Courage at the End – Friday Fictioneers

This is my 100th Friday Fictioneers story, which means that I’ve written 10,000 words since I’ve started the Friday Fictioneers. Here’s to 10,000 more. Also, those of you who got here through the Friday Fictioneers portal saw that I have a new icon, different from my normal Delta Sigma one. This signals new things to come. More details to come later.

GWT logo

copyright Melanie Greenwood

copyright Melanie Greenwood

Courage at the End

The couple sat with the vaccine lying between them.

“You take it,” the woman said.

“Then you and the baby will die. Let the baby have it.”

“But if we die, who will care for him?”

“We have to do something soon.”

They sat there silently, as time slipped away.

*        *        *

“That’s it?” the professor asked.

“It’s up to the reader how it ends,” the student said.

“Are you kidding me? You can’t be timid as a writer! Choose an ending and stand behind it.”

“Fine, they give it to the baby.”

“The baby? That was the stupidest choice! You fail.”

 


After Spouse

This is not my typical kind of story, but if you’ve followed me long enough, you know I like to try new things.

After Spouse

I took Cecil’s wrinkled hand when he knelt in front of me, descending slowly onto arthritic knees. I saw the pain in his face and almost stopped him but I knew it was important to him.

I said yes, of course. When you date a septuagenarian, it’s for life, if only because there’s not much of it left.

For him, at least.

We honeymooned in Tahiti. I would have loved to go snorkeling together, but it wasn’t really an option, not after his bypass surgery three years before. So we spend a lot of time sitting on the beach, holding hands until he drifted off to sleep. It was nice; peaceful.

My best friend Cheryl visited me a week after we got back. We sat by the pool behind Cecil’s mansion—now mine too—and sipped drinks.

“What are you planning on doing after?” Cheryl asked.

“After what?” I asked absently. I was thinking of what to make for dinner.

“You know . . . after your marriage.”

I stared at her, shocked she would say such a thing. “I haven’t thought about it,” I said. “Geez, I just got married two weeks ago and I’m supposed to be thinking beyond it?”

“It wouldn’t hurt,” Cheryl said, sitting up. “Listen, you’re not going to grow old together. He started doing that when you were in university. You can’t tell me you married him without a plan, that you would have married him if he’d been poor.”

Probably not, I had to admit, but to say that seemed to cheapen our marriage. I married him because I loved him. Didn’t I?

“I love him,” I said. Cheryl nodded, with skeptical eyes.

I realized soon enough how naïve I had been. Cheryl had been the most candid, but everyone I knew seemed to take it for granted that I was a gold digger, just out for Cecil’s money. “Of course, of course,” they would reassure me, smoothing back the social veneer when I protested at their hints and insinuations.

Five years later, I sat by Cecil as he lay in the hospital bed. IV lines invaded the hand that had so lovingly held mine, oxygen tubes filled the nose that had brushed my cheek when he kissed me. I gripped his hand and felt our life slipping away.

“My dear,” he said, opening his eyes. I kissed his hand, accidentally wetting it with my tears.

“Don’t leave me,” I said.

He closed his eyes again and smiled faintly. “Thank you. Thank you for sharing the last few years of my life with me. My estate is all yours. Go be free and live well.”

“I don’t want your money, I want you,” I said. “I never wanted anything but you. Believe me, please!”

The smile remained on his lips, but he slipped away before he could answer, and I was left alone.

I wanted to give all his money away, just to silence the snide comments and knowing looks. I gave away all that I could afford, making the gossips add ‘stupid’ to ‘gold digger.’

I don’t care anymore. When I visit his gravestone, the accusing voices all fade away and it’s just the two of us again, sitting on the beach together in Tahiti, happy.


Waiting for Hubby – Friday Fictioneers

copyright The Reclining Gentleman

copyright The Reclining Gentleman

Waiting for Hubby

“Aren’t you cold out here, Grandma?”

“No.” She stared out at the monochromatic sea, ruffled by a chilly breeze. “I’m just waiting for my husband. He should be here soon.”

Poor Grandma. Her mind was adrift, like a ship becalmed on a foggy sea. I didn’t have the heart to tell her Grandpa was ten years gone and buried.

I was just leaving when the sea erupted in spray and a huge man emerged.

Grandma caught my look of shock. “My first husband . . .”

“Poseidon?”

She laughed. “That water lily? No, this is Njörðr.”

Good on you, Grandma. Good on you.

 


The Numberless Clock Society

This week I tried Rochelle’s brand of historical fiction, as sort of a tribute to her excellent storytelling. Of course, being me, I couldn’t do it straight, so this is alternate universe historical fiction.

Copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

Copyright Douglas M. MacIlroy

The Numberless Clock Society

The meetings of the Numberless Clock society were held in a lower room of a Glasgow pub.

“Imagine no clocks: no schedules or appointments to keep,” I, the leader, railed after a few pints. “Imagine banks, empty and powerless. We need to dump the gold coins into the ocean and extricate ourselves from the stranglehold of the invisible hand of commerce. That’s Locke’s true state of nature.”

Adam was in charge of figuring out how to take down the financial system. However, in time, he drifted away and eventually joined the enemy camp. He even stole my words, the traitor.

 

** Read more about the Invisible Hand here**


“I’m Sorry”

“I’m Sorry”

“I’m sorry.”

I wanted to punch him, to smash that smarmy, false-penitent expression off his face. I spit at him through the bars. “What gives you the right to be sorry?”

“You don’t want me to be sorry? To regret what I did?”

“So that what? I can forgive you and you can die in peace? My wife didn’t die in peace or her parents or my parents or any of the thousands of people under your charge.” If it wasn’t for the bars protecting him, I would have choked him. “You herded us like animals! You fed us slops and garbage and sent droves off to the gas chambers, for years! And now, now you’re sorry?”

“Yes,” he said, head bowed.

I stormed off and spent a sleepless night wrestling with thoughts and images that would not die. I returned to his cell at daybreak and sat watching him until he awoke.

“I cannot forgive you,” I said. “Not today, at least. But tell me, why did you do it?”

“I was young and needed a job,” he began. “I started at a desk, but I was diligent and got promoted. After that . . .”

We talked all day. There were millions of bricks in that edifice of hate between us but with those two words, “I’m sorry”, a few bricks had fallen. As the day went on, they continued to fall.


5 Ways to Increase Your Blog Readership

This is my 500th post here on the Green-Walled Tower so hopefully I’ve learned a thing or two about blogging.

If I had a euro for every post I've made here...

If I had a euro for every post I’ve made here…

Like any blogger, I’m always trying to grow my readership and I’ve been analyzing how to do that. Here is what I’ve concluded, based on my own stats.

5. Do collaborate.

The best thing about blogging is that there is likely a market for whatever you writing: readers with blogs of their own. If you can join a group (as in my case, Friday Fictioneers or Sunday Photo Fiction) and participate actively, it gives you a built-in audience of like-minded individuals.

4. Do give useful information.

My fifth-highest post, in terms of hits, is called How to Eat a Triangle Kimbap, and is about just that. In fact, a lot of my posts about Korea got consistently more hits than others, since it’s something that people can use in their lives. Granted, I don’t do this much, since I usually can’t resist making up fake information for laughs, like my Rejected Apple Devices article. But useful information is a good idea, is what I’m saying.

3. Do write about things that at least sound naughty.

My third most viewed post is called Getting Naked With Strangers (in Korea). It is all about the experience of going to a Korean sauna. I posted it just like any other informative article about Korea but then noticed in the following weeks and months that it was getting a lot of hits through search results like naked korea, and korean men naked. It’s even had one today, from the search terms naked korean men. This tip is a little sneaky, since it will get you page hits, but probably not readers. I guarantee that at least 95% of the people who have clicked on that blog post did not go away satisfied because my article was quite G-rated. But it looks good on your blog stats.

censored

Censored? Hmm, now I’m curious…

2. Don’t write serial stories.

This one pains me a little, since I like to longer stories. Longer stories let you explore themes and characters and the only way to avoid posting a 5,000-word post that will be TL;DR’d by everyone who comes across it is to break it into segments.

Now it is possible to write a really great serial story that goes on for a long time and only gets better. Dysfunctional Literacy’s The Literary Girlfriend is an excellent example of this. However, in my experience with serial stories, hits decline sharply as the series goes on. New readers don’t have time to go back and read the previous installments and if they miss a week, it’s hard to catch up.

From what I have found, if you are going to write serial stories, make sure that each installment can stand on its own as an independent story. This is very hard to do, especially once a series gets going. I have also found that when I do post a story with several parts, it’s best to post them only a few days apart, so that people don’t forget what is happening in the story.

1. Don’t write fiction.

This one really kills me, since I run a fiction blog. Out of my 500 posts, 389 have been stories (fiction) but out of my top ten most viewed posts, only 2 of them are fiction and only 10 of my top 25 are fiction. Obviously, I’m not saying not to write fiction or that I’m going to give it up, but if you want a lot more readers, fiction is a difficult way to do it. There are a couple possible reasons for this: people don’t search for fiction online like they search for information and news; fiction is harder to skim when you don’t have much time, etc.

Pictured: fiction [*]

Pictured: fiction [*]

In conclusion, there are lots of ways to get more readers but the best way is to produce high quality, creative content. As my sister once told me, “whatever you write, make it really, really good.” This may seem obvious but it’s easy to let things slip after hundreds of posts and just post for the sake of posting. But I’m going to keep trying to think of new, fresh ideas for stories and posts for another 500 posts and beyond. That’s the plan, at least.


Beating Swords into Saxophones – Friday Fictioneers

Beating Swords into Saxophones

The Earth was snoozing peacefully—the sunny Sunday afternoon of history—when the aliens came to prod through what remained of human civilization, oohing and ahhing in incomprehension over our ruined cities and quaintly antique technology.

They found our weapon caches delightful. The casing of a Minuteman made a pleasant booming when hit with the butt of an M-16 and .50 bullets strung up on trip wire cable laughed and sang as they tinkled together in the wind.

Then one poked at a landmine, with explosive results. “Save that for the concert,” the leader said. “That’ll be the grand finale.”


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