Flash Fiction

Bad Bargain

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It was the sort of thing you might see in a comedy: the husband, slightly daft, is taken advantage of by a sharper who sells him a bit of beachfront property in a prime location for what seems to be an impossibly low price, especially for more than three thousand square feet with an ocean view.  He keeps it secret from his wife, telling her instead he has a surprise for her and to keep her questions to herself. “All will be revealed in time,” said with a sly and knowing smile.

And then, of course, the punchline. The address on the direction leads to a small shack hardly the size of an outhouse. It is constructed of thick concrete block set with an iron door.

“At least the key works,” the husband says uneasily, turning the great lock with creaking difficulty. A set of steps leads down to a tunnel rimed with salt and damp as any tomb, ancient conduit dull with rust running along the ceiling with the occasional dim bulb every dozen feet or so.

The deeded property as written is for one of the old war fortifications at St. Margaret’s Bay on the South Foreland coast, a glassless machine gun emplacement jutting out over the sea itself, the naked gales howling through it like an enormous flute.

“A coat of paint and a couple windows installed will do wonders,” he says in a voice utterly devoid of conviction.

 

Sunday Photo Fiction

My Dear Claude

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My Dear Claude–

The experiments continue despite my so-called “setback.” It  was an accident, despite what you may have heard. You’re absolutely correct in your assessment of my current state of mind. I am indeed frustrated that my colleagues see me as a fraud and even a madman, all the more since my dismissal from the faculty. They will see the truth in time. Of that I am supremely confident.

As to your question about my arrest, I will only say that it was a matter of ill timing rather than any actual criminal intent on my part. Always remember, Claude, appearances can be deceiving. I also wish to point out that the young lady sustained no significant injury other than a good scare. Considering her rather flighty temperament, I doubt that it will cause any lasting mental trauma. I remind you, also, that she had given her full consent to the procedure.

As for the experiments themselves, I am overjoyed to report promising results.  It is unfortunate that the negative publicity  has ensured I will be unable to find any willing test subjects in the near future, but I will no doubt soon find a satisfactory solution. 

I very much look forward to your upcoming visit. I will have many exciting things to share with you.

I remain, as ever, your true friend and advisor

Dr. M _____

 

Sunday Photo Fiction

Fear of Fear

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“I won’t do it. I can’t. Please.”

He put his arm around her. “Really, Susan. It will be fine. This thing carries thousands of people across every day. There’s never been an accident. It’s safe as houses, as my Gran would say.”

“You don’t understand. It’s…it’s…”

She began to cry again.

“Look, darling. We’re nearly to the front of the queue. You won’t want to have wasted two hours of our weekend. Besides, we’ve reservations at the Docklands at one. You know how much you’ve been looking forward to that. They have creme brûlée.”

She scowled, her cheeks wet. “Don’t patronize me, Peter. Goddamn don’t patronize me.”

“I’m not trying to. I am only saying that we have a reason. We’d never make it in time otherwise. Look. The queue is moving again. We’re up soon.”

“Have you not listened to anything I’ve told you? I’m not fucking going.”

With that, she tore her arm from his and shoved her way through the crowd. He watched her head bob in the sea of people as she made her way back toward the Tube station, gold-red hair winking in the rare June sunlight.

He wondered if he ought to go after her. This was all so damned silly. It would have been a perfect day to see London from the cable car. Perhaps he would go anyway.

 

 

 

Sunday Photo Fiction

Jerome, Arizona Territory- April 8th, 1880

jerome

Dear Etta & Family,

Well, I got here all right and must agree with Dr. Franks that the climate in Arizona is indeed wonderful. That’s about all I can say for it. Jerome boasts but one hotel, and that seems to be perpetually full up with drummers, speculators and engineers of one sort or another. Your dear father is reduced to what is politely called a billet but is in fact indistinguishable from a common tent, save for a floor of pine boards over which scorpions and centipedes crawl. I was advised to empty my boots each morning as a precaution.

 

Friday Fictioneers

Eighty Days

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None of the survivors was a sailor, so the compass and sextant were  useless to them. The featureless horizon of winking sea, the unremitting glare, the boredom. They were talked out after the second day, aware that further conversation might lead to severe disagreement, or worse. Despite the makeshift awning, their skin burned purple in the intense sun.

The boat, though small for four men, was well-provisioned. Thirty gallons of water, cases of hard rations, fishing line, signal mirrors, flares. Besides, they were in the shipping lanes. How long could it be, really?

One of the men kept meticulous track of the days by notching the gunwale each morning . He spaced each cut about a half an inch apart, but as the days wore on he saw that he might well run out of room before they were rescued.

 

 

Sunday Photo Fiction

 

 

 

Her House

copyight-sean-fallon

The entrance hall hasn’t been used since Doug was killed in Vietnam, the boxes that crowd the narrow space crammed with paper and old clothes and God knows what else.

In the kitchen, four refrigerators, two so overstuffed that the doors are bungeed closed, cereal boxes, rotten fruit, stale Walmart muffins in the 30-pack, gallons of milk swollen like basketballs, the expiration dates two years ago.

As you go into the house it only gets worse–narrow passages between heaps of paper, boxes of broken toys, desks bursting with notebooks full of illegible handwriting.

The curtains are always closed.

Friday Fictioneers

 

This story is a fragment inspired by a much larger piece you can read here. There’s also another connected story. Message me if you’re interested.

Interview With the Chief

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Our township has the lowest crime rate in the Newark area. I’m not saying that I am directly responsible, but it’s worth noting that the rate went down the year after I became Chief of Police and has stayed down ever since.  American Lawman did a story that included a sidebar interview I gave when we arrested those bank robbers who stole a few million from Chase Manhattan a few years back, but other than that I’ve kept quiet.

See, I train my people to know their town, to know the people. I make sure they stop into the stores and banks, get into conversations on the sidewalk and in the grocery store. We have some cops in uniform, but most of us go around in plainclothes with our shields and sidearms prominently visible. We’re real community members, in it and of it. This way we know when something isn’t right. It could be a light left on in a store late Sunday night. A full mailbox out front of a house. A car left too long in the train station lot.

That’s how all this began.

 

Sunday Photo Fiction

Keep His Name Out of the Papers

melanie-greenwood

I didn’t participate in the interrogations. My role was to observe. Under no circumstances was I to interfere.

Never a large man,  he became smaller. Fragile. And in the end, broken.

When I first saw him, some of his former power still clung to him. He made demands, threats. Commanded a certain respect, even there.

Of course, all  property had been seized. The mansions, the jet. Once in custody, they gave him an orange jumpsuit . He started to lose other things. Control of the situation, control of his fate. Finally, control of his body itself.

I watched him lose everything.

 

Friday Fictioneeers

Bluebirds Over

sandra

“You know what Jamey said about you?”
“Your brother? He’s never even met me.”
“About all you Yanks, actually. He said you’re overpaid, oversexed  and over here.
“Not original, but true enough for now. Doesn’t change how I feel about you.”
She pushed away a wisp of hair, fire-red in the rare sunlight. “So it’s not just because you’re a soldier. A pilot, I mean.”
He held her then, pressed his lips to her cheek. “None of us knows what will happen, darling. We must make the most of it.”
They heard the drone of outbound bombers high overhead.

Friday Fictioneers

101 Words: The Bereaved

The Bereaved

Her expression is wrong. And her hair. For the first time, he is glad she is dead. This would have upset her.

He goes to the bathroom to wash his hands. They smell like the funeral director’s oily aftershave– flowers and death. He washes them twice, sniffs his fingers. The smell won’t go away.

He never should have shaken the man’s hand, but there really wasn’t a choice.

He wants to change the arrangements, go closed casket. His shoes sink into the red carpet, making no noise.

Through the closed walnut door he hears the funeral director call him “the bereaved.”