Use the photograph above as the inspiration for your flash fiction story. Write whatever comes to mind (no sexual, political, or religious stories, jokes, or commentary, please) and after you PROOFREAD it, submit it as your entry in the comments section below. There will be no written prompt.
Welcome to the Indies Unlimited Flash Fiction Challenge. In 250 words or less, write a story incorporating the elements in the picture at left. 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 Wednesday, 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.
Once a month, the admins will announce the Editors’ Choice winners. Those stories will be featured in an anthology like this one. Best of luck to you all in your writing!
Entries only in the comment section. Other comments will be deleted. See HERE for additional information and terms. Please note the rule changes for 2016.
15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Underdog”
Leroy and Roscoe stood outside the barn deep in conversation.
“Holy Cow!” Leroy said. “Look at the size of that mutt! There must be something really good behind those doors.”
“Are you sure it’s a mutt?” Roscoe replied. “It’s not moving. It could be just a pile of old blankets or rags. It’s too dark to tell for sure.”
“Maybe if one of us had brought a flashlight…”
“What’s that supposed to mean? How come it’s always me that’s supposed to remember everything?”
“Okay, okay. Calm down. You wanta go poke it and find out?”
“Hell no! I’m not getting any closer. I like having all my parts intact.”
“Too bad, though. Some of these old barns have the best stuff. Remember that old gramophone Lefty picked up down near Springfield? Got fifty bucks for it.”
“Yeah, well, my legs and arms are worth more to me than fifty bucks.”
Just then Farmer Brown walked up.
“Nice night,” he said. “You boys lost?”
“No, no. Just admiring your fine dog there.”
“He is a good one. Got him from the Sheriff. Quiet, but when he gets riled, look out!”
“Well, we’ll be moving on. Nice talkin’ to you.” Leroy and Roscoe scrambled on down the road, congratulating themselves on their narrow escape. “That was close!” Leroy said.
Farmer Brown chuckled, then picked up the old blankets and tossed them into the barn, which, incidentally, held roughly five hundred sacks of the best cow manure.
Every day, lonely Ophelia Chihuahua would sprawl on the cobblestones and peek under the aged wooden gate. She would spend hours gazing at Hamlet, the neighboring black and white Great Dane lounging handsomely on his cushions at pool’s edge. Occasionally he would glance her way, blink the long lashes on his come-hither eyes, then roll onto his back, legs outstretched, exposing his enormous chest. Ophelia would lick the drool from her trembling lips, and whimper.
Hamlet leaped into the pool and paddled to the far end. I don’t know what that little runt wants or looks like, he thought, but if she doesn’t stop poking her nosey nose under the gate, well……
Just then, an old fellow called out, “… neither a borrower nor a lender be,” to his son reaching out to open the gate. It swung wide. Ophelia jumped up then slowly swaggered to Hamlet’s huge paws.
“What,” he cried? He glanced at the bit of fur yip-yapping below. “Why, you’re such a dainty little thing.” His heart began to thump. “I had no idea you were so adorable,” and reached down to lick the tears from her bewitching eyes. He gently balanced her on top of his head and chauffeured her to their welcoming pillows.
Ophelia nibbled on Hamlet’s ear, and remembering a line from a song she once heard, purred,
“The greatest thing
you’ll ever learn
is just to love,
and be loved
They snuggled and smooched and lived happily ever after.
My name is Harvey Cat and I’m a feline detective. I took a chew of catnip and then opened the file sitting on my desk; it contained information about an investigation into the Case of the Peek-A-Boo Canine. It was another strange case.
I sat back in my chair and took another chew of catnip. I wasn’t always a private detective down on his luck. I had a life once – before she came into my life. Her name was Purity. I first met her at the Pussycat Club. She was a real looker. One of those long-haired, well-groomed cats that turns heads and always gets the premium tuna. You know the type.
I was a sucker for her come-on. What a doll. I guess I wanted something more, but she was just out for a good time. When the money and fun ran out she latched onto another Tomcat, and it was adios Harvey. That was when the bottom dropped out. I had one too many catnips and spiralled out of control. Never thought a kitty-dame could affect me that way.
I leaned forward, adjusted my collar, and looked at the file again. It was an odd case. It had something to do with missing chickens, frozen TV dinners, and a dog named Snider. Definitely something fishy was going on, but I just couldn’t put my paw on it.
I stared out the window. Why did I always get the weird ones?
“It’s time to feed Sailor, the failure,” said Tommy.
Jimmy frowned as he filled his dog’s bowl. He and his thirteen-year-old twin signed up to provide basic training for seeing eye-puppies. Scout listened to Tommy, but Sailor had a mind of his own.
Tommy’s puppy excelled at the academy. Sailor didn’t. Jimmy was embarrassed when his dog was rejected, but secretly glad when he got to keep his puppy.
Sailor had a warm bed in Jimmy’s room but preferred the barn where he befriended a chicken named Lucy. She was rejected by the rest of the flock who plucked her feathers and left angry red sores on her skin. Sailor took her under his paw. They ate together and slept together. She rode on his back. Her confidence returned as her wounds healed.
When Jimmy brought a carrot or apple for Rosie, his horse, Sailor grabbed it from his hand and brought it to her. Rosie would lean over her stall while Sailor stood on his hind paws to give her the treat and nuzzle her muzzle.
Jimmy’s heart raced as he was chased by a barking seal. He woke up. The seal wasn’t real, but the barking was. He raced to the barn towards his dog’s clamor. Rosie was in labor. She needed help. Timmy’s parents called their vet. The horse and her twin foals survived.
Sailor was a hero, not a failure.
Pops called him “OM.” Stood for Ornery Mongrel. Staring at the photo, I instantly smelled him – that old musty dog scent that got all over your hands and clothes when he loved you. I’ll never forget anticipating the steam from his nose poking out every winter morning as OM waited for Pops to come let him out of what we called “the barn,” though it was just a big garage for the tractor. Once the door was opened, haunches went down, ears laid back and you’d have thought OM was shot from a cannon! After a few circuits around the yard, he’d find his bowl, gulp a few mouthfuls and then that silly dog would come plop down at Pops’ feet. Wherever Pops was working, OM was just inches away.
Reflecting on OM, I was stunned how much I was like him. Growing up, I sensed my own barn door opening and I took off. Like OM, I made a few circuits “around the yard” not paying much attention to where Pops was or what he was doing. I was focused on my own need to stretch my legs and make my own race out of life. By the grace of God, I saw I was running in circles, missing the most important man I’d ever known. When I called, grandma told me he was sick, really sick. I came home and plopped myself inches away from him for the rest of his life, which was only 10 beautiful days.
“You must stay in the stall while I ride,” Devon scolded her dog Magic for chasing the chickens at the farm where she boarded her horse.
Magic peered back at her with big brown eyes from under the stall door.
“You got busted,” she whispered to the dog as she walked out of the barn leading her horse Smokey.
Devon and Smokey enjoyed the dog’s company. Magic always lead the way warding off deer, rabbits and squirrels. It was a game that he enjoyed playing even though he never caught anything. The dog provided a safe feeling all the same.
Without the dog, Devon kept her legs tight against Smokey and studied their path through the woods.
“Yikes!” She gasped at the sight of a strange feces.
Smokey stopped and froze in his tracks. Devon could feel her heart almost beat out of her chest as she tried to turn her horse around. She felt his body shake under her, but his feet wouldn’t move, staring at something rustling in the bushes. A mother bear and cub appeared. The mother looked angry and headed toward them.
Smokey spun around and took off at a full gallop. Devon held the mane and buried her face in the horse’s neck galloping under tree branches and winding turns.
When she arrived at the barn she was happy to see Magic still locked in the stall. This was one time, getting busted kept him safe and sound.
Detective Bob Warner came to investigate murder, but he had to smile at the dog’s brown muzzle protruding beneath the door.
Across the barn, a dead man sprawled among rusting tools and other junk. He’d been pumped full of twelve gauge shot around five o’clock that morning. The farmer, Jeffrey Acton, discovered the body shortly thereafter. Acton said he didn’t know the deceased. He came out when his dog started ‘barking like a demon.’ He’d seen only the dead man, had heard no gunshots. “Probably killed elsewhere and dumped here,” Acton had suggested. “Just get rid of him. I got work to do.”
Now Action stood outside the barn, smoking like a factory, some of it cigarette smoke, some of it anger that the proceedings hadn’t yet concluded.
“What’s the dog’s name?”
The officer raised an eyebrow at Warner’s question. “I didn’t ask, sir.”
Warner crouched and slowly extended a hand. The dog’s nose twitched, then its tongue flicked out and licked his fingers. “Why’s he shut in there?”
“Acton wanted to keep him out of the way. He usually has the run of the place.”
Warner stood and went to study the body. “Action has a shotgun?”
“Everyone around here does.”
“So ballistics will probably show it wasn’t his. But he knows more than he’s telling.”
Warner returned and accepted another slup from the dog. “This guy might lick an intruder to death,” he said, “but he sure wouldn’t bark like a demon!”
The bedroom was shrouded in darkness. In the bed, the sick old man was as good as dead. Two people were in the room looking down as the old man, his eyes closed tightly, struggled for breath.
“Thanks for stopping by,” said the old man’s daughter. “You’re his only friend.”
Dan, a well-preserved seventy-five, stayed silent. If he was his brother’s only friend, that was sad indeed. He hadn’t spoken to him for at least three years after his brother’s drunken words poisoned the air between them.
Scratching at the door drew Dan’s attention. His brother’s dog, now whimpering, was trying to squeeze under the door.
“I think that dog was your dad’s best friend.”
“That damn dog,” said the daughter. “He’s as cantankerous as Dad. But you’re probably right. They both loved to hunt. Kinda sad they couldn’t get out these last few years.”
“Why not let the dog in,” said her uncle. “Maybe that’ll help your dad.”
She opened the door and the dog raced in, stopping to sniff the hand dangling from the bed. He licked the fingers tenderly.
And then, even though the uncle and daughter didn’t see it, the old man sat up. He shushed the dog as he stood. Dog and man waited a moment, one last gaze at the spartan room and at his brother and daughter. Turning away, he hurried the dog out of the house and together they walked quickly to the green hills beyond, happy at last.
When I brought my rescue dog home, I decided to name him for his appearance, not his personality. So my vicious looking pit bull became “Killer.” But my milquetoast pup was truly more of an “Underdog.”
When friends came over to our house, Killer was so needy that he fawned over everyone. If reprimanded for annoying behavior, he slunk toward the corner and curled up in his bed. He would lay with his head on his paws, eyes downcast.
My sister often visited with her tiny Chihuahua, Peachy. Whenever Killer approached Peachy, she growled and yipped. Killer would turn tail and run, cowering behind me for protection.
One morning I stepped onto my front porch with my coffee. A young girl stood at my fence, talking to Killer. I didn’t yet know her name because the family had just moved to the neighborhood. Killer leaned against the gate. Apparently not completely latched, the gate popped open and Killer tumbled onto the sidewalk.
Finding the huge dog right beside her, the little girl started to run. A lover of running games, Killer dashed after her. Immediately I called him back and he obeyed. But at the sound of my voice, the child screamed loudly and ran even faster.
Soon I realized that I had been yelling, “Killer, Killer,” but the frightened child must have heard, “Kill her. Kill her.”
After a lengthy time, filled with many explanatory apologies, my new neighbors finally allowed their daughter to walk past my house again.
It was 1943, and Italy was at war. Somehow Rocco had become Andrea’s dog.
She found a barn where they could sleep, a structure built like a fort. There was a load of hay, a water spigot, and otherwise, nothing obvious; no other animals.
One morning, Andrea left on a mission. She was a spy.
“You can’t come this time, Rocco,” said Andrea, leaving him a water bowl and a piece of dried meat.
She shut the heavy door. Rocco barked plaintively behind her, to no avail.
He sniffed around the barn. He knew men had been here before. He didn’t like them. They smelled of gunpowder, human desire, blood and death. They would return.
Andrea smelled wonderful. She smelled like fresh earth, clean water and ice cream. Rocco lay down and waited for Andrea.
Rocco slept. He grew thirsty and drank his water, but he didn’t eat. It was dark now. He smelled the men, and something else: beer.
Now he could hear their raucous laughter. How many? More than two. A crowd. Don’t bark. Escape. Warn Andrea.
The doors swung open. They didn’t even see Rocco slip into the darkness.
Rocco waited in the hedges until he caught Andrea’s scent, then ran, giving her a hero’s welcome. She knelt down in her full skirt, embracing the wiggling, wagging, slurping Rocco in her arms. She would not be walking into a trap.
The voyage was long, but necessary. We had to live somewhere, and this place wasn’t dying.
The supply ships that proceeded us left supplies for our living compounds. Unfortunately, the payload that crashed had our food. We found some vegetation, a smelly corn-like plant with high protein content, that we could use for food. We would have to cultivate it to survive. For now, we foraged, further and further away from the compounds.
We think that the plant we ate triggered the local carnivores, what we called wolves. We knew there were mammal-like animals here but we thought we could dominate them. The more we ate, the more aggressive they became. After the third death, we knew we were hunted.
Darkness seemed to embolden them. We foraged for corn only during daylight hours; at night we couldn’t see the large packs hunting us. We rotated the foraging among us, driving only as far as we could and still get back before dark.
It was our turn to go out. As we started back, the all-terrain shuddered, then stopped. The engine would not turn over. “Dad, the sun is dropping” Meg said quietly. I tried to sound confident. “Let’s jog!”
Behind us, we heard the AT being ripped apart by strong jaws.
We ran as hard as we could, the light fading, the wolves closing.
We got the metal gate closed just before they hit it. As they ripped at the metal, we knew it was only a matter of time.
“Look Jason, it’s a dog!”
Donna and Jason were returning from a fun afternoon on the boardwalk, hot dogs and cotton candy in hand.
“It looks trapped!”
“Yeah, Donna. Sure does.” Jason regarded the woeful gaze and wanted to help.”Well, honey…what should we do?”
“Help it of course, you ninny.”They approached the shed..an old, weather-worn structure just a block off the beach. It had obviously seen better days…evidenced by the rusted padlock and crumbling timbers.
“Jason, we’ve got to help.”
” Reckon so.” Jason fumbled in his pocket, retrieved his Swiss army knife and pried at the rusty hinges.”
“There!” The door swung open and the dog cowered at their feet.
“Jason, it looks hungry. Give it some of your hot dog!”Instead of taking the tidbit, the mutt ran to a corner, turned and bared its teeth.
“Uh oh, honey. We’ve got a problem here.” Jason cautiously approached.”Puppies!” he exclaimed.
“Oh Jason. That’s what’s happening. It must be her litter.” Three tiny pups, maybe three days old, foggily reacted to their company.
“We’ve got to help them, Jason. Take them home. They’ll STARVE here!”
“OK, Donna. Guess we’ll start our family a little earlier than I thought.”
Donna fashioned a leash from her handbag while Jason lifted the pups in their cardboard bed.
“Well, Kiddo, the puppies are too little to name just yet. But what will we call their mum?”
“Momma,” Donna said with a smile.
Pumping water for the stock and the house uses during the dry season fell to 12-year-old Hettie and her younger brother, Obed. It took both of them to bring up the water to fill several washtubs for the family washing and bathing in winter. Seldom did they do the chore without some sort of emotional upset.
One day she pushed him in the spring where he choked on the water and struggled to get to the edge to pull himself out. He had not yet learned to swim. Their mother gave them both a spanking with the wooden paddle.
Often over the years they longed to go back to those days of water pumping. They have laughed over the activities that kept her disturbed and their mother’s ending of it. While their mama was scolding her for her temper, he often stood behind them crooking his finger at Hettie.
When they were older teenagers, she was given a beautiful taffeta dress. She wore it to the beach. Suddenly he swooped her up in his strong arms and walked into the waves saying, “Who’s the underdog now?” He dropped her in the deep water, and she felt the dress shrink around her.
He was her favorite brother.
Abigail had a big softball problem: she couldn’t throw, she could barely catch, and she couldn’t hit!
“Why did we move to a town where everybody plays baseball?”
“You know we’re a military family,” her mother said.
“This town has a great baseball family, and one family member made it famous by setting a unbelievable baseball record.
Abigail’s team lost -again! Her father sent her a letter from overseas, telling her it was ‘okay’ to be an ‘underdog’. She promised to keep trying.
Then, Abigail noticed her neighbor has a new dog-different from her ‘champion’ dogs.
“Hi,…good boy,” she said petting him.”Careful!” Mrs Horton warned,”He is too unruly! I don’t let him fraternize with my other dogs.”
“Can I walk him?”
Abigail decided to help Max compete with Mrs. Hortons’ champions!
Max’s obedience skills, and Abigail’s softball skills improved.”Abigail, who is helping up your game?” Coach asked.”A friend…”she said.
Then, one day, Abigail didn’t come home; and Max was missing!
The police found them. “Look Mom! Max won a trophy in his obedience class, and my friend helped me to win these patches: ‘most improved’ and ‘first home run’,” she smiled.
“Who is this friend?”Her mother frowned.
“The man you told me about…,”
her mother’s eyebrows rose,”…the famous baseball player and his son, they adopted a new dog-it was in Maxs’ class.”
“Now, Max and I aren’t underdogs anymore!”
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