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 2018.
18 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Thanksgiving Table”
ELIGIBLE FOR EDITORS CHOICE ONLY
They’d predicted a light dusting of snow but already had several inches. Knowing how fickle forecasts could be, she’d stocked up on necessities. Dipping into savings had been impulsive but a new Radio Flyer was propped against the house, ready for its maiden voyage. She could hear the kids putting on their winter gear. Going sledding in the first real snowfall each season was a tradition she’d be keeping.
“Hey, new boots in the mudroom, Santa’s a few weeks early.”
She heard stockinged feet sliding, a shoulder hitting a wall, subdued laughter, then the creak of the mudroom door and Vicki’s squeak of delight.
Gazing out at the white winter lace covering the trees and bushes, distracted in thoughts, she didn’t hear their approach until Vicki hugged her from behind and Ben wrapped his hand around hers.
“I put the fixings out for hot cocoa, Mom,” said Vicki. “Last one down the hill makes it!”
She gave one last look into the dining room. Some might say it was morbid to set the extra place setting. She thought it respectful. Their first Thanksgiving, just the three of them but Lionel was there, looking down, watching over them. He wasn’t forgotten. A guardian, a sheepdog, protecting his family, always. No reason to think he’d stopped now.
Stepping into the bracing cold, her eyes lingered on the carefully folded, illuminated flag. Another tribute Lionel would appreciate. Hugging herself, she went to join the two things for which she’d always be most grateful.
“I hope we’re not intruding, Mildred. Ed and I were driving to Seattle to join our daughter and her family for Thanksgiving dinner when we decided to stop and say ‘Hello.’ Gosh, what’s it been?—ten years since we’ve seen each other?”
“Patricia, Ed! What a surprise! Come in, come in, it’s a nasty out there. We had six inches of new snow last night and the temperature’s right at the freezing mark. John left for town a half hour ago to pick up a few things for dinner, but he’ll be back shortly.”
“Well, we certainly don’t want to intrude,” Mildred replied, stepping into the house and taking off her boots. She placed them on a rug in the vestibule before stepping into the combination living and dining room.
“What a beautiful home you’ve made for John and yourself. I’ve been telling Ed for years we need to put LA in the rear-view mirror—the traffic and crowding is really getting to me—and move closer to the grandchildren. But, as usual, he insists on sticking it out as long as he has work.”
“I understand that, Patricia.”
“Anyway, I see you’re expecting company, so we won’t stay but a minute. Just wanted to see how you’re both doing.”
“Oh, we’re fine, but we’re not having guests. The extra settings are to honor our two sons. We lost them, you know, in the battle for Fallujah in 2004.”
“Honey, you’ve done a superior interior in this room. That corner piece fits like it was made for that spot. Its grace highlights the snowy luster of the trees.”
Mother, we have you to thank for gifting it to us.”
“Marge is right, Mother K, and we designed this addition specifically for
the cabinet. And let’s be clear you funded both the design and construction
of this year’s Thanksgiving table perch.”
“Gigi, my bedroom is downstairs underneath our Thanksgiving table!”
“Well, my love of love, you’re in the mix with magic snow, aren’t you, then?”
Yes, yes, Gigi, I love snow. It makes travel so easy, I step right out my bedroom door, and ski down to Jimmy and Ginny’s, and ride the chairlift back after play.”
“Did you figure that routine out all by yourself, Jay?”
“Yes, Gigi, didn’t I Mom?”
“You sure did, and gave Mommy great fright when I found you were gone!”
“Did you apologize to your mother for scaring her?” asked Jerome.
“Yes, Papa, I did.”
“Did your Mama forgive you?” asked Gigi
“Yes, didn’t you Mama?”
“A man has to do what a man has to do.” said Mama. “Dinner is ready. We’ll serve
our plates in the kitchen and sit at the Thanksgiving Table.”
“Gigi, please, after Thanksgiving meal can we ski down the trail to the foot of the mountain and visit the Hemingway Monument, can we, Gigi, please?”
Okay, Grandson, I don’t suppose I’ll ever get any closer to Paradise!”
It must have been those two White Castle burgers with extra onion and double ketchup I devoured just before hitting the sack. What a night! Tossed and turned for hours. Finally sank into dreamland.
The Katzenjammer Kids were romping with Wimpy in Maggie and Jiggs’ backyard. Ma Kettle was giving Olive Oyl lessons in deep frying spinach balls, and Pluto chased Krazy Kat around the house that looked like a Shoe run by an Old Woman. Flash Gordon suddenly flashed, scaring the wits out of Valentino who was playing poker with Pinocchio, Baby Snooks and Garbo.
Suddenly, the Bells of St. Mary began clonging away. It was my alarm clock shattering my dizzying dream. I clicked off the alarm, rolled over and thought, just five minutes more.
And I was back watching The Shadow make Daffy Duck flutter into Jack and Jill dancing to Your Hit Parade songs as Terry, and the Pirates, battled it out with a bunch of Gang Busters. Mr. Keene was tracing Rin Tin Tin’s flight from I Love a Mystery’s van. Fibber McGee was having his appendix removed by Dr. Kildare. Bulldog
Drummond watching Chandu, the Magician, pour tea for Mary Noble, Backstage Wife. Major Bowes was giving the gong to Eddie Cantor crooning Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider.
Oh, whoa! Was that the Green Hornet betting Double or Nothing that I’d get up now? No, it was my Mom shaking me awake.
“Henreeeee! Henry Aldrich! Get up. Breakfast’s almost ready.”
The seven children, all cousins, ate Thanksgiving dinner in Aunt Joan’s kitchen. Jeannie started the conversation. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Bobby answered, “A financial planner.”
“I don’t know, but doesn’t it sound good? How about you, Jeannie?”
“I want to be a mommy and a security officer.”
They went around the table. Jeannie’s sister Kathy wanted to be a babysitter and a saleslady in a boutique. Bobby’s brother Joseph wanted to manage the family business. Their little sister Denise said, “I want to be a mommy, a banker and a dog sitter for at least 20 dogs.”
“Denise, that’s impossible!” said her older cousin, Mary.
“No it isn’t!” protested tiny Denise. “How about you?”
“A writer,” she said.
“How about you, Johnny?” Mary asked her brother.
“I want to play in a rock band, and I’ll probably die in my sleep,” he said, to everyone’s astonishment.
Then he yelled, “Gotcha!” and started laughing hysterically until Aunt Joan came running in.
Johnny was coughing, so Aunt Joan pummeled his back until a big wad of turkey came flying out, and landed in Joseph’s plate.
Everyone cried, “Ew,” “Yuck!” or “Gross!” especially Joseph. After the initial scare, Johnny sported a wide grin, hidden from Aunt Joan, who gave him water.
She bustled around the kitchen, replacing Joseph’s defiled Thanksgiving plate. She chided the children for talking with their mouths full, adding, “This is why you children have to eat in the kitchen.”
In the north end of the home the walnut dining room table was neatly set with just four white plates and dull flatware on top of unremarkable green placemats. Nothing much could be said about the salt and pepper shakers or the butter dish. Warm air was blowing through the floor register while outside the remains of a snowstorm covered the trees and lawn. If dread had a companion on this day before the holiday, the four plates called it anxiety.
“I feel like an inmate on death row!” the north plate shouted
“I wonder who’s coming this year, his parents or her parents?” east plate said.
“Well, if it’s HER parents, drop me on the floor now, because I don’t want to hear them bragging about their investments again,” said the west plate.
“If HIS parents show up, throw me in the dishwasher today. His mom almost ruined my finish with her constant cutting and jabbing with her fork and knife,” south plate said.
“I hope his brother and his wife show up. His wife was hot! I liked the way she spread the butter on her rolls a few years back,” north said.
The butter dish interrupted, “you got that right.”
“Nope. I hope our neighbors come and bring their sweet potato casserole again. It tasted so good,” east said.
Salt and pepper suddenly vibrated on the table, “You all should be grateful for the attention you got. No one even noticed us last year.”
He gazed over at the prepared table.
For the past five years, John had set the table and prepared a Thanksgiving meal for his family. He sent out the invites, and he prayed this year all would be forgiven.
He always dreamed of the family cabin – snow on the trees, the crackling fire, and laughter around the table.
In pursuit of everything he wanted for his family, he had lost his family.
He tried to repair the damage since the divorce.
Although an emergency prevented him from attending, he paid for Samantha’s wedding.
He made sure Ben wasn’t strapped with debt after attending a prestigious out of state school. He did his best to make it to graduation, but the company was going through some struggles at that point.
He remembered the day it finally came to a head – the day he realized the cost. He was sitting in a chair holding little Susan’s burial flag. He could never recover from that day – no way to make things right.
That was the last time he saw his children.
“This is what I deserve. You reap what you sow.”
Startling him out of his despair, there was a knock at the door.
He opened the door. “Hi, dad. We got your invitations. We thought we would stop by on our way to moms. You know my husband, Rob, and this is little Susie. Say hi Susie.”
“Hi, pap pap.”
His voice cracked. “Why hello Susie. Come in. I was just….”
Mr. Biddle opened his eyes. Staring into the darkness he heard muffled sounds coming from inside the house. Still full from his Thanksgiving dinner, he sat up, turned on the lights and then slipped into his housecoat and slippers. Exiting the bedroom he shuffled down the hallway in the direction of the sounds coming from the kitchen.
Standing to one side of the kitchen door, he paused, and to his chagrin, realized his appliances were complaining about him again. The microwave oven laughed and said how much it disliked the color paint he had chosen for the kitchen; the refrigerator agreed with the microwave oven and added how annoyed it was that its interior burned-out light bulb still had not been changed; and the coffee machine said it simply couldn’t understand why it was being used to brew substandard coffee.
Mr. Biddle listened for a few minutes and shook his head. He had heard enough. He turned and slowly shuffled back to bed. There was no use arguing with the appliances; they always won the debate and afterwards they always ridiculed him.
Instead, come morning he was going to call a technician to come and remove the microchips from his smart appliances. It was one thing to have to listen to customers complain at his store. But it was quite another matter to have to listen to complaints coming from his own disgruntled appliances.
She was feeling nostalgic of late and due to her Uncle Robert, had the capital for indulgence. Extensive research, a resourceful designer and a few black-market purchases…all for the greater good she told herself… had culminated in this house. It looked just like the faded picture she’d carried in her wallet for over twenty-five years.
Shoes off, she padded across the floor, feeling wood grained planks for the first time. She caught whiffs of paint, lemon wax and pine. She was pretty sure pine lined the window frames and door jambs. Some darker wood made up the table and chairs. Four plates, just for decoration sake, completed the look.
She watched in fascination as the white powder flakes fell. Another first for her. The designer deserved a bonus, she decided. The trees and shrubs looked like those in a snow globe she’d stubbornly kept.
The breakfront held reproduced tchotchkes, but she was delighted to see something real, a meticulously restored flag. Uncle Robert had flown one just like it before The Downfall.
Her holophone rang. “Summerset, you’ve outdone yourself!”
“Thank you, Miss. You’ve used your inheritance well. Robert would be proud.”
Moved to tears, she disconnected. Eventually she’d have to return to her biosphere, watch blackened snow coat the ground outside its protection, breathe chemically cleaned air, eat tasteless tubes of food solely for nutrition. For now, she’d reminisce about what life was like when there’d been a United States and most had dismissed global warming as only a myth.
Marsha took a quick peek out the dining room windows and noticed white fluffy snow starting to fall. Soon the lush green grass and evergreen branches were coated in white. As she headed back into the kitchen, Mike came in from outside with a worried look on his face, “Something’s wrong outside with the weather?”
Marsha looked up from basting the turkey, “Why do you say that? It’s a beautiful early snowfall that’s all.”
Introspectively, Mike replied, “No, it’s not. There is something very wrong. I don’t think it’s snow.”
Now concerned, she asked, “Why do you say that?”
Mike looked her in the eyes, “Rub my shoulders and hair, the snows not melting!”
Marsha reached up and started to brush the snow off his shoulder only to discover the snow was warm to her touch. It smeared where ever she brushed it. She rubbed some between her fingers, “Mike you’re right it feels gritty and powdery, sort of like ash. Mike, what’s going on?”
Mike looked outside the dining room windows and then down at the decorative place settings. “Get the kids we’re leaving before it’s too late. Leave everything!”
Mike carried the toddlers out as Marsha turned off the stove with the turkey still in the oven and Thanksgiving dinner in pans on the stove. They drove, with headlights on, barely seeing through the falling ash. Finally making it safely out of Mount Saint Hellenas they headed south to stay with her parents.
I was built for burdens. My pedigree includes the massive groaning boards of yore, so heavily laden with food that they groaned, as did the digestive sounds of those humans leaning in to eat the bounty my ancestors held.
Today, I have a strong, sleek, Ikea-look of oiled monkey pod wood. I occupy one corner of a ski lodge kitchen, visited on weekends by my millennial owners. My services are infrequent and mundane; morning coffee, web-browsing, and take-away meals.
Thanksgiving is the one day when I can show off my traditional role as a groaning board for groaning guests.
I am expanded. The additional leaves make me the center of attention. Odd chairs are brought to my sides; a crowd begins to form. I feel the weight of special dishes brought by family and friends. I hear the words of love and thanksgiving and faith.
But, also I hear the words of strife and loathing. I hear the smashing of glassware and the screeching of chairs leaving the table in anger and I hear the shouts of conflict and the earnest arguments over family and politics. I hear the sounds of a woman crying, alone when the crowd is gone.
My leaves are removed and I remain, as before, polished and ready to serve with only Uncle Ray’s cigarette burn from where he left his lit Camel to argue with Brother John in the living room. I expect it will remind me of Thanksgiving for generations. God-willing.
We have just gathered around our Thanksgiving table and Dad is carving the turkey. Suddenly the house sirens blare. Dad checks his wrist monitor. “Incoming drone,” he announces.
We shove away from our plates and trudge in a line toward the basement door. Mom leads the group with the littlest kids following her. We olders go next, then aunts, uncles, grandparents, and finally Dad. The whole drill lasts less than a minute until Dad slams and locks our underground shelter door.
Adults open the fridge and hand out soda to us kids. Then they pour themselves drinks and sit around chatting. Some of us play games with the smaller kids. Others gather around monitors and watch comedies. We all wait patiently, listening to the loud booms of explosives smashing into our neighborhood.
After about thirty minutes Dad calls, “All clear.”
We return upstairs to find our table just as we’d left it. None of us speak until Mom complains, “Another cold Thanksgiving dinner.”
Dad responds with a gesture toward our front picture window. Through it we can see our neighbors standing before the pile of smoking rubble that had been their home.
“Let us be thankful,” Dad says, “that they didn’t choose our house this time.”
Then Dad motions me toward our door. “Go,” he says. “Invite them over for some cold turkey dinner.”
For Jason this would be a lavish spread indeed.
The table wasn’t fancy. Some might call it rustic, crafted from seasoned oak. But it was of ample size, more than six feet long. Enough to cradle the abundance of this Thanksgiving dinner.
He didn’t have a family, rather a few friends who lived close by. All were invited (provided that they would bring a beer or two for everyone to share).
The weather wasn’t too cold. Alfresco dining had a nice, if fancy, ring to it.
An open-fire-roasted small turkey, green beans, creamed corn, baked beans and dinner rolls filled the table. There even was a pumpkin pie. Quite a meal, quite a meal.
One by one they began to arrive, all equally appreciative and in a celebratory mood. A rarity.
This abundant repast soon vanished, everyone agreeing that it was the best meal they’d had in a long time. To be sure, nothing went to waste — everyone agreed to recycle the empty cans/jars and paper. The extra income would benefit them all after all.
Even the cardboard boxes from the food bank did double duty featuring a hand-lettered sign that read:
Jason slept well on that park bench that night.
Velma leaned against the kitchen counter and contemplated the dining room in front of her. A matronly grandmother, she was, in her day, quite a beauty. But when she creased her face in seriousness, she could look forbidding. As she did now staring at the dining room, set up for Thanksgiving dinner.
The snow was piling up outside but that wouldn’t stop her daughter and son-in-law from coming. Even though they were the parents of a rambunctious two-year-old, they’d for sure get to the house for this dinner. Still, anxiety clawed at her as she scanned the too-neat table and wondered what was wrong.
Right now, though, the turkey needed basting. When she opened the oven, the warm aroma of cooking turkey enveloped her in memories of family Thanksgivings. Shaking them off, she took the dish of sweet potatoes out of the refrigerator and sprinkled the last layer of brown sugar over them. They were too sweet for her, but Jared’s mother had passed that recipe to her and she had to use it this year.
The realization that her husband of wouldn’t be here for this Thanksgiving dinner stopped her cold. She clenched her teeth and wiped her eyes with her apron. Suddenly she knew what was wrong with the dinner table. Four place settings were neatly arranged around the table, but there would only be three adults this year. Maybe that was okay. For this holiday, she would be thankful for that extra setting.
ELIGIBLE FOR EDITORS CHOICE ONLY
At many a festive Thanksgiving meal set with loving, caring hands, there are those who will be missing. Here is a memory from November 24, 2012.
The bed nurse came this morning, and Joe doesn’t remember. I fed him breakfast, and he doesn’t remember. I gave him a turkey leg my daughter Rachel sent him from dinner at her house. He took his meds and went to sleep with that leg in his hand uneaten. After sleeping all day, I awakened him at 4 p.m. for his med and he wanted breakfast. He finally ate the turkey leg, steamed squash, cottage cheese and tomato, and then wanted cake. (Usually he is not into sweets.) That morphine does a number on patients.
God blesses us both with good days, so we have the strength to see through the tough times. Thank you all for your prayers.
Joe Richard Salazar 1933-2013 Forever loved / Forever missed
As Laura sat at the Thanksgiving table of her friends, Josh and Maureen she watched the snow pile up outside.
All four people at the table, that day, were carrying a big secret.
“Can I help in the kitchen?”
“No just waiting for Steve. He’s the brother that lost his wife, 3 years ago.”
“I know, it’s hard to wrap my own head around being a widow at 30.”
“You seem a lot better, are you?”
Laura had been ready to give up if it weren’t for the fertilized embryos she and her husband had frozen.
Just then Steve first in the front door and shook off the snow,”it looks like a foot”
His face dropped. He didn’t realize Laura was invited. How could he blurt out his news: that he, a single guy, was going to hire a surrogate to birth his dead wife’s fertilized embryos…
Marine also, had big news to tell, but she thought she should wait until after dinner.
they feasted on a delicious dinner, and after Lively conversation they decided to go for a walk.
on the way back to the house, Steve is Laura to sit in the car and talk, “it’ll melt some ice. I have heated seats, ” he smiled and she smiled back.
After talking for hours they ‘made out’ like teenagers, then ran back into the house for a warm drink.
The following Thanksgiving, there were still only for adults at the table, but four high chairs!
“What’s this?” said the youngest daughter.
“Only four places set at the table?” said the middle daughter.
“Where’s the food?” said the twins.
“I had a better idea this year,” Mom said. “You kids don’t like to eat at the table, right?”
The assorted siblings agreed.
“So this year you can eat on the sofa, in front of the TV, anywhere you want.”
The assorted siblings applauded this idea.
“And my cooking isn’t always a big hit. So I am breaking away from the old traditions.”
The assorted siblings looked doubtful.
“No more dried-out turkey. No moldy-bread stuffing. No overcooked artichokes. No soggy-crust pies. We are having something everyone loves.”
“Oooo!” said the siblings. “What is it?”
“And you can eat it without annoying knives or forks or spoons. You don’t even need a plate. A paper napkin will do.”
“I’ve died and gone to heaven,” the oldest daughter said. It was her night to wash the dinner dishes.
“Mom, tell us! What are we having?” said the middle son.
“Pizza! I’m calling the pizza parlor right now.”
Then the youngest son had a horrible thought. “Mom,” he said. “The pizza parlor is closed. It’s Thanksgiving.”
A dreadful silence descended upon the room as each of the siblings realized what this meant.
Mom was the first to recover. “Peanut butter sandwich anyone?” she said.
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