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    Defiance19
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Shorts and Prompts - 8. O. Henry Short Story Prompt 4 - Witches' Loaves

Prompt challenge can be found here

It was almost over. Gunter wiped his stained fingers on the damp cloth, and moved from beside his now sleeping partner.

“I’ll go now, before Jurgen wakes,” he said to his best friend and protector, Uwe.

“Will you be okay?”

“You always ask that. I know he is watching, and we have done exactly as he’s asked. Besides, there’s been no flicker in the barrier since.”

I don’t trust Klaus. I know it’s my fault he found us in the first place, but…”

“Don’t do that, Uwe. You have kept us safe among the humans for years. We always knew we would be found.” He patted Uwe’s hand then walked to the door. ”Keep watch.”

“Hurry back.”

Gunter hurried out of the apartment and into the warm sunlight. It was only recently that he allowed Uwe to talk him into leaving the room, and Jurgen’s side. He had only committed to two days, letting Uwe take care of their needs on others, but on days like today, he felt especially grateful.

He touched his hand to his pocket, reminding himself. Years ago, and just days before the message arrived, Uwe had felt Klaus’ probing. They had waited, only half-confident that the barrier Uwe had erected would protect them. The message contained the terms of punishment for the three. It was harsh, but worse for Jurgen. The one person Gunter loved most and his weakness.

∞∞∞

The soft tinkling of the bell alerted Martha to a customer. She wiped her hands on her apron and a soft smile lit her face in recognition. Of course, it was Tuesday. He always came on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lately Martha had been looking forward to those days more than she would likely admit. There was something about the man that struck her fancy. She could not decide whether it was his accent –German, she guessed– or the way his wire-rimmed glasses suited his face. He wasn’t overly friendly, but he was polite and well mannered.

Martha waited as he extracted and gave her the exact change for his order. It was always the same. Day old bread, priced two for one, and nothing else. She handed him the bagged rolls, and with a soft thank you, he left just as quickly as he came.

Not for the first time she noticed his stained fingers, and assumed he was an artist. It would certainly explain his thrift at her bakery. That line of thought reminded Martha about the pictures she had stored in her attic. If he truly was an artist that would be something they could talk about.

When Thursday rolled around, Martha was ready when her gentleman came through the door. He placed his order and she handed him the bagged rolls.

“Interesting picture you have there,” he nodded toward the frame.

“You…you think so?”

“Indeed I do,” he said before pointing to the opposite end of the store. “Though, I would place it on this wall, so it gets the best light.”

He tapped his bag lightly and was gone before Martha could offer her thanks.

After that, things seemed different to Martha. Her gentleman always had more than a friendly hello, and they exchanged pleasantries more than he ever had before.

Things were looking up Martha decided. She started putting flowers on the counters and sprucing up her bakery. She took charge of her appearance too, changing the way she did her hair and trying new face creams.

That Thursday, when the German entered the store she greeted him with a bright smile. Again, they talked about how lovely it was to have warmer weather. Before he left, he looked around thoughtfully.

“The place looks much brighter. It’s pleasant. Do have a good day.”

With a wave, he was gone, and hope bloomed wildly in Martha, that her German had noticed. She had four days to daydream of all that life could be with…oh; she had never asked his name. No matter, she would find out the next time he came in. Pressing a hand to her heart, she sighed happily, and made her way into the back.

∞∞∞

“I keep waiting for something to happen. It is hard to believe Klaus won’t try to slip us up in some way.”

“I know, Uwe. I think Klaus had to follow my father’s wishes. Who knows what Manfred is holding over Klaus?”

“You think they don’t wish us ill for running away after we turned Manfred in? Your father would have hunted us until he died. You don’t think his followers still want our heads?”

Gunter could tell that Uwe was agitated. As it got closer to the end of Jurgen’s torment, there seemed to be a hum of unrest in the air. Uwe was more prone to feeling this and Gunter had to try to temper him.

“Pass me the salve.” Reaching to take the bottle from Uwe, Gunter sat on the bed next to Jurgen. Dipping his fingers into the ointment, he began rubbing it over the bedsores that covered Jurgen.

“Uwe,” he said softly. “I have to believe that Klaus will live up to his end. That this…punishment is enough. When it is over, I still don’t have Jurgen back. Who knows how his mind will be? Will he want us to be the way we were? Will he even recover? If we mess up somehow, remember, Jurgen does not die. We start from day one. I do not have it in me to watch him suffer.”

Uwe’s large hand dropped on Gunter’s shoulder and squeezed.

“My father is a cruel man. I think he was betting on me not being able to watch Jurgen’s distress, and that way, he wins. He deserved us turning him in. We will never be welcomed back in our realm; I’ve made peace with that.” He paused in his ministrations to look Uwe in the eye. “You did a great job keeping us hidden for as long as you did. You’re just really mad that Klaus’ magic is stronger than yours.” Gunter chuckled when Uwe snorted. “But Uwe, we only have eight days. Let us be hopeful and not borrow trouble, yes? In eight days, this part will be done, and we can get Jurgen well. In eight days, we will be free.”

Neither one of them really believed that, but Uwe understood what Gunter was trying to say.

∞∞∞

Martha was wearing a new blouse today. The blue and white polka dots complimented her, she thought. She certainly hoped that a certain German would think the same, and might even say so. Martha had decided to treat the man when he came in for his rolls, and had pre-packaged them. She smiled as she imagined his surprise when he bit into the roll and discovered she’d filled each one with sweet cream. Right on time, the bell tinkled and the man himself walked through the door. He seemed to be in a hurry as he quickly greeted Martha, paid for his rolls and rushed off.

A short time later, the bells clanged when the door opened, and a loud, angry voice brought Martha running from the back of the bakery. She stopped short, suddenly confronted by the very irate German. He was yelling and furiously shaking his fists at her. Martha was stunned.

“What are you saying?” she cried out.

The man continued to shout, but everything he said was in his native language. The bells clanged again, and this time another distraught looking man rushed through. He pulled the German away from Martha and spoke to him quickly.

“I’m sorry Miss. My name is Uwe, his um…assistant. I can explain if you give me a moment.” Uwe turned away and continued to talk to Gunter, leading him to the door.

The man breathed heavily and when he looked up, Martha saw tears in his eyes.

“Hexenbrot!” he yelled again, before allowing Uwe to push him through the door.

Martha clutched at her throat. “Hexenbrot, what…what does that mean?

“How do I say this? Gunter, my uh…well, he called you a witch.”

“A wi…why? I’m not! Why? ”

Uwe looked at Martha and considered his answer.

Short version. You see Martha, we are not exactly human and we’re in hiding. Gunter’s father was a powerful, but evil man and we turned on him. We were finally discovered, and on his orders, we’ve been banned from using our powers. Not only that, Gunter has to watch his partner Jurgen, suffer the same way the Council punished his father. One thousand, eight hundred and twenty-six days, chained to the walls of the Pits, with nothing to sustain him but stale bread and water. That number, dear Martha, represents the souls he stole in order to expand his power. Oh, and instead of being chained, Jurgen is paralyzed. If we were to deviate in any small way from the punishment, it would start all over again. That would kill Jurgen and Gunter both.

No, there was no good way to explain that.

“Your rolls,” he declared. “They had cream in them, which he almost fed to his sick partner. The consequences could have been tragic.”

 

Uwe watched as Martha paled and he reached for her hand thinking she might faint. The instant he touched her, he felt all of her emotions at once. He saw her loneliness before Gunter had come along, then he saw the hope and longing she felt for him. Entwined with that he felt her heartbreak and despair over what had happened. He knew Martha would crawl back into herself and he was powerless to help.

“I’m sorry, so sorry.” Martha sobbed. “I would never…I didn’t mean it.”

“You couldn’t have known.” Uwe tried to reassure her.

Martha pulled away, and Uwe let her. There was nothing he could do for her, but he had to get back to Gunter and Jurgen.

Thank you @AC Benus for reading this, and providing another great challenge. The O. Henry Prompts are one of my favs. 
 
I hope you've enjoyed reading my version.. :) 
Copyright © 2017 Defiance19; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

13 minutes ago, Mikiesboy said:

OH!! I love it!  Really good.  But you're right, you do need help. Wow what a backstory.. just terrific!! 

Thank you, tim. But you know you’re partly to blame right? Write bravely you say, so when I get these weird ideas I just run with it and hope for the best. Lol. love you though xo

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2 minutes ago, Defiance19 said:

Thank you, tim. But you know you’re partly to blame right? Write bravely you say, so when I get these weird ideas I just run with it and hope for the best. Lol. love you though xo

yes.. write bravely ... i'll take the blame for that :)  it really is a good story, so keep on with what you're doing!!

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  • Site Moderator

That was most excellent, Def! :D

 

I really like your interpretation of the Prompt. :) 

 

:thumbup: :thumbup: 

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Such a pleasant surprise. Totally unexpected twists. You done good, Def. I loved the way you built up her expectations even if I knew her hopes would be for naught.

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7 hours ago, Reader1810 said:

That was most excellent, Def! :D

 

I really like your interpretation of the Prompt. :) 

 

:thumbup: :thumbup: 

I’m glad you liked it, Reader. Thank you for taking the time to read it. :hug:

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5 hours ago, Carlos Hazday said:

Such a pleasant surprise. Totally unexpected twists. You done good, Def. I loved the way you built up her expectations even if I knew her hopes would be for naught.

Happy when I can give you a good surprise... Thank you, Carlos. I appreciate your support. xo

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Def, thanks for taking the O. Henry Prompt challenge! You did great. I like the double point of view you did, opening with the dire straits of the partners and then giving us an inside look at Martha. I think it's effective here.

 

You thought about a situation where pastry cream would be deadly, and I love that ;) Muah

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OHHH! And you put in a detail present in O. Henry's story -- the face cream! In the original, Martha begins concocting her own, but I elected not to include it as an element. Perhaps I was wrong; perhaps this "Double, double toil and trouble" was part of why the master called this story Witches' Loaves in the first place. But then again, the title is a matter of conjecture, with no clear indication of why he called what he did.   

Edited by AC Benus
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4 hours ago, AC Benus said:

Def, thanks for taking the O. Henry Prompt challenge! You did great. I like the double point of view you did, opening with the dire straits of the partners and then giving us an inside look at Martha. I think it's effective here.

 

You thought about a situation where pastry cream would be deadly, and I love that ;) Muah

Thank you, AC..  I worried about the POV, but you didn’t mention anything so I thought, ok. 

I think I like these prompts because they suit me somehow. It’s not that it’s easy, but it forces me to think outside my usual box.. in this case way outside. IDK. Anyway, I’m glad I did okay.

 

3 hours ago, AC Benus said:

OHHH! And you put in a detail present in O. Henry's story -- the face cream! In the original. Martha begins concocting her own, but I elected not to include it as an element. Perhaps I was wrong; perhaps this "Double, double toil and trouble" was part of why the master called this story Witches' Loaves in the first place. But then again, title is a matter of conjecture, with no clear indication of why he called what he did.   

When I read the original, I was really expecting a witchy tale, and surprise my story was so far from that.. lol. I picked up on the face cream because...Mojo... and I thought it would help show Martha’s desperation? 

 

Thanks again AC.. You are wonderful for giving us these experiences.. 

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On 9/30/2018 at 12:00 PM, Defiance19 said:

Thank you, AC..  I worried about the POV, but you didn’t mention anything so I thought, ok. 

I think I like these prompts because they suit me somehow. It’s not that it’s easy, but it forces me to think outside my usual box.. in this case way outside. IDK. Anyway, I’m glad I did okay.

 

When I read the original, I was really expecting a witchy tale, and surprise my story was so far from that.. lol. I picked up on the face cream because...Mojo... and I thought it would help show Martha’s desperation? 

 

Thanks again AC.. You are wonderful for giving us these experiences.. 

Yea, Mojo. I imagine Trong moved over to the beauty folks' side --- I can see him now, his face all over infomercials, pitching a national franchising scheme for a combo Snail Salon and Goat Yoga Parlor. People are hungry to spend money on looking fab! hehe :yes:

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Loved this, Def! Surely there will be more? Please? Still, it is a complete vignette, innovative, intriguing, and well conceived. You were very adept at delivering pathos, and great relief that the 'witches loaves' didn't quite make it to Jurgen. Fascinating, and skillful. Color me impressed... cheers... Gary....

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8 hours ago, Headstall said:

Loved this, Def! Surely there will be more? Please? Still, it is a complete vignette, innovative, intriguing, and well conceived. You were very adept at delivering pathos, and great relief that the 'witches loaves' didn't quite make it to Jurgen. Fascinating, and skillful. Color me impressed... cheers... Gary....

Thank you, Gary.. There will be more as in when AC provides another O Henry prompt.. sure.. 

This was a fun attempt at different, and I’m glad you liked it. 

You are super.. TY

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