#FlashFiction: Project Gutenberg Prompt

A quick reminder that the prompt was to go to Project Gutenberg, have a look at the recent releases and pick a title that appeals: that is the prompt, and the title of your story…


The Owl Taxi

Jonno’s Show had been a huge success.  Every piece had sold, to the satisfaction of Headmaster, Bursar, and Art Master.  Whilst the extravagant prices normally seen in the gallery had not been applied to the fifteen-year old’s portfolio, the patrons at the exclusive event had dug deep in a good cause.  There was even talk of a new scholarship being created, based on artistic merit.

For Jonno though, the celebration had been tempered: everyone had agreed that he should take an Art GCSE early.  The stress of the show done with, he now needed to finish his coursework.  This needed some thought: there was much to consider.  Not only did he need to produce the pieces, he needed to demonstrate his thought processes throughout.  The examiners would not care why he chose a particular subject, but they would scrutinise his every step on the journey, from the materials he chose, to the refinements made to bring the piece to a successful conclusion.  He also had some vague notions that he would look to take a subsequent A-level early too; a further show, in due course, but not too soon, did not appear to be impossible either.  This might even contribute to the costs of university, perhaps.

But all of this was still very much in the future – first he need to get the portfolio for his GCSE sorted.  To seek inspiration, during the half-term break, he wandered into his father’s study. His father was a big fan of detective and mystery stories, which he collected.  His collection started with the early exemplars – Murder on the Rue Morgue, The Notting Hill Mystery, The Moonstone – and continued with examples from every decade thereafter.   There were a few other small collections, but his attention today was on the coffee-table books of art and artists that were neatly lined up on one bottom shelf.  He started rooting through them. He’d looked through these books hundreds of times: they were old friends, his first friends.  He’d been looking at these books since he was a toddler, and their benign influence had shaped him to this point, although he didn’t realise it.

As he flicked through a book on Dalí, it occurred to him that he’d never tried to do anything in the Surrealist style.  In fact, there was a lot that he’d never tried, which was rather humbling.  Turning the glossy, outsize pages, a plan unfolded in his mind.  Without really thinking about it or acknowledging it, he knew how he would shape and present the journal.  But he still needed a subject for the piece.  He picked up the book on surrealism and sat in his father’s chair – a high-backed, wheeled affair – and gently twisted back and forth, musing.  As he spun the chair, the book on his lap, he took in several of the shelves of detective books and one caught his eye: the Owl Taxi.  He reached for some paper and started sketching and making notes: tentative sketches of a taxi in flight, with the features of an owl, reminders of what paints to use, brushes and strokes.  He trialled iconic taxis: yellow cabs from New York, black cabs from London, brightly coloured tuk-tuks from Delhi.  He considered whether it should be a horse drawn Hackney carriage of yore.  He tried to decide whether the kind of owl would make a difference and essayed the classic heart-shaped face of the Barn Owl, and a more general owl shaped based on a Snowy Owl.  A picture of a thousand brush-strokes begins with a simple sketch: he was on his way.

© David Jesson, 2018


We had two other people play along this month, both of whom got their stories in well ahead of the deadline.

Stu’s Story is called “A Dominie Dismissed” and Isa-Lee’s is “A Chronical of Jails“.


10 thoughts on “#FlashFiction: Project Gutenberg Prompt”

  1. What a fantastic title! And there are so many ways you could have taken it, the art one is a fun one. I really enjoyed this prompt, it seems like the possibilities are endless.

    I wish we had the artwork. Which is probably a lot to ask of a fictional artist.

    I also like the short ones, they’re so easy to jump into and you’re finished so quickly!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The Gutenberg prompt is always great – I’ve never had a problem finding something. I limited my self a little because I’ve been taking these prompts to use with a family that U first started talking about here ->https://wp.me/p7K4Zp-nw

      This one is a direct sequel to https://wp.me/p7K4Zp-1mB

      Continue the art theme, short stories are a bit like the exploratory sketches, rough line drawings and thumbnails to try new things and see what works – and what doesn’t!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’ll check them out! I like that you’ve stuck with a theme, that’s really cool, too.

        I think it’s my favorite prompt so far, but I also think I’ve only completed 2 so it’s not a huge field!

        I like the short stories as a bit of a palate cleanser. Although now I’m a little amused by this nameless character, s/he may have become background for someone else.


        I see your point.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Initially, I had no especial enthusiasm for the Project Gutenberg prompts, but I’ve been rapidly changing my mind. This month has sealed it, as the range of tales is simply fabulous. I *may* even have to up the frequency to one more in the year than I’ve currently schedule 🙂

    Still to do my story yet, but there’s that old #TortoiseFlashFiction option …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I usually take notes on a couple of titles that I like, even if there is only one that really prompts me at the time. You could probably, o I don’t know, go throught the alphabet or something…


  3. Oh & I forgot to mention, I love Jonno as a character and you write ever so well about art as a scientist David … something in your past eh?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jonno is growing on me. Toph, the eldest, is lurking in the background somewhere being all cool and enigmatic. Tom is the youngest and does have some third sone of a wood-cutter characteristics, but hasn’t realised it yet. Jonno used to bully Tom a bit, but he’s grown out of that, thank goodness.

      With regard to art…not so much – I know what I like…


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