Ms. Morton’s Fork

                                                   A Writing Prompt
                                                          By Jeff Salter 

            This week, we’re posting writing prompts.  Not completely certain I understand them, but I believe it’s establishing a premise or set of circumstances and leaving it to the blog’s readers to “run with it.”  Or if not to “run” … at least to comment on which way they might run.
            In researching this premise, I learned that I have long misunderstood the venerable Hobson’s Choice.  It turns out that what I assumed was Hobson’s Choice was actually Morton’s Fork.
            Hobson’s Choice is:  “take this [whatever] … or take nothing at all”.
            Morton’s Fork is basically a choice between TWO equally undesirable outcomes.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_fork 
            So, without further ado, here’s your writing prompt:

 Ms. Morton’s Fork
            Awakened suddenly in the middle of the night, Lesa Morton hears thunderous pounding on her front door.
            It’s a man: loud, agitated, and strong.  “Open up, Ms. Morton!  You’re in danger!”
            Lesa is terrified.  The only danger she senses is that aggressive stranger yelling and pounding on her front door.  As she creeps down the hall past her kitchen, she hears another voice!
            This is also a man, somewhere in the dark shadows near her rear entrance … and inside her kitchen!  His voice is deep, soft, and soothing:  “Don’t let that man inside.”
            “Can you hear me, Ms. Morton?” screams the front door man.  “Let me in, now!  I can protect you!”
            Lesa hasn’t said a word.  Her voice is caught somewhere deep in her chest, where her heart threatens to pound itself to pieces.
            “Listen to me,” says the soothing kitchen voice.  “Don’t let that man near you.  He’s a killer!”
            Finally Lesa manages to squeeze out a few syllables.  “If he’s a killer, who are YOU?”
            Ignoring her question, the man with the soothing voice, says: “If you let him in, you’re dead.”
            The front door man continues to pound and yell.
            Lesa peers into the kitchen darkness but can’t see even a shape.  “How do I know that YOU’RE not the killer?”
            The man in Lesa’s kitchen pauses, as if deliberating how to rely.  “I’m already inside.  Trust me.”

 Fundamental decision
            Assuming she has no firearms (or other obvious means of protection), both her exits are blocked by these two men, and her first floor windows have security bars:
            1.  Should Lesa run to the front door and fling it open?  Then say, “He’s in the kitchen!”
                        Or
            2.  Should Lesa hurry into the arms of the man with the soothing voice, and tell him to make the front door menace go away?

 Other Questions:
            Which tine of Morton’s Fork would you select (if you had no OTHER options)?
            Does the calming voice belong to a good guy?
            Does the aggressive agitated voice belong to a bad guy?
            How much can you tell by only HEARING someone?
            How did the man with the nice voice get into Lesa’s kitchen?
                        WHY is he there?
            How / why does the front door guy know Lesa’s name?

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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24 Responses to Ms. Morton’s Fork

  1. Tonette says:

    My cat can,(and does), re-set my alarm clock, so I put it in my nightstand drawer.Unfortunately, the ease of setting the time and alarm,(to Oranges), with the buttons on top, also make it easy to re-set when I close the drawer…which is what happened this morning….I’m up an hour early and very tired, but have the grandson to get to school…in an hour and a half.With that said, there is no way you can assume a calm voice is not a bad guy, espcially under those circumstances. If there were danger outside, the man inside should have awakened her.If indeed the man on the inside is the bad guy, of course the man outside would be agitated.If I had to choose, I’m heading outside. who they are and what the heck they are up to…yawn…too many cobwebs in my head to even guess!

    Like

  2. Lindsay says:

    It could also be a nightmare she’s having, therefore there is no one in the kitcken with the soothing voice nor a man pounding on her door. She should ley the dream continue to play out. Then and only then will she truely know the truth.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Oh, great twist, Lindsay! I like the nightmare scenario. That way you could write it out either way and then let her wake up. Cool.

      Like

  3. Tonya Kappes says:

    Writing prompts are really popular to get writers thinking and to get them to start writing and help them focus. We use to do a writer’s prompt workshop on Saturdays at The Naked Hero. I’m sorry I’m not participating today. Not enough coffee this morning! Great idea!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Don’t you get your coffee from MacDonalds, Tonya?
      No, wait … I should remember this. It’s a special flavor, but not from Starbucks.
      Help me out.

      Like

  4. jeff7salter says:

    Hey folks, this was the response of a friend who prefers to remain anonymous. VERY insightful! What do y’all think?

    “Tell the guy at the front door you have someone in the kitch to protect you; tell the kitch guy you’re going to let the front door guy in.
    See which one bolts.
    Voila.
    Elementary, my dear Morton!”

    Like

  5. Sug Grant says:

    I am a reader, not a writer, so I am not too concerned about Hobson’s Choice or Morton’s Fork. As a reader, I would be screaming “Go to the door! Quickly! In mysteries there is no way that a person would be unannounced in someone’s house unless they were there to do harm and we all know that “serial killers” try to trick their victims! A real life Morton’s Fork that I can think of was Edward Edwards and David Duke in the Louisiana Governors race. “Vote for the crook that you know!”

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Very good point, Sug. The basic psychological dilema which intrigued me about this prompt was whether — in a crisis — any one would be tempted to go with the calm soothing reassuring ‘unknown’ versus the frantic, agressive, scary ‘unknown’.

      Like

  6. jbrayweber says:

    Love the prompt, Jeff. And, oh, what a tangled mess.

    I’ve seen enough horror movies to know that I need to arm myself with something, ANYTHING, within reach that could cause some sort of damage. I’d make a mental note of where my phone was and if I could get to it.

    Now…if I had to make a choice, I’d go for the door. The man in the kitchen wants me to trust him but he has yet come from out of the shadows. NOT trusting him. If I swing open the front door, but not stand in front but to the side, and allow this man in. If he’s a cop, he’s going for the baddie. If he’s a vampire, shoot, I’m dead anyway. 😉 Once he’s inside past me (because I’m waiting for him to enter) I’m making a break for it and hoping for the best. Or I’ll attack him with said household item and THEN make a break for it.

    It’s all about the speed and element of surprise. HAHAHA!
    Jenn!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Great solution, Jenn. And quite proactive. Grab anything that can give you an edge and whack the bad guys. And your concept of opening the door and stepping aside is perfect. The front door guy will be halfway into the room by the time he realizes you’ve slipped out the door!

      Like

  7. Susan says:

    I’ll be in the closet, changing my panties.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      LOL, Susan. I’ll bet you could neutralize both of those guys … just by stunning them with puns. Remember all those ’emergency puns’ you used to share with me?
      If you can engage a bad guy’s brain — assuming it’s not fried on drugs — you stand a chance of deterring his original purpose.

      Like

  8. Louisa Bacio says:

    Ah, what a quandary. I certainly wouldn’t “run” into the arms of the man in the shadows if I didn’t know him. I kinda like Jenn’s solution of dashing out the front door. Does she have an upstairs to hide and actually call the police?

    Finally, must point out a potential, um, funny with the line: “This is also a man, somewhere in the dark shadows near her rear entrance.” Sorry, it’s even early and I just can’t help it!

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Gosh, I hadn’t even thought about hiding upstairs and calling the cops. I guess I figure the cops will take 15 mins. to arrive and whatever happens will take place in the next 90 seconds.
      Re: ‘rear entrance’ — ROFL. good catch.

      Like

  9. jeff7salter says:

    Another anonymous friend, who prefers not to post, wrote this reply:

    “I would run for the door, open it, duck/dash behind the sofa and faint. Let the guys duke it out and hope that good prevails :)”

    I don’t like this plan so much, because the person in the faint would miss all the action.

    Like

  10. Soothing voices hidden in the dark creep me out!
    I’d rather head to the stranger that seems more forthright. At least I’ll be able to see him, know what his intentions are in the next few seconds. I’d grab whatever I could to use as a weapon including pencils or pends by the phone etc. Even a tightly rolled magazine becomes a whacker of sorts and can be aimed right at the eyes or nose and used like a gouge. I’d open the door and retreat to the side a few steps, that buys me a few precious seconds to size up what’s coming through the door before I have to react.

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Stacey, I think I want you on my side of a fight like this. You’re quite resourceful on ad hoc weaponry.
      Those sound like very effective defensive measures.

      Like

  11. Tonette says:

    Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minutue…you said we HAD to choose…I’d really probably lock myself in away from both of them or find a weapon to use asap.

    Like

  12. Leslie says:

    Jeff, How about a prompt with a Christian twist? The guy in the kitchen, with the deep, soft, and soothing voice, is actually the Holy Spirit, or an angel, and the guy at the front door is really the devil??? Just a thought. Never heard of Morton’s fork before~very interesting!
    Les

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Leslie, that’s a terrific angle!
      Lots of possibilities if written as inspirational.
      Thanks for visiting.
      Give Mark a hug.

      Like

  13. robenagrant says:

    I just popped over here to check out the blog, Jeff. I like it a lot. And this is quite a challenge.

    I’m almost certain I would go with the anxious aggressive guy at the front door. The other one is inside and shouldn’t be. The one outside probably saw him enter and is either a neighbor or a cop. So yeah, I’d grab a lamp or a bookend or an umbrella, anything on my way to the door. I’d open it quickly and get out of the way and preferably outside. Let the guys duke it out. : )

    Like

    • jeff7salter says:

      Thanks for visiting, Robena.
      I like your solution to Morton’s Fork. It’s probably what I’d do — Front door, but bring some kind of weapon.
      Hope you’ll return. I’m here every Thursday. The Resident Foxes are holding the fort on the other weekdays … and they’re a lively bunch!

      Like

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