Sinking Ship

Day 15 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

You realize the boat is sinking, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing happened last night. 

Oh God.  What’s going on?  What is this?  A reenactment of the Titantic?  Is this really happening?  I stopped what I was doing and tried to concentrate on what the Captain was saying.

I didn’t want to go on this stupid cruise in the first place.  But, no, “we have to,” he says.  “It’s our 20th anniversary,” he says.  “What better way than to cruise it with friends,” he says.  Yes, you heard right.   Friends — our best friends — Jack and Abigail share our wedding anniversary.  To the day, to the year.  We didn’t know each other at the time of our weddings, we met through our kids.  Of course, what other way do you meet friends at our age than through your children?

Ever since we first realized we shared the same anniversary 12 years ago, we’ve celebrated every year with them.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  Abigail had to have emergency gall bladder surgery on our 16th anniversary, otherwise it’s something every single year.  Sometimes it’s a winery, a three-day weekend in Cape Cod, or just plain old dinner.

I love Abigail and Jack very much, but I would like to have my husband to myself once in a while.  This is a tradition that was started by Larry, my husband.  He loves to party, he loves to be surrounded by people.  Me, I need solace.  I’m shy and the constant going out is just a bit outside of my comfort zone.  With Larry, it’s always go, go, go.  It’s exhausting.

So here we are, on a sinking ship.  Who can say that in their lifetime?  What’s funny is I’m not as frightened about it as I should be.  Mainly because what happened last night was way worse than a sinking ship.

The four of us met in the dining room for dinner.  The one thing I am enjoying about this cruise is the non-stop eating.  I’m usually pretty good about watching what I eat, but it’s so nice to just throw it all out the window for a few days.  At my age (don’t tell anyone, but that would be 45) it’s hard to keep the weight off.  I know I’ll probably be up more than 5 pounds when I get home, but I don’t care.

I don’t usually drink that much, but I partook in a bit too many cocktails this time.  It was completely out of character for me.  I was feeling no pain and was in the mood to party.  I know, “shocking” as Larry would say.  The tables seemed to be turned last night.

After dinner, the four of us walked over to the discotheque.  Or as the kids call it today, the club.  We all drank some more, we danced, we laughed, we were having a great time.  Until Abigail called it quits.  So, it was just the 3 of us.  We partied, we drank, we danced some more.  And then the shock of the evening came — Larry was tired.  He tried to talk me into going back to the cabin, but Jack and I were having way too much fun to call it a night.

And then there were two.  I’ve known Jack for a long time.  He’s almost like a brother to me.  “Last Dance” by Donna Summer played.  It’s the song that always plays when it’s the end of a wedding or a New Year’s celebration.  Larry hates that song because it means that the party is over.  Usually, I am grateful for it…except tonight.  I let my hair down and was having a great time.  I realized that I really need this.  Jack and I got on the floor.  We danced.  He spun me around and he pulled me against him.  I could feel him against my back.  Something was happening and I didn’t know how to stop it.  Truth be told, I didn’t want to stop it.

We started to kiss, slowly at first.  Then it turned passionate.  Sex with my husband is great.  I’ve never had any complaints.  But this…feeling.  My god, I haven’t felt this in ages.  And it was with Jack.  I’ve never felt an attraction to him before.  It never entered my mind.

I was a puddle on the floor.  I needed to get out of here.  I tried to pull myself away from him but when I did, he just followed on my heels, pulling at me.  In my defense, I asked him to stop.  I begged him to stop.  “Jack, please, we can’t do this.  What about our spouses, our friends, our children?  Please let me go.”  But there was a part of me that didn’t want him to let go.  I was feeling more alive, attractive and sexy than I’ve felt in years.

I felt 18 again, the way we were going at it.  I don’t know how, but we found a quiet nook down the corridor.  He threw me against the wall, reached up under my skirt, moved my panties to the side and entered me.  Just like that.  It was over as quickly as it started.  It felt good.  At the time, I didn’t have any regrets.

Until today.  When I woke up and realized what I had done, I felt like my world would split in half.  If Larry ever found out, he would leave me.  My marriage, as I knew it, would be over.  I don’t want my marriage to end.  I love my husband, I love my family.  This would tear us apart.  I know I can’t live without Larry.  I’m not sure I could survive it.

I woke up with dark thoughts.  Larry kissed me good morning.  I was feeling a little ill from the effects of the alcohol last night.  He wanted to go to breakfast, but I told him I wasn’t feeling very well and that I just wanted to rest.  Besides, I couldn’t face either Jack or Abigail.  I don’t know how I could face them ever again.

After he left, I went into the bathroom and got the bottle of sleeping pills.  I couldn’t pull myself out of it.  This dread.  We live in a small town.  What if Jack opened his mouth to even one person?  Word gets around so quickly these days.  I couldn’t do that to my kids or to Larry.

I poured the entire bottle out onto the bedside table.  There was already a glass of water sitting there from last night.  I grabbed a handful of pills and was about to throw them into my mouth, when I heard the announcement.




Day 14 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

Write a story featuring a ouija board, a search engine, and a self-help book.

I received the strangest gift for my 21st birthday — a Ouija board. Now I don’t claim to know much about the Ouija board but I will say that I saw “The Exorcist.”  I know that if that little girl Regan didn’t mess around with that “game” in her basement, those weird, terrifying things never would have happened to her.  But that was just a movie.

I also did play with it once. I remember when I was 10 and a bunch of my friends and I were totally into seances and levitation. We were obsessed to the point where we would plan a sleepover every weekend so we could get our crazy on.

Once one of these friends brought a Ouija board. We were all intrigued. We sat in a circle with our fingers lightly pressed against the planchette.  We would ask it silly questions like “does Billy love Angela?”  It would start to move and we would all peek to see who was making it point to “YES.”  It was fun, and I didn’t feel frightened in any way.

Anyway, the girl who owned the Ouija board had a story about it. She said that there is no way of getting rid of it once you own one.  She claims she was scared of it and before she and her family moved from their old house, she left it behind in the closet for the new homeowners. You know, kind of like a housewarming gift. The funny thing is, when my friend settled into their new home and she was hanging her clothes in her closet, the Ouija board was sitting there on the shelf.  In other words, it followed her.  It was a creepy story, but I’m not really sure I believed her.

So, I didn’t know what to say to this friend of mine.  I thanked her, of course.  But it wasn’t exactly the most welcome gift I’ve ever received.  Here I am with this game that I don’t want and I don’t know what to do with. I mean, I guess I could have fun with it.  Call some friends over and recreate the old times. Have a levitation and a seance or two.  But that seemed strange.

When I got home that day, I Googled “Ouija Board.”  The first few hits were basically just definitions.  Then there were some Youtube videos of kids and people playing with The Ouija.  And some “true” stories of things that happened to people when they played with it.  One of the things they always said was to not verbally allow a spirit into the room and to always say “goodbye” before putting it away.  Like my 10 year old self, I started to become intrigued.  I didn’t really believe that you could communicate with the spirits on the other side with a cardboard game, but my curiosity was piqued.

I pulled out the game, dimmed the lights and put my fingers on the planchette.  I wasn’t sure what to do, so I asked it if anyone was there.  Nothing happened, so I kept repeating my question.  After about 15 minutes, the planchette moved to “YES.”  I pulled my hands away from it in shock.  Then put them back and asked what his name was.  After a few moments, the game piece spelled out “L-U-C” and then stopped.  I asked if it was a boy or girl.  It went to the “G.”  Hmm, maybe it is a Lucy.  “Are you Lucy?” I asked it.  “No.”  I asked what she was doing here.  “K-I-L-L.”  Totally and completely freaked to my core, I said goodbye and put the game away, deep into the dark recesses of the garage.

I have a bit of a problem.  I’ve had it since I was a kid.  It used to drive my mother absolutely bonkers.  I’m very impressionable.  In other words, if someone complains of a headache, I will immediately get one.  If someone at school has a cold, I will wake up the following day with a sore throat.  In high school, there was this girl who turned up pregnant.  I swear within a month, I started experiencing pregnancy symptoms and I never even had sex!

So, here I am, sitting on my bed in my room.  It dawns on me that I could have been speaking to the devil.  And I suddenly remember learning or reading somewhere that the devil is actually a girl.  I start to freak out and think that the devil is possessing me.  I start to think about Regan and how her bed shook and her room got cold.  I was absolutely paralyzed with fear.  Yes, I realize I am a 21year old woman and I should know better, but honestly, I did feel cold and shaky.

This is when I remembered my book.  My mom bought me a self-help book a few years ago about mind control.  I try to tell myself that it’s all in my head.  After reading my favorite chapter, I felt calm again and realized I was being completely irrational.

Now about that Ouija board…it turns out you can dispose of it.  I got my dad’s shovel and the game, walked back into the woods and buried that sucker at least a foot under dirt and rock.  But I guarantee you, If it shows up on my closet shelf, I will probably die of a heart attack.  No, really.  I guarantee it.

The Stranger

Day 11 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

You’re walking home from work one night and taking shortcuts through a labyrinth of dark city alleyways to meet someone on time. Suddenly, a stranger parts the shadows in front of you, comes close and asks you to hold out your palm. You oblige. 

Only people who know the city well should do what I do when I’m in a rush to meet someone.  As is my usual practice, I am running late.  Although, in my defense, this time it really isn’t my fault.  I was wrapping up at work and getting ready to leave at five o’clock on the dot, when my boss asked me to make some last minute changes to a document.

I had plans for months to meet my friend Julie for dinner tonight.  Julie is someone I met long ago at a time when things weren’t going so well in my life.  She basically brought me back up to the surface.  So when we can schedule in some time to see each other, I don’t want to have to reschedule if I can help it.  That’s why I took every back alleyway I could to Connolly’s, the pub we actually met at over 23 years ago, so I could get there on time.

Because it was the dead of winter, it gets completely pitch black by 5pm.  The shortcuts I take are dark and devoid of people.  It’s downright scary walking this way alone.  My dad bought me a can of Mace a few months ago and it is in these times that I keep it wrapped tightly in my fist.

I’m in the back alley somewhere between 7th and 8th Avenue, when I hear a rustle.  I’m not very courageous so I don’t stop to try to find what it is.  Suddenly I see something move in the corner of my eye.  I know it’s not a rat because it’s far larger than that.  As the image and sound gets closer, I move faster.  All of a sudden it comes out of the shadows and steps directly in my path, preventing me from going any further.  I immediately hold up my Mace and point it toward his face.

He holds up his hand.  “No, please.  I come in peace.  I mean you no harm.”  What is this?  This guy sounds like he came out of a different era with his speech.  I stop dead in my tracks and pull the Mace away from him but still keep it where he can see it.  I can’t see his face because he has a black hood pulled down over his eyes.  “What do you want?” I ask.  “Please, listen to me.  Hold out your palm,” he replies.  With my empty hand, I very shakily and slowly hold it out, palm up.

He careful places something in my hand.  And as quickly as he appeared, he was gone.  Just like one of those stealth ninja guys.  I look down and see that he has placed a business size card in my hand.  I pull out my iPhone and turn on my flashlight app to see what it says.


“Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I say out loud.  I try calling her on my phone but I am immediately forwarded to her voicemail.  “I’m going to kill her.”  I stand there for a minute deciding if I want to play along or turn around and just go home.  I decide I have nothing better to do so why not?  It’s a Friday night anyway.  After a few minutes of reading the clue aloud, I figure out what my next step is.

An hour and a half and 5 clues later, I find myself in front of Obao Restaurant, my favorite spot.  The doorman hands me my last clue.  It says that I found my destination.  I am full of mixed feelings…happiness, exhaustion and, if possible, a little bit of annoyance.  I open the door and am led to a back room.

It is in this moment I realize that I have been completely fooled.  Every person who means something to me is in this room and they all yell “SURPRISE” at the same time.  Julie throws her arms around me and whispers “Happy Birthday” in my ear.  Standing next to her is Jim who says, “I come in peace.”  Son of a bitch.  I’ll get him…

Dollar Message

Day 10 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writer’s Prompt Bootcamp

You’re at your favorite department store buying a birthday present for a friend. As the cashier gives you change, you notice a message with specific instructions scribbled on one of the bills. What do the instructions say? Do you carry them out and, if so, how? 

Stella needed a gift for a friend.  A birthday gift to be exact, for her best friend, Carol.  At 54, Stella has perfected the art of gift-giving and she takes pride in every present she purchases or makes for people.

She is now on Day 4 of the hunt for Carol’s gift.  “Bloomie’s.  Bloomie’s will have what I need.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of that from the start,” she mutters to herself as she drives in that direction.

Carol had recently lost a lot of weight and is in the process of creating a new wardrobe for herself.  Stella remembers this and heads directly to the Misses Department.  She remarks to no one in particular that she thinks it’s clever that they call it the “Misses” department.  She sure doesn’t feel like a misses these days, but doesn’t mind shopping like one.

After 4 long days, it takes her approximately 5 minutes to find what she is looking for in Bloomingdale’s.  A maxi-dress made of the softest material and is the perfect color for Carol’s skin tone.  She knows she’ll love it and will get great joy wearing it this summer.

She brings the item to the register, saying that she “will not be needing a gift receipt because I am THAT confident that my friend will love the dress.”  The cashier looks at her with complete indifference and says, “that will be $164.99 please.”  Stella hands her $200 in cash.  When the cashier gives her the change, Stella notices that there is a message on the ten dollar bill.  She reaches into her bag for her reading glasses and sets them on her nose.  She reads it and says a bit too loudly, “oh damn, not one of these again?”

Stella is not a fan of these messages.  To her, they are like a chain letter and we all know what chain letters mean if you don’t do as they say.  She should know because the first time she received a chain letter, it promised a life of doom and bad luck for the recipient if not followed.  She remembers laughing at the absurdity of it, ripping it up and tossing it into the trash.  The next day she slipped and scraped her knee going out to her car, found out one of her favorite stores had closed its doors, and then proceeded to get into a car accident.  It was just a fender bender, but an accident nonetheless.  Ever since that incident, she begrudgingly follows through.  She has become superstitious.  Knock on wood.  It drives her husband crazy.  He says it was just a coincidence, but she knows better.

The message says she doesn’t have much time to accomplish this task so she starts to think fast.  She calls her husband and tells him that she won’t be home for dinner.  In fact, she’s not sure how late she’ll be so don’t wait up for her.”  She finds her car in the parking lot and takes Rte. 101 toward Hollywood.

Stella’s husband, John, settles on the couch to watch the 11 o’clock news.  John never misses the news.  He likes to keep up on current events both internationally and locally. And of course, the weather.  The man needs to know the weather about as much as he needs his right arm.

Just as he starts to wonder where his wife is, there is a breaking news report.  It seems there is some kind of ruckus in Hollywood.  “Oh come on, don’t tell me the kids are climbing that damn Hollywood sign again,” John says to himself.  “When will they learn?  Stupid damn kids.”


The helicopter hovering overhead is shining its’ light on the subject.  The camera hones in on the woman’s face.  “Stella??? What the hell?  Have you gone and lost your damn mind?” John screams at the television.  He grabs his keys, gets into his car and drives the usually 20 minute ride doing close to 80 miles per hour.

When he gets there, he explains that he is the spouse of the crazy lady on the sign.  They have rescued her by now and have her covered with a blanket.  They are preparing to place her into the back of the police cruiser.  John rushes up and demands an explanation.

She is smiling and holds out her left hand to him, which is closed tight around something.  She unfolds her hand and gives the object to him.  As she gets into the car and the police take off, John looks at what she has handed him.  It is a wadded up ten dollar bill with a message.


“Yup Stella, you stupid fool, you’ve done it again.  This time you’ve completely misunderstood the entire message” John sighs.  He gets into his car and heads for the station.  He knows it’s going to be a long night with a lot of explanation.

Obit for Your Favorite Character

Day 9 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

Write an obituary for your favorite fictional character (literary, television, etc.), including how the death occurred. 

Roy “The Professor” Hinkley, B.A. B.S., M.A. Ph.D., 43

Roy Hinkley, otherwise known as “The Professor” has died at his home on Grass Hut Lane on an Uncharted Island Somewhere in the South Pacific.  He died from complications of syphilis after finally succumbing to Ginger Grant’s advances.  His death occurred on January 22, 1972.  News was received via “message in a bottle” style and took over 40 years to be found.  Although he has been gone for more than 4 decades, we feel a deep loss and will be missed by many.

Before the ill-fated 3-hour tour, Roy was a high school teacher in Cleveland, Ohio where he taught science.  He also dabbled in botany and was an inventor.  He was handy with coconuts and  bamboo but was unable to devise a way to get off the island.  Or even fix the ship, for that matter.

Although he was a very dashing looking man, he didn’t seem to know the first thing about women.  He made up for that by being a deep thinker, an avid reader, a staunch leader and a loyal friend.  Still, he couldn’t figure out how to get them all off a deserted island.

In 1972, he was survived by Ginger, Mary Anne, Mr. Howell, Mrs. Howell, The Skipper and Gilligan.  There is no family that anyone is aware of as family was never spoken of.

The Pacific Ocean is Roy’s resting place.  In lieu of flowers, send some help or perhaps send something that will fix a hole in a boat.


Full Disclosure

Day 8 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

He toured the house with the real estate agent.  “I love it,” he said. “Is there anything we should know about the house’s past?  The agent looked down.

“Yes?  Is there a problem?” Tom asks. Tom and Melissa had been looking for the perfect house for well over a year.  This would be their first home together as a married couple. The first year of their marriage was off to a rough start.  Melissa’s illness almost prevented them from being wed at all, so this home needs to be absolutely perfect.

This house has it all:  Queen Anne style Victorian with a turret, rounded wrap around porch complete with a painted ceiling the color of the summer’s sky, and a kitchen that would make Emeril jealous.  The backyard is filled with spectacular flowers of all kinds. Every color in the rainbow. “Melissa will love it, I know she will,” Tom mutters to himself as he roams from room to room.

The realtor looked up with a sheepish look in her eyes. “Well, it could or could not be a problem depending on your beliefs.”  Tom was pretty sure she was going to tell him it was haunted. He rolled his eyes at the thought.  “A little boy died in this home in 1848.  He fell down a flight of stairs which resulted in a broken neck.  It is said that he roams the house in the night.  But don’t worry, he supposedly is a nice ghost.”

“Really? That’s it?” asked Tom.  “There’s more,” replied Joan.  “It is said he was pushed by his father, who, in turn, hung himself in the foyer.  Legend has it that his wife died the year prior and he wanted the family to be together again.  The father is not pleasant.  As a ghost, I mean.  He can make life pretty miserable.”  Tom couldn’t believe what he was hearing.  He thought it was utter bullshit.  He believed that someone died here, and was pretty sure he could prove it by looking at the microfiche at the library, but haunted?  He was having a hard time believing that for even a minute.

Tom wonders what Melissa would think about that for a moment and decides that if she knew, she wouldn’t want the house.  But this house is perfect and there is no such thing as ghosts, so he makes the decision to go forward with an offer.  Makes the decision for the both of them, since she was too sick to come.  “Don’t you think you should discuss it with Melissa first?” asks Joan.  “No, I know she would love this home.  This is the one, I can feel it.  She will fall head over heels.”

And he is right.  After the closing, they drive over to their new house, Melissa is immediately smitten.  She can’t believe their good fortune.  She wonders for a moment why they got such a great deal on this magnificent home, but doesn’t let the thought linger for too long.

They reach the front door and Tom lifts his bride to carry her over the threshold.  He throws open the door, and it is in that moment he realizes he made a mistake.  Their excitement for their new home immediately vanishes and fear enters their lives.  A deep fear that even rivals that of the diagnosis of Melissa’s disease.

Mystery Cookie

Day 3 of 16 – Writer’s Digest Writing Prompt Bootcamp

One day you come into work and find a cookie mysteriously placed on your desk.  Grateful to whoever left this anonymous cookie, you eat it.  The next morning you come in and find another cookie.  This continues for months until one day a different object is left–and this time there’s a note.

I work at one of those large conglomerates where you are pretty much just a number.  I work to make ends meet, I have no passion for what I do.  One day usually runs into the other with nothing unusual happening.  Outside of the occasional birthday and retirement celebration, it’s pretty ho-hum.  Until the cookies changed all that.

It was a Monday in June.  My morning was the typical rush to get out of the house on time which included getting not only myself ready but my 2 children.  The typical “no time to breathe” type of morning.  I already had visions of that evening of my sweatpanted-clad self sitting on the couch with a large glass of red wine, watching reruns of Grey’s Anatomy, the kids in bed.

After sitting in rush-hour traffic for an hour, I pulled into the parking lot at work.  I made the 10 minute trek to my desk, where I plunked myself into my chair.  As I reached over to turn on my computer, I saw something in my peripheral vision.  I looked to the left and was greeted by a big, fat, macadamia cookie oozing with large white chocolate chips.  My favorite.  The cookie was still warm.

“Looks like Jane has been baking again,” I said to myself as I bit a quarter of it.  After all, I was starving.  I usually don’t have time to eat breakfast before I leave for work in the morning.  The cookie was gone in another 3 bites.  After it was safely in my belly, I walked down five cubicles to Jane’s desk to thank her.  Except Jane said she didn’t do it.  “Oh, did you get a cookie too?”  She did not.  So I went back to my desk, started and ended another typical day at the office.  Not giving another thought to my cookie surprise.

Until the next day.  And the day after that.  The cookie was always the same type…macadamia with white chocolate chips.  And it was always warm.  I sat a little perplexed that first week.  I continued to wonder who could be doing this.  By Friday, I had asked everyone in my department and a few of the surrounding areas if anyone was leaving me this sugary surprise and the answer was always “no.”

I usually bring my lunch to work every day except Fridays.  On Fridays, I treat myself to the taco bar in the cafeteria.  Hell, I work hard all week, I owe it to myself.  All that is missing is a margarita.  Which is fine really, extra sour cream always makes up for that.

While I am talking to Bertha, the cafeteria worker who dishes out the tacos, I decide to tell her about my cookie mystery.   I love Bertha.  She’s always so sweet and easy to talk to.  I tell her that it’s always warm.  After I explained the type of cookie it is, she reminded me that they sell the same cookie in the cafe.  So, whoever is leaving me these treats, comes in before me and gets to the cafeteria first thing while the baked goods are still hot.  Was I getting warmer? Only time would tell.

I spent a couple of days going into work a few minutes early and going to the cafeteria.  Looking to see if someone was buying a macadamia white chocolate chip cookie.  Not only did I not catch anyone, but I didn’t really have the time.  It’s practically impossible to leave the house when I should, let alone a little early.  Besides, anyone could buy a cookie.  How would I tell which person was buying it for me?  The cookie was always on my desk.  Every single day.  This situation was becoming more bazaar and mind boggling by the day.  Who the hell was it?

At this point, I was starting to feel agitated, a little freaked out and frightened.  I was starting to not welcome the cookie.  Most mornings, it wound up in the trash.  I was becoming sick of macadamia white chocolate chip and I had gained a couple of pounds.  Was it a woman who disliked me and my size 4 self?  Was it a secret admirer?  I hope not.  I know I’ve been divorced for a few months now, but I was not ready to start dating again.

Then 4 months later on a Friday, almost to the day it began, I got to my desk and got another surprise.  Instead of my morning cookie, there was the birth certificate of a woman.  A woman who seemed familiar.  And laying next to it was an envelope with my name written across the front.

Here’s to hoping for the moment of truth.  With shaky hands, I reached over and ripped the envelope open with my letter opener.  What I found inside changed my life.  Inside the envelope was a letter.  This letter was from my sister.  A sister I never knew I had.  Her adopted name was Bertha.  The cafeteria worker.