The Dare

Please. No.  I don’t want to die.

I’m not even supposed to be here.

It was a dare. A stupid dare.

“Let’s race to the buoy and back. Last person back to the boat has to buy everyone’s drinks all night,” Chet challenged the seven of us.

I glanced around the overloaded powerboat, my friends Cyn and Amy pausing from their make-out sessions with the hot frat boys they’d met this morning.

“I don’t swim,” Cyn huffed, her eyes glazed over from too much tequila, as she used the interruption to take another swig from a bottle that littered the deck. “Kammie will win anyway.” She raised the bottle in a half-hearted toast to me.

“Is that right?” Chet sneered, still bitter the only unpaired female – me – had turned down his drunken advances. “Me and you then. The buoy and back.” He stripped off his ratty T-shirt, the late afternoon sun displaying a body already past its prime, the beginnings of a beer belly rounding an otherwise toned stomach.

I looked at my friends. Amy’s bikini top was partially off, covered instead by the meaty paws of her frat boy. Cyn, bored with the conversation, now straddled the lap of her partner, the only things visible her curtain of shiny black hair draped to her waist and the guy’s hands creeping into her bikini bottoms.

You don’t want to sit and read by the pool all day. Come join us. They have a friend. It’ll be fun.” Cyn’s earlier words echoed in my head.

This was most definitely not fun.

“Just take me back to the dock, okay?” I asked him. I wanted off this boat. It was only a few more tequila shots away from transforming into a full blown orgy.

“Race me. You win, I take you back.”

“And if I lose?”

“You stay on the boat and do shots with me.”

Aw hell.

“Fine, let’s get this over with.” I kicked off my shoes, cursing under my breath that I’d been stupid enough to get trapped on a boat with five people I barely knew while my supposed friends got their freak on. I was smarter than that.

At least I knew I’d win. My top ranked swim team hadn’t nicknamed me “Phelps” for nothing.

Chet splashed into the water causing a couple I’d never met before today to flip him off before returning to …

Dear God, I did not need to see that.

I quickly dove off the boat, the salty warm water hugging me like a long lost friend. I surfaced a few feet away. “I’m ready when you are.”

Without another word, Chet was off, surprisingly smooth strokes already pulling him away from me.

His lead didn’t last long.

The buoy was only three hundred meters away – a piece of cake for me. I easily passed him less than a third of the way there.

I was in the zone, flying through the water – more at home here than on land.

As I turned at the buoy, the sound of an engine revving reached me.

Chet tossed me a wave from the wheel as he put the boat into gear and fled – in the opposite direction.

“Hey!” I screamed. Why didn’t my friends stop him?

“WAIT! You can’t leave me he-!” My yell cut off as a wave of water splashed into my mouth.

The boat shrank into the distance.

Calm. Be calm. Swim towards land.

I took a deep breath and searched the horizon.

Nothing. Only ocean.

I was alone except for the buoy – too big to grasp.

Please, don’t let me die.


A Red Dress Club writing prompt

This is a work of fiction for The Red Dress Club’s writing prompt this week:

Water gives life. It also takes it away.

Write a short piece – fiction or non-fiction – inspired by one or both of these statements.

Word maximum is 600.

Comments and constructive criticism craved. I want to improve and I appreciate feedback so I may do so. I promise I won’t cry if you hate it. Much. It’s okay. I need to thicken my skin.

Did I “show” you the story, or did I “tell” it to you?


About Kelly K @ Dances with Chaos

Kelly K has learned the five steps to surviving of motherhood: 1) Don't get mad. Grab your camera. 2) Take a photograph. 3) Blog about it. 4) Laugh. 5) Repeat. She shares these tales at Dances with Chaos in order to preserve what tiny amount of sanity remains. You can also find her on her sister blog, Writing with Chaos ( sharing memoir and engaging in her true love: fiction writing. It's cheaper than therapy.
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51 Responses to The Dare

  1. Shell says:

    I did not expect that!

  2. kir says:

    Well since I read it yesterday I’ve thought of it a lot and yes u did indeed show me this. I was in that water feeling left behind. You painted a great picture of the ocean and the fear.

  3. Leighann says:

    I really hope they’re just playing a prank

  4. Carrie says:

    I really liked this. You’ve painted a real character with Chet. I hope the jerk falls off the boat and cracks his skull or something. What an ass.

    AND, what kind of friends let her get left? Will you be continuing this?

    My only question is exactly how many people were on the boat…you mentioned 7 and then there was a mention of 5…maybe I missed something 🙂

    • She’s on a boat with seven other people, five of which she’d never met before that day, plus her two friends.

      She got into my head and her story, the before and the after keep swirling around. If I get a chance or another prompt fits, I might tell some more of her story – because I find I quite like her, and really hope she doesn’t drown…

      Your reaction to Chet and wishing bodily harm upon him makes me smile. I must have done something right….. 🙂

  5. I really liked this.. it definitely left me wanting to know what happens next!!

  6. Tiffany says:

    Wow! This was a great post for that prompt. I thought for a moment this really happened. I love your writing, I wish I could put into words what I can think in my mind. 🙂

    • Wow. Thank you Tiffany – the crazy insecure writer in my thanks you greatly for the ego boost.

      The whole words-from-mind-transported-to-writing is something I’m constantly working on. The more I read, the more I write, the more I learn, the better I get (I hope).

      I think my 4 year old can do the breast stroke better than I can. I can swim, just nothing remotely fast…

  7. Jack says:

    I knew a “Chet.” You painted a nice picture of him.

  8. Tracie says:

    Ooooh! I want to slap some sense into her friends and then just plain slat Chet.

    I hope she makes it!!

    Great job with the prompt.

  9. Adrienzgirl says:

    Oh, I have so been there and done that, thinking what the hell did my “supposed” friends get me into. “I am smarter than this.” I have said that to myself, out loud, within earshot of said “supposed” friends. Took me back to my young and dumb days for sure. Not that I was dumb, just, you know, did dumb stuff for someone with more than a few braincells.

    Great read and interpretation of the prompt!

  10. Jackie says:

    What a jerk! He left her behind because she dismissed his advances! It was in interesting twist the way he got back on the boat and left her there.

    I do find it hard to believe that with all those other people on the boat that the would leave her there though.

    I think you showed us. The ocean, the friends, and Chet.

  11. cristina says:

    you must write more… this was amazing, the characters so real. the situation too.
    there’s always that jerk right?
    we want more!!

  12. Angel says:

    Yeah I would be swimming back to land and whooping someone’s tail. Seriously.. starting with beer belly romeo and working my way down the chain..

  13. Kristy says:

    A great lesson about listening to your own inner voice! I loved your take on the prompt!

  14. Elaine says:

    Excellent turn of events. Well you know, as a surprise in the story anyway – ha!

    And Chet is the just the perfect name for a jerk, isn’t it? Way to captivate us with your story…

  15. Yikes. I definitely read this feeling the heebie jeebies and wanting to jump off the boat myself. So the question remains, as with every cliff hanger, what happens next?

    Stopping by from TRDC.

  16. Stacey says:

    Oh man!! Her friends suck! That would be scary even for a good swimmer. I’m really hoping she makes it back to land! Way to leave a girl hanging.

  17. Mandyland says:

    I so loved this story! You brought some amazing characters to life, lady, and I hope, hope, hope you continue it.

  18. Sarafree says:

    Gosh, it’s totally what I imagine the frat scene to be like and being the outsider in that situation. Loved it!

  19. Amy says:

    Horrible but great twist that i didn’t see coming. I want to read more!

  20. Ash says:

    Holy expletive. LOVED it! Sincerely, I couldn’t read through it fast enough to see where it was going. And where it went? So good!!

  21. CDG says:

    I didn’t see your ending coming, and it begs to be continued.

    A few thoughts…

    Your main character is really strong, she definitely carries the narrative! The juxtaposition of her discomfort on deck with her obvious comfort in the water is really well shown.

    I really like the way you open–so many possibilities for why she’s stuck, and you really don’t give it away until the very end. I thought Chet was going to require rescuing, and she was going to get fatigued trying to bring him in.

    You focus on there being 7 people on the boat, which I presume is anchored, and then Chet just fires it up and takes off? Not one of them is going to notice her absence when jerked out of their… ahem… activities by hauling in the anchor and starting the engine?

    And I’d love to see you really paint the picture, give us more for our senses, smell of salt water, sunscreen and tequila – is it night or day? Sunset?

    • First off – thank you so much for the excellent ConCrit. I love detailed feedback.

      I’m firmly blaming the lack of setting description on the 600 word count. I was exactly at 600, and the characters proved to be too strong to cut for location description. I had to cut lines like “How could the mingled stench of salt, Coppertone, liquor, and vomit act as an aphrodisiac?

      Further description of the boat (and the orgy sounds coming from the interior cabin), and why she even joined her friends were also cut.

      In the end, Chet won out – his ego demanding the brief spotlight.

      All another reason why I’d love to revisit this…

  22. Leigh Ann says:

    Wow, Kelly. This is amazing, powerful, and sad all at the same time. Very well done.

  23. angela says:

    I thought you did a good job of showing! It takes me back to some of those times in college when a day/night started with fun intentions and spiraled into something else entirely.

    I hope she doesn’t drown, but I wouldn’t mind if Chet did (since it’s fiction and all.)

  24. Victoria KP says:

    I really enjoyed that! I figured Chet was going to drown or something. A surprise ending is always a good thing!

  25. Mandy says:


    WOW, I was so in to this! I didn’t want it to end! Haha, I really want to know what happens next.

    Awesomely written, gripping, very real. So, so glad I read it. 😀

  26. I’ve read this three times since last night. Desperately trying to forget the Chet in my mind (yeah, I knew one and you NAILED him here.)
    And CDG is right, there is room here for a little more description but still, you led us to that buoy right along with her. Well done!

  27. I hope Chet gets his nuts pecked off by a pissed off seagull. This character is so strong and I was so looking forward to her kicking his stupid frat boy butt. What I wanted was more of a sense of why she was there, a strong reason, like maybe if she were there because she was worried about one of her friends something along those lines.

  28. Sara says:

    I love it. Only thing I could think of more would be to add some more details about where you are, but other than that, I love it!

  29. Rebecca says:

    wow, this was good. didn’t see that coming….

  30. Veronica says:

    A very strong character you have here, and her story is just begging to be told. You captured the fear of being out of your element, knowing you made the wrong decision and feeling/being trapped perfectly.

    Chet is an ass, I hated guys like him when I was in college.

  31. You showed it. This was great. Can’t wait to hear how it turned out.

  32. Ack! What a creep/jerk/ass/etc.
    You must have done good, cause I wanna beat Chet over the head.
    And her “friends”? Hah.

    This is great. I want to know more.
    I want to hear about revenge. 😉

  33. Stasha says:

    Stopping by from TRDC…

    This is so well written… I wanted to punch Chet in the throat for being such an ass. And her friends? What kind of friends would let something like that happen?

    You left me wanting to know more. I hope you continue the story!

  34. Ok, along with being new to fiction writing, I am new to fiction writing critique but you asked so I’m gonna try to be constructive.

    I really liked the story. It was very vivid. The curtain of black hair, the rounded beer belly emerging out of the toned stomach, the hugging of the warm salty water. All great. I can picture it completely and I imagine the main character is very much like you.

    Here are some suggestions but feel free to dismiss. I think you could lose some of the main character’s inner narrative. “This was most definitely not fun.” “At least I knew I’d win. My top ranked swim team hadn’t nicknamed me “Phelps” for nothing.” “Dear God, I did not need to see that.” I think the story would read better without them. Part of that whole showing, not telling thing.

    I also think (although I’m not positive about this one) that you could lose the the very beginning which sets you up for the end. Better to get people right into the crux of your story. Start the story with “Let’s race to the buoy and back”.

    One more line that took me out of the story a little bit was the line about his drunken advances. I know it’s a crucial detail but if there was a way you could indicate it (have him put his hand on your leg, you flick it off, something) so the reader would get it without saying so explicitly, I think that would be better.

    One woman’s opinion. But very well done.

    Feel free to come back to mine and be brutal.

  35. Mrs. Jen B says:

    Whoooooa that’s awesome. Chet was the perfect name for this creep. I hope there’s a continuation of this, full of wrathful revenge. What a jerk – putting it mildly.

  36. I particularly loved the onset of the beer belly. I know a few people like that. Great story. I would love to see you continue this.

  37. You very much showed this. High school at its finest (or worst). I’ve felt that pressure, being at the wrong place, somehow ending up with the wrong people. The fact that I could relate means something. And the dialogue is spot on. Saying hi from TRDC!

  38. taylor says:

    Hi Kelly,

    You know in 140 characters I love ‘the story’ and I have a very personal connection to the inevitable, but the honest irony is when I asked if you wrote this again what you would do, I had no idea what #trdc prompt was or that you were open to impressions…so here I am.

    After reading the comments above I think the simplest critique is this; avoid the obvious at all costs (if you ever feel you know we will know what you are going to say next…you get the picture…if that happens we stop reading). Writing is like life, we all love security but never, NEVER allow yourself, your words, to be predictable. Where you shine Kelly, is in the detail…not the inner voice detail, but living the senses that take us there with you and forget we are reading the words. Go deeper. Go there…go straight there to the conscious stream where you wonder if you should say less but can’t. Go there and feel the wind on your face between the swell and reach up to the bouy where the salt has stained the water line and the years of weather and neglect have flaked the paint and left a rusty orange on your palm like his breath on your neck…are you there? What is worse…the salty naked truth of being his next drunken piece or drowning with your self intact? Are you there right now? …now, take me with you…

    I think you know the answer when you ask the question Kelly…don’t settle for less.


  39. Angie says:

    I think you captured that boozy, sleazy vibe well – definitely what a spectator would see/hear/feel. It makes me shudder to think of returning to my teenage years to observe myself during an evening like this one.

    I think Ilana was spot on with some of her thoughts in tightening the story up a bit in some areas to allow for descriptive expansion in others.

    Nice work!

  40. Kelly says:

    I love this!!! You definitely “showed” what an ass Chet is and how awful Kammie’s friends are!

    I really hope you continue this story…Kammie is a strong character and I so hope her story doesn’t end at the damn buoy!!

  41. Tina says:

    Well, dammit! Now I want to know what happens!

    Some of the character comments do seem to momentarily distract from the story, and that does limit the ‘flow’. But I still enjoyed it, and I want to know more!

  42. Ironic Mom says:

    Kelly – fantastic. I’m not going to give you a full critique, because I think you know where you’re going with this. May I just say that Chet is very Chet. That’s a compliment, by the way. He is. You did a good job at making your protagonist likable in a few words, even when she’s dumped, almost literally.

    Write on!

  43. Oh man. I can’t believe Chet! I mean I can, but I can’t! And what kind of friends does she have? Holy cow! I was able to imagine the characters through your descriptive writing…painted the picture well.

  44. Brandon says:

    Well, well! Look at you! Great job on the prompt!

    You can definitely paint a picture, I will give you that. You captured the pompous ass very well. After reading the other comments, I think they hit some good points. A couple things they missed:

    – The “I don’t swim,” Cy… sentence. I get what you are doing, but break it up. You will feel it when a sentence is getting too ‘full’ (and I’m sure you did) – It’s ok to cut it into smaller chunks. Read it aloud – if you have to purposely be careful how you word it, it’s too long.
    – The main character – she is strong and that is well done. The inner monologue, etc… you got a comment earlier to lose it. Not necessarily, it sounds like what you are doing is putting too much of yourself in the character. You write it like YOU are there in her shoes right now. Readers can sense that. Try using the feelings that you would have if you WERE there, but write it like you are watching it happen. Look at the difference and see which you think reads better.
    – The last part – Where the boat disappears and she scans. You lost it at this point. I have SO many issues with this, myself. I want to wrap it up, give it that last emotional push, and… I get slightly unbelievable. If she only sees the horizon, etc? She can still see the boat driving away. Especially if they are on the ocean. It’s just those little descriptors that chip away at your credibility.

    The story is great, and you are a very good writer! You are going to get even better if you keep pushing yourself. Don’t be nervous – If something flops? So what. Just learn what you did wrong and try not to repeat.

    Keep it up, you!

  45. Sara says:

    I was reading this and was really excited to see her win, to see her humble Chet… and then BAM, she loses! Wah! I really was rooting for her. You definitely showed me the story, but I need to know what happened next?!!

  46. jeleystorey says:

    I love being blissfully ignorant and just reading your work while I am drawn in and never want to leave. I haven’t felt like this about reading for almost 20 years. You stun me. This piece of fiction, that piece; I want books of them ALL! I can’t get enough and I just found you tonight. Amazing lady. Just amazing!

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