The Forty Word

A significant birthday!When that significant birthday comes along we all take stock, ask ourselves important questions, for instance – will we be an ostrich or a diva? Will we sit in a comfy chair with a lap blanket and document the body bits that are no longer in tip top condition or will we metaphorically see our lives for the dusty rugs they are and take them out to the washing line for a good old beating – making ourselves wheeze with the debris of our decrepid DNA?

Well in what I hope will be the spirit of the coming year,  I choose DIVA! There will be a party and dancing in the non cyber world and maybe even in the blogosphere and twitterverse. But before DANCING, there has to be WRITING. And so I come, very longwindedly to my FLASH FICTION COMPETITION.


THEME – Seize the day.

I require you, dear people, to enter in the comments your entry for this competition. You must – loosely – follow the theme and your entries must be EXACTLY forty words long. I will take entries until midnight on Sunday 7th February, for those not in GMT this is whenever YOUR midnight happens to be. This will give me time to recover from my birthday celebrations before I and choose the winner. And because it is my birthday it will be the entry I like best. Oh and by the way, enter as many times as you like.


Textured cover


I’m not the only clever bunny in my family. My sister is a fabulous felt-maker and she makes gorgeous once-off notebook covers using wool, silk threads and ribbons. As you can see from the pictures they are different on each side, are textural, inspiring and unique.

The coversInside cover are made to fit an A5 notebook and can be removed and used on another notebook once your current one is full. First prize will be a notebook with a handmade cover and I will give further prizes of lovely felted bookmarks.

Good luck and thank you in advance for this bounty of birthday stories. And if you’re still wondering – why 40 words? – bless you.

78 thoughts on “The Forty Word

  1. Best years of your life woman. It only gets better from here. I honestly wish I had went, 29, 29, 40, and skipped the 30’s altogether! Remember all great wines get better with age. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. Love the 40 word comp and looking forward to the challenge. Fab covers.
    Light and Laughter

  2. Excited chirping from the nest in the eves. Mrs Sparrow is on the guttering, making an odd squawking noise. A tiny head appears. A few moment’s hesitation. A huge world revealed. He’s flying. The cat on the grass crouches low.


    I can have the honour of being the first entry to your competition! And you have the honour of being the first recipient of my first ever (micro) flash fiction attempt which is much harder than I expected.

    Anyway it comes with fond wishes for lots of good things on your BIG BIRTHDAY!!!! Enjoy the celebrations!!

  3. All the pieces have a place, every memory, every face. Just like filo, separate layers, built with love, forgotten fears. Interleaved with things delicious, children, marriage, friends forever, puffed by heat of life worth living, glazed with sunlight, halflife glistens.

  4. Okay, here’s my first ever really short flash fiction:

    I walked down the tunnel of my vision towards him. Tonight, I told myself, do it.
    Reaching his side I whispered the words,
    “I’m crazy about you.”
    Those sculpted lips smiled; parted.
    It was then I realised his breath smelt.

  5. Okay, this is a first for me too…

    It had been three years since she had walked away.

    Words of love, anger, hope and of fear. All left unsaid.

    But today. Today was a Tuesday. As good a day as any.

    He picked up the phone and dialled.

  6. my entry no. 1 = normal style:

    Seize the day:

    An elderly lady is apparently dozing on a chair in a retirement home.
    Underneath her knitted cardigan, she is attired in a ‘killer’ red sequinned dress.
    Her shiny, patent shoes are tapping the tango……….
    A man approaches, it’s salsa time…

  7. my entry no. 2 – fantasy (a special birthday gift for Alison)

    Alison Wells is currently collaborating with James Cameron on her screenplay ‘Bog Body’ in California.

    Her husband and children spend their days swimming and lunching with the Beckham and Cruise families.

    Alison revisits Ireland each winter to give writing masterclasses.

  8. Ciara

    Bitter cold stings my legs as I stand, barelegged and bedraggled outside his house. Knowing he isn’t there, I peer through the window. Through the glass the faint vibration catches the corner of my eye. A satisfied smile, secret unveiled.


    Strange how long this took! 40 words is too little but, amazingly, just enough!

    1. alisonwells

      Thanks Ciara, Brigid, Gareth, Jane, Sally and Barbara!

      Fab pieces so far and the forty words does give a special poignancy or kick to the pieces I think. Thanks so much for entering, hope you enjoyed the process/and or result of your efforts. I’ve enjoyed reading so far. And special mention to Brigid for making me the successful heroine. A present that put a smile on my face!


  9. William J Bowles

    Nurses pad silently around a hospital bed. Family stifle tears and hold each other for comfort.

    The old woman was waiting to die.

    Not afraid.

    “I loved and was loved”

    “I danced, I sang, I ran, I LIVED!”

    “No regrets”

  10. Right, here goes another one:

    Her toes curl around the lip of the board. Arms, held rigid in zombie pose, quiver with strain. Last year’s swimsuit rides up between the cheeks of her bottom. Last year’s fear shivers over her skin.
    Deep breath; she flies.

  11. William J Bowles

    Every bone ached, his head hurt, food poisoning, those bloody mussels, the sweaty bed-sheets clung to him, the room swam, he would have to overcome his fears, after three days of diarrhoea he had to face …… the first fart!

  12. movienewsfirst

    Great competition Alison and am very impressed with the entries so far. Must put my thinking cap on and try and muster something up before the deadline:) Happy Birthday! Olive

  13. My first go at a 40 word story ever. And yes, I am just back from Asda:

    As the red mist cleared, there were boxes, tins and bottles as far as the eye could see. A pair of uniforms provided her with an escort. She was hysterical. That was the most satisfying episode of trolley rage ever.

  14. This one is a joke really but based in fact:

    After realising that she was an exception, as a lot of her new friends came from the same location, she sighed. Glancing in the mirror, she hoped that her red hair and a liking for Guinness would mask her flaws.

  15. A tiny bit of sci fi (which will become part of a series I am writing):

    The journey had tired Josh, or Ac’tiash as he was now to be known. It was always harder for those born on Earth. Slowly he raised himself up and took his rightful place as third in line to rule Zoriagon.

  16. Aideen

    She pointed the gun at him, her hand shaking uncontrollably. “You’ll never hurt me again,” she whispered. “You can’t,” he hissed. She fired. He crumpled; it was all over. She dropped the gun. “Cut, that’s a wrap,” the director called.

  17. Life unfurls moments ahead of my consciousness. I, wrapped in a mother’s cloak, carry my children close beneath the woolen folds. I cannot remember the weight of my limbs without the bodies of these children, this opaque veil, this beauty.

    1. Should not have posted before adequate caffeination. Can I make slight revision?

      Life unfurls moments ahead of my consciousness. Wrapped in a mother’s cloak, I carry my children close beneath the woolen folds. I cannot remember the weight of my limbs without the beauty of these children, this opaque veil, this beauty.

  18. The snow is falling fast and furious. The kids are home from school. I won’t accomplish much today, for sure.
    “Mommy, I love you,” said my daughter and the same echoed from my son. We all hugged. Life is beautiful.

  19. Sarah Traynor

    He skips ahead – stopping at the house. She calls to him, ‘be careful’, as he climbs. She reaches for keys, a bag drops – glass against concrete. She stares at it. Then up. A little silhouette waves. She smiles.

    [with correct spelling!]

  20. Helen Williams

    He was her best friend. Always would be, despite the years and miles, jobs and babies, months without writing. She’d send a long letter as soon as she’d time.
    Then that agonising, heartbreaking phone call.
    No need to write now.

    1. Helen Williams

      Apologies for the rather sombre sentiment. It’s really a cautionary tale to myself, since I’m an awful procrastinator when it comes to keeping in touch – I always want to write a long message to catch up with all the news, but don’t have the time, so end up writing nothing! Which is why a) I’m in awe of people who manage to write every day, and b) it’s great to be back in touch with old friends.
      Happy 21st, Alison!

  21. As snow falls, I reject convention. My wife can go to work and I will take my daughters sledding.
    A fast ride down hill, giggles and laughter. Slow climb up, am I too old? Hot chocolate afterwards. A perfect day.

  22. Sunlight drenched birdsong dazzled him awake. His heart soared. It was a beautiful day. He stretched, then remembered. He was due in court today to hear how long the judge thought he should serve for the manslaughter of his wife

    Just so everyone doesn’t think I am some little twee munchkin after my first entry!!!! (I am a big munchkin!)

  23. “Where’s the birthday girl?” he asked, “I have been trying to contact her all day.”
    “Over there, red boots,” said Graham. “Try all you like, Mr Tennant, but without ‘@’ in front of her name she’ll never get the message.

  24. It’s all relative really isn’t it? The age thing. Some parts get better, some get wobblier. Some parts get funnier, some sadder. Some parts change dramatically while others stay reassuringly the same. And yet somehow it all makes perfect sense.

  25. Slight cheat here: a Limerick of 40 syllables, not 40 words!

    There once was a woman whose age
    Inspired others to write a short page
    In the hope that their graft
    Would win a work of such craft
    All other writers would feel jealous rage!

  26. The sky was black as coal. The wind whipped around the car in fury. The car swerved beneath her. She glanced at Mick. His back taut, leaning forward and gripping the steering wheel so tightly his knuckles straining and white.

  27. Helen Williams

    Cold to his aching bones. Body juddering, fingers and toes numb. Daggers of icy air piercing his lungs, breath ripped away by the freezing blizzard. Behind him, a warm sleeping bag. But today he was going to reach the summit.

  28. brigid

    My entry no. 3 (in an irish myths and legends style – would work better with swirly wind soundtrack and a bit of Riverdance)

    Through the mists of time, St. Brigid appeared and declared that only one female mortal should carry the title of ‘poetry goddess’.
    This led to a battle of the ‘Brigids’ where pen fought pen and Alison Brigid Wells (aka Truth, Poetry Wells) became the true successor to the Saint Brigid. She fought a hard and inky battle of the pens and anyway, it’s her birthday and she can be the blinkin’ poetry Goddess, whatever….Happy 40th, I know I’m way over 40 words and will be disqualified, but couldn’t resist,

  29. I’m getting out. I’ve been in this water far too long. *heave-grunt* Almost there… *strain-splash-flop-slide-drip-drip* Yes! I’m out! Now if I could only reach a towel. (Taking a bath is hard for a mermaid.)

    [And a very happy day-seizing to you.]

  30. Ken Smith

    I was a member now–secret handshake, passcodes, duties and privileges. Outside I could spot other members too. I saw them take advantage, steal for themselves, and smile it all away. In the bylaws I saw this was our right. 

  31. Roma Diaz

    Entering the raucous party they instantly regretted arriving fashionably late. Tipsy relatives twice their age whisked them onto the dance floor, displaying impressive rhythm. The stamina of the young at heart quickly shamed the youngsters and their weary feet.

    Happy Birthday for your special day Alison! You’ll have a ball I’m sure, hope it’s filled with love, laughter, dancing and champagne! PS Remember that birthday cake calories don’t exist, enjoy 😉

  32. Roma Diaz

    Too many cards made jokey references to the slippery slope that he was about to encounter. His life, in images, flashed through his mind. Being uneventful if didn’t take long. He decided that this birthday marked the beginning of fun.

  33. Roma Diaz

    Being a domestic goddess, her house was famed for being a show home. The morning of her significant birthday sparked a surprising change. The red wine stains on the cream carpet from the party highlighted the new and improved lifestyle.

  34. Helen Williams

    “Sorry love, I can’t play right now. I have to make dinner…and there’s two loads of washing, and I must fix that hinge…”
    My little boy, too quickly growing into the man he will become.
    Blow housework. “Wanna play pirates?”

  35. Four happy little heads bent over their work. One tired, bored, beautiful woman waiting for her babysitter. One day of freedom. Lip gloss, make up, trendy clothes, her own identity. Cinema in daylight, scandalous and delicious. Meeting her mate, MAGIC!

  36. Lady Scribbles

    If he walks out that door, I will never see him again. He approaches to say goodbye. Ignoring his proffered hand, I place my palms on his cheeks and kiss his full, sensuous lips. He asks for my phone number.

  37. Lady Scribbles

    This is fun, Alison! Here’s my second attempt at flash fiction:

    A ghost agreed to be photographed. I took many pictures, and he even smiled in some! I was disappointed in the dark room, however; as none of the images was captured. The spirit was willing, but the flash was weak.

  38. Lady Scribbles

    “I promised your father I’d get these to you,” he rasps.
    I tumble the uncut diamonds in my hand and remember Africa.
    “What am I supposed to do with them?”
    “Whatever you like,” he shrugs. “Just…wash the blood off first.”

  39. Lady Scribbles

    It is the second day of the monsoon. The road outside is impassable. We are prisoners in our own home and the phones and electricity are off. Thank God the only energy source my pen and paper require is me.

  40. Lady Scribbles

    This is addictive!!

    ‘We’ve finally got that warrant, Guv’!”
    “Get a team together – let’s go!”
    Within thirty minutes, the search was underway.
    He tried to escape, but I gave chase, tackled him and seized him firmly from behind.
    “You’re under arrest, Mr. Day.”

  41. Oh dear that was hard! And the competition – don’t envy you the judging! Anyway, here’s my first ever attempt at flash fiction – you did say the theme was ‘loosely’ seizing the day, right?

    Chubby pink legs quivered under the nappy. Chubby pink fingers gripped the sofa. One foot shuffled forward, one hand let go. Two feet, two hands, free-standing, the world within grasp. Then Mummy came back in. Bump! Nothing to see here!

    Have a wonderful birthday!

  42. The dispatch worried him. These calls always made him come home with a heavy heart. “Vehicle rescue – possible juvenile entrapment”. He put on his gloves over the latex gloves. He knew the intersection well. How bad would it be now?

    Sorry for the somber mood! I am a volunteer firefighter and EMT…

  43. “He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.”

    The stuttering boy’s vocal exercise ran through the nervous man’s mind like a mantra. He could do this. He knew his presentation. He needed the promotion.

  44. Rain again. Walking along, drenched, he missed the weather of his mountain village, thunderstorms rumbling through snow-filled valleys. Why had he ever left? Then he looked at the sign announcing his art exhibit. Maybe rain wasn’t so bad after all.

  45. “Let’s see,” she said aloud to herself. “Pickled eggs, fried chicken, potato chips, chocolate truffles, and wine. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Let’s hope they’re right.”

    Sarah lifted the picnic basket, shoulder squared.

  46. “Let’s see,” she said aloud to herself. “Pickled eggs, fried chicken, potato chips, chocolate truffles, and wine. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Let’s hope they’re right.”

    Sarah lifted the picnic basket, shoulders squared.

    (I can’t believe I let that glaring typing go through – sorry!)

    1. alisonwells

      Hello new and repeat entrants! Thank you so much for dropping in and posting your stories. For those who apologised, apologies not necessary, I am not afraid of sombre, dramatic or strange – much of my own writing has those eminent qualities! Well done for the good work everyone has done getting these great nuggets together. It will be so difficult to make a decision!

  47. Here is a little something different for your birthday flash. It is a free verse mythical poem in exactly 40 words. Yeah, some of it is a little twisted, but hey, if you make it to 40, you gotta have a sense of humor. Enjoy & Happy Birthday!!

    Chains and shackle the monsters, so
    Screams of terror subside, as
    Breaks and sun evaporates horrors of regret, revealing
    Children in cages and all whine turned to wine, as
    Wishes are granted by magic serpentine.

      1. Thanks Melissa, that is kind of you. I’m glad you noticed the single lines – my fun hidden message.

        Even if I don’t win, I still gave Alison the gift of an hour of my lost sleep last night and this poem.

      1. thanks Jane, the children in cages was inspired by a photo that Alison shared from another writing Mom – two kids were in a cage smiling and the Mom could now write – of course it was a joke, but the pic was very cute.

  48. Had another go. It’s surprisingly addictive, I have little sentences running round in my head where my Tweets usually live…

    It took ten years to write. It sat in a drawer, taunting, another decade. She had finally taken it out of the drawer, dusted it off and re-read it. Now, with a deep breath, she pushed it into the postbox.

  49. William J Bowles

    The creative writing course had been expensive but really useful. He relaxed at the keyboard, slowly flexed his fingers, stretched his shoulders, closed his eyes for 30 seconds, invoked his muse and started to write………TD’s Expenses Claim Form – Part 1.

  50. Sue David

    She loved to dance, he loved to talk. She taught him to dance; he wanted to teach her how to debate. She said, “That can wait. Dance now while we can, then teach me how to move with my words.”

  51. The day began as normal. Her husband left for work. She dropped the children off at school. But as she walked back home, she glanced at the one way ticket in her wallet. It would not take long to pack.

    1. Sue David

      Only just seen this one (still finding my way on blogging sites). I love the amount of meaning you instil into ‘one way ticket’

  52. Another topical joke for you:

    The babysitter was very excited. She knew they would be busy for hours at the party. She had planned a little party of her own, but hoped that only a few people turned up, so the house wasn’t completely trashed.

  53. brigid

    Forty years hence, I will glance back at my life,
    I will see not worldly goods, nor brimming bank accounts;
    I will see a trail of people with love in their eyes
    and I will love them back a thousandfold.

  54. Ed Hickey

    The woman took the chalk and began to write her life’s story on the wall. The chalk wore down to a nub, then vanished, her work unfinished; she sighed. But in the box were more sticks for her to use.

  55. I pick up the post.

    It’s the TV license renewal, addressed to him. His name glares out. Black and bold, asking to be remembered.

    I run my fingers over the name. Flat and cold.

    I no longer have a TV.

  56. She sheds her coat and steps out in glittering gold. Her hair is polished, her skin refreshed. She is renewed.

    Her friends and family squint to see her, blink at her brightness.

    It is her 40th birthday. All is possibility.

  57. There’s no rush. I’ve learned that if something’s worth being in my life it will pass this way again. But what if it doesn’t? What if this one’s so special that it’s unique? What if I’ve learned the wrong thing?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s