She crouched, hands over her ears, playground voices taunting.

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary! How does your garden grow!”

The group of giggling girls skipped away.

Mary stayed near the brick wall, shaking, imagining the torture of silver bells, the beheadings, and the garden of gravestones her grandfather told her about one night when she asked for a bedtime story.

She thought back to Kindergarten, when the teasing made her cry just because the singing of her name had sounded unkind. Now, only one year later, she cried because the images of death played in her mind like a slideshow.



Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockleshells

And pretty maids all in a row.


Bloody Mary, oh so scary

How does your graveyard grow?

With instruments of torture and

Beheadings all in a row.


June 17 Prompt: Children’s Rhymes (In 99 words – no more, no less – write a story that involves a children’s game or rhyme.)

Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch

11 thoughts on “Mary

    • I know. Poor Mary. I think she’ll be asking for a name change in a year or two. And maybe a new grandfather. 😉 Yes, most children’s rhymes really are disturbing once you learn the origins and meanings. And, of course, the messages behind the rhymes are made more disturbing by the fact that little children are happily singing them. Creepy.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I think it’s just as well most of us don’t know the origins of the rhymes. They are a great way to learn the rhythm and sounds of our language. Why a “kindly” grandfather would tell a young children about a garden of gravestones is beyond me. As you say, Mary could probably do with a new grandfather! Mary and Marnie should team up and beat the bullies! (And I don’t mean physically.) Great flash. Love it. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Maybe it is just as well some people don’t know the origins. Quite a few of these rhymes are heinous. But I’ve always been on the side of “I’d rather know…” My kids never played dead in Ring Around the Rosy. That “song” still creeps me out when kids chant it. Mine got their rhythm from The Beatles. 😉 (Agreed…nasty grandfather.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ring a Rosy is a creepy song when you know the origin. The Beatles’ music is a great place (depending on the lyrics of the songs you chose) to learn rhythm!


  2. Chilling take on the prompt, yet so true to the origins of many rhymes. Medieval literature did me in for ever thinking again that these old ones are sweet and innocent. And I agree with Norah, kind of a creepy grandfather which adds to the tone of the flash.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah. I learned about a few of these then could never hear or read rhymes the same way again. I was always looking for underlying sinister meanings — political or historical…the origins are usually unpleasant.
      I almost changed the grandfather to an older brother but then thought this would be better. Glad you liked that. Thanks, Charli.


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  4. A really interesting response to the prompt – as so many of the rhymes we learned as children were just so easy to manipulate by tone and pitch alone – never mind if the meanings were unknown to us.

    And this is a wonderful fiction – describing the horrors of the affects of taunting and teasing – as well as the lasting effects.

    Great job 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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