Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Trading Post

DSC_0492 JLHubbell Trading Post flash fiction writing prompt copyright ks brooks
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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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Trading Post”


    The Trading Post
    My boyfriend and I toured an authentic Wild West outpost. My favourite store was the Trading Post with a barrel of drinking water at the entrance which no fool drank from. Inside there were beautiful hand woven rugs, dream catchers, and pottery. Although I admired the buttery feel and workmanship of the leather saddle, I had no use for it. Imagine trying to haul that bulky thing on board the tour coach!

    Standing there lovingly caressing it; my mind was a million miles away. I was flying through the desert on a beautiful stallion. Scenery passed me at great velocity. With glorious dexterity, I jumped over streams like a wild woman. “I am a female, hear me roar,” played in my head. Movement behind a curtain, brought me back to reality with a cruel joint.

    I stepped behind the bead curtain as someone whispered, “A foolish fantasy; you cannot ride a horse and furthermore you are scared of them. How did I get into your head? Easy. I can read the minds of anyone who touches the sacred saddle. The saddle is sacred, mine and most definitely not for sale. Take this miniature replica; it is yours for a soul!”
    I sat in the coach looking at the Trading Post as we pulled away. My hands tenderlyly cupped the tiny perfect saddle, now a talisman on my handbag. It would inspire my flash fiction for Indies Unlimited. My muse and fair trade for my ex boyfriend’s soul!

  2. Civil War Nation

    Sam Capstan sat at the rear of the tavern, squirreled into the last booth, pouring jug after jug of his favourite on tap, occasionally looking up to see if his crew had arrived.

    Here at the Trading Post, his home away from home for the bulk of his adult life, not so fresh sawdust on the floor, Waylon wailing ‘Bob Wills is Still the King’ on the Jukebox, night settling in, leaving a hint of passing daylight through the frosted glass, he wondered about the way the last four years had suddenly been for nothing, suddenly gone up in smoke.

    “Damn we had a good run,” he suddenly yelled into the smoky air.

    Jules, serving old Gifford and his niece two booths down, looked over, smiled at Sam and said, “It’ll be good times again, Sam. We got the right.”

    Sam nodded, thought about the meeting later, thought about how ferocious a warrior Jules was, a youngish woman ready to do whatever needed to be done to right the ship.

    “That we do, Jules. Damn right we got the right.”

    “Gotta slow down,” he thought, maybe even said out loud. “I’m losin’ it,” he definitely said out loud.

    Jules sat down opposite him which immediately got his attention. He looked into her dark green eyes. They held him captive.

    “Gotta cut you off, Sam. Clear aims. Clear head. That’s what you always say.”

    “Yeah,” he answered. “Just a little roller coaster setback. I’m good.”

    “Course you are.”

  3. The merchandise spilled into the office too. Everywhere where there was a flat place, there was an item. Many of them had price tags attached – the one labelled as a Bigfoot’s skull was thirty-five dollars – but many of the others were unidentified, their provenance unknown.

    “Well, what is it you have?” Marty asked, his smile as fake as the fragments of the true cross he sold for a buck a piece. He was constantly circling the room, uneasy and watchful, never letting me stand between him and the open door.

    “I’ve got time,” I said, reaching into my pocket to draw out a vial. “An inexhaustible supply that only I can reach.”

    Marty had hold of the vial before I could release it, pulling it away from my fingers. He held it up to the light and looked inside, seeing the germ of a moment I’d captured today.

    “I’ve gotta try this, you understand,” he said. “There’s no shortage of frauds in the trade.”

    I shrugged and let him remove the stopper. He tipped it into his mouth – just a taste to begin. I watched him blur and then resolve, just a jump of a couple of minutes. He would see everything we’d just done but with the memory of knowing the outcome of every act. And then I waited until he gulped back a fatal dose.

    I’d known he was going to do it, having seen it from when I jumped back from five minutes ahead.

  4. “When my friend John Hubbell passed, I thought it was time for me to leave. It was a hard decision, because we were friends for many years. I was treated like family.”

    Sitting here today, looking at the Trading Post, brings back many memories. Some, I want to keep hidden away, but most were such that I feel my sun baked face cracking. We built buildings together, one became my home. Any visiting Navajo, coming from miles away, would sleep in my home. Those friendship days were happy seasons.

    Recalling a hidden memory, when I left, I left my heart behind. She was one of John’s cherished daughters. He knew how much I adored her, and even mentioned that I was loved as much as one of his sons. I knew I had permission to court her, but I couldn’t disrespect our friendship.

    The day I left…I witnessed the love she had for me as well. I wanted to say something special to her, but the timing wasn’t right. I took the cherished necklace my father had given me, and put it around her neck. I still remember the tears on her cheeks that day.

    When I went in the store earlier, I noticed that necklace hung on the picture of her father and me. My hope is that she had a happy life and a wonderful family of her own.

    “So, my son, this is where your father “Many Horses,” got the idea for our own trading post.”

  5. Barnard’s Trading Post —small and ugly— squatted on the Texas prairie in the spring of 1859. Outside, rain hammered on the tin roof. Inside, Fourth Calvary Major V. Barrett Edwards stared out the window at the quagmire that was the Chisholm Trail. Bad enough that he had been reassigned from Commanding Officer at Fort Davis to a lowly adjutant at Fort Lancaster. Worse, he had to travel with California Charlie, an aging Indian tracker assigned to protect him through Comanche Territory.

    “From the looks of it, Major, we gonna be stranded here for two–t’ree days. Weather ain’t lettin’ up none.” The tracker unleashed a stream of tobacco juice at the spittoon in the corner of the room, missing it by inches.

    Edwards shook his head, his future as bleak as the weather. He should have taken seriously the order from Secretary of War Jefferson Davis that he transport a “secret cargo”–by camel, accompanied by Texas Rangers– to the port of New Orleans. Instead, he resisted Davis’ “camel” strategy. The Rangers delivered it without Edwards and his troops. Now he was held captive by the weather in a cramped, uncomfortable Texas trading post on his way to a demotion, his plans for an administrative position at The Academy permanently “on hold.”

    How was he to know that the “secret cargo” was gold intended eventually for the Confederate Army in Birmingham…where former Secretary of War Jefferson Davis would be sworn in as President of the Confederacy in1861?

  6. Those few of us who survived the Plague have gradually learned how to create a primitive, yet workable, society. No more money, just barter. We offer what we have in exchange for what we need.

    For a few years Keith and I have been able to bring surplus produce from our gardens. But now we require winter supplies and seed, and the drought has decimated our gardens.

    If we don’t find something else to trade, our family will not survive the coming winter. I look at baby Bradon.

    Keith shakes his head. “No. It’s too risky, and painful.”

    “Do you have any other ideas?” I ask. “We have nothing of value but his blood. The antibodies from Survivors’ infants can protect thousands.”

    Keith still frowns. “Are you certain they won’t take our blood?” he asks. “The transfusion would weaken him. We could lose him.”

    “You know adult blood doesn’t work,” I answer. “All three of us will die if we can’t get our winter supplies.”

    When we arrive at the trading post, the medics prepare the syringes and collection tubes. After they place Bradon on the sterile table, he only cries for a few moments.

    I bite my lip and look away. I pray they will take the smallest possible amount that will cover our purchases.

  7. Mama always told me to be an honest woman. Even though I can’t see her gravestone on the path to the trading post at the outskirts of town, I can feel it’s presence there behind the church. I pull my shawl tight around me.
    Looking through the swirling snow, I am still surprised at how little has changed. If I don’t look down at my grown body I can still almost believe it’s that same Christmas Eve so many years ago. We had walked to the trading post together that Christmas Eve, Mama and I, and I remember her holding so tightly to that little pouch of money. She had made me stop in front of the church and say prayers, but this time, I don’t stop.
    The Sheriff is standing on the church steps and I quicken my pace. This time, I hadn’t made my own children come either. To hell with ‘building character’. My babies will be warm.
    Mama didn’t make cookies that year. No sugar. We’d braved the snow together to buy a single candle for Christmas Mass.
    The bell on the trading post door jingles merrily when I finally stride in, barely quieting before I’ve marched straight to the counter and dropped my heavy pouch with a thud.
    “A pound of sugar.” I hear myself say, “please.”. I haven’t lost all my manners, after all. The seller raises his eyebrow, but reaches for the sugar anyway.
    I wonder if Mama would have forgiven me.

  8. No one will ever forget the shootout at Apache River Trading Post. We’d heard the stories from folks out East about the men who’d been wounded in the Late Unpleasantness, unable to resign themselves to their infirmities, who’d rebuilt themselves with steam and steel and eldritch sciences. But none of us really believed until One-Eye Slocum marched his stiltwalker up to the main gate.

    He descended from that giant automech and crossed the dusty ground to the saloon with a jerky clockwork gait.The whole place went silent, save for the crash of a glass fallen from a numb hand.

    “I’m looking for Big Wheel Amos, and I hear he’s about these parts.”

    From a distance came the growl of gears meshing, the rumble of vast iron wheels upon the hard desert floor. This automech arrived wreathed in a cloud of dust, setting eyes to watering all around. Perched between its giant wheels, Amos shouted his defiance.

    Slocum snapped around, his stiltwalker straightening in response to some silent command. Guns like small cannon thundered, and strong men turned pale as the battle tore holes in buildings.

    Which automan’s shot struck first we do not know, only that the resulting explosion ruptured the other’s boiler. Like the cats of the nursery rhyme, instead of two there weren’t any.

  9. Danny heard the whisper, “Get out!”
    He ignored it. He had to find his saddle bag.
    The empty building loomed ahead. He heard laughter, spurs, and horses neighing, but couldn’t see any of it. “What ye doing here son?”
    Danny turned to find nothing but empty dirt streets. The Shaman’s words echoed in his head, “Respect the Spirits, show no fear and do not laugh.”
    “Excuse me sir.” Danny said to the air. “I’m sorry to barge in on ya’ll like this, but I need to get my saddle bag.”
    The wind pushed open the door. Danny slowly walked inside.
    Candles flickered to life.
    Danny’s bag lay on the bar. As he walked towards it he felt the swish of a skirt against his legs. He reached for the bag then felt the sharp prick of a knife.
    “Tell me why I shouldn’t send you to the bottom of the Loch!”
    Danny turned seeing a giant man with red hair, green eyes and, was that a skirt? He almost laughed.
    Biting his tongue, Danny said, “Those are my bags. They were stolen from me last week on the stage coach going through Del Muerto. Please sir, they contain medicine for my wife.”
    “Do you take the gold too?”
    “No sir, only the medicine.”
    “Then be off with your bag son.”
    “Thank you sir.” Danny grabbed the bag and fled. He glanced back seeing everything. It faded until all that he could see was the sign, “Highland Scottish Trading Co.”

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