness if you think about it. I mean, who wants the pressure that comes from having a house full of nice, expensive, untouchable things, anyway? Not me. And probably not her. At least she won’t have to worry about that now. She’ll be free to concentrate on more important things.

Besides, no one really liked the look of that ugly antique china.

Limp

He limped along gingerly, not able to feel his toes or most of his foot any longer. At least the pain had been replaced with numbness, and he welcomed the change, though he wasn’t sure if he should be worried instead. He hadn’t lost much blood, which was a good sign. The bullet had only caused an entrance wound, and he knew he’d need to find his way back to base to get the slug fished out of his ankle before the injury got infected. Hopefully they weren’t short on pain killers at the clinic again. The sun was setting and his pace slowed with every step. He needed to hobble along and get back to camp before it turned too dark and cold to be out in the elements. How he’d gotten so separated from the rest of the team on this mission was beyond him. And where was Frank, anyhow? He’d distracted the enemy soldier for him and he hadn’t even shown up to offer a stable shoulder to lean on for the walk back to the barracks. He thrust his annoyance aside for the time being and concentrated on the task at hand: staying alert and not becoming an amputee before he was discharged in a few weeks.

Frozen

She tried to scream, but her icy lips clung to each other, refusing to be separated. The wind whipped through her thin layer of clothing, sending an unmerciful chill through her bones. As she tried to inhale, a thousand tiny daggers tore at her lungs. Her bare fingers were now tinted a pale blue, and her body denied her mental request to shiver. She lay on the frozen ground like an overturned statue– silent and unmoving. The last thing she observed as the outside world slipped out of focus was that it had started snowing again.

Cell

The cramped room was dim, but the sliver of light coming through the poor excuse for a window allowed me to see creatures scurrying around the edges of the concrete floor. I shivered; if it was the cold or the rodents that caused me to do so, I couldn’t tell. Thicker clothing would have been beneficial in this dank place, that was for sure. Warmer shoes and a blanket would make the place almost bearable for a few moments, but I knew none of these things would ever come my way now. I crouched in the middle of the floor, away from the cobwebs on the stone walls, and listened to the steady drops of water filling the puddle under the window. Knowing this sound was probably the last thing I’d ever hear made my stomach lurch into my throat. I heaved a sigh and bit my lip to keep it from trembling. If ever there was a time for a heroic rescue from a flashy knight atop his trusty steed, I thought, this would be it.

Dropout

Everyone said I’d regret dropping out of high school. They said I’d never amount to much. They said I was shortsighted and immature. But, the fact was that I saw what most of the other students didn’t. I saw that high school was just a holding tank– free childcare– until we reached an age where we could find jobs and contribute to society as adults. I just happened to realize that I had no use for a babysitter once I turned sixteen and got a car. I could already read, write, multiply and divide. I figured if I knew all that, anything else I wanted to learn could be done on my own terms in my own time at the library. So, I got a full-time job, saved every penny, and started using my savings to invent things. I never expected in my wildest dreams that my inventions would make me a millionaire.

So, perhaps they were not completely wrong about me being shortsighted after all.

Pebbles

I can’t stop thinking about you.

I don’t mean this pleasantly. I mean to say that the thoughts of you are irritating, itchy, pebble-in-your-shoe, can’t-seem-to-clear-your-throat kind of thoughts.

You see, I don’t like how you act when we are in public together. I’m not amused at how you sneer and chortle like you’re the Queen herself and everyone should be honored to be subjected to your petty opinions. I cannot stand the way you grit your teeth, or chew your biscuits, or how you breathe. Must you whistle with every exhalation? It’s enough to drive a proper man to insanity.

You curse enough to make a sailor blush and a gentleman faint. You are rude, stubborn, bossy, and altogether quite stupid.

For these reasons, and so many more, it is with great regret that I must inform you that I will not be joining you for teatime tomorrow, or any day in the near future.

Sincerely,

Your Grandson

Breathe

My eyes popped open the second I felt the icy water touch the soles of my feet. My entire body went numb the moment I plummeted to the bottom of the lake, and I kicked a few chunks of ice away from my legs in my panic. My long hair was floating in slow motion around my head; it was the only body part not frantically wriggling to loosen the metal chains around my wrists and ankles. In sharp contrast to the freezing temperature, my lungs were on fire. I was sure my rib cage was just about to implode or explode when suddenly another body plunged in beside me. I prayed it was a rescuer and not simply a partner in this cold and watery grave.

Put me in, Coach

The smell of the fresh-cut grass made me smile. So many good childhood memories were tied to that scent. I allowed them all to resurface in my mind now as I kicked a stray pebble out of the baseline and inspected the field. Small and old, but tidy. The grass was thick, the paint job was recent, and the bases were holding up better than I’d expected when I signed up for this job a few months ago. I closed my eyes and inhaled. The spring sunshine filtered through my eyelids and warmed my upturned face. Children were playing in the distance. I could hear them laughing, shouting, shrieking– just glad to be able to be enjoying the outdoors again after another harsh winter. I let out my breath slowly. I imagined this year’s little league team poised on the field– each player in their rightful position wearing clean uniforms and brand-new cleats– anxiously waiting for the season to begin. I opened my eyes again to scan the field once more before anyone was dropped off for our first practice. This old field was mine now, and I would be sure we dominated it. No matter what.

Thirst

My lips were cracked and swollen. I’d given up on trying to moisten them with my tongue, because that was as dry as sandpaper by now. It had been over twenty-four hours since I’d ingested any liquid, and though I’d tried to stay hidden under the shadows along my journey, they’d been sparse and not much cooler than the direct path cutting across the wasteland. I tipped my canteen to my lips for the thousandth time, hoping that by some miracle a drop or two would roll down into my open mouth this time. No such luck. After I reached the top of a small hill, I spotted something blue and sparkling on the horizon . As I hastened my footsteps, I prayed that it was a clean source of water and not just another mirage.

Smooth Move

I frowned before I opened my eyes. My back ached and my hands felt ice cold. I lifted my lids to darkness like I’d never seen in the city. No light, no sounds. Just nothingness. I felt around to determine my location while frantically grasping at bits and scraps of my short-term memory. I had been in the Subway. I’d agreed to meet a friend for coffee after running my daily errands. I’d received an urgent text from–. I couldn’t remember any more. My hands had no better luck. Everything around felt like smooth stone. Beneath me, above me, and to the side of me. Panic started to set in, and I remember thinking how surprised I was that it took me so long to freak out. I think I really started to understand my situation when I felt the seam between the two hollowed pieces of granite: I was buried alive in a coffin made of stone.

Rude Awakening

Mike groaned as the distant humming became more annoying and persistent in his dream. He slowly opened his eyes and realized he was still buckled into the passenger’s seat of Tony’s Mustang, but they were parked– probably for a quick pit stop. The humming became louder and Mike realized that Tony was slumped over in the driver’s seat, drooling thick liquid out of the corner of his mouth. Mike rubbed his eyes and shook his head, trying to make a way for the disconnected thoughts in his mind to click together. A loud horn blared, and he recognized the familiar sound in the distance. As his eyes were just about to adjust to the darkness surrounding him, a blinding light shone in his face, and he scrambled to unbuckle his seat belt and jump out of the path of the oncoming train.

Duplicity

She ran down the wet cobblestone alleyway, the tears on her face indistinguishable from the raindrops pelting her cheeks. Her sandals slapped the road loudly, and she didn’t stop running until she slipped and landed on her knees. Unable and unwilling to stand, the woman continued to sob as she doubled over, wet strands of hair sticking to her contorted face, blood from her freshly scraped knees pooling underneath her shaking body. How could he have done this to her? After all they’d been through together. He’d lied about everything. About his name, his career, his innermost thoughts– he’d thought of everything. And now she knew. And she wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t die of humiliation and a broken heart right there in that dirty alley– on her birthday of all days.

Yawn

Have you ever been really tired? I don’t mean oops-I-put-the-milk-in-the-cupboard tired, or I-only-got-five-hours-last night tired, but so tired that every day functions became insurmountable goals? Like pouring a glass of juice felt like it would take every ounce of concentration you could muster, and you’d rather die of thirst? Like buttoning a shirt would take so much energy, you start to question whether or not shirts are going out of style. Your legs feel like a thousand pounds of dead weight, each one dragging behind you as you stagger, and you feel like you’re sinking in wet concrete with every step. Your eyelids burn and droop and twitch. You can’t form complete thoughts, and the things you do think about make no logical sense whatsoever. Then you start seeing things– things you know aren’t really there– creepy things. This is the state I found myself in during an experimental sleep study for a large drug company. And this extreme tiredness– the absolutely overwhelming fog of fatigue they draped upon me– this is why I can’t be held accountable for what I’ve done.

Gold

Matthew wove in and out of the crowded kitchen with two steaming platters in his hands, hoping the cook’s tardiness wouldn’t continue to be reflected in his nightly tips. He served two tables their food, apologized for the delay, comped a few mixed-up beverages, and took orders from three more tables. He went to the bar to fill the drink orders and wiped the perspiration from his brow. He’d never seen the place so busy on a Tuesday night. In theory, busyness was good for tips, but in practice, Matthew’s feet were crying for him to stop scurrying around in his uncomfortable shoes. Finally the crowd thinned after an hour and a half, and he decided to take a break after he cleared his last table. He stacked the dirty dinnerware in a gray plastic bin and reached for the receipt and his tip in the center of the table. When he saw only change, he frowned. He examined the coins he’d assumed were quarters and noticed how out of place they seemed– certainly not American currency. He then saw a note scrawled on the receipt which upon reading made him lose his grip on the bucket of dishes, sending them clattering to the floor. The note read: “Here are three golden coins from a sunken pirate ship. There’s lots more where these came from if you meet me out back.”

War

They say war changes a man. And it’s true. War changes anyone, no matter who you are or who you claim to be, and not always for the better. In fact, usually for the worse. But what people often don’t realize is there are different types of war. There’s war between countries, sure. But there’s also a kind of war that’s between individuals– people– neighbors, friends, spouses, coworkers, and the like. The kind of war that exploded that muggy Sunday evening in Brown Square was a war of the second variety. And it wasn’t pretty, either. It began within the whitewashed walls of a quaint little church on a grassy hillside. And the war proved to be nuclear.

Shop ‘Til You Drop

“What about this one?” Sherry held up a sparkling halter top laden with gold and silver sequins.

“You’re joking?” I asked while looking at my watch. We’d been shopping for hours, and my soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend hadn’t found one article of clothing she deemed worthy of purchase. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the mood for jokes.

She giggled loudly and snorted. A few other shoppers cast glances in our direction. I sighed and ducked behind a few clothing racks, feigning an untied shoe.

“No, I’m serious. It’s so shiny. I think this is the one for our date tonight.” She winked at me with her long, black, obviously glue-on eyelashes, and I followed her to the checkout counter– not too closely for fear of being associated with the most obnoxious customer in the department store.

I looked at my watch again and began planning this evening’s break-up dinner in my mind. I’d do it over dessert. The way that woman ate, she probably wouldn’t even notice I was leaving her until her mouth was too full to protest. Then I’d leave her with the bill. I smiled as I stood in the aisle, waiting for the purchase to take place so we could get on with our day. As I watched her hand my credit card over to the store employee with her flashy fake fingernails, I noticed how pale she looked. And she wasn’t flirting with him either– another oddity. As the cashier handed the card back, Sherry slumped forward, her head dropping to hit the counter with a solid thud. Then she collapsed the rest of the way onto the hard, white floor.

I rushed over to her side after a moment of hesitation and reached down to check her pulse. Maybe I wouldn’t have to break up with her after all.

Be Mine

She smiled as I took her picture. Her cheeks were red because of the mild breeze blowing the freshly fallen snowflakes against her skin, but it was a good look. Made her seem more vibrant than usual. She sipped her coffee and chatted with her friends between photo ops. Her blue eyes dazzled underneath the sun’s bright light. I couldn’t help but smile and laugh with her. Her delight in the simple things of life was contagious. Almost made me wish I had grown up in the country like she had with a big family and the annual celebrations of birthdays and holidays. I shook my own childhood memories from my head and focused on the task at hand. Pictures. I snapped a few more from my perch inside the abandoned building. Someday soon it would be time for Holly to meet me. Then I would show her all the pictures I had taken of her in various spots around town for the past two years. She would be flattered and amazed at my love for her. Then she would be mine forever.

Roses are Red

Kevin sat alone at the corner table in the bustling coffee shop, arranging and rearranging the flowers he had bought for Harper. He placed her scone and cappuccino at the seat across the table from his. She said she’d meet him after her last graduate class today, and that ended twenty minutes ago. The wait was killing him. He chewed on his lower lip and winced when he bit too hard. Glancing over at the college students ordering their caffeinated beverages, he resisted the urge to slide the little black box out of his pocket a fifth time and make sure the ring had not magically vanished. He satisfied himself by tapping the side of his leg, feeling the edges of the box and looking at his watch again. What was keeping her? Had she forgotten or simply made other plans? He checked his phone. No messages. Maybe he had been too cryptic with the note he’d left her. He had said to meet him at the place where they first met. It had been four years, but she should remember the place, especially since she used to work at the shop during her sophomore year, and he would frequent as a first-year grad student. He’d just stop in to buy a coffee so he could chat with her, and she knew it. He smiled at the fond memory, but frowned when his phone vibrated. He looked at the new message from Harper. Something came up. Rain check? Ignoring the message, Kevin shoved his phone in his pocket and with one motion dropped the scone and cappuccino in the trash. After hesitating for a moment, he flung the bouquet of red roses in after them.

Splinter

I just knew they were going to have to amputate. Of all the splinters in all the world, why did this one come crashing into mine? My pinky finger shed a teardrop of blood and the rest of my body went into shock, or something very similar. I thought, I should call the paramedics, they’ll know how to handle a situation of this caliber.  But, then I thought, Maybe they’re not skilled enough. Paramedics aren’t properly trained for the surgical precision I was sure this disastrous tragedy would likely require. Plan B. Call for help. Someone could find me and rescue me, and rush me into the Emergency Room on a gurney. I had to act fast. I had already lost three entire drops of blood by my calculations, and who knew how much more could come squirting from my little finger at any moment? With what I could only assume was my last breath, I screamed a scream as loud and panic-stricken as I could muster. Then I crumpled to the floor in case my legs became too weak to stand. There I sat and listened, waiting for someone to save me.

Thinking Out Loud

Sometimes my thoughts come barreling through my mind so loud and clear that I look around the room to make sure I haven’t been shouting them to the people around me. On some mornings I’m sure the young man sitting next to me at my bus stop must have heard me thinking, and I’ll turn to look at him. But, he’ll just give me a sort of nod as if to say, “Good morning.; we’ve never spoken to each other, and let’s keep it that way.” The thoughts have always been there. Until yesterday. I had gotten out of bed and had brushed my teeth, and suddenly I realized that the clear, loud voice that belonged to my thoughts was gone. It was as if it had contracted laryngitis and had taken the day– or whatever length of time– off. At first, I felt lost without the voice’s constant, albeit intrusive, guidance, but gradually, I tasted the freedom of being able to do whatever I pleased without the constant nagging and I smiled wickedly. I didn’t know how long of a vacation the voice would take, so I decided to capitalize on whatever time I had left. Needless to say, my first order of business was calling in sick.

Stuck

Juniper Miller was stuck.

Literally stuck.

Had been for a while, actually. Well, that is, if three hours truly equaled “a while”. June squirmed for fear she might be using the phrase inaccurately.

And stuck in an amusement park ride, no less. June attempted vainly to slow her heart rate to light speed as she remembered the growing crowd of tiny gawking people below– seemingly miles beneath her swinging metal cage. She tried not to look at them. Or at the ominous rain clouds in the distance that were sailing toward the broken Ferris wheel. June shuddered. She hated storms– and crowds. She squeezed her eyes shut to try to tune out the reality surrounding her. Of all the fears she had lurking in her jumbled mind, why did she choose today to overcome one of them?

Gridlock

What a nightmare. Seriously, who decided that doing roadwork in the middle of rush hour was a good idea? I could strangle them. Bumper to bumper traffic wouldn’t normally bother a seasoned city girl like me, but today was different. I tapped my fingers rapidly on the hot steering wheel, wishing I had some magical powers I could use to levitate my SUV and fly over the sea of traffic ahead of me, or at least get my air conditioning working again. I glanced at the digital clock for the fifth time. The green numbers glared back at me. 5:10. If I wasn’t there in twenty minutes, the committee was going to vote without hearing my presentation. I couldn’t let them destroy such an integral part of my childhood with something so casual as a cast of a paper ballot. I wouldn’t let them tear apart my heart bit by bit until it disappeared altogether. They might want to demolish my memories, but I wouldn’t stand by passively and let it happen. I wasn’t going down without a fight.

Electrifying

The power line snaked wildly in the dark night’s wind, twisting and flailing like an unattended garden hose. Sparks sizzled and crackled after each violent lunge. Gradually, the nearby houses coughed their tenants into the streets and sidewalks. With wide eyes and wrung hands, everyone asked the obligatory question aloud: “What just happened?”

Deep down in the recesses of their hearts, however, each soul standing on the warm pavement in the middle of Grover Street that evening knew what had occurred.

And they knew who they would hold responsible.

Dirty Job

While Mike worked frantically on the chemical formula, he cracked his knuckles again — a nervous habit that he now regretted forming. The supervisor glared at him over her thickly framed glasses and stepped closer, her heels clicking on the hard, white floor. “Is there a problem here, Mr. Hart?” The older woman’s breath smelled of eggplant and black coffee. Not a good combination.

Mike put his hand in front of his face to protect him from her smell and her icy stare. “No problem here, ma’am.” He rubbed his unshaven face and tried to stop his knees from shaking as he lowered his gaze back to the round table in front of him.

“Good,” the supervisor distanced herself from Mike and stood under a flickering florescent light. “I’d hate for you to have a permanent accident like your little friend.”

At the mention of Karen, Mike stiffened and glanced sideways at the door they had hauled her through three days ago. He hadn’t seen her since, and he now understood why.

How could he get out of this terrible place before he faced a similar fate?

Noteworthy

It didn’t start out as a suicide note.

I was merely doing my therapy homework—you know, writing a letter you never intend to send so you can get out all your frustrations and anger with another person on paper and feel better. Only I wasn’t feeling better. The more I typed, the angrier I got. The more neon white computer space that was eaten up by size 12 Times New Roman letters, the more I realized that I wanted out. Now. So, that’s how it became the last letter I’d ever write. I clicked the printer icon, and then cleared the screen. I held the fresh-off-the-press paper in my hand, scouring every word for mistakes in spelling and grammar. I couldn’t have people thinking I was ignorant after I’d no longer have the chance to counter that opinion, could I? I folded the paper in half and then in half again and stuffed it deep into the front pocket of my jeans. I tried to slow my thumping heartbeat by taking a few deep breaths. The letter would be read soon enough, and all this pain would finally be over.

Outside

Gretchen slid from the alleyway’s shadows and scuffed her tattered sneakers against a few broken pieces of black top. She lifted her gaze to the warm glow emanating from the cafe’s side window and focused on the table in the middle of the restaurant. Squirming from their over-crowded condition, a dozen or more college girls from her freshman English class sipped their drinks. The large group pulsated with constant hair flips, wide-open grins, and playful nudging as a few sophomore males walked by. Gretchen narrowed her eyes and formed her lips into a tight line when she spotted her roommate among the crowd. Why hadn’t Penny invited her to this outing? Gretchen glanced down at her black flannel shirt, gray tank top, and ripped blue jeans. Not that she could have afforded a cup of coffee anyway. Why did she have to be so poor? The cafe’s joyful light continued to pierce through the night sky, and Gretchen continued to spy. One of these days, she thought. One of these days I’m going to show them what they’re missing.

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