Monday, May 16, 2011

Watch Where You Winkle by Ben Langhinrichs

The first guest flash fiction piece this week comes from author Ben Langhinrichs. Langhinrichs was kind enough to follow the rules I've set for writing and fiction on my site, not once violating my strict guidelines. How he did it, well, I'll never know. But sure enough, he sent me a story that was not only good, but has a great punchline at the end.

Ben Langhinrichs felt the need to point out to me that he is a 48 year-old software designer living in Shaker Heights, Ohio. He said he has a lovely wife, two cats, and three children. One of them still lives at home! I'm fairly certain he was referring to his children when he said that to me, but I'm nearly 100% positive that his wife also lives with him, too.  And he has work published all over the place, most of which he knows about. To learn more about Ben Langhinrichs and his written works, visit or follow him on Twitter @blanghinrichs.

Enjoy the story!

Watch Where You Winkle

Copyright © 2011 Ben Langhinrichs

“Sam, don’t throw the snails in the bay!  They’ll die.”  Becky whacked her brother on the head with the palm of her hand.

“Ouch!  Don’t be stupid.  They’re not snails, they’re called periwinkles, and they don’t die.  They live underwater.  Stop hitting me!  I’ll tell Mom.”  Sam turned his back on her, but scooted a safe distance away on the dock.  He plucked another of the dark spiral periwinkles off of the wooden ladder which disappeared down below the surface.  Extending his arm back, he threw it and watched as the tiny shell skipped over the waves and finally sank.

Becky stuck her tongue out at him and ran back up onto the grass.  She didn’t really know if it hurt the periwinkles to land out into the deep water, but it still seemed mean.  What did they ever do to you? she thought.

“Becky, Sam, time for lunch,”  Mom called out from the porch of the beach house where they were staying.

Becky ran in and started telling her mother what Sam had been doing.  “Sam’s throwing those snails, I mean winkles, into the water again.  He’s so mean.”

“Don’t worry, dear, the periwinkles will be fine.  Eat up.  We’re going to Risser’s Beach this afternoon, and you know you can’t swim until an hour after you eat.”

“Catherine’s dad says that’s just a myth.”  Becky spoke with her mouth full of peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  “He says you can’t really get cramps from swimming too soon after eating.”

“Well, then, Catherine’s dad can let Catherine swim before one hour, but we have our own rules.”  Mom bustled about the kitchen cutting up meat, carrots and potatoes to throw into the crock pot where they would simmer until dinner, filling the house with wonderful aromas as it cooked.  “Where is Sam?”  She called for him again out the back door.  “Boys,” she muttered to herself, shaking her head. Just then Sam ran in, breathing hard.  He plopped down at the table and grabbed his sandwich.

After lunch, Becky and Sam and their parents, staggering a bit under the load of swim towels, beach chairs, inflatable rafts and other necessities, headed down the road to Risser’s Beach.  As usual, Sam complained.  With an eight year-old's logic he asked,  “Why can’t we just drive?"  It’d be so much faster.”

“Sam, it’s only two hundred yards.  You're a big boy, hurry on ahead and find us the best spot.”  Dad grinned as he spoke.  He was carrying the most, but was cheerful as always.  Becky looped her arm through his and skipped along in the sunshine.  The beach was her favorite place to go.

While Mom and Dad laid out towels for her and Sam, and set up beach chairs for themselves, Becky and Sam ran into the waves.  It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of other kids around.  Becky’s friend, Catherine, was splashing about among the shallow waves.  When she saw Becky, she called out, “Let’s build a sandcastle.”  The two girls ran up onto the hot sand and started to dig, first with their hands, then with small plastic shovels provided by Mom.

Meanwhile, Dad joined Sam in the water, and the two went out until the water was almost up to Sam’s neck.  Sam was learning to swim, although it mostly looked like splashing to Becky.  She watched them for a minute, then returned to her digging.


“Vreesh, don’t throw the skolenids onto the beach!  They’ll die.”  Ikini whacked her brother on the head with her tentacle.

“Ouch!  Don’t be stupid.  They’re not skolenids.  We're on Earth, silly, and these are humans.  And they don’t die, they live on dry land.  Stop that!  I’ll tell Mom.”  Vreesh flipped onto his back and wiggled his eyestalks at her.  He swam over and grabbed another wriggling human, this one much smaller than the first.  Rearing back, he cast it as far as he could, watching it land, then tumble across the sand until it finally lay still.