Category Archives: Flash fiction

The Big Black Horse

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a Big Black Horse. It can be a horse, a metaphor or an interpretation of KT Tunstall’s “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. It is based on a picture book manuscript I am working on at the moment, hoping to submit to a publisher soon. Fingers crossed. That story is based upon another 214-word story I wrote earlier in the year, which you can read here. All three are the same but different. I hope you like it.

The Big Black Horse

The riders considered the available horses. Fergal chose the big black, Valentina the silver. They mounted their steeds and entered the arena. Fergal cantered to one end and Valentina the other. They steadied their mounts and faced each other.

“Let the contest begin! Charge!”

The contestants galloped towards each other.

Nearing the centre of the arena, Fergal’s black steed balked, tossing him off. Valentina wheeled her horse around, dismounted and raced to Fergal’s side.

“You okay, Fergal?”

“It’s only a scratch.”

“I’ll get a plaster from Miss.”

“It’s okay. Let’s go again. Can I have silver this time?”

“Okay.”

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Cake in the Pan #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the cooking show. It can be any cooking show, real or imagined. Who is there? What happens? Make it fun or follow a disaster. Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Cake in the Pan

Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.

👩‍🍳

This story is inspired by a true event. However, the only thing I remember is being horrified at the way the clowns put everything into the pan, including the egg shells, and turned out a cake. In writing, I tried to get back to what an expanded memory may have included. I hope it has worked.

The thought of being horrified at everything going into the pan in which the cake is to be cooked is now quite funny, as I know there are quite a few recipes made that way; including one of my favourites to make with children. If I was to ever be in a cooking show, this is what I’d make. And there’s not even an egg in sight.

Moon Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 cup milk

2/3 cup miniature marshmallows

Utensils

A cake pan

A cup measure

A mixing spoon

A tablespoon

A teaspoon

Method

1.         Preheat the oven to 180° (350⁰F, Gas mark #4)

2.         Put the flour, sugars, salt and cocoa in the cake pan. Mix them carefully. You will have the light brown moon sand.

3.         Use the mixing spoon to make a big crater in the middle so the bottom of the pan shows through. Make another medium-sized crater and a little crater.

4.         Put the baking soda in the medium-sized crater.

5.         Pour the melted butter into the big crater.

6.         Pour the vanilla into the little crater.

7.         Pour the vinegar onto the bi-carb soda in the medium-sized crater. Watch it become a bubbling, foaming volcano.

8.         When the volcano stops foaming, pour the milk over the moon sand and carefully mix it all together until it looks like smooth moon mud.

9.         Scatter marshmallow rocks over the surface.

10.       Bake it for around 35 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the centre comes out dry. Let the cake cool in the pan.

This recipe is available in different formats on my website readilearn and there are also some suggestions for science discussions while making the cake.

Enjoy a slice!

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Dressed for the Prom #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

While prom is not ‘a thing’ here in Australia, our graduating students have formals and semi-formals, we all know what it is from television shows and movies.

Dressed for the Prom

She surprised them when she emerged, resplendent in formal gown, announcing, “I’m going to the prom.” With a smile as wide as a rainbow after rain, she twirled for them to admire her from every angle. Gorgeous, they agreed, though it was a little wide in the shoulders and a little long in the hem. The neckline would be revealing without underclothes. Someone suggested the beads were overdone, that one or two strands would suffice, but the decision was made. As soon as Billy arrived in the limo for big sister Maud, she was ready. What was keeping him?

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Flying Pigs #flash fiction

The phrase ‘when pigs fly’ means that something is impossible, it will never happen. The phrase is an adynaton — don’t you love that word? I just learned it — an exaggeration, hyperbole. I seem to think I heard the term many times growing up, though I can’t recall about what in particular. Maybe it was life in general.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

The first thing I thought about when reading Charli’s prompt is a hilariously delightful picture book by the fabulous author-illustrator Mo Willems: An Elephant and Piggie Book Today I Will Fly!

If you don’t already know the story, I suggest you acquaint yourself with it with this video. It will only take a couple of minutes.

I remember when I was first introduced to Mo Willem’s work. A colleague came rushing into my room one morning and pushed Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! at me, saying, “You’ve got to read this!’

I would have to say, the book didn’t have instant cover appeal, but she left it with me, and I continued with my preparations for the day. Later, when I sat down to read, I knew this book was something special. I loved it and the children loved it. We read it and read and read it. It had us in stitches. Unsurprisingly, it was a Caldecott Honor book.

After that, we read all the Mo Willems books we could get our hands on. The children brought in those they’d purchased or borrowed from the local library, and I couldn’t resist buying additional titles whenever I saw a new one in a book store I just happened to be passing.

When I visited New York in 2016, I was delighted to find an exhibition of the Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems at a museum not far from my accommodation. I couldn’t go through the exhibition shop without purchasing a book or two or more and also came home with a pigeon and a duckie soft toy. I am, unreservedly, a Mo Willems fan and I have the enthusiasm of my colleague to thank for that. If you would like to find out more, please visit the Mo Willems website.

And Mo is not just for little kids. He is for big kids (like us) and writers too. He has wonderful advice for teachers and writers alike when he discusses creativity, the need to play and the ever-present failure. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Mo, please watch his video on The Joy of Creation. It will inspire you.

In another video on his website, Mo explains how to draw a piggie from the Elephant and Piggie books. The inspiration for my flash came from this video. The flash is also a nod to my favourite ever principal Peter Kidston who not only valued my work as a teacher, he respected it enough to provide me the freedom to teach how I wanted, knowing that the children and their learning was at the centre of all I did. I wrote about Peter in this post.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Flying Pigs

Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?

“We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”

The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

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Stars in the Sand #flashfiction

When I read Charli’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “stars in the sand.” Your story can be any genre (or poem) and can use realism or fantasy. It’s a dreamy prompt. Go where the it leads!, all I could think of was the story about the boy and the starfish. I’m sure you know the one, written by Loren Eiseley.

It’s about a boy who was walking along the beach one day when hundreds of starfish were stranded on the sand and the tide was going out. The starfish would die if left on the sand. The boy picked up the starfish, one by one, and gently threw them into the water. A man walking by asked him what he was doing and suggested he couldn’t make a difference as there were too many starfish. The boy continued to pick up the starfish and throw them back into the ocean. “I made a difference to that one,” he said.

It’s a beautiful story with a wonderful message. What seems like a small act to one, a drop in the ocean, can make an enormous difference to another. We may never know what impact our actions, even a smile, can have on another.

Then there were the beautiful little origami wish stars that Bec and I used to make when she was young. We’d make them in all sorts of colours and fill jars with them (well, one or two at least). I don’t think we ever hid them in the sand, but we could have. What fun it would be to have a treasure hunt in the sand for stars.

This video explains how to make those little wish stars. Maybe you have made some too.

And of course, just like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, stars were always popular in early childhood classrooms to denote good work, good effort or good behaviour, and classes often had a ‘star of the week’ for special recognition and privileges. And at the collage table, glitter and glitter stars were always popular. A little glitter and few stars did wonders to enhance any work of art.

The image in my title is of one such artwork created for me by my granddaughter when she was still in her pre-school days. It is called ‘Starry Night’ and hangs proudly beside a print of the other more famous ‘Starry Night’ in my dining room.

The collage table is where I’ve gone with my response to Charli’s prompt. I had wanted to write about someone with stars in her eyes but feet in the sand but couldn’t quite pull it off. Perhaps it was too autobiographical. I had big plans for what I wanted to write but the sand kept shifting beneath my feet and I couldn’t grab hold of anything. Anyway, this is my response. I hope you like it.

Stars in the Sand

Works of art, created from random pieces of this and that, were incomplete without a generous sprinkling of glitter. When stars were available, the children were in heaven. Though insignificant to others, the works held meaning for the artist, at least for a moment like a particle of glitter passing through a sandglass. Peta watched George painstakingly place his stars. She turned his paper around. “Stars don’t go in the sand, silly. They go in the sky.” George turned it back. “They’re starfish. Starfish go in the sand. Don’t you know anything?” “Oh,” said Peta. “They are beautiful starfish!”

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Cacophony #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can use the word or show discordant sound inaction. How can you create literary cacophony with your words? This one might be of interest to poets as a literary device. Go where the prompt leads!

If you’ve ever heard a flock of noisy corellas fly over, you’ll know the true meaning of the word ‘cacophony’.

If you haven’t, then here’s a taste.

But I was thinking that what might be a cacophony to one, might be music to another, for example the sound of children’s play and laughter. And that’s where I’ve gone with my response. I hope you like it.

Cacophony

Children’s voices rose from the street with excitement, until laughter exploded like fireworks, startling a flock of corellas into screeching flight.

Mrs Black in #4 slammed her door and windows tight, excluding the abhorrent noise daring to smother her favourite show.

Mr Judd from #5, pruning his grevilleas, shook his fist and said, “Stone the crows! What’s with all that racket?”

Mr Dredge in #7 dozed on, snoring in decibels way higher than those outside.

But Mrs Twigg in #3 flung wide her window, inhaling the children’s merriment that inspired memories of her own childhood antics so long ago.

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The Open Door #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills invited writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

An Open Invitation

Actions speak louder than words so, when the door opened, she assumed it was an invitation, even though she’d been told to stay inside. She didn’t need naptime. She was a big girl.

Outside the day sparkled with springtime. Birds chatted as they flitted from tree to tree, inviting her to follow. A lizard peeked from a log, then rustled away in winter’s leaves. She followed, crawling under bushes, into an open space where rocks warmed in the sun. Gum nuts and seed pods, twigs and leaves enthralled until, lulled by the warmth and the dappling light, she napped.

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Home is Where the Heart Is

The most recent writing prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a hometown. It can be your hometown or a fictional one. Who is there? When is it set? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

Since then, a song has been playing in my head on a relentless loop. It wasn’t the song chosen by Charli. She chose Bruce Springsteen. The one that played for me is from my younger years and I’m going to share it with you now in the hope that I can shake it free.

You’d think with two weeks to respond to the prompt, I’d have come up with something worthwhile. Instead, I struggled. Maybe that’s because I don’t have a strong sense of ‘hometown’.

Unrelated to Springsteen’s My Hometown or Tom Jones’s Green Green Grass of Home, this is my response. I hope it tells something in some small hometown way.

Home is Where the Heart Is

The playlist his children organised looped a soundtrack to his questions — retirement and grandchildren afforded time and reason — to resolve. Why did they flee? Why darkness? Telling nobody? Taking nothing? Disallowed of memories to share? He’d never felt he was completely whole. This hometown jaunt should patch the space within. But nothing matched the picture painted in his mind; no road sign, store name, building or a tree. Concrete covered sandy roads where once they played. Then a breeze swirled round a feeling of forgiveness and of freedom and he turned his mind and car to heart and home.

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Ice Cream Meltdown

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!

When I thought of children in relation to Charli’s meltdown prompt, my first thought was of ice cream melting. Why not go literal? Children can find joy in an ice cream, especially on a hot day. They can also have a meltdown if it misbehaves and melts too soon or falls from the cone to the ground, irretrievable.

This past eighteen months of social restrictions and lockdowns have provided many opportunities to develop patience and resilience. At the same time, they have caused a multitude of frustrations and meltdowns, especially if toilet roll supplies edged dangerously low. However, it is surprising how the majority pull through the inconveniences and, perhaps less surprising, how quickly a few have gone into meltdown.

Ice Cream Meltdown

“Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”

“Good morning. Sounds like someone’s not happy.”

“The ice cream’s melted.”

“An ice cream meltdown. Kids will be kids.”

“Yeah. Our fifth lockdown this year. We’re homeschooling. Again. My FIFO hub’s trapped in woop-woop. I can’t visit mum in hospital cause she’s interstate even if hub did get home. And no power now for three days. Our freezer food’s spoiled, and he’s whinging about ice cream. When will the lines be fixed?”

“Sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up. The boss can fire me. No way she’d buy raffle tickets.

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The Feather #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

I don’t know if you ever did this when you were young, but I and my siblings and/or friends used to. We would attach meaning or significance to otherwise insignificant events or occurrences, such as seeing images in the clouds or finding a coin or ‘special’ shell or rock in the sand or on the path. Anything could intrigue and we would create stories to explain why we were the chosen ones for the particular find or revelation. I guess it was a way of giving rein to our imaginations and, perhaps, an attempt to make our ordinary lives seem extraordinary. I guess most children do this in the land of dress-ups and make-believe.

This is where Charli’s prompt took me this time. I hope you enjoy it.

The Feather

‘It’s not just a feather. It’s the feather.’

Which feather?’

‘The one from the beach that day.’

‘Which day?’

‘Remember when we went to the beach and there was a flock of birds that looked like they were having a conference but when they saw us they flew away and one dropped a feather that landed on top of our castle. We knew it was a sign, they were telling us something.’

‘That’s just silly childish stuff.’

‘It was a sign. The birds need our help. The bulldozers have arrived. They will destroy the habitat. We must stop them!’

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