Story Starter September – Carin Makuz

We’re Kicking off the 2016 Story Starters Contest!

To enter, write a short piece (100 words maximum) inspired by the art featured below. It can be any form of writing (poetry, prose, dialogue, haiku, etc.) as long as it is original. Submit your entry in the comment section below. Check the full entry rules and format here.

About The Artist

When not writing short fiction or essays, Carin Makuz can be found wandering the shores of Lake Ontario muttering about darlings that won’t take a hint. She is a workshop facilitator for abused women and youth at risk. Her work has been published widely in journals in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. She combines text with photography, reviews books and chats with writers on her blog www.matildamagtree.com.

 

 

 

46 Comments
  • Joyce George-Knight September 3, 2015 at 11:53 am

    The company’s CEO began the January Board of Directors meeting, “Year-End stats blew away competition with our Fall Sales Campaign. Customers continue to rave about our ads. For her vision and creativity, I thank Celia Gray.” He motioned for her to come forward.

    “Celia, it’s my privilege to promote you to Advertising Director.” He exhibited her sales poster with photo and saying:

    We aren’t a stuck-in-the-mud company. Our jeans withstand the stiff competition of wear, work and weather. They hold-up to them all.

    “Thanks to my neighborhood children who made scarecrows, which prompted this idea.”

  • Title: Assume The Position (poem below is 100 words).

    The Duff huffs and puffs
    But can’t do enough
    When I assume the position.

    Ten times ten times ten
    Aboriginal women dead, or missing.
    None on my agenda.
    Just another slight for them to bear.

    To refugees, I say, go home.
    A needless distraction.
    My challenges are plenty.
    Like free-thinking Justices
    Who need replacing.

    Like climate change zealots
    Blowing smoke up our minds.
    Like First Nations that block
    Oil riches flowing to my friends.

    My ear’s to the ground.
    I see and hear only what I want to know.
    As do my supporters, who, like me,
    Keenly assume the position.

  • UPSIDE DOWN 100 words

    For me, Dyselxia is the upside down monster that lurks like a tiny black dot that grows as it slowly oozes its way through my being.

    It is a silent reminder that the written word is not completely mine. There are times when a sense of powerless will flicker unannounced telling me that this once small fragile child is not totally free.

    I have learned to cope. My family still says I write in Pameleze not English.

    It is hard to believe that childhood fears can still be this strong, as I sit here writing through my tears.

  • FACELESS PEOPLE (100 words)

    “I’ll call 911, Sir!” I exclaimed. A man’s face was buried in the ground and his legs were in the air.

    “We, the faceless people roam these unforgiving streets every day,” he replied. “Nobody gives a damn about us. Why pretend now!?”

    “I’m sure there’re people who care about you!” My voice shook.

    “I recognize your voice, pretty lady from the bookstore. You could never bear the sight of my disfigured face.”

    My ignorance suddenly suffocated me.

    Several hours later:

    “I’ll call 911!” somebody shouted.

    “Don’t,” I responded. “I’m an ass. I’m prettier here with my head in the ground.”

  • Some people automatically
    consider there has to be
    MORE.
    More to the picture;
    the situation;
    than appears on the surface,
    in the light of day and the
    darkness of night.

    They see what is
    on the ground
    clasped to the soil,
    legs reaching high like
    branches growing
    toward Autumn’s sky while
    boots made for
    walking help contain
    the inner wonder,
    and try to dig deeper.
    TRY
    to unearth the unseen
    and in the process
    disturb what is,
    destabilize what is,
    trying to find what doesn’t exist.

    Sometimes
    what you see is all there is
    Nothing more,
    nothing less beautiful.

  • My quirky friend Bliss loves her garden. But moles destroy her perennials, feeding on the roots. Today is Operation Holey-Moley. Into a deep hole through the enemy’s network of tunnels she climbs, head-first. I only see denim-covered legs topped with black rubber boots. After a while she makes pedaling motions; it’s time to help her climb out.
    Switching off her flashlight, I inquire, “Did it work?”
    “I don’t know,” she responds, “but it always scares the kids away at Hallowe’en when I shine the light on my face in the dark. Maybe it’s the goggles, facemask and oxygen tank.”

  • And I wish for just one second this storm would surprise me. I wish it would just pick me up so that I’d have nothing left to do but crawl away from the mundane. Because here, I am stagnant with no movement – a clear and perpetual loss of motion.

    But the darkest part is that I know nothing more than this position – being drilled down into the dirt this way, hopelessly losing the fight against everything that pushes me down.

  • “What the hell is that?”
    “That? It’s art.”
    “Art? But he’s upside-down. Can he get himself up? Should we help him?”
    “No, not that Art. Art, like in a museum.”
    “Art doesn’t work in a museum. He’s retired. That’s how come he spends so much time futzing around his crazy garden.”
    “It’s not a person! It’s make-believe!”
    “Well, that’s not what I would call make-believe. My eyes aren’t that good, but I’m pretty sure I’m not seeing things.”
    “It’s real but it’s like a statue, a work of art.”
    “Now why the hell would Art do that?”

  • I was known for being the ‘quiet one’ in high school, constantly being bullied by some boy a few years older than me. I’m sure he wasn’t even that tough alone—he always had his friends with him whenever he pushed me against the lockers and pummeled me half to death.
    I saw him walking alone after school one evening wearing his disgusting black boots. I followed him, knife in hand.
    He had always told me to ‘grow a pair’.
    And so I eventually did.

  • Darlene Rossiter or Shaynee-Dawne Ross(pen name) September 17, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    Oh no, I’m stuck in the ground, & I can’t get out.
    Doesn’t matter which way I try to turn,
    Or try to wiggle myself free.
    I’m still stuck in the ground.
    I’m not a carrot or a beet, with it’s root in the ground.
    But I’m a human being stuck in the ground.
    With my head, arms, & upper body covered with earth.
    Now how did this happen, you may ask.
    I just don’t know.
    I just woke up like this.
    Oh my, what to do here.
    How do I get out of this crazy situation.
    With myself stuck head first in the ground.

  • Half n’ Half (100 words)

    “Black holes are supposed to be black aren’t they?” asked William.

    “Yes,” replied Bert.

    “What the hell is this?” asked William.

    “I’ll tell you the answer. Some guy named Hawking came up with an idea, that if you go through a black hole, you get stretched to about a kilometer long and appear in another universe,” said Bert.

    “Do you mean to tell me,” asked William, “this woman is going into a different universe, and if so, why ain’t she stretched?”

    “Because it’s not a black hole you moron. It’s Aunt Edna stuck in the quicksand again.

  • ONE STEP AHEAD

    Heading in the right direction
    One step ahead of the crowd
    With my head in the soil
    And my ear to the ground
    Revelling in this haven I found
    All life begins here in the soil
    Nutrients help it, not only to survive
    But also to thrive
    I keep my spirit nourished!
    The Earth has several layers
    And just like erosion wears down the soil
    Life chips away at our layers too
    How we repair them, is up to me and you
    Stick your neck out, not all bacteria is bad
    Smell it in the spring when life blooms again

  • THE MAVERICK

    Hey Mr. Wise Guy, you call me a maverick
    And I am indeed eccentric
    Like an ostrich, I stick my head in the ground
    In the dark place where moles can be found
    You, the refined culture vulture
    Can say I have no culture
    ‘Sticks and stones
    Can break my bones’
    But you can’t get inside my head
    No-one can fill my head with dread
    Now hear this all ye snobs
    With your ‘important’ jobs,
    Assuming I have no pizzazz
    I may not be rich, but I do have class
    So you can pucker up and kiss my …

  • Yolanda was a crusty old woman who spent her life arguing with her disagreeable husband. It was their alternative to the endearing words normal couples speak. One morning Yolanda wakened to find her husband died during the night. At a loss for words she gazed at his stoic expression.
    They buried him in the cemetery next to the farm. When asked about a tombstone, she said no. Returning to the grave later with her neighbour, they placed his cement filled jeans and boots upside-down on top of his grave with a note that read “Headfirst to hell”

  • Our family doctor told us that gardening would be good for our health.
    Our marriage counselor told us that doing things together would be good for our relationship.
    Our horticulturist told us that burying fish and/or bull manure would be good for our garden.
    When my husband came back from a day of fishing, I solved all our problems in one blow.

  • Today’s Woman (Haiku)

    The way I see it,
    Woman, You walk on water.
    God, in Jeans and Boots.

  • Walked toward the water
    the first of Autumns days.
    To look upon the ocean
    and count the shades of gray.

    Followed the cobbled stones
    the garden runs beside.
    I heard the birds a tweeting
    before I saw them glide.

    The wind was warm and still
    not gusting like last night.
    Before I reached the water
    I saw this dreadful sight.

    Pants and boots upended
    through the autumn air.
    How on earth or who on earth
    would ever put those there?

    I shrugged and looked around me
    and found myself alone.
    Continued to the water
    then wrote this on my phone.

  • Title Hidden – Peoples of the Wind ( poem – 100 words)

    We’ve spent four hundred years dying
    disappearing
    lost in a land that was our own.
    Forgotten, social outcasts
    huddled in squares on the Canadian quilt.
    Lost languages, culture
    respect for our land so misunderstood,
    patchwork solutions did not meet our needs.

    Know the creator of sea,earth,wind and fire.
    Respect our ancestors, honour their spirits.
    Sweat lodges,dance,sing, potlatch suppers.
    Drum to the Great Creator,giver of life.
    Time for pride steeped in a great history,
    learn to learn, the duality of the future.
    Now is the time to soar with the eagles.

  • His dog barked all the time. It just loved to bark. At anything. It was an equal opportunity barker.

    His owner said “Mind your own god damned business, old man.” Spit at me just to make his point. That’s when I decided to do it.

    Magic spells ain’t no stranger to me. I have the Power but I use it only at special times. Usually don’t do harm. This time I made an exception.

    Now all the neighbourhood dogs will stop beside my neighbour, sniff and lift their legs.

    Good thing the neighbour’s wearing his boots.

  • Leslie drops her mug on the porch. “Arthur, what is that?”
    “Maude.”
    “How long has she been like that?”
    “Bout an hour. Should be up soon.”
    Leslie grabs Maude by the ankles, gives a hard tug. The rooted hips do not budge. “Arthur, help!”
    Arthur shambles over, hitches up his pants, and heaves. An inch of waistline appears.
    “Nope. Let’s pull together. On three?”
    They each grab a leg, put their backs in it. Slowly Maude is uncovered. Her head fully out, she spits dirt and grins. Her hands crawl with worms. “Look at these beauties. Trout tonight!”

  • Waiting

    “Do you think that will finally stop them?” Lana asked fearfully,
    as she peeked between the curtains to see what Ian had put out on
    their front lawn.
    Since this all began,in the small anxious town of Greenleaf, all the
    residents kept their drapes drawn and blinds pulled down.
    Lana looked at her husband;age had been unkind to him. His
    gnarled arthritic hands had made it difficult to form the
    sculpture;it took him hours. They spent the day huddled quietly
    waiting.
    Lana and Ian would find out when the sun set.

  • He’s upside down? all dead and decaying, wondering if he’ll ever see the light of day again? but how could he. A sinner of all people granted only into the nine circles of hell, to be trampled on by the next newcomer. Though not a fortnight ago which seemed like centuries ago now remembering dying, fearing the afterlife and all of deaths misfortunes, hoping that he would never have to make the arduous journey with Charon the ferryman across the river Styx, only to succumb to the tortures that awaited him below for what he did all those years ago.

  • Buried
    Anne pondered the details of her life while plucking weeds between the peonies. Gritty, that’s the way it felt, being buried under all the to-do’s so that she lost sight of the good things, the big things. She had her own family, a roof over her head, food on the table. What else is there? She flicked the grub away, unable to actually kill anything. Wasn’t she living the Canadian dream, homeowner, nuclear family? Then why did she feel so down, so caught up in laundry, dishes, gardening that she hardly remembered who she was anymore? Or what she wanted.

  • In Hiding
    There are days when she wanted to hide away, bury her head in the dirt rather than deal with reality. The garden was an easier answer, at least for Jenine. She knew where to plant the petunias, how to trim the azalea, when to put down mulch and who to ask what she didn’t know. This couldn’t be happening to them, the kids had both left for university, this was supposed to be their time. Bill had come back with his diagnosis two months ago. Still, she hadn’t come to terms with it. But her garden had never looked better.

  • Diving

    i was ready to dive
    into something new

    so i did

    i dove
    head first

    into
    dirt

    earth dark deep black brown
    roots all around

    my head and arms and shoulders stuck
    inside the earth

    diving head first

    worms
    tendrils
    little rocks
    humus
    earth so dark and still

    i could hear the water
    feel the wet
    feel the growth

    i dove headfirst

    i was
    deep
    inside
    the
    mother
    deep
    inside
    the
    core
    deep
    inside
    the
    living breathing

    i was deep

  • The second time Alan (formerly known as Alice) saw the White Rabbit, he followed purely out of obligation and habit.

    Despite the century spent without contact, they were strangers of a shared past. Little resemblance remained of their previous incarnations; Alan, dressed in plaid and denim, and the White Rabbit, dressed in a pea coat with a customized apple watch. The White Rabbit tapped irritably on his touch screen as he leapt to his burrow. Alan jumped in after him, but found that his body had outgrown the portal. Stuck between two worlds, Alan screamed and kicked his feet.

    Word Count: 99

  • Stan had often wondered, “what was it like…down there?” He remembered hearing stories about life down there. He remembered Suzzie sharing secrets with Lydia. They would whisper and every now and then Stan would find himself amidst their breaths…”My daddy said it’s really hot down there.” “Well, my daddy said that my Uncle Dan was going straight to that place down there.” But what was down there? That was the question Stan would ask himself everyday, on his way home from school, until one day, the not knowing enveloped him and he had to find out for himself…

  • Grandpa’s Pants

    Ice cream spills and
    Sunday porch cuddles
    On Grandpa’s pants.

    Warm and soft
    Grandpa’s pants caught
    Pitched balls gone askew.

    Thin and wrinkly
    Cradling arms over
    Terrain once familiar.

    Pressed and now put away
    Grandpa’s pants
    For another day.

    Years later found
    Grandpa’s pants
    Are out once again.

  • She wasn’t sure. She just wasn’t sure.
    It had been so right in the beginning. So brilliant! The Atlantic fog had rolled and curled around her mind like the shore. Who would ever know, that within the legs, the shoes, the waist, there was something more. The rough sand and pebbles had provided the perfect place for digging and scraping into the dirt; and from a distance, the bizzare fiqure was almost laughable. But within the crooked and pathetic posture
    stood a rage,a cock-eyed symbol of treachery and deceit…
    The symbols of blue-jeans and boots, a headless fragment of a body, epitomized the victim as powerless.

  • Wendy Barrick Rhead September 30, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Helen is a quiet, soft-hearted friend. Often I watch her try to calm and support her dysfunctional husband. She makes every excuse for his bullying, neglect and abuse. She believes her compassionate ways will be the inspiration he needs to change. Years have passed and now his performances have affected their children. Her friends offer advice. It falls on deaf ears. We walked down to the lake. I showed her my “Helen Garden”. Near the shore was my representation of Helen with her head buried in the sand. I asked her to see what I saw.

  • A feeling that was left here
    A scenery that is enchanting
    A life that was once lived
    A feeling was left here
    A strange appearance
    Can you share your view?
    A witness of the changes in nature
    A feeling was left here
    The gentle sounds of the water
    So clear
    A certain silence in the mist
    A disconnected thought of the reason of being
    The sky is full of shining stars
    Surrounded by simple wonders
    Zoned out to the scenery of a simple leaf
    A leaf landing in a pond
    That create many gentle ripples
    What a feeling left here…

  • It’s futile. Umpteen hours in the garden. Dozens more at painting and fixing. My neighbours get the same results doing virtually nothing.
    It was her idea, to move from the city and our jobs that paid professionals to do this crap.
    “It’ll be fun,” she said.
    She looks happy, sipping coffee in a deck chair, notepad and pen on her lap.
    She tells people, “He loves puttering.”
    She writes lists for me. Lists for today. Lists for this week, month, every season. She decided her new job is to manage me.
    I want to crawl into a hole and hide.

  • September 30, 2075.

    Hans asked Ulf, his history teacher, “What do you mean, they buried their heads in the sand? Was that a recreational activity in 2010?”

    Ulf: “It was a form of denial. Others just wished the problems away. But of course wishes without action only bring disillusion.”

    Hans wondered, “I thought “sapiens” meant intelligence. I recommend we rename the past human generations as Homo ignorantia instead of Homo sapiens.”

    Ulf: “They stole our dreams, poisoning the air, water, and soil.”

    Hans: “Let’s hope we mutate to become the true Homo sapiens and can clean up this mess!”

  • Cameron is an odd duck. I love his garden parties. They’re never boring, and I get bored so easily these days. Natasha invited me to Prague, and I sighed. What a burden, travelling so close to Thanksgiving.

    “Have a seat, darling.” Cameron moves to make space for me on his Kensington bench.

    I sit down. The condensation on the bowl of my champagne flute wets my fingers.

    “Here,” he says, taking the flute and placing it on the upturned sole of a rain boot – two legs sticking out of the ground to form a table of sorts.

    “Funny,” I say.

  • Denial

    Burying his head
    Still, colours change and leaves drift
    Hiding from winter

  • It’s been three months, seventeen days and seven long hours, since you’ve been gone. It’s quiet here, except for the howling wind. Although, sometimes, I can still hear the faint squeaking of your wet muddy boots crossing my clean kitchen floor. Me yelling. You apologizing. A screaming match ensuing. It was silliness; pure and simple. Maybe, stubbornness? I relive those same ten minutes several times a day. If only… if only you could be here to see the sunflower you planted for me, waving in the wind, high above the pile of autumn leaves. Bright yellow. Your favourite. Not mine.

  • Marie Beswick-Arthur September 30, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    Hard Work Lived Here

    Tradition dictated cowboys never wash their Levis. At some point the denim transitioned to a version of oilcloth, after which the garments took on a life of their own.

    It’s similar for rubber boots—aka wellingtons—worn by gardeners, farmers, and puddle splashers. For with the addition of favourite socks, that perfect ‘inside’ footprint becomes as formfitting as Cinderella’s slipper. Once broken in, no tear or hole necessitates replacement; improvisations with duct tape, glue, tar, and plastic bags ensure continued comfort.

    There can be no better headstone for such labourers. Epitaph: Hard Work lived here.

  • Blue Fairy smacked her forehead with her hand.

    “Humans!” huffed Magenta Fairy.

    “Oh dear!” fretted Green Fairy. “The Fairy Circle was closing! And, jumping in head first!”

    “Is he dead?” Blue prodded a boot.

    “No. Frozen in space-time continuum.” Magenta hovered near the legs protruding from the garden.

    Green flipped upside-down, then righted herself. “Whose responsibility was he? None of my humans have Wellingtons.”

    “None of my charges wear such ratty pants!” Blue declared.

    “Designer-jean knockoffs?” bellowed Magenta. “Puh-lease!”

    The fairies looked at one another, each face draining to their particular pale shade.

    “Someone must inform the Empress!” They shouted.

  • They’ll be coming for me soon. I won’t fight this time. Going willingly, proves I can be a good girl sometimes.

    I shovel dirt over the small wooden box as fast as I can; planting the old climbing rose directly on top.

    “Don’t you go nowhere, ‘cuz I’ll be back.”

    Kicking off my dirty rubber boots, the grass snakes between my toes. Feels good. Throwing handfuls of crispy autumn leaves into the wind above my head, I watch them swirl towards the mailbox.

    “They may be coming, but I’m gonna be happy ‘til they’re here.” I begin to dance.

  • BURIED ALIVE

    It felt like you were living in a parallel universe. For sure you marched to the beat of your own drum. But the community’s myopia prevented them from figuring out a complex mind. They persecuted you. You retreated into your own fantasy world; you found some peace there and stayed in touch with your artistic side. Many years have passed and the crowds have long since dispersed. Call it ignorance or cognitive dissonance on their part; call it what you will, but they buried you alive. They preached it, but they understood nothing about tolerance.

  • Gone
    PETER. Never when you need him or where always up to his ears in trouble only remembers his dear mother when he needs help.

    PETER. Fire’s out all the woods over in the shed wet why doesn’t he come when I call?

    PETER. Last week it was the chicken and how will I ever explain to Bob next door? Peter he laughs and he won’t do anything about it. Never does anything but get his self up to no good and then hides his head till it all dies down and where am I but cold and helpless.

    PETER.

  • John’s head spun as he propped himself up against the pillows. The sun left him blinded and sent knives into his brain. He tried to remember how he had gotten home, but all he could remember was the line of shots and the waitress with the big tits. He wanted to roll over and sleep, but he really had to piss. He started untangling himself, making his head hurt and his stomach roll, once free he threw the sheets aside. He stared down at disbelief; his legs were gone. His only though was, “How much did I drink last night?”

  • The Mia Quilt
    (100 words)
    “Grandma? You asked to see me?” Lacey Wilson walked down the stony path with a quilt square.The quilt square had a design that reminded her of her cousin, Mia. Mia had drowned last year. A memorial had been set up in her honor. It was a pair of pants with boots, that stood upside down to remember that Mia loved gymnastics. Lacey’s grandmother reached her hand out. “Please my darling, hand me the square.” Her fingers struggled to complete the quilt. Lacey and her grandmother placed the quilt around the pants. “There,” Lacey said, “ now the memorial is complete.”

  • The best place to bury a body is under a fence post.

    Since we were building a fence around 117 acres, it was a perfect cover for other “business” as well.

    When we killed George though, it was storming something wicked, and we had to wait a few days.

    By the time we got ol’ George up out of the cellar and out to pasture rigor mortis had set in, and the storm made for heavy mud to dig up.

    Not our most well-thought out plan, maybe if we hadn’t picked a post hole so close to the main road…

  • **CONTEST NOW CLOSED**
    Thanks and good luck to all who entered. Check out the October contest here: http://thewritersconference.com/story-starter-october-erika-takacs-2/

  • Although, as identical twins,
    time and circumstance
    has forever linked us,
    please understand
    that our matching D N A
    does not necessarily preclude
    I will have the same aspirations
    as you.
    I must
    Inexorably
    find my way.
    I love you.

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