a rickety bridge of impossible crossing

promptly practicing prose

I had a thought about a.i. text generators: maybe the only reason they're so good at writing entertaining nonsense is because they have a prompt. Heck, I can generate a ton of nonsense when someone gives me a prompt. I just don't usually have one.

I want to write more fiction, but it's rare that I get an idea for a story. So I think I'm going to occasionally grab a random prompt and try to write a story around it. They're not all going to be gold, but the more I try to write fiction, the better chance I have of writing good fiction. If it sucks, I can just blame Raclanti.

I'm using a prompt generator I found on a site called The Story Shack. This is the first one it gave me:

ğŸŽ² Write a 250 word story in the seasonal genre. It's about a child hater and should include an umbrella. Also use the sentence 'Hello?' Bonus prompt: The story involves a fight.

I don't know what "the seasonal genre" is. I googled it and it doesn't seem to refer to anything specific, so I'm going to assume it's just a story where the season is important. 250 words seems like an impossible target; I almost doubled that number and I still feel like the story doesn't have enough meat to it. Uh... it's Raclanti's fault. They're okay with words, but I guess they're still getting the hang of numbers.

Throwing Shade

"What's the umbrella for? There's no rain, stupid."

Alex's freckled face turned pink. He looked at his shoes. One of the velcro straps had come undone. He fixed his gaze on it. "My mom doesn't want me to get burned," he mumbled.

The sizzling August sun beat down on them from a cloudless sky. It wasn't even 8:00 yet but it was 90 degrees by the bulb.

The other boy laughed, a performative braying sound, and turned to look at the twins. Sara and Jeffrey gave a half-hearted giggle, keeping their distance. Alex give them a pleading look and they cut their eyes away.

The black-haired boy gave Alex a shove. Alex staggered back, the umbrella wobbling. "Oh, the baby's afraid of the sun? Princess Alex can't handle a little sunburn?" He laughed again. Alex stared into space, shaking. He put both hands on the shaft of the big orange and white golf umbrella to steady it. The other boy balled up his fists.

Ray looked up from his tattered paperback, sighed, put the bookmark in place and shoved it into his satchel. "I got snipped so I wouldn't have to deal with this shit," he thought. He took his umbrella out of the bag, extended it, and opened it with a flump. He held it up. It looked comically tiny floating above his broad shoulders. It shadowed his bald head like a miniature UFO.

He crossed the street and walked up to the kids. "Hello?" The word was gentle, even in his gravelly voice, but loud enough to make the boy jump. The four looked up at the tower of a man, his shadow falling across the bully's face.

Ray stared into the boy's eyes. "You got a problem with umbrellas?" The boy shook his head. "Good."

The school bus rumbled up and lowered itself with a sigh. The twins and the black-haired boy scrambled through the door. Alex folded up his umbrella.

"Hey." Alex looked up at the man. "You got a weapon, he doesn't. Next time he tries to shove you like that, just give him a good poke. He'll back off." Alex nodded his head vigorously, curly red hair falling into his eyes.

The bus hissed, its stop sign swung back into place, and it continued along its leisurely route. A moment later, the city bus zoomed past in the opposite direction. None of the passengers got off at the now-unoccupied stop. Ray sighed. He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. He looked at his watch. He crossed the street, plopped down on the bench, and went back to his book. He folded the cover back to hold it open in his right hand. In his left, he still held the umbrella aloft. His reddening scalp was grateful for the shade.