Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Disrepair

IMG_1156p fence oysterville writing prompt
Image 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.

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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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9 thoughts on “Flash Fiction Writing Prompt: Disrepair”

  1. I Have a Surprise for You

    “There’s something strange going on,” exclaimed Andy to his friend Griff.


    “The cockroaches are up to something.”

    Griff burst out laughing.

    “It’s true, I tell you.” Andy wiped his brow and continued with his strange tale. “I was in the bathroom, fixing a pipe, when I first encountered a cockroach. It saw me and hid behind the toilet, using it’s antennae to sense my presence. It then ran up the side of the bathtub, scampered along its edge, jumped onto the floor, and then hid behind some pipes. It was later joined by other cockroaches. They talk at night and plan things…”

    “Get a grip,” interrupted Griff.

    Andy shook his head. “That’s not even the weird part. There’s a large one and it lives in the spare bedroom.”

    “How big is it?” he chuckled.

    Andy indicated it was the height of his waist.

    “That’s ridiculous,” Griff scoffed. Then, half-mockingly, he said, “Okay, let me see this big bug.”

    “It left the house a couple of hours ago to do some shopping.”

    “Shopping? It’s a cockroach. How could it go shopping?”

    “It took my credit card.”

    “What?” Griff gasped, palming his own forehead. “How on earth could a cockroach go into a store—”

    Before he could finish his sentence, the front door opened, followed by the sound of claws scrapping across the kitchen floor.

    Griff looked at Andy in disbelief.

    Then they heard a deep, hissing voice.

    “Andy, I’m home. And do I have a surprise for you…”

  2. 310 Cedar Street

    “The old Rafferty place?” the cabbie asks.
    “Yup,” I nod. “You know it?”
    “Yeah. Made many a run between the Bull Horn Pub and there over the years.”
    I bet you did, I think. Sam Rafferty hated walking when he’d tied one on.
    “Bull Horn still a going concern?”
    “Barely. Covid took a big bite out of it. You related?”
    “To the Bull Horn?”
    “Nah. The Rafferty’s.”
    “Aunt and Uncle.”
    “Then you know it’s boarded up….that they’re….”
    “Yeah. I know. “
    “Good. We’re almost there…”
    We both fall silent for the last couple of minutes of the journey. For me, it’s been five years. I’d never expected my uncle would leave me his home. Spiteful man. Cut out his two kids. Of course, that breach in the family was no big surprise. Cousins Amy and Jude had left years earlier. My aunt was a hard woman too. She passed just before Covid and then in November 0f 2021, Sam had died. Alone. Not found for days.
    That was a year ago.
    “Don’t think it’s livable,” he says as he pulls up.
    I take my time. I’m not even sure I want to get out. The whole place looks worn down.
    “Squatters made a mess for a time…neighbors keep boarding it up…they break in again,” the Cabbie tells me what I already know.
    I nod.
    “So, you getting out?”
    “Nah. Take me to a motel. Anyone will do.”
    “You sure?”
    “Yeah. Seen what I needed to.”

  3. Disrepair vs Positive Change

    It’s painful to see the fence in this condition. Life seems to take it’s toll on everything that was once beautiful. Long gone is the ‘Oak tree of adventures.’

    It was often a ‘perfect’ fence. One of my chores growing up, was painting the fence, and I hated it. Staring – I realize it is still symbolic of our family.

    We were fence posts spread out evenly over the years. The twins were the only births that weren’t two years apart. I was the youngest. Billy was the oldest of the boys, and we all looked up to our two older sisters. They knew how to keep the peace.

    The fence was a dividing line between the cowboys and Indians. Snowball fights were always fun, but fighting stopped when someone got hurt, usually trying to jump the fence. Maybe it joined in too.

    The neighborhood was almost perfect, everyone was family, and everyone knew everyone else. Now, the calm days are often broken by the sound of gunfire.

    They’re all gone now. The twins were killed in Vietnam, my sisters were killed by a drunk driver. Dad and mom passed from COVID, and Billy’s funeral is tomorrow.

    I wonder if maintenance would help the fence, and even me?

    I would give anything to be told it was time to paint this fence again. I need the fence in my life again!

    I hadn’t intended to buy this property, but a positive change needs to start somewhere.

  4. That old song kept running through my head as I approached, “It’s good to see the green, green grass of home”. Not true, though. It looked like no one had set foot on it in decades.

    I had signed the place away to developers. The contract included a strange clause. I would burn the place to the ground before they took over. That’s what brought me here today. This would be my final purge; the memories, the relics, the bodies. Yes, you read right – bodies. I wanted it all obliterated forever, cleansed.

    “What?” you ask. No, no murders, though some would disagree. Murder by proxy? Maybe. My sister and parents are buried there, along with the rabid dog chosen to kill them, a different one for each. I was supposed to be next but the dog got loose and attacked my father so I managed to hide. Before I ran away, though, I shot the beast with the 22 the old man kept for that purpose. The grave was already dug so I dragged the bodies over and dumped them in.

    How did I become the owner with no evidence of death? All I had to do was tell a tale of why my family was dead and how I’d been living by my wits for a decade. Then wait seven years for them to be declared dead. I was just a kid so they believed me.

    FIRE the eternal purifier.

    I am free now.


    Beyond Broken

    The disintegrating slat perishes below the feeble pressure produced by the bristles. Eden paint lacerates my crumbling thigh before dirt splatters my shins. ‘Just take the paint! It’ll make you better.’

    A bounding heart ricochets against the vice enveloping my lungs, each gasp fuels its grip. ‘Just get on with it, you’ll be fine!’

    Trembling hands strangle the brush, drowning it in the thick liquid. Trace amounts of colour trail after the brush. The fine bristles unearth splinters, gathering on the brush. One pierces the knuckle I slam against the decaying wood. A snowfall of glass dances in my hazel gaze. Every snowflake is welcomed with a crimson offering.

    Searing streams blister my eyes, blurring my view of the flaking oak. I drag the brush in an opposing direction, but it only tears away further evidence of its former unreachable glory, striking my abdomen with the jagged shards. ‘You’re still in there, you just need a little help.’

    Ribs crunch, surrendering between the waring seatbelt and invading balloon. The dislodged fragment frees a scarlet river from my liver, smothering my diaphragm. Doom battles pain receptors until an overwhelming numbness conquers all.

    Fragments of the past float semi-submerged, polluting the eden paint. I cup the plank’s posterior, delicately reintroducing the brush. The strands snare a wedge, dividing the timber around the oxidised metal. The board crashes against the ground, shattering.

    The remnants dance around my pulsing wrists and waist.

    No one wants a paramedic that can’t drive.

  6. Groaning softly, the old man gingerly sat down on an upturned bucket, putting his painting stuff on the ground. He extracted a rumpled bandana, and wiping the sweat from his face and neck, gazed at the withered and weathered section of fence… the last that needed to be done.

    It had taken him all summer to paint the rest of the fence. He didn’t have the stamina or the strength to do more than a few pickets every day… and the fence was long. This last bit though… he’d have to think about this last bit.

    It was behind the garage… his “hidden place” when he was a boy, so he’d have to consider for a time. A lot of memories lived here.

    There… where the fence bowed out from his leaning against them for hours while reading his comic book collection with Mutt, his goofy yet dedicated pup and best friend. And there… the picket he split when he got in big trouble for playing with his dad’s hatchet… and that loose slat where Mutt made his escape when he wanted to get out and make some little Mutts.

    For a long time, the old man sat and looked and remembered. Slowly, carefully he stood, and retrieving his can and paintbrush, headed back to the house… a faint smile on his lips.

    “Next summer”, he muttered, “Maybe I’ll get to it next summer”.

    His smile widened slightly.


  7. “Are you sure anyone lives here?”

    I looked at the peeling paint on the picket fence in front of the old McClellan place, then back at my clipboard. “According to the list, there’s a family living here. There’s just initials for a name, but we’re to deliver a Christmas basket to them.”

    Bob wrinkled his nose. “I say we drop it by the mailbox and be done with it.”

    “We’re supposed to knock on the door and—“

    “Do you really want to walk across that porch? You might fall right through.”

    “I’ll step carefully.” Before my resolution could falter, I picked up the basket and headed to the door.

    Although no one answered my knock, I heard sounds, like someone reacted to my presence but wouldn’t greet me. All the rest of our route, I kept thinking about it. Finally I decided to call the sheriff’s department non-emergency number and ask for a welfare check.

    Two days later a deputy came by to thank me for going with my hunch. They’d found the residents living in incredible squalor amidst a hoarding situation. Worse, these people hadn’t left the house for three days because a collapsed pile of boxes had blocked the only available exit. It had taken special equipment to knock open a hole big enough to effect a rescue – and if we had just dropped the basket at the mailbox and gone on, they might have remained trapped indefinitely, even perished.

  8. Disrepair

    As a group we were torn about leaving Kay, a gracious host and superb cook. Her Bakery was home; she could not leave to search for survivors. These thoughts swerved through my mind as I stared at the grey fence. Missing pickets made it gap-toothed. The dietitian hobbyist was to mend the fence but cunningly persuaded the twins to replace him. I chuckled to myself hearing his golden tongue. Like a modern version of Mark Twain’s Tom, he convinced his peers that working on a fence was so pleasurable that it could only be attained by a gift.

    Parts of the fence were splintered and broken. Did I feel broken today? No. I had a belly full of healthy delicious food, and was surrounded by trustworthy friends sleeping in comfortable beds. Today, with a soft breeze blowing off the river and autumn colours resplendent on trees against a backdrop of blue sky, it was impossible to be gloomy. Yet, I thought of all the people the apocalypse had killed. Those like Kay who had been damaged in the aftermath. Alone for so long, her mind had skittered on the edge of reality. She believed the twins were her Grandsons, and her dead husband was still at a store.
    Society had swept soldiers suffering from PTSD, alcoholics and mentally disturbed to the curb. Would the post apocalypse fix societal views of the broken or worsen them. Who would remain in disrepair?

  9. When the new neighbors moved in next door, I’d hoped they might fix the place up. But the dilapidated house remained unpainted and boards still covered several windows. The splintery fence looked like a gap-toothed monster.

    So I was pleasantly surprised, during my afternoon walk, to notice a small boy playing with his puppy in the weed infested yard. Nearly every day I watched them frolicking and chasing each other.

    As summer faded to fall, a chill pervaded the air. I became concerned to see the little fellow still wearing a t-shirt with no jacket. I was about ready to call social services, but decided to approach his parents first. Perhaps, I could offer them some help.

    That evening I stepped over the rotted porch boards and knocked on their door. The thin young woman who answered looked pale and sickly. I introduced myself and told her I’d seen her little boy playing with his dog.

    She startled me with a shout. “How dare you? Get out of here.” Then she spun around and retreated back into her house.

    As I stood there, stunned, for a moment, her husband came to the door. He apologized and said, “She’s not herself right now.” He added, “Last year our son chased his dog into the street. They were both hit by a car and killed.” Then he closed the door quietly.

    I haven’t seen the boy since. But sometimes, when I’m lying in bed, I hear high-pitched puppy yips and childish laughter.

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