Flash Fiction for May 2018

Thanks to all who voted – a larger number than we have had in recent times.

Joint winners this month! Entry #4 – Maureen Riches and Entry #5 – Johanna Botman

Well done!

 

Voting closes 6pm Tuesday May 29 2018. Enjoy.

Entry #1 – Return of the Prodigal

Father glanced up with startled surprise as Sally and I approached; my mother spinning around, confusion written across her face. I hesitated as my brother reached for his children, holding them close beside him.

I had not seen them since that day I flew out of the house, my father yelling abuse at me, his face suffused with rage, my mother collapsing.

‘You’re making this up,’ she screamed, as she slumped heavily in the chair. ‘Why are you doing this?’

I left and never looked back.

Now I see the years have wearied my father. Did he ever think of me during the years I struggled, my soul tortured by a sense of betrayal? And my mother, who now turns her head away and shrinks into herself, did she ever care?

I gaze at the scene before me of the picture-perfect family, and I’m flung back to those cold and lonely years I spent running – further and further away from the ugliness I felt around me, and within me.

But I’m no longer that lost and angry young man, and as I grip Sally’s hand, I stare at my father and know the day of reckoning has come.

 

 

Entry #2 – And About Time Too

“Hello Rosemary, thanks for coming. Glad you worked out my directions. How’s things?”

“Good Frank; good. Your map was sooo easy to follow. And you; how are you?”

“Just great. Umm, would you like to sit?”

“Yes, of course. What, no kiss?”

“I’m not that pushy; sorry.”

“It’s not pushy. It’s about time. Kiss please.” He goes to peck her cheek, she turns, they touch lips. “That’s better Frank. My, you’ve brought enough food for a family.”

“Umm, I wanted this to be special for; um, for us, for me, I mean, um …”

“It’s alright Frank. It’s sweet of you; and what a lovely spot you’ve chosen.”

“Um, Rosemary, um, you see this tree here?”

“Yes, it’s very old isn’t it.”

“My parents brought us here for picnics when I was young. It was very special for them. Um, ahh, it’s, it’s um, where Dad proposed to Mum.”

“How lovely.”

“Rosemary; I know it’s only been nine weeks, but …”

“The best nine weeks of my life actually, Frank.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really; I’m so happy when I’m with you.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Oh! Will you, um, marry me; please?”

“Frank! I’ve been waiting! Yes, a thousand times, yes!”

 

Entry #3 – Too Close to the Truth

‘Sir take a look’

Leroy leans over peering at the photograph under the microscope, then grabs the table to steady himself.

‘Those cunning bastards all the high tech options of communication and they resort to coded messages hidden in a tree in a photograph.’

‘Get it to Abbey right away, tell her to work on nothing else until it’s decoded.’

‘No need Sir the message reads, 14th June 2018 19:00’

Leroy barely hears him as his attention is distracted by the breaking news on the TV.

American defense system fails as Seoul is bombed by North Korea.

CUT

‘The scene is still missing something.’

‘Put more Chinese take away containers in there.’

‘Yep’

RESET

ACTION

‘Sir take a look’

Leroy leans over peering at the photograph under the microscope, then grabs the table to steady himself.

‘Those cunning bastards all the high tech options of communication and they resort to coded messages hidden in a tree in a photograph.’

‘Get it to Abbey right away, tell her to work on nothing else until it’s decoded.’

‘No need Sir the message reads..’

No one hears him as their attention is distracted by the breaking news on their phones.

25 Million dead.

 

Entry #4 – No Picnic

‘I’d watch the caravans leavin’ town…all the other blokes haulin’ their families off on holidays. I’d tell meself, a man’s a mug…you should be doin’ that…but there woz never enough money. I worried how you kids felt at school with all yer mates talkin’ ‘bout where they’d been and what they’d seen.’

Dad is an old man now and I tell cheerful lies to comfort him. We had felt left out but we would never have expected a holiday. Mum’s constant worrying about bills meant we knew dad couldn’t afford train tickets to the beach, let alone a caravan.

‘We went away once though.’ He pulls a creased photo from his wallet – Dad, Nana, Uncle Jack and the kids somewhere I don’t recognise. I’m not in the photo and Dad just coughs when I ask.

‘Fitzroy Gardens,’ Mum says when I try her. ‘Jack took us on visiting days.’

‘Visiting days?

‘You were in the Royal Children’s for ages with meningitis. There was no Medicare then or health insurance and never much money after that.

There is a lump in my throat as it hits me. The reason Dad couldn’t be the bountiful father he longed to be, was me.

 

Entry #5 –  I Hate That Photo

That picture sat on the mantlepiece for years. I have always thought that he is staring at me but I am in the picture. You can’t see me.

I knew that look. It pierces me still. It’s the look he gave me when he was angry and perplexed at how he could have produced someone as stupid as me.

I remember the picnic. It was the only time his parents came to visit. He was anxious. I was eight – how could I have known that? Perhaps I didn’t know it then, but I came to know him with that look.

A private person, my father had made himself into his own man. His move to Australia was the ultimate opportunity to do that. No relatives, no other point of reference – complete reinvention to be what ever he wanted to be. Until they came to visit. Suddenly, all those generations of genetics were revealed, highlighted and reinforced. His created world spun out of control, out of the control that he had so carefully built.

I will never know what caused his anger that day but it echoes down the years through that stare.

I hate that photo.

 

 

 

 

Flash Fiction entries are open to Ballarat Writers Inc members only, but anyone may vote for their favourite story.

This month’s Flash Competition parameters are:

Key word/phrase:    There has to be a reference to the this image. For instance, the reference could be that it is a starting point for the story, it could be that the story is told from one of the participant’s point of view, the photo could be sitting on someone’s mantlepiece – anything, so long as it is mentioned in the short story.

download

Genre:     open

Word count:     No more than 200 words (the title is excluded from the word count)

Conditions of entry

Your entry must:

  1. Be in 12 point Times New Roman font
  2. Have single line spacing
  3. Have a title
  4. Include the author’s name
  5. Include the word count, not including the title
  6. Be submitted as a Word.doc, or .docx file (PDF files lose all formatting in their transition)

Submit entries to: competitions@ballaratwriters.com by 4 pmFriday, 25th May 2018.Voting will open here the next day and will close at 6 pm on Tuesday, 29th  May.

Our next Member’s Night is held at the Bunch of Grapes Hotel in Pleasant Street on Wednesday, 30th May where the winner of this month’s flash fiction competition will be announced. The evening starts at 7pm and all are most welcome. You can have a very good meal there from about 6pm and then stay on for the fun and frivolity.

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April Flash Fiction Entries

Four entries this month. Please read, enjoy (and vote – if you are a member)

Entry #1 – KOALA BEAR?

  Outside the window, a gum tree’s mighty boughs stretched to the moonlight filtering through scudding clouds. High in its branches, a grey shapelessness hung from the main trunk.

The young Asian girl on the ground tugged at her boyfriend’s arm and pointed upward. “Look Guang, a koala bear,” she exclaimed.

The young man beside her looked up, and replied, “No, I do not see it Chizu.”

“There, near the top; it’s hugging the tree.”

“Oh yes, I think I see it – yes, I can. But I can tell you that while it may well be a koala, it’s not a bear. Before we came to Australia, I read that they’re marsupials that nurture their young in their pouch. They’re not bears at all.”

“Well thanks, Guang; you’re such a smarty-pants; but what about the Drop Bears that the nice bus driver was telling us about? Are koala bears, sorry, koalas, the same as the Drop Bears he was talking about? You remember, he said if we look up into a gum tree at night when there’s a Drop Bear in the tree, it will fall onto us as soon as we stop looking up.”

“No, Chizu, I wasn’t there when he said anything like that. I can’t imagine anything only falling on you when you stop looking; that sounds weirdly stupid. Sounds like a ‘let’s trick the tourist’ kind of thing. It’s not real.”

They turned away, and he suddenly screamed as a grey, soft, flat, and empty-looking thing, like a toy bear with the stuffing pulled out of it, landed with a ‘plop’ on his back.

She too screamed as she pulled at it before they both ran, shrieking, to the safety of the hotel foyer.

The bus-driver chuckled as he walked away with his toy and string.

 

Entry #2 – Easter Joy

Outside the window, I see the woman struggling along the platform as the conductor blows his whistle. He waits for her; she clambers onto the train, trying to catch her breath, and charges down the aisle. Heavily laden shopping bags swing back and forth, whacking disgruntled passengers as she pushes on. The train is packed, and the seat beside me is empty.

She flops down heavily, squeezing herself into the small space. The strong smell of cigarettes permeates the air. Sweat pours down her face and she’s gasping for breath. I offer to hold her bags as she gets out her inhaler, takes a puff and lets out a deep breath.

The bags are filled with Easter eggs. I’d suggest she load them onto the racks above, but this seemed unwise.

Her phone rings, she grabs it, stabs her finger on the screen, and yells out, ‘whada want?’

She listens, and yells again, “I told yous I’d get the f*****g Easter eggs, I’ve got them. What?… I got them at the Salvo’s.’

The woman across the aisle catches my eye, and I quickly look away.

‘What,’ she screeches, ‘you’ve got what?’ Silence ensures for a second as her face flushes red and angry.

‘How’d you get them?’ She sits bolt upright in the seat, ‘I’ve told you never to take money from that f*****g creep, haven’t I? What did he want?’ She attempts a deep breath, reaching for the inhaler.

‘Why’d he give you money?’ she yells again as she takes a quick puff. ‘Don’t give me that bulls**t, he always wants something.’

She’s struggling to talk. ‘I’ve gotta go, yous just wait till I get home!’ and jabs at the phone.

‘Bloody kids’, she grumbles, snatching back the bags.

The train whizzes through Footscray as the phone rings again…..

 

Entry #3 – Hugs

Outside the window was were I first saw her smile. She was hanging there in the morning sunlight.

I don’t think I’d ever saw her smile before. I knew her daddy was beating up on her bad, but what could I do I was just a kid too.  She didn’t look as bad as those kids on TV, but I wished she had someone to help her take a bath and clean her clothes. She never spoke not even when I gave her my snacks from school if I ever forgot to eat them. I’d give them to her when we got home. She would just take them and go inside.

We lived next door to each other on the first floor. She was already there when we moved in. I never heard any noises coming from their apartment. I sometimes wished I would so someone would do something. The teachers never seemed to do anything even when she kept missing days. She wasn’t at school the day they told us about the things parents shouldn’t do to their kids, I only hoped her daddy wasn’t doing that to her too.

That’s why I was so surprised to see her smiling when I looked out my window that morning. I’d asked her before not to do it, but she would often climb into that tree. I think she thought it was a safe place.

It was so dangerous to get there though. She had to climb out her bedroom window, stretch out to then cling to the edge of mine, before climbing over onto the tree. But there she was hanging there with a smile on her face, I’d never seen her happy before.

I think that rope hugging her neck might have been the only hug she ever got.

 

Entry #4 – Deliverance

Outside the windowless room at last, my lungs struggle with my first breath of freedom.

I’d endured more than two hundred days of confinement in darkness and isolation; silence except for muffled sounds that ignore my attempts to attract attention, with futile kicks and punches against the insulated walls and fortified door. Whoever put me here had prepared the space well.

Day after day, I lay in wait for another chance for rescue. Surely someone will realise I’m here and free me.

I’d woken abruptly from one of my long periods of sleeping. Sleeping had been the only escape available to me and I’d taken greedy advantage of it to stave off the terror that this was all my life would ever be.

It was like something had crashed into the room. Noises started to amplify. The floor quivered and quaked under me. Had someone finally heard me?

Something batters the walls. The room seems distorted and smaller from the incursion. If it keeps going it’ll crush me.

‘No!’ I yell. ‘Stop! I’m in here.’

I wait for the noise and battering to stop but it doesn’t. There’s nothing to do but despair at the irony of being entombed after all my days of waiting for deliverance.

Thump-thump! Roar! The sounds intensify and the room shakes violently, again and again. The forces must be deep and malevolent to cause such disturbance.

My heart pounds out a rhythm of panic. I have to work on the door so I push and push until its weakened structure starts to give way.

I forgot I was tethered, so I don’t think I’ll make it all the way out. Then something grabs me and tugs without mercy.

If birth is this hard, what will living be like?