April 20- May 3, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “The Elephant In The Room”

This post is for stories related to the Contest theme: “The Elephant In The Room”.

Elephant in the room is an English-language metaphorical idiom for an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss, or a condition of groupthink no one wants to challenge.

Required Elements:

  • The story must end with some version of the phrase “the elephant in the room” i.e. “that was the elephant in the room”, “there is an the elephant in the room”, “that’s why they wouldn’t mention the elephant in the room” etc.
  • Foul language must be kept to a minimum

 

Word limit: 1200.


  • This is the thread for stories as well as general comments. Say hello and be sure to check the “Notify me of follow-up comments by email” box for email notifications.
  • To leave feedback/Comments directly relating to a particular story – click “reply” to the story comment.
  • Specific critiques, comments, and feedback are encouraged. If you do not want honest professional feedback do not post a story.
  • Keep feedback and critiques to a civil and constructive level, please. Please critique stories for construction, style, flow, grammar, punctuation, and so on. The moderator has the right to delete any comments that appear racist, inflammatory or bullying.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:
  1. One story per author. You may post more than one but only the first story will qualify for voting.
  2. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  3. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be less than 1000 words.

Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT/ 4:00am AEDT (Thursday) and ends the same time on Thursday / 4:00am AEDT (Friday).

  • You may vote only once.
  • You cannot vote for yourself.

***the next writing prompt will be chosen by Phil Town per the Writing Prompt Roster.

To be included in the “writing prompt roster”, you must have submitted two stories in the last sixty days. The roster is alphabetical and can be found here.

See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.


click tracking

12 thoughts on “April 20- May 3, 2017 Flash Fiction Contest “The Elephant In The Room”

  • April 20, 2017 at 9:41 pm
    Permalink


    I love my sons, they, their wives and their children are the light of my life. During their childhood we had a close loving relationship, I was like any Mom, the fixer of problems, the go to person for food, money, clothing, fun, emotional support and all the other wonderful and terrifying duties of being a parent. It seemed like overnight when the wonderful, all knowing, intelligent mother turned out to be incredibly stupid. My 15 and 16 year old sons suddenly noticed I dressed wrong, didn’t understand anything, was not entitled to know what they thought about anything and in addition was just plain dumb. I think after years of me being accepting of the boys inability to hang up their clothing, use laundry baskets and the general disorder and messiness of teenage living space, one comment made to me stood out and I still laugh when I remember the day they looked at me and said, “you know Mom, there could be a dead elephant in the living room for a week before you’d notice it”. We still have a close loving relationship.

    Reply
  • April 21, 2017 at 11:05 pm
    Permalink


    Looking back on it now, I have no idea how it all began, the madness I mean. Of course there had been little clues that pointed to bigger things were on the way but I didn’t connect those dots.
    My life had been as ordinary as any… more so by comparison I would have guessed. If you looked up average in the dictionary you would find my picture. At twenty seven, I never stepped outside the line of expectation, never late for work, never late paying the bills, everything was planned out, every I dotted every T crossed, a place for everything and everything in its place. Life was neat and orderly, just as it was meant to be.
    That is until, one day I was home sick with the flu.
    I had spent the night wracked with fever, my throat ravaged with multiple trips to the bathroom to empty an already empty stomach.
    Exhausted from a restless night, I stumbled to the kitchen for a glass of water and a few aspirin. To my surprise, my black dress shirt lay in the middle of the kitchen floor.
    A small thing mind you. It was just a shirt in a loose, rumpled pile… lying on the floor but it unnerved me. I stood there for a moment, staring at it.
    “How the hell?” I said aloud, pushing it with my foot, fearful I was hallucinating.
    I looked about half expecting God only knew what.
    The house was empty. It was always empty.
    After Nancy moved out more than five years ago, I had lived alone. I had no explanation as to how it could possibly be on the floor in the first place but there it was.
    “I must have dropped it when I took the clothes out of the dryer, that’s all,” I lied to myself.
    It was a lie I wanted to believe. I had taken the clothes out of the dryer two days earlier but I had no other explanation.
    I tried to put it out of my mind.
    A couple of weeks had gone by and I had all but forgotten about it. I would have been happy to live in that thought but when I came home late Wednesday night I found the refrigerator door open. Split milk, held in place by a ring of mustard, had created a puddle at its base. Laying on the floor in front of it my black shirt… sitting dead center of it, a half eaten bowl of cereal and a large wooden spoon.
    Someone had been inside my house.
    My heart jumped to my throat, the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. I grabbed a knife and crept from room to room but to no avail.
    I was alone.
    I was angry at the thought of it, violated for lack of a better description.
    I didn’t know what upset me more… that someone had been in my house or that they had used my shirt as a place mat. What prayed on my mind for days afterward was the fact that I didn’t even own a wooden spoon.
    After the police left that night, I had gone through every item I owned. My head swam with panic, fearful half of everything I own had been stolen as I frantically took inventory.
    Nothing.
    To my astonishment nothing had been touched. To me it felt as though the world was no longer civilized , for the police it was just matter of fact and for them a small matter at that.
    The company I worked for immediately changed my pass codes for the office and brought in the top of the line alarm company for my house.
    For the next month the instant I turned the key in the door I rushed to the refrigerator only to discover all was as I had left it that morning.
    I had taken my black shirt to the cleaners to be cleaned… twice. Both times I left it on the hanger, safely encased in the store wrapper. Invariably, I checked on it right after the fridge, eyeing it suspiciously for any tell-tell remnants of an intruder.
    As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get over the spoon. I had come to terms with the idea someone had broken into my house, opened my fridge and ate my food. What I had trouble with was the idea that they thought about it far enough in advance that they brought their own eating utensils. They had to know that they would have something to eat as they burglarized my house. It was that or they ate at all the houses they stole from. Neither thought offered any comfort.
    At first, I was tempted to throw it away, be done with it. As often as I had placed it in the trash I found myself retrieving it every time. I carried it around the house as if looking for just the right place to put it. More often than not it wound up sticking out of my back pocket.
    As the weeks went by I carried the damn thing everywhere, many times without realizing it. It found its way to work with me, in the car, under my pillow, in the microwave and in all the little nooks and crannies it could fit. It had reached the point it would be in my pocket before my car keys.
    I tried to break its hold on me, but could not. Somehow, having it in my possession kept my house and refrigerator, safe from a second break-in… or at least, in the beginning, so I hoped… clearly without intent or desire it had become the elephant in the room that would haunt me for the rest of my life.

    Reply
    • April 23, 2017 at 5:44 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Tegon – interesting story, lots of unanswered questions (like what the hell is up with that spoon? And why are people breaking into refrigerators?). Perhaps this is part of something larger or the word limit got you. The opening line got me and then it kind of fell away for me. I was waiting for something to happen, because it felt like there was nothing going on, even though there was something going on.
      In the opening stanza I thought the spoon was a reference to the ‘Goldilocks and Three Bears’ – spoon, breaking in, stealing food… I was hoping some broken furniture and a bed would be introduced at some point. At the end, I initially thought the item that had a hold was the shirt, however on subsequent readings realised it was that damn mystical, wooden spoon (perhaps make this clearer?).
      I would also remove the reference to “Nancy” – she doesn’t play any part in the story and soaks up 13 valuable words – unless of course, the Nancy and the spoon are the same person?!
      As far as the prompt goes, I’m not sure your last line fits the idiom. For me, an ‘elephant in the room’ requires multiple people not discussing something, as opposed to one person not being able to solve something. I know it’s open to interpretation, however my (re)take on your story could be a second character (house mate / partner) and yourself place the spoon a glass case, never talk about it, and when guests arrive for dinner, they all want to ask the question, but deep down they’ve had to do exactly the same thing in their homes, hence the elephant in the room – Except for one person who does ask the question, who then goes home to find his clothes have been used as a placemat and a wooden spoon (cue the Twilight Zone music).

      Reply
        • April 25, 2017 at 12:56 am
          Permalink

          Looking too deep? I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of that before. And if you are referring to _my_ OCD, then yes, I have been accused of that before.

          Reply
          • April 25, 2017 at 9:35 pm
            Permalink

            I don’t know you well enough to know if you have OCD or not Ken. I found your note to be very funny… (cue the Twilight Zone music). For me… (also a OCD participant) this story is a reflection of that problem. My personal problem is with a fork… not a spoon. I have to eat with the same fork for every meal or things just don’t feel right or taste right. I can eat at restaurants or other people’s houses and use their forks but I’m left with an empty, unsatisfied feeling until I have a little something at home with my fork then everything is right with the world and I can move on. If you have a little something you are compelled to do then you understand, if not then it seems like a silly, funny thing. You also know that other people notice even if they say nothing to you. When they whisper to one another you know it’s about you… that feeling that they find it funny and you can do nothing to change this behavior is very much “The Elephant in the Room.”
            If you thought I was making fun of your OCD… I assure you I was not, could not… it would be the kettle calling the pot black. While we’re talking about it… eggs are ALWAYS on the right. If not they don’t look like eggs, they don’t taste like eggs… they are ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS on the right.

    • April 25, 2017 at 10:44 pm
      Permalink

      Tegon and Ken Allen,

      Okay break it up you two. Step back step back. (just kidding, I know you’re both insane). But seriously now. (Okay wait, not yet.) Ken? I’ve been accused of under-thinking things. Underthinking.
      (Okay, seriously now.)
      BTW, you and Andy’s replies to my comments last week were funny as hell.

      Tegon,
      The story’s very well written. It reeks of competence. And, as stories go, it was entertaining. I didn’t get any kind of OCD connection though. Not until you mentioned it in your comments to the other Ken. However, I don’t know much about OCD, and I found your comments about it fascinating.
      So, considering your comments, if this story was intended to exemplify what it’s like, then I don’t think it succeeded. However, I feel that if you took your response to Ken’s comment and expanded that into a story, that would be unusual, fascinating, funny, educational as well as entertaining.
      I guess I don’t know anyone with OCD either, at least, not that I know of.
      It sounds like one of those things were one might say, ‘well, I can think of way worse afflictions to suffer from.’ Which is not to make light of it. I think it would be very frustrating, like having very bad vision, in a way. Survivable, but constant and annoying.

      I can see how watching someone deal with OCD could be humorous, but still, good friends and family should include you in the fun somehow. If you were my friend, I would train myself to always put my eggs on the right too, and if I went to dinner with you, I would bring my own fork AND KNIFE, just to upstage you. For fun. We might start a whole new fad. Personal utensils. Would that be worse? Or better?

      Reply
    • April 27, 2017 at 2:40 pm
      Permalink

      Tegon,

      I totally got your story. The OCD stood out from the start. I loved it. You did throw me off with the black shirt bit as I thought that would be the main item of focus. Clever twist to highlight the wooden spoon! I enjoyed the story.

      Reply
  • April 25, 2017 at 9:38 am
    Permalink

    The Elephant
    Dean Hardage

    Mark hated dressing up, hated the way the clothes felt, pressing too close and revealing too much of his less-than-perfect physique. He sighed as he fastened the tie around his neck with an oversized Windsor knot that only accentuated his Adam’s apple. He wouldn’t even be doing this but his boss had specifically handed him the invitation so he knew it was more an order than a request.

    “Meet and Greet” it said. “Come and meet all of your fellow employees in a relaxed and casual atmosphere.” Relaxed and casual his left….well, the dress certainly wasn’t helping him relax and didn’t feel at all casual. Suit and tie was required and the party was supposed to be at some hoity-toity country club where he’d never get past the front door under normal circumstances. The high quality, engraved paper of the invitation bespoke money and status and it would be his passport, temporarily at least, into that world.

    With one last pass of the brush through his unruly hair and he was finished. It was as good as it was going to get and he just had time to get there on schedule. He hurried because he’d never liked being late, even fashionably late. He punctuality seemed a bit out of place at work, everyone else being on what they called flex-time, coming and going in any way they felt necessary. It seemed wrong to him but the company was successful and he’d been lucky to get the position he held.

    As he drove away from the city and into the lush countryside he pondered the reason he’d been asked to this soiree. He wasn’t hooked into the office party line, so to speak, and most of the gossip bypassed him completely. He had caught one phrase, something about an elephant, big and clumsy but useful and cute in that way that ugly things can be. That sounded like nonsense so he’d ignored it.

    He stopped wondering when he saw the enormous edifice where he was supposed to go. He looked for a place to park but was directed to the circular drive to the front of the building where a valet took his keys and drove off. He’d never used a service like that and it felt vaguely wrong but he once again shook it off and walked into the building.

    The maître d’ took his invitation and motioned gracefully toward an expansive, very well appointed room with high windows, plush carpet, and wait staff circulating with drinks and hors de’ oeuvres. He took a fluted champagne glass and held on to it as he slowly wandered about the room full of people. He looked around and saw a few of the people who worked in his section and some he’d only seen in the company handbook. They were the ones who lived in the rarified atmosphere of upper management and he wondered what had prompted them to bring the rest of the staff into their ivory tower.

    For the next few hours he tried to mingle, actually engaging in a few conversations as he went. As time passed he began to sense that there was something going on, something that people were not talking about even though it loomed large in their thoughts. It wasn’t obvious, no one stopped talking or smiling but he felt it nonetheless. His curiosity and apprehension grew until he thought he might burst.

    He turned suddenly and caught the CEO, CFO, and his department vice-president all looking at him from across the room, smiling in a patronizing way and it suddenly hit him. Big and clumsy, but cute in an ugly way and useful. He knew. The elephant in the room was him.

    Reply
  • April 26, 2017 at 5:38 am
    Permalink


    ALFRED

    “I think, then, that we can move on to Any Other Business?”

    The Chairman looked up from the agenda lying in front of him. The large conference room was full, with people sitting on both sides of the long table, and against all the walls except for one corner, people who couldn’t get a seat were standing. They were almost nodding off from the previous two hours of soporific discussion of last year’s accounts and voting for the following year’s Committee members.

    “So, does anyone have any other business they’d like to discuss?”

    It was no more than a rhetorical question; most had come for AOB alone.

    “Yes, I’d like to say something.”

    “The Chair gives the floor to Leonard Catskill.”

    Leonard Catskill stood, his 6-foot-4-inch frame looming over those present. He smoothed his waxed moustache before he began speaking.

    “Thank you, Mr Chairman. We all know about the rumours, so I won’t go into the details. But I just want to say that I’m 100% against any change in the composition of our circus!”

    There was a unified “Hear, hear!” from the assembly, followed by a hubbub that went on until Leonard resumed.

    “Those … Those who are interested in the change will cite the success of Cirque du Soleil and similar operations. Now, while I myself am an admirer of that ‘show’ – and I use the word advisedly – it’s far from being a circus, as such. Whichever you believe to be the origin of the circus – whether it’s Roman times or 18th-century England – animals were used as a central attraction in those early versions. Our own circus dates from the early 20th century, and we have always used animals. In all modesty, my lions are perhaps the most popular act; our circus would be nothing without them.”

    “Monsieur Shairman – can I say someseeng?”

    “Madame Pastomber?”

    Leonard sat and Madame Pastomber stood; an elegant woman in her 30s, she gave Leonard a withering look.

    “Sank you. I would take issue weez what Monsieur Lion claims; I seenk eet ees safe to say zat my trapeze act ees ze mos’ popular een ze circus – certainly eet ees ze one zat gets ze mos’ reaction from ze audience – avec les screams et le laughter nerveux – oh lá lá – zey cannot get enough of eet. And I seenk zat ze nex’ mos’ popular are ze acrobats and ze clowns. And not a seengle animal eez used een zees acts!”

    The people who could understand what Madame Pastomber was saying – and agreed with her – applauded her as she sat, and those that couldn’t – including some that wouldn’t have agreed with her if they had understood – joined in so as not to seem stupid.

    Leonard got up to respond but the Chairman stopped him before he could speak.

    “Mr Willy. You wanted to say something?”

    An ordinary-looking man with a sad face stood up next. His voice was even sadder.

    “We clowns,” he gestured to three or four people sitting near him, all with the same sad air, “are in agreement with Madame Pastomber. For too long, the animals have had a distracting influence on our art. Apart from the humane aspect – which is very powerful – we believe that it would be a good idea to remove animals from the performances. As Leonard suggested, things like Cirque du Soleil have been making shedloads of money without an animal in sight. Why not us?”

    “Frau Hundzahmer?”

    Mr Willy sat down and a large woman with whiskers got up. She banged her fist on the table and the whole room fell silent.

    “Zat ist RUBBISH! Ve haff ze best animal acts in ze all country – ze people come from miles to see zem. Meine Pudel … my poodles are, Madame Pastomber, vun of ze most popular, if not ZE MOST POPULAR” – here she banged the table again, bringing gasps from those present – “acts in ze circus. I agree mit Herr Catskill: mitout ze animals, zis circus vould be kaput!”

    She sat down and the room breathed a collective sigh of relief.

    “May I speak?”

    A timid-looking little man with a long nose put his hand up.

    “Of course, Mr Djumbeau.”

    “I’d like to know: what will happen to us, the animal tamers and trainers, if you decide to stop using animals.”

    “That’s a good question, Mr Djumbeau,” replied the Chairman. “Of course, we will have to find other things for you to do, or negotiate the termination of your contracts with us.”

    “But we only know how to work with animals. For example, I wouldn’t be comfortable donning a clown costume! And another thing … “ – here he glanced at the corner and dropped his voice to a whisper – “What will happen to the animals!?”

    The Chairman whispered his response, and a deathly silence fell on the room.

    “They will have to be put down, I’m afraid. I know that programmes exist for them to be returned to the wild, but that costs money … and unless there are donations or offers of free assistance, I’m afraid that’s a solution that will be beyond us.”

    The hubbub resumed and Mr Djumbeau sat down heavily, turning his moist eyes to the corner.

    “I think that we can call the meeting closed at this point. The Committee will continue to discuss this issue and of course, we will keep you informed of any developments. Thank you for your attendance and kind attention. Meeting terminated.”

    The circus folk filed out of the room, exchanging thoughts and opinions as they went. When they’d all left, Mr Djumbeau got up and moved to the corner.

    “It’s all right Alfred. We’ll work it out.”

    With tears streaming down his face, he stroked the head of the baby elephant and led him out of the room.

    .

    Reply
  • April 27, 2017 at 3:00 pm
    Permalink

    Phil,

    You tug at the heartstrings bringing a baby elephant into play as the elephant in the room. I also caught the name of the elephant tamer – Djumbeau aka Jumbo. Very clever.

    Mr. Djumbeau, a ” timid-looking little man with a long nose” – does he, by chance, represent Timothy the mouse of Dumbo fame?

    I wonder if the others had known the elephant was physically in the room would it have changed their views?

    I enjoyed the story! Well done.

    Reply
  • April 27, 2017 at 3:49 pm
    Permalink

    A fun story Philip. I enjoyed the accents, the names, the ending. You are attempting to satisfy the prompt with a literal elephant in the room rather than some version of the phrase. I’m calling you on it because figuring out a way to work that phrase into the last sentence without sounding corny or lame is proving to be quite a challenge. For me at least.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: