Friday, June 05, 2015

Writing contest!



At the suggestion of Colin Smith, we're going to celebrate the publication of Gary Corby's latest Athenian mystery DEATH EX MACHINA.






The usual rules apply:

1. Write a story using 100 words or fewer.

2. Use these words in the story:

stage
actor
crane
chorus
ghost


3. You must use the whole word, but that whole word can be part of a larger word. The whole word must appear intact if it's part of a larger word:
ghost/ghostly is ok but stage/stagnate is not.

4. Post the entry in the comment column of THIS blog post.

5. One entry per person. If you need a mulligan (a do-over) erase your entry and post again) It helps to work out your entry first and then post.

5. International entries are allowed, but prizes may vary for international addresses.

6. Titles count as part of the word count (you don't need a title)

7. Under no circumstances should you tweet anything about your particular entry to me. Example: "Hope you like my entry about Felix Buttonweezer!" This is grounds for disqualification.

8. Please do not post comments that are anything other than contest entries. Save your huzzahs for the results column on Monday.



Contest opens: Saturday June 6 10am

Contest closes: Sunday June 7 10am
(let's see if I can manage to get this done on time this week!)



Questions? Tweet to me @Janet_Reid
Ready? SET?

NOT YET!
ENTER! 

CONTEST IS CLOSED!

71 comments:

Kitty said...

Director: "NICO AND DIOTIMA, CENTER STAGE. CHORUS, DOWNSTAGE RIGHT."

Assistant: "QUIET ON THE SET! DEATH EX MACHINA: SCENE 3, TAKE 14."

Director: "ACTION!"

Actor: "You'll get rid of the ghost?"

A crane creaked in the background lowering someone on a rope.

Director: "What the... CUT!"

Director: "This isn't the dead body scene! Who is that?"
Assistant: "Gary's agent, Janet."
Director: "Again? I thought you locked the set?"

"Janet, daaah-ling, so good of you to drop in."

"About Gary's contract..."

"You got him everything: money front and back, residuals, even gross points! What's left?"

"A bigger trailer."

"You're a shark, Janet."

LynnRodz said...

He worked in a factory his whole life.

One day a movie director came to scout a location and saw him.

"I want you in my new film, Death Ex Machina."

He looked at the man with the silk scarf knotted around his neck and at the hangers-on who chorused his every word.

"You'll be the hero, save the hostages, get more roles. Or, you wanna' operate cranes and work in this hellhole all your life? Here's my card."

He glanced at it.

BigHost Productions
Gary Corby Producer/Director

He handed the card back. "No thanks. I own this hellhole."

Jeff Deitering said...

So, I’m dangling from a tower CRANE above Downtown and it occurs to me that, even upside-down, the skyline is kinda pretty.

A kit of pigeons winged past my dangling arms. Their CHORUS of coos upSTAGEd the tranquility of the moment. Goddamn tree rats.

Felix the Fixer, that buttonwheezer prick, hopped onto a trACTOR and towed a Port-O-Crapper directly under me. In retrospect, dine and dashing on his little sister wasn’t such a good idea.

Although the forced inversion felt great on my back, I knew there wasn’t a GHOST of a chance I was escaping this shitty ending.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

The 420 hp monster tractor purred as Betsy backed it into their yard. A chilly breeze whipped her shirttail when she climbed from the cab.

Grackles chorused from the lone ghostly oak.

She’d poisoned the buckthorns, mowed off the honeysuckles, even chopped down the maples and pines. Her son-in-law, who lived here too and farmed their land, had protested. But it was her family farm. Nothing was going to upstage her oak tree.

But it failed to thrive.

She hooked the tow chain to the tractor then craned her neck. Her vision blurred. She would miss the old family home.

Peggy Rothschild said...

Nine hundred sixty-five. Roland sighed, the ghost of whiskey haunting his breath. He hadn’t properly factored how long these stupid cranes would take.

According to Gloria, if you folded all 1,000 on your birthday, your wish came true. She swore that’s how she got her boyfriend. Roland creased another paper square. He flashed on Gloria smiling as everyone chorused ‘Happy Birthday’. He’d blown out the candles, but cake wishes didn’t work. He hoped Gloria was right about origami ones. He couldn’t stand being hostage to these feelings any longer.

Maybe now Gloria would see him as more than a friend.

Gabriella said...

Elizabeth craned her neck and reached deep into the mailbox to remove the large padded envelope. She bristled, preparing herself for the mortgage foreclosure documents. Instead, large blue letters declared: RETURNED DUE TO INSUFFICIENT POSTAGE. The package was addressed to the Cayman Islands in her late husband’s ghostly handwriting

Grabbing a plastic knife from last night’s dinner, she tore open the envelope. Inside, legal documents named his young secretary as benefactor. To a numbered bank account. Containing three million dollars.

Tears spilled down her face. While the Hallelujah chorus erupted in her head.

Kate Higgins said...

In this stage of life you would think I would have figured out who and what I am; mother, actor, chorus girl? I always wondered what I’d be when I grew-up but when is ‘grown-up’? I’ve tried on many jobs…and men. I’ve been in good and bad relationships. I’ve seen horrible evil in the world and complete and utter joy.

Do I have the courage now to face reality? Or am I wearing my own red badge of courage too close to my heart (thank you, Stephen Crane). Today is all I have; tomorrow never comes for a ghost.

Lobo said...

The war not five days over and this greenhorn was fixing to get the President killed. Christ! If the Union’d had parlor soldiers like that at Appomattox, we’d be a chorus singing Dixie.

“B-But, Chief,” the kid stuttered and craned his neck toward the balcony seats. “S-Someone could sneak behind—”

“Ridiculous!” I huffed and slapped the stage. “Request denied. Next you’ll be telling me the actors are a threat. Now, skedaddle!”

He slunk away.

I shook my head.

Stand sentry behind the President the entire performance? Like some nagging ghost? Christ! Not an ounce of sense in some people.

Sarah said...

A chorus of thanks those who painted sets, sewed corsets, and choreographed sword fights for our production of “Pirates”. Special mention to:

Mr. Dan - your efforts to fix the boom crane after it seized, leaving the ghost ship suspended on stage for the entire play, were Herculean. The constant banging and exclamations were… educational.

Mrs Celia - for providing colorful and interesting pre-performance snacks. Luckily the frosting blended into the costumes quite well and only Ezra is gluten free.

Miss Eve - for lending us your parrot and testing him for avian flu after Cloe’s coughing fit.

Sincerely

Little Darlings PreSchool

Kathryn Clark said...

I fell in love with Juliet. Her actor, anyway. I thought she loved me too, until I caught her hand down Romeo’s pants.

Her apologies fell on a deaf heart. I was inconsolable, a ghost of my former self. And I knew that I must have my revenge.

Next rehearsal, the chorus craned their necks, watching as Juliet mourned her poisoned love. The dagger I had so carefully selected was poised above her breast. Redness spilled across the stage, looking sickeningly real.

Juliet laughed and called my special effects a success.

When would she notice that Romeo wasn’t playing dead?

D. B. Bates said...

The actor leaned against the black cinderblock wall. His neck craned to leer at a buxom, blonde chorus girl as she bent to adjust her stocking.

"All the world's a stage, and we are butt players," he said, thinking himself clever, unaware he had misquoted the Bard.

When she turned toward him, he looked away...but his eyes pushed their way back to her abundant cleavage. He felt the slap’s sting before he saw the blur of her arm. There remained on his cheek the pink ghost of her palm. He knew it was love. He was not very smart.

Maurine Schou said...

She weeps as she digs.

I stand over her, flashlight in hand.

Insects swarm the light, casting ghostly shadows on the dirt. She gasps.

“Just crane flies,” I say, grabbing at the air, taking two flies hostage in my fist. I show them to her. “See?”

“Yeah,” she says, with a satisfactory sniffle.

“Ready?”

She nods, and I give her the small cloth bag.

She lays it in the shallow grave, whispering, “I’ll miss you,” as a distant chorus of toads drones a guttural requiem.

Scooping her up, I kiss her wet cheek. “We’ll get you a new fish tomorrow.”

Donnaeve said...

Back when I won’t more’n a speck, I heard what sounded like a chorus of voices under my bed mumblin’ some word.

I couldn’t rightly make it out at first, so’s I kept on listening, night after night.

Finally, I got it.

Useless.

I reckon they was ghosts.

That actor what shot Lincoln? Useless was last word he said afore he died, no foolin’.

Troublin’ what I see when I crane my neck like so. They been hammering since yesterday.

Come dawn, reckon I’ll be center stage.

It’s alright. I ain’t ever amounted to nothin’.

Funny. Useless comes to mind.

Craig said...

“It’s a what?”

“A device to measure the reverberation of the Celestial Chorus.”

“Why?”

“I can extrapolate how many people from any given graveyard are ghosts.”

“I know what kind of an actor you are and the stages you like to build. I won’t ask incriminating questions; do you hang it from a crane and drop to start that reverberation? How do you plug it in?”

“It runs on batteries. How about I show you; it’s a full moon tonight.”


The machine hummed. Then something around it shimmered.

“I think its time to run. Two AA batteries couldn’t make that.”

Megan V said...

When Mama wanted me center stage, she painted me up like a chorus girl, stuffed me into a tutu, and twirled me at her side.

“Come on Angel,” she’d murmur. “Show’em how pretty you are.”

And boy was I pretty. Eyebrows rose as we strutted down Main Street. Even other mothers’ heads craned for a look at Mama’s ‘Angel.’

Everybody smiled.

“It’s ‘cause you’re the best little actor and my perfect Angel,” she’d say.
But she lied.

At night, Mama kissed pictures of a girl named Angel instead of me. I was a ghost. I was Mama’s boy.

S.D.King said...


“Mrs. Crane, we’ve spoken about this before. I am quite concerned,” began the teacher.

“It’s a stage, an imaginary friend, not a ghost,” defended his mother.

“He’s six,” chorused his father. “It’s a maturity factor.”

“He saves a seat in the cafeteria - pretends he is talking to someone, laughing and carrying on. It is a distraction and I recommend that he see the school counselor.” She raised her eyebrows. “In fact the only day he didn’t do it all year was during Grandparents Day yesterday. His Grandpa Crane was a hoot - an absolute delight.”

“But Jake doesn’t have-“

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

The arm of the crane falls away as the first stage rocket fires up and I breathe through the stiff rhythm of final checklist and countdown.

I didn't know they'd accompany me, my chorus of ghosts, and yet they do, unaffected by the g-forces which shake me apart for the process of my sky-birth.

This one-way journey is for them more than Mankind. The reactor he designed, the golden sails she drew. When I catch the comet's tail, I'll hit the comedic red button, and Earth will be saved from the dinosaur's fate, and I'll know their embrace once more.

ashland said...



Ghostly cues cut to the bone when you're all alone. Whispers become screams when every floorboard creak is a knife stuck in your ear, bleeding out your sanity one hateful word at a time.

They shuffle outside, dancing—my body goes numb, too paralyzed to move. Surely they can hear my heart beating through the keyhole, even the flutter of an angel's wings is a cacophonous chorus at this stage.

A door slams and I crane my neck to peek out the window as the malefactor's two red lights fly away.

Why do Mom and Dad have to get a divorce?

Tiffany said...

The Springtime Nasty

The sun dips low, the stage is set, fog rising from marsh grasses. The peepers stir to
fill the evening with their mirth, their high-pitched chorus rising: Seasons shifting! Spring is nigh!
And while they swim and hop and take part in swampy fornication, none take notice when
the quiet actor appears. Like a demonic presence drifting through lewd deeds, he stirs
black water as he ghosts through tall reeds. Long neck to give far reach, sharp beak
to easily skewer supple flesh; a frog-on-frog couple disappear down the swallowing
throat of the deathly-quick crane.

Steve Forti said...

Susie felt like a hostage. She’d wanted wine and girl talk, but Dottie insisted on some wild stagette party. Yeah, she actually called it that.

So here they were, seven women waving dollar bills around the Golden Banana. Pathetic. A chorus of whoops roared from craned necks ogling Hollywood Hank – the chief attractor of infractors – who gyrated for her honor.

“This is awesome!” Dottie shouted.

Yes, lovely. Hips thrusting, helicopter twirling. Excitement peaking.

The music stopped. Hank went ghost white, then bolted. The women gasped, then giggled. The lights came up for intermission.

Or as Susie snarked, the refractory period.

William Coleman said...

Spectators craned their scrawny necks to see. Center-left, curtains parted with a flutter. He took the stage, to a chorus of cheers. Strutting like a peacock under blistering hot lights, the actor prepared to give the performance of his lifetime. Thrusting a hand upward, his lips parted, managing only to deliver a blank stare. Sweat rolled down the godlike features of his face as he searched his mind for elusive lines. The words failed to present themselves. His retreat would make headlines; his last. His career, and then he, would fade like the ghosts of so many before.

Colin Smith said...

The picture never fails to rouse a smile and churn my stomach. Her name was Jennifer, and I remember that night, a week before college graduation. I'd had a bad month, so she staged a surprise party. She wore her Max Factor, and a blue blouse and knee-length skirt. By the end we were drunk and singing tunes from "A Chorus Line."

She kissed my cheek and called me "cute." I was too naïve to see the obvious.

In the end she married a thug who hung her from a crane.

I guess ghosts don't need chains to haunt you.

brianrschwarz said...

Window washing was dangerous.
Especially in this new New York.
And the advancements had nearly ghosted Grandpa Norman’s business.
Upstaged by tiny flying machines holding rags and spraycans.
Old Norman heard ‘em buzzin’ for miles, like a chorus of business thieving locusts.
That is, ‘till Norman set fire to Mr. Crane’s Automated Window Washing Warehouse.
Mr. Crane barely understood the business, anyways. An overzealous orchestrator of mechanical monstrosities.
But Norman didn’t realize Crane was out that night. Not until Norman was high on that riser, two weeks later, and a flying metal bug clipped his rope.
Death by machine subcontractor.

Dena Pawling said...

I hate math. Prime factors, differential equations, electrical output....

I'd endlessly scribbled numbers, but dreamed of the stage. A chorus girl, in a frilly dress with a long leg stretched up to the sky.

My father would hear none of it. He'd spent his days pouring concrete and hammering wallboard, dreaming of one day operating the big crane.

“Engineering,” he'd said, scratching his crotch while he spat. “That's where the money is. I ain't wasting my money on no stupid fine arts rubbish.”

Tomorrow I change my major. I pushed away the memory of his ghostly scream, and danced.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...


Spirit of the Urban Malady



By night we cohort
By day I slay, dissolve to
Ghosts your efforts.

My touch is light but caustic
Burns deep in stone, on paint.

Sets blank or white the surface
The stage for actors,
A chorus of new taggers.

Windows scratched?
No remedy.
Not me.
Not diamonds, not John Hancock,
Not Kilroy. It is Acid.

Heaven spots?
Crane need be.

I stain not a cloth
Die on the spot
Squelch ink with a scrub
Fume noxious.

Trace remains.

I apprehend
The temporary victory




french sojourn said...

She thrusts her knife deep into his ribcage, grunting like some spent lover, and he just cranes his neck back for a last bewildered look.

Sneering, she pulls out her blade. He turns and stumbles forward, as a chorus of blood seeps onto his sweat stained shirt. She blows him a kiss, like some taunting angel of death.

He never factored in greed, he believed, at least he prayed…she needed him.

His sad life flashes before him. Finally he’s free to fall from her grace and onto another stage below. Begrudgingly his ghost skulks upward, intertwined with her cigarette smoke.

Marc P said...


One writer, a crane, a chorus… a ghost!
A critic’s dark dream?
A Literary Roast?
Just one hundred words
Then ‘The Agent’ replies -
To hoist, by petard, him…
Or donate a prize?
All the world is a stage
A bald man once wrote,
But actors upon it can’t utter a note
Lest words are first written, that they wing to flight.
But ‘She’ holds the power, to shine forth SUCH light…
That publishers see them… And feed them and free them!
Else, black-capped she cackles… and says -

‘It’s alright….

But… you know… Not really. Hang him.

Good night!’

W.R. Gingell said...

Ghostly cobwebs drift through a shaft of sunlight from the theatre’s broken roof. Chorus girls dance like thistledown across the uneven stage without disturbing the dust, their voices a sigh in the air. I crane my neck to watch from the rigging, pretending I can dance too, while the actors wait their turn behind the moth-eaten old drapes.
The back door swings on one hinge, offering false freedom. We can’t leave. Not since the theatre burned around us a hundred years ago. I’m not sure we would, even if we could. This is home, and the play is life.

Mamo.Boppo f said...

Sitting on the narrow crossbar at the top of the old abandoned crane, the view from 110 feet is always spectacular at dusk.

A large hawk swoops down toward the rusty steel crossbar. Then glides away to a chorus of cries from the birds nesting in the crumbling metal.

In the darkening field below, I can barely see the rotting wooden wheels of my once beautiful stagecoach.

A farmer and his son ride by on a tractor. The boy looks up at me and says, “Look Dad, there’s the ghost of the crane.”

Without turning, his father grunts, “Uh-huh.”

Jenny C said...

Invisible as a ghost, I watch Juliet slam her script to the floor and stomp off in her four-inch Louboutin Le Crane sandals. The chorus gasps.

The actor playing Romeo curses in a non-Shakespearian torrent, his eyes sweeping the stage. “You!”

I glance over my shoulder. The props for Scene IV slip from my sweaty palms. “Me? But I’m not—”

“You whisper the lines every day.” Taking my hand, Romeo gazes at me with adoration. “Speak again, bright angel.”

Words glide from my lips. “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore—”

A crash of thunder. I awake, heart pounding, a stagehand again.

bjmuntain said...

She stood on the stage, so small, wearing a cardboard beak and wings to make her a Crane Wife. The other tiny actors stood in odd places around a stage too big for them.

The prompter whispered, "Now that you have seen my true form, I can stay here no longer."

"Now," said the little voice, then paused. Then she burst into tears. "But I don't want to go!"

The prompter cued the chorus, children's voices raised in a song of farewell.

She left the stage like a ghost, still crying.

Johnell said...

What did the old actor say? “Left, then right…just follow the rest of the chorus.”

He’d been helpful, bless him, although his skills with face paint felt like a boxing match. Geisha white wasn’t really Duška's color, but it did cover her foreign face.

She glanced in her mirrored fan. Low-tech for Interpol, but it did blend in. The drums pounded. Duška stumbled onto the kabuki stage, cursing herself for getting kicked out of dance class. She held up her mirror. The ghost of her mother blinked back, so did the eyes of her mother’s murderer. The Crane!

asgardana said...

“Over there,” the Ghost pointed.
I craned my neck. “What am I looking at?”
“That bit of rubble, that’s my Deathplace.”
A chorus in the wind – “Deeeeeeeeathplace.”
“Did you hear that?” I demanded, looking for the source.
The ghost nodded. “Of course, that’s my Haunting.”
“Your what?”
“It’s On Demand –one of my many powers. Here, all my powers are more powerful because it’s my Deathplace.”
A chorus in the wind – “Deeeeeeeeathplace.”
“Okay…,” I felt like an actor in one of those staged prank shows as the Ghost snapped. The ruins began to rise.
A chorus in the wind – “Deeeeeeeeathplace.”

Karen McCoy said...

Rebecca Crane strutted the stage, cocky as hell. Rubbed it in everyone’s face when she got the part of Wendy, and unceremoniously dumped the actor playing Captain Hook.

I was relegated to the chorus, due, as Rebecca said, to my ghostly personality. Short on boys, I painted on a beard and played pirate.

Opening night, I held a cup ready to simulate the ship’s ocean, and dropped extra water on the floor. Just in case.

Right on cue, Rebecca ran over my stagnant puddle and slipped, right onto her ass.

CHLamb said...

‘And the Best Actor goes to…’
Jonathan’s head went fuzzy, ghosts of regret running circles around his brain. If only he hadn’t bombed the interviews, or posted that stupid mock sex tape of him and Cynthia, maybe he’d have a shot tonight.
If only…
Then he heard it – his name being called and everything went numb. The chorus of applause rumbled low then grew like a summer storm, made his ascent to the stage more like a sleep-walk.
Desperately clutching the golden statue, Jonathan craned his neck to find Cynthia smiling in the front row and knew he’d done good.

mugandmuse said...

The boy introduced himself as a ghost. I didn’t get the joke, but I was bored. I needed a change.

He offered adventured, and I accepted.

One. Two Three. He knocked on a tree. It opened. I craned my head to see what was inside.

“Time for the actors to take their place upon the stage,” he said and pushed me through.

The world spun away, and returned, but different. "Ravelwood,” he said.

The wind stirred. “She’s coming…”

The leaves whispered in chorus, “Mother May…”

“It’s not my fault,” he said. “Don’t break the rules, do as she says…”

QuirkyElf said...

I calculate it’s an hour before the dawn chorus. My joints creak. I’m shivering but daren’t risk a fire in the hut.

Villagers whispered of snatchings in the night and ransom notes – no police or else - so we keep watch like vigilant cranes.

A shadow lengthens on the grass. My breath quickens, ghosting the window. I see him. This time, the malefactor will take no hostages.

I stumble out but he’s already climbing the fence.

I take aim. “Halt!”

He blinks in the torchlight, a scrawny fellow with pimples. Our gnome thief is the son of the local constabulary.

Matt Tesoriero said...

“Who’s there?” Ethan’s heart pounded through his tattered shirt. The one he wore when he operated a crane. Losing his job was the easy part. His lover-turned-straight walking out, foreclosing on their condo—that was hard. Tonight, he discovered a crumbling relic to rest. Or at least he thought. It’s cavernous belly provided plenty of places to sleep, but the stage seemed the safest to hide from a chorus of ghost whispers echoing off the deco ceiling. Perhaps it’s some actor crossing back over for a standing ovation. No acclaim in the afterlife? None here either, Ethan thought. “Who’s there?”

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

Your father took you hunting, loud, ill-behaved girl.
“Take her! I can teach her nothing!” said your mother.
The people ate the cranes he brought from the marsh; you kept the egg. It hatched.
The scrawny thing followed you, on legs, on wings.
“Useless!” said your mother.
Then raiders came with blood and fire. In the chaos, your bird vanished.
Now their hostage, never master of tact or grace, enraged, you flung insult after curse after chorus of maledictions.
“Useless,” said your captors.
They left you in the marsh, no village left, a ghost crane hovering above you always.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

HOUSE ARREST

Sara skitters through the house. The ghost, an exactor of rules, of reward and of punishment, enjoys toying with her. Her nerves are ragged, plucked. Her body little more than brittle bone covered in bruised skin.

She cranes her neck, peers down the hallway. The front door stands open, the ghost setting the stage for more terror. Still, she scurries toward hope, freedom.

A chorus of thumps chases her, pounding footsteps shudder the walls, her soul. The door slams shut on her hands. Sara screams.

The ghost rips her away, leaving her fingers behind.

AJ Blythe said...

The letter from his lawyer confirmed his worst fear; the contract held him hostage. Reginald Crane an understudy? Ghost of a chance. How could they cast that lowlife as Julius Caesar? Actor my foot. He only got the part because his twitter following numbered in the millions.

Leading actor to understudy. What would be next, the chorus line?

The curtain pulled back for Act III Scene I. Reginald clutched the dagger against his toga and joined the surge of conspirators.

Stephen Parks said...

“Assume the crash position!” The famous Shakespearean actor awoke.

Glancing around as panicked faces craned to peer out the windows, abject fear at the angle of their descent ghosting their faces.

What do they know of fear? Peons!

Fear the indignities of ageing. Fear indifference and degradation! Flying to an audition? Audacity! Sitting in Economy, among the Greek chorus? And not even a window seat!

If they must die, let them die enlightened. One final stage then and not a critic to besmirch the memory, he thought as he arose, clearing his throat for their attention.

“To be, or”

Not.

Suzy Ince said...

Ichabod Crane whipped his horse down the path calling for more speed. The bridge and safety were just around the corner. A fallen tree, a horses balk and Ichabod was in the dirt. A chorus of hoof beats drawing closer.

“So this is the stage?” He thought “So be it.”

As an actor before a scene he calmed himself and drew his sword. Lightning struck and thunder growled and Ichabod stood triumphant over his foe. He looked down at the fallen recognizing his sword, his clothes. The curse of the ghost of the Headless Horseman now passed to him.

saustin said...

Her toes sink into the moonlit sand. A warm breeze blows across her skin and ghostly fingers tap out an old but familiar chorus along her spine. Disturbed from its nighttime roost, a solitary, sandhill crane takes flight from the dunes, but her attention is held hostage by the softly rolling waves whispering a lover’s lament in her ear.

Remorse never factored into her business dealings before. She doesn’t know why she took his watch. The crystal cracked when he fell, and it no longer keeps time. Pulling it from her pocket, she throws it into the inky water.

Christina Wilkinson said...

Like actors on a stage, the real estate agents beamed at Henrietta Flowers when she entered the old house.

"Let us show you around," they offered.

Henrietta took a long time. She craned her neck to see every corner and nook. Eventually she spoke. "This house has a ghost."

"That's very unlikely," chorused the two agents.

"It wasn't a question," said Henrietta. She was very serious. "This house does have a ghost." She looked over her shoulder. "Shall we?" She consulted an unseen partner. "We'll take it. You see, I've always wanted a house with a resident ghost."

Steven said...

Another rainy, Bayou Sunday.

Another three A.M. body dump.

A chorus of gasps escapes as I arrive. No eyes find mine.

The “Director’s” fifth victim appears more staged than usual. Perhaps only I’d notice.

The actor du jour, another blonde yogelite.

Techs erect a tent, but any evidence left has since settled in the Gulf with Katrina debris and Connick’s career.

Another tech futilely chalks a dissolving ghost line around the vic.

From a kneeled position at the body, the ME cranes toward me. “You can’t be here, Jack. You don’t wanna remember her like this!”

Only … I do.

Debra Giuffrida said...

She had been an actor a score of years; treading the boards in countless rolls from chorus line to ingénue, but now she was regulated to more age appropriate bits.

Her crowning achievement was to have been in the stage production of the Scottish play.

“Sorry, old Chuck, not this time.” The director’s eyes followed the sashaying bottom of the blond actress with the porcelain complexion.

Standing under the crane with a spot trained on her hands. The blood from the ghostly blond dripped into her palms.

“Out damned spot, out I say.”

Patricia Cox said...

It was over too soon. Nine months wasn’t long enough. I thought I was a good actor, but she saw right through me. I tried to be calm, but at this stage of the game it was almost impossible. She went with him and I was alone. There will be another girl before you know it. Minutes later my thoughts were scattered by the opening of the door. I craned my neck to see who it was. A ghost of a smile formed on my lips as the nurses cried out in a chorus, “You have healthy twin girls. Congratulations!

Kelsie Kasandria said...

“Today we set the stage. Tonight's the big night, actors. Break a leg!” Our director sat in the audience to watch his creation.

All around the green room I heard nervous mumbling.

“Will we be good enough?”

“What about the ghost scene? Will people get that she's not actually dead?”

“What if the crane breaks? How will we make her die?”

Not a whole ton of time to think about that, though. The opening notes of the chorus began.

I stepped to the microphone.

“This is the story of how I died.”

Jessica Baumgartner said...

Natural Defense


What’s that awful noise?

I dive in the air and flap my wings to find a herd of people scattered in the grass nearby. They’ve erected some monstrous stage to entertain each other.

It makes me proud to be a crane. You’ll never see me engaging in such activities.

Now they’re singing a threatening chorus.

I swoop closer with a song of warning. One of the actors creeps onto the stage as if a ghost. Unsure of how to counterattack, I aim my tail feathers and drop my excrement on him before taking flight.

Just Jan said...

"How many times did you hit her?" Cecily demanded. "Or kick her? Or hold her hostage?" She craned her neck so she could see directly into her brother-in-law's eyes. "Because of you, my sister is a ghost of her former self."

The malefactor strained against his bonds as Cecily picked up the scalpel. With the Hallelujah Chorus blaring from her iPod, she guided the instrument painstakingly over his wrists.

"Don't worry," she assured him as she walked out the door, "all bleeding eventually stops. Yours will, too."

Scott Sloan said...

Long ago, a bird working in maternity got fundamentally fed-up with all the crying and screaming.
What she really wanted was to be an actor – but thanks to a bratty little homonym, the stage she auditioned for was headed for the coast.
Shanghaied aboard a tramp steamer, she wound up in Andalusia. Desperate for work, she again began delivering babies. But the weight of an extra-large Basquette snapped her neck, and she plummeted to her death.
The headlines read:
The Crane In Spain Was Felled Mainly By The Pain.
A chorus of boos ghosted down upon her from on high.

Terri Lynn Coop said...


The last stage of the trial and I was losing. The killer could walk.

The origami crane in my briefcase infuriated me. Probably some inspirational bullshit from a secretary.

As I crushed it, I heard him in my head.

“I’m the victim’s ghost. Remember me? Hard to tell, the way you’re bumbling around.”

Great. Even the dead guy hates me.

“How?”

“Some Zen thing I learned from a Buddhist monk. Pretty slick, huh? Let me help.”

I resumed cross-examination. Like a Greek chorus, he intoned, “Ask about the actor.”

My law professors were right. The dead are your best witnesses.

SiSi said...

“If all the world’s a stage, I want a refund.”

The room erupts into giggles and guffaws, chuckles and chortles, a chorus of fawning laughter. I crane my head around the stack of books. He’s as smug as ever, tipsy, flashing his too-white teeth. Until he sees me. The charlatan’s not a good enough actor to hide his horror.

The audience’s laughter trickles to nothing, replaced by a murmur of concern that crescendos into screams as he collapses, clutching his chest. Deus ex machina. I laugh at the irony, at kismet, karma, fate.

Frightened to death by his own ghostwriter.

Kate Larkindale said...


Trickles of dew ghost across my ankles as I move toward the lake’s edge. The glassy water devours a last mouthful of sun and vomits up a lightshow of pink, orange and gold. Frogs croak in chorus to accompany the flashy birds taking turns as soloist in this nightly opera. As the last fingers of color fade from the sky, I crane my neck to catch a glimpse of the first star. There. A bright light punching through the violet twilight, followed by another; actors, each with their own diamond spotlight until dawn’s light lowers its curtain on their stage.

Sam Hawke said...

She glanced at the bills by the door. The stack had long lost structural integrity; now it was a white smear of fallen dominoes along the sideboard. Chiropractor, physiotherapist, masseuse – an onslaught of treatment impotent against the pain. She couldn’t pay the postage to send the cheques, let alone honor the numbers written on them.

She shut the door behind her. Limped out. Silenced the chorus in her head, thrumming through her chest: coward, coward, weak. Back to the crane to finish the job.

Ghosts can’t get insurance, but they need a little less medical help too.

James Ticknor said...

The grand drape billowed behind the proscenium arch, swelling with anticipation.
So, this’s the theater where the dead watch their life.
Some strange actor acting as me on the stage...I crane to get a peek.
I glance to God. He is such a bored critic, yet I dread his verdict.
Failure to entertain results in a chorus of pain.
But here I am, the star and the ghost. "I heard it's phantastic," I joke, laughing nervously.
Yet, I grow despondent as the curtain rises. I guess it’s a screenwriter’s greatest malaise- knowing everything but how the audience will react.

Pharosian said...

An old woman sidles through a stand of fragrant pines, pearly moonlight glinting on her tears. Through nodding cranesbill and sweet myrtle, she makes her way to the stage of an ancient amphitheater, hidden in the forest clearing. She throws her head back, arms outstretched, willing her love to join her. Snowy owls gather round, adding their ghostly chorus to her clear, high wail. She and Gregor were to be married here on April 26, 1986, but he never arrived. Above the trees, rising like a specter in the dark, are the reactor towers of Chernobyl.

Narukami said...

He stopped me in the hallway, near the stairs leading up to the stage.
A fellow actor, we had performed together in a couple of Kabuki plays.
He was concerned.

“Be careful.”

“Careful?”

He craned his neck, trying to see if anyone was listening.

“The Heike did not die happily. Their ghosts are restless. They still want revenge.”

“This is just a play…”

“Yes, but every time you invoke their spirits, they hear you.”

He paused, as the chorus passed by on their way to rehearsal. He held my arm for just a moment longer.

“Be careful.”

John Frain said...

Living in his shadow started early.

I tried to impress Mom with my athleticism, but you’re a GHOST competing with the “world’s greatest athlete.”

So I became an actress. Thought I’d fACTORed in everything, but suddenly Bruce was Mr. Reality TV. I couldn’t keep up with the Kardashians, much less garner attention from Mom.

Finally landed a lead role in a Broadway musical. I was so high, it would take a CRANE to get me down. Pictured myself receiving accolades, recognition in Playbill.

But who was on the cover? Some dancer. This CHORUS girl? Caitlyn. Of course.

UpSTAGEd again.

Demi Naylor said...

The new Bill would be introduced tomorrow. As the enactor, he’d be responsible for the chaos but the chorus of his inner circle would not be dissuaded. He’d staged more than one fall from grace to get here. Minions were easy to come by, but remaining the ghost in the background was now impossible.

He stepped up to the podium; they eagerly craned their necks, just to gain a glimpse of their saviour. “Fools” he thought. Their protection would come at the price of freedom. How long until they realise they’ve given up what they thought they were fighting for?

debradorris said...

“Whatcha got?” Grimsby covered his mouth and nose with a mask. The putrid stench found its way past the flimsy barrier. He fought the urge to retch.

“Male, approximately fifty-five, stabbed repeatedly, wearing a toga. Same as the others.”

The stage door creaked. Grimsby craned his head toward the exit. An actor dressed as the ghost of Julius Caesar stepped outside.

Amidst a chorus of angelic voices, Caesar moved to stand near the body. He reached for its outstretched hand. Their fingers touched. Both disappeared into a wispy mist.

Grimsby shuddered and locked eyes with the ME who promptly fainted.

Marie McKay said...


She swears she has a ghost inside of her that makes her say foul things. The ghost hangs out with us, spitting and cursing at streetlights and puppy dogs. My friend begs my pardon placing long fingers over her mouth.
The chorus of old ladies standing on the corner crane their necks to see the little girl whose words are sour and jaded: 'Disgraceful!' they say through concertinaed lips.
Her mum tries to explain: 'It's a stage; kid's an actor; imagination overactive.'

But she's not faking. I hear it whisper tortured sounds, when her lips have long stopped moving.





 

. said...

My father, the crane operator, was a ghost of himself following the accident.

He'd fallen into the job as it was the highest paying employment he could find after he learned that the baby he and my mother were having would actually be four babies - identical quadruplet girls. After learning this, the stage was set for a total realignment of my parents' plans - mom ditched her dreams of being a chorus girl, dad chucked his of being an actor.

He’d come to love his job, and us girls love him for trading his dreams to support us.

by Mark Sutz - masutz at gmail dot com

Deborah Herd said...

Max was 11 and six foot one; ‘stupidly tall’, according to his drama teacher, who was five foot two.

Max had said he wanted to be an actor and the teacher had laughed, saying he’d only ever be cast as a crane.

‘Find a use for your height,’ Mr Heathcote sneered when Max offered to help backstage on the school play.

The night of the show, the chorus of applause went on for minutes. The smiling teacher strutted on to center stage.

In the wings, a tall figure reached for the trapdoor handle, plunging the small man into ghostly darkness.

Lance said...

The Cranenbroek was settled by Germans. We raised tobacco, brewed beer, read the Bible and Shakespeare. After work, we gathered around a make-shift stage, smoking and drinking. You could preach or actor some Bard. In English, but some insisted on German. I swore that the next time some arschloch chorused “Sein oder Nichtsein,” he would feel my tobacco knife. That very night, the first one spit it out. There was no thought, just action. Er war nicht. I felt the first knife in my back; many followed. Here in the loft we trade tales, one ghost to another.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

The actors and chorus: whooping cranes of North America.
The stage: marsh and water flats ranging from northern Canada to the Southern US.

These majestic birds, some as tall as five feet, mate for life and serve as ghosts haunting a sad and pathetic past of near extinction.

Those were the notes and beginning of Gary’s talk about the birds he so loved. His body was found among the cranes, face down in the marsh. Buried in the mud, his camera, the last shot a ghostly image of his killer? Was it his own extinction or simply a self-portrait?

NotJana said...

Breathe.

Focus.

The crane, unmoving, is bathed in sunlight. There's no wind to factor in. Conditions are perfect. Aim and … missed. Bugger.

There's the ghost of a sigh from my companions. I shrug it off. Just minutes ago I've hit the fox right through the heart.

Time to move on. There are more misses, but even more kills.

My deltoids are hurting, yet my back is unmissable silent. Still a hostage to false muscle memories, then.

I finally leave the woods to a chorus of cheers and a bottle of beer from my club mates.

Welcome to field archery.

Michael Seese said...

A crane swoops down to the lake and finds his dinner. A chorus of crickets serenades the evening star.

"A penny for your thoughts," my wife says.

What should I say? That I'm sad to think at this stage we've been reduced to ghosts in our children's lives? That when you factor out the dependent-care years, our lives are basically over?

"I was thinking I could die happy here."

"I could, too," she says, taking my hand, her grip already slightly weaker.

"Another glass of wine?" I ask, grateful that the Cabernet's peppery flavor masks the bitterness of the poison.

Gabby Gilliam said...

Stage one of Nuclear Reactor Overdrive reached. Emergency shutdown sequence initiated.

I cover my ears to muffle the chorus of sirens. I crane my neck to search for anything that might be useful, like an operator’s manual or big red end-system-freak-out-button. Would it hurt to post some signs about how to avoid a nuclear meltdown?

The ghosts of the former employees haunt the room with discarded sweaters and half empty mugs of coffee. Photographs of smiling strangers follow my progress through the control room from abandoned cubicles.

Stage one of Nuclear Reactor Overdrive reached.

Thanks. As if I had forgotten.

Tony Clavelli said...

“A tiny meltdown,” Dr. Jang said, pinching her thumb and forefinger together. She gave a toothy, desperate smile. There was a sort of captain-down-with-the-ship responsibility, but she waited until we were sealed in with the reactor to mention we’d never leave.

We sprayed together, us twelve, synchronized like Ghostbusters fighting Zool. When it cooled, we cheered a chorus of relief.

I craned my neck to find Jang. She was gone. I pictured her on camera, explaining how brave we were. Smiling. Our teeth would soon rot—timelapsing like late-stage cancer.