40 minutes stories · Short Stories

Tyler – Anna Marie (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompts: The words ‘jump’, shout’, ‘dig’

Tyler – Anna Marie
Every family has a black sheep – not the woolly, bah-bah-ing kind, but a member who sticks out. And in my family, I’m that black sheep, because I hate heights. In fact, I can’t handle it. My family, on the other hand, lives in heights: My grandfather was in the Air Force. My grandmother was a sky-diving instructor. My father is a long-distance pilot. My mother is a stewardess on long distance flights (that’s how my parents met).
And then there’s me – the only child who hates flying, catapulting, bungee-jumping, sky-diving, you name it. It’s okay to like your job, but it’s different when you impose your passion to spend a few minutes in mid-air every weekend on a child who cannot handle it. When I confided in my friend Mei, she told me that there is a Chinese saying that if the mother eats an excess of something, the child will reject it – and this only validates my theory that even though my parents contradict that my mother sky-dived or even bungee-jumped when pregnant, my fear of heights is only the result of their excessive passion. I’m so sure they’re lying.
There was no way of me escaping from our family weekends out in the countryside where everyone (except me, of course) would have a grand time performing sports that require a large amount of space between land and person. My grandfather would pilot our small family plane while my grandmother would make sure the parachute vests were intact on my parents’ bodies. Then she would slide open the side door and on her count, my parents would dive into the sky. I was too scared to jump, or even stand next to the open door, terrified that the baby blue air will suck me out of the plane like dust from beneath a couch. I felt increasingly as worthless and unwanted as dust on these trips, especially when my family insisted on me joining them in the sky, but always giving me a disappointed look when I whimpered and hid in the corner, refusing to get off the plane.

Everyone believed that my exposure to heights would eradicate my fear, but it did the opposite as I instead crouched in the corner and embraced my knees, imagining that I am a rock on soft grass, growing out of the sweet, sweet earth.
I remember the first time my body found itself in the middle of the sky. I was about 6 years old when my grandmother tied me to mother’s aerodynamic body that was shaking in strong anticipation of the fall ahead.
“Good luck, darling baby, I’ll see you down there!” my grandmother caressed and kissed my head, inside of which was an innocent mind that believed my parents’ words that the “flight” will be fun.
“We’ll be like birds!” my father said and I felt my mother’s chin lift as she smiled. I think I giggled in excitement, picturing us roaming the skies horizontally like the parrots in the Rio movies. My mother leaped forwards into the sky and I was suddenly facing yellow wheat fields. After a while of falling, I screamed:
“Fly left! Fly left!” My mother didn’t reply, unable to hear me through her laughter. “Fly! Fly!” I shrilled at the top of my poor lungs and still we were heading downward in the same direction. I imagined my 1.30cm-tall body hitting the ground and my legs, arms and head flying out in different directions – and that was enough to make my brain shut down.
My parents found their child sleeping on my mother’s chest.
“How cute!” my grandmother laughed.
“She’s a natural!” my father exclaimed joyously. They all thought it was a successful first trip, but it didn’t take long to realize that I was not asleep from adrenaline overdose, but unconscious from the shock. When my family became aware of this, suddenly I wasn’t cute anymore – I was the family embarrassment. Really, how can the daughter of a pilot and stewardess, the grandchild of war aviators and sky sport enthusiasts, be afraid of heights? No one could understand. My parents took me to a psychologist who listened to their complaints with a slightly amused smile and then gave them the following advice:
“Get Anna a dog.” My father almost spat out his tea and my mother stopped him from bursting words by placing her hand on his knee and squeezing it. She then calmly asked:
“A dog? How would that help?”
“Animals have therapeutic powers. If you get a dog that is into such… high-adrenaline sports (my father sneered, whispering under his breath “it’s a lifestyle”), chances are that your daughter will feel less stressed and see the dog as her companion.” My parents looked down on me, a blonde 7-year old drawing whirly green trees and colourful lines representing flowers while the skies were black and full of sad/angry faces. “Give it some thought, thank you for coming in today.”
My parents didn’t need much time to think – they are very determined, highly productive people and immediately they began their research on adventurous dogs. On my 8th birthday, I received a sibling and my family a new member – a French bulldog named Tyler.
At first I was thrilled about Tyler – until he became the new family favourite when he literally jumped off the plane the first weekend we took him sky-diving. Grandma had just finished dad’s parachute vest check-up when Tyler leaped off the plane.
“Tyler!” my father yelled, the rest of us just looking down at the shrinking dog silhouette. My parents nodded at each other and dad immediately took off, using his post-Easter body weight to navigate through sky in direction of Tyler. We cheered when we saw my father expand his arms and catch the bulldog.
I expected everyone to teach the dog a lesson – he did jump off the plane intentionally, it wasn’t like the air sucked him out of it! I thought the dog was suicidal even. But the rest of my family? They thought Tyler is a hero!
“Such a cutie!” grandmother said.
“He’s a natural!” my parents laughed as they strongly patted and caressed Tyler’s head, his already loud breathing intensifying from pure joy of being the centre of attention. Everyone loved him, but with that leap, he became my nemesis, my enemy. And right there and then, I no longer found him cute and I began constructing a revenge plan.
[The following section is added after the writing session]
On a Sunday afternoon, my family was showing Tyler various photos and videos of sky-diving. I found them ridiculous, talking to a stupid dog as if he was a person! I escaped into the garden and hid behind the tree. I crouched down, my hands searched for rocks to throw while my eyes were blurred from frustration and heavy thought. My left hand finally grasped a stone that I then threw into the earth right in front of me. The collision left a small hole – and in that instant, I realized: dogs are diggers! How about I convince Tyler to have a passion for digging that would make him no longer interested in the skies? My 8.5-year old mind was ecstatic and I congratulated myself on such a brilliant idea. I decided that I must have the dog only for myself to carry out my plan that I obscurely named “Make Tyler a Digger so I Am the Family Favorite Again”.
The next day I returned home early when my grandparents were still out playing bridge and my parents were abroad. Tyler was chewing a bone in the living room. In the midst of this activity, I snatched the bone away from him and ran into the garden, hearing the dog nails tapping against the wooden floor right behind me. I reached the flowers and crouched down, looking into Tyler’s shiny eyes. I lifted the bone into the air and asked:
“Would you like your bone back?” The remainder of Tyler’s tail wriggled. “Then dig it up!” I threw the bone into a prepared hole in the ground with one hand, the other sweeping the prepared pile of dirt over the treat. I immediately threw myself back, expecting the dog to push me aside to access the covered pit, but… nothing happened. Confused, I looked at Tyler – who wasn’t there! I was alone in the garden. Bewildered and constructing another plan in my childish mastermind, I heard approaching pawsteps. I turned my head in direction of the sound and faced Tyler and a half-eaten chocolate bar in his jaw.
“Hey! That’s mine!” I complained and automatically reached for it – but Tyler growled and galloped around me with unexpected speed. Before I knew it, he began digging a small pit behind me and he dropped the treat into it. I was about to tell him off, but he looked at me with narrowed eyes and that’s when I realized that he’s proving his dominance. We stared each other dead into the eye for a while, but then I felt something land on my nose, something with small feet that were moving upwards – a smudged, small entity that I could only identify when I crossed my eyes… A spider! I was about to scream when Tyler jumped on me, pushing my body back, and licked the 8-legged insect off of my tickling nose.
I laid there in a trance until I realized that Tyler saved me. I looked at the bulldog who now just watched me with kind, shiny eyes. I smiled at him and he wiggled his body, jumping towards the buried treats. Together, we dug up our bone and chocolate bar and with our hands and paws greasy from dirt, we consumed the treats, sitting next to each other.
And that’s when we became real friends.

Short Stories

Mary – Debbie Liebenberg (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompts: Picture 1: Pink, Blue and Purple pencils; Picture 2: Wedding couple

Mary – Debbie Liebenberg

In his darkest hour the only thing John could think of was his unconditional love for his wife Mary.

They had been married for ten wonderful years. High school sweethearts and inseparable from the first moment they saw each other. He remembers that day in high school: He wasn’t the smartest boy or the most handsome, so when Mary gave him the gift of ‘hello’ John felt special. He didn’t want much in life, only to make sure Mary was happy and never wanted for anything.

He remembers how she looked on their wedding day: He never imagined she could be anymore beautiful than before. The wedding photo he kept in his pocket simply didn’t do her justice. Then he thought about the day their daughter Lily was born, his eyes filled up with tears as he remembered his pride. His little daughter was the second best thing he had done in his life. Convincing Mary to marry him was the first of course.

As he wiped the tears from his face he looked down to see the students’ lifeless body lying in front of him. He was struck with pity as he bent down to close her eyes out of courtesy. ‘Why did you have to fight back,’ he whispered to her.

John’s mind quickly jumped back to this morning. He was going to tell Mary that he had lost his job at the factory due to downsizing. He didn’t know what that meant and it didn’t help him to find the words to explain it to Mary either. They’d been living off credit cards for months and now the bank wasn’t willing to help John anymore. He decided to tell Mary this morning but before he began to speak she said ‘Sweety, I need to buy some pencils for Lily’s first day at school.’

Johns heart sank,’ Mary I need to…’ before he could begin to explain, Mary jumped in with ‘oh John, they’re only pencils.’ John couldn’t bare to disappoint the love of his life so he said, ‘I’ll make a plan Mary’.

A few hours later he found himself following a well dressed student on her way to campus. She was talking loudly on her phone, and it was an iphone therefore John assumed she must have had a couple of spare coins for pencils. He tapped her on the shoulder as he said, ‘excuse me, do you have a few coins for me…’ and she shoved him away before he could say please.

His desperation and frustration took hold of the knife in his pocket and eventually, she stopped screaming.

And now he stood above her lifeless body.

He put his knife in his mouth as he searched her bag for her purse. He tasted her blood which made him gag and choke up but he kept searching. Finally a purse! He zipped it open to find…nothing.

His heart began to beat in his throat, and then it dawned on him…
what was he going to say to Mary?

40 minutes stories · Short Stories

Young & Beautiful – Lenka Dvorakova (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompts: Picture 1: An attractive young woman wearing glasses; Picture 2: A pot of tomato soup

Young & Beautiful by Lenka Dvorakova

“Ok, 7 PM at your place 🙂 CU then.”

She keeps staring at the display, the text burning into her brain. Her heart skipped a beat, and her palms suddenly get sweaty. She knew this would eventually happen, but now that it’s here, she doesn’t feel ready. She checks the time. She’s got 4 hours to go.

“Evelyn? I have to leave now. Would you reschedule the afternoon meetings?” As she passes through Evelyn’s office, she can feel her disdain.

“I need to find a new assistant,” she thinks, “this is never gonna work. It never did and it never will.” Evelyn, the best assistant ever, that was what Mr. Parks told her when he was retiring. Yeah, sure. To him, certainly. The always loyal, trustworthy, discreet Evelyn, who was probably in love with Mr. Parks for the whole 25 years that she worked for him. Could they have had an affair?

The elevator opens, and she presses the lobby button. Why are there always mirrors in elevators? She looks at herself. Oh, yes, she does look good. Perfect hair, perfect makeup. She doesn’t really need glasses, but she got them when she was promoted. She thought they would make her look more professional. Now that she looks at herself, she realizes she might have chosen a different type. She admires her reflection. Damn sexy, she thinks, and then she smiles. Nothing that Evelyn, the spinster, can ever appreciate.

As she leaves the elevator downstairs, she realizes that she doesn’t have a plan. Being young, beautiful and successful is not enough today. Today she needs more than that. Today she needs perfection, and not only in the beauty department. She needs to show that there’s more to her than her looks and her successful career.

When she had people over for dinner before she ordered pizza and everybody was happy, but that obviously wouldn’t do today. She has to cook. Something special. Something… home made. Something that shows who she really is.

She stops at the supermarket and walks aimlessly in the aisles for a while. She checks the lobsters (no way) and the artichokes (fancy, but … no) and then, as she sees an old lady picking tomatoes with her shaky hands, it strikes her. Her grandma’s tomato soup. That’s it! That’s the perfect dish for tonight, traditional yet surprising, spicy and refreshing at the same time.

The rest is easy as pie. There are not many meals she can make, but this is the one she could make blindfolded, although she hasn’t prepared it for … how long? A decade? Or two?

The clock chimes seven, the soup is bubbling, and as expected, the bell rings. She drops two basil leaves in the pot for decoration and opens the door.

“Hey, mom! So glad you finally get to see my new apartment!”

40 minutes stories · Short Stories

Red – Maria Karamanoglou (40 minute story)

Note: This story was created in 40 minutes in one of our writing sessions. The story is based on the following writing prompts: A picture of a red ruby and a picture of a woman holding a syringe. 

Red – Maria Karamanoglou

Red as blood.
Red as rubin.
Red as passion.
Red as your hair, spread on my pillow.
Red as your lips, that left a mark on mine on a Wednesday afternoon.
Red as an apple, Eve’s apple, for which I longed and which you never gave me.
And then the red became pale, worn, tired.
As your cheeks out in the cold.
As your eyes, after so many tears.
As the blanket I used to cover you with on the couch.
As the candy you liked and that I brought you when you could not go to the shop anymore.
And then white.
White like your skin the last time I saw you.
Like my house, without your red in it.
Like the harsh shine of the needles you would try to hide.
Blinding white, like the light you followed never to come back.