Category Archives: Short Stories

Please Gender Check Your Story

confusedThere is a trap I’ve noticed that authors fall into sometimes when writing from the viewpoint of a character of the opposite gender.  I am female for example and though I claim to not understand men at all, I have managed to observe their behavior in the wild so to speak. Therefore I think I can or at least try to write from a man’s point of view on occasion in my stories.  What I do try to do is avoid the “eek, that doesn’t sound right” moments is ask guys to read my stories keeping an eye out for thoughts or behaviors that don’t really seem like a guy way of acting – to a guy anyway.

Being an online gamer for years now, one of my little hobbies was trying to determine the actual gender of other players based on what they say in chat, which was my only clue. Many gamers play the opposite gender, it’s part of the fantasy I guess. Along the way I picked up a few clues and more often than not I could tell. I would verify this with them in private chat and they always seemed interested to know how I figured it out.

One of the things that I noticed is females playing as males would suddenly stop mid game announce they have a head ache, need to take bath and log off. Guys just don’t do that, they will play until they drop before admitting they have to pee. What guys who were playing females would do is slip up and make verbal reference to male genitalia or use them as an insult in chat. Gals usually don’t do that…OK most of the time they don’t. I’m generalizing here. It’s pretty funny when you start picking up on it.

Recently I read 2 books in which oddly stereotypical gender behaviors kept yanking me out of the story. One was written from the point of view of a female in her 30s in a major melt down end of the world scenario. It seemed like every 5 minutes she was making a mental note of the condition of her armpits, sweaty, cold, sticky, etc. I’m a female in my 50s and have been in some pretty hellish scenarios in my life; assaulted, gun fire, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, house on fire, floods, rioting on the next street over, rumble in the discount aisle, etc. I guarantee that in none of these instances did the condition of my arm pits come to the front of my mind. I finally started laughing and checked …sure enough male author.

In another book I read, which was another end of the world scenario, the male character was either thinking about or adjusting his “package” almost nonstop. I tell you it was amazing that he found time to gather weapons, food and go about the business of surviving an apocalypse with all that crotch flailing going on. You guessed it – female author.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is if you’re writing from a gender not your own, be careful when you start getting all detailed and nitty-gritty with the body parts. Ask a few people who are the gender of your character for a reality check. It can be an eye-opening, amusing and sometimes rather embarrassing experience, but well worth the effort.

Dropping a Dime – Another Short Story.

singlemaltmonkey.

singlemaltmonkey.com/

Mr. Single Malt Monkey gave me a one line story challenge. I changed one word from his line. I replaced the word mat with coaster. For some reason a mat made me think of a tatami mat and a tea ceremony. The Al that formed in my imagination wouldn’t be staring at dime dropped on the floor at a tea ceremony.

The post “My Name is Inigo Montoya” was still fresh in my mind, so this story is dark and violent. Be warned – if you’re not in the mood for that, put off reading it for another day. I asked Mr. Husband to read it before I posted it because I’m trying out writing how a man would react to a situation. I also wanted to know if he was going to sit me down and say I needed help. He hesitated a bit and I promised to wait a while before writing a story about how to kill your husband.

Dropping a Dime

Al drained his glass and placed it right back in the center of the coaster, never taking his eye off the dime that had been dropped by the door. A low voice in his ear said, “Hello Al, it’s time to pay up.” “Excuse me?” “I warned you.” “Warned me about what and just who the hell are you?” The stranger chuckled and sat his drink down next to Al’s. Al reached out with one finger and slid the drink away from his.

Al, I know you remember our conversation about no such thing as coincidence. “yeah, sort of, so what’s your point?” The stranger stared at him, twirling a dime on the counter. He reached over and clapped Al on the back, hard. Then got up and walked to the jukebox. Al muttered, “What a jerk” and waved his empty glass at the bar tender. He looked down and saw the dime was still spinning. He slammed his hand down to stop it. Continue reading →

One Liner Story #1

candy for breakfast

mz candyforbreakfast

Howdy all. Miss candyforbreakfast kindly provided the first one liner. Technically two but close enough 🙂 Her lines at the beginning of the story in bold. I continued on and built the rest of the story from there. Hope you enjoy. Cheers.

Title – 4 O’Clock

The bright sunshine streaming through her bedroom window warmed her face and appeared red through her closed eyelids, forcing her further away from her already half-forgotten dream. The phone, cradled in its dock on the nightstand read 4:00 a.m.….

She looked around the room rubbing sleep out of her eyes. Did someone call me she wondered? No hint from the phone. She stood up, walked to the window and yanked it open. ‘Damn it’s cold in here. Wonder if Ted cranked down the air con again.’ She shivered in her T-shirt and undies, muttering “we are going to have a talk once and for all about that air conditioner. I’m sick and tired of living in a meat locker. This is ridiculous!” Where is he anyway? What was he doing out of bed at 4:00 a.m.? What am I doing out of bed at 4:00 a.m. for that matter?

Dragging the blanket off the bed to snuggle in she headed to the kitchen to make coffee.  Softly singing to herself “Sunshine came softly through my a-window today, Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways.” Suddenly she stopped dead in in her tracks hard, as if slamming on the brakes. She looked out the kitchen window and shook her head. Rubbing what she saw out of her out of her eyes she looked again. The sunshine was coming softly through the window…at 4:00 a.m. “Uh, what the hell is going on?” she asked the kitchen.

She scurried into the living room and looked out the window again, expecting to somehow see something different, but it was the same. No, not exactly the same, there were patches of snow on the ground. SNOW? She flopped down on the sofa hard as if someone punched the air out of her lungs. Grasping for something that made sense she decided to start over and went back in the bedroom and sat on the bed shivering, but not from the cold.

“Maybe I’m still asleep.” Her voice sounded loud in the empty room and she let out a startled squeak. She pinched herself on the arm. “OWW, dammit that hurt! ….OK, if I felt pain does this mean I’m awake?” Isn’t pinching the proscribed remedy for waking from a bad dream? ‘Eureka, there’s a simple explanation for this. I slept all day and it’s afternoon. That explains it.’ Feeling relieved and a little silly, she scrambled for her phone and pulled it off the stand to check the time. Nope, it is 4:00 a.m. not 4:00 p.m. Well, so much for that theory and what about the snow? And what the hell is that smell?

She wrinkled her nose and looked around the room again. Took a deep breath and started rocking, holding herself as if comforting a frightened child. After a few minutes she jumped up and announced “OK, my weird krap-O-meter is officially in the red.” Not knowing what else to do for the moment she thrashed and slammed around in the closet, whispering profanities under her breath, and finally ended up in a pair of jeans and sweat shirt with the words “Just Do It” on the front. Further hunting yielded a pair of boots and socks.

She walked into the bathroom just to look at her face. Maybe the mirror would have a clue. The smell was stronger in there. She looked around and her eyes landed on a cat litter box. A label on the side proclaimed Clever Cat. She looked in it and thought ‘ah, the usual collection of cat turds.’ No designer litter in the world really covered up that truly unique stench. Nothing so special except…she didn’t have a cat.

Deciding to go for a walk, she shoved her phone in her back pocket. She tromped out the kitchen door and fell off the porch. She landed on her belly with a grunt. Staring into the gravel she briefly wondered if she had died and had gone to some weird limbo place. She stood up and brushed herself off, glaring at the house as if it had deliberately thrown her off the porch.

She shouted “OK, I know my house had a deck off the kitchen yesterday, dammit!” thinking maybe someone was filming her for some ridiculous prank. Pulling her phone out of her pocket she speed dialed Ted. A recorded language that she didn’t understand said something, and then in English said “for English press 2.” She pressed 2. Ted’s recorded voice said. “Hi, you’ve reached Ted Preston, you know what this and you know what to do.” She panicked and hung up without leaving a message. What was she going to say to him anyway? “Hi Honey, it’s broad daylight at 4 O’clock in the morning and oh, by the way, I think I’m losing my mind.”

She walked around to the front of house. Looked OK, except for the patches of snow. It was 85 degrees yesterday. When the hell did it snow anyway?  It never snows here. She went back in the house because she was still cold even with her sweatshirt on. Sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee again, her minded churned over possibilities and oddities. She made a mental list of all the weirdness. Daylight at 4:00 .am., cat litter box in the bathroom, no cat in evidence so far, cold with patches of snow on the ground, the back deck gone as if it had never been there, and come to think of it the phone giving her English as a 2nd option. Yet another strangeness.

After her 3rd cup of coffee and enough cigarettes to stink up the house for a week, she decided to call Ted back. It was close to 5:00 a.m. now, but it still should be dark. It didn’t get light until about 6:30 a.m. around here. Around here? ‘Oh my God, am I ….somewhere else? Have I taken complete leave of my senses?’  She wandered around the house with her hair standing on end. This is all just too bizarre. The house looked exactly the same as it did yesterday.

Wait, not exactly. She started running from room to room checking the walls, the desktop, the dresser in the bedroom, even her laptop. There were no pictures of Ted anywhere in the house, no faded spots on the walls where a picture had been removed. ‘OK, I know damn good and well that there were pictures of Ted and me everywhere in this house, and I have one in my purse!’ She grabbed her purse and dumped the contents on the bed. Fumbling in her wallet she took out every scrap of paper and card. The only picture was on her driver’s license.

She flopped back on the bed. Tears leaked out of her eyes and trickled down to her ears. She stared at the ceiling and thought  ‘So this is insanity, just a gradual realization that you are not who, what, when, or even where you thought you were.’  Suddenly she sprang up out of bed and shouted “NO!…NO, NO, NO, NO!” The last NO was so loud she choked herself and started laughing and crying at the same time.

With 1 part grim determination, 1 part stubbornness, and 1 part morbid curiosity she decided she was not fruit loops and she was going to figure this out. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? Was this some kind of practical joke? Ted wasn’t the joker type. ‘Whoever is doing this is off my friend list forever and 3 days!’ She pulled her phone out again and called him. This time he answered and said “Where are you?” “At home, where are YOU!” “I’m at home and you are NOT here.” “Yes I am!” “No you’re not.” She sighed “OK, where are you in the house.” “I’m in bed.”  “I’m in bed and you’re not.” “Oh yes I am, I’m sitting right here on OUR bed!” There was a pregnant pause as both husband and wife tried to decide what do to with or about a spouse who had obviously gone off the rails at some point.

Ted spoke first. “Did you sleep well last night?” She spat back “Oh now you’re going to make nicey nice idle chat? I want to know where you are and I want to know right fucking now! And I also want you to come home!” He replied in that careful tone of voice used for people on the edge, “Sweet heart, I am home, I don’t know how much more home I can get.”

She shouted “Oh yea? What did you do to the deck and why are all our pictures gone?” “The deck?” “You know the deck, on the patio, you built it last summer.” She heard footsteps through the phone. He said “Honey, the deck is where it is supposed to be. And there are pictures of us all over the house.” He said with a sudden firmness as if he would talk her down. “Where are you really? Tell me now or I’m going to report you as a missing person and you’re scaring me!” “Well fine! You just do that, and I will report YOU as a missing person.” In a fit of frustration she ended the call and threw the phone across the room. It didn’t break and immediately started ringing, probably Ted calling back. She ignored it.

She went back in the kitchen to make another pot of coffee and brood.  After another 30 minutes her hand shook when she tried to light a cigarette so she figured she’d had enough coffee. She decided again to take a walk and grabbed a coat off a peg by the front door. At least she wouldn’t fall out of the house going out the front. She knew how the front of the house was configured. She walked down the road in a huff for a while before it occurred to her that the road was gravel and not paved as it was yesterday.

On the corner at the end of the long block, stood a small Mom & Pop store. She walked in, nodded at the Pop behind the counter and picked up a carton of milk and some crackers, just to be doing something.  She put her items on the counter and Pop smiled at her and said “god morgon.” She smiled back and thought ‘uh yea, and same to you.’ Then she noticed that the poster on the wall behind him was not in English. She had a brief what the hell moment, turned on her heel, went to the cooler and pulled out a six-pack of beer. Beer is beer in any language. ‘And this is turning into a I seriously need a beer buzz kind of morning.’ She giggled and then stifled herself.  ‘Girl, you are starting to sound crazy, better ramp it back a bit.’

She headed back to the house. In the kitchen she opened a beer and drank it down in 2 gulps. ‘College was good for something, I learned how to guzzle beer.’  She opened  another beer, went into living room and lay on the sofa. She turned on the TV and by this time was merely vaguely surprised that there were only few channels instead of the usual 257. One seemed to be the news, in what language she had no clue. The newscaster wore an odd suit with huge shoulder pads and a hideous god-awful tie that he should be shot at dawn for wearing. She laughed out loud and wandered if he was having a weird morning too. Maybe all his ties disappeared in the night and that was all he had to wear. Was he going commando as well? She laughed softly, sighed, and pulled the lap blanket down and covered her legs. ‘This must be some strange prolonged dream. I’ll just ride it out.’

Relaxed from the beer she dozed and surfed the few channels on the TV.  At some point she fell asleep and woke with a start. She sat up rubbing her face and spied all the beer bottles on the coffee table. ‘Wow, I drank the whole six-pack. That’s going to hurt.’ She stood and stretched, walked over to the window and looked out. The time, afternoon almost 4:00 p.m.  The sky – pitch black, no stars.

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