Short idiom stories

Stephen McHugh
This post was last updated on
August 19, 2022

PinBelow will be a series of short stories to try to help those with autism and language and speech development delays understand idioms more easily. I imagine that in each short story a pandemic is taking place. And in each story one character is supposed to guide another in understanding the idioms.

Readers are also welcome to try and picture what they're reading and draw their own visualisations. And they're welcome to think up characters from a wide range of ethnicities and other backgrounds. The aim of this is to show that everybody is equal.

A piece of cake

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways. One of these ways was not being able to attend important events, birthday parties included.

But one day lockdown restrictions are eased, allowing large gatherings again. And on the day restrictions were eased, plans were almost in place for a birthday party. There was only one thing missing, a cake.

Character 1: Fancy helping me to bake a cake for today’s birthday celebration?

Character 2: I don’t know, I’ve never baked a cake before.

Character 1: Don’t worry, we’ll both work on it together and I’ll show you some useful techniques.

And so characters 1 and 2 got working on making the cake. A short while later a delicious looking cake was baked, nicely decorated, and everything was now ready for the party.

Character 2: I never realised how easy that was.

Character 1: Yes, just like a piece of cake.


Hot water

The world is in the midst of a pandemic. A potentially deadly virus has spread throughout the world, disrupting lives in many different ways. Many activities had been banned to safeguard people’s health.

But one day there came a period where cases had been falling, to the extent that certain restrictions could gradually be lifted. 

And on that day, character 1 sees it’s warm and sunny. What’s more, it’s on a day on which they’re allowed to go swimming again.

On the way there they meet one of their friends. 

Character 2:  Hi there, off somewhere good?

Character 1:  Yes, I’m off for a swim. The restrictions have been lifted to allow us to go swimming again.

Character 2:  Well be careful you don’t get into hot water, or you’ll get into trouble.

Character 1:  How? Where’s the trouble in hot water?

Character 2:  Trouble with hot water? The trouble with hot water is, if you get into hot water, you could get burned.

 

Over the moon

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways. 

But one day character 1 is out and about, walking down the street. Soon they see character 2 jumping for joy on a trampoline in their garden.

Character 1:  Alright there, you look overjoyed. What’s up?

Character 2:  Haven’t you heard? They’re going to start easing the lockdown soon.

Character 1: Really? I knew cases of the virus had been falling, but I never thought enough to ease lockdown.

Character 2:  Apparently, according to a news report, the current strain of the virus is judged to be not as deadly. 

Character 1:  And it’s no surprise you’re jumping so high. It looks like you're jumping over the moon

Character 2: Where’s the moon, I can’t see it.

Character 1: I can. I can see it emerging from the clouds clearing close to the horizon and behind you.

 

Raining cats and dogs

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways.  

But now a decision was made to allow outdoor activities again. However, on the day the restrictions were relaxed it began to rain. And it rained heavily, delaying outdoor activities a little longer. 

Character 1: Look outside, it’s raining cats and dogs.

Character 2 walks over to the window, confused.

Character 2: Raining cats and dogs? I don’t see any cats and dogs falling from the sky.

All I see is it’s raining heavily. It sounds rather noisy too, especially the raindrops clattering on the roof.  And of course cats and dogs are much heavier than raindrops,

Character 1: Correct. So, the next time it’s raining heavily, have a listen to all the noise it makes. And imagine how much noise falling cats and dogs would make on impact.

Character 2: Thanks, that makes it clearer to me. 

 

A mountain to climb

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many different ways.  

But one day lockdown restrictions are eased to the point where people can go about their activities again. 

Two characters go to watch their friend play a tennis match against a very good opponent.

Character 1: If our friend is to win this match, he’s got a mountain to climb.

Character 2: A mountain to climb? I don’t understand. I can’t see any mountains to climb around here.

Character 1: Oh I see. Well, let’s have a think about it here. Imagine you’re at the bottom of a tall mountain and you intend to climb it. 

Character 2: Yes.

Character 1: Now picture yourself climbing the mountain. You’d be coming across very steep parts, along with lots of rough and uneven terrains.

Character 2: Yes. It sounds like climbing a mountain would be a very hard task to me. Steep slopes would, no doubt, be very tiring.

Character 1: So, now do understand our friend has a hard task if he’s to win this match.

Character 2: Yes, it makes a lot more sense to me now.

 

Out of the woods

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, interrupting lives in many ways.  

But at one point, two characters watched a news report.  The number of daily cases were getting less. Restrictions were eased a lot, but people still needed to use common sense.

But one of two characters got excited at the prospect of life being closer to normality once again.

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, interrupting lives in many ways.  

But at one point, two characters watched a news report.  The number of daily cases were getting less. Restrictions were eased a lot, but people still needed to use common sense.

But one of two characters got excited at the prospect of life being closer to normality once again.

Character 2: We’ll all still need to be careful. We’re not out of the woods yet.

Character 1: What woods? We’re not in any woods. We’re in a room, in a house.

Character 2: Alright, I see. Let’s imagine you’re in the densest area of the woods, surrounded by lots of trees. It’s going to be darker. 

Character 1: And what about the darker areas of the woods?  You’re less likely to see and spot dangers until it’s too late?

Character 2: Quite likely so. Try to imagine wild animals suddenly leaping out of hiding to get you. 

Character 1: That sounds like a dangerous and scary situation.

Character 2: And the virus is dangerous, as it has killed many people. 

Character 1: Ah, so thinking back to being in dense woods, you’d have to always be listening carefully for any dangerous animals moving about in the bushes and trees.

Character 2: Yes, it seems like you’re getting the idea. 

Character 1: And there are people still out there getting the virus. It’s still going around, even though we can’t see it, like you can’t always see hidden in dense areas of the woods. This is probably why we’re not out of the woods yet.

Character 2: Correct.

Character 1: Thanks, it all seems more understandable to me now.

 

On thin ice

The world is in the midst of a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways. Businesses had to close in order to minimise the spread of the virus and losing money. Some are now in danger of going out of business.

Character 1: If this lockdown lasts much longer, plenty of businesses will be on thin ice.

Character 2: On thin ice? I don’t understand. I don’t ever see any shop, business or building on thin ice. In fact, I don’t even see ice anywhere.

Character 1: Alright, I see what you mean. Let’s have a think about it here. Thin ice is more likely to crack under somebody’s weight.

Character 2: That sounds like a very dangerous and scary situation to me.

Character 1: Yes, especially if the water is freezing cold, deep and the person who may have fallen through the ice is out of reach of safety.

Character 2: And if they don’t get help quickly enough, they may die in quick time. 

Character 1: Yes.

Character 2: Ah, it’s beginning to make sense to me now. It’s like the businesses could die, and be non-existent if they don’t have any money going to them soon.


The acid test

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, killing many people and disrupting many lives in many different ways.  But restrictions were now being lifted in various stages without any sudden large rises in cases.  Two characters listen intently to a news report on this.

Character 2: Could this latest news mean the pandemic is coming to an end?

Character 1: I don’t know, but for me this last relaxing of restrictions will be the acid test.

Character 2: What acid test? We don’t even have any acid available. But one thing I do know is that acid is one of the most dangerous substances which can dissolve some materials. 

Character 1: You seem to have the right idea there. Now, since you're interested in science, imagine a material that is going to be tested for how it may survive being put in a number of liquids, including the most dangerous acid. 

Character 2: And if the material survives being put in the most dangerous acid, that can be counted as success right? 

Character 1: Yes, and what do you think would be a successful outcome following the latest relaxing of restrictions?

Character 2: Ah, I think it’s beginning to make more sense now. A successful outcome would be where there are no more sudden surges of people becoming ill with the virus in question.

Character 1: Well done.

 

Light at the end of the tunnel

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, killing many people and disrupting many lives in all sorts of ways. But one day, two characters listen intently to a news report showing how case numbers had been falling, with plans to ease restrictions.

Character 1: Well, this lockdown has been going on for too long now. But there might be signs of light at the end of the tunnel.

Character 2: I can see light outside, but we’re not even in a tunnel. I’m confused.

Character 1: Right, I see what you mean. Well, let’s have a think about it here. When you’re in a tunnel, you’re in a dark place. 

Character 2: Yes, and when you come towards the end of the tunnel, you see light.

Character 1: And just in case you didn’t know, light is a sign of hope.

Character 2: Ah ha, I think it’s becoming clearer to me now. The hope here is a sign that life may again one day be what it was before the pandemic. 

Character 1: Correct. However, we must be prepared to wait for quite some time until then. How long that may be nobody really knows right now.

 

Out of your depth

The world has been struggling through a pandemic, during which a virus has spread widely. Lives have been disrupted, including the postponement of important events. Some time later, cases had dropped enough to allow restrictions to be lifted, allowing significant events to take place. Such events included swimming races at the Olympic games. Two characters happened to know somebody taking part in the 1st round of the swimming races.

Character 1:Look at the competitors our friend is up against. He looks out of his depth to me.

Character 2: How’s our friend out of his depth? He’s not in any water.

Character 1: Oh I see. Right, let’s have a think about it here. If you’re in deep enough water, there may be enough water to cover you completely.

Character 2: And then there would be the risk of you drowning.

Character 1: Yes. However, unless you make an effort to swim or stay afloat some other way, your chances of survival are considerably reduced.

Character 2: And so wouldn’t better competitors alongside you be like being in water deeper than you?

Character 1: In a way yes. You seem to be getting the right idea here.

Character 2: And so against competitors who may be better than you, you’d have to at least make an effort to have a chance of progressing to the next round.

Character 1: Yes.

Character 2: Thanks for that. It’s much clearer to me now. Competing against others who may be better than you at something is like being covered by water deeper than you.

 

Biting off more than you can chew

The Olympic games were well underway after being not allowed to go ahead due to a virus spreading throughout the world. Two characters watched the games on television. One of them, more of an optimist, had high hopes for athletes from their home country.

Character 2: I predict a large amount of medals will be won by those from our country.

Character 1: I think they’d be trying to bite off more than they can chew.

Character 2: I don’t understand. I can’t see them eating or biting anything.

Character 1: Think about that new triple sized burger you can buy from a famous fast food outlet. 

Character 2: Yes

Character 1: Well, as it happens, I have an empty box into which it goes when somebody buys one. 

Character 2: It seems as though the burger would be too big for me to chew.

Character 1: Yes, can you now see that you’d be trying to bite off more than you can chew.

Character 2: Yes, it kind of looks like somebody trying to achieve something beyond their capabilities.

Character 1: Yes, you’re correct there. Those people may be top athletes. However, my view is they are just competing with too many better competitors to win many medals.

Character 2: Ah, it makes more sense to me now. Our own country's athletes would be trying to bite off more than they could chew.

Character 1: Yes.

 

Thrown in the deep end

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways, including job losses. But one day lockdown restrictions are allowed to be eased to the point where society can open up again.

Character 1: There will be lots of people with no jobs. However, a friend of mine has been thrown in the deep end in a new job.

Character 2: I’m confused here. How can your friend have possibly been thrown in at the deep end and starting a new job at the same time?

Character 1: Alright, I see what you mean. Well let’s think about it here. Imagine you’re in the deep end of the swimming pool, right? 

Character 2: Yes, you’re likely to be in water deeper than you are tall, increasing the risk of you drowning, especially if you couldn't swim very far.

Character 1: Good. Now imagine a situation where one starts a new job in a new industry, especially without any help, training or introduction.

Character 2: Ah, it’s becoming clearer to me now. They’d be likely to struggle, just like you’d struggle in the deep end if you weren’t a good swimmer.

Character 1: And you’re likely to be right there. If you found yourself in the deep end and you weren’t a good swimmer, you’d need some help to get you out of the difficult situation.

 

Sink or swim time

The world has been going through a pandemic. A potentially lethal virus has spread throughout it, disrupting lives in many ways. Many businesses, including shops, restaurants, hotels and leisure centres are forced to close in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

Character 1: The income for shops and many other businesses will be reduced greatly. It looks like it’ll be sink or swim time for them.

Character 2: Sink or swim time? I don’t understand. How can shops and other buildings be in water?

Character 1: OK, let’s calm down and have a think about it here. Firstly, can you try to picture yourself in water?

Character 2: Yes. If you can swim well you’ll more than likely survive.

Character 1: Right, good. Now then, what about, if you’re not a particularly good swimmer?

Character 2: And if the water is deeper than you are tall, the chances are you’ll struggle to survive.

Character 1: Correct. You’ve got the right idea.

Character 2: Ah, I think I understand it now. Many shops and public places may have to close permanently if they can’t get enough money from enough customers.

 

The horse that has already bolted

A dangerous virus is spreading throughout the world, with some countries implementing restrictions, disrupting lives in many different ways. 

Characters 1 and 2 live in a country yet to apply any restrictions to protect its people. 

But one day, such action is taken, as case numbers are getting too high throughout the world. 

Character 2: Well, it’s about time these restrictions are in place now.

Character 1: True, but I think the horse may have already bolted here.

Character 2: Horse already bolted? What horse? I don’t understand.

Character 1: Alright, let’s start from the beginning. You know that a stable is a place in which a horse can live

Character 2: Yes.

Character 1: Right, now imagine you go to close the stable doors to ensure the horse stays in, but find it has gone. 

Character 2: Ah, I think I'm beginning to understand now. It would clearly be too late to close the stable doors if the horse had already left the stable, and be out there running around.

Character 1: Good! You’ve got the right idea here. 

Character 2: So, like the horse escaping from an open stable door, you’re thinking the virus is already here in our country, and possibly spreading quickly the population.

Character 1: Correct.

 

A needle in the haystack

The world is in the midst of pandemic. Characters 1 and 2 are getting ready for a forthcoming family wedding, which is allowed to go ahead but with only a limited number of people. However, they have one problem. They’re trying to find suitable shoes for a relative with little success.

Character 1: Trying to find the right shoes in shops in this part of the country will be like looking for a needle in the haystack

Character 2: A needle in a haystack? I’m confused. 

Character 1: Right OK. Try picturing the sizes of haystacks and pins. 

Character 2: Yes, I know haystacks can be very big in comparison to needles, which can be very tiny. 

Character 1: And now can you imagine searching for a needle in the middle of a haystack. 

Character 2: Yes, trying to find it wouldn’t exactly be impossible, but it would certainly be extremely difficult.

Character 1: Good, it seems like you’ve got the right idea now.

Character 2: I have. Trying to find the right shoes will be extremely difficult in this part of the country.

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

5 comments on “Short idiom stories”

  1. Hi Stephen,
    you have written nice, simple , imaginative stories, and I enjoyed reading them thank you. I also went to 'The REAson I jump' about young people on the autistic spectrum and it was a really good documentary based on the book as you know, by a Japanese boy, written when he was only 13. His name is Naoki Higashida. One of the young people in the documentary is a very talented artist and I think her name is Amrit and she is from India - you could google her if you like and look at some of her paintings. All the best, Christina

    1. Hi Christina, creative writing is becoming a stronger interest for me now. I have written other series of stories that have yet to be published in the public domain, but hope to self-publish at some point in the future.

  2. Hi Steve, a brilliant post. It sets out so clearly where confusion can come in and how simple explanation in the right way can clear things up.
    Have you thought of taking these to a social group setting for others who think similarly to you? I’m sure this would help others.

  3. I like this minimalist quality that gives the reader freedom to project their identity unto the characters! Very creative and fun to read!

    I feel like each one leaves a profound sense of wisdom, as in the hot water story where in the advice is straightforward, and that is its value!

envelope linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram