I recently posted the first two parts of a new three-part story, Dead Body Inside, to GA and haven’t gotten the interest that I had hoped for. One reason I expect is that I’m up against some pretty heavy competitors with large followings, which is my reason for promoting the story here. Another reason might be the story title, which I have to admit in hindsight isn’t too attractive for the light, humorous short story that I tried to produce. Can’t do anything about that now, though. Lesson learned. The story cover illustration should put the title in its proper perspective. The other reason is that I might have fallen into the dilemma of being associated with writing sexually explicit stories as my other three stories have been. This story is not like that, being light and humorous and only a mere reference to sex. It was written to attempt to disassociate me from exclusively writing in that genre. So if you are looking for a fun, light short story to read, consider Dead Body Inside. And be sure to leave a comment when you are finished. Thanks.
From Changes, Again - Chapter 1 The Party. This is the first story i've written where i've brought back characters. It was from something @droughtquake mentioned at the end of Changes. I thank him for it made me think and i decided there was a story there. Posting will begin mid-January. I hope you enjoy...
Rena and Robert arrived first. Never ones to arrive empty handed, they brought a glorious bunch of tulips—in purple, soft violet and white—and nice ready-chilled wine. We settled in the living room with a glass of the sweet white.
I was feeling good and just wanted to drink enough to feel happy and mellow. We had sipped our way through our first glasses, when Robert spoke up.
"Um, hope you don't mind but I really need a word with Don. I'd like to before we get too happy and before dinner. I can smell those potatoes, Louis."
I looked at Don who replied with a tight-lipped smile. Okay, so you're saying nothing. Rena wasn't giving up anything either.
"Sure, you two go over to the office and I'll set the table and stuff, but when Harry and Gareth arrive, I'll send them to fetch you."
"Don't mind them, Louis. I'll help you." Rena got up and put her arm through mine. I smiled at her. We picked up empty wine glasses and followed Robert and Don.
Don rolled forward toward the kitchen. The door there was closest to his office. "We'll likely be back before then. Don't worry, babe. We'll have a good time tonight."
Not wanting to ruin the mood, I bent and kissed him. "You two go. It's fine, Donny."
Robert patted my shoulder and then grabbed the handles on Don's chair. "Don's right. We won't be long."
After the door closed, I turned to Rena. "Do you know what's going on?"
"I don't. Frankly, Robert's been quiet this afternoon. I asked if everything was okay, and he said it was. Just that he needed to get something important at work resolved, sooner rather than later."
I pulled a deep violet and white checked tablecloth out of the bottom drawer in the kitchen island, and put it on the table. Atop that, I put Rena and Robert's flowers; it felt like spring.
As we adjusted the cloth and laid out the tableware, Rena asked, "How is the birthday trip plan going?"
"Pretty good. I was thinking Sonoma County in California, it's supposed to be wheelchair friendly. Lots of things to do, including tasting lots of wine, and lots of sunshine."
"That sounds lovely, but you know Don will go wherever you want to go."
"I know, but I wanted us both to relax, and being wheelchair friendly just took away one worry."
"Well, if you want to go to Sonoma County, you do that." Rena smoothed a corner of the tablecloth. "The table is beautiful."
I checked the potatoes, which were nearly done. I'd just turned down the oven when the doorbell rang. I smiled at Rena and walked to the front door.
Gareth and Harry stood there together, grinning like schoolboys. Harry was in his early fifties now, but still as gorgeous and sexy as he always had been. Gareth was my age, cute in a young Jeffrey Dean Morgan sort of way; always with a warm smile. Each of them carried a bottle of wine.
"Come on in. It's good to see you guys."
Gareth hugged me first. "You look great, Louis! Where is that sexy man of yours?"
"Out in the office with Robert. They'll be back shortly."
Harry was next. He released me after a warm hug and said, "You want me to go and get them?"
"No … you two come in. I'll go out there," Rena said, as she joined us, greeting Harry and Gareth with a hug. "I'll run out there now." She returned to the kitchen and went out the back door.
Harry took Gareth's bottle and handed both to me, the Cabernet Sauvignon was a magnum. "As usual, we couldn't choose between red or white, so we brought both!"
"Thank you. I'll put them in the kitchen. Do you want a drink?" I said over my shoulder as I walked.
"Harry, sit down, I'll help Louis." After giving his husband a peck and a pat, Gareth joined me. He picked up the corkscrew and started to open the red. "This is Harry's favourite."
I poured a glass of white for Rena, one for myself, and for Gareth. "It's a generous gift, thanks. Will you pour one for Robert and Don as well please?"
"Sure." Gareth did as asked. "How are you Louis? Seems like forever since we've seen you two."
"We're good, thanks. You both look like you are as well."
Gareth picked up the glass of white I'd passed him. "We are. Harry and I are just back from New York. He was there for a publisher's conference. I was able to get time off to go with him."
"Hey! I'm lonely out here!" Harry called from the living room. "And worse, I'm thirsty."
Gareth and I laughed. "You take your man his wine, and I'll pop the hors d'oeuvres in the oven to heat up."
"Thanks." Gareth picked up his husband's wine and glanced out the window. "It appears yours is on his way in too. See you in the living room."
I glanced out. "Finally. Then we can get this party started!" I put the tray of small pastries in the oven to heat.
Though I was curious as to what was going on, I just wanted to enjoy our get-together, so I shoved my questions to the back of my mind. It could be nothing, but frankly it felt like a huge secret.
The backdoor opened and the three of them came into the kitchen. I handed Rena and Robert glasses of wine, and they continued on through to the living room.
Don smiled. "I'll go out in a bit and start the barbeque. Something smells good. Do you need my help in here?"
"There's a glass of wine there for you. I'll bring it. Can you carry these plates and napkins?"
"Sure, Lous." He took the small plates and napkins and put them on his knees, and rolled out to the living room.
I followed with our wine. Don had put the napkins and plates on the coffee table. "Here's your wine, Don. Harry brought that excellent Cabernet you like."
Don sipped. "Mmmm, yeah this is nice. Thanks, Harry. Thanks for coming everyone! Now, if you don't mind I have a quick speech to make."
We all groaned; Donny's speeches were rarely short.
He eyed each of us. "No groaning. I can smell food, so that means I have to hurry. Now, as you know it is my beautiful husband's birthday in a few weeks. As we'll be away, I thought we could wish him an early Happy Birthday today."
I wasn't prepared for this and nearly slid off my perch on the arm of our sofa. Five faces turned to me, each of them smiling. Then a chorus of Happy Birthday rang out.
Once they’d finished, we were all laughing, and I appealed for quiet. "You guys … wow, thank you so much. I appreciate it. Now, I better get those canapes out or they will be burnt!"
Practically running into the kitchen to escape, I leaned on the counter to breathe. Relief coursed through me. They'd just been planning this little celebration of my birthday. Worrying over nothing again, Louis.
By AC Benus
O. Henry Short Story Prompt 5 – The Purple Dress Suit
Is it mid-October already?!
Time to start thinking about a holiday writing project. This O. Henry piece is perfect. It’s warm, humanitarian and set for Thanksgiving (however, feel free to change the holiday to Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, New Years, or anything that’s coming up).
With this prompt I’m trying a different approach to emphasize Short Story structure. I’m leaving it more barebones so you have room to fully explore/develop the characters and scenes. This means giving away the twist for just this one time.
I have also ‘gayed up the joint’ for the holidays, but you are more than welcome to return Matty and Grayson to the female gender (in which case their names are Maida and Grace).
Note: See my opening remarks on the purpose and intent of this prompt series here.
O. Henry Short Story Prompt 5 – The Purple Dress Suit
O. Henry begins with a few sentences on the color purple. You may do the same, or launch your story in a way to bring attention to another aspect of the tale. Whichever way you wish to provide the setup in the reader’s mind, don’t write it straightaway. Maybe sketch out a couple ideas, but only write the opening to the story once you’ve completed the other parts. The start of a Short Story is critical, and sometimes the last word affects the first one the viewer will read
The setting: the Bee-Hive is one of New York’s most influential fashion websites. They can make or break a trend. Working there means stress and low wages, but once a year, the boss throws one of the most anticipated Thanksgiving fetes in town. The day before the holiday, a hotel ballroom is rented, and Bee-Hive staff, contributors, suppliers and clients are thrown a fashion-centric party. Yearly bonuses are also handed out on Tuesday of Thanksgiving week by Mr. Ramsey, the second in command.
What is the spirit of this time of year?
You decide what conversations and scenes develop the three principal characters.
– Mr. Ramsey; sexy man in charge. Everyone knows the 28-year-old will eventually take over for Mrs. Bachman, the site’s owner. Lots of the Bee-Hive ladies have tentatively turned their sights on him only to learn two ‘negatives.’ For one, he’s a “health crank” who eats nothing that tastes good and has ideas about cold showers and walks in the rain (without coat and umbrella) being good for the constitution. The second item of interest to disappoint the girls is that he’s playing for the other team.
– Matty: young Midwestern transplant who’s passionate about fashion’s potential to make a person’s mark. He responds well to couture and has a wardrobe to show it. Ergo, most of his meager salary goes to him looking noticeable and tasteful. Several months ago, Mr. Ramsey presented a slideshow on the “color forecast” for fall and winter. He projected two colors would dominate and catch everybody’s eye later this year: Zanzibar red and murex purple. For eight long months, Matty’s been scrimping and secretly planning a stunning purple dress suit for the Thanksgiving party. He intends to break the Ramsey ice once and for all. No mere off-the-shelf piece, he’s contracted one of the website’s best-known clothes maker. He just needs the final flush of his yearly bonus to payoff the tailor; naturally, his credit cards are maxed out.
– Grayson: another Midwesterner and Bee-Hive fashionista, he takes life a bit more casually. For example, on a whim, he moved into Matty’s building in Soho. Now they live one floor apart in roommate situations, and have talked about getting a place of their own together at some point in the future. For now, it’s all they can afford. Secretly, Grayson noted Mr. Ramsey’s color forecast and has a department-store suit in red for the big party already hanging in his closet. His cards are maxed out as well, and he lives more hand-to-mouth than his buddy.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the friends are chatting at work and discover each other’s ‘secret.’ They agree to let the best color suit win the day tomorrow, and possibly Mr. Ramsey’s sexy heart.
Ten o’clock Tuesday evening finds Matty lounging in his room going over the in-progress pix of his new suit. All he’ll need to do is pop down to the shop tomorrow and pay off the last bit due. It will be close with his other monthly expenses, but he can swing it because his bonus is safely deposited in his checking account.
There’s a sudden clamor at the front door. It’s Grayson in tears. He sets down his numerous shopping bags. It turns out Grayson’s roomies have put a padlock on his bedroom door, insisting he pays up the two months back rent that’s due. He can’t get in, and informs Matty that his bonus money is already spent on Christmas gifts for himself. He does not know what to do.
Matty goes through some internal debate and decides there’s only one thing to be done. He writes Grayson a check for the amount due on Matty’s purple suit.
Grayson jumps for joy, and makes a hasty exit with the ill-considered words: “See you at the party tomorrow!”
Matty is sad. He spends most of the night sitting by his window, doubting himself, life, love – everything. He won’t be able to go tomorrow, and would not be seen dead at this fashion event in ‘old’ clothes.
Wednesday, Matty is alone and the gray skies make him stay in and clean the apartment. He tries not to think about the party now in full swing as late afternoon slips into evening. It seems to him that the good guys never do win.
Later, he gets a call. Reluctantly answering, it’s the tailor. Matty has to explain what’s happened and apologize that he can’t pay the man. The tailor says Matty is a good person and to come on by to pick up his suit; the man knows he’ll be paid eventually. Overjoyed, Matty dashes off, ignoring the rain starting to fall and the fact that the party is winding down and will soon be over.
It’s getting really late, so he dresses in the tailor’s changing room, and since the hotel is only one long Manhattan block away, starts to run. Now it’s really pouring, but Matty has never been happier and glowing in health.
Rounding the last corner, he literally runs into another nut out in the rain with no protection. Matty finds himself in the arms of Mr. Ramsey.
Speechless, Matty sees the man smile, but not at his suit, at the vigor and joy in Matty’s heart. Ramsey says he’s glad he’s not alone in preferring to walk in the rain. He missed Matty at the party, and wonders if they shouldn’t grab a cup of coffee instead.
IV. Denouement (optional)
O. Henry does not provide a glimpse of the future, but as there are many relationships at play (Ramsey’s future with the Bee-Hive; Matty and Ramsey’s future; the future of the friendship between Matty and Grayson) you can consider writing one for your version of the story.
By AC Benus
Note: Just to review the purpose and goal of these prompts, let’s remember a Short Story is not just a story that’s short. As developed by American writers for over 200 years now, it has specific parts, and the form allows for nearly unlimited creativity.
These prompts are here to help you build confidence in crafting your own Short Stories. The sections yours should include are:
- Denouement (which is the aftermath, and which is optional).
For further details, see my opening remarks on the series here.
O. Henry Short Story Prompt 4 – Witches’ Loaves
Martha Meacham is a practical and pragmatic businesswoman. At age 40, her corner bakery and donut shop is the kind of urban gathering spot where everybody knows your name. She has money in the bank, but sometimes thinks it’s too late to have the love of her life walk beneath the tinkling bell attached to her shop’s door.
One day she begins to pay more attention to a particularly offbeat client of hers. Immediately after the morning rush on Tuesdays and Thursdays, an unassuming man in his fifties, with wire-rim glasses, steps up to the counter to buy a pair of day-old dinner rolls, which are priced to move at two-for-one. His routine never varies: never a donut; never a slice of cheesecake; never a croissant.
He’s neat as a pin in his attire, but Martha notes his business-casual clothes are a bit worn around the edges, like he hasn’t replaced them in quite a while. His manner is always polite, and the shop owner detects a German accent.
Thinking about him at odd moments during the day raises pity in her breast. She begins to suppose the odd staining of sepia and black on his fingertips means he’s an artist. That thought makes her even sadder. She imagines him toiling the day away in some dingy attic loft, painting his heart out, to only sit down later to a meal of tap water and two stale dinner rolls.
To confirm her suspicion, she brings down a small painting from her apartment upstairs. It’s a Venetian scene she’d picked it up at an auction because she liked the colors, but otherwise she knows nothing about Art.
True to her suspicion, the next time he’s in, the German takes note of the painting and starts his first conversation with her. He says she has a fine picture there, and it sends her pulse racing. “Do you think so?” she asks. “Indeed, although the perspective is a little off.”
Now a few more changes occur at the corner bakery. On certain days of the week, flowers appear on the counter by the day-old section. And though her regulars rib her about it, she takes to wearing a particular silk blouse a friend gave her long ago. She feels the blue and white polka dots cheer up the place.
The German and she engage in friendly smiles and chitchat about the weather each time he comes in, but Martha does not know how to take their ‘relationship’ to the next level.
One day while he’s there, a great parade of sirens sounds from down the street. Patrons rush to the front windows to watch the firetrucks go by, and Martha takes a notion into her head. Quick as can be, she rushes the customer’s stale dinner rolls over to the pastry cream gun – the kind used to inject donuts with the light and buttery filling.
By the time the commotion dies down, she hands the man his rolls already bagged up.
That day at lunch, she dreamily pictures her artist at work. Pictures how he’d stop for a bite, and encounter a surprise. He’d taste the sweetness and know it was from Martha…maybe he’d know more too.
Her reverie is broken abruptly by the angry sound of her shop bell. When she goes to the front, the German’s pulling his hair out in frustration and fuming in his native language. The only word she can make out clearly is Hexenbrot, because he repeats it so many times. Fortunately, the man’s accompanied by a younger coworker who can translate.
The Prompt: write your own Short Story based on this scenario, and what has happened to upset the dinner-roll client.
If you want to know what O. Henry's twist is, PM me and I will tell you. Otherwise, try to devise your own.
By Caz Pedroso
We'd just got our t-shirts and were waiting for the others to arrive to help with collecting money during the parade.