February Flash Fiction

Welcome to Flash Fiction for 2017!

Congratulations to our first Flash Fiction competition winner for 2017, Robert Menzel, for his story Falling Down.

Entry Conditions:

Entries will not be accepted if they exceed the maximum word limit – even if by a word, and must comply with all the stated parameters.

All entries are to be submitted to competitions@ballaratwriters.com by Sunday, 19th February 2017. Your email must include author’s name, story title and word count.

Voting will open the next day here on the blog.

Come along to our Members’ Night on Wednesday, 22 February, 7pm at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel to hear the winner announced. (Results will also be posted here on the blog the day after.)

This month’s Flash Fiction parameters are:

Genre:  open

Word count:  500

Key word/s:  “fake news” (these words must appear together in your story)

February entries:

Story 1  Fake News           Words:  500

“Fake news!” Tessa declared as she walked away with a flounce, waving her manicured hand in the air.

Harry stared after her, and listened for the click-clack of her heels to fade away. His shoulders slumped and wondered just what the truth was. He had been told Tessa was a trollop. The source was impeccable. A QC no less. Did he just dodge a bullet or make the worst mistake of his life?

As he turned to pick up his briefcase and newspaper, his eyes landed once again on the image of Tessa on the front page. There she was, arm in arm with the new head of the firm, Timothy Trews, the “professor” as he was known among the lads here at Trews and Shadforth. With an automatic gesture Harry felt his breast pocket, and the small bulge within was there. His purchase had been intended for Tessa to become the future Mrs Finch. But that was before. Before he started asking everyone he knew, about what on earth was going on between Tessa Gant and the boss.

“Professor Trews and Ms Gant attended the gala opening night of The Murder So Foul at The Ring Theatre on Saturday night.” Read Freddie, Harry’s aide and general factotum. “Doesn’t say much here. Maybe a coincidence?” He offered, handing the paper back to Harry, with a slap on the back.

Harry looked more closely at the photograph. True, Tessa and Timothy weren’t standing all that close, and they were looking in different directions. But those arms…linked? Why?

“I was there that night,” Madeleine, a legal clerk at the firm, told Harry brightly. “Funny though, I didn’t see either of them especially given how tall the professor is, you can’t usually miss him in a crowd. There were lots there that night, sorry.” Madeleine smiled sympathetically as she passed the paper back to Harry.

“She’s a trollop,” announced Stephen Watson, one of the few QC’s at the firm. “Can’t imagine what you see in her old chap. I’m sorry to say, that if Timothy is her current objet d’amour he’s unlikely to be her last.” Stephen’s eyes narrowed as he looked at the photograph and seemed puzzled. He was about to hand the paper back to Harry, then hesitated taking another look at the photograph.

“You know, there’s something very odd here though,” Stephen pondered in lowered tones, and pointed to a figure in the background of the photograph. “There.” He thrust the paper at Harry. “There, that woman standing behind them.”

Harry peered at the poorly pixelated bystander. “What about her?” He asked.

“His wife,” Stephen said with confidence. “Know her anywhere. Something fishy going on here I’d say.”

Harry’s eyes lit up. “Really? You’re certain?”

“Positive old chap. Mind you,” Stephen tapped the side of his nose and leant towards Harry, “Tessa is a trollop, but something strange is going on. I’d say whatever the picture is leading us to think, it’s a set up. I’d say it’s fake news.”

Story 2   Fanning the Flames of Justice          Words:  500

Tom read the news and felt his stomach lurch. After all these years he knew what he had to do. He would plan this carefully, and he’d be sure not to leave a trace.

He found the house two streets away. It was a small insignificant house; plain brick, an untidy front garden and a battered old car in the driveway. The blinds were drawn, and the rubbish bins lay on the ground near the side gate. Tom noticed the gate was unlocked; the hinges rusted.

He walked along the street on the opposite side, pulling his hoody down, his sunglasses in place.  Each day he walked past the house, always at different times, in different clothes. Sometimes the car was there, other times it was gone. Tom noticed a pattern; it was there in the morning, gone in the afternoon. He knew what time to plan what he had to do. The footpaths were deserted and the street was quiet.

Tom bought his supplies at the hardware store, and stored them in the garage until the time was right. He thought about his plans every night, going over and over the same things, hardly sleeping but knowing that when the job was done, he’d feel better.  The nightmares returned liked they had never gone away, and the pain in his soul tormented him.

He woke one morning and decided this was the day, a cold bleak overcast day, much like his life. He collected the tin from the garage, and felt for the small box in his pocket. He walked along the street, the tin in a plastic bag, his head down, until he came to the house. The car was gone, and he hurried through the gate. He noticed a small fence at the back, and a lane leading to the street. The back of the house had a lean-too, and he knew this was his entry.  He tried the back door, and pushed it open. Inside were stacks of newspapers, making his job easy.

He felt strong now, could finally have his say; that those who do wrong need to be punished and removed from the streets.

He poured the petrol onto the papers, lit the match then scrambled back outside. Watching the flames rising, he felt a profound sense of justice. He knew the type of man who lived here, and the things he did. He knew this with a deep sense of his own shame. Throwing away the tin, he scaled the fence and bolted through the streets.

He slowed down as the tension eased. He felt good now as he headed up the hill to meet his mates at the pub. Sauntering into the bar, he ordered a beer and sat down.

‘Did you hear about that paedophile living a few streets away? I saw it on Facebook. He has no right living around here.’

‘Mate, that’s fake news. You’d be an idiot to believe that stuff.’

Tom looked away and finished his beer.

Story 3   Just Fake News          Words:  493

Just like the town criers of old calling out loud, the news media ran headlines of this story: ‘The Queen was dead’

The information was important to the people, of whom were themselves Non-believers of the Royal house, to trumpet triumphantly to all who would listen.

They never ever considered all the lives it would affect. The distress all the employees, who work and care for the all the properties and animals that the Queen owns and is in charge of like gardeners, groundsmen, maids, cooks, personnel secretaries, drivers, security, Royal guardsmen, horse box cleaners, trainers buyers to choose stock for the farms and the stable, jockeys, royal riders, as well as the white swans carer, the list goes on.

All these personnel employed because the Queen was so strong, and led her country with control paying for lifestyles of thousands within the Royal households. But the most unusual career connected to the Royal house is the personnel employed in the media as the experts on the Royal family. They are the ones that wouldn’t like to lose their income and lifestyle if the Queen is dead.

The experts loved the notoriety that they themselves received on occasions like this. They could ride the wave of importance as they shared their self-proclaimed importance of everything that happened in the Royal household that really had a gilded edged two pronged fork. As they were sometimes seemed a little jealous of the family of which they were asked many questions of, especially at times like this. They themselves may be dismissed by the media Mongols, as no longer needed because the new younger person is ever ready on the sidelines, if their accuracy was skew if.  For this time they verified and reported that the story would be true, as she had been ill at the beginning of the year. Giving the headlines of shock the go ahead, being convinced themselves that she was ready to go, and should go. They were ready to accept and believe the worst. So they committed to the ‘fake news’ with jubilance that they could now work for a King.

But they had been so thrilled and wrapped up in themselves and their self-importance, they became so ready to report the news to gain the headlines they overlooked that it was April the 1st. So many stories appear in that genre of fibs and ‘fake news’. Not only was the story quickly dismissed by the heads of departments in the media after it flashed across the world, so were the royal experts sent on permanent vacations, because they were  proven not to be under the influence of facts in this area, not knowing the Queen as well as they thought.  The true believable story was that they were in fact fakes themselves.

Everyone employed in the households breathed a sigh of relief, immediately getting back to doing what they did best.

The strength of the Royal house remains intact.

Story 4   The Problem with the iPhone          Words:  469

It was a Sunday afternoon and Samuel had just arrived at a birthday party for his five year old niece Astrid in the suburb of Richmond, an area he enjoyed visiting as it was where he lived when he was younger, catching trams and drinking loads of coffee whilst working full time in the city. His mind cast back to that government job in the CBD and he smiled when he thought of some of the people he worked with there. The policy work itself was a bit mundane but the people were great and that is why he had stayed there for several years.

He pulled up in his car and made his way into the house carrying the present he bought Astrid. It was a picture book that his partner James had recommended.  James was visiting his family in Adelaide and so Samuel was going solo to this birthday party and he started to miss James as he got slowly out of his car.

He rang the doorbell and was greeted by his brother Ethan with a big hug and then they headed out to the back garden. Ethan’s partner Melanie greeted Samuel with a quick kiss on the cheek as they passed through the living room.

Later when they were watching the kids playing Samuel thought he’d ask Ethan about a problem he had with his iPhone losing battery power as Ethan was very tech savvy.

“How often are you charging it?”

“Every two days, sometimes every day,” replied Samuel.

“Hmm,” replied Ethan and then he went into a spiel about how sometimes it is not just the battery but a sign that the phone is on the way out.  He then suggested that Samuel set his phone to low power mode and try using it less often and then get a new one eventually.

Samuel was fairly satisfied with this answer since he did not want to buy a new battery or phone just yet and so thanked his brother for his help. Just then a text came through and Samuel thought he should really put his phone aside, but decided to check it quickly before doing so. After checking the message he saws a news flash about football. He decided he could not resist teasing his brother about it, especially as they followed different teams. He put his phone on a table and walked over to Ethan who had just finished telling Astrid that they would open the presents after the cake.

“Hey, I just saw that Richmond may not have a coach much longer,” Samuel said with a cheeky grin.

Ethan laughed and then explained, “I think the real problem with your phone brother is that you are reading too much fake news,” and he gave Samuel a playful punch in the arm.

Story 5  A Lost Relative          Words:  498

Gina opened the letter, her eyebrows indicating she was a little puzzled. She didn’t recognise the handwriting on the envelope posted in Melbourne. Since I was a boy I think one day to meet you and now I arrive to Australie, fortunato that I find you. From my cousin here, I know your address so I come to surprise you, maybe to stay for a visit, si, fantastico…

Gina, an Aussie born Italian, immediately called her brother, Mario, ‘hey, who’s our relative, Carlo Rossi? Did you get a letter from him?’

No, Mario had never heard of him either. Gina called cousin Aldo in Melbourne, but he hadn’t seen or heard from any relative from Italy. Right, Gina said, determinedly, I’ll ring Aunt Rosa in Sydney, she’ll know. She keeps track of all the families.

The phone call didn’t solve the puzzle although Aunt Rosa was sure this Carlo must be a son of Franco, the infuriatingly suave husband of that cousin, Elena in Arezzo. He was always away on business, funny business now I think, she told Gina. Hmph! Why I not find out this before?

Gina and I were out walking, as we always did on Tuesday afternoons, when she told me about this curious letter from a long-lost relative who was busily claiming long-lost obligations of family hospitality. She started to flare up over his impending visit, hands flying in all directions, as you expect from Italians. When is he coming? I asked. I don’t know, said Gina, but if he thinks he can just turn up and free-load … She was spitting chips, if that’s possible when her face was smiling at her own frustration. This surprised me somewhat – Gina who was always so generous, welcoming lots of friends into her home to share authentic gnocchi, seafood marinara and tiramisu, a few of the dishes she would pile onto our plates, now up in arms about this stranger who was claiming her Italian embrace.

Let me know when you get more news from him, sounds like you’re in for a fun time, I teased her.

The following week Gina gave me an update: Aunt Rosa had called various relatives in Italy but nobody could identify him, not even by the grapevine running riotously from Sicily to Milano.

Two weeks of silence went by before another update: a phone call to Gina, si, it’s me, cousin Carlo. I will arrive to you in one week, the voice was muffled and quite strange.

Gina became wary and asked cousin Aldo in Melbourne to go to the address in the letter. It turned out to be real – an empty block of land in Brunswick. Gina’s suspicions and hackles rose together. I could see she was ready to explode should Carlo show up on her doorstep but it wouldn’t happen. I called Gina to put an end to this fake news, my little joke. Gina laughed and posted me a pair of boots in cement.

Story 6   Truth         Words:  97

We went to a funeral today. He was 33. He left a devastated family, disbelieving friends. We celebrated his life and laughed at his foibles. We joyously listened to his favourite music but forlornly cried at the speeches of those left behind. We shared stories and sadness. We drank a toast, hugged loved ones and strangers.

I came home and stayed mute. Facebook was an outlet: so much loving, lots of likes, a bit of sharing…but fake. News was unreliable – are they really showing their feelings or displaying what they think their public wants? Who can tell?

Story 7   Falling Over          Words:  296

I have stood in the congregation of the faith healer wanting to know why I fall. My eyes studied the rain drops on the coat in front of me when they should have been closed in prayer. The chanting grew louder and louder and God seemed further away.  I still fell.

I   have gone down broken concrete paths to some darkened bedroom or disused garage. The gifted are always poorly dressed. They work for cash and have loose change in silver   and notes in old tobacco tins. They have a great following of men and woman they have helped especially muscular problems. He examined my legs and took notice of my walking. He said different shoes might help. He placed his hands on my tight knee.  Closing his eyes, he appeared to orgasm. he rattled around in his tin for change of five dollars.

I have seen a specialist. I sunk knee deep in to the carpet 0f his waiting room.  The lights were dulled around the room. The paint work was subdued and perfect.  The paintings were large and all original water colours.   They were fake news.

He was protected by an attractive female secretary.  Her skirt is high up and her neck line low.  She spoke with a slight accent.

The specialist was behind a large wooden e\engraved desk his name engraved in coper plate. He made an educated guess as why I fall so often.  I am not sure what he meant

You told me why I fall, the same you with little education.  For once you did not need our fathers magic you observe as any parent does and remains silent

I walk too fast.  That’s what you say.  That’s my sin. My spastic body likes the jolt but hates the falls.

 

Now vote for your favorite story here:

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