PRETENDING • by A. S. Andrews

First Place Winner
Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 THREE Contest — Spring ’11

Darryl breaks a rule. An unwritten one, but he knows — don’t eat the goldfish. Unless you want to quarrel with the Virgin Mary herself, you have to follow her rules. Her house, her rules.

That’s what he calls her, the Virgin Mary. She says the boy ain’t his, ain’t anyone’s, just her special love kid. Well, Darryl knows about special and he knows about kids, and the boy looks like him and the boy’s dumb like him. Everyone says so.

He didn’t plan to eat the fish. They were playing zoo, Darryl and the boy. The boy playing a goat and Darryl a grizzly bear. The goat drank some milk, ate some cheese, said it was the grizzly’s turn.

Well, it was the goat or the fish. A little feeder fish, right there in a plastic cup, ’til Darryl ate it. Taught the boy a valuable lesson, he did. Eat or be eaten, something like that. Boy should have known better. Went down well with whiskey anyway. A little crackly, but hardly tasted like anything, except shrimp flakes maybe.

Now the boy’s pouting. “Where’s my fish?”

“I ate it.” Darryl burps. “All gone.”

“But it was pretend,” says the boy.

“Pretend,” says Darryl. “Like the Virgin Mary pretends you ain’t my son? Well, I’ll be dogged if I’m gonna keep that up.”

The boy’s chin starts to quiver and Darryl knows what’s next. “Aw, shit,” he says, “let’s go get you another one. Got a dime?”

A. S. Andrews enjoys writing short fiction. She lives in the Los Angeles foothills, but you can find her online at


The String-of-10 Contest challenges writers to choose four out of ten prompt words and use them in a story of 250 or fewer words, and an aphorism is provided for inspiration but does not need to be used in the story.

The prompt words for String-of-10 THREE were: DUST — SUSPECT — VIRGIN — COOL THINGS — CRACKLING — UNWRITTEN — FEEDER — QUARREL — DOGGED — JAM.  The aphorism was:  “A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes.” — Mohandas Gandhi

Read the interview with the author at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

Rate this story:
 average 1 stars • 1 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • This couldn’t be more perfect or entertaining. Double that five please! 🙂

  • fishlovesca

    Great story. A big of a John Irving feel to it, imaginative, poignant, evocative.

    Four stars. Congratulations on your well-deserved win.

  • Good job!

  • Superb snippets of characterization — it’s amazing how much of Darryl is revealed in so few words.

    On this one, fishlovesca and I are in total agreement.

    Well done, Ms. Andrews, and congratulations.

  • David Howard

    A fun story. Interesting characters, idea, well presented with humor,sadness, tension and uniqueness, all in under 250 words.

  • ajcap

    I agree with Chris, wonderful characterization. Great voice, so revealing in such a short piece. Will study and learn.

    Glad he chose he the fish.

  • fishlovesca

    A *bit of a John Irving feel to it, etc.

    [What happens when fish are out and about so early in the morning.]

  • Sarah

    This is a piece of gold

    Fish.. feeder fish, for sure.

  • Well done, A.S.! Loved the voice in this piece.

  • Congrats, A. S. on writing the winning story for String-of-10 Three. Short flash captures a moment in time and you’ve done that very well here with intriguing relationships we can only speculate how they will be shaped over the years.

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  • Douglas Campbell

    Wow, this one’s a little gem. In so few words we see so much character and story, the tension of some complex relationships, and a significant change by the central character. Super job, A.S.!

  • Nicely done.

  • Simone

    Kudos on this well-deserved win!

  • This story deserved to win. It is complete. I like how Darryl’s character comes out in the narration. Who eats a gold fish? And the boy’s mother claiming a virgin birth. This story, you can’t beat it with a stick.

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