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The Clean House - Short Story Challenge from Ann Carr

Updated on October 5, 2018
Rodric29 profile image

Challenges are Fun! Participate in Rodric's challenge as they come and enjoy the muse of Writing each challenge brings. Express yourself!

An outstanding writer by the name of Ann Carr wrote an informative article on the proper way of editing replete with examples and instruction. Ann instructed that writers should take ordinary dull writing to a new level bursting with descriptive flavor and color vividly involving the reader in the tone of the story.

After all her practical advice found at How to Edit to Sustain a Good Standard of Writing; an Exercise in Precision and Paring, With a Challenge!, Ann issued the challenge to try out the new things we have learned using this intro sample:

‘Jemma walked up to the door of the house and rang the bell. There was no answer. She went round the back. In the back garden was a figure……..’

Following is my attempt. I hope you enjoy.


Shuffling the asphalt walkway, Jemma approaches the door apprehensive as is her nature. To knock or use the buzzer. The choice created a little anxiety for her. What a hard decision to make, she shudders mentally. It was hard enough to convince herself to go outside but now, choices!

Do it, she screams internally as her hand lurches toward the buzzer, the sound giving her a fright! Moments pass as she calms herself from the sudden action of choosing. Nothing. So, what does nothing mean after pressing the buzzer she worries. Matching the numbers on the house with her memory, Jemma forces another attempt at the buzzer. No jerky awkward movements this time around that her attention studies why no one has responded to her door call.

An explosion of scenarios rocks through Jemma's skull as she rounds the corner of the house—heart thudding, breath bated—to see the figure in the garden in broad daylight.

Bravery replaces the halting demeanor as Jemma drops determined footfalls to the rear of the brick house to discover why the object of her destination does not respond. Ahead of time, Jemma called to make sure that someone would be there. Knowing how apprehensive and anxious Jemma is, Howard knows to be at the ready to answer the door!

An explosion of scenarios rocks through Jemma's skull as she rounds the corner of the house—heart thudding, breath bated—to see the figure in the garden in broad daylight. Terror ripples through her body buckling her knees almost to failure. Standing directly ahead with dead eyes peering into hers is her worst fear in the flesh. Prescription drugs can not stop this attack from occurring as her body frosts in fear followed by the pain in her extremities. Shrieks of terror flood the garden as Jemma steps forward toward the horror in a trans of uncontrollable self-preservation. Jemma attacks. Victimization will not claim her as she spirals in tearful destructive tackling dives toward this demon.


On the ground shredding the clothing of this dead-eyed demon, she hears the ring of Howard calling for her calm.

“Oh my gosh, Jemma. I was on the toilet. Forgive me, please. Let me help you, dear.” Pushing the object of Jemma’s fear away, Howard helps his hapless sister towards his home hoping it a haven from the frenzy of her troubled mind.

“Doorbell… ranged it… Nobody came,” Jemma whines wiping heavily winced eyes from weeping.

“Gosh, Jemma,” Howard sympathizes. “Coming here is not supposed to be traumatic. Therapy has helped with your anxiety attacks. Love, I planned to remove that thing before you came knowing about your fear of scarecrows." Hugging her tightly Howard walks Jemma to the rear door to rest ruefully on the rosewood rocking chair—embarrassment etched on her face.


Down goes the scarecrow and into the shed before Howard hurries in his house to visit with Jemma, who sits slowly swaying in the seat of the rosewood rocking chair chittering about the dead-eyed demon so many decorate their farms or gardens to drive away the pilfering fowl.

“Sis,” Howard solicits Jemma’s attention. “Dosages for that new med is too intense. Let us talk about making a change.”

“Man, I did not have any meds today other than a brandy, a little snort of cocaine, followed by a Monster. Please let me sleep it off, and I will be fine. Relapsed a little bit when my friend came to visit which is why I wanted to come over so I could get away to somewhere clean.”

Pensively, Howard purses his lips in consternation yet great relief that instead of going on a full bender, Jemma made her way to him. Addiction is no laughing matter.

The End

Gleefully as always, I took Ann's challenge which is a great writing exercise. Most challenging was using a different word for each sentence. Taking that challenge changed my writing style and voice. Read Ann's article listed at the beginning of this one. Try the Challenge. Good times.

© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson


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    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      15 months ago from Surprise, Arizona

      I never went! I would ferry around the players when renting them cars when I worked for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. You should come down. You might not want to leave. I love it here! It has been 13 years since we moved to the Valley.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Well done, my friend. The resiliency and fortitude of the human spirit...uplifting and hopeful...well done!

      I just noticed you live in you go to any spring training games? My Mariners are playing down there right now. I'd love to go to Spring Training one year.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Surprise, Arizona

      Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your comment. Ann was very motivating in teaching us to be descriptive and using a different word to start each sentence. It makes writing more interesting.

    • cam8510 profile image

      Chris Mills 

      2 years ago from Traverse City, MI

      These fears are real to the one who feels them. It's good she has a brother who cares so much. Nice job with Ann's challenge. You put a lot of effort into the descriptions.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      2 years ago from United Kingdom

      That's what makes me so hopeful for her. It's too easy to slip back into old bad habits when your feeling overwhelmed. But she fought back instead. I wish her well.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Surprise, Arizona

      Zulma, thanks for reading and commenting. The character wanted to keep the change she made in her life even though anxiety and mistakes crowd her path. Thanks for noticing it all.

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 

      2 years ago from United Kingdom

      The poor girl. To think something as simple as deciding to knock or ring the buzzer can cause so much anxiety. And then to see something that brings such terror to her soul. Still I have to admire her for fighting back instead of caving in to her fears. There is hope for her yet.

      This is a nicely done story.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Surprise, Arizona

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Verlie. Ann always does a great job with her hubs and challenges.

    • snakeslane profile image

      Verlie Burroughs 

      2 years ago from Canada

      Rodric, this made me laugh. But really, it's no laughing matter. Self medication is a serious issue for those suffering with anxiety, and mental illness. Good write. Kudos to you for your imaginative story.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Surprise, Arizona

      Rinita, I appreciate your praise. Thanks for reading and seeing the message.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Surprise, Arizona

      John, this challenge was fun and also very challenging indeed. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • Rodric29 profile imageAUTHOR

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 years ago from Surprise, Arizona

      Ann, I love responding to your challenges. It makes me expand my perspective since most of what I write about is religious in nature. Thanks for reading and commenting

    • Senoritaa profile image

      Rinita Sen 

      2 years ago

      Amazing response, Rodric, with a strong social message, too. Loved it!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Wow, Rodick, you came up with one doozy of a tale in response to Ann's great challenge. Very descriptive and confronting.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      Well, Rodric, you have taken up the challenge with spirit and attack - well done! Thanks for responding.

      We are in the mind of this poor girl who finds every small decision such a challenge and you convey that well. I thought it was going to be a washing line or similar but the scarecrow surprised me; good choice!

      Thank you for giving the link to my challenge and for the kind words in the intro. I'll put your link at the end of my hub.


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