A flash fiction story for advanced learners

In January, my blog post was about Flash Fiction, which can be defined as any fictional work from a few words to around one thousand.  You may recall Ernest Hemingway´s six-word tale: “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”

This month, I have written a three-hundred-word story with activities for English teachers to use with their advanced students.  The illustration was specially drawn by a talented young Brazilian artist called João Gabriel Simonsen Garcia Parrelli.  This tale is part of a compilation of flash fiction stories with illustrations, which will be released this year as an e-book.  Watch this space! 

Here are the activities and the story:


Ask the students if they have ever had their shoes shined in the street.  If they have, what tools did the shoe shiner use? 

Possible answers:  rags, cloths, polish, brush, a stool to sit on. 

While activity:

Ask the students to read the story called “Shiny Shoes” individually and do the matching vocabulary exercise.  Afterwards, they can compare their answers with a partner.  Give the students the answers (below).

Shiny shoes Crack of dawn on a well-known street, a shoe shiner 1.perches on the lid of a wooden box in which he brought his tools: a couple of rags, black and brown polish and a horsehair brush. The first customer arrives and positions one foot on the upturned box like a proud 2.stallion showing off his masculinity. Chest expanded and head up. While waiting for the job to be done, this busy executive takes out his mobile and dials a number. He begins 3.bragging and boasting about the latest deal he has negotiated. Switching over to the other foot, the 4.well-turned-out male carries on the conversation looking around to see who is listening. After 5.tossing a coin into the shoe shiner´s cap, he is on his way. The next one appears. Slightly more 6.dumpy and older than the last 7.punter. He places one 8.brogue on the pedestal and pulls out a newspaper to read from his pinstriped jacket pocket. The shoe shiner covers one shoe with polish and then brushes it vigorously. Up and down, backwards and forwards. Once the excess polish has vanished, he then starts sculpting the shoe with a cloth. Round and round in circular movements.  Five minutes pass and the shoe shiner waves his hand to show he has finished. Looking straight ahead at eye level, a pair of red 9.stilettos is now coming in his direction.  Clickety clack. “How much would you charge to make my shoes so shiny I can see my face in them?” says a 10.husky voice. The shoe shiner runs his eyes up a hairy leg, a frilly skirt and a beehive hair-do framing a brightly coloured made-up face. “Five soles.” “Here´s ten for your good work”, exclaims the drag queen just having come from her cabaret act. The shoe shiner beams.

Vocabulary exercise

Match the words from the story with their meanings.

1. perches throwing casually
2. a stallion a customer
3. bragging and boasting sounding low-pitched and slightly hoarse
4. well-turned-out short and stout (of a person)
5. tossing rests on a seat or object
6. dumpy smartly dressed, well-presented
7. a punter a male horse
8. a brogue a low-heeled shoe with decorative perforations
9. stilettos shoes with long, thin high heels
10. husky talking with excessive pride, especially about oneself


1. perches rests on a seat or object
2. a stallion a male horse
3. bragging and boasting talking with excessive pride, especially about oneself
4. well-turned-out smartly dressed, well-presented
5. tossing throwing casually
6. dumpy short and stout (of a person)
7. a punter a customer
8. a brogue a low-heeled shoe with decorative perforations.
9. stilettos shoes with long, thin high heels
10. husky sounding low-pitched and slightly hoarse

Post activity:

In pairs, ask the students to discuss the following:

1) What time of day does the story take place?  How do you know?

Answer:  Very early morning.  Crack of dawn.

2)  Why do you think the first customer is compared to a stallion?

Answer:  Because of the position he is standing: chest expanded and head up with one foot raised showing off his masculinity.

3) Do you think there is any verbal communication between the second customer and the shoe shiner?  Why/Why not?

Answer:  Probably not, because the customer is reading his newspaper and the shoe shiner waves his hand to show he has finished.

4) Why do you think the shoe shiner beams at the end of the story?

Answer:  Probably because the drag queen pays some attention to him.  This seems not to be normal practice judging from the other customers.  Perhaps also because the drag queen gives him ten soles (currency in Peru), which was the double of what he asked for.

5) Do you think the profession of shoe shiner is becoming a thing of the past?  Why/Why not?

Students´ own answers.

6) How are shoe shiners treated in your country?

Students´ own answers.

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