Whether you are slammed in a bottleneck of traffic or sitting on the front porch slamming back bottlenecks of beer, the time such moments lend a person is pause to contemplate. Bottlenecks might slow down processes or create unexpected releases.
Stories about bottlenecks vary in design as much as glasswork. You might feel the urge to wedge a lime into a bottleneck of your own as you read.
The following are based on the August 30, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a bottleneck.
Part I (10-minute read)
Commuting by kate @ aroused
My senses were being assaulted by the cacophony of others preferred listening choices. Our windows were wound down to catch any air. Driving home during peak hour was a drag, concentrating on traffic after intense work.
The main thought that was getting me through was of the sushi I’d picked up and the promise of a long hot shower. Then curling under my sheet with a good book … the kind you held and turned the pages. Electronic reading was not for me.
My wandering mind is brought back with a jolt as the traffic bottlenecked around an accident.
Bottleneck by FloridaBorne
We waited behind a semi, unable to see what blocked the road ahead. I sneezed at the diesel exhaust and asked my wife, “Found anything yet?”
The truck moved forward a few feet, and then stopped again, cars merged from the left lane as my wife stared at her tablet. “We’ll be out of this bottleneck in another 50 feet.”
“Was there an accident?”
“No,” she sighed. Traffic moved past an area where the left lane was devoid of anything but a lone boot.
That’s all it takes to stop traffic in LA — a shoe in the road.
Acrostic Bottleneck by TN Kerr
B eneath the dormant wheels
O f this sharp, sleek, motionless luxury automobile
T he motorway lies still, inert and unmoving despite my serious objections. Roll up the windows then,
T he heat is relentless and the malodourous exhaust fumes of a thousand cars
L ingers and mingles languidly with the
E ther that surrounds us.
N eedless to say, we should take the next available
E xit, we should find a relaxing spot to picnic; or a back road we might use as an alternative – a means to
C ircumnavigate this bottleneck, else we won’t be home before
K wanzaa, and it’s not yet Guy Fawkes Night.
Idiots on the Road (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli MIlls
Ike passed cars like a Hollywood speed-chase. Danni put her hand on his knee, “Slow down.”
“These idiots on the road are going to cause an accident.”
Danni kept her opinion that Ike was the one driving like an idiot. You’d think he was chasing down Al Qaeda in a Humvee the way he swerved around slower vehicles.
Stands of pines zipped past until traffic ahead came to a bottleneck at Culvers Point. Ike swore smooth as opera. Tourists stopped in the road to snap pictures of a mama moose. Danni reminded Ike, “Remember, we’re in Idaho, not Iraq.”
Lemons, Limes and Other Mysteries by Norah Colvin
She hit the brakes and thumped the steering wheel.
“Why we stopped, Mummy?”
“There’s a traffic jam.”
“Jam? I love stawbrey jam sammich.”
“Not that jam — must be a bottleneck up ahead.” Please be a merge, not an accident.
“We learned ‘bout bottlenecks today.”
“Live in the ocean. Maminals, like us. Where’s bottleneck, Mummy?”
“Not bottleneck, Jamie, bottlenose.”
“You said bottleneck.”
“I meant — aargh!”
Finally, they were home.
“You look frazzled, hon.”
She rolled her eyes and took the beer.
“Why lemon is in your bottle neck?” asked Jamie.
“Because it’s not lime.”
A Lesson in Trust by Susan Sleggs
My grandson’s dentist appointment was after school which meant dealing with rush-hour traffic. While sitting on the overpass waiting for the light so I could turn onto the expressway ramp, I could look down to gauge the usual traffic bottleneck. Bad news. Traffic was completely stopped. I said, “We’re going for a little ride to avoid the expressway.”
I wound my way around side streets going north and west.
I heard from the backseat, “I have no idea where we are!”
After two more turns he saw familiar buildings. “You weren’t lost after all Grandma? I was worried.”
Word Jam by Ritu Bhathal
The ideas were just pouring out of my mind, my heart, my soul, and I didn’t know where to start.
No, that’s not right.
I knew where to start, I just couldn’t work out where to stop, how to organise the thoughts rushing through me.
My fingers danced across the keyboard, letters appearing, filling pages and pages.
Faster and faster they came, until-
I knew there was more to come out, but it was as if the impatience of my ideas had caused a bottleneck in my brain.
Time for the muse…
Backcountry Bottleneck by Ann Edall-Robson
A body and soul drive along gravel roads riddled with potholes is nothing short of bliss. The gray matter lodged between the ears has no expectations other than to watch for what Mother Nature has to offer. There is no rush in this journey. It is a plethora of whoa, stop, back up moments soaking in the sights on a trek to an unknown destination. Traffic lights do not exist, and the only bottleneck to endure may be a herd of cattle coming at you on the road. There is nothing like the backcountry to rejuvenate the writing mind.
Empty Bottles All in A Row by Billy Ray Chitwood
Those empty bottles tell a pitiful story of my life, Buckaroos!
Those empty bottles once carried many of those once-held dreams I carried around in my head, all rather noble and fitting for human consumption – for anyone willing to listen to my maudlin cries for do-overs written out on barroom napkins and motel room stationery.
Those empty bottles lit me up like a neon billboard, allowing me to show off my amazing way with the women and with words.
One thing wrong with that pitiful story…
It left me a ‘wimp of a man’!
So, the tombstone says!
A Grain Of Sand by Patrick O’Connor
A single grain of sand at a time.
One by one, they slip through the bottleneck of the hourglass.
Our lives, measured in time is representative of those grains of sand.
One day at a time, our lives slip through our fingers.
Are we striving to leave a legacy or simply living for the moment?
Meanwhile, another life gasps as the last grain of sand drops.
A sad day for some; a joy for others.
How will people remember us; or will they remember us at all.
Only time will tell – one single grain of sand at a time.
The Slide by oneletterup
She sees it. Poking out from under the sofa. She reaches down, closing her hand around the smooth green glass.
Just like Gramma’s! When she played the big guitar. Special for her.
“Honey, this is a bottleneck slide. It goes on my finger. Look!”
Then Gramma would smile, wink and whisper…
“This song is just for you.”
Pressing on the strings, she’d slide the glass. And sing. And fill them both up…
”If not for you…I’d be sad and blue if not for you…”
The little girl finds her there.
Holding the green slide. Tight.
“You found it!”
Champagne Wishes and Caviar Dreams by JulesPaige
Tammy wondered if it was always this hard to buy your first home. You had to prove you were, have been and would be employed – able to make mortgage payments.
What started out as a simple bottleneck situation turned into a log jam. The red tape became like a thick hungry boa constrictor wanting to squeeze the very life from her with having to fill out form after form after form.
There would be a celebration eventually. Hopefully soon. One where she’d invite her best friends to uncork a bottle of champagne. When she finally held her home’s key.
The Bottle Opener by Robert Kirkendall
A party goer grabbed a longneck bottle of ale from an ice chest and searched around. “Anyone know where the bottle opener is?”
“I got this,” another party goer said as he picked up another beer bottle. “Now give me yours.”
The first party goer handed him his bottle, then the second party goer held his bottle upside down and placed the edge of its bottlecap against the other bottlecap. “A little trick I learned in college, using one bottle to open another.”
A cap popped off and beer spilled all over his pants.
“Ooops, wrong cap came off.”
Bottleneck Life by Kayuk
“Ready for the big job interview this afternoon?”
I grin across the table at Sally, “You bet! I’ve been preparing for weeks.”
“Well, you certainly look stunning. The old ivory of the suit sets the perfect tone.”
“Thanks”, I say, draping a napkin across my lap and picking up the fork.
Startled by a crash and yell behind me, I leap from my chair and turn in time to see the waiter’s foot descend on a plastic catsup bottle sliding across the floor. Pressurized contents spew from the bottleneck splashing the front of my perfect suit with garish red.
Trust Deficit by Abhijit Ray
“Bottleneck is always at the top,” thundered CEO in the townhall meeting, on productivity, he convened for his employees, after attending a conference.
“Tell me is what problems you face? Is it resource allocation, time management or decision making?” senior managers shifted uncomfortably in their seats, as chief goaded his employees for a response.
There was pin drop silence, till an eager beaver junior shuffled in his seat. “Idiot! Not yet confirmed, you are a sitting duck,” whispered his friend, “this is all sham. CEO knows very well, where the bottleneck is. He is trying to identify trouble makers.”
Quality Control by Liz Huseby Hartmann
“There’s your bottleneck,” Justin nodded at the bleach-blonde woman at the end of the production line. A stack of TMPuregold Widgets sat to her left. Picking one, she held it up, squinting along its length, and nodded.
“Lorna’s a bottleneck?” His uncle chewed the end of his mustache.
Lorna picked up another widget, ran her hand across its end, and crooked her finger at a young brunette. They bent their heads together. The younger brought the piece back to her station, smiling.
“I have lots of streamlining ideas, Uncle.”
“Tell your mother we’re not hiring just now.”
You Made Your Bed by Sascha Darlington
First a bottleneck on the road and now a bottleneck at the charity event. I see who is causing it and suddenly wish I had a bottleneck in my hand, preferably high-proof.
I try to avoid her, but she’s holding court, her brittle laughter wince-worthy. When her eyes focus on me, her lips tighten.
“Surprised you came.”
I sigh. “I’m chair.”
She waggles her diamond before darting to my ex-. Robert glances up. Do I see regret? Perhaps the younger, improved model wasn’t as good as the original.
Jake squeezes my hand. “You look beautiful tonight.”
Mine is though.
Lil’ Ugly by D. Avery
When he drew a bull called Lil’ Ugly the other cowboys laughed.
Bow legged and barrel-chested with a bottle neck and a jug head, he endured a great deal of ribbing. He disappointed his tormentors by walking away. They could tell they angered him but could never get him to throw a punch. In addition to picking on his looks they questioned his manhood.
As he approached the chute the others joked, wondered who was going to be on top.
They didn’t wonder any longer than eight seconds.
They knew now what he did with his bottled up rage.
Saddleback Sanctuary (from “Diamante”) by Saifun Hassam
Where the valley narrowed, the flagstone path disappeared under boulders and jagged rocks. Landslide from early spring. Diamante surveyed the bottleneck. He weaved carefully around the larger rocks, clambering up and down smaller ones. He paused to rest. A lark flew up into the warm sunny skies. A lizard slithered across the boulder, briefly eyed Diamante, and disappeared. No bottlenecks for lizard or lark.
Another half mile and he was on the flagstone trail again. The ancient abandoned monastery came into view. Near an open broken gate, a giant tortoise slept, its neck well hidden within its saddleback shell.
Part II (10-minute read)
Bottleneck by Anita Dawes
Something we experience when pushing our way into a new life. A tight space, hard to get out of.
Days when the tension holds on to the back of my neck like giant metal claws.
Other times I feel as if I have been snapped back in time, trapped inside the Trojan horse with a bunch of sweaty human beings, waiting to do battle.
The sun will come back and you can move on with your life. The way ahead is clear, or am I trapped inside someone else’s mind?
Is this the bottleneck that will finally break me?
Bottleneck by katimac
They say humans of many forms lived a long time ago. Then a natural disaster struck which wiped out nearly all of them. It was most likely the progenitor of the Great Flood stories found in nearly every culture. Geologists can point to physical signs of it all at about the same time, nearly seventy thousand years ago. Anthropologists can point to one at the same time, about seventy thousand years ago, when mankind was reduced to a small bottleneck group on the western coast of Africa. We ain’t none of us lily-white if we go back far enough.
This Time, This Place by Kelvin M. Knight
Standing in his pulpit, he regarded one bottleneck after another: his overworked PCC; the cavalier making of tea during the service; the choir grumbling behind him; the organ whimpering far far away.
He prayed silently, swiftly. Upon opening his eyes, he spied a congregation transformed. Now they all looked resplendent in starched white collars, whereas he was a shadow, bloated and distorted, and pinched in so many places: from his wallet to his timesharing; from his patience to his love.
Realising he was more guilty than them, he pondered the complexities of daring to share this truth with them.
Not Exactly an Hour-glass Figure by Di @ pensitivity101
‘You need to go on a diet.’
‘Don’t you start! How can I help it if there’s so much to choose from, I want to try it all?’
‘Somehow seeing you stuck like that is doing you no favours as regards your street cred.’
‘I’ll have you know this colour is very fetching! Brings out the natural blue of my eyes.’
‘At the moment they look a bit bloodshot. You’ve probably cut off your circulation, you’ve gotten so fat.’
‘No need to be nasty. I’ll just make a wish!’
‘But that’s cheating!’
‘Ha! I’m a Genie darling! I’m allowed!’
Bored Panda by Deepa
Honey, does this look good?
I nod quickly thinking my way to escape.
Is this one better? She asked me.
If I nod again, I fear she’ll say, ‘so what is wrong with the first one?’
Which one do you prefer? This was she again.
Oh, darling! You look equally amazing in both.
Oh, honey! Do you mean to say can I have both?
It is a terror for spouses when it comes to shopping.
A pleasure for sales guys and a reason for more congestion in the roads and malls.
Buy 1, get one free!
Jessie by Kay Kingsley
It had been 3 weeks and 4 days since Mike and Jessie had broken up and each second that passed was agony for him.
He sat in his usual chair at the bar hoping to be as invisible as he felt, a chameleon basked in neon.
The bar was a loud distraction as he mindlessly stroked the bottle neck, lost in the memory of her smile and the smell of her perfume. Full of regret, his heart ached.
When she touched his shoulder from behind, he looked up and thought it was a dream. They smiled at each other.
Bottleneck by Frank Hubeny
Some say your real brains are in your gut. Bill knew his wasn’t in his brain. Sharon doubted he had any in his gut either.
That’s when she got pregnant and started worrying.
That’s when they had to move to a smaller apartment.
That’s when it looked like he would lose his job.
That’s also when he didn’t lose his job, but got an indirect promotion.
That’s also when they realized they loved that new apartment.
That’s when he held her and told her he was glad she was pregnant.
That’s when she changed her mind about his brains.
One Night, Both Ends of Life by Paula Moyer
One Night, Both Ends of Life
6:30: the call. Finally, that night.
“Today’s the day.” Her nephew Max, about his father, Jean’s brother.
“Did he die?”
“Yes.” The wait/weight – done. Alcoholic organ failure – complete.
7:30 p.m.: the text. “My water broke.” A very pregnant woman’s message to Jean, her doula. “But nothing’s happening.” Jean gassed up anyway.
9:30: the call. The husband. “It’s time.”
Jean battled State Fair traffic, road work, bridge closures.
10:10: Raced into the birth center. “Waaa!” On the floor: Chux pads, blood everywhere. On the bed: parents and one angry baby.
11:30: the drive home, joy and grief wedged in together.
Hillsborough, April 1989 by Anne Goodwin
The match was a sell-out, but progress through the turnstiles deathly slow. To ease the tension outside, they opened the gates and funnelled the supporters directly into the already swollen stand. As the game kicked off, no-one heard the protests of those at the front, the screams forced from crushed lungs. While grown men cried for their mams, kids hadn’t the air to whimper. The first to scale the fence were met with truncheons. Belatedly, the ambulances pulled onto the pitch.
No goals were scored that day. But records were broken in the numbers killed at a sporting event.
The Happiest Traffic Jam on Earth by Chelsea Owens
“When will we get dere?”
“It’s …uh, your turn to answer him, Dear.”
“Whe-e-e-e-en will we get de-e-e-e-ere?”
“I told you, Honey. We’ll be there soon.”
“You said that a long time ago!”
“I wish you wouldn’t call him-”
“No! You said we go in duh car!”
“Yes, Sweetheart. Vroom! Vroom! Remember?”
“You said LITTLE ride in duh car!”
“Well, I meant-”
“You did tell him just a little ride-“
“Dear, please. That’s not helping to side with him…”
“Are we picking sides?”
“WHEN WILL WE GET DERE?!”
It’s a Boy! by Sarah Whiley
Yet still, the cap wouldn’t budge.
I felt so frustrated. This liquid was yearning for release for human consumption and to be enjoyed.
It was a perfect summer’s day for a beer.
Not ready to concede defeat, I kept on trying.
The effort began to hurt my hands.
Damn this thing, I thought.
Then suddenly, I felt it.
A helpful force; working with me from the other side.
Oh joy of joys, the cap began to move!
Finally it was released, and cool liquid amber gushed through the bottle neck.
“It’s a boy!” I smiled.
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
Music pulsed, matching the thump of my heart in my ears as I leaned in and gave the wine bottle a carefully planned spin. Breath held. The circle tightened. Julie Jennings’ knee touched against mine, the bottleneck now a whir of fate.
Thump. Warmth hit my cheeks as the wand settled on Julia. A nervous laugh. What now? But with a giggle Julie nudged it two more places—miles it seemed!—to the metallic smile of Christina Cash. A small terror in my chest. A gust of strawberries. Julia shrugged, winked, then shoved me off towards her best friend.
Chester Makes Amends by Molly Stevens
Chester knew he had to dig himself out of a crater after he gave the wrong impression to his wife, Ruth.
He settled on his strategy and said, “I remember the exact moment I knew you was the one. And though it was magic, my decision to ask for your hand in marriage had nothin’ to do with a silly eight ball.”
“Yes. I chose you in the fifth grade.”
“Remember the party at Rosie house? We gathered in a circle, and I spun first. When the bottleneck pointed in your direction, I knew you’d be mine.”
Bottlenecking by Bill Engleson
I peer into the darkness.
The fog’s thicker than shower steam.
“There’s the turnoff,” I point, bumping my digit against the windshield.
“I see it,” she snaps. “I’m not blind.”
“Sorry…” I apologize, shaking my bent finger.
“Did you hurt your pinkie?” she asks.
“No. Just nerves.”
The offramp quickly turns into a one-lane cow path.
“I can barely see,” she offers.
“It’s a good thing you’re driving,” I confess. “I can’t see squat.”
Suddenly, a tiny wooden bridge appears.
“THAT,” she says, “looks flimsy. I’m turning back.”
“Can’t. Bosses party.”
“Yup. The only guests.”
The Real Winner by Anurag Bakhshi
I looked down at the battlefield, and my heart filled with pride.
My fellow countryman Leonidas and his small band of 300 Spartans had been pitted against more than a million of the invading army of Xerxes.
But the wily Leonidas had taken a stand at a bottleneck in the pass at Thermopylae, and stopped the Persians dead in their tracks for three days.
And the mighty Persian Army would still be fighting a futile battle if I, Ephialtes, hadn’t told them about the hidden path that would allow them to flank Leonidas and his men, and slaughter them.
Bottleneck by Reena Saxena
“I will not give my land. The price you offer is not enough to sustain me, and I don’t have any other means to earn a livelihood.”
“Do you understand that this is for a mega-project, which will change the face of the countryside. History will not forgive you for being a bottleneck in progress.”
“History might forgive and glorify you, but goodness will not.” He signed the sale deed.
Three years later, the land purchased by the parliamentarian’s brother was sold at thirty times the price he bought it for. It helps to know about future developmental plans.
Slow and Steady Kid by D. Avery
“Hey, Pal. Have a beer with me. Ever wonder why bottles is shaped the way they are, with the long neck?”
“Mebbe it’s so it’s easier ta pour. But we got no glass nor class, drinkin’ right outta the bottle.”
“If ya hang onta the bottle neck yer beer doesn’t git all warm.”
“Jist drink it down fast. Gimme anuther Kid.”
“I like coozies, ‘specially handy with so many switchin’ ta cans.”
“Don’t need a coozie, jist drink ‘em right down. ‘Nuther, Kid.”
“You prefer bottles, or cans, Pal? Pal?”
“That was fast. Pal’s downed from downin’ beer.”
There are some real jewels this week. Thanks, Charli for all you do. Thanks, writers for sharing your thoughts and creativity with me; with all of us.
Agreed! Glittering bottlenecks full of vintage writing.
Perfect entries here!!!!
Get the word jam unblocked!
Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.
Thanks for sharing, Anita!
I don’t know how I missed the prompt entirely last week – but Charli, your entry is simply heartbreaking! I loved it.
So many clever takes on the prompt.
Lots of activity at the Ranch! I appreciate your feedback, too. It can be difficult to express veteran struggles without making characters seem like jerks.
What a great collection, Charli, and all. I didn’t get to read all the stories entered on the prompt, so enjoyed reading them here. There are so many different kinds of bottlenecks. I had no idea. Finishing with Pal and the Kid is a light way to conclude the collection. Thanks, everyone.
I enjoy how Pal and Kick sign off the collection for us each week. It does end it on a chipper note. So many bottlenecks!
Pal and Kid are great at signing of each collection. We do end on a chipper note. I’d miss them if they were gone.
I certainly would, too! I better keep ’em happy at the Ranch.
Great collection as usual, feel blessed to have top spot 🙂
Sorry I’m not posting consistently, no wifi, new off-grid home and full-time contract all at once. I am with you all in spirit if not on line 🙂
Thanks for opening the collection, Kate! I try to find a story that will hook readers into reading all the fine and unexpected twists that follow. Wishing you success in both off-grid living and your new contract (congratulations)! 🙂
thanks Charli, trust me to have it all come at once lol 🙂
Ha, ha! They say, “When it rains, it pours.” I hope that means a bumper crop for you in the future.
[…] story was published in the Carrot Ranch collection for this photo prompt – see Part II – 3rd story. Many thanks to Charli and […]