Hello there and welcome to week 6.
The prompt this week is: dead-end jobs.
500 words, due Thursday 8 pm EST, stories posted Friday. Playlist will be up tomorrow.
Six weeks of Mercurial Stories. Six weeks of thinking of new prompts, trying to get the word out, and writing my own response. It has proven to be an interesting side project for me. Besides for the act of coordinating this project, I also get the opportunity to explain to others the reasoning behind this endeavor.
Like millions of others, I have always wanted to be a writer and like millions of others, I have found that the reality of writing is much different from the concept. I am the type of writer who has a solid talent, decent ideas, but have yet to meet my own projected output (you fellow scribes know what I am talking about, the whole “by the time I am thirty, I will have written five thousand stories and won the Man Booker and Pulitzer prizes, in the same year” thing). I mean, Terry Gross has never interviewed me. Not even once.
I have been through some massive nonsense in the past few years and the insight it provided about who I am and how I write was phenomenal. I could not finish a story because I was suffering for a crippling combination of low self-esteem and over-idealization of writing. Add to that recipe the fact that I am a language teacher, well, you get a rather promising and grammatically tidy first paragraph.
I read a lot of short stories that could have been written by me, had I persisted past those initial feelings of self-loathing. They would make A+s in any English class. And yet, for all their lovely syntax, they are not noteworthy stories. They are stories that fill literary journals but they are not stories that linger in the collective imagination. They are sincere stories written by serious introverts who are so desperate to be Writers that they forget to write. And unfortunately they also end up mangling that true voice that distinguishes one storyteller from another.
Mercurial Stories is an attempt to knock Writing down from its pedestal. I want to make that W lowercase so that it is no longer a proper noun but a working verb. I want to give people a chance to participate in this writer’s gym where the point is to get stronger as a writer. I want participants to forget the idea of writing for fame and glory, to abandon the shitty notion of perfection. Read the prompt, write something in response, and let it go so you can go through the process again next week. And the week after that. As the late great Ray Bradbury said:
“Write a short story every week. It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”
This week’s playlist features Miles Davis, Soley, Lana Del Rey, The Who and many more wonderful sounds that bring the word “blue” to life.
Hope you enjoy.
Oh, and I am extending the deadline this week by one day. Mainly to give myself a chance to catch up. Happy writing.
Hello and welcome to Week 4 here at Mercurial Stories.
It was a really shitty week last week for me and so I was unable to either participate in the writing project or promote it. These things happen, eh? So onward we go.
Week 4 is a bit broad. This prompt does not have to be included in the story directly but can be woven in. The prompt is:
the color blue
Do what you like with it but do it in less than 500 words. And submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org by Thursday, please.
Check back in tomorrow for the new playlist.
This week, our prompt is:
They can be any sort of troll(s). Norweign, Russian, whatever you like. Just include troll(s) in your story.
Remember, 500 words sent to email@example.com by Thursday.
And if you can, remember to share our project with your friends. The more participants we get, the more reading we get to do come Friday.
Thanks so much and happy writing!
P.S. Be sure to drop by here on Tuesday evening for a weekly playlist designed to help you get those words on the page.
The Missing Eye
by: Linda M. Crate
The pirate captain was missing an eye, but she felt that her trade was worth it. Her remaining eye, her right eye, could see things that normal mortals could not. She could always tell which pirates were real and which were ghosts, she could see through ships and walls to know her enemies weaknesses, and she could always tell where the gold was buried.
She did not know what that wicked creature of the deep wanted with her eye, but she had little care as the strength of her new eye was far great enough to make up for the loss of her left eye.
She smoothed black, curly hair from her black eyes. The black woman placed one boot over the side of the ship as she gazed over the side of the boat.
Captain Cinnamon Rodgers glanced into the green-blue sea and smiled. She had loved the ocean for as long as she could remember. This day was peaceful and sunny. There were few clouds in sight that drifted past on their white trains which always reminded her of the fuzzy little tails of rabbits.
She thought of the siren’s request. It was rather strange, wasn’t it? But so what? She was given an ability that most men or women would kill for. The ability to know secrets she ought not have which always gave her an advantage in battles against other ships.
Cinnamon gave pause, however, when she saw a merman climb up the side of her ship. She glanced at the beast realizing he had a missing eye.
“I’m looking for the rest of my body. My lover said I would find it here.”
Ah, so that was what the villain who took her eye was aspiring to do with her eye. Well, there was no way she was going to lose the male version of herself. She wondered if he shared the same weaknesses as she did, but she knew it was too dangerous to check.
She could see that as he was genetically made and not born that his lungs seemed to have some weakness to them so she lifted her revolver and shot him in the chest.
The merman died or so it seemed. She wasn’t taking any chances. “Jacob, throw that fish back into the sea!”
The merman bit hard into the pirate’s leg, sending him screaming. “Very well, I was hoping to get a matching eye, but I suppose this one will have to do,” he remarked, snatching the eye of Jacob without any mercy or tenderness. He didn’t damage the eye, but the damage to Jacob’s face was great.
Cinnamon gasped as he died at her feet. “You monster!”
There is no difference between you and I, my lady. In your greed you traded your eye without thinking of the consequences.” The merman put Jake’s eye in his empty eye socket. “Ah, much better.” He then hopped off the boat and back into the sea.
Cinnamon couldn’t move.
I Can’t Believe…
© 2018 Karl Voorhees Aloysius Aabingdon XXXII
(From the editor: This one runs over the word limit but because we only had three stories this week, I made an exception. Also, be aware that it contains language/subject matter that might offend some readers.)
I can’t believe he chopped my pecker off.
We were fooling around on the tenement roof where we all grew up; George, Crazy Ralph, and me. Hiding from our parents, who dutifully pretended not to know where we were and most assuredly pretended not to know what we were doing. The three of us were up there sharing a Tarryton 100 George filched from his old man’s pack and sharing a Miller High Life that Crazy Ralph lifted from the family’s beer fridge. Me? I brought the roof key and the matches.
Anyway, we were up there smoking (⅓ of a cigarette) and drinking (⅓ of a beer) and generally goofing off when Crazy Ralph decided he was one of the Three Musketeers – you know, the one that hates the Guitillermos in 5B – and breaks off one of the wires from their TV antenna. Only TV antenna on the block. Let’s them pull in all five local channels. Well, it used to. We could hear old man Guitillermo shouting and hollering from the fifth floor clear to the roof. Which was, technically, the sixth floor, the open-aire accommodations we called it back in the day. Fortunately the lock worked from the outside as well.
So, once we get bored with listenin’ to the old man going on about the tie score in the bottom of the ninth Crazy Ralph gets back on his Musketeers kick and is comin’ after me with his crazy sword, a rapier I think he called it. And he’s slashing and hacking and swinging all over, really going to town. He’s laughing and I’m laughing and dancing about trying not to get hit with the damned thing when I end up hopping up on the lip that goes around the edge of the rooftop.
We’ve all hopped on that before and, uh, whatcha call it, muscle memory takes over and I stop dead in my tracks to keep my balance; shoulders back, hips out, balancing momentum and gravity and a deep, deep desire to not dance the six floors to the pavement below. Key phrase here is ‘hips out’.
The roof gravel slides a bit throwing Crazy Ralph just the tiniest bit off balance. Being a selfish bastard and not wanting to take the express elevator to the first floor himself he reacts by, among other things, flailing his arms.
Did I mention ‘hips out’ yet?
The antenna wire whips by so fast and so close that it slices a couple of buttons off my shirt and I can feel the damned thing shave my stomach. A look of shock, then horror passes over Crazy Ralph’s face, then he leans over the edge and upchucks while looking down over the side. I lean over, too, so I can see what’s so fascinating.
Apparently, we’re watching some piece of roof trash fall onto the street in front of a dump truck and a city bus. The truck straddles the trash but the bus immediately behind is pulling over for the 112th street stop there on the corner and flattens it, the flattens it again.
“Direct hit!” I yell joyously. Bomber pilot is a favorite game, especially during summer rush hours when the streets are full and drivers are too busy dodging pedestrians and each other to stop and try to see who’s dropping crap on them from the rooftops. This was an almost unheard of, legendary ‘double splat’!
“Oh, God it hurts!”
Father Vido will get nothing from me for using the Lord’s name in vain. There was nothing vain about it. I hurt and I wanted relief now, and I wasn’t above asking the Big Guy. Unfortunately, it seems He was out golfing with some rich guys across the river because I hurt until the ambulance showed up and the boys knocked me out with some kind of a shot.
I woke in a haze in a hospital ward where a cute, fresh-faced nurse was ministering to me and blushing furiously. When she realized I had come to she turned beet red and practically ran out the door. Poor thing.
Have you ever had your pecker chopped off by a TV antenna wire? I don’t recommend it. Really, I don’t. They told me I was really lucky about the way it happened. I guess the veins and arteries got all stretched out and then knotted themselves back up when, well, you know, and that’s why I didn’t bleed to death up there on that stupid roof.
Then after a bunch of operations, including bringing in some new kind of plastic surgeon for some experimental surgery, they told me it was just bad luck the way it happened because the veins and arteries got all stretched out and then knotted themselves back up when, well, you know, and they couldn’t figure out how to keep anything down there alive without a proper blood supply. And wouldn’t you know I couldn’t get the original equipment reattached because guess what the “Direct hit!” was that the bus ran over…
So now and forever I sit for everything, facing the wall when I need to pee, facing away when, well, you know, and mopping up after when I need to do both. Trust me. Mopping is definitely the lesser evil.
Crazy Ralph has been on Broadway, off Broadway, and near Broadway for going on 8 years now playing Zorro. Rumor has it he had that antenna wire made into Zorro’s sword. He visits me often. I’ve never asked.
And George, poor George. George never fully recovered from the trauma of that summer evening. His sweet virgin sister is now my sweet virgin wife, and she talked about it one time. Only that once. It seems George felt incredibly guilty about the whole event. Seems he’d been in a fight with old man Guitillermo earlier that day and had put the TV antenna bit as a bug in Crazy Ralph’s ear. She said he blamed himself completely which I never believed until I heard the story of how he died.
He’d been depressed and nearly deranged for years, ever since that fateful night. One day ‘nearly’ took a left turn and become ‘completely’ and he stood at the kitchen table, placed his manhood squarely on a cutting board, and ruined a genuine Böker carving knife brought over by his great-great-great-etc-etc-grandfather from Germany back sometime in the 1800s by using said family heirloom to hack off his own pecker.
Because of the clean cut – would you believe that that thing was still sharp enough to shave with? – there was none of my vessel mangling and poor George bled out on the kitchen floor in about three minutes. Although some experts argue it was more like about seven or eight, after you factored in shock, the fact that blood pressure and volume outflow would drop while the bleedout occurred, and that since he ended up lying on his back on the floor gravity played no appreciable role.
George’s death by appen-dick-tomy still gets a group of coroners and police detectives goin’ at it when the subject comes up. I’ve been known to stroll by their tables at various events and just toss in George’s name and a random bleedout time and walk away. It’s always fun to watch, like chummin’ sharks.
And because no bus happened along through his kitchen before the ambulance boys got there, ol’ Deranged George got buried in one piece.
Michael was driving his friend’s cab with a hack license ever since the company let him go. Insurance liability, was the excuse they gave, didn’t matter that it was not his fault, that he had been the injured party. He had worked out the deal with Hasem where Michael had to give him all of Saturdays’ fares and tips and Hasem could stay home and study. It was hard every week when he calculated how much he had brought in but his injury meant that he had little choice.
It was on a Saturday evening when Michael had a celebrity fare, a professional-athlete-turned-talk-show-host. The celebrity was on two phones when he settled in Michael’s backseat, talking on one with it wedged between his shoulder and left ear, and texting with both oversized thumbs on the other. He shouted his destination at Michael who in turn pulled into traffic and made a U-turn at the light. The celebrity somehow managed to light a cigarette, not an electronic one, but an old-fashioned paper and leaf cigarette. In doing so he ignored the multiple signs that Hasem had affixed to the windows and seat-backs, declaring that his cab was a non-smoking vehicle. Celebrities, Michael thought, and cracked the windows.
They slowed down for the caution light and came to a halt. A man crossed in front of them, a man who was noticeably disheveled, even at a distance. He appeared to be having a private conversation and was pounding his clenched fists against his thighs when he looked straight into the cab and yelled, “Fuck you, you crippled freak”. It surprised Michael that the man saw Michael’s truth so easily but what was more surprising was how agitated the celebrity had become.
“Fuck you, fuck you? Do you even know who I am, you motherfucker? You just messed with the wrong fucking superstar, calling me a cripple. I ain’t no cripple, you shittard. I had one little accident, off-court, and it was a long fucking time again. No, fuck this, I am not going to get into this with you, a simple-minded, motherfucking cabbie. No, that is why I have a lawyer on retainer.” It was at this point that Michael realized the misapprehension.
He had been afraid of being found out, of repulsing his customers, but never of being accused of insulting someone. He pulled up alongside the curb per the celebrity’s request.
“Turn your face this way, man, let me take your picture. Ain’t nobody going to get away with that bullshit. I’ll make sure you go viral.” Michael obeyed and just as the celebrity touched the shutter button, Michael opened his mouth wide.
Later, when the celebrity sent the picture to his social media manager, he noticed that there was something wrong with the cabbie’s face but he couldn’t immediately identify what it was. It unsettled him. He studied the picture until he realized that the cabbie’s mouth was just a gaping cavity.
No teeth, no tongue.