Contest #148 shortlist ⭐️

The Storm of the Decade

Submitted into Contest #148 in response to: Write about two neighbors who cannot stand each other.... view prompt

71 comments

American Fiction Contemporary

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: Swearing, mentions of death


The worst part of the divorce a year ago wasn't losing half my stuff. Back then, I could only watch as Linda descended upon our possessions like royalty, simply pointed to the couch and the blender and my favorite bottle of shampoo, and the lawyer made it so. If we had a baby, I'm sure she would've King Solomoned that too. And I was fine with it, had come to expect that much. It was a small price to pay for my peace of mind.


The worst part—what I hadn't expected—was that she would move into the house next door.


***


When the doorbell rings, I'm on the couch, in the process of rolling another blunt. I ignore it, but then it chimes in rapid-fire bursts. So fast that the dongs don't get a chance to breathe before the next ding interrupts.


In general, as a matter of principle, I don't open my door to strangers. Why bother when it's always the same thing? No, I don't need my lawn mowed. No, I don't want to buy a box of Thin Mints. No, I don't have a moment to talk about your lord and savior—no, not tomorrow, either.


And if I weren't mildly high, I probably wouldn't have got up and opened the door just now.


Outside, the wind rages, gnarling tree branches and scattering rain in every direction. My hardwood floor falls victim to more than a few stray droplets. Thunder booms in the distance, like an uncle who's had too much to drink. Goosebumps pimple my arms. Storm of the decade, the weatherwoman declared this morning, though it'd been sunny then and she'd been wearing a dress that left little to the imagination.


I'm about to give the offender a piece of my mind before I realize who it is on the other side of the door.


Linda stands shivering on my soggy welcome mat. She's holding four plastic grocery bags, two in each hand, overflowing with food: apples and ground beef and vanilla ice cream. Rain soaks her sweater and clings to her blonde bob. We stand there staring at each other, deadlocked in a game of chicken, waiting for the other person to speak first after a year of silence and avoidance. Minutes pass.


Linda caves first.


"May I come in, Chad?" she says in an unrecognizable tone of voice. I'm not even sure what you'd call it—demure or modest maybe, words that would sooner apply to a Mack Truck than my ex-wife.


"Excuse me?" I say, grazing the doorknob with my left hand. It would be so easy to treat her like a Girl Scout and slam the door in her face.


She repeats herself, so I ask what's wrong with her house.


She turns away for the first time, fixes her gaze on the dark storm clouds on the horizon. The plastic bags crinkle and hiss when she rubs her nose and sniffles. "I locked my keys in the car," she confesses, and I look across the way at the candy-apple Miata in her driveway.


"Okay," I reply. "And your car keys are where?"


A raindrop rolls down her cheek like a tear. "In the car," she says curtly.


"And your phone?" I ask, though I can hazard a guess.


"In the fucking car." The demureness in her voice, much like the dodo bird, is extinct. "I was in a rush, okay?"


"Why don't you ask the Murphys?" I say, indicating the blue stucco house across the street, but of course I know the answer already. We both do. The divorce wasn't pretty. The cul-de-sac was divided on the issue. Neighbors were split, lines were drawn. I'm pretty sure Melissa Murphy is still giving Alvin the silent treatment for taking my side.


Linda sighs. "Forget it," she says through chattering teeth. "Forget I asked."


Maybe it's just because of the first blunt, but seeing her like that, shivering and shaking, reminds me of a Dachshund I used to have as a child. Meatball was his name. Skinniest dog you ever saw. He used to curl up next to me under the covers and shake all through the night. No matter what I did, how close I held him to my chest, he was always cold.


That's what I'm thinking about when I hear myself say, "All right, you can come in."


Linda, already halfway off the porch, whirls around. Her sapphire eyes narrow, the look of distrust, but then she's inside before I can rescind the offer.


There is no grand appraisal. No look around at the barren walls, no commentary on the new loveseat where the couch used to be or the stench of weed in the air. Nothing like that.


No, she makes an immediate beeline for the kitchen, drenching the floor. She shoves her perishable foods in my refrigerator, keeps the rest in their plastic prisons. There's more than enough space for her things in the fridge—these days the majority of my meals live in the freezer, or else on food delivery apps.


She's slotting a jug of milk when she says, "Hey, maybe we can jimmy the window. The sooner we can get those keys, the sooner I'll be out of your hair."


I'm not sure how much I like the word "we."


"Where do you keep your coat hangers?" With each word she gets quieter, and by the end of the question she must recall that she took those in the divorce too. All my clothes are bunched together in a cheap dresser drawer like babies in a nursery, wrinkly and innocuous.


"Don't have any," I say with a smile, just to rub it in.


She purses her lips, grunts, returns to shelving some boxed wine.


"You took them all," I add. "Remember?"


"Mhm, I remember," she says in a flat voice.


When she's finished unloading her groceries, she points to the landline mounted to the wall. "May I?"


"Knock yourself out," I say, and retreat to the living room. 


It's a sobering feeling, having an ex-wife in your home. My high is slipping away. The Tom Cruise movie playing on the TV isn't doing anything to help, so I stand and part the curtains and stare, not for the first time, at Linda's house.


When we were still married, the house belonged to Mrs. Lovejoy, an ancient woman with poor eyesight and more felines than family members. According to the police, one day while baking, Mrs. Lovejoy, in her old age, mistook a packet of rat poison for chocolate chips. You can imagine what that does to the property value of a place. No one wants to live in a home where a woman and her twenty-two cats were found face-down on the kitchen floor. Almost no one. 


Linda is shouting now, venom-laced words directed at whoever's on the other side of the phone. She rattles off the address to this house, then quickly corrects herself. She isn't gentle when she connects the phone to the cradle, which is my cue to return to the loveseat.


"Great," she says, entering the room. She's holding two red Solo cups that reek of boxed wine, a peace offering. "Just lovely. They said they'll get roadside assistance over here when they can. They can't guarantee a time or anything because of this stupid storm. Fucking Allstate."


She passes me a cup and flops down onto the far end of the loveseat, a few feet away. Holding out her free hand, she says, "Look, can we just act like adults for one day and try to be civil? Or at least until I'm gone? Truce?"


Rain pounds the window, rolls down the pane in thin streaks. In the distance, the clouds show no sign of letting up. I know it's gonna be a long night, and yet I still shake Linda's hand. "Truce," I say.


For the next hour we watch Tom Cruise soar through the air in a carrier fighter, flipping and wheeling the plane through enemy fire. The wine tastes terrible, too sour and too sweet. We drink it anyway.


"I heard the sequel is supposed to be pretty good," I remark after the planes have barrel rolled into the sunset and the movie's been replaced by Alien. What else do you say in this kind of situation? I take another swig of wine.


Linda sips too. Her eyelids droop. When she speaks, her voice is soft, distant, as though we're worlds apart and not five feet from one another. "Thanks for doing this, Chad."


"Hey, don't thank me. Thank Meatball."


Her brows furrow. "Who?"


Only then does it occur to me that I've never mentioned my childhood dog to her. It makes me think that maybe the four years we were together could've been used more effectively.


My cup is empty when I go to take another drink. "Refill," I tell her, making my way to the kitchen. Linda follows me, standing in the doorway.


"No, come on. I'm curious," she says. "Who is Meatball? A college friend? A magic 8 ball?"


The sound of wine hitting the bottom of my cup fills the silence. "My dog," I say. "Meatball was my dog."


She's quiet, like she's trying to figure out how she can bring herself to thank an animal she never knew existed until now. She replenishes her own drink. "I didn't know. I had no idea. You never told me."


"Would it have changed anything?" I ask, and make my way back to the living room. This time Linda doesn't follow me.


***


Word to the wise: Weed and wine don't mix. I'm not sure how long I've been asleep, splayed across the loveseat with my shirt riding up my belly, but it's long enough for the smell in the house to change. The scent of apples permeates the air. A gentle heat surges through the house.


"Linda?" I call out.


No response.


In the kitchen I find her sitting at the table, one hand wrapped around her cup of wine. Beside her the oven light is still on, and atop the stove rests an apple pie. She's staring out the window at the dark April night. The shadowed outline of her car is still visible through the blanket of rain.


"They still haven't come yet, huh?" I say.


Linda shakes her head, says nothing. She raises her cup to drink, puts it back down before she does. The timer on the microwave counts down another minute. Warmth engulfs the kitchen. We listen to the raindrops smack the window.


"What's the occasion?" I say, gesturing to the pie. And I'm surprised by how those three words out, more hopeful than I'd intended.


Linda used to make pies all the time—cherry, blackberry. But apple was always her best. It's how we met, when I stopped by her restaurant one night and had her pie. I asked to speak to the person who made it, told the waitress I would stay until closing if I had to. A few minutes later Linda stepped forward, smelling of grease and cinnamon. I remember thinking, as she came home with me that night, that those smells would be the backdrop of our lives.


"What's the occasion? I ask again, trying to temper my voice.


For a split second she narrows her eyes. She speaks slowly, deliberately, as if trying to convince the both of us that she isn't drunk. "Why does there need to be an occasion? I was just in the mood to bake something today, and your oven works a lot better than mine. And besides, I always worry using that thing. No telling what else Mrs. Lovejoy cooked in there."


But it's her voice that does it, the way she's talking. You don't spend that long with someone and not pick up on when they're lying to you.


"Linda," I say.


She doesn't look at me, so I say her name again. She blinks and says, "I made it for Jared, okay? Is that what you wanted to hear?"


She says the name in the same way I said Meatball—like it's supposed to mean something. And maybe it does, but not to me.


Before I can ask who, she turns to me and says, "I'm engaged, Chad."


Then comes the sound of laughter. A loud, deep, ugly belly laugh. It takes me a moment to realize it's coming from me. But I can't stop myself.


Flashing yellow lights piece the darkness outside the window, painting the night in muted color. A truck, much too big for a simple car door lockout, pulls up on the sidewalk beside Linda's house. The dim bar of light reveals a set of blue hands embossed on the side of the vehicle—the Allstate logo. The silhouette of a person in the driver's seat is accentuated by the glow of a cell phone.


"That's them," Linda whispers. She gathers her grocery bags, racing to clear her stuff from the fridge and meet the driver. She keeps the half-empty box of wine in the fridge, tells me it's the least she can do to repay my kindness. Then she's headed for the front door.


Rain slips through the entrance, wetting her shoes and the floor. A harsh wind sprays my face with a few droplets. We stand there staring at each other, deadlocked in a game of goodbye, waiting for the other to capitulate.


I cave first.


"See you later?" And it isn't until the words come out like that, as a question rather than a statement, that I realize I might want them to be true.


Linda's eyes soften. I wonder what it is she's seeing—the me in front of her now, or some other past incarnation. Someone she thought she'd spend the rest of her life with. Someone she used to love.


"Yeah," she says as the rain pelts the house, the roof and windows and our clothes. "Yeah, I'll see you later." She retreats, speedwalking to her car, where the roadside assistance driver is already waiting. They shake hands. The man aims his flashlight at Linda's car like an accusation.


I watch them from the door until my stomach rumbles and my fingers numb, until I can't take it anymore, then head to the kitchen. The aroma of apples fills the air. The residual heat from the oven warms my skin. My mouth waters. The pie is still on the stove; in Linda's haste, she forgot to retrieve it. I tell myself that she made it for me, that Jared, whoever he is, doesn't deserve something this good, this sweet.


When I take a bite, it's just what I expect, just what I tasted the night Linda and I met—apples and cinnamon and love. It isn't until I'm halfway done with the pie that I think I taste something else.

June 04, 2022 03:55

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71 comments

J.C. Lovero
11:37 Jun 04, 2022

Pen Pan Zaddy! Taking a detour on my way back to my hermit hut to say hello. I was rooting for you last week! Such a good story. Anyway, on to this one. The opening section was great. Who the heck wants to be neighbors with their ex? No thanks. Loved the paragraph about not answering the door for strangers. We've all had those people come to pester us for unsolicited services. Ain't nobody got time for that! Liked the reveal in the middle and the suggestion of a secret ingredient in the ending. Clever. As always, the prose was engaging ...

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Zack Powell
13:17 Jun 06, 2022

A late thank you to my favorite hermit! (I mentioned this to Riel already, but I was miffed about my story not making the cut last week, so I took the weekend off and am just now getting back to everyone, LOL - yes, I'm a petty kween.) Where is the prompt about someone responding to an unsolicited service, Reedsy!? I could write a whole 3k word story just on that nightmare alone. Full disclosure: The King Solomon line is my favorite, so you get a gold star for mentioning it. Fuller disclosure: I felt guilty writing the Thin Mints line, bec...

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J.C. Lovero
22:36 Jun 06, 2022

For what it's worth, I adored your story. I hope you pick yourself back up! Someone wise once said "one word at a time, one story after the other." Wonder who that could be? 😇

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Riel Rosehill
07:52 Jun 04, 2022

Zaddy, How were you not in the winners circle?! I'm gonna watch myself not to jinx you either! This story was such a fun take on the prompt (I nearly picked the same one for my story!), I would have never thought of using a divorced couple as the neighbors who hate eachother. That's brilliant! As per usual the language and your prose are everything I can hope to one day achieve. Here a few of my favourite lines: "If we had a baby, I'm sure she would've King Solomoned that too." "So fast that the dongs don't get a chance to breathe bef...

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Zack Powell
13:06 Jun 06, 2022

😭 My bad for this response coming so late. (Full disclosure: I was so salty about not shortlisting last week's contest that I forced myself to take the weekend off Reedsy to decompress. LOL #petty #hotmessexpress) Horses and divorced neighbors, LOL. We're either very creative or very sick in the head. There is no in-between. The King Solomon line is my favorite here, so big thanks for highlighting it. And for catching the ending (it wasn't the one that I initially intended, and I didn't know if there were enough clues for it to make sense,...

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Riel Rosehill
18:01 Jun 06, 2022

Heyy (Competitive Cathy), oh I can imagine! Your story was recommended until the last decision I think, but even before that, when I read it I thought, damn, Zack's gonna bag another trophy! But we can never know how a contest is gonna go, right? Btw the discord is great for this, I got so much reassure there as soon as my story was booted from the recommended list with the first cuts (although unlike you I didn't have any expectations for it, I was surprised it even got that far tbh so didn't have a hard time accepting it x"D) For what it's...

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Zack Powell
03:24 Jun 08, 2022

😂 Very much went full Competitive Cathy last week. Feels good to have regular low expectations again. Much less stressful. I don't think a full blown novel would be pushing it. Full disclosure: I'm a slow reader 😂 (always have been because I spend way too much time thinking about every single word and its placement/use), but I'm more than happy to take a look at passages, chapters, or even the full thing. The offer's always available.

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Riel Rosehill
07:10 Jun 08, 2022

Low expectations? This story is recommended! (Or you're immune to that now? Haha) I'll definitely take you up on your offer some time.🥰 I read slow as well, especially when I have to read and write all the time..! I'm falling behind catching up on the Reedsy stories. On that topic, I thought I was going to write this week's story yesterday but procrastinated and achieved nothing at all. I hope it's going better for you!

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Zack Powell
12:34 Jun 08, 2022

It's less that I'm immune and more the fact that I hate this story.😂It's in my personal bottom 3, and I was honestly this close to not posting anything last week. Didn't connect with these characters at all, and it wasn't much fun to write. Slow readers (and writers) unite! I honestly just got my idea for a story yesterday and have only put down two sentences. Which is to say: Nope, not going much better here, LOL. But everything's there in my head - it's just getting it all written down that's the problem.

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Amanda Lieser
22:32 Aug 13, 2022

Hi Zack! Wow this was such a deserved shortlist! I really just loved the way you captured your two characters. I was hoping that the two of them would get back together. I was gunning for that Hollywood twist where they realize they aren’t good without each other and then they host a huge backyard wedding that they invite the whole neighborhood to! So the twist was positively delicious at the end! Gosh, I loved this story’s use of foreshadowing with the storm and its blend of the past and present. Congratulations on the short list!

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Zack Powell
01:02 Aug 14, 2022

Thanks, Amanda. The Hollywood twist is actually what I wanted to subvert here, so I'm glad it seemed like it might have been a possibility. That's always a good feeling.

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Molly Moonbeam
19:24 Jun 23, 2022

The thought and skill behind this story!!! I see a lot of folks are talking about their favorite lines, but the forethought of Linda! She totally could have done all of this on purpose. After all, he didn't have anything in his house to speak of. So she just happens to show up with everything needed to bake a pie in a place with no supplies? That woman planned to murder him and then she's gunna buy that house to have her perfect life. Great job!!! <3

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Zack Powell
00:50 Jun 24, 2022

Thank you very much, Molly! In my mind, Linda was a total opportunist and took complete advantage of the storm to murder her ex-husband. I hadn't thought of a good reason why, but I absolutely love the idea of buying her own house back and enjoying the rest of her life in it. Very devious!

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Patrick Samuel
22:50 Jun 15, 2022

Granted, I haven't gone through them all yet but this is the best story of yours I've read so far - and one of the very best I've read on this site. The sharp, incisive humor draws you in right from the start ("If we had a baby, I'm sure she would've King Solomoned that too") and walks a thin line between irony and bitterness without completely falling into either - so that we keep expecting things will work out between the two of them, only to have our hopes dashed at every other sentence. It's a game you manage to play on the reader u...

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Zack Powell
01:12 Jun 16, 2022

This comment is amazing, Patrick! Thank you for taking the time to write it. Also: I encourage you to quit reading while you're ahead, LOL - my stories only get worse the further back you go in the catalog. Very glad to hear the humor worked, too. While writing it, I was afraid that the tone at the beginning of the story would seem too comedic for the gravity of the ending. Happy to hear otherwise. Adding "The Turn of the Screw" to my reading list immediately, too! And I disagree - your story's ending is much better than this one. Truth ...

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Shea West
20:47 Jun 11, 2022

Zack, I'm basically the White Rabbit, late for important story dates. So let's pretend I was here days ago commenting. First and foremost- Congrats on the Shortlist! Lines I loved: - I'm sure she would've King Solomoned that too. (BAHAHAHAH, and now you have twins) -I'm not sure how much I like the word "we." (Well, they did divorce after all) -"Hey, don't thank me. Thank Meatball." (Sick burn) Your pacing is the stuff dreams are made of. Please don't ever stop! Along with your ability to incorporate nuance without it being so in your ...

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Zack Powell
22:01 Jun 11, 2022

LOL, I feel you. My Reedsy TBR list grows by the tens every single day. And double LOL on the twins comment. I mean, you're technically not wrong. Glad to know the pacing worked. It's my weakness. And one less Chad in the world is no skin off my back.

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Story Time
17:26 Jun 10, 2022

All my favorite people were shortlisted this week! Congratulations Zack. I think this story is a great example of how good writing can elevate a fairly basic concept. What I liked about the challenge this week is that it really left it up to the writers to bring as much of themselves to it as possible and I felt like you gave a class in how to inject style and tone without it taking over the story. Well done!

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Zack Powell
21:13 Jun 10, 2022

What a lovely comment! Thank you very much, Kevin!

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14:28 Jun 10, 2022

Congratulations, Zack! 🎖🏅🎖🏅🎖🏅 So happy for you! 😛😊🌞☀️🌅🌇🌄🕶

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Zack Powell
14:36 Jun 10, 2022

Thank you very much, Gabriela! 🌞

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Robin Owens
19:39 Jun 09, 2022

Goosebumps! Many hand claps!

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Zack Powell
03:20 Jun 10, 2022

Thanks, Robin! Your story this week was a delight.

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04:45 Jun 09, 2022

Hi Zack, this was an entertaining read. I saw in the other comments that you weren't the biggest fan of this story, but I reckon you're underselling it! It's great! It's a slice of life with dashes of humour and it works well. And I loved the sprinkling of horror at the end. I might have missed it in the story, but did you drop any hints about what Linda's motivation might be, or why they divorced in the first place? The clue about the neighbour dying of rat poisoning was a good bit of foreshadowing lol. Best of luck in the contest this wee...

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Zack Powell
06:15 Jun 09, 2022

Thank you, Shuvayon! I'm just not a fan of this piece, in large part because of precisely what you mentioned - there aren't many hints for the interior lives of the characters, or the "why" behind some of the things that happen here. I didn't have an ending in mind while writing it, so it just meanders too much for my liking. Alas. Always next time. Thanks for reading this :) It's much appreciated.

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15:54 Jun 10, 2022

Congrats on the shortlist my friend! If your bottom three story does this well, I shudder to think where your best work will take you! Reedsy's nothing if not unpredictable, eh?

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Zack Powell
16:19 Jun 10, 2022

Many thanks, Shuvayon! And you're not wrong about the unpredictability. You just never know what'll happen on here. That's what makes it fun though.

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Sharon Hancock
01:27 Jun 08, 2022

“No, I don't want to buy a box of Thin Mints. “—you monster! 😂 “So fast that the dongs don't get a chance to breathe before the next ding interrupts.”—I love any sentence with the word Dong in it. “shivering and shaking, reminds me of a Dachshund I used to have as a child. Meatball was his name. Skinniest dog you ever saw. He used to curl up next to me under the covers and shake all through”—I adore Meatball and he isn’t even a major player in this story! —Excellent! I especially love the rain /weather descriptions…so well done and plays s...

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Zack Powell
02:26 Jun 08, 2022

This comment is amazing, Sharon. I felt so bad writing the Thin Mints line - they're delicious! I also share your love of the word Dong. 😂 Meatball was my favorite part of this story - no shame. Glad the storm imagery did its job. And that Waitress > Help comparison is on point, LOL. Thanks as always!

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Aeris Walker
00:59 Jun 07, 2022

So much to love here: the king Solomon reference was super clever. I had a friend who used to yell “cut the baby in half!” in the middle of anyone’s argument. People already thought she was weird but that kind of solidified it lol. This read so smoothly, and was peppered with just the right amount of eloquence to elevate the simplicity of the plot. Believable dialogue, characters with depth, and fantastic descriptions of the wife’s behavior that push you to empathize with the MC. Super well done. This is a great example of straight up good...

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Zack Powell
04:59 Jun 07, 2022

Thanks, Aeris! LOL, your friend was most definitely ahead of her time. What a great way to defuse an argument. Overjoyed this reads as concise and no BS. Getting this story down felt like pulling teeth, so I'm glad people aren't having the same reaction reading it as I had writing it. Thanks again.

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Aeris Walker
08:31 Jun 07, 2022

Definitely know the feeling! Nope, I detected no sense of struggle in the laying of this prose lol!

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Aeris Walker
08:48 Jun 07, 2022

Oh and the Top Gun reference! I literally just watched the movie for the first time last week and was like “hey, I actually know what he’s talking about!” Poor Val…bless his heart..didn’t age as well as Tom..

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Tony Coppo
11:26 Jun 06, 2022

Fantastic story Zack, crafted masterfully and a real treat to read. I was expecting the rat venom to return, and it surely didn't disappoint. Awesome read!

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Zack Powell
17:46 Jun 06, 2022

Thank you, Tony! Glad to see you intuited where the story was going. I thought I was being too coy with the ending, so your feedback helps me out tremendously.

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Rebecca Miles
06:34 Jun 06, 2022

You've packed so much complex characterisation into this, a really nuanced storyline with a wholly believable and finely developed central relationship which I'd expect only from a much longer work. This is a masterclass in show don't tell. I loved all of it but the stand out section for me was the pie, tasting of grease and cinnamon. It absolutely nailed the two sides to their relationship and the fact the pie repeated and closed the story in a different way was just ace!

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Zack Powell
20:35 Jun 06, 2022

Thank you, Rebecca! Show don't tell is the biggest thing I've been trying to improve on since joining Reedsy, so it's inspiring to hear that it's paying off. This comment is absolutely lovely.

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Jay McKenzie
01:21 Jun 06, 2022

Zack, this is a beautifully crafted story, and that ending! There's so much to love here. From the set up of a divorced couple living next door to one another, to Meatball (Meatball might be my new favourite dog name - it's just too cute) to Mrs Lovejoy and that wonderful set up. I particularly loved these parts: "If we had a baby, I'm sure she would've King Solomoned that too." '"In the fucking car." The demureness in her voice, much like the dodo bird, is extinct.' "No one wants to live in a home where a woman and her twenty-two c...

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Zack Powell
19:11 Jun 06, 2022

Thank you, Jay! The ending and the set up were my biggest fears, so this is great to hear. And thanks also for the line edit! (I swear, I even ran this story through a text-to-speech program and that faux pas still evaded me.) What would we do without other writers and readers, right? Thanks again!

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Michał Przywara
21:50 Jun 05, 2022

What a great story :) The setup in the first part is fantastic, but the ending really does it. I suppose it's open-ended, and we can assume he's eating hope or forgiveness or whatever -- but it's poison. Definitely poison. At least, in my head canon, until a follow up story contradicts it. It's great because both characters are clearly living a very different story. If we read this from her POV, who knows what we'd see. I also wonder about her motivations. She didn't plan the storm. I doubt she planned the pie either, for an ex-husband she...

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Zack Powell
02:53 Jun 07, 2022

Thank you as always, Michał! (Double thank you for the line edit - 'twas a mistake and not a newfound idiom.) And in my mind Chad's eating poison at the end too, though I suppose it's open enough that a different interpretation wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility. I almost wish I had done this from Linda's perspective now. Might be an interesting idea for another draft of the story! Thanks for that - great food for thought.

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Michał Przywara
20:57 Jun 10, 2022

Congratulations on the shortlist!

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Zack Powell
21:12 Jun 10, 2022

Thank you very much, Michał!

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21:08 Jun 05, 2022

I really enjoyed this one, Zack! The tension was so palpable between the characters, I was in suspense all the way through. My favorite part (forgive me) was probably Meatball :) Great job!

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Zack Powell
03:15 Jun 08, 2022

Thanks, Hannah. Your recent story was amazing, so this is high praise. Meatball was also my favorite part of the story, so we have something in common. Thanks for reading!

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Bruce Friedman
21:01 Jun 05, 2022

This was terrific, as always, Zack. Just brimming over with emotion. Clever vocabulary and comments. Very professional.

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Zack Powell
15:50 Jun 07, 2022

A belated thank you, Bruce. Wasn't sure how this would come across to readers, so I'm happy to hear this.

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Kelsey H
09:16 Jun 05, 2022

I always love reading the first paragraph of your stories, getting a sense of what sort of character and story you've written. The opening lines were perfect, hits that right note of resignation and humour. This one is so good - If we had a baby, I'm sure she would've King Solomoned that too. Also, I love the idea of an ex living next door. I mean hate it for real life of course, but fun to read! I love how you write those everyday moments - he's sitting on his couch getting stoned, he hates answering the door, its raining. I know I have s...

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Zack Powell
03:44 Jun 07, 2022

Thank you as always for such a detailed analysis, Kelsey! I'm sure I've mentioned this, but I find first and last paragraphs to be the most fun things to write, so that's where most of my editing time is spent, trying to make them sparkle and pop. The everyday moments are my bread and butter. People are endlessly fascinating, so it's always a blast to try to figure out how certain individuals would react in off-kilter situations (e.g. if you wanted to rob your neighbors but someone else got there first, or if your ex-spouse lived next door ...

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Kelsey H
07:29 Jun 07, 2022

I feel like the ending worked really well to add an extra layer to the story between them, like he's a bit vague about this messy divorce and then you realize she actually hates him so much she wants to kill him, which makes you wonder how reliable he is and what he left out in the story just told? Did he do something awful to her, or is she actually just an evil person?

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Scott Skinner
04:33 Jun 05, 2022

Ah, what a way to end it! This was a fun read, and I was with it the entire time. It was great because, as a reader, I was asking questions (what Tom Cruise movie?), and then as the author, you were answering them later on (of course, it was Top Gun). And it kept building like this and was very enjoyable reading. "No one wants to live in a home where a woman and her twenty-two cats were found face-down on the kitchen floor." That was my favorite line, and I made a note of it while I was reading, and to see that you tied it back was sweet. ...

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Zack Powell
22:01 Jun 06, 2022

Thanks, Scott! I'm always iffy doing movie references in stories, even popular ones, just in case it alienates people who haven't seen it, so this made me feel vindicated, lol. Always good to know what lines incited what reactions. Completely invaluable to me.

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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