Funny? Story

Posting the comedy microfiction reminded me that I never posted the comedy flash fiction I did for NYC Midnight, probably because I hadn’t been that thrilled about it and didn’t move onto the next round. Still, I ended up with something that I may develop into a short story. There’s something fun there, even if it’s not exactly award-winning comedy flash fiction. Flash Fiction is a 1000-word limit, and my prompts were comedy/jellybeans/reservoir.

The Creature With The Black Jellybeans

Synopsis: When Lucy and Jez see something strange in the reservoir, they suspect an epic prank and concoct a prank of their own. But will they ever know what’s really in the water?

Lucy sat on the edge of the dam, feet dangling far above the water of the reservoir, and popped another jellybean in her mouth. She spat it out in disgust. “Whoever invented black licorice flavor should be shot.”

Jez leaned away from the partially chewed candy. “That’s God, Luce. It’s derived from the fennel plant.”

“You know the weirdest stuff.” Lucy threw the offending candy down into the placid water below. Splash! “Did you hear that? How did that tiny thing make a splash all the way down there? I told you black licorice is evil.”

The girls peered closely at the water. “Look at the ripples on the water,” Jez said. “Maybe it’s the Loch Ness monster’s cousin. Where’s Peter, anyway? Why did he want to meet up here?”

“He was very mysterious.” Splash! “Okay, I heard it again. There’s definitely something down there. Look! There’s a dark shape under the water!”

“I knew we shouldn’t have had that Jaws marathon last weekend. Remember when we watched all the Friday the Thirteenth movies and the next night you freaked out at the hockey game?”

Lucy glared. “You agreed we’d never speak of that again. Look, we’ll wait until all the jellybeans are gone and then give up on Peter. The lake monster gets the black licorice ones.” She picked them out and tossed a handful into the water. Splash! They both stared as a head popped above the surface of the water. A wide mouth opened. Chomp! The head disappeared back below the surface.“Jez! You saw that, right? It ate the jellybeans!”

Jez’s mouth was hanging open. “Wait a minute. This is one of Peter’s pranks. He asks us to meet him up here and doesn’t show? He’s down there in the water with a fake monster head!”

“He has done some pretty ridiculous pranks. Remember when he used stage makeup to look like a dead body in your trunk and then jumped out at you? You screamed so loud!”

“He took SCUBA lessons last summer, remember? I bet he’s just hanging out under there. Let’s hike down. He has to come out sometime. We can hide in the bushes and scare the crap out of him. Look, there’s the head again!”

***

“This would be a nice place for a picnic if the water didn’t smell weird,” Lucy said. “How long can he stay under, do you think? I’m hungry.”

“I have some emergency chocolate in my bag.” Jez held out a giant bag of M&Ms. “Let’s give it ten more minutes and see if the monster shows again, then we’ll go to that taco place.” She pulled open the bag and it split, spilling candy all over the ground.

“More treats for Nessie.” Lucy began tossing the dirty M&M’s into the water. 

“Nessie? It’s not that big. Maybe Lessie.” 

“Here, Lessie, Lessie!” A head popped up, grabbed the candy, and disappeared below. The water rippled as the creature swam away from them.

“How did he spot us? I guess we were talking pretty loud. He could have followed our voices.”

“It looked so real. I wonder where he got it. It seemed like its eyes were really looking at me. Peter’s no artist. He must have spent a fortune on a costume that good.”

“He can probably use it again for Halloween. Oh, I see the ripples again. Here, Lessie, Lessie! More M&Ms for you!” A head popped out of the water, but this time it was human. Peter emerged from the water, struggling to get his heavy equipment off his back. He dropped it on the ground and pulled up his mask.

“Gotcha!”

Peter spun around and gave a yell, not as impressive as Jez’s dead-body scream, but satisfying enough for the girls, who dissolved in laughter. “What the hell!”

“We got you, Peter!” Jez crowed.

Peter sat down on the grass. “Oh, man. I was under that gross water for an hour! My hair feels weird. I’m going to have to wash it a million times.”

Jez sniffed. “Yeah, you don’t smell great. I’m glad you’re not riding back in my car. Hey, where’s your head?”

Peter stared. “Right here? Above my neck?”

“I mean that awesome monster head.”

“I was just splashing around so you’d think something was in there. You saw the splashing, right? That’s why you came down here?”

Lucy frowned. “We saw splashing, and a big giant monster head came out of the water. Come on, where is it?”

“You mean, I was in there with…something?” Peter looked terrified as he stared at the water.

Jez punched him on the arm. “You’re not going to get us this time, Peter. Did you lose it?”

“There’s no head, guys. I don’t know what you saw.”

***

Lucy and Jez drove away, waving to Peter, who was getting into his car. “You think he’s going back down for the head?” Lucy asked.

“Yup. Want to park in the lower lot and sneak back to catch him?”

They parked near the bushes and crept quietly. Splash! 

“Lucy, there he is! See the monster head?”

The head disappeared under the water. They heard a rustling in the brush behind them. Peter emerged, holding a green plastic dinosaur head. “Oh, man! You tricked me!”

“Serves you right,” said Lucy. “How does the mouth open, by the way? Is it like a puppet?”

“What do you mean? The mouth doesn’t move.”

Jez exchanged a look with Lucy. “Are you joking again? We saw it eat the candy.”

Peter held it out for inspection. The mouth was fixed. “You’re pranking me now. Very funny.”

“No, we saw the monster open its mouth and eat the jellybeans! And then the M&Ms,” Lucy insisted.

“Sure, everyone knows reservoir monsters have a sweet tooth. Look, you got me. Let’s get outta here.”

As they walked away, they heard a splash, but when they turned around, they saw only ripples in the water.

Judges’ Comments:

{1970}  Good: I like the relationships between the characters you have developed in “The Creature With The Black Jellybeans”. I picked up on the long-term friendships that Jez, Peter, and Lucy have begun to build, I can picture them in their old age, reminiscing about the good old days when they were young. This story is about adventure, trust, and friendship. You put at the reservoir with them, I could taste the licorice jelly beans. Thanks!    

Needs work: There is a bit of awkwardness in the syntax of this story. I get all the details, but the delivery is a bit choppy, and some of the details detract from the story more than they add to it. For instance, does the reader need to know that Lucy freaked out specifically at the hockey game? The mention of her freaking out in general after watching all of the movies is more effective than distracting the reader into thinking that there was something relevant at the hockey game that connected it to the movies. I am still wondering what the connection is. So, think about details…they are important, but they need to help connect the dots, not take a reader down an unrelated path. Thanks for the adventure. l really like your characters. 

{2089}  Well done for making it to the second round of the Flash Fiction Challenge 2021!

This is a good submission with some funny moments, a clear premise, and some fun characters.

You’ve included a lot of twists in this that work well, keeping the reader guessing. I could see this working well with some expansion too, really building the tension and playing on horror movie tropes. It has the potential as a satire of the genre, and I think you’ve outlined all the necessary beats to really solidify this as a standout piece with some more development. I’d definitely like some more description and establishment, and as much as the dialogue is great at telling the story, I feel that I want to be immersed in the world you’ve created, and in these characters, as much as possible.

The characters have a good rapport – I feel the history and the backstory between them all, making them feel like ‘real’ characters. They act in an understandable and realistic way which helps to ground the narrative and land the jokes.

Looking at your assigned task, you’ve written a complete comedy story featuring the ‘reservoir’ location and ‘jelly bean’ object, both of which have been used effectively. You’ve also submitted this within your word limit and successfully showcased what can be achieved with such a brief word count.

Well done, and keep writing!  

Needs work: I’ve gathered some notes on areas of your story where I feel you could improve, edit, or develop your work further.

‘Loch Ness monster’s cousin.’ After this line, I’d suggest breaking for some description before we go into the next line of dialogue. Have the characters look at the water, or have Jez look around to see if she can see Peter.

‘a head popped above the surface’ – Whose head? What kind of head? Could we have a description? Even if it’s just an interpretation from the characters’ point of view of what they see. You state in your dialogue that it’s a ‘fake monster head’, but could you describe this to us, or explain what makes them think that?

‘Look, there’s the head again!’ – Again, let’s see the head. Variate your narrative so we’re not just hearing the characters talk about what they can see or what they think. Describe and establish too! The same goes on the next line – where are they situated? How does the location add tension or comedy?

Good luck with your future development!

{2144}  Good: I like the ambiguity throughout of whether it was Peter playing a prank or an actual creature in the water. I also like that it can be explained away until the very end; the final line is great.  

Needs work:  Almost the entire story is told in dialog, but I think it could be a lot stronger if there were more descriptions showing the reactions of the girls, what the creature head looks like, etc. It will help establish the scenes so much more, heighten the stakes, and give a better distinction between Peter’s pranks and the real possibility of a creature lurking.

It’s A Little Bit Funny

Comedy is probably the genre I most dread when I do microfiction/flash fiction challenges. Being funny on purpose is *hard*. I usually aim for “mildly amusing” and hope for the best. For the second time in a row, I drew comedy. I had almost forgotten about the NYC Midnight microfiction challenge in the craziness of holiday preparations, and I had quite the emotional rollercoaster when I got the email saying I’d made it to the next round…and that comedy was my genre. When I’m trying to be funny, I really can’t tell if it’s working unless I have facial expressions for immediate feedback. Anyway, my prompts for the second round of 250-word Microfiction were: Comedy/burning a finger/effort. Funny story! I had actually submitted my entry before suddenly realizing I hadn’t included the word “effort.” Fortunately, I had submitted early for once and the contest allows you to resubmit as many times as you need up until the deadline.

Once Burned, Twice…Burned

“Ow! What the hell? Something burned me!”

Meg held up a blistered finger and Seth passed her a cold pack. “What do you mean, burned? Like the sap irritated your skin?”

“No, like a goddamn fire! Look, it’s still smoking!”

Seth peered into the hole in the tree where Meg had been collecting fungus samples for their study. “That’s not possible.”

“Stick your hand in, then.”

Seth reached toward the tree and hesitated.

Meg laughed.

“Are you screwing with me again? Grow up. I was just playing along when you gave me your niece’s slime and told me it was a new species. It’s not like I believed you.”

“You were trying to extract DNA for sequencing!”

“I was playing along!” he shouted. “Let’s just get a sample and get out of here.” He reached in and shrieked. “Something burned me!”

Meg leaned in to look. “Really? But that’s—I made the whole thing up! I burned my finger baking cookies last night and I thought this would be funny.”

Seth stared. “What if it’s some kind of exothermic reaction involving the fungus we’re studying? This could be really big. I’m going back to grab some more sample jars. We should check the rest of the trees in this area.”

Meg smiled at another successful effort as she reached in carefully to retrieve the butane curling iron she’d planted there earlier. Her hand brushed against something hot. What the—

Seth stood behind a tree, chuckling softly to himself.