Friday, 27 April 2018

Hook, line and sinker


Some  weeks, either because I have been particularly impressed with a way of incorporating prompts or there are several on a similar theme of, say, werewolves (and the only ones of those I’ve ever got excited about were Glen Duncan’s) – anything, in fact which makes my picking a winner more rational – I can pick a theme and assure myself I’m judging ‘fairly’.
 This week I know my choice is entirely a personal response, and is connected with a conversation I’ve been having elsewhere on the subject of the necessary qualities of opening lines. My comment, on first reading the opening line of John’s  ‘Texas hospitality’ –  “... so often your first lines instil a sort of greed for more” stemmed from an instant, gut-felt revelation which encapsulated what we’d spent several weeks trying to define. So, for me John is this week’s winner. As ever, though, the standard was high and armadillos in particular, inventively incorporated – thank you all.

Words for next week: celery local syringe

Entries by midnight Thursday 3rd May winners and words posted Friday 4th

Usual rules: 100 words maximum (excluding title) of flash fiction or poetry using all of the three words above in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction or noir. Serialised fiction is, as always, welcome. All variants and use of the words and stems are fine. Feel free to post links to your stories on Twitter or Facebook or whichever social media you prefer.

95 comments:

  1. Well done John. Sandra is right that first line hooked us in to a compact and pacey piece.

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  2. I feel honored to be named as the top spot this week. I surely didn't expect it among all the incredible talent.

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    1. Congratulations, John. Well deserved and well done.

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    2. so pleased to see you take top place, John, with a superb story.

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  3. Citizen J

    The hot winds raged across the dying celery flats keeping the locals clustered in the climate controlled dome. The supply transport was late once again and a few brave souls ventured out in search of sustenance. Most were arrested or shot but Jared somehow made it to the distant fence row and he gaped at the expanse of greenery beyond.

    If he could make it back, the others would listen and act.

    A shot whistled above his head and he pumped the last syringe into his arm. Jared instantly felt stronger and he ran, the wind now at his back.

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    1. So complete and satisfying, with a slow-burn horror.

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    2. Loved the expanse of green. This story could and should be expanded. Great writing.

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    3. So many ways you could go with this... Really good, John.

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    4. Nicely done. The imagination can work many scenarios with this plot. Beautifully crafted opening sequence.

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    5. Once again, John, your use of language is outstanding. You are a Rembrandt with words.

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    6. so much going on behind the main character makes it a satisfying piece.

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  4. The Secret Armadillo Soldier (SAS) Diaries - second entry

    As a level one S.A.S burglar, Armi was always in demand and tonight was no exception. Sergeant Screaming-Hairy Armadillo was specific about the task. Steal the stuff and stash the stuff, but Armi’s rucksack was still full of ‘A grade’ celery-stalk powder.
    Pilfering was easy; staying focused was harder. That’s why he’d also acquired a crown and a pink feather boa.
    Sarge expected a full report, and all kit returned, but Armi shattered his de-bugging syringe when he rolled out the ground-floor window of the local whoremadillohouse.
    Sarge would live up to her name when she caught up with him.

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    1. "whoremadillohouse" - brilliant idea! So hope this does turn into a serial

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    2. That was amazing. Don't know how you get so much story in only 100 words, but you do it so well.

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    3. "whoremadillohouse" Yeah, this word is going to stay with me now. LOl.

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    4. I don't think there's much can be added to the "whoremadilohouse" that hasn't already been mentioned. Total touch of brilliance. So glad to see this continued.

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    5. Nice story, Terrie. I enjoyed all the shenanigans and goings on.

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    6. liked this, gritty and different!

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  5. Magnificent story last week, John. No surprise at all that it scooted up to the top podium. This forum is such a great place for unique tales.

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  6. Juiced

    Early morning is the best time to visit local markets for fresh produce.

    I bypass the vegetables -- celery, carrots, cabbage and the like -- as well as such fruits as peaches, plums and pears. I'm on a mission for citrus. Preferably the orange and its smaller cousins.

    In short, those with dimples to camouflage the insertion of a syringe.

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    1. So smooth a demonstration of prompt insertion! Really loved this.

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    2. Very nice twist at the end. Very well done.

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    3. Brilliantly written, sharp and to the point, just like that syringe.

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    4. Patricia, that was so smooth with the prompt words just flowing in without even a nudge. I'd hate to be the recipient of that tainted clementine.

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    5. very clever use of the prompts and a nasty twist ending!

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    6. Ooh, ouch. I can think of a few reasons why you’d want to inject a fruit, and none of them good...

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  7. Change of focus [280]

    John Pettinger’s local (only visited when off duty) was quiet apart from thirsty allotment-holders attempting to convince lycra-clad cyclists of the aphrodisiac effect of celery: ‘Counters the effects of pressure on your testicles.’
    John had barely begun explaining his Petzincek ancestry to the pathologist –‘From Khakbethia – you’ll not have heard of it – tattoos a family tradition –‘ when one mud-fingered man came over and muttered, ‘Heard you’d a body up at Easingwold Farm, John –‘
    ‘Heard wrong –‘
    ‘Not?’
    ‘Not. Drugs squad. Nowt but a load of syringes –‘
    To Simeon, when the man was out of earshot, ‘Bloody journalist.’

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    1. That was so well done. I'm a bit in awe of your word usage. Great work

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    2. Involuntarily chuckled at that final comment. Nice use of words to create quite an atmosphere here. This particular serialization continues to be one of my favourites.

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    3. I'll admit, when I come across a story such as this that is so complete and filled with life that I sometimes copy and paste it into a document to check the word count. 100 on the nose. I don't know how you do it.

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    4. Pettinger's story continues to hold my interest, which after 280 episodes about says it all.

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  8. The Good Doctor

    His reputation as a skilled practitioner administering to both local proletariat and landed gentry was renowned. An innovator in the art of progressive medicine, the shelves of his well-stocked laboratory housed a smorgasbord of experimental ingredients: celery seed to combat infection; sage to improve memory function; peppermint and ginger to reduce nausea; as well as other items not so easily identifiable.

    Since many of the blended preparations proved unpalatable, he eventually embraced the notion of dispensation via hypodermic syringe.

    Indeed, oral consumption of the transformation mixture had always left such a nasty taste in Dr. Jekyll's mouth.

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    1. Wow, what a great twist. Never saw that coming. Nicely done.

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    2. Nice twist on a classic

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    3. Skillfully constructed, Patricia. This flows so nicely from beginning to unexpected but marvelous end.

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    4. Patricia, R. L. Stevenson has nothing on you. Well done.

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    5. I didn't see that ending coming, either!! Brilliant.

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    6. Ah, a fine ending on a smooth setup. Love it!

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  9. Lunch Time


    He stared at the plate before him. “Hot wings have celery.”
    She stared, impatient. “We’re out of celery.” He was no local. Just some short, pudgy creep.
    “Even a local dump has celery. Remove this. Bring a sandwich.”
    She smiled. It touched her lips, not her eyes. She grabbed his plate, stalked to the kitchen.
    She spit on the bread. “Not nice.”
    She gasped, caught. “You can’t be back here.”
    He removed a syringe from his pocket and leapt. She cringed. He was fast. The needle entered her neck. She smelled the acid before the pain began.
    “Wings have celery.”

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    1. An effectively delivered customer complaint - very well done.

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    2. Shades of a King-esque thriller, indeed. This would make for an interesting, longer piece!

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    3. Talk about driving your point home (ahem...!!!) Nicely put together and delivered with an excellent final punch.

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    4. Wow, Joe. Another good reason not to spit in someone's food. Very nice.

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    5. the customer is always right - especially when they have the means to deliver vengeance!

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  10. A Killer Princess


    Nurse Simon used her syringe as a magic wand. With a prick she gave peace to the afflicted and the terminal, justice to the nasty and unworthy. She relocated often, a fairy princess flitting from town to city, her syringe a holy sepulcher.
    She was insane, but too brilliant for capture. A killer deluded, sure of her righteousness.
    She was also clumsy and pricked her finger at a local hospice. She lay dying, her magic kingdom clouding, her wand a transport to an unheralded grave where she would lie, wild celery growing above, food free for the picking.

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    1. I loved the imagery Joe, especially 'her wand a transport to an unheralded grave'

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    2. This is marvelous, Joe! What goes around comes around, huh? I loved the opening paragraph.

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    3. The lightness of this, culminating in a truly wonderful final line, is delicious.

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    4. A rather horrific fairy tale. Nice incorporation of fable with a modern twist. I particularly liked the passage that began "unheralded" through to the conclusion of the the tale. Wonderful innovative use of the prompts.

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    5. This was great, from start to end. Nurse Simon, a legend... a little deranged... well-meaning, but still a legend.

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    6. I am a complete sucker for twists on the ancient fairy tales, this is even better than anything the Grimm Brothers could come up with.

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  11. Congratulations, John! a well-deserved victory for your outstanding story.

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  12. THE ARRANGEMENT

    A syringe of cyanide dispatched this victim, whose head now sat on his kitchen table.

    He chose vegetables this time, purchased at the local food mart an hour ago. Freshness was important, but total satisfaction was achieved via the arrangement. So many things to consider: color, size, shape… one couldn’t be indifferent to these factors.

    After careful deliberation, he gauged out the eyes and replaced them with carrot slices. Asparagus appeared perfect for the ears, so in they went. Preferring a robust color for the nostrils, he chose beets. The mouth? Celery stalks, of course.

    It proved a delicious meal.

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    1. I though he was going to paint it. Eating many times worse - and it was bad enough to start with. Gruesomely clever, this.

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    2. This was the kind of thing to conjure nightmares. I think it's going to take quite a while for me to banish that image from my mind. Mr. Potato Head meets Frosty the Snowman. Shudder...!!!

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    3. Really nice horror writing. It seems almost innocent for a while, and then bam! Like Patricia, images of building a snowman entered my head.

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    4. really OTT horror, which I love...

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  13. Wow. Dark and deliciously ghastly. Brilliant use of the three words. I was totally engaged by the imagery it flows so easily from horrific first line to last.

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  14. I can't get the beets in the nostrils out of my mind. This is a horrifying piece, more so because of such wonderful description.

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  15. She gripped the syringe tightly, the local wearing off. Her breathing seemed loud, like thundering horses and she could hear him looking for her.

    After escaping his sadistic surgery, he would be enraged and that calm demeanor would crack and split, revealing the monster lurking beneath. Why had she agreed to go back to his home? She hated the way his breath stank of celery and the way his touch felt slimy against her arm.

    The needle slipped from her still numb fingers—just a tiny ping against the floor, but his careful footsteps paused outside the closet door.

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    1. Very scary and ominous. Hiding from a deranged killer. Loved it. Well done

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    2. Oh, no - this ticks some scary boxes; sends shivers down my apprehensive spine.

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    3. This was overflowing with the type of suspense that sends a shiver down the spine. The fact that the "ping" was "tiny" and yet obviously still audible calls for a sharp intake of breath.

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    4. Really nice, RJ. I liked how the mad man's breath stank of celery. This was one of your better ones. I don't envy Sandra this week.

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    5. such a creepy story - brilliantly done.

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    6. Breathing like thundering horses is beautiful, RJ, as is the rest of this chilling tale. Well done!

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  16. Feeling a prick [Threshold 207]

    ‘Theft? From who?’ I checked the bag, found an ink-scribed name beneath a flap. Smirked. ‘Not yours –’
    Raven’s dark eyes shuttered. ‘Whose?’
    I raised an eyebrow, ‘You don’t know?’
    A careless shrug, ‘Could be anyone ... the staff were all local –‘
    ‘They’d come up here?’ While watching him I continued rummaging.
    A bad mistake. ‘Ow!’
    ‘What?’
    I peered. ‘A syringe! A poxy syringe, wrapped in tissue. Fat use –‘ I raised a blood-blobbed finger to my mouth –
    ‘STOP!!’ He halfway out of bed. ‘That name, is it –?‘
    ‘Carlotta.‘
    Whereupon he collapsed again, legs flaccid as month-old celery

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    1. Oh no, no, no. Such careless behaviour. Who knows where this pinprick might lead? And I have to agree with Joe regarding the month-old celery legs. Where do you find these comparisons?

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    2. You're on a roll this week, Sandra. I enjoyed this installment a lot. I can't help but wonder what will happen to the narrator now. Your way of illustrating the finger prick was very well done.

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    3. oh I like the month-old celery legs metaphor...

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  17. You got so much story in such a small piece. So well done. Loved legs flaccid as month old celery. Awesome line.

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  18. Cripplegate Junction/Part 142 - Off The Rails

    It took Violet a long time to get from the closed Crossing Canteen to the Sanitarium. Although, in essence, Cripplegate time was immeasurable.

    The building, now uninhabited, had changed little since construction. The celery green walls continued to promote calm and quell anxiety; in the dispensary, neat rows of sterilized syringes once served a similar purpose.

    Locally referred to as the "Loony Bin," children living in the vicinity of Cripplegate Sanitarium were still cautioned not to play in the grounds, as inviting as they might seem.

    Regardless, many a reckless youngster had been known to ignore the warning.

    -------------------------------------------------
    To read the earlier installments (a suggestion only) which led to this point in the tale please visit:
    http://www.novareinna.com/cripplegate.html
    A link to return to "The Prediction" can be found on the site. Thank you.
    ---------------------------------------------------------

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    1. Loved the two references to quelling anxiety. Very enjoyable. This piece, for me, served as a reminder to what Cripplegate is all about. I believe, when writing a serial such as this, it's important to emphasize the basics now and then, to accommodate new readers and old guys that can't remember shit.

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    2. So calm ... so inexplicably terrifying.

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  19. This can go in so many scary directions. Celery green walls. Yes! I can visualize them. Great line. Great story.

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    1. menace underlines this, without being stated, very difficult to do and you do it well.

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  20. The Mad Italian 53
    Listening to debates in Parliament can be likened to eating celery, watery, lacking taste and substance but if we are to keep a finger on the local pulse, it is something to be endured. A syringe full of air would be of benefit… but these are far ranging rather nasty thoughts, even though they are brought about by the nonsensical farce recently enacted in the House. Lies will always be revealed, the person lying will be the one brought down, the shadow figures at the back, the ones who wrote the lies in the first instance.

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    1. Another thoughtful bit of words from the Italian. I'm curious who these shadow figures in the back might be. Maybe lobbyists? Speech writers? Political advisers? Whoever they are, I envision them as puppet masters, pulling the strings as they see fit.

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    2. "Shadow figures at the back." What an apt description. And I'm with Leonardo on the taste and substance of celery. Never could abide the stuff!!!

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  21. An Evening In
    Celery stalks and local grown veg – a syringe for comfort and company – what better evening could a depressive cokehead plan? He couldn’t, so I planned it for him.
    First the food, arranged artistically, of course. The celery was a disappointment, but a scattering of turmeric added a little something, a piquant touch that lifted the nondescript into the slightly descript. In my world it did, anyway. Carrots were a Halloween orange, I wondered if he would remember the Trick or Treaters who never made it home…
    Reminiscences can be a comfort.
    A syringe full of something deadly even more so.

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    1. Deft and amusing ... despite the 'something deadly' Good stuff Antonia.

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    2. The narrator has something sinister in mind for this vegetarian cokehead it seems. Very enjoyable. in both your stories, you wrote negatively of celery. I'm thinking you, like me, don't really care for those useless stalks.

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    3. Word by word through this story was a grand adventure, Antonia. A GREAT read!

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    4. Now this was suspense and a building of a tale at its very best. When you are on form, Antonia, there are few who can equal your talent.

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  22. No "Kursaal" serialization this week. My dog is having a procedure done to determine if he has oral cancer and to be honest, until I hear back on those results, I can't really concentrate on anything creative. However, I will return a little later today to post my comments on this week's submissions which, as always, are totally outstanding!!!

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    1. Good luck with you dog, Patricia. I must disagree with your so called lack of creativity; what you wrote this week was very good.

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    2. Hoping things turn out well, Patricia.

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  23. sending good positive thoughts your way, Patricia.

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  24. Reposting because I edited out one of the prompt words! Oops...

    Straight Up

    She walked into the bar, just like Lou said she would. Not walked, exactly. Moved, flowed, I don’t know a good word. Weaving around tables when she didn’t have to, just so she could twist and sashay and be seen. Locals pretended to ignore her, out-of-towners stared. One guy dropped the celery out of his bloody Mary.

    Staring at the Big Guy’s dame, well, that wasn’t healthy.

    She got a martini, and the barkeep brought out a syringe to measure the vermouth. Fancy. My syringe was safely tucked up in my sleeve. That would be for later.

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    1. Echoes of Leroy Brown and a girl named Doris. You are such a master of the noir atmosphere. I miss you when you're not here.

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    2. And again echoing Patricia - your take on the prompts invariably individual and entertaining and always good to see you here.

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  25. The Adventures of Rosebud, Pirate Princess #127
    Celery is Not Food


    One of the perks of being local: we made it back to my rooms without incident. Natasha had already spread out all the floor pillows so we crashed on the floor. She also put in a secret request for Zehra’s favorite dinner, twirly pasta covered in cheese sauce by means of a repurposed fire syringe, one of Natasha’s old ones that Cookie requisitioned. Zehra was more than usually pleased because all she could find on her way out was this celery stuff. Apparently it’s like a rubbish chip only made of water.

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    1. Always unique. Always original. Always entrancing. I am truly running out of words to describe my enjoyment of Rosebud's adventures.

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    2. I have to echo Patricia here, Rosie - you constantly enthrall me with your writing.

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