Fantasy Fiction Contemporary

WARNING: Foul language - where appropriate.

* * *

Let me begin by thanking you all for coming out. (Not that you'd have anything better to do in this God forsaken shit hole in the middle of nowhere.)

Thank you for calling on us, Mayor! We are at your service!  (So, can we please just get on with it? I have a dentist appointment I’d rather make than be here.)

At the ready and always glad to help! (Yeah, help make you look good for the next election. What a rube.)

What is it we can do for you, Mayor? (I forgot to take my pills, so I just might have to run home if this gets any more lame.)

Well, the reason for our gathering, as you all know by now, the Starks have lost their home due to fire. (And, not surprisingly, the way I heard it, that wild Starks kid got his hands on a box of matches. Thug.)

For the time being, they’re staying with their nearest kin, the Parkers, who have graciously offered to share their home until the Starks can get back on their feet. (And they must be thrilled to death to give up their privacy, not to mention their pantry surplus. And with the Almanac predicting an especially brutal winter ahead. Nice.)

I’m happy to report that my staff and I were able to scrape together some yet unclaimed funds from this year’s budget. (I’m also happy to not mention you all will be paying for my family’s upcoming vacation.  Thank you for that.)

And so, we have been able to appropriate the necessary supplies to help restore the Starks’ home.  I believe, and I’m sure you share my view, it’s what any good neighbor would do for their fellow man. (Not that that deadbeat, Marvin Starks, couldn’t have sprung for some decent insurance. They’d be lucky to get a new mailbox with those bare-bones they call a policy.)

To assist us in this lofty undertaking, I’ve been able to recruit our own Mr. Handyman, who you also know as Ben Stephens, to share his skills for zero compensation.  Let’s show our appreciation to Ben for his selfless generosity! (No one really needs to know how good ol’ Ben was almost surely facing substantial jail time for those code violations. He practically begged me for the chance to do this favor, seeing how I just happened to misplace the paperwork on all his alleged infractions. See how things tend to work themselves out?)

Thank you for that, Ben! (A win-win, I just love that about my job.)

The pleasure’s mine, James. (You miserable son of a bitch.)

So, the first step for you all is the Volunteer Sign-Up. Darcy over there with the clipboard will be glad to find something within your skill set and, with Ben’s help, we’ll formulate a plan around your individual schedules and accommodate everyone best we can. (And let’s make it snappy. She doesn’t know it yet but I’ve got plans for Miss Darcy as soon as this torture is over. She’s already well aware of my skill set.)

Could we form a line, please, and try to be organized here? (I’m dealing with a flock of sheeple, honestly, though I really don’t enjoy degrading sheep.)

James. (You pompous shithead.)

What can I do ya for, Shirley? (You old bag.)

There’s a man who was standing in the back? No one’s seen him before and he’s in line to volunteer. Do you think we should inquire? (I wouldn’t expect you to take the initiative, as though you might possess an interest in something that wouldn’t directly benefit your ego -- or your wallet.)

Hmm, good call, Shirl. Let’s see who we have here. (As if you could keep your busybody schnoz out of anybody’s business on the best of days.)

Nice to see you, Horace! (I know who you vote for, loser.) Hello, Frank, it’s been a while! (And I wouldn’t have minded a while longer. Idiot.) Oh, hey, Deirdre, you’re looking lovely. Is that a new dress? (Why don’t you try a salad; looks like you’re smuggling puppies.) Beatrice, how’s that husband of yours?  Tell him it’s time for another round of golf soon as he’s free. (Oh, and I can tell he’s out of town by all those cars parked up and down your street, honey. How ‘bout a little discretion?)

Well, here’s a face I'm not familiar with. Are you new to the area? I’m Backtown’s mayor, James Freetower. If so, allow me to be one of the first to extend to you a warm welcome to our little slice of heaven. (And this is just what we need, another hippy-type long hair . . . let me guess. Addict? Dealer? No worries, we have a cell waiting.)

I come with a message. I am here to help.

Well now, that is wonderful, I must say. Do you own property in the area, Mr. -- (Come on, you tight-lip moron. Who are you?)

I am here to help all of you.

Yes, well, I got that the first time. What’s your name, friend? (And what are you on and where can I get some?)

I am known as Shepherd Uriel.

All right. Well, Shep, let’s continue this later. I’m busy but I’d sure like to hear more. (I’ll get my investigator on this soon as I get to the office tomorrow.)

* * *   

What do you mean there is no Shepherd Urinal! (Incompetent imbeciles. I'm surrounded.)

I don’t know what to tell you, James. I ran him through all the usual sites, all the latest. I’ve asked around, left feelers, all reliable sources. This man literally cannot be found. It’s as if he doesn't exist. (Why don’t you listen, you old thorn! You never take anything I say without a fight! I hate you!)

Well, something’s not adding up. (Fugitive probably.)

I’m sorry I couldn’t find out anything helpful, James, but I did the legwork. You know the kind of job I do, especially when it’s for you. (Ugh, I can’t keep this up much longer. Just pay me already, so I can get out of here.)

Do me a favor, will you? On your way out, would you tell Darcy I’d like to see her?  (And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out, clown.)

Will do, Mayor. I’ll just leave my invoice with Darcy and let her know you want her. (Though what she sees in you, I will never know. I’m just waiting for your wife to hire me. Have I got the goods on you.)

Have a great day! (Get lost! Then I’LL have a great day.)

You wanted to see me, Mr. Freetower? (Don’t even think about it, Ace.)

Darcy, do you have the volunteer list from the other day? (Not that I’d expect you to be capable of actually doing any real work. I just wonder if you might manage to accomplish this one tiny task. Miracles do happen. Well, maybe.) 

Would you like me to make you a copy? (Take that, Slick.)

Yes, thank you for that, Darcy. You read my mind. (And you’d better not, you sultry wench.)

Be right back. (After I take my own sweet time, you bull elephant.)

* * *

How’s the project coming, Ben? (Keeping the felonies to a minimum?)

We haven’t broken ground yet. You know what the weather’s been like. (Like have you got a brain that works? What do you think?)

Oh, right. Ben, have you had that new guy show up yet? The one that looks like he’s part of a cult or something?  (He even makes you look clean and you tend to reek like last night's stew.)

I don’t think I know who you mean. (I don’t think YOU know what you mean.)

Name’s Shep something. I don’t remember the rest. He was standing in line at the Volunteer meeting for the Starks but no one’s seen him since, and his name’s not on the sign-up list. (Can you please be any more useless?)

Can’t help you, Chief. I’ll let you know if I see anybody fits that description show up once we can get this thing started. Right now, that property’s a mudslide waiting to happen if we don’t dry out soon. (Wish you’d dry up soon, old man.)

Good thing the Starks are comfortable in the meantime. (Not the Parkers though, poor saps.)

Yeah, well, I’ll keep you in the loop, see what happens. (In other words, don’t call me.)

Thanks, buddy. (Jerk.)

* * *

Shirley Beck to see you, Mr. Freetower. (Sorry to wake you, Mr. Freeloader.)

Thanks, Darcy. Send her in. (Let’s see if the old bat can fit through the door.)

Hello, Mayor! 

Good to see you, Shirley! What did you want to see me about? (Please make it quick. I’m losing my appetite just looking at you and I have a business luncheon today.)

I understand you’re trying to track down the strange man we saw at the meeting the other day.

It doesn’t appear he exists, from all accounts. Really suspicious. Why? Do you know something? (You’re the one with the nose. If you can’t sniff out. . .)

I have someone I would like you to meet. Mary, please come in.

Oh? Well, do join us then. Mary, is it? And are you new to the area? (Good Lord, more of these people? Where do they come from?)

No, not from here. I bring a message.

I’m all ears. (Just let me get behind the desk so I can keep my finger on the panic button.)

You have already been visited by Shepherd Uriel.

That’s the name! Well, thank you, Mary. That is helpful. (At last, something.)

I am the second. You will receive one more. There is still hope. I pray you will open your heart and your mind and receive the message.

Shirley? What is she . . . where did she go? What is going on here? (Why not just leave a pamphlet? Everybody’s fucking with me!)

You still don’t get it, James, do you? Well, I did a little research on my own and what I learned is something you may want to sit down to hear.

Get on with it, will you? I’m getting a migraine. (Just don’t you sit. I don't want you getting comfortable.)

James, look at me. I have something to tell you. Shepherd Uriel is just another name for an angel.

(Right. Let me smell your breath. Ugh, no, on second thought . . . where the hell is that button?)

Do the research, James. You’re being given an opportunity. I don’t know why. You have always been detrimental to our town, and us, but most of all yourself. And I admit I was part of the pack. I’d say one thing and mean another. It’s time to clean house and that is being made abundantly clear, if you’ll only open your eyes. The Stark project is just the tip of the iceberg. You’ll notice people around you are starting to change and, if you don’t join them, you’ll be left behind. Trust me. Do the work!

Yes, well, thanks for the visit, Shirl. Don’t be a stranger. (And really hope you can find your meds.)

(Well, I’d better write it down so I don’t forget again. Something is going on and I intend to find out what it is. Shepherd Uriel. Hmm. Shepherd. Shepherd: tends sheep. Guides or directs. Okay, everybody knows that. Shepherd’s pie. Haven’t had one of those in a while.  German Shep . . . the dog. Okay. Well, now let’s try Uriel. Archangel. Probably coincidence. Angel by the name of Shepherd . . . angel of repentance. Oh, come on. Someone’s got an elaborate sense of humor. But who? And who was that Mary . . . Shirley’s always had a kind of superior air. Said one thing and meant another, eh? Wonder what she meant by that? I really need a drink.)

* * * 

I’m leaving a little early today, Darcy. Have any plans tonight? (Say no.)

Mr. Freetower, I owe you an apology. I’ve behaved outside the corporate structure, not to mention my own moral one, and I’ve come to realize that I no longer want to put you in the position of possibly having your reputation harmed due to my poor judgment. You can be a wonderful person and you could be a great public servant. Mrs. Freetower is a fortunate woman and she deserves better. If you want me to tender my resignation, I certainly would understand.

(Just tell me where the hell I am.) I’ll see you in the morning, Darcy.

Ms. Breen, please.

Tomorrow, Ms. Breen. (Or whoever the hell you are.)

Thank you for that, sir.

* * *

Charley, hi. Tanqueray 10, Grey Goose Vesper, please. Up. (And hurry!)

Of course, Mayor. You’re drenched! Here, take this towel.

Got any good numbers for me today, Charley? (You should, you’re the best, and I could sure use a boost.)

Oh, I gave it up. I don’t play anymore, Mayor. I finally saw how it was irresponsible for me to gamble with my family’s security. I hope you can see your way to honoring your own family, sir. It’s not worth it.  

I see. (I really don’t, no, I don't, not at all.)

Here’s your drink, just the way you like it, I hope. This one’s on me, Mayor. You’ve been a good friend to me over the years. I want you to know how much I appreciate it. You’ll excuse me, won’t you?

(I would if I knew who you were. Christ!)

(Yes, James.)

Who said that?

(I am here.)

(Oh my G. . . what is that light? It’s blinding me. Where’d everybody go? What’s happening? HELP me!)

(Be not afraid, James. For that is why I am here.)

(I’ve heard that before. How do you know my name? Just what does everyone want me to do?)

(Listen. Learn. Love.)

(Can I have my drink first?)

(As you wish.)

(Could you turn down the wattage just a little?)

(No. Listen closely, James. I am your last visitor, and your last chance. There are other angels interested in your service, dark ones. You need to understand that your energy attracts the dark. Before you surrender to it, I came to show you a glimpse of what could be. It is time for you to choose what it is you serve. And it is a choice only you can make.)

(Saaaaay, what’s in this drink? I've never felt like this before. I’m the happiest man in the world, in the universe! It’s as if I’m in love for the first time! This is better than alcohol.  This is better than sex. This is better than -- dare I say it? Money. I have all I’ve ever wanted, all I’ll ever need. And more. I feel it’s just the beginning. I’m awake and awakened, all at the same time. Life has suddenly given me more than I ever thought possible. Thank you, thank you!  I hear, I see, I feel, I love. I am here to serve. I want everyone to feel what I feel, to share this, there's plenty for everyone and it’s so beautiful!)

(And so, I have done all I came here to do. It is up to you now. It is in your hands and in your heart, should you choose to receive it.)

Would you like another, Mayor? Looks like you enjoyed it.

No, but thank you for that, Charley. It was perfection!  I have a family waiting for me.

Yes, sir.

* * *

So, Ben, how goes it?

Well, since the weather turned in our favor, it’s been steady progress. The Starks should be able to move into their new home in two weeks, keys in hand.

I really can’t thank you enough.

I never could have accomplished anything of this magnitude alone, it really did take a village – and the experience has been priceless. It changed me. And I have you to thank.

You do me a great honor, and I thank you for that. 

Well, now, just so you know, I’m not alone. We have a surprise for you, Mayor. Get ready for your close-up.

What’s all this!

Congratulations, Mayor!

Well done, Mayor!

May I just shake your hand?

It's an honor, sir, to be in your company.

We are all so impressed!

Look this way, Mayor! Smile!

We are so grateful!

Turn this way, Mayor, say cheese!

What an amazing contribution!

Do you envision a run for congress in your future?

Why stop there? How about the presidency?

Oh, yes, please, Mayor. Consider it!

I am completely overwhelmed. Thank you, everyone. And bless you all. Oh, will you please excuse me for one minute, please? Shirley, you came! I'm glad.

Yes, I did, James. I am happy for you, and I’m also here to warn you. See that dark cloaked stranger in the back of the assembly? Do you know who - or what - that is? 

Hmm. Not from here, I assume.

No, thankfully. Tread carefully, James. Think with your heart. 

Thank you, Shirley, I intend to.


December 05, 2022 02:11

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Cindy Strube
06:10 Dec 15, 2022

Good work on the dialogue. The characters and their intentions are well-defined and come through nicely. I felt like I’d get sensory overload in that crowd, if I were aware of their true thoughts as well as their spoken works. Glad you gave them an opportunity to change! This was an interesting format.


Susan Catucci
12:16 Dec 15, 2022

Thanks so much for those great comments. I really dove deep into something I'd never tried before and it's so gratifying when it works. In my follow-up editing, I really had to tone down some of the spit and spite to make the Mayor at least a tad appealing. There's nothing quite like redemption to foster some hope when you need it. Like holiday time. Hope yours is wonderful!


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Zoe Gangell
05:36 Dec 15, 2022

Really interesting story, and an amazing style to go with it. The characterisation was great - from Shirley, to the mayor and even the small interactions with Darcy. Each one had various traits and flaws, and their movements between each section did not take me away from the story. I would love for a longer, more detailed story to look into the world and how the angels and demons operate in it. Dialogue is always an underrated technique, and just want to finish by saying you have successfully pulled it off in every sense. :)


Susan Catucci
12:23 Dec 15, 2022

I can't tell you how wonderful it is to hear you say that. It really was great fun to take this journey with these characters. I like to think that, as really terrible as people can be at times, that's just as great their potential is to head the other way . And I thought of the cartoons that had people maneuvering through situations with an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, that tug we sometimes experience. Your comments tell me I'm on the right track and I appreciate it!


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Edward Latham
13:33 Dec 13, 2022

Cool idea Susan! The mayor was a punchy character and the internal thoughts were great humour value. An enjoyable read!


Susan Catucci
13:59 Dec 13, 2022

Fun prompt, fun to write. It was just to see if I could tell a complete story with just spoken words and the thoughts behind them. I'm so pleased you enjoyed it; I sure enjoyed writing it. :)


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Rebecca Miles
21:08 Dec 12, 2022

Everytime I think I'll have a go writing just dialogue, I read a great example ( and this one with cutting parentheses too) and I scurry back into my mousehole. A very well done.


Susan Catucci
21:45 Dec 12, 2022

That's a wonderful compliment, Rebecca, especially since I've just come from reading some real gems - yours definitely included! I'm so, so thankful for your words. :)


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Michał Przywara
16:32 Dec 11, 2022

Oh, if only we said what we thought, what an *interesting* world we'd live in :) Critique-wise, the just-dialogue approach here worked very well. Actually, I suppose it's not *just* dialogue, as we get internal thoughts too, but that works out well because the thoughts vanish as people turn their lives around. Or rather, they don't vanish, but thoughts and words line up and are no longer duplicitous. Each voice was distinct and the action was clear - two important things when doing just dialogue. There was one spot that did trip me up thou...


Susan Catucci
20:04 Dec 11, 2022

I get what you're saying, Michal. In wanting to be consistent with the voice only presentation, I can understand the hiccup. In making his way through a crowd though, I'd never expect a politician to not glad-hand everyone along the way, so I did hope the paragraph in its entirety would make it clear. I'll remember what you've said. So glad you read and commented, as always! Many thanks - :)


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Graham Kinross
13:41 Dec 11, 2022

Dialogue only is hard to pull of but this works brilliantly.


Susan Catucci
15:22 Dec 11, 2022

Thanks, Graham. I'd never tried dialogue only and I enjoyed the challenge the prompt presented. I was interested in whether I could tell a story with only talk and thought. A wonderful exercise and I'm loving Reedsy more and more. I appreciate your words tremendously. :)


Graham Kinross
21:11 Dec 11, 2022

You’re welcome. Reedsy is a great place to experiment isn’t it?


Susan Catucci
23:29 Dec 11, 2022

Indeed, and love being knee-deep in my next. :)


Graham Kinross
23:36 Dec 11, 2022

If you’re only knee deep, then you can wade deeper! Go for a swim! Although that’s when I get told off for not hearing my wife when she’s talking to me and I’m in the zone.


Susan Catucci
00:52 Dec 12, 2022

Haha - I feel you. It's a balancing act and not meant to be perfected, only managed as best you can under the circumstances, like most of life. :) (and, btw, I opted for a cannonball and will be posting my next offering soon.) Gotta love it!


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Wendy Kaminski
01:10 Dec 11, 2022

I was so tickled to see this story! I have a hard time writing dialogue *without* parentheses showing the internal monologue, so I loved seeing someone else just go for it and use it to this hilarious degree! I enjoyed the story overall, as well, though I'm sorry I neglected to comment the first time around when up-voting!


Susan Catucci
15:34 Dec 11, 2022

Thank you for the great feedback, Wendy. It's such a helpful aspect to these exercises and reminds me every day how much talent I'm surrounded and inspired by. It's really an honor. It's like a safe haven where you can test yourself without fear - and have fun at the same time. I'm so glad you took the time to read and comment.


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Delbert Griffith
18:45 Dec 09, 2022

Loved the dialogue-only idea, and the inner dialogue was hilarious. The spiritual turnaround was, as expected (sort of), miraculous. The dark angel (demon) at the end was a nice touch as well. This was a cute story with some very heavy themes. Nicely done, Susan.


Susan Catucci
01:02 Dec 10, 2022

High praise, Delbert - a thousand thanks, honestly. This is sort of my tip-of-the-hat to A Christmas Carol, my favorite Holiday movie (the one with Alistair Sims) Tis the season so had some fun whilst saving some souls. I'm so pleased you read and commented. :)


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AnneMarie Miles
14:44 Dec 05, 2022

Interesting writing style here, Susan! I like that you contrasted each characters verbal response with their mental one, which seemed to go away after the experience with the angel. When it comes to politicians everyone is wearing a mask, and we all need an angel to show us how to appreciate all we have.


Susan Catucci
14:54 Dec 05, 2022

Hahaha - thank you, Anne Marie. I was making a few edits while you were reading, I guess! I'll probably leave it alone at this point. What inspired me to try this was the prompt included the word "Dialogue" where they put the one word classification. I've never written anything with just dialogue so I wanted to see if I could - effectively. Loved seeing your wonderful feedback after finishing. :)


AnneMarie Miles
15:01 Dec 05, 2022

Oh that makes sense now! I just read another story for the same prompt and it was all dialogue too! That has me thinking.... Lots of good ideas for the prompts this week! Dialogue is one of my favorite things to read and write. Sometimes it says more than anything else!


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