Sample Sunday, Punchline

My mother called me and told me to turn on NPR, that they were running a story contest. So I turned it on and listened. Apparently, they’ve been doing these for a bit–this is the sixth. Every time, there have been more entries, so I guess it’s catching on.

At first, I thought they wanted stories UP TO 600 words but, when I had written the story and was ready to upload it, I decided it was supposed to BE 600 words, or near enough as dammit. So I wrote another one. Then I saw that it was supposed to be up to 600 words (or, rather, to be read in three minutes or fewer [they said, “or less”, but we know they should have said, “or fewer”. You’ll thank me later.]).

The prompt for this story was that someone must cry and someone must tell a joke.

Here is the one I wrote but did not upload:


Laura knew it was coming when she walked into the room.

“Hey, Mom! Knock, knock.”

Chad still hadn’t tired of the joke Father Gephart had told him yesterday. Possibly because Laura had heard it so often, its very inevitability made it funny, like a comedian’s signature line: “But no-o-o-o!” “Well, excuse me!” “Did I do that?”

“Who’s there?” she asked, dutifully.

“Little old lady.”

“Little old lady who?”

Chad’s breath caught in a racking cough. Laura watched him force the corners of his mouth up, watched him blink back tears, watched him try to disguise the cough as laughter. It was a harrowing thing to watch a ten-year-old do.

Laura covered her face with both hands and gritted her teeth and stretched her lips, forcing the gulping breaths she couldn’t quite smother to come out as, “Heee, heee, heee!”

When Chad could speak again, he said, “Little old lady!” and Laura repeated, “Little old lady who?”

“Why, Mom!” Chad’s dark-circled eyes widened in mock surprise. His forehead wrinkled as the bare skin where his eyebrows ought to be lifted toward the bare skin where his hair ought to be. “I didn’t know you could yodel!”

Laura laughed until she cried.

WRITING PROMPT: Write a story that happens on a Sunday.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Sample Sunday, Punchline

  1. Patricia

    January 23, 2011 at 11:44am

    So effective–yet so short!

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply

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