Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt

A Drop in the Ocean

March 30, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 3
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
A Drop in the Ocean
Chapters
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
A Drop in the Ocean
Mar 30, 2021 Season 1 Episode 3
Susan Quilty

Ready for a story break? In this episode, author Susan Quilty shares a short story based on the writing prompt A Drop in the Ocean

You're welcome to suggest writing prompts for future short stories. Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  The short stories Susan writes 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.

You can learn more about Susan and her books at  SusanQuilty.com

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/susanquilty)

Show Notes Transcript

Ready for a story break? In this episode, author Susan Quilty shares a short story based on the writing prompt A Drop in the Ocean

You're welcome to suggest writing prompts for future short stories. Otherwise, prompts are chosen in random ways.

More about Susan Quilty

Susan Quilty mainly writes novels, including two standalone novels and her current YA series: The Psychic Traveler Society.  The short stories Susan writes 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.

You can learn more about Susan and her books at  SusanQuilty.com

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/susanquilty)

Below is the transcript for Season 1, Episode 3 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 A Drop in the Ocean

Thanks for joining me! If this is your first time listening, here’s how my process works. I choose a word or phrase to use as a prompt, and I write it down as the title of my piece. Then I write whatever comes to mind, with no planning and very little editing. 

Please let me know if you have suggestions for future writing prompts. Until then, I choose my prompts in a number of random ways. 

Sometimes I simply hear a common phrase or idiom in conversation and begin to wonder who came up with it and how it could be used in different situations. Today’s prompt is one of those phrases, and here is the story it inspired.
 

A Drop in the Ocean

Carol kicked the dirt below her swing, watching dusty particles float up into the sky. Her chin bowed toward her chest and her hands gripped the metal chains. She could hear Nana approaching but didn’t bother to look up. 

There was a creak of old metal and a crackle of stiff joints as the neighboring swing took Nana’s weight. A soft sigh followed, and then it was quiet. 

Some adults would ask outright if they wanted to know what was wrong with a child, but Nana wasn’t that kind of adult. She simply sat in the swing beside her granddaughter and watched the clouds of dirt that appeared with each kick.

Carol watched some tiny bits of dirt float away, wondering how far they would get before gravity pulled them back to the ground. She liked to think that she was setting them free and sending them on adventures. But what if they only made it a few feet away and were stranded in the lush grass with nothing to show for it?

She stopped kicking the dirt and looked up at the trees. There was a woodpecker nearby. She could hear it but hadn’t caught sight of it. Birds made Carol think of flying above the treetops, soaring high in the sky. 

“Nothing I do matters,” she said suddenly, surprising herself with the words. 

Nana rocked lightly in her swing, waiting to see if Carol had more to say. 

“I try and try, and no one even notices,” Carol went on. There was a tremble in her voice, followed by a catch that suggested she wasn’t finished.

“Jemma sold the most cookies again, and this time she won a new bike.”

“And you want a new bike?” Nana asked softly.

“No.” Carol shook her head. “Mine is fine. It’s not the bike, it’s the…” She searched for the right words to finish her sentence.

“The winning?” Nana suggested.

Carol kicked up another cloud of dirt.

“I don’t know. Maybe.” She weighed her answer, decided it didn’t feel right, and scrunched her brow as she tried again. “No, I don’t care that she won exactly. Sabrina broke her arm, and I don’t want to do that.”

“But you feel the same way about Sabrina as you do about Jemma?”

“Huh.” Carol shrugged. “Sort of, I guess.”

“A little jealous?” Nana asked, using a tone that said it was okay.

“Uh… maybe,” Carol admitted reluctantly. “But I don’t want what they have. I just want…”

She trailed off again, feeling her way to the answer. 

“To be noticed?” Nana guessed, finally drawing Carol’s full attention.

When their eyes met, Carol felt her chest swell and her heart pick up its pace.

“Mama’s raising money for another charity.” It sounded like Carol was changing the subject, but they both knew she wasn’t. “For some kind of cancer, I think.”

Carol’s mother worked for an organization that raised a lot of money for a lot of different charities. She was always putting on social events and pledge drives.

“One of the moms at school gave her a check for $150,” Carol confided. “It was at pick-up, and once the lady left, I said it must be great to get a check like that. But Mama said it was just a drop in the ocean, like what that lady gave didn’t really matter at all.”

“That made you angry?” Nana asked, noticing the rise in Carol’s voice.

“Well, yeah, kinda,” Carol admitted. “Mama said she gets checks for ten times that amount all the time. I mean, she did add that it was nice of the lady to make a donation. But she said it like she didn’t really think it meant that much.”

“I see,” Nana sighed.

Carol looked at her grandmother, feeling her eyes go wide with the effort of trying to explain.

“I’m like that check,” she said, her voice hoarse with strain. “I’m like that drop in the ocean that doesn’t really matter. Nothing good I do stands out to anyone.”

Other adults might have criticized Carol’s mother then, saying that she should be equally grateful for every donation no matter how big or small. Maybe they would say that $150 might not be a lot of money for a wealthy business owner but it was a lot of money to most people. 

Nana was not that kind of adult.

“You want to be a drop that leaves the ocean?” she asked gently. “A drop that does something more interesting than float with the other drops.”

Carol’s eyes lit up and her mouth began to twitch into a smile.

“Like the water cycle,” she said haltingly, still working out her idea. “We learned about that in school. Water evaporates up in the air to make clouds and travels all around before splashing back down as rain.” 

She beamed for only a moment before a new thought darkened her face. 

“But it’s not like the whole ocean gets to evaporate. It’s probably just the special drops. The rest of them probably have to stay in the ocean and watch while the others get to make clouds and rainbows.”

Nana leaned back in her swing, making the metal frame creak as she gripped the chains and looked up at the sky.

“Why not?” 

Carol looked at her grandmother in confusion. 

“Why can’t every drop in the ocean evaporate?” Nana clarified. “Sure, the ocean is big, but look at all those clouds! And they’re very vary away. Imagine how big they’d be if we were right up there with them.”

Carol cocked her head skeptically.

“Look!” Nana pointed. “There’s a plane flying right in front of that little cloud. See how small the plane looks from here? Now, think about how big a plane is when it’s on the ground.”

“Oh, yeah,” Carol breathed, watching the plane glide past. “That cloud is so much bigger.”

“And it’s one of the smallest clouds up there today,” Nana added. “And the clouds are constantly moving and changing, which takes a lot of water. So, I think there’s a good chance all the drops in the ocean make it up there eventually. Even if they don’t always know when it will be their turn to fly.”

Carol thought about that, smiling softly to herself.

With a sharp creak of metal, Nana pulled back and launched her swing into motion. Her legs kicked forward as her back reclined. With each pass, she bent and straightened her legs, creating a wider and higher arc. Carol laughed to see Nana’s long hair sweep the ground and to hear her hollers of joy. 

“Come on, Carol,” Nana called. “Come fly with me!”

Setting everything else aside, Carol launched her swing into motion, letting each arc take her closer to the cloudy blue sky. 

The End


Thank you for joining me. I hope you enjoyed today’s story. You can learn more about me and my books on my website: SusanQuilty.com. You can also find me on social media or support me through my Patreon page. Until next time, feel free to use this prompt to write a story of your own. Let go of any planning and see where your imagination takes you. 

[Light piano music]