Bad News At Dinner

Prompt: Unable to hide it any longer, a family-member delivers bad news at a dinner-table conversation.

The Twist: The story is told while the TV is on, and the events screened form part of the narrative.

Word Count: 500 words maximum.


Desmond picked at his food, pushing the pieces of chicken around his plate. The TV flickered on the other side of the room, but he tried to ignore it. It bothered him.

“What I don’t understand,” said his mother, “Is where you got this idea. We didn’t raise you that way.”

On the screen, muted, jets streak over a distant forest. Columns of flame spring up in their wake.

“I’ve never raised a hand to you,” said his father. “Neither has Deirdre. We’ve never taught you any kind of violence.”

The crosshairs of a black-and-white TGM camera line up with a truck on a desert road. The truck bounces sideways, tips on its side, explodes.

“Have you fallen in with the wrong crowd?” asked Mom. “Do you need to change schools? We can do that, no problem.”

Oscar winner Jenny Cavanagh shaves her legs with Pristine® razors. Emaciated children drift through an African city, draped with flies.

“Des, I need you to tell me what’s going on. Everyone has been very understanding, but we need to get to the bottom of this. The police could have—” gunfire rattles. Bikini-clad women canter along the water’s edge, advertising the new Bacon Cheekyburger®— “been called. You really hurt that kid.”

A sniper blows out the tyres of what looks like a schoolbus. Helicopters descend on a mountain compound, guns blazing. Infinity Studios proudly presents Hero Troopers 3®.

“And a knife? At school? That’s serious, Des.”

A hospital explodes, raining glass and concrete. Zizzi Beauchamp sashays past, singing about the beautiful future. Frightened people pour out of an airport terminal, hands in the air.

“Is it the video games? Des? Why did you do this?”

Gunfire rakes through the crowd. People collapse and scream. Sara-Lee Hensworth pouts suggestively, lips pink with CoralSweet™ gloss. Missiles streak across the Syrian desert.

“Desmond?”

He drags his attention away from the screen. Looks at his parents, she so worried, he with a firm frown. He looks at his hands, back at their faces. Tries to order his thoughts. Whispers:

I did it to stand out.”