Losing My Religion

Back on track after taking a few days off to do Other Things. First post this week: an 8-minute writing exercise on the prompt “Losing My Religion”. About 280 words. Slow going it seemed on this. I knew where I wanted to go, but I also didn’t want to get there in too big of a hurry.

Answering Prayers

She knelt in the chapel, nearly alone. In the back, another woman, older, head covered with a scarf, lips moving silently, fingers counting the beads. Closer to the front, a statue of the Blessed Virgin, eyes modestly lowered, hands open, stood beneath a painting of Jesus sitting on his mother’s lap.

“I need that job,” she whispered, eyes shifting from statue to painting to floor. “I can’t do this alone, either. Not with the kids, and with….” Her whisper trailed off. Thoughts crowded in, choking her words.

“Forgive me,” a man said.

She started. She didn’t know anyone was sitting behind her. She had been so focused on her problems, that she had not heard him enter the pew.

“I don’t mean to pry,” he continued, “but I couldn’t help but over hear.”

Anger flared up, and she turned, more accurately, twisted, to look at the man behind her. He was middle-aged. Graying at the temples and in the neatly trimmed beard. His eyes were also gray. He wore a tweed jacket over a turtleneck sweater. He smiled, and even seemed to blush a little.

“I might be able to help you,” he continued, ignoring her glare. “I’m in charge of a number of ventures, and I’m always looking for people to help me.”

Her expression softened. Her spine relaxed. She leaned a bit closer to him, detecting a whiff of something perhaps metallic.

“What do you mean?”

His smile remained fixed. “What I mean is I can help you with your job situation. But I’ll need a show of faith. Nothing is free.”

His eyes flicked to the votive candles.

“Blow one out,” he said. “Just one, and then we can talk some more.”

February 8th, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Bubbles, Dark and Neat

Today’s writing exercise is inspired by this week’s benchmark testing at the school where I teach and by conversations about the benchmark testing with a couple other teachers. The prompt is “Bubbles, Dark and Neat”. This is about 327 words.

Assessment Drives Instruction

“Please verify your CitIdent number at the top of the testing form.”

I listened to the proctor’s voice but didn’t look up. She sounded pleasant but bored. The testing form rested on the desk in front of me. Two columns. Fifty rows per column. Four small circles per row. I verified my CitIdent number.

“Please verify that the ProgEv test number on the booklet matches the ProgEv test number beneath your CitIdent number.”

It did.

“Are there any identity discrepancies?”

There were not. Not a single error in a room full of more than one hundred people taking their quarterly progress evaluation. I’d been taking these tests four times a year every year for the past twelve years starting with my tenth birthday. There were never any errors. Errors were not tolerated.

“When I say ‘start’, please break the seal on the ProgEv test booklet. Turn to page one. Answer the questions to the best of your ability. Ensure you mark your answers on the testing form. Ensure your circles are properly bubbled in. Make them dark and neat to avoid scoring errors.”

I sighed and waited. I thought about breaking the seal early, or not breaking it all, but instead I just sighed and waited.


I broke the seal, turned to page one, and started to read. The first story was a piece about two children playing at a lake. One of the children pushed the other child into the lake and laughed at him. This other child was physically uninjured but suffered harm to his self-concept. After the reading came the questions. Five multiple choice questions with four choices each.

“Why did John push Michael into the lake?” I read silently to myself. I then read the possible answer choices. All of them seemed like good choices to me, but one of them was more correct that the others. I sighed again. I’d sigh frequently during the test if previous experience was any guide.

February 3rd, 2016  in RPG 2 Comments »


Today’s prompt is “Ghosts”. I decided to continue the story from a previous prompt. The first two short paragraphs are from an earlier post. New material clocks in at about 265 words.

The Decision Continued

“You gonna drink that today?”

He fixed on the bartender’s rheumy eyes, waited a beat or two, and then shrugged. The bartender shrugged, turned away to wipe down the bar yet again. The shot glass shimmered as the light shifted from left to right: a truck passed by outside, reflecting the late morning sun.

He opened the manila folder and slid out the contents: papers, photographs, a smaller envelope. Setting aside the smaller envelope, he looked first at the photographs. A handsome man, well-dressed, well-coifed, stared out from the top picture. Obviously a professional photograph, probably for corporate use. The others showed the same man in public, photographed without his knowledge. At the park. At the store. Leaving the office. The papers were typed, single-spaced, organized under headings that provided an outline of the man’s habits, movements, and, most importantly, the reasons why his death had been ordered.

“He deserves to die.”

Setting aside the papers, he looked up. A woman sat on the stool next to him. She was young, too thin. Her hairline was distorted from where her skull had been cracked by violence. Probably a golf club. Her eyes had probably been blue in life. Now they were pale yellow.

“He’ll do this again,” the woman said, pointing to her wound. “It’s only a matter of time.”

“I know.”

“You say something?” the bartender asked.

The man shook his head. “Not really. Yeah, I’m going to drink this.”

He took the shot of whisky in hand and tossed it back. The liquid burned at first, but then faded into warm hints of spice and vanilla. He looked at the dead woman and nodded while sliding the papers and pictures back into the manila folder. The smaller envelope went in last, after he thumbed through the bills inside.

How much was a human life worth? Five grand, and even that seemed too precious in the particular case.

February 2nd, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

The End Is Nigh

About 270 words this morning.

Another Empty Chamber, Another Day

The sun had just peeked over the eastern horizon when William slid a single bullet into the Colt’s cylinder. He looked at the weapon. It looked so normal, like any other pistol he’d ever handled. He pulled back the hammer, spun the cylinder, put the barrel to his temple, and pulled the trigger.


A few minutes later, William, dressed nattily, badge shining on his jacket, strolled down the hotel stairs. He nodded to the desk clerk and turned into the restaurant. Time for breakfast. The Farrington boys would still be asleep. No one who spent the night in the whore house would be up this early.

“Bring me what’s good,” he told the hostess. “That, and plenty of coffee, ma’am.”

The hostess correctly judged what was good. Breakfast was excellent, and the coffee was hot and strong and black. He left payment on the table and left the hotel. The street outside was mostly deserted. A few people were about, mostly shopkeepers opening up for another day’s business. The dim lights of lanterns burned behind drapes across the street at the whore house. William slipped his pocket watch out of his vest pocket and checked the time.

“The end is nigh,” William said.

He snapped the watch shut, slipped it back into place, and then pulled his pistol from its holster. The spent cartridge dropped to the porch, and William loaded six bullets while leaning against a post. A farmer passing by in his mule-drawn wagon looked away when William met his curious stare. As William as he stepped off the hotel’s porch and walked, almost marched, across the street and through the whore house doors.

February 1st, 2016  in RPG No Comments »

Sometimes I feel so deserted

Slower going today with 258 words.

The Mutiny

“Sometimes I feel so deserted by all the pretty girls with whom I’ve flirted.”

Impromptu verse. It gave me something to do other than bob up and down under the scorching sun, atop the gently rolling waves aboard the inflatable raft. I chuckled. Was I being clever? Was it the heat? The lack of water? What was it Coleridge wrote about water everywhere, but none it potable?

I adjusted the makeshift canopy I’d made out of the small oars and my clothes, but it didn’t matter. Part of me still ended up baking in the sun, so my real choice was which parts could stand a little more burn.

“Well played, gentlemen.”

I never saw it coming, ‘it’ referring both to the treachery as well as the rough hands that grabbed me while I was having a smoke on deck. They didn’t bother to explain. We all knew the why of it. I’d made promises that I’d been unable to keep, and five people died and the rest sailed half way across the Pacific, all for nothing.

“C’est la vie.”

I chuckled again. We had been close. I was certain of that, but, like they say, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. It does not count in treasure hunting with mercenaries, following a faded map found in the back of a nineteenth century journal. I guess, in retrospect, the idea of an undiscovered island in this day and age of GPS and spy satellites is a bit silly, but I’ve always been a romantic at heart.

January 31st, 2016  in RPG No Comments »