Furious Fiction 12 – June 2020

Furious Fiction banner

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

Here is my entry for June’s Furious Fiction, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly competition. Lockdown is nearly over here in Australia, but things remain unsettled with racial tension adding another dangerous element to the world’s instability.

As I’ve said before, this competition is a fun activity with a terrific prize. You can read about it on their website.

Basically, it’s 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

The criteria for June were:

  • Your story’s first and last words must begin with J.
  • Your story must include a game being played.
  • Your story must include the phrase MISS/MISSED THE BOAT.

I’ve continued with Frankie’s journey and although I feel it is unlikely this chapter will make much sense as a stand-alone piece, I am now more focused on the challenge of completing his story using the prompts given.

This month’s entry was submitted on Saturday night at 22:15. 496 words.

You can read the previous chapter in Frankie’s story here.


Chapter 5: Justice for all.

Justice is a tricky concept.  Frankie knew justice didn’t mean fair. It didn’t mean right. It didn’t even mean protection of the innocent. It was a game invented by the people who owned the ball.  A blood sport rigged to ensure the rich always won, even if they broke their own rules. 

Frankie was playing for the wrong team. Judge O’Mallory, on the other hand, was on the winning side. Frankie imagined O’Mallory had been fullback for the First XV at St Swanky’s or wherever his type goes to school.  He probably went to boarding school, packed off at five by his neglectful cold-hearted parents. 

As the bailiff dragged him screaming from the courtroom, Frankie decided it was time he learnt to play by their rules.

He needed someone to tell his story.

——-

“Bailiff! Take him down!” The thunderous words were still ringing in Judge O’Mallory’s ears as the door slammed on Frankie. He wasn’t feeling like a winner. He’d sentenced another poor wretch to five years in prison on the whim of a corrupt government. A government that allowed for the tyrannical rule of the black-shirted Fashion Police. 

—–

Personal grooming had sunk to all-time lows after COVID. People didn’t even bother wearing pants when they were Zooming! The lack of respect spilt over into other areas of life and before long there was anarchy!  

The lack of decency and dignity was deplorable! Someone needed to do something! 

Someone did. 

The UCP. 

The Ultra Conservative Party burst onto the scene after the Pandemic with their promises of a return to the “Old Normal”. Changes in the laws were incremental. Like a lobster in a pot, the heat was turned up so slowly no-one noticed until it was too late. The populous had missed the boat on the democracy front.

Low-slung jeans were the first to go. No more dudes with the crotch of their jeans down around their knees. Who could argue with that? A ban on exposed underwear was quickly followed by the prohibition of activewear anywhere other than the gym. Again a significant portion of the population supported that particular ruling. 

Then bright colours, florals, patterns, stripes and animal prints.  

The UCP controlled the market by buying out all the boutiques.  Easily done, since most had gone under in the lockdown.

They introduced a regulated monochromatic capsule wardrobe which stipulated less than twenty items, a mandated date for changing from one season’s capsule to the next, and jail time for those who breached the code. 

—–

O’Mallory wasn’t the only judge feeling uncomfortable about the fashion laws. The secret rumblings amongst his colleagues were getting bolder.

They needed someone to tell their story.

Frankie’s opinion of O’Mallory was wrong. He didn’t know he had an ally in silk and horsehair

Both men needed the same thing, a fearless storyteller! Someone who was willing to blow the whistle on corruption and intolerance. Did such a person still exist? 

What they needed was a bloody good journalist! 

Short Story Challenge

Looking for a short story challenge? A couple of posts back I published some old stories I had found languishing in my messy Google Drive. I also found these fragments of stories.

I had a sort of futuristic vibe going for a while.  Both stories were intended to be longish short stories or shortish novellas. I was aiming at around 10 – 15,000 words.

I don’t remember what my complete original plot lines were going to be.

Disconnected was going to be the story of a group of older people, led by a curmudgeonly fellow (think Harrison Ford type figure) who refused to connect to the internet. They go on to help people escape from the grips of the “government” which has collapsed into a 1984-style dystopia.

NOWASTE had a similar theme. Jeez! I must have been on fire when I came up with that acronym! It is again set in a future when thought police are real. I think the main character (well the only character so far) was going to turn into some sort of resistance fighter. Perhaps even influenced by The Handmaid’s Tale

Many of my older stories would have been better written as screenplays.

My challenge to you dear reader is; how would you progress them? What would happen next? Please outline some possible scenarios in the comments below! We can start our own virtual writers’ group!


Disconnected (October 2017)

Greta ran as fast as she could from her doorway to next door and these days that was not fast! It was after curfew but she risked it anyway. She needed to see him and she couldn’t connect any other way. Since the beginning, he had refused to connect.

“If people want to talk to me they can come and see me! In person!”

It wasn’t that he was a Luddite, as such. He had just read Orwell’s 1984 so many times that he began to see it as a reality.

Greta would tell him he was just being paranoid.

“Just wait”  he’d say sipping hard on his beer. The beer he brewed himself from scratch. 

To most people, he was just a crackpot. He thought the establishment was out to get us all.

We would argue “but we are the establishment – this is not the Government!” He didn’t buy the argument that we the masses, decided what was posted on social media, that it was a platform for disruptive change.

“You are so naive” he’d say and we would ignore him and take another photo of our breakfast pancake stack to prove how magical our lives were.

Sometimes on public radio, we would hear that a shocking study showed that the content on social media was manipulated. That the Millennials in charge had actually been doing secret experiments where they showed some people happy posts and other sad posts and watched how it affected them. It would stay in the news for a while and then vanish. Public radio didn’t last long after the last election. 

OVER TO YOU!


 

NOWASTE (December 2018)

Patricia was careful to not draw attention to herself. It was much better to keep things low key. To fly under the radar. To blend into the crowd. To think in cliches. To avoid original thought. 

At 63, Patty still remembered how Christmas used to be. Oh my god, she thought the word!! She glanced furtively at those around her. Had they heard her thought? Would she be arrested? 

Keep cool. Look calm. Repeat the mind-block mantra Money doesn’t buy happiness. Stuff doesn’t buy happiness.

No movement towards her.

No telltale wailing of sirens approaching. 

No flashing drone locked over her position. 

Phew. Perhaps they had all been too busy suppressing their own thoughts to be worried about tuning into hers. 

It was not that we didn’t celebrate anymore. It was just that we were careful not to include thoughts of religion, ageism, sexism or wanton consumerism when we did. The focus was now on The Agreement.  It just so happened that the New Order World Agreement for Sustainable Trade and Emissions (NOWASTE) was signed on the 25 of December in 2018. (Glorious day)

It was a good thing. Global warming had slowed down and only a few of the smaller Pacific Islands had vanished. 

 

…. so what next??

Furious Fiction 10 – April 2020

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

Another First Friday rolls around and here is my entry for April’s Furious Fiction, the Australian Writers’ Centre’s monthly competition. This month I didn’t have to feel guilty about being at home in front of my computer on both Friday and Saturday nights. Australia and most of the world remain in some form of lock-down. Your location will add a different flavour to your circumstances, with some countries in complete lockdown and others having what can only be described as a half-hearted attempt.

As I’ve said before this competition is a fun activity with a terrific prize. You can read about it on their website.

Basically, it’s 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize.

The criteria for April were:

  • Your story must begin on the side of a road.
  • Your story must include the words APRON, PIGMENT, RIBBON, ICON, LEMON (plurals are okay).
  • Your story must include a splash.

As I said back in March, I intended to  write the next chapter in my story about Frankie, the flamboyant dresser. I actually had a story mapped out and had even made a voice recording so I would not forget it.  It WAS going to be the next chapter, after Frankie’s arrest and prison processing. However, I could not get the prompts to fit that story so I have written Chapter 0, the start of Frankie’s journey. Perhaps next month I can get Frankie into court!

This month’s Furious Fiction entry was submitted at 8:20AM Sunday. 497 words.

a red dirt road stretching into the horizon

Frankie Starts His Journey.

Frankie stood up at the first sight of bulldust rising on the horizon. He got ready to wave down the approaching road train. His ticket to the big smoke. He’d had enough of living a lie out here in the back of beyond. It was time to cut those apron strings and leave the family home. He was never going to fit in out here. Never. He was a round peg in a very square hole.

The bulldust cloud was getting closer. The bright red pigment paint screaming out “Broome or Bust!” from his sign. He hoisted his backpack, so he’d be ready when the driver slowed down. Frankie was in no doubt the driver would slow down, it was outback lore. No one, no decent person, would leave a lone hitchhiker out here without asking if they were OK.

By the time Frankie’s imagined road train was a hundred metres away, it had morphed into a yellow Kombi. The front tyre was flat, and the VW icon dangled on a ribbon from the windshield wipers.

Frankie wasn’t sure he wanted a lift in this particular lemon. Would it even make it to the next town, let alone Broome? He couldn’t be choosy, it was the first vehicle to pass him in four hours, and it was getting dark. The Kombi did slow down. It clanged to a stop with a burst of black smoke exploding from the dragging exhaust.

“MAN!” the driver said, “AM I glad to see YOU! I’m lost, my Kombi’s stuffed and I JUST ran out of petrol!”

Frankie blinked. When he opened his eyes, the Kombi was still there, still smoking.

The driver jumped down and held out his hand. “Name’s George,” he said, pumping Frankie’s hand enthusiastically while raising his eyebrow quizzically.

“Errr…Frankie,” Frankie said after an awkward pause. He realised he had been staring. George sure must have had some balls to be out here, in this place, dressed like that! His outfit was a riot of colour and style. A glorious cascade of sequins on satin. Frankie’s own chambray and denim, a shameful deception hiding his real desires,

“Let’s get this piece of shit off the road!” George said as he put his shoulder against the dead van. The heaving ended abruptly when the Kombi rolled down the embankment, hit a rock and teetered over.

CRUNCH!

“SHIIIIIIIIIIIITTTTTTT!” they said in unison, laughing. Unfazed, George scrambled down to retrieve some gear through the now smashed window. A huge suitcase, a pair of tall black boots, and a bottle of rum.

“Care for a splash of something smooth, Frankie? I think it’s gonna be a long night.”

They laughed again and sat down to wait for a real road train.

For the first time in his life, Frankie felt at ease with another human. He had found his tribe, here on the edge of the Gibson Desert. He’d found another round peg that wasn’t trying to squeeze into any square holes!

270413_3193

NOTE: some Aussie slang:

Lemon = a broken down car bought cheap and not likely to last long.

1 May 2020: EDITED TO ADD: I just realised my main character’s name changed.  In the first episode, his name was Charlie and the guard’s name was Frankie. Here I called our protagonist Frankie! Whoops! From now on he’ll be Frankie, the flamboyant dresser.