Challenge 98

The Iron Writer Challenge 98

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Richard Russell, E. Chris Garrison, Justin Cox, K. A. DaVur, Tony Jaeger

The Judges:

Dani J Caile, Emily GatrellMathew W. WeaverJason T. Carter

The Elements:

Tiger lily

A Tiger Lily

Botticelli (the game)

Long Hair

Steampunk Goggles

Moonlight BlossomEric Garrison

 E. Chris Garrison

Ira fled his parents’ home in the middle of the night wearing his sister’s riding habit and his mother’s makeup. Having served a tour of duty in the Dixie Army, he slipped past the fort’s patrols and out onto the road. No looking back. It was now or never.

Lights of the fort left behind, Ira tripped over stones in the rutted road. From atop his wig, he covered his eyes with philostogen-infused night goggles, which illustrated the night in vivid, unnatural colors. The road wound ahead through the mountains to the border.

Ira’s thoughts whirled and worried. If I make it by morning, I’ll slip past the guardpost and on into a new life! If I’m caught, the Colonel’ll have his pansy actor son flogged to within an inch of his life. Again.

The click of his boot heels on paving stones quickened.

A steam-powered coach chugged up from behind him on the road. He leaped, but dazzling magnesium headlights caught his skirts before he rolled into the bushes.

The spoked wagon-wheels ground to a halt to the tune of squealing brakes. The coachman leapt down, conferred with someone inside, then took a few steps toward Ira’s hiding place.

“Y’all come out now, ma’am. Your pretty dress’s gon’ be full of brambles. This midnight road’s no place for a lady!”

An accomplished stage actor, Ira was no stranger to voice disguise. In a feminine tone, he said, “I’m comfortable here, please move along!”

“Ha, you’re quite the tigerlily ain’t ya? Bold as brass! We’ve got a full head of steam; the boss and I can help your journey. Come on out?”

Ira shivered as his walking sweat dried in the cool night air. “Thank you, kind gentlemen, but as you said, the roads at night are dangerous, why should I trust you?”

“Why, trust comes from shared secrets. Supposin’ I guess your name, will you accompany us?”

Ira let out a laugh, mindful of its pitch. “A guessing game? Botticelli under the stars?”

The coachman’s guffaw echoed in the night. “No time for such a long game, the boss has to be moving; we’ve got our own secrets.”

Ira shifted his crouch and peered into the dark at the stranger. “One guess and then on your way? I accept.”

“I’ll wager you’re Ira Stillwell, ain’t ya, young lady?”

Ira’s heart leaped into his throat. He could not utter a sound.

“It’s okay, don’t run! Here’s our secret: I’m with Chisolm’s Carnival Caravan, and the ‘boss’ is someone else who aims to escape the United States of Dixie. We’re bound for New England in the morning. You can come with us, if you dare.”

“B-but how did you know?”

“Easy peasy! I’ve seen you up on stage! Also, you left your long blonde hair in the roadway. Shall I fetch it for you?”

Ira stood and stepped into the road. “Yes, please. And from here on, it’s Ida, if you please.”

The coachman grinned and held the door for her.

The WardedJustin Cox

Justin Cox

I made my way through the dark across the slate-shingled roof, stepping carefully on the sloping tiles, my wet cloak drawn close. The engines of the patrol zeppelins sputtered and thrummed in the darkness as they kept their vigil above the ruined city. Reaching the edge of the roof, I turned and lowered myself down to the stone window ledge. The leaded window panes were filthy, streaked with the black acrid sleet that had fallen all day from a heavy gray sky. I wiped the greasy soot from the glass with my sleeve. When the view did not substantially improve, I flipped my goggles up, the lenses clicking neatly on their hinges. They too were coated with the black, foul-smelling grime.

Beyond the dirty glass I saw the children sitting on wooden stools. Before them a white-haired woman sat in a high-backed wheelchair. A fire burned within a massive stone hearth nearby, the capering flames painting their faces in flickering bands of shadow and orange light. The old woman was speaking to them but I could not hear her words. I removed the Listening Device from the pouch on my hip, attached the tethered cup to the window pane, and meted out a portion of the wire, hoping to transfer the sound from within the room to the conch-shaped receiver, which I then wedged in my right ear.

Her mouth moved and a heartbeat later I heard her voice in my right ear, punctuated with brief bursts of static. “One more before…, children. I … the Chooser and you will be the Guessers….name starts with an ‘n’,” she said to them.

“Can I….first?” asked the young boy. He moved from his stool to stand behind the young girl perched on the other stool. She was holding something in her lap beneath her tiny, pale hands. The boy touched her shoulder lightly and she passed him the object she was holding—an ivory comb. His focus never left the old woman as he ran the comb in even strokes through the girl’s long silver hair.

“You may, Martin, since you…so polite to your sister,” the old woman said, her voice broken and choppy in the electronic ear.

“Are you a knight?” he asked.

The old woman grinned, toothless. “I am not Lord Norbert,” she answered then said something more, but I heard only static, which quickly dissipated as I tapped the receiver.

Apparently she had addressed the young girl, who sat, eyes closed, while her brother continued to comb her hair.

“Did you discover gravity?” The young girl asked.

The old woman grinned again.

Abruptly, from the darkness of the ruined street beneath me, came a great bellowing cough. Something moved in the shadows and rubble, and roared again. In the room beyond the filthy glass they had heard it, too. Their eyes were bright with fear; their faces were tiger lilies in the undulating orange glow of the fire. I pried the Listening Device from the window and placed it back in my belt pouch. Flipping my goggles down, I drew my flintlock and longsword, and dropped silently into the shadowed street.

It’s All Too BeautifulRichard Russell

Richard Russell

Bob and Ted, two security guards at Winterthur Museum, well trimmed and dressed in snappy, crisp uniforms, walked through the vast, lush gardens on their way around the grounds.

Bob mused, “I’m thinking of a familiar person, and the name begins with W”.

Ted glanced at Bob with a knowing smile. “Hmmmm, does this person have long, unkempt hair down to his waist?”

Bob, “Yes. That’s an A.”

Ted sucked his teeth and made an exaggerated groan, “Does this person wear brightly colored psychedelic, baggy, free-flowing shirts and old tattered blue jeans which haven’t ever been washed?”

Bob, “Yes! That’s a Y.”

Ted put a finger to his lips, then with an air of revelation asked, “Does this person wear goofy-looking goggles that make him look like he’s on some other planet and smell like a stagnant cesspool?”

Bob, “Yes. You earn an N.”

Ted continued, with a tone of finality, “Are we looking at and smelling this familiar person right this very second?”

Bob, “Why yes, we are, and you get an E for that.”

Then both officers spoke the man’s name in unison, “WAYNE!”

The man on the ground in front of them, lanky frame perched on his hands and knees, bottom up in the air, was bent over a large, beautiful flowering specimen of Lilium superbum. With his steampunk goggles and the 25x-magnifier engaged, his face was stuck right down into the plant as he scrutinized every fleck and spot intently.

Speaking over his shoulder, “She’s got six stamens and one pistil, and her stigma have three lobes, but she’s also got lily beetles, gentlemen. They can be hand picked. See, I’ve got a whole jar collected already.”

The two guards grimaced at the sight of the wriggling masses inside the jar.

“Wayne,” Bob pleaded, “You smell bad! We are getting complaints from the visitors all the time about you.”

Wayne turned a bit and glanced at Bob.

“You pathetic conformists look like you’ve had your ritualistic cleansing today.”

Ted, “Yeah, Wayne, we’ve each had a bath or shower in the last 24 hours.”

Wayne continued, “Yes, but why? Is it so you can fit yourselves into some arbitrary constraints imposed by a fickle and superfluous system of stifling conformity?”

Bob and Ted each rolled their eyes and muttered, “What?”

Wayne proceeded, “You guys need to relax, slow down, get outside the box, and run naked through the sunshine of free love and natural beauty. I mean, look at the tight, constricting uniforms you wear. What a bummer, Man. Look at this flower. She’s just hangin’ out, free flowing, no worries, no cares.”

Bob was getting impatient, “Yeah? She’s also got beetles eating her. It’s not all free and easy, Wayne. That’s why we have rules and conventions.”

At that, Bob and Ted escorted Wayne out the front gate.

“Wayne, you can come back after you take a shower and put on some clean clothes,” Bob offered.

As Wayne skulked away he thought, “Y’know, power and authority are way over-rated.”

So I Had This Dream . . .Tony Jaeger

Tony Jaeger

I let the mud envelop my feet. Just one degree shy of scalding, it felt like heaven, mixed with the cleansing fires of Hell on my toes. In the air hung the stinging aroma of sulfur, it tickled mine and companions’ nostrils but not unpleasantly. Like a pungent wine’s aroma wafting from a glass, it demanded my attention, and would have had it, had Tigerlily – you know, the Indian Princess from Peter Pan – weren’t also in the hot spring with me.

“Say you ‘M’?”

Everything about Tigerlily screamed sexuality so loud I was surprised my ears weren’t bleeding. Her hair framed her copper-skinned face in such a way as I couldn’t imagine she were looking anywhere but into my very soul, her hair went then south to a throat I could only imagine nibbling on, then biting into, both for the joy of it and to prevent myself from screaming out with pleasure… Her long, luxurious hair framed perfect breasts, all the way down to the water, before fanning out around her. I nodded to her, having only half-heard her question.

“Is he famous?”

Tiberius had returned from the depths of the hot spring. I hadn’t noticed until a moment after he had spoken, but he was there and, in his own way, drew the eye every bit as much as Tigerlily. He’d shaved recently. At one point – and I have no idea why he would do this – he told me that he never liked the way hair felt growing out of him, so every morning, and every night after dinner, he shaved his entire body. Tattooed across his whipcord muscled chest was the jagged A symbol for Anarchy, colored in with an intricate red-and-black design. The water had burned his skin, giving him the same sunburned color of a cooked crab’s shell. The steamed punk adjusted his goggles from his eyes to rest on his forehead.

“Not in the slightest.”

I looked back to Tigerlily, or perhaps I should say her body allowed my eyes to look upon her. Her lips curved upward, summoning in me the transcendence I expect would feel similar to the approving smile of God. Her eyes slid from me to rest on Tiberius. In that moment I understood the wrath Kain felt when God accepted his brother’s sacrifice, but not his own. In that moment, I could have drowned Tiberius in the hot spring and felt nothing about it. The two shared a conversation of sorts, in which no words were spoken, but both understood the message clearly. Breath lifted their bosoms as one, their eyes held the same zenlike understanding.

“We give up. Who is it?”

The answer was “Me.” Ah, what a wonderful dream that was.

“So? What happened?”

Hm? Oh, right, the three of us had sex.

Challenge 90

The Iron Writer Challenge 90

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

(For a variety of reasons, four of the five writers in this challenge withdrew.

Leaving Steven L Bergeron standing alone on the battlefield in the morning mist.)

The Judges:

(The Judges all went to Starbucks. You might still find them there.)

The Elements:

snail cherry kiss

The Drake Equation

Guy Fawkes Day

A Fried Bologna Sandwich Cookoff


London No MoreSteven Bergeron

Steven Bergeron

Nebulon 4 the eternity prison of our galaxy


“Now look what you done. They will definitely be blamed us for this one.”

“Whatever are you talking about?”

“Well for starters all the streets in London are ablaze. How do you think Dr Drake is going to react.”

“For starters it is November 5. Ever since the Guy Fawkes event some 400 years ago people has been doing it. As far as Dr Drake leave him to me, there are hundred aliens in the milky way, he will never miss two lost souls in his equation.”

“True people do walk the streets with torches on the anniversary, but they don’t torch the buildings.”

“Oh you worry body. Besides think about it, two snails torching an entire city how preposterous is that.”

“Preposterous you say what do you think of that?”

Looking up from over the hill a mob of Britain’s where heading in our direction. Quickly our lips locked as we began kissing as they passed right by us.

“Boy that was close.”

“What did I tell you no one suspects the snail. It is for that particular reason we took their form. Now let’s get back to our ship to report back our findings.”

As we reached the nearby river our cherry shaped space ship was waiting. Upon entering our commanders image was waiting for us angrily.

“Where have you two been up to?” proclaimed his voice of authority.

“Whatever do you mean? We were in town down by the arena enjoying free sampling of fried bologna sandwiches from the good folks annual cook off.”

“Oh really well Dr Drake could have sworn he spotted two snails fitting your description torching the town. Never mind save it for the tribunal.”

November 6 and here we are sitting hand in hand in front of the high court determining our faith. It still puzzled me why we are here. We did as we were ordered and still they are not satisfied. The commander sternly eyed down on us as we had to plead our case.

“My dear friends we are gathered to determine the faith of Kune and Tane. Gentleman what have you to say for your actions?”

“Well dear friends we are still in shamble as to why we are sequestered here. We did as we were told. London is nothing but a rumble ready to be taken over.”

“Yes but your mission was to simply turn the town folks against each other and get them to do the damage.”

“That is preposterous. Londoners are stupid, that would never happen. It is for that reason we took matters in our own hand.”

“How dare you defy our order’s. If you don’t have anything more to say on your defence we have no choice but to sentence you to an eternity on Nabulon 4.”

“It is what it is.”

So here we are standing in Nebulon 4 trapped like Adam and Eve.




Challenge 85 – Autumn Equinox Final Round

The Iron Writer Challenge 85

The 2014 Autumn Equinox Final Round

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

Dani J Caile, A Francis Raymond, Mathew W. Weaver, Danielle Lee Zwissler

The Elements:



Learn to train your wife in 5 easy lessons

If you are male, you must write your story from the wife’s negative point of view.

    If you are female, you must write the story from the husband’s positive point of view.

Main Character suffers from Pseudobulbar Affect

Breast Cancer

Please vote!

The poll is below.

To Kill A Marketing BidMathew W Weaver

Mathew W. Weaver

“Call 555-T-R-A-I-N-H-E-R right now!”

The advertiser’s voice was getting on my nerves. I walked into the living room, broom in hand, and just as I expected, there sat Jim, glued to the screen like the cap on your day old tube of glue.

“Mind turning that down?” I yelled, “I can’t hear myself think in here!”

“Go away, honey,” Jim said sweetly.

I breathed in and held it. With one good whack of that old broom, I could have sent him flying out the door right then, like I should have done all those years ago. He used to be a David Hasselhoff lookalike, but ever since his breast cancer, he resembled a rag doll that had been run over by a garbage truck.

And smelled like it, too.

And for crying out loud, how many men got breast cancer, anyway?

“Just 5 easy lessons, and you’re done! Train your wife today!” the male voice bragged.

“Turn tha… wait, what was that?”

“Nothing dear, nothing!” Jim said weakly, scrabbling at the remote before switching to the game. I marched over to him, and he cowered as I yanked it out of his feeble grasp and switched it back.

Jim sank into the cushions as I watched the obscene commercial. There, in all comfort, a typical man stretched out while a harlot dressed in nothing but cellophane fetched him everything from slippers to pie and jumped up with every snap of his fingers. And all the while, the voice promised that “your wife could be the same… in five easy lessons!”

“What,” I turned around, “is this?”

“Infomercial?” he offered.

I balled my fists and he shrank even further into the upholstery.

“You want me to jump at your snapping fingers?!” I exploded, “Of all the lazy…”

“Don’t yell!” Jim whimpered, his voice ending in a shuddering gasp.

“It’s always about you, isn’t it?” I threw the down the broom in disgust.

The Pseudobulbar Affect kicked in, and I threw up my hands and walked away. Ten minutes into the sobbing was, surprisingly, enough time for me to calm down. I bit my lip, sighed, and turned around.

“Alright, dear,” I said, “I’ll take your training. I’ll be the wife you always wanted me to be.”

Now, the thing about Pseudobulbar’s is that you can’t ever control the crying. So, even as the once masculine, now very effeminate Jim beamed at me in startled, elated confusion, tears continued to roll down his cheeks and his chest still heaved with emotion.

“You’d do that for me?” he stammered, the disbelief so palpable, you could have spread it on bread.

It wasn’t easy, but I had to give in. I sighed, set my jaw, and then nodded.

“I would,” I said, “Call them.”

As he reached for the phone and stared after me with adoring eyes, I turned around and walked back to the kitchen. Reaching into my pocket, I brought out my well-thumbed, dog-eared copy of “Essential Steps To Have Your Man At Your Mercy,” (pocket edition), and flipped over to chapter seventeen.

“To Deal With The ‘Train Your Wife’ Routine,” I read, “Step one…”

Gone to a Better PlaceDani-J-Caile

Dani J. Caile

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

There were only two of them left in the room, with a woman taking a position by the sofa and a man by the window, speaking into his walkie talkie.

“Where did the others go?”

“They have something to do, Mrs. Worthing,” said the woman.

“Oh, I see. I’ll put these cups back, then.”

“No, no, that’s okay. Please, sit down, rest yourself.”

“Yes, right, that’s best. One lump or two?”

“One, thank you.” The woman sat down and took the cup. The man standing ignored her and looked out of the window, now holding his walkie talkie to his ear and listening to crackles and voices.

“Would you like a Bourbon Cream?”

“No, thank you. Mrs. Worthing. Could you please tell us a little about yourself?” asked the woman.

She laughed uncontrollably, embarrassing herself.

“Me? Little old me? I’m Jon’s wife. Are you friends of Jon?”

“Well, we’re looking after his…welfare,” smiled the woman.

“Oh, good, I’m happy about that. He’s such a good man.”

“Really? Please, tell me more. Perhaps you can tell me something about your life together?”

“Of course, yes, I’d be happy to. He was always good to me, I…I have trouble, you see, I’m…I’m not very good in company.”

Another sudden unexpected laugh. Her face blushed.

“Don’t worry yourself. Please, continue.”

“Well…we’re a model couple, Jon and I. Every day when he opens the door I greet him the way he likes…”



“Go on.”

“…well…in my best lingerie, in a simple black silk loose fitting sheath dress with thin spaghetti straps.”


“And I have his pipe and slippers all ready, too…”

The man from the window whispered something to the woman and she nodded.

“It sounds like you’re an excellent wife, Mrs. Worthing,” said the woman, smiling.

“Thank you. Yes, I make sure his TV remote control is sitting on the side of his favourite armchair so he can watch his football matches, along with a beer the way he likes it, chilled.”

“Wonderful, Mrs. Worthing.”

“When he snaps his fingers, that tells me he’s ready for dinner, and I serve him immediately. After all, he is the breadwinner of the household. If it wasn’t for him, I’d be on the street. He tells me that every day. Every day…”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Worthing,” said the woman, “…but we need to take you down to the station now.”

She laughed again, uncontrollably, and tried to keep a smile on her face. The man at the window took out some handcuffs.

“Of course, of course.” He put them on her and led her past the bloody corpse and into the hallway. She overheard the man whispering again to the woman.

“Her doctor said she’s riddled with cancer, recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and has suspected breast cancer. She also suffers from PBA. The doctor pushed her to tell her husband the good news tonight.”

“Would’ve loved to have been a fly on that wall…”

“Trained”Danielle Lee Zwissler

Danielle Lee Zwissler

Clyde stood at the podium wearing a grin. “Before I begin, I would like to let you know that I have a condition that causes uncontrollable bouts of laughter or crying at times.”

Uneasy murmurs traveled through the crowd before Clyde continued. “I want to thank all of you for coming to my lecture tonight on How to Train Your Wife in Five Easy Lessons. I would like to show you the subject of my book, my wife, Elaine Evershaw.”

“Stand up, Elaine.”

“Yes, Dear,” Elaine said, then stood. She was the only woman in the hall. Her shoulders were up, back and down, breasts out, back straight—posture perfect. She wore a sexy, pinup-type dress with polka dots. She was beautiful.

The men in the audience smiled, and Clyde knew that they appreciated her appearance.

“As you can see, she is trained to please, as all women should be. She is perfectly coifed, and ready to serve her man. Elaine, sit.” Clyde started to laugh.

“Yes, Dear.”

The audience watched, pleased at how “the wife” was following commands.

“I will outline a few of the steps for you, that way you can understand the process. I won’t give everything away tonight, because you need to read the book and apply the steps to your own relationships.”

“Teach your wife how to fetch.” Clyde laughed. The audience looked at him curiously, as he continued. “Folks, don’t be put out by lazy wives. You can train them to do the things that you want them to do. It isn’t hard; if you would like warm feet at night, tell your wife to fetch your slippers, but don’t forget, just like a dog you have to reward your bitch with a treat, perhaps a trinket. Sooner than later you will have her at your feet with your slippers, and she will wear a smile on her face as she awaits her prize. Don’t forget to praise her. Positive reinforcement is the key. Say things like, atta girl, or great job! This will only get things going faster.”

The men in the audience were eating up Clyde’s instruction, even though it was a little unorthodox.

“I know what many of you may be thinking, that this will not work for you, that your wife may not be susceptible to the steps. Fear not, brave men, these steps work!”

Clyde held up a copy of his book. “Today you can get this for only $19.99! This also includes a chapter on how to get your wife to follow non-verbal commands, and how to serve you ice cold beer and snacks! And because you are here today, I will throw in a free Breast Cancer Apron! There is nothing sexier than an obedient wife at the stove wearing an apron. So step right up and get your copy!”


The night had been a success, and Clyde felt satisfied as he walked with his wife to the train station. As the train approached, Elaine pushed her husband onto the tracks, killing him instantly.

Elaine smiled and said, “And that’s how you train a husband!”

 Careful What You Wish ForA Francis Raymond

A. Francis Raymond

“You followed the steps in the booklet?” asked Mr. Stumpbottom.

John looked at the image on the cover. It was part of his welcome kit when he joined the very secretive Men’s Associative Committee for a Better America (MACABA). The club, and the booklet, ‘Train Your Wife in 5 Easy Steps’ promised solutions to his problems.

“Yes. The only thing I managed out of her was a ‘Yes, dear” to my requests – none were actually followed through.”

“If you read the details on our warranty,” said Mr. Stumpbottom, “You’ll remember we don’t offer a traditional refund.”

John skimmed the details when he joined. At the time, he never believed he’d need to file a claim. Things usually went his way, and when they didn’t, he didn’t worry much. It took a lot to bring this naturally upbeat man into Mr. Stumpbottom’s office this morning.

“Mr. Stumpbottom,” said John, “I simply want my wife to be happy, like me. Her smile is beautiful; I want to see it more. Her laugh is infectious; I want to hear it more. Is that too much to ask?”

“Not at all.” Mr. Stumpbottom took out a large book and plopped it down on his desk in front of John. He started flipping through it.

He clearly had a specific page in mind. While Mr. Stumpbottom was looking for it, John continued: “I really never needed her to obey my every command or anything like that.”

“I understand. Ah! Here we are!” He tapped his finger on the page and made sure John could see. “Our warranty specifies that if you’re not satisfied, we’ll try something else. We of course wouldn’t want to lose you as a member, you see.”

John followed Mr. Stumpsbottom’s finger to the text on the middle of the page in front of him. “Turn tears into laughter, laughter into tears.” That sounded about right to him.

“You can do that? That would be a miracle! How do you do it?”

“Oh, we have our ways. You needn’t worry about it. But there could be side effects, some pretty severe…”

John cut him off, smiling. “Let’s do it. Where do I sign?”

Mr. Stumpbottom replied “My secretary will draw up papers and you’ll be on your way. You’ll start seeing the change in a few days.”

* * *

As promised, John’s wife, Nancy, became the laughing queen as her naturally negative reactions to everything turned positive. For three months, she laughed at everything. Anything that would have put a normal person in tears, Nancy was laughing. Hysterically and often. She laughed right through her sudden and unexpected breast cancer diagnosis, much to the surprise of the oncologist.

John suspected the cancer was the side effect Mr. Stumpbottom mentioned, but never said anything about it.

He was at a MACABA meeting and ran into Mr. Stumpbottom.

“How’s your wife?”

“In remission,” John said. “I presume the original ‘treatment’ has worn off.”

“Oh, no no,” Mr. Stumpbottom chuckled. “That was a permanent alternation.”

“But she’s getting better! Why is she still laughing?” John said to no one since Mr. Stumpbottom had disappeared into the crowd.

Challenge 99

The Iron Writer Challenge 99

500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements

The Authors:

A Francis Raymond, Emily Gray Gatrell,

Mary FletcherRobert P. Wills.

The Judges:

Brett Paul, Tony Jaeger, E. Chris Garrison, Dani J. Caile

The Elements:

writing cat

A Writing Cat

A Howdah

Told from the point of view of an alien who views humans as both food and pets

A Floor Buffer

Stories will be posted

January 29, 2015