Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

No Help

September 05, 2023 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 97
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
No Help
Show Notes Transcript

In today's story, No Help, Gramps teaches Dina a new trick

Today's prompt came up when I asked my spouse for a suggestion. He couldn't think of one, so I joked that he was no help... which turned out to be a help after all. If you have a suggestion for a writing prompt, please let me know!

As always, the story was written from the prompt, with no planning and very little editing. If you enjoy today's story, please share it with your friends and leave a review for Freely Written. Thank you!

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  Susan's short stories for Freely Written are created during quick writing breaks and shared as a way to practice her narration skills before she dives into recording audio versions of her novels.

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Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 97 of Freely Written, a podcast by author Susan Quilty:

Welcome to Freely Written where a simple prompt leads to a little unplanned fiction. 

[Light piano music]

Hi, friends! I’m Susan Quilty and today’s prompt is No Help.

Today’s prompt wasn’t exactly a suggestion, but it kind of came from my spouse. I was looking around the kitchen trying to think of a random writing prompt when he noticed my minor frustration and asked if he could help.

I said, “Sure, give me a writing prompt.” He thought about it for a few seconds and said he couldn’t think of anything. To which I said, “You’re no help!” And we laughed, then agreed No Help was the answer. 

In short, anything can become a writing prompt. So, if you have a word or phrase you’d like to suggest, please let me know. You can send me a message through social media or my website, Links are in the show notes.  

Once the prompt was settled, I wrote today’s story using my typical Freely Written process, which is to sit down with the prompt and write whatever comes to mind, with no planning and very little editing. I then record the story and share it with you.

Now, on to the story:


No Help

Dina narrowed her eyes and clenched her teeth. The room fell away as her vision focused on the thin pink thread and the tiny eye of the needle. 

“There’s an easier way,” Gramps said, peering at her from behind his lowered newspaper. 

“No, I can do it,” Dina muttered, stabbing the thread toward the needle, and missing the eye again. 

The needled dropped to the carpet, and she patted around for it, being careful not to stab her fingertips. The carpet at her grandfather’s house was thick and silvery gray, making it extra hard to find the needle. 

Gramps folded his paper and set it on the side table. But before he could stand up, Dina waved him away, saying, “No, no help. I’ve got this!”

Gramps watched her, his large, calloused hands braced on his thighs and his eyes large behind thick lenses. He saw his wife’s pride in the set of Dina’s shoulders and his daughter’s stubbornness in her tense jaw. 

Dina was third in a line of women he had loved deeply, and he had learned how to appreciate the traits that had once exasperated him. He sat back in his easy chair, letting his hands cross on his lap. The newspaper sat beside him, but he had another interest. 

With a yelp, Dina picked up the dropped needle and stuck her pricked finger between her lips. She sighed, checked that there was no blood, and went back to her task. 

The needle wavered slightly, and the thread drooped. She readjusted her grip on the thread, held her breath and jabbed it forward. This time, the thread passed through the eye with ease. Dina smiled and unspooled more thread. 

As she snipped the thread and tied a knot, Gramps quietly exhaled. He waited a few more minutes, giving Dina time to begin stitching her fallen hem, before he inched forward and got up from his chair. 

Dina continued to carefully stitch. She was vaguely aware of Gramps walking into his bedroom and returning shortly. Yet, she didn’t look up until he dropped a large cushion on the floor beside her. Blinking up at him, Dina saw he held a small box and had a dress shirt draped over one arm.

“I lost a button,” he said simply before settling himself on the cushion.

“Okay, I’ll sew it on when I finish this,” Dina offered. She couldn’t remember the last time Gramps had sat on the floor and she worried he would hurt himself. “You don’t have to sit with me.”

“I can sew on my own button,” Gramps said with a touch of reproof. 

He readjusted his crossed legs and opened the small box he had brought from his bedroom. It was sewing kit with a few spools of thread, a pack of needles, a pair of folding scissors, and other sewing paraphernalia. 

“Is that Grandma’s sewing box?” Dina asked skeptically. She knew her grandmother had used a pale green sewing box with a brass latch and black carrying handle. It looked nothing like Gramps’ simple wooden box. 

“Does it look like Grandma’s box?” Gramps flipped the box shut and held it up for Dina to get a better look.

Leaning closer, she saw it had a scrolling design and the name of a cigar company on the lid. She frowned lightly, realizing it must be his box, and felt sad that Grandma was no longer alive to sew for him.

“I don’t mind sewing your button,” she offered again, her voice gentle but firm.

“No, no help,” Gramps said with a wink. “I can do it myself.”

Dina rolled her eyes and laughed with him, then went back to stitching her skirt. As she worked, she was aware of Gramps hands fishing around the bottom of his cigar box. She was about to ask if he needed help when he pulled something out of the box with a satisfied grin. 

Watching out of the corner of her eye, she saw him hold the small item in one hand and a sewing needle in the other. She wasn’t sure what he was doing but went back to her stitching. She knew threading the needle would take him several tries, and she didn’t want to stare as he struggled. She would wait until he asked for help and not give him a hard time about it when he did.

As she imagined her kindness in that scenario, Dina continued to stitch. A moment later, she realized Gramps was already knotting his thread, having successfully passed it through the eye on his first try. 

“How did you do that?” The words fell out of Dina’s mouth, bringing a smile to Gramps’ face. 

“Do what?” he asked, devilishly pleased with himself. “Oh, thread the needle, you mean?”

Dina frowned and dropped her eyes to the carpet where she saw a small metal object next to the spool of thread. It looked like a thin coin with a diamond-shaped wire sticking out one side. 

“What’s that?”

Gramps continued to fiddle with the loose button, placing it against his shirt, as he said, “A needle threader.”

“A what?” Dina picked up the threader and squeezed the wire, noticing that it was very flexible. 

“A needle threader,” Gramps repeated. 

He set down his button and threaded needle, then pulled a fresh needle from his pack.

“See, the wire on the threader is firmer than thread but thin enough to slide through the eye of a needle.” He held up both items and deftly pressed the wire through the eye.

“Now you have this wide diamond shaped loop through the eye, so you slide a thread through that and pull the whole thing back through the needle.”

He mimed passing a thread through the opening in the wire, then pulled the threader back out of the needle. 

“Huh.” Dina studied the threader more closely. 

“Here, try it yourself.” Gramps passed over the needle and threader. “It can still take a little effort to get the threader in, but it’s easier than thread alone.”

Dina poked the wire through the eye of the needle, proud to get it on her first try. She then placed a stretch of thread through the wire and pulled. There was some resistance as the wire and thread tried to pass, but she gave the threader a tug and they quickly came through the eye. 

Setting down the threader, Dina held up the threaded needle in wonder. 

“Why didn’t Grandma teach me that?”

Gramps shrugged. 

“Grandma used threaders sometimes, but only with smaller needles. She used embroidery needles whenever she could instead. Bigger eyes.”

Dina tried to hand the threader back, but Gramps told her to keep it.

“I have more,” he said, nodding toward his cigar box. “It’s good to have the right tool for a job.”

He went back to positioning his button and Dina watched as began neatly sewing it in place.

“Did you learn to sew after Grandma passed?” 

Gramps shook his head and laughed lightly. 

“Oh, no. I was sewing long before I met Grandma, and I kept sewing on my own buttons the whole time we were married. I did some stitching for Grandma, too, when it got too hard for her.”

They sewed quietly, side by side. After a few minutes, Dina quietly said, “Thanks for your help.”

Gramps smiled and made another stitch on his button. 

“Anytime,” Gramps told her. Then added, “In a minute, you can help me up off the darn floor!”

Dina agreed, and they laughed together. 

The End


Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed today’s story. If so, please share it with your friends, and leave a review for Freely Written wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also connect with me on social media or through my website: Links are in the show notes.

Until next time, try a little free writing of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]