Flash Fiction: A complete story written in 1,000 or fewer words.

Writing Prompt: A story idea that jump starts a writer. The prompt is folded into the story either verbatim or with minimal alteration.

My friend Richard-the-writer is a master of what he calls “flash fiction” and I hereby publicly issue him a creative challenge: Write a story based on the prompt I’m about to give you.

The twist is that this is going to be a visual prompt from pictures I took tonight at a Mexican Cantina overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.

Assume a first-person narrator (me) sitting at the end of the bar drinking Corona-with-lime and all the pictures below are taken with a cell phone from his point-of-view.

The first image establishes a context; subsequent pictures hone in on plot possibilities.

mexican cantina

mexican cantina

mexican cantina

mexican cantina

Are you up to it, Richard?

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🙂 🙂 🙂

[Anyone, of course, can have a go at this.]

10 thoughts on “A Visual Flash Fiction Prompt

  1. You bet your not so sweet ass, Oops … Give me a coupla days … thanx for the unsolicited “goose.” This will be fun … More later, he said with a note of mystery hanging in the air.

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    • Jill woke up to another gray morning. The sun was actually shining through the window, but the gray was in her heart, like a heavy wet fog. She had slept late in hopes of letting more of the day go by before actually getting out in it. It wasn’t exactly like she was a loner, she didn’t want to spend the day with no other life in sight. But she was alone. And did not know how to get out of it.
      It had not always been like this. She had done a stint in the Army, she was tough, she had been good at her work, she liked the structure, being part of a team, doing something valuable. And you didn’t have to be a girly girl to fit in there. But being deployed to the combat zone had also wiped her out, the conditions of that part of the world had been so deeply painful that she knew she had to leave in order to save herself, not keep shutting down because it was all too much.
      After two years duty she did leave the Army. She didn’t really have a home to return to, her parents had split, her mom had become ill and died several years ago, she wasn’t close to her dad – he always wanted her to get a degree, like in accounting, something secure, in an office. For all she didn’t know, the idea of such a future induced a howl of Noooooo! in her brain. She grew up on the East coast, so she decided to head West, get a new vista, sit in a new culture, pay attention to how it felt for her.
      Jill had always been on the quiet side, did not make friends easily because of that. No one ever called her pretty. Boys didn’t ask girls like her on dates. She knew it wasn’t easy for her to gather herself up to make this move, find a place for herself, but she was also sort of proud of herself for taking the chance, trying something new, being willing to see how it worked out.
      She had saved up much of her military pay, enough to give her time to try out this new stretch of place. She didn’t want to be in a big city so she found a small town on the coast, a place with an easy blend of people and commerce. It was off season so she was able to get a room at a small but clean motel, just blocks from the water. A residential section was nearby, with a park, and she liked to walk the streets there because the houses looked so bright and comfy, real people lived there – people who walked their dogs, and sat on their porches in the evenings; multi generations living to together. Toys in the yard, colorful flower pots on the steps. Hard work in the air as children walked to school and uniformed parents climbed on the bus to the restaurants and factories.
      Jill found a little cantina nearby that was full of families and noise and tomato-pepper aromas. She was the only person there who wasn’t part of a big family group, so she sat at the bar and felt some warmth creep in to her solitary and uncertain life. She didn’t feel the need to sit at a family table, she did feel the need to be where life has throbbing happily. The cantina reminded her of the feel of the neighborhood she walked in – families, hard workers, toys on the floor.
      As the days went by, and Jill ate at the cantina regularly, she began to feel more at home, as though she had a friendly base from which to operate. The people who worked there began to always greet her, she was a “regular” – she liked the feel of that. In between eating she explored the town for work possibilities. She was mostly taking an inventory, seeing what appealed to her and what did not. Flying by the seat of her heart. It was good to have the time to do this, she wasn’t under pressure to find just any job right away. There were parts of herself she felt good about. She knew she was a hard worker, and that she learned a job quickly. She knew she could work alongside people quite different from herself.
      One day at the bar after an afternoon of exploring, with a beer and a shot chaser, she started paying attention to the bar – how it was laid out, how busy it was (or wasn’t), what they served, who came to sit at the bar. It was interesting. She didn’t make any split decisions but she could feel something beginning to come together for her. She would be good at tending bar, she felt that clearly some place in her being. She already knew the place, she felt at home there, and having the job of fixing the drinks and serving them let her turn her face to the people who came, give them an easy smile and a bit of a chat. She liked to work hard, be part of the team, she was feeling the fit. Still, it would require some courage on her part to make it happen. She had felt safely invisible in a way, no demands on her or her time, was she ready?
      The bar had no regular tender, Julie filled in when needed. Julie knew Jill from all her days of sitting at the bar with food and drink. Jill knew how the bar worked from all of her days sitting at the bar. One day opportunity came for a visit. The cantina was packed on a pay day Friday night, no way Julie could do all that was needed. Jill, without thinking about it, asked Julie if she could help out. Julie was so relieved and immediately took her up on the offer, and Jill was on her way to her new life on the West coast, connected.

      – Eleanor

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  2. A shorty for Halloween:

    Damn, what are these people thinking. This is NO PLACE for children.Just because it is Halloween, these parents think they can drag their tots toanywhere they please. Oh, I know the scoundrel owner has brightened the placeup for the day. Trying to suck in a few extra dollars even at the expense ofthese innocents.

    Oh god. Walt is here. I hope he can keep calm. Last week we found skinned andgutted raccoons outside the bar’s back door after closing. The same door he used when he left. He hadbeen ranting all evening about kids having no respect and screw them and their cuddlypets and stuffed animals. He was actually foaming at the mouth as he wasspewing his words down the bar.

    Oh shit. He has that knife again. I hope these people leave here before dark.What were they thinking coming into this neighborhood? Hookers, thiefs,murderers. That’s all that ever come here. I should know. I may be a low lifenow but I can’t let anything happen to those kids. A knife. I need one just incase. The barmaid has left hers within reach. One false move and he’s a deadman. The world would be better off without that scum anyway…

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  3. Finally, a fine response from Richard Huss. Thanks, Richard.

    A Family Spot

    Richard Huss
    11/19/14
    (Final 1/4/15)

    I’ve been coming to the Fiesta Grille ‘n Cantina for years. Too many for me to count and none of your business how many.

    It’s a place where I can hang and not be bothered – too much. Most times no one really cares about anybody else’s business. It’s a show-up, drink-up, eat-up and don’t bother me with your goodtime place.

    My ears are immediately assaulted as I walk in this afternoon. I forgot that it’s girls’ soccer day, Saturday. I move to the end of the bar past the commotion caused by someone else’s little darlings.

    Soccer is a good all-American sport borrowed from the poorer countries where it’s enjoyed in the raw – no refs, no uniforms, no leagues – just a bunch of kids and/or adults on a vacant lot with a somewhat inflated or deflated ball — depending on your perspective. Here in the good ole U.S. of A., however, we have waddled down our usual path and made soccer into a supreme family affair, a middle-class extravaganza with official organizations, rules, structure, uniforms – and probably minimal fun.

    Leave it to us to ruin a good thing.

    There might be one future star in that bunch capable of moving to the next level. But I’ll bet it’s mostly kids trying to please parents, filling time and avoiding another lackluster Saturday. Welcome to the happy middle classes where parents need to take a deep breath and step back from micromanaging their kids’ lives. Let the darlings feel a little freedom. Parents’ fears are transferred to their children. And so it goes from generation to generation.

    I look around and think that one of the sweeties must have a birthday. Why else would there be painted faces?

    Then I notice the trophies on the tables and decide the little twits have won some kinda championship. More likely, however, they haven’t won a thing. They’ve all been given trophies for being terribly mediocre, abnormally compliant and simply “showing-up.”

    If any of the girls had guts, they’d say “screw you! I’m outta here and wanta do my own thing.”

    God I’m glad I’m not a kid and don’t have to participate in this shit.

    Then that guy comes in again and orders his Dos Equis. He only shows on girls’ soccer day. The parents never pay any attention to him. They’re too busy making sure their little girls are happy and preoccupied with “being nice.”

    But I pay attention to him.

    I do because the son-of-a-bitch has all the markings of a pervert and he straps a military issue K-Bar to his leg. The K-Bar’s not a utility knife used for cutting twine. That’s an ending-life knife. And it ticks me off that he brings it in here. I’ve seen what one can do to a human body – and it ain’t pretty.

    I’ve also seen his kind before. Meek. Quiet. A loner. That old Lost in Space TV show with the robot’s warning races through my mind, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”

    The little twirpy creep wrecks the wa – the energy in the room. At least for me. The girls and parents continue not to notice him.

    I sip my Corona with a slice of lime. I know. I know. Only pansy-assed Gringos use lime. I doubt the K-Bar dude drinks Corona with lime. At least it’s not Corona light.

    I probably shoulda ordered a Tres Equis and one-upped the punk kid.

    I feel a real mad coming on. Not sure I can let this guy go without a bit of well earned intervention on my part. Look at him. Just sitting there staring at the TV. He’s not thinking about the TV. I bet he doesn’t even know who’s playing.

    I study the guy. No muscle tone. Hands and knuckles are smooth … too smooth to be much of a fighter. Probably bought the damn K-Bar at the local military surplus store and actually uses it for twine cutting.

    This scene just doesn’t fit together. It makes no sense. There’s something about him. Something not likeable.

    My gnarly hand wraps around the neck of my Corona. One whack on the edge of the bar will change my beer bottle into a pretty good weapon. Not a K-Bar, but definitely something of an equalizer. I suck in a deep breath and let it out slowly, feel my pulse slow down as my fingers ease off the neck of the bottle.

    The families are leaving the Fiesta. That’s good. When the action starts, I don’t want to be dodging squealing little girls and panicked parents. I need to concentrate on the pervert. He’s my target.

    I smile and relax just a bit. God has spoken to me and directed my eyes to the shelf behind the bar. Right there within my reach is the equalizer – a 6-inch stainless steel cutting knife. He’s mine. I know it. I sense it. I feel it. You’re going down. You’ve just met the meanest of the mean right here in the Fiesta Grill ‘n Cantina. Say hello to …

    The alarm on my cell phone beeps. I glance at it.

    Damn – I’ve got just enough time to make it. I let out a big sigh, twist my neck a couple of times to release the tension, crack my knuckles, and flip a twenty up on the bar.

    At the door I pause, look at the pervert, then head out – session number 12 of my anger management group – I think I’m making real progress.

    (914 Words)

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