Love Pays the Butcher’s Bill

17 Aug

100 word story? (check) For Madison Woods’ FridayFictioneers? (check) Inspired by a picture (and a damn difficult task it was) of a skull in a tree? (check) Any good? (        ) Constructive criticism is encouraged, invited, rewarded, and will be archived forever next to the skull. (Would someone please tell me where a week went and why I can’t seem to find the Olympics on my TV.) Aloha, D.

“What did you do today?”

I’d long since learned she wasn’t interested in the answer. The real purpose of her prerequisite politeness was simply to get my reply out of the way.

“Butchered a ram and put its head in the fork of the tree out front.”

In the tiny beat before she continued I heard the last grains of sand in our relationship fall through the hourglass.

“That’s nice. Well, let me tell you, I had the most horrid day…”

Realization may come calling on her once I’m gone, but I’m betting it won’t get a word in edgewise.

68 Responses to “Love Pays the Butcher’s Bill”

  1. billgncs August 17, 2012 at 5:55 am #

    love the alliteration of “prerequisite politeness” — good tale, but sad.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 8:15 am #

      Dear Billgncs,

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. This is one of those stories that changes when viewed from different angles. It is a mirror of sorts in which each reader sees a little bit of themselves reflected.



      • billgncs August 17, 2012 at 1:32 pm #


  2. Sandra August 17, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    I liked the imagery of the last grains of sand falling through the hourglass. A great take on the prompt Doug, mingling sadness with humour. Well done.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      Dearest Sandra,

      Thank you for dropping by and reading. Are you once more on dry land? Saw your green dot on Facebook but didn’t want to burn your internet allotment by trying to chat. Will think differently if I know you’re home (land-locked one).



      • Sandra August 17, 2012 at 8:46 am #

        Yes we’re home, but off again in a couple of weeks. How great it’s been having wall to wall broadband – so chat freely until the end of the month. 🙂

      • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 8:54 am #

        Okay, Sandra. I’ll keep an eye out for you. Aloha, D.

  3. thecontradictoryoptimist August 17, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    I love the title and the last line particularly.. Sad yet beautiful story.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 8:08 am #

      I’m glad you liked the title because I went round and round trying to pick one. When that rolled though my mind everything came up cherries.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  4. Anne Orchard August 17, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    What a great way to use the prompt so literally in the story. Loved it! Mine is at

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 8:03 am #

      Dear Anne,

      It was such a difficult and dark prompt. There were a million possibilities but all of them led me to dark places with gnashing teeth. Couldn’t go there.

      Thank you for reading and commenting.



  5. 8teen39 August 17, 2012 at 6:50 am #

    I don’t know. I didn’t find it sad at all. It just seemed so real. Not one word was forced. The characters really take center stage loud and clear. How did you do that? Perfect.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      I’m with you. It’s the best thing that could ever happen. He’s out of Dodge and she’s still going to be talking. These moments don’t just happen all at once. They’ve been moving slowly, almost glacially until at long last they fall into the ocean with a huge splash and thunderous noise. Seems sudden, but usually have been a long time coming.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.



  6. Lora Mitchell August 17, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    I didn’t find it sad either. Here is a woman too selfish, conceited and self-involved to listen to what the other person has to say. I know women like her. ” last grains of sand falling through the hourglass..” How beautiful. I’m #30.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 8:01 am #

      Thanks Lora,

      You read my mind. Headed your way now.



  7. Joanna (Lazuli Portals) August 17, 2012 at 8:50 am #

    I came here first to see what pearls you had for us this week. I, too, loved the ‘last grains of sand’ imagery.

    Your final line is cleverly crafted, too. Perfectly painted, to use another alliteration. Does saying ‘Well done’ sound condescending? It’s not meant to be….

    We have both written this week:

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 20, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Dear Joanna,

      Thank you for the compliments. No, “well done” works for me. Alena and Kaden have wings. How cool is that?



  8. rochellewisoff August 17, 2012 at 10:05 am #

    Hi Doug,
    As always, you amaze me. I loved his response to how was your day. So self absorbed. The last line–classic. Realization won’t get a word in edgewise. I could go on about the woman. I know her…or should I say several hers like her. Sadly true to life. I feel a sense of relief for him.
    Again, brilliant! I’d give you a standing ovation but I can’t do that and type at the same time. 😉 Proud to call you friend and fellow author.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 10:26 am #

      Dear Rochelle,

      I like to say I can’t tell you how good your comments made me feel, but I can’t, because I can. They made me feel great. I hope this gets to you before you load up to go the the Ozarks Writer’s Conference. You’re probably loading up now. (Please give Russell Gayer a stiff elbow to the ribs for me.) (Don’t tell him who it’s from:)

      The people that populate my stories all have their analogs in real life. one of the benefits to being semi-ancient, I guess. Have fun this weekend.



      • rochellewisoff August 17, 2012 at 10:32 am #

        not yet…still chugging coffee to wake up and reading the FF offerings. I can say the same about your comments. I’m really looking forward to meeting Russell. Oh. BTW as for the stiff elbow…I’m very short so it depends on how tall he is.
        We may be longer in the tooth but that means we have a wealth of life experience and, hopefully, a bit of wisdom to draw from.
        Shalom Aloha

  9. kathils August 17, 2012 at 10:12 am #

    Loved it. I found it more humorous than sad. Probably because it is so real. Although not as bad, if you reverse the roles, that’s me and my hubby on some days. Thankfully, only *some* days. 🙂 The hourglass line is pure genius.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 10:21 am #

      Dear Kathils01, (Got to be a shorter name I can call you. Help me out if you can. Thanks:)

      Thank you for such a great couple of comments. Yes, I fear we’re all guilty of this at times. Some more than others, though. I appreciate the ‘genius’ line (just to let you know I’m listening:).



      • kathils August 18, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

        Doug, you’re welcome. Love coming here. And for a shorter moniker. . . Kathi will do. 🙂

  10. unspywriter August 17, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Ah, very good. I’ve been on the receiving end of those “Yes, dears” before. 😉

    Here’s mine:

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 10:28 am #

      Dear Maggie,

      I’m glad you dropped by ’cause the link thingie wasn’t connecting me to your work. Now I get to hit the hyperlink you provided in this comment and see if I get lucky. I appreciate the comment. Off to yours now.



      • unspywriter August 17, 2012 at 10:31 am #

        I put the link on Madison’s page on Thursday, but the story itself doesn’t get published until Friday 0600 on the east coast. Sorry.

  11. The Writers Village August 17, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    Great story. Smiled all the way from “Love Pays the Butcher’s Bill” (what a terrific title) to “even realization… won’t be getting a word in edgewise.
    I won’t comment on or name names of all the people I know that fit this category.
    It reminds of first dates in which women would ask me what radio station I liked to listen to and then proceed to put on the station that they liked. Short first and only dates for me.


    This was really one hell of a great and well written and language sensitive, nuanced, and perfect short piece. No hyperbole intended.

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

      Dear Randy,

      I appreciate the time you took to write such a really smile inducing set of complimentary comments re Love Pays the Butcher’s Bill. I was ending my vacation over the past few days and have now arrived at the summit where I have time to reply in the fashion some comments deserve. I am moved by your kindness. As I’m sure you know, being on the receiving end of praise such as yours can really make a writer’s day. It did and you have.

      Thank you.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


      • The Writers Village August 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

        oh… so you weren’t even there, much less listening as I was writing to you.

        Go figure!

        😉 Randy

        Me pu oe

  12. boomiebol August 17, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    Somewhat sad but very real…well done as always. Mine is up, and yea the Olympics are missing on my tv as well :).

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 20, 2012 at 11:18 am #

      Hi Boomie,

      Thanks for visiting. Don’t be sad for him. it’s all good. Off to find yours. Catching up now.



  13. vbholmes August 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Somehow, I see Niles and Maris as your principals. Wait, Niles, a butcher? Maris not fainting at the mention of a slaughtered ram’s head? In her tree? Speaks well for the success of your characterizations anyway.

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 20, 2012 at 11:22 am #

      Dear VB,

      So there’s hope for me yet. Somebody get kelsey Grammer on the phone. Thanks for your visit and comments.



  14. elmowrites August 17, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Great characterisation, Doug. I am in the “sad” camp of readers, in the sense that I don’t feel your guy has been happy for a while, but at the same time you sprinkle in humour, which gives us hope he’s about to find a better future.
    Nicely done. Even I can’t find something to be picky about! 😛
    I’m over here:

  15. Mike August 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    An interesting take on the prompt Doug.
    You set a scene that is, unfortunately, not uncommon between many couples. But as you say in an earlier reply these situations take a long time growing. You wonder if, once he has gone, will either of them really notice.
    A great read – thanks.

  16. flyoverhere August 17, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

    LOL, struck my funny bone, probably because it is so true to life in many cases!

  17. keliwright August 17, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Oh, I’m sorry. Did you write something? 😉

    So sad. I loved the image of the hourglass,and the last line is perfect. You have a way of wrapping it up so well. I’ve noticed how difficult it is to complete a drabble; they always seem to be part of something more. While this glimpse is obviously part of a longer experience (as all stories of whatever length are), the piece itself is a perfect
    Iittle pearl. It’s all been said. (Was that clear?) Very skillfully done.

    And check on that fourth item above.

  18. readinpleasure August 17, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    Doug, a very fine take on the prompt and well written. You know what? ‘“Butchered a ram and put its head in the fork of the tree out front.” reminded me of a custom among the Ewe (not pronouced as you you see it though) ethnic group of Ghana. When an elderly man dies, espeailly a respected man in the Ewe community, a bull is slaughtered, as a sign of respect, and the head is hanged on the gate or door post to the main house. Don’t ask me the meaning of this; I don’t know it myself. I have seen it with my own eyes on two occasions. All I know is that it is a sign of resepct. Aloha! (BTW, what does it mean?) I am here and linked as well:

  19. erinleary August 17, 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    Any Good? (check)

    Enjoyed your story and could feel his frustration with a less than satisfying relationship.

  20. Joyce August 17, 2012 at 3:21 pm #

    A sad tale of a broken, twisted relationship sounding so real of marriages today. Very good.

  21. sustainabilitea August 17, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I fell sad for both of them–for him because of the way she is and for her because of the way she is. She can’t listen at any level. The choice I have to make is whether he literally butchered or did it just to see if she was listening and would respond. But no matter which I choose, I’m never disappointed when I come to read your take on the prompt.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

      The prompt just triggered the response in my head. He did not butcher a ram for real. The skull in the picture is kind of a post script, if you will, for their relationship sometime down the road.

      Thank you for your comments, especially the last one. You’ve helped make my day.

      Mahalo and Aloha,


  22. Jan Brown August 17, 2012 at 7:08 pm #

    Such a vivid and accurate description of a failing relationship. I love the reference to the last sands through the hourglass. And you are right, she will be oblivious and still talking when he is long gone.

    • dmmacilroy August 17, 2012 at 7:25 pm #

      Hi Jan,

      Thanks for the kind comments. I am at a loss to understand how what I have written about comes to be. What happens over time to people to have them arrive at such a state?




  23. John Hardy Bell August 17, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    Hey Doug,

    Have been and will always be a fan of your work. Man, you got me with this one! Loved the story! I’ve been keeping up with the Fictioneers even though I haven’t contributed for some time, and yours are consistently my favorite. Wonderful, dynamic stuff. Keep inspiring my friend!


  24. Susan Wenzel (@SusanWenzel) August 18, 2012 at 12:15 am #

    Dear Doug,

    Well…there is nothing like talking to someone that isn’t really listening (and even worse when that person only likes to hear him/herself speak – I don’t blame your protagonist for walking away from that – not one bit). Sometimes I say random things when these guys are watching tv just to see if they are listening…most of the time the glowing god on the wall takes precedence.

    I didn’t play this week. To be honest with you, I had in my mind that today was Thursday even though I KNOW tomorrow is Saturday. Between indoor and outdoor projects, festivals and fairs, the garden and my chickens…the week was swept away before I even realized it. Bah!


    PS – I absolutely LOVED the last line.

  25. Nifti August 18, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    Very nice use of the prompt. Very relatable too… From both sides.

  26. Rachel Paterson August 18, 2012 at 9:16 pm #

    Its all been said: hugely relatable on both sides, simultaneously evoking frustration and arousing a twist of guilt; ‘last grain of sand…’ – fantastic line; the last word – humour born of frustration; great title. Piquant.

    • dmmacilroy August 18, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

      Dear Rachel,

      Thank you for your comments. I don’t recognize you and so will be looking through your blog tonight. Always a treat to read new work. How did you find me? Mysteries abound.

      Aloha for now,


  27. Adam Ickes August 19, 2012 at 2:25 am #

    Loved the last line, Doug. It speaks volumes, much like her.

  28. rgayer55 August 19, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Dear Douglas,
    I made it back home, and still trying to catch my breath from that elbow in the ribs via Rochelle. We had a nice visit and it was fun to get some ‘face time’ with other writers.

    You amaze me. First you whine about how difficult the prompt is, then you create a glorious title, throw in a dozen strategically placed metaphors and masterfully weave it into a tapestry that all can relate to. And all so gracefully done that we just glide over the words.

    I appreciate the kind comments on my–and even the elbow to the ribs. 🙂

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Dear Russell,

      I have Rochelle pegged at about 120 pounds and no martial artist. Did she rock your world with that elbow? I’m glad she delivered it and told you where it might have come from.

      Thanks very much for your effusive praise re Love Pays the Butcher’s Bill. I still think half of the respondents haven’t grasped the deep history behind that title, but I’m glad you did and that you enjoyed the story. (I still contend that I cheated by staying well clear of all the dark and scary tree shenanigans, but hey, you have to do what you have to do, right?)

      I’ve decided to make it to one of the quarterly Ozark Writer’s Conferences one of these days. let’s coordinate and hoist a beer or three, that is, of course, if your ribs ever heal.



      • The Writers Village August 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

        Dear Doug,

        I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on your conversation with Mr. Gayer since I like to read the follow-up comments on pieces, and I read your statement,

        ” I still think half of the respondents haven’t grasped the deep history behind that title,…”

        So I’ve reread the words you’ve written on this page several times trying to comprehend your statement; and cannot make a ram’s head nor tail of it.

        So since my eavesdropping curiosity is piqued, I ask if you will forgive me for overhearing your comments and if you would kindly elucidate on them for us if you are so inclined…

        Thanks and aloha-ha-ha
        Randy 😉

      • Douglas MacIlroy August 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

        Dear Randy,

        Eavesdropper. (There’s a story in the origins of that word, too, I’ll bet.)

        Perhaps everyone has made the connection and/or it wasn’t as nifty as I thought it was, but here goes. A few hundred years ago warfare was a grim and grisly business, what with armies lining up a few dozen meters apart to discharge fusilades of lead at each other, or ships of the line laden with cannon crossing the ‘T’ of an enemy fleet and delivering smashing broadsides at close range. Humans did not fare well under these circumstances and the resulting carnage, come the end of any engagement or battle, was tallied by commanders in the field asking their subordinates, “What was the Butcher’s Bill?”, a phrase that implied there was much butchery, and the Butcher would have to be paid. In my story it is Love that pays the Butcher’s Bill for it is the casualty of the inferred exchanges over time between the protagonist and his significant other. It is camouflaged a bit by the sentence, “Butchered a ram and…” spoken in reply to the opening question.

        I thought the reference to the carnage of 18th century warfare fitting for the backstory of the piece as relationships are often rife with warfare of an ugly sort.

        Might have been a little obscure, I suppose, but was worth including as it adds a bit more to the story. (More cheating:) I hope this ellucidation satisfies your curiousity, Randy.

        Thanks for asking.



      • Russell August 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

        I’m almost back to normal(?) Well, at least normal for me. We’d love to have you come join us. There’s a neat Irish Pub in Branson Landing that serves up some great brew. Let’s bend an elbow or three.

  29. The Writers Village August 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    From wikipedia:

    “The eavesdrip is the width of ground around a house or building which receives the rain water dropping from the eaves.

    This is sometimes also known as the eavesdrop, but an eavesdrop is also a small, not very visible hole in a building used to listen in (to eavesdrop, as a verb) on the conversation of people awaiting admission to the building.”

    Now “perhaps everyone” what?… I’m holding my breath for the rest of it….


    • Douglas MacIlroy August 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

      Dear Randy,

      I find WordPress hate me to write overlong comments and makes it hard to see them while I’m typing (It’s doing it now) so I start a comment, post it and then edit it without the distraction of jumpy, boxed in limitations imposed by the comment/reply box. Sorry for the delay. I hope this gets through to you.

      Again, thanks for asking.



      • The Writers Village August 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

        I type in word first and then copy and paste into the reply box.

  30. Jeannie August 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Well Doug, I didn’t find it sad either. In fact, I was grinning the whole time I read it. I loved how the conversation flowed and showed ‘the natural state of affairs’ for that moment in time. It was in fact, so natural and real, that I’m thinking many of us can identify with one or the other if we’re honest. I especially like this line: “Butchered a ram and put its head in the fork of the tree out front.” Who hasn’t made a comment as absurd as this, wondering if significant other is really listening at all? Loved it.

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 19, 2012 at 3:03 pm #

      Dear Jeannie,

      Thank you for reading and commenting so generously. I’m guilty of making absurd statements, as are we all in the course of our relationships. And there are times when I know for a fact no one os listening. Thanks for listening.



  31. Running from Hell with El August 19, 2012 at 5:02 pm #

    Love this Doug. And I loved your explanation of the “Butcher’s Bill!” Brilliant (grinning). xo

  32. tedstrutz August 20, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    Had to read the last line twice… loved it!

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 20, 2012 at 11:08 am #

      Dear Ted,

      Thanks for stopping by. When do you hit Volcan?



      • tedstrutz August 22, 2012 at 3:20 am #

        Looks like sept sometime…

  33. The Writers Village August 20, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    Dear Doug,

    Thank you for your explanation about “The Butcher’s Bill.” I had never heard that expression before. Very interesting. I hadn’t thought to check it out as an actual expression. Also adds a lot more depth for me to the expression, “What butchery!” Randy

    • Douglas MacIlroy August 20, 2012 at 11:06 am #

      Hi Randy,

      You’re welcoome. Tried to keep it short and sweet. Watch Russell Crowe in Master and Commander. Good movie. it gets used there.



  34. Russell August 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    I was replying to your comment and it got stuck in the wrong place. Don’t know how that happened . . . .

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