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Fire Flowers

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Our trip to the beach was an annual family tradition.

Every New Year’s, we’d go down to watch them.

The beach would always be crowded that night.

Everyone wanted to welcome the new year.

The final countdown to midnight began.

At one, they started flying.

All along the coast.

Exploding sky flowers.

Colorful embers.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Dancing Lights

It’s that time of the year again, the time when the lights return and the street comes alive with their magic.

Quietly I sit in the back seat of our car, waiting anxiously for the show to begin. My parents tune the radio to the station posted on the sign in the main house’s front lawn. A moment of static passes, then the sound comes through and I start to quiver excitedly.

I press my face to the window as a voice comes on the radio. Out on the lawn, a bear made of an outline of lights has appeared and is talking in sync with the voice in our car. He welcomes us to the show and says he hopes we’ll have fun tonight. I know I will. I always do.

When the music starts, the lights on the streets dim. Another lit outline, a toy soldier playing a guitar, appears beside the bear. He softly strums the instrument as the sound of a real guitar plays through the radio. It starts out soft, then suddenly the music flares up and the decorated houses along the street come to life. Lights flash in colored patterns atop the roofs and in the lawns. My eyes shine wide with wonder; it’s finally begun!

A voice starts to sing over the music and the bear moves his jaws in sync with the words. Around him, the lights dance to the rhythm of the remixed Christmas carol he’s singing. Snowflakes twinkle in alternating patterns on the trees. Reindeer pulling sleighs glow on the rooftops. Christmas trees spin on the lawns and flash in bright patterns in the driveway of a house behind us. Outlines of familiar characters shine through a light grid on the roof. And all the while, every single light keeps perfect time with the music. It’s a magical sight!

My parents and I watch the lights dance to a handful of Christmas songs, many old favorites, some new tunes, and each more amazing than the last. Finally, the bear returns to speaking to thank us for watching the show and to ask us for donations to a children’s hospital. My parents must be able to read my mind because they turn around to hand me a $50 bill before I can say a word. I smile as I take it before I rush outside. As I drop the bill into the donation box, I look up at the bear to wink at him. I can almost swear I see him wink back at me.

“Merry Christmas!”

It’s the most magical time of the year. I can’t wait for next year’s Christmas light show!

Christmas Surprise

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Natalie awoke suddenly to noises coming from down the stairs.

Carefully, she crept out of bed and peeked outside.

She caught sight of reindeer on the roof.

Excitedly, she hurried out into the hall.

He was in the living room.

Placing presents under the tree.

They were for her.

She was certain.

Nattie grinned.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

A Fresh Start

I boarded the plane with a racing heart and tears in my eyes. Goodbyes are never easy, especially with family. You just have to keep telling yourself that it isn’t farewell for good; you’ll see each other again on holidays and special occasions. In the meantime, the separation will make future reunions all the sweeter.

That’s what I told myself as I settled in my seat, what my subconscious whispered in the back of my mind through the whole flight as I read my books, watched in-flight movies, and struggled to fall asleep, tossing and turning under my blanket. The dark sky outside had never looked so welcoming and intimidating at once.

It wasn’t until the great city came into view below that I really started to feel excited. The end of my journey was drawing near. What was waiting for me on the other side? I already knew what to expect as I stepped off the plane. It was why I couldn’t stop smiling as I stood in line at Passport Control or shaking as I pulled my suitcase off the conveyor belt.

I knew that the moment I stepped through the doors to the Arrivals deck, I would see his face smiling back at me, his loving brown eyes just as bright with hope and happiness as mine. The feeling of running into his arms was the most comforting in the world, knowing I’d never have to leave them again.

Time for a fresh start. My new life was about to begin!

From Purradise with Love

To my loving family,

I know you’re all still in pain, and you’re sad because you miss me. The truth is I miss you all too, but the time has come to move on. I’m in a much better place now, and I promise I’m comfortable and happy. But since I got here, I’ve been told that humans have trouble accepting the loss of loved ones, so I hope this letter will put you at ease and give you peace.

Please understand that this was not your fault. I know you did everything you could to make me stay, but there was nothing you could have done for me anymore. I didn’t mean to hurt you by leaving; it was just my time to go. Don’t blame yourselves, because you did exactly what you should have done: you gave me a good life and made my last hours as comfortable as possible.

I want to thank you all for giving me the best life I could ever have asked for. I know I was too small when you found me to remember living on the street, but I’m grateful that you took me in and gave me a comfortable place in your home and in your family. I always had plenty of room to play, a warm lap to curl up in, soft beds to sleep in, and all the food I ever needed – even if you didn’t always get the flavor right or put as much in my bowl as I wanted, no matter how much I cried. Maybe I wasn’t good at making it clear (I hear humans express their affection differently), but you all meant the world to me, and I did care for you all very much.

I also want to thank you for the comfort you gave me in my last moments. Curled up in Mom’s arms was exactly where I wanted to be, and your goodbye kisses were the perfect way to send me off. I’m sorry you had to suffer by seeing me go, but I’m glad I could be with you all in the end.

So please don’t be sad, dear family. Remember the good times we had, and think about all the joy we shared in my ten years of life. I hope I’ve enriched your lives as much as you’ve enriched mine, and I’m sure you won’t forget me any time soon. I’ll certainly never forget you. This isn’t goodbye forever; we’ll see each other again soon. So be happy, and know that no matter where I am, you will always be my family, and I’ll love you forever. Until we meet again, a loving purr and great big meow to you all!

Love always,

Your Little One

P.S. The dog sends her love. She and I have put in a good word for you all with the Caretaker!

So our family cat passed away last month, a tragic day for us all. I wrote this letter in loving memory of her as my way of getting closure; though we all still miss her terribly, I like to imagine she’s in a better place now and still loves and remembers us wherever she is. We love you, Piccolina!

Oh, and the dog mentioned in the postscript is the same dog from “My Last Bark“, another “loving memory” story I wrote a few years ago. Yes, I really love my pets!

The Next Chapter

“Thank you!”

It’s all still a blur, but I know I ended my Master’s thesis presentation with the biggest smile on my face. The applause rang in my head for hours afterward. I barely even remember the evaluators’ comments during the defense.

All I remember is their last question: “What next?”

I’d already thought about the question long and hard. Would I attain a Ph.D right away, or take a break to pursue creative writing?

I smiled and said I’d follow my passion. They thought I meant science. I knew better.

“On to the next chapter of my life!”

This is a little 100-word challenge I set for myself just for fun, loosely based on a true story. Hope you enjoyed the piece! Thanks for reading!

Sweet Gold

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

The young bear spotted the bee landing on a daisy.

Curious, he followed the striped insect to its hive.

It led him through meadows rich with wildflowers.

Finally, it vanished into a large tree.

The cub sniffed the hive cautiously.

He reached his paw inside.

Out came something sticky.

It tasted sweet.

Delicious gold.


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

A Day in My Paws

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

I see the way you’re staring, and I know you’re wondering what it’s like to be me, but it’s not so easy to sum up a day in my life, this wonderful life of luxury and tranquility, a life where I get to sleep through most of the day and no one bats an eye, where I wake up at the crack of dawn and sing my heart out for half an hour before I run outside to greet the day, where I spend the early morning chasing birds and butterflies and lizards around until I get tired and collapse on the sunlit porch for hours, where I’m constantly waited on by adoring subjects who will pet me and scratch behind my ears when I rub myself against their legs and who know to rub my belly exactly three times when I lie on my back because four is when I attack, where all I have to do is cry to make someone open the door for me and even wait the whole five minutes until I’m finally ready to come inside, where there’s never a shortage of giant oddly shaped scratching posts and high surfaces and objects to knock over, where I always get to curl up in a warm lap or a soft bed when it gets cold at night, and where I get all the food and comfort and unconditional love I could possibly want, a life so perfect that I could hardly sum it up in a day… except that I just did, and I can tell you it’s the best life in the world.

This story is based on What If? Exercise 90: “The Journey of the Long Sentence”. The exercise is to write a short short story that’s only one sentence long. The objective is to understand how we can shape our writing in a similar manner that our minds function, building a linear order for observations that often consist of many overlapping aspects. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

Stop Pretending

Stop pretending. This isn’t you.

Why are you hiding? You think they’ll never see through the mask? You think they won’t like what they see when they do?

Pretending is exhausting, I know. It must be hard to keep up a facade all the time. That’s why you cry every night, isn’t it? That’s why you never let anyone in, why you never show that face to anyone but me. It’s easier to wear the mask when nobody knows what’s underneath.

You keep telling yourself that it’s better to play a part, to blend in, to be “one of them”. You think if you always tell them exactly what they want to hear, then maybe they’ll like you. You think their approval can make you happy. You’d rather feel accepted than dare to stand out by letting them see what’s on the inside, even if it chips away a little piece of you every day.

But I know you’re better than this.

Don’t give me that look. You know I’m right. The glass between us can’t protect you from the truth. That’s why you came looking for me, isn’t it? Why you always look for me in your weakest moments. You want me to help you, to encourage you, to save you. You want me to tell you what you already know.

But I can’t tell you anything, can I? Everything I’m telling you, you’re really telling yourself. I’m just the voice; the words are all yours. You have the power to save yourself.

That’s it. There’s that smile. You feel your confidence growing, don’t you? Hold onto that feeling. You know what you have to do now. You’ve always known.

Start listening to this voice in the mirror, the voice inside you.

Don’t be afraid anymore. It’s time to discard the mask for good. Get out there and show the world this face, your real face, the face of someone who’s comfortable in their skin and doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. Only then will you finally be free. Trust me, that’s the only face you’ll ever need to be happy.

Stop pretending to be somebody else, and start being you.

Five Seconds

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Jenny stared at the clear sky above her, while all around, the sounds of screaming and crying grew fainter. She winced at the sharp pain running up her leg, knowing that if she’d just waited a few seconds after the light turned red, she’d still be on her way to school right now. But it was too late; for the next hour, her world would be nothing but sirens, blood, and darkness.

Matt trembled as he fumbled with his cellphone, his heart pounding in his ears. He kept trying to piece everything together, but it had all happened so fast; one second, he was swerving to avoid the boy on the bike, the next, he was slamming on his brakes and screeching to a halt. He was terrified to think he’d soon be explaining to the police that the girl had come out of nowhere, and he hadn’t even seen the lights change.

Cory sat on the sidewalk with his face buried in his hands and a bicycle lying beside him. Two strangers sat on either side of him, patting him on the shoulder and reassuring him that it was an accident, that he wasn’t to blame for the car or the girl, but he knew the truth. He had put off getting his brakes fixed for too long, they had cost him those precious few seconds of reaction time, and this terrible accident was all his fault.

Donna knelt beside the poor girl lying on the pavement, feeling uneasy about the youth in her face and the odd angle of her broken leg. The woman wasn’t usually so affected by her job, but the knot in her throat now was only too real, and she kept her eyes averted as she helped her colleagues move the unconscious teenager onto the stretcher. Knowing that a matter of seconds could just as easily have taken her own adolescent daughter, she resolved to do everything she could to get this girl back on her feet and moving forward in life once more.

Nick watched helplessly as the ambulance drove away down the street, taking with it the girl who sat in front of him in Math class every day. In that moment, it occurred to him that everything left unsaid, everything that could have been said, had been taken away in the span of a few short seconds. Terrified at the thought of never getting another chance, he decided that the first day she was back in school, he would finally tell her exactly how he felt.

These pieces are based on What If? Exercise 97: “Nanofictions”. The exercise is to write five flash fiction pieces of three sentences each, which may or may not be connected by a common detail. The objective is to understand how to focus immediately on a troubled situation and learn how to identify the details of drama. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

About J.C. Wolfe

J.C. Wolfe is a fiction writer, biologist, and aspiring novelist of science fantasy and romance. A natural-born American and graduate in Marine Ecology from a university in Brazil, J.C. now writes for a living in California while spending free time blogging and penning stories and poetry.

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