Joy – Submit Your Twelfth Short Story Today

It is done! Congratulations to all the writers who have made it. #12/12! Keep an eye on your inbox; high-fives are coming your way. I am very proud of every writer who participated, even if you didn’t meet every deadline, you have written more than you would have.

Submission process:

I will accept and approve posts for Joy (Word count: 1500 words) from 27 December 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time), until 28 December 2017, 8:00 (Johannesburg time) on  Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world. 

Please use the correct format:

In the post title bar:              Story Title by Author Name.

Just above the story:             Prompt: XXXXXX | Word count: XXXXXX | Genre: XXXXXX

Warning to sensitive readers can go after that.

2018 Challenge:

We will be writing more short stories next year. You are welcome to join us. Please sign up on 12 Short Stories First prompt for 2018 will be up on 3 January 2018.

Read these messages from two writers who enjoyed the 2017 challenge:

Dear Mia 

As a wannabe writer, this group helped:

1) my confidence; now I believe I can write and let others see what I write in a safe environment
2) my discipline; now I am motivated to put words on paper and take on challenges
3) my time management; now I work around life and prioritize, especially when deadline approaches.
4) my self critic; now I can kill my darlings and tighten my sentences until I reach that EXACT word count.
5) my imagination; never did I imagine that the sometimes horrid prompts could bring forth scenes and words as it did.

Thank you for creating a platform like #12/12. I can't wait for the 2018 challenge to begin.

Annalie (Kleinloog from the Midlands in KZN)


Dear Mia 

Congratulations on a fantastic vehicle for aspiring writers to hone their craft.
I particularly gain from the discipline of the deadline and the challenge of the 'exact' word count - it forces me to re-visit my work to weigh every word.
I also learn as much from reading how others have approached and dealt with the prompt, as from their comments on my work.
I am especially grateful for your work Mia in dealing with our peculiarities and issues, and for building and maintaining a disparate group with a common goal.
Well done! Enjoy the break and very best wishes for the New Year.

Robert o’Rourke


Winners will be announced on 10 January 2018.

Here is the procedure:

  1. Read today’s story below.
  2. Post your story on 12 Short Stories.
  3. Read and comment on at least four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
  4. This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
  5. Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
  6. Our next prompt is at the end of this post.

A few more points:

  1. I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
  2. NO hate speak. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
  3. Be careful of profanity.
  4. I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up. (Actually, I am on holiday and my signal is weak, but the stories will go up.)

Here is my short story:

Title: Joy by Mia Botha

Prompt: Joy | Word count: 1500 exactly | Genre: Action/Thriller

Warning: Violence.

The barrel is smooth in her hand. She wraps her fingers around it, taking comfort in the lingering warmth. She unclicks the magazine, unscrews the silencer and with a soft thud she lays it down on the table. The rest of the gun follows as she unmakes the puzzle. Site, trigger, barrel, pin. Lined up. The unsafe made safe.

The contrast of the gun among cheerful stacks of plastic plates and cups in bright colours jars her, but she ignores it. The world of her childhood. The safety of the church.

She pulls a second side arm out from behind her back and aims it at the door. The handle tilts down and a crack of light falls across the floor. An old hand searches for the switch. The hum of older wiring welcomes him to the room as the dangling bulb sputters to life. She maintains her stance.

“I thought I was being quiet.” He says with a smile as he stands before her.

“You were.” She lowers her weapon and leans against the sink.

“I wasn’t expecting you.” He shuffles on tired feet.

“Surprise.” She tries to smile, but she winces instead.

“You’re hurt.” He frowns and moves closer.

“Just bruised.” She turns away.

“Let me see.” He reaches for her, rests a hand on her shoulder. “Come child.” He whispers in a voice that echoes across the years. A voice that brings safety and comfort.  

“It’s nothing.” She cannot show weakness. Weakness is death. Another voice in her head says this, one that does not bring comfort.

“Let me see.”

She looks him in the eye for the first time and relents. She sinks back in the chair and rolls up the hem of her vest. The dry blood sticks to her skin. It pulls as she peels it off. She keeps her eyes on the white square of his collar and the small gold cross that dangles beneath it.

“Nothing you say?” He says as he examines the wound.

She looks down. The wound is a thick angry gash, deeper than she thought. She can ignore the pain. She is very good at that. 

“It’s nothing.” She lowers the hem and pushes his hands away.

“I need to clean that and you should eat something. Skin and bones, girl.” He shuffles to the cabinet and unpacks first aid supplies. He lays them in order beside the parts of her weapon. She wipes the sweat off her brow. Jungle heat caught up in the small kitchen, humidity intensified by years of cooking. The buzz of a lazy mosquito draws her eye to light. He throws a packet of biscuits on the table. She rips opens the pack and eats three straight away. 

“Aren’t I a little too old for Barbie?” She smiles at the pink plasters he arranges on the table.

“They were always your favourite.”

“That was a long time ago.”

“I still remember. You were a little girl, just the other day.”

He fills a cracked bowl with warm water at the sink.

“I am glad you are here.” He says and puts down the bowl.

She watches the water slosh in the bowl and takes a deep breath to stop the tears. She closes her eyes for a moment. The emotions taking her by surprise. She knew she shouldn’t have come back. Emotions are deadly.

“How are the children?” she asks. Anything to stop the thoughts.

He pauses before answering, “Resilient.” He says at last. “His last attack was more brutal. Nothing was left of the village. The older ones are struggling, but it’s nothing we haven’t dealt with.”

She watches his hands move between the bowl and the cut. Wash, rinse, wash, rinse. Drops of water cling to his hand. She is mesmerised by the tenacious droplets. 

“And the new one, the little boy? The one you mentioned in your letter.” She asks.

“Angry, sad. A lot like you were when you first came.”

“Not a lot has changed.”

He sighs and stares at her for moment before he turns away. “No, it hasn’t.” He pours the dirty water in the sink and fills the bowl again.

“The warehouse. The fire. Was that you?”

She nods.

“That made him very angry.”

“It was a very full warehouse. His next two shipments at least.”

She was expecting to feel different. Satisfied. Something. Instead she is empty.

“And tonight? What did you do?”

“It’s better if you don’t know.”

“He’s a dangerous man, child.”

“Drug dealers usually are, Father.”

She closes her eyes and tries to close off her memories, but they pool like blood, thick and stagnant. She tries of think of happier times. 

“Miguel was here.” He interrupts her thoughts.

The silence forms around the words. She stares at him. “And?”

“And what?” He raises his brows.

“What did you tell him?” Her voice cracks.

“That you were gone.”

She slumps and stares out of the small window into the black of the jungle. 

“Why didn’t you tell him you were leaving?” His voice is soft, but the rebuke is there.

“He would have tried to stop me, or worse, come with me.”

He moves to the cabinet again and rummages around the shelves. He has his back turned to her when speaks again.

“Miguel didn’t fare so well. After you left.”

“What do you mean?”

“Josè wouldn’t believe you left without telling Miguel where you are going.”

She tries to control her voice. The panic rising in her chest. “Was it bad?”

He takes a deep breath, “Yes.”

“Is he okay?”

“He healed.”

He leans down and cleans the last of the dirt off her skin. She lets him work, taking comfort in the pain, each prick of the needle, the pull of the stitch, embracing the sharp sting of the ointment. The plasters criss-cross across the wound. She rolls down the hem when he is done. Stretches to feel the movement.

“It’s tight.” She says.

“Don’t get into a fight.” He tidies the mess of gauze and blood.

“He let you leave.” She sounds angrier than she means to.

He sighs, “He let me leave, but I’ve never really left. I was an old man who reminded him of his sins. It’s better for him if I am not there. I remind him that his journey has changed course. Besides, he knows where I am. He knows I can’t do anything. I’m not a threat. The children make sure of that. He knows I won’t endanger them. Anyway, he likes the idea of having someone in the church. On his side.”

“So, I should have become a nun? Would that have been the way? Would he have let me leave?”

“He would never have let you leave. You know that. You’re special to him. He adopted you. You’re his daughter.”    

She laughs. “I am what he made me. He never wanted a daughter. He wanted someone to do his bidding and not question him. Ever.”

“He will be judged by God. Not by us.”

She moves back to the table and begins to assemble her gun.

“Why did you leave? What changed?” he asks.

“His final test.”

“What did he want you to do?”

“I was to execute someone, but I refused.”


The magazine clicks into place. She checks the barrel. Aligns the site.

“You.” She says.

They stare at each other: years, memories, pass between them.

“You may not want to judge him, but I have.” She slips the gun into the holster and collects her belongings.  

He crosses himself.

“Don’t do that.” She says.

“I will pray for him.”

“He doesn’t deserve it. Anyway, he’ll need more than just your prayers.”

She tries to move away, but his hand rests on her arm.

“Joy.” He speaks softly.

“Yes, Padre?”

They both smile.

“The name never suited you.”

“Well-meaning nuns, I suppose. Wrath and Vengeance are such heavy names for a child.” She laughs, a hollow thin sound.

“This is not the path you have to choose.”

“No one else is willing to stop him. It’s only me.”

“Go to the Americans. Tell them what you know.”

“They can’t do anything. Not without it becoming an international incident.”

“What can I do?”

“Does the old bus still work?”


“Take the Children. Take the nuns. Go to Father Lawrence. You’ve been promising them a holiday for years.” 

Panic and fear war in his eyes. “He wouldn’t.”

“He would. You know he would.”

He jumps when he hears the whistle, low and clear.

She glances at the window. “I have to go.” She says.

“Joy, wait. Where are you going?’ Do you have money? Food?”

He opens and closes cabinets, grabbing packets of crackers, searching his pockets for money.

“I have everything I need.” She touches his arm and he calms down.

“Where are you going?”

She stops at the door and looks back over her shoulder.

“First, to get Miguel. Then, straight to hell and I’m taking that bastard with me.”

The first prompt for the 2018 challenge will be up on 3 January 2018.

 by Mia Botha