HAVE YOU TRIED OUR 55-WORD CONTEST
Here’s a challenge for all you writers out there – tell a story in just 55 words (no more, no less!). The top three stories, chosen by a panel, will appear in my new book Role of Dishonour to be published by Master Koda Select Publishing in the fall.
It’s a fascinating concept and a good exercise for any writer, helping to boil the tale down to the essentials. Why not have a go yourself
Post an entry in the comment box below or email me direct to: email@example.com
My thanks to those readers who have already contributed. The latest submissions are published here.
A VISIT TO THE DOCTOR by J J Toner
It’s my nerves, Doc. I’ve been having breathing difficulties.
Twenty a day.
Hmm. You should smoke more. Cigarettes are good for the nerves.
Aren’t they bad for the health?
Only if you accidentally start a fire. I hope your apartment has asbestos in the walls.
Yes, and the ceilings.
Good, good. Next!
IT JUST WON’T DO By J J Toner
“No, no, NO! That simply won’t do!” she screamed. “There’s far too much exposition, it’s full of clichés, and you keep using the word ‘small’ all the time. You’ll have to rewrite it.”
“All 150,000 words?”
“Yes. You can’t publish it as it is.”
He hung up, got onto Google and searched for “Book editors”.
TOTAL NONSENSE by Nip and Tuck
Just Right is a cereal, a serial is a story published in parts, a part is down ones hair, an heir is one in line, a line is on a football pitch, pitch comes from a pine tree, tree is one more than two, too often I write nonsense and hope it’s just right.
A STITCH IN TIME by Nip and Tuck
It was going to be a lovely dress. The colour, the style and the sleeves were exactly what she had asked for. Still, there was one thing she couldn’t make up her mind about. Full length, ankle length or knee length? She would have to decide soon, the dance was tomorrow. “A-hem,” said the dressmaker.
SOMETHING BORROWED by Barry Fleming
She saw him at the top of the aisle. Gripping her father’s arm tighter, the pipe organ began to play. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. She couldn’t get the ‘borrowed’ from her mind. She was now standing at his side. A single tear fell on the rose she’d placed across his chest.
A RUDE AWAKENING by Nanci E Maynard
The hour was pre-dawn. Sugar awakened and stretched. No one stirred except for the sounds of sleep. She padded to the bedroom door, eased it open, jumped on the bed, and cried loudly for food. She scurried away before the woman arose.
“Darned cat! Wait till I get my hands on you!” Sara yelled.
FAMILY LOYALITIES by Brad Fleming
The police recruits were coming to the end of a strenuous training course. The instructor was grilling them on how they would deal with tricky situations.
“You – O’Reilly,” he singled out a burly Irishman in the second row. “What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother?”
“I’d send for back-up Sarge.”
LEAP OF FAITH by Barry Fleming
He saw her across the room and followed her every move.He knew he would have to make a connection with her before long.Taking a deep breath he approached her – no, not this time.She finally began to make her way toward him.15 feet apart now – she let go of the trapeze.
A DAY CONTEMPLATED by Lisa Ann Ulibarri
Chester twiddles his thumbs. “Ahhhhhhhhhh, it is but another boring day. What to do?” He sat and contemplated. Would he go out visit with the boys?
George told him there was a lovey woman who had moved into the old Wilson house. Perhaps he should welcome her to the neighborhood……
Where did the day go?
A TIME TO FEED by Lisa Ann Ulibarri
As much as she needed to feed, Trinity detested the very thought of humans. But, alas, they were needed for the sustenance provided, they who would call her monster. Perhaps they should look in the mirror of the soul and see who truly the monster was? She fed out of need and them of greed.
THE MEANING OF LIFE by Barry Fleming
I had sat contemplating life in great depth for a good 25 minutes now. I’d come up with some brilliant new ideas and hoped my poor brain wouldn’t forget them. ‘Must make a note’ I thought to myself. Searching for some paper I panicked for a second… ‘Honey’, I yelled, ’We’re out of loo roll.’
NICE PARKING by Barry Fleming
The cars were parked neatly side by side. The supervisor in his hi-visibility jacket took pride and care in making sure each vehicle was correctly parked and accounted for. An eerie silence fell over the park. Not a sound apart from the revving of a motorbike engine some distance away – the stuntman prepared to jump.
HELPING OUT by Brad Fleming
The Judge gazed down balefully at the wretched figure in the dock. “You are a despicable man – a disgrace to humanity,” he snarled. “You have abandoned your wife and children. I am making an order allowing your unfortunate wife £100 a week. “Thanks your Honour, I’ll try to slip her the odd few quid myself.”
A DEEP ENDING by Barry Fleming
They stood beside the rectangular hole in the ground. All plans had gone as well as one could expect – final wishes granted. It was a nice spot, offering a good deal of privacy as requested. Peter turned and spoke to the man on his left – “And this will be the deep-end side – right?”
ON HER WAY by Brad Fleming
The funeral had finished and the grave was being filled in. The mourners began to trickle away, shaking their heads, mumblind condolences, wanting home before the rain came.
A massive bolt of lightning rent the air, followed by a rumble of thunder.
The grieving husband looked heavenwards and turned to the pastor. “She’s arrived then!”
BURIED TALENT: By Barry Fleming.
They followed the directions on the map the very best they could…finally reaching where it had taken them. ‘X’ marked the spot…hopefully their lives would be changed forever. 20 feet….10….5….they were right over it now. The ground beneath them was firm…unlike their shaking knees…. This was it… Simon Cowell briefly glanced up…’OK…and your names are?’
THE BITER BIT by Brad Fleming
He’d been bored with his wife for some time, had considered divorce. Meantime he took solace in bedding younger models – although they didn’t come cheap.
Glenda, his latest, had been good – very good. As he made to leave she whispered “Your wife asked me give you something,” and levelled a snub-nosed automatic at his nose.
TRICK OR TREAT by Barry Fleming
Halloween and with it came the knocks on the door. ’’Trick or treat?’ Bill considered turning the light off and pretending he wasn’t in, but that might cause other problems. Finally the knockers had emptied his box of candies and treats. He waved the last of them goodbye, smiled, and went back into his lighthouse.
THE WRITER by Brad Fleming
As he punched in the climactic final word of his first novel he lay back in his chair with a sigh of satisfaction. The large electric clock on the wall facing him showed 2:20am. This deserved a whiskey. As he reached for the bottle the lights went out. God! Had he remembered the auto save?
NEVER TOO BIG TO CRY by Barry Fleming
He felt the tears coming to his eyes…’come on’ he thought… he was a bigger man than this. What would people think? Too late… they were freely rolling down his cheeks now. He felt so foolish…tried to laugh them away and make some foolish joke to cover his embarrassment. It was pointless…the recipe required onions.
A BRIDGE TOO FAR by Brad Fleming
There were three of them, one directly opposite, one on either flank. Grim. silent, waiting. None of them spoke. He had a big problem – and he knew it. Things certainly looked bleak. Was there a way out?
He glanced down, took a deep breath and said: “Play the King of Hearts please partner!”
Window Cleaner by Kevin Taggart.
He was a window cleaner who took pride in his work. He wasn’t satisfied until he had windows sparkling like new. He couldn’t understand why anyone would have theirs any other way. All versions of windows even the newer windows seven could all benefit with free programmes to download and keep their windows like new.
SHOWDOWN By Brad Fleming
The men faced each other a dozen yards apart.
This was it – the final showdown. There could be only one winner.
It was time for calm nerves – icy self-control.
Both men inhaled deeply, stopped breathing.
The watchers did the same.
One man ran forward, the other fell.
The missile streaked past him.
FITNESS REGIME by Brad Fleming
Sam returned from the gym glowing with enthusiasm. “They’ve got a great new machine there,” he explained to his wife. “I could only use it for half an hour, as I started to feel sick. It’s great though. It provides me with everything I need – Kit Kats, Mars bars, Snickers, potato crisps, the lot.”
FORGET ME NOT by Brad Fleming
He left for a few pints at his local.
“Fetch a carton of milk,” she yelled after him as the door slammed.
That was thirteen years ago. Now he was home as bold as brass, asking rather sheepishly if she’d have him back.
She stared at him hard, cigarette dangling.
“Did you remember the milk?”
LOST by Kevin Taggart
Would he ever find his way around the mighty Amazon? Why had he come here alone? Friends had repeatedly warned him. The sheer size of the giant overwhelmed him. He looked around for help but none was forthcoming At last he found them. The reviews of his latest novel, in the biggest bookstore on Earth
ANNIVERSARY by Brad Fleming
He was one of those husbands who always remembered their anniversary.She’d tease him about it, but her eyes always sparkled when he handed her the bouquet of deep red roses that helped make their day special.
It was special this year too. “Mary,” he whispered, his fingers tracing her name on the marble graveshone.
FITTING by Kevin Taggart
The plane soared through the air. Coming around again, the sound of friction unmistakeable as it glided low, debris falling like snow covering the hard ground. Losing height, debris falling again, completely covering the ground, With a contented sigh the carpenter lifted the door from the vice and hung it on the frame. Perfect fit !
DARKNESS by Wendy Siefken
I’m sad and alone. No one see’s me as I stand here in the crowd. Emptiness fills me. Depression shrouds me. It hangs on me and won’t let go. I yearn for the sunshine and the warmth. I pray and plead to please release me. I scream and rage inside, but no one hears me.
ONE TOO MANY by Brad Fleming
“You rang sir?”
“Another brandy Jeeves.”
“I don’t think so sir.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“I believe you’ve had quite enough this evening sir.”
Really Jeeves. What makes you say that? I’m a pretty tolerant chap, but I think you’ve gone too far this time.”
“I don’t usually find you swinging from the chandelier sir!”
CATCHPHRASE by Valerie Crawford
“Hello. good evening and welcome” said David. “Shut that door!” said Larry. “For my next trick” said Tommy. “I don’t believe it” said Victor “Do you know what it is yet?” said Rolf. “It’s the sale of the Century”, said Nicholas “Now it’s Good night from me, and it’s Good night from him,” said Ronnie.
MEMORIAL DAY by Wendy Siefken
The day his son came home he stood by the gateway awaiting his arrival. He had donned his old uniform for the first time in years and stood rigidly to attention as the column of marching men approached. He raised his arm in salute as the coffin and escort of soldiers passed into the cemetery.
A QUESTION OF OBSERVATION by Brad Fleming
“What’s the matter Watson?” Sherlock Holmes responded, concern in his tone.
“An acute stabbing sensation in my eye. It’s damned painful, I can tell you.”
“What were you doing?”
“Only having a cup of tea.”
Magnifying-glass in hand, the detective studied the table top.
“Elementary my dear fellow. Always remove the teaspoon before drinking.”
FIRST MEETING by Brad Fleming
Quite simply, she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. Black hair, blue eyes, an absolute stunner. Our eyes met briefly, then she turned away in apparent disdain.
I was devastated.
“Don’t worry,” the nurse said consolingly, “You can’t expect a new-born baby to recognise her Dad the first time she sees him.
HOLLYWOOD ILLS by Kevin Taggart
The theatre was crowded – They had been waiting on this day for a long time. Wasn’t often a famous Hollywood star made an appearance here. The theatre team was dressed in their customs and waited anxiously for the movie actor’s entrance. Here came the great man! They placed him on the table.
The operation began.
GIVING UP SMOKING by Brad Fleming
Disdainfully, I spat the cigarette onto the ground. That was it, the last one. I’d never smoke another of the filthy weeds as long as I lived.
The gang facing me apparently didn’t give a damn one way or the other.
Their leader certainly didn’t. His arm swept down sharply. “Fire!” he commanded his squad.
SUMMER IN THE CITY by Kevin Taggart
Helicopters scream through the skies, circling the city. River police with army snipers on board scan both sides of the meandering snake. On land police and army observe the populace closely. Fire brigade and ambulances wail as they speed through the metropolis. People eye each other suspiciously.
Armageddon? Not quite. Welcome to the London Olympics.
TWENTY STEPS TO FREEDOM by Ann O’Donnell
I look like a priest, but unfamiliar. Father will recover. I take oxygen like a drowning victim and suck the last of a stale fag. Breathe… breathe. My gaze’s fixated on the gate, my heart pounds above wobbling knees past shatterproof guards. Do they notice it’s me? Twenty steps, I’ll be out…twenty steps to freedom.
FINAL DAY by Kevin Taggart
My last day. Will I eat my last meal? The media and press will be here soon. The old priest said a prayer earlier .I’m shaking! They march me to the dreaded room. ‘Congratulations!’ cheer the principal and staff as I am presented with my golden handshake. Thirty years a caretaker, gone in a flash!
HER FIRST TIME by Ann O’Donnell
It’s her first time. The ointment makes penetration more bearable. Her sweat drips on his latex. She winces in pain. He tells her it’ll be over soon, he can’t stop now, not until he’s done. Her blood trickles, lip bitten, heart pounds. Finally finished! She rises to adjust her clothes. She loves her new tattoo!
HUNGER by Brad Fleming
He awoke and the pangs of hunger assailed him. He lay there in the enveloping darkness, anticipating his next meal, savouring the taste. He salivated. It had been so long since he had last fed. He slid back the heavy coffin lid, climbed out and slowly started up the cellar stairs in search of breakfast.
(Dedicated to my social media coach Tasha Turner)
THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER by Kevin Taggart
I walked naked down town today. People seemed surprised and laughed.Called into my local but the barman wouldn’t serve me. “Can’t you see the sign?” he pointed. I turned and noticed the ‘No Dogs Allowed’ card. “Sorry.” I replied. Went home and left the pup with his owner. I Walked back to my local.
NOT HIS DAY by Brad Fleming
His wife had left a note on the table.
Darling – Sorry, I’ve had a dreadful day. I ran my pick-up into your car in the garage. Lots of damage I’m afraid. Then I managed to destroy all your favourite CDs. Then your suits and shirts in the wardrobe got shredded.
PS Your new girlfriend phoned!
ROCKY ROAD by Kevin Taggart
Hollywood’s a goldfish bowl”, moaned Linda. “You drink like a goldfish”! Shouted Tim. “Pour me another Haig”. “Pour your own”, yelled Tim as he gulped his Bell’s. At the press conference when asked if their marriage was on the rocks, Linda replied”The only thing that’s on the rocks in our house is the Scotch!”
SAFE HAVEN by Barry Fleming
‘How long you in for?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘What’d you do?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘You not giving much away are you?’
‘Yeah – you?’
‘Oh…I been in and out damn near all my life.’
‘How come – you always been bad?’
‘Not really…My owners just love their holidays. I’m Rex by the way.’
SATISFACTION by Kevin Taggart.
The speaker was silent. A packed house waited expectantly. The public gallery grew restless. On both sides of the floor there was nervous laughter. Never in their history had they witnessed this. Finally the electrician gave the thumbs up. Jagger strutted and sang the opening lines of ‘Satisfaction’ and the Stones began yet another concert
THE GIFT by Barry Fleming
She’d been trying to get their attention all evening, but nobody seemed to notice. Was it a set-up for the cameras? She couldn’t tell.She laughed at the stupidity of these people who claimed to be ‘professionals’ in their field.‘Did you hear that’? Oh… maybe one of these ghost-hunters was indeed gifted after all.
DISTANT BELLS by Valerie Crawford
She sighed deeply. Misery swept over her. She could hear the church bell in the distance. This day her life would change forever, She remembered hearing that same bell 58 years ago this very day. Her thoughts returned, just as her son put a strong arm around her. “Come Mum, the funeral car has arrived”.
MEMORIES by Brad Fleming
I knelt by her grave and wept as the memories came flooding back. We’d spent so many years together, shared so much. I’d loved her so and knew she loved me too. She’d been one in a million – now she was gone – forever. “Cheer up,” my companion said. “You can always get another dog.”
FRANKLY by Troy Lambert
Frightened, Frank flicked the switch. Fear foiled his friendly intention. He raised the baseball bat high. Fur flew as the shape barked and then leapt for his throat. Flexed muscles preceded furious blows. One after another they fell. The creature cowed and yipped in pain and then was still. Fists unclenched. Bat fell. Frank frowned.
REFLECTION by Kerrie-Leigh
She stood and gazed at her still reflection in the mirror and thought the whole world was passing her by quicker than she liked. Self-confidence brewing “stand tall, chin high”. She knew that the days she felt lost inside herself would only give her the knowledge to become stronger for her ability to live.
LAST REQUEST by Barry Fleming
The curtain was pulled back, allowing him to see the faces of the ones he had robbed of a friend and family member. He didn’t care… why should he? He’d done what needed doing – that was it. He smiled at the silhouette by the window. ‘How’s about a cuppa dear…before I feed the cattle’?
NO TIME TO FORGET by Brad Fleming
“Come on little man, let’s see what you’re made off,” the giant bellowed.
His supporters cheered lustily.
The little man faced him bravely enough, then hesitated, patting at his clothing, searching for something.
“What’s the matter boy, what have you lost?” somebody in the crowd behind him called out.
“I’ve forgotten my sling!” David said.
WAITING FOR RESCUE By Cathy Brockman
Angelina sat on the shore, her drenched clothes clinging to her cold wet skin. She surveyed her surroundings in despair. The only refuge a cluster of trees. Thunder exploded followed by jagged streaks of lightening. The trees aren’t safe. She curled up, hoping beyond hope to see Eric emerge from the sea and save her.
WAR OF WORDS by Barry Fleming
He stared at the cross laid out before him. Bowing his head, silently cursing what he’d done. This lost, broken man he’d become. Searching his weary mind for the right words…but his words had gone. ‘If only’ he heard himself whisper over and over… Defeated, he folded the arena, and put the Scrabble away.
THE SHOT OF HIS LIFE by Joe McCoubrey
He sighted along the barrel of the rifle, remembering to aim slightly ahead of the running figure. It was the most important shot of his life and he wasn’t about to fail. He squeezed the trigger and watched as his target keeled over. “I think I’ll take the teddy bear,” he told the fairground stallholder.
INSPIRATION by Lorene Lambert
He lingered in Gracechurch Street, adjusting the ruff around his neck and considering his dilemma. Home? Or off to the Ox and Fiddle, where Beatrice the barmaid served a tasty ploughman’s lunch? “To Bea, or not to Bea?” he murmured. Slowly his footsteps turned homeward as he thought, “Say, that’s really quite a good line!”
ON A WING AND A PRAYER by Barry Fleming
He’d seen his mother do it…and his father. What he would give to be like them. Oh he had tried – or so he thought. Gotten himself all of a flutter in the process. In his dreams he would always succeed. Now the day had come at long last. Time to leave the nest – and fly.
WAITING FOR THE WORD by Ann O’Donnell
I stand. All eyes on me. Gloppy mascara, push-up bra, gut sucked in…I see him. He sees me. A hundred people, all I see is him. Beneath my perfume stirs apprehension. I’m fixated. This day was coming. I’ve waited for him. He says the last words I’d hear him say. “The jury finds the defendant…”
IT CAN’T BE DONE by Joe McCoubrey
Jimmy: “There’s no way you can write a story in 55 words.”
Johnny: “This guy says you can.”
Jimmy: “I’ve tried it and it’s impossible.”
Johnny: “But he has already done it.”
Jimmy: “What’s his name?”
Johnny: “Brad Fleming.”
Jimmy: “Where’s he from?”
Johnny: “I think he lives in Ireland.”
Jimmy: “Ah, that explains it!”
LET IT RAIN by Brad Fleming
The man squinted up into the darkening sky. The clouds were massing threateningly. He shivered involuntarily. “Mark my words, there’s a blow coming and we’re in for a downpour.
His companion didn’t answer, but his gaze shifted upwards. “Everything’s safely stowed away below decks. It can rain for as long as it likes,” said Noah
WHAT IS HIS STORY? By Wendy Siefken
He sat waiting in the booth looking out the window. His face aged and lined with a lifetime of experiences. His hands once strong and firm, were new aged and shaky.. His eyes were filled with a life time of memories. He wondered if today was the day she would finally come back to him.
AMBUSH By Brad Fleming
He had been lying there for hours now. Waiting. The man had never been as late as this before. Was something wrong? The sound of a car stopping outside. A key turning in the lock. He was alert now. Ready. The door opened. “Sorry I’m late. Got held up.” Toby dashed forward, wagging his tail.
WHEN DARKNESS FALLS By Wendy Siefken
The sun was setting in a glorious rainbow of colors. The spring evening was quickly settling in. Street lights were coming on as she walked hurriedly towards home. Only a few more blocks and I am safe. The traffic died down as she got closer to her street. She turned into her street when…
UNTITLED By Nicola Jeffrey
Fear jerked Fiona’s eyes wide open. She looked behind her but could no longer see the house. She slowly approached the clearing; her heart beating hard, fearing what lay ahead. Stepping out of the shadows, she sighed to discover an orange tree standing in the middle of the cane plants. She giggled at her foolishness.