Quick Stories #4 Buzzing

Hillside residence in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (source unknown)

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt words (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were to include an attic or basement, an insect, earth, wind, fire and water


“It’s in the attic,” she said, a note of desperation clinging to her words.

“Brisbane houses don’t usually have attics.”  I pictured her old home, the corrugated iron roof shimmering like fire in the afternoon sun.

“You know, that bit in the rafters with the twirly vent.”

“Why don’t you ring a pest controller?” I said, jaw tightening.

A gusting sigh.  “I did.  They can’t visit until Thursday and I’ll be driven mad before then.”

I imagined her tugging at her hair, bunching a fistful.

“Okay, I’ll come over.”  Firmness was needed.  “But I’m hosting a workshop tonight.”

“That’s great, David.”  The chirp was back in her voice.

I cleared my throat.  “How big is this wasp thing anyway?”

“I can’t tell.”  A pouting tone with a double meaning.

Her woman-child habit irritated me into bravado. “A squirt of insect spray should take care of it.”

“What if it doesn’t die?”  Her voice dropped a notch.  “What if it has wasp babies?”

“Jeez, Lettie, I’ll be over in twenty minutes.”

She bolted down the pathway to greet me and stopped suddenly.  A puff of wind raised dust around her bare feet as she pressed a finger to her lips in a hush gesture.

I could hear it.  An intermittent buzz, like the starter of a fluorescent tube on the blink.

“Might be electrical, we’ll have to be careful.” Deflection from a bloke afraid of bugs.

We walked down the uncarpeted hallway to her austere kitchen.  Set into the ceiling above our heads was a square manhole cover.  The sound of buzzing intensified.   

“Please be careful,” she whispered, pointing to a ladder.

“Why don’t you go first?” I half-teased.

Something changed, her body stiffened.  I saw emotions cross her face until she settled on anger.  “You always disappoint me!”

Before I could placate her, before I could berate myself yet again for being a miserable letdown, Lettie had dragged the ladder into place and climbed towards the hatch.  She opened it with a violent shove and the air crackled.    

Her slim body was half-way through the opening when I yelled “Wait, I’ll do it!”

I heard a girlish squeak, and my own voice shrilled “What?”

“Your turn, David.”  She descended, face aglow. 

The buzz from a thousand imaginary bees drilled into my skull.  I wondered what I would find; what I would do if I did find something.

I raised my boot to the first rung, the ladder seemed too small, the opening too high.

Once my head and shoulders breached the cavity, I heard water dripping somewhere in the gloom.  Ah, I saw a blinking light on a damaged possum deterrent.  Seconds later I heard a whooshing sound.  I lifted my arm but before I could move, two chains bearing a large silver blade swung down towards me.

The buzzing stopped.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Cotton Harlequin Bug

Image courtesy of Dot Bernet © September 2021

The whole plant was covered in these fast-moving jewel-like bugs! It was fascinating to see them sparkling in the sunlight in a suburban garden.

I am reading “Miss Benson’s Beetle” by Rachel Joyce, wherein Miss Benson and her assistant Enid search for a golden beetle in the wilds of New Caledonia, far removed from the comforts and safety of home, and this book has heightened my interest in insects.

The little Cotton Harlequin bugs (above) were enjoying lunch.

Scientific name: Tectocoris diophthalmus

Size: 2 centimetres

The Australian Cotton Harlequin Bug is a member of the Jewel Bug family named for their bright metallic colouration.

The males and females of the Cotton Harlequin Bug are different colours, with the females mostly orange and the males mostly blue-red.

The Cotton Harlequin Bug lives in urban, agricultural and coastal areas of eastern Australia. It eats sap from many species belonging to the hibiscus plant family (Malvaceae) including ornamental hibiscus species and cotton.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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A display of Australian beetles at the Cobb and Co Museum in Toowoomba, Queensland. Read about my visit https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/06/30/toowoomba-mountain-air-and-heritage-preserved/

The Very Hungry (Ugly) Caterpillar

A traumatised mandarin tree, the insect world in disarray, a true caterpillar tale with an accidental cliffhanger. 

Read what happens when two very hungry, very ugly caterpillars dine sumptuously on a modest little mandarin tree.

The long dry spell had finally broken, the tropical summer rains poured down, green vegetation burst forth and so did the insects.

Here is my report.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward Butterfly Caterpillar 01Butterfly Caterpillar 02Butterfly Caterpillar 03Butterfly Caterpillar 04Butterfly Caterpillar 05Butterfly Caterpillar 06Butterfly Caterpillar 07Butterfly Caterpillar 08Butterfly Caterpillar 09

Obviously the hatched butterfly photographs were not taken by me but never say die. GBW.

There are five little Orchard Caterpillars on the leaves of this mandarin tree. Protection is in place so hopefully they will survive this time!