UPDATED WITH WINNER - LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown: May Edition

Flash fiction: A style of fictional literature marked by extreme brevity.

Welcome to LitReactor's Flash Fiction Smackdown, a monthly bout of writing prowess.

How It Works

We give you inspiration in the form of a picture, poem, video, or prompt. You write a flash fiction piece using the inspiration we gave you. Put your entry in the comments section. One winner will be picked and awarded a prize.

The Rules

  • 42 words. No more. No less.
  • It can be any genre.
  • Give it a title. Please keep it to 10 words.
  • We're not exactly shy, but let's stay away from senseless racism or violence.
  • One entry per person.
  • Editing your entry after you submit it is permitted.
  • LitReactor staffers can't win, but are encouraged to participate.
  • All stories submitted on or before May 28th will be considered. We'll run the winner on May 29th.

This Month's Prize

This month's winner will receive an eBook copy of Richard Thomas' latest Disintegration: A Windy City Dark Mystery.

In a brilliantly stylish breakthrough thriller for fans of Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Will Christopher Baer’s Kiss Me, Judas, here is the compelling tale of a man who has lost it all—and is now navigating a crooked, harrowing path to redemption.

Once a suburban husband and father, now the man has lost all sense of time. He retains only a few keepsakes of his former life: a handmade dining room table, an armoire and dresser from the bedroom, and a tape of the last message his wife ever left on their answering machine. These are memories of a man who no longer exists. Booze and an affair with a beautiful woman provide little relief, with the only meaning left in his life comes from his assignments. An envelope slipped under the door of his apartment with the name and address of an unpunished evildoer. The unspoken directive to kill. And every time he does, he marks the occasion with a memento: a tattoo. He has a lot of tattoos.

But into this unchanging existence seep unsettling questions. How much of what he feels and sees can he trust? How much is a lie designed to control him? He will risk his own life—and the lives of everyone around him—to find out.

Your Inspiration:

This month, let's celebrate Towel Day! Towel Day is celebrated on May 25th, and it comes from my dad's favorite book--The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The holiday has become a celebration of the life and work of Mr. Adams, and revelers carry a towel around on May 25th. So let's write towel and/or Douglas Adams-themed flash fiction this month. And, DON'T PANIC, I am giving you 42 words this time. 


And the Winner is ...Todd Morr

A plethora of awesome entries, I just loved the punchline on this one. Maybe I just love the concept of towels always getting ruined—since that is my life. Congrat, Todd!

The Good Towels

"Dude, what happened to the good towels, this looks like blood."

Dave did not answer.

"Marge will be pissed if she sees what you did to her towels."

Dave did not reply.

"Where is Marge?"

"You're home early," Dave said.

Taylor Houston

Column by Taylor Houston

Taylor Houston is a genuine Word Nerd living in Portland, OR where she works as a technical writer and volunteers on the marketing committee for Wordstock, a local organization dedicated to writing education. She has a BA in Creative Writing and Spanish from Hamilton College and attended Penn State's MFA program in Creative Nonfiction. She has taught writing at all levels from middle school to college to adult, and she is the creator of Writer’s Cramp, a class for adults who just want to write!

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Writeswish's picture
Writeswish May 3, 2015 - 4:56pm

"A Good Day to be Right"

Heavy and sweating, he bounded into the classroom. "It's happening! Today!" he cried. We laughed. The bespectacled nerd, white towel permanently thrown on his shoulder - he was always good for a laugh. But he was right. He vanished. And then, Ka-boom.

Christopher Peterson's picture
Christopher Peterson from Illinois is reading the tea leaves... May 6, 2015 - 11:20am
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fishers of Men

Upon further examination of the holy relic by the four most preeminent linen scholars of the day, what had previously been interpreted as the silhouette of Christ was, in fact, sweat stains on the favorite bath towel of Turin’s most impious fishmonger.

Nick Lyon's picture
Nick Lyon from Guthrie, OK is reading Burnt Tongues May 5, 2015 - 1:01pm

"Towel Dried"

“Would you mind handing me that towel?”
She smiled and pulled it off. He stared for a moment at her glistening, naked body.
“Thanks,” he said finally, “I just washed my car and I needed to dry it.” Then he left her..

André Gropo's picture
André Gropo May 12, 2015 - 5:39am

"Pick it up"

Luke caught himself staring his perfect bed.
And for a moment dared to smile for the first time in days, realizing the irony that the thing she always forgot was what reminded him the most.
But his bed was never wet again.

chilidog0's picture
chilidog0 May 11, 2015 - 10:42am

"Lost at Sea"

"I never took you seriously on the versatility of towels," he said as I made mine into a makeshift sail on our boat lost at sea.

"I guess I was right," he said as it flew off into the ocean.

Joe Golden's picture
Joe Golden from Clarksburg, WV is reading The Big Sleep May 11, 2015 - 10:50am

“String Theory”

Benjamin wearily approached the neatly-folded white towel for the last time. After extensive calculations, he simply could not account for the number of folds. The length, width, and thickness would only allow four, yet he clearly counted eleven. All was certainly lost.

BarryG's picture
BarryG May 11, 2015 - 10:53am

Going (Dirk) Gently into that good night

The pain lanced through his chest when he left the treadmill. "Don't panic", Douglas Adams told himself, dabbing his brow with his indispensable sweat-towel. At 7 years past 42, he was ready to discover the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything.


nkbduckie's picture
nkbduckie from Florida is reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath May 11, 2015 - 1:24pm


Gunshots echoed through the dense woods as the criminal, bearded and dirty, emerged from his cabin of horrors. Too late the sergeant saw the towel fall from his fist. It's bleached surface was marred with the stains of old blood. Good riddance.

tomslayer264's picture
tomslayer264 May 11, 2015 - 1:46pm

Naked and Displayed

Things were definitely better now that he couldn’t see anything. The soft-cotton bristles tickling his nose hairs were actually quite pleasant. Life generally seemed much better after a thorough shower; unfortunately, the floating protoplasmic orbs snickering at him lessened the euphoria somewhat.

Casey Bételgeuse Betelgeuse's picture
Casey Bételgeus... from earth is reading quantum and the lotus May 11, 2015 - 4:14pm

Structure Fires are Beautiful.

Sudden abandonment of borrowed dreams and obligated goals.
Watching the house burn to the ground with my comfortable life emanated freedom.
The neighbors gathered like moths to cheer on destruction.
Bathing in the inviting glow of chaos and I forgot my towle.

Scott Murnen's picture
Scott Murnen May 11, 2015 - 4:40pm


let's go.---- ripped intertwines through these lensed leaned-in indescribable tunes, two dirt-shriveled typhoons burst instantly. Uncolliding stars unwarp scattering snares of beams cast…..precisely edge reddened rays vanishing points snapping together and land the spinning mirrors ...the glass is just in pieces

eggogallego's picture
eggogallego from Glendale, AZ is reading Bitch Planet May 11, 2015 - 5:06pm

Scratching as a Gesture

Being a space dog explorer had its merits, but Katee still missed the simpler days before her abduction. Back then, all it took was a good scratch to ease her mind. These days, the cosmos division didn't even provide employees a towel.

Kyle Darville's picture
Kyle Darville May 11, 2015 - 5:44pm

A Perfect Day for A Swim

Janie crawled out of the ocean waves, coughing and catching her breath.  She was instinctively looking for her towel, but knew it wasn’t there because she had been caught in a riptide along the Belizean coast.  Then she was struck by lightning.


Todd Morr's picture
Todd Morr from Colorado Springs CO is reading Notes From the Internet Apocalypse May 11, 2015 - 7:50pm

The Good Towels

"Dude, what happened to the good towels, this looks like blood."

Dave did not answer.

"Marge will be pissed if she sees what you did to her towels."

Dave did not reply.

"Where is Marge?"

"You're home early," Dave said.





Ryan Andrews's picture
Ryan Andrews from Melbourne May 14, 2015 - 4:25pm

Contestant #3

For a time, the towel was my only one. Clutched from a contest of hands at a bikini competition. And it would hold me in its arms when I couldn’t shower off a hangover, until the cold morning her coconut scent departed.

klithjester's picture
klithjester May 12, 2015 - 3:52am

Table Manners

“Sorry,” the dragon simpered. Kalythraz’s mother had always warned him, “Don’t eat wizards!”.
Summoning a glinting towel made of Ether stuff, the tiny figure scraped away the sulphur tinged goo from his face, revealing a bearded scowl. “At least you didn’t chew.”

JBPravda's picture
JBPravda May 12, 2015 - 7:38am

MuskY ElonGATED Battery-Powered Suburban Intergalactic Sprawl Elimination

by JB 'Truth-Spewing' Pravda


"Putting a Dent in Your Daze" read billboarding disguising the village Planning Council's secretive pact with the nice man from 'ZouthAvricah' s machinations--- 'the Electron & Ewe' campaign aimed at putting the most famous equation in the known intergalactic 'Universe' to proper use.



JBPravda's picture
JBPravda May 12, 2015 - 7:41am

I'm Dougie Adams and I approve this massage, along with Marshall McLuhan, Imperator of the Suburban  Sprawl Deatomizer thingy

Bolen Miller's picture
Bolen Miller May 12, 2015 - 7:45am

"Quantum towel leap"

Theorizing that one could towel travel within his own lifetime, Doctor Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum towel accelerator - and vanished. He awoke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images of towels that were not his own, and driven by an unknown force to change history for the towels. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a towel that only Sam can see and hear. And so Doctor Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong with towels and hoping each time that his next leap... will be the leap home.

frest's picture
frest from New York is reading Worst Song, Played on Ugliest Guitar May 12, 2015 - 4:41pm

"Chevy Magistrate"

The towel is crusty, bloodstained? I come upon it in an alley, furtively wadded in a flimsy plastic bag and wedged between a pizza box and stack of Parenting magazines.  A heart-pounding peek is gambled: just Pinot Noir, hastily mopped and salted.

Aden72's picture
Aden72 from Colorado is reading The Woman Who Smashed Codes, Hawksmoor May 19, 2015 - 12:12pm

Mostly Shameless

“Douglas or Adams, what's the difference?“
“Dude, Dirk works for Adams County.”
“No shit?"
"Imagine being busted by him with hookers and blow in his RV?”
“Shit, no!"
"Yeah, bro’."
"So where?”
“Boulder. We'll shoot behind Trillian’s Towel Emporium on 42nd.”

ShaeM's picture
ShaeM is reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress May 14, 2015 - 9:46pm

The Dangers of Imagination

A towel tied snugly around chubby shoulders, the toddler surveyed the world he knew he must protect. All of his heroes were cartoons.

His mother looked up just as the boy streaked past the window, the immaculate lawn soon to be ruined.

ProjectMayhem30's picture
ProjectMayhem30 May 16, 2015 - 10:50am

Sun and Wind

I surfaced naked from the water, my drenched hair covering my eyes.  Slicking it back, I marvel at the monstrous ball of fire slowly submerging behind my tent, home.  The gusts this evening are strong, and I let nature’s towels dry me.

DaJoHi's picture
DaJoHi from MA is reading Wool (1-5) May 18, 2015 - 8:32am

Towel Play


A wet towel will work best.

First, grab it by the long ends and spin until it's nice and tight. Next, fling it at her Frisbee-like, but pull it back real quick.


Then keep it going until she says: "My turn."

JuliaK's picture
JuliaK May 19, 2015 - 12:36pm

Spot the Forced Word

I am but a molecule watching this make-believe world around me dissipate. I wish I had a mouth big enough to eat Danish herring and a body big enough to wipe down after a most sweaty workout with a giant towel.

James Matterhorn's picture
James Matterhorn May 25, 2015 - 3:46pm

Blood Dries: Make Sure You Wash Under Your Fingernails

How many times had I been here before. In this same spot. Not necessarily this place in space, although I do spend an embarrassing amount of time in this tub, but this cerebral place.

My towels never seem to dry.