Excerpt for Tell Me A Story: 104 Short Stories in 52 Weeks by
& , available in its entirety at Smashwords


104 Short Stories In 52 Weeks

Gillian and Kevin Rhodes

Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2017 Gillian and Kevin Rhodes

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the authors, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes.
If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.


For more information about the authors and their other ebooks, click here

Gillian and Kevin Rhodes

Not This Day! Special Features

Gillian and Hilary Rhodes

The Book of Noah

Kevin Rhodes

Life Beyond Reason: A Memoir of Mania

Running For My Life: When Impossible is the Only Option

Apocalypse: Life on the Other Side of Over


Law, Enlightenment, and Other States of Mind

The Legal Times They Are A-Changin’


Gillian’s Preface

Kevin’s Preface

Week 1: A story entitled “A New Beginning”

Week 2: A story about rising to a challenge

Week 3: A retelling of a fairytale

Week 4: A story about three siblings

Week 5: A story set in London

Week 6: : A story about finding something that has been lost

Week 7: A story about a journey

Week 8: : A story set during a war

Week 9: A creepy story

Week 10: A story featuring a countdown

Week 11: A story set at a full moon

Week 12: A story about a competition

Week 13: A story that take place entirely inside a vehicle

Week 14: A story from a villain’s perspective

Week 15: A story set at a concert or festival

Week 16: A story that begins with a gunshot

Week 17: A story set in a country you’ve never been to

Week 18: A story about a historical figure

Week 19: A story set in a theatre

Week 20: A story written in 2nd person narrative

Week 21: A story set on another planet

Week 22: A story written from the perspective of someone dead/undead

Week 23: A story about a birthday

Week 24: A story that ends on a cliffhanger

Week 25: A Story set during the summer solstice

Week 26: A story about nostalgia

Week 27: A story featuring a song or poem

Week 28: A story that ends at sunrise

Week 29: A story that opens with the words “F*** you!”

Week 30: A story about a magical object

Week 31: A story set at sea

Week 32: A story about a curse

Week 33: A story set 100 years in the future

Week 34: A story about loneliness

Week 35: A story featuring a real recent newspaper article

Week 36: A story written from an animal’s perspective

Week 37: A story about a scientific discovery

Week 38: A story set on another planet

Week 39: A story with only one character

Week 40: A story about a secret

Week 41: A romance that ends in tragedy

Week 42: A tragedy that ends in romance

Week 43: A retelling of a recent Hollywood movie

Week 44: A story that takes place the year you were born

Week 45: A story about a near-death experience

Week 46: A story about anger

Week 47: A story about a magic spell

Week 48: A story about a strange small town

Week 49: A story about justice being done

Week 50: A creation myth

Week 51: A story set at Christmas

Week 52: A story entitled “The End”


Gillian’s Preface

This project began very simply. I was browsing the social media site Tumblr, and happened upon a post on a writing help blog (“Our Writing Therapy”). It was fifty-two writing prompts, one for each week of the year. I glanced through it, a usual practice for dash scrolling, but something about the prompts captured my imagination. I decided to give it a go – it was only halfway through the first week of January at that point.

I can’t remember now why I shared it with Dad; perhaps I just thought he, as a writer, might be interested, or perhaps I was looking for a partner to hold me accountable. But for whatever reason I did it, Dad was all in, and we started right away.

It started as just a fun little thing we sent each other every week, but quickly we both found that we were surprised and delighted by the stories that came up. Dad had decided to limit himself to 100 words exactly for each story. I didn’t regulate my word count, but I did decide to not use my first idea for the prompt. Instead, I tried to see it from another angle, or question the meaning of the words – something to approach it from a different angle.

Perhaps for that reason, I found somewhat to my surprise that many of my stories tended towards the science fiction, the futuristic, the post-apocalyptic, the dystopian. In week 30, for example, we were prompted to write about a magical object – so I wrote about a radio, but set in a time in which electronics had gone extinct. A radio would seem magical, in that world!

As the weeks kept ticking and we faithfully wrote our stories, I started looking for ways to share them. Eventually I decided on the online writing platform Medium, and created a publication entitled “52 Stories in 52 weeks.” That sowed the seeds of the idea for publishing this book.

Over the course of the year, Dad and I did not miss a single story. A few weeks we forgot and sent it late, but those were few and far between. It began part of my Monday routine to write the story, and when the year ended, I missed it.

I found, in the end, the project an excellent creative experiment, completed by doing it in tandem with one of my favorite partners in crime.

I’m delighted to present all our stories side by side in this collection. As I read it, I’m struck by how different our interpretations of the same prompts are – but that is half the fun! I hope that you will enjoy these stories as much as we enjoyed writing them!

Gillian Rhodes

Kevin’s Preface

In a moment of weakness, I actually applied for a job. Well, sort of--it was a setup, a lure I couldn’t resist. I took the bait, got hooked, reeled in, and netted before I knew what hit.

It started with one of those email popups that makes you wonder how it got through and figure you need to change your settings. It announced a new article on LinkedIn Pulse: “The Most Unconventional Job Posting Ever.” “Job” wasn’t on my radar, but I’m a sucker for “unconventional.” I started reading faster than I could hit delete.

The article delivered on “unconventional” alright. You couldn’t tell what it was. But then it told you, at the end: “The article... it wasn't really an article... or a job post. It was a story about me."

A story.

About me.

About me, finding my way as a writer.

Being known is a powerful sensation; it happens so rarely that you remember when it does. Who was this guy writing this article, who knew what it was like to be me, in love with writing since I was a kid? I tracked the article to a real job posting from a startup with a mission to help employees “adopt behaviors and mindsets that improve individual and team performance.” They were looking for a writer.

Ah, so that’s it.

Mindsets and behaviors interest me. Teamwork, not so much. I work alone; most writers do. I almost quit there, but then something else snagged me: they wanted to know if you could tell a story in 100 words.

Seriously? I had no idea. I needed to find out. Besides, a steady income wouldn’t hurt….

I applied for the job. It was fun for awhile, then I dropped out for reasons unimportant now, leaving the question unanswered.

About then, Gillian proposed the 52 Stories in 52 Weeks challenge. This was my chance: my stories would be 100 words. Exactly. I would sit down the same time every week, read the prompt, write the first thing that popped into my head no questions asked, and finish the story in exactly 100 words. Exactly. All in one sitting.

Gillian and I got started, and right away I envied her. She could read the prompts ahead of time, think about her response, then use as many words as she wanted. Her reactions to my compact entries gave me quick feedback on how well I was doing. If she struggled to find the story, I missed it. If she got it right away, it worked.

So it went, for a whole year, and now I have an answer. Can I tell a story in 100 words? No, not really. But you and I can tell a story together if we both doing our part. My weekly 100 words set up the possibility of a story. Then it’s your turn--you, the reader, the imaginative one, the one who can’t resist the allure of a story, the one who must track it to its source, like I did with the mystery job posting. When you read my 100 words, something happens like when you get a joke or get to the end of a haiku: there’s that burst of surprise when you get it, and then--bango!-- your imagination floods the spare outline with all the details you need to create the meaning. It happens just like that, just that fast.

That’s the plan: for you and I to create these stories together.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that of you. I think stories always work that way. We start to read, and a deep creative magic goes to work on us. We like to experience that magic, and so we read--not so much for what the writer gives us, but for what the writing says to us about ourselves and our own lives. We welcome the story, invest ourselves in it, make it matter. We create meaning for ourselves, make the story come true for us.

We do this whenever we read. That’s why you and I can read the same thing but it becomes something different in you than in me. We fill in the details differently, see and hear and feel what’s written in a way that matches the sense of self each of us brings to it. We shape its meaning to fit ourselves, make it something we can take into our own selves and use in our own lives.

I didn’t know all of that before I started, but I know it now, thanks to Gillian’s storytelling challenge and her responses to my entries over the year. Over time, I felt I sort of got the hang of it --like when you do crosswords or Sudoku or play Jeopardy or charades or solve riddles or do something else like that a lot: you get into the swing of it, learn the codes and secrets and shortcuts, get quicker on the uptake. I suspect that will happen for you, too--that the stories will come quicker, and that you will find yourself telling your own stories more easily.

They are about you, after all.

I believe that, but we’ll see if it plays out that way for you.

And then I’ll really have my answer.

Thanks for giving it a try.

Kevin Rhodes

Week 1: A story entitled “A New Beginning”

Gillian 1: A New Beginning

On the day after the world ended, the sun rose in the east. Birds trilled in the trees and the line for the coffee shop was long. The morning rush hour traffic was jammed, and cell phone coverage was spotty exactly when the cars’ occupants tried to call in late.

In short, nothing at all had changed. But nevertheless, the world had ended. There was only one person who knew it: five-year-old Mary Beth Guarderson.

She told her father. “Daddy, what happened to the world?”

Her father tried to remember yesterday’s news. “What world, honey?”

Mary Beth frowned. “All of them,” she responded.

“Uh...nothing happened, sweetie,” he said.

She told her mother. “Mommy, what happened to the world?”

Her mother worried she’d been watching too much television. “What do you mean?” she asked.

“It’s gone,” Mary Beth replied.

Her mother wondered if this was normal for five-year-olds. She decided to play along. “Is it? What are we living in now then?”

What a silly question, Mary Beth thought. It was obvious. “A new one,” she said.

“And what’s this new world like?” her mother asked.

Mary Beth considered. She looked around her. It sure looked the same, but it wasn’t, she knew that very well. The newness was rubbing at everything, the shine of the sun on the windows, the dust in the air. Blank slates of being. Maybe it wasn’t the same at all, but it didn’t know what else to be, so it made itself like it was before.

“New,” she said finally. “It looks like the old one, but it’s not.”

Her mother patted her on the head. “Okay,” she said.

The sun doesn’t reflect a circle, Mary Beth thought, staring at the neighbor’s window. It reflects a star. A star, like the ones Daddy showed me in the planetarium.

Across the way, the reflection became a star, and Mary Beth smiled. That’s what I thought, she thought happily.

And so, little Mary Beth Guarderson, the only one to know that the world had ended, began to reform it. 

Kevin 1: A New Beginning

The balloon blew into the mower’s path. Jason snatched it.

The rain started as he stepped inside.

“Beat it,” he said.

Ginny cocked an eyebrow at the balloon.

He held out it out in front of himself. “Congratulations!” it said.

“For us,” he said. “You okay?”

“Sort of,” she said. “You need a shower.”

“Seriously,” he said. “I mean the message.” He sniffed an armpit. “The shower, too. You think maybe?”

“Maybe,” she said.

“I always wonder how high they go. Don’t you?”

“No,” she said.

“Saw the stork maybe.”

She fixed him a look.

“You’ll make a great dad.”

Week 2: A story about rising to a challenge

Gillian 2: The Door Guard

It happened on a Tuesday. A lady, head to toe in fringes and hoops, passed through the door he held open as per his (albeit very simple) job description.  

“Helloo!” she said.

She couldn’t be talking to him. He was invisible. Even with the shiny brass buttons on his uniform that he loved so much. It was part of his job description.

By the time he realized she was looking at him and waiting, it was too late.

“Don’t bother,” the valet said. “Poor dumb bastard.”

She did it again when she returned. “Helloo!”

He didn’t move. It was in his job description to not move.

“Don’t bother,” the concierge said. “Mute bastard.”

He practiced all night, shining the brass buttons of his jacket, ironing the crisp trousers, polishing the black boots. It was hard. It wasn’t in his job description.

The next day the lady was wearing more fringes.  

“Helloo!” she said.

He was too slow, and she had gone.

“Don’t waste your time,” the valet said. “Dumb bastard.”

He had to practice again that night.

The third day he was ready.

“Helloo!” she said.

He opened his mouth, working his tongue around the two, sweet syllables.

“Hel-lo,” he said.

The lady smiled.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” said the valet.

Kevin 2: The Art Lesson

Mrs. Hanson made the project because of the horses in his notebooks. He met it by raging while the others drew stick horses.

Later, he laid out his treasures on his bed. Fierce wild horses, thundering, manes to the wind.

Later, Mrs. Hanson read Equus:

“Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.”

“He'll be delivered from madness. What then?”

“The Normal is the good smile in a child's eyes. It is also the dead stare in a million adults.”

Her challenge wasn’t to make him draw horses. It was to leave him his worship.

Week 3: A retelling of a fairytale

Gillian 3: Cinderella’s Farce

It was a setup. The whole damn thing.

She didn’t think I knew. She didn’t think anyone knew. Even after all this, even after the blinding, I kept her secrets.


She was my sister. I wasn’t kind to her – my mother was more important than her. She didn’t forgive me. But who cares? Our stories are over now, one of which ended in Happily Ever After, and that’s enough.

They’d met weeks before. He dragged up at the house with a bleeding leg from a hunt gone wrong, and she patched him up in the kitchen. She used my handkerchief to do it, that’s how I figured it out.

He kept sneaking back to the kitchen. We never saw him, because we never went to the kitchen. I heard their voices filtering from the laundry chute. They talked. They planned. I heard only snips of it. Enough to know.

I could have done something. Why bother? It was her destiny. Anyone could have seen it.

They planned it. She said the packages were food when I asked, but I knew better. Finery. Dresses, jewels. The glass slippers were last, wrapped in tablecloths.

She knew we’d stop her, and leave her alone at the house. I ripped her dress for her. She pretended to care.

I guess he sent a coach after he saw us arrive, to be sure we wouldn’t pass on the street. She left early and left the shoe, as they’d planned, and he set off on the farce of the shoe. He had three sizes hidden in his shirt, and used whichever one he knew wouldn’t fit the person in front of him. Only when he got to our house did he use the real one. I don’t know how anyone believed their “surprise.”

Either way, he took her off to the castle and I heard started a royal – if you’ll pardon the pun – fight about her origins. They must have won, because I didn’t hear any more of it.

The way they tell it now, there’s a fairy involved, magic and chance and the coup de foudre. But there was no magic. It was a farce. A genius, impossible, bold setup.

And me? I sat back and watched the show, and paid for it with my eyes. Happily ever after, and then some.

Kevin 3: The Board Meeting

He scrolled again through the PowerPoint, noticed his fingers trembling.

The usual list: capital, suppliers, shipping, design; more this, more that; we’ll pivot, manage the burn rate.

They always bought it. Their Golden Boy. Can do no wrong. Done this before, will do it again.

The door clicked. “The Board is ready for you.”

She knew, he’d bet. She’d watched all these liars telling each other lies, crying wolf and ignoring the warnings. But this time there really was a wolf. He’d put a name to it: his own. Save the sheep? Fire the shepherd.

That wasn’t in the PowerPoint.

Week 4 : A story about three siblings

Gillian 4: The Mountain

Everything changed when we left the mountain.

They said it was time, because the world was moving on ahead and we were getting left behind. We had to go to school, learn real things, grow up, leave behind all “those wrong stories ol’ Hefter told you.” No more place in the world for us anymore, and mom and dad had been wrong to hang on.

Taren and Jed believed them. They were older and so they knew better, they said.

It was only me that held on. I knew better than to say so, watching my brothers disappear into this modern, uncivilized world. I kept my mouth shut, went to school, did the learning I was told to. I learned the way they say the world works, how it began, where we came from. I even work it in now, studying the how the universe grows and moves.

I have not been back to the mountain. But these days when my students ask me how the world was made, I tell them the truth, and I remember.

In the beginning, I say, there was nothing, and in nothing, there came one.

The oldest was Soul, and Soul was born by fire, and bathed in sea. But Soul was lost in that great sea, and so there came a second.

The second was Being. Being began in stone, and stretched all the way to sky. But Soul and Being were cold and afraid in the darkness, and so there came a third.

The third, and the youngest, was Time. Time began as the first dark night gave way to dawn.

After I tell the story, there is always one student who raises their hand.

“It’s a metaphor, right?” they ask.

And I smile.

Kevin 4: Jerry

Dad was staunch Irish Democrat, so they named us John, Edward, and Robert.

People called us Jerry -- you know, JER. So we were Jerry1, Jerry2, and Jerry3. You got blamed for stuff you didn’t do. Jerry1 did it, but somebody slips and says Jerry3 and he gets it instead.

Now, we’re Edward, Bobby, and I kept Jerry -- just kind of liked it. So if we’re all around and somebody says Jerry, Edward and Bobby still look up, just like old times.

And we still take the blame for each other -- got to be a habit, I guess.

Week 5: A story set in London

Gillian 5: The Lost City

I had heard the name whispered every now and then. It was lore among the archeologists, what Atlantis had been before ocean mapping had left the drowned city naked and bare before the world.

It was the holy grail, the last so-called secret place in a world where nothing was secret anymore, where history’s secrets had been sprawled across a million screens and humanity had gotten bored, turning their faces to the sky instead.

Except me, and Professor Tarring. He was the only one I ever heard who had spoken the name aloud, who dared to suggest that it had existed, still existed, hadn’t been crushed like everything else.

We were laughed off. Professor Tarring taught Atlantis and saved the money for our expeditions.

We knew it had to be in the area, but there were still too many square kilometers to just dig anyway and hope we stumbled on something. We went down, as far as we could, donning gas masks and struggling through centuries of trash to try and get close to the earth’s surface, where it would have to be.

I’m not sure why it called to me so much. It was part of the lost world, the world Before, the one before the great Crush and the mapping. I needed to know it existed, in some unreasonable, irrational, desperate way.

And then we found the map. Matching the new coordinates to the old world maps was a long, painstaking process, but when the computers finally dinged and the Professor and I looked at it, I felt like my heart had stopped a beat or two.

“My god,” the Professor whispered.

I stared at the map, trying to make sense of what it was telling us. The blue lines of the inner section of our city against the red lines of where the lost city would have been. Matching perfectly.

I savored the words, loving each one, dreaming of the possibilities.

“We live in London,” I said, and began to laugh.

Kevin 5: The Hyde Park Soapbox

“You could go say something,” Rich said. “You could preach.” He pointed at a guy shouting, bending pedestrians in an arc around himself.

I stared blankly.

“The Hyde Park Soapbox,” he said. “Derek Prince used to preach there. Want to?”

His eyes burned with challenge. Derek Prince was our Bible hero. I thought Rich would do it, go over and fulfill the Great Commission.

I stood there dumb, trying to shrink. We came to see the Palace. He saw through me, I know he did.

“Let’s go,” he finally said.

I followed, ashamed. It was always that way with Rich.

Week 6: : A story about finding something that has been lost

Gillian 6: The Walker

The desert is unforgiving.

The nights are not cold, they are ice. The days are not hot, they blister. The dunes look like the clouds of heaven, but punish like the depths of hell.

That’s what the Walker said, each endless cycle of crushing cold and wavering heat. He had walked for so long he’d forgotten why, footprints that no longer made any mark in the sand behind him. It was merely what he would do, what he had done. He walked, unseen by anyone but those already halfway into their own reckoning with the scales of eternity. He was a reminder of the dangers, the truth of that whispered promise.

Until they came. He was drawn to the camp by the fading spirit, as he always was. He didn’t smell the honey or the herbs as his shadowed form broke into the dancing, distorted firelight, didn’t leave a trace as he came to stand in their midst, restlessly, endlessly walking, pacing through the camp.

“He’s here,” someone whispered.

“Bind him,” whispered another.

For the first time in centuries, the Walker’s feet drew to a shuddering, staggering halt, and his head threw into the air and saw –


The stars. So thick they were like a blanket, an alien landscape where the sky was a floor of glitter and the earth was the inky black heavens.

He had forgotten.

The Walker turned and left the light behind him, walking lightly over the shadowed sky, eyes turned to the heavens. He remembered now.

When he reached the horizon, the world would flip, and he would reach the world where the only pathway was splattered across the dunes in stars.

Purposefully, the Walker set off, with great strides, the dunes softening into no more than waves, cresting into the sky.

Kevin 6: Mushrooms

A recipe for magic mushrooms, on an Eiffel Tower postcard. Another one for banana peels, on the Statue of Liberty. A baggie with a few shreds of grass. Some red, white, and blue papers. A water pipe. A Jimi Hendrix “Are You Experienced?” poster. Abby Hoffman’s Steal This Book. Love beads, a floppy hat, some decrepit bell bottoms, a tie-dye…

Icons of the 60’s. His life in the 60’s. The one he hid from the folks - they would have freaked out.

All here, in a box neatly tied with string, in Mom’s cedar chest. Today. The day she died.

Week 7: A story about a journey

Gillian 7: Summit

“Is that it?”

If it was, Alice thought, it wasn’t a very impressive summit for the extravagant promises of this trip.

The guide, white-haired and dark-eyed, glanced up and surveyed the high point across the shallow saddle. “Hmm,” she said thoughtfully. “Not yet, I think.”

She was right. No sooner had they reached the top point, another high point appeared, a pile of rocks poking from the trees. “Is that it?” Alice wanted to know.

The guide glanced only briefly. “Not yet,” she said.

Of course, it wasn’t impressive enough yet, Alice thought. The travel agency had said that it was an indescribable journey. They had gushing testimonies of people to prove it. Despite the fact that many other agencies offered a much cheaper guide for this hike, Alice had been intrigued. She needed something life-changing anyway, and her previous forays had yielded nothing but disappointment.

The next summit was only a few hundred feet beyond the second, but the guide didn’t even look up this time to verify.

“Not yet,” she said.

Neither was the next, or the next after that, the path winding up and down. Every time Alice asked, she got the same response. Hot and tired, she started thinking she’d fallen for false promises yet again.

The next time, she didn’t ask. She just put her head down and walked, one step after another.

Sometime after, as they climbed above treeline, her previously silent guide began to speak, sweeping her hand across the land, describing how it had been formed, where the lay of the land looked like a woman sleeping, how if you looked closely enough, the wind moving through the trees below looked like giants walking.

This high, the wind sang across the rocks. Alice watched for the giants. No, she thought, it looks more like waves.

It was sometime later when they took a break on a pile of rocks. They had been sitting for a few minutes when the guide glanced over.

“We are here,” she said.

It was only then that Alice realized there were no more high points around. She was surprised by it, but didn’t think any more of it as they descended, wondering why this hike had been so talked up.

It took her thirty years to understand that the journey the agency talked about had nothing to do with climbing a mountain.

Kevin 7: Across The Room

Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-18 show above.)