I decided that rather than repost each of these little challenges individually, I’d just collect a bunch in a single post. Some of them relate to each other a little anyway,  and I didn’t want to be spammy about it. As I said in the previous post, these were groups of five words that were provided  to me by request on my Facebook feed. I had a lot of fun doing these, and I think I might try it again soon. Please enjoy my collection of Five-Word Writing Challenges, circa 2011!


  • 1. Hypnotic
  • 2. Prophylactic
  • 3. Chicken
  • 4. Catalyst
  • 5. Nephew

 It Was a Dark and Stormy Night:

     The heavy rain was beating a hypnotic tattoo on the old broken umbrella. The city streets were awash in the torrent, reflecting shimmering lamplight as the drops danced in the deep rivulets. The umbrella was too small. A meager prophylactic measure against the uncharacteristically quiet storm. It rained, but no thunder. No lightning. Not tonight.

     I’d tried returning my nephew’s calls. Three attempts on my office phone and no messages. So I put my leftover stir-fry chicken in the icebox, shouldered my black leather attache and holstered my .38, and off I went. 10:30 on a Thursday night in the middle of a monsoon, to be sure he was still among the living.

     It’s not like him to call and not leave a message. No, that kind of call from him had to have some kind of unusual catalyst. Not like him at all. 

  • 1. Riposte
  • 2. Tootles
  • 3. Ecclesiastical
  • 4. Halitosis
  • 5. Sparks

 Lord Tootles Teaches Fencing:

“Riposte when I say to riposte, you great nincompoop!”

“I am sorry, Lord Gafford! I will Lord Gafford!”

“For all your assertions that you will, I have yet to actually see you make good on your word! You might as well call me Lord Tootles for all the honor with which you treat my tutelage!”

“Yes Lord Tootles!”

“That was not to be taken as a command, you half-wit!”

“My apologies Lord Toot…Lord Gafford!”

“Now, once again through the pattern, and this time, when I strike, and you parry, I want to see sparks fly from your foil on riposte. Either attack me or go home!”

“May the heavens strike me down like a false prophet if I fail you again my Lord!”

“There is no need to grow ecclesiastical, lad. Just lay on this time!”

“Yes my Lord!”

“For the life of me, son, we’ll make a swordsman out of you yet. If only we could do something about that halitosis, then we might even get you married someday.”

“Yes my Lord.”

  • 1. Homeworld
  • 2. Lesbians
  • 3. Finnish
  • 4. Totalitarian
  • 5. Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

 Ferro, The Man (Sort of) Who Knew Everything (Really):

The last of the great ships left this part of space 329 years ago, bound for their homeworld. That was a long time for one of the natives. Not for Ferro though. He was yet a youngling according to his own people. For 153 of those years, he’d lived quite happily as a Finnish peasant, but the weight of totalitarian rule had finally gotten the best of him, so he had written a compilation of Finnish Folklore, stirred the spirit of the country amongst the masses, and quietly moved away.

     He spent the intervening years between then and now with a host of different jobs, learning everything. That wasn’t an exaggeration. He really did know everything. Not that he advertized that fact. The truth is that most people did not respond favorably to someone who knew everything.They hated to be told the parts they were missing, especially when they did not know they were missing. So Ferro usually kept to himself.

     Tonight though, he sat in a pub in New York. Brooklyn. He rather liked New York better than the Old York, but that was only an opinion, and not to be taken as one of the facts of which he knew all.

     Presently, he was engaged in a conversation with two lesbians named Paulette and Emille concerning 18th century Finnish politics. It was one of his favorite subjects, as it was one of the first things that he ever remembered knowing everything about. They were astounded by his grasp of the nuances of the climate of the day, and he appreciated their appreciation of his discourse.

     “Seriously, though…you don’t really know everything, right? That’s just some kind of hyperbole.”

     Had Ferro let that fact slip? He was going to have to be more careful.”No it’s true. I wouldn’t lie. Go on. Try me.” He sat there, smugly sipping his pint of Karhu. He remembered helping to start the brewery where it was still made, back in 1898.

     “Ok, what’s the longest word in the English language?”

     “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.” Ferro replied without hesitation. “Go ahead. One more.”  

     “What is the last word of Jon C. Cook’s first novel?”

     Ferro almost laughed. Too easy. Easier than the last one.


     “Incredible.” Paulette’s jaw hung open. So did Emille’s.

     “I know.” Ferro said with an air of nonchalance.

     A ship would be back in another 329 years. That’s how long it took. One would leave when the first one returned. Ferro had already learned everything about this planet with time to spare. He always had been gifted.

  • 1. Autistic
  • 2. Godhead
  • 3. Peen
  • 4. Boatswain
  • 5. Thrusters 

The Quest for Ferro:

 “I have word from the Flagship, High Commander Renna.”

 “Is that so? And what does the Imperial Godhead, may we exult in their radiance, require of us, Captain Gorra?”

“We are to embark at once to retrieve Ferro. His ship has returned.”

 “Ah, so they made it back one year early? I’m impressed. Their engineers must know everything about engineering.”

“I have it on good authority that they do from Boatswain Kello. He knows everything about those of us who know everything about something.”

 “Excellent. He’s a good man. I’d like to see him ranked someday.”

“As would I. Well, I should say that we’re ready to go. First Mate Billu? Release the moorings and fire maneuvering thrusters with all speed!”

 “I can’t Commander Renna. Thrusters aren’t responding.”

“Again? What is it going to take to make them work? I’m on my last nerve waiting for the thrusters to be usable again.”

 “Get me the engine room on screen.”


 “Aye Commindah?”

 “Sotty…why do all of the engineers talk that way?”

 “Idae Nae! Thes is the wih wer suppeas tae due et.”

 “It’s true Commander Renna. We have people learning everything about Engineering protocol and the experts agree.”

 “Fine. Sotty, what’s wrong with the thrusters?”

 “Praemaery maneeeuvering thresters ‘r shot! Ahm genna heft tae peen all thae revets thet haeld em tegethea!”

 “Oh for crying out loud, Sotty. Just get it working.”

 “Aye Commindah!”

 “Can’t he just speak like everyone else? How does that have to do with engineering?”

 “Well, we could ask, but that’s Gollo’s department. He knows everything about knowing everything and could probably tell us if we have to apply that particular protocol.”

 “Well, get him in here!”

“We can’t. He’s currently off world learning everything about being Autistic.”

 “Ferro is just going to have to wait then. When’s he due back?”

 “Shouldn’t be more than 135 years.”

 “Oh alright. I’ll be in my cabin reading my pulp detective novels. I’m reading a good one about some guy and his nephew.”

  • 1. Constabulary
  • 2. A
  • 3. Serenity
  • 4. Carnal
  • 5. Penguins 

Zach Le Bec:

     My name is Zach. I guess that’s what people call me. My full name is Zachariah. Zachariah Hargrave Le Bec. Of the Quebec Le Becs. I’m a Penguin Herder. A Penguinherd. You probably haven’t heard of me, seein’ as how most folks outside of the northern territories don’t exactly move in Penguinherd circles.

      First thing’s first:

      The most cunning of you might say, ‘Hey Zach, they ain’t penguins in the north.’ Well, that’s where you’d be wrong, my friends. Fact is, those little black and white waddlers are all over the place up there. You don’t see ’em, and I’ll tell you why – World class, Grade A Penguin Herders. We keep ’em right where they’re supposed to be.

      Yeah, a man can get lost out there underneath the northern lights. A kind of quiet, solemn serenity beneath the wide open sky, with your Penguin Herd close beside you. They know the sound of your voice after awhile, and you don’t have to use a penguin prod unless you get a particularly cantankerous old Bull Penguin who’s hopin’ to be more than friendly with another Penguin’s lady friend. In a carnal way I mean. We don’t allow that. No a penguinherd is a friend, a companion, and a constabulary out there on the open tundra, if you follow. Our way is law, and the Penguins know it.

No, my friends, Zach Le Bec don’t brook no nonsense.

My name is Zachariah Hargrave Le Bec, of the Quebec Le Becs.

And I’m a Penguin Herder. 

  • 1. Principle
  • 2. Excruciating
  • 3. Transitory
  • 4. Instinctive
  • 5. Ultimatum


     It isn’t as though I mind people walking all over me. Really, it’s the principle of the thing. In my mind if you do your job well, you should at the very least be noticed from time to time. I realize that I’m probably not the best looking. I’m old. I’m plain. But you know what? I’m the best that you have and I’ve done very well working for you all these years.

     In my line of work, often times we can be transitory. Here and gone in a year. Maybe two. It all depends on whether your boss decides that you’re worth keeping around. Maybe you start in the front office, you see a lot of people. You get to be a part of the place, and then maybe they just up and decide they don’t like the look of you, and move you back by the water cooler. That’s if you’re lucky.

     Usually it all comes down to an ultimatum. One boss will say to another boss, maybe that boss’s boss, that if someone doesn’t find a replacement for you this week, then they will!’. ‘That one is filthy and bland and awful’, they might say. I have to tell you, it’s hard to hear that kind of talk about oneself. Even if it is true. The realization that one is quite definitely about to be put out to pasture is an excruciating moment. A flash of self-awareness that can leave you feeling threadbare and torn.

     But, that’s my lot I suppose. I am a no frills, feet-on-the-ground kind of individual. It is my instinctive ability to lay low and do my job that has gotten me this far, and I think I’ve done my best. But before long, I’ll find myself on the curb. Curled up, cold, and waiting. Eventually I’ll fall to pieces, but you could say that’s all part of life, for a rug.


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