Saturday, November 2, 2013

You Meant…What??

It’s the first Saturday of the month, which means for this post I have my readers do most of the writing. At the end of last month’s invitational post I asked writers to send me stories about a failure to communicate. Their stories appear below. I think you’ll find some good writing here, some of it funny, some of it sad, some of it both.

It’s true that breakdowns in communication can be funny. They can be sad. They can also be disruptive to the point of disastrous. All of the above apply to my new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, due to be published this very month. The hero, Hoop, has trouble communicating: he has a severe stammer. His childhood sweetheart and the wife who left him has trouble communicating: she’s so shy she can barely speak above a whisper. Hoop’s new girlfriend has trouble communicating: she explodes with the first thing that comes to mind, sometimes so outrageously that it gets her in trouble with the law. Jack and Frank are two older guys who are the best of friends but can’t communicate with each other because they’re always arguing and never listening. Martin, the shipping clerk, has trouble communicating: he has a disorder that compels him to pepper every sentence with profanity. And so forth. The irony is that each of these characters is intelligent and has a lot to say, but they all suffer from a failure to communicate.
In writing Hooperman, I learned a lot about communication problems, and I was surprised to learn how effective they are for creating a tense, funny plot.

For more info about Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, see

On with the guest stories:

by Madelyn Lorber

A family of six, inspired by a travel article, rented a motor home. They drove through Colorado and Wyoming. Mountains, streams, wildlife, wildflowers, Wild West history competed with sibling bickering, mechanical ineptness, and the parent couple’s state of horniness. 
When the waste gauge registered “over-full,” they found a campground with a sanitation station. Following printed instructions, she manned the outside hose and a knob to be turned counter clockwise. He, inside, was to push the commode’s switch then flush at a planned synchronized countdown.
Things went wrong.
Covered head-to-toe in excrement, expletives and tears poured forth. Five cowards hid.


by June Kosier

 I went to hear Gregory Maguire talk about his new book at the library.
The next day, I was telling someone on the elevator at work about his great talk. My coworker asked the title of the book. Loud as can be I stated “Son of a Witch” as the elevator stopped on a busy floor and the doors opened to a waiting crowd.
That afternoon, son of a gun, I was in the front office because I had sworn on the elevator. It doesn’t pay to wear a nametag.
Thankfully, I had bought a copy of the book.


by Tim Hershberger

John entered his living room and kicked off his shoes. After the long day of work he assumed his traditional position in his chair in front of the T.V. and switched it on.
Amanda stormed in, yelling again, but John had long ago learned to tune her out when she was on one of her rants. He had also mastered the ability to catch a few words in order to nod appropriately when needed.
Amanda yelled, “Is this all that’s in store for us? I’m leaving you!” and promptly left.
John nodded, thinking, “Good, she’s leaving for the store.”


by Pat Shevlin

“For your own protection, you should have a witness if you intend to terminate Jim.” As usual, the H.R.’s recommendation was rebuffed. “No, I don’t want to embarrass him.”
An hour later, Jim exited the CEO’s office, sat down at his desk. He continued to come to work for another three months.
Year-end drew near and the question loomed: what actually took place in the CEO’s office that morning?
As a diversion to increasing resentment fueled by a well-documented history of failed firings, the staff started a pool to pick Jim’s last day. Everyone wanted in, including the CEO.


by Joseph M. Bonelli

Ron managed a warehouse and often reprimanded drivers who bungled an important delivery. His profane tirades would end calmly with, “Now what is it you didn’t understand?”
We would have coffee and play a State Lottery game, similar to Keno. Ron always played the same five number grouping.
This day he arrived late. I indicated some of his numbers were hot over the past few games. Surprisingly, he played a different combination. Sure enough, the old favorites were all drawn. His dollar ticket would have won $300.00.
Making eye contact, I inquired, “Now what is it you didn’t understand?”


by Tina Omari

On a crisp autumn afternoon in Fairfield Connecticut, octogenarians Charles, his wife Jane, and a friend Grace, retired to the family room after lunch. Charles walked over to the back window to admire the fall colors in the woods behind the house.
After staring intently he said, “I just saw a deer.”
Grace looked up and said, “I don’t like beer.”
Startled, Charles responded, “I said I saw a deer.”
Jane, deciding to side with hard-of-hearing Grace, said, “I also don’t like beer.”
Charles threw up his hands in exasperation and walked back saying, “I too have never liked beer.”

by Christine Viscuso

John paced back and forth, waiting for Bob to arrive. He had invited his friend at the last minute to go hunting. He knew Bob was not an early riser. It was 5:30 am and he was an hour late.
Screeching brakes sounded and a door slammed. John kissed his wife and walked towards his car. Through the morning mist he could see his friend running towards him, wearing his camouflage cap and nothing else, waving his rifle.
“What are you doing?” John cried. “We’re going to hunt bears.”
“You know I’m a naturist. I thought you meant ‘bare hunt.’”


by Jerry Giammatteo

We have been friends for many years. We went to ballgames, hit the bars, and eventually got married and had kids.
Some time ago, he became ill. It wouldn’t go away. Medications, elective surgeries and radical treatments followed. His friends and some doctors felt he had depression. When mentioned, it was a conversation stopper.
 “I don’t have depression,” he’d say, sometimes quite angrily. “I’m sick.”
He stopped calling and taking calls from his friends. He generally only responded to emails. His marriage fell apart.
 “One day, I’ll tell you guys my side of the story,” he said.
We’re waiting.


Now, for next month’s invitational post, here’s your challenge. Following up on this month’s topic, for December, the month of giving, I want you to send me a story that is about a gift—a strange and surprising gift. Make it a warm and wonderful gift, or an icy cold disappointment, but make this story mean something and fill it with irony.

Here are the rules:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot, characters, and conflict.
4. The deadline: the first of the month.
5. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:


  1. I just love these short stories. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. Like Chris, I love these stories, too, John. As you can see, some of my students love writing them. I'm proud of them! They like the challenge of having to be concise in this work. Frankly, I wish all my students -- about 30 total in three series each time around -- would contribute. Bless you, John. Great December prompt.

    1. Thanks for your support, Eileen. AS always.

  3. Some great stories this week, John. Ah, communication! Don't ya just love it?

    1. Communication is wonderful, Pat--when it works!