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.

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