Write a piece of flash fiction each day of February with the February Flash Fiction Challenge, led by editor Moriah Richard. Each day, receive a prompt, example story, and write your own. Today’s prompt is to include an animal character.

It’s no secret that I love animals—ask anyone who knows me, and they’ll probably tell you that they’ve suffered hours of their time listening to me rant about animal facts I find interesting.

But animals are also cool ways to spice up your writing. I’ve written about world-building and animal characters for this site; author and trained fighter Carla Hoch has written about animals in fight scenes; and debut author Pamela Korgemagi has discussed how she prepared to write from an animal’s perspective in her novel The Hunter and the Old Woman.

For today’s prompt, include an animal character.

Remember: As mentioned yesterday, these prompts are just starting points; you have the freedom to go wherever your flash of inspiration takes you.

(Note: If you happen to run into any issues posting, please just send me an e-mail at mrichard@aimmedia.com with the subject line: Flash Fiction Challenge Commenting Issue.)

Here’s my attempt at walking on the wild side:

Whistle. Click Click.

“What a pretty bird!”

August sighed and shifted some more papers into the “no idea; review later” box on her brother’s dining room table. In the corner, Paulie, the African grey, was looking at himself in the mirror, flirting as intently as he could.

Woo-hoo! his whistle went, followed by two distinct clicks.

August had been at this for hours. She knew that her brother had no intention of dropping dead at 53 of a … massive myocardial infarction, that’s what the doctor had said, like the term “heart attack” wasn’t good enough. But still, she wished that he’d kept his house a little less cluttered, his important documents in a more reasonable fashion. She wished there was someone who could be doing this instead of her, but besides herself, the only thing her brother really seemed to care about was—

“What a pretty bird!” Woo-hoo! Click click.

“Paulie, please,” August said, “I really can’t take another few hours of you doing this. How he put up with you all the time, I’ll never know.”

Paulie swiveled his head to look at her, beady black eye glinting in the afternoon light coming in from the window. After a moment, he turned back and preened for the little mirror in his cage.

August went back to work. She was currently sorting papers; trying to pack up the bedroom had been a little too much for her. She figured something with better structure would be best for today, and then tomorrow, the movers would come and help her. Maybe this would all be easier if she had someone to help her, but really, it wasn’t worth Katie taking the time off work to fly across the country, especially not with the COVID numbers rising again.

“What a pretty bird!”

“Paulie, for the love of god—”

Woo-hoo! Click click.

“Enough!” She stood from her chair so fast that it fell back onto the faded linoleum with a bang. “Can you not give me a single fucking moment of peace!?”

Silence.

August’s vision was blurry. After a few blinks, it cleared, and she realized that it was because of the tears now coating her cheeks. She sniffed. Wiped her face.

In his cage, Paulie was watching her. His feathers puffed up and settled and puffed up again. It looked like a lagging heartbeat.

The house was silent. Not quiet. Silent. There was no road noise, no TV chattering lowly, no wife puttering from her craft room to the kitchen and back. For a moment, August imagined her brother sitting here in this giant stillness, with his mountain of bill statements and 1,000 coffee mugs and sister who couldn’t be bothered to pick up his calls.

And maybe his only comfort was a little grey bird obsessed with his own reflection.

“I’m sorry, Paulie,” August said.

Paulie watched her right the dining room chair. When she approached his cage, he shuffled nervously side-to-side and bobbed his head a few times.

“I’m sorry Paulie,” she said again. “Don’t be afraid. Hm? We can be friends, can’t we?”

Paulie lowered his head, cocked it to the side. It looked like he was trying to stare up her nose. She fended off a snort at the thought.

“What a pretty bird?” she tried.

Paulie sat tall and said, “Hello, Marwen.”

August felt that like a punch in the stomach. She had to clear her throat a few times. “Hello, August.”

“Hello, Marwen!” Woo-hoo! Click click.

August sighed and opened his cage. He looked at her outstretched hand for a few long moments before delicately hopping on, his little black claws scraping her skin.

“Want to help me go through the rest of Marwen’s papers, Paulie?”

Paulie let out a creaking groan and rustled his wings as she transferred him to her shoulder. But it was also kind of nice.

“What a pretty bird!” Paulie announced as August took her seat at her brother’s dining room table. Woo-hoo!

“Click, click,” August said.

During this live webinar, award-winning writer Ran Walker will teach you how to find and mine ideas for your flash fiction. He will show you how to take stories in the public domain and “remix” them into new stories. Ran will also show you how to put your own spin on these ideas and make them truly yours.

Click to continue.

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