Flash Fiction Friday: “Good For Nothing”

As a reminder, when I use the tag/term “flash fiction” I am doing so in a very specific sense.  The stories I post as flash fiction are conceived, written, edited and put into WordPress for posting in one hour.  That’s it, that’s my time limit.  If I can’t complete a story within that window, it gets moved to my “short fiction” file for later work, but it doesn’t get posted here to my little seat at the bar…

So, well, as is so common for me, it was a song that kicked off the image I wanted to use for this piece:

Good For Nothing

A scream, then, as background to the sound of fist hitting flesh.  Over and over, that sound.

She clutched at his arm, tried to stop the jackhammer blows.

Her voice became a whimpering cry, just short of despair, “Stop…oh God, please stop!”

The face on the floor…it wasn’t much of a face.  Not anymore.  Not after the rain of blows.  She pulled at the arm, tried to pin the blood-spattered hand to her chest.

The arm jerked and pulled, then the other looked at her.  That face was hard, had nothing in it but rage and murder when he looked at her.  He stopped pulling, then, and his eyes…melted.  Pain came, and helplessness, to replace the rage.

“This fucker…he hurt you!” he cried.  A child, wailing at the universe.

Sirens and yells in the distance.  In the distance, but coming nearer.

A touch to his face, and a tear, then the sirens were on top of them.

Shouts and thuds and a whirl of chaotic violence and both were on the ground.  Rough, gloved hands cuffed them, searched them.  She felt her wallet taken, knew the cops had everything…

The hands holding her relaxed — a bit — and a voice, harsh and hoarse, spat, “Fuckin’ good-for-nothin’ kids…”

Flash Fiction Friday: “Lost”

The danger of flash/micro fiction, by the way, is in making sure that the pieces you create are stories. They most common result, unfortunately, is for those few hundred words to simply be a scene, or a thought.  To make them into a story is hard…and that is where I fail most of the time.

It helps to have a plan for the piece…a plan over and above that one thought or image that gave rise to it. The piece below is one of those failures.  Oh, I had a vision — I had the symbols I wanted to use, and the driving thought — but the story…the story was lacking.*

*Err…if you haven’t tried it, to conceptualize, write and edit a story in under an hour ain’t exactly easy…

Still, I haven’t posted a flash fiction piece in a while, so here goes:

“Lost”

There was no sky, only clouds.  There was no sun, no light, only clouds, leaden and grey.

There was a path for me to follow, ahead, but it was faint and intermittent, nothing more than the barest bit of game trail.

I was lost.  Again.

The trail meandered, as they so often will, and the sky offered no help.  All I had were the unfamiliar hills and the bowl of trees and rocks in which I stood.  A place I had never seen.  The last familiar ground was too far behind to turn back, the last landmark a fading memory, and the way ahead even more uncertain.

I had nothing to steer by, nothing to guide me, nothing of comfort or care.  All I had was me, and a lifetime of being lost.

I walked, then.  The game trail came and went, a distant friend visited only in passing.  My feet followed instead that lifetime of being lost, followed the path of experience and memory.  When everything ahead is strange and dangerous, that is what you trust: experience and memory.

When you fall down a hole, people say, you stop digging.  When you get lost, you stop walking and wait for help.

Bullshit.

There is no help, no one coming to save you.  You put one foot in front of the other and walk, from one tree, one hill, to the next.  I put one foot in front of the other, then, and walked…from one tree, one hill, to the next.

The clouds hung lower and lower, the sky grew ever more threatening and cold.  My one friend, that faint trail, disappeared and still I walked.  My only survival was in walking, in progress.  To stop was to die.  I knew that.  From long experience I knew that.

No food, little water, my energy fading, I knew the next hill would be the last.  I couldn’t climb another.  Being lost had finally caught up with me.

The sky grew brighter, even as I climbed.  The clouds began to thin, the sun to return.  I stood at the crest, then.  I stood at the crest and stared.  The sun had moved, the world had shifted, and what lay before my feet was…unexpected.

The world hadn’t moved, the sun hadn’t shifted, I had.

What lay ahead was a valley I knew well, the trailhead where I had begun so many days before.  I stood and stared, more lost and confused than I had been in the mountains themselves.

I was home, I was safe.

I turned around and began walking to the next valley.

Microfiction Friday: “Past The Breakers”

I thought about writing a post dealing with our ever-more-quickly declining political sphere.  I thought about it, then I decided even my all-star level of cynicism wasn’t quite up to dealing with the most recent event of bombs mailed to anti-Trump figures.  Nope…I mean, just how many times can I repeat “We’re fucked” before I start to go insane?

I thought, also, about writing a semi-humorous post on the topic of “Who Is The Coolest Person Ever.”  But…well…I mean, c’mon — we all know it’s Miles Davis, and anyone who says different is either nuts, or selling something.  Or probably both…

Ah, hell…screw it.  I’m a fiction writer, and I’ve been thinking about meaning and subtext all day.  Maybe it’s time to go back to the basics:

Past The Breakers

The boy was afraid of the waves.  He’d always been afraid of the waves, and always would be, he thought.  His brothers swam and played out in the waves, tried to draw him in, but his faltering legs refused to move deeper into the sea.

What if I fall? he thought.  What if the water gets me?

Water to his ankles…warm sand and even warmer sun…all the comfort of other kids, and their parents, close around him.  There was safety where he was, even if that safety lacked the daring of his brothers.

He ran and played in the shallows, but always with the soundtrack of those familiar voices shouting and calling, “Come out with us!  You can handle the waves, that’s where the fun is!”

Tears, then, of frustration and fear…and of anger.  If he never left the shallows, how would he know if the waves truly were fun?  How would he know if he could ever overcome them?  How would he know?

Water to his knees, then to his hips, and a wave knocked him down.  A spit of salty water and he climbed to his feet, anger pushing the fear far behind him.  Soon, his feet left the sand and he was swimming, ducking under the waves as they broke above him, then surfacing for a gasp of air.

His brothers had been right!  It wasn’t just fun, it was exhilarating, and he threw everything he had into his frolicking battle with the sea.  He felt tremendous, he felt…powerful.  A look around and he realized he’d done it, he’d swum father than any of his brothers!  He felt like he could do anything.

A moment more and that excitement faded as quickly as it had come.  There were no more waves to battle.  There was no more exhilaration, nor excitement.  There was no more anger.  There was just fear, and an incomprehensible sense of loss.

The voices calling to him from the shore were tiny and incomprehensible, too distant to hear.  His arms were beginning to numb, and his legs wouldn’t kick properly.  He was exhausted, he discovered.  Although the waves were gone, the ocean still moved, and with every heave the waters washed over him, higher and higher.  

He heard a voice, then, barely.  One single voice, that of a brother, “…he’s too far out…”

Too far out.

Another heave of the sea, and he slipped under.

The voices called and called, the shouts turning to shrieks and cries, but nothing could penetrate the sea.

Microfiction Friday: “Flowers”

I wanted to see her again; I needed to see her again. It had been a year, and never had we gone so long without seeing each other.

I still loved her. That hadn’t changed, and never would, but the vagaries of life and circumstance had changed everything else.

Today, though…

Today, we would see each other. Today I would feel again that rush of warmth and comfort. Today would make the last year seem but a blink.

I watched and I watched. The sun climbed the sky, turned and started to descend, and still she hadn’t come. There was nothing I could do but wait. She would come. I loved her, I knew she would come.

There…there she was. She had come!

I wanted to jump up, wanted to gather her in my arms once again. I wanted the years to have disappeared, to have everything back the way it used to be.

Against the green of the grass her dark dress stood out, highlighted the flowers filling her arms.

I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak. The years fell away, and that longed-for warmth and comfort overwhelmed me — she had come!

Tears stained her cheeks as she laid the flowers at my feet.

I wanted to move. I tried to move, to touch her cheek, to stroke her hair…but I was rooted, immobile. No matter how much I needed to touch her, I couldn’t move.

“Happy anniversary, my love,” she whispered. A sob, then, and her voice broke, “God, I miss you…”