Flash Fiction Challenge: Wonderfall

adirondack stream 1994 copyright K. S. Brooks
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

When he was little, Mark had come here with his father, a life-long fisherman. Mark had misunderstood the word “waterfall,” and called this place the wonderfall. Mark’s dad thought it was cute, and his nickname for this special fishing place stuck.

In the course of an otherwise long and difficult relationship, that was really the only inside joke he and his father shared. They loved each other, but they were very different sorts of men. Their interests diverged further as Mark grew older until they were estranged. It stayed that way until it was too late.

Mark now looked down at his own young son who seemed more than a little disappointed in the wonderfall. Perhaps this is how it starts. A tiny twinge of fear that he and his own son were too very different got him thinking…

Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture and the written prompt above. Do not include the prompt in your entry. 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. No political or religious entries, please. Need help getting started? Read this article on how to write flash fiction.

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On Saturday morning, 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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10 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: Wonderfall”

  1. No. Mark mourned as he witnessed his own son, Jacob, disregard what he treasured so much at his age. He doesn’t understand the beauty of it. Meanwhile, his boy pulled out a game, unimpressed by water on rocks. At least that was what Jacob saw. Mark saw a crystal spring dancing against shiny stones.
    “Can we go?” Jacob had already proceeded to trudge up the path to leave, eyes glued to the screen.
    Mark practically pleaded, “Please… I love this place. You know, I used to call this the Wonderfall…”
    “Yeah. You’ve told me many times.” As Jacob continued to exit, he slipped on a rock, plunging into the icy snake flowing through the woods.
    “NO! JACOB!” Mark dove in without hesitation.
    His son was being pulled away with the current, like a part of the waterfall itself. Mark felt himself being transported too, faster, to the music of the water. They screamed for life. Soon, both were spiraling helplessly with the rapids in control. Up ahead, Jacob noticed a drop up ahead… a life-ending fall.
    Both father and son wildly reached for a rock, each other, anything. Mark suddenly felt something solid thrust itself into his hand—a thick tree branch! Grabbing Jacob with slippery hands, he pulled Jacob to him, and lugged them both out just in time. That had been too close.
    Later, over sandwiches, Jacob muttered, “Now I know why it’s called the Wonderfall.”
    “Why?” His father questioned with a smile.
    “Because miracles happen here, Dad.”

  2. ***FINALIST***

    “Come here, Ben, lemme show you where my old man’d cast for The Phantom” Mark said to his ten-year-old, whose sullen expression was mirrored a thousand times in the choppy water beneath the falls.

    “You tell me this story every time we come. Grandpa never caught it and neither did you. There’s no such thing,” Ben said.

    Mark cast a spinner out into a flat spot in front of the falls.

    “No, we never did land the big’un. But my old man tried telling me possibilities are always just a cast away at the wonderfall.”

    Mark’s line jerked taut and he set the hook as a massive Brookie leapt above the surface. Ben came running up the rocky shore, hollering, “You got him, you got him.”

    Mark turned and shoved his fishing rod into Ben’s hands. “Here, you bring him in.”

    With Mark’s coaching, the wide-eyed boy reeled and coaxed the ten-pounder into the shallows close to shore. Mark hefted it by the gills and whistled as he beheld the scar-covered body, a couple of old hooks in its lips and its hazy left eye. He whispered, “Christ, what a glorious mess this ol’ beast is.”

    Mark pulled the hooks from his own Phantom’s lips as Ben ran his hand along its battle-weary flank. Together, they slid him back into his domain. Ben smiled at his father and said, “Yeah, Dad, a thing of freaking beauty.”

    Perhaps THIS is how it starts, Mark thought.

  3. ***FINALIST***

    Mark didn’t want to repeat the relationship he had with his father. The rift between them had formed early—mainly because of ego. Each was too concerned investing in themselves to show interest in the other’s passions. Not once had his father, Walter Scott, asked about Mark’s high school baseball games or questioned the mechanics of his business career. It seemed like pride was mastering the puppet strings of Walter’s ignorance, but Mark had shown the same disregard for his father.

    Growing up, Mark didn’t care to ask how many fish his dad had caught or what was so special about the new rod propped by the tackle box. He found fishing to be boring, and resented the times his father had forced him on trips just to keep him from attending ball games with his friends on weekends.

    Mark admired the thrill on his son’s face as Cole defeated a monster in the game he insisted on bringing. Cole was always lost to a video game. Though he wanted to rip the toy from his son’s hands and tell him to focus on the water, Mark knew the effort would be useless. It would only change things between them, and not who Cole was.

    “Can you teach me how to play this game?” Mark said instead. Cole looked up, grinning.

    It was time to care for something out of care for someone. He would seek to understand his son, and teach him the meaning of unconditional love.

  4. ***FINALIST***

    Alex smirked. “That’s goofy dad, ‘wonderfall.’ It’s not even a word.”

    Mark felt a pain in his heart. His only son, mocking him about a cherished memory. He just doesn’t get it, Mark thought. Where did I go wrong?

    At home that evening Mark had an idea. Alex loved cars. Classic muscle cars. Maybe they could work on one together. A father and son thing. He went to the garage and reorganized the contents, moving some to the attic and most to the trash. Inside, he found the classified ads and grabbed a beer.

    That weekend Alex came home from the movies to find an old Pontiac GTO in the driveway. Orange, except for one blue door and one green door. All he could see were the mag wheels and the beefy body and he was wide-eyed with delight.

    “I thought we’d work on this together son. In a year and a half, when you get your license, it’ll be yours. So….happy birthday in advance.”

    “Dad, this is awesome! Can we get started right now? Please!”

    Every weekend for the next eighteen months the father and son worked on the machine like two laughing grease monkeys. The day after his sixteenth birthday Alex brought the paperwork to the registry to take his driving test. He secretly spent some of his birthday money on vanity license plates and attached them to the car before his dad got home.

    The shiny new plates read: WNDRFAL

  5. ***FINALIST***

    As I stare at my son sitting on the embankment with arms crossed in a defiant manner, I realize that bringing him out here was probably a bad idea.
    “Do you know why I brought you here?”
    “I have no idea Dad,” he says skimming a rock across the water.
    “My father and I would come here whenever we wanted some time alone. I use to call this the….”
    “Wonderfall.” he says interrupting my sentence. “You’ve told me this story a million times. What are we doing here Dad?”
    I watch as Joe looks at his cell phone for the twentieth time, then looks away shaking his head. I’ve obviously taken him away from something important, but I have no idea what that might be.
    Since the separation, my son and I have had one way conversations where I do all of the talking and he answers in one word sentences, yes, no, maybe or whatever.
    “Joe, please look at me when I’m speaking to you?”
    Reluctantly he raises his eyes and stares past me.
    “There‘s no way to sugar coat this son. Your mother and I are getting a divorce. We’ve tried to solve our issues but it not working.”
    “Maybe you should have thought of that before you cheated on Mom.”
    “I’m sorry son .” I reply with tears in my eyes.
    “Me too Dad.” He says walking back towards the car.
    Staring at the stupid wonderfall, I realize that even it has lost its innocence.

  6. Mark could hear the last words his father ever said to him, “Do not marry her. You’re making a big mistake.” Why hadn’t he listened? It had been the final straw in their relationship. Mark was here now, at the Wonderfall, to ask for forgiveness … and guidance.

    He watched his own son, Luke, dismembering a frog he’d just killed. Mark now understood what he would become. Decisions needed to be made. There was no going back.

    Mark took a deep breath. He didn’t know what else to do; he’d liquidated the bank accounts and thrown his cell phone in the jacuzzi so he couldn’t be tracked. He knew the evidence would still point to him, but there was no way around that.

    Remorse usurped him. If only he’d listened to his father, he’d probably still be alive. Mark now knew that his wife had killed him. And he had proof.

    He also knew that the same evil was present in his son’s eyes. He knew that it needed to stop here. A sudden calm washed over Mark. While Luke hunted more victims, Mark snuck up to the car and quickly scrawled a note. Upon returning, he told Luke there was a cave behind the Wonderfall. Eager to explore it, Luke went gladly, and Mark held them both under until their lungs filled with water.


    When police arrived on the scene, they found the note. “My wife and son are serial killers. I had to stop them. You will find proof in the trunk.”

  7. It was like the title of a book, wonderfall, something to catch your eye and cause you to pick it off the shelf. But like many books, the name wasn’t anything like the reality, and generally, it was much better.
    Mark thought about that. Thought how life was like that. It had a great cover when you were young and there was so much to do and see and be in the world. But then you grew up, and realized that there really wasn’t behind the pretty names. In fact, as he had learned at wonderfall, even the names themselves were sometimes lies.
    And he was afraid that his own son was realizing that now, realizing it too soon. Mark II looked at the waterfall with cynical eyes, only ten years old.
    Mark has understood the truth long ago. And for a long time, after his third wife left him, he lived only for his son. But now as he stood at wonderfall, and saw that even this place held no magic anymore, for him or his son, he wondered if he should just let it go. He was hooked on prescription meds, had lost his job. His son would be well cared for, they lived with Mark’s brother, Bill.
    And so Mark I and II walked back slowly to the truck. He dropped his son off and went for a drive. Six hours later he was found, truck still on, the exhaust had done its work hours before.

  8. Title: Wild Exaltation

    “What are you thinking, Sean?”
    “Don’t you like the Wonderfall?”
    “It’s okay…I guess.”
    “I think it’s time to wet our lines. It was a long walk from the road.”
    “You said you came here with Grandpa when you were young?”
    “Yes, we did.”
    “Did you like coming here?”
    “Yes, we both did.”
    “You said he liked to fish. Is that why you came here?”
    “I guess.”
    “Was the fishing that good?”
    “Not that I remember.”
    “Then why did you come here every year? It’s just a waterfall and not what I pictured.”
    “Are you disappointed?”
    “I guess. If you both liked to fish…never mind.”
    “Mom showed me the pictures of when you were young. You looked like you were happy.”
    “I have many memories of that time, including being here with Grandpa.” They both watched and listened to the cascading water. He wondered if he would ever know his grandchildren. If it was such a good childhood, what actually drove them apart?
    “Dad?” He felt his son pull on his shorts. “DAD?”
    “I’m sorry, what?”
    “Did you ever go swimming here?”
    “No, never.”
    “I wish we brought our bathing suits.”
    “Yeah, so what’s the problem?” He stood and started removing his clothes.

    An hour later he had a new appreciation for this place and time.
    “Dad, I think the name needs to be changed.”
    “Really…what do you want to call it?”
    “Slide Rock.”
    “How about Wild Exaltation?”
    “Sounds great.”
    “You have NO idea!”

  9. ***FINALIST***

    His thoughts drifted to the first moments, the day his son had been born. So small, so frail, he had come a few weeks early. The doctors assured Mark that it wouldn’t be an issue. They encountered stuff like that all the time and his boy would grow to have a perfectly normal life.

    They were right of course, but that never really reassured him and his worries. Toby had always been a bit different than him. He had hoped that the wonderfall would be that moment that would bring them together like he and his father had never been, but cycles repeat, and Mark had fought for so long to find something, anything that might be that bit of connection.

    Lost in his thoughts, Mark hadn’t noticed the boy lost in his own thoughts. His head had cocked at an odd angle as he looked up at the top of the falls. Mark stood beside him and matched the angle to see if he could see what was so fascinating.

    In that moment, Toby leaned against his father and looked up at his chin. He giggled at the angle of his father’s head but didn’t say anything as he looked back up at the top of the falls again.

    Mark looked down at the boy as he wrapped his arm over his shoulder and wasn’t pushed away. He still couldn’t see what the boy saw at the top of the falls but he saw something else in the boy.

  10. “This is wonderfall,” said Mark.

    The thirteen year old looked at the rushing water with a board expression. His lips twisted in an all too familiar grimace. “It’s a waterfall, Dad.”

    “But this one is special. Grandpa Jack took me here when I was ten. Best fishing in Maryland.”

    “You mean the same Grandpa Jack I never got to meet ‘cause you had a fight thirteen years ago? Dragging me to all these ‘special’ places isn’t going to bring him back.”

    Mark’s stomach clenched. This wasn’t the father son trip he’d envisioned. He and his dad had drifted apart, then had a big blow-up right before Jason was born. Now the same thing was happening with Jason.

    It seemed like yesterday Jason wanted to be a mini Mark. Then his mom died and everything changed. There had to be a way to keep history from repeating. Around them birds sang. Water cascaded over rocks, each splash of water a soothing balm. The two of them may as well have been worm eaten husks of oak, empty, disconnected.

    A pair of deer peered at them from across the stream, one full racked, the other single pronged. Mark drew in a sharp breath. Even Jason stopped kicking stones. It felt like they were waiting for something.

    “You’re right, Jason,” said Mark. “I haven’t been listening. Let’s do something you like.


    “You think they got it?” said the smaller buck as Mark and Jason walked away.

    “I sure hope so, Jack.”

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