Flash fiction challenges such as Five Sentence Fiction has kept me writing and improved my craft, so I serve up some here every Tuesday. Since every one likes choices I’m providing you with two weekly writing prompts. You can participate in either one, or double your pleasure by trying your hand at both. Submit your efforts any time between now and next Tuesday.
The Standard Prompt will always consist of a two-word prompt to be used as inspiration. The Non-Standard Prompt will change from week to week. Sometimes it will be a visual prompt, sometimes a first sentence or phrase, sometimes a scenario, etc. The limit for the Two for Tuesday Standard Prompts is 200 words and the Non Standard Prompt has a minimum of 200 words but no limit allowing for more in depth explorations. Use the little blue link thing below to submit your link or leave an entry in the comments section.
Don’t forget to check out the other entries.
Here is this week’s two-fer:
You have lots of creative leeway. The limit is 200 words. The words can be used:
- simply as a point of inspiration and do not have to be used directly
- they can be included exactly as provided
- or each word can be used independently of each other (for example if Death Row was the prompt, instead of crafting a story about an inmate on the way to the gallows, you might write something like: Despite feeling like death from an excess of cheap vodka consumed the night before, Evelyn moved on to planting her next row of spinach).
For this week’s alternative prompt addresses folk lore or tall tales. For hundreds of years people have invented ways to explain the unexplainable. Native American Indians have passed down wonderfully vibrant folk tales about things like how the Crow turned black or there have been numerous tall tales about Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan or John Henry which often explain such things as how the Rocky Mountains or Great Lakes were formed. Today I’m proposing that you write a folk tale or tall tale explaining the enduring question: Why do dogs have black lips? As per usual with the Non-Standard Prompt there is no word limit (to allow for more in depth explorations) but there is a minimum of 200 words.
For those of you who prefer to write first and read later, be forewarned my own personal attempt follows.
I once again chose the Non-standard prompt. This is indeed a tall tale in the tradition of Pecos Bill or Paul Bunyan, so as you read it do so in the voice of a grizzled old cowboy sharing this chin-wag around a campfire blazing away beneath an endless blanket of stars.
Dusty West was an extraordinary man. Even in his stocking feet he towered at twice the height of any other living person and had biceps the size of a prize bovine’s girth. A glittering tangled mop of flaxen hair competed for attention with his dazzling smile, which was whiter than the North Pole during a noon day blizzard and constantly gleamed across the lower half of his bronzed face. Hands with a spread as large as a small elm would swallow a whole arm in a handshake and you could do the backstroke in one of his footprints. A man as extraordinary as all that deserved an uncompromising dog. Dusty owned such a dog.
Cyrus had boundless energy and a prodigious tail that could clear half an acre of land in three wags. His voice produced a lilting song beautiful enough to entertain choirs of angels but loud enough to shame thunder into silence and his eyes sparkled with the hope and promise of a Christmas morning. His coat, brindle in color, was thick and as impenetrable as iron, yet as soft to the touch as a summer peach. The ground shook with each pounce and he could cover half a mile in five or six leaps. Cyrus’ loyalty to Dusty was unwavering and he would follow the man into the fiery jaws of death if that was what was required.
The game of fetch was a passion with Cyrus. Dusty could not throw anything that Cyrus wouldn’t retrieve. The harder or farther the object was thrown, the more likely it was to come back in the dog’s mouth to be dropped at his master’s feet with pride and reverence like a prize of great value. The objectives of Dusty and Cyrus were soon at opposition. Dusty was playfully determined to foil his trusty dog’s obsession and Cyrus was just as determined to make sure that Dusty was not successful. The gauntlet had been thrown down.
Day after day Dusty hurled and Cyrus returned laying the tossed prize at Dusty’s feet. Dusty threw hard. Dusty threw high. Dusty threw low. He threw West and East, North and South. Dusty faked left and threw right and vice versa. Every time, however, Cyrus came romping back, victorious.
One day, a Tuesday in July if the lore be believed, Dusty came upon the largest Ironwood tree he had ever seen and with roiling muscles, his body cocooned in sweat, he pulled it from the ground, roots and all. Like an Olympian participating in the hammer throw, Dusty held the tree by a stout root, twirled once to gain momentum, twirled twice picking up speed, twirled thrice in a blur of motion and on the fourth turn let the tree fly high.
Cyrus had been watching with eager anticipation and with tongue lolling. He backed up, crouching with muscles tensing. When his master let go of the tree, the dog exploded into motion kicking up enough dust to plunge three states into darkness for two hours and startle every bird from coast to coast into momentary flight.
The dog leapt hard and high. The ironwood tree tumbled through the sky and sight of it was lost in the sun. Up and up and up the two went, tree and dog, racing towards the outer reaches. The ironwood tree sudden burst into flame just as Cyrus caught up with it. And right at the edge of gravity the large canine turned and raced back to his master with his prize firmly clutched in his teeth.
As he fell back to earth, the wind fanned the flames of the burning tree, blistering and charring the dog’s mouth. He let out a yodeling howl—beautiful yet haunting at first—but the smoke roared down the dog’s throat and his song soon became nothing but a series of sharp, short, ragged, yelping barks.
Exhausted Cyrus landed hard, plowing up a massive furrow as he tumbled across the landscape, on and on but with the Ironwood tree still clamped firmly between his teeth (the mark left by his landing is still visible today, you may know it by it’s name, The Grand Canyon). Dusty found his trusty dog who was panting and softly whimpering from his burnt mouth. The man felt terrible remorse for subjecting his dog to such anguish and vowed never to try to outsmart his loyal companion again. He picked up the beast, carried him back to camp and nursed Cyrus back to health. The dog’s mouth healed but the pink never returned to his lips and his beautiful voice was permanently lost.
As incredible as it my seem my story is honestly told and you must know this to be true because look at any dog today and you will see that its lips are black and the voice is nothing more than a raspy bark—a mere shadow of a once captivating song.