Contradictions can provide the kind of contrasts that push us to consider the connections between opposing ideas. Creativity often flares brightest in divergent pairings. Hard rocks and marshmallows, caskets and baby blankets, love and destruction.
Writers got to play and formulate their own contradictions for their stories, creating surprising results.
The following is based on the May 28, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using two words that contradict.
PART I (10-minute read)
Moon Dust and Boat Wood by Charli Mills
Two young star-gazers giggle, floating on boat wood lashed into a stationary raft. Papa salvaged the lumber from a shipwreck on the beach, tethered it to the edge of the pond. On his one night off, he’d settle with them, tracing stars in the sky. A full lunar light beams overhead, dimming the Milky Way and illuminating the rock house that towers above the miners’ homes and woods. The girls wait for Papa to emerge from the trail to the mines, repeating constellations he taught them. They open their mouths to moon dust floating downward. It tastes like copper.
A Stiff Breeze by T. Marie Bertineau
She woke to bright sun, an impish nip in the air, treetops bursting lush and lime. It was like any modest spring day—except for the wind. Oh, the wind! Flags whipped, chimes clanged. Hanging baskets clutching tender blossom caps leaned into the stiff breeze. The wind had come on hard that morning. Unrelenting, bellowing like a bitter newsboy. It blew in gusts of mayhem, carried a current of grisly headlines: untimely death, social injustice, violence in the streets, manipulative factions mucking up the cause. It blew in everything—everything but what was needed most in that moment: peace.
Opposites Attract? by Sascha Darlington
“Doomed!” Old Lady Hennessy declared.
“Doomed!” agreed the other quilting club ladies.
Russell was the town bad boy. I was the town good girl.
He started a rock band. A rock band in Little Falls? Scandalous. We’re bluegrass true!
I was destined to be the librarian. Finger upon my lips: shush!
But you can’t control who you fall in love with. Maybe it’s pheromones. Maybe it’s his sky eyes. Maybe it’s the song he sang round midnight while meteorites zipped across the sky.
Russel and me? We’re opposites. Do opposites attract?
I’ll let you know. After one more kiss.
Contradictions by FloridaBorne
He loved listening to the solitude; birds singing, the way a breeze felt as it whispered through pine needles.
Thirty years of peace, broken to pieces in seconds by one new neighbor.
A mile down the road, music for the tone deaf, often referred to as Rap, blasted into the night, stopping at 22:00 hours.
He’d asked the family to please respect their neighbors. Their response? “Stupid redneck! Get off my property.”
“As you wish,” former Master Sergeant Murphy had replied.
Under a full moon, he wandered through the woods carrying a sniper’s rifle. Tonight, the misery would end.
Contradictions by Liz McGinty
His body language speaks frustration. He kicks his leg incessantly against the table leg as his fingers twitch a rhythm on a cigarette paper packet.
I am frustrated, with the sound of my voice as I ask the endless questions in a monotone. Invasive, unending details to complete his claim.
His answers become aggressive, and my heartbeat quickens. The booth fills with hostility. He curses me. My shoulders ache with the weight of compliance. I glance at the zero-tolerance poster, he smiles perceptively.
An appreciation passes between us. We begin again.
We shake hands.
Love and Destruction by Joanne Fisher
It began with astronomers noticing a group of objects heading towards our planet, and then a message came: “Humans, we come in peace. We love you. We care for you so much.”
The entire world was amazed. We were not alone, and now they were coming. Their fleet of sleek silvers spaceships approached.
The next day all major cities were incinerated in nuclear explosions. The aliens said: “We come in peace. We love you.”
The remnants of humanity were put into camps and slowly our numbers dwindled away. “We come in peace. We love you,” the aliens told us.
Water and Stone by Saifun Hassam
Torrential rain poured through myriads of tiny cracks of the ancient caverns. The deathly silence of ancient stone tombs fled the living rising waters. Small pebbles by the thousands crashed into writhing and roaring waters. Caves melted into rivers of mud and silt under a sky chaotic with lightning and deafening thunderclaps.
The storm weakened, the raging waters slithered to a calm against rocks and boulders in ravines. Shards of tombs and bones lay buried under mounds of drying mud. In another time, flash floods would roil through dry gorges and ravines. Water would again unearth those ancient stones.
Storm’s Eye by Cara Stefano
Floating, blissful, beneath the waves
All is calm and clear and blue.
Bright fish dart and school around me
The scintillating silence wraps me in a soft cocoon of beauty.
Sea anemones and water grasses wave hello as I glide by
Flippers slowly propel me through these magic gardens.
A shadow passes over head, and then another, many more
I am no longer alone in the eye of the storm.
Thrashing fins and flippers; flashing spear point teeth
Binding, cutting nets of plastic poison engulf my body.
Peace and Violence side by side – always
Contradictions by Rachel McBride
She remembered the taste of strawberry slushy, and still ordered them to this day. Some had dripped on her tank top, but she didn’t move to clean it off-entranced by the fireworks going off over the pier. BOOM, BOOM, BOOM resounded in her chest, beating her pounding heart like a charioteer spurring the horses to run faster. BOOM-like her heart when she wiped the blood off her cheek. BOOM-like the last slam of the storm door. BOOM-like her phone hurtling out the window and bouncing apart on the pavement. She chewed through the straw, feeling fireworks in her blood.
Caskets Verses Baby Blanket by Susan Sleggs
Tessa caught the look on Michael’s face when he opened the package. She commented, “My son thought you would like a U.S. flag flying out front. Was he wrong?”
“I’m sorry. The flag reminds me of the number of draped caskets I’ve escorted and the families who paid the price.” Tears formed. He let her see them. “Now that soft baby blanket you are knitting gives me hope and helps me focus on the future.”
“I’ll explain to Brent and we’ll pass the flag to my parents. Theirs is quite faded.”
“Thank you, for understanding and backing me up.”
Minimized Identity by Reena Saxena
silver moonlight hits hard rocks
drenched in apprehension
blasphemy will follow
can’t shed lingering aromas though…
drenched in apprehension
pain finds its place after joy
can’t shed lingering aromas though…
those moments feel like eternity
pain finds its place after joy
women are born to be non-existent
those moments feel like eternity
they give me an identity
women are born to be non-existent
their existence is minimized
but I have discovered my identity
I intend to stay with it…
their identity is minimized
silver moonlight hits hard rocks
but I intend to stay with it
let the blasphemy follow…
Snowy Summer’s Day by Susan Zutautas
It was June, Meg and Ian had just moved into their first home. Ian was outside exploring when the wind picked up. “Meg come outside; you have to see this.”
Meg was in the kitchen busily unpacking boxes and welcomed the break.
Walking out into the yard Meg saw exactly why Ian had called her out. On the ground laid hundreds of tiny white flowers carpeting the pathway to the side yard. Just as Meg was about to say something hundreds more floated down from above.
“Oh, Ian how beautiful, it looks like we have a few Dogwood trees.”
Spots by D. Avery
Marlie held up a pebble-eyed, twig-lipped marshmallow. “He’s got hard-rock eyes set in a puffy white face.”
“Who? Mr. Marshmallow?”
“Tommy’s father.” Marlie thrust the skewered marshmallow into the flames. “He was at the fence with Tommy. He said Daisy was so ugly she was almost cute. Daisy wouldn’t go to them. Tommy called her stupid. His dad said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”
“And leopards can’t change their spots.”
Marlie’s parents watched with her as the pebble-eyed marshmallow face browned, then blistered black, finally oozed onto the coals, flaring and spluttering before it disappeared.
Lavender and Sewage by Anne Goodwin
Time backflips and there is her mother slipping off her wedding band to finger the soil. The lavender’s perfume mingles with the sweet smell of manure recently deposited outside The Willows by the milkman’s Bay. “Nurture it, Matilda,” says her mother, “and it will delight you when you are old and grey.”
Now it straggles, a tangle of desiccated flowers and near-naked twigs. Neglected. Rage bubbles in her belly as the earth erupts around the shrub. Matty pinches her nose against the pong as shit froths over her shoes. A signal from her mother: time is ripe for revenge.
Bonehead by Simon Prathap D
I was watching the TV last night
I heard the symptoms of a thunderstorm. I checked the sky, it was clear, then I came inside and saw TV The d2h was saying a message ” services has been temporarily blocked due to poor weather.” I called my wife and told her it’s contradictory how I heard thunderstorm but no clouds and TV says poor weather but the sky is clear, what’s happening?
She hit my head and said
1st floor New tenants are moving things, and recharge TV, read the warning message in full.
Bone head! She said 🙄
Upstairs or Downstairs by Norah Colvin
Granny scratched her head. “I don’t know if I’m Arthur or Martha.”
“Whad’ya mean, Granny? I’m Arthur,” Arthur laughed.
“It’s just an old saying. Means I don’t know if I’m coming or going.”
“But you’re not coming or going. You’re staying here. With us.”
“I know,” laughed Granny. “I’m just a bit confused is all.”
“What’re you confused about?”
“I just came all the way down here for something, and I can’t remember what.”
“But this is upstairs, Granny. Not downstairs.”
“Silly me. There’s not much in my upstairs anymore.”
Now it was Arthur’s turn to scratch his head.
PART II (10-minute read)
Contradictions by Anita Dawes
Yesterday I found some words lying around
Pages from a book.
I followed them around the house
They reminded me of scattered rose petals
The pages were not from a book
One spoke of love, while the other
Spoke of betrayal
Echoes of Romeo and Juliet
Yet this is not from Shakespeare
These pages are handwritten
As I gathered each one
I felt the weight of heartbreak.
The words shone like neon
Would there be light when I reached the end,
These pages belong to my mother’s old diary
I hope I can find the last page…
Square Head in a Round Roll by Bill Engleson
Here, in the darkness, in the sleepiness, night sweats cascade.
The blade, glistening in the mid-October sun, slams down.
“Heads will roll! Lemonade; Square that circle; Make the Grade!”
The sentinel roughly shoves me up the steps.
I can’t be here. I must dance.
I am a dancing fool.
“Handyman left! Sashay slow; Slip your shod; Mousey nose!”
“Darling! Wakey wakey!”
What’s wrong with eating cake?
Everyone likes cake.
“Bend the curve! Step on toes; Circle the square; Go cat go!”
“That’s it. Enough’s enough, lover. I’ve had it with your Covid-19 Marie Antoinette nutmares.”
Tories and Compassion by Anne Goodwin
Tradition deemed only white boys could touch the tuck-shop cash-box; the maharaja would be proud Rishi held the key. He dreamt of stuffing it with gold and silver, but plague confined juniors to the dorm. Rishi was willing to deliver but, with fagging outlawed, they lacked the coin to pay.
“Handouts?” said Boris. “Rewarding them to stay in bed?”
“We’ve stock to shift,” said Rishi. “See it as a loan.”
Boris rubbed his hands. “Which they’ll repay with interest?”
“Eventually.” Yet Rishi’s loyalties were split: between the brown boys who were dying and the club he yearned to join.
A Crock Tale by JulesPaige
Lacey only heard bits and pieces of the guys telling tales at the bar. She was in a booth, eating dinner after a long day of working out of town. A guy ended his story with; “…And the sign said bait for catchin’ yer Jumbo Shrimp!”
The men ‘round him guffawed and laughed. The smarty pants guy who told the story grinned like a crocodile that swallowed a whole double Devil’s Food chocolate cake with icing too boot.
That’s where the story took her, seeing the mouse Dr. De Soto tending to the crocodile needing his rotten tooth pulled!
Sleepy Square-Dance by Ritu Bhathal
The upbeat music created a jaunty atmosphere in the air. All around Jack, there were revellers dressed up in what they considered to be true ‘Square Dancing’ attire, i.e. a check shirt, some with fringes, denim, and obligatory cowboy boots.
It was all rather surreal. He was sitting in a church hall in the UK, not America!
Trying to stifle a yawn, he caught eyes with Jill. Oh great, now she’s coming over.
“Come on, sleepy head, I know you’re tired, but a bit of aa dance will wake you up!” She grabbed my arm, dragging me up.
Open Secret by Colleen M. Chesebro
“Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you.”
Marnie shook her head. “You’re missing the point, Susan. Jim’s been cheating on Janet for months. This is an open secret, and the entire town knows what’s going on.”
“What? Mrs. Parker only told me the details today when I ran into her at the market.”
“That’s because you’re new in town. She probably told you not to tell anyone because it makes her feel important.”
Susan looked crestfallen as she waved goodbye to her neighbor.
Marnie grinned. Besides, she knew the truth. She and Jim had been lovers for years.
Cadillacs and Crocodiles by H.R.R. Gorman
The little lady showed up at the pump riding a hot-red Cadillac convertible with ostrich leather seats. She put out the cigarette in her ash tray and told me with pouty, vermilion lips, “Fill ‘er up.” She got out and, with her crocodile-skin purse, went into the store.
While she perused the candy shelf and soda fountain, I pumped in the liquid at 10 cents a gallon lamented my paltry pay. Rich people, getting richer off the backs of us poor. I’d like to kick people like her down a couple pegs.
And she’d left her keys in the ignition.
She’s Off for Good by Donna Matthews
Cruising down the wide-open road, music on max volume, she crossed the unseen, invisible, and arbitrary line known as the grid. Some believe this place as a mythical or naive place to be. But not her. For years, she was a weekend warrior – driving here or there, sometimes even hopping on an airplane. But it was always just a visit—one foot on and one foot off. Invariably, when she returned, she plugged back in, downloading all she missed and her weekend away fading like a dream. But not this time – this time she’s off for good.
A Small Crowd by John Lane
As Mrs. Sylvia Potts parked her 2006 Mercury Mountaineer in the lot near Sam’s Grocery, she noticed several people in front of the store. She walked over to see what was going on. It was people that she recognized from her neighborhood: Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Ms. Clearance, Mrs. Done and Mr. Forester. Mrs. Potts asked, “What’s this?” Mrs. Jones spoke for the whole group. “We’re tired of not being heard! This is against our civil rights!” Mrs. Potts saw the signs: WE WANT MORE THAN ONE PACK OF TOILET PAPER. Mrs. Potts rolled her eyes, then walked inside.
My Aunt Babette by Eliza Mimski
My father’s sister Babette would let out these frenzied bubbles of a laugh that set my nerves on edge. A wicked, menacing laugh that mimicked the hysterical sounds of a pack of hyenas. With each laugh, her stomach would ride up and down in her seemingly blood-colored dresses.
Her speaking voice was different. She became this other person.
“Hi,” I’d say when visiting her, not knowing if I’d get the laugh or the voice.
“Here’s some candy, baby,” she’d say, each mellifluous syllable bouncing on its own little trampoline of air. At these times, her dresses turned pinkish.
Graduation Party by Ruchira Khanna
“Come on, Meg, at this rate, you’ll be a postgraduate, and we’ll miss our graduation party.” urged Felicia, who was prancing outside her room like a horse.
“Jeez! You are so impatient!” she shouted back at her twin sister and came out with a sulk.
Felicia froze like a statue upon seeing her.
“You don’t need to stare at me like that.” Meg exclaimed as she placed the stray locks around her forehead behind her ear, “What can I do? The tutorial to dutch braid your hair was taking forever that I had to entwine them in random order.”
Oil and Sea by Saifun Hassam
A sea breeze sprang up in the late evening. The tide rushed in, surf high, pounding and bulldozing through thick brown undercurrents, crashing on stinking tarry sands. The sea breeze was no match for that deadly vast oil spill. The salty air was saturated with oily drops.
Dawn brought no relief from ugliness. Fish lay dead, silver scales painted a deep dirty yellow ocher. Ducks struggled to shore. Alive, hopeless, crying for help. The oily sheen on feathers glistened deceptively with rainbows in the sunlight.
Broken but determined, we vowed to cleanse the sea, to somehow seek its forgiveness.
Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part I) by D. Avery
It was a dark an’ stormy night. A. Rancher sought shelter in the old mine shaft only ta find Buggs M. Lotts already holed up there. They got along like oil an’ water.
“Kinda cliché ain’t it, Kid?”
“S’posed ta be, Pal. I wanna show how these two don’t git along, ‘cept I’m gonna switch out oil an’ water fer… bacon, yeah! An’… brussel sprouts! No, that’s purty good. Bacon an’… maple ice cream! Wait, that sounds tasty.”
“Kid, ever’thin’ goes good with bacon. Ya’ll have ta git rid a it.”
A. Rancher was glad ta see Asa O’Buddy…
Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part II) by D. Avery
“’Ello, Keed. Dees ees a tough prompt for you, non? Perhaps I can help.”
“Eet ees I, Pal.”
“LeGume, whut makes you think ya know any more’n Kid here ‘bout writin’? It’s a tough prompt all right, but jist stay outta the way. Kid’ll figger it out. Heck, LeGume, you don’t know shit from shine-ola.”
“Au contaire, Pal! Dees I know ver’ well. An’ Keed… we all know Keed knows sheet. Keed can shovel da sheet till da cows come home. Dat ees raw writing, non? But revizeeng! Dat ees polishing.”
“Puttin’ the shine on?”
“Write on, Pal.”
Conflictive Contra-dictions (Part III) by D. Avery
Dark green waves of thundercloud roiled over the mountain. A. Kidd searched for the cave entrance, seeking refuge from the fierce storm. Even as violent flashes of lightning tore at the darkening sky Kidd hesitated. Was someone already in the makeshift shelter? The sound of laughter echoed from within the hard-rock walls, seeped out into the rain swept night; or was it the keening sound of someone crying? Kidd stepped into the dark, kept a small flame burning and looked within. There was no one else.
When morning finally dawned the dew on the grass sparkled like green champagne.