Compiled and Edited by Laura Michelle Thomas, Senior Editor jaBlog!
The following short stories were submitted by LTC Insider Plus+ members for a weekly writing challenge. The challenge was to use the 16 lines listed below to compose an original short story of no more than 500 words. The lines were provided by other members who sent in the first complete sentence of page 28 of whatever book they were reading at the time. Each of these three writers won a complementary private coaching session with me as a reward for taking up the challenge.
1) Jyll takes the last bite of greens.
2) “Good-bye, Joe.”
3) “Don’t forget.”
4) “And is it that which makes you so miserable?”
5) Her hair is always sweaty and kind of crooked.
6) At last the guard returned.
7) Everyone should read something like this every once in a while.
8) The waves weren’t waves at all now.
9) It wasn’t a dream.
10) Then you come out fast, keep low, and lie down flat on the back seat.
11) It seems now as desirable and unobtainable as that gem-like star.
12) I had ill-judged him.
13) It would have made better sense to take the flowers out first.
14) He was missing two fingers on his left hand.
15) Such events were rare in his life.
16) “Oh, what was it?”
Dinner With Jill
by R. Ann(e) Irwin, Age 14, Canada
I ding the little bell on the counter. A man comes to the desk and takes my name.
“Joe Stallion?” He asks.
“Follow me.” He takes two menus from a shelf behind him and leads me to a table by the window.
I sit down and loosen my tie. It is unbearably warm in here. I wait, half expecting to end up eating alone. I stare out the window and at the lake. Before entering I had taken a moment to admire the gentle waves lapping at the shore. The waves weren’t waves at all now. They are merely ripples below the stars.
“Joe?” a familiar voice asks.
I turn to see who I am waiting for.
Jyll. She is so familiar. Her hair is always sweaty and kind of crooked. It’s nice to see her in a dress opposed to the orange jumpsuit. Behind her stands a guard. I study him intently. He looks like the intelligent type. He was missing two fingers on his left hand. I wonder how it happened.
Jyll sits down across from me. “Smile my dear.”
“I don’t like seeing you like this,” I say to her.
“And is it that which makes you so miserable?” she asks.
I just shrug.
“I’ll be right back. Don’t try anything.” The guard warns. I had ill-judged him. He wasn’t very intelligent.
Jyll nods and waves as he leaves. Once he is gone she reaches into her bra and pulls out a note. She hands it to me with a grin.
Come to the big house with me. Go to the squad car. Then you come out fast, keep low, and lie down flat on the back seat. That will get us together.
I smile at the note. Everyone should read something like this every once in a while. I slowly shake my head to myself. A year ago I would have jumped at the chance but not now. It seems now as desirable and unobtainable as that gem-like star.
“I have something for you,” I say quickly. It would have made better sense to take the flowers out first.
Jyll accepts them greedily, and then the waiter comes and takes our orders. We sit awkwardly for a few minutes. At last the guard returns.
“Oh, what was it? What made me deserve this?” he mumbles to himself and gestures towards Jyll. Such events were rare in his life.
The supper was quiet. We spoke very little. The guard makes some odd hand gestures and we both sigh. Jyll takes the last bite of greens. Then she stands and nods to me.
She begins to leave but then turns around and says in a low voice so the guard can’t hear, “Don’t forget.”
I turn away and hold my breath. I can feel her malicious smile eating into me as she leaves. I let out my air. It wasn’t a dream. Jyll had come and gone once again.
Written in the Stars
By Deepannita Misra, Age 18, India
Jyll takes the last bite of greens. She’s enjoying the sandwich. Her hair is always sweaty and kind of crooked. It’s knotted into a careless pony-tail, the way she keeps it. Her silence tells me that it has been a satisfying meal. Then she rests her fork and knife neatly in a cross on her plate. Ah, manners––they’re hard to shake off. And then she gets up with a jolt, pushing back the chair, as if suddenly made aware of the time.
“Won’t you stay for a while longer, love?”
“No, gotta leave. Good-bye, Joe. Don’t forget.”
Just as Jyll was leaving, she turned back. “Oh, what was it?” she said at the door.
Then she hugged me one last time and left to complete her packing. Or so I thought…
My last memory of her ends here. But something awful happened afterwards too. It wasn’t a dream. And everyone should read something like this once in a while.
Jyll never returned…
I am definitely much older today than at the time I’d come across Jyll first. I was in my fifties. She was, of course, in her twenties––a stranger to the suburbs, on vacation for a month at her Grandma’s. It was a villa with a security guard. He was missing two fingers on his left hand. That’s why I remember him. He was called Billy.
One day, Jyll emerged from the nursery balancing a huge potted fern and dahlias. It would have made better sense to take the flowers out first.
“And is that which makes you so miserable?” I hollered across the street, pointing at the plants.
“Aren’t you charming. Help please?” she laughed.
It began. A ten-minute walk to her driveway and a trivial conversation later, we became friends.
A month just flew by. We’d go star-gazing at the beach, staring at pretty gems in the sky, ‘Bellatrix’ star in particular. I’d visit her on weekends, and we talked endlessly. She taught me to live again. Only Billy always followed us to the garden, uneasy to see me with young Jyll. But it was pure friendship, I assure you. Once I even stared back at Billy unabashedly, as if to prove myself. At last the guard returned. Jyll laughed as it was all too funny.
Come to think of it, I shouldn’t have stared back. I had ill-judged him. He was just a security guard in the suburbs. Such events were rare in his life.
I don’t know where Jyll disappeared that night. But she’d taught me something valuable. Whenever life gives you opportunities to live again, at any age, you clutch them. Then you come out fast, keep low, and lie down flat on the back seat. You don’t let go.
The ocean was shimmering. The waves weren’t waves at all now. They resembled her hair. Everything reminded me of her. Bellatrix twinkled in the night sky. Our time together. It seems now as desirable and unobtainable as that gem-like star.
Only she’s gone…
by Sylvia Nica, Age 13, USA
The rain streaks the windows of the drab, grey building. She feels sad, but at last the guard returns to escort her out. She was waiting for a while, and she didn’t want to leave alone. Jyll takes the last bite of greens and throws the Styrofoam plate away.
“Good-bye, Jyll,” he says.
She watches him. “Good-bye, Joe.” Her hair is always sweaty and kind of crooked, and in the rain it swings around like a greasy curtain. He was missing two fingers on his left hand. I had ill-judged him, she thought, and she wonders what his life was before a prison guard. She can’t even remember her own.
“Can we go?” she asks, zipping up her leather coat. “Twelve years in this place made it grow on me.”
He laughs. “Don’t forget,” and hands her a bunch of flowers. “From the inmate from the cell next to yours. She still has two more years to go and wishes you free from any more trouble.”
She shrugs. It would have made better sense to take the flowers out first, maybe then she wouldn’t feel so depressed at leaving her friend. They always used to get in trouble together.
“And then I’ll get into more misfortune and have to talk to that judge again. Wasn’t his name…oh, what was it?”
“And is it that which makes you so miserable?”
Jyll looks up, startled. “Right now,” she says, “staying out of trouble seems impossible. I was born bad. It seems now as desirable and unobtainable as that gem-like star.”
He shrugs. When she was an inmate she could tell that such events were rare in his life, as prison guards don’t very much interact with former inmates. But he talked to her.
“Life is like a race car, Jyll,” he says. “It rushes at you and you think you’re gonna crash. But then you come out fast, keep low, and lie down flat on the back seat.”
She feels tears burn her eyes. “M’kay.” The warrant wasn’t a dream, she realizes. It sinks in that she really is free.
The guard rummages through his coat while she is silent and hands her a copy of Gone with the Wind. “Here. Everyone should read something like this every once in a while. Maybe it’ll keep you from trouble.”
Jyll waves good-bye at him, thanking him. He waves back. But right then, as she steps into the world, the waves weren’t waves at all now. Now they are ushering as she steps back into reality. As she watches his figure disappear into the distance, the fleeting conversation already fading, she squares her shoulder, the flowers drooping. If life is a race car, then she is going to drive it. She just hopes she doesn’t break it.
Zipping up her jacket, she ties up her hair and steps into the rain, ready to put those twelve years behind her. Because now Jyll is free, and trouble will not find her this time. She promises.