1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Past Contest Submissions are closed for contest #178, theme: "travel anecdote"

    Discussion in 'Bi-Weekly Short Story Contest Archives' started by GingerCoffee, Aug 18, 2015.

    Short Story Contest # 178
    Submissions & Details Thread
    Theme: "Travel Anecdote" courtesy of @GingerCoffee

    Submissions will be open for ~2 more weeks.

    IMPORTANT: PLEASE READ, Thanks

    To enter the contest, post the story here in this thread. It will show up as an anonymous author.

    The contest is open to all writingforums.org members, newbies and the established alike. At the deadline I will link to this thread from the voting thread. The winning entry will be stickied until the next competition winner. As always, the winner may PM me to request the theme of the subsequent contest if he/she wishes.

    Entries do not have to follow the themes explicitly, but off-topic entries may not be entered into the voting.

    Word limit: 500-3000 words
    Deadline for entries: Sunday the 30th of Aug, 2015 1600 (4:00 pm) US Pacific time.

    There is a 10% word-limit leniency at both ends of the scale. Please try to stick within the limit. Any piece outside of the suggested limit may not be entered into the voting.

    If we reach 20 entries, the maximum number of stories for any one contest, I will consider splitting the contest into two. Only one entry per contest per contestant is permitted.

    Try to make all your entries complete and have an ending rather than be an extract from a larger one and please try to stick to the topic. Any piece seemingly outside of the topic will be dealt with in a piece by piece basis to decide its legitimacy for the contest.

    A story entered into the contest may not be one that has been posted anywhere** on the internet, not just anywhere on this site. A story may not be posted for review until the contest ends, but authors may seek critiques after voting closes for the contest. Members may also not repost a story anywhere, or bring attention to the contest in any way, until the voting has closed.
    (**We tried one that had been posted for critique before entering but it defeated the anonymity so I've gone back to no stories perviously posted here in the forum.)

    PLEASE use this title format for all stories: Title bolded [word count]

    If there are any questions, please send me a PM (Conversation).

    After the voting ends, posting in the thread will re-open for comments.

    ***And thanks to even more long hours put in by our very special mod/member @Wreybies, winners are now awarded with olympic style medals displayed under their avatars.

    Be sure to preview your entry before you hit 'reply'.
    Check italics and bolding as sometimes the end code for bold or italics doesn't copy/paste affecting large stretches of text.
    If you need to fix the formatting, hit 'control a' to 'select all' and clear all bold and italics code. Then re-add it back in using the board's font controls before you hit 'post reply'. Watch those extra line spaces. Delete them directly from the post before hitting 'post reply'.

    The point of consistent titles and line spacing is to avoid having those things influence votes, sometimes for worse.

    Thanks, and good luck!
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2015
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Test: just checking the anonymous code.
     
  3. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Too silly.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2015
  4. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    When Lost Time Takes Your Space. [570]

    "The man had no idea what he was talking about!" My father's face was as red as his pride was wounded. The 'man', or police officer as most people would have addressed him, very well might have had no idea what he was talking about; plain English with a handful of el's, la's, and the word calle thrown in isn’t much of a translation into Spanish.

    Things may have appeared dim to an outsider at this point. We were lost in a country where we didn't speak the language, stray dogs roamed in search of scraps, and people drove as if they had been personally wronged by everyone around them; but there was one thing no torrential amount of red flags could take from us. Our false sense of security and delusional hope that everything would turn out okay.

    Our hope, near incomprehensible as it may have been, was at a tipping point. You see, all our hopes and dreams had been thrown in the map basket, a basket that after further inspection by my father, appeared to be crafted through a mixture of child labor, craeons, and a passionate hate for road names. I quickly discovered the maps sole purpose had nothing to do with directions; the parchments true purpose was being a punching bag for finger pointing and misguided hostility. I futilely prayed for it's durability to hold out; I knew what, or more precisely who, would be next in line if it fell.

    "So if we were here..." his voice had four or five more inflections than necessary; the situation was beyond grim, "that means when we left the airport here..." the map tore away from his finger in an attempt to escape; I wished it the best of luck because the worst was yet to come.

    "What kind of moron makes a map out of toilet paper!" Yes this might have been the same rage, but with the map defeated it needed a new target. I'd wisely spent the first 10 minutes of the trip in silent panic and the preceding 20 in stunned silence. Two minutes before this point I had made a grave mistake and spoken up. I'd thoughtlessly suggested using the el's and la's in conversation and told him to ask about the calle, a word that had mystically appeared in my mind unaccompanied by any sort of definition. I'd meant to keep it to myself for as long as possible as my ace in the hole; due to poor decisions that hole was empty now, and my limited knowledge only knew two uses for holes; either they have an ace in them or they're bound to get f-

    "Son," He only called me that when I really didn't want to hear what he had to say next, "didn't you take four years of Spanish in high school?"

    -ucked.

    So next time, when you're sitting in class talking to your friend, doodling in your book, or texting because, "I'm never going to use this is real life anyways!" Shut your mouth, stop scribbling pictures of genitalia, and burn your phone because having to explain to your father years later the reason your entire family is up a creek, without a paddle, and hoping that the water seeping in will somehow put out the flames was because, "Yeah, i didn't really learn any of that..." is the type of answer that gets you left behind.
     
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  5. Sethypoo98
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    Sethypoo98 New Member

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    One Camel (868 words)

    The atmosphere within Istanbul’s grand bazaar could be described aptly as chaos and sensory overload accompanied by the beauty and hospitality that characterizes Turkish culture. Shop owners stood in the middle of the walkways, trying frantically to drag tourists into their shops with promises of leather discounts and well-priced souvenirs. The voices of these shopkeepers and the hordes of tourists that they targeted penetrated every nook, every crevice, every corner of the bazaar, making it impossible to escape into silence; the air, too, seemed to be filled with scents that were impossible to avoid- scents of honey, of vast clouds of Turkish saffron, of freshly prepared baklava for sale on the shelves of countless tiny pastry shops. The bazaar, in its entirety, was a hurricane of sensory information that emulated the hectic drone of Wall Street during its peak trading hours.

    On this particular hot, humid summer day, a young girl and her father wandered freely throughout the bazaar, just as other shoppers had done for many centuries before. By the overconfidence in their gait, their generally pale complexion, and the oversized Nikon camera strung around the girl’s neck, it was obvious they were American tourists. The girl, who looked to be about 20 years of age, looked with childlike wonder and glee at every shop she came across. Her father, trailing behind in her wake, did not share the awe and wonder that his daughter harbored for their surroundings, but his eyes lit up when he saw the joy that this place brought to his daughter’s heart. He followed her in a sort of content trance, immensely grateful to be able to watch his daughter explore the world.

    This trance was interrupted when a smiling Turkish man stepped out of a narrow alley and rapidly approached the pair.

    “How many camels for her?” The man was speaking to the father and gesturing towards his daughter.

    The father couldn’t help but chuckle at the man’s joke, and when he saw that his daughter was listening intently, he decided to make a reply at her expense.

    “Only one,” he said, a twinkle of humor in his eye, “and I’ll throw in her camera.”

    The man laughed at the joke, and the girl gave her father a playful push in protest.

    “This way, my friends,” said the man excitedly, “I would like to show you my wares! Perhaps you will find something you’d like to take home.”

    The man led them to a nearby rug shop. Inside was a small room, devoid of any furniture save two couches lining the wall opposite the door.

    “Please sit! I will be back in a moment with cold apple tea.”

    The man left them alone. When he returned, he was bearing a tray with two glasses of apple tea, and he was accompanied by several scraggly-looking men. As he handed the glasses of tea to the girl and her father, he shouted commands at these lackeys in Turkish; it was obvious that he was the proprietor of the shop and these were his employees.

    The employees walked swiftly out of the room, returning in a few moments with their arms full of carpets; as the girl and her father watched, the men unrolled carpet after carpet onto the floor for them to see. When one of the employees ran out of carpets to unroll, he would dash out of the room and return promptly with another armful. This went on for several minutes, and eventually there were about 100 carpets of varying size, shape, and design piled on the floor.

    “These are very nice Turkish carpets,” said the proprietor, almost shouting with enthusiasm, “They are made of silk, hand-woven over periods of years by girls in villages throughout the Turkish countryside!”

    He tilted his gaze up to the girl seated on the couch in front of him, smiling widely as every good salesman must. “How much do you think they’re worth?”

    The girl laughed under her breath, smiling back at the salesman. “I don’t know! I’ve never really…well, I haven't really much spent much time on the rug market…”

    “Well then how much would you pay for this one?” The man cut her off, gesturing to a large, silken rug on the floor, beautifully woven with intricate designs and dyed many shades of beautiful colors, worth at least several thousand euros.

    “I don’t know, I mean…well…” the girl looked to her father for support, and he merely nodded at her, indicating that she should throw out some sort of number. “Well, if I was buying this rug, I’d say that I would be willing to spend…80 euros?”

    The man couldn’t contain his annoyance with this low-ball answer. He rolled his eyes, let the smile on his face fade into an exasperated smirk, and threw up his hands over his head as if asking some heavenly power why he had been sent these silly, time-wasting American tourists. Eventually he got over his rage and collected himself for long enough to march several long steps to the girl’s father.

    Leaning down close to the father’s face, the man half-whispered in a tone that was either playful jesting or unreserved contempt:

    “You’re right. She is only worth one camel!”
     
  6. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    "Saucy Lady" (2699 words)

    This wasn't the type of trip I imagined. I now find myself with no wallet, no shoes, and no glasses. Everything appears as a blurred Monet painting. If only I had listened to my family and their warnings over and over about taking a trip alone... oh if had listened.


    Everything started fairly normal. A decent flight with a little turbulence, peanuts, and a coke. I was even lucky to have an empty seat to my right allowing a little extra space. I hate these trans-Atlantic flights to the core. When the monitor shows the words, "Point of no return," I piss myself a little. Statistics say that the chance of dying in an airplane crash are the same as being struck by lightning several times, but it would just be my luck.


    When we landed in Madrid, it was a beautiful sunshine soaked day sprinkled with little puffs of clouds. It was nice and warm but not too hot, the perfect temperature I had expected. I planned a specific itinerary visiting certain areas of the city, and of course taking a trip to Valencia so I could take advantage of the beautiful beaches along the cost of the Mediterranean Sea.


    I took a cab into the heart of the city and checked into my hotel. The hotel looked like piece of art. I was amazed at the structure, its curves and carvings had me awe struck.


    This is where I'm going to be staying?


    A bell hop met me at the door and immediately took my bags. He patiently waited as I checked in at the front desk and got my room number. I was lucky enough to get a room on the top floor where I could get a beautiful view of the city. We entered the elevator and the bell hop pressed 15. That's when a kid reached into the elevator and hit every button on the elevator console.


    "Stop! Damn it," yelled the bellhop as he tried to stop the door from shutting so we could take a different elevator... but he was too late," I'm sorry sir. It seems like one kid a week does this."


    "It's not your fault, maybe I'll make some friends along the trip," I quipped, and we both had a small laugh.


    When we finally reached my floor about five minutes later the bellhop showed me to my room. He also pointed out where the ice machine was. I thanked him and gave a nice twenty dollar tip. He seemed happy with it and turned and walked away. The room was immaculate. It looked like something straight out of a fancy travel magazine. Even the door knobs were gold plated.


    I put away my suit cases and then headed to use the bathroom. They had those papers you put over the seat and the commode was auto-flush. Feeling somewhat silly to be doing so with just me staying in the room, I tore off one of the papers and placed it on the seat. As I went to sit down, it activated the toilet to flush and it caught the inside of the paper and flushed it. I stood back up and placed another paper on the seat and went to sit down. Once again the toilet flushed and took the paper down the drain. What the fuck? What kind of complicated process is this that I can't just sit down and take a shit? The third time I think I got it. I tore the middle of the paper out and set it on the seat, but this time when the toilet flushed there was nothing for the water to grab and the paper stayed in place. It may have been one of the happiest shits of my life.


    I freshened up and decided I would head out and see if I could find a quaint little restaurant nearby. I found a nice place within walking distance of the hotel, it was as authentic as it comes. I asked in my broken, book learned Spanish, what was one of the specialties. The waitress pointed to a dish call tapas. They came in many different ways, with various meats, vegetables, and even dessert flavors. I ordered one of the cheese plates. It didn't take long for my plate to arrive but it was so small. I asked the waitress if they were all this small, and then she gave out a small laugh, before telling me yes, they are meant just to be snacks. She then added that most people ordered multiple tapas. I felt somewhat embarrassed for not knowing any better.


    I really should have studied more about Madrid and its customs, foods, and language before I took this trip. Hopefully the tapas incident will be the worst of my Spanish memories. Oh how wrong I was going to be.


    As the sun began to set, the streets began to fill with the younger crowd. There were several clubs along one of the roads and I decided to check things out. Oh were there some beautiful ladies, and I was a single man on the prowl. I walked into one bar called The Hacienda. Luckily I know the word cerveza (beer). The bar tender brought me my beer quickly and in a cold mug. I wish I could get this kind of service in an American bar. I scanned the room looking for a girl to possibly dance with or at least make an approach on. I finally saw a beautiful caramel skinned woman in a tight red dress on the other side of the bar. She had raven black hair and brown eyes I could just fall into. That's when she caught my stare and gave a polite smile.


    I called the bartender back over and ordered a beer for her. When the bartender delivered her beer and whispered something to her, she motioned for me to come over. I picked up my beer and made my way around the end of the bar and snuggled up to the counter next to her.


    "Do you speak English," I asked her.


    In some broken English she replied, "I know a little. Thank you for the cerveza."


    "It was nothing, besides I needed a reason to come over and talk to you."


    "Are you in town on business or pleasure," she said while breaking a smile when she said pleasure.


    "I'm treating myself to a vacation. I work pretty hard as a stock broker and I don't get much time off work so when I get to play, I play hard," I gave extra attention to 'hard.'


    "Do stock brokers get paid well?"


    "Well I drive an Audi and I have nice big house..."


    "So what hotel are you staying in?" She gave another sly smile.


    "I got a suite at the Hilton. Are you thinking the same thing as I am?"


    "That we take this party elsewhere?" She grabbed my hand.


    "All you have to do is follow me." I then took her hand and started making my way through the crowd.

    The bar was within walking distance from the hotel so we enjoyed the evening weather. She made small talk probing with more questions. I tried to learn more about her but she played coy and didn't say much. That was fine by me as long as she came up to my room.


    Almost as soon as the door to my room shut, she was all over me. She started by kissing my lips and wrapping one of her legs around me and soon moved to my neck and ear. she then whispered into my ear that we should move to the bed. That's when I backed away from her and began to unbutton my shirt. She kicked off her heels. This was getting hot fast and I was getting a little nervous.


    "Are you sure you want to do this? You hardly know me."


    "There is just something about you sexy American men that gets me going." she replied in a wispy voice.


    As I began to undo my pants and lay down on the bed, she pounced and began kissing the side of my neck some more. I put my arms around her and began to kiss back with our lips locking once more. I soon found my hands running inside the back of her dress and pulling it down to unveil her shoulders and bra. I then began to kiss her shoulders and more on the nape of her neck.


    "Are you ready for more?" she asked.


    "Oh yeah, you are absolutely gorgeous!" I said as I finished pulling my pants off, now only wearing boxers.


    She stood at the end of the bed and put one leg up. She slowly slid down the stalking, trying to be as enticing as ever. Once she had the first one off, she went for the second one. I was about to blow. I couldn't imagine a better vacation. That's when she slowly crawled back on to the bed and over me. She took one of my hands and pulled it over my head and began to tie one of the stalking around my wrist.


    "Wait... what are you doing?


    "Oh this makes me so hot when I can have some control. You'll love it, I promise. You'll never forget this." She smiled and kissed my lips.


    She then tied the stalking to the top of the bed. She then took the other wrist.


    "Are you sure this is what you want?" I asked with a little bit of uneasiness.


    "If you would rather me leave..."


    "No if this gets you going, go ahead."


    She then finished tying my other wrist to the top of the bed and slithered down to the end of the bed and stood up. She then gave a little shimmy and her dress fell to the floor. She was wearing the tiniest pair of panties I was amazed they covered anything. Her hands then moved to her chest where she acted like it was about to come off when she suddenly stopped the expression on her face suddenly changed.


    "Sorry buddy but I got bills to pay." She said with a serious tone.


    "What?!? What do you mean?" I said while struggling to get my hands free.


    She picked up her dress and slid it back on and zipped it up. She then slid her heels back on and picked up my pants from the floor.


    "Let's see what we've got here."


    "Bitch! You better leave my stuff alone, and you better release me. I'm going to get the cops!"


    "You aren't going to do much of anything until the cleaning lady comes by in the morning. In that amount of time I'll have all your credit cards maxed out."


    She took all the cards out of my wallet and then shuffled through it some more to make sure she got all the money.


    "Score! I figured you would be one of those jack-offs that carries a lot of money to impress chicks. This seems like one of those nice expensive wallets too, I'll just take the whole thing. Oh I forget something."


    That's when she picked up one of my socks from the floor.


    "Here you go sweet cheeks, we don't want you making any disturbances."


    She then stuffed the sock into my mouth. She slid the money and cards into her bra. Then she bent over and checked the type of shoes I was wearing.


    "Those are nice Italian shoes you got there. Ostrich? They have to be worth a grand, I'll take those too. I also noticed your glasses. Nice 'hipster' ones I bet I can get a few bucks for those as well."


    I struggled some more and tried to talk but all I could get out a small muffled sound. I was had. I got screwed over because I listened to the wrong inner-voice.


    She blew one last kiss as she walked out the door with just about everything of value I had... even my dignity. She was right in saying I would be stuck until the next morning. The cleaning lady didn't seem surprised, she acted like this was common occurrence. She untied my hands and then asked if I wanted my room cleaned. I told her no and put my pants and socks on. I then headed down to the lobby.


    I walked up to the front desk, "Sir I'm in suite 1504, and I have been robbed. Can you call the police?"


    "Yes Sir, did you say suite 1504?"


    "Yes a woman stole all my money, credit cards, and even some of my belongings!"


    "I see, this happens quite often, you American tourists should be more careful. You are perhaps how do you say it, 'too horny.'"


    I hung my head in shame and began to wonder how I was going to pay for my hotel, whether I could exchange my airplane ticket for a quicker trip back home, and how I was going to twist this story to make it sound like I just got robbed. Christ this was going to be difficult.


    "Can I make an international collect call from your phone?"


    I figured I could call my buddy and he could at least help me out by loaning me enough money for the night I've been here. Then I'll go straight to the airport and try to get a ticket out of this God forsaken place.


    "Hey John, this is Robert... Yeah I'm on vacation in Italy... Things were going good... Well then I got robbed... Yeah I'm okay, but I got to ask you a favor... They took everything in my wallet and I need to pay the hotel... No, I still have my airplane ticket, it's just the couple hundred bucks for the hotel... I plan on coming back as soon as possible, you know I will get you back as soon as I get home."


    John paused a moment on the phone which had me quite nervous. Then he came back on, he asked if I was ready to write down the info or if there was someone I needed to give it to. I told him thanks so much, and handed the phone over to the hotel manager. Tragedy avoided.


    I went back up stairs and packed all my things and gave the airline a call. They said I could get an evening flight out with my ticket now the question was... how was I going to get there? Lord I'm going to have to hitchhike a ride. I asked the bellhop if he knew anyway I could get to the airport without any money. Luckily for me, he had remembered the nice tip I gave him for taking up my luggage to my suite, and honestly I think he felt a little sorry for me.


    "Look, you treated me well and I thank you for that. Here is a couple bucks, grab a token on the subway and it will take you all the way to the airport." he said, while reaching into his pocket and handing over the money.


    "If I ever come back I'll make sure to take care of you again, and I'll stay away from hot looking women." I replied while taking the money from his hand.


    The bellboy kind of laughed, as the story of what happened had already traveled its way through the hotel staff. "Yeah I bet you will."


    I waited for the police to arrive and they took all my information. Like I had thought, I wasn't the only one that had fallen to this scheme. Sadly the police said the perpetrators are very rarely caught. I'd better hope that I have identity theft protection on my cards or that the companies had caught the strange charges and frozen the accounts. Of course the cash was going to be a loss. I then got a copy of the report so I could show it to my bank and have copies for the credit card companies.


    That's when the walk of shame began... No shoes, no wallet, no glasses.
     
  7. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Travel Broadens the Mind [1939]

    Brian set his personal jar of coffee down on a counter in the staff room and looked irritably at two of his colleagues. They were standing in front of the kettle, blocking his access, and talking about nothing important.

    “Just booked two weeks in the Algarve,” Tech Support was saying. “Bit of sun, sea, sand and all that. You just got back from Spain, didn’t you? How was it?”

    “Oh, it was amazing,” said Human Resources. “Just what we needed. The kids were happy playing in the pool all day and John and I got some time to sit and relax, for once. We went all-inclusive. Everything we needed was right there.”

    Brian smirked and shook his head at the overhead cabinets. He wouldn’t be surprised if they hadn’t bothered to leave the hotel at all, happy stewing in their own sweat by a pool and reading endless, god-awful romance novels. Had they bothered to talk to a single native? Try some of the local food? Of course they hadn’t.

    He may have snorted out loud.

    “Are you going away this year, Brian?” said Tech Support.

    Brian turned to face them. Human Resources looked annoyed.

    “I’m still making plans,” he said, hopefully with an air of mystery. A little thrill ran through him.

    Back at his desk, he placed his personal jar of coffee back in his drawer, leaving the label (reading ‘Brian’s – do not use’) face up.

    Automatically checking his inbox and not really expecting anything to be there, after weeks and weeks of obsessively refreshing, it took him a moment to realise what he was seeing. Brian clicked the unread email with trembling fingers.

    He had passed the medical. He was cleared for flight.

    At the printer, he waited anxiously for the letter to emerge, as if it might all have been a hallucination bought on by the months of nervous anticipation. But no, it was real.

    Dear Mr Clarke

    We are pleased to confirm…

    Carefully folding the confirmation letter and sliding it into his breast pocket, Brian was flooded with excitement. He took a ready-packed briefcase from the bottom drawer of his desk, did a quick sweep to make sure he hadn’t left anything behind – and a good thing he did, because he almost forgot his personal stapler – and walked over to Human Resources, handing her an envelope. It had been ready for months.

    “I’m resigning,” he informed her.

    There was a hush as everybody turned to look at him.

    “What?” said Human Resources, blankly.

    “I’m resigning. I,” said Brian, pausing dramatically. “Am going to see the world.”

    “Going travelling?” said Finance Assistant, looking him up and down.

    “I,” said Brian, straightening himself to his full height. “Am taking a journey the likes of which have never been seen before. I am going to see sights that none of you have seen, that none of you ever will see, that none of you have even dreamed about.”

    He thought they looked suitable awed.

    “In fact,” he said, warming to his theme. “Most of you never see beyond the computer screens you are forever glued to. You never really look at the world around you, even the tiny part of it that you bother to travel to. I am escaping the endless factory shift. I have my sights set on bigger things.”

    Turning on his heels, he paused at the exit and looked back at Tech Support.

    “Do enjoy your package holiday,” he said, with a smirk.

    ***

    Brian chose his going-away outfit carefully. There would be cameras, so he had to look smart, but he also wanted to be comfortable. This journey was going to be the making of him and he did not want to be distracted from the profound, philosophical musings that would surely come by a constricting tie or a starchy collar.

    Eventually, he settled on a pair of black trousers and a white shirt, leaving the top button open. He thought he looked rather roguish but debonair at the same time.

    Sure enough, when he emerged from the taxi, the storm of camera flashes blinded him temporarily.

    “Mr. Clarke!” they were shouting. “How did it feel to be chosen?”

    One of the event organisers escorted him to a platform with a microphone. Brian enjoyed looking down at the sea of journalists and spectators.

    “I,” he said, pausing for effect again. “Am delighted to be here. Unlike those of us content with a fortnight stewing in our own sweat” – he had stored that little soundbite away when it had occurred to him in the staff room – “in front of a pool filled with people who live within a few hours of our homes, I,” – pause – “am really going to see the world.”

    They loved it. The cameras went wild, and the journalists scribbled manically.

    Feeling very pleased with himself, Brian entered the rocket and sat in the seat. He would be confined in this small space for the next week; just him, a chair, a bed and the few personal possessions he had been allowed to bring.

    He had practised the flight routine many times over the last dozen weekends at the astronaut training centre, along with all kinds of emergency procedures and special event protocols. The science people dashed around ensuring he was strapped in correctly and that he remembered how to adjust conditions during the flight. Brian nodded pleasantly, not really listening. He would be too absorbed in his thoughts to worry about trifles like the temperature.

    Soon, he would be the first space tourist. The first human to orbit the planet without scientific endeavour, but just to see it. To see the whole world. It would change his perspective forever. The book he would produce afterwards would be a bestseller. He hoped he would be able to call it Life of Brian.

    The ascent and descent were the most dangerous times, by far, on a rocket. Brian had learned that in training. However, the training could not prepare him for the effects of extreme G-forces on the body. He gritted his teeth and rode it out. It would be worth it. When he emerged, he would be a changed man.

    When the intense vibrations stopped and Brian’s organs fell back into their normal places, he opened his eyes. Through the small viewing window he could see Earth. Not the whole thing yet, but a part of it, filling the window with its enormous majesty.

    Brian waited to feel awed and humbled and to discover entirely new things about the human condition.

    He waited a little longer.

    Well, perhaps it would come when the whole planet was visible. He couldn’t expect his entire world outlook to change in a few moments; the human brain just wasn’t prepared for it.

    He settled back in the chair, empty notepad and pencil poised in his hands, and waited for inspiration.

    Several hours later, he tried a new tack. His house was down there, somewhere. He tried to see it in the context of the massive planet slowly revealing itself through the window. It was too minuscule to even compare on this scale. But it did not feel small and insignificant. It was his home, with everything he owned inside it, and when he imagined it, the size was more than sufficient for him.

    He still felt like an important part of the universe when he went to bed. In the morning, it would come. His brain would process everything during his sleep, and he would wake up a new man.

    He woke up hungry.

    The ration packs contained all the nutrients he needed but nobody could call them haute cuisine. Brian thought fleetingly of a nice little café on a sea front somewhere, where he could order a seafood paella and a carafe of white wine.

    Goodness. Here he was, in space, and he was thinking about paella! Brian shook himself. Although, he thought, grinning at his roguishness, a nice margarita cocktail would not go amiss.

    He returned to his chair. Nearly the whole planet was visible now, the edges of the viewing window filled with black nothingness. A void. A lonely planet spinning in an empty, unfeeling void.

    But there was so much in the universe, and the Earth teemed with movement and life.

    Brian frowned, and tried to picture his house again. It still seemed a reasonable size. Especially compared to this pokey little room.

    Eating another tasteless ration pack for dinner, still feeling quite important in the scheme of things, Brian wished he could waltz up to the window and order whatever he fancied. Perhaps a nice steak followed with a strawberry ice cream.

    When he went to bed, the notepad was still empty.

    Three days into his flight, he no longer fancied an ice cream. The temperature seemed to be dropping. Brian vaguely remembered them warning him about this in training, but he hadn’t really listened. He’d scoffed at the idea of being concerned with small physical discomforts when he was looking down at his own planet.

    He missed the sun.

    By day four, he wished he had bought a Kindle. Office Manager was always bleating on about hers. “It’s like a bookcase the size of a small paperback”. He had rolled his eyes at her and asked why she needed a bookcase when the ever-moving screen of life played out around her. He had been rather pleased with that statement. Now, he would gladly have traded anything he owned for a Kindle; especially the useless, still-empty notepad.

    No, actually, he would not give up the clothes on his back. He wanted a blanket nearly as much as he wanted something to do.

    He imagined himself on a nice beach, in the blazing sun, with a plate of fish and chips on his lap.

    The notepad got used on the fifth day. Brian used it to draw a grid and played noughts and crosses with himself.

    ***

    On day seven, the rocket landed back on Earth after another teeth-rattling G-force episode. The science people checked him over frantically but efficiently, then Brian stepped out to another bombardment of camera flashes and shouts.

    “Mr. Clarke! How was the experience? What have you learned from it?”

    Somebody pushed him onto the podium and he faced the sea of expectant faces.

    “I,” said Brian. “Have seen the world. And it has changed me.”

    They went wild, throwing question after question at him, but Brian stepped down from the podium and shakily clasped his hands in a silent prayer.

    He was quiet in the taxi home, reflecting on his experience.

    “You may let me off here,” he informed the startled taxi driver, on the main shopping street of his town. “I need a little walk.”

    Clutching his small bag, Brian looked up and down the street as the taxi drove off. He spotted a store with a sky-blue frontage and entered, dropping the notepad in a bin by the door. A young lady with blonde hair tied back in a tight ponytail smiled brightly at him, though it faltered as he came nearer.

    “Dear me, sir,” she said, in a high voice. “You look like you need a break.”

    “I do,” Brian agreed. He sat in a blue plastic chair in front of her desk.

    “Two weeks in the sun?” said Travel Agent, pulling a stack of brochures towards her.

    “Yes,” said Brian. “Somewhere hot.”

    She nodded sympathetically. “Flights, transfers and hotel?”

    “I want you to arrange everything,” Brian confirmed.

    “Bit of sea, sun, sand?”

    “Yes,” said Brian, with feeling. He reached out and held her wrist, appealing to her with his eyes. “All-inclusive. Please.”
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
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  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Deleted, corrections made. :D
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  9. Tenderiser
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    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Brian clicked the 'Post Reply' button too soon. Brian looked irritably at himself and then edited his post to include a title and a word count.
     
  10. Song
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    Song Active Member

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    Three Wise Monkeys。(1026 words)


    The aroma of fresh brewed tea filled the air like incense in a church. The best way to get rid of the bad taste of life was a good cup of something hot she thought and she needed it right now. ‘Come see the fires of Hades’ the poster should have read. At least that is how Julie explained it to her friend.


    “It was supposed to be my Shirley Valentine moment.” She lamented, the smooth porcelain of the cup already proving therapeutic.


    Tina had been her friend since there oft reminisced university days 15 years ago. Now she needed her more than ever. “It can’t have been that bad surely.” The cup gave off a melodic rattle as she took the drink.


    “They were still sweeping up the ash from a volcano eruption.” It was a slight exaggeration, but she could still taste the metallic, dusty air as she started to tell the story. When she arrived much of the devastation had been cleared up, but she could still see the image of people sweeping the fall out from their vehicles as her coach from the airport had rolled in.


    Her friend hid her laughter from behind her tea cup. It was one of those improbable tales that life is full of, and once the storm had calmed you could not help but laugh at. “What about the Greek Adonis? Surely there was one guy that made the journey worthwhile.”


    “Well……More Adidas than Adonis.” The disappointment was written on the lines of her face. In her dreams the man had been charming, the real suited gentleman. What she got was a white sport shoe wearing man, weighed down by gold chains rather than the guilt of the women he left come the rising sun.


    It wasn’t that he didn’t say the right things. “You like goddess to me… I follow you to end of earth” She said in a deep voice in a silly attempt to imitate him. They both giggled at the man the cabaret invoked.


    He was kinda cute though she thought to herself. She would never admit it to her friend, but there was a charm about him that she wanted to like. He was not the most handsome man, but neither was he monstrous. Julia’s problem was she couldn’t believe a word he said. In her mind there was no one that could ever consider her beautiful enough to be a goddess.


    “So did he follow you to the ends of the earth? By that I mean your hotel room” Tina asked with a hint of mischief in her eye.


    Julia shook her head at the accusation. Of course she had told such a disingenuous man he had no chance. She just finished her drink and left the bar. “I was on the prowl, I needed to find my Adonis...” She guessed Adidas had at least left her giddy in some way, even if she wasn’t sure if it was love, because sometime between bar one and bar two she lost her purse.


    The anecdote was proving a good conversation starter. Tina began to add her own horror stories into the cauldron. So with the bubbling mix of tea and drama, tongues were happy to talk away. “So when I had no money to get home I met a guy I call the Kraken.” The giggling was getting viral.


    She lamented that she should have known something was wrong when the taxi driver insisted she sat in the front. However it became perfectly clear when he could not stop licking his lips, a motion she revelled in showing her friend to worm like squirms.


    When the car had squeaked to a gentle halt, the tentacles came out. His hands stroked her legs and arms, while the tongue in his mouth just sloped around his saliva. “It was like a giant octopus trying to pull a ship down into the ocean.” She sniggered. Throwing the random junk she found in the glove compartment was all she could do to stop herself from drowning.


    “Surely after the Kraken your holiday got better?” She struggled to believe that so much could have happened in one night already.


    “Well let me put it this way… no purse… no key card.” She said beginning to picture the handsome, sweet fragrant guy she was confronted with at the reception of the hotel.


    “That can’t have been that hard a mess to sort.” Tina was now convinced her friend had embellished the thing somewhat.


    The problem hadn’t been getting the card. It also had not been his personal appearance, because he happened to be the most handsome man she had ever become transfixed over. The issue had been getting him to understand what she wanted in the first place. “To say the man couldn’t speak English was in fact still over estimating his ability, but damn he was hot.”


    Julia became very animated as she explained that drunk, frustrated and a little flustered, she was forced to play a parlour game of charades. The prize in her mind was ‘Being able to lock the door of her room and forget that this holiday was taking place’. She told her by the time she did get into her room, all she wanted to do was stick her head under the cool cotton pillows and scream.


    “So basically I met three guys underneath all that ash. One was clearly blind, one must have been deaf and the last one may as well have been a mute. All I got from the whole thing was an embarrassing story to tell.” She shrugged her shoulders and hoped this would be the last time she would have to tell this story.


    As the afternoon drew to a close and the river of tea began to dry up, the pair of them were showing signs of fatigue. With her head still turned talking to her friend, Julia opened the door. There in the doorway, with lost purse presented as if it were on a soft royal pillow, was Adidas. Maybe the blind monkey wasn’t so blind after all, she thought.
     
  11. thatdifficultfirstnovel
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    thatdifficultfirstnovel New Member

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    'Puzzle Pieces' (1119 words)

    You were only invited to make sure the trip had at least one male member of staff. A question of health and safety, rather than any actual desire for your company. What would the women do if a boy suddenly had a ‘masculine’ problem arise? That it took you the best part of the hour long journey trying to work out what might constitute the type of male teenage issue that only you can resolve, with no luck, only serves to emphasise your despair. A permanent frown is tattooed across your face.

    Fourteen hours later, your nerves are frayed, and you fear that the next roadwork might just push you over the edge and make you jump headfirst through the coach window. Anything to be away. Anything to push through the all-encompassing wall of being that has enveloped you since half past six this morning. Your peripheral sight and vision constantly blurred by never-ending motion. A bottle of beer, six percent, Belgian, sits in your fridge. The thought of it maintains a tenuous link to your sanity.

    The days’ events replay in your head like a montage. A trip always starts out with the best of intentions. A chance to educate the children. Show them different cultures. Expose them to a world outside the bubble created by school and the community around them. Make them more rounded individuals. Allow them to have fun. There is even that residual joy for the educator that we get to be outside among real people for just one day. It is this initial carrot that makes the abuse of the stick later on all the more difficult to bear.

    Two try to slink off at the first venue; a couple desiring each other more than knowledge of the Prince of Wales, holed up in an area specifically roped off to deter trespassers from going too far. You catch a glimpse of them out of the corner of your eye whilst accelerating to keep up with a group who seem happy to breeze through a room, obliviously charging off before you’ve been able to plant both your feet and suck in a breath. The reprimand is greeted with eyes down, a communal smirk. As subtle and unapologetic as a slap around the face.

    The walk down towards the beach offers myriad potential for danger, with the maelstrom of traffic, noise and teenage awareness (or lack thereof) a continual heart-stopping mix. Even with the act of herding them down to the coastline only taking just over eight minutes, any ethnically or sexually diverse person that crosses their path has been ogled and pointed at. A homeless man sitting in a newsagent doorway gets a myriad of scowls and laughs just for being unfortunate enough to be there. You think a racial epithet slips out of the mouth of one particular pupil further down the street, but you aren’t completely sure and you don’t want to make a scene. More of a scene.

    The language hits its zenith in terms of offensiveness as we flood onto the pier, but like the cheap plastic frogs in the first arcade you enter, they have disappeared before you are able to knock them back down. The narrow wooden gangway offers more opportunities for dispersal, more opportunities for trouble. An attempt to pacify yourself with a coffee fails when you have to leave the queue to halt a group of boys from attempting to climb over the edge of the pier. ‘To get a better look’ is the half-baked excuse you are given. It almost angers you that they don’t even try and come up with a plausible reason; you are clearly not worth their time. The snigger that rings in the air as they leave you to go explore makes your fingers flex and clench. You tell yourself this motion was involuntary.

    Throwing stones and throwing chips become the sport of choice as we trudge along the front, both aimed at seagulls with varying degrees of success. The choice of a pair of jeans seems lke a rookie mistake as you feel the sweat dripping down the back of your calf muscles. You spare a thought for the smattering of pupils who choose fashion over function; hoodies and body-warmers held onto like the hug of a close friend, even as the temperature slowly rises. Out of the corner of your eye, you try and catch a bead of sweat dripping off the face of the closest one. No luck. Attention turned to the first direct hit on a seagull – time to go.

    The journey home, doubled in length by accidents and diversions, is the calm after the storm. More walking than usual combined with the sudden lack of sugar for the body to process leaves most of the coach asleep. Even their deep breathing and snoring starts to manifest itself in gnashing of teeth by you. Your optic nerves throb as you stare blankly at the road ahead, willing the miles away.

    As you exit the coach, the children shuffle off like zombies, fuelled only by a desire to get into a proper bed. No thanks are proffered, no open show of gratitude for the time you have spent today. You try and dredge up some small crumb of surprise from within, but fail.

    Whatever energy reserved for speech is channeled into communicating with parents and siblings waiting expectantly for their arrival. Attempts to shout over the noise created by three under-fives. Apologies amid cursing and complaints about how the lateness of the coach has interrupted attempts to watch the football. Swear words dressed up as acceptable terms of endearment. Requests for sweets and energy drinks that are met without question. Talking to total silence and apathy, barely masked behind a veil of tiredness.

    Half an hour later, and only one is left.

    No answer on the home phone. No answer on the mobile. No concrete sense of a sustained line of communication before. She is quiet, yet not surprised. You ask her if she enjoyed herself, reaching within to suppress the negativity barely contained within your being. She is non-committal, though she makes it clear that this is the first time she’s left the estate. The sadness of the statement isn’t matched by the tone of the delivery. Unquestioning acceptance.

    A car rolls by to pick up the girl. Forty-two minutes late on top of the twenty eight minutes forced upon us. The girl jumps in the car before the male relative can exit. A smattering of words are lost to the ether; only the word ‘forget’ seems to linger. Wheels spin, and the car speeds off into the distance.

    Subconsciously, the pieces begin to slip into place.
     
  12. DueNorth
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    DueNorth Active Member

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    Travelin’ Man (932 words)

    Not many men stood six foot four in those days like Buck Jackson. Only the occasional saloon girl had ever seen him out of the snakeskin cowboy boots that he favored. Those boots added another full inch to his already imposing frame. Buck and his Colt 45 made a living off of intimidating men and scaring women and children into talking about whoever they might be hiding.

    So Buck was a mighty striking figure to seven year old Cody Jenson as he rode into town that August afternoon on a day so hot even bugs looked for shade. Cody watched from the porch of his parents' modest boarding house. He first caught glimpse of dust being kicked up on the road near a half mile out of town. As the swirl got closer Cody could see a dog leading the way, followed by the lanky figure of Buck Jackson wearing a black outfit befitting a funeral excepting a red kerchief about his neck. and looking plenty miserable in the sun of the afternoon prairie. He sat stiffly on an Appaloosa as though in a trance. From a fair distance, with Buck’s over-loaded pack horse taking up the rear of the little caravan, the boy couldn’t help but find it to be a comical sight.

    Cody’s smiling wasn’t for long, though, as the closer the rider got to Cody, the bigger the boy could see that he was. He tried not to be afraid and to remember just what his Papa had told him. Soon the man was so close that Cody could see a reddish scar that ran on one side of his face from mouth to ear as though he had a smile that did not end. And the dog, trail worn and dusty, was like no dog Cody had ever seen. It was missing one ear, had a long and lean body, a coat like a coyote, and a head like a wolf sorely oversized for the body. The creature had a glint in its eyes and a playful bounce to its step in spite of the miles it had travelled and the company it kept. The rider came right to the edge of the porch where Cody sat as though headed there from the very start, and then stopped without dismount and waited until Cody jumped from his perch and offered a “Howdy, looking for a room, Mister?”

    “This the Jensen place?”

    “Yes, sir. It is. Jensen’s, yes sir.”

    “Your Daddy Avery Jensen?”

    “Well folks call him A.J., but yes sir, that’s him all right.” The dog sniffed at Cody’s blue jeans. “Can I pet your dog, Mister?”

    “Suppose it’d be alright. He ain’t bit nobody lately.”

    “What’s his name.”

    “Ain’t got no name.”

    “Suppose his name’s dog then.”

    “Your Daddy inside?”

    “Yes, sir. Mama too.”

    “Go run and fetch him, boy. Tell him someone’s here got business with him.”

    While Cody was inside Buck got down from his mount and readied himself, taking position a good twenty paces from the porch steps. Avery Jensen had been on the run since before the kid had been born. Buck had been on his trail for months now. The bounty was the same whether he brought him in dead or alive; dead was easier to manage.

    Cody found his parents in the kitchen. “Man outside says he’s got business with you, Papa.”

    A.J. turned to Cody’s mother, “I think this is another of them days we’ve been waiting on, Suzanne. You know what to do.”

    “Give me two minutes is all I’ll need,” she said, and then gave A.J. a quick hug and hurried from the kitchen.

    “You stay here, boy, and don’t move until your Mama comes back for you, hear?”

    “Yes, sir, I hear.”

    A.J.’s lips were moving as though he were praying, or maybe just counting off time. Suddenly, he walked from the kitchen, down the hallway, past the parlor to the front door, opened it and walked out to the front porch. Cody followed, silent as he could be, taking up a post at the living room window where he could see his father’s back to him and Buck Jackson standing on the dirt just yonder.

    Buck Jackson was holding his revolver in one hand with it pointed directly at A.J., and a crumpled piece of white paper in the other. He began reading in a booming voice, “By order of the government of the United States of America, Avery Albert Jensen is under arrest for escape from the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, and to resume sentence for the crimes against the United States for which he was rightfully convicted on …

    All at once a sound like a single sharp clap of thunder erupted from above where Cody knelt peeking out the window. Buck Jackson fell backwards like a drunk trying to dance a two-step, blood erupting from the back of his head like cheap red wine spilt from a broken cup, the legal paper finding a sudden downdraft and taking to the prairie winds, the Colt dropping unfired from his hand, Mama Jensen screaming from upstairs while Papa Jensen whooped from the porch and the dog howled like there was a full moon. Cody ran to his Papa, “We got us another one of them bounty-hunters, Papa.”

    A.J. picked up Cody and swung him around as he ran down the steps and shouted towards the open upstairs window, “Hell of a shot, Suzanne!”

    The dog nuzzled up to Cody as A.J. set him down. “Hey Papa, can I keep me this mangy old dog?”
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2015
  13. No-Name Slob
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    No-Name Slob Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Turbulence
    (2715 words)​

    It was Sherrie's 10,000th international flight, and there would be a celebration. She dedicated eleven years to Auto Airways and she'd receive a few balloons to show for it. "How generous," she thought. "They took away my pension, but at least the pilot will give me a hearty 'thank you' over the intercom." She knew the pilot, Brad for five years. She also knew that during his recognition speech, he'd call her Cheryl. He always called her Cheryl.

    While she prepared trays of sodas, she relived her early days as a flight attendant with a mix of nostalgia and disappointment. She was twenty when she started the career, intent on leaving her circumstances behind. The job was her way out, and she planned to run free with abandon.

    The eldest child of a drug addicted mother, Sherrie became the sole provider of her younger siblings at the age of fourteen. In the slums of Unionville, Georgia, jobs were scarce, so she seized the first one willing to hire someone of her young age. She shouldn't have been allowed to work for another year, but her long legs and tired eyes made her appear older than she was. Good Eatz Diner needed help, and jumped at the opportunity to hire a pretty girl.

    She spent her long nights tending to tables of transient truckers, and her short days in high school. One night at the diner planted deeply in her heart a longing to leave everything behind.

    "You're quite the young thing to be working so hard, aren't you?" She recalled a man covered in the grime of a cross-country drive saying. Each word spewed the pungent aroma of coffee, stale cigarettes, and whiskey.

    "Yes'sir. I'll be fifteen next week." She had a bad feeling about him, and she avoided his gaze as she placed his order on the table.

    "Young, blonde, and serving me bacon. Just how I like a girl," he snickered.

    She quietly refilled his coffee and continued to avoid eye contact, ignoring his pretense.

    "That's a joke, sweetheart, lighten up. Didn't your mama' tell you its polite to thank a man who likes what you have to offer?"

    Sherrie's patience waned, too exhausted for pleasantries. Taking care of the children of her meth addicted mother weighed on her, and she was happy to get rough to make clear her intent to end this conversation. "You'll never know what I have to offer," she scathed.

    He laughed at her attempted insult. "Ha! Pretty young thing like you working so late? I bet you have school in the morning. I bet you're tired of working so hard all night tryin' to put food on the table. Probably don't have no daddy takin' care of you, neither," he put his hand on her thigh and slid it upward until it disappeared under her skirt, "And I bet if the price was right, you'd be more than happy to show me what you have to offer."

    She jolted backward and spilled the pot of coffee all over her uniform.

    "Awh, hell. Now it looks like you're gonna' need to take that top off, sugar." He laughed caustically and smugly bit into his bacon sandwich. "Let me know if you wanna work out a deal, sweetheart."

    Tears of anger stung her hot cheeks while she unbuttoned her blouse in the kitchen and grabbed another uniform. "You okay, hon? That was a right show." Mary Sue, one of the girls at the diner interrupted her brief lapse of stoicism.

    Sherrie didn't see her come in, and quickly wiped the tears off her face with the coffee stained blouse, "Yeah, well he can just keep dreaming. I'd never touch a disgusting pig like him -- not for a million dollars," she said as she pulled a new shirt over her head.

    "Ya know, there's no shame in it, darlin'." Her coworker grabbed a tissue. "A girl's gotta' do what she's gotta' do. There ain't no one taken care of you but you."

    "What are you gettin' at?" Sherrie asked.

    "I'm just sayin' that you should think about it," she said as she wiped tears from Sherrie's face, "you could bargain with him and get at least a full week's salary, plus two days' tips."

    Sherrie lost herself in conflict. She was exhausted from working at the diner, and if she could make more money doing less work, she wondered if it was it really such a terrible thing to consider.

    "I know it sounds bad, but you're thinking too much on it. A young thing like you'd have to do barely any work to make a lotta' money in the industry. Might as well put to use what the good Lord gave ya' and get more than a couple hours' worth of sleep between school and your shifts at the diner." Mary Sue didn't mean any harm. She was trying to help. She thought a young kid should be at home doing homework and going to bed at a reasonable hour, not staying up all night at a diner. "I've done it, ya' know."

    "You have?" Sherrie asked, hesitantly.

    "Sure did. Got myself in to a right predicament, and the diner wasn't about to cover the cost. Met a guy up here, and thought I'd work with him for a year. He helped me find Johns until I got back on my feet. I gave him ten percent." Mary Sue said as she helped load the dishes. "It ended up only takin' seven months before I didn't have to do it no more. It wasn't all bad, some of the Johns were sweet. Lonely types without the social mind to get a girl of their own."

    Sherrie's eyes fluttered closed several times while she sleepily finished sweeping. Earlier that day when she returned from school, her mother was asleep after a three-day binder, and all responsibility fell on her shoulders. Many days went like this, and she started to hope her mom would stay high, since at least then she could manage to make peanut butter sandwiches for the kids while Sherrie closed her eyes for a brief moment.

    Sherrie was awake for 22 painstaking hours when she decided to sell herself to the trucker for 60 dollars.

    She hated herself for it, but she knew it would be best for everyone. She relied heavily on the advice of her late grandmother to get through the next three years she spent selling her sexuality to the highest bidder. "If you're sad, sweep something." She did a lot of sweeping growing up.

    When the time came, she proudly watched each of her siblings graduate from high school and go on to respectable jobs. The enormous pain in her heart shrunk only by the knowledge that her decision at the diner played a small role in making that possible.

    When she was seventeen she received a brochure in the mail about becoming a flight attendant. In those days, it was a respectable career when college wasn't an option and allowed someone the chance to see the world. She'd seen all of Unionville, Georgia and knew that this was her chance to make something of her life. The best job her mother ever held was the position of telemarketer at a travel agency, one she had for less than a month when her love affair with speed took over.

    She saved the brochure in a shoebox in her closet for three years, and when her baby brother graduated, called the number. She got the hell out of Georgia as fast as her feet would take her.

    "Excuse me, miss? Miss?!" A passenger trying to shove an octagon into a square peg interrupted her trip down Memory Lane.

    "I'm sorry, sir, but you're going to have to check that bag," she knew where this conversation was going the minute she spoke.

    "Then you need to check this bag at your own cost. It passed the weight limit checkpoint, and it's not my fault that the overhead bin can't accommodate its shape."

    "Sir, the weight limit is only a portion of the requirements for a carry on. If you're unable to -- " He cut her off.

    "Listen, honey," -- she hated being talked down to like that -- "I'm traveling on very important business and I don't have time for this. If you can't find some place nice for my bag, then I'd like to speak to your supervisor. You seem like a sweet girl -- I'm sure that isn't necessary."

    "Yes, sir," Sherrie said with the most sincere smile she could muster, "I'll store it in the Captain's closet." She didn't have time for self-important assholes today. They anticipated a fair amount of turbulence in the wake of some nasty storms, and she needed all of her sanity to manage the potential fears of any anxious passengers.

    Sherrie placed the bag in the closet, and continued preparing trays for the flight as the weary passengers piled in one by one. It was a redeye flight out of Atlanta to Hong Kong, and that meant more irritable passengers than usual. The flight was already delayed two hours due to inclement weather, and their negativity clogged any free space in the already cramped A319, suffocating her with their tension.

    "Thank you for choosing Auto Airways, this is your captain speaking." The pilot's speech interrupted her foresight. "First, I'd like to prepare you for some light and expected turbulence on this flight, due to the storms in Atlanta, so please be aware of your overhead seat belt lights. Secondly, before she begins her safety demonstration, I'd like you to join me in congratulating your flight attendant on her 10,000th flight with us! She's been with Auto Airways for ten -- I'm sorry -- eleven years today. Thank you for your dedication, Cheryl!"

    She gave a more cheerful safety demonstration than usual, awkwardly thanking passengers for their pathetic display of congratulatory applause. She hated being the center of attention, and never knew what to do with gratitude, even if it was feigned.

    "Thanks again, Cheryl! Ladies and gentlemen, as you'll notice your seat belt light is being turned on to prepare for takeoff. Have a great flight," the intercom blasted again.

    After the plane took off Sherrie turned off the seatbelt light, and headed to the cabin to check on the turbulence situation. She opened the door to the cockpit and fell forward onto her knees.

    "Well, I guess it's safe to assume that turbulence is still an issue," Sherrie said.

    "You might go ahead and turn that seatbelt light back on," said Brad.

    "On a scale of one to ten, how prepared should we be for panic attacks?" Sherrie scoffed.

    The pilot laughed and asked, "this is your eleventh year?" Cheryl nodded, sheepishly. "Eleven," he said.

    A crash sent Sherrie grabbing onto his chair, and the pilot advised her to sit down and buckle up. "Just need to get through this little spot."

    Sherrie wasn't impressed with turbulence. The storm outside paled in comparison to the shit storm it created within the walls of the plane. Instead of buckling her seatbelt, she decided to check on the passengers.

    "Ma'am? How long will this last?" whispered a woman rocking a sleeping baby at her breast.

    "Flying makes me a little anxious. Is there any way you could remind me of the safety protocols in case of a plane crash?" The woman looked more concerned for her sleeping child than herself. If the oxygen masks fell, she'd be the kind of woman to secure her child's mask before her own.

    "Plane crash?! Who said anything about a plane crash?" the man with the octagonal bag chimed in, frantically.

    "Sir, please relax. Our pilot is very qualified to -- "

    "She said 'plane crash!'" he said pointing at the mother. "Isn't that illegal or something? Shouldn't you detain her for our safety?" He cut her off again, and she was fed up with his pretension.

    "Sir, if there was any immediate threat, we'd land. I assure you we're all very safe. This woman isn't a threat to our safety. But you know what? I have heard that even one carry on bag too many can cause turbulence. Maybe that's it!" He pushed too far and Sherrie couldn't resist putting him in his place.

    The man grumbled something under his breath while Sherrie just rolled her eyes. "Ma'am, don't you worry. We're very safe. Just try to get some sleep," she said to the young mother.

    After all calmed down, she found herself a seat and buckled in just in time for another round of turbulence. This was a big one. It shook the entire plane, causing it dip its left wing into the clouds beneath it.

    "Is everything alright? This is a lot of turbulence for such a small plane." Her novice coworker tightly gripped the seat in front of her.

    The new girl was the same age as Sherrie was when she became a flight attendant, and she felt a strong urge to nurture her.

    "I'll go check." Sherrie unbuckled her seatbelt and tried to get out of her seat, but a blast of turbulence strong enough to send her flying through the plane shook her confidence, and sent oxygen masks falling from the overhead bins.

    A voice on the intercom spoke, "Excuse me ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Please secure your oxygen masks while we ride out this last bit of turbulence. Please remain seated and calm. Thank you."

    In eleven years, this was the first time Sherrie experienced oxygen masks deploying due to turbulence. She reassured the passengers that it was common, and despite the pilot's warning, carefully made her way to the cockpit to check on things. Her trembling knees betrayed her composure with each tremulous step she took.

    When he saw her, the pilot didn't wait for a question, "Cheryl, I'm going to put it straight. You need to get back to your seat, buckle up, and you need to get your Goddamn oxygen mask on right now."

    "My name is Sherrie," she called out while she apprehensively headed back to her seat. He didn't respond. She wondered if Brad would ever know the name of the woman he'd worked with for so many years.

    She sat down and placed the oxygen mask over her nose, and pulled from her back pocket a wrinkly old photograph. Herself, her mother, and her younger sister smiled from a tire swing which used to hang from a tree in her back yard. Years later, Sherrie's mother sold the tire to a scrap yard for fifteen dollars -- enough for a quick fix.

    She wondered how her mom was doing. Four years passed since they last spoke. Her mother attempted to make amends over the phone at the halfway house where she lived.

    "Sherrie, I realize what my disease did to you and your siblings, but mostly you," she said.

    "Mama, it's water under the bridge." Sherrie didn't like to discuss her childhood.

    "You're so hard-headed, honey. Always been that way. What I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry for everything I put you through."

    "It's fine. I don't want to talk about it." Sherrie curtly replied.

    "I know you're angry, but please know that I'm truly paying for the hurt I've caused you." Her mother's resolve wavered when she realized that Sherrie wasn't ready to forgive her, but she didn't intend to stop trying.

    "I know, Mama. I gotta' catch a flight. Take care of yourself." There was genuine remorse in her mother's voice, but Sherrie wasn't strong enough to dig up those old bones. She hung up the phone without waiting for her to say goodbye.

    She placed the picture on her breast as the plane buckled for the last time. A magnificent ball of steel that would end the life of the young mother worried about her newborn, and 127 other passengers who flew that day.

    Sherrie thought about that new mother, and about her own mother. She recalled her mother's smile when she was well, and the look on the faces of each of her siblings when they walked toward their diploma -- and for the first time in a long while, Sherrie beamed with pride, recalling her early days as a flight attendant.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Ralph's side of the island.
    I should have guessed it was you making fun of me. :p
     
  15. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    No @GC, you are my hero.

    I appreciate your conclusion from the trail of evidence available, but on this occasion - certainly was not the case, though I will make an extra effort to 'make fun' of you in future for my evil pleasures, and yours of course.

    Yours
    Mut
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.

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