HOUSE RULES • by Ralph Uttaro

Most of the guys had already gone home for winter break. It was just me and Dewey and Manascalco in front of a crackling fire with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red. A storm swirled outside, snow piling up like fine white dust on the windowsill.

“I really miss Elaine,” Dewey moaned.

He had pursued her doggedly all of September and October, sending her flowers, leaving notes on her Facebook wall. When he started disappearing for days at a time right before Thanksgiving we suspected that he had closed the deal.

We had an unwritten rule. No deep personal conversations. That was one of the cool things about our house. Maybe it was the scotch, but me and Manascalco were being a little lax about enforcing the rule.

“I’m in love. I think she may be the one.” That was enough for me.

“Dude, she can’t be that good,” I cracked. Manascalco laughed. Dewey looked at me sharply.

“I think she was a virgin.”

Manascalco rolled his eyes. We both knew. It was freshman year, late, after a big party. Elaine and I were going at it in the top bunk when Manascalco tumbled in and turned on the lights.

“Your glass is empty,” I said, pouring Dewey three more fingers of scotch.

I guess that’s why you have rules.


Ralph Uttaro masquerades as a corporate real estate executive by day. He lives outside Rochester, New York with his wife Pamela.


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 average 3 stars • 2 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • I’m not that far out of school, so this story resonated with me. It does a lot with very little.

    Dewey’s idealized version of Elaine clearly diverges sharply from reality. Yet while the other guys may seem “older and wiser” in terms of sexual experience, are they actually any better off? Especially in light of their ridiculous rule about “no deep personal conversations?” I like how we get a snapshot of them without any overt moralizing.

    That said, I would cut the last line. Seems too much of a punch line coming after the strong image of Dewey’s freshly-refilled glass.

    If we could do half-stars, I would give this a solid 3.5.

  • It’s hard to write a story this short–and this one felt complete. Well done.

  • For some reason, I’m going back and forth on this one. It does have some fine elements: The voice is clear, the writing clean, the point delivered without being hammered over the head with it, and with enough ambiguity to make it interesting.

    But it also has some elements that don’t quite gel with me — the guys drinking scotch in front of a crackling fire makes me think of stuffy bankers or something instead of frat-house college kids. Maybe I’m too locked in to what I remember from college, but I’m picturing more like beer or Jack Daniels in front of the Nintendo. Also, and again maybe it’s my own subjectivity getting in the way, but I think the guys are a little too callous in keeping secrets about Elaine — it’s not quite ringing true for me.

    Still, I enjoyed the read, and it made me think, so I have to compliment the author for that.

    Three stars — although it may be a bit too low based on my own subjective preconceptions.

  • I liked that. I would give it four stars, but I can’t on my iphone.

    I was a little confused, maybe just a liitle more scene setting.

    Still, well done. Oh, I got the sense that they were older, that the inicident with Elaine happened in their freshman year and this is sometime after.

  • Just so everyone knows, this story was written within the word count restraint of 250 for the most recent String-of-10 Three contest over at Flash Fiction Chronicles. Ralph’s excellent story was among our eleven semi-finalists.

    As a side note, I’d love read more stories about these guys. Amazingly engaging in such a short piece. Congrats!

  • A really nice short-short story. Well done. I do think having the guys swilling beer and watching a football game or something would have been more appropriate than scotch and a fire, but hey, I was never a frat boy.

    Three plus stars….

  • writing with such a limited word count is so difficult! I thought this was well done with an opening, middle and close.

    I also wondered about the drinking of scotch. Seemed a bit much for what I assumed were maybe college kids.

  • Pretty good. I was a social member of a fraternity. That just meant I wasn’t a frat brother but I could hang out with them and go to the parties. I had returned from Vietnam and was a little older than the rest. I’m sure things have not changed that much since I was a social member, but the brothers drank beer. Still, this story feels authentic. It is about a significant event with closure and it has a setup, a buildup and a payoff. So, yeah, it works. I gave three stars.

  • Jen

    There’s something I really like about this peice but I can’t quite explain why. It just has a certian quality to i.

  • Kit

    It was a little hard for me to keep the names straight – I had to read it several times to figure out what was going on. But once I did, I really liked it. Though I was never a frat boy, it felt very true to life for me. Four stars from me for packing a punch in such a limited space

  • I found nothing exceptional in this story at all. But then this ethos of frat-boys and wannabe frat-boys seems a bit childish to most Brits.

  • Fab little snapshot. I love the casual shoulder shrugging dismissal of poor old Dewey’s ignorance. Buddies is buddies and women is women. Today it’s buddies.