78 comments

Drama Fantasy Adventure

Why does everyone buy milk? The thought perplexed him as he traversed the aisles of Jack's Mini Mart. Toilet paper makes sense, I mean if you are stuck in the house for days you’re going to need toilet paper but very few survival shows list milk as an essential item.


The original forecast was for a light dusting but as the hours passed the predictions grew more and more grim. Two inches then four then a foot or more. He had been brought up in the backwoods of Louisiana where snow was as rare as a democrat. You’d see them both every now and then but neither amounted to much or hung around too long. This was different though, this was rural Wisconsin and a blizzard was coming and he needed toilet paper. Oh, and milk.  


Stores in Wisconsin were not at all like the ones down south. In his home town everyone knew the name of the girl behind the counter and more often than not you had gone to school with her brother, or sister or cousin. You called her by name, asked about her mom, and would actually listen to the response because you cared. In Wisconsin, even rural Wisconsin, there was a new cashier almost weekly and if you asked too many questions you were likely to get a visit from the local sheriff. 


He didn’t notice who was behind the counter when he entered the store and in truth he wasn’t sure if anyone was manning the register. He hadn’t been greeted on his way in and his mind was focused elsewhere, he needed toilet paper and milk 


It’s a funny thing about snow, there is a silence to it. Most people stay home when it’s snowing so, unlike regular frantic days, time seems to slow and noise fades to the background. If you decide to venture into a snowstorm it isn’t unusual to be totally alone allowing you to be immersed in thought and at the pleasant mercy of your other senses. You see more, you feel more, you appreciate the vastness hidden by the everyday.


As he pushed his cart up one aisle and down the next he began to realize he hadn’t passed a single soul since he entered the store. He expected the crowd to be small, after all just outside a blizzard was raging but this was disconcerting. His palms became sweaty, his stomach felt queasy, and the silence almost made his quickening heartbeat audible. All of a sudden the two items in his cart, toilet paper and milk, seemed to be enough, it was time to check out and leave. He executed a quick 180 and, at a rate faster than normal, pushed his cart back to the front of the store, back to the cash register, back toward the exit which he now longed to use. Turning the corner at the end of the aisle he was now in position to see the single check out counter just inside the front door but there was no one within eyesight. He waited until he had positioned himself at the front of a line that didn’t exist before he started to survey his surroundings hoping to see a friendly face or even an angry one as long as it came on a person wearing the familiar smock of the supermarket chain. To his dismay there was no one to be found and as he cast his glance out the large window he noticed his car as the only one in the parking lot. He knew there must be a logical explanation for the anomaly but in the moment none came to mind.


 “Hello” he said in an almost hushed tone not wanting to appear impatient. “Is anyone there?” The question itself seemed ridiculous, someone must be there, the store was open, the lights were on and it was the middle of business hours. “Hello” he said again, more forcefully this time, growing eager to leave. “I’m ready to check out!” The emptiness of the store and the corresponding silence caused an echo effect as his words seemed to come back to him. All of a sudden milk and even toilet paper seemed unimportant, he was alone in the store and he couldn’t help but feel as if something was terribly wrong.  


In an instant he made his decision, he was getting out of there. Instinctively he knew he shouldn’t be there and he was beginning to feel trapped by his isolation and the snow that was quickly piling up outside. Leaving the cart and it’s contents as they stood, he turned to the door and took a step, then he heard it. The sound was faint and distant but for the first time since he had entered the store it had broken the silence. He couldn’t tell if it was words or mumbling or a low whimper but it was definitely human and whoever it was, they sounded as if they were in distress. Every fiber in his being told him to walk out the door and yet he turned in the direction of the sound and began to move towards it. As he continued his exploration it became apparent the sound was coming from the back corner of the store but he still could not discern who it was or what they were saying. When he finally reached the origin of the sound to his surprise and dismay he found a little baby, laying on the floor, swaddled and cooing. As out of place as the newborn seemed what was more puzzling was it didn’t appear as if the baby was frightened and as soon as their eyes met a smile spread across the child’s face. It was as if the child knew and was glad to see him.


Without a second's hesitation he reached down and pulled the baby to his chest. He didn’t know where this precious child's mother was but he knew no baby belonged alone on the floor of an abandoned supermarket. Holding the baby firmly he shouted, “Is anybody here? I need help!” His words were sharp and his tone concerned. There could be little doubt there was no corner of the small store where his questions would be unheard but when no response came he called out again, “I need help. Whose baby is this?” No answer. Just as it had been since he entered the store he was alone and now he couldn’t just leave, he had to take care of this little one. Fate had brought them together and he had no choice but to step up and help. He couldn’t remember the last time he had held a baby. In that moment he couldn’t remember if he had ever held one and yet it felt natural having this one in his arms. Repositioning the child to allow access to his jacket pocket he pulled out his cell phone with every intention of dialing 911. No signal, none, not a single bar. He didn’t know if it was a location issue or a storm issue but his phone was useless.  There must be a phone in the office. He thought to himself as he made his way towards the back of the store. He didn’t like the idea of entering into a space reserved for employees but desperate times called for desperate measures.  


The door to the office was conveniently unlocked and the phone on the desk gave him a temporary feeling of hope, temporary because when he lifted the receiver to his ear there was no dial tone. He was alone in the store with an abandoned baby and had no way to reach out to anyone for help. The idea of leaving the store with the child seemed like the worst possible idea. What if the child’s mother was there, somewhere, and saw him leave with the child. Would she or anyone believe his motives were altruistic? Would he be thought to be a kidnapper? It definitely seemed like the worst possible idea but reality was starting to sink in, it was the only solution.  


It took him only a few seconds to get to his car and start the engine. The roads were almost undrivable which complicated his thought process as he contemplated his next move. The police station was five miles away and the hospital just under seven. His house, however, was less than two blocks and he could get there without using any main roads. He had no car seat to secure the child and right now safety was of the utmost importance, so he put his car in drive, slowly pulled out of the parking lot, and made the turn for home. In his life he could never remember driving that slow. There was almost no chance of him sliding off the road but there was also almost no chance he would find an unattended baby in a supermarket. In the best of conditions the trip would take less than five minutes and even at this snail’s pace he pulled into his driveway in just under seven. A feeling of relief swept over him as he turned off the car and picked up the child. He had used the passenger side seat belt, as best he could, to secure the precious cargo during the short drive. Opening the door, he gently exited the car, careful to place each foot solidly on the ground avoiding even the chance of slipping as headed to his front door.


Coming from rural Louisiana and living in rural Wisconsin he never locked his front door and for that he was grateful because right now getting this child inside and calling the police was all he could think about. As he turned the handle and pushed open the door he was immediately greeted by an obviously flustered woman who scooped the child right out of his hands. “What could you possibly be thinking, taking our son out in weather like this, without his car seat? Are you crazy? I swear you’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached. Where is the toilet paper? Did you forget again? Can you please go get it while I put him to bed?” And with that she headed into the back room with the child firmly held in her loving arms. He watched her disappear into what, even from the front door he could see, was obviously a nursery. “What are you waiting for?” came the voice from the backroom. “The roads aren’t getting any better, you need to go before the store closes.” Confused and a bit disoriented, he turned back to the door and as he opened it she called out to him and added, “Oh and don't forget the milk.” and with that he headed back into the storm.


July 25, 2020 19:47

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78 comments

Zilla Babbitt
15:51 Jul 31, 2020

Okay, you asked me to read, so here I am. This is funny! I laughed aloud at the "snow is as rare as a Democrat" quip. The finale is pretty reasonable and also funny. There are a few problems. One, showing not telling. Mainly when you say he's nervous and wants to leave-- you just tell me that. Show me by his white hands and trembling shoulders, fast breathing, darting eyes, etc. Two, the ending. There are a couple questions that should be answered. I do like the ending, how it's actually his kid, but where did all the people go? Why no s...

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Thom Brodkin
16:40 Jul 31, 2020

I really appreciate the feedback. I think I am guilty of your first suggestion way to often. It's a lazy way to get a point across. It's like listening to baseball on the radio. The best announcers have a way of having you smell the grass and taste the hot dogs just by their descriptions. Those are the announcers I like to listen to. As to the second point, can I ask a question? I was trying for confusion at the end. Almost like the Twilight Zone. A lot of times they left you uneasily confused and that was part of it's allure. So a...

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Zilla Babbitt
16:59 Aug 04, 2020

I see what you were trying to do and I think to make it work you need an almost-overload of the inconsistent, weird, and creepy. Going halfway just looks like typos. Of course, now you can't edit, but for the future :)

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Thom Brodkin
17:00 Aug 04, 2020

Good advice. Thank you.

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Elle Clark
22:27 Aug 13, 2020

Hiya! Here as requested to give some (hopefully helpful) critique. Let me know if this goes too in depth and I will know for next time. This was such a tricky prompt to pull off because it was so very specific. I have read so many that tell the same story so I really liked how you distinguish yours with the twist at the end. I enjoyed the ending as well, especially given that you chose not to provide answers to so many questions that readers will be asking. Sometimes that’s poor storytelling but here it felt deliberate so that we would e...

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Thom Brodkin
22:39 Aug 13, 2020

That is perfect. My dad was an editor and when I was in high school I used to let him go over my papers to correct my errors. Somehow I totally missed that gene. It really pains me as I proofread because little things can throw the reader off and destroy the flow. The semicolon is my biggest bugaboo. I think I may have used it once or twice but probably right where it doesn’t belong. I will keep asking for your detailed feedback and I’ll do my best to respond in kind. Is there any particular story you’d like me to read? I’m definitely up fo...

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Elle Clark
22:51 Aug 13, 2020

I’m glad it was helpful! My current one is called A Familiar Story - not sure if you’ve read that one? If not, The Order of the Blood Moon is last week’s offering. It’s about vampires and ice cream. Happy to give feedback in future too 😊

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Thom Brodkin
23:55 Aug 13, 2020

Ok one last brain pick. I know you are a Reedsy judge. My story had shown as shortlisted but now it doesn’t but as far as I can tell no one has the designation anymore. Is that standard? Am I still shortlisted?

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Elle Clark
08:57 Aug 14, 2020

They just added the feature this week that if your story had been shortlisted, you get a little banner above it. My guess is that when they rolled it out, they put the banner above every entry that had been shortlisted, regardless of whether or not the competition had finished being judged. As your story is still in the judging process (it’s been through round one, has been shortlisted and is now with the panel that judges the shortlisted entries) it was given a banner. I guess they realised their mistake and have now fixed it so that you on...

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Thom Brodkin
10:55 Aug 14, 2020

Thanks for the info. You are a super hero. 😀

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Rhondalise Mitza
01:01 Jul 28, 2020

Yeah, I can definitely say I like this version better than my own. Great job, Thom! Also, just out of curiosity, why's there an h in your name? I've never seen that before but it looks interesting like that. :)

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Thom Brodkin
01:06 Jul 28, 2020

Thank you. Getting positive feedback from someone who is as talented as you motivates me to write more. As for the “h” I’ve used that for the last 20 years or so. Tom is such an average name I wanted to jazz it up a little. I can always tell how long a friend has been a friend based on how they spell my name. 😀😀😀

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Rhondalise Mitza
01:16 Jul 28, 2020

That's neat! I wish I could use my real name on Reedsy. I like it better than my pen name. :) And thanks for reading my stories! I appreciate it so much!

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Thom Brodkin
01:22 Jul 28, 2020

I will continue to do so.

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Woah! This was a great story. It's so mysterious that it leaves me wanting to know more. Thank you for directing me toward this story!

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Thom Brodkin
16:10 Aug 07, 2020

Thank you so much. That means a lot to me.

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:) No problem!

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Calvin Kirby
18:14 Mar 22, 2022

This one had me going. I was caught off guard at the end and felt a little Twilight Zone/bumbling husband story. Anyway, I like it. I must admit, I am liking your later stories the best. You get better as you go, which is how it should be. Can't wait to read the next one.

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Thom Brodkin
18:44 Mar 22, 2022

I’ve been honing my skill for the last two years. I think one day I’ll go back and edit my older stories to try to improve them. Silence is one of my favorites but since I put it on Reedsy I’ve reworked it. If you want to hear it, I read it for Blue Marble Storytellers. Google it and see if you like it better.

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Rebecca Lee
02:58 Aug 18, 2020

So, I have a question. How did you get involved in writing? Is it in your background? Someone in your family? You write so much like I do, it is funny. And I know why - I have have this "newspaper life" in my blood - 23 years in the business, and then I have an English degree and a whole bunch of wise old owl professors in my head, and then I have my dad - the harshest but best of them all - a philosopher of sorts. So sometimes, when I write, you can see the errors and some are blaring out - "LOOK SHE MESSED UP." And it blows me away as...

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Thom Brodkin
04:41 Aug 18, 2020

This was the best response I’ve gotten so far. My dad was an editor in the sports department of the Baltimore Sun and a long time ago he was a reporter on the news side in Connecticut. I get my writing style from him but he was a far better editor than I will ever be. I also struggle with dialogue. I think you’ll notice how little is in all my stories. I am working on it though. I love this format because I am new to writing so prompts are like gold to me. It’s gives me ideas and let’s me run. Thanks so much for taking the time to help....

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Rebecca Lee
23:43 Aug 18, 2020

I appreciate your advice as well.

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Grace M'mbone
15:31 Aug 05, 2020

The ending caught me off guard Thom. I loved your writing. I loved the plot, I couldn't stop reading and that is an indication of an awesome writer 😍😍 I would be more than delighted if you took a look at even one of my stories. Wonderful work.

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Thom Brodkin
15:37 Aug 05, 2020

Thank you so much. It means a lot to me that you took the time to not only read my story but to comment as well. I would be happy to check out your latest offering.

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A. S.
19:58 Aug 04, 2020

This was a great story. The twist at the end was really enjoyable and I didn’t see it coming at all. There was one time I noticed that you forgot a period at the end of a sentence, and there were a few run on sentences. I liked your main character a lot. Good job! Will you check out my story “On The Edge” and let me know what you think?

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Thom Brodkin
20:07 Aug 04, 2020

Thanks for the very kind words. I would be happy to check yours out. At the risk of sounding like I am soliciting "likes" I was wondering why you had left such nice feedback without "liking" the story. I only ask because it's not just you, it seems that there have been a few people who do that. Like most writers I am slightly insecure and want to make sure I'm not missing something. Thanks again for the feedback. I really appreciate it.

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A. S.
23:14 Aug 04, 2020

Sorry! I meant to like it but totally forgot. I will go in and do that. No worries! The same thing happens to me!

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Thom Brodkin
23:16 Aug 04, 2020

Thank you. You are a super hero. 😀

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Abby Meeks
19:23 Aug 04, 2020

This was good. The end was a good twist and funny!

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Ulysse Legere
07:49 Aug 04, 2020

Thank you for the like, I have perused your story and have found it to be well written with many moments of suspense and easily allows the reader to feel the emotions and sense the atmosphere, very very well composed indeed.

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Aditya Pillai
07:38 Aug 04, 2020

Absolute gem of a read Thom! I, for one, love stories that use ambiguity and confusion well to keep the readers guessing, and this is certainly one such story. The ending was really great, and I love even in his disorientation he automatically turns around to go shopping again! Made me chuckle. And the overall deadpan humour of his inner monologue is really great. This is really a fantastic work! Would love it if you could check out mine too :)

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Katrina Lee
02:59 Aug 04, 2020

I like how you painted the scene for us so we can see it clearly in our head🤓and I didn't see the ending coming at all! I get some Triangle (the movie) vibes like the man is stuck in a loop? And inexplicable things happen... XD If I could point out one teeny-tiny thing, which is the use of punctuations like comma, that is missing from some sentences. If you have some times would you be so kind to check out my story, also on this prompt! Thank you so much!🤩

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Thom Brodkin
03:22 Aug 04, 2020

If it weren’t for bad punctuation I’d have no punctuation at all. 😀. I’d be happy to check yours out.

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Hannah B
01:16 Aug 04, 2020

Interesting take on the prompt! An enjoyable read, humourous and well paced. I liked the turn at the end, but I would've liked a bit more information as to what was going on. I look forward to your next one!

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Thom Brodkin
01:23 Aug 04, 2020

Thank you for both the read and feedback. The vagueness was intentional but I’m getting a lot of feedback the says the same thing you do. I will take that to heart as I move on.

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Robin Brodkin
02:38 Aug 03, 2020

That was good. I liked the ending, I was not expecting it. 😊

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Christina Hall
00:15 Aug 02, 2020

I enjoyed this story. As you hinted at in your comments on my story, I did appreciate your twist. Even suspecting that this is how it would end, I didn't know how it would play out. I hope to see more stories from you.

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E. Zane
16:14 Aug 01, 2020

I really enjoyed the reversal in this story. Nicely done!

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Thom Brodkin
17:37 Aug 01, 2020

Thank you. 😀

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Bibisha Shakya
16:00 Aug 01, 2020

You had me hooked till the very end, that's how you know it's an interesting story written by a true writer! I especially liked how you've chosen to leave the twist in the end slightly "under explained". Great work, Thom. Keep going!

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Thom Brodkin
18:19 Aug 01, 2020

Thank you so much!! I’m glad you liked the ending. It was meant to leave people guessing. Thanks for reading and taking the time to give feedback.

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Bibisha Shakya
02:31 Aug 02, 2020

Anytime! :)

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Batool Hussain
06:29 Jul 30, 2020

As promised, I'm here:) This is wonderful. You've described everything so well. And, is it just me or almost every story I've read this week is based on this prompt. Funny! Okay, now the actual point. Your details are amazing, you use meticulously good vocabulary. And, you keep the reader hooked, up until the end. Good job:) Now, one thing that you could probably work on is (maybe) introduce the narrator's name in the beginning. If you haven't yet noticed, you've directly started with 'he' from the very beginning. Other than that, keep...

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Thom Brodkin
20:22 Jul 30, 2020

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to give feedback. I want nothing more than to get better and I need to be read and critiqued to have that happen. I struggled with if I should name the main character or not. I decided not to because I was trying to make the whole story more mysterious and I thought no name might add to that. Similar to Clint Eastwood's character in the old westerns. Your feedback makes me wonder if I made the right choice.

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Zilla Babbitt
15:55 Jul 31, 2020

I think it's a cool writing choice. I do this several times, notably in "Soul of the Inca" (excuse me if that sounds narcissistic) but I do like the choice. Maybe you could accentuate this choice by sometimes referring to him as "the man." Shows the reader that you mean to conceal the name.

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Thom Brodkin
18:21 Jul 31, 2020

It ain't bragging if you can do it and you can definitely do it. :-) This is also great advice. It's the finer points that still escape me. Part of the problem is I don't read. Not anything longer than an article so it limits me. I like your advice about reading. I like that you take the time to give important feedback. I also like it that you help your sisters with their writing. You not only love to write you love to help others write. Thank you!!

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Zilla Babbitt
16:57 Aug 04, 2020

Thank you so much!

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Batool Hussain
07:20 Jul 31, 2020

Oh, I get it now. It is okay if you don't want to. Your story, your choice;)

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Charles Stucker
04:40 Jul 29, 2020

Withing the constraints of the prompt, you have a good solution- take a page from Rod Serling and make a relatively normal situation surreal in the last few minutes. You start slowly. It's about a fourth of the way through before we have any tension (nobody in the store). Even the blizzard is presented impersonally. Typo, "Two inches than four than a foot or more." it's then, not than. You regularly forget commas. Example, "He watched her disappear into what even from the front door was obviously a nursery," should look like, "He ...

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Thom Brodkin
10:42 Jul 29, 2020

You have no idea how much I appreciate the detailed feedback. My biggest weaknesses are format and punctuation. I will reread and try to find my errors. Thank you again for reading and taking the time to help.

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Claire Lindsey
15:54 Mar 11, 2021

I absolutely did not see that ending coming. My favorite stories are ones that make you think, ones where you have to put pieces together and hope you’ve found the answer. This is one of those. I’m going to be puzzling over that ending for a while, trying to figure out how he just happened to have a wife and baby after a grocery run. A mystery told in the witty, forward prose that’s so uniquely yours. It’s exciting to see people’s first stories and compare them to later ones. You started off strong and have only improved your talent and cr...

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