To have something to share at the upcoming Writers on the Avenue meeting, I pulled out the folder of notes, stories, and beginnings of essays I jotted down at the David R. Collins conference this past June at the Midwest Writing Center. Below is a piece I wrote in Kathleen Rooney‘s flash fiction class. The exercise was to write from an image; my prompts were a skeleton and the Grim Reaper. I managed a full story in 15 minutes and felt enormously proud of myself.
I challenge you, dear reader, to write your own short story from these prompts, and share it in the comments. In the meantime, here’s what I came up with:
The Bones of the Thing
“Nice costume,” the Grim Reaper said to the skeleton. “We should be friends.”
“I thought maybe slutty skeleton,” she said. “Isn’t that the thing nowadays? Slutty?”
“It used to be scary,” the Reaper said. “I miss those days. I feel a little out of place.”
“But you can use it again for the holiday play,” the skeleton said. “Ghost of Christmas Future.”
“The end to which we all come?”
“Better than zombies,” she said. “Want a drink?”
She poured them glasses of eyeball punch and found them seats on the red velvet couch. They watched a vampire chat up Frankenstein’s bride. They watched a werewolf put the moves on Catwoman.
“There’s a strange symmetry, if you think about it,” she said. “Usually you see a lot weirder pairings.”
“I think the punch is spiked with Fleishmann’s,” he said. “I would have expected something else from the Debate Club.”
“Peppermint schnapps?” she said. “I got so sick off that once in college. Just a whiff of an after-dinner mint gives me dry heaves.”
“Maraschino cherries,” the Reaper said. “I’ll never eat them again.”
She poured them another drink. They watched the zombie clown, vampire Barbie, the medieval dominatrix.
“I feel like their imagination is getting smaller,” she said. “We used to have historical themes. Bootleggers and flappers, soldiers and nurses. The blood and sex is all out there for them. Nothing’s subtle anymore. Nothing’s sublimated.”
“Yours is subtle?” He pointed to her forearm, gently put his finger on the tiny red heart stenciled above her wrist.
“I miss the old days, Professor,” she said.
She drank her punch and he took her hand.
“Want to try the Booster Club?” said the Reaper. “It’s just down the street. I hear they have real bottled wine. Those kids are crazy.”
“Take me away,” said the skeleton, and put down her cup.