A 144 word story for the dverse prompt.


A cow is screaming across the arroyo.

I read the paper again, wondering, before I toss it into the fire, what in the name of all that’s holy that’s supposed to mean. These code messages are getting weirder and weirder. Last week when the Villefranche road had needed disrupting it had been some garbage about wounded guinea fowl in the rhubarb patch.

I sling the duffel bag over my shoulder and leave the house. The lads will be waiting by the bridge, Jackie, Manu and the others. I’m the explosives boy, stick it where the bastards won’t notice it then scarper, doing my bit.

The bridge looms ahead through the darkness. Nothing moves. They should be at the rendez-vous. I listen, first to the silence, then a mournful bellow puts the heart across me. A cowshed door creaks open, someone swears. Fecking cow!

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

54 thoughts on “Sabotage”

    1. Cheers. My mind went blank too. I had to take it for what it was, more or less gobbledygook for someone of my culture.
      That’s the trouble with this particular prompt. Flash fiction isn’t poetry. It needs a different approach, and trying to shoehorn a line of poetry into a story, unless the line is actually a line of prose using words you would choose, it sticks out like something in inverted commas anyway.

      1. Oh, yeah, well, we didn’t eat our goats. Did milk them, though, but only after the goat-kids had their fill. Mostly, it was a good life, I believe. I hear you. I’m not vegan but I think that animals deserve a life that is peaceful, healthy, safe, and as unrestrained as possible. And that they should experience the least stress all around. The mass ‘production’ of animal foods these days is not acceptable to me.

      2. Exactly. If only we could accept that meat eating is a luxury, that a leg of lamb is of far more importance to the lamb than it is to us, and if we just took your humane attitude, maybe we’d be able to get out of this environmental mess we’ve made for ourselves.

    1. I’m flattered you think so! Though I have doubts as to whether I’m a poet, I know I’m a writer. These exercises always remind me of writing for exams, honing an argument down to the accepted length in the allowed time. It’s a strange sort of prompt for a poetry site, but there you go.

  1. I love the way you took us back to the French Resistance in this one, Jane, so many miles away from the Arizona desert. Code words and messages were often absurd – very ‘Ello, Ello’! I couldn’t stifle a giggle.

    1. It was the only way I could think of to get that line into a story. It’s just not a line I’d ever come out with. It’s an odd idea, to take a line of poetry and try to slip it naturally into a piece of flash fiction. It would make for better stories if the prompt was simply to be inspired by a line of poetry and not have to reproduce the entire line verbatim. The word choices and arrangements aren’t the same in poetry and prose. It would make a good discussion anyway.

    1. Thank you! I didn’t know that song. I wonder why it refers to cows as ‘he’?
      The stories inevitably ended up being about cows because of the line that had to be included. Liimited the results just a tad 🙂

  2. Coded messages….spies….the “underworld” of sabotage. Somehow I hope it’s a tale from WW II and not current day. In any case… the explosive guy meeting his end? Me thinks the sabotage may be on him. Or it could be!

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