Friday, January 29, 2010

Flash Fiction 23: City Meets Country

So I'm considering entering a short story contest -- to any who've read any of my previous flash (esp if you've any experience with this sort of thing...), favourites? Thoughts? Recommendations? They can be expanded/developed a bit as the contest word count is higher than for flash... No guidelines or genres stated.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program:

Flash Fiction 23: City Meets Country

The snow fell gently as she looked at her vehicle in disgust. The stunning beauty of the large flakes and the perfect quiet of the scene seemed to heap insult upon injury. The teenage girl kicked the tire in futile frustration and muttered language that her grandmother would’ve washed her mouth out with soap for. It was bad enough she had to spend winter break in the country with her grandparents when all her friends were going to Florida, but now this.

In the distance she heard the guttural sounds of a diesel engine; shortly a truck that had seen better days before she’d been born pulled past her and stopped. Anxiety over years of warnings about strangers warred with hope that this person might be able to help – or at least have a cell phone whose battery wasn’t dead.
The young man got out of the truck and smiled kindly, “What can I do to help?”

“Know anything about cars?” she asked, hopefully.

“You see what I drive?” he asked with a grin.

“It died,” she explained, informatively. Realizing a bit more information might be required she added that it had been driving fine, she had stopped at the intersection and when she tried to start again it went a few feet and then sputtered to a stop.

Within minutes he had his truck turned around and hooked up to hers. They heard another car approaching and watched as a second truck pulled up. A window rolled down, “truck die again Jake?” the passenger asked teasingly.

“Yes Ma’am, this young lady kindly stopped to give me a hand.”

“Well now dear, that was very nice of you.” The woman commented before turning serious, “you ok here on your own with Jake?” Jake somehow didn’t seem the least bit offended by the comment.

“I’m fine,” she told her, hoping she was right, “thank you though.”

“Alright then,” she said as she rolled up her window and the unseen driver drove away.

“Try it now,” Jake told her. Sure enough when she turned the key, it zoomed back to life.

“You’ll be ok as long as you don’t have to stop,” he told her. “Are you going far?” She thanked him profusely and told him not to worry, she wasn’t going far. “I’ll just follow you, to make sure you make it ok,” he told her.

Years of warnings surfaced again; was it really a good idea to let him follow her to where she was going? What if he was some sort of psycho? But then, if he’d wanted to harm her, he probably would’ve already done so. Right? But she quickly realized that either way, there was no way she could stop him. Thanking him again, she got in her car and drove off, being careful not to actually stop at any of the intersections she came to – fortunately there was only her car and the pickup on the road.

When she got to her grandparent’s farm and pulled in the lane, the pickup slowed and then with a quick honk of the horn was gone. And for just a moment, she wished he'd come back.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Flash Fiction #22 - Cassandra's Story

Her fingers flying she typed her memoir of things that hadn't technically happened yet. They thought she was crazy; she hoped they were right. But just in case they weren't, she wanted a record.

Writing in past tense, for in her mind the horrific chain of events had already unfolded, she wrote of the ice war between Canada and Iceland that would change the shape of the world forever.

"No wonder they think I'm crazy," she mutter to herself, "two of the world's supporting cast causing a global catastrophe? Never going to happen." But in her heart, she feared she wasn't crazy.

She wrote of spies and super-spies, those determined to save the world and those determined to exploit it. She named names. And times. And dates -- where she could remember them. History of war had never interested her, but suddenly she wished she had a head for dates. It could be important some day.

She wrote of the large corporation slowly and quietly buying up large portions of each country, and she wrote of the lone environmentalist trying to stop them. Her daughter. Who had less interest in the environment than her pet cat. And who thought she was crazy.

Lastly she wrote of the one who saw it all happening from a distance, as though watching a horrific play. And how the key players couldn't afford an audience. And she hoped she was crazy.

She heard the unmistakable click of a revolver behind her, and as she instinctively hit send her last thought was "I wish I really was crazy; just this once."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Flash Fiction #21: What the Kookaburra Saw

I was walking by the pet store with my fiancée when I heard the kookaburra's mocking laugh and was instantly reminded the day my mother first told me I was a witch.

"We have to talk," she informed me. At thirteen, I'd already long since learned to fear those words, although in this case I'd been fully expecting her to tell me she was getting remarried. Again. I didn't remember my real father, and I'd had seven stepfathers already so I wasn't particularly concerned anymore. The various fathers would come and go, but in the end it was always going to be just Mom and me.

We were on vacation, enjoying every minute of our stay on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. Sitting on our rented veranda overlooking the ocean as the sun set behind us, the bird in the garden laughed at my mother’s statement. Perhaps he knew what was coming; I certainly didn't.

"I'm a witch," she told me. Short, simple and to the point. Always. "And so are you," she added. I didn't have a clue how to respond to that. Really, what was I supposed to think when my perfectly normal if endearingly flaky mother announced that she was a witch? The bird repeated his shrill laugh.

"It runs through the women in our family," she continued as though we were discussing a unique hair colour, "you'll probably start to discover your skills in the next couple years, and I just wanted you to be aware. Grandma never told me and finding out was... well... a bit of a shock to say the least." I wondered idly if she had just revealed to me the source of animosity between her and her mother. My mother was looking at me for a response, but what could I say?

"Skills?" I asked, choosing the simplest thing I could think of.

"Most of us have a smattering of all the skills, but everyone I know is particularly strong in one. Grandma was a telepath, although she'd never acknowledge it. Aunt Ally is both an empath and a healer -- she can literally feel what other people feel, and has the ability to heal both physical and emotional problems. Hers is a powerful but very difficult skill to live with. My skill is magic. Old-fashioned magic."

"Magic?" I asked, with a level of scorn and doubt only teenagers are capable of. Usually I would've been in serious trouble for speaking to my mother that way, but with a strange half smile she let it go. I shivered as the wind picked up and the kookaburra laughed.

"Watch," she said, and blowing gently across the palm of her hand, a flame suddenly lit. She tossed it to the wind, and we watched it swirl around, this one little flame being lifted, swirled and dropped much like a fall leaf. She held out her hand and the flame returned to it like a trained bird and vanished at the same moment the wind died.

She looked at me and I carefully kept my face blank, determined to display the apathy required for my age. She raised her arms and seconds later was sitting on the roof, her feet dangling over the side. She tilted her head to the side and suddenly I was beside her, and all attempts at indifference were abandoned. I clutched the edge of the roof and looked at my mother with a mix of fear and awe. And suddenly I had a million questions.

She laughed delightedly at my enthusiasm, thrilled to finally be able to share with me that which set her apart from the rest of the world. We spoke through the night, sitting on that roof-top on the other side of the world. And as the sun rose in front of us and the Kookaburra sounded his cheerful twitter again, this time I felt I could laugh with him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Flash Fiction 20: Variations of the Truth

Awwww there’s one fewer “Truly Intelligent Person” in the world today. So very sad :(

Anyway – today’s challenge was one first put to me by one of the more interesting profs I had in my undergrad years. “Write your paper without using any form of ‘to be’.” I remember that being quite the challenge, so thought I see if I could make legible, enjoyable fiction following that same rule. Let me know if I pulled it off :) And then, if you’re looking for a challenge, try it yourself! I actually found it easier in fiction than academia, but I also have several more years of writing experience now too so that *might* make a difference.

Thanks for reading!

Variations of the Truth

"Don't even ask," I told my coworker as I hobbled into the room. She looked at me with a laugh and raised eyebrows.

"Marc told me to go jump off a cliff, so I went base jumping," I told her straight faced; a perfectly logical explanation. In somebody else’s world perhaps. "Didn't land well." I finished.

"So I see," she said, knowing the details as I’d described them didn’t likely occur in precisely that fashion, but willing to play the game that amused us both.

But Jamie, poor Jamie, the third person in our now three-person business, still didn't understand the games Ally and I played and had the disturbing tendency to take us seriously. "Carrie! You could’ve died! What happened?"

"Well," I started, unable to resist the challenge and sticking as close to the truth as I possibly could under the circumstances, " a bunch of us hiked up the steps carved into Baker Hill; everybody else seemed so cheerful about it, but to me it seemed just like a workout."

Jamie looked at me knowingly, "who do you jump with?" he asked.

"The others didn't jump," I clarified, "they came from some exercise club. I just happened to run into them on the trek up. They had planned on doing some yoga type exercises at the top, then I guess hiking back down. I watched the start of the yoga, but since I really don’t care for it I continued off by myself. A thick coating of mud covered the rest of the path to the point it resembled an obstacle course -- I had to jump from rock to rock, and even slipped off one particularly nasty one; I should definitely have considered that a sign to stop."

"Oh Carrie, you had a sign like that and you didn't go back?" Ally tried to play along but it came out sounding false, at least to my ears. She could never pull off surprise parties either, for the same reason. I turned slightly so Jamie couldn't see me roll my eyes at her.

"Anyways, I got my chute all set and took a running leap off the face, but I misjudged the distance and landed just a little short. Not so badly as to do any serious damage, thankfully, but I sprained my ankle and now I have to hobble about on these." I finished, waving a crutch in the air.

At that Ally lost it entirely, laughing so hard tears ran down her face. Really, I didn't think my story seemed *that* funny, and Jamie looked utterly appalled at her behaviour.

"Sorry Care, but I just figured out what happened. You told the truth!”

“And that’s funny?” I asked, playing my role well.

“I can picture every single movement of it. Because I've done it! Including the flying leap that landed short. However, I followed the instructions. And that made all the difference."

"Instructions?" Jamie asked dubiously, finally cluing in to the fact that perhaps the details of my story lacked a little accuracy.

Jamie looked at me curiously while Ally tried to contain herself enough to explain. I simply shrugged, trying my best to look as though I had no idea whatsoever what she thought.

"The instructions," she started, still giggling, "at the start of the obstacle course state very clearly 'Do not jump on the wii balance board'. Carrie clearly missed that rule."

I looked at Jamie, somewhat apologetically. "She's right," I told him with a shrug.

He looked at me silently for a moment, trying to decided whether he felt angry at being played. "Next time Carrie," Jamie started with his frustration evident in his voice, "if you're going to jump off a cliff, find a cliff -- you clearly need a longer time to get your feet under you!"

"Now shall we get to work ladies?" Jamie asked, with half a smile indicating he had accepted his role as audience-participant with good grace. Perhaps he would fit in after all.