Furious Fiction 12 – June 2020

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! 

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.

Furious Fiction – From the Archive

Furious Fiction – Australian Writers’ Centre.

Coronavirus “Iso” has given us the time to do things we would normally leave to  “when we got around to it”. What started as a valiant attempt to sort out my digital storage, descended into a trove of old stories found in my messy Google Drive.  Included in that hot mess were previous attempts at Furious Fiction competitions,  and fragments of stories I don’t remember starting let alone have an inkling of where I was going to go with the storyline. (I’ll publish them later and challenge you to finish them!)

Here is the entry I wrote for the September 2018 competition. The criteria that month were:

  • The entire story must take place in an airport.
  • The story must include the word SPRING somewhere. (Plural also okay.)
  • The story must include the phrase: IT WAS EMPTY.

This is the second of two found stories from my archive. I have also published other FF stories which you can find here.

Pam’s deception.

Always ready to spring into action, Krysia was scanning the crowd of bleary-eyed, unwashed, overfed and under-slept travellers who stood at the carousel waiting for their bags to be spewed out onto the belt. 

Like a tractor beam in an old sci-fi movie, her eyes locked onto the guy in the suit. Too tidy. Too neat. No doubt he flew first class. She directed her hidden camera on him. It scrolled through the biometrics, settling on an identity within seconds:  Clifford Saunders. Australian. DOB 25/09/78. No flags. No tags. No dossier. A clean skin. 

BINGO!

She turned to her boss. “Looks dodgy, Pam, I am going down on the floor.”

Pam nodded. “I’ll put the decoy in play.”

Decked out in civvies, Krysia sidled up to him and rubbed her eyes in a mock yawn. 

“I hate this part – just give me my bags already!” she said. “What flight were you on?”

Cliff ignored her. Not many refused her charm. Definitely dodgy!  

The decoy bag came in view. When it was right in front of him, she leapt forward. The accidental collision, a perfect distraction, as she triggered the micro-gas detector.

“Quick Pam, test that”  she whispered into her sleeve, as she wrestled the bag to the floor.

After thirty minutes of tense and awkward waiting,  there were only two bags left on the belt. The bag with the first-class tags was going past again. This time, Krysia stepped up to grab it, simultaneously flashing her ID and a smug smile. Cliff shifted on his feet, ready to run. She made the signal. A cloud of black-uniformed officers swarmed around him.

“It’s light – scan it” she barked. 

The X-ray showed it was empty.

After seven hours of intense interrogation, Krysia had to let him go. There was nothing. No residue of drugs, explosives or wildlife. 

She went upstairs to report to Pam. The walk of shame. She’d have to listen to the lecture about picking the wrong mark – again.  She’d been so sure this time! Apparently, there was nothing illegal about having an empty bag. There should be!

Pam’s office was empty. That’s odd?

Krysia filled out the forms and emailed them through. An out-of-office email pinged back within milliseconds. “That’s odd,” she thought “Pam didn’t say she was going on leave”

Odd indeed.  Krysia began to panic. She pulled up the CCTV footage.

There! Right there! Just when Krysia was causing a huge commotion with Clifford Saunders’ arrest, with every officer on shift in one place at one time, there, right there, was Pam picking up the second of the two remaining bags from the belt. There she was with a passport and a boarding pass like any other traveller. There was Pam walking through the arrivals hall and buying coffee. And there, seven hours later, was Pam, in the back of a limo, leaving the car park with Clifford. 

“I’ll put the decoy in play,” Pam Saunders had said.

BOOM! 

 

Furious Fiction – from the archives

Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction Competition

I was trawling through my Google Drive trying to tidy it up a bit and came across this story I wrote back on the 3rd August 2018. Given that that was a “First Friday”, I can only presume I wrote it for an Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction Competition.

My suspicions were confirmed after searching through their archives, where I discovered that the prompts for that month were:

each story had to include the following three sentences:

  • The door was locked.
  • She laughed.
  • It felt familiar.

I can see now that although I included the words, I did not include them as stand-alone sentences which means I did not fulfil the requirements. I guess that’s why I didn’t win! 🙂

The closest I’ve got to winning so far is this entry where I was longlisted.

The Erikson Case

As she fumbled in her bag for the keys, she came to grips with the fact that this time, he had, in fact, meant it. The door was locked, she was late, and her resentful husband was on the other side of that thick piece of wood and glass. She turned the key and pushed. Nothing. She pushed again this time with her shoulder.  She laughed! Oh, how she laughed. 

“Cunning bugger,” she thought “He’s gone and locked the deadbolt as well and I don’t have that key.” 

In the morning, when she was leaving for work, shuffling with the stilettos half on and the toast clasped between her teeth, he had asked her not to be late.  

“If you are late again. I’ll lock it! I mean it!” 

She grabbed the toast and pecked his cheek. 

“Yes, darling, of course you will.” 

“No, I mean it!  I really mean it! You said you’d be home by seven last night and you didn’t get home till 10:30. I cooked…”

She cut him off with another kiss, this time full and passionate. To distract him. To try and convince him that she was sorry. It had become their daily routine, and it felt familiar. Too darn familiar.

She pulled the door shut and wriggled her foot completely into the shoe.

“I mean it” she heard him yell through the door. 

She pulled a face “Yes dear!” she mouthed and started the car. It wasn’t as if she wanted to be late!  It came with the job. The long hours, the high stakes. 

“Are you having an affair?” he had asked on Tuesday. 

“No! Don’t be silly” she replied without thinking more of it. She wasn’t, and it didn’t occur to her that he needed more than a quick reassurance. 

Truth be known she was. Not with another man but with her work. It absorbed her. Took all her energy and gutted her soul. It drained her every day, and she felt like a battery with only 5% charge. A thin red line. 

“What is it exactly you’re working on this time?” he asked on Wednesday.

“The Erikson case.  Very tricky commercial law” she said, a little too quickly. They both knew she was lying. She changed the subject ineptly. That was something she needed to work on – lying. 

The locked door was no obstacle though. Not to her. She took the little tool case out of her handbag. The one with the tiny little lock picking tools. The lock clicked, she stepped inside. He was on the couch, the sound of the TV muffling his quiet snoring.  She kissed him gently and covered him with a blanket. The air smelt of pizza. 

One day, maybe one day, she’d be able to tell him, but right now she remained in her Majesty’s Service and her code name was classified.

She dragged her tired body up the stairs and winced at the bruises she gained in today’s “tricky Erikson case”. 


A post on a Wednesday? “That’s odd”, I hear you say. “Don’t you normally post on a Friday and Sunday?” Yes! I am experimenting with posting days to see if there is much difference in my “view” count.

Furious Fiction 9 – March 2020

Wentworth Street, Port Kembla

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

Gosh, the First Friday sure does come around quickly bringing another chance to enter Furious Fiction, the AWC’s monthly competition. As I’ve said before this 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 March were:

  • Your story must include a PERSON IN DISGUISE.
  • Your story must take place in a PARK.
  • Your story must include a MIRROR.

I made three starts to this story. The first attempt was about a private eye trying to catch a wandering spouse, then it morphed into an internet dating story before I finally decided to run with the same story arc as last month’s story. It had to stand alone and not rely on the previous episode to make sense. I have already hatched out the next episode and hope I can bend April’s criteria to suit.

Here is this month’s Furious Fiction entry, submitted at 9:55 PM Saturday night. 488 words.

Clark in the Dark

Miriam was swinging her legs under the park bench. 

“Stop fidgeting! You’ll blow our cover!”

She sighed deeply and went back to pulling at the fringing on her poncho. 

“How long do we have to sit here?”

Clark ignored her. 

Miriam shuffled along the bench, tapped her feet on the ground, stood up, sat down, adjusted her mohawk wig, looked at her watch and sighed again. 

“Gov, this is ridiculous. We’ve already hit our quota for the month. Anyway, don’t you think THIS is dangerously bordering on entrapment?”

Miriam waved her hands over the “this”. An orange and white crocheted poncho made from acrylic yarn, white lace-up boots and tight orange velour pants. 

“Miriam…” he said “It’s not about the quota. It’s about the law. We don’t just stop upholding the law because we hit our quota! We don’t just let the fifty-first murderer off the hook because we only needed fifty for the quota!”

Specks of white saliva were gathering in the creases of his lips.  

“No, Miriam, we seek out those poxy crims wherever they are! ”

When DCI Clark Weston was working up to a full spitty episode, DC Miriam Hensen knew it was time to take a backward step.

“We have a duty to society! We have to stop these scum corrupting our youth with their grooming. If you can’t stand the heat Miriam, get out of the sweatshop!”

“Gov, I joined the Unit so I could create change! I expected undercover work to be more than sitting in Hyde Park in a clumsy disguise trapping lost souls. I didn’t think I’d be using a bag full of second-hand clothes from Double Bay Vinnies to entrap the disadvantaged.”

“Don’t come the liberal social justice disadvantaged angle with me, Miriam! These people DO have choices! They can look in the mirror before they leave home you …”

He stopped mid-sentence, “Look!  There, case in point!”

There, coming towards them was a travesty of colour. A man in a blue shirt, green pants and no belt. 

“A Code 10! Bet you’ve never seen THAT before!“ Clark whispered excitedly “Blue and green with nothing in between!”

Miriam was shocked. The man’s eyes were bulging like a junkie craving a fix. Clark pushed her towards him.

“Remember, he has to agree to buy!”

She sashayed up to Mr Blue-Green, “Wanna look at my stash fella,” she cooed, swishing her fringing and holding the bag out provocatively.

“Yeah babe, if you’ve got any sequins, I’ll buy the lot!” 

And just then, just as he committed to the sale, DCI Weston of the Fashion Police, lept up and cuffed him. 

“You’re under arrest  for a Code 10 Violation – Catastrophic Colour Clash.” Clarke shouted, “You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say may be used as evidence.”

Clark looked across at Miriam with smug satisfaction. “Never forget our motto, Miriam. Dress Proud. THAT’S what you signed up for.”

 

 

Furious Fiction 8 – February 2020

Wentworth Emporium

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

I didn’t get a chance to submit an entry for the December and January editions of Furious Fiction but here is my effort for February 2020. Furious Fiction is a fun competition with a terrific prize and you can read about it on their website.

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

The criteria for February were:

  • One of the characters had to be a GUARD
  • It must include the words NARROW, GLOSSY, GOLDEN and LEATHERY
  • The first and last sentences can have only two words.

Let me know what you think!

Frankie’s Folly.

“Not AGAIN?”

The guard’s exasperated look said it all. This was the third time Charlie had tumbled through the narrow shute from the prison van into the processing room.

“Lord, it’s only two months since the last time you were here! Will you never learn?”

“‘Fraid not, Frankie,” Charlie said as he held out his leathery hand for a defiant high-five. “I will always express myself as the creative individual I am. They will never wear me down!”

When there was no return slap Charlie withdrew his raised hand, seamlessly morphing the gesture into a head scratch. Frankie wasn’t risking being seen on camera fraternising with the inmates. Secretly, he hoped that one day, Charlie might learn how to keep himself out of trouble. At the very least, learn to keep his felonies private and behind closed doors.

The first time they met, four years ago, Charlie was in for three months. He arrived in golden hot pants and silver knee-high boots.  A clear Code 7 Violation: Mixed Metallics.

The rigorous and brutal re-education sessions had had little impact because a year later, Charlie was back. This time in a glossy vinyl jumpsuit adorned with sequins AND fur. Code 8 slapped down right there! Texture Abuse.  The Judge was less inclined to be lenient for a second offence and Charlie was in for a full year.

And here he was a third time. Granted, Charlie was a little more subdued in a blue shirt and green trousers, but Frankie wouldn’t help him this time. There’d been a crackdown on contraband and it was too hazardous to smuggle the ‘Zines in. Last time, he had pushed pages torn from Vogue under Charlie’s cell door but despite the hints, he just didn’t get it! It was too much for Frankie, he had compassion fatigue.

Frankie read Charlie’s charge sheet and shook his head. The Judge had really thrown the book at him.

“Crikey Charlie?” He swore under his breath. “Everybody knows its law!” The mandatory five-year sentence was excessive but without a doubt, this was a serious offence. There it was in black and white:

“Blue and green should never be seen unless there’s something in between. Code 10 Violation: Catastrophic Colour Error. Maximum penalty!”

As the other guards dragged Charlie away,  Frankie felt for him, he was obviously trying. He had made a rookie error, he had forgotten the belt.

Frankie sighed, it was definitely time to forget this fella. He had done what he could.  Who knew what sort of family Charlie grew up in? No doubt his mum wore black bras under white t-shirts. His dad probably had a mullet. There was little hope of redemption.

Frankie squared his shoulders in a Scarlett O’Hara-esque way and strode down the hall to unload yet another van-load of sorry souls in their offensive glad rags.  The decal on the cop car outside at least reminding his jaded psyche of his raison d’être.

Federal Fashion Police. 

Dress Proud.

 

 

 

NEWS FLASH!!! I didn’t win but this story did get long-listed! woot woo!!!!

Screen Shot 2020-02-26 at 19.07.04

 

 

 

 

Furious Fiction 7

Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition

I look forward to the Furious Fiction First Friday each month. I don’t always take the opportunity to write something, but when I do, it certainly is furiously fast! This November, I had a chance to take a peek on Friday night, and I sketched out an idea, but I didn’t actually start writing until Saturday. It’s a fun competition with a terrific prize and you can read about it on their website.

Basically its 500 words in 55 hours for a $500 prize

The prompts for November 2019 were a bit tricky!Screenshot 2019-11-05 20.15.35

Here’s my effort!

Three in the Bed

“There were eleven in the bed, and the little one said roll o…”

Molly didn’t get a chance to finish the nursery rhyme.

“Cut it out! Eleven? It’s only ten!” Polly interjected vexatiously.

“I can have as many as I like! I can have 50 in the bed if I want.”

Molly and Polly had been bickering since birth. Molly, the eldest, by seven minutes, thought she could lord it over Polly. While Polly, who had benefited from a greater share of placental oxygen, was the tallest.

With the bickering came the secret schemes. The ones sealed with an even more secretive handshake. The sorts of schemes that only truly identical twins could pull off.

The sort of schemes that twisted and turned and caught the unsuspecting in a tangled web.

It started out innocently enough when one sister couldn’t keep an appointment, the other would go in her place. Polly would sit the Maths papers, Molly would do the art classes. They would lie in bed at night and giggle at the stories they had invented and what the other would need to do to stay in character for the next encounter.

The stakes grew progressively higher as they got older. They shared a Tinder profile. On Saturday nights they’d flick through the photos giggling and calling out in unison.

“Left!”

“Left!”

“Left!”

When they got to Lewis, they both shouted. “RIGHT!”

“We’ll share! He’ll never know.” Polly said.

Molly interpreted sharing as sequential dating. Polly had a better idea; simultaneous dates.

“How are we going to do that?” Molly asked.

“Easy, invite him back to our place, I’ll be hiding in the bathroom. You go to the toilet, I’ll swap places. Then after a while, I’ll ‘slip into something more comfortable’, and we can swap again.”

Molly wasn’t convinced but provided she’d be the one that ended up in the bed, she’d agree.

“It might get a bit awkward, though, if things start getting hot and steamy and you’re in the bathroom?”

“Noise-cancelling headphones, Sis,” Polly said.

Lewis turned out to be as hunky as his profile picture.

Polly and Lewis quickly got down to business on the couch. He began to trace the  crescent-shaped birthmark on her thigh with his finger, but Polly held his hand and excused herself nervously so she could “freshen up.”

“ SHIT! He saw it! The birthmark!” Polly wheezed as she shut the door.

“We didn’t think about that!”

Polly suddenly looked like the proverbial cat with the pigeon. “Sorry sis, you’ll have to miss out this time.”

“No, that’s not fair! Just turn out the lights!

“He doesn’t seem like an ‘in the dark’ sort of guy to me.” She pushed past, shutting the door firmly on her stammering sister.

Lewis was lying naked in the bed. Polly slipped between the sheets. Lewis looked over his shoulder as Molly slipped under the covers too, singing.

“There were two in the bed, and the little one said …make room for three!”


PS: I am not sure if the nursery rhyme I cite here is universally known. It was one my mum used to sing to me and me to my daughter. It’s a counting song and you use your fingers as you sing along.

There was 10 in the bed and the little one said

“Roll over, roll over”

So they all rolled over and one fell out (fold down one finger)

There was 9 in the bed and the little one said

“Roll over, roll over”

So they all rolled over and one fell out (fold down one finger)

And so on until you get to no-one in the bed

You can read some of my other Furious Fiction stories by clicking on the following links

Furious Fiction 6

Furious Fiction 5

Furious Fiction 4

Furious Fiction 3

Furious Fiction 2

Furious Fiction 1

 

 

Furious Fiction 4

The Australian Writers’ Centre’s Furious Fiction competition for April 2019 centred on three lines of dialogue.

Viz:

  • “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”  from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  • “He’s never done anything like this before.”  Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • “What’s it going to be then, eh?” A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

You can find out more about this fun competition at https://www.writerscentre.com.au/furious-fiction/

Here is my story.

Black Widows

The door of the pub flew open, and an old woman, lugging an oversized suitcase and a heavy backpack, struggled to fit through its frame .

She flung her suitcase bedside a table close to the fireside and strode up to the bar.  The bag was big. She was small.

“Impressive!” the bartender thought, surprised by the old girl’s strength.

“What’s it going to be then, eh?” he asked.

She ignored him as she poked around in her backpack muttering to herself.

“It’s in here somewhere. I know I packed it.”

He presumed she was looking for her wallet, but when she slammed that down on the bar, he figured he was wrong.

“Madam?” he tried again, “What will it be?”

Judging from her skin, her hair and her sensible shoes, he figured she must be around 70. The backs of her hands had the tell-tale age spots that he’d seen on his own grandmother.

He figured she was deaf. “MADAM?” he said with more volume.

She shot him a soul-withering glance. The crimson glint of the fire was reflected, blood-like, in her dark, bright eyes. He took a step back. He figured he wouldn’t ask her again.

“Ahhh! Here it is!” she said holding a small crystal vial. It was filled with fluorescent liquid that sparkled with the same red he had seen in her eyes. His curiosity stirred.

“Toilet?” she asked abruptly.

He pointed to the corner of the room. The woman turned on her heel, leaving her stuff in a pile on the bar.

When the woman returned, her skin was smooth and lustrous, the age spots gone. Her dark hair no longer anchored by steely grey. Thirty years had vanished!

His mouth flapped wordlessly.

“It’s fantastic, isn’t’ it!” she said.

“What is it?”

“It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution,” she whispered as she held the vial up to the light, twitching it, so the ruby liquid sloshed about.

“Would you like to try it?” she asked, her voice laced in honey and silk.

“Yes,” his gasped, with fearful anticipation.

“It’s not cheap…come.” she beckoned.

He took all the cash from the till and followed her into the cold night.

….

In the pale morning light, the police officers stood over the bartender’s cold, grey body.

“It’s a bit queer that his lips are still so red, isn’t it Sarge?” the constable asked.

“I don’t understand.” the sergeant said quietly as he removed a vial from the bartender’s stiff fingers. “He’s never done anything like this before.”

The noise of tyres on gravel distracted them and they watched as a red convertible passed slowly by. Their eyes were drawn to two identically dressed women sitting up front. Mother and daughter perhaps? One around 40, the other maybe 70?

Their lips painted red.

Their eyes bright and hard.

Their licence plate –  BLKWYDOS

 

Furious Fiction 3.

I have decided to make short stories a regular part of my blogging, I think it makes a nice change from photos, travel and gut bacteria! Most months I enter the  Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction Competition. $500 prize, 500 words and 55 hours to write it. My stories are not polished. I write it on the Friday night it comes out. If it’s not finished by Friday bedtime, I don’t enter. You can find two other stories here and here

The prerequisites for the January competition were

  • the first word had to be New
  • it must contain the words nineteen, desert and present
  • It needed to include a list (open to interpretation – either include an actual list or have a list included as part of the story)

Here is my story. I hope you enjoy it!

“New Years Resolutions,”  the brand new pink glitter pen wrote with an excessively enthusiastic flourish on the first page of the blank journal.

The woman looked at the Pen’s work; satisfied and pleased with its efforts!  She liked this Pen.

This year was gonna be a good year!

“We’re gonna party like it’s twenty – nineteen ….

no.. no..

Party like it’s twennnn-ty ninnnnnne-teeeeen.”

No matter how hard she tired, she could not get the rhythm right…

She brought her attention back to the blank page. It shone creamy-white, like a desert waiting for the rain to transform it into an oasis and fulfil its real purpose. #blessed

Enough of the inspirational quotes, let’s get down to it….”New Year’s Resolutions”. The Pen traced over the letters and filled in the missing apostrophe.

  1. Go all year without alcohol.

Scratch that. The Pen scribbled over the statement. Listen, Lady, that’s just silly. It’s your birthday in three weeks. Then there’s Henry’s birthday and then Valentine’s and then….

So many “and thens”. The Pen knew more than the woman even though they’d just met.

“Let’s be more realistic,” it said. The woman obliged

  1. Go without alcohol for 6 months.

What in a row?

Ok… not in a row.

  1. Go without alcohol for  6 of the 12 months; it doesn’t need to be consecutive.

Good!

The Pen was ready to move on

2. Exercise six days per week.

Does yoga count as exercise?

Yes…

OK! Lock it in Eddy!

3. Eat a wholly plant-based diet.

What about yogurt? Yogurt’s healthy, and it’s not from a plant. And kefir? That’s even better than yogurt!

OK! Ok!

  1. Eat mostly plants, but dairy is OK too.

Better!

  1. Be more mindful. Live in the present.

Hah! Why are we writing this stupid list then? This is a future based document. Your whole premise is just shot to pieces, and it’s not even 9 AM on the first of January! Hah!

  1. BE MORE MINDFUL!

Alright….don’t lose your cool. I’m only saying…

FIVE? How many of these do we have to have? Surely we should only have 3 – 4 SMART goals… not a great long list of things you’ll just look back on in a year and feel regret, remorse and recrimination over.

  1. Remain calm in the face of criticism.

What?  Having a crack, are we? Can’t handle a little constructive banter? Well, don’t be blaming me when you fall in a heap before autumn!

  1. Read at least four books from the “good books” list.

What? …Excuse me! You’re gonna do that anyway. You’re a librarian. You read books for a living! Surely you can come up with something more inspiring than that? Where are the resolutions that challenge the envelope? The ones that will stretch us to our limits? Heh? Where are they?

  1. Climb Mt Everest!

That’s better!

  1. Drop pink glitter Pen into the abyss!

Hang on… I’m only trying to heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllppppppph!

She chose another pen…

1…