Category Archives: Flash fiction

flash fiction story about a comet and a marriage proposal

Wishing on a comet

Comet flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet. You can consider how it features into a story, influences a character, or creates a mood. Go where the prompt leads.

When I think of comets, I think of Halley’s Comet which passed by in 1986. At the time my son was twelve, my daughter was not yet born, and I was teaching a class of seven to nine-year-olds. My son and the children I taught may be lucky enough to see the comet for a second time when it returns in 2061. I wonder how many will still have the time capsule we made that year, and if they have it, think to open it. They will all be in their eighties.

It wasn’t an elaborate time capsule; really just a large envelope with stories and information about us, and I’m not sure what else. I was recently in contact with one of the girls from that class and she remembers the night we had a sleepover at school to look at the comet, and she still has the time capsule she made. I think that’s pretty cool. How special to create these shared memories that last.

My response to Charli’s prompt is about creating shared memories.

You may recall my previous two flash stories, the first of which was my first attempt at writing romance. He invited her to go camping. She was reluctant but gave in when she ran out of excuses. When she arrived at the campgrounds she saw the words “Marry me” spelled out with solar fairy lights. But he was nowhere to be seen.

It got such a good response that I continued the story the following week, leaving the conclusion open-ended. This too received a great response, thank you, and encouragement for me to continue the story along with lots of suggestions and ideas of how to do so. You were undecided about his intentions – were they honourable or not? At the end of the episode, she pushes back the tent flap and screams. But at what? It’s at this moment that I pick up the story, guided by Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

flash fiction story about a comet and a marriage proposal

An Imperfect Proposal

“What the…?”

He scrambled through bushes, slipping and sliding on twigs and gravel in haste to his love. When he reached her, she was doubled over holding her belly.

“What happened?”

She shook her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“I thought…” Her body shook.

“What?” he soothed, wiping away tears.

“Snake… I thought…” She pointed.

On the bed lay the strap of his telescope bag coiled neatly.

“You’re laughing?”

She nodded.

——

Camping became their family tradition, but their children’s favourite story was of the “snake” that frightened Mum, not of the comet that graced the sky the night that he proposed.

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flash fiction story about peering from the bushes

Peering from the bushes

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

One of the multitude of my favourite picture books is Hattie and the Fox, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins.

I am allowed a multitude of favourites, aren’t I?

Like children, it’s too hard to choose just one. I don’t mean just biological children, I mean the children I teach. They all become ‘my’ children the moment they enter my classroom and remain that way forevermore. How could I choose a favourite?

Hattie and the Fox is a fun story for reading aloud. The children love to join in, especially with the dialogue, and even enjoy acting it out. The cumulative and repetitive features of the story, along with the rhythmic text, support beginning readers who beg to read the story again and again.

While my daughter never liked it when I ‘put on voices’ to read, the children in my class did. Somehow they didn’t think it was me putting on voices. They became involved in the story and thought it was the characters speaking. I used to smile to myself when they’d say things like, “That cow, she’s so funny.” And mimic my reading. Although I am no Mem Fox (you can listen to her read the story here), they enjoyed it anyway.

In the story, Hattie the hen announces that she can see a nose in the bushes. The other animals show little interest. Even when Hattie announces that she can see two eyes, two legs, a body, four legs and a tail, they are not concerned. Only when she realises and announces that it’s a fox peering from the bushes, do the others respond.

Peering from the woods, Charli Mills flash fiction Carrot Ranch

I couldn’t help but think of Hattie and the eyes peering at her from the bushes when Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

We don’t have “the woods” in Australia. We have “the bush”. There could be any number of things peering at us from the bushes such as possums, koalas, kangaroos, drop bears, bunyips, or a great variety of birds. Most are fairly harmless. It was deer peering from the woods in Charli’s story.

While deer are not native to Australia, some were imported for hunting and farming purposes. Many of those escaped to freedom. Some roam the suburbs destroying vegetation and creating hazards for unsuspecting motorists. We’ve occasionally come across a group of them in the middle of the road when we come home late at night. At Christmas time the road signs warning of deer are decorated with tinsel and red pompom noses to add to the festive mood.

two flash fiction pieces about yellow tents

Last week, in response to Charli’s ‘yellow tent’ prompt, I attempted a romantic story which was rather well received. I decided to continue the story. You may remember that a reluctant camper, unable to find any further excuses, finally agreed to join her boyfriend. When she arrived, the campsite was deserted except for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” and her fears melted. But should she have dropped her guard?

Surprise!

She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

Is that what he expected? What do you think was in the tent? Why was he peering from the bushes? What happens now?

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two flash fiction pieces about yellow tents

Intent on yellow tents

yellow tent flash fiction prompt Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a yellow tent. Where is it and who does it belong to? Think of how the color adds to the story. Go where the prompt leads.

I am not a camper. I had no experience of camping as a child and only two as an adult. The first, I finally succumbed to pressure from friends who assured me I’d love it. How could I not? They did. I didn’t.

The second I only vaguely recall though I am assured it did really happen. I think I’ve obliterated it from my memory. Sadly for my children, they also missed out on the camping experience though they did attend school camps (not in tents) and occasionally go camping now that they make their own choices.

My best experience of camping was at school with my year ones. One of the families was keen on camping and the father was a wonderful volunteer in the classroom. His shift work as a firefighter meant that he was often available to help us out. When we were reading books about camping, we had a ‘camping day’. This wonderful dad came in and set up a tent in the playground, made a little campfire, and cooked us all a camp lunch. We spent the day in the playground getting the full camping experience. It was great fun, especially for the children who didn’t get those experiences with their families, and a good way to build background knowledge and vocabulary. I enjoyed it because I got to go home to my nice comfy bed to sleep in. 😊

Of course, children love to play camping too, building tents over furniture in bedrooms and living rooms and with whatever they can find in the back yard. It is a wonderful activity for imagination.  The construction itself can take a bit of working out and involves spatial thinking, collaboration, persistence, resilience and the ability to try new methods. I believe setting up a real tent may require some of those skills as well.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I couldn’t resist writing about children and their imaginative play, but I also thought I’d try my hand at a romantic piece, which is almost as rare for me as camping, so I have done two. I’d love to know which you prefer.

With Intent I

They dragged the upended chairs into position, stacked boxes in the middle and positioned the quoits hob on top.

“Now a cover,” said one.

“I know,” said the other. They raced inside.

“What are you doing?” asked Mum.

“Nothin’,” said one.

“Just playin’,” said the other.

“Don’t make a mess,” said Mum.

“We won’t.”

The yellow sheet refused to hide as they returned outdoors. Mum smiled.

After some realignment of chairs and adjustments to boxes and sheet, they stood back to admire their work.

“Lunchtime,” said Mum.

“Can we eat in the tent?”

“Only if I can join you.”

 

With Intent II

“I have to work.” She feigned disappointment.

“That’s okay. Come after work.”

“But I’m working late. It’ll be dark.”

“It’s well-lit all the way.”

“But I don’t know the way.”

“That’s okay.” He punched the address into her navigation device. “Just follow the directions.”

“How will I find you when I get there?”

“I’ll be watching for you.”

Conjuring no more excuses, she wasn’t yet ready to explain her attraction to him didn’t include camping.

Later, when entering the campgrounds, deserted but for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” her fears melted.

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flash fiction abandoned suitcase

A case of the unexpected

Do they still do Greek myths in school? I know I read some in my primary school days, but I never read any to my students when teaching.

The two stories I remember most from school were of King Midas and Pandora’s Box. Both carry strong cautionary messages which had a big impact on me.

King Midas was greedy and when offered a wish, wished that all he touched turned to gold. He was saddened and regretted his wish when even his beloved daughter turned to gold. Lesson: Don’t be greedy. However, I was more horrified at the thought of that young girl trapped in a body of gold. Surely that would be worse than a straitjacket, the thought of which is terrifying enough.

Pandora was presented with a box which she was instructed to not open. What more effective an invitation could there be to a curious soul? Of course, Pandora opened the box. Who wouldn’t? Unfortunately, in doing so, she released all the ills of the world. It is her, so the story goes, we have to thank for illness, plagues, wars, famines and so the list goes on. Lesson: Do what you’re told and don’t be curious. I’m not sure that I learned the lesson from the tale. I’d already had the message firmly installed prior to encountering it.

As I matured I realised that the lessons from stories such as these didn’t always apply and I am now an advocate for curiosity if not for greed. Where would we humans be without curiosity, wonder, and imagination?

flash fiction prompt stranded suitcase

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what happens next to a stranded suitcase. Go where the prompt leads you, but consider the different perspectives you can take to tell the tale.

The five W questions that we often teach children to use when interrogating a text or preparing to write spring to mind: Who, What, Where, When and Why.

  • Who abandoned the suitcase?
  • What is in the suitcase?
  • Where was the suitcase abandoned?
  • When was it abandoned?
  • Why was it abandoned?
  • Who found the suitcase?
  • What did they do?
  • Why?

In bygone days, had I come across an abandoned suitcase, I may have investigated it to discover:

  • Did it have any value?
  • Was it discarded or lost?
  • Was there anything of value in it?
  • Could I find the owner and return it?

I remember as a child going along with my older brother’s suggestion to create a fake package, tie some fishing line to it, place it in the middle of the road and wait for a curious and unsuspecting pedestrian to come along. (Traffic was infrequent back in those days.) When the pedestrian bent to investigate the package, my brother would pull on the line and the package would move out of reach. We found the response of the pedestrians hilarious and our laughter soon gave away the plot from the bush or fence behind which we lay in wait. Fortunately, they all laughed too when they realised what we were up to.

Nowadays, with warnings about the possibilities of abandoned bags and packages containing terrorist bombs, people may be less inclined to investigate, concerned that the result may be more similar to what Pandora discovered.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I’ve decided to go with a more innocent age when two children playing in the bush find an abandoned suitcase.

A Case of the Unexpected

“I wonder what’s inside,” said Jamie.

“D’ya think we should open it?” Nicky asked.

They looked around. No one anywhere.

Jamie shrugged. “I guess.”

“Looks old,” said Nicky.

“Probably been here for years.”

“So dirty.”

The rusty catches were unyielding.

“Might be locked,” said Nicky, hopefully.

“Let’s see,” said Jamie.

They pried with sticks, battered with stones and willed with all their might. When the catches finally snapped open, they hesitated.

“Go on,” said Nicky.

“No, you.”

“Both.”

“Okay. One, two, three … open!”

The children’s eyes widened.

“What is it?” asked Nicky.

“Dunno,” said Jamie. “Looks like …”

What do you think was inside?

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how much of history is fiction, is fiction simply history that might have been

Fiction: History that might have been

I have just listened to When Nietzsche Wept by Irvin D. Yalom and was intrigued by the thought that fiction, perhaps more so historical fiction about real characters, tells a story that might have been, of situations that are equally as plausible as the real events. The only difference is, they didn’t happen. The author explains how the events he wrote about, a fictional meeting between the doctor Josef Breuer and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, could almost have happened, were but a hair’s breadth away from happening.

(Note: The book was a recommendation by author Anne Goodwin. Read her review here.)

I often wonder about coincidences, those chance events and meetings that influence our futures, those things that may not have occurred had we been even one second earlier or one second later. It can be fun to contemplate the possibilities of our current situation had an alternate major decision been made. But what of the little events that slip by us every moment. How could a difference in any one fraction of time change our lives?

Memoirist Irene Waters asked a related question in her article Life is a Memoir: What is Fiction? shared at the Carrot Ranch a few weeks ago. Irene begins by saying that Truth is considered fundamental in writing memoir” but then tells us that memory is not exact, and that it is “a construct and will vary at different times and places”. She asks, As our remembering creates our identity, then, is our self a fiction?”

Knowing that each witness or participant may tell a different version of an event adds layers to that question. Which versions are fact and which are fiction? Are all enhanced with the fiction of our own perspectives?

Any teacher of young children, or perhaps anyone involved in jury duty, or any viewer of news stories knows, there can be many alternate histories of an event. Deciding where most truth lies can be the difficult part.

“He did it.”

“She started it.”

“It’s mine.”

“He punched me first.”

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Fannie Hooe

When Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Fannie Hooe. Although she is a legend in the Kewenaw, feel free to go where the prompt leads, I wondered what I could possibly write. I know nothing of the Keweenaw or of Fannie Hooe.

However, in her post, Charli explains that much of what is known about Fannie Hooe is from snippets of things “They say”, alternate histories perhaps, with either some or little resemblance to the “truth”.

Charli wrote, “legend has it, Fannie was a little girl, perhaps the daughter of an officer, who went missing. As they circled the lake they called, “Fannie…! Fannie, hooe! They say, they never found her body.”

Further in her article, Charli goes on to say, “Two historians … knew a great deal about the real Fannie. She was from Virginia and came as a single woman to Fort Wilkins to help her pregnant sister. She was not a girl, but a young lady. They say she went missing, mauled by a bear or murdered by a spurned lover.

Truth is, she returned to Virginia, married and lived a long life.”

This disparity between truth and fiction reminded me of a television program from years ago. As I recall it: three contestants professed to be the person described by the host. Each presented information about “themselves” to panellists whose role it was to judge who was telling the truth. The real person had to be truthful but the imposters could lie. After votes had been cast the ‘real’ person was asked to stand up.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Truth or Fiction: Will the Real Fannie Hooe Please Stand Up

Contestant 1: I am Fannie Hooe. My pregnant sister was an excuse to escape my abusive husband. After the baby’s birth, I ‘disappeared’, started a new life in Canada, and never remarried.

Contestant 2: I am Fannie Hooe. While visiting my sister, I was abducted by miners and forced to be their slave. When I escaped, I was so disfigured, I wanted no one to see.

Contestant 3: I am Fannie Hooe. I was pregnant, unmarried, and begged my sister to hide me. She refused and banished me. I started a new life in Virginia as a widowed mother.

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Mending Fences flash fiction stories prompted by the Carrot Ranch challenge

Mending fences

What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?

Time to get a new one!

Mending fences #flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week, when Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a broken fence. You can mend it, leave it, or explain its place in a story. Go where the prompt leads, I spent quite a bit of time fence sitting, undecided about which fence story to choose.

As you know, there are many types of fences: literal, metaphorical, even imagined. Fences are usually built to contain things, to keep people or things on one side or the other, or to define a boundary and possibly restrict passage. But the term “mending broken fences” has a different nuance of meaning. In this use, it means to repair a broken relationship as opposed to improving boundary security.

But which fence should I choose?

Should I share some history?

Rabbit-Proof Fence

This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of my family (grandfather, grandmother and their young family – my father, the fifth of nine, was born three years later) taking up residence on a property owned by the Rabbit Board. My grandfather was a boundary rider until 1955, repairing the fence built to protect farming and grazing lands from the destructive introduced species. His youngest son replaced him, continuing until the role terminated in 1957. My uncle purchased the property from the Rabbit Board and lived there with his family until his death this year not long after the anniversary celebrations.

or perhaps reminisce?

The Cow Jumped Over the Fence

Until I was six, my parents were small crop farmers. The farm didn’t generate much income and there were more bad years than good. To help feed the growing family (there were six of us by then) Mum and Dad invested in chickens for both eggs and meat and a milking cow. The first cow knocked down the fence and escaped to freedom. Dad repaired it and bought another cow, which squeezed under the fence. After a third cow jumped the fence, Mum and Dad decided milk deliveries were a better option and we kids never learned to milk.

Note: I did write about this incident, a little differently, here.

Should I plan a lesson?

Teaching positional prepositions with The Elephant’s Fence

Make a fence from pop sticks.

Make an elephant using different-sized pom poms for body and head; pipe cleaners for legs, trunk and tail; paper or felt for ears; and googly eyes.

Place your elephant according to these instructions:

  • Beside the fence
  • In front of the fence
  • Behind the fence
  • Under the fence
  • Between the palings
  • Next to the fence
  • Above the fence
  • Below the fence
  • On the fence.

Now choose a place for your elephant to be. Tell your elephant’s story:

  • Why is it there?
  • How did it get there?
  • What is it doing?
  • What will happen next?

or attempt a story?

Sometimes it is the imaginary fences that can be more limiting. Sometimes it’s better to leave things that aren’t broken in the first place.

Broken with intent

The fence was too high to jump or even see over, no footholds to climb, and palings too close to squeeze or even peer through. It hugged the soil too compacted to dig. It seemed impenetrable, and so intrigued. He stacked boxes for makeshift steps—not high enough. Finally, he hatched a plan—balloons! He blew them big and tied them tight, attached some string, and waited. And waited. Then a gust of wind lifted him high, over the fence, where another, just like him, smiled and said, “Should’ve used the gate; latch is broken—always open to friends.”

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cute as buttons flash fiction story

Cute as buttons

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes buttons. You can use the word plural or singular in different expressions, or focus on how buttons relate to a story. Go where the prompt leads.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

Precious as Gold

Too lads, reviewing the previous evening’s campfire conversation, dug stones from the bank, inspected each and competed to land one further in the creek.

“D’ya reckon there’s still gold here?”

“Dad says. Reckons someone found one this big.”

“But that’s ages ago.”

“So. Might be more.”

“What’d you do if you found some?”

“Easy. Buy a car, a yacht and a jet. How ‘bout you?”

He contemplated silently—a house of their own first, then for other homeless people too.

“Whoa. Look!”

“Gold!”

They sprinted back to camp.

“You struck gold all right—a gold button,” the adults laughed.

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