• Micro Fiction Challenge: The Coffin Had No Body In It

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 123 comments
    Aug
    10

    Discussion questions: In fifty (50) words or fewer, write a scene or story that includes the phrase “the coffin had no body in it.” Write or paste your story into the comments. The winner will get a free hardcover copy of Stephen Markley’s Ohio, the book that inspired this contest’s phrase.

     

    The stories y’all wrote for our last Micro Fiction Challenge, “The Plane to Lisbon,” contained a lot of shadowy mystery and spy-world intrigue. That’s part of what made it so fun for me to judge. I hope some of you have continued working on those pieces.

    Speaking of the plane to Lisbon. While at JFK waiting for that flight, I browsed one of those generic airport newsstands and saw that Stephen Markley’s novel Ohio had just been released in paperback. At home I had the hardcover, which I had bought months earlier and then not gotten around to cracking.

    Before I could talk myself out of it, I bought my second copy of the book. By the time my flight took off, I was hooked. A mere three days later — while on vacation in a fascinating foreign country, mind you — I had devoured all 484 pages. And then Justine did the same thing.

    The book begins with a grabber of an opening line: “The coffin had no body in it.”

    As soon as I read that, I thought, Hey, David, what an excellent phrase for the next Micro Fiction Challenge. 

    And as soon as we got home and I put the paperback on our shelf next to the pristine hardcover, I thought, Hey, David, what an excellent prize for the next Micro Fiction Challenge.

     

    What Is This Contest and How Do I Enter?

    In fifty (50) words or fewer, write a story or scene that includes the phrase “the coffin had no body in it.”

    Enter as many times as you wish.

    Write or paste your response in the comments section below.

    Get your entries in by the end of Friday, August 16.

    Our favorite story will earn its writer our beautiful hardcover copy of Ohio. (Or, if that doesn’t grab you, a different free book. But Ohio should grab you.)

     

    You’ll Choose a Winner Based on What, Exactly?

    Various unmeasurable metrics, including: effort; the quality of the writing; humor; (my) mood.

    I’ll also take the number of thumbs-ups into account. So if you really like someone else’s story, be a sport and click on the thumb.

    Good luck! Have fun!

    And while you’re getting your creative juices flowing, you can read a bit more of the opening of Ohio in this preview at Google Books.

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2019 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Aaron Infante-LevyTorria StevensJacquesSusanJacques de Chabannes Recent comment authors
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    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Black Cadillacs filled the lot. Soldiers’ black suits filled the crematorium. The black box filled the hearse. Black ops revenue of sixty million in gold, cash and securities filled the box. There was no body in the coffin. Sally “Big Tets” Tettrazini was under construction in Jersey.

    Raymundo
    Guest

    Hair styles had reached a point of artifice to match the times and were even named. Vidal rebelled, desiring a more natural look for his clients. Hence, his downfall from clipping away the casket-do of a prominent lady and justifying it with, “the coffin had no body in it.”

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    “Doctor,” Ramone smiles. “we have the casket!”
    “And it has no body?” she says.
    “Of course not. How many sarcophagi still…?”
    “…Your point?”
    “Not in it.”
    “Point!?”
    “Not in,” His hands shake. “Six,” a whisper.”
    “Spit it out, Ramone.
    He raises the gun. In the tomb, six thieves clutching diamonds.”

    MC Maugeri
    Guest
    MC Maugeri

    The coffin had no body in it. He could not have it shipped from overseas; it was too expensive. His daughter had been incinerated for convenience and logistics, much like in the concentration camps, but not quite. His daughter’s memory would not be historic; it would just be his own.

    MC Maugeri
    Guest
    MC Maugeri

    I can’t edit what I wrote, so I ‘ll post another comment with a revised version of it…even though it might look a bit goofy.

    MC Maugeri
    Guest
    MC Maugeri

    The coffin had no body in it. He could not have it shipped from overseas; it was too expensive. His daughter had been incinerated, for convenience and logistics, much like in the concentration camps, but not quite. His daughter’s memory would only linger for as little as he lived.

    Judy Beaston
    Guest
    Judy Beaston

    Frozen

    Dan’s death was sudden, they tell me, though his body remained frozen on the ice for months before recovery. It fell to me to retrieve his remains tucked away in lost baggage. I stepped forward, released the lock, lifted the lid, gasped! The coffin had no body in it!

    adrienne leslie
    Guest

    Emily had been my friend since childhood. Never would have guessed that skinny gal would be a poet. Why, she didn’t even think she was special. But, she became real famous writing, “I’m nobody, who are you?”
    At her funeral, I couldn’t help thinking, the coffin had ‘nobody’ in it.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Merkin trashed his taco and entered the dark storeroom. Carlyle’s casket incongruously read “PRIMA”. Merkin creaked open the lid and was blasted with two hundred decibels of brass screaming “I AIN’T GOT NO BODY!”. Typical Carlyle humor. Natually, the casket had no body in it. Only a plastic purple polygon.

    stephen Glick
    Guest

    this is for all. I enjoyed each of your entry’s This was fun.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Bomza pressed the button and the purple plastic polygon rose through the floor. The latest in hypo-allergenic funeral wear, the coffin had no body in it. There would be bodies soon enough once the pathogens were released. Behind the mask, Bomza smiled and lifted the lid, whispering, “Bomza Way!”

    stephen Glick
    Guest

    The spector ,Ezra, viewed each mourner with an extreme interest. He hung from the rafters till one special soul was chosen. For the coffin had no one in it. It was Ezra’s position and only his to fill this coffin. He chose the mourner whom was reading this short story

    stephen Glick
    Guest

    Ihad two of the same story.

    Mary McAvoy
    Guest

    Sweat on their faces after digging for hours, they would now open “Arlene’s” coffin. Surely beneath this elaborate headstone jewelry adorned the dead. Opening the coffin they braced for a decomposed body. But the coffin had no body in it. They were bug-eyed! “Crikey! It’s the family banana stand!”

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    …actually it was the family’s banana custard stand. Their last one, it was named “Custard’s Last…”…never mind…

    Jamie Arnett
    Guest
    Jamie Arnett

    Lynn had fooled herself. The orchestration had all the makings of a funeral. The flower arrangements, the eulogy, family and friends dressed in black. Lynn hoped this would give them all closure. But she was ushered out knowing the coffin had no body in it. She was left not knowing.

    Jamie Arnett
    Guest
    Jamie Arnett

    Son of a man who makes coffins. What boy has it better? Kids from town came for hide and seek. I am back visiting even though Dad passed. My pulse quickens opening the lid to a remaining coffin. No surprises. The coffin has no body in it. Time marches on.

    Lisa V
    Guest
    Lisa V

    I slowly walked to the casket made of mahogany wood.
    I looked inside it and thought “this is where I’ll be for good.”
    The coffin had no body in it, which should come as no surprise.
    I was just shopping for one I like, for when I meet my demise.

    Jamie Arnett
    Guest
    Jamie Arnett

    The garage door opened.
    “It’s amazing all the junk you acquire over time.”
    “What the hell is that?”
    “Oh. They were on sale so I bought two when my wife died. Don’t worry, the coffin had no body in it,” he chuckled. “But will after we move this crap out.”

    Willie Carr
    Guest
    Willie Carr

    The coffin had no body in it. Black clad women, dark suit men, some with tears, all somber. Insipid organ music floating. A grey-haired man takes the widow’s hand, mutters something. Sorry for your loss. He’s in a better place now. Something.
    I want to laugh. The box is empty.

    Willie Carr
    Guest
    Willie Carr

    The coffin had no body in it. Black clad women, dark suit men, some with tears, all somber. Insipid organ music floating. A grey-haired man takes the widow’s hand, mutters something. Sorry for your loss. He’s in a better place. Something.
    I want to laugh. The box is empty.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    French grave diggers sweat in July morning. Sagittarius rising from the grave of Pere Lachaise. Fifty years after the young singer’s passing, his exhumation proceeded apace. The seventy-seven year old man with the reptilian smile chortled, “When we buried him, the coffin had no body in it!”

    Elissa Malcohn
    Guest
    Elissa Malcohn

    Crisp salutes. A triangle folded flag covers the widow’s hands. Conspiracy theories ring the Web, the coffin had no body in it, but she knows better. It’s the country that’s gone. AWOL, MIA. She is suffocating, can reach up into the wind and touch the lid.

    Onita Morgan-Edwards
    Guest

    George Fraze’s family, shocked that he was dead, the result of his Buick plunging down the twenty-five foot bank; the metal, his body disintegrated by the fall and oncoming traffic, decided to forego the wake, as the coffin had no body in it.

    Janet Schwartz
    Guest
    Janet Schwartz

    Walking into the funeral home, she knew saying her goodbye would be best done alone. The coffin was closed, but she had to see him. Slowly opening the coffin, she was thunderstruck: the coffin had no body in it. The note in his place said, “Hannah, come find me.”

    Elissa Malcohn
    Guest
    Elissa Malcohn

    Claire, six, wiped a cheek stained with dirt and marveled. She had buried the shoebox herself, but now the coffin had no body in it. Could a kitten really become an angel and fly away? Watching from the kitchen, worn from the first exhumation, her parents blinked back tears.

    Nikita Sheth
    Guest
    Nikita Sheth

    The coffin had no body in it, only fragments she’d left behind. A stray earring found under the always unmade bed, potions pulled from the detritus of his medicine cabinet, her matching tshirt from their island holiday. He ceremoniously closed the lid, packing away the burden of his love.

    Susan
    Guest
    Susan

    The Mental Health Team wouldn’t forget her, but only we two attended the home funeral. Thaddea Loom. Professor, witty, charming. Tortured. Entering the living room, we gasped. There was no body in the coffin. Yet it lived—covered like a mural in her artwork, beside it an old parking meter.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Time Expired…

    Susan
    Guest
    Susan

    I had that exact thought.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    If the final line were; ,beside it a parking meter expired.
    It would have fit. Great mood piece.

    Susan
    Editor
    Susan

    Thanks, David, I may just write it just that way if I ever grow this kernel into a story.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    The towers fell. Amongst the rubble, there was nothing to find; a pink hair clip, a tiny shoe. The tiny coffins had no bodies in them. Our hearts cracked and broken. Time passes, but I can’t. Her room is the same. I wont change it ever. But it doesn’t help.

    Robin
    Guest
    Robin

    The coffin had no body in it. Nonetheless, mourners flocked to us for comfort, surrounding Mom. She warmly embraced everyone. Dad would’ve hated this crowd. He would have preferred to watch from the sidelines. I whispered to the man resting peacefully in a corner armchair, “don’t worry, Dad. Mom’s okay.”

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Taco trashed his merkin and entered the dancehall. Time to reveal his true self. At the floor-length mirror he adjusted his false beard. Then on to the DJ booth. The coffin had no body in it, just 5000 watts of bi-amped POWER!!!, underlined twice with three exclamation points.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Softly in the morning mist the gophers sang together. Carlyle closed the lid and unwrapped his last beef jerky. Soulless, empty (much like Carlyle himself) the coffin had no body in it. Stomping through the swamp, bouncing the purple plastic polygon in his left hand, Carlyle chortled. Typical humor.

    Jamie Arnett
    Guest
    Jamie Arnett

    Trick gone wrong. The coffin had no body in it. Never did he imagine that he would not return. Magic. Even a man that fools can be fooled.

    Jamie Arnett
    Guest
    Jamie Arnett

    What is wrong with kids these days? The coffin has no body in it again. It’s been every night this week. And here she is spending hours and hours making mummies by hand so the neighborhood kids can have a great holiday. One more time and the Twix are hers.

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    The headlines read: Barry Moore DIED on impact. A deadly motorcycle accident took biker’s life. The body severely crushed and his head was severed. Later, it was found in the grass. Oddly, come time for his funeral; “the coffin had no body in it!”

    Micah Ward
    Guest

    No mourners came to the old man’s service. No survivors either. The state pays peanuts for a pauper’s funeral and I had bills to pay. I dumped him in a secluded ravine like I always do. Back in the storage room the coffin had no body in it.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    This seems to be going somewhere. There’s a story here.

    Micah Ward
    Guest

    Something in the vein of William Gay’s Twilight?

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    I turned on the radio to listen to a song, but instead a shocking report announced, ” woman died accidentally tripping on her stiletto heels.” Rescuers who responded claimed the body was beyond repair. However, the horrified guests who attended the funeral claimed “the coffin had no body in it.”

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    The African safari began its routine trip. However, when a giant elephant crashed into the vehicle, everyone died but one woman. It remains debatable whether the woman was completely dead when placed into the coffin because those who attended the funeral services claimed, “the coffin had no body in it.”

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    I see now what you are talking about. The safari…cool!

    Sid Kemp
    Guest
    Sid Kemp

    The coffin had no body in it, only ash. At last he was gone, and I was glad. I lived in his house for 70 years without a day’s respite. He fed me mush at the start, and I fed him the same in the end. Nothing better in between.

    Sid Kemp
    Guest
    Sid Kemp

    NCIS Birthday
    The coffin had no body in it, only cake. Double fudge cake with chocolate icing. Crematory urns held ice cream: Blackberry, dark chocolate, and a corpse-toned peach-vanilla. My friend Abigail went all out and all Goth for her 40th birthday party.

    david lemke
    Guest
    david lemke

    I missed her when she left.

    Sid Kemp
    Guest
    Sid Kemp

    The coffin had no body in it. That just felt wrong. Coffins need bodies. Every coffin needs a body as fast as possible. I inherited a warehouse full of 1000 coffins, and I just had to get to work at it. One a day. I’d be done in 3 years.

    Kris Lindbeck
    Guest

    When we were kids, I double-dared her to open the pine box in her grandpa’s basement. The coffin had no body in it. Not long after, at his funeral, we saw the old man buried in the box he had made. Today, I buy boards to do the same.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    Carlyle joined Merkin at the side of the casket.
    Muttered voices, “Dare we open it?”
    “”We must, to be sure”.
    Merkin shook the box, and tried to lift one end.
    “No good”, Carlyle hissed “We must look”.
    The coffin had no body in it.
    “Where’s Katz?”
    “Oh hell, ask Schrodinger”.

    Kevin Wozniak
    Guest
    Kevin Wozniak

    The glass casket was hyper-cubical, appropriate for a four-armed savior. Four-armed is forewarned, Carlyle mentally smirked, reaching for the brillo. Givens’coffin had no body in it, but sufficient DNA had been harvested. Nothing could steal like a four-handed politician, and soon Givens would live again.

    Aaron Infante
    Guest
    Aaron Infante

    Everyone said how peaceful Flynn looked, but I still couldn’t believe he was dead, not until my sister guided my hands to his chest. Until that moment, the coffin had no body in it. Death was an abstraction, like imagining colors or my own face. Touch became my great equalizer.

    Torria Stevens
    Guest

    Congrats Aaron. Enjoy the read. Do hope you had fun writing your piece; your brilliant!

    Pia Manning
    Guest
    Pia Manning

    The coffin had no body in it. But it did fifteen minutes ago. Spinning, I sought every dark corner seeking the thing that might lurk there. Nothing. A cold draught kissed me. Oh hell, an open door. Grabbing my coat I sighed. It was going to be a long night.

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    “The coffin had no body in it”, however it did not stop the funeral home from leaving it opened. When the elephant raced head first into the wagon, no one was to blame apparently. Since only one person remained alive, the case was dropped. The mystery remains unsolved.

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    “The coffin had no body in it”, but apparently this is the norm in this part of the African desert. People blame the deaths on the elephants and wild hippos sometimes cannot see at night. When the bodies cannot be located, the deaths remain unsolved. Safari’s may one day end!

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    “The coffin had no body in it”- again. Just about every time a wild animal roams around the hotel suites, someone blames the death on the animals that roam the African plains. A few wild boars stepped forward this month and pleaded innocent!

    Brigitte
    Guest
    Brigitte

    “The coffin had no body in it,” yet it has not stopped locals from attending funeral services. The owners of the African safari started handing out flyers informing the tourists about the scam. It has become a tall tale here in this small tourist town.

    Jamie Arnett
    Guest
    Jamie Arnett

    Some sobbed, “he was all heart.” Others in silent reflection: he was made of stone. But neither would be right; they had no words for this. In twenty years, his organs had since decayed. The coffin had no body in it, only bones. Bones that would never become rock.

    Jacques de Chabannes
    Guest
    Jacques de Chabannes

    Devil Island, French Guyana, March 1937
    – The next one who says “the coffin had no body in it” I throw him to the sharks!” Shouted the Warden
    And he kept on
    – “So someone has to tell me, where is the body, and the head!”
    The prison officers were silent.

    Jacques de Chabannes
    Guest
    Jacques de Chabannes

    Later on in Cayenne, at the Governor mansion
    – “We followed the procedure, the coffin had no body in it, on the way back, sir”
    – “Then, we are all good”
    The warden bent and whispered. The more he said the more the governor turned pale
    – “Find the head!”




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