Mysterious Photograph

Each issue features a Mysterious Photograph. Readers are invited to submit a 250-word (or less) flash fiction story based on the photo. The person who invents the best mystery story receives a prize of $25, and the story is published in a future issue.

The Story That Won the November/December 2019 contest:


© Grunwald


by Deb Mansker

Louis’s third day at his new location in the New York subway was working well. It was the second time he’d moved in the past ten days. Rattler, a small-time punk and self-styled critic, had stolen his cash box from the last two stations he had set up to perform his sidewalk art. Worse, Rattler had called him a two-bit tagger trying to pass off sidewalk graffiti as art.

Louis was determined to stop him this time. With the cooperation of the subway workers, he’d spent three days setting up his revenge.

The evening commuters arrived at the platform. Louis set out his supplies and donation box, then began to sketch scenes on the concrete. People called out their requests and dropped money in the box, applauding Louis’s speed and imaginative drawings. He bantered with the crowd as he worked, talking about realism and illusion in art, even offering to work up something special for the couple he’d seen kissing near the stairs.

Then, the moment arrived. From the corner of his eye, Louis watched Rattler slither through the crowd, bumping shoulders and patting pockets. A quick strike, the cash box was gone and Rattler disappeared back into the cover of the crowd.

Lights flickered as the train approached, allowing Rattler to bolt from the platform. Louis stood in time to see him running away, disappearing down the hallway he had painted on the old block wall.

The next morning, workers washed away the drawing.


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