Over the Threshold

A writing group challenge from January of 2016. There were a series of Photoshopped photos offered. I chose the one above and wrote a story about it.

1

Over The Threshold

I met Sue on the playground when I was in second grade. People might argue that children don’t understand love, but I was smitten at first sight. She was in first grade and small for her age. She stood on the edge of the group dressed in a pair of hand-me-down overalls with her hair in pigtails and her eyes as big and dark as a fawn’s.

Her father owned the dairy farm that supplied us and a neighboring town with milk and cream. They didn’t get into town much and Sue was shy. I’d never met a stranger and, with some persistence, I got her to talk to me.

All through elementary and middle school, I carried Sue’s books home for her. Sure, I got ribbed by some of my pals, but that didn’t bother me none. Not when I could stand, touching shoulders, and listen to her quietly recount the names of the newborn kittens that climbed over their mother in the warm, afternoon sunlight. I missed games of relievo and stickball to join Sue at the pond and let tadpoles swim in the bowl of our hands. I once suggested we keep them in a jar, but Sue wouldn’t hear of it. They would miss their mothers, she reasoned. On days when we both were set loose from chores, we’d trek across the fields until the grass gave way to sand and the wind grew sharp with salt. We’d laugh into the bright blue sky and throw bread scraps to the gulls.

In high school, everyone knew Sue was my girl. It wasn’t any surprise when we announced at the end of her senior year we were going to marry. Sue helped her father with the farm most days after school, but most nights she owned she’d been working on her wedding dress. Sue could sew so straight and small, people swore it was neater than any machine. I knew she’d be a vision.

The day we stood up together, Sue carried white and pink roses. The white matched the pure brilliance of her dress and the pink matched the blush in her beautiful cheeks. My brother snapped our photo outside the church. In it, Sue’s captured smile was the small, self-contained curve she shared with the public. It was only when we were alone she allowed her demure smiles to bloom into laughter. I was looking forward to getting her alone. To making her laugh and to kissing her smiling mouth.

We couldn’t afford much. I was working for my father in the family’s general store and he said we could have the small space above it if we moved the stock out. It seemed like paradise to us. So did the overnight honeymoon we were taking. It was only  to a bed and breakfast a half hour away on the coast, but we were giddy at the idea.

I borrowed my father’s car for the trip. It was old and rusted with piebald tires and an engine that started with a croupy cough. With Sue in it, it was transformed like Cinderella’s coach into something magical. I could barely keep my eyes off of her, she was that radiant.

I could blame the tires and the sand. I could blame Sue’s musical laughter and the flash of her bright smile, but the fact remains that it was my fault. I was too relaxed. I strayed too close to the edge of the road. The front, passenger side tire mired in the soft, sandy shoulder and ripped the wheel from my hand. Before I could react, we were rolling down the embankment.

The sky. Scrub grass. The ocean. They spun outside the car windows in a confusing blur. Sue flew into me and then tumbled past me. I reached for her, but her veil swept across my palm and was gone. When the car hit the water I remember thinking the sound was like a baseball hitting a bat, then my world went dark.

They never found Sue. They think the weight of her dress and veil would have tangled her up and dragged her under. That the current carried her away.

There hasn’t been a night since that I haven’t dreamt of her. Beautiful and ethereal on the ocean floor. Her gown swaying around her. Cupping her hands to allow tiny fish to swim into the bowl of her palms. Waiting patiently for me to carry her over the threshold.

I don’t think she’ll have to wait much longer.

The Boys Who Matched

This was written in June of 2016 from prompts I’m hazy about –  I think striped shorts or bathrobes might have been the prompt — or perhaps it simply had to include three boys.

 

The Boys Who Matched

The boys wore open bathrobes and striped shorts. The three of them stood at the prow of our boat, Pam’s Promise, solemn and silent.

Ben, the youngest, stood a head shorter than his brothers. His hair had bleached from mouse brown to blond over the summer. He was as dark as a berry from running through summer days on sturdy legs.

Nate, our middle boy was still growing. He was rawboned, all sharp angles and insatiable hunger. He was a locust swarm at the table and never left it fully sated.

The eldest, Matt, teetered on the precipice of manhood. He had the muscled build of a gymnast and stood taller than me by an inch, now. Matt was our quiet one. For all his physical power, he was a poet and philosopher.

Their mother had loved to dress the boys in matching outfits. Her sturdy Singer machine had buzzed through their infancy and childhood. When they’d been small, they hadn’t cared. One outfit was as good as the next as long as they could ride a bike or climb a tree in it. Once Matt had hit twelve, though, that had changed. He’d stubbornly refused to continue.

It was after the Foster boy had taunted him at a birthday party that things changed. Matt hadn’t yelled or slammed doors to make his point; he’d simply announced he was done with it and then dug in his heels. Matt’s brothers had always taken his cue and had quickly followed suit. They’d begun to grow up — to become individuals.

The bathrobes were a gift from their mother that past Christmas. Her last shopping trip.

All were downy white, but each had the boys’ initials embroidered on them in a different color: Matt’s in navy, Nate’s in hunter green, and Ben’s in maroon. On a whim, I’d bought the shorts from L. L. Bean a few weeks before. I thought Pam would like that.

My own shorts hung low on my hips. I’d lost weight, along with my wife, in the last six months. We’d always talked about dieting together. This hadn’t been the way we’d planned.

The full weight of her rested in the urn seated in the captain’s chair behind me.

At the end, she’d hardly weighed more than the insubstantial ashes inside. The cancer had been a rapacious flame, first burning away the fifteen pounds she lamented she’d gained since our marriage. Then it had greedily consumed the remaining weight of her slight frame along with her spirit and laughter.

I dropped anchor and stepped up to join our boys. The boat rose and fell in gentle waves like the soft lullabies Pam used to sing when she rocked our fretful babies through fevered nights.

When the sun finally broke over the horizon and painted the water orange and red, I unscrewed the lid of the urn. A soft, mournful note sounded in the mouth of the vessel as a breeze caught and stirred her ashes.

Pam had loved the ocean. I had promised her the boat and I had promised her we’d grow old sailing it together.

I had only been able to keep one of those promises.

The boys gathered handfuls of their mother with care and cast her into the waves — watched gravely as she dusted, then dissolve into them. I released the last of her along with the dreams of our future together.

We each threw flowers from the garden, Pam’s second love.

Ben threw a handful of dandelions. They floated in the water like miniature suns: bright, resilient, and hopeful. Nate threw a wealth of sumptuous birds of paradise: long, slim, and elegant. Matt threw Queen Anne’s lace: lacy, wild and complex.

Into the water I launched a corsage of stephanotis, the delicate, white flowers that had made up Pam’s bridal bouquet.

Their fragrance clung to my hands long after we left her final resting place.

 

Ushi No Toki Mairi

Written for a Flash Felon Crime challenge (2016). A tattoo had to be part of the story.

Ushi No Toki Mairi

There were witnesses the evening Dom’s first tattoo was stolen. Startled gasps and the mounting buzz of conversation from the audience alerted him to its theft. He followed their collective gaze and looked down at his arm in time to witness it happen.

Below his rolled shirtsleeve, the design unwound like pulled thread. Thin skeins rose an inch above the sinew of his forearm. There, they fractured into a swarm of black specks and scattered.

Start to finish, it disappeared in just under a minute.

The guitar slipped through Dom’s lax grip, slid off the curve of his thigh, and hit the stage with a discordant twang.

The noise startled him back to awareness and he ended the jam session abruptly to hurry home. Alone on the couch, he studied the Taylor acoustic for damage and wracked his brain for a possible explanation.

The guitar was an antique, manufactured in 2025. It was more than just an instrument, it was a treasure. As his tattoo had been.

He checked his forearm again in hopes he’d experienced a sort of waking nightmare. The tattoo hadn’t been some machine-applied, Insta-ink piece of shit. It had been designed, drawn, and handcrafted by the last of the Masters.

It was not a dream. It was gone.

#

Dom cut the engine of his vintage Harley and plugged the bike in to charge. He crossed the small lot to a row of storefronts where one window display scrolled a loop of available tattoo styles. He recognized one of his Polka Trash designs from the early days of his apprenticeship. At the door, Dom pushed the call button and waited.

“Sumi Skin,” a voice intoned.

“It’s Dominic.”

He was buzzed into a brightly lit room. Animated posters depicted skin art both classic and modern. Booths bristled with hi-tech tattooing robotics.

“Dominic, good to see you!” The owner was a wiry man in his late fifties. They shook hands and traded casual pleasantries before the man asked, “So, you slumming or shopping?”

“Neither, Larry. I’ve got a question. The software on these.” Dominic thrust his chin toward the nearest booth where a woman reclined in the chair, her skirt hiked up to bare one thigh. A maze of criss-crossing robotic arms zipped across her skin. “I know it can recall a piece of art if the canvas defaults on payments, but have you ever heard of a classic being repossessed?”

Larry shook his head. “No way. The nanotechnology was still young back then. It only embedded the Master’s signature and time stamp. Hand-stitched ink precedes the recall coding.”

“What about art theft? Any classics reported stolen?”

“Can’t happen. Same rules apply. Thieves can use hacked recall programs to steal ink, but only on the machine tats. Once the government got their greedy fingers in the pot, everything changed. One day it was the Board of Health inspecting operations, the next, you had to buy your machines from government-approved contractors.”

Dom ignored the curiosity in his old colleague’s eyes. He was there for answers, not to give explanations. “Hey, speaking of Masters, you seen Old Shuko lately?”

“About four months ago when I heard the diagnosis, I stopped in see him. You?”

“I’ve been busy. He still at home?”

“Yeah. Relatives are keeping him comfortable for now.”

“Maybe I’ll stop in.”

“You should. He trained you. You were close. He’d want to see you.”

#

The second tattoo, also one of Old Shoku’s, disappeared while Dom was en route to visit the retired artist. Dom noticed the movement in his peripheral and a glance in the rearview proved his fears true.

Dom slapped a hand to his neck in an attempt to prevent its disappearance. The ink flew from his palm, en masse, when he lifted it a minute later. Smudged but still recognizable, the raven’s wings seemed to flap as the wind caught the ink and pulled it out the window.

“Fuck!”

Dom slammed his palm against the steering wheel three times before he regained control. He pulled to the shoulder, ran a hand over the leather grip of the oiled, wood wheel and exhaled slowly. Beating on one of his classic cars wouldn’t solve the problem. Seeing Old Shoku might.

He pulled back onto the road and continued toward his Master’s house.

#

Once inside Shoku’s foyer, he hesitated. He recognized the woman who’d answered the door. Dom had slept with a lot of women—it was the nature of the music business—but this one was recent and had left an impression. She was exotic, a fusion of Asian and Haitian as he recalled. He remembered her brandied voice murmuring strange but alluring words into his ear.

She was more than simply beautiful; she was arresting. High cheekbones were sculpted into the perfect oval of her face. The only makeup she wore, black eyeliner on her upper lid, accentuated the natural, feline slant of her eyes.

“What are you doing here?” He felt off balance. Unsettled. He didn’t like it.

“I’m here to take care of my grandfather.” She gestured for him to follow her. The house was so quiet as they passed through it, a clock in the hallway sounded like a metronome.

“Old Shoku is your grandfather?” He clenched his jaw. He needed to shut up, stop asking questions, and let her explain herself. He was surprised to see her again, yet she seemed completely unfazed by his presence – almost as if she’d expected him.

She didn’t answer. Instead, she led him into the living room. From behind the bar, she gestured for him to sit.  No sooner had he done so, a smoke gray cat appeared and jumped up to sit next to him.

When Shoku’s granddaughter rejoined him in the cozy sitting area, she handed him a scotch, neat, and sipped from her own. A Siamese jumped into her lap and she stroked one hand across its back. It blinked at him with slow concentration. He didn’t speak. Instead, he waited, resolved to appear collected.

“You’re not seeing my grandfather today or any other day. He’s sick. Too sick to be bothered by you.”

“Do you know who I am?” He blurted the cliché, chagrined he’d resorted to it even as it left his mouth. She had gotten under his skin the night they’d slept together. She was getting under it now. Not cool.

“I know who you think you are. You think I slept with you because you’re a musician.  A star.” The last bit rode from her mouth with slow derision. She smiled as another cat leapt up onto his couch to study him.

“You think you have history with my grandfather because you tattooed a little, years ago, before you realized you were too lazy and greedy to be an honorable artist.” Her lips pursed into a moue of contempt as she slowly crossed her long legs. “You think you have some claim to his time because you apprenticed under him. Because he trusted you once.”

She took a sip of scotch. Over the rim of the glass, she studied his reaction. When he struggled to formulate a response, she continued to bat at him in a smooth, modulated voice. “You think because you have a modicum of talent and good looks, you deserve the best. Your antique guitars. Your rooftop apartment. Your classic cars.” A slow smile curled her lips. “Women like me.”

He sat forward on the couch. “What are you talking about?”

The hall clock resonated through the house. She continued to regard him without blinking. “The other night when we were together, did I come?”

Dom shook his head at the unexpected question. “What?”

“You couldn’t say, could you? Because you don’t care. People are just vehicles—” she waved one hand in a lazy circle “—transportation to get you where you want to be. You can’t be bothered to give. You’re only concerned with what you can take.”

“You want to know if I know who you are?” She leaned forward and purred her response. “I know. You’re a thief. You think you deserved a Master’s art, so you stole it.”

Dom’s mouth was dry. The mouthful of scotch he gulped went down the wrong pipe. It stung his throat and his eyes watered in commiseration.

“You’re crazy.” He coughed and cleared his throat. “You can’t steal a tattoo. Old Shoku gave them to me because he wanted to.”

Two black cats appeared out of nowhere to slink toward him in perfect synchronicity. He flinched with surprised unease.

“My grandfather gave them to you because you fooled him,” she answered. “Made a fool of him — a man who lived for honor.

He wasted time training you, grooming you to take over his life’s work and, finally, hand you his legacy. You made him believe he had a mosuko. A pitit gason.” At Dom’s blank look, she curled her lip and translated to English. “A son.”

She tsked to the black cats and they leapt to sit on either side of her. “But once you got what you wanted—those three tattoos — you lost interest. You took off and never looked back. Never contacted him again. Like the women you sleep with. Like everyone you use and discard.”

Dom felt cornered. Unsteady. Off-balance and out-of-control. No one  got the upper hand with him. “You dug your nails into me,” Dom growled. “You loved it!”

Her head fell back and her teeth flashed as laughter gurgled from the well of her throat.  Anger reddened his cheeks and he surged to his feet.  She met his flashing eyes with calm and implacable derision.

“Of course that’s what stuck with you, unubore otoko.” No trace of laughter remained in her tone. She raised her hands and wiggled her sharp, manicured nails.  “Hai, I scratched you. But not from pleasure. You think you fucked me, but I fucked you, vòlè. I embedded nanocode beneath your skin. Nanocode I started writing when I was sixteen—the year you shamed my grandfather.”

He took a step toward her, his arm raised, but something in her eyes—and the eyes of the cats—stopped him.

“The code was to retrieve what you stole.” She dropped her hands and smirked as she leaned back and stretched her arms along the back of the couch.  “The skin I took was to punish you for carelessly discarding a position many would treasure. I used it to cook up a little fusion for you — a bit of Japanese ushi no toki mairi seasoned with some Haitian vodou.”

She snapped her fingers and a slow tickle grew between his shoulder blades where the last of Old Shoku’s masterpieces lay.

“It’s fitting you chose a rat for your last tattoo.” Her eyes thinned to slits.

Dom’s head grew light and the ceiling stretched high above him. The last thing he tried to do before he hit the floor was plead his innocence, but he couldn’t seem to make his mouth work. All he managed was a squeak.

The cats closed in.

#

  1. mosukoJapanese for ‘son’.
  2. pitit gason – Haitan Creole for ‘son’.
  3. unubore otokoJapanese for ‘conceited man’.
  4. HaiJapanese for ‘yes’ (formal).
  5. vòlèHaitan Creole for ‘thief’.
  6. ushi no toki mairiLiteral: “ox-hour shrine-visit” refers to a prescribed method of laying a curse upon a target that is traditional to Japan.
  7. vodouHaitan Creole for ‘voodoo’.

Mark Me Tardy But Present

It Came in the Mail Flash Fiction Contest

(500 words or less)

I didn’t win and I didn’t make the short list, but I did make the long list. As a rank amateur, I’ll take it and crow! 😉


Mark Me Tardy But Present

Opening my mother’s mail after she passed felt like an overstep of boundaries, but it was left to me to tie up these strings of her estate. Even three months later, it remained an uncomfortable responsibility. Mother had cherished her privacy and autonomy.

They arrived bundled, envelopes of differing size stuffed inside a large bubble mailer. Eleven total. All but one displayed the jaundiced touch of age and carried the dusty scent of decay. The postmark was local, the same zip code as mother’s, but offered no return address. The smaller envelopes were not addressed or stamped. Each one simply bore my mother’s name,  Mrs. Perdue, in the same large, studied hand.

The first one, I chose by bulk. Though the size of a standard greeting card, its bulging middle begged investigation. The gummed flap parted at the pressure of my fingernail with something akin to a sigh of relief.

Inside was a carefully folded paper napkin. A piece of yellowed tape had been placed at its bottom to seal the sides, but had long since detached. With care, I unwound the napkin to reveal its mystery.

Despite the sender’s attempt to preserve it, the cicada nested in the folds had been visited by the harsh hand of time. The mosaic of its wings had disintegrated into shards and its corpse had collapsed in on itself. By some fluke, its red eyes were still intact.

The second envelope contained two squares of cardboard: one humble five cent Mallo Money token, the other a more impressive twenty-five.

Five Bazooka Joe comics were enclosed in the next envelope, one with the fortune “You can count on others, but it’s better to use your fingers and toes.”


 At first glance, the next two envelopes seemed to be filled with a modest amount of pot. It took a moment to realize they were the ghosts of wild flowers, wasted to shadow by neglect.

Seven conversation hearts filled the smallest envelope: Be Mine.

Next: a pristine plastic whistle sporting the Trix rabbit, three fossilized pixie sticks, fused together, and a mood ring, its cheap metal band flattened and tarnished to brown, the crown’s crystal stuck at Stressed.

The last envelope contained a card. Its cover featured a teacher with signature apple. Inside, in a tighter, more mature version of the now familiar script:

Mrs. Perdue,

I was out of the country and didn’t hear of your passing until a few days ago or I would have been at the funeral. Please mark me as tardy but present.

I’m paying my respects and giving you all the gifts I was too shy to give you then, when you were my teacher and savior. You taught me to read when others gave up. You changed my life and have remained with me throughout it.

Your faithful friend forever,

Anthony Bartelli

At the next visit to mother’s grave, I left the card and gifts save one conversation heart which I stood and sucked until it was gone.

   

Dude Seems Squirrely to Me

This was written for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction 2016 Challenge

This was the Round #2 criteria for my heat (#33):
Genre – Science Fiction

Setting – A Hunting Lodge

Item –  A prosthetic limb

Dude Seems Squirrely To Me

We all go through awkward transitions in life. Why should extraterrestrials be any different?

 

Prixxod landed the zipcraft and winced as it docked to Hunting Lodge #7’s charging portal. The hammering vibration during connection meant he’d berthed poorly and evidence of that would be on the craft. Evidence his parents would notice.

Not a good start to his virgin solo flight.

Inside the lodge and divested of his flight suit, he stretched his cramped muscles and powered up a nearby console. The hunting ground popped into view.

Prixxod made use of one extruded prosthetic limb to hook to a nearby fluid-protein hose as he used two others to navigate the viewer’s controls. He zoomed in on the blue and green planet’s western hemisphere and tapped in population density queries. Yet another prosthetic scratched idly across a series of inflamed eruptions on his face as he checked the data. Once each completed its task, they reabsorbed.

He practiced a few transformations to mimic various humanoid configurations and called it good.

Fifteen minutes later, he entered the energy sheath connecting the lodge to the planet below. His descent speed increased beyond his calculations and halfway down he realized with sinking hearts his second virgin solo might also leave evidence of his ineptitude. But in a much more painful and personal way.

In a flash of reverse energy just before impact, Prixxod dumped into the spindly limbs of a small, city tree. The bows snapped under his weight. They, plus one angry, red squirrel and a surprised homeless man, cushioned his fall.

Other than his ego, very little was bruised and no limbs, prosthetic or otherwise, were broken.

#

A bottle blond in a red bandage dress nudged her friend and gestured with her chin toward a nearby table. Over the thump of bass, she shouted, “What about him, Hannah?”

“Are you kidding, Courtney? He looks homeless. And -” Hannah squinted through the pulse of lights, her nose wrinkled in disgust, “are those fur gloves he’s wearing? Super tacky.”

“You’re way too picky.” Courtney met the man’s eye, wrapped plump lips around the straw in her glass, and sucked down half of the second drink ordered that evening. An exhale of satisfaction feathered her fingers as they fixed her lipstick. “It’s called ‘grunge’. He’s cute.”

Hannah frowned as the man put his hands in his lap and bowed his head. “Who comes to a club alone?”

“He’s confident. No posse needed.”

Hannah didn’t reply. The lights had gone down as the DJ transitioned to the next song. Under the dim light of an exit sign, the man in question seemed to waver. “That’s weird.”

“Plenty of people go to clubs alone. It doesn’t mean they’re desperate or anything.”

The lights flared white hot then began pulsing at rainbow intervals. Hannah leaned forward. “What the –? Didn’t he just have a scraggly pube-beard?”

Courtney shrugged. “It’s the lighting. It plays tricks on your eyes.”

After a long pause, Hannah leaned back. “Well, at least he took the gloves off. They were creepy.”

“I didn’t see any gloves.”

“There were definitely gloves on his hands. Red fur.”

“It’s spring. No one wears gloves in spring.”

“Homeless men and hipsters do.”

Courtney raised her glass at a passing waiter. Satisfied she got her request across, she turned to roll her eyes at Hannah. “He’s not homeless.”

“He’s wearing a trench coat.”

“Businessmen wear trench coats.”

“It’s wrinkled and stained.”

Courtney’s heavy sigh was lost in the cacophony of dance music. “Are you a cyborg or something? How can you tell it’s wrinkled from here? You thought he had a beard a minute ago!”

The club was thrown into deep shadow for the length of a long bass line. When they spiralled back to life, Hannah’s hand clamped hard over Courtney’s forearm.

“Ouch! What the hell, Hannah?”

“Courtney, his coat.”

“What about it?”

“It’s clean and pressed now.”

“Oh my God, Hannah. You need to relax.” Courtney flapped her hand at the waitress. “Jameson’s!” She mimicked throwing back a shot and held up three fingers. “When the shots come, we’re going to invite him to join us.”

#

Hannah slumped against the door as Courtney fumbled with the key.

“The place is small. And the property manager lives right next to us, so we’ll have to be quiet.” The door swung open, Hannah landed with a thud, and Courtney whispered through a fit of giggles, “Oh shit. Shh. Pick her up off the floor? I have to pee.”

Prixxod watched the blond disappear down a hallway then extruded two additional arms to pick up the unconscious female and place her on a raised surface.

Her eyes fluttered open and she let out a drunken squawk of surprise. For an instant, Prixxod’s arm erupted into a mass of startled, bristling squirrels before he got his damaged prosthetics software back online. Mercifully, the female once again blacked out.

His parents had just had the software installed in him for this first, solo data hunt. He was so screwed when he got home.

“You guys, you have to be quiet!”

Prixxod whirled and retracted his arms as Courtney entered the room. She stopped, her eyes widened, and then she broke into another fit of giggles. “Not on the kitchen counter, silly!” She gestured a few feet to her right. “Put her on the couch.”

#

Courtney wasn’t sure what he’d said his name was. The club had been so loud, it had sounded like the chatter of an angry squirrel when he’d told her. Then when she’d asked in the cab, his hand had been up her skirt and all she remembered was that it sounded Russian. Or maybe French. It didn’t really matter in the end.

What mattered was that the guy was eager as hell and had foreplay down to an art form. Her head was reeling and she could barely catch her breath. He had moves like an octopus!

So who cared he smelled a little like a homeless guy. Or chattered during sex?

Hannah was too picky.


Judges are numbered and ellipses separate each one’s comments.

WHAT THE JUDGES LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY –   {1504}  Prixxod’s concern about berthing poorly and knowledge that his parents would notice the evidence on the craft makes him three dimensional and a character it’s easy to empathize with. I like the way Prixxod takes on the attributes of the squirrels and the homeless man. It creates much humor.…  {1601}  Good use of dialog to keep the story and action moving. Good attention to detail in the description as well.…  {1706}  I liked when you shifted the story to include Hannah’s and Courtney’s perspectives. Their personalities were well developed.…

WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK –   {1504}  Prixxod is the main character, and I think the ending would have a greater sense of resolution if you included a scene with Prixxod after the sentence “Hannah was too picky.” It would be humorous to see his parents’ reaction to the zipcraft’s damage and hear him describe his adventures.…  {1601}  What does Pixxrod have to do with the changes in appearance that occur miidway through to the end of the story? What is its significance in the bigger picture? This is unclear from the context of the story.…  {1706}  The beginning of your story was a bit slow. You could have used those first paragraphs to develop the plot more. You could have also further developed Prixxod’s personality.…