Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt


August 17, 2021 Susan Quilty Season 1 Episode 28
Freely Written: Short Stories From a Simple Prompt
Show Notes Transcript

In this week's story, Hurkle-Durkle,  a teenage boy tries to make the most of the new word he's just learned

Suggestions for writing prompts are always welcome! Today's prompt inadvertently came about when my friend, Jenn Brown, posted a meme about the definition of hurkle-durkle, which apparently is an old Scottish word for lounging in bed after you're meant to be up.

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 28 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 Hurkle-Durkle

Thanks for joining me for today’s story. If you’re new to Freely Written, here’s how my process works, I use a word or phrase as a prompt to write a story—with no planning and very little editing—and then I share that story with you.

The prompt for today came up when my friend, Jenn Brown, shared the definition of hurkle-durkle on social media. It’s a new word to me, but apparently, it’s an old Scottish term for lounging in bed when you should be up and about. It’s brilliant to have a word for that, especially since I’m so very good at it!  

Here’s the story it inspired:




Sam’s mom had only told him the expression in the hopes of getting him up and out of bed. Her plan had backfired. 

She’d already popped into his room three times, offering breakfast, a walk in the park, and a trip to the mall. On her fourth visit, seeing him still stretched out under the covers and flipping idly through a magazine, she’d blurted, “How can you stand all this hurkle-durkling on such a beautiful day?”

“What?” Sam had lowered his magazine, feeling his face scrunch in curiosity. 

“It’s beautiful out!” His mom had repeated, gesturing toward the sunny sky beyond his window. 

“No, not that,” Sam had responded, still nestled under his blanket. “What was that funny word you said?”

“Oh.” It had taken Sam’s mom a moment to remember what she’d said, and then she’d laughed merrily. “I said you were hurkle-durkling. It’s something my gram used to say.”

“What does it mean?” Sam had asked, genuinely interested in a way that was rare for his mom to see. 

“Hurkle-durkle?” She’d asked, drawing the moment out. “It means just what you’re doing. Lounging in bed after it’s time to be up and on with your day.”

Sam had grinned, liking the sound of the word. 

“It’s my vacation, isn’t it?” He’d asked, reminding her that he’d be back in school soon. “And it is one of the few days I’m not working, right?”

Sam had been up early most of the summer to either work on a nearby farm or deliver newspapers for his sister, who had been laid up with a badly sprained ankle. This morning, Sarah had finally felt up to taking back her route and it was his scheduled day off from the farm. 

“Yes, yes,” his mom had agreed off-handedly. “But you’re sleeping it away. Don’t you want to spend it doing… something?”

“But I’m not sleeping,” Sam had protested. “I’m hurkle-durkling.”

His mom had laughed, relenting that it was his day to do what he liked, and she left his room. 

Now that she was gone, Sam settled back and thought about what it meant to hurkle-durkle. If it was just to lounge in bed well into the morning, he’d already been doing that. But a word as grand as hurkle-durkle seemed like it should include something more interesting. 

Sam shifted from side to side, stretching his spine, then reached his arms up toward the ceiling and let them flop back down dramatically. He picked up his magazine, flipping past the glossy pictures and catchy articles without feeling much interest in any of it. 

If he was really going to hurkle-durkle, Sam thought, he should properly enjoy his lounge time. 

Though he didn’t quite know what that meant. 

Looking around the room, he saw his phone and earbuds on his nightstand. He’d already texted two friends and scrolled through all of his social media accounts, but there was always something new popping up. 

Situating his earbuds, Sam started up a playlist and flipped back through each of his social media accounts. There were starting to be a lot of them, he realized. And keeping up with them was a bit of a chore. But it was nice to always have something new to read or watch.

After a few minutes, he was beginning to feel bored. A good hurkle-durkle wasn’t supposed to be boring, he decided. So, Sam turned up his music and played air drums while kicking his feet in the air for emphasis. 

That was a good bit of fun until the song ended, and he flopped back on the bed, wondering if that had been too much activity for a proper hurkle-durkle. Did lounging include flailing about to music? Well, he thought, he’d been lying on his back the whole time, so that was still pretty loungy behavior. 

As he was having that thought, his phone chimed with a new text message. Lowering the volume of his music—which was, admittedly, awfully loud—he opened the text from his friend Jordy. 

“Hey, man,” it read. “A bunch of us are going to the pool. Meet us there?”

Sam looked out his window, seeing the clear blue sky and knowing it would be another hot August day. The pool would be good. And Tina might be there. 

“When?” Sam texted back, weighing a day at the pool against what felt like a challenge from his mom to hurkle-durkle as long as humanly possible. 

“Now.” Jordy responded, followed by a string of fire emojis. 

Sam sighed. It wasn’t even noon yet. Though he supposed a good hurkle-durkle wasn’t really about lounging in bed for any specific amount of time. Just for a time beyond when you should be up… whatever that meant. 

He thought about the clear blue water at the pool, picturing Tina on the lifeguard stand, and maybe getting a chance to talk to her when she was on break. 

He wondered if he could work his newfound word into the conversation. 

“Hey, Sam,” she might say. “What’cha been up to?”

He imagined himself shrugging casually and saying, “Just hurkle-durkling in bed all morning.”

And then, hearing the way that might sound, he pictured her horrified face as he stammered, “No, it’s not… I mean… hurkle-durkle is just lounging in bed… it’s something my mom said…”

Sam’s face flushed as if the imaginary encounter were actually playing out, and he buried his face in his pillow. 

“That’s it,” he declared to the empty room. “I’m up!”

Sam hopped out of bed, fished out his swim trunks, and hoped there was a frozen waffle he could snag before walking over to the pool. His hurkle-durkle was officially over.  


The End


Thanks for listening. I hope you enjoyed that story, and if you have suggestions for writing prompts, please let me know! It’s fun to get inspiration from other people, and I never know where a word or phrase may lead. 

Whether this is your first time listening or you’ve tuned in to all of my short stories, I appreciate you sharing your time with me. If you’d like to check out my novels, you can learn more them, and my other writing, at my website, You can also connect with me on social media or support me through my Patreon page. 

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]