Manifest, March 31, 2023

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This Show Case features five pieces submitted in response to our thirty-ninth Writing Prompt: Manifest. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for the Show Case page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt, which you can find on the Show Case home page.

And please share this Show Case with your family, friends, and other writers.

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In No Condition, part 2

by Mimi Speike

Ah! Here comes Closette. Bunny’s on her way down, ready to resume her duties, right Clo? We get to hear her dazzling mezzo-soprano (another reason the Beale girls despise her) after all.

Uh, guess not.

* * *

“Please excuse Lady Sidney tonight, Doctor Dee. She is not up to it.”

“Pity. I do enjoy our duets. Well, it can’t be helped, I suppose.” 

“I’m afraid not. She is in no condition.” The lady’s maid reaches for Bunny’s harp, to return it upstairs. 

Sly swats Dee. “You don’t trust me with your violin,” he hisses. “I must have that harp, on which I am equally adept.”

Dee frowns. He has another idea. “Closette! May I retain the harp? Rose will accompany me.” 

The small daughter of the cook — beautifully attired, naturally — has been put to work tonight collecting empty glassware set aside in odd places, and returning it to the kitchen. Bunny, looking forward to the day she has her own babies to spoil, fusses over the child. Rose had begged for instruction on the harp, which is relatively easy to play after only a few lessons. She can pluck out a simple tune. 

Dee explains his intention to Closette. Rose must rotate her apron back to front, mimicking Delly’s bedecking. Rose is wearing a garland of babies-breath in her hair. Delly’s bonnet will be changed out for a similar sprig. Delly has her taupe legs and feet. Rose has her light brown shoes and hose.

A hilarious presentation — he’d seen the potential immediately — is too good to pass up. Bunny cannot miss her thrilled protégé making her musical debut in a spectacular setting. The child will be expecting to spot her best friend1 among the delighted onlookers. To disappoint her would be an act of crushing cruelty.

* * *

Sly is annoyed. He confronts Dee. “What about me? This Rose can’t possibly be a better harpist than I am. I played professionally at one time, I told you that.”2 

“I thought you played the violin.”

“The harp as well. You don’t believe me? Hand it here.” 

“Patience, my friend. You’ll have your turn, after Rose. The child will adore my mischief, as will her mama, who always sends me home with a basket for my ravening brood, goodies of a devisement beyond the skill of my Jane, a fine woman, but no great shakes as a cook. I have one maid-of-all-work. I dare not tax her in excess of my current demands, she’s on the verge of bolting now. This is why Kelley and I parted ways. He demanded a rise in pay. Impossible! I paid him better than I pay myself.”

* * *

A curious foursome threads through the crowded room toward a stage set up directly below a mezzanine on which a dozen musicians are installed. They mount the platform. Dee is handed his violin. Rose curtsies, and takes her seat. The harp has been deposited beside it. Sly, upright on his hind legs, one paw on his stomach, the other behind his back, imitates a gentleman’s most gracious bow. Delly has stage-fright. She’s overwhelmed to find herself in a situation she never could have imagined. 

Dee begins with a leisurely piece, ‘Hush, my babe, lie still and slumber’. Rose runs her fingers across the strings when he gives her a nod, producing a glissando, an impressive sound; happily, deceptively easy to achieve. The harp’s gentle voice is forgiving; and the lower tension strings on a small model are easy on small fingers. A continuous slide does not require the hands held just so — Bunny is forever reminding her, don’t let your knuckles collapse — and it always elicits a big reaction. When she produces her signature flourish, the wait-staff pause in their duties to manifest their approval of one of their own showing the toffs what she’s capable of. She was born into drudgery, but better is in store for her, not one of them doubts it.

Dee sidles into a complex air offering few opportunities for her showmanship. It’s his turn to shine. She sets her harp down and relocates to the edge of the stage, where a tray of sweets is held forth for her to select from. She chooses one confection for herself, and one for Delly. They settle side by side to enjoy their treats. A bemused bystander provides each of them with a cup of gin punch. 

* * *

Upstairs, Bunny is fuming. Damn Phillip. Damn her father. She will sing. Her resolve waxes, then wanes. She’s furious and fearful at the same time. John Wickerson, thrown into the Marshalsea, for the crime of wanting to marry her! Two years earlier, he’d been walked off the property, arms roped behind him, she’s seen it from her bedroom window. She’s never been told what happened to him. 

She has the answer. She’d overheard her Uncle Beale questioning her father: Wickerson, what’s come of him? —  Just released from the Marshalsea, sent back to his people in Staffordshire with a purse sufficient to start him in a small business, an equal sum forthcoming at the end of five years if he causes no more trouble.

“My poor John,” Bunny’s sobbing hysterically, “in that hellhole! That’s it. I’m going down there!”

“Don’t Bunny. Don’t! It can’t help John. It can only hurt you.”

“My father, you mean.”

“Your father, your mother, they only wanted the best for you.”

“The best! I am wed to a man who proclaims his passion for another in verse. I was awarded — father paid dearly for the triumph — the most coveted bachelor at court (an exaggeration, but not by much). Who lusts after another. No wonder my cousins twit me. A fine joke, eh?”

“Bunny! Please!” Georgina has been arguing for two hours against an inadvisable action.

“Not another word. Not another blessed word. I’ve made up my mind.” 

“You’re tipsy, my darling. You’ll regret it in the morning.”

“I’ll regret it in the morning if I don’t do it. Tomorrow my better sense will reassert itself. I may never find the courage to air my true feelings again.”

Bunny checks her appearance in a mirror, does a bit of repair work, and is out the door. Minutes later, Ursula Walsingham raps impatiently and enters without waiting for admittance. Spying Georgina, she demands, “Where is she?” This is a suite of six rooms, the finest in the house. Sir Francis and his wife had surrendered their own apartment to the newlyweds. The woman is not going rampage through them, hunting down a truant as if she were a five-year-old. 

She screams, “No more nonsense out of you, my girl!” Receiving no reply, she tells Gigi, “Just in case My Lady Sidney is interested in what her mother has to say about her disgraceful behavior, she’s to get herself downstairs, now! Doctor Dee is on stage at this very moment, with her harp, but no her. With the cook’s brat, if you please. And,” she mutters, “with a cat that, I swear to God, just called me a stupid slut.” 

* * *

  1. It was Rose who’d given Frances the name ‘Bunny’. She’d apprehended a resemblance between rabbits in a hutch and a soft-eyed, expressionless face, emblematic of one sweet-natured, so unlike the females in the kitchen, yelling their heads off. 
  2. This would have been during his year with ‘Nipsy’ Rawshorne.

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Mutual Manifest Attraction

by John Correll

Elizabeth first encountered John in San Francisco when she accompanied her uncle on a business trip. 

Ever since her brother went to UC Berkeley, she’d wanted to visit the city. But her stupidity and her father’s hunting knife foiled her plans when Peter graduated. She remained in Great Falls, Virginia, instead. She spent her entire dull existence outside the Beltway — except for holidays. 

Then with high school graduation over and a few months before her first year at university, uncle Eli took pity on her. He needed to oversee his new acquisition in California, and she could play the accidental tourist.

On her first day in SF, she left her uncle in his new office and headed for the elevator. In front of the doors, a man in a suit kept hitting the down button. She slowed and admired his tall, athletic, broad-shouldered figure, his straight nose, square chin, and dark sympathetic eyes. He was youthful, as if he had recently graduated from university. He gave up hitting the button, shrugged, and presented her with a perfect smile, but why? She had done everything not to be noticed by men. Her boyish haircut, chubby cheeks, baggy trousers, and glasses flashed the message, leave me alone.

She blushed as he watched her while the doors stayed closed. Two minutes of awkward silence passed. He checked her out, looked away, checked again, and forgot to look away. She did likewise. A bell burst their flirtation as the doors slid open. Startled and embarrassed, they walked in together, shoulder to shoulder; then they reached for the first-floor button, but their hands collided and paused, stuck together. His long, solid, graceful fingers pressed warmly against hers. 

She didn’t move. “After you,” she said. He smiled, concentrating on her eyes as if trying to decipher what she looked like without glasses.

“No, after you,” he said in a firm and gentle voice. She shook her head, and they both reached together and managed to hit the door open button instead. 

Laughing, he gently lifted her hand without pressing. “Perhaps we should dance.” She broke into a red-faced smile and dropped her head. “I figured a beautiful smile hid there, somewhere,” he said.

He pressed the first floor. “Sorry, I’m being forward. I’m John from IT.” He looked at her as if expecting her to say her job back.

“Oh, I don’t work here.”

“Lucky you. We’re going through a merger, so I’ll join you soon. I mean in not working here.” His eyes twinkled as if he didn’t care about being unemployed. “I’ve only been here a month. So my CV is still up to date.”

“Sorry. My uncle works here, and I hope to see San Francisco.” She stared at him, and he looked at her like he adored her. She rubbed her wrist to remind herself why she preferred anonymity. But she returned his gaze and found him more than attractive.

“Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, that sort of stuff?” he asked.

“The art museum first.”

“SFMOMA?” The floor jolted, and the door opened. She nodded again and walked out. After about twenty paces, she turned around and found him standing by the elevator. He looked at his watch as if he might go back in. 

She raced back. “Excuse me, but do you know how to get to the museum?” She knew, but she wanted to hear him talk.

He smiled and scratched his temple. “Right out the doors, then four blocks, left and two, no three.” He looked at his watch and then at her. “I’ve got time. Why don’t I show you?”

He didn’t go back to work. They laughed and puzzled about modern art, ate Thai for lunch, and feasted on passion’s everlasting feral kisses in the park. He slipped off her glasses and stared into her eyes. She concentrated on getting his handsome face in focus. “You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen. I could admire them forever.” She snapped her eyes shut, and he kissed her eyelids, nose, and mouth. Then he kissed her chin, neck, and shoulder. “You’re beautiful,” he added, tickling her and forcing her eyes open.

“Shut up and give my glasses back,” she said.

The next day she met him for lunch, and she made an excuse about forgetting her jacket at the hotel, but once there she didn’t leave. She tossed him on the bed and unbuttoned his shirt. He got the clue, and she made love to a man for the first time. She laughed when she recalled her best friend’s warning, “I bet you’ll have lots of sex.” Then she did it again and again, each time better. They would have stayed all night and forgotten dinner, but her uncle called her away.

And the following afternoon, they enjoyed the pleasure of clean hotel sheets, room service champagne, and touching deeply. They hid under the covers until her uncle texted her to meet him in his office staff room. 

John joined her, and they chatted on the sofa as she waited. He reached into his jacket pocket to pull out a card, but an annoying young woman in a suit stopped him. She grabbed his arm.

“John, I need a word with you,” she demanded.

“Jenny, this is Elizabeth. We’re waiting for her uncle. Can I come to your office in about ten?”

“No. We need to talk now. It’s important.” She dragged him to the opposite end of the room and whispered to him. Then, they both looked at her. Elizabeth smiled and waved, and John waved back, but Jenny shook his arm and spoke in his ear. He shook his head, looking like she’d told him his father had just died. 

Then her uncle shouted her name from the door, but she didn’t respond. She wrote her number on a slip of paper instead and slipped it on her seat. She watched John’s reaction as her uncle stepped towards her. John’s eyes followed him in defiance and awe, but his face grew pale.

That evening she flew to LA for another important meeting of her uncle’s. And John didn’t call. She couldn’t believe he didn’t find her number. That horrid Jenny must have poisoned him with fears that she was the niece of his new boss, that she would never be in a relationship with a man who wasn’t rich and Jewish, and that she was only seventeen and going to Princeton on the opposite side of the country. 

Weeks passed into months, and she couldn’t forget him. Her quick, beautiful experience to be reminisced and stashed away for lonely moments haunted her. And after two years full of lonely, she ached. She tried to socialize, but her peers at Princeton didn’t compare. Then she discovered he had called, despite his angst and Jenny’s warnings.

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Noble Fantasy

by S.L. Randall

Manifest Destiny

Magnifico?

I don’t think so …

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Monetizing Platitudes

by GD Deckard

Roy’s bestselling novel, “Death: The Final Frontier,” earned him an invitation to speak at a local meeting of those Mourning All Dead. MAD, as the group was known, met mostly at car crash sites. The sad group respectfully parted to allow Roy access to the memorial mound of memento items piled on the ground around a badly damaged tree. The local Goodwill would be getting fewer donations this week.

“Let me tell you a story from my childhood,” Roy began. He caught the eyes of those around him who had paid him a hefty speaking fee. They were forlorn eyes seeking connection to the deceased. He knew they just wanted to feel good about themselves. “My father was strict. Orville Devine had principles.” He paused to let the name sink in.

“Orville Devine?” murmured some around him. “The evangelist!”

Others were quick on the uptake. “Orville Devine the famous evangelist!” they murmured back.

Roy smiled broadly and shook a white offering can with bold red letters. The word “DONATE” danced before the now mesmerized group. “Dad told me, ‘Son, when you accept something, the other person must always feel they receive value in return.’ Knowing Dad as I did, I learned at an early age that value received is a flexible concept.”

Bending to the nearest person, he intoned solemnly, “True understanding manifests only when your outward actions are in harmony with your inner spirit.” He handed her the can.

As the can was being passed around, Roy nodded at each and spoke platitudes. “Sacrifice today for a better tomorrow; good things come to those who give; what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; everything happens for a reason; give the good with the bad; whatever will be, will be;  it doesn’t matter who scores, as long as the team wins.”

When the can returned to him, Roy held it aloft. “Sometimes bad things lead to good things.” The crowd was pleased. Roy had made these people feel good. “This too shall pass,” he added.

end

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I Wish to See

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit: Zoltan Tasi-HTpAIzZRHvw-unsplash
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27 responses to “Manifest, March 31, 2023”

  1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

    The authors who have contributed these colorful works deserve our thanks and appreciation. These stories manifest but a small portion of the wide-ranging interests and creativity that find a home in Writers Co-op.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    GD, When is Roy going to run for President? He could trump Trump.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      It seems Roy might be too smart to want that job. 😉
      He told me his Campaign Slogan would be,
      *”If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.”

      Liked by 4 people

      1. GD Deckard Avatar

        *A campaign stolen, of course, from the ’60s comedian, Pat Paulsen.

        Liked by 3 people

  3. Sandy Randall Avatar

    Happy Showcase friday!
    My comments are minimal this week … we are coming down to the wire with RH6 submissions and there are a lot to read … However …. if you have not joined the submission parade, Please do!!April 30th is the deadline!

    I only have time to make a couple of comments before I dive back into submissions …

    John,
    I like where the back story is going, but I still feel like I am reading the bones. I want meat. I want to feel like I’m part of the tale. You do dialogue well.
    My problem is with this:
    “On her first day in SF, she left her uncle in his new office and headed for the elevator. She slowed and admired his tall, athletic, broad-shouldered figure, his straight nose, square chin, and dark sympathetic eyes. He was youthful, as if he had recently graduated from university. He gave up hitting the button, shrugged, and presented her with a perfect smile, but why? She had done everything not to be noticed by men. Her boyish haircut, chubby cheeks, baggy trousers, and glasses flashed the message, leave me alone.”

    Consider this:

    Instead of lengthy description, try something like this:
    ‘Her uncle insisted she visit his new office. Boring. While he immersed in work, she slipped out and escaped to the nearest elevator bank. An athlete, wrapped in a suit and tie, repeatedly mashed the down button.’
    Not saying my example is any better, but my point is to use action over listed description.
    Instead of:
    “She had done everything not to be noticed by men.”
    Show her lack of self care with an action ‘She blushed, and wished she had spent more time combing her short bob.’

    Again my examples aren’t great. But my point is to consider what she is doing and write the action. As a reader you can immerse yourself into a story with minimal descriptives. The descriptives need to move the narrative forward, but too much can bog it down.
    Have you ever read Clan of the Cave Bear? Or Even some of James Micheners stuff? Both good stories, but overkill on descriptives.
    Perry evokes rich scenery, but is minimal in his descriptives. Sue is also a master of this, as is Mimi. I have a strong image of a dressed up chicken in my head, with minimal description.
    You have a strong story John, keep polishing. It’s getting there.

    Sue,
    The only thing I wanted different in yours was the title. ‘I wish to Sea.’ That’s how I read it. But that’s just me. Perhaps it was the tall ship …

    Mimi and GD … Well done.
    Now, back to submissions ….

    Mine was frustration … Manifest wanted to be Manifest Destiny … I couldn’t get myself over that hump…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Thanks, Sandy. I did consider using “Sea” instead of “See”, but then it would be yet another step removed from the idea of “manifest” I’m hoping to spawn in readers. It appears from your comment, that I may already have strayed too far from the core, lol.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Your magic worked on me … I saw Sea where there was only See …

        Liked by 3 people

    2. John Correll Avatar

      Thank you Sandy, your examples are excellent. I hope you don’t mind if I incorporate some of them.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        I’m glad I could help John. You are welcome to my words .. but evenso, I would take my examples and see if you can improve them. For example the office scene … just take that paragraph and for a writing exercise re-write it several different ways. When I have a passage that sort of says what I want, but I can’t quite tweak it, I go read a writer who has the cadence and tone I am trying to achieve. I read their writing and try to understand what it is that works for me within their word placement. For instance, I always go to Neil Gaiman, because I can hear his voice in my head. Not that I would every outright copy him, but he has a cadence to his phrases that seem to roll off his tongue. That’s why I mentioned Perry too. He has that same ability. It’s a style that pleases me as a reader. So how do I get there? For me it’s a matter of taking each paragraph and write it over and over until I get the tone, the cadence and the word choice to sound right in my head.
        As I write this out, I wonder that I continue to love writing. lol But seriously that’s my process. For you it may be different, but the point is you are narrating a tale. I assume you have a style you prefer as a reader. What gives you the most reading pleasure? Aim for that. Writing something you want to read over and over again.
        Recently Sue mentioned something similar to me … and the more I think about it … the more I understand what keeps me working my stories. I’m trying to write something I would find pleasure in reading. See all the lightbulbs exploding around my head!? LOL in trying to help you I’m helping me! Thanks John! You’re awesome!

        Liked by 3 people

  4. GD Deckard Avatar

    John,
    You have the basics; you are a good writer. But. It’s “Show don’t Tell.”
    “’Show, don’t tell’ is a writing technique that allows the reader to experience expository details of the story through actions, sensory details, words, or the expression of characters’ emotions, as opposed to through the author’s own description of events.”
    https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-effective-exposition
    Once you grasp that concept, you will have more fun writing stories that more readers enjoy.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sandy Randall Avatar

      Thanks for the better explanation GD…

      I was floundering… 😂

      Liked by 3 people

    2. John Correll Avatar

      Thanks GD, the master class sight was great. I spent way to much time this morning browsing all the resources there and ignoring all my other work.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    John – There are strong emotions at play here. We need to get inside both heads and see and feel what’s going on with them. They have yet to take on a life of their own, which is what they need to do. So far, they are doing your bidding.

    What pulls me into any story is emotion that makes sense to me.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. John Correll Avatar

      Thanks Mimi, I totally agree. This is the first time I’ve tried using El’s point of view. Capturing the emotions of another gender seem alot harder than I imagined. I even reread Pride and Prejudice and Liane Moriaty’s Three Wishes to help my understanding, but I think I need more work…

      Liked by 3 people

  6. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sandy – Manifest Destiny is the phrase that first came to my mind. What was Sly’s Manifest Destiny? To be a force for good in the world, another noble fantasy.

    Or maybe not so noble. We all (and Sly most of all) need to think about that.

    Short and sweet. Well done.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sandy Randall Avatar

      Thanks Mimi! I actually painted a pic for it too, but decided I wanted the words to stand alone. I love your take on Manifest Destiny. I was stuck on the term as it was used for westward expansion of the US. I could not get myself to apply it to anything else. Your use of it for Sly gives me the hope that failed in my words.

      So to expound on that wee poem:

      Manifest Destiny
      Magnifico?
      I don’t think so…

      Enter Sly, the Noble Cat
      Feats of chivalry
      What do you think of that?

      [Edited to add this verse…]
      Not to be outdone,
      Roy, our favorite son,
      Eschews political fame.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        Now my mind is a whirring … Hmmmmm

        Liked by 2 people

  7. mimispeike Avatar
    mimispeike

    Sue – I understand this as, our goal (destiny) should be to accept and value ourselves. We may hope for no higher good. Is that what you had in mind?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Sue Ranscht Avatar

      Mimi, I accept your understanding as valid, and I appreciate that it’s higher minded than what I had in mind, but I don’t want to say anymore than that in case anyone here stumbles across my apparently obscure intention, lol.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. John Correll Avatar

    Sandy, a short, sweet, clever poem with manifest destiny. Made me laugh. The first thing that popped into my mind was manifest destiny, but I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how to bend it into something interesting. Well done.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. John Correll Avatar

    GD, you need to weave the adventures of Roy into a Novel.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. GD Deckard Avatar

      Thanks 🙂 I’m trying to write a novel, but every day events remind me of a Roy story.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. John Correll Avatar

    Mimi, considering Sly and the other animal characters, it took me some time to figure out that Bunny wasn’t a rabbit, but a person.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      Hilarious! I love that.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. mimispeike Avatar
      mimispeike

      You’ve got me thinking. How can I get a bunny-rabbit into this?

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Sandy Randall Avatar

        That’s easy Mimi … someone needs to gift Bunny a bunny …

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Sandy Randall Avatar

          Her friend Alice maybe?

          Liked by 4 people

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