When politics feel like a poke in the eye, we know it’s a prickly season. People, situations and nature can all inspire prickliness, too.
This week writers take a jab at prickly stories. They are gathered here to remind us about life’s pokes and pricks. Yet, as typical, the stories extend beyond what you might expect.
The following are based on the September 28, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a prickly story.
Porcupine Politics by Kerry E.B. Black
Wakanda threaded the needle through the porcupine quill, capping it with amber beads. Another row completed the choker. She donned it, pushing back her black braid to view the finished product.
Her colleagues suggested she downplay her native roots, dress conservatively. Usually she did.
Porcupine kept stories for her people. They taught self-protection.
She slid a stack of carefully prepared legal papers into a satchel, feeling adrenaline, ready to fight the most important case of her career.
Porcupine taught self-defense. Wakanda channeled its lessons, raising her own quills – a law degree – to prevent the hostile takeover of ancestral land.
Roger’s A-1 Automotive by Anthony Amore
Mercifully my car was not on Roger’s lift. He swore loudly tossing an angry wrench at his pristine metal toolbox. He paused, reconsidering this action then lifted and returned the 1 1/8 to its rightful place.
“Damn it all to hell,” he raged, “Look at this!” He waved a finger covered with oily murk in my direction. I looked, nodded knowing mine was likely worse.
Roger insisted,”Forget to change the damn oil regularly then you don’t deserve the damn vehicle in the first damn place.”
Chet, beneath my car, ribbed him, “Then you’d have nothing to fix.”
Roger bristled at that.
The Thin-Skinnedness of Youth by Geoff Le Pard
‘Grandpa could be prickly.’ Mary looked at her daughter. ‘Not when you knew him, mind. As a young man.’
‘He wanted to fit in. Your grandma said he hated the fact he missed the war.’
Penny frowned. ‘Why? He might have died.’
‘Yes, but others his age fought. He felt he’d not done his bit.’
‘No more than you wanting to be friends with Jane even though she’s mean to you.’
‘I don’t. And don’t say it.’
Mary smiled. ‘Say what?’
‘That I’ll understand when I grow up.’
‘Yes, about the time you have a daughter.’
Secret Birthday Wishes by Ruchira Khanna
“Cheater!” she accused him.
“Prove it!” he demanded.
“You peeped into my paper,” she said with confidence.
“I did not,” he expressed in an agitated voice, “I just eyed your partner.”
“Over what?” she questioned.
“Why do you care?” he said with authority.
“Well, your eyes went past me. So, I am now entitled to all the conversation” she claimed.
“Gosh! You are such a sensitive lassie.” he shrugged his shoulders and irked as he opened a birthday card that had wishes all over, and it was addressed to her.
She had glee and guilt all over her face.
Rebel Rebels by Jules Paige
Nora wasn’t feeling any enlightenment from politics. It took
too much of her parents time. Truth? Was there any to be
believed? Each side spouting more negativity than anything
that could be considered valuable or helpful? So when her
Mother asked her if she could please drive someone to vote.
Nora just said; “No”.
Mother thought it wouldn’t be right to confront Nora’s senior year
English Teacher why he gave Nora an A for four semesters,
but a B for the final year grade. Mother explained the two adults
were in opposite political parties. So much for family first.
The Scrape of a Beard by Paula MoyerPrickly at first, then smooth. That’s how Charlie’s new stubble felt to Jean as it turned to beard.
Just like Charlie himself. When they first started dating, his control felt prickly.
“What were you doing? Were you really?” Ouch. Like his hard, too-big class ring on her finger.
Then the demands. Don’t major in English, major in theatre. Don’t go to that college, go to mine. By the time she had picked his major and his college, the stubs didn’t prickle anymore.
But they scraped. Her face and neck were raw from the scratch marks. So was her heart.
Sensitive Skin by Anne Goodwin
Someone touched her once. The heat of it convulsed her and scorched her skin. For weeks it festered and, when even the lightest garment proved an irritant, she stayed indoors. When she healed, she threaded her favourite jacket with thorns and never left her room without it.
Snug in her prickly jacket, she grew in confidence, forgetting what had seared her skin. She met a man, and dreamt each night of his caress. She let him court her but, when the moment came for her to shed her jacket, she couldn’t. It had melded with her skin.
A Thorny Dilemma (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Nancy Jane muttered while she tended her unconscious father.“He’s gonna get his. He’s gonna pay.”
Sarah handed her friend a fresh basin for dabbing the wounds. The prickly thorns of a locust tree welted the man’s entire body. She turned at the sound of boots on the plank floor of the cabin.
“May I enter?” asked a male voice from behind the calico curtain that hung for privacy of the bedchamber. It was Hickok.
Nancy Jane’s eyes glittered. Sarah knew what she was thinking. If anyone could confront Cobb, it was the young man who wore his pistols backwards.
Flash Fiction by Lisa Ciarfella
Lurking in the dark, dusty 7th-floor corridor, the grad student stared down rows of empty, after hours office doors. Sensing the incoming bomb drop, he’d tried to prepare, but couldn’t.
Nearly 10 pm and he knew his pompous thesis advisor, over an hour late, wasn’t coming. Shuffling his final thesis signature pages, he sighed; no signature, no candidacy! No candidacy, no diploma!
Fingering the bottom of his backpack, he found the scissors, sharp and slick, nearly nicking off his pinky. His advisor liked the campus bar, frequented after classes.
10:45; just enough time, before they called last call…
Prickly Situation (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Ah, yes, the problem of an address.
She does have a physical address, albeit without the legal right to live there. What would happen if she used that on her resume, her official identification, her registration to vote? It should be verifiable as deliverable by the post office.
The problem is, will anyone actually check? What if someone actually mails something to her there? All she needs is a busybody mail carrier to get her ousted and living truly on the streets.
Gotta take a chance.
She hesitates, then types in 3233 Somerset Avenue. Let them call her bluff.
Out-of-My-League by Roger Shipp
Out-of-my-league? So was every other girl here.
No way could I afford Befonte’s Ball, our last senior extravaganza. No surprise. Hadn’t gone to any of them.
But if I didn’t do something to take a chance now, in fifteen days… our paths might never cross again.
Thank God for work-study … the landscape maintenance crew.
After trimming the roses, a little shorter than necessary… a dozen white long-stemmed.
Now to find some tissue paper and a ribbon.
Pop made me take a chance… enroll here. He’s gone now. But I think he would approve … taking one more chance.
The Interloper by Ellen Best
Sissy knew there’d been an interloper, things moved, food consumed under cover of darkness; she’d have them tonight, catch them red handed. Settling down in her chair among the shadow’s she was twitchy jumping at every creak.
Three thirty she heard it, a patter of feet, as they came close she leapt! Knocking a glass to the floor ‘CRASH’ Incensed she scratched and fought. Just then Mark switched on a light. “Sissy, did you bring in a hedgehog”? He promptly chased them out into the cold night, scratched his head picked up the broken glass and returned to bed.
Prickly Beauty by Ann Edall-Robson
“There’s something yellow up there?”
“Pay attention to the trail and quit being a looky-loo.”
“What would grow on that rocky bank, and in this heat?”
“Maybe it’s a yellow snake!”
“You’re weird. Let’s go up there. We can do it.”
“Oh, for heaven sakes! We’re here to hike the trails not create new ones.”
“Be a sport. Come with me. It’s not far.”
“Come back! There could be rattlers! Damn. She never listens.”
“ Wow! Look at all the buds and flowers.”
“You had me climb all the way up here for a cactus? Oh my! They’re gorgeous!”
Desert Treat (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Jane tucks her unsold papers away and skinnies through the tourists along Pike Place. The library awaits, and the research paper that will lead to a diploma that will, hopefully, lead to her own home again.
Something flashes in her vision, apart from the noise and smells and colors of the shops and vendor stalls. She slows, eyes moving more deliberately. There, nestled in a display of jams and honeys: Prickly pear jelly.
Taste of home.
She gladly forks over a hard-earned seven dollars. How often does she get a treat? Spread thinly enough, she can make this last.
Waiting by Bil Engelson
Morning drifted by. Shadows chased the shade; skin prickled in the heat.
“Gettin’ hotter,” Aggie said, wiping her brow.
“Drink deep.” Dobbs passed her the ceramic jug.
As noon arrived, Dobbs declared, “Time to take up positions.”
Hank and Aggie skedaddled to opposite rooftops.
Dobbs intended to tackle the outriders head-on in the street.
As he settled in, The Banker slithered up. “I’m not backing you, Dobbs. You fool’s will be outgunned.”
“You got more mouths than a church choir, Banker. None of them are worth listening to.
“I own this town, Dobbs.”
“Then go count your money, Banker.”
Liars in Court (From Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
“I can’t believe it. She lied,” said Danni.
“Children are capable.” Michael reached for the door.
“Liar!” a woman shouted from behind.
Danni and Michael turned around.
“You’re not a real cop. Go back to the reservation where you belong.” Kyndra Hinkley looked ready to batter them both with her oversized leather purse.
“Where I serve is incidental. Save your words for court,” Michael said.
Kyndra turned on Danni. “Oh, we are through in court. The judge believes my daughter. He’s going to order you to pay full damages and I hope his verdict kills your big ugly dog.”
Stronger Together by Norah Colvin
She bristled, warning platypus to stop. He didn’t.
“Feeling a little prickly, are we?”
Kookaburra, oblivious, laughed at the “joke”.
She smarted. Couldn’t he see the hurt in his words? Like a spur in her side, that last barb, really stung. Mocking difference pushed them apart.
The bush quietened. Not a breath of wind. Not a leaf’s rustle. Not a bird’s chirrup. Were all waiting for the victor to be decided?
Suddenly, out of the undergrowth, rushed a devil, hungry for blood.
Platypus turned to echidna. She contemplated leaving him. But stayed. Spur and spines together: a powerful defence.