Written by Diane Passero and Jim Master


Maggie has an insanely jealous husband. One day she comes home after having her nails done and mentions to her husband that Lee did a nice job on her nails but her thumb was bleeding.

He says, “Lee? Sounds like a guy?” She inadvertently blips out, “He is. He used to be a construction worker.” And then her husband stands from the dining room table where they were having dinner, and starts to leave the room. 

“Where are you going?” Maggie asks. Her husband doesn’t answer her, instead he just slams the door shut. Maggie can hear him outside revving up his Harley Davidson. After a minute of listening, Maggie can’t hear the sounds of the motorcycle. “Dang it.” She states.

The loud roar of the Harley woke the baby and he began to cry prompting Maggie to give up worrying about what her insanely jealous husband might or might not do the instance she heard the baby wail. She walked into the nursery and looked down into the crib and almost had a heart attack. There was no baby, but the sound of screams from her infantile boy were so close that the baby might’ve been invisible. Panic stricken, Maggie dropped to the ground and peered underneath the crib. She saw nothing. Nothing at all.

She sobbed, “Oh Malachi, I miss you so. I hear your cries as if you were still here whenever your father starts his Harley.” Maggie pulled herself together, grabbed her shawl, and decided she is going to put an end to this madness once and for all.

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Under the Big Top: A Tale of Elephants and Betrayal

Written by: Lizzie Pangallo, Brandy Bohm, Lori Hicks, Diane Passero, and Jim Master

Ted always knew that he was going to commit suicide, but he didn’t think that there would be a clown in the room when he finally got around to doing the deed. 

“Why the long face fella?” Inquired Yahtzee the Clown. Running away from his wife and kids to join the circus was a horrible idea, but Ted still could not even consider going back. Death was the lesser of two evils. But he couldn’t help but think about what he’d be leaving behind. He had found love with the bearded lady, after all. Something he hadn’t felt in years. Ted had always held a special love for beards and the women that wore them. If Freud was still around, then he would have presumed that Ted’s mother also rocked a beard. Maybe that was why Ted was attempting suicide by jumping off the high wire.

To his dismay, he realized in midair, that the trampoline was directly under the tightrope. It seems that Ted can’t even kill himself right! Yahtzee applauded as Ted safely landed. “That was a great jump. You should do that in the show.”

Ted was brought to tears by his failure to off himself, but the bearded lady Mina threw her arms around his scrawny neck and shouted, “My brave little acrobat!” He ended up crying, but his sobs were muffled by the heavy wool of a beard his beloved wore. Suddenly, the rest of the circus crew had come into the ring. Ted hadn’t realized how close it was to show time. Elephants painted pink were being herded into the ring.

Mina kissed Ted and told him to “have a good show” as Ted begrudgingly trudged off to apply his make up and sequins. He starred into the mirror and thought, “Why, oh why did I tell the boss that I wanted to be an elephant showgirl?”

“You’re on in five,” the stage manager barked as he whizzed by. Ted took one last look in the mirror, adjusted his long pink wig and his fake breasts, and headed to the elephants. Elephants Daisy and George looked like they wanted to kill the stage manager. Ted knew how they felt. They were more painted and shimmering than he was. Ted was lined up with all the other show “girls” as they waited to prance out in front of the elephants to end the show on a high note. Ted looked around for his bearded love or for Yahtzee, but couldn’t find them anywhere. He was a little disappointed but knew they’d already seen this show too many times. Hopefully, they’ll wait for him before they crack open the boxed wine.

Little did Ted know, Yahtzee and Mina were off doing more than just drinking that wine.

“Mina, are you sure this spot is safe? It seems a little odd to be making out under the monkey cage. And the smell is awful.” Yahtzee asked.

“No dear,” replied Mina while slipping off her beard.

Meanwhile, Ted nervously mounted an elephant. The elephant sensed Ted’s tension and flared his trunk, swinging it wildly, knocking Ted’s breasts onto the circus floor, trouncing them until they were as flat as pancakes. The crowd went wild, believing his sudden elephantal mastectomy was all part of the show. Ted stood up, dusted himself off and ran out of the big top in total embarrassment. Running toward the trailer he shared with Mina, he thought about how he should just ask her to run away with him. They could leave it all behind and start anew. Mina would never have to wear that furry, although somewhat sexy beard again and Ted could be shimmer free. Almost to the trailer, he could hear a strange yet familiar sound. It was coming from the monkey cage.

The monkeys were going crazy in the menagerie tent. Ted debated whether he should investigate or not. He really wanted to just wash the filth of the horrible day off of him, but then he thought of how the monkeys had always found a way to cheer him and were the closest things he had to friends. He headed toward the menagerie tent reluctantly. He paused and recalled the day he had held a tiny baby monkey, Jimmy, in his arms and fed him a bottle of formula. This made him reflect on the day his daughter was born. She was so tiny and perfect. Why did he ever leave her?

As Ted got closer to the cages he noticed another sound intermingled with the monkey’s chatter. It was the sound any father would know well, the sound of a baby burping. “Wait” he said aloud to no one, “that burping sound was the sound Mina always made when she was eating hot dogs. Aw Mina, my love.” Ted walked into the monkey cage. He was beginning to recall why he left his nagging wife and his dear children. None of them could hold a candle to his bearded wonder of a lady. 

And then he saw Yahtzee standing there looking at him in panicked shock. He was stuffing Mina’s fake beard in his giant yellow pants in a hurry to cover up their tryst, but Ted knew what it meant if Mina wasn’t wearing her beard. He’d taken it off many times.

“What is going on here?” Ted asked the partners of crime. The scene that had unfolded in front of Ted was one of carnal carnival passion. Mina’s face was speckled with white clown paint and as her cheeks grew a bright red, she bore resemblance to her fellow adulterer. Mina stood up from the peanut shell and banana peel littered floor half naked.

“Ted my love, you mustn’t lose your head. He means nothing.” Hearing her excuse, Ted grew a pair of balls, and for the first time in his life he got into a fist fight. He dove for Yahtzee and ripped off his large bulbous nose. Then he punched Yahtzee so hard that the clown landed in a pile of monkey poo, face first.

Mina, mortified to be naked and beardless, got up from under the monkey cage and ran toward the trailer she shared with Ted. That boxed wine was sounding really good. She locked the door behind her, got her wine glass, and tapped open the box. It was then that she started to really think about the situation. Ted was a great guy. “Why, oh why did you cheat on him?” She thought, “They were going to run away together. They were going to start a family together.”

While Mina was reflecting on her indiscretion, the fight between Ted and Yahtzee had escalated. Yahtzee, with a crazed look in his sad clown eyes, was now holding a knife to Ted’s throat. In the first time in his wretched life, Ted knew what it was like to be alive and he was going to live damn it. So he looked into Yahtzee’s crazed eyes and not knowing what else to do, kissed him square on the lips. Yahtzee, startled by this unexpected but welcome gesture on Ted’s part, dropped the knife and kissed him back.

A few glasses of cheap wine and thirty minutes later, Mina decided to go out and find Ted with the goal of apologizing and begin him to taker her back. What she found in monkey cage wasn’t carny fight she’d thought she’d find. Instead, the now grown monkey, Jimmy walked up to her and handed her a banana. Mina, confused, took the banana from Jimmy and examined it and found a note tied to the fruit. She unfolded the piece of paper and read out loud.

“Mina, my love, I am truly sorry. Yahtzee and I are running away together, never to live the carny life ever again. I know that this might be hard to comprehend, but we found love and we won’t give it up. I hope you don’t try and find us. I want to thank you for all the precious moments we had together. I know now that my love for bearded women was, in its self, a beard for my homosexuality. Loving you, just not in that way any longer, Ted.”

Mina sobbed all the way back to her trailer, drank the rest of the wine, and passed out unceremoniously. 

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Writing Prompt 12/11/13

Righting wrongs.  Taking that other fork in the road.  What would you do if you could do it over?  Would you ask that woman at the coffee shop if she would let you buy that latte for her?  Would you backpack across Europe?  Would you have ended that last fight with, “Let’s not do this now.  We’re angry and it’s not helping.  I love you.  We’ll talk later.”?  People don’t get time machines, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go back.  Pick something you’d change if given the chance, and let your character live that change for you.  What happens?  Is it the happiness you didn’t find or does it end up being a disaster?  Do you save someone’s life only to find someone else has died in their place?  You can share here in the comments or on our Google Groups page.

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Writing Prompt 12/4/13

What is your deepest fear?  I’m not necessarily talking about phobias here, but if your greatest fear just happens to be a giant spider eating your face off after it has paralyzed you with a neurotoxin, I won’t judge.  Is it being alone?  Death?  Being forgotten?  Spend some time really thinking about the things that terrify you, and then inflict those things on your character.  You can post here in the comments or on our Google Groups page.

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Writing Prompt 11/27/13

Happy almost Turkey Day!  I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been baking in preparation for tomorrow and will be up early to cook all day for the holiday feast.  So, your writing prompt, should you choose to accept it, is to take an element of Thanksgiving and transplant it into a story or scene that has nothing to do with Thanksgiving.  Will your character work for the summer on a turkey farm?  Maybe she’s a baker who has lost her love of baking.  Or, for those more inclined to bad stuff, maybe someone loses their family in a storm?  Or in a plane crash?  These are just some ideas.  Make a list of some of your favorite things about Thanksgiving and then use them outside of that context to see what happens.  You can post here in the comments or on our Google Groups page.

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Writing Prompt 11/20/13

What can you tell from body language?  Well, a lot actually.  Go through some of your own photos.  They can be solo shots, family shots, hanging out with friends, whatever.  Just make sure there are people.  If you don’t want to use your own photos, do a Google Images search, or ask someone you know if you can look through their photos.  If you know the people in the pictures, pretend you don’t.  What does the body language tell you?  Make up a story involving these people based only on their body language.  You can post here in the comments or on our Google Groups page.

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Writing Prompt 11/13/13

Today’s prompt is about the Butterfly Effect.  You can go about this in one of two ways.  Or, if you’re ambitious, try them both.

1) Start out from the cause.  Choose something innocent.  Perhaps someone sneezed several times in a row.  Maybe someone had an eyelash in their eye.  Maybe someone overslept by 10 minutes.  You get the idea.  Formulate a chain of events from that insignificant initiating incident.  You should end up at something catastrophic.  It could be a volcanic eruption that destroys a small pacific island full of people.  Or, it could be the death of the character’s next door neighbor’s child.  Who knows?  Follow your chain of events and see where it leads you.

2) Start from the effect.  Perhaps there was a hurricane that destroyed parts of Texas.  Maybe a school bus full of children was hit by an Amtrak train.  Whatever effect you choose, work backwards from it and reverse engineer your cause.  Stop when you can’t make the action any more insignificant.

At their core, stories are all basically the Butterfly Effect.  Something happens, which starts off this chain of reactions until the story resolves itself.  They have more flourishes to them, more devices that are involved, but it’s pretty much the same process.  This exercise allows you to strip away the story so you can focus on the chain.  What can you come up with if you don’t have to worry about the story to go with it?  Find the chain, and then fill in the story later and see what you end up with.  You can post here in the comments or on our Google Groups page.

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