Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Wednesday, April 25, 2007

This is an assignment given over on THE HOUSE OF STERNBERG. This is a site we found through our friend Travis, a wonderful writer of stories and poetry.

Occasionally, Mr. Sternberg gives an assignment for writers to tackle.

COUCH NOTE: Just realized I had Mr. Sternberg's named misspelled... My apologies... proof-reader for hire!

Here is the assignment for this week:
"Character development and plot is based on conflict. Write about 700-2000 word short story where the tension between the two characters runs beneath the surface. You know the type...body language, looks, more of what isn't said than what is being said, perhaps the way it is said...the tension should shimmer. It should never reach critical mass, but it ride along like quicksilver, or perhaps a dynamite fuse.

DANGEROUS LINES...you know what they are; the words we speak which push us from our comfort zones. They are the lines we can't get back once spoken. Or else they're the paths we take that lead us over the edge, crossroads which will never return to the road not taken.

The assignment was to write a short work exploring conflict without breaking the surface tension. The goal was to work on conflict to aid in plot and character development, but to do so in a controlled manner that will keep us from beating the reader over the head."

And the title of your work will be: DANGEROUS LINES"


Well...this is our first attempt at one of these...hope we fulfilled the assignment. Unlike our normal MONDAY MATINEE, there will be no musical accompaniment.


He pulled into the driveway and sat as the engine continued to run. It had been a good day at work. The dinner meeting with the client had gone well and they had signed off on all of his ideas.

He should be feeling good right now, but as he stepped off the train ten minutes ago, the feeling in the pit of his stomach had begun. It was not a pain, but tightness. It did not surprise nor did it scare him; he knew what it was.

Just the thought of walking into the house made him feel this way. Why couldn’t he just pull out of the driveway and not come back? He knew why, the kids…only the kids.

The lights of the car flashed on the ceiling of the den as the car pulled into the driveway. She sighed with resignation. He was home. She hated that thought. She so wished one night he would just drive by the house and keep going, but she knew he would not for one reason; the kids.

Turning the ignition off, he walked to the door, took a deep breath and turned the knob. Walking in he saw the other thing he dreaded. On the counter was the stack of envelopes. Nothing but bills and notices which continually reminding him how far they were behind and causing more and more heartache. Each night the pile seemed higher.

Turning to his right he looked into the den to see her sitting there on the couch. Same place every night, watching the late news talking about the conflict in Iraq. “They should do a story on the conflict here in my home,” he thought to himself.

She glanced over at him and then turned back to the television. “Not even a hello anymore,” he grumbled under his breath. Thinking back to when they first married and they would commute to work together. Sitting together on the train and having wonderful conversations, or just leaning on each other and resting.

On the way home, they would talk of their day. Sharing the good events and consoling each other when things didn’t go perfectly.

He looked at the table to see the plates left by the children. They would be asleep in their beds by now.

Turning with a sigh, he climbed the staircase and made his way to their bedrooms, leaning in to give them each a kiss.

He changed into his jeans and a t-shirt and went back to the kitchen.

On the stove were the dirty pots with that evening’s leftover dinner congealing. He walked back to the table and began clearing the plates and food left from his kids. Moving to the sink to scrap off the dried food, he thought, “Couldn’t she even clean the dishes?” She was about to cross the line.

Sitting on the couch, she watched and shook her head. She remembered when he would come home after the kids were born and she decided to stay home, and he would immediately give her a kiss. Now, all he cared about was the kids and the bills.

Another late night! He must have a girlfriend. No one works that hard and earns so little. She had to cut back on her spending or he would scream and yell. Well she liked nice things and if he didn’t like it, well tough.

She watched as he stood by the counter looking at the want ads he had left there that morning. Every morning he would get the paper from the curb and walk back into the house leaving only the want ads.

She had told him she didn’t want to go back to work. The kids were older, but she still liked being home when they arrived from school. It was his responsibility to earn enough money to let her stay home. She even had to fire the cleaning lady. It was his entire fault, if the house was messy. She was not the maid. Her job was to stay home and be here for the kids, not sweep and vacuum and do dishes. He was about to cross the line.

Looking down his body stiffened and he shook his head. The want ads hadn’t even been touched. He knew it was so. They were exactly where he had left them. Did she think this could go on forever? Tilting his head he saw the bill on the top of today’s pile. Macy’s…opening the envelope he scanned the dates of purchases and began a slow burn. There were twenty different purchases last month. Nothing that they needed, towels, picture frames and the like. All small purchases, but at the end of the month, they added up to over $200.00.

The next was from Victoria Secret. She never went out, even when he would suggest it, why did she need $20 bras and $10 panties? Did she have a boyfriend who visited when he and the kids were out of the house? She was about to cross the line.

He began to push things around making noise. He was not thinking about waking the kids, only annoying her.

The sound on the television rose as she pushed the button on the remote control. If he was going to bang plates and pots, she would raise the volume.

Before long the cacophony of noise was overwhelming and a plate, thrown with force from the kitchen, hit the wall next to the television.

From the den came the remote control crashing into the microwave, shattering the glass door.

They had both crossed that dangerous line.


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