The First Word – A Flash Fiction Story

“What’s the first word you think of when you look at me?”


Inspiration for Story

This story, ‘The First Word’ was inspired by a sentence in the novel “The Unexpected Witness” by Amy Ferguson.

~ from page 12 of ‘Wrotten English’ – A Celebration of Literary Misprints, Mistakes and Mishaps by Peter Haining.

As he uttered the important word he dropped his voice, but she just managed to catch it.

The First Word

Sarah stared directly into his eyes. “What’s the first word you think of when you look at me?” she asked teasingly, and putting him on the spot.

Arthur looked around nervously, unable to hold her gaze. His mouth was dry and although he tried to force himself to speak, he could only manage a strangled stutter. “U… uh …um … I …”

“Come on, be a man! Just one simple word,” she coaxed. “How hard can that be?”

“Harder than you imagine,” he said under his breath and coughed. “I like to think before I speak … and what if I offend you?’

“For God’s sake! I am a big girl, and I’m sure I can handle whatever you come up with – good or bad,” she said confidently, though him asking “what if I offend you?” concerned her just a bit.

Arthur swallowed. It’s now or never, he decided. Besides, it was her fault for pushing him. He didn’t know what she expected him to say, but he was sure she wouldn’t be happy – whatever word he chose.

She was just staring at him and not blinking – daring him.

He dropped his voice as he uttered the important word, but she just managed to catch it.

Sarah wished she hadn’t, and had just let the word crash and shatter on the floor. “What did you say?” she shrieked, hoping she may have misheard.

Now the word was out, he plucked up some courage and, lifting his head, looked at her. “You asked for, no demanded, one word … and well … I said it! I hope you are happy now?”

“Okay, okay, I did … but I wasn’t expecting THAT!” snapped Sarah, pouting.

Arthur couldn’t take his eyes away from her big fake puffy lips. “Goldfish!” he repeated, unable to think of anything more appropriate.


“Goldfish!” he repeated

2023 © John Hansen: All rights reserved.
Australian writer

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John Hansen

Longtime poet but not in the traditional technical sense. I enjoy rhyme but like to experiment and dabble in many different forms and maybe even make up some of my own. There is always a message or lesson I want to promote through my writing, for that reason, my poetry generally shies away from the abstract and obscure. Now I find myself branching out and experimenting with short fiction, and thoroughly enjoying this, especially flash fiction. I have been fortunate to have two poems made into songs and recorded. The first "On the Road to Kingdom Come" by Al Wordlaw, and the second, "If I Could Write a Love Poem" by award-winning Israeli/British singer Tally Koren. My services increasingly in demand as a freelance writer and I have ghost-written the text for a number of children's books and educational tutorials. It has taken me many years of searching and restlessness to realise that my life's passion is to write. It saddens me that I wasted so many years not devoting to that, but thinking positively, the experiences gained over those years are now wonderful material for my stories and poems. I want to try to bring a new focus on poetry and try to make it appealing to a new generation of young people and those who thought they never liked or understood it before.

2 thoughts on “The First Word – A Flash Fiction Story

  • January 24, 2024 at 9:36 AM

    This is great! She does look like a goldfish, doesn’t she?
    Never ask a question if you can’t handle the answer, eh?! Serves her right!

    Good to see another piece from you, John. I hope you’re well and that 2024 has started well and will continue to be a good year for you.

    I’m trying to get to grips with the tech of publishing more – it seems to get more complicated as the hours go by! However, I persevere.

    All the best,


  • January 24, 2024 at 11:27 PM

    Hi Ann, good to hear from you. I hope life is going well for you this year. I have a busy one ahead. My granddaughter gets married mnext month than in March we are going on a cruise up the Queensland coast to Cairns and back, a few days after returning from that we have to fly to Darwin as my youngest son’s partner is expecting a baby. Life will be busy this year.

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