She sat hugging her knees, looking over at the payphone.  It had been ringing off and on for what must be hours now.  It was very tempting to answer it, but she couldn’t bring herself to.  She would have to uncurl herself from the corner she sat in and that would release all the heat she has been herding.  Heat and her torn, oversized shirt were her only other commodities in the cell; she was not afforded a bed and could not keep her dinner tray.


She did not know whether they, whoever ‘they’ were, had installed this phone for her or whether it had already been here.  It definitely seemed old, but it was difficult to determine much about it in the darkness.  After weeks of imprisonment, her eyes had adjusted to shadow as much as they could.  When she had first arrived here, she didn’t even notice the faint red glow from under the door.


But now she has to cover the crack under the door to sleep; a nightlight wouldn’t deter the nightmares anyway.  Her nightmares wouldn’t let her forget, no matter how much she begged them.  She was already sorry, and if she could go back and do it differently, she would.


She could hear footsteps coming.  It must be dinner time.  A tray slid from under the door.  As much as she loved the comfort of the heat she had trapped, it was worth it to her to let it go for more food.  Perhaps after she satisfied her hunger she would try to create her ball of warmth yet again.


Dinner was the same thing as it had always been: eggs and water.  She grabbed one of the eggs and cracked it on the edge of her tray.  She thought they were supposed to be hardboiled, and she always asked for them to be scrambled, but there had been many times when yolk spilled onto the floor.  There had even been a few times when some kind of bird embryo fell onto her tray.  The thought if it still made her shudder, even after all of this.


She was just happy that it was too dark for her to fully see it.  There were no embryos this time, and only one egg was a little runny.  Even if there had been one, it wouldn’t have stopped her from eating.  She could block out the thought of it when she was hungry; it was when her hunger settled that the thought if it bothered her.


After all her eggs were cracked, she took a drink of water to prepare her stomach.  She had to stick out her tongue after tasting it; the saltiness of it still surprised her.  They always gave her a utensil for her eggs, but she didn’t want it.  It was impractical to eat eggs with forceps.  Instead, she brought the tray closer to her face and vacuumed them up into her selfish mouth.


She wished the phone would stop.  Didn’t it know she was busy?  Was it going to bother her forever?  She just couldn’t bring herself to answer it.  She didn’t trust the phone.  Maybe it was because she already knew who it was: she couldn’t bring herself to listen to the baby’s cries anymore.  Or maybe she didn’t trust it because the phone line was cut.



Friday Fictioneers – The Modern Day Oregon Trail

Photo Credit: Dawn Q. Landau

As they got closer, I prayed that they wouldn’t say anything, even look my way.  The last thing I needed was someone else questioning me.  I just want to reach California.  Please, everyone leave me alone until then.

I should be as disconnected as possible- no friends, family, and now no job, but people are still around.  I thought the recession would keep everyone else inside, but I guess I’m not the only one without a house now.

I filled my empty pockets with granola bars, packed a bag of dog food, and traveled the modern day Oregon Trail.

The Illustrator

His hand was starting to cramp.  He had been drawing all night.  He loved being an Illustrator, but the long nights wore on him and his creativity drew thin for the night.  He had been given a large piece of circular poster board and told to draw as many different characters as he could.  He was filling one of the only remaining empty spaces when the cramp in his hand shot a painful twitch down his fingers.  The character was now disfigured.  He breathed a distressed sigh and pulled out his eraser, but when he brought it down to the board-


He jumped, almost flinging his eraser across the room.  He collected himself and began his assessment.  He surveyed the room for the source of the interjection, but did not find it until-

“Down here!” said the character he had just been drawing.

The illustrator gave his head a gently shake and wiped his eyes.  It had been a long day at work.  Hallucinating just meant it was time for bed.

“Don’t erase me!”

The Illustrator leaned down closer to the drawn figure.  “But you are misshapen.  Your body has become twisted.  It has encircled and consumed all of you.  I must erase you so I can draw a new person.”  The Illustrator paused after saying ‘person’.  It was such a sentient, even human, term to describe such an entity.  The strangeness of the word did not surprise him, but rather his comfortableness with using it.  He loved illustrating and therefore he loved his creations.

“I am OK with my abnormalities if it means I can stay,” said the caricature.

The Illustrator paused and humbly considered this predicament.  Despite almighty position in this circumstance, he felt pity.  He pondered a resolution that would satisfy his love and his creation’s fear.

“How about this: I erase you now so I can make room for a new character, but I promise to redraw you, this time flawless.  I will frame you and hang you on my wall.”


“Ooh, a dog,” said the girl.

“Eww, a dog,” said the woman.

“Ooh, a worm,” said the boy.

“Eww, a worm,” said the man.

“Eww, a job,” said the boy.

“Ooh, a job,” said the man.

“Eww, a job,” said the girl.

“Ooh, a job,” said the woman.

“Eww, a girl,” said the boy.

“Ooh, a girl,” said the man.

“Ooh, a boy,” said the girl.

“Eww, a boy,” said the woman.

Feel free to add your own “ooh” and “eww”s down below in the comments.

The Land of Nopinion

Mary was reading the editorials, cartoons, and columns of her local newspaper while walking back home from school.  She did not enjoy the news itself as much as peoples’ views on it; she was normal in that way.  Her mind was so focused on her reading that she was unaware of the raging tornado swirling down over her.  Its destructive force that could tear people apart with just a quick rip descended down upon poor Mary’s figure and she was sucked up into the air.

“Oh, how dreadful!” Mary said with tears in her eyes, “if only I had paid attention!”

But the cautionary tale of vicious whirlwinds does not end there, oh no.  Mary is actually swept away to a land that is more real than you may know.  Perhaps you have heard of its tale, or perhaps you have been lucky (or more likely, oblivious) enough to escape the murmured rumoring of its existence.  Mary, unfortunately, now lives in this harsh realm.

Upon landing in a field near the edge of a woods, Mary wandered away from the desolation of forestation and headed toward what she hoped was civilization.  After traveling for about an hour, Mary came across a bright yellow road.  She proceeded to follow it until she bumped into a very long line of patiently waiting people.  The line stretched far down the road, and at the end of the queue was a castle.  As curious as could be, Mary stepped behind the caboose of the line and nudged the young gentleman.

“Excuse me, sir.  Why is everyone standing in this line?”  Mary asked.

“Where have you been?!  This, of course, is the line to get into the Land of Nopinion!” answered the gentleman.

“Hm, never heard of it,” Mary replied.

“Never heard of it?!  Then you have never heard of Queen Helen?”

“No.  Should I have?” Mary asked.

“Of course!  She is why everyone wants to live here!  Where have you been to not know this?” inquired the gentleman.

“I was placed here by a cyclone,” Mary said, honestly.  The gentleman stared back, eyebrow raised.  He gained the attention of the next person in line who had been discretely listening in.  Mary took this act as an implication for back-up, which she took minor offense to.

“Cyclone, eh?  OK then.  Anyway, we are all here in line to attempt to gain access to Nopinion,” said the gentlewoman that had been listening in.  “Nopinion is run by Queen Helen.  To live within her walls, you must vow to never have an opinion.”

“Oh, I don’t like that,” Mary said.  “Why would anyone want to live under Queen Helen?”

“Because she is kind, lovely, and almighty,” said the gentlewoman.

The gentleman nudged the gentlewoman and corrected her, “Because ‘she is SHE’!”

“Oh yes, of course,” fretted the gentlewoman.

After many hours of waiting in line, Mary was only a few people away from the gate.  Two armed guards stood in front.  Mary also noticed a large bin near the guard that was leaking a potent ooze into the surrounding ground.  Every time a person gained access, a guard would add something to the bin.  Upon further investigation, Mary realized it was an offering.

“Is there a code or letter of recommendation I need to gain entrance?” Mary asked the gentleman.

“Oh yes,” said the gentleman.  He pulled his shoulder bag in front of him and unsnapped the button on the front.  A stench of rotting filled Mary’s nostrils and she looked in the bag with disgust.  Inside was some kind of decomposing gray mush.  The gentlewoman also opened her bag to show off her offering.

“I don’t have that,” Mary said with a plugged nose.

“If you do not have it now, ask for permission and you will be guaranteed to have it later, in which case you will supply it to Queen Helen,” said the gentleman.

After the gentleman and gentlewoman gave their offerings to the guard (and it was heaved into the large bin), Mary asked to be let in with the guarantee of her gray-mush loan.  The guard accepted and Mary met with the gentleman and gentlewoman in a crowd surrounding Queen Helen’s court.  Now inside, Mary could see how dirty and destroyed the land actually was.  The court was built in front of a huge castle.  Helen sat in a marvelous royal chair accompanied by two more guards.  One by one, other residents of Nopinion were escorted up to her throne where they brought gifts.  To the best of Mary’s logic, she guessed they were looking to be promoted within Helen’s kingdom.  No one but Helen and the gift-bearer spoke.  Up next to Helen was a man offering his prized cow.  Helen accepted his offering but did not allow him to pass so quickly.  This put the man in obvious distress.

“I am the nicest and the smartest,” Queen Helen said to the man.

“Yes, you are!”  The man’s voice shook in fright.

“Banished!” roared Queen Helen.  One of the guards grabbed the man, who was now screaming and crying, and dragged him over to a nearby catapult where he was flung back into the wilderness.

I don’t like this, Mary thought.  Up next, a new resident brought bread.  It was easy for Mary to distinguish between the older residents and the newer residents.  The newer residents were visibly nervous, maybe excited, in their demeanor.  Mary thought they reminded her of new kids at school.  The older residents were more unemotional: they walked in sync, their faces were expressionless, they spoke monotone.  Their pride made them look mechanical.  Mary also noticed that they seemed to wear all gray; she thought this could be representative of their offering, like a status symbol.

The man offering bread looked up to Queen Helen.  “How is this?” he asked.

“This bread is dreadful!” Helen exclaimed.

“Bread,” said the man as he walked away.

Up next was a cobbler.  She brought Helen a beautiful pair of shoes that were customized just for her.

“How is this?” asked the cobbler.

“These are beautiful, I love them,” Helen said.

“OK,” said the cobbler.  She began to walk away when Helen had a guard stop her.  She turned back to Helen.

“I’m the nicest and the smartest,” said Queen Helen.

“You are you,” replied the cobbler.

Queen Helen smiled and had the cobbler escorted into a tower of the castle.  Mary watched in discomfort as she had yet to produce her first offering.  Mary sighed deeply in anxiety.

“Who was that?!” Queen Helen bellowed.  The crowd separated until they left Mary standing alone.  A guard walked down into the crowd and brought Mary to the foot of Helen’s throne.  Helen glared down at Mary as Mary looked straight down at the ground.  They remained in silence until Queen Helen spoke.

“What do you think of these shoes?” Helen asked.

“Red,” Mary answered.  “Shiny.  Size eight.”

Queen Helen now gave a look of approval and had Mary join back into the crowd.  Mary rejoined, but now with a fresh sense of approval.  Mary chased this feeling as she lived the rest of her days inside the castle walls.  She lived among the older automatons until she became one herself.

The End


“You’re wasting your time!” Jack yelled from his hole.

                “No, you’re wasting my time!” Jim yelled back down into the hole.

Jack huffed and returned to digging.  It had been several days since Jack had begun burrowing and he had now tunneled many feet underground.  Three times a day, at exactly the same times, Jim would lower down food and water on a platform.  Jack would routinely dig and rest in grueling intervals.  Jack would also sleep every night on the newly uncovered dirt while Jim slept peacefully on the grass above.  The conditions were harsh for Jack, but he was confident- no, certain- that he would find the treasure.

When Jack first started his excavation, Jim, at first, watched him.  Jim was not as convinced as Jack, but he also could not allow Jack to work himself to death; either by exhaustion, dehydration or starvation.  Jack was very strong-willed, as self-described, while Jim was more level-headed.  While Jim would be more likely to describe Jack as thick-skulled, he could not help but to admire his determination.  So, in accordance, Jim stayed nearby to fetch him food and water.  In the time between, Jim began a project in carpentry to equal his counterpart.

Several more days of digging passed.

“You’re wasting your time!  If you helped me dig, we would reach it faster!” Jack now shouted through his burrow.

“And we would both have deeper graves!” Jim shouted back.

Jack huffed and returned to digging.  It had been many days now since Jack had begun burrowing and he had now tunneled yards underground.  Three times a day, at exactly the same times, Jim would lower down food and water on a platform.  Jack would routinely dig and rest in grueling intervals.  Jack would also sleep every night on the newly uncovered dirt while Jim slept peacefully on the grass above.  The conditions were harsh for Jack, but he was sure that he would find the treasure.

Jack continued to persist and perspire while Jim remained above: worried, but remaining helpful.  Jim still worked on his project while Jack worked on his.  Jim did his best to match Jack’s work ethic.

Many more days of digging passed.

“You’re wasting your time!  You should leave here and prepare our lives for riches!” Jack screamed from his pit.

“It is stressful enough to prepare for you!” Jim screamed back.

Jack huffed and returned to digging.  It had been weeks now since Jack had begun burrowing and he had now tunneled a mile underground.  Three times a day, at exactly the same times, Jim would lower down food and water on a platform.  Jack would routinely dig and rest in grueling intervals.  Jack would also sleep every night on the newly uncovered dirt while Jim slept peacefully on the grass above.  The conditions were harsh for Jack, but he was hopeful that he would find the treasure.

“You’re wasting your time!  Any work you have done will be meaningless when I have the treasure!”  Jack shrieked from his hole.

“I will repeat that piece of advice back to you!” Jim shrieked back.

Jack huffed and returned to digging.  It had been several weeks now since Jack had begun burrowing and he had now tunneled miles underground.  Three times a day, at exactly the same times, Jim would lower down food and water on a platform.  Jack would routinely dig and rest in grueling intervals.  Jack would also sleep every night on the newly uncovered dirt while Jim slept peacefully on the grass above.  The conditions were harsh for Jack, and he has given up on finding the treasure.

“I’ve wasted our time!  I’ve now dug too deep to get out!  Please, I have tried many times before, but now really listen to me- leave me and return home!”  Jack bawled from his hole.

“You are not the only stubborn one!” Jim hollered back.

Jim extended down the carpentry project- a ladder- he had been working on every day, into the hole.  He had made sure to keep up with Jack every day so that Jack would never be too deep for Jim to unbury.

Jack’s eyes watered.  “I knew what I wanted and I have found it.  No, I had already found it.  I thought I knew where it was but I had forgotten to look up.”

“Brochacho’s Burgers” – Script Excerpt

The following is a reformatted excerpt from a script I’ve been working on-

The smell of grease-soaked meat reeks throughout the joint.  Standing in line at Brochacho’s Burgers are two young, adult men.  Jim, a suave, although maybe sometimes boisterous, young man stared at the menu on the wall.  Next to him, staring at the same menu but not actually reading it, was Lliam; a more modest and shy personality that is evident in his attire.

“What’re you getting?” Jim asked while still perusing the menu.

“Probably just a burger,” Lliam answered.  He elongated his enunciation of ‘probably’ to give off the impression that he was, actually, considering other options.

“No fries?” Jim inquired, sounding mildly shocked with a hint of disappointment.

“Nah, not a fan,” Lliam said, hoping to conclude his preference investigation.

Jim subtly shakes his head in disapproval.  After another few seconds of examining the menu, Jim leans onto the raised counter.  The cashier pauses after Jim puts his elbow on the countertop, showing slight annoyance.  After the brief pause, the cashier asks his routine, “What can I get for you today?”

“I’ll take one of your double Brochacho burgers with everything, medium fry, and a drink,” Jim recounts.

“Double burger, medium fry and drink.  Anything else?” repeats the cashier.

“Nope, that’s all.  I’m paying for this guy, too,” Jim says while gesturing to Lliam.  Jim backs away from the counter while Lliam, who is caught off guard by the kind gesture, walks up to the counter.  The cashier takes a half-step closer to the counter now that Jim’s elbow is no longer resting there.  His annoyance, however, has not receded.

“I’ll just take a burger, plain,” Lliam says.

“Do you want cheese on that?  Or some fries?” the cashier asks.

“No, just a plain burger and a medium drink.  Thanks,” Lliam reassures.  He backs away from the counter as Jim walks back up to pay for their order.  Afterwards, they find a table in the middle of the dining room to wait on their food.  They sit across from each other, remaining quiet for a moment until Jim makes conversation.

“This place seems a little weird, don’t you think?” Jim asks, trying to break the silence.

“How so?” Lliam asks back, not picking up on the conversation-started Jim was trying to evoke.

“I don’t know; the guy up front, the location of this place… just, everything.  You don’t see it?” Jim asks again.

“Eh, it’s a little different I guess.  But a burger’s a burger,” Lliam answers, ending his sentence with what has never been, and will never be, a cliché.

“Speaking of weird….” Jim pauses as their food is delivered to their table.  They both thank the deliverer and claim their food.  As they begin to eat, Jim continues.  “No cheese, no fries, nothing?  Not much of a meal, is it?”

“I’m just a little plain I guess,” Lliam responds while taking a bite out of his burger.  “I don’t like all the toppings they put on burgers.  And fries just taste greasy to me.  I’d still call it a meal though, it fills me up.”

Lliam takes another bite of his sandwich while Jim continues to chew on his.  Lliam stares blankly down at the table, trying again to avoid another exploration of his likes and dislikes.  Jim looks slightly off to the right of Lliam, deep in thought.  They continue eating quietly until Jim chimes in.

“How many food groups on the Food Pyramid does an item need to have in order to be considered a meal instead of a snack?”

Lliam chews for a moment before answering back, “I think it depends more on the amount you eat.”

“Sometimes I eat more ice cream for a snack than I eat food for supper,” Jim replies, still chewing.  “I can eat more chips, or more wings, during a football game than I do at supper, but people still call that a snack.  It’s the lack of variety.”

Lliam, mouth full of hamburger, shrugs.  He does this in order not to elicit a response, or perhaps because he has suddenly become aware of his manners; don’t speak with food in your mouth.  Jim glares back at Lliam, waiting for a retort, but it doesn’t come.

“The bun,” Jim goes on, while lifting the bun off the top of his burger, “that’s in the grains category.  Then you have the hamburger meat,” he says, but quickly realizes he cannot easily pick it off his burger for exhibition.  Instead, he sticks out his tongue with chewed meat on it.  He puts his tongue and food back into his mouth to swallow before continuing.  “The cheese is dairy,” Jim holds up every piece to eye-level when saying it.  “The lettuce and tomato are vegetables.  The fries are-“

Lliam cuts him off, “Tomatoes are a fruit.”

“Even better!” Jim exclaims before going on.  “The lettuce is my vegetable, the tomato is my fruit!  My burger has five of the six food groups!  And the fries, with all this salt….” Jim pauses to grab a fry, dramatically rubs it around in pile of salt on his tray, and then uses it to scoop as much ketchup onto the fry as possible.  He then leans forward over the table, closer to Lliam (who has a very confused expression on his face), before sticking the fry into his mouth.  “That’s the top of the pyramid.”