Flash Fiction

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Amidst the Geeks

Photo © 2012 Markus Spiering
Click here for original image.

A hundred geeks with cameras. Yup, and I was buried smack-dab in the middle of ‘em. Didn’t want to be there. Didn’t mean to be there.

I remember in a high-school science class, we saw a film of an amoeba eating a paramecium. The amoeba’s body flowed around its prey, and after it had the poor bug surrounded, it just, kinda… digested it, right there, just like that. The paramecium squiggled and squirmed, tried valiantly to escape, but too little, too late. And then—poof!—it shimmered and was absorbed into the predator. It was gone.

That was me, that poor, little paramecium. My goofy boyfriend pulled me in before I knew what was going on. And by the time I realized what was going on, I was surrounded, and being digested by an amoeba, and unable to escape.

Chet had begged me to come along. He said I’d enjoy it. For the record, I didn’t. But I was glad he was finally enjoying something. He’s been so bent out of shape since he lost his job last April. Laid off on April the first, if you can get that joke.  Click to continue »

Tugat haNefesh

My soul is weary with sorrow;
strengthen me according to your word.
(Psalm 119:28)

Flashlight in hand, I progress slowly down each step, toward the dungeon in which I keep my soul. Repeating drops of condensation drip, drip, drip and echoes off the cold, dead walls. The scent of urine and defecation permeates the air, and intermingles with a poison must.

I loathe this place, which reeks of hell and depression.

I approach the cage. My keys rattle against the thick, steel slats, as I wrestle with the heavy padlock.

The noise rouses my soul from her bed on the concrete. She glares at me in terror, her once luminous countenance now merely flickering a dim grey, bruised and mottled from years of abuse and neglect. She slinks into the opposite corner. I swing the gate open, slowly enter the cage, but do not approach her. The terror of a hundred thousand past encounters etches itself into her eyes, as they follow me, tracking me.

I stoop in my corner of the cage. I try not to touch the floor with my knees or hands, but I cannot get down to her eye-level, because she is balled up tight as an armadillo bug, her eyes peeking out from behind emaciated fingers.

“I wanted you to make me popular, powerful,” I explain. “I expected you to do whatever necessary, whatever I demanded. I thought that would bring me fame and fortune, and fame and fortune would bring me happiness.”

My eyes stare as into the void.

“But it didn’t work,” stolid. “And now there’s no one left in the house but you and me. And I’ve all but killed you.”

I rise, not knowing what else I might say. I want to tell her I’m sorry, but I know she cannot believe me. I have worn out any trust she may have ever had for me.  Click to continue »

#FridayFlash Favorites (2011/04/08)

Photo © 2009 Arty Smokes CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

I’m trying yet another strategy for these #FridayFlash Favorites. This week, since I had some time to post them and found a number of stories that made the cut, I’ll post a selection from this week along with a few from weeks gone past.

This week, I want to feature a special #FridayFlash, special not because it’s better than the best I’ve read, but special because its author may remove it as soon as she discovers this link. (Monday, I’ll post the tale behind that hubbub, and what it means for the writing experience.) So catch this story now, before it (possibly) disappears forever:

I’m referring to “Too Shiny for a Ladybird” by Rachel Carter, a story about the people we love, who make us who we are.

And on top of that…

7 More #FridayFlash Favorites

(in true random order, using Random.org’s list randomizer)

Substitute (by Danielle La Paglia)

Photo © 2011 Gerald Pereira CC BY 2.0

Something a little different today. I signed up to take part in Tony Noland’s Great April Fool’s Day #FridayFlash Blogswap. Tony paired me up with Danielle La Paglia, who has in gracious silence endured my haphazard attempt at keeping to a deadline.

(Oy. Just be thankful you’re not my publisher.)

Danielle and I both wrote a story around the same prompt. I’m posting hers here, and she’s posting my story over on her blog. Tony gave us the following prompt to inspire our stories: “three free tickets to a movie.”



by Danielle La Paglia

Sandy fingered the tickets in her coat pocket, sliding their slick backs together as she stared at the house. It had seemed like such a good idea when she’d stopped by the theater two days ago, but the thin slips of paper felt inadequate and meaningless now. What good were three free tickets when they’d lost so much? She thought of putting the car in drive and heading home, but John stepped onto the porch and waived. There was no turning back.  Click to continue »

Perhaps to Dream

Original photo © 2009 sflovestory CC BY 2.0

Head down in the middle of her solid mahogany desk, eyelids blocking the mid-morning sun from the searing pain behind the bridge of her nose, the expanse of her office morphed into a loosely packed suburb of rich greens and blues. A month of late-night facts and figures melted into the insanity of random imagination. Her Starbucks dark-roast tasted like Kahlúa. The bottle of store-brand ibuprofen became a mailman in sexy shorts, delivering packages of happiness.

“We finally made it!” she bragged.

He wrapped strong hands around the back of her shoulders and her aching neck muscles, and firmly massaged. “Mmm,” she groaned, and stretched and relaxed her neck.

“I’ll pick up the kids and meet you at six?” he said.

She nodded, laid back on her mahogany deckchair, closed her eyes again, and sipped her Kahlúa. A long, deep sigh.

Then thunder boomed from the overcast sky.

“What the hell do I pay you for?!” The voice pierced through her brain.

“Ssh,” she mumbled to the intruder, with his doughnut gut, hulking shoulders, and close-cropped greying hair. “Inside voices, please, Bart.”

“Hey, you do the wine, you pay the time.” His voice remained as loud as before.

“I’m not hung over, and that doesn’t even make sense,” she said.  Click to continue »

Fired Up over Short Fiction

Camille LaGuire, the Daring Novelist, yesterday talked about her dare to publish short-fiction ebooks. She talks about novelettes that she had written, which no one wanted to publish because they were too long for magazines and too thin as hardcovers. But in today’s market, she can publish these as cheap, short ebooks. She also talks about writing more flash fiction, more novellas…

… give the reader plenty of chances to get to know my work in short form.

The key, though, is to work toward writing short fiction with the appeal of a novel. You’ve got to write stories not experiments or clever bits of nothing. Short fiction used to be all about stories, but then the short fiction markets became more literary, and for the longest time even in genre, experiment seemed to win out over story. Well, you know, sometimes writing an experiment is good for your skills, and I don’t rule out writing that kind of story once in a while, but the plan is not to do that any more than necessary.

Finally! An author who is of the same mind as I! (Or truthfully, yet another author. I get a little over-excited with each new one I discover.)

In all the flash fiction I read online, I grow frustrated at the amount of literary—and wannabe literary—crap that people rave over. Sometimes, I feel I need to stop and shout to the flash-fiction world, “If nothing changes, you don’t have a story!” Many flash authors are not writing stories; they’re writing snippets of setting or character description. Their entire flash piece isn’t even enough story for an individual scene of a novel, much less for an entire story.

I’ll be watching for Camille’s short fiction, you can be sure of that.  Click to continue »

The Woman Who Loved Men

Photo © 2007 Randal Cooper CC BY-SA 2.0

Mark, timid little creature, he stammered through, asked me to “dinner or something, sometime.” I smiled and told him I’d love to, because he’s cute and sweet, and he plays a beautiful guitar. He’ll never dominate the top of the heap, but you always know where you stand with him, and you can trust him always to be faithful and to do the right thing. Mark, it turns out, is also a great kisser, which I knew he was going to be. And deeply passionate. Sigh.

Tony, on the other hand, he lives the life of the stereotypical alpha male. Six feet, 190 pounds, works out at the gym every day and benches 350. Top dog in his world, and he knows it. So when asked me to drinks, he already knew I’d say yes. You could see it in his eyes. He strolled by while I was halfway through my run on the treadmill, stopped for a minute and admired me— I wanted him to take me right then and there.  Click to continue »

Of Death and Smiles

Photo © 2010 rawryder CC BY-ND 2.0)

He smiled over his Sunday morning oatmeal, plain and steaming, his grapefruit cut into halves. Smiled with his eyes. Gotta remember, always with the eyes.

That’s your problem,” pointing at his wife’s sausage and pancakes, drenched with syrup.

“And that’s yours!” She pointed back, at his grapefruit, her well-rounded face slinging condemnation.

“It wouldn’t hurt you to get up off your ass once in a while, either, and exercise.” He suddenly realized he was no longer smiling. Remember, always with the eyes.

He had read that people who smile with their eyes live longer. Seriously. Researchers at Wayne State University in Michigan studied photographs of baseball players from the 1950′s. Those who were smiling with their eyes in the photos lived an average of 7 years longer than those who were not smiling at all.

A week later, he eyed her toast, golden brown and delicious. Of its own accord, his hand reached out and snarfed a slice.

“Be careful,” she said. “That has butter on it!”

He knew she was mocking him, but he couldn’t help but chuckle. He stopped, staring at it, debating whether to put it down or to put it in his mouth.

“You’re too much!” She interrupted his thoughts.  Click to continue »

An Indelible Design

I recline in one of the big comfy chairs in the corner at the local Internet café, reading a novel, immersed in conflict, challenge, adventure. She curls up in the other chair, across from mine, her feet tucked under her legs, and stares out the window. The sight pulls me from my book.

Quiet, pretty, young, she rarely smiles, even when serving customers their coffee and muffins. Each morning, I make it a point to grin long and broad, with “please” and “thanks.” But in return I rarely receive more than a rote, “Café Americano, two sixty-five.”

Then, at about 10 o’clock, she takes a break, to sit and stare. The sun peeks around the edge of a cloud overhead, now gleaming through her tender blue eyes and warming her luxurious, dark hair. Her face softens, and my heart melts, and I wonder what she thinks about.

At that moment, she raises her hand to her chin, and the sleeve of her black uniform slides down enough to reveal pieces of blue and red scribbled into her arm.

“What’s your tattoo?” I ask.

I myself have never mustered the will and courage to subject myself to the tattooist’s needle.

A frown etches its way across her face. “Nothing,” she mutters, her eyes still transfixed on the outside scene.

I shrug my eyebrows, as if to shrug off the hurt I feel. I return to the joyful fantasy of my book– Or rather, I am just about to return to it, when the girl silently unbuttons her sleeve, rolls it up, holds out her wrist, revealing a half a butterfly, its intricate wings painted in dazzling blue. The half-butterfly sits on the stem of a rose blossom, deep green and red.

“Wow,” I say. “That’s really beautiful.” Then, “Why only half a butterfly?”

“The other half– flew away,” she says, returns to her window view, her frown now more pronounced than ever.  Click to continue »

The Nitpicker’s Guide to Magnum, P.I.

I’m staring at her animated features from across a half-eaten slab of flounder and a mostly-empty glass of Chardonnay. She drones on. Still pretty as when I first met her, but I wonder if I were to choke on an errant bone if it would give me an excuse…

No such luck.

You wouldn’t think it possible that any one person could know this much about Magnum, P.I. Much to my surprise, you would be wrong. I bet she could recite every word of the script of every episode by heart. Apparently, she maintains her own very complete “Nitpicker’s Guide to Magnum, P.I.” site on the web. I say “apparently,” because I haven’t seen it myself. Probably only two or three people in the universe have. I chuckle at the thought. I guess the chuckle is well-timed, because she doesn’t seem offended.

Rather, she nods enthusiastically. “Really!” Her eyebrows shoot up, eyes wide. “No kidding!”

“But what bugs me most,” she says, “is how he always lets people walk all over him.”

I’m not as expert as she is, but I recall Magnum as a hard-boiled, Vietnam vet, an ’80′s TV private-eye, fearless and shrewd, the sort of guy who could whoop ass in a bar-fight but knows better than to get into one. Don’t let any of that give pause to her tirade. I guess the good-looking, sensitive, Hawaiian-surf image works even in the 21′st century.  Click to continue »

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