Friday Fiction – The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Koi carp: so nice, they named them twice. This week’s picture for the Friday Fictioneers led me to a whole load of research about carp, none of which I used. It bred in my brain several terrible puns, none of which I used. Hopefully, you enjoy the story I did go with. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who has been distributing our weekly picture ration for a year now, and to founding-Fictioneer Doug MacIlroy, whose picture is this week’s prompt.


The Prisoner’s Dilemma

It’s a feeding frenzy out there. I can hear them pushing and shoving, desperate to get the first bit, the last bit, anything in between. Hungry mouths: never full, never satisfied.

I can hear them, but I can’t see. The small slits that serve as windows too high to provide a view, let alone an escape route. I’ve been here how long? Days, maybe. Weeks, even. The nights and days uncounted.

And yet, I hear them and I wonder if I am the lucky one. My meals are scarce and scraps, but no one fights for my gruel and roaches.

Operation Unified Response


Filed under Friday Fiction, Writing

21 responses to “Friday Fiction – The Prisoner’s Dilemma

  1. Wow, that was such a great and unexpected take on the prompt. I really like what you did with this. That last line was wonderful.

  2. Nice take Elmo. BTW I think you have a rogue comma between small and slits 🙂

  3. Great take. I love a guy who can make the best of a situation. Well done.

  4. That was a great interpretation of the prompt. I guess this poor guy has managed to find the silver lining in his cloud.
    I love your line “My meals are scarce and scraps” – rolls beautifully off the tongue!

  5. Wonderful! I love the way you’ve used this prompt to take us somewhere else entirely. Thought provoking and inspired. I really enjoyed this. 🙂

  6. The human dilemma. The Fish are better off

  7. Loved the creative leap you took with this prompt. Great story.

  8. Wow, Jen. This is something I had never considered. I see some of these places on TV and all the people in the streets and think to myself, if these people were all working at a job they wouldn’t have time for all this protesting. The sad truth is their unemployment is very high and they are angry and desperate. You communicated this message clearly.

    • I was thinking more food aid than protests, Russell, but I’ll take your interpretation too. I’m glad you got something from it anyway, this was a tough one to work into 100 words.

  9. Dear Jennifer,

    Gruel and roaches…that made me cringe…effective. This story is a true embodiment of writing what you see rather than what you’re looking at. Well done.



  10. Hi Jen,
    It’s a jungle out there and you’d better be quick and alert or someone will beat you to the food. At least that’s dinner at my house. Creative take on the photo. Ron

  11. I’d agree with the comments below. You’ve taken the picture in a powerful and totally unexpected direction.

  12. Got good things going on in that story there, Jen. It was quite enjoyable. Thanks!

  13. Dear Jennifer,

    I confess I’m not sure what is happening here, but then, that could be said about a great deal of my life. The comments shed no light on the question and so I am left with the lonely task of being honest and/or stupid. Perhaps it is oxygen deprivation….yeah, that’s the ticket.

    I’ll keep my eyes on the comment section for enlightenment.



    • Thank you for your honesty, Doug. I did wonder how clear it was and I’d have liked a better photo to help me out but copyright is a pain, eh?
      Here’s the explanation. The narrator is a prisoner in some godforsaken corner of the world. In jail, he gets a bowl of gruel once a day and scavenges cockroaches to supplement it (think Papillon, if you know the story). But outside, his compatriots have no food at all – they fight for aid distributions (which is what the second picture’s of, although it’s not especially clear) and often go hungry. He is musing on the fact that his lot, while miserable, is possibly in some ways better than theirs.

  14. CherryPickens

    Gruel and roaches – bugs make such nice bait. Carp will eat most anything. But even they have standards. Lovely work.

  15. Sometimes the walls of a prison can keep things out as well as keeping them in. I think I’d rather be in his position too, at least for the moment.

  16. pattisj

    You took the prompt and saw a sea of starving people. Nicely done. Solitary confinement does have its perks, I suppose.

  17. Very intriguing parallel. Well done.

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