Adopt-a-Nut: a flash fiction

(For the Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day six: topic: SPACE)

Joan was a decent sort, the kind of nutjob you don’t regret buying at the government’s Auction. Other villages had their hands full with the wackos they’d picked out, but we at North West Fang Two were satisfied with ours. Every block had to have one since they turned the public health into what they called a “distributed system”. She kept mostly to herself, wasn’t the financial burden like some. She wasn’t a saint, and there were the baseline maintenance costs. It helped that Joan’s parents had been rich enough that some money came down from Central to the Local Council. Of course we didn’t know that when we picked her out. Mostly we got her because the other choices were clearly worse; a large young male schizophrenic, an insufferably incompetent Elvis impersonator, and a perpetually pregnant paranoiac. Joan seemed glorious by contrast.

She was a short, thin anorexic with bright red hair, a constant jogger and accomplished collector. There was nothing she wouldn’t hoard. You’d see her all the time dragging rubbish of all sorts down the streets and into her tiny cottage. Sally and I took to peeking in the windows to see if we could figure out where all that junk finally got to. It seemed there couldn’t be nearly enough room in there. Our own little bungalow was about the same size and we could barely squeeze ourselves into it, let alone the piles of phone books, broken chairs, random metal bars, discarded dolls, bags of used clothing and assorted other whatnots we’d see little old Joanie carrying about. Always cheerful, with a smile and a happy greeting such as “Capitalism is Evil!” and “Mind your pants!”, Joan became quite a fixture around here. She was among the loudest singers at Church on Sundays and would never refuse to pet a friendly dog.

One day Joan caught Sal and me trying to peep through her side yard window. Sally was on my shoulders with her face pressed up against the glass.

“What do you see?” I whispered.

“There’s nothing in there,” she whispered back.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “We just saw her pushing a broken motorbike in the front door yesterday!”

“Hullo Jimmy!” It was Joan, come around the back yard and standing there staring at us. Sally crawled down and tried to hide behind my back.

“Oh, hullo Joan,” I answered politely.

“Bet you’re wondering,” she smiled. “Where did it all go?”

“It did occur to me,” I mumbled.

“I’ll let you in on a secret,” she took a few steps toward me, and stretched out her arm with her hand open, palm up. Sitting there on it was a little yellow ball, like a golf ball from mini-golf.

“It’s all in here,” she said. “In my compactor. Do you want to see?”

“Um, no, that’s okay,” I said, backing away. I believed her. Why not? This whole thing was my own delusion anyway. I’m the guy they bought at North West Fang Fourteen.

Dinner and a Movie: a flash fiction

Dinner and a Movie (Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day four: topic: MOVIES)

Richmond Shelbourne and his wife Patricia were getting ready for a night out. He was carefully pulling on his paisley sweater vest while she examined her eyeliner in the bathroom mirror.

“I don’t know why we have to go to dinner and a movie,” Richmond said.

“It’s the Hamblins’ idea, dear” his wife replied. “It’s just their way.”

“I know, honey, I know,” he grumbled. “And it’s always the same. We’ll suggest Chinese and Sharon will say okay but then remember some place she saw in the Sunday paper, and pull out her clippings folder.”

“I know It’s right here somewhere,” Patricia imitated their friend, and they both chuckled.

“In the end, after sorting through the whole mess, it’ll be Chinese after all.”

“Chen Le,” Patricia nodded. “As always.”

“And then Harvey has already picked out a movie whether anybody else wants to see it or not.”

“One of those god-awful spectacles he likes so much,” Patricia added, starting to apply some more blush.

“Later, Sharon will have to talk about their little one’s latest attempts at humor.”

“Doesn’t he come up with the worst jokes?” Patricia asked.

“If you could even call them jokes,” Richmond said “Here’s one from last time. What do you call a dinosaur with no eyes?”

“What?”

“Shut up.”

“What?”

“No, that’s the punch line. Shut up. I kid you not. Then there was this one. What do you call a red zebra?”

“What?”

“There’s no such thing as a red zebra.”

“Real funny, that one,” she said. “And Harvey, he’ll go on and on with his theories about the movie we just endured. Last time it was that Planet of the Apes movie and he was relentless in his theme that the Apes were just like Indians in a cheesy Western.”

“How?” Richmond asked.

“He meant in the way that …”

“No,” Richmond interrupted. “I meant ‘How’ like the way the Indians in those movies are always saying ‘How’. Why do they say that? What does it mean?”

“Hell if I know,” Patricia shrugged.

“Why we put ourselves through it,” Richmond began, and this time it was his wife who butted in.

“For the wife-swapping, of course, you silly man,” she said. “You still like screwing Sharon, don’t you?”

“Sure,” he smiled, “and I know you like getting it on with Harvey.”

“Yes I do,” she replied, puckering her lips to apply the last of the lipstick touch ups. “Well then, shall we?”

“I suppose so,” Richmond said.

“Don’t be glum, dear,” she told him. “It’s only dinner and a movie.”

The Last Laugh: a flash fiction

The Last Laugh (Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day two: topic: REVENGE)

Sometimes he who laughs last has laughed his last laugh

by Tom Lichtenberg

“This is going to be so good,” Geremy said to the group gathered around the crummy table in the crude work kitchen area. “You’re not going to believe what I did.”

“What did you do?” asked Shirley.

“Yeah, what did you do?” repeated Vance.

“Well, you know how he’s always coming in when he’s sick, sneezing on everything, leaving his crap lying around, never cleaning up after himself?”

“He’s disgusting,” Shirley nodded.

“Totally gross,” Vance agreed.

“And you know that spoon he always uses for all that sugar he dumps in his coffee?”

“Like ten spoons a cup,” Shirley snorted.

“Like sugar,” Vance added.

“So I took that spoon and you know what I did? I let the ants walk all over it, and then I left it out again, right there with all his other nasty stuff.”

“And he’s allergic to ants!” Shirley chortled. “Totally allergic!”

“Ooh, that’s good,” Vance chimed in.

“And not only that, but I licked it too. I licked it good,” Geremy laughed his loudest laugh yet. “We’ll see who gets sick from whose germs now,” he snickered. “”Because I’m totally feeling a cold coming on.”

“He’s the one’s got it coming,” Shirley sputtered.

“You’ll show him,” Vance contributed. “Totally.”

“Show who?” asked Martin, who was just passing through.

“Jimmy Blose,” said Geremy. “He’s gonna get his.”

“For sure,” Shirley smiled.

“For realz,” Vance put in.

“Oh, you didn’t hear?” Martin asked.

“Hear what?”

“Jimmy died. Ebola, they say.”

“No shit!” Vance exclaimed.

“Oh, shit,” said Shirley, glancing at Geremy. “You didn’t really lick it, did you?”

Consolation: A flash fiction

Consolation  (Etherbooks Flash Fiction competition day one: topic: BEGINNINGS)

by Tom Lichtenberg

No one should ever have to do anything for the first time, Corina said to herself as she stood up there in the cold, and they always tell you the same thing, give you the same advice. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Go for it. Try it you’ll like it. Ha. Well I’ve got news for them. I tried it and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it when my mom made me eat that broccoli. I didn’t like it when that nasty Jimmy Blose gave me my first kiss. I didn’t like it when, I don’t even want to think about that. First times suck, and second times too for that matter. No one should ever have to do things they don’t want to do, not for the first time, not ever. Oh, but then they go, how do you know you don’t like it if you don’t try it? Maybe you will. Maybe it’s what you’ve been looking for, what you’ve been waiting for all your life. Maybe it’s the thing. Maybe he’s the one. Maybe maybe maybe shut up, okay? Maybe try keeping your mouth shut for once? Maybe the first time you didn’t blurt out whatever stupid little thought came into your stupid little head? Maybe try that and see if you like it! Telling me what to do, always telling me what to do and what not to do. Over your dead body? Oh yeah? I’ll do what I want with my own skin.

No one should ever be allowed to tell you what to do, Corina said to herself, now shivering. I know you told me it was cold outside. I know you said I should wear something warmer. I heard you the first time. All you do is talk, telling me this and telling me that. When did I ever get a word in? When did you ever have to listen to me? I’ll tell you when. Never, that’s when. No, wait, it was the tenth of Never, how about that? I like that better. That’s what I’ll tell her. You should have listened when you had the chance. You should have opened your ears. What you kept failing to understand, what you kept failing, you kept failing, failing, falling, falling. One step forward, all I need to do is take one step, and I can do it even though I’m doing it for the first time. I shouldn’t have to but you made me. Look what you made me do. I’m feeling the fear but I’m doing it anyway. I’m going for it. I’ll try it, and see if you like it. Just one step. Look alive! That’s what you’d say. Step to it! Okay, then. How do you like these apples, huh? How do you like ’em now, mom? I’m doing it for the first time, though it’s the last thing I’ll ever do. Over your dead body? No, mom, over mine.

Ether Books: Flash Fiction Competition is on again

The Ether Books Flash Fiction competition is on again. 7 stories in 7 days, with the topic announced each day at Midnight (London Time). Today is day two. I’ve posted two stories so far, which I’ll add here in separate posts. I enjoy this competition even though I’m not the least bit interested in winning and I don’t usually go for prompts or this kid of thing in general, but last year I found many interesting writers and enjoyed the whole deal, so here we go again

Recommendations from 8 Days of Ether Books Flash Fiction

Now, I have not read all of the stories in the Ether Books ‘8 Days’ Flash Fiction competition – there are a lot! – but here I am going to talk about those that I did read and gladly recommend. You need the EtherBooks app in your phone or tablet to read them, but the link above works on the web to at least see the titles and their descriptions. It’s difficult to discuss fictions of 500 words or less without giving everything away, but I’ll give it a try.

They Really Do Look Like Ants by Natalie Bowers (in the TRAGEDY section) is practically an entire Sci-Fi thriller in only 500 words. I liked how the meat of the story snuck up on me, and then the last line really wowed me.

The People Indoors by Suzanne Conboy-Hill (in the RISK section) takes the concept of “I dare you” to a whole new (and higher) level.

Bein a Family ‘Cordin to Miss Charmian by Lindsay Fisher (in the FAMILY section) tells a sorry story in its own vibrant idiom.

The Future-Teller by Shravya Gunipudi (in the HATS section) makes an ordinary shopping expedition anything but when the choices you make offer such different paths going forward.

Conversations with Lego by Karla Mouncey-Jaggers (in the FAMILY section) makes a dad take notice – that toy you hear could be coming from inside the house!

0 Out of 10 by Liz Hedgecock (in the FAMILY section) is a stream of barely-consciousness in which when mom says A WORD you really take notice!

What’s He Up To? by Lee Williamson (in the ADVENTURE section) impressed me, even though the wife in the story never was.

When? by Susan O’Reilly (in the TIME section) made me want to notice everything I never do. What a small fraction of reality our brains let us process! Or at least mine …