Ask Ulysses

17 Feb

Below please find my 100 word story inspired by the photo prompt from FridayFictioneeers. Read Madison Woods’ story here (  ), leave a comment and then begin reading all the varied submissions. Endlessly fascinating. Enjoy.

Forgive me mine. It’s an onion of sorts. Aloha, D.

“Why these, Sherriff Corwin?” I asked as we labored. “There’s several hundred weight in the field by the courthouse.”

“Magistrate Stoughton has declared that the rocks in this stream have been washed pure and clean for the pressing,” the young officer replied. “And though I can’t see the difference between one fragment of this earth’s bones and the next, he’ll receive no argument on the subject from me.”

I wrestled another cold and murderously heavy stone and cringed as it thudded into the prison wagon. “Will Mr. Corey care?” I asked.

“If Scylla bathed in the spray of Charybdis?”  He shrugged.  “Ask Ulysses, my boy. Ask Ulysses.”

63 Responses to “Ask Ulysses”

  1. TheOthers1 February 17, 2012 at 11:38 am #

    I followed the link here. Definitely curious. Are they killing someones or somethings with the rocks? I’m probably not awake enough to discover the true meaning.

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

      Hi there!

      Thanks for following the link and visiting. Yes, they’re preparing to try to coax a plea from farmer Corey. All the characters are historical figures. Try Googling the names and the story will make more sense. I took obvious liberties with their thoughts, but hey, that’s the idea, right?



      • TheOthers1 February 17, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

        Ah. I’m obviously not as well read as I should be. Thanks for the clarification.

  2. Madison Woods February 17, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    I’d love to hear the rest of this story! Very nice, intriguing and love the mythology imbedded 🙂

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      Dear Madison,

      Google the names and your wish shall be granted. Thanks for reading and roping us all together.



  3. Caerlynn Nash February 17, 2012 at 12:48 pm #

    Seems like a deeper mystery here. Interesting!

    My story is at

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

      No mystery, Caerlynn, just history. Headed your way now.



  4. Russell February 17, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    Enjoyed it, Doug. I always been a big fan of mythology.

    here’s mine

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

      Thanks Russell,

      If you Google the names it becomes more history than Mythology. Thanks for visiting.



  5. Judee February 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    I’m afraid I’m not familiar with mythology, but there is the voice of history in the writing itself, so it was fairly obvious even before I saw the reference to Ulysses. For example, I could tell that Sherrif and magistrate were not the modern meanings of the words, but something much more ancient, simply by the flow and tone of the rest of it. Well done.

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      Thanks Judee,

      I’ll probably decode this for everyone after all the comments dry up. Stay tuned.



  6. Carlos Repuesto de la Tabla February 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    You worked harder on this story than I did on mine! And it shows. Sheriff Corwin seems to accept his role as one of the two evils, along with Stoughton, that Corey has to metaphorically pass between, if I’m reading this right. In the Salem part of this, apparently every sheriff, from Corwin on, died in office as a result of Corey’s curse.
    Nicely done, Doug.

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

      Ah Carlos,

      You are good.

      Off to find yours now!



  7. elmowrites February 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Doug, fantastic story and you so often introduce me to a fascinating new bit of American history – I’m off to google the names now! But that aside, I enjoyed the hints you give us in the story itself – I feel like I know the “answer” even without google, so I’m looking forward to finding out if I’m right.

    Mine is at:

    • dmmacilroy February 18, 2012 at 12:08 am #

      Dear Jen,

      I am headed up the mountain in minutes. (the stars wait for no man.) and will read your story there. Thanks for stopping by. More soon ofter I’ve immersed myself in your world.



  8. Lindaura Glamoura February 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Well, you’ve got us between a rock and a hard place, Doug. I am not sure I approve, but when pressed will say: “I curse your stones and your little dog, too!”

    Yours as ever,

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm #

      Oh, Lindaura,

      You make me laugh so hard on the horns of a dilemma….

      Thanks for stopping by and copping a plea.



  9. Quill Shiv February 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Oh, Doug! This is a story that speaks to my heart! What a magnificent job! Ask Ulysses, indeed!

    I know you have already been there, but here is my link just in case anyone wants to read my drabble:

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      Glad you liked it, my dear. Thank you for the praise. You’ve got me chopping in tall cotton.



  10. parul February 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Didn’t know the context till I read your comment of looking up all the names on google. It made a lot more sense after that. A very intelligent was of mashing up facts with fiction.
    Like it!


    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      Thank you, Parul,

      Those stones spoke to me from the moment I saw the prompt. Trying to put myself in the shoes of the men who were there was a challenge. (I want to throttle Madison sometimes but in the end I love her for her enigmatic photographs.)



  11. bridgesareforburning February 17, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Very weighty indeed! But as Giles Corey said, “Give me more weight!” You managed to combine the Salem witch trial with Greek mythology, if I’m reading this right, which is, well, heavy. Thanks for teaching me a history lesson. Like Harry Truman said, the most interesting things are in the history you don’t know. Thanks for your great comment on my story. I always look forward to you comment. You are the Ulysses of commentary!

    • dmmacilroy February 18, 2012 at 12:05 am #

      And you are too polite. After reading your comment I must say that you are, in fact, the Ulysses of comments. i enjoy immensely how you riff off of the contents of each story you read. It is priceless. Headed to work now, have to dash. More soon.



  12. teschoenborn February 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    The abilty to not only tell us something historical in 100 words but also teach us a little history is noteworthy. Mine is much more whimsical. Here’s my link:

    • dmmacilroy February 18, 2012 at 12:03 am #

      Dear Trudy,

      Thanks for the kudos. I appreciate them more than you might know. I must dash up to the mountain top where I work and will get to your story there when on break.



  13. Janet February 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    I’m going to google the names as you advise. Look forward to re-reading it with new info.

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy February 18, 2012 at 12:00 am #

      Dear Janet,

      After you do, you might want to read Bridesareforburning’s comments. He’s a nut case, always riffing of of what others write about. I love it. Will be headed up to work soon and so must plead for a few more hours before I get to your story. Thanks for the patience. (And the kind words.)



  14. loustar02 February 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    I loved this and enjoyed the use of the mythical characters – very clever.

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

      Hi Louisa,

      Thanks for that. I’m headed up the mountain and will get to your story after we get the telescopes pointed in the right direction. Thanks for commenting and for your patience.



  15. V. L. Gregory-Pohlenz February 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    I’m always amazed at the direction each writer takes with the prompts. I love it when I learn something new/unique. Thanks for sharing. Mine:

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

      Dear V.L.,

      Madison’s prompts infuriate me, but they also make me dig deep, so I shouldn’t complain. I knew from the start that the forest brook crowd was going to come out roaring and that I’d better go far afield, so to speak.

      Speaking of which, I read your story early this morning, just before sleep came calling. Up now and soon to be on the mountain where I’ll write my comment and visit some more. Thanks for waiting.



  16. niiko47 February 17, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    I’ll be honest and say I didn’t get the references, but it’s very well written and engaging too.

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:54 pm #

      I don’t imagine I would have gotten them either. I’m glad I wrote it. It started out as total fiction but when I learned that only one man has ever died under the stones I incorporated a little of what I thought their stories might be. Thanks for reading.



  17. Siobhan Muir February 17, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    My first thought brought to mind a pile of stones that a prisoner had to move from one side of the yard to the other and then back again, but stoning also occurred to me. Dark and intriguing story, Doug. 🙂

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:51 pm #

      Hi Siobhan,

      That only one person ever died from this method of ‘stoning’ in the nascent American nation still takes nothing away from the amazing and macabre facts of this tale. As soon as I saw that large, flat rock I knew I couldn’t go anywhere else than to Salem.

      I’ll be climbing the mountain soon and once I’m there I’ll read your story and visit. Thanks for waiting.



  18. The Lime February 17, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    This line is my favorite: “I can’t see the difference between one fragment of this earth’s bones and the next.”

    I’m not reading other people’s comments today so I bet I’m repeating someone else, BUT… it’s so true. It’s just really good.

    And I think the consistent tone of the piece is an accomplishment, too. Lovely work, Doug!

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

      Dear Lime,

      Cogent comments from you speak volumes to me. I appreciate it, them and you. I’m about to go up the mountain. Will get to the rest of the stories up in the rare air.



  19. miq February 17, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    Now that I know this story is historical fiction I need to go google some facts. Very interesting piece.

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:46 pm #

      Dear MLQ,

      Thanks for stopping by. I have to feed the horses, dogs and imaginary kitty cats, then drive to the top of Mauna Kea where I will read your story and visit again. I appreciate your patience. Long day and night (when I work) is starting soon here in Hawaii.



  20. Caely February 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Dear D,

    this story is now officially my favorite of all your stories. I loved the mystique, but the mythology you embedded to it had me by the headline. Loving it!

    I hope you are well, friend.


    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

      Ah, Cae,

      You’re spoiling me now. (I like it.) Just woke up from a few hours sleep. Will be climbing the mountain again soon and will find your story there.



  21. Tori Nelson February 17, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    Really cool story!

    • dmmacilroy February 17, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      Thank you, Tori,

      I know how hard it can be to keep track of everything in the blogosphere. I appreciate you taking the time to read Ask Ulysses.



  22. Charles Oyeleke Williams February 18, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    This is tasking I must say…involves racking of the head, a good thing though! but thank goodness I got hits from some of your comments…nice to meet you and thanks for your comment and suggestions on mine.

    • dmmacilroy February 18, 2012 at 11:05 am #

      Dear Charles,

      The pleasure is mine. I just got done reading about you and Prentice on your blog. Very good story telling. I look forward to reading more of your work.



      • Charles Oyeleke Williams February 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

        Soon, and i will appreciate your critique. Your comment are always spot-on from the much that i’ve seen and really clinical!

  23. susielindau February 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    I think that even in knowing who these characters were and what they were doing the question, “Do you think Mr. Corey will care,” throws me off. If they are going to coax a plea, he certainly will care….this was way over my head, but I still loved the imagery.

    • dmmacilroy February 18, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

      Hi Susie,

      I really appreciate that you share your questions, puzzlement (why did he write it that way?) and the fact that a specific sentence throws you off.

      Now read that sentence again (the above), because I don’t want you to stop. I do mean it, okay? Good.

      Long and the short of it (Not a 100 word pun and excuse rolled into one) is that the question refers to whether Farmer Giles Corey will care if the stones used to press him “..have been washed pure and clean for the pressing.” Which leads to Sherriff Corwin’s cryptic answer. Did Ulysses care if he was eaten by a clean monster or an unkempt and dirty monster. He’s going to die horribly either way.

      I can see where the question might have derailed a reader’s train of thought and will add the knowledge to the process of creating well told tales.

      Thanks again for reading and having the courtesy and courage to express your thoughts. It’s a gift beyond price for a writer. Mahalo, Susie.



      • susielindau February 19, 2012 at 4:28 am #

        You are awesome Doug….

      • Carlos February 19, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

        Hi Doug,
        Upon reading these comments and re-reading your story I realise that the intended essence is actually that Corey wouldn’t care whether the stones were clean or not. When I read it the first time I did understand that point but it was made minor for me by the specific reference “Scylla bathed in the spray of Charybdis.” I assumed therefore a greater connection between the two, that it was an indication of how narrow the passage, and that only when Scylla bathes she turns into a monster. Thus Corey would care rather than not care whether the rocks were clean or not.
        A slight misunderstanding, or different understanding, on my part – but then I used to do badly on tests by over-thinking, assuming a trick question when it wasn’t.
        But, look, it has us all poring over the text and questioning it, and that’s surely a good thing!

      • dmmacilroy February 20, 2012 at 4:13 am #

        Dear Carlos,

        Thanks for sinking your teeth into this tale. I’m glad you were able to see what I intended the conversation to impart. The english language is a tough taskmaster, isn’t it? Your comments and critique will help me stay out from beneath the dunce cap. Please keep them coming.



  24. writingbothsides February 18, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

    I’m getting here late, but I think it’s great that connecting the stones to Salem brought out this intriguing story from you. Well done, as usual.

  25. LupusAnthropos February 19, 2012 at 3:07 am #

    Well, he certainly wasn’t Richard Corey, but he still had the weight of the world upon him. 😉

    I especially liked your phrase, “this earth’s bones,” to refer to the rocks.

    Here’s my story:

    • Douglas MacIlroy February 19, 2012 at 4:03 am #

      Thanks for the knid words. i was trying to find a voice that sounded real and true to the times. (I wonder what it was like to live three hundred years ago. Probably much like today, except quieter and more introspective.)

      Headed your way now.



  26. andyfloodwritersblog February 20, 2012 at 12:35 am #

    This story was initially a ‘head-scratcher’ for me. Having no familiarity with the Salem witch trials and only half-remembered figments of Homer/Greek mythology (some of which probably came from the old Ulysses sci-fi anime) I decided to re-read; once to check I wasn’t being dim, once again following a good read of the above comments and a final time with a little research providing context.
    Now that I feel slightly less dim, I must say your juxtaposition of historical and mythological references works well (after all, the line between the two is often little more than semantics).
    Your attention to the tone of the dialogue and word choice gives a definite ‘period’ feel; it has an air of authenticity.
    I enjoyed this, both as a story and as an academic exercise. Clearly many others felt the same way; the volume and quality of comments speak to the quality of your work.
    Apologies for the late and lengthy comment! 🙂

    • dmmacilroy February 20, 2012 at 4:09 am #

      Dear Andy,

      Your comment and compliments are greatly appreciated. As I said earlier, I knew the forest glen angle would be well covered by better writers than I and the stones spoke to me of the pressing of farmer Giles Corey. His final words when asked whether he chose to plea to the charges were, “More weight!” This story grabbed me by the collar and would not let go. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Looking forward to more discussion and some great stories from you. Welcome aboard.



  27. Steven E.A. February 21, 2012 at 5:23 am #

    There’s a lot of complexity here, but I’ve read through the comments and now seem to have a better understanding. Very descriptive prose. I don’t know if this was your intent, but I felt like it had a western influence to it.

    • dmmacilroy February 21, 2012 at 6:05 am #

      Hi Steven,

      Western as in the great American West, so to speak? There was a lot going on in the story, especially if you put yourself in the shoes of the narrator. He’s contemplating questions of religion (why washed and pure stones should make any difference in a procedure designed to force a man to sign his own death warrant), his own involvement in the process, at first just a hired hand loading rocks, but later, perhaps, complicit in murder, judicially authorized or not, and lastly, there is the question of the ultimate fate of farmer Corey at the hands of a town caught up in mass hysteria.

      I thank you for reading and commenting. The 100 word format forces the writer to layer stories and extract as much narrative with as few words as possible. I love the challenge.

      Looking forward to reading more of your work soon.



  28. Robin Hawke February 21, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Loved the sentence structures of the dialogue. Robin

    • dmmacilroy February 22, 2012 at 6:24 am #

      Thanks Robin!

      I’m already looking forward to the new photo prompt.



  29. Stacey February 22, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Loved “this earth’s bones” – very nice. Thanks for your comments on my post as well 🙂

    • dmmacilroy February 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      Dear Stacey,

      Thanks for visiting. I look forward to reading more of your work. Maybe this Friday?



  30. Jake Kale February 23, 2012 at 12:34 am #

    I’ve just come back from a quick Google a little more informed, a lot more disheartened, and with a great deal of respect for the tragic Mr. Corey. In more than one sense of the wood, that man had stones. OK, that’s a bad joke. But then death isn’t funny.

    Excellent work again, Doug. I’ve been entertained and informed. You can’t ask for better than that.

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