The Shot: Fiction for Microcosms

Like all the outliers I’ve covered, this planet was named for some dead Earthian. Back then you could have a star named after yourself for less than the cost of a decent dinner. This man had a hundred stars named after him.

Trump XV looked no different than all the others. When the infrastructure goes, it’s all dust and rubble, looters and legionnaires. The wise stay underground in shelters.

I came upon a fluffy white Havanese. The little guy reclined on his owner’s grimed and tattered form, nuzzling her neck.

A flimsy leaf-like hand made feeble efforts to brush away the wee beast. She shook her head from side to side. Her iron-rich neck and shoulder muscle was, in fact, the dog’s meal.

I took the shot.

Took it from several angles. All the while she moaned and uttered the same word over and over. I didn’t speak Svoodian, but I could guess what the word was.

“Just a minute,” I told her as I stepped over her splayed legs to get a better angle. I crouched down for the close-up. The dog wasn’t budging. From its tiny mouth came a wet sound like child-hands in mud.

Probably the woman didn’t understand me, either, so I held up one finger.

I sent the shot to my editor with this caption: Dogs wearing collars become dinner or diners, depending on who kills who first.

At first I wrinkled my nose at the given prompt: foreign correspondent/battlefield/memoir. Nothing came. I spun their spinner over and over and… nothing. Then I thought of the book of Job (as I happened to be reading it). The phrase “and I alone have escaped to tell you…” leapt out at me as a possible opening for a foreign correspondent, and of course my correspondent had to be on another planet. Originally that phrase from Job was to begin my entry, but as I began the journey into this story, the original phrase lost its place. As so often happens in writing. So the prompt DID spawn something fun after all. My lesson: keep at it. Usually something comes.

The Gift: Fiction for Microcosms

Cal feared the new garbage truck: its dinosaur bellow of steel on steel as the automated arm plucked the blue plastic containers like weeds, flipped them upside down, and dumped the contents with an explosive crash. The engineering marvel rescued lower backs and killed jobs, but Cal wouldn’t know anything about that, being seven.

All he knew was the men were gone.

Until the horrid business was done, Cal stayed inside. No amount of cajoling would get him out on garbage day. One day the truck never came. Lucky it was summer.

Cal’s dad decided this couldn’t go on.

On top of the can was a gorgeously wrapped box tied with a purple bow. If Cal didn’t take it, the garbage truck would.

“What is it?”

“Go find out.” Dad winked.

Cal feared. Feared and coveted and the warring emotions dueled inside his young mind for preeminence. Desire began to get the upper hand; it moved slowly down his skin like a finger hesitant on a trigger. Cal placed his hands around the doorknob.

“Better go, Son. I hear the truck.”

The sound of squeaking breaks in the distance. The sound of dinosaur arms.

“They wouldn’t throw it away?”

“They would.”

The dinosaur was on his street. Cal could see its scalpel blade slide through the loops of a can. Still fear rooted him.

At the neighbor’s.

Something in him broke. He gripped the doorknob fiercely. Then realized: the bolt. Frantic, he jammed his fingers in his haste to undo it. The monster was right in front of his house now, about to take his present. The bolt slid free. Cal threw open the door and sprinted like a jack rabbit.

The blade came screeching out. It grabbed. Cal grabbed.

Just in time.

“Hey kid, watch it,” said the driver.

Duplicitous: Flash Fiction for Microcosms

As they approached, a big rabbit appeared over the edge of the ditch, looked at them quickly and vanished into the bank. Hazel let out a cry and floundered after as best she could in the cumbersome space suit.

“Don’t,” Tom said. But Hazel didn’t listen. Their ship carved the very ditch into which the rabbit, and Hazel, disappeared. A swath of ivory several hundred feet long was the scar they bestowed upon this brown world.

Their crash bubbles saved her and Tom, but not Ike. Because the cockpit was cordoned off from crew seating by a reinforced steel shell, all Hazel heard was a groan and a squelch. An unnerving odor bloomed in the cabin.

Hazel crinkled her nose and called, “Not your best landing, Ike.” When silence was the reply, Hazel’s guts unspooled. Tom’s eyes were closed like a terrible roller coaster had just come to a stop.

At first Hazel thought a month’s worth of chile meals had splattered on the glass of the cockpit. Then she saw Ike’s horseshoe necklace and flight uniform in the muck. Hazel didn’t remember vomiting or screaming, but Tom appeared, holding her, using a soothing voice. Ike didn’t suffer, Tom said, and wiped her mouth with his bare hand.

His fingers lingered on her lips, sending a bolt of icy realization.

More than once she’d caught Tom giving Ike sidelong glances. There was malice in them, she was sure. Tom didn’t even seem upset about Ike.

It was Hazel’s idea to check out the planet. Tom wanted to return by autopilot immediately. Their systems told them it was 100% uninhabitable.

Which was why the rabbit couldn’t be real.

Tom was slower than Hazel, but he reached the edge and peered over. Hazel had a gun trained on his heart.

***

Every Friday Microcosms holds a flash fiction contest. I like the spirit there and enter whenever time permits. This week’s prompt was to choose a book off your shelf (hopefully we all had shelves…), turn to page 73, and use the first non-dialogue sentence of the first paragraph on that page. I chose Watership Down by Richard Adams. Watership Down is my favorite fiction book on leadership. Stephen King refers to it in The Stand. I believe he based his character, Nick Andros, on the protagonist of Watership Down.

Fiction for Microcosmsfic.com

 

Washed Away

“At it again?” Ella asked, standing over the hunched form of her husband. Darrin’s once-white robe was covered with a dusting of sand and browned on the butt. Ella handed him a steaming cup of coffee. A sand-encrusted hand trembled but received it gratefully. A ring of untanned skin was all that remained of his marriage. Half submerged in a foamy moat and gouging out fistfuls of muck, his other hand was invisible.

“I think I got it right this time,” Darrin muttered.

“How long?” Ella asked, her sweet voice hollow and feathery against the boisterous surf.

“Since two.”

“Why?”

“I wanted to finish before the tide came up. Recognize it?”

“Our honeymoon, Barcaldine Castle. But you got the top wrong. There weren’t any battlements on Barcaldine.”

“I added those… to keep you safe.” Darrin continued to scrape and mold the sand. The hands that played Brahms flawlessly, that delivered love letters, bills, and junk mail. The sure hands smoothed and teased the castle domes as if they were lace-decked breasts or a fragile neck. He drew his fingertips along the parapets as if they were her lips. One last time.

As the structure neared completion, Darrin’s eyes became glassy, but not a drop would fall. Plenty of salt water all around. The Ella hallucination faded as the sun edged over the horizon. At his feet lay the coffee cup full of brown water and sand. No wonder the coffee was bad.

Waves, inexorable and implacable, crept closer and closer. Darrin took the wedding rings out of his pocket: his thick one and her diamond-studded strand he’d discreetly removed before they shut the coffin. He clutched them to his chest. His other hand rooted around his robe pocket until he felt the smooth barrel, the finger hole.

The end.

Flash fiction is uniquely challenging. You get only a handful of words to communicate plot, brush in some character, some descriptions. No waste allowed! I think it appeals to me because I like poetry. But what often happens when I write flash is that most of the tale stays hidden inside my head, never to meet the page. I suppose I got it right with this one, or right enough because it won last week’s microcosmsfic flash fiction contest. The prize for winning? The honor of judging this week. Judging teaches me more about writing than almost any other exercise I do, so I’m grateful for the opportunity. Judging also allows me to do what I love second to writing: encourage fellow writers.

Metamorphosis. Fiction for Microcosmsfic

The little boy. I never considered him a target until the day of the falcon. That’s what I called it anyway: the day of the falcon. See, I pass this kid every day on my way to school, but on this day a peregrine falcon had landed on his head. I expected the bird to flee, but both just stood there like time was a DVD, paused.

I’d gladly trade my acne for those majestic black and white striped feathers and steel-blue crest. My life for the falcon’s, stuck fast as I was between desk and chair and subjected to what was essentially a manufacturing line. We were tubes. They bent us, punctured us, riveted their ideas into us, never gingerly, never tried to coax anything in. No. Teachers slammed their convictions into us with a press brake and slid us on to the next grade. My life was not my own.

A peregrine falcon soared above. Or sat upon a toddler’s wayward tresses. Whichever. Still, he sat.

Like he owned the boy. No one bothered to shew him off. The boy, of course, could do nothing. I thought, if that bird could get away with it, so could I, right? Yes, the more I considered it, the more certain I became.

I began to see myself anew. Above. The. Law.

The boy. Three years old. I could take him. I could get away with it. Just like the peregrine falcon with a mouse.

The boy never blinked. He never spoke. No one would hear.

I felt the serrated blade of my hacksaw. With my mind I felt it.

His days were numbered, this brazen pissing boy of bronze. If a peregrine could abuse him as a perch, he wasn’t beyond my reach.

Manneken Pis, Dutch for “little man pee” Brussels

Disturbed teenager/Brussels/Memoir – those were my prompts for this flash fiction piece. This time I had to do some major amputation on my word count. When I got to the “end” of my original story, I had 387 words. I could only keep 300. Talk about killing your darlings…

I love memoirs. I love disturbed teenagers.

Brussels was the only part of the trilogy I didn’t have down, so I did a little research. Writers have to do research. I’m not against work. It’s just that writing on a subject I don’t know is frightening. Even after researching, I could get something embarrassingly wrong… an author must be willing to fail. I am willing.

Rather quickly I found a delightful statue called the Manneken Pis. Sounds like mannequin piss, doesn’t it? Uhem, well, the shoe fits. Of course my next vision was of a disturbed teenager wreaking a little havoc with said statue. And bam! Inspired. I thought I’d chronicle my process. Sometimes I get a prompt that does nothing for me. The original elements of this contest were: driver/race course/tragedy. I tried to find a story in those three. It was me, mentally groping in a black cave, never finding any light. After a time of trying and not succeeding to plot a story, I gave up and spun the handy spinner they provide at Microcosmsfic and hallelujah!

I hoped the boy would seem like a living boy at first. This famous statue is often dressed in outfits that communicate a message or a celebration, sort of like dressing one’s yard geese. He seems to be the rivet between culture and its fleeting colors. What struck me was how bold the little boy is, and how audacious it would be to defame such a work of art. What kind of mind would do it? How would a person get there mentally? These are the thoughts that inspired me.