Creative Exercise #10


Good fiction is comprised of many parts: plot, characters, setting, scenes, and dialogue. But we rarely talk about theme, even though it’s critical to good storytelling.

There’s no clear and easy way to define theme. It has been called the worldview, philosophy, message, moral, and lesson within a story. However, these labels, taken alone or together, don’t quite explain theme in fiction.

We can think of a theme as an underlying principle or concept. It’s usually universal in nature. Some common themes include redemption, sacrifice, betrayal, loyalty, greed, justice, oppression, revenge, and love.

Themes can be philosophical and they can ask questions or pit two ideas against each other: science vs. faith, good vs. evil, why are we here, and what happens when we die?

If you and I both watch the film The Matrix, we might identify different themes in the film. I might identify social class as a theme and you might say that freedom is a theme. In this case, we’d both be right. For this exercise, you will choose one of your favorite stories and identify its themes.

  1. Choose a favorite book, movie, or television show (for a TV show, you should just choose one episode). Make a list of all the themes you can identify in the story. Try to find 5-10 themes. Go over your list a few times to make sure you’re identifying themes (big, sweeping concepts) rather than conflicts or plot twists.
  2. Next, determine one key theme that is woven through the entire story. You might find there are two or three major themes. List them all but choose just one to explore in the next step.
  3. Now, explain how the storyteller presented this theme through plot, character, and scenes. Make a list of events and situations from the story that embody the theme.
  4. Write a 500 word sketch that establishes theme through either plot, character, an object or a particular scene.

Be sure to also comment on a classmate's post for full credit.

27 thoughts on “Creative Exercise #10

  1. Katherine Whelchel

    I wanted to be known. As I stepped into the courtyard, this thought screamed over and over in my head. There were maybe 60 people surrounding me, all doing different things, feeling different ways, and talking about their different lives; I wanted to know them all and be known by them. When you grow up as an extrovert you begin to learn the ways to think, feel, and process, and at that moment I knew why my stomach felt fluttery and my eyes could not rest on a single solitary spot.
    As I put one foot in front of the other I held my shoulders back, hoping to give off the impression that I knew where I was going and was not planning on circling the courtyard about five times until I could figure out where to sit. There was so much potential in each person that I gazed at. Who were they? How did they act? Would they become my closest friends? It was like being an artist and going crazy thinking of the many different possibilities that the blank canvas in front of me held.
    I passed by a table of students all wearing the same jackets. Trying not to stare, I made a few brisk glances that were appropriately timed between moments of looking elsewhere. I gathered that they were all a part of the basketball team. On my last look, I made eye contact with the blonde haired boy at the table, and then proceeded to hasten my step while trying to look like I didn’t even notice; my eyes were just “accidentally” staring at you and your friends, sir.
    A few steps later my gaze focused on a beautiful brunette whose outfit I was making mental note of to recreate later. Only two other girls were sitting with her, but I hardly noticed them. The brunette held an air of entitlement that made me intrigued. She was the type of person I wanted to interview so I could understand her. As she glanced around I caught the glint in her eyes; no apology would ever lead them to forgive.
    My steps were bringing be around a bend, so the table with girl left my sight. As I passed a tree, I spotted a couple leaning against the trunk, deep in conversation. I wondered about the topic of their words, and tilted my head down to my gaze would be hidden. No emotion was shown on the girl’s face, while the boy seemed full of energy, his hands exuberantly moving as he talked. It was one of those relationships that seemed uneven. Did he love her more than she loved him?
    Without noticing, I made eye contact with the blonde basketball player again. I had walked all the way around the circle and was back at the start of my thought-provoking journey, with only perceptions of who they all were.

    1. Aundrea Pierce


      I like it! I feel you did what Carver did in “Cathedral” by capturing the thoughts of the main character which people can relate to like; “I made eye contact with the blonde haired boy at the table, and then proceeded to hasten my step while trying to look like I didn’t even notice; my eyes were just “accidentally” staring at you and your friends, sir.”
      That’s funny and very much something my anxious self would do! I’m not sure what theme you had in mind, but I felt a sense of yearning to belong, especially in the introduction. Then towards the end with your brilliant layout of going around the circle again, but with a pre-set notion, I felt a sense of adaptation. Again, how you included the character views everyone around is very relatable. Good job!

    2. Cassidy Kramer

      Katherine, I thought this was a very fun story. I catch myself in the same situations as the main character. Making eye contact, watching people and thinking about what situation they are in, and trying not to get caught staring. If I am in a busy place, like an airport, I like to sit and watch people pass and wonder what they have going on and where they are going. I feel like I have a lot in common with your character, and I think that is why I was drawn in your story. Good job!
      Cassidy Kramer

  2. Andrew Lange


    I really enjoyed your piece. One of the things I found most interesting was how it does plunge the reader into what the author is experiencing, without openly first explaining what it is. This is arguably one of the most fun things about reading others’ creative writing pieces, workshopping essays, etc: Seeing the world from others’ perspectives.

    I presume you took the theme from a particular piece and then related it to an actual experience of your own?

  3. Aubri Stogsdill

    Bed to bed to bed to bed. That is my life. I haven’t spent more than six months in the same home in the past two years. I think the hardest part is the new smells. You know how every household has a scent? I’m never in one place long enough to get used to it. Every time Ms. Janet takes me to a new foster home, the smell hits me in the face and makes me want to cry. To them, it smells like home. In fact, they don’t even notice it anymore. But to me, it’s just another steady reminder that I am out of place. Daddy didn’t want me, and momma stopped trying. I don’t have a family. The state is my daddy.

    Ms. Janet is convinced that this is the one. Of course, she always is. But before she knows it I’m in the back of her big stupid SUV again, driving to some other family. Ms. Janet is always smiling and has an intense sort of positivity. It pisses me off. I used to believe her. I thought that she could find a family for me; people that wanted me. Before, these drives were exciting. All her encouraging words brought hope into my heart, but after the sixth placement I stopped hoping. Ms. Janet means well, she just doesn’t understand. I’m nearly sixteen years old. In a few years I’m going to age out of the system, and then what? My friend Kally aged out and within a month was on the pole. Thats what happens to kids like me, and not even sweet little Ms. Janet can fix that.

    There is nothing as humiliating as being kicked out of a foster home. I mean, I get it. I’m not the easiest kid in the system to care for. I’m sick. My body is trying to kill me. Everyday its something else. My immune system is so weak that hospital visits are a regular event. The families are always so apologetic, “You’re a great kid, Mary! We just can’t handle all of this medical stuff..” Other kids scream, break stuff, and drink. But I’m sick and because of that my mom didn’t even want me. My middle name is Burden. What sucks is that I can’t fix it. I can’t make myself better.

    1. Jessica Honebein

      Aubri! I absolutely LOVE your story, it was very deep and I wanted to keep reading and reading. I love how you embodied the feelings in the narrator and as a reader I feel I am walking away with a sense of knowing the main character Mary even more. I like the theme that you chose to go with and I think that you did a very good job about emphasizing it as well. Always interesting to read a story about a perspective of someone that is in and out of foster system, and I think adding the reason why at the end helped make the story even stronger!

    2. Michelle Cordova

      Hi Aubri,

      I completely agree with Jessica, that adding the reasoning behind getting moved from one foster home to the next was a great touch. This short story gave so many details and left me wanting to read more! Great job on the assignment!

    3. Ben Knapp

      Your story is amazing! The character really feels real, and it is impossible for the reader to not feel bad for her. I like how your beginning draws the reader in, as well as setting up the story and giving us an early glimpse at the narrator’s personality.

  4. Andrew Lange

    I thought it was a mistake at first. I really did. Despite posting on the forum message boards often and getting PMs regularly from people in various places to elaborate further on their answers to my questions, or ask their own, I couldn’t figure out why for the life of me someone in Kansas would have any interest at all in trying to reach out to me. Little did I know it was about to change my life.

    My inbox was full, so I couldn’t see the content of their message. Nevertheless I went and deleted a bunch of old spam and wrote them back asking what it was they were wondering. I got a reply, too: Where in Alaska was I located? He was driving from Kansas to Fairbanks, Alaska that August (it was March 2016) and looking to meet other like-minded individuals who shared the same passion. I replied: It’s funny you should mention Fairbanks, since I’m also moving there in August. You aren’t going to UAF, are you? Turns out he is.

    I explain I’m from Port Alexander, Alaska, outside Sitka, and where I spent my childhood, Atascadero, California. I get a reply again: He has family in both places. Small world much?

    You know how in this day and age people honestly don’t seem to be all that trusting of strangers, especially someone you met through the Internet. Yes, on a forum’s message board. Yeah, all those stories you used to hear in the news years ago about the dangers of AOL chat rooms.

    We’re both college students, moving to Fairbanks from afar, and the more we communicate the more we have in common. His aunt, who now runs a microbrewery in Sitka, Alaska, used to be an SLP in the small, rural, K-12 school I’m about to graduate from. Unlike most skittish strangers, he’s house-hunting and in no uncertain terms invites me to have first right of refusal as a roommate. Rent? Meh, don’t worry about it, we’ll figure something out when we get to that point, he says, when I explain I’m all but broke.

    We apply to be college roommates together when it becomes apparent that off-campus housing simply isn’t happening. While most people usually have complete horror stories about their first college roommate, we at least want to be with someone we have a few things in common with, similar interests, from the same places.

    At this point, I had just signed up for Facebook, and we went and looked each other up. Scrolling through each other’s “Wall”, we did the double take to end all double takes: We literally had the very same birthday. Well, exactly one year apart, but the same month, same day.

    Fast-forward to August. I’m heading off to begin my freshman year of college in about three weeks. We get to meet in person for the first time, in Sitka, Alaska. I did get to meet his mother, who met my father. When they learned of the completely accidental “coincidence” they couldn’t believe it. The more we talk, the stranger it gets- we literally have some of the same equally strange experiences or stories to share.

    1. Corbin Knapp

      Hey Andrew!
      I enjoyed your piece, and I thought it was well written. It is really cool that you have a lot in common with your roommate, and I enjoyed how you included details on how you met. I think it would be really interesting if you continued the story. Expanding on the things that you have in common and why this means so much to you.

  5. Sierra McCollum

    I came here to find myself and start over. Create a new name. I wanted to focus on school and worked on becoming a veterinarian in the near future. Of course I wanted to make friends. That was on my list of things to do, but I’m not very good at it. I was lucky my roommate ended up being an amazing person and dear friend to me. We had a few classes together, which was extremely nice. I wasn’t alone. Our least favorite class was Chemistry Lab. That was our weakest subject, but we were going to make the most out of it.

    The day we had chem lab I made it to the classroom before my roommate. There wasn’t a lot of people in the classroom yet, so of course I was stressing myself out, thinking I was in the wrong class. Minutes before class was about to start, my roommate walks in all cheerful. We quickly designate a lab bench for us to settle down next to and began chatting away. We chatted about everything, but soon the conversation landed on boys. More importantly, if I was interested in finding someone to be in a relationship with. At that moment I said no. I came here to experience life on my own and to find myself. Also to focus on school. I didn’t need a guy to distract me. I was pretty satisfied with myself at the moment and didn’t need anyone.

    Then you walked in through the door. Late of course. But not a care in the world. You were wearing the UAF basketball warm up long sleeve, while everything else was branded with Nike. You had this care free look, and where smiling. I’ll never forget that smile. You signed in and casually walked towards the other side of my lab bench. Ours locked on eachother, my cheeks grow hot and I look away. While our TA was talking I noticed you trying to catch my eye, but I was to shy to stare back.

    Finally our TA was done talking, and you didn’t hesitate to introduce yourself to everyone around our bench. When you came up to me and asked my name I was sweating like crazy. I couldn’t believe someone so attractive was talking to me. I’m so used to be overlooked, this was foreign to me. You were from California and played basketball for UAF. A Jock. I was still starstruck when I told you about me. I was from Oregon and used to play softball. A nobody. There where other pretty girls in the class but you choose to talk and flirt with me. I was completely flattered, but nervous. And when it came to the end of class you began scooting closer and closer to my side of the bench. You only really focused on me. Other people asked you questions and you answered them but your eyes always found their way back to me. My heart pounded and I didn’t want to face the truth but I knew I was forming a crush on you.

    It was finally time to leave, but you made sure to hug me goodbye because “you don’t shake girls hands”. You slid you number in my pocket, winking while you did so. I was glad you did. Because after that class I texted you right away, like a giddy school girl. A huge grin plastered on my face.

  6. Corbin Knapp

    The movie that I chose is Star Wars, Return of The Jedi. This is one of my favorite sci-fi movies, and I think there are a lot of themes throughout the movie. Five themes that are in the movie are the struggle of good vs evil, bringing balance to the force, redemption for Darth Vader’s past crimes, hate does nothing good, and Luke’s refusal for getting vengeance against his father. One theme that is present throughout the whole movie is the struggle between good and evil. This is very constant in the plot, and throughout the movie Luke has to decide what the right thing to do is. Instead of turning to the dark side, he refuses to give into hate and evil , and throws away his light saber. Okay here is my sketch. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

    Good Dog.

    The house was on a street down the block from mine. I still can see it’s remains when I walk to school every day. It was a run down place with rotting wood covering the sides and mold growing all around the base of it. A man lived there with his dog. Every day as I went by I heard him swearing at the TV. Throwing a fit when the power occasionally went out in his house. I didn’t know the name of the man, but I did know the name of his dog. The man’s names for him were “useless sack of crap!” or “stupid dog!” but I just called him “Eustace”.

    Eustace was a small white dog with a black patch around both of his brown eyes that made him look like a goofy burglar. He always chased me on my way pass the house, barking rapidly and wagging his tail proudly when he had “chased me off”. Eventually he came to like me and I was certain that I was the only person in his doggy life that called him a good dog and gave him plenty of pets.

    I don’t think the man regularly fed Eustace, and I always made sure to sneak over to him and give him a morsel of food from my lunch bag. He would wolf it down and give me a lick, then settle back down on the porch, a sad look in his brown eyes as I walked away. I suspected the man beat him daily. There was always wounds on Eustace’s body where the man had kicked him in a drunken rage. It made me mad that a good dog like Eustace could end up living with a drunk jerk instead of a kind and caring family.

    The years passed slowly until I was almost done with high school and Eustace was a very old dog. I suspect the man continued to abuse him every day, and Eustace looked less and less happy every time I came to see him. One day a fire broke out in the man’s house and it burned down. On the evening news that night they pronounced that the man had died in the fire and his dog had also perished staying next to the man. The news report said that he had passed out from alcohol when he was lighting his cigarette and had lit the carpet on fire. The fire had spread quickly, and the house could not be saved.

    I couldn’t believe it! All the years of abuse that Eustace had taken and he had died trying to comfort the man who had created the stupid fire that killed them! I wanted to punch a wall it was so unfair. All his life he had been a good dog, and all it had gotten him was beatings from the man, and he still cared for him.. Tears sprang to my eyes as I thought about how much Eustace had meant to me. Later that night, I went by the house again and found that they had left Eustace’s corpse in the rubble, his white fur singed as black as the fur around his eyes. I picked him up and dug a small grave for him in the yard where I had visited him so many times. As I tossed the last bit of dirt over his grave, I smiled sadly, “Good dog……” and turned away.

  7. Michelle Cordova

    I was alone in my thoughts. No one to distract me except myself and the rain, the tiny droplets, that would occasionally seep through the smallest hole in the corner of my log cabin and plop onto the floor by my left foot. At the moment, I was writing a letter to my older brother, David, the one person in the whole world that seemed to have a soft spot for me, regardless of all the wrong I’ve done. I confided in him, via ink and paper, and although my words didn’t make sense to him, he’d write back and tell me everything was going to be okay.

    Everything was going to be okay? I couldn’t see how, but his optimism lifted my spirits as I tried to push our childhood memories out of my head. The days of being told I was crazy and unlovable. I knew I was different, but what right did anyone have to point out my flaws and ultimately turn me into a monster?

    Truth be told, I was a monster. I wanted the fires of hell to burn those who had betrayed and used me and twisted my soul into a tangled mess of wires. I wanted what everyone else had, families, love, and a career, but I was too far gone for that to happen outside of my dreams. After carefully sealing and stamping my name onto the 100th envelope addressed to my brother, I cracked open my leather-bound journal and began to write. My mission, I thought aloud, as I pointed the tip of my pen to that fine paper and began writing.

    Some might call it a manifesto, a detailed way in which I would right all the wrongs in the world and show people I’m not as crazy as they thought. But who would ever see it, and how would I get people to understand? I’d been turned on so many times before and couldn’t bare the thought of even more outsiders mocking me. Was there any way to live even more off the grid than I already was, away from technology, stores, and people? I wanted to be heard, but I was in hiding, afraid of what I would do and who I would hurt along the way.

    Finally, the response came. A reply from my brother who had always been in my corner, except this time he had insisted I get help. What a blow to my heart. For a moment, I felt as if someone punched me in the gut, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fill my lungs with air. If my own flesh and blood would turn on me and tell me my thoughts were insane, how could anyone else get it? I sat there, sill and silent, listening to the rain hit the single window of my tiny cabin as my heart rate returned to a steady beat. That’s when I knew I had to end it, to let this life slay the dragon that was burning inside of my core.

  8. Aundrea Pierce

    She’s sunk into the leather couch staring into Dr. Adler’s icy blue eyes caved in by wrinkles. She’s mandated to visit once a week since a year from her release at Peachford Hospital. Dr. Adler hadn’t moved a thing out of place since their first visit; the Zen plant sitting on the edge of his desk, the red leather couch pressed against the wall, the four children’s drawings taped on his metal bulky filing cabinet. She has been seeing Dr. Adler once a week, so he can closely monitor her mental health as she adjusts to life without Ally. Even though Ally is the reason she was admitted to Peachford, Nicole misses Ally. She catches a glimpse of the crayon drawing on the file cabinet. It’s one of two stick figures holding hands and she feels the empty space in her heart start to throb, but unsure if she was missing her ex Bryon or Ally. Had she told Dr. Adler this, he would surely break the trend of keeping his office the same and dispose of the pictures. But she won’t tell him that, just like she wouldn’t tell him many things, like how Ally is closer than he thinks and how Ally is ready to come back any time Nicole wishes.

    Dr. Adler cleared his throat, “Nicole, my biggest concern with the recent breakup is how you are coping, and your ability to keep Ally out of the picture.”

    In truth, Ally hasn’t been in the picture since her release. Nicole hasn’t had any blackouts or notice anything misplaced around her studio apartment. She’s been locked up with rattling chains in the back of her subconscious mind.

    Nicole pressed her hand to her chest, “Believe me, I haven’t had nearly any thought of Ally since the whole breakup. I’m focused on handling this situation appropriately, and Ally will only ruin the small chance of us get’n back together.”

    Dr. Adler folded his wrinkly hands over his clipboard that sits face down on his boney lap, “You’ve been doing well keeping Ally in control…..” As he talks on for some time, Nicole holds eye contact, but she lets her mind wander about how Ally would handle the breakup. Nicole will never admit, but she kind of misses Ally’s powerful rage. Ally is so witty and smart, she could nearly get away with murder. Miss timid Nicole can summon Ally and let her handle this heartbreak just like many times before.
    Dr. Adler’s voice gets louder and shakes her thoughts, “let’s pretend you run into Bryon. With the both of you living in the same complex, it’s a matter of time before you face him in person.”
    He continues, “so there you are facing him as you walk up to your floor and he’s coming towards you down the hall to leave the complex. You lock eyes…. tell me the feeling you get and how the rest of the scenario plays out.”
    Nicole fills with fury. Dr. Adler is putting her to the test.
    Hugs and kisses… Momma loves me… Nicole begins to chant to her mind. Chanting is one of the techniques she uses to keep Ally from surfacing. Ally hated nice thoughts about momma.

    Nicole smiles, “I would feel …uhm….” She looks down at her skinny trembling fingers.

    Her head starts pounding, and her chest is getting hot underneath her shirt which keeps her red skin blotches from Dr. Adler’s view.
    I love momma… I forgive momma… she kept thinking while fidgeting in her seat, trying to hold back the explosive pain from the thought of seeing Bryon in person again.

    “Nicole are you alright, what are you feeling n-“

    “I’m fine!” she interrupted as she stands up, “Sorry my morning coffee has hit, and I need to use the restroom!”

    She hurries to the restroom and locks herself in. She goes to the sink and turns the water on full blast. She’s beginning to feel out of control and Ally is pushing intensely on Nicole’s vulnerability. Ally wants out.

    “No Ally c’mon I’ve worked so hard, I can do this on my own, just let me try.” She said to herself in the mirror.

    She’s being overwhelmed with too many emotions from momma, Ally, Dr. Adler, and now Bryon’s betrayal. Her body gets clammy, and she continues to whisper to herself as the water spewed out from the sink, “I can do this Ally, just trust me!”

    But Ally is almost here, so Nicole grabs and squeezes the hair on her scalp in a desperate effort to keep her trapped inside. Her ears start ringing, a familiar, comforting ring that felt like home. Now she knows she finally lost again. A tear swells in the corner of her eye, and she collapses on the ground with blackness blanketing her.

    She wakes up to the sound of knocking on the door, “Nicole, are you okay in there?” It’s Dr. Adler.
    She picks herself up and turns off the running water. “I’m okay,” she calls out. “I think the coffee place forgot to use soy milk for my latte this morning, I’m sorry, I’ll be out in a sec!”

    She admires herself in the mirror and smiles.

    “I’m out now, it’s all going to be okay.”

    1. Monica Gallagher

      Nice work! This is so good, at first I was confused with the characters, but then it all started two make sense as I realized there were split personalities involved. I love it!

      1. Aundrea Pierce

        Thanks! I’m glad you think so Monica! I was getting so into it that I went to 2,000 words. I had to shorten as much as I could for this assignment. I knew I would probably confuse the reader at first, but I’m glad you caught on (my hope).

  9. Ben Knapp

    The theme I chose is from the Lord of the Rings book series. Themes in this book series include friendship, journey, and forgiveness. The theme I picked is of a sneaky character, which is always doing what is best for him. Tolkien uses this theme primarily with the character Sméagol. Sméagol is constantly either trying to protect himself or get the Ring for himself. Here is my sketch, and I hope you enjoy it!

    “Hey! Ed! Your turn again.”
    Ed hastily snapped up out of his chair, hopeful that it hadn’t looked too much like he had been sleeping on the job again. He donned the hat that had been resting on the corner of the monitor in front of him, and quickly jogged out of the room and down the hall. He opened the door to the closet in the break room, and took the package from the top shelf, where it always was. Nobody knew why, but the package would always be there every morning, and it would need to be delivered every morning.

    Footsteps. Someone is coming down the stairs. Early. Too early. I am not ready yet. They might hear, might discover. I must hide, get away before…

    THUMP. Ed gave a start at the bottom of the stairs. The noise had seemed to come from the behind the door, but the door had always remained silent before, despite the misgivings Ed and his coworkers felt towards it. After what seemed like an eternity of tense silence, Ed managed to muster up the courage to say, “Is… Is someone there?” There was no answer. Tentatively, step by step, he made his way to the door. He then extended a trembling hand, and pushed the package through the slot, as he had always done. He was about to turn to leave, when he heard something that made his heart skip a beat. Breathing. Faint, muffled, but something was definitely breathing behind the door.

    The package is here. Why will they not go away? Did they hear me? Surely they did not hear me. I must remain still, silent, as I always have.

    “H-hello? I know your there!” Ed called, then instantly froze as he detected movement from behind the door. Slowly, beginning in a barely audible whisper before slowly building up to a wheezy croak, a single phrase was heard from behind the door.

    “Go away.”

    “H- who is this?” stammered Ed.

    What am I thinking? Why did I speak? I should have stayed silent, hidden, as always. Now he will know, he will always know. What will happen? What will they do to him? Another gone because of me? I can’t let him go… not without….

    Ed, his courage failing, had begun slowly backing away towards the stairs. Just as he set foot upon the first step, the voice called out again. “Stop!” Ed immediately froze in place, rooted by fear. “Never speak of this again. Go about your life as if this had never happened, do you understand?” Ed let out a faint whimper.




    He is leaving. Good. Maybe he will never tell now. Maybe he will be safe now. But will he? Will he be foolish, and talk? Then what will happen to him? They are not merciful. They leave no witnesses. But… yes. He was afraid. Too afraid. He will not talk. He will be safe.

    From that day onward, Ed was never quite the same. When it was his turn, he would deliver the package, as always, but there was always something different for him. He would never look at the door the same way again, and he could never stop himself from wondering.

    1. Caitlyn Williams

      Ben, I liked your introduction and what your sketch was about. (LOTR). I really liked that you included dialogue, and I can visualize your sketch really well. I should have had an introduction, it ties the assignment with the sketch. Good job!

  10. Leah Rego

    She sighed as she sat down on the couch, it had been an exhausting day at work, and all she wanted to do was sit there and do nothing for a little while. That lasted just under five minutes before her daughters realized she was home and came running. A raucous chorus of mom, mommy, hey mom, broke out. This got the dogs all excited and they started in with excited barking, play growling as they tumbled around together bumping into everything in sight. The cat decided she couldn’t bear to be left out and began meowing, it was a demanding, top of the lung sound that cut through the rest of the noise like a blow horn.

    She sighed once again, relaxing wasn’t going to be on the menu today. She got up, hugged and kissed the children, stroked the cat and gave the dogs belly rubs, and headed to the kitchen. She figured if she wasn’t going to relax, she might as well start on dinner. She got out the pot and pans, and started on the meal. She listened to the often simultaneous chatter of her daughters and attempted to answer at all the appropriate spots. The dogs paced around bumping into everyone and generally adding to the chaos, hoping that something yummy would drop from the counter. She loved her family, but sometimes, the noise really got to her.

    Around the time dinner was finished cooking, her husband came home. She kissed him hello and as she plated up the food, and sat down at the table, she looked around her at her family. Despite the chaos and noise, she felt blessed. Sure she and her husband worked a lot of hours to help provide for them all, and they didn’t get much in the way of relaxation, but in moments like this, it was worth it. When the children chattered at her, he husband kissed her, and her pets begged for attention, she felt harried. Then the kids would smile at her those beatific and yet mischievous smiles as they teased and cracked jokes, her husband would tell her about his day and listen to hers. It was all she’d ever really wanted in life, this barely controlled chaos storm of love.

    When the kids were finally tucked in bed, she and her husband sat down on the couch, and were promptly joined by the pets. Their girl dog sat with her husband, baring her belly and looking at him with the most pathetic puppy eyes ever seen. She sat with their boy dog, he was a serious fellow, and wound himself into a ball at her feet. The cat promptly claimed her lap, kneading her claws as she circled and finally lay down. Somewhere out there, someone was giving their sitter instructions as they headed out for the night. Someone else was thanking their stars that they were footloose and fancy free as they headed out to the clubs to party. Some poor soul was happily heading to bed alone. For her though, this was the life, for her it was the only way to live, this was family, and for her family was happiness.

    1. Monica Gallagher

      Nice, simple, cozy story! It was warming to the soul and felt very content. The theme wasn’t hard to extract and it was very plainly described. A simple life, simple story. Like it, compared to the complexity of some. Thanks for the easy breeze read!

  11. Monica Gallagher

    There was no refuting it. He did not kill Alivia. Did he?

    It was six years ago, he didn’t’ even live there now. He had been clean for three years already and what had happened in the past was so distant to him, it seemed like another life. How drunk was he that night? There had been times when he had remembered being told of blackouts and hallucinations, but that wasn’t one of those nights. He had been with Laura. Laura would know.
    “Hey”, Jy said.
    “Woah, hey, how have you been?! Its’ been forever!”, Laura said.
    “It has…long time…so, I hate small talk and am kind of freaking out, so I’m just going to ask you. Do you remember that one night after the fox and hound party?”, Jy said.
    “Uhm, wow, not really…wait was that at Jared’s house?”, Laura said.
    “No, it was at Lane’s. I thought we went back to your place after.”, said Jy.
    “Oh ya, that’s right, *laughing*, Lauren got trashed and puked all over that crazy dude with the leopard costume!”, Laura explained.
    “Yeh, well do you remember me going back with you or no?”, said Jy.
    “I thought you left with Ali before we even broke open the keg, why what’s up?”, said Laura.

    Jy’s heart was pounding out of his chest. With the loudest high pitch ring in his ears all time stopped. Where the fuck did he go with Ali? Why didn’t he remember anything?

    “Oh, ok. No, I was just wondering because I had a dream about it the other night and I thought that we had spent the night together.” Jy said.
    “Aw Jy, you dreamt about me?!”, Laura laughed.
    “No! I’ll catch you later.” Jy clicked off.
    Laura got off the phone confused and indifferent. What the hell was that about?

    Alright, so if he wasn’t with Laura and he supposedly left with Ali, then what happened that night? He needed to remember. Time was becoming an issue and he had to call Detective Raymond back as soon as possible, so he wouldn’t cause any further suspicion than what he supposedly had on him already. What did he have on him?

    Jy’s brain was getting warped and he needed clarity. He took a drive up to the top of the hill and parked. Pure silence, okay, that wasn’t working. Radio on, the Eagles wasn’t going to cut it. Cd in, Alice in Chains, nope. He got out of the car and started walking towards the trailhead. He needed to get some space from the chaos that was consuming him.

    As he started walking, he was getting that déjà vu feeling. He noticed a little pink flag on the right side of this rock that was up ahead at the fork. He took that route and continued walking. A pink heart was spray painted on the trail and as he stepped over it the images came. Hair, blood, teeth, boots. He shook his head back and forth as beads of sweat started down his forehead. A scream entered his ears and he started running. He came to dead end.

    There was a patch of grass that was flattened a ways off trail. He peeked over to see a swatch of leopard print clothing. He heard the sound of a mans voice in his ears, but he couldn’t make out what he was saying. All of a sudden, a loud scratching white noise surrounded him.
    He yelled out in pain, “Whaaaaaat?!”

    Jy ran back frantically to his car that was still running. As he got closer he could hear the radio blaring “Pour some sugar on me”, it was Alivia.
    What in the actual hell? he thought as he stopped dead in his tracks.
    “He slowly approached the vehicle as Ali rolled down the window, “Did you find leopard boy?”
    “What?…No”, Jy said.
    “Well he found me!” she screamed.

    Jy was falling, down, down, further into what seemed like a never-ending tunnel. He woke up to the smell of vomit. He coughed several times as he slowly rolled over into a position where he could stand up. As he looked at his arms and legs, he realized that he was wearing a leopard leotard.
    “”Where the hell did you go man?”, shouted Dane against the blaring music. “You’ve been out of it for like 10 minutes, I thought I was going to have to call it in.”
    “What?” Jy said quietly, “Where is Ali?”

  12. Aundrea Pierce

    Monica, it’s neat how we have some similarities in our short stories: “blackouts (My Nicole’s blackouts) and Ali (my Ally). I like the suspense in your story. After reading I want to no more about Jy and Ali. Nice job!

  13. Caitlyn Williams

    I feel that something is off, like I missed something important. I’m off to work on a regular Monday, but something is not right. As I’m trying to remember what I did over the weekend, my coworker begins his weekly small talk. I usually tune it out, and today wasn’t an exception. His talking is making it hard for me to think and I blurt out. “…when people talk like this, they’re either insecure or they’re full of shame. Which one do you think it is?” This makes him angry, he steeps in silence for a few moments after telling me off. I appreciate the silence, but it doesn’t last long. He then apologizes and says, “I should have asked what you did this weekend..” I then wonder what I even did this weekend.

    You see, I kind of have 2 different personalities. One that likes the idea of shutting down the government, and another that wants to help rebuild and protect the company. The real me wants to fix the problem that my other personality made. They’re planning to set a bomb off in a building with very important documents in it. I try to log into my Corporation account, but I’m locked out. A bad feeling swept over me, Mr. Robot was a step ahead of me. Mr. Robot took over me during the weekend. The corporation I’m employed at was planning to fire someone, and it’s me!

    Panic washes over me as I attempt to figure out a plan. I ask my coworker to let me on his computer, he agrees. I look up the HMS system and find that they have bypassed my attempt at stopping the bombing. Shit shit shit shit. It was connected to my account, that’s why my account is locked out. I get on the elevator and try to figure out what to do. My mind is racing at 100 miles per hour, so I slow things down. Stay calm I think to myself as I wander the building. I have to blend in. I have to have a blank face, half filled with ignorance.

    I hop on the elevator again and Mr. Robot greets me. We battle for attention, I hate him, but he guides me. He’s as much part of me as I am in him. As I run through my options, he tells me to worry about the people in the building. Somehow I make it out the door without being caught by authorities. My sister Darlene meets me and stabs me in the back. She’s been spying on me. She hacked me, and is working with the FBI. Despair flows in my blood as she explains the truth. She followed Mr. Robot, my other personality late at night. When he takes over, I become unconscious, I am blanked out of my body and mind, as if I’m possessed. This time it’s gone too far. People may die because of me, because of Mr. Robot, you get the picture. I realize how alone I am in this. Betrayal is the main emotion that constricts me. My own sister hacked me. As she explains, I begin to feel ease. They don’t want me, they want another man involved. I will be in the clear as long as I cooperate.

    My best friend Angela is still in the building. LIttle do I know it’s her that confided with Mr. Robot to go through Stage 2, the destroying of evidence. She was at the top floor, hacking into the HSMS, doing the complete opposite thing I would do. She feels torn, but does it because she believes it will bring her justice. Our parents were killed by Ecorp, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. I do the only thing that matters at the moment. I pick up my phone and dial the buildings recovery center. As the phone rings, I feel time almost at a standstill. This is all I can do now, save the people from the explosion. She doesn’t quite understand me as i stammer the words,

    “Listen, there’s gonna be a build up of hydrogen in the building, you need to clear everyone out now!”

    This is when Darlene drops another bomb and explains how she has been working with the FBI.


    Works Cited- USA Networks’ Mr. Robot Season 3 episode 5.

  14. Mekayla

    Tim looked down at himself, then around the office in which he had worked for the last twelve years. He was wearing his favorite khakis, the ones that were forming a hole in the back pocket where he would always hold his phone and wallet. He knew everyone’s names in the office. He knew the names of their wives and the names of their kids. He went to Christmas parties, birthday parties, and friendly dinners with these people, yet he barely knew any of them. They all got to work at roughly the same time and said their brief, polite hellos. Then in unison, they all would sit in their cubicles, turn on their computers, and continue to work on the tasks left from the day before. For Tim, everyday since he had gotten this job had seemed the same. There had been a few promotions over the years; that had been exciting. For the most part, though, everything seemed to blur together, forming a nice, neat, content, portrait of Tim’s life.
    Today was different though.
    Now, as Tim stood in the doorway, staring at his cubicle, and all of the cubicles around his, then at all of the faces of all of the people that he used to be happy to see every day, he no longer felt content. He felt his heart palpitate, and his blood pressure rise, at the thought of sitting another damned day at his desk.
    A bead of sweat dripped down Tim’s brow as he moved across the room, as if being pulled by strings, to his boss’s glass office. He knew what he was going to do, that it was a terrible idea, but today the universe had spoken. Fate had pushed him from a sidewalk this morning on his way to work. He had come less than an inch away from a bus zooming by. Tim knew that he should have felt afraid, but this encounter with death had only woken him up and made him finally, after ten years, feel alive.
    He let himself into his boss, Bill Stewgate’s, office with knocking. Bill looked up, startled, but before he could get a word out, Tim was already looming over his desk. Tim fearlessly met Bill’s eyes. “I quit.” Tim said, “Thanks for wasting my time.”
    Before Bill could say a thing, Tim was striding out the door, waving goodbye to the people he’d been working with for the last decade. Tim had a smile on his face and a new light in his eyes as he left the security of his office job and embraced the excitement of the unknown. Today was the day that Tim had beat death. Today, Tim had took his life into his own hands. Today, Tim would come to understand what it truly meant to live.

  15. Jessica Honebein

    They marched us out of our cells and we made our way down to eat breakfast. The menu consists of chicken and rice, like always. After we finished scarfing down our meal the guards open the door to the yard. We all try to cram through the door at once just so we can get that breath of fresh air. The yard is my territory, I know the ropes of the whole place. My buddy, George, is a big guy weighing in at about hundred and ten pounds. He’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I would not trade him for the world. The hour had passed and the guard began his head count and whistles for everyone to come inside.

    We all marched down the hall and entered our cells, the most depressing part of our day is hearing the metal locks latch and the guards rubber boots on the pavement walking away. Muttering began between all of us, I was lucky enough to George next to me to talk. I think that the guards knew we were best friends because soon after we both showed up they moved our cells next to each other. It quieted down and snoring and whimpers filled the room as we all took our naps. Running around in the yard can really tire you out! The doors opened and the guards walked down the hall with they keys jiggling on their hips. They stopped right at Georges and I’s cells and began to unlock them. Wonder coated both of our faces as the guards said, “Are you guys ready? You have visitors.”

    Excitement filled both of our bodies and we were jumping off the walls. A visitor, for us? How could that be? George and I both pranced down the hall, looking ourselves over to make sure everything was in line. The doors swung open and a little girl cames running towards us and scoops me up. My tail began to wag and in George’s excitement he knocked the little girl over. The little girl and I fell onto the cold cement floor and I began to reassure her with little kisses. She laughs and stands back up, her parents in a fluster shove George away and comfort the girl and I.

    George did not approve of the separation and began to growl, after all we have been together for ages. The guard grabbed George and apologized for his behavior as he dragged him away. I was to curious on who these humans were that I forgot George was taken away. A couple minutes passed by and the little girl had me in her lap begging for us to all go home. The parents couldn’t deny the smile of the little girl so they quickly agree. Before I knew it I was a free dog sticking my head out of the car window. The new home was huge, and the little girl showered me with treats. Night came about and I was wondering when I was going to see George again. I sat at the front door waiting and waiting but George never came through. The little girl was searching for me when she stumbled upon me crying the door. She tried cheering me up with more treats, but nothing seemed to fill the George shaped hole in my heart.

    A couple days had passed and I remained waiting for George at the door. The crying began to overwhelm the parents and the little girl no longer had the same smile when I was in the room. I heard the parents one night saying that they were going to take me back if I did not start getting used to things here. Sure enough their wish was coming true and we were on our way back to the pound that next morning. We arrived and tears began to fill the little girl’s eyes, we all hopped out of the car and began to walk inside. As soon as the doors opened I locked eyes with george and both of our tails began to wag. He ran over to the gate and I did as well, dragging the little girl behind me. We could not contain ourselves and began to squeal with joy.

    “Wow” said the parents, “He has not been this perky since we have had him.” The guard responds, “Would you like to meet George again? He is a very sweet boy, just needs to learn that he is not a small dog.” The parents politely agree and they go back into the greeting room, the little girl decides to sit before George comes in this time so I go and lay next to her. George comes into the room and I tell him to be a little more cautious, he comes over and lays next to the both of us. Landing a big wet kiss on the little girls face, laughter fills the room again and they all know at heart that we were all meant to be family. The parents sign the papers and George, the little girl, and I take off for our next adventure.

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