Today’s prompt might throw you out of your comfort zone: Write something absurdist. As Jess Zafarris explains in her 2017 WD article, absurdism relies on “the notion that humans perpetually and futilely strive to find meaning and sense in an existence that is meaningless and nonsensical.” Generally, the moral of the story is purposefully left ambiguous so the reader can determine its meaning for themselves.
Remember: These prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.
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Here’s my attempt at writing an absurdist short short:
When the House Fell Down
It was a Tuesday when the house fell down.
Now, to be fair, the house had been falling down for a while. Sandra found herself busier and busier putting duct tape over cracks in the walls with a surgical precision usually only reserved for carving the Thanksgiving turkey or wrapping gifts for her mother-in-law. She side-stepped plaster as it fell chuck-by-chunk from the ceiling, bought metal poles to prop against the walls when they sagged, glued pipes back together when they burst.
“Dan,” she’d say, “we really have to do something about this.”
“Huh?” Dan would say, bumping up the volume on CNN or Sportscenter or TNT. Sandra’s voice was as effective as a mouse’s scream in a tornado.
But Sandra was no slouch. She had trained for this, growing up with luke-warm parents in the Midwest who kept her fed but never came to see her in the school play. They taught her that love did not equal inclusion, that you could sit across the dinner table from a stranger and no one got hurt.
Dan was a good balance. He was as harmless as his sagging La-Z-Boy, getting up and going to the office in the morning to do who-knew-what (something with numbers, she thought, something boring and math-related) and coming home in the evenings to kiss her cheek and sit, eyes glazed, in front of the television until bed.
Sandra could wield unattachment like a chef’s knife, cooking up beautiful meals of Financial Security and At Least I Won’t Die Alone. Loneliness, unhappiness, yearning…those were nothing but a bitter aftertaste.
But then the house fell down.
First, there was a heinous moan, the pictures shivering on the walls and the floor giving a little shimmy. Sandra stumbled in her kitten heels. The sink in the half-bath screeched before the tap burst off, water gushing as proudly as Old Faithful ever could.
“Dan!” she yelled, “I think something’s gone wrong!”
“Of course, dear,” Dan said. The remote was an extension of his arm, a relay that allowed the television to beam thoughts directly into his mind.
The house moaned again, and a ball of flame shot up from behind the gas stove, scorching the window treatment. Sandra watched as it obliterated the little needlepoint roosters.
“Dan, we need help!”
The bathtub crashed into the living room, inches away from Dan’s socked feet. He frowned, waving dust out of his face. “Can we talk about this later?”
Sandra snatched up her purse. “I’m going, Dan! I can’t die like this!”
“Honey, please, I can’t hear the news.”
Sandra turned on her heel and ran to the front door. But then she paused. She imagined going out there alone, standing on the sidewalk, watching as the remains of her life, her marriage, crumpled into dust. What would she tell her parents? Her coworkers? How could she face the terrifying empty space where Dan used to sit?
The house wailed, a grating shriek as the shingles shook off the roof and the stucco flaked off the siding and the railing swooned off the porch and onto the lawn.
I can't die like this, Sandra thought, but it was weak now. She took her hand off the doorknob.
One exhausted moan later, and the house crumpled in on itself in a billow of dust and flames.
On the street, silence. The gaggle of people on the sidewalk blinked away the dust. A neighbor clucked their tongue, snapping an image of the ruin for a Facebook post.
Someone sighed. “What a mess.”
“You think they would have seen this coming, right?”
People chuckled awkwardly and shrugged and shuffled away one by one.
In the distance, a siren pierced the air.