Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Pines

students sitting amongst ponderosa pines
Photo copyright K. S. Brooks. Do not use without attribution.

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.

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.

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15 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Pines”

  1. Pining

    “Pssst, they’re here again.”

    “Wooden you know it.”

    “That’s not funny.”

    “You can see my speech?”

    “Of course, I can. I am a Seedar. Can’t you see mine?”

    “No. And this is silly. No one appreciates tree puns.”

    “I know. I just thought, they’re loitering down there…it seemed opportune to play around.”

    “You don’t have a serious bark in your body, do you? Have you even thought about why they’re here? What they’re up to? What are they writing down, for instance? I’ve heard stories…”

    “What stories?”

    “Horrible stories. First the measurers come. They wrap their metal around your body. They look at the sky, gauge your length. Don’t know how they do that, but they measure everything. You, your family, your neighbors…poking and prying…”

    “Like the census…”

    “What’s that?”

    “Those…things…they have to know everything. That’s the job of the census creatures. I don’t know, really…I heard it somewhere. Like these critters, I suppose. Measuring, like you say. So, what other horrible stories?”

    “Oh, right. Well, I heard this from one of those crybaby weeping willows that sprouted some years ago. After the measurers have come and gone, the wood-snatchers come. They are awful. Big noisy machines. Sharp slicers. They cut whole neighborhoods off at the knees. We come crashing down and then are stripped of our uniqueness’s, bundled, sent away to camps. Desiccated…beyond that, we are nothing. Less than nothing.”

    “Now I’m scared. Maybe we should do something…dispatch these measurers?”

    “No. We are rooted. Our lives, a bitternut.”

  2. Battle for the Kingdom

    Sitting among the pines, the students were tasked with writing a fictional story. The following is Johnny’s tale:

    Sir Tincture of Iodine faced one of the Virus Lords. They intended to fight for control of the Kingdom.

    Sir Tincture, the kingdom’s champion, stood by his banner and shouted, “Regardless how this Virus Lord arose, whether by nature or by design, I intend to slay him this day.”

    The Virus Lord scoffed. “Let all who gaze upon my visage tremble; let all who pass before my presence fear; and let all who hear my words fall into despair.”

    Having spoken, both knights engaged in battle.

    Sir Tincture swung his sword and struck the Virus Lord’s shield.

    In retaliation, the Virus Lord’s axe struck a glancing blow on the side of Sir Tincture’s helmet, causing him to fall.

    Sir Tincture recovered from this assault, swung his sword, and knocked the shield from the Virus Lord’s hand.

    Enraged, the Virus Lord swung his axe, but Sir Tincture ducked, and deftly delivered the fatal blow.

    The battle was over. The kingdom had been saved.

    As champion, Sir Tincture stood before Lady Olive of the Fair Oil, and bowed.

    “I bestow this Order of the Garlic Garter upon thee, Sir Tincture,” said Lady Olive. “Now arise and claim thy title.”

    Sir Tincture stood and the Garlic Garter was laid upon his vestiture.

    “Thank you, my Lady,” he said. “We have won this day. But be forewarned. The Virus Lords will return.”

  3. Some laughed, a few groaned but most just stared, incredulous. Mr. Brockett waited patiently until the reactions died down to quiet murmurs.

    “This project will be one quarter of your total grade for the year. It may seem outlandish now. Once we get out there, I believe most will come to enjoy it. At least that’s been my experience in the seven years I’ve been teaching this. You’ll be relieved to know, too, not a single student has ever been lost nor succumbed to the fresh air and sunshine…yet,” he winked.

    The bell rang and Matt, Steve and Ryan walked to the cafeteria.

    “We knew Mr. B was unorthodox,” commented Matt.

    “I’m cool with it, gets us outta a stuffy classroom,” laughed Ryan.

    “And I’ll be stocking up on sunscreen,” said the redheaded, freckled Steve.

    The next day, armed with measuring tapes, journals and hats, Mr. Brockett’s Seniors Science class headed into the woods behind the school to map it. Each group of three was assigned an area. Using three trees at a time, they measured and created triangles to scale, each group having a different color. All were pinned in a colorful giant wall map at the end of the semester. Everyone passed. Some would never forget their experience among the pines.

    Matt would go on to become a forestry ranger, Ryan, a smokejumper, the fair skinned Steve a botanist. Each would credit Mr. Brockett for influencing their life choices.

    All teachers teach, but a special few …inspire.

  4. Kevin says we are here to save the planet. This forest was once as big as Luxembourg. Now I don`t know how big Luxembourg is but it sounds, well pretty big. And now? Fatawarhu. Ok, so you`ve never heard of the place. That`s what I said to Kevin, he`s the guy in charge of our little team and he said it`s in the Indian Ocean, somewhere. One mile square. Lovely sandy beaches and coconut trees. I asked Kevin if their trees were in danger and he said only if there was a Tsunami.
    Kevin gave us these notepads and asked us to measure the girth of the trees and then work out the height. I asked Kevin how we did that and he said ask Henry. Henry works in Astro physics and is quite a geek.
    I never went to college on account of mother having MS and dad running off with a sword-swallower from Barnum`s circus. That`s me in the peaked cap. Mother gave it me in case I got sunstroke but as I told her we`d be shaded by the trees but she gave me the cap anyway and a flask of coffee and cheese and marmalade sandwiches.
    Kevin says the trees are vital for our well-being. Kevin has got acne and is what I call earnest. I met him on the Bridstock railway platform where he was doing a bit of train spotting. Anyway better go, Henry`s just arrived with this bit of paper folded into a triangle..

  5. The Letter
    “Dearest Soon-to-be-Wifey,
    The plane ride was nothing!
    I think we’ve hiked nearly 6 miles now. Had a late start, ready to stop. There’s a beautiful clearing among the pines and we’re going to pitch our tent here in a few minutes. Now, what do three wannabe writers do at rest? We write!!
    This guys’ weekend before our wedding is a fantastic idea. Eric and Vince are crazy about you but we all know that after we get married— I won’t be spending as much time with them as I used to. I love them but I can’t wait to see you walk down the aisle to meet me at the altar. Your dad and my mom will be weeping, for sure! We’ll start our family. Definitely, a little Sam and a little Jessica…and, who knows, maybe another one or two.
    Anyway, it’s gorgeous here and it will be a place that our family can will visit.
    I know I’ll just be handing this to you on my return but I’m writing it just the same.
    I love you, Mrs. Cruz (at least by next week, you will be!)
    XOXO Sam”

    Jesse put the tear-stained letter back in the envelope. That was nine years ago.

    The day after he wrote the letter, the three friends were packing their things when a giant coulter pine cone suddenly dropped and killed Sam instantly.

  6. “Too loud!” whispered Frankie on our self-blazed trail to old man Sochi’s garage. I shut off the fist-sized Japanese transistor phenomenon in my pocket.

    “You know the old man still has dogs. No sound.”

    “OK, Frankie.”

    We picked our way through the dense stand of loblolly pines and underbrush in this small corner of South Carolina. It was early spring and the pine pollen coated our hair and my glasses like a yellow snow shower. At the bottom, behind a hedge of over-grown honeysuckle, we looked about. There appeared to be no one around.

    The color of the barn was uniform: early wheatgrass. It blended with the surrounding flora perfectly. Nicholas Sochi, a reputed mobster from Providence had bought this anti-Bellum estate, with its marvelous Greek-revival mansion during the Depression.

    Neither Frankie nor I knew anything of Nick Sochi beyond his apparent affinity for keeping expensive cars in his barn. Frankie had a talent for getting us in.
    Through the grace of a rotted barn plank that Frankie deftly removed from its corroded nails, we gained entry. Parked in the old stable area, a shiny blackness sated our pre-teen yearning.

    “Pete! Look at that. A ’51 Mercedes 300 limo. Whoopee!”

    I was speechless. Not because it was a car of dreams, but the fact that there was still a driver in the driver’s seat. The contents of the driver’s head had been spilled on the inside of the windscreen and dashboard.


    Jack Bell came to with a nasty hangover and an uneasy feeling. The perky blonde he met last night over drinks was lying next to him in a pool of blood. She was ice cold. Did he kill her? He wasn’t sure.

    Jack was sure of one thing, he had to get himself and the dead blonde out of there, unseen. He would need help. Sometimes you had to call in favors and this was a big one. Dave Rivera owed Jack for covering up a scandal at the university that would’ve cost Dave his job as a tenured professor and his marriage. Jack was sure Dave would answer. He did.

    Dave was in the woods north of town with two of his students when his phone rang. They were conducting a study for the university. The trio had just sat down in a clearing to log the coordinates where they would be digging a large hole to bury the project’s sensor. The students were surprised and confused, when before the sensor was in place, Dave told them they were packing up and heading back to town.

    Dave backed his car up to the rear of the dead girl’s bungalow and hit the trunk release. Jack came out with the corpse rolled up in a rug. He tossed the blonde and her rug into the trunk next to the sensor and jumped into the passenger seat.

    Dave turned to Jack and said, “let’s bury that sensor.”

  8. As light faded through the forest, the three brothers, heads down in deep concentration, hurried to finish their goodbyes.

    “I’m glad our science teacher chose us for this adventure,” one wrote. “Maybe, at the space academy we’re going to, I’ll finally find the cure for cancer I’ve been working on. Miss you all. Love.”

    The low hum of the approaching spacecraft shook the leaves from the trees.

    Another brother, scratching the back of his crew cut head, wrote “It’s getting closer. I think I better cut short. Could this little adventure teach me the cure for Alzheimer’s that I’ve been searching for at school? Hope so. Love to all.”

    A voice vibrated overhead. “Get ready to board.”

    The last brother scribbled anxiously, “Maybe this will be the answer to world peace that I’ve been working on all these years. Bye-bye and XXX.”

    They watched as a lift seat inched down from the hovering craft.

    “Please listen carefully,” the resonating voice commanded. “Unfortunately we ran into a bit of difficulty and only have accommodations for one passenger. You have five minutes to make a decision. Understood?”

    The seat touched ground

    The three brothers huddled together to make their life-changing choice. They hugged each other and shook hands. Two of them strapped the third into the waiting carrier. And, with eyes filled with tears, waved goodbye as he was lifted into the safety of the ship.
    It swooshed off into space.

    Which one do you think was chosen to better the world?

  9. Gary stood back to survey the eight interns sitting on the ground or on old trees cut down in years past. While the early morning air was chilled, most of them were focused on their yellow legal tablets. With their pencils and cellphone calculators, they were doing the numbers.

    All but Cynthia.

    Cynthia, her blond hair pulled up under her red sock hat and her checkered flannel jacket unbuttoned, was meandering about, staring up at the pines as if she’d never seen a tree before.

    “Cynthia?” he said. “Could I have a word?”

    “Hi. Sure,” she said. “What a forest! The trees. Everything.”

    “That’s what I want to talk to you about. Have you finished your calculations?”

    “No,” smiled Cynthia. “Too much feeling. What a place to work, the forest. It’s poetry.”

    “Not quite,” said Gary. “Think about who’s sponsoring this team.”

    “Department of Natural Resources and Western States Forest Products,” said Cynthia. “What about them?”

    “Note what they’re about—resources and products,” said Gary. “Focus on that.”

    Cynthia stopped looking at the surrounding pines. “But the forest is still poetry,” she said. “It’s poetry first. How could you keep doing this if it wasn’t?”

    “I’ve been around a long time,” said Gary. “It’s board feet of timber. How many two-by-fours, sheets of plywood, rolls of toilet paper, newsprint. No poetry.”

    “You’re kidding,” said Cynthia.

    “If only,” said Gary as he abruptly turned and walked into the forest.

  10. They told me I was crazy to try to build a future in pine trees. But look at me now! The needle fall rate of the small pine trees was where I got started. The ever expansive trees of the 1800’s are my new promotion. I’m making more money than if I would chop down one of these monstrosities. One time I scraped the sap out of the pine cone to make some maple syrup. Worst. Mistake. Ever! But every now and again, I bring out that syrup. The pancakes aren’t that bad if I smother them in a lot of butter. The bitter taste of victory is always sweet.

  11. “How Not To Camp”

    The whole problem, Rick grumbled to himself, was lack of procedures. Andy had organized this campout, but he clearly lacked organizational skills.

    The first thing, Andy had said, was to pitch a tent. Then they would start a fire, then they could cook dinner, then as the sun set behind the western forest, they would drink and tell jokes and ghost stories and generally have a grand time. But where were they now, two hours after arriving at the campsite? Step zero. They hadn’t even unpacked. And why was that? Paul had put it most succinctly: “How?”

    Translated into plain English, the procedural basis for the delineation, construction, and operation of wilderness living facilities had neither been properly framed nor documented, much less distributed to those parties with a designated need to know.

    So here they were, a gang of government employees supposedly on a fun-filled team building excursion, reduced to writing campsite operational documentation.

    Might as well have stayed at the office, Rich silently groused. At least there, he’d had a chair to sit in!

  12. Secret Note Society

    It was long rumored that the girls at the girls’ summer camp wrote love notes to boys, but instead of sending them…they put them in a secret hiding place in the woods.

    Every year, the boys at the boys’ summer camp were told by the camp counselors about the tale. For years, none of the boys ever found the stash.

    This past Christmas, Tommy received the present he had been asking for several years – a metal detector.

    It didn’t take them long to follow each of the paths leading from the girls’ camp into the woods. They carefully searched each area next to a path to see if by chance it might be the hiding spot.
    An hour into the search the metal detector screeched in Tommy’s ear. “I think I found it!”

    When they dug the metal container out of the ground and opened it, hundreds of letters hopped out of the box.

    They each took a pile and started reading the notes.

    “I can’t believe these girls wrote what I’m reading,” Billy said laughing.

    “Tommy, do you know a Monica?” Chip asked.

    “No, I don’t think so.”

    “Well, when we go back to camp this year, you better go discover her…she certainly knows you…or wants to know you better.”

    “Listen to this one, ‘With a little help from the counselors, it didn’t take us too long to locate the boys’ swimming hole. Everything nicely tanned except their butts.’”

    “Are we going to keep these?”

  13. Hundreds arrived to enter the Pine Estates Contest. The grand prize was a six-bedroom mansion located on twenty acres. The six-hundred-dollar raffle tickets were limited to the first fifty people.

    Mark, Anthony, and Brad had traveled three hours to participate in the drawing. As they filled out the paperwork, Brad mused, “It’s beautiful here with all the pine trees.”

    “Life would change for the winner,” Anthony said. “No jealousy if one of us wins.”

    “Some lottery winners are miserable,” Mark pointed out. “Estates have major tax consequences.”

    “The winner would be too far from work,” Brad added.

    “Are we talking ourselves out of this?” Anthony looked at his friends.

    “We’re blowing hard-earned money on this.” Mark replied. “Let’s bail.”

    Anthony’s grip tightened on his entry form. “Agreed. I’ll take our papers up to the desk and toss them. Meet you at the car.”


    Anthony and his wife had been ecstatic since learning they’d won the mansion. They couldn’t wait to vacate their crummy apartment.

    Mark and Brad pounded relentlessly on his door, and Anthony was unable to stop them from pushing their way in.

    “I was gonna tell you.”

    “That’s hard to believe,” Brad said.

    “Thought nobody was gonna be jealous?” Anthony’s voice cracked.

    “We also thought none of us were entering,” Mark replied. “We’re not jealous; we’re feeling something else.”

    “Betrayal,” Brad bluntly added.

    “Let’s work this out,” Anthony offered, pressing against the wall as they closed in.

    “Yeah.” Brad agreed, his fist connecting with Anthony’s jaw.

  14. Walking through the pine trees brings thoughts of a relative of the pines, the sago palm. In our front yard are many palm trees. Among them we have several sago palms. There are many of them from sago Revoluta to the Queen sago to another rare sago whose name I don’t remember. Most people don’t know all parts of the sago are poisonous. In New Guinea they process the trunk to make meal to eat.

    You know it is a sago by the cone on the male. Pine trees have cones. Palm trees have seed unlike a cone. Cycads come in male and female, and the female harbors a ball in the center where seed will grow. The seed take longer to grow than to take a pup off of her side. Each year a new row of pups will grow. Remember both male and female have pups.

    Native to Japan, sagos are in the cycad family and go back to the Jurassic age with all their prickly leaves that are needle like and form a tough debris. They are majestically beautiful. The sago Revoluta is the most hardy with the Queen sago perhaps coming in second.

  15. It was a very unhappy group of hunters who gathered at camp that evening. Hardly surprising, considering they’d spent the whole day tramping through these Texas piney woods and come back empty-handed.

    “Hey, Braden, I thought you said these woods were full of wild hogs.”

    “They are.” Braden Maitland hoped he didn’t sound too defensive. “Just last week, my brothers and I bagged almost a dozen, about twenty miles from here.”

    “Yeah, your brothers.” Rick’s voice took on a nasty twist. “Like saying that fools anybody.”

    Braden tensed. Anti-clone prejudice had been a simmering undercurrent in American politics ever since the eighties. After the Lanakhidzist Revolution blew the Soviet Union’s cloning projects wide open, Americans had been chocked to discover their own government had engaged in similar unethical experiments. But only in the last decade had that sentiment turned to open stigmatization of the clones themselves.

    Best to confront it straight on. “Do you have a problem with that?”

    All around them, voices went quiet at everyone turned to look. Now was the moment that would make or break the bonds of friendship. Which way would each of these men choose?

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