Furious Fiction 26 – March 2022

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From Monthly to Quarterly

Last month I reported that the Australian Writers Centre’s Furious Fiction competition had been changed from monthly to quarterly. It would seem Furious Fiction has been a victim of its own success and although I’m disappointed I don’t have my monthly dose of fiction writing, I’m not surprised. Given there was no entry fee it would have been an unsustainable process. With so many entries and a tight turn around on results they must have had a veritable army of readers. That and the $500 prize money would have had the bean counters sweating!

Frankie is revived!

Over the course of 2020-21, I entered a number of stories based on my character Frankie the Flamboyant Dresser. I decided that rather than making a new story arc every month I would try to use the given prompts to progress Frankie’s story. Sometimes it was easy and sometimes it wasn’t! Although the entries jump around Frankie’s timeline, the story began to gel and I had a sketchy plot scribbled in my journal. Sometimes I had to go forward, and other times backward to make use of the prompts. If you read them in chronological order the continuity suffers terribly but if you reorder them the plot certainly thickens. Set in a post-Covid dystopia where coloured clothing is banned and the Ultra Conservative Party is led by corrupt and despotic hypocrites, Frankie defies the ban by wearing sequins and fur. He eventually teams up with a group of judges and lawyers who are planning to overthrow the government.

While it tipped into dark themes in some episodes it was generally meant to be light-hearted and hopefully humourous. Each story might not make sense as a stand alone piece, as I was trying to get to the end of Frankie’s journey. I lost interest in Frankie and went off on a different tangent for most of 2021 but this year, he’s back!

Prompts for March

The prompts for this quarter were:

  1. Your story must include a character that commits a crime.
  2. Your story must include some kind of DOOR being opened.
  3. Your story must include the words CHALK, TALK and FORK.

These prompts seem to be created especially for me! The two last lines of my most recent Frankie story were:

In that nanosecond,  O’Mallory had to choose between going over the bonnet or under the wheels; either way, it wouldn’t end well for him.  

As he soared over the bonnet, he looked back to see the door open and saw …

Furious Fiction Jan 2021

It’s a sign!! Did the competition judges want to know what happened to Frankie and his co-conspirators? I think they did, so I obliged! For context, Tom is an investigative journalist helping O’Mallory, who is one of the judges.

Long Live the Judge!

In that nanosecond, O’Mallory had to choose between going over the bonnet or under the wheels; either way, it wouldn’t end well for him. As he soared over the bonnet he looked back to see the car door open and a flash of a long elegant leg with red patent stilettos.

The impact of his skull against the bitumen prevented him from seeing the owner of the shoes but, he would not have been surprised.  As the Honourable Karen Brooks stood up, she motioned to her companion;

 “Clean that up will you Tom?” 

She stepped gingerly around the mangled frame of the bicycle. The red of O’Mallory’s blood was a full tone deeper than her shoes. “She’d like a pair that colour,” she thought. 

“Come along, Tom. Don’t let a little blood put you off. Or are you all talk and no action? Chop-chop! Bundle him up and put him in the boot! ” 

Tom faltered. He had never seen a dead body before. Or more pertinently the body of a friend whose death could be fairly pegged on him.

O’Mallory was his partner in sedition. Their plan to overthrow a corrupt government had bonded them together in a dangerous game. Now, here was his judge, in a tangled oozing pile of brains and metal.

“Oh come on Tom!  Chalk it up to experience. One dead judge? Who cares? We won’t need any of his kind soon.”

This was a fork in the road for Tom. Should he blow his cover or dig himself in deeper? 

He already had enough evidence to derail the Ultra Conservative Party and the festering sleazy politicians who ran it. Their post-Pandemic restructure had taken the country down some very dark alleys, quite literally. Brooks herself was responsible for the drafting of the Fashion Laws. The laws which made coloured clothing illegal. The same laws which put all clothing sales in the hands of the Party and filled its Ministers’ private purses. 

As he watched Brooks circling the body still wearing her finery from the night before, Tom made up his mind. 

“Give me your coat,” he asked, “and the keys.”

She hesitated.  “Do you want blood in the boot? I’ll wrap up his head.” he said, “and grab his feet, he’s bloody heavy”. 

She hesitated, but the curtains had begun to flitter in the windows as curious eyes watched. 

With O’Mallory safely in the boot, Tom lept in behind the wheel and sped off, leaving Brooks behind. He kept his eyes on the mirror and laughed as he saw her face contorting with rage and fear. He could only imagine what story she was spinning to the people in their dull regulation grey flannel pyjamas as they stared at her blood-soaked silver lamé. As he turned the corner he thought he saw a red shoe fly through the air, but he couldn’t be certain. 

“We got her, O’Mallory. We got her!” he chortled. 

Frankie’s Furious Fiction story so far

If you are interested in reading about Frankie’s story so far you can follow this sequence. There are no smooth transitions from one episode to another and there is considerable repetition of plot points to make each story make some contextual sense in a stand alone form. Don’t be a continuity judge – the plot is full of holes but heh, maybe one day I will spruce it up and turn it into a novella! (Although I think it would better as a screenplay.)

  1. Furious Fiction 10 April 2020 – Frankie leaves home and meets George
  2. Furious Fiction 14 – August 2020 – Frankie and George get drunk in the desert
  3. Short Fiction – Frankie and George get to Broome. This one was not actually entered into the competition but I wrote it in September 2020.
  4. Furious Fiction 9 – March 2020 – Frankie gets arrested
  5. Furious Fiction 8 – February 2020 – Frankie on remand
  6. Furious Fiction 11 – May 2020 – Frankie gets sentenced by O’Mallory. Andrea doubts her commitment to the UCP
  7. Furious Fiction 12 – June 2020 – The UCP
  8. Furious Fiction 16 – October 2020 – The plot for revolution unfolds
  9. Furious Fiction 17 – November 2020 – Frankie meets O’Mallory
  10. Furious Fiction 18 – December 2020 – Frankie spills the beans
  11. Furious Fiction 19 – January 2021 – O’Mallory meets the politician.
  12. Furious Fiction 26 – This post. March 2022

Short Fiction – Frankie goes to Broome

This story was written in September 2020 when I was in the the thick of writing a series of connected stories for the Australian Writers Centre’s Furious Fiction Competition. This competition provides prompts for 500 word stories. Originally held monthly, it is now presented every quarter.

I had trouble fitting this story to the prompts (see below) and ended up writing and publishing a non-Frankie story. Next month (April 13, 2022) you’ll find a new installment for Frankie’s story in response to March 2022’s prompts. You can find other Frankie stories in my archive. If you wait till April 13 there will be links to all the stories. The first episode was posted in February 2020.

Broome or Bust

“Should. not. have. opened. that. second. bottle…” Frankie croaked as he held his pounding head between his hands. His wiry frame, even thinner and spikier than it had been yesterday. 

“I do recall mentioning that at the time.” George quipped. They’d been sitting on the side of the highway for hours. The razor-sharp rays of the sun slicing its way through their clothes, sucking out the last bits of moisture.  

Hitch-hiking used to be a reliable way to get around out here in the outback, but it was getting harder and harder. Frankie’s stupid antics had cost them one ride already. They couldn’t afford to lose another. The time ticked past and Frankie went quiet. Too quiet. Scary quiet.  

George stamped his boot against the hard, corrugated dirt road frustrated by their rapidly  impending demise. Dying on the edge of nowhere had not been part of George’s game plan. His ears pricked up when he heard the low rumble of a truck approaching. At first, it was only a sound mirage but soon a red and chrome saviour was arising from the dust. 

Frankie tried to push himself up off the ground.

“Lay down!” George barked at Frankie. “Lay down, play dead and say nothing till we’re in the cab!”

Frankie needed little convincing and did what he was told as the truck pulled up to a stop. The driver jumped out of the cabin, a couple of water bottles in his hand. He knelt beside Frankie gently slopping water into his parched mouth. George guzzled the second bottle. 

“Mate! Are we glad to see you!”

“I’ll take you to Broome,” the driver said, “that’s where I’m heading.” 

“That’ll do!” George said slinging his and Frankie’s bags into the back of the cab. They struggled together to lift the dead weight of Frankie who was playing dead a little too convincingly.

As they drove into the sun the driver switched between radio, podcasts and silence. According to his licence photo his name was Tim. He asked them no questions and offered no conversation. He sprinkled the silence with the occasional expletive when a ‘roo bounced off the bull bar. 

Just as the sun was dipping into the emerald ocean,  Broome loomed ahead. Tim dropped them near the passenger terminal and without a goodbye, he rumbled up the road to the cargo dock. 

Frankie and George stood there dishevelled, smelly and dirty and watched as scores of squeaky clean tourists scuttled along the white jetty back to a massive white cruise ship.   

“See that Frankie? That’s our ticket out of here.”

Somehow in the 48 hours they had known each other, Frankie and George had become a team.

The prompts from September 2020.

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The Band Plays Again: Short Fiction

Those of you who have been following along will know I like to write short fiction and I am a very keen fan of the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition. The once a month competition has been revamped to be only once every three months. I’m disappointed that my monthly writing prompts have been whisked away. I know I will be less inclined to write without the monthly prod.

This story is inspired by true events from April 2021. In NSW, we were between lock downs and I had taken a short road trip with my grandson. We were glamping in a caravan park. I envisaged the story to be written in three parts from different points of view.

This is Part 1 – my own viewpoint. Unashamedly, there are lots of Australian references which may be baffling to a wider audience. If you’ve not heard of Cold Chisel check them out, they are a quintessential Aussie pub band.

No doubt we’ll start seeing movies and books based on Covid and it’s affects on our lives.

The Band Play Again – Robyn’s Story

Robyn’s finger was firmly jammed into her ear in a vain attempt to block out the road noise. 

Conveniently located close to the Newell Highway” the ad for the holiday park had stated.

“Hmmph, very fucking conveniently!” she thought “So convenient the trucks sound like they are about to run over the tent.”

Then a whistle blew, followed by the steady ka-thump ka-thump ka-thump of a slow train rattling on the tracks.

“Oh great! A freight train!” She rolled over and switched fingers.  

A new noise entered the tent. Unfamiliar but familiar. She withdrew the wedged finger. Music? Live music? A crowd cheering and hooting. The bass drum a dull thud, but a thud no less. She listened more intently. “What are they singing? Is it Khe Sanh?” She picked up the lyrics in her head and began to mouth the words. “Yep, Khe Sahn.” She smiled.   By the way the crowd were reacting, it could have been Jimmy himself performing.

Her smile was followed by the wider realisation that this was the first live music she’d heard in over a year. Some of the restrictions had been eased. You could walk around with your beer. You could dance AND sing and bands could play.

Despite the fact that it was keeping her awake she couldn’t but help feel the joy as she imagined those happy rockers who were finally out playing again.

Judging by the set-list they had to be over 55. It was all old stuff. Not all Oz Rock but all from the ‘70s and ’80s. I bet they were all wearing black jeans and had skinny legs. Some band’s logo (probably AC/DC) would be emblazoned across their chest. Tufts of white hair sticking out from their neck lines. The lead singer would have long hair. Long, grey wiry hair that should have been cut 30 years ago. Their leathery faces cracked by the Australian sun would make them look older than they really were and the years of hard drinking and smoking added another decade.

Distant chimes of the town’s clock struck twelve, interrupting the music and heralding the fact that the band would have to stop soon. The bar staff would have already started collecting the glasses and offering last drinks. On cue, at 12:05, the band did stop and the crowd whistled and jeered in disappointment.

MORE! MOOORRRE! MOOORRREE! They were crying out. This special evening obviously finishing too early for the COVID starved crowd. 

The band began again. The crowd settled and another classic of the ‘80s crossed the road and swirled around her tent. Billy Jean? That seemed like an odd choice. Perhaps it was the only other song they knew. 

Two more songs and they were done. The crowd was less insistent on them returning to the stage and soon the sound of squealing utes (they had to be utes, after all, this was Dubbo) filled the void. 

She drifted off to sleep thinking how lucky we had been here in Australia. How sensible we had all been following the restrictions, after all, people were still dying like flies in the UK and the US. Little did she know.

This is a ute (short for Utility)

Parts 2 and 3?

I haven’t written the next bits yet! This part was written in May 2021. We are still muddling along with Covid and not as lucky anymore! Gary one of the wiry grey headed band members will tell his story and Alicia a young woman in the crowd will go home with her drunken abusive partner.