A Clown Conspiracy

2015-03 PicAuthor’s Note: Every once in a while I like to publish a writing prompt on Twitter (@sueremi).  I like the challenge of coming up with a short statement that fits the size of a Tweet, yet, still offers something that inspires a story.  For this month’s blog, I used one of those prompts to experiment with flash fiction.  The prompt I chose is the first sentence of the story that follows.  If after reading that sentence you decide to write your own story, I’d love to know what you wrote.  Also, please share your insight – did I succeed in producing a story that meets the standards of flash fiction?  Why or why not?  In the words of Bill Gates, “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.”  I welcome all your comments!

Edgar stood sweating and certain that only a clown could like the outfit his mother picked out for him.  Today being class picture day, his embarrassment would soon be eternal.  Once the picture goes up on the wall, the sting of the teases and taunts from his two older brothers would haunt Edgar every time he looked at the photo.  His stomach flipped a little just thinking about it.

The line snaked down the hallway to the multi-purpose room where the photographer set up shop.  Kindergartners stood at the front of the line, followed by first graders, second graders and then Edgar and his fellow third graders.  The older kids hadn’t been called to the hallway yet.  The principal instructed everyone to keep quiet while waiting.  That, of course, had everyone itching to talk to each other.

At first, Edgar tried not to look at anyone, as if by not seeing he could not be seen.  Soon boredom overcame him and he started looking around.  Both girls and boys combed their hair and put the tools away only to pull them out moments later to go through the process again.  A few of the older girls had lip-gloss that they carefully applied while checking themselves in little pocket mirrors.  Boys were smoothing out their shirts or picking at things that had fallen on the fabric during breakfast.

A heavy sigh brought his attention to the person standing behind him.  Amy Myers looked down at her solid pink dress.  She scrunched her mouth and nose in a way that left no doubt she didn’t like the outfit.  Looking up she whispered, “Isn’t it just awful, Edgar?”

Edgar shrugged, “It looks okay to me.”  The line moved down a few feet.  Amy and Edgar followed automatically.

“I wanted to wear my sweater with the butterflies and ladybugs, but Mom said it was too busy for a class picture and put me in this plain old thing.  What does ‘too busy’ mean anyway?  She wouldn’t even let me wear my striped tights or put a butterfly clip in my hair.”  Amy crossed her arms and let out a harrumph.

“At least you’re not wearing a bowtie,” Edgar flicked the edge of the bow with his finger, “with polka dots to boot!”

Amy started to giggle.  “Oh, great,” thought Edgar.  “The girl who likes wearing striped tights and butterflies on her clothes is laughing at me, too.”

“Is it a clip on?” Amy asked.

“So what if it is?” he snapped back.  Shhhh… came from the principal down the hall.

After a few minutes of awkward silence, Amy said, “I’m sorry I laughed.”

“My brothers were laughing at me all morning, why not you, too?”  Edgar shrugged again.

Though they were already whispering, Amy cocked her head down and toward Edgar and spoke in a softer, conspiratorial tone.  “Have you thought about taking it off?”  Her eyebrows rose as she finished.

Edgar thought about it now, so deeply that the skin on his forehead crimped in deep folds.  “It sounds easy.  Who’s to stop me?  It will be a few months before Mom sees the pictures.  Maybe she won’t even remember how she dressed me.”  Then he got another idea.  Down his head went and he whispered to Amy, “Do you think it would look good on your dress?”

Amy squealed with delight, mouth closed and into her hand to muffle the noise.  “Yes, I think it will.”  Edgar undid the clip and slipped the tie to Amy who quickly snapped it into place right in the middle of her boat neck collar.  “How does it look?”

Edgar sighed with relief to have the tie off.  “A lot better on you than it did on me.”  Amy beamed a smile so wide he almost felt embarrassed – almost.  He smiled back.  “Don’t forget to give it back to me when we get back to class.”  Amy nodded as they moved to the door to be next in line for pictures.

When the photographs came a few months later, Edgar’s mother scolded him royally for taking off the bowtie.  Though angry, she still put the picture up on the wall.  Instead of feeling the sting of taunts or even his mother’s wrath, Edgar remembered Amy back in the hallway and smiled every time he looked at the photo.


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  1. What a fun read. Flash Fiction has become so broad a term, a catchall for any short writing work. Definition or not, you did a fabulous job with that opening line. I did not expect that twist at all.

    • Kook-Wha Koh on March 25, 2015 at 10:52 pm
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    Interesting short story. I enjoyed to read it.

    • Noreen on March 24, 2015 at 6:26 pm
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    Just a note of encouragement to say how much I enjoyed your story. I was drawn into the narrative immediately and smiled at the end.

    • Yibbity on March 24, 2015 at 8:07 am
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    Cute story…brought me back to having my school photos taken. I can laugh at them now.

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