Back in early August, I posted my story submission for the first heat of the 2015 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge. This past weekend had me furiously writing another story for the second heat of the challenge. My prompts this time were as follows:
Location: A School Detention
Object to include: A pretzel
As with the first heat, I had 48 hours to craft a story and it had to be 1000 words or fewer. Let’s just say that I discovered that it’s really hard to write something funny on demand.
I’m posting this here primarily so I can give and receive feedback on other contestants’ stories in the NYC Midnight forums.
Without further ado, I give you:
A Frog Eat Frog World
Synopsis: Start with an uncommitted last-minute substitute detention hall monitor, stir in a ragtag group of kids, add an unexpected delivery, and things really get hopping in detention hall. The original detention hall monitor may just croak when she returns to her classroom tomorrow.
“Ms. Sieger!” That caustic voice could only belong to Mrs. Krank, the biology teacher.
Lost in my recurring daydream of retiring early from teaching, it took a moment before her voice registered. Steeling myself, I turned.
“Dahling… it’s my detention day, but I simply cannot escape a prior engagement.” Her gravelly voice grated on me.
Grudgingly, I offered to help. Mrs. Krank had seniority and, well, I had a hard time saying “no.”
“Excellent!” She exclaimed dismissively. “The detainees are in my classroom. Oh! And, my frog cadavers will arrive today; don’t touch!” Sashaying away with a huff, she inclined her head to her companion conspiratorially. “Off to the spa, dahling. It’s a dog eat dog world. But Ms. Sieger has nothing better to do anyway.”
My eyes burning, I moved down the hall, creating revenge scenarios that I knew I would never see through. Mrs. Krank’s affected airs and accent made me sick; she was from Iowa, for Pete’s sake.
Entering the classroom, I inventoried the ragtag bunch who had earned detention today:
Jorge, a skinny sophomore, sat two rows back munching on pretzel sticks.
Sam and Stacy, lovebird juniors, sat by the door holding hands and making goo-goo eyes. The blade of Sam’s hockey stick poked out of the open gear bag next to him.
Finally, Craig, a shaggy freshman, sat in front, his nose in a dog-eared copy of “The Hobbit”.
Taking my seat, I resumed mentally planning my island retirement life, imagining Mrs. Krank forced into a life of indentured servitude.
With 15 minutes left in the hour, I was rudely jolted out of my reverie by a delivery driver carrying a crate covered with tiny holes. Well, trying to carry it; the crate wasn’t exactly cooperating.
Placing the shaking crate on the corner of Mrs. Krank’s desk, the driver said “Sign here”.
“What’s inside?” I said, signing automatically.
The crate jumped.
“I thought you said ‘frogs’,” I laughed nervously.
“Frogs,” he mumbled as he left.
Huh. I thought Mrs. Krank would need dead frogs for biology. These certainly didn’t sound like cadavers. Well, who was I to second-guess her biology degree and teaching methods?
“Ms. Sieger, is it true what they say about licking frogs?” piped up Craig, a little too eagerly. Both Craig and Jorge moved closer, the latter leaving a trail of pretzels in his wake.
Jorge studied the crate, picking at the lid’s corners. “Jorge, stop that!” I admonished. Sam and Stacy apparently hadn’t noticed the crate’s delivery and were busy removing Sam’s hockey gear from his bag.
“What, Craig?” Confused, I turned my attention back to him; surely he wasn’t referencing kissing fairy tale frogs, was he?
“I’ve read about people licking psychoactive frogs to get high.” Craig adjusted his glasses.
“Hmmm. No, Craig,” I answered, turning to face him. “I think that’s toads, not frogs.”
I turned around in time to see both Sam and Stacy holding onto Sam’s hockey stick, fighting for control.
Oh boy. This had gone too far; glancing at the clock, I saw I still had 5 minutes with the detainees so I couldn’t just wait for the end of day bell to rescue me. Good grief.
“Jorge, I said to leave the crate alone!” I barked, noticing now that his fingernails weren’t picking at the edges of the lid anymore. My relief was short-lived when I saw he was putting something through one of the crate’s holes. Good grief. Do frogs even eat pretzel sticks?
Craig was now on the other side of the crate, peering intently and muttering something about orcs. At least I think that’s what it was; things were getting loud.
The crate had now shaken itself to a precarious perch on the corner of the desk.
My head started to hurt. How had I lost control so quickly?
Movement in my peripheral vision caught my eye. “Sam! Stacy! Put that stick away right now!” I raised my voice, feeling very authoritative.
Laughing, Stacy let go of the hockey stick a microsecond before Sam did, causing him to fall backwards. Ever the athlete, he stepped forward in a move that would have surely corrected his fall if not for the pretzels underfoot.
Sam fell forward, sending the hockey stick flying through the air in slow motion toward Mrs. Krank’s desk and the frogs.
All eyes followed as the stick connected solidly with the crate, toppling it to the floor. The lid, loosened just enough by Jorge’s picking at it, flew off as the crate hit the floor, liberating 120 frogs.
The next several minutes were chaotic; frogs were all over the classroom, croaking loudly and leaping from surface to surface.
Not sure what to do, I assessed the scene:
Sam and Stacy stood on top of their desks screaming loudly.
At the front of the room, Jorge sat cross-legged on the floor, pretzel sticks in both hands held out in peace offering to several frogs, another frog perched on the top of his head.
Craig sat near the window, a frog cradled in his cupped palms. “My precious”, he intoned sticking out his tongue.
I looked around Mrs. Krank’s classroom in complete disbelief; frogs were everywhere.
“Maybe this is end-times,” I thought fleetingly, wishing I had paid more attention in Sunday school lessons about biblical plagues.
The end-of-day bell called me back to reality. The kids wasted no time making a collective beeline to the classroom door, gear and backpacks forgotten. “Next time, Ms. Sieger,” called Craig with a smile.
Flicking a frog off of my purse, I slung it over my shoulder and headed for the door. “Not my Lily pad, not my frogs.” I giggled to myself, wondering idly if hallucinogenic frogs could induce contact highs even if not directly licked.
Mrs. Krank could deal with this mess without me; after all, to paraphrase her, it’s a frog eat frog world.