Mid-Week Blues-Buster Week 37

SPECIAL NOTE– The Mid-Week Blues-Buster will be on hiatus for the month of November… otherwise known as National Novel-Writing Month…

Welcome to the Mid-Week Blues-Buster Flash Fiction Challenge, Week 37.

This is a flash fiction challenge.  The prompt is a song.  You are not required to write about or even mention the song.  It’s there only to get the ideas moving around in your brain pan.  If you want to write about the song (or the video- it’s all good here) go for it but don’t feel like you have to.

The rules;

500 words, but it’s a slushy 500, meaning you can go up to 700 or as low as 300.

Post your entry right in the comments section of this post.

MAKE SURE TO PUT YOUR TWITTER HANDLE NEXT TO YOUR WORD COUNT AT THE BOTTOM OF YOUR POST.  IF YOU’RE NOT ON TWITTER GIVE ME AN EMAIL ADDRESS OR SOME OTHER WAY TO GET A HOLD OF YOU!

The challenge starts whenever I post this on Tuesday and ends at 4:30PM Pacific Time on Friday.  You read that right.  Pacific Time.

In keeping with the Halloween spirit, this week’s tune is a spooky tune by the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

The song is… “The Ghost of Stephen Foster”.  Here’s the link; http://youtu.be/KJzWGkgFcTU

This week’s Judge is… just back from holiday in Turkey… Miranda Kate!

The challenge is open from the moment you read this until 4:30 PM Pacific on Friday November 1st.

So go write!!!

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Posted on October 29, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. “Tell me about Stephen Foster.”

    “Local policeman. Got mauled to death by a pack o’ dogs. Up near Hotel Paradise.” Jamal Walters punctuated each sentence by spitting into a cup. Dirt brown saliva and tobacco juices filled the Styrofoam container and dribbled down his chin. At each pause, he took a moment to slurp up the excess and wipe his face. “Sad story, that one. No clue what the poor bastard was doing up there. E’ryone in town knows better, him included”

    “In what way?” I filled up a page in my notepad as he rambled.

    “Creepy shit goes on up at Paradise during the full moon.”

    “And Mr. Foster was there during the full moon?”

    “Right smack on it. Low in the sky and blood red. Never seen the like before.” Jamal spit hard, splashing over the sides of the cup. “Them that been here longest’ll tell you, though. A blood moon ain’t nothin’ to trifle with ‘round here.” He coughed, thumping a scarred fist against his chest. “’Specially for no skirt. I don’t care how long her legs are.”

    “So there was a woman?”

    Jamal shot me a sly smile. “Know a man for any amount of time, ma’am, and there’s always a woman. Sometimes more than one.”

    “What do you know about her?”

    “Ol’ Steve had a helluva boner for her, pardon my language.”

    I almost laughed. Why apologize now?

    “Pretty thing, but snooty. And for sure never interested in a small town cop.”

    I supposed Stephen Foster could be an unrequited love masochist, following the object of his obsessive affections just because, but—

    “Did you see Stephen before he went up to the Hotel?”

    “Aw, no. Saw him the day before, though. Brought his cruiser in for an oil change. ‘Scuse me, ma’am.” Jamal twisted at the waist, hollering back at the open garage bays behind him. “Get that rusted piece o’ shit outta my garage, Pete!”

    A ginger-topped beanpole of a man stood so fast he smacked his head against the hood of a sorely neglected 911. Everything about the car sagged, as though it couldn’t bear its own weight anymore.

    “C’mon, Jam,” Pete whined. “You promised I could work on it.”

    “Do you see customers waiting?”

    Pete turned guilty eyes right, where two cars queued for service. The redhead moved the Porsche out to the lot, and Jamal turned his attention back to me.

    “Where were we?” He spit. “Oh, yeah. Saw Steve on Tuesday morning for his oil change. Man’s as regular as my intestines after a week o’ my wife’s cookin’. Always took care o’ that car on schedule.”

    A man of habit, routine, and conscience. He took care of his town, his car. Did he head up to Hotel Paradise in the throes of mindless desire? Or did something else drive him toward danger?

    “Thank you for your time, Jam.” I extended my hand and he shook it vigorously.

    “Anything I can do to help, ma’am. Just say the word.” He waved me off. “Pete! Move that bony ginger ass o’ yours before I kick it straight out o’ town, son!”

    I settled myself behind the wheel of my rental, a sporty compact with a couple hundred horses ready to leap out of the gate at the slightest suggestion from my foot. Perfect for a quick getaway, if needed.

    I picked up the case file on the passenger seat and opened up to my notes. I scrawled in what I’d learned from Jamal. The characteristics put down on paper added up to one distinct possibility: Stephen Foster was exactly the sort of man who would head into danger to protect someone. And to protect someone he cared for?

    “Did you give your all, Stephen? Did you save her?”

    Only one way to find out.

    I turned the wheel and headed up the road toward the foggy heights of Camp Town Hill.

    “Next stop, Hotel Paradise.”

    @caramichaels
    654 words

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  2. Stephen Foster’s Ghost

    The crackle of the needle on the old record player settled into a comfortable, familiar rhythm and music faded into the room like dusky sunlight flooding through a window. A wry smile settled upon the road map of his face and he sat back in his armchair with half-filled whisky glass in hand. He breathed deeply and remembered a time before sterile digital recordings.

    He placed the rim of the glass against his upper lip and took a deep sniff, the rich sting filling his head and sending a shiver down his spine. This was a rare treat, so he sipped the amber liquid, letting it settle and fizz on his tongue awhile before swallowing.

    The record played out the music of his youth, the scratch and wail of Delta blues carrying him back along the river of time over half a century to the days when he ran and jumped and climbed trees for fun. With a deep sigh he closed his twinkling eyes and saw in his mind’s eye the sights of his boyhood.

    He stirred as the music began to change, the rasp of a long-suffering voice replaced for a short time by the tinny clamour of a honkytonk and the ghost of Stephen Foster strayed into his daydream. Childhood dreams of sawdust floors and high-noon shootouts flooded his mind and his smile broadened at the memory of a stolen kiss one Saturday afternoon behind the cinema.

    He opened his eyes, taking in the sight of his IKEA-free haven, no jig-saws made of pine and steel, no quasi-artistic cityscape prints from places he had never been. A hardwood sideboard so brown it was almost burgundy served as stand and showcase for the ornate record player and its accompanying vinyl collection. The entire room was lit by two oak stand lamps that threw shadows across faded Hitchcock posters. The room was a map of his life, right up until the invention of CDs, a living time-capsule, a monument to the analogue world.

    The crackle of not-quite-silence bridged the gap between tunes and he heard the sound of the world outside, a brief hint of sirens filtered through the triple glazing, the rumble of traffic that you could never quite escape in the city. The 21st century was knocking on his door again.

    He checked his watch and counted forwards, he had another few hours before his sons would ‘drop by’. Time and tide waits for no man, someone had said once, he couldn’t remember who it was, but they hadn’t been kidding.

    Skip James started in on ‘Devil got my woman’ and led his mind back a ways before he thought again of the present and the future that hung over him like a rain cloud. He would settle in to the new place, they had said, before long he would think of his new home as just that.

    Home? He doubted it, but he nodded and smiled when he knew they needed him to, they were just worried about him and pretty soon he knew that worry would be justified. He had agreed to look over some of the places out of their mail-sack of brochures, all with names that made them sound like funeral homes.

    He took another sip of Bowmore, tasting the smoke of it for a long while before swallowing, it took a while for him to realise the music had stopped, the endless crackle as the needle followed its last grove made him chuckle dryly. He stood up against the protest of his knee and went to turn the disc over.

    Through the window he could see the bustle of modern living streaming past like the world was running out of hours. He watched from 4 floors above as they streamed past each other in the cool evening, eyes downturned, headphones in, each one plugged in and listening to their own soundtrack. He smiled again at the crackle of this vinyl and sat back in his chair, letting the ghost of Muddy Waters pull him back to a slower time.

    680 words @FenrirErebus

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  3. “Ships were made for sinking, whiskey made for drinking.” growled Wallace just before he bites the cork out of a bottle. Clear glass channels the brown liquid down his throat, as practiced hands keep from spilling a drop on the blue Mate’s jacket. While we sit on the upper deck, just above the waves, the night breeze carries the mixed scents of burning tar and saltwater. The sunken hold belches trapped air, bringing bits of salvage to the surface, including more of the Captain’s whiskey.

    As the sun rises, the shoal that had claimed the ship stretches out toward land in the distance, a darker shadow in the dim light. Not more than a mile away, the enemy ship sits in a harbor, damaged main mast hanging off into the water. Smoke streams out of portholes, but the ship generally seems seaworthy. With a nod, we few survivors set off across the gap, swimming low in the water. Daggers and swords are the tools of the day, as our powder is soaked through. We reach the ship without being seen and silently scramble up the tattered rigging to the deck. Expecting a fight, we find but a few guards, which are easily subdued. The bulk of the crew seems to be on the island, no doubt seeking supplies and good timber for replacing masts. They’ll be in for a surprise when they come back. In the meantime, we set to work on repairs to our new ship.

    We make a shocking discovery down below. A woman lay there, chained and gagged, beaten and wounded, eyes blazing with defiance. Her dark hair so matted with blood and grime that most of her face remains hidden. Her skin is more bruise than flesh. What remains of her clothes smells of waste and wounds. Instead of pulling away from us in fear, she stands as soon as the chains are removed and stares at each of us. Hands balled up into fists, she remains silent, assessing us as we take her measure.

    The staredown is interrupted by a call from above. The enemy crew gathers on the shore, and is beginning to be come back to the boat. Turning from her, we scramble up the ladders and prepare to attack as they climb on board. Their remaining crew is much larger than our force, and they have pistols as well. Our only chance is to take them by surprise, and execute them quickly.

    As the launches approach, the woman from below steps calmly up onto the deck and looks around. Charles, the closest to her, tries to pull her under cover, but she shakes him off. Stepping to the rail, she looks out over the water and the boats approaching. A cry of alarm comes from the enemy sailors, and a rifle puffs with white smoke. She yells something out as she stretches her arms toward the shooter and claps her hands together. The sea of the harbor rises up on both sides of the boat, coming together over the startled men, swamping the boats and dragging the men under water. The men on shore scatter away from the water’s edge, back toward the safety of the trees. It takes us a moment to realize what happened, and we just stare at her. She slumps against the rail, but rights herself momentarily. Realizing that we have taken the ship without even a fight, we break from our positions and cheer!

    We resume our work on our new ship, and finally cut loose the tattered rigging. The torn sails sink to the seabed below, and we raise replacements found below, finally raising the anchor. As we sail out of the harbor, we take one last look back at the Mrs. Stephen Foster, sunken under the waves but for the upper deck. We know we haven’t seen the last of her, and that we’ll raise her from the seabed one day. In the meantime, as we set to our various duties, we can’t help but wonder about the strange woman on board, and whether she will be good luck or bad.

    688 words, @BryantheTinker

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  4. Gamblin’ Man

    As riverboats go the Ghost of Stephen Foster weren’t much to look at but when you is a gamblin’ man fixin’ ta soon enough have the constabulary on yer trail, any riverboat headin’ anywhere they ain’t is a fine choice.

    It also needs sayin’ if you in New Orleans an’ lookin’ fer someplace to lay yer head, the Hotel Paradise ain’t much to look at neither but when ya got jest about two bits a night ta spend on lodgin’, in a city where ain’t much comes cheap, it makes a fair good choice too.

    I reckon the only real connection betwixt the two was the Ghost happened to be docked at the old quay behind the Paradise the selfsame night some greenhorn called me out fer cheatin’ at cards when an unfortunate turn of circumstances had three aces in his hand an’ there I sat with three aces in my own hand. Now, I ain’t sayin’ I were cheatin’ an’ I ain’t sayin’ I weren’t but, when push come to shove, a man’s only got him one reputation so ya can see I had me no choice but to give that greenhorn two .38 caliber shame-on-you’s from my trusty derringer.

    Now bein’ as it were a Saturday night an’ the Paradise don’t sit in no good quarter o’ the city, it weren’t like I had to hightail it outta there real immediate-like but there were some speed called for. I lit out fer my room an’ was back down ta the bar in nigh under five minutes. Gamblin’ man don’t never travel real heavy or unpack too much so that weren’t so much of a much. A quick glance at my daddy’s pocket watch give me ta believe I had jest enough time for a bit of a libation an’ ta settle up my tab with Ole Frenchie afore gettin’ on that riverboat.

    Now lest ya be wonderin’ how I knowed that there boat were even there at all, I expect I should add the durned bastards had woke me up off a two-day bender that very mornin’ when they docked. Agin’, mebbe it’s me bein’ a gamblin’ man but I had a itch tole me I best know when that there boat were fixin’ ta paddle on out. I’d taken care of that detail just afore settin’ my ole bones down ta the cards. But, let’s get this here story back on track, eh?

    Now me an’ Ole Frenchie done crossed paths a time or two an’ while she sure as Hell were a whore an’ smoked ceegars like a man, she weren’t one ta judge anybody fer their evil doin’s. She jest sidled on up ta the bar, knowin’ my intent, and poured me a tall glass o’ the most vile rotgut hooch ta ever cross a man’s lips. I favored her with a bow fit an’ downed the drink.

    She chuckled at my discomfited look afore pourin’ me another and leanin’ cross the bar ta favor me with a view of two o’ the world’s finest wonders. I did my gentlemanly best ta not gawk as I took handed over more than enough money ta cover my room, the drinks and the…inconvenience of leavin’ a dead man layin’ on her floor.

    Her practiced hand made them greenbacks disappear an’ she took a long draw on her ceegar afore she spoke, “Mon cher, whyfore you can’t never stay a place long enough for me to make you not want to go? You has barely arrived and already for leaving Ole Frenchie again.” Her pout was plumb delightful.

    “Ma chou”, says I, “Ships is made for sinkin’, whiskey’s made for drinkin’ and Nathaniel Bedford Slade is made ta be a man on his way somewhere all the time.”

    With a sad nod, she planted a boozy kiss on my cheek and waved me away. Slippin’ out the back, I boarded that Ghost of Stephen Foster jest as the hands was takin’ up the ropes. Findin’ my way below, my practiced ear done heard chips fallin’ on a velvet-top table and I knew while this surely weren’t home, it still had somethin’ familiar to off an ole gamblin’ man.

    700 words @klingorengi

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  5. By Invitation Only

    The half finished derelict Victorian mansion set in a small clearing amongst the forest was the perfect setting for the party. The trees creaked and groaned as stray branches tapped against the third story windows. The wind swirled dead leaves around visitors’ feet as the jack-o-lantern welcomed guests with a jagged grin. The door bell gave a ghostly moan before the heavy wooden door creaked open revealing a darkened hall with only a flickering of a candle dancing in the breeze.

    Ahead of the guests, two large white doors were firmly closed and the silence was broken only by the clip clopping of their footsteps against the black and white tiles. Victor looked to his wife, Clarissa, “do I have anything stuck between my teeth?” he asked, running his tongue across his pearly whites and glistening fangs.

    “Beautiful darling,” Clarissa purred, baring her own fangs for inspection. She flicked back her long, black hair revealing the silver streak, pulled her black dress down a little, showing a little more cleavage before the doors sprung open.

    The music assaulted their eardrums as did the cheer from the crowd as Victor and Clarissa glided in. Manny was the first to greet them, offering an unravelling hand as he groaned a welcome.

    “Dear Manny,” Clarissa said, air kissing him, “how lovely to see you looking so well wrapped.” She and Victor made sure they spoke to everyone before heading for the bar.

    “Two Bloody Mary’s please,” Victor said, “type O.”

    “It’s a fabulous turn out this year,” Clarissa observed, seeing every single creature represented at the annual Halloween bash. This year, even the zombies had made it after their popularity had risen due to The Walking Dead. Last year, they didn’t even get an invite; picking up after them was always a dampener on the night.

    “Cheers,” Victor clunked his glass and sipped his drink, licking his lips. “This does give me a taste of the hunt Clarissa. I hunger for the old days when we could go about unnoticed and chase own our prey.” He sighed heavily, “and wearing this stupid black cloak. Why do we have to dress up for Halloween?”

    “Stop being a grouch Victor. It’s fun. Besides, Manny wouldn’t be seen without his wrap,” she laughed, “we wouldn’t see him either.” She looked at Manny the Mummy as he waved back. “It’s the one night of the year where we can truly be ourselves and do what we were born to do.”

    A flurry of ghosts drifted across the room, before disappearing through the wall as the headless horseman took centre stage with his break dancing. Clarissa loved the party, loved they were altogether; loved the one night of the year they were all allowed and were able to walk amongst the humans, unnoticed.

    But the climax of the evening was the sound of the moaning doorbell. With all the guess already arrived, it only meant one thing; the delivery of humans. Clarissa jumped with joy as the music stopped and everyone gathered eagerly. “Now we don’t want to scare them off just yet. We’ll have some fun before we share the spoils,” she sang as she walked to the door.

    Adjusting her dress again, Clarissa opened the door. She smiled, not afraid to show her fangs; it was Halloween after all.

    “Sorry to disturb your party but our coach driver is lost. Do you have a phone? Useless mobile; no signal out here,” the middle aged man said.

    “Why of course. You and your group should come in for a rest, some refreshment. We have plenty.” The coach load of tourists traipsed into the house as Clarissa walked over to the driver.” Thank you,” she grinned.

    “My pleasure,” the coach driver grinned, baring his own gleaming fangs that he’d kept well hidden whilst duping the tourists onto his coach. “I’ll just park up in the garage and join the party, Mother.”

    656 @Lizzie_Koch

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  6. Trip Advisory
    ___________

    Driving through the beautiful desert valley Ben was having problems containing his excitement. His heart was fluttering heart as it was his first trip away with his current sweetheart, the delicious – if a little excitable – Suzy D. He kept turning to look at her pretty face and her big baby blues, he tried to hide the times he was glancing down at her legs – she pretended not to notice.

    ‘This trip is going to be a doozy,’ Ben said, ‘I’ve got it planned down to the finest detail.’

    He’d booked a suite in a fabulously swanky hotel, champagne on arrival, a meal booked in the rooftop restaurant, there was a show booked for later in the evening. For the following day he’d booked a horse drawn carriage to take them on a tour of the sights.

    As the shadows began to lengthen across the valley floor the air turned crisp and both felt the evening chill. Ben leant forward to turn the heat up but his heart stuttered when he caught sight of the fuel gauge.

    ‘What’s wrong?’ Suzy said.

    ‘I’ve messed up. In my excitement this morning I forget to fill up. I’m sure there’s enough to get us to the next station,’ Ben said unconvincingly.

    Ben looked in the glove compartment for a map, never believed there was one there. So much for planning.

    He eyed the road ahead nervously, then looked up at the sky imploring some sort of intervention. It was straight for a few miles before beginning to snake eastward up to the pass. If they had enough to get up to the pass then they may be able to coast at least some of the way towards the next town.

    The night fell quickly at this time of year and the fuel gauge quicker. They had hardly started up out of the valley before the car began to stutter.

    Ben was crestfallen.

    ‘A prize idiot,’ he said to himself.

    He parked up and took out his mobile phone and of course there was no signal.

    ‘Don’t worry,’ Suzy said, ‘There’s something ahead,’ she said pointing to an orange halo of light above the next rocky outcrop.

    Ben left Suzy locked in the car – there may be mountain lions, coyotes or snakes he said – when he returned a smile of relief filled his face.

    ‘There’s a hotel just around the corner!’ he almost shouted, ‘How lucky is that?’

    Suzy clapped, ‘See it won’t be that bad. It’s a real adventure.’

    They managed to eek out a few hundred metres further in the car and arrived in front of the Hotel Paradiso which was sat alone behind a rock buttress and appeared to either have a large cactus garden, or else was returning to nature. On this moonless night thick with dark it didn’t look unwelcoming.

    If they’d seen it in the daylight though they’d have tried to go just that bit further with even a breath of fuel and pressed on whilst praying to the gods of the fuel gauge.

    There are scarier things than ghosts and more scary things in the Hotel Paradiso than most. The residents thrive on accidents and ignorance – there are no Trip Advisor reviews, there’s no Wi-Fi, no restaurant, no great location and it certainly lies in a mobile phone blackspot. The hotel sits there like a tarantula’s lair waiting for unsuspecting passersby to fall into their trap.

    They thought the receptionist a little odd, but their hometown was full of weirdos so they didn’t flinch at him – in any case they were desperate. The man took them to their room with something approaching a smile. As Ben dropped their bags to the floor the door shut behind them with a shuddering slam. Suzy jumped then wrinkled up her nose as the putrid stench of decomposition hit her – it filled their lungs like a toxic smog and even stung their eyes. Their watering eyes were then fell onto the ghastly blood stained mattresses, but they didn’t begin screaming until they saw the thick blood splatters on the ceiling.

    Ben and Suzy didn’t get any sleep and like all previous guests they would not be leaving a Trip Advisor review.

    (700 words) @zevonesque

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  7. Shawn and April were daredevils. They loved exploring mountain trails, big, empty warehouses, office buildings, corner stores, neighborhood markets, city parks. You name it. They loved to explore it.

    In October, 2013, they decided to take a new adventure, and spend each Friday night in October in a different haunted house.

    For Halloween night, they found an old, abandoned hotel outside Wachapreague, in the middle of the woods, off an old road none of us had ever heard of. It was the Hotel Paradise. The locals all said, “It’s haunted,” and told countless stories of howling coming from the hotel at night. Sometimes it was an evil laugh. Sometimes it was crying, or screams. And people who stayed there never were the same.

    On Halloween day, they met after work, piled into his truck, and drove across the Bay Bridge Tunnel. They ate a fast food dinner at a diner they’d never heard of somewhere near Kiptopeak, then drove to the Hotel Paradise.

    Shawn grabbed the two sleeping bags, and April grabbed the bag full of munchies and beer, and they broke in. It was long abandoned, so no one cared. Inside, they picked out a room, and threw the sleeping bags on the floor.

    The hotel was really just a two-story house, with extra bedrooms, and each bedroom could be locked. The bathrooms and showers were common, shared by all the rooms. It was a little hotel. The interior was dusty, and dirty. The floors were wooden, and footprints from previous adventurers were everywhere.

    They took pictures with their phones, posting them on the Internet. Sharing their adventure with their friends. They found an old guest book, and had fun reading the names of hotel guests in it. Noting the last guest had visited in 1933.

    Around midnight, April drug Shawn into the room they’d picked out. They’d both stripped, and had fun collecting memories of sexual adventures in an old, haunted hotel. Spent, they’d stretched out in their sleeping bags, and passed out.

    Shawn woke up at 3 AM. “April!” he shook her awake. “April! Did you hear that?”

    April shook her head, “Let me sleep,” she groaned, and she rolled over, and pulled her sleeping bag snug around herself.

    Shawn sat up, and listened. He heard people. Talking. But he couldn’t tell what they were saying. He pulled on his pants, and followed the sounds out of the room, down the hall to the common shower.

    The shower room door creaked as he pushed it open, and slipped inside. “Do you think he’s ready?” a voice whispered.

    “Shut up, ya idiot. You’ll scare the rats!”

    Two people stood next to him, at the room door. They were watching something. Shawn turned to see what they were looking at. It was a woman. Naked, bound, and gagged, on the room floor.

    “The show starts soon.” One of the men declared, as he poked the other in the ribs.

    “This’ll be good.”

    There were scratching noises. Then the grate over the vent along the wall opened up. Rats started pouring through it. Dozens of them. Shawn watched, fascinated, as the rats formed a circle around the woman. Then, he screamed in terror as the rats leaped on the naked woman, and started eating her alive.

    The woman thrashed, and twisted, and tried to scream. But she couldn’t. She was bound, and gagged. And helpless to defend herself, or escape. The two men watched. “Oh, she’s a tasty one, isn’t she?”

    Shawn ran from the room, down the hall, to get April.

    April wasn’t there. He called for her, and heard her scream for help. He raced down the hallway and stairs to the hotel’s main room where he found April, naked, tied to a chair. Rats were climbing up her legs.

    Shawn grabbed her and the rats and ropes all faded away. April screamed as she raced out the front door of the hotel, and hit in the truck. They spent the rest of the night in his truck. The next week, they broke up. And neither of them was ever the same again.

    682 words
    @LurchMunster

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  1. Pingback: #MWBB 37 : The Ghost Of Stephen Foster | My Soul's Tears

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