Tag Archives: short stories

Not Friday Fiction

I predict a lack of time to post a FF story this week, so if that’s what you’re looking for, move along, or check out other FF stories at Rochelle’s HQ.

But if you’ve stumbled upon this page looking for a story from me specifically, I’d invite you to consider my other flash fiction exercise, Inspiration Mondays. For all that we sometimes grumble as Fictioneers that there isn’t enough feedback, my FF posts get many more views and comments than my  InMon stories, and I’d love to share some of them with you.

If you’ve got time, have a look at any of the stories here. As ever, I’d love to know what you think.

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Friday Fiction – Him

Well, what do you know? A long time ago, I sent Rochelle two photos I thought she might like to use for the FF prompt. We had one a few months ago and I’d forgotten all about the other. But then this morning, I find people linking to my blog (thank you!) and when I go to check out their blogs – Bam! It’s my photo of a model bee at the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. The bee is probably long gone, but the centre is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the neighbourhood.

Him (Genre: Romance)

When we were seven, he was my best friend: we’d hunt butterflies together and search the clover for four-leafers. But puberty drove us apart. He wasn’t my type – bigger and hairier than the boys I liked – and I didn’t think I was pretty enough to be his.

He bumbled into my life again at my parents’ golden wedding. I’d been stung by a thousand others by then and I’d given up on the whole game.

We walked in the garden and lay together among the clover, looking at the stars and talking about finding the right place to spend winter.

***

Field Notes:

In Canada, it appears to be much more complicated, but in England there are three kinds of stinging insect: wasps, bees and bumble bees. Wasps are nasty little monsters, who will sting you for fun. Bees (honey bees) are industrious and quiet and will only sting if attacked. Bumblebees are fantastic creatures. They are relatively uncommon, seem to love clover even though it’s much less vivid and beautiful than many other flowers and are renowned for being “scientifically unable to fly.”

Thinking about this distinction reminded me of relationships – if one has to kiss a lot of frogs to find a Prince, perhaps one also has to go through a few wasps and honey bees before finding an incredible and wonderful bumble bee.

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Inspiration Monday – The Man With No Name

Steph’s prompts for InMon this week had the exact opposite effect of the Friday Fiction picture. I was almost immediately struck with a fully-formed idea for a story. It’s quite long, for which I hope you will forgive me, and comes with both a MATURE CONTENT and a COARSE LANGUAGE WARNING. Please be advised not to read this story if either is likely to upset you. It’s some way outside my normal remit, so I’d love to here your feedback – good and bad – on how it’s gone.

 

The Man With No Name

 “You brought him home?!” Alice squealed and slid down on the sofa towards me.

“That’s not the worst part.” Louisa loved knowing something about me before my sister. She took another chocolate from the box on the table and sat back.

“There’s nothing worse than that. She brought him home!”

“So you say.”

I watched them, passing my news back and forward between them, waiting until they let me speak again.

“This guy approached her with the most outrageous chat-up line ever and she brought him home!” Alice wasn’t going to let that go in a hurry.

I could see Louisa’s brain moving behind her eyes. She was desperate to ask about the chat-up line, but to do so would be to give away the high ground. She’d been there when we woke up this morning; that was her position of power. But she hadn’t been there when he appeared last night, and Alice had.

I came to her rescue. “It wasn’t the most outrageous chat-up line ever. That would be like ‘Do you want to see my collection of iguanas?’”

They both looked at me with a mixture of pity and condescension that made me want to leave right there and then.

“That wouldn’t be outrageous,” Louisa said, “Just crap.”

“Promise me, if anyone ever opens with that, you’ll pepper spray him,” Alice warned. “I’ve got to take care of my little sister.” She loves that – eighteen minutes and she’ll be rubbing them in forever.

Now they were united, Louisa clearly felt more at ease. She leaned towards us, elbows on knees. “So, come on, what did he say?”

“He said…”

I interrupted her. This was my story. “He said ‘So, are you going to take me home then?’ It wasn’t that outrageous.”

“Do you fuck on first dates?” My sister was squealing again. I gave her the same sign to cool it I’ve been giving since my first hangover, after our sixteenth birthday: I reached over and hit her on the arm.

“Shut up.”

“Will you two stick to the story?”

“OK. So, he said that and obviously I thought he was a cock, so I ignored him.”

“Ignored him,” Alice said, “I’d have slapped him.” She’d dropped maybe three decibels and half an octave. I hit her again.

“I ignored him and went to the bar. But he followed me. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘You’re here because you’re looking for someone to go home with, same as me.’ I didn’t answer. ‘And we could spend the evening bumping and grinding here with all these sweaty bastards, waiting until we’re drunk enough for you not to care that I sound like a bit of an asshole. Or, we could just get on with it and have some fun.’”

Louisa hadn’t moved from her interrogation. “So you agreed? On the back of that flimsy argument?”

“No. What do you take me for?”

“Nothing. But you did end up bringing him home.” Louisa and I have shared flats for nearly four years, and lived in close proximity for three years of university before that. She knows exactly how many notches are … or rather aren’t … on my bedpost.

“So she comes to me and says we should get outta there,” Alice said.

“I did. And my caring supportive sister says…”

“’No way, Jose, there’s too much talent here. Just tell him to go fuck himself.’”

“Fair point,” said Louisa. “Joe’s is a decent joint on a Saturday and you’d paid to get in.”

It’s nice to know who your friends are. “So I head back to the dancefloor, get into the music, try to forget about the guy and about my ever-supportive sister.” I shot her a glare. She’s immune to them and just poked me with coral pink toes.

“And then I end up pulling this cute bloke from the army and that’s the last I see of her,” said Alice. “For the record, by the way, I did not take him home. One of us has to maintain the family’s reputation.”

Louisa caught my eye and we both collapsed at once. Alice pretended to be offended for all of three seconds then joined in. My sister’s bedposts would both be sawdust if she bothered notching them.

“Aw, shut up. Tell me what happened after.”

“All I know is, I get up in the night to take some more painkillers,” began Louisa, who’d cried off last night because of her period, but seemed much better since she’d switched from paracetamol and bed rest to Cadbury’s and me-bashing. “And I find the hallway strewn with clothing like something out of Indecent Proposal.”

“There was, like, one shoe.”

“And a shirt. A man’s shirt.” She raised an eyebrow.

“Hardly makes me Sharon Stone!”

“Who cares?” Alice had let go of the gain control again. “How did you get from ‘Go fuck yourself’ to ‘Come fuck me’?”

“I don’t really know,” I admitted. “He came back and started talking more normally. We just got chatting, and then kissing, and then…” I wanted to make it sound persuasive, but my brain wasn’t playing along.

“And then she brought him home and fucked him!” Louisa’s outburst rivaled any of Alice’s for volume, although she would never match my sister for squeak.

“Can we use another word?”

“No!” They both yelled at once.

“This isn’t Jane fucking Austen!” Louisa added. “And you still haven’t told her the worst part.”

“Tell me the worst part.” Alice was sitting up now, her back against the arm of the sofa and her feet digging even more into my thigh. The thigh that had been wrapped around him just a few hours ago, I realised. It was weird, how distant a memory it felt and yet how fresh at the same time.

“She doesn’t know his name!” Louisa threw a chocolate into the air. It missed her mouth, bounced on her cheek and hit the floor, ruining her commanding moment.

Alice stared at me with new-found respect, covered by a look of extreme scandal. “Is it true?”

“Because obviously that’s the worst thing here,” I said, feeling my cheeks prickle with heat.

“I expect him to forget your name,” said Alice, “But he’s only like the third guy you’ve ever slept with. You can’t forget his.”

“I haven’t.”

“So what is it?”

“I don’t know. He never said.” I whispered it, wondering why this of all things should be the point I was ashamed of.

“He never said!” Louisa was catching Alice’s habit of echoing things she found extreme.

“He’s probably a Norman,” said Alice, as though that explained it.

“Or a Brian,” Louisa agreed. “I wouldn’t tell people if I was a Brian.”

“What’s wrong with Brian?” Louisa doesn’t know, but Alice’s first boyfriend was called Brian. She’s never quite got over him.

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t think he’s ashamed of his name. He just didn’t say.”

“So. When you were fucking him…” She caught my eye. “Sorry, when you were making love to him, what were you screaming?”

“I wasn’t…”

“She was.” I can always count on Louisa to back me up. “I can give you a sodding transcript.”

“I don’t think you need to,” I said, glaring at her. She’s immune too. I need to get lasers fitted to my eyes.

There was a moment’s silence: deafening compared to the conversation before it. I tried to think of some way of changing the subject, but this one was too novel for either of them to let it go. I took a handful of chocolates and waited for the next question.

“Did you give him your number?” asked Alice, eventually.

“If he gave you his, you could save it under The Man With No Name!” Louisa shrieked at her own joke. I pulled my phone off the table and stuffed it into my pocket. Later, I changed his entry to “ZZZ”.

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Friday Fiction – Looking up, looking down (again)

Well, Rochelle, you certainly know how to challenge us. This week’s photo from prodigal fictioneer Doug is stunning, but it really didn’t inspire the muse. Lots of thoughts went through my head about it – the boiling clouds, the black / white distinction (and various bad jokes about shades of grey), a great chasm between where one is and where one wants to be – but none of them led to a story.

Then, as so often happens when I’m stuck, an idea came to me while I was rocking Sebastian to sleep. And here it is. The only problem is, I’ve used this title before. Your critique and comments are always welcome, any suggestions for another title are also invited this week.

maui-from-mauna-kea

Looking up, looking down (again!)

“Reckon my Milly’s up there now with him, playin’ her harp to your Frank.” Walter smiled.

“Then she’s wasting her time. Frank’s deaf as a door!” Joan dabbed away the tears with a clean corner of his handkerchief. “But thank you.”

“Feel any better?”

“A little. It’s nice to think of him looking down on me.”

Walter paused, then went ahead and said it anyway. “Didn’t say nothing ‘bout lookin’. Heaven’s above the clouds, right?”

“I suppose…”

He put a hand on Joan’s knee. “Well, have you seen the weather? We could do anything we like and they’d never know.”

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Baker’s Dozen – the end and a new beginning?

As you may know, for the past few months I’ve been taking part in a collaborative fiction project hosted by Joe Owens at his blog. The final chapter is up, and if you didn’t read the previous chapters they can also be accessed by clicking on this link and then on the individual chapters.

It’s been an interesting exercise. It’s fair to say that the resulting story is not the greatest piece of literature ever written – on all levels from plot arc down to typos, via point of view inconsistencies, implausibilities, and clichés galore, it would need a serious rewrite to be even a good story, but it has been an interesting challenge and it makes a fun read.

My chapter happened to fall right in the middle of the thirteen. As such, I had a lot to work with from those who went before, but was also in a position to open up new paths and leave a great deal unresolved. For David and especially for Joe, who wrote the last two chapters respectively, those options weren’t open and I applaud the great job they did of bringing things together to a conclusion.

Would I do it again? Definitely. It’s the kind of project that flexes very different writerly muscles from the short prompts I work on in this blog or the longer stories I craft myself. Sure, it’s not something I think is ever going to yield publishable results, but as an exercise, it’s well worth a try, and you get to meet and learn from other writers too.

If you’re interested in trying out a similar project in the future, I’m sure Joe will host one again, but I’m also considering doing something myself at the end of the summer, so let me know. In the mean time, head over and check out the adventures of Forrest and Angie by clicking on the link above, or the logo below.

BakersDozen2

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Friday Fiction – Dress for Success

There was something deeply haunting about this week’s FF prompt from Janet Webb. So much so that I almost went with a ghostly theme for my story. But ultimately, the story landed almost fully-formed on the page. There are too many Austins in this world, and I am grateful not to be married to one of them.

window-dressing-janet-webb

Dreams

(Historical – though not *that* historical – fiction)

It called to her every time she passed, shaking its skirts, preening its bodice. But Austin would have gone mad if Janet spent her housekeeping on a frivolity. So she flirted with it from afar, sewing a quarter into the hem of her coat each week, pinning all her dreams on a dress in a store window.

Spring came. She mothballed her heavy winter coat, but not her dreams.

For a single night, the dress hung secretly on the balcony behind their tiny apartment. Austin slept soundly, Janet not a wink. Then the dress was gone, and Janet with it.

 

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Friday Fiction – Listening

Bit of a rush today – lots to do before more lovely visitors arrive this afternoon, so I’ll keep it brief. The Friday fiction bus is driven by Rochelle and has stopped this week at a pay phone belonging to Danny Bowman. I welcome all kinds of feedback on my story.

danny-bowman

Listening

When we were little, we made a string telephone. She, being the eldest, had the talking end and I the listening. That’s how I thought they worked. It was the same when we got older, she called to talk, I to listen.
So now what?
Is she talking in her head? Or does she expect me to take over? The doctor says she may be able to hear; that a favourite song or a beloved voice could bring her back. I want to believe it, but mine’s not a beloved voice, is it? I mean, would she even recognise it?

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In Mon – Cutting Through The Haze

Thursday morning, time for an InMon story! In light of my concerns about writing too many 100 word stories, I deliberately tried to go long this time. It comes in just under 500 words and I have to say there was a definite moment of hesitation at about 120! hopefully it doesn’t show and you enjoy the finished product. Thanks to Steph for a tough set of prompts this week.

The picture comes from wikimedia – I’m not sure about the grammar but I liked the sentiment (which reads: Good people are like street lights along the roads. They do not make the distance short, but they light up the path and make [the] walk easy and safe.)

120px-Good_People_are_like_Light

Night Visitor

Evening fell like a night from a Dickens novel – thick with fog and lit only by the distant glow of obscured streetlamps. The fog shrouded everything, from the lights to the far-off sounds of traffic and revellers. Some headed home, others headed out.

None of them would notice the lone figure on the damp pavement with his head tucked down under the high collar of his jacket. None of them would see him stop at each house, pause in the doorway, and then move on. His touch was like one from the angel of death: no-one saw him come or go, yet everyone felt his visit after he had left.

His feet pounded rhythmically as he moved from house to house, yet the sound went unheard. He traced a route he knew well – cutting across gardens and passing over fences where that shortened the path. Each step confident and accustomed. Each house known and expected.

Occasionally a dog barked, or a cat leapt from its position on a windowsill. Animals’ senses were so much more finely attuned to his presence. They could feel his approach, and it made them wary. Once, a barking dog was silenced by the gruff voice of a man, “Shut up! I can’t hear the TV”, but the man himself had no idea of the meaning and import of that bark; no idea how close he had passed.

At the end of the road, a police car drove by: its lights fuzzy in the fog but its siren cutting through the haze. He froze to the spot, waiting for it to pass out of sight and hearing. The fog seemed to close in, hiding him like the cloak of night.

Though he knew the police wouldn’t touch him, the siren left his heart beating faster. It had been so sudden and so loud in the quiet evening. He paused a moment after it had gone, waiting for the silence to feel comfortable again. Eventually, the sounds of traffic and distant crowds began to settle back in around him. He approached the next house, and a dog barked behind the door.

He was back into his stride now, a few houses from the end of the street.

The barking stopped and the door opened. “Get off my goddam porch before I set the dog on you!” shouted an old woman, silhouetted against the lights of the house. “I don’t want any more bleedin’ pizza leaflets. I’m lactose intolerant!”

Jacob smiled. He would take a break after this. Get a coke from the corner shop, maybe. Perhaps even a hot dog to fuel him for the rest of the shift, certainly not a pizza – he ate enough of those when he worked in the store.

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Friday Fiction – An Eulogy

Another piece for the Friday Fictioneers – thanks to Rochelle’s leadership and Ted‘s prompt.

When I saw this week’s prompt, I came up with a character, and this week’s piece is arguably more character sketch than story, but either way I like it. It raises the useful reminder that we should endeavour to create unique characters with rich and unusual histories. Which is why, when I made a typo half way through, I used it as a jumping off point instead of correcting it, and ultimately it became the title. I’d love to hear what you think – of the story as a whole, and that part in particular.

No edits this week, they weren’t very interesting.

icon-grill-ted-strutzAn Eulogy

Back when her paintings sold for thousands, someone had offered a million dollars for her “installation piece” and she’d said no. Sure, she could’ve replaced every bottle for that and kept the change, but it had taken her a long time and a lot of heartache to build her collection – a rough approximation of her Dad’s consumption. An eulogy, she called it. With the ‘n’: the punchline of a joke she never shared.

These days, no one wanted Mary or her paintings, and the bottles were gradually turning from full to empty. Her final tribute to her late, beloved father.

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Inspiration Monday – Time is a relative

Another InMon story, based on the prompts from Steph. I’m not sure this quite ended up where I expected it to, but then that’s the fun of writing!

 

It’s All Relative

“Time is a relative,” Dr Maunston droned.

“Like your great uncle,” Tommy whispered, leaning so close she could feel his breath on her neck like fingertips.

“Father, surely,” she smiled back.

A blank look crossed his face before she turned away, so fast she almost avoided seeing it. That was the problem with Tommy: hot as coffee, sharp as blancmange. She sighed and tried to concentrate on the lecture. Her friend Sally said you didn’t need a boy to be quick-witted when being close to him made you feel that way, but she wasn’t so sure.

“… then we are in a sense looking into the face of the future…” continued the Professor.

Her phone buzzed with a text message. If time is a relative and the future has a face, do you have to give it a peck on the cheek?

She turned and looked over her shoulder. Her best friend, Jason, was sitting a few rows behind. He didn’t have Tommy’s looks, or his spine-tingling breath, but Jason’s brain was like a switchblade by comparison. He was always right there on her wavelength. Jason caught her eye and winked.

Coffee after? She texted back.

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