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: Jeremy Gordon

587 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Maximilian Lloyd says:

    Drugstore

    It would only be a matter of time before she came back for her tooth brush. It’s not good to breakup in the morning. Not on Sunday.

    “The sink doesn’t even run right,” she said, “Just get a real job already.”

    “I’m just waiting to hear back from the publishers.”

    “I’m not waiting.”

    “One day it’ll happen just please, don’t leave.”

    I was speaking to the door now. I put the green toothbrush in a Ziploc bag and put it atop the refrigerator. I waited.

    There was no knock. I remember the drug store that just opened 2 blocks away.

  2. The Color of Chaos

    There is an emptiness I can’t shake. A gnawing feeling that resurfaces as soon as I look into the mirror. And I stare to condemn myself. When my raw eyes have had enough,they wander around the room desperate to fixate on anything. But the value of everything has changed. The shapes are all squiggles in a painting- details I no longer recognize. Everything but the pink of her toothbrush. It instantly sparks and splatters red hues and chaos within the frame. It’s arrogantly entangled with his, telling her story, the one I try to bury.

  3. Richard Edenfield says:

    Porcelain Grave, Toothbrush Flowers
    ______________________________________

    Summers were filled with screams laughter barking dogs bare feet on wooden floor splashing and quick silver coins dashing the palm of the Good Humor man. And between the colorful parade a bathroom sink sat as some sort of fountain, a glorious but modest monument to our growing lives. Hands washed clean before dinner. Hot water for soothing poison ivy. Water balloons filled. Water guns locked and loaded. So you could cry unnoticed. Your blood spiraling down like a sunset unraveling itself a ray at a time. The mirror above a reflecting pool headstone. A porcelain grave with toothbrush flowers.

  4. The soldier stood outside my father’s hut in his bright green khakis, reclining slightly to the left, supported by our big blue half-full drum of water on which his helmet lay, his rifle on his right hand and walking stick on the left.

    He smiled roguishly with dancing blue eyes attached to a crooked nose while I, conscious of a bulge and morning breath, stared wide-eyed and flushed. A thousand unclean thoughts flashed before me as I said yes to his yet unasked question. Any passerby would not know he was here to sign me up for the accursed war.

  5. Krystyna Fedosejevs says:

    Nothing to Spare

    Yours? Mine? Arguments. Ideologies differ. Attempt to build bridge between us. Links missing. Structure collapses. Earth. Water. No collaboration. Excuses made. Stubbornness. Misunderstandings. Light. Dark. We try meeting at middle ground. Concluding we can’t agree. Not in thought, time or space. Coffee’s gone cold. I mind. He doesn’t. Ketchup smeared on fridge door. I wipe off. Mustard appears. Grass is greener over there, he says. I don’t care. I prefer wildflowers. He repaints the scene with concrete. I’m younger, by two years exact. Can hardly wait for… Brother leaves for college. Forgets his toothbrush. I throw it into his room.

  6. Dan Alexander says:

    Elegy for a Brother Named Freedom

    Brother, I used to love you, but you thought me lucky to be Papa’s favorite, and maybe you coveted my place, so I sickened myself by despising you, because you could survive our oppressor and I knew I couldn’t.

    Brother, you unscrewed the bathroom sink-knobs and broke the window and valiantly begged me to join you in prison. Fear made it easy to refuse your spiteful invitation. Then you were gone. Handcuffed, shaking, gone.

    Papa’s worse now. My face is always bloody. The new sink-knobs wail. Freedom behind bars. Realized too late.

    Brother. I wish I could love you again.

  7. Eileen McIntyre says:

    Unfamiliar

    She looked around through her cataract cloud. Her hair, like the bathroom mirror, had silvered. Her face showed cracks like the tile. The faucet leaked like her bladder. Next, she noticed the toothbrushes…plural, why two? The bristle heads faced each other. She’d leave them that way, unsure why.
    Nothing looked familiar. Nothing. Not even the photo that fell from her purse. The photo of a sixtyish woman and man hugging each other. Smiling. She stared at the photo.
    She walked to a bedroom. More photos. Same two people. She hid under the covers.
    Sobbing, she called to him. She remembered.

  8. James Olson says:

    Moonlight

    Your hair is wet from the shower we took. I know you’re considering how roomy this house feels without him.

    We climb out onto your roof through the awkward window with the loose hasp to prove the possible stillness of the neighborhood.

    I remove a shimmering hair from your sweater and speak. We should protect it like the moon protects the frightened newborn turtle struggling to find the sea.

    You smile, but your gaze drifts past me out into the backyards of clothing lines and bench presses, and I know that in your mind you are on this roof alone.

  9. DR. KUSUMITA MUKHERJEE says:

    The Morning After

    The early morning blues. Especially after having the kind of night I just had. I was just about to leave when Sirish offered to drop me home. Now I am in his washroom. Trying to reconstruct whatever happened between us. Or did anything happen at all? I look towards the two brushes. They seem to enclose each other in an embrace. Green and pink. Wait a minute why two brushes? And one of a particularly girlie colour? My confused face is reflected on the steel tap. I notice my smudged lipstick in the mirror. My insides turn warmer than the water running from the tap.

  10. Mike Weathers says:

    Telescope

    In the randomness of Christmas presents from parents who knew their child little: a telescope. He’d had to feign excitement, gratitude, and relegate his bewilderment to thoughts. A telescope? When have I spoken of pirates?

    But that’s what he got, and now, like any boy would, he used it to spy on people. From inside his treehouse, he could see the world, the neighborhood with no hard edges. An old man chopping wood. A dog asleep in a window. Boys playing video games, watching Netflix. A sink, two toothbrushes on it, lower halves crossing, like lover’s legs in the shower.

  11. He drew hearts in the steamed-up mirror. I left cheeky notes on the glass with lipstick.

    Drip…

    We danced naked on the linoleum.

    Drip…

    He used to sit on the closed lid and serve me tea when I was in the bath.

    Drip…

    He’d hang my towel on the radiator so it would be toasty around my shoulders when I got out.

    Drip…

    We huddled shoulder to shoulder to watch the blue lines fade into view and then a few months later we cried together on the floor.

    Drip…

    Now the door’s always locked and I only see hard-water stains.

  12. Kris says:

    This is my dad’s tap. I mean as well as it being in his house, or what was his house, he actually made it. He worked at the factory for 50 years and this is what he had to show for it. A cheap faucet set from the 90s.
    Living here during his last few months I learnt more about him that ever. He knew he was dying. It was clear he wanted to impart his wisdom before it was lost. I think it worked, I look after my teeth. I haven’t thrown out his toothbrush yet. The red one.

  13. Suri’s World

    Before the voyage, Suri played barefoot on the docks, her father’s catch shimmering in sunlight. They promised a better life. Her father’s sun-creased face seeped tears. “Never forget us.”

    In the bare-bulbed basement, she stands at the sink where men wash themselves, afterward, as if she’s dirtied them. She toys with the razor her buyer uses to scrape the hair that has recently begun to blossom between her legs. Her blood tastes salty, like seawater. Suri drags the blade across her wrists, pouring herself down the drain, through the pipes and out to the ocean.

  14. Eric Skinner says:

    The Proper Way

    Thomas drops his trousers and shakes one leg free of the fabric. He swings his leg over the commode seat. Facing the wall, Thomas leafs through his Mum’s “Cosmopolitan” that rests on the tank. “What the hell are you doing,” his Pa shouts from the doorway. “Taking a whizzer, like Gran-Gran does, the proper way.” Thomas’ grandfather practices discretion, so not to offer a glance at his willy. Pa’s disdain for his father-in-law encompasses toilet etiquette and the house down payment he’s unable to repay. “Stand up and piss like a man, not an smug old fool!”

  15. Madison Wheatley says:

    She’s afraid to be alone in the bathroom, so I watch as she brushes her teeth. With awkward motions, she drags the bristles across tawny teeth, and I conclude she doesn’t know what she’s doing. When the social worker asked me to take in an eleven-year-old, I never thought “How to Brush Your Teeth” would be among the lessons I’d have to teach.

    After a minute, she spits and catches herself in the mirror. She sees what I do — a feeble, underfed frame, red-rimmed eyes, a constellation of bruises. And yet, she doesn’t.

    “When am I going home?” she asks.

  16. Sammy Difalco says:

    GINGIVITIS

    I stalked to the living room, where Christina was polishing the porcelain dogs.
    “Christina,” I said.
    She brushed aside a hair and looked at me.
    “Christina, you have gum disease.”
    “What are ya talking about?”
    “The blood—”
    “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Ralph.”
    “Explain the blood on your toothbrush.”
    Christina dropped a porcelain poodle and stood up. She was taller than me.
    “What did you say?”
    “Why is there, er, blood on—”
    “Do you really wanna know, Ralph?”
    “Uh, well—”
    She seemed to get taller. “Do you really really wanna know Ralph?”
    “Well, no, uh, that’s okay, Christina.”

  17. Sibbo says:

    He was supposed to be the complete professional. He couldn’t have come more highly recommended. I mean, Christ, Tarantino even based Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction on him.
    But if he was so goddamned brilliant how come he missed the speck of her blood that had somehow found it’s way into the sealant under the faucet? How come he left the one microscopic piece of evidence that they used to put me away?
    I dialed the number on my smuggled mobile and gave the password. A click then a new voice, “Decided?”
    “Yes. Proceed. The Cleaner must be cleaned.”

  18. John Evans says:

    Toothbrush Malfeasance

    When Stuart came home a day early, he didn’t expect to find evidence, but there it was: a second toothbrush in the holder. He was surprised more at her carelessness than her unfaithfulness. The bristles faced each other and the handles were crossed, like lovers performing a ritual dance.

    Last month, when he bought the rat poison, he wasn’t sure he’d need it, but he worried about what might be happening in places he couldn’t see.

    Putting toothpaste back in the tube isn’t easy, but with a jury-rigged funnel and plunger, and a bit of motivation, it can be managed.

  19. sauni malavige says:

    I remember how you used to dodge the toothbrush not so long ago. The pink one is mine the green one…was yours. You used to make all kinds of silly faces to the mirror and I would laugh and hit you with my pink toothbrush and you would laugh too.
    But now you laugh no more and I do not have the heart to throw out your green toothbrush just like I cannot throw anything that even barely connects me to you

  20. Samuel Gee says:

    The Realtor

    These people fascinate me. They’ve shown up to the last four showings. They say they want to test drive the house first. Room by room. Two weeks ago, they fit a chair under the door of the master bedroom. Last week, I saw her standing on the kitchen table. The man took a photo of her. (I’ve never seen anyone like them. Everyone I show houses to are clones of each other.) This week, the bathroom. They pull toothbrushes out of their pockets and lock the bathroom door. I hope – no, know – they’ll be back next week.

  21. Rachel McNichol says:

    “Where does the water go?”

    Baba Yaga glared at me with a single cloudy eye.

    “Say again?”

    “The water,” I continued, “from the sink. There’s a drain here, but where does the water go? I mean, there can’t be a septic tank.”

    “No tank? Why not?”

    “Well under the apartment there’s nothing but…you know…”

    “Chicken legs?” she suggested.

    Yeah. Chicken legs beneath the apartment. On the Craigslist listing, she had neglected to mention that the house was alive. Now, what had the ad said? “Beautiful seaside bungalow, straight out of a fairy tale!” No shit.

  22. Richard Edenfield says:

    The Mint Symphony
    ___________________

    We play our mouths like violins every morning the soft brushes making notes of Mozart and Beethoven and Paganini in the concave of our instrument. I listen for your song while I lay quietly in bed. First the running water applause. Then you begin. Strings of floss to start with. Like a harpsichord. Then the Stradivarius of your mouth that I have kissed music from countless times. I hear the crest you reach. A mountain top bubbling over with the scope of your range. Then the applause, again. You come back to bed with breath wearing a symphony of mint.

  23. Tiesha Sensenig says:

    The faucet dripped slowly releasing thick drops of cool water. I looked at myself in the mirror. The water droplets sat on my eyelashes like a mother bird keeping her egg warm. What did I look like? A blonde haired blue eyed girl. Freckles sprinkle my nose, my lips full and pink. What was I really? A wounded warrior. A girl who has been beaten bruised and thrown away but yet she stands strong and holds her ground…
    “Riley hurry up! I have to brush my teeth! Amber cried.
    Pure mind and clean soul, I left behind my dirt filled armor.

  24. James Christy says:

    The Domestic

    We square off like wrestlers in the ring. I grip the pink toothbrush; she brandishes the green. Our jaws are clenched, lips sealed.

    Never breaking eye contact, she wrings a glob of toothpaste on the bristles. From a paper sack, I remove the lemon juice and baking soda.

    She snarls, taunting me, her teeth bared.

    “Fuck you.”

    As I prepare her paste, she lunges, knocking me off balance. My head strikes against the bathtub. I’m left dazed. Straddling me, she thrusts the toothbrush in my mouth and starts scouring my gums and enamel.

    My saliva tastes of peppermint and blood.

  25. Everything has been a challenge lately.

    Brushing her teeth involves a full out wrestling match that leaves us both tired and sweating. I’m sure our neighbors think we torture our 4 year old every day at the same time. In a way, I guess we do. Thankfully, they haven’t called CPS on us yet. Sensory processing disorders suck. As least we have a name for the craziness that has enveloped our lives for the last two years.

    Time to take a breath, square my shoulders and prepare for today’s shown down; she’ll be able to do this herself soon, right?

  26. Pépin says:

    Title: Bathroom talk

    Said the green toothbrush to the pink toothbrush,‘How many teeth have you brushed today?’
    Said the pink toothbrush to the green toothbrush,‘The same as yesterday.’
    Said the green toothbrush to the pink toothbrush,‘Ah, but what about the day before yesterday?’
    Said the pink toothbrush to the green toothbrush,‘The same as today.’
    Said the green toothbrush to the pink toothbrush, I’m really very impressed. What an exhilarating life you lead.’
    Said the pink toothbrush to the green toothbrush,‘What flattery. But, yes it is rather exhilarating in an oral sort of way. Do you come here often?’

  27. Glint

    My thighs tremble with a warmth, longing. The reflection is of an exquisite mistake. A blushed kiss changed the sweetest night into a decadent dawn. Two months later, I hovered over a toilet, pissed on a magic wand that changed us two into we three. I smile, spit into the sink, gaze up, look again, see the clueless idiot, the changed man who threatened last night to abandon me. I spit again, harder. He hands me a towel, shrugs. I wipe, look for the first man, the good fellow, the one I hope to see our son grow into someday.

  28. After a year I was finally able to pack up her clothes. Even now they hold a hint of her smell. I was loath to let them go, but as the Goodwill truck pulled away, I took solace in the thought of her soft sweaters comforting someone in need.

    Then I came to the bathroom. It’s the little things that destroy you. Her pink toothbrush. The last remnant of our daily life. I can’t throw it away. Not yet. I sink to the tile floor. Thoughts of our years together flood my head and for the thousandth time I cry.

  29. James Christy says:

    The Aftertaste

    Our arguments always end the same. I recognize her childhood traumas. She acknowledges the strain I’m under. We apologize and resolve to improve communication.

    She scoots across the sofa for a hug. Our embrace is sustained through the long silence of lingering grievances. That’s marriage, isn’t it?

    “I’m off to bed,” she says at last, disentangling herself.

    I say I’ll be in soon.

    She loudly brushes her teeth in the bathroom before flicking off the light switch and crawling into bed. Later, when I go to brush my own teeth, I notice she’s used my toothbrush again. She never rinses.

  30. Catina Green says:

    Last call (4 a.m. at the 55)

    She bends, bumps her brow on the way down and slurps from the faucet. The tinny taste reminds her of MeMaw’s house. MeMaw had lousy water just like this shithole but it’s late and no one else will serve her.

    The familiar foulness runs up her nose and out. Tongue twisting, tasting rust, burnt orange flakes chip her teeth. A cheek meets cool porcelain, leans in until slow motion spins make her move.

    Squinty eyed, she surveys the vaguely recognizable stranger who shows up above the sink on the wall and smirks. Smudged and sweaty. I wouldn’t serve me neither.

  31. The Red Toothbrush

    I’ve had plenty of time to get used to the fact that she will never brush her teeth with the red toothbrush – or any other toothbrush – ever again. Or maybe I’ll never get used to it. Ever.

    Armed with eco- friendly cleansers, I came into the bathroom that she shared with her brother, ready to get my most hated chore over and done with. Even though I’ve cleaned this bathroom every week in the last six months, and even though her brother no longer shares it, neither of us brings up the red toothbrush. Ever.

    At least not so far.

  32. Elizabeth Cottingham says:

    “You can leave once the indicator bristles fade.”

    I clutched the sides of the sink as his words brushed the back of my neck. The toothbrushes stood nestled next to each other on the sink’s vanity. My brush, the red one, was new. No residue of toothpaste that hadn’t been rinsed carefully enough away yet clouded these bristles. And right down the center a strip of red screamed at my eyes. As his hand snuck around my waist I felt my vision shake off of the red.

    “Just wait till they fade, see if you still want to leave then.”

  33. Evan says:

    SINK

    For lack of a better metaphor you tell him: my heart is a bathroom sink.

    He stares that stare.

    Yours is the outside sprinkler. Don’t you get it?

    A tighter stare.

    The sound of a drip from the bathroom. You get up, tighten both knobs, and stand in the doorway. Outside, the sprinklers turn on and click, click, spew over the front yard and half the neighbor’s starting a steady flow down the street.

    You walk to the shower and turn it on. You step in and let the ice cold water have you, eyes closed, waiting for the heat.

  34. “Honey, come and brush your teeth.”

    He looks at her as though he’s looking at the ghost of his mother-in-law.

    “Darling, did you forget that I lost my teeth to time? Just call them dentures.
    Oh, and you’re putting coffee into the sugar dish, instead of the cup!”

    “Honey, did you forget I’m blind?”

    He clears his throat, touching the newspaper as though he’s reading braille.

    “Your memory is going down the drain slowly and slowly. You’re almost going
    blind, most likely before me.”

    She gasps with excitement, as she cleans the table with spilled coffee.

    “Aren’t we romantic together?”

  35. Leonora Ledgister says:

    So that’s what married life was like: a dance of two, held within a promise, a ring. But really it was the everyday things like juggling schedules, eating quickly, and using the bathroom together. No privacy. Not enough space or time to take turns. To notice the creeping lime scale on the taps. Or the tiny hole that held the screw where we had hung something. It’s been so long neither remembers what. Some days like strangers suffocating. Some days a beautiful seamless twirl. Trying to find meaning in a chance passing by the bathroom sink. A dance of toothbrushes.

  36. Jim Byrnes says:

    Growing “UP”

    Short sucks. Every stinking day starts like this. Standing at the sink wishing I were taller. Yah, I know I’m only six, but come on.

    I used to be much shorter. I couldn’t even reach the faucet. I can reach it now, but who wants to wash every day. Not me.

    Mom says I should stand on a stool at the sink. I tell her I’m not that short and a stool would be demoralizing. It would damage my self image.

    Big people think I’m cute, but the next one that pats me on the head will get a swift kick in the shin.

  37. Christi Hauke says:

    She stared at the blue drips, the whiskers, and the rust stain in the sink. Stark and telling in the bright light of the small, stifling room; the detritus of daily living held her captive for a moment too long. She slowly shifted her tired eyes to the mirror. She leaned close letting the counter’s edge push into her wide thighs. Too tired to look away, she tried to find herself on the other side. She passed her hands across her face, smearing make-up onto her fingers then on the mirror. She closed her eyes, turned, and grabbed the cleaner.

  38. Katie Magoun says:

    Two Lines

    This wasn’t the red she was expecting to see, and her hands gripped the sink — white on white — as she leaned over, squinting hard. Even as her vision blurred, there was no mistaking the lines. Two lines that would change everything. Dread gathered like a coiled snake in her belly.

    She pulled weary eyes away long enough to glance in the grimy mirror. A haggard face stared back at her, with purple bruise darkening a cheekbone, and fading yellow on the chin and neck. Tears gathered, spilled silently.

    Her eyes returned to the sink, and two red lines.

  39. em mccarty says:

    “don’t look at me.”
    “i’m not looking at you. i’m just looking in the mirror.”
    “at me.”
    “maybe i’m admiring the paint color.”
    “shut up. let me brush my teeth. go away. i’m late as it is.”
    “so you’re really going?”
    “one of us needs to make some money.”
    “what? you don’t think we can live on love?”
    a glare in the mirror reflects back onto the speaker as well as the spoken to.
    “love!” is a sob that the damp walls absorb.
    a glass breaks in the sink. fragments titter around the bowl as if on a carnival ride.

  40. Drake Heath says:

    Stained Red
    The drops on the mirror are so small you think it’s just a dot in your vision. You woke up worrying about being late for work. Trying not to wake your wife. Trying to make some semblance of breakfast before starting the grind that never ends. Get your toothbrush and act like it really matters how your breath smells. You look at your dazed expression. Just you and him. You cough and he’s covered in red dots. You exhale, inhale, shake your head, say it’s nothing. You then wipe it off with your hand. Knowing you’re just staining yourself red.

Leave a Reply