Short Story Exercise: Catch a Mouse

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “catch a mouse,” lightly edited)

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” the store manager said.

“No, you don’t understand,” Susann pleaded. “It’s his birthday and I promised him a mouse!”

“Ma’am, that is inhumane and disgusting. I need you to leave these premises and not come back.”

Susann, realizing that the man would never see it her way, said, “Fine, ya old twat!” And with that, she turned and stomped out of the pet store.

She paced through the mall for nearly an hour trying to decide what to do. There was another pet store on the other side of town, but they didn’t carry mice. Susann never would have guessed that finding a mouse would be so difficult. Growing up on the farm, you couldn’t cross the kitchen floor without one dancing around your feet.

Accepting defeat, Susann headed to the grocery store with her shoulders slumped. She’d simply have to figure out something else, something other than a mouse.

But as she walked through the store, she was struck by another idea. Quickly she gathered some stinky cheese, a cardboard shipping box, and a hairnet.

After purchasing her items she walked around to the back of the store and started digging around the empty wooden pallets until she finally found what she was looking for in a corner near the loading dock. Mouse droppings!

Carefully Susann assembled the box leaving the top open, placed it on its side a few feet away from the poo, and then crumbled up in the cheese inside.  She glanced around and didn’t see anyone, so she moved a few feet away and crouched down, hairnet ready.  It wasn’t quite dark yet and these feral mice were sure to be wary of humans. Susann knew she needed to hold perfectly still.

Some time later, after the sun had set and the security lights blinked on, Susann heard a few squeaks. Then she heard movement, followed by more squeaking. She thought she saw a dark shape moving towards her and hoped against hope it was a mouse and not a rat.

When she finally heard the tell tale scraping sounds of claws against cardboard she leaped forward, tossed the hairnet inside, and closed up the box.

She’d caught something alright! It screamed and ran around in the box, clawing at the corners.

“Sorry darlin’,” Susann purred. “But my kitty Cullen is six years old today and I promised him a fresh mouse.”

Short Story Exercise: Call a Friend

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “call a friend,” lightly edited)

“Call a friend? Balls!” Susann blew a raspberry at the computer screen then turned to her favorite cat, Muffy. “Every single time it’s call a friend or ask a friend for help…” 

The cat walked away. 

Susann sighed and considered her current problem. She was bored and lonely, and she wanted to make friends and be more active in her community. But whenever she searched for local events, the activities were always situations where it would look weird if she showed up alone.

She had asked the computer for cures to loneliness, and it suggested she call a friend.

Whenever Susann read magazines for advice on picking clothes to suit her body type, or found DIY’s about how to create cosplay costumes, or looked up information about servicing her car herself, everything insisted that she needed to ask a friend for help.

But Susann didn’t have friends. She’d tried to make friends at school, and again at work, but apparently nobody wants to be friends with the six-fingered woman.

Susann had been born without the ring and pinkie fingers on either hand. She was able to live a normal life, but nobody else seemed able to live with it. People would crack jokes or stare, ask her questions about gloves and typing. Susann amused herself by giving a different answer every time, just to keep things fresh, but she was yet to find anyone else who appreciated her lightheartedness.

No, calling a friend wasn’t an option for Susann. Instead she would just call the pizza delivery boy again. He was always willing to make an extra buck.

Short Story Exercise: Fix a Flat Tire

(using this book, set timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “fix a flat tire,” lightly edited)

Hugh sang out his window as he sped down the highway. “And I can’t fight this feeling anymooooooooore…”


The Subaru made a sharp turn to the right. Hugh nonchalantly brought his left hand inside and put it on the wheel, lifted his foot from the gas pedal, and guided the injured car onto the shoulder. He set the emergency brake and killed the engine.

Humming to himself, Hugh stepped onto the pavement and sauntered to the back to get his jack and the spare. He’d driven these lonesome straight desert highways enough to know a flat tire when he got one.

The sun roasted his neck as he pumped the jack to raise the wagon. It was mid afternoon, prime sunburn time, but Hugh removed his shirt anyway. Without a breeze it was far too hot to work fully clothed.

He had just pulled the flat tire off, a pair of scissors firmly planted in the tread, when he heard another car coming up the road behind him. Its engine made a terrible noise, and when the car pulled in behind him, Hugh stood to greet his would-be rescuer. There on the shoulder was an ancient red Volkswagen bug.

He wondered if it had just happened to break down in the same spot.

The woman who got out of the bug was all smiles. “Howdy,” she called out. Her eyes widened as she took in his lean, sweaty torso. “Want some help?”

“Thanks, I got it.”

Looking unsure, the woman said, “Do you want some water, or maybe some sunblock?”

“Really, I’m fine,” Hugh said. “Be back on the road in a minute.”

“Okay. Take care!” The woman waved then dropped back into her car and roared away.

Hugh stared after her, the flat tire forgotten. He rubbed his eyes and blinked. He could have sworn that woman only had three fingers on her hand.

Short Story Exercise: Tell a Story

(using this book, set the  timer for ten minutes and wrote a short story relating to the phrase “tell a story,” edited lightly)

“I lost them in the womb,” Susann said, making her voice barely audible over the thump-thump music in the bar.

The cowboy seated next to her lifted a brow and took another drink from his beer, then his glassy eyes returned to her misshapen hands.

“Yeah,” Susann continued. “You see, I had a twin. She got my extra fingers! Doctor said they looked like flippers, if you can imagine. Seven fingers per hand, she had, and here I only got three.” Susann wiggled the fingers of her left hand under the man’s nose before taking a dainty sip of her daiquiri.

The cowboy took another look at her hands then pulled his beer from the bar and, shaking his head, wandered away. Susann, accustomed to people making their exit as soon as they got the story of her missing ring and pinkie fingers, swayed her body back and forth, out of time with the music, and scoped the bar for the next man she could catch staring.

She spotted him at the end of the bar. He was a little rough around the edges, but Susann was bored so she picked up her drink and sauntered towards him. “Mind if I join you?” she purred, making a demonstration of her deformed hand by gesturing towards the empty stool.

The man, eyes wide, motioned for her to sit. “That’s some hand you got there, honey!” he drawled.

Oh a southerner! Susann thought with excitement. “You like it?”

“What happened to you, darlin’?”

“Well,” she leaned towards him conspiratorially, doing her best impression of a southern belle, “I was but five years old. My pappy’s farm had this old well, you see. And my job was to bring up the bucket every mornin’, right?”

He nodded somberly.

“So this one mornin’, I’m a-haulin’ the bucket up and wouldn’t you know my brother’s mean old hound dog ran up behind me barkin’ and snarlin’ and I was so scared I lost my grip on the rope. The bucket starts fallin’ so I grabbed at the rope, but it just wound round the last two fingers on each hand, and snap! The rope yanked ’em clean off!”

“Why you poor precious thing,” he soothed. “I hope your brother got a whoopin’ for that dog of his scaring you like that.”

“Worse than that,” Susann said, leaning closer. “Pa made him eat the meat off my old fingers. Raw.”