Flash Fiction: The pitch-drop experiment


(Photo prompt: Pixabay.com)

“Who’s that over there”? The new grad student nodded at the grinning skeleton propped in the corner.

Fiona chewed on an apple. It was floury. She grimaced. “His name is Tom.”

John looked surprised. “Tom? Rather prosaic.”

“Nope.” Fiona stood up and flung the apple at the bin. Rim shot. “He’s named after Thomas Parnell, who created the pitch-drop experiment, the world’s longest and most pointless research project. He died never actually having witnessed the pitch drop. The skeleton reminds us never to indulge in stupid research. So, what are you researching?”

John looked abashed. “Er…I’m examining whether there is a correlation between structured procrastination and high achievement.”

“Brilliant.” Fiona snorted. “Well, John Perry, you’re in fine company. Adios!”

And as the door closed behind her John suddenly spied on the shelf a bell jar containing a beaker and funnel. From the funnel was suspended a thick, black drop of pitch. And the skeleton grinned, and grinned, and grinned.


156 words.

(With winks to Prof John Perry at Stanford University, winner of the Ig Nobel prize for Literature in 2011 for his Theory of Structured Procrastination, which says: To be a high achiever, always work on something important, using it as a way to avoid doing something that’s even more important. REFERENCE: “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done,” John Perry, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 23, 1996. Later republished elsewhere under the title “Structured Procrastination.” )


With thanks to Priceless Joy from Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.

Flash Fiction





13 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: The pitch-drop experiment

  1. Oh, this is so funny! (And the skeleton grinned and grinned and grinned. LOL!) Watching pitch drop! Hahaha! I also think it is hilarious about “How to Procrastinate and Still Get Things Done.” Too funny! Love it!

  2. Funny story. I like how the skeleton is grinning away at the end and I appreciate the research project on procrastination. Great job.

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