Prompts: October ’11

the word prompts inside bracketsEveryone can get involved with Hippocampus Magazine with {prompts}! Each month, we’ll post a new creative nonfiction prompt, inspired by a real-life event. Fact is stranger than fiction–if we experience something unbelievable, others must have a similar story.

October 2011

“you’ll never believe why I was late…”

 The Ghost of Christmas Passed?

I was late for Christmas service but couldn’t help taking one more look in the mirror. “Thanks Grandpa,” I said flippantly towards the ceiling as I eyed myself up in the suit that was once his and made sure every hair on my head and face were in perfect order.

Grandpa worked hard all of his life; he saved his money and wasn’t extravagant, but he never scrimped when it came to having a set of dress clothes. Thirty years later, his tailored, grey suit was back in style. I straightened the narrow lapels and twisted sideways to peak (the third time) at the tapered pants. A thin, black tie completed the ensemble. More than pleased with the way I looked, I headed for church.

When I finally passed through the double doors to the candle-lit sanctuary, the congregation was singing the last chorus of Silent Night, the opening song. Two hundred eyes turned at the sound of the closing door that had slipped from my hand. Instead of slinking to the only seat left (in the front row), I strode down the center aisle. Halfway there, I tipped my erect posture to my left, then my right in a Merry Christmas gesture to one or two as the song finished.

By the time I reached my pew, the pastor was already at the podium; I nodded thanks to him for pausing a moment until I was seated. I was hoping that I looked as good from the back as I did the front when the pastor said, “That concludes our Christmas service.…”

I slunk into my seat. The service had been scheduled an hour early for the holiday. That night, I said a more heartfelt thank you, to grandpa for the suit, to God for the lesson in humility.

–Michael Suppa, Elwood City, Pa.

 * * *

Holy Cow-mute!

Last year I commuted twenty minutes to work and was often late, usually because I forgot my cell phone or lunch, which accounted for three days of lateness per week, on a good week.

One particularly foggy day, I left early, knowing I might need to allot a few extra minutes to make it to work on time, as I’m sure I had already been late at least one other day that week. A couple minutes into my journey, I passed an accident on the right-hand side of the freeway. A mile or two later, an accident in the median. And suddenly, I saw a big brown cow trot into the middle of my lane. I stepped on the brakes and pulled over. A truck filled with cows had collided with another vehicle, spilling frantic and injured cattle all over I-90. Late again. But this time the excuse was good, and could be corroborated by several news crews.

— Brett Elizabeth Jenkins, Albert Lea, MN

* * *

Unfashionably late

She was a wealthy socialite, proud of her jewels and couture and an obviously expensive haircut. Near my age, with twice the attitude, many times the self-confidence, she had come to see the sights while her otherwise-married lover attended meetings on commerce. Now she was bored.

I was a worn out sailor, fresh from thirty days at sea and just getting used to my land-legs once again. Tattered clothes and sun-bleached hair (a salt water shampoo, conditioner-less mess) completed my look. I had no shoes, only twice-repaired flip-flops and little money for replacements. A decent hotel (Hot shower! Fresh food!) would have thrilled me.

We found each other in Panama near the Canal Zone in a bar over the harbor. She bought me drinks (Ice cubes!) as I shared the highlights of my past six months traveling down the west coast of the Americas. She thought she’d like Costa Rica and asked if I would go back with her. She promised meals and a hotel. I translated for her to buy the tickets. Only hours in San Jose she was bored once again—the men not attentive enough, the restaurants/hotel not classy enough. Worse, I was not a fashionably dressed companion enough to inspire the attention she knew would filter directly to her.

The next morning she left, back to Panama, with both our plane tickets. I walked to the station and counted out coins to buy a bus ticket back to Panama. The couple watching the sailboat were anxious for my return. They were kind, patient people, although disbelieving that it could really take two weeks to travel by bus from Costa Rica. Lucky for me, they waited and watched and finally, believed my reasons for being so late to return to my home, a 28’ sloop called Sundancer.

— Fran Young, Springfield, Mo.


View next month’s prompt. Write away.


  5 comments for “Prompts: October ’11

  1. Unfasionably Late is a wonderful mysterious short story. The detail is well articulated and well portrayed. Excellent Job, Fran 🙂

  2. Good detail and description in Unfashionably Late.  This writer is good at “tongue in cheek” all the while making the reader feel she is standing right there with her.  I found the ending to be appropriate though I don’t think at the time, that the writer expected to return to the sloop.

  3.  Superb detail and descriptive writing in Unfashionably late. I also enjoyed the choice of words, and the tongue in cheek, gently self-deprecating humour.

  4. They’re all great but I’ll have to say my favorite one is Unfashionably Late. I especially like the resolution of the story, how the events turned out to be an unexpected but, in a comic way, really good ending. The title fits perfectly as well 🙂 Props to it.

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