My Weekly Writing Challenge

For my challenge this week, I’m going to give you the opening line to your story. There’s no word limit, so it can be as short or as long as you like. Here’s the line:

John knew he’d gone too far this time – and there was no going back.

Last week’s challenge was a random line, which had to be included somewhere in your story. The line was:

I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this, I thought.

Here were the creative results:

Judith Westerfield sent a sequel to her story of the week before:

Stroppy eyed her lonely astronaut tethered next to her in space. “I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this,” she thought. “Now that we’ve nuzzled it’s time.” She bit cleanly through his safety tether and taking his gloved hand in hers pointed the jet thruster toward home. With a twinkle in her eye and terror in his, they zoomed off into the vacuum of space to meet Mom and Dad.

And she sent in a picture of Stroppy and her Astronaut:

Keith Channing sent in a story, which builds and builds:

Repent at leisure

I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this, I thought, as I signed my name at the bottom of the contract.

That was three weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, I was certain, positive, resolute about what I wanted. There was no doubt in my mind; none whatever. I had put up with the status quo for fifteen long years and had decided to take it no longer.

Now, I’m not so sure.

Now I realise that if I’d spoken about the things that annoyed, upset, distressed and frightened me, instead of keeping them all inside, I may not have ended up where I am today.

What made me do it? I don’t know. It was probably only a small thing; something that I’d normally shrug off, but as time passed, minor irritations had been festering inside for so long, that they became major issues. As a small crack in the wall of a dam can become a catastrophic fissure under the constant pressure of tidal flow, so the incessant crushing weight of annoyances caused something in my mind to crack. And I paid the money and signed the contract.

Three weeks later, the contract has been satisfied, the deed done.

Had I known then what I know now, I would never have signed the paper; never have handed over the money. I wouldn’t now be alone. I would still have a wife.

Kate Loveton felt inspired and sent in an excellent story:

Cassandra Miller had just settled her two girls in front of the TV, giving each a bowl of dry Cheerios to munch on, when there was a knock at the front door.

She looked through the small peephole and saw a man and woman in uniform. The woman was holding a large manilla envelope. Taking a deep breath, Cassandra opened the door.

“Mrs. Miller? Cassandra Miller?” asked the male cop.

Cassandra nodded and stepped outside, closing the door quietly behind her. “Yes. What can I do for you?”

“Ma’am, I’m Lieutenant Laura Ridgely and this is Sergeant Frank Rollins. We were hoping we could ask you a few questions,” said the female police officer. “Do you remember Tommy Boyle?”

Cassandra sighed. “Yes… the detective.”

“That’s right, ma’am. He told us you were instrumental in assisting him with the Dickerson case…”

Cassandra closed her eyes. The Dickerson case. Images of the young woman’s bones being dug up from a basement floor swam before her. She swayed slightly.

“Mrs. Miller? Are you alright?” asked Ridgely, touching her forearm.

Cassandra opened her eyes and stared into the woman’s face. It was a good face. Honest. “I’m fine. Detective Boyle sent you to me?”

Ridgely nodded.

“You do much of a business?” asked Rollins, pointing at the sign in the corner of Cassandra’s front window:


“Depends. Some weeks are better than others. Would you like to come in?”

“Please,” said Ridgely. “We’d like to show you a few things, let you handle them… We’re hoping you can help us, Mrs. Miller.”

She herded the pair inside, past the kids watching cartoons and into the kitchen. “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“No, thanks, we just want to ask – ”

Ridgely interrupted her partner. “That would be lovely – thank you. Sergeant Rollins likes his black, but I’d like a little milk in mine.”

Cassandra started the coffee and pulled what was left of a blueberry pie out of the refrigerator. “You’ll have to keep your voices down. I don’t want my kids hearing what you have to say.” She sliced the pie and pushed a plateful toward Rollins. “You look like a man who might be fond of pie, Sergeant.”

Ridgely smiled, noticing her partner’s paunch. Rollins eagerly took the pie.

After pouring the coffee, Cassandra sat down. “Well, I suppose you’re here to ask me to look at some photographs. That’s what Detective Boyle asked me to do last year. You know, I still have dreams about the Dickerson girl.  I swore after helping Boyle that I’d never get involved in another murder case. I don’t think I want to look at any photographs…”

For a moment, Laura Ridgely concentrated on her coffee. She understood how Miller felt. While it was a part of her job, she’d never gotten used to looking at the photographs that crossed her desk daily – photographs of beaten wives, starved children, sociopaths, rapists. If what Boyle said about Miller was right, it had to be ten times worse for her.

She briefly studied the young mother. Her face was pale, drawn, and her eyes had a haunted expression. Did she already sense something? She was tempted to tell Miller to forget it, that they would find another way to solve the case.

But in those few seconds of weakening resolve, she remembered Jenna Hurst’s mother. Jenna was the latest girl to go missing over the past several months. Her mother’s hysterical pleas that the NYPD find Jenna had spurred Ridgely to consider Boyle’s suggestion to contact Miller.

When Boyle had first told her about Miller’s ‘talents,’ she’d been cynical.  Now she was desperate.  They needed a break in this case – and if Miller could help them, she’d put aside her skepticism. I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this; I thought Boyle was full of shit – and now I’m about to try to convince this woman to look at photographs of missing girls in hopes she can come up with something useful.

Coming to a decision, she pushed her coffee cup aside and tapped the envelope she’d placed on the table.

“Mrs. Miller, I know this is a lot to ask, but we need your help. Several young women have been reported missing over the past few months. They seem to have several things in common. We’d like you to take a look at their photos. We… um… well, we have a few of their personal items, things supplied by the families… we’d like you to look at those, too. Give us your impressions.”

Cassandra picked at the cuticle of her thumb, a nervous habit she’d never been able to break. “You think those girls are dead, don’t you?”

Rollins placed his fork on his empty plate. “Yes ma’am, I’m afraid we do. But we can’t seem to figure out the where, the who or the why of it.” He frowned. “We weren’t keen on coming to visit you. If you want to know the truth, I’ve never been one for this hocus pocus baloney.”

“Frank, please,” muttered Ridgely. She looked directly into Cassandra’s eyes. “Boyle told us that you were the one who told him to dig up the basement of Mary Dickerson’s next door neighbor. When they did, Mary’s remains were found beneath the dirt floor.

“How did you know that, Mrs. Miller? Boyle told us you held the photograph of Mary Dickerson in your hands… and you just knew. How did you know?”

The worried cuticle of Cassandra’s thumb began to bleed and she quickly brought it to her mouth, sucking away the little bit of blood. When it stopped bleeding, she sighed. “I don’t think I can explain it except to say I have a gift.”

“A gift?” repeated Rollins.

“Yes sir, that’s what my grandmother called it. She had it, too. It sometimes seems more like a curse. I don’t mind telling you that a lot of the stuff I see, I wish I didn’t… like that poor girl’s bones laying beneath that creep’s floor, just crying out for someone to find them. I sure wish I hadn’t had to see that!”

“I wonder,” said Ridgely, her voice thoughtful, “if your grandmother wasn’t right. In some sense, it is a gift. You brought justice to that girl, and closure to her family. If that isn’t a gift, I don’t know what is.”

“Well, Lieutenant, it’s a mighty expensive one.”

“The best gifts often are.” Ridgely pushed the large envelope across the table toward Cassandra. “Inside this envelope are the photos and personal effects we’d like you to look at.”

“Not now. I can’t look at those now. If I do this, I’d rather wait until my girls’ daddy gets home from work and can keep watch over them. If I start looking at those things and get upset, there won’t be anyone to keep track of my children.” Tears suddenly welled up in Cassandra’s eyes and she rubbed a shaky hand across her forehead.

“Dear God, I thought I was done with you people! I promised my husband I wouldn’t get involved in another case. You don’t know… you can’t… how much this sort of thing takes out of me.”

“But the readings,” said Rollins, “you do readings for people. Is that a gimmick or it is for real?”

“It’s not a gimmick, Sergeant. It’s part close observation and part feeling. I watch the people I’m doing readings for, get a feel for them based on their appearance, their body language… but the rest of it is intuition… the gift.”

“Do readings take much out of you?” he asked.

“Not like what you want! Seeing photos of dead girls, touching their stuff! It sends something cold right down into my soul. I feel the horror those girls felt, their fear… Sometimes, if I’m given a photo of a suspect, I see through his eyes what he’s done.

“The Dickerson case was the last straw for me. I still wake up looking through that boy’s eyes at what he did. I still hear that girl’s cries. I don’t know that I can go through that again!”

Ridgely reached across the table for Cassandra’s hand, hating herself for forcing the issue. “I know how difficult this must be for you.”

“No, you don’t! Not really.”

“Okay, you’re right,” conceded Ridgely, pulling her hand back. “There’s no way I can really know what you’re experiencing. But I’ll tell you what I do know: we need your help. Those girls need your help. Their parents need your help. Please, Mrs. Miller, won’t you help us?”

Ridgely watched Cassandra bring her thumb to her mouth, and again bite at the cuticle surrounding the nail.

“Mama, can we have some more cereal?” asked the towheaded, five-year old, standing in the kitchen doorway, dragging a worn teddy bear.

Cassandra looked at the little girl. “Leah, you get on back into the living room. I’ll bring you some juice and cereal in a minute, baby.”

“Cute kid,” observed Rollins, watching the child’s pajama-clad feet scamper back into the living room.

Ridgely then went for the kill. “You’re a lucky woman, Mrs. Miller, to have a sweet little girl like that. I bet you’d do just about anything to keep her safe.”

“Yes, ma’am, I sure would. My girls mean everything to me.”

Ridgely nodded, pointing to the envelope. “There’s a photo of a girl named Jenna Hurst in that envelope. A few days ago, I had to tell her mother that we haven’t been able to find out anything about her daughter’s whereabouts. That was real hard. You see, Jenna meant everything to her…”

Cassandra smiled bitterly. “You don’t play fair, Lieutenant.”

“No, Mrs. Miller, I don’t. And I suspect that if Jenna Hurst was your daughter, you wouldn’t want me to play fair, either. You’d want me to do anything I could, bully anyone I had to, if it helped find your daughter.”

Cassandra said nothing, staring at the bloody mess that was her thumb’s cuticle.

“Am I wrong, Mrs. Miller?” asked Ridgely, her voice hard.

A moment went by, then Cassandra looked up. She sighed heavily and rose to her feet. She picked up the envelope. “No, you’re not wrong.  I’ll look at your photos.  Damn you…”

©All Rights Reserved Kate Loveton and Odyssey of a Novice Writer

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16 Responses to My Weekly Writing Challenge

  1. Steve says:

    John knew he’d gone too far this time – and there was no going back. “Ahem!”, said Elvis, the impatient Los Vegas Wedding Chapel guy, “I said, you may now kiss the bride!” Later, as he packed his bags for their trip to his apartment in London, John thought, ‘obviously, what happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas’. It was going to be a long plane ride.

  2. Pingback: Free writing challenge | TanGental

    • Thanks Geoff. I’d love to do this but will have to pass. I’m currently working full time copywriting for Vodafone in the day and then coming home and tutoring in the evenings. It’s only for a couple of months, but I feel I barely have time to breathe at the moment. Another time and thanks for the nomination 🙂

  3. TanGental says:

    Poor John – a poem

    John knew he’d gone to far this time
    And there was no going back;
    His punishment was sure to follow
    For the pants he’d forgot to pack.

    Shirts and shorts were missing too;
    He’d nothing but his socks.
    And cycling two hundred miles
    He’d really miss his jocks.

    For John was a well-hung man
    – his parts were in demand-o;
    But nothing could prepare poor John
    For biking when commando.

  4. Kate Loveton says:

    Hi Esther! Enjoyed the submissions from last week as well as the two I’ve seen thus far for this week (TanGental’s poem put a huge grin on my face!).

    Thanks for letting me be part of last week’s writing challenge. 🙂

  5. John knew he’d gone too far this time – and there was no going back.

    He had been over this scenario in his mind a thousand times and the outcome had been different on each occasion. Not only did the result vary, his reaction to it did, too. He had seen the highest highs and the lowest lows, peaks of elation and depths of despair.

    Countless times, he had asked himself what he would do; how he would handle it if he found himself forced to make a decision, an irreversible, irrevocable commitment which allowed no ‘get-out clause’, no second chance, no escape route.

    And now, here he was. The time he had been planning for, hoping for, working for, and yet dreading, had arrived.

    John raised his head from the screen he’d been staring at for what felt like hours but was, in fact, only seconds. His heart in his mouth, his stomach tying itself in indescribable knots, he forced himself to look his inquisitor in the eye as he uttered the words that would make or break him; lift him to glory beyond his dreams or reduce him to misery that went further and deeper than his worst nightmares:

    “C – Sodium metabisulphite. Final answer.”

  6. JasonMoody77 says:

    John knew he had gone too far this time-there was no going back.

    The Tom Tom Had once again lied to him.

    He pulled out a packet of crisps from the glove compartment.

    It was going to be a long wait.

  7. JasonMoody77 says:

    John knew he had gone to far this time
    There was no going back
    What slipped from his lips
    Lacked any tack

    She recoiled in hurt
    As if shot by a gun
    John knew that this night
    Would not be much fun

    She stormed from the party
    With tears in her eyes
    Ignoring the echo
    Of Johns pitiful cries

    Into the night
    Tears making her blind
    She never saw it coming
    The car from behind

    A second had passed
    As she hit the ground
    John found her frozen
    Not making a sound

    He cried and he shook her
    His regret was now strong
    But with this he must live
    As she was now gone

    John knew he had gone too far this time
    There was no going back
    But his one true love
    From his life would lack

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