Photo Prompt

Each month, we post a photograph as a writing prompt. Post your 100-word story in the comments section, and we’ll choose one to feature in our next issue. To see examples, read photo stories we’ve published in the past.

In the spirit of fun and fairness, please follow these guidelines:
• Post only one story per photo prompt.
• Be mindful of others’ feelings when commenting (keep it positive rather than giving feedback).
• Remember this is a shared safe space for all lovers of 100-word stories.

Image of a scantron sheet and a number 2 pencil with a broken point.


Art Credit: Josh Davis

65 Responses to “Photo Prompt”

  1. Thank you, Tara! I’m glad you picked up on the use of the names.😊

  2. Shilpa Gupte says:

    You aren’t sure of the answer, like every other thing in your life. You look around at the cream: their heads bowed, their eyes glued to their answer sheets, their hands flying across the paper, their pointy pencils filling in the answers. You stare at your broken lead, at the A, B, C, Ds on your almost blank sheet, at the cuts on your wrist and hear your father’s words spilling out of his liquored mouth, “You are a born failure. Hell, you even failed to make it out into this world without sucking the life out of your mother!”

  3. Clara’s Infamous Key Lime Pie

    Clara wasn’t sure how to sign a letter to a dead man. Not because she was at a loss for words; for she had written salutations in the past. It was the mechanics of it. The pencil-lead broke towards the end.

    My Dearest Bubba,

    I hope you enjoyed your last slice of my special key lime pie. I know Roberto, Nico and Bjorn certainly did. They all said it was a pie to die for, may they rest in peace. Here’s wishing you a happy afterlife!

    Yours Truly,

    Clara Santiago-Papadopoulos-Jorgensen-Delmont

    (Please forgive my switch from pencil to blue ink.)

  4. Thompson Emate says:

    Heaven Sent

    “Please, can you tell me the answer to this?” the lad seating beside him asked.

    “I’m sorry. I can’t for now,” he replied.

    He was in the middle of something crucial and needed no distraction. It was a third attempt.

    “What subject are you doing?” the lad asked.

    “Chemistry,” he answered reluctantly.

    “But you’re shading it in physics,” the lad pointed.

    He halted. Eyes wide opened. He corrected the errors. He thanked the lad. He took his question paper and ticked all the chemistry answers he knew.

    He narrated the incident to his mother. She called the lad heaven sent.

  5. K F Lerner says:

    It’s not that I’m sure my answer’s right. I’m not. But they said so many times at the beginning to fill in each answer completely. If we don’t, the machine can’t read it. It won’t count. If my answer’s right, I need to get credit. It’s the only way to prove I’d been listening – in spite of the kids on either side of me talking shit. They’ll never give me credit for anything. That’s why I pushed too hard and broke the pencil. I just need someone to know, to see, to scan. I’m here. I listened. I counted.

  6. Krystyna Fedosejevs says:

    Turnaround Day

    Half way through the exam my lead broke.

    “I’ve got extras. Want one?” coaxed the boy across the aisle, watching me intensely.

    Why would he offer to help? Everyone knew I was the lowest achiever of the class. Everyone avoided me.

    Reluctantly I accepted his pencil, resuming my guesses to answers for multiple choice questions.

    “Good luck,” the same boy whispered as he bent towards me.

    I watched him rush to the front of the room to be the first to hand in his exam. He, the smartest boy of the class.

    He who took time to give me hope.

  7. Self Diary
    Answer the following questions. Following A-E. Yes, Never, Maybe, Wished I had, Sometimes
    Have you ever judged a person of color?
    Did you call police when a man dragged a woman from a car?
    Did you tell a homeless person to get a job?
    Did you forget to send a thank you card?
    Did you call someone an idiot?
    Did you point at two men kissing?
    Did you donate food to a Foodbank?
    Did you remind yourself to be kind?
    Did you ever want to hurt anyone?
    Did you tell someone I Love You?
    Do you love yourself?

  8. Shannon J says:

    “What about getting every question wrong?” My reflection asks me as I brush my teeth.
    “Last year.”
    “And before?”
    “Only A’s,” I say, spitting out the paste.
    My reflection sneers down at the sink, brushing away imagined splatter. “Well you’d better think of something or this test’s going to end up like the rest.”
    13 tests. 13 towns. I don’t have faith that I’ll be staying here after today’s results, but my reflection wishes me well and I can’t turn it down. “I must fit in somewhere.”


    Question 30; my pencil snaps, breaking the silence first – but it’s not alone.

  9. Jason Vanzin says:

    “Great job idiot. Now I have to waste time sharpening the pencil again. I should have never signed up to take this test. What was I thinking? Me? College after all this time? So stupid.”

    A sea of young people reinforce her feelings of failure as she walks up to sharpen her pencil. Returning to her seat, she continues the test.

    “I don’t know the answer to this.”


    “I hate math. Other than cashing people out, I horrible at math.”





    “I should just leave.”

    The pencil cracks.

    “Screw it! I knew this was a mistake.”

  10. Rachel Cain says:

    Throwaway Answers

    Evie punched a girl. Afterwards, they stuck her in classes designed to keep tabs on her.
    Have you taken remedial math? It’s all gummy bears as learning aides, until one wise-ass hawks a multicolored gob of it onto the ceiling.
    Evie couldn’t properly learn on calculators with F U scratched into the screen.
    On the final, all the E options were throwaway, joke answers. Only morons would select them.
    But no one cared what Evie did or didn’t know. They just needed a place to store her until eighteen.
    She gave up guessing, filling in E’s all the way down.

  11. Molly S. says:

    “Number 2 pencils only,” She said slapping the paper onto my desk. God how I hate these tests, I thought to myself. “You may not begin until I have handed a paper to everyone.” Great I thought, she was walking to the front of the class. “You may now begin.” C-D-B I was writing furiously, I would finally be able to go to my dream college, be rich, have a nice house, oh I would live the life. B-D-C-A I was closer, A-D-C-C Soon I’ll be done, D-C-C-B I’m getting there, A-B-C-A I’m doing it! But now my pencil broke.

  12. Jake Lucas says:

    30 questions in, and he only knew a few so far. He broke his pencil in frustration, but it didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to pass. He hadn’t studied, thinking the test was next week. “Might as well get it over with.” he thought, before jotting A-C-D-C down the rest of the page just to finish. The next day he saw his score. After the 10-point curve, he had an 83. He looked at Mrs. Sherry with surprise, but she just smiled back. He never would have guessed that the sweet old lady teaching his history class was a metalhead.

  13. First, it’s her smile that grabs you. The gentle lip-curl that tapers toward two perfect points in dimple brackets. Then it’s her voice, equal parts confident and vulnerable. After that, you’re taken by her girlish, flat-footed gait that belies her sophisticated elegance. If those weren’t enough reasons, she’s the smartest person who’s ever allowed you to ask a question. She could reason you under the table. Smart, you long ago determined, is sexy.
    ‘You can love me or you can screw me,’ she says, ‘but you can’t have both.’
    You cringe. Multiple choice. You were never very good at those.

    • Tara Knight says:

      I thought this was a well done, with a finely drawn spicy description of the lady. Enjoyed!

  14. Aylin says:

    Pressure Crack

    Long, drawn out silence. Click of a pen. Sob of a soul. Drip of sweat.

    Ticks of the clock make my brain go fuzzy. Last night, the one thing I remember, passing out on my notes, lights on and all. I know nothing. Great.

    A grunt, sigh, and anger.

    My insides build on top of each other, folding, bending, twisting, turning. No sounds, no sight, but the one thing I do know; guts build and build with no end, no oasis. They build until they reach my mouth and the sticky red goop pools out. Pressure… more pressure.

    Snap, gone.

  15. Sharon Inkpen says:

    Rules for Filling Out a Scantron Answer Sheet

    1. Use a No. 2 pencil. Yes, the pink one with the bubble gum scent, the one Sadie gave you, could work. But you won’t, smelling that eraser, dreaming of her.
    2. Questions left blank will be marked wrong. That’s what you did wrong. Yesterday she found you, said hello. Those cherry red lips. You blanked.
    3. Completely fill in each circle. Your head is completely filled with the words you could’ve said. Hi. Hey. How’s it going?
    4. Do not fold the answer sheet. But you always fold at the sight of her.
    At this rate, you’ll never pass.

  16. Christy Brothers says:

    Think Long, Think Wrong

    I tap my pencil. My tired eyes scan the room. I don’t know. A or B. I listen to the clock tick above my head. Move on, already. Miss strawberry blonde up front fills her rectangles in at record speed. I wish I could jab her with this pencil.

    “Miss Hull? I’m finished.” My eyes rest on her perfect smile, perfect nails and score. My booming laugh shakes the entire room. It’s B. The answer is always B. I rip her test in half and toss it into the air. Fuck security. I grab my purse and never look back.

  17. Leo Anthony says:

    An Urgent Denial

    When I got called to the guidance counselor’s office, I figured I was in trouble again. But it was worse.

    Mrs. Norris smiled at me, “Laurie, do you remember the IQ test we gave you?”


    “Well, you scored a 138. That’s very high. Extraordinary, actually. I’d like to talk to your parents about it.”

    I tensed. Tell my parents? No, that’s not a good idea. Not at all. It isn’t safe for me to be too smart. I wanted to explain, but I croaked out a dodge instead.

    “I guessed every answer. We both know I’m a screwup, right?”

  18. Sherri Bale says:

    It was the Army aptitude test. His father and grandfather had served bravely. Now it was expected he would, too.

    “Here are some numbers. What is the next in the sequence?”
    “Which do you prefer, cooking or washing up?”
    “When did you stop beating your wife?”

    Sweat stung his eyes, blinding him to the questions. He gripped the pencil so hard the lead snapped.
    He ran for the door. At the fairgrounds, he found the Ringmaster. Here there were no wrong answers.

    “Sorry I haven’t written, but I’ll get you free passes to the circus next time we’re in town.”

  19. Lee Dutko says:

    String or Pencil?

    Humans consider life to be like various objects. String, mostly. A lifeline, a red thread of fate, scissors as the ultimate end. Ironic, as a thread can simply be tied if cut. It hardly ruins a crochet project. No, the true ending in a human’s life is a snap. The pencil fills out the years of life. The lead breaks, a human dies, the test is over. My pencil snaps halfway through their 30th year. I am handed a new scantron and pencil.

    On Earth, they step into the street too early, a horn blares, red seeps into the gutter.

  20. S. Tierney says:

    ‘Question 27: In your honest opinion, what characteristic do you first look for in a partner? Humour. Personality. Body. Other.’

    Multiple choice. Four options. One in four.

    ‘Personality? Body?’

    Veneer? Truth?

    ‘How do you rate your own looks? Handsome. Average.’

    Par. Sub.

    Not that the answers matter, “Not really,” this point reiterated to me by the dating agency’s resident matchmaker, her guidance as sharp as the tip of this pencil. “Think of it as a game,”

    ‘How do you rate yourself in terms of achievement?’

    “A quiz,”

    ‘In terms of failure?’

    “A bit of harmless fun.”

    Snap goes the pencil.

  21. Carol Bond says:

    Got To Be In It To Win It

    John reread the leaflet.
    The Annual People’s Lottery is now open. Everyone over the age of 18 must complete the Lottery Form. 10% of all entries will be selected to progress to Round 2. 10% of all Round 2 entries will be selected to progress to Round 3 and so on for seven Rounds. All Round 7 winners will be required to attend the Public Eliminations. Failure to complete any Round is punishable by law. The Public Eliminations winners will be notified within 5 days of the closing date.

    John really hoped he wouldn’t win.

  22. JD Clapp says:

    *Mid-term: The Philosophy of Justice 120*

    Jackson strolled in 10 minutes late and plopped down in his seat.

    “You have 40 minutes left,” Professor Khandi said handing him the exam.

    “No problem, boss,” Jackson said.

    Asshole, Khandi thought, glaring.

    Mindy, Khandi’s TA, and Jackson’s current lover watched the entire exchange from the backrow. He’s going to get us caught, she thought.

    Janice, Mindy’s jealous roommate sat behind Jackson. She completed her exam and watched him. Just as class ended, she saw Jackson make the switch.

    After class, Janice found Professor Khandi.

    “I know he does it. Mindy gives him the test.”

    Serves them right, Janice thought.

  23. Mattheiw Morello says:


    Tick tick. Tick tick. It never stops. The tick tick of that stupid clock! It ticks and it tacks as time chugs along like an annoying train I seem to have never boarded. I stay on the station platform watching the time train rush by me with its tick ticking. The grinding rails mimic the sound of graphite on paper, a headache as loud as its horn blares through my head. Gushing wind vaults out of the tracks, takes ahold of my pencil then fractures it in my hands, pulling my thoughts away from the stupid tick tick ticking clock.

  24. Sara K. Berndt says:

    Death watches me silently. No face, no mark of humanity. He sees my test form, and he hums. “Good,” he says. I rub my tired eyes. Has it been eternity since I entered Death’s “employ?” That was my sentence, charged when I thwarted him. Each letter I fill is a random soul, a human to die. Death leans closer. “You missed one,” he says. I look, and it’s true, though I believed I was thorough. I go to fill “C.” A snap—the lead breaks. Death faces me, but his smile is sweet. “Rest well,” he murmurs, “You’ve earned it.”

  25. K. Hartless says:


    I made it to number twenty before guessing.

    They say C is the safest answer, if you have no idea. I look over the lineup of usual suspects: A sure looks suspicious. I glance at the scantron. B is sorely misrepresented. And, let’s not forget D, that bad boy.

    Resolved, my pencil goes in for a landing, but at touch down, the lead snaps.

    Should I sharpen? Try to pop the lead back in and soldier on?

    With such little time, I go with the third option: grip the graphite and scratch in the remaining C’s before the time’s up.

  26. Ash says:

    Looking up from your paper makes you nervous. ‘Are you cheating?’ they’ll ask. Your head remains down. Failure waits if you don’t look up and ask for a new pencil, but you can’t risk wandering eyes, the idea that your answers aren’t your own. But with no pencil, you’re devoid of answers either way. Do you look and risk finding out everyone else has an inkling of what’s going on? Will it help you in future, knowing all your ideas are springboarded off of those more knowledgeable? Are you really learning? Or are all your ideas forgeries of others?

  27. Doug Sylver says:

    Testing, testing

    What is the capital of Texas? Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso or Houston. I don’t know. I don’t care. I’ve never been to Texas and never want to go. They just use these tests to compare me to other kids. An equal playing field, they say. A racist, biased, money-grubbing machine, I say. I have to concentrate. My future’s on the line. I don’t care. I have to go to the bathroom. I hate this test and I hate that they make me take it. What is the capital of Texas? Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso or Houston.

  28. Tara Knight says:


    If you asked me when I lost my love I would answer in the school year of 1984.
    A small place bursting out into portable classrooms, our teacher reminded me of the colour brown.
    It was hot the day of the IQ test. I think I was more concerned with the lone fly bouncing against the foggy windows than filling in the tiny little ovals on the paper in front of me.
    Tim must have been concentrating though, because the following year he was moved into the town school for the gifted and our friendship faded like the summer sky.

    • K. Hartless says:

      Pesky fly. Love the vivid imagery of this moment. Just another of life’s tiny ovals that can later mean so much. Thanks for sharing this drabble.

      • Tara Knight says:

        Thanks for reading! Yes I wish I had known at the time just what those silly tests could mean going forward

  29. Joyce Peim says:

    The Plight of Being Number Two

    My parents tell me that everyone can’t be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I’m never sure if it’s with understanding, or with disappointment that I’m not like my brother, their number one son. I try to do my homework and write good essays, but I never seem to make the grade. At school I’m the only one who can take those awful standardized tests, which always wear me out because I have to fill in the slot completely or else the computer won’t read the answer card correctly. Life’s rough when you’ll never be more than number two.

    • K F Lerner says:

      I’m sure that this is an experience that many people can relate to. (And it feels like there’s a slight brush up against the ubiquitous test-taking tool the number 2 pencil in this piece as well.) Thanks for sharing this with us.

  30. Rabab says:


    I hate my life. I hate recession . As the Computer Analyst, my job is to randomly cross out equally qualified workers. Then send an email that they were no longer employed by the company.
    The enormity of what l was doing only hit me when l found Myra, a single mom and my best friend completely distraught.
    ” My company has fired me! How will Cheryl and Coco go to school? How will we live?”
    I knew this would be the scene in many a home. Not random numbers – human beings.
    I break my pencil and log out – this time forever.

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