Welcome to The Writer's Block Chronicles – a collective writing effort using a single photo for inspiration. Each writer received the same image as a creative reference for a short story or poem. The goal of this challenge is to help develop the writers' skills by having them step outside of their comfort zones.

Listed below are the four participants who accepted this challenge. Feel free to comment and let us know what you think!

-O, Silhouetto Man A Poem by Lauren Edith
-Stolen A Poem by Angela Barbaro
-House Full Of Them A Short Story by Claudia Motley
-The Perfect Pebble A Short Story by Christopher Corapi

I never thought of myself as a romantic but I do understand romance, or at least I thought I did. I vividly remember watching a video as a child about the arctic. There is one species of penguin that will travel all over in an effort to find the perfect pebble for his mate. I found that to be so silly. I could hardly see a difference between each so how could a penguin possible toss it to the side as if it was not worthy.

I see the fury in her eyes as her hand slams onto the table. If it were possible, her tongue would have spit fire but instead just words flared out.

“Why are you like this? I just don't understand.”

“Why am I like this? You know exactly why I am like this. Each time we fight over the same few things. There are only so many times I can entertain this argument.”

“Entertain this? I am telling you this because this is how I feel. These are my feelings, not entertainment.”

“I have admitted to my wrongs time and time again. You keep telling me that I don't understand how you feel but I do.”

“You don’t. If you did then you would understand me.”

“I am tired of this. Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I don’t understand you. I have tried everything to make up for what I have done.”

“I am tired of what you consider to be an effort. You don’t treat me like you should. You don't seem to care anymore.”

“I don’t know if I do. Why should I bother? What’s the point? You don’t seem to appreciate anything I do. It’s like I’m wasting my time.”

It wasn’t until I got older that I understood why it meant so much. It’s not the pebble itself but the effort. He spent countless hours digging and searching until he came across the right one. But one wasn’t enough. He left again in search of another perfect pebble. This was done over and over each time the pebbled was placed on top of the last. Slowly turning a pile of pebbles into a nest. A home. A life.

I’m tired of explaining how relationships work”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you not understand what you said and how you said it came off very hurtful?”

“I am just telling you the truth. I am not going to stand here and lie to you”

“You need to learn what it means to be a boyfriend”

“What do you mean I need to learn to be a boyfriend. I do everything I am supposed to.”

“No, you don’t. You think you do, but you don’t. I can always tell when you’re not trying”

As romantic as this may sound it is not as innocent as it seems. I remember watching pebbles be denied by their mate. I always felt for those penguins. It’s hard to watch your effort go unappreciated. This tension bred fights amongst themselves and with others. Some robbed in order to build their home. Others put in only half an effort with the goal of just getting by. Slowly building their home with perfect and imperfect pebbles thinking everything will work out in the end.

“Why are you always playing these games? Why can’t you just tell me how you feel. This isn’t a guessing game. This is our relationship.”

“I am not making this into a game. You just don't understand how detached you are. How any other boyfriend would not act this way. I just want a normal relationship.”

“You just expect too much of people. You expect everyone else put in the effort to change but yourself.

“I have changed. You know this. I am not the same person I used to be.”

“You think that, but I still see the same old you.”

“Maybe that’s part of the problem."

I think what made this story stand out to me was the woes of one penguin. After he gracefully placed the last pebble, his home was finished. With pride he called to his mate, flapping his wings in excitement. She arrived carefully examining their new home. As she made her way in the unthinkable happened. It collapsed. In slow motion, I watched a section of pebbles crash into the snow. It is now obvious to me what happened.

“You love me but don’t seem to like me”

“I don’t know if I do anymore. You’re not the same person I once fell for.”

“You used to try a lot harder. You used to care about me. I felt it diminish and it’s not okay.”

“I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t. I stopped giving a damn because I am tired of trying. Day in and day out I try to be a better person, to be the person you want me to be. That's not me. I can't do it anymore.”

“I’m breaking up with you. We are over. You’re not happy and you pointed that out. I haven't changed and you don't seem to like who I am. I'm tired of apologizing for that. My heart already hurts. Please stop. Just leave.”

So here I am. Outside my nest. Slowly realizing that the pebbles I chose were not enough. That not every effort I made was what it should have been. I may not have admitted it then but I can see it now. Watching in slow motion as the home I built with perfect and imperfect pebbles collapsed around me...