Wednesday Write-in #55

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Welcome to the Wednesday Write-in!

Welcome again to our weekly Write-in. Please have a go, and don’t forget to tell your friends. It’s easier than you think!

Prompts

refresh  ::  firm handshake  ::  poach  ::  salary  ::  jazz

Guidelines

There are no hard and fast rules, but here are some brief guidelines:

  • You can use the prompts as inspiration or try to work them into your story somehow. Use as many as you want.
  • When your story is done, post it online (your blog/twitter/in a comment here), tag with #wednesdaywritein if you like, and comment with a link so we can read it.
  • Please take the time to read and comment on as many other stories as you have time for (but we won’t shout at you if you don’t).
  • If you want to write a poem, a script, or something completely different, feel free.

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35 thoughts on “Wednesday Write-in #55

  1. Hi, everyone. A short one this week. I’m a bit pushed for time today, and this was all that came to mind. Look forward to having a look at everyone’s work tomorrow.

    He insured them for millions. He preserved them with the most exquisite products, covering them in silk when they weren’t in use. He spent a fortune on salaries so he didn’t need to lift a finger. He refused firm handshakes and said a kiss on the cheek was a refreshing change that made the world a less aggressive place.
    Others tried to poach his act, but they, of course, did n’t have his touch.

    No, the critics could not but agree, his Jazz Hands were the finest the West End had ever seen.

    • A fascinating idea. A really original take on the prompts.
      I enjoy the way your words create a picture in my mind, a subconscious layer running through, which conjured up this Liberace-style image without the words being explicit.
      So subtle. I wish I could do that!

    • I thought of Al Jolson, actually, and not Liberace, but either way I really enjoyed this piece. It was so evocative – probably because it was so brief! – and I really like your character’s idea that a kiss on the cheek makes the world a less aggressive place. What a lovely sentence. I really enjoyed this!

  2. Interview
    She had a firm handshake and looked me in straight the eye as she greeted me, the look almost defiant, challenging me to notice. I had been warned, but I couldn’t help it. Instantly I was mesmerised by the generous mole like the map of Europe on her upper lip and right cheek, the way it moved with her mouth and the dark hairs that sprouted from it. I couldn’t take my eyes off it and wondered in a horrified way what it would be like to kiss her. So I hardly heard as she spoke about the salary and benefits package that were being offered to poach me from my present employment.
    ‘Blah, blah, blah and all that jazz,’ I heard that alright and jolted back into the moment.
    Er, excuse me? What did you say?’
    ‘Are you feeling more refreshed now, Mr Edison? You seem to have drifted off just then. So, if I have your full attention, I’ll continue.’ Then, unexpectedly, she smiled at me, the most brilliant smile that revealed perfect teeth and lit up her face. From then on, all the years I worked in that company, I only ever noticed her beauty.

    • This gave me a real ‘ah, yes!’ of recognition. The number of times the first impression is wrong. The number of times some physical weirdness is never noticed again once you get to know a person.
      I believe ‘ah, yes!’ is one of the key components in successful short stories, and this does it so well.

    • I really liked the part about his becoming fascinated with the mole, and then wondering – out of nowhere, or so it seems! – what it would be like to kiss her. That’s such a human touch. I really liked the last line too; it was wistful, and romantic, and sweet.

    • Good for Maggie! I think your descriptive language is lovely. ‘Clicked’ back into the room is great. I like how you describe Maggie’s appearance, too. I am always amazed at the length of piece that yourself and others on here can produce so quickly. I struggle a bit with that.

  3. Pingback: Wednesday Weekly Write-In | Tessa Sheppard

  4. Hi everyone,
    Here’s mine for this week:The Price of Life
    “A trial run.” he said. “So we know we can trust you.” He obviously thought he could take advantage of the poor little native girl.
    “So you poach me from the only people I have ever known and now you expect me to work for nothing.”
    “I paid your father.”
    “And there was an agreement made with certain terms and conditions. Do you remember them?”
    “I don’t think…” He started mumbling some more nonsense, white noise to fill a gap, to bide his time to live a little longer.
    My father had warned me about their dishonest ways. I’m not used to it. The community I was raised in was built on honour and trust, we worked together to protect each other. Living so remote from urban civilisation meant we had to be able to defend ourselves. It was my father who taught me how to handle a weapon with expertise. The accuracy of my shot was renowned. I did enjoy the notoriety. The number of men I killed grew by the conversation. The shadow I leave behind is bigger than I really was. Yes I have killed a few men but it was always in self-defence so I don’t think of it as killing really; it’s more saving a life.
    “Let me refresh your memory,” I took the safety catch off and pulled back the loading mechanism. “A salary, improved living conditions and all that jazz.” I felt the smooth pull as the magazine released the ammunition. It clicked as it locked into position in the barrel. “Do you remember that conversation, back when you needed me?”
    With a kick, I knocked him to his knees and he raised his arms in the air in surrender. I pressed the hard metal against his skull, a physical reminder that I was a killer, hired because he didn’t have the guts to do it himself. I was always going to win.
    Sometimes even from a remote little village on the outskirts of nowhere, word travels. A man arrives from the outside and offers you an escape from the poverty around you. In return all you have to do is the only thing you are good at doing, the thing that you are so good at doing, better than everybody else, that it feels like it’s the thing you were born to do, fire a gun.
    The only problem was I was never sure if I could really kill. I agonised over it until it ate a hole in me. I will have to carry it with me forever but I have completed his first assignment; my first hit as an assassin.
    I ranted and raved at him about the burden of the darkness I now carried and the mark it had left on my soul and the disrespect he showed life. I unleashed a torrent of anger at him. Then I stared at him hard. I looked right at him, the way someone does when they are about to kill you, the way those men looked at me before I killed them
    He was trembling. I knew by the way he looked at me that his brain wasn’t able to process the words I’d just said, it was too busy churning over other thoughts of family, of his wife and children perhaps, his last words to them, images flashing through his mind like holiday snaps.
    “You hired me to kill and kill I will.”
    He didn’t look up at me but instead fixed his gaze at the ground. I knew I had him now. I had broken that brash confidence that made him presume he could hire me to do his dirty work and then try not to pay me.
    “Remember the firm handshake?”
    He nodded, tears rolled down his cheeks at each side of his up turned lip. I gave him a kick with the toe of my boot.
    “I can’t hear you.”
    “Yes, please don’t kill me.” He sobbed openly no longer attempting to conceal his fear.
    “That handshake was your honour and that is worth more than your life. It is everything because it’s what you leave behind after you die. It’s what goes before you when you enter a new place. You don’t seem to have much of it left.”
    “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I will pay you.”
    “Right? Only thing is I’m going to need more than our original arrangement, the terms of the agreement have changed it seems.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Well I’m going to need compensation for the damage to my career and reputation. I clearly won’t be working for you anymore and after this little stunt who’s going to hire me. ‘The boss killer’ they’ll call me.”
    “I’ll give you whatever you want just please let me live.”
    I needed him alive so I shot him in the hand; a symbolic act to represent the hollowness of his shake. I opened the windows so everyone could hear his screams of agony. He’d spread the word of the cold blooded bitch, a monstrous native woman afraid of nothing and willing to go further than the rest. As I said reputation goes before you and it won’t be long before my services will be in demand. Next time I decide the price.

    • A superbly written, well-balanced story that grabbed me and dragged me through to the end. The description of emotions was masterful.
      Strangely, amongst all the excitement and violence, I liked a little quiet bit the best: ‘The number of men I killed grew by the conversation. The shadow I leave behind is bigger than I really was.’ Gosh, that’s clever! A perfect, economically described observation.

    • This was really great. I had such a clear image of your narrator in my head; I loved her courage and conviction, and her assured way of speaking and acting. I have to admit I got a little muddled in the middle, somewhere around the point where she’s talking about having already committed the murder she was hired to commit but she’s also not sure if she’s actually able to kill; I’m sure that’s just me, though. I’m not feeling too well today! I loved so many of the images, especially her shooting him in the hand, and her reasons for doing so. Really gripping work.

    • ‘The number of men I killed grew by the conversation. The shadow I leave behind is bigger than I really was.’ Fantastic! I really love those lines. It’s a great situation in which to place a character with whom you want the reader to have sympathy. Great take on the prompt. I do wonder if her father is honourable or trustworthy.

  5. Heyho everybody 🙂 I missed last week so I stayed up late just to finish this one:)

    A steady job
    I had never been so sick of life before. My wife rain away with a fruit vendor, took away my last month’s salary and most of our furniture. She left me nothing but the mortgage. Even the most sober of men would be inclined to visit a bar in harsh times like this and I will not deny that whiskey has been my faithful companion since my youth. More faithful than my wife apparently. I avoided my regular place, I didn’t want to answer questions. I wanted to be left alone in my misery. I wandered aimlessly on the foggy streets when a loud red sign caught my eye advertising “The Road to Hell.” That’s the kind of pub I was looking for; a good pessimistic atmosphere. On entering, my eyes fill up with tears from the smoke which was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife. I bumped into an irritated waitress who signalled me towards the empty chairs. I climbed up on one of those unnecessarily high bar stools and ordered a Chivas. It’s bloody expensive but your wife only leaves you once. Well, hopefully. The sad solo of a saxophone in an old jazz song almost made me cry.
    I was at my fourth glass when I realised my money was running out. The faintest echo of despair filled my heart. I tried to get off the stool but it’s not an easy manoeuvre even if you are sober, so you can imagine the hardship with some fine whiskey in your veins. I almost fell but a firm hand gripped me and helped me to carry out a safe landing. I looked up at the owner of the hands and saw a tall man in a spotless suit smiling benevolently down at me.
    “Can I invite you for another drink?” he asked.
    I wanted to reject the offer but he helped me so I didn’t want to hurt his feelings with rejections. He smiled again.
    “So you are in some serious trouble, I gather,” he said in a smooth voice after I poured all my misfortunes on him.
    “Well you could say that. I lost every hope for this life,” I sighed and drowned my melancholy in the golden liquor.
    “Hope dies last,” he said wisely, “but the hopeful die first.”
    I didn’t really understand what he meant, I was never a man of figures of speech. But then he continued.
    “Look, Mr. Jones, I can offer you a long-term job with accommodation and a delightful sense of stability and continuity. I prefer the workforce like yourself who has nothing to lose and all their loyalty to give. I happen to have a contract with me. Would you care to sign?” He pushed the paper under my nose.
    I only had enough strength to check the key words. I found long-term, work, and housing. It seemed all right, there were too many footnotes in Times New Roman pt.6 which I didn’t bother to read. I simply signed. My new employer bought me one more round and we toasted.
    My body was found lying in a gutter the next morning. What was left of me has been washing dirty dishes in the biggest pub in Hell ever since.

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