Friday, July 24, 2009


Suzanne's First Ever Extraordinary CONTEST!

Come one, come all and bring your best game. Here is the information.

This is a writing contest, but I encourage all my non writer friends to join. I firmly believe we are all writers at the core. So all you students, family, and friends this is an open contest. I am stealing the idea from Mandy and Micheal. It comes from an exercise they did together. Read post here.

So.... I will give you a first line and a last line and you have to come up with a great short story! I don't want to put a word limit, but keep it as tight as you can.


  • Thou shalt not use foul language or super steamy stuff. (I know, I know, I KNOW!)
  • Thou shall take your TIME and proof read and make it the best it can be
  • Thou shall post a link to the contest in your own blog (if you have one) OR on your facebook, myspace, twitter, whatever you do, do.

Just put your story in the comments section. Easy Squeazy. Make sure to put your info (blog, tweet, whatever on the post so we all can find you and follow you and....!) I strongly encourage you to write it in word or whatever you use first. That way you won't lose it. Don't change the lines.


I am putting together a treasure box. Remember the one at the opening in to Kill a Mockingbird? Jem's box? Well this box will have the following items in it:

A 15 dollar gift certificate to Barnes and Noble.
My favorite book (surprise.)
And a bunch of secret treasures. (good ones, not old socks. The winner will be happy.)


The winning post will be original and entertaining (make us laugh, cry, think, take it where you want it to go, but take it somewhere....)

I am recruiting a second judge, my partner in all things write, Mandy. Even though I bummed her out and wouldn't let her play :(

Deadline is Sunday 7/26/2009 11:59 .... or thereabouts! *Thanks LT*
The winner will be announced on Monday 7/27/2009


First line: It all started with a fortune cookie.
Last line: The roses bloomed in Orkney.

One, Two, Threeeeeeee GO!


  1. Oooh, what a great idea! Are we posting in the comments or on our blogs?

  2. Good clarification. Post Here! I will clarify in the post! Yay! Let the games begin.

  3. So, if the announcement day is 7/27, when is the cutoff? (Great idea, by the way!)

  4. GOSH! so much I am learning. Cut off is sunday night midnight. I will post. First contest newbie crap. Oy!

  5. Can people outside of the USA play??? Can we? Can we Plllleeeeaaassseee????

  6. YEP!!!!! I don't give a hoot about postage. I want it OPEN!

  7. Dude, I'm all over this. I'm going to try for 300 words, because that's something I've been trying to do for the Nano contest. We'll see how it goes...

  8. Cool! I hope I have time. :)

  9. Elana: This idea sort of blossomed out of your post on waiting. I thought about it, and you are right, sometimes writing doesn't help. But this has! You should host one too. It really took up some of that anxiety.

    Abby: Me too! Give it a go! Sometimes the things we right the fastes are the best.

  10. This sounds like so much fun! I'll attempt to pull something together in time.

  11. Love this idea! I'm totally in and can't wait to read everyone's submissions! I even included my own prize for those who sign up for this contest through my site :)

  12. Hi! I'm a blog friend of Steena. Here it goes:

    It all started with a fourtune cookie. One evening on our honeymoon, Milk Man and I travel all over Provincetown, Cape Cod looking for a Chinese food restaurant. After our meal, I stop in a public bathroom at the back of a bar, stuffing the slip of paper from a half-eaten fortune cookie in my purse.

    "Nothing is as it seems," is the cryptic message. I marvel at how clean the bar is; the floor shines. The bathroom door isn't marked. When I come out Milk Man is sitting on a stool. The female bartender is twirling her hair, and laughing as they talk. My new husband looks as red as the lobster he ate for dinner. Obviously, I'm peeved and freaking out remembering the cookie message, especially because the chic is a dead ringer for Marilyn Monroe. I drag him out of there and almost start to cry.

    "You looked like you were flirting. You never do that." I complain. He starts laughing and spins me around to face a poster on the wall of the building.

    "I wasn't flirting, I was squirming. She's a guy." There she is on the poster. The bartender, a drag queen, apparently had a running show there at night. I want to slap her/him, but I'm suddenly overcome by a sense of relief. Marilyn and I exchange waves and smiles through the picture window, and it's clear from her grin that she enjoyed watching our tense exchange outside the bar.

    Almost 10 years after the honeymoon, we make dating a priority. I still love Chinese food, in fact, I crave it. On our "date night," this week, Milk Man and I try a new restaurant. The place is really beautiful. It has soft lighting, scented candles and nice Asian decor. We are seated near an indoor pond and water fountain. Our food is really good, a little spicy even, like Thai. I order my old standby, chicken and broccoli, plus soup and an appetizer. The manager and waiters are so polite. This just might be my new favorite Chinese restaurant.

    I save the best part of the meal for when we get home, just like I used to do when I was a kid. On the couch, I open my snack. "Look, they liked me so much, I even got extra fortune cookies," I say, storing the rest in the cookie jar on my lap.

    Then I turn green. The fortune is hand-written. Milk Man catches the little slip of paper floating down to the floor as I'm already washing my mouth out in the bathroom. He reads it aloud to himself. "That wasn't chicken."

    I can hear a voice coming from the television set as I gag in the bathroom,

    "The roses bloomed in Orkney..."

    By Loren Christie @ Dude, Where Am I?

  13. Oh, dang. I suck rocks at impromptu writing. I'll have to sit this one out, but will be spying to see the other entries. what fun!

  14. Okay, here's mine. I tried for 300, but didn't make it. :( It's just over 400 words though. And I'm glad my waiting post spurred this on! I don't have anything kewl to offer as a prize though... Will stew.

    And short 3...2...1...

    The Underground

    It all started with a fortune cookie.

    Not mine, of course. Fortune cookies were a thing of the past. But Fen had found an old box of them in the caved in section of the Underground. That brought a smile to the grimy faces of the people we lived with.

    We didn’t eat the cookies, they were too old for that. Fen simply passed them out, one to each person. I held mine like it contained magic, like maybe it could erase the harsh realities of my life. When I glanced around the circle, I saw the same hope in each pair of eyes.

    I cracked it open, letting the dust of the cookie sift through my fingers. The paper inside had yellowed, but the writing blazed out in bright pink.

    Follow your heart to the ocean.

    I’d long dreamt of seeing water as far as the eye could see. Breathing air that hadn’t been recycled by a dozen people before me. Eating food that didn’t come from a can. Smelling the heady scent of flowers in the hot summer air.

    I’d never experienced any of those things, but my grandmother had. She told unbelievable tales of what life used to be like.

    For many nights, I fantasized of leaving the Underground. I didn’t tell anyone, not even Fen. He wouldn’t understand.

    My work took me to the edge of the colony. A seam of rock had started to come undone, and bright sunlight shone through the crack. I should report the breech, but the warble of an unknown animal echoed through the chamber, distracting me.

    I glanced over my shoulder. All that existed was darkness. And that was my answer.

    I turned and worked the rocks until the seam became an opening. Slithering through, the first rays of sunshine hit my skin. I’d never felt such warmth, such…joy.

    Grandmother had said the sun was the reason we lived Underground now. I’d been taught my whole life how dangerous it was, how even the tiniest crack in the rock could allow in the light that would kill us all.

    But now, standing in the wide open sky with the sun touching every part of my body, I knew what I’d been told was a lie.

    Or at least not an instant death.

    I walked. Through tall green plants and trees. Over dirt and stones. Along a mass of cracked and uneven cement.

    I passed a sign that read, “Welcome to Orkney, population 1473.”

    Small buildings loomed in the distance. But that wasn’t what captivated me the most.

    The roses bloomed in Orkney.

  15. Oops, I couldn't even follow directions. Here's my blog: Mindless Musings

    I'm on my way to Facebook right now. :) Thanks Suzy! (And Amanda!)

  16. Hey, can I submit a poem? LOL

    Tweeting the contest right now.

  17. ohmygoodness. i just saw your dream ride at the bottom of the page. i've always craved an old truck and WILL get one at some point. even dream about it sometimes. (hangover love from owning a 66 Mustang.) :)

  18. LOL needed to edit, so just deleted and reposted. Sorry! Here it is (again) and here is my link - Michelle McLean's Writer Ramblings at

    The Postcard

    It all started with a fortune cookie.

    I turned it over and over in my hand, holding it so long the crispy shell began to stick to my fingers. I looked up at the deep, rumbling laugh coming from the other side of the table.

    “Are you going to open it or play with it all night?” he asked. The jagged scar on the right side of his face pulled his eye down at the corner and made his smile just a little lopsided. He still took my breath away.

    He was leaving again. One more night. What if he didn’t come home this time?

    The cookie snapped in half, coating my hands in sweet, crunchy dust.


    The thin, white paper held two simple words. “Will you?”

    “Yes,” I whispered, so full of joy I could barely speak. “When?”

    His thumb traced a tender line down my cheek. “I’ll send for you when I can.”

    “Take me with you now.” I couldn’t bear to see him walk away.

    The rose he had given me lay between us on the table. He rubbed the petals between his fingers, releasing the sweet scent. “If I make it out again, alive, whole…I’ll send for you.” He put the crushed petal in my hand. “Wherever the roses bloom…that is where I’ll wait for you.”

    I swallowed past the lump in my throat and shook my head. “I will come, no matter what.”

    He just looked at me and smiled.


    I twisted the ring around my finger. The diamond still sparkled as it had that night. I wiped my eyes with a wrinkled and gnarled hand. So many years and still I cried.

    “Where are you?” I whispered. In fifty years, no one had ever answered that question.

    The ring fell from my shrunken finger.


    It hit the hardwood floor and rolled. With a dismayed gasp, I held onto the bed frame and struggled to my knees, feeling under the dresser. My fingers felt the cold brush of the metal. And something else. I grasped both and pulled them out.

    A yellowed and faded postcard. I had never seen it before. It must have fallen, forgotten, so long ago.

    I collapsed back against the bed. The picture showed a beautiful white chapel sitting on a bluff near the ocean, surrounded with blossoming red flowers.

    My hands trembled as I turned it over.

    His handwriting was shaky, but I could still read the words.

    I cried out, every fiber of my being screaming for the man I had loved and thought lost for so long. I slumped to the floor, my heart breaking. The sight of the miserable, lonely world dimmed at last, his words the last thing my eyes saw.

    My love. I am not as whole as I was when we last met. But whatever is left of me is yours. If you’ll have me.

    The roses bloomed in Orkney.

  19. It all started with a fortune cookie. Well, that’s not exactly true. It really began when I chomped into a crab rangoon and heard a terrible crunching noise. You know; the one that’s like the unmistakable sound of a car wreck – screeeech cronk! – only in miniature. And in my mouth. We won’t even talk about the nauseating feeling of knowing a formerly perfectly serviceable molar has turned to enamel dust.

    Add to the broken tooth a severe case of dental trauma and a side order of anesthesia resistance, and you can understand why the China Dragon disaster stands out in my mind as having begun long before the fortune cookie unveiling. But I digress.

    Meeting with Danny, my soon-to-be-ex, to discuss our property settlement did not bode well for the dinner he’d chosen (insensitively, typically) to have at our first date restaurant. Always the showoff, he ordered squid ink soup to my wonton-y appetizer. The very first bite hovered near my lips as Debonair Danny picked up his sake and announced, “Meg, we need to hurry this process up. Savannah and I have a wedding date set…” Then I bit down hard on my rangoon, and you know the rest.

    Napkin over mouth, I forced myself not to run to the bathroom. At least I had a reason to cry other than hearing of Danny’s pending nuptials. Squinting into the gilded mirror, I dabbed at the mascara streaks and tried to assess the damage to the tooth. All I could think was at least it wasn’t a front tooth (‘at woulda been attwactib) as I returned to the table.

    Appetite gone, I stared at the honey-colored cookies Mr. Woo had delivered in my absence. I swear the man is psychic. I guess he knew the “Mr. Dannys” were done with dinner.

    I didn’t absorb a single word Danny said after “…wedding date set…” I was more interested in the fortune cookie I’d chosen. I put more stock in its message to me.

    Everything else in the world might change, but my love for Mr. Woo and the offerings of China Dragon would never waver. I broke the cookie’s delicate shell and pulled the thin paper strip out:

    “Confucius say, ‘When you live with man having character so porky, who can never love other as much as self, dear one remember – always, the roses bloom in Orkney.’”

  20. It all started with a fortune cookie. The crunch under my foot and Jamie’s squeal. In this cemetery at night, a crunch like that only means one thing. Snail.

    I didn’t wanna raise my foot, didn’t wanna know for sure. So I did the cowardly thing and closed my eyes when I pulled my sneaker up. “Is it dead?”

    Jamie’s pack clanked when it hit the concrete. I wondered if there was enough liquor in the bottle to matter if it broke. Her hand found my knee, bracing her as she bent.

    “Don’t touch it!” I hissed, opening my eyes.

    When the moonlight caught her eyes, they were positively sparkling. “It’s a fortune cookie!”

    “A what?” I wobbled, throwing us both off balance. Jamie sunk gracefully to the damp earth, giggling.

    “Who leaves a fortune cookie in a cemetery?” She waved her hand in a twirl, her head lolling in a drunken nod. “It’s not like they need them.”

    “What’s it say?” I ask now, clambering over her. The plastic crinkles as she pulls it out of my grasp.

    “Wait.” She freezes, her hands spread wide. “I have…an idea.” A slow grin breaks across her lips. “Let’s open it with Ory.”

    My gut flip-flops at his name, but the smile is there before I can stop it. Orkney would love this. Us, half lit, squashing a fortune on our way to his grave.

    When we make it to the headstone, I drop to my knees, walk my fingers across the letters. Jason Orkney. Son, brother. After them, I trace the word friend into the dew, same as I always do.

    She strips the plastic off the cookie. It falls on a white bloom. Someone planted roses. White ones, for innocence and purity and washed out hospital walls. Jamie clears her throat, the paper stretched tight between her fingers.

    “It is what’s inside, that counts.” After a dramatic pause, she adds. “That is a great fortune for a dead guy.” Neither of us laugh. Our eyes are on the rosebush. It’s the first time I’ve seen it bloom.

    “Hey,” I say, quietly. “How deep you think the roots go?”

    She stares down for a full minute before she gets my drift. “That’s sick, Isabella,” she says and I know it but I can’t help it. I can’t help it when I reach over, pull off the first one, the second. I need them all, because I know why we haven’t seen them before, the blooms. And they’re beautiful. They’re the last bits of him coming to the surface. The roses bloomed in Orkney.

    by Leah Clifford

    Thanks! This was so much fun!

  21. Hi. I found out about your contest from the Gumbo Writer blog. It sounded so interesting and the entries are so good that I just couldn't help myself.


    It all started with a fortune cookie. It was blank. Just my fortune.

    But that's what helped me decide. Now I feel more peace than I've ever known. And forgiveness. I forgive him.

    He was the Beloved, the Adored of Orkney and I was his favorite. But that didn't keep me safe. Even the favorite had to go to Japan, on the "dance tours". Even she had to contribute to the wealth of Orkney. Even she needed to "stay adorable" with the Japanese men, to get more deeply in touch with her "divine femininity".

    He used to meet me at the airport, after my long trips, with arms full of roses. Enormous bouquets of orange perfumed wonders. "From my heart's garden," he'd say, and then kiss me into forgiveness and forget. It was all I lived for.

    I was always shocked that the other girls didn't seem to envy me. I knew how they loved him too, how they prayed in front of his photograph every evening, how they absorbed his words and learned them by heart, to recite while doing their prescribed asanas. None of them dreamed of becoming his "dearest", though. Only now I understand why.

    I do know that there have been quite a few before me. Eleven other women. There are eleven rose bushes in the garden. That's all I know: a rose bush for each "dearest" of the past. Soon, there will be one for me. Once the pills have worked their little chemical magic.

    The sun is smiling and I fly away. There's so much peace once one forgets how the roses bloomed in Orkney.

  22. I usually don't do these very well at all, but I thought I would give this one a try. You can find me at Twitter and Facebook through my blog:

    Thank you for the opportunity to submit!



    It all started with a fortune cookie.

    ‘Course the cookie won’t good no more, but the streetlight showed a little piece of paper peeking through the spongy yellow flesh. Edda picked through the box she’d retrieved from the dumpster, sniffing the lo mien and chicken before taking a tentative bite. It won’t bad, won’t bad at all.

    She held her box in one hand and the precious fortune cookie in the other as she perched on the low wall running between the Chinese restaurant and Michael’s Meats and Things. That was special good luck to get a fortune cookie. Her mama had always said to mind the fortune you got out of a Chinese cookie, ‘cause it would come true when you watched hard. Wouldn’t some good fortune be nice right about now?

    Edda nibbled her lo mien and glanced at the cookie. If that cookie said she’d see money soon, then she’d walk looking down to make sure she didn’t miss her money. Might only be a penny, but pennies make dollars. If she was smart, she might take in enough to buy that magic lottery ticket.

    If she could win that lottery, she could go into that restaurant and eat proper. Straightening her back, Edda put her box aside and wiped her greasy fingers on her torn sweater. She opened the soft cookie and withdrew the ribbon of paper.

    You will see exotic places.

    “Oh,” she exhaled in wonder. Exotic places. How she’d always wanted to go to those fine, beautiful countries in the library books.

    The library ladies never ran her out, ‘cause she didn’t go there to sleep like the other homeless. She went there and treated those fine books with respect just like her mama had taught her. She loved the big books with all the color pictures of foreigners the best.

    It was like that cookie had been put there just for her.

    Edda put her trash back in the dumpster, everything but the little ribbon of paper, which she folded neatly and tucked into her pocket. There were few cars on Scales Street this late in the day, so she kept her eyes on the ground. If she was gonna see exotic places, then she’d really need to find that lottery money.

    With her eyes on the ground, she didn’t see the car until it was too late. The car wasn’t going fast, but Edda’s head hit the asphalt real hard. A scene of blue water and emerald isles flashed up in her mind. Edda smiled, ‘cause she was smart, real smart. She recollected that place was up by Ireland. She loved that book extra special. That book on Ireland.

    She saw that place in Ireland, not the police, not the ambulance attendants. Her vision encompassed a small island off the coast of Ireland, that exotic land of her dreams. Her life was leaving her, drawn down and still. Yet across the ocean, in remembrance of one lost desire, the roses bloomed in Orkney.

  23. I learned a few things from this exercise:

    One should never write/submit at 1:49 AM because one might not be in best editing mode. One may also leave off the entry's title, Good Fortune. And in the second paragraph, may write something nonsensical like "dental trauma" when one clearly meant "dental phobia." LOL

  24. Holy-moly! What a fabulous assortment of entries. Everybody's imagination and skill are so awesome, I'm humbled to even try, but I will because it's such a positive way to stretch my writing wings. Thanks, Suzanne, for coming up with this.
    My blog is Talespinning at


    It all started with a fortune cookie.
    Ally was squeezed into the corner of the red vinyl booth. She and her mother and Granny Rose always came to the Golden Dragon for dinner on Fridays when her mother dropped her off for the weekend.
    She ordered Orange Chicken and her mother picked a few bites of it. Every week her mother, skinny and surly, sipped tea while they ate. But when the fortune cookies came, they all cracked one open and read aloud.
    "Manners are the rule of the day. What the hell kind of fortune is that?" Ally's mother tore the paper strip into confetti and tossed it so it littered the table.
    "I'm sure all kinds of bad behavior occur in restaurants," muttered Granny Rose, who then squinted at her fortune. "Some day your prince will come."
    A snort erupted from Ally's mother. "Well, he better get a move on."
    Ally glanced at Granny and saw a glint of tears. "He came and left long ago."
    "Yeah, a real prince. I never knew him, just like Ally doesn't know her father. Rambling men, good riddance."
    Granny changed the subject. "Let's hear your fortune, Ally."
    "Search and you will find." Ally looked up. "Search for what?"
    "That's the fun of it, not knowing. Do you know what Thomas Edison said?"
    "Oh, here we go. Platitudes." Ally's mother rolled her eyes.
    "This has a great deal of meaning if a person unplugs her ears."
    Ally squirmed. She hated it when dinner turned ugly.
    "Thomas Edison said opportunity is missed by most, because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
    Ally slipped her fortune in her pocket. When they were back at Granny's weathered Victorian, Ally went exploring and her mother left to do whatever she did when rid of Ally.
    The attic was full of dust-covered lampshades and cardboard boxes filled with old china and books. Ally sneezed as she opened lids and peeked under tarps.
    Ally pulled tape off one box and found a photo album with black pages and pictures held by tiny paper fasteners. She had never seen anything like it. The people, dressed in old-fashioned clothing, stood in front of a stone cottage and beside a small boat. A baby girl grew up in the pictures until she stood, wearing a simple white dress and holding a bouquet, alongside a smiling man in a suit. There were more photos with a baby. Ally, her stomach in a knot, guessed who they were.
    She turned the page and found a yellowed newspaper clipping: A young man, Harry MacCloud, had been lost at sea, leaving a wife and daughter. Pasted next to the clip was a handwritten note: "My darling. I don't know how I lived through the bleak winter, missing you beside me in my cold bed and across the kitchen table. But spring found me mending. I have found you living again in a gift you gave me, one that struggled in the salt winds but now bursts with color and fragrance. Yes, the roses bloomed in Orkney."

  25. WOW! Have you read all the entries? There is some amazing talent here!

    Little Black Box

    It all started with a fortune cookie. This was no ordinary cookie though. This one was found in a black box.

    I found it quite by accident. I was in a rush. I was late for dinner with John and I couldn’t find my keys. They weren’t in my coat, my purse or in the key dish where I normally place them. I yanked open the table drawer to see if John had thrown them in there by accident. Inside the drawer my hand brushes up against something solid and I look down.

    There, staring up at me is a little black box. The same black box that I’ve dreamt about, waited for and hinted at for the last two years.

    Slowly I opened it and found not the sparkling solitaire I had imagined to see nestled inside the box, but instead a single fortune cookie.

    The first thing I noticed when I picked up the cookie was how heavy it was, too heavy in fact. A smile broke across my face. This must be a special cookie with my ring inside. John must have hid it in this drawer knowing I rarely looked inside.

    I closed the box and gently placed it back. When I looked down, I saw a small paper with writing. A list with the following words:
    • Get Tracey out of the house
    • Roses
    • Food
    • Music
    • Candles lit
    • Framed picture on the table
    • Call Tracey to come home

    It all began to make sense. John insisted on the phone that I tell him when I left; he must have been planning to return to the house, set everything up and then call to tell me he already left the restaurant and came home.

    Recently John asked me what the perfect night would be like for me. It included everything on this list with one exception.

    Two years ago John took me to see his childhood home in Scotland. He grew up in Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney, the most beautiful place I had ever seen. There was one spot I loved the most, I told John it was heaven on earth. We had our picture taken there. The perfect night would be here, in this place where the angels kissed the ground and left a beautiful garden. The background of our picture is the most beautiful rose garden I’ve ever seen.

    Tonight, John must be creating that perfect night so he could propose. While it won’t be in that garden, it will still be there for me, in our picture. Why is that picture so special for me?

    One reason really. The roses bloomed in Orkney.

    Steena Holmes
    Chocolate Reality

  26. I'd love to participate, but I'd never get it done it time. Looks like you have some great entries, though. Good luck to all of them!

  27. Mine turned out longer than intended so I must do it in two parts...

    It all started with a fortune cookie. Started and ended, I should say, since I’ve learned to see time as circular. We’re always beginning something new, when we bury something old.
    I’ve lived in Orkney, Pennsylvania my entire life. I grew up just outside of town, beside a field of spring clover. I planted flowers with my mother in beds of good, rich soil, and boiled winter soups with water from our well. In the fall of 1997, when she died and my brother sold the farm to a development firm, the pair of us dropped her ashes into the River Gamble. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Earth to earth. I’ll always miss my mother’s smell of peppermint and loam.
    There was only one thing that I wanted from the farm before we sold it: I dug a put of musk roses from the garden and took it with me into town.
    I’ll be with you, honey, my mom had always said. So long as the roses bloom in Orkney. But sunlight behind glass was too filtered, the air in town too thick. The poor things had barely made it through another winter; I knew that they wouldn’t make it through the spring. I fussed over those memories and felt them dying as if my mother were dying all over again. My windowsill took on the air of a deathbed. I never could have guessed that a cookie would set me free.

    My friend David works as an assistant in his parents’ Asian goods market and has a habit of bringing me stale things when he can’t stand them around his own house anymore.
    He rang my bell, unannounced, at seven o’clock last Saturday evening. We both knew that there was nothing for him to interrupt at seven o’clock on a Saturday evening, but I still felt that belligerence was called for.
    “Molly!” he said when I opened the door.
    “What do you want?”
    “I brought dinner!”
    “I’m busy.”
    “You’re not busy.” David pushed past me into the apartment and flung a bag onto my couch.
    “I am busy,” I said, following him to my living room. But I locked the door behind me because I knew he wasn’t leaving. I looked at the bag and, despite myself, was curious. “What’d you bring?”

  28. “Canned sardines,” said David. “I swear that they won’t give you botulism. Oh, and fortune cookies.”
    I planted myself on the arm of the sofa and popped open the bag of cookies. “You want one?”
    “I’ve been living off of them for three days,” he said. “So no. But they’re not bad crushed up as cereal.”
    I stared at him over the crinkle of thin plastic.
    “In case you were wondering,” he added.
    The cookie was a little soft as I cracked it between my teeth, but it tasted sweetly of sugar and vanilla. The fortune hung out like a limp white flag. I tossed it aside without reading.
    David started. “You don’t read your fortunes?”
    “No,” I said. “They’re pointless.”
    He picked it up and read it. Folded it in half and stuck it in his pocket.
    “It says,” David replied, sounding sheepish. “That you are literate.”
    “What,” I said, “did I tell you?”
    “Lots of things are pointless,” said David. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do them.”
    I looked over at my window, where my dying pot of roses were just hanging on. David watched me and watched the flowers, but neither of us said anything. By now he knew the story as well as I did.
    Finally David broke the silence, as David often does.
    “Come on,” he said. He grabbed the tiny pot, and because he had it hostage I had no choice but to follow. We took his car through the city, past shuttered windows and bolted doors. At the edge of town, we stopped at his parents’ house.
    He led me through a break in the chain-link fence and out to his mother’s thicket of a garden. The place was nothing like my childhood: here, roots and branches nested together, living and dead, green and brown. It smelled of warm hands and cold water and decay.
    But there was something thrilling about the place. Something living. Something young.
    There, right in the heart of his mother’s garden, David and I packed my childhood into the earth. My jeans were damp from kneeling, my hands black with good, rich soil, and when I wiped sweat from my face, I found that I was crying.
    David helped me to my feet and put an arm around my shoulders. He handed me another fortune cookie. Smiled. I tore the plastic with my teeth and cracked the cookie open. Smoothed the slip of paper between my filthy fingers.
    I laughed, and when I laughed, I started crying all over again. David wiped off the tears and took the fortune from my hands.
    The greatest danger is your stupidity.
    “Oh my God,” he said. “There’s something wrong with your bag.”
    He drove me home while the sun set copper.
    Walking into my apartment, alone this time, I felt refreshed. The flowers were gone and the living room seemed empty. Clean.
    I rinsed my hands at the kitchen sink and watched the soil slip away from my skin. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, earth to earth. Pointless, maybe, or maybe not.
    When I slept that night, I dreamt of spring. Of my mother. It was dawn on the farm and the sun came up, yellow and pink. The grass showed off its new coat of morning dew, the river flashed silver, and I felt lighter than I’d felt in months because I found my mother waiting. Don’t worry over things so much, she said, and smiled. And I smiled too. That June, the roses bloomed in Orkney.

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  32. I can't believe I'm doing this - I haven't written anything creatively since the eighth grade. Here goes....

    It all started with a fortune cookie - started to go down hill, that is. She THOUGHT they were driving steadily down the road of Acceptable, with Potential in the seeable distance, but instead, her fifth date in three months had just turned the inevitable corner.

    These Internet "blind" dates were all strange in the beginning. More often than not, she knew they were headed toward a dead end before she even ordered her first glass of chardonnay - like a few weeks ago with the garbage man from Ansonia who had never traveled south of the Valley. (What was she thinking even agreeing to that one?) But, Darren, he was pleasant from the start. He wasn't Brad Pitt "hot" or anything (.......Did she even like Brad Pitt anymore? After that whole Jen-Angelina mess... not sure.) And he wasn't Dane Cook funny (........ yes, definitely still liked Dane Cook). And, he wasn't Einstein smart (not that she would ever be attracted to Einstein, but really, how many attractive smart guys are there, come to think of it?) Darren was pleasant - pleasant-looking, pleasant conversation-maker, pleasant sense of humor.

    He was wearing the "boy uniform" - summer khakis and a polo shirt. His shirt was a nice shade of green - not that it mattered. Every one of her five most recent dates had shown up in the same outfit - khakis and polo shirt (or is it a "golf" shirt? is there a difference?) in color of choice. She didn't hold it against him, or any of them really. Guys don't have a lot of fashion choices in the suburbs. Maybe she'd create a Facebook quiz that would determine compatibility based on the color of shirt worn on the first date....

    She was wearing her must-have-for-Summer 2009, newly-purchased-from-Kohl's, almost-turquoise blue maxi-dress (totally her color - matched her almost-turquoise blue eyes). She also had the benefit of her July tan and perfectly blown out blonde hair. If Darren looked pleasant, she knew she looked appealing.

    They had successfully navigated the first two hours of their date. They had made the initial small talk, ordered dinner and had actual conversation (not weird, interview-style first date conversation) over chicken and broccolli and tangerine beef. She told him about her job in human resources and secret desire to be a make-up artist. He told her a funny story about feigning a head injury in the third grade to get out of taking a test. They laughed. A few times. Yes, they were comfortably cruising. And she could feel Potential getting closer and closer.

    Then the waiter brought the check and obligatory two fortune cookies. Never one to turn down a free fortune-telling (or a free dessert), she immediately reached for a cookie, broke it apart and read the white slip of paper out loud to Darren, "Pursue your wishes aggressively."

    And then he said it.

    "In bed!" he exclaimed with such pride and self-amusement that she knew she would only think of one word in conjunction with him ever again - DORK. (Really – that joke was SO 10 years ago!)

  33. She slammed on the brakes and jerked the wheel away from Potential and Pleasant. It was going to be nothing but a straight shot to Annoying from here on out. Once she flipped her mental switch, they would begin
    the steady descent toward awkward silence and forced conversation. Within an hour, they'd be careening madly down the hill of "dear God, get me OUT of HERE!" and slam head-on into Mutual Disappointment. She did have a hint that it might end this way. He did order a Flirtini at a Chinese restaurant. What kind of guy does that anyway?? (A DORK! And not the adorable kind, just the dorky kind).

    She already knew what everyone would say the next day when she recounted her tale of The Date With Bachelor Number 5 - "You're too picky. It was just a stupid joke. He was probably nervous" They - all her married friends who seemed to relish these stories a bit too much - would all make excuses for him, urge her to give him a second date. After all, he WAS pleasant for most of the evening. Wasn't that what she had said herself??? The "marrieds" just didn't get it. Most of them hadn't had to endure a date in at least five years. When they were dating, everyone was young and attractive and drunk. It was fun! Everyone had Potential. And even if there was no potential, you at least got a free meal, a nice buzz and maybe some hot make-out action for your trouble.

    She had missed out on that. While everyone else was finding The One and getting proposed to on beaches at sunset or on perfectly arranged romantic picnics in the park or even on billboards (for the love of God - how TACKY!) - while they were all doing that, she was in her very dark place. She didn't know it was dark then. Well, somewhere inside she did. In her logical brain she knew. But in her wildly emotional and desperate-to-be-loved heart, she had no idea. She thought it was love. She thought a sunset beach proposal might actually be in HER future.

    Everyone else knew though. Everyone else seemed particularly adept at pointing out the very obvious things that she chose to ignore. Things like HE'S MARRIED ........or ........ HIS WIFE IS HAVING A BABY ......... or ........ HE GOT YOU PREGNANT AND WOULDN'T EVEN GIVE YOU A RIDE HOME FROM THE CLINIC. It was embarrassing to think about it now - how stupid she'd been, how much time she spent crying and lying and crying and screaming and stalking and crying and drunk dialing and crying. There was SO much crying. There was six wasted years and one wasted baby. It was a very dark time.

  34. She had started to step back into the light about two years ago and now with her 37th birthday around the corner and that stupid cliché biological clock ticking so loudly that it woke her up most nights in a panic, dating was not fun. It was a job. Actually, it was more like a Job Fair when the unemployment rate is at 50% and every applicant is desperate and pathetic and lying all over their resumes. Everyone at this age came with baggage - an ex-wife, a live-in mother, a 20-year-old daughter from a high school girlfriend, an unemployment problem, a sobriety problem, a car obsession, a porn obsession. They were all single for a reason. And once she spotted the reason, she slammed the door on them. She had never stopped to think - until now - what was HER reason? What did these men go home and tell THEIR married friends about the date they'd just had with HER? If it was Darren, he would probably say that they'd had a nice evening and then the fortune cookies came and suddenly, she turned into a bitch and the evening decomposed from there. She had to admit that was probably a pretty accurate description. Maybe his joke wasn't that bad. Maybe the way he said it wasn't that dorky. Maybe. But she couldn't take the chance. She couldn't waste another six years with the wrong person. If there was any hint of imperfection, best to nip it in the bud before anyone got hurt. She was too tired to be hurt again.

    She was home now. The date with Darren ended with the standard "It was fun. Maybe we can do it again sometime" crap that they both knew neither one of them meant. At least they were both socialized enough to say the correct, polite things to each other at the end of an evening. She kicked off her shoes and they landed with all the other pairs of shoes she had worn that week - in a pile in the corner of her living room. Maybe she would clean that up tomorrow. Probably she wouldn't. She went into the kitchen, took down her favorite wine glass and poured herself some sweet relief. Her cat jumped on the counter and nuzzled her arm.

    She really did love living alone. It was a luxury to come home to an apartment full of all her stuff which was always just where she left it. She could eat dinner on the couch in her pajamas and watch her DVR'ed episodes of brain numbing soaps. She could leave the bathroom a mess and not make her bed. She could read uninterrupted. She didn't have to share bed space or couch space or the remote. She didn't have to coordinate schedules or worry about farting in her sleep. Living alone was great. Being lonely, not so great.

    She was about to hop on the couch and watch a ubiquitous "Friends" rerun before sinking into bed, but the events of the evening had got her thinking about change. It was time to make a change. How many more of these dates could she go on before swearing off men altogether? There had to be another way. Instead of turning on the TV, she got her laptop and got online. She would book a trip! She hadn't taken a vacation since Jen's Vegas bachelorette party three years ago. She deserved a trip. A big one. Scotland. She would go to Scotland! She loved Scottish men - that accent, the kilts! Surely, no Scottish man would make that stupid "in bed" joke. No Scottish man would string her along for six years while married to another woman. No Scottish man would hurt a beautiful Irish girl like her! Scotland, it would be! Orkney, to be exact. She would stay in Orkney, just because she really liked the whimsical name. And besides, this was the time of year that the roses bloomed in Orkney.

  35. Okay, I messed up the format and it didn't look good. so I'm trying again. (sorry.)

    It's in two parts.

    It all started with a fortune cookie. Tomorrow you will meet someone who will change your life.
    Sweet. I needed a change. And a new boyfriend to boot. So Monday morning, instead of rushing out the door without thought to my appearance, I actually tamed my wavy (frizzy) hair and applied makeup.
    “Not too bad,” Jennie said as I grabbed a cup of coffee before heading to class.

    “Thanks. I figure if I’m to meet someone who’ll change my life, I should try to look good for him.”

    Bring on Jennie’s famous eye roll. “KayKay, it didn’t say a boy. Plus, it’s a fortune cookie. They’re generic. The lady at the DMP changes people’s lives every day. Mr. Marcious changed my life drastically last week when he gave me a D on my term paper.” She patted my hand. “I wouldn’t read too much into this.”

    My shoulders slumped a touch, but my nerves stayed alive. Nope, this fortune would come true, I could feel it.

    “Gotta go.” I sat my mug on the counter, picked up my bag off the chair, and headed out the door, whistling.

    Today would be a good day.

    In freshman English, a boy with huge blue eyes and shaggy light-brown hair smiled at me. I bit my lip and batted my eyelashes. Then he kissed the girl that sat down next to him full on the mouth.

    Oh well. I’d keep my eyes open. There were a lot of good looking guys at Stanford, and today, one of them would take an interest in me.

    As I walked through the Old Union, smiling at a hot babe leaned back on the grass eating an apple, I bumped into a brick wall. Not literally. He wore a Red Wings tee shirt and faded jeans. He caught me before I face planted.

    “Sorry,” I murmured.

    His smile was sweet, kind. “No problem. It’s not every day I have a beautiful girl fall for me.”

    I bit my lip and looked him over. Clean cut. Dark brown hair. Freshly shaven. Rich brown eyes. Good California tan. Yep, he’d do quite nicely.

    “I’m KayKay.” I extended my hand.

    He shook it. “Nice to meet you. I’m Gavin.”

    Wow. Good looks and a sexy name. I loved fortunes.

    Then his eyes shifted. I glanced in the direction he’d looked and watched an African goddess approach.

    “Sorry I’m late, sweetheart,” she said, kissing his cheek. “Your mother was running behind on her errands and didn’t get to the house until twenty minutes ago to watch Alex.” She nodded at me and slipped her hand into his. “Who’s your friend.”

    “KayKay, right?” he asked.

    I nodded.


    “Yep. Thanks for keeping me on my feet.” I smiled and walked away. It was already noon, and I hadn’t met anyone who seemed like boyfriend material. At least not my boyfriend. They were already taken by someone else.

    By four, I’d said hi and smiled at more men than I had in my whole nineteen years of life. I batted my eyelashes, twirled my hair around my fingers, bit my lip, everything that was supposed to be seductive. Finally, I gave up and went home.

    “Well, that sucked. I found no one.” I sat my bag on the counter and slid into a chair at the kitchen table.

    Jennie laughed. “You know, for someone so smart, you sure are stupid sometimes.”

    “Thanks for your support,” I growled.

    The door bell rang, renewing my hope for meeting Mr. Right. Maybe he was coming to me. I darted into the living room and flung open the door. The sexiest man I’d ever seen stood there holding a toolbox. His brown Mr. Fix-it uniform stretched around his muscle-bound torso. Eyes as blue and wild as the sea stared back at me.

    He smiled. “You’re parents home?”

    I slowly shook my head. Oh, way better than anyone from campus. I could feel the changing taking place all ready. “No, sir. They’re at work.”

    “Well, Mr. Lindsey called me and asked if I could take a look at the furnace. Get it cleaned up for winter and all.”

    “Please.” I took a step back to allow him entrance. “Come in.”

    “Who is—” Jennie’s jaw dropped. Then she grinned. “Hi.”

    We eagerly led him to the basement and watched while he worked.

  36. Sorry - I had to do that in three posts. Clearly, I need to learn how to edit......

  37. Part two.

    “I love fortune cookies,” Jennie whispered.

    “Me too.”

    Mr. Fix-it glanced at me. “So, what time will your parents be home?”

    My stomach flipped, this was it, I could feel it. Things were about to get interesting. “Not until late. Dad has a conference in San Diego and mom’s on call. She’ll stay at the hospital until eleven.”

    His eyes glittered. “Perfect.

    The shot rang out before I knew what happened. Jennie slumped to the floor as crimson spread across her chest.

    My eyes widened. My heart stopped.

    “I don’t understand,” I whispered, dropping to my knees and clasping to my little sister.
    Tears burned my eyes. The room spun.

    Mr. Fix-it yanked me to my feet. “Let’s go.”

    “Jennie,” I sobbed. Suddenly filled with rage, I kicked and hit the man. “What have you done?”

    He backhanded me, grabbed my hair at the base of my neck, and dragged me up the stairs. As he threw me on the kitchen floor, I noticed the duct tape.

    “Please.” My voice cracked.

    He held my hands together, securing them with tape. Next, he shoved a cloth from his pocket into my mouth and covered it with tape. I could barely breathe through my sobs. I tried to scream, but only muffled moans came out.

    Mr. Fix-it smiled. “You are probably wondering why I’m doing this. Well, don’t take it personally. You can blame your father. He should’ve known better than to steal from my boss. And now he’ll pay. And pay dearly.”

    His words swirled around in my head. He made no sense. My father wasn’t a thief. He was a good, honest man, who worked hard to provide for us. He wasn’t a thief.

    I shut my eyes tight. This was not happening.

    Material ripped and hot wetness slithered up my stomach to my neck.

    God, please help me.

    He shook my hips, pulling my jeans down.

    God, no. Don’t let him rape me.

    I sang the only hymn I could think of in my head. O Holy Night. As he did unholy things to me. And it was over. He pulled my naked, bruised body into a kitchen chair and taped me to it. He slapped my cheek a few times.

    “Open your eyes.”

    I complied.

    “I don’t exist. I am a ghost. No one will ever find me. You live as a reminder to your father that he is being watched. This was a simple home invasion. If it’s reported as anything else, you all die.”

    He ripped the tape off my mouth, taking skin, and removed the cloth. Then yanked my head back with my hair. “Do I make myself clear?”

    “Yes,” I sputtered. “Crystal.”

    He patted my head and smiled. “Good girl.” He leaned over and kissed me, shoving his tongue in my mouth while he groped my breast. “And you were very good.”

    And then he was gone.

    My mind withdrew from the carnage of the afternoon. I couldn’t stay here, and it was the only escape I had. I went to our grandpa’s cabin in Alabama. Walked around the lake. Caught fireflies. Became a kid again.

    I laughed and played with my cousins, and the roses bloomed in Orkney.

  38. Oh, and I posted about it on my Legend of the Protectors blog.

    Great idea Suz!

  39. Hi all! Well, reading all of these amazing entries was more fun than writing my own. Everyone has such a unique perspective...This is great fun. Thank you.

  40. I am so blown away! I can't figure out how we will choose!

    Ugh! MANDY!

  41. So many great entries! I'm kind of intimidated to post mine... :) But here we go!

    Also: I tweeted about the contest here.

    My blog: / Twitter: @jen_rose

    Right. Here's my story! Love this prompt idea! :D


    Miss Fortune

    It all started with a fortune cookie. Well, okay, not an actual fortune cookie, but a cartoon cookie on a T-shirt, with a funny message sticking out of it: “I cannot help you, for I am just a cookie.

    Melanie was wearing it the day I met her in my freshman college English class. She wore it with confidence, like her spiky black hair and worn-out checkered Vans. The outfit was made for her, a total contrast to my pink polo and khaki pants. “Cool T-shirt,” I said with a smile, hoping to make my first friend. She smiled, took the desk next to me, and stuck out her hand. “I’m Melanie!”

    “Hi. I’m Steph,” I said, shaking her hand. A rainbow of rubber bracelets bounced on her arm. We bonded right there in the classroom.

    The shirt summed her up well, and not just her quirky sense of humor. The girl was obsessed with fortune cookies to the point that I nicknamed her “Miss Fortune.” We spent many a late night studying with boxes of Chinese takeout scattered around us. She’d drop everything to crack hers open and read the paper out loud. She collected them, taped them to the inside cover of her notebooks. By spring term, I was starting to think she was a few noodles short of a bowl of lo mein, but she was my first and best friend in college, so really, I had to accept the eccentric stuff.

    “They’re stupid, Mel,” I said one night as she announced that she was “going to travel far and wide, for business or pleasure.” It was pushing midnight, and knowing a really tough exam awaited us in eight hours left me extra cranky.

    “What? They’re fun!” She slipped the tiny paper into her algebra book. “What’s yours say?”

    I rolled my eyes, then cracked open the cookie, letting a dust of crumbs spill over my jeans. “‘You are free to invent your own life.’ What does that even mean?”

    “Anything.” She shrugged and smiled. I wanted to toss the silly paper, but I knew better. Not with Mel sitting there.


    I didn’t invent my own life. Not really. Our majors took us separate ways -- business and art history don’t exactly cross paths very often -- but we still made an effort to hang out whenever we could. We graduated. I got an accounting job in a neat, very white-walled office. She made wild plans to move abroad to do some sort of charity work. I thought she was nuts, but a secret part of me envied her. She was inventing her life, day by day, chasing fortune cookie dreams. I missed believing in stuff like that.

    It was a rainy Monday, years after leaving college behind, when I checked my e-mail and saw her name in my inbox. “Hi from Orkney!” practically grinned from the subject line. The colon-and-parentheses smiley at the end made me... well... smile. And only Mel would end up in a place with a crazy name like Orkney.

    As I read her letter, I remembered a day when I thought I’d be traveling the world like her, a time before I grew up and began looking for a “real job.” I had dreams too. And deep down, I still had them. I read it four times before noticing the PS at the end: “I’ve got extra room if you ever want to come visit. Picture attached to show you how amazing it is! Hope it makes you smile!”

    I opened the picture. And it did make me smile. She was bundled in a sweater and had the same crazy haircut peeking out from under a striped knit cap, and she held a long white sign that said, in her scribbling, thick handwriting, “You are free to invent your own life, Steph!” And the roses bloomed in Orkney.

  42. Ugh, blogger is being weird. I think I have to post mine in two separate comments. Sorry!

    It all started with a fortune cookie. I was stuck eating dinner with my parents on a Friday night and cracking open a fortune cookie was pretty much the main event in an otherwise lame dinner.

    I was grounded. Again. Sadly, I couldn’t even remember which of my many offenses had earned me two weeks of solitary confinement this time around. I think it might have had something to do with me getting caught making out with Cameron Thomson on the last church retreat. Yeah, that whole indiscretion didn’t go over so well considering the pastor overseeing the retreat was my dad.

    “Grace, you haven’t even touched your Kung Pao chicken,” my mother nagged when she saw me wrestling with the plastic wrapper on the fortune cookie.

    “Not hungry.” I’ve found that less is more with my parents. I typically try to keep my responses under 3 words. This not only drives them insane, it saves my breath. Not like they actually listen to me anyways.

    I like to keep track of the number of words I say to them in any given day; it’s a little game I play with myself just to stay sane. If I counted these last two words I was up to a grand total of 7 for the day today. Not bad.

    “The Lord has bestowed his bounty on us, Grace. You choose to offend Him by ignoring his gifts?” My dad always talked to me like he was preaching to his congregation or maybe composing another chapter of the Bible. Either way, it wasn’t exactly conducive to a normal father/daughter chat.

    This time, I chose to ignore him completely and continued unwrapping my fortune cookie. Ooh, that brings my word count total down to 6. I subtracted a word whenever I ignored them. Kept things competitive.

    I cracked open the smooth cookie and pulled out the thin white paper. It listed my lucky number as 6 and 7 (hmm…coincidence that it matched my word count total?) and it said, “The roses bloomed in Orkney.”

    I threw down my cookie and stormed away from the table. WTF fortune cookie manufacturer? That was the worst fortune I’d ever seen. What did it even mean? That stupid fortune cookie was all I had to look forward to all night long and now I was stuck with my stupid parents in our stupid house with nothing to do all night long.

    God, my life sucked.

    Since my bedroom was on the first floor and I didn’t have any stairs to stomp up, I had to settle for slamming the door to my bedroom. I collapsed on my so-pink-it looked-like-someone-puked-Pepto-Bismal-all-over-it bed and immediately opened my MacBook. The only thing that might salvage this night was an e-mail from the boy. The boy was Cameron Thomas. Yes, the very same Cameron Thomson who had gotten me grounded in the first place. Gorgeous, inappropriate, drug loving, school hating, he was pretty much a walking, talking embodiment of every parents’ nightmare.

    I loved him.

  43. There were no e-mails from Cameron waiting in my Gmail, but there was something else. A message from I figured it was spam, but I felt my fingers click on the e-mail anyways. The e-mail was only one line long.

    “The roses bloomed in Orkney.”

    I slammed my MacBook shut. Hands shaking. This was getting weird.

    My cell phone buzzed on my desk and I jumped nearly as high as I used to when my brother would hide in the shower, leaping out screaming the second I started washing my face.

    I had a new text. I already knew what it was going to say, even before my shaking hands opened the message.

    “The roses bloomed in Orkney.”

    I sunk back in my bed, fear racing through my body. Something was wrong. I had no idea what the message meant, but it couldn’t be anything good. My parents. I’d break all my rules and tell them. They had to believe me, I had proof.

    I heard a knock at my window and before the scream could even leave my throat he was in my room.


    I let out a huge sigh of relief. “You’re never going to believe what happened to me tonight…” But before I could even finish the sentence he grabbed me, and threw me down on the bed. That’s when I saw the knife and heard him hiss.

    “The roses bloomed in Orkney.”

  44. Ooh and here's our link!

    Good luck deciding...too many good stories to choose from!

  45. I love, love, love these two lines. As busy as I am -- it is the summer -- and English teacher deserves to write a fun story once in a while, right?


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