Flash Fiction Challenge: A Gift for Dad

Photo by K.S. Brooks
Photo by K.S. Brooks

Skyler clutched the little jelly jar full of coins to his chest as he stared at the rack of neckties. This would be the first time he’d bought his dad a gift for Father’s Day – and he would do it with his own money that he got from under the couch cushions. There was always some money there after dad napped.

“Look mom,” Skyler said, almost awestruck at the beauty and genius of a necktie you didn’t even have to tie. “Do you think dad would like that one? He doesn’t have a pink one.”

In 250 words or less, tell us a story incorporating the elements in the picture. The 250 word limit will be strictly enforced.

Please keep language and subject matter to a PG-13 level.

Use the comment section below to submit your entry. Entries will be accepted until Tuesday at 5:00 PM Pacific Time.

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On Friday afternoon, the winner will be recognized as we post the winning entry along with the picture as a feature. Then, at year end, the winners will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!

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11 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: A Gift for Dad”


    He could see where his eyes were supposed to settle. The sensible ties were in the middle of the rack. Here were the ties you wore to sensible meetings in sensible jobs.

    To the left, a tie that sent his head spinning. He stared too long at it; the oscillating pattern began to move and he reached out a hand to settle himself. A hand that touched the neon pink tie at the end of the rack. He pulled back, feeling he had touched something he shouldn’t, something raw and naked. This was who he could be, adventurous and edgy, a walking disco.

    But there was a tie he hadn’t considered. When he really looked at it, he knew it was right. He bought this tie, and searched the store for items to match.

    On Monday morning he put on his new white tie, put it on over his new white shirt. He pulled on his new white trousers, and his new white shoes with the new white shoelaces. He stood in front of the bare white walls of his office, blending in, his head nothing more than a picture framed halfway up the wall. Nobody noticed him, and he was pleased.

    Now at least he knew why they did not see him.

  2. Skylar turned the price tag over and gasped. The price, seven dollars and ninety-ninety cents, was seventy-five cents more than he had in the money jar.

    “I can give you the difference, son,” Mama said. “Dad will love that color.”

    “No, I want to buy it with my own money,” Skylar pouted. “There has to be a cool tie here that I can buy myself.”

    The search was futile. There was nothing he could afford without mama’s help and he sat down on the floor of the General Store. The weight of the jar, filled to the brim with nickels, dimes, and pennies, seemed heavier than when they entered the store. Tears filled his eyes.

    “Well, what have we here?” The voice belonged to a crooked old man. He was dressed in a mismatched cacophony of color. “If you’re looking for a Father’s Day gift, follow me.”

    “Does your dad like bacon?” he asked. “We just got these in a few minutes ago.”

    Bacon kitsch covered the display table. Skylar reached out for a bowtie, shaped like a strip of bacon cinched in the middle. A smile of relief lit his face as the old man handed him the Holy Grail of ties—a clip-on model constructed to look like one long strip of fried bacon heaven. His dad loved bacon.

    The next morning Skylar presented his gift to his dad and was rewarded by a happy hug.

    “Son, every pig farmer should have a bacon tie. Thank you.”

  3. And with those words, a world ended.

    Skylar counted out his coins for the pink tie. He didn’t see his mother smirking behind him. Oh, the joke she was playing on her husband, she thought, as the package was wrapped in bright paper.

    The next day, Skylar smiled at breakfast and presented his father with the gift. Skylar’s mother started to snicker. His dad smiled widely as he opened up the wrapping on the present. He opened the box and…time seemed to stop.

    His father saw the pink tie. A glaring, fluorescent fuschian hue. Something changed within him. There was something about the pink tie that changed him deep within – a transformation on an atomic level. Static electricity crackled around him. His eyes glowed with the radiant power of the Cherenkov lights.

    “You bought me a pink tie?” He asked slowly, his voice somehow echoing and reverberating in the small dining room. Skylar shrank back in abject fear; his mother’s eyes were wide with terror.

    Deep, deep within Skylar’s father’s body a single atom, somewhere around his spleen, made a final, terrible transformation into anti-matter. Another followed, and another, another, until critical mass was reached. His body exploded outward in an explosion that his family, house and city, progressing at the speed of light to consume the planet and the entire solar system in an explosion not seen since the Bing Bang itself.

    All was suddenly silent. A brief, fading thought was heard: “All I wanted Aqua Velva like usual…”

  4. “That one!” Skylar cried.

    Skylar’s mother winced as his voice pierced the muzak like a stiletto.

    “Are you sure, Sweetheart?” she asked. “It is very ..bright.”

    “Yup, yup.” Skylar said with six year old certainty. “Dad’s gonna love it.”

    Skylar’s mother sighed as she grabbed the neon pink tie, and took it to the service counter. Skylar trailed her with the jar of coins.

    The woman behind the counter gave them a long suffering smile as she began sorting the coins into piles. It would take a while.

    “Just grabbing something for Papa,” Skylar’s mother said as she headed back towards the accessories. “Won’t be a sec.”

    Skylar just nodded, his eyes never leaving the pile of coins on the counter.

    Back in the accessories department, Skylar’s mother headed straight to the small table piled high with butterflies. A nostalgic smile softened her face as she reached for a bright red bowtie covered in tiny gold violins. Dad would love it.

    The shop assistant looked bemused by the scrap of red and gold, but Skylar’s mother just smiled as she handed over the money. She was still smiling two hours later when she placed the eye-catching bowtie on the gravestone. The scraps of green from last year’s offering went into a rubbish bag.

    “Happy Father’s Day,” she said softly as she turned to join Skylar, and the man in the hot pink tie.

    Why did all the men in her life have to be colour blind?

  5. “I don’t think pink is a good idea, sweetie,” Mom said, trying to hide the bruise under her eye from the clerk as he passed by

    “Okay, I won’t get that one.” To my left, there was one with red and blue waves on it. They moved back and forth, like one of those opticallusion twirlie thingies Miss Isabella had hanging in her window. Mom didn’t like me going to Miss Isabella’s. The whole neighborhood thought she was a witch. But Miss Izzy – she was always nice to me. One time, after Dad hit me, Miss Izzy found me hiding in her backyard. She brought me inside and made me some cookies. When the cops got to my house, she sent me home.

    I liked visiting Miss Izzy. Last time, she had me bring something of Dad’s over, so I brought one of his ripped shirts. I figured she wanted to fix it so’s he wouldn’t be so mad.

    When we got home, I gave Dad his present. “Dad, put it on, and Mom can take a picture of us!”

    He looped the tie around his neck. “Stupid kid, how much did this cost? Bet I coulda got some beer with that.”

    Suddenly, the tie started wrapping and tightening around his neck. Dad grabbed at it. He gasped for air. His eyes bugged out of his head. Mom scooped me up and rushed outside, screaming for help. I looked over and saw Miss Izzy in her window. She was smiling.

  6. ‘That’s a nice one, son. I’m sure your dad will love it.’

    ‘How much is it?’

    ‘Well, they’re on special offer, seeing as how it’s Father’s Day tomorrow. Fifteen ninety-nine.’

    ‘I… Will this do?’

    ‘That’s only ten, son. I can’t do that.’

    ‘It’s all I have.’

    ‘I’m sorry, son.’

    ‘Is there anything else? Anything cheaper?’



    ‘Well, I suppose… No, no, I couldn’t.’

    ‘What? Tell me!’

    ‘Forget I said anything. I’m just a stupid old man.’


    ‘You promise you won’t tell anyone? Not a soul?’

    ‘I promise! Cross my heart I won’t tell, I swear!’

    ‘Well… I suppose, seeing as how you seem like a good boy. You are, aren’t you? A good boy?’

    ‘I am! Honest I am!’

    ‘Good. Now, give me a second.’


    ‘Here we are…’

    ‘What is it? It’s just an old cardboard box!’

    ‘It’s what inside that matters. Didn’t your parents ever tell you that?’

    ‘What’s in it? Can I see?’

    ‘You need to pay first.’

    ‘Here! Is that enough?’

    ‘We’ve got a deal.’

    ‘Great! Let me have it!’

    ‘In a moment. Close your eyes.’

    ‘What? Why?’

    ‘Don’t you trust me?’

    ‘Yes. No… I don’t know. Just give me the box!’

    ‘I thought you were a good boy.’

    ‘I am! I thought we had a deal.’

    ‘Oh, we do. Now, close your eyes.’

    ‘Okay, okay.’

    ‘Good boy.’

    ‘Wait… what’s happening…? Where am I?’

    ‘Hush now, son.’

    The old man closed the lid, put the box back on the shelf and smiled.

  7. They bought the tie. Skylar had just enough, didn’t have to borrow anything from his mom to make it either. He could barely contain himself on the car ride home. “We can’t tell daddy,” he said. “Promise you won’t tell.”

    “I won’t,” Mom said. She smiled at his joy. She didn’t have the heart to tell him his father would never wear a pink tie, even though it was the genius tie he wouldn’t have to tie.

    They pulled into the driveway and parked next to Dad’s car. “Your father’s home early,” Mom said. “Go straight to your room with your present. Don’t let him see it.”

    Plastic bags crinkled and swished as Skylar collected his bounty and stuffed it into his shirt. “He won’t see it now.” He ran into the house.

    Mom collected a few of their shopping bags and went into the house. She ran into Dad on the way into the kitchen. “You’re home early,” She said.

    “Working weekend,” he said. “I have to prepare a presentation for Monday and it isn’t going as well as I want.” He scooped up Skylar when he ran back into the kitchen. “And what did you get me for father’s day?”

    “It’s a secret,” Skylar said.

    The expression on Dad’s face on father’s day morning, it said everything. He hated it. But he wore it the very next day. Skylar’s dad made a point to wear it once a month, that ugly, pink, clip on tie.

  8. Frozen with cautious reserve, I did not answer Skyler immediately. Skyler had finally come to live with us a year ago. It had been a lengthy, costly, but mostly a heart wrenching three year custody battle.

    His biological mother, diagnosed with mental illness, with outstanding warrants, fled to Alaska, severing Skyler from any contact with his father at barely two years old. Whereabouts unknown for months, Skyler was neglected and abused by not only his mother but also his step-sister. Forced to dress as a girl, dance, and cross his legs like a lady, the lines of gender identification had been intentionally blurred in his vital, formative years.

    Skyler was making steady progress in group and individual play therapy. His gender dysphoria was resolving rapidly. Although men are known to wear pink, and it champions as the color to promote breast cancer awareness, Skyler had to have strict gender stereotypes reinforced to resolve the confusion created by careless ignorance and cruelty.

    Pausing, Skyler’s eyes grew larger, and his hand moved to the next tie on the rack. “Dad will like this green one better! It is the same color as his truck!”

    Reassuringly I smile, tussling his hair, and reply, “Green is Dad’s favorite color!”

    “Green is now my favorite color too, Mom! I love riding in Dad’s big, green truck!”

    “Your Dad is going to love his new tie for work! But more than anything, Skyler, he is just so happy to finally spend Father’s Day with you!”

  9. “What kind of man wears a pink tie, for Christ’s sake?” her dad asked after Tom left. “I suppose you’ll find green pants and purple shirts in his closet. Maybe even patterned bras and panties.”

    Her dad had entrenched ideas on the dress code for men… real men. He contemptuously dismissed pinks and purples as effeminate.

    She had felt sick with guilt. She bought the pink tie for Tom. She just hadn’t thought he would wear it when she took him to meet her folks.

    In that first pink tie-tainted meeting, Tom charmed her mom and four brothers. They fell for his impish sense of humor; he didn’t spare himself. Even the old man found Tom likeable, given to few but sensible words; if only it wasn’t for that damn pink tie.

    Shame-faced, she later told Tom about her father’s reaction to the pink tie. No problems, said Tom, your dad’s too sensible to hold his prejudice for long. I am sure we will get along fine.

    Tom had pretty much been prophetic. After the second meeting, her dad was after her to set the date, telling her he wanted to play with grandchildren before he died. He was healthy enough to live another hundred years.

    She came back to the present, to Skyler’s anxious face. She smiled. “I think that pink tie is perfect for Dad,” she told him. His brilliant blue eyes—Tom’s eyes—sparkled as she led him to the check-out counter.

  10. Great Father, I can offer no neckties or fishing poles. There is no drum, or flute to send you. I can dance no dance, except in my heart.

    The only gift I have to offer is me.

    I know so little of my Ancestor’s teachings. Help me learn. Teach me to feel the beauty of your creation, the red and purple sunsets and the golden yellows and oranges of sunrises. Make my ears sharp to hear your voice in the Lightening and Thunder. Let me learn the lessons hidden in the mountains, rocks, trees and every leaf.

    It is your voice I hear whispering in the wind and in my dream visions. It is your breath that gives Mother Earth life. I seek your guidance to walk life’s Red Road Path as a Spirit Warrior. Open my eyes to see what the teachers teach. Beaver teaches wisdom, Turtle teaches truth and Wolf teaches humility. Open my ears to learn of Bear’s courage, Cougar’s honesty, Buffalo’s respect and Eagle’s love.

    Guide me in the face of danger, my fears and all that comes into my life. Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me. Let thoughts of love emanate from me like heat waves in the desert, when helping others.

    Great Father, I am no mistake. I defend the weak, guard freedom and love and protect my family with honor.

    Great Father, I offer myself as a gift to you on this day the wasiçius call Father’s Day.

  11. Silky strips of color covered the display stand, each more fascinating than the next. But which would Dad like best? He ran a finger across bold purple and black stripes. Purple was Skyler’s favorite color not Dad’s. Besides, he was pretty sure Dad had one just like it hanging in the closet. Skyler continued to walk up and down the aisle, his jar full of coins clutched in his hands. Dad did so much for him, so much for Mom. This Father’s Day Skyler was going to buy him something special with his own money.

    Sunday morning dawned warm and bright. Skyler bit his lip as Dad opened the package and pulled out a bright pink tie. It was like nothing Dad owned and even had a special clip so Dad wouldn’t have to redo the knot every day. But would he like it? Was it too girly like his friend Peter said? Mom didn’t think so, but she was a girl. Dad scooped Skyler up in a crushing hug, the kind Skyler gave him when he was real happy. Peter was wrong. Dad loved it.

    Dad liked that tie so much he wore it almost every day that year, even when he took Mom to the hospital for her cancer treatments. He told Skyler that wearing a pink tie helped Mom get better. It helped Dad as well. Bet you didn’t know that men could get breast cancer too.

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