Short Story: Running On Empty

ShortbreadDenise MelvilleShort Stories › Running On Empty

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About this Short Story

Written by
Denise Melville


An elderly man down on his luck, finds he has to share his living space with a young female.


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Jack knew something was up when he caught Maurice prowling around the stairwell outside his door. He stared at him and cocked his head on the side. “Got a problem Maurice?”

“Bad news I’m afraid Jack.” Maurice sucked in his cheeks and arranged a frown on his face.

“Yeah what this time?”

“Your apartment needs to be subdivided. Tough times, I’m taking in an extra tenant.”

“Subdivided! It’s so small now if I have a piss the next door neighbour gets a hose down.”

“No need for coarseness. As I said times are tough. The alternative is to double the rent and neither of us wants that.”

Jack gritted his teeth. He’d lived in this flea infested humpy for two years now, and for the rent paid he should own the bricks and mortar. Or should that be cardboard and araldite? The dunny and the roof dripped smelly water, the window panes were patched

with tape where kids…

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Hugh Cron said "Hi Denise, I think you have just written an updated skit of 'The Odd Couple'. It is an interesting idea when two completely different people find a bond and respect. I enjoyed your story as it was engaging and made us care about the characters. All the very best. Hugh"
3 years ago
Denise Melville replied saying "Thanks Hugh for reading it. I have never watched the Odd Couple but I understand the comparison. I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was one of my more experimental works!"
3 years ago
Nik Eveleigh Guest Editor said "Excellent dialogue in this Denise - really well written and believable. Some great descriptive lines also - my personal favourite "More like a scruffy peacock that had survived a savage winter". Enjoyed it very much. Best regards, Nik"
4 years ago
Denise Melville replied saying "Thanks Nik. It is always nice to hear that the elements of the story have worked well. It is much more difficult for me to achieve that than to simply write a "good read." The times when my stories miss the mark, it is usually the construction itself that has failed."
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor said "I remember Mester Heppo mentioning Tim Tams and I know what a dunny is from watching I'm a Celebrity...Ha! I'm such an eclectic guy :-) Loved this apart from~~~Maurice sucked in his cheeks and arranged a frown on his face.~~~which has that sounds too much like writing vibe to it - No, I loved this - largely because the dialogue had that distilled down air about it that takes a lot of practice to get right - well judged piece that steered clear of mawkish - another great little story - many thanks, Adam"
4 years ago
Adam West Guest Editor replied saying "Hi Denise - I'm with you on the dialogue - this story is a great example of 'how to' for anyone struggling with dialogue. I understood Maurice BTW - I just wasn't keen on the literary facial contortions - ATB - Adam"
4 years ago
Denise Melville replied saying "Thank you again for taking the time to read my stories. Firstly, the dunny is very much Australian slang. I'm glad you'd heard of it. The bog and the crapper may be more Americanisms I think. Secondly, with respect to Maurice. My intention was for him to feign concern when he really just wanted to cash in. But some things work and some don't! As I've said before though, never stop giving me your honest thoughts, writing never improves in a vacuum. I'm particularly happy that you liked the dialogue. It has been said that good dialogue resembles real speech but never imitates it. That is what I try and aim for."
4 years ago
Denise Melville said "Thank you very much Sandy. One of the things I hope readers enjoy is the writing and the dialogue itself. The story is important, but without these elements, it is like enjoying a cake and missing the subtle flavours that make it different to other similar cakes."
4 years ago
Sandy Wardrope said "Hi Denise, Well done that was a great if somewhat sad tale lifted by a little wad of hope. The writing itself was neat , gritty, accurate and with plenty of lovely dialogue - the only way to write a story in my opinion. The style of language you used was real to me and held my attention all the way to the end, or was it the end. Anyway, well done great stuff/ Yours, Sandy W."
4 years ago
Diane Dickson Guest Editor said "What a very sad and solemn tale but there in the middle of it all you have placed that little glimmer of kindness. It's a shame the site messed up your formatting because this seemed to be well written and edited. Thanks for this, not a happy read but satisfying in its own way. - Diane"
4 years ago
Denise Melville replied saying "Thanks again Diane for your reading and appraisal of my stories. Unfortunately it could have been me that stuffed up the formatting. Never one of my computer talents!!"
4 years ago
Sierra Parson said "I found it to be sad, yet sweet. I liked it :)"
4 years ago
Denise Melville replied saying "Thank you Sierra. I am glad you found it to be nice to read in spite of the rather depressing content. There are a lot of stories written and it is always a lovely compliment that readers will take the time to read and comment on yours."
4 years ago
Denise Melville said "Thanks for taking the time to read it Suzanne, I appreciate your kind comments."
4 years ago
Suzanne Mays Guest Editor said "Denise, I liked this story. Heartbreaking yet hopeful, never sentimental, a good edge. Thank you, Suzanne"
4 years ago

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