O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

5-Sentence Story Contest, with Shark

It’s been too long since our last contest — 5-sentence story or otherwise — so let’s do another one. The winner gets a signed copy of his or her choice of my three new Pocket Guides (Sainthood, Afterlife, or the Bible).


Here’s the photographic inspiration for your story:

Your job for this contest? Compose a five-sentence story (or story snippet) inspired by the scene above. As in the past, it has to adhere to five particular rules:

Rule #1: Your story must contain five sentences. No more, no less.

Rule #2: It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the actual real-life subject of the photo.

Rule #3: It has to be suspenseful in tone. Not necessarily scary or horrific or gory, but definitely suspenseful.

Rule #4: It has to contain the phrase “like a torpedo with gills.”

Rule #5: Your story must reference “Cleolinda’s father.” I’m not telling why.


Submit your 5-sentence story in the comments. The deadline for submissions is midnight (Central) tomorrow, Oct. 15.

Ready? Go!

Comments read comments(24)
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posted October 14, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Is there a deadline? I want to ruminate on some possibilities…

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Jason Boyett

posted October 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm

The contest ends at midnight (central) on Thursday, Oct 15.I'll update the post to reflect this deadline.

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posted October 14, 2009 at 2:59 pm

Cleolinda wept outside. Her father had told her that this day would come. "Mark my words, that old shaman's crazy talk about "stalking death like a torpedo with gills" ain't so crazy." And here she was, sobbing after years of fear and watching her back, trying to work out the one question that remained. What did Arthur Treacher have against Bubbles the Guppy?

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posted October 14, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Cleolinda’s father, Horace Ograce, had finally perfected his distressed cider siphon and shark catapult. “Surely there is no more dangerous or delicious weapon,” he announced to the three people standing hear him. “It’s like a torpedo with gills.” Lowering his silver goggles and adorning his flowered vest, Horace prepared his “pushing finger” hyper extended over the yellow flashing button. “Eat Shark Meat Gladys,” he shouted as a non existent crowd watched an airborne selachimorpha sail gracefully across an Oxford sky.

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posted October 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm

It was dark and stormy the night Cleolinda’s father unearthed the aging photo album buried under a box of yearbooks and dusty stuffed animals from Cleolinda’s childhood. As he cradled the album in his arms, wondering if he had the strength to face what lay inside the worn leather cover, he was transported back to the days he spent on the Atlantic, catching fresh fish to bring home to his wife and daughter.He remembered the plague-like afflictions that hit their New England town, the screams of neighbors who couldn’t escape in time, the dark cylinder-shaped bodies of those strange fish – like a torpedo with gills, and shuddered as a quiver of fear shot through him. Even today, 40 years later, he couldn’t escape the feeling of horror, but the time had come to dredge up the past and find some way to keep Cleolinda safe for the future.Taking a slow deep breath to steady himself, the wizened fisherman reached with his gnarled hands to gently, oh so carefully, open the book, when a boom of thunder, vibrating through the house and rattling the attic window, briefly deafened him while the lights dimmed, flickered and then went completely out.

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posted October 14, 2009 at 4:16 pm

The drip, drip, drip is what woke her up. Why did her room suddenly smell like a fishmonger’s dumpster?She saw the teeth first. The shark had pierced her ceiling like a torpedo with gills.Later she would hear Cleolinda’s father yelling for James to get out of the bathroom and the sound of a siren wailing in the distance.

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Amory Blaine

posted October 14, 2009 at 4:58 pm

On October the thirtieth, in the preface of Halloween treats and trickery and when man’s tolerance for cable TV ghouls expands, Cleolinda, best known as “Miss Cleo,” psychic of the pay-per-call, drove her father David back to his retirement home. Cleolinda’s father, also a shaman, hit an old age and could only incant black magic in slurs the gods only sort of understood – but mostly couldn’t. That night, after Cleolinda drove home to her million dollar condo in Fort Lauderdale, shaman David dug out his warlock’s pot (a bed pan, by mistake), magic book (make that a large-print crossword puzzle) and all the ingredients to a good brew (a rubber band, denture paste and dryer sheets), and placed them on his bedside table. Whether he was trying to impress all the single ladies in the retirement home or the gods themselves, in a voice as loud as his wizened old self could bear, he shouted his incantation (or what he thought to be his incantation), “IN THIS NITE OF OCTOBER THIRTIETH, PRITHEE GODS COME DOWN AND TARRY IN THY PRESENCE AND BRING THY SERVANT GREAT RICHES ABOUND!” But what the gods heard and how the gods responded was quite different; for in a moment faster than it took David to walk from his bed to his bathroom – which invariably took longer than five minutes – the gods sent a shark, perhaps Aumakua, the shark god himself, swimming through the air and drilling into David’s retirement home: like a torpedo with gills.

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Bryan Allain

posted October 14, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Cleolinda's father adjusted the collar on his pink shirt and rubbed his sore ankle. Moments earlier he had busted through the doors of the eating establishment, intent on reserving the most eclectic dining space the city had to offer. With no regard for the personal space of others, he had sliced through the crowd with turbid force, like a torpedo with gills locked onto its target. So they sat, their names secure on the list, knowing their time was soon to come. A twisted ankle was a small price to pay for the experience of eating in the Shark Abdomen Room.

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steve hallford

posted October 15, 2009 at 12:02 am

A leviathan-dreamer by the name of O’Kother.Happens to be my wife Cleolinda’s father. Shark & sea monster dreams chase him to the hills! Last night’s nightmare was like a torpedo with gills!! The next day his therapist could only say, “Oh bother…”

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posted October 15, 2009 at 6:03 am

Grace prayed first, 'Father, by her own admission Petra is a liar and a sneak, she really needs your–'. Petra interrupted here, "Abigail and Clara, I thought we set up this group to confess our sins to one another, not for one another."Clara chose to reply, "I know you didn't want Grace to be a part of this group, but maybe you should have let her finish praying first."Abigail saw Grace reaching into her bag- for some tissue, she thought – and hastily said. "I think things are starting to get out of hand, please -."Petra got off her knees and walked out of her own house.

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posted October 15, 2009 at 6:14 am

I apologise I didn't know the rules!

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posted October 15, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Cleolinda's father stared at the button he had just pressed in a fit of rage. Moments earlier, as the reality of all he'd lost finally came crashing down on him, he remembered the shark in the torpedo bay. He watched with nervous anticipation as vengeance sailed through the sky like a torpedo with gills. The residents of apartment 33-B would now understand, with crystal clarity, what happens when you cheat at Monopoly.

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Jeff P.

posted October 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm

The boat was pulling away when he surfaced the azur-blue water. "Come back!" he shouted as he waved his arms wildly, hoping to be seen. "I have to meet Cleolinda's father for milk and cookies in forty-five minutes!" His shouting was futile, because the outboard engine of the boat was too loud. As he resolved himself to days of treading water and that there would be no milk and cookies, the sleek, toothy sharks began to circle hungrily.

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S. Kyle Davis

posted October 15, 2009 at 12:49 pm

The line up to the fast food counter was moving as slowly as the intellects of the people waiting to be served, most of whom were shooting sidelong looks at the cheerleading outfit Cleolinda begrudgingly wore on game days. It was during a momentary break in the line that she had her first glimpse of the man running the register. His appearance was completely incongruous to the surroundings, due mostly to his dark suit and electric blue power tie clashing brilliantly to the red and yellow ball cap he and all his co-workers wore. His ridiculous yet intimidating visage made Cleolinda wish her father hadn’t taken her out of school to eat today, but still she couldn’t help herself asking about his suit when he finally asked her, in a bored voice, “May I take your order, please?” He lowered his eyes at her question, and in a quiet, conspiratorial tone that impressed that he did not tell the story often, he replied, “Well, it’s a long story that begins with my biology professor describing sharks as swimming ‘like a torpedo with gills’ and ends with national disgrace and a lawsuit from the ASPCA.”——–Well, it probobly lacked the proper tone, but oh well! :)

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posted October 15, 2009 at 1:50 pm

… as Cleolinda stood over the grave of her father. A strange man, the kind you see in the background of a film noir murder scene, approached. The stranger asked, "How did he die?" Cleolinda, wiping tears from her eyes, stammered and then answered solemnly, "It was, like, a torpedo … with gills." The stranger nervously pulled his collar tight, covering his unusual breathing apparatus, and said simply, "That's weird."

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Chris Miller

posted October 15, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Cleolinda stepped outside for a smoke with the others waiting for the funeral of her father to begin. The proceedings were stalled by the late arrival of her father's body. His true and only memorial wish was to arrive wrapped like a torpedo with gills. No one really knew what the old circus entertainer meant by that. So they huddled in the shade, took a few drags, and remembered the life of the old man who was truly late for his own funeral.

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Chris Miller

posted October 15, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Cleolinda's father always told her: "People jump sharks; sharks don't jump people." Her father drilled it into her every day of her life. She was as sick of hearing that line as she was of her father. Cleolinda had enough and was going to do the most rebellious thing she could think of. Like a torpedo with gills, she was going to jump the people.

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Dromedary Hump

posted October 15, 2009 at 2:39 pm

Flying just below the radar Cleolinda's father wiped away a trickle of sweat from his forehead and steadied the controls of the B-29 as Yosarian peered through the bomb sight at his target below. The row houses of Dreisden stood out, their roofs still glistening with the morning dew as the citizens, oblivious to the impending horror about to be fall them, chatted casually in their gutteral tongue."Two degrees right" Yosarian whispered through clenched teeth, "and I'll drop this baby down a chimney like a torpedo with gills." Moments later the bombay doors yawned wide and exposed the secret weapon in all its finned glory."Shark-bomb away" cried Yosarian victoriously, "lets see how the Hun like some fish with their kraut."

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Dromedary Hump

posted October 15, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Mr. Yamaguchi considered the scene ruefully. "Our landlord, Cleolinda's father, will not be happy." Moments later Mr. Jones pulled up in his Cadillac to collect the months rent from his predominently asian tenents. "What the $#@*&^ is THAT… a torpedo with gills?" he exclaimed."One man's torpedo is another man's lunch." Mr. Yamaguchi observed inscrutably as he eyed the fish truck and ambulance collision just down the block.

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posted October 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Cleolinda's father didn't say everything. He said that Great White Sharks were like a torpedo with gills, swimming straight up to snap up seals with their huge jaws and teeth. He did not say the rest. He did not say that some Great White Sharks, if they miss a seal, propel themselves many feet in the air. In doing so, they become deadly sea to air missiles with gills, teeth and a nasty disposition.

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Dan Lewis

posted October 15, 2009 at 5:33 pm

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into your second story apartment. That's it, I don't know what else to say. Cleolinda's father just called me on the phone and said, "Like a torpedo with gills" and then hung up. Weird. Hey, are you still reading this?

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posted October 15, 2009 at 9:25 pm

As Cleolinda was walking to go visit her father at his retirement one foggy October evening; she saw a flash of light that showed her a future event. Cleolinda's father showed her how one day she will meet her gruesome death. The event was to take place on this very same path on Halloween next year. He could not tell her how she would meet her end but warned her of a great shark he said, "it will come out of the sky like a torpedo with gills." When Cleolinda came to would she continue on her path to visit her father or would she avoid this path till after Halloween next October?

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Kevin Leggett

posted October 15, 2009 at 10:03 pm

After dropping her off at school, Cleolinda's father, a flying shark, decided to go for a "stroll" through the neighborhood. He had no breakfast and came to this realization when his stomach began to rumble at the irresistable site below. Immediately, Cleolinda's father dropped like a torpedo with gills towards the unsuspecting party of cupcake connoisseurs and their unusually large sized inner tube mounted on the roof. Needless to say, the International Cupcake Council regretted their decision to use the freshly painted, Ding Dong shaped tube as indication of the where abouts of this esteemed event. However, it was the shark who received the biggest surprise when he noted, "Hey! Where's the cream filling?"

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Jason Boyett

posted October 16, 2009 at 6:30 am

Well done, everyone. The contest is over. Such great entries…

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