I had fun with today’s #FFC52 flash fiction prompt for Thain in Vain. I pounded out words until realized I was at 550. ::sad panda:: My wife stands ready to go for our evening bike ride, but she knows I had to cut this down to 500 words. Hey Eilidh, how about getting these up a little earlier? I’d be happy if you switched and posted the prompt in the morning and the last weeks submissions in the evening…

* * *

“I’m surprised you’re not higher up in the organization for a woman your age.”

“I do all right for myself.” I retorted.

“Do the awards hanging on your walls truly reflect your skills?”

Piercing eyes sized me up and I felt self conscious.

“No ring? A career girl, then.”

I crossed my arms and hid my left hand.

“You’ve been single a long time.”

I scowled, “You don’t know anything about me.”

“I know you don’t like me because I command respect. I do more than simply report the story. I make the story. I am the story.”

I sat there on my side of the glass, mute.

“If you write enough, people might take you seriously. Then what? The Pulitzer?”

I leaned back and smiled. “I suppose you have all the answers then?”

“You’re not important. At least not without me.”

I scoffed. “You’d be content if just one person would want you, but that’s not possible on that side of the glass.”

“I suspect you’re the same. All those men at work? They’re not interested, are they? Like you’re invisible. Does anyone see you?”

I chuckled. “No matter what you do. No matter how much you want it, at the end of the day it’ll be just you. Alone.”

“Maybe. But I’ll tell you a secret: I see you.”

My heart raced.

“I always get what I want.”

I could feel my cheeks flush.

“Another secret: I’ll be leaving here soon.”

My hands shook as I got up and walked to the door of the visitor’s area.

“You okay, Miss?” The guard asked as I turned in my visitor’s pass.

“Thanks, but I’m fine.” I lied.

She stared at me for the briefest of moments before pressing a button allowing my egress from the prison.

* * *

I awoke to the sound of breaking glass. I opened the drawer to my nightstand as silently as I could. I retrieved the Beretta 9mm and ratcheted the slide.

If some asshole thinks they can rob me, they’re in for a surprise. I thought as I padded out my bedroom door and positioned myself at the top of the stairs.


I crept down the stairs, my weapon pointing where I went. I heard noises from the kitchen and allowed my Beretta to lead me.

I pushed the kitchen door open with my gun and saw a figure foraging, silhouetted by the harsh light of my refrigerator.

“Freeze, motherfucker!” I shouted.

The figure stood up straight and without turning said, “I figured a journalist such as yourself might have a better stocked fridge. I haven’t had decent food in three years.”

The voice… falsetto?

My heart fluttered. “Turn around.” I commanded.

The perpetrator walked to me with a swagger and arrogance I had seen earlier that day.

“I told you I always get what I want.”

She brushed errant hair covering my eyes and kissed me passionately on the lips.

I felt her hot breath on my ear. “Let’s write that story now.”

About Mark Gardner

Mark Gardner lives in northern Arizona with his wife, three children and a pair of spoiled dogs. Mark holds a degrees in Computer Systems and Applications and Applied Human Behavior. View all posts by Mark Gardner

14 responses to “Byline

  • Thain in Vain

    What a delicious story! Arrogant, intelligent inmate meets lonely, independent journalist! I can see this as a movie! She fighting the right thing to do; he teaching her about who she really is. Nice work, Mark!

    Also, re: you suggestion about switching the prompt and submissions. Just wondering why this would work better for you?


    • Mark Gardner

      HA! Tricked you! The inmate is a she, not a he. Tricksy little hobbit…

      When the prompt is in the evening (my time) it conflicts with dinner, evening bike rides, getting the kids into bed. If the prompt were in the morning, it would also accommodate those time zones east of us as well.

      • Thain in Vain

        That is tricksy! I totally didn’t get that! It’s even better now! Makes sense, but you have a week to write your story after the prompt is posted. Does that make sense?

      • Mark Gardner

        Yeah, but I always write my story within hours of the prompt. Maybe if you were to have the prompt out a few hours before you normally do? It usually posts between 5pm and 7pm Arizona time. Two hours earlier would work better for me. You don’t have to change your schedule, but I’d like it :)

      • Thain in Vain

        I hear ya! We are in the same time zone and earlier in the day I’m pumping out corporate writing! Maybe I can get my shite together in the morning to post the submissions and delay send the prompt for 3 pm. So, why don’t you help me accomplish this by sending me next week’s prompt by Tuesday! Game?

    • Bree Salyer

      Um, er, as someone coming from the eastern time zone, I would definitely second the idea of having next weeks prompt up before the submissions. I constantly check on Wednesdays but usually end up having to wait til Thursday. I usually go off pingbacks for the previous weeks prompts, anyway, so by the time you post all the submissions I’ve read half of them. :)

      Also, as far as prompts go, I was thinking maybe we could step it up a notch one time and do a prompt where we all use a specific scenario where our characters might intertwine. (ie: we’re all in the same apartment complex/building. It’s mid-morning. A man is down in the parking lot, trudging along, covered in blood. The security guard tries to find out what the man is doing, gets bitten. It’s Day one of the zombie apocalypse. Write from the POV of your characters apartment). …. or maybe there’s an escaped convict loose at a camp site…. or whatever. Just something where we’re all in the same place at the same time.

      • Thain in Vain

        Thanks for the feedback, Bree! I will continue to post the submissions Wednesday mornings as that’s how we have been doing it for the past six months, and I don’t like to change horses in the middle of the stream if you get my meaning! As well, the submission post is really just a one-stop shop for all the submissions and I know folks not participating in the challenge appreciate having them all in one place.

        So, in terms of prompts — you’re next! How about you supply the prompt for week 29 (July 16th). If you take the challenge, send it to me by July 15th at! Hope you’re game! TiV

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  • heatherbcosta

    I am woefully behind with catching up with blogs so please forgive me for the late showing, Mark. I twigged early in that the inmate was a woman and I found it a unique take in the prompt. There’s a lot of intrigue about this story that begs for a sequel or prequel :)

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