Prompt: Platinum | Word Count: 120 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 29, 2020
“Candace, while I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it, you’re fortunate. We’ve discontinued most nonessential treatments to deal with the influx of Covid patients. We’re delaying new platinum chemotherapy treatments until we’re over the peak with the virus.”
“Does that mean I have to discontinue my platinum chemo treatments and start all over?”
“Actually because you are mid-course, you can continue. As I said, you’re fortunate. Some other hospitals have had to stop treatments midway for their patients.”
“Ok. Then what has changed?”
“Only the where. Given the high risk due to your suppressed immune system, we’ll need to come to you to administer the chemo.”
“At least with lockdown, only the nurse will see my hair fall out.”
Prompt: Maxed | Word Count: 100 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 28, 2020
The message from their advisor was clear: in these trying times it is incumbent on all who can do so to make sure their charitable contributions are maxed out. As they stared at the long list of possibilities, they confronted their own biases as they tried to determine where best to contribute. Eventually they narrowed the list to the food bank, an organization that will oversee vaccinations when available, another for clean water. They donated online, no checks passing, and put in for corporate matches. Then they wrote a check supporting a change in political leaders. Times they are changing.
Prompt: Leaves | Word Count: 250 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 27, 2020
As the bright green leaves emerged on the trees and bushes, lockdown continued. Spring was in full swing. School was now online and all social interactions were virtual. She was supposed to have been out of her parent’s house pursuing her studies and working part time, getting on with her life.
Instead, she and her fellow workers were furloughed at first, but then their leaves became permanent, their jobs were gone and along with them their paychecks. The unemployment check leaves gaps in her budget unfulfilled by the stimulus payment. So she’s moved back home, where she is under her parent’s thumb unable to make decisions without so much as a by your leave. It leaves her frustrated. Her brothers are home too, making the house overly crowded. The table’s expanded by adding the leaves so the family could dine together. A chore chart resurfaced, where each person leaves their mark.
Officials are wrestling with how to lift restrictions and get back to work, school and everyday life. Until they have adequate testing and vaccines, there was no going back to normal. As she leaves through the pages of her book, swirling the leaves in her teacup, she resigns herself to the fact that here she must stay. Even though it leaves her cold, she does her part. Every time she leaves the house she sanitizes anything that others may have touched. She wears her mask, and gloves her hands. As for the future, she leaves it all to fate.
Prompt: Sly | Word Count: 150 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 26, 2020
For over a month, she’d been buttoned down tight against the sly menace that was waging war on the world. Piqued and bored, she decided took action.
She stepped out onto her balcony, and set up a stool. As the sun began to set, she pulled her bow across the strings of her cello releasing the first rolling notes of Bach’s iconic Cello Suite No. 1. Curious her neighbors emerged from their self-isolation cocoons, humming along with the familiar, haunting cry of her instrument.
The next evening she opened her sliding door to the sound of her neighbor in the next building, paused from public theatrical performances, belting out the famous aria from Verdi’s Aida. Two nights later, the familiar strains of the opening from Hamilton was performed by housemates in a flat across the street. In this sly way musical performance made a comeback all down her block.
Prompt: Fence | Word Count: 200 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 24, 2020
Do you ever wonder how languages come to change? Old sayings take on new meaning. Like an old proverb, “good fences make good neighbors,” brought back into common usage by Frost’s poem. I suspect that after this pandemic, we might all have another interpretation of this old saw.
My neighbor’s fence is a physical demarcation of our permissible paths. Six feet from our hedges, we wave and greet each other. Never closer, because “you never know what goes on in another’s house.” This saying also takes a twisted turn in these uncertain times. These days that could be risky indeed. They could , knowingly or unknowingly, carry a menace right up to the property line. Or you could. Best to mask up and stay safely on your side of the fence.
When the ambulance pulls up next door, the fence becomes a barrier blocking compassion as medics carry out a loaded stretcher. Every instinct to comfort must be rejiggered to comply with the mandates of our time. More than anything I wish the fences to be gone. I wish to know the story in my neighbor’s home. I wish I could move close enough to help without raising concern and suspicion.
Prompt: Fifty-Four | Word Count: 120 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 23, 2020
Fifty-four days into the lockdown, folks had settled into new routines. After nearly two months, their initial optimism for a rapid return to “normal” had given way. Now, they hoped only that leaders chart a path through the pandemic that would leave them standing, if not wholly unscathed. The public was unaware as the day began that Day 54 would change everything.
The day dawned bright, rain clouds nowhere in sight. By noon, they’d gathered ominously overhead. Small planes winged through the atmosphere seeding clouds with a new retardant derived from orchids. As it filtered to earth, the wind picked up, dispersing particles to work their magic, neutering the viral plague. Life resumed, with lessons learned and change afoot.
Prompt: Vaccine | Word Count: 75 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 22, 2020
They followed every lead, regardless how obscure, to find a vaccine. Even so, nobody expected the answer to come from a writer. On March 24th, Rob Cleeton posited that a rare orchid found only in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan held the key. They checked it out so they could say they’d followed every lead. Imagine everyone’s shock when a compound from an Afghan orchid protected against the virus. Sadly, Rob must now contend with conspiracy theorists.
Prompt: Secret | Word Count: 120 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 21, 2020
Zoe joined her two longtime friends on the zoom call to catch up. As she looked at Bethany she noticed how weary her friend appeared. Her hair was disheveled. She had a stain on the front of her sweatshirt. “Oh honey, what’s happened? You look like you could use a vacay.”
Bethany just shrugged, mumbling, “I’m fine. All this alone time gets to me, so this is just what I need.”
Their third friend joined the call and they both gasped. “Casey, you look radiant! What’s your secret?”
“Well … Brett and I haven’t spent this much time together, since our honeymoon. I guess this is the payoff.” Then she gave them her best Mona Lisa smile. Both friends grinned back.
Prompt: canopy | Word Count: 200 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 20, 2020
As the wet season peters along the Amazon river, Hester and Simon sun themselves lazily in the strengthening sun. They hang looped over the branches of a large rubber tree. Last year had been disastrous. They contemplate their fate as the dry season heads their way.
“Hessssster, ththere’sss one good thing coming from the humanssss sssstaying home.”
“Yesss thossse are certainly plusssesss. But I wasss thinking of sssomething elssse. Jussst look around ussss. Lasssst year human recklesssssnessss and indifference ssstarted the firesss that desssstoyed vasssst tractsss of our Amazzzzonian home. We anacondassss ssssuffered unprecedented changesss, including loss of our food ssssources and habitat lossss.”
“Yesss, Sssimon. You ssspeak the honesssst truthth.”
“Look above ussss now, Hessssster. The canopy above isss leafing. The Amazzzzon is regenerating all around ussss. Assss thossse leavesss flourisssh, the canopy ssso esssssential to our rainforessst isss rebuilding. Ssssoon we will regain our ssshade.”
“It’sss ssso lovely. I think we won’t ssssee the tourissstsss thisss year. No noissssy boatsss. No carelessss trassssh in our lovely riverssss. Ssswimming issss ssso much more pleasssant now. The water issss ssso clear, though, that it makesss hunting challenging.”
Prompt: Elves | Word Count: 100 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 19, 2020
“Was it elves,” Grace wondered, “or fairies who left the little painted rocks scattered along the trail?
Each rock was painted differently. Some featured miniature landscapes. Some charmed with bouquets of wild flowers. Her favorites were the whimsical animal portraits, cleverly rendered on smooth river stones.
Everyone walked these days. It was the one of the few permissible reasons to leave the house. A week into shelter in place, the little rocks began appearing. Now, each day she looked for new additions as she passed along the wooded trail. Today, for the first time, she added one of her own.
Prompt: Website | Word Count: 300 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 18, 2020
A website can be a transformative thing. Consider one out of South Africa. Stuck at home? No problem. Need to vent? Pick up your pen. This wonderful site daily solicits writers from around the world, some fledgling some not, to write on topics released into the ether with the smallest of word counts. The website extols, “Keep writing, keep commenting, you’ll be better, we promise.”
Each day of this pandemic confinement, we’re prompted. For nearly a month, the confined, the bored, and the frustrated have risen to this website’s challenge. Some pieces are thematic. Some write excerpts from larger works. Some of us write about our lives, or our relatives, or our dreams. Some pen their nightmares. Some reflect on the pandemic, some escape reality completely. All of us, each one, hones our craft, and support each other and give thanks for this wonderful space.
It started with Orchid, quite out of the blue. Then shattered expectations, only to pitch another offer, and after that, a fifth, the ninth letter. Then we wrote about Frida, whether she be gentle or the most beautiful. From ivory towers, or elsewhere, we hope our brief narratives hit the tiny word counts, exactly, as we plow through trees and doodles looking for the foundation of a story. We offer a gift of our words, or break for a doughnut. Our honesty pours into our stories. In vintage style, we spring forth to anchor the page. Magnificent magnolias rooted elaborate, yet diminutive tales of wishbones, sunshine and Africa. Teach us it did, this website, to draft creatively, but with precision.
We’re in this together. Currently, twenty-six days, five thousand, four hundred and forty words into this keep writing adventure, we’re inspired daily to write our way through the pandemic by the deadlinesforwriters.com’s challenge.
Prompt: Teach | Word Count: 150 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 17, 2020
“Argh,” Carolyn moaned exasperated. Her son Jonah cringed.
With school out indefinitely, they needed a new approach. “Let’s take a break. Why don’t you get a snack?”
She walked out to the back patio, firing up her Zen app. As she settled, legs crossed, palms up, thumb connected to forefinger, she breathed deeply and sank into the guided meditation, asking herself, “how do I want to show up right now?”
Sometime later she returned inside with a renewed sense of focus. She could do this! She settled at the kitchen table, purposefully setting aside her frustration and turning to welcome her son’s questions, despite his worried expression.
“Jonah, math was never my favorite subject either, but I think, we can get through your algebra worksheet. Let me teach you what I can and we’ll figure the rest out together. Okay?”
“Okay Mom, I’ll try.” And that’s just what they did.
Prompt: Sunshine | Word Count: 250 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 15, 2020
“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me Haaaappy,” Sarah belted out at the top of her lungs. “Sunshine almost always makes me High.” She giggled as she pranced around her yard using her shovel as a microphone. “Sunshine on the water looks so LOVELYYYYY.” Too bad there wasn’t any water nearby. But what evs. “If I had a wish that I could wish for you, I’d make a wish for sunshine full of style.” Or something like that. She set down her shovel and smiled at her handiwork. The alyssum border was finished. The petite white flowers edged the full length of the flower bed, and it looked gorgeous, if she did say so herself. Which was pretty much her only option these days. Talking, or singing, to herself.
She may be all on her own, but this was a definite perk to self isolation. Nobody could tell her she was off key, probably way off key. Nobody would put a damper on her good mood. She’d been in the garden all morning planting and soaking up the glorious springtime sunshine. As the sun warmed her shoulders, undoubtedly raising freckles, she’d crooned away. She was of the definite opinion that her plants liked it. She was also of the opinion that they were not the least bit critical if she got the words a little wrong or out of order. They just swayed back and forth in the breeze as if they heard the same song she heard in her head.
Prompt: Wishbone | Word Count: 300 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 14, 2020
Clarice was getting to the end of the roast chicken. It lasted quite a bit longer when it only served one. Well, with a bit here and there to the cat, Bisou. The cat was quarantined as well, since Clarice no longer let him out to roam the night, fearful of the unseen menace he might bring home. So, she reasoned, a bit of chicken now and then was deserved.
As she stared at the bones, she missed her little grandson, Charlie. Normally, when they reached the chicken’s bones, she and Charlie would save out the wishbone for an after dinner wish. But they hadn’t seen each other in over a month. She usually watched him on Wednesdays and Fridays after school. Of course, they’d FaceTimed so knew he was doing well, his chipper demeanor intact as he waved at the camera, “Bonjour Meme!”. Too bad you couldn’t zoom a wishbone!
They had a whole routine for those wishbones. First, they’d stand a few feet apart. Then they’d bow ceremoniously toward each other, initiating their ritual. They’d each grasp a flat end of the springy bone. Solemnly she’d announce, “May the victor’s wish be granted,” they’d bow their heads, make their wishes, and then lock their gazes, counting aloud, “one, two, three” and give a mighty yank to the small bone until it snapped in two. Charlie would laugh and laugh as he held the larger piece. His excitement contagious as he announced what he wished for, always the same. “I wished for ice cream dessert, Meme! So now we get to have some!”
Clarice knew her wish today. Too bad it was so hard to train a cat. Bisou would gobble that wishbone, not even pausing to make a wish. Silly cat. Life is so much better with wishes.
Prompt: Magnolia | Word Count: 85 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 12, 2020
As Easter Sunday dawned clear and bright, the air was scented with Springtime’s blossoms. The world was in lockdown. The pious bowed in prayer. As Elise considered the magnolia blooms outside her window, she imagined that as each flower opened to the sun a wish came true. This one brought a chocolate bunny. That one, a perfect ham. That one, clinging precariously to the branch, desperately trying not to tumble to the earth, was a prayer for a grandmother’s recovery from the virus.
Prompt: Anchor | Word Count: 100 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 11, 2020
Anchored below, the now familiar navy medical ship had been a fixture in the harbor since mid-March. From her attic apartment window, Erin watched as helicopters and smaller boats ferried back and forth. Today, the great vessel was pulling up anchor and heading out to a new port. The city had successfully flattened the curve, new cases had declined and local hospitals could once again handle their patient loads. It was time for the hospital ship to move to a new city struggling through its peak. Erin was hopeful and sad to see the ship heading out of the harbor.
Prompt: Spring | Word Count: 250 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 10, 2020
“Ok Sloths, up and at ‘em. The rain is gone and the sun is finally out. Time to go see how all you hard work paid off.”
Reluctantly, the kids rallied, lured by the specter of sunshine. They’d worked hard last Fall to plant their gardens. Now it was time to see what bounty nature had in store.
First up was Peter’s garden under the apple tree. He’d been captivated by grape hyacinths and had planted hundreds beneath the tree. Now, the tree full of delicate white blossoms reigned over a sea of purple blue spires. He laughed when he saw the surprise he’d planted. Randomly placed white tulips stood sentinel above the blue. Stunning.
Next they visited Katie’s bed along the garage wall. She’d opted for edibles. The glossy green serrated leaves spread out along the floor of the garden, dotted with white flowers that would soon yield her favorite Summer treat, lusciously sweet red strawberries.
Dad’s lilac hedges were heavy with clusters of purple and white. The heat of the day warmed the blooms, scenting the air with their heavenly aroma.
Finally, Mom’s roses. They were in bud and the branches were leafing. There were weeks yet before her prize winning flowers would grace the bushes. Still the promise was evident even this early in the season.
As they all stood surveying the garden they’d worked so hard to plant, they agreed that maybe it wasn’t so bad to shelter in place after all. At least for now.
Prompt: Vintage | Word Count: 100 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 9, 2020
Confined at home, Sandra had worked her way through the house. The attic was the target for the day’s cleaning efforts. She pushed the door open and climbed the mostly unused ladder. As she lifted the lid on an old trunk, her grandmother’s flapper dresses caught her imagination. Near the bottom were the old records. She spun them on the vintage record player and sank into a reverie. She imagined her grandmother, in her heyday, whirling across the dance floor in the arms of her soon to be husband as the big band crooned forth. The beginning of a family.
Prompt: Honesty | Word Count: 300 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 8, 2020
“Let’s be honest. The situation is hard on you I’m sure, but the news is not all bad,” Kimmy said, “this is fascinating. Seismic activity has materially decreased as we all shelter in place. That means scientists can get a more accurate picture of the movements of Mother Nature.”
Her son, James, home from school and miserable because he missed his friends and the interaction of classes at school just harrumphed. His normally sunny demeanor was decidedly in the dumps.
“Ah c’mon, buddy. You were all about the environment and climate change during the run up to the primaries. Where’s that passion gone?” Kimmy was bound and determined to shake her son for his malaise.
“Just leave me be, please, Mom.”
Several hours later, Kimmy took another run at James, “the Australian forest are healing, there’s new growth everywhere.” She proffered a link to an article highlighting the renewal happening down under.
Twenty minutes later, she followed up, “James, please stop pouting. Look at this, pollution levels are down significantly all over the world. And not just air pollution, but also noise levels. It’s even impacting the oceans. The whales have noticed.” She handed over a news clipping.
“Okay, okay Mom. I get it there’s definitely an upside if you look for it. I’m just not in the mood to look I guess.”
“That’s so unlike you, honey. Honestly, you’re usually so positive.”
She waited another hour and was just about to offer another tidbit, when James came to find her, “Mom, you gotta see this, the ozone layer is actually healing. We may have another shot at fixing climate change before it’s too late.”
Kimmy smiled. That was her son! Always finding an upside. If she was honest that’s one of the things she most loved about James.
Prompt: Doughnuts | Word Count: 150 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 7, 2020
Sheltering at home and missing cooking together with her friends for their dinner get togethers, Sadie initiated a challenge: a virtual doughnut bake off. Six of her baking buddies agreed. That Tuesday afternoon, they each poured a glass of wine and joined a zoom call to cook “together,” each working with their own recipe. They mixed and swirled the flour and sugar, the yeast and eggs. Then popped their doughnut batter in the oven or dropped them in hot sizzling oil. They mixed sugars, and frostings and glazes, all while chatting away.
When finished, they wrapped up a dozen doughnuts apiece. Sadie picked the parcels up from their front porches, and delivered them to the local senior center. The judges — a very appreciative group of over eighty-somethings — tasted and tested. In the end they were unanimous. It was a tie. There’d need to be a second round bake-off.
Prompt: The Gift | Word Count: 200 words exactly | Genre: flash fiction
April 6, 2020
Marni decided to take stock. Enough of this petty self-pity. It was time to buck up. So she decided to look for the gifts in this new way of life.
The gift of time, to peruse the things she’d dreamed of but never found time focus on. Learning a new language, practicing and appreciating art, playing and exploring music. She finally kept a gratitude journal.
The gift of connection. She reached beyond the confines of isolation with technology to connect with family and friends with whom connection had languished. Chat, zoom, FaceTime and catch up for the first time in years.
She worked to tidy and clean. She sorted and donated. Made her space anew.
She found ways to help and moved beyond her fear to open her heart to those she could help. She made masks — she discovered that there are patterns for all skill levels. She mowed her neighbor’s lawn, then planted a row of bright-faced pansies. She earmarked some money to donate to those in need.
On that day when she walked back into her fully communal life, she could say she’d made her life richer, recognizing and appreciating the gifts of this disruption.
Prompt: foundation | Word Count: 200 words exactly | Genre: fiction
April 5, 2020
The foundation of military command and control is rigid chain of command that tolerates no dissent outside established channels. We all knew it, and we all expected that our country and our superiors would make the best decisions. We do our duty to country and expect that, in return, humane decisions will be made on our behalf.
We man a very key nuclear aircraft carrier, but it is peacetime. When two soldiers returned from shore, they brought the virus with them. It spread like wildfire in the 5,000 man vessel. We didn’t know what to do. Into the chasm of leadership stepped the humanity of our Captain. On our behalf, he broke protocol and pled with his superiors to allow the ship’s crew to be slimmed to the bare essentials to save lives on board, our lives.
Yet, he was disregarded. We were to be sacrificed. Why? Then he lost his job, for doing his job, to my way of thinking. He was looking out for his unit, protecting his men. Now he is a quarantined victim of the very virus he sought to protect us from. He’s been discharged for his humanity. He will always have our greatest esteem.