Flash Fiction Challenge: A Humble Repast

Flash Fiction prompt onion creek lunch 101213 k. s. brooks all rights reserved
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

The 9th Street Shelter was not a large one. It did not receive much in the way of donations, so there would be no turkeys for Thanksgiving.

In fact, it wasn’t even a proper shelter, as it provided no cots. In the old days, it would have been called a soup kitchen.

Nonetheless, the disheveled couple who entered that day were thankful.

A hot cup of soup helped them shake off the chill. As they prepared to huddle in the corner for some badly needed rest, the door swung open….

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.

On Tuesday night, judges will select the strongest entries, and on Wednesday afternoon, we will open voting to the public with an online poll so they may choose the winner. Voting will be open until 5:00 PM Thursday.

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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12 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Challenge: A Humble Repast”

  1. Sam plunged through the front doors of the soup kitchen with the package. He had to get to them before it was to late. Under the table, Brad slipped Brenda the gun, “Remember, only if Sam goes for it.”

    Nervously, Brenda mumbled, “Right.”

    Unsteadily, with great effort Sam shuffled closer. He plopped himself down on the old chair in front of them. Leaning on the package, he sat there staring down, saying nothing. In a lowered voice Brad coldly, questioned him, “What do you want Sam? Are you here to kill us? What if we have other ideas?”

    Brenda tried to raise the gun, but caught it on the underside. She lost her grip and dropped it, “He’s going to kill us.”

    Sam groaned, “Here you deserve this. Just take it and get out of here.”
    He pushed the package across the table and collapsed in a puddle of his own blood. No one noticed what had just happened. Brad now saw the bullet holes in Sam’s back. “Brenda grab the package.”

    “Brad! It’s all bloody.”

    Brad grabbed the package and lowered it beneath the table on to his seat. He tore off the wrapper and stuck the contents under his coat. He grabbed Brenda and led her outside. Quickly, he got them and it into his car and tore out of there.

    “Brad, What was in the package?”

    “Just a stupid Black Bird that’s going to make us rich.” Brad replied as they disappeared into the night.

  2. ***FINALIST***

    Hugh McAdams entered the shelter with a gust of cold air. He had one arm wrapped around a little girl so bundled in brand name winter gear she looked like a miniature couture version of the Michelin Man.

    “Oh my God,” Linda said, shrinking into the corner across the room and trying to hide her face with her limp and matted hair.

    The door banged shut behind them and Hugh began helping free his daughter, one mitten at a time.

    James set his empty cup on the ground. He wondered if he could ask for another cup of soup…

    “What?” he asked.

    Linda gestured toward where Hugh and his daughter had been standing.

    “What?” James repeated, irritable.

    She blinked her eyes. He had been there only a second ago. Linda scanned the room and found Hugh introducing his daughter to one of the volunteers.

    “There!” she whispered, jabbing a finger toward the counter.

    Like a picture flipbook, James’s face went from bemused to shocked, to anger, to pure hatred.

    “That—he—I should—no good—son of a—,” he spluttered.

    “Shh!” Linda tried to hush him.

    Hugh had helped his daughter into an oversized apron and they were cheerily handing out steaming cups of soup, wishing each person a happy Thanksgiving.

    “We’re leaving,” James announced.

    With his chin held high, he wrapped a tatty scarf around his neck and led Linda out of the shelter.

    She paused before closing the doors and looked back.

    Hugh was watching them, smiling.

  3. When Tyler walked in and got in line for a cup of soup Doug didn’t know if he should hide or jump for joy.

    Guilt over the circumstances of Tyler’s leaving had Doug retreating to the corner of the room. Jan looked at her husband in dismay.

    “Doug, it’s our son.” Jan ignored her husband and met Tyler at the end of the line.

    Tyler was shocked at seeing his mother. “Mom! What are you doing here?”

    “We…we’ve run into hard times, your Dad and I.” Jan pointed to where Doug now stood nervously. “How are you Tyler?”

    “I…I’m doing fine.” Tyler had forgiven his father long ago for kicking him out of their home for getting caught with pot. Based on their appearance, he guessed that his parents had been on the streets for awhile. That would explain them not living at their old address.

    Jan and Tyler hugged and cried at finding each other. Doug was compelled to join them when Tyler looked his way and smiled warmly.

    Tyler’s hands were full and unable to fully embrace his parents. “If you can hang on a moment I need to go deliver this soup to Crazy Ed, he lives on the street and is too proud to come in.”

    “Oh, I thought..” Jan muttered.

    “No Mom, I’m not homeless. I own this building, have for two years.”

    Doug and Jan looked on in amazement as their son walked out to deliver a meal to their friend Crazy Ed.

  4. ***FINALIST***

    Two lined, stubbled faces watched the intruder.

    “Evening.” The man wore a knit hat and gloves. His jeans and jacket were threadbare.

    “Yo,” replied Tom.

    Sam steadied his coffee cup against the table. “Yo, man.”

    “The Brothers said you be here.” The newcomer addressed Sam.

    “Got no right telling about my business.”

    “Easy, Sammie,” growled his companion. “They can’t help it–‘s what they do.”

    “What do you want, Lijaah? Why you looking for me?”

    “Brothers said I gotta come see you. They told me I hadda get this over with. So. Whadda you got to say?”

    The two grizzled men exchanged a look. Both looked down at their hands. Tom said under his breath, “Donovan’s behind this.”

    Lijaah moved closer to the plastic chairs. “Can we talk?”

    “Hold it, boy,” retorted Sam. “Got nuttin’ to say. Been inside how long? You been inside, too. Now you out. Why don’t you keep outta my life? Stay that way.”

    “Yah,” echoed Tom.

    “Donovan talked to me, like you say. Gotta job. He’ll put me to work for the Brothers. They don’t care about my record. Drive their truck; pick up stuff people give them; haul furniture around.” Lijaah’s voice shook but his back remained straight. “They got an apartment; they’ll pay my rent, meals, gas. Pops, we can get a place to live. All of us. We can have a home.”

    “Sit down, son. Let’s talk.”

  5. ***FINALIST***

    “He’s here! I’ve been found!” the woman cried, looking up fearfully at the shrouded figure who had burst into the shelter.

    “Calm down, honey,” the man murmured as he held her close. “It will be all right. He might not be here for you.”

    “Of course he is, David. Does anyone else here look this bad?” she asked, gesturing to herself. “Besides, I can see him. That’s cause enough for concern.”

    David stayed silent. There was nothing he could say; Mabel was right. She looked as if a gentle breeze could knock her over. He softly rubbed her back, trying to give her some comfort. He wished there was something he could do, but the entire situation had spiraled from his control long ago. The fact that he couldn’t even see the figure was only a painful reminder of this.

    He remembered the day it all began so clearly. He had come home from work to find Mabel collapsed in the hall. He rushed her to the hospital, only to be informed that they had no idea how to treat her. From there, it had been an uphill battle. Almost all of their money had been spent trying to find someone, anyone, to help her to no avail. Now, they were forced to frequent shelters and rely on charity just to survive.

    The figure stalked towards their corner.

    “I love you, David,” Mabel murmured, resigned, and turned to hug him.

    She didn’t want to look as Death’s scythe came down.

  6. The blinking neon-red cross hung for thirty years outside the soup kitchen. Now amidst the restored Victorian homes of the Bay Area it was extremely out of place, except to those in need.

    Crossing the room to rest in the corner with over a dozen of the other hungry populace, Evan and Rachel were sent careening to the floor as doors crashed open and the police entered. “This soup kitchen is shut down!”

    Pastor Ove came out from behind the serving table brandishing a soup ladle and permits of operation. “Drop that spoon right now!”

    When he didn’t quickly comply he was thrown against the floor and handcuffed. Evan and Rachel rose from the floor, “Pastor Ove hasn’t done anything wrong! He has been serving the community for years!”

    “Not anymore. And if you don’t exit quietly we will arrest all of you!”

    Lorrie Redkin, President of the encroaching Home Owners Association, emerged from the sea of blue uniforms pompously proclaiming, “These people are all a nuisance. Arrest them anyway!”

    Commotion broke out in the corner, sending the majority of the officers racing past Evan, Rachel, and Lorrie. Lorrie spit in Rachel’s face attempting to provoke a physical altercation. Evan grabbed Rachel’s hand. They dashed out the back door.

    Grateful to have escaped inevitable incarceration, they stopped high on a hill overlooking the soup kitchen. The once blinking cross heralding charity and the basic right to food was now indistinguishable, bled out by the turret lights of the police cruisers.

  7. ***FINALIST***

    The couple trying to sleep grumbled when a gust of cold air blew across the floor of the shelter.
    A family entering the shelter were a rowdy bunch.
    Exhausted, the couple growled at the young boys to go find their mother and leave them alone.
    Ignoring the growls, the boys continued their rambunctious play.
    The mother shouted. “Jason, Jacob! Come eat your soup or Santa won’t come!” She used the age old threat to try subdue them.
    The couple in the corner remembered holidays of their past. “How often did we use that on our boys?”
    “Often. It never worked did it?” They recalled fondly.
    “Not once.” Smiling, he helped his wife up off the floor.
    “May we read a storybook to your boys?” they asked.
    She looked doubtful.
    “We’ll sit right here.” The couple promised. “We raised two boys much like yours.”
    A smile lit up her face. “Would you mind reading from this?” She held out a hand written journal as the boys settled down to listen.
    The entry dated November 30, 2014 read: Today I am with my platoon waiting for orders. It’s hot and there is sand as far as I can see. I miss my boys and my wife. I hope to see them all at Christmas.
    More of the journal was read and soon everyone was listening.
    The last entry dated December 24, 2014 read: I am still here. I’m happy to be here, for you. Please pray for peace.

  8. In came a brisk, cold wind, leaving in its wake, a painfully thin, older man. Stumbling about as though he were drunk, his glazed eyes appeared to be searching for something his mind had long ago forgotten.
    It was the sound of a switchblade opening that caused the couple to huddle closer. Attempting to become one with the shadows, the last thing in the world they needed or wanted was trouble. Yet the knife wielding stranger was headed in their direction. There was nowhere to go fast enough, nowhere to hide and certainly nothing with which to defend themselves.
    Motioning for his shivering wife to close her eyes and turn her head, the man knew he had to divert the attention away from her. Her heart couldn’t take much more, he was surprised she was doing as well as she was since her parents disappeared, mysteriously. He mouthed the words, “I love you” and stood up, facing the intruder.
    The husband watched the older man approach in a sort of free form dance, circling and spinning around. Lashing out at thin air, screaming unintelligible commands as though he were fighting a battle from long ago. As he got within striking distance, the husband put his arms up in the air as if to let the older man know he was surrendering.
    It happened so fast. The blade drew blood. The victory cry sounded. And too late, the new widow, turned her head, screaming, “No Dad! Don’t do it!”

  9. “Won’t you come in?” asked a red-faced old man. “It must be cold out there.”
    Sam and Sally looked at each other. “Why… why… sure,” said Sam.
    The old man held the door. Sally looked back at Sam. Sam nodded her forward. “Why don’t you sit here,” said the man pointing to the only table in the room. That’s all there was, the single table and four folding chairs. “Please, eat before it gets cold.”
    Sam and Sally did not need another invitation. The soup was still hot. It was a creamy corn potato chowder. They both crumbled their saltines into the soup. The old man came back with some water. Good thing, the cupcakes were dry. They felt better. Sam looked around. This would be a good place to spend the night. It was warm and dry. It felt safe.
    The old man read his thoughts. “Yes, you may stay here, if you wish.”
    Sam looked at Sally. Sally nodded. “Thank you, Mr. …, Mr. …?
    “You can call me Nick.”
    “Thank you, Nick. We can do chores if you have something you need done.”
    “Sing for your supper?”
    Sam and Sally looked at each other. “Huh?” asked Sam.
    “Bad joke.” Nick looked around. “Sorry I don’t have better accommodations. Just got into town.”
    Sally took their bedroll over to the corner furthest from the door. There were no windows, no other doors. The food made her tired. She fell asleep as soon as she made a pillow from her coat. Sam was right behind. They never woke up.

  10. ***FINALIST***

    Snow flew across the room as the door swung open, bringing with it the cold Mary and Frank had just driven away with their meager cup of hot soup. A few people barked obscenities even after the door closed. Frank’s arm tightened around her as a hulking figure stared at the empty kitchen counter. Nowhere felt safe since they became homeless.

    “Go away,” someone yelled, as the figure shuffled across the old linoleum floor. “There’s no food and no room for anyone else.

    Even from their distant corner, Mary could see the despair in the eyes of the grime covered figure. His shoulders drooped further when empty floor space vanished as he neared. That was no way to treat anyone, especially on Thanksgiving. Mary made space by snuggling closer to Frank. The man nodded, then squeezed against the wall, clutching his long legs in tight.

    Both she and Frank had saved the crackers that came with their soup and muffin. Who knew where their next meal would come from? She pulled the two precious packages from the pocket of her threadbare jacket and handed them to the man.

    “Here,” she said. “It’s not much, but you’re welcome to them.”

    Tears pooled in the man’s eyes and he smiled. Mary returned the look, wishing everyone could be thankful for simple crackers. Exhausted, she and Frank drifted off to sleep. The stranger was gone when they woke. As they left the shelter, Mary discovered a large roll of cash in her pocket.

  11. A family bundled inside: mother, baby in her arms, father carrying a toddler and dragging a pouting preschooler.

    The couple turned. “Charlie, look. Could be our kids and grandkids. Similar ages. How could we be so stupid? It’s their first Thanksgiving without us.”

    The family scraped their chairs into place. The preschooler swung his legs. A toothless man sucked on a cup cake.

    “Don’t be so hard on yourself Pearl. The family knows we’re safe thanks to these kind volunteers with phones, and your turkey won’t be missed. There’s always too much food.”

    “Could kick myself. Up at four, that long drive and still we missed the darn train. And why didn’t we dump this?” Pearl prodded the cooler at their feet. “Hauling it everywhere… we’re loosing our marbles.”

    “Hey, look at the bright side. It’ll make a good story one day… the train, locking our keys in the car, robbed by babies hardly out of diapers, now here. We’ll laugh about it.”

    They held each other’s eyes. Moments passed. Then they started chuckling.

    A woman maneuvered her walking frame around a table. The preschooler upset his soup. His mother scolded. The baby bawled.

    Charlie raced to the kitchen to find a mop. He returned, his eyes gleaming, mop forgotten.

    “Pearl, the story’s not finished. Roll up your sleeves honey. Forget about stolen wallets. We’ve got something way more valuable. I’ll peel onions. The kid can color cardboard feathers. Grab that turkey from the cooler and follow me.”

  12. Chill air blew her into the main hall of the shelter. Frost crusted her brow as she shook the snow from her shoulders. They knew her, knew her like the breeze that rattled their bones. Dizzy Bell, had caught up with them.

    “Don’t look at her,” Sam said. He locked eyes with the soup on his tray, though his hand shook as he spooned it to his lips.

    Shana nudged closer to him, safety in numbers, but it was too late. She had looked up and locked eyes with Dizzy Bell. The woman sauntered through the crowd without dropping her gaze. Shana tried to look away, lord knows she tried, but the cold had filled her, frozen her in that fateful moment.

    “You owe me.” Dizzy’s voice cracked like gravel. “You didn’t really think that you could get out of it, didja?”

    “We was gonna pay ya Diz,” Sam said. He didn’t look up, didn’t turn away from the soup in front of him.

    She slammed her fist to the table. “Lies, always the damn lies. You owe me.”

    Shana looked from Dizzy, to her fist, and then to Sam. She counted the hairs on the top of his head while digging through her brain for something, anything to say.

    Time had stopped.

    The fist still against the table. Sam’s spoon hand hovered in space, between the cup and his lips. The sounds all around them frozen.

    “Have some soup,” Shana said. And she could breathe again.

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