Flash Fiction Game: Don't Be Chicken, Do It!

I once became irrationally angry at a man in an over-sized rainbow knit cap who approached me on the street, assumed I was a student and proceeded to ask if I would like to pay $10 to be published in a national magazine.

I let him live, but I was frankly insulted.

I still am, though it's still irrational.

I'm an advocate of the idea that people should be paid for good writing, that good writing is worth paying for and that writers should be paid in general.

Having now read the world's going to shit Jonathan Franzen article in The Guardian, I can understand and agree with his concern about where the publishing industry is headed.

That said, I plan to ride the wave of the apocalypse.  I want to live in a world where someone can make a living from writing but I also want to live in a world where someone can do something valuable for free just because they want to and where we can still have fun.  (And, for the sake of combining this post with a quick commentary on the Franzen article, where we can not be so serious as to actually judge someone as a human being for using Twitter, for the love of Christ.)

So let's have fun.

This is how this works.  Approximate 300 word limit on a theme.  You write on the theme, you come up with the theme for the next person who writes.  Copy and paste in the comments section.  Post as many times as you like, but not twice in a row.  Notice I'm talking as if this is really going to take off.  If you're a serious writer, use common sense and don't post something here that you're going to want to publish later, but also don't be such a sourpuss as to not do this at all just because you think it's beneath you.  Or do.  Nobody cares.  I'll go first.

I asked my boyfriend to give me a theme.  The theme was "Halloween."  I complained briefly and then wrote a story.  It took me about an hour.


  1. Theme: Halloween

    Word Count: 296


    My sister is Batman. I am Harlequin. My mother has sewn interlocking diamonds of various fabrics over a pair of footie pajamas for me. I don't look like the stringbean man in the posters. I'm a fourth-grade girl.

    Since my father has died, I think of myself as free to not be a real person. I hop between life and death. There's nothing morbid in this. I'm only a fourth-grade girl.

    None of the kids at school understand who I am, but Halloween is forgiving. Even Kyle, who dresses up as a woman, is only mildly teased. When asked by my classmates if Harlequin is real, the teacher, Mrs. A., replies, “Oh, yes,” with an air of authority so convincing that it shuts everyone up.

    In the evening, on someone's front stoop, Batman sticks out her tongue at me. The night is black and she blends in as intended.

    Batman has soared ahead of me in life. She's only six and her teachers are more impressed with her than they ever were with me. She can draw anything. This year I had the option to start playing an instrument in the school orchestra and I declined. At nine years old, I want to retire.

    None of this seems real.

    I tell adults, “I'm a Harlequin.” They say, “Of course you are.” I appreciate their good sportsmanship.

    The costume was the first thing I'd wanted in a long time. I arranged the pieces of fabric the way I liked them.

    After trick-or-treating, I watch a science program on television. On the screen, there are detailed nature shots from around the earth, and then the camera seems to zoom out to show an aerial shot of the whole planet, dressed in ragged scraps of color.

    Next theme: Chemistry

  2. Theme: Chemistry

    Word count: 340 (iz can haz slack?)


    "When I farted, it smelled like a tire fire." It wasn't the most graceless thing Boyle had ever said. Several consecutive nights - this was the sixth dinner in half as many weeks in the company of the Curries - had given rise to a superficial intimacy. Social grace gave way to logical thought. Had they not eaten? Were they not all similarly digesting? Florence had brought up asparagus, to start.

    "Tire fire?" Her amusement was only half-forced.

    "Right. Tires on fire. Like you'd imagine Detroit smells like. That's why I stopped doing vegan. Never mind how I felt, I just didn't want to have to explain that smell."

    Florence, settling in now, looked thoughtful. "I suppose," she began, "you don't have to explain asparagus." Antoine, obviously the husband in a frayed rayon dress sweater, returned from the kitchen with a small chafing dish. The ice cream was already melting into the sponge cake.

    "We're explaining asparagus?" The small lamp at the bottom of the dish glowed sullenly as he, distracted, removed the lid.

    "I was saying," Florence began afresh, "nobody really understands why asparagus makes your pee smell, but it's so universal it doesn't matter. You eat asparagus at someone's house, you pee in their bathroom, you're self-conscious. But the next person who goes in, they smell it, but they don't worry about it. They know it's asparagus."

    Boyle jumped in, "And I was saying that it's compounds." Florence smirked and Antoine twitched as "compOUNds" escaped in tandem with a pillowy belch. "Uff. 'Scuse me. Compounds. Sulpher stuff. You create it when you metabolize the stuff in asparagus."

    Antoine nodded throughout. "So it's your fault, but nobody blames you. I like that. Thanks, chemicals!" He held the tip of the fireplace match to the lamp and, when it flared, brought it to the edge of the dish where the cherries glistened. "Everyone ready?"

    Later, Florence asked Boyle why a burning sweater would smell like burning paper, and Boyle, stifling another belch, thought it best to leave the mystery intact.

    Next theme: Charity