Badgerdog Session B: Flash Fiction (7th-12th grade)

Flash fiction is a genre that seems, at first, to belong to the Internet Age—vivid, compact little stories, the perfect fit for (a cynic might say) the contemporary short attention span. But look more closely and you’ll realize that flash is as old as storytelling itself. Aesop’s fables are flash fiction; creation stories and folktales from around the world, with their brevity, quick characterization, and supernatural elements are flash fiction

This group of campers was working, then, in a form both ancient and cutting edge, one with many challenges and endless possibilities. Thankfully, this was a bright and adventurous bunch—readily engaging with works by Italo Calvino, George Saunders, and Lydia Davis, creating small stories alternately rooted in emotional memory and floating electric across the technicolor horizon of imagination.  I’m so honored to present this collection of moving, vivid, funny, beautifully wrought pieces of flash fiction, all by young writers whose names you’d be wrong not to mark in your memory.

Ali Riegel
Badgerdog Teaching Artist

Desertum

Desertum was the worst sort of place to live. It was vast, but only a fool could mistake that for a good thing. No one had ever lived to tell us what lay beyond our town and the endless sand, and we never dared to go too far for fear of what lay beyond. The openness taunted us, reminding us of what we could never have. 

Our town was clustered around the center where the hospital, school, and market were, if you could even call them that. The school only had a few classes, one for each age group, and the hospital consisted of three doctors. From there, homes spread out all relatively close together. We always worked, even the kids, but no one complained, knowing we had to get food for the market and water from the oasis in order to survive. We were content enough, despite the sun in our eyes and sand caked between our toes. We were like one huge family, everyone playing their part to put food on the table because if we didn’t work collectively, we wouldn’t stand a chance against the desert, our enemy. 

In a way, we were just zombies. We did the same things continuously, working in the sweltering heat and sleeping restlessly in the frigid air. We were forced to grow up too quickly, forced to learn the art of survival at too young an age. 

I was only five when I had to start collecting water, and the tasks piled on as I grew older. By the time I went to sleep at night, my palms were lined with calluses and blisters, my bones ached, and exhaustion coursed through me. Still, the bitter winds kept me awake at night, only making the next day’s job harder. 

Long ago, there was hope. Desertum would send out small search parties to scout out what lay beyond. We awaited the return of the fearless pioneers in giddy anticipation, but all hope quickly vanished when they either never returned or came back crazy and nearly dead, unable to tell us anything about what they saw. 

So Desertum gave up. There was no changing our fate; we would live and die in this pathetic town, and everyone had come to accept it. And yet, I wouldn’t believe that there was nothing out there, nothing to aspire for. Mom told me I was always a strong-willed child, always demanding things. Well, now I demanded answers. I couldn’t resign myself to the same fate as the town, the same pitiful life. Despite the warnings, despite the proof that nothing good would come of leaving, I had to. Desertum had nothing for me. I had heard stories of the outside world, and I had ambitions.

So it was in the dead of night that I stared at the vast and open desert, stars lighting a path past the cacti and windswept sand, lighting the way to a better future, a place where the vastness wasn’t taunting but welcoming.

Hannah McDonough

The Old Man at the River

There’s an old man on the bench, shuffled over to its left side. He has a loaf of bread in his left hand and a black cane lying by his feet. He’s staring wistfully out at the river and he almost looks sad, like he’s crying.

People never notice him sitting on his yellow bench, but Emery does. They can spot him from the other side of the river. With his flock of ducks gathered around snapping at the bread he tosses. Emery notices him every day and always stops to watch. 

The right side of the bench has space but he doesn’t place his stuff there, like he’s waiting for someone. Someone Emery has never seen, someone who will probably never join him. He looks content still, despite the longing stare. Sometimes a duck will crowd his feet and he’ll smile slowly and reach out with his knobbly fingers to feed the courageous little guy, while the others remain timid, further away. 

Emery walks over the bridge at the center of the river and heads shyly towards the old man, the dirt and rocks beneath their feet crunch and crackle with each step. The man doesn’t turn and Emery observes him a little more. He has dark brown skin, stretched and sagging, wrinkles around his cheeks, hearing aids in his ears and blue-rimmed glasses. 

Then his eyes turn to Emery and they look like tiger iron gems. He stretches his right arm out and Emery can almost hear his joints creaking as he pats the right side of the bench and turns away. Emery sucks in a breath and walks slowly to the bench and sits down. The yellow paint is peeling off to reveal black beneath.

The man hands Emery a piece of bread and returns his gaze to the little black and brown ducks and their hungry orange beaks. So Emery stays and sits with him, never speaking, but they return the next day and the next and the next again.

It’s a nice routine to follow for those months until it inevitably comes to an end, the day Emery shows up and the man is not there. His sharp tiger iron eyes aren’t there to glance at Emery and hand them a piece of bread like usual. He doesn’t return the next day or the next and Emery brings a loaf of bread to feed the ducks alone but it’s not the same. It doesn’t bring them any calm delight, just a sense of curiosity mixed with nostalgia. Emery will never say it out loud but they have a sinking thought that they understand what happened. 

Emery doesn’t ever sit on the peeling yellow bench again but they miss it and when the bench is removed and ripped carelessly from the ground Emery silently cries for the chance to have one more day feeding ducks with the old man at the river. 

Lexy Hall

{ Main.Test.I(“Cats”, 0, 3, “CONNECT”);} catch (HEHEHE) {  console.error(HEHEHE);}

This underwater metropolis,{ Main.Test.I(“Cats”, 0, 3, “CONNECT”);} catch (HEHEHE) {  console.error(HEHEHE);}, is a bustling place, though a little mysterious. The entire place seems to move around in the ocean and nobody knows if it will suddenly flood with water. This place, at first, seems to be self-sufficient, but actually relies a lot on trade—which is difficult, since the city is invisible to outsiders (they have machines to help with that, though).

Joe Delaca was an adventurous kid who lived in the city center. He first saw that something was off when he was visiting his grandmother, Olala Delaca, in the hospital, where she was recovering from when her submarine spontaneously combusted with her inside. When he was exiting the hospital he grabbed a free newspaper off a stand at the door. The headline read: Proposal to Rename City Dismissed as Being Too Crazy! The headline was not the thing that caught Joe’s eye, though, but a story below it. The story read that the number of mysterious submarine incidents (including Olala’s) had increased dramatically in recent days. The story below read about how a third prosecutor in the city’s Investigative Board had suddenly quit, but Joe was not interested at that time.

The Lssklndl’skdjs Faction was a mysterious organization. Few people knew its goals and most people did not know how much clout it had. The next day, Joe was walking along when he stumbled across a suspicious folder that fell on the ground by pure luck. It said: Lssklndl’skdjs Faction: Top Secret. He picked it up and continued on his way. 

When he gave it to his father, Lelodo Delaca, Lelodo asked “Where did you get this?” 

Joe replied, “Found it on the street.” 

Lelodo immediately saw that these documents were highly incriminating, and they had to get them to the Investigative Board center ASAP.

There was one problem. When they turned on the news, it said that the Investigative Board center had been blocked because a massive pile of rubble had been dumped in front of the building. Joe and Lelodo were convinced the Lssklndl’skdjs Faction was behind it to prevent their lost documents from being turned in.

Suddenly Joe’s Father remembered that there was a back door to the building! They soon rushed there and found the back door. They delivered the tip and went home. The next day, they saw in the news that the documents had uncovered a massive conspiracy—the Lssklndl’skdjs Faction had been trying to seize power. The prosecutor was quitting because of a harassment campaign by the Lssklndl’skdjs Faction, since she was launching an investigation into their activities. The submarine attacks were targeting leaders who publicly opposed the Lssklndl’skdjs’s ideology, but they had also attacked random submarines (such as Olala’s) to draw away suspicion. After further investigation, it was found that Joe and Lelodo’s hunch was right: the Lssklndl’skdjs Faction was also behind the Rubble Incident.

Michael Wu

Story of a Broken Snowman

“Goodbye everyone!” 

I was waving everyone goodbye to the past year’s Christmas in 2019. I carefully put away my snowmen family (which were glass). I placed them in the closet. A few days later, I heard a huge thump inside the closet. I looked around to see if anyone had heard, but the whole house was asleep except for me. 

The next year, there wasn’t any party because of Covid. I opened the box to find one of the snowmen’s heads split in half. I glued it back on, and when I went to sleep that day, I heard a crack. I woke up and saw that the glue had failed to hold one half of the snowman’s head. The other half of the head had fallen onto the tile and shattered into many smaller pieces—the snowman’s head would remain forever broken.

Ryan Juramongkol

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