Photo Prompt

Each month, we post a photograph as a writing prompt. Post your 100-word story in the comments section, and we’ll choose one to feature in our next issue. To see examples, read photo stories we’ve published in the past.


Photo credit: Guian Bolisay

836 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Samantha Lam says:

    Title: The Affair

    The faded tint of a well-worn lip colour was just vaguely visible under the swollen redness of her ice-chapped mouth. The sides of her teeth stung, as the bitter pain sloshed around, causing decay and rot wherever it touched.

    No matter. She would clean it up in the morning.

    The lasting stains of spoiled spills would remain. But she would keep them hidden, like the dirty secrets of a botched affair.

    Throwing back, one after another, she hollered for more. The evidence of her nightly dalliance dribbled down her chin, like the condensation of her clandestine liquor bottle.

  2. J. Talbot says:

    Small Passenger

    Jimmy hugs the backpack that his teacher has filled with weekend snacks. Late sun glares in his face till the school bus stops to deposit Jimmy at his grandmother’s. Somehow, there is only Aunt Sophie’s note, Come to my house.

    Feet hot in worn sneakers, Jimmy sits on the stoop stuffing crackers and cheese. He struggles to remember: which muni bus? how much money? Heat from the stoop snakes through his bones and his throat clogs with cracker crumbs. Jimmy bangs around for the bottle of water not included in his backpack. Thus he begins to choke on the day.

  3. R. L. Mehrley says:

    “Almost” Empty

    “I’m almost out of water, could you refill it?” Mallory jestered to her water bottle.
    It was a simple request, and Alex didn’t question it as he stood up, but Evan did. “Technically, it’s not almost empty. It’s about three-quarters empty.”
    “He’s kinda right.” Alex nodded. “But not quite…”
    “Great, can you fill it up anyways?”
    Alex stared at the water bottle. “It’s closer to two-fifths empty.”
    “No, you aren’t taking into account the shape; it’s narrower at the top.” Evan stole the bottle from Alex.
    “Oh give me that,” Mallory grabbed it and marched off, rolling her eyes. “Men.”

  4. Ingrid Sashenosky says:

    Sweltering heat from afternoon suns was always my weakness. I would always be a child of the cold, of summers that left the crisp taste of snow blended with snapdragons and sunflowers. The shimmering heat made me long for cooler shores, for cheap ice cream that didn’t melt the moment it left the comforting womb of a freezer, and for days that didn’t tear away the cool relief that I so desperately longed for. Relief in oceans, in small pools of water that steamed when my own heat dissipated and melted, returned to lapping waves and travelling waste.

  5. Dawn Gresko says:

    A Liquid Barrier

    Everyone’s staring at you. But you take a seat anyway. It’s been awhile, that’s what the man behind the barrier says. You can’t tell if it’s a smell or taste: licorice, oak, hickory, smoke. Musty wood, sticky stools, and a tune echoing from unseen speakers that sounds like nostalgia or the 90s. All of it the same as it was when you used to fall off. When the man asks what you want, you almost tell him the truth. Instead you ask for a cool bottle, just the clear stuff this time.

  6. John Murphy says:

    Culaccino is the Italian word for the wet ring left on the table by a condensating glass. Coo-la-chee-no: I sound out the word very slowly, lips wrapping around each syllable. My Uncle Guiseppe (God rest his soul), the epitome of every Italian stereotype, loved the word, and brandished it at every family meal. I haven’t thought about him in years.
    I’m at a bar now, some place downtown, not sure why, tracing wet rings. The years collapse like an accordion, and I’m a boy again, and Uncle G had too many culaccinos again and is passed out in the kitchen.

  7. Eileen McIntyre says:


    He winked and I remembered the first time. I looked into his sewer brown eyes. Pretended he wasn’t some scurvy rat who fed on a love-hungry woman. Pretended it wasn’t Saturday night. Pretended it wouldn’t be the same next Saturday night or the Saturday night after. Pretended last call would never come.

    The mere thought of his touch made me beg for lye and a wire brush. But he knew. And I knew. And I stayed.

    And tomorrow and Sundays after, I’d scrub till flesh bled and conscience crippled.

    Tonight glasses sweat. Tomorrow seemed far away. And I was thirsty.

  8. Constance Bourg says:

    Dirty water festering in pipes. Sludgy brown water leaching more crap from the plastic. Not fit for a human. Not fit for an animal.
    Is that what I am to him? The pale fatso in the shiny suit?
    I walked for weeks. Crawled through the mud, under barbed wire. So much walking. Then the boat. I thought I was going to die. Then the bare concrete of the centre, moon-faced young ones trying to teach me their words. At least those places had clean water.
    Meet me he said. At McGregor’s. It’s that place on the corner.
    He didn’t come.

  9. Evan says:


    Sweat breaks only on the surfaces of things that quietly refuse to give in to the heat.



    The bottle of water that’s beginning to lose its nerve.
    Like you.

    Like me.

    The swampy Louisiana air is just looking for a lover.
    On you.

    On me.

    On the bottle.

    I try to count your teeth through those tight lips.

    I try to count your secrets through those wet, lavender eyes.

    You take a deep breath, and a flower blooms on your collarbone. I lean in to smell it and then stop myself. It was probably planted by someone new.

  10. Kelly says:


    I explained that I couldn’t find it anywhere. I really really looked. Obviously not hard enough because when I told him I couldn’t find it he simply went silent. He believed all things where because of fate which now meant I didn’t love him, our marriage no longer important enough to preserve. I was thoughtless and this was the mother of all points proven. So he left me.
    Weeks before, when cleaning the freezer, I placed my ring in a plastic bottle of seltzer water, an old jewelry cleaning trick. Reaching for ice for my scotch, I had to chuckle.

  11. Sammy D says:


    Tran explained his theft of moisture.

    Other patrons listened, painfully aware of Tran’s bizarre physique. Tran had three arms, two normal ones, and one emerging, disturbingly enough, from his groin.

    “On my planet water is scarce” he said in his flinty voice. “There are strict laws. Even exhalation is forbidden.”

    Max, the febrile bartender, lowered the shotgun. “And what makes you think you can bottle what we breathe out here?”

    “You attach no value to it.”

    Max pondered Tran’s response. The other patrons, disgusted by the way Tran’s third arm theatrically punctuated his remarks, whispered darkly among themselves.

    “Do something,” said Jody Lee, a regular.

    Max was torn. When Tran, perhaps unconsciously or reflexively, reached for the moisture canister with his third arm, his third hand clawlike in its grasp, Max’s hand was forced.

    He levelled the shotgun.

    “Attach some value to this,” he said before blasting the hapless alien.

  12. “Metallurgy”

    An obtuse heart locket, pentacle and curiously enough, a dog’s bone — gifts from boyfriends one, two, four? — in no respective order. They had long wrestled at the hollow of her bosom. Their chains pulled the hairs on the back of her neck.

    She googled “reverse smelting,” for it was the ore from which these metals were born she’d wished back. Instead, she wound up with a puddle and poured it into a crumpled water bottle. She watched years of her sweat escape the hollows of the bottle, innumerable voids as minuscule as the hairs on the back of her neck.

  13. Maximilian Lloyd says:

    Title: Wasted!

    They sat in the back of the library, sipping watered-down vodka from a plastic bottle. She took a sip and said, “We probably can’t get drunk off this.” He said, “It just hurt my throat so much.” She laughed. He said, “Why do we have to go here, you know. I feel like we’re wasting the…purpose, you know.” “You see all these spider webs by the window,” she said, “and no spiders.” “I don’t even think I have a library card: and we come here everyday. I’m gonna go down and get one.” “There’s never any spiders there.”

  14. Deborah Tod says:

    Title: Good Housewifery

    Mommy shed silent tiny teardrops when the three new tables came. Hours she spent, finding just the right places for them. In front of the shabby old sofa? Beside tired, worn end chairs? Stepping back, surveying each arrangement, she wiped them gently clean, patted them dry, tried again. Satisfied, she set two coasters on each piece.

    Months later, Mommy and I talk about the old days. All is calm until I set the bottle on the coffee table, not thinking of coasters. Leaping, she flies for the table, towels it dry. Beads of water weep from the bottle, keeping secrets.

  15. TITLE: Desperate

    The last bottle desalinated from the last molecules of the last evaporated ocean sits sweating on a cork coaster on the President’s podium, flanked by stern-jawed suits sporting earpieces and ammo belts, M16s leveled at the jostling crowd. Flashbulbs snap as the President unscrews the cap and tilts the bottle, Adam’s apple bobbing as he glugs, wipes his lips. Slack-jawed, we stare at our screens, sucking wizened watermelon rinds and wringing the last drops of dishwater from blackened rags as we run tongues over cracked and oozing lips, gulping gobs of stringy saliva and imagining sun-cracked streambeds filled, teeming, gushing.

  16. W Dickey says:

    The Bottle

    Why couldn’t I help myself? I knew what I was supposed to do. We went out every week and this time it was my turn to be the party pooper, to reign everyone else in, make sure they didn’t do anything they’d regret, and see that they got home safe. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t put down the bottle for a single night. I couldn’t help but smuggle my precious potato potion in a plain plastic water bottle. I couldn’t help but indulge in long sips. Now, I can’t help but suffer with regret. I’m so sorry, Nadia.

  17. Dan Alexander says:

    Running Half-Empty

    They stop calling when I stop winning, but I dial their number anyway to tell them they’ve half-emptied me.

    Other runners out there, who hadn’t been half-empty, who had been full. Families had loved them before they’d proven their worth in medallion-weight.

    I plead, say next time I’ll be so speedy my feet will bleed, I’ll get good cash. Not even that breaks their silence. I’m condemned to rave at phone-static.

    Stomach explodes, gallons contrived into a single bottle of Poland Springs and it all becomes nothing in the end, doesn’t it?

    In the end, I empty myself.

  18. This is what winning looks like now. A beautiful bottle of water.

    My life used to be filled with successes. Big deals, promotions, winning. Each success celebrated here; toasted in a deluge of Jameson. Now, the fancy job, gone. The wife, my son, the house, my pride, gone.

    That was a year ago. The new job is humble, but it’s a start. And today, today I was granted visitation of my son. But even more than that, I was able to walk into this bar and celebrate with a bottle of water. That cold crisp water… It tastes like success.

  19. Theodore A. John says:

    A Disorder of Consciousness

    Lily Waters was a rambunctious mid-teen with a perfect mix of effrontery and clemency, a consistent history of shrewdness, and some rather acquired by keen observation than innate intuitive powers. Lily Waters was the concealed little internet celebrity who coined the proverbial phrase “Is the glass half full or half empty?” into a viral meme: “The glass is refillable”.

    She was all that and a few things more in the life preceding her ICU admittance.

    A three weeks older mid-teen Lily, now (un)just(ly) lies flat. All attending medical personnel is drawn to the sinks, unconsciously refilling their disposable water bottles.

  20. Morgan says:

    The Last Summer

    During the summer, we always went down to the pool; that old pool was our sanctuary, our home away from home. As boys splashed around all day and the youngest learned to swim, we enojoyed our last summer together. The condensation on the table dripping off the cool water bottles and pop cans in the scorching heat. Though we never said it, we knew. As the weather grew colder and schools began to start, we had our last interactions. The next summer I went back to that pool, condensating drinks on the table and all. But you were too busy.

  21. Alycia Calvert says:

    The green screen hovers behind her. Studio lights, skin. “Don’t worry about the lines,” he says. “I’ll smooth those in post.” She bites her lip, awkwardly opening. The lights blare into her face, and she imagines that after it’s all over this green screen transforms into something else, anything else. A tropical forest, a sunlit beach, or nothing. Maybe it erases her completely. Burning lights bake her flesh. “I’m thirsty. My bottle’s on the stool,” She says. He ignores her, “Baby, don’t ruin my shot. Imagine you’re in Paradise.” She doesn’t know but it’s too late. Her water’s turned warm.

  22. McKenzie says:

    Salt of the Sea


    I am so thirsty. I float in an endless infinity of water, yet it does nothing but conspire with the sun to eek the final fluid from my flesh.

    A single bead of perspiration sprouts from my forehead. It runs down my face, leaving a trail of good intentions, and comes to rest upon my upper lip. My tongue searches, swiping at it greedily, an osprey snatching up a lone fish, separated from its school.

    I close my eyes and dream of water not saturated with salt. Glaciers melting. Waterfalls cascading. Faucets leaking.

    I haven’t peed in two days.

  23. Teddy Kimathi says:

    He was cold, and always loved cooled drinks. A chilly sensation numbing his teeth and throat cleared his conscience, like spring rain cleaning a dusty window. He was afraid of warmth; it reminded him of her. She was like summer in an autumn park. Her heat unfroze his heart, until she saw everything it carried. He felt vulnerable and confused, desperately searching for a freezer he could hide the rest of his secrets embedded in his body. One day has he painstakingly searched for anywhere frozen, he found a chilled bottle of water. It had frozen pieces of his memories.

  24. I can still smell the soapy perfume of her skin if I put my nose to the embossed pillow. Her scent, her sweat. Or maybe it was my own that had infused with hers.

    ‘I’m so damn thirsty,’ she said, rising to fetch a drink. She passed in front of the glass doors, a silhouette of curves and hair in the morning sun. Then peeking over her shoulder, ‘Want some?’ It wasn’t enough to know what I wanted, I expected her to know too. A Caesura in the poetry of the moment.

    There’s a water ring on the bedside table.

  25. M K Marteens says:

    Mercury and water

    I got blown out of the window still holding the bottle of mercury. No, I just couldn’t loosen the grip. It would mean this happened, and he really is gone; his body slashed by the tsunami debris. As long as I’m holding it, I can fool myself into believing all of this is some strange hallucination my mind created when I inhaled the mercury. Thermometer smashed in a stupid fight, so I offered to collect the silvery liquid into a bottle. An offer of reconciliation. I should get rid of that poison. But am I hallucinating, or am I drowning?

  26. Jim Byrnes says:

    Hair of The Dog

    My head hurts like hell as I struggle to open my eyes. As usual, I’m asking myself, “Will I ever learn?” The answer to the question is no. It’s always been no, and always will be no. I’m a lost cause.

    I stagger to the kitchen and remove my salvation from the freezer. I cleverly stand it top down on the table. I watch intently as the condensation forms on the bottle of Balkan Vodka.

    With all of the ingredients assembled I begin to mix my first Bloody Mary. The refreshing cocktail will soon deliver relief from the pain.

  27. LH Tracy says:

    Translucence fogged as heat filled the room. Elemental chemistry caused humidifying droplets to stream down the body. Palming it, his fingers felt the liquid underneath his hand. Lips pressing to the tilted mouth reinvigorated desires. Refreshed, the outside crescent moon shined through the window upon the precipitation on the bare brown surface. Placing it emptied right back on that spot, he erected his backbone as his eyes penetrated hers when she arrived on time. Finished, he knew not encroaching her was the mission. His approach was to be correct. It was to be for more. It was to be.

  28. Fall, stumble. Get ridiculed by unforgiving men. Get knocked in the head by your own board or someone else’s because you are in a WRONGDANGEROUSSTUPID place. Scrape the top of your feet raw because popping up cool-cat style is light years away. Pray your neck doesn’t get twisted in your leash. Snort copious amounts of seawater. Be unprepared when it comes spewing out your nostrils twenty minutes later. I could go on, but I’ll spare you. I’ll walk away, leave you to fend for yourself with the other boys while I bask in the girl glory that was mine.

    • Beret Olsen says:

      This story and the two below were written in response to last month’s photo of a figure on a beach with a surfboard. We received them too late to post in tandem with the original photo.

      • Alice Kaltman says:

        ah well. a friend tagged me for this in a tweet. it was super fun to do anyhow. now i’m signed up for your mailing list, so maybe i’ll get on the next one in time!

  29. Matt Crowley says:

    Most of the hotels resembled each other too closely, or he was staying at one with a forgettable design, and he didn’t think to inspect it’s details before he started out that morning.

    And he didn’t notice this array of food trucks and trinket stands on the boardwalk. He didn’t remember a boardwalk.

    This beach wasn’t his.

    The seaweed was especially alien. Big, clumsy mounds everywhere. Lumbering. Yes, they were moving. One knocked him over from behind. He lay still as it passed over him. Looking up through the mass of clumped slimy chunks he saw human eyes peering back.

  30. Matthew Hefferin says:

    To Gunnar, Kerstin was Venus incarnate emerged from the foamy waves, statuesque, wet hair pulled back, white shirt clung to her bikini top, stridden along the shore, head slightly bent. From the hotel balcony, Gunnar aimed his Nikon camera, focused in on Kerstin, capturing her reflection in the calm still water. Poised with her long board, bare toes dug in; she waited patiently as Gunnar had waited for her all these years. The wind whipped up, created a swell then a rip current. Now she can take off. As she rode a series of waves, Gunnar snapped a series of photos.

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