Monthly Archives: May 2015

Ode to A. Hitchcock

Prompt: A story that is 500 words or less.

The best part of the Jersey shore is the annual sand sculpture contest. People flood the beach in the pursuit of handcrafting works of art – art that will eventually be gobbled up by the ever rising sea.

Every year my sister Erica and I stand on the sidelines, speculating. Not this year. This year we’re participating. It doesn’t matter that I hate sand and she has no artistic ability. It doesn’t matter that every sand castle I ever built crumbled in mere seconds. It doesn’t matter that Erica doesn’t want to be here.

The day is overcast, the sand sticking to all the wrong places. For a split second I regret this decision, but with a hot pink bucket and gardening shovel I’m ready.

“What’s the plan Stan,” Erica asks.

I take out a crumpled up sketch, and pass it to her.

“You’re kidding right?! There’s no way in hell we’re sculpting a mermaids.”

“Watch your language,” I say in my mother’s tone.

“Hell isn’t a cuss word. If it was it  wouldn’t be in the Bible.”

I ignore her and begin sculpting. Erica sits back, sunning herself. I stop for a sip of water and to wipe sweat from my brow.


“What is it?”

“Look at all those seagulls, there’s about a hundred of them.”

“Don’t exaggerate, there’s like ten.”

Seriously, there are hundreds of the beasts flocking overhead. They make me nervous. I continue on sculpting and shaping the sand, coaxing it to do exactly what I want it to. But the birds continue to flock, swoop, and fly.

I try not to let the birds get to me.  But as the clouds roll in the birds seem to ascend upon the beach, pecking at half eaten sandwiches, squawking at the people. I’m scared. So much so that I hastily gather my stuff and pull my sister up from the sand.

“We’re leaving!”

“What? Why?!  You haven’t even finished.”

“Somethings not right,” I announce. The air is eerily silent, the waves that were crashing simply lap at the shoreline. I turn slowly, and take in the nighmarish scene — seagulls pecking at the people. There’s one tangled in some woman’s hair. I ran. Hands covering my head I pray I wouldn’t call victim to the birds. Erica, with her longer legs is  just ahead, just out of reach. I call to her, but she keeps running farther away.

“Erica wait!” I scream. And as I screamed the largest seagull I have ever seen lands on my sister and it pecks and pecks.

“No, please stop!” I shout.


“Erin! Wake up! Wake up!”

My eyes crack open. “You’re alive!”

“It was just a dream.”

“But the birds –”

“That damn movie! I told you you shouldn’t have watched that.”


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Notes in Books

Prompt: Write a story that is 500 words or less.

Notes in Books

I stand awkwardly in the cafe wondering if she’s here yet.

In my last note I said I would be wearing a blue sundress and a hot pink cardigan. Check.

I considered going for a brighter, more obvious dress–what if the cafe is hot and I have to take off the cardigan?–but my only other clean dress was the yellow one from Aunt Maureen. Aunt Maureen still thinks I share her and mom’s pale complexion instead of dad’s brown skin and crazy curly hair. She somehow missed that yellow does nothing but wash me out so I look sick, sick, sick.

I look around when the door chimes as it opens.

In her last note my friend said that she would have a purple shirt and a black twirling skirt. I’m still not sure what that means but I think it’s probably a dirndl skirt.

We’ve moved onto writing each other postcards and letters but this all started with a sticky note in my favorite book at the library.

I always leave notes when I’m browsing at the library.

I never thought someone would write back.

When I opened the book three months ago a note fell into my hand.

Sometimes I left my notes in the middle. Or at the very last page.

“This book saved me life,” I wrote once. “It felt like nothing was going to be right ever again. But then this book was perfect. And slowly, so slowly, it started to feel like other things could be okay–maybe even perfect–too. I hope you loved it. I hope you’re okay.”

It was that same copy–I recognized the torn and wrinkled dust jacket.

I stared at the note in my hand and then the book before I turned to the last page. The sticky note I left was still there. It still declared that this book saved me and it was still true.

On the folded paper was an address and in thick, blocky capital letters the words THANK YOU.

I added another sticky note beneath the original.

“You’re welcome.” Beneath my note I wrote my address before I could talk myself out of it. I placed the book back on the shelf.

Her name is Olivia and she told me her family is Mexican by way of Newark. We are both avid readers and she might be my best friend. This is the first time we’ll ever meet.

We exchanged numbers last week when we settled the details. I am clutching my phone wondering if she will call to say she’s arrived.

Or maybe send a text to say she changed her mind.

The door chimes as it opens. I hear a girl shout “Lisa!” as she runs toward me, a blur of black and purple. She crashes into me, her arms already hugging me.

I smile.

“I’m so happy to finally meet you!”

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Prompt: A promise made and/or broken.

When my parents died six years ago Poppy was the only family I had left. And at that time, he was barely that. But still, without hesitation, he took me in. And he provided me with, not only the basics, but so much more. Poppy loved me unconditionally right from the very start.

It didn’t matter to him that my existence was news to him. It didn’t matter that we first met the day my parents were being buried in the cold ground. He loved me.

Truth be told,  I didn’t love Poppy. Not at first. I barely knew this man who seemed to have more hair sprouting from his ears rather than from the top of his head. For twelve years, he was a mystery I never dared question. But as days turned into months, and months turned into years I grew to love Poppy. I loved him like I have never, ever loved before. After all, he became the father I never really had the chance to have.

Of course we had our ups and downs. Poppy had a temper and I had a stubborn streak. But we always made it through – and never went to bed angry with one another. Even when life wasn’t great, it was good.

Until the day the doctor told us that Poppy was sick. The world stopped revolving, and as the doctor talked my heart barely beat.

Poppy had early onset dementia – a disease that would eventually strip Poppy of his memories. As time went by, the illness would progress from dementia into full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.

The doctor talked about the different stages that both Poppy and I would experience. He talked about medications that would, not cure, but would prolong the disease’s progression. He talked and he talked. But the only think I was hearing was the Poppy could, and would probably forget everything and everyone … including me.

I decided then and there that I’d make the most of my time with Poppy. I would do everything in my power to take care of him the way he took care of me when I needed him most. That meant, dropping out of school a few months shy of graduating. That meant putting my life on pause in order to give him the fullest one possible. That meant breaking a promise I swore – to both myself and to him – that I’d keep.

After having found out that he was sick, Poppy sat me down to have a heart to heart. We were sitting in a cracked vinyl booth of our favorite diner. Both of us pushing food around our plates. Poppy’s fish and chips were getting cold, and the cheese on my bacon cheeseburger was starting to harden.

“Kiddo, listen. I know this is a lot to process. And I know the gears in your head are already fast at work thinking about what you can do to make this better. There is nothing to make this better.”

“You don’t know that,” I responded quietly.

“There are things we need to talk about — things I need to say and you need to hear.”

“I don’t want to talk about this.”

“You don’t have a choice. I’ve never been stern with you Ginny, but I’m putting my foot down.”

“Fine,” I huffed.

“There’s money in an account. There is enough to cover my expenses at the Cherry Blossom nursing home.,” he started, but I stopped him before he went any further.

“Stop talking like this, I’m not putting you in a home.”

“You don’t have a choice in this, I refuse to be a burden.”

“You’re my grandfather, it’s my responsibility to take care of you,” I argued.

“No, it’s my responsibility to take care of you kiddo. And I won’t be able to do that for much longer. When the time comes, I want you to take that money and check me into the home. My name is already on the waiting list.”

He wanted me to promise him, but I refused. He didn’t press the issue, but I knew this wasn’t the end of this discussion.

He continued, “The house is yours, everything in it, and the property it sits on. I’ve already had the deed put in your name.”

“It won’t be much of a home without you,” I said quietly.

“It was never a home until you move in kiddo. But I need you to promise me something.”

“Anything, Poppy,” I said without a hint of hesitation. He could have asked to me knock off the local liquor store, and I would have gladly. I would do anything and everything for this man, and he knew that.

“Promise me that that house will always be your home, always Ginny.”

I couldn’t fathom why he would want me to promise such a thing when he already knew that that house was more than a house that sat upon a pebble driveway. That house was home, and would forever be my home.

“I promise, Pop.”


At the time I swore I could keep such a promise. After all, it wasn’t a difficult one. But after a time, it seemed like with each passing day a little bit of Poppy’s memory slipped. Before long, I faced reality: I couldn’t take care of him any longer.

The first few days after leaving him in that place was hell. I cried until I couldn’t cry any more. But eventually I learned to live on my own in that big empty house that sat upon a pebble driveway. I learned to function like a normal human being – working during the day, visiting Poppy at night.

Money was tight and emotions were high, but I thought I was doing okay. Sure I was a few payments behind  on a bill or two, but it was nothing I couldn’t handle. I had already handled my worst nightmare. But when the bank sent notice that because of one  too many missed payment, they were foreclosing on the house.

I begged. I pleaded. And I borrowed for anyone who would lend me a dime. But it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to save me, to save the house, to save the only promise I ever made.

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A Promise Kept

Prompt: A promise made and/or broken.

A Promise Kept

My name is Lilac Dupree and I always keep my promises.

The man I want to kill barely spares me a glance as I pass him on the street. Violet laments the duration of our extended mourning period and bemoans the black crepes and silks that comprise our entire wardrobes. I’ve reminded her several times that it is only a matter of weeks until we can transition to half mourning when she’ll be able to wear some of her precious mauves again. She hardly cares.

No matter. Mourning attire suits my purposes just fine. People rarely pay any notice to a young woman bedecked in black from head to toe. Even the men keen to spot a well-turned ankle coming out of a carriage quickly avert their eyes when they see that ankle is covered by a black dress. Their eyes quickly pass over any pretty face obscured by a black bonnet or parasol. It helps, I think, that the black does little for my complexion beyond washing me out to a sickly pallor against my dark hair.

In mourning I am able to all but disappear. And I need to disappear if I want to exact my revenge.

The man I want to kill walks the city for most of the afternoon. I am grateful for the work boots I borrowed from Josiah and the way that they blend with the black of my skirt and petticoat. He won’t appreciate the strength of my need, or the absence of his boots, when he needs to muck out the stables. But I can hardly be blamed because Mother took the opportunity of transitioning the house into mourning to also transition my own sturdy boots into the trash. Mother claims young women of quality should always wear appropriate footwear. I would like to see Mother tromping around New York City’s cobblestones in her boots with their spool heels. At any rate I could hardly be expected to accomplish anything in such boots. Luckily Josiah is but eleven and has not yet hit his growth spurt. I only needed one extra pair of socks to make his boots fit.

If I didn’t know better I would say the man appears melancholy, morose even. I linger near a window when he walks into a corner pub. The sun is setting. It is the first time I have been out near dusk without a chaperone. I instructed Violet to tell mother I was dining with the Peabodys and staying with their daughter Olivia for the evening. I can only hope the two dollars I gave her with the promise of a new jet bead purse will help to make her a better liar.

My black dress blends into the shadows until I can scarcely tell where one stops and the other starts. Unfortunately it does little to help me blend in. Unattended women are not supposed to venture this far downtown, certainly not this close to the water. The anonymity I enjoyed in the bright afternoon light is quickly morphing into unwanted attention and lingering stares that make my skin crawl.

Just when I begin to question the wisdom of my outing, the man I want to kill exits the pub and passes entirely too close to where I am loitering near the entrance. His eyes are glassy with drink and I sag gratefully with relief when he passes me without a second glance. I lift my skirts to my ankles so that I can follow him more quickly down the street as he rushes through the intersection.

With only a rough idea of where I am in relation to the family brownstone, I can little afford to get lost tonight. I can worry more fully about how to get home after I exact my revenge. I quicken my pace again as the man begins moving east.

My father was murdered eleven months ago. He was a respected banker and much loved by his wife and his two daughters. Everyone says it is a tragedy—his life shot down far too soon. No one knows why anyone would have wanted to kill him. No one knows that I was on my way to meet Father when he was shot.

From across the street I watched the tableau unfold as Father raised his hands in the air before being pushed to the ground by the force of the bullet striking his chest. The street became a throng of people then, a mob of gawkers and Samaritans alike trying to get to Father while still others panicked and tried to run in the opposite direction.

My feet felt rooted to the spot as I watched a man taking in the scene. Our eyes met across the street before he began walking briskly through the mob.

No one stopped him. No one, I realized later, saw him. In that moment I promised myself that I would find him and I would get justice for my father.

I keep my eyes on his brown jacket now as he moves through the street. His red hair is easy to spot in the gloaming—a bright spot in the otherwise darkening night. It took months to find him, tracing his movements on that day eleven months ago by asking merchants in the area and other witnesses. I had despaired of ever finding him when I noticed him near the bank yesterday skulking from shop to shop looking for work or perhaps just gauging if anyone were tracking his movements. My vigilance was rewarded when I left the house early this morning and was able to follow him from the bank all the way downtown to here.

I stop abruptly at a corner to avoid barreling into the man. I’m not a fool. I know I cannot confront him in the middle of a crowded street. My hope, as he winds his way through the streets of the Bowery, is that I might find whatever rooming house he is calling home so that I might enter his room. I grasp my clutch in both hands. After I get him alone, Mother’s pearl handled revolver will do the rest.

It is full dark now. I can only hope we are near his destination. Already my attire is drawing stares amidst the poverty of this neighborhood. Women here have no money to spare for full mourning and women who can do not walk alone at night. I am drawing unwanted attention. The part of my mind not occupied with watching the man’s progress begins to worry how I will get home in one piece much less unnoticed.

The man rounds a corner and I follow quickly down an alley. The only light comes from a door that has been wedged open with a discarded brick. It is not enough to illuminate the man I have been following where he hides in the shadows. I walk into his hard chest before I realize what has happened. His hands clamp around my arms before I can think to back away. No one knows where I am or what I had planned today. Not even my little sister Violet. For the first time since I began my search, I realize I have been the worst kind of fool.

The man turns me so that we are both closer to the light. I am surprised when I see that his eyes are concerned and not at all glassy after his time in the pub. Instead his gaze is shrewd. His hold on me loosens when something like recognition passes across his face.

I waste no time reaching for my clutch. The effect is somewhat ruined by the way my hands shake as I pull Mother’s revolver out of my clutch. “You killed my father.” I raise the revolver until it points to his chest.

“We both know you aren’t going to shoot me, Miss Dupree.”

“You don’t know anything about me,” I say as I fumble with the hammer on the back of the revolver. Much to my horror it catches on the lace of my glove. He stares at me a moment before he easily palms the revolver.

“I know many things about you, Miss Dupree. Including the fact that you placed yourself in great personal peril by following me today,” he says as he places the revolver into his jacket pocket.

I open my mouth to deliver a choice retort when a more pertinent question occurs to me. “How do you know my name?”

“Why do you think I killed your father?” he replies as he leans against one of the alley walls, eyeing me warily the entire time.

“I saw you there. You looked at me, calm as you please, before walking away. What else would you have been doing there?”

He clenches his jaw and stares at something just above my shoulder. “What would you say, Miss Dupree, if I told you that I had been hired to protect your father?”

“I’d say you did a miserable job of it for starters!” I reply indignantly.

“No one would argue that point,” he says with a shake of his head. He returns his focus to me. “My name is Cormac Breen. Your father had reason to believe his life was in danger and he hired me to provide some measure of protection.”

“I dare say you’ve been out of work for the better part of this year then,” I snap. “And I will need that revolver back, Mr. Breen. My mother will miss it.” I hold out my hand for the gun.

“You’ll get it back when I know you won’t try to shoot me again.”

“I thought you said we both knew I wouldn’t shoot you,” I reply caustically. “Changing your mind already, Mr. Breen?”

“Let’s just say I hadn’t heard about the elder Miss Dupree’s temper. As to the matter of my employ: Your father paid generously and I dislike failing. I have been conducting an investigation into your father’s shooting.”

“Wouldn’t that fall into the jurisdiction of the police department?”

“It would,” he says with a nod. “Which is why it’s fortunate that I was only moonlighting for your father.” He lifts the lapel of his jacket to show me a badge. “It’s actually Detective Breen, if you would be so kind, Miss Dupree,” he adds with a smile that is entirely too flattering to his overall countenance.

I do not smile back. “It would seem to me,” I say after a moment, “that between your so-called moonlighting and your official job with the police department that you might have found answers long before now.”

Detective Breen leans forward unexpectedly; close enough for me to see the green of his eyes and the ghost of stubble along his jaw. I take a careful step back as he says, “What would you say, Miss Dupree, if I told you that your father’s death is but the beginning of a conspiracy I am only now beginning to fully grasp?”

“My father was just a banker, Detective,” I say with a scoff as I wonder if Bellevue is missing one of its inmates.

“I assure you I am deadly serious, Miss Dupree. Your father was involved with something that got him killed. I intend to find out what.”

“And what does any of that have to do with me?”

He takes a step closer so that now I am the one against a wall. He has an excited gleam in his eye as he answers my question. “A police detective can only go so far in your family’s world. Particularly an Irish one. You, however, have no such barriers and have already proven yourself an adequate investigator. Since you are so keen to avenge your father and clearly have no regard for your personal welfare in the process, I may be persuaded to accept your assistance so that I can keep my eye on you and assure that another tragedy does not befall your family.”

I stare at him for a moment.

He takes my hand and places the revolver in it. “What do you say, Miss Dupree?” he asks as he holds his hand out to me.

I place the revolver into my clutch again before I reply. I already know my answer. I suppose I’ve known since Detective Breen told me what he was really doing. I suspect he knows as well.

“I promised myself I would find out what really happened to my father, Detective Breen. And I always keep my promises.”

We seal the bargain with a handshake before I can change my mind.

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Prompt: Write a story inspired by an image of your choice (found online).


“I’m bored,” Callie whined as she folded a torn out magazine page into a fan. “It’s hot. Let’s go inside.”

“You’re always bored, Callie.” I replied absent-mindedly. It’s true, Callie is always bored. Always buzzing from one activity to the next, she has never followed through on anything. Except being my friend — best friend.

“Come on, Lizzie! Let’s do something fun!” She squeals from the lounge chair next to me.  I barely look up from my magazine. Something fun equals me getting in trouble.

“Want to jump in the pool?” I suggest. “We could play Marco Polo.”

“Marco Polo is lame with only two people.”

“We can play UNO.”

“Even lamer than Marco Polo.”

Exhausted from this conversation, I sigh. “Than what would you suggest? And don’t say watching TV.”

“Oh! I know! Let’s play mad science!”

I don’t like the sound of mad science. The last time I played one of Callie’s made up game, we ending up blowing the door of my microwave and breaking my mother’s favorite coffee mug. I was grounded for an entire month. Even worse than being grounded was the fact that I had to take all of my life savings to buy a new microwave.

“I’m not in the mood to blow up the microwave again.”

“We’ll think up a new science experiment! And I promise we won’t blow anything up.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Let’s play a joke on Simon!” She says enthusiastically. Simon, my older brother who’s home from college, hates to be bothered. From August to May he studies furiously. He’s been a straight A student since he came out of the womb. Or at least that’s what I’m told. However, any break or day off he sends furiously gaming.

“You know Simon doesn’t like to be bothered. Besides he’s in the middle of some big quest or something. Dork!”

“Come on Lizzie! Please!”

I don’t want to admit this to her, but playing mad science would be better than what we’re currently doing. She stares me, making that sad puppy dog face that she knows will sucker me into any one of her crazy ideas.

“Let’s play handball,” I suggest. I rule at handball. “My mom just bought me these purple tennis balls!”

“You know I don’t like handball. I have no hand eye coordination. And beside the last time we played you whacked the ball so hard it bounced off the garage door and whacked me smack in the nose. I had two black eyes thanks to you.”

“That was an accident. I still feel terrible about that. I promise I’ll go easy.”

She shakes her head. Callie has never been athletic. Her idea of organized sports is shopping at Macy’s on black Friday. It’s reasons like this that make Callie and I best friends. We’re complete opposites. The only thing we have in common is that we were once the new kids at school.

“What about extreme hop scotch,” I say enthusiastically. Extreme hop scotch was a game that Callie and I invented last summer. Instead of eight boxes we made our board with sixteen. And with each toss of the shooter we didn’t just jump – we created different ways to get to the end of the board. One of the ways was by slapping on a pair of old school roller skates and jumping to the end of the board. It was a good idea until I fell, hard and broke my ankle.

“Yeah, let’s play that again. Maybe this time I’ll break my ankle,” she says sarcastically.

I give up. I wave my white flag of surrender.

“Fine, let’s play made science,” I say. After all, I’m just as bored as she is.   “What’s the plan?”

“Mom was telling me about something her and Aunt Jeanie used to do when they were little,”

“You mean, younger. Both your mom and your Aunt Jeanie are short,” I say with a chuckle.

“Don’t get technical,” she huffs. “Anyways, they used to fry eggs on the sidewalk.”

“That’s impossible Callie. Not to mention a waste of a perfectly good egg!”

“You don’t even like eggs, so what do you care if it’s a waste.”

“It’s not that I don’t like them, I’m allergic.”

“Still, who cares. It’s only a few eggs.”

I don’t know why I give in so easily. “Fine, but we can’t use the eggs in the fridge.”

“Why not?”

“They’re old. Like super old. We were supposed to color them for easter. Instead they were shoved to the back and forgotten about. So, yeah. Rotten eggs on a hot day … yuck!”

“Let’s go to the store. Do you have any money?”

“No, but I know someone who does.”

“Who?” she asks.

“Simon. He leaves money in his pants pockets all the time. Mom hasn’t done laundry yet, so I bet we could scrounge up a few bucks. Maybe even enough for eggs and a slushy.”

We head inside and into the laundry room. At the top of the hamper I spy a few pairs of Simon’s shorts at the top. Score! I reach in and pull out a camo cargo pair. There are many pockets. The more pockets, the more bank. I reach my hand into the first pocket and find only pennies. In the back pocket I find lint and a partially ripped dollar bill.

When the cargo shorts proves fruitless, I move onto the pair of jean shorts. Three of the four pockets have used tissues. I’m thoroughly grossed out. The fourth pocket of the shorts, I reach in and find a ten-dollar bill.

“Victory! Ten bucks – enough for eggs, slushies, and then some.” I announce waving the money in front of Callie’s face.

We walk to the quick mart. The cool air circulating from the overhead vents blasts us as we walk in. The store isn’t the best – it’s kind of dirty, the customers are sketchy, and you have to check the expiration dates on everything – even the water. We wave at Tammy, the check out girl. She’s flipping through one of those books with the half-naked guys on the front cover.

“Hey girls,” she calls from the counter. “Cherry slushy machine is broken, only blue raspberry works.”

We nod in Tammy’s general direction as we make our way to the refrigerated section. We’re scanning the coolers looking for eggs. When we finally find them, we dig out a carton that isn’t expired or doesn’t contain any cracked eggs. We also get a jumbo sized blue raspberry slushy to share, a pack of strawberry pop rocks to pour into said slushy, as much junk food as the remaining five dollars can buy.

Once home, we stand on the sidewalk an egg in each hand.

“Do you think we should use some of that spray oil?”

“For what?” I ask.

“So it doesn’t stick.”

“You’re not going to actually eat this egg, are you?” I say with just a hint of disgust in my voice. She doesn’t answer me. I can see the gears turning in her head. She’s actually considering eating the egg. “Callie, you are not eating the egg. It’s disgusting! Do you know what kind of things happen on the sidewalk?! People’s dirty shoes trample all over it. There are bugs. Animals go to the bathroom on the sidewalk.”

“Okay, I won’t eat it.”

“So what do we do? Just crack the egg on the ground?!”


We find the perfect spot of concrete – no shade with the hot full sun beating violently down on it. I press the palm of my had to the ground to see just how hot the ground is. Picking it up quickly, the ground feels as if it’s on fire. Squatting down side by side, Callie and I tap the hard white shell against the curb. When a think crack appears, we jam our fingers into the shell, and crack it wide open, and let the gooey egg drop. Standing we take a few steps back to make sure our shadows aren’t blocking the sun.  We stare. We wait. We stare and we wait.

Nothing happens. An army of ants consumes the egg. Before long, all there is a sea of tiny black wriggling insects.

“Well, that’s gross,” Callie says, disappointed.

“I don’t think the ground is hot enough. We need something that will conduct enough heat to get a sizzle.”

“Like what?”

“I know!” I say as I run into the house. “Foil! It’s the perfect conductor.”

With foil down, we crack some more eggs. And still  … nothing but ants.

“This is useless,” I say sitting on the drying grass of my front lawn. “I knew this wasn’t going to work,” I mutter to myself. Calling is still looking at the eggs hoping for the slightest simmer.

“I’ve got it! We need more heat!”

“Duh,” I exclaim.

“No, more than the ground and more than the foil. We need a car!” She runs over to Simon’s beat up Jetta. And before I can stop her, she is cracking an egg onto the car’s hood. I run over, intrigued to see if this is actually going to work. After a few seconds we hear a faint crack, pop, and fizzle.

“Callie, you’re a genius!”


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