Monday, July 29, 2013

To The Victor (revised)

So, because of some bad planning on my part, I posted a Friday Flash Fiction story before getting edits back from Carolyn. She came through with edits anyway, and how I wish I had waited. For posterity, I'm going to leave the old version up, but here's one with edits. So if you want to know what Carolyn does for me, read on...

To The Victor (revised)
Word Count: 600

Karthos winced as the chains scraped against his wrists and ankles. Lord Seebly stood over him with a lantern. Karthos had been in the dungeon for a week, maybe longer. It was getting hard to keep count.

“Let’s try again,” said Seebly, spittle bubbling on a lip that trembled with rage. “How did you kill Myka the Bold?”

“In combat,” said Karthos.

“Liar!” shouted Seebly.

“Fine,” said Karthos. “Leave me here for a while longer. When you ask in a week, you’ll get the same answer.”

“You can’t have beaten him,” said Seebly. “You’re a weakling; Myka was a champion.”

Was,” said Karthos. “And I’m not so weak as I look.”

“The Hidden Duel is a sacred contest,” said Seebly. “You profane the gods with your lies.”

“Perhaps,” said Karthos. “Or maybe the gods gave the victory to me.” He looked up with a smile. “In which case, you’re the one profaning them.”

Seebly spat.

“Fine,” said Karthos. “Come back in a week and ask me again.”

“You will tell me how you killed him!” shouted Seebly. He grabbed Karthos by heavy iron chain around his neck and shook him.

“I told you,” said Karthos. “We crossed swords. Mine was faster.”

“Impossible!” said Seebly.

“Oh, it is very possible,” said Karthos. “It wasn’t even that hard.”

“Myka the Bold has won every Hidden Duel in the last thirteen years,” said Seebly.

“When was the last time you saw him fight?” asked Karthos.

“He’s bested hundreds of champions from every neighboring kingdom,” said Seebly. “There’s no way he lost to a lowly farmer like you.”

“Yeah, that’s just what he told me,” said Karthos. “Funny thing about the Hidden Duel. It’s hidden. No crowds. No judges. Just two men, their swords, and the gods, and to the victor go the spoils. So I’ll ask you once more, my Lord. When was the last time anyone actually saw Myka fight?”

Seebly straightened, but did not speak.

“Been some time, I imagine,” said Karthos, “years, perhaps.”

Seebly snorted.

“Better part of a decade?” asked Karthos.

Seebly stared at Karthos for a long moment. Finally he spat. “I’ve had enough of your lies for one afternoon.” He turned on his heel to exit the dungeon.

“Myka the Bold could barely raise his sword,” called out Karthos. “His muscles had weakened. His senses were dull. His words came slowly. It was obvious from the moment we both entered the ring that he was no match for me physically. But he still had one important weapon: his reputation. He told me this would happen if I killed him—that no one would ever believe he’d been beaten. Told me if I surrendered that I’d get a quick death and that my family would be rewarded for my participation.”

Seebly had stopped. He shouted over his shoulder without turning. “Why should I believe you?”

Believe me?” asked Karthos. “You should be thanking me. Myka the Bold had turned your so-called sacred contest into a ruse. If anyone was profaning the gods, it was him. And I put a stop to it.”

Seebly paused. “Why?” he finally asked.

“Because I don’t like cheats and liars,” said Karthos. “And I frequently act without much forethought.” He shrugged. “I cut him down in a matter of seconds.”

Seebly bent down.

“Come back in a week and ask me again, if you like,” said Karthos. “Or declare me the champion right now.”

“The people won’t believe it,” said Seebly.

“They will if you tell them to,” said Karthos.

Seebly stood. “I’ll think about it,” he said, heading for the door.

Edited by Carolyn "This Feels Awkward But Perfect" Abram

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: To The Victor

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

To The Victor
Word Count: 600

Karthos winced as the chains tightened around his wrists and ankles. Lord Seebly stood over him with a lantern. Karthos had been in the dungeon for a week, maybe longer. It was getting hard to keep count.

“Let’s try again,” said Seebly. “How did you kill Myka the Bold?” Spittle bubbled on a lip that trembled with rage.

“In combat,” said Karthos.

“Liar!” shouted Seebly.

“Fine,” said Karthos. “Leave me here for a while longer. When you ask in a week, I’ll tell you the same.”

“You can’t have beaten him,” said Seebly. “You’re a weakling, Myka was a champion.”

“Was,” said Karthos. “And I’m not so weak as I look.”

“The Hidden Duel is a sacred contest,” said Seebly. “You profane the gods with your lies.”

“Perhaps,” said Karthos. “Or maybe the gods gave the victory to me.” He looked up with a smile. “In which case, you’re the one profaning them.”

Seebly spat.

“Fine,” said Karthos. “Come back in a week and ask me again.”

“You will tell me how you killed him!” shouted Seebly. He grabbed Karthos’ shirt and shook him, rattling the heavy iron chain around his neck.

“I told you,” said Karthos. “We crossed swords. Mine was faster.”

“Impossible!” said Seebly.

“Oh, it was very possible,” said Karthos. “It wasn’t even that hard.”

“Myka the Bold has won every Hidden Duel in the last thirteen years,” said Seebly.

“When was the last time you saw him fight?” asked Karthos.

“He’s bested hundreds of champions from every neighboring kingdom,” said Seebly. “There’s no way he lost to a lowly farmer like you.”

“Yeah, that’s just what he told me,” said Karthos. “Funny thing about the Hidden Duel. It’s hidden. No crowds. No judges. Just two men, their swords, and the gods, and to the victor go the spoils. So I’ll ask you once more, my Lord. When was the last time anyone actually saw Myka fight?”

Seebly straightened, but did not speak.

“Been some time, I imagine,” said Karthos. “Years, perhaps.”

Seebly said nothing.

“Better part of a decade?” asked Karthos.

Seebly said nothing for a moment. Finally he cursed. “I’ve had enough of your lies for one afternoon.” He turned on his heels to exit the dungeon.

“Myka the Bold could barely raise his sword,” called out Karthos. “His muscles had weakened. His senses were dull. His words came slowly. It was obvious from the moment we both entered the ring that he was no match for me physically. But he still had one important weapon: his reputation. He told me this would happen if I killed him—that no one would ever believe he’d been beaten. Told me that if I surrendered, I’d get a quick death and my family would be rewarded for my participation.”

Seebly had stopped. He shouted over his shoulder without turning. “Why should I believe you?”

Believe me?” asked Karthos. “You should be thanking me. Myka the Bold had turned your so-called sacred contest into a ruse. If anyone was profaning the gods, it was him. And I put a stop to it.”

Seebly paused. “Why?” he finally asked.

“Because I don’t like cheats and liars,” said Karthos. “And I frequently act without much forethought.” He shrugged. “I cut him down in a matter of seconds.”

Seebly bent down.

“Come back in a week and ask me again, if you like,” said Karthos. “Or you could declare me the champion.”

“The people won’t believe it,” said Seebly.

“They will if you tell them to,” said Karthos.

Seebly stood. “I’ll think about it,” he said, heading for the door.

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Cheese Danish Guy

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

Cheese Danish Guy
Word Count: 599

“I think this is all going to blow over,” read Stacy.

Harvey harrumphed.

“It’s just a big misunderstanding,” said Stacy. “You’ll see.”

“Will you just go tell Steve about the meeting?” asked Harvey.

“I will, I will,” said Stacy. “Don’t get so upset, you cheese danish.” Stacy looked up from her script. “I’ll be honest,” she said, “I don’t really get the whole cheese danish thing.”

Harvey was flipping a pen in the air. “That’s because you read it wrong,” he said. “It’s not ‘you, cheese danish.’ It’s more like ‘ya cheese danish.’ You know, kind of like ‘faggedaboudit’ or… ‘ya big lug.’ You know.”

“I just… I don’t think it’s a real thing that people say,” said Stacy.

“Well, nobody says it now,” said Harvey. “But they will. It’s a catch phrase.”

“But it’s not a real catch phrase,” said Stacy.

“But it will be,” said Harvey.

“This is a spec script,” said Stacy. “Shouldn’t we maybe worry about catch phrases after we’ve sold it?”

“Methinks the junior writer doth protest too much,” said Harvey.

“I feel like it’s a lot to explain to a studio exec,” said Stacy.

“Look, it’s not going to be the one thing that keeps a studio from making this pilot,” said Harvey. “We’ve got a great premise, don’t we?”

“We do,” said Stacy.

“And great characters, right?” said Harvey.

“They’re fine,” said Stacy.

“They’re more than fine,” said Harvey. “They’re iconic. And part of that iconography is Jeremy’s catch phrase. He’s the Cheese Danish Guy. Do you think people went around saying ‘Heeeeeeeey’ before Fonzie?”

“I’m pretty sure ‘Hey’ was in the lexicon before Happy Days, yeah,” said Stacy.

“Not ‘Hey’,” Harvey clarified, “but ‘Heeeeeeeeeeeey.’ You see the difference?”

“I get what you’re doing, I really do,” said Stacy, chewing her lip. “I think it’s a good marketing tool once the show has been picked up, but for now it’s kind of a distraction.”

“Studio execs know the value of a good catch phrase,” said Harvey.

Well, I don’t, Stacy wanted to say, but she was the junior. Harvey was a fossil, but it was his show to run.

“You don’t approve,” said Harvey.

“What?” said Stacy. “Did I say that?”

“You were thinking it,” said Harvey.

“I wasn’t thinking anything,” said Stacy.

“You were,” said Harvey, “and I want to hear it. Never let it be said that I don’t listen to ideas from others in the writers’ room.”

“No one’s saying that,” said Stacy.

“Tell me what you really think,” said Harvey. “Right now.”

Stacy studied the floor. She was too new in this field to be mouthing off to a superior. That could end a career, if she wasn’t careful.

“Just say it,” said Harvey. “I won’t fire you.”

Stacy took a deep breath. “I think it’s not 1992,” she said.

“Come again?”

“It’s not 1992,” she said. “Catch phrases are fine, but we live in the age of the internet. Things go viral, but you can’t plan them. And character tics that become catch phrases have as much to do with the actor as they do with the character being portrayed, so there’s no point in assigning a catch phrase to a character we haven’t cast. But mostly I think that no one at any point in human history has ever called another person a cheese danish.”

For a while, no one spoke.

Harvey broke the silence. “Well, I did say to be honest.”

“Sorry,” said Stacy.

“We’ll table the cheese danish,” said Harvey. “Just one quick question though.”

“Shoot,” said Stacy.

“How about calling someone a fruit salad?”

Edited by Carolyn "Such A Weird Weird Idea" Abram.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Coming Soon To An E-Reader Near You...



Friday, July 12, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Jim and Todd

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

Jim and Todd
Word Count: 596

This is Jim. He is a junior partner at a prestigious law firm. He drives a Miata. He is drinking a sherry cobbler. He is talking with Todd, an ad man. Todd drives a Chevrolet. He is drinking a Mai Tai. He is wearing his favorite suit.

Little do Jim and Todd know that this is the last conversation they will ever have.

Jim and Todd went to high school together. Their spouses get along well. Their children are roughly the same age. They’re on each other’s Holiday Greeting Card lists. They wish each other Happy Birthday on Facebook. They enjoy each other’s company and have many friends in common.

And yet, they will never speak to each other again. They will never see each other in person. They will not speak on the phone. They won’t exchange a letter or email or SMS message.

It’s not about prestige. And it’s not about geography either. They will both stay in the same city, living just two townships away. They won’t have a falling out of any kind. Neither of them is going to die in the next twenty years. There is no reason at all for anything to come between them. And yet their friendship, which they both find rewarding, is ephemeral, and is about to dissolve completely, without either of them noticing at first.

They will, cliche though it may be, grow apart. It can be put no more simply than that. They have dissimilar interests. They live in different worlds. They belong to different political parties. They practice different religions. They attended different colleges. They support different sports teams. Now, either of them would say that it’s important to surround oneself with people who disagree with you. They even believe that this makes their friendship more valuable.

And yet…

One day, Todd will hear some story about Jim and think It’s been ages—I ought to give Jim a call and catch up. But he won’t. This will happen many times to both men. But neither will call, even though their numbers are at this very moment programmed into each other’s phones. Those contact lists will be migrated to dozens of different phones over the next twenty-odd years.

And then one day, Todd will die. He will have lived a happy life, but he has a heart condition that he doesn’t know about, and he doesn’t eat very healthily or exercise as often as he should—he accepts this about himself and he wishes his practitioner would stop hounding him about it. He will die in his early sixties. Not exactly young, but short of retirement.

When Jim sees Todd’s name in the obituary, he will be overcome with something that isn’t quite sadness, isn’t quite loss, isn’t quite regret, and yet it moves him profoundly. He will find Todd’s number in his cell phone. He will hesitate before calling, telling himself that it’s crazy to call a dead man’s mobile.

When Todd’s wife answers, Jim will offer his condolences. He’ll ask if they need anything. They will exchange small talk, ask about each other’s families. “Oh, we’re divorced,” Jim will say. “Oh, he just got a promotion,” Todd’s wife will say. Jim will ask about the funeral service, even though he doesn’t plan to attend, and even though all the information is in the paper right in front of him.

Jim will remember this last conversation with Todd—not what it was about, who can remember what a conversation is about? Just that it was friendly, and pleasant, and a long time ago.

Edited by Carolyn "Ad Men Can Make Damn Good Money" Abram.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Flash Fiction: Lucidity

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

Lucidity
Word Count: 600

“Dinner is served, my lord” said Oderly, Lord Bodwin’s manservant. He led Bodwin to the dining room where his master found his meal waiting. Oderly disappeared for a few seconds and returned with a pitcher of spiced wine. “May I pour you a glass, sir?” he asked.

“Thank you,” said Bodwin.

Oderly set the pitcher on the table and removed himself to the corner of the room.

Bodwin bit his lip. He needed to ask. He’d been planning to ask. Might as well do it now. “Oderly?” he said.

“My lord?”

“Why don’t you go and get yourself something to eat?” asked Bodwin. There was a beat of silence, and Bodwin’s stomach tightened with nervousness at his own impropriety.

“Pardon, my lord?” said Oderly.

“Well, it’s just that you usually stand in the corner while I eat,” said Bodwin. “It occurred to me that you don’t eat when I do. In fact, I’ve never seen you eat.”

“Nor should you, sir,” said Oderly.

“Right, but I expect that you do,” said Bodwin.

“Of course I do,” said Oderly.

“I’m just curious about when you eat,” said Bodwin.

Once more, Oderly took a moment before responding. “My lord,” he said, “I don’t think this is anything for you to worry about.”

“See, but that does make me worried,” said Bodwin. “You’re with me when I awaken. You’re with me when I turn in. You stand in the corner while I dine. If I wake in the middle of the night to make water, you’re there. At any moment during the day I can find you without effort. And yet I’ve never seen you eat or sleep or excuse yourself to make water.”

Oderly smiled but said nothing.

“So, you see… I was just wondering how it is that you do it,” said Bodwin.

“Has my lord considered that perhaps there are more than one of me?” asked Oderly, still smiling, although the smile did not touch his eyes.

“Well, of course not,” said Bodwin. “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“Mr. Bodwin, are you getting argumentative?” asked Oderly.

“Please address me by my title, Oderly,” Bodwin admonished.

“Perhaps you just need something to calm you,” said Oderly.

“What’s going on?” asked a woman. Bodwin couldn’t see her, but he recognized the voice. She was a doctor or something—but no, that was ridiculous. There were no women doctors.

“It’s all right,” said Oderly. “He’s restrained. Isn’t that right, Mr. Bodwin?”

“I’ll have you know—” Bodwin started but, as he rose from his chair, he found that he could not raise his hands from the armrests. Thick leather thongs bound them. “How dare you!?” shouted Bodwin, falling back down to his bed. But wait—hadn’t he been in a chair before?

He looked up and found that his dining room was replaced by a sterile hospital room. Where was his mansion? A woman stared at a clipboard while a young man in blue scrubs injected something into an IV bag. A television in the corner played some English drama. Bodwin’s heart caught in his throat.

“All done,” said the man—he had Oderly’s voice. “Should only take a moment,” he said.

What should only take a moment?” Bodwin demanded. “Where am I?”

“You’re home, sir,” said Oderly. “Just where you should be.”

Bodwin blinked. He was back in his mansion. He could still feel the leather cuffs on his wrists and ankles, but his movements were no longer impeded. What had just happened? Had it been real?

Bodwin took a long drink of spiced wine. Of course it hadn’t been real. No, of course not.

Edited by Carolyn "Today You Shall Be... Bob" Abram.

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