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Ripped From the Headlines

RippedNo matter how remote, you can’t escape the news. In fact, the more remote a person was, back in frontier times in the US, the more a person craved news — word from home, thoughts on grain prices, titillating stories.

The thrill of the news has grown with global connectivity, social media newsfeeds and devices to read anywhere at anytime. CNN — or constant negative news — is 24 hours. We have no dearth of headlines.

Which means that writers have a constant source of ideas. The following stories are based on the July 29, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is ripped from the headlines.


An Empty Chair by Geoff Le Pard

‘Don’t sit there.’ Rupert, her half-brother’s smile didn’t reach his eyes. ‘It’s for… It’s her’s.’

Mary knew he meant Sharon, their long missing sister, without him saying. ‘Why Rupert? Are you doing this for me? Because you don’t…’

‘No.’ He spoke sharply. ‘For you, me, her, dad…’


‘He’s a victim, too.’

‘He’s the reason…’

‘No, Mary. We don’t know, do we? Not all the whys and whatevers.’

‘He abandoned her. I know it. I…’

‘You don’t know. You can’t. And until we find her, her story, our story, that chair will remind us not to judge.’


Based on a a headline behind the blog post, The Empty Chair: I Believe You at Suzie Speaks.


A Fan Every 190 Days by Dave Madden

Statistical analysis of Ronda Rousey’s scraps are staggering, though I noticed a missing factoid in MMA Junkie’s post-fight data points: my wife’s love of MMA when Rousey fights.

“Rousey fights next,” I call.

Before I breathe the last consonant, I was jockeying for position in front of the T.V.

Rousey’s intense walkout parallel the actual fight for my wife.

Neighbors phone their concerns at our impassioned cheers after Rousey, again, displays dominance!

After Rousey’s adorned in her belt at UFC 190, it will be approximately another 190 days until I see this side of my spouse again.


Link to actual article.


Sewer Smells by Kate Spencer

Marcy giggled as a sweet elixir of spice drifted past her. A most unusual odor, she thought as she looked at the serious faces of the executives sitting around the board table. Her department’s report just didn’t seem important any more. She sprang up and inexplicably blurted, “Hi everyone. Let’s get happy!”

That night, the main headliner in the local news was:

City Unsure why the Sewer Smells.

Authorities are trying to locate the source of a mysterious odor emanating from drains in several businesses downtown. Its unusual effects…

Marcy giggled. Her meeting hadn’t been the only one derailed.


Ignorance by Bill Bennett

“Thank you for watching Action 7 News. Disturbing news tonight coming from the Bronx area. New York City’s Department of Health is saying Legionairre’s Disease is rampant in the area. The flu-like symptoms of coughing, fever, confusion, diarrhea, has infected at least 10,000 victims. Apparently victims are fighting local healthcare workers and infecting them when they bite them. Dr. Oshi, NYC health commissioner, said he witnessed one worker being bit then “turning” within 3 or 4 minutes. Right now, the public is being urged to stay inside and do not go out in public unless it is totally necessary.”


Link to factual story.


Hitler Kitty by Sacha Black

I could still see the tip of the wooden cross buried in the dirt, marking Fluffy’s final resting place. A hard lump stuck in my throat and a few tears slipped down my cheeks.

Derek’s key turned in the lock, followed by three tiny mews.

Silence. Shuffling feet. The sound of a box hitting the ground.

“This is Hitler,” Derek said.


I peered in the box. It was fluffy and white except for a black Hitler moustache.

“Mew, Meow, Mew.”

For the first time in weeks a smile spread across my lips.

“Were not calling him Hitler, Derek!”


Twenty-five Cents and Found by Ann Edall-Robson

Another long day had ended working for someone else at 25 cents a day and found. He sat pondering his 14 year old life while reading the tattered piece of newspaper that he kept in his possessions. It was months old but the alluring headline was still clear.

Homestead Stakes Available – Five years to prove the land and build a house. $2.00 to register the claim.

He had squirrelled away much of his pay over the months since he had first seen the headlines.

Preparations were complete and it was now time to go.


Breaking News by Pat Cummings

Wall Street Journal (submitted online), 11:08:33am: Financial security firms revealed today that they had uncovered evidence of online attacks capable of rewriting news stories as they were posted over the wire…

Wall Street Weekly, 11:08:34am: Financial security firms announced today that the Chinese had rewired financial news feeds to post kute-kitteh pictures, flooding the Internet…

Asian Life Weekly, 11:08:35am: The Chinese government commented on news that cat photos were threatening to break the Internet…

Cat Life Weekly, 11:08:36am: Championship Siamese-cat breeders denied hairball-hacking attacks were behind closure of breeding services…

WSJ, (published) 11:08:37am: No hackers. No news. Move along…


One Rock at a Time by Charli Mills

Ramona waded into Grouse Creek. Mica glittered beneath cool pools. She searched for flat ones, the size of a salad plate. Shiny didn’t matter.

Once she had a pile, her t-shirt, cut-offs and scrawny white legs were soaking. It was hot and the cool creek felt good on aching joints. One rock at a time, she built a cairn like a small pyramid. For Vic. On the bank where they picnicked over many years.

Widowhood ached most of all, she thought. And then a sharp pain. What about that river rock she found by the wild roses at home?


Based on “The Sentinel Man of the Spokane River” from the Idaho Panhandler.


Blinking Red and Blue by Christina Rose

102. Another day from hell. All we wanted was an afternoon swimming, escaping the cockroaches that crawl out from their holes whenever heat intensifies, littering all shorelines with screeching and trash.

Blinking red and blue, stopping and turning everyone around.

“Is it closed to recreation?” I asked.

“Absolutely, there’s a fire.” Goddammit.

Driving to the next fated spot, short-lived and teaming with their drunkenness, the stench of spilled PBR mixed with humidity unbearable.

Papers the next day told of the wildfire, the idiots that ruined our day with irresponsible play.

A pity natural selection failed to do its job.


“Woe Begone” by A. R. Amore

Peggy and the Skater Punk slept in the surf shack from his late wife’s final art installation. He had reassembled the shack in their Mission warehouse/studio/living space. The baby slept on his chest while Peggy strummed lullabies, thinking all the while, It is wrong for me to be here and I am being untrue to my friend.

Skater Punk closed his eyes and listened to Peggy’s strumming and her lullaby. He felt the one year old’s breath rise and fall inside her and he thought back: It would be more wrong if you were somewhere else; that would be untrue.


Based on article from The New Yorker.


Bridge Plans in Jeopardy by Norah Colvin

She scrolled through the headlines, searching …

Minister passes over bridge in favour of tunnel

Minister fails to dig himself out of tunnel fiasco

searching …

Minister reveals hand on bridge impasse

Minister’s tunnel vision blocks bridge improvement

searching …

Minister jumps from bridge over tunnel plans

Talks with Minister over bridge collapse

searching …

Bridge closure forces Minister’s hand

She was sure she had heard something … it must be here … why couldn’t she see it?

Scrolling … scrolling …

“Finally,” she sighed.

Bridge players wanted, Tunnel Street Community Hall, Wednesdays 10 am!


By Any Other Name? by Jules Paige

There used to be nine. Now there are eight. Scientists have flagged Pluto as a dwarf planet. I don’t remember how I learned to know the once nine planets order. I’ve come to find there are quite a few ways to know the old nine and the new eight.

I am not a scientist. Is there that big a difference between inner and outer space? Apparently so. Yet Pluto is spectacularly in the news showing its’ own heart. Is it odd to be named after a god of war and have such a big heart?


Keep Calm, Stay Alive by Paula Moyer


“Ladies and gentlemen, the bank is being robbed.”

Later, the evening paper. Bill’s stymied face under the headline.

This wasn’t scheduled. Bill and the FDIC team were just there for a routine audit. Before now, that is.

Now he stood frozen in the teller’s window. The robber made his way from one register to the next. Where was the key? Bill didn’t know. If seen as stalling, he could die. Quick. Think.

“No cash in this window,” Bill deadpanned. “Just used for loans.”

The robber moved on. “Thank you.” Then gone.

Bill then opened the register. Wall-to-wall money.


Buck, Tuck, and Chuck by Pete Fanning

We were on the creek bank. Buck hitting the bottle hard on account of him getting hitched. If you’ve seen Stella, you knew it took a lot of drink to do what he’d done with her. Figures he’d take to a drink before marrying her.

Chuck tossed in a line, ribbing Buck about his misfortune. I didn’t say much, being best man and all.

His line jumped. Seemed Chuck had snagged a snapper. I’d just took a swig when he let out a howl that’s still bouncing around Rockbridge County.

That snapper got him right in the wedding tackle.


Beat the Drought by Ruchira Khanna

The weather may be getting hotter, but the Californians are exceeding the state government’s expectations by conserving a record amount of water.

The State Water Resources Control Board reported that consumers cut their usage by 29% in May, one-upping the government’s request for a 25% reduction by the end of June.

Dozens of communities across the Golden State have risen to the occasion by shortening showers, using water-efficient appliances, and turning lawns into drought-resistant gardens, cutting their use upwards of 30% in some cases.

The mantra, “United we stand, Divided we fall” holds true for all aspects!


The Literalist by Larry LaForge

Ed rose early, turned on the coffee and grabbed his phone.

He opened his twitter feed and was alarmed by a tweet from City Hall. URGENT: RESIDENTS MUST BOIL DRINKING WATER UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

Ed quickly sprung into action. He retrieved the largest pot he could find, filled it with water, and placed it on the hot burner. Within minutes boiling water spewed as it flowed over the top.

Edna woke from the commotion and was horrified. “Whattha?”

Ed held up his hands. “Stand back, Edna!” he shouted. “We have to let it boil until they tweet us again.”


July 29: Flash Fiction Challenge

July 29A bear walks into a bar and orders a Rainier beer…

The start of corny joke? Not exactly. It’s based on the observation that bears in Washington state prefer Rainier over Busch. Personally, I’d disagree, pointing out that the bears have not had a chance to sample local brews down at Lou’s in Sandpoint. They even serve a Huckleberry Ale, which seems to me would be far more appealing to bears than weak-water beer.

As to observation, it’s based on the true story of a black bear which sauntered into a campground one night. Not unusual. Bears like the food campers bring — watermelon rinds, tortilla chips, hot dogs. This bear discovered beer in the coolers. The next morning, campers awoke to a passed out drunk black bear.

How do we know he preferred Rainier? Because the lush had options. He tried one can of Busch Beer and downed 36 cans of Rainier. That’s a preference.

The reason this story comes to mind is because a local media outlet that I follow (Idaho Pandhandler), posted a link to the 2004 story. It’s an old story, but one recently revived  by the never-ending social media voracity for such tales. It made me think about news in general.

I’m not one for tuning into the corporate-biased news stream that permeates American radio, television and print. I used to work for newspapers and magazines back when they were independently owned and still upheld journalistic morals of objective and honest reporting. Now days, everything is either a distraction, heated opinion or regurgitated spin benefiting one political party over another.

So give me drunk bears in my newsfeed.

Not only that, but the Idaho Panhandler gives me updates on when the local lakes are going to be stocked, how the huckleberry picking season is going, and where the sheriff’s action is at. It’s local stuff; headlines for home when one lives in the remote countryside of the northern Rockies.

Yet, I’m reminded to not get too jaded. After all, I’m a writer and I know plenty of worthy journalists who do not stoop to the antics of corporate news.

My eldest, a science writer for MIT (no, not that MIT, but Michigan Tech), recently posted a link to an Op-Ed in the New York Times. It addresses the blurred lines between advertisers and editorial. My daughter, Radio Geek, is inclined to wonder about podcasting verses hard news because the former is trying innovative ways to report stories and remain profitable in order to do so.

I also want to point out the vitality of Op-Ed pieces such as this one. When I went to LA, our keynote speaker talked about the power of thought leaders and how Op-Ed pieces were a tangible way to change the world’s conversation.

Like the Panhandler that delivers reliable (and sometimes funny) local news, this can also be done at the grassroots level. Think about the #1000 Voices for Compassion movement, or Twitter memes like #MondayBlogs. It’s a chance to have one’s voice heard outside the off-note orchestra of mainstream media.

So what can fiction writers make of the news? We are observers, whether we note characteristics, human frailty or triumph, or simply glean the newsprint like huckleberry pickers for stories. Bad news, good news and faux news lends many possibilities. Back when I watched television (now I watch things like Blue Heron Burlesque), I watched Law & Order. It was a show that often portrayed stories ripped from the headline news.

And that is your assignment, should you dare to look, find and write.

July 29, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is ripped from the headlines. Look at local, regional or global news. You can link to an article if you choose to. Put your own fictional twist on it to make it unique to your story-telling.

Respond by August 4, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

One Rock at a Time by Charli Mills

Ramona waded into Grouse Creek. Mica glittered beneath cool pools. She searched for flat ones, the size of a salad plate. Shiny didn’t matter.

Once she had a pile, her t-shirt, cut-offs and scrawny white legs were soaking. It was hot and the cool creek felt good on aching joints. One rock at a time, she built a cairn like a small pyramid. For Vic. On the bank where they picnicked over many years.

Widowhood ached most of all, she thought. And then a sharp pain. What about that river rock she found by the wild roses at home?


Based on “The Sentinel Man of the Spokane River” from the Idaho Panhandler.