Idiomatic

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash

As you almost certainly know, an idiom is colloquial phrase with a figurative meaning that is not deducible by simply hearing or reading the words at face value.

Writing Prompt:

Choose one of the following idioms and include it in a story that also includes a literal use of one of the figurative words in the idiom. For example, if I were to choose the phrase “at the drop of a hat,” I would also include a hat or someone dropping something.

  • at the drop of a hat
  • hit the sack
  • judge a book by its cover
  • beat around the bush
  • steal [someone’s] thunder
  • the last straw

Post your response in 500 words or fewer in the comments below.

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79 thoughts on “Idiomatic

  1. rizzle72

    Yesterday, I made a mid day trip to Target, right after lunch. It was a warm, sunny day and it felt nice to just be outside for a minute and breath some fresh air. I pulled into the parking lot expecting to drive around the parking lot for at least 5 minutes, but luckily ended up finding a spot instantly. It was girl scout cookie season so as I was approaching the doors, a little girl came running up and asked if I wanted to buy some cookies. It’s so hard to say no to some cute little girl who offers you some of arguably the best cookies ever concieved. I’m on a diet though. Willpower is king. I had a short shopping list. I needed some shaving cream, body wash, and a book about traveling in Brazil. I quickly picked up the first two items and made my way to the book isle. Once I turned and started walking down the isle, I noticed a book on the ground. Of course it was the Brazil book, and what do you know, the front cover was slightly ripped and had a watermark on it, presumably from a recently mopped floor. It was the last book on the shelf so I ended up buying it. On the way out, I ended up succumbing and buying some cookies. On the way home, I ate one, and noticed that they were stale. I looked at the box, and they had expired a year ago! That cute little girl got me, and I mostly bought them because she was cute and I wanted to help her out. Ugh. I was really looking forward to enjoying some girl scout cookies too. After I got home, my wife, who was dying to go to Brazil, and had given me grief for not being more enthusiastic about it, noticed the worn book. She thought I had gone out, bought the book and read it exhaustingly since our argument 2 nights ago! Brownie points.

  2. joeharmnofoul

    Grocery shopping is one of those basic skills few people ever perfect. The problem is that bastard class of things you never remember to add to the list: tinfoil, pepper, olive oil, mustard, and the rest. These things are never the main ingredient, but often the cornerstone upon which a dish or craving is built and satisfied. Each time you swear your next shopping list will be different, complete, then once again you find yourself standing beneath an open cabinet saying, “Motherfucker—no ketchup!”

    I’ve forgotten the paper towels, the salt, the half and half, and the bread; the tonic, the ice, the rice, the butter, and the toothpicks. But these were nothing compared to the last straw—the last in the package, the last I ever bought.

    My whole life, I scorned straws; I mocked them, I refused them. From my sophisticated, modern perspective, they symbolized mindless waste in the name of false luxury. When offered a straw, I refused; when given a straw, I made a small scene.

    Then came Helena’s illness, and the doctors, and the long nights. Eventually the children went to her parents, and she moved into their room on the first floor. We acquired a hospital bed when she “lost mobility” (doctors’ words). Soon eating and drinking became just as difficult, and accommodations had to be made. At Costco, one of our favorite places, before, I placed a pack of 250 BPA-free multi-colored disposable drinking straws in my cart. I paid, brought them home, and placed them upright in an empty Folgers can on the countertop. Blue, pink, green, yellow—they mocked my dutiful performance, like a clown troop given a box seat for the opera. As I played out the script written by Helena’s daily needs, I watched as one by one each bright clown kissed the leading lady and departed.

    Then there was the last straw, and written along its length a hateful equation, factoring in days, and the few dollars we had left, and my emotional exhaustion, and which meal the neighbors would deliver tonight, and how long I might continue to live with the grief.

    Mid-calculation, I remembered something my father in law once said. I drove to the nearest fast food restaurant and ordered a hamburger, and when the pimply teenage cashier handed me the greasy bag I dropped it in the nearest trashcan before grabbing a handful of straws and shuffling toward the door.

  3. snuzcook

    Page Master Tech Question:
    Hi Jess,
    Is it just me? I type a few responses, and suddenly it is like my fingers/keyboard is slogging through mud–keystrokes don’t show onscreen and each word is an agonizing process of key–key again–missed letter–backspace to correct–repeat–so typing this query has taken at least a full two minutes. Is it my electronics, or is it site-related? Is anyone else having this problem?
    Snuz

    1. Jess Zafarris Post author

      Hey Snuz,

      The problem is probably on our end. We just got done moving our forums from one server to another, and as a result, we’ve had quite a few server errors, time-outs and other performance issues. My dev guys assure me that the problem should be resolved by the end of the day—and I sure hope they’re right!

      I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything else.

      Jess

  4. Jennifer Park

    52. The Straw

    [Follows “51. The Cysts” under “Conspiracy!”. You can see a listing of the Darth Barbara saga chapters—all of which are posted under WD prompts—by clicking on my name above.]

    I was doing some soul-searching about my disproportionate animosity toward a certain politician, and this scene came to me.

    ==========

    “Do you know why you Earthlings are so hated, by nearly everyone in the galaxy, Ambassador?”

    Barbara tried her best to be diplomatic despite the itch on her nose from a stray strand of hair, “Yes, Sire?”

    “It is not your wealth. It is not your power. We envy your wealth, your power. Perhaps we begrudge you for them, but that is not why we hate your species so.”

    Barbara’s aging knees were already finding it difficult to stay in the ritual pose of deference before the dying king, so the nose-itch was almost the last straw. She could barely stand it. She hid her agony with an emphatic, “I see, Sire.”

    “You see, every civilized species in the galaxy, including your own, exhorts its members to follow the rules of civilization. Work hard. Be decent to one another. Show magnanimity toward those lesser. Mind the needs of those who suffer. Show humility in success. Always uphold justice and fairness. Be kind. Care. Every civilization follows these rules, or they perish.

    “You Earthlings, you are nothing but self-centered, predatory blowhards. You break every rule of civilization. And yet you prosper. You prosper!”

    Barbara really wanted to scratch her nose, but that would be a major faux-pas; in Kryzlam, it meant “go nose-pick yourself”, which idiomatically meant, you know…

    Even telling the king to just die already—something many Kryzlamei were thinking—would be more diplomatic than that.

    Barbara tried wrinkling her nose instead. It made it worse.

    “Those of us who strive to be decent, we despise you for being rewarded for your incivility. That some even admire you! Praise you! Imagine!” The cancerous king held out a sprig of wheat. It did not have any grains on it. It had been cut off before the poor plant even was able to bloom. Just a sprig of straw. “This… This is literally the last straw of wheat in my kingdom. It was cut this morning. I wanted to show you…”

    Barbara acknowledged, “Yes, Sire.”

    “It is thanks to you Ambassador Barbarella, that we are able to return to our own way of life. By eliminating all straw, we have shed all pretensions of Earthlingness. We… We are… We are decent, hard-working, and humble. We no longer seek to be like Earthlings, Ambassador Barbarella, and, for that, we thank you…” The king closed his eyes, and waved his probosces vaguely toward the door.

    That meant she could leave.

    She did.

    As quickly as she could while being diplomatic.

    She really had to scratch her nose.

  5. cosi van tutte

    Thor A tossed her black and green striped hair over her shoulders. She glared at her twin brother Thor B.

    “This is it, Sister. I have come to steal your thunder so that it may be mine and mine alone!”

    “And wot? You think I’ll just let you trompse in here with your dirty boots and steal what is rightfully mine—”

    “It is NOT rightfully yours! I am the elder Thor. It should have been mine. It should have come to me!”

    “Oh, dear brother. Please stop using so many exclamation points. It makes you sound hysterical in all of the unfun ways.”

    “You don’t understand, little sister! You do not know what it is like to be the underdog! Father always favored you over me. Always!”

    “Considering what your temperament is like, disaster would strike and shatter the world if you were to get a hold of my thunder.”

    “Oh? Is that so?” Something on his wrist beeped and flashed. He raised his wrist to eye level and pressed a button on the side.

    A hologram of Loki R appeared. “Mission complete, my dear half-brother.”

    “Very good.”

    Thor A frowned. “What is going on? Why are you consorting with someone as low as Loki R?”

    Thor B smiled. “It’s good to have friends in low places. Loki R just stole your thunder while I kept you distracted.” He bowed. “Have a lovely day, my dear sister.” He pressed the middle button on his wrist device and disappeared.

  6. cosi van tutte

    Thor A tossed her black and green striped hair over her shoulders. She glared at her twin brother Thor B.

    “This is it, Sister. I have come to steal your thunder so that it may be mine and mine alone!”

    “And wot? You think I’ll just let you trompse in here with your dirty boots and steal what is rightfully mine—”

    “It is NOT rightfully yours! I am the elder Thor. It should have been mine. It should have come to me!”

    “Oh, dear brother. Please stop using so many exclamation points. It makes you sound hysterical in all of the unfun ways.”

    “You don’t understand, little sister! You do not know what it is like to be the underdog! Father always favored you over me. Always!”

    “Considering what your temperament is like, disaster would strike and shatter the world if you were to get a hold of my thunder.”

    “Oh? Is that so?” Something on his wrist beeped and flashed. He raised his wrist to eye level and pressed a button on the side.

    A hologram of Loki R appeared. “Mission complete, my dear half-brother.”

    “Very good.”

    Thor A frowned. “What is going on? Why are you consorting with someone as low as Loki R?”

    Thor B smiled. “It’s good to have friends in low places. Loki R just stole your thunder while I kept you distracted.” He bowed. “Have a lovely day, my dear sister.” He pressed the middle button on his wrist device and disappeared.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      Reads like that start of Avery good story I would like to read some background on the family. You already have the main charactors for the plot. Do you have the time to do.it. I am sure there is more than i.who is interested

    2. Kerry Charlton

      Reads like that start of Avery good story I would like to read some background on the family. You already have the main charactors for the plot. Do you have the time to do.it. I am sure there is more than i.who is interested

    3. Kerry Charlton

      Reads like that start of Avery good story I would like to read some background on the family. You already have the main charactors for the plot. Do you have the time to do.it. I am sure there is more than i.who is interested

  7. ReathaThomasOakley

    Christy stood on the deserted runway, shivering in her too thin coat, her tears sparkling in the moon light. Russ, even after all the years, thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known or even seen.

    “Please,” she begged again, “don’t do this.” The cold wind nearly stole her words, but Russ heard and slowly shook his head.

    “Babe,” he reached for her arm, but she stepped back, away from his touch, “you gotta understand, I promised, now I can’t—“

    “You also promised me, and the children.” She gestured toward the beat up Honda parked by the deserted control tower.

    “You brought the kids?” Russ said in disbelief. “You risked their future, and ours, by bringing them here?”

    “I’d risk everything to get you to stop this, this madness. I don’t understand, it’s gotta be more than the money. You get good pay cropdusting, but this…”

    “Yeah, you’re right, money’s good, but it’s about free will and the rights of common folk.”

    “And, don’t forget addiction,” Christy sobbed her words, even though most writing instructors insist dialogue can’t be sobbed or laughed or sneered.

    “Yeah, well, better a harmless so-called addiction than lock-step agreement. If folks don’t take a stand right now the whole country will soon be Seattle suburbs.”

    “But, Russ, these middle of the night, off the radar flights to California? The bans are just rumors, nothing official yet.”

    “I got proof, found it deep down on the dark web, it started small, with plastic bags, next’ll be plastic knives. Folk’ll think, ‘Well, they ain’t much use anyway, can’t cut worth crap,’ then next thing we know it’ll be all plastic and paper gone, gone like it never was. Whole industries wiped out, along with picnics and road trips.” Russ paused and rubbed his eyes. “Babe, this is about the future of our planet. Don’t you see?”

    Christy watched her husband, the father of her children, now the one weeping on the deserted runway at midnight in the cold, cold wind, and regretted her earlier words.

    “Oh, Russ, I didn’t understand, I just saw all this as ferrying contraband to patriots hiding in the hills.” She wrapped her arms around her man. “Now, go with my blessing, protect and save the last of the plastic and paper.”

    Russ hugged his wife, “I promise I’ll do that, down to the very last straw, I promise.”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What an emotional plea and torment over plastic bags, next thing they take away will be disposable diapers and then, really then will be an army of women.marching toward Washington, carrying iron skillets to bash some heads in. Reatha, how about a follow up on your story, i’love to read it, you’re certainly on a role.

    2. snuzcook

      I love the melodrama!
      Remember when straws used to be made out of pressed paper? And the bendy elbow bits would get soggy and spring leaks when they got soaked with milk in the school milk cartons ? Then when straws went to plastic it seemed so extravagant, like the straw somehow shouldn’t be disposable anymore!

      BTW, living behind the lines where plastic grocery bags are banned: I hated the idea that I would have to pay for cheap, small garbage bags once the ban went into effect. Don’t tell anyone, but years later, I still have empty paper towel tubes stuffed with old plastic grocery bags in the back of my cupboard for just that purpose!

      Fun story, Reatha!

  8. BBlanco

    The Last Straw
    They were all dead. We were on the wrong damned hill. That was the problem. We were supposed to be on Hill 108. I don’t know how we ended up so lost. They had all been hunkered down in the same hole, Lieutenant Fry, Sargent Rodriguez, and Corporal Sims, pouring over the map while Doc Lutz plucked shrapnel from the Lieutenant’s arm. One lucky hit turned them all into memories.

    There we were, surrounded, no command structure, no map, no compass, no radio, and not much ammo. No way were we fighting our way out. Hell, there were only twelve of us left. One of us was going to have to sneak past their lines to let Battalion know where we were. It was suicide. No one wanted to get picked, so we drew straws.

    Corporal Stanton was ranking man, so he cut the straws. He exempted the three married men, but they took straws anyway. Eleven-to-one were pretty good odds, I thought. Everybody had a good chance of not getting picked. My hand shook as I drew the last straw from Stanton’s grasp. He just grinned and said it would be ok.

    Every man held his straw in his fist, afraid to look. A few began to pray. We all opened our hands together. Stanton’s straw was shorter than the rest, but mine was shorter still. I was a condemned man while each of them had been granted a stay of execution. They offered me smokes and encouragement. Stanton even offered me a soggy biscuit he had squirreled away. He looked pissed. I chewed slowly and sipped water.

    Stanton took my canteen and replaced it with a full one. I knew each man had shared some of his own water to fill mine. Stanton also took my pistol and ammo. They were useless to me anyway. A single shot would draw the enemy like flies. He gave me his bayonet, and I slipped out on my belly while the monsoon rain drowned the jungle. About halfway down the hill I heard thunder. I looked back up and saw flashes of lightning at the crest. That whole night became a blur.

    I think I killed one of them. I stabbed him anyway. I took his water and kept going. I was so scared I spent the rest of the night dragging myself through those thorny vines. By dawn, when a patrol took a shot at me, I was a half-naked bloody mess.

    They brought me to a colonel who promised he would send a whole platoon up there to bring them back. I saw that colonel the next day coming down off that hill with the rest of my unit. They laid them down in a neat row. The chaplain prayed over them then they covered them up like they were napping. All they had to do was hold out one more day. I was expendable. That’s why I broke the end off the last straw.

    1. snuzcook

      I’m glad I found your posting this morning, BBlanco. The ending caught me by surprise but was perfect.
      Got confused in one spot–wasn’t sure who took a shot at him, enemy or his own patrol who did not recognize him, but that wasn’t really important in the rereads. Well done, and an unexpected use of the last straw.

  9. Jennifer Park

    49. The Neighbor

    [Follows “48. The Commute” under “Two Stories”. You can see a listing of the Darth Barbara saga chapters—all of which are posted under WD prompts—by clicking on my name above.]

    “That’s the last straw!” yelled Barbara’s neighbor, Aicusa. “If that good-for-nothing gossip… Oh, hello, Barbara!”

    Barbara nodded politely, “Hello, Aicusa.”

    “I’m telling you my dear,” Aicusa continued with her rant. “She will report you to the council at the drop of a hat.”

    “Ummm… who?”

    Aicusa pointed at the house across the alleyway, belonging to an old widow, Banou, whom Barbara had not met. She was a recluse, but could be occasionally seen peeking out between her curtains. Indeed, Barbara could see that she was watching them. She was wearing a hat, which greatly confused Barbara. Why would she report Barbara when she dropped her own hat? “She seems harmless, but you can’t judge a book by its cover!”

    Barbara liked living among the commoners. She even enjoyed the long commute on transits. But, what was Aicusa’s objection to the bundle of thinly sliced ejiëëme hide that Barbara was holding? It was a calligraphed copy of the Northern Peämbe constitution. It had a decently ornate cover, and it was a decent constitution. Barbara needed to study it for the next round of negotiations.

    Aicusa tossed a bag full of food waste into her garbage bin, who responded, “Thanks!.” A strange Goshenik custom, these talking garbage bins…

    She moved the bin closer to her house. “There! Two meters away from the alley. Hope you’re happy now, you tattletale!” She huffed into the house.

    Barbara remained, still confused. She glanced at Banou’s window again. She was not peeking out anymore.

    =====

    “So, what do you do, Barbara?” Aicusa finally asked one day. Again, Barbara was on her way home, and it was dark, but Aicusa was out trimming her hedges.

    “Oh, I… I work at the embassy.”

    “Oh, do you? It must be… you know…”

    “Pardon?”

    “You know, emotionally…”

    Barbara blinked.

    “Oh, I guess there is no point in beating around the bush. You know, your boss person.”

    Barbara wasn’t sure why Aicusa was trimming the hedge if there was no point. And Barbara did not have a superior at the embassy. She was the highest ranking diplomat in three octants, after all. “Ummm…”

    “She has quite a reputation, you know, your boss person.”

    “Does… she?”

    “Yes, you know, all the wheat we eat, they say she was the one that made it possible!”

    “Oh?”

    “Oh, yes. Got those Kryzlamiks to grow them for us. Isn’t that something?”

    Barbara finally understood. She smiled to explain, rather proudly, “Ah, you see, I…”

    “And they say she is evil! Destroyed three planets and two star systems!”

    That totally stole Barbara’s thunder.

    Destroy?

    “Anyway. I’m bushed. I’m gonna steal away and hit the sack, if you don’t mind,” she said, putting her tools into a bag, and yelling toward Banou’s house. “Happy? It’s easily more than thirty centimeters away from the alley now!”

    Destroy?

    That was, after all, Barbara’s assignment.

    But, then Kryzlam wheat was really fantastic.

    It would be a shame if… If…

    Barbara still cared about the Kryzlamei, rebellion or not.

  10. Kerry Charlton

    BEAUTY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

    I met her only one time, at the age of nine I had correctly in my opinion, considered girls just to be a plan nuisance but all that changed that day. My father had dressed me in Sunday clothes even if it were Saturday. He seemed very excited when he told the family he had signed on as this lady’s press agent. At that age, I had no idea what a press agent did but we lived comfortable in an upper middle class neighborhood a few miles from New York City

    I waved goodbye to Mom and our car headed toward downtown New York.

    “We’re going to lunch at Twenty One,” Dad said.

    “How can you eat at a number?”

    ‘It’s a restaurant Kerry, wait until you meet her.”

    “Is she old and fat?”

    “:Not hardly, be patient”

    The waiter set us exactly in the center of the room and as we arrived early, I squiggled and turned in my chair with nothing to do but eat crackers. Dad was facing the restaurant door and seemed a little nervous. There was a din of talk coming from every angle that suddenly stopped dead in silence. A single women stood at the open door. There wasn’t enough light to see her clearly but Dad hurried over and escorted her to our table.

    I realized my jaw hurt because my mouth was agape, but she smiled at me, offered her hand to mine and sat next to me. I think my mind froze when she asked me how old I was,

    “Nine going on ten, mam”

    “You’re so handsome, Could I wait for you to grow up?”

    “Would you really mam? I’d like that a lot.”

    Dad groaned and started to apologize, but she stopped him,

    “He’s going to go far, “ she said, “It is okay to kiss him on the cheek?”

    “Yes mam, “ I said, beating Dad’s second apology.

    I got out of my chair and leaned over to her. She kissed one cheek and then the second for good measure and we ate our lunch.

    Finally, she talked business.

    “They want me to play a woman who already has been murdered before the start of the movie.”

    Who’s in it with you”

    “Clifton is, he’s such a good actor.”

    I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation but I didn’t care. I thought I might be sitting next to the most beautiful woman on earth.

    Who is this?

          1. Kerry Charlton

            I wish I could say yes but it’s not. If I remember nine. I think I had a thing for Maureen O’ Hara. Frankly I still do. Gene Tierney was a beautiful woman. My personal choice of her finest.movie was.The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. Be sure and see it if you haven’t.

    1. snuzcook

      ‘Laura’ is one of those favorite movies that I forget about and then savor every few years. What wonderful memory to have, Kerry; what a lovely story with which to share it.

  11. jwismann

    Hit the Sack

    I was tired; tired of running, tired of fear, tired of…well…being tired. We had been on the run for two years. We were running from our life in Alabaster County, running from our past in the boys’ home, and running from families that did not understand us.

    The motorhome was stolen, yes, but we had left some cash to pay for it. I mean the cash was stolen too, but it was from a bank that had long been thieving from the community which is apparently acceptable. They took our family home from my mom because my deadbeat father left us alone after years of beating her and telling her…well…that she was too stupid to work. She believed him, but got a job anyway cleaning apartments in a crappy neighborhood for almost nothing but a sexual assault from her boss and Hepatitis C from a needle wrapped up in some blankets she had to clean. The money was obviously not enough to cover the bills for the house.

    I told her that I was getting some of that money back and getting the hell out of the city. She didn’t believe me, but…well…here we are. She wouldn’t come with me, so Francis and I are on our way. Francis is my good luck charm, a St. Francis of Assisi figurine my mom gave me when I was a little boy. I remember those happier days when we used to go to Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption on 14th street. I put a little sticky tack on Francis’ feet and plastered him to the dashboard of the stolen RV.

    I looked at Francis in his sackcloth and then down at the sack full of cash, I smiled at the comparison and thought that maybe I could be like the saint and forgo the money for a life in the sack. Then I had a thought that the money might help me get some action in the sack. Then I thought again about hitting the sack. Man, I was tired. I could barely keep my eyes open, then…well…I couldn’t. Francis must have had the same feeling because he soon fell off the dash, and hit the sack.

    I might have hit the sack too but…well…

    1. snuzcook

      I enjoyed reading your story several times, Jwismann. For me, the humor was subtle, steeped as it is in tragedy and bad decisions; but it caught up to me like a slow-burn salsa. I recently watched ‘Swiss Army Man’, and your story plucked some of the same chords. Nice one.

  12. JosephFazzone

    “Okay, stand back!” Heather exclaimed as she raised the derby over her head.

    Everyone stood where they were, the suggestion was preposterous.

    This unassuming brown, beaten, and bludgeoned floated lazily to the floor.

    “At the drop of a hat, absolutely nothing happened.” Alan pointed out after the appropriate pause was appropriately paused for.

    “Aww”, the others groaned.

    Heather shrugged.

    “What’s next?” Connor asked consulting the weathered note.

    Alan snatched the note and screeched, “Fools!” in a tone that meant the rubber dug deep into the road. “Making them literally isn’t going to make some magical portal to a mystical and wonderful realm open.”

    Connor countered, “It could.”

    Alan’s screech floated into a lofty lecturing whine, bestowing his wisdom regardless if anyone requested. “You see, Connor, it’s a list of idioms not a magic spell.”

    “Spells are conjured by one’s belief in the impossible’s possibility”, Doug argued.

    “Just stupid enough to work. Is that the Hail Mary?” Alan asked.

    Heather pulled out the burlap potato sack. “Why don’t we just keep going?”

    Kendrick laughed. “Go ahead, Heather hurry before they get the momentum going.”

    “This is ridiculous,” Alan continued unabated. “We have no reason to believe any of this will create some miracle that we…”

    “How about this?” Kendrick asked, displaying an ornate leather-bound book dyed a deep emerald green. On its cover a fleur-de-lis embossed in gold, silver trim lined the borders, and the title ‘Good Book’ were neatly scripted in black which rested on a rose gold plate. Everyone gave the appropriate oohs and ahhs.

    “Nice cover man!” Connor exclaimed with delight. “That’s a good book!”

    “What Connor did is judge a book by its cover,” Kendrick proclaimed.

    “I mean,” Alan had to agree. “Look at that cover.”

    “What is in the book?” Heather asked.

    Kendrick opened it. “It’s a list of the third and fourth place finishers of every grade school spelling bee from 1948 to 2011, and what word they misspelled, and how.”

    Silence and then Connor said, “But what a cover, wow!”

    “Right?”

    Everyone murmured in general agreement. The mood lightened.

    Alan piped in, “But, nothing happened.”

    “You have to believe,” Doug explained to him.

    Alan growled.

    “If we dropped the hat onto the sack,” Heather suggested “Why don’t we stack these idioms on top of each other and see what happens?”

    “Huh?” Alan asked.

    Kendrick smiled. “Sounds good! Drop the hat so that it hits the sack.”

    Heather dropped the hat which landed on the book and slid down to the sack.

    “So, did it hit the sack, or the book?” Doug asked skeptically. “Does it count?”

    “Does any of this count?” Alan yelled angrily. “Stupidest plan ever.”

    “How many are left?” Connor asked plaintively.

    “Three”, Alan reported, reading “Beat around the bush, steal someone’s thunder, and the last straw.”

    “We don’t have to do all six, you know?” Alan pointed out.

    Heather shrugged, “We have to keep going.”

    “How do you beat around the bush?” Alan asked.

    Kendrick thought for a moment. “We could race. You could get beat around the bush.”

    Heather nodded in agreement and raised her hands. In her hands was a CD “It’s Imagine Dragons. Take this without asking.”

    Connor snatched it.

    “You stole my Thunder,” Heather cried out. “It’s one of the songs they sing on the album, Thunder.”

    Connor nodded his head and thought, “What if we put beets around a bush?”

    Alan left. The others chased after him. The packet of straws fell, and blew away into the wind, except one, the last straw which also hit the sack, and a portal to a mystical and wonderful realm opened. It remained open for about ten seconds, long enough for a pigeon to fly in, and then promptly closed.

    1. jwismann

      I really like this piece. It might be fun to draw out what the mystical world that stacked idioms opens; Another Phantom Tollbooth-like land perhaps?

  13. ShamelessHack

    An Open Letter to the Creator of the “Idiom” Prompt:

    Dear Jess,

    Do you really expect me to respond to this prompt at the drop of a hat?
    I don’t mean to beat around the bush or to steal your thunder, but frankly you’re barking up the wrong tree.
    Truly this is the last straw, and someone should give you a taste of your own medicine.
    You may live in the best of both worlds, but when it comes to writers like me, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
    Yeah, I know that sometimes I fly by the seat of my pants, and I might cry over spilt milk, but let me kill two birds with one stone here: even if it costs me an arm and a leg, I’ll make you eat crow.
    Oh, you’ve heard through the grapevine that I’m on a wild goose chase? That I’m giving you a cold shoulder?
    Well, Jess, I think you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, so lest I add insult to injury, I’ll just say the ball is in your court.
    You might think you’re the best thing since sliced bread, but don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, or try to put all your eggs in one basket.
    Oh, you think I have a few screws loose, do you? Well, Jess, drastic times call for drastic measures so I suggest you don’t give up your day job in the heat of the moment, or it may be the last straw and you’ll have to head back to the drawing board.
    Why not just let sleeping dogs lie, and to make a long story short, take this all with a grain of salt.
    By now you can see that I’m not trying to pull the wool over your eyes, and there’s a method to my madness. That’s right: I’m not off my rocker.
    Well that’s about it, Jess, the whole nine yards. Maybe I’m not playing with a full deck, and maybe I don’t have a spark of decency, but why not play devil’s advocate?
    Give me enough rope to hang myself. After all, a miss is as good as a mile, and every cloud has a silver lining.

    OK. I’m going to hit the sack.
    The coast is clear.
    Shameless Hack has left the building.

    1. jhowe

      So much for making a long story short. Man, you give some people an inch…
      And don’t get me started about not counting my chickens before they’re hatched – obviously, you know nothing about the egg business.
      But all kidding aside, I’m pleased your creative juices are as sharp as ever. You should probably call the Guinness world record people, in case your piece contains more idioms per word than any story ever written. Be sure to credit me if you make it into the book.

    2. Jess Zafarris Post author

      *Cracks knuckles* All right, Hack, here goes nothing.
      I wasn’t anticipating responding to any of these—after all, I’m not partial to favoritism. But you’ve got a chip on your shoulder, and it takes two to tango.
      Coming up with prompts every week isn’t exactly a piece of cake.
      But I was on the ball with this one. Once in a blue moon, they just come to me.
      I wasn’t sure the responses would be original. When writers rely on idioms, their stories can be a dime a dozen. And clichés drive me up the wall (even when I ask for them).
      I should have known you, of all people, would go for broke.
      And although the other responses here are great, this one is icing on the cake.

      So here it is, straight from the horse’s mouth: You really knocked this one out of the park.

      1. ShamelessHack

        Getting you out in the light of day is like pulling teeth, Jess.
        This time I thought I could attract more bees with vinegar than with honey, and now that all the ballots have been counted, all’s well that ends well.
        Here’s looking at you, kid…

        Hack

  14. MicMag

    Hi all, first time posting here. I just recently discovered this great site. I’ve written for a couple of these prompts now but weeks after they were posted didn’t seem timely to post my stories. Anyway, thanks for the prompts and the chance to share with a writing community!

    (This one is partially in Spanish, hope that’s ok!)

    ———-
    La piñata
    ———-

    “Alright, son, before you hit the sack, I’ve got a surprise for you.”

    “Una sorpresa?!” The boy perked up.

    “Si, mi hijo. Close your eyes.”

    The boy grinned as he shut his eyes tight.

    A moment later the man spun his son around. “Listo? Open your eyes.”

    The boy’s smile turned to a puzzled expression as he stared at the green blob hanging from the tree.

    “Ok, birthday boy, give it a shot. Hit the piñata!”

    The boy frowned, clearly upset. “Eso no es piñata!”

    The father’s shoulders sagged. “Come on, son. Let’s try to have some fun.”

    “I wanted a dragon piñata!” the boy shouted defiantly. “That’s just some stupid rice bag painted green.”

    The man sighed and tried to force a smile. “I know, son. Lo siento mucho. You know I couldn’t buy you a real one this year. But why don’t you hit it and see what’s inside?”

    “I don’t care what’s inside.” The boy’s lip trembled as his defiance faded into sorrow. “I want to see mamá.”

    “Yo también, mi hijo. Me too.”

    “Cuándo regresa?”

    “No idea, son.” The man turned to hide the tears streaking down his face. Pain mingled with shame and hopelessness. He had no idea when they’d hear from her again and no idea what to tell his son.

    “Papá, yo sé. I know why mamá had to go.”

    The father, surprised, placed a hand on his son’s shoulder and scanned his face.

    “Sí, papá. She had to leave. Para ayudar. To help the policemen. Mamá wants to help everyone.”

    The older man turned again and stifled a sob. The tears flowed freely but no words came. The boy’s heart was so good. Even when they’d taken his own mother away, he could only assume the best intentions of her captors.

    “Mi hijo, I’m trying.” The father pulled his son close. “I’m trying so hard to find her. I need her. We need her. Estamos perdidos sin ella.” The embrace stretched on with each bittersweet memory that flooded his mind.

    After a moment, the boy pulled away. “Gracias, papá. Por la piñata.” He smiled up at his father while tears welled up in his own eyes. “Can I hit it now?”

    “Sure thing, mi hijo.”

    “Y papá?”

    “Yes, son?”

    “Next year let’s make the best piñata ever for mamá.”

    1. snuzcook

      MicMag, Welcome!
      And what a fabulous story right out of the gate! The conversation read as very natural, and the layers of significance were easily accessible. Your story touches the heart in a place that is so, so heavily touched every day right now in the US, and gives a specific, though fictional, focus for the heart to touch back.
      And I liked the dual ‘hit the sack’ image, too!
      Well done!

    2. JosephFazzone

      Great story! Welcome to the board. Your story definitely tugs at the heartstrings! I can’t imagine life for my children without their mother. With luck, I won’t ever have to. Yo espero que su madre regrese pronto por amor de la familia!

  15. chandra_wd_writer

    Outside the train window, it was dark and even if you could see, all you could be seeing was snow. Houses covered in snow, roads covered in snow, cars covered in snow, and trees covered in snow. Life covered in snow.

    In the months following my divorce, I preferred to be left alone to myself. The only reason I paid the extra money for a first-class ticket was to keep the human contact to a minimum. This wasn’t one of those train journeys that I was looking forward to. Thanks to the heavy snowing over the weekend for keeping the train half empty, mostly filled with the families going for the holidays across the borders. Happy families with kids, I imagined.

    It was a pleasantly lonely journey until this woman, whom I disliked in the first moment I saw her, entered my cabin. The way she opened that door with a bang was the first thing I hated about her. It shook me out of my stupor. She brought in a fresh smell of coffee.

    “Hello, I am Catherine,” she said and extended her right hand. Her left hand was carrying a briefcase. The ease with which she carried suggested it was probably half empty.

    “Hello, I am Sarah,” I said.

    She did not close the door.

    She settled her briefcase on the seat and tapped it a few times as if she was putting a baby to sleep. Then she took out her jacket and a layer of clothes. Underneath, she was wearing a t-shirt that exposed her bare arms.

    The door was still open. I wanted to see how long before she closes it.

    It wasn’t hard to notice the scars on her both forearms. Those dark scars contrasting with her pale, skinny hands forming abstract patterns without a hint of where one scar started and where it ended. It wasn’t pleasant to look at them, but once you saw them, there was no way of not seeing them. I don’t know for how long I scanned them, but I was sure I made her feel uncomfortable before I got up and closed the door myself.

    There was no sorry from her. She had an air of carelessness around her that was obvious from the moment I saw her standing in that door and making sure she was in the right cabin. I have a feeling she would have just gotten in even if it wasn’t her seat.

    I got back to my seat, and she was now looking straight into the window, into the darkness, and my eyes again fell on those scars. This time she was sitting right below the light coming from the overhead bulb, and her hands were loosely set on her lap. As if they were things that she carried apart from her body. I scanned the scars again. For any signs of a pattern. Probably she was into a cult that required a ritual like that.

    I closed the book that I was reading and let it rest in my lap, unable to focus anymore. I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I couldn’t stop myself from being overly imaginative and judgemental about this woman.

    Before I knew I fell asleep. In the dream, I was stuck in a dark, small room. Holding my chin against my knees and hands wrapped around my legs. I wasn’t sure why I was in that room or for how long I was crying. I got up after I saw a bright light shine through a window. The window was broken, and I pulled a small piece of glass that was hanging loosely. Before I knew it was on my skin. Delicately cutting through my forehand as the warm blood oozed through the opening. A strange sense of relief took over my body, and for the first time in many months, my mind was at peace as it was rejoicing in the physical pain.

    Right then, I was woken up when her briefcase fell onto the floor. She was still asleep. Her hands neatly folded on her breasts that were expanding and collapsing with the rhythm of her breathing. I took the suitcase off the floor, and when I was about to put it back, she woke up. I told her what just happened. She nodded and went back to sleep.

    I got up, took my handbag, and started walking towards the restroom. I had to shake that nightmare off my body. My hand was still hurting. But hurting pleasantly. Before I knew, I switched off the light in the restroom, and my hands were searching for the Swiss Army knife in my handbag.

    That was the first time I hurt myself. And I knew it wasn’t going to be the last.

    If I were a book, no one could judge me well by my cover, even if judging a book by its cover was a good thing. Beneath that vibrant and beautiful cover, there lies parts of me deeply hidden, parts that no one knows would ever guess from the cover.

    1. snuzcook

      I found your story both intimate and haunting. It has a wonderful dream-like quality through out, and your narrator expresses thoughts and judgments as she observes the woman on the train that anyone can recognize as their own–then you take us one step further into new territory. A wonderful response to the prompt.

  16. ameliewilliams

    She was in Phuket on Boxing Day and had just ended her boat trip. She was on her way to her hotel when she remembered she had dropped her hat in the boat. So she went back to the beach in case the boatman was still there. But when she reached the beach she saw how the water was flowing out to sea, leaving the boats stranded on dry land. And she remembered the lesson from Geography class; when the waves suddenly recede to expose a large area of dry land, a tsunami or tidal wave will soon reach the shore. So she warned the people there and ran as fast as she could and was glad she had chosen a brick structured high rise hotel just a hundred meters from the shore. As she watched from the third floor balcony of her room, she recalled that she had probably broken Malaysia’s national 100 meter record because the wave crashed into the lobby even as she scurried up the first floor stairs.

  17. ameliewilliams

    She was in Phuket on Boxing Day and had just ended her boat trip. She was on her way to her hotel when she remembered she had dropped her hat in the boat. So she went back to the beach in case the boatman was still there. But when she reached the beach she saw how the water was flowing out to sea, leaving the boats stranded on dry land. And she remembered the lesson from Geography class; when the waves suddenly recede to expose a large area of dry land, a tsunami or tidal wave will soon reach the shore. So she warned the people there and ran as fast as she could and was glad she had chosen a brick structured high rise hotel just a hundred meters from the shore. As watched from the third floor balcony of her room, she recalled that she had probably broken Malaysia’s national 100 meter record because the wave crashed into the lobby even as she scurried up the first floor stairs.

  18. snuzcook

    “That was the last straw!” Had to chuckle. Fun story celebrating creativity and imagination, and contagious inspiration. I fear I’m in the same vein, tho a bit tangent…

  19. snuzcook

    **This story springs from a YA world I am writing**

    HOW STONEBREAKER STOLE STORM CLOUD’S THUNDER

    In a time before the People lived in our valley, in the time when the great cliffs of ice were receding to the North, Giants walked the earth. One of the biggest of the Giants was Stonebreaker. When he walked, the ground shook. When he sat, the indentation of his butt cheeks left low places that became lakes in the spring. And when he broke wind, entire forests were blown flat.

    All the creatures respected and feared Stonebreaker for his size and his strength—all, that is, except the other Giants. Stonebreaker had only a small, rasping voice.

    When the other Giants met in council, they ignored Stonebreaker because he could not make himself heard among their noisy shouting and wheezing and belching and coughing. Stonebreaker resolved that he would go and find himself a voice that no one would ignore. And because he was a Giant, he resolved to get for himself the largest voice in the world.

    As he left the council, he came upon Raven. Raven had gotten himself caught trying to steal bait from a net trap and could not free himself. In those days, Raven had the most beautiful voice among the birds, and he called out to Stonebreaker. “Help me, Stonebreaker, and I will help you gain your heart’s desire.”

    “I am seeking the biggest voice in the land. How can you, a puny little bird, help a great Giant like me?”

    “Storm Cloud has a Thunder Drum, and it has the biggest voice there is. I know the high mountain where he sleeps. You can try to steal it, but be careful; he has a very bad temper.”

    “When I have the Thunder Drum, I will free you,” Stonebreaker pledged. He picked up the net and slung it over his shoulder with the bird still inside.

    Raven guided Stonebreaker to the steep path that led up into the cliffs above. Stonebreaker climbed to the ridge at the shoulder of the mountain until he was high, high above the world. There he searched among the rocks and finally found Storm Cloud’s cave. Stonebreaker tried to be as quiet as he could, but the Giant’s enormous foot dislodged a boulder and sent it crashing down the slope.

    “Who disturbs my sleep!” A figure in the shape of a man dressed all in white stepped out of the clouds and stood before them.

    “It is only I,” said the Raven in his beautiful voice. “My friend and I have heard that your Thunder drum makes the mightiest voice in the world, but he doesn’t believe me. Can you show it to us?”

    “I only use my roar and my lightning spears when I battle with my brothers Wind and Sky. I will show you my weapons, but you must not touch them.” Storm Cloud led them to his cave. His dark battle robes hung in a corner, and his glowing lightning lances stood propped next to them. Beneath them was a gigantic drum with a drum beater made from the trunk of a giant cedar, its branches wound tight at one end. The handle of the beater was covered with stones that glittered like stars.

    “If you let me out of this net,” the Raven whispered to Stonebreaker, “You can carry the drum in it when you climb down the mountain. Stonebreaker nodded, and untied the net. Raven quickly swooped down and plucked one of the shining stones out of the handle of the drum beater and flew right out of the cave.

    Storm Cloud grabbed a lightning lance and chased after him. Stonebreaker saw his chance, and snatched up the drum and drumbeater and ran out of the cave. Down the mountain Stonebreaker fled with Raven flying by his side. As he ran, the drum bounced and boomed in the net on his back. As the drum sounded, it summoned hail, and hailstones the size of flint cobbles pelted the thieves. Rain appeared drenching the Raven’s feathers so he could not fly and making the ground under Stonebreaker’s feet slick with mud. They stumbled the rest of the way down the mountain, where Storm Cloud’s lightning lance finally found them. It knocked them down with its magic, and their breath and their voices flew out of their bodies in a great WHOOSH.

    Storm Cloud came to the place where Raven and Stonebreaker lay. He retrieved his drum, and with his drum beater he tapped Stonebreaker. The Giant sucked back in a great breath, but with the strength of his mighty inhale, he dislodged a hornet’s nest in a tree far above, and sucked it right in. When he started to speak, no sound came out at all, only a cloud of hornets, and the hornets buzzed around his head, getting into his giant ears and up his giant nose and crawling about his giant eyelashes until the Stonebreaker leapt to his feet and ran out of the valley, waving his arms and shaking his head, never to be seen again. Thus did Stonebreaker steal Storm Cloud’s Thunder and then lose it.

    Storm Cloud then tapped Raven. Raven sucked back in a great breath and opened his eyes. He saw Stonebreaker running away, hornets circling his head, and he started to laugh. But his laugh came out as a rasping cough. His own beautiful voice was gone and he had sucked in the voice that Stonebreaker had lost.

    “Shoo!” Storm Cloud said to Raven in a booming voice, shaking his lightning lance. The frightened Raven flew away, glad to escape with all his feathers. This is why Raven has his rasping voice, and why you see flocks of ravens and their cousins the crows flying away when a storm is coming, fearful of Storm Cloud’s long memory.

    1. snuzcook

      The original story above ran to 1200 wds, so this version is missing some fun stuff, but I hope it hangs together well enough in its abbreviated form…

    2. jhowe

      Dang, Snuz, that was good. As a privileged reader of one of your other stories, I’ll admit you inspired me to try to write in a period of lore for my take on this prompt. Yours though sounds more authentic. You have the gift.

  20. jhowe

    The New Generation

    Daktoni and Suki stalked the male capybara through the underbrush. The animal twitched its stubby tail and grunted, annoyed by its pursuers. The hunters maneuvered their prey to the bottom ledge of a crag, creating the desired trap. With considerable speed for an old man, Daktoni threw one sharpened hollow reed after another at the capybara. Suki drew the straws from her quiver as quickly as she could.

    The bloodied beast thrashed and squealed, unable to escape without charging through the hunters. The animal turned, making its decision and ran toward them, teeth bared.

    “Straw!” Daktoni shouted.

    “That was the last straw!”

    Dragging their feet, the hunters entered the camp empty handed. Daktoni sulked and spoke little to Suki. The younger hunters smirked and ridiculed the old man as they sharpened their own throwing straws around the fire.

    Suki raised her head and produced a curved stick with a cord attached and several rods with flint heads. “Daktoni, please try my new weapon. I feel it will work well.”

    “Bah. You are a foolish child. The ways of our people have served us season after season.”

    Suki spied a macaw perched high on the branch of a mahogany tree. She placed a notched rod on the cord and pulled back. The rod flew straight and fast, striking the bird. Daktoni and the hunters watched, mouths agape as she picked up the bird and carried it away. She squatted before a flat rock and began to pluck the feathers.

    Daktoni picked up the curved stick and plucked at the taut cord. He pulled back on it a few times and made it twang. He found he could change the tone by manipulating the bend of the stick. Soon, the hunters started to shuffle and chant with the beat. Throughout the day, Daktoni played. The hunters were joined by the tribe women and they danced away into the night.

    The next day, Daktoni gathered more reeds to make throwing straws. Returning to camp, the tribe waited. Sighing, Daktoni picked up his bow and stared to play. While the tribe danced, Suki dried capybara meat on sun rocks. Another animal lay waiting with an arrow buried deep in its shoulder. She glanced at the revelers and shook her head. A boy came and helped her arrange the strips of meat on the rocks.

    “Will you teach me to hunt with the bow?” the boy said. Suki smiled and nodded.

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