Weekly Challenge #408 – Coward

Welcome to the 100 Word Stories podcast at oneadayuntilthedayidie.com. I’m your host, Laurence Simon.

This is Weekly Challenge, where I post a topic and then challenge you to come up with a 100 word story based on that topic.

The topic this week was COWARD.

We’ve got stories by:

The next 100 word stories weekly challenge is on the topic of FORMULA.

Use the Share buttons at the end of the post to spam your social networks. This obligatory cat photo should help make the Internet go faster:

Fence Tinny

Finally, if there are any errors or corrections, please let me know, and I’ll fix them as soon as possible.

JOHN

ÒA Friend in the DevilÓ, by John Musico

Life had become unbearable; I yearned for death but again thought; ÒSuicide is wrong.Ó
Once again I approached the low railing of the stairwell. Each time I returned, its presence became stronger and its hold on me to return more compelling.
It was fifteen flights down to the concrete slab which stared up at me from the bottom of the stairwell. I stared back down at the slab, the heart of the stairwell. I thought; ÒThat, that, thing, that monstrous thing had an awareness of me. It wanted me.Ó Then, it began to grow, closer and closer, faster and fasterÉ

RICHARD

#1 – George’s Story, Part 45: Coward?

Until this point, it had never really occurred to George that the world might be coming to an end. Certainly, it was in a bad state – something had definitely gone terribly wrong, but he’d always imagined something miraculous might occur to save the day.

Now, faced with the prospect of possibly immanent apocalypse, George lost it completely, and began to blubber helplessly in the pew.

The old woman hissed at him: “Less of that, boy! You must prepare yourself”

Rasputin leaned menacingly over him: “Or are you some sort of coward?”

George looked up at the big man, whimpering… “Yes!”

#2 – Mad dogs

Noel Coward famously sang that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Whilst I can’t speak for mad dogs, I think it’s pretty safe to say that the Englishmen in question weren’t quite so deluded as the song implies.

Coward, happily ensconced in the pleasantly tropical climate of Jamaica, might be forgiven for forgetting the weather back home endured by his fellow countrymen was rarely disposed towards sunshine. Indeed, midday sun, or any other variety for that matter, was a commodity rarely enjoyed in England.

Midday sun was a luxury that no real Englishman could resist!

#3 – Hero

I’m no coward, but I do hold to the principle that discretion is the greater part of valour… and let’s just say – in certain situations – I can be very discrete.

Running into burning buildings, getting into bar brawls, putting myself in the line of fire for the sake of others… all very noble and heroic deeds, but let’s face it, they’re all a bit brash and only so far removed from attention-seeking – and that’s not heroic at all.

So, I fully intend remaining the very soul of discretion: not cowardly, just shy and retiring, safe, and sound.

That’s heroism!

#4 – Yellow streak

I’ve often wondered why the colour yellow is associated with cowardice, and why not some other, perhaps more appropriate colour. Brown, perhaps – (for obvious reasons) – or maybe lavender, or teal.

Coming to think of it, there’s all sorts of colours we could employ to brand someone a coward – puce, for example – but yellow is our colour of choice.

And then I realised why only yellow will do – it’s about the only colour I can think of that suits a cowboy gunslinger drawl:

“Get off of yer horse, ya emerald-bellied son of a gun!” – it just doesn’t work, does it?

JEFFREY

Mad Dogs and Englishmen
by Jeffrey Fischer

Noel Coward wrote that only “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” Nationalities from Japanese to Bengali aren’t as foolish as the English, staying under shelter during the heat of the day.

Of course, that was years ago. Surely the English have learned better. I tested Coward’s lyrics by renting a room in Delhi, overlooking a busy plaza. From noon to two, from my air-conditioned room, I watched everyone who ventured into the plaza. I saw only pale-skinned people sweating profusely. Not a single native in the group.

I then realized that I didn’t see a single canine, either. Coward was too harsh on the species as, mad or not, dogs all stayed in the shade. Only Englishmen were foolhardy, though perhaps Coward knew this all along but the song wouldn’t have worked with the line three words short.

Heart of a Lion
by Jeffrey Fischer

After he left Dorothy, Sidney, the Cowardly Lion, tried to get on with life. Reputation is a hard thing to shake, however, and he found himself in a lot of bar fights. Drunks thought he was easy prey. They challenged him to prove his courage, and Sidney felt as though he had to respond.

What these drunks failed to realize was that Sidney, cowardly or not, was still a lion. He slashed and clawed at his attackers, leaving them bleeding on the bar floors.

Although Sidney’s self-esteem increased with each victory, tavern owners, wanting to spare themselves the damage – and the lawsuits – that accompanied him, barred Sidney throughout Emerald City.

TURA

Coward
——–
A soldier was brought before General Wei accused of desertion and cowardice. His commander related how he had left his unit during a battle to infiltrate a thicket, from where enemy archers were harassing them. He killed them all, but this feat, declared his commander, he did only out of fear of the enemy’s arrows.

General Wei elevated the soldier to his personal guard. Then he imprisoned the commander, saying, “O great philosopher, who can prove that initiative is desertion and bravery is cowardice! Set yourself now to proving that imprisonment is freedom and prison air is food and drink.”

VINYL

Diary of a Mad Man

By Christopher Munroe

I work hard, I play hard.

Except when I’m too tired to play hard.

Then, I head home and pour myself three fingers of scotch. Single-malt, twelve-year or older, this is the bare minimum.

Scotch acquired, the next step’s an album from the fifties. I’d love vinyl, but I don’t have that budget, so my ipod and dock has to do.

Sinatra, Holiday, Coward, Fitzgerald, there are a number I alternate between depending on my mood, but the point is setting atmosphere.

Because I am too tired to play.

And sometimes a man needs a more civilized way to relax…

JEFF

A Conceited Man

By Jeff Hema

“I’m CODY RHODES! Here to show you the greatness of my talent and beauty. And you people, you better go look at yourselves in a mirror, you’ve got a face only a mother could love. I brought these paper bags, put them on your head and hide your ugliness.”

“You suck! you suck!” The crowd screams!

“Look at that! Kane jumps out of the crowd and assaults Cody with a steel chair. Cody as a coward, runs like a bat out of hell; what a shame!”

“That’s it for tonight and we’ll see you next week for a new show of WWE RAW”

TOM

A Well Defined Relationship Part 36
The parishioners pored out of the pews at St Rita Morena at the ruckus on
the roof. Everyone gather outside to see what was happening. Father Tony
made his way to Rev. Morehouse. All seven member of the ill-fated Voyage
were dangling from both church steeples. The pastors both made a call for
volunteers, which was return will deafening silence. Under his breath
Father Tony signed “Cowards” and made his way back into the church. Not to
be left in the dust of moral ambiguity Rev Sockbe head up the steps to the
steeple. The wind started to whip.
Up The Rabbit Hole Part 5
He handed he a small card that read: Not brave, aisle 5. “What does that
mean?” asked He. Without looking up the Clerk said “Right side, halfway
down. The super will be with you presently.” He move down the room till
he came to a large sign: Coward “NOT FUNNY,” yell he back at the clerk.
He open one of the banker boxes. Inside was a draw string top. He
remembered the day he lost that top. It was to a kid twice his age and
twice his weight. This was long before he had learn to take a punch

LIZZIE

The town coward picked apples from a tree in the park when the town bully walked up to him and yelled “Coward!” This was a routine they had since the early days of high-school. As a matter of fact, the whole town knew it would happen each time the two now adults crossed paths. One day, the coward yelled back “Bully”. He didn’t know why he had done it. For a few seconds, he even regretted it. The town folk laughed hard and the bully, caught by surprise, walked away, feeling for the first time the bitter taste of humiliation.

SERENDIPITY

If I had to choose a word to describe myself, ‘coward’ would certainly not appear on the list.

I take fear in my stride; stand firm in the face of any challenge, and nothing ever phases me. Well, almost nothing – there’s always a fine line to be drawn between stalwart bravery and reckless stupidity, and I know when the odds are just too high, and when to beat a hasty retreat.

There will always be occasions when the flesh is weaker than the challenge faced – when even the strongest stand no chance of success.

Spiders in the bath, for example!

SINGH

26.1

Suddenly she was stranded on an island.

Rain-soaked kids and teachers were crammed in

a schoolhouse with no window glass, at war

with thunderbolt, bullroarer wind – monsoon.

She knew her kiddies wanted mud-pig time,

to be let off the teacher-leash to taste

first rain. It filled the schoolyard like a moat.

Gold veins of lightning cracked the firmament

to underline her firm “Not yet.”

“Oh Madam,

please, please!” But she sat them down in rows

as bold lightning lit up windows like an old

photographer might discharge his trays of flash

magnesium and magic puffs of light.

26.2

“Tell us a story, tell us a story, please,”

chorused the children, bent on having fun.

Perhaps a tale might settle restlessness.

But what to tell? It needed to be well-spun.

In her pig-Hindi? Kumara could translate.

The Poison Pond waited on her bookshelf.

Quite apt she thought while sitting in this moat.

“Give me a moment,” she excused herself

and came back with her quarto Mahabharat,

the illustrated version, brought from Delhi,

mostly for kids, no doggy tale, no cat,

the epic in brief, so better than on telly

at Barhai’s place, that day of mortal combat.

26.3

Thus she began: “The day was stinking hot.

Sahadeva, youngest Pandava

was sent to find cool water in the jungle.

He saw a crystal pool and bent to sip,

but a white crane croaked. Answer all my questions

before you drink. The pond is mine and it

will do my bidding.

Arrogantly, he drank.”

She flopped her head down dead. Kumara waited.

Then she blinked. “With Sahadeva gone

they sent off Nakula who found his twin

sprawled out dead beside the pond. The crane

spoke up. Nakula sneered Huh? Then drank.

Then Margot clutched her throat and died with style.

26.4

Soon Madam blinked awake from story sleep.

“Arjuna, then big Bhima drank and died.

Who really listens?” Yogi came to mind.

She fought back tears.

“At last, Yudhisthira

then saw his lifeless siblings by the pool.

Answer me before you drink. The pond

is mine and it will do my bidding,

spoke forth the crane. Yudhisthira paused.

What would you do?” She probed her audience.

They didn’t know.

“Okay, ask me then,”

Yudhisthira said. A hundred questions later

the crane was pleased. I’ll grant one life, just one.

Impossible choice? Such agony it was

forced to choose between his lovely brothers.

26.5

Brother Nakula.
The children gulped.

So why him? the white Crane asked.

At least one son

of Madhri’s lives today – one from another

mother. I was born of Kunti. In this way

both survive through us.”

Yes, family

is number one. They understood. Then Atul

broke the silence. “So what happened, Madam?”

She saw how well that she’d pulled them in.

Her puppet-headed acting had jollied up

the tale of dying siblings.

“Well, the crane

brought them all to life.”

They sighed, relieved.

Margot straightened shoulders, cleared her throat

and pretended to be the crane of the poison pond.

26.6

“Stepping from his chariot of thunder

a god appeared.” She boomed rhetorically.

I am Yama, God of Death, your real father.

This was a test, Yudhisthira. You’ve passed

with flying colours. You see all with detachment.

As you protect the way of righteous Dharma,

I will protect your lineage.

Then he vanished

leaving them to rub astounded eyes

and hug their elder brother with deep love.

She bowed before the kids who clapped and cheered.

Eyes that had changed from fierce anemones

to sad red poppies were back to normal brown

and the monsoon wind and lightning had died down.

26.7

It was time for them to run. They fled the school

sloshing about the moat of mud and dung

quickly letting go their highly-strung,

cooped-up energy and the poison pool.

It wasn’t time, but she said,”Go on. Go.”

Kumara first, then Rajinder and Prakriti

who ankle-waded through the monsoon sea,

spraying and splashing as lovers, quid pro quo.

She slumped down in her office. Some time out.

The loss of Yogi and the stormcloud shift

and telling the water tale had set her adrift

in depression beyond all reasonable doubt.

Atul waited outside – her eagle-scout.

26.9

The wet had come to stay. Now school was out

and Yogi was gone to the other side of mud.

A face of grief was upheld by two hands

and anger was her runaway desire.

Two cheating husbands had defected; two

slap-down lessons were enough per life.

No more dumbbell couch potato sport

with beery smoke-mouths, soggy TV brains

who knock girls up, then hit the pub. And curse

conquistadors of shoebox cash, replacing

her stashed savings with blank cut paper wads.

What lacuna of the eye had blinded her?

The Yogi Project had been her final hope.

26.8

now different kind of water

her inland sea of salt

dropped upon the table

the couldn’t-care-less of loss

her fortress of stress

an island of freak-out

still wanted him back

or Ophelia underwater

an absurd expectation

to drown in ankle sludge

stay in dungwater dungeon

playgrounds are boneyards

smell the buffalo effluent

bodies are shit factories

windows have no glass

you are as transparent

brave heart you’re a coward

hoping for a helpline

heaven or hell-water

pour equally from eyes

is this bucolic idyll

just paying off weird karmas?

take nothing for granted

husbands are compost

26.10

Better to be the one to do the kill

than be the Patsy deer-tail, culled.

Sending him off had stopped Ophelia’s

poor-me brain from drinking marshes.

Better to be the Draupadi who had

five husbands and her royal rights

to push blokes off like cuckoos from her thighs.

Only trouble makes you stronger

stripped of queendom and a jewelled throne,

the fashion-statement zari saris,

with gold and silver weft through peacock blue.

Stay strong as Draupadi’s tough love,

yet free to make a jungle bed and lie

in it alone, if one has to.

26.10

So she had waved him from her falcon wrist,

a calculated risk she had to take.

A raptor might otherwise fight for air,

and later blame would turn to beaks and claws.

Perhaps he would fly back. Yet the plan

was flawed, sill needing surety that

a trainable bird, peregrine-blue, her prince

with finer hopes might wear the falcon hood

to keep him blind. No. Intelligence must have

its wild wings she knew deep down. Release

had hurt. Her loud machine of feeble tears

began and the long monsoon broke down

howling with loss across the dusty desk.

ZACKMANN

“Well there’s worse things to spend your money on but I thought you were timid and never expected you to get one.” said Zack.

“Really, you’re no friend of pain and you’re pretty cautious yourself. Weren’t you afraid when you got yours? ” said Joe.

“I lost my wedding ring. Admittedly had less fear of the sting of a clean needle at a licenced parlor than telling my wife about the ring and I don’t have to take it off when working with electricity. Now tell me Joe, what will your tattoo be?”

“My Hero, Wade the Duck from US Acres”

SPATE

No Survivors

When challenged, and you believe beyond absolute certainty that you are in the right, you must hold steadfast. You cannot be a coward when faced with that moment or all your moral principles will crumble into a broken heap to be dragged behind you for the rest of your life.

Stand firm with clear eyes. No thoughts of retreat or compromise. Now that destiny has come, do not turn and run.

Be solid and true and just and do what you know you must. Protect your honor and pride.

Afterwards, they say he said: “Throw your popcorn in my face.”

JULIE

You Were Never a Coward

-for Maggie Estep

Dropout junkie stripper poet

Poledancing word mistress of the absurd

Skulking, snarling, slicing words in black–

Kicking Doc Maarten ass

Through puddles of East Village shit–

Sluts and eunuchs were your friends.

You did what none of us could.

Tell me—

When did you see a poet on MTV?

Onstage at Lallapalooza?

Did Sylvia plunge

Into the mosh pit with Henry Rollins?

Did Denise Levertov roll

In the mud at Woodstock?

Of course not.

Oh Maggie, you talked fast

You were nervous at first—

Took your rough frailties, babygirl

And did what we all tried.

You were never a coward.

CLIFF

The Oklahoma Kid and Black Scar Pedro faced off in the street. The good people of Pontiac City hid behind their doors and waited for the bullets to fly. And waited. And waited. Finally, Milton, the card sharp from back east, stormed out the saloon doors and demanded to know what was going on. When each of the gunfighters told him that they didn’t want to die, Milton proceeded to quite loudly call them cowards. The two men took offense at this and expressed their displeasure by filling the card player full of bullets. The townsfolk cheered. Nobody liked Milton.

NORVAL JOE

A man in a black cowboy hat stood in the middle of the dusty street, his hands hovering a half inch from his pistols. The towns people scattered to hide from the inevitable gun fight.
“I’m ready for you, Sheriff. I can wait all day if I have to,” he called toward the town jailhouse.
The wooden door creaked open and the sheriff walked out into the street.
“So, why do they call you, ‘Howard the Coward’?” The sheriff asked when he stopped in front of him.
The gunfighter spat and said, “My real name’s Hosmer and that doesn’t rhyme.”

DANNY

I was so busy falling in love and failing miserably at it that I forgot to live, so I dropped out of the whole dating scene entirely. Call me a coward for avoiding pain, but honestly, I’ve never felt more alive than I do now. Every morning is a new opportunity to create the meals I cook, the gardens I plant, the art I draw, or to experience the rivers I kayak, the paths I bicycle, and the courtrooms I practice in. I welcome everyone to join the journey of the life I love, but I’m done with chasing love.

PLANET Z

Despite being a veteran of every not-quite-a-war during his lengthy service, from headquarters to behind enemy lines, the only weapon Major Hiram Axelrod’s had ever used was a violin.

He regularly brought people to tears with his skill with it. “Better than Perlman,” said Stars and Stripes, and Perlman had been quoted as agreeing.

No, Axelrod wasn’t a medic. He was a chaplain. An unusual one, too: a confirmed atheist. A true non-combatant.

But his music… oh, his music… so heavenly.

He’d smile, put his violin away, and wait as the paratroopers quietly took advantage of the distraction.

Well-armed paratroopers.

6 thoughts on “Weekly Challenge #408 – Coward”

  1. I gotta say, Mr. Crap, you did sound a little uninspired by the podcast this week. Here’s hoping you get your mojo back!

  2. Curse you, Richard! I thought I was so clever using Noel Coward and “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” but you beat me to the punch, and better, too!

    1. …And I was about to express the same sentiments!

      There’s a lesson to be learned here, although what the heck it might be defeats me entirely!

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