Inspiration (Flash fiction piece featured at Helicon West, June 2014)

There’s a knock at the door.

That’s where I’m stuck. My protagonist is standing over her boyfriend’s corpse, the murder weapon in hand, and she hears a knock at the door.

It could be the police.

Nah, no good. If they knew about the murder they’d break down the door, and if not, why would they be there?

Her best friend? Real friends help you move bodies, right? That’s a bit cliché. So’s the knock on the door, though.

The cat hops up and sniffs my screen, then steps on the keyboard.


“We used that line last time.”

I drop the cat on the floor, hit backspace a dozen times, and lean my swivel chair way back. My hair and arms dangle over the edge as I spin and stare at the patterns on the textured ceiling. I spot a horse, a dancing couple, and a dolphin with a creepy mustache. No inspiration there.

My ever-patient husband took the kids out, giving me the whole day to myself.

“You have to have fun,” he said. “Get some work done on your story.”


Three hours until they come home. So far I haven’t had fun or written a word. I cleaned the bathroom, even reorganized the toilet paper, soap, and feminine hygiene products under the counter. Then I overthrew a new civilization forming in the back of the fridge. It may once have been lasagna.

If I can just get past this scene, I’ll call the day a success. I’m sure the story will pick up from there.

I lower my foot, dragging the chair to a stop, and notice the cobwebs over the curtains. Ugh. How long has it been since I’ve dusted anything around here? My new vacuum has an attachment for curtains. According to the kid who sold it to me, it has an attachment for everything.

The box of hoses and brushes is as big as I am. I sort through them until I find the one for removing cobwebs from curtains. It works so well, I use it in the other rooms too, even the ones without cobwebs.

Back to work. My cursor ticks a steady rhythm, mocking me. How hard can this be? Pick the worst thing that can happen to your character and make it happen. So, a meteorite crashes through the roof and kills her. The end. Nah, that’s not the worst thing. It’s too easy.

I spin my chair, this time in the opposite direction. Maybe that’s not a dolphin up there. Maybe it’s a porpoise.

The cat slinks up, purring and wrapping herself around the desk leg.

“Didn’t someone feed you this morning? I’m pretty sure it was someone else’s turn to feed you.”

I sigh and swing to my feet. The cat bolts ahead, her sagging belly swaying back and forth as she runs.

“Maybe you could stand to miss a meal. It might be time to give you a bath or something too.”

There’s still food in her dish. She just wants me to shake it around a bit. Still purring like a clogged lawn mower, she rubs against me, leaving a trail of hairs clinging to my black sweats.

The vacuum has a pet attachment too.

I glance at the clock. Two hours until Greg gets home with the kids. I’ve got plenty of time to figure out that knock at the door.

* * *

“We’re home!”

The kids stampede up the stairs.

I shut my laptop with a scowl at the blinking cursor and the last words on the page:

There was a knock at the door.

The kids dart around the disemboweled vacuum cleaner sprawling across the living room. My husband scratches his head and stares at the scattered parts.

“Did you get a lot done?” he asks.

“Oh, yeah, I did. Thanks.”

His jaw’s working. I know that look. He’s trying to decide if he wants to ask. Before he can, the kids squeal and giggle, pointing at the shame-faced cat as she darts for a safer hiding place.

A door-to-door vacuum salesman. That has potential.

I whip the laptop back open, hunching behind it to muffle my words. “The vacuum’s clogged.”


(Flash fiction is a story under 1000 words complete with fully-developed plot and characters. They can be a fun change of pace to deal with writer’s block or burn out on bigger projects. As this is a work of fiction, no cats were denuded in the making of this story. 🙂 )

3 thoughts on “Inspiration (Flash fiction piece featured at Helicon West, June 2014)

  1. Danette Hansen July 31, 2014 / 9:13 am

    Ha love this! Short stories are a nice change from writing novels. Mixing it up can bring new life to writing for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Christi Zook July 31, 2014 / 2:55 pm

    Love this! Especially the overthrowing of the new civilization…and the clogged vacuum. Did you ever overcome your writer’s block? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • eabwheeler July 31, 2014 / 4:12 pm

      Thanks! 🙂 Working on this piece got me past the writer’s block. I just needed to do something different to shake my brain out of its rut.


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