Following a run on compassion and nurturing, the writing prompt has slipped into the mud. Perhaps a backwards reflection on what it is to nurture oneself with a bad habit or be in need of compassion while under the influence of vice. And, just what is a vice? It can be debatable. Or, in the words of one Rough Writer, it can be a word too strong or too weak to describe the reality.
Yet, writers are ever-creative and broad in perspective. Not all vices are vicious — what is the harm of books or gadgets? Writers also remind us about balance and showing who is in control and who is not. Ultimately, these stories will move you, disturb you or even make you chuckle. Literature will make you think.
The following stories are based on the April 22, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a vice.
Reefer Man by Phil Guida
It was no secret that Fat Jack was packing. Anyone who knows Jack knew that.
Jack’s mission was simple, that of making everyone a little happier and himself a little richer.
That was back in the day when you could buy a dime bag and all the weed had exotic names that none of us innocents had ever heard of.
His visit to the party was welcomed by most of the crowd especially when several joints were being passed around lighting up the room with laughter and song.
We all became Hippies forever at that moment; Jacks mission accomplished.
Four of a Kind by A. R. Amore
Glossy cards vibrated across his fingertips; Jack sat stone still, knowing.
“Ok,” he said, “Call.” He pushed six stacks forward going all in. He had run that table nearly all night and was up 1500, but he wanted more. Playing the full boat on the board – a pair of kings and three nines – he held the fourth nine. All locked up, he thought. His opponent turned two kings.
Hours later he still hadn’t called Cheryl. Barely breathing under heavily desperate cigarette smoke, his hands shook dialing. Ringing. Finally, her voice sleepy, “Tell me you won.” But no words came.
A Hidden Vice by Paula Moyer
2 a.m. Jean’s husband, asleep, knew nothing about their accounts, the money they didn’t have that they needed till the end of the month. He didn’t know about Jean’s eBay purchases, either.
But Jean did. It kept her up tonight as it did most nights.
She googled for a credit card offer, one with a low-interest promotion. There, 0% interest for the first year.
Type, type, type. Social security, income. Type, type, type. Submit.
Approved. Enough money to transfer the high-interest balance from the old card and have cash for the next two weeks.
Whew. Home free.
Distraction from Distraction by Georgia Bell
She didn’t know how it started. And after awhile she stopped caring. All she knew was that she needed it far more than she ever thought she would. Near the end of the day, her thoughts wandered eagerly towards the distraction and gently, she prodded them back to the present. Until the dishes were dried and put away. And the floor was swept. Then she poured herself that first drink and did what she’d been waiting to do all day. Closed her eyes. Thought about his hands. His words. The broad muscles in his back. His smile. His smell.
The Damage Done by Jeanne Lombardo
The truth flashed.
“Were you scoring back there?”
“Yeah,” he admitted.
They sat in her car. He opened his palm. A sticky black ball the size of a pea lay there.
“What is that?” she said, though she knew.
“What do you think?”
She should be indignant. Furious. But she hadn’t seen him in two months.
They entered the restaurant.
“I’m sorry,” he said. I need to go do this.
“Are you feeling sick?
He walked away.
The waitress brought their food.
Diners chatted and laughed.
Imagined him in the stall.
Her beautiful son.
Anxiety by Sarah Unsicker
Kate mentally scrolled through tomorrow’s agenda while she unpacked her suitcase. Meeting with the COO at ten would give her just enough time to review her presentation. Her blouse was wrinkled; Kate made a mental note to iron it. Her two o’clock flight would land her at home just after five, then she would battle traffic to Mom’s for dinner. Kate wasn’t ready for mom’s lavish supper served with a generous side of criticism.
Kate sat down on the bed and vowed not to worry about tomorrow’s dinner. She turned on the television and looked up a local pizza delivery.
Where Things Happen by Ula Humienik
“The world was a different place then. People rode around in automobiles and that meant something.”
“Did great grandfather have one?”
“Yes, he sure did.”
“Is that how he met great grandmama?”
“I believe so. At those times young people used automobiles for socialization AND transportation.”
“Wow. It must have been something, the feeling of freedom.”
“I bet it was. It was where they got engaged you know?”
“Yes, in the backseat, mamma told me.”
“That sounds wildly romantic.”
“It was practical. Great grandmama was pregnant with grand auntie Lucy.”
“Oh, how did that happen?”
“In the backseat.”
Spring Camping by Charli Mills
Ramona drove through muddy ruts to reach the campground. Too early for tourists, but free of snow. A car with Washington plates was already parked. Two full-bearded young men helped her with the tent and camp kitchen.
“You boys like veggies?”
They eagerly nodded and brought over a mixed-greens salad to share.
Boys who eat veggies. She should introduce them to the twins.
“Are you Amish?”
“Vegan,” one replied. He pulled out hand-rolled cigarettes. Ramona was never one for smoking but not wanting to be rude she accepted one after dinner, and slept the best she had in years.
Alcohol – Cure for Everything by Ruth Irwin
Young and beautiful, an island girl. She had watched the four strangers enter the bar – a fellow islander, two from the orient and one of pale tones.
Her big brown eyes displayed the heartbreak she disclosed to the pale one – a tale of betrayal, regret, love lost and longing for it to return, pleading for advice on how to win him back.
Alcohol fuelled her courage to gain the attention of a handsome young man behind the bar. His shift finished. She smothered him forgetting the stranger’s advice and “rumours” about herself that had lead to her earlier heartbreak.
A Nerd by Ruchira Khanna
“Move it, fellas!” Torri was shouting and pushing past people in the mall without apologies, and that made people either turn towards her with eyebrows crossed or accuse her of the wrongdoing.
Torri was unperturbed!
Her goal was to be there before the store opened. Be amongst the first few customers to avail of the discount and still be able to grab the latest technology in her hand.
Her weakness towards most recent gadgets sure was putting a hole in her pocket, but the lust and passion were overriding her mind and intelligence, thus avoiding her to think straight.
Vice-like Grip by Geoff Le Pard
‘Paul? What are you watching?’
Mary’s husband closed his laptop. ‘I just clicked a link. It…’
‘Paul?’ Mary could hide her horror. Tears speckled her lashes. She watched his mouth open and close before she hurried away. She didn’t grab her coat or close the front door but kept walking. All she could think was ‘how could he?’
He found her in the shelter overlooking the beach. She wouldn’t look at him. ‘Was that porn?’ It was said to hurt and it did.
‘What do you think? Don’t you know me?’
Did she know anyone? Her father? Her husband?
A Bad Night by Irene Waters
She lit another cigarette, trying to calm her nerves. It’d been bad tonight. She shouldn’t have tried to do the housework. She should have just sat. Perhaps she should’ve had that coffee she’d been invited to after work. She always said no. She had to get home before he started to drink as well as smoke dope. She had. But she shouldn’t have tried to do the housework. She should’ve done what she normally did. Join him. It made him happy when she did and dulled her senses so she didn’t care. But tonight the gun had come out.
Father Knows Best by Sherri Matthews
“How much longer do we have to wait?” moaned Julie as she kicked out at the dashboard.
“Here she comes now…” blurted Tim from the back seat.
“You kids okay?” asked Sue as she handed them bags of crisps and bottles of Vimto.
“Sort of…” mumbled Julie.
Sue turned away, hesitated, then gave her freshly lit cigarette to Julie. “Don’t tell your father…”
Julie pretended to inhale, chin jutting. Film star cool.
“Hope Dad won’t find out,” said Tim, copying his sister.
“Don’t worry little bruv, he’ll be too drunk to notice by the time he drives us home.”
Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin
Really I’m doing them a favour, encouraging the birds into their patch. If there’s one thing about my neighbours, they like their birds. Fuck knows why: damned squawking things, carpet-bombing the patio with their white splodges. Takes a thorough blitz with the steam cleaner to get them off.
I used to squidge them when I caught them chewing my hostas, but it never felt right. Grey slime coagulating my fingers, even through gloves. Since I’ve been tossing them over the fence into their lettuces, I’ve felt positively Zen-like. It’s bad karma to kill another living creature, even a slug.
Close Call by Susan Zutautas
God I need a smoke and it’s too late to go out. I’ll just sneak one in the bathroom; Mom and Dad won’t notice.
Sitting on the toilet I light my smoke, and after a few drags there’s a knock at the door. Oh SHIT now what am I going to do!
Thinking quickly I stick the smoke behind my lower back so that I can drop it if need be. In walks mom to check her hair and wash her hands.
Shit, I’m gonna get busted for sure.
Why didn’t I lock the door? Mom leaves.
The Talk by Pete Fanning
I sat across from her at the wobbly formica dinner table, working at the peeling laminate as the fan rattled in the window. Reo Speed wagon whined over the airwaves as she sang along with smoky breaths.
It was with a heavy tongue and without a trace of regret that she began. Of how my father fled when she got pregnant. I lifted my eyes from the scab of dried ketchup on the linoleum floor. My lips parted, lost somewhere between a gasp and a question. She picked up the clear bottle, sloshing its glittering contents.
End of discussion.
Old Wives’ Tale by Larry LaForge
“Enough, Ed! That disgusting habit is damaging your joints.”
Ed’s knuckle cracking has driven Edna crazy for years. “And for your information, that didn’t even remotely sound like the William Tell Overture,” Edna added in exasperation.
“Edna, it’s not my fault you don’t have an ear for knuckle music. And you’re wrong about the damage.”
“Well, don’t blame me when the arthritis sets in.”
“That’s just an old . . . ”
“An old what, Ed?”
“Uh. Er. An old misconception about negative effects of knuckle cracking unsupported by current medical research.”
Edna left the room, laughing and humming the William Tell Overture.
Vice-captain by Norah Colvin
She almost danced along the verandah. What would it be: medal, certificate, special recommendation?
The door was open but she knocked anyway.
“Come in.” The command was cold. A finger jabbed towards a spot centre-floor.
Confused, her eyes sought the kindness of the steel blue pair, but found a vice-like stare.
“In one week you have led the team on a rampage:
Leaving taps running
Graffiting the lunch area . . .
We thought you were responsible. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“But sir,” she stammered, “You made me vice-captain!”
Not Quite an Affair by Luccia Gray
‘In the fridge.’
‘Don’t you care?’
‘Of course I care, but what can I do?’
‘Talk to mum.’
‘We’re not a family any more, just three people who live in the same house.’
‘It’s hard to reach her.’
‘Doesn’t she love us anymore?’
‘Not like she used to.’
‘Why doesn’t she want to talk to us?’
‘It’s worse than an affair.’
‘God, no! That would be much worse.’
‘Not for me! I swear I’m going to throw her kindle out the window.’
‘She’ll kill you if you do that.’
It Starts by Deborah Lee
“You’re late again.” I stop in the doorway. “I smell weed in here.”
She shakes her head no.
“I know what I smell.”
“I had my window open all night,” she protests.
“Awful warm in here.”
“I cranked the heat.”
“Weed is a lot less bad for you than booze. But if you’re going to toke, go outside.”
Raised eyebrows, sideways smile: Did my mother really just say I can smoke dope?
“Get to school. No more truancy hearings.”
I thought I was resigned to everything. Magenta hair. Piercings. IUD. But this is the first lie I know of.
Trunks Full of Them by Pat Cummings
The movers wheeled the piles of book boxes out to the truck as I looked around at the empty shelves. I had built them to fit this space. How would they suit the new house?
Removing earthquake strapping that kept 8-foot-tall shelving from toppling onto our bed, I worked the bed-head shelf away from the wall. Behind the headboard, I found Hilbert Schenk’s Steam Bird. Panic brought chill sweat: what if it had been left behind?
Halfway to the new house, too late to return, I remembered the boxes of Destroyer novels left behind in the attic crawl space.
High Life by Sarah Brentyn
Crystal sat cross-legged on the sand across from Marcus.
He shook his head. “Look at those idiots,” he pointed to a group of boys jumping off the cliff into the rocky water below.
Crystal scrunched up her face, squinting. “Stupid,” she agreed coughing and giggling. “Stupid little boys.”
“Exactly. Like little boys trying to prove something to…whatever,” Marcus snickered. “Grow up!” he shouted. They both laughed. “Stupid adrenaline junkies.”
“Yeah. Morons. That’s wicked high. Jumping from Horizon Point should be, like, illegal.”
“Totally,” he sighed and laid his head in Crystal’s lap. “Hey, pass me the joint. You’re hogging.”
Reformed by Kalpana Solsi
His calm demeanour betrayed the raging tempests of past that swirled and howled in his mind, as he stepped out of the wrought-iron gates.
The prick marks on his arms had healed but the conscience prick continued to torture him as he remembered her last dying words. The Police sirens reverberated his ear-drums. The prison sentence and subsequent rehab was a blur in time.
The vituperative hurled on Sally which had sullied the temple of their marriage un-spooled.
Her attempts to wean him away from drugs cost her, her life.
He had reformed to pay his debts to Sally.
Desperate Hell by Ann Edall-Robson
The dark side. That’s where he presided now. A place that took away the pain and guilt. A home for justification intertwined with everything he had been trained for.
His duty filled with dangerous adrenalin consorting with life on the edge. That’s where he had been the day he had been shot.
The incessant pain in his leg. The pills he couldn’t get enough of directed him to this life.
This fraudulent, intimidating existence was taking over. Time was not on his side. He was sinking deeper into the iniquity. Desperate to find help or end up in hell.
Flash Fiction by Marigold Deidre Dicer
They expected it to be exciting since it was so forbidden. To be fair, the drinking was fun, but only to a point. Dehydration was a bitch, which made you her bitch.
Cigarette smells lingered in their clothes and in their hair. It smelt nice at first, but the novelty quickly lost its lustre. Ash was ash, and vomit was vomit: the facts could not be sugar coated.
Halfway through, one washed their clothes as the other booked a room and their train tickets. Trading one coast for another, they left schoolies behind to go swimming and bushwalking instead.