Writing Prompt Wednesday: Show Don’t Tell

Poetry and fiction reader Sarah Hansen wrote this week’s writing prompt, and fiction writer Gideon Simons wrote this week’s sample response.

Writing Prompt: Write a poem, flash fiction, or flash creative piece about a teacher, but do not use the word “teach” or “learn” in your work. (This restriction also applies to variations of the word like “taught,” “learning,” etc.)


The remoras are back again today. Maybe they never left. Maybe they sleep under the desks, keeping warm under sheets and sheets of unfinished homework and failed tests. I don’t know. I have never had the confidence to come here at night so that I can check.

I stand and talk to them under the dull hum of the fluorescents. The tops of their cold eyes hide behind the reflection of the lights. They gasp slightly, like fish, but if they say anything it is hidden beneath the hum. When I go home the noise still echoes in my ears. It is only in the last few hours before I sleep on Sundays that the hum fades away and a small portion of the world’s sounds become audible to me. But last weekend we had conferences and so I sat under the fluorescents, feeling as though my thoughts could only exist in the microscopic slices of time between each blink of the lights, too rapid and too fragmentary for me to understand them, so that my own mind became a thing like a great whale moving in the distance behind vertically striped glass.

Even when the noise goes, the looks remain, gimlet eyes I feel observing my every move, my every act. Listening to music, trying to drive out the hum, I think I see a look of disapproval, narrowed eyes somewhere in the heat haze of the road ahead, And my mind cannot quite tell, still working in its singular jolts of thought processes, whether they are real or not, and so I swerve.

The front passenger’s side wheel jolts up onto the curb, my head hits the ceiling, and I think for a moment that years ago, before the remoras, it would not have been so painful. I had hair back then, more than the little tufts that have ceded the top of my head to the ravages of the elements, of the ceiling upholstery.

I wake up nestled in white, and the hum at last abates to the sound of pouring water, cool and crystalline in my ears, as what was once a hydrant has become a geyser emanating from a notch crumpled into the front of my car. And I can see even over the airbag and through the craquelure windshield that everything is so bright and soft. The mist hides the endless eyes, and I too close my eyes, for even the distant lights and sirens might be able to make those eyes turn away and forever drive the hum from my mind.


Gideon Simons is a first year fiction writer at Virginia Tech. He reads fiction for the minnesota review.

Sarah Hansen is a first year poet at Virginia Tech. She reads poetry and fiction for the minnesota review.


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