DWP (Dirty Writing Prompt) Response – NSFW

[WP] Your SO gives you a booklet of “sexy coupons” for your anniversary, seemingly unaware that they are magical in nature and will work on anybody. – u/thejetpilotswailed 


“I’m so glad you picked this place again! I swear it gets better every year!” My sister Marie, loyal as a golden retriever, holds up her second boot-shaped glass of lager and toasts to my health. “Happy birthday, Anna. We have, uh, forty to sixty more years of these birthdays to look forward to.”

I smile. I feel pretty stupid for the brief visions of surprise birthdays I had on the drive here: concert tickets in the city, maybe. Laser tag. A trip to the sound. Anything besides Ranchos.

I’ve had tex-mex fusion every birthday since the wedding.

“Amen,” my husband Gage nods and clinks his boot glass against hers. They tip their cups back and take a long pull.

I hold up my plastic cup of Diet Coke. “Salud.”

“You’re really gonna stick to soda?” Marie’s boyfriend smiles at me from across the table. “On your birthday?”

My sister is 22 — she’s not married — “not ready to settle down” — so she parades her rotating selection of men through our lives. This one’s two or three months old. Louis. The floater out of Montana. He slouches over the table, looking bored. Marie usually goes for pretty boys so this one took me by surprise. Not sure how he broke her pattern; probably just walked into her life with that easy grin and a charming quip.

“Have to. I work in the morning,” I shrugged.  

“Fuck work. Live a little.” Louis pushes his glass towards me. Whiskey on the rocks. I glance over for Gage’s reaction, but he’s caught up in some hysterics with Marie, hashing out an old inside joke for the forty millionth time.

Ice clinks. Louis swirls the glass, whirlpooling the semi-transparent cubes in the amber liquid. “Just a sip,” he smiles.

I feel a blush creep up. It mortifies me, that I can’t behave like an adult under the influence of a helpless crush. I want to down the drink, take his hand, tell him to dance with me even if it’s to this shitty processed country music that plays on a loop here.

My fingers touch the glass.

“Hey, I thought you were driving home,” a sharp nudge in my side. Gage gives the whiskey a meaningful glance.

“C’mon man.” Louis puts his arm around Marie. “Drive your lady home, let your girl have some fun.”

I watch Marie lean into him.   

“Anna doesn’t have fun,” Gage tilted his head back, hooting with laughter. He was two boots in at this point. “You should have heard her trying to get out of dinner tonight.”

“Anna!” Marie actually looks offended.

Who would want to miss all of this? The authentic cured log tables and tacky antler chandeliers? The ambiguous tribal rugs draped all over the floor? The jukebox someone had rigged to play every Creedence Clearwater album on? Why the fuck am I the only one who hates this birthday tradition?

“I’m fine,” I say, a little harsher than I meant to. Everyone looks at me like they can tell I’m not fine, but they’re not going to correct me. I reach for something casual to say – literally anything, but my mind goes blank.

“How about we do presents?” Marie says mercifully.

“Before dinner?” Gage says.

She looks anxious. “Why not? If Anna’s up for it…”

“Of course,” I blurt. I’m so done with the awkwardness of the situation. I just want something else for us to fixate on. Marie reaches under the table and brings out a huge wooden box wrapped in recycled paper and tied with a hemp cord. Gage pulls out a small present, messily swaddled in tissue paper. Gee, I wonder what it is.

I have had Rancho’s birthday dinner every year since my wedding. I’ve also gotten the same gift from my husband every time – a homemade coupon book of sexy vouchers. They’re sitting in a pile in my nightstand. So many free backrubs coming, whenever I actually get around to redeeming.

“Mine first,” Marie pushes her box across the table. I rip off the hipster packaging, set her birthday card aside, and hold up the box for inspection. A food processor.

“Wow,” I try. “That is just… so awesome.”

Thank god Marie is oblivious to my shitty gratitude, or she chooses to ignore it. She launches into the story of buying it at Costco after the demonstrator made hummus and at this point I want to drown myself in the whiskey glass. Fuck, I’d even take the boot.

I wait for my sister to take a breath during her fascinating story and jump in. “Gage, babe, what did you get me?”

I know exactly what he got me, but I want to get this show on the road. Louis is practically sleeping in his chair. I should have just insisted on staying in. Fuck birthdays.

“Da-da-da!” Gage produces the tissue-wrapped book to me. I don’t bother guessing, just loosen the ribbon and let the wrapping fall away

It’s a coupon book.

“Shocker,” I mutter, flipping it over in my hands. At least it’s not homemade. Gage actually put down the extra ten bucks to buy a sexy coupon book at a novelty retailer somewhere in the mall. I’m touched.

“You’re nothing if not predictable,” I lean over and peck him on the lips. At least my husband buys me presents.

Still, he looks unhappy. He reaches over, flips the book in my hands. “It’s different — I found it at this wacky shop downtown, the Tantric Sex Emporium, I think? They only had one in stock.” he gabs excitedly like Marie talking about fucking Costco. “The back says it’s designed to help you explore your wants and needs, I was thinking you could, you know..” he trailed off.

“I could what?”

“Well you know how you’re kind of stressed out a lot…”

Marie goes pale. Louis just sits back with a forced casual expression. I know I should drop it, save it for later at least. But I can’t.

“Fucking stressed out? You think I’m stressed out?”

Gage looks terrified. He seems to shrink. I can hear my voice raising to a screech but it’s like a train of words coming out with no breaks.

“I came to fucking dinner tonight, Gage. I celebrated my birthday the way YOU wanted to, just like always. Maybe next year I can contribute. Maybe? You know what?” I stand up and lose my train of thought. Half the restaurant is staring at me, the other half quietly trying to bear it, just like Louis.

Why couldn’t I just fucking stay home tonight?

“I need a minute,” I say. And I don’t wait another second. The bathrooms are by the stage, a set of swinging saloon doors with plastic signs posted. I hurry into the one that reads COWGIRL and find the first empty stall to have a breakdown in. I collapse on the seat and shove the lock over but it doesn’t reach, and the door just lazily drifts open.

“God DAMN it!” I slam my foot into the door. The whole bathroom seems to shudder.

I realize I’m still clutching the stupid fucking coupon book. I’m so tired and done with the evening that I just laugh and start flipping through it.




An old classic.






“Fuck you,” I coil my hand so hard that it hurts. I need to hit something, but it seems stupid. Punch a wall?

I rip the backrub coupon out. It peels off with a satisfying tear. I sit there holding it for a second, feeling pretty dumb, then rip it again. Then I go for another.




I start tearing by the line, then give up and shred indiscriminately. Vouchers flutter to the tile.




I go to rip it, have my fingers on the edge of the paper, when I stop. Something about the effort of this one tickled me. No worldplay, no innuendo.


I laugh. “PUBLIC FUCK,” I read aloud. The tantric wisdom humbles me.


I thought about Louis and that goddamn smoulder.


How did my sister end up with the better life?


I rip the coupon out of the book. Gage’s are always written on miniature spiral notepads, usually in his sloppy caps writing. These coupons are printed on glossy paper the same size and shape of a checkbook. I tear PUBLIC FUCK neatly along the corrugation. The bathroom seemed like such a good escape plan but now I’m here and I feel even more caged. Why am I hiding in the bathroom for my own birthday?

The fucked up thing, is that Gage is probably right. I do need to chill out, just be grateful that I have family to celebrate with. I could use a good fuck, a stiff drink and a wild night. But I didn’t want to do any of that with my husband.

“Can I take this PUBLIC FUCK with my sister’s boyfriend?” I flapped the coupon, smiling to myself.

Not even a second later the bathroom door swings open.

It startles me, but I shake my head. Just someone using the bathroom. Hope they don’t notice half a book of sex vouchers on the floor. I decide to wait it out.

Then there’s a knock on my stall.

“Taken!” who the fuck didn’t notice me in here?

“Can I come in?” Louis drawls

Holy shit

“It doesn’t lock,” I stand up, reach for the handle. At the same time he pushes his way in. The look on his face cuts me off sharp.

Louis closes the stall behind him. Somehow I don’t need words to know what’s happening. I don’t know if it’s magic or chemistry but I don’t wait for him to initiate. I know what I want.

Louis slams against the stall and I press my body against his hungrily- he’s all lank and lean muscle, his arms coil around me.

For a second I almost hesitate, breathing heavily with my face a few inches from his. I have so many reasons to stop right now. But they’re nothing.

His mouth comes down on mine, hard. Our lips collide. Tongue and teeth connect in a frenzy, then we slow down, and he dips his tongue in my mouth, twisting it around mine. I moan into his throat.

“Fuck,” I coil my fingers around his shirt. He already has me panting. “Fuck, fuck fuck.”

“Shh,” He puts his finger against my lips, then pushes it inside. I suck on it, feel blood rush in him where our bodies are connected. He smiles and leans in and nips my earlobe “Just a sip”

“Fuck that,” I slam him against the stall door again, kiss him needily, sucking his lip. He grabs my ass and pulls me closer. I start to grind on him.

“In a rush?” He whispers. He slides his hand up my shirt, but not far enough. His hands feel cool on my skin, but I’m burning like fire.

“I fucking need you,” my voice is hoarse. I slip my hand against his stomach, feel the muscles tightening underneath his skin. I slide my hand lower, toying with the waistband of his boxers. I’m trying to restrain myself from dropping to my knees, I have no idea how far this is supposed to go. Just when I think about shutting it down he stops playing with my nipples and slides his hand into my jeans.

My hips buck. “This is so fucked,” I pant, rubbing myself against his hand. He smiles again. Puts his hand in my panties. The second his fingers slide against my pussy I moan so loud that he puts two fingers in my mouth to keep me quiet. He pins me against the stall and squeezes a finger inside me.

“Fuck, you’re tight,” he groans. Another finger goes in. I fuck his fingers, desperately gyrating my hips. The playful look goes from his face, replaced by an intense, primal stare. He needs me.

I slip onto my knees without another word. Louis looks thrown, but I put my finger to my lips and reach for his belt. He doesn’t argue as I loosen it and tug his dress pants down. The size of the bulge in his boxers makes my mouth go dry. For a second I just rub it over his boxers, pang after pang of pleasure throbbing me. I never wanted someone this bad.

I tease him like this, touching him just one layer away from his skin, until he gets impatient and tugs his boxers down, letting his cock spring out. I put him in my mouth he leans his head back, panting.

“I can’t fucking take this anymore,” he says finally, and pulls me to my feet. “Bend over,” he tells me.

“Should we be doing this?” I pant, staring at his cock in my hand.

He hesitates, staring at me with an agonized expression. “It’s on you.”

Gage was probably still at the table, therapizing me with my own sister.

“Fuck me,” I said.

He didn’t need more encouragement. I blushed, pulled my panties down with my shorts. I felt exposed and naked in a way that set me on fire. I barely knew Louis but he was so intense. The second my panties slipped over my pussy lips he groaned again. “You look so fucking good.”

It sends a heat wave through me, and out of impulse I lean in and kiss him again. But he returns it greedily, pushing me back against the stall. I feel his hand on my thigh, hoisting my leg over his shoulder. THen I feel him brush the head of his cock against my pussy lips. I’m so wet that he accidentally slips inside and we both groan in suprise. Once he’s in, Louis seems to lose control, though, slamming the rest of his cock all the way inside me. I yelp involuntarily, filled too tight in a way that was good, too good. I buck against him, panting as I get used to the size, feeling a familiar tension coil inside me like a knot. Louis slowed for a moment, breathing hard.

“Don’t fucking stop,” I plead with him. The animalistic look overtakes him again. He grabs my hips and fucks me hard against the stall. We go at it until I hear the door open again.


Gage. Oh, fuck

“Are you in here? We need to talk.”

Oh, fuck. I cast a desperate look back at Louis, who’s still inside me.

“Look I don’t know what you’re doing back here. I know you’re mad. But everythings over. Marie went home, she doesn’t know where Louis went. Will you please just come home with me?”

Louis spread my ass and bounced my pussy back against him. I bit my lip.

“Anna?” there’s a knock at our stall.

“I need a minute,” I say back breathlessly.

“Can you please come out?” Gage sounds relieved. Blissfully unaware that my sister’s boyfriend is railing me from behind over the bathroom stall.

I want to answer, want to explain myself somehow. But then the knot coiling inside me gets tighter and I lose my breath. Then Louis slips his finger in my mouth again, pulls it out wet, and stuffs two fingers in my asshole.

I’m pretty sure my marriage ended the second I came, mewling Louis’ name as my pussy grinded back against him. I lock down around him and cum harder than I have in five years. Louis can’t hold back any longer and starts slamming me agaist the stall so hard the whole bathroom shakes. I feel him tense and stop all at once, bucking inside me. He lets out a shuddering groan and finally pulls out, covered in my cum and his. I’ve never let anyone cum inside me before and it was fucking hot.


Gage isn’t in the bathroom when I exit the stall. Nor do I find him in the restaurant. He didn’t pay the bill, which is understandable, and he didn’t return my phone calls for a month.

When he finally did, the only thing he said was “it’s over.”



The Testimony

This is a rough draft. Feel free to critique and criticize, but keep in mind that I haven’t made any edits since I regurgitated this from my mind in one sitting. 

I hope you enjoy it!



It was called The Dragon, and it took the Parksdale senior community by storm. Ramona Gavlick had worked in sales before, but this experience was a first.

At the precinct, they led her handcuffed down ultra-bright corridors to a room for questioning. She heard break room chatter through the walls. The sound of a Coke machine humming somewhere. The building reminded her of a nursing home-

(go figure)

-everything plastic and sterile and subdued. The comparison summoned a phantom smell of antiseptic and soiled bed sheets. She wanted to retch right there on the artificial fern outside the mens’ room.

They led her into a room with a table and asked her to sit.

“Can I get you anything?” asked the first officer, whose name patch read WILSON. He wore a close-clipped mustache and droopy eyes that found her tits every fourteen seconds.

“I’d love one of those smokes you got sticking out of your pocket,” she nodded at the second officer, who was already sitting, shuffling a stack of papers. He startled and glanced at his superior for permission. Wilson nodded.

The younger officer, kid by the name of Eric Leich, extended his pack of Marlboros toward her. Wilson closed the door. He laid a tape recorder on the table and recited the usual spiel; lying under oath is an act of perjury and did she understand her rights or have any questions?

Mona fixated on the small plastic cube that lay between them. The red button that was pushed down. “Shit, you guys still use those things?” she muttered, the cigarette bobbing between her lips. “Say, buddy, got a light?”

Leich fished his Zippo out.

“Thanks. No questions, chief. I’ll tell you whatever you wanta know, but Donny’s the one you should be after.”


“Yeah. Don Hagarty. He’s your guy. He’s the real peddler here, the Willy Wonka with his fucking dope factory. I’m just one of his goons.”

The officers exchanged a glance.

“I wouldn’t have sold it to them if I knew, okay?”

“Miss, ah-”

“Gavlick. And it’s Miz.”

Miz Gavlick. Nobody is accusing you of wilfully poisoning an entire retirement community. You haven’t been charged. Not yet.”

“Donny’s the one who did this shit. Not me.”

“Could you go into the details of your initial employment with Don Hagarty?”

“I’d love to,” Mona blew out a jet of smoke. “Let me start from the beginning.”


I’ve been in Parksdale maybe six months. Seven tops. Lugged my stuff here from Palo Sedro after I lost my job- I worked at one of those pretentious mall boutiques where they can mark up a cotton tee shirt twenty bucks just by slapping an “organic” sticker on it. Like, what the hell does that even mean? It’s highway fucking robbery.

Anyway, I got laid off last year, and there was nothing keeping me in that shitty little town, so I put my finger on the map and found this Eden. Nothing too special, but hey, Parksdale has a great retirement scene. That’s a plus, right? If I spend forty more years in this dump, I’ll be set.

I found a job at a call center and an apartment on Craigslist. Signed up for night classes at the CCC and voila. New start. Everything was peachy for a few months and then I lost my job. Guess it was because I told my bitch sales manager to go fuck herself. The pay was a joke, anyway. I pretty much thought I was going to end up on the street at that point. I was already a month behind on my rent.

Then I met Donny.

It was at one of my night classes, if I remember right. Yeah. Intro to Culinary Arts. Always wanted to be a five-star chef like the ones you see on TV. You ever watch Chopped? I want to be the next  Bobby Flay. Even bought a luxury knife set awhile back with some cash I hawked off a stole- old wedding ring.

Donny introduced himself to me the third week of class. We hit it off. He had this way of speaking that made everyone else shut up and listen. He just had this, like, presence, you know? When he talked to you, you felt like the goddamn pope was talking to you.

So I told Donny after I lost my job. How I was going to have to quit culinary school, and he got all quiet. Then he takes me aside after class and he gets all serious. Tells me he has a job proposition for me. Says I could make four grand a month in commission, maybe more.

That’s not the kind of cash you can sniff at, you know? But I was a little hesitant. It sounded sketchy. So I asked him if it was legal, and he gave me this disappointed look. Mona, do you really take me for the kind of guy who would try to get nice girl like you caught up in shady work? He made me feel like a real asshole. Stupid for even asking. Four grand seemed like an ambitious number, but like I said, Donny had a way with words. I told him I was in.

That’s when I first heard about The Dragon. Donny said it was a refined substance made from poppy seeds and a few  secret ingredients. Yeah, it sounds shady, but we weren’t selling this stuff on its own, or anything.

We were selling candy bars. Dragon Dream Bars. “So good, you’ll think you’re in a fairy tale!” Pretty corny shit if you ask me, but I wasn’t in his demographic.  Donny was targeting a very specific market- the Parksdale seniors community.


“So you weren’t selling a pure substance?”

Mona laughed. “You’d think I was, the way they gobbled that shit down. But no. The Dragon was an additive inside his product. A product inside a product. Don said it triggered a dopamine rush faster and more powerful than any other candy bar. That’s why it was so addictive.”

“You ever try one of these Dragon Dream Bars?”

“Nuh-uh. I’m allergic to nuts. I’d swell up like a beach ball.”

“Didn’t it seem- I don’t know, unethical- to sell something like that to elderly people?”

Ramona uncrossed her legs and sat up, leaning forward onto the desk. “Chief, have you been to a retirement home lately? Those fuckers will try to get high off of whatever they can get their hands on. I mean, you can’t exactly smuggle crystal meth past the receptionist, but candy bars? Donny had it figured out.”

“What about these ‘secret ingredients’ Don Hagarty told you about. Did you ever ask about them?”

She mulled this over. “I did. A couple of times, actually.” Her face darkened. “Don would get real mad though. Accuse me of trying to steal his recipe and go on my own. He was a weird guy. Guarded. Didn’t like me pitching to anyone that wasn’t on his radar.He called himself the candy man. Made himself out like some kind of religious figure.”

 Both officers scribbled illegible notes as she spoke.

“Alright, Gavlick. Tell us what happened after you started working for Donny.”


I was pretty nervous about my first pitch. I’ve been in sales, but never with old folk. I remember looking at all the sad gray fucks in their wheelchairs. Watching them move chess pieces with their shaky, arthritis-fingers. Old people give me the creeps, you know?

The first name on my list was Rosy Parker. She was laying in her cot watching The Price is Right  when I came in. Stared right through me until the commercial break. Then she scowled.

“What do you want?” That’s what this hag says to me. I gave her my best imitation of an angelic smile and started reading off of my script.

“Hi Rosy! My name is Ramona. I’m just here today to see if you’d like to try a special new brand of-“


“I just wanted to stop in and see if you’d like to try our new brand of candy bars.”


“YES.” I shouted. Held the thing out for her to see. It has a bright yellow wrapper with a big purple dragon on it.

She grabs the thing out of my hand. “Just gimme the damn thing.” It took her a whole minute to get the wrapper open. I offered to help at least three times, but she ignored me, the bitch. Then she took a giant bite, working the caramel and peanut and chocolate nougat with her flabby maw.

And then the weirdest thing happened. Her eyes popped open like she’d done a line of cocaine. She wolfed the rest of it down in three seconds flat. Then she screamed “GLADYSS! GLADYYYYYSS!”

A shaky voice from the next room over screamed back. “WHAT.”


Gladyss did come try. Curious neighbors flooded in from across the hall. In five minutes, the room was packed with these old farts demolishing my stash of samples. One bite and it was like a microscopic atom bomb exploded in their senile brains. I had to snatch the bag away before they could move in for seconds.

“I’d love to be your provider,” I recited. “Would you be interested in subscribing to our Flamin Hot Dragon Deal? Only twenty dollars per package, and I’ll deliver 12 candy bars to your room every week.”

That was the first and last pitch I ever made. All I had to do was show up at the nursing home every week, and there were lines. We had four hundred subscriptions in a month. In another month, we had a thousand.

Donny kept telling us not to count our chickens yet. In retrospect I should have been suspicious, but I was too high on success. I mean, I don’t know if I should say this to a couple of cops, but I’ve done plenty of drugs, and nothing comes close to the kind of high you get from cashing a six-thousand dollar check. We were just starting out. I had visions reaching the top for first time in my life.

Then Donny disappeared.


“That was two weeks before the first incident, correct?” Leich consulted his case file.

“Correct.” Mona sank into her chair. Her Marlboro was gone- a stubbed-out carcass in the ashtray. She didn’t look at the officers.

“Did you attempt to contact Mr. Hagarty in the two-week interval before the incident?”

“Sure. Dozens of times. His phone went straight to voicemail, like he’d thrown it into a lake somewhere- which, for all I know, he did. That’s what I would have done in his position.”

“Do you want to tell us what happened that day?”


Fucking hell, that’s what happened. I showed up with three trucks of candy orders following me into the Parksdale Senior Center and I knew right away. Something was off. Something real bad.

There were all these old people lurching around. I didn’t think anything of it at first. They’re always doing that, you know? But then one of them recognized who I was. Started running at me. She had this white nightgown on that flapped around her and she ran straight into my car without stopping. It made a loud KA-THUNK sound, and then she fell to the ground, writhing.

I freaked out. Cranked my window down to see if she was alright. This woman was making these awful gurgling noises and she had white foam bubbling up through her lips. Fucking disgusting. I figured she was sick or something so I found the nearest parking spot, signalled the trucks to pull around to the front and then I ran like hell for the front desk.

There was a note stuck to the glass doors when I ran up, heaving for breath.


It was dated from two days before. The note was dangling from a broken door pane. I saw blood on the jagged contours of glass. The doors were unlocked. My heart started pounding. I don’t know why, but I went inside.

The place was wrecked. Lights flickered. Reception was deserted. It was a little too Walking Dead for me; I started to turn around. Then I heard noises- snarling, animal noises. Feet crunching on glass. There were more like that woman, and they were coming. For me.

I started running down one of the hallways, crying, breathing too fast. None of it seemed real, but wasn’t I there? Wasn’t I hearing the tinny echo of my footsteps in the hallway? Wasn’t I smelling blood?

Why was I smelling blood? And chocolate. There was a pungent, almost rancid smell of chocolate, growing more intense the farther I plunged into the building, like the rank bowels of a monster. I reached a dead end- a set of double doors closed and chained shut. Primitive growls from close behind it. I saw a feeble hand drag down the pane, leaving a long brown skidmark. An eyeball appeared behind the window.

And then all hell broke loose.

I guess they recognized me. They knew what I symbolized. The dragon bars. They were liked crazed animals after fresh meat. The double doors slammed  against the chain that bound them. Limbs squeezed through the crack between the doors- grayish limbs, loose flesh hanging off the arms. I filled with an intense, throbbing horror, wound up to scream at the top of my lungs. But I couldn’t tear my eyes away. I couldn’t move.

When the wood start to splinter, I remembered my feet. I ran faster than I can remember ever having run before. Ran straight into one of the zombies.

For a brief moment, I stared eye-to-eye with Rosy Parker again. She clutched my face so hard that her nails drew blood. I winced.

She whispered: “Candy.”

They echoed her. “Candy.”

I smashed Rosy’s face into the ground with the palm of my hand. Rolled off her, jumped to my feet and bolted. There were waves of them breaking through the useless doors now. I sprinted so hard that I tasted blood in my mouth. I thought my heart would explode behind my ribcage. The truck drivers spotted me from the doorway, stopped cold with their dollies piled high with boxes.

“Jesus Christ! The fuck is going on in here?” One of them screamed at me.

I screamed back, “Drop the chocolate and fucking run, you idiot!”

And we did.


“I heard about the lethal chocolate bars on the news a few days later,” Mona said, her story coming to a finish. She was choked and husky. Officer Wilson ran to the break room and returned with a wad of paper towels, which she used to dab at her face.

“I never heard from Donny again, or any of the other guys. But it’s safe to say that they tried to get as far away from the situation as possible.”

“Jesus.” Leich breathed. His notes had petered off into a meaningless scrawl as she ended her testimony. The officers sat in stunned silence.

The tape recorder made the only sound in the room, a slight whir, a reminder that it was still listening. Wilson finally picked it up and squeezed the STOP button.

The recorder gave a click and fell silent.