Dear John

A year of writing prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit
January 22
Write a ‘dear john’ letter to your writer’s block.

Dear Writer’s Block

After our many good years together it’s time we see other people. As people tend to do they mature, grow, and want other things from life and I am no different. You are an infantile boob that has stood in the way of my ambitions for too long. I had kindly tolerated it because it was cute but it has grown tiresome.

I could tell you that it’s me and not you, but why lie. We both know it’s equally our fault. You woo me with your lies and I fall for it every time. This time I have learned.

If you were someone to care about anyone but yourself I would say, “don’t you want me to be happy?” “Don’t you want me to succeed?” The reality is you do not. You really, really, don’t.

For the past two years you have stood in the way of me finishing my book. I’ve given all the excuse that it’s been your fault but the blame comes mainly on my shoulders. I let you.

In time or no time at all you will find some other foolish person that will tolerate your hijinks. But it will not be with me.


To my grandmother…

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 16

“You are given the opportunity to talk to one dead person and tell him/her one thing that you didn’t get to before they passed away. Who would you pick and what would you tell him/her?”

I have to say that I am blessed. Death is something I am not familiar with. At least, not when it comes to someone that is close to me. Sure, I have had the distant relative that I saw on an occasional Christmas or family reunion pass, but no one that was part of my every day. That being said my pool to pull from is rather small. Yet it doesn’t diminish the weight of my choice. If I wanted, I could choose from a dead celebrity who affected my life in a way that they will never understand, but has deep emotional meaning for me. (I’m thinking of C.S. Lewis by the way. If you were wondering.)

If I could talk to one person that has died it would be my grandmother. She lived with my parents and me for a good portion of my life. As I got older I started to be very disrespectful. My parents were good parents but a little lax and my grandmother would step in to take up the slack. She was never one for sitting idle. She bustled around the house, cleaning my clothes, and reminding me to do my homework.  We both shared a love of the TV show The Golden Girls and every time I watch it I think of her.

It’s strange the things one remembers.  For instance, the last thing you ever say to someone will live with you forever.  (So make it good. ) I deeply loathe the last thing I ever said to my grandmother. “Do you want the TV on or off?” It was so cold.  So empty.  Absolutely worthless words.  What’s worse is, she hadn’t been feeling well ever since her surgery, and instead of asking how she felt or spend any time with her I went to bed after my question.

At the time I had been working nightshifts at Best Buy, helping with the store remodel. It was good in the sense that I made a ton of money, but it destroyed any kind of living.  I was awake long enough to work and when I got home I slept the entire day. It was a temporary thing, but horrible while it lasted.

On the last night of my over-night shifts my grandmother died. My mother had telephoned while I was working and left me a vague voicemail.  It’s still a mystery to me why I never called her back, instead of just rushing to the house. Instead I did 65 on city streets until I pulled into the driveway. I’m certain that, in my heart, I already knew what had happened. Come to think of it, I had started to cry before I even knew for sure.

When I got home there were unfamiliar cars in the driveway. My heart began to go even faster. I could just feel it. I walked into a silent house.  A small gathering of people had congregated in the family room.  Then my mother told me the news.  I wept and crumpled to the floor. It is the first and only time (so far) that I lost someone I really loved.

More than anything, if I could talk to her I would say that I’m sorry for how I treated her. Like I said, as I got older I started to rebel against her parenting. I got to be a dick and I regret that more than anything. More than our final, hallow, conversation.  I wish I had said more to her before she died. I wish I could have told her that I did love her, very much. She had such a profound impact on my life.  It’s because of her that I love to read, play cards, watch the tv show The Waltons. She was the first person to know that I wanted to be a writer. My grandmother read all of my stories and would tell me each time how good they were, even when they were most certainly not. I promised myself that if I ever had a book published I would dedicate it to her. Although, as of late, the project that has been begging to be finished (and very nearly is) would be something she would not read. I don’t think my Southern Baptist grandmother would really approve of a book about a gay boy who gets dumped and then grows wings. At least, one of the chapters she would just skip all together because of its explicit content.

I’ve heard some before me say that they wish they had told their loved one that had died who they truly were.  I never got to say it, but I’m pretty sure she had a hunch.  The woman’s room was right next to mine and I had a habit of talking late into the night to my husband on my cell phone.  It’s strange to me that my husband even got to meet her once.  He attended my high school graduation and unknowingly sat behind my parents.

My heart tells me she would have loved Charlie.  To see how my parents love him…  It shows me how powerful love is.

Ancient Letters

This story is drawn from my own experience.  Back when my husband was getting his business started I did indeed accompany him to one of his bids in Oakland at this beautiful old house.  And I did go snooping through every drawer and closet, eventually happening upon these letters in the exact spot described.  As of this moment I have not read them because they are in French and I can neither read nor speak the language.  In addition, I do not know anyone who can and even if I did I have no idea where they have been put.  I tend to do this thing of hiding certain items to “keep them safe” and in the end just keep them from myself.

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 15

“She’d Pass him the note years ago, when he was studying abroad. He’d never had it translated. Until now.”

The house sat on the edge of a hill, built somewhere at the turn of the century, with a mission style theme. Over the years in the wet Oakland weather it slowly but surely began to sink. Many attempts were made to level it, but none were successful. Eventually it was purchased by a modern family who raised a family in it and began decorating it to change with the times. Somewhere in the 60’s dark brown wood paneling was placed over the fireplace, which had begun to crack due to sinking, and curtains were hung between rooms to give them more definition. The drapes were thick cotton, with swirling patterns embroidered from seam to seam, and dyed a wretched pea soup green.

Soon the family began to age. The boys went off to college and the husband doted ever more on his wife. She had begun to grow weak and making it up the four steps to their bedroom was becoming a bothersome chore. Before long she just slept on the couch. Her husband sitting in the chair next to her. The position kinked his back (and would be thecause of his later hunch) but he would have been nowhere else.

Finally the man and wife died only moments apart. They left the house to their sons who couldn’t find the time to go in and sort out their things. Nor could they be bothered to make the payments. The house fell into the hands of the bank, who sent in men to clean out the house. These day hires stormed every inch of the home and rid it of any sign it had ever been lived in. Once the real estate agent in charge of the property signed off on their clean-up they sent in the contractor.

“So the job is all the way in Oakland?” Josh asked.

“Yeah, both of them.”

The two men sat in the white pick-up truck, towing a trailer they had rented from U-Haul. Their two dogs, Klause and Sadie, a german shepard and a lachschund, panted excitedly in the small space behind the bench seat.

“If I get these jobs then it could open up a whole new world for Cline Home Improvement.”

Josh looked at his boyfriend, his eyes wide and his mouth stretched into an uncomfortable smile.

The two had spent the last couple years trying to get the company up off the ground. This was a whole new world. And with the pending jobs it would mean that they would be a real business.

They pulled in front of this sinking house, as the sun was setting behind it into the sea. They walked inside and Josh was taken by the view that stretched out before him.

“You can almost see San Francisco from here,” Josh exclaimed.

The dogs scurried excitedly through the house, sniffing every crevasse.

Charlie stepped next to him.

“It sure is gorgeous.” He paused. “God I’d love to live in the bay area.”

“In this house!”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

Charlie began his inspection, making notes on a yellow legal pad. Josh on the other hand went snooping through the house for lost or forgotten treasures with the dogs.

“What’re you doing,” Charlie called, “Come here.”

Josh scrambled up the narrow staircase that lad to a room downstairs.

He emerged into the entry hallway and turned to look into the living room with the view.


“Help me remove this,” Charlie said, pointing to the wooden casing around the fire.

“Why do we need to do that?”

Josh stepped to the other side of the fireplace and waited, while charlie used a crowbar to pry it away from the wall.

“There is foundation damage and the realtor told me she thinks that it might have caused some structure damage. So I want to make sure the fireplace is okay.”

Charlie dropped the crowbar to the hardwood floor, it landed with a hallow thud.

“Just pull and lower it slowly. With me.”

The two men heaved and lowered it gently, but on the way the mirror that had been placed in it cracked.

“That’s not good,” josh said, looking at it.

“Oh well.”

Charlie examined the fireplace on either side and in the hearth. He made a note on the pad and turned to continue his inspection.

Josh on the other hand looked into the alcove that had been put above the fireplace. It was even equipped with a socket. He went up and touched the shelf and found a worn stac of letters, tied with a silk pink bow.

“Oh my god, Charlie,” Josh said, “I found some old letters.”


Josh turned the bundle around to find a date. The penmanship was exquisite with sharp loops, all squashed together. Up in the right corner of one of the letters was the date written in French with the year 1920.

“You’re not going to believe how old these are.”

Josh rushed over to charlie and showed him the year.


Josh ignored his lack of enthusiasm and instead focused only on the letters.

“I wonder what they say. Do we know anyone who speaks French?”


Josh pulled out his phone and facebooked a status explaining his incredible find, asking for anyone that could read it. Within minutes it got four “likes,” but no offers to help.

The boy groaned and turned the letters over and over in his hand.

“I wonder why they put them here. This would make a great story.”

“Well why don’t you write it. You say you’re a writer.”

“I don’t know what I would say about it.”

Charlie finished his inspection and the two men, with their dogs, piled into their truck and headed for the next job site.

That night Josh’s cousin posted a comment on the thread with an offer to read the letters and translate. As luck would have it, she happened to live in the Bay Area.

“We have to go!” Josh said excitedly.

Leaving the dogs behind at the vacant house, the two men drove across two bridges into San Francisco to meet Josh’s cousin Alis at Vesuvio’s for a drink.

Veusvio’s was an old two-story dive. The likes of Jack Kerouac could have been found here back in the day. Some say he even wrote a few of his stories in the bar.

“Hey cousin,” Alis said, as she rushed in for a hug.

“No time to waste.” Josh said, excited. He produced the letters from the front pouch of his pull-over hoody.

“Someone’s excited,” she said.

“Are you kidding? How many times does someone find something extroadinary like this?”

Alis laughed and smacked a kiss on her cousin’s cheek, leaving a pair of ruby red lip prints.

The three climbed the narrow stairs to the second floor and took up a table by the window, above the entrance. While Alis read, her lips moving with her eyes, the two watched the people pass on the sidewalk.

“This place is great,” charlie said. “If we lived in the city would this be the place you came to write?”

Josh looked around at the growing number of hipster patrons and rolled his eyes.

“Yeah, no.”

“This is beautiful,” Alis said.

She lowered the letters to the table and pressed them flat with her hands.

“These are letters to a woman named Emily, from a man named Rene. They had met in Paris while she was travelling abroad and he was supposed to come over on the Titanic to meet her.”

“Are you kidding me?” Josh bounced in his seat.

“Yes,” Alis said.

“That’s not very nice.”

“It’s great.” Charlie said with a wicked grin.

“Really,” Josh leaned forward, “What does it say?”

Alis glanced over the letters once more.

“They’re letters from family. The woman they are addressed to is named Emily. Rene is her father, or at least that is what I gather. He is pleading with her to forgive him for what he had said in their fight.

“He begs her to come home. With each letter he pleads even more until the last one where he wishes her the best.”

“That’s fantastic!” Josh said, “Sad, but fantastic.”

“You should try and find the family that owned them.” Alis said.

“And give these up? Hell no.” josh said, “I may use them in a story one day.”

‘Toot-Toot’ Says My Own Horn

I have to admit, I’m rather proud of this one.  I wasn’t entirely certain where it was going but it ended up being rather good.  If I do say so myself, and I do.

A Year of Writing Prompts by Brian A. Klems and Zachary Petit

January 13

“Your neighbor has taken in an unsual pet and it does something unpleasant to your house/yard. Confront your neighbor.”

I stand in my backyard, admiring my work. My garden has never looked as wonderful as it does this very moment. In the far corner, bathed in the shade of the two willows standing sentinel on either side, is my most prized flower. It is a rare corpse flower and very soon it will blossom. Many have told me how insane I am to plant one in my very backyard but they do not know it’s value. The site of it is rather entrancing but the stench I’m afraid, well, it isn’t called a corpse flower for nothing.

I had come by it in the strangest of fashions. I took a trip with my neighbor to Indonesia. He had some family members there and I didn’t want to travel alone. We had quite a lovely time. Our only souvenirs was an old book given to him by a strange man in some market, and mine was a snippet of the Tetrastigma vine, by which the corpse flower can grow and survive.

The grass makes a metallic sound, like a brillo pad on a pot, as I walk closer to my pet. It stands taller than me. Maybe even past it usual height of six feet.

My heart begins to pound in my chest. Very soon it will blossom and when it does I will be on the front page of the life and time section of the local paper. And certainly, everyone in town will want to come and see it, get a whiff of it’s wretched aroma. How many people can say that they have? None. That’s how many. And here I am, the one with it blossoming in his garden.

The next day I wake early in the morning and rush out to see if the petals have begun to spread. Sure enough, it has. I take out a measuring tape and mentally note the length. It has gotten a full foot further away from its pistil. For extra care I get some manure from the garage and sprinkle it around it’s base and water it once more. That done I busy myself with the other parts of my personal eden to keep my mind off of my prized possession.

Before I tuck in for the night I measure it once more. The petal has lowered another six inches. Excitement rushes through my limbs like electricity.

Even with the excitement I am still able to fall fast asleep.

In the early hours of dawn I rush outside and before I’ve taken a step over the threshold I can smell the rotting stench of the flower. My legs can barely move quick enough for me and I nearly stumble over them in my rush to see my blossoming beauty. Shrouded under the willows it has opened its crimson petals, that bleach into a pearly white as it reaches the base of the pistil.

“Fantastic” I say, as I pinch my nose.

I hurry back inside and dial the number for the paper. The journalist insisted I call the moment it flowered so that he could come out and inspect it for himself, before writing the article of course. I was happy to ablige.

“Gerald,” I say, my voice raising in pitch, “I’m sorry did I wake you? No matter I have some exciting news.”

It is in my eager awaiting for his dreary response when I hear the crash and screech of wood. Glancing through the lace curtains I see no site of anything and return to the phone call. He quickly agrees to rush over immediately.

I hang up the phone and rush into the backyard and that’s when I see them, my neighbors zombies have congregated around my flower and are tugging on its delicate petal.

My hand flies to my garden shovel and I rush out to them and beat them back into Anthony’s backyard. They growl with irritation, one of them gurgles and glares at me with the eye dangling out of its socket. I replace the boards over the fragmented hole they had made in the fence.

“Damn things,” I say. “Anthony!” I call through the fence. I follow my beckoning with another and another until I am almost hoarse. The man must sleep like the dead.

The zombies listfully paw at the fence and that’s when I feel it appropriate to get the garden hose. The noze seems to turn forever until it jerks to halt and I know that the pressure it high enough. Placing my thumb over the spout an press the water into a sharp spray and point it at the pests.

They moan again and shuffle across the yard to the other side.

“That should do it,” I say.

I promptly return to my bedroom where I dress in a flurry, picking only the best ensemble for the event. Properly attired I resign to the living room to wait for my visitor.

At eight o’clock, on the dot, he knocks on my door.

“Gerald!” I say, opening he door.

He obviously spent little to no time on his outfit. What should be a nicely pressed shirt, with tie, and slacks, he’s donned sweatpants and a knitted skull cap. The only thing worthy of his esteemed profession is a Canon camera, on a strap, hanging at the top of his pot-belly. I force a smile and welcome him in.

“I could smell it from the street,” he says, “I can only imagine what it must be like up close.”

“It’s certainly a treasure.”

“I wouldn’t say something like that,” he says quietly.

I usher him out to my prize. The noble queen of my garden.

His expression goes sour and he holds up his camera with one hand, while pinching his nose shut with the other.

“It’s pollen isn’t toxic is it?”

“No,” I assure him.

He snaps a couple of photos and my heart pounds in my chest.

“Would you like something to drink?” I ask, “Coffee perhaps?”

“Yes, please,” he says excitedly relieved, “Black.”

I bustle back into the house and buzz around the kitchen making a fresh pot.

Once again I hear the screech of twisting wood and the percussion of thin planks of wood falling into a pile.

“Dear god.”

In the back yard I see the zombies have forced their way back into my yard and have surrounded poor Gerald. I pick up the shovel and advance. The metal smashes against his face and one is momentarily stunned. The others continue on in their endless quest for flesh.

“Anthony!” I scream over my shoulder as I whack at another that has it’s rotting hands wrapped around Gerald’s wrist. The blade of the shovel severs the limbs from his torso and Geral goes stumbling backwards onto his rump.

I call again for my neighbor.

The most spry of the four, Sharon I think Anthony calls her, rushes upon the fallen journalist, but before she can realize she still has working knees I body check her to her side where she falls and lands on her back. Her limbs move continuously like a tortoise turned on its shell.

Before anoher one of the beasts could continue their attack I pull Gerald to his feet and escort him safely inside.

He is visibly frazzled.

“What the hell?” He screams, making his way into the living room. “I have to get the hell out of here.”

I Jump in front of him and barricade the door with my body.

“Please, no! I really need this article.”

“You’re insane. I’m not going back out there!”

The whites of his eyes are turning pink.

“I beg of you. Just sit tight. You are absolutely safe in here. I swear to you. I am just going to get my neighbor. They’re his zombies and I’m sure he can corral them.” I pause and study his features which have not softened in the slightest. “This is very important to me. You can’t leave just now.”

He jerks around, startled by some imaginary noise.

I Step forward and put my hands on his shoulders.

“You are far from danger in my house.” I step to the table by the door and open the drawer, retrieving the pistol within. “Here,” I hand him the automatic weapon, “take this just in case.”

With some reluctance he accepts it and I usher him into the recliner. Once the two meet he bounces once and he relaxes.


My heart leaps into my throat.

“Thank you,” I say.

I exits and storm across the front lawn to Anthony’s front door, whereupon I bang repeatedly upon it until he arrives to answer the door.

“Can I help you Shawn?” he says.

He is clearly just waking, for his glass eye is pointed in an odd angle. Dressed in only a pair of leopard bikini briefs. The hair ringing the crown of his baldhead is sticking out at odd angles.

“You need to contain those monsters,” I say pointing toward his backyard. “They very nearly at the man who has come to write the column on my prized corpse flower!”

He rolls his one good eye.

“I promised I would not tell anyone you had resurrected the dead with the tome, but here I stand regretting that decision. Should I alert the townspeople.” I make a fake shocked expression. “NO need the journalist has already seen them.”

Anthony growls like one of his pets.

“Fine,” he mumbles.

He shuts the door and I return to my guest, who is still very shaken. He very nearly shoots me as I come through the front door.

“It’s alright,” I say, holding up my hands, “it’s just me.”

Gerald gulps and lowers the gun.

“All taken care of,” I say, beaming.

I wrench him from the chair and pull him back into the backyard. The zombies have long since fled, back into their yard.

The stench of the flower has only grown. I can barely stand in front of it without wanting to retch. The writer’s eyes dart nervously around as I lift the camera and cup his hand around it, while simultaneously turning it on. His finger intuitively returns to it and he finds himself calm enough to start snapping photos, moving around to get different angles.

I can hear Anthony in the backyard. He yells and snaps what sounds like a whip and the zombies moan, which in turn seems to startle Gerald who fires a shot into the yard and I hear a grunt and excited groans.

I poke my head through the hole in the fence to find Anthony dead from a gunshot wound right through the head, laying sprawled on the lawn. His zombies have eagerly descended upon their handler and are ripping into his flesh.

“Damn,” I say.

I rip the pistol from Gerald’s hand and storm into Anthony’s backyard and pop a round in each of the zombies brains, ending their undead lives.

Returning to my own lot of land I find Gerald staring slack jawed at me.

“Did you want to ask me any questions about my horticultural technique?” I ask.