Furious Fiction 5

What …with planning a big adventure to Scotland and all my creative energy directed towards travel and photography I haven’t written anything other than blog posts for a LONG time! Here is my effort for the August 2019 Australian Writers’ Centre Furious Fiction Competition.

500 words 55 hours $500 prize money!

I give myself the added restriction of if it doesn’t get finished on Friday night I don’t submit it. So essentially done and submitted in five hours!

The rules from their post are as follows:

Hey hey, it’s ‘Adjective August’ (not to be confused with ‘Alliteration August’) – and we’ve gone absolutely description crazy…

  • Your story must include, word for word, ALL of the following SIX descriptions (describing whatever you want):
  1. SHINY, SILVER
  2. COLD AND GREASY
  3. SCRATCHED AND WEATHER-WORN
  4. SWEET AND PUNGENT
  5. INK-STAINED
  6. SHRILL, PIERCING
  • One of these six descriptions MUST appear in the first sentence of your story. (The rest, wherever you like.).

 

Ten reams to go:

The shrill, piercing shreik punctuated the dark, quiet air like an ill-placed comma. It disturbed the reverie of the gnarly old writer for only a second, but this was enough to fracture her flow so completely that the shiny, silver lake of ideas that had been swirling in her mind was sucked into the vortex of her brain as is someone had pulled the plug. The story, the line of dialogue, was now a  slithery trail of deceptive fiction never to be found again.

What had sounded like a dying baby was in fact only a peacock, settling in the trees after another steamy day in Paradise.

“Hah! Paradise!” she thought. How that description seemed so distant from the truth. The boundless enthusiasm of youth had been replaced by the scratched and weather-worn psyche of an older, creakier woman.  The entertaining antics of the monkeys, now dull. The massive, crawling creatures that infested her shoes, no longer a source of wonder. She’d been here 25 years. 24 years, 11 months and 2 weeks longer than she had intended. For her, the holiday in Paradise had turned into something very different – a lifelong commitment.

She got up from the rickety table, pushing herself back with ink-stained hands. No computer for this one. She had to take it slow. She had to be more deliberate and carve each word into the paper indelibly with a slender blue pen. The cut and paste needed to happen in her mind before any words could land on that precious paper, fully formed and perfect. Editing was not a simple keystroke away but rather a laborious trudge of rewriting. Editing meant wasting paper, and paper was more valuable than anything she’d ever owned.

She placed the cold and greasy remains of her Sunday dinner on the floor and banged on the door.

“I’m done” she called.

While she waited, she farted and enjoyed the sweet and pungent aroma of herself wafting around her, enveloping her with the only marker of self-identity she had beyond her writing.

The heavy boots boomed down the corridor. The top hatch opened, and the eyes peered in.

“Move away from the door,” the warden barked.

The bottom hatch opened, the tin plate was whisked away and replaced by five sheets of paper. Five! It was Sunday, Paper Day!

She danced as she held the sheets tightly to her chest. Not too tightly! She didn’t want to crease them.  She glanced at the other 6500-odd slivers of joy in the corner of her cell. They groaned under the weight of tightly-packed double-sided scrawl. The once bold script faded, in the same way her initial rants and protests had faded into a jaded acceptance. 

The judge had said “Life” when he had banged that gavel. Life? This pile was her life!  Would it be as tall as her when they shipped her out in a box? She did the maths. Ten reams to go. She’d run out of time.

 

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…

Furious Fiction

The Australian Writers’ Centre has a marvellous monthly competition. On the first Friday of each month they publish a set of criteria for a 500 word story. They allow 55 hours to write and submit the story.  There is one prize of $500. You can find details for Furious Fiction at this link.

I have entered a few times now and it’s great fun. While I haven’t won (yet) I have been enjoying myself immensely. The writing prompts seem to limit you at first but then as your brain gets ticking, the story takes over and it is indeed, furious!

In July, the restrictions (in addition to the word length) were:

  1. The first sentence had to be a question.
  2. You needed to include the words jam, jackpot and jungle.
  3. The last word had to be BANG!

You can find the winning entry and the short listed stories here.

Here is my effort.


Be careful what you wish for.

“Do you want strawberry or raspberry jam?” Gary asked with his arm hovering mid-shelf.

“What? What did you say?” she said as she shifted her attention from the young couple in front. They looked so peaceful. He just picked things off the shelf and put them in the trolley. The woman nodded. Nothing was said, and they went ahead.

“Strawberry, Gary. Strawberry will be fine.” Her flat voice failed to hide the anger that was ready to burst through her hot skin and slice him into a million tiny shreds!

When she had first met him, she thought she’d hit the jackpot! A caring fellow who always considered her before making decisions that affected her. She had been ready to leave the dating jungle, so she jumped in and got married.

Now after 23 years, he was so damned annoying! Could he not do anything without asking?  Could he not stand on his own two feet without checking in? Just once?

There only seemed to be one way out of this mess. He was worth more to her dead than alive. But how to make it seem like an accident?

“Do you want strawberry or raspberry jam?” Gary asked with his arm hovering mid-shelf.

He was always careful to make sure he asked her first. He knew if he didn’t there’d be an argument. Gary liked raspberry, but she always said strawberry. If he suggested they buy both, she’d bite his head off.

“Strawberry, Gary. Strawberry will be fine.” she snarled.

He looked away. The young couple in front reminded him of how it had been, once. They looked so peaceful. He just made up his own mind and put things in the trolley. The woman didn’t care. She didn’t censor his choices at every turn.

He thought about leaving Miriam. Every day. Her once charming wit had turned sour.  But he knew he couldn’t compete in the jungle where the cougars gobbled up younger men and never considered balding 57 year-olds with pot bellies.

After 23 years he knew her relentless brow beating would go on forever unless he cracked the jackpot and she carked it.

There only seemed to be one way out of this mess. She was worth more to him dead than alive. But how to make it seem like an accident?

Finished at last and with the car packed, Miriam got behind the wheel. She started to reverse then had to brake hard as the young couple from before walked behind them.  Miriam watched them in the mirror as they kissed.  She sighed.

Once on the highway, Miriam and Gary both stared mournfully ahead, secretly imagining their own personal murder-mystery episode.  Time passed, neither spoke. Gary turned on the radio to drown out the silence.

A flat-bed lorry carrying huge rolls of newsprint thundered past.

They were doing 100 and it was going faster.

The 18-wheeler swerved.

The load shifted.

The cable snapped.

The roll dropped.

 BANG!


This month’s Furious Fiction just started!! (If you’re reading this on the first Friday of the month!!) Have a look and get started!! You’ve got around 54 hours to go