Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: The Hole

Every Friday, Kurt posts a new piece of original flash fiction. This week...

The Hole
Word Count: 600

I was eleven when Tyler Pendergrast fell into the hole. It happened after dinner on March 3rd; he went out to play down by the creek that ran behind the subdivision and never came home for bed. His ma called the police and apparently they were out there combing the woods for him, but they kept it quiet. All any of the rest of us knew was that he didn’t show up for school the next day.

By that evening, it was pretty clear that something was wrong. The grown-ups would have us leave the room when they took a phone call and then they would talk in whispers. My dad got a call during dinner and he went and got his flashlight and left with his plate still half-full. I begged him, but neither he nor ma would say what he was doing. I guess they figured the truth was scarier than whatever our imaginations might cook up.

The next day at school we all knew—Tyler Pendergrast was missing. I guess some parents weren’t as good at keeping secrets as mine were, and by then the whole community had basically shut down. The men were out walking the woods looking for him and the women went to something called a “phone bank.” Tyler’s ma got on the news and begged for whoever took him to bring him back. She was dressed up like for church, but she still looked like she hadn’t slept in days. She was on the news every evening for the next week.

By then he was dead. A couple kids found him that July. Jake’s dad is a police sergeant, and he heard that it’d taken him two days to die, according to the doctor who examined his body. By then, most of us had figured him for dead anyway. In truth, we’d kind of forgotten about it. Supposedly, when Lloyd Tompson got the news, his response had been “Tyler who?”

Tyler’s brother said he thought he’d run away. He said Tyler wasn’t very happy at home, but I don’t put much stock in that. After he disappeared, Tyler’s family got kind of messed up. By the time they found him, his dad had moved away and needed to come back for the funeral. I heard him say he was glad that nobody had done anything perverted to his boy. I guess you take whatever comforts you can in that sort of situation.

A couple of the parents wanted to fill the hole with cement or something so it could never happen again, but the alderman talked them out of trying. He said that with a sinkhole that size, there’s not much you can do. No telling when it first formed. For all we knew, the ground fell out from under Tyler’s feet.

I was fourteen when Jenna Avery fell into the hole. She’d had a fight with her boyfriend and hadn’t been paying attention to where she was going. She’d run away once before, so nobody thought much of it at first, but Jake and I eventually thought to look for her there.

She’d been down there for a day and a half with a broken ankle, sitting in a puddle of her own filth. She cried when we told her we’d have to leave to get help. She called us any number of filthy names. Later, her dad called us heroes.

I go back there every March 3rd. I stare and wonder what’s down there and wonder who, if anyone, would come looking if it was me that fell in.

Edited by Carolyn "My Imagination Does Terrible Things" Abram.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Hey Joe

So, I've decided to keep this thing going for a little long. Year 2 of Friday Flash Fiction begins today with a story that has deep sentimental value...

Hey Joe
Word Count: 600
“Hey, Joe,” I said, nodding to the barman as I took a seat. “Slice me a beer, would you?”

Joe pried a pre-cut sliver from a green tube and dropped it into a pint glass. He added a spray of seltzer water to bring the green drink fizzing to life. “You want a cup of pizza or something to go with it?” he asked.

“Nah,” I said. “My shuttle boards in twenty minutes.”

“Inbound or outbound?” Joe asked.

He knew, of course. Bartenders in spaceports always knew. My pappy used to say that when telepathy first manifested itself in humans a hundred years ago, any with the ability immediately became bartenders. Like anyone really believes in telepathy, though. They memorize the schedules because there’s nothing else to do when you’re sitting in a rotating tin can that’s three hundred miles at perigee from the nearest habitable rock.

Still, it’s more polite to ask.

“Outbound,” I said, and then I took a long, deep swig. It was bitter, ice cold, and perfect.

“Shipping or mining?” asked Joe.

“Exploration,” I told him. Technically it’s considered “research” to tap on rocks and see what comes out, but in reality it’s basically—

“Ah, mining… only without the glory,” said Joe.

“Yeah,” I said.

A few others drifted in, each with a polite “Hey, Joe” before finding a seat. I recognized a few from the flight in. No doubt we’d be sharing a shuttle heading out, too.

“I guess these fellers are going to be your family for the next eighteen months,” said Joe.

“Sixteen,” I said, taking another drink.

“That’s short for a contract, isn’t it?” asked Joe.

“No,” I told him. “It’s always sixteen. Didn’t you know that?”

“I suppose I did,” said Joe. “Must have slipped my mind. You ready for another?”

I took a longing gaze at my now two-thirds empty pint. “Not just yet,” I said. I am, I thought, but I shouldn’t. Shuttle bathrooms are tiny freaking nightmares. I took another deep pull. It tasted bitterer than before. Sixteen months. Jesus. A year and a half once you figure in travel time. How did I end up in this mess, doing off-world research while my ex-wife and our kids live in the house I paid for? How did it all just get away from me?

“How about now?” asked Joe.

“Yeah,” I said. “Go ahead.”

“It’s funny how things get away from you,” said Joe, spritzing another green slice, transforming it into creamy, fuzzy nectar.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Forget I said anything,” said Joe. “You should drink that quickly and be on your way.”

“Come again?”

Joe leaned forward on his elbows. “Wouldn’t want to miss your flight.”

I squinted at Joe. “Why did you say that? About things—”

“Getting away from you? Because it’s what you needed to hear.”

What in the hell—

“What the hell am I talking about?” asked Joe. “Look, there’s trade secrets and then there’s trade secrets. Know what I mean? Of course you don’t, but you’re going to go along with it for the time being because I’m freaking you out a little right now. Those two men in the corner are having a disagreement, and one of them is armed. I’ve alerted security, but I don’t think they’re going to get here in time.”

I looked at Joe. Then at my drink. “Why?” I asked. “How?”

“Because you’re a nice guy and you tip well,” he said, smiling. “Now, drink up and let’s be off with you.”

So I paid up and left before the shooting started.

Edited by Carolyn "I Love This As An Opener" Abram.

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Well, It's Been A Year Of Friday Flash Fiction

And what a difference a year can make.

One year ago I decided to commit myself to writing and publishing a new piece of original flash fiction every Friday. There have now been fifty-two of those Fridays, and I'm a little beside myself.

When I started this, I had never actually written a piece of flash fiction. My very first flash story was based around a gimmick that would allow me to cheat the word count by not attributing any of the dialog. And, let's face it, the first month and a half weren't very good. They weren't unreadable by any stretch, but they had some very rough edges.

Still, you have to crawl before you can walk, etc, and it's been an interesting journey. There was the month of Storymatic posts which included my absolute favorite, a silly medieval fantasy piece called Dragon Steaks. There was the month of Jethro Tull stories. And the smattering of ridiculously meta fiction. During this past year I've had a story adapted for radio and another that ran in a professional market. I also fixed a dreadful SEO problem and got lots of practice writing, honing my craft. So, altogether, I would call this a productive little experiment.

Next question: now what? Well, I'm not sure. I want to keep having regular posts, but I haven't yet decided if I'm going to start something new and more ambitious or just keep this going for another year. Or maybe both. Or, hell, I may even take a month to regroup. I guess you'll just have to wait until Friday to find out.

So let me close with this: I've enjoyed the hell of out this bizarre writing project, and I hope a few you have enjoyed reading it. Talk to you in a few.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

FFF: The Lighthouse

For each of the last fifty-two Fridays, Kurt has posted a piece of original flash fiction. This week's is a celebration of a journey's end...

The Lighthouse
Word Count: 599

Brett’s foot landed heavily in the surf, waves lapping at his ankle. He dragged the rowboat up onto the shore at the foot of what used to be a lighthouse, back when it still had a light in it. Now it was just a house, albeit a tall one, with broken glass and rusted walls and rotten wood.

“Ho, there,” said a familiar voice—one that belonged to an unfamiliar face. “Can I help you, young man?”

Brett peered at the tired old woman’s body and wondered how his aunt’s voice had found its way into it. “Hullo, Auntie Reese,” he said. “It’s me. I’m back.”

“Brett?” she said. “Is it really you?”

A younger Brett would have run up to his aunt and thrown his arms around her. This Brett walked.

“It’s been a long time,” said Auntie Reese.

It had. Brett released his aunt and took a look around the beach. The lighthouse had been operational when he left. The pier he had dived from as a child had been torn down and replaced by a larger one with metal guardrails and mounted binoculars. He whistled. “This place sure has changed,” he said.

“So have you,” said Auntie Reese, smiling.

Brett frowned. He didn’t feel all that different.

“Do you have a place to stay?” Reese asked.

“Not yet, but it’s still morning,” said Brett. “I’ll find something. What happened to the light?” He pointed up at the lighthouse.

“Bad wiring mostly,” said Reese. “And time. My Winston passed three summers ago, and he was the only one who really looked after it. After your father…” She didn’t finish.

She didn’t have to. The last thing Brett remembered before setting out was finding his father washed up on this very beach. It was funny, in a way, that the same ocean had given Brett so much life on his journey and had taken life away from his father.

“You know,” said Reese, “he’d always hoped to pass the lighthouse on to you, rather than his brother.”

“Who owns it now?” asked Brett.

“The council bought it from me after Winston died,” said Reese. “They might be willing to sell to someone who would take care of it.”

“It could use a coat of paint,” said Brett, smiling.

“It could use a lot more than that,” said Reese. “A lighthouse without a light is just a house. And this island needs a good lighthouse with a good caretaker. Someone who won’t run away.”

“Aye,” said Brett. “A fixed point on the horizon.” His voice trailed off. He’d have to talk it over with the wife, when she arrived in a fortnight. And he’d need to have set up lodging by then. And he’d need to arrange schooling for their daughter. And yet… part of him wanted to run up to the old place and move back into his old bedroom.

“So, does that gleam in your eye mean you intend to stay?” asked Reese.

“I don’t know,” said Brett. “I’ve only just arrived. Anything could happen, really.”

“Well, at least let me cook you some breakfast before you set out again.”

“I’d love that,” said Brett. “But I can’t. I have so much to do this morning. Perhaps dinner?”

Reese nodded. “You know where to find me.”

“I do,” said Brett. “Thank you.” He started up the beach, towards the town behind the bluff.

“Brett,” Reese called after him. “Did you find what you were looking for out there?”

Brett grinned. “I didn’t know what I was looking for,” he said. “But I found a great many things.”

Edited by Carolyn "I Love How This Ends" Abram.

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Friday, June 7, 2013

FFF: Dear Sirs

Every Friday Kurt posts a new piece of original flash fiction. This week...

Dear Sirs
Word Count: 600

Dear Mr. Hemmingfield:

It has taken me some time to find you. You may recall that on the twenty-third of last month you entered my business establishment, Farnsworth Jewelers, and proposed making purchase of a locket for your betrothed.

You may recall that I was the fellow who advised against leaning on the glass display counter, given your generous girth, as it is not designed to withstand that sort of stress. You may also recall that this glass display counter did, in fact, crack under the weight.

Now, originally you maintained that it had already been cracked when you leaned over, when I was finally able to get you to acknowledge that it was, in fact, cracked. I have reviewed the surveillance footage of the incident, and I am convinced that you are to blame for the damage. Therefore, I request that you remit payment of $142.59 to cover the replacement of that glass and the installation. I trust we can resolve this without involving any legal council.

Sincerely,

James Chesterton Farnsworth III




Dear Mr. Farnsworth:

Your mother…

Regards,

Claude Hemmingfield




Dear Mr. Hemmingfield:

I am not sure I take your meaning. I have come to you with a serious claim of property damage, and I expect you to do the right and honorable thing and remit payment of $142.59 to cover the damages. I would prefer not to involve lawyers for a sum this trivial, but I will not hesitate to do so if you are unwilling to cooperate.

I trust I will see payment included in your timely correspondence.

Sincerely,

James Chesterton Farnsworth III




Dear Mr. Farnsworth:

…is a whore.

Regards,

Claude Hemmingfield




Dear Mr. Hemmingfield:

I suspect you are having sport at my expense, and I would greatly appreciate it if you ceased. My mother is a virtuous and kindly woman in her late years, and to impugn her character as you have done is beyond distasteful. In addition to the $142.59 that you owe me for damages to my display case, I expect a full apology to myself as well as my dear mother for this jape.

I trust I will find both of these in your next correspondence.

Sincerely,

James Chesterton Farnsworth III




Dear Mr. Farnsworth:

Your sister…

Regards,

Claude Hemmingfield




Dear Mr. Hemmingfield:

Now, that is just rude. Kindly stop this tomfoolery at once. There is no call for you to be making accusations about the female members of my family. This could all be over if you would simply make payment of $142.59 for the parts and labor to replace the glass display case pane that you yourself destroyed.

This nonsense must stop, post haste, or I will engage the services of an attorney.

Good day,

James Chesterton Farnsworth III




Dear Mr. Farnsworth:

…is a two-bit prostitute.

Regards,

Claude Hemmingfield




Dear Mr. Hemmingfield:

I am shocked—shocked—that you value my sister’s services so poorly. Surely a woman of her comely distinction is worth more than twenty-five cents. That said, as you claim to have been buggered by both her and my mother, I feel that some surcharges are in order. For instance, my mother’s advanced experience must surely be reflected in the quality of her prowess and therefore rate her at $120. Combine that with $.25 for my sister, a 10% surcharge for the two-some and 7.8% sales tax brings the total to $142.59.

Please remit payment within 30 days.

Sincerely,

James Chesteron Farnsworth III




Dear Mr. Farnsworth:

Fair enough. Enclosed is payment for $142.59 for services rendered.

Regards,

Claude Hemmingfield

Edited by Carolyn "I Actually Did The Math" Abram.

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