Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: A Bird in the Hand

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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!

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16 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: A Bird in the Hand”

  1. Early Rising

    At some point in my decline, I became an early riser. This expected transformation snuck up upon me slowly. One day I was crawling out of bed at seven, cleaning myself up, gobbling whatever was handy, going off to work. Foreman at the Crooked Walk Cement Plant. Not a bad job. Steady. Concrete was always in demand.

    But time was also in demand. Mandatory retirement time.

    Don’t know if I was ready.

    So, one day, I started getting up at six. Didn’t do nothing. Just sat at the kitchen table, looking out at my back yard, thinking, “nice view.” It was summer. Grass grew some. Every couple of weeks, I hauled out the push mower, gave it a workout.

    Sal seemed pleased. She always liked the lawn clipped.

    She was still giving me brush cuts then.

    Maybe she just tired of me being a slug.

    One day she just went.

    No grass growing under her.

    After she left, it took me a few months to realize I needed to be doing something, something besides drinking coffee, missing her and looking out at the lawn.

    So, I took to walking. It was late Autumn by then.

    Almost winter.

    My favourite spot was Crooked Walk Woods at the south end of town. It was there, just as the winter sun flickered through, like a light from another room stealing through a crack in the door, that I noticed the little bird.

    Still singing.

    Still happy.

    It was a good lesson.

  2. It took Johnny an hour to park their motor home. He watched as Jenny, his wife, stepped out of the vehicle shaking her blond hair. She was gorgeous, he thought, but what had to be, had to be.

    ”I’m going to undue the dinghy. We’ll take a row around the lake soon as we’re finished,” he called out.

    Paddling through the blue waters, he thought about the one million dollar insurance policy he arranged two weeks after their marriage last year, and smiled.

    “Oh, Johnny, there’s not another soul in sight. How’d you ever find such a place?”

    “Came here years ago with my poor first wife. Hey! Let’s get back. I’m hungry.”

    The tantalizing aroma of the searing steaks mingled with the fresh air.
    A little bird flitted by enjoying the scent and scene, hoping to find a
    crumb to peck at.

    After dinner, Jenny said, “Let’s take another row around the lake.”

    Johnny was delighted and thought, the middle of the lake, one swing of the anchor and…

    They reached the lake’s center. A full moon frowned down on them. The wind whispered through the pines. He turned to find the weapon…and met death.

    Jenny flung the blood-stained anchor into the lake and shoved his body after it. Rowing back, she rejoiced imagining all she could do with the two million dollar double indemnity policy she took out a day after their marriage. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush, she mused.

  3. Date Palm
    I hide something beneath my feathered torso on
    the field of a humanoid palm, nor am I
    game to reveal my secret to another, for two can keep
    a secret only if one of them is dead, indeed, there aren’t any exceptions
    to eternal rules.
    Am I, then, too recondite for you? Twitter or tweet earns a bewitching
    prize with ephemeral ease should you prefer simplicity, go thence, let us part in amicable agreement with my secret intact, for I shall not whisper to a living soul what you said or what I heard.
    Inter-species communication is commonplace though rarely acknowledged for wisdom or commonsense it purveys impeccably, for instance, as I perch on your out stretched palm while you spout gibberish about location, location, location. You see, my home is in the bush
    where I consume to my heart’s content.
    Now, let us agree that my secret intact, you are my host, your hospitality my due. I appreciate your forthright uncompromising approach, stretching your open palm for a warm shake with no feather ruffling. In good conscience, as a fitting guest, I, too, have a gift for you.
    We are acquaintances, future circumstances shall link our fates, hopefully, you will share with me common viewpoint which will make all the difference, thus I confide to you my secret, though neither of us yet is dead. “the palm as a bird perch is worth two palms poaching the bird”

  4. The bird rested in Walter’s open hand, and a calm settled over him. Time seemed to stand still. The heat from the tiny bird’s body warmed his palm. He didn’t know much about hummingbirds, but he wished from deep down in his core that he could live like one. Walter was tired of the struggle, tired of trying and failing. Just plain tired.

    The bird flew straight up and away. How wonderful to be able to do that. Just take off, leave everything behind.

    Walter looked up hummingbirds on his computer and found out more than he wanted to know.

    Hummingbirds don’t form relationships. They feed their babies partially digested bugs. And they don’t live long. Three to five years on average.

    Walter began to felt sorry for hummingbirds. How brave they were to carry on under the circumstances. Why, even if he lived to be only 60, that would equal 15 or 20 life-spans of a hummingbird. He had never gone hungry long enough to resort to eating bugs. And as for relationships, maybe he should call Karen and apologize.

    He reached for the phone. He was no hummingbird. He could afford to fail a few times.

  5. It was a cold winter morning when the little sparrow flew into my living room.
    It continued glaring at me, and I stared back. Finally, I decided to be the better-evolved species and broke the silence.
    “What’s the issue, birdie?”
    The sparrow replied agitatedly.
    “Issue? You humans are the issue.”
    “Okay, I’m all ears. What’s bothering you?”
    “How about…the DEATH OF MY BRETHREN?”
    Okay, that was loud.
    “Look, I’m sorry that happened. But, how are we, or I to blame for it?”
    “Stop playing dumb. Don’t you know about the waves and frequencies your gadgets emit? They are fatal to us.”
    The bird made a fair point.
    “I’m sorry.”
    “Sorry? If you really were sorry, you would never have put up that satellite dish above your house. It killed everyone!”
    The sparrow glared at me with eyes that were welling up with tears. The little bird broke down, sobbing uncontrollably.
    I approached the sparrow and patted it.
    “I am really sorry about your brethren. I had no idea. You are right. The satellite dish is no good. I will have it taken down.”
    The sparrow nodded, climbing up into my palm, as a gesture of forgiveness.
    “You know, even humans have troubles.”
    “Yea? Okay, tell me about them.”
    “You know, there are no jobs. That means no money. In winters, that means no food.”
    The sparrow realised what I was saying a fraction too late. I had already clasped it.
    “Darling! Let’s have some lovely sparrow soup for lunch…”

  6. Two Dodo birds, Gizmo and Derpy, were discussing the future of living on their island.

    “I’ve written a book,” said Gizmo, “entitled The Secret Life of Dodo Birds. According to my research Dodo birds may have only eighty years left to exist on this island.”

    “I don’t believe you,” said Derpy.

    “It’s true,” Gizmo replied. “If the number of sailors coming to this island increases we will be in serious trouble. They’ve introduced cats, rats and pigs here and they’re hunting us down. Those are the facts.”

    “Ah,” said Derpy. “You’re hiding behind facts again.”

    “I’m not hiding.”

    “You’re using facts to confuse Dodo birds.”

    “Are you confused?”

    “Only when you hide behind facts.”

    “Facts are important,” said Gizmo. “Without them we would be adrift in opinions.”

    Derpy stuck his beak in the air. “Facts, facts, facts. Who cares. My opinion is important. All Dodo birds’ opinions are important.”

    “I agree. But an opinion is not reliable information. It’s not based on facts.”

    “There you go again – hiding behind facts.”

    Gizmo tried to show Derpy a large chart filled with graphs and equations. But the other Dodo bird turned away. “Don’t you see?” said Gizmo. “One Dodo saved now is worth two more in the future.”

    “All the Dodos think you’re crazy,” said Derpy. “You’re the only one talking like this. Do you actually think we’ll go extinct?” He laughed and walked away.

  7. “Billy come quick!” Sheryl shouted. Billy rushed out the back door of the house, assuming something terrible had happened. He was not expecting to see his wife holding up a small bird in her hand.
    “Jesus Christ, Cheryl, you nearly gave me a heart attack. Try not to sound so worried all the time.”
    “But look at the poor thing. It’s dying. We have to do something.”
    “For God’s sake, it’s a bird not our child. You’re always overreacting.”
    “I’m not overreacting, this bird has a heartbeat like the rest of us. You need to learn to have some compassion every once in a while.”
    “Fine, What should we do?”
    “Its probably this atrocious heat wave. Go grab a glass of water and add one quarter part sugar to it. Hummingbirds need nectar to survive but the sugar will do just fine. Grab a straw too.”
    “Ok.” Billy took off in a hurry and followed all of Cheryl’s direction. He stumbled his way back to his wife and handed her the glass. She took the straw and slowly fed the bird the mixture. After some time passed, the bird started to twitch its wings slightly. Then the little guy started hopping around, frantically flapping its wings. The graceful creature struggled for a time and finally managed to soar high into the sky.
    “There now was that so hard. We saved a life today.”
    “Yeah, yeah. I’m going back to watching the game.” Billy stated as he walked into the house.

  8. It had all led to this. 4 years of college. Two of culinary school. Three years apprenticing at La Princay. The opportunity to present his work to an icon. Claude held out his arm, palm up, slightly shaking, the product of his work resting in a cupped hand.

    The dessert was the likeness of a hummingbird. Delicate mascarpone airbrushed with feathers, downy white breast with mottles of dark chocolate. A beak fashioned from licorice. The body filled with chocolate ganache and cherry. It had taken weeks to design, days to perfect. It was the best creation Claude had ever produced.

    Chef Jacque Desplatte presided over a culinary empire. Michelin stars, James Beard awards, high end cookery lines in the finest shops. A nod from Jacque would make a career.

    The chef stared at the confection in Claude’s palm. “Hmmm,” he rumbled, meaty hand going to his chin, eyes narrowing in concentration. “Give it to me.” Claude handed it over, gently.

    The Chef gazed at one side of the hummingbird, then the other. He passed the bird under his nose, breathing in deeply. In a quick motion he pulled out the licorice beak, rolling it between his fingers. The bird went into his large mouth in a single motion.

    Time stood still as chef chewed, eyes moving left, then right. He swallowed, then exhaled, loudly.

    “Hmm, Excellent flavors. Impressive realism. But no, sorry, this is a fail.”

    “But why, Chef? ,” asked Claude, crushed.

    “I don’t like birds,” he said simply.

  9. “Where did you get that thing?” Maria asked her husband. She squinted at the little bird nestled in his palm. “Hummingbird, isn’t it?”

    “I guess. It just handed there.” Walter smiled at the critter as though it was his best buddy.

    Maria’s squint turned on him. “What, you were just standing there with your hand out?”

    He laughed. “Not exactly.”

    “Not exactly standing, or standing with your hand not exactly out?”

    Walter studied the bird for a moment. “I think it’s magic.”


    “Yeah. I was outside thinking it would be great if a million dollars fell out of the sky. I spread my hands to catch it, and there this guy was.”

    Maria sometimes wondered where Walter’s brain had gotten off to. Sometimes like, say, now. “So what, you think the bird can make you rich?”

    “Yeah, like if I make a wish and pat its head, maybe…” Seeing her expression, he stopped.

    “Did you finish mowing?” she asked.

    “I ran out of gas.”

    “Ask the bird for some.”

    Walter slumped. The bird flew off.

    The mower started running, all by itself.

    Brightening, Walter made an I-told-you-so face and went back to work.

  10. I miss birdsong. I’m not sure exactly when the extinctions began. I believe the first were the frogs and salamanders. Next, we lost butterflies, ladybugs, and other insects. Birds soon followed. I can’t remember when I last saw a hawk soar above the trees, or a robin hop across my yard.

    I am as responsible as anyone, as the rich and greedy, as the foolish and misled. I never marched or picketed. I did not campaign against the destroyers. I cannot hide from my part in this disaster.

    Still, I continue in vain to hang my hummingbird feeder every summer. Then last week, a single bird perched and drank the sugar water. She has been at my feeder every day. I spend hours watching her tiny movements. I take pictures and post them for all to see.

    But this morning my beautiful bird sits on the ground beneath the feeder. When I approach, she doesn’t move. I pick her up and cradle her in my hand. I know what this means. Only a sick hummingbird would sit quietly in my hand. She will not live much longer.

    As I stare at her, her tiny eyes seem to ask the same question that my grandchildren repeat, “Why? Why did you let this happen?”

    And I have no answer.

  11. The Hummingbird

    Billy hurricaned everywhere. He exploded through the screen door. He demolished most rooms he entered. The tools fell off the pegs when he blew through the garage.
    School and Billy were incompatible. Ms. Moodry adored the twinkle in Billy’s sparkly green eyes. He was a good boy and apologized his way through every long day. But Billy was a disaster in the classroom. The waxed and polished wood floors became an ice skating rink when Billy slid through the door. The classroom guinea pig started barking, yes barking! Pencils spontaneously broke in half. Loose pieces of paper gathered with all the others and twirled into a forceful tornado.
    After school, Ms. Moodry loved to grab her binoculars and slip into the woods behind her house to birdwatch. After the frenzy of her workday, it was heaven to concentrate quietly and listen and look. This week she was teaching her favorite unit, the one on birds, and Friday, her friend Jim from the local Audubon society was coming to visit her classroom. She was worried about Billy.
    On Friday, Audubon Jim brought a special friend to Ms. Moodry’s class. He quizzed the kids about which bird almost never stops moving. He then asked who would like to hold a hummingbird with an injured wing. Ms Moodry gasped when Jim picked Billy. Ms. Moodry would never forget what happened next. The most frenetic bird rested completely still in the hand of the most frenetic boy.

  12. Bird

    Jason sat cross-legged and silent on the redwood patio overlooking his yard. He watched the butterflies flit, the squirrels scamper and the birds flutter about. He didn’t say a word.

    Actually, in his four short years on this earth, he had never uttered a word.

    Specialist after specialist examined him; his parents had realized early on that SOMETHING was wrong.

    They tearfully accepted the final diagnosis: selective mutism secondary to severe autistic syndrome.
    Physically he could speak but his mind didn’t let him. Someday, they were told, something might trigger his desire to speak. For now, all that they could do was be supportive while providing a safe and caring environment.

    Jason seemed to enjoy his time on the backyard deck. He was calm there and engaged with his surroundings.

    His mother peeked out the patio doors and wondered why he was holding an outstretched hand. Cautiously she approached him and was amazed to see him cradling a hummingbird in his palm.

    “Bird,” Jason said softly, “Bird.”

    Startled, the tiny creature flew away.

    A tear formed in Jason’s eye: “Bird…gone…”

    It was a beginning.


    The upper part of my Aunt Hettie’s elementary school education in the early 1900s was spent in a school about five miles around the road. By walking through and across the fields and pastures, it was only two and a half miles.

    During winter months thousands of geese and ducks came to eat the kaffer corn grown to feed the animals and chickens and water along the South Canadian River in Oklahoma. A big white northern goose was a treat for the table in those days. Her brother, Obed was two years younger than she was and a crack shot with the slingshot. He could kill a goose within fifty yards with a shot to the head.

    It was a pleasure to see her mother’s eyes light up when they took home a fifteen-pound goose or several smaller ducks. The goose and duck feathers were added to her collection of pillow feathers. They knew how to survive.

  14. “Oh no! I’m falling, not flying! OW! That hurts! PEEP! PEEP! Where are you, Ma?”

    Mother Bird arrived, fluttering around in a frenzy, but there was no way to get Little Bird back into the nest. Finally she left, to see to her other chicks.

    Little Bird was in pain. “My wing hurts. Maybe I broke it!” He lay there for a long time, in fear that a large animal might gobble him up.

    Then something big did scoop him up. It was soft and flat. It didn’t try to eat him. “What kind of bird is this?” he wondered. “No feathers!”

    He looked up at the sky, the trees, and then — two big eyes! He was sitting on the flat, featherless wing of a giant bird! 25

    “Please don’t drop me!” he chirped.

    “Don’t worry, I’ve got you,” said the boy, as if he knew his thoughts, even though Little Bird didn’t understand a word.

    “I’m bringing you home to my Mom,” explained Joey, as Little Bird cocked his head to one side, “She’s gonna take care of you!”

    Joey was greeted by his smiling mother. “What did you bring me this time, Joey?” she asked.

    Little Bird looked at Joey’s mother. He had never seen so much hair before, on any living creature. He imagined what a cozy nest it might make.

    Then she brought a box of feathers, and Joey gently set Little Bird down in it. Joey’s mother whispered sweet nothings in Little Bird’s ears.

  15. As the hurricane raged, Mark and Sandra escape the Maryland beach town, leaving their gourmet coffee business.

    They travel all the way to Pennsylvania, on the way to Sandras’ aunts’, before they are brave enough to turn on the radio.

    “Damn it!” Mark snaps off the radio, ” I thought it would lose force by the time it hit Maryland. Still a category one…”

    ” Turning into a two…” Sandra interrupts.

    Just then, a State Trooper stops the traffic, funneling it all into an exit ramp.

    “Where is the next town?” Mark yells out the window.

    “Bird in Hand- ten miles down the road,” he points.

    “But my aunt…”Sandra protested.

    “We’re exhausted. What if we get there and the hotels are sold out…?” Mark argued.

    They checked into their rooms and tried to sleep.

    The next morning they sipped their coffee, too miserable to eat or sleep.

    Patrons of the restaurant stop by to wish them luck.

    “Look on the menu, it’s the story of the first Inn- how it got its’ name. Travellers, who were too exhausted to go on to Philadelphia, stopped here for a sure thing. Like us… last night,” Sandra remarks.

    “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I think the saying goes…” Mark smiled.

    “Did we give up our jobs, two jobs for one unsure bet…” Sandra moaned.

    “No! We found that one sure bet of happiness, is better than two jobs – unlikely to produce happiness,” Mark retorted with a smile.

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